Gaetuli was the Romanised name of an ancient Berber tribe inhabiting Getulia, covering the large desert region south of the Atlas Mountains, bordering the Sahara. Other sources place Getulia in pre-Roman times along the Mediterranean coasts of what is now Algeria and Tunisia, and north of the Atlas. The Zenatas are considered Gaetules.
Getulia was the name given to an ancient district in North Africa, which in the usage of Roman writers comprised the nomadic tribes of the southern slopes of Mount Aures and the Atlas, as far as the Atlantic, and the oases in the northern part of the Sahara. They were noted for the rearing of horses, and according to Strabo had 100,000 foals in a single year. They were clad in skins, lived on meat and milk, and the only manufacture connected with their name is that of the purple dye that became famous from the time of Augustus, and was made from the purple shellfish Murex brandaris found on the coast, apparently both in the Syrtes and on the Atlantic.
The Gaetuli first appear in the Jugurthine War (111–106 BC), when, as Sallust tells us, they did not even know the name of Rome. They took part in a war with Jugurtha against Rome; but they next appear in alliance with Caesar against Juba I (Bell. Afr. 32). In 25 BC, Augustus seems to have given a part of Gaetulia to Juba II, together with his kingdom of Mauretania, probably with the object of controlling the turbulent tribes; but the Gaetulians arose and massacred the Roman settlers, and it was not until a severe defeat had been inflicted on them by Cornelius Lentulus (who thus acquired the surname Gaetulicus) in 6 AD, that they submitted to the king. After Mauritania became a Roman province in 40 AD, the Roman governors made frequent expeditions into the Gaetulian territory to the south, and the official view seems to be expressed by Pliny (v. 4. 30) when he says that all Gaetulia as far as the Niger River and the Aethiopian frontier was reckoned as subject to the Empire. How far this represents the fact is not clear; but inscriptions prove that Gaetulians served in the auxiliary troops of the empire, and it may be assumed that the country passed within the sphere of Roman influence, though hardly within the pale of Roman civilization.