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by Amina Belguendouz


Amina Belguendouz is a graduate student at the University of Oran in Algeria. She hopes to find a family in the United States that will host her so she can continue her studies here, specializing in American Studies, not offered in Algeria. Here, she writes about her own country and part of North Africa's ancient history.

I do not pretend to be a historian nor an expert in Algerian anthropology. My purpose in writing such articles is to explore the history of my land while expanding “the Frontier” of my knowledge. I hope that you, Dear Reader, will be satisfied. I’ll try to do my best to help you know the history and culture of a land, which you may not know.

Algeria came to be known in this last decade through its scenes of murder, and it became synonymous with violence and terrorism, but Algeria has never been, as many believe, tribes living in total anarchy and chaos, killing each other. In fact, many people in America and some European countries believe that Algeria is living a civil war with ethnic groups struggling against each other, but in reality, they tend to confuse what is happening in other African countries, such as Uganda, Rouwanda, Congo, and so on, with the events in Algeria.

I do not want to talk about politics. I just wanted to make it all clear: there are no ethnic groups fighting for their supremacy in Algeria. Well, let’s forget about politics and talk about history, although one hardly ever goes without the other.

Algeria is a relatively new name for the land I am living in. As a matter of fact, the very first name given to Algeria was ICOSIUM, and the name changed through time. Algeria was called LYBIA, MAURITANIA, NUMIDIA, AFRICA, IFRIQUIYA. Although the territorial bounderies of this land changed from a given period of time to another, Algeria can easily be situated since it has always been at the center as the gate to deep Africa and a window offering a view of the European continent.

Ancient Algerian society had no dynasty, no military class, no nobilty, and thus the population stood in its great majority in a primitive state, faithful to the principles and rules of the family and the tribe, a unique juridical basis, built upon needs and utility. In spite of this deep-rooted political and social organization, some tried to establish a State with new institutions and traditions, following the example of Rome and Carthage. Their trials were only a momentary success, and what they accumulated collapsed soon after their death. Thus, the old traditions were restored as the only way to defend themselves against the invaders.

By the third century B.C., Greeks started writing about Algeria, giving names and some details. One century later, Romans – who succeeded the Greeks as the Mediterranean great power--began to be interested in Algeria as a land to know and to conquer! As they penetrated into Africa, Algeria was already divided into three “Kingdoms”:

1. MASSAESYLIA or MASSASYLIA in the west, having SIGA as its capital.

2. MASSYLIA in the east with CIRTA as the capital city.

3. GUETULIA in the south.

These kingdoms had nothing to do with modern monarchies. They formed, rather, a confederation, with an elected military chief at its head. This chief had the title of AGUELLID. The Aguellid was chosen by his people for his moral values and his courage, but as soon as he failed in his duties, he was dismissed. Great Aguellids such as SYPHAX, MASSINISSA, MACIPSA, JUGHURTHA, JUBA I, JUBA II, tried to maintain an army. They disposed of troops with 15,000 to 50,000 cavalrymen.

I will stop here for now. I hope, Dear Reader, that you’ll send me your comments and proposals at my e-mail address so that I can improve my writting.

Great Aguellids, Part I

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