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Three Abyssinian States.
It is equally unknown whether it was some revolution of nature, or the encroachments of other nations, that gave the impulse to this general emigration. It could not have been, certainly, an insignificant cause which produced such a simultaneous movement towards the west, north, and east, to a great distance, and over a rugged, mountainous tract, so difficult to be traversed by men, and still more so by women, children, and herds of cattle. Whatever it was, we may in fer its continuation from the fact that, even down to the present time, every year has sent its wave of savage multitudes to lay waste the beautiful Alpine lands of Abyssinia, “ bringing,” says Ritter, “not fruitfulness, like the overflow of the Nile, but everywhere searful desolation, wherever they spread themselves.” They are the only people of Upper Africa, with whom the Abyssinians have had to fight for the possession of their country, from which they have been gradually forced by the ever-returning throng; so that of the forty provinces in the highlands, that once formed a part of the flourishing kingdom of Abyssinia, they now retain but twelve; and the greater part of these, owing to the perpetual recurrence of hostilities, is reduced to a state little better than a desert. Through them, Abyssinia has been thrust down from its former eminence, and the people degraded from their higher state of civilization to the condition of a rough standing army.
The first appearance of the Gallas upon the confines of that country, is described as truly terrific. From the kingdom of Bali, they pressed forward towards Angote; and, a short time after, made a descent into Gojam; when, dividing into several bodies, they rushed down from the heights of Narca, into the Alpine regions of Abyssinia, burning and plundering all that came in their way, the forests as well as habitations, and slaughtering men, women, and children, indiscriminately. In this manner they depopulated and became masters of twenty-two kingdoms, and formed a fearful girdle around Habesh; whence, through the narrow mountain-passes, they make yearly incursions into that country which lies, like a peninsula, in the midst of them. As Rit. ter aptly observes," wie Gothen und Vandalen sich über einen grossen Theil Europa's verbreitelen, so diese Galla diese Gegenden Africa's in verschiedenen Perioden je nachdem sic Aussicht zu Niederlassungen fanden. Wie jene haben sic sich in kurzer Zeit naturalisirt, und die Sprache, Sitten und Gebrauche der Besiegten angenommen."
of the three great States into which Abyssinia is at present divided, the most powerful is Tigré; which first gained its independence from Amhara when the Gallas overran and got possession of the old Abyssinian provinces of Shoa and Efat. Amhara is the second State in importance; though much pressed by the Gallas, it has thus far succeeded in maintaining its independence. The old province of Amhara has fallen into the hands of the invaders. The third of the three States, comprises the two large territories of Shoa and Efat; both occupied by Gallas, who have, to some extent, adopted the habits and manner of life of the conquered people. Instead of their previous, wandering, predatory life, making their expeditions on foot, they now dwell in towns and villages, apply themselves to agriculture and the other arts known among half-civilized nations, pay great attention to the breeding of horses, and have the best cavalry in the country. The governor of Efat is an independent sovereign and maintains a force equal to that of the Ras of Tigré, that is, about 40,000 men. The capital of his dominions is Ancober. Efat is described as a highland, lying about 8,000 feet above the level of the sea, and is said to contain some of the richest and finest lands in Abyssinia. It is situated between 9 and 11 deg. N. Lat., and thus enjoys, like the tablelands of Quito, a climate of almost perpetual spring.
Shoa lies lower down, towards the river Nile, and abounds in excellent pasture-lands and fruitful vallies. Though less important in point of military strength, it is superior to the other divisions in cultivation. Mr. Kraps resided in this province at the time he wrote his Imperfect Outlines of the Galla Language ; afterwards, removing to Ancober in Efat, he translated the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. John into this language. Between all these States single tribes have, from time to time, thrust themselves; and, being new-comers, they retain, of course, much of their original wildness and ferocity.
The tribes inhabiting the country upon the south and west, exist in various stages of barbarism. In respect of political condition, they are commonly found in divisions of seven tribes, united under one chief or governor. These confederacies are distinguished by different names; those, for instance, who settled in the east, in the provinces of Bali and Dawaro, are called the Berhuma Galla; their prince is styled Moti or Mooty. Those in the west, along the banks of the Nile, are termed the Boren or Boranna Gallas; their chief is called Lubo. The division dwelling between these, in the valleys of Shoa, call them. selves Elma or Yelema (i. e. children), and sometimes Toluma Gallas; while the inhabitants of the range of mountains south of Amhara, are called Kobi, or mountain Gallas.
The information we possess of those dwelling still farther towards the interior, is extremely scanty: about twenty tribes are mentioned as having each an independent chief, with no common bond except their language; and as being constantly engaged in hostilities with each other.
The Galla nations in the east and west, who appear to have the same language, are of a middle stature and brown complexion ; those in the lower valleys are much darker, with long black hair, which is sometimes crisped, and a shape of face and head approaching nearer to the type of the Caucasian than the Negro race. They are active and muscular; which is, doubtless, partly owing to their Spartanlike education, being, from childhood up, trained to the hardy exercises of war and the chase. In their martial expeditions, they move with the most astonishing rapidity, and swim the most violent streams that may happen to intercept their way. They endure fatigue and hunger with surprising fortitude, their provisions for such excursions consisting chiefly of balls of roasted coffee, rolled up with butter.
In expeditions of war or plunder, the Galla is fierce and cruel; he regards all violence as justifiable, when committed upon his enemies. Bruce mentions, as a praiseworthy trait in the character of Lamb, a Galla officer otherwise notorious for his bloodthirstiness, that, when he made an inroad into Gojam, “he never murdered any woman, not even those that were with child;" a custom which, as appears also from other sources, prevails among them to a great extent. As the North American Indian takes off the scalp of his enemy as a proof of victory, so the Galla cuts off the pudenda of the conquered for a like purpose ;? it is indifferent whether his victim be an infant or a warrior. Loaded with these bloody trophies, he returns home to receive the praises of his people for his bravery.
Several of their customs pertaining to war, remind one strongly of the American savage. Before setting out to meet the enemy, the warriors sing the gerara, or war-song, at the same time slaughtering a cow as a species of war-offering. A piece of her flesh, with the skin on, is cut off and carried to some unfrequented place, and left to be devoured by wild beasts : this is a symbol of the slaughtered enemy, and is prohibited to be eaten.
If his expedition has been successful, the Galla hero returns home loudly triumphing, and singing the song of victory. His friends and admirers go out to meet and welcome him; at the same time placing upon his head cakes of butter, with which to anoint himself. These are prevented from falling off by large thorns, which he sticks in his hair for that purpose. After the ceremony of anointing, he is honored with the title of Gondala (hero), and is allowed to wear certain ornaments, which answer to our military decorations. One of these is an ear-ring of gold or silver, composed of several small chains with little balls at the end. This ear-ring, called loti, is often alluded 1 Ritter's Erdkunde I. p. 232.
2 Salt's Travels.
to in their songs and prayers : quarrakoti loti rarazi, “hang the loti in my ear.” A warrior who has killed an enemy, is allowed to wear on his arm a bracelet of ivory called, in their language, ilbora ; the Amharic word is ibora ; which is, not improbably, the same as the Latin ebur. The title of Gondala is obtained also by killing a buffalo or an elephant.
The use of butter for anointing the body, seems to be carried to excess, and especially to be a very important article in the toilet of a chiestain. Another babit, mentioned by Bruce and others, and still more repugnant to cleanliness, is that of adorning their heads and waists with the intestines of cattle. Bruce gives the following amusing description of a visit of ceremony of a Galla chief to the king of Abyssinia, which occurred during his residence at the court of that monarch. As it illustrates several matters of dress and etiquette, it is hoped that its length will be excused.
“ Guangoul, chief of the Galla of Angot, that is of the eastern Galla, came to pay his respects to the king and Ras Michael. He had with him about 500 foot and 40 horse; he brought with him a number of large horns for carrying the king's wine, and some other such trifles. He was a little, thin, cross-made man, of no apparent strength or swiftness, as far as could be conjectured; his legs and thighs being thin and small for his body, and his bead large. He was of a yellow, unwholesome color, not black nor brown ; he had long hair, plaited and interwoven with the bowels of oxen, and so knotted and twisted together, as to render it impossible to distinguish the hair from the bowels, which hung down in long strings, part before his breast and part behind his shoulder, the most extraordinary ringlets I had ever seen. He had likewise a wreath of guts hung about his neck, and several rounds of the same about his middle, which served as a girdle, below which was a short cotton cloth, dipped in butter, and all his body was wet and running down with the same; he seemed to be about fifty years of age, with a confident and insolent superiority painted in his face. In his country, it seems, when he appears in state, the beast he rides upon is a cow! He was then in full dress and ceremony, and mounted upon one not of the largest sort, but which had monstrous horns. He had no saddle on his cow. He had short drawers, that did not reach the middle of his thighs; his knees, feet, legs, and all his body, were bare. He had a shield of a single hide, warped by the heat in several places, and much in the shape of a high-crowned, large, straw hat, with which the fashionable women in our country sometimes disguise themselves. He carried a short
· Ritter, Vol. I. p. 232.
Education of four African Youths.
lance in his right hand, with an ill-made iron head, and a shaft that seemned to be of the thorn-tree, but altogether without ornament, which is seldom the case with the arms of barbarians. Whether it was necessary for the poising himself upon the sharp ridge of the beast's back, or whether it was meant as a graceful riding, I do not know, being unskilled in horsemanship; but he leaned extremely backwards, pushing his belly forwards, and holding his left arm and shield stretched out on one side of him, and his right arm and Jance, in the same way, on the other side, like wings. The king was seated on his ivory chair, to receive him, almost in the middle of his tent; the day was hot, and an insufferable stench of carrion soon made every one sensible of the approach of this nasty sovereign, even before they saw him. The king not being able to stile his laughter at such a strange figure, rose from his chair and ran into another apartment, behind the throne. The savage got off his cow at the door of the tent, with all his tripes about him; and, while we were admiring him as a monster, seeing the king's seat empty, he took it for his own, and down he sat upon the crimson silk cushions, with the butter running from every part of him. A general cry of astonishment was made by every person in the tent; and they fell upon him and, with pushes and blows, drove this greasy chieftain to the door of the tent, staring with wild amazement.”
Such are the Gallas, as they have appeared to the eyes of European travellers. Until within a comparatively recent period, they were known only as a hardy and warlike people, of singular audacity and prowess, that had won themselves a country and effected important political changes in Eastern Africa. Owing to their distrust of strangers, and the state of the country, it was difficult to obtain any authentic information in relation to their social condition and internal regulations. Some circumstances occurred about ten years ago, by which interesting communications were made concerning several nations on the east of Africa; more especially that with which we are at present occupied.
As duke Maximilian of Bavaria was on his return from a tour in the East, he passed through Egypt, where he redeemed four young Africans from slavery, and brought them with him to Munich. With the view of educating them for domestics in his household, he selected as their tutor Mr. Charles Tutschek, a gentleman well qualified by his previous philological studies, for the task. A hard task it certainly was, which few would have had the skill and patience to accomplish. For some time, the youths could not be made to comprehend what he wished to do with them; but besides the want of a means of commu