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

. (page 2 of 41)
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 2 of 41)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

on the Red Sea ; and the Phoenicians, after their land
trade had penetrated to India, had colonies upon the
Persian and Arabian Gulfs. They also fitted out ships at
Suez for the navigation of the Southern seas. The three
well-known names of Thule, Tarshish, and Ophir, would
appear to have been used generically to indicate these
three fields of maritime activity — Thule covering the
Atlantic ports, Tarshish the Mediterranean, and Ophir


those of the Southern seas. It may be interesting in
this connection to note that the words which are trans-
lated in the EngHsh version of the Bible as "ivory,
apes, and peacocks," are not Hebrew but Tamyl words —
a circumstance which serves to confirm historic evidence
that the commerce of Solomon extended at least as far
as Ceylon. The participation of the Phoenicians in the
trade of Ophir seems to have dated from the period of
their friendship with the Jews under Solomon, or about
looo years before Christ, but the trade itself was much

Through a considerable portion of their history the
Phoenicians appear to have acted as commercial agents
for Egypt. It was by the orders of Necho, King of
Egypt, that about the year 612 B.C. Phoenician sailors,
playing for this famous king a part analogous to that
which Columbus played 2000 years later for Ferdinand
and Isabella of Spain, started from the Red Sea to
explore the Southern Ocean, and, according to the tradi-
tion related by Herodotus, proved the fact that Africa was
surrounded by water on all sides but the strip of land
which bound her to Asia, arriving in the third year from
their departure once more in Egypt by way of the Straits
of Gibraltar. As they sailed, it is related that they landed
on the coasts, sowing the land and waiting for harvests.
Thus a tradition of them lingers on the west coast as
well as on the east ; and to them it is in some quarters
believed that the legend of the first white men in Western
Negroland may be traced. It is the fashion to doubt this
statement of Herodotus with regard to the circumnaviga-
tion of Africa ; but, in the light of many remarkable facts
concerning African history which have of late become
known, it may be worth while to remember that the
achievement spoken of, if it really occurred, would have
been almost within the memory of an old man at the time
at which Herodotus wrote. Carthage had intercourse
across the desert with Negroland, and drew thence its
supply of elephants, as well as gold and carbuncles.


Later accounts of the immense quantities of gold which
abounded in Negroland render it not improbable that
some of the gold so lavishly used by Phoenician artificers
in the decoration of Solomon's Temple may have been
brought from the Valley of the Niger.

Greek influence in Africa was much later than that of
Egypt and Phoenicia, and the colony of Cyrene, which
afterwards became the province of Cyrenaica, between the
borders of what is now Tripoli and Egypt, was not founded
till 620 B.C., about 100 years before the conquest of Egypt
by Cambyses. It became subject to Egypt in 323, and
afterwards shared in her fortunes.

Libyan, or, as we should call them, Berber tribes, held
the extreme west, or divided it with the Carthaginian
colonies until the conquest of the northern region by the
Romans, during the two hundred years which immediately
preceded the birth of Christ. It may be remembered that
Scipio received the surname of Africanus in recognition
of his triumph over Hannibal in the year 202 B.C. Africa
proper, the territory owned by Carthage which corresponds
to the modern Tunis, was created a Roman province in
146 B.C. But Egypt and Cyrenaica did not become Roman
provinces until 30 B.C. Mauritania, in the north-western
corner, also became a Roman province in t,^ b.c. When
the Romans completed the nominal conquest of Africa,
they divided it into six provinces, of which Ethiopia or
Negroland was one. But though the northern strip was
well known to them, and flourished under their rule, and
they made some military expeditions to the south, they
had little if any recorded intercourse with Negroland.

Thus from the earliest dawn of Western history the
northern coast strip of Africa was the scene of civilised
occupation. The introduction of the previously existing
Berber or Libyan inhabitants into Africa belongs, says
Ibn Khaldun, their great historian, to "a period so remote
that God only knows tlie epoch of it." And as one race
of conquerors displaced another, there was a perpetual
pressure driving the Libyan inhabitants with the dis-


possessed peoples across the borders. The natural bor-
ders were the hills, and the hunted populations taking
refuge in them were forced down the southern slopes
upon the deserts. Gradually through the ages the deserts
became the home of nomad peoples, who learned, wander-
ing upon the inhospitable face of their drifting sands, to
pluck subsistence from widely scattered patches of fertility.
These wandering tribes, known under many names, from
the Toucouleurs, Tuaregs, Kabyls, Amozighs of the West,
to the Tibboos, Berdoas, and others of the eastern borders
of the desert, are generally classed as Berbers. It is
under the name of Berbers that they are most frequently
alluded to by Arab historians, from whom, at a much
later period, we derive our principal knowledge of them.
Between the coast strip and Negroland the desert itself
became in this manner sparsely inhabited by a race which,
though it is held to have had one Libyan origin, suffered
in the course of history so many invasions and infusions
of new blood, that it has broken into almost countlessly
diverse tribes, cherishing many and widely differing

Speaking in roughly general terms, the Berbers are a
white people who, having a tradition that they once were
Christian, now profess Mohammedanism. North Africa,
in the centuries which elapsed between the birth of Christ
and the appearance of Mohammed, was the favoured home
of Christianity. The names of its saints and martyrs stand
high upon Christian rolls. St. Cyprian suffered at Car-
thage. St. Augustine was born at Hippo. Tertullian
and Lactantius, if they were not African, bore eloquent
testimony to the fervour of the African Church. In the
many contests of early Christian councils it was the African
divines who finally triumphed and gave to Christianity its
Western form. The African, like the Syrian desert, was
at one time honeycombed with the cells of hermits and
self-torturing monks. There was no heresy that had not
its counterblast in Africa. Proselytism was perhaps no-
where more active. There is, therefore, nothing to sur-


prise us in the Christian tradition of the Berber tribes.
They have presumably been, in turn, of the reHgion of
every great invader. Their language has been classed
among the Hamitic languages, but they have traditions
of Arabian descent. One among many stories of their
original introduction into Africa is that five colonies were
introduced from Arabia Felix by a certain leader Ifrikiah,
or Afrikiah, who gave his name to the continent ; and that
from these are descended no less than six hundred clans of
Berbers. Amongst their many tribes is not, however, to
be counted a race wholly distinct from the Berbers, but
also nomad in the eastern desert, who are said by those
learned in these matters to be the true gypsy of the East.
The tradition of the Zingari, as they are found in Northern
Africa, is that they came originally from India. This
tradition is to be met with again, though faintly and un-
certainly recalled, amongst some of the races of Western

While the northern strip pressed thus upon the desert,
the desert, there can be little doubt, pressed equally
upon the fertile belt to the south. Quite indirectly
the influence of Tyre and Sidon, Rome and Carthage,
must have been brought to bear from the very earliest
periods upon Negroland. But besides this indirect in-
fluence of pressure by the superior race along the whole
course of their borders — an influence which, as will pre-
sently be seen, was very potent in modifying the char-
acter of the leading black races of Negroland — there were
also channels of direct influence which, though Europe
has ceased to use them, remain unchanged to this day.
These are the caravan routes across the desert. Nature
laid them down, and has marked them by certain spots
where water can be obtained. The springs have not
changed their position within any period of which history
has preserved a record, and it is an interesting illustration
of the continuity of custom which strikes the imagination
in these remote regions of the earth, that the roads trodden
by the caravans which this year visit Kano and Tim-


buctoo, are the same which offered themselves to the
first civilised footprints that crossed the desert.

There are two principal roads across the desert, one
through Tripoli and the Fezzan running due south to-
wards what is now Nigeria, taking the shape of a forked
stick, to rest upon Lake Chad and the Niger; the other
throueh Morocco, runninof acjain due south towards Tim-
buctoo and the western end of Negroland. These two
roads, as a glance at the map will show, mark the two
narrowest parts at which the desert can be crossed, for
in both instances the fertile land of the coast strip runs
down in important promontories into the arid sands.
Both these roads were counted as a fifty days' journey
from edge to edge of fertile land. They are, I believe,
so counted still. It hardly needs to be added that one
was the channel of Eastern and the other of Western
influence upon Negroland.

It is difficult now, when we are accustomed to regard
the west coast ports as the natural channels of entrance
into the Western Soudan, to remember that throughout
the early history of Europe, and up to the period of the
discovery of the passage of the Cape of Good Hope at
the end of the fifteenth century, the approach to Negroland
was by land. In the early periods of African history
the navigation of the Atlantic was for all practical pur-
poses unknown. Equatorial Africa faced civilisation on
the north. It looked northwards for all its finest inspira-
tion. The south represented to it only barbarism and
obscurity. This fact, although difficult now for the ima-
gination to grasp, is of first importance in endeavouring
to construct any true conception of Soudanese history.
The Soudan was regarded as occupying the edge of the
then known world. Homer, first of Europeans to men-
tion it, speaks of the Ethiopians as "the farthest removed
of men, and separated into two divisions." Later Greek
writers, borrowing their information from Egypt, carry
the description somewhat further, and characterise the two
divisions as Western and Eastern — the Eastern occupy-


ing the countries eastward of the Nile, and the Western
stretching from the western shores of that river to the
Atlantic coast. One of these divisions, we have to
acknowledge, was perhaps itself the original source of
the civilisation which has through Egypt permeated the
Western world. Both divisions alike faced north, and
had their frontage to the great civilisations of their day,
along what may be described as the shore of the desert,
fringing the 17th parallel of north latitude. Across this
desert the native camel was the ship which bore their
merchandise and maintained their intercourse with outer
life. The caravan roads were the trade routes marked
for them as clearly as the trade winds marked the route
to be taken on the ocean by later sailing ships. The
tonnage of the big caravans was greater than the tonnage
of the vessels by which at a subsequent period Drake
and Magellan circumnavigated the globe, and England,
Portugal, and Holland maintained a prosperous trade
with the East Indies. It was sufficient for the purposes
of a considerable commerce, and there can be no doubt
that from a very early period the communities of the
coast were in close and constant communication with

When the history of Negroland comes to be written
in detail, it may be found that the kingdoms lying towards
the eastern end of the Soudan were the home of races
who inspired, rather than of races who received, the
traditions of civilisation associated for us with the name
of ancient Egypt. For they cover on either side of the
Upper Nile, between the latitudes of 10° and 17°, terri-
tories in which are found monuments more ancient than
the oldest Egyptian monuments. If this should prove to
be the case, and the civilised world be forced to recog-
nise in a black people the fount of its original enlighten-
ment, it may happen that we shall have to revise entirely
our view of the black races, and regard those who now
exist as the decadent representatives of an almost for-
gotten era, rather than as the embryonic possibility of an



era yet to come. Be this as it may, the traditions of the
Eastern Soudan of the present day would seem to be
derived from the same sources as those of Egypt and
Arabia, while the nations lying towards the western end
of the fertile belt have been more strongly imbued with
the influence of the Western Arabs, who in comparatively
modern times carried civilisation into Spain. This theory,
amply illustrated by the history of the Western Soudan,
receives further support from the philological studies of
M. Fresnel, who asserts that the alphabet of the Eastern
Soudan is the regular alphabet of Arabia, while the
alphabet of the Western Soudan is the alphabet of

In addition to the influence of the Western Arabs, there
was, at a period shortly after the Hegira, an immigration
from Arabia under a leader called Abou Zett, which appears
to have crossed the Red Sea at the Straits of Bab-el-
Mandeb, and to have spread westward along the fertile
belt. The tradition of this immigration is vivid in Kor-
dofan, Darfour, and Wadai. It is said to have extended
through the entire belt of Negroland, and, as a later
chapter will show, some members of it are believed to
have reached the bend of the Middle Niger, but the
tradition grows fainter in the territories west of Chad.

The influence of Egypt, also perceptible in the Western
Soudan, is naturally strongest in the territories which lie
nearest to the eastern caravan route across the desert.
The meeting ground in which it would appear to have
overlapped with the more modern influence of the Western
Arabs may perhaps be placed geographically upon the
Bend of the Niger. Es-Sadi, a native writer born in
Timbuctoo in the sixteenth century, states in his " History
of the Soudan" that "the town of Kuka was in exist-
ence under the Pharaohs." The only town of Kuka now
known to us is in Bornu, but as late as the sixteenth
century a.d. there were two Kukas, one of them on the
middle Niger — and it is to this latter Kuka that Es-
Sadi refers.



In any case this neighbourhood has a special interest,
for the first spot in Negroland of which European history
preserves any record would seem to have been the site of
this very Kuka, or Kaougha, which stood near the present
Gao. Herodotus, writing something more than five hundred
years before Christ, gives an account in his second book
of an attempt which was made by certain Nasamonians,
occupying the territory on the Mediterranean coast behind
Tripoli, to penetrate into the desert by the eastern road,
afterwards so well known and used by the caravan trade of
Negroland and the coast. According to his account there
were among these people " certain daring youths, sons of
powerful men, who, having reached man's estate, formed
many extravagant plans, and chose five of their number by
lot to explore the deserts of Libya to see if they could
make any further discovery than those who had penetrated
the furthest." The Nasamonians related that when the
young men deputed by their companions set out, well
furnished with water and provisions, they passed first
through the inhabited country, and having traversed this
they came to the region infested by wild beasts, and after
this they crossed the desert, making their way towards the
west ; and when they had traversed much sandy ground
during a journey of many days they at length saw some
trees growing in a plain, and that they approached and
began to gather the fruit that grew on the trees ; and
while they were gathering it, some " diminutive men,
less than men of middle stature, came up," and, having
seized them, carried them away. The diminutive men con-
ducted them through vast morasses, and when they had
passed these they came to " a city in which all the inhabi-
tants were of the same size as their conductors, and black
in colour ; and by the city flowed a great river running
from the west to the east, and crocodiles were seen in it."

Herodotus does not mention the date of this discovery
of the Niger by the Nasamonians. It may have taken
place before or after the reported circumnavigation of
the continent by the Phoenicians. It may have happened


within the memory of those who related the facts, or it
may have been a tradition of much earher events. In
the incidents of the discovery there is an indication
which the further history of Negroland supports, that
the races which now inhabit equatorial regions further
south, at one time extended towards the northern edge
of the fertile belt. The "diminutive men," whose city
existed on the middle Niger some hundreds of years
before Christ, are presumably the dwarfs who in our
own day were found by Stanley in the Congo forests.
Their displacement illustrates the movement under the
influence of which the aboriginal inhabitants of the fertile
belt were pushed backwards towards equatorial Africa by
that pressure of superior races from the desert of which
I have spoken. Greek historians of a later date than
Herodotus establish the fact that between the purely
black people known as the Western Ethiopians, and
the Mauritanian inhabitants of the north-western corner
of Africa, there were tribes, known as the Pharusii and
the Nigretes, who used bows and arrows, and had chariots
armed with scythes. The description of the Nigretes, who
evidently knew at least the use of iron, would appear to
imply a somewhat superior race occupying a position
between the black dwarfs and the Northern Libyans.
Thus it would seem that in quite ancient times the exist-
ence of different races within the belt of Negroland was
established. There were evidently superior and inferior
tribes ; and without attempting to follow the question in
detail, it is interesting, though not surprising, to observe
that along the whole line of the fertile belt the superior
races, modified by intercourse with the white pressure from
the north, gradually established themselves in possession
of the uplands bordering more nearly upon the desert
and civilisation, while the inferior races were driven back
towards the then impenetrable regions of barbarism and
equatorial Africa. This movement of all that was inferior
towards the south is a fact of supreme importance to the
subsequent history of the Negro belt.


In the later history given to us by Arab records of
every one of the superior black kingdoms which established
themselves upon the borders of the desert from Kordofan
to the Atlantic, there is to be found at some point in the
description the information that to the south of this country
lies the country of the " Lem-Lems," or it may be of the
"Yem-yems," or the " Dem-dems," or the " Rem-rems,"
or the " Gnem-gnems," and after the double name comes
invariably the same explanation, "who eat men." In fol-
lowing the history of kingdom after kingdom it becomes
clear that a belt of cannibalism, of which the Nyam-nyams
of the Congo may be counted among the present survivors,
extended along the south of the Negro belt across the
whole breadth of Africa. M. de Lauture, a French writer
of much knowledge and acquaintance with his subject,
takes the latitude of 10° north as forming in his day,
1853, the northern limits of habitation of the debased
pagan negro. Between 10° and 17° he places the finer
races, which he qualifies generally as Mussulman negroes.
To-day I believe it will be found that there has been a
still further recession southwards of the inferior races, and
9° north would perhaps be nearer to the limit of their
northern extension. It is interesting to observe that
Northern Nigeria stretches from 7° to 14°, thus including
within its limits both classes of natives.

The modern history of Negroland may be said to date
from the period at which it accepted the Moslem religion,
but the finer black races had established their domination
over the inferior, and ruled by force of superior intelligence
and cultivation long before that time. Es-Sadi, the same
writer who speaks of Kuka as a town which existed in the
days of the Pharaohs, speaks also in turning to the west
of a kingdom extending to the Atlantic Ocean of which
Ghana was the capital, and adds : " They say that twenty-
two white kings had reigned over this country before
the year of the Hegira. Their origin is unknown." It
is also in this neighbourhood, about the sources of the
Senegal, that the original home in Africa of the Fulani,


who count as a partly white race, is placed. The move-
ment of this remarkable people in Africa within historic
time has unquestionably been from west to east, but this
does not preclude the theory of some more remote eastern
origin which may have preceded their African immigration.
Whether Phoenician, Egyptian, Indian, or simply Arab,
they are evidently a race distinct from the negroid and
other black types by which they have been surrounded,
and notwithstanding the marked effect produced on some
portions of their people by intermarriage with negro
women, they have kept the distinctive qualifications of
their race through a known period of two thousand years.
The Fulah of to-day is as distinct from the pure Negro
as was the first Fulah of whom we have record. How
long they may have existed in Africa before any record
of them was made it is with our present knowledge im-
possible to say. The Haussa and the Songhay are other
races which, though black, are absolutely distinct from
the pure negro type.

In accepting as an historic fact the gradual migration
southwards of all that was least valuable in the elements
composing the mixed and widely varying populations of
the Negro belt, it is to be also recognised that this
migration, though doubtless accentuated by the outside
pressure of civilisation from the north, was a natural
movement initiated by the native populations and carried
on by them throughout the known period of their history.
Not only were the uplands bordering upon the desert
the most desirable portions of the Negro belt, and as such
likely to pass into the hands of the strongest who could
hold them, but, as they were also the healthiest, the
races which inhabited them were maintained by climatic
conditions on a higher platform of mental and moral
activity than the more supine inhabitants of the denser
tropical regions to the south. Hence every cause, natural
and artificial alike, has combined to the one end, of
establishing the superior races in the northern and the
inferior races in the southern portions of the fertile belt.


The result as we see it to-day is strikingly illustrated
in British territory by a journey from the Niger mouth
to Sokoto. The river in its windings makes a sectional
cut of which the general direction is from north to south,
and leaving the nude savage of the coast to prowl in
dusky nakedness through the mangrove swamps of
Southern Nigeria at its mouths, the traveller who enters
the river sees the natives on the banks ever increasing
in decency and dignity as the latitude recedes from the
equator. At Lokoja no native is unclothed. A little
farther north, at Bida, where the town is approached by
avenues of trees, and native brass and glass manufactures
add to the usual industries, Moorish dress is already
common. In the markets of Sokoto and Kano the scene
is as varied and as dignified as in any market of the
Mediterranean coast.



The Roman occupation brings the history of North Africa

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 2 of 41)