, Hdt. 3.114
; D. C. 54.5
; Strab. pp. 2, 31, 38, &c.; Plin. Nat. 5.8.8
; Seneca, Q. N. 4.2, &c.; Steph. B. sub voce
, Eth. Αἰθιοπεὺς
, Eth. Aethiops
, fem. ΑιΘ̓λοπίς
: Adj. Αἰθιοπικός
, Aethiopicus: the KUSH of the Hebrews, Ezech. 39.10; Job. 28.19; Amos 9.7), corresponds, in its more extended acceptation, to the modern regions of Nubia, Sennaar, Kordofan
and northern Abyssinia.
In describing Aethiopia however, we must distinguish between the employment of the name as an ethnic or generic designation on the one hand, and, on the other, as restricted to the province or kingdom of Meroë, or the civilised Aethiopia (ἡ Αἰθιοπία ὑπὲρ Αἴγυπτου,
or ὑπὸ Αἴγυπτου, Hdt. 2.146
; Ptol. 4.7
Aethiopia, as a generic or ethnic designation, comprises the inhabitants of Africa who dwelt between the equator, the Red Sea, and the Atlantic, for Strabo speaks of Hesperian Aethiopians S. of the Pharusii and Mauri, and Herodotus (4.197
) describes them as occupying the whole of South Libya.
The name Aethiopians is probably Semitic, and if indigenous, certainly so, since the Aethiopic language is pure Semitic. Mr. Salt says that to this day the Abyssinians call themselves Itiopjawan.
The Greek geographers however, derived the name from αἴθω
and applied it to all the sun-burnt dark-com-plexioned races above Egypt. Herodotus (3.94
) indeed speaks of Aethiopians of Asia, whom he probably so designated from their being of a darker hue than their immediate neighbours. Like the Aethiopians of the Nile, they were tributary to Persia in the reign of Darius. They were a straight-haired race, while their Libyan namesakes were, according to the historian, woolly-haired.
But the expression (οὐλότατον τρίχωμα
) must not be construed too literally, as neither the ancient Aethiopians, as depictured on the monuments, nor their modern representatives, the Bisháries and Shangallas, have, strictly speaking, the negro-hair. The Asiatic Aethiopians were an equestrian people, wearing crests and head armour made of the hide and manes of horses. From Herodotus (l.c.
) we infer that they were a Mongolic race, isolated in the steppes of Kurdistan.
The boundaries of the African Aethiopians are necessarily indefinite. If they were, as seems probable, the ancestors of the Shangallas, Bisháries,
their frontiers may be loosely stated as to the S. the Abyssinian Highlands, to the W. the Libyan desert, to the N. Egypt and Marmarica, and to the E. the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea.
The boundaries of Aethiopia Proper, or Meroe, will admit of more particular definition.
Their Eastern frontier however being a coast line may be described.
It extended from lat. 9 to lat. 24 N. Beginning at the headland of Prasum (Cape del Gardo
), where Africa Barbaria
commences, we come successively upon the promontory of Rhaptum (Ῥαπτόν ὄρος
), Noti Cornu (Νότον κέρας
), Point Zingis (Ζιγγίς
), Aromata (ἀρωμάτων ἄκρον
: Cape Guardafui
), the easternmost point of Africa; the headland of Elephas (Ἔλεθας
: Djebel Feeh or Cape Felix
); Mnemium (Μνημεῖον
: Cape Calmez
), the extreme spur of Mt. Isium (Ι῎διον ὄρος
), and, finally, the headland of Bazium, a little to the south of the Sinus Immundus, or Foul Bay,
nearly in the parallel of Syene.
The coast line was much indented, and contained some good harbours, Avaliticus Sinus, Aduliticus Sinus, &c., which in the Macedonian era, if not earlier, were the emporia of an active commerce both with Arabia and Libya.. (Ptol.; Strabo; Plin.)
From the headland of Bazium to Mount Zingis, a barrier of primitive rocks intermingled with basalt and limestone extends and rises to a height of 8000 feet in some parts.
In the north of this range were the gold mines, from which the Aethiopians derived an abundance of that metal. Aethiopia was thus separated from its coast and harbours, which were accessible from the interior only by certain gorges, the caravan roads.
The western slope of this range was also steep, and the streams were rapid and often dried up in summer.
A tract, called the eastern desert, accordingly intervened between the Arabian hills and the Nile and its tributary the Astaboras.
The river system of Aethiopia differed indeed considerably from that of Egypt. The Nile from its junction with the Astaboras or Tacazzé
presented, during a course of nearly 700 miles, alternate rapids and cataracts, so that it was scarcely available for inland navigation. Its fertilising overflow was also much restricted by high escarped banks of limestone, and its alluvial deposit rarely extended two miles on either side of the stream, and more frequently covered only a narrow strip. Near the river dhourra or millet was rudely cultivated, and canals now choked up with sand, show that the Aethiopians practised the art of irrigation. Further from the Nile were pastures and thick jungle-forests, where, in the rainy seasons, the gadfly prevailed, and drove the herdsmen and their cattle into the Arabian hills.
The jungle and swamps abounded with wild beasts, and elephants were both caught for sale and used as food by the natives.
As rain falls scantily in the north, Aethiopia must have contained a considerable portion of waste land beside its eastern and western deserts.
In the south the Abyssinian highlands are the cause of greater humidity, and consequently of more general fertility.
The whole of this region has at present been very imperfectly explored.
The natives who have been for centuries carried off by their northern neighbours to the slave-markets are hostile to strangers. Bruce and Burckhardt skirted only the northern and southern borders of Aethiopia above Meroe: jungle fever and wild beasts exclude the traveller from the valleys of the Astapus and Astaboras: and the sands have buried most of the cultivable soil of ancient Aethiopia. Yet it is probable that two thousand years have made few changes in the general aspect of its inhabitants.
The population of this vague region was a mixture of Arabian and Libyan races in combination with the genuine A ethiopians.
The latter were distinguished by well formed and supple limbs, and by a facial outline resembling the Caucasian in all but its inclination to prominent lips and a somewhat sloping forehead.
The elongated Nubian eye, depictured on the monuments, is still seen in the Shangallas.
As neither Greeks nor Romans penetrated beyond Napata, [p. 1.58]
the ancient capital of Meroë, our accounts of the various Aethiopian tribes are extremely scanty and perplexing. Their principal divisions were the Colobi, the Blemmyes, the Icthyophagi, the Macrobii, and the Troglodytae.
But besides these were various tribes, probably however of the same stock, which were designated according to their peculiar diet and employments. The Rhizophagi or Root-eaters, who fed upon dhourra kneaded with the bark of trees; the Creophagi, who lived on boiled flesh, and were a pastoral tribe; the Chelenophagi, whose food was shell-fish caught in the saline estuaries; the Acridophagi or locust-eaters; the Struthophagi and Elephantophagi, who hunted the ostrich and elephant, and some others who, like the inhabitants of the island Gagauda, took their name from a particular locality.
The following, however, had a fixed habitation, although we find them occasionally mentioned at some distance from the probable site of the main tribe.
(1.) The BLEMMYES, and MEGABARI
who dwelt between the Arabian hills and the Tacazzé
were according to Quatremère de Quincy (Mémoires sur l'Egypte,
ii. p. 127), the ancestors of the modern Bischaries,
whom earlier writers denominate Bejas
They practised a rude kind of agriculture; but the greater part were herdsmen, hunters, and caravan guides. [BLEMMYES.] (2) ICTHYOPHAGI or fisheaters, dwelt on the sea coast between the Sinus Adulicus and the Regio Troglodytica, and of all these savage races were probably the least civilised.
According to Diodorus, the Icthyophagi were a degraded branch of the Troglodytae. Their dwellings were clefts and holes in the rocks, and they did not even possess any fishing implements, but fed on the fish which the ebb left behind. Yet Herodotus informs us (3.20) that Cambyses employed Icthyophagi from Elephantine in Upper Egypt, as spies previous to his expedition into the interior--an additional proof of the uncertain site and wide dispersion of the Aethiopian tribes. (3) The MACROBII
or long-lived Aethiopians.--Of this nation, if it were not the people of Meroe, it is impossible to discover the site. From the account of Herodotus (3.17
) it appears that they were advanced in civilisation, since they possessed a king, laws, a prison, and a market; understood the working of metals, had gold in abundance, and had made some progress in the arts. Yet of agriculture they knew nothing, for they were unacquainted with bread. Herodotus places them on the shore of the Indian Ocean “at the furthest corner of the earth.” But the Persians did not approach their abode, and the Greeks spoke of the Macrobii only from report. Bruce (ii. p. 554) places them to the north of Fazukla,
in the lower part of the gold countries, Cuba
on both sides of the Nile, and regards them as Shangallas.
(4) The TROGLODYTAE or cave-dwellers were seated between the Blemmyes and Megabari, and according to Agatharcides (ap. Diod. 1.30.3
) they were herdsmen with their separate chiefs or princes of tribes. Their habitations were not merely clefts in the rocks, but carefully wrought vaults, laid out in cloisters and squares, like the catacombs at Naples, whither in the rainy season they retired with their herds. Their food was milk and clotted blood.
In the dry months they occupied the pastures which slope westward to the Astaboras and Nile.
The boundaries of Aethiopia Proper (ἡ Αἰθιοπὶα ν̔πὲρ Αἰηὺπτου
) are more easy to determine. To the south indeed they are uncertain, but probably commenced a little above the modern village of Khartoum,
where the Bahr el Azrek,
Blue or Dark River, unites with the Bahr el Abiad,
or White Nile. (Lat. 15° 37′ N., long. 33° E.)
The desert of Bahiouda
on the left bank of the Nile formed its western limit: its eastern frontier was the river Astaboras and the northern upland of Abyssinia--the κρημνοὶ τῆς Ἀραξίας
of Diodorus (1.33
). To the N. Aethiopia was bounded by a province called Dodecaschoenus or Aethiopia Aegypti--a debateable land subject some-times to the Thebaid and sometimes to the kings of Meroë.
The high civilisation of Aethiopia, as attested by historians and confirmed by its monuments, was confined to the insular area of Meroe and to Aethiopia Aegypti, and is more particularly described under the head of MEROE
The connection between Egypt and Aethiopia was at all periods very intimate.
The inhabitants of the Nile valley and of Aethiopia were indeed branches of the same Hamite stream, and differed only in degree of civilisation. Whether religion and the arts descended or ascended the Nile has long been a subject of discussion. From Herodotus (2.29
) it would appear that the worship of Ammon and Osiris (Zeus and Dionysus) was imparted by Meroe to Egypt.
The annual procession of the Holy Ship, with the shrine of the Ram-headed god, from Thebes to the Libyan side of the Nile, as depicted on the temple of Karnak and on several Nubian monuments, probably commemorates the migration of Ammon-worship from Meroe to Upper Egypt. Diodorus also says (3.3) that the people above Meroe worship Isis, Pan, Heracles, and Zeus: and his assertion would be confirmed by monuments in Upper Nubia bearing the head of Isis, &c., could we be certain of the date of their erection. The Aethiopian monarchy was even more strictly sacerdotal than that of Egypt, at least the power of the priesthood was longer undisputed. “In Aethiopia,” says Diodorus (3.6
), “the priests send a sentence of death to the king, when they think he has lived long enough.
The order to die is a mandate of the gods.” In the age of Ptolemy Philadelphus (B.C. 284--246) however an important revolution took place. Ergamenes,a monarch who had some tincture of Greek arts and philosophy, put all the priests to death (Diod.3.6.3), and plundered their golden temple at Napata (Barkcal
?). If Herodotus (2.100
) were not misinformed by the priests of Memphis, 18 Aethiopian kings were among the predecessors of Sesortasen.
The monuments however do not record this earlier dynasty. Sesortasen is said by the same historian to have conquered Aethiopia (Hdt. 2.106
); but his occupation must have been merely transient, since he also affirms that the country above Egypt had never been conquered (3.21).
But in the latter part of the 8th century B.C. an Aethiopian dynasty, the 25th of Egypt, reigned in Lower Egypt, and contained three kings--Sabaco, Sebichus, and Taracus or Tirhakah.
At this epoch the annals of Aethiopia become connected with universal history. Sabaco and his successors reigned at Napata, probably seated at that bend of the Nile where the rocky island of Mogreb divides its stream.
The invasion of Egypt by the Aethiopian king was little more than a change of dynasty, as the royal families of the two kingdoms had previously been united by intermarriages. Bocchoris, the last Egyptian monarch of the 24th dynasty, was put to a cruel death by Sabaco, yet Diodorus (1.60
) commends the latter as exemplarily pious and merciful. Herodotus (2.137
) represents Sabaco as substituting for criminals compulsory [p. 1.59]
labour in the mines for the punishment of death. Diodorus also celebrates the mildness and justice of another Aethiopian king, .whom he calls Actisanes, and rumours of such virtues may have procured for the Aethiopian race the epithet of “the blameless.” (Hom. Il. 1.423.
Sebichus, the So or Seva of the Scriptures, was the son and successor of Sabaco.
He was an ally of Hoshea, king of Israel; but he was unable, or too tardy in his movements, to prevent the capture of Samaria by Shalmaneser, king of Assyria, in B.C. 722. One result of the captivity of Israel was an influx of Hebrew exiles, into Egypt and Aethiopia, and eventually the dissemination of the Mosaic religion in the country north of Elephantine.
Before this catastrophe, the Psalmist and the Prophets (Psalm,
30.4) had celebrated the military power of the Aethiopians, and the historical writings of the Jews record their invasions of Palestine. Isaiah (19.18) predicts the return of Israel from the land of Cush; and the story of Queen Candace's treasurer, in the Acts of the Apostles (ch. viii.), shows that the Hebrew Scriptures were current in the more civilised parts of that region. Sebichus was succeeded by Tirhakah--the Tarcus or Taracus of Manetho.
The commentators on the Book of Kings (3.19) usually describe this monarch as an Arabian chieftain; but his name is recorded on the propylon of a temple at Medinet-Aboo,
and at Gebel-el-Birkel,
He was, therefore, of Aethiopian lineage. Strabo (i. p.61
, xv. p. 687) says, that Tirhakah rivalled Sesortasen, or Rameses III., in his conquests, which extended to the Pillars of Hercules, meaning, probably, the Phoenician settlements on the northern coast of Africa. From Hebrew records (2 Kings,
xviii, xix.; Isaiah,
xxxvi, xxxvii.), we know that Tirhakah was on his march to relieve Judaea from the invasion of Sennacherib (B.C. 588); but his advance was rendered unnecessary by the pestilence which swept off the Assyrian army near Pelusium (Hdt. 2.141
; Horapoll. Hierogl.
1.50). Tirhakah, however, was sovereign only in the Thebaid: one, if not two, native Egyptian kings, reigned contemporaneously with him at Memphis and Sais.
According to the inscription at Gebel-el-Birkel,
Tirhakah reigned at least twenty years in Upper Egypt. Herodotus, indeed, regards the 25th or Aethiopian dynasty in Egypt as comprised in the reign and person of Sabaco alone, to whom he assigns a period of fifty years.
But there were certainly three monarchs of this line, and a fourth, Ammeris, is mentioned in the list of Eusebius.
The historian (2.139) ascribes the retirement of the last Aethiopian monarch to a dream, which may perhaps be interpreted as a mandate from the hierarchy at Napata to forego his conquests below Philae.
In the reign of Psammetichus (B.C. 630), the entire war-caste of Egypt migrated into Aethiopia. Herodotus (2.30
) says that the deserters (Automoli) settled in a district as remote from the Aethiopian metropolis (Napata) as that city was from Elephantine.
But this statement would carry them below lat. 16°, the extreme limit of Aethiopian civilisation. Diodorus (1.67
) describes the Automoli as settled in the most fertile region of Aethiopia. North-west of Meroe, however, a tribe had established themselves, whom the geographers call Enonymitae, the Asmach of Herodotus (2.30
; Strab. xvii. p.786
; Plin. Nat. 6.30
), and there is reason to consider these, who from their name may have once composed the left
wing of the Egyptian army, the exiled war-caste.
In that frontier position they would have been available to their adopted country as a permanent garrison against invasion from the north.
The Persian dynasty was scarcely established in Egypt, when Cambyses undertook an expedition into Aethiopia.
He prepared for it by sending certain Icthyophagi from Elephantine as envoys, or rather as spies, to the king of the Macrobians. (Hdt. 3.17
But the invasion was so ill-planned, or encountered such physical obstacles in the desert, that the Persian army returned to Memphis, enfeebled and disheartened. Of this inroad the magazines of Cambyses (ταμιεῖα Καμβύσουζζζ, Ptol. 4.7.15
), probably the town of Cambysis (Plin. Nat. 6.29
), on the left bank of the Nile, near its great curve to the west, was the only permanent record. The Persian occupation of the Nilevalley opened the country above Philae to Greek travellers.
The philosopher Democritus, a little younger than Herodotus, wrote an account of the hieroglyphics of Meroë (D. L. 9.49
), and from this era we may probably date the establishment of Greek emporia upon the shore of the Red Sea. Under the Ptolemies, the arts, as well as the enterprise of the Greeks, entered Aethiopia, and led to the destruction of the sacerdotal government, and to the foundation or extension of the Hellenic colonies Dire-Berenices, Arsinoë, Adule, Ptolemais-Therôn, on the coast, where, until the era of the Saracen invasion in the 7th century A. D., an active trade was carried on between Libya, Arabia, and Western India or Ceylon (Ophir? Taprobane).
In the reign of Augustus, the Aethiopians, under their Queen Candace, advanced as far as the Roman garrisons at Parembole and Elephantine. They were repulsed by C. Petronius, the legatus of the prefect of Egypt, Aelius Gallus, who placed a Roman garrison in Premnis (Ibrim
), and pursued the retreating army to the neighbourhood of Napata. (D. C. 54.5
In a second campaign Petronius compelled Candace to send overtures of peace and submission to Augustus (B.C. 22--23).
But the Roman tenure of Aethiopia above Egypt was always precarious; and in Diocletian's reign (A.D. 284--305), the country south of Philae was ceded generally by that emperor to the Nubae. Under the Romans, indeed, if not earlier, the population of Aethiopia had become almost Arabian, and continued so after the establishment of Christian churches and sees, until the followers of Mahomet overran the entire region from the sources of the Astaboras to Alexandria, and confirmed the predominance of their race.
Such were the general divisions, tribes, and history of Aethiopia in the wider import of the term.
In the interior, and again beginning from the south near the sources of the Astaboras we find the following districts. Near the headland Elephas were the Mosyli (Μόσυλοι
), the Molibae (Μολίβαι
), and Soboridae (Σοβορίδαι
) (Ptol. 4.7.28
). Next, the Regio Axiomitarum [AXUME
], immediately to the north of which was a province called Tenesis (Τηνεσίς
) occupied by the Sembritae of Strabo (p. 770), or Semberritae of Pliny (Plin. Nat. 6.30.35
). North of Tenesis was the Lake Coloe, and between the Adulitae and Mount Taurus on the coast were the Colobi, who according to Agatharcides (ap. Diod. 3.32) practised the rite of circumcision, and dwelt in [p. 1.60]
a woody and mountainous district (ἄλσος Κολοβῶν,
Strab. l.c.; ὄρος Κολοβῶν, Ptol. 4.8
). Above these were the Memnones (Μεμνονεῖς
), a name celebrated by the post-Homeric poets of the Trojan war, and who are supposed by some to have been a colony from Western India (Philological Museum,
vol. ii. p. 146); and above these, north of the Blemmyes and Megabari, are the Adiabarae, who skirted to the east the province of Dodecaschoenus or Aethiopia above Egypt.
But of all these tribes we know the names only, and even these very imperfectly. Modern travellers can only conjecturally connect them with the Bedjas, Bischáries, Shangallas,
and other Nubian or Arabian races; and neither Greeks nor Romans surveyed the neighbourhood of their colonies beyond the high roads which led to their principal havens on the Red Sea.
The western portion of Aethiopia, owing to its generally arid character, was much more scantily peopled, and the tribes that shifted over rather than occupied its scanty pastures were mostly of Libyan origin, a mixed Negro and Barabra race. Parallel with the Astapus and the Nile after their confluence, stretched a limestone range or hills, denominated by Ptolemy the Aethiopian mountains (τὰ Αἰθιοπικὰ ὄρη,
4.8). They separated Aethiopia from the Garamantes. West of the elbow land which lay between Meroë and Napata was a district called Tergedum. North of Tergedum the Nubae came down to the Nile-bank between the towns of Primis Parva and Phturi; and northward of these were the above-mentioned Euonymitae, who extended to Pselcis in lat. 23°.
In the region Dodecaschoenus or Aethiopia above Egypt were the following towns: HIERA SYCAMINUS
: Ptol.; Plin. Nat. 6.29. s. 32
; Itin. Anton. p. 162: Συκάμινον,
Philostrat. Apoll. Tyan.
4.2), the southernmost town of the district (Wady Maharrakah,
p. 100); CORTE (Κορτία πρώτη,
Agartharcides, p. 22; It. Anton. p. 162), Korti,
four miles north of Hiera Sycaminos; and on the right bank of the Nile TACHOMPSO
: Hdt. 2.29
; Mela, 1.9.2: Μετακομψώ Ptol. 4.5
; Tacompsos, Plin. Nat. 6.29. s. 35
) was situated upon an island (probably Deraz
) upon the eastern side of the river, and was occupied by Aethiopians and Egyptians. Upon the opposite bank was PSELCIS
Strab. p. 820; Aristid. Aegin.
i. p. 512).
It was built in the era of the Ptolemies, and its erection was so injurious to Tachompso, that the latter came to be denominated Contra Pselcis, and lost its proper appellation. Pselcis was eight miles from Hiera Sycaminos, and the head-quarters of a cohort of German horse (Not. Imp.
) in the Roman period. On the left bank of the Nile was TUTZIS
), where some remarkable monuments still exist: and TAPHIS
Olympiad. ap. Photium, 80, p. 194; Ταθίς, Ptol. 4.5
), opposite to which was Contra-Taphis (Teffah
), where ruins have been discovered, and in the neighbourhood of which are large stone-quarries. Finally, PAIREMBOLE, the frontier-garrison of Egypt, where even so late as the 4th century A. D. a Roman legion was stationed.
Pliny, in his account of the war with Candace (B.C. 22), has preserved a brief record of the route of Petronius in his second invasion of Meroë, which contains the names of some places of importance. The Roman general passed by the valley of the Nile through Dongola and Nubia, and occupied or halted at the following stations: Pselcis, Primis Magna, or Premnis (Ibrim
) on the right bank of the river, Phturis (Farras
), and Aboccis or Abuncis (Aboosimbel, Ipsambul
on the left, Cambysis (ταμιεῖα Καμβύσου
and Atteva or Attoba, near the third cataract. If Josephus can be relied upon indeed, the Persians must have penetrated the Nile-valley much higher up than the Romans, and than either Herodotus or Diodorus (1.34
) will permit us to suppose. For the Jewish historian (Antiq.
2.10) represents Cambyses as conquering the capital of Aethiopia, and changing its name from Saba to Meroë.
The architectural remains of Nubia belong to Meroë and are briefly described under that head. To Meroë also, as the centre and perhaps the creature of the inland trade of Aethiopia, we refer for an account of the natural and artificial productions of the land above Egypt.
The principal modern travellers who have explored or described the country above Egypt are Bruce, Burckhardt, Belzoni, Minutoli, Gau and Rosellini. Lord Valentia and Mr. Salt's Travels, Waddington and Hanbury's Journals, Ruppel's and Cailleaud's Travels, &c., “Heeren's Historical Researches,” vol. i. pp. 285--473, and the geographical work of Ritter have been consulted for the preceding article.