An Ethiopian Journal

"Until lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunters"


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“People, Places & Things: Ethiopians” By Michael Stewart
Greek Mythology: From the Iliad to the Fall of the Last Tyrant


The “long lived” race who lived to the south of Egypt; they are mentioned several times by the historian, Herodotus, and the poet, Homer, but the exact location of their homeland is not made clear.

Herodotus comments that the Ethiopians became more like the Egyptians after the two hundred and forty thousand Egyptian soldiers garrisoned at Elephantine deserted their posts and were given asylum by an Ethiopian king and were assimilated into the native population; Herodotus also reports that of the three hundred and thirty kings of Egypt, one was a woman and eighteen were Ethiopians, the rest were Egyptian men.

During the reign of the blind Egyptian king, Anysis, an Ethiopian named Sabakos (Sabacos) invaded Egypt and ruled for fifty years; Sabakos left Egypt of his own free will because of an oracle and a dream; the oracle said he would rule Egypt for only fifty years and his dream implied that if he did not leave Egypt on the fiftieth year, he would be punished by gods and men; the legacy of Sabakos was that, while king of Egypt, he sentenced criminals to work on civic improvement projects, primarily the building of embankments around cities to protect them from the flooding Nile River.

In the Histories, Herodotus tells how the Persian ruler, Kambyses (Cambyses) sent spies to Ethiopia to see if the Table of the Sun actually existed; the Table of the Sun was a meadow where the Ethiopians in authority would nightly bring food and leave it for anyone who wanted it; the spies that Kambyses sent were Egyptians called Fish-Eaters from Elephantine, a city on the Upper Nile, i.e. the southern portion of the river.

The Ethiopians were reputed to be some of the tallest and most beautiful people in the world and Kambyses was aware that the Ethiopian kings were chosen only from the tallest and proportionally strongest men of their race; he sent beautiful gifts because he wanted to impress them with his generosity and lull them into thinking he was potentially their friend; when the Fish-Eaters gave the Ethiopian king Kambyses’ gifts, the king rejected the cloth, the myrrh and the gold but pronounced the wine to be good; he explained that the Ethiopians only ate boiled meat and drank only milk and that they lived at least one hundred and twenty years; they also bathed in a spring whose water smelled of violets and was so light that nothing would float on the water.

Seeing through Kambyses’ feigned friendship, the Ethiopian king gave the Fish-Eaters an enormous bow and told them that the Persians should not consider attacking them until they could string the bow and to be thankful that the Ethiopians were not greedy and aggressive because, if that was so, the Persians would lose their lives and land to the superior men of Ethiopia.

Herodotus also mentions another aspect of the Ethiopians which would make it seem that he regarded most of the non-Egyptian Africans to be “Ethiopians;” in describing the geography of Libya, Herodotus tells of the cave-dwelling Ethiopians; they ate snakes, lizards and other reptiles; they were fleet of foot and had voices like the squeaking of bats; another tribe of Libyans, the Garamantes, hunted the Ethiopians with four-horse teams but whether the Garamantes hunted the cave-dwellers for sport or food is not clear.

Herodotus also mentions Ethiopians from Asia and their tribute to the Persian Empire; the Asian Ethiopians who fought in the army of Xerxes had straight hair and were teamed with the Indians whereas the Ethiopians who were teamed with the Arabians were from Africa and had wooly hair; other than their hair and speech, the Asian and African Ethiopians seemed to be of the same race; the nation of Cyprus had Ethiopians in its population.


Written by Tseday

September 1, 2008 at 3:52 pm

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