Eth. RHIZO´PHAGI AETHIOPES
, Diod. 3.23
; Strab. xvii. p.770
, seq.; Ptol. 4.8.29
), one of the numerous tribes of Aethiopia, whom the Greeks named after the diet peculiar to them.
The root-eating Aethiopians dwelt above Meroë, on either bank of the Astaboras (Tacazzé
), and derived their principal sustenance from a kind of cake or polenta,
made from the reeds and bulrushes that covered that alluvial region.
The roots were first scrupulously cleansed, then powdered between stones, and the pulp thus obtained was dried in the sun. The Rhizophagi are described as a mild and harmless race, living in amity with their neighbours, and, probably because they had nothing to lose, unmolested by them. Their only foes were lions, who sometimes committed the greatest havoc among this unarmed race; and their best friends, according to Diodorus (comp. Agatharch. ap. Hudson, Geog. Graec. Min. p. 37), were a species of gnat, or more probably gadfly, which at the summer solstice (ὑπὸ τὴν ἀνατολὴν τοῦ κυνὸς
) assailed the lions in such numbers, that they fled from the marshes, and permitted the Rhizophagi to recruit their losses.
The site of this obscure tribe probably corresponds with that of the Shihos
vol. iii. pp. 69--72), who now occupy the southern part of the territory of Taka or Atbara,
on the upper Tacazzé.