Chapter 10: The Middle and Lower Sofeggin Basin
The Middle and Lower Sofeggin were intensively settled under the later Empire. Much, if not all, of the settlement consisted of the establishment in fortified farmhouses of limitanei, who received grants of land in return for territorial defence duties (Goodchild and Ward Perkins, JRS XXXIX (1949) 81-95). The earliest inscription yet recorded from the frontier zone (888) belongs, at earliest, to the late second century, and it seems clear that there was no organized settlement prior to the Severan reorganization of the military frontier, and that much of it may well be of a considerably later date. It is also clear that, while adopting such outward forms of Romanization as building-methods, names, titles and written alphabet, the native element in these communities remained predominant. With the decline of central Roman authority in the late fourth and fifth centuries, they achieved complete independence, and many seem to have remained prosperous long after city-life was eclipsed in the coastal zone. Increasingly adverse physical conditions gradually caused the abandonment of outlying settlements. But in the more favoured areas the successive Arab invasions caused no break in continuity, and in the neighbourhood of Beni Ulid a few of the settlements are still inhabited. For an account of a well preserved, but otherwise typical, community, Gasr es-Suq el-Oti on the Wadi Bosra, see Ward Perkins, Archaeology III (1950) 25-30.
The inscriptions from this area include an important series from a late-antique, Libyan cemetery at Bir ed-Dreder (886). These will be fully published in another context, and two texts only, both of which have been previously but incompletely published, are here included in full.