previous next


Eth. GARAMANTES (Γαράμαντες), a great nation of Inner Africa. In the widest sense the name is applied to all the Libyan tribes inhabiting the oases in the E. part of the Great Desert, as the Gaetulians inhabited its W. part; the boundary between the two nations being drawn at the sources of the Bagradas and the mountain Usargala. In this wide sense they were considered as extending S. and E. to the lake Nuba and both banks of the river Gir, as far as the mountains called GARAMANTICA PHARANX ( Γαραμαντικὴ Φαράγξ), which Ptolemy places in 40° long. and 10° N. lat., E. of M. THALA and N. of M. ARANGAS (Ptol. 4.6. § § 12, 13, 16.)

In the stricter sense, however, the name denoted the people of PHAZANIA (Fezzan), a region lying S. of the Great Syrtis, between 24° and 31° N. lat. and 12° and 18° E. long., and forming by far the largest oasis in the Great Desert (Sahara), which it may be considered as dividing into an eastern and a western part. It is surrounded by hills of stone and sand, not exceeding 1200 feet high, which protect it from the sands of the desert: the chief of these are the two parallel ranges on the NE. called the Black and White Haruj (i. e. Mountains), the former being of basalt, and the latter of limestone (the former is the MONS ATER of the ancients); and that on the W. called Warira, perhaps the ancient USARGALA It is, however, only a small part, not above one-tenth, of the surface that is cultivable; the region being intersected by ridges of hills from 300 to 600 feet high: and even in the valleys between these ridges the soil is a stratum of sand, on chalk or clay, needing constant irrigation, to supply which there are no water-courses, and very few natural springs; so that the water has to be obtained from wells, at the depth of about 100 feet. The soil is impregnated with saline matter, serving as a manure for the date-palms, which are the chief vegetable products of the country: a little grain is also grown at the present day. [p. 1.975]

The country of tile Garamantes was known to Herodotus, who mentions the people twice: first, as dwelling S. of the Nasamones, and E. of the Macae, in the “Country of Wild Beasts,” that is, the second of the three belts into which he divides N. Libya (4.174). In the second passage (4.183) he says that the Garamantes are a very great nation, inhabiting one of those oases formed by salt-hills, which he places at intervals of 10 days' journeys along the interior of N. Africa. (Comp, ATARANTES; ATLANTES; AUGILA.) This one lies between Augila and the Atarantes; but here arises a difficulty, inasmuch as the regular allowance for the caravans from Aujelah to Zuila on the E. border of Fezzan is 20 days, and it took Hornemann 16 days' very rapid travelling to accomplish the distance. The best solution of the difficulty appears to be the supposition that one station has been omitted by Herodotus (or by the copyists), namely, the small oasis of Zala, which is just half-way between Aujelak and Zuila. Herodotus makes the distance from the Lotophagi (i. e. the coast between the Syrtes) thirty days, which corresponds exactly to the time occupied by the caravans in the journey from Tripoli to Fezzan, which appears to have been the established route in all ages. He describes the country as having many fruit-bearing palms, and as being cultivated for corn by manuring it with salt, by which some suppose him to mean the white clay which is still used for manuring the sandy soil. His story of the oxen with singularly thick hides, and with horns bending so far forward that the beasts were obliged to walk backwards as they fed (comp. Mela, 1.8; Plin. Nat. 8.45. s. 70), is not so absurd as it may seem; for, although modern travellers have not confirmed this part, as they have the rest, of the old inquirer's story, we have evidence from the Nubian monuments (Gau, pi. xv.) that the ancient neatherds of Africa, like their successors to this day, exercised their ingenuity in giving artificial forms to the horns of their cattle. (Heeren, African Nations, vol. i. p. 222: for other stories about cattle walking backwards as they fed, see Alexander Myndensis, ap. Ath. v. p. 221e.; Ael. NA 16.33; Aristot. de Part. Animal. 2.17.) In another, and a very sad part of his account, Herodotus is but too well supported by modern testimony. He tells us of a degraded negro tribe, who dwelt in caves (τοὺς Γρωγλοδύτας Αἰθίοπας) among or near the Garamantes, who hunted them with chariots, for these negroes were the swiftest runners known. The wretches thus, like their race in all ages, hunted after for slaves, lived on reptiles, and used. a speech which resembled no other language, but was like the shrieking of bats. (Comp. Mela, 1.8; Plin. Nat. 5.5, 8.) The Rock Tibboos, so called from their dwelling in caves (Troglodytae), in the Tibestí range of mountains, are still hunted by the chieftains of Fezzan; though, by a kind of retribution, these Tibboos are the successors of the ancient Libyans, who have fled from more powerful conquerors into the former haunts of their negro game. (Lyon, Narrative, &c. pp. 250, foil.) To complete the resemblance, the people of Aujelah compare the language of these degraded tribes to the whistling of birds. (Hornemann, p. 143.)

The account of Herodotus contains an apparent inconsistency; for the Garamantes are described in the former passage (100.174) in terms which would far better apply to these Aethiopian Troglodytes, as avoiding men and all society, possessing no weapons of war, and unable to defend themselves. This description corresponds exactly to what Mela (1.8) and Pliny (5.8) say of a people whom they call Gamphasantes; and hence some critics have proposed to alter the reading in Herodotus: but, besides the fact that there is not a shadow of variation in the MSS., the position assigned by Herodotus to this people is precisely that occupied by the Garamantes; and the same statements are repeated by later geographers, expressly on the authority of Herodotus. (Steph. B. sub voce Eustath. ad Dion. Per. 217.) The discrepancy is, probably, one of those so often found in a writer who picks up news eagerly from all quarters; for it is evident that the one account was obtained through the Nasamones and Cyrenaeans, and the other through the merchants who traded between Fezzan and Egypt; and we may fairly suppose that the one class of informants repeated only what they had heard of some of the degraded tribes who lurked, as has been seen, in corners of the country. If any change be necessary, we suspect it to be, of the two, rather in the Roman compilers; for their story seems copied from Herodotus.

From the time of Herodotus to that of the Caesars, we have no further information worth mention When the Romans had become the masters of N. Africa, they found it necessary to repress the barbarian tribes; and this office was committed, in the case of the Garamantes, to Cornelius Balbus Gaditanus the younger, who, as proconsul, defeated them in a sense sufficient to warrant his investment with triumphal insignia, B.C. 19, though, of course, conquest was out of the question. (Flor. 4.12; Tac. Ann. 3.74, 4.26, Hist. 4.50.) The results obtained from this expedition in the form of additional knowledge are recorded by Strabo(xvii. pp. 835, 838), Mela (1.4.4, 8.7), and Pliny (5.5, 8). Strabo places them 15 days' journey from the oases of Ammon (Siwah), and 10 days' journey from the Aethiopians on the Ocean; a striking proof of the scantiness of his information respecting Inner Libya: he describes their position relative to the N. coast with tolerable accuracy. Mela copies Herodotus, mixing up with his story a statement which Herodotus makes concerning the Ausenses. Pliny (5.5) gives a good description of the position of the Garamantes, with an account of the expedition of Balbus, and a list of the cities whose images and names graced his triumph: he also speaks of the difficulty of keeping open the road, because of the predatory bands belonging to the tribe, who filled up the wells with sand. He mentions Phazania as if it were distinct from the country of the Garamantes. Ptolemy also (4.6.30) gives a list of their cities, none of which need particular mention, except the metropolis Garama (Γαράημ: Germa, with considerable ruins). This city has 13 1/4 hours in its longest day, is distant 1 1/2 hour W. of Alexandria, and has the sun vertical twice a year, 15° on each side of the summer solstice. (Ptol. 8.16.7.)

The Garamantes were a Libyan (not Negro) people, of the old race called Amazergh [GAETULIA], a name perhaps preserved in that of the modern capital Mourzouk. The inland trade between Egypt, Cyrenaica, the Tripolis, and Carthage, on the one hand, and the interior of Africa on the other, was to a great extent carried on by them. (The Travels of Hornemann, Captain Lyon, Denham and Clapperton, Richardson, Barth, Overweg, &c.; Rennell, Geog. of Herod. vol. ii. pp. 273, foll.; Heeren, African Nations, vol. i. pp. 221, foll.) [P.S] [p. 1.976]

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