Statuette of a dromedary
(Römisch-Germanisches Museum, Cologne)
|In the mid-second century CE, the great Alexandrine scientist Ptolemy published his Geography,
in which he gave the coordinates of many cities of the ancient world.
The book, based on the investigations by Marinus of Tyre, also contains
information about explorers who visited faraway countries. Two of these
expeditions took place in the last quarter of the first century, when
people from Lepcis Magna tried to organize the Transsaharan trade in wild animals like rhinoceroses.
Section 1.8.4 of Ptolemy's Geography is offered here in the translation by E.L. Stevenson.
At the outset, when writing of the journey from Garama to Ethiopia,
he [the geographer Marinus] says that Septimius Flaccus, having set
out from Libya with his army, came to the land of the Ethiopians
from the land of the Garamantes in the space of three months by
journeying continuously southward. He says furthermore that Julius
Maternus, setting out from Lepcis Magna and Garama with the
king of the Garamantes, who was beginning an expedition against the
Ethiopians, by bearing continuously southward came within four
months to Agisymba, the country of the Ethiopians where the rhinoceroses ought to be found.
This is incorrect. Like many ancient authors, Ptolemy found it difficult to conceptualize the topography of Black Africa, believing that all Ethiopians (litt. "black faced people") were one nation. The Garamantes were a tribe living in Sahara; there is still an oasis named Garma.
The route to the south was an old one, and led from the Garamantes through the Grand Erg de Bilma to Lake Chad.
Revision: 27 Dec. 2007