Constantine kŏn´stəntēn [key], ancient Cirta, city (1998 pop. 462,187), capital of Constantine dept., NE Algeria, on the gorge of the Rhumel River. A major inland city, it is the railhead of a prosperous and diverse agricultural area. Constantine is also a center of the grain trade and has flour mills, a tractor factory, and industries producing textiles and leather goods. Products made by local artisans are economically important. Founded by Carthaginians (who called it Sarim Batim), Constantine became the capital and commercial center of Numidia and was named Cirta [the city]. Under Roman rule it was a major grain-shipping point and one of the wealthiest cities of Africa. Destroyed (AD 311) during the war preceding the accession of Constantine I, it was rebuilt by Constantine himself and renamed in his honor. The city was pillaged by the Vandals in the 5th cent. and later became an object of contention among various Muslim dynasties. The Turks captured it in the 16th cent. and made it a provincial capital. By the time of the French conquest in 1837 the district governor of Constantine had become virtually independent of the Ottoman Empire. Modern Constantine is the seat of a Roman Catholic bishop, a university, and a Muslim school of higher education.

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