Africa Proconsularis was a Roman province on the northwest African coast that was established in 146 BC following the defeat of Carthage in the Third Punic War. It roughly comprised the territory of present-day Tunisia, the northeast of Algeria, and the coast of western Libya along the Gulf of Sirte. The territory was originally inhabited by Berber people, known in Latin as Mauri (English: Moor; Spanish: Moro) indigenous to all of North Africa west of Egypt; in the 9th century BC, Phoenicians built settlements along the Mediterranean Sea to facilitate shipping, of which Carthage rose to dominance in the 8th century until its conquest by the Roman Republic.
It was one of the wealthiest provinces in the western part of the Roman empire, second only to Italia. Apart from the city of Carthage, other large settlements in the province were Hadrumetum (modern Sousse, Tunisia), capital of Byzacena, and Hippo Regius (modern Annaba, Algeria).
|Provincia Africa Proconsularis|
|Province of the Roman Empire|
The province of Africa within the Roman Empire
|Capital||Zama Regia, then Carthago|
|•||Established after the Third Punic War||146 BC|
|•||Invasion of the Vandals||5th century|
|Today part of|| Tunisia|
Rome's first province in northwest Africa was established by the Roman Republic in 146 BC, following its defeat of Carthage in the Third Punic War. Africa Proconsularis or Africa Vetus (Old Africa), was governed by a proconsul. It is possible that the name "Africa" comes from the Berber word "afer" or "ifri" that designated a tribe.
Utica was formed as the administrative capital. The remaining territory was left in the domain of the Berber Numidian client king Massinissa. At this time, the Roman policy in Africa was simply to prevent another great power from rising on the far side of Sicily.
In 118 BC, the Numidian prince Jugurtha attempted to reunify the smaller kingdoms. However, upon his death, much of Jugurtha's territory was placed in the control of the Berber Mauretanian client king Bocchus; and, by that time, the romanisation of Africa was firmly rooted. In 27 BC, when the Republic had transformed into an Empire, the province of Africa began its Imperial occupation under Roman rule.
Several political and provincial reforms were implemented by Augustus and later by Caligula, but Claudius finalized the territorial divisions into official Roman provinces. Africa was a senatorial province. After Diocletian's administrative reforms, it was split into Africa Zeugitana (which retained the name Africa Proconsularis, as it was governed by a proconsul) in the north; Africa Byzacena to its adjacent south (corresponding to eastern Tunisia), and Africa Tripolitania to its adjacent south (corresponding to southern Tunisia and northwest Libya). All of which were part of the Dioecesis Africae.
The region remained a part of the Roman Empire until the Germanic migrations of the 5th century. The Vandals crossed into Northwest Africa from Spain in 429 and overran the area by 439 and founded their own kingdom, including Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia and the Balearics. The Vandals controlled the country as a warrior-elite but faced strong resistance from the native Berbers. The Vandals also persecuted Catholic Berbers, as the Vandals were adherents of Arianism (the semi-trinitarian doctrines of Arius, a priest of Egypt). Towards the end of the 5th century, the Vandal state fell into decline, abandoning most of the interior territories to the Mauri and other Berber tribes of the region.
In AD 533, Emperor Justinian, using a Vandal dynastic dispute as pretext, sent an army under the general Belisarius to recover Africa. In a short campaign, Belisarius defeated the Vandals, entered Carthage in triumph and re-established Roman rule over the province. The restored Roman administration was successful in fending off the attacks of the Amazigh desert tribes, and by means of an extensive fortification network managed to extend its rule once again to the interior.
The northwest African provinces, together with the Roman possessions in Spain, were grouped into the Exarchate of Africa by Emperor Maurice. The exarchate prospered, and from it resulted the overthrow of the emperor Phocas by Heraclius in 610. Heraclius briefly considered moving the imperial capital from Constantinople to Carthage.
After 640, the exarchate managed to stave off the Muslim Conquest, but in 698, a Muslim army from Egypt sacked Carthage and conquered the exarchate, ending Roman and Christian rule in Northwest Africa.
|EVOLUTION OF THE PROVINCE OF AFRICA|
|Pre-Roman Conquest||Carthage||Eastern Numidia (Massylii)||Western Numidia (Masaesyli)||Mauretania|
|by 146 BC||Africa||Numidia||Mauretania|
|by 105 BC||Africa||Eastern Numidia||Western Numidia||Mauretania|
|by 45 BC||Africa Vetus||Africa Nova||Western Numidia||Eastern Mauretania||Western Mauretania|
|by 27 BC||Africa Proconsularis||Mauretania|
|by 41 AD||Africa Proconsularis||Mauretania Caesariensis||Mauretania Tingitana|
|by 193 AD||Africa Proconsularis||Numidia||Mauretania Caesariensis||Mauretania Tingitana|
|by 314 AD||Tripolitania||Africa Byzacena||Africa Zeugitana||Numidia||Mauretania Sitifensis||Mauretania Caesariensis||Mauretania Tingitana|
Even so, the Roman military presence of Northwest Africa was relatively small, consisting of about 28,000 troops and auxiliaries in Numidia and the two Mauretanian provinces. Starting in the 2nd century AD, these garrisons were manned mostly by local inhabitants. A sizable Latin speaking population developed that was multinational in background, sharing the northwest African region with those speaking Punic and Berber languages. Imperial security forces began to be drawn from the local population, including the Berbers.
Abun-Nasr, in his A History of the Maghrib, said that "What made the Berbers accept the Roman way of life all the more readily was that the Romans, though a colonizing people who captured their lands by the might of their arms, did not display any racial exclusiveness and were remarkably tolerant of Berber religious cults, be they indigenous or borrowed from the Carthaginians. However, the Roman territory in Africa was unevenly penetrated by Roman culture. Pockets of non-Romanized Berbers continued to exist throughout the Roman period, even such as in the rural areas of the deeply romanised regions of Tunisia and Numidia."
By the end of the Western Roman Empire nearly all of the Maghreb was fully romanised, according to Mommsen in his The Provinces of the Roman Empire. Roman Africans enjoyed a high level of prosperity. This prosperity (and romanisation) touched partially even the populations living outside the Roman limes (mainly the Garamantes and the Getuli), who were reached with Roman expeditions to Sub-Saharan Africa.
The willing acceptance of Roman citizenship by members of the ruling class in African cities produced such Roman Africans as the comic poet Terence, the rhetorician Fronto of Cirta, the jurist Salvius Julianus of Hadrumetum, the novelist Apuleius of Madauros, the emperor Septimius Severus of Lepcis Magna, the Christians Tertullian and Cyprian of Carthage, and Arnobius of Sicca and his pupil Lactantius; the angelic doctor Augustine of Thagaste, the epigrammatist Luxorius of Vandal Carthage, and perhaps the biographer Suetonius, and the poet Dracontius.— Paul MacKendrick, The North African Stones Speak (1969), UNC Press, 2000, p.326
The prosperity of most towns depended on agriculture. Called the "granary of the empire", Northwest Africa, according to one estimate, produced one million tons of cereals each year, one-quarter of which was exported. Additional crops included beans, figs, grapes, and other fruits. By the 2nd century, olive oil rivaled cereals as an export item. In addition to the cultivation of slaves, and the capture and transporting of exotic wild animals, the principal production and exports included the textiles, marble, wine, timber, livestock, pottery such as African Red Slip, and wool.
The incorporation of colonial cities into the Roman Empire brought an unparalleled degree of urbanization to vast areas of territory, particularly in Northwest Africa. This level of rapid urbanization had a structural impact on the town economy, and artisan production in Roman cities became closely tied to the agrarian spheres of production. As Rome's population grew, so did her demand for Northwest African produce. This flourishing trade allowed the Northwest African provinces to increase artisan production in rapidly developing cities, making them highly organized urban centers. Many Roman cities shared both consumer and producer model city aspects, as artisanal activity was directly related to the economic role cities played in long-distance trade networks.
The urban population became increasingly engaged in the craft and service sectors and less in agrarian employment, until a significant portion of the town's vitality came from the sale or trade of products through middlemen to markets in areas both rural and abroad. The changes that occurred in the infrastructure for agricultural processing, like olive oil and wine production, as trade continued to develop both cities and commerce directly influenced the volume of artisan production. The scale, quality, and demand for these products reached its acme in Roman Northwest Africa.
The Northwest African provinces spanned across regions rich with olive plantations and potters' clay sources, which led to the early development of fine Ancient Roman pottery, especially African Red Slip terra sigillata tableware and clay oil lamp manufacture, as a crucial industry. Lamps provided the most common form of illumination in Rome. They were used for public and private lighting, as votive offerings in temples, lighting at festivals, and as grave goods. As the craft developed and increased in quality and craftsmanship, the Northwest African creations began to rival their Italian and Grecian models and eventually surpassed them in merit and in demand.
The innovative use of molds around the 1st century BC allowed for a much greater variety of shapes and decorative style, and the skill of the lamp maker was demonstrated by the quality of the decoration found typically on the flat top of the lamp, or discus, and the outer rim, or shoulder. The production process took several stages. The decorative motifs were created using small individual molds, and were then added as appliqué to a plain archetype of the lamp. The embellished lamp was then used to make two plaster half molds, one lower half and one upper half mold, and multiple copies were then able to be mass-produced. Decorative motifs ranged according to the lamp's function and to popular taste.
Ornate patterning of squares and circles were later added to the shoulder with a stylus, as well as palm trees, small fish, animals, and flower patterns. The discus was reserved for conventional scenes of gods, goddesses, mythological subjects, scenes from daily life, erotic scenes, and natural images. The strongly Christian identity of post-Roman society in Northwest Africa is exemplified in the later instances of Northwest African lamps, on which scenes of Christian images like saints, crosses, and biblical figures became commonly articulated topics. Traditional mythological symbols had enduring popularity as well, which can be traced back to Northwest Africa's Punic heritage. Many of the early Northwest African lamps that have been excavated, especially those of high quality, have the name of the manufacturer inscribed on the base, which gives evidence of a highly competitive and thriving local market that developed early and continued to influence and bolster the colonial economy.
After a period of artisanal, political, and social decline in the 3rd century AD, lamp-making revived and accelerated artistry in the early Christian age to new heights. The introduction of fine local red-fired clays in the late 4th century triggered this revival. African Red Slip ware (ARS), or African Terra Sigillata, revolutionized the pottery and lamp-making industry.
ARS ware was produced from the last third of the 1st century AD onwards, and was of major importance in the mid-to-late Roman periods. Famous in antiquity as "fine" or high-quality tableware, it was distributed both regionally and throughout the Mediterranean basin along well-established and heavily trafficked trade routes. Northwest Africa's economy flourished as its products were dispersed and demand for its products dramatically increased.
Initially, the ARS lamp designs imitated the simple design of 3rd- to 4th-century courseware lamps, often with globules on the shoulder or with fluted walls. But new, more ornate designs appeared before the early 5th century as demand spurred on the creative process. The development and widespread distribution of ARS finewares marks the most distinctive phase of Northwest African pottery-making.
These characteristic pottery lamps were produced in large quantities by efficiently organized production centers with large-scale manufacturing abilities, and can be attributed to specific pottery-making centers in northern and central Tunisia by way of modern chemical analysis, which allows modern archeologists to trace distribution patterns among trade routes both regional and across the Mediterranean. Some major ARS centers in central Tunisia are Sidi Marzouk Tounsi, Henchir el-Guellal (Djilma), and Henchir es-Srira, all of which have ARS lamp artifacts attributed to them by the microscopic chemical makeup of the clay fabric as well as macroscopic style prevalent in that region.
This underscores the idea that these local markets fueled the economy of not only the town itself, but the entire region and supported markets abroad. Certain vessel forms, fabrics, and decorative techniques like rouletting, appliqué, and stamped décor, are specific for a certain region and even for a certain pottery center. If neither form nor decoration of the material to be classified is identifiable, it is possible to trace its origins, not just to a certain region but even to its place of production by comparing its chemical analysis to important northeastern and central Tunisian potteries with good representatives.
Unless otherwise noted, names of governors in Africa and their dates are taken from T.R.S. Broughton, The Magistrates of the Roman Republic, (New York: American Philological Association, 1951, 1986), vol. 1, and vol. 2 (1952).
Inscriptional evidence is less common for this period than for the Imperial era, and names of those who held a provincia are usually recorded by historians only during wartime or by the Fasti Triumphales. After the defeat of Carthage in 146 BC, no further assignments to Africa among the senior magistrates or promagistrates are recorded until the Jugurthine War (112–105 BC), when the command against Jugurtha in Numidia became a consular province.
During the civil wars of the 80s and 40s BC, legitimate governors are difficult to distinguish from purely military commands, as rival factions were vying for control of the province by means of force.
Governors are directly chosen by the Emperors, without Roman Senate approval.
The Battle of Ruspina was fought on 4 January 46 BC in the Roman province of Africa, between the Republican forces of the Optimates and forces loyal to Julius Caesar. The Republican army was commanded by Titus Labienus, Caesar's former supporter who had defected to the Republican side at the beginning of the civil war.Battle of Thapsus
The Battle of Thapsus was an engagement in Caesar's Civil War that took place on April 6, 46 BC near Thapsus (in modern Tunisia). The Republican forces of the Optimates, led by Quintus Caecilius Metellus Scipio, were decisively defeated by the veteran forces loyal to Julius Caesar. It was followed shortly by the suicides of Scipio and his ally, Cato the Younger.Bonifacius
Comes Bonifatius (anglicized as Count Boniface) (d. 432) was a Roman general and governor of the Diocese of Africa. He campaigned against the Visigoths in Roman Gaul and the Vandals in Roman North Africa. An ally of Galla Placidia (regent of Valentinian III), Bonifacius engaged in Roman civil wars on her behalf against the generals Flavius Felix in 427-429 and Flavius Aetius in 432. Although he defeated the latter at the Battle of Rimini, Bonifacius suffered a fatal wound and was succeeded by his son-in-law Sebastianus as patricius of the Western Roman Empire.Byzacena
Byzacena was a Late Roman province in the central part of Roman North Africa, which is now roughly Tunisia, split off from Africa Proconsularis.Clodius Albinus
Clodius Albinus (Latin: Decimus Clodius Septimius Albinus Augustus; c. 150 – 19 February 197) was a Roman usurper who was proclaimed emperor by the legions in Britain and Hispania (the Iberian Peninsula, comprising modern Spain and Portugal) after the murder of Pertinax in 193 (known as the "Year of the Five Emperors"), and who proclaimed himself emperor again in 196, before his final defeat the following year.De Bello Africo
De Bello Africo (also Bellum Africum; On the African War) is a Latin work continuing Julius Caesar's commentaries, De Bello Gallico and De Bello Civili, and its sequel by an unknown author De Bello Alexandrino. It details Caesar's campaigns against his Republican enemies in the province of Africa.Diocese of Africa
The Diocese of Africa (Latin: Dioecesis Africae) was a diocese of the later Roman Empire, incorporating the provinces of North Africa, except Mauretania Tingitana. Its seat was at Carthage, and it was subordinate to the Praetorian prefecture of Italy.
The diocese included the provinces of Africa proconsularis (also known as Zeugitana), Byzacena, Mauretania Sitifensis, Mauretania Caesariensis, Numidia Cirtensis, Numidia Militiana and Tripolitania. In current geo-political terms, the Diocese of Africa included the entire coastline of Algeria and Tunisia, with some mountainous hinterlands, plus the western half of Libya's coastline.
The diocese existed from the time of the Diocletianian and Constantinian reforms in the last years of the 3rd century until it was overrun by the Vandals in the 430s. The provincial organization were retained under the Vandals, and after their defeat and the reconquest of Africa by the Eastern Roman Empire in the Vandalic War, they were grouped anew, but this time in a praetorian prefecture.Enfidha
Enfidha (or Dar-el-Bey, Arabic: دار البي Enfīđa / Dar el bāy) is a town in north-eastern Tunisia with a population of approximately 10,000. It is visited by tourists on their way to Takrouna. Enfidha is located at around 36°8′7″N 10°22′51″E. It lies on the railway between Tunis and Sousse, approximately 45 km northeast of Sousse and a few kilometres inland from the Gulf of Hammamet. The nearby Enfidha – Hammamet International Airport opened in 2009, serving charter flights from several European countries.Gaiseric
Gaiseric (c. 400 – 25 January 477), also known as Geiseric or Genseric (Latin: Gaisericus, Geisericus; reconstructed Vandalic: *Gaisarīks), was King of the Vandals and Alans (428–477) who established the Vandal Kingdom and was one of the key players in the troubles of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century. During his nearly 50 years of rule, he raised a relatively insignificant Germanic tribe to the status of a major Mediterranean power. After he died, they entered a swift decline and eventual collapse.
Succeeding his brother Gunderic at a time when the Vandals were settled in Baetica, Roman Hispania (modern Andalusia, Spain), Gaiseric successfully defended himself against a Suebian attack and transported all his people, around 80,000, to Northern Africa in 428. He might have been invited by the Roman governor Bonifacius, who wished to use the military strength of the Vandals in his struggle against the imperial government.
Gaiseric caused great devastation as he moved eastward from the Strait of Gibraltar across Africa. He turned on Bonifacius, defeated his army in 430, and then crushed the joint forces of the Eastern and Western empires that had been sent against him. In 435 Gaiseric concluded a treaty with the Romans under which the Vandals retained Mauretania and part of Numidia as foederati (allies under special treaty) of Rome. In a surprise move on 19 October 439, Gaiseric captured Carthage, striking a devastating blow at imperial power. In a 442 treaty with Rome, the Vandals were recognized as the independent rulers of Byzacena and part of Numidia. He besieged Panormus (Palermo Sicily in 440 AD but was repulsed; and made an incursion near Agrigento in 456 but was repulsed there and defeated by Ricimer in a naval battle off the coast of Corsica. He did in 455 seize the Balearic Islands, Sardinia, Corsica, and Malta, Gaiseric’s fleet soon came to control much of the western Mediterranean. He occupied Sicily in 468 for 8 years until the island was ceded in 476 to Odavacer except for a toehold on the far west coast, Lilybaeum, also was ceded in 491 to Theodoric.p. 410.His most famous exploit, however, was the capture and plundering of Rome in June 455. Subsequently, the King defeated two major efforts by the Romans to overthrow him, that of the emperor Majorian in 460 or 461 and that led by Basiliscus at the Battle of Cape Bon in 468. After dying in Carthage at the age of 77, Gaiseric was succeeded by his son Huneric.Hadrumetum
Hadrumetum, also known by many variant spellings and names, was a Phoenician colony that pre-dated Carthage. It subsequently became one of the most important cities in Roman Africa before Vandal, Byzantine, and Umayyad conquerors left it ruined. In the early modern period, it was the village of Hammeim, now part of Sousse, Tunisia.Haïdra
Haïdra (Arabic: حيدرة) is a municipality in western Tunisia, containing the ruins of Ammaedara, one of the oldest Roman cities in Africa. It was a diocese and is now a Roman Catholic titular see.Limes Tripolitanus
The Limes Tripolitanus was a frontier zone of defence of the Roman Empire, built in the south of what is now Tunisia and the northwest of Libya. It was primarily intended as a protection for the tripolitanian cities of Leptis Magna, Sabratha and Oea in Roman Libya.Maximian (Bishop of Carthage)
Maximian was a 4th-century Bishop of Carthage and founder of a splinter group that left (or reformed) Donatism.Musulamii
The Musulamii were a confederation of the Berber Gaetulian tribes, who inhabited the desert regions of what is today known as Chotts Regions in Tunisia and Algeria, as well as the Roman province of Mauretania Caesariensis, which was annexed to the Roman empire in 44 AD. They were indeed meant to be recognized as a member of these tribes and not separate, as Junius Blaesus the younger describes a war against Tacfarinas as a war against the Gaetulas Gentes ("Gaetulian Peoples").Oea
Oea () was an ancient city in present-day Centreville à le Souq Yafran in Tripoli, Libya. It was founded by the Phoenicians in the 7th century BC and later became a Roman–Berber colony. As part of the Roman Africa Nova province, Oea and surrounding Tripolitania were prosperous. It reached its height in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD, when the city experienced a golden age under the Severan dynasty in nearby Leptis Magna. The city was conquered by the Rashidun Caliphate with the spread of Islam in the 7th century and came to be known as Tripoli during the 9th century.Sabratha
Sabratha, Sabratah or Siburata (Arabic: صبراتة), in the Zawiya District of Libya, was the westernmost of the ancient "three cities" of Roman Tripolis. From 2001 to 2007 it was the capital of the former Sabratha wa Sorman District. It lies on the Mediterranean coast about 70 km (43 mi) west of modern Tripoli. The extant archaeological site was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982.Taparura
Taparura is a location within the city of Sfax, Tunisia. It was a former Catholic diocese.Thenae
Thenae, also written Thaena and Thaenae, was a Carthaginian and Roman town (civitas) located in or near Thyna, now a suburb of Sfax on the Mediterranean coast of southeastern Tunisia.Vibia Aurelia Sabina
Vibia Aurelia Sabina (170 AD – before 217 AD) was a Roman Princess. She was the youngest daughter and child born to Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius and Roman Empress Faustina the Younger. She was a sister to Roman Empress Lucilla and Roman Emperor Commodus. Her maternal grandparents were Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius and Roman Empress Faustina the Elder and her paternal grandparents were Domitia Lucilla and praetor Marcus Annius Verus.