In search of Ancient North Africa: A history in six lives with Barnaby Rogerson

The Ebenezers welcomed Barnaby Rogerson for an illustrated lecture (with photos by Don McCullin) on some of the greatest figures from the turbulent history of North Africa.


Barnaby talked to us about six great lives from Ancient North Africa: Dido, Juba II, Hannibal, Massinissa, Septimius Severus and St Augustine.

For 40 years Barnaby has travelled across North Africa, making sense of the region’s fascinating history as both a writer and a guide.

Throughout that time, there have always been a handful of stories he could not pin into tidy narratives. This talk is a journey into the ruins of a landscape, an examination of six great lives and thoughts on the legacy and lessons they leave us with today...

A sacrificial refugee from Royal Tyre (Queen Dido of Carthage), a prisoner-of-war who became a compliant tool of the Roman Empire (King Juba), an unpromising provincial who, as Emperor, brought the Empire to its dazzling apogee (Septimius Severus), an ambitious intellectual careerist who managed to transform himself into a bishop and a saint (St Augustine), the greatest General the world has ever known (Hannibal), and the Berber Cavalry General who eventually defeated him (Masinissa).

Though all six lives have been clouded with as much myth as fact, the destinies of these North African figures remain highly relevant. Their descendants are faced with the same choices: Do you stay pure to your own culture and fight against the power of the West, or do you study and assimilate this other culture, and utilise its skills? Will it greet you as an ally only to own you as a slave?

In between these life stories, we explore ruins which tell their own tales and see the multiple interconnections that bind the culture of this region with the wider world, particularly the spiritual traditions of the ancient Near East.


Barnaby Rogerson

Barnaby Rogerson was conceived on a yacht and born in Scotland. Travel was a vital aspect of his childhood which followed in the wake of his father’s career in the Royal Navy with postings to Gibraltar, Malta, Skye and Virginia.

A chance encounter in the Outer Hebrides led to his first commission to write a guidebook to Morocco followed by Tunisia, Cyprus, Istanbul and Libya.

Barnaby has written a History of North Africa, a Biography of the Prophet Muhammad, an account of the early Caliphate, The Heirs of the Prophet, The story of the battle for the Mediterranean from 1415-1580, The Last Crusaders, and last year In Search of Ancient North Africa was published by Haus.

He is currently writing a book on how the Shia-Sunni schism has weakened Islam, A House Divided, to be published by Profile in 2019.

He is also a lecturer, tour guide, television presenter, journalist and book reviewer with a scrapbook of three hundred articles pasted up on his website

His day job is running Eland, a publishing house which specializes in keeping over a hundred classic travel books in print.

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2018Martin Keeley