Algiers [Arab. al-Jizā’ir; ‘the islands’]
- Sheila S. Blair
- and Jonathan M. Bloom
[Arab. al-Jizā’ir; ‘the islands’]
Capital and largest city in Algeria, located on the west side of a bay opening onto the Mediterranean Sea. The site was already settled in Phoenician times, as shown by a hoard of Punic coins found near the port in 1940. The ruins of the Roman settlement known as Icosium are said to have existed until the 10th century when the Zirid family ruler Buluggin (reg 972–84) founded the Muslim town. Medieval geographers called it jazā’ir banī mazghannā, the islands of the Bani Mazghanna, after a local tribe of Sanhaja Berbers who lived in the region. At the end of the 12th century Almoravid rulers erected a mosque there (see Islamic art, §II, 5(iv)(c)), which preserves a fine wooden minbar and a minaret added in the 14th century. In the 15th century many refugees fleeing the Christian conquest of Spain settled in the city and established themselves as corsairs. Incorporated into the Ottoman empire, it became an important naval base, often enjoying relative independence from Istanbul under the Barbary pirates who made piracy the major industry. The city was repeatedly bombarded by European powers, until the French captured it in ...