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CEUTA (Arabic Sebta ), Spanish enclave on the northwest coast of Morocco, 16 miles dirctly south of Gibraltar. According to legend, it was founded by Shem, the son of Noah. During the Middle Ages Ceuta was one of the most important Mediterranean ports. The wealthy Jewish colony was one of the most ancient and cultured communities in Africa, but it suffered persecution under the Almohade rule beginning in 1148. Joseph ibn *Aknin, a disciple of Maimonides, was born there. Merchants from Genoa, Marseilles, and elsewhere, assisted by the Jews, were responsible for its commercial expansion. The treaty of 1161 between Genoa and the emperor of Morocco increased the trade of the city, and in 1159 Benjamin of Tudela found in Genoa two Jewish dyers from Ceuta. In 1542 Jews evacuated from Safi and Azemmour, Morocco, settled there. Ceuta also served as a refuge for Marranos from Spain and the Balearic Islands. A Spanish possession and military station since 1580, Ceuta had a Jewish population only intermittently until the establishment in 1869 of a community. In 1969, it numbered 600 and had an organized structure including religious institutions.


M. Ortéga, Los Hebreos en Marruecos (1919), 110, 138; sihm, Portugal, 3 (1948), 181, 279–94; 4 (1951), 282ff.; Hirschberg, Afrikah, 2 (1965), index; Corcos, in: jqr, 55 (1964/65), 62, 65, 72; idem, in: Sefunot, 10 (1966), 74f.

[David Corcos]

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Ceuta (thāōō´tä), city (1994 pop. 71,926), c.7 sq mi (18 sq km), NW Africa, a possession of Spain, on the Strait of Gibraltar. An enclave in Morocco, Ceuta is administered as an integral part of Cádiz prov., Spain. It is located on a peninsula whose promontory forms one of the Pillars of Hercules. The city, which has a European appearance, is a free port, with a large harbor and ample wharves; it is also a refueling and fishing port. Food processing is an important activity, and tourism is growing. Ceuta is connected with Tétouan, Morocco, by road and rail.

Built on a Phoenician colony, the city was held by Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, and Arabs (711). Taken by Portugal in 1415 (the first permanent European conquest in Africa), it then passed (1580) to Spain. It has remained Spanish despite several attacks, notably a prolonged siege (1694–1720) by the Sultan Moulay Ismail. In the 1990s Ceuta became a way station for many sub-Saharan Africans fleeing civil wars or other strife in their homelands and attempting to emigrate to Europe. In 2002, Morocco, which objects to Spain's possession of Ceuta, Melilla, and several smaller Moroccan outposts, briefly occupied nearby Perejil, or Leila, an uninhabited islet both nations claim. After Spanish forces bloodlessly ousted the Moroccans, both countries agreed to leave Perejil unoccupied.

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spanish enclave and port city on the moroccan shore of the strait of gibraltar.

Ceuta is a Spanish possession with a population in 2002 of 69,000 and an area of 7 square miles (18 sq km). It commands the strait of Gibraltar and was settled by Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals, and Byzantines. Taken by the Arabs in 711, it was the base for the invasion of the Iberian Peninsula. Under Muslim rule, Ceuta (Arabic, Sibta) was disputed by the various Spanish and Moroccan dynasties, interspersed with periods of autonomy. During the thirteenth century, Ceuta was a rich port, linking the trans-Saharan trade with the Mediterranean. In 1415, it was taken by Portuguese King John and abandoned by its Muslim inhabitants. After the union of the Spanish and Portuguese crowns in 1580, Ceuta became Spanish, which it has remained. Until the mid-nineteenth century, it was frequently besieged by Moroccan government and tribal forces, and in 1860 this led to war between Spain and Morocco, following which the boundaries were expanded in favor of Spain. The independent Moroccan government has repeatedly demanded that Ceuta be handed over by Spain. Fishing and food processing are important economic activities.

C. R. Pennell