« ZurückWeiter »
The writings of recent travellers have thrown a fascinating light over some parts of the ancient Cyrenaica,—a section of the Tripoline territory, which, having enjoyed the benefit of Grecian learning at an early period, still displays the remains of architectural skill and elegance, borrowed from the inhabitants of Athens ^ind ©aria. The position of the several to*v*s compoangf the Celebrated Pentapolis,
* the beauty of the landscape, the fertility of the soil, and the magnificence of the principaL^difices, have been, in the course of a few years, not only illustrated with much talent, but ascertained with a degree of accuracy that removes all reasonable dSubt.
* The conjectures of Bruce ar^confirmed, or refuted, by the actual delineations -OT^Beechey and Delia Cella. *
# The modern history of Barbary is chiefly interest
•ing from the relations which so long subsisted between its rulers and the maritime states of Europe,
.who, in order to protect their commerce from violence, and their subjects from captivity, found it occasionally expedient to enter into treaty with the lieutenants of the Ottoman government. The wars which, from time to time, were waged against the rovers of Tunis, Sallee, and Algiers, from the days of the Emperor Charles the Fifth down to the late invasion by the French, are full of incident and adventure; presenting, in the most vivid colours, the triumph of educated man over the rude strength of the barbarian, coupled with the inefficacy of all negotiation which rested on national faith or honour The records of piracy, which, not many years ago, filled the whole of Christendom with terror and indignation, may now be perused with feelings of com placency, arising from the conviction that the power of the marauders has been broken, and their ravages finally checked. Algiers, after striking its flag to the fleets of Britain, was compelled to obey the soldiers of France,—an event that may be Sem(j constitute a new era in»the' policy of the Moots and seems to hold forth a prospect, however indistinct, of civilization, industry, ^nalthe dominion o*f law* Q over brutal force and passion, being again established throughout the fine provinces which extend from Cape Spartel to the Gulf of Bomba.
The Chapter on the Commerce of the Barbary States indicates, at least, the sources of wealth which, under an enlightened rule, might be rSndered # available, not only ftwhe advantage of the natives, but also of the trading communities on the opposite shores of the Mediterranean. Everywhere, in the soil, in the climate, and in the situation of the country, are seen scattered, with a liberal hand, the elements of prosperity; and it is manifest that the plains which were once esteemed the granary of Rome, might again, with the aid of modern science, be rendered extremely productive in the luxuries, as well as the necessaries, of human life. Q
The assiduity of French writers, since the conquest of Algiers, has afforded the means of becoming better acquainted than formerly with the geology of Northern Africa, as well as with several other branches of Natural History. From the same source have been derived materials for the embellishments introduced into this volume, and also for improving the Map, which the reader will find prefixed. ,
Edinburgh, March 16, 1835.
Contrast between the present and ancient Condition of the Bar
is rendered still more striking by a reference to the literature and science of Europe, of which the elements were, in many cases, derived from the northern shores of Africa; as well when the Phoenicians extended their power to the Pillars of Hercules, as when the lieutenants of the Caliph exercised authority over the mixed tribes who were compelled to acknowledge their dominion.
Nowhere, indeed, is the effect of wise institutions more clearly distinguished than at the point whence the philosophical eye marks the difference which prevails on the opposite sides of the Mediterranean. From the mountains of Spain the spectator may comprehend, at one glance, the abode of nations which, though in geographical position not farther distant than a voyage of a few hours, are nevertheless, in respect of religion, learning, and all the arts and feelings of social life, removed from one another by the lapse of man_ centuries. In passing the narrow channel which separates these two quarters of the globe, the traveller finds himse" carried back to the manners and habits of ages long past, and sees, as it were, a revival of scenes which must have attracted the notice of the earliest historians of the human race. On the one hand, he beholds an order of men who, like the patriarchs of Arabia, are still engaged with the occupations of the pastoral state, living in tents, and sustaining themselves on the produce of their flocks. On the other, he may see a community devoting their cares to the pursuits of traffic, and, like the ancient Ishmaelites, carrying the commodities of foreign lands across their wide deserts; thereby connecting, in the bonds of commercial intercourse, the remotest nations of the Old World. In a third section of Northern Africa, his attention will be drawn to numerous tribes who, adopting partially the usages of both the other classes, refuse to abide by either; but, like the descendants of Esau, with their hands lifted against every man who crosses their path, esteem it their highest honour to impose tribute and enrich themselves on spoil.
Nor is the contrast less remarkable, when the present aspect of the country is compared with the magnificence and cultivation which adorned it during several ages. In no other region of the earth has the flood of time committed ravages so extensive and deplorable, obliterating nearly all the traces of improvement, and throwing down the noblest works of art. Amid the sand, accordingly, which covers the remains of ancient towns, are to be seen the finest specimens of architectural skill, mingled with the relics of a taste and luxury which distinguished the later years of the Roman empire. The fields, which once bore the most abundant crops, are now either deformed by the encroachments of the Desert, or overgrown with useless weeds and poisonous shrubs; while baths, porticoes, bridges, theatres, and triumphal arches, have mouldered into ruins, or sunk under the hands of the barbarous inhabitants.
No people, once civilized, retain so few marks of having risen above savage life as the present Moors and Arabs of Barbary. All other nations, however depressed with regard to power, wealth, and science, continue to exhibit some proofs of their former greatness, and to vindicate, at least by their recollections and desires, the rank which their ancestors enjoyed in ancient times. The Jews, the Egyptians, the Greeks, and the Romans, though now little more than the nominal representatives of distinguished empires, cherish the memory of what they were; extol the exploits of their fathers, and admire their works; hoping even to restore their fortunes and to emulate their fame in a more auspicious age. But the rude tribes of Africa are strangers to all such ennobling sentiments. They know not that their country was one of the first seats of government and commerce, and took the lead, at an early period, in allthe attainments which exalt human nature, and confer the highest blessings on society. They forget that Carthage held long suspended between herself and Rome the scales of universal dominion; that her provinces were opulent and enlightened; that she could boast of renowned sages and learned fathers of the church; and that some of her towns were on a footing of equality with the most celebrated in antiquity. Ignorant, moreover, of the history of those monuments which still give an interest to their wild shores and dreary plains, they even make haste to deface every thing whereon ingenuity has been lavished, and to remove every token which might serve as an evidence that men more polished than themselves had occupied their cities or ploughed their fields.
These facts will appear less inexplicable, when it is called to mind that the revolutions in Barbary have, for the most part, been not only sudden and complete, but that, being