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Ancient Libya

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Ancient Libya

Berichtdoor Reader » wo 31 jan , 2007 18:36

Ancient Libya was the region west of the Nile Valley, the home of ancient Egyptian civilization. It corresponds to what is now generally called Northwest Africa. Its people were the ancestors of the modern Berbers[1].

In the Greek period the Berbers were known as "Libyans"[2] and their lands as "Libya" that extended from modern Morocco to the western borders of ancient Egypt. Modern Egypt contains the Siwa Oasis, historically part of Libya, where the Berber Siwi language is still spoken.

I- The name: Libya
The history of the name
The name Libya is found in the Ancient Egyptian-, Phoenician-, Greek-, Hebrew-, Latin- , Arabic and the modern European languages[3].

The oldest reference to this name goes back to Merenptah the Egyptian ruler of the 19th dynasty. He ruled in the second half of the 13th century BCE. The name was firstly mentioned as an ethnic name on the Merneptah Stele which is also known as the Israel's Stele:

[..]The vile chief of the Libu[4] who fled under cover of night alone without a feather on his head, his feet unshod, his wives seized before his very eyes, the meal for his food taken away, and without water in the water-skin to keep him alive; the faces of his brothers are savage to kill him, his captains fighting one against the other, their camps burnt and made into ashes ..[5].

After then, the name appeared repeatedly in the pharaonic records. It is therefore supposed that the origin of the name would be this Egyptian name for the ancient tribe Libu. According to this theory, this name would be taken over by the Greeks of Cyrenaica who may have co-existed with them[6]. Later, the name appeared in the Hebrew language written in the Bible as Lehabim and Lubim indicating the ethnic population and the geographic territory as well.

In the neo-Punic inscriptins it was written as Lby for the masculine noun and Lbt for the feminine noun of Libyan. The name was supposedly used as an ethnic name in those inscriptions.

The first reference to "Libya" in the Greek language is found in Homer's Odyssey (IX.95; XXIII.311). The name was used by Homer in a geographic sense, while he called its inhabitants Lotophagi meaning the "Lotus-eaters". After Homer, the name was used by Aeschylus, Pindar and other Ancient Greek writers. Herodotus used Libuwa indicating Libya while he called the Libyans Libyes in the Greek language. From his point of view, Libya was the name of the African continent, while "the Libyans" were the light-sikinned North Africans, whereas the southern Africans were known as "the Ethiopians" to him[7].

In Latin, the name would be taken over from the Greek- and the Punic language. The Romans would have know them befor their colonization for Northwest Africa, because of the Libyan role in the Punic wars against the Romans. The Romans used the name Libyes, but it referred only to Barca and the Western desert of Egypt. The other Libyan territories became known as Africa.

In the Arabic literature it was called Lubya indictating a speculative territory in west of Egypt. But today, this name is used as Libya in the modern languages.

The etymologic origin
When it comes to the chronical identification, it would be obvious that the Egyptian sources are the first known reference to the name, as libyan tribe inhabiting the west. But although, this is a significant data for the origin of the name, it would be hard to attribute its origin to any language.

Generally, there are many theories attributing the name to Berber- , Egyptian- , Phoenician-, Hebrew-, punic-, Greek-, Latin- and Arabic origins. However, the Berber and Egyptian sources are the most acceptable.

It has been questioned whether the name Libu was an Egyptian name for an ancient Berber tribe or it was the own name of the Berber tribe to refer to them selves whereafter the Ancient Egyptians have adopted it from them. An example of the first probability is the name Berber which is used to refer to the indeginous people of Northwest Africa, whereas they call themselves "Imazighen".

In fact, it would be a problematic essay to give a deciding answer because the Berbers didn't leave any considerable written sources. However, some prominent historians tried to trace the name to a Berber origin. The supporters of the Berber origin believe that the name was related to an ancient Berber tribe. The name Libu would have know many evolution from "Lebu" to "Libya" to "Lebata" to "Levata" to "Lvata" to "Lwatae".

Lwatae (the tribe of Ibn Battuta[8]) as it was called by the Arabs was a Berber tribe that was mainly situated in Cyrenaica, but this tribe seemed to have stretched from the Atlantic Ocean to modern Libya. This tribe was referred by Corippius as Laguatan and it was associated by him with the Maures. Ibn Khaldun tells on this tribe in the thirth chapter of The History of Ibn Khaldun that Luwa was their ancestor, and the Berber do add an "A" and "T" to the name. Subsquently, it became Lwat, but the Arabs adopted it in a singular form adding a "H" for the plural form in Arabic. Ibn Khaldun goes furthermore denying the claim of Ibn Hazam who maybe singifically claimed on the basis of the Berber sources that Lwatah in addition to Sadrata and Mzata were from the Qibts (Egyptians). According to Ibn Khaldun his claim is incorrect because ibn Hazm didn't read the books of the Berber scholars concerning this subject[9].

Oric Bates is one of those Historians who believe that the name Libu or LBW would be derived from the name Luwatah. He wrote in the page 57 as a note in his informative book The Eastern Libyans that the name Liwata is a derivation of the name Libu. Other historians like the Libyan historian Mohammed Moustapha Bazam tend to confirm this theory.

II- Ancient Libya
The sources
Compared with the History of Egypt, there is a little known on the History of Libya. Because the Ancient Libyans didn't leave written sources. The libyco-Berber script (also known as Tifinagh) that was used in Libya was mostly used as funerary script. Moreover, the experts are confronted with many diffeculties to decipher it. The script has it variations, like the modern Berberlanguage variations which would be different from its ancient forms.

Generally, there are two main sources on the history of Ancient Libya: The archeologic- and historic sources written by their eastern Egyptian neighbours and the Northern people who were the Ancient Greeks, Romans and Byzantines in the addition to the Arabs from the Medieval times.

The territory
(Map of Herodotus)

From an ethincal point of view, Libya would be the geographic territory inhabited by the Libyans. Nevertheless, there is no certitude about the boundaries of Ancient Libya. It was to the west of Ancient Egypt, and it was known as "IMNT" to the Ancient Egyptians like it was referred to with a feather which the Libyans used as an ornament. However, Libya it was mostly unknown to the Egyptians. Oric Bates tells here about that Libya was an unknown territory to the Egyptians, it was the lands of the spirits.

To the Ancient Greeks, Libya was one of the three known continents besides, Asia and Europe. In this sense, Libya was the whole African continent to the west of the Nile Valley. But Herodotus distinguished the authochone inhabitants into two people: The libyans in North Africa and the Etheopians in the south. According to Herodtus, Libya begins from where the western borders of Ancient Egypt, and ends in Cape Spartel in the south of Tangier on the Atlantic coast. This region was inhabited by the ancestors of the modern Berbers.

III- Ancient Libyans
(Ancient Libyan from the pharohonic remains)

The ancietn Libyans were the inhabitant of North Africa to the west of Ancient Egypt. Those inhabitants had various tribal names. They were mentioned by the Ancient Egyptian-, Ancient Greek, Roman and Arab sources.

Egyptian sources
The Ancient Egyptians mentioned many Libyan tribes. The most known tribes on the basis of the Egyptian Archeologic sources are respectively: The Tjehenu, the Tamahu, the Libu (or Ribu), Meshwesh. Those tribes were the most important Libyan tribes in the Egyptian sources. However, other less important tribes (or minor groups) were mentioned in the Egyptian sources.

Later sources
After the Egyptians, the Greeks, Romans, and Byzantines mentioned other various tribes. The late tribal names are different from the Egyptian ones. But it is supposed that some tribes were named in the Egyptian sources and the later ones as well. The Meshwesh-tribe is an example for this assumption. The scholars believe it would be the same tribe called Mazyes by Hektaios and Maxyes by Herodotus, while it was called as "Mazaces" and "Mazax" in the Latin sources. All those names are somehow similar to the name used by the Berbers themselves Imazighen[10].

The sources of the late period gave more detailed descriptions for Libya and its inhabitants. Herodotus is the most notable ancient historian who tried to cover Libya and the Libyans in his fourth book, which is known as "The Libyan Book". In addition to him, Pliny the Elder, Diodorus Siculus and Procopius are considered the basic sources on Ancient Libya and the Libyans. But Ibn Khaldun, who dedicated the main part of his book Kitab el'ibar, which is known as "The history of the Berbers", didn't use the names: "Libya" and "Libyans" in his works. He used instead Arabic names: "The Old Maghreb" (El-Maghrib el-Qadim) and "The Berbers" (El-Barbar or El-Barabera(h)).

Unlike Ibn Khaldun who distinguished the Berbers into the Batr and the Baranis[11], Herodotus divided them into Eastern Libyans and Western Libyans. The Easten Libyans where the nomadic Libyans to the east of the Lake Tritonis. They lived as nomadic shepherds, while the Western Libyans who lived to the west of the Lake Tritonis where farmers who led sedentary life[12]. Both of Ibn Khaldun and Herodotus didn't distinguish the Libyans on the basis of their ethnic background, but according to their lifestyles. The distinction of Herodotus was also followed by the modern Historians, like Oric Bates in his book "The Eastern Libyans". Some other historians used the modern name of the Berbers in their works like the Frensh historian Gabriel Camps[13].

The Libyan tribes mentioned in those sources were: "Adyrmachidae", "Giligamae", "Asbystae", "Marmaridae", "Auschisae", "Nasamones", "Macae", "Lotus-eaters (or Lotophagi)", "Garamantes", "Gaetulians", "Maures(Berbers)", "Luwatae" and still many other tribes.
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Berichtdoor Reader » zo 04 feb , 2007 8:58

[...]Under this section on agricultural products, it is fitting to indicate here why prominent "Libyans" were often depicted as "princes." Some scholars have mentioned that they were so named because of their magnificent attire. Their name, as we have seen, was "Hatiu-a'a" ("a'a" being an appellation reserved for masculine identity, "men.") "Hatiua-aa" has been translated as "First Princes of Egypt." A search for other possible related terminology yielded the name for agricultural domain or "Hatiy," which also was used for "Olive plantation." "Hatiaa" were therefore, without a doubt, the wealthy heads of agricultural plantaions from the westers oases.
Imazighen were also described as "The shining Ones" or "Tehenu," represented as warriors bearing ithyphallic shields or ithyphallic warriors. The Egyptian term for "Phallus" was "hennen." However, in hieroglyphic religious texts, the phallus was coded as "The Shining One. with a moveable head." We have remarked earlier that this appellation might have referred, in ritual semanties, to the representation of archaic hunters with animal masks. When the defunct declared in funerary texts: "I am Penti,"(Pi-entiu or Pi-intiu meant the House of the First people, and we have seen that "Intiu" were the First people of the Pillars) he added: "I am the heir of of the Great Gods ... Hail Phallus." The expression, "The souls of Pi" has been rendered as "the founders of the nation," and referred to the pre-dynastic kings of Lower Egypt thought to have become celestial beings (Margaret Buson, Dictionary of Ancient Egypt.)"

Helene Hagan, The Shining Ones: An Etymoligic Essay on the Amazigh Roots of Egyptian Civilization p. 70-70.
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Berichtdoor els » ma 05 feb , 2007 15:08

Hier is wikipedia over de merneptah stele:

Er staat een afbeelding op hoe de Lybiers met hieroglyphen zijn weergegeven:


Libiers (Tje()enu worden beschreven door determinatieven: vreemdeling + mensen + vreemd land (=land waar de Lybische mensen wonen)

Nog dit over de 'Libu':

De Libu (of Ribou) was een stam van oude Libiers, die voor het eerst werden genoemd in oude Egyptische teksten uit het Nieuwe Rijk, met name uit de Ramessidische periode. De naam van deze stam was door de Grieken opgenomen om naar 'Libya' en de bewoners hiervan te verwijzen, alsmede voor noord-Afrika in het algemeen.

Hier is ook nog de tekst van deze stele:
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Woonplaats: Amsterdam

Berichtdoor Reader » di 06 feb , 2007 14:15

Wat nieuw voor mij is de vereenzelviging van "Libu" met "Lwata":

" The supporters of the Berber origin believe that the name was related to an ancient Berber tribe. The name Libu would have know many evolution from "Lebu" to "Libya" to "Lebata" to "Levata" to "Lvata" to "Lwatae". "
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Geregistreerd: di 10 okt , 2006 17:41

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