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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brother had been married to a magician from the south.
This magician fled with her son, on the accession of
Nimrod, towards the south. There, by her charms, she
raised a power for her son to claim the throne. Nimrod
marched against her and was overthrown, and her son
reigned in his stead. This is the Egyptian account.
But the people of Yoruba, which is not one of the true
Haussa States, but which is a province included within the
British Protectorate in the back country of Lagos, claim


to descend from Canaanites — that is, Phoenicians — of the
tribe of Nimrod. They claim, further, that all the pagan
tribes in the mountains of Haussaland descend from them,
because in their southward journey they left, in every
place they stopped at, a tribe of their own people in the
mountains. Sultan Bello, who records this claim of the
Yoruba people, was apparently unacquainted with the
Egyptian story. But the coincidence between the two
accounts is too striking to be ignored. The Nimrod
the Powerful of Egyptian history, son of Housal, who
worshipped the Phoenician gods, and Nimrod the Mighty,
the first son of Canaan (or Phoenicia) of the Mosaic
record, may fairly be taken as identical, and it is easy
to comprehend how the dispersion of a large army, of
which the component parts would be driven to take
refuge where they could, might lead to just such a tradi-
tion as that cherished by the Yoruba population of the
present day.

It is interesting also to observe in Egyptian records
the constant reference to " magicians of the south." The
part which magic played in the chronicles of Egypt is
of course a matter of common knowledge. The whole
north coast of Africa was, we are told, protected by
talismans, burning glasses, and other marvels raised on
pedestals, which were placed at intervals along the shore.
Alexandria could not be built till talismans had been
erected which had power to protect it from the monsters
of the deep. Macrizi, in his " Historical Description of
Egypt," written in the fifteenth century, has preserved
for us accounts of some of the most famous talismans
constructed by the kings, and quite as often by the
queens, who reigned in the Valley of the Nile. We find
there the magical bird with outspread wings, raised on a
pedestal for protective purposes above towns or graves,
which in the seventeenth century had still its prototype
in the copper birds, described by Barbot as spreading
their wings above all the best houses of Benin. The
same idea perhaps inspired the golden bird perched on


the cupola of the king's umbrella which Ibn Batuta men-
tioned in describing the court ceremonies of the court
of Melle in the fourteenth century. Marvels of every
kind are catalogued among the creations of the wisest of
Egyptian sovereigns. Nor need we confine ourselves to
the Soudan to find in later times the prototypes of statues
which healed, relics which could detect injustice, dirty
water which, being washed over sacred stones, had power
to impart saving grace. The ideas which underlay the
magic of Egypt have been common to all time. They
took sometimes, in Egypt as elsewhere, very charming
shape. We hear of one benevolent king who constructed
a temple in which he placed statues to heal every human
infirmity. On the head of each statue was written the
name of the evil which it could cure. When he had
cured all recognised evils, he made last of all the statue
of a smiling woman, "and whoever looked on her, lost
his secret sorrow."

In the construction of these talismans the "magicians
of the south " played their part. We have seen in the
Tarikh-es-Soudan that Gao was celebrated in ancient
times as a town of magicians, whence the Pharaohs on
occasion summoned help. Borgu and its neighbourhood
to the south of Gao is to this day celebrated for the
pursuit of magic, and the whole coast of West Africa
is permeated with a belief in witchcraft and charms.
Doubtless when Egyptian records speak of the south,
they frequently mean Ethiopia and Meroe. But that the
name of Ethiopia was extended in some instances to
cover the country as far west as the Atlantic is made
quite clear by ancient writers. Strabo expressly says so.

If, in the magic practised by the inhabitants of the
territories lying between the Niger and Lake Chad, we
find one indication of the very early connection of these
countries with Egypt, other indications present them-
selves, as we approach the period of the Pharaohs of
the eighteenth and nineteenth dynasties, which appear
by comparison to stand on historic ground. I abridge


from Macrizi an account of an eleven years' expedition
of one of the Pharaohs into the west and south, which
seems definitely to confer upon Borgu the honour of
connecting the existing territory of British Northern
Nigeria with the Egypt known to us in the Old Testa-
ment. The expedition took place some 1 700 years before
Christ. The Pharaoh was king of Egypt when "a
young Syrian, of the name of ' Joseph the Truthful,' was
sold by his brothers into Egypt." The Pharaoh of
Joseph was known by many names. Amongst them
the Copts gave him the name of " Barkhou."

After a long struggle with Phoenician forces in the
north, this Pharaoh subdued Syria, and then resolved to
conquer the world to the south and west. He set out
with an army of 700,000 men, marched westward to that
point of Africa where the Atlantic meets the Mediter-
ranean, crossed over to Spain, and, having conquered
and imposed tribute as he went, he returned and marched
eastward through the country of the Berbers. Thence
he turned south, fought with various peoples, and sent
a general before him to a town situated upon the "black
water." The king of this town had never heard of
Pharaoh, and being questioned about the water to the
south, said that no one had ever navigated it, because
of the mists which made it dangerous. When Pharaoh
arrived, the native king offered presents, amongst them
a mystic black stone, and fruits, chiefly bananas. Pharaoh
then " marched into the countries of the Soudan, and
came to the country of the Dem-Dem cannibals, who
marched against him entirely naked." He conquered
them, and took the road to the "dark sea," but as mists
arose, he returned northwards as far as a colossal statue
of red stone, which bore the inscription, " Beyond me
there is nothing." He appears then to have turned
eastward. In his march he encountered various marvels
which I will not relate, amongst other things a town of
hermits or magicians living in the mountains, from whom
he received good advice, and by whom he was shown


immense stores, worthless to them, of gold and emeralds
and sapphires. Finally, after an absence of eleven years,
he reached Nubia — showing that, in his day at least,
communication was supposed to be possible between the
Niger and the Nile along the parallels of the fertile
belt — and he re-entered Egypt, having built monuments
or otherwise "left traces of himself" in every country
through which he passed.

The account, of which I have given the essential

geographical points, seems clearly to indicate that this

Pharaoh on his return from the west followed the Tripoli-

Fezzan route into the desert. The town upon which he

marched may have been the town of Kaougha or Kau-

Kau, which appears to have existed in ancient times

somewhere near to the site of the present town of Kuka

on Lake Chad ; but remembering that the Arab name of

the Niger is the " Huad el Nichar," or Black Water, and

that the account of the expedition has been taken by Arab

writers from the Coptic, it is equally probable that the

town where he got the black stone and the bananas

may have been that very town of Gao on the Niger, also

called Kaougha, the antiquity of which has been so often

alluded to. He marched "thence" into the Soudan and

the country of the cannibal Dem-Dems. This at least

identifies the locality of a portion of this expedition, for

every early Arab writer has located the Dem-Dems in the

country to the south and south-east of Gao, spreading down

the western side of the river and across the river into the

hills to the south of the Haussa States, known later as

Bowshy, Bowsher, or Jacoba, and now included in British

Northern Nigeria under the name of Bautchi. In these

hills the cannibals have survived even to our own day, but

on the western side of the river they have long since been

driven out, and their place has been taken by the peoples

of Gurma and Borgu, or, as this latter province was often

called by early Arab writers, Barkou. Here again the

coincidence of name is at least striking. A Pharaoh of the

name of Barkhou, of whom it is said that he left a trace of


himself in every country through which he passed, is stated
to have marched victoriously with a large army over a
country to the south of the Black Water, which is de-
scribed as the country of the Dem-Dems. At a very
much later period a country bearing his Coptic name, and
claiming for its people Coptic descent, is found to be
situated between the Black Water and the country of the
Dem-Dems. I do not wish to push the argument of
names too far, especially when the uncertain nature of the
records of those "Traditionists" from whom Macrizi
quotes is taken into consideration. Yet in conjunction
with the popular belief in Egyptian extraction, this story
which I find in the annals of Egypt, where there was
no thought of shedding light on questions of the Soudan,
seems to me interesting enough to plead its own excuse
for insertion.

Whether the "Dark Sea" — rendered in the French
translation which I am following by the words " Mer
obscure'' — really meant the sea on the south coast, or
whether it was, as I think more probable, some other body
of water such as Lake Chad, which must have been passed
if the expedition re-entered Egypt by way of Nubia, I
leave to the more learned to decide. The direction of his
march after achieving the conquest of the Dem-Dems
appears to me to have been round the north shores of
Lake Chad, and so across the desert into Nubia. If it be
true that he built monuments or left traces of himself in
every country through which he passed, there is hope that
his cartouche may yet be discovered upon some hitherto
unexplored rock of Northern Nigeria. The persistent
reference in early descriptions to a colossal statue in the
neighbourhood of the Almena rocks may have a foundation
in interesting fact.

Before and after this Pharaoh, other Pharaohs — includ-
ing the intrepid Phoenician usurper who, according to
Macrizi, was the Pharaoh of Moses — marched at the head
of armies into the Soudan and fought and conquered
among the blacks and Berbers, forcing the people of the


Soudan to pay tribute. The black nations of Ethiopia
were sufficiently vigorous to have at times invaded the
southern and western frontiers of Egypt, and to have
necessitated the building of a great wall of defence against
them. This wall, which extended from the frontiers of
Abyssinia to Nubia, and through Nubia to the oases,
was built by a queen called Dalouka. It was fortified
at intervals throughout its length.

We know from other sources that, about the year 1400
B.C., Rameses the Great, who is usually assumed to have
been the Pharaoh of Moses, made extensive conquests to
the south. This was the Pharaoh whose conquest of
Ethiopia is shown upon the monuments, and on those
monuments is also indicated the conquest of tributary
nations to the West. In connection with these conquests
we must not forget the statement of the Tarikh-es-Soudan
that it was the Pharaoh of Moses who drew his magicians
from Gao. That the nations of the Niger and Lake Chad
should have been tributary to Eastern Ethiopia is not
surprising, and the inference to be drawn from the monu-
ments and the statements of ancient writers is confirmed
by the mere fact that the name of Ethiopia was extended
to them. Libyan as well as Ethiopian dynasties are
known to have reigned in Egypt after the Pharaohs of the
nineetenth dynasty. When, therefore, we read of the re-
conquest of Egypt, and a march of Ethiopian armies against
the Kings of Israel about 1000 b.c, and of an Ethiopian
dynasty established at Memphis under Sabako at a period
contemporary with the prophet Isaiah, about 750 B.C., we
may assume it to be probable that the peoples in the
neighbourhood of Lake Chad contributed their share, if not
actually to the armies, at least to the strength of the then
conquering empire.

After the Ethiopian dynasty came the Persian con-
quests, during which, as we have seen, expeditions appar-
ently took place which have left a tradition of ancestry
among the black nations of the extreme west of the
Soudan. After the Persians came Alexander and the


Ptolemies. The picture given by Egyptian historians of
the last of the Ptolemies is very different from that usually
received in the West. Cleopatra's vigilance, they tell us,
watched over the extreme limits of the kingdom of Egypt,
and some historians have attributed to Cleopatra the wall
of Dalouka. There was, therefore, we may infer, the same
need under the Ptolemies that there had been under
earlier dynasties for defence against the peoples of the

It is not surprising that Haussaland and Bornu, which
lie between the Bend of the Niger and Lake Chad, and of
which the territory occupied at the south-westerly end
of the great trade routes of the ancient world a position
corresponding to that occupied by Ethiopia proper at the
south-eastern end, should have received the inspiration of
their civilised development rather from Egypt, and at a
later period from the Arabs of the Barbary coasts, than
from those Arabs who established the civilisation of the
Ommeyade dynasty in Spain. As, however, there is no
clear distinction to be made between the Arabs of the
west and east, so there will be found comparatively little
difference between the medieval civilisation of the western
and the eastern portions of the West African Soudan.
The more remarkable differences were of earlier date,
when the influence of ancient Egypt was stronger, and
when the schismatic Christians of the Roman Empire
found their way, under the pressure of persecution, along
the same eastern desert road, to the oblivion and the
freedom of the south.

During the second and third centuries of our era, when
Christians were liable to spasmodic persecution under the
pagan emperors of Rome, the African desert was a favourite
refuge of the enthusiast, and the conception of winning
heaven by preaching the gospel to the most remote nations
of the earth was not daunted by the unknown dangers of
the Soudan. In the sixth century, when the Emperor
Justinian and the Empress Theodora took opposite sides
in the great schism of the Incarnation, the Coptic Church,


persecuted in Syria and Egypt, spread its monophysite
emissaries far into the heart of Africa, leaving to its
Nestorian rivals the open road of Persia, China, and the
East. Distinct traces are to be found in the eastern part
of the West African Soudan of this Coptic movement.
Borgu, already famous for its connection with the
Pharaohs, claims to have received in more modern times
a form of Christianity from the East, and though the
tradition is not general in the country, Borgu natives
have recently asserted that their prophet is not Moham-
med but Kisra, a Jew who died for the sins of men. In
the second half of the fifteenth century the Portuguese
had knowledge of a native state in the interior which
professed Christianity "after the manner of Egypt." They
took that state to be Mossi, but if reliance is to be placed
on the very circumstantial account of the Tarikh-es-
Soudan, they were mistaken in their assumption, and
the honour must be attributed to some other people.
It may have been Borgu, but it must be admitted that
the Christianity of this province, if schismatic to begin
.with, has wandered now so far from the established path
as to be scarcely recognisable.



With this slight indication that the native traditions of the
Soudan are not without some foundation in recorded
history, we may return to what should be the surer if
narrower ground of local chronicles. Unfortunately, in
approaching the history of Haussaland and Bornu, we are
met in both cases by the fact that their records were pur-
posely destroyed at the beginning of the nineteenth century
by Fulani conquerors in Haussaland, and by the new
dynasty of the Kanemyin in Bornu. The new rulers had
in both instances the same object, to obliterate as far
as possible the trace of their predecessors, and they have
been so far successful that the materials of local history
which have survived are extremely scanty. A few manu-
scripts have, however, escaped the general destruction-
Dr. Earth found one in Bornu which gives a brief and
dry chronicle of the kings of Bornu from a very early,
though undated period. There is one containing a chro-
nicle of the history of Katsena. The Niger Company
obtained in Kano a manuscript as yet only imperfectly
translated, which gives in similar brief fashion a chronicle
of the reigns of forty-two kings of Kano. Dr. Robinson
found in Zaria another, though more modern manuscript,
giving some account of a period of the history of Zaria,
We have also, though from a tainted source, native notes
on the history of the Haussa States. Sultan Bello, the
commander of the victorious Fulani, while he permitted
and presumably encouraged the destruction of the Haussa
records, so far showed his appreciation of the importance

of history as to compile from his own study of documents



lost to us, an account of the Haussa States, in which some
truth may be assumed to mingle with the presentment of
facts coloured to suit the Fulani point of view. From
these and a few other records, combined with oral tradition
and the slight notices of contemporary Arabs at different
periods of the history of Haussa and Bornu, it is possible to
frame a general outline of the history of the two countries.
Little trustworthy detail as to the customs, laws, industry,
literature, administration, or religion, which would have
enabled us to construct a complete picture for ourselves
of these long-existing civilisations, has been preserved.
More material will, however, doubtless come to light from
year to year as the country is opened up, and, in fact, from
each province contributions to history are already begin-
ning to be made. This is especially the case in regard
to pagan history, which may prove to be scarcely less in-
teresting, in some districts, than Mohammedan history.
Although lying in geographical juxtaposition between
the parallels of 9° and 14° N. latitude, and now united
within the limits of the British Protectorate, Bornu and
Haussaland are two very distinct countries inhabited by
people of wholly different race, having their own traditions
and their distinct history. Except when, as a consequence
of border wars, there has been a temporary overlapping of
the frontier, they have always possessed their distinct
territories. The Bornuese people are of Berber extraction,
and though to European eyes actually black, count them-
selves among the white or red races of the Soudan. Com-
pared with the history of Haussaland their history is
modern. The Haussa is wholly black, but not negroid in
type. He has not the smooth hair of the Songhay, but
in other respects he has frequently a cast of countenance
scarcely less Aryan in type, and in his peculiar and
strongly marked characteristics he is universally recog-
nised as ranking among the most interesting of the
peoples of the Soudan. His known history, though never
brilliant, has been persistent. Many times conquered, he
has nevertheless continued to preserve a clearly defined


political individuality. He has always been merchant,
peasant, soldier, and artisan. Storms have swept over him,
to which he has bowed a submissive head. According to
circumstances his territory has contracted or expanded, but
in the Haussa nation the life of the individual appears to
have been so little dependent on the political development
of the race, that it has lost no vigour in the incidents of
history, and we find him to-day pursuing his avocations
as his fathers before him pursued the same avocations
when they first emerge to our sight from the dimness of

The territory covered by Haussaland to-day stretches
roughly from about 9° to 14° N. lat., and from 4° to
11° E. long., and it contains a population estimated at
perhaps ten millions of people. No accurate census
has as yet been made, and this estimate, lower than
that usually given, is only approximate. The Haussa
language, which is classed with Coptic amongst the
Hamitic languages, is said to be more widely spoken
than any other single native language in West Africa.
The Haussas have themselves, like most other West
African races, a tradition of having come once from
the east beyond Mecca, but their presence in the Soudan,
somewhat to the north of the territory which they now
occupy, is, like that of the Berbers in the Western African
desert, of immemorial antiquity. Dr. Barth connects
them with the Aterantes of Herodotus. They have
also been connected with the Habeches, Habais, or
Habes, of Strabo. Within historic times they have
been known as divided into seven independent Haussa
States, upon which certain other states, also largely peopled
by Haussas, have been dependent. The seven original
states were Biram, Gober, Kano, Rano, Zaria, Katsena,
and Daura. Some of these have now sunk into insig-
nificance. Some form still the most important provinces
of Northern Nigeria. Though within any period of
which we have record — dating for about a thousand
years — these states have been independent of and


generally hostile to each other, their own traditions
point to a more ancient period when they were united
in some form of federal bond.

Their mythical history, which presumably reflects
some political reality, is that Biram, the father of the
states, wedding Diggera — which is the name of a Berber
settlement in the desert to the north of Haussaland — had
six children, of whom Zaria and Katsena were first born
as twins, then Kano and Rano, another pair of twins,
and after them Gober and Daura. To each of his
children the progenitor of the Haussa States is said to
have assigned certain duties, Gober, the most northerly
of the states, which in historic times has served as a
military rampart between peaceful Haussaland and the
warlike tribes of the desert, was appointed war chief, with
the special duty of defending his brethren. Kano and
Rano, safe behind this rampart, were appointed ministers
of industry — dyeing, weaving, &c. Katsena and Daura
were ministers of intercourse and trade, and Zaria, which
is a province of great extent lying south of the others,
and dividing their fruitful plains from the hilly country
of Bautchi, was appointed chief of the slaves, with the
special duty of providing a supply of labour for the
industry of his brothers. Bautchi, the hilly country in
question, was for many centuries the home of the cannibal
and the hunting-ground for slaves, its name, which is
a corruption of Boushy, meaning the country of the
Bauwa, or the slaves.

In this myth we get a fairly clear picture of a union
of states, of which the northern and southern frontiers
were actively defended, and where the Soudanese practice
of raiding to the south for a labour supply, by means of
which the industry of the Central States was maintained,
was in full force. But this condition of things received
a still further development before any period of which we
have contemporary historic observation, for according to
the myth the legitimate children of Biram were presently
increased by seven illegitimate children. These are the


States of Zanfara, Kebbi, Nupe, Gwari, Yauri, Yoruba,
and Kororofa. In these states the Haussa language,
though spoken, is not original, and we have already
seen that Yoruba claims for itself a separate descent
of more than respectable antiquity. Yoruba, if included,
would carry Haussaland practically to the sea at Lagos.

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 19 of 41)