A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels — Volume 06 eBook

Robert Kerr (writer)
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 750 pages of information about A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels — Volume 06.

[Footnote 278:  Arkiko, Arkoko, or Erkoko, by some erroneously called Erocco, and by De L’Isle, Arcua.  In the edition of this journal by Purchas it is called Arquito.—­Ast.]

[Footnote 279:  These are no proofs that Massua is on the spot formerly occupied by Ptolomaida; for the whole coast of Abyssinia is full of wild beasts, and since Ptolomy fixed the latitude solely by computed distances, it is next to impossible that these should exactly agree with real observations.—­Ast.]


Digression respecting the History, Customs, and State of Abyssinia.

Presbyter or Prester John, otherwise called Prete Jani, who is the king or emperor of the Abyssinians, is lord of all the land called anciently Ethiopia sub Egypto[280], or Lower Ethiopia; which is one of the most extensive dominions we know of in the world.  This empire begins at Cape Guardafu, called anciently Aromata, whence running along the Red Sea, with desert and not very crooked coasts, it reaches to the boundaries of the rich city of Swakem.  On the north side it borders on the warlike people of the Nubys, Nuba, or Nubians, who intervene between Abyssinia and the Theabaid or Upper Egypt.  From thence it reaches a great way inland to the kingdom of Manicongo, including part of Lybia Inferior, and other interior parts of Africa towards the west; whence turning behind the springs and lakes of the Nile through burning and unknown regions, it endeth in the south upon the Barbarian Gulf, now known to the Portuguese who navigate that gulf, as the coasts of Melinda and Magadoxa.  The Nile is still known by its ancient name, being called Nil by the Abyssinians, Egyptians, Arabians, and Indians.  The springs and lakes of this river are on the confines which separate the land of the Abyssinians from the Cafres that inhabit the continent behind Melinda and Mozambique, as I was informed by some great lords and other persons of Abyssinia, whence it appears that the ancients had little knowledge respecting the origin of this river.  Inquiring from these people, if it were true that this river did sink in many places into the earth, and came out again at the distance of many days journey, I was assured there was no such thing, but that during its whole course it was seen on the surface, having great breadth and depth, notwithstanding of what we read in the fifth book of the Natural History of Pliny.  I made many inquiries respecting the causes of increase and overflowings of this river, which has been so much disputed by all the ancient philosophers, and received the most satisfactory solution of this question never before determined.  Thus almost jestingly, and by means of very simple questions, I came to learn that which the greatest philosophers of antiquity were ignorant of.

[Footnote 280:  That is Ethiopia below Egypt, or more properly to the south of Egypt.  The expression below seems ridiculous, as Abyssinia or Ethiopia containing the sources of the Nile must be higher than Egypt at its mouth.  But among Greek and Roman geographers, above and below meant respectively to the north and to the south.—­E.]

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