They Related Indeed That There Were Some Of Those Boars As
Big As A Great Buffalo.
There are also numbers of giraffes and wild asses;
and in fact a marvellous number of wild beasts of strange aspect.[NOTE 7]
NOTE 1. - Marco is, I believe, the first writer European or Asiatic, who
unambiguously speaks of MADAGASCAR; but his information about it was very
incorrect in many particulars. There are no elephants nor camels in the
island, nor any leopards, bears, or lions.
Indeed, I have no doubt that Marco, combining information from different
sources, made some confusion between Makdashau (Magadoxo) and
Madagascar, and that particulars belonging to both are mixed up here.
This accounts for Zanghibar being placed entirely beyond Madagascar, for
the entirely Mahomedan character given to the population, for the
hippopotamus-teeth and staple trade in ivory, as well for the lions,
elephants, and other beasts. But above all the camel-killing indicates
Sumali Land and Magadoxo as the real locality of part of the information.
Says Ibn Batuta: "After leaving Zaila we sailed on the sea for 15 days,
and arrived at Makdashau, an extremely large town. The natives keep
camels in great numbers, and they slaughter several hundreds daily" (II.
181). The slaughter of camels for food is still a Sumali practice. (See
J.R.G.S. VI. 28, and XIX. 55.) Perhaps the Shaikhs (Esceqe) also
belong to the same quarter, for the Arab traveller says that the Sultan of
Makdashau had no higher title than Shaikh (183); and Brava, a
neighbouring settlement, was governed by 12 shaikhs. (De Barros, I.
viii. 4.) Indeed, this kind of local oligarchy still prevails on that
We may add that both Makdashau and Brava are briefly described in the
Annals of the Ming Dynasty. The former Mu-ku-tu-su, lies on the sea, 20
days from Siao-Kolan (Quilon?), a barren mountainous country of wide
extent, where it sometimes does not rain for years. In 1427 a mission
came from this place to China. Pu-la-wa (Brava, properly Barawa) adjoins
the former, and is also on the sea. It produces olibanum, myrrh, and
ambergris; and among animals elephants, camels, rhinoceroses, spotted
animals like asses, etc.
It is, however, true that there are traces of a considerable amount of
ancient Arab colonisation on the shores of Madagascar. Arab descent is
ascribed to a class of the people of the province of Matitanana on the
east coast, in lat. 21 deg.-23 deg. south, and the Arabic writing is in use
there. The people of the St. Mary's Isle of our maps off the east coast, in
lat. 17 deg., also call themselves the children of Ibrahim, and the island
Nusi-Ibrahim. And on the north-west coast, at Bambeluka Bay, Captain Owen
found a large Arab population, whose forefathers had been settled there
from time immemorial. The number of tombs here and in Magambo Bay showed
that the Arab population had once been much greater. The government of this
settlement, till conquered by Radama, was vested in three persons: one a
Malagash, the second an Arab, the third as guardian of strangers; a fact
also suggestive of Polo's four sheikhs (Ellis, I. 131; Owen, II. 102,
132. See also Sonnerat, II. 56.) Though the Arabs were in the habit of
navigating to Sofala, in about lat. 20 deg. south, in the time of Mas'udi
(beginning of 10th century), and must have then known Madagascar, there is
no intelligible indication of it in any of their geographies that have been
[M. Alfred Grandidier, in his Hist. de la Geog. de Madagascar, p. 31,
comes to the conclusion that Marco Polo has given a very exact description
of Magadoxo, but that he did not know the island of Madagascar. He adds in
a note that Yule has shown that the description of Madeigascar refers
partly to Magadoxo, but that notwithstanding he (Yule) believed that Polo
spoke of Madagascar when the Venetian traveller does not. I must say that
I do not see any reason why Yule's theory should not be accepted.
M.G. Ferrand, formerly French Agent at Fort Dauphin, has devoted ch. ix.
(pp. 83-90) of the second part of his valuable work Les Musulmans a
Madagascar (Paris, 1893), to the "Etymology of Madagascar." He believes
that M. Polo really means the great African Island. I mention from his
book that M. Guet (Origines de l'ile Bourbon, 1888) brings the
Carthaginians to Madagascar, and derives the name of this island from
Madax-Aschtoret or Madax-Astarte, which signifies Isle of Astarte
and Isle of Tanit! Mr. I. Taylor (The origin of the name 'Madagascar,'
in Antananarivo Annual, 1891) gives also some fancy etymologies; it is
needless to mention them. M. Ferrand himself thinks that very likely
Madagascar simply means Country of the Malagash (Malgaches), and is only
a bad transcription of the Arabic Madagasbar. - H.C.]
NOTE 2. - There is, or used to be, a trade in sandal-wood from Madagascar.
(See Owen, II. 99.) In the map of S. Lorenzo (or Madagascar) in the
Isole of Porcacchi (1576), a map evidently founded on fact, I observe
near the middle of the Island: quivi sono boschi di sandari rossi.
NOTE 3. - "The coast of this province" (Ivongo, the N.E. of the Island)
"abounds with whales, and during a certain period of the year Antongil Bay
is a favourite resort for whalers of all nations. The inhabitants of
Titingue are remarkably expert in spearing the whales from their slight
canoes." (Lloyd in J.R.G.S. XX. 56.) A description of the
whale-catching process practised by the Islanders of St. Mary's, or Nusi
Ibrahim, is given in the Quinta Pars Indiae Orientalis of De Bry, p. 9.
Owen gives a similar account (I. 170).
The word which I have rendered Oil-heads is Capdoilles or Capdols,
representing Capidoglio, the appropriate name still applied in Italy to
the Spermaceti whale. The Vocab.
Enter page number
Page 210 of 360
Words from 213421 to 214420