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ORIGIN, ANTIQUITIES, MANNERS AND CUSTOMS,
&c. OF THE AMERICAN INDIANS.
O could their ancient Incas rise agnin,
Origin of the name Indian.—Why applied to the people found in America. Ancient authors supposed to have referred to America in their writings—TheopompusVoyage of Hanno—Diodorus Siculus-Plato–Aristotle-Seneca. The name Indian was erroneously applied to the original man of America* by its first discoverers. The attempt to arrive at the East Indies by sailing west, caused the discovery of the islands and continent of America. When they were at first discovered, Columbus, and many after him, supposed they had arrived at the eastern shore of the continent of India, and hence the people they found there were called Indians. The error was not discovered until the name had so obtained, that it could not well be changed. It is true, that it matters but little to us by what name the indigenes of a country are known, and especially those of America, in as far as the name is seldom used among us but in application to the aboriginal Americans. But with the people of Europe it was not so unimportant. Situated between the two countries, India and America, the same name for the inhabitants of both must, at first, have produced considerable inconvenience, if not confusion ; because, in speaking of an Indian, no one would know whether an American or a Zealander was meant, unless by the context of the discourse. Therefore, in a historical point of view, the error is, at least, as much to be deplored as that the name of the continent itself should have been derived from Americus instead of Columbus.
So named from Vesputius Americus, a Florentine, who made a discovery of some part of the coast of South America in 1499, iwo years after Cabot had explored the coast of Noria America; but Americus had the fortune to confer his name upon both.
ON THE ORIGIN OF THE INDIANS.
It has been the practice of almost every writer, who has written about the primitive inhabitants of a country, to give some wild theories of others, con cerning their origin, and to close the account with his own; which generally pas been more visionary, if possible, than those of his predecessors. Long, laborious, and, we may add, useless disquisitions have been daily laid before the world, from the discovery of America by Columbus to the present time, to endeavor to explain by what means the inbabitants got from the old to the new world. To act, therefore, in unison with many of our predecessors, we will begin as far back as they have done, and so shall commence with Theopompus and others, from intimations in whose writings it is alleged the ancients had knowledge of America, and therefore peopled it.
Theopompus, a learned historian and orator, who fourished in the time of Alexander the Great, in a book entitled Thaumasia, gives a sort of dialogue between Midas the Phrygian and Silenus. The book itself is lost, but Strabo refers to it, and Ælianus has given us the substance of the dialogue which follows. After much conversation, Silenus said to Midas, that Europe, Asia and Africa were but islands surrounded on all sides by the sea; but that there was a continent situated beyond these, which was of immense dimensions, even without limits; and that it was so luxuriant, as to produce animals of prodigious magnitude, and men grew to double the height of themselves, and that they lived to a far greater age ;* that they had many great cities; and their usages and laws were different from ours; that in one city there was more than a million of inhabitants; that gold and silver were there in vast quantities. This is but an abstract from Ælianus's extract, but contains all of it that can be said to refer to a country west of Europe and Africa. Ælian or Ælianus lived about A. D. 200.
Hanno flourished when the Carthaginians were in their greatest prosperity, but the exact time is unknown. Some place his times 40, and others 140, years before the founding of Rome, which would be about 800 years before our era.ş He was an officer of great enterprise, having sailed around and explored the coast of Africa, set out from the Pillars of Hercules, now called the Straits of Gibraltar, and sailed westward 30 days. Hence it is inferred by many, that he must have visited America, or some of its islands. He wrote a book, which he entitled Periplus, giving an account of bis voyages, which was translated and published about 1533, in Greek.ll
Many, and not without tolerably good reasons, believe that an island or con. tinent existed in the Atlantic Ocean about this period, but which disappeared afterwards.
Buffon and Raynal either had not read this story, or they did not believe it to have been America; for they taught that all animals degenerated here. Many of the first adventurers to the coasts of unknown countries reported them inhabited by giants. Swifl wrote Gulliver's Travels to bring such accounts into ridicule. How well he succeeded is evident from a comparison of books of voyages and travels before and after his time. Dubartas has this passage
Our fearless sailors, in far voyages
Irvine Weeks, p. 117, ed. 410, 1613.
Ælian, Variar. Historiar. lib. iii. chap. viii.
Since the text was written, there has come into my hands a copy of a translation of Æliar's work, “in Englishe (as well according to the truth of the Greeke texte, as of the Latine), by Abraham Fleming." "London, 1576, 410. It differs not materially from the above, which is given from a French version of it.
The besi account of Hanno and his voyages, with which we are acquainted, is to be found in Mariana's Hist. of Spain, vol. i. 93, 109, 119, 122, 133, and 150, ed. Paris, 1725, 5 vols. 4lo.
Diodorus Siculus says that some “Phænicians were cast upon a most fertile island opposite to Africa.” Of this, he says, they kept the inost studied secrecy, which was doubtless occasioned by their jealousy of the advantage the discovery might be to the neighboring nations, and which they wished to secure wholly to themselves. Diodorus Siculus lived about 100 years before Christ Islands lying west of Europe and Africa are certainly mentioned by Homer and Horace. They were called Atlantides, and were supposed to be about 10,000 furlongs from Africa. Here existed the poets' fabled Elysian fields. But to be more particular with Diodorus, we will let him speak for himself. * After having passed the islands which lie beyond the Herculean Struit, we will speak of those which lie much farther into the ocean. Towards Africa, and to the west of it, is an immense island in the broad sea, many days' sail from Lybia. Its soil is very fertile, and its surface variegated with mountains and valleys. Its coasts are indented with many navigable rivers, and its fields are well cultivated ; delicious gardens, and various kinds of plants and trees." He finally sets it down as the finest country known, where the inhabitants have spacious dwellings, and every thing in the greatest plenty. To say the least of this account of Diodorus, it corresponds very well with that given of the Mexicans when first known to the Spaniards, but perhaps it will compare as well with the Canaries.
Plato's account has more weight, perhaps, than any of the ancients. He lived about 400 years before the Christian era. A part of his account is as follows:-“In those first times [time of its being first known), the Atlantic was a most broad island, and there were extant most powerful kings in it, who, with joint forces, appointed to occupy Asia and Europe: And so a most grierous war was carried on; in which the Athenians, with the common consent of the Greeks, opposed themselves, and they became the conquerors But that Atlantic island, by a flood and earthquake, was indeed suddenly destroyed, and so that warlike people were swallowed up.” He adds, in another place, “ An island in the mouth of the sea, in the passage to those straits, called the Pillars of Hercules, did exist; and that island was greater and larger than Lybia and Asia ; from which there was an easy passage over to other islands, and from those islands to that continent, which is situated out of that region.”* “ Neptune settled in this island, from whose son, Allas, its name was derived, and divided it among his ten sons. To the youngest fell the extremity of the island, called Gailir, which, in the language of the country, signifies fertile or abounding in sheep. The descendants of Neptune reigned here, from father to son, for a great number of generations in the order of primogeniture, during the space of 9000 years. I'hey also possessed several other islands; and, passing into Europe and Africa, subdued all Lybia as far as Egypt, and all Europe to Asia Minor. At length the island sunk under water; and for a long time afierwards the sea thereabouts was full of rocks and shelves.” | This account, although mixed with fable, cannot, we think, be entirely rejected; and that the ancients had knowledge of countries westward of Europe appears as plain and as well authenticated as any passage of history of that period.
Aristotle, or the author of a book which is generally attributed to him, 1 speaks of an island beyond the Straits of Gibraltar ; but the passage savors something of hearsay, and is as follows:—“Some say that, beyond the Pillars of Hercules, the Carthaginians have found a very fertile island, but without inhabitants, full of forests, navigable rivers, and fruit in abundance. It is several days' voyage from the main land. Some Carthaginians, charmed by the fertility of the country, thought to marry and settle there; but some say that the government of Carthage forbid the settlement upon pain of death, from the fear that it would increase in power so as to deprive the mothercountry of her possessions there.” If Aristotle had uttered this as a prediction, * America known to the Ancients, 10, 8vo. Boston, 1773. Enevelopædia Peribensis, art. ÁTLANTIS.
De mirabil, auscultat. Opera, vol. i. Voltaire says of this book, “On en fesait honneur al x Carthaginois, et on citait un livre d'Aristote qu'il n'a pas composé." Essai sur les tícurs et l'esprit des nations, chap. cxlv. p. 703. vol. iv. of his works. Edit. Paris, 1817,