respects so vital for the future of Christianity in the West, as the towering genius of Augustine alone assured. Africa is usually considered the most 'Christianised' region of the Western empire. There were about 250 episcopal sees in all Roman Africa around the year 300; by the early fifth century, the number had soared to 650.137 During the fourth century the majority of the (often only superficially) Romanised population apparently became Christian.138 At the beginning of the fifth century, Christianity even attracted some indigenous Berbers.139 The Catholic Church was organised into six ecclesiastical provinces: Tripolitana, Byzacena, Africa Proconsularis, Numidia, Mauretania Sitifensis, and Mauretania Caesariensis. The most senior bishop presided at provincial synods; the bishop of Carthage, the primate of the African church, usually convened general councils.
During the fourth century, the Donatist schism (see below) disturbed any prospect for general councils.140 When Constans resumed the anti-Donatist policy of his father Constantine, the Catholics celebrated the newly enforced unity with provincial synods and a general council in Carthage between 345 and348.141 The resurgence of Donatism, particularly under the emperorJulian, made life difficult for Catholics, but conciliar activity of the minority church resumed in the late fourth century when Donatism again came under pressure. The heyday of African conciliar activity occurred under the formidable Aurelius of Carthage (sed. 390-430). Supported by Theodosius' anti-pagan legislation, he transformed Carthage into a Christian city. The majority of urban basilicas in Carthage appeared during his episcopate. Augustine, Aurelius' colleague and friend, requested donations in several sermons to finance a new basilica there.142 The first council in Carthage under Aurelius (393) confirmed the African church's organisational structure; it also decreed that every year the bishop of Carthage should inform other churches about the date of Easter and that a plenary council of the African churches should meet annually. General councils met again in 397, 399, 401, 402 (at Milevis, Numidia), 403, 404 and 405, but such regular travel was onerous for the bishops. Therefore the council of 407 decreed that, henceforth, general councils would only
137 The African churches were, however, criticised for having bishops even in obscure little villages by Leo, Letter 12.10 (PL 54: 654). Moreover, at the beginning of the fifth century the Catholic-Donatist struggles apparently led to the competitive establishment of dioceses; see the comments of S. Lancel at SC 195:123-30.
138 See esp. the wealth of information in A. Schindler, 'Afrika I', 644, 652 (number of sees).
139 Moderan, Les Maures et l'Afrique romaine.
140 See C. Munier, 'Carthage V Councils'.
141 Concilia Africae a.345-a.525 (CCSL 149: 3-10).
142 L. Ennabli, Carthage, 148-9; 15-44 (dossier of texts).
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