Ethiopia in Western Culture

Diodorus Siculus

In the wake of the ancient historiography and Greek tradition that we have already illustrated, the great historian of Sicilian origins Diodorus (I century a.C.) dedicated the Third Book of his “Historical Library” to the Ethiopians, immediately associated with Atlas (Etièl) and his mythology. Diodorus states:

Now the Ethiopians, as historians relate, were the first of all men and the proofs of this statement, they say, are manifest. For that they did not come into their land as immigrants from abroad but were natives of it and so justly bear the name of ‘autochthones’​ is, they maintain, conceded by practically all men; furthermore, that those who dwell beneath the noon-day sun were, in all likelihood, the first to be generated by the earth, is clear to all; since, inasmuch as it was the warmth of the sun which, at the generation of the universe, dried up the earth when it was still wet and impregnated it with life,​ it is reasonable to suppose that the region which was nearest the sun was the first to bring forth living creatures..

Thus, once again, the Ethiopian origin of man is clearly affirmed, due to the fact that the sun rises from Ethiopia, and therefore life follow the same order of manifestation. “Autochthones” literally means “sprung from the soil itself”, like Adam in the Bible. Diodorus continues:

And they say that they were the first to be taught to honour the gods and to hold sacrifices and processions and festivals and the other rites by which men honour the deity; and that in consequence their piety has been published abroad among all men, and it is generally held that the sacrifices practised among the Ethiopians are those which are the most pleasing to heaven. As witness to this they call upon the poet who is perhaps the oldest and certainly the most venerated among the Greeks (Homer); for in the Iliad he represents both Zeus and the rest of the gods with him as absent on a visit to Ethiopia to share in the sacrifices and the banquet which were given annually by the Ethiopians for all the gods together.

After the Ethiopian racial origin of man, the origin of religious culture from Ethiopia is affirmed, as well as her special spiritual sanctity among all peoples. This confirms the biblical identity of Israel and Ethiopia, and the fact that all biblical culture was generated by the antediluvian Ethiopian patriarchs, like Enoch.

And they state that, by reason of their piety towards the deity, they manifestly enjoy the favour of the gods, inasmuch as they have never experienced the rule of an invader from abroad; for from all time they have enjoyed a state of freedom and of peace one with another, and although many and powerful rulers have made war upon them, not one of these has succeeded in his undertaking. Cambyses,​ for instance, they say, who made war upon them with a great force, both lost all his army and was himself exposed to the greatest peril; Semiramis also, who through the magnitude of her undertakings and achievements has become renowned, after advancing a short distance into Ethiopia gave up her campaign against the whole nation; and Heracles and Dionysus, although they visited all the inhabited earth, failed to subdue the Ethiopians alone who dwell above Egypt, both because of the piety of these men and because of the insurmountable difficulties involved in the attempt.

Here the idea of Ethiopia’s eternal independence appears, guaranteed by the presence of the Ark of the Covenant and the Sovereignty of Zion, that gave victory over any foreign aggression and even against Hercules the strongest. Independence that will be defended for another two millennia after the writings of Diodorus, until the glorious victory over the fascists. According to Diodorus, even Hercules and Dionysus tried to subjugate the Ethiopians, and failed.

“They say also that the Egyptians are colonists sent out by the Ethiopians, Osiris having been the leader of the colony. For, speaking generally, what is now Egypt, they maintain, was not land but sea when in the beginning the universe was being formed; afterwards, however, as the Nile during the times of its inundation carried down the mud from Ethiopia, land was gradually built up from the deposit. Also the statement that all the land of the Egyptians is alluvial silt deposited by the river receives the clearest proof, in their opinion, from what takes place at the outlets of the Nile; for as each year new mud is continually gathered together at the mouths of the river, the sea is observed being thrust back by the deposited silt and the land receiving the increase. And the larger part of the customs of the Egyptians are, they hold, Ethiopian, the colonists still preserving their ancient manners. For instance, the belief that their kings are gods, the very special attention which they pay to their burials, and many other matters of a similar nature are Ethiopian practices, while the shapes of their statues and the forms of their letters are Ethiopian“.

Diodorus affirms that the royal, the funeral and the religious tradition of Egypt are of Ethiopian derivation, as well as the forms of the letters in their alphabet. The Nile originates in Ethiopia, and it is perfectly reasonable to believe that its civilization developed from its high source on the Ethiopian plateau, downwards to the Mediterranean sea. This also explains why the Ge’ez word for Egypt, G(e)btz ግብጽ, comes from the word G(e)b ግብ, meaning “Pit”, the Pit in which the river Nile flows down. The ancient Egyptian language calls the same earth soil as “GEB”.

In chapter 5, the Sicilian historian finally describes the spiritual authority of the King of Ethiopia, chosen by “Divine Providence”, and worshipped as a god. He also speaks about his attachment to ethiopian ancient legal traditions, and his renowned “solomonic” wisdom and justice, for example his mercy towards those sentenced to death. All this fits perfectly with all the principles guarded today by the Rastafarian people.