Centre for Continuing Education

History Course: Roman North Africa

History. See the future. It’s in the past.

COVID-19 update: arrangement of our courses

We are now delivering courses online and in-person. Please check the delivery format of each class before enrolling.

Please note that course materials (excluding prescribed texts) are shared electronically within 48 hours of course commencement. Printing is not available.


North Africa was one of Rome’s richest provinces and today some of the most impressive Roman ruins are to be found not in Italy, but in North Africa. Our armchair travels will range from the city of Volubilis and other sites in Morocco, through Algeria, where we will be examining Timgad, Lambaesis, Djemila, Tipasa and St Augustine’s town of Hippo Regius, to Tunisia, with it's Roman towns such as Dougga, Sufetula (Sbeitla) and Thyrsdus (El Djem). In Libya, we will concentrate on the monumental city of Leptis Magna, one of the world’s best preserved Roman sites, and Cyrene, beautifully sited and remarkable for it's spectacular Greek architecture. We will visit the frontier and the ruins of Germa, a remote town on the edge of the vast Sahara.

Join us, as we examine the social, political and economic life of Roman North Africa and explore its monumental cities, remote villas, quarries and farms.

Outcomes

By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • identify the geographical extent of Roman rule in North Africa and use conventional historical periodisation
  • show a familiarity with the various ethnic groups encountered by the Romans in North Africa
  • outline the key features of Roman provincial and municipal government
  • identify the features of key Roman civic buildings and identify specifically North African building practices
  • identify the key stylistic features of North African mosaics
  • describe and employ the Latin vocabulary of social relations and patronage
  • evaluate the contribution made by specific 19th and 20th century archaeologists and historians to our understanding of Roman North Africa.

Content

A survey of Roman North Africa

This introductory session focuses on the big picture: how the Romans got involved in North Africa and the consequences of Rome’s struggle with Carthage. In the period after the defeat of Carthage will examine Roman relations with the Numidian kingdom (in modern Tunisia and Algeria) and the eventual extension and consolidation of Roman rule through the provincial system. We will look at agricultural and natural resources exploited by the Romans and the political organisation of the cities under Roman rule.

Towns that were colonies or municipalities were the backbone of the Rome’s North African provinces: Africa, Africa Nova, Tripolitania and Cyrenaica. We will follow some Roman roads and trade routes and look at Roman life in towns and on agricultural estates. To conclude we will examine the disturbances that saw the collapse of Roman rule in Late Antiquity.

Roman North Africa, Numidia and the East

We will begin with the development of Roman Carthage and then trace the consolidation of Roman rule over what had once been the Numidian kingdom (in present day Tunisia and Algeria). We will examine how agriculture was organised in places where high rainfall gave abundant crops and will look at towns such as Maktaris, Dougga and Sufetula (Tunisia) and Timgad, Djemila, Hippo regius and Tipasa (Algeria), and the road system that aided the economy, the quarry town of Chemtou (Tunis) and the garrison town of Lambaesis (Algeria). In the dryer east of Tunisia, we examine the huge olive plantations that gave wealth to towns such as Thysdus (el Djem), notable even today for its amphitheatre that recalls the Colosseum at Rome. Many aspects of daily life are revealed by scenes worked in mosaics and we will utilise this material as we go along.

Cyrene and Cyrenaica

The province of Cyrenaica was self-consciously Greek in character and although part of Roman North Africa was somewhat different and at one stage governed with Crete. Cyrene was wealthy because of its trade in the valued herb sylphium and the town was an important cultural centre. The Hellenistic style city and it port town of Apollonia are both remarkably preserved. Other towns in the region such as Taucheira and Ptolemais were significant places with a high level of material culture. There are some wonderful marbles and fine Greek vases in museums at these sites.

Tripolitania Leptis Magna, Sabratha and Oea

No Roman provincial town was, and still is, as impressive as Leptis Magna. Already a prosperous trading port by the time of Augustus, the city was greatly expanded and embellished by the emperor Septimius Severus in the early 3rd century. Septimius favoured the town as it was his birthplace. In the 1st cent AD, the people of Leptis had an amphitheatre, two-thirds the size of the Colosseum and cut from the rock. This entertainment complex was then joined to a hippodrome by a bridge and two tunnels in the send century and then it was possible to go between wild beast shows in the arena and horse races in the circus. The town’s baths and facilities were of the highest quality and Leptis was surrounded by maritime villas. We will tour the town and visit one of the beautiful villas, the villa Selin. We will also examine the Roman triumphal arch at Oea (modern Tripoli) and the city of Sabratha with its atmospheric theatre by the Mediterranean. To conclude the day, we journey to the town of Germa on the edge of the Sahara, the very edge of the Roman world.

Intended audience

Anyone interested in extending their knowledge of Roman history, art and architecture and those with an interest in the culture and history of North Africa.

Prerequisites

None

Delivery style

  • Lecture with audio-visual presentation
  • Discussion with interactive Q&A

Materials

Any course notes are provided electronically.

Features

  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Course materials – yours to keep
  • CCE Statement of Completion

What others say.

  • The presenter had an ability to interact and connect with the entire group. The experience had a personal touch to it.
We acknowledge the tradition of custodianship and law of the Country on which the University of Sydney campuses stand. We pay our respects to those who have cared and continue to care for the Country.