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Exarchate of Africa

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

African Exarchate
Exarchate of Africa

The Exarchate of Africa, also known as Carthaginian, was an administrative region in the Byzantine Empire including Mauritania, Numidia, Proconsular Africa, Sardinia, Corsica, the Balearic Islands and part of the southern coast of today’s Spain, founded by Emperor Maurice around 590 CE.

The Exarchate’s capital was Carthage. It was headed by an exarch, combining civil and military functions, the praetorian prefect and magistra militium, respectively. The territories taken over by the exarchate were regained by General Belisarius in the war with the Vandals (533), but due to the long distances and constant logistical problems in the following years, they were often left to themselves.

Following the reforms of Justinian I, who began combining the functions of civilian and military officials in particularly vulnerable and troublesome provinces, Maurice created the office of exarch and created two exarchates (the second in part of the Apennine Peninsula with the capital in Ravenna).

Heraclius the Elder, the second exarch of Africa, was the father of Emperor Heraclius, the first to use the title basileus. Decades later, another exarch, Gregory Patrycjusz, announced his separation from the empire but was soon defeated by the Arabs at Sufetula. Both of these events hastened the collapse of the exarchate, which finally came at the beginning of the 8th century with the Arab conquest of Sept (today’s Ceuta). It is ironic that most of the defenders of Roman Carthage, which fell in the year 698, were Visigoths, sent from Spain by their ruler fearing an Arab invasion.

Author: Jakub Ernt (translated from Polish: Jakub Jasiński)

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