In the interior of Abyssinia there is a very large and high mountain which can only be ascended by one very difficult path, and on its summit there is a large plain, having abundance of springs, with numerous cattle, and even some cultivation. The inhabitants of this mountain observe the law of Moses. Though I have carefully inquired, I could never learn how this people came into Abyssinia, and wherefore they have never descended from their mountain to mix with the other inhabitants of the country. The young king received a friendly entertainment from these Jews, who acknowledged him as their sovereign, and defended him against the king of Zeyla, who was unable to force his way up the mountain, and had to retire. About this time we arrived at Massua, which put the Moors in great fear, and inspired new courage into the hearts of the Abyssinians, insomuch that the young king left the mountain of the Jews and took up his quarters with his adherents in other mountains towards the sea coast and nearer to Massua, whence he wrote many pitiful and imploring letters for assistance, to which favourable answers were returned giving him hopes of succour. We proceeded on our expedition to Suez; and being returned again to Massua, it was ordained to send an auxiliary force of 500 men under a captain, which was accordingly done and we set sail on our way back to India. Since that time, I have not learnt any intelligence whatever respecting the affairs of Ethiopia.
[Footnote 282: The circumstances and fate of this Portuguese expedition into Abyssinia will be found in the next chapter of this work.—E.]
The Abyssinians are naturally ceremonious men, and full of points of honour. Their only weapons are darts, in which they figure to themselves the lance with which our Saviour was wounded, and the cross on which he died, though some wear short swords. They are very expert horsemen, but badly apparelled; and are much given to lying and theft. Among them riches are not computed by money, but by the possession of cattle and camels, yet gold is much valued. In their own country they are dastardly cowards, but in other countries valiant; insomuch that in India they say that a good Lascarin, or what we call a soldier, must be an Abyssinian; and they are so much esteemed in Ballagayat, Cambaya, Bengal, and other places, that they are always made captains and principal officers in the army. Their clothing is vile and poor. They wear linen shirts, and the great personages have a kind of upper garment called Beden. The vulgar people are almost quite naked. They eat bollemus and raw flesh; or if held to the fire, it is so little done that the blood runs from it. In the whole land there are no cities or towns, so that they live in the field under tents and pavilions like the Arabs. They pride themselves on believing that the queen of Sheba was of their country, alleging that she took shipping at Massua, though others say at Swakem, carrying with her jewels of great value when she went to Jerusalem to visit Solomon, making him great gifts, and returned with child by him.