Unlike many other Roman provinces, Africa has no official date in which it fell out of Roman hands. Instead, we see the decline of Rome itself, and the city being to busy with its own affairs to try and reclaim what was being lost to the south. Some scholars suggest that Rome's losing Africa, its greatest food resource, was a key factor in its fall. The answer to that query is unfortunately lost to history.
Despite everything that has been said previously about the high life being led by the residents of Africa, there was certainly not a lack of discontent. During the reign of Diocletian, in the late third and early fourth centuries, the prosperous olive fields were being taxed heavily, and the landowners fell upon the peasantry to work harder to support the exorbitant rates.
About this time, the word of Christianity had come to Numidia. It spread faster in Africa than anywhere else, some believe as a revolt against Diocletian, but probably due to the desire for peasants to have something greater waiting for them after their lives of toil and there not having been a strong religious faith in Africa for centuries. This early Christian movement was not the last religious protest to be staged in Roman Africa.
In AD 312, a group of Cartheginian Christians refused to accept the new bishop, Caecilian, as their own. Their argument was that Caecilians consecrator, Felix of Aptunga, was impure because he had willingly handed over his copy of the Holy Scriptures to Roman prosecutors during the reign of the Christian persecutor Diocletian. In protest, the bishops of Numidia chose and consecrated a cleric named Majorus, who was soon followed by Donatus. The Donatist schism begins.
Was this schism really about religion, though? The strongest supporters of Donatus were rural Numidia and Mauretania, where civil unrest and social discontent was ever growing since the reign of Diocletian. Thanks to a rise in tribal skirmishes, government authority was in the decline within the province, as well as from without due to troubled Rome. It is interesting to notice too, that the argument comes back to Diocletian, who must have truly been hated by the African continent.
Regardless of its true purpose, it took only one year for Rome itself to take an interest in this controversy. In AD 313, the bishop of Rome officially condemned the Donatists, but local support kept them going strong, even after Donatus died in exile in 355.
Not until AD 405 was the church, both in Rome and in Africa, finally fed up enough to be prepared to get rid of the Donatists, with violence if necessary. In AD 405, Donatism was officially declared a heresy, and in 411, the council of Carthage condemned the heresy. The argument was quickly closed and Donatism brought to an end. Apparently, strict devoutness was not worth ones life after all.
At the beginning of the fifth century, northwest Africa was the only Roman territory of the west that had not suffered barbarian incursions. Even great Rome herself had been looted for three days by the Goths. Some land had been abandoned, but the province still produced huge quantities of goods.
It would be the Vandals, migrating barbarians from northern Spain who would eventually take this illustrious position from Africa. In AD 429, the Vandals began their invasion of Africa.
The Vandals themselves came to Africa to settle, not to destroy. Sure, they killed and looted as any other barbarians would, but they made sure to preserve the land, for they were going to live on it. Its no surprise that the Vandals had such an easy time moving across Africa. There was no standing army since Africa had known nothing but peace. The only thing the local army knew how to do was stop tribesman from rioting, not how to put down a foreign invasion.
Ten years later, the Vandals had made it to Carthage and in AD 439, seized the greatest African city for themselves, bringing to a close Romes nearly six hundred year reign over Africa.
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