previous next


and Mauritania (Μαυρουσία, from μαῦρος, “black”) (Pausan. i. 33.5; viii. 43.3). The most westerly of the principal divisions of northern Africa, lying between the Atlantic on the west, the Mediterranean on the north, Numidia on the east, and Gaetulia on the south; but the districts embraced under the names of Mauretania and Numidia respectively were of very different extent at different periods. The earliest known inhabitants of all northern Africa west of the Syrtes were the Gaetulians, who were displaced and driven inland by peoples of Asiatic origin, who are found, in the earliest historical accounts, settled along the northern coast under various names; their chief tribes being the Mauri or Maurusii, west of the river Malva or Malucha (Muluia); thence the Massaesylii to (or nearly to) the river Ampsaga (Wady-el-Kebir), and the Massylii between the Ampsaga and the Tusca (Wady-Zain), the western boundary of the Carthaginian territory. Of these people, the Mauri, who possessed a greater breadth of fertile country between the Atlas and the coasts, seem to have applied themselves more to the settled pursuits of agriculture than their kindred neighbours on the east, whose unsettled warlike habits were moreover confirmed by their greater exposure to the intrusions of the Phœnician settlers. Hence arose a difference, which the Greeks marked by applying the general name of Νομάδες to the tribes between the Malva and the Tusca; whence came the Roman names of Numidia for the district, and Numidae for its people. (See Numidia.) Thus Mauretania was at first only the country west of the Malva, and corresponded to the later district of Mauretania Tingitana, and to the modern empire of Morocco, except that the latter extends further south; the ancient boundary on the south was the Atlas.

The Romans first became acquainted with the country during the war with Iugurtha in B.C. 106. From 106 to 33 the kingdom of Mauretania was increased by the addition of the western part of Numidia, as far as Saldae, which Iulius Caesar bestowed on Bogud, as a reward for his services in the African war. A new arrangement was made about 25, when Augustus gave Mauretania to Iuba II., in exchange for his paternal kingdom of Numidia. Upon the murder of Iuba's son, Ptolemaeus, by Caligula (A.D. 40), Mauretania became finally a Roman province, and was formally constituted as such by Claudius, who added to it nearly half of what was still left of Numidia—namely, as far as the Ampsaga, and divided it into two parts, of which the western was called Tingitana, from its capital Tingis (Tangier), and the eastern Caesariensis, from its capital Iulia Caesarea (Zershell), the boundary between them being the river Malva, the old limit of the kingdom of Bocchus I. The latter corresponded to the western and central part of the modern French department of Algiers. These “Mauretaniae duae” were governed by an equestrian procurator. In the later division of the Empire under Diocletian and Constantine, the eastern part of Mauretania Caesariensis, from Saldae to the Ampsaga, was erected into a new province, and called Mauretania Sitifensis from the inland town of Sitifi (Setif); at the same time the western province, Mauretania Tingitana, seems to have been placed under the same government as Spain, so that we still find mention of the two Mauretanias, meaning now, however, Caesariensis and Sitifensis. From A.D. 429 to 534 Mauretania was in the hands of the Vandals, and in 650 and the following years it was conquered by the Arabs. Its ancient inhabitants still exist as powerful tribes in Morocco and Algeria, under the names of Berbers, Kabyles, and Tuariks. Under the later Roman emperors Mauretania was remarkable for the great number of its episcopal sees. See Chénier, Recherches Historiques sur les Maures (1787); Gibbon, Decline and Fall, chapters 41 and 43.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: