Imatges de pàgina

to be the pillar of heaven,-a creed adopted, or perhaps invented, by the Greeks and Romans. Herodotus here stops, frankly owning that his information did not enable him to go farther. The only other accounts which had reached him respected a nation beyond the Pillars of Hercules, with whom the Carthaginians carried on trade in a very peculiar manner. This wild and timid race would not approach or hold parley with the strangers, who, on drawing near to the shore, kindled a fire, uttered loud cries, and laid on the sand a certain quantity of goods. The natives, hearing them, and seeing the smoke, came down, surveyed the deposite, placed beside it a certain portion of gold, the precious article of their traffic, and withdrew. The Carthaginians approached to examine the tender thus made, and, according to their estimate of its value, either carried away the gold or left the whole untouched; in which last case, the natives understood that more of the precious metal was expected. Thus the parties went backwards and forwards till the exchange was adjusted.

If the accounts given by Herodotus of this western region be tinctured with fable, the narrative of Diodorus shows still more that the ancients had made it one of the grand theatres of their mythology. To it they refer the ancient and early reign of Saturn, under the appellation of Ouranus, or Heaven; the birth of Jupiter, and his nursing by Amalthæa; the impious race of the Titans, and their wars with the sky; Cybele, with her doting love for Atys, and frantic grief for his fate. Diodorus represents the Atlantic people as claiming these objects for themselves; but it seems much more probable that the warm imagination of the Greeks, attracted by the mysterious grandeur of the region, transported thither the creations of their own fancy. Our author, however, makes a positive averment as to the existence of a race of Amazons there, still more warlike and formidable than those on the banks of the Thermodon. They did not, like these last, positively exterminate or expel the male sex from their confines; but, reserving to themselves all the high cares of war and government, employed their lords in keeping the house, tending the children, and performing all the functions which are elsewhere exclusively assigned to females. As soon as the wife had gone through the necessary trouble of bearing a child, she handed

it to the husband to be nursed, and immediately resumed her own high and arduous occupations. These gallant viragoes, it is said, not only ravaged all this part of Africa, but passed the Isthmus of Suez, and carried their victorious arms into Syria and Asia Minor. What foundation there may be in fact for this story of the Western Amazons, it is not easy to conjecture; but the Tuaricks, a numerous native race still found in those regions, treat their females with greater respect and allow them more liberty than is usually granted among their neighbours. These were not the only fierce and warlike females who spread terror through Africa. Diodorus places here the Gorgons, who caused death by the mere hideousness of their aspect, and the serpents hissing in the hair of Medusa. Yet, amid all these terrible fables, he gives a just description of the back settlements of Northern Africa; representing them as thinly inhabited by wandering tribes, as bounded by an extensive uniform plain resembling the ocean, covered with piles of sand of which the termination was unknown, and which, instead of any object that could cheer the eye or refresh the senses, swarmed with serpents of huge form and magnitude, that inflicted instant death on the unwary traveller. These reptiles were even reported to have once invaded Egypt, and driven before them a crowd of its terrified inha


Strabo, who wrote after the Roman sway was fully established over Africa, gives a much more sober report of its western regions. Extending his view beyond the Atlas, he describes the Mauri, peopling a rich territory on the Atlantic coast capable of yielding the most copious harvests; but nothing could wean the nation from the wandering life in which they delighted, moving continually with their tents from place to place, wrapped in the skins of wild beasts, riding without saddle, and often without bridle, on small, swift, active horses. He represents them as fighting with sword and spear, not with the poisoned arrows imputed to them by Horace, which, however, are really used at present in Central Africa. Eastward, around Carthage, he finds the Massasyli, who followed once the same wandering life, and were called Nomades or Numidians; but Masinissa had already inured them to the practice of agriculture, and to some of the refinements of polished life. Carthage at its first sub

Jection was razed to the ground and left long desolate; but the Romans, at length attracted by the view of the fine region which surrounds it, sent thither a colony, who soon elevated it to its former rank as the greatest city of Africa.

Another territory, of which the ancients had considerable knowledge, was that which extended upwards along the Nile, the immediate borders of which have always been not only habitable but fertile. Nothing astonished them more than to see this great river, which, after flowing through a region where there did not fall a drop of rain, and where it was not fed by a single rivulet, began to swell at a certain season, rose always higher and higher, till at length it overflowed its banks, and spread like a sea over Lower Egypt. Some of the hypotheses formed to account for this inundation deserve to be noticed. The most prevalent opinion ascribed it to the Etesian winds blowing from the north periodically, and so violently, that the waters of the Nile, thereby prevented from reaching the sea, necessarily spread over the land; but Diodorus clearly shows, besides the reason being itself insufficient, that there was no correspondence in the periods; observing also, that the Etesian winds blew up many other rivers without producing this effect. The philosophers of Memphis, it seems, followed even by Mela, the great Latin geographer, surmised that the unknown and inaccessible fountains of the Nile lay on the opposite side of the globe, where during our summer it was winter; consequently, the greatest rains then fell, and the swollen waters, flowing across the whole breadth of the torrid zone, acquired that soft and mellow taste which made them so agreeable. But the most singular hypothesis is that of Ephorus, who thought that Egypt is full of gaps or chinks which in winter absorb the water, but sweat it out under the influence of the summer heat. Diodorus takes superfluous pains to show that this theory, so absurd in itself, had no correspondence with the facts of the case. The real cause, arising from the rains which fall on the high mountains in the interior and tropical regions, was mentioned and strongly supported by Agatharchides, who wrote a learned work on the Red Sea; which, however, was far from attaining the favourable reception that it merited.

The name of Ethiopia was very generally applied by the ancients to the south of Africa, and even of Arabia, and

generally to all countries inhabited by black people. The region, however, which extends for several hundred miles along the Nile above Egypt, formed the ancient Ethiopia, a sacred realm, in which the priests placed the most revered objects of their mythology. Here Jove repaired to hold his annual festival; and here was spread the table of the sun, which, when exposed to the rays of that great luminary, was believed of its own accord to take fire and be consumed. Hence, according to some, Egypt derived all the sciences and arts which rendered her illustrious in that early age. Diodorus even asserts that the learned language of Egypt was the same spoken by the vulgar in Ethiopia; but we should much rather believe with Herodotus, that the latter country derived from Egypt all which she possessed of art and civilization. The sovereigns of Ethiopia are said to have received a wild and peculiar homage, in being attended to the tomb by a number of their wives, courtiers, and servants, all eagerly canvassing for this honour,—a practice of savage life still extensively prevalent in pagan Africa. According to Diodorus, this veneration was carried to so singular a pitch, that if the king lost a leg or an arm, each of his courtiers presently severed from himself the same rember. The priests, however, whose influence in this realm of superstition was always paramount, appear at one time to have become quite supreme; reducing the sovereign to a state of entire dependence. Lastly, it may be inferred, both from classic and sacred writers, that Ethiopia, in the first century, was governed by a female monarch, who appears to have borne the hereditary name of Candace.

The Greeks settled in Egypt, especially during the wise and able government of the Ptolemies, carried on a considerable navigation along the eastern coast of the Red Sea, which, as they held the continent to be bounded by the Nile, they accounted scarcely African; but upon this subject we must follow modern ideas. Ptolemy Euergetes seems to have conquered part of Abyssinia, forming it into a kingdom, of which Axum was the capital; and fine remains of Grecian architecture still attest the fact of this city having been a great and civilized metropolis. Every ancient description, however, represents the native inhabitants of these shores as existing in a state of the most extreme barbarity and wretchedness. They are classed by

Diodorus and Strabo, according to the miserable food on which they usually subsisted; some as eaters of fish, of elephants, and of turtles; while others are said to have fed on locusts, on roots, and even on the tender branches of trees. Many sought shelter also in places which had no regular claim to be considered as human habitations. These were either cavities dug out of the rock, with an opening to the north for coolness, or they were formed by twisting together the branches of several large shrubs, and constructing thus a species of shady arbour; while some tribes, still more forlorn, merely climbed the trees to seek safety and shelter among the branches. These representations were once deemed fabulous, and might still have been thought so, had not Bruce and other modern travellers proved the existence of similar rudeness among the Shangalla and other tribes that border on Abyssinia.

The districts now surveyed form the whole of Africa respecting which the Greeks had obtained any precise and determinate knowledge. It comprised a wide extent of shore, but extended a very short distance inland; being bounded on each side by two unknown coasts, which stretched so far that it was not possible to conjecture their termination. Two tempestuous oceans, a desert the most dreary on the face of the earth, and infested by multitudes of huge and ferocious animals, were the barriers that hemmed in so closely the ancient settlers, and could scarcely in any instance be passed with impunity. Yet the principle of curiosity cannot be extinguished in the human breast, and is even rendered more ardent by the greatest obstacles. To lift up a portion of that veil within which the vast mysteries of unknown Libya were shrouded, appeared an achievement rivalling the glories of conquest, and promised to confer immortal renown. The most active and adventurous spirits accordingly, who sought to acquire celebrity by exploring the earth, looked to Africa as affording the grandest theatre of fame and adventure.

Two expeditions of discovery, the earliest known, and perhaps that ever existed, are related by Herodotus. One of the most illustrious of the native kings of Egypt was Necho, whose name ranks second only to that of Sesostris, and who lived about two hundred years before the historian. The habits and prejudices of the ancient Egyptians

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