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Berber peoples have inhabited Northern Africa approximately since 10,000 BCE. Most of them lived in tribal societies, but some Berber Kingdoms and Empires emerged, too, e.g. the Numidian Kingdoms or the Empire of the Garamants. Along the Mediterranean Coast, they became dominated by foreign powers since the first millennium BCE: first by Phoenicians in the West (Carthage) and Greeks in the East (Cyrene), then by the First Roman Republic and the Roman Empire.
In the 1st, 2nd and 3rd centuries CE, as Roman latifundia occupied their traditional agricultural lands and expanded into the hinterland where they had practiced transhumance, Berber resistance flared up repeatedly, but was crushed by Rome`s imperial power, which depended on the wheat and olive oil (and the profits for its elite) from Africa. Not all Berbers were politically and socioeconomically marginalised - some rose to prominence in the Roman military, administration and politics. The vast majority remained miserably poor and marginalised in one of the empire`s richest provinces, though. Under these circumstances, many Berbers converted to Christianity and favoured radical interpretations.
In the 3rd century CE, the sect of the Agonistici became popular among them. Agonistic Christian Berbers were among the strongest forces in the successful Roman Revolution of the 260s, which they had already begun in the 250s as a reaction to Decian persecutions. Africa, Libya and Mauretania were one of the strongholds of the revolution. Here, expropriations, collectivisations and the eliminiation (i.e. killing) of a pagan elite took on more radical forms than elsewhere.
With their implication in the Roman Revolution and their close alliance with Simonist Christian Jews, Egyptian rebels and others, the Berbers within the Roman Empire entered the stage of Mediterranean politics for a good century (250s-350s). Berber delegates were influential in drafting the Constitution of the Second Roman Republic and steered the young republic`s egalitarian policies. They were also influential within the Christian Church.
On all these fronts, their radically egalitarian Agonism and their aggressive and often intentionally suicidal proselytism soon led to their isolation both within the Roman Republic and its Christian Churches, though, and sent them on their own path of development from the 4th century onwards. A Berber-dominated Christian Council of Theveste decided that heretics (especially those who had betrayed their faith during the Decian persecutions, or killed faithful Christians on the orders of their Roman-oligarchic superiors) had to be rebaptised ere they could receive communion. When the bishops of Rome, Alexandria and Antiochia did not accept this decision, staunch Berber Christian communities seceded and formed the autocephalous Communio Sanctorum, an Agonistic Christian church which is out of communion with all other Christian churches.
Politically, too, Agonistic minorities often did not accept the decisions of more moderate comitia civitatum, e.g. concerning individual property rights, and continued, in spite of comparably drastic wealth taxes and relatively egalitarian distribution of land in the African civitates after the revolution, to "redistribute" on their own initiative in a Robin Hood-manner, too, which brought them the epithet "circumcellions" (circum cella euntes = those who walk around the larder). The alliance ("Conventum per Africam et Aegyptum") formed during the revolution between large cosmopolitan coast civitates like Carthage, Oea, Leptis Magna, Cyrene and Alexandria, Egyptian civitates along the Nile and mostly Agonistically dominated Berber civitates in the mountains and oases of the hinterland soon fell apart over socioeconomic, religious and increasingly also matters of foreign policy.
Throughout the last third of the 3rd and the first half of the 4th century, Agonistic Christian Berbers had begun to expand the Roman Republic Southwards:
- They instigated a successful slave rebellion in Garama, which resulted in the extermination of the former Garamantes, whose power had been severely weakened due to water shortages and the absence of Roman demand for their export product no.1 - slaves -, and the incorporation of the new civitas Garama into the Roman Republic as well as into the ecclesiastical realm of the Communitas Sanctorum. Agonstici, among them the new Garamantes, who also called themselves "the Free Men" (Imaziyen), converted other Berbers to their West and East:
- In the West, they converted the Gaetuli who lived on the Southern slopes of the Atlas Mountains and in several oases in the desert.
- In the East, the new Garamant Imaziyen defeated and forcibly converted the Nasamones. In 319, the Conventum Romanum rejected the inclusion of the civitas Augila in 319, doubting the free will of its inhabitants.
Agonistic Berbers were also involved in the downfall of the Meroitic Empire. They conducted a crusade to forcibly convert the Nobatians and Blemmyes, but succeeded only in converting the latter. (The Conventum accepted the accession of the civitas Blemmyorum again in 334 because they controlled an important part of the Red Sea psaage.) Garamants and Blemmyes jointly continued the crusade against the Nobatians and their overlords in Meroe. After Meroe was burnt to the ground, two more independent kingdoms arose in Makuria and Alodia, who sought Aksum`s help against the Agonistic crusaders. The Conventum Romanum maintained friendly relations with Aksum and urged the Agonistici to stop their campaigns. When they repeatedly did not heed the commands from Rome, federal troops intervened and helped Aksum to gain control over Makuria, Alodia and Nobatia, and established a military presence South of Berenike Troglodytica (at the hydreuma of Omichle), which controlled the few remaining Blemmyes.
A group of 72 Agonistici-dominated civitates led by the Synode of the Communio Sanctorum in Theveste, most of them ethnically predominantly Berber / Libyan, reacted with their secession from the Roman Republic in 352. This caused the War of Circumcellion Secession (as the Romans call it) (353-357), in which purportedly 250,000 Berbers and other Agonistics died as martyrs, some far away from their home committing suicide commandos in Alexandria, Rome or Athens.
In 357, the war was ended with a treaty which severed all ties between the Roman Republic and the new Ljama´a (community) of Berber tribes, towns and oases controlled by the Agonistic Synode. In the Roman Republic, the Agonistic faith was the first and only confession to be outlawed by the Conventum Romanum due to the persistent and dangerous violation of "libera concordia" by its members. Over 400,000 (alleged or real) Agonistici were expelled and deported from Roman civitates, almost all of them migrating into the new Berber Ljama`a, where they took the places the martyrs had left behind. In exchange, roughly 100,000 non-Agonistici of Berber, Punic and provincial Roman descent, among them Jews, Manichaeists, Greco-Roman polytheists, moderate Christians and adherents of the Egyptian cult, fled the new theocracy.
The new state was an Agonistic Christian theocracy, its populace a mixture of Romanised Berbers, nomadic berbers and Saharan oasis dwellers. The Roman legacy lived on to some degree in this polity, but the secession also cemented a different path of development. In many ways, the Agonistic Berbers and their new Ljama`a played a similar (albeit geographically more limited) role to that of the Muslims and their Caliphates in OTL: They created a theocratic society where religious and social laws merged, and a slender canon of "Christian law" served as the dogmatic and unalterable fundament of society, which thus needed little statehood and developed little of it, too. Conflicts often took the form of religious schisms, and repeatedly, crusades were undertaken. These were directed towards the South, and in this way, the Imaziyen brought Christianity, horses and camels, their alphabet, a half-Roman concept of statehood and democracy and much more to the nations of the Sahel - from the Soninke in the West to the Sao in the East.
In the decades after the secession, agriculture was completely collectivised, the power of guilds was broken by the erection of "scholae Christianae" and comprehensive public works were undertaken to improve the infrastructure. The Agonistic Christian Church and the new state converged into one. The new society took a few decades to recover from the losses of the war against Rome, but from the 380s onwards, important cultural achievements were made in tinnedam (towns) like Theveste, Capsa and Ammonium-Siwah:
- the Tifinagh script was improved through the addition of signs for vowels (taken from Latin, Greek and Punic),
- the Agonistic canon of the Bible was defined and its books translated (mostly from Greek and Coptic) into a Berber/Libyan variety which was dominant around Theveste, written in Tifinagh. This translation of the Bible caused a slow process of standardisation among the various Berber varieties, with the variety of the Theveste Bible becoming Standard Tamazight.
The social structures of those nomadic tribes who had neither been slaves, nor had held slaves, like several Tubu-speaking tribes and the Hoggar were left relatively unaltered. While culturally and economically, the formerly Roman communities in the North remained dominant, various nomadic groups gained military hegemony in the new state, conducting their own crusades against populations to their South:
- Under the spiritually and politically leading figure of "Queen" Tin Hinan, the Gaetuli converted the inhabitants of various oases all over OTL Mauretania and Northern Mali. They also sent missionaries to the Wagadu Empire, who undermined the rule of the divie kings (ghanas) of the Soninke until a crusade intervened in the self-created turmoil and conquered Koumbi Saleh in 394 and overthrew the divine kingdom there, installing egalitarian communes along the Upper Niger and its hinterland, who received presbyters from Theveste who translated the Bible into Soninke. Dissenting Soninke fled and emigrated to Takrur.
- The Imaziyen of Garama, Ammonium-Siwah and other communes of the East converted many Tubu tribes and the inhabitants of the oases of the Kaouar Valley, undermined and overthrew the Divine Kingdom of the Duguwa in Kanem.
In the 460s, the Supreme Imkama was established as a court of appeal, which contributed to the formalisation of "Christian law". It also made the different traditions in the different regions and landscapes evident and ultimately led to the Schism of 492: a school of theological-juridical scholars who dissented with the majority`s views on what God and Jesus had said about the role of women in society founded their own Imkama in Capsa. This made the establishment of a separate Ljama`a necessary, which also convened in Capsa. After a short war, the Ljama`as of Theveste (in the West) and Capsa (in the East) continued as separate theocratic states.
Mune became a new spiritual centre for the Eastern Imaziyen, who claimed that they had found the Ark of the Covenant. A theological school emerged, where the Bible was translated into a Tubu variety. From here, the Bagirmi and Lisi were proselytised, and to some extent also the Sao. The unifying power of the Mune was carried on from pre-Christian times into the Ljama`a, stripped of its ties with strict social hierarchy - it worked so well that the Imaziyen used it as a model for further expansions. It also greatly increased the role of the Tubu over time, giving the Eastern Imaziyen a distinctly Saharan-speaking streak of identity.
Both Imaziyen states now controlled a Transsaharan passage in its entirety and massively profited from this trade duopoly between the Sahel and the Mediterranean. The Western Imaziyen controlled the Western route from Roman Volubilis to Koumbi Saleh, the Eastern Imaziyen controlled the Eastern route from Leptis Magna through the Kaouar Valley to Lake Chad. Both exported cotton from the Sahel to the Roman Republic, where the world`s largest textile industry developed. The Western Imaziyen also exported gold, while the Eastern Imaziyen exported salt.
All of this brought a level of general welfare to both societies, which, over time, proved even more attractive and influential than their faith. In the 6th, 7th and 8tth century, the Imaziyen-controlled Sahel enjoyed general well-being, prosperity and peace. Horses, glassware and new technologies (especially mills and pumps which saved manpower) were imported and contributed to an economic boom of the communes and cooperatives along the Niger and the Lake Chad as well as the cross-Saharan trading caravans and the Northern Berbers who bought and sold on Roman markets. Communal ownership of most things and efficiently collected sales taxes safeguarded social cohesion and allowed for the improvement of public infrastructure: from roads to ports and bridges on the Niger, and not least extensive public services, which included (religiously biased) free education and (again, religiously misused) police force.
Their Agisymban, Takrurian, Hausa and Banza neighbours soon began to copy this successful model. Most of them did not join the Imaziyen Ljama`a, though; linguistic differences may have played an important role. An exception to this rule was the emergence of the Pulaa nation In the Far West in the 6th century - cattle herders of mixed Serer, Soninke and Western Imaziyen backgrounds -, who at least nominally declared themselves Agonistic Christians, received religious support from Theveste and acted as military allies of the Ljama`a.
Among the Hausa and Banza, the new trends from the North stirred unrest and caused prolonged wars with changing alliances in the 7th and 8th centuries. Similar developments took place among the Asante in the South and the Serer-Horon in the West. Gao, Agisymba and the Sao cities, on the other hand, successfully imitated the Imaziyen model and adapted it to local circumstances, while at the same time retaining their independence.
In the 9th century, this peaceful coexistence broke apart as a modern press and the advent of firearms resulted in renewed crusades by orthodox Berbers against the syncretist South, where Agonistic Christianity was mixed with a belief in ghosts, spirits and the like.
The Masunist Crusades were an utter failure, though. The Sahel had become both powerful and self-confident by now. Religiously united behind a Wangara theologian named Samaila and politically united in a (mostly) democratic federation with its capital in the well-fortified Gao, the Sahel fought back, stopped the crusades and wrestled the Mandé lands out of the hands of the Western Ljama`a and Bornu and other Sao states out of the hands of the Eastern Ljama`a.
Western and Eastern Imaziyen had both lost their control over the Sahel, and the 10th century is generally considered as an era of spiritual, political and socioeconomic crisis, followed by the even greater global crisis of the 11th century. The Ljama`as eroded, more and more groups splintered off, and war was endemic. In the East, land was lost to Aksum, while in the West, the Gao Alliance took control over OTL Senegal and Southern Mauritania, cutting off the Western Imaziyen from Atlantic trade.
In the 12th and 13th centuries, the Celtic and Roman Republics and Aksum stepped in and annexed many of the more urbanised successor states of the Ljama`as. At the beginning of the 14th century, only a handful of nomadic tribes in the arid mountains of the Sahara had retained their independence, but were also completely disconnected from global developments. The 14th to 17th centuries were no quiet time. Socioeconomic and cultural transformations repeatedly caused neo-Agonistic and neo-Imaziyen groups to resurface and fight against the Roman, Celtic or Aksumite state.
But it was not until the advent of a global renaissance of movements for national independence and the reformulation of the Imaziyen culture in the terms of modern anarcho-communism that such movements for independence succeeded. In the 18th century, the Celtic, Roman and Aksumite Empires accepted the independence of the Imaziyen, who forged a loose confederacy of stateless communes - the status quo which continues into the present.
Communes - socio-economic and political structure
The Imaziyen have no formal hierarchies, no institutionalised statehood and no individual property regime. Their supreme social rule, which they see as derived from the Holy Writ, is to contribute with everything ones does to everyone`s (not only one's own) well-being. Since there is no individual property, there is also no economic inequality; no Imaziyen is excluded from accessing any of the resources of the community. Since there is no statehood, nobody is coerced to do anything against their will (if one does not count the omnipresent social pressure to conform to the supreme rule).
Most Imaziyen live in communes of 2000 to 20,000 members. Even their largest, and still in many ways most important town, Tebessa, only has 40,000 inhabitants.
Imaziyen communes attempt to provide as much of what they need by themselves, although they are not entirely autarchical. All the food required for their mostly vegan diet is grown locally in the Northern mountains, on the Atlantic Ocean shore and in the oases, or in small quantities exchanged among them.
Since their small internal economic microsystems and their limited exchange with a mostly market-shaped world market impose serious problems on highly labour-divisive and specialised technology development and implementation, the Imaziyen are, from one perspective, usually at least several decades behind the more advanced industrial nations to its North and East. From another perspective, Amazigh "industrial product design" is highly innovative in its own way as it is to a much greater extent oriented towards durability, easy repair and usability independent of complex maintenance systems. The extremely long-lived, simple and yet very reliable and cost-free small solar vehicles developed and used by Imaziyen are good examples of this.
Technological progress has made complex professional education necessary among the Imaziyen, too. Most Imaziyen acquire professional knowledge in several domains, though, which is motivated both by the high esteem in which the Imaziyen hold learning, the economic freedom which does not tie one Amazigh to a specific nine-to-five job, and the economic necessity of knowing more than one trade in a small community where one cannot always depend entirely on the availability of somebody else`s services exactly when one requires them.
Culture and religion
Amazigh society is deeply shaped by neo-Agonstic Christianity and its principles of "no violence", "no possession" and devoting one`s life to following Jesus. Christian cult is omnipresent not only on the many festive days of the year, but also as an integral part of daily communal gatherings, in which practical issues are discussed and decided on a consensus basis, with the scripture as the eternal reference for arguments and prayer not only as a common ritual at the beginning and end, but also as a means of deescalating conflicts.
On the one hand, the religious and economic sides of this medal have both contributed to the development of a highly communal culture with a decidedly homogeneous cultural nucleus. Outspoken dissenters are rare among the Imaziyen and often prefer not to return to their homeland from one of their voyages someday.
On the other hand, at least since the emancipation of women, individual Imaziyen are less confined to their communes than most citizens of other sedentary cultures are to their homes due to the frequent and time-consuming travels they undertake (e.g. to exchange goods, to learn something in a special place, to proselytise, to discuss a matter with Imaziyen from another oasis, etc.), and as such, no Amazigh is confined to a specific commune, each makes unique experiences and must elaborate and defend his or her views, beliefs and expertise individually.
As a result of these specific socio-cultural circumstances, Imaziyen have developed both excellent rhetorics and a very finely tuned communicative culture, both of which many people from other cultures seek to learn from them, even if they are not interested in Neo-Agonisticism, Christianity or communist anarchy.
The Imaziyen mostly speak Tamazight, an Afro-Asiatic language, for which they use the Tifinagh alphabet, derived in the 4th century CE from ancient Libyan. There are significant variations between Western and Eastern Tamazight dialects, which derive not only from different tribal origins, but also from greater Latin and Mandinka influences in the West compared to greater Greek, Aksumite and Nilo-Saharanic influences in the East.
The Imaziyen descended from historical Tubu tribes, who live in the Southern Central region of the Imaziyen realm, speak Tedaga and Dezaga, which are also written in Tifinagh.
Like economic division of labour and religious practice, education is both communal and non-formalised, too. There is no compulsory education, but most Imaziyen (not only the young) value both learning and teaching very highly. Religious learning occurs both "on the move" within communal practice and in explicit dialogues in families` homes or with guests.Those who have acquired special skills seek to share them, and even older Imaziyen try to stay "up to date" in many knowledge domains.
Although there are no formal schools, academies or universities, many Imaziyen who seek to acquire or share highly specialised knowledge pilgrimage to Capsa, the city with the most adventurous and daring air, where both the most eloquent religious community meetings are held and the most complex corporations in technological production are undertaken.
Amazigh "missionaries" are also teaching at the Agonistic University in Jerusalem, and curious young Imaziyen who are not afraid of having to make a living in a strange environment, which often does not understand what they are able and unable to do, go there to study, too.
Although highly communal and self-sufficient, Imaziyen society has also always been very open to foreign contacts and has initiated cultural exchange with its closer and more distant neighbours for more than one and a half millennia now.
Imaziyen communes attempt to provide as much of what they need by themselves, but they are not entirely autarchical. Exchange between communes and beyond the realm of the Imaziyen - by camel caravans in ancient times, by solar lorries and solar sail boats in the present - does not only serve to complement local production, but also to foster an exchange of ideas, to forge a common opinion where necessary, and to bring the gospel to non-believers in other parts of the world.
This long history of foreign affairs has never been easy, since contacts are hampered by fundamental differences on all levels. When exchanging goods or services with the outer world, Imaziyen must either conform to outside rules and trade (which raises, for example, currency problems), or establish (sometimes fragile) networks of mutual help. When closing international treaties, Imaziyen must organise internal consensus (usually based on biblical scripture), which makes flexible negotiations impossible, and then define ways of executing agreements which are both credible for external partners and do not require coercive institutions among the Imaziyen.
Due to all these reasons, the Imaziyen's relations to the outer world have always been intense, but highly ambivalent. The Imaziyen have come to entertain mostly friendly relations with the Union of Atlantic Nations, with Mali, Kirinyaga and Madagascar.
Ambivalence in foreign relations does not only concern the collective level, but applies to individuals, too. Amazigh dissenters (atheists, people looking for higher living standards or something "of their own" or who can't stand long debates every day...) have emigrated for many centuries, but find it difficult to integrate into societies with e.g. tightly regulated labour markets. On the other hand, Simonist cult and faith and its strong convictions, the anti-materialist and egalitarian socio-economical system, the lively communal interaction and the hot sunny weather have both attracted hundreds of thousands of people and brought them into the land of the Imaziyen - where not few of these interested outsiders found some or all of the above aspects too intense to stomach in the end.