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A Voyage to Abyssinia by Father Jerome Lobo

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A Voyage to Abyssinia by Father Jerome Lobo
translated from the French by Samuel Johnson.

INTRODUCTION by Henry Morley, Editor of the 1887 edition

Jeronimo Lobo was born in Lisbon in the year 1593. He entered the
Order of the Jesuits at the age of sixteen. After passing through
the studies by which Jesuits were trained for missionary work, which
included special attention to the arts of speaking and writing,
Father Lobo was sent as a missionary to India at the age of twenty-
eight, in the year 1621. He reached Goa, as his book tells, in
1622, and was in 1624, at the age of thirty-one, told off as one of
the missionaries to be employed in the conversion of the
Abyssinians. They were to be converted, from a form of Christianity
peculiar to themselves, to orthodox Catholicism. The Abyssinian
Emperor Segued was protector of the enterprise, of which we have
here the story told.

Father Lobo was nine years in Abyssinia, from the age of thirty-one
to the age of forty, and this was the adventurous time of his life.
The death of the Emperor Segued put an end to the protection that
had given the devoted missionaries, in the midst of dangers, a
precarious hold upon their work. When he and his comrades fell into
the hands of the Turks at Massowah, his vigour of body and mind, his
readiness of resource, and his fidelity, marked him out as the one
to be sent to the headquarters in India to secure the payment of a
ransom for his companions. He obtained the ransom, and desired also
to obtain from the Portuguese Viceroy in India armed force to
maintain the missionaries in the position they had so far won. But
the Civil power was deaf to his pleading. He removed the appeal to
Lisbon, and after narrowly escaping on the way from a shipwreck, and
after having been captured by pirates, he reached Lisbon, and sought
still to obtain means of overawing the force hostile to the work of
the Jesuits in Abyssinia. The Princess Margaret gave friendly
hearing, but sent him on to persuade, if he could, the King of
Spain; and failing at Madrid, he went to Rome and tried the Pope.
He was chosen to go to the Pope, said the Patriarch Alfonso Mendez,
because, of all the brethren at Goa, the 'Pater Hieronymus Lupus'
(Lobo translated into Wolf) was the most ingenious and learned in
all sciences, with a mind most generous in its desire to conquer
difficulties, dexterous in management of business, and found most
able to make himself agreeable to those with whom there was business
to be done. The vigour with which he held by his purpose of
endeavouring in every possible way to bring the Christianity of
Abyssinia within the pale of the Catholic Church is in accordance
with the character that makes the centre of the story of this book.
Whimsical touches arise out of this strength of character and
readiness of resource, as when he tells of the taste of the
Abyssinians for raw cow's flesh, with a sauce high in royal
Abyssinian favour, made of the cow's gall and contents of its
entrails, of which, when he was pressed to partake, he could only
excuse himself and his brethren by suggesting that it was too good
for such humble missionaries. Out of distinguished respect for it,
they refrained from putting it into their mouths.

Good Father Lobo gave up the desire of his heart, when it was proved
unattainable, and returned to India six years after the breaking up
of his work in Abyssinia, at the age of forty-seven. He came to be
head of the Provincials of the Jesuit settlement at Goa, and after
about ten more years of active duty in the East returned in 1658 to
Lisbon, when he died in the religious house of St. Roque in 1678, at
the age of eighty-five. A comrade of Father Lobo's, Baltazar
Tellez, said that Lobo had travelled thirty-eight thousand leagues
with no other object before him but the winning of more souls to
God. His years in Abyssinia stood out prominently to his mind among
all the years of his long life, and he wrote an account of them in
Portuguese, of which the manuscript is at Lisbon in the monastery of
St. Roque, where he closed his life.

Of that manuscript, then and still unprinted (though use was made of
it by Baltazar Tellez in his History of 'Ethiopia-Coimbra,' 1660),
the Abbe Legrand, Prior of Neuville-les-Dames, and of Prevessin,
published a translation into French. The Abbe Legrand had been to
Lisbon as Secretary to the Abbe d'Estrees, Ambassador from France to
Portugal. The negotiations were so long continued that M. Legrand
was detained five years in Lisbon, and employed the time in
researches among documents illustrating the Portuguese possessions
in India and the East. He obtained many memoirs of great interest,
and published from one of them an account of Ceylon; but of all the
manuscripts he found none interested him so much as that of Father
Lobo. His translation was augmented with illustrative
dissertations, letters, and a memoir on the circumstances of the
death of M. du Roule. It filled two volumes, or 636 pages of forty
lines. This was published in 1728. It was on the 31st of October,
1728, that Samuel Johnson, aged nineteen, went to Pembroke College,
Oxford, and Legrand's 'Voyage Historique d'Abissinie du R. P. Jerome
Lobo, de la Compagnie de Jesus, Traduit du Portugais, continue et
augmente de plusieurs Dissertations, Lettres et Memoires,' was one
of the new books read by Johnson during his short period of college
life. In 1735, when Johnson's age was twenty-six, and the world
seemed to have shut against him every door of hope, Johnson stayed
for six months at Birmingham with his old schoolfellow Hector, who
was aiming at medical practice, and who lodged at the house of a
bookseller. Johnson spoke with interest of Father Lobo, whose book
he had read at Pembroke College. Mr. Warren, the bookseller,
thought it would be worth while to print a translation. Hector
joined in urging Johnson to undertake it, for a payment of five
guineas. Although nearly brought to a stop midway by hypochondriac
despondency, a little suggestion that the printers also were
stopped, and if they had not their work had not their pay, caused
Johnson to go on to the end. Legrand's book was reduced to a fifth
of its size by the omission of all that overlaid Father Lobo's
personal account of his adventures; and Johnson began work as a
writer with this translation, first published at Birmingham in 1735.


The following relation is so curious and entertaining, and the
dissertations that accompany it so judicious and instructive, that
the translator is confident his attempt stands in need of no
apology, whatever censures may fall on the performance.

The Portuguese traveller, contrary to the general vein of his
countrymen, has amused his reader with no romantic absurdities or
incredible fictions; whatever he relates, whether true or not, is at
least probable; and he who tells nothing exceeding the bounds of
probability has a right to demand that they should believe him who
cannot contradict him.

He appears by his modest and unaffected narration to have described
things as he saw them, to have copied nature from the life, and to
have consulted his senses, not his imagination; he meets with no
basilisks that destroy with their eyes, his crocodiles devour their
prey without tears, and his cataracts fall from the rock without
deafening the neighbouring inhabitants.

The reader will here find no regions cursed with irremediable
barrenness, or blessed with spontaneous fecundity, no perpetual
gloom or unceasing sunshine; nor are the nations here described
either devoid of all sense of humanity, or consummate in all private
and social virtues; here are no Hottentots without religion, polity,
or articulate language, no Chinese perfectly polite, and completely
skilled in all sciences: he will discover, what will always be
discovered by a diligent and impartial inquirer, that wherever human
nature is to be found there is a mixture of vice and virtue, a
contest of passion and reason, and that the Creator doth not appear
partial in his distributions, but has balanced in most countries
their particular inconveniences by particular favours.

In his account of the mission, where his veracity is most to be
suspected, he neither exaggerates overmuch the merits of the
Jesuits, if we consider the partial regard paid by the Portuguese to
their countrymen, by the Jesuits to their society, and by the
Papists to their church, nor aggravates the vices of the Abyssins;
but if the reader will not be satisfied with a Popish account of a
Popish mission, he may have recourse to the history of the church of
Abyssinia, written by Dr. Geddes, in which he will find the actions
and sufferings of the missionaries placed in a different light,
though the same in which Mr. Le Grand, with all his zeal for the
Roman church, appears to have seen them.

This learned dissertator, however valuable for his industry and
erudition, is yet more to be esteemed for having dared so freely in
the midst of France to declare his disapprobation of the Patriarch
Oviedo's sanguinary zeal, who was continually importuning the
Portuguese to beat up their drums for missionaries, who might preach
the gospel with swords in their hands, and propagate by desolation
and slaughter the true worship of the God of Peace.

It is not easy to forbear reflecting with how little reason these
men profess themselves the followers of Jesus, who left this great
characteristic to His disciples, that they should be known by loving
one another, by universal and unbounded charity and benevolence.

Let us suppose an inhabitant of some remote and superior region, yet
unskilled in the ways of men, having read and considered the
precepts of the gospel, and the example of our Saviour, to come down
in search of the true church: if he would not inquire after it
among the cruel, the insolent, and the oppressive; among those who
are continually grasping at dominion over souls as well as bodies;
among those who are employed in procuring to themselves impunity for
the most enormous villainies, and studying methods of destroying
their fellow-creatures, not for their crimes but their errors; if he
would not expect to meet benevolence, engage in massacres, or to
find mercy in a court of inquisition, he would not look for the true
church in the Church of Rome.

Mr. Le Grand has given in one dissertation an example of great
moderation, in deviating from the temper of his religion, but in the
others has left proofs that learning and honesty are often too weak
to oppose prejudice. He has made no scruple of preferring the
testimony of Father du Bernat to the writings of all the Portuguese
Jesuits, to whom he allows great zeal, but little learning, without
giving any other reason than that his favourite was a Frenchman.
This is writing only to Frenchmen and to Papists: a Protestant
would be desirous to know why he must imagine that Father du Bernat
had a cooler head or more knowledge; and why one man whose account
is singular is not more likely to be mistaken than many agreeing in
the same account.

If the Portuguese were biassed by any particular views, another bias
equally powerful may have deflected the Frenchman from the truth,
for they evidently write with contrary designs: the Portuguese, to
make their mission seem more necessary, endeavoured to place in the
strongest light the differences between the Abyssinian and Roman
Church; but the great Ludolfus, laying hold on the advantage,
reduced these later writers to prove their conformity.

Upon the whole, the controversy seems of no great importance to
those who believe the Holy Scriptures sufficient to teach the way of
salvation, but of whatever moment it may be thought, there are not
proofs sufficient to decide it.

His discourses on indifferent subjects will divert as well as
instruct, and if either in these, or in the relation of Father Lobo,
any argument shall appear unconvincing, or description obscure, they
are defects incident to all mankind, which, however, are not too
rashly to be imputed to the authors, being sometimes, perhaps, more
justly chargeable on the translator.

In this translation, if it may be so called, great liberties have
been taken, which, whether justifiable or not, shall be fairly
confessed; and let the judicious part of mankind pardon or condemn

In the first part the greatest freedom has been used in reducing the
narration into a narrow compass, so that it is by no means a
translation but an epitome, in which, whether everything either
useful or entertaining be comprised, the compiler is least qualified
to determine.

In the account of Abyssinia, and the continuation, the authors have
been followed with more exactness, and as few passages appeared
either insignificant or tedious, few have been either shortened or

The dissertations are the only part in which an exact translation
has been attempted, and even in those abstracts are sometimes given
instead of literal quotations, particularly in the first; and
sometimes other parts have been contracted.

Several memorials and letters, which are printed at the end of the
dissertations to secure the credit of the foregoing narrative, are
entirely left out.

It is hoped that, after this confession, whoever shall compare this
attempt with the original, if he shall find no proofs of fraud or
partiality, will candidly overlook any failure of judgment.


Chapter I

The author arrives after some difficulties at Goa. Is chosen for
the Mission of Aethiopia. The fate of those Jesuits who went by
Zeila. The author arrives at the coast of Melinda.

I embarked in March, 1622, in the same fleet with the Count
Vidigueira, on whom the king had conferred the viceroyship of the
Indies, then vacant by the resignation of Alfonso Noronha, whose
unsuccessful voyage in the foregoing year had been the occasion of
the loss of Ormus, which being by the miscarriage of that fleet
deprived of the succours necessary for its defence, was taken by the
Persians and English. The beginning of this voyage was very
prosperous: we were neither annoyed with the diseases of the
climate nor distressed with bad weather, till we doubled the Cape of
Good Hope, which was about the end of May. Here began our
misfortunes; these coasts are remarkable for the many shipwrecks the
Portuguese have suffered. The sea is for the most part rough, and
the winds tempestuous; we had here our rigging somewhat damaged by a
storm of lightning, which when we had repaired, we sailed forward to
Mosambique, where we were to stay some time. When we came near that
coast, and began to rejoice at the prospect of ease and refreshment,
we were on the sudden alarmed with the sight of a squadron of ships,
of what nation we could not at first distinguish, but soon
discovered that they were three English and three Dutch, and were
preparing to attack us. I shall not trouble the reader with the
particulars of this fight, in which, though the English commander
ran himself aground, we lost three of our ships, and with great
difficulty escaped with the rest into the port of Mosambique.

This place was able to afford us little consolation in our uneasy
circumstances; the arrival of our company almost caused a scarcity
of provisions. The heat in the day is intolerable, and the dews in
the night so unwholesome that it is almost certain death to go out
with one's head uncovered. Nothing can be a stronger proof of the
malignant quality of the air than that the rust will immediately
corrode both the iron and brass if they are not carefully covered
with straw. We stayed, however, in this place from the latter end
of July to the beginning of September, when having provided
ourselves with other vessels, we set out for Cochim, and landed
there after a very hazardous and difficult passage, made so partly
by the currents and storms which separated us from each other, and
partly by continual apprehensions of the English and Dutch, who were
cruising for us in the Indian seas. Here the viceroy and his
company were received with so much ceremony, as was rather
troublesome than pleasing to us who were fatigued with the labours
of the passage; and having stayed here some time, that the gentlemen
who attended the viceroy to Goa might fit out their vessels, we set
sail, and after having been detained some time at sea, by calms and
contrary winds, and somewhat harassed by the English and Dutch, who
were now increased to eleven ships of war, arrived at Goa, on
Saturday, the 16th of December, and the viceroy made his entry with
great magnificence.

I lived here about a year, and completed my studies in divinity; in
which time some letters were received from the fathers in Aethiopia,
with an account that Sultan Segued, Emperor of Abyssinia, was
converted to the Church of Rome, that many of his subjects had
followed his example, and that there was a great want of
missionaries to improve these prosperous beginnings. Everybody was
very desirous of seconding the zeal of our fathers, and of sending
them the assistance they requested; to which we were the more
encouraged, because the emperor's letters informed our provincial
that we might easily enter his dominions by the way of Dancala, but
unhappily, the secretary wrote Zeila for Dancala, which cost two of
our fathers their lives.

We were, however, notwithstanding the assurances given us by the
emperor, sufficiently apprised of the danger which we were exposed
to in this expedition, whether we went by sea or land. By sea, we
foresaw the hazard we run of falling into the hands of the Turks,
amongst whom we should lose, if not our lives, at least our liberty,
and be for ever prevented from reaching the court of Aethiopia.
Upon this consideration our superiors divided the eight Jesuits
chosen for this mission into two companies. Four they sent by sea
and four by land; I was of the latter number. The four first were
the more fortunate, who though they were detained some time by the
Turkish bassa, were dismissed at the request of the emperor, who
sent him a zebra, or wild ass, a creature of large size and
admirable beauty.

As for us, who were to go by Zeila, we had still greater
difficulties to struggle with: we were entirely strangers to the
ways we were to take, to the manners, and even to the names of the
nations through which we were to pass. Our chief desire was to
discover some new road by which we might avoid having anything to do
with the Turks. Among great numbers whom we consulted on this
occasion, we were informed by some that we might go through Melinda.
These men painted that hideous wilderness in charming colours, told
us that we should find a country watered with navigable rivers, and
inhabited by a people that would either inform us of the way, or
accompany us in it. These reports charmed us, because they
flattered our desires; but our superiors finding nothing in all this
talk that could be depended on, were in suspense what directions to
give us, till my companion and I upon this reflection, that since
all the ways were equally new to us, we had nothing to do but to
resign ourselves to the Providence of God, asked and obtained the
permission of our superiors to attempt the road through Melinda. So
of we who went by land, two took the way of Zeila, and my companion
and I that of Melinda.

Those who were appointed for Zeila embarked in a vessel that was
going to Caxume, where they were well received by the king, and
accommodated with a ship to carry them to Zeila; they were there
treated by the check with the same civility which they had met with
at Caxume. But the king being informed of their arrival, ordered
them to be conveyed to his court at Auxa, to which place they were
scarce come before they were thrown by the king's command into a
dark and dismal dungeon, where there is hardly any sort of cruelty
that was not exercised upon them. The Emperor of Abyssinia
endeavoured by large offers to obtain their liberty, but his kind
offices had no other effect than to heighten the rage of the king of
Zeila. This prince, besides his ill will to Sultan Segued, which
was kept up by some malcontents among the Abyssin nobility, who,
provoked at the conversion of their master, were plotting a revolt,
entertained an inveterate hatred against the Portuguese for the
death of his grandfather, who had been killed many years before,
which he swore the blood of the Jesuits should repay. So after they
had languished for some time in prison their heads were struck off.
A fate which had been likewise our own, had not God reserved us for
longer labours!

Having provided everything necessary for our journey, such as
Arabian habits, and red caps, calicoes, and other trifles to make
presents of to the inhabitants, and taking leave of our friends, as
men going to a speedy death, for we were not insensible of the
dangers we were likely to encounter, amongst horrid deserts,
impassable mountains, and barbarous nations, we left Goa on the 26th
day of January in the year 1624, in a Portuguese galliot that was
ordered to set us ashore at Pate, where we landed without any
disaster in eleven days, together with a young Abyssin, whom we made
use of as our interpreter. While we stayed here we were given to
understand that those who had been pleased at Goa to give us
directions in relation to our journey had done nothing but tell us
lies. That the people were savage, that they had indeed begun to
treat with the Portuguese, but it was only from fear, that otherwise
they were a barbarous nation, who finding themselves too much
crowded in their own country, had extended themselves to the sea-
shore; that they ravished the country and laid everything waste
where they came, that they were man-eaters, and were on that account
dreadful in all those parts. My companion and I being undeceived by
this terrible relation, thought it would be the highest imprudence
to expose ourselves both together to a death almost certain and
unprofitable, and agreed that I should go with our Abyssin and a
Portuguese to observe the country; that if I should prove so happy
as to escape being killed by the inhabitants, and to discover a way,
I should either return, or send back the Abyssin or Portuguese.
Having fixed upon this, I hired a little bark to Jubo, a place about
forty leagues distant from Pate, on board which I put some
provisions, together with my sacerdotal vestments, and all that was
necessary for saying mass: in this vessel we reached the coast,
which we found inhabited by several nations: each nation is subject
to its own king; these petty monarchies are so numerous, that I
counted at least ten in less than four leagues.

Chapter II

The author lands: The difficulty of his journey. An account of the
Galles, and of the author's reception at the king's tent; Their
manner of swearing, and of letting blood. The author returns to the
Indies, and finds the patriarch of Aethiopia.

On this coast we landed, with an intention of travelling on foot to
Jubo, a journey of much greater length and difficulty than we
imagined. We durst not go far from our bark, and therefore were
obliged to a toilsome march along the windings of the shore,
sometimes clambering up rocks, and sometimes wading through the
sands, so that we were every moment in the utmost danger of falling
from the one, or sinking in the other. Our lodging was either in
the rocks or on the sands, and even that incommoded by continual
apprehensions of being devoured by lions and tigers. Amidst all
these calamities our provisions failed us; we had little hopes of a
supply, for we found neither villages, houses, nor any trace of a
human creature; and had miserably perished by thirst and hunger had
we not met with some fishermen's boats, who exchanged their fish for

Through all these fatigues we at length came to Jubo, a kingdom of
considerable extent, situated almost under the line, and tributary
to the Portuguese, who carry on a trade here for ivory and other
commodities. This region so abounds with elephants, that though the
teeth of the male only are valuable, they load several ships with
ivory every year. All this coast is much infested with ravenous
beasts, monkeys, and serpents, of which last here are some seven
feet in length, and thicker than an ordinary man; in the head of
this serpent is found a stone about the bigness of an egg,
resembling bezoar, and of great efficacy, as it is said, against all
kinds of poison. I stayed here some time to inform myself whether I
might, by pursuing this road, reach Abyssinia; and could get no
other intelligence but that two thousand Galles (the same people who
inhabited Melinda) had encamped about three leagues from Jubo; that
they had been induced to fix in that place by the plenty of
provisions they found there. These Galles lay everything where they
come in ruin, putting all to the sword without distinction of age or
sex; which barbarities, though their numbers are not great, have
spread the terror of them over all the country. They choose a king,
whom they call Lubo: every eighth year they carry their wives with
them, and expose their children without any tenderness in the woods,
it being prohibited, on pain of death, to take any care of those
which are born in the camp. This is their way of living when they
are in arms, but afterwards when they settle at home they breed up
their children. They feed upon raw cow's flesh; when they kill a
cow, they keep the blood to rub their bodies with, and wear the guts
about their necks for ornaments, which they afterwards give to their

Several of these Galles came to see me, and as it seemed they had
never beheld a white man before, they gazed on me with amazement; so
strong was their curiosity that they even pulled off my shoes and
stockings, that they might be satisfied whether all my body was of
the same colour with my face. I could remark, that after they had
observed me some time, they discovered some aversion from a white;
however, seeing me pull out my handkerchief, they asked me for it
with a great deal of eagerness; I cut it into several pieces that I
might satisfy them all, and distributed it amongst them; they bound
them about their heads, but gave me to understand that they should
have liked them better if they had been red: after this we were
seldom without their company, which gave occasion to an accident,
which though it seemed to threaten some danger at first, turned
afterwards to our advantage.

As these people were continually teasing us, our Portuguese one day
threatened in jest to kill one of them. The black ran in the utmost
dread to seek his comrades, and we were in one moment almost covered
with Galles; we thought it the most proper course to decline the
first impulse of their fury, and retired into our house. Our
retreat inspired them with courage; they redoubled their cries, and
posted themselves on an eminence near at hand that overlooked us;
there they insulted us by brandishing their lances and daggers. We
were fortunately not above a stone's cast from the sea, and could
therefore have retreated to our bark had we found ourselves reduced
to extremities. This made us not very solicitous about their
menaces; but finding that they continued to hover about our
habitation, and being wearied with their clamours, we thought it
might be a good expedient to fright them away by firing four muskets
towards them, in such a manner that they might hear the bullets hiss
about two feet over their heads. This had the effect we wished; the
noise and fire of our arms struck them with so much terror that they
fell upon the ground, and durst not for some time so much as lift up
their heads. They forgot immediately their natural temper, their
ferocity and haughtiness were softened into mildness and submission;
they asked pardon for their insolence, and we were ever after good

After our reconciliation we visited each other frequently, and had
some conversation about the journey I had undertaken, and the desire
I had of finding a new passage into Aethiopia. It was necessary on
this account to consult their lubo or king: I found him in a straw
hut something larger than those of his subjects, surrounded by his
courtiers, who had each a stick in his hand, which is longer or
shorter according to the quality of the person admitted into the
king's presence. The ceremony made use of at the reception of a
stranger is somewhat unusual; as soon as he enters, all the
courtiers strike him with their cudgels till he goes back to the
door; the amity then subsisting between us did not secure me from
this uncouth reception, which they told me, upon my demanding the
reason of it, was to show those whom they treated with that they
were the bravest people in the world, and that all other nations
ought to bow down before them. I could not help reflecting on this
occasion how imprudently I had trusted my life in the hands of men
unacquainted with compassion of civility, but recollecting at the
same time that the intent of my journey was such as might give me
hopes of the divine protection, I banished all thoughts but those of
finding a way into Aethiopia. In this strait it occurred to me that
these people, however barbarous, have some oath which they keep with
an inviolable strictness; the best precaution, therefore, that I
could use would be to bind them by this oath to be true to their
engagements. The manner of their swearing is this: they set a
sheep in the midst of them, and rub it over with butter, the heads
of families who are the chief in the nation lay their hands upon the
head of the sheep, and swear to observe their promise. This oath
(which they never violate) they explain thus: the sheep is the
mother of them who swear; the butter betokens the love between the
mother and the children, and an oath taken on a mother's head is
sacred. Upon the security of this oath, I made them acquainted with
my intention, an intention, they told me, it was impossible to put
in execution. From the moment I left them they said they could give
me no assurance of either life or liberty, that they were perfectly
informed both of the roads and inhabitants, that there were no fewer
than nine nations between us and Abyssinia, who were always
embroiled amongst themselves, or at war with the Abyssins, and
enjoyed no security even in their own territories. We were now
convinced that our enterprise was impracticable, and that to hazard
ourselves amidst so many insurmountable difficulties would be to
tempt Providence; despairing, therefore, that I should ever come
this way to Abyssinia, I resolved to return back with my
intelligence to my companion, whom I had left at Pate.

I cannot, however, leave this country without giving an account of
their manner of blood-letting, which I was led to the knowledge of
by a violent fever, which threatened to put an end to my life and
travels together. The distress I was in may easily be imagined,
being entirely destitute of everything necessary. I had resolved to
let myself blood, though I was altogether a stranger to the manner
of doing it, and had no lancet, but my companions hearing of a
surgeon of reputation in the place, went and brought him. I saw,
with the utmost surprise, an old Moor enter my chamber, with a kind
of small dagger, all over rusty, and a mallet in his hand, and three
cups of horn about half a foot long. I started, and asked what he
wanted. He told me to bleed me; and when I had given him leave,
uncovering my side, applied one of his horn cups, which he stopped
with chewed paper, and by that means made it stick fast; in the same
manner he fixed on the other two, and fell to sharpening his
instrument, assuring me that he would give me no pain. He then took
off his cups, and gave in each place a stroke with his poignard,
which was followed by a stream of blood. He applied his cups
several times, and every time struck his lancet into the same place;
having drawn away a large quantity of blood, he healed the orifices
with three lumps of tallow. I know not whether to attribute my cure
to bleeding or my fear, but I had from that time no return of my

When I came to Pate, in hopes of meeting with my associate, I found
that he was gone to Mombaza, in hopes of receiving information. He
was sooner undeceived than I, and we met at the place where we
parted in a few days; and soon afterwards left Pate to return to the
Indies, and in nine-and-twenty days arrived at the famous fortress
of Diou. We were told at this place that Alfonso Mendes, patriarch
of Aethiopia, was arrived at Goa from Lisbon. He wrote to us to
desire that we would wait for him at Diou, in order to embark there
for the Red Sea; but being informed by us that no opportunities of
going thither were to be expected at Diou, it was at length
determined that we should meet at Bazaim; it was no easy matter for
me to find means of going to Bazaim. However, after a very uneasy
voyage, in which we were often in danger of being dashed against the
rocks, or thrown upon the sands by the rapidity of the current, and
suffered the utmost distress for want of water, I landed at Daman, a
place about twenty leagues distant from Bazaim. Here I hire a catre
and four boys to carry me to Bazaim: these catres are a kind of
travelling couches, in which you may either lie or sit, which the
boys, whose business is the same with that of chairmen in our
country, support upon their shoulders by two poles, and carry a
passenger at the rate of eighteen or twenty miles a day. Here we at
length found the patriarch, with three more priests, like us,
designed for the mission of Aethiopia. We went back to Daman, and
from thence to Diou, where we arrived in a short time.

Chapter III

The author embarks with the patriarch, narrowly escapes shipwreck
near the isle of Socotora; enters the Arabian Gulf, and the Red Sea.
Some account of the coast of the Red Sea.

The patriarch having met with many obstacles and disappointments in
his return to Abyssinia, grew impatient of being so long absent from
his church. Lopo Gomez d'Abreu had made him an offer at Bazaim of
fitting out three ships at his own expense, provided a commission
could be procured him to cruise in the Red Sea. This proposal was
accepted by the patriarch, and a commission granted by the viceroy.
While we were at Diou, waiting for these vessels, we received advice
from Aethiopia that the emperor, unwilling to expose the patriarch
to any hazard, thought Dagher, a port in the mouth of the Red Sea,
belonging to a prince dependent on the Abyssins, a place of the
greatest security to land at, having already written to that prince
to give him safe passage through his dominions. We met here with
new delays; the fleet that was to transport us did not appear, the
patriarch lost all patience, and his zeal so much affected the
commander at Diou, that he undertook to equip a vessel for us, and
pushed the work forward with the utmost diligence. At length, the
long-expected ships entered the port; we were overjoyed, we were
transported, and prepared to go on board. Many persons at Diou,
seeing the vessels so well fitted out, desired leave to go this
voyage along with us, imagining they had an excellent opportunity of
acquiring both wealth and honour. We committed, however, one great
error in setting out, for having equipped our ships for
privateering, and taken no merchandise on board, we could not touch
at any of the ports of the Red Sea. The patriarch, impatient to be
gone, took leave in the most tender manner of the governor and his
other friends, recommended our voyage to the Blessed Virgin, and in
the field, before we went on shipboard, made a short exhortation, so
moving and pathetic, that it touched the hearts of all who heard it.
In the evening we went on board, and early the next morning being
the 3rd of April, 1625, we set sail.

After some days we discovered about noon the island Socotora, where
we proposed to touch. The sky was bright and the wind fair, nor had
we the least apprehension of the danger into which we were falling,
but with the utmost carelessness and jollity held on our course. At
night, when our sailors, especially the Moors, were in a profound
sleep (for the Mohammedans, believing everything forewritten in the
decrees of God, and not alterable by any human means, resign
themselves entirely to Providence), our vessel ran aground upon a
sand bank at the entrance of the harbour. We got her off with the
utmost difficulty, and nothing but a miracle could have preserved
us. We ran along afterwards by the side of the island, but were
entertained with no other prospect than of a mountainous country,
and of rocks that jutted out over the sea, and seemed ready to fall
into it. In the afternoon, putting into the most convenient ports
of the island, we came to anchor; very much to the amazement and
terror of the inhabitants, who were not used to see any Portuguese
ships upon their coasts, and were therefore under a great
consternation at finding them even in their ports. Some ran for
security to the mountains, others took up arms to oppose our
landing, but were soon reconciled to us, and brought us fowls, fish,
and sheep, in exchange for India calicoes, on which they set a great
value. We left this island early the next morning, and soon came in
sight of Cape Gardafui, so celebrated heretofore under the name of
the Cape of Spices, either because great quantities were then found
there, or from its neighbourhood to Arabia the Happy, even at this
day famous for its fragrant products. It is properly at this cape
(the most eastern part of Africa) that the Gulf of Arabia begins,
which at Babelmandel loses its name, and is called the Red Sea.
Here, though the weather was calm, we found the sea so rough, that
we were tossed as in a high wind for two nights; whether this
violent agitation of the water proceeded from the narrowness of the
strait, or from the fury of the late storm, I know not; whatever was
the cause, we suffered all the hardships of a tempest. We continued
our course towards the Red Sea, meeting with nothing in our passage
but a gelve, or kind of boat, made of thin boards, sewed together,
with no other sail than a mat. We gave her chase, in hopes of being
informed by the crew whether there were any Arabian vessels at the
mouth of the strait; but the Moors, who all entertain dismal
apprehensions of the Franks, plied their oars and sail with the
utmost diligence, and as soon as they reached land, quitted their
boat, and scoured to the mountains. We saw them make signals from
thence, and imagining they would come to a parley, sent out our boat
with two sailors and an Abyssin, putting the ships off from the
shore, to set them free from any suspicion of danger in coming down.
All this was to no purpose, they could not be drawn from the
mountain, and our men had orders not to go on shore, so they were
obliged to return without information. Soon after we discovered the
isle of Babelmandel, which gives name to the strait so called, and
parts the sea that surrounds it into two channels; that on the side
of Arabia is not above a quarter of a league in breadth, and through
this pass almost all the vessels that trade to or from the Red Sea.
The other, on the side of Aethiopia, though much larger, is more
dangerous, by reason of the shallows, which make it necessary for a
ship, though of no great burthen, to pass very near the island,
where the channel is deeper and less embarrassed. This passage is
never made use of but by those who would avoid meeting with the
Turks who are stationed on the coast of Arabia; it was for this
reason that we chose it. We passed it in the night, and entered
that sea, so renowned on many accounts in history, both sacred and

In our description of this famous sea, an account of which may
justly be expected in this place, it is most convenient to begin
with the coast of Arabia, on which part at twelve leagues from the
mouth stands the city of Moca, a place of considerable trade. Forty
leagues farther is the Isle of Camaram, whose inhabitants are
annoyed with little serpents, which they call basilisks, which,
though very poisonous and deadly, do not, as the ancients have told
us, kill with their eyes, or if they have so fatal a power, it is
not at least in this place. Sailing ninety leagues farther, you see
the noted port of Jodda, where the pilgrims that go to Mecca and
Medina unlade those rich presents which the zeal of different
princes is every day accumulating at the tomb of Mahomet. The
commerce of this place, and the number of merchants that resort
thither from all parts of the world, are above description, and so
richly laden are the ships that come hither, that when the Indians
would express a thing of inestimable price, they say, "It is of
greater value than a ship of Jodda." An hundred and eighteen
leagues from thence lies Toro, and near it the ruins of an ancient
monastery. This is the place, if the report of the inhabitants
deserves any credit, where the Israelites miraculously passed
through the Red Sea on dry land; and there is some reason for
imagining the tradition not ill grounded, for the sea is here only
three leagues in breadth. All the ground about Toro is barren for
want of water, which is only to be found at a considerable distance,
in one fountain, which flows out of the neighbouring mountains, at
the foot of which there are still twelve palm-trees. Near Toro are
several wells, which, as the Arabs tell us, were dug by the order of
Moses to quiet the clamours of the thirsty Israelites. Suez lies in
the bottom of the Gulf, three leagues from Toro, once a place of
note, now reduced, under the Turks, to an inconsiderable village,
where the miserable inhabitants are forced to fetch water at three
leagues' distance. The ancient Kings of Egypt conveyed the waters
of the Nile to this place by an artificial canal, now so choked with
sand, that there are scarce any marks remaining of so noble and
beneficial a work.

The first place to be met with in travelling along the coast of
Africa is Rondelo, situate over against Toro, and celebrated for the
same miraculous passage. Forty-five leagues from thence is Cocir.
Here ends that long chain of mountains that reaches from this place
even to the entrance of the Red Sea. In this prodigious ridge,
which extends three hundred leagues, sometimes approaching near the
sea, and sometimes running far up into the land, there is only one
opening, through which all that merchandise is conveyed, which is
embarked at Rifa, and from thence distributed through all the east.
These mountains, as they are uncultivated, are in some parts shaded
with large forests, and in others dry and bare. As they are
exceedingly high, all the seasons may be here found together; when
the storms of winter beat on one side, on the other is often a
serene sky and a bright sunshine. The Nile runs here so near the
shore that it might without much difficulty be turned through this
opening of the mountains into the Red Sea, a design which many of
the Emperors have thought of putting in execution, and thereby
making a communication between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean,
but have been discouraged either by the greatness of the expense or
the fear of laying great part of Egypt under water, for some of that
country lies lower than sea.

Distant from Rondelo a hundred and thirty leagues is the Isle of
Suaquem, where the Bassa of that country chooses his residence, for
the convenience of receiving the tribute with greater exactness,
there being a large trade carried on here with the Abyssins. The
Turks of Suaquem have gardens on the firm land, not above a musket
shot from the island, which supply them with many excellent herbs
and fruits, of which I doubt whether there be not a greater quantity
on this little spot than on the whole coast of Africa besides, from
Melinda to Suez. For if we except the dates which grow between Suez
and Suaquem, the ground does not yield the least product; all the
necessaries of life, even water, is wanting. Nothing can support
itself in this region of barrenness but ostriches, which devour
stones, or anything they meet with; they lay a great number of eggs,
part of which they break to feed their young with. These fowls, of
which I have seen many, are very tame, and when they are pursued,
stretch out their wings, and run with amazing swiftness. As they
have cloven feet, they sometimes strike up the stones when they run,
which gave occasion to the notion that they threw stones at the
hunters, a relation equally to be credited with those of their
eating fire and digesting iron. Those feathers which are so much
valued grow under their wings: the shell of their eggs powdered is
an excellent remedy for sore eyes.

The burning wind spoken of in the sacred writings, I take to be that
which the natives term arur, and the Arabs uri, which blowing in the
spring, brings with it so excessive a heat, that the whole country
seems a burning oven; so that there is no travelling here in this
dreadful season, nor is this the only danger to which the unhappy
passenger is exposed in these uncomfortable regions. There blows in
the months of June, July, and August, another wind, which raises
mountains of sand and carries them through the air; all that can be
done in this case is when a cloud of sand rises, to mark where it is
likely to fall, and to retire as far off as possible; but it is very
usual for men to be taken unexpectedly, and smothered in the dust.
One day I found the body of a Christian, whom I knew, upon the sand;
he had doubtless been choked by these winds. I recommended his soul
to the divine mercy and buried him. He seemed to have been some
time dead, yet the body had no ill smell. These winds are most
destructive in Arabia the Desert.

Chapter IV

The author's conjecture on the name of the Red Sea. An account of
the cocoa-tree. He lands at Baylur.

To return to the description of the coast: sixty leagues from
Suaquem is an island called Mazna, only considerable for its ports,
which make the Turks reside upon it, though they are forced to keep
three barks continually employed in fetching water, which is not to
be found nearer than at a distance of twelve miles. Forty leagues
from hence is Dalacha, an island where many pearls are found, but of
small value. The next place is Baylur, forty leagues from Dalacha,
and twelve from Babelmandel.

There are few things upon which a greater variety of conjectures has
been offered than upon the reasons that induced the ancients to
distinguish this gulf, which separates Asia from Africa, by the name
of the Red Sea, an appellation that has almost universally obtained
in all languages. Some affirm that the torrents, which fall after
great rains from the mountains, wash down such a quantity of red
sand as gives a tincture to the water: others tell us that the
sunbeams being reverberated from the red rocks, give the sea on
which they strike the appearance of that colour. Neither of these
accounts are satisfactory; the coasts are so scorched by the heat
that they are rather black than red; nor is the colour of this sea
much altered by the winds or rains. The notion generally received
is, that the coral found in such quantities at the bottom of the sea
might communicate this colour to the water: an account merely
chimerical. Coral is not to be found in all parts of this gulf, and
red coral in very few. Nor does this water in fact differ from that
of other seas. The patriarch and I have frequently amused ourselves
with making observations, and could never discover any redness, but
in the shallows, where a kind of weed grew which they call gouesmon,
which redness disappeared as soon as we plucked up the plant. It is
observable that St. Jerome, confining himself to the Hebrew, calls
this sea Jamsuf. Jam in that language signifies sea, and suf is the
name of a plant in Aethiopia, from which the Abyssins extract a
beautiful crimson; whether this be the same with the gouesmon, I
know not, but am of opinion that the herb gives to this sea both the
colour and the name.

The vessels most used in the Red Sea, though ships of all sizes may
be met with there, are gelves, of which some mention hath been made
already; these are the more convenient, because they will not split
if thrown upon banks or against rocks. These gelves have given
occasion to the report that out of the cocoa-tree alone a ship may
be built, fitted out with masts, sails, and cordage, and victualled
with bread, water, wine, sugar, vinegar, and oil. All this indeed
cannot be done out of one tree, but may out of several of the same
kind. They saw the trunk into planks, and sew them together with
thread which they spin out of the bark, and which they twist for the
cables; the leaves stitched together make the sails. This boat thus
equipped may be furnished with all necessaries from the same tree.
There is not a month in which the cocoa does not produce a bunch of
nuts, from twenty to fifty. At first sprouts out a kind of seed or
capsula, of a shape not unlike the scabbard of a scimitar, which
they cut, and place a vessel under, to receive the liquor that drops
from it; this drink is called soro, and is clear, pleasant, and
nourishing. If it be boiled, it grows hard, and makes a kind of
sugar much valued in the Indies: distil this liquor and you have a
strong water, of which is made excellent vinegar. All these
different products are afforded before the nut is formed, and while
it is green it contains a delicious cooling water; with these nuts
they store their gelves, and it is the only provision of water which
is made in this country. The second bark which contains the water
is so tender that they eat it. When this fruit arrives to perfect
maturity, they either pound the kernel into meal, and make cakes of
or draw an oil from it of a fine scent and taste, and of great use
in medicine; so that what is reported of the different products of
this wonderful tree is neither false nor incredible.

It is time we should come now to the relation of our voyage. Having
happily passed the straits at the entrance of the Red Sea, we
pursued our course, keeping as near the shore as we could, without
any farther apprehensions of the Turks. We were, however, under
some concern that we were entirely ignorant in what part of the
coast to find Baylur, a port where we proposed landing, and so
little known, that our pilots, who had made many voyages in this
sea, could give us no account of it. We were in hopes of
information from the fishermen, but found that as soon as we came
near they fled from us in the greatest consternation; no signals of
peace or friendship could prevail on them to stay; they either durst
not trust or did not understand us. We plied along the coast in
this uncertainty two days, till on the first of March having doubled
a point of land, which came out a great way into the sea, we found
ourselves in the middle of a fair large bay, which many reasons
induced us to think was Baylur; that we might be farther assured we
sent our Abyssin on shore, who returning next morning confirmed our
opinion. It would not be easy to determine whether our arrival gave
us greater joy, or the inhabitants greater apprehensions, for we
could discern a continual tumult in the land, and took notice that
the crews of some barks that lay in the harbour were unlading with
all possible diligence, to prevent the cargo from falling into our
hands, very much indeed to the dissatisfaction of many of our
soldiers, who having engaged in this expedition, with no other view
than of filling their pockets, were, before the return of our
Abyssin, for treating them like enemies, and taking them as a lawful
prize. We were willing to be assured of a good reception in this
port; the patriarch therefore sent me to treat with them. I dressed
myself like a merchant, and in that habit received the four captains
of gelves which the chec sent to compliment me, and ordered to stay
as hostages, whom I sent back, that I might gain upon their
affections by the confidence I placed in their sincerity; this had
so good an effect, that the chec, who was transported with the
account the officers gave of the civilities they had been treated
with, came in an hour to visit me, bringing with him a Portuguese,
whom I had sent ashore as a security for his return. He informed me
that the King his master was encamped not far off, and that a chec
who was then in the company was just arrived from thence, and had
seen the Emperor of Aethiopia's letters in our favour; I was then
convinced that we might land without scruple, and to give the
patriarch notice of it ordered a volley of our muskets to be fired,
which was answered by the cannon of the two ships that lay at a
distance, for fear of giving the Moors any cause of suspicion by
their approach. The chec and his attendants, though I had given
them notice that we were going to let off our guns in honour of the
King their master, could not forbear trembling at the fire and
noise. They left us soon after, and next morning we landed our
baggage, consisting chiefly of the patriarch's library, some
ornaments for the church, some images, and some pieces of calico,
which were of the same use as money. Most of the soldiers and
sailors were desirous of going with us, some from real principles of
piety, and a desire of sharing the labours and merits of the
mission, others upon motives very different, the hopes of raising a
fortune. To have taken all who offered themselves would have been
an injury to the owners of the ships, by rendering them unable to
continue their voyage; we therefore accepted only of a few.

Chapter V

An account of Dancali. The conduct of Chec Furt. The author
wounded. They arrive at the court of the King of Dancali. A
description of his pavilion, and the reception they met with.

Our goods were no sooner landed than we were surrounded with a crowd
of officers, all gaping for presents; we were forced to gratify
their avarice by opening our bales, and distributing among them some
pieces of calico. What we gave to the chec might be worth about a
pistole, and the rest in proportion.

The kingdom of Dancali, to which this belongs, is barren, and thinly
peopled; the king is tributary to the Emperor of Abyssinia, and very
faithful to his sovereign. The emperor had not only written to him,
but had sent a Moor and Portuguese as his ambassadors, to secure us
a kind reception; these in their way to this prince had come through
the countries of Chumo-Salamay and Senaa, the utmost confines of
Abyssinia, and had carried thither the emperor's orders concerning
our passage.

On Ascension Day we left Baylur, having procured some camels and
asses to carry our baggage. The first day's march was not above a
league, and the others not much longer. Our guides performed their
office very ill, being influenced, as we imagined, by the Chec Furt,
an officer, whom, though unwilling, we were forced to take with us.
This man, who might have brought us to the king in three days, led
us out of the way through horrid deserts destitute of water, or
where what we found was so foul, nauseous, and offensive, that it
excited a loathing and aversion which nothing but extreme necessity
could have overcome.

Having travelled some days, we were met by the King's brother, to
whom, by the advice of Chec Furt, whose intent in following us was
to squeeze all he could from us; we presented some pieces of Chinese
workmanship, such as cases of boxes, a standish, and some
earthenware, together with several pieces of painted calico, which
were so much more agreeable, that he desired some other pieces
instead of our Chinese curiosities; we willingly made the exchange.
Yet some time afterwards he asked again for those Chinese goods
which he had returned us, nor was it in our power to refuse them. I
was here in danger of losing my life by a compliment which the
Portuguese paid the prince of a discharge of twelve muskets; one
being unskilfully charged too high, flew out of the soldier's hand,
and falling against my leg, wounded it very much; we had no surgeon
with us, so that all I could do was to bind it hard with some cloth.
I was obliged by this accident to make use of the Chec Furt's horse,
which was the greatest service we received from him in all our

When we came within two leagues and a half of the King's court, he
sent some messengers with his compliments, and five mules for the
chief of our company. Our road lay through a wood, where we found
the ground covered over with young locusts, a plague intolerably
afflictive in a country so barren of itself. We arrived at length
at the bank of a small river, near which the King usually keeps his
residence, and found his palace at the foot of a little mountain.
It consisted of about six tents and twenty cabins, erected amongst
some thorns and wild trees, which afforded a shelter from the heat
of the weather. He received us the first time in a cabin about a
musket shot distant from the rest, furnished out with a throne in
the middle built of clay and stones, and covered with tapestry and
two velvet cushions. Over against him stood his horse with his
saddle and other furniture hanging by him, for in this country, the
master and his horse make use of the same apartment, nor doth the
King in this respect affect more grandeur than his subjects. When
we entered, we seated ourselves on the ground with our legs crossed,
in imitation of the rest, whom we found in the same posture. After
we had waited some time, the King came in, attended by his domestics
and his officers. He held a small lance in his hand, and was
dressed in a silk robe, with a turban on his head, to which were
fastened some rings of very neat workmanship, which fell down upon
his forehead. All kept silence for some time, and the King told us
by his interpreter that we were welcome to his dominions, that he
had been informed we were to come by the Emperor his father, and
that he condoled the hardships we had undergone at sea. He desired
us not to be under any concern at finding ourselves in a country so
distant from our own, for those dominions were ours, and he and the
Emperor his father would give us all the proofs we could desire of
the sincerest affection. We returned him thanks for this promise of
his favour, and after a short conversation went away. Immediately
we were teazed by those who brought us the mules, and demanded to be
paid the hire of them; and had advice given us at the same time that
we should get a present ready for the King. The Chec Furt, who was
extremely ready to undertake any commission of this kind, would
needs direct us in the affair, and told us that our gifts ought to
be of greater value, because we had neglected making any such offer
at our first audience, contrary to the custom of that country. By
these pretences he obliged us to make a present to the value of
about twenty pounds, with which he seemed to be pleased, and told us
we had nothing to do but prepare to make our entry.

Chapter VI

The King refuses their present. The author's boldness. The present
is afterwards accepted. The people are forbidden to sell them
provisions. The author remonstrates against the usage. The King
redresses it.

But such was either the hatred or avarice of this man, that instead
of doing us the good offices he pretended, he advised the King to
refuse our present, that he might draw from us something more
valuable. When I attended the King in order to deliver the
presents, after I had excused the smallness of them, as being,
though unworthy his acceptance, the largest that our profession of
poverty, and distance from our country, allowed us to make, he
examined them one by one with a dissatisfied look, and told me that
however he might be pleased with our good attentions, he thought our
present such as could not be offered to a king without affronting
him; and made me a sign with his hand to withdraw, and take back
what I had brought. I obeyed, telling him that perhaps he might
send for it again without having so much. The Chec Furt, who had
been the occasion of all this, coming to us afterwards, blamed us
exceedingly for having offered so little, and being told by us that
the present was picked out by himself, that we had nothing better to
give, and that what we had left would scarce defray the expenses of
our journey, he pressed us at least to add something, but could
prevail no farther than to persuade us to repeat our former offer,
which the King was now pleased to accept, though with no kinder
countenance than before.

Here we spent our time and our provisions, without being able to
procure any more. The country indeed affords goats and honey, but
nobody would sell us any, the King, as I was secretly informed,
having strictly prohibited it, with a view of forcing all we had
from us. The patriarch sent me to expostulate the matter with the
King, which I did in very warm terms, telling him that we were
assured by the Emperor of a reception in this country far different
from what we met with, which assurances he had confirmed by his
promise and the civilities we were entertained with at our first
arrival; but that instead of friends who would compassionate our
miseries, and supply our necessities, we found ourselves in the
midst of mortal enemies that wanted to destroy us.

The King, who affected to appear ignorant of the whole affair,
demanded an account of the injuries I complained of, and told me
that if any of his subjects should dare to attempt our lives, it
should cost him his own. We were not, replied I, in danger of being
stabbed or poisoned, but are doomed to a more lingering and painful
death by that prohibition which obliges your subjects to deny us the
necessaries of life; if it be Your Highness's pleasure that we die
here, we entreat that we may at least be despatched quickly, and not
condemned to longer torments. The King, startled at this discourse,
denied that he had given any such orders, and was very importunate
to know the author of our intelligence, but finding me determined
not to discover him, he sent me away with a promise that for the
future we should be furnished with everything we wanted, and indeed
that same day we bought three goats for about a crown, and some
honey, and found ourselves better treated than before.

Chapter VII

They obtain leave, with some difficulty, to depart from Dancali.
The difficulties of their march. A broil with the Moors. They
arrive at the plain of salt.

This usage, with some differences we had with a Moor, made us very
desirous of leaving this country, but we were still put off with one
pretence or other whenever we asked leave to depart. Tired with
these delays, I applied myself to his favourite minister, with a
promise of a large present if he could obtain us an audience of
leave; he came to us at night to agree upon the reward, and soon
accomplished all we desired, both getting us a permission to go out
of the kingdom, and procuring us camels to carry our baggage, and
that of the Abyssinian ambassadors who were ordered to accompany us.

We set out from the kingdom of Dancali on the 15th of June, having
taken our leave of the King, who after many excuses for everything
that had happened, dismissed us with a present of a cow, and some
provisions, desiring us to tell the Emperor of Aethiopia his father
that we had met with kind treatment in his territories, a request
which we did not at that time think it convenient to deny.

Whatever we had suffered hitherto, was nothing to the difficulties
we were now entering upon, and which God had decreed us to undergo
for the sake of Jesus Christ. Our way now lay through a region
scarce passable, and full of serpents, which were continually
creeping between our legs; we might have avoided them in the day,
but being obliged, that we might avoid the excessive heats, to take
long marches in the night, we were every moment treading upon them.
Nothing but a signal interposition of Providence could have
preserved us from being bitten by them, or perishing either by
weariness or thirst, for sometimes we were a long time without
water, and had nothing to support our strength in this fatigue but a
little honey, and a small piece of cows' flesh dried in the sun.
Thus we travelled on for many days, scarce allowing ourselves any
rest, till we came to a channel or hollow worn in the mountains by
the winter torrents; here we found some coolness, and good water, a
blessing we enjoyed for three days; down this channel all the winter
runs a great river which is dried up in the heats, or to speak more
properly, hides itself under ground. We walked along its side,
sometimes seven or eight leagues without seeing any water, and then
we found it rising out of the ground, at which places we never
failed to drink as much as we could, and fill our bottles.

In our march, there fell out an unlucky accident, which, however,
did not prove of the bad consequence it might have done. The master
of our camels was an old Mohammedan, who had conceived an opinion
that it was an act of merit to do us all the mischief he could; and
in pursuance of his notion, made it his chief employment to steal
everything he could lay hold on; his piety even transported him so
far, that one morning he stole and hid the cords of our tents. The
patriarch who saw him at the work charged him with it, and upon his
denial, showed him the end of the cord hanging from under the saddle
of one of his camels. Upon this we went to seize them, but were
opposed by him and the rest of the drivers, who set themselves in a
posture of opposition with their daggers. Our soldiers had recourse
to their muskets, and four of them putting the mouths of their
pieces to the heads of some of the most obstinate and turbulent,
struck them with such a terror, that all the clamour was stilled in
an instant; none received any hurt but the Moor who had been the
occasion of the tumult. He was knocked down by one of our soldiers,
who had cut his throat but that the fathers prevented it: he then
restored the cords, and was more tractable ever after. In all my
dealings with the Moors, I have always discovered in them an ill-
natured cowardice, which makes them insupportably insolent if you
show them the least respect, and easily reduced to reasonable terms
when you treat them with a high hand.

After a march of some days we came to an opening between the
mountains, the only passage out of Dancali into Abyssinia. Heaven
seems to have made this place on purpose for the repose of weary
travellers, who here exchange the tortures of parching thirst,
burning sands, and a sultry climate, for the pleasures of shady
trees, the refreshment of a clear stream, and the luxury of a
cooling breeze. We arrived at this happy place about noon, and the
next day at evening left those fanning winds, and woods flourishing
with unfading verdure, for the dismal barrenness of the vast
uninhabitable plains, from which Abyssinia is supplied with salt.
These plains are surrounded with high mountains, continually covered
with thick clouds which the sun draws from the lakes that are here,
from which the water runs down into the plain, and is there
congealed into salt. Nothing can be more curious than to see the
channels and aqueducts that nature has formed in this hard rock, so
exact and of such admirable contrivance, that they seem to be the
work of men. To this place caravans of Abyssinia are continually
resorting, to carry salt into all parts of the empire, which they
set a great value upon, and which in their country is of the same
use as money. The superstitious Abyssins imagine that the cavities
of the mountains are inhabited by evil spirits which appear in
different shapes, calling those that pass by their names as in a
familiar acquaintance, who, if they go to them, are never seen
afterwards. This relation was confirmed by the Moorish officer who
came with us, who, as he said, had lost a servant in that manner:
the man certainly fell into the hands of the Galles, who lurk in
those dark retreats, cut the throats of the merchants, and carry off
their effects.

The heat making it impossible to travel through this plain in the
day-time, we set out in the evening, and in the night lost our way.
It is very dangerous to go through this place, for there are no
marks of the right road, but some heaps of salt, which we could not
see. Our camel drivers getting together to consult on this
occasion, we suspected they had some ill design in hand, and got
ready our weapons; they perceived our apprehensions, and set us at
ease by letting us know the reason of their consultation.
Travelling hard all night, we found ourselves next morning past the
plain; but the road we were in was not more commodious, the points
of the rocks pierced our feet; to increase our perplexities we were
alarmed with the approach of an armed troop, which our fear
immediately suggested to be the Galles, who chiefly beset these
passes of the mountains; we put ourselves on the defensive, and
expected them, whom, upon a more exact examination, we found to be
only a caravan of merchants come as usual to fetch salt.

Chapter VIII

They lose their way, are in continual apprehensions of the Galles.
They come to Duan, and settle in Abyssinia.

About nine the next morning we came to the end of this toilsome and
rugged path, where the way divided into two, yet both led to a well,
the only one that was found in our journey. A Moor with three
others took the shortest, without directing us to follow him; so we
marched forwards we knew not whither, through woods and over rocks,
without sleep or any other refreshment: at noon the next day we
discovered that we were near the field of salt. Our affliction and
distress is not to be expressed; we were all fainting with heat and
weariness, and two of the patriarch's servants were upon the point
of dying for want of water. None of us had any but a Moor, who
could not be prevailed upon to part with it at less than the weight
in gold; we got some from him at last, and endeavoured to revive the
two servants, while part of us went to look for a guide that might
put us in the right way. The Moors who had arrived at the well,
rightly guessing that we were lost, sent one of their company to
look for us, whom we heard shouting in the woods, but durst make no
answer for fear of the Galles. At length he found us, and conducted
us to the rest; we instantly forgot our past calamities, and had no
other care than to recover the patriarch's attendants. We did not
give them a full draught at first, but poured in the water by drops,
to moisten their mouths and throats, which were extremely swelled:
by this caution they were soon well. We then fell to eating and
drinking, and though we had nothing but our ordinary repast of honey
and dried flesh, thought we never had regaled more pleasantly in our

We durst not stay long in this place for fear of the Galles, who lay
their ambushes more particularly near this well, by which all
caravans must necessarily pass. Our apprehensions were very much
increased by our suspicion of the camel-drivers, who, as we
imagined, had advertised the Galles of our arrival. The fatigue we
had already suffered did not prevent our continuing our march all
night: at last we entered a plain, where our drivers told us we
might expect to be attacked by the Galles; nor was it long before
our own eyes convinced us that we were in great danger, for we saw
as we went along the dead bodies of a caravan who had been lately
massacred, a sight which froze our blood, and filled us with pity
and with horror. The same fate was not far from overtaking us, for
a troop of Galles, who were detached in search of us, missed us but
an hour or two. We spent the next night in the mountains, but when
we should have set out in the morning, were obliged to a fierce
dispute with the old Moor, who had not yet lost his inclination to
destroy us; he would have had us taken a road which was full of
those people we were so much afraid of: at length finding he could
not prevail with us, that we charged the goods upon him as belonging
to the Emperor, to whom he should be answerable for the loss of
them, he consented, in a sullen way, to go with us.

The desire of getting out of the reach of the Galles made us press
forward with great expedition, and, indeed, fear having entirely
engrossed our minds, we were perhaps less sensible of all our
labours and difficulties; so violent an apprehension of one danger
made us look on many others with unconcern; our pains at last found
some intermission at the foot of the mountains of Duan, the frontier
of Abyssinia, which separates it from the country of the Moors,
through which we had travelled.

Here we imagined we might repose securely, a felicity we had long
been strangers to. Here we began to rejoice at the conclusion of
our labours; the place was cool and pleasant, the water was
excellent, and the birds melodious. Some of our company went into
the wood to divert themselves with hearing the birds and frightening
the monkeys, creatures so cunning that they would not stir if a man
came unarmed, but would run immediately when they saw a gun. At
this place our camel drivers left us, to go to the feast of St.
Michael, which the Aethiopians celebrate the 16th of June. We
persuaded them, however, to leave us their camels and four of their
company to take care of them.

We had not waited many days before some messengers came to us with
an account that Father Baradas, with the Emperor's nephew, and many
other persons of distinction, waited for us at some distance; we
loaded our camels, and following the course of the river, came in
seven hours to the place we were directed to halt at. Father Manuel
Baradas and all the company, who had waited for us a considerable
time on the top of the mountain, came down when they saw our tents,
and congratulated our arrival. It is not easy to express the
benevolence and tenderness with which they embraced us, and the
concern they showed at seeing us worn away with hunger, labour, and
weariness, our clothes tattered, and our feet bloody.

We left this place of interview the next day, and on the 21st of
June arrived at Fremone, the residence of the missionaries, where we
were welcomed by great numbers of Catholics, both Portuguese and
Abyssins, who spared no endeavours to make us forget all we had
suffered in so hazardous a journey, undertaken with no other
intention than to conduct them in the way of salvation.


Chapter I

The history of Abyssinia. An account of the Queen of Sheba, and of
Queen Candace. The conversion of the Abyssins.

The original of the Abyssins, like that of all other nations, is
obscure and uncertain. The tradition generally received derives
them from Cham, the son of Noah, and they pretend, however
improbably, that from his time till now the legal succession of
their kings hath never been interrupted, and that the supreme power
hath always continued in the same family. An authentic genealogy
traced up so high could not but be extremely curious; and with good
reason might the Emperors of Abyssinia boast themselves the most
illustrious and ancient family in the world. But there are no real
grounds for imagining that Providence has vouchsafed them so
distinguishing a protection, and from the wars with which this
empire hath been shaken in these latter ages we may justly believe
that, like all others, it has suffered its revolutions, and that the
history of the Abyssins is corrupted with fables. This empire is
known by the name of the kingdom of Prester-John. For the
Portuguese having heard such wonderful relations of an ancient and
famous Christian state called by that name, in the Indies, imagined
it could be none but this of Aethiopia. Many things concurred to
make them of this opinion: there was no Christian kingdom or state
in the Indies of which all was true which they heard of this land of
Prester-John: and there was none in the other parts of the world
who was a Christian separated from the Catholic Church but what was
known, except this kingdom of Aethiopia. It has therefore passed
for the kingdom of Prester-John since the time that it was
discovered by the Portuguese in the reign of King John the Second.

The country is properly called Abyssinia, and the people term
themselves Abyssins. Their histories count a hundred and sixty-two
reigns, from Cham to Faciladas or Basilides; among which some women
are remarkably celebrated. One of the most renowned is the Queen of
Sheba, mentioned in Scripture, whom the natives call Nicaula or
Macheda, and in their translation of the gospel, Nagista Azeb, which
in their language is Queen of the South. They still show the ruins
of a city which appears to have been once of note, as the place
where she kept her court, and a village which, from its being the
place of her birth, they call the land of Saba. The Kings of
Aethiopia draw their boasted pedigree from Minilech, the son of this
Queen and Solomon. The other Queen for whom they retain a great
veneration is Candace, whom they call Judith, and indeed if what
they relate of her could be proved, there never was, amongst the
most illustrious and beneficent sovereigns, any to whom their
country was more indebted, for it is said that she being converted
by Inda her eunuch, whom St. Philip baptised, prevailed with her
subjects to quit the worship of idols, and profess the faith of
Jesus Christ. This opinion appears to me without any better
foundation than another of the conversion of the Abyssins to the
Jewish rites by the Queen of Sheba, at her return from the court of
Solomon. They, however, who patronise these traditions give us very
specious accounts of the zeal and piety of the Abyssins at their
first conversion. Many, they say, abandoned all the pleasures and
vanities of life for solitude and religious austerities; others
devoted themselves to God in an ecclesiastical life; they who could
not do these set apart their revenues for building churches,
endowing chapels, and founding monasteries, and spent their wealth
in costly ornaments for the churches and vessels for the altars. It
is true that this people has a natural disposition to goodness; they
are very liberal of their alms, they much frequent their churches,
and are very studious to adorn them; they practise fasting and other
mortifications, and notwithstanding their separation from the Roman
Church, and the corruptions which have crept into their faith, yet
retain in a great measure the devout fervour of the primitive
Christians. There never were greater hopes of uniting this people
to the Church of Rome, which their adherence to the Eutichian heresy
has made very difficult, than in the time of Sultan Segued, who
called us into his dominions in the year 1625, from whence we were
expelled in 1634. As I have lived a long time in this country, and
borne a share in all that has passed, I will present the reader with
a short account of what I have observed, and of the revolution which
forced us to abandon Aethiopia, and destroyed all our hopes of
reuniting this kingdom with the Roman Church.

The empire of Abyssinia hath been one of the largest which history
gives us an account of: it extended formerly from the Red Sea to
the kingdom of Congo, and from Egypt to the Indian Sea. It is not
long since it contained forty provinces; but is now not much bigger
than all Spain, and consists but of five kingdoms and six provinces,
of which part is entirely subject to the Emperor, and part only pays
him some tribute, or acknowledgment of dependence, either
voluntarily or by compulsion. Some of these are of very large
extent: the kingdoms of Tigre, Bagameder, and Goiama are as big as
Portugal, or bigger; Amhara and Damote are something less. The
provinces are inhabited by Moors, Pagans, Jews, and Christians: the
last is the reigning and established religion. This diversity of
people and religion is the reason that the kingdom in different
parts is under different forms of government, and that their laws
and customs are extremely various.

The inhabitants of the kingdom of Amhara are the most civilised and
polite; and next to them the natives of Tigre, or the true Abyssins.
The rest, except the Damotes, the Gasates, and the Agaus, which
approach somewhat nearer to civility, are entirely rude and
barbarous. Among these nations the Galles, who first alarmed the
world in 1542, have remarkably distinguished themselves by the
ravages they have committed, and the terror they have raised in this
part of Africa. They neither sow their lands nor improve them by
any kind of culture; but, living upon milk and flesh, encamp like
the Arabs without any settled habitation. They practise no rites of
worship, though they believe that in the regions above there dwells
a Being that governs the world: whether by this Being they mean the
sun or the sky is not known; or, indeed, whether they have not some
conception of the God that created them. This deity they call in
their language Oul. In other matters they are yet more ignorant,
and have some customs so contrary even to the laws of nature, as
might almost afford reason to doubt whether they are endued with
reason. The Christianity professed by the Abyssins is so corrupted
with superstitions, errors, and heresies, and so mingled with
ceremonies borrowed from the Jews, that little besides the name of
Christianity is to be found here; and the thorns may be said to have
choked the grain. This proceeds in a great measure from the
diversity of religions which are tolerated there, either by
negligence or from motives of policy; and the same cause hath
produced such various revolutions, revolts, and civil wars within
these later ages. For those different sects do not easily admit of
an union with each other, or a quiet subjection to the same monarch.
The Abyssins cannot properly be said to have either cities or
houses; they live either in tents, or in cottages made of straw and
clay; for they very rarely build with stone. Their villages or
towns consist of these huts; yet even of such villages they have but
few, because the grandees, the viceroys, and the Emperor himself are
always in the camp, that they may be prepared, upon the most sudden
summons, to go where the exigence of affairs demands their presence.
And this precaution is no more than necessary for a prince every
year engaged either in foreign wars or intestine commotions. These
towns have each a governor, whom they call gadare, over whom is the
educ, or lieutenant, and both accountable to an officer called the
afamacon, or mouth of the King; because he receives the revenues,
which he pays into the hands of the relatinafala, or grand master of
the household: sometimes the Emperor creates a ratz, or viceroy,
general over all the empire, who is superior to all his other

Aethiopia produces very near the same kinds of provisions as
Portugal; though, by the extreme laziness of the inhabitants, in a
much less quantity: however, there are some roots, herbs, and
fruits which grow there much better than in other places. What the
ancients imagined of the torrid zone being uninhabitable is so far
from being true, that this climate is very temperate: the heats,
indeed, are excessive in Congo and Monomotapa, but in Abyssinia they
enjoy a perpetual spring, more delicious and charming than that in
our country. The blacks here are not ugly like those of the
kingdoms I have spoken of, but have better features, and are not
without wit and delicacy; their apprehension is quick, and their
judgment sound. The heat of the sun, however it may contribute to
their colour, is not the only reason of it; there is some
peculiarity in the temper and constitution of their bodies, since
the same men, transported into cooler climates, produce children
very near as black as themselves.

They have here two harvests in the year, which is a sufficient
recompense for the small produce of each; one harvest they have in
the winter, which lasts through the months of July, August, and
September, the other in the spring; their trees are always green,
and it is the fault of the inhabitants that they produce so little
fruit, the soil being well adapted to all sorts, especially those
that come from the Indies. They have in the greatest plenty
raisins, peaches, sour pomegranates, and sugarcanes, and some figs.
Most of these are ripe about Lent, which the Abyssins keep with
great strictness.

After the vegetable products of this country, it seems not improper
to mention the animals which are found in it, of which here are as
great numbers, of as many different species, as in any country in
the world: it is infested with lions of many kinds, among which are
many of that which is called the lion royal. I cannot help giving
the reader on this occasion a relation of a fact which I was an eye-
witness of. A lion having taken his haunt near the place where I
lived, killed all the oxen and cows, and did a great deal of other
mischief, of which I heard new complaints every day. A servant of
mine having taken a resolution to free the country from this
destroyer, went out one day with two lances, and after he had been
some time in quest of him, found him with his mouth all smeared with
the blood of a cow he had just devoured; the man rushed upon him,
and thrust his lance into his throat with such violence that it came
out between his shoulders; the beast, with one dreadful roar, fell
down into a pit, and lay struggling, till my servant despatched him.
I measured the body of this lion, and found him twelve feet between
the head and the tail.

Chapter II

The animals of Abyssinia; the elephant, unicorn, their horses and
cows; with a particular account of the moroc.

There are so great numbers of elephants in Abyssinia that in one
evening we met three hundred of them in three troops: as they
filled up the whole way, we were in great perplexity a long time
what measures to take; at length, having implored the protection of
that Providence that superintends the whole creation, we went
forwards through the midst of them without any injury. Once we met
four young elephants, and an old one that played with them, lifting
them up with her trunk; they grew enraged on a sudden, and ran upon
us: we had no way of securing ourselves but by flight, which,
however, would have been fruitless, had not our pursuers been
stopped by a deep ditch. The elephants of Aethiopia are of so
stupendous a size, that when I was mounted on a large mule I could
not reach with my hand within two spans of the top of their backs.
In Abyssinia is likewise found the rhinoceros, a mortal enemy to the
elephant. In the province of Agaus has been seen the unicorn, that
beast so much talked of, and so little known: the prodigious
swiftness with which this creature runs from one wood into another
has given me no opportunity of examining it particularly, yet I have
had so near a sight of it as to be able to give some description of
it. The shape is the same with that of a beautiful horse, exact and
nicely proportioned, of a bay colour, with a black tail, which in
some provinces is long, in others very short: some have long manes
hanging to the ground. They are so timorous that they never feed
but surrounded with other beasts that defend them. Deer and other
defenceless animals often herd about the elephant, which, contenting
himself with roots and leaves, preserves those beasts that place
themselves, as it were, under his protection, from the rage and
fierceness of others that would devour them.

The horses of Abyssinia are excellent; their mules, oxen, and cows
are without number, and in these principally consists the wealth of
this country. They have a very particular custom, which obliges
every man that hath a thousand cows to save every year one day's
milk of all his herd, and make a bath with it for his relations,
entertaining them afterwards with a splendid feast. This they do so
many days each year, as they have thousands of cattle, so that to
express how rich any man is, they tell you he bathes so many times.
The tribute paid out of their herds to the King, which is not the
most inconsiderable of his revenues, is one cow in ten every three
years. The beeves are of several kinds; one sort they have without
horns, which are of no other use than to carry burthens, and serve
instead of mules. Another twice as big as ours which they breed to
kill, fattening them with the milk of three or four cows. Their
horns are so large, the inhabitants use them for pitchers, and each
will hold about five gallons. One of these oxen, fat and ready to
be killed, may be bought at most for two crowns. I have purchased
five sheep, or five goats with nine kids, for a piece of calico
worth about a crown.

The Abyssins have many sort of fowls both wild and tame; some of the
former we are yet unacquainted with: there is one of wonderful
beauty, which I have seen in no other place except Peru: it has
instead of a comb, a short horn upon its head, which is thick and
round, and open at the top. The feitan favez, or devil's horse,
looks at a distance like a man dressed in feathers; it walks with
abundance of majesty, till it finds itself pursued, and then takes
wing, and flies away. But amongst all their birds there is none
more remarkable than the moroc, or honey-bird, which is furnished by
nature with a peculiar instinct or faculty of discovering honey.
They have here multitudes of bees of various kinds; some are tame,
like ours, and form their combs in hives. Of the wild ones, some
place their honey in hollow trees, others hide it in holes in the
ground, which they cover so carefully, that though they are commonly
in the highway, they are seldom found, unless by the moroc's help,
which, when he has discovered any honey, repairs immediately to the
road side, and when he sees a traveller, sings, and claps his wings,
making many motions to invite him to follow him, and when he
perceives him coming, flies before him from tree to tree, till he
comes to the place where the bees have stored their treasure, and
then begins to sing melodiously. The Abyssin takes the honey,
without failing to leave part of it for the bird, to reward him for
his information. This kind of honey I have often tasted, and do not
find that it differs from the other sorts in anything but colour; it
is somewhat blacker. The great quantity of honey that is gathered,
and a prodigious number of cows that is kept here, have often made
me call Abyssinia a land of honey and butter.

Chapter III

The manner of eating in Abyssinia, their dress, their hospitality,
and traffic.

The great lords, and even the Emperor himself, maintain their tables
with no great expense. The vessels they make use of are black
earthenware, which, the older it is, they set a greater value on.
Their way of dressing their meat, an European, till he hath been
long accustomed to it, can hardly be persuaded to like; everything
they eat smells strong and swims with butter. They make no use of
either linen or plates. The persons of rank never touch what they
eat, but have their meat cut by their pages, and put into their
mouths. When they feast a friend they kill an ox, and set
immediately a quarter of him raw upon the table (for their most
elegant treat is raw beef newly killed) with pepper and salt; the
gall of the ox serves them for oil and vinegar; some, to heighten
the delicacy of the entertainment, add a kind of sauce, which they
call manta, made of what they take out of the guts of the ox; this
they set on the fire, with butter, salt, pepper, and onion. Raw
beef, thus relished, is their nicest dish, and is eaten by them with
the same appetite and pleasure as we eat the best partridges. They
have often done me the favour of helping me to some of this sauce,
and I had no way to decline eating it besides telling them it was
too good for a missionary.

The common drink of the Abyssins is beer and mead, which they drink
to excess when they visit one another; nor can there be a greater
offence against good manners than to let the guests go away sober:
their liquor is always presented by a servant, who drinks first
himself, and then gives the cup to the company, in the order of
their quality.

The meaner sort of people here dress themselves very plain; they
only wear drawers, and a thick garment of cotton, that covers the
rest of their bodies: the people of quality, especially those that
frequent the court, run into the contrary extreme, and ruin
themselves with costly habits. They wear all sorts of silks, and
particularly the fine velvets of Turkey.

They love bright and glaring colours, and dress themselves much in
the Turkish manner, except that their clothes are wider, and their
drawers cover their legs. Their robes are always full of gold and
silver embroidery. They are most exact about their hair, which is
long and twisted, and their care of it is such that they go bare-
headed whilst they are young for fear of spoiling it, but afterwards
wear red caps, and sometimes turbans after the Turkish fashion.

The ladies' dress is yet more magnificent and expensive; their robes
are as large as those of the religious, of the order of St. Bernard.
They have various ways of dressing their heads, and spare no expense
in ear-rings, necklaces, or anything that may contribute to set them
off to advantage. They are not much reserved or confined, and have
so much liberty in visiting one another that their husbands often
suffer by it; but for this evil there is no remedy, especially when
a man marries a princess, or one of the royal family. Besides their
clothes, the Abyssins have no movables or furniture of much value,
or doth their manner of living admit of them.

One custom of this country deserves to be remarked: when a stranger
comes to a village, or to the camp, the people are obliged to
entertain him and his company according to his rank. As soon as he
enters a house (for they have no inns in this nation), the master
informs his neighbours that he hath a guest; immediately they bring
in bread and all kinds of provisions; and there is great care taken
to provide enough, because, if the guest complains, the town is
obliged to pay double the value of what they ought to have
furnished. This practice is so well established that a stranger
goes into a house of one he never saw with the same familiarity and
assurance of welcome as into that of an intimate friend or near
relation; a custom very convenient, but which gives encouragement to
great numbers of vagabonds throughout the kingdom.

There is no money in Abyssinia, except in the eastern provinces,
where they have iron coin: but in the chief provinces all commerce
is managed by exchange. Their chief trade consists in provisions,
cows, sheep, goats, fowls, pepper, and gold, which is weighed out to
the purchaser, and principally in salt, which is properly the money
of this country.

When the Abyssins are engaged in a law-suit, the two parties make
choice of a judge, and plead their own cause before him; and if they
cannot agree in their choice, the governor of the place appoints
them one, from whom there lies an appeal to the viceroy and to the
Emperor himself. All causes are determined on the spot; no writings
are produced. The judge sits down on the ground in the midst of the
high road, where all that please may be present: the two persons
concerned stand before him, with their friends about them, who serve
as their attorneys. The plaintiff speaks first, the defendant
answers him; each is permitted to rejoin three or four times, then
silence is commanded, and the judge takes the opinions of those that
are about him. If the evidence be deemed sufficient, he pronounces
sentence, which in some cases is decisive and without appeal. He
then takes the criminal into custody till he hath made satisfaction;
but if it be a crime punishable with death he is delivered over to
the prosecutor, who may put him to death at his own discretion.

They have here a particular way of punishing adultery; a woman
convicted of that crime is condemned to forfeit all her fortune, is
turned out of her husband's house, in a mean dress, and is forbid
ever to enter it again; she has only a needle given her to get her
living with. Sometimes her head is shaved, except one lock of hair,
which is left her, and even that depends on the will of her husband,
who has it likewise in his choice whether he will receive her again
or not; if he resolves never to admit her they are both at liberty
to marry whom they will. There is another custom amongst them yet
more extraordinary, which is, that the wife is punished whenever the
husband proves false to the marriage contract; this punishment
indeed extends no farther than a pecuniary mulct, and what seems
more equitable, the husband is obliged to pay a sum of money to his
wife. When the husband prosecutes his wife's gallant, if he can
produce any proofs of a criminal conversation, he recovers for
damages forty cows, forty horses, and forty suits of clothes, and
the same number of other things. If the gallant be unable to pay
him, he is committed to prison, and continues there during the
husband's pleasure, who, if he sets him at liberty before the whole
fine be paid, obliges him to take an oath that he is going to
procure the rest, that he may be able to make full satisfaction.
Then the criminal orders meat and drink to be brought out, they eat
and drink together, he asks a formal pardon, which is not granted at
first; however, the husband forgives first one part of the debt, and
then another, till at length the whole is remitted.

A husband that doth not like his wife may easily find means to make
the marriage void, and, what is worse, may dismiss the second wife
with less difficulty than he took her, and return to the first; so
that marriages in this country are only for a term of years, and
last no longer than both parties are pleased with each other, which
is one instance how far distant these people are from the purity of
the primitive believers, which they pretend to have preserved with
so great strictness. The marriages are in short no more than
bargains, made with this proviso, that when any discontent shall
arise on either side, they may separate, and marry whom they please,
each taking back what they brought with them.

Chapter IV

An account of the religion of the Abyssins.

Yet though there is a great difference between our manners, customs,
civil government, and those of the Abyssins, there is yet a much
greater in points of faith; for so many errors have been introduced
and ingrafted into their religion, by their ignorance, their
separation from the Catholic Church, and their intercourse with
Jews, Pagans, and Mohammedans, that their present religion is
nothing but a kind of confused miscellany of Jewish and Mohammedan
superstitions, with which they have corrupted those remnants of
Christianity which they still retain.

They have, however, preserved the belief of our principal mysteries;
they celebrate with a great deal of piety the passion of our Lord;
they reverence the cross; they pay a great devotion to the Blessed
Virgin, the angels, and the saints; they observe the festivals, and
pay a strict regard to the Sunday. Every month they commemorate the
assumption of the Virgin Mary, and are of opinion that no Christians
beside themselves have a true sense of the greatness of the mother
of God, or pay her the honours that are due to her. There are some
tribes amongst them (for they are distinguished like the Jews by
their tribes), among whom the crime of swearing by the name of the
Virgin is punished with forfeiture of goods and even with loss of
life; they are equally scrupulous of swearing by St. George. Every
week they keep a feast to the honour of the apostles and angels;
they come to mass with great devotion, and love to hear the word of
God. They receive the sacrament often, but do not always prepare
themselves by confession. Their charity to the poor may be said to
exceed the proper bounds that prudence ought to set it, for it
contributes to encourage great numbers of beggars, which are a great
annoyance to the whole kingdom, and as I have often said, afford
more exercise to a Christian's patience than his charity; for their
insolence is such, that they will refuse what is offered them if it
be not so much as they think proper to ask.

Though the Abyssins have not many images, they have great numbers of
pictures, and perhaps pay them somewhat too high a degree of
worship. The severity of their fasts is equal to that of the
primitive church. In Lent they never eat till after sunset; their
fasts are the more severe because milk and butter are forbidden
them, and no reason or necessity whatsoever can procure them a
permission to eat meat, and their country affording no fish, they
live only on roots and pulse. On fast-days they never drink but at
their meat, and the priests never communicate till evening, for fear
of profaning them. They do not think themselves obliged to fast
till they have children either married or fit to be married, which
yet doth not secure them very long from these mortifications,
because their youths marry at the age of ten years, and their girls

There is no nation where excommunication carries greater terrors
than among the Abyssins, which puts it in the power of the priests
to abuse this religious temper of the people, as well as the
authority they receive from it, by excommunicating them, as they
often do, for the least trifle in which their interest is concerned.

No country in the world is so full of churches, monasteries, and
ecclesiastics as Abyssinia; it is not possible to sing in one church
or monastery without being heard by another, and perhaps by several.
They sing the psalms of David, of which, as well as the other parts
of the Holy Scriptures, they have a very exact translation in their
own language; in which, though accounted canonical, the books of the
Maccabees are omitted. The instruments of music made use of in
their rites of worship are little drums, which they hang about their
necks, and beat with both their hands; these are carried even by
their chief men, and by the gravest of their ecclesiastics. They
have sticks likewise, with which they strike the ground,
accompanying the blow with a motion of their whole bodies. They
begin their concert by stamping their feet on the ground, and
playing gently on their instruments; but when they have heated
themselves by degrees, they leave off drumming, and fall to leaping,
dancing, and clapping their hands, at the same time straining their
voices to the utmost pitch, till at length they have no regard
either to the tune or the pauses, and seem rather a riotous than a
religious assembly. For this manner of worship they cite the psalm
of David, "O clap your hands all ye nations." Thus they misapply
the sacred writings to defend practices yet more corrupt than those
I have been speaking of.

They are possessed with a strange notion that they are the only true
Christians in the world; as for us, they shunned us as heretics, and
were under the greatest surprise at hearing us mention the Virgin
Mary with the respect which is due to her, and told us that we could
not be entirely barbarians since we were acquainted with the mother
of God. It plainly appears that prepossessions so strong, which
receive more strength from the ignorance of the people, have very
little tendency to dispose them to a reunion with the Catholic

They have some opinions peculiar to themselves about purgatory, the
creation of souls, and some of our mysteries. They repeat baptism
every year, they retain the practice of circumcision, they observe
the Sabbath, they abstain from all those sorts of flesh which are
forbidden by the law. Brothers espouse the wives of their brothers,
and to conclude, they observe a great number of Jewish ceremonies.

Though they know the words which Jesus Christ appointed to be used
in the administration of baptism, they have without scruple
substituted others in their place, which makes the validity of their
baptism, and the reality of their Christianity, very doubtful. They
have a few names of saints, the same with those in the Roman
martyrology, but they often insert others, as Zama la Cota, the Life
of Truth; Ongulari, the Evangelist; Asca Georgi, the Mouth of Saint

To bring back this people into the enclosure of the Catholic Church,
from which they have been separated so many ages, was the sole view
and intention with which we undertook so long and toilsome a
journey, crossed so many seas, and passed so many deserts, with the
utmost hazard of our lives; I am certain that we travelled more than
seven thousand leagues before we arrived at our residence at

We came to this place, anciently called Maigoga, on the 21st of
June, as I have said before, and were obliged to continue there till
November, because the winter begins here in May, and its greatest
rigour is from the middle of June to the middle of September. The
rains that are almost continually falling in this season make it
impossible to go far from home, for the rivers overflow their banks,
and therefore, in a place like this, where there are neither bridges
nor boats, are, if they are not fordable, utterly impassable. Some,
indeed, have crossed them by means of a cord fastened on both sides
of the water, others tie two beams together, and placing themselves
upon them, guide them as well as they can, but this experiment is so
dangerous that it hath cost many of these bold adventurers their
lives. This is not all the danger, for there is yet more to be
apprehended from the unwholesomeness of the air, and the vapours
which arise from the scorched earth at the fall of the first
showers, than from the torrents and rivers. Even they who shelter
themselves in houses find great difficulty to avoid the diseases
that proceed from the noxious qualities of these vapours. From the
beginning of June to that of September it rains more or less every
day. The morning is generally fair and bright, but about two hours
after noon the sky is clouded, and immediately succeeds a violent
storm, with thunder and lightning flashing in the most dreadful
manner. While this lasts, which is commonly three or four hours,
none go out of doors. The ploughman upon the first appearance of it
unyokes his oxen, and betakes himself with them into covert.
Travellers provide for their security in the neighbouring villages,
or set up their tents, everybody flies to some shelter, as well to
avoid the unwholesomeness as the violence of the rain. The thunder
is astonishing, and the lightning often destroys great numbers, a
thing I can speak of from my own experience, for it once flashed so
near me, that I felt an uneasiness on that side for a long time
after; at the same time it killed three young children, and having
run round my room went out, and killed a man and woman three hundred
paces off. When the storm is over the sun shines out as before, and
one would not imagine it had rained, but that the ground appears
deluged. Thus passes the Abyssinian winter, a dreadful season, in
which the whole kingdom languishes with numberless diseases, an
affliction which, however grievous, is yet equalled by the clouds of
grasshoppers, which fly in such numbers from the desert, that the
sun is hid and the sky darkened; whenever this plague appears,
nothing is seen through the whole region but the most ghastly
consternation, or heard but the most piercing lamentations, for
wherever they fall, that unhappy place is laid waste and ruined;
they leave not one blade of grass, nor any hopes of a harvest.

God, who often makes calamities subservient to His will, permitted
this very affliction to be the cause of the conversion of many of
the natives, who might have otherwise died in their errors; for part
of the country being ruined by the grasshoppers that year in which
we arrived at Abyssinia, many, who were forced to leave their
habitations, and seek the necessaries of life in other places, came
to that part of the land where some of our missionaries were
preaching, and laid hold on that mercy which God seemed to have
appointed for others.

As we could not go to court before November, we resolved, that we
might not be idle, to preach and instruct the people in the country;
in pursuance of this resolution I was sent to a mountain, two days'
journey distant from Maigoga. The lord or governor of the place was
a Catholic, and had desired missionaries, but his wife had conceived
an implacable aversion both from us and the Roman Church, and almost
all the inhabitants of that mountain were infected with the same
prejudices as she. They had been persuaded that the hosts which we
consecrated and gave to the communicants were mixed with juices
strained from the flesh of a camel, a dog, a hare, and a swine; all
creatures which the Abyssins look upon with abhorrence, believing
them unclean, and forbidden to them, as they were to the Jews. We
had no way of undeceiving them, and they fled from us whenever we
approached. We carried with us our tent, our chalices, and
ornaments, and all that was necessary for saying mass. The lord of
the village, who, like other persons of quality throughout
Aethiopia, lived on the top of a mountain, received us with very
great civility. All that depended upon him had built their huts
round about him; so that this place compared with the other towns of
Abyssinia seems considerable; as soon as we arrived he sent us his
compliments, with a present of a cow, which, among them, is a token
of high respect. We had no way of returning this favour but by
killing the cow, and sending a quarter smoking, with the gall, which
amongst them is esteemed the most delicate part. I imagined for
some time that the gall of animals was less bitter in this country
than elsewhere, but upon tasting it, I found it more; and yet have
frequently seen our servants drink large glasses of if with the same
pleasure that we drink the most delicious wines.

We chose to begin our mission with the lady of the village, and
hoped that her prejudice and obstinacy, however great, would in time
yield to the advice and example of her husband, and that her
conversion would have a great influence on the whole village, but
having lost several days without being able to prevail upon her to
hear us on any one point, we left the place, and went to another
mountain, higher and better peopled. When we came to the village on
the top of it, where the lord lived, we were surprised with the
cries and lamentations of men that seemed to suffer or apprehend
some dreadful calamity; and were told, upon inquiring the cause,
that the inhabitants had been persuaded that we were the devil's
missionaries, who came to seduce them from the true religion, that
foreseeing some of their neighbours would be ruined by the
temptation, they were lamenting the misfortune which was coming upon
them. When we began to apply ourselves to the work of the mission
we could not by any means persuade any but the lord and the priest
to receive us into their houses; the rest were rough and untractable
to that degree that, after having converted six, we despaired of
making any farther progress, and thought it best to remove to other
towns where we might be better received.

We found, however, a more unpleasing treatment at the next place,
and had certainly ended our lives there had we not been protected by
the governor and the priest, who, though not reconciled to the Roman
Church, yet showed us the utmost civility; the governor informed us
of a design against our lives, and advised us not to go out after
sunset, and gave us guards to protect us from the insults of the

We made no long stay in a place where they stopped their ears
against the voice of God, but returned to the foot of that mountain
which we had left some days before; we were surrounded, as soon as
we began to preach, with a multitude of auditors, who came either in
expectation of being instructed, or from a desire of gratifying
their curiosity, and God bestowed such a blessing upon our
apostolical labours that the whole village was converted in a short
time. We then removed to another at the middle of the mountain,
situated in a kind of natural parterre, or garden; the soil was
fruitful, and the trees that shaded it from the scorching heat of
the sun gave it an agreeable and refreshing coolness. We had here
the convenience of improving the ardour and piety of our new
converts, and, at the same time, of leading more into the way of the
true religion: and indeed our success exceeded the utmost of our
hopes; we had in a short time great numbers whom we thought capable
of being admitted to the sacraments of baptism and the mass.

We erected our tent, and placed our altar under some great trees,
for the benefit of the shade; and every day before sun-rising my
companion and I began to catechise and instruct these new Catholics,
and used our utmost endeavours to make them abjure their errors.
When we were weary with speaking, we placed in ranks those who were
sufficiently instructed, and passing through them with great vessels
of water, baptised them according to the form prescribed by the
Church. As their number was very great, we cried aloud, those of
this rank are named Peter, those of that rank Anthony. And did the

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