Atlasia

PLATE NO. 4

Mauretania, Tangeria, Altavia, Alania, Numidia, Punice, and Girba with surrounding countries.

Rising from azure coasts to the sheltering plateaus and ridges of the Atlas Mountains, the lands of Atlasia have long been seen as the counterpoints to European countries across the Mediterranean Sea. Atlasia is located right at the edge of the African continent, on the precipice of the great waste of the Sahara. Even native Atlasians regarded their lands as the frontier until the use of camels, introduced from the east, became regular. And yet, ever since the time of Hannibal, Atlasia has also been a cultural core in its own right, forming the main settled areas of the region of Libya. Though distinct in culture and, for the majority of history, religion, the nations that formed here were locked in a waxing and waning cycle linked directly to their counterparts in Europea up until the modern period. In times of great power imbalance, ambitious rulers on either side set their eyes upon the other and launched earthshaking conquests. In other periods of history, when peace could find its way to settle in this part of the world and maritime trade pursued, the constant harrying of sea traffic and the pillaging of coastal villages was still an everyday reality. In the rare instances that this cycle was interrupted, the great forces of lasting change came not from the north, but instead, came far from the east—Asea.


I. Land


Despite the gap formed by the Pillars of Heracles, the landscapes of Atlasia form a continuum with the Iberian Peninsula. In fact, the many branches of the Atlases form a geologic fold mountain system that runs through to southern Europea. Dry summers and mild wet winters are the norm for much of the coastal plains in this area, as is the case for much of the lands adjacent to the Mediterranean Basin. Inland, where plateaus and mountains dominate, more arid conditions can be found in rain shadows and in intermontane belts between the High and Middle Atlases in the west, and between the Tell and the Saharan Atlases in the east, as well as in the high plains of the Aures Mountains furthest east. Beyond the mountains and to the south, the land quickly transitions to barren desert, which characterizes much of the landscape of the adjacent area of Mazicia. In contrast to the arid steppes and deserts in the south, in areas like Alania and Punice—where the dramatic rise of the Atlas mountains capture the moisture moving in from the sea—the landscape can be even lusher than nearby Sicily. In higher elevations, the High Atlas allows for some Mediterranean-associated inland climates to form, where the cool mountain forests are used to dry summers and wet winters.

Though most of the habitable land has now been converted to agricultural lands, there are still some examples of the primeval Mediterranean woodland that existed throughout the larger region. Various species of oaks, including cork oaks, continue to be found in small groves, and are valued for small crafts production and making wine corks. In the mountains, various pines and cedar predominate. In the plains and plateaus, however, much of the open woods have become sparser as tender saplings and sclerophyllic heath continue to be used as fodder in goat shepherding. The only exception to this treatment is the argan tree, which is so valued for its oilseed crop—a staple flavour in the local cuisines as well as for cosmetic products—that medieval laws that favour communal land use persist to this day, so as to maintain existing argan tree orchards, which benefits olive oil production for villagers as well. In fact, there are still laws in some villages that fine shepherds if their goats are caught climbing argan trees, as the foraging animals stunt the growth of the trees for future fruit production, and can also lessen the amount of new seeds able to germinate.