Berbers

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Definition

The Berbers have occupied North Africa, specifically the Maghreb, since the beginning of recorded history and until the Islamic conquests of the 8th century CE constituted the dominant ethnic group in the Saharan region. Modern Berber speakers and cultural practitioners are a minority in North Africa, though Berber groups are considered the descendants of pre-Arab inhabitants of the region. In most classical texts they are referred to as Libyans. A widely-distributed and diverse ethnic group, the ancient Berbers spoke a subset of the Afro-Asiatic languages, linguistically related to that of the Egyptians, Kushites, Arabs, Syrians, Levantine tribes, and Somalis. Known to themselves as Amazigh, the Berbers take their more common name from the Latin barbarus (barbarian), a Roman effort to distinguish the less-developed tribal societies of much of Europe and Africa from their own Hellenic-derived civilization. Libya is a Greek word derived from a regional title, and the term came to be used interchangeably with the concept of Africa.

More about: Berbers

Timeline

  • c. 1300 BCE
    Egyptians record the presence of semi-nomadic tribes in the Maghreb.
  • c. 814 BCE
    Traditional founding date for the Phoenician colony of Carthage by Tyre.
  • 631 BCE
    Greek colonists from the island of Thera found the city of Cyrene in North Africa.
  • 206 BCE
    Massinissa of Numidia betrays Carthage and joins forces with the Roman Republic.
  • 148 BCE
    The Roman Republic legitimises various Numidian tribal leaders to ensure stability and prevent a single ruler from becoming too powerful.
  • 85 BCE - 46 BCE
    Life of Juba I, a Numidian chieftain who united the Numidians and Mauretanians against Caesar.
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