NamesTunisia, al-Jumhuriyyah at-Tunisiyyah, is a sovereign republic. Yet the country's proper name has changed radically more than once over the course of millenia. Hence, such a term as "ancient Tunisia" is frankly anachronistic. Nonetheless, "Tunisia" will be used throughout this history for the sake of continuity.
Undoubtedly, the most ancient Berbers had various names for their land and settlements here, one early Punic-era Berber name being Massyli. After the Phoenicians arrived, their city of Carthage evolved to assume a dominant position over much of the western Mediterranean; this city-state gave its name to the region. Following the Punic Wars, the Romans established here their Province of Africa, taking the then not-widely-known name of Africa from a Berber word for 'the people'. The Roman capital was the rebuilt city of Carthage. After the Arab and Muslim conquest, this name continued in use, as the region was called in Arabic Ifriqiya. Its capital was relocated to the newly-built city of Kairouan. The Fatimids later moved the capital of Ifriqiya to Mahdia, a city they founded, but then the Zirids returned it to Kairouan.
In the twelfth century the Berber Almohads [al-Muwwahids] conquered the country and began to rule it from Tunis, an ancient but until-then unimportant city, which thus rose to become the capital. The whole country then came to be called Tunis after this city (near the ruins of ancient Carthage). Tunis continued as the capital under Turkish rule, and remains so today. Only in the last years of the nineteenth century, under the French protectorate, did the current name Tunisie [in French] or Tunisiyya [in Arabic], (Tunisia in English), come into common use.
During these millennia of history under different states, the names for the country changed. They include: Massyli, Carthage, Africa, Ifriqiya, Tunis, Tunisia.
 History OutlineIts long history may be very briefly outlined or summarized. Here a reverse chronological order is employed. |8| The two presidential regimes of independent Tunisia have fostered and steered the country's economic development, and navigated the state in the once bipolar now post–Cold War world. Tunisia has retained close ties both to Arab countries and to the West. |7| Earlier the French had incorporated Tunisia into their sphere (1881–1956), preceded by many Italian settlers, merchants and farmers. Modernizing of methods in business and industry was achieved. |6| Before that, Tunisia was under the Ottoman Turks who had seized lasting control in 1574 after a brief Spanish occupation. The Ottomans eventually held Tunisia indirectly, through the Muradid and Husaynid Beys. The Ottoman Empire used the Turkish language; with it arrived a multi-ethnic influx. |5| Prior to the Turkish era, the long medieval period had seen a cultural renaissance under the rule of native Berbers, already Arabized. First the Zirids (973-1160) had ruled as vassals of the Fatimids who had relocated along the Nile; later the Zirids established an independent Ifriqiya, by breaking with the Fatimids. Next the Almohad movement succeeded in uniting the entire Maghrib, including Ifriqiya. Then the local Hafsid dynasty (1227-1574) of Tunis followed, ruling for many centuries during times both prosperous and lean, contested and peaceful. Their lands stretched form Constantine to Tarabulus.
|4| The Islamic era had opened with the arrival of the Arabs (late seventh century). The Arabs brought their language and the religion of Islam, and its new calendar. The Arabs also renewed the region's cultural ties with the Semitic east. Later the Fatimids, a Shi'a state, arose in Ifriqiya, circa 909; the Fatimds eventually conquered and ruled Egypt. |3| During the last pre-Islamic centuries the Byzantines ruled, along with Berbrer vassals, and before them the Vandals (439-533). Over two thousand years ago the Romans had arrived, initially allied with Berber kingdoms; their cosmopolitan Empire long governed this Africa region as part of an integrated Mediterranean world. |2| Before the Romans, came the Phoenicians, by sea from the eastern Mediterranean about three thousand years ago. The Phoenicians founded here the celebrated city of Carthage. Punic culture interacted continuously with the native Berbers, but the two did not then merge. |1| Earlier came migrations from surrounding territories including the north, the east, and the Sahel region of Africa. Perhaps eight millennia ago, already there were peoples established here, among whom the proto-Berbers (coming overland generally from the east) mingled and mixed, and from whom the Berbers would spring, during an era of their ethno-genesis.
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