Saturday, December 02, 2023

Latin authors from Algeria

The modern borders of Algeria had no existence or meaning in the Roman era, but for any potential Algerian classicists, it may be interesting to consider which of the Latin texts that have come down to us were written by people born in Algeria. So far, I've found the following:

  • Suetonius, born in Hippo Regius (modern Annaba), ca. 70 AD; historian
  • Fronto, born in Cirta (modern Constantine), ca. 100 AD; grammarian
  • Apuleius, born in Madaura (modern M'daourouch), ca. 124 AD; author of Metamorphoses, a comic-mystical proto-novel, along with various philosophical and rhetorical works.
  • Lactantius, born perhaps in Cirta, ca. 250 AD; a Christian apologist
  • Nonius Marcellus, born in Thubursicum (modern Teboursouk), perhaps late 200s AD; a lexicographer
  • Augustine, born in Thagaste (modern Souk Ahras), ca. 354 AD; a Christian saint notable especially for his autobiographical Confessions
  • Martianus Capella, born in Madaura, late 300s AD; author of a formerly influential allegorical curriculum of the liberal arts, De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii
  • Cassius Felix, born in Cirta, late 300s AD; author of a medical handbook
  • Priscian, born in Caesarea (modern Cherchell), late 400s AD; Latin grammarian

Conspicuously, all but one of them were born in the east, in what was then Numidia, and all but three date to the late Roman Empire, after Roman citizenship had been extended to all free men under Roman rule but before the Vandals' arrival. It is no doubt misleading to treat such authors separately from their (probably more numerous) counterparts born just across the modern border in Tunisia.

Literary works, of course, are just a small subset of what was written in Latin. For a wider selection of much shorter texts written in Algeria, the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum covers the area in Volume VIII. Even the Albertini Tablets, a set of legal documents found near Tebessa and mostly dating to 493-496 AD, are online now.

No doubt I'm missing a few authors; who else belongs on the list above?

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