4 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Over the past four decades, Barnaby Rogerson has been fortunate to travel extensively across North Africa. He has visited with his family, as a writer and as a guide. He has delved into the richly complicated vein of history there, choosing six people from history that have intrigued him, that didn’t fit into a standard historical narrative and until now have been mere footnotes of history. Beginning with Queen Dido of Carthage he moves onto a well-known general Hannibal, son of Hamilcar and a Berber general Masinissa who was to prove his nemesis. We next encounter Juba II an African King before the Romans intrude with Septimius Severus. Lastly is St. Augustine a Christian saint. All of these people had a significant impact on the countries in North Africa leaving behind ruins, legacy and myths.

Woven into the six stories of the people who formed ancient North Africa, is Rogerson’s other love, travel. Details have been discovered whilst sitting on picnic rugs under the shade of an olive tree, taking groups of slightly nervous people up into the hills of Algeria to see the pyramids of Juba. Swimming off Leptis Magna, the ruined Roman city on the Libyan shore is an evocative scene, and is something that he tries to do every visit to this part of the coast, but it is also a time to catch up with old friends a uncover a little more about the place as they study the mosaics. The stories of Hannibal in North Africa, most famous for walking elephants across the Alps when battling Rome, are of a part of his life not often heard about and the tale of his final battle against the mighty Roman army that was to see the end of Carthage.

This fascinating account of his travels in this ancient landscape of North Africa is primarily focused on history, but as you’d expect, especially given Rogerson’s day job, there are strong elements of travel woven into the narrative. I am guessing that there have been some liberties with the stories that he is telling, but in certain cases, there is precious little to go on to make the stories flow so well. History is often written by the victors, but Rogerson has followed each lead tenaciously to get the answers that he wanted. This book only contains six well know people, but there must be many stories from this part f the world still to be told. There are photos of the places visited scatter throughout, but If I had one minor gripe, it would have good to read more about his own travels in these lands.

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