Africa (Roman province)

Provincia Africa Proconsularis
Province of the Roman Empire

146 BC–5th century
Location of Africa
The province of Africa within the Roman Empire
CapitalZama Regia, then Carthago
Historical eraAntiquity
 • Established after the Third Punic War146 BC
 • Invasion of the Vandals5th century
Today part of Tunisia
 Libya
 Algeria
Part of a series on the
Tunisia
Coat of arms of Tunisia.svg
Africa (orthographic projection).svg Africa portalP history.svg History portal
Part of a series on the
Algeria
Emblem of Algeria.svg
Part of a series on the
Libya
The emblem on the passport of Libya.svg
Prehistory
Ancient history pre-146 BC
Roman era to 640 AD
Islamic rule 640–1510
Spanish rule 1510–1530
Order of Saint John 1530–1551
Ottoman Tripolitania 1551–1911
Italian colonization 1911–1934
Italian Libya 1934–1943
Allied occupation 1943–1951
Kingdom of Libya 1951–1969
Libya under Muammar Gaddafi 1969–2011
First Civil War 2011
National Transitional Council 2011–2012
General National Congress 2012–2014
House of Representatives 2014–present
Second Civil War 2014–present
Government of National Accord 2016–present
Flag of Libya.svg Libya portal

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 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).

The Roman empire in the time of Hadrian (ruled 117–138 AD), showing, in northern Africa, the senatorial province of Africa Proconsularis (E. Algeria/Tunisia/Tripolitania). 1 legion deployed in 125.

History

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.

Timetable

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
Legend
  Roman control