Flora Louise Shaw Lugard.

A tropical dependency : an outline of the ancient history of the western Sudan with an account of the modern settlement of northern Nigeria online

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merchandise, which was on the way from Jenne. Such
a thing, it is said, had never happened before under
the dynasty of Songhay, and the indignant Viceroy
resolved to make a terrible example of Masina. He
ravaged the country with fire and sword, allowing his
troops to massacre indiscriminately ; and in the general
slaughter there perished, we are told, a great number
of distinofuished scholars and divines. The Sultan of
Masina fled to a place of safety till the storm had
passed, and then returned to his estates. Askia Daouad
entirely disapproved of the policy and conduct of his


son. The massacre of Masina happened, however, in
the spring of 1582, and before Askia Daouad had time
to take any action in the matter, he died on his favourite
estate near Kagho, on the 21st of August of that year.
With him died the last of the great Askias. He was
succeeded by his son, who, in consequence of having
made the pilgrimage to Mecca, was known, like his
illustrious grandfather, by the name of " El Hadj." He
was an estimable prince, but an invalid, and he reigned
only four years. He was succeeded in his turn by his
brother, Mohammed Bano, a mere nullity, who occupied
the throne for two years; and in 1588 that second Ishak,
also a son of Askia Daouad, who lives in the tradition
of the Soudan as "the worst of the Askias," closed the
line of the independent sovereigns of Songhay.

In bringing to an end this notice of the most remarkable
dynasty of which we have any record in the Soudan, it is
perhaps worth while to draw attention to the length of the
reigns not only of the two most distinguished monarchs of
this line, but generally of the more remarkable native
sovereigns of the Soudan. The reign of Askia Daouad
lasted for thirty-four years, that of Askia the Great for
thirty-six years. Sonni Ali, whose life and whose reign
were brought to an end only by an accident, reigned for
thirty years. The great Mansa Musa reigned for twenty-
four years. His brother, who after a short interval suc-
ceeded him, reigned for twenty-six years. In the Desert
Empire the son of the famous Teloutan, who had himself
a very long reign, reigned from 837 till 910, that is,
upwards of seventy years, and was then killed in battle.
Nor was this longevity confined to the rulers of the
country. It has already been mentioned that the common
age to which men lived in the Desert Empire was eighty
years, and the great age of the teachers and writers of
Timbuctoo has been noticed. Public men not only lived
to a great age, but kept their offices for long periods of
time. The great Askia, after having been a successful
general, was Prime Minister for thirty years before he


became a monarch for thirty-six years. Ali Folen, his
Prime Minister, already a chosen councillor whose fidelity
had been approved in 1492, held office till the end of the
sovereign's reign in 1528. Mohammed Goddala, the first
Cadi of Timbuctoo appointed by the great Askia, a man
highly distinguished both for learning and justice in the
annals of his country, lived to the age of eighty-four, and
was Cadi for fifty years. The Cadi el Aquib, who rebuilt
the mosques of Timbuctoo under Askia Daouad, held his
functions as Cadi for eighteen years. Mohammed Naddi,
the famous Timbuctoo Koi, who, having held office under
the Sultan of Melle, was reinstated by the Tuaregs on
their capture of the town, had held office for more than
thirty years when he died in 1464. It is needless to
multiply examples ; but the longevity of the individual is
an element of so much importance in the development of
the race that, in view of the opinion usually entertained
with regard to the climate and institutions of the Soudan,
it seems interesting to establish the fact that there is
nothing in the health conditions of the country which, for
those who are acclimatised, is opposed to long and active
life. As regards the institutions, continuity of office in
the individual is nearly always coincident with stability in
the state. Short reigns, short ministries, short military
commands, are symptoms which seldom fail to indicate an
unsettled and unsatisfactory condition of public life. Pros-
perity and permanence go hand in hand ; and where we
find judges, generals, viceroys, kings, holding their public
positions for periods varying between twenty - five and
fifty years, we may fairly argue a peaceful and prosperous
condition of the country.

The history of the Soudan offers no contradiction to
the assumption that the life of the nation will correspond
to the life of the individual. The duration of the
Soudanese empires will bear comparison with that of
others which are better known to fame. Ghana enjoyed
an independent existence of about iioo years — that is, a
period nearly equivalent to the period of existence of our


own British monarchy from the abolition of the Saxon
Heptarchy to the present day. Melle, who succeeded
her, had a shorter national life of about 250 years.
Songhay counted its kings in regular succession from
about 700 A.D. to the date of the Moorish conquest in
1 59 1 — a period which almost exactly coincides with the
life of Rome from the foundation of the republic, 509 B.C.,
to the downfall of the empire in the first half of the
fifth century of our era. The duration of the Empire of
Bornu was, as will be seen, no less respectable.

The civilisation represented by these empires was no
doubt, if judged by a modern and still more by a Western
standard, exceedingly imperfect. The principles of free-
dom, as we understand them, were probably unknown.
Authority rested upon force of arms. Industrial life was
based on slavery. Social life was founded on polygamy.
Side by side with barbaric splendour there was primeval
simplicity. Luxury for the few took the place of comfort
for the many. Study was devoted mainly to what seem
to us unprofitable ends. These are grave drawbacks.
Yet the fact that civilisation, far in excess of anything
which the nations of Northern Europe possessed at the
earlier period of Soudanese history, existed with stability
enough to maintain empire after empire through a known
period of about 1500 years, in a portion of the world
which mysteriously disappeared in the sixteenth century
from the comity of modern nations, is interesting enough
to merit recognition, and, it seems to me, to justify some
study of the new chapters of history presented to our



The next great event of importance in the history of the
Soudan is the conquest of the country by the Moors, but
before approaching the narrative of this catastrophe it will
be well to bring the history of Bornu and the Haussa
States — which fill the last remaining section of the
country lying between the Atlantic and Lake Chad — up
to the point of their contemporary development in the
sixteenth century. These portions of the Soudan are
especially interesting to us, as they constitute at the
present day the northern portion of the British Protec-
torate of Nigeria.

It has been said, in entering upon the history of
the Songhay Empire, that in it we reached that part
of the history of the Western Soudan in which the
influence of the West and of the East visibly met and
overlapped. In crossing the Niger, and passing to the
territories which lie still farther east, we come to that
part of the country in which the influence of the East
begins more distinctly to predominate.

To establish the grounds on which such influence may
be presupposed, a short digression is necessary into what
is knov/n of the geographical connection of the countries
of Northern Africa with each other during a very early
period of their history.

The ancient civilisation of Egypt spread, as we know,
from south to north, and without venturing to accept
or to reject the assumption of some learned writers that
it came originally by way of the Arabian Gulf from
India, there is seemingly no doubt that the earliest seat



of civilisation in Africa was the country watered by the
Upper Nile, which was known by the name of Ethiopia
to the ancients, and which lay in an easterly direction,
between the very latitudes of 10° and 17° that on the
western side of Lake Chad fixed the limits of habitation
of the higher races of the Soudan. Monuments, of which
a more or less consecutive chain can be traced from
Nubia to the Straits of Bab-el- Mandeb, point to the
existence in this territory, at a period of great antiquity,
of a people possessing many of the arts of a relatively
high civilisation. The principal state of this Ethiopian
country bore the well-known name of Meroe. It occu-
pied the territory watered by the Nile and its tribu-
taries, of which the most northerly point is marked
by the meeting of the Atbara and the Nile. The
capital of Meroe was a city of the same name, which
stood a little below the present Shendy, under 17° N.
latitude, and in 32^^° E. longitude. That is to say,
Meroe stood, like Ghana, on the extreme edge of the
summer rains. The limits of the State of Meroe ex-
tended probably at one time to the north of 17° and to
the south of 10°. Those parallels may, however, be
taken as indicating its permanent limits.

This is not the place, nor am I competent to discuss
the arguments which form the ground of belief that
the civilisation of Meroe preceded that of Egypt. It is
enough to say very briefly, that on the site of the city of
Meroe there exist remains of temples and pyramids, from
which archaeologists have drawn the conclusion that the
pyramid was a form of architecture native to Meroe, and
only afterwards brought to perfection in Egypt. It is evi-
dent, from the decoration of the temples, that they were
dedicated to the worship of Ammon. It is believed that
the remains of the temple of the most famous oracle
of Jupiter Ammon are to be found in ruins at about
eight hours' journey to the north-east of Shendy. This
temple of the oracle was known to exist within a few
hours' journey of Meroe, and the priestly traditions of


Ethiopia and Egypt assert that the worship of Ammon
and Osiris, with its feasts and processions, was first
settled at the metropolis of Meroe. This remark-
able spot is regarded by the ancients as the "cradle
of the arts and sciences, where hieroglyphic writing was
discovered, and where temples and pyramids had already
sprung up while Egypt still remained ignorant of their
existence." From this temple the worship of Ammon
and his attendant gods would seem to have spread to
Egypt, and through the oasis of Siwah to Carthage and
the Mediterranean coast.

The carvincTs of the monuments of Meroe show a
people in possession of the arts and luxuries of civilisation,
and having some knowledge of science. On the base
of one of the monuments a zodiac has been found, and
in the more northerly monuments of Nubia, which por-
tray the conquest of Meroe by Rameses the Great of
Egypt at a much later date, the conquered nation is
shown as being not only rich, civilised, and important,
but also as possessing tributary states, presumably in
Central Africa, whence came giraffes and other Central
African produce. We learn from the same monuments
that the women of Meroe were frequently armed, and
appeared to live on equal terms with men. They are
constantly portrayed as queens. The Empire of Meroe
had its settled constitution and its laws. It was com-
posed of many little states, but the whole were apparently
governed by a priest-caste, and the portraits of priests,
frequently repeated upon the monuments, show them as
tall and slender, with handsome profile, red-brown in
colour, and with hair indifferently straight or curled.
The general population are believed to have been of the
black and straight-haired Nubian race. Here is the
conclusion drawn by a competent German critic, nearly
a hundred years ago, from the discoveries made by
Gau, Champollion, and others : " In Nubia and Ethiopia
stupendous, numerous, and primeval monuments proclaim
so loudly a civilisation contemporary to, aye, earlier than


that of Egypt, that it may be conjectured with the greatest
confidence that the arts, sciences, and religion descended
from Nubia to the lower country of Misraim ; that civi-
lisation descended the Nile, built Memphis, and fmally,
something later, wrested by colonisation the Delta from
the sea." ^

The monuments, though eloquent, are not the only
grounds upon which this conclusion has been reached.
The fame of the Ethiopians was widespread in ancient
history. Herodotus describes them as " the tallest, the
most beautiful and long-lived of the human race," and
before Herodotus, Homer, in even more flattering lan-
guage, described them as "the most just of men; the
favourites of the gods." The annals of all the great
early nations of Asia Minor are full of them. The Mosaic
records allude to them frequently ; but while they are
described as the most powerful, the most just, and the
most beautiful of the human race, they are constantly
spoken of as black, and there seems to be no other
conclusion to be drawn, than that at that remote period
of history the leading race of the Western world was
a black race. When we reflect that this black race
flourished within the very latitudes of Africa which
European nations are now engaged in opening to
modern civilisation, a great interest is added to the
study of their possible descendants.

The people of Ethiopia colonised to the north and
west. Amongst their colonies to the north, one of the
most important was Thebes. Thebes and Meroe to-
gether founded the colony of Ammonium in the western
desert, and through Thebes the religion of Meroe was
carried into Lower Egypt. It was at a much later
period, about 1500 B.C., that Egypt returned upon Meroe
and conquered it.

In the ancient world, as in ours, commerce and re-
ligion were constantly associated. The routes of pil-
grimage were also the routes of trade, and with the

' Heeren, " Historical Researches : African Nations."


help of the magnificent remains which have from
time to time been discovered in the southern regions
watered by the Nile and its tributary streams, it has
been found possible to re-establish some of the great
trade routes which were used by Meroe in the days of
her prosperity. In briefly indicating them I follow the
account given by Heeren in his " Historical Researches."

There can be no doubt that from a very early period
maritime commerce existed between India, Arabia, and
the East African coasts. Probably at an even earlier
period Chinese navigators frequented the shores of Africa.
Marmol, writing of the East Coast of Africa in the six-
teenth century, says: "There was a time when the
Chinese navigated these shores as freely as the Portu-
guese now do," and his statement obtains some modern
corroboration from the fact that at the excavation, about
twenty-five years ago, of Kilwa, once the capital of a
native empire, upon the east coast of Africa, where
three towns were superimposed upon one another, the
lowest town was found to be full of Chinese coins.
Commerce between the countries lying on the shores
of the Indian Ocean was favoured by the fact, thus
recorded by an ancient writer, that for " one half of the
year, from spring to autumn, the wind regularly sets
in and wafts the vessels from Arabia to India; the
other half, from autumn to spring, it as regularly carries
them back from India to Arabia." Arrian, in his
" Periplus of the Erythrean Sea," written in the first
century of our era, speaking of the commerce, which
was then, of course, a matter of ancient, though also
of contemporary history, says : " Before merchants sailed
from Egypt to India, Arabia Felix was the staple (or
market) both for Egyptian and Indian goods, just as
Alexandria now is for the commodities of Egypt and
foreign merchandise." The Indians nowhere appear as
navigators ; the Arabians always do. It seems to be
demonstrated that they possessed the navigation of the
Indian Ocean, not only in our own medieval times,


but certainly through the period of the Ptolemies, and
probably much earlier. That they communicated with
Ethiopia in early ages is not a matter of doubt.

Africa contributed largely in gold and probably also
in frankincense — which was obtained in the regions now
known as Somaliland — to the ancient commerce of the
Indian Ocean. Considering the position occupied by
Arabia in that commerce, it is not surprising to find
that the ports through which the trade entered Ethiopia
were Asab and Adule, both situated within the Straits
of Bab-el- Mandeb on the western shore of the Red
Sea. Roads from these two points led to Axum, in the
interior, on the western side of the Abyssinian Mountains,
a town of which the colossal remains still testify to its
ancient greatness. From Axum, which had its temples
and was itself a great centre of trade, the road led north-
westward through the State of Meroe to the town of
the same name. The town of Meroe was a great centre,
whence roads spread in many directions. The principal
trade route led from Meroe northwards, either along the
Nile or across the Nubian desert to Thebes, thence to the
oasis of Siwah in the western desert, thence to Augela,
often mentioned as an Egyptian colony, and thence
south-westward to the site of the modern Murzuk in the
Fezzan, whence communication was direct to Carthage
and the Mediterranean coast. These last stations were
at the head of the Tripoli-Fezzan route into the southern
desert, and marked the junction of that route with the
Egyptian route. There was a road from Meroe across
the desert which ran due westward into Kordofan. This
road still exists, but Burckhardt, who visited Shendy in
1770, says that now, "as in ancient times," the commerce
with the west is insignificant. It seems to result from
the most careful investigation that the principal com-
merce of the interior of Africa has always been carried
on in two directions : that which has been described
from Ethiopia through the Valley of the Nile, and that
of the Soudan from the Niger to the Mediterranean


coast. The Empire of Bornu, or Kanem, including at one
time the present kingdoms of Wadai and Darfour, formed
a separation between these two streams which have always
run in parallel channels from south to north. This, at
least, is the general opinion of explorers and historians,
who, it is to be remembered, have necessarily written
from the external point of view. What may have been
at any given period the lateral branching of local native
trade, is difficult for the European writer to determine.

Heeren, in his researches into the trade of the Cartha-
ginians and the Ethiopians, has been able to establish
the existence of at least one important cross-road of
communication, of which a portion has been already noted
in tracing the direction of the main trade route, after it
branched from Thebes westward to the oasis of Siwah
and the Mediterranean coast. The western end of the
road starting from Carthage ran in a south-easterly direc-
tion through the Fezzan to the site of the present Murzuk.
After making the junction at that point with the Egyptian
road, it turned southwards to the Niger, and was the
road which has been so often mentioned as the Tripoli-
Fezzan road of the present day. Along this road the
Carthaginians traded with the Niger for carbuncles, skins,
gold, ivory, and other goods.

Thus we get on unquestionable authority evidence of
a well-established connection in very early times between
Ethiopia and Egypt by the Valley of the Nile; between
Egypt and Carthage by a road crossing the desert
through Siwah and Augela, and between Carthage and
the Niger by the present Tripoli-Fezzan route. If we
take Murzuk and Thebes as lying almost on the same
parallels of latitude outside the Tropic of Cancer, and
Gao and Meroe as having also almost parallel positions
on the edge of the summer rains, some eight degrees
farther south, we get the four corners of an irregular
parallelogram, of which three sides were in permanent
communication with each other. The base of this paral-
lelogram rests on the fertile belt, which crosses Africa


between the parallels of 10° and 17°; and taking into
consideration the fact that Mohammedan states now
stretch continuously across it from Bornu to Fashoda,
it seems in no way improbable that, at a period when
the trade of Ethiopia was important enough to extend
down the Valley of the Nile and across the difficult
desert road from Thebes to Murzuk in the north, trade
may also have found channels of extension along the
fertile territories to the west.

In corroboration of the view that the trade and in-
fluence of Meroe may have extended farther west than
has as yet been ascertained by modern exploration, I may
mention a fact told me by Zebehr Pasha, when, during
his confinement at Gibraltar in 1886, he related to me
the history of the foundation of his ephemeral empire
in the Bahr-el-Ghazal. It was that, having occasion to
act as the military ally of a certain native king Tekkima,
whose territory lay somewhere south and west of the
spot marked upon modern maps as Dem Suleiman or
Dem Zebehr — that is, presumably about 8° N. and 25° E.,
he was informed that he had to fight against magicians,
who habitually came out of the earth, fought, and then
disappeared. A careful system of scouting disclosed to
him the fact that they came from under ground, and
when, after cutting off their retreat and conquering them,
he insisted upon being shown their place of habitation,
he found it to be deeply buried in the sand, a wonder-
ful system of temples "far finer," to use the words in
which he described it, "than modern eyes have seen in
the mosques of Cairo and Constantinople." It was, he
said, such work of massive stone as was done only by
the great races of old. Through this underground city of
stone there ran a stream, and by the stream his native
antagonists lived in common straw native huts. "Were
your people, then," he asked them, "a nation of stone-
cutters?" And they said, "Oh, no! This is not the
work of our forefathers, but our forefathers found it here,
and we have lived for many generations in these huts."



Whether this accidental discovery of unknown monu-
ments may yet be repeated farther west, and links be
established in a continuous chain of ancient civilisation
reaching from the Red Sea to the country west of Chad,
or whether the civilisations of the western and the
eastern ends of the fertile belt of the Soudan were
in fact separated from one another by a sea of which
the waters of Chad are but the disappearing trace, is,
however, a question which, interesting as it is, becomes,
in the light of the proved connection by the northern
road, a question rather of detail than of principle.

If there was no connection by the south, there cer-
tainly was connection by the north, by means of which
the early inhabitants of the Haussa States may have
been brought under the same influences of civilisation
which spread from Ethiopia to ancient Egypt and thence
to Europe and Northern Africa.



The annals of Egyptian history are not without some
record of the very early connection which existed be-
tween the valleys of the Niger and the Nile. To enter
into the spirit of them we must be content to lose our-
selves in semi-mythical periods when, according to the
records collected and preserved by historic writers, Housal
and his descendants reigned in Egypt. The name of
Housal meant, we are told, " Servant of Venus." We
may perhaps, therefore, carry back the date to a period
when the Phoenicians dominated Egyptian politics, and
the worship of Astarte or Venus Erycina was common
in the Valley of the Nile.

Already, before Housal, Egyptian kings had marched
through the west and into the country of the blacks in
the south, where they had seen ** wonderful things."
But it is with his descendant, Nimrod the Powerful, who
was also called Nimrod the son of Housal, that we
obtain a direct link with the southern states. Nimrod,
we are told, was a king famous for his justice, under
whom the people of Egypt lived happily. But his dead

Online LibraryFlora Louise Shaw LugardA tropical dependency : an outline of the ancient history of the western Sudan with an account of the modern settlement of northern Nigeria → online text (page 18 of 41)