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A third Gulf is divided into two smaller ones, those of the two Syrtes1, which are rendered perilous by the shallows of their quicksands and the ebb and flow of the sea. Polybius states the distance from Carthage to the Lesser Syrtis, the one which is nearest to it, to be 300 miles. The inlet to it he also states to be 100 miles across, and its circumference 300. There is also a way2 to it by land, to find which we must employ the guidance of the stars and cross deserts which present nothing but sand and serpents. After passing these we come to forests filled with vast multitudes of wild beasts and elephants, then desert wastes3, and beyond them the Garamantes4, distant twelve days' journey from the Augylæ5. Above the Garamantes was formerly the na- tion of the Psylli6, and above them again the Lake of Lycomedes7, surrounded with deserts. The Augylæ themselves are situate almost midway between Æthiopia which faces the west8, and the region which lies between9 the two Syrtes, at an equal distance from both. The distance along the coast that lies between the two Syrtes is 250 miles. On it are found the city of Œa10, the river Cinyps11, and the country of that name, the towns of Neapolis12, Graphara13, and Abrotonum14, and the second, surnamed the Greater, Leptis15.

We next come to the Greater Syrtis, 625 miles in circumference, and at the entrance 312 miles in width; next after which dwells the nation of the Cisippades. At the bottom of this gulf was the coast of the Lotophagi, whom some writers have called the Alachroæ16, extending as far as the Altars of the Philæni17; these Altars are formed of heaps of sand. On passing these, not far from the shore there is a vast swamp18 which receives the river Triton19 and from it takes its name: by Callimachus it is called Pallantias20, and is said by him to be on the nearer side of the Lesser Syrtis; many other writers however place it between the two Syrtes. The promontory which bounds the Greater Syrtis has the name of Borion21; beyond it is the province of Cyrene.

Africa, from the river Ampsaga to this limit, includes 516 peoples, who are subject to the Roman sway, of which six are colonies; among them Uthina22 and Tuburbi23, besides those already mentioned. The towns enjoying the rights of Roman citizens are fifteen in number, of which I shall mention, as lying in the interior, those of Assuræ24, Abutucum, Aborium, Canopicum25, Cilma26, Simithium, Thunusidium, Tuburnicum, Tynidrumum, Tibiga, the two towns called Ucita, the Greater and the Lesser, and vaga. There is also one town with Latin rights, Uzalita by name, and one town of tributaries, Castra Cornelia27. The free towns are thirty in number, among which we may mention, in the interior, those of Acholla28, Aggarita, Avina, Abzirita, Cano- pita, Melizita, Matera, Salaphita, Tusdrita29, Tiphica, Tunica30, Theuda, Tagasta31, Tiga32, Ulusubrita, a second Vaga, Visa, and Zama33. Of the remaining number, most of them should be called, in strictness, not only cities, but nations even; such for instance as the Natabudes, the Capsitani34, the Musulami, the Sabarbares, the Massyli35, the Nisives, the Vamacures, the Cinithi, the Musuni, the Marchubii36, and the whole of Gætulia37, as far as the river Nigris38, which separates Africa proper from Æthiopia.

1 The Syrtes or 'Quicksands' are now called, the Lesser Syrtes the Gulf of Cabès, and the Greater the Gulf of Sydra. The country situate between the two Syrtes is called Tripoli, formerly Tripolis, a name which, according to Solinus, it owed to its three cities, Sabrata, Leptis, and Œa.

2 Marcus observes with reference to this passage, that both Hardouin and Poinsinet have mistaken its meaning. They evidently think that Pliny is speaking here of a route to the Syrtes leading from the interior of Africa, whereas it is pretty clear that he is speaking of the dangers which attend those who approach it by the line of the sea-coast, as Cato did, on his march to Utica, so beautifully described by Lucan in his Ninth Book. This is no doubt the same route which was taken by the caravans on their passage from Lebida, the ancient Leptis, to Berenice in Cyrenaica.

3 Those which we find at the middle of the coast bordering upon the Greater Syrtis, and which separate the mountains of Fezzan and Atlas from Cyrenaïca and Barca.

4 In its widest sense this name is applied to all the Libyan tribes inhabiting the Oases on the eastern part of the Great Desert, as the Gætulians inhabited its western part, the boundary between the two nations being drawn at the sources of the Bagrada and the mountain Usargala. In the stricter sense however, and in which the term must be here understood, the name 'Garamantes' denoted the people of Phazania, the modern Fezzan, which forms by far the largest oasis in the Grand Desert of Zahara.

5 Augylæ, now Aujelah, was an oasis in the desert of Barca, in the region of Cyrenaica, about 3 1/2° south of Cyrene. It has been remarked that Pliny, here and in the Eighth Chapter of the present Book, in abridging the account given by Herodotus of the tribes of Northern Africa, has transferred to the Augylæ what that author really says of the Nasamones. This oasis forms one of the chief stations on the caravan route from Cairo to Fezzan. It is placed by Rennell in 30°3′ North Lat. and 22°46′ East Long., 180 miles south-east of Barca, 180 west by north of Siwah, the ancient Ammonium, and 426 east by north of Mourzouk. Later authorities, however, place the village of Aujelah in 29°15′ North Lat. and 21°55′ East Long.

6 For an account of the Psylli see B. vii. c. 2. They probably dwelt in the vicinity of the modern Cape Mesurata.

7 Now Lake Lynxama, according to Marcus.

8 Marcus observes that in order properly to understand this passage we must remember that the ancients considered Africa as terminating north of the Equator, and imagined that from the Straits of Hercules the western coast of Africa ran, not towards the south-west, but slanted in a southeasterly direction to the Straits of Babelmandel.

9 The modern Tripoli.

10 A flourishing city with a mixed population of Libyans and Sicilians. It was at this place that Apuleius made his eloquent and ingenious defence against the charge of sorcery brought against him by his step-sons. According to some writers the modern Tripoli is built on its site, while other accounts make it to have been situate six leagues from that city.

11 Now called the Wady-el-Quaham.

12 Mannert is of opinion that this was only another name for the city of Leptis Magna or the "Greater Leptis" here mentioned by Pliny. There is little doubt that his supposition is correct.

13 The more common reading is Taphra or Taphara. D'Anville identifies it with the town of Sfakes.

14 Scylax identifies it with Neapolis or Leptis, and it is generally looked upon as being the same place as Sabrata or Old Tripoli.

15 Now called Lebida. It was the birth-place of the Emperor Septimius Severus. It was almost destroyed by an attack from a Libyan tribe A.D. 366, and its ruin was completed by the invasion of the Arabs. Its ruins are considerable.

16 Men of sea complexion," is the meaning of this Greek name. According to Marcus they dwelt between the Greater Leptis and the Lake Tritonis, at the present day called Schibkah-el-Loudeah. For a further account of the Lotophagi, see B. xiii. c. 32.

17 Two brothers, citizens of Carthage, who in a dispute as to their respective territories with the people of Cyrene, submitted to be buried alive in the sand, at the boundary-line between the two countries. Sallust (Jugurthine War) is the main authority for the story. It is also related by Pomponius Mela, B. i. c. 7, and Valerius Maximus, B. v. c. 6, but from the Greek name of the brothers, meaning "lovers of praise," it is doubtful whether the story is not of spurious origin.

18 The Lake Tritonis mentioned in note11, p. 393.

19 Now called El Hammah, according to Shaw.

20 According to some accounts the goddess Pallas or Minerva was born on the banks of Lake Tritonis.

21 The modern Cape of Tajuni.

22 Now called Udina, according to Marcus.

23 Now called Tabersole, according to Marcus.

24 In the north of Byzacium, near the Bagrada and the confines of Numidia. It was the station of a Roman garrison, and considerable remains of it are still visible near the modern Zanfour.

25 Called Cannopissæ by Ptolemy, who places it to the east of Tabraca.

26 There is great doubt as to the correct orthography of these places, most of which can be no longer identified.

27 According to Marcus the present Porto Tarina.

28 Also called Achilla and Achulla, the ruins of which are to be seen at the modern El Aliah. It stood on the sea-coast of Byzacium, a little above the northern extremity of the Lesser Syrtis. It was a colony from the island of Melita, now Malta.

29 Now called El-Jemma, according to Marcus.

30 From it modern Tunis takes its name.

31 The birth-place of St. Augustin. It was to the north-west of Hippo Regius.

32 In the vicinity of this place, if it is the same as the Tigisis mentioned by Procopius, there were two columns to be seen in his day, upon which was written in the Phœnician language, "We fled from before the robber, Joshua the son of Nun."

33 There were two towns of this name in the proconsular province of Africa. The first was situate in the country of Zeugitana, five days' journey west of Carthage, and it was here that Scipio defeated Hannibal. The other bore the surname of Regia or Royal, from being the frequent residence of the Numidian kings. It lay in the interior, and at the present day its site bears the name of 'Zowarin' or 'Zewarin.'

34 The ruins of Capsa still bear the name of Cafsa or Ghafsah. It was an important city in the extreme south of Numidia, situate in an oasis, in the midst of an arid desert abounding in serpents. In the Jugurthine war it was the treasury of Jugurtha, and was taken and destroyed by Marius; but was afterwards rebuilt and made a colony.

35 They dwelt between the river Ampsaga or Wady-El-Kebir and the Tusca or Wady-Zain, the western boundary of the Carthaginian territory.

36 Dwelling to the east of the mountain Zalycus, now known as the Wanashrise, according to Shaw.

37 The ancients called by the name of 'Gætulians' all the people of Africa who dwelt south of the Mauritanias and Numidia, as far as the line which, according to their ideas, separated Africa from Æthiopia.

38 The Quorra most probably of modern geographers.

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  • Cross-references to this page (44):
    • Harper's, Abrotŏnum
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