A voyage to Abyssinia (Salt)/Chapter 9
Arrival at Chelicut—Baptism of a Musselmann boy—Manner of administering the holy communion—Visit from the high priest—Latitude and longitude of Chelicut ascertained—Departure from that place—Some account of the Ras's chief painter, and remarks respecting Abyssinian art—Visit to the chief of Giralta—Pass of Atbara—Arrival at Abba Tsame—Character of Palambaras Toclu—Journey to Adowa—Excursion to Axum—Description of its ruins—Æthiopic inscription—Revise of the Greek inscription which I discovered in my former travels—A few general remarks relating to it—Return to Adowa—Diseases prevalent in Abyssinia—Funerals of the natives—Description of the Toscar—Trade and consequence of Adowa—Journey to the Coast—Remains of a monastery at Abba Asfé, near the River Mareb—Part of an ancient Æthiopic inscription found there—Journey to Dixan—Account of some travellers from Darfoor—Descent of the mountain Assauli—Parting with the Baharnegash Yasous—Arrival at Massowa—Events which occurred at that place—Its trade—Some particulars respecting the ancient city of Adulis—Departure for Mocha—Safe arrival at that place,
AFTER leaving the Ras at Antálo, we proceeded towards Chelicut; and, on our arrival at that place, completed the preparations for our journey to the coast. On the following day I attended the baptism of a Bedowee boy, at that time living as servant with Mr. Pearce, whom we had persuaded to become a convert to the Christian faith, not only with the view of benefiting the poor boy, but also from being desirous, by this last act, of making an impression on the minds of the Abyssinians favourable to the British character. I had previously, by the distribution of a few presents, gained the sanction of his friends; and the boy himself was delighted with the change, owing to the inconveniences to which he had been subjected from being a Musselmaun. This ceremony took place on the 5th, at day-break; an early hour being considered as requisite, on account of the subsequent celebration of the sacrament of the communion, which can only be administered fasting.
On reaching the church, we found the head priest, Abou Barea, with about twenty priests of an inferior order, waiting in a small area about thirty yards from the spot, some of whom were engaged in chaunting psalms, while the rest were busy in preparing the water and making other necessary arrangements for the occasion. At sun-rise, every thing being ready, an attendant was sent round from the high priest, to point out to each person concerned the part which he was to take in the ceremony. The officiating priest was habited in white flowing robes, with a tiara, or silver-mounted cap on his head, and he carried a censer with burning incense in his right hand: a second of equal rank was dressed in similar robes, supporting a large golden cross, while a third held in his hand a small phial containing a quantity of meiron, or consecrated oil, which is furnished to the church of Abyssinia by the Patriarch of Alexandria. The attendant priests stood round in the form of a semicircle, the boy being placed in the centre, and our party ranged in front. After a few minutes interval, employed in singing psalms, some of the priests took the boy and washed him all over very carefully in a large bason of water. While this was passing a smaller font called me-te-mak (which is always kept outside of the churches, owing to an unbaptized person not being permitted to enter the church) was placed in the middle of the area filled with water, which the priest consecrated by prayer, waving the incense repeatedly over it, and dropping into it a portion of the meiron in the shape of a cross. The boy was then brought back, dripping from head to foot, and again placed naked and upright in the centre; and was required to renounce "the devil and all his works," which was performed, by his repeating a given formula four separate times, turning each time towards a different point of the compass. The godfather was then demanded, and on my being presented, I named the child George, in honour of his present Majesty, when I was requested to say the Belief and the Lord's Prayer, and to make much the same promises as those required by our own church. The head priest afterwards laid hold of the boy, dipping his own hand into the water, and crossed him over the forehead, pronouncing at the same moment, "George, I baptise thee; in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost." The whole company then knelt down, and joined in reciting the Lord's Prayer.
Here, as I was given to understand, the ordinary ceremony of baptism concludes; but as the boy had been a Musselmaun, he was, in addition, crossed with the consecrated oil over every joint and limb, or altogether, thirty-six times in different parts of his body. After this, he was wrapped in a clean white linen cloth, and placed for a moment in my arms, the priests telling me, that "I must henceforth consider him verily as my son." The high priest did not take any active part in this ceremony, but the whole was conducted with great decorum, and a due degree of solemnity. The boy afterwards, according to the custom of most of the Eastern churches, was admitted to partake of the Holy Communion. On our return from the church, the high priest accompanied us home, and continued with us nearly an hour. He paid me many compliments on what had passed, and declared, that "I had done an act which would for ever be recorded in their books; as the baptism of the boy most clearly proved, that the English were not "Franks" (alluding to the conduct of the Jesuits about baptism,) but that we adhered to the pure religion of the Apostles." After some conversation of this kind, in which he expressed the highest opinion of our doctrines, he ended by repeating nearly the same words which he had before used to the Ras: "we go on in the dark, not knowing what is right or what is wrong, but I believe we shall do no good until we get a lesson from you;" "and now," he added, rising from his seat, "at the desire of the Ras, and from the friendship I bear you, I have to pray to God for your future prosperity:" he then recited a long prayer for our safe return, to which we with great sincerity answered, "Amen."
I have been induced to dwell at some length upon the preceding ceremony of baptism, from its determining one of the most disputed points respecting the Abyssinian Church, the Jesuits having always accused it of an error in the form of administering the ceremony, which rendered it of no avail. In conformity with this opinion, they insisted on the re-baptism of all those whom they converted to the Romish Church, a circumstance which ultimately gave great offence, and tended to occasion their dismissal from the country. Many erroneous observations and mis-statements have also been made respecting a ceremony practised by the Abyssinians on the feast of the Epiphany, which falls, according to their reckoning, on the 11th of January, when the greater part of the inhabitants are accustomed to assemble by the brooks or lakes in the neighbourhood, for the purpose of performing a species of ablution, which has been interpreted into an annual repetition of baptism. I made many enquiries respecting this custom, which Mr. Pearce had witnessed every year during his stay in the country, and I found that it was always considered as "a mere commemoration of Our Saviour's baptism;" and that, it was rather a holiday scene of riotous mirth, than a religious ceremony. The younger part of the company, after they have received the priest's blessing, jump into the water, and as Ludolf well describes, "proceed to leap and dance, and duck one another, and by and by to fill the neighbouring fields with hoopings and hollowings; the usual consequences of such kind of sport."
The Abyssinians administer the holy Sacrament of communion in both kinds, with leavened bread always prepared fresh for the occasion, and with wine made of a red grape, common in some parts of the country; while in others, they are obliged to use as a substitute, a liquor made of dried grapes squeezed in water. After the consecration of the bread and wine, just before they are delivered to the people, a bell is rung, and all those who are present bow themselves to the earth; but this does not appear to be done from any idea of the real presence, as no such belief was entertained by any of those with whom I conversed on the subject. Both the administrants and communicants always abstain very strictly from eating and drinking during the whole of the morning previously to their partaking of the holy rite, for the easier accomplishment of which, it is generally celebrated at an early hour. The marriage of more than one wife was considered, formerly, as a disqualification from receiving the Sacrament; but in this respect, the church has in some instances relaxed in its practice, where the wealth and power of the parties place them above its censure. The altar on which the bread and wine are prepared, is called Tâbot, and the Abyssinians attach to it a strong degree of reverence, regarding it as a kind of sacred "ark," and connecting with it certain traditions relating to the "stealing of the ark of the covenant by Menilek," which was supposed to have been lodged in the church at Axum.
During our stay at Chelicut, I took a considerable number of observations, for the purpose of determining its position; the results of which were as follows:
|By meridian altitude of the moon, April||23d,||13° 21′ 19″|
|Mean Latitude of Chelicut||1321 34|
|Longitude per lunar observations.|
|April 26th,||1st. set||40° 32′ 20″|
|2d. do.||4044 45|
|3d. do.||413 45|
|April 27th,||1st. set||4038 0|
|2d. do.||407 37|
|Mean Longitude of Chelicut||4037 17|
These observations place Chelicut farther to the westward than I have ventured to remove it, on account of Mr. Bruce's longitude of Gondar and the result of several sets of bearings taken in my different journies; in consequence of which, I have been induced to take a medium between the bearings and the lunars for the map.
Before we left Chelicut, I purchased from a nephew of the Ras a small Abyssinian mare, which was considered as one of the best in the country; having been brought as a present to the Ras from the province of Gojam near the sources of the Nile. I was afterwards fortunate enough to bring this animal safe to England; and as I had become a good deal attached to it from having daily fed it with my own hand during a long and precarious voyage, I felt anxious with respect to its future treatment: I therefore took the liberty of offering it to his Royal Highness, the Prince Regent, who was graciously pleased to accept it; and it has since, as I understand, enjoyed the pleasure of roaming at large in the park at Hampton Court.
At ten o'clock, on the 5th of May, we set out on our journey, and were accompanied for a few miles by the Prince Kasimaj Yasous and some other acquaintance we had made at Chelicut, who had expressed a strong desire to pay us this last compliment. Among these was a very ingenious man, who held the office of chief painter to the Ras. Considering the very slender means of improvement which the country afforded, it appeared to me surprising, how far he had advanced in his art, for, as he himself remarked, "I am like a man blindfolded: I go on muddling in the dark, until I produce something, but under such circumstances, it is not likely to prove very good." All classes of people in Abyssinia, it may be observed, are fond of pictures; the inner walls of their churches being filled with them, and every chief considering himself fortunate, if he can get one painted on the wall of his principal room. As I felt desirous of bringing home a specimen of Abyssinian art, I engaged the person above mentioned to paint me one of his best pictures during my stay at Chelicut, which he completed in about
six days; and it afforded me considerable amusement to watch its progress. He first suspended the paper against the wall; then, made an exact outline of his design with charcoal; and afterwards went carefully over it again with a coarse sort of Indian ink; subsequently to which he introduced the colours. As I consider this production to be, in some respects, better than might have been expected, I have given an exact outline of it for the amusement of the reader.
The subject represented is that of two Abyssinian horsemen engaged in battle with the Galla. The dress of the warriors and the accoutrements of the horses are very faithfully delineated, and there appears to me something very characteristic in the expression on the countenances of the retreating Galla, who, notwithstanding they have witnessed the extraordinary prowess of their companion, (who keeps his post perfectly disregardless of the spear run through his body) begin to think it high time to quit the field. The Abyssinians, in their pictures, always strangely exaggerate the dimensions of the eye, and invariably draw their figures with full faces, except when they wish to represent a Jew, to whom they uniformly give a side face; but the reason for this singular distinction I could never justly ascertain. The colours of the original painting are of the most gaudy description; unbroken greens, reds, and yellows preponderating, and being most inharmoniously distributed throughout the composition. The materials employed by this artist were of the most common description, and had been brought by a Greek from Cairo.
After parting from our friends, we proceeded on our journey, and having travelled five hours, reached Upper Gibba, which lies a few miles to the westward of the place bearing the same name which I have before described. The Ras had ordered us a fine cow from his own farm: but instead of it they brought us so miserable an animal, that it was thought right to refuse it. This gave rise to considerable altercation, until a much better was substituted in its room. On the head man of the place being asked, why he had not complied with his orders in the first instance, he answered, very composedly, that "it was not the Abyssinian fashion; he did not like to do any thing without a short discussion on the matter."
At half past five on the following morning, we left Gibba, and crossing the small river which passes that place, ascended up to the high district of Giralta. In our way through a highly cultivated part of the country, we met with a number of peasants engaged in celebrating a wedding. The bride and bridegroom were seated on a rude kind of throne, formed of turf and shadowed by green boughs, their companions dancing joyously round them in their usual wild and fantastic way.
Marriage, in this country, appears, generally speaking, to be a mere civil institution; the priests being rarely called in to sanction the rites. When a man is desirous of marrying a girl, he directly applies to her parents or nearest relatives, and their consent being once obtained, the matter is considered as settled, the girl herself being very seldom consulted upon the question. The next subject to be arranged is the dower which the girl is to bring, consisting of so many wakeas of gold, a certain number of cattle, musquets, or pieces of cloth: and this generally occasions, as in most other countries, very serious difficulty; the husband naturally considering the interest of his wife identified with his own in the bargain which he has to make with her parents or friends. This important point being once adjusted, no farther difficulty occurs: the friends of both parties assemble, the marriage is declared, and, after a day spent in festivity, the bride is carried to the house of her husband, either on his shoulders, or those of his friends; the mother, at parting with her daughter, strenuously enjoining the husband to strict performance of the conjugal rites. If the husband should subsequently find just cause to doubt the integrity of his wife, the union is immediately dissolved, and the girl is sent back to her family in disgrace: on the contrary, if the proof required by the custom of the country can be produced, it is given over on the following day to the mother or nearest female relative of the bride, and is preserved as a testimony in favour of the wife, to be brought forward on any future quarrel with the husband.
The wife never changes her name: and the property received in dower is kept apart from the husband's as the wife becomes entitled to the whole of it, should any misbehaviour on his part compel her to quit his house. Should the parties agree to separate, terms of accommodation are settled between them; but, if the lady prove unfaithful, then the husband possesses the right of dismissing her from his house, and of retaining her dowry for his own use. Adultery, however, must be clearly proved before a husband can venture to repudiate his wife, as nothing less than being caught in the fact can justify a recourse to this extremity. In the event of their parting amicably, which is said rarely to occur, the sons remain with the father, and the daughters go away with the mother. These are the general rules which guide the conduct of the great body of the people. The chiefs of high rank, and women of quality, may be considered, in a certain degree, as exempt from all rule, their conduct in these respects being restrained by scarcely any other laws than those which the power and consequence of their respective relatives imposes, who always interfere on such occasions as parties concerned. There exists, as I have before mentioned, a more holy kind of marriage, practised in the country, where the parties take the communion together, which is sanctioned by the priests. This, I was given to understand, becomes of rarer occurrence every year, the people, in general, preferring the simple compact, which can be dissolved at pleasure.
Having made a small present to the new-married couple, we proceeded on our journey, and at nine o'clock arrived at the church of St. Michael, (mentioned in my former journal,) situated on a lofty hill, commanding an extensive view of the adjoining country. Here we found a chieftain of some consequence, with about fifty followers, who had waited two days on this spot with the expectation of falling in with our party. They had been sent by Shum Temben Toclu, chief of the district, an old man of considerable authority in the country, to solicit us to go a few miles out of our way, and partake of a repast that he had prepared for us. As this extraordinary attention was evidently intended to make up for the incivility shewn us at Mugga, on our entrance into Abyssinia, I thought it right to accept the invitation, and, in consequence, we rode across the country to his mansion. On our arrival, we found the old man sitting on his couch, and assuming an almost equal state with the Ras. He nevertheless paid us great attention, and ordered two cows to be killed for our entertainment. In the course of the conversation which ensued, I found him extremely sensible and well-informed; though neither he, nor his followers, bore any very high character for courage; as in the great battle with the Galla they were the only troops which shrunk from the combat. This chief, however, had evinced, during a long time, so strong an attachment to the Ras, that his weakness on that occasion was overlooked.
From the high province of Giralta, we descended the steep pass of Atbara; and about half way down arrived at a beautiful spot, whence a spring of water rises, which successively falls into several basons in the rocks, formed, in the lapse of years, by the perpetual action of the stream. These waters are held in great repute throughout the country for their sanative properties; many people of consequence resorting to them from the distant provinces; and, while we remained in the neighbourhood, an Abyssinian nymph and some of her attendants, were observed bathing in one of the basons. This spot, in itself very beautiful, was shaded by a group of lofty daro trees, and some jutting masses of rock, interspersed with shrubs and creeping plants, and fringed, near the water's edge, with several curious varieties of fern. Different parties of travellers were seen reposing among the trees: and the distant sound of a rude chorus, proceeding from some priests in a small chapel above our heads, accorded very agreeably with the surrounding scene. The distance we had to travel prevented our indulging longer in this luxurious species of repose; and we were compelled very speedily to exchange it for the toil of traversing some lower ridges of the mountain, which, in about an hour afterwards, brought us to the banks of the river Warré, situated at a short distance from the hill and town of Gullibudda.
This place is mentioned in my former journal, as the residence of Palambaras Toclu, one of the chiefs who had always treated us with particular attention. At this time he resided at another mansion, which had been given him by the Ras, in the neighbourhood of Abba Garima; and in spite of the distance, we determined to proceed thither, that we might have the pleasure of spending a day in his company. This journey was long and fatiguing; and we had a high pass to go over, upon the top of which I collected some beautiful specimens of Gardinia, at this time (May) in blossom, though I had before found the same tree in full bloom in the middle of September. While we were passing the rocky district of Tsai, we met with a heavy shower of rain, and thence, after crossing two streams of considerable magnitude, continued our course forwards till five o'clock, when we arrived, completely worn out, at the door of our friend's mansion at Abba Tsama. The plain, immediately in front of the house, (which was watered by a clear and winding stream,) was one of the best cultivated in this part of Abyssinia; and being encircled with lofty hills and pinnacled rocks of the most picturesque forms, afforded, altogether, one of the most agreeable residences in the kingdom.
The Palambaras who was fortunately at home, came out to welcome us on our arrival, and, according to custom, immediately killed a cow, and set before us a profusion of curries, and other highly seasoned dishes, peculiar to the country. Our present host possessed the character of being one of the most jovial companions in Abyssinia. He had been in his youth an extremely handsome man, and was naturally of a gay and lively disposition; was said to have had five wives at one time, to whose company he had been devotedly attached: and he declared, that his only wish was confined to the enjoyment of the good things which this world afforded. He was accustomed to express very openly his extreme aversion from scenes of warfare; but once or twice in his life having been drawn into the necessity of fighting, he had conducted himself very gallantly; and on one occasion, in the war of Hamazen, having been surprised by about a thousand of the enemy, he had beaten them off with only two hundred men, at the same time lamenting, that he had been reduced to so very disagreeable an alternative. These traits of character, as might be expected in the existing state of society in Abyssinia, had gained him the admiration and good will of the greater part of his countrymen.
On the 8th we took leave of our friendly host, and proceeded forwards to Adowa. On crossing one of the highest tracts of ground in the morning, we gained a very clear view of the mountains of Samen, bearing at that time S. W., and could plainly distinguish the snow lying in large masses on the tops of Béyeda and Amba Hai. The road to Adowa passes over several ridges of hills, and is in parts extremely difficult of ascent. In the middle of the day we stopped for an hour under a grove of daro trees, where I shot a beautiful species of Upupa, nearly allied to the Erythrynotos. At one o'clock we reached Adowa. At this place I was surprised to find that an Englishman had arrived from the coast only a few days before, which, on enquiry, proved to be Mr. Stuart. He had failed, in a great measure, in accomplishing the plan which I had proposed, of his going to Hurrur, owing to circumstances which will be hereafter detailed; and, on his return to Mocha, having met with an opportunity of crossing over to Massowa, had thought it right to come and join me, for the purpose of clearly reporting the events which had prevented his success. I could not help feeling greatly disappointed at his failure; but, on hearing Mr. Stuart's statements, I was persuaded that it had not been in his power to obviate the difficulties which he had had to encounter. I also received the unpleasant intelligence, that two packets of letters which I had dispatched to Captain Weatherhead from Chelicut, by the different routes of Massowa and Amphila, had not reached their destination; so that it became probable that the ship might not arrive on the coast by the time we should get down.
On our arrival at Adowa, we had taken up our residence in the house of the Ras, by his particular desire, where we found a lady residing, named Ozoro Sehen, the wife of Billetana Welled Georgis, deputy governor of the province; the chief himself being then absent. We had not long taken up our quarters, before an attendant was sent by the lady, with the present of a sheep and a quantity of bread. On my requesting him, according to the custom of the country, to get permission for one of his master's people to kill the sheep, he replied, that "none of them would kill for Christians who eat with the Musselmauns," a practice of which he at the same time asserted, Mr. Stuart had been guilty. I was extremely alarmed at this account, knowing how fatal an act of this kind would have proved to our interests, and therefore sent immediately for Mr. Stuart and Hadjee Hamood, the person who had attended him during his journey, to enquire into the circumstances, when I was at once relieved from my apprehensions, by their jointly and positively declaring, that the whole story was absolutely without foundation; Mr. Stuart having been previously cautioned by Captain Rudland on this subject, and having, in consequence, employed a Christian to cook for him from the moment of his entrance into the country. This point being clearly ascertained, I directed Mr. Pearce to speak in very severe terms to Welled Georgis's servant, and ordered him instantly to take away both the sheep and the bread, declaring that I would not accept of a single article from his master, until a proper apology should have been made for this impertinence.
We did not, however, long remain unprovided; for shortly afterwards, a great profusion of viands was sent us by two Greeks, resident in the town, one of whom, a very old man, named Sydee Paulus, was father-in-law to Mr. Pearce. The other, named Apostoli, was a man of considerable wealth and consequence, who had chiefly resided at Adowa for the last forty years, though, during the time of my former visit, he had been absent on a journey to Constantinople, it being a practice with the Greeks trading in Abyssinia to go over occasionally to that place, for the purpose of settling their commercial concerns. In the course of the same day, these two Greeks paid me a visit, and I have seldom been acquainted with more venerable or respectable looking men. The elder was exceedingly infirm, and appeared to be nearly blind; so that it was with some difficulty that he could be brought up, on a mule, into the room in which we were sitting. On being seated, he expressed great anxiety to examine my features, and repeatedly enquired whether I was any relation of Yagoube (Mr. Bruce.) He afterwards conversed with me for some time respecting that traveller, and in almost every particular confirmed the account I have already quoted upon the authority of Dofter Esther. He related in addition, that the Emperor, Tecla Haimanout, never paid much attention to Mr. Bruce, till after "his shooting through a table with a candle," (a fact which I had never before heard mentioned in the country,) when he became a great favourite, and was called "Balomaal." He added, that on a particular occasion, the Emperor took a fancy to his watch, and asked him for it; but that Mr. B. refused, and said abruptly: "is it the custom in this kingdom for a king to beg?" which answer made a great noise throughout the country. Sydee Paulus had been fifty years in Abyssinia. Apostoli had never seen Mr. Bruce, but said he had often conversed with Janni respecting his visit to the country, who had always spoken of him with great respect.
On the 9th of May we left Adowa on an excursion to Axum, probably about twelve miles distant, in a due west direction. The road to this place passes through some fine valleys which intersect several lofty ranges of hills, on one of which, to the right, stands the celebrated church of Hannes; and, within a few miles of Axum, lies an extensive and highly cultivated plain, on the surface of which numerous specimens of different coloured spars and agates were found. The town of Axum itself is very agreeably situated in a corner of the plain sheltered by the adjacent hills. On approaching it, the first object which excites attention is a small plain obelisk, at the foot of a hill, on the right hand, at the top of which stands the monastery of Abba Pantaleon, and immediately opposite is found the large square stone with the inscription in Greek which I had before deciphered. After passing between these, the town and church begin to make their appearance, and, upon inclining a little to the northward, leaving a number of broken pedestals on the left hand, a full view of the large obelisk is presented, standing close to an immense daro tree, of which two different views have been given in former publications. To these I have no corrections to make, and shall only remark, that, by a slight mistake of the engraver, the patera on the top of the obelisk in Lord Valentia's work is delineated as rather pointed, whereas it ought to have been round, as it is rightly represented in my larger views.
This highly wrought and very magnificent work of art, formed of a single block of granite, and measuring full sixty feet in height, produced nearly as forcible an impression on my mind as on the first moment I beheld it: and I felt even more inclined to admire the consummate skill and ingenuity displayed in erecting so stupendous a work, owing to my having compared the design (during the interval which had elapsed since my former visit) with many of Egyptian, Grecian and Roman structure; a comparison which seemed to justify me in considering it as the most admirable and perfect monument of its kind. All its ornaments are very boldly relieved, which, together with the hollow space running up the centre and the patera at top, give a lightness and elegance to the whole form that is probably unrivalled. Several other obelisks lie broken on the ground, at no great distance, one of which is of still larger dimensions. With respect to the antiquity of these monuments, I cannot speak with any degree of certainty: but I should conjecture that they could not have been erected prior to the time of the Ptolemies, as the order of the architecture is strictly Grecian, and was, therefore, not likely to have been introduced at an earlier period. The tradition of the country ascribes them to the reign of the Emperor Acizana which was upwards of three hundred years after Christ: but I should rather be inclined to believe that the workmen of that age were scarcely equal to complete so chaste and highly finished an undertaking. There cannot, however, I conceive, exist a doubt but that they were erected by Grecian workmen from Egypt; as it is known to have been the universal practice of the Emperors of Abyssinia to employ foreign artificers from that country, a circumstance proved by the excavations before described in Lasta and other parts of Abyssinia.
From the obelisk we proceeded to the church, and again examined the short Ethiopic inscription which I had before copied; and I was still more strongly confirmed in my original opinion, that it contains the identical characters seen by Mr. Bruce, which he "restored," or rather converted into Greek, as they are inscribed on the footstool of a kind of throne or altar, where "the feet would naturally rest," (which stone, however, is certainly of granite, and not "of freestone,") whereas on the one where "the King was usually crowned," standing about thirty yards distant from the other, there could not be found the slightest trace of a single letter. Mr. Bruce mentions, in corroboration of his inscription, that Mr. Poncet had seen it; and that he had mistaken the last word "ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ" for Basilius: but, after carefully looking over the original edition of Mr. Poncet's work in French, as well as in the English translation, I found that there was not the slightest mention of any such characters or inscription throughout his Journal. The larger Greek inscription which I discovered had, indeed, been frequently noticed by those Jesuits who travelled in the country, one of whom actually remarks his having made out the word "Basilius;" so that it was probably upon this latter circumstance that Mr. Bruce founded his erroneous conjecture.
Mr. Smith and Mr. Stuart, who both assisted me in my examination of these ruins, perfectly agreed with me upon the subject, and the latter had previously traced the characters I have mentioned during a journey which he had made to Axum a few days before he met me at Adowa, and in the attempt, though he was not particularly successful, a sufficient number of the letters were made out, to prove them Ethiopic. In consequence, I have thought it right to give a fac-similé of his performance, notwithstanding that I consider my own copy in Lord Valentia's work to be the more correct of the two.
I must observe, that Mr. Stuart, in making out these letters, copied them the wrong side upwards, and that, from the difficulty of tracing them, he has omitted a large portion of the characters with which the inscription commences.
From this part of the ruins, a small gateway leads to the church, which latter still appears to be kept up with considerable attention, though the steps in front of the portico, which are evidently remains connected with some more ancient structure, are falling fast to ruin. In a wall to the right, on a narrow projecting stone, is inscribed a short Ethiopic inscription, said to be very ancient, a copy of which is here given.
Za-eb-ne gu-be-gube za-bá-zi ne.
Which I should translate, "This is the sepulchral stone of Bazen:" "ebne" signifying a "stone;" gube, "grave;" and "Bazen" being the name of several of the Abyssinian kings, while the "za" prefixed to two of the words, in one case expresses the relative "this," and in the other acts as the sign of the genitive case. I offer these conjectures with considerable hesitation, from my possessing a very imperfect knowledge only of the language, and from my not being acquainted, unfortunately, with any person who could assist me in this undertaking, since the death of my friend Mr. Murray, whose extra-ordinary acquirements in Eastern literature, will not, I am afraid, be easily replaced. It is a singular circumstance, that the stone above described contains the only epitaph which I have ever met with in Abyssinia.
On our return from the church, I noticed in the pavement over which we were passing, a fragment of a flat stone, on the surface of which was carved the representation of two spear-heads, and some other ornaments. There were likewise two lions' heads, in stone-work, fixed in a modern wall outside of the church, which probably once served as spouts to a fountain, each having an open space cut through it, for the purpose of affording a passage to the water. During our excursion to examine these remains, we found the people extremely insolent and unruly, instigated, as I conceive, in a great measure by the priests, who, throughout, seemed to have entertained great jealousy respecting our visit to the country: and at last they became so troublesome, that it became necessary for Mr. Pearce to lay hold of one of them, and to tie him to an attendant whom we had brought with us, to answer for his conduct before the Ras.
Having before noticed the practice of tying the garments of offenders, I may here take occasion to mention, that this singular custom appears to me to elucidate very clearly a passage in the Old Testament, which always struck me before as attended with considerable obscurity. The circumstance I allude to, relates to the story of Potiphar's wife and Joseph, in which it is mentioned, that when she could not prevail upon him to comply with her desires, "she caught him by the garment, and said, 'Lie with me!' and he left his garment in her hand and fled, and got him out;" and when she accused Joseph to her husband, she produced the garment as an evidence of his guilt, saying, "The Hebrew servant which thou hast brought unto us, came in unto me to mock me: and it came to pass as I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment with me and fled out," and immediately on hearing these words "Potiphar's wrath was kindled," and Joseph was consigned to a prison. Now, it appears, upon reading this without explanation, that Potiphar, who seems to have been a good man, acted on this occasion, with extreme injustice, as he does not seem to have made any enquiry into Joseph's guilt, but at once, on the assertion of his wife, commits him to a prison. On the contrary, if the same custom as the one which is now general in Abyssinia, at that time prevailed in Egypt, it will be seen that Potiphar acted justly, according to the established rule of the country, it being always considered as a sure proof of guilt, which requires no further evidence to be adduced, if a man, after being once laid hold of, runs away and leaves his garment behind.
The troublesome behaviour of the inhabitants above mentioned, (which we found to be in a great measure owing to the absence of the Nebrit or ruler of the district,) made our stay at Axum so unpleasant, that I determined to lose no time in examining the Greek inscription, and thence to return with the least possible delay to Adowa. With this view I proceeded, accompanied by a rude crowd of the inhabitants, to the stone bearing the inscription, which I found exactly in the same state as when I previously visited Axum. I immediately re-copied very carefully every letter, and in going over it, I was gratified in finding that the greater part of the conjectures I had ventured to make on a former occasion, were confirmed, particularly throughout the first line, so that I am now enabled to give a copy of the whole corrected finally on the spot, and to this I have been induced to add a translation, for the satisfaction of my readers, though it has before been given with a very slight variations in Lord Valentia's Travels.
Translation of the Axum Inscription.
(We) Aeizanas King of the Axomites and
of the Homerites, and of Raeidan, and of the Æthi-
opians and of the Sabeans, and of Zeyla,
and of Tiamo and the Bója, and of the Ta-
guie, king of kings, son of God,
the invincible Mars—having rebelled,
on an occasion, the nation of the Boja,
We sent our brothers,
Saiazana and Adephas
to make war upon them, and upon
their surrender, (our brothers) after subduing them,
brought them to us, with their families;
of their oxen, *112, and of their sheep
7424, and their beasts bearing burdens;
nourishing them with the flesh of oxen, and giving them a
supply of bread, and affording them to drink
beer (sowa,) and wine (maiz,) and water in abundance.
Who (the prisoners) were in number six chiefs,
with their multitude in number * * *
making them bread every day, of whea-
ten cakes, * 2 *, and giving them wine for a month,
until the time that they brought them to us;
whom, therefore, supplying with all things
fit, and clothing, we compelled to change their
abode, and sent them to a certain place of our
country called M———a, and we ordered them
again to be supplied with bread, furnishing
to their six chiefs oxen 4*.
In grateful acknowledgment to him who begat me,
the invincible Mars,
I have dedicated to him a golden statue, and one
of silver, and three of brass, for good.
I have only a few remarks to make in addition to those which I before submitted to the public on this subject. The chief importance of this inscription must be considered as relating to the history of the country, upon which I shall hereafter introduce a few cursory observations. With respect to the tribe of the ΒΟΥΓΑΕΙΩΝ, the conquest of which constitutes the main subject of this inscription, it appears that it is still found under the name of the Boja, inhabiting a district two days journey northward of Hamazen, and is partially under the influence of the Nayib of Massowa and of a Christian chief; the natives themselves being half Musselmauns, and half Christians. Still farther to the north, resides a people called Taguié, which in all probability answers the "ΤΟΚΑΕΟΥ," mentioned in the inscription. The numerals which occur in the inscription were supposed, in my former account, "to be inexplicable:" but I cannot help feeling assured, that they also are Greek, as indeed the r in the last line, before translated "three," seemed to prove. I should therefore explain the figures in line 13 to consist of an unknown letter, expressing thousands, rho, iota and beta, or 112; those in 14, to be zeta, upsilon, kappa, and delta, or 7424; but the rest I must still leave to the ingenuity of some person more skilled than myself in the art of deciphering numbers.
During the time that I had been engaged in revising the Greek characters, Mr. Stuart, at my request, had been endeavouring to make out some of the smaller letters on the opposite side of the stone: and on examining what he had done, I felt immediately assured that they were Ethiopic. In consequence I passed carefully over every character I could trace, a fac-simile of which is here given.
Part of an Inscription at Axum much defaced by the weather.
Characters in the fifth line.
In the middle of the inscription.
|separate word.||End of the last line but one.|
Last line entire.
Unconnected characters from various parts of the stone.
The same in modern characters, so far as can be determined.
Notwithstanding the characters differ materially from those now employed, yet it is certain that they are Ethiopic, from most of the letters precisely resembling those in the present alphabet, and from the circumstance of the words in the early part of the inscription being separated by two round dots (፡,) placed horizontally indeed, though it is now the practice to mark them perpendicularly (፡;) this slight variation, however, in their position, cannot make any difference in the sense to which they were intended to be applied.
If it could be ascertained that these characters were cut at the same time with the Greek inscription on the opposite side of the stone, which appears to me extremely probable, it would lead to a very important result, as it would decide the fact, that they were the native characters in use during the reign of Aeizana, a circumstance that must tend strongly to disprove the idea hitherto entertained of the Geez alphabet, as well as that of the Coptic, being borrowed from the Greek; (vide Mr. Murray's remark in Bruce, Vol. II. p. 402,) a point that I have always considered as extremely improbable. I should myself feel much more inclined to think, that it may have derived its origin from some ancient Ethiopic or Egyptian set of letters; for where can we expect to find the alphabet of either nation with so much probability as in Abyssinia, among a people not only calling itself Ethiopic, , but exhibiting the fairest claim to that descent, and which afterwards, as is clearly pointed out in history, became mixed with settlers from Egypt.
That the language spoken in the country at a very early period was partly the same with that now in use I have been enabled to ascertain, from a very curious fact which I have lately met with in the course of my researches. Cosmas, a Greek writer, who visited Adulis, and discovered the Greek inscription relating to the affairs of Abyssinia, gives, in his elaborate treatise "on the World," a description of several animals which he met with in Abyssinia. Among these, he has very accurately described the two-horned rhinoceros, which appears to be peculiar to Africa; and he mentions, that the Ethiopians called it in their own dialect ἄρου η ἅρισι, or aru e hareese, aspirating the second alpha, and adding to it the ρισι, or reese; that by ἄρου was expressed the generic term of wild beast (θηριόν,) and that the epithet ἅρισι, was subjoined, on account of the furrowed shape of the nostrils, together with that of the skin. Now it is very remarkable, that the name of this animal, used throughout Abyssinia at the present day, is precisely similar to that given by Cosmas. In the Geez character it is written Arwê hàris, and it is pronounced with a strong aspirate on the "ha," and a slight one, peculiar to the language, after the final syllable, as I have remarked in a copy of Ludolf's History, which I took with me into Abyssinia; arwê still signifying "fera" or "bestia in genere," a coincidence so uncommon, that it appears to me very satisfactorily to prove, that the language spoken at the court of Axum in the time of Cosmas was Geez.
The remarks made by Cosmas on this subject, and the deductions they lead to, are likewise of considerable importance, from their tending to give a more correct notion of the pronunciation of those particular Greek letters, employed in spelling these words, than we before possessed; as the Abyssinian language, from its peculiar formation, (every sound being exactly expressed in the writing,) is not liable to the same corruption which has attended the Greek. It will be seen by a reference to "Montfaucon's Nova Collectio Patrum," whence I have extracted the passage, that the Latin translator mistook the "η" for a word expressing "aut," and therefore supposed ἅρυ and ἅρισι to be two different names, applied to the same animal; a mistake that almost any commentator might have fallen into, who had not been previously aware of its connection with the Geez language. It is also singular that Ludolf, to whom this animal was mentioned by Gregory, should not have discovered that it was the rhinoceros; on the contrary, he supposed it to have been the حريش of the Arabs, or "unicorn, said to be a species of goat of extraordinary swiftness," a conjecture in which he was most certainly mistaken.
Before we had completed our labour of copying the characters, the chief of the district, Nebrid Isgére Barea, made his appearance, with a large party of his followers, riding hastily over the plain: and, in consequence of his urgent request, we consented to alter our previous intention, and return to Axum, where we remained with him the rest of the day. He treated us with the kindest hospitality, and introduced us to his family, consisting of his wife and one daughter. The retired manners and modest behaviour of the latter, confirmed me strongly in the opinion, that the females in Abyssinia are generally well educated, and, before marriage, very superior in character to those of maturer years, who, after marriage, have been accustomed to mingle with greater freedom in society, and to allow themselves, perhaps, too great a latitude of conduct.
On the following morning we set out at day-light, and once more proceeding to the stone with the Greek inscription, again went over the work of the preceding day, and made out all the additional Ethiopic characters which could be traced. Our success, however, was not very great, for though the inscription occupied the whole surface of the stone, being fully as long as the Greek one on the lower side, it had been so much effaced by the effects of the weather, owing to its reclined position, that we only found the last line entire, the rest of the characters which are given, being taken from different parts of the inscription, wherever they could be ascertained. Still, however, I conceive, that if a person could reside at Axum for any time, and find leisure to visit the stone at different hours of the day, he might, with great attention and perseverance, be able to make out a very considerable portion of the inscription.
Having attained our object, we proceeded on the road to Adowa, across the extensive plain surrounding Axum, which, at this time, the inhabitants were busily engaged in ploughing: the air of the morning was moist and chilly: and a thick vapour hung over the mountains of Samen, which, nevertheless, could be plainly distinguished in the distance. In the course of this day's journey, we met with several large droves of cattle, which, on enquiry, I found were proceeding to Walkayt, where they are said to be very advantageously exchanged for a coarse kind of cloth, manufactured in that province. At a few miles from Adowa, we discovered a new and beautiful species of amaryllis, which bore from ten to twelve spikes of bloom on each stem, as large as those of the "bella donna," springing from one common receptacle. The general colour of the corolla was white, and every petal was marked with a single streak of bright purple down the middle. The flower was sweet-scented: and its smell, though much more powerful, resembled that of the lily of the valley. This superb plant excited the admiration of the whole party, and it brought immediately to my recollection the beautiful comparison used, on a particular occasion, by Our Saviour; "yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these." We subsequently, with considerable trouble, dug up a few of the bulbs, which were rooted full two feet deep in rocky ground, some of which I was fortunate enough to bring safe to England, where they have since flourished, though they have not yet produced any flowers.
On reaching Adowa, we found that Billetana Welled Georgis, who had returned home, was waiting our arrival, and after changing our dress, we proceeded to pay him a visit. We found him in a summer apartment, constructed of canes; his wife, who was present, being seated behind a small curtain on his left. A few compliments ensued, and a repast was served up, as usual, during which our host spoke but little, and conducted himself with considerable reserve. Shortly afterwards a dispute took place between him and Mr. Pearce respecting our mules; the chief wishing to give shelter to mine only, which had been given me by the Ras, and to send the others out into the fields, an intention which Mr. Pearce warmly resisted, declaring himself as "a servant of the Ras," (for even the Billetana could pretend to no higher distinction) equally entitled to the privilege of keeping his mule in the Ras's house. Not being pleased with this kind of altercation, and observing a more than usual coldness in the chief's behaviour, I rose immediately after the meat had been removed, and took my leave. I had scarcely, however, reached my own apartments, when several messengers were sent after me, requesting to know the cause of my displeasure. I mentioned, in answer, that "it arose from the affront received two days before from one of his servants, and from the coolness with which I had this day been treated, circumstances that I was not accustomed to put up with." I informed him, that "the Ras had always conducted himself towards me in a very different manner, and that I certainly did not feel disposed to yield to another a superiority which I should (had it been required) have denied to him." This message, I believe, alarmed the young chief; for in a few minutes afterwards he paid me a visit, made many apologies for what had happened, declaring that it was only his manner, and that he should have acted in a very different way when his people had been withdrawn;" telling me at the same time, that "he had put his servant into confinement who had behaved with so much insolence on our first arrival at Adowa; and that he therefore hoped I would overlook the past, and be friends." Having accomplished my purpose, by shewing what I conceived might prove a salutary lesson to the Baharnegash, and the other Abyssinians present, who were to attend us to the coast, I consented to overlook what had occurred, and thenceforth every thing went on satisfactorily on both sides. A fresh repast was prepared in the evening, at which the lady made her appearance: and our host himself exhibited a liveliness of humour, and an alteration in his manner, that satisfied me at once that his rude behaviour in the morning had, from some unknown cause, been intentional.
On the following day, during our stay at Adowa, I was requested to pay a visit to a sick man, supposed to be at the point of death: but before I could reach him he was no more. The disease with which he had been afflicted, is called Tigre-tér, a species of fever, for which the remedy in use among the Abyssinians is somewhat extraordinary. On a person being seized with this complaint, the relatives expose to his sight all the ornaments of gold, silver, and fine clothes which their respective friends can collect, making at the same time as much noise as possible with drums, trumpets and vociferous outcries, which is practised with a view, as far as I could ascertain, "of driving the devil out of the patient;" the Abyssinians, in general, entertaining a rooted belief that most diseases are occasioned by the afflicted party's "being possessed with an evil spirit." So soon, however, as the person approaches the moment of death, the drums and trumpets cease, and a mournful howl is set up by all the friends present, who, on the death being announced, tear their hair, scratch the skin from their temples, and cast themselves sobbing and screaming to the ground, in all the agony of despair, as if the existence of the whole universe was connected with his fate. Not only the relations of the deceased express their grief in this violent manner, but the neighbours and acquaintance of the party, and those dependent even on the same master; so that the horrible confusion which for a time prevails is scarcely to be described.
Soon after death, the body is carefully washed, fumigated with incense, and sewed up in one of the cloths which the deceased wore when alive, and is immediately carried to the grave; the relations themselves bearing it on their shoulders in haste to the burying ground; and while it is depositing in the earth, the priests recite over it an appointed form of prayer for the occasion.
On the following day, or so soon as all the relations and friends of the deceased can be assembled, they proceed to the celebration of the "toscar," or "feast in honour of the dead." When the relations are people of consequence, an image is dressed out in rich garments to represent the deceased, which, being placed on his favourite mule, is carried in procession through the town or village near his residence to the tomb, all his other horses and mules following, decked out in gay ornaments and apparel, collected during his life time, according to custom, for this particular purpose. A number of hired female mourners attend this procession, who, while it passes along, continually keep up a kind of fearful howl, calling at times upon the deceased by name, and crying out, "why did you leave us? had you not houses and lands? had not you a wife that loved you?" and, by a number of similar complaints, accusing him of unkindness in leaving his friends. On reaching the tomb, the cries and lamentations are redoubled: and these mixed with the "hallelujahs" of the priests and the screams of the relatives, who again are seen tearing the skin from their faces, produce a terrible kind of concert, which may be justly said to
"Embowel with outrageous noise the air." Milton.
When this part of the ceremony is concluded, the whole company returns to the mansion of the deceased where a number of cattle are killed for the consumption of the attending crowd, and an abundant quantity of maiz and soua is served out, which generally proves amply sufficient to intoxicate the whole party. This strange kind of commemoration is at certain intervals renewed; every near relation in the course of the following year striving to outvie the others in the splendour of the entertainment which he gives in honour of the deceased, and in the frequency of the lamenting visits which he makes to the tomb. An attendance at these meetings is considered as the highest compliment which can be paid to a family; but some of the more sensible of the priesthood, as well as of the nobility, have been known to express their disapprobation of the whole ceremony; the Ras himself, since his accession to power, having attended only three, two of which were those of his brothers, and the other being that of Fit-Aurari Zogo. The superior classes of inhabitants, I may also observe, never mutilate their temples by tearing off the skin, nor do they otherwise go into any extraordinary excess of grief on these occasions.
As Adowa may be considered a town of great importance in the country, I shall here give a short description of it, to which may be properly added a few remarks respecting its trade.
The town of Adowa is situated partly on the side, and partly at the bottom of a hill, a circumstance very unusual in Abyssinia; and the houses, which are all of a conical form, are pretty regularly disposed into streets or allies, interspersed with wanzy trees and small gardens, some of which are cultivated with considerable care; the town itself being plentifully supplied with water from three streams, which take their course through the valley below. The number of residents in this place, may, on a general calculation, be estimated at full eight thousand, as I reckoned in it more than eight hundred habitations; each of which, on a moderate computation, being supposed to contain ten inmates, would altogether amount to a sum probably falling short of the actual population. Adowa may be regarded as the chief mart for commerce on the eastern side of the Tacazze, all the intercourse between the interior provinces and the coast being carried on through the merchants residing at that place, in consequence of which the Mahomedans there have retained a greater degree of importance, than in any other part of the empire, the trade, as I have before remarked, resting almost entirely in their hands.
The chief production of Adowa consists in a manufactory of coarse and fine cloths; the former being considered unrivalled in any other part of the country, and the latter being thought little inferior to those manufactured at Gondar. The quantity of cloth made at Adowa occasions a great demand for cotton, a considerable portion of which is procured from the low countries bordering on the Tacazze: and this is considered of a finer quality, and consequently more valuable, than that brought up from Massowa. The latter, notwithstanding, finds a ready sale, and though its importation be hampered by arbitrary exactions on the road, and a heavy duty on its being landed, sells to a considerable profit. The other imports, which pass through Adowa for the Gondar market, are lead, (in small quantities) block tin, copper, and gold foil; small Persian carpets, of a shewy pattern and of low price, raw silks from China, a few velvets, French broad cloths, and different coloured skins from Egypt; glass ware and beads, which find their way from Venice, and a number of other petty articles, which are brought by different conveyances to Jidda.
The exports which are carried down to the coast in return, most of which pass through the hands of the traders at Adowa, consist of ivory, gold, and slaves; a very considerable quantity of the first article is procured in the province of Walkayt, and in the low country northward of Shiré: and the sale of it is so certain at Massowa, that the price at Adowa only differs in the expenses of carriage being deducted. A great part of the gold collected in the interior finds also its way through Adowa; but this commerce is carried on by the traders with so much secrecy, that it is impossible to form any accurate estimate of the quantity. The number of slaves exported, may be computed annually at about a thousand, part of whom are sent to Massowa, and the rest to the small ports northward of that place, whence they are privately shipped off by the natives, for the purpose of avoiding the duties levied by the Nayib. The provinces to the south of Adowa chiefly abound in cattle and corn, which, together with the salt procured on the borders, constitute their chief articles of barter. There is a manufactory of small carpets carried on in the province of Samen, some of which were shewn to me at Adowa: and they really were much superior to what might have been expected, as the production of Abyssinian workmanship. At Axum, and in its neighbourhood, the inhabitants are celebrated for the manner in which they prepare skins for making parchment: and they likewise particularly excel in finishing this article for use. The working of iron and brass is general throughout the country; but the more highly finished chains, wrought from the last material are brought into the country from the south, and are said to be manufactured among the Galla.
All workers in iron are called Búda by the Abyssinians: and a very strange superstition is attached to this employment; every man engaged in the occupation being supposed to possess a power of transforming himself at night into an hyæna, during which he is thought to be capable of preying even upon human flesh; and it is further believed, that if during the period of his transformation he should experience any bodily injury, a corresponding wound would be found on his proper frame. The credit attached to these fabulous ideas appears to be inconceivably strong throughout the country. I was not aware until my return, that a very similar superstition existed among the Greeks as well as the Romans, with respect to men turning themselves into wolves. Pliny calls the persons possessing this power of transformation "versipelles," remarking that "it is a fabulous opinion not worthy of credit:" (vide Hist. Nat. Lib. VIII. c. xxii.) He afterwards explains more particularly the popular belief on this head, and makes mention, from a Greek author, "of a man who lived nine years in the form of a wolf;" adding, "but it is astonishing how far the Greeks carried their credulity; for there is no falsehood, however impudent, that wants its testimony among them." The latitue of Adowa was deduced from the results of two meridian altitudes of stars, the declinations of which have been taken from tables brought up to the year 1810.
|May 11.—Second||* (ξ) in the tail of Ursa Major gave||14° 12′ 46″|
|Last||* (Benetnach) in ditto||1412 14|
|Mean latitude of Adowa||1412 30|
Mr. Bruce places the latitude of Adowa in 14° 7′ 57″, making a difference between us of about four miles and a half; which will not appear extraordinary to any person acquainted with the great improvement which has latterly taken place in the construction of mathematical instruments; the one made use of by Mr. Bruce having been a three foot quadrant, constructed in France, and mine a remarkably good sextant, manufactured by Mr. Blount. I may also remark, that as Mr. Bruce does not mention what kind of artificial horizon he used, some difference between our methods in this respect may have occasioned the trifling variation in our observations. The longitude of Adowa is laid down according to its computed distance from Dixan, which latter place I subsequently had the means of satisfactorily determining.
On the 12th we left Adowa, and proceeded on our way to the coast; Mr. Coffin and Mr. Pearce accompanying us as far as the descent into the vale of Ribierani, where they parted from our company, according to a previous arrangement agreed upon between us; owing to the Ras having expressed an anxious wish for their return; and being myself unwilling to risque their safety among the borderers, several of whom were known to be very inimical to their remaining in Abyssinia. There was something melancholy in leaving two of my countrymen in so remote a region, yet, knowing that I had done every
thing in my power to insure their welfare, and feeling confident that their stay might prove beneficial both to Abyssinia and to themselves, I could not in any degree regret the resolution they had adopted, nor the consent which I had given to their plans. We intended to have stopped for the evening at the house of Ayto Ischias, who resides at Gundufta: but finding him absent, we proceeded on to the vale of Yeeha, and soon arrived at a house belonging to the son of Konquass Aylo, where we halted for the night.
In the course of the afternoon we went about half a mile, along the banks of the river Mareb, to visit an old ruin, seen from a considerable distance, called the monastery of Abba Asfé. The chief part of the remains consists of an ancient stone building, of an oblong square shape, about sixty feet long, and forty-five wide, standing on the centre of an eminence, partly surrounded by trees, and commanding a beautiful prospect, in which the river Mareb makes a conspicuous object, winding its circuitous course through the valley. The square building bears the appearance of having been very substantially constructed. The remains of the walls, now standing, occasionally rise to the height of forty feet; measure full five feet in thickness; and are formed of large masses of stone, each about seven feet long by twenty inches broad, exactly fitted one to the other, so as scarcely to leave a visible interstice between them; no mortar or other fastening having been, as I conceive, ever made use of throughout the building. The stone composing this structure consists of a sand-stone of a light yellowish cast, covered over with a hard incrustation, which has materially served to protect the surface of the walls from the effects of the weather; so that the portion still remaining affords as perfect a specimen of plain architecture, as can be produced, perhaps, in any other part of the world.
The founder of this monastery, Abba Asfé, whose name it still retains, was one of the nine priests who went into Ethiopia from Egypt, during the early part of the sixth century, in the reign of the Emperor Ameda, one of the predecessors of Caleb, as recorded in the Abyssinian chronicles; though some later authors have attributed this event to a different period, an opinion which I myself was led to adopt in my former journal, owing to my having relied too hastily upon the assertions of others. The statement in the chronicles must be considered, however, as the more correct, from my having lately met with a strong confirmation of the fact in a passage from a Greek author, who actually gives the name of the sovereign (Ανδας) reigning in Ethiopia when those clergymen (κληρικοι) went over; a circumstance which I shall notice more at large in a short treatise which I propose to give respecting the ancient history of the country. Notwithstanding the long interval of time which this statement gives, as having elapsed since the arrival of Abba Asfé, (constituting a period of nearly one thousand three hundred years,) yet I am still led to believe, from the general appearance of the ruin, that it formed a portion of the original building, as the consequence of Abyssinia began shortly afterwards to decline.
Father Alvarez, who visited this place in 1520, speaks of the building with great rapture, though even in his time it was beginning to fall into decay. He calls it Abba-facem, and after speaking of a church in its neighbourhood, says, "close to it is a very large and beautiful tower, as well for its finely proportioned height, as for its size and exquisite masonry; but it has, at length, begun to fall into decay, in spite of its being very strongly built, and of live-stone, covered and enriched with so much excellent work, that it displays no less than a royal grandeur, of which I have never seen its equal."
The mention of this external ornament is valuable, from its referring in all probability, to a cincture or frieze which surrounded the upper part of the building, a few fragments of which I subsequently discovered among some adjoining heaps of stone. Of these I have given sketch, with the characters upon them: and I have remarked, in my notes made on the spot, that "they probably formed a part of the larger building."
Fragments of Inscriptions found at Yeeha, among the Ruins of the Monastery of Abba Asfé.
Characters cut in the stone.[note 1]
Characters raised above the surface.[note 2]
Cut in the stone.[note 3]
These characters were very boldly carved, and they appeared to be as fresh and perfect as on the day they were executed, two of them being cut into the stone, and the other raised above the surface. At the first view I considered them as bearing a great resemblance to hieroglyfics, and thought that they might be intended merely as ornamental; but upon subsequent consideration, I became convinced that they formed a part of an ancient Ethiopic alphabet, some of them being precisely the same with the letters used at the present day, and others exactly resembling those met with in the inscription at Axum. The construction of these letters might indeed almost lead to the conclusion that they constituted a portion of a primitive alphabet, the whole being easily deducible from the simplest forms, varied without any great ingenuity to express the different sounds, as may be observed in the following arrangement of them;[note 4]
and I cannot therefore help entertaining the hope, that some future discoveries in Abyssinia, or the countries adjacent, may give us the whole alphabet. and lead to a satisfactory confirmation of my conjecture.
While engaged in the examination of the ruins, the priests and several of the principal inhabitants attended us, very civilly pointing out every thing worthy of notice, and assisting us in the removal of some large stones, for the purpose of promoting the objects we had in view. They related to us also, with apparent pleasure, all the traditional stories handed down from their ancestors connected with the place, which I shall comprise in a few words; "that the building we had admired was erected by an holy man, who came from Misr' a long time ago; but that the spot on which it stood, had for ages, before been regarded as sacred, owing to the ark of the covenant, which had been brought into Abyssinia by Menilek, having been kept there for a considerable time previous to its removal to Axum;" which story may probably deserve about the same degree of credit as the one recorded by Alvarez, "that Yeeha was the favourite residence of Queen Candace, when she honoured the country with her presence." After having completed our observations, and given a trifling remuneration to the attendant priests, we returned back to the house of Konquass Aylo, where, at dinner, we were treated with a quantity of fine grapes, of a red species, without stones, and some new wine, in the making of which, the inhabitants of this part of the country are thought particularly to excel.
On the 13th we left Yeeha, and after travelling six hours reached the village of Kella, where we remained for the night. In the evening I took two meridian altitudes of the stars, which gave the following result.
|Second||* (ξ) in the tail of Ursa Major gave||14° 27′ 54″|
|Last||* Benetnach in ditto||1427 44|
|Mean latitude of Kella||1427 49|
which comes within three miles and a quarter of the latitude given by Mr. Bruce. On the following morning we proceeded on our journey, and after passing by Logo, Abha, and the district of Kantiba Socinius, on the 16th reached Dixan, where we felt greatly disappointed at finding that no intelligence had yet been received respecting the arrival of our ship at Massowa. In consequence of this, we determined to remain a few days, and in the meanwhile took up our residence in the same habitation which we had before occupied; the Baharnegash Yasous promising to do every thing in his power to render our stay agreeable.
On the 17th, a respectable man named Hadjee Hamed came up from Massowa for the purpose of offering us his services during our passage down to the coast. He informed me that Shum Hummar was waiting at the bottom of Taranta for the purpose of escorting us to Arkeeko, and that a larger number than usual of the Hazorta appeared to be collecting at that spot.
In the course of the following day I found that the Baharnegash became very uneasy on this subject; and at last I discovered that it was not only true that the Hazorta had assembled in force at the foot of the mountains, but that they had sent up messengers to demand a sum of money, without which they were determined we should not pass through their district. As the Baharnegash had been made answerable by the Ras for our safety, I affected extreme indifference about the matter; and declared that I would not advance any thing more than a few dollars, as I had done on our way up into the country, being unwilling to establish a precedent for so unjust an exaction. In answer to this, he informed me that there was another track through the mountains, by Assauli, which he felt inclined to prefer; but that before he could determine upon the propriety of adopting it, a messenger must be sent down to communicate with a chief who commanded the pass: from this suggestion I derived singular satisfaction, as it was likely to afford me the opportunity of becoming acquainted with a new route; having already gone over that of Taranta three different times, a circumstance which had completely exhausted all my curiosity respecting it.
On the 18th, in a second consultation with the Baharnegash, it was finally settled that our party should adopt the plan proposed on the preceding day; while at the same time it was agreed, that the determination should be kept secret until the moment of our departure, for the purpose of keeping the Hazorta quiet in their station below Taranta. To this arrangement Shum Hummar's brother, who had brought me a private message, acceded; and it was resolved that he should attend me part of the way down, on receiving a small present, and should then proceed to his brother, to inform him of our plans, and to appoint him to meet us at Wéah.
During our stay at Dixan, a cafila arrived from the interior, which on enquiry I discovered to consist of travellers from Dar Fûr. Two of them shortly after paid me a visit, and solicited my permission to go down with our party to the coast; a request with which I willingly complied, in the hope of obtaining some information respecting their native country. I afterwards learned that they had employed nearly three months in their journey, having set out from Rîl at the latter end of February; that they had travelled a considerable way towards the south, out of the direct road, on account of their country being engaged in war with the people of Sennaar: that they had passed through a district called Mitchecié, which may, in all probability, be the Da-mitchequa, before described as inhabited by Shangalla, ("Da" or "Dar" merely signifying country;) and that their ultimate destination was Mecca. Sultan Abd'el Rachman, who reigned over Dar Fûr during Mr. Browne's stay in that country, had been dead seven years, and had been succeeded by his son Mahomed, whose character was considered as very superior to that of his father. My informant also told me, that he had heard of a white man having visited the capital, and mentioned, of his own accord, that he had been ill-treated by the ruling sovereign, remarking at the same time, that if any stranger were now to enter the country, his reception would be very different.
These men appeared to be perfect negroes; their skins were of a shining black, and their features coarse and ill-favoured. They spoke Arabic almost as fluently as their native language, which was Fûrian: and of the latter they gave me a pretty copious vocabulary, which will be found inserted in the Appendix. On my return to England, I submitted this to the perusal of my friend Mr. Browne, who immediately recognized "about a dozen words;" but found that "they did not bear any resemblance to the Shilha language," which he had before suspected. The melancholy fate which has since befallen this traveller, who was barbarously murdered by a band of robbers in an attempt to penetrate to the north-east of Persia, renders his remarks on this subject particularly valuable; I have therefore inserted the whole of his note at the bottom of the page; and to those who, like myself, admired his unassuming worth and extraordinary acquirements, this slight tribute of respect to his memory may not prove unacceptable.
Several observations were taken by Mr. Stuart and myself, at Dixan, to ascertain its position, which gave the following result.
|On the 17th May, first * (Alioth) in the tail of Ursa Major gave||14° 59′ 56″|
|Second||* (ξ) in ditto.||1459 10|
|Last||* (Benetnach) in ditto.||150 41|
|Mean latitude of Dixan||1459 55|
The longitude of Dixan, deduced from a set of lunar observations, is 39° 38′ 30″. This brings the latitude to within two miles of that given by Mr. Bruce, (14° 57′ 55″.) The longitude differs from his about twenty-nine miles; that gentleman having laid it down in 40° 7′ 30″; but as this appears to have been only computed from a longitude ascertained in the province of Siré, and not from any actual observation on the spot, no great stress can be laid upon it. Dixan was formerly a fief under Axum, and even to the present day its inhabitants retain a high respect for that city; most of them being marked with a cross, burnt in the skin of the right shoulder, as a token of their attachment to its ecclesiastical establishment.
On the 19th, early in the morning, we left Dixan, and after travelling about four miles up a continual ascent, passed over a low ridge of the mountain, which constitutes the north-western range of Taranta. The descent from this point was extremely steep, and much incommoded with loose stones, but bore no proportion to that of Taranta. On arriving at the bottom of the pass, we came to a plain, thickly interspersed with caper bushes, and in part covered with fine turf, presenting a singular contrast to the parched appearance of the country on the opposite side of the mountain; and throughout the whole extent of the plain we occasionally met with loose piles of stones, resembling "cromleks," from which the earth had been washed away by the force of the periodical rains. This small tract of land forms a goolta, or fief, belonging to the Nayib of Massowa, who holds it by consent of the Abyssinian chiefs in the neighbourhood; and it is said to yield him a considerable quantity of corn. A few miles beyond, we came to two villages, called Séah and Kudoona, in the neighbourhood of which we pitched our encampment for the night. The ruler of the district, Shum Sadoo, was at this time absent on a visit to Gondar, whither he had gone for the purpose of soliciting from the Emperor the rank of Kantiba; the whole of the inhabitants of this part of the country, from Hamazen to Adowa, being much attached to royalty, and entertaining a strong objection against holding their lands under any other authority. In his way to Gondar he had passed through Antálo, where I had seen him in the presence of the Ras, and the latter, when Shum Sadoo mentioned his purpose, smilingly remarked, "you may go if you please, and get what title you like: but you shall pay your tribute to me."
Towards evening the brother of Shum Sadoo paid us a visit, and brought the usual supply of provisions: and in return I made him a present of twenty dollars, for which he promised us protection down to Arkeeko. In the course of the evening we took several observations of stars, and a set of lunars, the result of which was as follows:
|Second||* (ξ) in the tail of Ursa Major, gave||15°6′ 47″|
|Last||* Benetnach,||157 22|
|Mean latitude of Séah||157 4½|
|Longitude per lunars,||3919 40|
On the following day we passed over a second ridge of the mountains, and had to descend another very steep and rugged path, but of no great length, like that of the preceding day. A few miles beyond this we came to a stream of water, running towards the coast, through a bed of grey-coloured granite, where we staid for about an hour under the shade of some trees, to refresh our party. In the neighbourhood of this spot a great number of Shiho were observed tending their cattle among the trees. These people appeared to possess a milder character than their neighbours the Hazorta, though greatly resembling them in person and in habits.
The general name applied to the Shiho is Torua: the particular names of the tribes being Edo, Gumeddo, Begiddo and Assala-iddo. The Hazorta speak the same language, and their chief tribes are called Assa-karré and Assa-lessan; both of which are evidently derived from some connection with the salt-plain; "assa," in the Geez language, signifying "salt."
To the north of the Shiho, are found people called Mara, Boja and Manda: beyond these are the Juma-jum, the Taguié, and Beja-rubroo; and these last border on the tribes in the neighbourhood of Suakin. The inhabitants of Massowa are accustomed to make trading excursions among these different nations, and the Nayib keeps up a pretty regular intercourse with their chiefs. The people in the neighbourhood of Suakin bear the general appellation of Adareb, and are said to be ruled by a chief, styled Sultaun Mahomed, who resides at Uddukud: the particular tribes are distinguished by the names of the Artéda, Bétmala, Karub, Bartoom, Adámur, Subderat, Ibarekab, Arandoah, Bishareen, and Umma-ra. The Bartoom reside near Shendé, have many towns, and towards the south border on a tribe of Shangalla called Barea, who are accustomed to make incursions into Walkayt. The Adareb are connected with the Hallinga Taka; are governed by a Dekhilek; and reside near the junction of the Tacazze and the Nile, being remotely connected with the Funge who inhabit the country of Sennaar. Most of these nations change their habitations according to the seasons, and are nominally attached to the Mahomedan religion. Specimens of their languages, as far as they could be obtained, are given in the Appendix. This short account comprehends all the information, which I was able to collect, at different times, respecting these northern tribes.
At one o'clock, we resumed our journey, and in a short time came to a turn in the road where a mountain appeared in sight, bearing about due north, distant ten miles, on which formerly stood the monastery of Bisan, celebrated throughout Abyssinia for its wealth and the number and sanctity of the monks who resided there. It is at present, as I was informed, deserted and in ruins. To the left of this mountain, a road was pointed out to us, which led westward to Gella Guro, and Hamazen, through a wild and picturesque country, much frequented by elephants, while to the northward of it lie the districts of Kōt and Sahart, stretching out in a direct line towards Dobarwa.
From this time we continued to descend, keeping the line of the stream for about ten miles, during which we met with great numbers of entate, (adansonians,) asclepias, euphorbias, and tamarind trees, all of which are invariable signs of approaching the low and arid plains. A large herd of elephants appeared to have been recently traversing along this gully; as scarcely a tree could be found which did not bear evident marks of their ravages. At three o'clock we reached an opening in the gully; when Baharnegash Yasous dismounted from his mule, and requested us to go out of our way a short distance to the left for the purpose of seeing a pass "through which the Tabôt was brought into the country by Menilek." This spot was distinguished by a large clump of wild date trees, a circumstance somewhat remarkable, as that plant does not appear to be indigenous in the country: the monastery of Bisan at the time bore from us about due west. Hence our course formed a complete traverse among loose blocks and ridges of granite, which brought us at last to a beautiful grove of trees situated by the side of a stream, where we pitched our tent for the night.
On the 22d, we set off at day-light, and passed down a road or gully, nearly impracticable for mules, owing to the immense blocks of granite impeding the way; an obstruction which, at times, occasioned the stream to disappear. In the course of the day we met with several parties of Shiho carrying up merchandize towards Hamazen, and among them we observed some young girls with fine proportioned limbs and beautiful features, who were much lighter-coloured than any we had before seen. At half past seven, after an irregular course, we reached a spot where the road divided in two, and here we left the stream, (which, as I was informed, runs off in an eastern direction to Wéah) and turned northward up the ascent of the high mountain of Assauli. Near the entrance of the pass we visited a Shiho encampment, consisting of a circular range of conical huts, put together in a manner somewhat resembling the kraal of the Kaffers, from which the natives were beginning to drive their goats up into the mountains to graze: the whole of this encampment had the appearance of great neatness and comfort, and the number of milch goats and kids amounted to several thousands.
The ascent of the mountain Assauli was very steep, which was rendered less unpleasant from the improving beauty of the scenery as we advanced; the whole of our track being skirted by groves of the most beautifully flowering shrubs and plants, broken here and there by jutting masses of rock and green plats of turf, that gave to the whole prospect a most delightful appearance. About half way up we found a spring of pellucid water trickling from the rocks, under which a small bason was excavated for the convenience of travellers, and near this spot we halted to refresh ourselves during the heat of the day.
In the afternoon we again proceeded, and in about two hours reached the highest summit of the mountain. The contrast which the scene before us now presented was very extraordinary; immediately in front lay a verdant plain, on which the natives were busily engaged, some in tending their cattle, and others in gathering in a field of wheat; while beyond an extensive prospect opened to the view over the burning regions of the Tehama, in which might be distinguished, at a distance, the mountain of Ras Gidam, the Island of Massowa, and the expanded line of the surrounding sea. Near this spot stood the tomb of a Sheik, equally reverenced by Christians and Mahomedans. On our arriving opposite to it, Baharnegash Yasous and his son broke some bread, which was presented by one of the Shiho, and with a superstitious anxiety solicited us to partake of it; but the reason for this custom I could not ascertain.
On the top of Assauli I took, with a theodolite, the following bearings: Massowa NE.; Ras Gidam N. 75 E. and Dixan (on a computed distance) nearly south. Hence we began to descend for about half a mile, until we arrived at a small circular spot, covered with green turf, and surrounded by trees, where we encamped for the night. At a short distance from this place a stream of fresh water issued from a crevice in the rocks, and an old man, who had travelled up from the coast, sat musing near its source. On our going up to him he turned round and accosted us, and to my great surprise, "enquired after the Emperor's health at Gondar!" This seems to confirm a remark I have before made, that the royal family is looked up to with more respect here than in most other parts of the country. In the evening Baharnegash Yasous, who had attended me during my whole stay in the country, took his leave. Among all the men with whom I have ever been intimately acquainted, I consider this old man as one of the most perfect and blameless characters. His mind seemed to be formed upon the purest principles of the Christian religion; his every thought and action appearing to be the result of its dictates. He would often, to ease his mule, walk more than half the day; and as he journeyed by my side, continually recited prayers for our welfare and future prosperity. On all occasions he sought to repress in those around him every improper feeling of anger; coaciliated them by the kindest words, and excited them by his own example to an active performance of their several duties. If a man were weary, he would assist him in carrying his burden; if he perceived any of the mules backs to be hurt, he would beg me to have them relieved; and constantly, when he saw me engaged in shooting partridges or other birds, he would call out to them to fly out of the way; shaking his head, and begging me in a mournful accent not to kill them. I have remarked in my former journal, that with all this refined feeling of humanity, he was far from being devoid of courage, and I had an opportunity subsequently of witnessing several instances of his bravery, though he appeared on all occasions peculiarly anxious to avoid a quarrel. At the present time he was at variance with the Nayib of Massowa, and therefore did not think it right to venture farther towards the coast. On his going away I presented him with an hundred dollars, and a small piece of broad cloth to make a kaftan: and we parted, I believe, with mutual regret; at least for my own part I can truly say, that I have seldom felt more respect for an individual than I did for this worthy man. The thermometer in the evening was at 62.°
On the 23d we descended to the bottom of the mountain, where we gradually lost sight of the beautiful scenery with which we had been so much delighted, and soon got into a wild jungle of thorny acacias, growing on a sandy and barren soil; all traces of the stream in a short time totally disappearing.
The country after this became so extremely wild and thickly set with trees, that, for a short time, we completely lost our way, and wandered several miles towards the south, until an old shepherd, watching an isolated field of mishella, belonging to Shum Sadoo, at length set us right. Hence we proceeded in an easterly direction, having to descend several rugged passes, until we came to a range of wells in the bed of a torrent, situated at about eleven miles distance from Arkeeko, where we found a number of the natives watering large droves of cattle, brought up from the vicinity of the coast; and in the neighbourhood of this spot we took up our encampment for the night. We had not long remained here, before we received a visit from the chief of the adjoining district, named Baharnegash Oual, who came down to pay his compliments, preceded by two men blowing a long kind of trumpet, the shrill sound of which re-echoed through the valley. On enquiry, I discovered that this chief was an Abyssinian; a circumstance which gave me great pleasure, as I had not been before aware, that the Christian influence had extended so near the coast. He appeared to be a very respectable man, and expressed himself happy that we had adopted this route; in consequence of which, on his taking leave, I made him a small present, and he promised, in return, to befriend any Englishman who might afterwards pass through the country. In the evening we were greatly amused by some wandering musicians, whom the Baharnegash sent to entertain us. The instrument on which they played was a species of lyre, producing very agreeable notes, which they accompanied with singing some wild airs peculiar to their country. During the night I was awakened by an outcry in the camp, which occasioned so much alarm, that it induced me to rush out of the tent, when it appeared that some furious wild beast had been endeavouring to carry off one of our mules; and, in consequence, the whole of our animals, which had been picketted in a line, had started from their fastenings; and they now stood trembling in a cluster together, covered with profuse perspiration. The extraordinary alarm which they manifested on this occasion, made me suppose that the animal, of which I myself caught only a glimpse, must have been a lion.
On the following day, the heat being intense, (the thermometer throughout the night having been upwards of 80°) we made an early march towards the coast, and about noon reached Arkeeko. In the course of our journey we had seen immense droves of camels, belonging to the Tigré, or Nayib's tribe, of Shiho, wandering among the Gira trees, and had found that the opening from the mountain was not more than a mile and a half south from Arkeeko. Soon afterwards we proceeded round to Massowa, where, to our great regret, we discovered that the Marian had not yet arrived, and were not able to learn of any other means of conveyance to Mocha. The Kaimakam, however, received us with much attention, and had prepared for our reception the house of Aboo Yusuph, where we consequently took up our abode; another habitation having been set apart for Ayto Debib and the Ras's people.
The weather at this time became extremely oppressive, and the air very unwholesome, owing to the putrid stench which arose, at low water, from the beach, where all the filth of the town is accumulated. These circumstances, together with the sudden changes of climate we had undergone, added to the anxiety that I felt at the situation in which we were placed by the absence of the ship, brought on a violent fever, which rendered me incapable of any exertion. The most powerful remedies were immediately applied, which fortunately succeeded in removing the disease; but it left me so weak and reduced, that I felt assured I should have fallen a sacrifice to it, had I continued longer on that dreadful spot. Fortunately, a dow belonging to Currum-Chund soon afterwards came into the harbour, which was immediately hired for our conveyance: and to this occurrence, together with the kind and uniform attention of Mr. Smith, who had gone up with me into the country, I consider myself indebted for my life. On the 4th of June I was carried on board: and on the 5th, after having remunerated all my Abyssinian attendants, and taken leave of Ayto Debib, we set sail. As I had a particular opportunity of observing the good qualities which this young man possessed, I shall here give a short sketch of his llfe, as I consider that it affords a favourable specimen of the Abyssinian character.
Debib was the son of a chief on the coast, commanding a small district called Bùr, and early in life, in one of the Ras's excursions, he was taken prisoner. His manners, even when a boy, were so engaging, that he was taken much notice of by the Ras, and put with several other young prisoners (a general policy, for which the Ras deserves much credit) under the care of a learned priest to be educated. At the period of my first arrival in Abyssinia, he had reached the sixteenth year of his age; had made considerable progress in his education; and was remarked for the propriety and steadiness of his conduct. About two years after I left the country, he became so distinguished among his companions for the prudence of his conduct, and the superiority of his manners, that he rose into favour with the Ras, and was employed on several missions to the Governor of Samen, and other chiefs. This kind of trust is attended with great advantage; as on the departure of a messenger, the Ras generally presents him with a dress and a mule; and the chief to whom the message is sent, takes an opportunity always of expressing his attachment to the Ras, by the present which he makes his messenger in return. Debib's success in these missions brought him into more distinguished notice, and, as a reward, the Ras made over to him his paternal district, which the young man wisely placed under the care of his father, who had turned priest, he himself remaining attached to the Ras's household, with the titles of Selafé, Chelika, and, by courtesy, Balamaal.
On many occasions he has been known to argue on affairs of great consequence with the Ras, when no one else had dared to interpose: his manner being peculiarly prepossessing, and having gained the especial favour of the old man, by his possessing a noble spirit of independence, which would not let him stoop to any thing below, what he himself conceived, the dignity of a chief. In his character, he was extremely proud; but his pride was of a nature to be admired, since it excluded even the thought of asking for presents.—"No!" I have often heard him say, in the mixed dialect, which Mr. Pearce and a few of his friends exclusively understood, "ana meschine, subook, lakin ana maufish, beg." "I may be poor; it is well; but I will never beg." During my stay in the country, I often observed his anxious wish to possess an English gun; yet, until towards the departure of Mr. Pearce, he never made his desire known; and then he expressed it through him in the most delicate way, intreating that it might appear to be a suggestion of his own. I have seldom felt myself more gratified, than in being able to present him, a few days before I departed, with the one which I had always used in the country; and his joy on the occasion was expressed with an enthusiasm which no words can describe. The interest I felt for this young man, on account of his amiable character, will make me always remember him with pleasure: and it is satisfactory to me to reflect that I had an opportunity of strengthening the principles of virtue in his mind, and of promoting his future prospects with the Ras.
On the 6th we touched at Dahalac el Kibeer, where I renewed my acquaintance with the Sheik commanding that place; on the 8th we passed Sarbo, Morah, and Amphila: and, on the 10th, after experiencing regular land and sea breezes along the coast, stretched over to Mocha; where we safely arrived, and shortly afterwards took up our residence at the British factory.
During my stay at Massowa, in March, I had been induced to entertain the idea, that some remains of the ancient city of Adule, mentioned by Pliny, Cosmas, and other writers, might be found at the bottom of Annesley Bay, in the neighbourhood of the modern town of Zulla. I had been led to this conjecture from the relative situation of the bay with the Island of Valentia, (which is undoubtedly the ancient Orine, noticed in the Periplus;) from the resemblance of "Zulla" (or as it is sometimes pronounced "Thulla") to the ancient name; and from the fact of a column, evidently of Egyptian workmanship, and lying at the landing place opposite Massowa, having been brought, according to the accounts of the natives, "from somewhere near the bottom of Annesley Bay." Hadjee Hamed, who had attended me down from Dixan, had also mentioned, in answer to my enquiries, that "he had heard of an ancient town near Zulla, where considerable ruins still remained of houses, tanks, and columns;" but his accounts were mingled with so marry fables of gold and treasures having been concealed there, that they could not be much relied upon for their accuracy. On my return to Massowa, in May, I met again with Shum Hummar, from whom I unexpectedly gained a more satisfactory account. He told me, "that great remains of an old town could still be traced near Zulla, which had been called 'Azoole;' that the houses appeared to have been larger and more numerous than those at Massowa; immense masses of square stones, four or five feet in breadth, lying heaped confusedly together in the bed of a 'gorf' or 'torrent;' by the sudden overflowing of which, it was traditionally reported, the town had been destroyed." He represented these ruins as being at no great distance from Zulla; and he added, that the inhabitants of this town were by no means so bad as the natives of Arkeeko; on which account he thought, that any person sent over by me, would not experience much difficulty in getting a sight of the place he had described. This description was, two days afterwards, strongly confirmed to me by Shum Aile, another old man of the Hazorta tribe, who, on being asked the name of the ancient town, distinctly called it Azoole; and repeatedly afterwards mentioned that name in describing what he had seen; adding the same traditional story of its having been destroyed by a torrent.
In consequence of these reports, I felt very anxious to have gone down to Zulla myself; but was unfortunately prevented by illness. I was therefore induced to send Mr. Stuart, who accordingly proceeded under my directions in Wursum's dow, which had joined us the day before we left Massowa. His researches, however, did not prove very successful, for though he contrived to reach the town of Zulla, which he described as two miles from the beach and larger than Arkeeko, yet, owing to the jealousy which the natives entertained of his visiting the ruins, he was obliged to return without accomplishing this most material part of his object. The people acknowledged, however, the existence of such remains, and he was fortunate enough to procure from one of the natives a small and very ancient stone vase, said to be found among the large stones of which the ruins are composed.
As the inscriptions found at Adule by Cosmas have been alluded to particularly, both in this work and in my former observations, I have here inserted, in a note, a copy of them from the Bibliotheca of Fabricius.
- Father Bernat, in a letter from Cairo, dated 1711, gives the following account of consecration of the meiron (or holy chrism used throughout the Alexandrian church in baptism;) "The consecration of the meiron is performed with great expense and many ceremonies by the patriarch himself, assisted by the bishop. It is composed, not only of oil of olives and balm, but of many other precious and odoriferous drugs. When the patriarch consecrates an archbishop (or abuna) of Abyssinia, he gives him some of this meiron, which is not sent into the country on any other occasion." Vide Le Grand, p. 340, English edition.
- This is a very ancient part of the ceremony, as appears from the testimony of many of the Fathers collected by Casalius—Puellus infans mutatione vestis sensu externo festum colit, quandoquidem interiori animi sensu nondum potest, &c. Vide De veteribus sacris Christianorum ritibus, auctore Johannis Bapt. Casalius Romanus. Francofurti, 1681.
- Ritum Eucharistiæ suscipiendæ post Baptismum non solum adultis, verum etiam infantibus fuisse communem. Vide the same author, p. 60.
- Mr. Bruce has given a very just account of this ceremony, which he witnessed at Adowa.
- An error in two dates has occurred, a few pages back, which I here wish to correct. In page 283. 25th should be 28th, and in page 285, 26th should be 29th. These errors arose form mistakes made in copying my original journal.
- Ozoro was formerly a title peculiar to women of high rank; but it is now become very common throughout the country, every woman of the slightest pretensions being distinguished by that appellation.
- Vide Vol. IV. p. 323.
- The initial and final characters are merely crosses without any particular meaning.
- From the civility I had before met with at Axum, I had reason to be surprised at this change in their behaviour; but I imagine that it proceeded from their extreme jealousy of the priests at Chelicut, whom they consider as their rivals in the favour of the Ras.
- It has been observed to me, that the testimony of the wife alone might have been sufficient to justify Potiphar's conduct; but if the reader will look over the story carefully, as it is delivered in the 39th chapter of Genesis, he will find, (if I am not mistaken,) that a very particular stress is laid upon "leaving the garment in her hands," especially in verse 13. At all events I hope to be excused for offering the conjecture.
- This place is mentioned by Louis Barthema, who calls it Rhada, and describes it to be three days journey from Sana. (Itinerario, p. 21.)
- The Boja and the Taguie, are tribes still found to the northward of Abyssinia; so that it appears to have been only a partial conquest.
- This precisely answers to the Negush-Negashi, which still continues to be the title of the Abyssinian Emperors.
- The common drink of the lower classes in Abyssinia; it is made of the remains of bread which are preserved from their tables, and a portion of parched barley.
- Maiz is prepared with honey, fermented with barley, and strengthened with a bitter root called Sadoo.
- In the Greek it is "υπιρ δε ωχκιστιας τὅιμε γπινσαντος αναπτὅ Αριοις;" so in the Adulic inscription—Δι' ὔν ἔχω τον μέγιζον θείν μὂΑρυνὶυχαρις ὄς με καὶ ιγπυπσι, a conformity that is very remarkable.
- The bars are inserted to mark where a want of connection occurs.
- M. Ludolf seems to entertain a more just opinion, that the character is very ancient, and gives as a reason, the sound of some of them being lost, or confounded with others. Vide Hist. Ethiop. Vol. IV. c. 1.
- Τουτο τὸ ζῶον καλειται Ῥινόκερος, διὰ τον ἐν τοῖς μυκτηρσι τὰ κέρατα ἔχειν, ὅτε δὲ περιπατεῖ σαλέυονται τὰ κέρατα ὅτε δὲ ὁρᾶ μετὰ θυμοῦ αποτεινει ἀυτὰ, καὶ ἀσάλευτα εὑρισκονται, ὥϛε και δένδρα δυνάσθαι ἐκριζοην, τὰ εν ἀυτοῖς μάλιϛτα τὸ ἔμπροσθεν. τοις δε οφθαλμοὶς κάτω περὶ τὰς γνάθοις ἔχει—οἱ πόδες δε καὶ τό δερμα παραπλησιά ἐϛι τῶ ἐλέφαντι. ἔχει δε καὶ το πάχος τοῦ δέρματος ἀυτου ξηραινόμενον δακτύλοις τέσσαρας—καλουσι δὲ ἀυτοι οἱ Αἰθίοπες τη ἰδίᾳ διαλέκτῳ, ἄρου η ἅρισι, δασυνόντες τὸν δεύτερον ἀλφα, καὶ οὕτω προϛιθέντες τον ῥισί ἵνα διὰ τοῦ μὲν ἄρου, η τον θηρίον, δια δὲ τοῦ ἅρισι, ἀροτρῖαν εκ τοῦ σχηματος τοῦ περὶ τοὶς ῥώθωνας, ἅμα δὲ καὶ τοῦ δέρματος την ἐπωνομίαν ἀυτῳ τεθεικότες. τεθέαμαι δὲ καὶ ζῶντα ἐν τη Αἰθιοπίᾳ ἀπὸ πακρὰν ἱϛαμενος, καὶ νεκρὸν εκδαρέν καὶ καταγγισθὲν ἄχυρα καὶ ἱϛἄμενον ἐν ὄικῳ βασιλικῶ, ὅθεν ἀκριβως κατέγραψα.
- This power of relaxing the position of the horns is mentioned by Sparman, who says, that the Hottentots told him, "que quand il marche tranquillement on les voit balotter, et on les entend de heurter et claquer l'une contre l'autre," (see Voyage au Cap de Bonne Esperance, Vol. II. p. 307:) and this was certainly confirmed to me by several natives of Africa who had seen the animal alive, one of whom in particular (a Somauli) gave me the following description of it, "that when feeding in the fields undisturbed, the horns are often depressed (which he shewed with his hand on his head, inclined in an angle of about forty-five;) but when alarmed, (raising his hand to a perpendicular over his head) the animal erects them thus."
- Vide p. 334. Cosmæ Indicopleustæ Christian. Opinio de Mundo, L. i. in Montfaucon.
- In Amharic it is —aweer haris. Vide Ludolf, l. 1. c. 10, 78.
- The "hyænas," at the Cape of Good Hope, are always called by the inhabitants "wolves."
- The following passages extracted from Petronius, give a very complete view of this singular superstition. "Deinde ut respexi comitem ille exsuit se; omnia vestimenta secundum viam posuit. Stabam tamquam mortuus—at ille circumminxit vestimenta sua, et subito lupus factus est. Postquam lupus factus est, ululare cœpit, et in sylvas fugit. Ego primitus nesciebam ubi essem. Deinde accessi ut vestimenta ejus tollerem: illa autem lapidea facta sunt. Lupus villam intravit, et omnia pecora tamquam lanius sanguinem illis misit, nec tamen derisit. Etiamsi fugit, servus enim noster lancea collum ejus trajecit. Postquam veni in illum locum, in quo lapidea vestimenta erant facta, nihil inveni nisi sanguinem. Ut verum domum veni jacebat miles (comes) meus in lecto, et collum illius medicus curabat. Intellexi illum versipellem; nec postea cum illo panem gustare potui, non si me occidisses."
- Tout auprès de cette église est une tré grande et belle tour: tant par sa demesurée hauteur que aussi par sa grosseur et maçonnerie exquise: mais elle commençoit déja à tomber en ruine, combien qu'elle soit forte et de pierre vive couverte et enrichie de si excellens ouvrages qu'elle ne demontre rien moins, que une grandeur Royale, telement que je n'ay encore veu sa seconde.
- Et de fait, on dit, que la Royne de Candace avoit éleu ce lieu là pour sa demeurance à cause que sa maison n'en est pas fort eloignée (by this he meant Axum) ce que ne semble point repugner à la verité.
- Dear Sir,
I recognise without difficulty about a dozen words of the Fûrian vocabulary. I do not trace any resemblance to the Shilha however, as I suspected. Two or three words resemble those of the same meaning in my vocabulary of Dar Kunga, in which Har signifies foot, and Gnung, meat, the latter very like your Neno, bread. Dùl and Doual, for sun and moon, were given to Mr. Hamilton (vide p. 24 of his Travels) for Fûrian words by a Tocruri, or faquir, whom he met at the Cataract going to Mecca in 1802; by whom also a number of names are mentioned, which shew he came from Dar Fûr. your's faithfully,
W. G. BROWNE.
- It is not unlikely that this circumstance may have given rise to the fable mentioned in some old authors, "of the Abyssinians being baptised with fire."
- The Bishareen are wandering tribes, who act as guides across the desert from Shendi to Syene. They are said to be always at emnity with their neighbours the Ababdi Arabs, and they form the last link of the Ethiopian tribes, extending from the Cape of Good Hope to Egypt.
- There is evidently a connection between these two names.
- Vide Alvarez, p. 65, "lequel est situé sur la pointe d'un roc, fort haut; et de tous cotez, qu' on peut jeter la veúe en bas, on aperçoit une profundité tenebreuse et epouvantable. L'église du monastere contient un grand circuit, et est d'une grande structure, bien dressée, et les batimens magnifiquement ordonnez: et est le comble d'icelle enrichy de trois nefs grandes et fort industrieusement compassées:" and Poncet's Voyage to Ethiopia, page 113, who has told a ridiculous fable of his having seen in the church a round staff of gold hanging unsuspended in the air, and, "for better assurance," he adds, "and, to take away all doubt, I passed my cane over it and urder it and on all sides, and found that this staff of gold did truly hang itself in the air"!!.
- The discipline under which these young men were kept was strict, not to say severe, the whip on many occasions not being spared.
Monumentum Adulitanum Ptolemæi Euergetæ.Βασιλεὺς μέγας Πτολεμαῖος; υἱὸς Βασιλέως Πτολεμαίȣ, καὶ Βασιλίσσης Ἀρσινόης, Θεῶν ἀδελφῶν τῶν Βασιλέων Πτολεμαιȣ, καὶ Βασιλίσσης Βερενίκης, Θεῶν Σωτήρων ἀπόγονος. Τὰ μὲν ἀπὸ πατρὸς, Ἡρακλέος, τοῦ Διός. τὰ δὲ ἀπὸ μητρὸς, Διονύσȣ τοῦ Διὸς. Παραλαβὼν παρὰ τοῦ Πατρὸς τὴν Βασιλείαν Ἀιγύπτȣ· καὶ Λιβȣης· καὶ Συρίας· καὶ Φοίνικης· καὶ Κύπρȣ· καὶ Λυκίας, καὶ Καρίας καὶ τῶν Κυκλάδων νήσων· ἐξεϛράτευσεν εἰς τήν Ἀσίαν, μετὰ δυνάμεων πεζικῶν, καὶ ἱππικῶν καὶ ναυτικοῦ ϛόλȣ· καὶ ἐλεφάντων Τρωγλοδυτικῶν, καὶ Ἀιθιωπικῶν, οὓς ὅ, τε πατὴρ καὶ αὐτὸς πρῶτος ἐκ τῶν χωρῶν τούτων ἐθήρευσαν, καὶ καταγαγόντες εἰς Ἄιγυπτον κατεσκέυασαν πρὸς τὴν πολεμικὴν χρείαν. Κυριεύσας δὲ τῆς τε ἐντὸς Εὐφράτου χώρας πάσης, καὶ Κιλικίας καὶ Παμφυλίας καὶ Ἰωνίας καὶ τοῦ Ἑλλησπόντου καὶ Θρᾴκης καὶ τῶν δυνάμεων τῶν ἐν ταῖς χώραις ταύταις πασῶν καὶ ἐλεφάντων ἰνδικῶν, καὶ τοὺς μονάρχους τοὺς ἐν τοῖς τόποις πάντας ὑπηκόους καταστήσας, διέβη τὸν Εὐφράτην ποταμὸν καί, τὴν Μεσοποταμίαν καὶ Βαβυλωνίαν καὶ Σουσιάνην καὶ Περσίδα καὶ Μηδείαν καὶ τὴν λοιπὴν πᾶσαν ἕως Βακτριανῆς ὑφ' ἑαυτῷ ποιησάμενος καὶ ἀναζητήσας ὅσα ὑπὸ τῶν Περσῶν ἱερὰ ἐξ Αἰγύπτου ἐξήχθη καὶ ἀνακομίσας μετὰ τῆς ἄλλης γάζης τῆς ἀπὸ τῶν τόπων εἰς Αἴγυπτον, δυνάμεις ἀπέστειλε διὰ τῶν ὀρυχθέντων ποταμῶν
Monumenturn Adulitanum Regis Æthiopum.Μεθ’ ἃ ἀνδρειώσας τὰ μὲν ἔγγιστα τοῦ βασιλείου ἔθνη εἰρηνεύεσθαι κελεύσας, ἐπολέμησα καὶ ὑπέταξα μάχαις τὰ ὑπογεγραμμένα ἔθνη· Γάζη ἔθνος ἐπολέμησα, ἔπειτα Ἄγαμε καὶ Σιγύηνε νικήσας τὴν ἡμίσειαν πάντων τῶν παρ' αὐτοῖς καὶ αὐτῶν ἐμερισάμην. Αὔα καὶ Ζινγαβηνὲ καὶ Ἀγγαβὲ καὶ Τιάμαα καὶ Ἀθαγαοὺς καὶ Καλαὰ καὶ Σαμῆνε ἔθνος πέραν τοῦ Νείλου ἐν δυσβάτοις καὶ χιονώδεσι ὄρεσιν οἰκοῦντας, ἐν οἷς διὰ παντὸς νιφετοὶ καὶ κρύη καὶ χιόνες βαθεῖαι, ὡς μέχρι γονάτων καταδύειν τὸν ἄνδρα, τὸν ποταμὸν διαβὰς ὑπέταξα, ἔπειτα Λασινὲ καὶ Ζαὰ καὶ Γαβαλὰ οἰκοῦντας παρ' ὄρεει θερμῶν ὑδάτων βλύοντι καὶ καταρρύτῳ. Ἀταλμῶ καὶ Βεγὰ καὶ τὰ σὺν αὐτοῖς ἔθνη πάντα Ταγγαϊτῶν, τὰ μέχρι τῶν τῆς Αἰγύπτου ὁρίων οἰκοῦντα, ὑποτάξας πεζεύεσθαι ἐποίησα τὴν ὁδὸν ἀπὸ τῶν τῆς ἐμῆς βασιλείας τόπων μέχρι Αἰγύπτου, ἔπειτα Ἀννήνε καὶ Μετίνε ἐν ἀποκρήμνοις οἰκοῦντας ὄρεσι. Σεσέα ἔθνος ἐπολέμησα, οὓς καὶ μέγιστον καὶ δυσβατώτατον ὄρος ἀνελθόντας περιφρουρήσας κατήγαγον, καὶ ἀπελεξάμην ἐμαυτῷ τούς τε νέους αὐτῶν καὶ γυναῖκας καὶ παῖδας καὶ παρθένους καὶ πᾶσαν τὴν ὑπάρχουσαν αὐτοῖς κτῆσιν. Ῥαυσῶ ἔθνη μεσόγεια λιβανωτοφόρων βαρβάρων οἰκοῦντα ἐντὸς πεδίων μεγάλων ἀνύδρων, καὶ Σολάτε ἔθνος ὑπέταξα, οἷς καὶ τοὺς αἰγιαλοὺς τῆς θαλάσσης φυλάσσειν ἐκέλευσα. Ταῦτα δὲ πάντα τὰ ἔθνη ὄρεσιν ἰσχυροῖς πεφρουρημένα αὐτὸς ἐγὼ ἐν ταῖς μάχαις παρὼν νικήσας καὶ ὑποτάξας, ἐχαρισάμην αὐτοῖς πάσας τὰς χώρας ἐπὶ φόροις. Ἄλλα δὲ πλεῖστα ἔθνη ἑκόντα ὑπετάγη μοι ἐπὶ φόροις. Καὶ πέραν δὲ τῆς Ἐρυθρᾶς θαλάσσης οἰκοῦντας Ἀραβίτας καὶ Κιναιδοκολπίτας, στράτευμα ναυτικὸν καὶ πεζικὸν διαπεμψάμενος, καὶ ὑποτάξας αὐτῶν τοὺς Βασιλέας, φόρȣς τῆς γῆς τελεῖν ἐκέλυσα, καὶ ὁδεύεσθαι μετ’ εἰρήνης καὶ πλέεσθαι. Ἀπότε λευκῆς κόμης ἕως τῆς Σαβέων χώρας ἐπολέμησα. Πάντα δὲ ταῦτα ἔθνη πρῶτος καὶ μόνος Βασιλέων, τῶν πρὸ ἐμοῦ, ὑπέταξα. Δι’ ἥν ἔχω τὸν μέγιϛον Θεόν μȣ Ἄρην ἐυχαριϛίαν ὅς με καὶ ἐγέννησε· Δι’ οὗ πάντα τὰ ὁμοποῦντα τῇ ἐμῇ, ἀπὸ μὲν ἀνατολῆς, μέχρι τῆς Λιβανωτοφόρȣ, ἀπὸ δὲ δῦσεως, μέχρι τῶν τῆς Ἀιθιοπιας καὶ Σάσȣ τόπων, ὑπ’ ἐμαυτὸν ἐποίησα· ἅ μὲν ἀυτὸς ἐγὼ ἐλθω καὶ νικήσας, ἅ δὲ διαπεμπόμενος. Καὶ ἐν εἰρήνῃ καταϛήσας πάντα τὸν ὑπ’ ἐμοὶ κόσμον, κατῆλθον εἰς τὴν Ἀδοὺλην, τῳ Διΐ, καὶ τῷ Ἄρει, καὶ τῳ Ποσειδῶνι Θυσιασαι, ὑπὲρ τῶν πλοϊζομένων. Ἀθροίσας δέ μȣ τὰ ϛρατέυματα, καὶ ὑπ’ ἕν ποιήσας ἐπὶ τολυτῳ τῶ τόπῳκαθίας, τόνδε τὸν δίφρόν παραθήκὴν τῷ Ἄρει ἐποίησα. Ἔτει τῆς ἐμῆς βασιλείας εἰκοϛῷ ἑβδόμῳ.
- For the translation of these inscriptions vide Appendix to Dr. Vincent's Periplus of the Erythrean Sea.