Early French travellers to Libya

One end of the Circus at Leptis Magna

A brief note in one of the guidebooks I brought back from Libya tells me that in the 17th century a French traveller named Durand found the circus at Leptis Magna in considerably better repair than it is now.  In particular the starting boxes — now vanished — were visible at the straight end of the course.

Unfortunately no reference is given, and I can find nothing online except a mention that his visit was in 1694.  Does anyone know who this Durand was, or the title of his book?

UPDATE: This link to Cagnat, Inscriptionum Africae Proconsularis, p.2289 quotes Durand on inscriptions and the reference is Le Mercure Galant of 1694.  This seems to be a periodical; the 1703 issue is here.  But links like this suggest to me that nobody has seen the original articles; rather that everyone is in fact using Cagnat, Les ruines de Leptis a la fin du XVIIe siecle (1901).  I’ve not located this yet online.

UPDATE: The Cagnat item Les ruines appears to be an article, not a book, in Mémoires de la Société des Antiquaires de France, vol. 60.  Still can’t find the right volume, tho.  1901 is year of publication; 1899 is the year of reports.


7 thoughts on “Early French travellers to Libya

  1. For what it’s worth – Google: Leptis Cagnat Bibliografia
    gives following (** = mine!):
    Salvatore Bono: Storiografia e fonti occidentali sulla Libia, 1510-1911, p.36 “… Una lunga relazione su Leptis Magna, apparsa nel “Mercure Galant” del 1694, e’ stata **ripubblicata** e criticamente commentata dal famoso archeologo R.L.V. Cagnat.” with ref. to art. “Les ruines de Leptis…” in Me’moires…(etc.) LX,1899,pp.63-78.
    There was a Nicolas DURAND de Villegagnon with Charles V in Tunisia – he may be the original “Durand” source for a description of (still more intact) Leptis.

  2. Thanks for the note. The Villegagon is not the same chap. Ours is the one who published in Mercure Gallant, and was reprinted by Cagnat. I wasn’t able to get either, sadly.

  3. Thank you very much for this link to the 1988 article by Larond on the port of Lepcis Magna. The image of the Durand figure, showing the plan of the circus, is very interesting.

    We really need to see Durand’s article, don’t we?

  4. Joe accidentally replied offline to my last. Here (by permission) is what he said:

    Hello there,

    Glad it was of interest. I’m sure the Bib Nat in Paris would oblige – but they do take forever. They would probably reach March 1694 before they replied:


    I am interested in the possibility of Scottish travellers/merchants in Tripoli and Algeria before 1680 – but can find nothing useful yet. But interestingly, I realised only today that another French gentleman with Scottish connections, Claude Comiers, wrote for the Mercure Galant in the 1680’s.



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