Saturday 23 October 2021

The Encyclopaedia Of Geography - Vol.III (1830)

1846 map of West Africa

Central Africa:

Eyeo, called also Hio, or more properly Yarriba, is a very extensive country, extending from the frontier of Boussa nearly to the coast, from which it is only separated by the territory of Badagry, while from the Niger it reaches west to the frontier of Dahomey. It is one of the most fruitful countries on the globe, and is also well cultivated and densely peopled. 

The fields are covered with thriving plantations of Indian corn, millet, yams, and cotton. The loom is busily plied, though its products are not equal to those in the neighbouring country of Nyffe. The scenery is beautiful, the woods exhaling a delicious fragrance, and being filled with myriads of brilliantly-tinted butterflies. The females, likewise, are actively employed in the conveyance of poods, which they bear on their heads, executing this laborious task with surprising cheerfulness. 

The government is most despotic; the greatest Chiefs, in approaching the sovereign, throw themselves flat on their faces, and heap on their heads sand and dust. Yet, in the general administration of the government, there seem few instances of cruelty or wanton oppression. 

The property of the sovereign consists chiefly, as already observed, in his innumerable wives, and the various functions performed by them. The habitations are in general mere huts, and the residence of the Chiefs is only distinguished by the number of these within an enclosing wall; but the gates and panels of some, though only of wood, are adorned with elaborate sculpture. 

The practice of human sacrifice prevails extensively, though not quite to the same degree as in Ashantee and Dahomey. On the demise of the King or of any great Chief, his principal officers and favourite wives are doomed to die along with him. Most tragical scenes are thus presented, as the devotion is by no means voluntary, but the necessity of it imposed by public opinion produces the deepest distress both in the prospect and in its actual arrival. The Fellatahs, it appears, have already passed the Niger, and are preparing to attempt the conquest of Eyeo, in which it is thought that they will probably succeed. 

Among the cities of Yarriba, the first place is held by Eyeo, the capital, situated in a fine plain, and, like most African towns, covering a very large space. It is, indeed, fifteen miles in circumference, so that the mission had five miles to march from their quarters to the palace. There are, however, many fields and open spaces in this wide circuit, and the population can scarcely be even conjectured. 

Bohoo, the former capital, though much declined since the transference to Eyeo, is still a very large place, in even superior country, resembling the finest parts of England. Since the Fellatahs obtained a footing, they have founded Alorie [Ilorin], which, being increased by runaway slaves from every quarter, is now reported to be greater than Eyeo.  A number of other large towns are mentioned. Jenna is the first of the southern, and Keeshee on the northern frontier. Chaki, though on the very summit of the mountain ridge, is large and populous. 

Nyffe, on the eastern bank of the Niger, is a very fine country, occupied by the most industrious and improved of all the negro nations. Their cotton cloths are held in the highest estimation, and even the finest of those manufactured in Houssa are by slaves from Nyffe.

Western Africa:

Dahomey - The King of Dahomey has been lately worsted in his wars with Eyeo, by which he is now held in a species of vassalage. His country consists of an extensive and fertile plain, rising from the sea by a gradual ascent. 

Whidah, now commonly called Griwhee, may be considered the port of Dahomey, from which a route of about a hundred miles reaches through Favies and Toro to Abomey, the capital.


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