In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Roman Africa

  • Introduction
  • Scholarly Resources
  • History of Scholarship
  • Environments
  • Archaeology
  • Urbanism
  • Rural Landscapes
  • Regional Studies
  • Economy
  • Art and Architecture
  • Mortuary Studies
  • Ancient Literature
  • Epigraphic Sources
  • Ancient History
  • Religious Practices
  • Administration
  • Frontiers and the Army
  • Republican Period
  • Early Imperial Period (Augustus to the End of the Severans)
  • Late Imperial Period (End of the Severans to the Vandal Conquest)

Classics Roman Africa
David Stone
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 November 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0327


Africa, in the context of the Roman world, refers to territory north of the Sahara Desert stretching from Libya in the East to Morocco in the West. With the exception of Egypt, it includes all of the region now considered North Africa but excludes the lands below the Sahara Desert that are now recognized as the remainder of Africa. Roman, in the context of Africa, applies to the period from 146 BCE to 439 CE during which the region was controlled by Rome. Roman control of Africa began with the destruction of Carthage and the takeover of the land it ruled in the aftermath of the Third Punic War and ended nearly six full centuries later when Vandal invaders completed their conquest of Africa, once again in its biggest city, Carthage. During these six centuries of conquest, Roman soldiers occupied parts of Africa, and governors and other officials administered justice and collected taxes. Roman practices, including religious and funerary customs, styles of art and architecture, writing in Latin, and agricultural management systems became widespread. At the same time, close study of the Roman period in Africa has taught scholars to reject simplistic notions of a “Roman Africa.” While Rome’s influence on Africa was considerable, many cultural features continued or changed but did not disappear. These features included religious and funerary customs, styles of art and architecture, foodways, languages, and personal names. Africa was far from uniformly Roman; its residents of different social and economic classes were subjected to Roman rule in diverse ways, and the various cities and regions of Africa were treated differently as well. The title of this article, “Roman Africa,” was chosen not by the author but by Oxford Bibliographies for conformity with other essays in its series. Many specialists in the history and archaeology of ancient North Africa would probably argue that the title does not adequately express the complexities of life in Africa under Roman rule.

Scholarly Resources

The breadth of North Africa and the multiple languages of discourse about its history and archaeology have created a situation in which scholarly publications appear regularly in many venues. This Oxford Bibliographies article can provide one starting point for research. The Bibliographie analytique de l’Afrique antique is another good starting point, as is the Encyclopedie berbère. The major journal in the field is Antiquités africaines, supplemented by journals covering the heritage of individual countries, such as Libyan Studies, Africa, the Bulletin d’archéologie algérienne and the Bulletin d’archéologie marocaine. L’Africa romana has for thirty-five years been the primary international conference in the field, and has been held approximately every two years, under the sponsorship of the Università degli studi di Sassari.

  • Africa. 1966–.

    Primary Tunisian journal for prehistoric, ancient, Islamic, and ethnographic research. As of this writing (April 2018), twenty-four volumes are accessible online.

  • Antiquités africaines. 1967–.

    Annual journal published by the Centre Camille Jullian, a major North African research center in Aix-en-Provence. Articles cover all aspects of ancient North Africa including material culture, history, literature, and epigraphy.

  • Bibliographie analytique de l’Afrique antique. 1970–.

    Compilation of all articles concerning ancient North Africa published in a given year. An excellent resource for beginners, although it is somewhat dated by the time it appears. As of this writing (April 2018), forty-five volumes covering 1962–2011 have been published.

  • Bulletin d’archéologie algérienne. 1965–.

    Journal of ancient and Islamic archaeology in Algeria. Founded in 1962 but published only seven issues from 1977–1979.

  • Bulletin d’archéologie marocaine. 1956–.

    Established in 1956 as the main Moroccan journal for prehistoric, ancient, Islamic, and ethnographic research. As of this writing (April 2018), twenty-three issues have been published.

  • Encyclopedie berbère. 1984–.

    Encyclopedia whose objective is to present topical articles on all issues relating to the Berber peoples of North Africa. As of this writing (April 2018), thirty-six volumes covering the letters A to O have been published. All but the latest five editions are accessible online.

  • L’Africa romana: atti del convegno di studio su L’Africa romana. 1984–.

    International conference sponsored by the Università degli studi di Sassari covering ancient North Africa and occasional other areas, including Sardinia. As of this writing (April 2018), twenty volumes are accessible online.

  • Libyan Studies. 1969–.

    International journal begun in 1969 containing articles and book reviews primarily about the history and archaeology of Libya.

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