Arae Philaenorum

ARAE PHILAENO'RUM (hoi tôn Philainôn bômoi, Strab. &c., but hoi Philainou bômoi, Polyb. III. 39, x. 40), a position very near the bottom of the Great Syrtis, on the N. coast of Africa, which marked the boundary between the territories of Carthage and Cyrene, and afterwards between Tripolitana and Cyrenaica. (Polyb.; Sall. Jug. 19, 79 ; Strab. III. p. 171, XVII. p.836 ; Plin. v.4 ; Mela, I. 7. § 6 ; Scylax, p. 47 ; Ptol. ; Stadiasm. ; Tab. Peut.) The name is derived from a romantic story, for which Sallust is the earliest authority. (Jug. 79, comp. Val. Max. V. 6. ext. 4.) At the time when the Carthaginians ruled over the greater part of North Africa, and the Greek colonists of Cyrene were also very powerful, long wars arose respecting their boundaries, which were left undefined by the nature of the country on the shores of the Syrtes, a sandy waste, with neither river nor mountain to serve for a land-mark. (A description, however, not quite accurate ; see SYRTES.) At length it was agreed to fix the boundary at the point of meeting of envoys sent out at the same time from each city. Whether by diligence, trickery, or chance, the Carthaginian envoys performed so much the greater part of the distance (in fact about 7-9ths, a disproportion sufficient of itself to dispose of the historical value of the story), that the Greeks were prepared for any course rather than to return and risk the penalty of their neglect. They would only consent to the boundary being fixed at the place of meeting, on the condition that the Carthaginians would submit to be buried alive on the spot ; if not, they demanded to advance as far as they pleased on the same terms. The Carthaginian envoys, two brothers named Philaeni, devoted themselves for their country ; and their fellow-citizens consecrated their heroism by honours to their memory at home, and by monuments, named after them, on the spot of their living interment. Like other such landmarks, erected both to perpetuate a boundary and the memory of some great event which fixed it, these monuments were called altars. (See the remarks of Strabo on such monuments in general, III. p. 171.) The monuments were no longer to be seen in the time of Strabo (l. c.), but the name was preserved. Pliny (V. 4) mentions the arae, and adds, ex arena sunt eae ; perhaps connecting the name with some existing hills, or tumuli, while Strabo had looked for artificial monuments. The position is clearly fixed by the passages above quoted. It was nearly at the bottom of the Great Syrtis, a little W. of Automala, which was at the very bottom of the Gulf (Strab. p. 836) ; notwithstanding that Sallust (Jug. 19) appears to name it as W. of Leptis Magna, and that Strabo (p. 171) places it about the middle of the country between the Syrtes (kata mesên pou tên metaxu tôn Surteôn gên). Both writers, in their other and chief passages on the subject, place the altars where we have stated. The apparent discrepancy in Sallust is easily removed by a proper mode of connecting the parts of the sentence (see Cortius and Kritz ad loc. and Mannert. X. 2. p. 117) ; and the phrase used by Strabo, the land between the Syrtes, is continually employed for the whole coast between the outer extremities of the two gulfs, kata mesên pou being also evidently used vaguely. The place does not occur in the Antonine Itinerary, but its position is occupied by a station called Banadedari, probably the native Libyan or Punic name. The locality, as fixed by the ancient writers, corresponds to a position a little W. of Moukhtar, the present boundary of Syrt and Barca, near which Captain Beechey (p. 210) mentions a remarkable table-hill called Jebel-Allah, which has very likely as good claims (however feeble they may be) to be considered one of the so-called Altars, as any other hill or mound seen or imagined by the ancients. A discussion of the historical value of the legend of the Philaeni is superfluous : besides obvious weak points, it has all the character of a story invented to account for some striking object, such as tumuli ; and the singular Philainou in Polybius deserves notice. (Beechey, Proceedings of the Expedition to explore the N. Coast of Africa, chap. VI. ; Barth, Wanderungen, &c. pp. 344, foll.)