Berber people

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Berber people are the indigenous peoples of North Africa west of the Nile Valley.

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History

  • The best known of them were the Roman author Apuleius, the Roman emperor Septimius Severus, and St. Augustine.


  • Nearly all the Latin Fathers are Africans - Tertullian of Carthage, the Numid Arnobius of Sicca and his pupil Lactantius, Saint Cyprian of Carthage, the African Marius Victorinus, the Berber Saint Augustine, in short, all this glorious vanguard of Latin patristic culture. What splendid gifts these were from Africa to the Church of Rome while the latter had only the works of Saint Ambrose and of Saint Jerome to put in the Balance !
    • Etienne Gilson, The Philosopher and Theology (1960), Random House New York, 1962, pp.195-196


  • Of all the fathers of the church, St. Augustine was the most admired and the most influential during the Middle Ages... Augustine was an outsider - a native North African whose family was not Roman but Berber... He was a genius - an intellectual giant.
    • Norman Cantor, The Civilization of the Middle Ages, Harper, 1993, p. 74


Anthropology

  • Africa north of the Sahara, from a zoological point of view, is now, and has been since early Tertiary times, a part of Europe. This is true both of animals and of the races of man.The Berbers of north Africa to-day are racially identical with the Spaniards and south Italians.
    • Madison Grant, The Passing of the Great Race, Scribner's sons, 1916, p.137


  • In north Africa there are large areas with a predominantly Mediterranean population : the whole of the northern edge from Egypt to Morocco, and beyond Morocco a tract along the coast southwards and reaching over to the north-west African islands. The Spaniards have always been astonished at the likeness of their Berber foes in Morocco with themselves. In all these regions of north-west Africa, however, there are found also Oriental, Negro, and (especially, it would seem, in Algeria and Morocco) Hither Asiatic strains. Among the Berbers, particularly the Kabyles in the Riff and in the Aures range, a Nordic strain shows itself clearly, and in the Canary Islands there seems to be a strain of the Cro-magnon race.


  • The Berbers, among whom even today one finds light skins and blue eyes, do not go back to the Vandal invasions of the fifth century A.D., but to the prehistoric Atlantic Nordic human wave. The Kabyle huntsmen, for example, are to no small degree still wholly Nordic (thus the blond Berbers in the region of Constantine form 10 % of the population; at Djebel Sheshor they are even more numerous).


  • Of the Berbers there is much good to be said. Whether in the olive-clad mountains of Kabylia or the terraced valleys of their Aurasian fastnesses, they are white men, and in general act like white men. Among them the virtues of honesty, hospitality, and good-nature are conspicuous. It is not their misfortune alone that the lowlands know them no more ; not their misfortune only that Mohammedanism has debarred them from entering as they would otherwise have entered on the path of European progress and liberality : it is the misfortune of the whole civilised world. Descendants of a mighty race whose culture once spread from the Atlantic to the Red Sea and the Hauran, from Crete to Timbuctoo and the Soudan, there are still to be found among them the vestiges of the arts and sciences, of the spirit of conquest, of the capacity for self-government which, if developed, would make them again a great nation.


  • [About the Chawias in the Aures]. A very large proportion of fair (sometimes golden) hair, blue eyes, and complexions, especially in the case of young children, who lack the tan produced by years of exposure to the fierce heat of the summer sun, often paler than our own, were the physical characteristics which at once arrested our attention, while their strange Berber tongue, akin to that spoken by the Kabyles in the North, bore no resemblance to the Arabic of the nomads and of the oasis of the Sahara.


  • Berbers are undoubtedly the descendants of the races known to the Greeks and Romans under the generic name of Libyans. The Kabyles of the hills between Algiers and Bougie, and the Shawia of the Aures Mountains are very similar to one another and may be taken as typical Berbers. They are distinctly white-skinned, even when sunburned. Usually they have black hair and brown or hazel eyes, some have yellow hair and blue eyes. In the royal necropolis of Thebes of about 1300 B.C., certain Libyans are depicted as having a white skin, blue eyes and fair beards. Blonds are represented on Egyptian monuments from 1700 B.C. and were noted by the Greeks in the fourth century B.C. In the east the blonds have quite died out, but there are patches of this race in the west of North Africa. This fair race still remain an unsolved problem. Some students bring them from Spain, other authors from Italy, others again from the east. Perhaps they were a sporadic invasions and formed an aristocratic class. One suggestion is that they were Proto-Nordics who formed a part of the various groups of Asiatics who raided Egypt about 1300 B.C. and moved westwards.
    • Alfred Cort Haddon, The Races of Man and Their Distribution (1924), University Press, 1924, p.36


  • Like all other Berbers, the Riffians include standard Mediterraneans in their tribal populations. Among these Mediterraneans the incidence of elements of blond hair and blue eyes is a bit higher than the usual twenty-five percent. I attribute the slight excess to several factors : isolation in a cloudy and cool mountain habitat and mixture with an older strain. Concentrated in the more isolated tribes in the central Rif, the older strain is characterized by individuals of stocky build, with large heads, broad faces, low orbits, large teeth, and broad noses. While variable in pigmentation, these individuals, who look like Irishmen, run to red hair, green eyes, and freckles. They cannot be explained by any historical invasion of North Africa, real or fancied; the bones of their preagricultural ancestors have been excavated from North African soil in sufficient quantity to confim the local antiquity of the genes which produces them. A broad head, a wide face, a snub nose, freckles, and other individual traits derived from this racial combination may be seen in other Riffians and in other Berber populations. Green eyes, for example, are common among the Middle Atlas Beraber (as anyone who was with the Goums in the last war may remember). Fair hair has been recorded from the Kabyles in Algeria, but actual statistical work shows them to be almost entirely Mediterranean with only a slight excess of blondism.
    • Carleton S. Coon, Caravan - The Story of Middle East: The Story of Middle East (1951), Read Books, 2007, p.163


  • The third discrete racial element in Africa is the Caucasoid, which, as indicated earlier, first entered the continent in massive invasions about 15,000 years ago, certainly from Western Asia and possibly also from Europe. The descendants of those invaders who are still fully or essentially Caucasoid are the Berbers.
    • Carleton S. Coon, The Living Races of Man, New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1965, p.115


  • In one sense the word 'Moor' means the Mohammedan Berbers and Arabs of north-western Africa, with some Syrians, who conquered most of Spain in the eighth century and dominated the country for hundreds of years, leaving behind some magnificent examples of their architecture as a lasting memorial of their presence. These so-called 'Moors' were far in advance of any of the peoples of northern Europe at that time, not only in architecture but also in literature, science, technology, industry, and agriculture; and their civilization had a permanent influence on Spain. They were Europids, unhybridized with members of any other race. The Berbers were (and are) Mediterranids, probably with some admixture from the Cromagnid subrace of ancient times. The Arabs were Orientalids, the Syrians probably of mixed Orientalid and Armenoid stock. The skin of Orientalids and of some Berbers darkens readily under the influence of sunlight, and many of them become quite dark in the exposed parts of the body. The association of dark skin with the name of 'Moors' resulted eventually in the same term being applied to Negrids.
    • John Baker, Race, Oxford University Press, 1974, p.226

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