History: Amazigh Roman Emperor





Septimus Severus–Amazigh Roman Emperor

“Septimius Severus (Latin: Lucius Septimius Severus Augustus; 11 April 145 – 4 February 211), also known as Severus, was a Roman Emperor [of African (Berber) origin] from 193 to 211. Severus was born in Leptis Magna in the province of Africa.”

For more information, see the following link (from which came the above paragraph):


Amazigh proverbs

Amazigh Proverbs from the Newspaper Agraw Amazigh

Those Before Us Have Spoken

Our ancestors didn’t leave us anything to say; they’ve said it all.

1.    Today at your place, tomorrow at mine.

Emphasizes the need to help each other, since we are all vulnerable to the same types of problems.

2.    Weaving at night brings a big laugh in the day.

Weaving at night (when you can’t see) results in a laughable outcome (which you only realize when the daylight comes).  If you don’t work/buy/etc. in proper conditions, the outcome will be less than desirable.

3.    Feed your enemy first, then kill him.

Emphasizes the importance of hospitality.

4.    Dress your children up nicely; people don’t know what they’ve eaten.

People care about and notice the outward appearance.  If you want respect and to avoid gossip, dress your kids well.  What you feed them isn’t at all important, since people don’t see that.  Appearances matter.

5.    Play with a puppy, and he’ll lick your mouth [which is not desirable].

Normally one should be firm with a dog, since it is meant to do work for you.  It is not a pet as in France.  If you aren’t firm, the dog will take advantage of you.  In the same way, treating certain people or certain classes of people in certain ways may result in their passing certain social limits with you and taking advantage of you.

6.    God will not take the cat away from the mice.

Can be said, for example, when the authorities catch a criminal.  This extols the power of authority.

7.    The thing is better than its price.

When people value something they gladly pay for it.  They want the thing more than the money it takes to buy it.

8.    They fought over the feeding trough before they had the donkey.

Can be said when people are arguing about things that aren’t currently relevant or won’t matter until sometime in the future.

9.    There are no bees without stingers.

When you choose to interact with potentially dangerous or nasty people or situations, don’t be surprised if you get hurt.

10.    Only a jujube tree keeps the grass around it.

A jujube tree has thorns and so keeps people and animals from coming near it and ruining or eating the grass around it.  This proverb can be said to disapprove of the stingy person who defends his possessions against the desires of others.  It can also be said to illustrate the modest possessions that a generous and helpful person may have.

11.    Boastfulness doesn’t fill up sacks.

Boasting is empty and nothing compared to real actions.

12.    They don’t run when they aren’t fed.

You can’t get something without giving something.

13.    The mill doesn’t grind without grain.

Words and promises are empty.  There need to be actions, deeds, something concrete.

14.    One horseman doesn’t stir up dust.

Emphasizes the importance of community, working together.

15.    Only a bull licks itself.

Said to a proud person, someone enamoured with himself.

16.    Only the dead are silent.

Used to encourage someone to speak up for his rights or just to encourage a silent person    in a group to say something.

17.    A wolf doesn’t save pieces of meat.

Don’t be like the wolf, which eats the entire lamb right away and doesn’t save any. Instead, think about and plan for the future.

18.    Only clay stops water.

Said to encourage the giving of a real solution, not just a partial or inadequate solution.

19.    There is no glory without death.

Emphasizes the need for sacrifice.  No pain, no gain.

20.    It’s only the empty grain that the wind takes away.

Failing at something you didn’t prepare for or work for shouldn’t be surprising.

21.    Only a snake goes on its stomach.

Said to dissuade or disapprove of secret, sneaky, or dishonest actions.

22.    The sickle cuts only the hand of the novice.

Said to encourage experience and intelligence.

23.    If you didn’t do anything, don’t fear anything.

If you are innocent, you have nothing to fear.

24.    What you are saying to me, say to yourself.

Said to a hypocrite.

25.    He who gathers the wood will be warm by it.

You need to rely on yourself and not be dependent on others.  The one who does the work will benefit from it.

26.    He who hits himself doesn’t cry.

Don’t complain about problems that are of your own doing.

27.    He who  let it cool never ate it [the “it” being food or a meal literally].

Act now while the opportunity is there.  Strike while the iron is hot.  Also said of love:  if you let the relationship “cool down,” don’t expect it to last.  She/he will go somewhere else and leave you.

28.    He who is holding the sky above us, let him drop it on us.

Said to or about someone who is pretending to be great and hold power over us. “You think you hold up the sky over me?  Go ahead, drop it on me.  I don’t fear you.  Only God is the one who holds that kind of power.”

29.    He who has been frightened by a snake, even a rope makes him jump.

Previous bad experiences can cause us to react strongly to things that even just resemble those experiences.

These proverbs were taken from “Nnan  wi-lli   zrinin,” Agraw Amazigh, September 15, 2004, number 131,  p. 12.  The original article was written in Tifinagh script.

The crow

At the beginning of the world, the crow was white.  The Prophet, may God bless him and save him, sent to him and said, “Here’s gold.  Give it to the Muslims.  And here’s lice.  Give it to the Europeans.”

So the crow got up and gave to the Europeans the gold, and he gave to the Muslims the lice.  To punish him, God changed his appearance, and his feathers became black.  When he speaks he says, “Aq, Aq,” that is, “That serves me right!  I betrayed a trust.”

This text is taken (and adapted) from E. Laoust, Cours de Berbère Marocain:  Dialecte du Maroc Central, Paris, 1939, p. 240, numéro 1.

Amazigh Riddles

Click a question to read the answer.

1.    Nzerx-ac-tt-i-n:  La ttawi awal, ur da tsawal.

       I’ve got one for you:  It takes a word but it doesn’t speak.  What is it?

2.    Nzerx-ac-tt-i-n:  Ibbi yaman ur immiɣ.

       I’ve got one for you:  It crossed through water but didn’t get wet.  What is it?

3.    Nzerx-ac-tt-i-n:  Ur da ttaru ɣas s isfuruḍen.

       I’ve got one for you:  It gives birth only by kicks.  What is it?

4.    Nzerx-ac-tt-i-n:  La-s iddal iswi, ur da-tt ittasi ulɣem.

       I’ve got one for you:  A simple basket covers it, but even a camel can’t lift it.  What is it?

5.    Nzerx-ac-tt-i-n:  Ilula-d s tamart, immut bla tamart.

       I’ve got one for you:  It was born with a beard but died without a beard.  What is it?

6.    Nzerx-ac-tt-i-n:  Tegdem da ur tenɣil.

       I’ve got one for you:  It turned upside down but didn’t spill.  What is it?

Amazigh culture has a tradition of riddles.  These riddles are told with a specific formula, somewhat like the English:  “What’s black and white and read all over?  A newspaper.”  First, an introductory phrase is given, announcing “I’m going to tell you a riddle.”  Then one or two short statements are made.  These are not framed as questions but as statements.  However, it is implied that the listener must then guess what object is being described by the cryptic statements.

The introductory phrase is:


nzerx           +          ac              +          tt           +           i         +           n

first person         indirect object        direct object           “i” sound        “n” of  farness
singular “past”     pronoun:  2 m.s.     pronoun: 3 f.s.        added for
conjugation of     “to you”                “it,” that is,           pronunciation
the verb “nzer”                                the riddle

Notice the presence of the indirect and direct object pronoun as well as a direction particle all with one verb.  The only thing that changes in this introductory phrase is the indirect object pronoun, which may be   acamawen ,  or  awent  depending on who is being addressed.  The verb  nzer   here functionally means “to tell a riddle” and technically means just “to tell”:  “I tell it to you.”

There are some regional variations:  some areas use the masculine third person singular direct object pronoun  t (without the doubling of the consonant) instead of the feminine  tt ; when that is used sometimes the  for pronunciation is not added; some regions use slightly different indirect object pronouns (like  ak , with a hard or a fricative “k” sound, instead of  ac );  and sometimes there are some slight changes to the verb.  Some regions use  ɣ  instead of   x  for the first person singular verb ending.  Some regions also modify some of the verb consonants or use a different verb.  There are at least five variations:  bzer , zunzerzuzzerḥeji , and  qqen.

So, you say the introductory phrase.  Then you say the cryptic statements.  You can leave it at that, or you can add a phrase like:  Mag-gmes?   or   Matta ntta?  (What is it?) or  Ini mag-gmes   or   Ini matta ntta   (Say what it is.).  Remember if the “it” you are talking about is feminine or plural, these questions change to things like:
May tmes?   or   Matta nttat?   etc., according to the gender and number of the “it.”

Most of these traditional riddles are virtually impossible for an outsider to guess correctly.  They often involve intricate details of agricultural and nomadic life.

Ddan-d iwaliwen-ad zeg E. Laoust, Cours de Berbère Marocain:  Dialecte du Maroc Central, Paris, 1939, p. 269.

1. tabratt     a letter

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2. amalu     a shadow

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3. tagmart     a mare

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4. tasraft     an underground storage area

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5.  agertil     a reed mat

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6.  tamaẓẓayt     an udder

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Tamazight Language

Tamazight-French Dictionary (Tamazight of Central Morocco)

Author: Miloud Taifi

Tamazight-Arabic Dictionary

Author: Mohamed Chafik

Tamazight and Tifinagh Links

Download the Tifinagh alphabet from the Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture (IRCAM)

Amazigh School: games for learning the Tifinagh alphabet and Tamazight words

Listen to the Tifinagh alphabet.

Swathmore.edu: linguistic bibliography of Tamazight

Wikipedia articles:

Request for a Wikipedia in Tamazight



Bibliomonde.com: the languages of Morocco

Ircam’s Tifinagh ChartTifinagh Chart – Ircam

Who are the Imazighen?

 Central Morocco : local tribes and the borders of Tamazight

Une carte des tribus des ImazighenUne carte des tribus des Imazighen

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