Page:Madagascar - Phelps - 1883.djvu/33

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center of the empire, the seat of the government, and the scene of the principal efforts hitherto made in the country to introduce education, European improvements, arts and sciences, and to promote civilization. Its climate is the most healthy in the island. In the external characteristics, the greater part of Ankova may be considered hilly, rather than mountainous. Few of its eminences rise above five or six hundred feet above the general level of its surface. The capital itself, Tananarivo, is situated on the summit of a long, irregular hill, about five hundred feet in height. The summits in the neighborhood are distinguished as the scenes of legendary tales, recounting the mighty achievements of giants, and other monstrous beings, supposed to belong to a fabulous age. The altars built by former generations on the summits of these heights, to the memory of such extraordinary personages still exist, and are visited by the people as appropriate places for prayer and sacrifice to the manes of the mighty dead. On the tops of some of these hills are still existing the vestiges of ancient villages. Altars are also met with throughout the whole of Ankova, and frequently the sites chosen for them are high places and groves, such as we may suppose existed in Judea in the days of Solomon. The usual name for these altars is Vazimba, i. e., altars raised to the Vazimba (Phoenicians)? the supposed aborigines of the central parts of the island. One of the most celebrated vestiges of antiquity is situated on the summit of the mountain Ambohimiangara. It is the ancient tomb of the renowned giant Rapeto. An altar is connected with the tomb, on which sacrifices are still offered.

The population of Ankova is widely scattered in numerous villages over the surface of the country, which usually contain from fifty to one hundred houses each. The capital, Tananarivo, was supposed to contain in 1836 about 20,000 inhabitants, but at the present time the population is probably somewhat larger. It is at the distance of some two hundred miles from Tamatave, the principal sea-port on the eastern coast of the island, between which two points the roads are kept designedly bad for the purpose of rendering the interior of the country difficult of access to Europeans. Most of the villages are situated on eminences, and are generally encircled, for security, by a deep fosse; the earth from which being thrown up on the inner side, forms a bank round the village, which renders it difficult to scale the sides of the ditch, and adds to the safety of the people. The Hovas belong to one of the tribes of