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SEMBRI´TAE (Σεμβρῖται, Strab. xvi. pp. 770--786; SEMBERRITAE, Plin. Nat. 6.30. s. 35), a people inhabiting the district of Tenesis in Aethiopia although they seem to have been of Aegyptian origin. The first mention of the Sembritae occurs in Eratosthenes (ap. Strab. xvii. p.786), who says that they occupied an island above Meroë; that their name implies “immigrants;” that they descended from the Aegyptian war-caste, who, in the reign of Psammitichus (B.C. 658), abandoned their native land; and that they were governed by a queen, although they were also dependent on the sovereigns of Meroë. Artemidorus, also quoted by Strabo (xvi. p.770), says on the contrary, that they were the ruling order in Meroë: these accounts, however, may be reconciled by the supposition that Eratosthenes and Artemidorus described them at different periods. If the Sembritae were the Aegyptian refugees, they were also the Automoloi (Ἀσμάχ) noticed by Herodotus (2.30). Pliny (l.c.) speaks of four islands of the Sembritae, each containing one or more towns. These were therefore not islands in the Nile, or in any of its principal tributaries, the Astapus, or Astaboras, but tracts between rivers, mesopotamian districts like Meroë itself, which in the language of Nubia are still denominated “islands.” The capital of the Sembritae was, according to Pliny, Sembobis. It stood on the left bank of the river, 20 days' journey above Meroë. Pliny names also, among other of their principal towns, Sai in Arabia,--i. e. on the right bank of the Nile, for he assumes that river as the boundary between Lybia and Arabia,--Esar or [p. 2.962]Sape (Sobah), on the left bank, 17 days' journey above Meroë, and Daron again on the Arabian side.

Without being able to define the position of this tribe, or to state their relations to the Aethiopians of Meroë, we shall perhaps not err in placing them on the Blue Nile [ASTAPUS], and in the neighbourhood of Axume. The geographers (Heeren, &c.) who describe the Sembritae as dwelling near the White Nile, have forgotten both their vicinity to Arabia--i. e. the eastern portion of Meroë--and the character of the regions which the Astapus and Astaboras respectively water. The White Nile flows through lagoons and morasses unsuited for towns and permanent settlements; while the Blue Nile has always had on its banks a numerous population, dwelling in large villages and towns. Along the Blue Nile ran the principal highways of the trade of Aegypt with Southern Aethiopia, while the White Nile led off to the uncivilised and scattered tribes of the Libyans. The Sembritae, if seated on the latter river, would probably have eluded observation altogether; whereas on the former they would be as well known to the caravans and their guides as any other of the Aethiopian races. Moreover, the mesopotamian districts suited to towns lie to the east of Aethiopia Proper, and would afford a secure retreat to the refugees from Aegypt in search of a new habitation. (See Cooley's Claudius Ptolemy and the Nile, pp. 7--27.) The present Senaar corresponds nearly with the territory of the Sembritae.


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