Sicatia


PLATE NO. 6

Treblesia, Saconia, Phasania, and Marmoria with surrounding countries.

Home to the Libu people of antiquity, the namesake for the region of Libya, it is ironic that so little effort has been made to spotlight Sicatia's histories and geography. Perhaps being at the centre of northern Libya makes this area's boundaries inconvenient to draw. The lands of Sicatia are often described in what they are not, that is, they are said to be neither part of the Nile nor Lake Chad basins, and moreover, are distinguished as being apart from the Mediterranean coasts that border the Atlas Mountains. Perhaps the easiest way to characterize this part of the world is to anchor its geography to the Sicatian Gap, the zone formed by the treacherous waters of the Bay of Sicatia and the desolate coastline between the fishing ports of Epuranta and Burega. For millennia, this has been a logistical gap for armies and administrators to overcome, from the time of the Caesars to the great tank battles that immortalized names such as Montgomery and Rommel. Owing to the geopolitical inconveniences caused by the Sicatian Gap, and combined with the lack of arable land and sheltering ports, the lands here have been some of the least integrated territories in former empires spanning across northern Libya despite having long been at the crossroads of east and west, north and south. In fact, for most of recorded history, the peoples of Sicatia have been recorded only as footnotes even though they consistently found themselves as constituents of great empires with long traditions of writing. It is no surprise then, that in this part of the world, the Sicatian cultures that carried over into contemporary times are renown to be some of the most laconic and resilient ones in the world.


I. Land


Punctuated by some of the warmest waters of the Mediterranean Sea, Sicatia is unique in hosting one of the driest coastal strips of land on the Libyan coast. In antiquity, this northern strip of coast on the continent of Africa was known as Libya Sicca, or "Dry Libya," the namesake for Sicatia. Spanning from one side of the Bay of Sicatia to the other, both its waters and coastline were feared by all. The bay has long been feared by mariners for its shoreward drag. The waters feature an unusually tidal effect in the form of strong circular currents that switch direction as the tide ebbs and flows. This combined with the amount of treacherous shoals and sandbanks hidden among its warm waterswhich are said to rival the amount in the adjacent Syrtis Major—and it is not hard to imagine why this bay has for millennia been known as the graveyard of Mediterranean mariners. On land, there are no natural water sources for caravanners to rely upon, and the land meets the sea as a wall of steep cliffs with no natural harbours or even a nook to spare for shipwrecked souls to gain a purchase. On either side of the bay are the more blessed lands of the Tripoli Strip and the Cyrenaican Peninsula, otherwise known as the Pentapoli Coast. Together they form Libya Opima, "Fertile Libya." The two lands roughly correspond to the modern-day countries of Treblesia and Saconia. Owing to the fact that the rains occasionally find their way to these lands, both territories have been continuously inhabited since antiquity, with the latter having the most desirable climate. Situated on the western side of the bay, the Tripoli Strip is a semi-arid plain that benefits from the inland Nafusa Plateau, which captures moisture blowing off the body of water known as Syrtis Major. East of the bay, the Cyrenaican Peninsula boasts the wettest winters, with mountain areas, though craggy, being as lush as parts of northern Iberia, while the northern coast experiences much of the same climate type as that of Sicily or northern Punice.

Beyond the coasts and to the south lies the arid and mostly barren Sahara Desert, which is divided between Phasania in the west and south and Marmoria in the northeast. The barren territory of Mamoria is sparsely settled. The desert offers few oases in this corner, apart from the lush and expansive oasis of Siwa, running right up to the banks of the mirage-like Zeitoun Sea. The crystal waters of this remote inland sea are associated with both the oracles of ancient lore and modern understandings of healing. Interestingly, the narrowest section of the great continent-spanning Sahara is in Phasania, between the Bay of Sicatia and Lake Chad. Just before the great lake to the south, however, lie the formidable Tibetsi Mountains, which, though acting as a remote refuge for humans and wildlife alike, have also served to obscure the lands and peoples further beyond.

The Tibetsi Mountains, interestingly, serve as an extensive island of rich biome types and microclimates in the archipelago of oases and semi-arid refuges scattered across the vast Sahara. With the benefit of slightly higher amounts of humidity and moisture-capture due to the altitudinal difference from the surrounding desert, these mountains host xeric and montane xeric woodlands, where there can be found figs, palms, acacias, tamarisks, and a whole range of species found in the adjacen