CIRTA

Cirta, now Constantine or Kasantina departmental capital, Algeria, occupies a strategic position on a plateau, in a bend of the Rummel River or Rhumel, the ancient Ampsaga, 139 km 86.4 mi SE of Hippo. Capital of the Numidian kingdom, under Augustus it became a Roman colony and then capital of a vast confederation which included three other colonies Chullu, Milevis and Rusicada. It suffered serious destruction at the time of the war between Maxentius and Domitian; it was rebuilt by Constantine, for whom it is named, in 313314, and became capital not only of Numidia Cirteana, as it had been until then, but of all of the reunified province. It resisted the Vandal attacks until 454; after the Byzantine reconquest it was the seat of the dux Numidiae.

The first sure sign of Christianity is the presence of Bishop Crescens at the Council of Carthage of 256 Sent. epp. 8. The victims of Valerian’s persecution are known from the Passio Iacobi et Mariani BHL 131: they were taken before the governor of Lambaesis, where they suffered martyrdom; they are recorded in a 6th-c. votive inscription at Constantine CIL VIII 7924. During Diocletian’s persecution, its Bishop Paul and the subdeacon Silvanus yielded traditores.

In 307 most probable date, there was a meeting of bishops at Cirta for the ordination of Silvanus see Cirta, Council of; the acts survive in a document from 320, the minutes of the trial held against Bishop Silvanus before the Numidian consul Zenophilus. The text shows the divisions, reciprocal accusations and suspicions that followed on the persecution. Augustine calls this document Gesta apud Zenophilum CSEL 26, 185-97; PL 8, 724-742; it includes, among other documents, a sort of report of the inventory of the goods confiscated from the church during the persecution and tells us something about the local church in 303, the election of the bishop in 307 and the origins of Donatism in Cirta.

For the next 80 years the church of Cirta fell again into obscurity, reappearing under the name Constantine in ca. 400 when Petilian was the Donatist bishop and Profuturus the Catholic bishop, succeeded in 410 by Fortunatus. Augustine addressed treatises to both. Of the Vandal era we know only Bishop Antoninus Honoratus, who wrote Arcadius a letter of exhortation to martyrdom in the time of Genseric PL 50, 567-570, and Bishop Victor, who took part in the council called by Huneric in 484.

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  1. Heaven Jan 20, 2017

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