Posts Tagged ‘byzantine empire’

“Carthage was the capital of Africa, a major political and fiscal centre, and
channel of much of Africa’s wealth overseas in the Roman period. In the
period 350–450 its prosperity peaked, as also did its population, which
might have reached 100,000 people. Its walls, built in the 420s, blocked
some former main access roads, and left some extramural areas to decay. In
the Vandal period, too, there are also some signs of a neglect of public
buildings, such as those in the forum area and the so-called ‘circular monument’; roads often saw encroachment in this period. But the Vandals also
built or rebuilt palaces and baths on a lavish scale (one was near the odeon;
we also have detailed praise-poems about some of them).  Some private
housing continued to be rich, such as the House of the Greek Charioteers;
and commercial activity remained active, with a continuity of import and
export (though this was lessening by 500 and the
circular harbour, one of Carthage’s several harbours, was not fully kept
up). After Belisarios’ conquest there was a massive rebuilding programme,
focusing on public buildings, streets, porticoes, churches, the harbours, and
the walls, as befitted a major centre in Justinian’s empire; this rebuilding
sometimes recognized and systematized former street encroachment. Carthage arguably had a prosperous period up to 600 at least, and maybe even
650, although construction techniques simplified towards the end of this
period, nd some monuments were converted to private houses. The last
known monumental (re-) building dates to c.660, in the southern extramural
church of Bir el Knissia;  thereafter Carthage underwent a monumental
meltdown. Older housing was replaced—and streets even blocked—by numerous poor-quality buildings, the circular harbour and the circus were
abandoned (there was seventh-century occupation, probably housing, in
the latter, however) and burials intruded on several former occupied
areas. Carthage was in the end abandoned, probably in the early eighth
century, and replaced by neighbouring Tunis. But the late seventh-century
levels of the city, despite their material poverty and their lack of control, do
not show terminal population decline; one must conclude that a still-existing
population was deliberately moved by the Arabs at some point after their
conquest of the city in 698.”

– Chris Wickham, Framing The Early Middle Ages: Europe and the Mediterranean, 400-800 (London: Oxford University Press, 2005), p. 641


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