Mythos 73 – Amazons in Sahara


Very little of the Imazighen mytho-history remains as the ancient Tifinagh (Libyco-Berber) carvings and rock paintings remains largely undeciphered. What does remain of the Imazighen mytho-history was mostly recorded by ancient Greek and Roman accounts of the Atlantean and Libyan histories. The largest remaining collection of Imazighen mytho-history is in the Roman historian Diodorus Siculus’ epic work Bibliotheca Historica. Diodorus referred to the Imazighen as Atlanteans, and his mytho-historical record included a story of an ancient war in north Africa, which he and other ancient Greeks and Romans called Libya, between the Atlantians, Amazons, and Gorgons. The story began with an Amazon Kingdom:

We are told, namely, that there was once on the western parts of Libya, on the bounds of the inhabited world, a race which was ruled by women and followed a manner of life unlike that which prevails among us. For it was the custom among them that the women should practise the arts of war and be required to serve in the army for a fixed period, during which time they maintained their virginity; then, when the years of their service in the field had expired, they went in to the men for the procreation of children, but they kept in their hands the administration of the magistracies and of all the affairs of the state. The men, however, like our married women, spent their days about the house, carrying out the orders which were given them by their wives; and they took no part in military campaigns or in office or in the exercise of free citizenship in the affairs of the community by virtue of which they might become presumptuous and rise up against the women. When their children were born the babies were turned over to the men, who brought them up on milk and such cooked foods as were appropriate to the age of the infants; and if it happened that a girl was born, its breasts were seared that they might not develop at the time of maturity; for they thought that the breasts, as they stood out from the body, were no small hindrance in warfare; and in fact it is because they have been deprived of their breasts that they are called by the Greeks Amazons.

As mythology relates, their home was on an island which, because it was in the west, was called Hespera, and it lay in the marsh Tritonis. This marsh was near the ocean which surrounds the earth and received its name from a certain river Triton which emptied into it; and this marsh was also near Ethiopia and that mountain by the shore of the ocean which is the highest of those in the vicinity and impinges upon the ocean and is called by the Greeks Atlas. The island mentioned above was of great size and full of fruit-bearing trees of every kind, from which the natives secured their food. It contained also a multitude of flocks and herds, namely, of goats and sheep, from which possessors received milk and meat for their sustenance; but grain the nation used not at all because the use of this fruit of the earth had not yet been discovered among them.- Diodorus Siculus (1)Diodorus Siculus (circa 100 AD) Bibliotheca historica, Book 3, Chapter 53:1-5


Map of Tunisia Showing the Location of Chott el Jerid

Diodorus’ account of the Amazons, is similar to Platos’ account of the Atlanteans in many ways. Their island home in the marsh Tritonis, also called Lake Tritonis is a legendary place in Greek and Roman myths. It was recorded as being in various regions of north Africa throughout classical literature, including southern Tunisia, and southern Libya. Several real paleolake-beds exist in the legendary locations, indicating that these mythical lakes are likely the memories of the ancient lakes. The reference to the marsh Tritonis being near the ocean that surrounds the earth, refers to both the Atlantic (Mare Atlanticus) and Indian (Mare Erythraeum) Oceans, which the ancient Greeks and Romans believed were the same body of water connected south of Africa (Libya). The mention of the mountain the Greeks call Atlas is a reference to the Atlas Mountains in Morocco and Algeria, and the reference to Ethiopia, would be a reference to the homeland of the dark-skinned Sub-Saharan peoples. These references combine to indicate a former marshland in the western Sahara, near the Atlantic, south of the Atlas Mountains, and north of the Sub-Saharan region of West Africa. This location would be the approximate location of the Haijad Paleolake (2)Z. Guo et al. (2000) Global and Planetary Change 26, Page 101 in the Taoudeni basin of northern Mali and eastern Mauritania.

References   [ + ]

1. Diodorus Siculus (circa 100 AD) Bibliotheca historica, Book 3, Chapter 53:1-5
2. Z. Guo et al. (2000) Global and Planetary Change 26, Page 101