Sigh…In modern times Libya makes news headlines for its wars and struggles to find a place in the world. It was not always so…
Sometimes I find myself Libya Dreaming, following a trail of old maps, histories, and feelings, till I arrive, at last, in the golden sands of Far Memory…
There is – there was – a Libya I know better than the city I have lived in for 45 years.
A pillar of ancient history, it was a jewel in the crown of the Roman Empire from 146 BC to 640 AD. It was prized even earlier by the Greeks, who founded Cyrene – the Athens of Africa – in Cyrenaica in Eastern Libya from which modern eastern Libya and Libyans still take their name.
The site of Cyrene was chosen – most wisely – on the advice of the Oracle of Delphi and the city would become one of the largest in the Mediterranean. The area is now a World Heritage site and is rich in mythology and history.
There is a strong possibility that the invading Greeks built their temple to Apollo for protection from Libyan Amazons and over artefacts of an earlier, more advanced culture.
In the beginning, though, it was the home of the Berbers. The earliest name given them – Libu – appears to be the origin of the word Libya, the name for most of the African continent in classical Egyptian, Greek and Roman times.
The Berbers were a mysterious people who may have travelled the great Middle East land bridge – axis of the world and early Silk Road – to come from Central Asia to North Africa. Caucasians, the Berber’s language is Afro-Asian, and though there are debates as to other origins and other language roots, their name for themselves is roughly rendered as “Free and noble men”.
Many of the ancient world’s famous figures were Berbers, including St Augustine. For those of us who follow the faint traces of the Feminine visible in the public world, there is Dihya or Kahina – a female Berber religious and military leader who led a fierce Berber resistance against the Arab-Muslim expansion in North-West Africa. Who knew?
Today Berbers often live in mountainous regions in North Africa, their language and culture remaining distinct, except for Islam, from the Arab majority.
In those times, the desert sands had not yet claimed most of Libya for themselves; the fertile land and the sea together made Libya a place of great natural beauty. The early civilizations of the Mediterranean – Phoenicians as early as the 12th century BC, replaced by the powerful Carthaginian Empire in the 6th century BC, then Roman, Jewish, Greek, and Egyptian layers – all merged, one by one, with the Berber peoples to create the rich culture and evident prosperity that was ancient Libya .
In the year 643 A.D. an Arab invasion brought Islam to Libya and Arab dynasties ruled there till the remarkable Normans from northern Europe added parts of northern Africa to their considerable Mediterranean holdings. They also added their red hair and other genes to this rich stew of humanity. Even the Spanish ruled briefly here till the Turks arrived in 1551 to make coastal Libya, with so much of the Middle East, part of an Ottoman Empire that hold Libya within its grasp till 1912, when it fell into the much harsher embrace of Italy.
Yet have we gone back far enough? It seems likely that all these genes and histories were important but later additions to those of a much earlier people – the warriors and settlers of the half-remembered Atlantis? But I am getting ahead of my story…
Ancient Libya * African Pillar of the Known World
Libya occupied a remarkable position on world maps in the time of the ancient Greeks. The map here, by Herodotus, known as the first historian and indeed geographer, shows the size of Libya both in geography and in the historical mind.
Herodotus has often been assumed to be exaggerating in his eye-witness accounts known as The Histories. His work tends to be read for other virtues, including sheer entertainment. Yet over the centuries, as more knowledge has emerged of the various distant areas Herodotus travelled to, his reputation as a genuine historian is improving.
What interests us here is that recent discoveries in the Libyan desert confirm that Herodotus was absolutely correct – a major civilization did flourish in the Libyan desert – the Garamantes . His description of the Garamantes was long dismissed by sceptics as one of the taller tales from the old Fifth Century B.C. Greek. Today, satellite photos are revealing the vast scope of this mysterious ancient Libyan nation.
So there is much more to Libya than the Libya we see today – including its original size. When the Romans dignified General Scipio by adding Africanus to his family name, it was for his triumphs in Libya, the name used to designate Africa – all of it – along with Egypt – that was known to the Mediterranean world at that time. But we don’t know the boundaries even now of the Africa which was ascribed to the place called Libya . It seems that might refer to mainly the land west of Egypt, but in some ancient writings seems to refer to the entire continent that we call Africa.
The scope of Libya in terms of size and location is pivotal in terms of its history, one which may be much more ancent than the one chronicled by Herodotus. Was the Libya of the upper third of Africa really the “Lower World” so prominent in the Sumerian tablets deciphered by Zecharia Sitchin?
The Lower World was assumed to be in a far-off “African” location, distant from the Garden of E.Din of the tablets, located in the Middle East. But this could have actually been simply the larger Libya, a close and organic part of the Near Middle East. The idea that humanity came first out of Africa may embrace a Libya-Middle East meaning still not recognized in anthropology.
But Libya also figures surprisingly in the story of conquests and endings of Atlantis and may be the bridge, as it were, between Sumer and Atlantis.
For the Gods and Goddesses of Sumer – those whom the Sumerian tablets show as visitors from space and as creators of humanity – travelled back and forth between their Garden of E.Din (in the Middle East) to the Lower World – which seems to have been Africa, likely centered on the gold of Egype and Sudan; but it also included ancient Libya. These appear to be the same Gods and Goddesses whom the earliest Greeks believed were the founders of Atlantis…
Were they the Greek Gods and Goddesses of Olympus or a different group of beings altogether? There is so much hinted at in old writings and lore, but we can only speculate and put as many pieces of the puzzle together as seems reasonable.
Libya * Colony of Atlantis?
When Solon the Greek visited Egypt, he was chided by the Egyptian high priest for the Greeks’ ignorance about their own history. He then recounted the tale of Atlantis, noting that in size, Atlantis had been larger than Libya and Asia put together. Asia, as we see from the map, was quite small, but Libya of those times stretched the southern boundary of the known world. Atlantis lay just beyond it – a huge island continent and according to Plato’s rendering, the Egyptian priest told Solon some surprising details:
“The island [Atlantis] was larger than Libya and Asia put together, and was the way to other islands, and from these you might pass to the whole of the opposite continent which surrounded the true ocean; this sea which is within the Straits of Heracles is only a harbour, having a narrow entrance, but that other is a real sea, and the surrounding land may be most truly called a boundless continent. In this island of Atlantis there was a great and wonderful empire which had rule over the whole island and several others, and over parts of the continent.” (Timaeus, Benjamin Jowett translation)
Among other things about Atlantis, the Egyptian priest recounted to Solon what Egypt remembered and what Greece had forgotten – how Greece alone had withstood the armies of Atlantis and then liberated those who lay under the Atlantean yoke:
“…The men of Atlantis had subjected the parts of Libya within the columns of Heracles as far as Egypt, and of Europe as far as Tyrrhenia. This vast power, gathered into one, endeavoured to subdue at a blow our country and yours and the whole of the region within the straits; and then, Solon, your country shone forth, in the excellence of her virtue and strength, among all mankind. She was pre-eminent in courage and military skill, and was the leader of the Hellenes. And when the rest fell off from her, being compelled to stand alone, after having undergone the very extremity of danger, she defeated and triumphed over the invaders, and preserved from slavery those who were not yet subjugated, and generously liberated all the rest of us who dwell within the pillars.”
It was sometime during this period – when the Greeks were making their great stand against the Atlantis kings and their armies – that the greatest earthquake of the time occurred, engulfing the entire Greek army and, according to the Egyptian priest, all of Atlantis.
But how long was it between the final huge battles which seem to have triggered this (final) earthquake and the beginning of the Atlantean conquest of Libya, Egypt and parts of Europe as described by the Egyptian high priest? How long were the armies of Atlantis, and almost certainly their colonists and administrators, weaving themselves into Libyan genes and culture? It must surely have been centuries, perhaps much, much longer…
But according to Edgar Cayce Atlantis did not sink all at once. There were many earthquakes and resultant floods which devastated regions of Atlantis over – apparently – thousands of years. Cayce stated that as various areas of Atlantis sunk many Atlanteans made their way to Egypt as refugees. This would hardly be surprising, if Egypt had been – for a very long time – a colony of Atlantis, from whom it would inherit such a mysterious treasurehouse of seemingly esoteric knowledge and technology.
If Egypt were a major colony of Atlantis over the centuries, It is also likely that large numbers of Atlanteans would have settled in Libya, next door to Egypt, since Libya too was a conquered territory belonging to Atlantis.
How many Atlanteans were already long-established in Libya before the great earthquake wreaked its havoc on their home continent? How many made their way from the final desolation of Atlantis to Libya, a place of great size, where their armies had so recently prevailed? One wonders about their reception as refugees in any part of Asia, Egypt, Libya or Europe after the great and final sinking, since the armies of Atlantis had been oppressive.
It seems more likely that long before the final sinking of Atlantis the greatest civilization to have existed on earth put down strong roots in Libya – back to the real homeland? – over thousands, not hundreds of years. Because if the Gods and Goddesses of Sumer first created humanity in the Garden of E.Din in the Middle East, this “Garden” was intimately connected with the Lower World located in Africa which subsequently was always known as Libya. Thus there were deep ties between Sumer and Libya long before, and almost certainly after Atlantis was founded (terra-formed?) by the departing Gods and Goddess of Sumer…
There is even some research suggesting that Cyrenaica – the ancient Greek part of eastern Libya – was Atlantis, that a submerged island can be made out far beneath the sands. The whole region has signs of a megalithic, perplexing culture. There is a fascinating set of Berber mythologies and some evidence that it is from Libya that Egypt got many of its earliest gods. One of the greatest of these appears to be Pallas Athena, goddess and guardian of civilization itself.
It is possible that Libya was in fact not so much a colony or province of Atlantis, but one of its heartlands. Were the mysterious Berbers not, as we have assumed, the first peoples to arrive in Libya, but the last surviving remnants of Atlantis to remain? Did the Berbers, in the end, remember only fragments of a lost world?
On the Loom of Space and Time
Today, I ponder and remember, for the Weaver has her place within the Hall. She knows the threads I have woven on a Loom that I cannot see. But Libya is more than a tug at my heart; it is a Past – and therefore a Present – that I care for and nurture in Time.
In modern times, Libya is a thread of my World War II – strangely good to recall. I knew about Poland and Eastern Europe and that I did not survive the War. I would not have expected North Africa – and the Middle East – to also be part of my war. Yet there is a quality to Time-Memory – Far Memory – that is unmistakable; it rises through the body awakening each cell and its share of the code. Now I know why war and the sands of Libya are much more than news headlines for me.
But my roots, like those of Western history, lie even deeper than war in this ragged, semi-modern state. They anchor my world in time and space. As I wander again through its Roman times – its towns, public baths and bazaars – old genes remember, and DNA stirs. I am closer now to what it is that I seek.
As memory spreads Her lovely wings, I am back in the Libya of Grecian days, knowing every tree in elegant old Cyrene – the Athens of Africa! How I loved that world, how it nurtured me – the seashores, the cities and the life-giving farms of a land still free of the desert’s grasp.
Then memory dives with an eagle’s speed and I am one, once again, with the sand.