ROMANS IN NORTH AFRICA AND EGYPT

ROMANS IN NORTH AFRICA AND EGYPT


The Romans claimed North Africa after Hannibal, his elephants and Carthage were defeated in the Punic Wars

The Romans claimed: 1) North Africa after the Punic Wars (264 – 146 B.C.), 2) Greece, Macedonia, Syria and Asia Minor after the Macedonian Wars (214–148 B.C.); and 3) Egypt after the struggle between Octavian (Augustus) and Marc Antony and Cleopatra VII (Cleopatra) and the Battle of Actium (31 B.C.).

African Provinces of the Roman Empire
Africa proper (Libya, former Carthage, 146 B.C.).
Cyrenaica and Crete (74, 63 B.C.).
Numidia (Algeria, small parts of Tunisia, Libya, 46 B.C.).
Egypt (30 B.C.).
Mauretania (western Algeria, Morocco, A.D. 42). \~\

After the Punic Wars, North Africa was reduced to the form of a province. It comprised all the land which had hitherto been subject to Carthage. Utica was made the new capital city, where the Roman governor was to reside. All the cities which had favored Carthage were punished by the loss of their land, or the payment of tribute. The cities which had favored Rome were allowed to remain free. Numidia, on account of its fidelity to Rome, was continued as an independent ally. In this way the condition of every city and people was dependent upon the extent of its loyalty to Rome. After Africa was made a province, it soon became a Romanized country. Its commerce passed into the hands of Roman merchants; the Roman manners and customs were introduced; and the Latin language became the language of the people. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~\]

With Cleopatra's death in 30 B.C., the Ptolemaic Dynasty ended. Octavian lured Ptolemy Caesarian, Cleopatra's son with Julius Caesar, back to Alexandria and had him murdered. Octavian adopted the children Cleopatra had with Antony. In 30 B.C. Egypt also became a province of Rome. It would not recover its autonomy until the 20th century.

Roman rule was established in Egypt after Octavian (Augustus) displaced the last ruler of the Ptolemaic line, Cleopatra. It proved to be a great and rich province for Augustus, who organized the country not so much as a Roman Province but as the emperor's own special domain land. In Egypt, the Emperor was considered the successor of the ancient Pharaohs; his deputy - the prefect - ruled the country with an authority permitted to few other governors.

Websites on Ancient Rome: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Rome sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Late Antiquity sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Forum Romanum forumromanum.org ; “Outlines of Roman History” forumromanum.org; “The Private Life of the Romans” forumromanum.org|; BBC Ancient Rome bbc.co.uk/history; Perseus Project - Tufts University; perseus.tufts.edu ; Lacus Curtius penelope.uchicago.edu; Gutenberg.org gutenberg.org The Roman Empire in the 1st Century pbs.org/empires/romans; The Internet Classics Archive classics.mit.edu ; Bryn Mawr Classical Review bmcr.brynmawr.edu; De Imperatoribus Romanis: An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Emperors roman-emperors.org; British Museum ancientgreece.co.uk; Oxford Classical Art Research Center: The Beazley Archive beazley.ox.ac.uk ; Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org/about-the-met/curatorial-departments/greek-and-roman-art; The Internet Classics Archive kchanson.com ; Cambridge Classics External Gateway to Humanities Resources web.archive.org/web; Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy iep.utm.edu; Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy plato.stanford.edu; Ancient Rome resources for students from the Courtenay Middle School Library web.archive.org ; History of ancient Rome OpenCourseWare from the University of Notre Dame /web.archive.org ; United Nations of Roma Victrix (UNRV) History unrv.com

Punic Wars

The Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage were pivotal in making Rome a great empire. They began in 264 B.C., and lasted for 118 years with Rome ultimately prevailing. There were three Punic wars. They are regarded as the first world wars. The number of men employed, the strategies and the weapons employed were like nothing that ever been seen before. "Punic" come from the Roman word for "Phoenician, " a reference to Carthage.

When the wars began Rome and Carthage were the two most powerful states in the Mediterranean. They both began as small cities and emerged as major powers around the 5th century B.C. They were briefly allied against the Greeks but later fought one another over lucrative trade routes.

Rome became the major power of the Mediterranean after it defeated Carthage, annexing territory in Sicily, North Africa and Spain. While fighting against Carthage the Romans also amassed large amounts of territory as spoils from wars against Macedonia, the home of Alexander the Great.

Book “The Punic Wars” by Andrian Goldworthy

See Separate Article on The Punic Wars

Battle of Actium


The Romans claimed Egypt more or less after Cleopatra was defeated in the Battle of Actium

During the naval Battle of Actium in 31 B.C. the forces of Antony and Cleopatra were defeated by Octavian, whose navy was made up of smaller, faster ships that outmaneuvered the larger ships of Antony and Cleopatra's fleet after hard fighting and a lot of bloodshed. Many of the ships had battering rams, and many of the ships that sunk burned and were dragged down by their heavy battering rams. In 1993, objects believed to be from Anthony's fleet were discovered two miles off the west coast of Greece.

While Antony and Cleopatra were trapped in Actium 400 ships and 80,000 infantrymen under Octavian's command approached Anthony's army from the north and cut of his supply lines in the south. Cleopatra reportedly was the one who urged Antony to make a final stand at sea. Cleopatra was put in charge of third of the fleet and ultimately showed that her military skill did not match her political skills

Before the battle had even begun, Cleopatra is said to have withdrawn her 60 ships, including her flagship containing Egypt's treasury. According to one account Antony abandoned his forces to pursue Cleopatra. In the run up to the battle Antony and Cleopatra staged a theater festival at Samos and neglected their supply lines.

See Separate Article on Atony and Cleopatra

After Actium: Octavian Defeats Marc Antony for Good

Before returning to Rome Octavian restored order to the eastern provinces, and followed the fugitives to Egypt. The arts by which Cleopatra had fascinated Caesar and enslaved Antony, she tried to use upon her new Roman guest. But Octavian did not fall into the tempter’s snare. The Egyptian queen found in the Roman sovereign a nature as crafty as her own. Octavian kept his thoughts upon the prosperity and honor of Rome, and no allurements could draw him away from his high mission. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~\]

A year after the battle Octavian invaded Egypt and Antony was defeated for good at Alexandria. Plutarch wrote in “Lives”: “And now Caesar (Octavian) himself drove into the city, and he was conversing with Areius the philosopher, to whom he had given his right hand, in order that Areius might at once be conspicuous among the citizens, and p be admired because of the marked honour shown him by Caesar. After he had entered the gymnasium and ascended a tribunal there made for him, the people were beside themselves with fear and prostrated themselves before him, but he bade them rise up, and said that he acquitted the people of all blame, first, because of Alexander, their founder; second, because he admired the great size and beauty of the city; and third, to gratify his companion, Areius. [Source: Parallel Lives by Plutarch, published in Vol. IX, of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1920, translated by Bernadotte Perrin]

“This honour Caesar bestowed upon Areius, and pardoned many other persons also at his request. Among these was Philostratus, a man more competent to speak extempore than any sophist that ever lived, but he improperly represented himself as belonging to the school of the Academy. Therefore Caesar, abominating his ways, would not listen to his entreaties. So Philostratus, having a long white beard and wearing a dark robe, would follow behind Areius, ever declaiming this verse: "A wise man will a wise man save, if wise he be." “When Caesar heard of this, he pardoned him, wishing rather to free Areius from odium than Philostratus from fear.”

Legacy of the Battle of Actium


Caesar and Cleopatra

The battle at Actium closed the political career of Antony, and left Octavian the sole master of the Roman world. The Battle was the last great ship battle for control of the Mediterranean in ancient times. It marked the end of the Hellenistic Age and the beginning of the Roman Empire. After the Battle of Actium, Octavian became the uncontested ruler of the Roman empire

Stacy Schiff wrote in her book Cleopatra: A Biography, Cleopatra's “relationship with Antony was the longest of her life---the two were together for the better part of 11 years---but her relationship with Octavian proved the most enduring. He made much of his defeat of Antony and Cleopatra, delivering to Rome the tabloid version of an Egyptian queen, insatiable, treacherous, bloodthirsty, power-crazed. Octavian magnified Cleopatra to hyperbolic proportions to do the same with his victory---and to smuggle Mark Antony, his real enemy and former brother-in-law, out of the picture. [Source: Stacy Schiff, Smithsonian magazine, December 2010, Adapted from Cleopatra: A Biography, by Stacy Schiff."

“As Antony was erased from the record, Actium was wondrously transformed into a major engagement, a resounding victory, a historical turning point. Octavian had rescued Rome from great peril. He had resolved the civil war; he had restored peace after 100 years of unrest. Time began anew. To read the official historians, it is as if with his return the Italian peninsula burst---after a crippling, ashen century of violence---into Technicolor, the crops sitting suddenly upright, crisp and plump, in the fields. "Validity was restored to the laws, authority to the courts, and dignity to the senate," proclaims the historian Velleius. [Ibid]

“The years after Actium were a time of extravagant praise and lavish mythmaking. Cleopatra was particularly ill-served; the turncoats wrote the history. Her career coincided as well with a flowering of Latin literature. It was Cleopatra's curse to inspire its great poets, happy to expound on her shame, in a language inhospitable to her. Horace celebrated her defeat before it had occurred. She helpfully illuminated one of the poet Propertius's favorite points: a man in love is a helpless man, painfully subservient to his mistress. It was as if Octavian had delivered Rome from that ill as well. He restored the natural order of things. Men ruled women, and Rome ruled the world. On both counts Cleopatra was crucial to the story. She stands among the few losers whom history remembers, if for the wrong reasons. For the next century, the Oriental influence and the emancipation of women would keep the satirists in business. Propertius set the tone, dubbing Cleopatra "the whore queen." [Ibid]

Roman Egypt

Roman rule was established in Egypt after Octavian (Augustus) displaced the last ruler of the Ptolemaic line, the famous Cleopatra VII. It proved to be a great and rich province for Augustus, who organized the country not so much as a Roman Province but as the emperor's own special domain land. In Egypt, the Emperor was considered the successor of the ancient Pharaohs; his deputy - the prefect - ruled the country with an authority permitted to few other governors.


Egyptianized statue of Augustus

The Romans took over Egypt in the second century B.C. Wheat and barley were exported to Rome and the rest of the empire. The worship of Egyptian gods and the building of Egyptian-style temples continued under the Romans.

According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art: “Rome's rule over Egypt officially began with the arrival of Octavian (later called Augustus) in 30 B.C.... Augustus, who presented himself to the people of Egypt as the successor to the pharaohs, dismantled the Ptolemaic monarchy and annexed the country as his personal estate. He appointed a prefect (governor) for a limited term, which effectively depoliticized the country, neutralized rivalries for its control among powerful Romans, and undermined any possible focus for local sentiments. For almost a decade, Egypt was garrisoned with Roman legions and auxiliary units until conditions became stable. All business was transacted according to the principles and procedures of Roman law, and local administration was converted to a liturgic system in which ownership of property brought an obligation of public service. New structures of government formalized the privileges associated with "Greek" background. [Source: Departments of Egyptian Art and Greek and Roman Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 2000, metmuseum.org \^/]

“For the first century following the Roman conquest, Egypt functioned in the Mediterranean world as an active and prosperous Roman province. The value of Egypt to the Romans was considerable, as revenues from the country were almost equal to those from Gaul and more than twelve times those from Judaea. Its wealth was largely agricultural: Egyptian grain supplied the city of Rome. The country also produced papyrus, glass, and various finely crafted minor arts that were exported to the rest of the Roman empire. Its deserts yielded a variety of minerals, ores, and fine stones such as porphyry and granite, which were brought to Rome to be used for sculpture and architectural elements. Trade with central Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and India flourished along the Nile, desert routes, and sea routes from the Red Sea port of Berenike. Goods and cultural influences flowed from Egypt to Rome through Alexandria, which Diodorus of Sicily described as "the first city of the civilized world" in the first century B.C. Its great library and community of writers, philosophers, and scientists were known throughout the ancient world. \^/

“The conquest of Egypt and its incorporation into the Roman empire inaugurated a new fascination with its ancient culture. Obelisks and Egyptian-style architecture and sculpture were installed in Roman fora. The cult of Isis, the Egyptian mother goddess, had an immense impact throughout the empire. Likewise, changes were noticeable in Egyptian artistic and religious forms, as Egyptian gods were increasingly represented in classicizing style. Egyptian funerary arts evolved in a new and creative direction: traditional idealized images gave way to ones accessorized with contemporary Greco-Roman coiffures and dress as influenced by fashions of the imperial court at Rome, and even panel portraits were painted in the illusionistic Greco-Roman style. By the second century A.D., the economic and social changes in the country emerged more forcefully, gradually evolving as part of a larger pattern of change in the Roman empire that culminates in the Byzantine period.” \^/

Strabo on the Roman Province of Egypt

Strabo wrote in Geography (A.D. c. 22): “At present [in Augustus's time] Egypt is a Roman province, and pays considerable tribute, and is well-governed by prudent persons sent there in succession. The governor thus sent out has the rank of king. Subordinate to him is the administrator of justice, who is the supreme judge in many cases. There is another officer called the Idologus whose business is to inquire into property for which there is no claimant, and which of right falls to Caesar. These are accompanied by Caesar's freedmen and stewards, who are intrusted with affairs of more or less importance. [Source: Strabo, Geography, XVII.i.52-53, ii.4-5; XVIII.i.12-13, c. 22 CE, “The Geography of Strabo: Literally Translated, with Notes, translated by H. C. Hamilton, esq., & W. Falconer (London: H. G. Bohn, 1854-1857), pp. 266-267, 272-274]


Roman period image from Egypt of Isis being served wine

“Three legions are stationed in Egypt, one in the city of Alexandria, the rest in the country. Besides these, there are also nine Roman cohorts quartered in the city, three on the borders of Ethiopia in Syene, as a guard to that tract, and three in other parts of the country. There are also three bodies of cavalry distributed at convenient posts.

“Of the native magistrates in the cities, the first is the "Expounder of the Law" - who is dressed in scarlet. He receives the customary honors of the land, and has the care of providing what is necessary for the city. The second is the "Writer of the Records"; the third is the "Chief Judge"; the fourth is the "Commander of the Night Guard." These officials existed in the time of the Ptolemaic kings, but in consequence of the bad administration of the public affairs by the latter, the prosperity of the city of Alexandria was ruined by licentiousness. Polybius expresses his indignation at the state of things when he was there. He describes the inhabitants of Alexandria as being composed of three classes, first the Egyptians and natives, acute in mind, but very poor citizens, and wrongfully meddlesome in civic affairs. Second were the mercenaries, a numerous and undisciplined body, for it was an old custom to keep foreign soldiers---who from the worthlessness of their sovereigns knew better how to lord it than to obey. The third were the so-called "Alexandrines," who, for the same reason, were not orderly citizens; however they were better than the mercenaries, for although they were a mixed race, yet being of Greek origin they still retained the usual Hellenic customs.

“Such, then, if not worse, were the social conditions of Alexandria under the last kings. The Romans, as far as they were able, corrected -- as I have said-many abuses, and established an orderly government -- by setting up vice-governors, nomarchs, and ethnarchs, whose business it was to attend to the details of administration.

“At present the whole country is in the same pacific state, proof of which is that the upper country is sufficiently guarded by three cohorts, and these not complete. Whenever the Ethiopians have ventured to attack them, it has been at the risk of danger to their own country. The rest of the forces in Egypt are neither very numerous, nor did the Romans ever once employ them collected into one army. For neither are the Egyptians themselves of a warlike disposition, nor the surrounding nations, although their numbers are very large.

“Cornelius Gallus, the first governor of the country appointed by Augustus Caesar, attacked the city Heroöpolis, which had revolted [in 28 B.C.], and took it with a small body of men. He suppressed also in a short time an insurrection in the Thebaïs which originated as to the payment of tribute. At a later period Petronius resisted, with the soldiers about his person, a mob of myriads of Alexandrines, who attacked him by throwing stones. He killed some, and compelled the rest to desist.

Egypt at the Time of Roman Rule

Strabo wrote in Geography (A.D. c. 22): ““Herodotus and other writers trifle very much when they introduce into their histories the marvelous, like (an interlude) of music and song, or some melody; for example, by asserting that the sources of the Nile are near the numerous islands, at Syene and Elephantine, and that at this spot the river has an unfathomable depth. In the Nile there are many islands scattered about, some of which are entirely covered, others in part only, at the time of the rise of the waters. The very elevated parts are irrigated by means of screw pumps. Egypt was from the first disposed to peace, from having resources within itself, and because it was difficult of access to strangers. It was also protected on the north by a harborless coast and the Egyptian Sea; on the east and west by the desert mountains of Libya and Arabia, as I have said before. The remaining parts towards the south are occupied by Troglodytae, Blemmyes, Nubians, and Megabarzae Ethiopians above Syene. These are nomads, and not numerous nor warlike, but accounted so by the ancients, because frequently, like robbers, they attacked defenseless persons. Neither are the Ethiopians, who extend towards the south and Meroë, numerous nor collected in a body; for they inhabit a long, narrow, and winding tract of land on the riverside, such as we have before described; nor are they well prepared either for war or the pursuit of any other mode of life. [Source: Strabo, Geography, XVII.i.52-53, ii.4-5; XVIII.i.12-13, c. 22 CE, “The Geography of Strabo: Literally Translated, with Notes, translated by H. C. Hamilton, esq., & W. Falconer (London: H. G. Bohn, 1854-1857), pp. 266-267, 272-274]


Roman period mummy portrait from Fayum

“To what has been said concerning Egypt, we must add these peculiar products; for instance, the Egyptian bean, as it is called, from which is obtained the ciborium, and the papyrus, for it is found here and in India only; the persea [peach] grows here only, and in Ethiopia; it is a lofty tree, and its fruit is large and sweet; the sycamine, which produces the fruit called the sycomorus, or fig-mulberry, for it resembles a fig, but its flavor is not esteemed. The corsium also (the root of the Egyptian lotus) grows there, a condiment like pepper, but a little larger. There are in the Nile fish in great quantity and of different kinds, having a peculiar and indigenous character. The best known are the oxyrhynchos [the sturgeon], and the lepidotus, the latus, the alabes, the coracinus, the choerus, the phagrorius, called also the phagrus. Besides these are the silurus, the citharus, the thrissa [the shad], the cestreus [the mullet], the lychnus, the physa, the bous, and large shellfish which emit a sound like that of wailing.

“The animals peculiar to the country are the ichneumon and the Egyptian asp, having some properties which those in other places do not possess. There are two kinds, one a span in length, whose bite is more suddenly mortal than that of the other; the second is nearly an orguia [six feet] in size, according to Nicander, the author of the Theriaca. Among the birds are the ibis and the Egyptian hawk, which, like the cat, is more tame than those elsewhere. The nycticorax is here peculiar in its character; for with us it is as large as an eagle, and its cry is harsh; but in Egypt it is the size of a jay, and has a different note. The tamest animal, however, is the ibis; it resembles a stork in shape and size. There are two kinds, which differ in color; one is like a stork, the other is entirely black. Every street in Alexandria is full of them. In some respects they are useful; in others troublesome. They are useful, because they pick up all sorts of small animals and the offal thrown out of the butchers= and cooks= shops. They are troublesome because they devour everything, are dirty, and with difficulty prevented from polluting in every way what is clean and what is not given to them.

“Herodotus truly relates of the Egyptians that it is a practice peculiar to them to knead clay with their hands, and the dough for making bread with their feet. Caces is a peculiar kind of bread which restrains fluxes. Kiki (the castor-oil bean) is a kind of fruit sowed in furrows. An oil is expressed from it which is used for lamps almost generally throughout the country, but for anointing the body only by the poorer sort of people and laborers, both men and women. The coccina are Egyptian textures made of some plant, woven like those made of rushes, or the palm tree. Barley beer is a preparation peculiar to the Egyptians. It is common among many tribes, but the mode of preparing it differs in each. This, however, of all their usages is most to be admired---that they bring up all children that are born. They circumcise the males, as also the females [i.e., cliterodectomy], as is the custom also among the Jews, who are of Egyptian origin, as I said when I was treating of them.

Private Life in Egypt Under the Roman Empire

Most of the letters here given explain themselves. They are from papyri of the Imperial period, found at the Egyptian town of Oxyrhynchos, and serve to give a curious and valuable light upon the life of an obscure provincial community, circa late third & early fourth centuries A.D.

The Oxyrhynchos Papyri reads: “Dioscorides, logistes [Davis: a high local magistrate in Roman Egypt] of the Oxyrhynchite nome. The assault at arms by the youths will occur tomorrow, the 24th. Tradition, no less than the distinguished character of the festival, requires that they do their uttermost in the gymnastic display. The spectators will be present at the two performances. [Source: William Stearns Davis, ed., “Readings in Ancient History: Illustrative Extracts from the Sources,” 2 Vols. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1912-13), Vol. II: Rome and the West, pp. 172-174, 244-247]


Fayum mummy portrait

“At a meeting of our body a dispatch was read from Theodorus, recently chosen in place of Areion, the scribe, to proceed to his highness, the Prefect [of Egypt] and attend his immaculate court. In this dispatch he explained that he is victor in the games and exempted from inquiries. We have, therefore, nominated Aurelianus to serve and we send you word accordingly that this fact may be brought to his knowledge, and no time be lost in his departure and attendance upon the court.

“To Aureleus Theon, keeper of the training school, from Aurelius Asclepiades, son of Philadelphus, president of the council of the village of Bacchias. I desire to hire from you Tisais, the dancing girl, and another, to dance for us at the above village for fifteen days from the 13th Phaophi by the old [Egyptian] calendar. You shall receive as pay 36 drachmae a day, and for the whole period three artabai of wheat, and fifteen couples of loaves; also three donkeys to fetch them and take them back.

“Chaereman requests your company at dinner, at the table of the lord Serapis at the Serapeum, tomorrow the 15th, at 9 o'clock...Herais requests your company at dinner, in celebration of the marriage of her children, in her house tomorrow, the 5th, at 9 o'clock.

“Greeting, my dear Serenia, from Petosiris. Be sure, dear, to come upon the 20th for the birthday festival of the god, and let me know whether you are coming by boat or by donkey, in order that we may send for you accordingly. Take care not to forget. I pray for your continued health.

“To Flavius Thennyras, logistes of the Oxyrhynchite district, from Aurelius Nilus, son of Didysus, of the illustrious and most illustrious city of Oxyrhynchos, an egg seller by trade. I hereby agree on the August, divine oath by our lord the Emperor and the Caesars to offer my eggs in the market place publicly for sale, and to supply to the said city, every day without intermission; and I acknowledge that it shall be unlawful for me in the future to sell secretly or in my house. If I am detected in so doing, I shall be liable to penalty."

“I married a woman of my own tribe . . . a free-born woman, of free parents, and have children by her. Now Tabes, daughter of Ammonios and her husband Laloi, and Psenesis and Straton their sons, have committed an act that disgraces all the chiefs of the town, and shows their recklessness; they carried off my wife and children to their own house, calling them their slaves, although they were free, and my wife has brothers living who are free. When I remonstrated, they seized me and beat me shamefully.

“On the fourth of this month, Taorsenouphis, wife of Ammonios Phimon, an elder of the village of Bacchias although she had no occasion against me, came to my house, and made herself most unpleasant to me. Besides tearing my tunic and cloak, she carried off 16 drachmae that I had put by, the price of vegetables I had sold. And on the fifth her husband, Ammonios Phimon, came to my house, pretending he was looking for my husband, and took my lamp and went up into the house. And he went off with a pair of silver armlets, weighing forty drachmae, while my husband was away from home.”

Rules for Administering the "Special Account" of Egypt

The idiologus, the chief financial officer of Roman Egypt, administered the imperial account, which consisted of funds acquired form means of than taxation (fines and confiscations, for example). The papyrus from which these extracts are taken contains a summary of the rules by which the idiologus carried out his duties. This document reveals fiscal oppressions not only of women but of an entire province. [Source: “Rules for Administering the "Special Account" of Egypt, Berlin pap. 1210, translated by J.G. Winter. G) A.D. c. 150/161 Diotima]


Augustus cartouchw

Rules on women and marriage for Administering the "Special Account" of Egypt, (A.D. c. 150/16): “Marriage and inheritance. Alexandria, 2nd cent. A.D. 1) An Alexandrian, having no children by his wife, may not bequeath to her more than one quarter of his estate; if he does have children by her, her share may not exceed those of each son. 2) “It is not permitted to Romans to marry their sisters or their aunts; it is permitted in the case of the daughter of brothers. [The idiologus] Pardalas, however, confiscated the property when brothers and sisters married. 3) After death, the fiscus takes the dowry given by a Roman woman over 50 to a Roman man under 60. 4) And when a Latina over 50 gives something to one over 60 it is likewise confiscated.

“4) What is inherited by a Roman of 60 years, who was neither child nor wife, is confiscated. If he have a wife but no children and register himself, the half is conceded to him. 5) If a woman is 50 years old, she does not inherit; if she is younger and has three children, she inherits; but if she is a freedwoman, she inherits if she has four children. 6) A free-born Roman woman who has an estate of 20,000 sesterces, so long as she is unmarried, pays a hundredth part annually; and a freedwoman who has an estate of 20,000 sesterces pays the same until she marries.

“7) The inheritances left to Roman women possessing 50,000 sesterces, who are unmarried and childless, are confiscated. 8) It is permitted a Roman woman to leave her husband a tenth of her property; if she leaves more, it is confiscated. 8) Romans who have more than 100,000 sesterces, and are unmarried and childless, do not inherit; those who have less, do. 9) It is not permitted to a Roman woman to dispose of her property by will without a stipulated clause of the so-called coemptio fiduciaria. 10) A legacy by a Roman woman to a Roman woman who is a minor is confiscated.

11) The children of a woman who is a citizen of Alexandria and an Egyptian man remains Egyptians, but inherit from both parents. 12) When a Roman man or a Roman woman marries a citizen of Alexandria or an Egyptian, without knowledge (of the true status), the children follow the lower class. 13 To Roman men and citizens of Alexandria who married Egyptian women without knowledge (of their true status) it was granted, in addition to freedom from responsibility, also that the children follow the father's station. 14) It is permitted Roman men to marry Egyptian women.. 15) Egyptian women married to ex-soldiers come under the clause of misrepresentation if they characterise themselves in business transactions as Roman women. Ursus did not allow an ex-soldier's daughter who had become a Roman citizen to inherit from her mother if the latter was an Egyptian.”

Letter to the Alexandrians

Edict of the Prefect of Egypt: “"Lucius Aemelius Rectus announces: Seeing that all the populace, owing to its numbers, was unable to be present at the reading of the most sacred and most beneficent letter to the City, I have deemed it necessary to display the letter publicly in order that reading it one by one you may admire the greatness of our God Caesar and you may feel gratitude for his goodwill towards the city. Year 2 of Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus Imperator, 14th of Neos Sebastos."

Letter of Claudius(A.D. 41, after August 29): "Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, Imperator, Pontifex Maximus, Holder of the Tribunician Power, Consul Designate, to the City of the Alexandrians, greeting. Tiberius Claudius Barbillus, Apollonius son of Artemidorus, Chaeremon son of Leonidas, Marcus Julius Asklepiades, Gaius Julius Dionysios, Tiberius Claudius Phanias, Pasion son of Potamon, Dionysios son of Sabbion, Tiberius Claudius Archibius, Apollonius son of Ariston, Gaius Julius Apollonius, Hermaiskos son of Apollonius, your ambassadors, having delivered to me the decree, discoursed at length concerning the city, directing my attention to your goodwill towards us, which, from long ago, you may be sure, had been stored up to your advantage in my memory; for you are by nature reverent towards the Augusti, as I know from many proofs, and in particular have taken a warm interest in my house, warmly reciprocated, of which fact (to mention the last instance, passing over the others) the supreme witness is my brother Germanicus addressing you in words more clearly stamped as his own. [Source: Emperor Claudius (10 B.C.-54 A.D.):Letter to the Alexandrians , BM Pap. 1912/Select Papyri, London 1912, California State University, Northridge (CSUN) ]


ruins of a Roman amphitheater in Alexandria

“Wherefore, I gladly accepted the honors given to me by hou, though I have no weakness for such things. And first I permit you to keep my birthday as a dies Augustus as you have yourselves proposed; and I agree to the erection in their several places of the statues of myself and my family; for I see that you were anxious to establish on every side memorials of your reverence for my house. Of the two golden statues, the one made to represent the Pas Augusta Claudiana, as my most honored Barbillus suggested and entreated when I wished to refuse, for fear of being thought too offensive, shall be erected at Rome; and the other according to your request shall be carried in procession on the eponymous days in your city, and it shall be accompanied by a throne adorned with whatever trappings you choose.

“It would perhaps be foolish, while accepting such great honors, to refuse the institution of a Claudian Tribe and the establishment of groves after the manner of Egypt. And so I grant you these requests as well, and if you wish you may also erect the equestrian statues given by Vitrasius Pollio my procurator. As for the erection of those in four-horse chariots which you wish to set up to me at the entrances into the country, I consent to let one be placed at Taposiris, the Libyan town of that name, another at Pharos in Alexandria, and a third at Pelusium in Egypt. But I deprecate the appointment of a high priest to me and the building of temples, for I do not wish to be offensive to my contemporaries, and my opinion is that temples and such forms of honor have by all ages been granted as a prerogative to the gods alone.

“Concerning the requests which you have been anxious to obtain from me, I decide as follows. All those who have become epheboi up to the time of my Principate I confirm and maintain in the possession of the Alexandrian citizenship with all the privileges and indulgences enjoyed by the city, excepting those who have contrived to become epheboi by beguiling you, though born of servile mothers. And it is equally my will that all the other favors shall be confirmed wich were granted to you by former princes and kings and prefects, as the Deified Augustus also confirmed them. It is my will that the neokoroi of the Temple of the Deified Augustus in Alexandria shall be chosen by lot in the same was as those of the Deified Augustus in Canopus are chosen by lot. With regard to the civic magistracies being made triennial, your proposal seems to me to be very good; for through fear of being called to account for any abuse of power your magistrates will behave with greater circumspection during their term of office. Concerning the Boule, what your custom may have been under the ancient kings I have no means of saying, but that you had no senate under the earlier Augusti, you are well aware. As this is the first broaching of a novel project, whose utility to the city and to my government is not evident, I have written to Aemilius Rectus to hold an inquiry and inform me whether in the first place it is right that a Boule should be consituted, and , if it should be right to create one, in what matter this is to be done.

“As for the question , which party was responsible for the riots and feud (or rather, if the truth be told, the war) with the Jews, although in confrontation with their opponents your ambassadors, and particularly Dionysios the son of Theon, contended with great zeal, nevertheless I was unwilling to make a strict inquiry, though guarding within me a store of immutable indignation against whichever party renews the conflict. And I tell you once and for all that unless you put a stop to this ruinous and obstinate enmity against each other, I shall be driven to show what a benevolent Prince can be when turned to righteous indignation. Wherefore, once again I conjure you that, on the one hand, the Alexandrians show themselves forebearing and kindly towards the Jews who for many years have dwelt in the same city, and dishonor none of the rites observed by them in the worship of their god, but allow them to observe their customs as in the time of the Deified Augustus, which customs I also, after hearing both sides, have sanctioned; and on the other hand, I explicitly order the Jews not to agitate for more privileges than they formerly possessed, and not in the future to send out a separate embassy as though they lived in a separate city (a thing unprecedented), and not to force their way into gymnasiarchic or cosmetic games, while enjoying their own privileges and sharing a great abundance of advantages in a city not their own, and not to bring in or admit Jews who come down the river from Egypt or from Syria, a proceeding which will compel me to conceive serious suspicions. Otherwise I will by all means take vengeance on them as fomenters of which is a general plague infecting the whole world. If, desisting from these courses, you consent to live with mutual forebearance and kindliness, I on my side will exercise a solicitude of very long standing for the city, as one which is bound to us by traditional friendship. I bear witness to my friend Barbillus of the solicitude which he has always shown for you in my presence and of the extreme zeal with which he has now advocated your cause; and likewise to my friend Tiberius Claudius Archibius...Farewell."

Strabo on People in Northeast Africa


boy in Mauritania

Strabo wrote in “Geography” (A.D. 22): “The mode of life among the Troglodytae is nomadic. Each tribe is governed by tyrants. Their wives and children are common, except those of the tyrants. The offence corrupting the wife of a tyrant is punished with the fine of sheep. The women carefully paint themselves with antimony. They wear about their necks shells, as a protection again fascination by witchcraft. In their quarrels, which are pastures, they first push away each other with their hands, they then use stones, or, if wounds are inflicted, arrows and daggers. The women put an end to these disputes, by going into the midst of the combatants and using prayers and entreaties. [Source: Strabo, “The Geography of Strabo:” XVI.iv.4-17; XVII.i.53-54, ii.1-3, iii.1-11, translated by H. C. Hamilton, esq., & W. Falconer (London: H. G. Bohn, 1854-1857), pp. 191-203, 266-272, 275-284]

“Their food consists of flesh and bones pounded together, wrapped up in skins and then baked, or prepared after many other methods by the cooks, who are called Acatharti, or impure. In this way they eat not only the flesh, but the bones and skins also. They use (as an ointment for the body?) a mixture of blood and milk; the drink of the people in general is an infusion of the paliurus (buckthorn); that of the tyrants is mead; the honey being expressed from some kind of flower. Their winter sets in when the Etesian winds begin to blow (for they have rain), and the remaining season is summer.

“They go naked, or wear skins only, and carry clubs. They deprive themselves of the foreskin, but some are circumcised like Egyptians. The Ethiopian Megabarae have their clubs armed with iron knobs. They use spears and shields which are covered with raw hides. The other Ethiopians use bows and lances. Some of the Troglodytae, when they bury their dead, bind the body from the neck to the legs with twigs of the buckthorn. They then immediately throw stones over the body, at the same time laughing and rejoicing, until they have covered the face. They then place over it a ram's horn, and go away. They travel by night; the male cattle have bells fastened to them, in order to drive away wild beasts with the sound. They use torches also and arrows in repelling them. They watch during the night, on account of their flocks, and sing some peculiar song around their fires. . . .

Strabo on Ancient Mauretania

On ancient Mauretania, Strabo wrote in “Geography,” XVII.iii.1-11 (A.D. c. 22): “The writers who have divided the habitable world according to continents divide it unequally. Africa wants so much of being a third part of the habitable world that, even if it were united to Europe, it would not be equal to Asia; perhaps it is even less than Europe; in resources it is very much inferior, for a great part of the inland and maritime country is desert. It is spotted over with small habitable parts, which are scattered about, and mostly belonging to nomad tribes. Besides the desert state of the country, its being a nursery of wild beasts is a hindrance to settlement in parts which could be inhabited. It comprises also a large part of the torrid zone. All the sea coast in our quarter, situated between the Nile and the Pillars (of Hercules), particularly that which belonged to the Carthaginians, is fertile and inhabited. And even in this tract, some spots destitute of water intervene, as those about the Syrtes, the Marmaridae, and the Catabathmus. [Source: Strabo, “The Geography of Strabo” translated by H. C. Hamilton, esq., & W. Falconer (London: H. G. Bohn, 1854-1857), pp. 279-284]

“The shape of Africa is that of a right-angled triangle, if we imagine its figure to be drawn on a plane surface. Its base is the coast opposite to us, extending from Egypt and the Nile to Mauretania and the Pillars; at right angles to this is a side formed by the Nile to Ethiopia, which side we continue to the ocean; the hypotenuse of the right angle is the whole tract of sea-coast lying between Ethiopia and Mauretania. . . .

“Writers in general are agreed that Mauretania is a fertile country, except a small part which is desert, and is supplied with water by rivers and lakes. It has forests of trees of vast size, and the soil produces everything. It is this country which furnishes the Romans with tables formed of one piece of wood, of the largest dimensions, and most beautifully variegated. The rivers are said to contain crocodiles and other kinds of animals similar to those in the Nile. Some suppose that even the sources of the Nile are near the extremities of Mauretania. In a certain river leeches are bred seven cubits in length, with gills, pierced through with holes, through which they respire. This country is also said to produce a vine, the girth of which two men can scarcely compass, and bearing bunches of grapes of about a cubit in size. All plants and pot-herbs are tall, as the arum and dracontium [snake-weed]; the stalks of the staphylinus [parsnip?], the hippomarathum [fennel], and the scolymus [artichoke] are twelve cubits in height, and four palms in thickness. The country is the fruitful nurse of large serpents, elephants, antelopes, buffaloes, and similar animals; of lions also and panthers. It produces weasels (jerboas?) equal in size and similar to cats, except that their noses are more prominent, and multitudes of apes, of which Poseidonius relates that when he was sailing from Gades to Italy, and approached the coast of Africa, he saw a forest low upon the sea-shore full of these animals, some on the trees, others on the ground, and some giving suck to their young. He was amused also with seeing some with large dugs, some bald, others with ruptures and exhibiting to view various effects of disease.


fish market in Mauritania


Strabo on the Mauretanii: the People of Ancient Mauretania

“Although the Mauretanii inhabit a country, the greatest part of which is very fertile, yet the people in general continue even to this time to live like nomads. They bestow care to improve their looks by plaiting their hair, trimming their beards, by wearing golden ornaments, cleaning their teeth, and paring their nails; and you would rarely see them touch one another as they walk, lest they should disturb the arrangement of their hair. They fight for the most part on horseback, with a javelin; and ride on the bareback of the horse, with bridles made of rushes. They have also swords. The foot soldiers present against the enemy, as shields, the skins of elephants. They wear the skins of lions, panthers, and bears, and sleep in them. These tribes, and the Masaesylii next to them, and for the most part the Africans in general, wear the same dress and arms, and resemble one another in other respects; they ride horses which are small, but spirited and tractable, so as to be guided by a switch. They have collars made of cotton or of hair, from which hangs a leading-rein. Some follow, like dogs, without being led. They have a small shield of leather, and small lances with broad heads. Their tunics are loose, with wide borders; their cloak is a skin, as I have said before, which serves also as a breastplate. [Source: Strabo, “The Geography of Strabo” translated by H. C. Hamilton, esq., & W. Falconer (London: H. G. Bohn, 1854-1857), pp. 279-284]

“The Pharusii and Nigrites, who live above these people, near the western Ethiopians, use bows and arrows, like the Ethiopians. They have chariots also, armed with scythes. The Pharusii rarely have any intercourse with the Mauretanii in passing through the desert country, as they carry skins filled with water, fastened under the bellies of their horses. Sometimes, indeed, they come to Cirta [modern Constantine], passing through places abounding with marshes and lakes. Some of them are said to live like the Troglodytae, in caves dug in the ground. It is said that rain falls there frequently in summer, but that during the winter drought prevails. Some of the barbarians in that quarter wear the skins of serpents and fishes, and use them as coverings for their beds. Some say that the Mauretanii are Indians, who accompanied Hercules hither. A little before my time, the kings Bogus and Bocchus, allies of the Romans, possessed this country; after their death, Juba succeeded to the kingdom, having received it from Augustus Caesar, in addition to his paternal dominions. He was the son of Juba who fought, in conjunction with Scipio, against divine Caesar. Juba died lately, and was succeeded by his son Ptolemy, whose mother was the daughter of Antony and Cleopatra.

Strabo on Maseeslii (Present-Day Algeria)

“Next to Mauretania is the country of the Masaesylii, beginning from the river Molocath, and ending at the promontory which is called Tretum [modern Ebba-Ras], the boundary of the country of the Masaesylii and of the Masylies. From Metagonium to Tretum are 6000 stadia; according to others, the distance is less. Upon the sea-coast are many cities and rivers, and a country which is very fertile. It will be sufficient to mention the most renowned. The city of Siga [probably modern Tafna], the royal seat of Syphax, is at the distance of 1000 stadia from the above-mentioned boundaries. It is now razed. After Syphax, the country was in the possession of Masanasses, then of Micipsa, next of his successors, and in our time of Juba, the father of the Juba who died lately. Zama, which was Juba's palace, was destroyed by the Romans. At the distance of 600 stadia from Siga is Theon-limen (port of the gods); next are some other obscure places. Deep in the interior of the country are mountainous and desert tracts scattered here and there, some of which are inhabited and occupied by Gaetuli extending to the Syrtes. But the parts near the sea are fertile plains, in which are numerous cities, rivers, and lakes. Poseidonius says, but I do not know whether truly, that Africa is traversed by few, and those small rivers; yet he speaks of the same rivers, namely those between Lynx and Carthage, which Artemidorus describes as numerous and large. This may be asserted with more truth of the interior of the country, and he himself assigns the reason of it, namely, that in the northern parts of Africa (and the same is said of Ethiopia) there is no rain; in consequence therefore of the drought, pestilence frequently ensues, the lakes are filled with mud only, and locusts appear in clouds. [Source: Strabo, “The Geography of Strabo” translated by H. C. Hamilton, esq., & W. Falconer (London: H. G. Bohn, 1854-1857), pp. 279-284]


coast of North Africa


“Somewhere there, also, are copper mines; and a spring of asphalt; scorpions of enormous size, both with and without wings, are said to be found there, as well as tarantulas, remarkable for their size and numbers. Lizards also are mentioned of two cubits in length. At the base of the mountains precious stones are said to be found, as those called Lychnitis (the ruby) and the Carchedonius (the carbuncle?). In the plains are found great quantities of oyster and mussel shells. There is also a tree called melilotus, from which a wine is made. Some obtain two crops from the ground and have two harvests, one in the spring, the other in the summer. The straw is five cubits in height, and of the thickness of a little finger; the produce is 250-fold. They do not sow in the spring, but bush-harrow the ground with bundles of the paliurus, and find the seed-grain sufficient which falls from the sheaves during harvest to produce the summer crop.

Procopius of Caesarea on Ancient Mauretania

Procopius of Caesarea wrote in “History of the Wars,” Books III.xxv.3-9; IV.vi.10-14, vii.3, xi.16-20, xiii.26-29 (c. A.D. 550): “For all those who ruled over the Mauretanii in Mauretania and Numidia and Byzacium sent envoys to Belisarius saying that they were slaves of the emperor and promised to fight with him. There were some also who even furnished their children as hostages and requested that the symbols of office be sent with them from him according to the ancient custom. For it was a law among the Mauretanii that no one should be a ruler over them, even if he was hostile to the Romans, until the emperor of the Romans should give him the tokens of the office. And though they had already received them from the Vandals, they did not consider that the Vandals held the office securely. Now these symbols are a staff of silver covered with gold, and a silver cap---not covering the whole head, but like a crown and held in place on all sides by bands of silver---a kind of white cloak gathered by a golden brooch on the right shoulder in the form of a Thessalian cape, and a white tunic with embroidery, and a gilded boot. And Belisarius sent these things to them, and presented each one of them with much money. However, they did not come to fight along with him, nor, on the other hand, did they dare give their support to the Vandals, but standing out of the way of both contestants, they waited to see what would be the outcome of the war. [Source: Procopius, “History of the Wars,” 7 vols., trans. H. B. Dewing Harvard University Press, 1914]

“The Mauretanii live in stuffy huts both in winter and in summer and at every other time, never removing from them either because of snow or the heat of the sun or any other discomfort whatever due to nature. And they sleep on the ground, the prosperous among them, if it should so happen, spreading a fleece under themselves. Moreover, it is not customary among them to change their clothing with the seasons, but they wear a thick cloak and a rough shirt at all times. And they have neither bread nor wine nor any other good thing, but they take grain, either wheat or barley, and, without boiling it or grinding it to flour or barley-meal, they eat it in a manner not a whit different from that of animals. . . .A certain Mauretanian woman had managed somehow to crush a little grain, and making of it a very tiny cake, threw it into the hot ashes on the hearth. For thus it is the custom among the Mauretanii to bake their loaves. . . .


North African Desert


“Now there are lofty mountains there, and a level space near the foothills of the mountains, where the Mauretanii had made preparations for the battle and arranged their fighting order as follows. They formed a circle of their camels, just as, in the previous narrative, I have said Cabaon did, making the front about twelve deep. And they placed the women with the children within the circle; for among the Mauretanii it is customary to take also a few women, with their children, to battle, and these make the stockades and huts for them and tend the horses skillfully, and have charge of the camels and the food; they also sharpen the iron weapons and take upon themselves many of the tasks in connection with the preparation for battle; and the men themselves took their stand on foot in between the legs of the camels, having shields and swords and small spears which they are accustomed to hurl like javelins. And some of them with their horses remained quietly among the mountains. . . .

“And there are fortresses also on the mountain [called "Clypea" by the Romans], which are neglected, by reason of the fact that they do not seem necessary to the inhabitants. For since the time when the Mauretanii wrested Aurasium from the Vandals, not a single enemy had until now ever come there or so much as caused the barbarians to be afraid that they would come, but even the populous city of Tamougadis [Timgad], situated against the mountain on the east at the beginning of the plain, was emptied of its population by the Mauretanii and razed to the ground, in order that the enemy should not only not be able to camp there, but should not even have the city as an excuse for coming near the mountains. And the Mauretanii of that place held also the land to the west of Aurasium, a tract both extensive and fertile. And beyond these dwelt other nations of the Mauretanii, who were ruled by Ortaïas, who had come, as was stated above, as an ally of Solomon and the Romans. And I have heard this man say that beyond the country which he ruled there was no habitation of men, but desert land extending to a great distance, and that beyond that there are men, not black-skinned like the Mauretanii, but very white in body and fair-haired.

Strabo on the Life of the Nubians and Ethiopians

Strabo wrote in “Geography” (A.D. 22): “The mode of life of the Ethiopians is wretched; they are for the most part naked, and wander from place to place with their flocks. Their flocks and herds are small in size, whether sheep, goats, or oxen; the dogs also, though fierce and quarrelsome, are small. . . . They live on millet and barley, from which also a drink is prepared. They have no oil, but use butter and fat instead. There are no fruits, except the produce of trees in the royal gardens. Some feed even upon grass, the tender twigs of trees, the lotus, or the roots of reeds. They live also upon the flesh and blood of animals, milk, and cheese. They reverence their kings as gods, who are for the most part shut up in their palaces. [Source: Strabo, “The Geography of Strabo:” XVI.iv.4-17; XVII.i.53-54, ii.1-3, iii.1-11, translated by H. C. Hamilton, esq., & W. Falconer (London: H. G. Bohn, 1854-1857), pp. 191-203, 266-272, 275-284]


Nubian pyramids

“Their largest royal seat is the city of Meroë, [ancient capital of Kush on the east bank of the Nile about 200 kilometers north-east of Khartoum in present-day Sudan] of the same name as the island. The shape of the island is said to be that of a shield. Its size is perhaps exaggerated. Its length is about 3000 stadia, and its breadth 1000 stadia. It is very mountainous, and contains great forests. The inhabitants are nomads, who are partly hunters and partly farmers. There are also mines of copper, iron, gold, and various kinds of precious stones. It is surrounded on the side of Libya by great hills. of sand, and on that of Arabia by continuous precipices. In the higher parts on the south, it is bounded by the confluence of the rivers Astaboras [modern Atbara], Astapa [the White Nile], and Astasobas [the Blue Nile]. On the north is the continuous course of the Nile to Egypt, with its windings, of which we have spoken before.

“The houses in the cities are formed by interweaving split pieces of palm wood or of bricks. They have fossil salt [rock salt], as in Arabia. Palm, the persea [the peach], ebony, and carob trees are found in abundance. They hunt elephants, lions and panthers. There are also serpents, which encounter elephants, and there are many other kinds of wild animals, which take refuge, from the hotter and parched districts, in watery and marshy districts. Above Meroë is Psebo [the modern Lake Tana], a large lake, containing a well-inhabited island. As the Libyans occupy the western bank off the Nile, and the Ethiopians the country on the other side of the river, they thus dispute by turns the possession of the islands and the banks of the river, one party repulsing the other, or yielding to the superiority of its opponent.


bronze statue of an Ethiopian

“The Ethiopians use bows of wood four cubits long, and hardened in the fire. The women also are armed, most of whom wear in the upper lip a copper ring. They wear sheepskins, without wool; for the sheep have hair like goats. Some go naked, or wear small skins or girdles of well-woven hair around the loins. They regard as god one being who is immortal, the cause of all things; another who is mortal, a being without a name, whose nature is not clearly understood. In general they consider as gods benefactors and royal person, some of whom are their kings, the common saviors and guardians of all; others are private persons, esteemed as gods by those who have individually received benefits from them. Of those who inhabit the torrid region, some are even supposed not to acknowledge any god, and are said to abhor even the sun, and to apply opprobrious names to him, when they behold him rising, because he scorches and tortures them with his heat; these people take refuge in the marshes. The inhabitants of Meroë worship Hercules, Pan, and Isis, besides some other barbaric deities. Some tribes throw the dead into the river; others keep them in the house, enclosed in hyalus. Some bury them around the temples in coffins of baked clay. They swear an oath by them, which is reverenced as more sacred than all others.

“Kings are appointed from among persons distinguished by their personal beauty, or by their breeding of cattle, or by their courage, or their riches. In Meroë the priests anciently held the highest rank, an sometimes sent orders even to the king, by a messenger, to put an end to himself; when they appointed another keeper, in his place. At last one of their kings abolished this custom, going with an armed body to the temple where the golden shrine is, and slaughtering all the priests. The following custom exists among the Ethiopians. If a king is mutilated in any part of the body, those who are most attached to his person, as attendants, mutilate themselves in the same manner, and even die with him. Hence the king is guarded with the utmost care.”

Notitia Dignitatum (Register of Dignitaries), A.D. 400

The Notitia Dignitatum (Register of Dignitaries, c. A.D. 400) is an official listing of all civil and military posts in the Roman Empire, East and West. It survives as a 1551 copy of the now-missing original and is the major source of information on the administrative organization of the late Roman Empire. William Fairley wrote: “The Notitia Dignitatum is an official register of all the offices, other than municipal, which existed in the Roman Empire.... Gibbon gave to this document a date between 395 and 407 when the Vandals disturbed the Roman regime in Gaul. [Source: Notitia Dignitatum (Register of Dignitaries), William Fairley, in Translations and Reprints from Original Sources of European History, Vol. VI:4 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press), 1899].

“The Notitia Dignitatum has preserved for us, as no other document has done, a complete outline view of the Roman administrative system in early fifth century. The hierarchic arrangement is displayed perfectly. The division of prefectures, dioceses and provinces, and the rank of their respective governors is set forth at length. The military origin of the whole system appears in the titles of the staff officers, even in those departments whose heads had, since the time of Constantine, been deprived of all military command.”

Administrative Positions in Africa


Pompey Pillar in Alexandria

Proconsul of Africa
Under the control of the worshipful proconsul of Africa:
The proconsular province and its two legates.
His staff is as follows:
A chief of staff from the school of confidential agents the first class,
A chief deputy,
Two receivers of taxes,
A chief clerk,
A custodian,
A chief assistant,
A keeper of the records,
Assistants,
Secretaries,
Notaries, and the rest of the staff.
[Source: Notitia Dignitatum (Register of Dignitaries), William Fairley, in Translations and Reprints from Original Sources of European History, Vol. VI:4 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press), 1899].

Count of the Egyptian Frontier

Under the control of the worshipful military count of Egypt:
The fifth Macedonian legion, at Memphis,
The thirteenth twin legion, at Babylon,
The Stablesian horse, at Pelusium,
The Saracen Thamudene horse, at Scenae Veteranorum,
The third Diocletiana legion, at Andropolis,
The second Trajana legion, at Parembole,
The Theodosian squadron, recently organized,
The Arcadian squadron, recently organized,
The second squadron of Armenians, in the lesser Oasis.
And these which are assigned from the lesser register:*1
(* The lesser register was the list of lower military officers and their commands, which was in charge sometimes of the quaestor and sometimes of the bureau of memorials, under the master of the offices)
[Source: Notitia Dignitatum (Register of Dignitaries), William Fairley, in Translations and Reprints from Original Sources of European History, Vol. VI:4 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press), 1899].

The third squadron of Arabs, at Thenenuthis,
The eighth squadron of Vandals, at Nee,
The seventh squadron of Sarmatians, at Scenae Mandrorum,
The first squadron of Egyptians, at Selle,
The veteran squadron of Gauls, at Rinocoruna,
The first Herculian squadron, at Scenae without Gerasa,
The fifth squadron of Raetians, at Scenae Veteranorum,
The first Tangiers squadron, at Thinunepsi,


wheat, North Africa to some degree was the breadbasket of the Roman Empire

The Aprian squadron, at Hipponos,
The second squadron of Assyrians, at Sosteos,
The fifth squadron of Praelecti at Dionysias,
The third cohort of Galatians, at Cefro,
The second cohort of Asturians, at Busiris.
Of the province of Augustamnica:
The second Ulpian squadron of Africans, at Thaubastos,
The second squadron of Egyptians, at Tacasiria,
The first cohort of archers, at Naithu,
The first Augustan cohort of Pannonians, at Tohu,
The first cohort of Epirotes, at Castra Judaeorum,
The fourth cohort of Juthungians, at Aphroditopolis,
The second cohort of Ituraeans, at Aiy,
The second cohort of Thracians, at Muson,
The fourth cohort of Numidians, at Narmunthi

The staff is as follows:
A chief of staff from the school of confidential agents of the first class, who, after adoring the imperial clemency, goes forth with insignia.
Receivers of taxes,
A custodian,
An assistant,
A receiver of requests, or under- secretary,
Secretaries and other officials.
The count of Egypt is entitled to seven post-warrants in the year.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Rome sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Late Antiquity sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Forum Romanum forumromanum.org ; “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), forumromanum.org \~\; “The Private Life of the Romans” by Harold Whetstone Johnston, Revised by Mary Johnston, Scott, Foresman and Company (1903, 1932) forumromanum.org |+|; BBC Ancient Rome bbc.co.uk/history/ ; Perseus Project - Tufts University; perseus.tufts.edu ; MIT, Online Library of Liberty, oll.libertyfund.org ; Gutenberg.org gutenberg.org Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Live Science, Discover magazine, Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, Encyclopædia Britannica, "The Discoverers" [∞] and "The Creators" [μ]" by Daniel Boorstin. "Greek and Roman Life" by Ian Jenkins from the British Museum.Time, Newsweek, Wikipedia, Reuters, Associated Press, The Guardian, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, World Religions edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); History of Warfare by John Keegan (Vintage Books); History of Art by H.W. Janson Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.), Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated October 2018

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