Garama, Libya was a sub-Sahara city and trading post in mid to late antiquity. It has been mentioned by Herodotus, Pliny, and in small part Strabo. It was inhabited by the Garamantes, and became a thriving urban, civilization that has been largely lost to history.
Fun Fact: Recent excavations of the sub-Sahara have uncovered castle-like structures and Pyramids built by the Garamantes.
Who You’ll Meet
Garama was inhabited largely by the Garamantes, Berber-like people who are described as “ a great nation” by Herodotus. They had negroid features, and were known for their four horse chariots, underground water system, farming practices, and their castle-like structures. While it is true that half of a war with the Garamantes would be a fight against the elements of the Sahara desert, it is also noted that they were fierce warriors. Hunting Ethiopians in the four-horse chariots, and strategically filling wells with sand in order to discourage Roman occupation.
Fun Fact: The Garamantes were said to be descended from Garamas, son of Greek God Apollo, and Minoan princess Acacalis.
How You’ll Get There
If traveling from Rome or Greece you would have to cross the Mediterranean and land more than likely in the Gulf of Syrtis off the Libyan coast. According to Herodotus it is a ten-day journey into the interior of Libya (west of the Ammonians), and a twelve day journey from Augilae according to Pliny. Once on land in Libya the second leg of the journey was either taken by foot, donkey, or camel; and was usually undertaken for trading purposes.
Fun Fact: Jason and the Argonauts traveled through Garama and encountered the Garamantes on their way to the land of the Hesperides. And they did all of this carrying their ship The Argo on their backs.
Why You’d Go to Garama
There was no real reason other than trade for Romans or Greeks to travel to Garama. While their civilization is shown to have had forms of entertainment, such as chariot racing, the civilization is still shrouded in mystery. Historically the main reason local sub-Sahara inhabitants would travel to Garama would be because their irrigation system created an oasis in the desert. Which, in turn would make it advantageous for conquering Roman and/or Greeks to take advantage of in their quest for dominance over Africa.
What Garama Was Like
Garama was a bustling urban town, by all accounts, with public venues for entertainment and trade. In recent satellite images it is now known that not only did the Garamantes build large structures, but Garama was a very organized city containing specific areas of general population, worship, and agriculture.
In recent excavations large sand castle-like structures were found,along with tombs and mummies. There was a ritualistic type of religion that was practiced, but it is still unclear what exactly it was. To live in Garama during the height of the civilization , before 19 BCE would be to live on a green fertile island surrounded by desert. The foggara, underground irrigation system set up by the Garamantes, is what helped create this green effect. Skilled agriculture also played a major role, which is demonstrated in their spreading of soil over salt. Archaeologist have discovered stone walls with script indicating an educated society, although it is unclear as to the extent that the education was available. A written, largely untranslatable language, Tifinagh, was put into use and is now under observation to see if a translation will one day be possible.
Fun Fact: Unlike most Libyan and Ethiopian civilizations during antiquity it is known that, thanks to the underground irrigation system, Garamantes were able to cultivate grapes, olives, barley, and wheat. Food items that were normally unavailable to civilizations outside of the immediate Mediterranean.
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