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Agatharchides, of Cnidus  

Stanley M. Burstein

grammarian, historian, and the author of the most important surviving accounts of ancient northeast Africa and the Red Sea basin. Unfortunately, little is known of the details of his biography. The only sources for his life are a few autobiographical remarks in the fragments of his works and a notice in Codex 213 of the Bibliotheca of Photius the ninth century CE scholar and patriarch of Constantinople These references indicate that Agatharchides was born probably about 200 BCE in the city of Cnidus on the west coast of modern Turkey and that his origins were comparatively humble Probably in the early second century BCE he immigrated to Egypt where he came to the attention of an official and adviser of Ptolemy VI r 180 145 BCE named Cineas who made Agatharchides his protégé It was probably Cineas who also introduced him to another Ptolemaic official the historian and diplomat ...


Amenemhat, I  

Lawrence M. Berman

Egyptian pharaoh (reigned c. 1991–1961 BCE), was the founder of the Twelfth Egyptian Dynasty, the heart of the Middle Kingdom Period of Egyptian history (c. 2040–1640 BCE). The first of a new line of kings, Amenemhat (an alternative form of the name is Amenemhet) was of nonroyal birth. He was probably the vizier (chief minister) Amenemhat who in c. 1997 BCE led an expedition of ten thousand men to the Wadi Hammamat, between the Nile and the Red Sea, to procure stone for the sarcophagus of Mentuhotep IV, the last king of the Eleventh Dynasty, as recorded in inscriptions at the quarry site.

The Eleventh Dynasty kings had begun the process of reuniting Egypt after the period of political fragmentation known as the First Intermediate Period (c. 2100–2040 BCE Amenemhat I took this process a step further Like his predecessors Amenemhat was of southern origin Mentuhotep means Mentu is ...


Apuleius, Lucius  

R. Conrad Barrett

Numidian author and orator was born a citizen of Rome in c 125 CE in the town of Madauros in the province of Africa an area that had become Roman territory in 146 BCE His home town was 140 miles 225 kilo meters southwest of ancient Carthage the site of the modern city of Tunis Perhaps as a child Apuleius learned first the native Berber dialect certainly he heard Greek in his home and outside it as well as the language of all government Latin This language became Apuleius s major one he had it seems a solid but not equal facility in Greek After schooling in Carthage the major city of the province Apuleius traveled to Athens Greece for further study where he studied rhetoric and philosophy to learn more especially about the thought of Plato He then went to Rome for more education in rhetoric all of it ...


Apuleius, Lucius  

Clarissa Zimra

Famous as the author of The Metamorphoses, the first work of Latin literature to have survived unscathed, Lucius Apuleius was born in a well-to-do family around 125 c.e. in Madaura, a provincial town on the Tunisian edge of Rome’s Africa Proconsularis. By the time he had finished his proper education as a subject of empire, first in Carthage, then in Athens, the young Numidian could write elegant Greek and Latin. Widely traveled, he practiced law in the courts of Rome, then Carthage, where he died around 180 c.e. Most know this long prose narrative as The Golden Ass a title bestowed centuries later by yet another son of Africa Augustine bishop of Hippo Eleven books long it was modeled on the Greek Romance form The Renaissance admired its salacious wit praised its fall and redemption theme and imitated its Chinese box plots Bocaccio plundered it for ...


Athanasius, of Alexandria  

Stacey Graham

bishop and patriarch of Alexandria, theologian, author, and doctor of the Church, is significant for his staunch opposition to Arianism, his prolific theological works, and his exile-ridden episcopate during a tumultuous time for Church and imperial politics. His most influential work is the seminal hagiography of Western monasticism, Life of Anthony.

Athanasius was born in Alexandria Egypt probably in the year 296 though possibly as late as 300 At an early age he came to the attention of Alexander the patriarch of Alexandria who ordained him as a priest and brought him into the patriarch s service Alexandria in the fourth century cultivated a mixture of intellectual philosophical and religious schools of thought from its long standing pagan Jewish and Christian communities The city was economically vital as the main grain supplier for the imperial capital at Constantinople and it ranked third among the four patriarchates in the early ...


Bahaʾ al-Din Zuhayr  

Robert D. Young

Arab-born Egyptian poet and calligrapher of the Ayyubid period, was born 27/28 February 1186 in Mecca. He is also known as al-Bahaʾ Zuhayr. He moved to Qus, in upper Egypt, at a young age. Zuhayr’s later diwans (a Persian term meaning “collection of poems”) indicate some recollection of his time in Mecca; he likely moved to Qus when he became old enough to attend school. Qus was then a center of Islamic learning and culture. Zuhayr studied the Qurʾan and Islamic literature but was most enthused by poetry. Zuhayr made friends with another poet and quoted substantially from the “ancient” poets such as Imru al-Qays (c. 501–544), some of whom were pre-Islamic.

Despite a fascination with poetry Zuhayr also cultivated his position among the political elite He dedicated his first praise poem to the governor of Qus Zuhayr did not stop with the locals traveling to places such as Damascus ...



Olutayo C. Adesina

The traditional objects, mathematical sense, philosophy, and beliefs of the Baule (also Baoule) people, who occupy the eastern part of Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) between the Komoe and Bandama rivers, have for long helped to define and project their identity and existence as a group. The Baule constitute one of the largest ethnic groups in modern-day Côte d’Ivoire. They had migrated into their present location in the eighteenth century. The Baule, apart from being great artists, are also agriculturalists who produce yams and maize, which are supplemented by fish from the rivers and game from the forest and the savannah. In spite of their contact with the Europeans and modernity, the group succeeded in holding on to their traditional beliefs.

The Baule who belong to the Akan speaking group had evolved an egalitarian society with a deep aversion for authoritarianism or associations that encouraged the development of hierarchical structures The ...


Black Athena  

Martin Bernal

Black Athena is the general title of a series of books published by Martin Bernal. Its focus is the origin of ancient Greek civilization. The author is also concerned with the wider implications of this topic because of the historical and symbolic centrality of ancient Greece to the concept and reality of European or Western civilization as a whole. Bernal makes the following claims: first, that it is heuristically useful (helpful in trying to understand Egyptian history) to see ancient Egypt as an African civilization; second, that one should accept the view of ancient Greeks that Egypt and Phoenicia played a central role in the formation of their higher culture; and third, that European and North American scholars' denial of the first two points, since the early nineteenth century, is better explained in ideological than in strictly academic terms.


Book of the Dead  

Egyptians believed that the knowledge of these texts enabled the soul to ward off demons attempting to impede its progress, and to pass the tests set by the forty-two judges in the hall of Osiris, god of the underworld. These texts also indicated that happiness in the afterlife was dependent on the deceased’s having led a virtuous life on earth. The earliest religious (funerary) texts known were found cut in hieroglyphs on the walls inside the pyramids of the kings of the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties of the Old Kingdom; these became known as the Pyramid Texts. A famous example is found in the pyramid of Unas (reigned about 2428–2407 b.c.e the last king of the Fifth Dynasty In the first Intermediate Period and in the Middle Kingdom private individuals had these texts painted on coffins from which the alternate name Coffin Texts is derived By the Eighteenth Dynasty ...


Callimachus of Kyrene  

Duane W. Roller

was a major poet and scholar of the third century BCE. He was born at the end of the previous century in Kyrene (also Cyrene), the important Greek city on the coast of Africa west of Egypt in present-day Libya. He was of distinguished background: his homonymous grandfather was a member of the ruling elite of the city. The younger Callimachus immigrated to Alexandria in Egypt at an early age and became an intimate at the court of Ptolemaios II (who came to the throne in early 282 BCE). Callimachus was part of the developing intellectual presence around the Ptolemies, which at that time included the mathematician Euclid and the poets Theokritos and Apollonios of Rhodes. He was especially close to the queen, Arsinoë II, and wrote her eulogy.

When Arsinoë died around 270 BCE Callimachus may have fallen out of favor since little is known about him for ...



Georgia L. Irby-Massie

Academic Skeptic philosopher from Carthage, son of Diognetus, was born in Carthage (near present-day Tunis) in 187/186 BCE. Carthage was a colony founded by Phoenicians from Tyre, the culture was Punic, and Clitomachus was originally called by the Punic name Hasdrubal (he may have adopted or received the Greek name upon arriving in Athens). Well educated in Academic, Peripatetic, and Stoic tenets, he taught philosophy in Carthage in the Punic language.

Clitomachus traveled to Athens to study philosophy either at age forty 147 146 BCE or twenty four 163 162 BCE For nineteen years he studied under Carneades of Cyrene the Skeptic 214 130 129 BCE who fostered Clitomachus s renowned diligence and industry Carneades s most famous pupil he remained his mentor s companion into old age In 140 139 BCE he founded a school in the Palladium which he maintained for a decade Returning to the Academy he ...


Constantinus Africanus  

Allen J. Fromherz

North African translator, was born near Tunis in the early eleventh century (scholars estimate between 1010 and 1015). Constantinus Africanus (Constantine the African) was famed for introducing many principles of Arab medicine and scientific enquiry to the northern shores of the Mediterranean. The first known biographies of Constantinus Africanus were written and modified by Christian monks from the monastery of Monte Cassino. This occurred several decades after his death. As such, much of the information on the life of Constantinus must be seen trough the lens of these monastic sources. As a convert from Islam to Christianity, he was held up not only as a rare success of conversion but as an example of the intellectual accomplishments of Monte Cassino.

The writings of Petrus Diaconus a monk at Monte Cassino who wrote one of the earliest biographies claimed that Constantinus Africanus was born in Carthage and traveled throughout the ...


Corippus, Flavius Cresconius  

Jeremy Rich

poet, was born somewhere in Roman North Africa, most likely in the early sixth century CE. Almost nothing is known of his life outside of his poetry. Even with the limited biographical information in his writings, scholars have not been in agreement about how these autobiographical statements should be understood. For example, one of his manuscripts bears the title of teacher (grammaticus). Averil Cameron, a translator of his major poem in honor of the Byzantine emperor Justin II (r. 565 to 574 CE), believed this was evidence that Corippus was a teacher. However, the classicist Barry Baldwin contended that the title may have been added by a later scribe, and that Corippus on occasion presented himself as relatively uneducated. Cameron and some other scholars have argued that Corippus eventually received imperial awards for his eight-book epic poem Johannis (also known as De bellis Libycis This work ...


Dioscorus of Aphrodito  

Giovanni R. Ruffini

Egyptian lawyer and poet, was the son of Apollos, son of Psimanobet. Flavius Dioscorus is the best-documented figure from Byzantine Aphrodito (modern Egypt’s Kom Ishqaw) and consequently one of the best-documented representatives of village life in Egypt in the entire Greco-Roman period. The Aphrodito papyri—largely the business and personal papers of Dioskoros and his extended family—comprise an archive of hundreds of texts detailing the economic and social connections between thousands of Aphrodito villagers in the sixth century CE. Dioscorus, an Aphrodito village headman and in turn the son of another village headman, was one of the leading figures in the politics of his village in that period, and was involved in the political and economic affairs of the landowning and officeholding Roman imperial elite at the higher provincial level.

The bulk of the evidence for Dioscorus concerns either his private economic transactions or his career in village politics In the ...


Gallus, Gaius Cornelius  

Eugenio Fantusati

Roman writer and prefect in Egypt, was born in Fréjus, in present-day France, in 69 BCE. Before devoting himself to a political career, he showed significant literary talent. He belonged to the neoteric school— a poetic society inspired by the Alexandrine traditions—of Valerius Cato and Catullus and composed four books of elegies, now almost entirely lost, entitled Amores, in which he mourned over his unlucky love for the young girl Lycoris.

A personal friend of Augustus and Virgil Gallus received his first political appointment at the age of thirty eight when immediately after the Battle of Actium he was named to the position of praefectum fabrum supervisor of the corps of engineers in Cyrenaica There with the cooperation of Pinarius Scarpa the commander of Antony s forces in Libya he had ensured the obedience of the rebellious countries thereby depriving Antony of the possibility of mounting a defense in ...



Michele Valerie Ronnick

Heliodorus, a.k.a. Heliodorus of Emesa in Syria, was a writer of Greek fiction. His novel, the Aethiopica, is the oldest of the extant Greek romances. The title is derived from the opening and closing scenes of the story, which takes place in the Ethiopian kingdom of Meroe. Little is known about Heliodorus’s personal life, but his writing shows us that he was steeped in the literature of his day and thoroughly acquainted with Greek authors, including Homer and Euripides. According to his own words, his father's name was Theodosius, he was Phoenician, and he belonged to what he called “the race of the sun.”

Three ecclesiastical historians, Socrates of Constaninople, Salminius Hermias Sozomenus from the fifth century c.e., and Nicephorus Callistus Xanthopoulos from the fourteenth century, report that the author of the Aethiopica was once bishop of the Thessalian city Tricca These sources which are today viewed skeptically ...


Heliodorus, of Emesa  

Tomas Hägg

author of the Greek novel Aithiopika (Ethiopian Story), is known chiefly through this novel and its last words which read: “Such is the conclusion of the book Aithiopika concerning Theagenes and Chariclea written by a Phoenician from Emesa in western Syria modern Homs a descendant of Helius the Sun god the son of Theodosius Heliodorus The classical Greek language and bookish style show that Heliodorus had received a solid Greek education It is reported in Byzantine sources that he wrote the novel in his youth before later in life becoming Christian bishop of Trikka modern Trikkala in Thessaly in Greece presumably under the reign of Emperor Theodosius I r 379 395 If we take the novel s ending at face value Heliodorus moved from a hereditary position in the sun cult for which Emesa was famous to becoming a Christian priest and from Syria to Greece The novel itself ...



Niall Finneran

Herodotus (c. 485–425 b.c.e.) is one of the most important historical writers of antiquity. Born in the city of Halicarnassus, Asia Minor, he is regarded as bringing an “Asian” perspective to Greek historical writing. His writings are an amalgam of geography and history, framed from firsthand observation as well as secondhand accounts, a mixture of sober historical fact as well as reports of the exotic and miraculous. Herodotus’s Histories comprises nine volumes each named after a Muse the mode of expression full of dramatic digressions and asides suggests that it was written to be declaimed aloud in front of an audience Herodotus s legacy is immense he is regarded as a founding father of history The implications for Herodotus s works for Africanists are significant they represent some of the first recorded encounters between the Greek European worldview and the African world specifically dealing with detailed descriptions of ...


Ibn al-Farid, ʿUmar bin ʿAli  

Allen J. Fromherz

Egyptian Sufi mystic and poet, was born in Cairo. Most of his early years were spent in the hills to the east of Cairo and in the deserts. Although he started along the same path of his father, an estate lawyer, he felt that dry, legal study of the scripture was insufficient. He abandoned formal schooling. In an act reminiscent of the Christian desert fathers, he spent time in the deserted and empty quarters of Arabia, where he faced trials and had a vision of the Prophet Muhammad. He was praised as a saint when he returned to Cairo and told of his visions. His tomb beneath the mountains near Cairo is a major site of veneration to this day. The diwan, or the collected writings of Ibn al-Farid, is famous primarily for its poetry.

Like many mystic poets and writers Ibn al Farid used images of forbidden pleasures and ...


Ibn al-Qifti  

John Alden Williams

Egyptian Arab scholar, writer, patron, and administrator under the Ayyubid rulers of Aleppo, was born Jamal al-Din Abu al-Hasan Ali ibn Yusuf ibn Ibrahim ibn Abd al-Wahid al-Shaybani to a judge’s family in Qift in Upper Egypt, the town on the Nile nearest to the Red Sea, and thus on the most convenient route from Egypt to the two holy cities of Arabia for those going on the Hajj in that era.

There is ambiguity in the sources for his biography that may be due to the gratitude of the encyclopedic biographer and geographer Yaqut al Rumi or al Hamawi whose patron Ibn al Qifti became near the end of Yaqut s life Ibn al Qifti s maternal grandmother was an Abyssinian slave girl This was not a distinguished pedigree and typically such a woman would have been a slave concubine The chronicler Yaqut reports improbably that she was raised ...