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Africa, Roman

The Punic Wars made Rome heir to the Carthaginian empire. In 146 bce she left most territory in the hands of Masinissa's descendants, but formed a new province (Africa) in the most fertile part. This covered about 13,000 sq. km. (5,000 sq. mi.) of north and central Tunisia, north-east of a boundary line (the fossa regia, ‘the royal ditch’) from Thabraca to Hadrumetum; it was governed by a praetor from Utica. Except for Utica and six other towns of Phoenician origin which had supported Rome rather than Carthage in the Punic Wars, most of the land became ager publicus. Although the attempt by Gaius C. Sempronius Gracchus to found a colonia at Carthage failed, Roman and Italian traders and farmers settled in the province in large numbers, and many of C. Marius (1)'s veterans settled west of the fossa regia. After the battle of Thapsus in 46 bceCaesar added to the existing province (thenceforth called Africa Vetus, ‘Old Africa’) the Numidian territory of Juba I (Africa Nova, ‘New Africa’). Caesar's colonial foundations in Africa included Clupea, Curubis, and Neapolis, and his intention to colonize Carthage afresh was carried out by Octavian. A substantial territory in Numidia based on Cirta was given to Caesar's supporter P. Sittius.

Under Augustus, after various boundary changes, the united province, now called Africa Proconsularis, extended from Arae Philaenorum, on the western edge of Cyrenaica, to the river Ampsagas (Rhummel) in eastern Algeria. At least eleven colonies were founded in Proconsularis, in addition to the thirteen colonies settled on the coast of Mauretania (the rest of which was ruled by the client king Juba (2) II). Africa Proconsularis was governed from Carthage by a proconsul, who (unusually for the governor of a province not controlled by the emperor) also commanded the Legio III Augusta, then stationed at Ammaedara. Under Gaius (1) command of the legion was handed over to an imperial legatus who became responsible for the government of Numidia and the frontier districts. The provincialization of North Africa was completed by Claudius with the creation of two provinces in Mauretania. Resistance to Roman rule on the fringes of the Sahara and in the mountainous regions such as the Kabylie and Aurès was no more than sporadic, and for over three centuries the whole area from Cyrenaica to the Atlantic was protected by only a single legion and auxiliaries. The southern frontier ran approximately from Arae Philaenorum through Cydamus (Gadhamès), Nefta, Vescera (Biskra), and Auzia (Aumale) to the Atlantic south of Volubilis.

Urban life in North Africa was of pre-Roman origin, both Punic and (under Punic influence) Numidian. In spite of the destruction of Carthage, a number of towns of Phoenician or Carthaginian origin survived on the coast, such as Hadrumetum and Lepcis Magna; further west, Icosium (Algiers), Iol (Caesarea (3)), Tingis, and Lixus appear to have been pre-Roman settlements of some size. In a few places Carthaginian language and institutions survived into the 2nd cent. ce, as inscriptions demonstrate; spoken Punic lasted much longer and was still being used, at least in rural areas, in Augustine's day (Ep. 66. 108. 14, 209. 3). Over large areas of the interior the influence of Carthaginian civilization on the indigenous tribes was profound, especially in central Tunisia and in the region of Cirta where Numidian kings had encouraged it. Under Roman control, however, urbanization occurred on a vastly increased scale, and refounded Carthage became the largest city in the western empire after Rome (see urbanism (Roman)). Over 600 communities ranked as separate civitates, of which a large number in due course obtained the rank of municipium or colonia. The area of densest urbanization was around Carthage and the Bagradas valley, where some of the towns were only a dozen miles apart. Some, like Ammaedara and Theveste, were established on the sites of early legionary fortresses; Lambaesis grew out of the settlement outside the final fortress chosen for Legio III Augusta; others, like Timgad and Diana Veteranorum, were settled as colonies for retired legionaries. Roman equites of African origin are known from the mid-1st cent. ce, soon followed by senators. During the 2nd cent. African senators (the best known being the orator Cornelius Fronto) formed the largest western provincial group. The influence of Africans reached its height under Septimius Severus, who was born at Lepcis Magna.

The wealth of Africa was proverbial throughout the Roman period, and consisted largely of agricultural products. Of these corn was certainly the most important and with Egypt Africa replaced Sicily as Italy's major supplier during the empire (see food supply (Roman)). The Bagradas valley and the region around Cirta and Sitifis were productive corn-growing districts, but polyculture throughout North Africa was common. Especially from the 2nd cent. olive-growing and the production of oil for export became an increasingly important part of the African economy, especially in the drier regions of Proconsularis, around Cillium and Sufetula in central Tunisia, and near Thysdrus and Sullecthum in eastern Tunisia, as well as further west in Numidia and Mauretania. Wine was also exported from Tripolitania, Proconsularis, and Mauretania, although on a much smaller scale (see amphorae, roman). The maintenance of irrigation systems, some clearly of pre-Roman origin, and the efficient collection and conservation of what little rain-water there was, were essential to successful cultivation. Africa was famed as a place where large estates in the hands of a few men were commonplace, the largest landowner being the emperor, but there were plenty of medium-sized estates as well, the majority of them owned not by Italians but by prosperous members of the Romano-African urban élite, whose wealth was so conspicuously displayed in the showy public monuments they paid for in their home towns. Our knowledge of the administration of imperial estates, and the relationship between tenants (*coloni) and lessees (conductores), is best known from a series of 2nd and early 3rd century inscriptions from the Bagradas valley. Other exports from Africa included fish-pickle (garum), especially from Proconsularis (see fishing); marble, especially the prized yellow marmor Numidicum from Simitthus; wood, especially the citrus-wood for furniture making from Mauretania (see timber); dyes, for which the island of Mogador off western Morocco was famous (see dyeing); an orange-red pottery (‘African red slip-ware’), which despite its simplicity gained a Mediterranean-wide export market at the zenith of its production in the 4th and 5th cents. (See pottery, roman); and wild animals destined for amphitheatres in Italy and elsewhere, including lions, leopards, and elephants, the capture of which is featured on a number of African mosaics (e. g. from Hippo Regius and Carthage). The arts flourished, with several vigorous local schools of sculptors working in both limestone and marble, while mosaicofficinae, in response to the demand for elaborate polychrome figured mosaics in both private houses and public buildings such as baths, adopted from the second quarter of the 2nd cent. onwards an original and creative approach to mosaic design which by the 4th cent. had left its influence on mosaic floors in Italy and several other provinces as well.

During the 3rd cent. the African provinces continued to prosper, and suffered less from imperial usurpations than most provinces of the Roman west; the failure of Gordian I had, however, serious repercussions. Christianity established itself more firmly than in any other western province, first in the cities, but making rapid strides in Numidia after c.200. The works of Tertullian and Cyprian were of considerable importance in the development of Latin Christianity.

In Diocletian's administrative changes, the provinces of Tripolitania, Byzacena, Numidia, Mauretania Sitifensis, and Mauretania Caesariensis formed the diocese of Africa, Africa Proconsularis being strictly outside the diocesan system, and Mauretania Tingitana forming part of the diocese of Spain. The military forces of the area were put under a comes Africae, and the frontier was divided into districts each under a praepositus limitis, a system unique in the empire (see limes).

Throughout the 4th and early 5th cent., North Africa was affected by serious divisions among Christians; the Donatists, condemned as schismatics by imperial legislation from Constantine onwards, were particularly strong in rural areas of Numidia and Mauretania, where social discontent was growing and where central government's authority was increasingly in decline. Nevertheless the area remained prosperous in comparison with the devastated provinces of northern Europe, and the collapse of Africa to the Vandals (Carthage was captured in 439) was a grievous blow, not least for the corn supply. The invaders found Africa easy prey, since the defensive system was designed for policing work and the suppression of sporadic tribal revolts rather than full-scale invasion.



Atlas archéologique de la Tunisie, 1st ser., E. Babelon and others (1892–1913).Find this resource:

    Atlas archéologique de la Tunisie, 2nd ser., R. Cagnat and A. Merlin (1914–32).Find this resource:

      A. Piganiol, Atlas des centuriations romaines de Tunisie, 3rd edn. (1959).Find this resource:

        S. Gsell, Atlas archéologique de l'Algérie (1911).Find this resource:


          Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum 8 and Suppls..Find this resource:

            R. Cagnat, A. Merlin, and L. Chatelain, Inscriptions latines de l'Afrique (1923).Find this resource:

              A. Merlin, Inscriptions latines de la Tunisie (1944).Find this resource:

                S. Gsell, Inscriptions latines de l'Algérie 1 (1923).Find this resource:

                  H. G. Pflaum, Inscriptions latines de l'Algérie 2 pts. 1 and 2 (1957–76).Find this resource:

                    M. Euzennat, J. Marion, and J. Gascou, Inscriptions antiques du Maroc 2: Inscriptions latines (1982).Find this resource:

                      Z. B. Ben Abdallah, Catalogue des inscriptions païennes du Musée du Bardo (1986).Find this resource:

                        Z. B. Ben Abdallah and L. Ladjimi Sebai, Index onomastique des inscriptions latines de la Tunisie (1983).Find this resource:

                          Principal studies

                          S. Gsell, Histoire ancienne de l'Afrique du Nord, 8 vols. (1914–29).Find this resource:

                            T. R. S. Broughton, The Romanisation of Africa Proconsularis (1929).Find this resource:

                              R. M. Haywood, in T. Frank (ed.), An Economic Survey of Ancient Rome 4 (1938), 1–119.Find this resource:

                                B. H. Warmington, The North African Provinces from Diocletian to the Vandal Conquest (1954).Find this resource:

                                  C. Courtois, Les Vandales et l'Afrique (1955).Find this resource:

                                    P. Romanelli, Storia delle province romane dell'Africa (1959).Find this resource:

                                      B. E. Thomasson, Die Statthalter der römischen Provinzen Nordafrikas, 2 vols. (1960).Find this resource:

                                        L. Teutsch, Das römische Städtwesen in Nordafrika (1962).Find this resource:

                                          L. Thompson and J. Ferguson (eds.), Africa in Classical Antiquity (1969).Find this resource:

                                            I. M. Barton, Africa in the Roman Empire (1972).Find this resource:

                                              M. Benabou, La résistance africaine à la Romanisation (1976).Find this resource:

                                                J. M. Lassère, Ubique Populus (1977).Find this resource:

                                                  D. Fushöller, Tunesien und Ostalgerien in der Römerzeit (1979).Find this resource:

                                                    C. Lepelley, Les Cités de l'Afrique romaine au Bas-Empire (1979).Find this resource:

                                                      P. Mackendrick, The North African Stones Speak (1980).Find this resource:

                                                        W. H. C. Frend, The Donatist Church, 3rd edn. (1986).Find this resource:

                                                          D. P. Kehoe, The Economics of Agriculture on Roman Imperial Estates in North Africa (1988).Find this resource:

                                                            P. A. Février, Approches du Maghreb romain, 2 vols. (1989–90).Find this resource:

                                                              G. C. Picard, La Civilisation de l'Afrique romaine, 2nd edn. (1990).Find this resource:

                                                                J. Kolendo, Le Colonat en Afrique sous le Haut-Empire, 2nd edn. (1991).Find this resource:

                                                                  S. Raven, Rome in Africa, 3rd edn. (1993).Find this resource:


                                                                    Bibliographie analytique de l'Afrique antique (Paris), an annual review of published work.

                                                                    D. J. Mattingly and R. B. Hitchner, Journal of Roman Studies 1995, 165 ff.Find this resource:

                                                                      Conference proceedings

                                                                      Africa Romana 1– (Sassari, 1984– ) (annually).Find this resource:

                                                                        Histoire et archéologie de l'Afrique du Nord (biennially, at different locations in France since 1981; first published in Bulletin archéologique du Comité des Traveaux, but since the Third Congress (1985) as separate volumes).

                                                                        C. M. Wells (ed.), L'Afrique romaine: Les Conférences Vanier 1980 (1982).Find this resource:

                                                                          L'Afrique dans l'occident romain 1er siècle av. J.-C.–IVe siècle ap. J.-C. (1990).Find this resource:

                                                                            Exhibition catalogues

                                                                            De Carthage à Kairouan (1982).Find this resource:

                                                                              A. Ben Abed Ben Khader and D. Soren (eds.), Carthage: A mosaic of ancient Tunisia (1987).Find this resource:

                                                                                M. Seefried Brouillet (ed.), From Hannibal to Saint Augustine: Ancient Art of North Africa from the Musée du Louvre (1994).Find this resource:

                                                                                  Carthage: l'histoire, sa trace et son écho (1995).Find this resource:


                                                                                    G. C. Picard, Les Religions de l'Afrique antique (1954).Find this resource:

                                                                                      M. LeGlay, Saturne africain, 2 vols. (1966).Find this resource:

                                                                                        M. Bassignano, II flaminato nelle province romane dell'Africa (1974).Find this resource:

                                                                                          V. Brouquier-Reddé, Temples et cultes de Tripolitaine (1992).Find this resource:

                                                                                            Art and architecture

                                                                                            S. Gsell, Les Monuments antiques de l'Algérie (1901).Find this resource:

                                                                                              M. Wheeler and R. Wood, Roman Africa in Colour (1966).Find this resource:

                                                                                                A. Lézine, Architecture romaine d'Afrique (1981).Find this resource:

                                                                                                  P. Février, L'Art de l'Algérie antique (1971).Find this resource:

                                                                                                    K. M. D. Dunbabin, Mosaics of Roman North Africa (1978).Find this resource:

                                                                                                      K. Schmelzeisen, Römische Mosaiken der Africa Proconsularis (1992).Find this resource:

                                                                                                        Pottery: J. W. Hayes, Late Roman Pottery (1972).Find this resource:

                                                                                                          J. W. Hayes, Supplement to Late Roman Pottery (1980).Find this resource:

                                                                                                            A. Carandini, in P. Garnsey and others (eds.), Trade in the Ancient Economy (1983), 145–162.Find this resource:

                                                                                                              The army in Africa

                                                                                                              R. Cagnat, L'Armée romaine d'Afrique, 2nd edn. (1912).Find this resource:

                                                                                                                J. Baradez, Fossatum Africae (1949).Find this resource:

                                                                                                                  N. Benseddik, Les Troupes auxiliaires de l'armée romaine en Maurétanie Césarienne sous le Haut Empire (1982).Find this resource:

                                                                                                                    Y. Le Bohec, Les Unites auxiliaires de l'armée romaine en Afrique proconsulaire et Numidie sous le Haut Empire (1989).Find this resource:

                                                                                                                      Y. Le Bohec, La Troisième Légion Auguste (1989).Find this resource:

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