Map of Roman Africa

Map of Roman Africa

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Maps are essential for any serious study, they help students of Roman history understand the geographical locations and historical backgrounds of the places mentioned in historical sources.

Hippo Regius HIPPO REGIUS (Ἱππὼν Βασιλικός: Ru. S. of Bonah), a maritime city of Numidia, which received its surname from its being a residence of the Numidian kings, but is of higher fame as the see of St. Augustine. It was a colony of Tyre, and stood 5 M. P. NW. of the river UBUS, on the W. side of a large bay to which it gave its name (HIPPONENSIS SINUS: Gulf of Bonah), as well as to the promontory above it, forming the W. headland of the bay (HIPPI PROM Ἵππου ῎ακρα: Ras el Hamrah). It grew into greater importance under the Romans, by whom it was made a colony and it continued to be one of the most flourishing cities of N. Africa, till it was destroyed by the Vandals in B.C. 430. It was during the progress of this siege that the great Augustine died. (Sal. Jug. 19 Hirt. Bell. Afr. 961 Strab. xvii. p.832 Mela, 1.7 Plin. Nat. 5.3. s. 2 Itin. Ant. p. 20 Tab. Peut. Diod. 20.57 Sil. Ital. 1.3, 3.259 Shaw, Travels in Barbary, p. 44 Barth, Wanderungen, &c. p. 70). - Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography, William Smith, LLD, Ed.

Hippo Regius is the ancient name of the modern city of Annaba, in Algeria. Under this name, it was a major city in Roman Africa, hosting several early Christian councils, and was the home of the philosopher and theologian Augustine of Hippo.[1] In even earlier days, the city was a royal residence for Numidian kings. The climate is agreeable in winter, but humid in summer. The harbour serves as an export station for all of the rich inland country. Hippo was a Tyrian colony on the west coast of the bay to which it gave its name: Hipponensis Sinus, first settled by the Phoenicians probably in the 12th century BC the surname Regius 'of the King' was bestowed on it as one of the places where the Numidian kings resided. A maritime city near the mouth of the river Ubus, it became a Roman colonia which prospered and became a major city in Roman Africa. It is perhaps most famous as the bishopric of Saint Augustine of Hippo in his later years. In the summer of 430 the Vandals were besieging the city of Hippo as the aged bishop lay dying within. Shortly after his death on August 28, 430, they captured the city under King Geiseric after an 18-month siege in 431 and made it the capital of the Vandal kingdom in Northern Africa between 431 and 439. It was conquered by the Eastern Roman Empire in 534 and was kept under Byzantine rule until 698, when it fell to the Muslims the Arabs rebuilt the town in the seventh century. The city's later history was under its modern name. About three kilometres distant the Arabs in the eleventh century established the town of Beleb-el-Anab, which the Spaniards occupied for some years in the sixteenth century, as the French did later, in the reign of Louis XIV. France took this town again in 1832. It was renamed Bone or Bona, and became one of the government centres for the department of Constantine in Algeria. It had 37,000 inhabitants, of whom 15,700 were French, 10,500 foreigners, mostly Italians, 9,400 Muslims and 1400 naturalized Jews. - Wikipedia

Rome Expands With Capture of Etruscan City

The taking of the Etruscan city of Veii by the Romans in 396 B.C. After a siege of many years they finally won victory after digging into the soft tuff rock below the walls while distracting the Veiians with attacks on the walls and infiltrating the city&aposs drainage system to emerge in the citadel. 

Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Even so, Rome was still relatively small by the time it transitioned from a kingdom to a republic in 509 B.C. The republic’s first significant expansion came in 396 B.C., when Rome defeated and captured the Etruscan city of Veii. Instead of destroying Veii, the classicist Mary Beard argues the Romans largely let the city continue operating as it had before, only under Roman control and with the understanding that Rome could conscript free men for the Roman army.

The conquest of Veii was 𠇊 big turning point for [the Romans] because they take over a territory that’s half the size of the territory they already have,” Watts says. Over the next two-and-a-half centuries, Rome spread throughout the Italian Peninsula by conquering territories and either making them independent allies or extending Roman citizenship.

“The absorption of Italy was actually an absorption it wasn’t supposed to be a colonial regime,” he says. Later, in the first century B.C., it extended Roman citizenship to all free people. Still, it never extended citizenship to the many enslaved people in Italy obtained through trade, piracy, wars and other means.

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Africa 1453 CE

New kingdoms are emerging in different parts of Africa.

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What is happening in Africa in 1453CE

By this date, large-scale immigration of Arabs into North Africa have made this region largely Arab-speaking.

Sub-Saharan Africa

The Africa coasts have been visited by the ships of two alien powers. At the beginning of the 15 th century, a large Chinese fleet visited some of the Swahili ports on the Indian Ocean coast of East Africa. In the mid-century, the first Portuguese ships arrived off the coast of West Africa. Whereas Chinese ships have not returned since, the Portuguese ships, although appearing in far smaller numbers (and are themselves far smaller in size than the great Chinese vessels), have started trading in the area.

They are mainly interested in buying gold from local chiefs, but they soon get involved in the slave trade of the region. Shortly slaves are being shipped back to Europe in Portuguese holds, mainly for work on the sugar plantations of Portugal and Madeira.

The West African kingdoms have continued to flourish and to grow, and the trade network has continued to expand. This has led to the rise of more kingdoms in the forest regions, near the coast. Elsewhere in Africa, other kingdoms are also emerging. In the south and east, this is probably related to the penetration of trade routes further and further inland from the Indian Ocean. Here, the maritime trade with Arabia and India has been expanding, and the Swahili city-states have been flourishing. Arab and Swahili traders have planted more ports southwards along the coast.

(Map Company Limited)

An early Spanish explorer, possibly confused by the Baja Peninsula, reported in the 16th century that California was surrounded by water on all sides. This error was enshrined by the Amsterdam mapmaker Michiel Colijn in 1622, and California was drawn as an island well into the 18th century.

As the Renaissance dawned, maps began to improve. Commerce demanded it—ships were crossing oceans, and kings engaged in empire-building needed to chart their lands. Technology drove maps to greater accuracy: The advent of reliable compasses helped create “portolan” maps, which had lines crisscrossing the sea from port to port, helping guide sailors. Ptolemy’s ancient work was rediscovered, and new maps were drawn based on his thousand-year-old calculations.

Indeed, Christopher Columbus’ voyage to America was partly due to Ptolemy—and errors in his cartography. Columbus carried a map influenced by the ancient Roman’s work. But Ptolemy thought the world was 30 percent smaller than it actually is worse, the mapmaker was using Arabian miles, which were longer than Italian ones. Together these mistakes led Columbus to believe the voyage to Asia would be much shorter. It was an early example of a GPS-like near disaster.

As sea trade increased, maps of the New World became better, at least the seacoasts and major rivers, places the beaver trade depended on. The inland of America was mostly a mystery mapmakers often draw it as a big blank space labeled “terra incognita.”

“The coastlines were accurate, but they weren’t as concerned about the interiors,” notes John Rennie Short, a professor and cartography expert at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. “The rest is, like, Who knows? As long as you keep bringing the beavers, we don’t care.”

Sea voyages became easier after 1569, when Gerardus Mercator unveiled the single greatest innovation in mapping after Ptolemy: the Mercator Projection. A polymath who was equally skilled in engraving and mathematics, Mercator figured out the best trick yet to represent the surface of a globe on a map—by gradually widening the landmasses and oceans the farther north and south they appear on the map. This was a great aid to navigation, but it also subtly distorted how we see the world: Countries close to the poles—like Canada and Russia—were artificially enlarged, while regions at the Equator, like Africa, shrank.

This was becoming the cardinal rule of maps: “No map entirely tells the truth,” notes Mark Monmonier, author of How to Lie With Maps. “There’s always some distortion, some point of view.”

Indeed, everyday people were realizing that a map was an act of persuasion, a visual rhetoric. In 1553, gentry in Surrey, England, drew a map of the town’s central fields, to prove these were common lands—and that villagers thus should be allowed to graze animals there. The map, they wrote, would allow for “the more playne manifest and direct understondying” of the situation. Maps, says Rose Mitchell, a map archivist at the National Archives of the U.K., were “used to settle arguments.” Meanwhile, educated people began collecting maps and displaying them “to show off how knowledgeable they were,” she adds. Even if you couldn’t read the words on a map from a foreign country, you could generally understand it, and even navigate by it. The persuasive power of a map was its glanceability. It was data made visual.

Maps weren’t just symbols of power: They conferred power. With a good map, a military had an advantage in battle, a king knew how much land could be taxed. Western maps showing Africa’s interior as empty—the mapmakers had little to go on—gave empires dreamy visions of claiming Africa for themselves: All that empty space seemed, to them, ripe for the taking. Maps helped propel the depredations of colonialism, as Simon Garfield argues in On the Map.

The United States after Lewis and Clark showed Americans just how much West there was to be won. Mind you, their trip was hellish: Previous maps were so vague they showed the Rockies as a single mountain range. “So they thought they were just going to cruise up to it, go over the top, and pop their canoes back in the river and go all the way to Pacific,” laughs David Rumsey, who created Stanford’s map collection in his name. “And it was a bloody nightmare, up and down, up and down.”

Maps were so valuable that seafarers plundered them. When the 17th-century buccaneer Bartholomew Sharp captured a Spanish ship, he exulted over his cartographic haul: “In this prize I took a Spanish manuscript of prodigious value,” he later wrote. “It describes all the ports, harbors, bayes, Sands, rock & rising of the land. They were going to throw it over board but by good luck I saved it. The Spanish cried when I gott the book.”

By the late 19th century, the surge in mathematic reasoning and measurement technology made mapmaking explode. In France, the Cassini family crisscrossed the country to calculate its dimensions with precision never before seen. Their trick? Using “triangulation”—a bit of trigonometry—to let them stitch together thousands of measurements taken by peering through the new, high-tech “theodolite.” Breakthroughs in binocular lenses allowed surveyors to measure scores of miles at a glance. World maps became increasingly accurate.

Local mapping became deeply granular. The British Ordnance Survey began mapping the U.K. down to the square yard, and the German entrepreneur Karl Baedeker produced similarly nuanced maps of European cities. Tourists could now confidently tour foreign realms, their annually updated guides in hand, able to locate individual buildings, much like today’s citizens peering at Google Maps on their phones. Being prominent on a local map was valuable to merchants, so mapmakers in the U.S. sold the rights. “If you paid more, you’d get your building cited,” Short notes. “It was like advertising.”

Maps could change the way people understood the world around them. In the 1880s, the social reformer Charles Booth produced a moral map of London, with houses color-coded by income and—in Booth’s shaky calculations—criminal tendencies. (Areas colored yellow were “wealthy,” while black ones were “Lowest class. Vicious, semi-criminal.”) Booth wanted to help aid the poor by showing geography was tied to destiny, but his techniques wound up reinforcing it: in the U.S., banks began to “redline” poor neighborhoods, refusing to loan money to anyone in their precincts.

By the 20th century, maps helped win the Second World War. Winston Churchill fought with guidance from his “map room,” an underground chamber where up to 40 military staffers would shove colored pins into the map-bedecked walls Churchill adorned his bedroom wall with a huge map showing Britain’s coast, constantly visualizing in his mind how to defend it against invasion.

These days, our maps seem alive: They speak, in robotic voices, telling us precisely where to go—guided by the satellites and mapping of companies like Waze, Google, Bing and Mapquest. “There’s something fun about turn-by-turn directions,” says Greg Milner, author of Pinpoint: How GPS Is Changing Technology, Culture and Our Minds. “It’s very seductive.” There’s no need even to orient yourself to north: The robot voice tells you to turn right, turn left, with you always at the center.

Milner worries, though, that GPS is weakening something fundamental in ourselves, corroding not just our orientation skills, but how well we remember the details of the world around us. A 2008 study in Japan found that people who used a GPS to navigate a city developed a shakier grasp of the terrain than those who consulted a paper map or those who learned the route via direct experience. Similarly, a 2008 Cornell study found that “GPS eliminates much of the need to pay attention.” Some map historians agree that a subtle change is at hand. Short tells me that he likes the convenience of GPS-brokered directions—“but what I do lose is the sense of how things hang together.”

Rumsey isn’t convinced of this loss, though. As he argues, the convenience of GPS and online mapping means we live in an increasingly cartographic age. Many online searches produce a map as part of the search results—for a local store, a vacation spot, live traffic updates before heading home. People today see far more maps in a single day than they used to, Rumsey notes: “The more you interact with maps, the more agile you become. Maps beget more maps.” When Rumsey first started collecting and displaying maps in the 1970s, people said, Why bother? These are old and out of date who cares? Now when people visit his collection at Stanford they “get it right away. That’s because they’ve been exposed.”

It’s possible both effects are true. When I decide to order some takeout, my phone will—like a robot Baedeker—generate a map of local places that are open. It’s true that if I walked to one, I’d just numbly be following zigzagging turn-by-turn directions. But on the other hand, I look at that little gustatorial mappamundi of my neighborhood pretty often I could probably draw it from memory by now.

Technology hasn’t changed some of our oldest urges. The historian Brotton once visited Google, where the engineers showed him a huge, wall-sized version of Google Earth. They asked him, whenever a visitor shows up to try it out, what’s the first thing they zoom in to look for? Their own home.

“They go, wow, look at that!” Brotton says. It’s the same perspective as the people who held that Babylonian clay tablet nearly three millennia ago: using a map to figure out where, exactly, we stand.

Editor’s note: an earlier version of this story mentioned Christopher Columbus’ “discovery” of America. We did not mean to suggest that Columbus was the first to arrive in America.

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This article is a selection from the July/August issue of Smithsonian magazine

Ancient World Mapping Center

Since its foundation, AWMC has been engaged in the creation of map content for use both in scholarly publication and in the classroom. As the technology that drives mapmaking continues to advance, AWMC now creates maps using means much different than those of a decade ago. The latest mapmaking application aimed at developing maps for classroom use is the Antiquity À-la-carte application that allows the user to create their own maps. AWMC encourages educators and all others interested in mapmaking to become part of the À-la-carte community.

On this page you will find hosted a series of freely available maps that, just as before, are available for free educational use (under the CC BY-NC 3.0 license) and also can be licensed for publication at nominal cost. These maps are organized according to rough geographic regions. Please do note that the map set designed to accompany The Romans: From Village to Empire second edition (2011) are presented as a distinct grouping.

We encourage you to leave comments on how you have used the maps on the individual pages.


According to experts that research the history of the African continent, the original ancient name of Africa was Alkebulan. This name translates to “mother of mankind,” or according to other sources, “the garden of Eden.” Alkebulan is an extremely old word, and its origins are indigenous. Many nations in Africa used this word, including the Ethiopians, Nubians, Moors, and Numidians.

The name Africa was given to this continent by the ancient Romans and Greeks. However, Alkebulan was not the only name used for the continent. There were many others used throughout history by the people living there, including Corphye, Ortigia, Libya, and Ethiopia. However, Alkebulan is the most common one.

Wine region near Stellenbosch looking at Simonsberg in South Africa

So how exactly did the continent get the name “Africa”? There are several theories that try to answer this question. The most commonly accepted theory states that the name came from Romans when they discovered land on the opposite side of the Mediterranean. They called this land after a Berber tribe that was living in the Carthage area at the time. According to many sources, the name of that tribe was Afri. Originally, the Romans supposedly called the continent Afri-terra, which was later transformed into Africa.

Atlas of Africa

L' Afrique est le second continent au monde par sa population et le second (ou le 3è selon que l'on considère l'Amérique comme un ou deux continents) par sa superficie, après l’Asie. D’une superficie de 30.221.532 km² en incluant les îles adjacentes, l’Afrique couvre 6,0 % de la surface du globe terrestre, et 20,3 % de la surface des terres émergées. Avec une population de 900.000.000 habitants (en 2005), les Africains représentent 14% de la population mondiale. Le continent est bordé par la Mer Méditerranée au nord, le Canal de Suez et la Mer Rouge au nord-est, l’Océan Indien au sud-est et l’Océan Atlantique à l’ouest. L’Afrique comprend 46 pays en incluant Madagascar, et 53 en incluant tous les archipels.

Afrika ni bara kubwa la pili duniani. Bara hili lina eneo la kilometa za mraba 30,244,050 na zaidi ya wakazi milioni 800. Asia ndio bara pekee kubwa kushinda Afrika.

A África é o segundo continente mais populoso da Terra (atrás da Ásia) e o segundo continente mais extenso (atrás da Ásia). Tem cerca de 30 milhões de km², cobrindo 20,3 % da área total da terra firme do planeta e mais de 800 milhões de habitantes em 54 países, representando cerca de um sétimo da população do mundo.

Roman Empire: Road and Trade Network

A guide to using a map of the ancient Roman Empire. This map gives information about the Roman&rsquos road system throughout the empire and its primary maritime trading routes between the busiest and largest port cities within the empire.

Anthropology, Archaeology, Geography, Social Studies, World History

The Romans designed and built one of the most impressive road networks of the ancient world. This allowed for a rapid pace of movement by a variety of users during the republican and imperial eras. Ask students to review the map and make observations about how this network would have facilitated transportation within the empire. Discuss how it might affect Rome&rsquos ability to transport soldiers and military equipment to distant frontiers of the empire. Also, discuss how commerce might be supported with such a transportation network.

The map also shows Rome&rsquos trading network on the seas. Once it reached its territorial limits in A.D. 117, Rome controlled territory as far west as Spain and Northern Africa, to as far east as the upper regions of the Middle East. A defining characteristic of Rome&rsquos empire is the numerous port cities under its control, which allowed Rome to dominate the Mediterranean Sea. Discuss with the class how the location of these cities allowed Rome to enrich itself and maintain a stable maritime trading network. Point out the icons of traded goods next to each city name. Ask students what impact these goods had on the Roman trade network.

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National Geographic Society


Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society

Last Updated

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Related Resources

Ancient Rome

Some say the city of Rome was founded on the Palatine Hill by Romulus, son of Mars, the god of war. Others say that Aeneas and some of his followers escaped the fall of Troy and established the town. Regardless of which of the many myths one prefers, no one can doubt the impact of ancient Rome on western civilization. A people known for their military, political, and social institutions, the ancient Romans conquered vast amounts of land in Europe and northern Africa, built roads and aqueducts, and spread Latin, their language, far and wide. Use these classroom resources to teach middle schoolers about the empire of ancient Rome.

Imperial Rome

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Use this idea and suggested resources to help you build a lesson or activity on ancient Rome.


The city of Carthage played an important role in the ancient Mediterranean until it ultimately met its demise at the hands of the Roman Republic.

Watch the video: The History of Rome Every Year