DESCRIPTION OF WHAT FURTHER BEFELL IN SINNAR


And so now I intend to continue my travel description again, after having given such a long discourse. I went again to visit our sick Father Antonio della Terza and found

on the sixth of April [1702] that in spite of the application of all conceivable medicines, no improvement in his condition could be expected.

On the ninth [of April 1702] one of Father Paoletti's (of blessed memory) Ethiopian boys was stricken with an illness rather similar to that of Father Antonio della Terza, with a fierce fever. Within ten days, after making a profession of faith, he gave up his spirit to God the Almighty.

On the tenth [of April 1702] we heard that a caravan was assembling, and intended to depart for Egypt at the end of the month. [p. 350] This gave us no small joy, and we took counsel on this and the following days as to how we should order our missionary affairs. Who would go back to Rome with Father Joseph? Who would stay in Sinnar with Father Pasquale, and where would the others be sent? For myself, one alternative was as appealing as another, but Father Joseph thought that for many reasons, above all to keep him company, that I should go to Rome.

Eight days from here toward the west (for Gondar lies south of Sinnar) was a certain kingdom named Gazofoli. [sic Gondar lies due east, and Fazughli due south, of Sinnar.] About fifteen years ago it was conquered by the Ethiopian emperor by armed force and forced to adopt, along with all its subjects, the Catholic religion (though with those errors of belief held by the Abyssinians or Ethiopians.) Before that they were completely heathen; they prayed to the sun and moon. The emperor sent sufficient priests from Gondar to advise him [the king of Fazughli] in matters of faith, but these gave the newly converted king little satisfaction, in that one would say black and the other white, and they even contradicted themselves. They had little experience in scripture and matters of law. And so two years ago, after very satisfactory preliminary discussions, Father Pasquale sent a very polite letter to this king through his secretary, who came to Sinnar several times each year. In it he indicated that allegiance to the Roman Catholic Christian Church was the one and only way in which to find the single path that leads to the salvation of the soul. He then indicated that he was here as a secret missionary and consecrated priest. He had also others, his comrades and helpers, some of whom were already with him, while others were waiting in Egypt. If [the king] desired to take up this undistorted true instruction, he would send him two priests under the pretext that they were physicians. "They will remove Your Majesty from all doubt and error, guide you upon the true path that leads to salvation, and give instruction in all necessary matters of belief." The king showed extraordinary joy about this, and Father Pasquale had quickly applied in writing to the Congregation de Propaganda Fide in Rome. Father Pasquale told us what he told them, reinforcing his position with the original letter of the king and the oral proposal of the secretary of the king [p. 351] who was in Sinnar at that time. [The secretary] reported that he had instructions from his chief to take two priests, of whom one should be a doctor, back to the king at royal expense. Father Joseph held counsel with us about this, and finally we decided to send me and Father Carlo Maria of Genoa there, to leave Father Pasquale and Father Benedetto in Sinnar, and in my place he would take Father Antonio of Malta. We considered Father Antonio della Terza as being incapacitated due to his illness; in fact he was almost dead. Each one was content, and sought as best he could to prepare himself for the journey and lay in the necessary provisions. But things worked out according to the proverb: Homo proponit; Deus disponit. A man may undertake something, but God directs and determines everything according to his will. That is certainly the way things worked out for us, since Father Antonio of Malta

on the fifteenth of April [1702] was stricken with a great weakness which in a short time erupted into a fiery fever. It got so bad that

on the twenty-third [of April 1702] we gave him the viaticum and extreme unction; we had all the necessities for the Mass, and also the consecrated oil. On all Sundays and holy days one of us would celebrate the Mass before daybreak, while the others would receive Communion. The two Portuguese and the two Roman [Catholic] Greeks who were in Sinnar appeared on these occasions. Because of the lack of wine we used raisins, from which wine was extracted in the following manner. One lays them in fresh, clean water where they completely swell up, and when it weighs enough one takes a clean, fine cloth and drys it off as well as possible, so that nothing moist can be felt on the outside. Then one lays it in a little linen sack made for this purpose, and places it under the press which we had brought along for this purpose. The best juice is squeezed out, which is then purified in a glass and changes into the most tasty wine, though it cannot be kept long without going sour.

The weakness of Father Antonio increased from day to day so that we no longer had any hope for his recovery. Therefore we had to change our plans again. Father Joseph decided to abandon the mission to Gazofoli for the time being, since we had two mortally ill priests (Father Antonio della Terza [p. 352] and Father Antonio of Malta), whom everybody agreed to send back to Egypt rather than have them remain in these unhappy lands. Such was also the opinion of Father Carlo Maria of Genoa, who was not quite up to par--but for me it was all the same. Father Joseph ordered me to prepare for the trip to Egypt, since we were forced to conduct not only the two deathly weak Fathers, but also the eight Ethiopian boys. Having decided that once and for all, we also had to take with us Father Carlo, who had no desire at all to remain in these lands under such circumstances, the more so since one of us might have to be left with either of the two sick men if they became too weak to travel, or even died. In such a case one would be obliged to leave behind a priest to care for him, so that he would not be lost in both body and soul among these barbarous Moors. To this we all agreed. In order that the burden of our forthcoming journey should be divided among us, the Father Prefect ordered that I should attend the sick and bear their sorrows. To Father Carlo he entrusted the eight Ethiopian boys and he, Father Joseph, would procure all the necessities as best he could. He would keep a sharp eye on our servants and beasts so that nothing should be missing. That was the way it was to be.

On the twenty-second [of April 1702] I paid a visit to Shaykh Isma`il and took leave of him. I thanked him for all the good deeds I had received. He asked me to bring him two little Bolognese dogs if I should come back, and he wanted to give me in payment two fine, large civet cats. But I described the difficulties and dangers of such a long trip, and said that I should either die along the way or get so sick that my return to these lands might well be impeded. Under these circumstances I could not give my promise. To this he replied that in the event that I did not return to Sinnar myself, I should send the two dogs with the jallabs or a friend. But because that was dangerous also I could not consent, but I promised that if I did visit these lands again I would bring him the dogs. I did not take the civet cats, each one of which gives more than ten grams of civet every week.

These cats are found in great numbers here and in the lands round about [p. 353], especially Ethiopia. Although people call it a cat this beast more nearly resembles a little wolf than a cat, for its head is long with a small pointed snout or muzzle like a cat's. Its teeth are like the teeth of dogs. Its body is whitish and ash gray sprinkled with black flecks like the wolf. Its legs and feet are more small than large, shorter rather than longer, and covered with black hair. On each foot it has four claws. The nails are like the nails of a dog--small, short, thick, dull, and not bent. The tail hangs down to the ground. Finally, its ears are very short. One takes civet from the cat once every eight days in the following fashion. One pokes at the beast in its barred dwelling with a stick, at the tip of which are tied some rags so that it will not do the cat harm. [This is done] until it becomes extremely angry, upset and enraged, until finally from pure fury the civet flows from the little sack which nature has ordained for that purpose. After that one seizes the cat by the tail and pulls it over to the bars and takes out the precious civet with a specially constructed little spoon. If the cat is good it gives up to twenty grams of civet per week. The civet is gray in color; it only becomes brown as a result of great age or poor preservation.

On the twenty-third [of April 1702] as on the following days a large part of the caravan bound for Egypt assembled outside the city. They are carrying a great quantity of elephants' teeth, since in no African land are more elephants to be found than in the region toward Ethiopia.

The elephant, called al-fil in Arabic, is found very frequently in Africa, especially in the bush and great wildernesses of Upper Moor Land, along the banks of the Niger, in the wastes of the Atlas mountains, and also in other places, especially in Ethiopia, Fesan and Bornu. There are many types of elephants. Swamp elephants have rather blue teeth, pitted with holes here and there and very hard to pull out; the teeth can be worked only with difficulty. Mountain elephants are very bad tempered and easily aroused; they have small but rather white and well-formed teeth. Field elephants, which people regard as good-natured, tame and tractable, have the largest teeth, and they are very white and easy to cut. Bush elephants such as are to be found in the kingdom of Senega [Senegal?] are present in such numbers that whole herds [p. 354] may be seen, like deer or swine at certain places in Europe. One could write much thought-provoking material about the elephant, but since so many and various authors have written about it, I will merely refer the gracious reader to them.

I will set down something about hunting [elephants], for about this the writers in their books do not agree. In Africa, and especially in Ethiopia, the elephant is caught in the following manner. Two or three men mount their horses, which are very fast runners. In addition to their lances each takes a long sharp sword such as the Arabs usually carry. Then they go to the place where they hope to encounter an elephant and when they drive one out, whether it be in the forest or another place, they pursue it in the following manner. Namely, one rides ahead, but not so fast but that the elephant can keep up. The elephant, a contentious beast, sets out in pursuit in the hope of catching the horse. As soon as the one riding gets to the level where he has enough room to turn, he twists to either the right or left side. As the elephant is a very clumsy animal that can only turn around heavily and slowly, it gives time and opportunity to those following after on foot to chop through the nerve, of which the elephant has but one on each hind foot with his cutting sword. The great mass of weight must then fall to earth, and then they butcher it. Others may write what they please of elephant hunting; I have heard what I just wrote not once but many times from those who themselves had hunted elephants and brought the teeth to Sinnar to sell. Arabs and other poor people eat elephant meat.

On the first of May [1702] Father Pasquale and I were granted a royal audience. I opened by saying that since the king's first personal physician Father Pasquale had returned I was inclined to go back to Egypt with the caravan to seek my fortune. Although the king would rather have had me here he did not want to hinder me, and at once ordered Shaykh Isma`il to deliver to me one of his best dromedaries from the court stable. He then ordered his secretary to prepare a royal letter for me and Father Antonio della Terza, whom Father Pasquale had recommended as my associate. [p. 355] It should say that wherever we went on the journey people should supply us, as royal servants, with everything necessary for ourselves and our camels and servants. I heartily thanked him for this great favor. After a few hours had passed the letter of recommendation and a very beautiful and excellent dromedary were brought to me at our dwelling by a mursal. [The messenger] also reported that before my departure I should come once more to an audience, for the king wanted to give me several ounces of gold on account of my faithful service to himself and his subjects. Though my own interest was the least of my concerns, I thanked him very politely.

Copy of the letter of recommendation given to me and Father Antonio della Terza in Arabic by the king, which I have translated into German with my own hand


From the great glory of the king of the Turks, the high king, the lord of countless generations, who at all times is busy in ordering the affairs of the world and of religion, with confirmation and strengthening of the many and important affairs of the Turks. May God the Almighty raise him over the whole world and increase his vassals and slaves, for he is worthy of it, possessing the highest wisdom and most subtle understanding, he whose name is renowned throughout the whole world, partly because of his keen justice, partly also because of his great mercy. He displays his deep and clever insights at all times, and courage both toward his vassals and toward foreign strangers: our mighty king, a son of the king, Badi [the son of] king Unsa. May God increase the days of his life and renew his great felicity through the influence of the great and precious Qur'an and the holy Prophet Muhammad. Amen. The king greets you, O Shaykh Muhammad (this is the viceroy who has under him the whole kingdom of Nubia and Qarri and as far as the Red Sea; the other viceroys and governors are also called "shaykh") and says to you: if mu`allim Yunus and mu`allim Sulayman, who wish to go to Egypt, come to you and show you this letter, order all your subjects, vassals and slaves [p. 356] that no one, whoever he may be, shall do them the least harm, offense or injustice. They shall let them pass wherever they will, freely and without hindrance, for mu`allim Yunus, who has been my physician, has done much good for me and my kingdom, and in his place he has left me mu`allim Yusuf (that was Father Pasquale). I further order you, O shaykh, to provide for them, their servants and camels throughout your realm everything necessary. Do it for my sake, for they are worthy. If they wish to stay in your lands, as it may seem good to them, or to turn aside to the right hand or to the left, you shall not in any way oppose them, but give them the greatest help in obtaining whatever they desire. This is my mighty will and incontrovertible command, which should be sufficient so that they need no other writings of recommendation. Through your good offices and commands the king in Dongola will give to them everything that they need. Farewell, and the blessings of our great Prophet be upon you and all our kingdoms. Sinnar, 1 May 1702.

Note: one calls Christians mu`allim in Turkey. It simply means "Mister," and is commonly applied to merchants and craftsmen. Yunus was my name, Sulayman was Father Antonio della Terza, and Yusuf, Father Pasquale. We had to use names that were known to both Christians and Turks.

We had hoped to leave here in a few days, but this had to be postponed for a whole month more. This was very painful for us, partly because we would have to ride in greater heat, partly because one after another of our Arab [Ethiopian] boys and also Father Joseph were stricken with diarrhea, partly because our expenses were piling up (we had already purchased twelve camels and three donkeys), and partly because Father Antonio of Malta could not bear the air here. It is very unhealthy and even pestilential due to the crush of people and odor of human excrement. One frequently comes across decaying camels, donkeys and other animals in the public roads and squares; they emit a great stink until the heat of the sun dries them out. We finally resolved to go into the countryside outside the city where the caravan [p. 357] was encamped. Father Joseph now ranked as our Superior, along with Father Antonio, Father Carlo and the eight boys, almost all of whom were sick. For the reasons mentioned above they all left the city.

On the twenty-fourth of May [1702] they obtained a small hospital house, and moved with all the belongings out to the jallabs in the open field. They pitched the big tent for themselves and the eight boys, along with the one brought from Egypt by Father Antonio and Father Carlo. Father Antonio della Terza and I had another one. Until the departure of the caravan Father Joseph left me in charge of the camels, the Barabra, and Father Antonio della Terza, who was dying day by day and getting continually weaker. [Father Joseph] took three donkeys to go into the city and procure all necessities and bring them out to the camp. Father Antonio [of Malta] recovered from his illness day by day.

On the twenty-eighth [of May 1702] Shaykh Idris, son of Shaykh `Ali the viceroy, honored me with a beautiful rhinoceros horn. Father Pasquale gave me three for certain medicinal purposes. I also received one from the king.

Description of the Rhinoceros or Horn-Nose

OMITTED


On the eighth of June [1702] on the order of Father Joseph, I sent our Barabra with the [p. 358] twelve camels out to the camp. Father Antonio and I remained in the city with our two dromedaries until the final departure of the caravan [p. 359]

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