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Alvares, Manuel, 1526-1583, et al. / Ethiopia Minor and a geographical account of the Province of Sierra Leone : (c. 1615)
(1990)

Chapter 8: The renowned Island of Bussis, the character and organisation of its people, the richness of the land, and the royal state of its great king,   pp. 1-9


Page 2

(o)
2.
people, because he behaves with royal magnificence to those who gracefully
fall down before him.  In 1612 one of them sent him, in merchandise of
this kind only, a quantity to the value of 40 black slaves.   His bed is
a
paradise.  No-one in Guinea except this tyrant possesses a bed of this
style; and he can vary it as he wishes with such a variety of bedspreads
and canopies that there would be no end to describing them. He is the
richest king in all this (part of) Ethiopia. His jurisdiction is the most
unhampered and absolute.   Although the country is small, being only about
six leagues long and four across, it is so important because of its king
that it extends as far as the savage cares to spread the fame.
The result of this independence is that there is no law other than
the king's appetites. If he wished to be worshipped, and Divine
Omnipotence did not intervene, he could completely achieve his wish. On
the human plane he is treated with great respect by his people, wholly
because he is very powerful and to be feared. /f.30/. Hence no vassal of
his would dare to sell a slave, even if it belonged to thc vassal'G domain,
without seeking permission from him; nor may he sell a bullock or
cdstrated goat without first informing the king. If he goes fishing and
catches a large fish, he must bring it for the king to see, so that he can
take any part he fancies.   Anyone who fails to do this could lose his head,
unless, to save it, he presents a slave and so is freed from the penalty.
No-one-may give his daughter to a man without first bringing her to the
(royal) household, and if she pleases him the king may take her for himself.
-nyone who arranges a marriage and disregards this law may lose his house
and family - since nothing of import must happen in the land without the
king being first informed. And in this respect they are all obedient and
very puncti4ious in keeping the law, and are greatly encouraged to be so
by the apparatus of spies and informers reporting on breaches of the law
which is maintained by the king. At any time he wishes he can put in the
field nearly 2,000 men armed with shields, spears, swords and knives.
Hence he is feared by the neighbouring kings. And he can defend himself
successfully from the inhabitants of the Bijagos Islands, 3-4 leagues out
to sea to the South West, who live by mounting assaults either at sea,
attacking Portuguese vessels in their canoes, or on the mainland, where
they burn hcuses, villages and churches. This last they did in 1603 at
Bigub  ~ ~ ~ ~ ~    ~   ~    ~   ~   ~   ~   o  Or      (C)
Biguba, and in 1609 at Guinala, where they fired the House of Our Lady.
(c) If it happens that vessels are overwhelmed and the lookouts (on land)
are to blame, he punishes them most severely, as he did with particular
ones, ordering them to throw themselves overboard with a stone tied to
their neck in that part of the sea where a ship and its crew had been
lost.


 


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