Miliana corresponds to the town of Punic origin known in Roman times as Zucchabar. Under Augustus, it was given the rank of colonia and was thus referred to as Colonia Iulia Augusta Zucchabar. The Greek form of the name used by the geographer Ptolemy was Ζουχάββαρι (Zuchabbari). Pliny the Elder calls it "the colony of Augusta, also called Succabar", and Ammianus Marcellinus gives it the name Sugabarri or (in adjectival form) Sugabarritanum.
Zucchabar belonged to the Roman province of Mauretania Caesariensis. The film Gladiator invented a Roman province of Zucchabar, which did not in fact exist.
Zucchabar became a Christian episcopal see. The names of two of its Catholic bishops and one Donatist are recorded:
The bishopric is included in the Catholic Church's list of titular sees.
Miliana was (re)founded in the 10th century by Buluggin ibn Ziri on the site of the ancient Roman city of Zucchabar (Succhabar).
In 1261, Miliana was conquered by Abou Hafs, brother of the Hafsid emir of Tunis, whose forces included mercenary Christian knights led by the exile Henry of Castile.
In the 1830s, the town came under the control of Abd al-Qadir in opposition to the increasing French occupation of Algeria. In 1840, al-Qadir ordered Miliana to be burned down instead of surrendering it to the French. The town eventually fell under French control in 1842, and was rebuilt in the French Colonial architectural style.
From 1874 to 1975 up tp 2000 people worked in an underground iron ore mine on Mont Zaccar, which transported the ore and passengers by the 9 kilometres (5.6 mi) Miliana-Margueritte Tramway to the nearest PLM railway station in Miliana-Margueritte.