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Early Christianity in North Africa

Given the slow progress of Romanization of North Africa, it is perhaps surprising how quickly Christianity spread across the top of the continent. From the fall of Carthage in 146 BCE to the rule of Emperor Augustus (from 27 BCE), Africa (or, more strictly speaking, Africa Vetus, "Old Africa"), as the Roman province was known, was under the command of a minor Roman official. But, like Egypt, Africa and its neighbors Numidia and Mauritania (which were under the rule of client kings), were recognized as potential "bread baskets".

Impetus for expansion and exploitation came with the transformation of the Roman Republic to a Roman Empire in 27 B.C.E. Romans were enticed by the availability of land for building estates and wealth, and during the first century C.E., north Africa was heavily colonized by Rome.

The Emperor Augustus (63B C.E.--14 C.E.) remarked that he added Egypt (Aegyptus) to the empire. Octavian (as he was then known, had defeated Mark Anthony and deposed Queen Cleopatra VII in 30 B.C.E. to annex what had been the Ptolemaic Kingdom. By the time of Emperor Claudius (10 B.C.E.--45 C.E.) canals had been refreshed and agriculture was booming from improved irrigation. The Nile Valley was feeding Rome.

Under Augustus, the two provinces of Africa, Africa Vetus ("Old Africa") and Africa Nova ("New Africa"), were merged to form Africa Proconsularis (named for it being governed by a Roman proconsul). Over the next three and a half centuries, Rome extended its control over the coastal regions of North Africa (including the coastal regions of modern day Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco) and imposed a rigid administrative structure on Roman colonists and indigenous peoples (the Berber, Numidians, Libyans, and Egyptians).

By 212 C.E., the Edict of Caracalla (aka Constitutio Antoniniana, "Constitution of Antoninus") issued, as one might expect, by the Emperor Caracalla, declared that all free men in the Roman Empire were to be acknowledged as Roman Citizens (up till then, provincials, as they were known,

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