Bookmark and Share


Roman Empire
INTRODUCTION
Africa
Numidia
Mauretania
Tingitana
Caesariensis



























Open the online Arabic language course







146 BCE-439 CE


Roman Empire /
Africa



Leptis Magna
ZOOM - Open a large version of this image

Leptis Magna (Libya).

Underground mansions of Bulla Regia (Tunisia)
ZOOM - Open a large version of this image

Underground mansions of Bulla Regia (Tunisia).

Theatre of Dougga (Tunisia)
ZOOM - Open a large version of this image

Theatre of Dougga (Tunisia).

Roman province of North Africa 146 BCE-439 CE, altogether 585 years. The province covered lands of modern Tunisia, north-western Algeria and the coast of Libya.
Africa emerged from the fall of Carthage after the 3rd Punic War but the first capital became Utica, some 20 km north along the coast. The immediate goal of Rome was to secure that not another power developed here that would challenge Rome the way that Carthage had done.
At first, Africa covered only coastal Tunisia, approximately from Tabarka (Thabraca) to Sfax (Thaenae), a total territory of 13,000 km². Expansion happened from neighbouring tribes launching raids in Roman territory, Rome responded by taking over land to create a larger safety buffer.
Africa encompassed Africa Vetus. which was the oldest territory, Africa Nova contained territory from Numidia and Mauretania. For the first 100 years, Africa rested upon an alliance with Numidia in the west, but Numidia was eventually incorporated into Africa.
The most important neighbour was the Garamantian empire in the south (of modern Libya).

Cities and infrastructure
In the second half of the 1st century BCE, a total of 19 colonies were founded across Africa. This means that it took about a century before Roman investments began for real in the new territory.
Carthage was finally rebuilt, becoming a grand new city with one of the empire's most impressive public baths. Thysdrus (modern El Jem) had built one of the largest colusseums anywhere. At Bulla Regia, Roman architecture took a unique twist, building underground mansions to avoid the intense summer heat. Hadrumetum (modern Sousse) was one of the main economic cities and ports.
Leptis Magna of modern Libya stands as one of the finest Roman cities anywhere. In modern Algeria, Hippo Regius (Annaba) is another grand Roman city.
The Romans built a line of fortresses along the zone where the desert changed from stony to sandy, protecting their territory from tribes further south. The Roman lands were often attacked from neighbouring peoples, but in large the African province must have been easy to defend and control, as the military presence was small here as well as in the other North African provinces, never exceeding 28,000 troops.
Communications were developed through this period, but only to those parts producing products that could be exported. Aqueducts were built several places to provide water for coastal cities. Large parts of Africa remained comparatively underdeveloped.

Economy
Agriculture was the most important part of Africa's economy, the province was one of the most important producers of cereal. Also, beans, figs, grapes and other fruits were produced and exported. From the 2nd century CE, olive oil had become a major product. Handicrafts included wool and textiles, marble, wine, timber, livestock and pottery.

Peoples
The ethnics of Africa resemble largely today's locals of Tunisia, Algeria and Libya. There was immigration from other parts of the Roman Empire, and the Arab influence was still centuries away. The urban populations were Carthaginians and Roman colonists. The rural population were Berbers in identity, culture and language. The Berbers of this time were not a unified people, rather divided into several peoples: Numidians; Gaetulians; Maurusiani; Afri. Among the Berbers bordering the Roman territory were the Lotophagi, Garamantes, Maces, Nasamones, Musulamii, Massyli; and Massaesyli.

Religions
From the 4th century, Christianity gradually replaced Roman religion in the cities, while religion on the countryside remained largely Berber, although Christianity would gain ground here too.

History
146 BCE: The 3rd Punic War ends with the victory of Rome, and the territory of Carthage is transformed into the province of Africa.
46: Following the victory over Numidian king Juba 1 at Thapsus, Numidia becomes part of Africa.
Late 2nd century CE: Numidia is made into a separate province.
439: Vandals secure control of Africa, establishing their own kingdom here.
533: Carthage is conquered by Byzantine general, Belisarius. Byzantine or East Roman control is reestablished over central Africa.




By Tore Kjeilen