How Africa Became a Roman Province

Africa

By the third century BC, Carthage had become such a large economic forcethat Rome was both jealous and fearful of it. In 264 BC, the first of a series of wars between Rome and Carthage began; the Punic Wars. In 146 BC, the third Punic War was over and Rome was the undisputed owner of all of known Africa.
Rome formed its first African colony in the most fertile part, soon to be known as Africa Vetus. The rest of the continental territory was left to the descendants of Masinissa, the native king. Rome’s goal in forming this colony was not to exploit the land, but just hold the territory to prevent any other power from benefiting from it. Policy held that no power should rise on the far side of Sicily. For the time being, Rome left the province to manage itself except for praetor in Utica. The native kingdoms, which under King Masinissa had taken on a life of their own, were especially left to themselves.

Masinissa (202-148 BC) was succeeded by his three sons, two of whom died soon after him, leaving Micipsa, a loyal ally of Rome, as King of Numidia. One of Micipsa s dead brothers, however, had a bastard son, Jugurtha. Micipsa realized that Jugurtha would become a dangerous rival to his own sons share of power, so he sent him to command Numidian troops fighting for Rome in 134 BC, hoping he would be killed.

To the contrary, Jugurtha lived, and made many friends among the young Roman noblemen during the campaign. He returned to Numidia more popular than ever with Rome and his troops. Jugurtha also brought with him an enthusiastic letter of recommendation to Micipsa from the Roman commander, Scipio. Micipsa took the hint and made Jugurtha joint heir with his two sons, Hiempsal and Adherbal.

After Micipsa s death in 118 BC, Jugurtha murdered Hiempsal. Then he used his loyal army to defeat Adherbal in battle and seize the throne for himself. This was an illegal practice, but Jugurtha had thought ahead and sent some bribes to his friends in the Roman senate to help them turn a blind eye.

Adherbal fled Africa to rally for support in Rome. He demanded his rightful half of the kingdom of Numidia. Since it was a client kingdom, the senate found themselves unable to ignore the situation, but the bribes did help them to take their time going into action. Jugurtha and Adherbal were soon at war once again.

All was going well for Jugurtha s side until 112 BC, when Jugurtha committed a grievous error when sacking the city of Cirta. Jugurtha ordered all the adult male inhabitants of the city killed, some of which were Roman settlers. Rome was forced to seek vengeance, and in the same year the Jugurthine War commenced.

The Jugurthine War lasted six years, and it was during the latter stages of this war in which the generals Marius and Sulla made their names. The war ended when King Bocchus of Mauretania, Jugurtha s father-in-law, betrayed him and delivered Jugurtha in chains to Sulla. The heartland of Numidia was given to Jugurtha s half brother, Gauda, and King Bocchus was rewarded with the western part of Numidia. Some of Marius veterans were given land between Africa and Numidia. Jugurtha died while in prison in Rome.

In 60 BC the first triumvirate of Rome was formed between Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus. Pompey recieved control of Africa, and the Numidian king of the time, Juba I, was his supporter. When the triumvirate dissolved in 53 BC, Juba I continued to defend Africa against the forces of Caesar, even after Pompey s death.

This resistance was not especially long lived, however, and by 46 BC, Caesar had defeated the Pompean loyalists. As a sign of victory, Caesar had Juba s young son,

Juba II, taken to Rome to be brought up in his household.

Africa was not left to its own devices anymore. Caesar extended direct Roman rule to include most of the Numidian kingdom, Africa Nova. After the death of King Bocchus in 33 BC, the kingdom of Mauretania fell to direct Roman rule as well. One of Caesar s main African projects was to refound Carthage. He was murdered before this goal was attained.

Octavian, soon to have the title Augustus, achieved this goal in 29 BC, refounding Carthage. Juba II, now 26 years old, returned to Africa to rule Mauretania in 25 BC. Juba II was loyal to Rome for all of his fifty year reign. It was also during this time, under Octavian Augustus, that the flow of African immigrants was at its highest.

Upon Juba II s death, his son Ptolemy took over Mauretania. The Moors (Mauretanian tribesman) revolted almost immediately. The skirmish was put down quickly and efficiently by the Roman general Dolabella, but it was obvious that Rome would have to take direct control here as well. Claudius did just that around AD 40, creating two provinces in Mauretania, and completing the full control of the Roman province of Africa.

Source: usd.edu

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