Travels to Discover...
(London: 1790 - 1st ed.)
(1804 Edinburgh 2nd ed. text used here)
T R A V E L S
TO DISCOVER THE
SOURCE OF THE NILE.
In the Years 1768, 1769, 1770, 1771, 1772, and 1773.
IN FIVE VOLUMES.
BY JAMES BRUCE OF KINNAIRD, ESQ., F.R.S.
opus aggredior optimum casibus, atrox praeliis, discors seditionibus,
Ipsa etiam pace savum. TACIT. Lib. iv. Ann.
E D I N B U R G H:
PRINTED BY J. RUTHVEN
FOR G.G.J. AND J. ROBINSON, PATERNOSTER ROW,
L O N D O N.
THE SOURCE OF THE NILE. 395
We are not to wonder, if the prodigious hurry and flow of business, and the immensely valuable transactions they had with each other, had greatly familiarized the Tyrians and Jews, with their correspondents the Cushites and Shepherds on the coast of Africa.
* It should properly be Saba, Azab, or Azaba, all signifying South.
Wonders of Nature,p. 134ff.
THE SOURCE OF THE NILE. 403
THE KINGS OF ABYSSINIA,
MAQUEDA, QUEEN OF SABA, TO THE NATIVITY.
Menilek succeeded to the throne in the 986th year before Christ; and this number of years must be exhausted in the reign of these twenty-two kings; when each reign, in that case, will amount to more than forty-four years, which is impossible. The reign of the twenty-one kings of Israel, at a medium, is a little more than twenty-two years at an average, and that is thought abundantly high. And, even upon that footing of comparison, there will be wanting a great deal more than half the number of years between Menilek and Bazen, so that this account is apparently false. But I have another very material objection to it, as well as the preceding one, which is, that there is not one name, in the whole list, that has an Ethiopic root or derivation.
404 TRAVELS TO DISCOVER
The reader may give what credit he pleases to this very ancient list. For my part, I content myself with disproving nothing but what is impossible, or contrary to the authority of Scripture, or my own private knowledge. There are other lists still, which I have seen, all of no better authority than this. I shall only observe upon this last, that there is a king in it, about nine years before our Saviour's nativity, that did me the honour of using my name two thousand years before it came into Britain, spelled in the same manner that name anciently was, before folly, and the love of novelty, wantonly corrupted it.
The Greeks, to divert the king, had told him this circumstance, with which he was exceedingly entertained. Sometimes, when he had seen either Michael, or Fasil, * or any of the great ones do me a favour, or speak handsomely of me, he would say gravely, that he was to summon the council to inquire into my pedigree, whether I was descended of the heirs -- male of that Brus, who was king nine years before the nativity ; that I was likely to be a dangerous person, and it was time I should be sent to Wechne, unless I chose to lose my leg or arm, if I was found, by the judges, related to him by the heirs-male. To which I answered, that, however he made a jest of this, one of my predecessors was certainly a king, though not of Abyssinia, not nine years before, but 120O after our redemption; that the arms of my family were a lion, like his; but, however creditable his majesty's apprehensions as to Abyssinia might be to me, I could venture to assure him, the only connections I had the honour ever to have had with him, were by the heirs-female.
* What immediately follows will be hereafter explained.
THE SOURCE OF THE NILE. 405
At other times, when I was exceedingly low spirited, and despairing of ever again seeing Britain, he, who well knew the cause, used to say to the Serach * Massery, "Prepare the sendick and nagareet; let the judges be called, and the household troops appear under arms, for Brus is to be buried: he is an Ozoro of the line of Solomon, and, for any thing I know, may be heir to the crown. Bring likewise plenty of brandy, for they all get drunk at burials in his country." These were the days of sunshine, when such jests passed; there were cloudy ones enough that followed, which more than compensated the very transitory enjoyment of these.
Although the years laid down in the book of Axum do not precisely agree with our account, yet they are so near, that we cannot doubt that the revolt of the ten tribes, and destruction of Rehoboam's fleet, which followed, occasioned the removal of Menilek's capital to Tigre. But, whatever was the cause, Menilek did remove his court from Azab to a place near Axum, at this day called Adega Daid, the House of David; and, at no great distance, is another, called Azabo, from his ancient metropolis, where there are old remains of buildings of stone and lime; a certain proof that Axum was then fallen, else he would have naturally gone thither immediately upon forsaking his mother's capital of Azab.
That country, round by Cape Gardefan, and south towards Sofala, along the Indian Ocean, was long governed by an officer called Baharnagash, the meaning
* The temple which the queen of Saba had seen built, and so richly ornamented, was plundered the 5th year of Rehoboam, by Sesac, which is thirteen years before Menilek died. So this could not have disgusted him with the trade of his ancient habitation at Saba.
The chamberlain. Vide Introduction to Book III.
406 TRAVELS TO DISCOVER
of which is, King of the Sea, or Sea Coast. Another officer of the same title was governor of Yemen, or Arabia Felix, which, from the earliest times, belonged to Abyssinia, down to the Mahometan conquest. The king himself was called Nagash, or Najashi; so were the governors of several provinces, especially Gojam; and great confusion has arisen from the multitudeof these kings. We find, for example, sometimes three upon the throne at one time, which is exceedingly improbable in any country. We are, therefore, to suppose, that one of these only is king, and two of them are the Najashi, or Nagash, we have just described; for, as the regulation of the queen of Saba banished the heirs-male to a mountain, we cannot conceive how three brothers could be upon the throne at the same time, as this law subsists to the present day in all its rigour. This, although one, is not the only reason of the confusion, as I shall mention another in the sequel.
As we are about to take leave of the Jewish religion and government, in the line of Solomon, it is here the proper place where I should add what we have to say of the Falasha, of whom we have already had occasion to speak, when we gave a specimen of their language, among those of the stranger nations, who are reported to have come originally from Palestine. I did not spare my utmost pains in inquiring into the history of this curious people, and lived in friendship with several, esteemed the most knowing and learned among them, if any of them deserved to be so called; and I am persuaded, as far as they knew, they told me the truth.
The account they give of themselves, which is supported only by tradition, is, that they came with Menilek from Jerusalem, so that they perfectly agree with the Abyssinians in the story of the queen of Saba,
THE SOURCE OF THE NILE. 407
who, they say, was a Jewess, and her nation Jews, before the time of Solomon; that she lived at Saba, or Azaba, the myrrh and frankincense country upon the Arabian Gulf. They say further, that she went to Jerusalem, under protection of Hiram, king of Tyre, whose daughter is said, in the xlvth psalm, to have attended her thither; that she went not in ships, nor through Arabia, for fear of the Ishmaelites, but from Azab round by Masuah and Suakem, and was escorted by the Shepherds, her own subjects, to Jerusalem, and back again, making use of her own country vehicle, the camel; and that hers was a white one, of prodigious size, and exquisite beauty.
They agree also, in every particular, with the Abyssinians, about the remaining part of the story, the birth and inauguration of Menilek, who was their first king; also the coming of Azarias, and twelve elders from the twelve tribes, and other doctors of the law, whose posterity they deny to have ever apostatised to Christianity, as the Abyssinians pretend they did at the conversion. They say, that, when the trade of the Red Sea fell into the hands of strangers, and all communication was shut up between them and Jerusalem, the cities were abandoned, and the inhabitants relinquished the coast; that they were the inhabitants of these cities, by trade mostly brick and tile-makers, potters, thatchers of houses, and such like mechanics, employed in them; and, finding the low country of Dembea afforded materials for exercising these trades, they carried the article of pottery in that province to a degree of perfection, scarcely to be imagined.
Being very industrious, these people multiplied exceedingly, and were very powerful at the time of the conversion to Christianity, or, as they term it, the apostacy under Abreha and Atszbeha. At that time they declared a prince of the tribe of Judah, and of
408 TRAVELS TO DISCOVER
the race of Solomon and Menilek, their sovereign. The name of this prince was Phineas, who refused to abandon the religion of his forefathers, and from him their * sovereigns are lineally descended; so they have still a prince of the house of Judah, although the Abyssinians, by way of reproach, have called this family Bet Israel, intimating that they were rebels, and revolted from the family of Solomon and tribe of Judah; and there is little doubt but that some of the successors of Azarias adhered to their ancient faith also. Although there was no bloodshed upon difference of religion, yet, each having a distinct king, with the same pretensions, many battles were fought from motives of ambition, and rivalship of sovereign power.
About the year 960, an attempt was made by this Jewish family to mount the throne of Abyssinia, as we shall see hereafter, when the princes of the house of Solomon were nearly extirpated upon the rock Damo. This, it is probable, produced more animosity and bloodshed. At last the power of the Falasha was so much weakened, that they were obliged to leave the flat country of Dembea, having no cavalry to maintain them there, and to take possession of the rugged, and almost inaccessible rocks, in that high ridge, called the mountains of Samen. One of these, formed by Nature for a fortress, they chose for their metropolis; and it has ever after been called the Jews' Rock.
A great overthrow, which they received in the year 1600, brought them to the very brink of ruin. In that battle Gideon and Judith, their king and queen, were slain. They have since adopted a more peaceable
* The sovereigns of the Falaiha. E.
THE SOURCE OF THE NILE. 409
and dutiful behaviour, pay taxes, and are suffered to enjoy their own government. Their king and queen were again called Gideon and Judith, when I was in Abyssinia; and these names seem to be preferred for those of the royal family. At that time they were supposed to amount to 100,000 effective men. Something like this, the sober and more informed Abyssinians are obliged to allow to be truth; but the circumstances of the conversion from Judaism are probably not all before us.
The only copy of the Old Testament, which they have, is the translation in Geez, the same made use of by the Abyssinian Christians, who are the only scribes, and sell these copies to the Falasha Jews; and no controversy, or dispute about the text, has ever yet arisen between the professors of the two religions. They have no keriketib, or various readings; they have never heard of talmud, targum, or cabala; neither have they any fringes * or ribband upon their garments; nor is there, as far as I could learn, one scribe among them.
I asked them, being from Judea, whence they got that language which they spoke; whether it was one of the languages of the nations on the coast of the Red Sea. They apprehended, but it was mere conjecture, that the language which they spoke was that of those nations they had found on the Red Sea, after their, leaving Judea; and the reason they gave was certainly a pertinent one; that they came into Abyssinia, speaking Hebrew, with the advantage of having books in that language; but they had now forgot their Hebrew, and it was therefore
* Numb. chap. xv. ver. 38, 39. Deut. chap. xxii. ver. 12.
We see this happened to the Jews in a much shorter time during
410 TRAVELS TO DISCOVER
not probable they should retain any other language, in which they had no books, and which they never had learned to express by letters.
I asked them how it happened they had not Hebrew, or Samaritan copies of the law, at least the Pentateuch or Octateuch. They said, they were in possession of both when they came from Jerusalem; but, their fleet being destroyed, in the reign of Rehoboam, and communication becoming very uncertain by the Syrian wars, they were, from necessity, obliged to have the Scriptures translated, or make use of the copies in the hands of the Shepherds, who, according to them, before Solomon's time, were all Jews, and consequently possessed the law in its purity.
I asked them where the Shepherds got their copy; because, notwithstanding the invasion of Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar, who was the foreign obstacle longest in their way, in that country the Ishmaelite Arabs had access through Arabia to Jerusalem and Syria, and carried on a great trade thither by land. They declared, very candidly, they could not give a satisfactory answer to that, as the time was very distant, and war had destroyed all the memorials of these transactions. I asked if they really ever had any memorials of their own country, or history of any other. They answered, with some hesitation, they had no reason to say they ever had any; if they had, they were all destroyed in the war with Gragne. This is all that I could ever learn from this people; and it required great patience and prudence in making the interrogations, and separating truth from falsehood; for many of them (as is invariably the case with barbarians),
the captivity, when they forgot their Hebrew, and speke Chaldee ever after.
THE SOURCE OF THE NILE. 411
if they once divine the reason of your inquiry, will say whatever they think will please you;
They deny the sceptre has ever departed from Judah, as they have a prince of that house reigning; and understand the prophecy of the gathering of the Gentiles, at the coming of Shiloh, to be fulfilled on the appearance of the Messiah, who is not yet come, when all the inhabitants of the world are to be Jews. But I must confess they did not give an explanation of this either clearly or readily, or seem to have ever considered it before; They were not at all heated by the subject, nor interested, as far as I could discern, in the difference between us; nor fond of talking upon their religion at all; though very ready at all quotations, when a person was present who spoke Amharic, with the barbarous accent that they do; and this makes me conceive that their ancestors were not in Palestine, or present in those disputes or transactions that attended the death of our Saviour, and have subsisted ever since. They pretend that the book of Enoch was the first book of Scripture they ever received. They know nothing of that of Seth, but place Job immediately after Enoch; so that they have no idea of the time in which the former lived, but said they believe it to have been soon after the flood; and they look upon the book, bearing his name, to be the performance of that prophet.
Many difficulties occur from this account of the Falasha. For, though they say they came from Jerusalem in the time of Solomon, and from different tribes, yet there is but one language amongst them all, and that is not Hebrew or Samaritan, neither of which they read or understand; nor is their answer to this objection satisfactory, for very obvious reasons.
Ludolf, the most learned man that has writ upon the subject, says, that it is apparent the Ethiopic Old
412 TRAVELS TO DISCOVER
Testament, at least the Pentateuch, was translated from the Septuagint, because of the many Grecisms to be found in it; and the names of birds and precious stones, and some other passages that appear literally to be translated from the Greek. He imagines, also, that the present Abyssinian version is the work of Frumentius, their first bishop, when Abyssinia was converted to Christianity under Abreha, and Atzbeha, about the year 333 * after Christ, or a few years later.
Although I brought with me all the Abyssinian books of the Old Testament (if it is a translation), I have not yet had time to make the comparison here alluded to; but have left them, for the curiosity of the public, deposited in the British Museum, hoping that some man of learning or curiosity would do this for me. In the mean time, I must observe, that it is much more natural to suppose that the Greeks, comparing the copies together, expunged the words or passages they found differing from the Septuagint, and replaced them thence, as this would not offend the Jews, who very well knew that those who translated the Septuagint version, were all Jews themselves.
Now, as the Abyssinian copy of the Holy Scriptures, in Mr Ludolf's opinion, was translated by Frumentius above 330 after Christ, and the Septuagint version, in the days of Philadelphus, or Ptolemy II. above 160 years before Christ, it will follow, that, if the present Jews use the copy translated by Frumentius, and if that was taken from the Septuagint, the Jews must have been above 400 years without any books whatsoever, at the time of the conversion by Frumentius: so they must have had all the Jewish law, which is in perfect vigour and force among them,
* The psalter excepted. E.
THE SOURCE OF THE NILE. 413
all their Levitical observances, their purifications, atonements, abstinences, and sacrifices, all depending upon their memory, without writing, at least for that long space of 4OO, or more exactly 490, years.
This, though not absolutely impossible, is surely very nearly so. We know, that at Jerusalem itself, the seat of Jewish law and learning, idolatry happening to prevail, during the short reigns of only four kings, the law, in that interval, became so perfectly forgotten and unknown, that a copy of it being accidentally found and read by Josiah, that prince, upon first learning its contents, was so astonished at the deviations from it, that he apprehended the immediate destruction of the whole city and people. To this I shall only add, that whoever considers the stiff-neckedness, stubbornness, and obstinacy, which were always the character of this Jewish nation, they will not easily believe that they did ever willingly "receive the Old Testament from a people who were the avowed champions of the New."
They have, indeed, no knowledge of the New Testament but from conversation; and do not curse it in general, but treat it as a folly where it supposes the Messiah come, who, they seem to think, is to be a temporal prince, prophet, priest, and conqueror.
Still, it is not probable that a Jew would receive the law and the prophets from a Christian, without
The Falasha Jews of Dembea probably never had a translation of the law or prophets. It is almost certain that the Arabian Jews in Yemen never possessed any. The Hebrew copies of the sacred books were used in their synagogues, by men whose profession it was to read and explain them. It is a well known fact, that the Jews dislike all translations: that of the LXX gave great offence; and at this day they allow no version to supersede the original. E.
414 TRAVELS TO DISCOVER
absolute necessity; though they might very well receive such a copy from a brother Jew, which all the Abyssinians were when this translation was made. Nor would this, as I say, hinder them from following a copy really made by Jews from the text itself, such as the Septuagint actually was. But, I confess, great difficulties occur on every side; and I despair of having them solved, unless by an able, deliberate analysis of the specimen of the Falasha language which I have preserved, in which I earnestly request the concurrence of the learned. A book, of the length of the Canticles, contains words enough to judge upon the question, Whence the Falasha came, and what is the probable cause they had not a translation in their own tongue, since a version became necessary? *
I have less doubt that Frumentius translated the New Testament, as he must have had assistance from those of his own communion in Egypt; and this is a further reason why I believe, that, at his coming, he found the Old Testament already translated into the Ethiopic language and character, because Bagla, or Geez, was an unknown letter, and the language unknown, not only to him, but likewise to every province in Abyssinia, except Tigre; so that it would have cost him no more pains to teach the nation the Greek character and Greek language, than to have
* That judgment may be easily and safely made. The Falashan language has no resemblance to either Arabic or Hebrew, or any dialect of that race. It has a considerable number of words borrowed from the Geez and Amharic, from those nations who have surrounded or conquered the people who speak it; but it is evidently of an origin different from that of any other language in Habbesh. Notwithstanding Mr. Bruce's reasons given in the text, there are insurmountable objections to their validity. The Geez translation is evidently the work of Greek Christians, and the letters are from the Coptic Greek. E.
THE SOURCE OF THE NILE. 415
translated the New Testament into Ethiopic, using the Geez character, which was equally unknown, unless in Tigre. The saving of time and labour would have been very material to him; he would have used the whole Scriptures, as received in his own church, and the Greek letter and language would have been just as easily attained in Amhara as the Geez; and those people, even of the province of Tigre, that had not yet learned to read, would have written the Greek character as easily as their own. I do not know that there was any Arabic translation of the Old Testament so early ; if there was, the same reasons would have militated for his preferring this; and still he had but the New Testament to undertake. But having found the books of the Old Testament already translated into Geez, this altered the case; and he, very properly, continued the Gospel in that language and letter also, that it might be a testimony for the Christians, and against the Jews, as it was intended.
416 TRAVELS TO DISCOVER
* The following is a list of the Ethiopic MSS. brought from Gondar by Mr Bruce :
I. The Old Testament, in five large quarto volumes, each about a foot in length and breadth. These contain all the books in our canon, except the Psalms, and several of the Apocrypha.
II. Two copies of the Gospels, in four volumes, two of which are in small quarto, answering in size to the two volumes which contain the writings of the apostles, and the rest of the New Testament, mentioned in No. IV.
THE SOURCE OF THE NILE. 417
Many books of the Old Testament are forgot, so that it is the same trouble to procure them, even in churches, for the purpose of copying, as to consult old records, long covered with dust and rubbish. The revelation of St. John is a piece of favourite reading
III. The Synodos, or Constitutions of the Apostles; beautifully written, and containing about 300 folia. An analysis of this large volume is given by Ludolf in his Commentarius ad Historian! Abyssiniee. It forms what is called the kanoun, or positive law of the church, beyond the letter of which the clergy have no judicial powers.
IV. The Acts of the Apostles, and all the epistles in our canon, with the Revelation of St. John, in two small quarto volumes, uniform with the Gospels before mentioned.
V. A Chronicle of the Kings of Abyssinia, from Arwe to Bacuffa, with a very curious preface on the law and customs brought from Jerusalem, by Ibn Hakim, the son of Solomon. From this preface is extracted the information respecting the great officers of the Negus, given in the Introduction to the History of Abyssinia. As the MS. contains a perpetual chronicle of all the princes. from Icon Amlac to Bacuffa, inclusively, it has been of great use in preserving entire the chain of history, which is broken in the larger annals. It consists of about 120 folia, of the quarto size.
VI. The Kebir Zaneguste, or Glory of the Kings; the celebrated book of Axum, described in a succeeding note.
VII. The Annals of Abyssinia, in five volumes; quarto; the principal source of the history given in the third volume of this Work. The first of these contains the Kebir Zaneguste, verbatim, us in the preceding number, but having many various readings, no titles nor divisions to the chapters, nor the usual appendix. The 2d contains the history of Amda Sion, Zera Jacob, Bacda Mariam, Iscander, Naod, David, Claudius, Menas, and Sertza Denghel. The 3d contains the annals of Susneus, Facilidas, and Hannes I. The 4th contains the annals of Yasous Tallak, or Yasous the Great; of Teclahaimanout I. Tiflis, and David IV. The 5th contains the annals of Bacuffa, his son Yasous II. and grandson Joas, who was murdered in the year Mr. Bruce entered Abyssinia. The history of Ras Michael is an interisting part of this volume, which authenticates his character, as drawn by the writer of these travels.
418 TRAVELS TO DISCOVER
among them. Its title is, the Vision of John Abou Kalamsis, which seems to be a corruption of Apocalypsis: at the same time, we can hardly imagine that Frumentius, a Greek and a man of letters, should make so strange a mistake. There is no such thing as a distinction between canonical and apocryphal books. Bell and the Dragon, and the Acts of the Apostles, are read with equal devotion, and, for the most part, I am afraid, with equal edification; and it is in the spirit of truth, not of ridicule, that I say, St. George and his Dragon, from idle legends only, are objects of nearly as great veneration as any of the heroes in the Old Testament, or saints in the New. The Song of Solomon is a favourite piece of reading among the old priests, but forbidden to the young ones, to deacons, laymen, and women. The Abyssinians believe, that this song was made by Solomon in praise of Pharaoh's daughter; and do not think, as some of our divines are disposed to do, that there is in it any mystery or allegory respecting Christ and the church. It may be asked, Why did I choose to have this book translated, seeing that it was to be attended with this particular difficulty? To this I answer, The choice was not mine, nor did I at first know all the difficulty. The first I pitched upon was the book of Ruth, as being the shortest; but the subject did not please the scribes and priests, who were to copy for me,
VIII. The Synaxar, or Lives of the Ethiopic Saints, arranged according to their order in the national calender, in four volumes quarto. Most of the idle legends, contained in this book, are translations from the Greek and Coptic. The saints are nothing inferior to their western brethren in strength of faith. They perform greater miracles, live more ascetic lives, and suffer more dreadful martyrdom than those holy men; all which is nothing surprising in the native country of credulity, superstition, and religious zeal. E.
THE SOURCE OF THE NILE. 419
and I found it would not do. They then chose the Song of Solomon, and engaged to go through with it; and I recommended it to two or three young scribes, who completed the copy by themselves and their friends.
I was obliged to procure licence for these scribes, whom I employed in translating it into the different languages; but it was a permission of course, and met with no real, though some pretended difficulty.
A nephew of Abba Salama * the Acab Saat, a young man of no common genius, asked leave from his uncle before he began the translation; to which Salama answered, alluding to an old law, That, if he attempted such a thing, he should be killed as they do sheep; but, if I would give him the money, he would permit it. I would not have taken any notice of this; but some of the young men having told it to Ras Michael, who perfectly guessed the matter, he called for the scribe, and asked what his uncle had said to him; who told him very plainly, that, if he began the translation, his throat would be cut like that of a sheep. One day Michael asked Abba Salama, whether that was true; he answered in the affirmative, and seemed disposed to be talkative.
"Then," said the Ras to the young man, "your uncle declares, if you write the book for Yagoube, he will cut your throat like a sheep; and I say to you, I swear by St. Michael, I will put you to death like am ass, if you don't write it; consider with yourself which of the risks you'll run, and come to me in eight days, and make your choice." But, before the eighth day,
* I shall have occasion to speak much of this priest in the sequel. He was a most inveterate and dangerous enemy to all Europeans, the principal ecclesiastical officer in the king's house.
Then prime minister, concerning whom much is to be said hereafter.
420 TRAVELS TO DISCOVER
he brought me the book, very well pleased at having an excuse for receiving the price of the copy. Abba Salama complained of this at another time, when I wa& present, and the name of Frank was invidiously mentioned; but he got only a stern look and word from the Ras: "Hold your tongue, sir, you don't know what you say; you don't know that you are a fool, sir, but I do; if you talk much, you will publish it to all the world*".
After the New Testament they place the Constitutions of the Apostles, which they call Synodos, which, as far as the cases or doctrines apply, we may say is the written law of the country. These were translated from the Arabic. They next have a general liturgy, or book of common prayer, besides several others peculiar to certain festivals, under whose names they go. The next is a very large voluminous book, called Haimanout Abou, chiefly a collection from the works of different Greek fathers, treating of, or explaining several heresies, or disputed points of faith, in the ancient Greek church. Translations of the works of St. Athanasius, St. Basil, St. John Chrysostome, and St. Cyril, are likewise current among them; The two last I never saw; and only fragments of St. Athanasius ; but they are certainly extant in Abyssinia.
The next is the Synaxar, or the Flos Sanctorum, in which the miracles and lives, or lies, of their saints, are recorded at large, in four monstrous volumes in folio, stuffed full of fables of the most incredible kind. They have a saint that wrestled with the devil, in shape of a serpent nine miles long, threw him from a mountain, and killed him. Another saint, that converted the devil, who turned monk, and lived in great holiness for forty years after his conversion, doing penance for having tempted our Saviour upon the mountain;
THE SOURCE OF THE NILE. 421
what became of him after they do not say. Again, another saint, that never ate nor drank from his mother's womb, went to Jerusalem, and said mass every day at the holy sepulchre, and came home at night in the shape of a stork. The last I shall mention was a saint, who, being very sick, and his stomach in disorder, took a longing for partridges. He called upon a brace of them to come to him, and immediately two roasted partridges came flying, and rested upon his plate, to be devoured. These stories are circumstantially told, and vouched by unexceptionable people, and were a grievous stumbling-block to the Jesuits, who could not pretend their own miracles were either better established, or more worthy of belief.
There are other books of less size and consequence, particularly the Organon Denghel, or the Virgin Mary's Musical Instrument, composed by Abba George, about the year 1440, much valued for the purity of its language, though he himself was an Armenian. The last of this Ethiopic library is the book of Enoch. * Upon hearing this book first mentioned, many literati in Europe had a wonderful desire to see it, thinking that, no doubt, many antediluvian secrets and unknown histories might be drawn from it. Upon this some impostor, getting an Ethiopic book into his hands, wrote for the title, The Prophesies of Enoch, upon the front page of it. M. Peirise no sooner heard of it than he purchased it of the impostor for a considerable sum of money: being placed afterwards
* Vid. Origen contra Celsum, lib. 5. Tertull. de Idolol. c. 4. Drus in suo Enoch. Bangius in Coelo Orientis Exercit. I. quaest. 5 and 6.
Gassend. in vita Peirise, lib. 5.
[see also: see also William Huntington's 1803 Light Shining in Darkness. pp. 22ff. and The Baptist Annual Register for the year 1801.]
422 TRAVELS TO DISCOVER
in Cardinal Mazarne's library, where Mr. Ludolf had access to it, he found it was a Gnostic book upon mysteries in heaven and earth, but which mentioned not a word of Enoch, or his prophecy, from beginning to end; and, from this disappointment, he takes upon him to deny the existence of any such book any where else. This, however, is a mistake; for, as a public return for the many obligations I had received from every rank of that most humane, polite, and scientific nation, and more especially from the sovereign, Louis XV., I gave to his cabinet a part of every thing curious I had collected abroad; which was received with that degree of consideration and attention, that cannot fail to determine every traveller of a liberal mind to follow my example.
Amongst the articles I consigned to the library at Paris, was a very beautiful and magnificent copy of the prophecies of Enoch, in large quarto; another is amongst the books of scripture which I brought home, standing immediately before the book of Job, which is its proper place in Abyssinian canon; and a third copy I have presented to the Bodleian library at Oxford, by the hands of Dr. Douglas, the Bishop of Carlisle. The more ancient history of that book is well known. The church at first looked upon it as apocryphal; and as it was quoted in the book of Jude, the same suspicion fell upon that book also. For this reason, the council of Nice threw the epistle of Jude out of the canon; but the council of Trent, arguing better, replaced the apostle in the canon as before.
For we may observe, by the way, that Jude's appealing to the apocryphal books did by no means import, that either he believed, or warranted, the truth of them. But it was an argument, a fortiori, which our Saviour himself often makes use of, and amounts to no more than this; You, says he to
THE SOURCE OF THE NILE. 423
the Jews, deny certain facts, which must be from prejudice, because you have them allowed in your own books, and believe them there. And a very strong and fair way of arguing it is; but this is by no means any allowance that these books are true. In the same manner, You, says Jude, do not believe the coming of Christ and a latter judgment; yet your ancient Enoch, who, you suppose, was the seventh from Adam, tells you this plainly, and in so many words, long ago. And indeed the quotation is word for word the same, in the second chapter of the book.
All that is material to say further concerning the book of Enoch is, that it is a Gnostic book, containing the age of the Emims, Anakims, and Egregores, descendents of the sons of God, when they fell in love with the daughters of men, and had sons by them, who were giants. These giants were not so charitable to the sons and daughters of men, as their fathers had been. For, first, they began to eat all the beasts of the earth; they then fell upon the birds and fishes, and ate them also; their hunger being not yet satisfied, they ate all the corn, all men's labour, all the trees and bushes, and, not content yet, they fell to eating the men themselves. The men (like our modern sailors with the savages) were; not afraid of dying, but very much so of being eaten after death. At length they cry to God against the wrongs the giants had done them, and God sends a flood, which drowns both them and the giants. *
* The book of Enoch was originally written in Greek, probably by some Alexandrian Jew. The original is lost; but a large fragment of it may be found in Kircher. Oedip. Aegyp. vol. II. p. 69.
It is singular that the oldest traditions of the East attributed the invention of the arts to a race of evil and degenerate men, who
424 TRAVELS TO DISCOVER
Such is the reparation which this ingenious author has thought proper to attribute to Providence, in answer to the first, and best founded complaints that were made to him by man. I think this exhausts about four or five of the first chapters. It is not the fourth part of the book; but my curiosity led me no further. The catastrophe of the giants, and the justice of the catastrophe, fully satisfied me.
were as depraved in their morals as able in their understandings. Cain and his children invented agriculture, architecture, the uses of the metals, music, and poetry; arts, which some may think the offspring of a nobler mind, graciously condescending to lessen the sorrows of the primaeval curse. The history of the giants who provoked the vengeance of God, on account of their lawless actions, is a favourite legend in Abyssinia. The names of the principal Angels, or sons of God, who went in to the daughters of men, are recorded; and the dimensions of the giants are better known in the monastery of Waldubba, than those of the Pyramids in Europe.
To give an instance of this, which may illustrate both the nature of the Abyssinian pious fables, and their Synaxar or Martyrology itself; the book written by one Behaila Michael, and purchased so dearly by Peirise, gives the following description of Satniel, or Satan, the chief of the rebel angels. After having enumerated his immense army, he adds "that his stature was 100,700 cubits, angelic measure. His head was like a great mountain; his mouth about 40 cubits. His eye-brows were three days journey asunder. When he wished to turn, about his eye-balls, he could scarcely do it in a weeks time. He had hands 70, and feet 7000 cubits long. His face was a days journey, and * * * 100 cubits, like those angels of whom Ezekiel, the prophet, testifies, that with two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, with two their hands, and with two their lower extremities." For these and other miraculous contents of the Ethiopic books of piety, vide Ludolphi Comment, ad suam Hist. AEthiop. p. 347—351, and 286—293.
The translation from the Greek, which is found in the Ethiopic bible, under the name of Metsahaf Henoc, is divided into 90 Kefel, or chapters. It begins with this preface: "In the name of
THE SOURCE OF THE NILE. 425
I cannot but recollect, that, when it was known in England that I had presented this book to the library of the king of France, without staying a few days, to give me time to reach London, when our learned countrymen might have had an opportunity of perusing
God, the merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and of great mercy and holiness. This book is the book of Henoch the prophet. May his blessing and help be with him, who loves him for ever and ever, Amen. Chap. I. The word of the blessing of Enoch, with which he blessed the chosen and the righteous, that were of old. May it be in the day of temptation a protection against all the evil and wicked. And Enoch lifted up his voice and spake, a holy man of God, while his eyes were open, and he saw a holy vision in the heavens, which the angels revealed lo him. And I heard from them every thing, and I understood what I saw." After this follows the history of the angels, of their having descended from heaven, and produced giants with the daughters of men; of their having instructed these in the arts of war, and peace, and luxury. The names of the leading spirits are mentioned, which appear to be of Hebrew original, but corrupted by Greek pronounciation. The resolution of God to destroy them is then revealed to Enoch. These topics occupy about 18 chapters, which Mr Bruce had translated into English, but, weary of the subject, proceeded no further. From the 18th to the 50th chapter, Enoch is led by Uriel and Raphael through a series of visions, not much connected with the preceding. He saw the burning valley of the fallen spirits, the paradise of the saints, the utmost ends of the earth, the treasuries of the thunder and lightning, winds, rain, dew, and the angels who presided over these. He was led into the place of the general judgment, saw the ancient of days on his throne, and all the kings of the earth before him. At the 52d chap. Noah is said to have been alarmed at the enormous wickedness of mankind, and, fearing vengeance, to have implored the advice of his great-grandfather. Enoch told him, that a flood of waters would destroy the whole race of man, and a flood of fire punish the angels, whom the deluge could not affect (Chap. 59.) The subject of the angels is resumed. Semeiaza, Artukafa, Arimeen, Kakabu-el, Tusael, Ramiel, Danael, and others to the amount of twenty, appear at the head of the fallen spirits, and give fresh instances of their rebellious disposition. At Kefel (62), Enoch gives his son Mathusala, a long account of the sun, moon, stars, the year, the
426 TRAVELS TO DISCOVER
at leisure another copy of this book, * Doctor Woide set out for Paris, with letters from the Secretary of State to Lord Stormont, ambassador at that court, desiring him to assist the Doctor in procuring access to my present, by permission from his Most Christian Majesty. This he accordingly obtained, and a translation of the work was brought over; but, I know not why, it has nowhere appeared. I fancy Dr. Woide was not much more pleased with the conduct of the giants than I was.
I shall conclude with one particular, which is a curious one: The Synaxar (what the Catholics call their Flos Sanctorum, or the lives and miracles of their saints), giving the history of the Abyssinian conversion to Christianity in the year 333, says, that when Frumentius and CEdesius were introduced to the king, who was a minor, they found him reading the psalms of David.
This book, or that of Enoch, does by no means prove that they were at that time Jews, although the fact really is so. For these two were in as great authority among the Pagans, who professed Sabaism, the
months, the winds, and like physical phenomena. This takes up eight chapters, after which the patriarch makes a recapitulation of what he had uttered in the former pages. The remaining 20 chapters are employed on the history of the deluge, Noah's preparations for it, and the success which attended them. The destruction of all flesh, excepting his family, and the execution of Divine vengeance on the angels and their followers, conclude this absurd and tedious work. E.
* This celebrated Coptic scholar did not leave London, for the sake of seeing the book of Knoch only, but in order to collate the MSS. of the Coptic and Sahidic versions of the scriptures, in the French Royal Library, with those which he had found in England. The result of these collations may be seen in the Fragmenta Novi Testamenti Sahidici, published after his death. E.
THE SOURCE OF THE NILE. 427
first religion of the East, and especially of the Shepherds, as among the Jews. These being continued also in the same letter and character among the Abyssinians from the beginning, convinces me that there has not been any other writing in this country, or the south of Arabia, since that which rose from the hieroglyphics.
The Abyssinian history begins now to rid itself of part of that confusion, which is almost a constant attendant upon the very few annals, yet preserved, of barbarous nations in very ancient times. It is certain, from their history, that Bazen was contemporary with Augustus, that he reigned sixteen years, and that the birth of our Saviour fell on the 8th year of that prince; so that the 8th year of Bazen was the first of Christ.
Amha Yasous, prince of Shoa, a province to which the small remains of the line of Solomon fled, upon a catastrophe I shall have occasion to mention, gave me the following list of the kings of Abyssinia since the time of which we are now speaking. From him I procured all the books of the annals of Abyssinia, which have served to compose this history, excepting two; one given me by the king, the other, the chronicle of Axum, by Ras Michael, Governor of Tigre.
James Bruce (1730-1794)
According to Andrew Collins, "James Bruce... was a member of the Canongate Kilwinning No. 2 lodge of Edinburgh, known to be one of the oldest in Scotland, with side-orders and mystical teachings entrenched in Judaeo-Christian myth and ritual." (Ashes of Angels... 1996, p. 12). Some historical researchers believe that much of the motivation behind James Bruce's epic travels in Ethiopia centered around his desire to recover sacred objects connected with Solomon's Temple. As a leading Freemason Bruce may have also been interested in verifying legends associating the medieval Knights Templar with old Christian churches in Ethiopia.
Bruce was particularly interested in obtaining examples of Ethiopian books, such as the "Kebra Nagast" and the "Book of Enoch," both of which were written in Ge'ez, the classical language of Ethiopia. According to Graham Hancock, Bruce began studying this obscure language as early as 1759. In going to remote Ethiopia, Bruce risked "numberless dangers and sufferings," purportedly just "in order to discover the source of the Nile." Hancock further states: "Lest any should be in any doubt that this was indeed his ambition he enshrined it conspicuously in the full title of the immense book that he later wrote: Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile in the Years 1768, 1769, 1770, 1771, 1772 and 1773. The mystery is this: long before he set out for Ethiopia, James Bruce knew that the Blue Nile's source had already been visited and thoroughly explored by two other Europeans: Pedro Paez and Jeronomo Lobo (both of whom were Portuguese priests who had lived in Ethiopia in the 1600s before the Fasilidas ban [that any Portuguese seeking entry into Ethiopia be beheaded] was put into effect." (The Sign and the Seal.)
Bruce did not relate much of the story of the Ethiopian "Book of Enoch" or the historical "Kebra Nagast" in the pages of his Travels, It is, however, likely that he communicated the essential stories of both obscure texts, translated into English, in limited-circulation Masonic publications, both in Scotland and in England's American colonies. (That portion of the "Kebra Nagast" which relates the Israelite colonization of Ethiopia contains numerous textual parallels with the Book of Mormon.) Word-of-mouth accounts of Bruce's discoveries in regard to the contents of both books may well have circulated in American Royal Arch lodges prior to 1800. It is a firm (but not yet demonstrated) possibility that Bruce's discoveries, both public and private, reached the ear of the Rev. Solomon Spalding in New England by 1795. Spalding would have at least seen American editions of Bruce's Travels before he moved to Ohio in about 1809. It appears likely that Bruce's work influenced Spalding's writings.
Vol III Excerpt (Paraphrase) :
"...A battle fought on the shores of Lake Tana on 10 February 1543...after fifteen years of unparalleled destruction and violence, ended the Muslim attempt to subdue the Christian empire of Ethiopia.... The cultural damage -- in terms of burnt manuscripts, icons and paintings, razed churches and looted treasures -- was to cast a shadow over the civilization of the highlands for centuries to come."
Graham Hancock's comments: "The greatest treasure of all, however, was saved: moved out of Axum by the priests only days before that city was burnt in 1535, the Ark had been taken to one of the many island-monasteries on Lake Tana. there it was kept in safety until long after Gragn's death. Then, in the mid 1600's, Emperor Fasilidas (described by Bruce as 'the greatest king that ever sat upon the Abyssinian throne') built a new cathedral of Saint Mary of Zion over the gutted ruins of the old - and there, with due ceremony, the sacred relic was at last re-installed in all its former glory."