Barbara, also referred to as Barbaria and Bilad al-Barbar ("Land of the Berbers"), was an ancient region in littoral Northeast Africa. The area was inhabited by the Eastern Barbaroi or Baribah ("Berbers"), as the ancestors of the local Hamitic populations were referred to by ancient Greek and medieval Arab geographers, respectively.
According to the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, a 1st century CE document written by a Greek merchant based in Alexandria, Barbara extended from Upper Egypt to northeastern Somalia. It indicates that "on the right-hand coast next below Berenice is the country of the Berbers", thereby placing the northernmost part of the ancient territory just under Berenice Troglodytica. Barbara's southern terminus was located at the "Market and Cape of Spices, an abrupt promontory, at the very end of the Berber coast toward the east". These remote Berber entrepôts were known as the "far-side" ports. Archaeological excavations led by Neville Chittick have identified the Market and Cape of Spices as the present-day Damo.
Along with the neighboring Habash (Abyssinians) of Al-Habash toward the interior, the Periplus records the Berbers as engaging in extensive commercial exchanges with Egypt and Pre-Islamic Arabia. The travelogue mentions the Berbers trading frankincense, among various other commodities, through their port cities such as Malao, Avalites, Mundus, Mosylon and Opone. Competent seamen, the Periplus' author also indicates that they sailed throughout the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden for trade. The document describes the Berbers' system of governance as decentralized, and essentially consisting of a collection of autonomous city-states. It also indicates that these entrepôts were at the time governed by King Zoskales, who was a frugal but otherwise fair ruler that was conversant with ancient Greek.
- Huntingford, George Wynn Brereton (1980). The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, Volume 2, Part 4, Issue 151. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. pp. 59, 83 & 146. ISBN 0904180050. Retrieved 7 June 2016.
- Raunig, Walter (2005). Afrikas Horn: Akten der Ersten Internationalen Littmann-Konferenz 2. bis 5. Mai 2002 in München. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. p. 130. ISBN 3-447-05175-2.
- F.R.C. Bagley et al., The Last Great Muslim Empires, (Brill: 1997), p.174
- James Hastings, Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics Part 12: V. 12, (Kessinger Publishing, LLC: 2003), p.490
- Schoff, Wilfred Harvey (1912). The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea: Travel and Trade in the Indian Ocean by a Merchant of the First Century. London, Bombay & Calcutta. Retrieved 7 June 2016.
- Chittick, Neville (1975). An Archaeological Reconnaissance of the Horn: The British-Somali Expedition. pp. 117–133.
- Mohamed Diriye Abdullahi, Culture and Customs of Somalia, (Greenwood Press, 2001), pp.13-14
- Periplus of the Erythraean Sea - Schoff translation