DYTAE(Τρωγλοδύται, Ptol. 3.10.9
; Diod. 3.14
; Strab. xvii. pp. 786, 819; Agatharchid. ap. Phot. p. 454, ed. Bekker; Plin. Nat. 2.70. s. 71
6.29. s. 34; ἡ Τρωγλοδύτις
sc. χώρα, Diod. 1.30
; Ptol: 4.7, 27.) Under the term Troglodytae the ancients appear to have included various races of men. For we meet with them in Mauretania (Strab. xvii. p.828
); in the interior of Libya east of the Garamantes, along the Arabian shore of the Red Sea, as well as on the opposite coast of Aethiopia and Aegypt, and on both in such numbers that the districts were each of them named “Regio Troglodytica;” and even on the northern side of the Caucasus (Strab. xi. p.506
). The Caucasian Troglodytae were in a higher state of civilisation than their eastern namesakes, since they cultivated corn.
But the race most commonly known as Troglodytae inhabited either shore of the Red Sea, and were probably a mixture of Arabian and Aethiopian blood. Their name, as its composition imports (τρώγλη, δύω,
), was assigned to them because they either dug for themselves cabins in the lime and sandstone hills of that region, or availed themselves of its natural caverns. Even in the latter case, the villages of the Troglodytae were partly formed by art, since long tunnels, for the passage or stabling of their herds, were cut between village and village, and the rocks were honeycombed by their dwellings. Bruce saw at Gojam
in Nubia a series of such caverns, inhabited by herdsmen, and witnessed the periodical passage of the cattle in Sennaar
from the lowlands to the bills.
The same cause led to similar migrations in ancient times, viz., the appearance of the gadfly in the marshes, immediately after the cessation of the periodical rains.
The accounts of the Regio Troglodytica that extended from the Sinus Arsinoites to Berenice may be assumed as applicable to the Troglodytae generally.
The catacombs of Naples will perhaps give the most accurate image of their dwellings. The Ababdeh,
who now inhabit this region, exhibit many of their peculiar manners and customs. Their language was described by the Greeks as a shriek or whistle, rather than as articulate speech; a portion at least of them were serpent-eaters. (Hdt. 4.183
But their general occupation was that of herdsmen.
Agatharchides of Cnidos is the earliest writer who mentions the Troglodytae (ap. Photium, p. 454, ed. Bekker).
According to him and Strabo (xvii. p.786
) animal food was their staple diet; and they eat not only the flesh but also the bones and hides of their cattle. Their drink was a mixture of milk and blood.
Since, however, only the older and sicklier beasts were slaughtered for food, it may be presumed that the better animals were reserved for the Aegyptian and Aethiopian markets.
The hides supplied their only article of raiment; but many of them went naked, and the women tattooed their bodies, and wore necklaces of shells.
The pastoral habits of the Troglodytae rendered them so swift of foot as to be able to run down the wild beasts which they hunted; and they must have been acquainted with the use of weapons, since they were not only hunters, but robbers, against whom the caravans passing from the interior of Libya to Berenice on the Red Sea were obliged to employ a guard of soldiers, stationed at Phulacôn (Φυλάκων κώμη; Tab. Peut.
), about 25 miles from Berenice. Troglodytae also served among the light troops in the army of Xerxes, B.C. 480, and acted as guides to the caravans, since the Ichthyophagi whom Cambyses employed as explorers of Meroe were a tribe of Troglodytae. (Hdt. 3.19
.) Among the common people a community of women existed: the chiefs alone, who may have been of a superior race, having wives appropriated. For the abstraction or seduction of a chieftain‘s wife an ox was the penalty. During their retirement in caverns they seem to have lived peaceably together, but as soon as they sallied forth with their herds into the pastures they were incessantly at war with one another, on which occasions the women were wont to act as mediators. They practised the rite of circumcision, like the Arabians and Aethiopians generally.
According to Agatharchides the Troglodytae differed as much from the rest of mankind in their sepulchral customs as in their habitations. They bound the corpse neck and heels together, affixed it to a stake, pelted it with stones amid shouts of laughter, and when it was quite covered with stones, placed a horn upon the mound, and went their ways.
But they did not always wait for natural death to perform this ceremony, since, accounting inability to procure a livelihood among intolerable evils, they strangled the aged and infirm with an ox-tail. Their civilisation appeared so low to Aristotle (Aristot. HA 8.12
) that he describes the Troglodytae as pigmies who, mounted on tiny horses, waged incessant wars with the cranes in the Aethiopian marshes.
A tribe on the frontiers of Abyssinia,
by the natives, corresponds, according to modern accounts, with the [p. 2.1237]
ancient Troglodytae. (Vincent, Commerce and Navigation of the Ancients,
vol. ii. p. 89.)