, Eth. Λίβυς
, Adj. Λιβυκός
), was the general appellation given by the more ancient cosmographers and historians to that portion of the old continent which lay between Aegypt, Aethiopia, and the shores of the Atlantic, and which was bounded to the N. by the Mediterranean sea, and to the S. by the river Oceanus.
With the increase of geographical knowledge, the latter mythical boundary gave place to the equatorial line: but the actual form and dimensions of Africa were not ascertained until the close of the 15th century A.D.; when, in the year 1497, the Portuguese doubled the Cape of Good Hope,
and verified the assertion of Herodotus (4.42
), that Libya, except at the isthmus of Suez,
was surrounded by water.
From the Libya of the ancients we must substract such portions as have already been described, or will hereafter be mentioned, in the articles entitled AEGYPTUS, AETHIOPIA, AFRICA, ATLAS, BARCA, CARTHAGE, CYRENE, MARMARICA, MAURETANIA, the OASES, SYRTES, &c. Including these districts, indeed, the boundaries of Libya are the same with those of modern Africa as far as the equator.
The limits, however, of Libya Interior, as opposed to the Aegyptian, Aethiopian, Phoenician, Grecian, and Roman kingdoms and commonwealths, were much narrower and less distinct. The Nile and the Atlantic Ocean bounded it respectively on the east and west; but to the north and south its frontiers were less accurately traced. Some geographers, as Ptolemy, conceived that the south of Libya joined the east of Asia, and that the Indian Ocean was a vast salt lake: others, like Agatharchides, and the Alexandrian writers generally, maintained that it stretched to the equator, and they gave to the unknown regions southward of that line the general title of Agisymba. We shall be assisted in forming a just conception of Libya Interior by tracing the progress of ancient discovery in those regions.
Progress of Discovery.
--The Libya of Homer (Hom. Od. 4.87
) and Hesiod (Hes. Th. 739
; comp. Strab. i. p.29
) comprised all that portion of the African continent which lay west of Lower and Middle Aegypt. They knew it by report only, had no conception of its form or extent, and gave its inhabitants [p. 2.176]
the general name of Aethiopes, the dark or black coloured men. Between B.C. 630--620, Battus of Thera, being commanded by the oracle to lead a colony into Libya, inquired anxiously “where Libya was,” although at that time the position of Aegypt, and probably that of the Phoenician Carthage also, was well known to the Greeks. Hence we may conclude that, in the 7th century B.C., the name Libya, as the generic appellation of a continent within sight of Sicily, and within a few days' sail from Peloponnesus, was either partially adopted by or wholly unknown to the Greeks. The Phoenicians were among the first explorers, as they were among the earliest colonisers of Libya ; but they concealed their knowledge of it with true commercial jealousy, and even as late as the 6th century B.C. interdicted the Roman and Etruscan mariners from sailing beyond the Fair Promontory. (Plb. 3.22
.) About sixty years before the journey of Herodotus to Aegypt, i. e. B.C. 523, Cambyses explored a portion of the westerndesert that lies beyond Elephantine; but his expedition was too brief and disastrous to afford any extension of geographical acquaintance with the interior. Herodotus is the first traveller whose accounts of Libya are in any way distinct or to be relied upon; and his information was probably derived, in great measure, from the caravan guides with whom he conversed at Memphis or Naucratis in the Delta.
By the term Libya, Herodotus understood sometimes the whole of ancient Africa (4.42), sometimes Africa exclusive of Aegypt (2.17, 18, 4.167).
He defined its proper eastern boundary to be the isthmus of Suez
and the Red sea, in opposition to those who placed it along the western bank of the Nile.
In this opinion he is supported by Strabo (i. pp. 86, 174) and Ptolemy (2.1.6
); and his description of the Great Desert and other features of the interior prove that his narrative generally rests upon the evidence of travellers in that region.
The next step in discovery was made by the Macedonian kings of Aegypt. They not only required gold, precious stones, ivory, and aromatics, for luxury and art, and elephants for their wars, but were also actuated by a zeal for the promotion of science. Accordingly, Ptolemy Philadelphus (Diod. 1.37
; Plin. Nat. 6.29
) and Ptolemy Euergetes (B.C. 283--222) sent forth expeditions to the coast and mouth of the Red sea, and into the modern Nubia
Their investigations, however, tended more to extending acquaintance with the country between the cataracts of the Nile and the straits of Bab-el-Mandeb
than to the examination of Western Libya.
About 200 years before our era, Eratosthenes described Libya, but rather as a mathematician than a geographer.
He defines it to be an acute angled triangle, of which the base was the Mediterranean, and the sides the Red sea, on the east, and on the west an imaginary line drawn from the Pillars of Hercules to the Sinus Adulitanus.
The wars of Rome with Carthage, and the destruction of that city in B.C. 146, tended considerably to promote a clearer acquaintance with Libya Interior. Polybius, commissioned by his friend and commander, Scipio Aemilianus, visited Aegypt and many districts of the northern coast of Africa, and explored its western shores also, as far as the river Bambotus, perhaps Cape Non,
lat. 28° N., where he found the crocodile and hippopotamus. Unfortunately, the record of his journey has perished, although it was extant in the 1st century A. D., and is cited by Pliny (6.1
) and Stephanus of Byzantium (s. v. Ἱππών, Ταβρακά, Χαλχεῖα, Βύζαντες;
comp. Gosselin, Récherches sur les Géographie Ancienne,
tom. ii. pp. 1--30).
The events of the Jugurthine War (B.C. 111--106) led the Romans further into the interior.
The historian Sallust, when praetor of Numidia, assiduously collected information respecting the indigenous races of Libya.
He mentions the Gaetuli as the rude Aborigines, who fed on the flesh of wild beasts, and on the roots of the earth. They dwelt near the torrid zone ( “haud procul ab ardoribus” ), and their huts (mapalia) resembled inverted boats. In B.C. 24, Aelius Gallus conducted, by the command of Augustus, an expedition into Aethiopia and Nubia, and extended the knowledge of the eastern districts.
The difficulties of the road and the treachery of his guides, indeed, rendered his attempt unprosperous; but in the year following, Petronius repulsed an inroad of the Aethiopians, and established a line of military posts south of Elephantine (Strab. xvii. p.615
; D. C. 54.6
). In B.C. 19, L. Cornelius Balbus attacked the Garamantes with success, and ascertained the names at least of many of their towns. (Flor. 4.12
; Plin. Nat. 5.75
The information then acquired was employed by Strabo in his account of Libya. Again, in Nero's reign, an exploring party was despatched to the Abyssinian highlands, with a view of discovering the sources of the Nile. (Plin. Nat. 6.32
; Senec. Nat. Quaest.
But the Romans became acquainted with portions of the Libyan desert, less through regular attempts to penetrate it on either side, than from their desire to procure wild beasts for the amphitheatre. Under the emperors, especially, the passion for exhibiting rare animals prevailed; nor have we reason to suspect that these were found in the cultivated northern provinces, whence they must have been driven by the colonial herdsmen and farmers, even while Cyrene and Carthage were independent states.
At the secular games exhibited by the emperor Philip the Arabian (A.D. 248), an incredible number of Libyan wild beasts were slaughtered in the arena, and the Roman hunters who collected them must have visited the Sāhăra
at least, and the southern slope of Atlas: nor, since the hippopotamus and the alligator are mentioned, is it improbable that they even reached the banks of the Senegal.
Of all the ancient geographers, however, Claudius Ptolemy, who flourished in the second century A.D., displays the most accurate and various acquaintance with Libya Interior. Yet, with the works of his predecessors before him, the scientific labours of the Alexandrians, and the Roman surveys, Ptolemy possessed a very inadequate knowledge of the form and extent of this continent. His tables show that its western coast had been explored as far as 11° lat. N.; and he was aware of the approximate position of the Fortunate Islands (now the Canaries
), since from them, or some point in them, he calculates all his eastern distances or longitudes.
He was also better acquainted than any of his precursors with the eastern coast, and with the tracts which intervened between the left bank of the Nile and the Great Desert.
He mentions an expedition conducted by a Roman officer named Maternas, who, setting forth from Tripoli,
advanced as far southward as the neighbourhood of the lake Tchad,
and, perhaps, even of Timbuctoo.
He has also given, with probable correctness, the position of a number of places in the interior, along a river which he calls [p. 2.177]
the Nigir. Ptolemy moreover assigns to Africa a greater extent S. of the equator: but here his knowledge becomes inexact, since he makes the land stretch into the Atlantic instead of curving eastward; and he concluded that the southern parts of Libya joined the eastern parts of Asia, and consequently was either incredulous or ignorant of the Periplus of the Phoenicians in the reign of Pharaoh Necho.
Pliny adds little to our information respecting Libya beyond its northern and eastern provinces, although he contributes to its geography a number of strange and irrecognisable names of places.
He had seen an abstract at least of the journal of Polybins, and he mentions an expedition in A.D. 41 by Suetonius Paullinus, which crossed the Atlas range, and explored a portion of the desert beyond.
But both Pliny and Pomponius Mela are at once too vague and succinct in their accounts to have added much to our knowledge of the interior.
The persecutions which were mutually inflicted by the Christian sects upon each other in the 3rd and 4th centuries A. D., the expulsion of the Donatists, Montanists, Circumcellions, &c., from the ecclesiastical provinces of the Roman church, drove even beyond the Atlas region thousands of fugitives, and combined with the conquests of the Arabs in the 7th century in rendering the interior more permeable and better known. Yet neither the fugitives nor the conquerors have materially increased our acquaintance with these regions.
The era of discovery, in any extensive sense of the term, commences with the voyages of the Portuguese at the close of the 15th and the commencement of the 16th century.
But their observations belong to the geography of modern Africa.
We have reserved an account of the two most memorable expeditions of the ancients for the discovery of the form and dimensions of the Libyan continent, partly on account of their superior importance, if they are authentic, and partly because the results of them have been the subject of much discussion.
) alleges as one reason for his belief that Libya, except at the isthmus of Suez,
is surrounded by water, a story which he heard of its circumnavigation by the Phoenicians in the reign and by the command of Pharaoh Necho, king of Aegypt.
This supposed voyage was therefore made between B.C. 610--594.
According to Herodotus, whose narrative is indeed meagre enough, Pharaoh Necho desired to connect the Mediterranean with the Red sea by a canal from Bubastis in the Delta to the Arsinoite bay near Suez.
He abandoned this project at the bidding of the priests, and then ordered his pilots to attempt the passage from the one sea to the other by a different channel. For this purpose his fleet, manned entirely by Phoenicians, set sail from the Red sea, coasted Aegypt and Aethiopia, and passed into the Indian ocean.
At the end of three years they entered the mouth of the Nile, having, as they affirmed, circumnavigated the continent. Twice they landed,--probably at the season of the monsoons,--laid up their ships, sowed the fields, and reaped the harvest, and then proceeded on their course. They alleged--and their assertion is remarkable, although Herodotus did not believe it--that as they were sailing westward the sun was on their right hand.
The probability or improbability of this voyage has been canvassed by Mannert (Geograph. der Griech. und Römer,
vol. x. pt. 2, pp. 491--511), by Gosselin (Géographie des Grecs Analysée,
tom. i. pp. 108, &c.), Rennell (Geogr. of Herod.
vol. ii. pp. 348--363.), and Heeren (Ideen,
vol. i. p. 364). We do not consider that its improbability is by any means fully established; the voyage, however, was too tedious and difficult to be repeated by the navigators of antiquity, and its results for commerce and geographical knowledge were accordingly unimportant.
The most striking argument for the circumnavigation having been accomplished is the reported phaenomenon of the sun appearing on the right hand, or to the north
of the voyagers: nor were the Phoenician galleys less competent to the voyage than the carrels which conveyed Columbus across the Atlantic, or Di Gama round the Cape. On the other hand, we must admit the improbability of some of the circumstances narrated. Herodotus heard the story 150 years after the supposed voyage had been made: in that time an extraordinary expedition beyond the Red sea may have been magnified into a complete Periplus. Again, for sowing and reaping on an unknown coast, for laying up the ships, &c. the time allowed--three years--is too short. Moreover, no account is made for opposition from the inhabitants of the coast, or for the violent winds which prevail at the Cape itself.
The notion which Herodotus entertained, and which long afterwards prevailed, that Libya did not extend so far S. as the equator, is not an argument against the fact of the circumnavigation; for the brevity of Herodotus's statement, in a matter so important to geography, shows that he had taken little pains in sifting the tradition.
A second ancient voyage is better authenticated.
This was rather an expedition for the promotion of trade than of geographical discovery. Its date is uncertain: but it was undertaken in the most flourishing period of the Punic Commonwealth,--i. e. in the interval between the reign of Darius Hystaspes and the First Punic War (B.C. 521--264). Hanno, a suffetes or king, as he is vaguely termed, of Carthage (Geogr. Graec. Minor.
tom. i. Bernhardy), with a fleet of 60 galleys, having on board 30,000 men, set sail from that city through the Straits of Gibraltar
with a commission to found trading-stations on the Atlantic coast, the present empire of Morocco.
How far he sailed southward is the subject of much discussion. Gosselin (Géograph. des Anciens,
vol. i. p. 109, seq.) so shortens Hanno's voyage as to make Cape Non,
in lat. 28° N., its extreme southern terminus, while Rennell extends it to Sierra Leone,
within 8° of the equator (Geog. of Herod.
vol. ii. p. 348).
The mention of a river, where he saw the crocodile and the river-horse, renders it probable that Hanno passed the Senegal
at least. Of the fact of the voyage there is no doubt.
The record of it was preserved in an inscription in the temple of Kronos at Carthage.
There it was copied and translated into his own language by some Greek traveller or merchant. (Bochart, Geog. Sacr.
1.33; Campomanes, Antig. Maritim. de Carthayo,
vol. ii.; Dodwell, Dissertat. I. in Geogr. Graec. Min.,
ed. Hudson; Bougainville, Descouvertes d'Hanno Mém. de l'Acad. des Inscript.
tom. xxvi. xxviii.; Heeren, Ideen,
vol. i. p. 654.)
A third and much later Periplus is that which goes under the name of Arrian.
It is probably a work of the first century A.D.
It is the record or log-book of a trading-voyage on the eastern coast of Libya, and is chiefly valuable as a register of the articles of export and import in the markets of the Red sea, of the Arabian and Persian coast, of the [p. 2.178]
western shores of India, and the eastern shores of Africa.
The extreme south point of the voyage is the headland of Rhapta, probably the modern Quiloa,
in lat. 10° N. (See Vincent's Voyage of Nearchus,
vol. ii. p. 74, seq.)
With their imperfect acquaintance with Libya Interior, and their misconception of its extent, it is not surprising that the more ancient geographers should have long hesitated to which portion of the old continent Libya should be assigned.
It was sometimes regarded as an independent division of the earth, and sometimes as part of Asia, and even of Europe. (Agathemer. ii.; Hdt. 4.42
; Varr. L. L.
4.5 ; Sall. Bell. Jugurth.
17; Lucan, Pharsal.
9.411; Maltebrun, Geog.
As the topography of the interior is very uncertain, we shall examine rather the general physical phenomena of this region, than attempt to assign a local habitation to tribes who roamed over the waste, or to towns of which the names are doubtful and disguised, even when genuine, by the Greek or Roman orthography of their Libyan titles.
1. The Great Desert.
) divides Libya N. of the equator into three regions:--(1) The inhabited,
which is described under the several heads of AFRICA, ATLAS, CARTHAGE, CYRENE, &c.; (2) the wild beast territory
]; and (3) the Desert.
These divisions correspond nearly to the modern districts of Barbary, Biledulgerid,
The latter region (ὀφρύη ψάμμης, Hdt. 4.181
) extends from the Atlantic to Aegypt, and is continued under the same degrees of latitude through Arabia, Asia, the southern provinces of Persia, to Moultan
in Northern India. Contrasted with the vale of Biledulgerid,
the rich arable districts of Africa Propria, and especially with the well-watered Aegypt, the Sāhăra
is one of the most dreary and inhospitable portions of the world. To its real barrenness and solitude the ancients ascribed also many fabulous terrors, which the researches of modern travellers have dispersed.
It was believed to swarm with serpents, which, by their number and their venom, were able to impede armies in their march (Lucan, Pharsal.
9.765): its tribes shrieked like bats, instead of uttering articulate sounds (Hdt. 4.183
); its pestilential winds struck with instant death men and animals, who traversed them (Arrian, Exp.
3.3); and its eddies of sand buried the slain.
These descriptions are, however, much exaggerated. The Khamsin
or fifty-days' gale, as the Copts term it, the Simoum
poison) of the Arabs, blows at the summer solstice from S. and SE. over a surface scorched by an almost vertical sun, and thus accumulates heat, which dries up all moisture, relaxes the muscular powers, and renders respiration difficult.
But though it enfeebles, it does not necessarily kill.
The real peril of the route, which from very remote ages has been trodden by the caravans, lies in the scanty supply of water, and in the obliteration of the track by the whirlwinds of sand. (Bruce, Travels,
vol. vi. p. 458; Burckhardt, Nubia,
vol. i. p. 207.)
The difficulty of passing the Libyan Desert was, in fact, diminished by the islands or oases, which served as stepping-stones across it. Of these oases a more particular description is given elsewhere [OASIS], but they are too important a feature of this region to be quite omitted from an account of it. Herodotus (4.181
) mentions a chain of these patches of verdure extending from E. to W. through Libya. Sometimes they are little more than halting-places for the caravans,--a spring of water, surrounded by date-trees. and a few acres of herbage: others, like the oasis of El-Khargeh,
are spacious and populous tracts, over which, nomad hordes wander with their cattle, and a few form entire provinces and kingdoms, such as Augila
(Regio Phazania of Ptolemy). One geological feature is common to them all. They are not elevations of the plain, but depressions of its limestone basis. Into these hollows, which are composed of limestone and clay, the subsoil water percolates, the periodical rains are received, and a rich and varied vegetation springs from the strong and moist earth of the oasis.
But even the arid waste itself is not a uniform level.
It has considerable inequalities, and even hills of gravel. Probably amid the changes which our globe has undergone, at some period anterior to the history, if not the existence of man, the Sāhăra,
whose level even now is not much above that of the Mediterranean, was the bed of an ocean running athwart the continent. Its irregular breadth and outline favour this supposition.
It is widest in the western half of N. Africa, between the present kingdom of Morocco
and the negro country, and narrowest between the present states of Tripoli
where it is broken up by watery districts.
As it approaches Aegypt it becomes again broader. Libya is, indeed, a land of terraces, ascending gradually from the three seas which bound it to central plateaus, such as the Abyssinian highlands, the Lunae Montes, and the Atlas chain.
Before the importation of the camel from Arabia--and this animal never appears in monuments of the Pharaonic times--the impediments, to large companies crossing the Sāhăra
must have been almost insurmountable.
The camel was introduced by the Persians: Darius succeeded in establishing his garrisons in the oases ; and in the time of Herodotus they were the stages of a traffic which penetrated Libya nearly from east to west. The Desert, however, was not only a road for commerce, but itself also productive.
It exported dates, alum, and mineral salts, which, especially in the district between El-Siwak,
the ancient Ammonium, and the Natron
lakes, cover the soil with an incrustation through which the foot of the camel breaks as through a thin coat of ice.
The salt was a marketable article with the inhabitants of Nigritia, S. of the Sāhăra.
The components of the salt are muriate, carbonate, and sulphate of soda; and these, both in ancient and modern times, have been extensively employed in the operations of bleaching and glass-making. Libya shows few, if any, traces of volcanic action; and earthquakes, except in Aegypt, appear to have been unknown. Yet, that the continent has undergone changes unrecorded in history, is manifest from the agatised wood found on the eastern extremity of the desert in the latitude of Cairo.
or river without water, is another proof of a change in the elevation of N. Africa.
The streams,, which once filled its dry hollows, have been violently expelled by subterranean action, and the silex, agate, and jasper in its neighbourhood indicate the agency of fire. (Newbold, Geolog. of Aegypt, Proceed. of Geolog. Society,
It is still an unsettled question whether the ancient geographers were acquainted with the countries S. of the Great Desert; i. e. with the upper part of the river Quorra,
commonly called the Niger.
.) relates, on the authority of some Cyrenians, that certain young men of the tribe of [p. 2.179]
Nasamõnes, who inhabited the Syrtis and the district east of it (the present gulf of Sidra
), crossed the Desert in a westerly direction, and came to a great river which ran towards the rising sun, and had crocodiles in it, and black men inhabiting its banks. Notwithstanding some marvellous circumstances, the narrative is probably true in substance; and, combined with the known activity of the Carthaginian trade in slaves, gold-dust, ivory, elephants, &c., renders it likely that the interior was known to the ancients as well as the western coast, within 11° of the equator.
But such knowledge as was acquired by travellers was rarely employed by the Greek geographers, who were more intent on accumulating names of places, than on recording the physical features, through which alone names become instructive.
The mountain and river system of Libya Interior has been partly described in the article ATLAS; and the principal features of its indigenous population under the heads GAETULI and GARAMANTES
It will suffice, then, to point out here the effect which the general conformation of the mountains has upon the climate and the rivers.
The absence of snow on the Atlas range denies to this continent, in its northern portion at least, the privilege of partial refrigeration, although in the loftier regions of the Aethiopian highlands the heat is mitigated by the ice upon their summits. Hence arises the superior volume of the Aethiopian rivers, the tributaries of the Nile, and the milder temperature of the plains surrounding the lake of Dembia,
which, although within the tropics, enjoy a perpetual spring. Again, the northern range of Atlas runs so close to the Mediterranean that the watershed is brief and abrupt, and the rivers are properly mountain streams, which, after a short course, discharge themselves into the sea.
The western slope of the Libyci Montes also presents a succession of terraces, which do not propel the rivers with force enough upon the lowlands to produce a continuous course ; so that either they lose themselves in swamps, or are absorbed by the sands.
In some cases, indeed, they concentrate themselves in vast inland lakes, which in their turn drain off their superfluous waters in thread-like rivulets. On the southern inclination of Atlas, there is a similar impediment to the formation of large rivers, and not until within a few degrees of the equator, and in districts beyond the bounds of ancient Libya, do we meet with majestic streams, like the Senegal,
&c., rivalling the Nile. On this side, indeed, the irrigated portions of the lowlands are rich pasture-lands, and the Great Desert is bordered and encroached upon by luxurious patches both of forest and arable land.
The more remarkable mountains not included in the Atlas range are the following:--On the northern. frontier of the Desert, Mons Ater or Niger (Plin. Nat. 5.5. s. 5
. s. 35), the modern Harusch
or Black Mountain, which, running from east to west, separated the Oasis Phazania (Fezzan
) from Africa Romana, Westward of this was the Usargala (Οὐσάργαλα ὄρος, Ptol. 4.6.7
, &c.), the present Adamek-kozuel-wegiad,
which ran far into the territory of the Garamantes, and contained the sources of the river Bagrada.
This may be regarded as a continuation of the Atlas Major, S. of Numidia and Mauretania. Next, running in a N. direction to the verge of Numidia, and a branch of the Usargala, was Mons Girgiri (τὸ Γίργιρι ὄρος
in which the river Cinyphus arose. Along the Atlantic coast, and parallel with the Greater Atlas, were the following mountains and headlands:--Mount Sagapola (Σαγάπολα, Ptol. 4.6.8
, &c.), from which the river Subus sprang, to SW. of which was Mount Mandrus (τὸ Μάνδρον ὄρος
), a long chain of hills, reaching to the parallel of the Fortunate Islands, and containing the fountains of all the rivers that discharge themselves into the Atlantic, from the Salathus to the Massa, or from Cape Non
to Cape Bojador.
Mt. Caphas (Κάφας
), 8 degrees to S., from which the Daradas flowed, stretched in a SE. direction far into the Desert : Mount Ryssadius (τὸ Ῥυσσάδιον ὄρος
) terminated i na headland of the same name, probably Cape Blanco,
and in it rose the river Stachir. Of all these mountains, however, the most remarkable as regards the Libyan rock system, because it exhibited unquestionable tokens of volcanic action, was that denominated the Chariot of the Gods (Θεῶν Ὄχημα
), probably the present Kong,
or Sierra Leone.
This was the extreme point of ancient navigation on the Atlantic; for the Phoenician Periplus, if it indeed was actually performed, formed, the single exception to the otherwise universal ignorance of the coast beyond.
As far as modern discoveries have made known the interior, Libya, from the ocean to the borders of Aegypt, is crossed by a succession of highlands, arising at certain points to a considerable elevation, and sending forth terraces and spurs towards the south.
It is possible that these may form a continuous chain, but our acquaintance with its bearings is very imperfect.
The ancient geographers distinguished some portions of these highlands by the names of Mount Bardetus (Βάρδητον ὄρος
), west of the Lunae Montes; and in the same line, but at a considerable interval, M. Mesche (Μεσχή
); Zipha (Ζιφά
), north of Mesche; and, approaching the Atlantic, Mount Ion (Ἴον ὄρος
), and Dauchis (Δαῦχις
In a line with the Chariot of the Gods, and northward of the line of Bardetus, were the elevations Arualtes (ὁ Ἀρουάλτης
) and Arangas (ὁ Ἀράγγας
), the latter of which ran down to the equatorial line.
These, with Mount Thala (τὸ Θάλα ὄρος
), and, further eastward, the serrated range entitled the Garamantic Pharanx or Combe (ἡ Γαραμαντικὴ φάραγξ
), may be regarded as offsets of the Aethiopian highlands.
That these mountains contain considerable mineral wealth is rendered probable by their feeding the sources of rivers in the gold region, and from the copper pyrites discovered on their flanks.
That they were the cradles of innumerable streams is also certain from the rich pasture and woodland which mark the confines of the equatorial region of Libya Interior.
The voyage of Hanno was undertaken for the purpose of planting upon the coast of the Atlantic trading stations, and to secure with the regions that produced gold, aromatics, and elephants, a readier communication with Carthage than could be maintained across the Sāhăra.
That this trade was materially impaired when the Romans became masters of Africa, is probable, because the conquering people had little genius for commerce, and because they derived the same articles of trade through the more circuitous route of Egypt and Aethiopia. Yet the knowledge acquired by the Carthaginians was not altogether lost, and the geographers of the empire have left us some important information respecting the western coast of Libya as far as 11° N. lat.
According to Ptolemy, the principal promontories were, beginning from the [p. 2.180]
), probably Cape Non;
), Cape Bojador;
), Cape Corveiro,
the westernmost point of the continent, lying between the mouths of the Daradus and the Stachir ; the headland of Ryssadium, Cape Blanco,
a continuation of the mountain ridge of that name, and a few miles southward of Arsinarium; the promontories of Catharon (τὸ Καθαρὸν ἄκρον
), Cape Darca,
near the mouth of the Nia, and of the Hesperides, celebrated in fable (Ἑσπέρον κέρας,
Ptol.; Hesperion Ceras, Plin. Nat. 5.1. s. 1
), the Cape Verde
of the Portuguese : lastly, the term of Hanno's voyage, the basaltic rock entitled the headland of Notium (Νότου κέρας
), Cape Roxo,
or Red Cape,
from the colour of its surface. Between the two last-mentioned projections lay the Hesperian bay (Ἑσπέριος κόλπος
), which, owing to their misconception of the extent of this continent, the ancients regarded as the southern boundary of Libya, the point from which it crossed towards Asia, or where the great Southern Ocean commenced.
While enumerating the mountains which concealed their springs, we have nearly exhausted the catalogue of the Libyan rivers which flow into the Atlantic.
It is a consequence of the terraced conformation of the interior, that the streams would, for the most part, take an easterly or a westerly direction.
Those which ran east were the tributaries of the lakes,morasses, and rivers of Aethiopia, and, with the exception of such as fed the Astapus and the Astaboras, have been scarcely explored. On the western side the most important were (Ptol. 4.6.8
) the Subus (Σοῦβος
), the modern Sus,
and combining, if not the same, with the Chretes (Χρέτης
) and the Xion (Ξιῶν
) (Scylax, p. 53
), had its source in Mt. Sagapola, and entered the Atlantic below the furthest western projection of the Greater Atlas. Mt. Mandrus gave birth to the Salathus, at the mouth of which stood a town of the same name; to the Chusarius (Χουσάριος
), apparently the Cosenus of Polybius (ap. Plin. Nat. 5.1. s. 1
); to the Ophiodes (Ὀφιόδης
) and Novius (Νούϊος
), between the headlands of Gannarium and Soloeis; and, lastly, the Massa or Masasat. (Polyb. l.c.
) In Mount Caphas arises a more considerable stream than any of the above-mentioned, the modern Rio de Ouro,
the ancient Daradus (Δάραδος, Δαράτ
), which contained crocodiles, and discharged itself into the Sinus Magnus.
The appearance of the crocodile in this river, and the dark population which inhabited its banks in common with those of the Niger,
led many of the ancient geographers to imagine that the Nile, wherein similar phenomena were observed, took a westerly course S. of Meroe, and, crossing the continent, emptied itself a second time into the sea in the extreme west. The Aethiopes Hesperii were among the consequences of this fiction, and were believed to be of the same race with the Aethiopians of the Nile. Next in order southward was the Stachir (Στάχειρ
), which rose in Mt. Ryssadius, and, after forming the Lake Clonia, proceeded in a SE. direction to the bay of the Hesperides. The Stachir is probably represented by the present St. Antonio
river, or Rio de Guaon,
and seems to answer to the Salsus of Polybius (ap. Plin. l.c.
The same bay receives the waters of the Nia, the Bambotus of Polybius, and the modern Senegal.
The river-horse, as well as the crocodile, inhabit its streams, and the hides of the former were exported by the neighbouring tribe of Daratae to Carthage. The Masitnoius, the present Gambia,
descends into the Atlantic from the Theôn Ochema, a little N. of the Hippodrome of the Aethiopians (Ἰππόδρομος Αἰθιοπίας
), or Cape Roxo,
with which terminates the geographer Ptolemy's Itinerary of the Libyan coast.
He mentions, indeed, a few rivers in the interior which have no outlet to the sea, but form vast inland lakes.
These are, probably, either tributaries of the Niger,
or the upper portion of the arms of the Niger
itself; but the course of the streams that flow southward to Nigritia
and the Bight of Benin
belongs rather to modern than to ancient geography.
It is worthy of notice, however, that rumours at least of the dimensions of the Niger
must have reached the ears of the old geographers (Agathem. 2.10; Plin. Nat. 5.1. s. 1
), since they ascribe to the Ger or Gir (Tab. Peuting.
Girin) a course of more than 300 miles, with a further curvature to the N. of 100, where it ends in the lake Chelonides.
The direct mainstream was represented as diving underground, reappearing on the surface, and finally discharging itself into a lake called Nuba.
Libya, indeed, “is a region of extensive lakes; of which there appear to be a great number on the lowlands of its east coast, in which many of the rivers from the edge of the table-land terminate.” (Somerville, Physical Geog.
vol. ii. p. 9.) In Libya N. of the equator the following were known to the ancients :--The Tritonis (Aeschyl. Eumen.
289; Pindar, Pind. P. 4.36
; Scylax, p.49
; Hdt. 4.178
); the lake of the Hesperides (Strab. xviii. p.836
); the Libya Palus, which was connected with the Niger
by one of its tributaries; the Clonia, near the eastern flank of the Mount Ryssadium: the Nigritis, into which the upper portion of the Nigir flowed, probably the present Dibbeh
of the Arabs, or the Black-Water, SW. of Timbuctoo:
the Nuba, in which the river Ger terminates, and which answers to Lake Tchad,
and whose dimensions almost entitle it to the denomination of a fresh-water sea; and lastly, the cluster of lakes named Chelonides, perhaps the modern Fittre,
into which an arm of the Ger flows, and which are surrounded with jungle and pastures celebrated for their herds of elephants. Salt-water lakes abound on the northern extremity of the Sāhăra,
and the salt obtained from them has been in every age an article of barter with the south, where that necessary of life is wholly wanting.
It is obtained either from these lakes, which, dried up by the summer heat, leave behind a vast quantity of salt, covering extensive patches of the earth, or from large beds, or layers, which frequently extend for many miles, and rise into hills.
The inhabitants of Nigritia
purchase salt with gold-dust.
A scarcity of salt in Kashna
is equivalent to a famine in other lands.
At such times the price of salt becomes so extravagant, that Leo Africanus (p. 250) saw an ass's load sold at Timbuctoo
for eighty ducats.
The neighbourhood of the lakes is also celebrated for the number and luxuriance of its date trees. To the borderers of the Desert the date tree is what the bread-fruit tree is to the South Sea islanders. Its fruit is food for both men and cattle: it was capable of being preserved for a long time, and conveyed to great distances ; while, from the sap or fruit of the tree (Rennell, Exped. of Cyrus,
p. 120) was extracted a liquor equally intoxicating with wine.
) distinguishes four main elements in the population of Libya.--(1) the Libyans, (2) the, Aethiopians [p. 2.181]
(3) the Phoenicians, and (4) the Greeks.
He enumerates, moreover, a considerable number of indigenous tribes, and his catalogue of them is greatly increased by subsequent writers, a e.g. Scylax, Hanno, Polybius, and Ptoleny. When, however, we would assign to these a generic connection, or a local habitation, the insurmountable difficulty meets us which ever attends the description of nomad races; ignorance of their language, of their relations with one another, and their customary or proper districts. The Greek ge/propuers, in their efforts to render the names of barbarians euphonic, impenetrably disguise them for the most part. Again, their information of the interior was principally derived from the merchants, or guides of the caravans; and these persons had a direct interest, even if their knowledge were exact or various, in concealing it. Moreover, the traveller, even if unbiassed, was liable to error in his impression of these regions.
The population, beyond the settled and cultivated districts, was extremely fluctuating.
In the rainy season they inhabited the plains, in the hot months the highlands, accordingly as their cattle required change of climate and pasture.
The same tribe might, therefore, be reckoned twice, and exhibited under the opposite characteristics of a highland or a lowland people. Savage races also are often designated, when described by travellers, by names accidentally caught up or arbitrarily imposed, and not by their genuine and native appellations. Thus Herodotus, in common with the other geographers of antiquity, gives an undue extension to the name Aethiopes, derived from the mere accident of a black or dark complexion, and had he been acquainted with the Caffirs and the Hottentots, he would, doubtless, from their colour, have placed them in the same category.
The diet of the Ichthyophagi was not restricted to fish, since they were also breeders of cattle; but they acquired that appellation from their principal food at one season of the year. The Troglodytes, during the spring and summer months, dwelt among the low meadows and morasses of Meröe and Aethiopia; but their name was given them because, during the rainy period, they retired to habitations scooped in the rocks.
With regard to the native races of Libya, the only secure presumption is, that they formed one of those sporadic offsets of the human family with remain in, or acquire a lower degree of civilisation, because they have wandered beyond the verge of the great empires and communities in which civilisation is matured. The Libyan continent has, indeed, been in all ages the principal resort of these sporadic tribes.
The deserts, which intervene between the cultivated and uncultivated portions of it removed much of its population from the neighbourhood of cities; they were liable to no admixtures from other countries; they were never thoroughly subdued or intermingled with superior races: and though, as in the instance of the Perioeci of the Greek states, the Liby-Phoenicians in the dominions of Carthage, and the subordinate castes of Ageypt, they were not incapable of a high material cultivation; yet, when left to themselves, they continued to exist under the simplest forms of social life. Combining the glimpses we obtain from the ancients with the more accurate knowledge of the moderns, we are warranted in ascribing to them, generally, a monarchical form of government, with some control from the priests and assembly of chief men, warlike and migratory habits, debased condition of the female sex, and the vice of Africa, in all ages, constant warfare, waged with the sole purpose of supplying the slave-markets of the North and East.
The Fama of Libya must not be unnoticed.
In the northern deserts tawny and grey tints are the prevailing colours, not merely in birds and beasts, but also in reptiles and insects.
In consequence of the extension of this barren region from North Africa through Arabia to Persia and India, many similar species of animals are common to both continents,--as the ass, antelopes, leopards, panthers, and hyaenas.
The cat tribe prevails in great beauty and variety; the lion of Mount Atlas is said to be the strongest and most formidable of his species. The African elephant is different from the Asiatic, and has always been preferred to it for military purposes.
The hippopotamus, which was known to the ancients as the inhabitant of the senegal and the Upper Nile, appears to be a different species from that which is found in the inter-tropieal and southern parts of the continent.
The magot or Barbary ape was known to the ancients, and is mentioned by the Byzantine writers as imported for the menageries of Constantinople.
The giraffe or camelopard is found as far north as the Great Desert.
It appears on the monuments of Aegypt, and was exhibited in the imperial triumphs at Rome. The Atlas region contains two kinds of fallow-deer, one of which is the common fallow-deer of Europe.
The ox of Nubia, Abyssinia,
is remarkable for the extraordinary size of its horns, which are sometimes two feet in circumference at the root. Of the Libyan animals generally it may be remarked, that while the species which require rich vegetation and much water are found in the Atlas valleys and the plains below them, the Desert abounds in such kinds as are content with scantier herbage,--such as the deer, the wild ass, and the antelope.
These being fleet of foot, easily remove from the scorched to the green pasture, and find a sufficient supply of water in the ooze of the river beds.
As regards its Flora, the northern coast of Libya, and the range of the Atlas generally, may be regarded as a zone of transition, where the plants of southern Europe are mingled with those peculiar to Africa. The Greek and Phoenician colonists built their naval armaments of the pine and oak of Mount Atlas, the Aleppo pine and the sandarach
or Thuia articulata,
being celebrated for their close grain and durability.
The vegetation of the interior has been already in part mentioned.
The large forests of date-palms, along the southern base of the Atlas, are its principal woodland.
The date tree is indigenous, but improved by cultivation. Of the Desert itself stunted shrubs are the only produce besides the coarse prickly grass (pennisetum dichotomum
), which covers large tracts, and supplies fodder to the camels.
For the authorities upon which this account of Libya rests, see, besides the ancient writers already cited, the travels of Shaw, Hornemann, Burckhardt; Ritter's Erdkunde, Africa;
vol. i.; Mannert's Géographie, Libya;
and Maltebrun; Afrique.