Selected Writings of William Sharp, Vol. IV, Travel Sketches
Nearly two thousand years ago the inhabitants of Thysdritana Colonia watched their vast and magnificent Amphitheatre grow towards completion. It was to be a place of pleasure for them and their children and their children's children, and to be a monument of Rome's eternal endurance, her irresistible sway, her invincible empire. Yet, ere a few generations had gone by after its first unremembered disaster, Thysdrus was already a wild and ruined spot, and a Libyan chieftainess made it her eyry and proud vantage. Vandal and Arab went over it as waves over low land where the dykes have given way. Thysdrus disappeared as though blotted from the earth. The Amphitheatre stood as magnificent in its ruin as of yore, yet in ruin. To-day the heedless nomad makes his lair under its arches. For the rest, it knows the owl and the bat. In the fierce summer, when the wandering Bedouin has gone to the mountains or the coast, these nocturnal inheritors of the glory of Thysdrus share it with the hyena and the jackal. For the rune of Thysdrus is the rune of Rome in Africa, of "imperishable Rome." The noble music is dead. But only now is this drear silence being understood aright; only now the ultimate cause and inevitable fulfilment of this colossal ruin of the mightiest empire the world has known. In the lesson of Rome we have a menace, an omen not to be gainsaid, an augury eloquent as death in the midst of life, as well as the stimulus of a supreme example.
ROME IN AFRICAI
To write in full the story of the march of Rome in Africa would involve an undertaking on a Gibbonian scale. The record is a stirring one, even if read or heard far from where the war-boats of the triumphant Republic succeeded the Carthaginian galleys--to be in turn ousted by the piratical rovers of the European littoral. The story has, in truth, an epic grandeur which would appeal to us even if the theme were not already illumined, now here, now there, by the genius of Livy and Sallust, of Strabo and Polybius.
On the one side of the Mid-Sea a vast territory makes a landway between the Atlantic and the waters of the Orient. For generations this looming continent meant, to the young nation of Rome, Carthage only. From the Homeric Isle of the Lotos-Eaters to the huge shoulder of Atlas, that hid from the Romans they knew not what mysterious tract of virgin land or unoared sea, the shadow of the Great City lay, a shadow minatory as well as awe-inspiring. Then "the veil of the inviolate" was rent. Sicily, which Greece had peopled and the Sidonian trader had won, was the first tangled mesh of the net in which the glory of Carthage was caught and strangled. Then came that mighty struggle for the lordship of the sea. The greatest soldier whom the world has ever seen vowed that Rome should lie prostrate before her ancient enemy. Hannibal, as we know, triumphed over the ignorance and madness of the civic merchants and fathers, and accomplished an unparalleled feat in the transportation of an army of Numidian barbarians, Greek archers, Balearic slingers, Hispanian spearmen, and Gaulish swordsman across the thitherto impregnable barrier of the Alps. For years he lay like a nightmare on the breast of palpitating Italy. Yet even at the bloody rout at the Trebia, even by the shores of that Umbrian lake where the reeds were stained red in the gore of an exterminated army, even at Cannae, where Hannibal reached the pinnacle of his fame and Rome knew her lowest fall--even then the wind bore the sigh of a terrible lamentation, Delenda est Carthago!
The ebb of this gigantic tide of war began after that appalling slaughter at dawn by the intricate windings of the Metaurus, when Claudius Nero threw into the camp of the Carthaginian the head of his brother Hasdrubal. The rumour of this ebb was heard all along the Latin coasts when, as Hannibal learned, with prescient dread of the inevitable, Cornelius Scipio-Scipio Africanus--had set sail for Africa from Lilybæum, that old-time vanguard of the Sidonian Empire, and had landed unopposed at the Fair Promontory,* beyond which, but a few years before, no Roman galley had dared to show its prow. Had he prescience also of that little
*To the moderns known as Cape Bon. Again and again the Carthaginians stipulated to the Greeks and Romans "Thus far and no farther!"
Bithynian town near the Sea of Marmora of which the Oracle had spoken, where, after long wanderings, and after many years, he should find release in that potent grain of poison which, even in the day of victory, he carried in his ring? So at the last died Hannibal, son of Hamilcar, knowing that Punic Carthage was soon or late to fall for ever, and that already the neck of his nation was under the heel of Rome. A memorable year, that hundred and eightythird before our Christian era; for then also died Scipio, Hannibal's conqueror, in exile and bitterness of heart. Within one year, again, nearly four decades later (B.C. 146), Carthage, after a final deathstruggle, was razed to the ground by another Scipio, and Corinth, dragging with it the pride of Hellas, fell from her high estate.
It was not till the third Punic war that North Africa became one of the greatest provinces of the Roman Empire, and was able to supply the suzerain power with mercenaries, innumerable horse, and vast stores of grain beyond all reckoning--to become, in a word, the granary of Rome. Speedily, indeed, the African Province became indispensable as a source of grainsupply. Just as in Great Britain to-day the whole yield of grain would be utterly inadequate to the need of the nation, so, in the late republican and early imperial days of Rome, Italy could not do more than produce enough to feed her soldiers. So exigent was this need at all times that historians have agreed in saying that war in Africa meant famine in Rome. Even in the days of Julius Cæsar the sovran power had its feet among the corn-fields of Ifrikia: without those corn-fields ruinous collapse of Rome's metropolitan sway might soon have happened. Most of us who remember our Livy will recollect how Pompey, in revolt against the dominant power, stopped the export of grain from the African ports, thus hoping to gain swifter and easier surrender on the part of Cæsar. But though the Roman populace laughed at first, it soon whimpered. Bread became a luxury, and grain food of all kind threatened to discontinue. At the urgent prayers of the people, Cæsar was at last forced to arrange a treaty with his rival. Even then the great city had begun that career of trust in accidental aid to her supremacy which in due time was to end so disastrously. When, later, Cæsar brought the fratricidal war in Africa to a close, and punished the revolted towns, he imposed enormous indemnity demands--demands which at that time no other country in the world could have met. From the small town of Leptis alone, that port where Hannibal had landed from Italy when he came in haste, but vainly, to the relief of Carthago, Plutarch tells us he obtained a fine of 2,500,000 pounds of oil. To the Roman citizens he declared on his return that they could depend on Africa for an annual contribution Of 200,000 bushels of corn and 3,000,000 pounds' weight of oil. In the reign of the Emperor Commodus this transmarine traffic had become so vast as well as so increasingly important that two great fleets of ships were built for this carrying-trade. It was in a ship of one of these fleets, a vessel named the Castor and Pollux, in which St. Paul embarked from Malta. In the time of Constantine the whole wheat-supply of Africa went to the Italian markets, while Byzantium was enriched with that of Egypt.
What bitterness there must have been in all this to the broken Carthaginian nation! The "Glory of the World" had sunk into "a granary for the Roman people, a hunting-ground for their amphitheatres, and an emporium for slaves."*
Generations after the last Punic war, when an obscure and persecuted faith had become the Church Militant. Africa, however, was to give to her and to the world one of the greatest of her Fathers, one of the most treasured of her books, as to the pagan literature of all time it was to bring the poet-philosopher whose story of Cupidoro and Psyche is still loveliest of all tales to tell. St. Augustine, Apuleius --great names these, though others there are to cherish likewise with gratitude or admiration.
What a wonderful wave of new life that march of Rome across the northern extremity of what was then almost wholly the Dark Continent--that steady, relentless march from the Tripolitan coast across mountains and deserts, along town-studded shores where the Punic speech was paramount, down the vast valleys of the Aurès (Mons Aurasius), whither the fierce indigenous folk had already begun to concentrate, over interminable plains scorched by the sun, tortured by drought, haunted by miasma, round the gigantic slopes of the Altas, and so onward, till the great awe came upon all when there was no more land, but only the Atlantic surf blown upon the white walls of Tingis (Tangier), over against the Pillars of Hercules.
No wonder that, to the Romans themselves, the story was, as already said, of epic grandeur! They had absorbed Greece, they had destroyed the Phoenician Empire, they had begun that unparalleled quest of the impossible which is still the most marvellous chapter in the chronicle of human history, and to them it seemed that they were not only invincible, but "the one people." The Roman Empire was that blind aristocrat among nations in whose ears was nothing but the bewildering acclaim of its own deeds, in whose eyes the fine dust of its own wayfaring. It had not yet had reason to know that Greece, in dying, had bequeathed her subtle but sure revenge; that when, in Africa, Marius the Consul was permitted by the Senate to extend his power, that dreadful system of tyranny was involved which Rome's whole effort had been to render impossible; that with her evergrowing congregation of slaves, from remotest Asia to Ultima Thule, she was, as it were, building the walls of her greatness with self- disintegrating mortar.
This march of Rome in Africa was described by her historians with the onesidedness characteristic of the Roman scribe in all epochs. They recorded with pride the rise of fair cities along that distant littoral, in the recesses of that land; but, after all, Hippo Regius remote Carthage, was already the offspring of Julia Cæsarea was but the Punic Iol, and it was a Phoenician, not a Latin, folk who built Tapsus and Igilgilis. Far inland, Cirta had frowned from her mountain seat long before the Romans had ever heard of their first African ally, Masinissa and the dark-skinned traders at Sicca Veneris (Succoth-Benoth) had no need to know Latin to transact their business with the Phoenician merchants who fared to the City of the Rock.
To-day the Bedouin wanders where of old the Roman walked in pride. To-day there is desolation, or but a new and often crude amelioration of Moorish undoing, where in that far yesterday a democratic civilisation prevailed.
An immense wave of civilisations indeed, must have spread inland from Carthage--south-eastward, westward, and along the Mediterranean coast. It was swept before the more potent wave of Rome as mysteriously as its far greater counterpart in Etruria. The stronger power not only absorbed the weaker, but obliterated it. Nationality, language, nomenclature even, perished, or underwent as radical a change as the name of the Queen City itself.* Even before the Byzantine rule the transformation was complete. When the Vandals came as a crowd of destroying locusts and settled upon the land, from the frontiers of Mauritania to Uthina of the Buried Treasure and to the Syrtean Gulf, there could hardly have been a trace of Punic domination left to add zest to the barbaric ruining of the Roman dominion.
*The Punic name of Carthage was Kartha-Hadatha (Kart-Hadact), which on Greek lips became Carchedon, and, on Latin, Carthago.
So that while the Latin wanderer, at the time of the close of the second Punic war, would still have found the Carthaginian race, language, and manner throughout the African Province, he would have discovered a rapid ebb in this seven centuries' tide, even after the crowning triumph of the younger Scipio. His son might traverse the same road and see only the standards of Rome, salute only the proconsular authority instead of that of the Soffete of Carthage, and find that civis Romanus sum was the one passport for the orderly and safe faring forth to which he had set himself. It might even be that his grandson would seek in vain at Sicca Veneris itself for any acknowledged worshipper of the Sidonian Ashtoreth; in vain ask at Ubbo for what the image-traders of Hippone no longer sold, Baal-Hammon having vanished before Jupiter; and it might well be that along the whole seaboard, from Hadrumetum (Susa) to Icosium (Algiers), he would hear the children answer him in the same tongue that he himself as a child had heard by the Tiber-side.
It was not till long after the destruction of Carthage by Scipio Africanus the Younger that the African Province was marked off into great colonies or states. The Roman domination, indeed, which really began during the sway of the Numidian potentate Masinissa, was not frankly displayed till the accession of Micipsa. So frank was it that when the great Jugurtha succeeded his uncle, no Numidian rose against him because he had removed Hiempsal and Adherbal, the legitimate heirs, and this because he had declared war to the death against the rapacious power which had swallowed Carthage and now hungered for Numidia, because he had refused to bow, as Micipsa and his sons had done, before a Roman legate. In the seven years' struggle which ensued, the Republic spilt its blood freely, and, as though the Numidian prince were another Hannibal, sent against him her ablest generals. Perhaps even the conqueror Marius would not have achieved his crowning victory but for the treachery of Bocchus, King of Mauritania, who did not scruple to betray a champion who was at once the national hero and his son-in-law. With the fall of Jugurtha the dominion of Rome in Africa became supreme. The nations beyond the eastern Atlas, even the nomad peoples who had trafficked with the Carthaginians, and brought rumours of the vanished glory of a still more ancient Semitic race which had penetrated the continent as far as the Mountains of the Moon, sent ambassadors to Tunis, to Cirta, to Hippone, with offers of alliance and service. Everywhere, in the inland cities as well as in the towns along the littoral, the proconsular authority was not only sovran but autocratic.
Let us glance for a moment at the further achievement of Rome in Africa before the Cæsarean division. When the third Punic war ended in the overthrow of Carthage, the Romans indulged in the mistake of believing that the city, as well as the Phoenician Empire, had been utterly destroyed. Almost certainly this ruin was not that complete annihilation which the orators of the Forum proclaimed to the Populace. In any case, thirty years later the Punic city was thoroughly Romanised by Caius Gracchus. As Colonia Carthago, in the period of Julius Cæsar and Augustus, it was one of the finest cities of the empire. Its utter destruction came later, when the Vandal overthrew its few remaining temples, when the Arab strode through its grassgrown ways, and when the Turkish horse stamped on the fallen marble and porphyry that are now to be sought in the byways of Tunis, or in the towns of Italy whither the Pisan and Genoese corsairs blithely conveyed them.
It was in the proconsulate of Lucius Paulinus that the Romans overcame the whole of Mauritania, and lifted the eagles of Rome against the farther as well as the hither flanks of Atlas. Under Claudius, Roman Africa extended from the Nile to the Atlantic Ocean. He it was who divided the vast province of Mauritania into Tingitana and Mauritania Cæsariensis, the former with Tingis for its capital, the latter with ancient Iol, renamed Julia Cæsarea, as its queen city. The distinction has endured to this day, though Tangier is no longer the capital of the Empire of Morocco (Tingitana), and Cherchell is but a small seaport in the great French colony of Algeria.*
*Mauritania Cæsariensis comprised what is now the province of Oran and the greater part of that of Algeria
But, before this, proconsular Africa had been officially organised. Till Cæsar annexed Numidia, on that momentous occasion when he fared over sea, not to fight with the mountain-king struggling for independence, but to quell the insubordination of the Pompeiian faction, who would fain have wrested the ancient Carthaginian realm from his grasp--till then, the African Province consisted of Tripolitana, Byzacium, and Zeugitana--that is, the whole extent of what is now the Beylick of Tripoli and the Regency of Tunisia. But, with the absorption of Numidia, the frontier was extended so as to comprise the greater part of what is now the province of Constantine. Beyond Numidia the whole reach of country was known as Mauritania.
It was not till 74 B.C. that the vast tract to the east of Tripoli ceased to be a kingdom and became part of Roman Africa. With Cyrenaïca, the proconsular dominion now extended from Egypt to the Atlantic. Cæsar, a quarter of a century later, definitively partitioned the country into the provinces of Zeugitana, Numidia, Mauritania Orientalis, and Mauritania Occidentalis--broadly, Tunisia, the province of Constantine, Algeria (with the province of Oran), and the empire of Morocco, of to-day. It was at this time also that he placed Numidia under the rule of Sallust, who proved so excellent a historian and so merciless a viceroy. We owe too much to Sallust's brilliant record of Jugurtha and the Jugurthine war not to rejoice at Cæsar's choice, though it was an ill day for the traders of Numidia when the cold, keen, cynical, implacable Roman aristocrat took over the government of the country, and bid it be tributary to him and to the state.
By this time Utica, "the ancient town," as its name signifies, which was a flourishing Sidonian colony when Dido sailed to Africa from Tyre on that memorable expedition which ended in the creation of a new Phoenician town (Kartha-Hadatha, the New Town, in contradistinction to Utica, the old), had been made the metropolis of Roman Africa. It had seen the outgoing of Hanno's world-famous armada to seek new lands (B.C. 446), the return of Hamilcar from his disastrous attempt to convert Sicily into a Sidonian colony (B.C. 481), and was itself the landingplace and captive stronghold of Agathocles the Greek, in the day when Hellas learned she was to have the empire of the world. It had watched Dido build Carthage; it had witnessed the superb efflorescence of that city through seven centuries; it had seen it utterly laid waste by Scipio. Here "New Rome" had its brief dream . . . to pass away with the suicide of Cato within these ancient walls. Like "the patient East," it had bowed before the storm, and it survived to see itself inherit the civic dignity of its sister city. But its triumph was a poor one, won as it was through wrong and meanness and treachery. Throughout its long life of a thousand years it never accomplished anything great. Nor does it seem ever to have been beautiful and a place of joy, as was Cyrene, across the gulf to the east; though that the decorative arts flourished there has been proved beyond question. To-day it consists of the wretched Arab village of Bou-Chater, set in a waste and miasmic place. Few care to visit it, save archaeologists. Utica lived a thousand years or more; Tunis is of an equal antiquity; but an hour of the Athens of Pericles would be worth the lifetime of a Punic trader, and a day of imperial Rome would outweigh the petty chronicle of the dull æon of the town which, Leo Africanus tells us, is no other than Sidonian Tarshish.
Practically all North Africa was now in the grip of Rome. From desert Libya to the regions of the mysterious Troglodytæ, from impenetrable Æthiopia northwestward to the Atlantic littoral, northeastward to superbly fertile, inexhaustible Africa Propria, the whisper of Rome was heard.
To have won this mighty conquest was, of itself, an imperial destiny. Rome was now inevitably the mistress of the Western World. With proconsular Africa as her base, with her maritime dominion established along the whole coast, from the prow of Sicily to ancient Massilia, and thence by subject Spain till Europe and Africa met face to face at the narrow strait-- "fretum nostri maris," Sallust writes, with pride in the possessive pronoun-- Rome might well scan with eagle eyes the wide vista of the ancient world, from the furthest Asian steppe to that remote hyperborean region of which barbarian whispers had already reached her ears.
The traveller who would scrupulously examine the route of this great march of Rome in North Africa could not do so from any one locality on the Punic coast with intent to move thence undeviatingly westward; for the feet of the conquerors fared now this way and now that. As we have seen, Cyrenaïca became a Roman province long after the fires of Baal had ceased to flame on the Carthaginian gulf, and the south lands were accepted tributaries when Mauritania was still ruled in name only, and when the tribes of Zeugitana knew Rome more as a rumour than as a dread actuality. Uthina and Thysdrus, though to the south of Carthage, were occupied (if not created) by Rome later than Sicca, that lay under the eastward shadow of Numidia, and Cirta was still a Berber citadel when the Italian merchant galleys were moored in the roadstead of Hippone.
But if this pilgrim would traverse the North African empire from end to end, not with too careful heed to the steps of Rome, as that power moved this way and that in her restless quest of dominion, but attentive only to the whole reach of the domain ultimately acquired by her, he would do well to start from that plateau of Barca which lies between the eastern Tripolitan frontier and the extreme of Egypt; or, better still, from the hither side of the Djebel Akabah-el-Kebir. This was the Calabathmus Magnus of the Romans, and, as the skirt of Egypt was the recognised ancient limits of Asia and Africa. From the earliest times Cyrenaïca was famous for its fertility and beauty. For hundreds of years Cyrene was, in the estimate of Greek, Egyptian, and Roman, what the Arab poets afterwards called Panormus (Palermo)--the Gate of Paradise. Though Cyrenaïca has been a region of desolation since the Saracenic invasion, following on the ruin wrought upon it by the Persian satrap Chosroes, and though the five vanished cities of Pentapolis were for generations the haunts of the jackal and the wandering Bedouin, the traveller will be well repaid if he go thither. From the site of Cyrene itself is a vista of surpassing beauty; near the forlorn modern village are the marvellous stalactitic caves which gave rise to the once familiar tales of a petrified city. But, above all, what memories, what visions, of what here was once so real, of what befell here in that dim long ago!
Herodotus tells us that at so remote a date as the 37th Olympiad (about B.C. 628) a colony of Greeks was guided by a chief of the Libyan nomads to this garden of Africa, and that the Dorian leader, finding a spring of inexhaustible pure water, dedicated the fountain to Apollo, settled close by, and called the place Kyre--whence probably Cyrene, though the name is claimed to have been given by Aristæus in memory of his mother, that "daughter of Peneus" of whom Apollo had become enamoured. To this day one may hear from Arab lips the echo of the old Dorian name in Kurin, as in the instance of the four other towns of Pentapolis, of Barca (Apolloynia), Ptolemais, Berenice, and Tauchira (Arsinoë), in Barca, Tollamata, Bernic, and Taukera.
Howsoever it was founded, and whatever the vicissitudes the kingdom of which it formed part endured, Cyrene was a republic in the time of Aristotle, and, as Sallust has told us, was potent enough to dispute with Carthage the question of what would now be called a scientific frontier. Cyrenaica became, as already mentioned, a Roman province in B.C. 76, having been transferred from the empire of the Ptolemies to the custody of the Roman Senate as a free gift or bequest on the part of Apio the Tranquil.
But the stranger, standing on the terraced uplands that overlook what was Pentapolis, and pondering what this ancient Libyan country might have become had Cyrene outvantaged Carthage in the struggle for supremacy; had Cyrenaïca, with Greece and Egypt behind her, risen as mistress of the Mediterranean, in despite of Phonicia and in affront of Rome--the visitor to this sun-scorched loneliness will also remember that it was here the wise Aristippus preached his hedonistic doctrine, to the scandal of all Christian moralists ever since; that here were born Eratosthenes the historian and Callimachus the poet; and that hence went that nameless Jew whom the Roman soldiery compelled to bear one end of the cross whereon Christ was crucified. Strange indeed that the Jews resorted thither in such numbers, even before the Christian era! Was this the reason why Cyrene lost its high estate? Was it that the worshipper of Apollo would not bide the Hebrew fanatic? Cyrenian Jews, as we know, were present at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost; and are we not told in the Acts of the Apostles that Christian Jews of Cyrene, fleeing with their Cyprian comrades from the wrath of their countrymen and rulers, were the first preachers of Christianity to the Greeks of Antioch? But before the Jews, before the Romans, Cyrenaica was the beautiful land of Apollo and Aphrodite, Cyrene the fair city whose fountains and proud steeds were immortalised by Pindar.
It is a matter of choice whether the start in the footsteps of Rome be made from Susa or Tunis. From his own experience the present writer would suggest, for a trip limited to French Africa, and to exclude the pachalik of Tripoli, a visit to Tunis and Carthage first, and then to go by steamer to Susa, whence after some swallowflights to the north and south, to strike westward. But, for convenience' sake, let us suppose that we are bound for Susa by the inlarid route, viâ Oudina, Zaghouan, and Kairouan, and that we have already visited Utica and Carthage and the Hermean Promontory.
It is a beautiful as well as fascinating journey from Tunis as far as Zaghouan, and can be done in one day if an early start be made, so as to allow from three to five hours for tramping over the five or six mile area of ruined Uthina (Oudina). How well I remember that glorious spring day when, after having driven some fourteen kilometres from Tunis, leaving on the right the great salt lake called Sebka-es-Sedjoumi, and having passed through the desolate ruins of Mohammedia, I saw for the first time the great aqueduct which, in ancient days carried along its sixty-mile reach from Mount Zaghouan seven million gallons of water a day into Carthage. There is nothing more impressive in the world than this vast creature, as it seems, that appears to move majestically along the plain, now so desolate and filled with the dust of oblivion, but once alive with Punic industry and the commerce of great and populous Roman cities. Even those travellers who have seen the superb aqueduct near Nimes, in Provence, even those who have looked with wonder and admiration at the mighty ruins which serrate the Campagna as though they were impregnable barriers of reef in the grip of the sea, must admit that this Carthaginian aqueduct, perhaps the greatest work wrought by the Romans in North Africa, is a not less mighty achievement. Here, too, one may see the solitary goatherd standing beneath some giant arch, within his eyes the mystery of the great silence and greater loneliness but here he is of a race more ancient even than that of the Campagna shepherd, is clothed in a long grey-white robe instead of in goat-skins, and for austere greeting or response has only "Allah is great!*
*Most of the shepherds employed in this part of Tunisia are Berbers from the eastern Aurès, and are racially quite distinct from the nomad Arabs, whom they resemble so much in most respects, and with whom they are at one in religion. They are of that ancient race which inhabited Africa not only before the arrival of the Romans, but before Utica had a rival in Carthage, probably before the first Sidonian ever adventured beyond the Hermean Promontory.
It is a common mistake in Tunis--due largely to the ignorant misrepresentation of the so-called "guides," not one of whom is worth the five francs a day he is wont to demand for what he euphemistically calls his services--that Punic Carthage benefited by this great aqueduct. Even when Caius Gracchus rebuilt the city that thirty years earlier had been laid in ruins by the younger Scipio, the inhabitants were dependent mainly upon their storage from rainfall; largely in the primitive manner to be seen at this day at Sfax, where the innumerable gourd-shaped rain-receptacles at first puzzle the stranger. It was not till the indefatigable Hadrian (in A.D. 120) was induced by the wealthy citizens of New Carthage to bridge the distance between them and Mons Zeugitanus--a gigantic undertaking, not adequately completed till the reign of Septimius Severus--that the Carthaginian could stoop, as his Moorish or French fellow citizen of to-day can do, and drink the clear cold mountain water within the gates of the city. Alas! this magnificent work was to share the fate which overtook its Campagna prototype. When Gilimer, the last of the Vandal kings, brought his hordes to besiege Carthage, he ordered its partial destruction, as a material aid in the investiture of the unfortunate city; and though, later, it was restored by the Byzantine general Belisarius, its still more disastrous ruin was accomplished during the great Arab invasion which followed the heroic gallop across Africa of Mohammed's friend and fiery lieutenant, Okba-bin-Nafa. So mighty were the vast arches, so huge the span of their collective length, that there was even yet scope for barbaric havoc on the part of the Spaniards when Charles V. sent his enormous cosmopolitan armada to the undoing of the corsair stronghold. For generations the broken skeleton was extant, though, indeed, even its devertebrate parts bid fair to vanish altogether through fanatical ignorance on the one hand and selfish folly on the other. Then the French engineering genius came to the rescue, and to-day any one who will visit the great Cistern and fountain just within that southeastern gate of Tunis known as the Bab Sidi Abdullah-esh-Sherif will see as copious and rejoicing a flood of pure mountain water as that which in Rome gushes forth from the conduits of the Acqua Paolo on the Janiculum, or whirls its spray over the doves which ceaselessly flit to and fro above the fount of Trevi.
A mile or two from Oued, Melian (or Miliana, a common name for a stream signifying "ample" or "full") is crossed and the traveller will have already rightly guessed it to be the Catada of Ptolemy-- the rough path for Oudina breaks off to the left. The aqueduct is left behind, and one bears south-eastward through an everincreasing number of megalithic and other ruins.
I found the country of a singular desolation and wildness, though not without some faint-hearted signs of agricultural industry here and there. Only once on the way did we encounter a human being in motion, an Arab from Kairouan, mounted on a camel. I say in motion, for twice we caught sight of ragged Bedouin goatherds prone among the dry reedy grass, as lifeless apparently as bronze statues, save for the watchful gleam in their dark eyes.
I admit to a difficulty in speaking without undue enthusiasm about this widespread Wilderness of ruins that once was Uthina. Carthage, though it is but a site, after all, with few external aids for the recreative imagination, has a lovelier view, seaward and across the great gulf, and inland by the mountain range, from cleft Bou-Kornein to the gigantic shadow of what to the Romans was Mons Zeugitanus; Tebessa is more magnificent in her ruin; Timgad has a more swift appeal to the eye; the hundred other ruined towns, inland or by the sea, or high set among the hills, have each their own grandeur, beauty, or desolate impressiveness. But, as to every one there is one paramount loveliness, one particular mountain range or happy valley, one signally fortunate marriage of land and sea, or one rarest town, village, or homestead, so there is for most of us one place of ancient ruin of an incomparable haunting charm. No association is to be held to account here, for almost nothing is known of this ancient city. No one can tell when Oudina grew up in the desert, or if the Roman town was superimposed on a Phcenician site. One French authority has suggested its identity with the Tricamaron, where the hoarded treasure of Genseric was accumulated, till Belisarius and his Byzantine troops annihilated the Vandals under Gilimer; but this is surmise only. It has no history, save that it rose, flourished, fell, and disappeared. But it must have been an immense city, second perhaps only to Carthage itself. There is peril for the unwary explorer searching amidst the débris of the amphitheatre, the theatre, the huge reservoirs, the inchoate citadel, and that vast and nameless ruin further to the eastward; for at any moment he may be precipitated into some obscure chasm, half hid by impending slabs of stone or by rank weeds. Indeed, anywhere within a radius of three or four miles he must perforce be vigilant, particularly if mounted on mule or horse back. What a superb view can be had from any point amid this voiceless, lifeless desolation! To the west, the lonely plain with the serpentine aqueduct; to the south and east, the Zeugitanian mountain range; to the north the shine of the sea beyond the white splatch that is Tunis, with, it may be, a gleam of golden light flashing upon Sidibou-Said, the Arab village on the summit of the headland immediately to the west of Carthage. Voiceless and lifeless only in the hot months; for in winter and early spring one will be annoyed by a wild barking of shepherd dogs, as fretful and suspicious if not so malignant as those of the Campagna; and will catch glimpses of the proud, resentful Bedouin Arabs, who have their gourbis among the boulderlike ruins on the citadel heights. I know not why those Oudina nomads struck me as more barbaric in mien than the Bedouin of other parts, and forlorn almost as the troglodyte Berbers whom ere this I had seen beyond Tlemçen, near the Morocco frontier, but so it was. What memorable hours these that we spent in silent Uthina! For visible record I have but a little coin, found amidst a tangle of stone and weed. Alas! I am no numismatist, and so learned little from my treasure-trove, though now I know it to be Byzantine money of the reign of Constantine the Great (circa A.D. 300).
Twenty miles further south bring one to the ancient capital of Africa Propria. Zaghouan is, however, a disappointing place; the few streets are insignificant and malodorous; there is no inn where a European can lodge, or even obtain provision; and the general air of the inhabitants seems equivalent to saying that all the infidels in the world are not worth one fez, the manufacture of which headpiece, or rather the dyeing of it, is the hereditary trade and sole occupation of the Zaghouanite. But the beautiful and romantically situated little Roman temple in the valley of Aïn Ayah is, to the said infidels, worth all the fezzes betwixt Tangier and Stambool. There is a delicious fount, where one's mind may have iced fancies while the body cools. In Zaghouan itself nothing of ancient Zeugis is to be seen, except possibly the Roman Mauresque gate called Bab-el-Goos.
In the long journey from Zaghouan to Kairouan the river has to be crossed, and then there is a dreary tract of desert to be traversed. As the Holy City of North Africa, ranking as it does before Sidi-bou-Medine, near Tlemçen, or even the Oasis of Sidi Okba, in the Sahara, it is of great interest; but for the Roman enthusiast it has no immediate appeal. It has been claimed that this African Mecca was before Mohammed's day a ruined Roman city; but in support of this no reputable authority can be cited, and the very significance of the name (caravansérai) has been held to indicate that it was an Arab town from the first. The only Roman remains in Kairouan, indeed, are the marble and porphyry columns of the Zaonia of Sidi Okba; but these spoils of conquest did not even come from one place, fallen Uthina or ruined Zama, but were gathered from out the general dissolution of Roman Ifrikia.
From Kairouan to Susa is an easy and monotonous journey. But when once the beautiful town is reached there is no more monotony, within or without its boundaries, for him who is on the track of Rome. Here he is in the fateful Hadrumetum (Adrumetum), near which Hannibal landed when he returned from Italy to save the tottering Carthaginian Empire, and whither erelong he fled after his crushing and final defeat on the field of Zama. Here, too, Cæsar landed with his small army when he came to bind Africa indissolubly to Rome. From that day to this Hadrumetum Susa has never failed to be one of the chief places on the African littoral, regarded by the Turks as of supreme importance strategically, coveted by the foiled Italians, and now being fortified by the French, as one of their most valuable seaports, though, as yet, Tunisia--is French in fact only and not in name, for the fiction of the Beylik or Regency is still maintained.
If the traveller will take his stand near the Old Sea-Gate (Bab-el-Bahr) he will not only be able to discover the remains of the Roman breakwater, but may also give his imagination free play. If it cannot picture stirring and dramatic visions at Hadrumetum, not for him is the joy of this Roman quest! Older, however, it is than the date of the first Scipionic invasion older even than Carthage, we are told by Sallust. Possibly it was founded by colonists from Cyrenaica ; more likely by merchants from Tyre. Dido must have passed it on her westward voyage; centuries later Genseric and his Vandals stared from its walls at the last Roman galleys sinking in the roadstead.
And now when one is pleasantly quartered at the Hôtel de France in Susa, one should plan out the often-varying but ever-converging route of the Roman march --the route he would fain follow so as to see all there is really worth seeing.
Few, alas, can have this good hap. Here, at any rate, I must perforce omit description, or even mention, of scores of interesting Roman sites, and still more interesting Roman remains. It would be an impossible task, in truth. As an eminent archæologist has estimated, a complete list of Roman remains of towns and villages would extend to well over six hundred enumerations. Even the seventy coloniæ and thirty-one municipiæ are beyond my present scope. It may be as well to add here, however, that past importance is never to be measured by present extent. Thus Tunis was but the insignificant Tunes and Tlemçen--the Athens, the Florence, the Cyrene, of Moorish Barbary--was but the unimportant Pomaria, lovely then as now for its olive-trees and fruitful plenty, but held only for its gifts of fruit and grain, while the wretched nomad villages of Dougga and Chemtou and Madaourouch overlie Thysdrus and Simittu and Madaura. As only a few can be alluded to, then, let the most interesting only be chosen. Broadly the line of march, after some more or less abrupt divagations, at first will strike from royal Thysdrus (El Djem) across Tunisia to Zama. The battle-field of Zama, or Djama, is on the Tunisian frontier, and may most conveniently be reached from El Kef, though the nearest point is the place familiar to archæologists as Narragarra. No one knows exactly where this, one of the most momentous battles of history, was actually fought, though Sallust indicates it with approximate exactitude. El Kef itself can now easily be gained from Souk-el-Arba, which is also the best startingplace for the splendid ruins of ancient Bulla Regia, and for Simittu and its marble quarries, or from Souk-Ahras, whence it is easy to visit the majestic ruins of Khamisa, second only in archæological value to those of Tebessa and Timgad. Though "Thursday's Market," as the name signifies (Soukel-Khamis), ceased to be Thubursicum early in the history of Cæsarean Africa, its name survived it eight centuries in the Arabic Teboursouk. In the dark ages since the fourteenth century even the mutilated name of this great and important city was utterly forgotten. Thubursicum became simply "Thursday-Market Ruins."
It is only three miles from Teboursouk to Dugga, name almost identical with the Thugga of Ptolemy, with its lovely temple of the Corinthian order and fragmentary Punic mausoleum; and thence it is an easy journey to upland Thignica (Tunga or Dunga now), with its even more beautiful temple, and a glorious view scarcely inferior to that from Uthina. Near by is the wild picturesque glen of the Bachairet Essayoda, "the valley of lions," of which Sir Grenville Temple says that he had been informed by the Caid of Teboursouk that four evenings before he passed through it sixteen lions had been seen there together. The whole country hereabouts is wild and lonely, and the traveller, particularly if he be alone, will do well to be circumspect. When Dr. Davis entered Khamisa (Teboursouk) he was assailed, he says, with such ejaculations from the Arabs as: "The fire is kindled for you!" "Oh you unbelieving son of hell!" "Despiser of the Prophet doomed to everlasting fire!" and "Filth of the earth, your haughtiness will soon be brought low!" Personally I encountered little of this animosity in Africa. In fact, I heard really abusive terms' nowhere save among the fanatics at the Holy Town of the Sahara, the Oasis of Sidi Okba. But Souk-Ahras touches us more, for this was the ancient Tagaste, whose chief claim to remembrance is that here, in the fourth century (A.D. 354), the wife of a decurion of the city named Patricius gave birth to a man child to become known throughout the Christian world as St. Augustine. Here the youth lived till he was sixteen, when he went as a student across the hills to Madaura, then a city of renown for its scholastic training. When here he must often have walked over the same hilly uplands as Apuleius (Madaura's glory) had been wont to do, and pondered the Christian heresy while reading one of the sweet pagan "books" of The Golden Ass. He could not have left a laurel wreath on the tomb of the great African writer, for Apuleius was buried at Oea (the modern Tripoli), of which place his wife was a native. From Madaura, no doubt with frequent visits to the large city of Tipasa (whose ruins as Tifesch can be seen in the magnificently fertile valley of that name, not far from Madaourouch), Augustine went to Carthage. Thence, in the year 373, and as a distinguished scholar, he returned to Tagaste, where, despite his profession as a grammarian, he lived, as he tells us in the Confessions, "in a manner to cause the most profound affliction to his mother." Thirteen years later he was converted to Christianity by the saintly Monica, and in A.D. 390 he was ordained a priest at Hippone (close to the modern Bona, the Ubbo of the Carthaginians, the Hippo Regius of the Romans, and then, as now, one of the most opulent towns of the African littoral), and here for thirty-five years he lived as priest and bishop. He had collected his famous library and written The City of God and his Confessions when the Vandals descended upon doomed Roman Africa. He died before the city fell, after its long fourteen months' siege, and it is enough to set against the ill name given to these Northmen that in the ruining of the town they spared the MSS. and the library of the far-famed Christian bishop.
If, before leaving Tunisia, however, the traveller makes a southward journey from El Kef, so as to visit Hydra, the ancient Ammædara, with its remarkable and beautiful triumphal arch, he can reach Tebessa, and thence make his way on mule-back or camel-back south-westerly to the Ziban and the Sahara, for Biskra and El Kantara or westerly, on horseback or in a light vehicle, by way of Ain-Khrenchelai, Timgad, and Lambessa, to Batna and Constantine; or, again, due north by the French military railway through the Madaourouch country, to Souk-Ahras, whence by rail westward to Constantine, northward to Bona, or eastward to Tunis.
Tebessa the lordly Theveste of old, most splendid of all extinct Roman towns in Roman Africa, is entered from the west, past an ancient aqueduct, and through the Gate of Solomon. If approached (and whether one enters by the Gate of Solomon or the Arch of Caracalla --the Bab-el-Djedid--it will be through a country literally studded with Roman remains, a country of great richness and beauty, notable for its ample water-supply and its innumerable gardens) on a marketday, one will wonder at the enormous quantity of sheep, goats, and cattle brought in by the neighbouring tribes. We are now at the important Roman junction to ancient Constantine, Hippone on the north, Lambessa on the west, and Tacape (Gabes) on the Syrtean Gulf, the goal of the great highway constructed in the reign of Hadrian to connect Africa Inferior with Carthage--a. road, as we learn from a Roman inscription, 191 miles 700 paces in length, and made by that famous Third Augustan Legion which has left so many traces in western Numidia. The Romans always had a keen eye for sites combining beauty, health, and utility, and, except Tlemçen, it is doubtful if there is any place in North Africa more fortunately situated than Tebessa. After Carthage and Constantine, moreover, it ranks next in point of historic interest. To the student of the rise of Christianity it will appeal as one of the first African cities to follow the example of Carthage, about A.D. 150, and as the place of martyrdom of St. Maximilian during the proconsulate of Dion, and of St. Crispin in the reign of Diocletian. By the student of the Vandal invasion of southern Europe and North Africa it will be remembered as one of the chief towns of the Vandal Kingdom, in accordance with the treaty in 443 between Genseric and Valentinian, Emperor of the West. But the Vandal genius was neither constructive nor conservative, even when not actively anarchic. Tebessa sank into a depopulated town of little importance till the coming of that regenerative Byzantine tide which succeeded the Vandalian scourge. The great Byzantine general Solomon, the successor of Belisarius, restored Theveste, though, after his four years' struggle with the widespread revolt which broke out after the departure of Belisarius, he was himself doomed to meet death in battle before the walls of his favourite town (A.D. 543)--a disaster that was followed by the second and final collapse of Theveste. The only known record on stone concerning the Vandal invasion which has as yet been discovered in Africa is the inscription on the triumphal arch of Tebessa--of singular value, therefore. Though the town and neighbourhood are full of Roman remains of great interest and beauty, even in their mutilated condition, there are two buildings of paramount interest--the Triumphal Arch of Caracalla and the Basilica. The splendid quadrifons arch is superior in every respect to that of Janus in Rome. It is built with large solid blocks of cut stone, and has many singular features which would attract the architect. The vast Basilica, a short distance to the north-east of modern Tebessa, is one of the most interesting examples of the Roman genius to be found in Africa. Its immense size, its beauty, its manifold interest, make it worthy to be the goal of an enthusiastic archæologist. The wealth of mosaics, many of great beauty, is extraordinary. Here, too, was found an instance of the remarkable embalming secrets which the Romans had learned from Egypt. When the sepulchral chamber was examined a few years ago the tomb of Palladius, Bishop of Idicia, was opened, and the shrivelled frame, with its undecayed brown hair resting on a bed of laurel leaves, was disclosed in perfect preservation, and this after the lapse of fourteen centuries.
From Tebessa one may without serious difficulty make one's way across country to the Sahara by way of Seriana. Thence he will go to Biskra the Beautiful (ad Piscinam), which to the present writer seems an almost ideal winter resort for invalids needing a dry, rainless, and warm climate, and a place of endless charm and interest--Queen Oasis of the Sahara, as it is deservedly called. Thence, again, northward by the upper Ziban to El Kantara, that magnificent gorge, the Foum-es-Sahara, the Mouth of the Desert, as it is called by the Arabs--the ancient Calceus Herculis, and centre of innumerable Roman remains, and where there was a permanent station of the famous Third Augustan Legion. When, at the French occupation, Marshal St. Arnaud led his small army through this wild and solitary defile, and beheld the desert stretching out before him, he cried to his troops, "We may flatter ourselves we are the first soldiers to pass through this region." Yet almost beside where he stood, graven imperishably in the rock, was an inscription setting forth that the Sixth Roman Legion., under Antonine, had made that very journey seventeen centuries before. For all we know, moreover, for all the Legionaries knew, the Punic trumpets may have resounded ages before against those high gaunt cliffs, which, northward, become of an incomparable desolation. The actual headquarters of the Third Legion was at Lambæsis (Larnbessa), further north. But, interesting as Lambessa is, with its notable Prætorium and ruined temples and monumental buildings, Timgad (Thamugas) far surpasses it. It has been called the Pompeii of Africa, and not wholly inaptly, as is the wont in these arbitrary appellations. The Forum, the beautiful Triumphal Arch, the Temple to Jupiter Capitolinus, and a score of other objects, make Timgad a place of singular interest and fascination. As it is much more conveniently reached (from the west and north) than almost any other ruined Roman town, it should be missed by no visitor to French Africa. The journey from Constantine to Biskra can pleasantly be broken at Batna, whence Timgad can be visited in one long day.
Of Constantine itself what can one say in a limited space but that it is the grandest of hill-set towns, and has a history as romantic and stirring and momentous as any city in Africa after Carthage? Numidian, Pagan Roman, Christian Roman, Vandal, Byzantine, Arab, Turk, and the Gaul of to-day have successively ruled here. All have left their traces. Here Masinissa, Jugurtha, and Tacfarinas dreamed of an African empire wherein the Roman usurper would have no part; here Sallust wandered in his lovely private domain, pondering his history of the Jugurthine war, or speculating on what further extortion he could impose on the unfortunate wealthy citizens; here the exiled St. Cyprian moved through the narrow streets, singing his Christian hymns; here the Turkish pasha laughed at the liberties of the Arab republic; here the greatest of its Beys was strangled by treacherous soldiers; and here the French army met with its most crushing disaster in Africa. The bugle of the Zouave is now heard in place of the Turkish clarion, as that succeeded the fanfare of the Roman trumpet, the shrill summons of the Punic herald, the rude cymbal of the Berber warrior, secure, as he thought, within his Numidian eyry.
Setif, the best stopping-place between Algiers and Constantine, though so important a Roman town has not now much of interest, but there are the remarkable ruins of Cuiculum, some twenty miles away. It was not far from here that were discovered those wonderful mosaics, drawings of which were exhibited in the Paris exhibition of 1878, one of the most notable having reference to that Crescens, a young Moor, who at the Hippodrome in Rome during the ten years A.D. 115-124, with his four horses, Acceptus, Circus, Delicatus, and Cotynus, gained prizes to the value of over a million and a half sesterces.
Thence--that is, from Constantine or the neighbourhood--it is easy to make a long sweep by the seaboard, westward by Philippeville (the Roman Rusicada, the Punic Tapsus) on to Algiers and Cherchell (Icosium and Iol): eastward by Bona, Bizerta (Hppo Zarytus or Diarrhytus), and Utica.
There are, it may be added, Roman remains in Morocco, but there are few of which we have knowledge that are of any importance. It is doubtful if exploration, when once the western Moorish empire, is open to all, will reveal much. Beyond Mauritania, Setifensis, and Julia Cæsarea on the coast, the Roman settlements were rather temporary military stations than towns. Even in the province of Oran there is little. Tlemçen itself was never more than Pomaria municipia.
If I had to select only three particular points of vantage in this great march of Rome, pre-eminently notable on their own account as well, I think they would be El Djem (Thysdrus), Tebessa, and Constantine. Cherchell, it is true, has an exceptional attraction; and if it were possible to get a glimpse of Africa as it was in the time of Caligula, there is probably no city one would so gladly see as that Punic Iol of which, as Julia Cæsarea, Juba II. made an African Athens. This admirable scholar, noble gentleman, and kingly sovereign was one of the greatest men to whom Africa gave birth. As true a patriot as Jugurtha, he was all that that barbaric prince was not. To-day we remember him in connection with the vast cenotaph on the Barbary coast known to the French colonists as the Tombeau de la Chréitienne, to the Arabs as the Kbour-er-Roumia (Tomb of the Roman woman); and because he was the husband Cleopatra Selene, the beautiful daughter of Mark Antony and his famed Egyptian queen. But even in his own day the Athenians raised a statue in his honour. The Numidians and Berbers worshipped him as divine: "Et Juba, Mauris volentibus, deus est." But with him the royal Numidian race came to an end; for his only son rebelled against Rome, and died ignominiously. His daughter, Drusilla, it may be added, was that Drusilla, wife of Felix, Governor of Judæa, before whom Paul was arraigned. It is possible, as has been suggested, that it was she who, remembering her father's tolerant and beneficent reign, counselled her stern Roman husband to moderation, and even to inquiry into the strange tenets of those of whom Paul was so fearless a champion: so that he said, "Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee." But to-day almost nothing Roman stands on the site of Iol, "splendidissima colonia Cæsarensis."
El Djem, the ancient Thysdrus, remote in the south-east of Tunisia, can be reached from either of the four coast towns, Susa, Monastir (Ruspina), Mahadia (Aphrodisium),* or Sfax. It is unlikely, however, that any
*Also " Africa." This is the "city of Africa" alluded to in Froissart. It is supposed also to be the site of Turris Hannibalis--the castle and farm of Hannibal.
ordinary African traveller will find himself in either of the two smaller towns, sans European inns, sans conveniences of any kind, sans other means of transport than Sahara mules or small ragged horses. Susa, both with regard to distance and convenience, is a much better point of departure than Sfax--a large and important town, the Liverpool of Tunisia, if the capital be considered the London of the regency. The triple-towered Sfax, the ancient Taphroura, is well worth a visit for itself; but, except traders in sponges and oil, few are likely to find their way here, save as passengers by the French or Italian steamer to or from Tripoli, or those anxious to go hence to Gabes; though not for Gabes's sake, Tacape of old though it be, but so as to visit Djerba, that island in the Gulf of Syrtis Minor familiar to all lovers of Homer as the Isle of the Lotophagi.
One important consideration in the choice of Susa is that a good carriage can be obtained here more easily--a matter of real moment, as it is certainly better to make a caravanserai of one's vehicle than to deliver one's self over to the dirt and vermin of the fondouk in the Arab village near the Amphitheatre. The road hither, whether from the north, east, or south, is a dreary one. In the hot season it is a waste of sand and blinding shingle: a journey from which the horses suffer much, as there is only one good well on the track, and that only relatively good. But if the road be dreary, the mind can transform it with memories of the past.
As Thysdrus the town was not so important as its neighbour Thapsus, though as Thysdritana Colonia it must have risen to great dignity and beauty. Julius Cæsar rated its worth somewhat scornfully when he rode into it in triumph after the fall of Thapsus, though doubtless to this deserved or undeserved clemency something of its swift after-prosperity was due. Here it was that the octogenarian proconsul Gordian reluctantly assumed, at his soldiers' bidding, the imperial purple, and after a few weeks of barren honour paid the penalty of that folly, and, childless now, throneless, an old man and dishonoured, took with his own hands the life that would have been spared by his victor only out of contempt.
One could not readily imagine a more impressive scene than that of El Djem when come upon under the spell of moonlight. From the vast waste around no sound is heard save the cry of the night wind moving across the sand steppes, the long wailing howl of disconsolate jackals, or the savage snarling of hyenas. Out of the gloom issues a vast and majestic structure. It is in some respects one of the finest of Roman amphitheatres. It has an unusual fascination in the fact that it seems to have risen in majesty in this African desert only to begin a long protracted ruin, without ever having fulfilled its purpose, or for but a relatively brief season. All the labour of hosts of slaves and native bondsmen went for naught. For before completion of its walls and decorations the hand of fate stayed all; we know not when or how, save that it was so, and that thenceforth neither Roman nor Greek nor Ifrikian could have there the delights of which he had dreamed. It is in bulk that this colossal amphitheatre is so impressive--in bulk plus the advantage of its sombre environment. In detail it is of inferior workmanship, and often of perdurable material. But to see it "stand out gigantic" in that sun-swept solitary waste is a thing to remember, to wonder at with ever new wonder, admiration, and something of awe.
It is difficult in the face of this universal ruin of Rome to accept the Arab proverb that "yesterday never existed"; it is impossible to believe in their profoundly pessimistic alyoum khair min ghodwah, "to-day is better than to-morrow." A new era has surely dawned for North Africa with the French domination. To me this domination seems to make for nothing but good; nor would any other nation than the French be so likely to attempt a valiant approach to the unattainable, and endeavour to walk where Rome walked, with her sovran dignity, her power, her imperial destiny. Alas, no nation now extant has the architectonic genius of the ancient mistress of the world. We are inheritors, not usurpers. Once again North Africa may become the granary of an alien empire, perhaps of half Europe; and who shall say that she may not evolve into a great and free and powerful republic-when she will have won from the French dominion what Rome gained from Greece, what Greece learned from the very race which peopled this wonderful Afric shore? For this is true: the greatest race of the ancient world learned from Phoenician lore, and even Plato himself, when he visited Cyrenaïca, Hellene of a late day though he was, doubtless added to his knowledge of what were then the occult sciences from the lip of Egyptian exile or Sidonian mage. Homer, Herodotus, and Virgil have each borne witness to the art of Phoenicia. In the Iliad we read of the silver urn of unexcelled workmanship in its contours and reliefs, from the hands of "Sidonian artists"; and again, in the Odyssey, of "the silver vase with living sculpture wrought." Lucan the scholar tells us that it was the Phoenicians who first introduced into Greece the mystery of letters, as it was they who first by carven hieroglyphs expressed what thitherto only the tongue could convey.
Thus, in turn, in the words of Horace, Greece allured her rude conqueror, Rome, and introduced her art into unpolished Latium:
"Græcia capta ferum victorem cepit, et artes
Intulit agresti Latio. . . .
Return to Vol. IV, Contents