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African desert, which must be acknowledged to be at once accurate and just.
In the tract westward from Egypt, behind the great "African forehead," the first object was the celebrated and sacred shrine of Ammon, dedicated to the Theban Jove, and to which the Greeks ascribed a higher prophetic power than even to their own Delphic Oracle. This temple, situated in the midst of almost inaccessible deserts, was distinguished for a fountain, which, warm at midnight, became always colder and colder till noon. Ten days' journey beyond Ammon lay Agila, occupied by the Nasamones, a numerous people, who in winter fed their flocks on the seacoast, and in summer repaired to collect and store up the dates here growing on extensive forests of palm-trees. To this people are ascribed various singular customs, among which was their mode of foreseeing the future by laying themselves to sleep on the tombs of their ancestors, watching the dreams which arose in this position, and treasuring them up as oracles. Bordering upon them had formerly been the Psylli, famous for the charming of serpents, an art not yet wholly lost in this region; but that tribe, suffering once under a severe drought, had been so ill informed as to proceed southward in hope of finding water, where, being involved in those vast and burning deserts, they entirely perished, and their place was taken by the Nasamones. Beyond them, the Macae inhabited a beautiful region wa tered by the river Cinyps, on whose bank rose "the hill of the Graces," covered with a profusion of the finest foliage. Such is still the gay and brilliant aspect which the neighbourhood of Bengazi presents. To the south of the Ñasamones, in a region almost resigned to wild beasts, the Garamantes inhabited an extensive valley, now called Fezzan. They are represented under characters of which the present natives retain no trace, as a solitary and timid people, shunning the intercourse and society of men, destitute of arms, and not even attempting to defend themselves against foreign aggression.
After the Gindanes and the Lotophagi, who ate the lotus and made wine from its fruit, came the Machlyes and the Auses, dwelling round the lake of Tritonis; the scene of the reported birth and oracle of Minerva, with which were connected many celebrated fables of ancient mythology. It
is with reluctance that reference is here made to what the venerable father of history has related respecting the conduct of the young ladies in this region; and we should hope that scandal on this subject may have been as busy in the coteries of Sais and of On, as in some modern circles. Can it be believed, that among the Gindanes they should form threads of skin, and tie a knot on it for every lover who had sought and won their favour, measuring their importance by the number of these knots; or is it probable that, at the marriage of the Nasamones, the favour of the bride should have been shared by all the guests equally with the husband? Nor is there much to admire in the annual festival celebrated by the virgins of the Auses, when their fair hands were employed in throwing stones against each other with such fury, that several were commonly left dead on the spot. The fate of these sufferers was peculiarly hard, since it was supposed to justify the most unfavourable suspicions respecting their previous life. After all, this rough sport of the Libyan belles is not much ruder than one which we shall find still practised among the most distinguished dames of Bornou.
Proceeding farther westward, Herodotus finds a tribe of the Auses, called Maxyes, who cultivated the ground; and he is now on the border of the Carthaginian territory, of which, for reasons that Major Rennel cannot fully comprehend, he forbears to treat. He follows the direction of the interior, from the Garamantes, beyond whom were Ethiopians dwelling in caves, and running so swiftly that the former people were obliged to hunt them in chariots,—a proceeding very unsuitable to the meek character elsewhere ascribed to them, and which, we fear, may have been practised with the evil intent of carrying off these poor victims as slaves. Our author comes next to the Atlantes, and relates several things which with better knowledge he would probably have omitted. He pretends, for example, that none of them bear proper names; that they neither eat animal food nor dream dreams; and, what is not quite so improbable, that on seeing the sun rise, they pour reproaches and execrations on him for the manner in which he burns and destroys their land. Behind them rises the long and lofty range of Atlas, whose head is said to remain for ever invisible and wrapped in clouds, and which the natives believe
to be the pillar of heaven,-a creed adopted, or perhaps invented, by the Greeks and Romans. Herodotus here stops, frankly owning that his information did not enable him to go farther. The only other accounts which had reached him respected a nation beyond the Pillars of Hercules, with whom the Carthaginians carried on trade in a very peculiar manner. This wild and timid race would not approach or hold parley with the strangers, who, on drawing near to the shore, kindled a fire, uttered loud cries, and laid on the sand a certain quantity of goods. The natives, hearing them, and seeing the smoke, came down, surveyed the deposite, placed beside it a certain portion of gold, the precious article of their traffic, and withdrew. The Carthaginians approached to examine the tender thus made, and, according to their estimate of its value, either carried away the gold or left the whole untouched; in which last case, the natives understood that more of the precious metal was expected. Thus the parties went backwards and forwards till the exchange was adjusted.
If the accounts given by Herodotus of this western region be tinctured with fable, the narrative of Diodorus shows still more that the ancients had made it one of the grand theatres of their mythology. To it they refer the ancient and early reign of Saturn, under the appellation of Ouranus, or Heaven; the birth of Jupiter, and his nursing by Amalthea; the impious race of the Titans, and their wars with the sky; Cybele, with her doting love for Atys, and frantic grief for his fate. Diodorus represents the Atlantic people as claiming these objects for themselves; but it seems much more probable that the warm imagination of the Greeks, attracted by the mysterious grandeur of the region, transported thither the creations of their own fancy. Our author, however, makes a positive averment as to the existence of a race of Amazons there, still more warlike and formidable than those on the banks of the Thermodon. They did not, like these last, positively exterminate or expel the male sex from their confines; but, reserving to themselves all the high cares of war and government, employed their lords in keeping the house, tending the children, and performing all the functions which are elsewhere exclusively assigned to females. As soon as the wife had gone through the necessary trouble of bearing a child, she handed
it to the husband to be nursed, and immediately resumed her own high and arduous occupations. These gallant viragoes, it is said, not only ravaged all this part of Africa, but passed the Isthmus of Suez, and carried their victorious arms into Syria and Asia Minor. What foundation there may be in fact for this story of the Western Amazons, it is not easy to conjecture; but the Tuaricks, a numerous native race still found in those regions, treat their females with greater respect and allow them more liberty than is usually granted among their neighbours. These were not the only fierce and warlike females who spread terror through Africa. Diodorus places here the Gorgons, who caused death by the mere hideousness of their aspect, and the serpents hissing in the hair of Medusa. Yet, amid all these terrible fables, he gives a just description of the back settlements of Northern Africa; representing them as thinly inhabited by wandering tribes, as bounded by an extensive uniform plain resembling the ocean, covered with piles of sand of which the termination was unknown, and which, instead of any object that could cheer the eye or refresh the senses, swarmed with serpents of huge form and magnitude, that inflicted instant death on the unwary traveller. These reptiles were even reported to have once invaded Egypt, and driven before them a crowd of its terrified inhabitants.
Strabo, who wrote after the Roman sway was fully established over Africa, gives a much more sober report of its western regions. Extending his view beyond the Atlas, he describes the Mauri, peopling a rich territory on the Atlantic coast capable of yielding the most copious harvests; but nothing could wean the nation from the wandering life in which they delighted, moving continually with their tents from place to place, wrapped in the skins of wild beasts, riding without saddle, and often without bridle, on small, swift, active horses. He represents them as fighting with sword and spear, not with the poisoned arrows imputed to them by Horace, which, however, are really used at present in Central Africa. Eastward, around Carthage, he finds the Massesyli, who followed once the same wandering life, and were called Nomades or Numidians; but Masinissa had already inured them to the practice of agriculture, and to some of the refinements of polished life. Carthage at its first sub
jection was razed to the ground and left long desolate; but the Romans, at length attracted by the view of the fine region which surrounds it, sent thither a colony, who soon elevated it to its former rank as the greatest city of Africa.
Another territory, of which the ancients had considerable knowledge, was that which extended upwards along the Nile, the immediate borders of which have always been not only habitable but fertile. Nothing astonished them more than to see this great river, which, after flowing through a region where there did not fall & drop of rain, and where it was not fed by a single rivulet, began to swell at a certain season, rose always higher and higher, till at length it overflowed its banks, and spread like a sea over Lower Egypt. Some of the hypotheses formed to account for this inundation deserve to be noticed. The most prevalent opinion ascribed it to the Etesian winds blowing from the north periodically, and so violently, that the waters of the Nile, thereby prevented from reaching the sea, necessarily spread over the land; but Diodorus clearly shows, besides the reason being itself insufficient, that there was no correspondence in the periods; observing also, that the Etesian winds blew up many other rivers without producing this effect. The philosophers of Memphis, it seems, followed even by Mela, the great Latin geographer, surmised that the unknown and inaccessible fountains of the Nile lay on the opposite side of the globe, where during our summer it was winter; consequently, the greatest rains then fell, and the swollen waters, flowing across the whole breadth of the torrid zone, acquired that soft and mellow taste which made them so agreeable. But the most singular hypothesis is that of Ephorus, who thought that Egypt is full of gaps or chinks which in winter absorb the water, but sweat it out under the influence of the summer heat. Diodorus takes superfluous pains to show that this theory, so absurd in itself, had no correspondence with the facts of the case. The real cause, arising from the rains which fall on the high mountains in the interior and tropical regions, was mentioned and strongly supported by Agatharchides, who wrote a learned work on the Red Sea; which, however, was far from attaining the favourable reception that it merited.
The name of Ethiopia was very generally applied by the ancients to the south of Africa, and even of Arabia, and