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If we pass through the interior of Africa in a southerly direction, beyond the Gætuli, after having traversed the intervening deserts, we shall find, first of all the Liby- Egyptians1, and then the country where the Leucæthio- pians2 dwell. Beyond3 these are the Nigritæ4, nations of Æthiopia, so called from the river Nigris5, which has been previously mentioned, the Gymnetes6, surnamed Pharusii, and, on the very margin of the ocean, the Perorsi7, whom we have already spoken of as lying on the boundaries of Mauritania. After passing all these peoples, there are vast deserts towards the east until we come to the Garamantes, the Augylæ, and the Troglodytæ; the opinion of those being exceedingly well founded who place two Æthiopias beyond the deserts of Africa, and more particularly that expressed by Homer8, who tells us that the Æthiopians are divided into two nations, those of the east and those of the west. The river Nigris has the same characteristics as the Nile; it produces the calamus, the papyrus, and just the same animals, and it rises at the same seasons of the year. Its source is between the Tarrælian Æthiopians and the Œcalicæ. Magium, the city of the latter people, has been placed by some writers amid the deserts, and, next to them the Atlantes; then the Ægipani, half men, half beasts, the Blemmyæ9, the Gamphasantes, the Satyri, and the Himantopodes.

The Atlantes10, if we believe what is said, have lost all characteristics of humanity; for there is no mode of distinguishing each other among them by names, and as they look upon the rising and the setting sun, they give utterance to direful imprecations against it, as being deadly to themselves and their lands; nor are they visited with dreams11, like the rest of mortals. The Troglodytæ make excavations in the earth, which serve them for dwellings; the flesh of serpents is their food; they have no articulate voice, but only utter a kind of squeaking noise12; and thus are they utterly destitute of all means of communication by language. The Garamantes have no institution of marriage among them, and live in promiscuous concubinage with their women. The Augylæ worship no deities13 but the gods of the infernal regions. The Gamphasantes, who go naked, and are unacquainted with war14, hold no intercourse whatever with strangers. The Blemmyæ are said to have no heads, their mouths and eyes being seated in their breasts. The Satyri15, beyond their figure, have nothing in common with the manners of the human race, and the form of the Ægipani16 is such as is commonly represented in paintings. The Himantopodes17 are a race of people with feet resembling thongs, upon which they move along by nature with a serpentine, crawling kind of gait. The Pharusii, descended from the ancient Persians, are said to have been the companions of Hercules when on his expedition to the Hesperides. Beyond the above, I have met with nothing relative to Africa18 worthy of mention.

1 The greater portion of this Chapter is extracted almost verbatim from the account given by Mela. Ptolemy seems to place the Liby-Egyptians to the south of the Greater and Lesser Oasis, on the route thence to Darfour.

2 Or "White Æthiopians," men though of dark complexion, not negroes. Marcus is of opinion that the words "intervenientibus desertis" refer to the tract of desert country lying between the Leucæthiopians and the Liby-Egyptians, and not to that between the Gætulians on the one hand and the Liby-Egyptians and the Leucæthiopians on the other.

3 Meaning to the south and the south-east of these three nations, according to Marcus. Rennel takes the Leucæthiopians to be the present Mandingos of higher Senegambia: Marcus however thinks that they are the Azanaghis, who dwell on the edge of the Great Desert, and are not of so black a complexion as the Mandingos.

4 Probably the people of the present Nigritia or Soudan.

5 Marcus is of opinion that Pliny does not here refer to the Joliba of Park and other travellers, as other commentators have supposed; but that he speaks of the river called Zis by the modern geographers, and which Jackson speaks of as flowing from the south-east towards north-west. The whole subject of the Niger is however enwrapped in almost impenetrable obscurity, and as the most recent inquirers have not come to any conclusion on the subject, it would be little more than a waste of time and space to enter upon an investigation of the notions which Pliny and Mela entertained on the subject.

6 From γυμνὸς, "naked."

7 Mentioned in C. 1 of the present Book.

8 7 He refers to the words in the Odyssey, B. i. l. 23, 24.— αἰθίοπας τοὶ δίχθα δεδαιάται, ἔσχατοι ἄνδρων̓
οἱ μὲν δυσομένου ῾υπερίονος, οἱ δ̓ ἀνιόντος. "The Æhiopians, the most remote of mankind, are divided into two parts, the one at the setting of Hyperion, the other at his rising."

9 A tribe of Æthiopia, whose position varied considerably at different epochs of history. Their predatory and savage habits caused the most extraordinary reports to be spread of their appearance and ferocity. The more ancient geographers bring them as far westward as the region beyond the Libyan Desert, and into the vicinity of the Oases. In the time however of the Antonines, when Ptolemy was composing his description of Africa, they appear to the south and east of Egypt, in the wide and almost unknown tract which lay between the rivers Astapus and Astobores.

10 Mela speaks of this race as situate farthest to the west. The description of them here given is from Herodotus, B. iv. c. 183–185, who speaks of them under the name of "Atarantes."

11 The people who are visited by no dreams, are called Atlantes by Herodotus, the same name by which Pliny calls them. He says that their territory is ten days' journey from that of the Atarantes.

12 This also is borrowed from Herodotus. As some confirmation of this account, it is worthy of remark, that the Rock Tibboos of the present day, who, like the ancient Troglodytæ, dwell in caves, have so peculiar a kind of speech, that it is compared by the people of Aujelah to nothing but the whistling of birds. The Troglodytæ of Fezzan are here referred to, not those of the coasts of the Red Sea.

13 Mela says that they look upon the Manes or spirits of the departed as their only deities.

14 This is said, in almost the same words, of the Garamantes, by Herodotus. The mistake was probably made by Mela in copying from Herodotus, and continued by Pliny when borrowing from him.

15 So called from their supposed resemblance in form to the Satyrs of the ancient mythology, who were represented as little hairy men with horns, long ears, and tails. They were probably monkeys, which had been mistaken for men.

16 Half goat, half man. See the Note relative to Ægipan, in C. 1 of the present Book, p. 378.

17 Evidently intended to be derived from the Greek ἱμὰς "a thong," and πόδες "the feet." It is most probable that the name of a savage people in the interior bore a fancied resemblance to this word, upon which the marvellous story here stated was coined for the purpose of tallying with the name. From a statement in the Æthiopica of Heliodorus, B. x., Marcus suggests that the story as to the Blemmyee having no heads arose from the circumstance, that on the invasion of the Persians they were in the habit of falling on one knee and bowing the head to the breast, by which means, without injury to themselves, they afforded a passage to the horses of the enemy.

18 It must be remembered, as already mentioned, that the ancients looked upon Egypt as forming part of Asia, not of Africa. It seems impossible to say how this supposition arose, when the Red Sea and the Isthmus of Suez form so natural and so palpable a frontier between Asia and Africa.

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  • Cross-references to this page (12):
    • Harper's, Blemyes
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), AETHIO´PIA
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), ATARANTES
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), ATLANTES
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), AU´GILA
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), BLE´MYES
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), GAETU´LIA
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), GARAMANTES
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), NIGEIR
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), NIGRI´TAE
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), PHARU´SII
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), THEBAE PHTHIO´TIDES
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