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CHERCHEL, a seaport of Algeria, in the arrondissement and department of Algiers, 55 m. W. of the capital. It is the centre of an agricultural and vine-growing district, but is commercially of no great importance, the port, which consists of part only of the inner port of Roman days, being small and the entry difficult. The town is chiefly noteworthy for the extensive ruins of former cities on the same site. Of existing buildings the most remarkable is the great Mosque of the Hundred Columns, now used as a military hospital. The mosque contains 89 columns of diorite, surmounted by a variety of capitals brought from other buildings. The population of the town in 1906 was 4733; of the commune of which Cherchel is the centre 11,088.

Cherchel was a city of the Carthaginians, who named it Jol. Juba II. (25 B.C.) made it the capital of the Mauretanian kingdom under the name of Caesarea. Juba’s tomb, the so-called Tombeau de la Chrétienne (see Algeria), is 7½ m. E. of the town. Destroyed by the Vandals, Caesarea regained some of its importance under the Byzantines. Taken by the Arabs it was renamed by them Cherchel. Khair-ed-Din Barbarossa captured the city in 1520 and annexed it to his Algerian pashalik. In the early years of the 18th century it was a commercial city of some importance, but was laid in ruins by a terrible earthquake in 1738. In 1840 the town was occupied by the French. The ruins suffered greatly from vandalism during the early period of French rule, many portable objects being removed to museums in Paris or Algiers, and most of the monuments destroyed for the sake of their stone. Thus the dressed stones of the ancient theatre served to build barracks; the material of the hippodrome went to build the church; while the portico of the hippodrome, supported by granite and marble columns, and approached by a fine flight of steps, was destroyed by Cardinal Lavigerie in a search for the tomb of St Marciana. The fort built by Arouj Barbarossa, elder brother of Khair-ed-Din, was completely destroyed by the French. There are many fragments of a white marble temple. The ancient cisterns still supply the town with water. The museum contains some of the finest statues discovered in Africa. They include colossal figures of Aesculapius and Bacchus, and the lower half of a seated Egyptian divinity in black basalt, bearing the cartouche of Tethmosis (Thothmes) I. This statue was found at Cherchel, and is held by some archaeologists to indicate an Egyptian settlement here about 1500 B.C.

See Africa, Roman, and the description of the museum by P. Gauckler in the Musées et collections archéologiques de l’Algérie.