BOOK III - The Library of History

Bibliotheca historica
The first five books

Page 88 a share both in Prosperity and Adversity, in Sorrow and Sadness, and in the pains and deficiencies of the Body. They say moreover, that it's a Custom for the King's Domestick Servants, to put themselves to Death when their Kings dye, and such Death they account honourable, and as a Testimony of their sincere love to their Prince; and therefore it's no easie matter for the Ethiopians to assassinate any of the King's Friends, being that both they and the King are careful and solicitous for the mutual preservation of each other.

These are the Laws of those Ethiopians that inhabit the Capital City, and the Island Meroes, and those Tracts that lye next unto Egypt. But there are many other Ethiopian Nations, whereof some dwell on both sides the River Nile, and in the Islands in the River; others border upon Arabia, and some are seated in the heart of Africa. The greatest part of these, especially those in and about the River, are Blacks, flat Fac'd, of curl'd Hair, exceeding fierce and cruel, and in their Manners like Beasts, not so much in their natural Temper, as in their study'd and contriv'd pieces of wickedness. Their whole Bodies are filthy and nasty, and their Nails long like wild Beasts, and cruel one towards another. They have a shrill Voice, and in regard they are never taught by any how to lead a more civiliz'd Course of Life (in that way of Education as others are) they mightily differ from us in all their Manners.

Some of them carry Shields made of the raw Hide of an Ox, and short Launces: Others Darts with forkt Points; sometimes they use Bows of Wood Four Cubits long, and discharge their Arrows, by forcing the Bow with the help of their Foot; and when their Shafts are spent, they fall on with Clubs. They arm likewise their Women, till they attain to such an Age; many of whom use to hang a Brass Ring at their Lips. Some of them never wear any Cloaths, but go naked all their Lives long, and shelter themselves from the scorching heat of the Sun, only with such helps and defences as in their way they can meet withal. Some of them cut off Sheeps Tails, and bind them about their Loyns to cover their Privities: Others make use of Beasts Skins for this purpose. Some there are that are cloth'd round their Loyns with Breeches made of the Hair of their Heads; for the nature of the Ground is such, that the Sheep carry no Fleeces.

Their Meat is a certain Fruit that grows about the Pools and Marishes: Some pluck off the tender Branches of small Trees, and with them cover themselves from the heat of the Southern Sun. Some sow Sesamus and Lotus: And others live upon certain tender Roots of Canes. And many of them that are good Archers, maintain themselves with abundance of Fowl they kill. But most of them live upon Flesh, Milk and Cheese. Those that inhabit the Parts above Meroes, have Two Opinions concerning the Gods.

Some of them say they are eternal and incorruptible: Amongst which, they reckon the Sun, Moon, and the intire Universe. Others they conceive were at first Mortal Men, but for their Virtue and their Benefits procur'd to Mankind, purchas'd immortal Honour. They especially worship Isis, Pan, Hercules and Jupiter, whom they account to be the greatest Benefactors to Mankind. But some few of the Ethiopians are of opinion, that there are no Gods at all: And these fly to the Marishes from the Sun when it rises, as from an implacable Enemy.

They have Laws likewise different from all other Nations about their Funerals. Some throw their Dead into the River, as looking upon that to be the best sort of Burial. Others by pouring upon them melted Glass, keep them in their Houses; because they think it not convenient or decent that their Countenances should not be known by their Kindred, or that they should be forgotten by their Posterity. Some bury them in Earthen Coffins, about their Temples; and to swear by their Names, is counted the most Sacred Oath. Those that are most Beautiful some of of them chuse to be their King, judging that Regal Power and Beauty are always the Gifts of Fortune. Others intrust the Royal Power in the Hands of the most industrious Shepherds, as such as would make it their business to take most care for the good of their Subjects. Others bestow the Kingdom upon those that are richest, judging such only most able by their Riches, to supply the wants of their People.

There are others that are for the advancing them to the Throne, who are most approv'd for their Valour; because they judge those that are Conquerors to be most worthy of Honour.

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