Praetorian prefecture of Africa

Praetorian prefecture of Africa

Infobox Former Subdivision
native_name = aut|Praefectura praetorio Africae
conventional_long_name = Praetorian prefecture of Africa
common_name = Prefecture of Africa
continent = Africa
subdivision = Praet. Prefecture
nation = the East Roman Empire
era = Late Antiquity
capital = Carthage|
life_span = 534 – ca.590
year_start = 534
event_start = conquest of Vandal Kingdom
year_end = 590
event_end = reorganization into Exarchate
event1 = Moorish revolt defeated
date_event1 = 548
p1 = Vandal Kingdom
s1 = Exarchate of Africa
political_subdiv = Zeugitana Byzacena Numidia Mauretania Sitifensis Mauretania Caesariensis Mauretania Tingitana
The Praetorian prefecture of Africa ( _la. Praefectura praetorio Africae) was a major administrative division of the Eastern Roman Empire, established after the reconquest of northwestern Africa from the Vandals in 533-534 by emperor Justinian I. It continued to exist until the late 580s, when it was replaced by the Exarchate of Africa.



In 533, the Roman army under Belisarius defeated and destroyed the Vandal Kingdom that had existed in the former Roman territories of Northern Africa. Immediately after the victory, on April 534, the emperor Justinian published a law concerning the administrative organization of the newly acquired territories. The old provinces of the Roman Diocese of Africa had been mostly preserved by the Vandals, but large parts, including all of Mauretania Tingitana, much of Mauretania Caesariensis and large parts of the interior of Numidia and Byzacena, had been lost to the inroads of the Amazigh tribes, collectively called the "Mauri" (Moors). Nevertheless, Justinian restored the old administration, but raised the overall governor at Carthage to the supreme administrative rank of praetorian prefect. quote|From the aforesaid city, with the aid of God, seven provinces with their judges shall be controlled, of which Tingi, Carthage, Byzacium, and Tripoli, formerly under the jurisdiction of proconsuls, shall have consular rulers; while the others, that is to say, Numidia, Mauritania, and Sardinia shall, with the aid of God, be subject to governors.|"Codex Iustinianus, I.XXVII"

Indeed, Justinian's intent was to, in the words of J.B. Bury, "wipe out all traces of the Vandal conquest, as if it had never been". [Bury (1923), Vol. II, p. 139] The churches were restored to the Catholic clergy, and the remaining Arians suffered persecution. Even the land ownership was reverted to the status prior to the Vandalic conquest, but the scarcity of valid property titles after 100 years of Vandal rule created an administrative and judicial chaos. The military administration was headed by the new post of "magister militum Africae", with a subordinate "magister peditum" and four regional frontier commands (Tripolitania, Byzacena, Numidia, and Mauretania) under "duces". This organization was only gradually established, as over time the Romans pushed the Mauri back and regained these territories. [Bury (1923), Vol. II, p. 140]

The Moorish Wars

When the Romans landed in Africa, the Moors maintained a neutral stance, but after the quick Roman victories, most of their tribes pledged loyalty to the Empire. The most significant tribes were the Leuathae in Tripolitania, and the Frexi, in Byzacena. The Frexi and their allies were led by Antalas, while other tribes in the area followed Coutzinas. The Aurasii (the tribes of the Aurès Mountains) in Numidia were ruled by Iabdas, and the Mauretanian Moors were led by Mastigas and Masuna. [Bury (1923), Vol. II, p. 142, note 52]

The first Moorish uprising

After Belisarius departed for Constantinople, he was succeeded as "magister militum Africae" by his "domesticus" (senior aide), the eunuch Solomon from Dara. The tribes of Mauri living in Byzacena and Numidia almost immediately rose up, and Solomon set out with his forces, which included allied Moorish tribes, against them. The situation was so critical that Solomon was also entrusted with civil authority, replacing the first prefect, Archelaus, in the autumn of 534. Solomon was able to defeat the Mauri of Byzacena at Mamma, and again, decisively, at the battle of Mt. Bourgaon in early 535. In the summer, he campaigned against Iabdas and the Aurasii, who were ravaging Numidia, but failed to achieve any result. Solomon then set about erecting forts along the borders and the main roads, hoping to contain the raids of the Moors.

Military mutiny

In the Easter of 536 however, a large-scale military revolt broke out, caused by dissatisfaction of the soldiers with Solomon. Solomon, together with Procopius, who worked as his secretary, was able to escape to Sicily, which had just been conquered by Belisarius. Solomon's lieutenants Martinus and Theodore were left behind, the first to try and reach the troops at Numidia, and the second to hold Carthage. [Procopius, BV II.XIV] Upon hearing about the mutiny, Belisarius, with Solomon and 100 picked men, set sail for Africa. Carthage was being besieged by 9,000 rebels, including many Vandals, under a certain Stotzas. Theodore was contemplating capitulation, when Belisarius appeared. The news of the famous general's arrival were sufficient for the rebels to abandon the siege and withdraw westwards. Belisarius, although able to muster only 2,000 men, immediately gave pursuit and caught up and defeated the rebel forces at Membresa. The bulk of the rebels however was able to flee, and continued to march towards Numidia, where the local troops decided to join them. [Procopius, BV II.XV] Belisarius himself was forced to return to Italy, and Justinian appointed his nephew Germanus Justinus as "magister militum" to deal with the crisis.

Germanus managed to win over many of the rebels to his side by appearing conciliatory and paying their arrears. Eventually, in the spring of 537, the two armies clashed at Scalae Veteres, resulting in a hard-won victory for Germanus. Stotzas fled to the tribesmen of Mauretania, and Germanus spent the next two years in re-establishing discipline in the army. Finally, Justinian judged the situation to have been stabilized enough, and in 539 Germanus was replaced by Solomon. Solomon carried on Germanus' work by pruning out of the army those of suspect loyalties and strengthening the network of fortifications. This careful organization enabled him to strike successfully against the Aurasii, evicting them from their mountain strongholds, and firmly establish Roman rule in Numidia and Mauretania Sitifensis. [Procopius, BV II.XIX-XX]

The second Moorish uprising

Africa enjoyed peace and prosperity for the next few years, until the arrival of the great plague ca. 542, during which the people of the province suffered greatly. At the same time, the arrogant behaviour of some Roman governors alienated the Mauri leaders, such as Antalas at Byzacena, and provoked them to rise up and raid Roman territory. So it was that during a battle with the Mauri at Cillium in Byzacena in 544, the Romans were defeated and Solomon himself killed. [Procopius, BV II.XXI] [Bury (1923), Vol. II, p. 145] Solomon was succeeded by his nephew, Sergius, who as duke of Tripolitania had been largely responsible for the Moorish uprising. Sergius was both unpopular and of limited abilities, while the Mauri, joined by the renegade Stotzas, gathered together under the leadership of Antalas. [Procopius, BV II.XXII] The Moors, aided by Stotzas, were able to enter and sack the coastal city of Hadrumetum by trickery. A priest named Paulus was able to retake the city with a small force without help from Sergius, who refused to march forth against the Moors. Despite this setback, the rebels roamed the provinces at will, while the rural population fled to the fortified cities and to Sicily. [Procopius, BV II.XXIII]

Justinian then sent Areobindus, a man of senatorial rank and husband to his niece Praejecta, but otherwise undistinguished, with a few men to Africa, not to replace Sergius, but to share command with him. Sergius was entrusted with the war in Numidia, while Areobindus undertook to subdue Byzacena. Areobindus sent out a force under the able general John against Antalas and Stotzas. Because Sergius did not come to their aid as requested, the Romans were routed at Thacia, but not before John mortally wounded Stotzas in single combat. The effects of this disaster at least forced Justinian to recall Sergius and restore unity of command in the hands of Areobindus. [Procopius, BV II.XXIV] Soon after, in March 546, Areobindus was overthrown and murdered by Gontharic, the "dux Numidiae", who had come into negotiations with the Moors and intended to set himself up as an independent king. Gontharic himself was overthrown by loyal troops under the Armenian Artabanes in early May. Artabanes was elevated to the office of "magister militum Africae", but was soon recalled to Constantinople. [Procopius, BV II.XXV-XXVIII]

The man Justinian sent to replace him was the talented general John Troglita, whose exploits are celebrated in the epic poem "Iohannis" written by Flavius Cresconius Corippus. Troglita had already served in Africa under Belisarius and Solomon, and had a distinguished career in the East, where he had been appointed "dux Mesopotamiae". Despite his numerically weak forces, he managed to win over several Moorish tribes, and in early 547 he decisively defeated Antalas and his allies, and drove them from Byzacena. As Procopius recounts:

A few months later, however, the tribe of the Leuathae, in Tripolitania, rose up, and inflicted a severe defeat upon the imperial forces in the plain of Gallica. The Leuathae were joined by Antalas, and the Moors once again raided freely as far as Carthage. [Bury (1923), Vol. II, p. 147] But early in the next year, John mustered his forces, and together by several allied Moorish tribes, including the former rebel Coutzinas, utterly defeated the Moors at the battle of the Fields of Cato, killing seventeen of their leaders and putting an end to the revolt that had plagued Africa for almost 15 years.

Peace restored

For the next decades, Africa remained tranquil, allowing it to recover. Peace might not have lasted as long, had not Troglita perceived that the complete eviction of the Mauri from the interior of the provinces, and the complete restoration of the province to its ancient bounds was impossible. Instead, he opted to accommodate himself with the Moors, promising them autonomy in exchange for becoming the Empire's "foederati". [Moderan (2003), p.816] The loyalty of these dependent princes of the various Moorish tribes was secured by means of annual pensions and gifts, and the peace was kept by a strong network of fortifications, many of which still survive to the present day.

The only interruption to the province's tranquility was a brief Moorish revolt of 563. It was caused by the unwarranted murder of the aged tribal leader Coutzinas, when he came to Carthage to receive his annual pension, by the "magister militum", John Rogathinus. His sons and dependents rose up, until an expeditionary force under the tribune Marcian, nephew of the Emperor, succeeded in restoring the peace. [Bury (1923), Vol. II, p. 148]

During the reign of Justin II (565 - 578), great care was shown to Africa. Under the prefect Thomas during the period 565-570, the network of fortifications was further strengthened and expanded, the administration reformed and decentralized, and largely successful efforts were made to proselytize the Garamantes of the Fezzan and the Gaetuli, living to the south of Mauretania Caesariensis. [El Africa Bizantina, p. 38] At the same time, Africa was one of the more tranquil regions of the Empire, which was being assaulted on all sides, which allowed for troops to be transferred from the province to the East. [El Africa Bizantina, p. 44]

Conflict with the kingdom of Garmul

In Mauretania, between the Roman outpost of Septum and the province of Caesariensis, various small Moorish kingdoms, which also ruled over Romanized urban populations, had been established ever since the arrival of the Vandals. Little information exists about them, but these were never subdued by the Vandals, and claimed continuity from the Roman Empire, their leaders styling themselves with titles such as "imperator", like the chieftain Masties at Arris, or, in the case of king Masuna of Altava (modern Ouled Mimoun, Algeria), "rex gentium Maurorum et Romanorum". By the early 530s, an autonomous Roman-Moorish "kingdom" had been established by Garmul, with its capital at Altava. When Belisarius defeated the Vandals, he too had acknowledged Roman suzerainty, but soon, taking advantage of the Moorish revolts, he renounced it. In the late 560s, he launched raids into Roman territory, and although he failed to take any significant town, three successive generals of Tingitana are recorded by John of Biclaro to have been killed by Garmul's forces. His activities, especially when regarded together with the simultaneous Visigoth attacks in Spania, presented a clear threat to the province's authorities; Garmul was not the leader of a mere semi-nomadic tribe, but of a fully-fledged barbarian kingdom, with a standing army. Thus the new emperor, Tiberius II Constantine, re-appointed Thomas as praetorian prefect, and the able general Gennadius was posted as "magister militum" with the clear aim of reducing Garmul's kingdom. Preparations were lengthy and careful, but the campaign itself, launched in 577-78, was brief and effective, with Gennadius utilizing terror tactics against Garmul's subjects. Garmul was defeated and killed, and the coastal corridor between Tingitana and Caesariensis secured. [El Africa Bizantina, pp. 45-46]

Establishment of the Exarchate

Gennadius remained in Africa as "magister militum" for a long time (until the early 590s), and it was he who became the first "exarch" of Africa, [The African exarchate is mentioned for the first time in 591. (El Africa Bizantina, p. 47)] when emperor Maurice established the exarchate in the late 580s, uniting civil and military authority in his hands. The exarchate extended over North Africa and the imperial possessions in Spain. It prospered greatly, and under Heraclius, African forces overthrew the tyrant Phocas in 610. The exarchate was a practically autonomous entity from the 640s on, and survived until the fall of Carthage to the Arabs in 698.

List of known "praefecti praetorio Africae"

*Archelaus (534)
*Solomon (1st time, 534-536)
*Symmachus (536-539)
*Solomon (2nd time, 539-544)
*Sergius (544-545)
*Athanasius (545-548, perhaps up to 550)
*Paulus (ca. 552)
*Ioannes (ca. 558)
*Ioannes Rogathinus (ca. 563)
*Thomas (1st time, 563-565)
*Theodorus (ca. 570)
*Thomas (2nd time, 574-578)
*Theodorus (ca. 582)



*cite book | first=Michael | last=Brett | coauthors=Fentress, Elizabeth | title=The Berbers | publisher=Blackwell Publishing | year=1996 | isbn=0631207678
*cite book | first=John Bagnell | last=Bury | authorlink=John Bagnell Bury | title= History of the Later Roman Empire Vols. I & II |url= | publisher=Macmillan & Co., Ltd. | year=1923
*cite book | first=Averil | last=Cameron | title=Late Antiquity: Empire and Successors A.D. 425-600, The Cambridge Ancient History Vol. XIV | chapter=Vandal and Byzantine North Africa | pages= 552-569 | publisher=Cambridge University Press | year=2000 | isbn=0521325919
*cite book | first=Averil | last=Cameron | title=University of Michigan Excavations at Carthage, Vol. VII | chapter=Byzantine Africa: The Literary Evidence | pages= 29-62 | publisher=University of Michigan Press | year=1982
*fr icon cite book | first=Yves | last=Moderan | title= Les Maures et l'Afrique romaine, IV-VII siècle | year=2003
*cite book | first=Denys | last=Pringle | title=The Defence of Byzantine Africa from Justinian to the Arab Conquest: An Account of the Military History and Archaeology of the African Provinces in the Sixth and Seventh Century | publisher=British Archaeological Reports | location=Oxford | year=1981 | isbn=0860541193
*Procopius, "De Bello Vandalico" ("BV"), [ Volume II.]
*es icon PDFlink| [ Francisco Aguado - El Africa Bizantina] |2.03 MiB
*es icon PDFlink| [ Hilario Gómez - Ciudades del Africa Romano Bizantina] |1.16 MiB
*cite book | first=Susan | last=Raven | title= Rome in Africa | publisher=Routledge | year=1993 | isbn=0415081505

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