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No one who has read the annals of Carthage can be ignorant of the importance once attached to this singular country; in which was first exhibited to the eye of European nations the immense political power that may be derived from an improved agriculture, an active commerce, and the command of the sea.
In the plains of Tunis, too, were fought those battles which confirmed the ascendency of Rome, and laid the foundations of that colossal empire, whose territory extended from the Danube to the Atlas Mountains, and from the German Ocean to the banks of the Euphrates. The gigantic conflict between the two greatest republics of the ancient world was at length determined among the burning sands of Numidia, or on those shores, which, for many centuries, have been strangers to the civilisation and arts diffused around their camps by these mighty rivals for universal sovereignty.
Nor are the kingdoms of Northern Africa less interesting in an ecclesiastical point of view. The names of Tertullian, Cyprian, and Augustin, reflect honour on the churches of that land; and their works are still esteemed as part of those authentic records whence the divine derives his knowledge of the doctrines, the usages, and institutions of primitive Christianity. With relation to the same object, the inroad of the schismatical Vandals, and the conquest effected by the Arabs, present subjects worthy of the deepest reflection, inasmuch as they led to the gradual deterioration of the orthodox faith, till it was entirely superseded by the imposture of Mohammed. On these heads the reader will find some important details in the Chapter on the Religion and Literature of the Barbary States.
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 and Sparta. The position of the several towns composing the celebrated Pentapolis, the beauty of the landscape, the fertility of the soil, and the magnificence of the principal edifices, 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 doubt. The conjectures of Bruce are confirmed, or refuted, by the actual delineations of Beechey and Della Cella.
The modern history of Barbary is chiefly interesting 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 complacency, 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 said to constitute a new era in the policy of the Moors, and seems to hold forth a prospect, however indistinct, of civilisation, industry, and the dominion of law 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 rendered available, not only for the advantage of the natives, but also of the trading communities on the opposite shores of the Mediterranean. Every where, 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.
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 Barbary
States—View of ancient Manners-Remains of former Magnifi-
minance of Carthage_Constancy of her Government-Its Pro-
gress described—Originally a Monarchy, but gradually became
aristocratical - House of Mago—Rights of the People exercised
in public Assemblies—And in the Election of Magistrates-De-
cided in all Questions in which the Kings and Senate could not
agree_Constitution and Power of the Senate_The select Coun-
cil—The Kings or Suffetes-Distinction between the King and
a General – Some Resemblance to Roman Consuls and Hebrew
Judges_Wise Administration of Justice-No judicial Assem-
blies of the People Basis of Power occupied by the Senate--