Pan Africanism : History of Ethiopia According to Herodotus, Diodorus Siculus and Strabo

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    Herodotus (490-425 BC) The first Greek historian. Called the Father of History.
    He reports faithfully what the Egyptian priests communicated to him as the history of their country, when he visited Egypt about 460 to 450 BC.

    "I went as far as Elephantine [Aswan] to see what I could with my own eyes, but for the country still further south I had to be content with what I was told in answer to my questions. South of Elephantine the country is inhabited by Ethiopians. . . Beyond the island is a great lake, and round its shores live nomadic tribes of Ethiopians. After crossing the lake one comes again to the stream of the Nile, which flows into it . . . After forty days journey on land along the river, one takes another boat and in twelve days reaches a big city named Meroë, said to be the capital city of the Ethiopians. The inhabitants worship Zeus and Dionysus alone of the Gods, holding them in great honor".

    "The Ethiopians to whom this embassy was sent are said to be the tallest and handsomest men in the whole world. In their customs they differ greatly from the rest of mankind, and particularly in the way they choose their kings; for they find out the man who is the tallest of all the citizens, and of strength equal to his height, and appoint him to rule over them . . . The spies were told that most of them lived to be a hundred and twenty years old, while some even went beyond that age --- they ate boiled flesh, and had for their drink nothing but milk. Among these Ethiopians copper is of all metals the most scarce and valuable. Also, last of all, they were allowed to behold the coffins of the Ethiopians, which are made (according to report) of crystal, after the following fashion: When the dead body has been dried, either in the Egyptian, or in some other manner, they cover the whole with gypsum, and adorn it with painting until it is as like the living man as possible. Then they place the body in a crystal pillar which has been hollowed out to receive it, crystal being dug up in great abundance in their country, and of a kind very easy to work. You may see the corpse through the pillar within which it lies; and it neither gives out any unpleasant odor, nor is it in any respect unseemly; yet there is no part that is not as plainly visible as if the body were bare. The next of kin keep the crystal pillar in their houses for a full year from the time of the death, and give it the first fruits continually, and honor it with sacrifice. After the year is out they bear the pillar forth, and set it up near the town. . ."

    "Where the south declines towards the setting sun lies the country called Ethiopia, the last inhabited land in that direction. There gold is obtained in great plenty, huge elephants abound, with wild trees of all sorts, and ebony; and the men are taller, handsomer, and longer lived than anywhere else. The Ethiopians were clothed in the skins of leopards and lions, and had long bows made of the stem of the palm-leaf, not less than four cubits in length. On these they laid short arrows made of reed, and armed at the tip, not with iron, but with a piece of stone, sharpened to a point, of the kind used in engraving seals. They carried likewise spears, the head of which was the sharpened horn of an antelope; and in addition they had knotted clubs. When they went into battle they painted their bodies, half with chalk, and half with vermilion. . ."

    (Herodotus: The Histories, c 430 BCE, Book III); Herodotus, The History, trans. George Rawlinson (New York: Dutton & Co., 1862)

    Herodotus on the pharaohs: "So far, all I have said is the record of my own autopsy and judgment and inquiry. Henceforth I will record Egyptian chronicles, according to what I have heard, adding something of what I myself have seen" . . . . "The priests told me that Min was the first king of Egypt, and that first he separated Memphis from the Nile by a dam" . . . "After him came three hundred and thirty kings, whose names the priests recited from a papyrus roll. In all these many generations there were eighteen Ethiopian kings, and one queen, native to the country; the rest were all Egyptian men" . . . "The name of the queen was the same as that of the Babylonian princess, Nitocris. She, to avenge her brother (he was king of Egypt and was slain by his subjects, who then gave Nitocris the sovereignty) put many of the Egyptians to death by treachery".
    (Herodotus: The Histories, c 430 BCE, Book II, chap. 99

    "For the people of Colchis are evidently Egyptian, and this I perceived for myself before I heard it from others. So when I had come to consider the matter I asked them both; and the Colchians had remembrance of the Egyptians more than the Egyptians of the Colchians; but the Egyptians said they believed that the Colchians were a portion of the army of Sesostris. That this was so I conjectured myself not only because they are dark-skinned and have curly hair (this of itself amounts to nothing, for there are other races which are so), but also still more because the Colchians, Egyptians, and Ethiopians alone of all the races of men have practised circumcision from the first. The Phenicians and the Syrians who dwell in Palestine confess themselves that they have learnt it from the Egyptians, and the Syrians about the river Thermodon and the river Parthenios, and the Macronians, who are their neighbours, say that they have learnt it lately from the Colchians. These are the only races of men who practise circumcision, and these evidently practise it in the same manner as the Egyptians. Of the Egyptians themselves however and the Ethiopians, I am not able to say which learnt from the other, for undoubtedly it is a most ancient custom; but that the other nations learnt it by intercourse with the Egyptians, this among others is to me a strong proof, namely that those of the Phenicians who have intercourse with Hellas cease to follow the example of the Egyptians in this matter, and do not circumcise their children."
    (Herodotus, The Histories, Book II: 104)

    Greek historian Diodorus Siculus. From his own statements we learn that he traveled in Egypt around 60 BC. His travels in Egypt probably took him as far south as the first Cataract.

    "They (the Ethiopians) say also that the Egyptians are colonists sent out by the Ethiopians, Osiris ["King of Kings and God of Gods] having been the leader of the colony . . . they add that the Egyptians have received from them, as from authors and their ancestors, the greater part of their laws." Diodorus's declared intention to trace the origins of the cult of Osiris, alias the Greek Dionysus also commonly known by his Roman name Bacchus. The Homeric Hymn "To Dionysus" locates the birth of Dionysus in a mysterious city of Nysa "near the streams of Aegyptus" (Hesiod 287). Diodorus cites this reference as well as the ancient belief that Dionysus was the son of Ammon, king of Libya (3.68.1), and much of Book 3 of the Bibliotheka Historica is devoted to the intertwined histories of Dionysus and the god-favored Ethiopians whom he believed to be the originators of Egyptian civilization. [emphasis added]
    (1st century B.C., Diodorus Siculus of Sicily, Greek historian and contemporary of Caesar Augustus, Universal History Book III. 2. 4-3. 3)

    Editors Note:

    Dionysus is Orisis reinvented. The mysteries were neither of Cretan origin nor a part of the original Greek religion is well established by the fact that the initiatory rites as practiced among these islanders were open to everyone, in contrast to the secret rituals of Byblus, Cyprus, Thrace, Samothrace, and Eleusis (Diodorus, Book V, 77). The mystery, which originated in Egypt, was imported into Greece long after Zeus and his family had migrated from Mt. Ida to Mt. Olympus.

    Diodorus devoted an entire chapter of his world history, the Bibliotheke Historica, or Library of History (Book 3), to the Kushites ["Aithiopians"] of Meroe. Here he repeats the story of their great piety, their high favor with the gods, and adds the fascinating legend that they were the first of all men created by the gods and were the founders of Egyptian civilization, invented writing, and given the Egyptians their religion and culture. (3.3.2).

    Diodorus continues:

    "Now they relate that of all people the Aithiopians [Ethiopians] were the earliest, and say that the proofs of this are clear. That they did not arrive as immigrants but are the natives of the country and therefore rightly are called authochthonous is almost universally accepted. That those who live in the South are likely to be the first engendered by the earth is obvious to all. For as it was the heat of the sun that dried up the earth while it was still moist, at the time when everything came into being, and caused life, they say it is probable that it was the region closest to the sun that first bore animate beings".

    "They further write that it was among them that people were first taught to honor the gods and offer sacrifices and arrange processions and festivals and perform other things by which people honor the divine. For this reason their piety is famous among all men, and the sacrifices among the Aithiopians are believed to be particularly pleasing to the divinity."

    "The Aithiopians [Ethiopians] say that the Egyptians are settlers from among themselves and that Osiris was the leader of the settlement. The customs of the Egyptians, they say, are for the most part Aithiopian, the settlers having preserved their old traditions. For to consider the kings gods, to pay great attention to funeral rites, and many other things, are Aithiopian practices, and also the style of their statues and the form of their writing are Aithiopian. Also the way the priestly colleges are organized is said to be the same in both nations. For all who have to do with the cult of the gods, they maintain, are [ritually] pure: the priests are shaved in the same way, they have the same robes and the type of scepter shaped like a plough, which also the kings have, who use tall pointed felt hats ending in a knob, with the snakes that they call the asp (aspis) coiled round them."

    "There are also numerous other Aithiopian tribes [i.e. besides those centered at Meroe]; some live along both sides of the river Nile and on the islands in the river, others dwell in the regions that border on Arabia [i.e. to the east], others again have settled in the interior of Libya [i.e. to the west]. The majority of these tribes, in particular those who live along the river, have black skin, snub-nosed faces, and curly hair".
    (Diodous Siculus, Bibliotheke, 3. Translated by Tomas Hagg, in Fontes Historiae Nubiorum, vol. II: From the Mid-Fifth to the First Century BC (Bergen, Norway, 1996))

    Strabo (63 BC - 24 AD) a philosopher, historian and geographer from Amaseia in Pontus. He is well known for this 17 “books” Geography describing the known parts of Europe, Asia and Africa.

    The Geography of Strabo - Book XV (excerpts):

    6: However, Sesostris, the Egyptian, he adds, and Tearco the Aethiopian [Ethiopian] advanced as far as Europe; and Nabocodrosor, who enjoyed greater repute among the Chaldaeans than Heracles, led an army even as far as the Pillars. Thus far, he says, also Tearco went; and Sesostris also led his army from Iberia to Thrace and the Pontus; and Idanthyrsus the Scythian overran Asia as far as Egypt; but no one of these touched India, and Semiramis too died before the attempt; and, although the Persians summoned the Hydraces as mercenary troops from India, the latter did not make an expedition to Persia, but only came near it when Cyrus was marching against the Massagetae.

    13. The whole of India is traversed by rivers. . . . As for the people of India, those in the south are like the Aethiopians in colour, although they are like the rest in respect to countenance and hair (for on account of the humidity of the air their hair does not curl), whereas those in the north are like the Egyptians.

    21. To this statement Aristobulus and his followers, who assert that the plains are not watered by rain, would not agree. But Onesicritus believes that rain-water is the cause of the distinctive differences in the animals; and he adduces as evidence that the colour of foreign cattle which drink it is changed to that of the native animals. Now in this he is correct; but no longer so when he lays the black complexion and woolly hair of the Aethiopians [Ethiopians] on merely the waters and censures Theodectes, who refers the cause to the sun itself, saving as follows: 'Nearing the borders of these people the Sun, driving his chariot, discoloured the bodies of men with a murky dark bloom, and curled their hair, fusing it by unincreasable forms of fire. But Onesicritus might have some argument on his side; for he says that, in the first place, the sun is no nearer to the Aethiopians than to any other people, but is more nearly in a perpendicular line with reference to them and on this account scorches more, and therefore it is incorrect to say 'nearing the borders the sun' since the sun is equidistant from all peoples; and that, secondly, the heat is not the cause of such a discoloration, for it does not apply to infants in the womb either, since the rays of the sun do not touch them, But better is the opinion of those who lay the cause to the sun and its scorching, which causes a very great deficiency of moisture on the surface of the skin. And I assert that it is in accordance with this fact that the Indians do not have woolly hair, and also that their skin is not so unmercifully scorched, I mean the fact that they share in any atmosphere that is humid. And already in the womb children, by seminal impartation, become like their parents in colour; for congenital affections and other similarities are also thus explained. Further, the statement that the sun is equidistant from all peoples is made in accordance with observation, not reason; and, in accordance with observations that are not casual, but in accordance with the observation, as I put it, that the earth is no larger than a point as compared with the sun's globe since in accordance with the kind of observation whereby we feel differences in heat -- more heat when the heat is near us and less when it is far away -- the sun is not equidistant from all: and it is in this sense that the sun is spoken of as 'nearing the borders' of the Aethiopians, not in the sense Onesicritus thinks.
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