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Africa province in the Roman Empire
Export hit from the Africa proconsularis province : vessels made from Sigillata Chiara

Africa was the Latin name for a Roman province in ancient times . On the other hand, for the continent of Africa (except Egypt and Aithiopia ), more precisely initially only for North Africa west of the Nile, the region known to the Romans from this continent, the name Libya was often used (as was already done by the Greeks) .

The province consisted of the former heartland of the Carthaginian Empire and was after the Punic Wars in 146 BC. Set up. It included what is now Tunisia and parts of Algeria and Libya . The border between the Roman province and the Numidian Kingdom was the Fossa regia , a line of demarcation drawn by Scipio the Younger . Since the Romans had completely destroyed Carthage , Utica first became the capital of the new province.

105 BC After the victory of Gaius Marius over Jugurtha, western parts of Numidia were incorporated into Roman territory, and after the victory of Caesar at Thapsus in 46 BC. Caesar formed the province of Africa nova ("new Africa") from the territory of the Numidian king Jubas I , a follower of the defeated Pompey . Large parts of Numidia (in present-day Algeria) and Tripolitania (in present-day Libya) belonged to their territory . The existing province was henceforth called Africa vetus ("old Africa") or Africa propria ("real Africa").

27 BC BC Augustus united the provinces Africa vetus and Africa nova to Africa proconsularis . The capital became in 29 BC. Colonia Iulia Concordia Carthago founded on the site of the earlier Carthage . The governorship of Africa was the most prestigious next to that of Asia , especially since the proconsul of Africa initially held independent command of a Roman legion ( Legio III Augusta ) as the only senatorial governor - something that was otherwise reserved for imperial legates . During the reign of Emperor Septimius Severus (193-211) the province of Numidia was detached from the previous province.

Under Diocletian , the old province was divided again at the beginning of late antiquity around 300: into Africa proconsularis (→ Zeugitana ), Byzacena and Tripolitiana. In addition, there were Mauretania Sitifensis and Mauretania Caesariensis , which lay further west. These six provinces made up late Roman North Africa.

The province was generally considered to be one of the richest in the Roman Empire and the breadbasket of the western empire , Carthage even as the second largest city in the west after Rome , just as the province was generally heavily urbanized. Its heyday fell in the 2nd and early 3rd centuries; a renewed bloom began around 300 and lasted until the 5th century. The Roman emperors from the House of Severus originally came from Leptis Magna , a city in the province of Africa . Important Christian personalities also came from the province (such as Lactantius and Marius Victorinus ) or lived there for some time ( Augustine of Hippo ), as did the late antique poet Gorippus . To what extent the Punic or Carthaginian language remained as a colloquial language alongside Latin for a long time is unclear and controversial.

Map of Africa

Early Christians are attested in the province (the first evidence of the existence of African Christians comes from the late 2nd century) - here church teachers such as Tertullian , Cyprian and later Augustine were the first to develop a Christian theology in Latin - and the community of Carthage has long been the bishop of Rome's great competitor for leadership in the West. The Christians of Africa remained predominantly Nicene (after the clashes with the Donatists in the 4th / 5th centuries, who formed a significant minority), despite the invasion of the Arian Vandals who conquered Africa in the 30s of the 5th century. The invaders de facto founded their own empire here and seized control of the sea in the western Mediterranean. The loss of North Africa, on whose grain Italy was still heavily dependent, played a not unimportant role in the fall of West Rome . The culture of late antiquity continued to be cultivated under the Vandals, whose ruling class quickly Romanized.

In the 6th century Africa was recaptured by the Eastern Roman general Belisarius on behalf of Emperor Justinian (533/34). The area was then placed under its own magister militum per Africam and administered by a Praetorian prefect . The view of older scholars that the reconquest was the decisive blow for the economy of late antiquity in Africa has since been revised by archaeological and epigraphic investigations: the area has rather flourished again and became politically active in the late 6th century as the exarchate of Carthage. reorganized militarily. Politically, economically and culturally, East Roman Africa remained closely linked to the Mediterranean world.

The area fell to the Islamic Arabs , who called it Ifrīqiya , from the middle of the 7th century . With the conquest of Carthage in 698, the history of the Roman province of Africa was finally over; The Roman-Christian culture soon came to an end here. Unlike the Eastern Churches (Copts, Syrians, Armenians, Greeks), which survived under Islamic rule for centuries, North African Christianity disappeared completely.

See also



  1. ^ Carthage: Two Capital Cities
  2. ^ Joachim Ott: The Beneficiarier. Studies of their position within the hierarchy of the Roman Army and their function (= Historia. Individual writings. 92). Steiner, Stuttgart 1995, ISBN 3-515-06660-8 , p. 25.
  3. Jonathan Conant: Staying Roman. Conquest and Identity in Africa and the Mediterranean, 439-700. Cambridge 2012, p. 196 ff.
  4. Jonathan Conant: Staying Roman. Conquest and Identity in Africa and the Mediterranean, 439-700. Cambridge 2012, p. 330 ff.

Coordinates: 31 ° 48 '  N , 12 ° 44'  E