Wednesday, December 2, 2015


Many researchers have written about Roman penetration into what is now Azerbaijan and even possible direct contacts between Rome and the Chinese Imperial court. But an academic from Israel (professor Yulia Ustinova) recently has made a claim that Romans – it is argued legionaries – visited western Uzbekistan (the caves at Kara-Kamar) close to Afghanistan in the early centuries AD.

Indeed Yulia Ustinova, of the Ben Gurion university in Israel, wrote the book ‘New Latin and Greek Rock–Inscriptions from Uzbekistan’ about this astonishing possibility.

Obviously, it should be stated that this would be an extraordinary occurrence. But it is not an impossible suggestion. Armenia was briefly a Roman province in the second century AD and a Roman ‘protectorate’ for much, much longer. And a Roman military detachment went just a little further and left an inscription on the western banks of the Caspian Sea near Baku.

Roman legionaries did an inscription in eastern Azerbaijan (60 kms from Baku), which reads: "IMP DOMITIANO CAESARE AVG GERMANICO LVCIVS IVLIVS MAXIMVS LEGIONIS XII FVL, Under imperator Domitian, Caesar, Augustus Germanicus, Lucius Julius Maximus, Legio XII Fulminata", but these Kara-Kamar inscription are located nearly 1500 kms more to the east and so it is the furthest eastern place a Roman soldier went.

The Roman inscription in Baku:

In the late 1980s some "Mediterranean graffiti" were discovered in a complex of caves at Kara-Kamar in Uzbekistan near the border with Turkmenistan and Afghanistan, to the west of Termez. These kinds of graffiti were 3 inscriptions: 2 in Latin and one in Greek:

1) ROD/ PAN …/ I M



The three inscriptions studied in detail by Ustinova are extremely abbreviated, mainly the first two in Latin. This is natural in Roman inscriptions and even more so in graffiti. But it also means to some critics that a few scratches, possibly from another alphabet or epoch could easily be misread into Latin or Greek, especially given that there are other graffiti in Russian, Uzbek and Arabic that complicate the readings.

So the letters ‘I M‘ at the end of the first inscription are taken by the academic editor to be an abbreviation for ‘Invictus Mithras’, ‘Unconquered Mithras’. The editor goes on to suggest that the complex may have been used by Roman soldiers as a Mithraeum.

AP LG is meanwhile interpreted as ‘AP(ollinaris) L(e)G(io)’ ‘the Apollonian Legion XV’. The XV was based in Cappadocia in the east of the Empire, so this would make sense. But again the ‘abbreviation’ (if that is what it is) could be read in other ways and the missing number is a bit strange, according to critics.

The evidence that gives some context to these finds can be read in "The Historia Augusta" (written during the late centuries of the Roman empire), which claims that the Emperor Hadrian (117-138 AD) received ambassadors from the Bactarian kings, almost certainly the Kushan Emperor offering friendship, and that the Kushan Empire would have controlled Kara-Kamar. Military contact could have come on the back of such a visit or another now forgotten embassy. Alternatively the Roman soldiers could have been prisoners.

The authors of the Kara-Kamar Latin inscriptions -according to Ustinova- regarded the cave complex suitable for the Mithraic worship. These inscriptions were incised by soldiers of the "XIV Apollinaris Legio" in the second-third centuries AD, and the cave complex itself served perhaps as a "Mithraeum" (a temple to worship the Mithraic cult).

The inscriptions inside the Kara-Kamar cave are located not far away from Alexandria on Oxus, an important city of the pre-Roman Bactrian kingdom:

The publication of this fascinating possibility came from Yulia Ustinova: her authority means that these inscriptions must be taken seriously.

Yulia Ustinova wrote later, supporting her findings from critics: ‘In fact, I still think the inscriptions were left there by Roman soldiers, probably captives: there were no other inscriptions in Latin or Greek characters in the cave, and while those in Latin consist of abbreviations that – theoretically – can be interpreted otherwise, the Greek one is unequivocal. Now, who and when could leave a Greek inscription in Uzbekistan? I still consider the suggestion put forward in the Hephaistos article plausible.’

However I want to remember that emperor Trajan in 116 AD conquered all Mesopotamia and obtained the submission of the king of Persia, Parthamaspates, who so was the Roman client king of the Parthian Empire (he was the son of the Parthian emperor Osroes I).

Indeed Parthamaspates, after spending much of his life in Roman exile, accompanied the Roman Emperor Trajan on the campaign to conquer Parthia. Trajan originally planned to annex Parthia as part of the Roman Empire, but ultimately decided instead to place Parthamaspates on his father's throne as a Roman client, doing so in 116 AD after defeating the Parthians at a battle near Ctesiphon. But just one year later, following Roman withdrawal from the area, the Parthians easily defeated Parthamaspates and reclaimed the Parthian throne in 117 AD.

We know that Romans always helped the kings of their "puppet states" (historically called "Client-States"), sending some legionaries inside the territories of these Client States: obviously I wonder if someone of these legionaries went to the northern limits of the Parthian kingdom for some reasons we cannot know...may be these legionaries reached the Kara-Kamar caves located between the Parthian territories and the post-Bactrian kingdom!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015


In the northwest of Serbian Bosnia there it is a small community of nearly 400 persons, whose ancestors came from the Italian Trentino 130 years ago: the village is called "Stivor".

The Italian emigrants from the Trentino valley of "Valsugana" (devastated by floodings) in 1882 settled all around Bosnia and Herzegovina: around Tuzla, Konjic, Banja Luka and Prnjavor. Nearby the town of Prnjavor they created a settlement called "Štivor'. Its founders travelled for months on foot and brought with them their customs, language and beliefs that have remained almost the same so far. The Italians in other parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina mostly returned to their fatherland before the outbreak of World War I. But the population of Stivor was much more attached to this new land and only at recent times they have started emigrating to Italy in huge amounts. However as late as 1921 the number of the Italians living in the area was 292.

After the end of World War II farming remained the predominant economic activity in the area, but some Italians of Stivor moved to Italy and Europe. When Tito’s Yugoslavia ended in 1991 and the war in Bosnia broke out, Stivor had 700 inhabitants but most of the Stivorians escaped abroad and many of them reached the Trentino region, their ancestral home. Since then around 530 Stivorians have re-settled in Trentino, and on March 9, 1997 the ”Circolo Trentini di Stivor” (or “Stivorian-Trentinis’ Club”) was founded in Roncegno near Trento.

Today there is a local "Trentino Association" that keeps in touch with their home country. The aims of this Bosnian Association are the preservation of Trentino culture and tradition in Stivor (a very small city where 92% of the inhabitants are descendants of the first Italian settlers). On the actual cemetery can be found typical italian names from the Valsugana in Trentino: Andreatta, Agostini, Dalsasso, Postal, Moretti, Bocher, Osti, Fusinato, Montibeller, Dalprà, Paternoster, Valandro. The population of Stivor still uses a special Trentino dialect from the region of Valsugana, which is slowly dying out in Italy.

It is noteworthy to pinpoint that the creation of Stivor in 1882 is similar to the founding of "Carani", the first "Italian" locality created in eastern Europe -near Romanian Timisoara in 1734- by emigrants from the Trentino more than one century earlier.( href=" )

Following is an article dedicated to this small Italian community in the Balkans:


"Bosnia, the ethnic group you don’t expect".............written by Alessandro Giulio Midlarz

Hidden among the woods of the Republic of Srpska and overlooked by geographical maps, "Stivor" is a two-kilometre stretch of road where a com- munity of Trentino nationals has survived for the past 125 years. Two world wars, Tito’s regime and the fierce ethnic war waged in recent times have not changed their identity. A bilingual sign welcomes the visitor. A bar, a food shop and about a hundred small houses line a ribbon of asphalt…

A Catholic outpost in Ottoman territory

Almost all the inhabitants of Stivor are Italian, the grandchildren and great- grandchildren of a small group – about five hundred in all – of Trentino natives who left the Valsugana valley, then a part of Austria, in 1882 after it had been devastated by a flood on the Brenta river and poverty.

Drawn by a massive manpower recruitment campaign, they should have all ended up in Brazil; instead, they entrusted their money and hopes to a middleman who abandoned them at the port of Trieste with neither tickets nor prospects – just after Austria-Hungary had signed the Treaty of Berlin allowing it to administer a still-Turkish Bosnia and started “selecting” settlers to create a Catholic outpost on the ridge between the Austro-Hungarian empire and Ottoman territory. The only formality involved was a request on stamped paper.

It was time to leave for the Balkans: a month and a half’s walk pulling creaking carts piled high with equipment and seeds along rutted mule tracks until they came to a stop in a sea of green nothingness. They cut down trees, tilled the land and built shacks. Thus Stivor came into existence.

There were other peasants – Polish, Czech, Ukrainian – not far away, their story also one of forced emigration. The Trentino natives have never moved since; however, instead of being absorbed by the trend towards standardization of usages and customs, they have maintained their ties with their country of origin. As recently as World War II, Stivor was a sealed-off community; weddings and baptisms were private affairs and not even subsequent intermarriages with Bosnian Serbs in the area have managed to affect their identity, so much so that nearly all the inhabitants are now partially related to each other.

Photo (done in the late 1920s) of a group of the first Valsugana settlers in Stivor of Bosnia

There are a handful of surnames, always the same ones: Agostini, Andreata, Moreti, Montibeler, Postaj, Dalsaso, Bocher, Paternoster. Some have dropped the double letters from their names or incorporated hitherto unknown consonants to adapt to the local phonetic structure: a visit to the small cemetery makes it possible to date the stages of this concession to integration. The first immigrant tomb, however, is located just outside the village with no surrounding wall; it lies in the shade of three century-old linden trees, crystallized in an almost unreal silence, wrapped in eternal peace since 1883.

Close ties with Italy

Giuseppe Moreti, a cordial 50-year-old man with a cool gaze, is the community’s spokesman and the president of the local branch of the Trentini nel mondo association of Trentino nationals abroad. “There are two hundred of us”, he specifies immediately. “In 1998 the Italian government recognised our right to also have Italian citizenship and our passports were sent to us, but Italian has always been the mother tongue here anyway, even at school. Unfortunately there are few young people today, because when the war broke out in 1992, many of our youngsters ran away to Italy to look for work. The village remained without electricity or telephones for two years. Those who stayed on had to make the best of it”. As he speaks, he glances at the fields that start outside his window.

There is not a single cottage, house or shed in Stivor without at least one hectare of cultivated land: vegetable gardens, vineyards and orchards. Each family also has a cistern to collect rainwater for household use and draws drinking water from wells.

The Autonomous Province of Trento in Italy has dipped into regional funds to solve Stivor’s water supply problem. In collaboration with local administrations, it has already built two huge tanks and three big wells and invested 500,000 euros in the construction of an aqueduct which is expected to be functional in five years’ time. “Some have come back”, Giuseppe continues as a boy on the road waves heartily to him in greeting. “Others commute to and from Valsugana, where they are employed as specialised workers in large construction companies. A worker earns 400 convertible marks a month here, or about 200 euros, so it is understandable that many of them prefer to remain in Trentino. So some people come to visit their families every weekend while others only come here for the holidays”.

All year round, mainly in summer, cars keep coming and going between northern Bosnia and places like Strigno, Borgo and Roncegno in Trentino. Whole wedding processions often leave from Trentino, complete with traditional bands bringing up the parade, to come and get married in the little village church and celebrate with a wedding lunch of polenta and luganega sausages in the club hall. It’s not just a question of roots: a reception for two hundred people, i.e. the entire village, only costs about 2,000 euros.

Those who have left and those who wish to return

Financial considerations aside, the call of the land and relatives is undying even for those who have crossed over to another world.

Stefano Montibeler, a sturdy 67-year-old, greets everyone he meets with the good cheer and enthusiasm of the village’s most unexpected guest. This is the eighth time in the past forty years that he is back visiting his native land. The embroidered kangaroo logo on his polo shirt and his caricatural accent reveal his story of a political refugee outside the bounds of Europe. Having fled Tito’s regime in 1965, just married and with “nary a dinar in my pockets”, he stopped off in Trieste and on the outskirts of Latina, where he and his wife decided to get on the first ship to Australia, an alternative to America for fortune seekers of the time. A month’s journey at sea, passing through the Suez Canal; the difficult process of adaptation, the apprenticeships at thousands of different jobs: a story shared by millions of Italian emigrants between the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and today’s Third World emigrants, who have simply reversed the direction of the migratory flow. Montibeler now lives in Canberra, where he is a building contractor: a successful one, not least because “the Australians have never really been all that keen on back-breaking work”.

He has only heard about the war in other people’s stories, unlike Ivan Osti, 36, who has a passion for Belgrade’s Red Star football club and exhibits a rare courteousness. Osti experienced the war from up close. He tells of the foolhardiness and determination of his frequent trips from Bosnia to Italy in the three-year period from 1992 to 1995: “Stivor was spared, because they knew we were Italian, but in Derventa, a village only fifteen kilometres away as the crow flies, the bombers razed everything to the ground. They would pass close overhead, flying so low that our caps would fly off our heads”. He had to pay the municipality a tax of 150 German marks a month to be able to leave Stivor, money that was meant to finance war logistics but “ended up making a couple of people richer”. Every trip was an odyssey. In the beginning he would travel via Slovenia and Croatia but the gun battles and army roadblocks became increasingly frequent and dangerous, as he risked being killed because of a misunderstanding. The alternative was to skirt the Balkans via Austria and Hungary, entering Bosnia through Serbia.

Today, Ivan hopes that someone will finally decide to invest in this land and that young Stivorians can come back, drawn by new jobs. Some have even started thinking of hunting-related tourism, advertising empty houses on the Internet and renting them to Italian hunters in search of virgin and, above all – a rarity for Bosnia – mine-free woodland.

A minority that goes against the tide

While waiting for Stivorians to rebuild the future, it is up to the elderly to maintain the link with their ancestors and carry the religion forward in harmony with their Orthodox and Muslim neighbours. Their homes are shrines to piety and tradition, with religious icons, faded photographs, embroidered lace and the inevitable bottle of slivovitza, homemade plum brandy. Listening to Giuseppe’s loquacious 80- year-old mother Elena, 83-year-old Antonia or 91-year-old Arcangelo takes you on a journey into time, for their throats emit a dialect that has remained unchanged since the 19th century, a small treasure for ethnolinguists.

In the jigsaw puzzle of ethnic groups in Bosnia today, the Italians are the smallest of the minorities and it is hard to even find a trace of them on the official maps. They are certainly not represented in the last census, which dates back to 1991: 44% Bosnian Muslim (Bosniak), 31% Serb, 17% Croat, 6% Yugoslav (people nostalgic for the Federal Socialist Republic and mixed marriages).

Since then there have only been estimates. The ethnic cleansing and the war refugees have shuffled the cards. Going by the figures in the 2006 CIA World Factbook, there does not seem to have been a radical change: 48% Bosnian Muslim, 37.1% Serb, 14.3% Croat and a tiny but heterogeneous 0.6% “Other” which also includes the Stivor Italians.

Reviewing the data from a geographical standpoint, however, the country has changed its description: BIRN (Balkan Investigative Reporting Network), the regional journalistic organisation, estimates that in the Republic of Srpska, where the majority of the population was formerly Bosnian Muslim, over 90% of the current population comprises people of Serb origin. It is here, far from political games and racial hatred, that the tale of Stivor’s Trentino natives continues to be told.

The small Bosnian cemetery marks the stages of the Trentino nationals’ integration. The first immigrant tomb, however, is located just outside the village, in the shade of three century-old linden trees. In the jigsaw puzzle of ethnic groups in Bosnia today, the Italians are the smal- lest of the minorities and it is up to the elderly to maintain the link with their ancestors and carry the religion forward in harmony with their Orthodox and Muslim neighbours. Young people who witnessed the war from up close, hope that someone will decide to invest in this land.


For further information please go to ( )

Tuesday, October 6, 2015


There are many studies about the Romans in eastern Africa (Somalia, Kenya and Tanzania coast). Some are done by Felix Chami, professor at the Dar es Salaam university (read -----&----- ).

This academic professor is detailing with his researches the Roman presence in the Tanzania coast, a region used to be called in classical centuries with the name "Azania" and that had as the main port a city called "Raphta". Of course we must pinpoint that Romans had a huge commerce for centuries with Raphta, that was the southernmost locality which was possible to reach from their Red sea port of Adulis using the Monsoon winds.

And we must remember that Ptolemy the Geographer, a Greek-Roman citizen of Egypt, writing in his Geography in the second century AD, described the interior of Africa beyond Ethiopia quite accurately: "toward the west are the Mountains of the Moon from which the lakes of the Nile receive snow water." This description shows a knowledge due mainly to the commerce done by Roman merchants in the eastern Africa coast

During Caesar times, the port of Rhapta (located near Dar es Salaam in Tanzania) emerged as the principal commercial center on the east African coast. With increasing trade, groups of professional merchants and entrepreneurs emerged at Rhapta, and coins came into general use on the east African coast. Merchants of Rhapta imported iron goods such as spears, axes, and knives from southern Arabia and the eastern Mediterranean region controlled by Rome in exchange for ivory, rhinoceros horn, tortoise shell, and slaves obtained from interior regions.

Indeed Ptolemy goes on to itemize a long list of towns and ports all down the eastern seaboard of Africa. Some scholars believe that his knowledge of the coast extended as far south as Cabo Delgado in northern Mozambique. Ptolemy included details of the latitude of each place he mentions. The most intriguing of these is a port called Rhapta which is also mentioned in a book written by an unknown Greek author called the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea. The Periplus is probably the most comprehensive documents we have of the ancient world of the Indian Ocean.

According to the most thorough translation by Lionel Casson: "Two runs beyond this island comes the very last port of trade on the coast of Azania, called Rhapta, where there are great quantities of ivory and tortoise shell."

The following is a map from Wikipedia showing the possible location of Raphta in the eastern Africa coast:

A ‘run’ is about 100 nautical miles. The mysterious island is very likely Zanzibar which means that Rhapta would have lain at the mouth of the Rufiji River in Tanzania. This is supported by finds by the archaeologist Felix Chami of the University of Dar Es Salaam in which he uncovered Greco-Roman pottery and Syrian glass. Even more recent discoveries based on his reading of Ptolemy have led to his unearthing shards of pottery and human bones on Juani island off the coast at Rufiji which point to extensive East African trade in the ancient world. It is possible that the island the Periplus talks of is the larger Mafia island off the Rufiji delta which would then add further evidence to the Romans and Greeks being familiar with the coast as far south as Mozambique.

Even old Chinese documents point to the likelihood that the Greeks and Romans were familiar with the east and southern Africa. The fragmentary remains of text and footnotes of the "Weilüe" -an account of the Wei dynasty by historian Yu Huan written in the third century- refers to the ‘kingdom of Da Qin’ (which was Rome) and the territory of ‘Zesan’ which scholars believe is likely to be a corruption of ‘Azania’, the Roman and Greek name for the East African coast.

The Periplus (written around 50 AD) explicitly states that Azania was subject to Charibaêl, the king of both the Sabaeans and Homerites in the southwest corner of Arabia (including Aden). The kingdom is known to have been a Roman ally at this period. Charibaêl is stated in the Periplus to be “a friend of the (Roman) emperors, thanks to continuous embassies and gifts” and, therefore, Azania could fairly be described as a vassal or dependency of Rome (Client-State), just as Zesan is described in the Weilue. Indeed in the Chinese Weilue (written around 230 AD) there it is written:

Section 15 – The Kingdom of Zesan (Azania). The king of Zesan (Azania) is subject to Da Qin (Rome). His seat of government is in the middle of the sea. To the north you reach Lüfen (Leukê Komê). It can take half a year to cross the water, but with fast winds it takes a month. (Zesan) is in close communication with Angu city (Gerrha) in Anxi (Parthia). You can (also) travel (from Zesan) southwest to the capital of Da Qin (Rome), but the number of "li" is not known.

Furthermore we have to remember that the emperor Augustus planned an expedition around Africa with roman ships starting from the Red Sea, but it was never done.

Coins survive for centuries and are reliable indicators of extensive trade, but they can be carried for thousands of miles in a leather pouch or even someone’s pocket so they are uncertain indicators of any Greek or Roman presence in southern Africa. Nonetheless, Victorian archaeologists searching the ruins of the civilization of Great Zimbabwe found a coin from the reign of the Emperor Antoninus Pius (AD 138 - 161) in an old shaft near Mutare at a depth of nearly 25 metres which indicates an age of some antiquity. Curiously, too, a Roman coin from the reign of Emperor Trajan (AD 98 -117) was found on the Congo River about a century ago. Furthermore, J. Innes Miller points out that Roman coins have been found on Pemba island, just north of Rhapta, and Germans of Tanganika found two Roman coins in Kilwa Kisiwani on an island next to the Mozambique border (read ).

Indeed on the central Mozambique coast, Dundo and Chibuene have produced glass beads from the Mediterranean sea and Middle Eastern pottery of mid/late first-millennium age. An Omani green glazed ware fragment at Chibuene suggests that contacts reach back to the early fifth century (read ): these contacts from Chibuene (located south of the Zambesi river delta) probably reached the highlands of what is now Zimbabwe. This suggest that probably agriculture was favored by roman commerce in the region of Africa that a few centuries later saw the rise of the famous ancient "Zimbabwe kingdom".

In the fifth century the Roman commerce with Azania & Raphta seems to disappear, probably because of the barbarian invasions in Europe.

Recently have been discovered what look like some ruins of Rafta on the coast of Tanzania: read

The following is one of the researches about the Romans in Raphta:

The Graeco-Romans and Paanchea/Azania: sailing in the Erythraean Sea (by Dr. Felix CHAMI)


This paper is another attempt to elucidate how the Graeco-Romans had extended trade links to the coast of East Africa and probably to the interior of East Africa. This undertaking is probably the first of its kind to collate a variety of archaeological evidence recently recovered from the coast and islands of Tanzania with existing Graeco-Roman documents. Previous efforts have relied mostly on historical data and few objects such as coins found in non-archaeological contexts.

The focus of this paper is on how the Red Sea was used to facilitate contact between communities of the Mediterranean Sea and those of the Red Sea and East Africa or Paanchea/Azania. However, some evidence, published elsewhere (see for example Chami 2002a, 2002b), may also be used to show that similar contacts existed between East Africa, the Middle East and south-east Asia. The present work comprises the new archaeological finds from the Tanzanian coast of 2000-2002. Also the work utilizes, with much more confidence, data from early Graeco-Roman documents hitherto referred to as fairy stories.

It is important to define what is termed in this work as the Graeco-Roman period. The standard meaning obtained from the Random House College Dictionary is that of a period having both Greek and Roman characteristics. Such characteristics occurred in the period when the Romans took over the empire of the Greeks in the second part of the last century BC and hence they fused together both Greek and Roman influences: this process continued until about the end of the 3rd century AD. The use of the concept "Graeco-Roman" in this work extends further back to cover the period following the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC until the end of the 3rd century AD.

With this definition, the Graeco-Roman period thus can be divided into two phases. The first phase is the one in which East Africa is linked to the economy of the Mediterranean world via the Red Sea. The emerging historical and archaeological data portray the existence of contact between the regions of the Mediterranean/Red Sea and East Africa beginning from about the early 3rd century BC. This is the period when the Greeks had taken over the control of the eastern Mediterranean and Ptolemaic rule had been installed in Egypt, Greek sailors sailed in the Red Sea and had probably reached East Africa. The second phase of Graeco-Roman economic links with East Africans during the Roman rule of the Mediterranean Sea beginning with the reign of Caesar Augustus, from about 27 BC. Due to the eminent power of the Arabs in the Red Sea and in the northern Indian Ocean in the last century BC, the late Ptolemaic rule and the early Roman rule may have linked with East Africa along the Nile via Meroe (for conspectus see Chami 1999a). It was in the time of Caesar Augustus, more so after the BC/AD changeover, that Graeco-Roman sailors and traders were opened to the Indian Ocean through the Red Sea. Arab power was crushed and Aden, the town controlling the trade from the Indian Ocean to the Red Sea, was destroyed by the Romans (see Begley and de Puma eds 1991; Cinimo 1994).

Romans in the African coast of the Indian Ocean

The extension of the Roman economic influence to the Indian Ocean reaching the Far East and East Africa probably created an unprecedented world economic order not so well documented before. The new era is known to have lasted three centuries until the Roman control of the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean passed to the Aksumites and Sasanians respectively (see Whitehouse and Williamson 1973).

The earliest Graeco-Roman document discussing East Africa, then called "Paanchea", is that of Iambulus, a work preserved in Diodorus (see Oldfather 1961). This document offers in detail a forced travel of Iambulus from somewhere on the Horn of Africa/Red Sea to islands of East Africa, at the equator, in about the 3rd century BC. Recent scholars, and indeed the ancient scholars, doubted the authenticity of Iambulus report rating it as fantasy (see Cary and Warmington 1963, 241).

Key aspects of Paanchea in Iambulus report are: the existence of seven islands populated by people practicing similar culture, literacy and a communal but quasi-Neolithic mode of production. The people of the islands were religious believing in the sun and stars. Another aspect of Iambulus report is the ancient sailing. His trip was done within six months from the Red Sea and when he left the islands, after seven years of stay, it took him a similar time to reach the north-west coast of India. The report suggests that the three regions of the Red Sea, East Africa and India were in contact.

Another person known to have visited Paanchea at the time of Iambulus is Euhemerus, yet his report was also doubted. Another contemporary, Eudoxus, is said to have reached the coast of East Africa after being forced by monsoon winds when sailing to the Red Sea from a mission in India. It was this accidental voyage that led him realise that one could circumnavigate Africa and that people of the Atlantic Ocean based at Gades in the modern coast of Spain had reached the coast of East Africa from the south.

It has been noted that Roman scholars were skeptical of their Greek predecessors knowledge of East Africa, referring to it as fantasy. What should be noted here is that the Greeks found Egyptians having the knowledge of Paanchea (Cary and Warmington 1963, 240) and must have learnt from them how to reach East Africa. It would seem that Egyptians had kept the secrets of East Africa for several millennia as "Paanchea" carries similar phonetic sounds like "Pnt", which although recent scholars have read it as "Punt", could actually have read "Pwanchi". The territory was later identified in the Roman period as Zangion or "AZANIA" with the focus being much more on the Ocean or "za" as opposed to the coastal land or "Apwanchi". The same territory was identified in the Islamic period as Zanchi meaning "land of Za" (see Chami 2002b). The people of the East African coast still refer to their coastal strip as "Pwani", which preserves the phonetic sounds in "Punt" and "Paanchi".

Although Punt has been located, unconvincingly, on the African coast of the Red Sea (see Kitchen 1993) new evidence points further south, as the Greeks who reported to have reached Paanchea, also given the location at the Red Sea area, sailed for several months from the Red Sea in the general direction of East Africa. Paanchea was reported to have had large settlements, the largest of which was called Panara. Whether the capital was located on the island or on the coast or the interior is not mentioned.

However, Strabo who also compiled data from his predecessors, i.e. Hipparchus (2nd century BC) and Eratosthenes (3rd century BC), described the climate and some cultures of the deep interior of East Africa (see Jones 1960). These included well populated wet highlands, and there were people in some parts of the interior who ate locusts, as indeed is done today by the people of the Great Lake region; according to Pliny some inhabitants smeared themselves with ochre (see Rackham 1961, 479), an aspect well attested today ethnographically and archaeologically for the Rift Valley people.

Another important aspect of the Red Sea-East Africa relationship is the trade in spices, particularly cinnamon and cassia, reported at this time to have been reaching the Mediterranean and the Red Sea worlds from East Africa. Indeed Iambulus mission was in search of spices. Paanchea was reported to have traded spices with Arabia, another reason suggesting that the country was East Africa rather than the Red Sea coast of Africa. Strabo speculated the origin of the cinnamon and cassia to have been near the Nile Sudd. However, Pliny corrected him suggesting that it was the East African Acave dwellers@, who had been related to the people of the Red Sea, who brought the spices from a place far in the Ocean, pointing to south-east Asia (Rackham 1961, 63). As it will be shown later the Late Stone Age/Neolithic people on the islands of Tanzania lived in caves.

The second phase of Graeco-Roman literature is that of the early centuries AD comprising the celebrated Periplus of the Erythraean Sea and Ptolemy's Geographia. This historiography has been thoroughly discussed by other scholars (see translations by Schoff 1912; Huntingford 1980; Casson 1989; and discussion by Datoo 1970; Kirwan 1986; Horton 1990; Chami1999a, 1999b). Only a few points need to be mentioned here. The Periplus, written in about AD 40-70, describes Azania as extending from a place south of Somalia to the general coast of Tanzania. An island, called Menuthias, probably to be identified as Zanzibar, is mentioned and an emporium called Rhapta is also described and probably located near the Rufiji River. The trade route connecting parts of the Red Sea to Azania and India is described and it is also reported that the Arabs of the Red Sea coast had controlled trade at Rhapta arguing that Azania was under their suzerainty.

Ptolemy's Geographia, written in the 2nd century AD, adds very little to the Periplus apart from offering latitudes and longitudes to the settlements provided. The Geographia suggests the growth of more settlements and the development of Rhapta as a metropolis. The coast of Mozambique and the offshore islands were then known because it is here where Ptolemy places his Menuthias.

Probably one of the most significant contributions made by Ptolemy's Geographia is the inclusion of data about the deep interior. One of the regular Roman visitors to Azania, called Diogenes, visited Lake Nyanza (Victoria), and knew about the Ruwenzori range of mountains (The Mountains of the Moon), the Uganda Nile and a mountain with three peaks probably Kilimanjaro (for conspectus see Huntingford 1980; Chami 1999a). Imports to East Africa included iron objects, wine and grain whereas exports included ivory, rhinoceros horn, tortoise shells, and coconut oil/nautilus shells.

It was noted earlier that Graeco-Roman documents, actually of all periods, were of little use up to 1995 because the archaeology of East Africa had not recovered any evidence to corroborate the history. Whereas the Greek reports were not believed, Periplus and Ptolemy's reports were strongly approved because they were strongly supported by archaeological evidence, particularly from India and Sri Lanka. Moreover, Roman history corroborated sailing of the Roman traders in the Indian Ocean reaching as far as South Asia (see Begley and de Puma eds 1991; Cinimo 1994).

The main thrust of this paper is to provide archaeological evidence spanning the period of GraecoBRoman era showing that there were settlements on the coast of East Africa linked by trade to the Red Sea and beyond. The earliest material evidence reported suggesting the existence of such settlements and trade link is that of Chittick (1966) who summarized the report of the finds of various coins of rulers of the Ptolemaic Egypt, Roman Empire and other rulers of the Middle East from the last centuries BC. As none of these were not found in archaeological contexts, the data is unreliable. The next material evidence for trade link between the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean was that provided by Chittick (1980; Smith and Wright 1988) from Ras Hafun. Here finds of Roman pottery in archaeological context dating between the 1st century BC and 3rd century AD were recovered. The problem with this site find, however, was that it was not directly pointing to East Africa and the same site could have been serving trade to India.

The third material evidence linking the Mediterranean world with Azania, incontrovertible for the first time, was the report by this author, of "ROMAN BEADS" from the Rufiji Delta region dating back to the early centuries AD (Chami 1999b). The most important of those beads collected is a segmented gold/silver glass bead made on Rhodes between 100 BC and 300 AD. If the beads reached the coast of East Africa before the 1st century AD, it is probable that they could have come through the Nile Valley route via Meroe where similar beads are found (Welsby 1996). If they reached Azania after the BC/AD changeover, it is likely that they followed the Red Sea route as the Indian Ocean was not yet opened to the Roman traders, and such beads have yet to be recovered in the Red Sea or Southern Arabia.

The fourth piece of evidence, also incontrovertible, consists of archaeological finds of both Roman and Indian material deposited in a limestone cave in Zanzibar, and also reported by this author (see Chami and Wafula 1999, Chami 2001). The artefacts include "ROMAN RED WARE POTTERY" similar to those reported by Smith and Wright (1988) from Ras Hafun (this and other finds have been illustrated in Chami 2002a). In association were green and blue glazed and non-glazed Persian wares and Indian beads (including a carnelian bead). A C14 sample from associated charcoal gives a date in the last century BC. Since then, discoveries of many trade goods have been recovered from the island of Mafia off the Rufiji delta (I illustrate this finds here with colour pictures for the first time since they were discovered in 2001-2002). The preliminary report of the archaeological work yielding these finds is found elsewhere (Chami 2000) and a more detailed report is under preparation (Chami, Sinclair, Nordstrom and Knutson forthcoming).

The limestone shelter preserving these materials is found in the small island of Mafia called Juani. The cultural layer, a Late Stone Age/Neolithic with the materials, is now dated by C14 to the last part of the 1st millennium BC. Imported goods include both Graeco-Roman and Indian ceramics. The potsherds of Mediterranean origin are of great interest because they can also provide a relative date. Four potsherds are of marl clay from the Lower Nile region (Nordstrom, pers. comm.). Such pottery was known to have been traded by Egyptians to the Nubian Kingdom of Napata in about the 7th BC (Kendal 1997, 162). It is likely that this kind of pottery could have reached the islands of East Africa via the Red Sea in the time of Iambulus.

Another important find is that of red painted ware identified by Sunil Gupta (pers. comm.) to be of Indian origin and dating from the early centuries AD. However, since the C14 dates for this ware are earlier (falling in the last centuries BC) and since this pottery is associated with Neolithic material rather than the Early Iron Age material found in the upper sequence of the cave occupation, the red painted ware must have reached the coast of East Africa before at least the BC/AD changeover. Vessels of red painted ware are also known to have been used in the Red Sea area in the late centuries BC and early centuries AD (Curtis/Sinclair-personal comm.). Another class of pottery found in the island of Mafia dating to the same early period is black ware also identified by Gupta to have belonged to the Early Iron Age of India. More than 25 potsherds recovered from the island of Mafia have been identified as of Indian origin.

Another category of find linking the Red Sea and East Africa is that of beads now identified as Graeco-Roman. These include one Aeye@ bead and one mosaic bead described elsewhere by Dubin (1987, 60-61) as Hellenistic and Roman period dating from between 300 BC to AD 400 (for illustration see Chami 2002a). Dr St J. Simpson (pers. comm.) who saw the picture of the beads suggested that the Aeye@ bead Acould be pre-Islamic and there is evidence for both Roman and Partho-Sasanian from the Horn of Africa (e.g. Aksum and Ras Hafun).

Prior to 1990 only historical documents existed to show that the Red Sea region had provided a vital economic link between East Africa and the Mediterranean communities. The communities of the Red Sea regions involved in this link included Nabataeans, Zoskales and Homerites/Sabaeans (see Casson 1989, 44). Although early (Greek) documents were known by modern scholars, no one seriously believed them and they were therefore not discussed in the historiography of Eastern Africa. Places such as Punt and Paanchea, mentioned in the early literature, were therefore placed in the Red Sea region (see Kitchen 1993; Phillips 1997).

Although the literature of the Roman period was believed by most scholars, the tendency was to situate Azania and Rhapta more to the north of the eastern Africa coast. This was either due to racial biases in the thinking that it was only Hamites/Cushites who could have found trading towns (see Allen 1983; Horton 1990; Ehret 1998) or it reflected a lack of archaeological data. As suggested in Chittick's publications, the problem was how to substantiate the documents in the absence of archaeological records. In his effort to find Rhapta, Ptolemy's metropolis of Azania, Chittick (1982, 5Cool) had this to say before his death in the early 1980s: It remains possible that all traces of Rhapta have been washed away or buried.

The summary of the archaeological finds presented above, gathered since 1990, by this author and his colleagues now incontrovertibly prove that the Greco-Roman documents preserved only a scanty, patchy picture of what happened in Panchea or Azania, now East Africa. I have already attempted to redraw the ancient cultural and economic system that embraced the Middle East, the Nile, the Red Sea and the Mediterranean territories in the ancient time (Chami 1999a, 1999b, Chami 2002a, 2002b). The archaeological data provided above adds to what I have reported before and hence strengthens my interpretation of the historical records.

In view of what I have discussed elsewhere, only a few things need to be reiterated in this work. Firstly, East Africa had a thriving population with trade centres from the last centuries BC or even earlier. The people of the Late Stone Age who also domesticated animals like chicken, dogs and cats, first entered into contacts with other cultures of the west, north and east. It is likely that those Late Stone Age people of the coast of East Africa occupied caves as living houses or just for sanctuary. They used pottery and used small quartz pebbles to make their microlithic tools and blades. Apart from domesticates, they also hunted wild animals and fished. The culture of these people and its comparative analysis have been provided elsewhere (Chami 2001; Chami and Kwekason 2003).

It would seem that these are the people identified by Pliny as cave dwellers known to have passed spices from south-east Asia to the Red Sea. Both Pliny and Iambulus have shown that the people of East Africa had cultural and trade relationship with the people of the Red Sea. Iambulus suggested that the people of the Red Sea coast sent him to the islands of East Africa as sacrifice to the people described as fair and good. The Periplus reported the claim by the people of the Red Sea, who were found trading and staying in Rhapta, that Azania was traditionally under their suzerainty. Chittick (1980) showed that the people of Ras Hafun, whose site was found to have trade goods of the last centuries BC, had also used stone tools like those of East Africa (also see Chami and Wafula 1999).

It would however seem that by the time of the Periplus and Ptolemy, in the early centuries AD, the people of the coast of East Africa would have started melting iron. If this was the case, as testified today archaeologically (see Chami 1999b & c), then the people of the Periplus time in East Africa were already producing iron objects. The question is therefore why the main imports of the Azania were iron tools? Various explanations including that of exchanging bloom for fine and finished tools from the Red Sea or the Mediterranean regions has been suggested (Chami1999a; Mapunda 2002).

We now know, from the archaeology reported above, that the Periplus does not provide the entire list of what was imported and exported. Iron bloom could be one of the major items of trade as the Roman empire required much iron to be used in ship-building and weaponry. In fact the Romans stimulated the production of iron all over the empire and the periphery (Tylecote 1976) and the increased production of iron in Azania, as seen today in the archaeology of East Africa could have been stimulated by such demand.

Another thinking could be that the local production of iron did not satiate the local demand for iron tools required by the new agricultural communities of Azania then opened to the world market by the growth of Rhapta and other large settlements of the time. Importation of iron tools was then necessary to cater for the higher demand in the markets of Azania.

Another controversy is whether coconut oil was exported from Azania to the Red Sea markets and beyond as recognized in the early translations of the Periplus (Schoff 1912). Casson (1980, 1989) has argued that it was not coconut oil implied in the Periplus but nautilus shells. The current archaeological finds, however, would suggest that south-east Asian domesticates such as chicken and banana had already reached the coast of East Africa from the last millennium BC, which indicate that coconut could also have been domesticated in East Africa at the same time (see Chami 2001).

Another controversy, which can now be examined in view of the new archaeological finds, is whether it was East Africa which provided cinnamon and cassia to the Red Sea and the Mediterranean regions as suggested by Strabo and Pliny. Miller (1969) did suggest that it was the people of East Africa or Austranesians who got the spices from south-east Asia and trafficked them to the Red Sea and the Nile Valley routes to the Mediterranean region. On the other hand, Casson (1984) has argued that it was the people of the Somali coast, who received the Austranesian spices and passed them to the interior and to the Red Sea.

The find on the Tanzanian coast, on one hand, of remains of trade goods and domesticates of South Asia/Indian and, on the other hand, of the Red Sea/Mediterranean regions, dating back to the last millennium BC, would suggest that East Africa rather than Somalia or both would have played a major role in transferring the spices. In fact most of these trade items are found in caves. This fact corroborates Pliny's correction of Strabo that it was the cave dwellers of East Africa who brought spices from far in the ocean and passed them to the Red Sea.

The actual location of the Azanian capital of Rhapta remains ambiguous. However, archaeological indicators reported above suggest that it was located on the coast of Tanzania, in the region of Rufiji River and Mafia Island. It is in this region where the concentration of the Paanchea/Azanian period settlements has been discovered. Also according to the Periplus, if the island of Menuthias was Zanzibar, the peninsula after it would have been Dar-es-Salaam and a further sail past this peninsula would land one in the Rufiji region (see Datoo 1970; Kirwan 1986; Casson 1989).

Ptolemy puts Rhapta at latitude 81, which is the exact location of the Rufiji Delta and Mafia Island. The metropolis was about one degree to the interior near a large river and a bay with the same name. While the river should be regarded as the modern Rufiji River, the bay should definitely be the calm waters between the island of Mafia and the Rufiji area. The southern part of the bay is protected from the deep sea by numerous deltaic small islets separated from Mafia Island by shallow and narrow channels. The north is opened to the sea and any sailor entering the waters from the north would feel like entering in a bay. Even today the residents identify this waters as a bay referring it as a "female sea" as opposed to the more violent open sea on the other side of the island of Mafia.

The doyen of East African coastal archaeology, Neville Chittick was quite convinced that Rhapta was in the area of the Rufiji River. As noted earlier, his suggestion that the metropolis remains are now buried in the ocean, near the mouth of the river, where he surveyed, may not be acceptable in view of the information provided by Ptolemy. Since the location was put one degree away from the ocean, it would seem that the settlement was about 40 km or further to the interior. In this region larger ancient settlements, some with trade remains from the Mediterranean world, have been recovered (Chami 1999b). Future research in this general region may widen the knowledge now we possess about Rhapta and Azania.

The last point for discussion is the possible interior trade link between the coast of East Africa and the Nile valley. It was noted earlier that Strabo did suggest that cinnamon and cassia reached the Mediterranean region via the Sudd of Nile, south of Meroe. Pliny suggested that the origin was from the coast of East Africa. Miller (1969) has argued that there was an interior route from the coast of East Africa to the Nile Valley. This idea has been seconded by this author (Chami 1999a) who argued that the route may have gone through central Tanzania to the Great Lakes region.

The point, which has to be made here, is that when the Mediterranean states failed to reach the south-east Asian products through the Red Sea, due to the growing powers of Arabs or Persians, other routes were always explored. The most recent experience is that of the 16th century European (Mediterranean states) who had to circumnavigate Africa from the Atlantic Ocean via the Cape to get spices from south-east Asia, in order to avoid the Muslim blockade of the eastern Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. Also to avoid Sasanians who dominated the northern Indian Ocean waters in the 4th- 6th centuries AD, according to Cosmas Indicopleustus (see Freeman-Grenville 1975), Aksumites used an interior route to trade with East Africa.

It is likely that before the rise of the Roman power in the Indian Ocean an interior route via Meroe had been used to reach the Indian Ocean and obtain goods from south-east Asia. This is probably the report found in Strabo. Also the story of Eudoxus that people of the Western Mediterranean Sea, at Gades in southern Spain, had circumnavigated Africa from the Atlantic Ocean, via the Cape, is another example. This could have occurred during the time of Persian power over the Eastern Mediterranean and the Red Sea.

A sliver of evidence concerning a pre-Roman route to East Africa via Meroe is that Emperor Nero in the 1st century AD was sending expeditions to the source of Nile. One reason for it was to find out if the trade route operating there was still functioning. The mission came up with a report suggesting that the route had shifted to the Red Sea (Welsby 1996). The implication of this report is that goods figuring in this route must have originated from the coast of East Africa, because they could easily be re-routed through the Red Sea. Additional circumstantial evidence is provided by Diogenes' journey from the coast of East Africa/Rhapta to the source of Nile (Huntingford 1980). Diogenes must have been following a trade route to the deep interior. Whereas his mission could have been exploratory reminiscent of the recent historical explorers, another objective could also have been to spy whether the trade route continued to the Nile Valley. In view of the new archaeological data from the coast of Tanzania one can now start reassessing the shift of trade routes from time immemorial in relation to various power politics of the ancient times. It is when Sub-Saharan Africa is placed in the context of the Ancient Classical history with more positive involvement that a better picture of these trade routes will be made clear.


This work has attempted to put East Africa or Paanchea/Azania in the context of the Graeco-Roman world via the Red Sea. This has been done using the most recent archaeological finds from the Tanzanian coast. The data has been collated with Graeco-Roman reports in order to offer a clearer reconstruction of the relations between the two regions.

It has been shown that the coast of East Africa had Late Stone Age/Neolithic communities established probably from about 3000 BC. These communities, apart from hunting wild animals and fishing, did domesticate animals such as chicken, dogs and cats. It is likely that plants such as coconut and banana were also domesticated. It is at this time of Neolithic that these East African communities entered in trade relations with the north reaching the Mediterranean regions and with the east reaching as far as south-east Asia. The Indian Ocean islands, for example Zanzibar, were then occupied by such Neolithic people. These are people reported by Iambulus and other Greek writers having a capital called "Panara".

The new era came with the adoption of iron technology in the early centuries AD or slightly before. The communities of East Africa grew in size and now began trading with the Romans and people of Arabia. People were more cultivating and more settled. These are people trading with the Romans via the Red Sea, with their capital identified by the Periplus and by Ptolemy as Rhapta. The culture and the economy of these people spread quickly to the deep interior and as far south as southern Africa. The core of these communities may have been in the Rufiji-Mafia region where many sites of that time period are found some with remains of trade goods from the Mediterranean region.

It has been noted that in different time period of the East African history, trade routes changed depending with power politics of that time period. There were times the northerners reached East Africa through the interior routes and another time through the Ocean via the Red Sea. As trade routes are difficult to show archaeologically, this may take longer to demonstrate.


Romans in equatorial west Africa (


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Sunday, September 6, 2015


The Nomads of the Balkans: an Account of life and Customs Among the Vlachs of Northern Pindu (Methuen&Co., London 1914; excerpts from pp.7-10), by A.J.B. Wace and M.S. Thomson


Among the Vlachs the national movement began in the 1867; it was originated by natives of Macedonia but help was soon procured from Bucharest which became the centre of the movement. Roumanian elementary schools were founded in several of the Vlach villages and afterwards higher grade schools were started in Yannina, Salonica, and Monastir. Eventually in 1905 the Vlachs were recognized by the Turks as forming a separate ‘millet’ or nationality. This however brought no real unity as the Vlach villages are widely scattered and many from their position alone are too closely connected with Greece to wish to take a course of their own.

The movement however in the first instance was of an educational kind, and the purely political aspect it has at times assumed has been produced entirely by the opposition with which it was met.

Greek opposition at first was confined to exerting pressure by means of the church, but in 1881 when Thessaly and a considerable Vlach population came under Greek rule Roumanian education had to retire northwards and the situation became more acute. The theory had by that time devised in Greece that the Vlachs were Vlachophone Hellenes, that is to say racially Greeks who had learnt Vlach. The arguments then and since brought against the Roumanian schools were curiously inept; it was urged that they taught a foreign language, and were staffed by Romanians and not Vlachs.

As far as the language is concerned Roumanian has a close connection with the Vlach while Greek has none, and in the lower forms of the Roumanian schools the Vlach dialect is used to some extent.

Both schools equally in most of the Vlach villages were financed from outside and in recent years at least most if not all the school-masters employed have been Vlach and not Roumanians. It is interesting to note that the perfectly valid argument that the Vlachs had been rapidly becoming hellenized was not used at all.

In 1903 the Bulgarians of Macedonia revolted against the Turks; the fighting was fiercest between Klisura and Krushevo districts now allotted to Greece and Servia, and the revolt was suppressed with fire and sword and wholesale brutality. One result of this rising was to show the Greeks how much Hellenism had declined and Bulgarian propaganda increased since the beginning of the Bulgarian church and schools some 30 years before. Consequently with the approval of the church a committee was formed in Athens to hire bands to send into Macedonia to enforce the claims of the Hellenism and destroy Bulgarian schools and churches.

These bands were largely composed of Cretans and often led by regular officers, but any ex-brigand was sure of a ready welcome. Similar bands meanwhile had been dispatched from Sofia to gather all Bulgarian villages into the fold of the Bulgarian church and nationalism, In the bitter blood and bloody struggle that followed Vlachs were soon involved, for the Greek bands were ordered to turn their attention to the Roumanian schools as well. Threats soon reduced the number of the Roumanian party, several of their schools were burnt, many of their more staunch advocates were murdered and their homes and property destroyed. One result of this was that Vlach bands soon appeared on the opposite side, but from their numbers and position were compelled to act mainly on the defensive. In July 1908 with the proclamation of the Ottoman constitution this campaign ended and comparative peace followed. One result of the recent wars has been that Roumanian has secured from all the Balkan states educational and religious freedom for the Vlachs and the continuance of Roumanian schools where they are desired. This should put an end for ever to the peculiarly mean squabble in which the Vlachs have been concerned.

Owing to this deplorable dispute it has been extremely hard for any one to acquire information about the Vlach villages. As Weigand found many years ago when the quarrel was in its infancy and no blood had been split any one enquiring into Vlach dialects was viewed with the utmost suspicion and liable to be told the most fantastic tales. Thus on one occasion we overheard the school children being ordered to talk only Greek as long as we were present; in another village which we were assured spoke only Greek, Vlach proved to be the common tongue. Nearly all modern Greek books and pamphlets on the Vlachs which might otherwise be of extreme interest and value are owing to their political theories almost entirely worthless. Political philology has shown that Kutsovlach means ‘little Vlach’ and that a ‘little Vlach’ means one who is mostly a Hellene.

This result is apparently reached by deriving the word first from kuchuk and confounding it with the meaning of koutsos.

Another work purporting to be a sober historical enquiry ends with the wish that our foes may hate or better still fear us. Such literature can hardly be taken seriously, but at the same time its authors, often hellenized Vlachs, posses a knowledge of the country that no stranger can hope to acquire.

Roumanian books on the Vlachs like the Greek are not impartial witnesses. From the nature of the case however they are less liable to fantastic theories; as regards the language they often minimize the number of the Greek loan words in common use, in history and in folklore Rome plays a larger part at times than is either likely or possible and the number of the Vlach communities are calculated on a liberal basis. Estimates of the population are extremely doubtful; the Turkish figures take no account of race and are only concerned with religion, so that a Greek may mean a Bulgarian, Vlach or Albanian member of the Patriarchist Church.

Nationality too in the Balkans is still in a state of flux; and classification according to the descent, language or political feeling would lead to different results. To take an simple case from Greece itself; by descent nearly all the Attic villagers are Albanians, a linguistic test would still give a large number of Albanians for comparatively few have entirely adopted Greek. Yet if they were asked to what nation they belonged the large majority would probably answer Greek, and al would be Greek in politics and ideals.

A Greek estimate made before political troubles began put the total number of Vlachs at 600,000; later Greek estimated give usually a much lower figure. An enthusiastic Roumanian has proposed 2,800,000, but other Roumanian estimates are more from about 850,000 upwards. Weigand who has paid more attention to the subject than any other traveler puts the total of Vlachs in the whole peninsula at 373,520.

This seems to us to err on the side of the moderation, for it is based largely on the calculation of five persons to a house which from our own experience of Vlach villages is well above the average. Including as Vlachs those who learnt Vlach as their mother tongue we should estimate the total at no less than half a million.

Of these however some will now be using Greek and others Bulgarian in everyday life and their children will not know Vlach at all. Quite apart from questions regarding which involve politics, information of any kind is difficult to acquire. At times courtesy towards the stranger which especially in the villages as we have good reason to know is very real indeed, demands that all answers should be adapted to the questioner’s assumed desires; on the other hand there is a deep-rooted belief, by no means confined to the villages, that all strangers being credulous the most fantastic answers will suffice.

Once in the early days when our knowledge of Vlach was small we arrived at a Vlach village which had just reunited after a winter in plains. All around were talking Vlach; we were welcomed kindly by the schoolmaster who spoke to us in Greek. “We only talk Vlach when we first meet again after the winter” were almost his first words. It was not till a month later that we heard another word of Greek.

It is perhaps necessary to add that no dragoman or interpreter has ever been with us on the journeys; most of our wanderings have been made alone and of those many on foot.


The full book can be read at ( )

Tuesday, August 4, 2015


Denmark and The Roman Empire

The “Roman Iron Age” in Denmark, the years 0 – 450 AD, has traditionally been largely overshadowed by the Viking period from 900 – 1200 AD. And to many Danes this “Roman era” is still a dark chapter in the Danish history.

Many finds in Denmark are from this period. But it is worth mentioning that many of the discoveries, especially from the first and second Century, are gravefinds and finds of Roman goods that clearly have been cherished by their owners. They are not prizes of war, but goods that have been traded and perhaps given to their owners. Things that appearantly show, that the danish tribes in this age, had a friendly and close relationship with Rome. A friendship wich counted trading and a wide support from the tribes to the Romans. A support that also encounted danish tribesmen participating in the Roman wars against other Germanic tribes, probably as "Auxillia" (supporting troops) or, in the later periods, as regular soldiers in the Roman Army.

Map showing the concentration of Roman discoveries (armaments, coins, etc..) in the Denmark islands. The highest concentration is in the islands of Zealand (Himlingoje) and Fynn (Gudme)

But there it is even the possibility that in southern Denmark the Romans created a "Client State" (or more), mainly in the islands between Jutland and southern Sweden.
Actually some historians & archeologists think that they existed (at least one related to the "Himlingoje Dynasty" in the southern area of the Zealand island) until the second century and perhaps until Marcus Aurelius.

Indeed Danish archaeologists: Lars Jørgensen, Birger Storgaard and Ulla Lund Hansen have suggested Germano-Roman alliances, in which Romans supported a Germanic power in today's Denmark. According to Jørgensen, this was either to destabilize Scandinavia, or to create a Roman friendly power which could help ensure peace and stability in the border areas.

Ulla Lund Hansen and Birger Storgaard have also suggested that Roman interests in Scandinavia were strong since just before Augustus times, and that there was direct contact. Storgaard alluded to a text written in accordance with an expedition led by Tiberius in year 5 AD, in which Tiberius describes what has been interpreted to be Jutland, although this interpretation is based on myth. Jørgensen points to the Gudme-Lundeborg complex in Fyn, a Denmark's island. Archaeologists have found Roman coins and scrapmetal at Lundeborg, a trading place in relation to this complex. Hansen, Jørgensen and Storgaard interprets from these archaeological discoveries that Lundeborg may have functioned as a Roman port.

Recently in 2014 Ulla Lund Hansen has written that has been discovered a nice bronze brooch in the island of Bornholm, located in the middle of the Baltic sea and not far from the Poland coast. It was found at the ancient village of "Lavegaard", during the excavation of a Roman settlement on the island of Bornholm. She wrote that "Larger excavation is underway, revealing an AFFLUENT ROMAN SOCIETY...and the archaeologists hope to uncover many well-preserved remnants of this ancient community called Lavegaard.Besides the owl brooch, the archaeologists have found pottery and ancient building materials, postholes marking the sites of ancient houses, along with architectural features such as ovens and hearths (and a cemetery). All evidence of industry in the form of iron smelting or iron extraction and ceramics firing, and several well-preserved metal objects are also preserved...The excavated area now totals more than 5000 m² and so is part of a much larger settlement, which in Roman times would have had direct access to the sea via an inlet, now a wetland located just south of the settlement.In fact, all the evidence suggests that Lavegaard was a rather affluent society in its day. With easy access to the sea and evidence of industry and coins (dating to AD 161-175) at the site, the inhabitants of Lavegaard could presumably afford to buy and produce valuable jewellery and other objects".(read more at ).

Additionally, these are some related excerpts from a "Scandinavian Roman Reenactement group (Legio VI Victrix)" website (for further interesting readings go to

"....From the first century AD a lot of interesting finds have been found in Denmark. Roman sources tell that general Silius Caecina Largus took command of the Rhine Army in the years after Quintillius Varus. One of his assignments was to find new allies in Germania, that could help him find the lost legions. In Hoby on the isle of Falster a very fine collection of roman dishes and siver drinking cups with the name ”SILIUS” engraved in the bottom, has been found in a noblemans grave. In this region, parts of a roman Cline – a roman bed – was also found. In Horsens, a roman dagger – a Pugio – and several other parts of what perhaps have been a Roman Centurions uniform, have been found. Among these also a high quality riveted Roman ”Hamata” – mail armour. In Vimose at Odense a large number of roman artifacts has been found. Among these roman 1st century gladii and a griffon from a gladiators helmet. In Gudme on Funen several treasures of roman coins, dishes and more has been found. And Actually in Denmark, no local museum is without roman artifacts found in 1st century graves.....How have all these artifacts gotten here? Are the silver cups from Hoby a gift from Silius Largus to the local prince? Is the ”Centurion” from horsens a local tribesman who had served The Roman Legions and was buried (burned) in his roman uniform? Or are there artifacts in fact spoils of war? The finds of Gudme could find its cause in the ancient trading place Lundeborg on the southcoast of Funen, where also roman merchants could have traded. A lot of roman coins have been found in the soil here..."

Augustus and Tiberius

On “Monumentum Acyranum”, Augustus own descriptions of his deeds, it is told that in the year 5 AD he sent Tiberius on a major clearing expedition to the most northern parts of Germania. With a fleet from the Rhine and possibly a supporting land-army he advanced to the Cimbrian Peninsula, and made peace agreements with the local tribes there.

This first official contact with the “Danes”, since the Cimbrian and Teutonian migrations in 150 BC shows that there appearantly was an active interest in Rome in an annexation of the southern parts of Scandinavia into the Roman Empire. However we must remember that the names “Danes” and “Denmark” first appeared in 800 AD; and before that a multitude of tribal names was used for the citizens of the Cimbrian Peninsula and the Danish Isles: among these tribes were the Teutones and Cimbrians, names that still is found in present day places like “Thy” (Teuto) and “Himmerland” (Cimberland), both locations in Jutland.

In the following years the supporting land-army probably reached the Baltic sea and the Jutland peninsula. But the navy expedition for sure reached the actual Poland and eastern Sweden coast, and made agreements with the inhabitants of the Danish islands: these agreement usually were more that simple trade pacts and dealt even with the creation of a "Client State" (as happened in other border areas of the Roman empire, like in the northern Black sea or in actual Morocco).

But this interest of the Romans was brutally stopped in the year 9 AD, when the Roman General Quintillius Publius Varus was beaten in a Germanic ambush in Teutoburgerwald at Kalkriese in Germany. At this battle 3 Roman Legions were anihilated: approx. 30.000 legionaries died

The mission for Varus was to prepare the advance of the Imperial border to the River Elba. But after this major loss, the Romans resignated and gave up any further offensives beyond the Rhine, and the northern border of the Empire stayed at the Rhine.

Map of Roman Germania under Augustus

Trading and Alliances

Though the plans for the northern germanic territories were abandoned by the Romans, it seems that a broad contact were established between the Romans and the tribes of Southern Scandinavia. Especially famous is the trading expeditions to the Baltic for "Amber" to ornate the Emperor Neros palace after the burning of Rome in 64 AD. This palace was later demolished by Vespasian, and he and his sons Titus and Domitian erected the Colloseum at its place.

Furthermore, it is noteworthy to pinpoint that Roman merchants also traded with southern Sweden and the Öland island was a trading outpost, according to recent archaeological discoveries. The Romans who travelled north for ‘the gold of the Baltic’ (as was called the "Amber") would take with them various items to be traded, including fabrics, ceramics, metal objects, trinkets, wool, as well as bronze and brass artefacts. They brought back sacks of amber, animal skins, wax, feathers and beaver coats. Due to increasing intense economic contacts, Roman coins also were started to be used (nearly one thousand "solidii" -from the fourth and fifth centuries AD- have been found in the southern Scandinavia region, read, but actually there it is not a huge research by academics on this matter. However, there are some interesting studies in the last years about the so called "Sweden's Pompeii": Sandby borg in the island of Öland (if interested read

The archeological discoveries in Denmark from this period are really interesting. Especially the great gravefinds from Himlingoje on Southern Zealand, Gudme on Funen and the rich Hoby graves from Lolland. In these large finds, a wide range of Roman officers equipment were found. And especially two Silver Cups from Hoby are of great interest. Not only because of their superb quality, but also because of the name “Silius” wich is ingraved in the buttom of the Cups.

This “Silius” appears to be the Roman Commander who were stationed with the Rhine Army in the years 14 – 21 AD, with the purpose to find the locations for the Varus disaster and conduct punitive expeditions into the german controlled territories around the Elba river (read for additional information The Roman Empire and Southern Scandinavia - a Northern Connection!Grane, Thomas

If Silius is the former owner of the Hoby Cups, the idea that danish tribes were hired as "Auxilia" to the Romans seems obvious. Wich also explains the many other finds of Roman military equipment in Denmark from this period. For instance a beautyful 1st Century Pugio found in a grave near Horsens in Jutland.

Together with this Pugio, there were found also a Roman style Hamata and a Roman military Balteus and other personal equipment. A discovery that appearantly show the presence of Roman military activities in Denmark, or “Danes” that served with the Roman Army.

Findings all over Southern Scandinavia, of especially Fibulas, indicates that a small “Empire” (or "Client State") was present here in the first and second Century. With a “Himlingoje Dynasty” as rulers. This “Dynasty” not only traded with Rome, but appearantly also lived a very “Roman” style of life.

If there were such an “Empire”, it is obvious that the Romans could benefit from this State, and seek alliances with this regime. Alliances that today is described by historians as Denmark beeing a “Client State” of Rome: it was a supportive territory for the Romans where they traded and recruited Auxilia and soldiers for the wars down South.

Roman Artefacts from a third-century grave at Himlingoje (southern Zealand). Some archeologists think that this was the base of a Roman client-kingdom in Scandinavia

Dr Harry Sidebotom wrote in the September 2014 "BBC History" edition that "Recent archaeological studies offer a potentially new and important insight. From AD 162–80 Rome was embroiled in the Marcomannic wars against the peoples across the upper waters of the Rhine and Danube. From this period, finds in Scandinavia begin to increase both in wealth and in the numbers of Roman imports, including swords. The epicentre was the burial site at Himlingoje on the Danish island of Zealand.The spread of artefacts, especially elaborate brooches (rosette fibulae), from Himlingoje to other sites in modern Scandinavia, Poland, and the Baltic countries suggests the appearance of a large political unit around the shores of the Baltic Sea. It has been argued that Rome employed diplomatic gifts and the supply of weapons to create an extensive CLIENT KINGDOM beyond the Marcomanni and its other enemies. Not only could the new power based at Himlingoje threaten the rear of Rome’s enemies, but it could supply new reserves of mercenaries. If the hypothesis is correct, the new extended political organisation could have acted as a model for the soon-to-emerge confederations of northern barbaricum.The leaders of the Franks, Alamanni and Goths could have learnt from the royal dynasty of Himlingoje. In the north, as in the east, by different processes, but to the same result, Rome had assisted in the creation of enemies much more dangerous to its own empire."

Additionally, chiefdoms like those in the islands of Lolland and Falster were based upon what is commonly called a prestige-goods economy.Prestige goods are nonutilitarian objects that are indispensable for social and political relations—in this case, Roman imports of weapons, ornaments, and feasting and drinking equipment.

In return, the Romans received leather, fur, meat, cloth, and probably slaves. In Denmark, personal reputation and power were intertwined with the ability and degree to which one could control and own Roman goods, a system that only worked if their flow was controlled by an elite minority. In return for sharing prestige goods with lower-level elites for their own legitimation, chiefs received staple tribute: livestock, grain, and other supplies. Lower-level elite in turn extracted tribute from farmers in return for their services in defense, upholding law, and overseeing ritual activities. Grave goods reflect this hierarchy: a few have the full complement of prestige items, others less but still rich, while many have small quantities of less valuable Roman items. War chiefs had much power within society but were balanced by the thing, a regular meeting of freemen—and possibly some women, if we infer from some later sources—who could vote against the plans of chiefs. In addition, a chief's son was not automatically a chief; all contenders had to prove themselves, leading to a degree of upward mobility in society.

Furthermore, in order to maintain a certain degree of stability among the barbarians that lived on the borders of the Roman Empire and beyond, the Romans developed a series of procedures.

They bought off the native élite with luxury goods and money. They could also offer special monopoly or protection and in some cases the élite’s young could be fostered in the Roman Empire. Sometimes they were even fostered in the Emperor’s household to later on return to their tribes, and now behaved more Roman than many Romans themselves.

Hints of the gift-giving are found in Lolland, Denmark where silver cups and a bronze vessel were found. The silver-cups showed scenes from Classical scenes like the Iliad.

It is interesting that in the first centuries AD Lolland and Eastern Fyn, Denmark have inhumation graves that are rich in Roman goods, but does not contain weapons. On the other hand graves containing weapons are poor in Roman goods. This distinction is also evident in Southern Jutland, Denmark, whereas Eastern Jutland does not have this distinction. Eastern Jutland do not show graves that contain much Roman goods, but instead show a mix of rich and poor burial findings.

From around 150 AD and onwards Roman imports seem to have been sent to a site at Stevns/Himlingøje in Sjælland (Zealand in Danish language)), Denmark. The best quality materials apparently stayed there, while the rest might have been shipped off to other areas. Other important areas are Sorte Muld on Bornholm, Denmark and Bejsebakken in Ålborg, Jutland. The Stevns/Himlingøje-centre was surpassed by Gudme on the island of Fyn by the end of the third century.

Roman Discoveries

Archaeological evidence from Denmark demonstrates that particular clusters of elites in various periods controlled the trade with the Romans( read: "Political complexity in Denmark during the Roman Iron Age" pag 27.) The earliest concentration of Roman goods occurred in high burials in Lolland dating to the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. In the early period of trade, the goods entered the north when Roman messengers entered Denmark to give the elite class gifts and elaborate items. Not until later (after Augustus) did a limited number of local rulers (of the "Client States") organized the importation of Roman goods.

In the 3rd century AD, the elite on Sjælland controlled trade via a sea route to the mouth of the Rhine that bypassed continental land routes. Like Sjælland, most islands between Jutland and Southern Sweden assumed power with the help of the archipelagic nature of Denmark. Beginning in the middle of the 3rd century AD, eastern Fyn controlled trade, primarily because it could easily trade with water traffic and merchants from Roman provinces.

In the 4th century AD and continuing, Jutland had the greatest contact with the Roman Empire. Jutlands increased interactions with the Romans probably occurred because the Ox or Army Road ran through the narrow isthmus of the southern part of the region. Viking Age documents described "Ox Road" as a corridor that allowed traders and travelers to move easily between the continent and Denmark.

Indeed recent archeological diggings have proved that the "Danevirke" dyke (that historically marked the southern limit of Denmark with Germany) was built many decades before 500 AD. This important defensive earthwork across the neck of the Cimbrian peninsula, was initiated by the Danes in the late fourth or early fifth century: it was also a small canal used to connect the Atlantic ocean with the Baltic sea and it was used for boat-commerce between the Roman empire and the Danish isles.(read "Danevirke - Ældre end hidtil antaget!" at

Marcus Aurelius and the Marcomannic wars

As "Client States" the tribes north of the Danube had traditionally been a very peaceful territory for the Romans. But in the 150’s this area was destabilized by a range of migrations from the north, pressing the Marcomanians, the Quades and the Sarmatians downwards against the Roman Danube border in the present Czech Republic.

Regular wars between some of these tribes and the Romans broke out in the year 166 AD, in the fifth year of Marcus Aurelius as Emperor. And they didn’t end before 180, in the time of Commodus.

Today there is no doubt, that also South Scandinavians participated in these wars. Gravefinds from Müsov in Mähren indicate this, with the findings of jewelry and fibulas that are obvious Scandinavian. And in Himlingoje two Roman silvercups, showing Roman soldiers with “Ringgrib” swords, were found. These Roman Gladii had their prime in the Marcomanian Wars. Also the discovery of a gold Kolb Torch in Himlingoje is evidence of a “Danish” participation. The Kolb Torch were a sign of dignity among the Sarmatians and the Sarmatians participated in the wars on the Roman side. Wich clearly indicates, that also the “danish troops” were on the Roman side.

That the Roman – South Scandinavian relationship were well established and continued on to the 5th century is indicated by the many findings from this period. Most of all by the great "Bog-finds" from 300 – 500 AD. Among these is the Illerup findings and the Thorsbjerg findings, which counts as the largest finds of Roman weapons in the World.

These weapons were not in use by the Romans themselves, but were blades produced in Roman Fabricas and purchased by the Scandinavians in the Roman Empire.

That Roman Merchants sailed the waters of South Scandinavia for several centuries are clear. Worth mentioning are the Egyptian Geografer Klaudios Ptolemaios travel descriptions from the second century, wich describes the naval route from the Rhine around Jutland and through the Danish sea of Isles to the coast of Poland. A route, also described by many other Roman authors, like Tacitus. A route appearantly commonly used by the Romans.

It appears, by the writings of Marcus Aurelius, that it was his plan to establish two new provinces north of the Danube. The provinces "Marcomannia" and "Sarmatia". And thus, push the border of the Roman Empire to the Baltic.

In such an enterprise, the Romans would have to have good and loyal “Clients” in South Scandinavia, in the ”Danish territories”. And it now clearly appears that they had just that.

When Rome fell in the mid-fifth century, so did the Danish prestige economy, but most of Denmark's small realms did not collapse: they reorganized and expanded. A few groups found themselves in disarray and sought new lands, leading to what is called the Migration period, when Langobards, Teutons, and other "Danish" tribes overran the Roman Continent and staked a claim. Despite this, around A.D. 550, Gothic writings indicate that many small polities in Denmark were being consolidated into bigger political units: evidently, some of the former "Roman client States" in southern Denmark started to grow and to be the political entities of medieval Denmark.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


Practically only a few books have been written about the Italian tentative to influence & control Afghanistan during WW2. However recently has been published an interesting book on the topic, titled "The Secret War for the Middle East: The Influence of Axis and Allied Intelligence Operations During World War II" and written by Youssef Aboul-Enein.

Indeed Afghanistan remained an option for Italian Foreign policy since the exile in Rome of Amanullah, the king of Afganistan deposed in 1929. He would receive an unofficial subsidy from the Italian government to support his family and himself in the capital of Italy. Monzali wrote an interesting book about Amanullah in Rome and his relationship with Mussolini ( )

CV 35 light tank in a museum. These Italian tanks were the first of the Afghan Army

However, mainly after 1936 and even after going to war against Great Britain, Italy hesitated to "play totally the card of Afghanistan", even because Hitler was opposed for ideological reasons to proclaim the independence of India and the Arab countries subjected to British rule. Therefore, when Mussolini in 1938 (but mainly in 1940) began to think that he could at least encourage the independence of India and Afganistan, Italy was now totally dependent and dominated by the directives of Berlin and did not dare to differentiate itself from the positions of nazi Germany.

Indeed in late 1938 Amanullah did the last tentative to regain his throne in Kabul with an insurrection of tribes loyal to him, but he was defeated by the new king Mohammed Zahir and since then the Italians opted to allow the Germans to rule the tentative to control Afghanistan. By the end of the 1930s, important agreements on foreign assistance and trade had been reached with Italy (and mainly Germany) by the Afghanistan king Mohammed Zahir Shah (Dupree, Louis: Afghanistan, pages 477–478. Princeton University Press, 1980). In those years the Afghan armed forces struggled to grow and gradually modernize: Italy agreed to further equip and train the Afghan air force. 24 Italian airplanes were delivered in 1938 and some dozens of afghan pilots were trained in Italy. Even some Italian light tanks (CV 35) were sold to Kabul in order to create the first tank units of the Afghan Army.

At the time of the surrender of France in 1940, Abdul Majid -- the Minister of National Economy who might have been acting in this case without knowledge of his government -- indicated that Afghanistan was ready to begin actively supporting the "Axis" cause, including incitement of the frontier tribes to take up arms against British India, thus tying down Allied combat forces.

Italian diplomats supported some German military raids from Afghanistan into northern India during 1940: those guerrilla attacks were done by agents operating under cover of business and research activity. The damaging raids against British India were supported by Afghanistan tribes loyal to the former king Amanullah (who was living in Rome and was a complete pro-Axis Afghan).

All the Italian tentative finished after the anglo-iraqi war of 1941. Indeed on 27 May 1941, 12 Italian Fiat CR.42 & 3 Savoia-Marchetti of the 155a ''Squadriglia'' (renamed ''Squadriglia speciale Irak'' under captain Francesco Sforza) of the Royal Italian Air Force (Regia Aeronautica Italiana) arrived at Mosul in northern Iraq. By 29 May, Italian aircraft were reported in the skies over Baghdad. It was even reported that on 29 May near Khan Nuqta (frontier Iraq-Iran) the Italians intercepted a flight of Hawker Hart Audaxes escorted by Gloster Gladiators of the No. 94 British Squadron. In the resulting combat, two Gladiators were lost while one CR.42 was shot down by Wing Commander Wightman. This was the final aerial battle of the Anglo-Iraqi War.

As a consequence of this war, all the Italians (and Germans) living in Afghanistan were ordered to exit the country: a joint Anglo-Soviet demand was issued in October 1941 for the expulsion of all Axis nationals. Although due to Afghanistan's officially neutral status small diplomatic staffs were permitted to remain, by the end of the month 206 Italians and Germans had departed for neutral Turkey via Peshawar, Karachi, Basra, and Baghdad under guarantee of free passage. Some additional Italian and German diplomatic personnel were expelled in September 1943.

Here it is a brief book review:

BOOK REVIEW (by Charles C. Kolb)

The pre-World War II British and French domination of the Middle East and North Africa was tailor-made for exploitation by Axis intelligence and propaganda. German and Italian support for the political dogma of Arab Nationalism would contribute to the evolution of Arab socialism, Nasserism, Ba’athism, and components of militant Islamic ideology (p. xiii).

Frequently overlooked in studies of World War II, the Middle East was, in reality, a major theater for the Allies. Though the threat of direct Axis invasion by the “Desert Fox,” Field Marshal Irwin Rommel’s Afrika Corps never materialized beyond the Egyptian Western Desert. This did not deter the Axis from probing the Middle East and cultivating potential collaborators and sympathizers.

This volume sheds light on the historical parallels and reviews the “forgotten” Axis and Allied intelligence and propaganda beginning prior to World War II and its impact on the post-war world. The book also has 626 scholarly endnotes; a “Selected Bibliography” which includes three archival sources, 20 primary works (books), 158 secondary works (books), 37 articles, four theses and dissertations, and eight Internet sources; and a highly detailed 12-page “Index” conflates topics and proper nouns.

In the first introductory chapter, the authors outline the years leading up to World War II, when Hitler expressed little interests in the Arabs, mainly because the 1936 Hitler-Mussolini Axis agreement left Arab questions in the Italian “sphere of influence.” The authors document how European competition – British, French, Italian, and German – from WWI to WWII shaped the region, as Axis and Allies competed with one another for popular support in the Middle Eastern nations. Some young Arabs saw pro-Axis sympathies as a means to gain independence and nationhood from British and French control. Hence, Axis intelligence efforts fueled anti-British resentments and helped shape the course of Arab nationalist sentiment throughout the Middle East. These actions would leave an indelible mark on the sociopolitical evolution of the modern states of the Middle East. Their effects continue to be felt today.

The primary topics in the lengthy second chapter, “The Palestine Question,” include the Sykes-Picot Agreement, misplaced Arab Nationalism of the 1930s, the rise of Zionism, Italian policies, British political dilemmas, the Arab Revolt of 1936, the Nazi collaborating Grand Mufti, Muslim members of the in the Waffen SS, the Nazi Fifth Column, and the development of Arab Nationalist theory. The authors begin the third chapter, “Hashemite Iraq,” with Ottoman political and military administration since the 1870s, a review the British Mandate, the rise of King Feisal I, the 1920 Revolt, and the 1922 Karbala Conference. From 1921-32, 130 uprisings and revolts were suppressed by Iraqis and the British, but Nazis developed a German-Iraqi arms agreement by 1937, so that the British needed to intervene in 1941 because of enhanced Iraqi-Nazi connections and Arab volunteers in the German Armed Forces. Battles between British and Iraqi forces and Operation Sabine, conflicts between Arab leaders, Nazi miscalculations, and Arabs in Nazi concentration camps are also documented. There is a rather brief chapter on “Vichy French Syria: Operation Exporter,” in which the authors focus on the political situation in the 1920s, Axis manipulation of Syrian governments in the 1940s, and de Gaulle’s plan for the Levant which involved cooperation between Australian, Indian, Free French and Palmach (Israeli) units. Chapter 5, “Iran: Operation Countenance,” commences with a discussion of British and Soviet involvement in Iran since the 1800s, Iranian “neutrality” and political control by the Pahlavi (1925-77), and Allied military assistance to counter Nazi military aid. The very brief sixth chapter, “Turkey: Balancing Neutrality,” commences with the Turkish view of the Treaty of Versailles, mistrust of the Italians, Turkish “neutrality,” and problems with Vichy-controlled Syria. Especially noteworthy is the ability of Turkey to simultaneously maintain a mutual assistance pact with the British and a nonaggression pact with the Nazis. In Chapter 7, “Axis Efforts in the Arabian Peninsula,” the authors provide an account of the radical political changes in the Arabian Peninsula by the end of World War I, the Anglo-Ottoman Convention of 1913, ultimate Saudi dissatisfaction with the quality and quantity of British Arms received in the 1930s, entreaties to the Nazi’s and success in obtaining for military aid, and Japanese collaboration and trade contact with the Muslim world. There are only a few discussions about Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, and Yemen. Receiving notable attention is the British Royal Air Force airbase established in Aden in 1917, the Italian Royal Navy’s Red Sea Flotilla established in Eritrea in 1940, the battles between British and Italian ships in the Gulf of Aden (23 June 1940), German U-boat activities, and Italian air raids on Haifa and Manama.

Chapter 8, “Afghanistan and the Third Reich: Fomenting Rebellions,” (is related to Italy's influences in Afghanistan and) briefly focuses on the reign of Mohammed Zahir Shah (ruled 1933-1973) during World War II. The content of the chapter is based on two journal articles by Milan Hauner (1981 and 1982), which relied heavily on German World War II archival sources. The Aboul-Enein brothers observed common themes (tribes, geography, and personalities) in Afghanistan-Pakistan in pre- and post-World War II and the current problems encountered in this region today. “Egypt’s Internal Struggle: To Declare War or Not?” begins with the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936, an analysis of the Ali Maher Pasha government, and Egyptian military policy during World War II. The transition from King Fuad I to Farouk I, Italian vs. British and Allied military strength in North Africa in 1940, German and Italian intelligence sources, the compromise of the U.S. Black Code, Egyptian War Minister’s insights, anti-British Egyptian leaders, and Egypt’s financial contributions to Britain during the war are documented. The conclusion provides a review of major points from the previous chapters, and opinions by other scholars. The authors also comment on their recent analysis of captured al-Qaida intelligence and counterintelligence manuals, and conclude with lessons to be learned: “… before undertaking war, it is vital to know the region, the area of operation, your nation’s place in it, and previous armies that have fought in the area. Get inside the history of the region; walk around between perception, conspiracy, and fact to gain a true understanding of those fighting alongside you, and against you.” (p. 190).


The book can be read on google books: