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GAETU´LIA (Γαιτουλία, sometimes written Γετουλία: Eth. Γαιτοῦλος, and sometimes Γαιτούλιος, Gaetūlus: Adj. Γαιτούλιος, Gaetūlus, Gaetulicus), a country in the NW. of Libya, S. of Mauretania and Numidia: on the E. divided by hills from the GARAMIANTES, who dwelt S. of Africa and Syrtica: on the W. extending to the Atlantic Ocean; and on the S. to a margin of the great basin of the river NIGIR, or, according to Pliny, to the river Nigir itself, which he considers as the boundary between Africa and Aethiopia, that is, the country of the Negroes (5.4). According to the tradition preserved by Sallust (Sal. Jug. 18, 19), the Gaetulians and the Libyans were the two great races which originally inhabited Africa; i. e. the NW. portion of the continent. When the N. sea-board came into the possession of various tribes from Asia (afterwards known as Numidians and Mauretanians), the Gaetulians were forced back into the region to the S. of Atlas; and they led a nomade life in the oases of the W. part of the Great Desert belt (Sahara), which lies between the Atlas and the basin of the Nigir, while the GARAMANTES inhabited its E. portion. Strabo extends the habitations of the Gaetulians even as far as the Syrtes (xvii. p. 829); and it may well be believed that the land on the margin of the Great Desert, though nominally a part of Numidia, was really a sort of neutral ground, into which the Gaetulians may have extended their wanderings. (Comp. Strab. xvii. p.838.) Strabo uses Gaetulia as a sort of general name for Inner Africa, and calls the Gaetulians the greatest of the Libyan peoples. (Comp. Mela, 1.4: “Natio frequens multiplexque Gaetuli.” ) Up to the time of the war with Jugurtha, they were ignorant, says Sallust, of the Roman name; but in that war they served as cavalry in the army of Jugurtha, besides making predatory attacks on the Romans. (Sal. Jug. 80, 88, 97, 99, 103.) Sallust expressly states that a part of the Gaetulians were subject to the kings of Numidia. (Jug. 19.) It appears that a body of them took service under Marius, who assigned them lands; and, being placed, at the close of the war, under the authority of Hiempsal, they and their successors remained in the service of the Numidian kings until the Civil War, when we find considerable numbers of them deserting from Juba to Caesar, and employed by him as emissaries to stir up their tribes to revolt. (Bell. Afr. 25, 32, 35, 55, 56, 61, 93.) Under Augustus, a portion of the people, who were nominally subject to Juba, king of Mauretania, became so troublesome, that an army was sent against them under the command of Cornelius Cossus Lentulus, who obtained a triumph and the surname of Gaetulicus, A.D. 6; (D. C. 55.28; Tac. Ann. 4.42, 46, 6.30; Flor. 4.12, 40; Juv. 8.26.) We find some traces of the improved knowledge of the Romans respecting the country in Pliny (5.1, 4, 8, 6.31. s. 36, 21.13. s. 45, 25.7. s. 38, 35.6. s. 26). He includes under the name of Gaetulians some tribes which had also their own specific names, such as the Autololes Gaetuli and the Gaetuli Darae (5.1). Ptolemy includes Gaetulia under his very extensive appellation of Libya Interior, of which it is the northern part, immediately S. of the Mauretanias. (Ptol. 4.6.15, 8.13. § § 1, 2.)

The ancients clearly recognised the distinction between the Gaetulians and the Negro peoples who dwelt S. of them. The former they justly considered as a Libyan people of the same stock as the later settlers on the N. coast who displaced them: their darker colour and fiercer disposition were ascribed to their greater proximity to the torrid zone. ( “Gaetuli sub sole magis [quam Libyes] hand procul ab ardoribus,” Sail. Jug. 18.) They resembled their northern neighbours in their nomade mode of life; and there was a theory which ascribed the origin of the nomade peoples of the Algerian Sahara (for the exact meaning of this phrase see AFRICA) to an intermixture of the Gaetulians with the later Asiatic settlers. On the other hand, the southern Gaetulians mingled their blood with their Negro neighbours, the Nigritae, thus giving origin to a people called the Melanogaetuli, or Black Gaetulians (Μελανογαιτοῦλοι, Ptol. 4.6.16; Agathem. 2.5).

The Gaetulians are described as men of a warlike disposition and savage manners, living on milk and flesh, clothed with skins (Varro, R. R. 2.11.11), part dwelling in tents and others wandering about without settled abodes, and under no settled government (Sail. Jug. 18, 19; 80; Plin. Nat. 10.73. s. 94). They seem, however, like their eastern neighbours, the Garamantes, to have carried on a portion of the trade of Inner Africa; and their country furnished some highly esteemed productions of nature, especially the purple dye, which was obtained from the shell-fish of the W. coast, and gigantic asparagus. (Ath. ii. p. 62; Eustath. ad Dion Per. 215; Steph. B. sub voce Mela, 3.10; Plin. Nat. 5.1, 6.3. s. 36, ix 60, 35.6. s. 26.) [p. 1.926]

The Gaetulians appear to be the chief ancient representatives of the great aboriginal people of modern Africa, who call themselves Amazygh or Amazergt (i. e. free or noble), and to whom belong the Berbers of M. Atlas, as well as the Tuaricks, who still wander over the oases of the Great Desert, and are supposed to be the lineal descendants of the Gaetuli. (Ritter, Erdkunde, vol. i. pp. 1034, foll.; Hornemann, Reise, p. 223.) The ancient Gaetulia included the S. regions of Marocco, as well as the W. part of the Great Desert.


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