Pastoralists, Peasants, and Politics in Roman North Africa

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Shaw, Brent Donald 

Pastoralists, Peasants, and Politics is an investigation of the interaction between nomads and sedentarists in North Africa during the period of Roman rule, with concentration on the aspects of the relationship that pertain directly to the extension of Roman political authority over the Maghrib. Following a brief discussion of the place of the subject in modern historiography, the introductory chapters turn to a consideration of the prehistoric origins of pastoral nomadism in the Saharan neolithic, and trace its gradual infiltration into the Maghrib and its relationship to incipient agricultural sedentarism. The last of the introductory chapters reviews the literature of the Mediterranean elites and reveals their attitudes towards the pastoral nomad as a type. The analysis seeks to establish the precise nature of sedentarist prejudices as a necessary precursor to the rational interpretation of the Classical literary sources.

In the central chapters of the dissertation the political history of the relations between the Roman state and nomadic groups (viz. the Gaetuli) who inhabited the regions beyond the Roman province is analyzed. The history of the violent encounters between the two is combined with a synchronic typology of the various types of violence in Gaetulia. The narrative culminates with an investigation of the 'rebellion of Tacfarinas', its possible causes, and the supposed responses of the Roman administration to nomad problems (e.g. the myth of tribal reserves).

The latter part of the dissertation concludes with a synoptic view of two aspects of the nomad-sedentarist interaction during the period of the full establishment of Rome's African empire. The first aspect is one which has not received due attention in modern scholarship, namely, the degree of symbiosis between nomads and sedentarists based on various types of exchange -- social, economic, and political. The final chapter concentrates on the problem of frontier relations, specifically the place of pastoral nomadism within the framework of the different types of limes systems constructed for the protection of sedentarist communities along the southern frontier of the Roman provinces.

Reynolds, Joyce
Nomads, Sedentarists, North Africa, Roman rule, Pastoralists
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge