Selected Papers from the XV Oxford University Byzantine Society International Graduate Conference
Edited By Maximilian Lau, Caterina Franchi and Morgan Di Rodi
‘Not With a Bang?’ The Economics of Trade and the End of Byzantine North Africa
The difficulties in studying the transition from Byzantine to Islamic rule in the Near East are well known. Greek and Syriac texts are fragmentary and difficult to square with Arabic narratives that, while fuller, are late and pose major problems of interpretation. Even numismatic evidence is difficult while the conquest is virtually invisible in archaeology.
Yet, these problematic sources are excellent when compared to the sources for the end of Byzantine Africa and the beginning of Islamic rule in the Maghreb. There are no contemporary African narrative sources. The few external Greek and Latin sources give little more than bare summaries.1 Arabic sources are later and less comprehensive than those dealing with the ← 73 | 74 → East.2 The archaeology is frustrating, as many sites remain inaccessible or barely surveyed.3 Texts speak of coin issues that have not yet been found.4
Considering these problems, it might seem rash to try and say something concrete regarding the end of Byzantine Africa. Instead of offering definite solutions to these problems, an attempt will be made to comment on some problems and raise a few possibilities as to what might have happened. At best, this can be considered an attempt to reframe the questions of what happened when Byzantine Africa became the Islamic Maghreb and why it did so.
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