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BA´GRADA or BA´GRADAS ( Βαγράδας, gen.--α: Mejerdah), the chief river of the Carthaginian territory (afterwards the Roman province of Africa), had its source, according to Ptolemy (6.3. § § 1, 8), in the mountain called MAMPSARUS, in Numidia, and flowed NE. into the Gulf of Carthage. Though one of the largest rivers of N. Africa, after the MALVA it was inconsiderable as compared with the rivers of other countries. It is fordable in many places near its mouth. Shaw compares it in size to the Isis after its junction with the Cherwell.

The main stream is formed by the union of two branches, the southern of which, the ancient Bagradas, is now called Mellag (Meskianah, in its upper course). This is joined by the other branch, the Hamiz (which flows from the W.), NW. of Kaf, the ancient Sicca Veneria. The Hamiz, to which the ancients give no specific name, has its sources near Tiffesh, the ancient TIPASA E. of CIRTA (Constantineh). The united stream flows to the NE., and falls into the sea, at present, just within the W. extremity of the Gulf of Tunis, after passing immediately under the ruins of UTICA Its ancient course, however, was somewhat different. It fell into the sea between [p. 1.371]Utica and Carthage, but much nearer to the latter than it now does. Flowing through the alluvial plain of western Zeugitana [AFRICA], it carried down in its turbid waters a great quantity of soil, and the deposits thus formed have enlarged its delta and altered the coast line. The quality and operation of the river are noticed by the ancient poets. (Lucan 4.588 :--

Bagrada lentus agit, siccae sulcator arenae.

Sil. Ital. 6.140-143:--

Turbidus arentes lento pede sulcat arenas Bagrada, non ullo Libycis in finibus amne Victus limosas extendere latius undas, Et stagnate vado patulos involvere campos.)

The alterations thus caused in the coast-line can be traced by aid of statements in the ancient writers; to follow which, however, a few words are necessary on the present state of the coast. The great Gulf of Tunis is divided into three smaller gulfs by two promontories, which stand out from its E. and W. sides. On the latter of these promontories stood Carthage, S. by E. of the Apollinis Pr. (C. Farina), the western headland of the whole gulf. Between Carthage and this headland lies a bay, the coast of which is formed by a low and marshy plain, whose level is broken by an eminence, evidently the same on which the elder Scipio Africanus established his camp when lie invaded Africa. [CASTRA CORNELIA] This hill, though now far inland, is described by Caesar (B.C. 2.24) as jutting out into the sea; and its projection formed a harbour. (Appian, App. Pun. 25; Liv. 30.10.) North of the Castra Cornelia, at the distance of a mile in a straight line, but of six miles by the road usually taken to avoid a marsh between the two places, lay Utica, also on the seacoast; and on the S., between the Castra Cornelia and Carthage, the Bagradas fell into a bay which washed the N. side of the peninsula of Carthage. But now this bay is quite filled up; the river flows no longer between Carthage and Scipio's camp, but to the N. of the latter, close under the ruins of Utica, which, like the hill of the camp, are now left some miles inland: the great marsh described by Caesar has become firm land, and similar marshes have been formed in what was then deep water, but now an alluvial plain. (Strab. xvii. p.832; Caes. B.C. 2.24, 26; Liv. 30.25; Appian, App. BC 2.44, 45; Mela, 1.7; Plin. Nat. 5.3. s. 4; Ptol. 4.3.6, where the Greek numbers denoting the latitudes are corrupted; Agathem. 2.10, p. 236, Gronov., p. 49, Huds.; Shaw, Travels, &c. pp. 146, foll., pp. 77, foll., 2d ed.; Barth, Wanderungen, &c., pp. 81, 109, 110, 199.) Respecting the enormous serpent killed by Regulus on the banks of the Bagradas, see Gellius (6.3) and Florus (2.2.21, where, as also in 4.2.70, the old editions and some MSS. read Bragadam).

Polybius (1.75) mentions the river under the name of MACARAS (Μακάρα, gen.), which Gesenius considers to be its genuine Punic name, derived from Mokar the Tyrian Hercules (Monumenta Phoenicia, p. 95). That the Phoenicians, like the Greeks and Romans, assigned divine dignity to their rivers, is well known; but it may be worth while to notice the proof furnished, in this specific case, by the treaty of the Carthaginians with Philip, in which the rivers of the land are invoked among the attesting deities (Polyb. vii. Fr. 3). Of the very familiar corruption by which the m has passed into a b, the very passage referred to presents an example, for we have. there the various reading Βακάρα (Suidas gives Βουκάρας). The modern name Mejerdah furnishes one among many instances, in the geography of N. Africa, in which the ancient Punic name, corrupted by the Greeks and Romans, has been more or less closely restored in the kindred Arabic. The conjecture of Reichard, that the river PAGIDA, or PAGIDAS, mentioned in the war with Tacfarinas, is the Bagradas, seems to have no adequate proof to support it. (Tac. Ann. 3.20; Reichard, Kleine Geogr. Schriften, p. 550.)

Ptolemy places another river of the same name in Libya Interior, having its source in MT. USARGALA, nearly in the same longitude as the former river. (Ptol. 4.6.10.)


hide References (12 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (12):
    • Appian, Punic Wars, 4.25
    • Appian, Civil Wars, 2.7.44
    • Appian, Civil Wars, 2.7.45
    • Polybius, Histories, 1.75
    • Tacitus, Annales, 3.20
    • Lucan, Civil War, 4.588
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 5.3
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 30, 25
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 30, 10
    • Gellius, Noctes Atticae, 6.3
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 4.3
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 4.6
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