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A MINOR MOSQUE, KAIROUAN 


TUNIS 

KAIROUAN & CARTHAGE 
DESCRIBED AND ILLUSTRATED 
WITH FORTY-EIGHT PAINTINGS 
BY GRAHAM PETRIE, R.I. oe <£ 



LONDON 

WILLIAM HEINEMANN 

1908 



Copyright , London , 1908, by William Heineniann 


SHE GETTY CEfv'TEP. 

LIBRARY 



AUTHOR’S NOTE 


Among the many books concerning the history 
of Tunisia which I have consulted, those included 
in the following list have proved the more interest¬ 
ing and profitable. To their authors I gratefully 
acknowledge my indebtedness, and tender my 
cordial thanks, confidently recommending their 
pages to readers who would supplement my modest 
essays with more substantial fare, and bridge the 
gaps between some scattered fragments from the 
grim chronicles of Time. 


“ The Roman History of Appian of Alexandria ” 
(translated from the Greek by Horace White); “Figures 
et Recits de Carthage Chretienne ” (Abel Alcais) ; 

“ Histoire Generate de la Tunisie ” (Abel Clarin de la 
Rive); “ Carthage and the Carthaginians ” (R. Bos- 
worth Smith) ; “ L’Afrique Romaine ” (Gaston Boissier); 

“ Carthage ” (Ernest Babelon) ; “ Carthage of the 
Phoenicians ” (Mabel Moore). 

G. P. 

Arts Club, 

London. 







CONTENTS 


INTRODUCTION 

_ PAGES 

Tunis of to-day—Bazaars—Cafes—Biblical types—Exten¬ 
sive historical interest—The Punic Wars—The Christian 
Church, its saints and martyrs—French care of classical 
ruins—Modern ideas and their effect . . i—io 

CHAPTER I 

A Tale of Two Continents 

Marseilles—The song of the ship—Sighting Corsica—The 
first impressions of Monsieur Babelon—Tunis receives our 
greetings in her night-dress—Arrival . . n—16 

CHAPTER II 

Fragments of Tunisian History 

Dolmens — Joshua and the Canaanites—The Berbers — 
Foundation of Tunis—The story of Dido—Geographical 
advantages of Carthage—The Great Wall—The Roman 
Corvus—The landing of Regulus at Maxula—The victory 
of Xanthippus—The heroism of Regulus related by Horace 
—Torture of Regulus—The mercenary war—Scipio as an 
incendiary—The Third Punic War—The end of Punic 
Carthage ...... 17—44 


CHAPTER III 

Fragments of Tunisian History ( continued ) 

Roman Carthage—First records of Carthaginian Christians— 
Tertullian and St. Cyprian on hair-dressing and worldly 
vanities—The Christian Sunday—Edict of Marcus Aurelius 

vii 


CONTENTS 


PAGBS 


—Trial of Speratus—St. Cyprian and Christian waverers 
—The brave flight of St. Cyprian—Martyrdom of St. 
Cyprian — St. Augustine—Aria—Pelagius — Invasion of 
Carthage by the Vandals .... 45—66 

CHAPTER IV 
Arab Tunis 

Souk-des-Selliers—Arab saddlery—Enormous hats—Mara¬ 
bout’s tomb—Metal-workers—Friendly feeling of shop¬ 
keepers—Kasbah—Dar-el-Bey—Arab hospital — Souk-el- 
Trouk, the bazaar of the tailors—Cafe des Marabouts— 

The Prophet’s birthday .... 67—86 

CHAPTER V 
Arab Tunis ( continued ) 

The scent bazaar—Aristocratic Andalusian shopkeepers— 
Mosque of the olive-tree — Account by Mohammed-el- 
Abdery—Souk-des-Etoffes—Slave - market — History of 
Tunisian slavery—Narrative of St. Vincent de Paul— 
Court of the Kadi—Marriage customs—James Bruce’s 
plea for polygamy—Place Bab Souika—Mosque of Sidi 
Marez—Description of native life—Place Haloufaine 87—102 

CHAPTER VI 

Modern Tunis 

Avenue Jules Ferry—July 14—The Belvedere—Cafe du 
Casino—Italians—Arab’s passion for flowers and scents— 

—The early Egyptians .... 103—no 

CHAPTER VII 
Carthage 

Choice of routes from Tunis—Appian’s description of the 
ancient ports—Musings on history—Cathedral of St. Louis 
—Christianity and the gods of the Carthaginians—The 

viii 


CONTENTS 


PAGES 


Punic ports as they are to-day—The Roman theatre— 
Seneca on the Roman theatres—-Basilica of Damous-el- 
Karita—The Roman cisterns and aqueducts—Middleton 
on Roman knowledge of hydraulics—Wealth of geraniums 
—Roman amphitheatre—Martyrdoms of SS. Perpetua, 
Felicitas, Revocatus, Saturninus, and Secundulus — 
Memorial-stone of martyrs .... in—134 

CHAPTER VIII 

Half-day Excursions from Tunis 

Ariana—Jewish cemetery—The Bardo . . 135—143 

CHAPTER IX 
Sousse (Hadrumetum) 

Journey from Tunis—New banners for the mosque at Grom- 
balia—A Frenchman’s views on the Arab—History of 
Sousse—-The catacombs—Christian love-feasts—The sub¬ 
mission of Monica—St. Cyprian and Christian miners 144—155 

CHAPTER X 

El-Djem (the Roman Thysdrus) 

The postal motor service from Sousse—The wardrobe of my 
travelling companion—Character of scenery—First im¬ 
pressions of amphitheatre—Queen Kakina—Importance 
of Thysdrus — Arab versus Roman civilization — Lunar 
influences—Guide-book statistics—The author’s dream— 
Panthers in the forests — The dancing-girl — The per¬ 
formance in the amphitheatre . . . 156—174 

CHAPTER XI 

St. Augustine and the Amphitheatre — The Back¬ 
sliding of Alypius ..... 175—170 


IX 


CONTENTS 


CHAPTER XII 
Kairouan 

PAGES 

First glimpse—The station—The hotels—Her sacred prestige 
—The violation of her sanctity—Visit of Guerin in 1862— 
Account of foundation by Novairi—A stroll through La 
Grande Rue—The cafe which was a corn-market—A fat 
and merry gentleman with plaited hair—-A digression on 
marabouts—Cupping—Flies — The call to prayer—The 
story of the Baruti Well—Butchers’ stalls—Outside the 
Porte de Tunis ..... 180—198 


CHAPTER XIII 
The Mosques of Kairouan 

Grand Mosque—Comparison with Cathedral of Cordova— 
Monotony of effect—View from the great tower—Mosque 
du Barbier—The strange-looking burden—The courtyards 
—Moslem monks — Mosque des Sabres — An eccentric 
marabout—Gargantuan swords—The anchors of Noah’s 
ark — The marabout’s cannon and the capitulation of 
Sebastopol—Beauty of exterior . . . 199—208 

CHAPTER XIV 
The Aissaouia— Kairouan 

Description of the Zaonia —Avenues to hysteria—Self- 
torture—Sympathy of marabout—Genuine character of 
service and performers—Origin of sect . . 209—216 

CHAPTER XV 
Kairouan Ceremonies 

Wedding—Circumcision—First shave . . 217—225 

CHAPTER XVI 

A Hot Day in Kairouan .... 226—229 

x 


CONTENTS 


CHAPTER XVII 

PAGES 

The Camels of Kairouan : A Eulogy . . 230—235 

CHAPTER XVIII 
The Future 

Effect of European influence on Arabs—Islam described by 
a Mussulman—Fatalism—Lord Cromer on the Egyptian 
—The dreamer must awake .... 236—241 

Index ....... 243—252 


Xl 















LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

FACING 

PAGE 

A Minor Mosque, Kairouan .... Frontispiece 
In the Souk-el-Attarin, Tunis . . . .4 

Cafe du Kasbah, Tunis . . . . .8 

Tunis from the Olive Woods . . . . .14 

Love on the Doorstep . . . . .20 

A Corner in the Rue Belat, Tunis . . . .24 

Maxula-Rades, where Regulus landed in 256 b.c. . . 28 

A Venerable Tree, Maxula-Rades . . . -34 

From the Steps of the Grand Mosque Zitouana, Tunis . 40 

Rue Sidi-ben-Ziad, Tunis . . . . .46 

Rue Haloufaine, Tunis . . . . - 5 ° 

Shopping in the Souk-el-Trouk, Tunis . . 56 

Veiled Women in the Souk-des-Etoffes, Tunis . . 60 

Entrance to the Grand Mosque from the Souk-el-Attarin, 

Tunis . . . . . . .68 

The Marabout’s Tomb in the Souk-des-Selliers, Tunis . 70 

Entrance to the Cafe des Marabouts, Tunis . . 78 

Interior of the Cafe des Marabouts, Tunis . . .80 

A Humble Cafe in the Slipper-Souk, Tunis . . -84 

Entrance to the Souk-des-Etoffes from the Souk-el-Trouk, 

Tunis . . . . . . .88 

The Souk-des-Etoffes, Tunis . . . .90 

xiii 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

FACING 

PAGE 

The Approach to the Ancient Slave-Market from the Souk- 

des-Etoffes, Tunis . . . . • 94 

Place Bab-Souika and the Mosque of Sidi Mahrez, Tunis . ioo 
A Popular Cafe, Tunis . . . . .104 

A Slipper-Shop, Tunis . . . . .110 

The Punic Ports of Carthage . . . .118 

Ruins of the Roman Theatre, Carthage . . .120 

Side-walk in the Souk-des-Etoffes, Tunis . . .126 

Noon, Tunis ....... 130 

The Mosque of Sidi-bou-Said, near Carthage . -136 

A Typical Street, Tunis ..... 140 

Sousse (Hadrumetum) ..... 144 

Olives and Bedouins near Tunis . . . -150 

In the Covered Souks of Kairouan . . . • 1 54 

Roman Amphitheatre of El-Djem (Thysdrus) . . 160 

A Kairouan Well . . . . . 174 

Mosque of Sidi-el-Alleni, Kairouan .... 180 

Exterior of the Corn Market, Kairouan . . .184 

The Old Corn Market, Kairouan . . . .186 

Entrance to the Souks, Kairouan . . . .190 

The Vegetable Market, Kairouan .... 194 

Entrance to the Mosque du Barbier, Kairouan . . 200 

A Courtyard of the Mosque du Barbier, Kairouan . . 204 

Mosque des Sabres, Kairouan .... 206 

A Marabout’s Tomb, Kairouan . . . .210 

Life in La Grande Rue, Kairouan . . . .216 

The Old Porte de Tunis, Kairouan .... 220 

In the Cool Souks of Kairouan .... 224 

Kairouan Card-players . . . . .230 


XIV 





INTRODUCTION 


Tunis, as one finds her to-day, retains so much 
of her Oriental character, and offers such a rich and 
varied menu to those who feel the glamour of 
the East, that to some it will doubtless seem suffi¬ 
cient to feast their eyes on the fascinating pictures 
revealed at every turn of her tortuous streets, care¬ 
less of her origin and her chequered history during 
3,000 years. 

There are those who may think that there is 
interest and excitement enough in wandering be¬ 
neath the vaulted roofs of her arcaded bazaars, so 
richly furnished with masterpieces of the carpet- 
weaver’s art, the embroiderer’s skill, the metal¬ 
worker’s cunning, and the potter’s craft. 

Many a pleasant hour may be spent in examining 
at leisure the strange medley of costly art treasures, 
and valueless but attractive rubbish, so temptingly 
displayed by dusky merchants, whose dignitv of 
appearance and suavity of manner seem to forbid 
the discussion of price. It is true that dignity will 
not prevent them from asking five times the market 

B 


1 



TUNIS 


value of their goods, but no one can resent what is 
but a delicate form of flattery, a testimony to their 
exalted estimate of the financial resources of the 
customer. One may accept the compliment, and 
admire the traditional etiquette, while firmly re¬ 
fusing to pay the price. 

But if it is delightful to find oneself surrounded 
by things fashioned on old tradition, and free from 
the dull uniform imprint of the machine, it is still 
more interesting to see the craftsmen at their work. 
To watch the dyers as they plunge their wool and 
silk into huge terra-cotta vessels of antique design, 
their bare limbs deeply stained by the colours 
employed; to note with what incredible rapidity 
the silk-weaver evolves, in many harmonious 
colours, the intricate pattern of his design ; to 
observe how tightly the carpet-maker compresses 
his little tufts of wool, and thereby learn how 
the Eastern carpet lasts for centuries where its 
European counterpart only lasts for years ; to 
marvel at the patience of the metal-worker as he 
laboriously chisels, on a copper bowl, the lines and 
spaces which will afterwards be filled with rarer 
metals by the damascener’s art. 

In the labyrinthine maze of sinuous streets it is 
easy to lose one’s way; but one can always find it 
again by the compass of a familiar dome or grace¬ 
ful minaret, which stands out in startling brilliancy 


2 



INTRODUCTION 


of purest white against a low-toned sky, and then 
one feels that in losing and finding one has enjoyed 
a double pleasure. 

Should you feel tired, an Arab cafe is always at 
hand to offer you its hospitality. There you may 
rest, surrounded by a crowd of bernoused figures, 
with complexions of every shade, from blue-black 
to blonde; and there you may study, while sipping 
your coffee, the varied types of your neighbours. 
A group of grave patriarchs are stroking their long 
beards, and gesticulating with slender fingers, as 
they discuss the meaning of some obscure passage 
from the Koran. Near them a huge and gorgeously- 
attired negro is inhaling tobacco-smoke through 
serpentine coils of green tubing from a quaint 
hubble-bubble. In contrast to the grave decorum 
of their elders, some gay youths are shouting and 
laughing as they rattle the dice on a backgammon 
board, while, behind them, a pale, emaciated-looking 
man is taking furtive whiffs from the tiny, but 
deadly hashish pipe. 

The attitudes of this strange crowd are as 
varied as their physiognomies, and many of them 
recall familiar personages of the past. Wearily 
stretched on a divan, a handsome middle-aged man, 
in a scarlet silk robe, looks as if he might be posing 
for a picture of “ The Remorse of Nero”; while the 
gaunt, patient figure standing near him, whose bones 

3 B 2 







TUNIS 


are covered by nothing but skin, and whose skin is 
only half covered by rags, might surely serve as a 
model of Lazarus. 

Of Biblical friends there seems to have been a 
universal resurrection. Abraham, Isaac, and all the 
prophets are clearly recognizable, and also Solomon 
in all his glory. The Wise Men of the East become 
quite familiar acquaintances, while Joseph, in his 
coat of many colours, loses something of his dis¬ 
tinction by his ubiquity. 

In an open square the wonderful performance of 
the snake-charmer is being given within its circle 
of squatting children, to whom this exhibition is a 
never-failing source of delight and terror. Across 
the way his rival, the sand-diviner, is playing with 
the credulity of his patrons, while near him the 
professional story-teller relates thrilling love tales 
from the “ Arabian Nights.” 

Some Jewesses, in tiny white satin slippers, 
totter across the street, and one wonders how 
they have succeeded in attaining the maximum 
proportions of female corpulence, so satisfying to 
their husbands’ ideal of grace and beauty. Behind 
them are some Arab women of the better class, 
by whom the outer world can only be seen 
through a thin, black veil, held to the shoulders 
with upstretched arms, forming a kind of tent, 
under which it is difficult to believe that 


4 







INTRODUCTION 

an unfortunate woman is trying to breathe and 
see. 

These sights, and a thousand others, equally 
strange and novel to those who for the first time 
find themselves in an Oriental city, are so fasci¬ 
nating and absorbing that they seem to enchain one 
to the present, and to leave no room for thoughts 
about history. But though the glitter of colour 
and light, and the charm of watching these ever- 
changing scenes of unfamiliar life, may satisfy and 
delight the senses, we need not therefore refuse 
to regale ourselves with some brimming draughts 
from the well-stocked cellars of local history— 
history which in its variety, comprehensiveness, 
dramatic contrast, and tragedy, admits of few, if 
any, rivals. 

The interest of the present is surely enhanced by 
its association with the past from which it derives 
its existence, more especially when, as in the present 
case, the associations are so unusually comprehensive 
as to touch nearly all the important civilizations 
known to history. 

The Greeks, the Phoenicians, the Romans, the 
Goths, the Arabs, the Spaniards, the Turks, and the 
French have successively imposed their civilizations 
and left their influence on this country, the richness 
and fertility of which seem to have formed an irre¬ 
sistible bait to the greed of the whole world. There 

5 


TUNIS 


is no other country—Italy not excepted—in which 
traces of the great Roman civilization are so 
conspicuous. They stretch inland up to the very 
edge of the desert, and it is hardly too much to say 
that there is not an Arab mosque, or house, or wall 
in which one does not find a column, a capital, or 
a corner-stone of Roman workmanship. 

Carthage—the very name is a magician’s wand, 
to conjure up before one’s eyes a hundred dramatic 
scenes and incidents which have governed the sub¬ 
sequent history of the world. One may walk over 
the actual ground on which was enacted the awful 
tragedy of the Punic Wars, and see the famous 
ports which played such an important part in their 
history. Though Italy was the scene of the most 
wonderful achievements of the great Hannibal, yet 
here he was born and nurtured ; and here, when 
a mere boy, he solemnly vowed that he would 
consecrate his life to destroying the power of 
Rome. How well he fulfilled his pledge ! and 
how nearly he succeeded in realizing his daring 
ambition ! 

But of the manifold interests in which Tunisia 
abounds, not the least is her intimate association 
with the history of the early Church. If Palestine 
was the cradle of our faith, surely Tunisia was its 
nursery. It was here that, by the courage and fear¬ 
lessness of her converts, who gloried in the privilege 

6 




INTRODUCTION 


of being permitted to die for their faith, the Chris¬ 
tian Church first became a power. 

It was here, at Carthage, that St. Cyprian en¬ 
couraged and heartened his suffering flock with 
those beautiful epistles, many of which have happily 
been handed down to posterity, and it was here 
at the end of his saintly life, harassed as it had 
been by schisms within the Church, that he cheer¬ 
fully suffered martyrdom. Later the great figure 
of St. Augustine appeared on the same stage. 

In spite of internal squabbles, petty and un¬ 
dignified, the history of the early Church in 
North Africa is, in the main, as noble as it is 
pathetic, and is a glorious tribute to its altruism. 
On another page I have related the touching story 
of the martyrdoms of SS. Perpetua and Felicitas, 
with other incidents illustrative of the fervent faith 
of the early Christians in Tunisia. 

In my sketches I have dealt more with the 
picturesque life of to-day in Arab towns and vil¬ 
lages, than with the classical ruins of the past. 
Interesting as the latter are from the archaeological 
and architectural point of view, they do not readily 
lend themselves to artistic treatment in composition 
or colour. Photography, moreover, can give us a 
tolerably accurate idea of architectural detail and 
proportion, but it can give no hint of the riot of 
colour which is the chief charm of Oriental streets 


7 



TUNIS 


and bazaars; nor can it suggest the tender and 
delicate harmonies of tone and those soft shades of 
aerial perspective which, in the evening and early 
morning, make one wonder if that which seems to 
be before one’s eyes is reality, or some wondrous 
mirage of an enchanted dreamland. 

I am far from wishing to imply that I have suc¬ 
ceeded in recording these elusive charms. Although 
my brush has had more practice than my pen, I am 
equally conscious of its limitations ; but it has been 
my aim to catch something of the quick throb of 
Eastern life, something of its kaleidoscopic change 
of colour, something of the glare and glamour of 
noontide, and of the poetry of eventide. 

“ Qui s’excuse s’accuse and I fear I am dwelling 
overmuch on my neglect of Roman remains, but 
there is another sop for my conscience. Classic 
remains in Tunisia are not likely under the French 
occupation to come to further grief. No longer is 
the Arab peasant allowed to use a Roman amphi¬ 
theatre or forum as a convenient quarry in which 
to find material for constructing his farm buildings 
and stables. 

After 1,300 years of persistent pillage, it is indeed 
marvellous that so much should have endured. Not 
only are the ruins secured from further depreda¬ 
tions, but careful excavations under competent direc¬ 
tion are being systematically carried out, and yield, 

8 



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INTRODUCTION 


from time to timq, a rich harvest of reward in the dis¬ 
covery of fresh and additional testimony to the magni¬ 
ficence of Roman civilization in North Africa. 

The endurance of the picturesque side of Arab 
life is far less assured. It must be admitted that 
this picturesqueness is often associated with poverty 
and squalor, and in the view of the modern pro¬ 
gressist squalor spells disease, and poverty entails 
mental stagnation. 

The French do not hold Tunisia for the benefit 
of the Kodak-loving tourist. Though they have 
shown great tact and consideration in interfering as 
little as possible with the Arab quarters when 
planning and building their modern towns, yet the 
demands of commerce require, not infrequently, the 
erection of buildings which, from the ^esthetic 
point of view, are an unforgivable outrage to their 
surroundings. 

Native schools instil modern ideas into the minds 
of the growing generation, and the educated Arab 
is by no means a despiser of worldly prosperity and 
comfort. Still less so is his hated brother, the 
Tunisian Jew. 

The emancipated Jew is keenly alive to the 
practical side of life, and quick to realize the advan¬ 
tage of associating himself with the governing 
French, rather than with the governed Arab. He 
is rapidly discarding the flowing burnous, the rich 

9 


TUNIS 


gandoura of scarlet silk handsomely embroidered 
with green, the gorgeous orange-coloured waistcoat, 
in all of which he loved to display a higher standard 
of costliness than his rival the Arab. In the interest 
of personal advancement he is changing all this 
glory of Solomon, dear to his heart, and also to 
mine, in favour of the hideous attire of the 
twentieth-century European. 


io 


CHAPTER I 


A Tale of Two Continents 

At last the wearisome sound of grinding chains 
and cranks, the screechings of steam-whistles, the 
yells of porters, and the hundred and one unpleasant 
noises incidental to the loading of a vessel, came to 
an end, and we steamed quietly out of the harbour. 
I have certain artist friends who wax eloquent 
over the aesthetic charms of Marseilles, but I con¬ 
fess that I am blind to them. It may have been 
different in the good old times, but to-day the 
principal streets are a bewildering maze of electric 
trams; the harbour is fringed with hideous cor¬ 
rugated iron sheds, fifth-class grog shops and sordid 
cafes, and in spite of the fine vessels in the harbour, 
dust, dirt, squalor, and stench are to me its most 
conspicuous attributes. At any rate, I felt glad to 
leave it, and an expression of relief and satisfaction 
seemed to be written on the faces of most of my 
fellow - passengers, though to this the perfect 
weather may have largely contributed. We 


TUNIS 


started at noon. Lunch was immediately served, 
and for this first meal there was a goodly muster. 

As I have already said, the weather was superb, 
and congratulations were in the air. Yet all that 
glitters is not gold. The steamers which carry you 
from Marseilles to Tunis or Algiers in thirty-four 
hours are built for speed, and not for level-headed¬ 
ness. I have been told by those who have crossed 
the Atlantic in the Lusitania and other gigantic 
liners of her class, that the absolute steadiness of 
these leviathans in a heavy sea is surprising. As 
you promenade the deck you say : “ How calm!” 
You glance at the ocean, and, noting the be¬ 
haviour of smaller craft, ejaculate : “ How fearfully 
rough !” 

These happy travellers should widen their ex¬ 
perience by crossing the Mediterranean in a French 
steamer, and they will learn that she can hold her 
own in eccentricity of behaviour, disregard of the 
elements, and a magnificent contempt for the laws 
of cause and effect. “ Roll! roll ! roll ! ” is her song, 
and with a fearful persistency she conjugates 
the verb in every mood, and tense, and person. 
What though the sea resemble a sheet of glass ? 
what though the air be stagnant in its stillness ? It 
matters not ! let us roll. ’Tis the song of the ship, 
“ Roll ! roll ! roll !” 

Half-way across one gets a good view of the 

12 



A TALE OF TWO CONTINENTS 


Corsican coast, but that was a poor consolation for 
sighting Tunis when it was too dark to distinguish 
any details. This was a great disappointment; but 
others have been more lucky, among them Mon¬ 
sieur Babelon, who in his book “ Carthage ” gives 
such a charming description of what he saw, or 
thought he saw, that I am tempted to avail myself 
of it, though my translation is so free that I refrain 
from using inverted commas. 

From the bridge of the steamer an astonishing 
panorama presents itself. Under a sky of a purity 
unknown in our European climate, the coast, with 
its picturesque villas dotted here and there, displays 
a luxuriant vegetation; and when it is remembered 
that this was the ground of Dido and of Hannibal, 
admiration of Nature melts into classical memories, 
and draws forth a melancholy sigh. Farther away 
an isolated mound, crowned by some modern build¬ 
ings of a monumental aspect, is visible. It is the 
ancient citadel of Byrsa, where so many historic 
dramas were enacted. Here King St. Louis died, 
and here the cathedral, built and dedicated to his 
memory by the late Cardinal Lavigerie, stands, close 
to the seminary of the White Fathers. 

To the left, on the low sandy shore, is the little 
port of La Goulette, which guards the approach to 
the Lake of Tunis. The fort, which was taken by 
Charles V. from Barbarossa, serves to-day as barracks. 

1 3 


TUNIS 


Here also are the arsenal and the Beylical prison, 
where St. Vincent de Paul dispensed his charity to 
the unhappy Christians whom the Corsair pirates 
had enslaved. On the other side of the Gulf of 
Tunis the blue sky is cut by the crests of a long 
chain of mountains, which were the background to 
some of those sanguinary battles between Carthage 
and Rome, and, later, between the Romans and the 
barbarians. Among the peaks we recognize Bou 
Kornein, the mountain with two horns; Djebel 
Ressas, rich in mines of lead and silver, behind 
which lie the ruins of Neferis; and, lastly, Zaghouan, 
the culminating point of all the Zeugitane, from 
whose generous springs Carthage drew her water 
2,000 years ago, just as Tunis does to-day. 

While we should have been revelling in poetic 
memories and the recognition of historic sites, we 
were actually discussing an excellent dinner as we 
were slowly tugged along the narrow canal which 
runs from La Goulette to Tunis. Many passengers 
whom we had not seen since the first lunch re¬ 
appeared, and with hearty appetites made up for 
lost meals. We all did ourselves remarkably well, 
and sauntered on deck to pay our respects to Tunis. 

There she lay before us, her proportions clearly 
marked by twinkling lights, which grew fainter as 
they climbed up the hill surmounted by the Kasbah 
and the Beylical Palace ; while in the foreground 

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A TALE OF TWO CONTINENTS 


danced the reflections of many-coloured lights from 
the steamers in the harbour. 

It was not the dress in which we would have 
asked her to receive our greetings. She hardly 
realized the description given by Diodorus of the 
White City. We should have liked better to doff 
our caps to her as she blushed under the first kisses 
of dawn, as she sparkled in the fierce noontide heat, 
or as she veiled herself in the soft draperies of 
twilight. But whatever her garb, there she lay—the 
Tunes of the Phoenicians, the Tunesium of the 
Romans, the Tunis of to-day. Far older than 
Carthage, she was for centuries overshadowed and 
eclipsed by the magnificence of her younger sister, 
and sank to the position of a poor relation, a country 
cousin—a mere suburb. But she has had her re¬ 
venge. Not only has she outlived her neighbour, 
but she has incorporated her very bones, for there 
is hardly a column or a capital in Tunis which does 
not come from Carthage. 

One must not expect on arriving at Tunis to 
plunge instantly into the scenes from the “ Arabian 
Nights,” as one does, for example, at Tangier, 
where, landing in a small rowing-boat, you are 
hoisted up to the pier to find yourself surrounded 
by a seething mass of wild, savage-looking Moors, 
who, screaming, yelling, and cursing, fight with each 
other as they endeavour to secure the luggage 

l 5 


TUNIS 


which you relinquish with reluctance, doubting if 
you will ever see it again. 

There is a faint echo of this excitement even at 
Tunis, but it is subdued and controlled by French 
officials, and there are rows of English-speaking 
omnibus porters, ready to soothe the anxiety and 
quiet the palpitations of nervous Britons. 


16 




CHAPTER II 


Fragments of Tunisian History 

Prior to the advent of the Phoenicians, we know 
little of the history of Tunisia. Numbers of dolmens 
exist which, according to experts, are precisely 
similar to those found in Brittany and England. 
One wonders at what remote period the primitive 
religion of sun-worship, with which these monoliths 
are believed to be connected, prevailed over such a 
large portion of the globe. It is a problem which 
will never be solved ; but the reflection is not with¬ 
out its fascination that, at some time in the far-away 
past, the country with which this book is concerned 
and our own little island were peopled by those 
who practised similar religious rites, and were 
possibly of the same blood. 

Sixteen hundred years before Christ the Canaan- 
ites were driven out of Palestine by Joshua, and it 
was the Canaanitish people who, under the Greek 
name of Phoenicians, settled in Tunisia, and eventu¬ 
ally built the great city of Carthage, mistress of the 

17 c 


TUNIS 


sea and wellnigh mistress of the world. The 
historian Procope relates that a monument of white 
stone was found in Numidia with the following 
inscription in the Phoenician language : “ We are 
Canaanites driven from our country by the brigand 
Joshua, son of Kave.” 

But long before the arrival of the Phoenicians, 
North Africa was freely populated by a race of 
whose origin and early history we know nothing, 
but which has endured and preserved many of its 
characteristics up to the present day. The Berber 
or Kabyle of to-day retains the Lybian language, 
with its distinctive alphabet, which he spoke more 
than 3,000 years ago when he was driven from the 
coast by the Phoenicians, and in spite of the domina¬ 
tion of his country by successive civilizations, some 
of which were of a high order, he himself has 
never been completely conquered. In the fast¬ 
nesses of the mountains to which he was driven he 
has always retained a considerable measure of inde¬ 
pendence, and once, for a short period, ruled the 
whole country. 

But directly one begins to speculate as to the 
possible origin of the Berber, one is checkmated by 
the fact that his language is common to tribes of 
such entirely different type and race as the blond, 
industrious, mountain-loving Kabyle of Algeria and 
the fierce, warlike, dark-skinned Toureg of the 

18 






FRAGMENTS OF TUNISIAN HISTORY 


desert. The Kabyle might owe his descent to 
European stock; but the Toureg, he surely must 
have come from the south or from the east. The 
only trait which they seem to share in common is 
a passionate love of independence. 

The late Monsieur Gaston Boissier tells us that 
inscriptions in this language have been discovered 
in the most remote parts of the Sahara, carved with 
the point of a dagger or written with tar or ochre. 
Examples have been found as far eastwards as Sinai, 
and westwards as the Canary Isles. With certain 
differences of vocabulary, it is still used on the 
banks of the Niger, and nearly as far as Senegal, 
and by tribes so different from each other that it is 
impossible to believe that they were ever of the 
same race. What makes the existence of, or the 
survival of, this language a still deeper puzzle is 
that, though it has existed for thousands of years, 
and out-lived Punic and Latin, it has never had any 
literature worthy of the name to aid its survival. 
Certainly North Africa is a land of mysteries. 

The earliest cities of which we have any know¬ 
ledge were Utica and Cambe. The latter is said to 
have been founded in 1259 b.c. by Cadmus and his 
wife Harmonie ; but, in spite of the lady’s name, 
matrimonial discords arose, and the beautiful Har¬ 
monie, neglected and ill-treated by her husband, 
found life intolerable, and committed suicide. Her 

l 9 


c 2 


TUNIS 


children and sympathizers carried her body to a spot 
far removed from her cruel spouse, and, erecting a 
magnificent tomb to her memory, settled themselves 
round it. This was the origin of the first city of 
Tunis. 

But though we know that Utica, Cambe, and 
Tunis were important and flourishing towns long 
before the foundation of Carthage, and that they 
were rivals in trade, and constantly at war with each 
other, yet it is not till the arrival of the famous 
Queen Dido that the history of Tunisia becomes at 
all tangible. 

The story of Dido is so well known that I almost 
hesitate to repeat it, and I do so, not with the idea 
of informing my reader, but out of respect to the 
memory of her late Majesty, and as a protest against 
a prevalent endeavour to cast a doubt on her reality, 
and to banish her into the shadowy realms of 
mythology. 

Elissa, afterwards known as Dido, was the sister 
of Pygmalion, King of Tyre, and married Sychseus, 
high priest of Mercarth. Coveting the wealth of 
his brother-in-law, the King slew Sychseus at the 
altar, and for a time successfully concealed his 
crime. The faithful Elissa hoped against hope for 
her lord’s return. At length, in the dead of night, 
his ghost appeared, and, revealing the hideous deed, 
bade her fly the country with the wealth which had 

20 



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FRAGMENTS OF TUNISIAN HISTORY 


prompted the murder. She more than obeyed her 
instructions, and carried off not merely the treasure 
which had been her husband’s, but also that of his 
assassin. She touched at Cyprus, and there obtained 
wives for her followers, inducing the priest of Baal 
to leave his temple and join her retinue. 

Eventually they landed at Cambe, where they 
received a hearty welcome. Elissa, now known as 
Dido, meaning “ the Fugitive,” entered into nego¬ 
tiations with the Lybian King Iapon, from whom, 
for a nominal annual rent, she purchased as much 
land as she could cover with an ox-hide. Having 
made this bargain, she cut up the skin into the 
thinnest possible strips, and encircled with it the 
whole of the land afterwards known as Byrsa, the 
heart and citadel of Carthage. 

Here it may perhaps be pointed out that those 
who so wickedly throw discredit on the story of 
Dido attribute its origin to a confusion of the Greek 
word “ Byrsa,” an oxhide, and the Phoenician word 
“ Bozra,” a fortress. 

Dido, having vowed eternal fidelity to the 
memory of her husband, devoted herself to the 
government of her city with great success, till ./Eneas 
was shipwrecked on her shores and craved her 
hospitality. This she royally extended, and at once 
conceived a strong admiration for the heroic 
character of her guest. These feelings soon 


21 


TUNIS 


deepened into those of passionate love, and, after a 
prolonged struggle with her conscience, which bade 
her be true to her vows, she succumbed to love, 
and openly declared her passion. /Eneas was for a 
time responsive to her tender emotions ; but it was 
revealed to him that his duty called him to Italy, 
and he somewhat cruelly deserted the Queen, 
who, distracted with grief and shame, committed 
suicide. 

Such, briefly, is Virgil’s story ; but for those whose 
digestion is weakly, and who cannot swallow the 
anachronism that Dido arrived in Africa in 937 b.c., 
nearly 300 years after the age of flEneas, there is 
another legend. 

The surpassing beauty and wisdom of Dido won 
for her many admirers, among whom was Jarbas, 
King of Mauritania, a very powerful monarch, who 
sent proposals of marriage to the Queen, accompanied 
by a threat that if his wishes were not complied 
with he would wage war on the Carthaginians. 
Dido, remembering her vows, yet wishing to save 
her people from possible destruction, begged for 
three months’ delay before giving a decisive answer. 
During that time she erected a funeral pile under 
the pretence that she wished, by a solemn sacrifice, 
to appease the spirit of her husband Sychasus. 
When it was lighted, and the conflagration was at 
its height, she stabbed herself in the breast and 

22 



FRAGMENTS OF TUNISIAN HISTORY 


threw herself into the flames in the presence of her 
subjects. 

Carping sceptics have venomously suggested that 
the story of the bargain struck between the great 
foundress of Carthage and King Iapon has a certain 
metaphorical truth in being a characteristic illustra¬ 
tion of the crafty cunning which marked the deal¬ 
ings of the Carthaginians, with friends and foes alike, 
throughout their history, an example of their tradi¬ 
tional slimness inherited from Canaanitish forebears. 

During the six centuries which elapsed between 
the foundation of Carthage by Dido and the com¬ 
mencement of the Punic Wars, there are few records, 
and none from the Carthaginians themselves. The 
library which would doubtless have given a detailed 
history of their development from such small be¬ 
ginnings was contemptuously handed over by the 
Romans to a Numidian chief, who had served as 
their ally, and though there are records that it 
existed ioo years later, it was eventually altogether 
lost and destroyed. The account which Hannon 
wrote of his venturesome voyage beyond the 
Columns of Hercules (Gibraltar), and far down the 
African coast, had been translated by a Greek, and 
has so been handed down to us. We also know 
that a comprehensive treatise on the science of agri¬ 
culture, in twenty-four volumes, was so highly 
thought of by the Romans that it was translated 

2 3 


TUNIS 


into Latin, and regarded as the standard work on 
the subject. These two books are all that survive 
of what was doubtless a great library. 

The instincts of the Carthaginians were primarily 
commercial, and, had it been possible, they would 
probably have been contented, as were their ancestors 
the Phoenicians, to possess numerous small colonies 
on the shores of other countries, at points convenient 
for the prosecution of their sea trade; but they were 
gradually forced, as we ourselves have been, to annex 
additional territory in order to protect that which 
they already possessed. Their strength, like our 
own, lay in their naval supremacy; their weakness 
in their dependance for their army on mercenaries, 
collected from all nations, whom they did not treat 
too liberally or even justly, and who consequently 
betrayed them whenever the temptation to do so 
was sufficiently strong. 

The security of Carthage from attack by enemies 
was enormously augmented by her geographical 
position. The peninsula on which she stood was 
joined to the mainland by a neck far narrower than 
that of to-day, the sea having made considerable 
encroachments at this point. Across this neck there 
stretched a great wall which, Appian tells us, was 
7 feet thick, 45 feet high, and flanked throughout 
its length by towers at equal distances of 200 feet. 
This was the outer wall; but behind it were two 

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similar walls, and the intervening spaces were 
arranged to give stabling accommodation for 300 
elephants, with their vast stores of food, 4,000 horses, 
and barracks for their riders as well as for 20,000 in¬ 
fantry. This great engineering feat, so effective that 
it successfully withstood the battering-rams of Cen- 
soinus, secured for Carthage a safety from attack by 
land almost as complete as that enjoyed by islanders. 

It is from the historians who lived during the 
life and death struggles of the Punic Wars that we 
owe our information about the Carthaginians. Of 
that death struggle we have full details, but of the 
centuries of prosperity which preceded annihilation 
we have the meagrest records. 

When I come to the subject of the Punic Wars 
I am conscious of some embarrassment, for they 
have been written of so fully, so frequently, and 
sometimes so eloquently, that it may seem almost 
superfluous to allude to them. Doubtless among 
my readers there will be many who know that 
tragic history, with all its lurid details, as intimately 
as they do their Bible, their Prayer-book, or their 
Shakespeare ; yet there may be others whose classical 
reading has become rusty, and who, lacking time 
and opportunity to polish it from original sources, 
may be glad to have recalled to mind a few of 
the many dramatic incidents which happened on 
Tunisian soil or in Tunisian waters during the long 

2 5 


TUNIS 

struggle for supremacy between Rome and Car¬ 
thage. 

It was on the blue waters between Tunis and 
Sicily that in 262 b.c. the Romans first attempted 
to contest the dominion of the sea by the Cartha¬ 
ginians. Finding that they were unable to compete 
with the superior knowledge of navigation possessed 
by their enemy, or to construct ships of equal 
mobility, they invented a sort of grappling-iron and 
drawbridge combined, the bridge being furnished 
with parapets. This contrivance worked on a hinge 
12 feet above the level of the deck, and could be 
swung round in any direction. When the Cartha¬ 
ginians rammed their ships the drawbridge, which 
was 24 feet long beyond the hinge, was lowered 
from its vertical position ; the iron beak and talons 
buried themselves into the deck of the enemies’ 
vessel, and the Romans were able to board her, two 
abreast, and so change the conflict into a hand-to- 
hand fight in which they knew themselves to be 
superior. From the resemblance of the iron beak to 
the bill of a raven, this invention was called a Corvus. 
The Carthaginians, who had a great contempt for 
the Roman fleet, laughed and jeered at the sight 
of these strange-Iooking prows; but they soon learnt 
their use, and found themselves being cut to pieces 
by their despised foe. They lost eighty vessels, and 
the carnage was horrible. 

26 



FRAGMENTS OF TUNISIAN HISTORY 

Half an hour by rail from Tunis, on the line which 
runs to Sousse, there is a sleepy little station called 
Maxula - Rades. Maxula was the name of a 
Phoenician city which sparkled in the sun more 
than 2,000 years ago, on the spot where a little 
French bathing resort, which has taken to itself the 
ancient name, now disports itself. Rades is the 
name of the Arab village on the slopes of the hill 
above. It nestles among the olive-trees so peace¬ 
fully, and its surroundings are so idyllic, that to 
associate it with the horrors of war seems a strange 
incongruity. Yet it was here that in 256 b.c. 
Regulus landed, and disposed his troops, before suc¬ 
cessfully besieging Tunis. In his preliminary battles 
he was so successful that the Carthaginians sued for 
peace; but the terms demanded were so hard that 
they determined to fight once more, and under the 
able generalship of the Greek mercenary, Zan- 
thippus, did so with awful success. Xanthippus 
engaged his foe in battle near Tunis with a force 
which included 100 elephants, and to his effective 
use of these animals his victory was largely due. 
Though the Romans were the bravest of soldiers, 
they felt themselves to be powerless against these 
huge beasts, which, Flaubert says, had scythes 
fastened to their tusks, and, as they charged the 
enemy, first cut them in pieces, and then trampled 
them to death. Of the army of 20,000 Romans 

2 7 


TUNIS 


only 2,000 escaped, and Regulus himself, with 
500 men, was taken prisoner. 

After an imprisonment of several years he was 
sent to Rome to effect an exchange of prisoners, he 
giving his word of honour that, should the mission 
be unsuccessful, he would return to Carthage. 

Horace has related the terms in which he spoke 
to the Roman Senate : “ Let those who have sur¬ 
rendered when they ought to have died, die in the 
land which has witnessed their disgrace. Let not 
the Senate establish a precedent fraught with 
disaster to ages yet unborn, or buy with their gold 
what should only be bought back by arms.” And 
then he pointed out that he was old, and, in the 
short time of life that still remained to him, could 
be of little service to his country, while, on the 
other hand, the Generals who would be exchanged 
for him were still hale and vigorous. When he 
saw the Senate wavering between pity for him and 
their sense of duty to their country, he pretended 
that he had taken a slow poison which was already 
coursing through his veins; and finally he strode 
away, with his eyes fixed upon the ground, lest he 
should see his sorrowing wife and children, but 
with a step as light, and a heart as free, as if he 
were going for a holiday to his country estate.”* 


* Bosworth Smith. 
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He did not know, nor could his Senate have 
imagined, the horrible fate which was in store for 
him. The Carthaginians, furious at the failure of 
the mission, put him in a box studded with sharp 
nails, so that he could get no rest by day or night, 
and then, having previously cut off his eyelids, 
suddenly brought him out of his dark dungeon 
and exposed his agonized eyes to the full glare of 
the sun. Finally they crucified him. 

Cruelty was not the monopoly of the Cartha¬ 
ginians, as is shown by the sequel to this dreadful 
history. The widow of Regulus ordered her sons 
to shut up, in a cask of the smallest possible dimen¬ 
sions, two Carthaginian captives, Bostar and Hamil- 
car. For five days and nights she kept them there, 
without food or water, till Bostar, more happy than 
his companion, died. For five days longer Hamil- 
car was confined with his dead companion, receiving 
just enough food to keep him alive, till the servants, 
full of pity for his sufferings, appealed to the Tribune, 
who ordered his release. 

When the first Punic War was ended, the 
Carthaginians were anxious to get rid of their 
mercenary soldiers, but the latter naturally refused 
to disband till they had been paid for their services. 
The Senate proposed to pay each man a single gold 
coin, as a first instalment of its debt, on condition 

2 9 


TUNIS 


that the army retired to Sicca. This arrangement 
was carried out, but no sooner had the army retired 
from its embarrassing proximity, than the Cartha¬ 
ginians sent Hannon to propose a reduction on the 
amount due, pleading the depleted condition of the 
State’s coffers. In making this suggestion they 
counted on the popularity of Hannon with the 
men, which was considerable; nevertheless, the 
word “ reduction ” was received with howls of 
anger from the whole army, which promptly 
marched on Carthage, encamping at Tunis. 

The Carthaginians were terrified, promised to 
pay everything, and daily sent presents of food and 
luxuries to the camp. This conduct emboldened 
the mercenaries, who made further demands, such 
as the compensation for their dead horses. The 
Senate, thoroughly frightened, sent a General 
named Giscon with chests of gold with which to 
satisfy all demands, but it was too late. Under the 
influence of two men, Spendius and Matho, the 
mercenaries had become conscious of their power. 

Spendius was a runaway Greek slave ; Matho 
was a Numidian chief, who had great influence and 
authority over his people. The chests of gold 
were appropriated, but the unfortunate Giscon was 
chained and imprisoned. Messengers were sent 
throughout the country urging the Berbers to join 
in what was described as a war of liberty. Not 

3 ° 



FRAGMENTS OF TUNISIAN HISTORY 


only did the call to arms meet with such enthusi¬ 
astic response that the army soon reached the 
number of 70,000 men, but thousands of women 
voluntarily contributed their jewellery and the 
trinkets of their children to swell the war chests. 

The army was divided into two portions, half of 
it remaining at Tunis under Matho, the other half, 
under Spendius, encamped at some spot between 
Hamam-Lif and the plains of Kairouan. Suf¬ 
ficiently confident in his increased strength to risk 
enraging the Carthaginians, Spendius now muti¬ 
lated Giscon and his 700 soldiers, and threw them 
into a ditch to die, informing his enemy that this 
was the way in which all prisoners who fell into 
his hands would be treated. 

In this hour of terrible danger Carthage was 
saved from extermination by the genius of Hamil- 
car Barca, who, encamping on the slopes of Bou- 
Kornein, drew the enemy into a disadvantageous 
position, and effected a blockade. He cut off all 
their supplies till, in the agonies of starvation, they 
were reduced to the horrible expedient of eating 
their own slaves. When there were no more slaves 
to eat, and they found themselves looking at each 
other with hungry eyes, a deputation, headed by 
Spendius, sued for peace. Hamilcar demanded 
that ten of the mercenaries, to be named by him¬ 
self, should be given up, the rest of the army being 

3 1 


TUNIS 


allowed to disband, unarmed, and with one garment 
each. These terms having been agreed to, ten 
chiefs were chosen, including Spendius, and cruci¬ 
fied outside the walls of Tunis, in sight of Matho 
and his army—a salute which was acknowledged 
soon afterwards by the crucifixion, on the same 
spot, of a Carthaginian General and fifty soldiers. 

Some months later Matho’s army was completely 
defeated, the rebel chief being captured alive, and 
put to death with horrible tortures at Carthage. 
The war had lasted for three years and four months; 
and of it, Polybius, whose life was largely spent in 
recording horrors, says that it was by far the most 
cruel and inhuman of which he had ever heard. 

If, in the searching sunlight of the day, the hills 
and plains of Tunisia recall numberless dramatic 
episodes, her classic ground is hardly less suggestive 
when veiled in the mystery of night. One hot, 
sultry evening I strolled in search of fresher air up 
through the old Arab town and on to the ramparts, 
which have often protected it from the attack of 
enemies. Below me lay a plain which merged 
into the dark sea, and far across the water I knew 
that Sicily lay. Could we but search the bed of 
that treacherous sea we should doubtless find far 
more Punic relics than are ever likely to be dis¬ 
covered by the industrious White Fathers on the 

3 2 







FRAGMENTS OF TUNISIAN HISTORY 


hill of Byrsa. The fleets of the Carthaginians and 
the Romans — more especially the latter — were 
not too well able to weather the sudden storms, 
which then, as now, sprang up with little warning. 
At the seige of Libamm alone 800 Roman vessels 
laden with provisions were wrecked in a single 
night by a violent tempest, and Polybius says that 
“ they were broken into fragments, so that not a 
plank remained which could be used again, and all 
along the coast the hungry foam was discoloured 
with the corn intended for the famishing Roman 
army.” 

A bonfire which suddenly burst into flames 
brought to mind the fact that the Carthaginians 
had an elaborate code of bonfire signals, by means 
of which they gave important information to their 
fleet in time of war; but it also recalled a tragic 
nocturnal conflagration which took place more than 
2,000 years ago not very far from the spot where I 
was standing. 

Scipio, with his Roman army, was encamped on 
the hills near Tunis, and within sight were the 
camps of the Carthaginians and their allies the 
Numidians. Scipio, aware that his army was much 
smaller than that of the enemy, felt that his only 
chance of success lay in making a surprise attack by 
night. He had noticed that the huts of the Car¬ 
thaginians were constructed of dry wood, while 

33 


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TUNIS 


those of the Numidians were made of wattled 
reeds, thatched with straw, and this observation 
suggested a plan of attack which he carried out 
with terrible success. In order to obtain fuller 
knowledge of the ins and outs of the enemy’s 
camps, he pretended to enter into negotiations, and 
instructed his messengers to note every detail of 
their arrangements. Appian thus relates what 
happened : 

“ At the third watch the trumpet sounded lightly. 
Then Scipio’s army marched in profound silence to 
the enemy’s camp and surrounded it. With shouts, 
mingled with the discordant blasts of trumpets, 
they struck terror into the hearts of the enemy, 
swept away the guards from their outposts, and set 
the huts on fire. The Africans started from their 
sleep in consternation, and fumbled for their arms. 
Bewildered and confused, they tried to get into 
order of battle, but the noise was so great that they 
could not hear the commands of their officers, and 
the General himself did not understand in the dark¬ 
ness what was happening. Thinking that the camp 
was taken, they fled from the fire of the burning 
huts down to the plain, where the Roman horse, 
who were in readiness, fell upon them and 
slaughtered them. 

“ Thus by one act of daring, and in a little part 
of a night, did the Romans demolish two camps 

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FRAGMENTS OF TUNISIAN HISTORY 


and two armies much greater than their own. The 
Romans lost about ioo men, the enemy a little less 
than 30,000, besides 2,400 prisoners. Moreover, 
600 horse surrendered themselves to Scipio on his 
return. Some of the elephants were killed and some 
wounded. Scipio, having gained a great store of 
arms, gold, silver, ivory, and horses, Numidian and 
other, and having prostrated the Carthaginians by 
one splendid victory, distributed prizes to the army, 
and sent the richest of the spoils to Rome.” 

Behind me in the Arab town a wedding proces¬ 
sion was marching through the streets, to the inevit¬ 
able accompaniment of wild barbaric music. With 
the shouts of the revellers and the discordant din 
of their drums and pipes in my ears, it was not diffi¬ 
cult to fancy that the leaping flames of the distant 
bonfire proceeded from the first of the wattled 
Numidian huts fired by Scipio’s army. 

There was much about the character of the 
Carthaginians which it is impossible to admire. 
They were mean, treacherous, and cruel ; they 
endeavoured to evade their obligations to their 
allies and their mercenaries; they broke their 
contracts and treaties; they tortured their prisoners 
of war with ghastly inhumanity; and, capricious 
in the treatment of their own leaders, they were 
shamefully disloyal to those dauntless heroes Hamil- 

35 02 






TUNIS 


car Barca and Hannibal. Had they only given to 
Hannibal, that greatest General of all time, the 
support for which he asked, and which he had 
surely earned the right to demand, there can be 
little doubt that they would have conquered Rome, 
and for a time, at any rate, been masters of the 
world. But adversity would seem to have developed 
all their nobler qualities, and the courage and 
bravery, the resource and ingenuity, the determina¬ 
tion and perseverance, displayed during their last 
light for life, enlists all our sympathy and commands 
all our admiration. 

The last scene in the long drama of the Punic 
Wars, which had lasted for 125 years, was enacted 
in 146 b.c. It will be remembered that the Cartha¬ 
ginians had already given up to the Romans all their 
elephants, their ships, their catapults, their arms, and 
300 hostages drawn from the noblest families, on the 
understanding that their territory, sacred rites, tombs, 
liberty, and possessions were to be preserved to 
them. When the Romans had taken away, as they 
thought, all powers of resistance—when they had 
drawn, as they believed, the Carthaginians’ teeth— 
then a fresh decree was announced, which stated 
that Carthage must be destroyed, but that the 
citizens might build a new city in any part of their 
territory they pleased, provided only it was ten 
miles from the coast. The Carthaginians, horrified at 

3 6 





FRAGMENTS OF TUNISIAN HISTORY 

this betrayal, begged that they might be allowed to 
send an embassy to Rome, but even this privilege 
was denied them. “ Then,” says Appian, “ followed 
a scene of indescribable fury and madness such as 
the Maenads are said to enact in the Bacchic 
mysteries. Some fell upon those senators who had 
advised giving the hostages and tore them to pieces, 
considering them the ones who had led them into 
the trap. Others treated in a similar way those 
who had favoured giving up the arms. Some 
stoned the ambassadors for bringing the bad news, 
and others dragged them through the city. The 
city was full of wailing and wrath, of fear and 
threatenings. People roamed the street invoking 
whatever was most dear to them, and took refuge in 
the temples as in asylums. They upbraided their gods 
for not being able to defend themselves. Some 
went into the arsenals, and wept when they found 
them empty. Others ran to the dockyard, and 
bewailed the ships that had been surrendered to 
perfidious men. Some called their elephants by 
name, as if they had been present, and reviled their 
own ancestors and themselves for not perishing, 
sword in hand, with their country, instead of paying 
tribute and giving up their elephants, their ships, 
and their arms. Wildest of all was the anger 
kindled in the mothers of the hostages, who, like 
furies in a tragedy, accosted those whom they met 

37 


TUNIS 


with shrieks, and accused them of giving away their 
children against their protest; or mocked at them, 
saying that the gods were now taking vengeance on 
them for the lost children. A few kept their wits 
about them, closed the gates, and brought stones 
upon the walls to take the place of the lost catapults. 

“ They also sent to the consuls again, asking a 
truce of thirty days, in order to send an embassy to 
Rome. When this was refused a second time, a 
wonderful change and determination came over 
them—to endure everything rather than abandon 
their city. Quickly all minds were filled with 
courage from this transformation. All the sacred 
places, the temples, and every other unoccupied 
space, were turned into workshops, where men and 
women worked together day and night without 
pause, taking their food by turns by a fixed schedule. 
Each day they made ioo shields, 300 swords, 
1,000 missiles for catapults, 500 darts and javelins, 
and as many catapults as they could; for string to 
bend them the women cut off their hair for want of 
other fibres.” 

The energy, courage, and perseverance of the 
Carthaginians in their last desperate light for exist- 
ance has, perhaps, no parallel in history. For two 
years they kept their foe at bay. On one occasion, 
observing that the wind blew towards the Roman 
ships, they filled some small boats with twigs 

38 


FRAGMENTS OF TUNISIAN HISTORY 

and tow, poured brimstone and pitch over the 
contents, and then, spreading the sails, they set fire 
to the boats, which the wind carried to the Roman 
ships, nearly destroying the whole fleet. They made 
sallies by night, they built new triremes and quin- 
queremes out of old material, and when Scipio 
thought that, by his famous mole, he had completely 
imprisoned them, they excavated a new outlet at a 
point where, owing to the depth of water, the mole 
had not been carried. Everyone helped in this 
work, even the women and children ; and it was 
carried out with such absolute secrecy that when 
their new ships emerged from the opening the 
Romans were utterly astonished and bewildered. 
Indeed, they were so confused and demoralized that 
Appian believes that had the Carthaginians only 
attacked them there and then, instead of delaying 
for three days—by which time the Romans were 
prepared to meet them—they might have won a 
decisive victory. Alas ! instead of striking when 
the iron was hot, instead of taking their tide at its 
flow, they contented themselves with making an 
empty and pompous demonstration, and returned, 
amid the cheers of their compatriots. When later 
they engaged the enemy’s fleet, though there was 
great loss of life and ships on both sides, neither 
force won a decisive victory. To the heroic scene 
when they swam out in the dead of night and set 

39 


TUNIS 


fire to the enemy’s battering-rams, I have alluded on 
another page. It is related that on the morning 
which followed that memorable night the paved 
footway was so slippery with coagulated blood that 
it was impossible to walk on it. 

Three years later, after many futile efforts, Scipio 
successfully stormed the commercial harbour, and 
entering, passed into the “ cothon,” or military port, 
and the forum which adjoined it. The Cartha¬ 
ginian guards, weak with hunger and disease, fought 
bravely, but were incapable of offering any effective 
resistance. The Romans passed the night in the 
forum, and in the morning were reinforced by 
4,000 fresh troops. The assault of the city was 
then commenced. Three streets ascended from the 
forum to the fortress of Byrsa, with houses six stories 
high, from the roof-tops of which stones and other 
missiles were hurled at the soldiers below. These 
houses were taken one by one with hand-to-hand 
fighting on the terraced roofs. When the defenders 
of a house had all been dispatched, planks were 
thrown across to the next, and the struggle recom¬ 
menced. “ While war was raging in this way on the 
roofs, another fight was going on among those who 
met each other in the streets below. The air was 
filled with groans, shrieks, sobs, and every cry of 
agony. Men and women were hurled alive from 
the roofs to the pavement, some of them alighting 

40 





> 




S D 





' 




' 





















FRAGMENTS OF TUNISIAN HISTORY 


on the heads of spears, swords, and other pointed 
weapons. It was not expedient to set fire to the 
houses, on account of those who were still on the 
roofs, until Scipio reached Byrsa, when he set fire to 
the three streets all together, and gave orders to 
keep the passages clear of burning material, so that 
the army might move freely backwards and forwards. 

“Now fresh scenes of horror were added. As the 
fire spread and carried everything before it, the 
soldiers did not wait to destroy the buildings little 
by little, but demolished them simultaneously. And 
so, as the fire devoured the city, the display of suffer¬ 
ing became more and more gruesome. In the dark 
corners of buildings which came crashing to the 
ground, old men, women, and children had hidden 
themselves, and now, burnt and mutilated, they 
uttered piteous cries. Others, hurled from a height 
with stones and burning timbers, were torn asunder, 
and fell in grotesque shapes, crushed and mangled. 
Nor was this the end of their miseries, for the street- 
cleaners, who were removing the rubbish with axes, 
mattocks, and forks, tossed, with these instruments, 
the dead and the living together into holes in the 
ground. The street-cleaners did not do these things 
with cruel intent; but the tug-of-war, the glory of 
approaching victory, the rush of the soldiers, the 
orders of the officers, the blast of the trumpets, tri¬ 
bunes and centurions marching their cohorts hither 

4i 


TUNIS 


and thither—all together made everybody frantic,and 
heedless of the spectacle under their eyes.” For six 
days and nights the fight continued. Scipio was 
indefatigable ; his soldiers worked in relays, but he 
gave himself no rest. He was here, there, and every¬ 
where, directing and superintending everything, en¬ 
couraging his men with words, and setting them an 
example with his hands, only snatching now and 
again a mouthful of food while giving his orders. 

On the seventh day, while seated on a “high 
place,” noting what had been achieved and what 
remained to be done, a deputation, bearing olive- 
branches and the sacred garlands of fEsculapius, 
approached, begging that he would spare the lives 
of those who were willing to quit the Byrsa. To 
this he consented, making an exception of the 
deserters from his army, of whom there were about 
900. And forthwith 50,000 men and women came 
out from the gates of the citadel. 

There now remained only Hasdrubal and his 
wife with their two boys, and the deserters, who 
all withdrew to the temple of fEsculapius. That 
temple, the most beautiful and celebrated in Car¬ 
thage, was situated on the spot where the chapel 
of St. Louis now stands. It was approached from 
the public square by a superb staircase of sixty 
marble steps, the destruction of which, easily 
affected, rendered the temple impregnable. 

42 




FRAGMENTS OF TUNISIAN HISTORY 

And now comes the one blot which sullies the 
fair pages of this final chapter of Carthaginian his¬ 
tory—a chapter which chronicles in every line the 
indomitable courage of a great nation in its fight 
with inexorable fate. The cowardly Hasdrubal, 
who had murdered his predecessor, and, it is said, 
feasted and revelled while his soldiers starved, 
secretly deserted his wife and children, and, present¬ 
ing himself before Scipio with an olive-branch in 
his hand, begged for his own life. The request 
was contemptuously granted ; but making him sit 
at his feet, the Roman General called to those who 
had been deserted to look at their betrayer. Cursing 
and reproaching him, the miserable victims hastened 
their inevitable end by setting fire to the temple. 
Then Hasdrubal’s wife appeared, arrayed in her 
costliest robes with her children by her side. 
Standing calmly and majestically while the lurid 
flames danced in cruel sport behind her, she called 
to Scipio, and thus addressed him : “ For you, 
Romans, the gods have no cause for indignation, 
since you exercise the right of war; but upon this 
Hasdrubal, betrayer of his country and her temples, 
of me and of his children, may the Carthaginian 
gods take vengeance and use you as their instru¬ 
ment.” Then, turning to Hasdrubal, she added: 
“ Coward, traitor, and most unmanly of men, this 
fire will entomb me and my children. Will you, 

43 


TUNIS 


the leader of great Carthage, decorate a Roman 
triumph ? Ah ! what punishment do you merit 
from him at whose feet you are now sitting ?” She 
then slew her children, threw them into the flames, 
and leaped in after them. 

“ Scipio, beholding this city, which had flourished 
700 years from its foundation, and had ruled over 
so many lands, islands, and seas, rich with arms and 
fleets, elephants and money, equal to the mightiest 
monarchies, but far surpassing them in bravery and 
spirit (since without ships or arms, and in the face 
of famine, it had sustained continuous war for three 
years), now come to its end in total destruction— 
Scipio, beholding this spectacle, shed tears and 
publicly lamented the fortune of the enemy. After 
meditating by himself a long time, and reflecting on 
the rise and fall of cities, nations, and empires, as 
well as of individuals ; upon the fate of Troy, that 
once proud city ; upon that of the Assyrians, the 
Medes, and the Persians ; greatest of all, and later, 
the splendid Macedonian empire, either voluntarily 
or otherwise the words of the poet escaped his lips: 

“‘The day shall come in which our sacred Troy 
And Priam, and the people over whom 
Spear-bearing Priam rules, shall perish all.’ ”* 

* “Iliad,” vi. 448, 449, Bryant’s translation. 


44 



CHAPTER III 


Fragments of Tunisian History ( continued ) 

When the Romans heard the news that Car¬ 
thage had been destroyed they were delirious with 
joy. At last they were freed from the terror of 
Carthaginian supremacy which had haunted them 
for years. “ No other wars,” says Appian, “ had so 
frightened them at their own gates as the Punic 
Wars, which ever brought peril to them by reason 
of the perseverance, skill, and courage, as well as 
the bad faith, of those enemies. They recalled 
what they had suffered from the Carthaginians in 
Sicily, in Spain, and in Italy itself for sixteen years, 
during which Hannibal destroyed 400 towns and 
killed 300,000 of their men in battle alone. Re¬ 
membering these things, they were so excited over 
this victory that they could hardly believe it, and 
they asked each other over and over again whether 
it was really true that Carthage was destroyed. 
They decreed that if anything was left of Carthage, 
Scipio should obliterate it, and that nobody should 

45 


TUNIS 


be allowed to live there. Direful threats were 
levelled against any who should disobey.” 

But though the ground was cursed, its natural 
and unrivalled advantages as a site for a great city 
remained. Twenty-five years later, Rome, under 
the tribunate of Gaius Gracchus, found herself over- 
populated, and sent 6,000 colonists to build a new 
Carthage; but the curse was still sufficiently recent 
to exercise its spell, and when the boundaries of the 
new city had been laid out, they were immediately 
obliterated by real or phantom wolves, and the 
Senate put a stop to the project. Some eighty 
years later Caesar, on his return from Egypt, was 
encamped near Carthage, and his perception and 
appreciation of the great natural advantages of the 
site were followed by a most opportune dream, in 
which it was revealed to him by the picture of a 
weeping army that Carthage must be rebuilt. He 
was assassinated shortly afterwards, but his son 
Augustus, finding the memorandum of his father’s 
dream and resolve, sent colonists from Rome and 
rebuilt the city. 

The new Carthage grew apace, and soon promised 
to emulate her predecessor’s importance among the 
great cities of the world. On the ruins of the 
temple of /Esculapius, where the wife of the 
cowardly Hasdrubal had cremated herself and her 
children, rose the magnificent palace of the Roman 

46 


RUE SIDI-BEN-ZIAD, TUNIS 
































- 

. 
























FRAGMENTS OF TUNISIAN HISTORY 


Proconsol. It was supported by all the other 
monumental public buildings of Roman culture— 
the forum, theatre and amphitheatre, the circus, 
public baths, and numerous temples. Commercial 
relations were re-established with Greece and the 
East, and Carthage became again one of the great 
emporiums of the world’s treasure, as is convincingly 
proved by the statuary, mosaics, pottery, and jewel¬ 
lery now displayed in the Bardo Museum at Tunis. 

The Romans naturally brought with them their 
own gods ; but, always fond of adopting new ones, 
it would seem that some of them accepted the 
Carthaginian deities, including the horrible Baal 
Moloch, for on the summit of Bou Cornein, his 
two-horned mountain, there has been discovered 
a Punic cemetery, on the burial-stones of which 
many Roman names appear, mingled with those of 
Berber and other origin. 

In Carthage during the first and second century 
there were disciples of many pagan religions, and 
numerous Jews, but of Christians we hear nothing- 
till the end of the second century. “ An impene¬ 
trable obscurity,” says Monsieur Alcais, “ enveloped 
the origin and progress of Christianity till the end 
of the second century. Strange phenomenon ! 
Elsewhere one finds Christianity side by side with 
paganism, winning its way in the midst of foreign 
wars and home quarrels, conspicuous under the 

47 


TUNIS 


swift stroke of the axe-man or amidst the shouts 
and clamours of the amphitheatre. Not so in 
Africa. During the whole of the second century 
one sees again and again the various aspects of pagan 
genius, many expressions of its life, and all the 
creations of its thought ; but never is the presence 
of the new ideal alluded to. Suddenly, as by the 
raising of a curtain, the Christian Church of Africa 
appears in the fulness of its power, with its disci¬ 
pline, its rites and ceremonies, its cemeteries, and 
its numerous faithful worshipping together all over 
the country. We are obliged to conclude that its 
first appearance was relatively remote, otherwise it 
is inexplicable that Tertullus, converted in 190, 
should not allude to the introduction of the Gospel 
into Africa.” 

The contrast between the vanities and gaiety of 
the fashionable pagan world, as presented in the 
works of Apulius, and also by Tertullus and St. 
Cyprian, present a startling contrast to the austere 
habits enjoined on Christians at this time. The 
great majority of St. Cyprian’s flock seem to 
have accepted the restrictions imposed on them 
without a murmur; but there were some who tried 
to combine a regard for the safety of their souls 
with the enjoyment of some of the more harmless 
vanities of life. They denied that worldly pleasures 
were forbidden in the pages of Scripture, and among 

48 


FRAGMENTS OF TUNISIAN HISTORY 


other passages they quoted the one in which it is 
related that David danced before the ark. But their 
pastors would have none of it. All such pleasures 
as dancing, theatre-going, gambling, fine dressing, 
and the wearing of jewellery and other personal 
adornments were violently denounced as pertaining 
to the devil. Both Tertullian and St. Cyprian 
denounced personal adornment with unrestrained 
violence of language, and their arguments strike 
one as being more quaint than logical. The con¬ 
ceits of hair-dressing seem to have aroused the 
especial wrath of Tertullian. 

“ What is the use,” he asks, “ of giving yourselves 
so much trouble in arranging your locks ? Do you 
think that it is of importance to your health ? Let 
them alone. Sometimes you bind them up, some¬ 
times you let them float; sometimes you pile them 
up, sometimes you crush them together. 

“ One loves to buckle them with brooches, another 
to let them fly about in an affectation of negligence ; 
but worst of all are those who dye them artificially. 
There are those who make their hair the colour of 
saffron, as if ashamed of their race. They would 
like, apparently, to have been born in Germany or 
Gaul, and change their hair in consequence. It is 
foolish to believe that that which is dirty is beautiful; 
and, moreover, the use of these dyes is sure, little by 
little, to destroy your hair. You place on your 

49 


E 


TUNIS 


heads I do not know what enormous masses of hair— 
a series of wigs which surmount your head in the 
shape of a casque or lid, and at other times are 
brought down and piled up on your necks. If you 
can blush under these masses of false hair, blush for 
the lack of cleanliness. Do not wear the remains of 
another—of one who was, perhaps, immodest, who 
may have been culpable, and destined for hell—and 
place it on the holy head of a Christian.” 

St. Cyprian writes in much the same strain. “ It 
is not the work of God,” he cries, “ that sheep 
should be scarlet or purple, nor is it His teaching to 
dye and colour wool with the juice of herbs and 
with shellfish. Nor fashioned He necklaces of 
stones and pearls, inlaid with gold, and arranged in 
chains and groups wherewith to hide the neck. Is 
it God’s will,” he asks, “ that the ears should be 
pierced, thereby causing pain to innocent infancy, 
ignorant of the world’s evil, in order that, in time to 
come, precious beads, ponderous in their cost and 
weight, may hang from these scarred and mutilated 
ears ? Your complexions are polluted with false 
colourings; your hair you have altered with un¬ 
natural dyes; your countenance is captured with a 
lie; your natural appearance is lost; your look is 
not your own. Wound not your ears, circle not 
your neck with precious chains, fetter not your 
ankles with golden bonds, stain not your hair, and 

5 ° 


RUE HALOUFAINE, TUNIS 




PA'/xlVI ; A 7 AU.H'JUJAH Ji'JM 










FRAGMENTS OF TUNISIAN HISTORY 


keep your eyes worthy of seeing God. Those 
glaring painted eyes are copied from the serpent. 
Imitate him now and you will burn with him 
hereafter.” 

History repeats itself. One might almost fancy 
oneself seated amid a fashionable congregation in 
Westminster, listening to the diatribes of a certain 
twentieth-century Father. 

Those who strayed seriously from the narrow 
path had a bad time under this strict disciplinarian. 
The sinner was excommunicated, but, if truly re¬ 
pentant, was received back into the fold on public 
confession. After fasting and enduring other forms of 
penance, he was clad in a hair-shirt and covered with 
ashes till his appearance was lugubrious and terrify¬ 
ing. He then prostrated himself before everyone, 
before the people and before the priests, entreating 
pardon and forgiveness. He seized the hem of the 
priests’ vestments, kissed the imprints of their foot¬ 
steps, embraced them by the knees, and implored 
all those present to pity his lamentable condition. 

For the Christians who carried out all the devout 
practices enjoined on them, there could, indeed, have 
been little time for worldly vanities. Prayers were 
said five times during the day. Wednesday and 
Friday were both fast days, when it was forbidden to 
eat until three o’clock in the afternoon. Sunday, 
it is true, was regarded as a day of joy, on which 

5 1 


E 2 


TUNIS 


it would have been impious to fast, or even 
to kneel in prayer; but the day was very fully 
occupied with other religious distractions. A 
public service was held at an early hour, at which 
psalms and hymns were sung, the Scriptures were 
expounded, a sermon preached, followed by a com¬ 
munion service, each head of the family taking away 
with him a small portion of the consecrated bread, 
to be used for celebration during the ensuing week¬ 
days. At the end of the service the company em¬ 
braced one another with the holy kiss of peace. 
Later in the day came the Agape, or Love Feast, at 
which rich and poor sat down, on equal terms, to a 
simple but substantial supper. These feasts, some¬ 
times held at the tombs of the martyrs, were a 
special cause of offence to pagan persecutors, who 
spread about unfounded reports that the Christians 
drank human blood and committed various im¬ 
moralities. They were finally suppressed by St. 
Augustine. 


TRIAL OF SPERATUS 

In 177, Marcus Aurelius prohibited throughout 
the empire the introduction of new cults, and also 
ordered that all professing Christians should be put 
to death. There is an authentic record of the trial 
of six Christians in the tribunal of Carthage, shortly 
after the promulgation of this edict. Their names 

5 2 


FRAGMENTS OF TUNISIAN HISTORY 


were Cittinus, Nartzalus, Speratus, men; and 
Donata, Vestia, and Secunda, women. Speratus 
acted as spokesman for the group. 

The Proconsul took his seat, and, according to 
Roman usage, stated in a few forcible words the 
case against the accused, and at the same time 
exhorted them, not without kindness, to respect the 
law, to obey the Emperor, and to renounce Chris¬ 
tianity. 

Speratus. We have neither said nor done 
anything wrong ; when we have been ill-treated we 
have returned thanks, and have paid no disrespect to 
your Emperor. 

Proconsul. We also have our religion, and it is 
simple. We swear by the gods of our Emperor, 
and we pray for his health; it is your duty to do so 
also. 

Speratus. If you will listen patiently, I will 
explain the mystery of our religion. 

Proconsul. I cannot listen to you; you attack 
our religion. Swear by the gods of our Emperor ! 

Speratus. I know nothing of the kingdoms of 
this world. I serve a God who is invisible to the 
eyes of men. I have committed no sin, and I have 
always paid the tax on everything I have bought; 
but I worship my Saviour, the King of kings, the 
Emperor of all nations. 

Proconsul. What have you in that box ? 

53 


TUNIS 


Speratus. The books of the Evangelists accord¬ 
ing to our custom ; and also the epistles of Paul, a 
just man. 

Proconsul. Abandon this creed ! 

Speratus. A bad faith is to commit murder and 
to bear false witness. 

Proconsul (turning to the others). Do not asso¬ 
ciate yourselves with this folly ! 

Cittinus. We fear no one except the Lord God 
in heaven. 

Donata. We honour Csesar as Caesar, but we 
fear God only. 

Vestia: I am a Christian. 

Secunda : I also, and will always be. 

The Proconsul, who remained calm, tried to 
persuade them to retract, and offered to suspend 
judgment for thirty days, but this concession they 
refused to accept. Then the Proconsul, obliged to 
pronounce sentence, said : “ Speratus, Nartzalus, 
Cittinus, Vestia, Donata, Secunda, and the others 
have confessed to being Christians, and refuse to 
return to the religion of the Romans, and we con¬ 
demn them to perish by the sword.” 

The herald having proclaimed the sentence, 
Speratus said : “We give thanks to God !” Nart¬ 
zalus said: “ To-day we shall all be martyrs in 

heaven. God be praised !” And all responded : 
“ God be praised !” 


54 



FRAGMENTS OF TUNISIAN HISTORY 


Monsieur Monceaux, in commenting on the 
martyrdom of these simple, uneducated peasants of 
Scillium, justly says: “ It is a touching little drama, 
and the more so because it is so simple and naive. 
There are no fine phrases; there is no effort to be 
eloquent; there is an entire absence of the false 
note which is sometimes struck in apocryphal 
histories in which furious invectives from the 
magistrates are echoed by rodomontades from the 
martyrs.” 

The edict of Marcus Aurelius was, in the opinion 
of John Stuart Mill, one of the most tragic in all 
history, and the Emperor’s biographer in the “ En¬ 
cyclopedia Britannica ” says of it: “The one blemish 
in the life of Marcus Aurelius is his hostility to 
Christianity, which is the more remarkable that 
his morality comes nearer than any other heathen 
system to that of the New Testament; but it should 
be borne in mind that in the reign of Aurelius the 
Christians had assumed a much bolder attitude than 
they had hitherto done. Not only had they caused 
first interest and then alarm by the rapid increase of 
their numbers, but, not content with bare toleration 
in the empire, they declared war against all heathen 
rites, and, at least indirectly, against the Govern¬ 
ment which permitted them to exist. In the eyes 
of Aurelias they were atheists and foes of the social 
order, which he considered it the first duty of a 

55 


TUNIS 


citizen’s duties to maintain ; and it is quite possible 
that, although the most amiable of men and of 
rulers, he may have considered it to be his duty to 
sanction measures for the extermination of such 
wretches.” 

The edict of Marcus Aurelius was followed in 
202 by that of Septimus Severus. It was much 
more drastic than its predecessor, and among the 
numerous martyrdoms for which it was responsible 
were the well-known ones of Perpetua, Felicitas, 
Saturninus, Secundulus, and Revocatus. I have 
related their story in connection with the ruins of 
the amphitheatre at Carthage, where the tragedy 
took place. 

In 249 came the edict of Decius, after about 
thirty years of comparative security to Christians. 
It was terrible in the severity of its terms, and was 
carried out with horrible zeal. 

At this epoch the figure of St. Cyprian comes 
grandly to the fore. A teacher of rhetoric, with a 
great reputation, he was converted to Christianity in 
246, ordained a presbyter in 247, and in the follow¬ 
ing year, greatly against his will, was elected to the 
See of Carthage. 

The biographers of saints have always been 
tempted to exaggerate the iniquities of their heroes 
before conversion in order to enhance by contrast 
the beauty and piety of their Christian lives. Ac- 

56 


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FRAGMENTS OF TUNISIAN HISTORY 


cording to St. Gregory Nazianzen, Cyprian had 
indulged in all the excesses of heathenism, and was 
especially addicted to the practice of magical arts. 
Of these he endeavoured to make a wicked use in 
order to seduce a Christian woman named Justinia, 
of whom he was enamoured. His evil designs were 
frustrated. Justinia betook herself to Christ, and 
Cyprian, burning his black books, also professed 
Christianity. 

Decius ordered that all Christians were to present 
themselves at the Capitol within a stated limit of 
time to swear loyalty to the Emperor and abjure 
their faith, failing which they would be condemned 
to death and all property confiscated from the 
heirs. It would seem that years of immunity from 
oppression had weakened the heroism of the 
Christian flock. Many of them showed little desire 
to wear the martyr’s crown at the price of an 
immediate and suffering death. No sooner had the 
edict been made known than the Capitol was 
besieged by a crowd of Christians, eager and im¬ 
patient to secure their personal safety on any terms. 
Despairingly St. Cyprian cried: “ At the first 
words, at the first threats of the enemy, many of 
our brothers have betrayed their faith. They have 
not succumbed under the blows of the persecution, 
but with voluntary haste. Oh, tell me, when you 
approached so willingly the Capitol to commit this 

57 


TUNIS 


infamous crime, did not your feet totter ? Were 
your eyes not blurred ? Did not your limbs fai] 
you or your hearts palpitate ? Were not your 
tongues paralyzed when you, children of God, 
betrayed and renounced Christ, having solemnly 
sworn to renounce the devil and the world ? 

“ Oh, my tears express my misery better than 
my words ! I suffer, my brothers; oh, I suffer 
with you ! The shepherd is wounded by the 
wounds of his flock. My heart is even with the 
culpable, and I take my part in the misery of their 
defection. I lament with those who lament, I 
weep with those who weep; and when they are 
humiliated, so also am I.” 

But the good Bishop, so very lovable, though 
sometimes so austere, had happier moments, in one 
of which he exultantly exclaims: “ Before dungeons 
and before death you have valiantly resisted the 
world. You have offered up a superb spectacle to 
God and given an example to all your brothers. 
Oh ! with what happiness on your return from the 
struggle does the Church receive you to her maternal 
breast ! With what joy and triumph does she 
open her doors to these holy battalions decked with 
trophies taken from a terrestrial foe ! In your 
triumph there are women who have overcome the 
weakness of their sex, maidens crowned with a 
double palm, and children whose bravery has been 

58 


FRAGMENTS OF TUNISIAN HISTORY 


far in advance of their years. Oh ! I am transported 
with joy before the heroism of your faith, which 
brings such glory to our mother the Church. Your 
tom limbs have conquered the iron nails which 
mangled them. What a triumph for Christ ! It 
was He Himself who relieved, fortified, and en¬ 
couraged His defenders.” 

If these heroes received their fortitude from 
above, it was largely through the medium of their 
pastor, and this St. Cyprian fully realized. It was 
he who had rescued the African Church from what 
threatened to be a terrible and final defeat. What, 
then, was he to do when the cry arose, “ St. Cyprian 
to the lions!” Was he to leave his lambs to the 
mercy of the wolves, knowing their weakness, and 
that they had such need of him ? Though he 
knew well enough that flight would entail accusa¬ 
tions of fear from his enemies, and also from some 
of his friends, yet he decided to hide himself. The 
courage with which he subsequently met his 
martyrdom proved, if proof were needed, how 
utterly unjust were the imputations of cowardice 
levelled against him. 

The General who exposes himself to be killed by 
the first shot from the enemy, fails in his duty to his 
army. It may be argued that the example of the 
Bishop’s martyrdom would have encouraged the 
steadfastness of his flock more than his words; but 

59 


TUNIS 


St. Cyprian knew that this was not so. There 
had already been many splendid instances of un¬ 
flinching heroism; but stories of torture terrified 
rather than emboldened the weak-hearted, who 
needed to be strengthened by constant expressions 
of sympathy and oft-repeated words of encourage¬ 
ment. Tact and eloquence were needed for dealing 
with these waverers—the wisdom of the serpent 
combined with the gentleness of the dove. By his 
natural eloquence, his trained and cultivated rhe¬ 
toric, his exceptional powers of organization, and 
his lovable personality, St. Cyprian was qualified, 
and he alone, to rally the broken spirit and faltering 
courage of the Church. 

St. Cyprian, therefore, quitted Carthage, and 
retired to an unknown spot, from which—through 
the intermediary of two Bishops, Caldonius and 
Herculanus, and of two priests, Rogatius and Nu- 
midicus—he directed the defence of his army. 
Once more I am tempted to quote Monsieur Alcais, 
though the beauty of his style defies adequate 
translation : 

“ In the furious tempest which beat on the 
community from every quarter, nothing escaped 
St. Cyprian’s notice. Though he battled with all 
his power the perils which threatened his Church 
from outside, he neglected no detail of internal 
administration. From a distance he distributed 

60 


VEILED WOMEN IN THE SOUK-DES-ETOFFES 


■ . • a mi < 

. 

■ 



. 













FRAGMENTS OF TUNISIAN HISTORY 


counsel and reprimands; he nominated priests and 
deacons ; he delivered sermons, and gave instructions 
for the succour of the poor, to whom he relin¬ 
quished all that remained of his fortune ; he arranged 
for the visiting of the faithful in prison, for the 
relief of the sick, and for the welcome of strangers. 
All this was thought out with a clearness of concep¬ 
tion, a precision of detail, and a calmness of manner 
which brings before our eyes the figure of a brave 
captain steering his vessel through threatening rocks 
on a raging sea. Calmly he surveys the dangers 
which confront him, and deriding the cowardly 
wails of his terror-stricken crew, meets each succes¬ 
sive peril with an increase of courage and resource.” 

For sixteen months St. Cyprian directed the 
affairs of the Church with his powerful though 
invisible hand, at the end of which time the perse¬ 
cutions suddenly ceased, and he returned to his 
decimated flock in Carthage, zealously devoting 
himself to their interests for seven years. 

In 258 Valerian issued his edict against the 
Christians, and St. Cyprian was urged by his 
friends, among whom were many pagans, to again 
take flight; but this he refused to do. Doubtless 
he felt that he had done all that was possible with 
precept, and that by an example of fortitude he 
could now best serve his brothers. He retired to 
his villa in the environs of Carthage, and while 

61 


TUNIS 


waiting for his arrest, wrote a last and beautiful 
letter to his children. He was condemned to death, 
and the execution took place at Ager Sexti, near 
Marsa. 

During a terrible visitation of plague which had 
taken place at Carthage a few years previously, he 
had insisted that his flock should tend the pagan 
sick with the same tenderness that they did their 
own, reminding them that they were commanded 
to love their enemies. This, and the great charm 
of his personality, had endeared him to many who 
did not share his faith, and so it came about that in 
his last journey to Ager Sexti he was accompanied 
by an immense crowd of sympathizers, both Chris¬ 
tian and pagan, many of the former begging that they 
might be allowed to die with their master. Some, 
who could not otherwise have seen, climbed up the 
olive-trees which surrounded the place of execution. 

St. Cyprian, discarding his mantle and his tunic, 
handed them to his deacons, and, kneeling down, 
prayed in silence. Nor did he speak again, except 
to ask a friend to give gold to the executioner. He 
arranged the bandage across his eyes, and made a 
sign that he was ready. With a single blow the 
axe-man severed his head from his body. 

St. Augustine, perhaps a more famous Cartha¬ 
ginian than his forerunner, St. Cyprian, was born 

62 


FRAGMENTS OF TUNISIAN HISTORY 


at Tagaste, a town in Numidia, in 354, and the 
name of Monica, his mother, is almost as well 
known as his own. A considerable amount of his 
time and energy was spent in combating the various 
heresies which had sprung up in the Church, of 
which the most notable were those of the Arians, 
the Manichaeans, and the Pelagians. 

Aria was a priest of the Alexandrian Church, 
and his views were widely accepted by all sorts and 
conditions of men. They were favoured by Julian, 
commonly called the Apostate, embraced by Valens, 
and later by Genseric, all of whom persecuted the 
orthodox with terrible zeal. Aria is described by 
the not unbiassed Epiphanies as being a man “ in¬ 
flamed by his own opinionativeness, of a tall stature, 
with a dominant look, his figure composed like 
that of the subtle serpent, to deceive the guileless 
by his crafty exterior. His dress was simple; and 
his address, soft and smooth, was calculated to per¬ 
suade and attract, so that he drew away 700 virgins 
from the Church to his party.” 

Pelagius was a British monk of Scottish birth, 
whose heretical views—of a kindly, optimistic nature, 
strangely unlike those generally associated with 
Scotch theology—were as follows : (1) That Adam’s 
sin was purely personal, and affected none but him¬ 
self; (2) that each man, consequently, is born as 
incorrupt as Adam, and only falls into sin under the 

63 


TUNIS 


force of temptation and evil example ; (3) that 

children who die in infancy, being untainted by sin, 
are saved without baptism. 

St. Augustine wrote fifteen long treatises in 
violent opposition to these views, and in 416, at the 
Council of Carthage, seventy-eight Bishops anathe¬ 
matized Pelagius and his disciple Celestius. St. 
Augustine then addressed a letter to Pope Innocent 
explaining his views on the matter, in response to 
which the heretics were condemned by His Holi¬ 
ness. 

The last years of St. Augustine’s life witnessed 
the invasion of North Africa by the Vandals under 
Genseric, and he died in 430 at his beloved Hippo, 
while the city, of which he had been Bishop for so 
many years, was actually under siege. 

When Rome fell into the hands of Alaric, many 
of her wealthy citizens fled to Carthage, which 
became the capital of the ancient world. “ Where,” 
says Salvien, “ is there such treasure as in Africa ? 
Where else can one find such a flourishing commerce 
or such splendid bazaars ? Carthage, the Tyre and 
Rome of Africa, is the seat of learning and law, the 
university of art and philosophy.” 

But her end as a great Roman capital was near 
at hand, for she was enfeebled on one side by excess 
of luxury, and on the other by the narrow outlook 
of her Christian population. The latter, devoting 

64 


FRAGMENTS OF TUNISIAN HISTORY 


its intellect to categorical definitions of the indefin¬ 
able, and useless probings into hidden mysteries, 
neglected the training of the body and the duty of 
organized physical defence; and though prepared 
to welcome, if need be, the martyr’s death, the 
Christians were in no way equipped to resist in¬ 
vasion from Genseric and his hardy Vandals. 

On this subject Mr. C. W. C. Oman aptly says : 
“ When a State contains masses of men who devote 
their whole energies to a selfish attempt to save 
their own individual souls, while letting the world 
around them slide on as best it may, then the body 
politic is diseased. The Roman Empire, in its fight 
with the barbarians, was in no small degree hampered 
by this attitude of so many of its subjects. The 
ascetic took the barbarian invasions as judgments 
from heaven, rightly inflicted upon a wretched 
world, and not as national calamities, which called 
on every citizen to join in the attempt to repel 
them. Many men complacently interpreted the 
troubles of the fifth century as the tribulations pre¬ 
dicted in the Apocalypse, and watched them develop 
with something like joy, since they must portend 
the close approach of the Second Advent of our 
Lord. This apathetic attitude of many Christians 
during the afflictions of the Empire was madden¬ 
ing to the heathen minority which still survived 
among the educated classes. They roundly accused 

6 5 f 


TUNIS 


Christianity of being the ruin of the State by its 
anti-social teachings, which led men to neglect 
every duty of the citizen.” 

When, in 439, Genseric attacked Carthage, she 
succumbed with such pathetic feebleness that, if 
shades can blush, then surely Scipio and his gallant 
soldiers must have reddened as they watched, in 
shamed amazement, the spiritless defence and 
pusillanimous submission of their descendants. 

So ended the power and might of Roman Car¬ 
thage. Her last hours arouse our pity; but it is a 
pity mingled with contempt, and widely different 
from the sympathy and admiration which well from 
our hearts when we remember the heroic death- 
struggle of her Punic predecessor. 


66 


CHAPTER IV 

Arab Tunis 

The most characteristic and delightful feature of 
Arab Tunis is undoubtedly the “ souk,” or covered 
bazaar. Practical as well as picturesque, cool in 
summer and warm in winter, it affords such perfect 
protection from the unkind freaks of the elements 
that I wonder why it has not been more generally 
adopted in other cities. 

I do not doubt that the fresh-air enthusiast, so 
much to the fore just now, will throw up his hands 
and eyes in horror at the idea, and will make wild 
calculations as to the probable number of malignant 
germs and microbes to be found in every cubic inch 
of such stagnant air. I turn a deaf ear to such 
pessimistic theories. The air of the souks has 
always struck me as being particularly fresh and 
pleasant. 

The souks lie in the heart of the old town, 
which, enclosed by medieval walls, is now also girdled 
by an electric tramway. Though the latter may inter- 

67 F 2 


TUNIS 


fere with historical sentiment, it is an undoubted 
convenience to European and Arab alike, bringing 
within easy reach any of the several city gates. The 
Porte de France, formerly called the Gate of the 
Sea, is the entrance nearest to the modern town, and 
is, consequently, the one generally used by tourists 
in their first peregrinations. This is, perhaps, un¬ 
fortunate, as the Rue de l’Eglise, to which it gives 
access, is much modernized, and the Italians and 
Jews who own its shops are terrible touters, giving 
the tourist little peace as they vigorously endeavour 
to thrust their wares upon him, destroying his illu¬ 
sions about the dignified calm of Oriental manners. 

Let us avoid for the moment the Rue de l’Eglise, 
and, taking the electric tram at the Porte de France, 
leave behind us the lofty hotels and plate-glass 
windows of the European quarter. Speeding past 
innumerable Arab cafes, let us alight at the gateway 
of Bab Menara, and, passing under the fine old 
archway, enter the Souk des Selliers, where the 
saddlers ply their useful and artistic trade. Saddlery 
is not to the Arab, as it is to us, a commodity purely 
utilitarian. For him it is not sufficient that it 
should be designed with due regard to comfort of 
man and beast, and that the materials and workman¬ 
ship should be such as will give the maximum 
degree of strength, lightness, and endurance. The 
Arab loves his horse, and he likes to honour it by 

68 


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ARAB TUNIS 


lavishly decorating its numerous trappings ; first, by 
dyeing the leather a rich colour, usually red, and 
then by embroidering with intricate designs, worked 
in silks of every hue, all those parts which are not 
exposed to friction. 

The saddlery of Tunis has been famous ever since 
her most palmy days in the thirteenth century, when 
most of the larger souks were built, and when 
caravans from Darfour and the Soudan brought 
slaves, gold, gum, ivory, and ostrich feathers, and 
took back costumes, embroideries, arms, and saddlery. 
Even to-day Tunis supplies numerous patrons in 
Morocco and Algeria with these things. But 
although the Tunis saddler has happily plenty of 
Arab patrons, he is trying to extend his clientele, and 
beside the gorgeous saddles, the gay harness, and 
the dandified riding-boots, all of which are well 
worth careful examination, there may now be seen 
footstools, hand-bags, letter-cases, purses, cigarette- 
cases, dainty feminine bedroom slippers, and many 
other attractive odds and ends, from which the 
visitor can select souvenirs for himself and presents 
for his friends at home. 

Another striking feature in the saddlers’ souk is 
the marvellous display of hats, though these are 
only to be seen when the weather has become hot. 
They are so enormous and so gay, that at the first 
glance one is inclined to think they are eccentric 

69 


TUNIS 


advertisements. In diameter they measure at least 
3 feet from brim to brim, the crown being also very 
large, as they are worn over the turban. I startled 
my friends by wearing one at a fancy-dress ball in 
London, and no one would believe that it was a 
genuine piece of headgear as worn to-day by 
thousands of Arabs all over Tunisia. They are made 
of supple grass, and, though very heavy, are as 
flexible as a Panama. Indeed, it is their extreme flexi¬ 
bility which brings them into the saddlers’ souk, 
for they need to be strengthened at the brim by 
four pieces of leather, shaped like leaves, which are 
dyed and embroidered in a great variety of colours 
to suit the fancy of all customers. 

In Tunis one sees these hats being worn occa¬ 
sionally, but not frequently, as they are chiefly used 
by country folk when mounted on their camels, 
mules, or horses ; but in Kairouan they are ubiquitous. 
They are provided with a sliding strap, worn under 
the chin, which can be loosened, so that the hat 
may lie on the back when not needed as a pro¬ 
tection from the sun. 

In the middle of this rather narrow souk lies a 
marabout’s tomb, which, though I mention it last, 
will immediately arrest the attention of the visitor, 
as it is painted brilliant vermilion and green, with 
occasional floral patterns in chrome yellow. A lamp 
hangs from the roof above it, and is lighted on 

70 


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ARAB TUNIS 


Friday, the Arab Sunday, on which day coloured 
silk flags are placed in the sockets arranged at either 
end for their reception. I was told by a guide that 
this marabout was a saddler, and that he wished to 
be buried in his souk, that he might never be for¬ 
gotten by the brethren of his trade. Even holy 
men, it seems—for such the marabout are supposed 
to be—like to be missed. 

A characteristic and interesting feature of Arab 
saddlery which I forgot to mention is the intro¬ 
duction of leopard-skin. One frequently sees 
handsome skins hanging from the lintels of the 
shops which will be cut up and used for both 
saddles and harness. It is particularly effective and 
rich-looking when used for moderately wide straps, 
edged with red leather, and stitched with gold or 
silver thread. 

The Souk of the Metal Workers is some distance 
away, and so, for the convenience of the purchaser 
who is pressed for time, Arab stirrups, bits, etc., 
are sold in this souk. The stirrups have a large 
flat base, perhaps 5 inches by 7, the corners being 
used as spurs. They are generally damascened with 
silver. 

Although fairly industrious, the workers in the 
souks are rarely too busy to pass the time of day, 
and chat about the details of their trade, and this is 
not with an eye to the main chance, but from a 

7 1 


TUNIS 


perfectly genuine spirit of friendliness. Though 
it is quite easy to travel in Tunisia without know¬ 
ing any foreign language, yet only in the large shops 
is English spoken, and most of the guides know but 
a few words. A very considerable proportion of 
the townsfolk speak French, and if one has occasion 
to speak to someone who cannot, a friendly neigh¬ 
bour or passer-by will generally come to the rescue ; 
but of course one often longs to be able to talk 
their own language. 

One so often hears the poor Arab abused, that it 
is a pleasure to be able to record my own favourable 
impressions. Painting day after day in the crowded 
souks, often in positions very inconvenient to every¬ 
one but myself, I had a fair opportunity of judging 
their manners and their general behaviour towards 
an intrusive foreign artist, and I can only say that I 
was continually amazed at their forbearance, their 
friendly interest, and their evident wish to add to 
my comfort in any small way which suggested 
itself. I have never in England, France, Italy, or 
Holland, experienced such undeviating courtesy, 
and moreover, with one single exception, no reward 
for virtue in the form of backsheesh was ever 
hinted at; and although I often wanted to offer a 
present, I never did so, hating to demoralize their 
hospitable traditions. 

On my second visit to Tunis I was obliged to 

72 


ARAB TUNIS 


go through so much hand-shaking that I was able 
to realize the penalty paid once a year by the 
President of the United States. Dozens of Arabs of 
whom I had no recollection greeted me effusively, 
inquired after my sister, who had accompanied me 
on my first visit, proffered the hospitality of a cup 
of coffee, and hoped I would again paint their shops. 

I am bound to admit that this pleasant tradition 
of hospitality, which extends beyond their doorsteps 
into their streets, does not prevent them from asking 
for their goods three or four times as much as they 
are willing to accept; but I think this is a demoraliz¬ 
ation brought about by the influx of tourists and 
their guides, for the latter always demand a com¬ 
mission on sales. When buying a pair of nadve 
slippers in one of the numerous souks devoted to 
their manufacture, and which are rarely patronized 
by the tourist, I was surprised to find that the 
prices were rigidly fixed, and that no bargaining was 
possible. 

The old Arab town is crowned by the Kasbah, 
which formerly contained the palace of the Beys, the 
barracks of the native troops, and the prison from 
which Charles V. liberated 10,000 slaves in 1535. 
It is now used as a fortress for the French soldiers, 
and only the exterior walls of the original building 
remain. Opposite, is the Cafe du Kasbah, with its 
huge fig-tree, under the shade of which, in the late 

73 


TUNIS 


afternoon, numbers of Arabs may be seen, chatting 
or playing draughts, while enjoying the cool breeze 
which commonly springs up towards sundown. 

Close by is the town palace of the Dar-el-Bey, 
little used as a residence by the present Bey, but 
which he visits once or twice a week for the 
transaction of business. It may be viewed by 
visitors, and is well worth seeing, if only for the 
fine panorama to be enjoyed from its roof. It is com¬ 
paratively modern, having been built by Hamouda 
Pasha at the end of the eighteenth century. A few 
yards further on the Rue Sidi-ben-Zaid is graced 
by the mosque ofSidi-ben-Youssef, with its octagonal 
minaret, of Turkish design; from its portals the 
huge tower of the Grand Mosque looms in digni¬ 
fied proportions against the sky. 

Behind the mosque of Sidi-ben-Youssef is the 
native hospital, founded a century ago by a 
wealthy Arab lady. It neither receives nor requires 
pecuniary assistance from France, though most 
of the doctors are Frenchmen, a few being Arabs 
who have qualified themselves in French hospitals. 
The patients, who are all Arabs, pay nothing. It 
appeared to be admirably arranged, and organized in 
accordance with modern ideas of hygiene. Indeed, 
I have never seen a hospital which seemed so 
pleasant a place to be ill in. A small mosque is 
attached to it, into which I peered, though it had 

74 


ARAB TUNIS 


no architectural interest. At the back there is a 
fair-sized cemetery, in which several consumptive¬ 
looking patients were roaming. To a European the 
close proximity of the cemetery might be depressing ; 
but the Arab has no horror of death, and to him it 
is but a pleasant garden, in which to dream of the 
houries awaiting him in his future paradise. Many 
of the tombstones were marked by short columns 
surmounted by carved stone turbans, painted red or 
green. 

Returning to the Rue Sidi-ben-Zaid, a turn 
to the right brings us to the Souk-el-Trouk. It 
is pleasant to turn from the torrid glare of the 
open street into the cool shade of the covered 
bazaar, the comparative sombreness of which is 
relieved here and there by a brilliant shaft of light 
or a constellation of dazzling sunbeams. 

The Souk-el-Trouk is the souk of the tailors, 
and here, in numerous little shops, the sartorial needs 
of the Arab population are fashioned and temptingly 
displayed. I call them shops for want of a better 
word, but they are as unlike the European shop as 
is anything one can imagine. They are really 
recesses separated from each other by coupled 
columns, painted with stripes of red and green, which 
support a continuous cornice, richly carved and 
coloured. There are no windows or doors, and the 
shop is raised some 4 feet above the ground. To 

75 


TUNIS 


this elevation the tailor nimbly vaults, for there 
are no steps to assist him. Sitting cross-legged in 
orthodox fashion, he there cuts out, pieces together, 
embroiders, and embellishes the gay silk waistcoats, 
gandouras, and other garments beloved of the 
Arab. 

Conservative in all matters, the Arab is especially 
averse to change in the matter of clothes. “ Lady 
Betty,” “ Madame Perla,” and other feminine writers 
who fill columns in the weekly papers on the fashions 
of the hour, may congratulate themselves on the 
love of novelty for novelty’s sake which so strongly 
characterizes the Occidental as compared with the 
Oriental; they could never pursue their professions 
in the East. Not only do the fashions of the Arab 
never change, but they are very restricted. Though 
every Arab wears a gandoura, more or less richly 
embroidered, it is always worked in one of three 
accepted patterns, from which no deviation nor any 
combination is permitted. The only matter in 
which personal taste is allowed to show itself is in 
the choice of colour. In this respect entire freedom 
is permitted and taken full advantage of, though it 
is curious to note that the more delicate shades of 
pink, yellow, and mauve are generally worn by 
elderly men, while rich red and brown are in favour 
with their juniors. 

Many of the tailors are Jews, as are also a large 

76 


ARAB TUNIS 


number of the artisans throughout Tunis. The 
Jew is much less generally than elsewhere a middle¬ 
man, a fact which is perhaps attributable to the 
large fusion of Berber blood in his veins, owing to 
the extensive conversion of that race to Judaism in 
the first century, the Jews having immigrated to 
Tunis and Carthage in enormous numbers after the 
fall of Jerusalem. This also explains the fact that 
his physiognomy is less marked than elsewhere and 
frequently unrecognizable. 

The tailors’ souk is a very busy one, especially 
in the early morning, when hawkers of second-hand 
clothes collect such large crowds that it is often 
almost impossible to pass by. The vendor, laden 
with clothes on head and arms, pushes his way 
backwards and forwards, loudly proclaiming the 
merits of his goods and imploring the world to buy. 
There is something curiously exhilarating about the 
movement of an excited Oriental crowd, but much 
of the energy seems very futile. Those who are 
not selling should surely be buying, but very rarely 
have I noticed a sale effected at one of these 
auctions; and though, with eager eyes and fingers, 
every article is carefully examined, after much 
shouting and gesticulation, it is almost invariably 
returned to the arms of the hawker. 

Half-way down the souk, a porch with two 
slender columns and a few steps denotes the 

77 


TUNIS 


entrance to the Cafe des Marabouts. There is 
no sign to show that it is a cafe, and the dim 
appearance of the interior as seen from outside 
leads one to imagine that it is a mosque, ingress 
to which is so strictly forbidden in Tunis. It is 
perhaps on this account that the cafe is so little 
known and so seldom visited. 

Life in this cafe, as in others, varies according to 
the time of day and the season of the year. In the 
early morning it is all but deserted. Later, at about 
eleven o’clock, it becomes quite lively. At this 
hour the rattle of dominoes and dice; the chink of 
the coffee-cup; the excited ejaculations and gesticula¬ 
tions of squatting groups, who discuss the business 
and events of the morning; the gentle, monotonous 
thrum of the archaic one-stringed banjo, the use of 
which has not altogether succumbed to the popu¬ 
larity of the blatant gramophone; the startling bray 
of a donkey which, to the visitor’s astonishment, is 
being led through the main aisle of the building— 
all proclaim the fact that, whatever it was in the 
past, in the present it is not a mosque, but a popular 
native cafe. 

And just as one has indulged in this obvious 
reflection the cheap little French clock strikes 
twelve : then faintly comes the voice of the mueddin 
from the minaret of the great mosque, crying : 

“ Arise ! arise ! arise ! 


78 


ENTRANCE TO THE CAFE DES MARABOUTS, TUNIS 


' 
































ARAB TUNIS 


44 Children of God, remember to prostrate your¬ 
selves before the Almighty on high. 

“ This is the hour of prayer. 

“ You will not live for ever. 

“ When they are dead the ungodly will repent 
their error. 

“God alone is God, and Mohammed is His 
Prophet.” 

Then there is a general sortie. Some respond to 
the call and make their way to the mosque, while 
others saunter home, because they do not care, by 
remaining, to make their negligence of religious 
observances too obvious. In a few seconds the cafe 
is completely deserted; only the three marabouts in 
their green and red tombs behind the iron grille are 
left. 

Two hours later the cafe is again largely patron¬ 
ized, but there is no longer any cheerful chatter. 
Silence reigns, and the dais and divans are covered 
with what look like crumpled, shapeless, half-empty 
sacks, which give the building the air of a deserted 
corn-exchange. It is the hour of the siesta, and 
these shapeless heaps of tattered rags cover the 
forms of somnolent Arabs, who are drowsing through 
the hot hours of the day. Perhaps it is because he 
is addicted to sleeping out of doors on the dusty 
roadside, where flies and other insects more de¬ 
structive of repose and pleasant dreams abound, 

79 


TUNIS 


that the Arab has acquired the habit of covering 
every inch of his body, face, hands, and feet, with 
his burnous before courting slumber. Such, at any 
rate, is his practice, and it is not an easy thing to 
distinguish between a half-empty sack of potatoes 
and a dormant son of Islam. 

Presently, when the air has become a little cooler, 
the inanimate sacks will begin to move, heads will 
emerge from their folds, eyes will be rubbed, and 
the bewildered expression of those who are quitting 
the pleasant land of Nod will change into one of 
alertness ; hands will be clapped as signal that coffee 
is to be served, and the nervous, noisy bustle of life 
will begin once more. 

I was very anxious to make a sketch of this cafe, 
and asked the picturesque Oriental who was brewing 
coffee if I might do so. He replied in voluble 
Arabic of which I did not understand a word, but 
I gathered that backsheesh was demanded, and I 
forthwith placed a franc in the palm of the nut- 
brown hand. This was gravely and courteously 
returned, and, feeling completely nonplussed, I 
called to my assistance a French-speaking shop¬ 
man from across the street, who explained that 
as an American artist had lately paid twenty-five 
francs for the privilege of painting in the cafe, I 
was expected to pay the same amount. I hastened 
to disclaim the honour of hailing from the land 


INTERIOR OF THE CAFE DES MARABOUTS, TUNIS 




i/'J T !VI i /./!i . \f. HMC! MH/.’J HHT '*IO M01MHT/.1 










ARAB TUNIS 


of Stars and Stripes and gold untold. I assured 
this greedy Arab that I was but a poor and 
humble craftsman who was trying to earn his 
living, and who, at the same time, desired to make 
known to the world the wonderful beauty of this 
ancient cafe, so that its fame might resound on 
every lip and its owner be held in coveted esteem 
by all men. At last it was arranged that I should 
pay live francs, and that for this sum I should be 
allowed to come as often as might prove necessary 
for the completion of the picture. This incident 
was the one exception which proved the rule of 
Arab hospitality. Though I spent six months in 
Tunisia, painting all the time, it was the only 
occasion on which I was asked to pay anything 
for putting up my easel. 

Nearly opposite the Cafe des Marabouts is the 
shop owned by Monsieur Babouche, one of the 
largest and most important in the souks, where all 
kinds of delightful things—embroideries, carpets, 
metal-work, jewellery, and inlaid furniture—may be 
bought, and, if intelligently bargained for, at very 
reasonable prices; but whether one buys or not, 
hospitality is the tradition of the house, and cigar¬ 
ettes and coffee are always offered to the visitor. It 
was from this shop that we enjoyed an admirable 
view of the celebrations on the Prophet’s birthday. 

For some days before this important anniversary 

8 1 G 


TUNIS 


one is aware that something unusual is in the air, 
and about two days beforehand actual preparations 
commence. Cut-glass chandeliers, for some strange 
reason very dear to the heart of the Arab, are hung 
at intervals from the vaulted roofs of the bazaars, and 
there is a general increase of bustle and excitement. 
On the actual night of the festival the Jewish shops, 
of which there are a considerable number, were 
closed, and their shuttered fronts hung with costly 
carpets lent by Babouche and other important 
merchants; the Arab shopkeepers displaying all 
their choicest wares—not with any idea of effecting 
sales, but to honour the Prophet with all their 
belongings as well as with all their heart and soul. 
Formal bouquets of flowers were freely interspersed 
among the goods, and innumerable diminutive oil- 
lamps supplemented the light from the chandeliers. 
A week beforehand the whitewashers had been 
busy on the vaulted roofs, and the striped pillars 
and carved capitals had been vivified by a lavish 
use of vermilion and emerald green. 

A great banquet was to be given in the Bey’s 
palace, and when over, the Bey and his suite were 
to march in procession through the souks. No 
one seemed to be at all certain at what hour the 
banquet would commence, though six o’clock was 
suggested as a likely time. Notions as to when it 
would be finished and the procession begin were 

82 


ARAB TUNIS 


still vaguer, but we were urged to be in our places 
not later than seven o’clock, and we sacrificed our 
comfort to the honour of the Prophet by making 
a very early and hurried dinner. The souks were 
already thronged when we arrived, and we had 
some difficulty in making our way to Babouche’s 
shop, from the spacious loggia of which we had 
been courteously invited to watch the procession. 
Monsieur Babouche was there ready to receive us, 
and was magnificently dressed for the occasion, 
knowing that the Bey would probably honour 
him by a special visit. He is a big, handsome, 
middle-aged man, with well-cut features and a 
swarthy complexion, and he carried off his some¬ 
what feminine finery without looking in the least 
effeminate. He wore an old rose-coloured silk 
turban, from which a white rose hung on his cheek, 
a pale yellow silk gandoura, a richly-embroidered 
orange waistcoat, white silk stockings, and canary- 
coloured slippers. A semi-transparent haik of striped 
white silk, draped over the gandoura and drawn 
across the turban, completed his very exquisite 
toilet. 

The loggia was hung with old silk carpets, 
and numerous antique Arab lamps gave a soft but 
brilliant light. Ebony chairs, inlaid with ivory and 
mother-of-pearl, were arranged in rows for our 
accommodation. 


83 


G 2 


TUNIS 


The ladies of our party were delighted to find 
themselves in such a pleasant haven of refuge, with 
the surging and excited crowd well beneath them. 
The night was warm even in the open air, and in 
these covered arcades the numerous lamps, combined 
with thousands of human radiators, rendered it 
extremely hot. The picturesque lemonade sellers, 
who hail from Damascus, were doing a lively trade. 
They carry, attached to their shoulders by a strap, 
a huge semi-transparent glass vessel, secured and 
adorned by many brass bands, from which copper 
cups hang on chains. All the metal is brilliantly 
polished, silver and copper coins dangle from its 
neck, and a large lemon forms the stopper when in 
a vertical position. It is altogether a very imposing 
object, and the vendors are fine stalwart fellows as 
they need to be, for when full the bottle is of 
great weight. I greatly coveted the possession of 
this lemonade bottle, and on another occasion 
broached the subject to its owner; but he would not 
part with it for less than 200 francs, and, what was 
a more serious difficulty, required me to wait till he 
had received another from Damascus. 

Watching, from our exalted seats, the thirsty 
quench their thirst and many other trifling incidents, 
amusing enough at the moment but hardly worth 
relating, we pleasantly passed the time, assuaging 
our own thirst with coffee provided by the hospitable 

84 


A HUMBLE CAFE IN THE SLIPPER-SOUK, TUNIS 








■ 































ARAB TUNIS 


Babouche. But there was no sign of the impending 
procession. The Bey and his Court were still 
dining, lingering, perhaps, over the final cigarette, 
white the faithful thousands were consuming them¬ 
selves with impatience. The crowd looked so lively 
and gay that we said “ Au revoir !” to our ladies, to 
elbow our way through it, and see what was going 
on in the Cafe des Marabouts. 

We succeeded in reaching its portico, but its 
clientele was so numerous that it was impossible to 
enter; so we made a little detour and came back to 
Babouche, just in time to receive His Highness the 
Bey. 

His approach was heralded by the strains of a 
military band, and as he passed along the street 
costly rugs were thrown down for him to walk over, 
and the flowers which had adorned the ears of the 
faithful were cast beneath the feet of this descendant 
of the Prophet. 

In such regal fashion His Highness arrived 
“ chez Babouche,” and received the respectful salu¬ 
tations of our host. One or two presentations 
were made, after which His Highness withdrew; 
the procession was reformed, and continued on 
its way through the enthusiastic crowd. The 
only disappointing part of the spectacle was the 
appearance of the Bey and his suite, who were 
dressed in uniform and wore the Turkish fez. His 

85 


TUNIS 


Highness may possess many talents, social and 
diplomatic, of far greater importance than imposing 
appearance, and he certainly seemed to be popular 
with those whom it pleases to regard themselves as 
his subjects; but he is a short, stout man, and, in 
spite of a wealth of gold braid and the numerous 
medals and orders which were pinned on his breast, 
from the merely esthetic point of view he cut a 
s orry figure in contrast to the imposing magni¬ 
ficence of Monsieur Babouche. 


86 


CHAPTER V 


Arab Tunis ( continued ) 

At the lower end of the Souk-el-Trouk, a 
brilliantly coloured red and green archway leads 
into the Souk-des-EtofFes (see illustration). Passing 
by it for the moment, and continuing in a straight 
line, one enters the Souk-des-Attarin, the scent 
bazaar (see illustrations). Architecturally this is 
one of the finest souks in Tunis, and probably 
one of the oldest. It is vaulted throughout, and 
adjoins on one side the great mosque of Djama 
Zitouna. On the other side are small shops, from 
which exhale delicious perfumes of jasmine and 
orange flower. The distillers of scent and owners 
of these shops are said to be descended from the 
Moors who were expelled from Spain, and to possess 
the keys of Andalusian castles owned by their 
ancestors. The scent is very powerful, and for 
practical purposes requires to be largely diluted with 
spirit. It is sold in slim bottles, charmingly deco¬ 
rated with gold and colour; but, unfortunately, their 

87 


TUNIS 


glass stoppers rarely fit, and, as I know from sad 
experience, the scent is apt to evaporate. It is 
much safer to replace the stopper by a cork. 

The Djama es Zitouna (the mosque of the 
olive-tree) dates from the eighth century, and is 
one of the oldest in Tunis, and is said to be built 
on the foundations of a Byzantine Christian church, 
dedicated to St. Olive. Like most of the great 
mosques, it is also a college, in which students are 
taught their religion and the laws which are based 
on it, and where they also receive instruction in 
literature, philosophy, mathematics, and history. 
It also boasts of an exceptionally fine Arab library 
of more than 6,000 volumes, most of them being 
in manuscript. Like all the other mosques in 
Tunis, it is rigorously closed to strangers, and one 
wonders how far its interior resembles to-day the 
description given by the Arab historian Abou- 
Mohammed-El-Abdery, who lived in the thirteenth 
century, and wrote an account of his travels in 
Africa when making a pilgrimage to Mecca from 
Haf Haha, a remote village in Morocco : 

“ The principal hall in this mosque contains a 
rich library, founded by the Hafside princess. This 
mosque, which must be classed among the most 
beautiful houses of prayer, is constructed with 
elegance and beautifully lighted. Round the in¬ 
terior court, which is open to the sky, circles a 

88 


ENTRANCE TO THE SOUK-DES-ETOFFES FROM THE 
SOUK-EL-TROUK, TUNIS 









. 

, 





































ARAB TUNIS 


covered gallery. The trunks of trees, shaped in the 
manner of columns, are planted at intervals in the 
courtyard. By means of iron rings, to which ropes 
are attached, they support great pieces of canvas, 
sewn together and forming tents, under which the 
faithful take shelter every Friday during the hot 
weather.” 

The Zitouna college, with its magnificent library, 
must have contributed to the prestige of Tunis as a 
seat of learning. El-Abdery, who was a man of 
culture, says : 

“If I had not entered Tunis, I should have 
declared that no trace of science was to be found in 
the West, and that its very name had been for¬ 
gotten ; but the Master of the Universe has willed 
that no part of the world shall be altogether destitute 
of wise men. Here I have found a representative 
of every science, and persons trained in every 
department of human knowledge. Notwithstand¬ 
ing the thousand and one trials which are the 
inevitable accompaniment of travel, the culture of 
Tunis has been a great pleasure to me.” 

The upper side of the Djama Zitouna is bounded 
by the Souk-des-Etoffes, the most beautiful of all 
the souks. It differs from others in having three 
aisles, those at the sides being very narrow. The 
arcades are supported by short columns, doubtless 
Roman, but painted with stripes of green and red, 

89 


TUNIS 


in the usual Tunisian manner. The richly-coloured 
silk embroideries overflow the shops, and are draped 
on cords stretched across the arcades. On one side 
there is an entrance to the mosque, and on the other 
a flight of wide steps lead to one of the old slave- 
markets, in which the guides do not fail to point 
out certain rings in the walls and columns, to which 
they assert the slaves were enchained. 

The whole history of Tunisia is one of slavery. 
The early Phoenicians were famous slave-dealers. It 
is related that at the fall of Jerusalem before Antiochus 
Epiphanes the number of slaves sold to Phoenician 
dealers equalled that of the slain; and in the time 
of the Maccabees, Tyrian merchants accompanied 
the Syrian army for the purpose of purchasing 
Jews who might be taken captive during the wars. 

The Carthaginians did not fail to carry on the 
traditions of their forebears, and, for this purpose, 
they departed from their general policy of keeping 
near the coast, and penetrated far into the Soudan 
to hunt the negroes. During some centuries of the 
Roman rule Christians were forced to work in the 
mines as slaves, and when we come to the days of 
Barbarossa and Charles V. the flgures take one’s 
breath away. The latter monarch rescued 10,000 
Christian slaves from the Kasbah at Tunis, and 
20,000 who had been employed in making the canal 
at La Goulette, but a few miles away. 

90 


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In those days the forlorn and deserted little court¬ 
yard off the Souk-des-Etoffes, of which I have been 
speaking, must have presented a very different 
aspect, and it is not difficult to imagine the tragic 
scenes which must have taken place within its 
walls. The relief afforded by Charles V. was only 
temporary. The slave trade flourished again, and 
Christian slaves were largely employed to build 
and man the corsair galleons, and thus assist the 
capture of co-religionists. The brigantines varied 
in size, the larger having as many as twenty-seven 
oars on either side. Each oar was rowed by four 
or five slaves, who were sometimes worked for ten 
or twelve hours at a stretch, the overseer occa¬ 
sionally putting a morsel of bread steeped in wine 
to a rower’s mouth to save him from fainting. 
They were chained to their seats and urged to con¬ 
tinued exertion by lashes on their bare flesh. A 
hundred soldiers armed with muskets, bows, and 
scimitars, occupied the poop. 

In 1605 St. Vincent de Paul, then twenty-three 
years old, was left a legacy of 1,500 livres by a 
friend who died at Marseilles, and he was obliged, 
in consequence, to make a journey to that city. 
When returning by sea he was captured by some 
Tunisian corsairs, and in a letter written to his early 
patron. Monsieur de Commet, he has left a minute 
account of his capture and imprisonment, in quaint 

9 1 


TUNIS 

old French, from which I have translated the 
following extracts : 

“ The wind was as favourable as possible, and we 
should have arrived that day at Narbonne, a dis¬ 
tance of fifty leagues, if God had not allowed three 
Turkish brigantines to capture us with the boats 
which were returning from the fair at Beaucaire, 
esteemed by many the most beautiful in Chris¬ 
tendom. The corsairs gave us chase, and their 
attacks were so furious that several of us were killed 
and all the rest wounded, I myself receiving an 
arrow wound which will be a memento for the 
rest of my life. At last we were obliged to give 
ourselves up to these savage beasts, worse than 
tigers. We had killed four or five of them, including 
one of their leaders, and because of this they cut 
up our pilot into a hundred thousand pieces. This 
done, they roughly dressed our wounds and chained 
us. Pursuing their marauding way, they made a 
thousand captures, but, nevertheless, gave liberty to 
those who had surrendered without fighting, after 
they had robbed them of all they possessed. At 
last, laden with merchandise, we took the route to 
Barbary. 

“ Having arrived in Tunis, we were exposed for 
sale after a ‘ proces-verbal,’ in which they said that 
we had been captured from a Spanish vessel. With¬ 
out this lie we should have been taken to the Consul, 

92 


ARAB TUNIS 


sent there by our King to secure freedom of com¬ 
merce for the French. 

“ The procedure of our sale was that we were 
gagged, stripped quite naked, and only allowed to 
wear a cap and a couple of strands of wool. We 
were then marched through the town with chains 
at the neck, and, having made five or six prome¬ 
nades, we were at last taken to the slave-market. 
Here the merchants came to inspect us in the same 
way as they would a horse or a bullock, making us 
open our mouths to see our teeth, fingering our 
ribs, probing our wounds, making us walk, trot, and 
run, testing our strength with heavy weights, and 
subjecting us to a thousand other brutalities. 

“ I was bought by a fisherman, who, finding that 
I was but an extra vexation added to those of the 
sea, sold me almost immediately to a quack doctor, 
an expert distiller of herbs. He was an old man, 
and very humane and reasonable. He told me that 
he had worked hard for fifty years in search of the 
philosopher’s stone, but quite in vain. He was 
more successful in the transformation of metals. I 
have seen him melt together equal proportions of 
gold and silver, adding to them a powder, and 
placing all together in a crucible. This melting-pot 
he kept on the fire for twenty-four hours, and then, 
opening it, found that all the silver had become 
gold. This he sold for the benefit of the poor. 

93 


TUNIS 


My occupation was to attend to the fires of ten or 
twelve furnaces, and in doing so, thanks to God, I 
had more pleasure than suffering. The old man 
became fond of me, and liked to talk of alchemy, 
and still more of his faith, to which he made the 
greatest efforts to convert me, tempting me with all 
his riches and wealth. 

“I was with this old man from September, 1605, 
till the following August, when he was taken away 
to work for the Grand Turk—but in vain, for he 
died of regret on the way. 

“ He left me to his nephew, a true anthropo- 
morphite, who sold me immediately after the death 
of his uncle, as he had heard that Monsieur de 
Breve, the King’s Ambassador in Turkey, was 
coming, with good and special patents from the 
Grand Turk, to rescue the Christian slaves. 

“ I was now bought by a renegade from Nice, 
who took me to his farm in the mountains, where 
the land was very dried up and parched. One of 
his three women was a Greek Christian, but schis¬ 
matic. She was intelligent and kind, and still more 
so towards the end, when, thanks to the unbounded 
grace of God, she was allowed to be instrumental in 
rescuing her husband from his apostasy, replacing 
him within the fold of the Church, and delivering 
me from slavery. Ten months passed before this 
end was achieved, but at last we escaped in a little 

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boat, and arrived on July 28 at Aigues Mortes. 
Later we reached Avignon, where, in the Church of 
St. Pierre, the renegade, with tears in his eyes and 
sobs in his throat, re-embraced Christianity, to the 
honour of God and to the edification of the 
spectators.” 

In the days of St. Vincent de Paul, Tunis must 
have possessed numerous slave-markets, but the one 
which adjoins the Souk-des-Etoffes and another, 
which is now known as the Souk-des-Chechias, 
were among those which were used until the 
abolition of slavery in 1842. 

One of the most charming examples of Arab 
architecture in Tunis is the Court of the Kadi, and 
it is interesting also as a place where one can observe 
some of the ways and customs of the native popu¬ 
lation. 

It is here that all matters relating to family life 
and religion are discussed and settled, such as 
disputes about marriage, divorce, inheritance, etc. 
The building has three aisles, all arcaded, the 
voussoirs of the arches being alternately black and 
white. The central aisle is open to the sky, but is 
covered by an awning when the weather is hot. 
Round the sides of the court recessed bays form 
the chambers in which the Kadi sit, and whence, 
having listened to the evidence from both sides, they 
award justice. A pleasant little fountain plays in 

95 


TUNIS 


the centre of the court, and in a small room near the 
entrance, prisoners required for evidence are chained 
till called up by the Kadi. On the occasion of my 
visit one unhappy culprit, chained and manacled, 
was waiting here. Thursday morning is the best 
time to visit the court: it is then generally crowded 
with excited Arabs, who take no pains to conceal 
their varied and violent emotions. The Kadi are 
usually elderly men, and several of them look very 
old and venerable. They are richly dressed, and 
wear special turbans of fine white linen, folded in a 
peculiar and elaborate way. They sit on luxurious 
divans, replete with soft cushions of rich silk brocade. 
In one or two cases I noticed that plate-glass screens 
had been arranged for protection from draughts, or 
possibly from the over-violent gesticulations of 
excited witnesses. 

I committed the grave indiscretion of asking my 
guide if the office of the Kadi was hereditary. He 
was highly indignant, and assured me that excep¬ 
tional ability and arduous study were necessary to 
attain this honourable and important position, which, 
he added, was equivalent to that held by the 
cardinals of the Roman Church. I fancy, however, 
that his acquaintance with the organization of the 
Roman Church was very slight. The court is 
largely used for obtaining divorce, and numbers of 
closely veiled women are always present. One feels 

96 


ARAB TUNIS 


sorry for these unhappy women, who in many cases 
are guiltless of any fault beyond that of barrenness, or 
of being no longer young, or of having lost their good 
looks. A man may divorce his wife without having 
any cause for complaint, but merely because he is 
tired of her, though in such a case he is obliged to 
return any dower she may have brought at her 
marriage. With some of the desert tribes divorce 
is almost as common as marriage, which takes place 
at a very early age. A boy of fourteen is frequent!)' 
married to a divorced woman, who, being older and 
wiser, and having a knowledge of affairs, is able to 
take care of him and manage the household. Ten or 
twelve years later he marries a young girl of twelve, 
and his first wife sinks to the position of a servant. 

The Arab is allowed by the Koran to have four 
wives, but only the well-to-do are able to afford 
this luxury, and a very large proportion of the 
population only possess one, or at the most two. 
James Bruce, the well-known eighteenth-century 
traveller, endeavours to justify the custom of poly¬ 
gamy in Eastern countries with amusing ingenuity. 
“ Women in England,” he argues, “ are generally 
capable of bearing children at fourteen ; let the other 
end be forty-eight, when they bear no more. For 
thirty-four years, therefore, an English woman bears 
children. An Arab woman, on the other hand, if she 
begins to bear children at eleven, seldom or never 

97 H 


TUNIS 


has a child after twenty. The time of her child¬ 
bearing is nine years, and of four women taken 
together thirty-six years. So that the English 
woman bears children for only two years less than 
do the four Arab women whom Mahomet has 
allowed to be the wives of one man ; and if it be 
granted that an English woman may bear at fifty, 
the terms are equal. The reasons against polygamy 
which subsist in England do not by any means 
subsist in Arabia, and that being the case, it would 
be unworthy of the wisdom of God, and an un¬ 
evenness in His ways which we should never see, to 
subject two nations, so differently circumstanced, to 
the same observances.” 

Fearful lest he should wound the susceptibilities 
of English women by appearing to suggest that 
their usefulness is confined to their capacity for 
child-bearing, Bruce quaintly adds: “ No one, I 

hope, will pretend that at forty-eight or fifty an 
English woman is not an agreeable companion. 
Perhaps the last years are, to thinking minds, more 
agreeable than the first. We grow old together, 
and we have a near prospect of dying together. 
Nothing can present a more agreeable prospect of 
social life than monogamy in England.” 

Although the Place Bab Souika is just outside the 
Medina, the portion of the old town enclosed by 
walls, and round which the electric tramways circu- 

9 s 


ARAB TUNIS 


late, yet it is, as it were, the Ludgate Circus of 
Arab Tunis. From it six important streets radiate, 
and it lies in the direct line between the “ souks ” 
and. the Place Halfouaine. A few years ago it 
must have been one of the most picturesque corners 
of Tunis, and it still has its moments of glory. On 
certain evenings, towards sundown, when the domes 
of the mosque of Sidi Mahrez are of a rosy pink, and 
their outlines are relieved against a violet sky, the 
beauty of effect is so startling that one is quite 
unconscious of tramway-cars, telegraph-wires, and 
other blemishes of a similar kind. Moreover, apart 
from effects of light, it is full of characteristic native 
life; but already it has lost, from the very importance 
of its situation, something of its Oriental charm, and 
it will soon, I fear, be entirely spoilt from the 
artist’s point of view. 

The mosque of Sidi Mahrez is entirely different, 
in plan and general design, from the other mosques 
in Tunis. It was built in the seventeenth century, 
and shows the influence of Turkish architecture and 
of the great mosque of St. Sophia at Constantinople. 
It has a large central dome on to which four half 
domes abut, the angles being filled with four 
smaller domes. The minaret, which was not built 
till the beginning of the nineteenth century, is 
square in plan and is of the traditional North 
African design. 


99 


H 2 


TUNIS 


Arab Tunis alternates between seemingly de¬ 
serted quarters—quiet streets of windowless houses 
where the women are busy in their secluded 
courtyards, while their menfolk are working 
in the souks or idling in the cafes—and dis¬ 
tricts which teem with life and bustle. The 
Place Bab Souika conspicuously belongs to the 
latter category, and affords examples of most of the 
characteristic features of the city. Butchers’ shops— 
never an agreeable sight, and particularly unpleasant 
in a hot climate where flies abound and the use of 
ice is unknown—line one side of the square, but are 
happily screened from view to some extent by 
quaint bread-stalls, fruit-stalls, and vegetable-stalls. 
Crowds of figures doing everything and nothing ; 
barrows of this, that, and the other; scores of un¬ 
imaginably diminutive donkeys, carrying portly 
Arabs or mountains of fodder; a general confusion 
of things useful and useless; complexions of every 
hue, set in wrappings of every colour ; noises of all 
kinds, from the horn of the tramcar and the screech of 
its brake to the braying of asses and the drumming of 
itinerant musicians; added to the calls of the hawkers 
advertising their wares, and the uncontrolled semi- 
hysterical laughter of the negroes—all contribute to 
the sensation that the Place Bab Souika is a sort of 
Oriental Bedlam, from which, fascinating as it may 
be for a short time, it is very pleasant to escape. 


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The streets round Bab Souika are largely in¬ 
habited by the negroes, and their polished ebony 
skins, which so pleasantly reflect the brilliant blue 
of the sky, form a frequent note in the crowd. 

In the numerous native cafes of this neighbour¬ 
hood the music of the gramophone is often to be 
heard, voicing its records of Arab songs and melodies 
to a keenly interested and appreciative audience; 
and certainly that wonderfully ingenious but rather 
trying invention is able to imitate, with an almost 
uncanny fidelity, the thin reedy timbre of the native 
instruments and the nasal quality of their chants and 
prayers. 

From the Place Bab Souika a narrow but 
picturesque street leads to the Place Haloufaine. 
It is a busy, noisy thoroughfare, full of cafes and 
barbers’ establishments. The Arab barber is not 
only qualified to shave your beard and pate, but 
will with equal readiness cup you, extract your 
teeth, manicure your hands, staining the nails a 
beautiful red, or pedicure your feet. In warm 
weather all these operations are performed in the 
publicity of the open street. To give confidence, 
and to show that he is no novice in his profession, 
the barber sometimes adorns the outside of his shop 
with two glass cases, one being full of teeth, the 
other having corns pinned like butterflies against a 
velvet background. 


IOI 


TUNIS 


The mosque in the Place Haloufaine is very- 
large and popular, but its exterior is disappoint¬ 
ing. It has a spacious loggia on the first floor, 
but any beauty of architectural effect which the 
building might otherwise have had is destroyed by 
the intrusion of an Arab cafe decorated in very 
tawdry taste. The seats of this cafe must number 
some hundreds, and spread far into the square. In 
the late afternoon it is always crowded with Arabs 
of all ages, of every class, and arrayed in every kind 
of garment, and on the occasion of any festival it is 
one of the gayest corners of Tunis. It is also one of 
the haunts of the story-teller, the snake-charmer, and 
the sand-diviner. 


102 


CHAPTER VI 


Modern Tunis 

When looking at some photographs taken a 
year or two after the commencement of the French 
occupation, it seemed to me little short of marvellous 
that such a transformation could have been achieved 
in a quarter of a century; yet the Frenchman who 
was showing me the photographs, and to whom I 
expressed my surprise, replied that it was nothing 
compared to what we had done in Egypt ! 

As regards developing the agricultural and com¬ 
mercial possibilities of the country, I dare say he was 
right, though of course the potentialities in Egypt 
were greater. Still, when I looked at the photo¬ 
graph of the ground where now lies the Avenue 
Jules Ferry and the Rue de France, and which 
represented nothing but a barren stretch of sandy 
earth, and when I remembered that previous to that 
occupation the shallow water of the Lake of Tunis 
came right up to the Porte de France—the gate into 
the Arab town, which was originally known as the 

io 3 



TUNIS 

Bab-el-Bher, meaning the Gate of the Sea—I was 
not a little impressed. 

The Avenue Jules Ferry, which is the most 
important street of French Tunis, is planned on a 
magnificent scale. It is about half a mile long, and 
covers the greater part of the distance between the 
Porte de France and the harbour. It has a central 
promenade, with four rows of shady evergreen trees, 
and provides a delightful lounge in the summer¬ 
time. In the afternoon it is gay with the crimson 
ribbons and silver hairpins of numerous “ bonnes,” 
under whose indifferent supervision little French 
children, with the shortest of frocks and the longest 
of under garments, entangle their hoops in the legs 
of sauntering pedestrians; while in the evening a 
band plays two or three times a week, and penny 
chairs can be engaged, as in our own parks. 

On either side of this shady avenue most of the 
important buildings are erected. There is a 
cathedral, a theatre, an opera-house, a casino, etc., 
and most of the large cafes and restaurants are also 
here, as well as the bigger shops, though the post- 
office, which is a fine building, is for some reason 
erected in a street of secondary importance. 

It is true that as one gets nearer the Porte the 
houses become very insignificant, many having only 
one story, and appear ludicrously mean in com¬ 
parison with the imposing proportions of the 

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MODERN TUNIS 


boulevard itself; but they make one realize how the 
French plan their towns with an eye to the future, 
instead of allowing them to plan themselves, accord¬ 
ing to the needs of the moment, as is our happy-go- 
luckv method. 

J 

On July 14, the anniversary of the birth of the 
present French Republic, a great fete takes place. 
There is a military parade in the Avenue Jules 
Ferry, and in the evening the trees are illuminated 
with thousands of fairy-lights and coloured lanterns. 
The public buildings are also illuminated, and the 
private houses and shops, according to the means of 
their owners. The effect is really very brilliant and 
charming, and one hopes that the Arabs are properly 
impressed with the glory of France, since that is 
doubtless one of the objects of the celebration. 
There are also fireworks at the harbour, with set- 
pieces imitating the designs of the Tunisian stamps. 
Loud were the ejaculations of wonder and admira¬ 
tion called forth by new and complicated patterns 
of rockets and catherine-wheels. 

Another attraction of modern Tunis is the 
public park, known as the Belvedere, which lies 
on a hill to the east of the town, and which 
can be reached by electric tram in about ten 
minutes. There is a big casino with a large 
terrace on which one may take one’s dinner on hot 
summer evenings and enjoy the view of the Lake 

I0 5 




TUNIS 


of Tunis, with the beautiful two-horned mountain 
of Bou-Cornein in the distance. The position 
being fairly high, one also has the benefit of any 
breeze which happens to exist; but it must be 
admitted that this is sometimes a mixed pleasure, 
for in the summer the shallow water of the lake 
recedes, leaving masses of seaweed on the shore, 
which, rotting in the hot sun, sends forth an odour 
very unpleasant to the nose, though the inhabitants 
declare that it is bracing and beneficial to the con¬ 
stitution. This may or may not be so, but the 
smell, if one is ignorant of the cause, is very alarming, 
and I have known English visitors who have 
hurriedly left Tunis on its account. The casino 
also boasts of a salle des petits chevaux, a baccarat- 
table, and a cafe-chantant; but it is not opened till 
June, when the town casino, under the same 
management, is closed. 

The grounds of the park are well laid out, and 
there are flowering shrubs of all kinds, but a 
rather sad absence of trees, even of a youthful 
nature. The view from the top is superb, though 
too panoramic for pictorial representation. There is 
also a very elegant little loggia or pavilion, with 
decorations in stucco, elaborately carved in the 
Arab style. 

A French town may always be counted on for 
providing attractive cafes, and Tunis is no exception 

106 


MODERN TUNIS 


to the rule. The most alluring is perhaps the 
Cafe du Casino, the wide terrace of which is raised 
about io feet from the ground, so that one has an 
excellent view of all the varied life, Arab and 
European, which is constantly passing to and fro. 
A very good band plays twice a day. At six o’clock 
there is what is called an “aperitif” concert. It is the 
hour consecrated by almost universal custom to the 
stimulus of absinthe and “ amer Picon”; and while 
enjoying the strains of the music and the pleasant 
effects of the “ aperitif,” one may at the same time 
study the latest French creations in blouses and 
toques, and contrast Western finery with that of an 
occasional Arab or Tunisian Jew, arrayed in pink 
silk embroidered with violet, or apple-green 
embroidered with white. 

The programme of the concert always includes a 
long selection from one of the well-known operas, 
and it is interesting to note how large a crowd of 
poor Italians collects in the street below the cafe 
during this performance, listening intently to every 
note, and at the end recording their approval or 
dissatisfaction by applause or silence. We English 
sometimes pretend that, as a nation, we are genuine 
lovers of music; but can one imagine an English 
crowd of the lowest class standing in the street 
outside a concert hall, and listening, silently and 
intently, for half an hour to a fantasia or an opera ? 

107 






TUNIS 


Here and there ragged little Arab urchins, bare¬ 
footed and sadly in need of a bath, dart in and out 
with newspapers for sale; while aged ruffians, tur- 
baned and dignified, tempt you to buy from their 
huge baskets of sumptuous and luscious roses—so 
beautiful and so cheap, but also, alas ! so short-lived 
that they rarely last over the day on which they are 
bought. 

The Arabs, who have a passion for scents, have 
a curious fashion of detaching strong - smelling 
flowers, such as jasmine and orange-blossom, from 
their natural stalks, and spearing them with grass 
of a special kind, thin and stiff as wire. A score of 
such blossoms are then bound together in a compact 
mass, the size of a large carnation. In this way 
they procure a maximum of scent in a small com¬ 
pass, and the bouquet is alternately held to the nose 
or thrust beneath the turban, so that it dangles over 
the cheek. 

The Arab is devoted to flowers. The humblest 
little courtyard will have its meanness redeemed by 
a few pots of geraniums and roses, arranged under 
the protecting shade of the traditional and ever¬ 
present fig-tree, and even where water is scarce and 
very precious these will not be deprived of their 
nightly drink. The most necessitous beggar is 
never too poor to spend two sous on a nosegay with 
which to adorn his cheek, and at the same time 

108 


MODERN TUNIS 


satisfy his thirst for scent. I remember visiting, 
without any prearrangement, the modest little 
house of a guide who was contentedly serving me 
for the pittance of a franc and a half the day, and 
finding his little sitting-room quite gay with cut 
roses. Outside the cafes it is quite a common thing 
to see a beautiful flowering plant in the centre of a 
group of figures, kneeling or squatting on grass 
mats, and the reverent attention with which they 
sometimes seem to regard it almost suggests worship. 

Perhaps to contemplate the glory of a perfect 
rose—so sumptuous in colour, so generous in form, 
so soft to touch, and so sweet to smell—assists the 
orthodox Moslem to dream of that paradise from 
which his religion does not exclude the enjoyment 
of sensuous delights. Be this as it may, the fond¬ 
ness of the Arab for flowers of all kinds, and especi¬ 
ally for those with a powerful scent, is one of his 
most obvious characteristics. It is a thoroughly 
Oriental trait, and was conspicuous in the social life 
of the ancient Egyptian, from whom perhaps it may 
have been transmitted. Mr. Arthur Weigall says of 
the latter: “ At all times they decked themselves 
with flowers, and rich and poor alike breathed 
what they called ‘ the sweet north wind,’ through 
a screen of blossoms. At their feasts and festivals 
each guest was presented with necklaces and crowns 
of lotus-flowers, and a specially selected bouquet 

109 





TUNIS 


was carried in the hands. Constantly, as the hours 
passed, fresh flowers were brought to them, and the 
guests are shown in the tomb paintings in the act 
of burying their noses in the delicate petals, with an 
air of luxury which even the conventionalities of 
the draughtsman cannot hide. In the women’s hair 
a flower was pinned, which hung down before the 
forehead, and a cake of ointment, concocted of 
some sweet-smelling unguent, was so arranged upon 
the head that as it slowly melted it re-perfumed 
the flowers. Complete wreaths of flowers were 
sometimes worn, and this was the custom as much 
in the dress of the home as in that of the feast. The 
common people also arrayed themselves with wreaths 
of lotuses at all galas and carnivals. The room in 
which a feast was held was lavishly decorated with 
flowers. Blossoms crept up the delicate pillars to 
the roof; garlands twined themselves around the 
tables and about the jars of wine; and single buds 
lay in every dish of food. Even the dead were 
decked in their tombs with a mass of flowers, as 
though the mourners would hide, with the living 
delights of the earth, the misery of the grave. 


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CHAPTER VII 
Carthage 

The drive to Carthage is flat, dusty, and dull, and 
gives an unfair idea of the country surrounding 
Tunis, which in other directions has much classical 
charm. Gently undulating slopes, ancient olive- 
trees, purple mountains and vistas of an azure sea, 
are its characteristics, all of which are conspicuous 
by their absence on the road to Carthage. 

From the point of view of the hotel guide and 
concierge the carriage route has its advantage, but 
to the visitor the train saves much time and fatigue ; 
while for those who wish to avoid all walking, 
carriages can generally be hired at Carthage Station. 
From the railway there is a delightful view of the 
whole Bay of Tunis, seen across a stretch of yellow 
sand, dappled here and there by clumps of grey 
grass and clusters of poppies or asphodel. To the 
right lies the two-horned mountain above Hammam 
Lif, while beyond is Zagouan, from whence Carthage 
drew water by means of the great aqueducts which 


111 


TUNIS 

to-day supply Tunis with that foremost necessity of 
a healthy town. 

I remember that on one of my journeys to Car¬ 
thage the air was thick with millions of fluttering 
locusts, so large and so yellow that they might 
almost have been young canaries. The locusts are 
a terrible scourge to the country, but descending 
through the air with the irregular, uncertain move¬ 
ment of huge snowflakes, they presented a strange 
and beautiful spectacle. 

There is so much which is attractive on the side 
of the sea that there is no time for more than an 
occasional glance inland, where Arabs are reaping 
the corn, and Bedouin encampments, with their 
invariable accompaniments of camels and donkeys, 
give a touch of interest to a stretch of somewhat 
arid country. 

Before this book is published, visitors to Tunis 
will doubtless have the option of a third route. An 
electric railway is in the process of construction, 
which will cross the Lake of Tunis to La Goulette, 
and from thence be continued to Carthage and La 
Marsa. This will be a great convenience and a 
very considerable saving of time ; but, alas ! there 
is little doubt that surburban villas will spring up 
like mushrooms all over the hallowed ground of the 
ancient Byrsa. 

It is only in the light of history and archaso- 

11 2 


CARTHAGE 


logical research that Carthage is interesting. To 
the savant she offers rich opportunity for observa¬ 
tion, conjecture and reflection; but to the mere 
physical eye of the artist she is indeed a barren 
wilderness. Some fine distant mountains and a 
few wild flowers are all that she can give him. For 
the rest, she is nothing but a bare, dusty, shadeless, 
unattractive mound, surmounted by an ugly modern 
Gothic cathedral and an equally hideous monastery, 
while here and there a squalid restaurant or a 
modern villa arrests attention by its aggressive 
whiteness. 

To the eye of the archaeologist she presents a very 
different picture. He can stand with his back to 
the cathedral of St. Louis and reconstruct from the 
two insignificant lakes which lie below him the 
famous military and commercial ports of the Car¬ 
thaginians. Appian tells us they were so planned 
that ships could pass from one to the other, though 
only from the commercial port was there an opening 
to the sea. This exit was 70 feet wide, and was 
guarded by chains of iron. 

In the centre of the inner or military port there 
was an island surrounded by large docks, and there 
was a similar arrangement of docks round the outer 
edge. They formed, as it were, a series of stalls, 
and provided accommodation for 220 vessels. 
Behind each stall there was a building for the 

11 3 


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TUNIS 


storage of rigging, etc., and in front two Ionic 
columns, which gave the appearance of a continuous 
portico. 

The architectural effect must have been very 
imposing, as the scale of the harbour was vastly 
larger than the poor little pools of to-day would 
indicate. Indeed, Monsieur Beule has calculated that 
the commercial port nearly equalled in size the old 
port of Marseilles, which could accommodate 1,100 
vessels of a much larger size than the Carthaginian 
craft. 

It was outside these ports that Scipio constructed 
his famous dike, 96 feet wide at its base and 24 feet 
wide at the top, with which he completed the 
blockade of the city, and on which he placed his 
battering-rams. It was here, at a point to the left 
where, owing to the depth of water and exposure 
to wind, Scipio had been unable to continue his 
dike, that the Carthaginians, with the energy of 
despair, made a new exit, through which slowly, 
one by one, they were able to put out their ships, 
to the astonishment and dismay of the Romans. 

But of the many historic scenes recalled by these 
limpid waters, surely the most dramatic took place 
in the still darkness of night, when the Cartha¬ 
ginians, having brought their ships into the vicinity 
of the Roman dike, stripped themselves naked, 
and, silently wading to the deadly battering-rams, 

114 


CARTHAGE 


lighted their torches to set fire to these engines 
of destruction which had threatened to annihilate 
them. The Romans, though completely taken by 
surprise, lost little time in responding to the attack, 
inflicting, with sword and javelin, horrible wounds on 
the unprotected bodies of their antagonists. Yet 
many were so demoralized by the desperate valour 
of the enemy, that Scipio was afterwards obliged to 
maintain the discipline of his army by putting to 
death those who from terror had failed him. 

I tried to picture that tragic scene. The vast 
blue, luminous, star-studded sky of southern night; 
the dark water, flashing a hundred reflections from 
every flaming torch; across the bay the two-horned 
mountain of Hammam Lif, dimly visible, silent, 
yet aware; the naked forms of the Carthaginians, 
struggling, against fearful odds, to wrest from the 
closing grip of Rome the honour and freedom of 
their country, determined, at the worst, to sell their 
lives as dearly as they could. 

When all was over, and the spirits of the slain 
had left this earth, while their bodies floated on the 
water, then night gave way to dawn. The stars, 
which had twinkled in callous merriment at this 
drama of human passion and ambition, vanished 
before the rising sun, as he flushed with rosy tints 
the stately form of Bou-Cornein. Red-winged 
flamingos swept across the sky, repeating, in a 

11 5 


I 2 


TUNIS 


deeper note, the colour of the mountain; small 
birds sang and chattered from the olive twigs; 
while a thousand wild-flowers unfolded their dewy 
petals to welcome the King of Light. All, save 
man and the work of man, was just as it is to-day. 

Everything save man and his achievement. 
But what an achievement! and how it has passed 
away like wind ! A city of 700,000 inhabitants, 
the most magnificent and powerful in the world, 
the successful rival of Rome; the capital of a 
nation which owned the whole of the north coast 
of Africa from Tripoli to Tangier, the Canary 
Isles, half of Spain, and all the islands of the 
Mediterranean save one small corner of Sicily—a 
nation which, matchless in her knowledge of the 
art of navigation, was for centuries the undisputed 
mistress of the sea, sending her intrepid mariners 
and merchants eastward as far as Syria, southward 
as far as Senegal, and westward as far as Britain. 

And of this great civilization, and of the power¬ 
ful, enterprising, intellectual people who created it, 
nothing remains; while of their splendid metro¬ 
polis, the little lakes which were her ports, and a 
few ruined cisterns inhabited by squalid Bedouins, 
alone survive. 

I turned from the panoramic view of the ancient 
Byrsa and entered the cathedral of St. Louis. It 
was pleasant to leave the hot glare of the sun, 

116 


CARTHAGE 


and to rest in the cool, lofty church. A Mass was 
being celebrated and some thirty worshippers were 
present. I chose a seat in a dark corner at the 
extreme end of the nave and gave myself up to 
further thoughts of the past. 

I listened to the intoning of the service, to the 
tinkling of the bell, and watched the White Fathers 
as they made their obeisances and genuflections, 
prostrating themselves before a great unseen Power. 
I looked at the lighted candles, the swinging cen¬ 
sers, and the costly vestments, wondering if possibly 
something of this ornate ritual might not owe its 
origin, or may not also have existed, in the services 
held by the Carthaginians on this very spot 500 
years before Christ. 

Do not all religions owe much to their prede¬ 
cessors ? Christianity was founded on Judaism, 
and the Carthaginians were a Semitic race. The 
gods and goddesses of the Phoenicians were adopted 
under other names by the Romans, and it is even 
held by some that the importance ultimately given 
by the Church to the Virgin Mary was a con¬ 
cession to the inherited needs of converts whose 
former creeds had provided them with some em¬ 
bodiment of womanly sympathy. 

But if, indeed, any minor details of ancient cere¬ 
monial remain, the attributes of the Divinity 
worshipped by the pious White Fathers, of the 

117 


TUNIS 


Christ who said, “ Suffer little children to come 
unto Me, and forbid them not,” present a startling 
contrast to those of the horrible Baal-Moloch who 
“rejoiced in human sacrifice and parents’ tears.” 

The Carthaginians worshipped many gods, but 
acknowledged the supreme importance of three 
above all others. They were the terrible Baal- 
Moloch, Tanit the Virgin of the Moon, and 
Eschmoun. 

To bribe the favour and appease the wrath of 
Baal, hundreds of infants and young children were 
annually sacrificed at his shrine, and in time of 
war, or on the occasion of any particular event or 
crisis, additional victims were immolated. The 
launching, for instance, of a new warship was 
always such an occasion, and it made the ceremony 
still more tragic that the presence of the mothers 
was enforced, and any display of natural emotion 
on their part was punished by public chastisements. 
During a conflict with the Greeks in Sicily, when 
Agathocles made successful raids on Sousse, Tunis, 
and many minor towns and villages in the vicinity 
of Carthage, they hastened to appease the terrible 
god who had permitted this disaster to befall them 
by sacrificing 200 children chosen from the most 
noble and illustrious families. 

In his temple this sanguinary deity was repre¬ 
sented by a colossal bronze statue, whose arms were 

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extended, and the palms of whose hands turned up¬ 
wards, as if inviting his children to a fatherly caress; 
but no sooner was the infant held in his embrace 
than,- by a mechanical contrivance, his arms were 
lowered and the victim fell into the furnace beneath 
that another might swiftly take its place. 

I left the cathedral of St. Louis to make a closer 
acquaintance of the historic ports, which are un¬ 
doubtedly the most interesting relic of ancient 
Carthage. I engaged a small Arab urchin to carry 
my painting traps, in the faint hope that something 
pictorial might present itself; but as I descended the 
hope grew fainter, and I soon knew that it had been 
entirely vain. We took a bee-line, working our 
way over coarse stubble, wild-flowers, and thistles ; 
but neither thistles nor stubble caused any concern 
to the barefooted, barelegged youngster, who seemed 
as happy and comfortable as if he had been tripping 
on soft moss. We crossed the rails of the new 
electric railway, too probably the prelude to a third 
Carthage composed of tourists’ hotels and summer 
villas, and passing by a small Bedouin encampment 
where I gained immediate popularity by distributing 
a dozen cigarettes, came down to the edge of the 
old military port of Punic Carthage. 

The harbours were made by man, and have 
retained their artificial and symmetrical outline, 
conforming to the description given by Appian. 

119 


TUNIS 


The island in the centre, on which the admiral 
lived and from which he directed naval operations, 
is quite intact, though a narrow causeway now 
connects it with the mainland. At the time of 
my visit, excavations were being conducted and 
promised to be of extreme interest, giving a com¬ 
plete plan of the old building. If the foundations 
of the admiral’s pavilion still exist, there seems no 
reason why one should despair of finding those of 
the boat-houses. 

The water of the lakes is now very shallow, and 
their extent must have been far greater than at 
present. On the side nearest the sea there is just 
visible a slight depression of the sand, which may 
possibly mark the fresh opening made so skilfully 
at the time of Scipio’s siege. Along the seashore— 
and, indeed, in every direction—masses of ancient 
masonry are visible, though possibly these are 
remains of Roman Carthage. 

THE ROMAN THEATRE 

The Roman Theatre is almost the only ruin at 
Carthage which gives adequate assistance to the 
unlearned mind in its effort to picture the past. The 
general plan of the building is quite clear, and 
small portions of the original marble seating remain, 
just sufficient to enable one to imagine the rest. 
The position of the stage, with its exits, is clearly 

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CARTHAGE 


marked, and the arena is strewn with exquisitely 
carved Corinthian capitals, portions of rich cornices, 
and sections of columns in rare marbles, all testify¬ 
ing to the lavish wealth of detail which graced its 
decorations. From the higher tiers one sees the 
ever-delightful mountains, with a touch of cerulean 
sea beneath; though whether this delicious little 
peep of distance was visible when the building was 
complete is more than doubtful. Those old-world 
play-goers did not care to have their attention dis¬ 
tracted from the sayings and doings of the actors on 
the stage, and in choosing the site of this theatre 
the beauty of the distance had no more to do with 
its selection than at Taormina, where the far-away 
vista of Etna is still more lovely. 

It may be pointed out that at the date when 
Carthage enjoyed a Roman revival of its former 
greatness, legitimate drama had lost much of its 
popular favour and had been largely superseded by 
the pantomime. The Roman pantomime differed 
considerably from ours, and is thus described by a 
Latin author: “ One actor only, the pantomime, 
appeared on the scene, who was supported by a 
choir and orchestra. The choir sang the words 
(‘ canticum ’) and the actor translated them by his 
gestures. The pantomime arrived on the stage, 
and, saluting the public, announced by the gestures 
of his hand the subject which he was going to treat, 


121 


TUNIS 


and then, as the choir sang the words, he interpreted 
them by his movements. He quarrels, he plays, he 
loves, he is carried away, he is calm, he is agitated; 
he gives clearness and contrast to every sentiment; 
he reveals everything with marvellous beauty ; he 
speaks with his whole body. How astonishing,” 
adds the writer, “ is this art, which, while the 
mouth remains closed, gives to every word its whole 
meaning !” 

Other reasons also were accountable for the great 
popularity of the pantomime. The audience of the 
theatre was enormous, and embraced a large pro¬ 
portion of the lower class, many of whom could 
speak and understand little or no Latin. It was 
always the policy of the Romans to buy popularity 
by the lavish magnificence of their public perform¬ 
ances, and a custom seems to have arisen of showering 
down on the audience presents of all kinds at the 
end of the performance. “ Fruits, dates, apples, 
nuts, meats, pastries, and pieces of money specially 
struck for the occasion, were thrown from above, 
falling like hail on the audience. Hosts of rare 
birds, also, obscured the daylight as they descended 
in thousands from the sky. The presents were so 
numerous that they could not be held in the hands, 
but were fastened in the folds of the tunics.” 

Such is the description given by Seneca of 
theatrical fetes in the time of Nero, and he adds 


122 


CARTHAGE 


that when the Emperor found that the poorer 
classes, being the rougher and having no prejudice 
against a free fight, succeeded in getting nearly 
everything, he distributed to the senators and nobles 
tickets which could afterwards be exchanged for 
special gifts. This practice of bestowing gifts on 
the audience seems to have come into vogue as a 
development of the custom of allowing the needy to 
carry away the carcasses of beasts killed in the arena 
of the amphitheatre. 

The foundations of a temple dedicated to Saturn 
are fairly comprehensible on the plateau above the 
theatre, and there are innumerable remnants of 
massive walls and tunnels, the latter being, no doubt, 
cisterns or conduits. A few hundred yards farther 
on, in the direction of the village of Sidi-Bou-Said, 
is the basilica of Damous-el-Karita, so called because 
that is the name of the ground in which it lay 
buried when it was discovered by the learned and 
indefatigable Pere Delattre a few years since. It is 
very large, measuring 65 metres in length and 
45 metres in width, and it had four aisles on either 
side of the wide central nave. At the east end there 
was a large semicircular apse, which was open to 
the sky but had a covered colonnade. It contained 
also a baptistery, several chapels and vestries, and a 
secondary basilica. All these details seem quite 
simple when explained by Pere Delattre’s admirable 

123 


TUNIS 


plan, but without it the confused masses of 
crumbled masonry and broken pillars have little 
meaning to the average tourist. 

So large is its area that Pere Delattre thinks it 
may be the Basilica Major, in which it is recorded 
that the bodies of SS. Perpetua and Felicitas were 
interred. The fact that over 14,000 Christian 
epitaphs were found here helps to give some idea 
of its importance. Adjoining the basilica is the 
modern French cemetery, where many simple black 
wooden crosses mark the graves of the White 
Fathers. 

The view from this point is interesting, as, look¬ 
ing westward, one is able to realize the shape of the 
peninsula, which in the days of the Carthaginians 
had such a much narrower neck than it has now. 
Sidi-bou-Said, nestling closely to the hill like a 
white flowering creeper, sparkles in the sun ; while 
scattered here and there are a few olive-trees, 
pleasant to eyes which have looked in vain for an 
oasis of shade on the barren mound of Byrsa. 

Not very far away are the Roman cisterns. 
They have been restored, and supply La Goulette, 
La Marsa, and all the neighbouring villages with 
the clear, fresh water of Zagouan, brought in the 
great aqueduct constructed more than 2,000 years 
ago. “ Like the bleached vertebras of some gigantic 
serpent,” it stretches across the plain for a distance 

1 24 


CARTHAGE 


of 60 miles, its arches often rising to the height of 
60 feet, and sometimes to 125 feet. The volume of 
water conveyed is 7,000,000 gallons per day, or 
81 gallons per second. 

As stupendous engineering feats, the great Roman 
aqueducts command universal admiration. The 
huge piers and arches which support the conduit 
and carry volumes of water for enormous distances 
show on the part of their builders a perfect mas¬ 
tery over the difficulties of obtaining a gradual 
change of level, solidity of foundation, and other 
engineering problems. They have withstood the 
ravages of time for upwards of 2,000 years with such 
success that, with but slight repair, they still fulfil 
their purpose. 

But admiration for their grandeur is often qualified 
by a sneer at the apparently superfluous labour of 
carrying the water overhead when it could so much 
more easily have been conveyed in closed pipes 
underground, and it is foolishly assumed that the 
choice of the former method was made in ignorance 
of the fact that water finds its own level. On this 
subject the late Professor Middleton says : 

“ The Romans were thoroughly acquainted with 
the simple hydraulic law that water in a closed pipe 
finds its own level, or, as Pliny puts it, ‘ subit alti- 
tudinem exortus sui,’ and they took advantage of 
this fact by constructing pipes reaching to the tops 

I2 5 


TUNIS 


of lofty fountains, and rising mains to supply the 
upper rooms of houses, which branched off right and 
left from a main pipe laid under the pavement of 
the streets. It was not, therefore, in ignorance of 
the law of Nature that they constructed water- 
channels borne on long lines of arches, but simply 
because it was the most economical way to bring a 
large supply of water from a distance. Even in 
recent times the method has been resorted to with 
advantage, as in the case of the great Croton Aque¬ 
duct, 40 miles long, which supplies New York 
City, constructed between 1837 and 1842—and 
this in spite of modern improvements in iron-cast- 
ting, which allows iron pipes to be made of great 
strength and capacity, whereas the Roman pipes 
had to be made of the more costly and weaker lead, 
or in places of special pressure of the still more ex¬ 
pensive bronze. The calcareous deposit with which 
water from the neighbourhood of Rome so rapidly 
incrusts pipes and water-channels made it doubly 
convenient to employ channels which were always 
readily accessible, and could be cleaned out without 
any difficulty.” 

The cisterns, which strike one as being enormous, 
are 135 metres in length and 37 metres wide. 
There are eighteen of them, and they contain 
30,000 cubic metres of water. 

Monsieur Beule, a great authority on these matters, 

126 


SIDE-WALK IN THE SOUK-DES-ETOFFES, TUNIS 




■ 




• tfi/ jT /d^rr-i ut; i nau-'.iUUr' am v.\ 'aai:u -aoua 

. 

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/ 












CARTHAGE 

says that the plan of the cisterns is undoubtedly Punic, 
and thinks that the Romans copied Punic cisterns 
which had been destroyed. Mr. Bosworth Smith 
believes that they were merely repaired by the 
Romans. When the cisterns were being cleaned 
the arm of a colossal marble statue was found, which 
measured nearly 4 feet in circumference. 

These huge reservoirs are usually spoken of as 
the “ small cisterns,” to distinguish them from the 
still larger ones of La Malga, now in a ruinous 
condition but well worth a visit. 

Just opposite is the Hotel des Citernes, a dear 
little one-storied building, embowered in masses of 
pink, mauve, and blood-red geraniums. So thick 
were the blossoms that hardly any leaves were 
visible; but it is right to add that I am speaking 
of the month of June—a time of year when most 
English travellers have long since returned to their 
Mother Country, and are enjoying the hail-storms, 
east winds, and fireside warmth of London. I have 
never seen geraniums grow in such profusion, 
except, perhaps, in the Riviera, and there also in 
the month of June. Every cottage seemed to be 
“ en fete ” with them, and the blueness of the 
shadows which they cast on the whitewashed walls 
was almost as great a joy as the radiant colour of 
the flowers themselves. 


127 


TUNIS 


THE ROMAN AMPHITHEATRE 

The ruins of the amphitheatre lie quite close to 
La Malga and the old railway-station. Its general 
plan—which is, of course, elliptical—is clearly 
marked. Some of the underground water-ducts 
are visible, and here and there round the sides some 
arches suggest the vaulting of the substructure 
which carried the tiers of seats for the spectators; 
but, as is always the case at Carthage, much—very 
much—has to be left to conjecture. The amphi¬ 
theatre is mentioned in the writings of an Arab 
author of the Middle Ages, who states that it had 
five tiers of arches, enriched with columns and 
sculpture, and that there was then nothing in the 
whole universe which could be compared to it! 

In the centre of this arena Cardinal Lavigerie 
has erected a white stone pillar, surmounted by a 
cross, to the memory of the numerous martyrs who 
here suffered death, and also a small chapel to 
the honour of SS. Perpetua, Felicitas, Revocatus, 
Saturninus, and Secundulus. Its association with 
the tragic end of these heroic sufferers gives to the 
amphitheatre its greatest interest. The story is so 
pathetic and reflects so much light on the ardent 
faith and unflinching fortitude of the early Chris¬ 
tians, that I venture to quote it at some length. 

It was in the year a . d . 202 that Felicitas, Revo- 

128 


CARTHAGE 


catus, Saturninus, Secundulus, and Vivia Perpetua 
were arrested for avowing the abhorred faith. Per¬ 
petua was a young woman of aristocratic birth, 
belonging to a rich and powerful family. She was 
twenty-two years old, and had a young child at her 
breast. Felicitas was enceinte. Perpetua wrote 
with her own hand a portion of the story of their 
martyrdom. 

“ As my father,” she relates, “ because of his affec¬ 
tion, tried to persuade me to renounce my faith, I 
said to him: ‘ My father, do you see that vase on 
the ground ?’ ‘Yes,’ he replied. ‘ Can one give it 
any other name ?’ ‘ No,’ he said. ‘ Neither,’ said 

I, ‘ can I call myself anything but what I am—a 
Christian.’ 

“A few days afterwards we were put into 
prison. I was frightened, for I had never known 
such darkness. Oh, what never-ending days! 
what heat! One was suffocated by the mob, and 
some of the soldiers pushed us brutally. Also I 
was consumed with fright for my child. But the 
officials, Tertius and Pompone, assisted us, and, by 
paying silver, we were allowed to pass to a less 
crowded part of the prison. We left the dungeon, 
and I gave milk to my child, who was dying of 
hunger. 

“ We were placed on a kind of scaffold before 
the judge, who, when it came to my turn, joined 

129 K 


TUNIS 


with my father, and said: ‘ What! will neither the 
grey hairs of a father nor the tender innocence of a 
child, whom your death will leave an orphan, move 
you ?’ As my father attempted to drag me from 
the scaffold the judge commanded him to be beaten 
off, and a blow was given with a stick, which I felt 
as much as if I had been struck myself, so grieved 
was I to see my father thus treated in his old age. 
The judge pronounced our sentence, by which we 
were condemned to be exposed to wild beasts. We 
then joyfully returned to our prison, and, as my 
infant had been used to my breast, I sent Pompian, 
the deacon, to demand him of my father, who 
refused to send him. And God so ordained that 
the child no longer required to suck; nor did my 
milk incommode me. 

“ On the day of the public show my father came 
to find me out, overwhelmed with sorrow. He 
tore his beard, threw himself prostrate on the 
ground, and cursed his years, till I was ready to die 
to see my lather in so deplorable a condition. 

“ Felicitas f was eight months gone with child, and, 
as the day of the shows approached, was inconsol¬ 
able, lest she should not be brought to bed before 
it came, fearing that her martyrdom would be 
deferred on that account, because women with 
child were not allowed to be executed before they 
were delivered. Therefore she and her companions 

130 


NOON, TUNIS 




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CARTHAGE 


prayed that the child might be born in good time. 
Their prayer was immediately answered, and the 
child was adopted by a Christian woman.” 

A contemporary but anonymous writer here 
continues the history: 

“ The day of their triumph being come, they 
went out of the prison to the amphitheatre. Joy 
sparkled in their eyes and appeared in all their 
gestures and words. When they came to the gate 
of the amphitheatre the guards would have given 
them, according to custom, the superstitious habits 
with which they adorned such as appeared at these 
sights—for the men a red mantle, which was the 
habit of the priests of Saturn; for the women a 
little fillet round the head, by which the priestesses 
of Ceres were known. The martyrs rejected these 
adulterous ceremonies, and by the mouth of 
Perpetua said that they came thither of their own 
accord, on the promise that they should not be 
forced to anything contrary to their religion. The 
tribune then consented that they might appear in 
the amphitheatre habited as they were. 

“ Revocatus was immediately despatched by a 
bear. Saturnine was attacked first by a leopard 
and then by a bear. Afterwards he was exposed to 
a wild-boar, but the beast refused to touch him, 
though he killed the keeper. Then they tied him 
near a bear, but that beast came not out of his 

I 3 I 


K 2 


TUNIS 


lodge. So that Saturnine, being sound and not hurt, 
was called upon for a second encounter. This gave 
him the opportunity of speaking to Pudens, the 
gaoler that had been converted. The martyr 
encouraged him to constancy in the faith, and said 
to him : ‘You see that I have not yet been hurt by 
any beast. Believe, then, steadfastly in Christ. I 
am going where you will see a leopard with one 
bite take away my life.’ It happened so, for a 
leopard, being let out upon him, covered him all 
over with blood, whereupon the people, jeering, 
cried out: ‘ He is well baptized.’ The martyr 
dipped his ring in his wound and gave it to 
Pudens as a pledge of faith. He then fell down 
dead. 

“ In the meantime Perpetua and Felicitas had 
been exposed to a wild cow. Perpetua was first 
attacked, and the cow having tossed her up, fell on 
her back. Getting up, she perceived Felicitas on 
the ground, much hurt by a toss of the cow, so she 
helped her to rise. They stood together, expecting 
another assault; but the people crying out that it 
was enough, they were led to the gate Sanavi- 
varia, where those that were not killed by the 
beasts were despatched at the end of the shows by 
the ‘ confectores.’ 

“ All the martyrs were now brought to the place 
of butchery ; but the people, not yet satisfied with 

13 2 


CARTHAGE 


beholding blood, cried out to have them brought 
out into the middle of the amphitheatre, that they 
might see the last blow. Upon this some of the 
martyrs rose up, and, giving one another the kiss 
of peace, went of their own account into the middle 
of the arena. Others were despatched, without 
speaking or stirring, at the place they were in. 

“ St. Perpetua fell into the hands of a very 
timorous and unskilful apprentice, who gave her 
many slight wounds, making her suffer a long time. 
One badly directed stroke caused her to utter a cry 
of anguish; yet finally she had the courage to 
steady the point of the young gladiator’s trembling 
sword and guide it to her throat.” 

Quite lately Pere Delattre has found in the ruins 
of a vast Christian cemetery near La Marsu a stone 
in fragments, with the names of these martyrs 
graven on it. If it is not their actual tombstone, 
it is certainly a memorial of very early date. 

.NT MARTY .. r. 

t SATVRVS SATVRotjhw 
t REBOCATVS Secundulus 
t FELICIT PER petua 

I cannot allude to all the ruins of Carthage, for I 
have no time to dwell on them, and though for the 
most part they present little more to the eye than a 
confused ground plan, yet, teeming with associations, 

1 33 



TUNIS 


they refuse to be dismissed in a few bald lines. 
Nor can I embark on an appreciation of the 
museum of the White Fathers, which, demanding 
a volume to itself, has happily met with its deserts 
from the able pen of Miss Mabel Moore in her 
scholarly book, “ Carthage of the Phoenicians.” 


1 34 


CHAPTER VIII 


Half-Day Excursions from Tunis 

ARIANA 

In addition to Carthage, which is, of course, of 
paramount interest, there are many places near 
Tunis to which pleasant half-day excursions may 
be made. Among them is the semi-Jewish village 
of Ariana, which we had the good fortune to visit 
on the eve of the Passover. 

The electric tramway for Ariana starts at each 
half-hour—an important thing to know, as the 
concierge of your hotel is likely to be a newly 
arrived Swiss, knowing nothing of these matters, 
and he may assure you, as ours assured us, that it 
runs every five minutes. 

Passing the Belvedere Gardens, gay with mimosa 
in fullest blossom, the air heavy with its scent, we 
were soon in the real country, wooded with giant 
olives, which had surely lived a thousand years. 
Few trees, if any, have the individuality of the 

1 35 


TUNIS 


olive, or express a character so human. Dignity, 
ambition, courage, and victory; hatred, cunning, 
fear, and failure—every passion and emotion seems 
to be delineated on their boughs. But for the 
moment we must hurry on to Ariana, though at 
some future time I hope we may return for a stroll 
beneath these olives, and, passing over carpets of 
wild-flowers, find our way to the crest of the hill, 
to look down on a white city framed by purple 
mountains and an azure sea. 

Alighting from the tram, a hundred yards brought 
us to the little town. At each corner of the street 
there was an Arab cafe, neither looking specially 
attractive from the outside. Peering idly into one 
of them, we found a vaulted room with several 
recesses, and at the farther end a fascinating tiled 
fireplace, in the colour-scheme of which blue was 
the predominant note. Here the coffee cook was 
extremely busy with all the picturesque parapher¬ 
nalia of his art. 

It was evidently the fashionable hour for the social 
beverage, and the room was overflowing, yet fresh 
chairs were instantly found and placed at our service 
with that charming courtesy which the Arab never 
fails to show in his home, his cafe, or his shop. 
Simple shepherds and farmers, who had come into 
the town to sell their lambs to the Jews for the 
forthcoming feast, their manners showed a perfec- 

1 36 


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HALF-DAY EXCURSIONS FROM TUNIS 


tion of taste to which the European rarely attains, 
and they acknowledged our intrusion with a friendly 
glance of recognition, free from all inquisitive 
curiosity. On the walls there were framed texts 
from the Koran, while from the roof hung canary- 
cages, whose inmates, trilling a soprano melody, 
mingled their high notes with the low hum of 
Arab voices. 

These bronzed, swarthy men, robed in a simple 
white burnous, made a very satisfying picture; and 
it was something of a shock to glance through the 
open door into the little square, where well-to-do 
Jews were disporting themselves in their gaudiest 
robes, while their wives waddled about in volumi¬ 
nous trousers and a white satin “ haik,” deliberately 
arranged to emphasize their astounding development 
of adipose tissue. It was like turning from a rich, 
sombre old master to a vulgar chromolithograph, or 
from a harmonious water-colour to a bad reproduc¬ 
tion by the three-colour photographic process. 

Yet once out in the sun, we were able to enjoy 
the gay display of Jewish finery, and wondered if 
the old Phoenicians, who were of Semitic blood, 
aired themselves and their gauds in similar fashion 
3,000 years ago. 

At the other end of the little street we came 
across a group of shepherds discussing the points of 
their lambs. It was another harmony in various 

1 37 


TUNIS 


tones of brown, buff, ivory, and white, the creamy 
tone of the woollen burnous being the principal 
note, with here and there a touch of cool white 
given by the cotton “ haik,” which is worn under 
the burnous, but is brought across the turban and 
round the neck. Plaster walls repeated these deli¬ 
cate shades, and a cool white sky, with one or two 
graceful mimosa-trees against it, completed a de¬ 
lightful and very Biblical picture. There is one 
mosque, with a simple but effective minaret, and 
we noted a very archaic well, which was being 
worked by an aged camel. Certainly there is 
nothing of momentous interest in Ariana, but it is 
easily and pleasantly reached, and we far from re¬ 
gretted our visit to it. 

THE JEWISH CEMETERY 

On Fridays, and on the last day of the month, 
the Tunisian Jews visit the graves of their rela¬ 
tions, and lament over them. The sight is so 
strange, and perhaps unique, that it is worth the 
fatigue of a short but bone-shaking drive to see it. 
At first thought it seems an unwarrantable imper¬ 
tinence, and a callous one, to intrude oneself as a 
witness of the private grief of others, with no better 
excuse than that of idle curiosity. But the Jew 
does not share the Arab’s great appreciation of 
privacy in everything that pertains to his religion 

1 38 


HALF-DAY EXCURSIONS FROM TUNIS 


and family life; he is very complacent and friendly, 
and quite pleased that Christians should enter his 
synagogues and witness his weddings and funerals. 
He might even welcome the Arab, too, could the 
self-respecting follower of the Prophet ever demean 
himself by displaying an interest in the customs and 
ceremonies of those outside his own religious pale, 
which is, of course, inconceivable. 

The cemetery is about a mile and a half outside 
the town, and the road is dusty and shadeless; but 
the glare of the road is as nothing compared to the 
glare of the cemetery. 

An avenue of half-starved acacia-trees leads from 
the entrance to the chapel, a bare room with trestles 
in the centre and some wooden forms round the 
walls, but otherwise quite destitute of furniture or 
decoration. 

On either side of the avenue lie acres of white 
marble slabs, raised a foot from the ground. They 
are all on the same level, and of the same shape and 
area, so that only here and there, where a few strenuous 
weeds have forced their heads between the flagstones, 
does one see any “ accent ” on this huge mono¬ 
tonous marble dais. Of course I mean no per¬ 
manent accent, for of accents temporary, but 
emphatic, there are many in the form of portly 
Jewesses, who rock themselves as they loudly pro¬ 
claim their misery and woe, or prostrate their un- 

1 39 


TUNIS 


wieldy figures in silent but not less effective 
expression of utter abandonment and inconsolable 
grief. 

Such a universal display of suffering is at first 
very heartrending, but one soon realizes that, though 
some of the grief is doubtless genuine, this violent 
uncontrolled assertion of it is traditional and con¬ 
ventional. Noisy lamentations, with wailing and 
gnashing of teeth, are considered good form; but one 
suspects that those who wail most loudly are not 
always the saddest at heart. 

But if much of the misery was artificial and 
hysterical, the simulation was very real—tears rained 
over swollen faces ; lips were pressed with passionate 
fervour on the hard, unresponsive marble; hands 
were clenched and arms outstretched in attitudes of 
piteous entreaty, and the air was full of piercing 
cries and broken sobs. 

Strange, in contrast to all this hysteria, was the 
matter-of-fact behaviour of the professional readers 
or comforters, who, dressed in a coloured “ gan- 
douras,” stood beside the lamentators, and read, or 
rather intoned, with the utmost speed passages from 
Holy Scripture, their one object being to get 
through their business as quickly as possible. 

A very large proportion of the mourners were 
women; but many men and children were also 
present, though they were far less demonstrative in 

140 


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HALF-DAY EXCURSIONS FROM TUNIS 


their display of emotion than the women. Most 
of the latter wore the old-fashioned pointed head¬ 
dress, shaped somewhat like a fool’s cap, but worn at 
the back of the head, from which hung the white 
silk “ haik,” which draped nearly the whole figure. 

This head-dress is becoming somewhat obsolete, 
and one rarely sees it in the town. Also it was 
interesting to see many examples of the tight 
trousers or drawers, which have now been generally 
superseded by the far more becoming voluminous 
white satin trousers. The old-fashioned pattern 
fitted very tightly to the leg, invariably a fat one, 
and the effect was more comic than beautiful, espe¬ 
cially when the material is white. Those I noticed 
at the cemetery were all black, with the exception 
of a few of dark purple, and nearly all were richly 
embroidered with gold. 

As the flat tombstones all touched each other, 
there were, of course, no paths, and visitors passed 
over the slabs, slippers in hand. I noticed one 
elderly dame carrying a silk Oriental rug, which 
she carefully spread on the marble before com¬ 
mencing to indulge in the luxury of woe. Whether 
this was the survival of an obsolete custom, or 
whether this particular lady suffered from rheumatic 
tendencies and wished to take precautions against 
their possible development, I cannot tell. 

There is bound to be a reaction to indulgence in 

141 


TUNIS 


paroxysms of grief, and I was pleased to notice that 
a Tunisian Jewish cemetery offers no exception to 
the general rule. Here and there I saw quite 
cheerful little parties of gossipers. Faint echoes of 
laughter reached me more than once, and I ob¬ 
served that one young Jew was smoking a cigarette 
while chatting to his friends, though the custodian 
at the lodge had sternly commanded me to throw 
away mine. 

Outside the gates a large number of carriages 
were waiting to take the mourners back to Tunis, 
for the Jewesses, with their tiny slippers only half 
as long as their feet, are poor pedestrians; physical 
exercise, moreover, would reduce their weight, and 
so lessen the esteem and admiration of their hus¬ 
bands. “ II faut suffrir pour etre belle,” and it was 
better to endure the agonies of temporary compres¬ 
sion by sharing a carriage with three friends. 

BARDO 

Space does not allow me to make more than a 
passing allusion to the Bardo Palace, and the Alaoui 
Museum adjoining it. Though a couple of miles 
from Tunis, they are easily reached by the electric 
tramway, starting from the Place Bab-Souika. The 
palace is no longer used as a residence of the Bey, 
and a considerable part of the original huge building 
has been pulled down. The portion which remains 

142 


HALF-DAY EXCURSIONS FROM TUNIS 


contains a number of large rooms and galleries, fur¬ 
nished in atrocious French taste; and on the walls 
there are many portraits of deceased Beys and his¬ 
torical pictures, painted, for the most part, by in¬ 
different European artists. The museum, apart 
from the great interest of its collection of antiquities, 
is architecturally delightful. Some of the palatial 
halls are magnificent, but the rooms which appealed 
to me the most were the smaller ones, now used as 
an Arab museum. The collection in the larger 
halls embraces mosaics, statuary, bronzes, glass, and 
pottery of every age, but chiefly Roman, excavated 
in various parts of Tunisia. There are also models 
of the ruined remains of Roman cities in the 
Regency, those of Dougga being of great interest. 


CHAPTER IX 


_ Sousse (Hadrumetum) 

It is the absolute duty of every visitor to Tunis 
to make a pilgrimage to the holy city of Kairouan, 
and in doing so it is convenient to break the 
journey and spend a night at Sousse. There is a 
train which starts at the hideous hour of 6 a.m., 
for those whose time is very limited, and another 
at about 2 p.m., arriving at Sousse in time for 
dinner. Soon after leaving Tunis one passes the 
village of Djebel-Djeloud. The name is very 
attractive, but the next stopping-place, Rades, is 
really more interesting, and from it one can take 
many charming walks. A little farther on is 
Hammam-Lif, sheltered beneath a high hill, with 
a beach on the open sea, a casino, an hotel, and 
numerous villas—a very popular summer resort 
with the townsfolk of Tunis. 

A picturesque incident occurred on our journey, 
at the station of Grombalia. A huge crowd of Arabs 
had assembled on the platform, and were holding 

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aloft some tattered old flags, which fluttered in the 
wind. Great excitement prevailed, and a large case 
was brought out of the luggage-van and unpacked 
in their midst. It proved to contain some new and 
beautifully embroidered banners, presented by a 
wealthy Arab of Tunis to the mosque of his native 
village. They were quickly unpacked and un¬ 
furled ; a procession was formed, and to the wild, 
uncouth noises of an Arab band, which somewhat 
resembles the sound of many bagpipes, the flags 
were carried off to their exalted destination. 

We had as a travelling companion a pleasant 
Frenchman, a notary of Sousse. In one respect, 
however, he was far from cheerful, and that was in 
his views about the Arab. He declared that thirty 
years of intimate acquaintance had failed to bring 
under his notice a single instance of an Arab who 
resisted an opportunity of enriching himself by 
dishonesty or crime; that gratitude, loyalty, and 
honour were sentiments beyond his understanding; 
that the only emotion which would keep him 
straight was fear, and the only treatment to accord 
him that of kicks and blows. He illustrated his 
dismal theories by a most depressing sequence of 
histories, in all of which generous treatment of the 
Arab had ended in robbery or murder. The 
picture he drew was so black and so devoid of 
half-tones that our credulity revolted; we felt as if 

H5 


L 


TUNIS 


we had been harrowed by the ghastly stories of an 
anti-vivisectionist. We declined to believe that 
any class of human beings, Arabs or vivisectionists, 
are entirely devoid of gratitude, sympathy, and 
kindness. So we told ourselves that this man’s 
views were “ parti pris,” that his judgment on this 
question was warped and biassed; and, thus sooth¬ 
ing our harrowed nerves, we were able to look out 
of the window and note with friendly eyes those 
picturesque brown men, ploughing the earth with 
their patient camels, or trotting along the roads on 
diminutive donkeys. On other matters our fellow- 
traveller was a thorough-going optimist. The 
country, he assured us, had enormously grown in 
prosperity since the commencement of the French 
occupation, and he believed that its possibilities of 
further development were almost unlimited. 

If Sousse cannot compete in historical interest 
with Carthage; if its present-day importance is in¬ 
significant compared with that of Tunis; if it never 
possessed the sacred distinction of Kairouan and 
retains less of its Oriental glamour—in its claim to 
antiquity it admits no rival. Founded in the ninth 
century b.c., under the name of Hadrumetum, it 
is older than Carthage, though we know that in the 
sixth century b.c., it took its place in the second 
of the zones into which the territory governed by 

146 


SOUSSE (HADRUMETUM) 

Carthage was divided. In 307 b.c. Agathocles 
laid siege to the town, and in 203 b.c. it was to 
Hadrumetum that Hannibal retreated after his 
famous defeat by Scipio. In a.d. 448 the fortifi¬ 
cations were destroyed by the Vandals, but the 
inhabitants strengthened and protected their houses 
with so much success that they still resisted the 
intrusions of aggressors. In a.d. 534 it suc¬ 
cumbed, at the order of Justinian, to the army of 
Belisarius, and became known at this date as 
Justinianopolis. 

In a.d. 663 it was invaded by the Arabs, and in 
689, after the defeat of the Byzantine army at Thys- 
drus (El-Djem), it was governed by the Khalifat of 
Bagdad. At the beginning of the sixteenth century 
it was one of the haunts of the marauding Barbar- 
ossa, and for long continued to be a home of 
piracy. Lastly, it was occupied by the French in 
1881 without resistance. 

Such is the historical record of Sousse, which, 
under French direction, has become one of the most 
busy and prosperous ports of Tunisia. It has a fine 
modern harbour, and, lying on the side of a steep hill, 
it is effectively crowned by an imposing “ Kasbah,” 
from which there is an extensive view. There 
is an interesting museum, with several fine Roman 
mosaic pavements. The arcaded “ souks ” are pic¬ 
turesque, though badly ventilated. From the 

J 4 7 


L 2 


TUNIS 


higher level of its steep streets there are some 
delightful views, with peeps of azure sea below. 
The country round is richly wooded with olive- 
trees, and a mile or so out of the town there are 
some Christian catacombs. I can think of nothing 
more to say of Sousse. Doubtless if one arrived 
there by sea, not having any other places in Tunisia, 
it would seem to be a peculiarly romantic and 
beautiful city; but its charms are eclipsed by those 
of other places, and its chief reason for existence, as 
far as the tourist is concerned, is that it serves as a 
convenient place at which to break the journey 
between Tunis and Kairouan, and also as a starting- 
point for an expedition to El-Djem. But we must 
not neglect the catacombs. 

The lazy, good-for-nothing Arab loafers who, 
possessing a smattering of French and a knowledge 
of the relative positions of the sights of Sousse, 
style themselves guides, spare no pains in endea¬ 
vouring to persuade the tourist to visit the cata¬ 
combs, which, they assure him, are the most 
interesting and the most extensive in the world. 
For reasons which will appear later, I am unable 
to prove or disprove the truth of these assertions; 
but, in any case, for the visitor who has time at his 
command, the catacombs provide an object for an 
attractive drive in a two-horse carriage, for which 
the modest sum of two francs an hour is charged. 

148 


SOUSSE (HADRUMETUM) 

The country round Sousse is richly wooded, and 
is a pleasant change from the barren desert which 
surrounds Kairouan. Skirting round the town, we 
passed a few villas ablaze with geraniums; hedges 
and pergolas absolutely covered with blossom, for 
the most part pink and lilac, with an occasional 
splash of vivid scarlet. The flowers were so thick 
that hardly a leaf could be seen. Wheeling round 
by the “Kasbah” which crowns the town, and which 
is used by the French as a military fort, we diverged 
to the left into deliciously cool olive-groves, which, 
on the gently undulating ground, framed with their 
silvery foliage ever-varying pictures of sunlight 
and shadow on the far-stretching plain below. 
Wild flowers were growing in profusion, and here 
and there clumps of prickly cactus, thickly sprinkled 
with red and yellow blossom, promised a rich 
banquet of prickly pears for the sweet-toothed Arab. 
Now and again we passed a group of Bedouin 
women and children, and the former, less rigor¬ 
ously ruled by Mrs. Grundy than their town 
sisters, gaily kissed their hands to us. Every¬ 
thing seemed happy and cheerful, and we felt our¬ 
selves well fortified to withstand any gruesome 
sights which might be waiting for us in the under¬ 
ground passages of the catacombs. 

“ Ecco ! siamo arrivati,” said the Maltese driver, 
as we drew up opposite a tiny cottage. Jumping 

149 


TUNIS 


from his seat, he knocked at the door. Alas! there 
was no response, and, though with united force we 
knocked and hammered and battered at that door, 
our noisy demonstrations only served to enhance, by 
contrast, the dead silence which ensued. Evidently 
the custodian was away, and, as the iron gate which 
barred the steps leading down to the catacombs was 
locked, we could see nothing without him. A small 
tablet announced that they had been discovered 
by Colonel Vincent in 1888, and that, apparently, 
was all the information to be gleaned from my visit. 

Naturally, I at once felt that my one and only 
desire in life was to descend into these dismal 
passages, where the dust of persecuted Christians 
has lain at peace for nearly 2,000 years. It was 
useless to tell myself that I had seen many cata¬ 
combs, and that they bear a tiresome family resem¬ 
blance to each other—such philosophic reflections 
in no wise diminished my annoyance. 

Strolling discontentedly beneath the olive-trees 
some 300 yards from the faithless custodian’s cot¬ 
tage, I saw a red turban emerge from the ground, 
followed by the body, black as ebony, of a huge 
negro. After him came a French workman, with 
whom I at once engaged in conversation relative 
to the possibility of seeing the catacombs. The 
custodian had returned to the town for lunch, he 
explained, and would perhaps be back at four 

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o’clock (it was then eleven)! He and the negro 
were busy carrying out some extended excavations, 
and they had just ascended by an unsafe ladder, on 
which he could allow no distinguished visitor to 
risk his valuable life. But a little palm-oil lessened 
his sense of responsibility for our longevity, and I 
left the brilliant sunshine to descend, by means of 
the shaky ladder, into the dark, tortuous vaults 
below. I had no lantern, but, by striking hundreds 
of matches—French matches, which never last for 
more than two seconds—I was able to inspect a 
few tombs, which seemed to be in perfect preserva¬ 
tion, and the names and designs carved on them 
were quite legible. Without a lantern it was im¬ 
possible to really explore the passages, but they 
were evidently extensive, and formed an intricate 
maze in which it would be very easy to lose one’s 
way. I had no inclination to risk such an unpleasant 
experience, so I scaled the ladder, and, having re¬ 
lieved my feelings by soundly rating the Maltese 
coachman in my best Italian for bringing me to 
the catacombs at the custodian’s luncheon hour, I 
drove back through the olives and the wild flowers 
to the town. 

It was delicious to drink in the fresh, whole¬ 
some, scent-laden air after the dank stagnation of 
those subterranean vaults, yet my thoughts con¬ 
tinually turned back to them. 

I 5 I 


TUNIS 


I wondered if some of these sarcophagi con¬ 
tained the dust of early Christian martyrs, of whose 
heroism there are so many records. The catacombs 
were not to the primitive Christians merely places 
for the interment of their dead, to be visited oc¬ 
casionally from a sentiment of affection for de¬ 
ceased relations, a place associated with mournful 
regrets and dread anticipations. With a consistency 
which commands one’s admiration, and for which it 
is vain to search to-day, a cemetery was to them a 
place in which to rejoice over the courage and 
steadfast belief of their martyrs, and the peace ever¬ 
lasting enjoyed by all those who had died in the 
faith. At Easter and on the anniversaries of the 
death of their saints, public celebrations were held, 
and, with magnificent assurance, these anniversaries 
were always spoken of as “ birthdays.” 

In the time of St. Augustine these feasts had 
fallen into disrepute. Certain scandals had arisen 
in connection with them, and they were stopped by 
the bishops. Monica, St. Augustine’s mother, being 
unaware of the new order, took to the tombs, ac¬ 
cording to her custom, a small flask of wine and a 
basket of fruit. This light refreshment, which she 
had looked forward to sharing with her friends, the 
custodian ordered her to leave outside the door. 
St. Augustine, commending the unquestioning sub¬ 
mission of his mother on this occasion, says : 

! 5 2 


SOUSSE (HADRUMETUM) 

“ And so, when she came to the memorials of 
the saints, and was forbidden by the door-keeper to 
carry in the cakes, bread, and wine which she had 
brought with her according to use, she learned that 
it was against the Bishop’s orders, and submitted so 
piously and dutifully that I myself wondered to see 
how willingly she renounced her own practice 
rather than dispute his commands. For her spirit 
was not deafened by sottish cravings, nor did the 
love of wine provoke her to hate the truth, as is the 
case with too many, both men and women, whose 
gorge rises at the hymn of temperance and at a cup 
of water. But she, though she brought a basket¬ 
ful of the usual viands, to be tasted by herself and 
then given away, never set on the table more than 
one little cup of wine, diluted to suit her own 
abstemious taste, in order that she might satisfy the 
requirements of her position. And if she was called 
upon to attend many such memorials of the dead, 
she carried the same little cup wherever she went, 
permitting her friends to take only the merest sip, 
so that the contents became little better than luke¬ 
warm water, because in this she sought not pleasure, 
but devotion. 

“ And so, when she learned that the illustrious 
preacher and godly prelate had forbidden these 
things to be done, even by those who did them in 
all sobriety, lest any occasion of excess should be 

1 53 


TUNIS 


given to the intemperate, and, further, because 
these memorials are too like the superstitious 
Parentalia of the Gentiles, she willingly submitted, 
and in place of her basketful of the fruits of the 
earth she learned to bring to the memorials of the 
martyrs a bosom full of purer offerings, so that she 
might give what she could to the poor, and that 
the communion of the Lord’s body, in imitation of 
whose Passion the martyrs were sacrificed and 
crowned, might be celebrated at the memorials in 
this way.” 

The gloom of these underground passages also 
recalled the mines in which the early Christians 
were so often condemned to work. The victims 
of this form of persecution often belonged to the 
upper classes, accustomed to luxury and ease, to 
whom the hardships inseparable from the working 
of a mine were rendered more intolerable by 
the brutality of the overseers. A very interesting 
letter from some of these unfortunate miners, in 
reply to one received by them from St. Cyprian, has 
been preserved, and runs as follows: 

“Very dear Cyprian, 

“We bless you for having renewed our 
courage. Our limbs no longer feel the lashes of 
the whip, and our feet seem to be freed from their 
chains. Light has penetrated into the darkness of 

J 54 


rN THE COVERED SOUKS OF KAIROUAN 










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SOUSSE (HADRUMETUM) 

our prison, these dread mountains have become 
smiling valleys, and the sickening smell of the 
lamps in the dark passages has been changed into 
the scent of flowers. Let us mutually help one 
another in our prayers, and ask God, Jesus Christ, 
and the holy angels to direct us in all our conduct.” 

Little wonder that with such examples of heroic 
optimism every martyrdom brought its hundred 
converts. 


l SS 


CHAPTER X 


El-Djem (the Roman Thysdrus) 

There is no difficulty about visiting El-Djem, as 
there is a daily automobile postal service between 
Sousse and Sfax, which, stopping half-way at El- 
Djem, takes passengers there in three hours. If 
money is of no consequence it is pleasanter to engage 
a motor-car, of which there are many for hire, but 
the charge is fifty francs instead of twelve francs fifty. 
If it is desired to return to Sousse the same day, the 
latter is the only course, as the public motor only 
runs once a day each way, starting from Sfax in the 
early morning. The special motor takes from an 
hour and a half to two hours. 

The postal motor starts from Sousse at one 
o’clock, rather a hot hour in the summer-time; but 
I was lucky in having a grey day, the only sunless 
day during the past three weeks. 

The one outside seat was engaged, but the inside 
of the omnibus was really quite comfortable, and I 
had only one fellow-passenger, an Arab, a native of 
Gabes, with a strong touch of the tar-brush about him. 

l 5 6 


EL-DJEM (THYSDRUS) 

He was slightly drunk, but quite amiable, and, 
though dressed in rags, carried, with evident pride, 
a large bundle wrapped in a brightly coloured hand¬ 
kerchief. As soon as we were well started he 
proceeded to undo his bundle, and lay out all his 
treasures on the seat. They included a new white 
cotton shirt, a new white calico gandoura em¬ 
broidered with white thread, a handsome silk cum¬ 
merbund, canary-coloured slippers, or “babouch,” as 
they are called; and finally, a very magnificent 
orange-coloured silk waistcoat, richly embroidered 
with silk of a slightly darker shade, and with at 
least fifty buttons and buttonholes down the 
edges. 

Having regarded them lovingly for some time, he 
proceeded to divest himself of his rags and don his 
finery, and in doing so displayed a torso so com¬ 
pletely covered with tattooing that from the decora¬ 
tive point of view it seemed a pity to hide it, and 
one wondered if even from Mrs. Grundy’s stand¬ 
point his nudity was not sufficiently disguised. 

His fresh toilette presented no difficulties till he 
reached the stage of endeavouring to fasten the fifty 
buttons of a waistcoat which was much too small, 
especially on a very hot day, just after lunch. Pride 
feels no pain, and my friend never flinched from his 
self-imposed task of moulding his figure to fit his 
waistcoat: not even when he reached the lower half, 

J 57 


TUNIS 

and deep inhalations became necessary in order to 
make ends meet. 

The road to El-Djem is very long and somewhat 
monotonous, and its bee-line straightness reminded 
me of roads in Normandy and Brittany. For the 
first hour we drove through forests of olive-trees, 
many of which were very old, and fantastic in shape. 
But one can have too much of a good thing, even 
with aged and venerable olives, and we experienced 
some sense of relief when at last we emerged into 
open country and could see a horizon, even though 
the country before us was flat and rather barren. 

But though the scenery was dull, we were far 
from feeling bored. The tremendous vibration of 
the motor effectively prevented us from feeling 
sleepy, and the little incidents of the road, though 
trifling enough, were full of interest to our eyes. 
A flock of goats, with their primitive picturesque 
shepherds, surely the counterpart of those who fol¬ 
lowed the same calling 3,000 years ago, would pass 
along the road; or, again, a party of Bedouins on 
their camels and donkeys, with all their worldly 
possessions attached thereto, representing more 
closely the actual scene of the Flight into Egypt 
than many celebrated pictures of this subject by 
eminent artists. 

Presently we passed the old-fashioned two-horse 
diligence, still largely used by the Arabs on account 

,58 


EL-DJEM (THYSDRUS) 

of its cheapness, though it takes ten hours to make 
the journey instead of three ; but any feeling of 
superiority of which we might have been conscious 
was quickly shattered by the passing of a private 
“ Fiat” motor-car, which must have covered the dis¬ 
tance in considerably less than an hour and a half. 

About half an hour before reaching El-Djem, 
the great massive pile of its amphitheatre becomes 
visible against the horizon, standing out with start¬ 
ling effect as the only object on the huge, void plain. 

Though actually immense in size, its complete 
isolation conveys an exaggerated impression of its 
enormous proportions, which seem in their might 
to defy the possibility of extinction by time or 
vandalism. 

To withstand the assaults of barbarians it has 
indeed required more than ordinary powers of 
resistance ; for soon after the foundation of Kairouan 
the Berbers, who had aided the Arabs in their 
invasion of the country, found that their new masters 
were worse than the Byzantines, and revolted. 
Under the leadership of Queen Kakina they defeated 
the Arabs at Carthage, and retired to El-Djem, 
where, turning the amphitheatre into a fortress, they 
defied, for more than three years, all the efforts of 
Sidi Okbah to dislodge them. To render their 
position more secure, they devastated the country 
round, burning the immense forests. 

1 59 


TUNIS 


Though the country round El-Djem is now 
almost denuded of trees, there are a few olives in 
the immediate vicinity of the amphitheatre and Arab 
village, for which the visitor is truly grateful. There 
is no doubt that in the time of the Romans the soil 
was richly cultivated, and that it is still capable of 
being turned to profitable account. 

As the amphitheatre is said to have accommodated 
70,000 spectators, and next to that of Rome 
was the largest in the world, the city must have 
been of great importance, and its population con¬ 
siderable. It possessed without doubt a majestic 
forum, a magnificent theatre, imposing public baths, 
and all the other great official buildings and monu¬ 
ments, the grandeur of which, magnificent alike in 
scale, in conception, in execution, and in lavish 
wealth of detail, gave dignity to the life of even the 
poorest inhabitant of a great Roman city. 

To support this huge population, the country 
round must have been scientifically and successfully 
cultivated. Where now, as far as the eye can reach, 
there is nothing but bare, sterile earth, there were 
thousands of acres of ripening corn, there were 
forests of trees, there were lakes, there were flourish¬ 
ing industries and manufactures; and yet, of the great 
civilization which covered this prosperous corner of 
the earth, nothing now remains but the ruined walls 
of a single building. 

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I had the good luck to see the amphitheatre by the 
light of a full moon, when its colossal proportions 
were even more imposing than they had been under 
the pink flush of sunset. An Arab wedding was to 
be celebrated that evening, and I had half promised 
my guide to attend it; but in the presence of that 
great monument of Roman culture I lost, for the 
moment at any rate, all sympathy for Arab cere¬ 
monies, or for the Arabs themselves. 

When I looked down at their squalid hovels 
clustered round the base of the amphitheatre, I was 
filled with rage at the intrusion of these miserable 
shiftless fanatics, mongrel descendants of barbarians 
who had swept in hordes over the whole country, 
devastating and destroying, like armies of locusts, 
all with which they came into contact. 

I hated their ragged picturesqueness, their 
marabouts, their narrow - minded superstitions. 
What had they achieved, these miserable usurpers ? 
Their mosques, constructed from pillaged columns 
and capitals, seemed an unforgivable outrage; their 
graceful minarets, their fanciful decorations in 
carved plaster and coloured tiles, seemed mere petty 
prettinesses ; their religion, a piecing together of 
previous ethical systems with the ethics left out; 
their fatalism, a stagnant pool, clouding their intellects 
with its deadly miasma. I was willing to believe 
all the dismal tales told to me by the French, 

1 6 1 M 


TUNIS 


illustrative of their immorality, their utter lack 
of “ mentalite,” their absolute inability to under¬ 
stand the most elementary principles of honour or 
truth. 

The spirits of those grand old Romans whose 
ashes lay mingled with the surrounding earth 
certainly took possession of me that night, while the 
great placid moon shone with apathy on the ruins of 
a civilization of which she had witnessed the birth, 
the growth, and the decay. Man may call her a 
dead world, but she is able to assert existence in 
mocking contrast to his transient handiwork. 

But I must clip the wings of my fancy, lest, 
under lunar influence, it should soar beyond the 
limits of my reader’s patience, and I will therefore 
quote from a popular and useful guide-book a few 
bald but not uninteresting facts about this wonder¬ 
ful ruin : 

“ This splendid monument, running from east 
to west, forms a long ellipsis, of which its greater 
axis is 489 feet, and its smaller 407 feet; its 
circumference is 1,200 feet. The arena is 300 feet 
long, and 200 feet wide. The wall is 66 feet thick, 
leaving galleries 60 feet wide. Above the ground 
were four storeys, each storey supported by sixty-four 
arches, separated from each other on the exterior by 
beautiful Corinthian capitals; but the upper storey 
has now disappeared. The long and high galleries, 

162 


EL-DJEM (THYSDRUS) 

with broad staircases which served as seats for the 
spectators, have nearly all been destroyed.” 

I read this informing passage, with a few others, 
as I lay in bed at my primitive little inn, before 
extinguishing my candle. I thought it might have 
a sedative effect on my excited brain ; and I felt 
thankful that I had not personally been compelled 
to measure the circumference, or count the number 
of arches. But the shades of the Romans still 
hovered round me, and although I fell asleep, it was 
to dream of a great festival given by the Emperor 
Gordian, under whose auspices the amphitheatre 
was constructed in a. d. 236. 

I dreamed that I was a poor peasant lad, hailing 
from a village which lay half-way between Thysdrus 
(El-Djem) and Hadrumetum (Sousse), a two-days’ 
journey on foot from either place. My father’s 
house was at the edge of a great forest of olive-trees, 
which helped to attract the rain, so needful for the 
crops we grew on the flat plain below and which 
also screened us from the hot and devastating desert 
wind. The houses of our village were built of 
rough stone, unlike those wooden huts which look 
like boats cut in half, where live the Berbers ; or 
the tents of matting which the Bedouins carry about 
with them from place to place and which they 
often pitch in our forest, doing much damage to the 
trees by cutting them about for firewood and other 

163 m 2 


TUNIS 


purposes. We tilled the ground, which belonged to 
a great Roman noble of Carthage, keeping half the 
money which the sale of corn and other things 
fetched, and sending the other half to this great 
lord. In the summer-time we slept in the forest, 
and during the winter in our stone houses. There 
was once a time when it was dangerous to sleep in 
the open country, because of the panthers and other 
dangerous beasts which infested it, but hundreds of 
them have lately been trapped, in order that they 
may serve to devour those impious people called 
Christians, who refuse to abase themselves to our 
protecting gods. 

Strange stories sometimes reached us that these 
same Christians threw spells on the fierce brutes, 
averting in that way the natural desire and instinct 
of these savage creatures to bury their claws into 
human fiesh, and tear the entrails out of the body. 
These rumours, together with tales which my 
grandfather had told me of a great festival which he 
had seen at Carthage when a young man, had given 
me a longing to see such things, and when praying 
to the gods, I had often added a private petition that 
they would allow this happiness to befall me. 

When, therefore, it was made known to us that 
the great Emperor had ordained this festival, in his 
kind and fatherly forethought for his humble sub¬ 
jects, I persuaded my father to let me honour the 

164 


EL-DJEM (THYSDRUS) 

Emperor by attending it; and also, by describing 
from my fancy the things which I thought we 
should see, cajoled my cousin Cory don to come with 
me. This latter was no easy task, as Corydon had 
taken to himself a wife but two weeks before, and, 
being greatly enamoured, was loath to leave her. 

Nevertheless, I succeeded, and I offered up thanks 
to the gods, and especially to the goddess Juno, she 
of the Moon, who perhaps sent these Christians into 
the world that so we might be freed from the 
terror of the panthers. 

Of the journey I will not speak, because, though 
there were great crowds passing on the road, and 
we saw many things, wonderful and strange, yet, by 
comparison with those which came after, they now 
seem as nothing. 

We reached Thysdrus at sundown, and never can 
I forget the sight of that great world of buildings, 
which, though in reality white, seemed pink and blue 
in the light and shadow of the low red sun. There 
were banners and flags of every colour floating in the 
gentle evening breeze, and there were tall masts and 
poles, coloured in stripes, from which hung wreaths 
and great festoons of what we mistook for flowers, but 
which later we discovered were but bleached and 
coloured leaves. There were lofty columns support¬ 
ing gold statues, which shone like lanterns against the 
sky, but above everything towered the great arena 

l6 5 


TUNIS 


where the pageant was to be. My grandfather had 
warned us not to spend the night inside the city, 
lest we should be robbed ; so we chose a pleasant 
spot under a big caruba-tree, and were about to lie 
down, when we heard laughter and saw a crowd of 
men round some lighted torches. Joining the throng, 
we found a beautiful young girl dancing on a small 
wooden platform. Her hair, black as ebony, was 
plaited with scarlet ribands and fastened with gold 
and silver chains. Her skin was white like cream, 
only her lips were red like the feathers of the 
sacred flamingo which sometimes haunts the lake 
near our village. She was naked to the waist, but 
her breasts I could not see, for they were covered by 
large shells of iridescent lustre, fastened by ropes of 
smaller shells which hung in many loops and bands. 

To the rhythm of drums she moved her limbs 
and all the muscles of her torso with the supple¬ 
ness of a kitten, but with a grace which was 
all her own. Though she was silent with her 
lips, yet she spoke with her whole body, and 
told me all her troubles and her pleasures, all 
her disappointments and her hopes. As I watched 
her, I could have laughed with joy and wept with 
sympathy. Yet even when she smiled and showed 
her dazzling teeth, her eyes had a lurking air 
of sadness, which perhaps no other could detect, 
so that I longed to close her eyelids and kiss the 

166 


EL-DJEM (THYSDRUS) 

sorrow away. She was so beautiful, so dear, so 
sweet, and withal so modest and so good, that I 
hated the crowd of men who leered at her as they 
applauded, and at last I felt so angry that I was 
obliged to leave. When I spoke to Corydon of my 
warm love for this girl and of how happy I should 
be if I could marry her, though of course I knew 
that such a thing could never happen, he laughed, 
and said such wicked things, that I could have 
killed him. It was not until we began to talk about 
the morrow and the wondrous things we were about 
to see that I could forgive him, and not quite even 
then. 

Tired with our long journey, we slept soundly for 
a few hours; but we were up at daybreak, for the 
noise of the excited crowds which now passed along 
the road in a continuous stream, combined with the 
roaring of hundreds of wild beasts, would have made 
further sleep impossible to the veriest sluggard. The 
noise of the animals became louder and louder as 
time passed, for in order to make them fiercer, no 
food had been given to them for many hours. 

Great excitement prevailed everywhere, and to 
me all was strange and wonderful. I gazed with 
wonderment at the dresses of the people, so gay and 
different from those in our village; the shops and 
booths in the streets and market, where things I 
had never imagined were exposed for sale, though 

167 


TUNIS 


all too dear for us to buy. Strange it was, also, to 
hear so many people talking in words of which I 
could understand nothing ; and this would have 
made me feel very lonely, if I had not had the 
company of Corydon. I was very glad I had per¬ 
suaded him to come, and still gladder that I had not 
killed him the night before. 

We followed the crowd to the great amphitheatre 
—no need to ask the way, all were passing thither. 
At intervals, soldiers were stationed, to clear the road 
for the nobles in their chariots. At last we found 
ourselves in our seats in the high gallery, numbered 
tickets having been given to us at the entrance, to 
avoid crowding and disorder. We were in the 
highest row of seats, except those occupied by the 
women. It is said that a new custom has arisen 
in Rome which allows the women to be seated 
with the men, but such was not the habit at 
Thysdrus, nor at any city except Rome. Below us 
lay the great marble cavea, or auditorium, now 
nearly full of wealthy citizens and land-owners; 
while in the lower seats—called the podium—the 
senators, magistrates, vestal virgins, the editor, and 
other important personages were seated, in their own 
portable and luxurious chairs. All were robed in 
the white toga, so that there should be no mixing 
of bright colours to arrest attention from the per¬ 
formance in the arena. This was told me by a man 

168 


EL-DJEM (THYSDRUS) 

named Burbo, who sat on my right, Corydon being 
on my left. Burbo was a servant in the household of 
Clodius. He had been in Rome and many other 
distant places, and he made clear to me much of 
what I could not otherwise have understood. He 
thought it far better to banish the women to the 
top of the seats, as by the fascination of their 
glances even more than by the brightness of their 
clothes, they distract the mind. In this I do not 
doubt that he was right, though I should have been 
well pleased if the beautiful dancing-girl, of the 
white skin, the coral lips, and the sad eyes, had 
been by my side. Eagerly I scanned the women’s 
gallery in the vain hope of seeing her once more. 
Behind the women’s seat there was a high wall, 
with open arches for ventilation, and from poles, 
fastened by iron brackets, hung the velaria, or 
awning, which shielded us from the sun. It was 
made of white wool with broad crimson stripes, 
and in its centre was a large opening, to admit more 
air, and to light the arena. Round this opening was 
a wide band of gold silk, which harmonized well 
with the deep blue of the sky. The velaria was 
kept cool by being constantly sprayed with water, 
so strongly scented that, closing the eyes, one could 
fancy oneself in an orange-garden. 

In the centre of the arena there was a small oasis 
of palm-trees, mingled with flowering bushes, in 

169 


TUNIS 


which Burbo told me tigers and other wild animals 
would probably take refuge, for a few futile moments, 
when being pursued by armed huntsmen, and which 
would also form an island when the arena was 
flooded for the hippopotamus and alligator hunt, one 
of the many aquatic items on the programme. The 
walls which surrounded the arena and divided it 
from the podium were adorned with pictures of 
wild beasts and portraits of famous huntsmen and 
gladiators, interspersed with pious invocations to the 
gods, and emblems to avert the evil-eye. On the 
top of this wall, or parapet, masses of roses, jessamine, 
violets, and other sweet-scented flowers were laid, 
which added a subtle and delicious quality to the 
perfume of orange-flower from the velaria. 

To absorb the blood of beasts and men slain or 
wounded during the combats, the floor of the arena 
was covered with sand, sprinkled with gold and 
silver dust in lines and circles. These patterns gave 
a beautiful effect, but cost much money and were 
soon destroyed when the combats had begun. 

Round the edge of the arena were many barred 
openings, from which proceeded the roars of lions, 
the snarls of tigers, the wails of criminals, and 
the chants of Christians. One opening, loftier 
than the others, was for the elephants, of which 
several were to be killed. Burbo told me that 
lions are now very difficult to procure, many 

170 


EL-DJEM (THYSDRUS) 

hundreds having been killed in the amphitheatre. 
Every year it is needful to penetrate further and 
further into the desert to find them. Of elephants 
no more are to be found in Africa, and they are 
now brought at great cost and with much difficulty 
from Asia with the tigers. Those who are 
successful in capturing lions and other formid¬ 
able beasts alive win much distinction and honour, 
even when their birth and breed is of the 
humblest. Quite lately an intrepid lion-hunter, 
named Olimpius, died. He was a negro, black as 
jet. During the latter years of his life he amassed 
a large fortune by the sale of beasts which he had 
captured; and treated with great honour by all the 
highest families of the capital, he was also the 
adored hero of the populace. At his death many 
poets sang his praises, one of them declaring that his 
complexion prejudiced no one, since all the world 
admits the beauty of ebony; another, that sombre 
violet is a colour of which one never tires, since it 
blends harmoniously with all others. 

Chatting about such things, and eating the cakes 
which we had brought with us, we pleasantly 
passed the time. Suddenly a blast of trumpets an¬ 
nounced the pompa or procession of the gods, who, 
brought from the temple in triumphal cars, were 
accompanied by the priests in magnificent vestments. 

Certainly it is right and fitting that the gods 

171 


TUNIS 


should inaugurate the festivals which are given in 
their honour, and which, indeed, they themselves 
have sent us. Slowly the procession made its way 
round the arena to deafening cheers from 80,000 
throats. Surely, I thought, the Christians who 
hear this proof of the power and might of our 
deities will acknowledge their supremacy, and so 
be saved from a bloody and fearful end. At last 
the circuit of the procession was completed ; we 
privately invoked the continued protection of our 
special gods, who were now all taken back to 
their temples. Another blast from the trumpets 
commanded silence while the editor announced the 
first combat. With eager eyes and quickened pulse, 
we prepared ourselves to witness the victory of the 
strong and brave, and the death of the weak and 
wicked. 

No one, much less an illiterate peasant lad like 
me, could adequately describe the marvellous things 
we saw during those three long days. Two hundred 
animals and fifty gladiators were killed each day. 
Every event seemed more wonderful than the last. 
The suspense of the moment when an infuriated 
lion crouched to spring on a huntsman who was 
struggling to balance his spear with a maimed arm, 
stopped the beating of one’s heart; yet this was but 
a feeble prelude to the horror with which one heard, 
an instant later, the victim’s skull crunch in the 

172 


EL-DJEM (THYSDRUS) 

lion’s jaws. The agonized trumpeting of the 
elephant when a tiger’s claws were buried in his 
eyes thrilled every nerve; yet the tiger’s death-yell, 
when hurled against the podium wall, had a more 
poignant ring. 

Sometimes there were sights so horrible that, 
being unaccustomed to such things, I closed my 
eyes, lest I should vomit; and this happened often 
during the tortures of the Christian martyrs. Their 
calm demeanour and astounding courage sometimes 
suggested the impious thought that a real and 
powerful god supported them. Unflinchingly they 
met their doom, and showing no fear, welcomed 
death with a joyous smile, always affirming, with 
the last breath, confidence in their Christ. 

But there were many gayer episodes, during which 
the great audience rocked with mirth and laughter. 
There were buffoons who, disguising themselves as 
animals by wearing their skins, engaged in combat 
with mock gladiators, the latter affecting terror and 
cowardice in the presence of these harmless clowns. 
Such diversions served to cool the blood, which, 
during life and death struggles, courses through the 
veins like fire. 

Each evening the meat from the slaughtered 
animals was distributed to the poor, and this, though 
a kind charity, led to much fighting. At the end 
of the performance on the third and last day, sweets 

I 73 


TUNIS 


and cakes, with trinkets and small silver coins 
specially struck as a souvenir of the occasion, were 
showered among the people. 

I was glad to have these trifles, that I might take 
them home to my sisters and brothers; but, for 
myself, I need no such remembrance. The splendour 
and the beauty, the horror and the pathos, of the 
sights I witnessed, will never fade from my memory 
till I die. The gods be praised ! 

I waked from my dream, but some minutes 
elapsed before I could collect my senses and realize 
my actual surroundings. The bareness of my tiny 
whitewashed bedroom, the heavily-barred window 
so strongly shadowed on the opposite wall, the 
roaring of camels, with the chatter of children and 
beggars in an unfamiliar tongue, combined to create 
a hazy impression that I was confined in a Roman 
cell, though whether as a pagan criminal or a 
Christian martyr I was not sure. Doubts as to my 
personality and surroundings, however, were soon 
set at rest by three bronze-skinned urchins, who, 
pulling themselves up to the window-sill by the 
iron bars, called out in chorus: “Je vous vois! 
Donnez moi un sou.” 


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CHAPTER XI 


St. Augustine and the Amphitheatre. The 
Backsliding of Alypius 

Apart from their association with Christian 
martyrdoms, the exciting pleasures of the amphi¬ 
theatre were wholly abhorrent to the ascetic spirit of 
the early Fathers. The laudation of physical power 
—the very marrow of the arena and the essence of 
gladiatorial combats—was hateful to the Christian, 
who regarded the body as an unworthy husk which 
trammelled the freedom of the soul; a natural 
enemy, to be scourged, ill-treated, mortified, and 
insulted. 

The circus was the first of worldly pleasures which 
the convert was expected to give up, and that this 
renunciation was no easy one is shown by St. 
Augustine’s story of his friend Alypius, from which 
I give the following extract: 

“ Alypius was a native of the same town as 
myself; his parents were burgesses of the best 
condition, but he was younger than I. For he 

l 7S 


TUNIS 


had been one of my pupils when I first began to 
lecture in our town, and afterwards at Carthage, and 
he was warmly attached to me through his opinion 
of my character and learning ; so also was I to him, 
because of the virtuous excellence which was 
conspicuous in one so young. 

“ But at Carthage the foolish passion for public 
shows is like a boiling whirlpool; he too had been 
sucked in by the madness of the circus. While he 
was tossing miserably in this gulf, I had already 
become professor of rhetoric there, and kept a school; 
but he did not as yet attach himself to my class, in 
consequence of a difference which had arisen between 
his father and myself. 

“ I had discovered that he was ruinously addicted 
to the circus, and it was a deep grief to me, because 
I thought he was likely to ruin, if he had not 
already ruined, such fair hopes. But I could find 
no opportunity of admonishing or putting any 
pressure upon him, because I had neither the 
confidence of friendship nor the authority of a 
master. 

“ One day, when I was sitting in my accustomed 
place with all my pupils around me, he came, 
saluted me, took his seat, and applied his mind to 
the subject in hand. It so happened that I was 
busy with the exposition of a passage which sug¬ 
gested the use of the Circensian games as an illustra- 

176 


THE BACKSLIDING OF ALYPIUS 


tion, enabling me to convey my meaning in a clearer 
and more attractive way, with a touch of sarcasm 
upon the victims of that mad folly. 

“ Thou knowest, O my God, that I was not 
thinking of curing Alypius of that plague. But he 
took my words home to himself, and thought that I 
had so spoken only on his account. Moved by my 
words, Alypius leaped out of that deep pit into 
which he had wilfully plunged, and wherein he 
was blinded by a wretched passion; he shook his 
mind with a strong self-control, till all the mud of 
the circus flew out of it.” 

So long as he remained in Carthage, where he 
was under the personal influence of St. Augustine, 
Alypius appears to have abjured the amphitheatre, 
but some months later business affairs took him to 
Rome, and there he relapsed into his old habits. St. 
Augustine continues: 

“ There he was again seized—is it not amazing ? 
—with an incredible passion for gladiatorial shows. 
He had hated and abominated them, but a knot of 
friends and fellow-students, happening to meet him 
in the street as they were returning from breakfast, 
dragged him with playful violence into the 
amphitheatre, in spite of his refusal and resistance, 
while these cruel and bloody games were going on. 

‘ If,’ cried he, ‘ you drag my body thither, and 
put me there, can you force me to give my mind or 

l 77 N 


TUNIS 


eyes to such a show ? I shall be absent in spirit, 
though present in body, and thus I shall overcome 
both you and it.’ Nevertheless they forced him to 
go along with them, being curious, perhaps, to know 
whether he could do what he said. They arrived, 
and took their seats in the best places they could 
find, at a moment when the whole theatre was 
raging with hideous excitement. 

“ He shut his eyes tight, and forbade his thoughts 
to dally with such crimes. Would that he could 
have sealed his ears also ! For, at some time of the 
fight, the whole people broke into a roar of shouting, 
and overcome by curiosity, confident that whatever 
happened he could despise and forget, even though 
he saw, he opened his eyes. 

“ Then was he struck with a deadlier wound in 
his soul than the gladiator whom he lusted to behold 
received in the flesh, and he fell more miserably 
than the poor wretch over whose fall arose that 
bellow, which pierced his ears, unlocked his eyes, 
and laid open his soul to the fatal thrust. 

“ At the sight of blood he drank of it ruthlessly. 
No longer did he turn away, but fixed his gaze and 
drained the cup of fury. He was fascinated by the 
sin of battle, and drunk with murderous joy. He 
was no longer the Alypius who had come, but one 
of the crowd which he had joined, and the hardened 
accomplice of those who had brought him. What 

178 


THE BACKSLIDING OF ALYPIUS 


should I say more ? He gazed, he shouted, he 
raved, and he carried home with him a frenzy 
which goaded him to return, not only with those 
who had dragged him thither, but also without 
them, luring others thither in his turn.” 


l 79 


N 2 


CHAPTER XII 


Kairouan 

Kairouan, unlike nearly all the other cities of 
Tunisia, has no classical associations. In this wonder¬ 
ful country, where things fashioned from 2,000 to 
3,000 years ago are constantly before one’s eyes, 
the standard of antiquity becomes so high that 
a.d. 800 seems a comparatively modern date; yet at 
home we regard with considerable veneration build¬ 
ings erected 1,100 years ago. In itself, apart from 
its history, Kairouan is undoubtedly the most inter¬ 
esting city in Tunisia; glowing with colour, scin¬ 
tillating with light, and teeming with Oriental life, 
it seems to realize all one’s dreams of an Eastern 
town. 

The first glimpse of Kairouan is obtained from 
El Ham, the last station on the railway before 
arriving. From this distance the tower of the 
Grand Mosque stands out from the flat landscape, a 
conspicuous and almost isolated object, reminding 
one of the dome of St. Peter’s at Rome seen from 

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KAIROUAN 


across the Campagna. As one gets nearer, the 
domes and minarets of smaller mosques become 
visible, and the dominant importance of the great 
tower diminishes. From the train one can also 
see in the distance the lake of El Ham, where 
the flamingos, which we had hoped to see shoot¬ 
ing like red flames above the ruins of Carthage, 
take up their abode during the cooler months of 
the year. At the station there is the usual amusing 
though alarming spectacle of fifty tattered Arabs 
fighting and wrestling, with many ejaculations and 
imprecations, for the honour and profit of carrying 
your hand luggage. 

There are two hotels in Kairouan—the Grand 
Hotel Splendid and the Grand Hotel Victoria. 
There is absolutely nothing grand or splendid about 
either of them except their names, and, but for 
their names, they might both be suitably described, 
in the diction of Baedeker, as “ quite unpretend¬ 
ing.” They are situated in good open positions, 
and look on to a small public garden outside the 
Arab town, but within three or four minutes’ walk 
of it. 

If Tunis has been for many centuries the capital 
of the country to which it has given its name, if for 
long it has been the seat of government and the 
centre of commerce, it is none the less true that 
Kairouan always remained the religious capital in 

181 


TUNIS 


the estimation of the people. Founded by the con¬ 
queror Sidi Okbah at the time of the Arab invasion 
of North-West Africa, she retained in the eyes of 
all faithful Mussulmen a distinction second only 
to that of Mecca. She was a city in which since 
her creation the Crescent had reigned without dis¬ 
pute. For more than 1,200 years the Iman had ex¬ 
pounded the meaning of the Koran to the faithful, 
without fear that his words would meet the ear of 
infidel or Christian ; and when from the heights of 
the minaret the mueddin called to prayer the true 
believer, no sanctuary or emblem of a rival faith had 
come within his vision. 

The incontestable prestige of Kairouan became, 
alas ! her weakness, and brought about her doom; 
for such was her importance as the acknowledged 
stronghold of Moslem fanaticism that the French 
believed, perhaps rightly, that the only way in which 
they could hope to secure the permanent peace of 
the country was by striking a blow at the very 
heart of a religious system which preaches prejudice, 
intolerance, and exclusiveness. They therefore pre¬ 
pared to attack the city, which, to their great sur¬ 
prise, offered practically no resistance, and surrendered 
unconditionally. The mosques were immediately 
entered by the French soldiers, and it was announced 
that, in future, Christians were to be admitted at all 
times, except during the hours of Moslem prayer. 

1 82 


KAIROUAN 


The result of this policy seems from the French 
point of view to have been entirely successful. The 
city has lost Moslem prestige. Her vanity, her 
pride, her self-esteem were humbled in the dust; the 
lordly airs of arrogance so proudly worn for many 
hundred years, where were they now ? The blow 
was completely and terribly effective : no recovery 
was possible from this violation of her virgin purity; 
her spirit was broken, and there was no longer any 
strength left in her. 

Kismet ! The Arab accepts the inevitable, and 
so far as one can judge from external demeanour, he 
now bears no feeling of resentment towards the 
multitude of tourists who daily intrude themselves 
into the privacy of his sanctuary, even during his 
hours of prayer. It is interesting to compare in 
this connection the status of the foreigner in 
Kaircuan to-day with that given by Monsieur 
Guerin,who visited the then sacred city in 1862, only 
nineteen years before the French occupation. He 
encamped at a discreet distance from the town while 
waiting for the return of his messenger. 

“ I despatched Muhammad to the Khalife of 
Kairouan with the passport from the Bey, and we 
waited for his return. The passport of His High¬ 
ness, which for all other places is an absolute order, 
sufficient to open to the Christian who carries it 
the doors of every town in Tunisia, is for this 

■83 


TUNIS 


city a polite request, a mere letter of recommenda¬ 
tion. The authorities of Kairouan have the right 
to refuse to admit within their walls the Christian 
who presents this mandate, without the Bey having 
any formal right to punish them. At five o’clock 
Muhammad returned, accompanied by three sheikhs 
and three soldiers, and, surrounded by this escort, at 
ten minutes past five I entered the town. The sides 
of the gateway by which we entered were encum¬ 
bered by a compact mass of the curious, more or 
less well-intentioned. The arrival of a Christian is 
always an event to the inhabitants of Kairouan, 
and at the particular moment when I visited the 
town the news of the massacres in Syria had greatly 
agitated them. My arrival under these dubious 
circumstances had excited their lively curiosity, and 
many believed that, under the pretext of searching 
for inscriptions, I sought to pry into their affairs. 
A quarter of an hour later I was installed at the 
Dar-el-Bey, where the Khalife offered me a 
generous hospitality ; but at the same time he recom¬ 
mended me, with much emphasis, never to go out 
alone. During the three days I passed in the town 
he insisted, in spite of his great age, in accompany¬ 
ing me everywhere with several sheikhs. ‘ Who 
knows,’ he said, ‘ what might happen ?’ As a matter 
of fact, even the presence of the Governor did not 
entirely protect me from insult, and in one case. 


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KAIROUAN 


where a lewd soldier outraged both me and my 
title of Christian, I was obliged to make energetic 
protests, in order to obtain the apology which was 
my due.” 

The following quaint account of the foundation 
of Kairouan is given by the Arab historian Novairi. 
I have translated it from the French of Monsieur 
Noel des Vergers. “ Okbah-ben-Nafi, having re¬ 
solved to found the city of Kairouan, conducted his 
soldiers to the site he had chosen, which was a 
thick forest, without the slightest trace of a path ; 
but when his followers were told to begin the work 
they protested, saying : ‘ What! do you wish us to 

construct a town in the midst of an impenetrable 
forest ? How can we doubt that savage beasts and 
all manner of deadly serpents will attack us ?’ Okbah, 
whose power of intercession with the Divinity was 
omnipotent, prayed to God in a loud voice, while 
his warriors responded ‘ Amen !’ to his invocations. 
Then he spoke thus : ‘O ye serpents and savage 
beasts, know that we are the companions of the 
Prophet of Allah ! Retire from this district in 
which we have chosen to establish ourselves ! Those 
of you whom we encounter later will be put to 
death.’ When he had uttered these words the 
Mussulmen saw with astonishment, during the 
whole day, venomous beasts and ferocious animals 
retiring afar off, and carrying their young with 


TUNIS 

them—a miracle which converted a large number of 
Berbers to Islamism.” 

Leaving history, let me try to describe Kairouan 
as she is to-day. A five-minute stroll from the 
hotel brings one to the great crenellated walls of the 
city and the fine old gateway now known as the 
Porte de France. A few yards along the street is 
the Kaid’s house, which the owner, with extreme 
good-nature, is always willing to show to visitors ; 
but it is hardly worth while to avail oneself of his 
kindness, as, though Arab in plan, it has been 
redecorated in the worst type of French taste. On 
either side of the big domed hall there are recesses 
with beds—not divans, but unblushing beds, with 
white pillows and crude blue silk counterpanes — 
the sort of bed on which one expects to be told that 
Napoleon passed the night before some famous 
battle. Escaping from these and other European 
horrors, and passing under a short avenue of grace¬ 
ful pepper-trees, one arrives at the entrance to the 
souks, the centre of the principal street and the 
heart of the city. 

The street takes a bend, and whitewashed domes 
and minarets tell out in startling brilliancy against 
the deep blue sky. To the right, at a corner, 
there is a particularly nice arcaded cafe, formerly 
the corn-market. Its arches are decorated with 
broad black painted lines, in imitation of black and 

186 


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KAIROUAN 


white marble construction, a form of decoration 
abhorrent to the architectural purist, but quite sym¬ 
pathetic to the mere painter. I spent a wet after¬ 
noon in making a sketch here—the only wet day we 
had during our sojourn of five weeks. I was well 
sheltered from the rain, but the awnings which 
were lowered to keep it out also excluded the fresh 
air, and the atmosphere was of a density defying 
description. It was rendered considerably worse by 
the close proximity of a holy man, a sort of mar¬ 
about. He was a fat and very merry gentleman, and 
wore no fez or turban, but his long thick hair was 
plaited into a countless number of tails and heavily 
greased. He said something to me with an ex¬ 
pressive action of the first finger and thumb, and, 
supposing that he wanted money, I handed a few 
sous. Had he not been already seated on the 
ground, he would certainly have fallen to it in the 
access of mirth which my offer provoked. 

He could speak no French, but a neighbouring 
Arab explained to me that a marabout never demands 
or accepts money, but receives presents of food, 
clothing, etc., and lives from hand to mouth in this 
way. He had asked me for a cigarette, and not until 
he had received it did he stop laughing, or recover 
the decorous gravity of demeanour which we are 
accustomed to associate with holy men. 

Not that he ever assumed conventional airs of 


TUNIS 


piety; rollicking good-humour was portrayed in 
every line of his face and curve of his figure, and in 
searching for his European counterpart one could 
only think of the jolly fat friar of fiction. His 
contented condition seemed a testimony to the 
charity of the Arabs, but one wondered if he had any 
more effective claims to holiness than plaited hair 
and a waggish tongue. 

Judging from the number of marabout tombs, holy 
men are nearly as common in Tunisia as blackberries 
in England. It is in the main an hereditary distinc¬ 
tion—even reverting in some cases to a daughter. 
They have great prestige in the eyes of common 
people, and are generally very well to do. I do not 
believe that our friend of the cafe was a genuine 
marabout. He was probably holy only in the Arab 
sense of being slightly daft. It is terribly difficult 
to extract precise information on any subject from 
the Arab guide, who, as a rule, seems to know very 
little about his own traditions, and gives random and 
very bewildering replies to one’s questions. In Tan¬ 
gier I had a guide, Muhammad Shieb by name, an 
excellent fellow, whom I can strongly recommend to 
any of my readers who visit that exciting and rest¬ 
less city, where a reliable guide is a special boon. 
Shieb spoke French, German, Spanish, and English, 
and the latter language so perfectly that, as he had 
told me he had never been out of Morocco, I 

188 


KAIROUAN 


asked him how he had acquired his knowledge. 
He replied that as a youth he had been ambitious of 
becoming a holy man, for which distinction it was 
incumbent that he should be able to repeat the 
whale of the Koran by heart. After studying hard 
for seven years, he could repeat the half of it. At 
that point he lost either faith or perseverance, and 
renounced his ambition; but he assured me that, by 
comparison with the mental effort of learning half 
the Koran, the mastery of modern languages was 
mere child’s play. Extremes meet, and it would 
seem that to graduate as a holy man it is needful 
to possess either more or less than the average 
amount of brains. I remember that in Tangier 
also there was a specimen of the unintellectual, not 
to say imbecile, type of holy man. His form of 
penance consisted in wearing all the filthy rags he 
could lay hands on. He was always on the lookout 
for additional rags, and, as the streets of Tangier are 
for the most part dustbins, there was no difficulty in 
finding what he wanted. Fresh treasures acquired, 
he proceeded to cut them into small pieces and tie 
them on to a piece of string, so that they formed 
something which looked like the tail of a kite, and 
this tail was at once wound round his limbs or body. 
As no rags were ever removed, and as adding rags 
to his person had been his sole occupation for 
several years, his condition can more easily be 

189 


TUNIS 


imagined than described. The layers of rags round 
his legs had become so thick that he could only 
walk with his feet wide apart, and then with 
difficulty, and his odour polluted the air for fifty 
yards round. When one remembers that the Koran 
strongly enjoins cleanliness, and that the good 
Moslem always washes before entering the mosque, 
often three or four times a day, it seems a strange 
parodox that this poor filthy idiot should have been 
regarded as holy. 

I have somehow wandered far away from 
the Grand Rue of Kairouan and the native cafe 
where I met the fat little saint with plaited 
hair. I remember witnessing there, on another 
occasion, an incident which interested me. An 
Arab was being cupped. For how long the 
operation had been going on before I arrived on 
the scene I do not know, but the patient was 
propped up against a pillar, looking very pale and 
wan. The cups were still attached to his neck, and 
every now and then the doctor, if such one can 
call him, came to empty away the blood which had 
been drawn off. Presently the sun reached the 
unfortunate man, and evidently rendered him un¬ 
comfortable. He tried to move, but was quite 
unable to do so, and was lifted, a helpless invalid, 
into a shady corner. I had often seen natives 
being cupped before, but in the other cases the 

190 


ENTRANCE TO THE SOUKS, KAIROUAN 





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KAIROUAN 


patient had always been a full-blooded, strong-looking 
chap, to whom the loss of a little blood was not 
very serious, and might conceivably be an advantage ; 
but in this case the poor victim looked so wretchedly 
weak and unable to withstand the treatment, that 
he recalled the scathing satire of Le Sage on the 
ignorance of the doctors of his time and their habit 
of bleeding patients for every ailment under the sun. 

In a climate like that of Kairouan, with its light, 
dry crisp air and its perpetual sunshine, Nature has 
more than her usual chance of proving victorious in 
her fight with the doctors; so perhaps we need not 
feel depressed about the future of this hapless-look¬ 
ing Arab. 

Just round the corner from this cafe, and, indeed, 
adjoining it, there is an external kitchen, which 
in appearance is something like a big German 
tiled stove, and perched aloft on it, shaded by an 
awning, sits an Arab, busily cooking and serving 
fritters. They smelt so good that I longed to 
taste one, yet lacked courage ; but he did not lack 
numerous and appreciative customers. There are 
many such outdoor fritter shops in Kairouan, and 
they are always a point of interest. Opposite this 
kitchen there are usually a number of boys with 
donkeys for hire. The packs which take the place 
of saddles are very primitive, but in spite of that 
the donkey saves the fatigue of a long walk, 

191 


TUNIS 


through roughly cobbled streets, to the Grand 
Mosque, or of the longer and sometimes very hot 
and dusty pilgrimage to the Mosque du Barbier. 

A few yards farther on, opposite to the main 
entrance to the souks, there is another cafe, a 
very humble one without architectural features 
sham or genuine ; but it has a big shady awning, 
and its position is so attractive that it is worth 
while to sit down, and, ordering a cup of coffee, 
watch the stream of Oriental life which passes to 
and fro. Facing us is the big archway of the 
souks, the recess of which looks dark as night 
by contrast to the blaze of light on the inter¬ 
vening street and the white burnouses of the busy 
crowd. The archway is flanked on either side by 
bread-stalls, and the vendors are busily occupied, not 
so much in selling bread, as in whisking away the 
millions of flies which collect on everything edible. 
Is there anything, I wonder, which is unpalatable to 
the catholic taste of a fly ? I speak feelingly, for at the 
present moment they are taking an unfair advantage 
of the fact that my hands are occupied, and are 
exploiting, with exasperating deliberation, the 
furrows of my brow and the phrenology of my 
freshly-mown cranium. But though they do not 
despise the leathery bread of the Kairouan baker, or 
the honest sweat of the hapless artist’s brow, their 
favourite fare is undoubtedly the sweet and sticky 

192 


KAIROUAN 


date. So attractive do they find this succulent and 
nutritious fruit that one hardly sees the dates, so 
thick is the coverlid of flies. The date-sellers give 
up the contest as hopeless, and their whisks lie idle 
by their sides; but when you see a basket of flies, 
you may take for granted that somewhere in its 
depths there are dates. Turning our eyes from the 
fly-pestered bread-vendors to our coffee-cups, blow¬ 
ing away the dozen flies collected on the rims, and 
extracting with the finger (spoons are never served) 
half a dozen valiant swimmers, let us note some 
other details in this strange medley, this bewildering 
hotchpotch, of men and beasts and things. 

To the right there is a vegetable-stall, and the 
owner is seated on a sort of high dais or table. He 
is wearing a blue shirt, purple pantaloons, a yellow 
embroidered waistcoat, and a pink turban. His 
face and limbs are walnut brown, and his beard is 
silver grey. He is seated cross-legged on his white 
burnous, and in the stillness of his pose and im¬ 
passive expression might be a statue of Buddha. At 
his side are some large scales, which give another 
hint of symbolism, and his dark eyes have that fixed 
look of philosophic contemplation so deceptive in 
the ruminating cow, and perhaps equally so in the 
case of Kairouan Arabs. His vegetables lie in 
heaps on the ground in front of him—potatoes, 
carrots, broad-beans, and leeks, and the pungent 

*93 


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TUNIS 


smell from the latter is not unpleasant by contrast 
to others less hygienic. It is for the customer to 
put the vegetables on to the scale, our philosopher 
contenting himself with arranging the weights and 
pocketing the money. 

Camels and donkeys pass by in a continuous 
stream, and the noise of the animals, with the cries 
of the crowd, combine in making a Babel of sound. 
Suddenly a clear, high, musical note arrests atten¬ 
tion. It is the familiar chant of the mueddin, 
wafted across the city from the tower of the Great 
Mosque. “ Arise ! arise ! It is better to pray than 
to rest! God is great ! Praise be to God, the Lord 
of all creatures ! Him do we worship, and from 
Him we must beg for help ! Arise! arise ! arise ! 
It is better to pray than to rest!” 

There is a stir among the faithful in the cafe, 
but we will not follow them to the mosque, for it 
is hardly fair to intrude on their devotions from 
motives of idle curiosity. Let us pay for our coffee 
—the price is one sou—and visit a famous holy well 
which is within a stone’s-throw of us. 

The Baruti Well is worked by an unhappy camel, 
who spends his life in walking round and round a 
small circular track. His eyes are blindfolded, and 
perhaps, poor creature, he thinks that if he keeps 
his heart up and his legs going, he will some day 
reach his beloved desert. 


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The well is said to be as old as Kairouan itself, 
and the story runs that when Sidi Okbah and 
his followers were laying out the plans of the 
city, they were consumed with thirst, but could 
find no water. Suddenly a greyhound appeared, 
covered with wet mud. In canine fashion he 
beckoned them to follow him, and, doing so, they 
arrived at this well, which was named Baruti in 
memory of the dog. 

All the good Moslems of Kairouan, moreover, 
cherish the belief that this well is directly con¬ 
nected with the holy well of Zemzen at Mecca, in 
proof of which they relate the following incident : 
Many centuries ago a good pilgrim from Kairouan 
accidentally dropped his satchel into the holy well 
of Zemzen. At first he was greatly distressed at his 
loss, but philosophy came to his aid, and, being a 
good and faithful Moslem, he said: “ So it is 
written, Allah be praised !” Resigned to his loss, 
he straightway returned to his native city, and, 
fetching water from the Baruti Well, he found his 
lost satchel in the first bucketful, thus proving that 
the water of the Baruti Well comes straight from the 
holy well of Mecca. 

The Grand Rue of Kairouan is from one end to 
the other a realm of delight to the artist; but, alas ! 
there is never a rose without a thorn, and here the 
painter’s cross is undoubtedly the butcher’s stall. 

195 o 2 


TUNIS 


The butcher of Kairouan has no fixed site for his 
business, but chooses it with reference to the shade, 
more or less incomplete, which it provides at the 
moment. In the hot summer afternoons the artist 
also seeks shade for his work ; and, by a perversity of 
Fate, the butchers invariably choose just those corners 
which are quite irresistible to the enthusiastic artist, 
who is obliged to work in close proximity to sights 
and smells of which I will spare the reader a 
description, lest he should for ever lose his appetite 
for fiesh-pots. As the hour gets later prices are 
reduced, odours become stronger, flies multiply, and 
customers are more numerous. The Bedouins and 
the Arabs of the poorest class buy their meat at a 
very late hour, and, with their horrid purchases 
dangling from their fingers, they bend over the 
artist to see what he is doing. 

The gate at the farther end of the Grand Rue is 
now called the Porte de Tunis. This old entrance 
on the inside is a beautiful piece of architecture, 
consisting of two horseshoe arches one above the 
other. Passing under it through a vaulted arcade, 
one turns some fifty yards to the right, between two 
walls, before reaching the outer gate, an interesting 
arrangement for doubling the security of defence at 
this point. The passage between the inner and 
outer walls is now used by saddle-stuffers, and is a 
very picturesque corner. But though the double 

196 


KAIROUAN 


gate was a clever precaution for safety, it necessitated 
a very devious course for the continuous stream of 
life, human and animal, passing to and fro, and 
there is now a modern gate to the left of the old 
one.- Moving with the crowd under the new gate, 
one finds oneself in a huge “ sok,” or square, with 
booths and tents in all directions, and crowds of 
Arabs clustered round various centres of attraction, 
which, strange to say, recalled to my eye Hyde 
Park on Sunday afternoons, where the crowds of 
rival preachers and demagogues present such a 
different aspect. 

One circle will perhaps be watching the serpent- 
charmer ; another listening to the professional story¬ 
teller, as he relates the successes of the brave and 
the defeats of the weak in love and war. The Arab 
has little sympathy for the weak, be the weakness 
physical or mental, unless, indeed, the mental weak¬ 
ness amounts to madness, in which case he regards 
it as something holy, and treats it with awe and 
reverence. Another group is perhaps watching 
the self-inflicted tortures of a demoralized religious 
fanatic, who, having learnt these tricks under the 
influence of genuine emotion, now uses them as 
an easy method of gaining a living. The tents 
are occupied by vendors of all kinds of useless- 
looking things—things one cannot imagine that any¬ 
one would want to buy, such as a little heap of 

1 97 


TUNIS 


rusty nails, a padlock and key, a damaged mirror, a 
string of coral beads, or some sticky sweetmeats, all 
arranged in neat little piles. The owners of these 
tents have to pay a rent of twopence a day to the 
French Control, and one wonders how there can be 
any margin of profit on the sales. On the right 
there is a row of little shops, where men are busy 
making mats, baskets, camel nosebags, and all sorts 
of similar things, with a coarse grass rush, which 
has much of the suppleness and durability of Panama 
straw. 

A little farther on there is a huge walled court¬ 
yard or “ fondak,” where in the morning and even¬ 
ing one may see hundreds of camels being loaded 
and unloaded by picturesque and excited Orientals— 
a fascinating spot for taking snapshots, yet rarely 
visited by the tourist. 


198 


CHAPTER XIII 
The Mosques of Kairouan 

The great pride and glory of Kairouan is its 
Grand Mosque, which, as it now stands, dates from 
a.d. 821. It is built on the site of the original 
mosque, erected at the foundation of the city by the 
great Sidi Okbah in a.d. 670. No doubt the 
materials used are those of the first edifice, though 
the hundreds of marble columns, the carved capitals, 
and sculptured cornices are of Roman workmanship, 
and, it is believed, were brought from Carthage. 

Annually for many centuries pilgrims in their 
thousands have come from afar to visit this great 
mosque. Certain books assert that the founder is 
buried here, and also the Kings of Tunisia. Both 
statements are wholly incorrect. The mosque 
proper is rarely, if ever, used as a place of inter¬ 
ment, and the bones of Sidi Okbah lie in the 
primitive village which bears his name, fifteen miles 
south of Biskra, in Algeria, while the Beys are 
buried under a dome of bright green tiles in Tunis. 

I 99 


TUNIS 


Mausoleums erected to the memory and honour of 
Arab saints are loosely spoken of by Europeans as 
mosques, but the natives always speak of them as 
marabouts. A mosque is primarily a place for 
prayer, and prayers are never said in a marabout’s 
tomb. The Koran is read in them, and a sort of 
religious college or school is often attached to them; 
but there is no “ mihrab ” to mark the direction of 
Mecca, and though there is sometimes a small 
tower, it is only an architectural feature, and never 
from its gallery does the mueddin call the faithful to 
prayer. The so-called Mosque du Barbier and the 
Mosque des Sabres are really marabout tombs of 
unusual importance and magnificence. 

Besides the distinction given by age and history, 
the Grand Mosque has the impressiveness of 
immensity. Its minaret towers up against the sky 
from a distance at which the city and the smaller 
minarets are quite invisible; its courtyard reminds 
one, merely by reason of its scale, of the piazza of 
St. Mark at Venice, while its interior is a bewilder¬ 
ing forest of massive aisles and columns. In its plan 
it strongly resembles the cathedral of Cordova; but 
though at Cordova one keenly resents the intrusion 
of the Gothic cathedral which usurps the centre of 
the Moorish building, yet this incongruous imper¬ 
tinence introduces a certain mystery which is notice¬ 
ably lacking in its prototype. The walls of the 

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THE MOSOUES OF KAIROUAN 

Cordova mosque, moreover, are richly decorated, so 
that when the eye has travelled through a long 
avenue of marble columns, it finds its reward in a 
harmony of mosaics or tiles; but at Kairouan the 
seventeen whitewashed aisles of eight arches each 
lead to nothing but a bare whitewashed wall, except 
in the case of the central aisle, at the end of which 
is the “ mihrah.” The extreme monotony of the 
effect is often increased by the lighting, which comes 
mainlv, if not entirely, from the seventeen huge 
open doors facing the courtyard. This universal 
lighting is very ineffective, and I wish that I could 
have seen the mosque at sundown, with all the little 
oil-lamps alight, or, still better, on the occasion of 
some special feast, when the great hanging lustres 
are used. The enormous doors are elaborately 
panelled and carved in geometrical patterns of 
astonishing variety, each door being quite different 
to the others in detail, yet similar in the scale of its 
divisions and subdivisions and in general effect. The 
antique marble columns are of different kinds of 
marble, and often of different diameter, though 
supporting the same weight. The carved capitals 
which they support are of all styles, and frequently 
seem too large or too small. Another detail which 
detracts from the effect is the way in which the 
straw mats which cover the floor are taken round 
the bases of the columns to the height of about a 


201 


TUNIS 


yard—an arrangement which may add to the comfort 
of the Arabs who lean against them, but which is 
far from enhancing the architectural dignity of the 
building. 

The court seems very bald, and the glare from 
its white flagstones is blinding. The courtyard of 
the mosque at Cordova is said to have been planted 
with groves of orange-trees, which continued the 
lines of the interior aisles; and perhaps something 
of the same kind existed at Kairouan in the zenith 
of its prosperity, when the great cisterns now in 
ruins outside the Porte de Tunis provided abun¬ 
dant supply of water, and Christian slaves rendered 
labour cheap; but there is no hint of anything so 
restful to the eye to-day, nor have I heard or read 
of such a thing in the past. 

The immense square tower looks squat and 
stunted from close quarters, and it is not until the 
weary visitor climbs its endless stairs that he realizes 
its great height. Perseverance in this prolonged 
treadmill exercise is happily rewarded when at last 
the summit is reached, for the view across the flat, 
barren plain is very extensive. From one side the 
sea is visible ; from another the beautiful moun¬ 
tains of Zaguoan and Bou Cornein display their 
graceful outlines against the sky; while from a third 
point a gleam of silver denotes the shallow lakes, 
haunted by those graceful coral-coloured flamingos 

202 


THE MOSQUES OF KAIROUAN 

who sometimes migrate to the Lake of Tunis, but 
never, alas! when I am there to welcome them. 
Inside the mosque there is a cluster of columns, 
between which, it is said by the guides, only those 
who are free from sin can pass. None of our party 
were able to accomplish the feat, but our guide 
slipped easily through, thereby proving that a 
saint may look like a thorough-paced rogue ; but 
though we complimented him on this irrefutable 
evidence of his holiness, we preferred to think that 
our own failure was due rather to superior depth of 
chest than to an inferior standard of morals. 

I have recorded my own impressions of the 
mosque, which were disappointing; but the friend 
with whom I had the privilege of visiting it, an 
English professor and a man of deep culture and 
wide travel, was deeply affected by what he con¬ 
sidered to be a perfect architectural expression of 
the spirit of monotheistic worship. 


THE MOSQqjE DU BARBIER 

The Mosque du Barbier lies to the west of the 
town, about half a mile beyond the Porte de Tunis. 
To make the pilgrimage on foot means a hot, shade¬ 
less, and often very dusty, walk, but one not devoid 
of interest or beauty. 

Leaving the “ Kasbah ” on the right, one looks 

203 


TUNIS 


from a slightly elevated plateau across an immense 
tract of barren, treeless country. On the sandy fore¬ 
ground, destitute of a single blade of grass, a few 
camels may generally be seen resting in company 
with their white-robed owners, while on the lower 
level flows a continuous stream of Arabs* Bedouins, 
camels, donkeys, oxen, sheep, and goats. Just at 
this corner I noticed a kneeling camel, with a 
strange-looking burden, and I asked my guide what 
it was. He spoke to one of the two Arabs seated 
beside it, who replied that it was the body of his 
wife, and that he had travelled for a day and a 
night to bring her to Kairouan, that she might be 
buried in the cemetery of the Mosque du Barbier. 
They were waiting in the shade for the evening 
hour of prayer, which is also the hour of interment. 
One hears so much about the Arab’s treatment of 
his wife being brutal, yet this poor man had 
journeyed on foot, through shadeless country, in 
exceptionally hot weather, for his wife’s honour or 
future happiness—I know not which. 

Less than half-way to the mosque one passes an 
enormous ruined reservoir, open to the sky. The 
rest of the walk is between large plantations of 
cactus, of the prickly variety which specially appeals 
to the camel as a succulent diet. Outside the mosque 
there is often a small encampment of Bedouins, 
always so picturesque, and during the whole walk 

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THE MOSQUES OF KAIROUAN 

one has been able to enjoy the pale blue distant 
mountains, which form a delightful background to 
the dazzling white building. 

In the large outer courtyard of the mosque there 
are, two beautiful marble doorways, inlaid with 
tiles. It is usual to enter by the one to the left, and 
so reach an inner court, which is altogether de¬ 
lightful. It is arcaded all round with stilted horseshoe 
arches, supported by marble columns with carved 
capitals which appear to be of Byzantine workman¬ 
ship. On three sides of the court there are a number 
of cells, with massive oak doors, in which live the 
professional readers of the Koran. According to my 
guide, these men are paid by the Bey of Tunis to 
read the Koran for so many hours a day to the 
honour of Allah, Muhammad his Prophet, Muham¬ 
mad’s barber, and the whole Moslem world. Many 
of these men, who seemed to be the counterparts of 
our medieval monks, were sitting in their cells 
intoning the Koran in a monotonous, droning voice, 
counting their beads in orthodox Catholic fashion. 
My guide, who, though he spoke both French and 
Italian with considerable fluency, could neither read 
nor write in any language, told me that he bitterly 
regretted his lack of qualification : for a life which 
above all others he would have liked to lead. In 
a corner of the court several boys were being taught 
to write. They sat cross-legged, with their copy- 

205 


TUNIS 


books on their knees, and used as a pen a short 
pointed stick, held quite vertically. 

A small door to the right opens on a staircase, by 
which one ascends to another courtyard, also arcaded 
and showing some fairly good tiles and carved 
stucco, the latter being much restored. The door¬ 
way leading to the mausoleum, where the Barber lies, 
is elaborately carved in the style of the First Empire. 
The interior is quite uninteresting, being decorated 
with a bastard mixture of modern French and Arab 
taste. 


THE MOSQUE DES SABRES 

Of the numerous mosques which support the 
prestige and distinction of Kairouan as a holy city, 
the most beautiful externally is the Mosque des 
Sabres, as it is commonly called—the tomb of a 
latter-day saint, one Emir-Ben-Said-Bou-Muphteh, 
also called Emir Abada. This eccentric marabout 
lived but fifty years ago, and seems to owe his pres¬ 
tige to his questionable sanity and the generous 
patronage of the then reigning Bey, who promised 
to build him a tomb with seven domes, but who 
died before the seventh was completed. 

Much of Abada’s time seems to have been spent in 
making gargantuan swords, far too large to be wielded, 
the blades being covered with inscriptions from the 
Koran, and their edges left quite blunt. He also 

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THE MOSQUES OF KAIROUAN 

brought to Kairouan four enormous anchors, sup¬ 
posed to be those which held Noah’s ark to Mount 
Ararat. The swords are hung inside the mosque, 
and the anchors are in the courtyard of a house 
close by, where His Holiness Emir Abada lived. 
As to how the anchors were brought there, divergent 
stories are told. One version relates that they were 
brought from Tunis by the united energies of 500 
men during five months; another that they miracu¬ 
lously hopped after the marabout as he led the way 
on a swift horse. It seems strange that there should 
be any doubt on a matter of such recent history. 
Certain it is that at Kairouan the anchors now lie. 
They are of gigantic size, and why anyone should 
have desired to bring them to a city forty miles 
from the sea passeth all understanding. 

Mr. Broadly, in his “Tunis Past and Present,” 
tells us that: “During the siege of Sebastopol, Emir 
Abada constructed two cannon with his own hands. 
He wrote to the Bey that the Prophet had appeared 
to him, and announced that on their arrival before 
the beleaguered town the latter would at once sur¬ 
render. They were expeditiously forwarded to 
Tunis, and at the Bey’s pressing request the Sultan 
sent a ship to convey them to Constantinople, and 
thence to the Turkish camp before Sebastopol. By 
an extraordinary coincidence, within a few hours of 
their being landed the town capitulated.” 

207 


TUNIS 


In spite of his fine-sounding name, it is difficult 
to credit Emir-Ben-Said-Bou-Muphteh-Abada with 
exceptional intelligence, and it was probably by a 
mere accident that he employed an architect of 
great talent to design his tomb. The interior is 
very bare and has never been completed, but the 
exterior is magnificent in its carefully considered 
proportions and bold simplicity. 

From outside the city in the late evening it gives 
an impression of enormous size, and seems more like 
an enchanted city of domes than a single mosque of 
moderate size. 

Seeing it for the first time under an exceptionally 
beautiful effect, it made a deeper impression on me 
than any other building in Kairouan, not excluding 
the Grand Mosque, and it was something of a shock 
to learn, later, that in this medieval city it is the 
one edifice which lacks the halo of antiquity. 

To the Zaouia of the Aissaouia I have devoted 
a special chapter, but of the remaining twenty 
mosques and ninety “zaouias” it is hardly necessary 
to speak individually, though their domes and 
minarets confer on the sacred city an air of dis¬ 
tinction which is one of her notable charms. 


208 


CHAPTER XIV 


Zaouia of the Aissaouia, Kairouan 

Every Friday afternoon the Aissaouia hold a 
strange, half-revolting, but very interesting service 
at the little mosque just outside the city, near the 
Porte de France. Seen from the street, it is a 
modest little building with a single dome. Passing 
from the street under a horseshoe archway, one finds 
oneself in a pleasant court, on the further side of 
which are three arched doorways, with a few signs 
and emblems painted in primitive colours. The 
doors are open, letting a flood of light into the 
mosque, which, without payment or any kind of 
formality, visitors are allowed to enter. It is a 
square domed building, extended on two sides by 
arched recesses. The dome is ribbed, and is light¬ 
ened by a few small windows, fretted in geometrical 
designs, the piercings in which are filled with 
coloured glass. From the centre hangs the in¬ 
evitable cut-glass chandelier, which, though it seems 
so out of place, is greatly admired by the Arab, and 

209 p 


TUNIS 


rarely absent. There are also a few coloured glass 
balls, the gift, no doubt, of some well-intentioned 
member of the sect, whose taste has been perverted 
by a visit to Tunis. Otherwise, everything is in 
accordance with Arab taste and tradition. From 
the roof hang ostrich eggs, symbolical of fecundity 
and the perpetuity of life, and small primitive oil- 
lamps. The simple whitewashed walls are fur¬ 
nished with antique carpets, framed texts from the 
Koran, and inconspicuous, but all-important, swords, 
rapiers, daggers, and skewers, are arranged in 
groups. 

But though the “ mise en scene ” is never unimpor¬ 
tant, its details are soon forgotten in the excitement 
of the drama which is about to take place. Seated 
on the floor in an irregular circle under the lofty 
dome are some fifty adult Arabs, of all ages and of 
varied type; and, in an outer circle, about as many 
children. Conspicuous in the group is the mara¬ 
bout, a very sympathetic, dignified, and saintly- 
looking old man. In the centre of the circle, 
incense is emitting a strong perfume, while a dozen 
or more men thrum softly on tambourines and 
drums. 

The proceedings are at a preliminary stage, and 
though the marabout is grave and thoughtful, 
everyone else seems quite cheerful and light-hearted. 
The men and youths are talking and chaffing, the 


210 



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ZAOUIA OF THE AISSAOUIA 


children are as elated and excited as if they were 
about to witness a performance of their beloved 
serpent-charmer, while the babies, of whom there 
are several, crow and clap their hands in responsive 
sympathy with their elders. Presently a score of 
men, detaching themselves from their fellows, form 
a line, their backs to the open doorways, their faces 
towards the music, the incense, and the marabout. 
They link arms, and begin to sway in rhythm with 
the drums. The music gets louder, and those who 
are still seated clap their hands to the beating of the 
drums. But even now the mental atmosphere is 
not serious; the children are still laughing and 
joking. Suddenly, a curious high treble trill comes 
from behind a wooden grille at the back of one of 
the side recesses. It comes from the mouths of a 
score of women. It is a strange, weird noise, and is 
produced by pitching the voice at a high note, and 
at the same time moving the tongue with extreme 
rapidity from side to side. 

The effect is vibrant, piercing, exciting ; one 
instantly feels that another stage has been reached. 
In addition to the swaying movement, the men now 
shake their heads backwards and forwards, with a 
curiously loose action of the neck. Some of them 
toss away the fez and allow the long tail of hair— 
left unshaven, it is said, that they may thereby be 
pulled up to heaven—to swing alternately 

21 i p 2 


over 


TUNIS 


the face and neck. The music gets quicker and 
louder. Against the brilliant light of the courtyard 
the long row of thin, emaciated figures presents a 
strange aspect. Their gaunt limbs are faintly visible 
through their thin garments, like the shadowy 
bones of an X-ray photograph. 

The drum-beats become louder and louder, the 
pace more and more terrific, the swaying of the 
body and the tossing of the head becomes a con¬ 
tinuous and circular movement, tongues protrude, 
eyeballs start out of their sockets, and madness 
seems written everywhere. The noise of the drums 
has reached such a breathless pace that no further 
degree of acceleration is possible ; the intermittent 
screams have become a continuous yell. 

Suddenly the music and clapping stop ; and after 
a few seconds of intense silence the active per¬ 
formers, those who are linked in a line, cry out 
together, “ Oh ! oh ! oh !” and again more quickly, 
“ Oh ! oh ! oh !” And again and again, always in 
perfect time and with ever-increasing rapidity, till 
it sounds as if everyone was gasping for breath and 
would die for need of it. 

The “oh”-ing ceases and the music recommences; 
a couple of men detach themselves from the line and 
throw their bodies backwards and forwards from the 
waist, keeping time with the music, and letting their 
heads swing loosely, as if they were attached to 


212 


ZAOUIA OF THE AISSAOUIA 


their bodies by nothing but an elastic string. 
Stripping themselves to the waist, they each seize 
a couple of rapiers, with large globular handles. 
One thrusts the blades through his shoulders, 
leaving them there. Not satisfied with this 
torture, he fastens three steel pegs into his chest, 
from which hang iron chains and heavy balls. 
His fellow - sufferer has placed the point of 
his rapiers against his stomach, and another 
man drives them into his body with strokes 
from a wooden mallet. The holes may have 
been old ones, but I saw them penetrate into his 
body to the depth of several inches. Holding the 
rapiers in his hands towards their heads, he struggles 
the whole way round the mosque before having 
them extracted by the marabout. 

All this time the music and yelling continue, 
and, one by one, many of those composing the line 
break away, and inflict on themselves some form of 
torture. Young boys thrust skewers, to the number 
of a dozen, through their lips and cheeks, and one 
who, for some reason, is not allowed to do so weeps 
bitter tears of chagrin and disappointment. These 
wounds leave permanent scars, and one constantly 
notices, in the bazaars, youths whose faces are dis¬ 
figured in this way. Later, the swords, daggers, 
and skewers are withdrawn by the marabout, who, 
pressing the patient’s head against his breast, whis- 

213 


TUNIS 


pers a prayer into his ear, pats him on the shoulder, 
and sends him away, comforted and soothed. It 
was wonderful to see how the frail-looking old 
man was able to calm the shattered nerves of his 
flock, and exorcise the demon of hysteria which had 
been so strenuously invoked. Strong men in the 
prime of their manhood came to him with bleeding 
wounds, and tortured, twitching nerves, their faces 
pale, haggard, and worn. Sobbing, they threw 
themselves into his arms, with the confidence of 
little children. They appealed to his moral strength 
and spiritual help, and he did not fail them ; they 
left him calm, confident, self-controlled, and happy; 
they had been brave, and, conquering fear, had won 
the fight. 

Besides those I have mentioned, many bewilder¬ 
ing feats were performed. Living scorpions and 
broken glass were swallowed, and prickly cactus 
munched in the mouth. To those who know the 
cactus, and how sharp as needles are its prickles, the 
last feat will, I think, seem the most wonderful of 
all. 

The usual explanation of these performances, of 
this successful defiance of normal restrictions in the 
treatment of our bodies, is, that in the condition of 
hysterical frenzy, artificially produced, the nerves 
become paralyzed and are insensitive to pain. But 
this theory does not seem to explain why, when 

214 


ZAOUIA OF THE AISSOUIA 


normal conditions have returned, the wounds should 
not produce agony, serious illness, and even death. 

That the performance is quite genuine can hardly 
be doubted, as nothing could be gained by playing 
painful tricks for mere amusement, and the tourists 
who witness it are few in number. Visitors are 
charged nothing, though the marabout accepts 
donations offered, which are usually quite small. 
On the occasion of my first visit I do not think he 
received more than five francs, and I know that he 
only had two francs the second time, as I was the 
only stranger present. At least sixty men took part 
in the seance, which lasted for more than two hours. 
I mention this because there are people who are 
fond of asserting that these things are a fraud, and 
only done for money. In accepting alms for the 
poor, when offered to him, the marabout behaves 
as every priest in every religion does, and only 
differs from them in not asking for it. The fact 
that I constantly saw him in the bazaar, working as 
an embroiderer in a humble little tailor’s shop, 
demonstrates that he has not been concerned in 
feathering his own nest. 

I have often been obliged to listen to the railings 
of Europeans against the character of the Arab, his 
lack of moral stamina, and the uselessness and danger 
of trusting him to do anything which is not to his 
obvious, and immediate, material advantage. French- 

21 5 


TUNIS 


men who have lived with him for years, who speak 
his language and who ought to know him well, 
have assured me that he is incapable of understand¬ 
ing the meaning of honour, honesty, gratitude, or 
moral obligation, and they would probably point to 
the rites of the Aissaouia as an instance of imbecile 
fanaticism. Yet it seems to me that men who can 
voluntarily go through these ordeals must possess 
grit and moral fibre; they must have faith and 
implicit trust in their religion ; but it is hardly to 
be expected that they should regard with trustful 
affection those who have robbed them of all but 
nominal independence, who have invaded the 
mosques of their sacred city, and who are exploiting 
their country for the glory of France. 

The sect of the Aissaouia was originated in 
Algeria some centuries ago. It is related that their 
founder was walking on the seashore with a number 
of his followers, who complained that they were 
hungry and had no food, whereupon their master 
told them to eat the pebbles on the beach. They 
obeyed his command, and found the stones delicious 
and digestible. 


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CHAPTER XV 


Kairouan Ceremonies 

An Arab wedding would take place that evening 
at eight o’clock—so Larby, our guide, informed us ; 
and he imparted this information with an amusing 
assumption of excitement, as if an Arab wedding 
were a thing of extreme rarity, which only occurred 
once in a century. All tourists liked to see weddings, 
he explained. It was an occasion, an opportunity, 
which should on no account be missed; it was, 
indeed, absolutely necessary that we should see this 
most characteristic function; and moreover, he, 
Larby, would personally conduct us, so that we 
should be certain to see everything, and all would 
be clearly explained, which would not be the case 
should we be so foolish as to employ an ignorant 
rival guide. The Arab guide is not always too 
dignified to blow his own trumpet ! Having 
hurried through our dinner—a difficult and painful 
feat in Kairouan, where the meat is usually as tough 
as shoe-leather—we followed our leader to the Arab 


TUNIS 


town, racing along the Grand Rue, for the clock 
had already struck eight, and we were fearful lest 
we should miss the opening proceedings. The 
street looked gay and attractive, with crowds of 
Arabs squatting outside the lantern-lit cafes. In 
one of them an elderly negro was dancing a 
grotesque “ danse-du-ventre,” while from another 
there was wafted a soft, melancholy chant, in a 
minor key, and Larby explained to us that an Arab 
musician was singing the story of the conquest of 
Spain—a very favourite subject with our poets, he 
complacently added. But we dared not linger, for 
it was past eight, and it was all-important that we 
should hear the opening blast of the nuptial paean. 
Breathless, we arrived at the little mosque, close to 
the Porte de Tunis, at which the ceremony was to 
take place. All was dark and drear. There was 
no sign even of any preparation for a festivity. 
We turned in wrath to Larby, who remarked 
laconically that we had arrived too early, that the 
wedding would perhaps not take place till half-past 
eight, or at nine, or possibly at half-past nine—yes, 
probably at half-past nine. It would certainly take 
place when everyone was ready; but how could we 
be so unreasonable as to expect him to know when 
all would be ready ? What matter ? One could 
pass the time as pleasantly at the Porte de Tunis as 
outside the Porte de France. Would we allow him 

2 1 8 


KAIROUAN CEREMONIES 

to have the honour of offering us the hospitality of 
his cafe? 

We felt that our indignation, which had seemed 
so righteous, was perhaps unreasonable. It was, 
alas! indisputably true that no one can tell when an 
Arab will be ready, not even another Arab. We 
felt a little ashamed of ourselves, and accepted with 
a smile of thanks his proffered hospitality, which, 
it may be observed parenthetically, did not mean 
that he expected to pay for the drinks. 

As we sipped from tiny cups the thick, syrupy 
coffee, we tried to extract from our host some 
information about Arab married life; but our efforts 
did not meet with great success, as Larby had 
already been married for six months, and seemed to 
find the subject a stale and rather tiresome one. 
He told us, however, that he had paid 300 francs 
to his father-in-law, to compensate him for the 
loss of his daughter, and that his wife had brought 
nothing with her as regards dowry, except house¬ 
hold linen ; but he added that he was contented, as 
she worked at a carpet factory, and in that way 
contributed substantially to the family coffer. He 
had never seen his wife before his marriage night, 
the matter having been arranged entirely by his 
mother. I ventured to ask if she was pretty, to 
which he replied, with the air of a man who is 
grateful for small mercies: “Elle n’est pas mauvaise”; 

219 


TUNIS 


but there was certainly no hint of romantic attach¬ 
ment in the tone of his voice. 

At last we heard the tom-toming of some drums 
and tambourines, and we hastened to join a growing 
crowd which had assembled outside the mosque. 
The bridegroom had arrived, and was wearing a 
“ burnous de lux ” over his head, the silk tassels 
flopping across his forehead. It was so arranged 
that we could see nothing of his face but one eye. 
“ He wears his burnous in that way,” explained 
Larby, “ that he may hide his shyness.” Candles, 
in groups of five, fastened to one handle, were being 
carried by small boys. They represented, in a very 
conventional form, Fatima’s hand, which is believed 
to be the most lucky of all signs. Fatima’s hand 
is always represented by three long fingers, with 
shorter fingers on either side of equal length. The 
Prophet’s hand has a thumb and small finger. 

Headed by the bridegroom and the guttering 
Fatima hands, we formed an irregular line, and 
marched into the courtyard of the mosque. It had 
a charming arcade of black and white arches, sup¬ 
ported by polished marble columns—spoils, no 
doubt, from Carthage — and carved Corinthian 
capitals painted a cheerful pea-green. The bride¬ 
groom was one of the Aissaouia, and the mosque 
belonged to his sect. From the courtyard one 
could see, through an open door, into the sanctuary, 

220 


THE OLD PORTE DE TUNIS, KAIROUAN 




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■ 


















KAIROUAN CEREMONIES 


where, behind a handsome grill, lay the tomb of 
the marabout. A service was taking place there— 
not of the sensational kind described on another 
page, but just a quiet recitation from the Koran, 
to an accompaniment of much incense. 

There really was no marriage service. Marriage 
with the Mohammedans is not, as with us, a holy 
ordinance of the Church. The courtyard ol the 
mosque was merely used as a convenient meeting- 
place, and, as soon as the friends had all collected 
and the company was complete, we started forth 
for the house of the bridegroom. For the first few 
hundred yards our behaviour was irreproachably 
decorous, a few verses from the Koran being 
chanted to a soft accompaniment of the drums and 
tambourines; but, as soon as this was finished, 
general behaviour became distinctly lively, not to 
say rowdy. The boys screamed and shouted, 
mocking the shyness of the bridegroom by holding 
the candles as close as possible to his face, which 
had the effect of making him draw still tighter 
across his face the heavy burnous, which, on so hot 
a night, must have nearly stifled him. We passed 
out through the Porte de Tunis, through the big 
“ sok,” and then to the left, through narrow, 
winding streets, in the direction of the Mosque des 
Sabres. 

A fresh note was given by the appearance of a 

221 



TUNIS 


madman on the scene, who at once became a butt 
for the small wit of the company, while cheeky 
boys played practical jokes on him, and pushed 
him about; behaviour which did not seem to be in 
accordance with the tradition that madmen are 
holy, and should be treated with reverence. Larby 
explained that this particular idiot liked to be 
treated with familiarity, and certainly he seemed 
happy enough, and showed no signs of resent¬ 
ment. 

At last we reached the bridegroom’s abode. It 
was in a narrow street, and not at all imposing, 
though the bridegroom was rich, we were told ; 
but, as a rule, nothing is visible of an Arab’s house 
save an external wall and the front-door, as all 
windows, for the sake of privacy, open into a court¬ 
yard. Against the external wall there had been 
placed a table with seven chairs on it. The bride¬ 
groom, still closely veiled, sat down on the central 
chair, while his intimate friends supported him on 
either side. The candle-bearers formed themselves 
in line in front, and, with the whitewashed wall, 
on which had been painted in bright, crude colours 
many lucky emblems, the effect of light was 
interesting and heightened by the contrast of a 
mob of dark figures in the foreground. While 
the bridegroom was thus sitting outside, the band 
and the majority of the company had entered the 

222 


KAIROUAN CEREMONIES 


courtyard, where they pommelled their drums, and 
danced, and yelled, encouraged by the curious 
treble trill of the women on the house-tops and 
behind trellised doors and windows. This rather 
riotous scene lasted for about ten minutes, when 
everyone left the courtyard. The bridegroom then 
entered, accompanied only by half a dozen quite 
young boys, who bore the candles. 

As far as we were concerned, the ceremony was 
finished, and we betook ourselves homewards, 
through the now silent streets, lighted only by a 
million stars. As we strolled along, Larby in¬ 
formed us that at about one in the morning the 
bridegroom would leave his house and visit the 
Turkish bath, where he would be met by all his 
more intimate friends. There they would take 
the bath together, the bridegroom paying the 
piper. The bath over, they would lounge and 
sleep in the cooling chambers till eleven o’clock, 
when all would repair to the bridegroom’s house 
to partake of the banquet prepared for them. 


One of the most picturesque incidents of native 
life in Kairouan is the ceremony of the circumcision. 
It is of course an important religious rite, but it is 
at the same time an occasion for much rejoicing 
and merry-making. Unlike the wedding function, 

223 




TUNIS 


it takes place in broad daylight, generally at about 
three o’clock in the afternoon. 

Barbaric strains of Arab music are heard in the 
distance, always calling to mind the noise of Scotch 
bagpipes ; then gaily embroidered silk banners 
become visible, held high above the heads of the 
crowd. There is a continuous trilling on a very high 
note, from veiled women collected on the house¬ 
tops ; and now the procession arrives. A score or 
more of little boys, about seven years old, are 
mounted on horses or mules, bedecked with trap¬ 
pings of scarlet, orange, green, and gold. The 
little fellows are dressed in velvet jackets, brocaded 
with gold, and wear pale pink or pale blue pantaloons. 
A brand-new Turkish fez adorns the head, and 
chains, bracelets, necklaces, pins, and all the articles 
of family jewellery available, are attached, in place 
and out of place, to his little figure. The horses 
are led at a slow pace by servants, generally negroes, 
and all the male relatives of the children walk by 
their side; incense is swung, and, with much noise and 
pomp, the procession slowly makes its way to the 
mosque. When the ceremony is finished, the proces¬ 
sion is reformed and the children are taken back to 
their homes. On the following day a banquet, more 
or less important, according to the position of the 
parents, is given to relations and friends, who toast 
the health and piety of the youngster in coffee and 

224 


IN THE COOL SOUKS OF KAIROUAN 







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KAIROUAN CEREMONIES 


lemonade, the feast being much the same as that 
given after a wedding. 

Somewhat similar, though less elaborate, are the re¬ 
joicings over the ceremony of the first shave, when, at 
the age of about three, the heads of little boys are offi¬ 
cially shaved, one small tail being left, by which it is 
popularly supposed that the faithful will, eventually, 
be pulled up to paradise. Another explanation of the 
tail is that it was intended to provide a convenient 
handle by which, in time of war, the head would 
be carried by a Christian victor, thus preserving it 
from his defiling fingers. 


CL 


225 


CHAPTER XVI 


A Hot Day in Kairouan 

It was a hot day. I did not need to look at the 
thermometer to confirm my feelings on this subject. 
My mosquito curtain had become a tangled mass 
of netting, and my sheet had been unconsciously 
projected down to the region of my toes. Though 
the camels were still roaring, the donkeys braying, 
and the dogs howling, surely there was an enfeebled 
timbre in their various notes. I took a tepid bath, 
re-entered my pyjamas, and decided to spend a 
quiet morning in recording impressions of the 
previous day. Pyjamas, as morning attire, have the 
double advantage of being light and cool, and of 
allowing you to repeat, with the minimum of 
trouble, the luxury of your tepid tub. I settled 
down to work with my typewriter, but discovered, 
to my dismay, that its temper, usually so unruffled 
and imperturbable, was distinctly captious and 
cranky. It insisted on printing x for z and p for q, 
and vice versa , and surely — yes, certainly — its 

226 


A HOT DAY IN KAIROUAN 

voice, never too musical, was increasedly harsh and 
strident. 

I thrust my typewriter into a corner, and arraying 
myself in more or less conventional attire, strolled 
out into the street. A watering-cart was passing by, 
and close behind it a row of exuberant youngsters, 
holding their skirts high above their waists, were 
enjoying the luxury of a free shower-bath, with 
many shrieks and howls of delight. 

A hotel guide, who was sitting on the doorstep 
in a condition of semi-collapse, asked me if we had 
hot summers in England; and when I told him 
that I had just been reading in the paper of severe 
snow-storms, he revived at the very idea, and plied 
me with questions respecting the cost of the journey, 
the expenses of living, and the chances of obtaining 
employment in such a favoured land. 

The wind was from the south, direct from the 
desert, and it blew on one’s face like a blast from a 
furnace, so that, instead of welcoming a little breeze, 
one fled from it to the comparative coolness 
of stagnant air. Dogs lay panting with their 
tongues out ; cats had retired into cellars; birds were 
chattering with astounding vigour, but whether in 
joy or misery I could not tell. Outside the Porte 
de France, in the full glare of the sun, several camels 
were contentedly munching their meal of prickly 
cactus, and, conscious of immunity from sunstroke, 

227 2 


TUNIS 


blinked contemptuously at my pugaree. I crawled 
along the Grand Rue, which, in spite of the heat, 
was full of bustle and life. Here sartorial fashions 
had undergone considerable change. The Jews, 
and Arabs of the better class, displayed, in casting 
off the warm burnous, a surprising wealth of finery in 
embroidered silks of many colours. The workers in 
the little open shops had discarded the gandoura as 
well as the burnous, and were plying their trades in 
shirt-sleeves and quaint baggy pantaloons, a touch 
of colour being given by the tartan silk cummer¬ 
bund, which even the poorest seem to possess. 

Small urchins were running about encumbered 
by nothing but a scanty shirt, while many of the 
country folk wore only the haik, which, lending 
itself to much variety in the wearing, covered, on 
this piping hot morning, little but one shoulder 
and the waist. But the most startling evidence 
that summer had really arrived was given by the 
prevalence of the huge straw hat, the dimensions of 
which are never credited by those who have not 
seen them. They are really so very picturesque 
that the soft felt slouch-hat of a stray Sicilian 
seemed by comparison very commonplace; and as 
for the helmet, much affected by the French, it 
may indeed be practical, but surely no headgear 
ever devised was less becoming. 

Nevertheless, had I possessed a hideous helmet, 

228 


A HOT DAY IN KAIROUAN 


I should certainly have worn it; but this not 
being the case, I decided to beat a retreat to some 
shady spot where cool drinks might be procurable. 
The Arab cafe is an admirable institution, and its 
attractions are numerous. It is gay, characteristic, 
interesting, and often beautiful; but from the prac¬ 
tical point of view of providing the wherewithal 
for quenching thirst on a very hot day, its resources 
are pathetically inadequate. 

The Cafe de Paris—Grand Cercle Civile Fran^ais, 
as it is pleased to style itself—made stronger claims 
on my patronage, and thither I retraced my steps in 
search of something iced. 


229 


CHAPTER XVII 


The Camels of Kairouan : A Eulogy 

The camel pervades Kairouan. Whenever I 
recall to mind that sacred city, my ear is aware of 
the dull, soft sound of the camel’s leisurely tread. 
It is a quiet note, but one which is felt by the sensi¬ 
tive ear, despite the yells, the screams, the shouts, 
and vigorous chatter of the crowd. I can see, too, 
the loose, detached movements of his long, supple 
neck as he regards in turn everything in front of 
and around him, proclaiming by the expression of 
his sad, heavy-lidded eyes that all is vanity and 
beneath contempt to the superior intelligence of a 
philoso P h ic camel. 

At Kairouan the camel is ubiquitous; one meets 
him at every turn, pursuing every occupation, 
humble and exalted. He draws the carts, he treads 
the wheat, he grinds the corn, and he carries such 
enormous burdens of hay and fodder that one 
wonders if, indeed, his poor humped back would 
not be broken by adding the proverbial straw. 

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THE CAMELS OF KAIROUAN 


Though his occupations are menial, though his 
figure is grotesque and ungainly, though his eyes 
are often covered with blinkers and his mouth 
enclosed by a nose-bag, though his neck is denuded 
of its long, handsome collar and his body is clipped 
and shaved till his skin is as bare as a plucked 
ostrich, though he is lodged in filthy stables and 
beaten with sticks by heartless nigger-boys, he 
never loses his dignity of bearing. Very rarely 
does he allow his temper to be ruffled, or visibly 
resent the numerous indignities to which he is sub¬ 
jected. Sometimes when watching a camel, my 
thoughts have turned to the theories of the Theoso- 
phists, and I have wondered if this poor beast of 
burden could embody a human spirit patiently work¬ 
ing out its penance for crimes committed in a pre¬ 
vious and happier existence. 

Every rule has its exception, and it must be ad¬ 
mitted that the camel does utter a noisy protest 
when he is made to kneel down for mounting or 
loading. Perhaps his knees suffer from the position; 
they frequently look very sore. Possibly he is not, 
after all, entirely free from vanity, and is aware that 
the pose is an unbecoming one. It is true that, 
seen from behind, his anatomy is an incomprehen¬ 
sible jumble of dislocated joints and misplaced 
muscles; while from the front, however much he 
manoeuvres his sinuous neck, he cannot look down 

231 


TUNIS 


on you with his customary contempt from a level 
which is beneath your own. He endeavours, there¬ 
fore, to frighten you by opening his mouth as wide 
as possible, disclosing enormous yellow teeth and a 
pea-soup tongue, at the same time uttering fearful 
sounds, which are an inadmirable imitation of the 
lion’s roar. It is an alarming exhibition when you 
are mounting for the first time, as he turns his 
head completely round and stares you in the face. 

But the manners of the camel are generally 
perfect, as is noticeable when one sees a score 
or more being watered at one of the many wells 
outside the walls of the town. Arranging them¬ 
selves in regular and orderly rows on either side of 
the trough, they stretch out their long necks, and 
suck up the water with a solemnity and orderliness 
which would do credit to the formal etiquette of 
Chinese mandarins. There is no rude hustling for 
place, no indecorous haste, no selfish and ill-bred 
disregard of neighbours’ needs and the rights of 
others. When a camel has assuaged his thirst, he 
quietly withdraws, and with a graceful motion of 
the neck which suggests a courteous bow of thanks, 
another takes his place. The wells are primitive 
and picturesque, and in the golden evening light, 
with the crenellated walls of the city or a limitless 
stretch of barren desert as a background, this every¬ 
day episode is quite impressive. 

232 


THE CAMELS OF KAIROUAN 


Everyone knows that the camel is able to carry a 
store of water which will last him for many days 
when crossing the desert, but personally I was 
unaware of how the store was utilized. One day as 
I was watching some camels lying in the sun, I saw 
a small iridescent bubble appear from the mouth of 
one of them, which rapidly expanded till it was the 
size of a football. For a moment it hung there, 
looking quite beautiful, if a little uncanny, as it 
reflected all the colours of the rainbow in the 
brilliant glare of African noon. Then there came 
a liquid gurgling sound as the water in this bladder 
passed down the throat into the stomach. The 
camel was taking a few refreshing draughts from his 
internal reservoir. It is really quite a pretty spectacle, 
if you know what is happening, and are not afraid, 
as I was for the first moment, that the creature was 
going to turn himself entirely inside out. I also 
learnt, though I blush for my previous ignorance, 
that the camel’s hump is not a mere useless eccen¬ 
tricity, but is a reserve store of food, being com¬ 
posed of fat which is absorbed into the system in 
the absence of other nourishment. By the size of 
the hump one can gauge the condition of a camel, 
those who have just crossed the desert from Tim- 
buctoo having hardly any left. 

The camels of Kairouan are chiefly pack camels, 
though every now and then a racer arrives from 

233 


TUNIS 


elsewhere. The racing camel is of a different 
breed, and has very much longer legs, but his 
training has also much to do with his rapidity of 
pace. The instinct of all camels is to move in a 
leisurely fashion, except under the pressure of 
necessity. This pressure is brought to bear on the 
racing camel when he is very young indeed. As a 
mere baby he is made to earn his meals by racing 
after his mother, from whom he is kept back while 
on the march till she is nearly out of sight. 
Ravenous for his food, and also frightened at being 
left alone, he bounds after her, when set free, with 
all the rapidity he can command, and this trick, 
constantly repeated, greatly increases his powers of 
speed. 

It is not the wearing of the purple which makes 
the emperor nor the holding of the sceptre which 
gives him might; yet as a jewel is enriched by 
its setting and a picture by its frame, so the quiet 
dignity of the camel rises to a regal level when 
decked with the rich paraphernalia of a lordly 
master. Draped to the knees with an open mesh 
of tasselled crimson wool, he bears, in a tent of 
radiant colour, the chattels, wives, and children of 
his owner. Silently he swings across the sand with 
stately measured stride as though to the rhythm of 
remembered music. Ship-of-the-Desert is his well- 
earned title, and on his trusty back one may laugh 

234 


THE CAMELS OF KAIROUAN 


at the terrors of the sandstorm and safely brave the 
barren billows of a dried-up sea. 

O admirable creature ! Monument of patience ! 
Marvel of endurance ! Thin of limb, but stout of 
heart, and swift of foot; spartan in habit, philo¬ 
sophic in temperament, dignified in bearing. Long 
may you grace the streets and marts of Kairouan, 
and may your lot be happier in a future state ! 


2 35 


CHAPTER XVIII 


The Future 

It is hardly possible to those who have visited 
Tunisia, and made even a slight aquaintance of her 
people, not to indulge in some speculation, however 
futile, as to future development under French in¬ 
fluence. It is to be feared that the more imme¬ 
diate and obvious effect will be the destruction of 
medieval picturesqueness, and the degradation of 
traditional handmade industries. There is already a 
weakening of the fanatical side of religion, and with 
it, alas ! a loss of the moral restraint imposed by the 
precepts of the Koran in such matters as abstaining 
from alcohol and performing religious ablutions. It 
is only too common to see the Arab drinking absinthe 
in the French cafes, and moderation is not a quality 
which he easily exercises in any direction, while to 
wash four or five times a day is a degree of hygienic 
cleanliness hardly to be realized unless enforced by 
religious command. 

Frenchmen to whom I have spoken on the 

2 3 6 


THE FUTURE 


subject invariably dismiss the unfortunate Arab as a 
hopeless fanatic, from whom it is useless to expect 
anything but hand labour ; but the educated Arab of 
the new school indignantly denies that the Moham¬ 
medan religion is fanatical, or in any way incom¬ 
patible with progress. In the current number of 
a French Tunisian journal there is an article written 
by an Arab, from which I quote the following 
passages: 

“It is extraordinary to read periodically in the 
European Press that Mussulmen are fanatics, that 
Islam is incompatible with modern progress, and 
that its followers are an effete people. Those 
who launch such enormities on the public would 
do well if they were to study the subject from 
sources other than those of tourists, who know 
nothing of the Moslem world except what they hear 
from the guides of the “ souks.” Islam has never 
been the enemy of progress, and, on the contrary, 
progress should be the immediate corollary of the 
true Islam. I say the true Islam, because the 
ridiculous burlesques of the Dervishes, the Tourneurs, 
and the Aissaouas have nothing to do with Islam, and 
are, indeed, rigorously condemned by it. From the 
point of view of dogma, Islam presents nothing super¬ 
natural or mysterious ; and its prescriptions are 
admitted to be socially moral and hygienic. 

“ The Koran tells us to adopt a constitutional form 

2 37 




TUNIS 


of government. Your authority is the assent of the 
people, it says. Mussulmen were in the Middle 
Ages the only representatives of science and art, and 
their brilliant civilization shone from the shores of 
the Atlantic to the confines of China. Kairouan, 
Cordova, Granada, Damascus, Cairo, Bagdad, and 
Samarcande, suffice to show her grandeur. Many 
Europeans are pleased to call the Mussulman religion 
fatalistic. Nothing could be more false. Tradition 
says that a Bedouin who was visiting the Prophet 
wished to show his confidence in destiny by not tying 
up his camel. The Prophet reproved his negligence, 
saying to him, ‘ Attach the camel and have confidence. 
If, having been carefully tied up, the camel had 
strayed away, then thou couldst justly cry.’ It was 
written, ‘All Mussulmen have recourse to this com¬ 
fort and consolation, having done all that they can 
to prevent evil and bring about good.’ 

“ The prophet has, in effect, said : ‘ Arrange your 
worldly affairs as if you would live for ever, and 
prepare for your future life as if you would die to¬ 
morrow.’ 

“The Mussulman people are determined to put 
themselves in the line of progress, to expand their 
knowledge, and to improve their position. To 
what this determination may lead it would be 
difficult to predict, and we prefer to leave to events 
the task of raising the veil.” 

238 


THE FUTURE 


All this sounds very plausible, but it must be 
remembered that though the writer dismisses with 
contempt the superstitions of such sects as the 
Dervishes and the Aissaouas, the latter form a con¬ 
siderable proportion of the Tunisian population, 
and they certainly consider themselves good Moslems, 
though he does not. 

The Tunisian is less fanatical than his brother in 
Morocco, less warlike, of a softer, more amiable, 
and perhaps more effeminate nature; but he is a 
confirmed fatalist, and his fatalism is not at all of the 
kind so cleverly expounded by the story of the 
Prophet and the Bedouin with his camel. This is 
no doubt greatly in his favour from the French point 
of view. He gave them little trouble to conquer; 
he accepts what he considers to be the inevitable. 

It is very illustrative of his kind of fatalism 
that at Kairouan hardly any resistance to the French 
was offered, because a revered marabout had left 
a prediction, in writing, that the city would be taken 
by a European Power and its mosque desecrated. 
Though the Arab accepts his subjection with the 
philosophy at his command, he can hardly be ex¬ 
pected to entertain any strong feeling of affection 
for his masters, and his mental attitude towards the 
French is probably much the same as that of the 
Egyptian towards the English, so clearly pictured 
by Lord Cromer in the following passage: 

2 39 



TUNIS 


“ The English engineer may give the fellah 
water for his fields, and roads, and railways, to 
enable him to bring his produce to market; the 
English financier may afford him fiscal relief beyond 
his wildest hopes ; the English jurist may prevent 
his being sent to death or exile for a crime of which 
he is innocent; the English schoolmaster may 
open to him the door of Western knowledge and 
science ; but the Egyptian Moslem, albeit he recog¬ 
nizes the benefits conferred on him by the English¬ 
man, and acknowledges his superior ability, can 
never forget the fact that the Englishman wears a 
hat, while he himself wears a tarboosh or turban. 

“Though he accepts the benefits willingly enough, 
he is always mindful that the hand which bestowed 
them is not that of a co-religionist, and it is this 
which affects him far more than the thought that 
the Englishman is not his compatriot. The differ¬ 
ences between Eastern and Western habits of 
thought constitute a barrier interposed between 
the Egyptian and the Englishman almost as great 
as that resulting from differences of religion, ideas 
of government, and social customs. Indeed, the 
difference of mental attributes constitutes perhaps 
the greatest of all barriers.” 

Poor Tunisian Arab ! His race has achieved 
wonders in the past, and who shall say that he is 
not predestined to future greatness ? At present he 

240 


THE FUTURE 


is a dreamer of dreams, who loves to sing of the 
conquest of Spain by his ancestors and to jingle the 
keys of Andalousian castles held by his forebears. 
He must wake up and tether his camel before 
trusting to Fate if he would cease to be protected by 
France. 


241 


R 




INDEX 







INDEX 


Abada, Emir, 206-8 
Abou - Mohammed - El - Abdery, 
quoted , 88-89 
yEneas, story of, 21-22 
.Esculapius, temple of, 40-46 
Africa— 

Christianity introduced, 47-49 
Vandal invasion, 64-66 
Agape, the, 52 

Agathocles, 118 ; siege of Hadru- 
mentum, 147 
Ager Sexti, 62 
Aigues Mortes, 95 
Aissaouia, the, 220, 237, 239 ; 

Zaouia of the, 209-16 
Alaoui Museum, the, 142-43 
Alaric, invasion of Rome, 64 
Alcais, M., quoted , 47, 60-61 
Algeria, sect of the Aissaouia in, 
216 

Alypius, story of, 175-79 
Amphitheatre, Roman— 

at Carthage, 128-34; of El- 
Djem, 159-62; a dream, 
163-74; attitude of the early 
Fathers towards the, 175-79 
Antiochus Epiphanes, 90 
Appian cited, 24-25, 34, 37-38, 
112, 119-20 
Apulius, 48 

Aqueduct, the Croton, 126 
Aqueducts, Roman, at Carthage, 
124-27 


Arab, the— 

Courtesy and hospitality of, 
72-81; his taste in dress, 
76 ; his mid-day, 78-79 ; the 
siesta, 79-80 ; marriage and 
divorce, 96-98 ; his love of 
flowers, 108-10; French 
opinions, 145-46, 236-39; 

an impression at El-Djem, 
161-62 ; treatment of his 
wife, 204; religious fanati¬ 
cism, 209-16; his character, 
215-16; an Arab wedding, 
217-23 

Aria, teachings of, 63 

Ariana, semi-Jewish village, 135- 
38 

Arians, the, 63 

Attarin, Souk-des-, Tunis, 87 

Augustine, St.— 

Account of, 62-63 ; his trea¬ 
tises, 64; and the catacombs, 
152-54; and the amphi¬ 
theatre, 175-79; mentioned, 
7 ) 5 2 

Augustus, rebuilds Carthage, 46- 
47 

Aurelius, Marcus, his edict 
against the Christians, 52-56 

Avignon, 95 

Baal-Moloch, worship of, 47, 
118-19 


2 45 


INDEX 


Bab-el-Bher, the (Porte de 
France), 104 

Bab Menara, gateway of, Tunis, 
68 

Babelon, M., “Carthage,” 13 
Babouche, M., souk of, in Tunis, 
81-86 

Bagdad, 238 ; Khalifat of, 147 
Barbarossa, 13, go, 147 
Barbier, mosque de, Kairouan, 
203-6 

Barca Hamilcar—- 

Saves Carthage, 31-32; Car¬ 
thaginian treatment of, 35-36 
Bardo Museum, Tunis, 47 
Bardo Palace, the, 142-43 
Baruti Well, the, Kairouan, 194- 
95 . 

Beaucaire, 92 

Bedouins, 158, 204, 238, 239 
Belisarius, 147 

Belvedere Gardens, the, Tunis, 
105-6 
Berbers— 

Origin of the, 18-19; revolt 
under Queen Kakina, 159 
Beule, M., cited, 114, 126-27 
Boissier, M. Gaston, cited , 19 
Bostar, death of, 29 
Bou Cornein, 47, 106, 115, 

202 

Bou-Kornein, siege of, 31-32 
Breve, M. de, 94 
Broadly, Mr., “ Tunis Past and 
Present,” cited , 207 
Bruce, James, quoted , 97-98 
Byrsa— 

Citadel of, 13 ; story of Dido, 
21 ; fortress taken by the 
Romans, 40-44 

Cadmus, story of, 19-20 
Caesar, designs regarding Car¬ 
thage, 46 

Cafes of Modern Tunis, 106-8 


Cairo, 238 

Caldonius, Bishop, 60 
Cambe, founding of, 19-20 
Camels, the, of Kairouan, 230-35 
Campagna, the, 181 
Canaanites, the, origin of the 
Phoenicians, 17-18 
Canary Isles, Berber inscriptions 
found, 19 

Capitol, the, the summons of 
Decius, 57 
Carthage— 

Martyrs of, 6-7, 128-34; the 
early Phoenicians, 17 ; 
founded by Dido, 21-23 ; 
records, 23-24 ; naval supre¬ 
macy of, 24, 113-14; geo¬ 
graphical position, 24-25 ; 
the Punic Wars, 25-29; the 
war of the mercenaries, 29- 
32 ; code of bonfire signals, 
33; the victory of Scipio, 
33-35,114-16 ; the last scene 
in the Punic Wars, 36-44; 
Roman colonization of, 46- 
47 ; pagan gods of, 47 ; in¬ 
troduction of Christianity 
into, 47-49 ; trial of Speratus, 
52-54 ; Romans seek refuge 
in, 64; decay of Roman 
Carthage, 64-66 ; the ap¬ 
proach to, m-12; archaeo¬ 
logical interest of, 113-16; 
the ancient glory of, 116; 
the historic ports of, 119-20; 
the Roman theatre, 120-23 5 
basilica of Damous-el-Ka- 
rita, 123-24; Roman cis¬ 
terns of, 124-27.; the Roman 
amphitheatre at, 128-34 
Carthage, Council of, 64 
Carthaginians, the— 

Character, 35-36; as slave- 
dealers, 90-95; pagan gods 
of, 117-19 


246 


INDEX 


Casino Cafe, the, 107-8 
Catacombs of Sousse, the, 148- 
55 

Celestius, 64 

Cemetery, the Jewish, 138-42 
Censoinus, 25 

Charles V., 13 ; slaves rescued 
- by, 73, 90-91 
Chechias, Souk-des-, 95 
Christians, Early— 

Discipline of the, 48-52 ; edict 
of M. Aurelius, 52-56 ; edict 
of Decius, 56-61 ; edict of 
Valerian, 61-62; attitude re¬ 
garding political events, 65- 
66; martyrs of Carthage, 
128-34; work of, in the 

mines, 154-55 

Circumcision, ceremony of, Kai- 
rouan, 223-24 

Cisterns, Roman, at Carthage, 
124-27 

Citernes, Hotel des, 127 
Cittinus, trial of, 53-54 
Commet, M. de, 91 
Constantinople, Mosque of St. 
Sophia, 99 

Cordova, 238 ; Cathedral of, 
200-202 

Corsica, view of, 13 
Corvus, the, 26 

Cromer, Lord, quoted, 239- 
40 

Croton Aqueduct, the, 126 
Cupping of natives, 190-91 
Cyprian, St.— 

Martyrdom of, 7, 61-62 ; 

quoted, 48, 50-51 ; con¬ 
version of, 56-57; direction 
of the Church, 58-61 ; a 
letter to, quoted, 154-55 
Cyprus, Dido at, 21 

Damascus, 238 ; lemonade 
sellers of, 84 


Damous-el-Karita, basilica of, 
123-24 

Decius, edict against the early 
Christians, 56-61 
Delattre, Pere, discoveries of, 
123-24 

Dervishes, 237, 239 
Dido, Queen, story of, 20-23 
Djama-es-Zitouna, mosque of, 
87-89 

Djebel-Djeloud, village of, 144 
Dolmens, 17 

Domitian, theatrical fetes in 
time of, 121-23 
Donata, trial of, 53-54 

Egypt, Lord Cromer on, quoted, 
239-40 
El-Djem— 

The journey to, 156-59 ; the 
amphitheatre, 159-62 ; a 
dream, 163-74; the ancient 
city, 160; picture of the 
Arab in, 161-62 ; mentioned, 
147, 148 

El Ham, lake of, 181 
El Ham, station of, 180 
Elissa, see Dido 

Emir - Ben-Said- Bou-Muphteh, 
206-8 

Epiphanies, 63 
Eschmoun, worship of, 118 
Etna, 121 

Etoffes, Souk-des-, Tunis, 87, 89- 
9 °. 9 1 ) 95 

Fanaticism of the Arab, 236- 
40 

Fatima’s hand, 220 
Felicitas, St.— 

Martyrdom, 7, 128-34; burial 
place of, 124 
Flaubert, cited, 27-28 
Flowers, the Arab’s love of, 108- 
10 


247 


INDEX 


French occupation of Kairouan, 
182-83 

French Tunis, see Tunis, modern 

Gabes, 156 
Galley-slaves, 91 
Genseric invasion of North 
Africa, 63, 64, 65, 66 
Gibraltar, 23 

Giscon, General, fate of, 30-31 
Gordian, Emperor, 163 
Gracchus, Gaius, 46 
Granada, 238 

Grand Mosque of Kairouan, 180, 
192, 194, 199-203 
Gregory Nazianzen, St., 56-57 
Grombalia, 144 

Guerin, M., account of his visit 
to Kairouan, 183-85 
Guides, Arab, 188 

Hadrumentum, see Sousse 
Haf Haha, village of, 88 
Hamilcar, punishment of, 29 
Hamouda Pasha, 74 
Hamman Lif, 31, in, 115, 
144 

Hannibal, 6, 13, 36, 45, 147 
Hannon— 

Account of his voyage, 23; 
his mission to the mer¬ 
cenaries, 30 

Harmonie, wife of Cadmus, 19- 
20 

Hasdrubal, treachery of, 42-44 
Hats, Tunisian, 69-70 
Herculanus, Bishop, 60 
Hercules, columns of (Gibraltar), 

23 

Hippo, 64 

Horace, story of Regulus, 28 

Iapon, King of Lybia, 21, 23 
Innocent, Pope, 64 
Islamism, 237-38 


Jarbas, king of Mauretania, 22 
Jerusalem, fall of, 90 
Jew, the Tunisian, 9-10— 
Number in Tunis, 76-77 ; 
mourning for the dead, 138- 
42 

Jewish Cemetery, the, 138-42 
Joshua, son of Kav£, 17-18 
Julian, the Apostate, 63 
Justianopolis, ancient name of 
Sousse, 147 
Justinia, 57 
Justinian, 147 

Kabyle, the, of Algeria, origin, 
18-19 

Kadi, Court of the, Tunis, 95- 
98 

Kairouan— 

History of, 180 ; Grand 
Mosque of, 180, 192, 199- 
203 ; hotels of, 181 ; the 
religious capital of the 
country, 181-82 ; French 
occupation of, 182-83; visit 
of M. Guerin in 1862, 183- 
85 ; account of its founda¬ 
tion, 185-186; as it is to¬ 
day, 186-98 ; the Grand 
Rue, 190, 195-96, 218 ; 

outdoor fritter shops, 191; 
souks of, 192; vegetable 
stalls, 193; the Baruti Well, 
1 94-95 > butchers of, 195- 
96; Porte de Tunis, 196- 
97, 202, 203, 218, 221 ; 
mosques of, 199-208; cis¬ 
terns, 202 ; the Kasbah, 
203; Mosque du Barbier, 
203-6 ; Mosque des Sabres, 
206-8, 221 ; “ zaouias ” of, 
208 ; ceremonies, 217-25 ; 
an Arab wedding, 217-23; 
circumcision, 223-24 ; the 
first shave, 225; a hot day 


248 


INDEX 


in, 226-29 ; the Cafe de 
Paris, 229; the camels of, 
230-35 ; mentioned , 31, 70, 
1 44 , 159 

Kakina, Queen, 159 
Kasbah, the, of Tunis, 73, 90; of 
Sousse, 147, 149 
Koran, professional readers of 
the, 205-6 

La Goulette, port of, 13-14; 
slaves of, 90-91; mentioned, 
112, 124 

La Malga, cisterns of, 127 ; ruins 
at, 128 

La Marsa, 112, 124, 133 
Larby, guide, 217-22 
Lavigerie, Cardinal, 13, 128 
Libaeum, siege of, 33 
Library of Djama-es - Zitouna, 
88 

Locusts, 112 
Louis, King St., 13 
Lusitania , the, 12 

Maccabees, the, 90 
Mohammed, celebration of the 
prophet’s birthday, 81-86 
Manichaeans, the, 63 
Marabout, the— 

Habits of, 187-90 ; tombs, 
188, 200, 221 ; the Zaouia 
of the Aissaouia, 209-16 
Marabouts, Cafe des, Tunis, 78- 
Si ; celebration of the 
prophet’s birthday, 85 
Marriage and divorce, Arab, 96- 
98 

Marsa, 62 

Marseilles, an impression, 11- 
12 

Martyrs of Carthage, 128-34 
Matho, leader of the mercenaries, 
3 °" 3 2 

Mausoleums, 200 


Maxula, city of, 27 
Maxula-Rades, station of, 27 
Mecca, 88, 195 
Medina, the, Tunis, 98 
Metal-Workers, Souk of the, 71 
Middleton, Professor, quoted, 
125-26 

Mill, John Stuart, on Marcus 
Aurelius, quoted, 55-56 
Mines, work of the early Chris¬ 
tians in the, 154-55 
Monceaux, M., cited , 55 
Monica, St., 63 ; and the cata¬ 
combs, 152-54 

Moore, Miss Mabel, “ Carthage 
of the Phoenicians,” 134 
Morocco, religion in, 239 
Mosque du Barbier, 192, 200, 
203-6 

Mosques des Sabres, 200, 206-8 
Mosques of Kairouan, 199-208 

Narbonne, 92 
Nartzalus, trial of, 53-54 
Novairi, Arab historian, cited, 185- 
86 

Numidia, inscriptions, 18 
Numidians, the, their huts fired 
by Scipio, 33-35 
Numidicus, priest, 60 

Okbah-ben-Nafi, founds Kai¬ 
rouan, 185-86 
Olive, St., 88 

Oman, C. W. C., quoted, 65-66 

Pelagius, teachings of, 63-64 
Perpetua, St.— 

Martyrdom, 7, 128-34; burial- 
place of, 124 
Phoenicians— 

History of the, 17-18; com¬ 
mercial instincts, 24; famous 
as slave dealers, 90; pagan 
gods of, 117 


2 49 


INDEX 


Pliny, cited , 125 
Polybius, cited , 32, 33 
Polygamy, Bruce’s reasons in 
favour of, 97-98 
Pompian, deacon, 130 
Pompone, official, 129 
Porte de France, 103-4 
Procope, historian, cited, 18 
Pudens, gaoler, 132 
Punic Wars, history of the, 6, 25- 
29, 36-44 

Pygmalion, King of Tyre, 20 

Rades, 27, 144 
Regulus— 

Siege of Tunis, 27-28 ; before 
the Roman Senate, 28; 
death of, 29 

Revocatus, St., martyrdom, 128- 
34 

Rogatius, priest, 60 
Roman amphitheatre at Carthage, 
128-34 

Roman remains, preservation of, 
8-9 

Roman theatre, the, at Carthage, 
120-23 
Rome— 

Punic War, 26-29 > the siege of 
Libaeum, 33; the last scene 
in the Punic Wars, 36-44; 
public feeling in, on fall of 
Carthage, 45 - 46 ; Alaric’s 
invasion, 64 

Sabres, Mosque des, 206-8 
Saddlery of Tunis, 68-71 
Sahara, the, Berber inscriptions 
found, 19 

St. Louis, Cathedral of, Carthage, 
42, 113, 116-17 
St. Mark’s, Venice, 200 
St. Peter’s, Rome, 180-81 
St. Pierre, Church of, Avignon, 
95 


St. Sophia, mosque of, Constanti¬ 
nople, 99 

Salvien, quoted , 64 
Samarcande, 238 
Sanavivaria, the gate, 132 
Saturninus, St., martyrdom, 128- 
34 

Scents of Tunis, 87-88 
Scillium, 55 

Scipio, siege of Carthage, 33-45, 
114-16 

Sebastopol, siege of, 207 
Secunda, trial of, 53-54 
Secundulus, St., martyrdom, 128- 
. 34 

Selliers, Souk-des-, 68-71 
Seneca, quoted , 121-22 
Sfax, 156 

Shieb-Muhammad, guide, 188- 
89 

Sicca, 30 

Sidi - ben - Youssef, mosque of, 
Tunis, 74 

Sidi-Bou-Said, village of, 123, 
124 

Sidi Mahrez, mosque of, 99 
Sidi Okbah, 159, 182, 195, 199 
Sinai, Berber inscriptions found, 
19 

Slave-dealing in Tunisia, 90-95 
Smith, Mr. Bosworth, cited , 127 
“ Souk,” the, or covered bazaar, 

67 

Souk-el-Trouk, Tunis, 75-78 
Souks of Kairouan, 192 
Sousse— 

Journey to, 144-46; its claim 
to antiquity, 146-47 ; its 
condition to-day, 147-48; 
the Kasbah of, 147, 149; 
catacombs of, 148-55 ; men¬ 
tioned, 27, 118 

Spendius, leader of the mercen¬ 
aries, 30-32 

Speratus, trial of, 52-54 


2 5 ° 


INDEX 


Steamers, French, 12-13 
Sychseus, high priest of Mercarth, 
20, 22 

Tagaste, 63 

Tailors of Tunis, 75-77 ' 

Tangier, 188 

Tanit, worship of, 118 

Taormina, 121 

Tertius, prison official, 129 

Tertullus, quoted , 48, 49-50 

Thysdrus. See El-Djem 

Toureg, the, origin, 18-19 

Tourneurs, 237 

Troy, fall of, 44 

Tunis— 

Journey from Marseilles, 12- 
16; the siege of 256 B.c., 
27 ; the mercenaries encamp 
at, 30 ; the Bardo Museum, 
47; mosque of Djama-es- 
Zitouna, 87-89 ; worship of 
Baal - Moloch in, 118-19; 
half - day excursions from, 
135-43 

Arab Tunis, 67 - 102 ; the 
“ souk,” or covered bazaar, 
67 ; Porte de France, 68, 
103-4 ; Rue de l’Eglise, 68 ; 
Souk - des - Selliers, 68-71 ; 
Souk of the Metal Workers, 
71 ; the Kasbah, 73; Cafe 
du Kasbah, 73-74 ; palace of 
the Dar-el-Bey, 74 ; Mosque 
of Sidi-ben-Youssef, 74; the 
native hospital, 74-75; Souk- 
el-Trouk, 75-78 ; Cafe des 
Marabouts, 78-81, 85 ; cele¬ 
bration of the prophet’s 
birthday, 81-86 ; Souk-des- 
Etoffes, 87, 89-90, 91 ; Souk- 
des-Attarin, 87; Court of 
the Kadi, 95-98 ; Place Bab 
Souika, the, 98-99, 100-101; 


Mosque of Sidi Mahrez, 
99 ; Place Halouaine, 99, 
101-2 

Modem Tunis, 103-no—Rue 
de France, 103 ; Avenue 
Jules Ferry, 103, 104-5 > the 
Belvedere Gardens, 105-6; 
Cafe du Casino, 107-8 
Tunis, Lake of, 13, 103, 105, 

112, 203 
Tunisia— 

Manifold interests in, 1-6 ; 
association with the history 
of the early Church, 6-7 ; 
French influence in, 7-9; 
original people of, 17-19; 
fragments of history of, 17- 
66 ; earliest cities of, 19-20 ; 
slave dealers of, 90-95 
Tyre, merchants of, 90 

Utica, 19 

Valens, 63 

Valerian, edict of, against the 
Christians, 61-62 
Vandal invasion of North Africa, 
64, 65, 66; of Hadrumen- 
tum, 147 
Velaria, the, 169 
Vergers, M. Noel des, quoted , 
185-86 

Vestia, trial of, 53-54 
Vincent, Colonel, 150 
Vincent de Paul, St., his account 
of his capture and imprison¬ 
ment, 91-95 

Virgil, story of JEneas, 21-22 

Wedding, an Arab, 217-23 
Weigall, Mr. Arthur, quoted , 
109 


25 1 


INDEX 


White Fathers of Byrsa, 13, 32- 
33. 1 T 7> 124, 134 

Xanthippus, defence of Carth¬ 
age, 27-28 


Zagouan, iii, 124, 202 
Zaouia of the Aissaouia, Kai- 
rouan, 209-16 

Zemzen, holy well of, Mecca, 
195 


THE END 


BILLING AND SONS, LTD., PRINTERS, GUILDFORD 


The illustrations Jt,ave been produced by the Hentschcl Colour-type Process.