Endangered Harbour Towns
"An Endangered Species? The Port City of Late Roman North Africa" by David L. Stone
Building on the author’s previous work on port construction and diachronic change, this paper asks how we can measure the shifting fortunes of port cities of the Late Roman period in North Africa. One approach is through measuring the extent of habitation areas, another through examining changing quantities of imported or exported goods, and a third through chronicling building activity. The answer is not a simple decline, but a more complex picture demonstrating significant regional variation throughout the Late Roman, Vandal, Byzantine, and Early Islamic periods. The recent reconsideration of the role of fortifications in other Mediterranean contexts is especially relevant to our understanding of North Africa at this time. The paper explores Resilience Theory as a conceptual framework to explain adaptations in urban environments during late antiquity.
Dr. David L. Stone is Lecturer II, Department of Classical Studies, University of Michigan. His research addresses current questions about ancient cities, empires, and landscapes using a variety of theoretical and methodological approaches. He is the main author of Leptiminus (Lamta). Report no. 3: The Field Survey (Journal of Roman Archaeology Supplementary Series 87, 2011), and Mortuary Landscapes of North Africa (Phoenix Supplementary Series 43, 2007). Currently he directs a field survey and excavation Project at Pella, Greece. Previously he directed the Leptiminus Archaeological Project (Tunisia) and a field survey at Olynthos (Greece).
"How Endangered were the Harbour Cities and Settlements of Early Islamic Ifrīqiya? A Reassessment of the Functions of the ribāṭs" by Antonia Bosanquet
The coastline of Ifrīqiya (largely corresponding to what is now Tunisia) is remarkable for its dense network of small fortified structures, known as ribāṭs, extending roughly from Tunis to Tripoli. The ribāṭs of Ifrīqiya, the construction of which is associated with the period of Aghlabid rule over the province, are depicted in early Islamic and medieval accounts as crucial to the defense of the region against Byzantine attack. They are also associated with practices of religious devotion. The inhabitants of the ribāṭs, or murābiṭūn, were men who lived separately from their wives and families. When not engaged in defense, they were expected to dedicate their time to prayer and religious scholarship. This lecture will examine the significance of this portrayal, and of the relevance of ribāṭs to the memory of Aghlabid Ifrīqiya. I will also consider other functions that the ribāṭs fulfilled, using legal and other sources to consider their relevance to trade and political relations within the province. If defense was not the only, or even the main function of these buildings, how far can the concept of endangered cities along the Ifrīqiyan coastline be upheld?
Dr. Antonia Bosanquet is Reaserch Associate at the RomanIslam Center, Universität Hamburg. She is historian of the Middle East and Islamic Mediterranean, working with variety of sources, but mostly early legal texts, she studies the Islamication of the region of modern Tunisia, Algeria and western Libya in the 9th century. She is currently examining the relevance of Islam and Islamic law as a referential framework for the trade networks that connected this region with the Islamic Empire and other African cities. She is also interested in the interactions between Muslims and non-Muslims in this region, and in the influence that both the Christian heritage of Roman Africa and the Jewish communities that remained after the Arab conquest exerted on the development of this province of the Abbasid Islamic Empire.