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Durham University

Department of Archaeology


Publication details for Professor Anna Leone

Leone, A (2006). Clero, proprietà, cristianizzazione delle campagne nel nord Africa tardoantico: status quaestionis. Antiquité Tardive 14: 93-104.

Author(s) from Durham


This paper analyses the growing involvement of the North African churches in economic activities and their acquisition of estates and properties in the 4th and early 5th century AD. In particular it considers the process through which the clergy developed a secular role in Byzantine society.

The study begins by considering donations by Constantine to the baptistery of St John in Lateran: the Liber Pontificalis specifically mentions lands in North Africa. The analysis considers the quantity and the type of products that were likely to have been produced in these territories. Issues relating to the effective value of the Constantinian donations are also discussed. It then analyses the different types of sources that document the acquisition by the clergy of properties (houses) and estates (lands). Sources mentioning the involvement of clergy in market activities and in managing lands are considered both in terms of the economic activity itself and the moral attitude of the clergy. The final section of the article combines archaeological evidence with the documentary sources and, on the basis of the known bishops in North Africa, attempts specifically to identify the dioceses located in Proconsularis and Byzacena.

The combined data shed light on the changing role of the clergy in society, and the paper identifies a number of general directions for future research. Overall it offers a detailed synthesis of the current state of knowledge and points to problems and potentials within the complex history of North Africa immediately prior to the fall of the Western Roman Empire.