Hippo Regius on the map of Roman Numidia
, Atlas Antiquus
, H. Kiepert, 1869
Hippo is the latinization of ʿpwn (Punic: 𐤏𐤐𐤅𐤍), probably related to the word ûbôn, meaning "harbor". The town was first settled by Phoenicians from Tyre around the 12th century BC. To distinguish it from other places of the same name, the Romans later referred to it as Hippo Regius ("the Royal Hippo") because it was one of the residences of the Numidian kings. Its nearby river was latinized as the Ubus and the bay to its east was known as Hippo Bay (Latin: Hipponensis Sinus).
A maritime city near the mouth of the river Ubus, it became a Roman colonia which prospered and became a major city in Roman Africa. It is perhaps most famous as the bishopric of Saint Augustine of Hippo in his later years. In AD 430, the Vandals advanced eastwards along the North African coast and laid siege to the walled city of Hippo Regius. Inside, Saint Augustine and his priests prayed for relief from the invaders, knowing full well that the fall of the city would spell death or conversion to the Arian heresy for much of the Christian population. On 28 August 430, three months into the siege, St. Augustine (who was 75 years old) died, perhaps from starvation or stress, as the wheat fields outside the city lay dormant and unharvested. After 14 months, hunger and the inevitable diseases were ravaging both the city inhabitants and the Vandals outside the city walls. The city fell to the Vandals and King Geiseric made it the first capital of the Vandal Kingdom until the capture of Carthage in 439.
It was conquered by the Eastern Roman Empire in 534 and was kept under Roman rule until 698, when it fell to the Muslims; the Arabs rebuilt the town in the eighth century. The city's later history is treated under its modern (Arabic and colonial) names.
About three kilometres distant in the eleventh century, the Berber Zirids established the town of Beleb-el-Anab, which the Spaniards occupied for some years in the sixteenth century, as the French did later, in the reign of Louis XIV. France took this town again in 1832. It was renamed Bône or Bona, and became one of the government centres for the département of Constantine in Algeria. It had 37,000 inhabitants, of whom 10,800 were original inhabitants, consisting of 9,400 Muslims and 1400 naturalized Jews. 15,700 were French and 10,500 foreigners, including many Italians.