Rome and France in Africa: Recovering Colonial Algeria's Latin Past

Lorcin, Patricia M. E.
French Historical Studies, Volume 25, Number 2, Spring 2002, pp. 295-329 (Article)
Published by Duke University Press

For additional information about this article

Access Provided by University of Minnesota -Twin Cities Libraries at 07/06/11 7:24PM GMT

Rome and France in Africa: Recovering Colonial Algeria’s Latin Past
Patricia M. E. Lorcin

In 1852, the archaeologist-historian Adolphe Dureau de la Malle (1777– 1857) admonished his compatriots for their underestimation of French achievements in Algeria during the twenty-two years since their initial landing in Sidi Ferruch, as follows: ‘‘To counteract the impatience . . . of the French . . . it is perhaps useful to draw attention to the fact Rome took 240 years to transform the area into a titular subject province. . . . May the motto, Perserverando vincit, which encapsulates the prodigious nature of the power of Rome and England, be inscribed on our flags, our public buildings, and in our African colony.’’ 1 The passage is significant for both its content and its timing. First, it conveys the trivalent significance of Rome as a cultural idiom for French domination: justification, admiration, and emulation—three themes that are prevalent in nearly all French accounts of Roman Africa. Second, this observation was made shortly after the occupied territory had been divided into three departments and designated a part of France. The period of uncertainty as to what France should do with Algeria was therefore formally over. But as a part of France, Algeria’s heritage became of subjective relevance. As a region of France, it would inevitably engender some ideological attempt to draw it into the national fold.
Patricia Lorcin teaches European and French history at Texas Tech University. Her published works include Imperial Identities (London, 1995) and a number of articles on different aspects of French imperialism. The author thanks Michael Osborne for his comments on the first draft of this article, which was presented at the American Historical Association conference in January 1999, and David Prochaska for his pertinent and helpful suggestions. She also thanks the two anonymous readers for this journal. Monsieur J.-P. Ronfard, husband of the late Marie Cardinal and her executor, graciously gave permission to reproduce illustrations from Ms. Cardinal’s book, Les pieds-noirs (Paris, 1988). 1 Adolphe Dureau de la Malle, Histoire des guerres des Romains, des Byzantins et des Vandales accompagnée d’examens sur les moyens employés anciennement pour la conquête et la soumission de la portion de l’Afrique septentrionale nommée aujourd’hui l’Algérie (Paris, 1852), x (my translation). French Historical Studies, Vol. 25, No. 2 (spring 2002) Copyright © 2002 by the Society for French Historical Studies



The ruins at Timgad, northeastern Algeria. From Marie Cardinal, Les pieds-noirs (Paris, 1988). Reprinted with permission

During their 132 years of domination of Algeria, the French produced a remarkable number of texts on France and Rome in North Africa. The approach varied over time. Early on, the use of classical texts was apparently casual: as points of reference in an alien land. As time progressed, and occupation gave way to colonization, these early points of reference evolved into a conviction that Rome and France were inextricably linked. France’s fascination with Algeria’s Roman past had its roots in the intellectual background of the military and the circumstances of their active service when, of all the previous occupying powers, Rome was deemed the only one to bear a working resemblance to France. It was, however, during the second half of the nineteenth century that the preoccupation with Algeria’s Latin past achieved the status of a foundation myth. The appropriation of Rome and its legacy by the French occurred on multiple levels: scientific, religious, literary, and mythical. This suggests that there was more to the process than the justification of an imperial presence. Scientific knowledge, we now know, is as much a tool of empire as is politics or economics; nor is culture innocent of hegemonic impulses.2 While this sets the theoretical framework for what follows, it is the question of how the French used this knowledge to efface
2 See, for example, Edward Said, Orientalism (New York, 1979); idem, Culture and Imperialism (New York, 1994); Daniel R. Headricks, The Tools of Empire (Oxford, 1981); John M. Mackenzie, ed., Imperialism and the Natural World (Manchester, 1990); Lewis Pyenson, Civilizing Mission: Exact Sciences and French Overseas Expansion (Baltimore, Md., 1993); Michael Osborne, Nature, the Exotic, and the Science of French Colonialism (Bloomington, Ind., 1994); and Paul Rabinow, French Modern (Cambridge, Mass., 1989). All these works are in some way informed by the theoretical works of Foucault and Gramsci, as is this article.



the long-standing Arab-Berber presence in the area that is this essay’s central theme. The process of imagining and establishing a collective identity is a multifaceted process entailing, among other features, the elaboration of foundational myths through the selective use of memory.3 With regard to Algeria, the creation of a colonial identity has been approached from a number of angles, but the relevance of France’s use of ancient Rome as integral to the process has not formed part of this literature.4 Jean-François Guilhaume’s examination of French Algeria’s foundation myths also overlooks this dimension, situating the emergent colonial identity in ‘‘heroic’’ deeds of conquest and in the image of precolonial Algeria as a desert and site of ignorance equated with Islam, which a modern and progressive France would redress.5 To be sure, the ‘‘heroes’’ of conquest were part of the perceived ‘‘ancestral legacy’’ of the colony, while the myth of a deserted Algeria and the theory of progress versus stagnation were essential to the justificatory canon of French imperial activity. But the process was more complex. Justifying a French presence in Algeria by attempting to shrug off Islam was one thing, but binding the settlers spiritually to the soil of the land as a regional extension of France required more than heroes of conquest and images of Arab ‘‘ineptitude’’ in the face of modernity. By examining how the Roman legacy was used over time, this essay will demonstrate the way in which the French in Algeria created a tradition of regionality that bound them to France. Early Influences and Educational Background The first military glimpse of Roman might in Africa in the nineteenth century occurred during the Napoleonic expedition to Egypt (1789– 1800), where officers were awed by Rome’s impressive architectural legacy. The sight of huge monuments in the heart of a totally alien land, which had endured for centuries, was a tribute to both Rome’s culture
3 On the formation of identity, see Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities (London, 1991); Terence Ranger and Eric Hobsbawm, The Invention of Tradition (Cambridge, 1983); and Steven Ungar and Tom Conley, Identity Papers: Contested Nationhood in Twentieth-Century France (Minneapolis, Minn., 1996). The literature on the role of memory in the construction of national identity is large and steadily increasing. Works that have informed this essay include: Maurice Halbwachs, The Collective Memory (New York, 1980); Pierre Nora, ed., Les lieux de mémoire, 3 vols. (Paris, 1984–92); Henry Rousso, The Vichy Syndrome: History and Memory in France since 1945 (Cambridge, Mass., 1991); and Nancy Wood, Vectors of Memory (Oxford, 1999). 4 Works on aspects of colonial identity formation in Algeria include David Prochaska, Making Algeria French: Colonialism in Bône, 1870–1920 (Cambridge, 1990), Patricia M. E. Lorcin, Imperial Identities (London, 1995); Zeynep Çelik, Urban Forms and Cultural Confrontations (Berkeley, Calif., 1997); and Peter Dunwoodie, Writing French Algeria (Oxford, 1998). 5 Jean-François Guilhaume, Les mythes fondateurs de l’Algérie française (Paris, 1992), esp. chap. 5.



and its power.6 The scholars and scientists who accompanied Napoléon were called on to examine and record the land, inhabitants, culture, and history of Egypt. Napoléon believed that an in-depth understanding of the area would lead to better governance. In the process, they set a precedent for the connection of scholarship and reconnaissance that was replicated in Algeria, where the administration was a military one for the first forty years of colonial rule.7 The multivolume Description de l’Egypte, the end product of the Napoleonic scholarly endeavor, included lavishly illustrated archaeological works that foreshadowed equally ambitious activities in Algeria. If the Napoleonic expedition was an initial step in creating the association between imperial France and imperial Rome in Africa, the educational background of the officers and scholars encouraged the link.The basis of French secondary education was the classics.With rare exceptions, the officers who undertook research in Algeria were better versed in Latin and Greek texts than they were in Arabic ones. While the intellectual preparation of officers embarking for North Africa included contemporary travelogues and exploratory accounts, it was the classics that constituted the prime reference material. The French may have looked to the Romans as colonial precursors, but there was the added advantage of cultural familiarity. Classical historians and geographers such as the Greeks Strabo and Polybius and the Romans Sallust, Tacitus, and Livy (Titus Livius), to name but a few, were part of the French educational canon. Ibn Batuta or Ibn Khaldun, Arab authors who would have provided equally pertinent information, were not. To be sure, Slane’s French translation of Khaldun’s The Muqaddimah did not appear until 1852, but it was not just a question of timing.8 Arab sources were not considered suitable. As one university professor put it as late as the 1930 centenary celebrations: ‘‘For all his genius [Ibn Khaldun] had an oriental brain which does not function like ours. He cannot be read like Titus-Livius or Polybius, or even Procopius. He has to be interpreted.’’ 9 Contemporary sources on the area were limited. While the officers who had been to Egypt had certainly read the works of Volney and Savary, it was the works of Shaler, Shaw, and Raynal that were consulted in the Algerian context.10 None dealt with the matters
6 E. Jomard, ‘‘Description d’Antimoë,’’ in Description de l’Egypte, 23 vols. (Paris, 1809–28),

7 Lorcin, Imperial Identities, 35–75, 97–166. 8 Le Baron de Slane, Histoire des Berbères (Paris, 1852). 9 Emile Gautier, ‘‘Le cadre géographique de l’histoire en Algérie,’’ in Histoire et historiens de

l’Algérie, ed. J. Alazard et al. (Paris, 1931), 19. (Emile Gautier was professor at the University of Algiers at the time.) 10 C. F. Volney, Voyage en Syrie et en Egypte, 2 vols. (Paris, 1786); M. Savary, Lettres sur l’Egypte



of conquest and colonization. It was therefore natural for the French to use the classics as primary sources for their research on the newly occupied territory where the only other documentation was in Arabic or in Ottoman Turkish. The Military Epoch: Warfare and Spatial Domination—The Legacy As Similarity The French conquest of Algeria lasted twenty-seven years, from the capture of Algiers in 1830 to the fall of Kabylia in 1857. Resistance to French domination was uneven but fierce, and the terrain unfamiliar. The precedents of warfare in the area with which the French officers were most familiar were Roman. Livy’s account of Masinissa’s heroic resistance to Syphax and Sallust on Jurgurtha’s war with the Romans were the most obvious examples. In his widely read account of Roman Africa, Gaston Boissier, the renowned classicist,11 compared Jurgurtha to the Arab leader Abd-el-Kader and drew parallels between Metellus’s tactics against Jurgurtha and those of the French: ‘‘bold attacks, razzias [raids] as we call them, in which he overthrows the huts, burns the crops, and leads off the herds. The heavy Roman legion, so careful, so measured in its movements, so true to its ancient tactics, he makes supple and flexible. He accustoms the soldier to make forced marches by night . . . carrying, besides his arms, skins filled with water. . . . All that we too have . . . experienced . . . the same method has always been used.’’ 12 Indeed, when General Bugeaud took command in 1841 of the army in Algeria, he realized that warfare in Africa could not be conducted as it was in Europe, and he changed French military tactics in the same way as Metellus had done. He abandoned traditional formations, which included the infantry square, and introduced mobile strike columns,
(Paris, 1787); William Shaler, Sketches of Algiers (Boston, 1826); Thomas Shaw, Voyages dans la régence d’Alger, trans. from the English by J. W. MacCarthy (Paris, 1830); Abbé Guillaume Thomas François Raynal, Histoire philosophique et politique des établissements et du commerce des Européens dans l’Afrique septentrionale (Paris, 1826). See Norman Daniel, Islam, Europe and Empire (Edinburgh, 1962), 96, for officers’ reading material prior to the Napoleonic expedition to Egypt. 11 Boissier was a member of the Institut de France, secretary of the Académie Française, and professor at the Collège de France and the Ecole Normale Supérieure. His oeuvre included works on Cicero, Tacitus, Virgil, and Horace, as well as works on Roman mores, Roman women, and Roman archaeology. His books were translated into Spanish, English, and Russian. Boissier was inspired to write Roman Africa following a visit to Algeria in 1891, at a time when the Algerian question was once again being debated in the National Assembly. He toured Algeria in the company of a group of deputies and senators and decided to write a book to draw the close parallel between the Roman and French experiences in North Africa, which, he felt, was relevant to the debate. Gaston Boissier, Roman Africa, trans. Arabella Ward (London, 1898), v–vii. 12 Ibid., 25–26. For further comparisons between Roman and French conquest and colonization, see Spécimen colonial de l’Algérie: Résumé, réfutation ou complément des systèmes de MM. Leblanc de Prébois, L’abbé Landmann, de Lamoricière, Bedeau et Bugeaud (Paris, 1847), 40–42.



which could strike rapidly and withdraw as quickly. He also adopted the razzia.13 Bugeaud’s military success, where his predecessors had failed, is attributed to these changes. Bugeaud’s experiences in Spain during the Peninsular War had convinced him that contemporary military tactics were all but useless in situations of guerilla warfare, but he was also conversant with classical sources on the subject in North Africa, as the references in his speeches to Roman activities there indicate.14 The extent to which Bugeaud modeled himself on his Roman predecessors is in fact of less importance than the way in which French military successes under his command in Africa were tied to those of ancient Rome. Such comparisons served to increase his stature and fed into the ‘‘glorious’’ legend of the invincible father figure, Père Bugeaud, who had secured Algeria for the French where lesser commanders had failed—a legend whose foundational nature kept it alive until Algerian independence.15 But it was not just as a military exemplar that the Roman legacy was so useful. The capture of Algiers in 1830 was followed by a period of indecision and debate in the Chamber of Deputies as to whether to advance farther.While this, too, had parallels in the Roman experience, the relevance of the Roman legacy to the French decision to press on is uncertain.16 In any event, in 1832 the French moved eastward to Bougie, which was taken in September of the following year. On 20 September 1833, nine days prior to the final collapse of the town, an order from the king incited the army ‘‘to complete the conquest of Algeria in order to return to the civilized world the bank of the Mediterranean, which had been in the grips of anarchy and barbaric methods since the fall of the Roman Empire.’’ 17 In accordance with the directive, the final thrust on Bougie was made, and the army then moved inland to Constantine, which fell in 1837. Both towns had been important Roman centers, and,
13 For a description of his methods, see Bugeaud, ‘‘De la stratégie, de la tactique, des retraites et du passage des défilés dans les montagnes des kabyles,’’ in Par l’épée et par la charrue: Ecrits et discours, ed. P. Azan (Paris, 1948), and Comte Henri Amédée d’Ideville, Le maréchal Bugeaud, d’après sa correspondance intime et des documents inédits, 1784–1849, 3 vols. (Paris, 1882), 2:263–65. 14 See Azan, Par l’épée. 15 Bugeaud’s legendary military status was well on the way to being established by 1842. Its impact on the military, both in Algeria and elsewhere, was profound. See Antony Thrall Sullivan, Thomas-Robert Bugeaud, France and Algeria, 1784–1849: Politics, Power, and the Good Society (Hamden, Conn., 1983), 90, 164. 16 For the similarities between the debates in the Roman Senate and those in the French Chamber of Deputies, see Boissier, Roman Africa, 95. 17 Quoted by Edouard Lapène, Vingt-six mois à Bougie ou collections de mémoires sur sa conquête, son occupation, et son avenir: Notice historique, morale, politique, et militaire sur les Kabaïles (Paris, 1838), 197. Lapène was in active service during the conquest and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel in 1839. Little is known of Lapène beyond the works he produced as a result of his military service both in France and in Algeria. His Vingt-six mois à Bougie became a reference for subsequent works on Kabylia and the Kabyles.



as a result, their acquisition was deemed to be a prestigious achievement. As Edouard Lapène, a lieutenant colonel in the artillery who served as commanding officer in Bougie, put it: ‘‘not only had Bougie been strategically important . . . it had been a center for a varied and lucrative export trade . . . and, as such, has a distinguished place in our African possessions.’’ 18 Among his sources, Lapène cited a mémoire published by the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres in 1835. The academy’s mandate was ‘‘to throw light on documents and antiquities of French history and the history of other nations, principally those whose political interests are or were connected to those of France.’’ 19 In consequence, the academy became involved in activities in Algeria within a few years of the French arrival. The fall of Bougie had prompted Maréchal Soult, French minister of war, to ask the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres to undertake a study with a view to producing a good geographical outline of the area, a history of its colonization by the Romans, as well as an account of ‘‘the institutions they founded and their relations with the indigenous population.’’ 20 The request had relevance to both the short- and long-term goals of the French in Algeria. The geographical focus of such reconnaissance had immediate significance in that it furnished details of what remained of the infrastructure of Roman settlements. The ruins of Roman roads and garrisons provided the French with the material wherewithal for advancing across the area, which they used to their advantage, and an ideological rallying point. Recent research indicates that French use of Roman roads, forts, cisterns, and aqueducts was widespread.21 In the longer term, the knowledge of Roman institutions and local interactions would serve as a useful yardstick with which to measure French success or failure in its colonial endeavors. The commission entrusted with the work was headed by Dureau de la Malle and included a number of renowned scholars. The final result was not the in-depth
18 Ibid., vi. 19 ‘‘Ordonnance du Roi approvant le règlement pour l’Académie des inscriptions et belleslettres, 16 mai 1830,’’ in Institut de France: Lois, statuts, et règlements concernant les Anciennes Académies et l’Institut de 1635 à 1889: Tableau des fondations, ed. Léon Aucoc (Paris, 1889), 236. The Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres—originally called the Académie des Inscriptions et Médailles— was founded in 1663. Its original mandate, rules, and regulations were approved in 1701. They were subsequently updated at intervals during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. 20 Mémoires de l’Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres (Paris, 1831–33), 12:98, quoted by Nabila Oulebsir, ‘‘Rome ou la Méditerranée? Les relevés d’architecture d’Amble Ravoisié en Algérie, 1840–1842,’’ in L’invention scientifique de la Méditerranée: Egypte, Morée, Algérie, ed. Marie-Noëlle Bourguet (Paris, 1998), 241. See also Frédéric Lacroix, ‘‘Colonisation et administration romanes dans l’Afrique septentrionale,’’ Revue africaine 41 (1863): 363–83, 415–32, esp. 364. 21 Michael Greenhalgh, ‘‘The French Invasion of Algeria and the Roman Past’’ (paper presented at the twenty-eighth annual meeting of the Western Society for French History, University of California at Los Angeles, 8–11 November 2000). Greenhalgh, who is an art historian, argues that without this infrastructure the French conquest of Algeria would not have succeeded.



study originally demanded, but a short exposé of geographical and historical questions.22 Although the project was abandoned in 1835 due to its magnitude and time-consuming nature, it was not the last of such investigations. During the first decade of conquest and gradual encroachment, the questions of whether or not to colonize and how and where to colonize caused considerable debate in France.23 It was not until 1848— when Algeria was divided into three French departments and was absorbed into the French spatial and administrative territory—that the debate subsided, although it did not disappear altogether. In an effort to resolve these debates, a series of commissions was formed, the first of which coincided with the conquest of Bougie. The French government was in favor of permanent occupation, the rapid development of colonization, and a watchful administration that would encourage nascent commerce and industry. It gave free rein to its two commissioners, who went about their task from September through November 1833.24 The results of the commission, presented in a final report, found that the military administration fell seriously short of the French government’s vision for its new acquisition. At the time the commission was concluding its task, in mid-November 1833, the war ministry made its request to the Académie des Inscriptions. If French endeavors in Algeria were to be the focus of continuing debate, it made sense to look to the past for precedents of military colonization. Rome provided the only ‘‘civilized’’ example in the Western tradition. What had Rome achieved and how had it managed its colony for so long? These were pertinent questions to which the minister sought answers. With the conquest in 1837 of Constantine, the ancient city of Cirta and an important archaeological site, the minister’s directive was followed up by formal instructions from the Académie des Inscriptions regarding the manner in which archaeological, historical, and geographical research was to be undertaken in the area.25 Among the projects initiated at this time was the tracking down, classification, and publication of all Roman inscriptions throughout Algeria. The first work on the subject, cataloging 4,417 inscriptions, was published in 1858.26 An examination of the work shows that it was a collaborative exercise of considerable amplitude. Sixty-seven people contrib22 Lacroix, ‘‘Colonisation et administration romanes,’’ 365. 23 For the different factions and issues involved, see Charles-André Julien, La conquête et les
débuts de la colonisation (1827–1871), vol. 1 of Histoire de l’Algérie contemporaine (Paris, 1979), 106–37. 24 Ibid., 108–9. 25 Oulebsir, ‘‘Rome ou la Méditerranée?’’ 245. 26 Léon Renier, Inscriptions romaines de l’Algérie (Paris, 1858). Renier, who edited the work, was the librarian at the Sorbonne and a member of the Committee of French Language, History,



uted to the project by collecting, inscribing, and transmitting the inscriptions to Léon Renier for publication. The three main contributors were Renier, Captain Delamare, and General Creully, whose passion for archeology led him to found the Société Archéologique de Constantine in 1853. While it is to be expected that the main contributors should have a professional or semiprofessional interest in archaeology, what is striking about the remainder is the fact they are nearly all military personnel who took part in the project on a casual basis. Officers, physicians, interpreters, and even priests collected inscriptions in the region to which they were posted and then either sent their information to Renier directly or published their findings in scholarly journals, which Renier then used as his sources.27 A perusal of these sources indicates, furthermore, that interest in Roman inscriptions and archaeology got underway well before the end of the first decade of occupation, a fact that would appear to coincide with an outcome to Soult’s initial request to the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres in 1833.28 The collecting of Roman inscriptions did not stop there. By the end of the nineteenth century the corpus of the collection exceeded ten thousand. Considered to be the equivalent of ‘‘official records’’ and ‘‘newspapers,’’ the inscriptions were valued for their ‘‘statistical’’ qualities. If interpreted with care they would, the French believed, provide a vital source of information on a past colonization that most closely resembled their own.29 In accordance with the 1837 directives of the academy and within the framework of another far more significant commission, the Scientific Commission for the Exploration of Algeria, which was undertaken from 1840 to 1842, two Frenchmen, the polytechnicien Captain Delamare and the architect Amble Ravoisié, undertook major archaeological studies.30 A third, Captain Baccuet, concentrated on the regions of
and Arts. The work was published under the aegis of Hippolyte Fortoul, minister of education and religious affairs (ministre de l’instruction publique et des cultes). 27 For example, Doctor Raymon sent inscriptions from the Constantine area, Doctor Leclerc, from the Sitifis area, and the Bureau arab officer, Azéma de Montravier, from around Tlemcen (Renier, Inscriptions romaines, 388, 390–92, 427). Among the sources that Renier used were: Mémoires de la Société des antiquaires de France, Revue archéologique, Archives des missions, Moniteur algérien, Revue africaine, and Journal des savants. 28 One of the earlier references is to the 1837 edition of the Journal des savants; Renier, Inscriptions romaines, 325. 29 Boissier, Roman Africa, 292–93. 30 The Scientific Commission was originally conceived by the ministry of war in 1837. It was headed by the renowned naturalist Lt. Col. Jean-Baptiste Bory de Saint-Vincent (1778–1846) and comprised artists, biologists, archaeologists, and ethnographers. Many of its members were polytechniciens and Saint-Simonians, and all were considered experts in their field. The commission, which included Prosper Enfantin, Henri Fournel, Captain (later General) Adolphe Hanoteau, and Baron W. M-G. de Slane, produced thirty-nine volumes entitled Exploration scientifique de l’Algérie pendant les années 1840, 1841, 1842 publiée par ordre du gouvernement (Paris, 1844–67).



Algiers and Oran.31 Delamare remained in Algeria for three years after the official dissolution of the Scientific Commission in 1842, perfecting his drawings and adding data to his catalog of antiquities. He returned to Algeria for further research from 1850 to 1851 and continued to work on archaeology in the colony until his sudden death in 1861.32 Ravoisié was the first French architect to be commissioned for such a task in Africa. One of the aims of Ravoisié’s undertaking was to record the sites and structures of all archaeological remains before their destruction or disappearance. This concern was related to the fact that stones and columns from the ruins were used as building materials. Indeed, in an expression of intent that appears symbolic in the light of the present article, Bugeaud had stated that the material from the Roman ruins could be used as the cornerstones and archways for the permanent structures and buildings that France would soon build.33 Furthermore, certain officers, in keeping with the traditional military practice of plundering conquered territories, were keen to transport the best archeological pieces back to France.34 The duc de Dalmatie, one of the advocates of such action, had wanted to take the third-century Roman triumphal arch at Djemila back to the metropole, while Bugeaud had envisaged establishing an Algerian museum in Paris.35 Among Ravoisié’s suggestions was the restoration of the arch at Djemila in situ. The work was never undertaken, but the gesture of restoring the past glory of Rome was not made in vain.36 Equaling and even surpassing the Roman achievement was a significant theme in the comparisons between the colonial oeuvres of the two empires. Although the main focus of comparison, in the first two decades of French occupation, was to evaluate the extent of Roman colonization both spatially and administratively, the outcome of such studies would help determine the viability of French colonization.
31 Stéphane Gsell, Texte explicatif des planches de Ad. H.-Al. Delamare, exploration scientifique de l’Algérie pendant les années, 1840–1845, (Paris, 1912), vii (text and n. 3). 32 For the achievements of Captain Delamare, see Monique Dondin-Payre, ‘‘La production d’images sur l’espace méditerranéen dans la Commission d’exploration scientifique d’Algérie: Les dessins du Capitaine Delamare,’’ in Bourguet, L’invention scientifique de la Méditerranée, 223–38. 33 Quoted by Julien, La conquête et les débuts, 193. 34 The antagonism aroused by archaeologists is evident from the observation of one unsympathetic contemporary: ‘‘In the interest of their great work which never gets published, these scholars create disorder everywhere with their demands.’’ Marginal annotation in an official letter, attributed to Bugeaud by Gsell, Texte explicatif, iii. 35 The duc de Dalmatie’s plan for the Djemila arch was published in an arrêté dated 29 November 1842. Had it been carried through, it would have ended up not far from the Luxor obelisk and the banks of the Seine near the projected site of Bugeaud’s museum. Neither scheme was ever implemented. See ‘‘Introduction and Preamble,’’ Revue africaine, 1 (1856): 3–11, esp. 7. See also Gabriel Esquer, ‘‘Histoire et souvenirs,’’ in the centenary edition of the Revue africaine: Centenaire de la Société Historique Algérienne, 1856–1956 (Algiers, 1956), 193–226, esp. 194. 36 Oulebsir, ‘‘Rome ou la Méditerranée?’’ 267.



The aim of the Scientific Commission, the largest and most important of its kind, was to explore and expose the terrain of the new colony as thoroughly as possible.37 By doing so, the members of the mission achieved a number of things. First, they uncovered the ‘‘mysteries’’ of the newly acquired territory, thus facilitating eventual administration. Second, they situated the terrain in a European intellectual discourse. Third, they provided a body of scholarship that served as the foundation for future development. Throughout the colonial period, the standards set by the commission were emulated and improved upon. As Ernest Renan put it, the work started by the commission was ‘‘one of the titles to glory of France in the nineteenth century.’’ 38 The task of exploring Algeria was an ongoing project that was integral to France’s civilizing mission. Allusions to Rome apart, the very activity of mapping out the newly occupied terrain in a French intellectual framework was in itself a way of recovering the area for Western civilization. But the added bonus of being able to refer to Rome as an illustrious precursor was a way of reinforcing the spatial and ideological transition from East to West. Colonization did not just concern spatial and ideological impositions, however. There was the ever-present problem of the ‘‘indigenous population’’ and how it would respond to the French presence. Any information regarding former relations between ‘‘colonizing’’ and ‘‘colonized,’’ in situations of both war and peace, was therefore carefully examined. As the journalist and author Saint-Marc Girardin put it in the Revue des deux mondes, a careful reading of the classics would help to ‘‘clarify the difficulties that French domination was encountering in North Africa.’’ 39 While Livy and Sallust helped elucidate precedents in warfare, for an understanding of the interaction between the Romans and their subject peoples in North Africa the two works most widely used were Sallust’s The Jurgurthine War and Tacitus’s The Germania. As late as 1898, when conquest was long since complete and the military administration had been replaced by a civilian government, Sallust was still a point of reference. Boissier, for example, incited his compatriots to read Sallust’s work not only for its literary merit but also for its ‘‘special interest’’ in relation to Africa.40 For works on Algeria, published in the first two decades of French rule, The Jurgurthine War
37 For the role of the Scientific Commission in creating a French space, see Lorcin, Imperial Identities, 41–52. 38 Quoted by Boissier, Roman Africa, vii. 39 Saint-Marc Girardin, ‘‘De la domination des Carthiginois et des Romains en Afrique comparée avec la domination française,’’ Revue des deux mondes, 26 (1841): 408–45, esp. 409. 40 Ibid., 20.



had been, in the words of one author, ‘‘a mine of rich information.’’ 41 With regard to the indigenous population, the French were above all interested in the origin of the Berbers and their possible role in the colonial oeuvre. The Arabs were considered latecomers who had swept across North Africa in two waves in the seventh and eleventh centuries, but the Berbers, thought to be the original inhabitants of the area, were something of an enigma, which the classics could possibly elucidate. Unraveling the past and understanding the culture of the Berbers would permit the French to administer their subject peoples more successfully. Among the first officers to carry out research in this area was Lapène, who had taken part in the Bougie campaign. His Vingt-six mois à Bougie, published in 1838, contained a section on the Kabyles (Berbers living in the mountainous region of the Djurjura), which was reprinted separately, eight years later, on the eve of the first major assault on Kabylia.42 In his analysis of the Kablyes, Lapène relied heavily on Sallust and Tacitus, accompanying his observations with lengthy citations.43 One section of the study was devoted to a comparison between the early nineteenth-century Kabyles and the peoples who inhabited the area during Roman occupation.44 While the use of Sallust is understandable, the use of Tacitus’s Germania to link the Kabyles with the Germanic tribes signified an ideological leap that was racial in its overtones. Quoting from Tacitus, Lapène enumerated a series of customs characteristic of the Germanic tribes that, he declared, were shared by the Kabyles. The list was long, ranging from distinctive war cries and methods of fighting, through a love of independence and a similar sense of justice and religious structures, to rudimentary economic and decisionmaking institutions.45 The importance of Lapène’s analysis lies not so much in its accuracy, or lack of it, but in the fact that he was drawing the Kabyles into the ‘‘Western camp.’’ This was an ideological maneuver that would assume considerable significance in the ensuing decades when a pro-Berber element emerged in colonial circles, claiming that the Berbers could be assimilated more easily than the Arabs due to
41 Dureau de la Malle, Histoire des guerres, 6. 42 Edouard Lapène, Tableau historique, moral et politique sur les Kabyles (Metz, 1846). Lapène
wrote historical works on France, Spain, and Algeria. As far as the latter was concerned, in addition to Vingt-six mois à Bougie and his work on the Kabyles he wrote ‘‘Tableau historique de l’Algérie depuis l’occupation romaine,’’ Mémoires de l’académie de Metz 25 (1843–44): 158–244, and 26 (1844– 45): 107–315; and ‘‘Tableau historique de la province d’Oran,’’ Mémoires de l’académie de Metz 23 (1841–42): 43–92. 43 See, for example, Lapène, ‘‘Tableau historique . . . ,’’ in Vingt-six mois, 178–79, 186–92. 44 Lapène, ‘‘Comparison des Kabaïles [sic] modernes avec les anciens peuples d’où ils sont présumés tirer leur origine,’’ in ibid., 177–92. 45 Ibid., 186–92.



similarity of disposition with the Europeans. Lapène’s work, as one of the earliest on the Kabyles, became a reference for future studies, and many of his conclusions were incorporated into the canon of thought on the Berbers.46 Indeed, one of the most important works of ethnology to emerge from the colonial period on the Berbers, Emile Masqueray’s Formation des cités chez les populations sédentaires de l’Algérie, was shaped by an intellectual deference to Roman civilization. He compared Kabyle social organization to that of the primitive Romans and believed that a careful study of Berber villages (the tiddar in Kabylia, the thaquelathin in the Aurès, and the qçour of the M’zab) would shed light on the institutional origins of Western civilization.47 By the end of the second decade of French occupation, the meshing together of Rome and France, as different stages of the same oeuvre, was well established. Two developments shaped the ensuing period of the Rome-France comparison. First, the incorporation of Algeria into France as three departments put an end to the debate on whether or not to colonize. The question now became how to colonize. Here again French officers looked to Rome for some of the answers. Was the Roman regime of the garrisons, whereby the military maintained domination and protected civilian colonization, a viable solution for the French? Bugeaud had certainly thought so. ‘‘Military colonization . . . seems to me to be fundamental,’’ he had informed the Chamber of Deputies in 1844.48 His vision of colonization was by the sword and the plow (Par Ense et Aratro), implemented by means of agricultural committees (comices agricoles), the development of which was his ‘‘Delenda Carthago,’’ he told the deputies.49 Second, the period saw the institutionalization of Algeria as spatially French via the establishment of a series of scholarly societies whose main preoccupation was to map out, record, and classify the colony’s archaeological and historical terrain. In the process,
46 For the ramifications of the Arab-Berber dichotomy and Lapène’s work on the Kabyles, see Lorcin, Imperial Identities, esp. 17–96. 47 Emile Masqueray, Formation des cités chez les populations sédentaires de l’Algérie (Kabyles du Djurjura, Chaouia de l’Aurès. Beni M’zab) (Paris, 1886), 221–22, 226. 48 Azan, Par l’épée, 196. For an exposé of Bugeaud’s ideas on colonization, see Thomas Bugeaud de la Piconnerie, ‘‘De la colonisation européenne en Afrique,’’ in Quelques réflexions sur trois questions fondamentales de notre établissement en Algérie (Algiers, 1846), 22–36. 49 See Bugeaud’s speeches to the Chamber in Azan, Par l’épée, 199–201, and in D’Ideville, Le maréchal Bugeaud, 158–77. It was in 1832 that Bugeaud first proposed his idea of the comices agricoles, whereby military units would be transformed into soldier-laborers in peacetime. He had in mind not only Algeria but also the marsh areas of Brittany and Bordeaux. The soldier as laborer and as executor of public works were ideas that were picked up by the Bureaux arabes in Algeria. See Lorcin, Imperial Identities, 79–84; X. Yacono, Les bureaux arabes et l’évolution des genres de vie indigènes dans l’ouest du Tell algérois (Paris, 1953). The phrase Delenda Carthago is a reference to Cato the Elder’s insistence in the Senate that Rome undertake the third Punic War. Bugeaud is comparing his obsession with creating the comices agricoles to Cato’s obsession with destroying Carthage.



Algeria’s immediate Islamic past receded in importance as earlier pasts were reclaimed and exposed as evidence of an area destined for colonization. The substitution of a remote Western past for a recent Islamic one and the institutionalization of Algeria as spatially French were important steps in marginalizing the presence and culture of the Arabs and Berbers. In 1851 Field Marshal Randon was appointed governor-general of Algeria and commander of the army, a post he held for the ensuing six and a half years. During his governorship, the mountainous region of Kabylia, the final seat of resistance, was conquered and land distribution in favor of the Europeans greatly increased. In the decade of the 1850s alone, European holdings increased from 115,000 to 340,000 hectares.50 Among the first tasks Randon assigned on arrival was the undertaking of a detailed study of the Roman methods of colonization. It was to include their organization of the country and their agricultural, administrative, judicial, political, religious, and military policies. The economic results of Roman domination as well as their influence on the indigenous population were further points of interest. In short, it was to be ‘‘a physiology of Romano-African colonization with the aim of highlighting potential consequences of French domination.’’ 51 The study was undertaken by Frédéric Lacroix, and in 1852 he drew up a preliminary report, which was published posthumously in the Revue africaine. In it he outlined his initial findings and the direction the final study would take. It was comprehensive, touching on every aspect of Roman colonization, including the role of the military, the importance of agriculture, and the prospects for assimilation, all of special interest to the French. Some of Lacroix’s most prescient observations were made in his discussion of agriculture. His reflections on Roman viticulture and the clearing of the marshlands of the Mitidja foreshadowed developments in the colony at the end of the century. With regard to the latter, Lacroix pointed out that during Roman times the Mitidja had been salubrious. Drained and cultivated, it had not posed the sort of health problem to the Romans that it did to the French. It was Lacroix’s intention to develop this theme of draining the Mitidja in his final study in order to demonstrate how this would favor French colonization.52 The Mitidja was in fact cleared at the end of the century, becoming the colony’s leading agricultural area. Vineyards, citrus, and grain were its leading products, the latter of which had been the main Roman staple, earning the North African province the sobriquet, ‘‘granary of Rome.’’
50 John Ruedy, Modern Algeria (Bloomington, Ind., 1992), 69. 51 Lacroix, ‘‘Colonisation et administration romanes,’’ 365–66. 52 Ibid., 420–22.



Lacroix died prematurely in 1863, and his work was taken over by Ernest Carette, a highly productive member of the 1840–42 Scientific Commission. By this time, however, Randon had left Algeria, and, in spite of Carette’s contribution, the study was never published. Nonetheless, its significance was not overlooked. Carette believed the study of Roman colonization was useful as an example rather than a blueprint, the conditions and circumstances of the two periods being too different to recreate Roman methods exactly.53 If the study did not provide the answers sought, the debate on the pros and cons of military or civilian colonization continued. Indeed, the military versus civilian colonization debate was itself a reflection of Roman debates.54 Roman Africa, therefore, remained at the center of colonial cultural configurations. It was during Randon’s governorship that the first scholarly institutions were set up to serve as the depository for the work produced as a result of historical and archaeological research in the colony and to ensure its dissemination to a wider public. The two most significant societies, the Société archéologique de Constantine and the Société historique algérienne, were founded in 1853 and 1856, respectively. Randon, who was a founding member and first honorary president of the latter, was instrumental in the establishment of both. Similar societies were later set up in Bône, Oran, and Algiers.55 All had their own scholarly journals, which circulated in Algeria and France. Of these, the Revue africaine, journal of the Algerian historical society, had an international reputation and membership. In its opening preamble the journal stated that ‘‘the French understood the magnitude of the civilizing mission, which had devolved upon them.’’ 56 The Western tradition of Roman civilization would be perpetrated in French Algeria. A perusal of the contents of all these journals reveals the importance of Rome to French interest in Algeria’s past. Articles about Arab finds or vestiges of Celtic or Vandal presence were outnumbered by those on the Roman period of Algeria’s history. Adrien Berbrugger, the historical society’s president from its foundation to his death, was a driving force behind the institutionalization of the archaeological and historical exploration of Algeria.57 He had ar53 Cited by Jacques Frémeaux, ‘‘Souvenirs de Rome et présence française au Maghreb: Essai d’investigation,’’ in Connaissances du Maghreb, ed. Jean-Claude Vatin (Paris, 1984), 35. 54 Boissier, Roman Africa, 102–3. 55 Académie d’Hippone (1865); Société de Géographie et d’Archéologie de la Province d’Oran (1878); and Société de Géographie d’Alger (1903). 56 Revue africaine 1 (1856): 9. 57 Berbrugger was a graduate of the Ecole de Chartes, a Fouriérist by philosophical inclination, and an Arabist. He was a high-profile figure in the colony, becoming a member of a wide range of academic and nonacademic societies and civic groups. He was editor of the Moniteur al-



rived in Algeria as personal secretary to Clauzel in 1835 and set up the Bibliothèque nationale d’Alger in the same year. By 1837 he was working on archaeological digs around Constantine, from where he would bring back eight hundred manuscripts, which would form the basis of the manuscript collection of the Bibliothèque nationale in Algiers. A year later, as a recompense, he was awarded the annual gold medal of the Institut (Section Inscriptions et Belle Lettres) for his work on ‘‘national antiquities.’’ 58 Henceforth, he would ceaselessly work toward the uncovering of Algeria’s past, both on archaeological sites and through the scholarly institutions to which he belonged.59 His scholarly explorations led him to the Algerian south, Tunisia (1850), and Morocco (1862). In 1856 Berbrugger was elected a member of the Legion d’honneur for his ‘‘important archeological work.’’ 60 It was the same year he established the Société historique algérienne and its journal, La revue africaine: Journal des travaux de la Société historique algérienne, remaining president of the society and editor of the journal until his death. His mandate in the latter capacity was to inform the public of new developments, recently discovered documents, and all other information pertaining to local history.61 In short, it was to create an archive of France’s newest and least-known region, a region that would eventually hold pride of place in la France d’outre-mer. Berbrugger was a transitional figure between military rule, the end of which coincided with his death in 1869, and civilian rule. He had lived and worked within a military framework, but his oeuvre pointed to the future ideological development of the colony that would define itself as a region of France with a marked specificity that both bound it to and distinguished it from the mainland. Archaeological activity would continue to thrive, paralleled and complemented by an ideology of difference that was grounded in concepts of Latinity. The parallels between the Roman regime of the garrisons and the French military administration, between the Pax Romana and the mission civilisatrice, were reworked so that the continuity between Rome and France acquired a new dimension. While the concept of similarity inherent in the notion of assuming Rome’s mantle did not subside, a

gérien, a paper that chronicled the major events in the colony. He was elected a member of the Royal Geographical Society. His prestige in Algeria was such that when he died, he lay in state at the national library he had founded and was given an official funeral presided over by then governor-general Field Marshal MacMahon. 58 Robert Dournon, Autour du tombeau de la chrétienne: Documents pour servir à l’histoire de l’Afrique du nord (Paris, 1946), 14. 59 See ibid., 13–18. 60 Ibid. 61 Preamble, Revue africaine 1 (1856): 10.



One of the museums of colonial Algeria with some of its Roman artifacts. From Cardinal, Les pieds-noirs. Reprinted with permission

more nuanced interpretation developed that accommodated differentiation from the Muslim heritage and incorporation into the spiritual and national heritage of France. The Civilian Era: Legacy As Difference In 1871, following the demise of the Second Empire in France and the great Kabyle insurrection in Algeria, the administration of the colony passed into civilian hands. The transition signaled the advent of major demographic, political, and economic changes as the European population increased, settler power over the Algerians was extended, and land sequestration was stepped up. A series of decrees greatly extended French judicial power and enlarged the legislative and executive authority of the colonial administration.62 Among the land allocations following the insurrection, one hundred thousand hectares in Kabylia were handed over to refugees from Alsace-Lorraine, about twelve hundred families in all.63 As for the European population, it increased threefold in the first three decades alone, jumping from 236,000 to
62 Ruedy, Modern Algeria, 76. 63 Ibid., 80.



621,000.64 Although improved medical and sanitary conditions had reduced mortality, the increase was due largely to an influx of workers seeking employment in the lively public works sector of the colony. Most were from the countries along the northern shores of the Mediterranean: Spaniards, Sardinians, Italians, Corsicans, and Maltese, or the ‘‘Latins of Africa’’ as they came to be called.65 In 1894, in a study on the Latin literature of Africa, Paul Monceaux declared with some satisfaction: ‘‘Roman Africa has, in large part, become French territory,’’ adding that ‘‘all things relating to the history of Algeria are of importance to us, in the same way as all our national antiquities.’’ 66 It was no coincidence that the title of his literary study was Les Africains. The notion of the ‘‘Latins of Africa,’’ a new race formed of the intermingling of the peoples of the northern shores of the Mediterranean, had seen the anthropological light of day as early as 1873.67 But the concept was to find its ideological champion, and the notion of Latin Africa would become entrenched in the colonial narrative with the arrival in Algeria of Louis Bertrand in 1891. Coincidentally, two years earlier, the children of Algeria’s non-French settlers had been legally naturalized in a measure designed to increase the French element of the population, which was not growing at the pace of the non-French element, and to counterbalance the impact of the unpopular Crémieux Law of 1870, which had naturalized the Algerian Jews who were perceived by the settlers to be more indigenous than European.68 The sociocultural diversity of these new citizens and the fact that most were unfamiliar with the metropole militated against a rapid acquisition of French cultural and social norms.69 Bertrand’s arrival was timely. The ‘‘Latins of Africa’’ would provide him with the necessary material to create his life’s work, while Bertrand would provide them with the ‘‘imagined’’ bonds that would link them to France. Although Bertrand’s contribution was ideologically decisive, his
64 Charles-Robert Ageron, Histoire de l’Algérie contemporaine: De l’insurrection de 1871 au déclenchement de la guerre de libération (Paris, 1979), 2:119, 121. 65 Of the 236,000 Europeans present at the beginning of civilian administration, 121,600 were French and 115,000 were of other European nationalities (Spanish, Italian, Maltese, and Greek). Of the 621,000 Europeans in Algeria in 1900, 384,000 were French and 237,000 were non-French. 66 Paul Monceaux, Les Africains: Etude sur la littérature latine d’Afrique (Paris, 1894), 3. 67 Louis Faidherbe and Paul Topinard, ‘‘Instructions sur l’anthropologie de l’Algérie,’’ Bulletin de la société d’anthropologie de Paris, 2d ser., 8 (1873): 603–65, esp. 654. 68 For the details of the 1889 law, see Ageron, Histoire de l’Algérie contemporaine, 118–20; for anti-Semitism in the colony, see 60–67. For the colonial reaction to the Crémieux decree, see Ruedy, Modern Algeria, 77. 69 For an understanding of the way in which the culture of these immigrants developed, see David Prochaska, ‘‘History As Literature, Literature As History: Cagayous of Algiers,’’ American Historical Review 101 (1996): 671–711.



ideas did not evolve in isolation but were influenced by developments in the colony. The archeological activity set in motion by the likes of Berbrugger—and stepped up under the civilian regime—provided the material ballast to support his arguments. Among the most prominent figures to follow in Berbrugger’s archeological footsteps were Albert Ballu and Stéphane Gsell. Ballu, who was the architect in charge of unearthing Algeria’s historical monuments, spent twenty years on digs in the colony. During this time he produced regular reports for the minister of education and the arts (ministre de l’instruction publique et des beauxarts). These reports served the dual purpose of recording his efforts and supporting requests for subsidies to continue expanding his work.70 Stéphane Gsell, archaeologist and professor at both the Ecole supérieure des lettres of Algiers and the Collège de France, was to become a close friend of Bertrand. His numerous works on the historical sites of Algeria included an explanatory text for Delamare’s archaeological drawings for the Scientific Commission, L’Algérie dans l’antiquité (probably his best-known volume), and the collaborative Histoire d’Algérie, published in the series Les vieilles provinces de France. Gsell’s work formed the basis of all subsequent work in the colony on Roman archaeology.71 Both Ballu and Gsell were important contributors to the process of reclaiming the Western heritage of Algeria, which as a region of France was deemed to be a part of the patrimoine national. As a visual reminder of Algeria’s Roman past, the stones and inscriptions were an essential part of the colony’s historical record and, as such, were important symbols for the development of Bertrand’s ideology of Latinity, symbols that would eventually be transformed into colonial sites of memory. Equally important though was the spiritual coupling of France and Rome contributed by Cardinal Lavigerie. Indeed, it set the scene for Bertrand’s work. In 1867, on the eve of the civilian takeover, Charles Marchand Lavigerie was appointed to the archbishopric of Algiers. Within fifteen years he was primate of all Africa. Until his death in 1892, Lavigerie worked to restore the Roman Church to its former Augustinian glory. His two-pronged approach of proselytization and colonization led to the development of a civilizing message with religious underpinning, which he buttressed with references to North Africa’s Christian past. As spiritual representative of Rome, Lavigerie assumed the mantle of the fathers of the early Christian Church. Cyprian (200–
70 Agnès Groslambert, ed., L’archéologie algérienne de 1895 à 1915: Les rapports d’Albert Ballu publiés au journal officiel de la République française de 1896 à 1916, Collection du Centre d’Etudes Romaines et Gallo-Romaines, l’Université Lyon III, n.s., 16 (Lyon, 1997). See, for example, 11. 71 Jean Lassus, ‘‘L’antiquité,’’ in Revue africaine, 81–119, esp. 81.



258), Bishop of Carthage and Augustine (354–430), Bishop of Hippo Regius, and ‘‘seven hundred other bishops’’ had been his precursors, and he took up the cross in their name to revitalize the message of Rome. In the pastoral letter delivered on assuming his appointment in Algiers, Lavigerie drew attention to the Roman ruins that covered the Algerian countryside and reminded the members of his new diocese that ‘‘they were the sacred souvenirs of the courage, saintliness, and genius of the heroes of our faith.’’ 72 Roman Africa had been a Christian Africa, and it was France’s mission to ‘‘liberate’’ it from the fierce fanaticism of Islam and inveterate hatred of the Arab.73 If the Church, crushed, dispersed, and martyred, had ceased to exist centuries ago, it had vanished completely under the ‘‘shroud’’ of the Muslim invasion. Immobilized by death, what remained of the Church—the seven hundred basilicas, sacred inscriptions, and tombs of the faithful—was still buried.74 The return of the Roman faith would resurrect this legacy and uncover the immeasurable riches of the past. Augustine was a Berber, a pertinent detail Lavigerie chose to ignore, thus underscoring the fact that his vision of restoring the area to Christendom overrode other considerations. Certainly his desire to resuscitate the Roman Church in Africa was not just a question of endorsing the civilizing mission. His message also served to define his vision of Church doctrine. He believed that the ways of the ancient Church were those of the true faith. By maintaining the purity of the traditions of the ancients, the Church would be strengthened and would confound contemporary critics.75 On the one hand, therefore, he looked to the past as a means of revitalizing Catholicism and endorsing his conservative doctrinal stance. On the other, he strove to transform Algeria into ‘‘the birthplace of a great, generous, and Christian nation—another France . . . happy to walk in the paths of French justice and honor, and to spread the true light of civilization with the ardent initiative with which the French race and faith were blessed.’’ 76 To assist him in the process of reclaiming Africa for the Roman faith, Lavigerie established the missionary orders of the Père Blancs and the Soeurs Blanches in 1869 and 1870, respectively. The archaeological and spiritual legacy of Rome came together in
72 Cardinal Lavigerie, ‘‘Lettre pastorale pour la prise de possession du diocèse d’Alger’’ (5 May 1867), in Oeuvres choisies (Paris, 1884), 1:1–22, esp. 3 (also in Recueil de lettres publiées par Mgr. L’archevêque sur les oeuvres et missions africaines [Paris, 1869], 8–9). 73 Lavigerie, Oeuvres choisies, 5–6. 74 Cardinal Lavigerie, ‘‘Ancienne et nouvelle église d’Afrique: Discours pour l’ouverture du premier concile provincial d’Algérie,’’ in ibid., 87–131, esp. 92. 75 Ibid., 114. 76 Lavigerie, ‘‘Lettre pastorale,’’ 9.



‘‘The Roman Church restored to its former glory’’: Notre Dame d’Afrique, Algiers. From Cardinal, Les pieds-noirs. Reprinted with permission

Louis Bertrand’s vision of a Latin Africa. The metaphors of death and resurrection, of burial and ‘‘disinterment,’’ used by Lavigerie as part of religious discourse were reformulated in secular terms by Louis Bertrand. Bertrand greatly admired Lavigerie, whose influence he readily admitted.77 But whereas Lavigerie’s message resonated in religious circles, where he sought to unify the diversification of the immigrants from the northern shores of the Mediterranean through the religious legacy and observances of Rome, the bond Bertrand sought to create was one of a cultural and racial ‘‘spirituality’’ rather than a religious one. The strong anticlerical streak in the colony, coupled with Lavigerie’s controversial personality, created a terrain more receptive to Bertrand’s unifying discourse than to Lavigerie’s. The Roman past reclaimed by Bertrand was, in the image of the colony, one of power, land, and blood. In 1895, Bertrand, then a young teacher, visited the Roman ruins of Tipasa, in the company of Stéphane Gsell. Gsell believed that colonial conditions for Rome and France in Africa were totally different. ‘‘Whereas in 1830 France had found an uncivilized land (contrée barbare), the Romans had encountered prosperous towns and cultivated land. . . . Unlike the French they did not have to deal with national
77 See, for example, Louis Bertrand, ‘‘Le centenaire du cardinal Lavigerie,’’ in Devant l’Islam (Paris, 1926), 80–126, and ‘‘L’église d’Afrique,’’ Revue des deux mondes 57 (1930): 402–15, esp. 402.



‘‘The manifestation of the true North Africa, a Latin Africa’’: The ruins at Tipasa on the Mediterranean coast, west of Algiers. From Cardinal, Les pieds-noirs. Reprinted with permission

and religious hatreds.’’ 78 Gsell’s notion of an ‘‘uncivilized’’ inheritance was later picked up by Bertrand, but on seeing the ruins for the first time he echoed Monceaux’s sentiments declaring that Tipasa had been his intellectual watershed. He had rediscovered ‘‘the men who spoke his language and believed in his gods.’’ Tipasa was the architectural, cultural, and linguistic manifestation of the true North Africa, a Latin Africa, whose existence he had hitherto only imagined.79 It was, however, at the site’s necropolis that Bertrand had his most trenchant revelation. It was not just stones he encountered there but living beings, human forms whose contours were etched in the funereal strata: Christians, men of his faith, who shared the same sacraments and rites.80 The learned men of the Church of Carthage had shaped the churches of the West and, on the eve of the barbarian invasions, the city had been an important seat of intellectual activity.81 When the barbarians did eventually invade, the elite of the land had emigrated to Italy, to Spain, to
78 Stéphane Gsell, L’Algérie dans l’antiquité (Algiers, 1903), 144. 79 Louis Bertrand, Sur les routes du sud, 9th ed. (Paris, 1936), 217, 219. 80 Bertrand, ‘‘L’église d’Afrique,’’ 404. 81 Ibid., 413–14.



Sardinia, to Corsica, and to Gaul, taking with them their libraries, their relics, and the memory of their martyrs.82 Now the descendants of those very people had returned to reclaim their lost patrimony. It was a spiritual homecoming as much as a physical one. The attribution of Latin/Roman antecedents to the settlers was a reflection of debates in France concerning the origins of the French nation and its people. From the sixteenth century onward, French historians and scholars interested in the early Middle Ages had adopted either a ‘‘Germanist’’ or a ‘‘Romanist’’ approach in their interpretations.83 The debate revolved around whether or not the origins of medieval French institutions were Germanic, Celtic, or Roman. During the nineteenth century, questions concerning the racial origins of the French were introduced into the formula. The relationship between the Gauls and the Franks, the poetry of the Celts, and the legacy of Roman Gauls were some of the subtexts of a debate that was as much about French nationhood as about what it signified to be French.84 The loss of Alsace-Lorraine had, of course, accentuated the trend, raising new questions about the meaning of the nation and introducing the problematic of the borderland and its mythologies. In his ‘‘What Is a Nation?’’ lecture, delivered at the Sorbonne in 1882, Ernest Renan declared that a nation was ‘‘a soul, a spiritual principle.’’ Two components were vital to its development, namely ‘‘the possession in common of a rich legacy of memories’’ and ‘‘the desire to live together, the will to perpetuate the value of the heritage that one has received in undivided form.’’ 85 The concept of a nation as having a spiritual soul developed by the possession of a heritage of memories and the will to live together was one that Bertrand developed to the full. Fustel de Coulanges, who taught at the Ecole Normale Supérieure during Bertrand’s early years there, was a Romanist.86 His Ancient City: A Study of the Religion, Laws, and Institutions of Greece and Rome (1864), which quickly ran into twelve editions, presents a society whose members, claiming a common ancestry, live together on privately owned land sanctified by the sepulchres of their ancestors. The dead are im82 Ibid., 414. 83 Martin Thom, ‘‘Tribes within Nations: The Ancient Germans and the History of Modern
France,’’ in Nation and Narration, ed. Homi Bhabha (London, 1990), 23–43, esp. 23. 84 See, for example: Mme de Staël, ‘‘On Germany’’ (1813), in Major Writings of Germaine de Staël, trans. Vivian Folkenflik (New York, 1987), 292–324; Augustin Thierry, Histoire de la conquète de l’Angleterre par les Normands (Paris, 1825); Amédée Thierry, Histoire des Gaulois (Paris, 1828); Ernest Renan, ‘‘The Poetry of the Celtic Races’’ (1886), in Poetry of the Celtic Races and Other Essays, trans. William G. Hutchinson (London, 1896), 1–60; Numa Denis Fustel de Coulanges, Histoire des institutions politiques de l’ancienne France: L’invasion germanique et la fin de l’empire (Paris, 1875). 85 Renan, ‘‘What Is a Nation?’’ in Poetry of the Celtic Races, 61–83, esp. 80. 86 He died prematurely in 1889, when Bertrand was twenty-three.



mortalized by their descendents. The tomb links the land and its inhabitants, both as a site of memory and as a cult site.87 The outcome of the Franco-Prussian War accentuated Fustel’s anti-Germanic approach, and his ensuing work marked him out as the leader of a new nationalist historiography.88 Fustel de Coulanges’s Romanist approach and many of his themes are echoed in Bertrand. As a Lorrainer and a graduate of the Ecole Normale Supérieure, Bertrand was conversant with the works of both Renan and Fustel and the debates into which their work fed. Indeed, many years later Bertrand was to claim that in the same way Fustel had torn away the veil of errors spun by romantic historians around Gaul, he had ripped off the false mask placed on the face of Africa by lovers of ‘‘local’’ color.89 Here he was alluding to what he considered to be the romantic exoticism of figures such as Fromentin and Loti. The homecoming that Bertrand attributed to the ‘‘Latins’’ of Algeria was not just a refashioning of contemporary themes. It was also the ideological manifestation of his own spiritual rebirth in the necropolis of Tipasa. Raised in a reactionary and highly religious family from Lorraine, the youthful Bertrand had rebelled, assuming an indifference to religion and a firm republican stance.90 The Paris of the Lycée Henri IV and the Ecole Normale Supérieure at the fin de siècle did nothing to alter Bertrand’s early convictions.91 Like Maurice Barrès’s deracinés, the provincial Bertrand felt dislocated and disillusioned in Paris, where he was cut off from his native traditions. Unlike Barrès’s characters, however, Bertrand was not doomed to failure. Colonial Algeria provided him with the opportunity to reorient himself spiritually and ideologically and in so doing to create a literary oeuvre that was to lead him to the Académie Française. ‘‘All I did was exchange our eastern frontier for our southern one,’’ he wrote in Souvenirs sur la Lorraine.92 The mythology of the borderland as a site under constant threat of invasion, as an area of blurred identity where origins and traditions assumed a particular importance in self-definition, became central to Bertrand’s work. The origins and traditions that Bertrand sought to recreate were those of North Africa’s Roman past: ‘‘I ignored all that was not Latin or French in order to exalt the traditions of my own race
87 Fustel de Coulanges, The Ancient City: A Study of the Religion, Laws, and Institutions of Greece and Rome (Baltimore, Md., 1980), xii–xiii. 88 Ibid., x. See especially Fustel’s Histoire des institutions politiques. 89 Louis Bertrand, ‘‘Discours à la nation africaine,’’ Revue des deux mondes 6 (1921): 481–95, esp. 487. 90 André Bellessort, ‘‘Portrait d’écrivains: Louis Bertrand,’’ Revue bleue 12, no. 58 (1920): 364–68, esp. 364. 91 Ibid. 92 Quoted in ibid., 366.



and to uncover, in this land invaded by the nomad and the barbarian, our illustrious history and that of its early inhabitants.’’ 93 Tipasa was the site at which he found his cultural roots, but it was also there that his sense of cultural alienation toward the indigenous population of Algeria was reinforced.Why was it, he later surmised, that the Egyptian Muslims could lay claim with pride to their pharaonic past while the Algerian Arabs could not do the same for Rome? For Bertrand it was a rhetorical question that needed no answer; he believed the French should rejoice in the fact that ‘‘their Arabs’’ were unable to say, ‘‘This is what our ancestors the Romans achieved.’’ It emphasized their difference. France had reclaimed a lost Latin province that, as heir to Rome, gave it precedence over Islam. Faced with the ‘‘usurping Arab,’’ or even the subjugated original inhabitant (l’Indigène asservi ), it was the French who held pride of place as ‘‘the true masters’’ of the land. France represented the most revered and ancient Africa, whose symbolic monument was the triumphal arch, not the mosque.94 The Arab conquerors had added nothing to the Roman heritage; rather, they had tried to destroy it.The Roman ruins demonstrated that the seal of Rome was indelible. Thus the ‘‘Latins’’ who came to Algeria in the wake of the conquest could well imagine they were returning to their abandoned domain to repossess their property (leur bien).95 For Bertrand, the stone and mortar of Rome were the symbolic building blocks of the colony’s legacy of memories, which would form its ‘‘national’’ heritage and cement the disparate sectors of its immigrant population, together creating a cohesive whole. They were its sites of ancestral memory. Such sentiments were more than a grandiose justification of French presence in Africa. They were the backdrop for Bertrand’s life’s work: his ideology of the ‘‘Latins of Africa’’ as the regenerating force of France, which he was to dub rebarbarization.96 ‘‘French Africa,’’ he declared, was a rejuvenated land where a vigorous strain of humanity was developing with great promise.97 Bertrand’s Latins, the immigrants from the northern shores of the Mediterranean, had intermarried and produced a handsome, hardworking, ardent race.98 Bertrand had
93 Ibid. (‘‘nos Lettres de noblesse et de premiers occupants’’). 94 Louis Bertrand, Les villes d’or: Algérie et Tunisie romaines (Paris, 1921), 8–9. 95 Idem, ‘‘Préface,’’ in Le cycle africain: Le jardin de la mort (Paris, 1921), vii–ix. Le jardin de la
mort was first published in 1904. It was reissued under the title Africa in 1933. 96 For a detailed account of Bertrand’s theory of rebarbarization and its links to fin de siècle thought in France, see Patricia Lorcin, ‘‘Decadence and Renascence: Louis Bertrand and the Concept of Rebarbarisation in Algeria,’’ in New Perspectives on the Fin de Siècle in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century France, ed. K. Chadwick and T. Unwin (London, 2000). 97 Bertrand, ‘‘Préface,’’ i. 98 Idem, Sur les routes du sud, 52.



‘‘France represented the most revered and ancient Africa whose symbolic monument was the triumphal arch, not the mosque.’’ Arch of Septimius Severus at Lambessa (present-day Tazoult-Lambèse). From Cardinal, Les pieds-noirs. Reprinted with permission

discovered the merits of these quick-witted, pragmatic people in the months following his arrival when he had fully explored Algeria. In total contrast to ‘‘the indolent Orientals who succumbed to laziness and an endless pursuit of pleasure,’’ the Latins were the colony’s life force.99 The product of both environment and blood, they were invigorated not enervated by the taxing climatic conditions. The ‘‘harshness of the African steppes, the burning sun and sand, and the mysterious influence of ancient Latin imperialism, with its love of pomp and ostentation, its authoritarianism, its individualism, and its cult of the family’’; these were the formative forces of Bertrand’s Latin race.100 The indigenous population with no cultural link to Rome, imperial and Christian, could in no way measure up. Arabs and Berbers were absent from Bertrand’s scheme of things. The Arabs, he believed, had brought poverty, endemic warfare, and barbarism to North Africa. Centuries of Islam had destroyed the agri99 Idem, Les villes d’or, 243. 100 Idem, ‘‘Préface,’’ xii.



cultural achievements of the Carthaginians and Romans and the significant legacy of Rome.101 Furthermore, Bertrand gave no cultural credit to either the Arabs or the Berbers. ‘‘What I first thought was Arab or Oriental is really benighted Latin,’’ he wrote, ‘‘eroded by the rust of centuries.’’ 102 In a curious sleight of hand, Bertrand underlined the lack of originality of the indigenous population by stating that while the cultural legacy of Rome had been destroyed by the Arabs, a borrowed legacy of cultural objects remained. ‘‘The jewelry, dress, baths, buildings, universities, (even!) its mosques were all based on ancient Latin designs.’’ 103 Culturally, the indigenous population was, therefore, twice damned: as destructive and as lacking in imagination. The notion that Islam was uninventive was not new. Arthur de Gobineau had said as much in his The Inequality of Human Races (1859), stating that Islam’s cultural aridity and lack of originality were due to its emergence from the desert and the fact that its civilization was residual Greco-Asiatic.104 For Bertrand the ‘‘question of race [was] all important.’’ 105 As a literary man he was less inclined to use the contemporary criteria of physical anthropology as a means of definition. Yet he overtly linked his thought to that of Gobineau, stating that ‘‘race is a spiritual and even a metaphysical entity, the originality of which is irreducible and resistant to all intermixing. When adulteration occurs, authority and power pass into other hands. Let us remain Latin to keep the Empire intact.’’ 106 Echoing Gobineau, who believed that miscegenation was ultimately debilitating, he declared that intermingling with the Arabs and Berbers would erode French power. There had always been a master race in (North) Africa.107 Latin Africa was merely a continuation of that tradition. The ‘‘Latins of Africa’’ were the inspiration of Bertrand’s first novel, Le sang des races, which was first serialized in the Revue de Paris in 1898 and then published in 1899. It was the first in a series of works of fiction and nonfiction that together made up Le cycle africain, in which Bertrand elaborated his ideology of Latin Africa. His ideas on the Latins of Africa, his views on the indigenous population of Algeria, and his distrust of Islam spilled over into his other works, namely Le cycle de la Mediterranée, the series of works entitled La terre natale, and his essays and criticism. It was a substantial body of work that was well received
101 Idem, Les villes d’or, 23. 102 Idem, Sur les routes du sud, 60. 103 Idem, Les villes d’or, 24. 104 Arthur de Gobineau, The Inequality of Human Races (New York, 1999), 178. 105 Bertrand, Sur les routes du sud, 61. 106 Ibid., 218. 107 Ibid.



Two of Louis Bertrand’s ‘‘Latins.’’ From Cardinal, Les pieds-noirs. Reprinted with permission

in both intellectual and popular circles. Both his fiction and nonfiction ran into several editions. His Sur les routes du sud, in which his ideology is most cogently presented, was reprinted nine times. When Bertrand was elected to the Académie Française in 1925, Jules Cambon, fellow academician and colonialist, replied to his maiden speech, stating that Bertrand’s literary originality lay in his understanding of the settlers and his ability to convey the resonance of the Mediterranean, which permeated their lives as it had in the time of Rome and Carthage.108 Five years later,
108 Quoted by Odile Husson, Lorraine et Afrique dans l’œuvre de Louis Bertrand (Nancy, 1966),



on the occasion of the centenary celebrations, the dean of the faculty of letters of Algiers University drew attention to Bertrand’s work, suggesting that Bertrand’s accomplishments were comparable to Zola’s in their detailed precision and their portrayal of Algerian realities. Bertrand had produced an ‘‘epic of a new race.’’ 109 Bertrand himself saw his oeuvre as being more complex than the mere depiction of the customs and mores of a new race. He claimed to have been the instigator of the very idea of Latin Africa. French Africa was a continuation of the Latin tradition. He had ennobled the settler by demonstrating that Africa was the source from which French civilization could draw new force.110 Thus, with a characteristic lack of modesty, Bertrand spelled out his contribution to colonial thought. He had transformed his belief that the future of the Latins was closely linked to maintaining their African supremacy into a complex ideology. Bertrand’s ideology was the pillar on which the myths of origin of the settler state were constructed. The selective use of the past to bolster the illusions of the present is par for the course in all societies. In one as heterogeneous and recent as colonial Algeria, ancestral memory could only be a hybrid of an imagined past and an indeterminate present. Bertrand’s ‘‘Latins’’ were the personification of this temporal hybridity. Culturally alienated from both the metropolitan French and the native Algerians, the settlers strove to anchor their present in the neutral zone of a distant Mediterranean past. Bertrand’s influence was considerable. While successive literary schools in colonial Algeria, namely the Algerianist School and the Ecole d’Alger, sought to delineate themselves from Bertrand’s thought, echoes of the Latin myth persisted. His ideas were developed in a variety of ways by the algérianiste school of colonial literature, which emerged in the interwar period.111 Whatever their individualities, the authors adhering to this school strove to create an image of settler connaturality based on the mirage of shared experience and communality of character.112 As Robert Randau, one of the leading Algerianists, put it: ‘‘Children of the conquest . . . rapacious merchants . . . tenacious cultivators . . . we are patient and energetic . . . like the Romans,
109 Pierre Martino, ‘‘La littérature algérienne,’’ in Alazard, Histoire et historiens, 331–48,
esp. 341.

110 Bertrand, Les villes d’or, 5–10. 111 There are a number of works on literature in colonial Algeria. Among the more recent

are: Ahmed Lanasri, La littérature algérienne de l’entre-deux-guerres (Paris, 1995); Prochaska, ‘‘History As Literature’’; and Dunwoodie, Writing French Algeria. For a bibliography of colonial literature, see Jean Dejeux, Bibliographie de la littérature ‘‘algérienne’’ des Français (Paris, 1978). Dejeux has published over a dozen books on different aspects of North African francophone literature. 112 Some of the leading figures of the school were Robert Randau, Magali Boisnard, Raymond Marival, and Ferdinand Duchêne.



Robert Randau, Louis Bertrand, and Albert Camus (clockwise from upper left). From Cardinal, Les pieds-noirs. Reprinted with permission



our masters.’’ 113 The desire for communality was also a feature of the longer-lasting Ecole d’Alger, which included Albert Camus among its adherents. The emphasis in this case was on the Mediterranean as a unifying cultural concept. While this suggested an all-encompassing ethnic vision, it was the Western roots of the Mediterranean that were privileged. In a lecture at the 1937 inauguration of the Algiers Maison de Culture, Camus presented his vision of the new Mediterranean culture. It was a regionalism set in opposition to the nationalist doctrine of latinité promoted by Maurras and his fellow travelers of the Right. Camus repudiated the nationalism of latinité for its exaltation of the unimaginative military might of Rome, setting in its place the imaginative spontaneity of a Mediterranean culture whose roots were in ancient Greece—the Greece of Aeschylus the precursor and not Euripedes the disciple. At the core of Camus’s vision lay the concept of unbridled creativity in all its forms. The conventionality and order of the new emulators of Rome were its abnegation. It was represented by landscapes flooded with sunlight and not theatrical settings where dictators, drunk on the sound of their own voices, subjugated crowds. What was needed was not the lie that was triumphing in Ethiopia, but the truth that was being assassinated in Spain.114 The political nature of Camus’s lecture, in which he distances himself from latinité and the authoritarian traditions of Rome, obscures its connection to Bertrand’s ideology of the Latin melting pot. Although Camus repudiates Rome, his rehabilitation of Mediterranean culture is not truly universalist. He states that North Africa is the only country (pays) where East and West cohabit. Although he sees little difference in the lifestyles of the Italian and Spanish dockers of Algiers and the Arabs that surround them, he does not see the latter as part of the tradition he seeks to rehabilitate.115 The essence of Camus’s Mediterranean culture rests on a unity of language and origin. The linguistic unity is that of the romance languages.116 This effectively excludes the unassimilated Arabs and Berbers from his privileged space. The unity of origin is grounded in the ‘‘prodigious collectivism of the Middle Ages with its chivalric and religious orders and its feudalities.’’ 117 This makes no allowances for non-Western traditions. Camus’s Mediterranean culture is vibrant and variegated (bariolée), absorbing ideas and transforming doctrines with113 Robert Randau, Les algérianistes: Roman de la patrie algériénne (Paris, 1911), 170. 114 Albert Camus, ‘‘La culture indigène: La nouvelle culture méditerranéenne: Cadres de
la conférence inaugurale faite à la ‘Maison de la Culture’ le 8 février 1937,’’ in Essais, ed. Roger Quilliot (Paris, 1990), 1321–27, esp. 1322. 115 Ibid., 1325. 116 Ibid. 117 Ibid.



out ever losing its true character.118 Camus’s ‘‘melting pot’’ departs from that of Bertrand in that it appears to make room for the Arabs, but its true image reflects Bertrand’s concepts of the ‘‘Latin race.’’ Bertrand’s refrains are clearest, however, in Camus’s second work, the collection of essays entitled Noces, published in 1938. It is no coincidence that the opening essay of the collection is situated at Tipasa. Like Bertrand, Camus had a cultural awakening among its ruins. He first visited the site in spring, when ‘‘it is inhabited by the gods, whose voices emanate from the sun, the sea, the sky, and the pungent aromatic herbs.’’ 119 From its opening paragraph to its closing lines, the essay is a paean to a sensuality provoked by the environment; a sentimental education during which Camus is ‘‘completely engulfed’’ (m’accapare tout entier) by ‘‘the wantonness (le grand libertinage) of nature’’ and initiated into the joys of creativity (sexual and artistic).120 But Camus’s awakening is not just a virile response to the sun, the sea, and the sky. The ruins themselves are an essential part of his experience. In a symbolic passage he describes the remains of the Roman forum where white heliotropes (symbol of sun, passion, and intoxication of the spirit) push through the stones, and red geraniums ‘‘spill their blood on what were once houses, temples, and public places. Like those men brought back to God by an excess of science, the long years have returned the ruins to their mother’s home.’’ 121 The blooms of the present have overrun the ruins of the past so that the two can no longer be separated. In short, the Roman past has become an integral part of the colonial present. At Tipasa ‘‘seeing is believing,’’ Camus wrote.The ruins resemble ‘‘a character who symbolizes a certain viewpoint’’ and ‘‘bears witness with virility.’’ During that first visit, Tipasa became a character for him (mon personnage), and he knew that by continually ‘‘caressing and describing’’ it his intoxication (ivresse) would never end.122 There was a time to experience life (vivre), a time to bear witness, and a time to create. He had experienced Tipasa; bearing witness and creating would come later.123 Camus ends his essay by stating that the sensuality awakened in him that day was a shared experience, ‘‘common to a whole race, born of the sun and the sea, whose grandeur was drawn from its simplicity.’’ 124 On leaving,
118 Ibid. 119 Albert Camus, ‘‘Noces à Tipasa,’’ in Noces (Paris, 1959), 11. 120 Ibid., 13. 121 Ibid. In Greek mythology the nymph Leucothoé was loved and abandoned by the God
of the Sun. Inconsolable, she died and was transformed into a heliotrope, a flower that always revolves to face the sun like a lover gravitating toward its lost love. The heliotrope’s scent symbolizes intoxication of the spirit, especially by love and glory. 122 Ibid., 18. 123 Ibid., 18–19. 124 Ibid., 21.



Camus was ‘‘conscious that he had fulfilled his role; he had done his duty as a man.’’ 125 His sensual arousal had been consummated, liberating him to create. In Retour à Tipasa, written in 1952, Camus describes a series of pilgrimages to ‘‘his ruins’’ after the Second World War. The exuberant innocence of his youth has been shattered by events, but he repeatedly returns in search of a renewal that initially seems to elude him. As he wanders about on the last of these visits he realizes that he has found what he is looking for. ‘‘Within me I heard an almost forgotten sound, as if my heart, stopped long since, had slowly started to beat again. . . . it seemed to me that I had returned to port, for an instant at least, and that from now on this instant would never end.’’ 126 He had returned to his roots and been renewed. Camus found his voice at the Roman site of Tipasa, as Louis Bertrand had done before him. But whereas Bertrand’s literary awakening was a spiritual one drawing its strength from a communion with a past rediscovered, Camus’s was an erotic one in which a past, fully appropriated by the present, triggered a sensual vision of the Mediterranean as an escape from the troubled present and a promise of the future. Bertrand’s ardent Latin, with his zest for life and regenerative power, had come of age. Conclusion France’s appropriation of Rome and its legacy was a multidirectional process whose disparate components came together gradually. It was not a predetermined justification of colonization; rather, it was engendered by the circumstances of conquest and occupation. The connection between France and Rome emerged fairly soon after French conquest due to the education of the officers who related both ideologically and practically to classical texts with more ease than to Arabic ones. In the early stage of French occupation, when unfamiliarity of terrain and ignorance of colonizing methods created a degree of uncertainty, texts on Roman activities in the area were a reassuring point of reference. They were an aid to unraveling the mysteries of the newly conquered territory. Roman literature served as a guide to the methods and potential of colonization rather than as a blueprint. Rome buttressed French activity theoretically rather than defining it practically. By 1860, twelve years after the occupied parts of Algeria had been transformed into French departments, the concept of the Roman legacy as integral to the Western tradition that bound Algeria to France had taken shape. Ar125 Ibid., 20. 126 Camus, ‘‘Retour à Tipasa’’ in Noces, 162–63.



chaeological activity, from its early beginnings in 1833, had emerged as an important ‘‘regional’’ pursuit. The collection of Roman remains and their concentration in the colony’s museums and institutions of learning was a way of establishing a Western-cum-Christian–oriented cultural regionality. But as time progressed, and the French became firmly entrenched in Algeria, a consensus emerged that France’s oeuvre had improved on and even surpassed that of Rome.127 The praxis of Roman colonization no longer mattered. The prototypical dimension of the France-Rome connection, which had been a feature of the military era, was therefore eclipsed by a more ideological approach that incorporated spiritual and temporal attributes, which effectively marginalized the Arabs and Berbers. Under civilian administration, settler society emerged from the colonial shadows to claim its place on Algerian soil. The process of incorporating the Roman legacy into the ‘‘collective memory’’ of the colony now came into focus. The influx of immigrants with ‘‘Latin’’ cultural roots from the northern shores of the Mediterranean coincided with intellectual developments in France that tended to privilege France’s Latin heritage over its Germanic one, and with a resurgence of preoccupations concerning French decadence and decline. The ideology that emerged in the colony anchored the ‘‘Latins’’ in Algerian soil, both temporally and spiritually, as its ‘‘rightful’’ owners and responded to metropole anxieties by emphasizing the regenerative capacities of this ‘‘newly emerging race.’’ By the interwar period, the ‘‘lost Latin tradition’’ had been not only rediscovered but fully reclaimed.128 The archaeological activity, which had started under the military as a way of ‘‘accumulating information’’ on Rome’s oeuvre in Africa and had developed into an ongoing ‘‘regional’’ activity, now acquired a commemorative dimension. Roman archaeological sites, such as Tipasa, were perceived as sites of ‘‘ancestral memory’’ that linked Algeria to the Western tradition and reinforced its French regionality. The ‘‘Latin/Mediterranean myth’’ elaborated in Algeria sought to create unity where none existed. Whether it was the spiritual regeneration of Lavigerie, the strident racial overtones of Bertrand, or the cultural universalism of Camus, the desire was to stabilize an essentially unstable situation by creating social and cultural myths around which the
127 See, for example, Leynadier and Clausel, Histoire de l’Algérie française (Paris, 1846), 47–49; Masqueray, Formation des cités, 13–14. 128 This argument was of course largely spurious. Although the Romans had possessed nearly all the cultivable lands north of the Sahara, modern historians have shown that the Roman Empire in Africa had no meaning or unity of its own, and the motivating force of much of its conquest in the area was defensive action against marauding nomadic and seminomadic tribes. See, for example, Roland Oliver and J. D. Fage, A Short History of Africa (London, 1995), 43.



society could coalesce. In the long run, however, the restricted ideological space provided for the Arabs and Berbers militated against their success. Beyond the spatial and ideological transformation of Algeria to which the Rome-France connection contributed, there was a wider significance. The positive evaluation of Rome’s oeuvre in North Africa and its continuity by France was an endorsement of a Western imperial tradition that was in contrast to the Eastern tradition of conquest by the Arabs or the Ottoman Turks, depicted respectively as barbaric and retrograde. Although there was certainly a religious dimension to this opposition, the notion of the primacy of Western civilization, and hence Europe’s obligation to extend it across the globe, was more complex and involved Eurocentric notions of cultural superiority. The concept of a modern ‘‘Latin Africa’’ as a continuation of an ancient Roman Africa fed into the Eurocentric imperial narratives of the mission civilisatrice or the ‘‘white man’s burden.’’ Colonial Algeria was a cornerstone in their ideological construction.