African social organisation was primarily tribal until the arrival of the Phoenicians, whose culture centred on cities. Romans diminished residual rural tribal influence by distributing large tracts of land to political supporters and by settling veterans around cities, where children assumed their fathers' civic status and strengthened Roman culture and tax revenues.14 Juba ii accelerated Romanisation by importing architectural styles, coinage, laws and religion.15 Some Romanisation of names occurred, but, like the adoption of Roman civic forms, the balance of Punic and Roman names varied according to its utility for families' upward mobility. Punic names were often theophoric and stressed ties to pre-Roman culture. Adopted Roman names honoured Roman patrons. In general, Africans used Romanisation when it was to their own advantage, e.g. participating in Roman priesthoods and changing names, and clung to their roots when they could, e.g. in neo-Punic grave inscriptions.
Little is known of the pre-Punic traditions. Massive rock tombs attest burial of the dead with few grave goods. Scholars often hypothesise from later Saharan customs to Libyan religion, such as the veneration of meteorites and leaving cloth scraps at holy sites.16 Phoenicians brought their Levantine heritage from Tyre, including devotion to their civic patron, Melqart. Libyco-Punic contact brought Tanit and Ba'al Hammon, minor Tyrian divinities, to prominence.17 Theophoric names were common even in the Christian period, albeit Latinised. Tracing the religious history of Punic Carthage is complicated by Greek authors using the names of Greek divinities to describe Punic gods and by the tendency of historians of religion to fill in gaps with Phoenician or modern Maghreb traditions.
Egyptian and Greek trade influenced the religious iconography. Greek images of the divine, especially Demeter, were imported after 396 bce, when Hamilcar raided her temple in Syracuse.18 Isis came from Egypt and later Cybele from Asia Minor via Rome. Greek law, language and architecture
14 MacMullen, Romanization, 31; Theodosian Code 1.12.4.
15 Macmullen, Romanization, 43-5.
16 Picard, Les religions de I'Afrique antique, 5.
17 Picard, Les religions de I'Afrique antique, 26-27, 56-61.
18 Picard, Les religions de I'Afrique antique, 86.
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