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Studies of the evidence from the Byzantine economy73 show that bishops had important secular responsibilities.74 The emperor was personally involved in the election of new bishops.75 In Africa, as elsewhere, the bishops in effect became the chief secular officers in Byzantine towns.76 The archaeological record suggests a stricter connection between churches and production from the end of the sixth century. Some churches were evidently enlarged to incorporate an olive press or to provide a place for craft activities. For example, at Sufetula (Sbeitla), in the basilica of Sts Gervasius, Protasius and Tryphon (Basilica V) an olive press was built across the principal street crossing the city.77 There was apparently a connection between religious monuments and olive presses. In other parts of the Roman empire, a relation between production centres (especially for pottery, glass and bricks) and churches has been recorded.78 In some cases at least, these shops were intentionally set up to produce material to decorate the church; in other cases, these centres were evidently used by the church itself for producing goods.

Another index of the importance of bishops is the sum total of them in North Africa, which reports the highest number of bishops within the empire. Compared with other Roman provinces, Africa already had a large group of bishops in the third century.79 The organisation of the province favoured this trend. In Zeugitania the large number of urban settlements called for the creation of many bishoprics. Independent cities were not very far from each other in northeastern Tunisia: there were about 160 towns in 1200 km2. Bishops were also placed in many rural agglomerations and even in the tribal territories.80 This multiplication of bishoprics was exacerbated by the number

73 J. Durliat, 'Evêques et administration municipale au VIIe siècle'.

74 The case of Carthage is peculiar in this respect. As testified by epigraphy, it was subdivided into ecclesiastical regions (following the examples ofRome), perhaps by Aurelius between the end of the fourth century and the beginning of the fifth. Sources mentioned these regions in ad 403,404,407,409,410 (CCSL149:203,208,211,214,220), referring to the councils. Two of Augustine's sermones, moreover, refer to the regio 111 (PL 38:116). All the other information we have that speaks of the regiones belongs to the Byzantine period.

75 J. Durliat, 'Les attributions civiles des évêques byzantins'; see also J. Durliat, 'Les grandes propriétaires africains et l'état byzantin'.

76 Durliat, 'Evêques et administration municipale au VIIe siècle'.

77 For some comments on this aspect see A. Leone, 'Topographies ofproduction in North African cities', 264-5; for the urbanism ofByzantine Sufetula, see N. Duval, 'L'urbanisme de Sufetula-Sbeïtla en Tunisie'.

78 For a synthesis see A. Martorelli 'Riflessioni sulle attivita produttive nell'eta tardoantica e altomedievale'.

79 N. Duval, 'L'Evêque et la cathédrale en Afrique du nord', 345.

80 Y. Duval, 'Densite et repartition des evêchés'; sources attest to the Christianisation of local tribes startingfrom the fourth century, some ofthem being mentioned by Augustine (see Modéran, Les Maures et l'Afrique romaine, 512-31).

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