The Military and Colonial Destruction of the Roman Landscape of North Africa, 1830-1900

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The French invaded Algeria in 1830, and found a landscape rich in Roman remains, which they proceeded to re-use to support the constructions such as fortresses, barracks and hospitals needed to fight the natives (who continued to object to their presence), and to house the various colonisation projects with which they intended to solidify their hold on the country, and to make it both modern and profitable. Arabs and Berbers had occasionally made use of the ruins, but it was still a Roman and Early Christian landscape when the French arrived. In the space of two generations, this was destroyed, just as were many ancient remains in France, in part because “real” architecture was Greek, not Roman.
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Biographical Note

Michael Greenhalgh, M.A., Ph.D. (1967) is currently Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University and was from 1987 the Sir William Dobell Foundation Professor of Art History. Author of many books and papers on the survival and re-use of the antique around the Mediterranean, including Marble Past, Monumental Present (2009), and From the Romans to the Railways: The Fate of Antiquities in Asia Minor (2013).

Preface ix

Setting the Scene: Algeria in Context...1

1 The French Conquest...14
Introduction...14
Planning & logistics...15
A lack of knowledge...16
A lack of planning...18
Logistics and Supply...20
Political and Military Control...25
The Dépôt de la Guerre and Reconnaissances...29
Occupying the Ground...32
The French as Successors to the Romans...32
Roman Monuments and French Defences...38
Surviving within Roman Structures...41
Agriculture Roman and 19th-century...43
Health and Welfare...48
Civilising the Natives?...48
Fighting the Natives...51
Dealing with Colons and Speculators...55
Colonisation or Abandonment?...58
Reactions to the Occupation...60
Scholars and Commissions...60
A Forgotten Colony and War?...65
The French-Language Press in Paris...66
The Press in Britain and Germany...67
The French-Language Press in Algeria...68
Conclusion...69

2 The Army Establishes Itself, Colonisation Begins...75
The Army, Colonists and Roads...75
Security...76
Building or Repairing the Infrastructure...77
Builders, Competence and Algerian Conditions...77
Forts and Fortresses Roman and French...82
Accommodation for Body and Spirit...86
Byzantine Fortresses and French Scholarship...87
Defences for Arabs and Colons...89
Fountains and Water Supply...92
The Arabs and Water...94
The French and Water...99
Water Capture and Storage...102
Road, Bridge and Farm Building with Antiquities...109
Prehistoric Antiquities...112
Conclusion: Water and Roads...113

3 1830–40: The Destruction of Algiers, Constantine and other Early Settlements...119
Algiers (Capitulated 5 July 1830)...121
Constantine (Occupied 13 October 1837)...125
Médéa (Occupied 1830)...133
Arzew/Arzeu (Occupied 1833)...133
Bougie (Occupied 1833)...134
Guelma (Occupied 10 November 1836)...137
Tlemcen etc (Occupied 1836)...141
Philippeville and Stora (Occupied 8 October 1838)...145
Sétif (First Entered 15 December 1838)...150
Milah (Occupied 1838)...155
Cherchel (Occupied by Valée 15 March 1840)...155
Force majeure, plus ça change . . . 159

4 Ruins, Roads and Railways...165
The Largest Quantity of Roman Ruins outside Asia Minor...165
North African Sites Occupied or Unoccupied...167
Officers and Soldiers Digging Together...181
Roads...184
Roman Roads in Algeria and Tunisia...185
French Roads in Algeria and Tunisia...187
Transport without Roads...189
New Roads, or Refurbished Roman Roads?...191
Railways...197
The Ponts et Chaussées...201

5 Epigraphy, Topography and Mapping...208
The Army’s uses for Roman Inscriptions...210
Army Camps, Route Marches and Inscriptions...211
Inscriptions in Mosques and Houses...214
Milestones...216
Léon Renier, Inscriptions and the Mission Civilisatrice...217
Inscriptions and International Recognition...220
Professionals versus Amateurs...225
Inscriptions versus Ruins...227
Ruins Undescribed...232
Inscriptions versus Archaeology...234
Inscriptions and Museums versus Settlers and Entrepreneurs...236
Destroy the Stone – but Let me Transcribe it First!...239
Mapping, Antiquities and Reconnaissances...242
Map-making in France...242
Early Map-making in Algeria...243
Confusion and Delay...248
The Brigades Topographiques and Antiquities...250
Centuriation Unrecognised...254
A Nest of Puzzles...257

6 The Army Rebuilds Tebessa (First visited 1842)...262
The Site and its Monuments...262
The French Occupy the Site...264
Extensive Building Work Begins...266
Destruction by Ledger...269

7 Building European Towns from the 1840s...275
European Town Plans...276
Building with Ruins...277
French-Occupied Sites and their Transformation...278
Orléansville (Settled 1843)...279
Lambessa (First Visited during 1844)...280
Aumale (Occupied 1846)...285
Tipasa (Occupied 1854)...286
Le Kef (Occupied 1881)...288
Sfax (Occupied 1881)...290
Sousse (Garrisoned 1881)...290
Histoire du vandalisme: Les monuments détruits de l’art français...292

8 Planting Colonies...299
The Bureaux Arabes...302
The Mitidja...306
Villages and Farms...308
Agricultural Colonies...309
Arab Villages...311
French Villages...314
Seriana: Documented Destruction...320
Farms...323
Si Monumentum Requiris . . . 325

9 Algeria and Tunisia on Display...329
Triumphalism and Collecting...329
Collections of Roman Art in France and North Africa...332
Hindsight: Napoleonic Art...335
Ideas and Algerian Propaganda...336
Representing Algeria and Tunisia: Exhibitions and Museums...341
Restoring the Ancient Monuments?...345
Museums...348

Conclusion: “Là où nous passons, tout tombe”...356

Appendix: A Timeline and Some Statistics...364

Bibliography...370
Sources...370
Modern Scholars...413
Index...425
Illustrations

Teachers and students of the history of warfare and its consequences, of modernism, orientalism and archaeology, and those interested in the survival and destruction of the ancient world.