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Supposedly the founder of the Magonids, a family that held great power in Carthage from the 6th to 4th centuries bce, Mago is said to have been military commander at Carthage and is credited, in Justin’s much later account, as having increased the city’s power, territory, and glory, in part through increased military discipline. His sons Hasdrubal and Hamilcar(1) also exercised high military authority at Carthage.

Article

Catholic bishop from Africa, whose treatise Against the Donatists (or De Schismate Donatistarum, “On the Donatist schism”) provides our only surviving account of the origins of the Donatist controversy. Jerome (On Famous Men 90) speaks of a work in six books written in the reign of Valens (364–379ce), but the extant version runs to seven and alludes to the pontificate of Siricius, which commenced in 384 (Donatists 2.3). Since Optatus speaks elsewhere of the persecution that ended in 311 as having occurred sixty years ago (1.13) and implies that Photinus, who died in 376, is a contemporary (4.5), we may postulate a first edition in six books before 376, and a second in seven after 384. The work is also known as the Contra Parmenianum, since its principal interlocutor is the man of that name whom the Donatists regarded as bishop of Carthage.

The first book gives an account of the Numidian bishops’ revolt against Caecilian when he succeeded Mensurius as bishop of Carthage. The cause of this, according to Optatus, was the rumour that bishop Felix of Abthugni, who took part in the consecration of Caecilian, had handed over copies of the scriptures to be burnt in the Great Persecution. He adds (1.19) that the malice of a rich woman named Lucilla was a contributory factor. At 1.22 he reproduces a letter of remonstrance to Constantine, in which the signatories declare themselves to be of the party of Donatus; if genuine, this is evidence that the malcontents named themselves after the man whom they had nominated as bishop of Carthage. The acquittal of Felix by a Roman synod under Miltiades is recorded as the final ecclesiastical pronouncement (1.24); nothing is said of the subsequent Council of Arles in 314, and we are given to understand at 1.26 that Constantine doubted the validity of Caecilian’s election even after the Roman judgement (1.26). This passage, since it appeared to favour the Donatists, was strenuously debated at the Conference of Carthage in 411.

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The form of the name is uncertain, being attested variously as Maceus, Maleus, and Mazeus (the conventional modern name Malchus therefore misleading). The historicity of this Carthaginian general is also much disputed. According to Justin, he conducted successful expeditions in North Africa and in Sicily before suffering a major defeat in Sardinia. It is unclear whether he was fighting other Phoenician settlers, or fighting with them against third parties. After his defeat the Carthaginians sentenced him to exile along with the remnants of his army, but in response he and his troops besieged the city. During the siege, Malchus crucified his own son, a Carthaginian priest, apparently for disrespect. He then seized the city and, having killed ten senators, pardoned the rest of the population for his banishment. Shortly afterwards he was charged with treason and the murder of his son and was executed. His career represents the first-attested threat by a general and army to the civil government of Carthage.

Article

Benjamin Fortson

The Punic language was the variety of the Northwest Semitic language Phoenician spoken in Carthage and its colonies in the western Mediterranean basin (see Phoenicians). Remains of the language have been found primarily in North Africa but also in France, Spain, Sicily, Malta, Sardinia, and the Balearic Islands, and date from the 6th centurybce to the 5th centuryce. There is possible evidence that Punic continued to be spoken in North Africa as late as the Arab conquest in the 7th century. Until the fall of Carthage in 146bce, Punic was not distinct from a kind of standard Phoenician in use elsewhere, but after this time, when Carthage’s ties to the Phoenician homeland were severed, it diverged more noticeably, especially in its writing system but also in its phonology and lexicon, the latter affected by loanwords from other North African languages (in particular, Berber) and Latin. Inscriptions up to the fall of Carthage are written in the Phoenician alphabet, after which a cursive form, called Neo-Punic, is generally used instead. A collection of late inscriptions (4th–5th centuryce) from interior Tripolitania are written in the Latin alphabet, sometimes with admixture of Latin; and in a few cases the Greek alphabet was used as well.

Article

David E. Wilhite

The Donatist party began around 312 ce when Mensurius, bishop of Carthage, died and was replaced by Caecilian. Caecilian’s accusers claimed that he had been ordained by a traditor, someone who had “handed over” the scriptures to Roman officials during the Diocletian persecution. This ordination by a traditor allegedly contaminated Caecilian and all who continued in his communion with the contagion of idolatry, and therefore his ordination was seen as invalidated. In his place the opposing party appointed Majorinus as the rightful bishop of Carthage, and when he died, he was succeeded by Donatus, for whom the party eventually was named. Caecilian and his supporters continued to claim his innocence from such contagion, and so the Donatists appealed to Constantine. A council was summoned to Rome which ruled on Caecilian’s behalf. The Donatists again appealed, and so a larger council met in Arles in 314 and ruled again for Caecilian. When the Donatists still refused to recognize Caecilian, and since they broke fellowship with all in communion with him, Constantine pressured the Donatists with legal and even violent means. This schism continued through the 4th century with sporadic violence between the parties: Caecilian’s party could invoke government officials to enforce their legitimacy, while the Donatists were accused of utilizing the Circumcellions, a group which functioned as a violent mob. In the late 4th century, writers such as Optatus of Milevis and Augustine articulated a defense of their own “Catholic” party through various pamphlets and treatises; they claimed that their party was never guilty of such contagion, and that the Donatists were so concerned with the purity of the church that they had forsaken its catholicity. In short, the Donatists allegedly believed that their party in North Africa was the only remaining true church. In the late 4th and early 5th centuries, the government, advised by Augustine’s party, developed stricter attempts to coerce the Donatists. In 411 a conference met in Carthage at which the Donatists were found to be “heretics,” which finalized the Roman policy against them by requiring the enforcement of heresy laws against this party. While there is ongoing evidence for Donatists long after Augustine’s time, when the Vandals invaded and conquered North Africa beginning in 429, the Donatist controversy largely disappeared in the surviving literary sources.

Article

Duane W. Roller

The Atlantic Ocean (literally “the Ocean of Atlas”) was known to Greeks since the time of Homer, but the term did not come into use until the 5th century bce, because of mythological associations of the giant Atlas with the far western Mediterranean. Phoenicians were the first to sail on the ocean, perhaps as early as the beginning of the first millennium bce, and Greeks first went beyond the Pillars of Heracles into the Atlantic in the latter 7th century bce. Much of the early Greek exploration of the Atlantic was due to Massalians, who by 500 bce had gone south of the Pillars into the tropics, and north perhaps to the British Isles, primarily seeking trade connections. The Carthaginians also went beyond the Pillars, even farther than the Massalians, but their explorations were only vaguely known to the Graeco-Roman world until 146 bce. The greatest Greek explorer of the Atlantic was Pytheas of Massalia, who in the latter 4th century bce explored the British Isles and headed north into the Arctic, discovering Thule (probably Iceland), and reaching the Norwegian coast. After the fall of Carthage, the South Atlantic was open to Greeks (and eventually Romans). Polybius of Megalopolis went to the equatorial regions, and Eudoxus of Cyzicus attempted to perfect a route to India around the continent of Africa. The Atlantic islands were also explored, in part. There is evidence for contact with the Madeiras and Canaries, and less certain information about the Cape Verdes and Azores. There is, however, no reliable evidence that anyone from Graeco-Roman antiquity crossed the Atlantic and returned to report on it: casual finds of antiquities in the New World are generally dismissed. Yet exploration of the Atlantic led to the development of tidal theories—tides in the Mediterranean are minimal—first by Pytheas, and then later by Poseidonius and others. The Romans added little to ancient knowledge of the Atlantic, although they explored the region between the British Isles and Scandinavia, which they named the North Sea. But a series of maritime disasters in the early 1st century ce led the Romans to abandon travel on the ocean, and nothing more was discovered until medieval times.