Ancient North African bishopric, modern Bone, Algeria. The Phoenicians are believed to have had a settlement there in the 10th century b.c. The title Regius was used to distinguish it from Hippo Diarrhytus, because it both formed part of the kingdom of Numidia and apparently served as a residence for Numidian kings. On the defeat of Pompey and his allies, including the Numidian King Juba, at Thapsus, Caesar annexed Hippo to the Roman Empire (46 b.c.). Under St. augustine it formed part of the civil Africa proconsularis and belonged to the ecclesiastical Province of Numidia. In 431 it was taken by the Vandals and in 533 was reconquered by Justinian's army. In the 7th century the Arabs took possession and founded Bona-el-Hadida in a naturally protected area about a mile distant. This is the location of the modern port of Bone, which extends to the site of the ancient city. Lybian, Punic, Greek, Latin, Vandal, and Byzantine rulers and settlers gave the city its population and cultural pattern. Its geographical locale made it an important port, with roads running up and down the coast and into the hinterlands.
Christianity appears to have been brought to Hippo from Italy and from the East. The Christian quarter was in the port area, within the pre-Roman settlement on the outskirts of the Roman city and its forum. Its first known bishop bore a Greek name; Augustine's immediate predecessor, Valerius, still spoke Greek and had difficulty with Latin. Bishop Theogenes (Sent. episc. 87.14; Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum latinorum 3.1:443) was a martyr under valerian; another bishop, Fidentius, was one of the 20 martyrs in the diocletian persecution (Aug., Serm. 148; 257; 325; Civ. 22.8). Its cathedral was built by Bishop Leontius (not a martyr) and named after him (Aug., Serm. 260, 262; Epist. 29). Under Emperors Constantius II and Julian, the Donatists formed a majority of citizens, particularly under their bishop, Faustinus (Aug., C. Petil. 2.83.184). Bishop Valerius, in 395, consecrated Augustine as his auxiliary bishop. Augustine became bishop of Hippo in 396, and in 411, after the religious debate at Carthage, he succeeded in restoring religious unity to the city. His successor, Heraclius, is the last bishop whose name is known (Aug., Serm. 213). The latest information on the diocese comes from the 8th and 9th centuries.
Synods, Churches, and Monasteries. An African plenary synod was held in Hippo in 393 and presided over by Bp. Aurelius of Carthage in the secretarium of the basilica of Peace (J. D. Mansi, Sacrorum Conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio, 3:849; Possidius, Vita 7). Augustine, though still a priest, addressed the assembly (Retract. 1.17). A plenary synod was held also, probably in 427, in the basilica of St. Leontius (Mansi 3:859; 4:441; 539). Augustine gives information regarding the basilica of Leontius that was apparently the same as the basilica Maior (Serm. 260; 258; 325.2) and perhaps also identical with the basilica Pacis (Mansi 3:730; De actisc. Fel. 2.1; Epist. 213). He speaks of a Donatist church (Epist. 29.11) that (after 411) was taken over by the Catholics; of an "old church" that is difficult to identify (Epist. 99.3); a memoria of St. Theogones (Mai., Serm. 158.2); and of another in honor of the 20 martyrs (Serm. 148). Heraclius the priest built a chapel attached to the main church for the relics of St. Stephen in 425 at the request of Augustine; and miracles took place there (Serm. 318–324, 356.7; Civ. 22.8). Another priest, Leporius, constructed a basilica in honor of the eight martyrs and a hospice for strangers (Serm. 356.10).
On his arrival in Hippo after his conversion, Augustine had built a small monastery for his lay monks in the garden of the community (Vita 5); and on his election as bishop, he turned the bishop's house into a residence for his clergy, so that they lived a common life (Serm. 355.2). There were other monasteries in the vicinity of Hippo founded by Leporius and Barnabas (Serm. 356.10, 15); and Augustine's sister presided over a convent for nuns (Serm. 355.3, 6; Possidius, Vita 26).
Archeology. Excavations have unearthed a small but important part of Hippo with pre-Roman and Roman settlements, including a large forum, a theater, public baths in the north and south, temples, a market place, a port, villas, many mosaics, inscriptions, sculptures, lamps, jewelry, and coins. A five-sided island (insula ), or quarter, occupied by Christian buildings bordered the seacoast about one-eighth of a mile east of the forum, somewhat south of the northern baths and the temple and close to the market place. It contained a three-aisled, pillared basilica whose nave was about 107 feet long by 49 feet wide and had an elevated half-rounded apse, about 27 by 21 feet; it was preceded by a narthex. At the back of the apse are the positions of the bishop's cathedra and the benches for the priests. The altar with its surrounding chancel was located before the apse. The baptistery, with an anteroom and consignatorium (for Confirmation), was located on the east side near the main entrance. Around the basilica were grouped administration and living rooms, a chapel with three apses, and apparently a secretarium (sacristy, a reception room, and an assembly hall for synods). It was decorated with an apse and peristyle and contained a library. Beneath the basilica are ruins probably of a pre-Constantinian house church. Despite the group of buildings, mosaics, and graves, particularly from the time of the Vandals, it is not possible to say whether this was originally a Catholic or Donatist church. It is thought to have been the basilica of the Catholics that served as the bishop's church in Augustine's day and that the annexed chapel was that of St. Stephen, with living quarters of the bishop and the monastery in the garden (Serm. 318–324, 356–357). East of this insula, E. Marec believes he has discovered another five-aisled basilica; the graves found in the atrium might point to this, but the view has not won acceptance. It could be the "old church" mentioned by Augustine (Epist. 99.3). After 411 all the churches belonged to the Catholic community. Augustine mentions many places and holy sites, such as the Castellum Fussala (Epist. 209; 224.1) and the Municipium Tulliense (Cur. mort. 12.15), both of which became dioceses.
Bibliography: j. mesnage, L'Afrique chrétienne … (Paris 1912) 263–267. h. leclercq, Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie, ed. f. carroll, h. leclerq, and h. i. marrou, 15v. (Paris 1907–53) 6.2:2483–2531. w. h. c. frend, The Donatist Church (Oxford 1952). o. perler, "L'Église principale et les autres sanctuaires chrétiens d'Hipponela-Royale," Revue des études augustiniennes 1 (1955) 299–343; 2 (1956) 435–446. c. lambot, Revue des sciences religieuses 30 (1956) 230–240. e. marec, Hippone la Royale (Algiers 1954). Monuments chrétiens d'Hippone (Paris 1958), cf. t. w. phelan, Theological Studies 20 (1959) 422–431. h. i. marrou, Revue des études augustiniennes 6 (1960) 109–154. j. lassus,"L'Archéologie Algerienne en 1958: Hippone," Libyca 7 (1959) 306–323; Fasti Archeologici 15 (1963) 315–316. g. camps, "… Massinissa," Libyca 8 (1960) 1–320.
"Hippo Regius." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 19, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/hippo-regius
"Hippo Regius." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Retrieved February 19, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/hippo-regius