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The Roman empire in the time of Hadrian (ruled 117-38 AD), showing, in northern Africa, the senatorial province of Africa Proconsularis (E. Algeria/Tunisia/Tripolitania). 1 legion deployed in 125
Province of Africa highlighted
Northern Africa under Roman rule.

The Roman province of Africa was established after the Romans defeated Carthage in the Third Punic War. It roughly comprised the territory of present-day northern Tunisia, north-eastern Algeria and the Mediterranean coast of modern-day western Libya along the Syrtis Minor. The Arabs later named roughly the same region as the original province Ifriqiya, a rendering of Africa.

Contents

History

The land acquired for the Africa Province was the site of the ancient city of Carthage. Other large cities in the region included Hadrumetum (modern Sousse, Tunisia), capital of Byzacena, Hippo Regius (modern Annaba, Algeria). The province was established by the Roman Republic in 146 BC, following the Third Punic War. Rome established its first African colony, Africa Proconsularis or Africa Vetus (Old Africa), governed by a proconsul, in the most fertile part of what was formerly Carthaginian territory. Utica was formed as the administrative capital. The remaining territory was left in the domain of the 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 Mauretanian client king Bocchus; and, by that time, the romanization of Africa was firmly rooted. In 27 B.C, when the Republic had transformed into an Empire, the Africa Province began its Imperial occupation under Roman rule.

Roman coin celebrating the province of Africa, struck in A.D. 136 under the Emperor Hadrian. The personification of Africa is shown wearing an elephant headdress.

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 and Africa Byzacena in the south, both of which were part of the Dioecesis Africae. The region remained a part of the Roman Empire until the great Germanic migrations of the 5th century. The Vandals crossed into North 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, enforcing a policy of strict separation and suppressing the local Romano-African population. They also persecuted the Catholic faithful, as the Vandals were adherents of the Arian heresy (the semi-trinitarian doctrines of Arius, a priest of Egypt). In 476, when the Roman Empire, had finally fallen, it became a remanent of the Empire. 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 desert.

In AD 533, emperor Justinian, using a Vandal dynastic dispute as pretext, sent an army under the great general Belisarius to recover Africa. In a short campaign, Belisarius defeated the Vandals, entered Carthage in triumph and succeeded in reestablishing 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 North 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 tyrannical emperor Phocas by Heraclius in 610. Its stability and strength in the beginning of the 7th century can be seen from the fact that Heraclius briefly considered moving the imperial capital from Constantinople to Carthage. Faced with the onslaught of the Muslim Conquest after 640, and despite occasional setbacks, the exarchate managed to stave off the threat, but in 698, a Muslim army from Egypt sacked Carthage and conquered the exarchate, ending Roman and Christian rule in North Africa. Thus the last of the provinces of the Western Roman Empire had ceased to exist, 222 years after the fall of Rome and the last Western Roman emperor.

Economics

The prosperity of most towns depended on agriculture. Called the "granary of the empire", North 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 second 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 North 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 North African produce. This flourishing trade allowed the North 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 North Africa.[1].

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Oil lamp production

The North African provinces spanned across regions rich with olive plantations and potter’s clay sources, which lead to the early development of clay-lamp making 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 North 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 c. 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 North Africa is exemplified in the later instances of North African lamps, on which scenes of Christian images like saints, crosses, and biblical figures became commonly articulated topics. However, traditional mythological symbols had enduring popularity as well, which can be traced back to North Africa's Punic heritage. Many of the early North African lamps that have been excavated, especially those of high quality, have the name of the manufacturer inscribed on the base, which gives evidence for a highly competitive and thriving local market that developed early and continued to influence and bolster the colonial economy [2].

After a period of artisanal, political, and social decline in the 3rd c. 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 fourth century triggered this revival. African Red Slip ware (ARS), or African Terra Sigillata, revolutionized the pottery and lamp-making industry[3]. ARS ware was produced from the last third of the 1st c. AD onwards, and was of major importance in the mid to late Roman periods. Famous in antiquity as high-quality tableware, it was distributed both regionally and throughout the Mediterranean basin along well-established and heavily-trafficked trade routes. North Africa's economy flourished as its products were dispersed and demand for its products dramatically increased. [4]. Initially, the ARS lamp designs imitated the simple design of third to fourth century courseware lamps, often with globules on the shoulder or with fluted walls. But new, more ornate designs appeared before the early fifth century as demand spurred on the creative process. The development and widespread distribution of ARS finewares marks the most distinctive phase of North African pottery-making[5].

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[4].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.

Known governors of Roman Africa

Republican Era

146–100 BC

90s–31 BC

During the civil wars of the 80s and 40s, legitimate governors are difficult to distinguish from purely military commands, as rival factions were vying for control of the province by means of force.[6]

Augustus

Tiberius

Claudius

Late Roman Empire

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Wilson, A. I., 2002. Papers of the British School at Rome. Vol 70, Urban Production in the Roman World: The View from North Africa. London: British School at Rome. 231-73.
  2. ^ Brouillet, Monique Seefried., ed. 1994. From Hannibal to Saint Augustine: Ancient Art of North Africa from the Musee Du Louvre, 82-83, 129-130. Atlanta: Emory University.
  3. ^ Brouillet, Monique Seefried., ed. 1994. From Hannibal to Saint Augustine: Ancient Art of North Africa from the Musee Du Louvre, 129-130. Atlanta: Emory University.
  4. ^ a b Mackensen, Michael and Gerwulf Schneider. 2006. “Production centres of African Red Slip Ware (2nd-3rd c.) in northern and central Tunisia: Archaeological provenance and reference groups based on chemical analysis.” Journal of Roman Archaeology 19: 163-188.
  5. ^ Brouillet, Monique Seefried., ed. 1994. From Hannibal to Saint Augustine: Ancient Art of North Africa from the Musee Du Louvre, 129. Atlanta: Emory University.
  6. ^ The dates and names of governors in Africa for the period 99–31 BC are taken zena and sadie from T.R.S. Broughton, The Magistrates of the Roman Republic, vol. 2: 99 B.C.-31 B.C. (New York: American Philological Association, 1952).
  7. ^ Tacitus, Annals I.53
  8. ^ Tacitus, Annals II.52
  9. ^ Tacitus, Annals III.21
  10. ^ Tacitus, Annals III.35, III.58
  11. ^ Tacitus, Annals IV.23
  12. ^ Tacitus, Annals XI.21

References

  • Lennox Manton, Roman North Africa, 1988
  • A. I. Wilson, Urban Production in the Roman World: The View from North Africa, 2002
  • Monique Seefried Brouillet, From Hannibal to Saint Augustine: Ancient Art of North Africa from the Musee Du Louvre, 1994
  • Michael Mackensen and Gerwulf Schneider. Production centres of African Red Slip Ware (2nd-3rd c.) in northern and central Tunisia: Archaeological provenance and reference groups based on chemical analysis, 2006

External links


Simple English

File:Roman Empire
The Roman Empire ca. 117 with the province of Africa highlighted

The Roman province of Africa was established after the Romans defeated Carthage in the Third Punic War. It roughly includeded the territory of present-day northern Tunisia, north-eastern Algeria and the Mediterranean coast of modern-day western Libya along the Syrtis Minor. The Arabs later named roughly the same region as the original province Ifriqiya, an other word for Africa.

Economics

The prosperity of most towns depended on agriculture. Called the "granary of the empire", North 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 second 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 and wool.

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