When Camus compares Kabylia to ancient Greece


The Kabylia of the last century is like ancient Greece:

The POLIS (Greek city) was organized exactly like a Kabyle village, a kind of micro-republic (city-state), that is to say a community of free and autonomous villagers. Real citizens!

In ancient Greek thought, the city pre-existed to man. For example, the city of Athens does not exist as such: it is the city of the Athenians, just as most names of Kabyle villages are rendered by the noun plural attribute (At Dwala, At Yiraten, At Yanni, Iwadiyen, I3azzugen etc.).

Indeed, a Kabyle village is the city par excellence. It is a political community united by a choice of common life. This common life is assured and consolidated by the reference to the same mythical past, to some eponymous ancestor or sometimes also to common immemorial heroes, if not to religious rites (Imrabden) and integrated and shared laws.
The exact pattern, in every respect identical, to the Greek Polis.

The autonomous character of these Greek cities is also found in Kabyle villages. The ancient Greek cities had been favored by the rugged relief of the country, alpine reliefs; like the Djurdjura *  without the tectonic activity however. The latter hinders communications, and thus reinforces the autarky of the Kabyle villages as of the Greek Polis. However, no deterministic geographical or socio-geological theory explains this original structure.

Thus the notion of POLIS could in Greek antiquity cover these three aspects that characterize today’s Kabyle villages (Tudrin):

  • A social entity, understood as a community of rights holders (citizens), free and autonomous, strongly structured: the body of citizens. The polis is then understood as a political entity and even as the framework for the emergence of politics.
  • -A space entity, a site that securely attaches any village to its territory and its own ecosystem. TUDDARs, like POLIS, are then perceived (see erected) as physical entities.
  • Finally, a sovereign micro-state, with sovereign powers (it has a de facto army), which plays a role on the inter-regional scene.

The parallel does not stop there, the most striking resemblance is that:


Indeed, the Roman emperors continued well after antiquity to promote this system of the City since it allows remote areas to self-manage and thus facilitate the management of the Empire. In spite of the creation of Roman provinces, Greek cities continued to exist everywhere. They continued to organize their own domestic politics while foreign policy was in the hands of the Roman Empire, as is the authority established by the former French colonizer in Algiers today.
In conclusion, if the Greeks were comfortable with the Roman Empire, would this explain the similar condition of today’s Kabyle villages?


As an epilogue, it is this profound resemblance that made ALBERT CAMUS say:

“… When we approach the first slopes of Kabylia, to see these small villages grouped around natural points, these men draped in white wool, these paths lined with olive trees, figs and cactus, this simplicity of the life and landscape as this agreement between man and his land, we can not help thinking about Greece.
And if we consider what we know about the Kabyle people, their pride, the life of these fiercely independent villages, the constitution they have set themselves (one of the most democratic ones), their jurisdiction finally “Never has there been any jail time because the love of this people for freedom is great, so the resemblance is stronger and we understand the instinctive sympathy that we can dedicate to these men.”

Albert Camus, “Kabylia, Greece in rags”, Republican Alger, June 5, 1939.

Dahman At Ali

Finally, I note that the term “POLITICS” is a substantive derivative of POLIS, quite rightly! Some say that the Kabyles do too much “politics”. One would be tempted to retort to them: Because precisely, they are Kabyles!

added notes

*Djurdjura: (Mountain range in Kabylia. A part of the North African Atlas)



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