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  History of Mahdia

Thanks to its strategic location, the city of Mahdia was the subject of several conquests throughout history. An ancient Phoenician colony (814-146 BC), Mahdia was later on occupied by the Romans (146 BC - 439 AD) who built, during the third century, the Thysdrus Coliseum (now called the Amphitheatre of El Jem) the largest after that of Rome.

A wreck of a Greek merchant ship dating from the 1st century BC was found in Mahdia containing a rich cargo loaded with building materials and artworks of an inestimable value, such as the marble sculptures of the bust of Hermes and that of Aphrodite.

In 910 AD, the Fatimid Caliph Obeid Allah El Mehdi decided to make "Cape Africa" its capital and gave it its own name "Mahdia". It was at this time that the major monuments were built which now stand in the center of Mahdia. As an example we can cite the "Skifa Kahla" (now Medina of Mahdia) which was the main fortress protecting the accesses to the city, the Great Mosque and the Punic port which was a commercial and military point. After having conquered the Maghreb, the Fatimids launched their conquest of the orient and established their new capital in Cairo in 969 AD.

It is then that Mahdia experienced a succession of several populations: the Norman forces of Roger II, the Almohads and the Spaniards.

The city was therefore weakened and had gradually lost its inhabitants. It was the arrival of the Ottomans that helped repopulate and partially rebuild Mahdia. The Ottoman fort stands now in the city center as a powerful symbol of that era.

More recently, in 1881, Mahdia experienced the establishment of the French protectorate in Tunisia.

Marked by an eventful past,

the city of Mahdia has known how to accumulate and preserve the cultural wealth of the civilizations that had succeeded each other.

   The wreck´s objects:

  Reconstruction of the ship                      Bust of Aphrodite

            Bust of Niké             Hermaïque pillar of Dionysos   A restored crater