1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Ethiopia
ETHIOPIA, or Aethiopia (Gr. Αἰθιοπία), the ancient classical name of a district of north-eastern Africa, bounded on the N. by Egypt and on the E. by the Red Sea. The application of the name has varied considerably at different times. In the Homeric poems the Aethiopes are the furthest of mankind both eastward and westward; the gods go to their banquets and probably the Sun sets in their country. With the growth of scientific geography they came to be located somewhat less vaguely, and indeed their name was employed as the equivalent of the Assyrian and Hebrew Cush (q.v.), the Kesh or Ekōsh of the Hieroglyphics (first found in Stele of Senwosri I.), i.e. a country extending from about the 24th to the 10th degree of N. lat., while its limits to the E. and W. were doubtful. The etymology of the name, which to a Greek ear meant “swarthy-faced,” is unknown, nor can we say why in official inscriptions of the Axumite dynasty the word is used as the equivalent of Habashat (whence the modern Abyssinia), which, from the context would appear to denote a tribe located in S. Arabia, whose name was rendered by the Greek geographers as Abaseni and Abissa.
The inhabitants of Ethiopia, partly perhaps owing to their honourable mention in the Homeric poems, attracted the attention of many Greek researchers, from Democritus onwards. Herodotus divides them into two main groups, a straight-haired race and a woolly-haired race, dwelling respectively to the East and West, and this distinction is confirmed by the Egyptian monuments. From his time onwards various names of tribes are enumerated, and to some extent geographically located, most of these appellations being Greek words, applied to the tribes by strangers in virtue of what seemed to be their leading characteristics, e.g. “Long-lived,” “Fish-eaters,” “Troglodytes,” &c. The bulk of our information is derived from Egyptian monuments, whence it appears that, originally occupied by independent tribes, who were raided (first by Seneferu or Snefru, first king of the IVth or last of the IIIrd Dynasty) and gradually subjected by Egyptian kings (the steps in this process are traced by E. W. Budge, The Egyptian Sudan, 1907, i. 505 sqq.), under the XVIIIth Dynasty it became an Egyptian province, administered by a viceroy (at first the Egyptian king’s son), called prince of Kesh, and paying tributes in negroes, oxen, gold, ivory, rare beads, hides and household utensils. The inhabitants frequently rebelled and were as often subdued; records of these repeated conquests were set up by the Egyptian kings in the shape of steles and temples; of the latter the temple of Amenhotep (Amenophis) III. at Soleb or Sulb seems to have been the most magnificent. Ethiopia became independent towards the 11th century B.C., when the XXIst Dynasty was reigning in Egypt. A state was founded, having for its capital Napata (mod. Merawi) at the foot of Jebel Barkal, “the sacred mountain,” which in time became formidable, and in the middle of the 8th century conquered Egypt; an Egyptian campaign is recorded in the famous stele of King Pankhi. The fortunes of the Ethiopian (XXVth) Dynasty belong to the history of Egypt (q.v.). After the Ethiopian yoke had been shaken off by Egypt, about 660 B.C., Ethiopia continued independent, under kings of whom not a few are known from inscriptions. Besides a number whose names have been discovered in cartouches at Jebel Barkal, the following, of whom all but the third have left important steles, can be roughly dated: Tandamane, son of Tirhaka (667–650), Asperta (630–600), Pankharer (600–560), Harsiōtf (560–525), Nastasen (525–500). From the evidence of the stele of the second (the Coronation Stele) and that of the fifth it has been inferred that the sovereignty early in this period became elective, a deputation of the various orders in the realm being (as Diodorus states), when a vacancy occurred, sent to Napata, where the chief god Amen selected out of the members of the royal family the person who was to succeed, and who became officially the god’s son; and it seems certain that the priestly caste was more influential in Ethiopia than in Egypt both before and after this period. Another stele (called the Stele of Excommunication) records the expulsion of a priestly family guilty of murder (H. Schäfer, Klio, vi. 287): the name of the sovereign who expelled them has been obliterated. The stele of Harsiōtf contains the record of nine expeditions, in the course of which the king subdued various tribes south of Meroë and built a number of temples. The stele of the last of these sovereigns, now in the Berlin Museum, and edited by H. Schäfer (Leipzig, 1901), contains valuable information concerning the state of the Ethiopian kingdom in its author’s time. Shortly after his accession he was threatened with invasion by Cambyses, the Persian conqueror of Egypt, but (according to his own account) destroyed the fleet sent by the invader up the Nile, while (as we learn from Herodotus) the land-force succumbed to famine (see Cambyses). It further appears that in his time and that of his immediate predecessors the capital of the kingdom had been removed from Napata, where in the time of Harsiōtf the temples and palaces were already in ruins, to Mercë at a distance of 60 camel-hours to the south-east. But Napata retained its importance as the religious metropolis; it was thither that the king went to be crowned, and there too the chief god delivered his oracles, which were (it is said) implicitly obeyed. The local names in Nastasen’s inscription, describing his royal circuit, are in many cases obscure. A city named Pnups (Hierogl. Pa-Nebes) appears to have constituted the most northerly point in the empire. These Ethiopian kings seem to have made no attempt to reconquer Egypt, though they were often engaged in wars with the wild tribes of the Sudan. For the 5th and 4th centuries B.C. the history of the country is a blank. A fresh epoch was, however, inaugurated by Ergamenes, a contemporary of Ptolemy Philadelphus, who is said to have massacred the priests at Napata, and destroyed sacerdotal influence, till then so great that the king might at the priests’ order be compelled to destroy himself; Diodorus attributes this measure to Ergamenes’ acquaintance with Greek culture, which he introduced into his country. A temple was built by this king at Pselcis (Dakka) to Thoth. Probably the sovereignty again became hereditary. Occasional notices of Ethiopia occur from this time onwards in Greek and Latin authors, though the special treatises by Agatharchides and others are lost. According to these the country came to be ruled by queens named Candace. One of them was involved in war with the Romans in 24 and 23 B.C.; the land was invaded by C. Petronius, who took the fortress Premis or Ibrim, and sacked the capital (then Napata); the emperor Augustus, however, ordered the evacuation of the country without even demanding tribute. The stretch of land between Assuan (Syene) and Maharraka (Hiera Sycaminus) was, however, regarded as belonging to the Roman empire, and Roman cohorts were stationed at the latter place. To judge by the monuments it is possible that there were queens who reigned alone. Pyramids were erected for queens as well as for kings, and the position of the queens was little inferior to that of their consorts, though, so far as monumental representations go, they always yielded precedence to the latter. Candace appears to be found as the name of a queen for whom a pyramid was built at Meroë. A great builder was Netekamane, who is represented with his queen Amanetari on temples of Egyptian style at many points up the Nile—at Amara just above the second cataract, and at Napata, as well as at Meroë, Benaga and Naga in the distant Isle of Meroë. He belongs, probably, to the Ptolemaic age. Later, in the Roman period, the type in sculpture changed from the Egyptian. The figures are obese, especially the women, and have pronounced negro features, and the royal person is loaded with bulging gold ornaments. Of this period also there is a royal pair, Netekamane and Amanetari, imitating the names of their conspicuous predecessors. In the 4th century A.D. the state of Meroë was ravaged by the Nubas(?) and the Abyssinians, and in the 6th century its place was taken by the Christian state of Nubia (see Dongola).
Contrary to the opinion of the Greeks, the Ethiopians appear to have derived their religion and civilization from the Egyptians. The royal inscriptions are written in the hieroglyphic character and the Egyptian language, which, however, in the opinion of experts, steadily deteriorate after the separation of Ethiopia from Egypt. About the time of Ergamenes, or (according to some authorities) before, a vernacular came to be employed in inscriptions, written in a special alphabet of 23 signs in parallel hieroglyphic and cursive forms. The cursive is to be read from right to left, the hieroglyphic, contrary to the Egyptian method, in the direction in which the figures face. The Egyptian equivalents of six characters have been made out by the aid of bilingual cartouches. Words are divided from each other by pairs of dots, and it is clear that the forms and values of the signs are largely based on Egyptian writing; but as yet decipherment has not been attained, nor can it yet be stated to what group the language should be assigned (F. Ll. Griffith in D. R. MacIver’s Areika, Oxford, 1909, and later researches).
Notices in Greek authors are collected by P. Paulitschke, Die geographische Erforschung des afrikanischen Continents (Vienna, 1880); the inscriptions were edited and interpreted by G. Maspero, Revue archéol. xxii., xxv.; Mélanges d’Assyriologie et d’Égyptologie, ii., iii.; Records of the Past, vi.; T.S.B.A. iv.; Schäfer, l.c., and Zeitschrift für ägyptische Sprache, xxxiii. See also J. H. Breasted, “The Monuments of Sudanese Nubia,” in American Journal of Semitic Languages (October 1908), and the work of E. W. Budge cited above. A description of the chief ruins and the results of Dr D. R. MacIver’s researches in northern Nubia, begun in 1907, will be found under Sudan: Anglo-Egyptian.
The Axumite Kingdom.—About the 1st century of the Christian era a new kingdom grew up at Axum (q.v.), of which a king Zoscales is mentioned in the Periplus Maris Erythraei. Fragments of the history of this kingdom, of which there is no authentic chronicle, have been made out chiefly by the aid of inscriptions, of which the following is a list:—(1) Greek inscription of Adulis, copied by Cosmas Indicopleustes in 545, the beginning, with the king’s name, lost. (2) Sabaean inscription of Ela Amida in two halves, discovered by J. Theodore Bent at Axum in 1893, and completed by E. Littmann in 1906. (3) Ethiopic inscription probably of the same king, imperfect (Littmann). (4) Trilingual inscription of Aeizanes, the Greek version discovered by Henry Salt in 1805, the Sabaean by Bent, and the Ethiopic (Geez) by Littmann. (5) Ethiopic inscription of Aeizanes (so Littmann), son of Ela Amida, discovered by Eduard Rüppell in 1833. (6) Ethiopic inscriptions of Hetana-Dan’el, son of Dabra Efrem. These are all long inscriptions giving details of wars, &c. The sixth is later than the rest, which are to be attributed to the most flourishing period of the kingdom, the 4th and 5th centuries A.D. The fourth is pagan, the fifth Christian, Aeizanes having in the interval embraced Christianity. It was to this king that the emperor Constantius addressed a letter in 356 A.D.
Aeizanes and his successors style themselves kings of the Axumites, Homerites (Himyar), Raidan, the Ethiopians (Habašat), the Sabaeans, Silee, Tiamo, the Bugaites (Beģa) and Kasu. This style implies considerable conquests in South Arabia, which, however, must have been lost to the Axumites by A.D. 378. They claim to rule the Kasu or Meroitic Ethiopians; and the fifth inscription records an expedition along the Atbara and the Nile to punish the Nuba and Kasu, and a fragment of a Greek inscription from Meroë was recognized by Sayce as commemorating a king of Axum. Except for these inscriptions Axumite history is a blank until in the 6th century we find the Axumite king sending an expedition to wreck the Jewish state then existing in S. Arabia, and reducing that country to a state of vassalage: the king is styled in Ethiopian chronicles Caleb (Kaleb), in Greek and Arabic documents El-Esbaha. In the 7th century a successor to this king, named Abraha or Abraham, gave refuge to the persecuted followers of Mahomet at the beginning of his career (see Arabia: History, ad init.). A few more names of kings occur on coins, which were struck in Greek characters till about A.D. 700, after which time that language seems definitely to have been displaced in favour of Ethiopic or Geez: the condition of the script and the coins renders them all difficult to identify with the names preserved in the native lists, which are too fanciful and mutually contradictory to furnish of themselves even a vestige of history. For the period between the rise of Islam and the beginning of the modern history of Abyssinia there are a few notices in Arabic writers; so we have a notice of a war between Ethiopia and Nubia about 687 (C. C. Rossini in Giorn. Soc. Asiat. Ital. x. 141), and of a letter to George king of Nubia from the king of Abyssinia some time between 978 and 1003, when a Jewish queen Judith was oppressing the Christian population (I. Guidi, ibid. iii. 176, 7).
The Abyssinian chronicles, it may be noted, attribute the foundation of the kingdom to Menelek (or Ibn el-Hakim), son of Solomon and the queen of Sheba. The Axumite or Menelek dynasty was driven from northern Abyssinia by Judith, but soon after another Christian dynasty, that of the Zagués, obtained power. In 1268 the reigning prince abdicated in favour of Yekūnō Amlāk. king of Shoa, a descendant of the monarch overthrown by Judith (see Abyssinia).
See A. Dillman, Die Anfänge des axumitischen Reiches (Berlin, 1879); E. Drouin, Revue archéol. xliv. (1882); T. Mommsen, Geschichte der römischen Provinzen, chap. xiii.; W. Dittenberger, Orientis Graeci Inscriptiones selectae, Nos. 199, 200; Littmann u. Kroncker, Vorbericht der deutschen Aksum-Expedition (Berlin, 1906), and Littman’s subsequent researches.
The employment of the Geez or Ethiopic language for literary purposes appears to have begun no long time before the introduction of Christianity into Abyssinia, and its pagan period is represented by two Axumite inscriptions (published by D. H. Müller in J. T. Bent’s Sacred City of the Ethiopians, 1893), and an inscription at Matara (published by C. C. Rossini, Rendiconti Accad. Lincei, 1896). As a literary language it survived its use as a vernacular, but it is unknown at what time it ceased to be the latter. In Sir W. Cornwallis Harris’s Highlands of Aethiopia (1844) there is a list of rather more than 100 works extant in Ethiopic; subsequent research has chiefly brought to light fresh copies of the same works, but it has contributed some fresh titles. A conspectus of all the MSS. known to exist in Europe (over 1200 in number) was published by C. C. Rossini in 1899 (Rendiconti Accad. Lincei, ser. v. vol. viii.); of these the largest collection is that in the British Museum, but others of various sizes are to be found in the chief libraries of Europe. R. E. Littmann (in the Zeitschrift für Assyriologie, xv. and xvi.) describes two collections at Jerusalem, one of which contains 283 MSS.; and Rossini (Rendiconti, 1904) a collection of 35 MSS. belonging to the Catholic mission at Cheren. Other collections exist in Abyssinia, and many MSS. are in private hands. In 1893 besides portions of the Bible some 40 Ethiopic books had been printed in Europe (enumerated in L. Goldschmidt’s Bibliotheca Aethiopica), but many more have since been published.
Geez literature is ordinarily divided into two periods, of which the first dates from the establishment of Christianity in the 5th century, and ends somewhere in the 7th; the second from the re-establishment of the Salomonic dynasty in 1268, continuing to the present time. It consists chiefly of translations, made in the first period from Greek, in the second from Arabic. It has no authors of the first or even of the second rank. Its character as a sacred and literary language is due to its translation of the Bible, which in the ordinary enumeration is made to contain 81 books, 46 of the Old Testament, and 35 of the New. These figures are most probably obtained by adding to the ordinary canonical books Maccabees, Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, Jubilees, Enoch, the Ascension of Isaiah, Ezra IV., Shepherd of Hermas, the Synodos (Canons of the Apostles), the Book of Adam, and Joseph Ben Gorion. For the distinction between canonical and apocryphal appears to be unknown to the Ethiopic Church, whose chief service to Biblical literature consists in its preservation of various apocryphal works which other parts of Christendom have lost or possess only in an imperfect form (see Enoch; Jubilees, Book of, &c.). It should be observed that the Maccabees of the Ethiopic Bible is an entirely different work from the books of that name included in the Septuagint, of which, however, the Abyssinians have a recent version made from the Vulgate; specimens of their own Maccabees have been published by J. Horovitz in the Zeitschrift für Assyriologie, vol. xx. The MSS. of the Biblical books vary very much, and none of them can claim any great antiquity; the oldest extant MS. of the four Books of Kings appears to be one in the Museo Borgiano, presented by King Amda Sion (1314) to the Virgin Mary in Jerusalem (described by N. Roupp, ibid. xvi. 296-342). Hence P. de Lagarde supposed the Ethiopic version to have been made from the Arabic, which indeed is in accordance with a native tradition. This opinion is held by few; C. F. A. Dillman distinguished in the case of the Old Testament three classes of MSS., a versio antiqua, made from the Septuagint (probably in the Hesychian text), a class revised from Greek MSS., and a class revised from the Hebrew (probably through the medium of an Arabic version). An examination of ten chapters of St Matthew by L. Hackspill (ibid. vol. xi.) led to the result that the Ethiopic version of the Gospels was made about A.D. 500, from a Syro-occidental text, and that this original translation is represented by Cod. Paris. Aeth. 32; whereas most MSS. and all printed editions contain a text influenced by the Alexandrian Vulgate, and show traces of Arabic. Rossini (ibid. x. 232) has made it probable that the Abba Salāmā, whom the native tradition identifies with Frumentius, evangelist of Abyssinia, to whom the translation of the Bible was ascribed, was in reality a Metropolitan of the early 14th century, who revised the corrupt text then current. Of the ancient translation the latest book is said to be Ecclesiasticus, translated in the year 678. The New Testament has been published repeatedly (first in Rome, 1548–1549; some letters about its publication were edited by I. Guidi in the Archivio della Soc. Rom. di Storia Patria, 1886), and C. F. A. Dillmann edited a critical text of most of the Old Testament and Apocrypha, but did not live to complete it; portions have been edited by J. Bachmann and others.
Other translations thought to belong to the first period are the Sherʽata Makhbār, ascribed to S. Pachomius; the Kerilos, a collection of homilies and tracts, beginning with Cyril of Alexandria De recta fide; and the Physiologus, a fanciful work on Natural History (edited by F. Hommel, Leipzig, 1877).
Of the works belonging to the second period much the most important are those which deal with Abyssinian history. A court official, called sahāfē teʽezāzenet (secretary), having under him a staff of scribes, was employed to draw up the public annals year by year; and on these official compositions the Abyssinian histories are based. The earliest part of the Axum chronicle preserved is that recording the wars of Amda Sion (1314–1344) against the Moslems; it is doubtful, however, whether even this exists in its original form, as some scholars think; according to its editor (J. Perruchon in the Journ. Asiat. for 1889) it is preserved in a recension of the time of King Zarʽa Yaʽkūb. Under King Lebna Dengel (1508–1540) the annals of his four predecessors, Zarʽa Yaʽkūb, Baeda Maryam, Eskender and Naʽod (1434–1508) were drawn up; those of the first two were published by J. Perruchon (Paris, 1893); in the Journ. Asiat. for 1894 the same scholar published a further fragment of the history of Baeda Maryam, written by the tutor to the king’s children, and the history of Eskender, Amda Sion II. and Naʽod as compiled in Lebna Dengel’s time. The history of Lebna Dengel was published by the same scholar (Journ. Semit. i. 274) and Rossini (Rendiconti, 1894, v. p. 617); that of his successor Claudius (1540–1559) by Conzelmann (Paris, 1895); that of his successor Minas (1559–1563) by F. M. E. Pereira (Lisbon, 1888); those of the three following kings, Sharsa Dengel, Zā Dengel, and Yaʽkūb, by Rossini (Rendiconti, 1893). The history of the next king Sysenius (1606–1632) by Abba Meherka Dengel and Tekla Shelase was edited by Pereira (Lisbon, 1892); the chronicles of Joannes I., Iyasu I. and Bakaffa (1682–1730) by I. Guidi, with a French translation (Paris, 1903–1905); all are contemporary, and the names of the chroniclers of the last two kings are recorded. Besides these we have the partly fabulous chronicle of Lalibela (of uncertain date, but before the Salomonian dynasty was restored), edited by Perruchon (Paris, 1892); and a brief chronicle of Abyssinia, drawn up in the reign of Iyasu II. (1729–1753), embodying materials abridged, but often unaltered, was published by R. Basset, in the Journ. Asiat. for 1882 (cf. Rossini in the Rendiconti, 1893–1894, p. 668), and has since formed the basis for Abyssinian history. Many compilations of the sort exist in MS. in libraries, and great praise is bestowed on the one which E. Rüppell, when travelling in Abyssinia, ordered to be drawn up for his use. It is now in the collection of his MSS. at Frankfurt. Ethiopic scholars speak of a special “historical style” which comes from the mixture of the styles of different periods, and the admixture of Amharic phrases and idioms. The historian of the wars of Amda Sion is credited with some literary merit; most of the chroniclers have little.
The remaining literature of the second period is thought to begin somewhat earlier than these chronicles. To the time of King Yekūnō Amlāk (1268–1283) the historical romance called Kebra Nagaset (Glory of Kings) is assigned by its editor, C. Bezold (Bavarian Academy, 1904); other scholars gave it a somewhat later date. Its purpose is to glorify the Salomonian dynasty, whence, in spite of a colophon which declares it to be a translation, it was regarded as an original work; since, however, it shows evident signs of having been translated from Arabic, Bezold supposes that its author, Ishāk, was an immigrant whose native language was Arabic, in which therefore he would naturally write the first draft of his book. To the time of Yagbea Sion (ob. 1294) belongs the Vision of the Prophet Habakkuk in Kartasā, as also the works of Abba Salāmā, regarded as the founder of the Ethiopic renaissance, one of whose sermons is preserved in a Cheren MS. With his name are connected the Acts of the Passion, the Service for the Dead and the translation of Philexius, i.e. Philoxenus. King Zarʽa Yaʽkūb composed or had composed for him as many as seven books; the most important of these is the Book of Light (Mashafa Berhān), paraphrased as Kirchenordnung, by Dillmann, who gave an analysis of its contents (Über die Regierung des Königs Zarʽa Yaʽkob, Berl. Acad., 1884). He also organized the compilation of the Miracles of the Virgin Mary, one of the most popular of Ethiopic books; a magnificent edition was printed by E. W. Budge in the Meux collection (London, 1900). In the same reign the Arabic chronicle of al-Makīn was translated into Geez. Under Lebna Dengel (ob. 1540), besides the above-mentioned collection of chronicles, we hear of the translation from the Arabic of the history and martyrdom of St George, the Commentary of J. Chrysostom on the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the ascetic works of J. Saba called Aragāwī manfasāwī. Under Claudius (1540–1559) Maba Sion is said to have translated from the Arabic The Faith of the Fathers, a vast compilation, including the Didascalia Apostolorum (edited by Platt, London, 1834), and the Creed of Jacob Baradaeus (published by Cornill, ZDMG. xxx. 417-466), and to the same reign belong the Book of Extreme Unction (Mashafa Kandīl), and the religious romance Barlaam et Joasaph also paraphrased from the Arabic (partly edited by A. Zotenberg in Notices et Extraits, vol. xxviii.). The Confession of Faith of King Claudius has been repeatedly printed. The reign of Sharsa Dengel (ob. 1595) was marked by many literary monuments, such as the religious and controversial compilation called Mazmura Chrestos, and the translation, by a certain Salik, of the religious encyclopaedia (Mashafa Hāiā) of the monk Nikon; an Arab merchant from Yemen, who took on conversion the name Anbākōm (Habakkuk), translated a number of books from the Arabic. Under Yaʽkūb (ob. 1605) the valuable chronicle of John of Nikiou was translated from Arabic (edited by A. Zotenberg with French translation in Notices et extraits, vol. xxiv.). Under John, about 1687, the Spiritual Medicine of Michael, bishop of Adtrib and Malig, was translated. The literature that is not accurately dated consists largely of liturgies, prayers and hymns; Ethiopic poetry is chiefly, if not entirely, represented by the last of these, the most popular work of the kind being an ode in praise of the Virgin, called Weddase Maryam (edited by K. Fries, Leipzig, 1892). Various hymn-books bear the names Degua, Zemmare and Mawasʽet (Antiphones); there is also a biblical history in verse called Mashafa Madbal or Mestīra Zamān. Homilies also exist in large numbers, both original and translated, sometimes after the Arabic fashion in rhymed prose. Hagiology is naturally an important department in Ethiopic literature. In the great collection called Synaxar (translated originally from Arabic, but with large additions) for each day of the year there is the history of one or more saints; an attempt has been made by H. Dünsing (1900) to derive some actual history from it. Many texts containing lives of individual saints have been issued. Such are those of Maba Sion and Gabra Chrestos, edited by Budge in the Meux collection (London, 1899); the Acts of S. Mercurius, of which a fragment was edited by Rossini (Rome, 1904); the unique MS. of the original, one of the most extensive works in the Geez language, was burned by thieves who set fire to the editor’s house. The same scholar began a series of Vitae Sanctorum antiquiorum, while Monumenta Aethiopiae hagiologica and Vitae Sanctorum indigenarum have been edited by B. Turaiev (Leipzig and St Petersburg, 1902, and Rome, 1905). Other lives have been edited by Pereira, Guidi, &c. Similar in historical value to these works is the History of the Exploits of Alexander, of which various recensions have been edited by Budge (London, 1895). See further Alexander the Great, section on the legends, ad fin.
Of Law the most important monument is the Fatha Nagaset (Judgment of Kings), of which an official edition was issued by I. Guidi (Rome, 1899), with an Italian translation; it is a version probably made in the early 16th century of the Arabic code of Ibn ʽAssal, of the 12th century, whose work, being meant for Christians living under Moslem rule, was not altogether suitable for an independent Christian kingdom; yet the need for such a code made it popular and authoritative in Abyssinia. The translator was not quite equal to his task, and the Brit. Mus. MS. 800 exhibits an attempt to correct it from the original.
Science can scarcely be said to exist in Geez literature, unless a medical treatise, of which the British Museum possesses a copy, comes under this head. Philosophy is mainly represented by mystical commentaries on Scripture, such as the Book of the Mystery of Heaven and Earth, by Ba-Hailu Michael, probably of the 15th century, edited by Perruchon and Guidi (Paris, 1903). There is, however, a translation of the Book of the Wise Philosophers, made by Michael, son of Abba Michael, consisting of various aphorisms; specimens have been edited by Dillmann in his Chrestomathy, and J. Cornill (Leipzig, 1876). There is also a translation of Secundus the Silent, edited by Bachmann (Berlin, 1888). Far more interesting than these is the treatise of Zarʽa Yaʽkūb of Axum, composed in the year 1660 (edited by Littmann, 1904), which contains an endeavour to evolve rules of life according to nature. The author reviews the codes of Moses, the Gospel and the Koran, and decides that all contravene the obvious intentions of the Creator. He also gives some details of his own life and his occupation of scribe. A less original treatise by Walda Haywat accompanies it. Epistolography is represented by the diplomatic correspondence of some of the kings with the Portuguese and Spanish courts; some documents of this sort have been edited by C. Beccari, Documenti inediti per la storia d’ Etiopia (Rome, 1903); lexicography, by the vocabulary called Sawāsew. The first Ethiopic book printed was the Psalter (Rome, 1513), by John Potken of Cologne, the first European who studied the language.
See C. C. Rossini, “Note per la storia letteraria Abissina,” in Rendiconti della R. Accad. dei Lincei (1899); Fumagalli, Bibliografia Etiopica (1893); Basset, Études sur l’histoire de l’Éthiopie (1882); Catalogues of various libraries, especially British Museum (Wright), Paris (Zotenberg), Oxford and Berlin (Dillmann), Frankfurt (Goldschmidt). Plates illustrating Ethiopic palaeography are to be found in Wright’s Catalogue; an account of the illustrations in Ethiopic MSS. is given by Budge in his Life of Maba Sion; and a collection of inscriptions in the church of St Stefano dei Mori, in Rome, by Gallina in the Archivio della Soc. Rom. di Storia Patria (1888). (D. S. M.*)