National Geographic : 1917 Oct
no picture of the flag of this kingdom, which he calls Gotonie, and designates as "one of the largest in the world," but describes the device as "some yellow sashes on a spear." His nar rative continues: "I departed from this Kingdom of Gotonie (Soudan and Senegambia) and arrived at a gulf connected with the sea, and in the gulf there are three islands. I crossed this gulf until I came to a great city called Amenuan (Miniana and Amina, regions north of the Kong Mountains). It is a very great and populous kingdom, with a land supplying all that is good, but the people are heathens and believe in idols. The kingdom contains eight great cities, one of which is Amenuan, in which the king always resides and is crowned. The king has a white flag with an idol (1094). "In this Kingdom of Emenuan there enters a branch of the river Eufrates (Niger-the friar does not confuse this with the Mesopo tamian Euphrates, but assumes two rivers with the same name). This river forms three branches, one entering the middle of the King dom of Amenuan and the other branches flow ing round the whole kingdom, the width in some places being two days' journey. When I crossed this great river I first made a long journey along its banks, which are very popu lous (referring evidently to the river Benue, a tributary of the Niger). A MYTHICAL MONARCH "I came to a great city called Graciona, which is the head of the Empire of Ardeselib, a word meaning 'Servant of the Cross.' The Ardeselib is defender of the Church of Nubia and Ethiopia, and he defends Preste Juan (Prester John), who is Patriarch of Nubia and Abyssinia." Prester John, to whom the Franciscan re fers, was a mythical Christian potentate, whose name appears many times in the chronicles of the Middle Ages, and he is endowed with many attributes of greatness, wisdom, and magic. Originally he was supposed to be a monarch of Asia, his capital being somewhere in India. During the fourteenth century, however, the mythical Prester John's domain was trans ferred to Africa, and he then became the Chris tian king of Abyssinia. "Preste Juan rules over very great lands and many cities of Christians. But they are ne groes as to their skins and burn the sign of the cross with fire in recognition of baptism. But although these men are negroes they are still men of intelligence, with good brains, and they have understanding and knowledge. Their land is well supplied with all good things, and excellent water of that which comes from the Antarctic Pole, where, it is said, is the earthly paradise. They told me that the Genoese whose galley was wrecked at Amenuan and who were saved were brought here. It was never known what became of the other galley which escaped. The Emperor of Abdeselib has for his device a white flag with a black cross like this" (1095). The friar's reference to the Genoese galley relates to the voyage of Vadino and Guido de Vivaldo, navigators who set sail in 1821 in an attempt to reach India. One of them reached a city in Ethiopia called Menam, where the crew was imprisoned and none ever returned. "I departed from Graciona and traveled over many lands and through many cities, arriving at the city of Malsa (Melee, or Melli?), where the Preste Johan (Prester John) always re sides. "This is a well-peopled and well-supplied land. From the time I came to Malsa I heard and saw marvelous things every day. I in quired what the terrestrial paradise was like, and wise men told me that it consisted of mountains so high that they came near to the circuit of the moon. No man has been able to see it all, for of twenty men who went not more than three ever saw it, and that they had never heard tell of any man who had ascended the mountains. "They further told me that these mountains were surrounded by very deep seas, and that from the water of those seas come four rivers which are the largest in the world." Perhaps this is a vague reference, based on hearsay, to those noble lakes which constitute the reservoirs of the Nile and Congo basins Albert Edward, Tanganyika, Nyassa, and Vic toria Nyanza. It was not until centuries later that these lakes were definitely located. In fact, Victoria Nyanza, which, next to Lake Su perior, is the largest fresh-water lake in the world, was not discovered until 1858, by J. H. Speke, while seeking the source of the Nile. "The waters which descend by these rivers make so great a noise that it can be heard at a distance of two days' journey. All the men who live near it are deaf and cannot hear each other, owing to the great noise of the waters. "In all time the sun in those mountains is there day and night, either on one side or the other. This is because half those mountains are over the horizon and the other half are over the horizon, so that on the top of the mountains it is never either cold nor dark, nor hot nor dry, nor moist, but an equable tem perature. All things, whether animal or veg etable, can never decay nor die. "They told me many other secrets of the stars both as regards judgments and magical virtues; also concerning herbs, plants, and minerals, and I saw several marvelous things. The Greeks call this place Ortodoxis, and the Jews Ganheden, and the Latins Paraiso Ter renal, because there is always a good tempera ture. The device of Preste Johan is a white flag with a black cross (1og6). I departed from Malsa and took an eastern route." The Franciscan was the first writer to locate the mysterious Prester John in Abyssinia. "I went for a very long distance, meeting with people of many beliefs and with strange manners and customs which it would take long to describe, until I came to a gulf of the Sea of India which enters into the land fifty days' journey. In this gulf there are three very large islands, called Zanzibar (probably an error of the copyist for Acibar), Alcubil (Ku ria Muria), and Aden (peninsula), which is the largest and the most populous. It lies against Arabia, and here the Red Sea begins, and penetrates the land westward forty days' journey. On its shores are many cities, towns,, and villages.