Chapter 7: The Western Djebel
The hill-country of Tripolitania is a limestone formation, nowhere rising above 1000 m. high, but sharply delimited along its northern edge by a steep escarpment, which runs east and then slightly north-east in a gentle curve from the Tunisian frontier to meet the sea at Fonduk el-Naggaza, about 20 km. west of Lepcis Magna. The southern limits are less clearly defined. From the frontier to Giado, a distance of about 130 km., they form a relatively narrow belt of habitable territory between the Gefara and the waterless plateau of the Hamada el-Hamra, down the western edge of which, skirting the Great Sand Sea, runs the important caravan route to Ghadames, and thence to Central Africa. East of Giado the Djebel slopes gently south and east, and forms the northern catchment of the Wadi Sofeggin. In the absence of any marked physical features other than the Garian massif, the line of division between the Djebel (Sections VII and VIII) and the Wadi Sofeggin (Sections IX and X) has been taken to be the watershed between the short, northward-flowing wadis and the longer, south-ward-flowing tributaries of the Sofeggin. This line approximates to a rainfall boundary and to the line of demarcation between high plain and steppe, and it is, therefore, though less markedly than the northern escarpment, a natural line of division.
The Djebel owes its relative prosperity to the high ground, which catches the rain-bearing north-west winds and assures a rainfall higher than anywhere in Tripolitania outside the Tripoli oasis. Parts of it were probably thickly wooded in antiquity (Hdt. IV.175, supported by the archaeological evidence); and it is well suited for certain types of stable farming, in particular for olive-growing. Unlike the Eastern Djebel, which was in close contact with Lepcis Magna, the Western Djebel (here defined as from Garian westwards) was isolated from the coastal cities by the Gefara; and although little detailed archaeological research has yet been undertaken in this area, it seems probable that Romanization came later than in the east, and that it was progressively less thorough as it moved westwards. The absence of recorded inscriptions west of Jefren may to some extent reflect lack of qualified research (the road-stations of the limes road are not likely to have differed in this respect from those already identified elsewhere); but it may be noted that at least one section of the Djebel Nefusa, around Cabao and Nalut, has been surveyed in some detail without epigraphic result (F. Cork, Vestigia di Colonie Agricole Romane: Gebel Nefusa (Collezione di Opere e Monografie a cura del Ministero delle Colonie: Ufficio Studi e Propaganda, 9) Roma, 1929).
Of the texts recorded from the Garian-Jefren area, two only call for comment, 861 and 863, both of which are unique in the Tripolitanian series. By analogy with the rest of North Africa the interior of Tripolitania must have been predominantly Donatist, but 863 is the only certain epigraphic record of Donatism in the whole territory.