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2013

The History of a Genuine Fake Philosophical Treatise (atatā Zar’a Yā‘eqob and atatā Walda eywat). Episode 2: The Time of Debunking, The Time in the Wilderness (from 1916 to the 1950s)

Anaïs Wion
Traduction de Lea Cantor, Jonathan Egid et Anaïs Wion
Cet article est une traduction de :
L’histoire d’un vrai faux traité philosophique (Ḥatatā Zar’a Yā‘eqob et Ḥatatā Walda Ḥeywat). Épisode 2 : Le temps de la démystification et la traversée du désert (de 1916 aux années 1950) [fr]

Résumés

Dans ce deuxième article de la série consacrée à l’histoire des traités philosophiques attribués à Zar’a Yā‘eqob et son disciple Walda Ḥeywat, il s’agit d’explorer le moment de la démystification. Comment survient le doute (dès 1916) puis comment est attribuée la paternité du texte à Juste d’Urbin (en 1920) ? L’article qui fait basculer le statut du texte de « perle rare de la littérature éthiopienne » à celui de supercherie est somme toute très synthétique, et c’est plus un faisceau de preuves qui est rassemblé par le grand philologue et historien C. Conti Rossini qu’une démonstration irréfutable. Un autre philologue orientaliste, E. Mittwoch, tente quelques années plus tard de prouver par l’étude linguistique et philologique la paternité de Juste d’Urbin, pourtant cette étude est biaisée par l’utilisation d’une source indirecte. Malgré tout, les arguments d’autorité de C. Conti Rossini puis de E. Mittwoch furent acceptés par l’ensemble de la communauté scientifique. Nous reprenons donc ici cette enquête, pour la corroborer et l’enrichir, pour en montrer aussi les faiblesses. Surtout, nous apportons au dossier une nouvelle lecture de ces textes grâce à la génétique textuelle, pour permettre de voir l’auteur Juste d’Urbin à l’œuvre dans l’écriture du Ḥatatā Zar’a Yā‘eqob. Par ailleurs, la correspondance inédite de Juste d’Urbin avec Antoine d’Abbadie est à nouveau convoquée pour mieux comprendre la pensée et les motivations de ce libre-penseur.

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Texte intégral

  • 1 “Nous sommes tellement habitués à opposer le faux au vrai qu’en lisant ce titre [La guerre du faux] (...)

“We are so accustomed to opposing the false to the true that when reading this title [The War of the False], the reader will be led to think that it speaks of false speeches that mask the truth of things. As if, underpinning analyses of false discourse, there were a reassuring and debonair metaphysics of truth. Well, this is not the case. What is at issue here are discourses that mask other discourses. Discourses that think they say a to suggest b; or discourses that think they say a but that should in fact be interpreted as b; or discourses that think they say something and that mask their own inconsistency, their own contradiction, or their own impossibility.”1

Preface to the French edition of Umberto Eco’s Guerre du faux.

“I thought to myself and told myself: ‘Is it a sin in the eyes of God if I appear to be what I am not and deceive men?’ But I said to myself: ‘Men want to be deceived.’”

atatā Zar’a Yā ’eqob, chapter 15.

  • 2 See Anaïs Wion, “L’histoire d’un vrai faux traité philosophique (atatā Zar’a Yā‘eqob et atatā Wal (...)

1The first part of this study, entitled “The Time of Discovery. From Being Part of a Collection to Becoming a Scholarly Publication (1852-1904)”,2 showed how the texts of the atatā were discovered by the Capuchin missionary Giusto d’Urbino between 1852 and 1854. This Catholic monk lived in Ethiopia from 1846 to 1855. He was a missionary who defied his hierarchy, who had little desire to evangelize, and who above all sought to devote himself to the study of Ethiopian languages – particularly Ge’ez, the learned language. Giusto d’Urbino sent about twenty Ethiopian works to Antoine d’Abbadie, a French scholar who had built up a collection of Ethiopian manuscripts. Among these were the only two known manuscripts of two extraordinary texts, the atatā Zar’a Yā’eqob and the atatā Walda eywat. Antoine d’Abbadie considered these texts to be original but quite simple. He included them in his collection, whose catalogue he published in 1859. Fifty years later, when d’Abbadie’s collection became public after it was deposited at the Bibliothèque nationale de France (the French National Library) in 1902, these texts were edited and translated under the title ‘Philosophie abyssine’ (‘Abyssian Philosophy’). They thus reached a wider public and could begin to be widely disseminated.

2Yet a reversal in the texts’ status occurred very soon after their recognition within academic publishing, and long before any historically-oriented study or literary analysis of the text could take place. Between 1916 and 1920, two successive articles by C. Conti Rossini cast doubt on the authenticity of the texts and demonstrated in a few pages that Giusto d’Urbino himself was the author of the atatā. The status of the texts and of their supposed author changed abruptly: from a jewel of Ethiopian literature of the seventeenth century, they became a forgery; from a modest and hard-working scholar contributing to the great work that is the d’Abbadie collection, Giusto d’Urbino became a forger.

3We will look into this moment of “debunking” and consider its consequences for readings that have (or have not) been proposed of the texts of the atatā. We will also analyze some of the leads that were left unexplored by the studies that discredited the atatā. Indeed, the present study is not entirely neutral, and also offers a contribution to this debunking approach. By dismantling the intellectual, and in this case almost judicial, mechanisms that make up this historiography, this study sheds light on its flaws and grey areas, and in some cases, points to aspects for further scrutiny. The phenomenon of the atatā is in itself an object of history. One of our objectives is also to understand how an academic field is structured by the inclusion or exclusion of its objects. Even if resuming the investigation into the authenticity of the atatā necessarily leads to the formulation of hypotheses as to this authenticity – and I may as well say from the outset that a Giusto d’Urbino authorship is in my view indubitable – it is also a matter of questioning the history of a discipline. Orientalism, philology, and Africanism are fields of study that have in turn determined affiliations and exclusions. The atatā, by their hybrid character mixing Ethiopian formalism with the discursive logic of Western thought, have themselves been accepted and then successively rejected.

4In the first episode, I discussed how the atatā entered the corpus of classical Ethiopian texts. In this second episode, I observe how they were excluded from it. This exclusion displaced them into the elusive and infamous limbo of forgeries and impostures, bringing ridicule on those who believed in their authenticity, and prestige on the investigators who had snatched away the forgers’ masks.

The One Through Whom the Scandal Came About: An Ethiopian Catholic Contemporary of Giusto d’Urbino

  • 3 C. Conti Rossini first published an in extenso translation of Takla Hāymānot's manuscript, in Itali (...)
  • 4 See for example his letter to Antoine d'Abbadie dated January 1854, ms BnF NAF 23852, fol. 49-50. H (...)
  • 5 This accusation would have significant repercussions within the Propaganda Fide since, after Giusto (...)
  • 6 C. Conti Rossini, 1916, p. 76-77.

5Scholarly doubt concerning the authenticity of the atatā as philosophical texts of the seventeenth century was instigated by C. Conti Rossini. Whereas in 1914 he had catalogued Giusto d’Urbino’s two manuscripts without any suspicion, citing the critical editions as sufficient academic references to define these texts as philosophy, in 1920 he completely reversed his initial acceptance of the academic doxa of the time. What were the new findings that made him change his mind? It was the writings of an Ethiopian Catholic monk, abbā Takla Hāymānot, a contemporary of Giusto d’Urbino, which instilled his suspicions. Takla Hāymānot was part of Bishop de Jacobis’ mission in Tegrāy; he then travelled to Gondar with Giovanni Stella. He moved in the same circles as Giusto d’Urbino but was much more active in evangelization activities than the latter. Giusto was a recluse at Bētaleēm, but his activities were nevertheless observed and reported by his co-religionists. In Takla Hāymānot’s Memoirs, published by C. Conti Rossini in 1916, the Ethiopian Lazarist thus mentions the collaboration of Giusto d’Urbino, at Bētaleēm, with the Dabtara Amārkañ and the Liqa kahenāt Gošu, with whom he allegedly bought a book containing “freemasonic” and heretical theories. Giusto apparently had copies made of this work; he was probably its author, but attributed a fictitious authority to it. This book was allegedly known as Warqē, after the name of its supposed author.3 Takla Hāymānot, who had not read the text in question, nevertheless unambiguously designated it by the title atatā Zar’a Yā’eqob, since Zar’a Yā’eqob’s other name was Warqē. The first was his Christian name, or his baptismal name, while the second was his nickname, meaning “My Gold”. The latter would have been used in family life and would not customarily have been written down. Was this name – a rather ordinary one, as it happens – a nod to the art of double meaning, which was highly prized in Ethiopian dialectic, one of the most common techniques of which was that of “Wax and Gold”, Semma-nā Warq? We know that Giusto d’Urbino was familiar with this technique, and that he eagerly took it up.4 Takla Hāymānot was familiar with Giusto d’Urbino’s intellectual profile in terms of philosophy, biblical writing, and Ethiopian languages, which is why he explicitly attributed this work to him. Takla Hāymānot’s accusation was therefore precise.5 It shows that he knew enough about d’Urbino to know where he worked, those with whom he collaborated, and what his intellectual background was. Moreover, it shows that he must not have been the only one to know about Giusto d’Urbino’s activities, since he himself did not see the incriminated work. He seems also to have had little appreciation for his colleague, whose lifestyle and faith seemed to him suspicious, partly because he found him far too isolated as not to be “caught in the devil’s net”.6

  • 7 Letter of 14 July 1854, ms Bnf NAF 23852, fol. 59-60.
  • 8 “J’ai eu presque tous les jours de ces dialogues avec mon maître de langue éthiopiques [sic] et ave (...)

6In his correspondence, Giusto d’Urbino makes little mention of his Ethiopian intellectual environment. He gives Antoine d’Abbadie news of Ethiopians he knew, but he says almost nothing about his own friends or acquaintances, except that he paid a “mocking dabtara” to make progress in the pronunciation of Ge’ez and in particular to master the art of gemination.7 Among the manuscripts that he did not send to Antoine d’Abbadie was a collection of Ge’ez dialogues introduced by the following remark: “I had these dialogues almost every day with my Ethiopian language instructor and with the other scholars around me.”8 It is therefore clear that Giusto had developed a practice that was not only erudite but also fully anchored in the present moment. For him, Ge’ez was not an ancient, disembodied language, a language of study and history. Rather, it was a language with which it was possible to develop a thought, to express complex things. Yet his correspondence with Antoine d’Abbadie constantly goes on about his sense of isolation and intellectual solitude. Moreover, he scarcely speaks of the Europeans he had contact with, apart from the British consul Plowden, the only person he trusted to pass on his letters. Very little is said about the Catholic mission and its members. In Giusto’s letters, the outside world is perceived as a relatively malevolent entity. For example, in a letter of September 1852, he complains very bitterly about the enmity he allegedly received from Arnaud, Antoine d’Abbadie’s brother, along with his friends, even though they did not know him. He believed that it was his poverty that accounted for great men’s contempt of him. He deplored the “injustice of foreigners” to which the French government’s alleged “protection” of the missions condemned him. In other letters, he mentions mockeries made at his expense, but without ever giving precise information as to their motive or the perpetrators’ identities. Perhaps these already consisted in accusations to the effect that he was circulating a text under a pseudonym. Such accusations were clearly expressed by his contemporary, Takla Hāymānot, while the latter was writing his Memoirs.

  • 9 To be continued in the fourth article in this series.

7In 1920, being a conscientious and honest scholar, C. Conti Rossini examined the question of the authority of the atatā, even though he admitted finding it difficult to doubt the authenticity of these texts. Having presented a body of evidence, within a few pages he came to seriously question the authenticity of the atatā and, following Takla Hāymānot, attributed its authorship to Giusto d’Urbino. His arguments are wide-ranging in nature; each will be examined here in detail, as they were all picked up from the 1970s onwards when it came to rehabilitating the texts.9 In following the path of C. Conti Rossini step by step, I invite the reader to take part in the investigation. We are now entering into the realm of demonstrative proof, the discrimen veri ac falsi dear to modern history and the criticism of sources. C. Conti Rossini’s article was already deliberately drawing on the register of the judicial enquiry, since, to present his very first argument, he promised that he held the probatio probatissima, the “evidence of the evidence”!

Proof through Ge’ez

8The first argument relates to Giusto d’Urbino’s very high level of Ge’ez, as attested by the Ge’ez grammar he assembled, his mastery of scholarly versification, and his trilingual Ge’ez-Amharic-Latin dictionary. We have already covered this aspect of Giusto d’Urbino’s intellectual approach in the first article, so that his mastery and above all the pleasure he drew from using the Ge’ez langage are no longer in doubt. But is this really the only evidence? Is it sufficient proof? Is it by itself convincing, given that Giusto d’Urbino was also accused by Takla Hāymānot of having fomented his work in collaboration with Ethiopian scholars?

  • 10 “J’ai appris assez bien le ግዕዝ [ge‘ez] et je suis très content d’avoir suivi votre conseil de l’app (...)

9We still have one last card to play to win this first trick. Giusto d’Urbino’s first letters contain a few passages in Ge’ez, which reflect his concern to prove to Antoine that he had conscientiously followed his advice. Thus, as early as September 1850, he told him: “I have learnt ግዕዝ [Ge’ez] quite well and I am very glad I took your advice to learn it. It has cost me a lot of patience, but now I am a living witness of the proverb ትዕግሥትሰ፡ በጊዜሁ፡ ይከውን፡ መሪረ፡ ወድኅሬሁ፡ ይጥዕም፡ እመዓር። [“Perseverance is bitter in its time, then it becomes sweeter than honey”].”10

  • 11 Ms NAF 23852, fol. 17-18.

10Over a year later, in March 1852, Giusto grew angry at Antoine’s silence and at his failure to react to the many letters he received. In a long letter,11 Giusto reproaches him for having incited him to write and for not rewarding him in return, not even with letters. He presents himself as being very poor, with only his knowledge to share. He then uses the proverb ሀብታም፡ በከብት፡ ደኃ፡ በጕልበት። [“to the rich man the cattle, to the poor man the work”], which can also be found in the Latin address accompanying the first copy of the atatā Zar’a Yā’eqob (Éth. Abb. 234), written at the beginning of 1853. The porosity between this letter and the text of the atatā Zar’a Yā’eqob is not limited to the latter’s exergue, as displayed by the long passage in Ge’ez transcribed below, which is taken from the same missive dated March 1852. This was the first time that Giusto d’Urbino allowed himself such a long insertion in Ge’ez in his correspondence. The tone of the passage – that of complaint – is a familiar one. Giusto d’Urbino requested, once again, Antoine’s financial support for his work.

  • 12 “Réduit à l’extrême pauvreté pour me perfectionner le mieux que je pouvais dans les sciences éthiop (...)

Reduced to extreme poverty in order to master the Ethiopian sciences to the best of my ability, shouldn’t I turn to you who are the head of the Ethiopian academy? As I had neither gold nor silver, I could offer my work12: ወአንሰ፡ ተሰፈውኩ፡ ከመ፡ ታብአኒ፡ ቤተከ፡ አመ፡ ርስዕየ፡ ወትረስየኒ፡ አንባቤ፡ ወዐቃቤ፡ መጻሕፍትከ፡ ዘኢትዮጵያ፡ ወጸሓፌ፡ ወተርጓሜ፡ ዚአሆሙ። ወአንተሰ፡ መተርከ፡ ተስፋየ፡ ዮም፡ በአርምማትከ። እመሰ፡ ትፈዲ፡ ሊተ፡ እኩየ፡ በእንተ፡ ዘተብህለ፡ ቅድመ፡ አመ፡ ነገሩ፡ ለአቡነ፡ ሰላማ፡ ኢይሤኒ፡ ለከ። እስመ፡ ምክንያተ፡ ምጽአትየ፡ ኀበዝ፡ ብሔር፡ አንተ፡ ውእቱ፡ ወእምዝ፡ አሰፈውከኒ፡ በብዙኅ፡ ነገር። ይጌጊኑ፡ ነዳይ፡ አመ፡ ይስእሎ፡ ለብዑል፡ ምጽዋተ። ወአንሰ፡ ኢየኀሥሥ፡ እንበለ፡ ዕሤተ፡ ፃማየ፡ ወንስቲተ፡ ብሩረ፡ የአክለኒ፡ ዮም፡ ወእፈድዮ፡ በአእምሮትየ፡ ውስተ፡ ኵሉ፡ ነገረ፡ ግዕዝ፡ ዘይትኀሠሥ፡ እምኔየ። እመሰ፡ አንተ፡ ኢትኀሥሥ፡ እምኔየ፡ እግዚአብሔር፡ ተስፋሆሙ፡ ለነዳያን፡ ይከውን፡ ተስፋየ፡ ወእሠይጥ፡ ፍሬ፡ ፃማየ፡ ለዘይሴስየኒ። እግዚአብሔር፡ ይበርከከ፡ ወያስተፈሥሐከ፡ ወይፈጽም፡ ለከ፡ ኵሎ፡ ፈቃደከ። አሜን።.

  • 13 This request is expressed here for the first time and then repeated in correspondence, see for exam (...)
  • 14 Giusto d'Urbino is here referring to a denunciation known to us from a letter he wrote to Massaja, (...)
  • 15[Moi j’avais espéré que tu me ferais entrer dans ta maison au moment de ma vieillesse et que tu m’ (...)

[I had hoped that you would bring me into your house when I had grown old and that you would appoint me as reader and keeper of your Ethiopian books, as scribe and translator of them13. But you, today, by your silence, have shattered my hopes. If you really pay me with aversion, because of what was said before in the abuna Salāmā affair,14 it is not yours to do. In fact, you are the cause of my coming to this country and since then you have given me hope with many words. Is the poor man mistaken when he asks the rich man for alms? I want nothing but compensation for my labour, and a small sum of money is enough for me today, and I will repay it with my intelligence in all those Ge’ez things which he will ask of me. If you ask me nothing, then God the hope of the poor is my hope and I will sell the fruits of my labour to the one who will feed me. May God bless you and bring you joy and grant you whatever you might wish for, amen.]15

  • 16 E. Littmann, 1904, txt, p. 21- 22: ወአበድር፡ ፍሬ፡ ፃማየ፡ እሴሰይ, p. 48.

11At the end of this long exhortation urging him to support financially and materially his intellectual activities, in the present and in the future, we find a sentence that echoes the narrative thread of the atatā Zar’a Yā’eqob. The scholar places himself under the protection of the one who will support him (“I will sell the fruits of my labour to the one who will feed me”). This need for patronage is described at length in chapter 11 of the atatā Zar’a Y ā’eqob: during Zar’a Yā’eqob’s meeting with Habtu, in Enfrāz, the latter agrees to pay him for his work as a scribe, allowing Zar’a Yā’eqob to establish himself in the region, while remaining under Habtu’s protection. The latter thus becomes his master and even provides him with an adoptive family. It is this patronage that would allow Zar’a Yā’eqob to free himself from the enslaving guardianship of the Church and to develop a professional skill that could be exchanged for money like any other craft activity. The same Ge’ez terms are used in Giusto’s letter and in the text of the atatā, in particular the expression “fruits of my labour”, ፍሬ፡ ፃማየ፡, which can be found twice in the atatā Zar’a Yā’eqob and once in the atatā Walda eywat, in all cases linked to the idea of securing one’s own subsistence.16

12This letter was written six months prior to Giusto’s first mention of his discovery of the atatā Zar’a Yā’eqob. It also precedes Giusto’s receipt of Antoine d’Abbadie’s manuscripts catalogue, which was probably his pretext for fabricating the hapax of the atatā. The fact that this letter precedes the text of the atatā Zar’a Yā’eqob therefore indicates that the aforementioned idea and the way of expressing it in Ge’ez do not originate from the atatā. This is a strong argument; it relies on virtually the only passage that can offer us a glimpse of how Giusto d’Urbino’s personal expression precedes the texts of the atatā. Above all, it shows that the narrative of the atatā Zar’a Yā’eqob integrates very sensitive elements of Giusto d’Urbino’s life – in this case the right to carry out his intellectual activities independently.

  • 17 See below the double copy of qenē accompanying the Ge'ez manuscript of the Soirées de Carthage whic (...)

13Such a process of “recycling” his writings in Ge’ez can also be observed elsewhere.17 It shows that Giusto assimilated Ge’ez words and sentences on the basis of examples, selected pieces, and reminders. He created a collage in a form that suited the atatā Zar’a Yā’eqob quite well: the biographical framework served as a narrative thread running through a somewhat disparate assemblage of considerations.

14Thus, to return to C. Conti Rossini’s most important proof, we can say that not only did Giusto d’Urbino master Ge’ez, but that his very own words can be found in Zar’a Yā’eqob’s mouth.

Biographical Parallels or Transfers of Identity?

  • 18 F. Tarducci, 1899, p. 23, citing the notizie dell’Archivio Provinciale dei Cappuccini della Marche, (...)
  • 19 And this stands whether in the year 1851, 1852 or even 1853.
  • 20 Manfred Kropp had come to the same conclusions, according to notes prepared for a seminar which he (...)

15C. Conti Rossini’s second argument is biographical: Giusto d’Urbino and Zar’a Yā’eqob were allegedly born on the same day and shared the same name. Giusto d’Urbino was born on 30 August 1814, according to F. Tarducci and his investigations in the archives.18 Zar’a Yā’eqob was born on 25 nāhāsē 1592, that is to say on 28 August 1600 – a reconstruction that is easy to make today thanks to the many calendar tables establishing reliable correspondences. This two-day gap was deemed sufficient, in the following stage of the controversy, to invalidate the argument put forward by C. Conti Rossini. But Giusto d’Urbino had no such computing tools at his disposal and, while he was in Ethiopia, his own birthday fell on 25 nāhāsē.19 He seems simply to have transposed this date.20

  • 21 Letter of 14 July 1854, ms NAF 23852, fol. 59-60.
  • 22 Thus the following names mean: Ḫāyla Sellāsē, “Strength of the Trinity”; Takla Hāymānot, “Plant of (...)

16Furthermore, Giusto d’Urbino’s baptismal name was apparently Iacopo, that is to say, Jacob, and Zar’a Yā ’eqob means ’Seed of Jacob’. While Jacopo or Iacopo is the first name which F. Tarducci gave for d’Urbino in 1899 and that repeated thereafter in every study dedicated to Giusto d’Urbino, the latter says in one of his letters to Antoine d’Abbadie that he was named Gian-Giacomo, or in French Jean-Jacques, like Rousseau.21 But whether it be Iacopo [Jacob] or Giacomo [James], the assimilation with Yā’eqob remains. It should be noted, moreover, that in his very first letter mentioning the atatā, Giusto entitled the text Maṣḥafa Yā’eqob or atatā Yā’eqob (Book of Jacob/James or Examination of Jacob/James), and it was only later that the author-narrator was named Zar’a Yā’eqob. It was no longer directly his homonym that he placed centre stage; rather, he skilfully used the classical formation of Ethiopian Christian names, composed of a noun associated with a saint’s name or a divine principle in the genitive.22 The author-narrator was thereafter called “Seed of James”, a name that echoes an extremely important theme in the atatā: that of fertility, the human need to reproduce and raise children within a family. This theme is obviously linked to the condemnation of celibacy.

  • 23 See especially chapters 8 and 12 of the Ḥatatā Zar'a Yā'eqob.
  • 24Une servante, âgée environ de 30 ans, laide comme un démon mais bonne comme un ange, et sage trois (...)
  • 25 Letter of Easter 1854, ms NAF 23852, fol. 51-54.
  • 26 Dove aveva lasciata tutta la sua famigilia [“Where he had left his entire family”], G. Massaja, 198 (...)
  • 27 On the assumption that the Catholic monk Takla Hāymānot’s version of Giusto’s arrest can be trusted (...)

17In fact, once Zar’a Yā’eqob had settled in with his master Habtu, he married one of the latter’s servants, named Hirut. She was an ugly, good, and intelligent woman, whom he loved and to whom he gave a social status; she also bore him children.23 Now Giusto d’Urbino, who made so little mention of his Ethiopian environment in his letters, described at length the death by smallpox of the woman who ran his house: “A maid, about 30 years old, ugly like a demon but good like an angel, and three times as wise as an Abyssinian.”24 He mourned her, fell ill, and became delirious after her death; he confessed that he struggled to recover from the grief caused by her disappearance.25 Could this woman he mourned and who looked so much like the portrait of Zar’a Yā ’eqob ’s wife have been d’Urbino’s concubine? It might well be the case. Massaja’s writings suggest that, as early as 1852, Giusto d’Urbino had an Ethiopian family. Indeed, after their last meeting in Ifāg in June 1852, Giusto returned quickly to Bētaleēm before the rainy season, since, as Massaja wrote: he “had left his whole family there.”26 This information provided by Massaja, and which he committed to writing several decades after Giusto d’Urbino’s death and after the consecration of his own missionary enterprise, is quite surprising. It suggests the extent to which Giusto d’Urbino was now perceived as an outsider within the Catholic mission and within his order. Did Giusto d’Urbino have children? Could this be the reason why he tried not to be expelled from Ethiopia27 and why he chose to return to Ethiopia after his exile in Egypt? An investigation in Bētaleēm, more than one hundred and fifty years later, could perhaps put us on the path to a genealogy – might there be a document attesting to the presence of a European who knew Ge’ez and Amharic, and who lived for a few years in the parish and left behind children?

18Finally, the similarities in the geographical trajectories of Giusto and Zar’a Yā’eqob are striking, and reinforce the impression of a transposition from reality to literary fiction. Giusto d’Urbino arrived in the Tegrāy region, in Gwālā, in 1847. From there he moved to Tadbāba Māryām in Amhārā, where he lived during the year 1849. In 1850 he went to Goǧǧām and Gondar, and then settled in Bētaleēm, which he left only to go to Dabra Tābor, the nearest town. As for Zar’a Yā’eqob, he came from the town of Aksum, in Tegrāy. He left his hometown and stayed in a cave in Amhārā for two years. When he got out, he thought of moving to Goǧǧām but ultimately settled further in the north, in Enfrāz, located at an equal distance to Gondar and Dabra Tabor. These two itineraries thus follow the same directions, with very similar stages.

19Let us therefore continue to observe Giusto d’Urbino’s writings, putative or attested, to see whether the intellectual itineraries of the characters in this story also intersect.

Philosophical Convergences

  • 28 “Seeing in Ludolf that he had a book of Philosophy in Ethiopic, I looked for it everywhere. I was g (...)

20C. Conti Rossini’s third argument is based on a similarity between the atatā Zar’a Yā’eqob on the one hand, and Giusto D’Urbino’s expression of his faith and of his religious and philosophical feelings – which he lays out in his correspondence with his friend Nascimbeni, edited by F. Tarducci – on the other. C. Conti Rossini points out the importance of the figure of a providential God, but does not further pursue this promising lead. Thus, in Giusto’s correspondence with Antoine d’Abbadie, numerous passages draw on the philosophical notions dear to Giusto as well as his intense need to think for himself: what he calls his “hypotheses” and “examinations”. From the time that he first pursued research in the field of Ethiopian literature, in 1850, he said that he had looked for Ethiopian philosophical texts based on a lead from a sentence in Hiob Ludolf, but unfortunately he found nothing of the kind.28 From 1854 onwards, philosophy became an openly present theme in his correspondence, which coincided with an aggravation of his illnesses (ophthalmia, a skin disease) and of his depression, which he called taedium vitae, the disgust of life, and about which he spoke from March 1853. The civil war and the resulting decline in the economic and sanitary conditions in which Giusto lived strengthened his feelings of despair.

  • 29 “Since for now my mind does not have what it takes to fill this letter = I put my soul into babblin (...)

21An especially verbose letter of 5 May 1854 displays an intense intellectual effort to put man at the centre of the sensory and logical universe, and to apprehend the world and man’s place in it. The same philosophical concerns as those at issue in the atatā Zar’a Yā’eqob can be found here. But the atatā Zar’a Yā’eqob had been “discovered” by Giusto d’Urbino two years earlier, so here we are at another stage of his thinking, perhaps more confused, and expressed in the somewhat lax style that epistolary correspondence allowed him to use. I do not return here to the analysis of this excerpt,29 which I already discussed in the previous article. I will however take it up again in the following article, wherein the question whether the atatā Zar’a Yā’eqob can be a seventeenth-century text, or whether it is dependent upon the achievements of nineteenth-century scientific and theological thought, will be addressed in greater detail.

  • 30 “Si je sais quelque chose, je ne le dois qu’à Dieu et à moi. Personne ne m’a instruit ni fait instr (...)
  • 31 All translated passages are taken from Claude Sumner’s 1976 English translation, unless otherwise s (...)

22Then in July 1854, he boasted: “If I know anything, I owe it only to God and to myself. Nobody instructed me or had me instructed. All that has been done is to prevent or delay the development of my mind. I believe that my views about God and his providence are quite right, and I am proud that I received them from no one. I have been my own teacher”30. This affirmation of the power of his thinking concludes a passage in which he says he owes nothing to anyone, neither to his family of poor French expatriates nor to religious institutions. He possesses nothing, he is even disinterested in his body since he wishes to die; only God and his soul are topics that matter to him. The atatā Zar’a Yā’eqob is entirely based on this very same idea. Already in chapter 2, after fleeing the jealousy and slander of an enemy, the wickedness of the priests of the Orthodox Church and the persecutions of royal power, Zar’a Yā’eqob tells us: “Alone in my cave, I felt I was living in heaven. Knowing the boundless badness of men, I disliked contact with them.”31 Chapter 4 is entirely devoted to these critical observations concerning the relativity of beliefs and cultures that limits man’s access to the truth. This enables him to develop, in the following chapters, a critical analysis which is supposed to be free from contingency. In chapter 9, Zar’a Yā’eqob returns to the necessary need for solitude, which gives him a legitimate foundation on which to build his thought: “I have learnt more by living alone in a cave than when I was living with scholars. What I wrote in this book is very little; but in my cave I have meditated on many other such things.”. The end of the atatā Zar’a Yā’eqob is a plea for freedom of thought that summarizes this critical approach and passes it on to future generations:

People took me for a Christian when I was dealing with them; but in my heart I did not believe in anything except in God who created all and conserves all, as he has taught me. I thought and said: “Will it be a sin in the eyes of God if I pretend to be what I am not and deceive men?” But I said [to myself]: “Men want to be deceived; if I tell them the truth, instead of listening to me they will curse me and persecute me; it is useless to open my thoughts to them; it will harm me greatly. […] In order that those who will come after me will know me, I have written down those things I hide within me until my death. I entreat any wise and inquisitive man who may come after I am dead to add his thoughts to mine. Behold, I have begun an inquiry such as has not been attempted before. You can complete what I have begun so that the people of our country will become wise with the help of God and arrive at the science of truth […] If there is an intelligent [man] who understands these things and even higher ones, and who teaches and writes them, let God give him all he wishes in his heart and bring to completion all he longs and satisfy him with all the things of the world as he satisfied me; as he made me joyous and happy in this world, let him also make this man joyous and happy.”.

23Here we see that knowledge of the truth implies a rejection of Christianity, since it is but a dogma and not a guarantee of an authentic relationship with God. Zar’a Yā’eqob is therefore forced to lie to his close circle and to his contemporaries – at the very least to conceal his true identity, that of a “deist philosopher” – and to continue to pass himself off as a Christian. He then encourages people to take this path of introspection and critical analysis in order to find wisdom and truth for themselves. It is by following this path that the link between the thinking man and his creator will guarantee happiness.

24Finally, in this same letter of September 1854, a passage sounds like the semi-avowal he had wanted to make for a long time:

  • 32 “La solitude où je suis ici m’a contraint à l’examen ou plutôt à des hypothèses pour voir s’il y a (...)

The loneliness which I find myself in here has forced me to examine or rather to hypothesize whether there is a way to be happy with God and the Universe. […] I didn’t want to examine first whether or not there is a God. I have too much interest in believing that there is a God and a providence. […] With this foundation laid down as a proven principle, I have had to make many long examinations and strange hypotheses to attune this God and this Providence with the present order of the Universe, and in order to be satisfied with it. All the old stories, while seeking to attune this order with this providence, in fact only made my discord grow stronger. I rejected everything, not as false or dubious, but because it did not satisfy me. I thought I saw another agreement that satisfied me, and according to this agreement I will make my profession of faith, which will be too long to be added here, even in abridged form. You will have it sooner or later.32

  • 33 “In my despair yesterday I burnt six of my manuscripts’ notebooks, which were worthless. I will bur (...)

25What emerges again and again from this paragraph is the vital need to think in an autonomous way about man in his relationship with God and the universe, without having recourse to pre-established dogmas. Giusto d’Urbino here clearly tells us that his life’s work is of a philosophical nature. He has rejected the “old stories”; he has reconstructed with the strength of his mind an interpretation of the world that he is satisfied with, and he does not want to die without this being acknowledged of him. Antoine d’Abbadie would become the custodian of his work, and therefore the one in charge of making it known to the world. He ends the letter by confessing to having burnt his work, committing himself – together with his “productions” which are nothing but “nonsense33” – to oblivion. What might Giusto d’Urbino have written in these six notebooks which he said he burnt before sending his manuscripts to Antoine? Giusto’s intellectual legacy remains to be read in his atatā.

  • 34 “As for my grammar and any other work, good or bad, were it a masterpiece, I would never publish it (...)

26There is a contradiction in Giusto d’Urbino’s statements to Antoine d’Abbadie concerning the nature of the recognition he wished to receive for his work. On many occasions he demanded material recognition, i.e. compensation for acquiring the knowledge as well as the manuscript books which Antoine had asked of him. What is more ambiguous in this correspondence is Giusto d’Urbino’s relationship to his own intellectual production. He constantly refrained from signing his own works. He was conscious of their value and, in the same movement, vehemently denied wanting to draw any personal glory from them.34 His quest for social recognition was immense, yet he still felt a sense of shame that compelled him, as an individual, to hide himself behind his work. Such ambivalence, combined with the distance separating him from his interlocutor – to whom he dedicated and entrusted this work – did not help matters. It exacerbated his depressive state. Giusto d’Urbino often said of himself that he was a “madman”, “only good at giving birth to a novel”. He was proud of this madness, which distinguished him among humans even as he suffered from it; for it condemned him to isolation and to at times distressing intellectual turbulence.

27From this portrait of Giusto d’Urbino as an ambitious but isolated thinker, as an ardent but insecure writer, we get a glimpse of the drama that was his life and the role that writing the atatā must have played in it. Over the course of their composition (from 1852 to 1854), these texts were stylistic exercises in which Giusto d’Urbino gave free rein to his mastery of Ge’ez and to his delight in manipulating his own philosophical concepts – even if the influences of Voltaire and Leibniz are palpable – which were no longer dictated by the moral and religious dogmas of Western Catholic society. As he freed himself from hierarchical links with the Catholic mission, and as he grew increasingly bitter about his loneliness and alienation in the Ethiopian context, his need to think about man and God – to express his views on them and to make these known – seemed irrepressible.

28Nevertheless, there remains one flaw in this demonstration relying on the convergence between Giusto’s letters and the atatā... it is that the “discovery” of the atatā predates the letters of a philosophical bent – with the exception of a single missive of March 1852, as we have seen. It is therefore still possible to suppose that the Ge’ez texts of the atatā were at the root of Giusto d’Urbino’s deist thought, and not the other way around!

The Comparative Inquiry with the Soirées de Carthage: False Leads and Pitfalls

  • 35 J. Simon, 1937, p. 101.

29C. Conti Rossini’s fourth argument proved the most influential, both as evidence for the prosecution, for those who wanted to establish that Giusto d’Urbino was indeed the author of atatā, and as a foil for those who wanted to prove the opposite. It relates to possible comparisons between the atatā and a work that Giusto d’Urbino translated into Ge’ez, the Soirées de Carthage (Evenings of Carthage). This “philological demonstration35” was promising since it was based on the methods of textual criticism, a tried and tested method for detecting the relationships of filiation between texts, for tracing interpolations and retrieving the “original” text, for defining authors or authorities, and for anchoring words in time periods. Alas, this demonstration also contained a formal flaw that invalidated the legitimacy of its results, for it proposed to compare a text of which Giusto d’Urbino was the mere translator with two texts of which he was the purported author. The point of commonality, of course, is the language in which the texts were written, Ge’ez, the Ethiopian scholarly language that Giusto d’Urbino was studying.

The Translation into Ge’ez of the Soirées de Carthage: Giusto d’Urbino’s Farewell to Missionary Work

  • 36 F. Bourgade, 1847.
  • 37 It was about nothing less than “forming a religious and civilizing association for Africa” (“former (...)
  • 38 G. Massaja, 1984, vol. 1, p. 278.
  • 39 G. Massaja, vol. 2, 18861, p. 128; 19842, p. 278.
  • 40 In October 1851, he wrote to Antoine: “They sent me the Soirées de Carthage by Mr Abbot Bourgade. B (...)
  • 41 “I translated into ግዕዝ፡ [Ge'ez] the Soirées de Carthage by Bourgade, which መምህራን [scholars] from Ab (...)
  • 42 G. Massaja, 1984, vol. 1, p. 278.
  • 43 S. Grébaut, 1926.
  • 44 S. Grébaut, E. Tisserand, 1935, p. 613-614.

30Let us resume this laborious debate. To strike the blow that could have been fatal to the destiny of the atatā, C. Conti Rossini relied on the text that Giusto d’Urbino translated from French to Ge’ez: the Soirées de Carthage, a work of Catholic propaganda staging dialogues between a nun working as a nurse, a Catholic priest, a mufti, and a cadi. It takes place in Carthage, that is to say in Tunis, where its author, Abbot Bourgade, “chaplain of the royal chapel of Saint-Louis, in Carthage, apostolic missionary, honorary canon of Algiers, knight of the Legion of Honour”, was based. It was published in 1847 in Paris.36 The work was supposed to demonstrate the superiority of the Christian faith over Islam. It is structured in simple dialogues between representatives of the Christian Catholic religion and Muslims. Its maieutic thrust is aimed at showing, with the help of quotations from the Koran, that Islam is a corruption of the divine message, which only Christians have been able to transmit and preserve in its integrity. This work of propaganda, which had ecumenical pretensions but with a vocation of Catholic evangelization in Eastern and African lands37, had just been published when the mission led by Massaja started. As the latter says in his Memoirs, he found it in the library of the Congregation and believed that “it would do the greatest good in Abyssinia, where Islam does a lot of harm”.38 He then entrusted it to Father Giusto for him to translate it, thereby exploiting the only talent that Giusto deigned to put at the service of the mission, that is, his knowledge of Ge’ez.39 Giusto d’Urbino therefore set to work and produced a Ge’ez translation of the Soirées.40 As early as March 1852, he had several copies made because the text seemed to please Ethiopian scholars, who found it very useful for discussions with Muslims41. He gave a copy to Massaja during their last interview in June 1852, in Ifāg. This manuscript thus became a part of Massaja’s collection – a collection that he lost in the Oromo country in 1861.42 But it found its way back to Western collections, as S. Grébaut acquired a copy near Addis Ababa in 1926 and then gave it to the Vatican library, where it entered the Ethiopian collection under the number 165.43 It was catalogued by S. Grébaut and E. Tisserand in 1935.44 The colophon (fol. 106) is explicit about the attribution of the translation to Giusto d’Urbino:

  • 45 The original work was written in French and nothing in it suggests an Arabic origin. Giusto d'Urbin (...)
  • 46 According to the catalogue’s notice: ዝንቱ፡ ቀሲስ፡ ተዋቅሠ፡ [sic] ምስለ፡ እስላም፡ በልሳነ፡ ዓረቢ፡ ወድኅረ፡ ጻሐፈ፡ ዘንተ፡መጽሐ (...)

This controversy of a priest with Islam [was] in Arabic;45 it was then written in French, and abbā Yosṭos translated it into Ge’ez in 1844 of the year of Christ’s birth [1851-1852 G.C.], the year of John. O my brothers who will read this book, do not blame me for my errors but correct them according to your knowledge. And pray for me to the Lord that he may grant me salvation for ever and ever, amen46 .

  • 47 The identification of the hand as well as all the information relating to this manuscript (to which (...)

31The manuscript opens with a note in folio 2v in the hand of Father Giusto47, most probably written for the attention of Massaja. It is an address placed in Father Giusto’s own mouth – direct speech in the form of a long rhyming poem – which is rather difficult to translate and interpret. The Ge’ez text is as follows:

  • 48 In upper line spacing.
  • 49 Difficult to read in the catalogue.

ይቤ፡ አባ፡ ዮስጦስ፡
እምአርክ፡ ዘታፈቅሮ፡ ኢትፍ(ል) 48ጠ[ኒ]፡
ያዕቆብ፡ በእንተ፡ አሐዱ፡ ተብህለ፡
እስመ፡ የአክል፡ ለክልኤ።
ኀበ፡ ኮነ፡ ስእለተ፡ ፍቁር፡ እዝንከ፡ሰማኤ።
ወአ49 መ፡ ጸልዑከ፡ ሕዝብ፡ ዘአልቦ፡
ተስፋ፡ ደኃራዊ፡ ትንሣኤ።
ኢይርአይከ፡ ሞት፡ አይነ፡ ጉባኤ።
አምጣነ፡ ረሰይኩ፡ አነ፡ ጊዜ፡ጽዋዔ።
ኪያከ፡ መጋቤ፡ ወኪያከ፡ ረዳኤ።

  • 50 “Dicit Abba Yostos : Ab amico, quem amo, non me separet, Iacobe, illa cui dictum est “unus”, suffic (...)
  • 51 I would like to thank Daniel Assefa and Emmanuel Fritsch, with whom I conducted a first reading of (...)

32The cataloguer translated it into Latin;50 I propose an English translation which runs as follows:51

  • 52 My original French translation, on which the above English translation is based, ran as follows: “A (...)

Abbā Yosṭos says:
From the friend you love don’t separate me,
Yā ’eqob what is said for one
Is said for two.
Where the prayer of the beloved is, your ear [is] attentive.
And if you are hated by people who do not have
Any hope in the final resurrection
May death, the eye of the Congregation, not see you
Since I established at the time of the call (awā’ē)
That you are the leader (magābi) and you are the helper (radā’ē).52

33This exergue by Giusto d’Urbino was most probably addressed to Massaja, since the translation of the Soirées de Carthage was intended for him. If this hypothesis is correct, then the second person used throughout the poem would designate Massaja. Let us see whether this makes sense by starting with the easiest verses to interpret: “And if you are hated by people who do not have / Any hope in the final resurrection”. This clearly indicates a country whose inhabitants are not Christians and therefore do not believe in Christian eschatological principles. The aim of the Massaja mission was not to evangelize Orthodox Christians, as the Lazarists were doing in the north of the country, but to establish the “Catholic Vicariate of the Galla”. Massaja wanted to convert pagans, i.e. the Oromo peoples to the south of Abbāy, to Christianity. When Giusto handed the manuscript over to Massaja, he was returning from his first exile outside of Ethiopia and had not yet been able to return to his land of evangelization. Thus, the cryptic phrase “May death, the eye of the Congregation, not see you” plausibly conveys the harrowing possibility that Massaja’s departure for the Oromo country might eventually lead to his death in pagan lands. The “congregation” (gubā’ē) would then refer to the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, on which Massaja and Giusto d’Urbino depended. In his Memoirs, Massaja repeatedly insists on the frantic fear that Giusto said he felt at the idea of being sent to the “Galla”. It matters little whether this fear was real or affected, and whether Giusto used it as a pretext to stay in Orthodox countries to concentrate on his studies. In the poem, his sense of anguish at the idea of death in a “pagan” land clearly comes through.

34Then come the last two verses: “Since I established at the time of the call (ṣawā’ē) / That you are the leader (magābi) and you are the helper (radā’ē).” Here, Giusto d’Urbino clearly expresses his refusal to be “called” to the land of the Oromo mission as Massaja’s coadjutor. Massaja would find himself alone there, both as the mission’s leader and as a missionary; thus, if he died, the matter would be all the more serious. The end of the poem is therefore fairly easy to interpret on the assumption that Giusto was addressing Massaja.

35The first lines, on the other hand, are more obscure: “From the friend you love don’t separate me, / Yā ’eqob, what is said for one / Is said for two.” We have already seen that Yā’eqob (Jacopo/Giacomo) could be the double of Yosos (Giusto), or rather his lay, primitive self that pre-exists his social and clerical self. Yosos might thus be asking Massaja – his hierarchical superior, whom he refuses to obey and whom he sends on his way to the land of the mission alone – not to tear him away from the “intimate” part of himself, that is, from Yā’eqob, his true self. This interpretation is of course plausible, not least because it is perfectly consistent with the facts. It would nevertheless attest to a characteristic insolence on Giusto d’Urbino’s part towards his hierarchival superiors. Such insolence would not have been particularly dangerous in the short term, however, insofar as Massaja did not understand Ge’ez.

36This interpretation can be tempered by the fact that this qenē was copied in another one of Father Giusto’s manuscripts, with a small modification: Anons (Antoine) replaces Yā ’eqob! This other version of the qenē was copied in Giusto d’ Urbino’s Ge’ez grammar, which he kept with him and refrained from sending to Antoine d’Abbadie. This work is now kept in Rome. J. Simon has studied this manuscript and noted its resemblance to the qenē of the Soirées de Carthage. He has published a French translation of the text, proposed by Giusto d’Urbino himself:

  • 53 “De l’ami que tu aimes, ne me divise point, Antoine, / car ce qui est dit (destiné) pour un suffit (...)

From the friend you love, do not divide me, Antoine,
for what is said (intended) for one is enough for two
Where your ear listens to your friend’s prayer.
And when a people which has no hope of the last resurrection hates you,
Death does not look at you, the eye of the congregation:
Since in prayer [crossed out words: I have done so] I have constituted
You (my) governor, you (my) helper.53

37Alas, this translation is no clearer than the one I suggested above! In any case, it seems that this copy of the Ge’ez translation of the Soirées de Carthage carries within its opening pages Giusto d’Urbino’s farewell to Massaja’s mission. Perhaps more profoundly, assuming my interpretation of the identity of Yā’eqob vs Yosṭos is correct, it is also a farewell to his Catholic monastic identity. Can we then read in this poem an initial awareness of the need to bring together the two aspects of his identity: his social identity, which is that of the monk Giusto/Yosṭos, and his genuine identity, which is that of the thinker and man Jacopo/Giacomo/Yā’eqob? The poem’s composition apparently precedes – but only just – the beginning of the composition of the Ḥatatā Zar’a Yā’eqob. The manuscript of the Ge’ez translation of the Soirées was delivered to Massaja in June 1852. The “discovery” of the Book of Yā’eqob, which was the first title of what was to become the Ḥatatā Zar’a Yā’eqob, dates to September 1852.

The Soirées de Carthage as Documentation on Islam

  • 54 F. Bourgade, 1847, p. 39-41 (and not Chapter 1, paragraph 1, as mentioned by C. Conti Rossini).
  • 55 F. Bourgade, 1847, p. 101-103, is the only reference given by C. Conti Rossini, 1920, p. 8; but thi (...)

38But let us return to C. Conti Rossini’s demonstration. He knew, from reading Massaja, that Giusto d’Urbino had translated the Soirées, but he had no knowledge of the Ge’ez text, nor of the Amharic versions that derive from it (I will come back to this). He therefore set out to provide a comparative analysis of the atatā and the Soirées based on his reading of the original French work by Abbot Bourgade, which Giusto d’Urbino was of course thoroughly familiar with given that he translated it. Hence C. Conti Rossini’s arguments are solely based on similarities in content; and he mentions at the outset that the two texts are very different in terms of the opinions they express. What interested him was his suspicion that the Soirées had provided the material from which Giusto d’Urbino derived his information concerning Islam. He analyzed chapter 5 of the atatā Zar’a Yā’eqob, which partly deals with Islam, and saw in each of the mentions of the atatā Zar’a Yā’eqob a ’Bourgadian’ origin. Thus the long explanation of the harmful effects of polygamy on fertility, as expressed in Dialogue 3, Part III54 of the Soirées, is allegedly reprised at the beginning of Chapter 5 of the atatā Zar’a Yā’eqob, in which it is said that if there are as many men as women on earth, then necessarily the natural law must be that of the couple. The atatā Zar’a Yā’eqob nevertheless goes much further. It links this argument to the fact that, since Muhammad preached polygamy, which is necessarily harmful, he could not have been sent by God. It further argues that these unnatural laws contained in the Koran, but also in the Old and New Testaments, prove that all “prophets” are human inventions, and that the only relationship man should have with God is that which he himself establishes. The passage about Muhammad being a false prophet can also be found in the Soirées de Carthage, as C. Conti Rossini points out.55 Quite so. However, it must be recognized that the theme of the authenticity of prophetic missions runs through the whole range of theological controversies between Christians and Muslims. The fact that it is present in the Soirées and in the atatā is interesting, but it is not sufficient to prove a genetic link between the two, or even a direct or unique influence.

  • 56 C. Sumner, 1976, p. 238.
  • 57 “Son of man, discern what is before you; the camel, the ox, and the donkey are created for your ser (...)

39Two further arguments are developed in Chapter 5 of the atatā Zar’a Yā’eqob. The first is that of the rejection of slavery, because “the creator […] made us equal, like brothers”,56 which is allegedly derived from dialogue 11, paragraph 2 of the Soirées. Of course, the Soirées also uses the term “brothers”57 as part of a broader rhetoric intended to condemn slavery, but this again seems to me to be a relatively common argument expressed in very banal biblical terminology. Furthermore, a few lines later in chapter 5 of the atatā Zar’a Yā’eqob, the author ridicules different fasting practices, whether Jewish, Christian or Muslim, and defends the claim that a temperate diet is the only beneficial one for mankind. Here again, C. Conti Rossini mentions that the Soirées condemns the practice of Ramadan and derides Muslims’ fasting practises. Without wishing to take away from the effectiveness of C. Conti Rossini’s arguments, it must be stressed that these are banalities of the discourse against Muslim practices, which are indeed found in both the Soirées and chapter 5 of the atatā Zar’a Yā’eqob. But this is not a decisive demonstration of a link between the two texts.

The “Justinian” Oeuvre Put to the Test of Textual Criticism

  • 58 It would be useful to compare them to one another to ascertain whether they come from the same tran (...)
  • 59 See Alemé Esheté, 1974; G. Hudson, Tekeste Negash, 1987.
  • 60 E. Mittwoch published it as early as 1929 in Mitteilungen des Seminars für Orientalische Sprache, 3 (...)
  • 61 ወአባ፡ ዮስጦስ፡ ተርጐሞ፡ በልሳነ፡ ግዕዝ፡ በ፲ወ፰፻፵ወ፬ዓመት፡ እምልደተ፡ እግዚእነ፡ ወመድኃኒነ፡ ኢየሱስ፡ ክርስቶስ፡ ሎቱ፡ ስብሐት፡ በዘመነ፡ ዮሐንስ፡ (...)

40In his Memoirs, Massaja states that Giusto d’Urbino’s translation of the Soirées was a great success in Ethiopia, that it was copied many times, and that the Ethiopians referred to it as The Mufti. But he does not specify the language in which the copies were made. It is not only in Ge’ez that this text seems to have been know to posterity. The manuscript Vatican Et. 165 is the only known copy of the Ge’ez version of the Soirées, although Giusto d’Urbino says in his correspondence that he produced several copies. In addition, two manuscripts of the text of the Soirées in Amharic are attested,58 one of which reached Europe before the Ge’ez version. This manuscript was brought by the alaqā Tāya Gabra Māryām59, an Ethiopian intellectual who had been educated by a Protestant mission. He arrived in Berlin in 1905 and worked with the Orientalist Eugen Mittwoch for three years. E. Mittwoch based his edition and translation into German in 1934 on this copy.60 Another copy in Amharic is known as manuscript EMML 1470, a historiographical compilation made by the daǧǧāzmāč Mikā’ēl Germu. The latter was an early-twentieth-century historian and scholar, whose library and academic archives are today kept at the Institute of Ethiopian Studies in Addis Ababa. The manuscript was copied in the years 1911-1913. The Amharic version of the Soirées thus circulated among Ethiopian intellectuals in the early twentieth century. Given the information currently available to us, it is difficult to uncover the conditions under which the transition from the Ge’ez text to the Amharic text took place, as the colophon of the Amharic version61 seems to be a mere translation of the colophon of the Ge’ez version, and abbā Yosos, i.e. Father Giusto, is described as the author of the Ge’ez translation and not of the Amharic translation. The latter was probably made independently, with a view to making the text more accessible.

41However, whereas the Ge’ez version remains unpublished and has never been studied, the Amharic version was edited, translated, and analyzed through the prism of the accusation of forgery imputed to Giusto d’Urbino. Eugen Mittwoch carried out this work in 1934 on the basis of the text that had been entrusted to him almost twenty years earlier by the alaqā Tāya Gabra Māryām. Although the Ge’ez version was acquired by S. Grébaut in 1926, before being deposited in the Vatican library and catalogued, E. Mittwoch was not aware of it. His edition of the Amharic text is introduced by a long preface entitled “The so-called (angeblichen) Ethiopian philosophers of the seventeenth century”. In this introduction, E. Mittwoch takes up the framework of C. Conti Rossini’s article, starting from Takla Hāymānot’s “denunciations”, and re-deploys C. Conti Rossini’s demonstration starting from the parallels between Giusto d’Urbino and Zar’a Yā‘eqob, down to the motivations which Giusto might have had for writing the atatā.

  • 62 ሮማዊ፡ ነው፡ የሚሉትም፡ መርማሪዎች፡ እንዲህ፡ ያለ፡ ሊቅ፡ በኢትዮጵያ፡ አይገኝም፡ በማለት፡ ነው፡እንጂ፡ እርሱ፡ ግን፡ ፍጹም፡ ኢትዮጵያዊ፡ እንደሆነ፡ ካጻጽ (...)

42E. Mittwoch then presents the arguments of two authors who, since C. Conti Rossini’s article, had tried to defend the opposite hypothesis, namely the Ethiopian authenticity of the atatā. Indeed, as early as 1924, I. Kračkovskij, a pupil of B. Turaev – the Russian editor of the atatā Zar’a Yā’eqob – tried to demonstrate that the two atatā could not have had the same author, given their profound differences, and that thus Giusto d’Urbino could not have been the author of either text. E. Mittwoch then extensively quotes an Ethiopian intellectual, “alaqā Destā of Harrar”, whose arguments as reproduced by E. Mittwoch were very weak since they were limited to accusing Westerners who denied any authenticity to the atatā of not wanting to admit that such a philosophy was possible in Ethiopia.62 Such accusations of racism would be used extensively a few decades later when these texts again found themselves at the heart of intellectual, ideological, and political stakes.

  • 63 E. Mittwoch, 1934, p. 7. This is indeed what J. Simon would reproach him shortly afterwards in a lo (...)

43E. Mittwoch’s article becomes more original at the point where he compares the linguistic peculiarities of the corpus of texts produced by Giusto d’Urbino, at the same time that he acknowledges that this analysis would be more relevant if he had access to the Ge’ez text of the Soirées rather than its translation into Amharic.63 He carries out a linguistic study of the Ge’ez of the two atatā, which allows him to show that they have common grammatical and syntactical characteristics. He thus notes the frequent and unorthodox use of the subject placed before the verb, especially in adverbial sentences, as well as the excessive use of the adverb ‘why’, bayna mentu, and the word bāhtu, ‘alone’. He lists terms used extensively in both atatā and notes a similarity in these recurring lexicons. Thus the terms tasana’āwa, ’to be in agreement, in harmony’, ’light’ in ’light of reason’, or nebrat, ’state, situation’, as well as the causative aayaqa, ’to make known, to demonstrate’, to name but a few examples, are used with very high frequency in both texts. The two atatā could therefore have had the same author. This would then undermine the internal discourse of the texts, which present themselves as being written by two different authors. Finally, E. Mittwoch compares these peculiarities of the atatā with the Amharic version of the Soirées, and he notes striking similarities, particularly in the use of similar nominal groups. While these demonstrations are precise, erudite, and rigorously conducted, it is nevertheless striking how much the author seeks to demonstrate a Giusto d’Urbino authorship.

  • 64 F. Bourgade, 1847, p. 86, quotation from the Koran: “Those who believe, and the Jews, and the Sabia (...)
  • 65 atatā Gabra Heywat, chap. 5, in E. Littmann, 1904, p. 34: ወለሰብአ፡ ህንድ፡ ቦሙ፡ ሊሉይ፡ ሃይማኖት።ወለሰብአ፡ ሖማር፡ (...)

44One example in particular epitomizes E. Mittwoch’s relentless use of textual criticism to try and unmask the forger. He believes that the Amharic translation of the Soirées is faulty with respect to the French original, and that this mistake has crept into the atatā Walda eywat. Within philology, contamination from one manuscript to another is always a good indication of a filiation of copies. This is a kind of methodological demonstration, albeit based on arguments which, once again, are not decisive. Let me therefore resume and develop his demonstration. E. Mittwoch notes that the translation of the term ‘Sabians’ [‘sabéens’] – which should be understood as “practitioners of the religion of Sabianism” in the Soirées,64 is similar to the term that the author of the atatā Walda eywat uses to refer to the “People of Saba”,65 which represents the Sabaeans of Antiquity. In the first case we have, in Amharic, ya-Sābā sawoč, and in the second, in Ge’ez, la-sab’a Sābā. However, for E. Mittwoch, these should have been two very different terms, especially since in German one is rendered as die Sabier while the other is die Sabäer. Thus this common “error” in the two Ethiopian texts supposedly proves their common origin. But can there be two different terms in Ge’ez and consequently in Amharic? Or rather, were the Ethiopians aware of the modern Sabians’ religion at the time of the translation of the Soirées? Could Giusto d’Urbino therefore have translated the term differently? And could the author of the atatā Walda eywat have used another term? This does not seem to be possible, in both cases. Thus this demonstration is by no means conclusive. What it does show is the obsession to prove, by appeal to textual genetics, a filiation between the two texts.

45It was E. Mittwoch who, following the lead of C. Conti Rossini, turned the text of the Soirées into a weapon, a piece of evidence in the case against Giusto d’Urbino. And it is easy to understand how this translation, which was Giusto d’Urbino’s first direct confrontation with the Ge’ez language, could be used to show that he was also the author of the two Ge’ez texts of the atatā. Two types of demonstrations have been used to establish Giusto d’Urbino as the author of the atatā by the simple fact that he is, without any doubt, the translator of the Soirées. On the one hand, we find arguments that appeal to the works’ contents. This approach is especially conspicuous in C. Conti Rossini’s foundational article of 1920, which notes that the very meagre notions that Zar’a Yā’eqob has of Islam seem to come from what is said about it in the Soirées, particularly with regard to polygamy, the slave trade, and fasting. On the other hand, arguments based on linguistic similarities have been put forward by E. Mittwoch, who established syntactical and lexical correlations between the two atatā and then between the latter and the Amharic version of the Soirées.

46However, in the absence of a real confrontation between the Ge’ez found in the Soirées and that of the atatā, it is clear that the demonstration has remained unfinished.

Auctoritas Among European Ethiopianists

47Despite the weakness of his last argument, C. Conti Rossini’s article had a significant impact. The foregoing considerations, which contributed to reversing the status of the texts of the atatā, were enough to convince several generations of scholars.

  • 66 It would also be worth identifying those authors who did not take C. Conti Rossini’s article into a (...)
  • 67 B. Turaev, 1920, p. 159, following E. Mittwoch, 1934.
  • 68 E. Littmann, 1930, in the context of a review of a work which makes reference to the “philosophical (...)
  • 69 E. Cerulli, 1926, p. 173, n. 2.
  • 70 I. Guidi, 1932, p. 77.

48Let us briefly consider a (non-exhaustive) overview of the numerous historians and philologists who have come down on the side of a Giusto d’Urbino authorship.66 The first scholars to reckon with C. Conti Rossini’s refutation were the editors of the atatā; they were both quick to agree with C. Conti Rossini – B. Turaev as early as 192067 and E. Littmann in 1930.68 In the same period, in a 1926 article on Amharic literature, E. Cerulli – another great figure of Italian scholarly authority in the field of Ethiopian studies – also agreed with C. Conti Rossini.69 In a concluding note, he suggested comparing the work of Heruy Walda Sellāsē, a “Europeanized Ethiopian”, with that of Giusto d’Urbino, an “Abyssinized European”, in order to better understand how the two cultures – Western and Abyssinian – had profoundly influenced one another. He did not deem a demonstration useful, judging C. Conti Rossini’s authority and his 1920 article to be conclusive. In 1932, in his work La letteratura etiopica, Ignazio Guidi placed the atatā Zar’a Yā’eqob in the literature of the seventeenth century, while at the same time mentioning it as a forgery and acknowledging the “sagacity” of C. Conti Rossini’s conclusions as to the attribution of the work to Giusto d’Urbino.70

  • 71 J. Simon, 1936, p. 101.
  • 72 J. Simon, 1937, p. 214, n. 2.
  • 73 L. Ricci, 1969, p. 849.

49In 1934, E. Mittwoch’s philological demonstration brought grist to this mill. In 1936 and 1937, J. Simon studied other aspects of Giusto d’Urbino’s work, but without questioning the presupposition that it was a forgery. He concludes his 1936 article as follows: “As for the unusual psychological and moral problem posed by the composition of these treatises, it has been resolved by C. Conti Rossini, with supporting documentation. In the present essay, therefore, Mr. Mittwoch has been able to dispens with returning to this troublesome subject. His philological demonstration is sufficiently convincing”.71 He notes, moreover, that the sole proponent of the thesis of Ethiopian authenticity of the atatā, I. Kračkovskij, had eventually changed his opinion following E. Mittwoch’s article.72 Much later, L. Ricci in turn published a history of Ethiopian literature in 1969, in which he endorsed the same conclusions, placing the atatā directly in the section on missionary literature of the nineteenth century and this time presenting Takla Hāymānot as the first person to have unveiled the forgery.73

50C. Conti Rossini’s article thus marked a turning point, and the influential school of Italian Orientalist philologists did not see fit to revisit this demonstration in order to delve deeper into either the hypothesis of a forgery or its content. The text of the atatā was simply rejected as a “fake” and thus lost any scholarly interest.

Outcome: Proof Through Textual Genetics

51C. Conti Rossini’s probatio probatissima lies in the exceptional mastery of the Ge’ez language that Giusto d’Urbino had quickly acquired. But in his laconic article of 1920, the eminent philologist did not have all the facts at his disposal, since he did not have access to the Ge’ez text of the Soirées; he also did not take the time to go back to the very source of the problem. Yet, in a criminal investigation, it is the murder weapon rather than the motive that allows the perpetrator to be confused. If we here conceive of the murder weapon as the two handwritten copies of the atatā, then they must be critically examined. In my first article, I carried out a paleographic and codicological examination of these texts and presented the real and supposed contexts of their production. I thus concluded that the manuscript BnF Éth. Abb. 234 was the first copy, made as early as February 1853 and containing only the atatā Zar’a Yā’eqob, and sent as a letter to Antoine d’Abbadie. By contrast, the manuscript BnF Éth. Abb. 215, which contains both atatā, was presented to Antoine a year later. According to Giusto d’Urbino, it was acquired as is, which, as we have seen, is an untruth, since codicological examination proves that it was made in the workshop of Bētaleēm. The atatā Walda eywat is much longer than the atatā Zar’a Yā’eqob, and its composition and the subsequent conjoining of the two texts into a new copy might indeed have required a year’s maturation.

  • 74 I would like to thank Gérard Colin for proofreading this translation with me.

52Let us therefore return to the two versions of the texts to see how the atatā Zar’a Yā’eqob evolved during this year of work. In order to do this, I have translated a chapter of the atatā Zar’a Yā’eqob74, namely, chapter 7, which seemed to me to be the densest in philosophical concepts.

53Here I offer a critical edition in a specific form, with the text and translation formatted in such a way as to make the variants in the text intuitively visible. In a traditional critical edition, it would be customary to present these variants in footnotes. I have chosen to incorporate them in the body of the text, to show the author at work. Editions of writers’ drafts and textual genetics have popularized this way of presenting texts. Manuscript 234 is here considered as the first manuscript, for the reasons developed in the previous article, and 215 as the corrected manuscript. Passages from 234 which no longer appear in 215 are crossed out, and passages from 215 which have replaced passages from the original text, or which have been added to it, are underlined. Only minor spelling changes made in manuscript 215 are flagged in footnotes.

ክፍል፡ ፯፡ ወሐለይኩ፡ ወእቤ፡ በይነ፡ ምንት፡ እግዚአብሔር፡ የኃድግ፡ ሰብአ፡ ሐሳውያነ፡ ያስሕትዎሙ፡ ለሕዝበስመ፡ ዚአሁ።.
Chapter 7: “And I thought (alayku) and said: ’Why (bayna ment) does God let deceivers lead his the people (ezb) astray in his name’?”

  • 75.

እግዚአብሔርሰ፡ ወሀቦሙ፡ ለኵሉ፡ ለለ፩፩ልቡና፡ ከመ። ያእምሩ፡ ጽድቀ፡ ወሐሰተ፡ ወጸገዎሙ፡ ኅርየተ፡ በዘየኃ75ርዩ፡ ጽድቀ፡ አው፡ ሐሰተ፡ በከመ፡ ፈቀዱ.
“God has given them all reason (lebbunā) so that they might recognize the truth (edeq) from falsehood (hasata). And he gave them the ability to choose (eryat ba-za-aryu) between truth and falsehood according to their will.”

  • 76.
  • 77 ንርአይ፡ ቦቱ፡.
  • 78 E. Mittwoch notes the great iteration of this noun in the Ḥatatā, E. Mittwoch, 1934, p. 9.

ወለእመ፡ ንፈቅድ፡ ጽድቀ፡ ንሕ76ሥሣ፡ በልቡናነ፡ ዘወሀበነ፡ ፈጣሪ፡ እግዚአብሔር፡ ከመ፡ ቦቱ፡ ንርአይ፡77 ጥበበዘኮነ፡ ለነ፡ መፍትወ፡ ውስተ፡ ኵሉ፡ መፍቅዳተ፡ ፍጥረት።.
“And so if we want the truth, let us seek it (neśeśā) with our reason (lebunā-na) given to us by the Creator God so that we might see through it the wisdom what exists for us that is necessary (maftwa) among all the possibilities (mafqdāta78) of creation.”

  • 79 The syntax of the A215 and A234 manuscripts is different in this negation but the meaning remains t (...)

ወአኮ፡ ዘንረክባ፡ ለጽድቅወለጽድቅሰ፡ ኢንረክባ፡ በትምህርተ፡ ሰብእ፡ እስመ፡ ኵሉ፡ ሰብእ፡ ሐሳዊ፡ ውእቱ።.
“And as for the truth, we cannot attain it79 through the teaching teachings of men, for every man is a liar.”

ወለእመሰ፡ ኢንፈቅደ፡ ለጽድቅ፡ ናበድራ፡ ለሐሰት፡ እምጽድቅ፡ ኢይትኃጐል፡ በእንተ፡ ዝንቱ፡ ሥርዓተ፡ ፈጣሪ፡ ወኢሕግ፡ ጠባይዓዊ፡ ዘፍጥረት፡ ዘተሠርዓ፡ ለኵሉ፡ ፍጥረት፡ እንበለ፡ ንሕነ፡ ዘንትኃጐል፡ በስሕተትነ።.
“And if it is really the case that we don’t want the truth we prefer falsehood to truth, the order of the creator (śer’āta faāri) is not defeated by it and neither is the natural law that was created (za-ferat) that was instituted for every creature (za-teśar’a la-kwulu ferat); on the contrary, we are the ones who are defeated by our own mistake.”

  • 80.

እግዚአብሔርሰ፡ የዓቅብ፡ ዓለመ፡ በሥርዓቱ፡ ዘሠርዓ፡ ወዘሰብእ፡ ኢይክሉ፡ አማስኖቶ እስመ፡ ሥርዓተ፡ እግዚአብሔር፡ ይጸንዕ፡ እምሥርዓተ፡ ሰብእ። ወበእንተዝ፡ እለ፡ የአምኑ፡ ከመ፡ ምንኮ80ስና፡ ይኄይስ፡ እምአውስቦ፡ እሙንቱኒ፡ ይሰሐቡ፡ እምኃይለ፡ ፍጥረት፡ ጽንዑ፡ ለሥርዓተ፡ ፍጣሪ፡ ኀበ፡ አውስቦ።.
And as for God, he protects the world by the order that he has instituted (śer’ātu za- śer’ā) and that men cannot corrupt (amāsnoto) because the order of God is more powerful than the order of men. Therefore, those who believe that the monastic state is superior to marriage are also attracted by the power of creation by the strength of the order of the Creator towards marriage.”

  • 81.

ወእለ፡ የአምኑ፡ ከመ፡ ጾም፡ ያጸድቅ፡ ነፍሰ፡ እሙንቱኒ፡ ይበልዑ፡ አመ፡ ይእኅዞሙ፡ ረሐ81.
“And those who believe that fasting makes their soul (nafs) righteous, they too eat when hunger sets in.”

  • 82.
  • 83.
  • 84.

ወእለ፡ የአምኑ፡ ከመ፡ ዘየኀ82ድግ፡ ንዋዮ፡ ይከውን፡ ፍጹመ፡ እሙንቱሂ፡ እምበቍዔት፡ ዘይትረካብ፡ በንዋይ፡ ይሰሐቡ፡ ኀበ፡ ኃ83ሢሠ ንዋይ ወእምድኅረ፡ ኀደግዎ፡ የሐ84ሥሥዎ፡ ካዕበ፡ በከመ፡ ይገብሩ፡ ብዙኃን፡ እመነኮሳተ፡ ብሔርነ።.
“And as for those who believe that he who forsakes his goods also reaches perfection, they too seek to acquire them, because objects are useful. And after they have given them up, they seek them again, as many monks do in our country (beēr-na).”

ወከመዝ፡ ኵሎሙ፡ ሐሳውያን፡ ይፈቅዱ፡ ይንስትዎ፡ ለሥርዓተ፡ ፍጥረት ወባሕቱ፡ ኢይክሉ፡ እንበለ፡ ያርእዩ፡ ሐሰቶሙ፡ ድኩመ.
“And so all liars want to destroy the order of creation, and yet they can only show their petty lies.”

  • 85 The four references to biblical readings are indicated in the margins in Manuscript 234, in the han (...)

ፈጣሪሰ፡ ይስሕቆሙ፡ ወእግዚአብሔርፍጥረት፡ ይሣለቅ፡ [Ps. 2] ላዕሉሆሙ እስመ፡ የአምር፡ እግዚአብሔር፡ ገቢረ፡ ፍትሕ፡ ወበግብረ፡ እደዊሁ፡ ተሠግረ፡ ኃጥእ [Ps. 9]
“The Creator mocks them and the Lord of Creation laughs at them [Ps. 2],85 for God knows the practice of justice and the sinner is caught in the net of the deeds of his hands [Ps. 9].”

ወበእንተዝ፡ መነኮስ፡ ዘያነውር፡ ሥርዓተ፡ አውስቦ፡ ይሠገር፡ በዝሙት ወበካልእ፡ አበሳ፡ ሥጋሁ፡ በዘኢኮነ፡ ፍጥረቱ፡ ወበእኩይ፡ ሕማም።.
“Thus the monk who defiles the order of marriage is caught in the net by fornication and by the other sins of his flesh and by what is not of his nature and by serious illness.”

ወእለ፡ ይሜንኑ፡ ንዋዮሙ፡ ይከውኑ፡ መድልዋነ፡ በኀበ፡ ነገሥት፡ ወአብዕልት፡ ከመ፡ ይርከቡ፡ ንዋየ።.
“And those who despise their material possessions become hypocrites in the presence of kings and possessors in order to obtain material goods.”

  • 86.
  • 87.
  • 88.
  • 89.

ወእለ፡ የኃ86ድጉ፡ አዝማዲሆሙ፡ በእንተ፡ እግዚአብሔር፡ ብሂሎሙ፡ የኃ87ጥኡ፡ ረዳኤ፡ አመ፡ መ88ንዳቤሆሙ፡ ወርስዖሙ፡ ወይበጽሑ፡ ኀበ፡ ሐሜት፡ ወፅ89ርፈት፡ ላዕለ፡ እግዚአብሔር፡ ወላዕለ፡ ሰብእ።.
“And [even] those who forsake their loved ones in the name of God, saying that they cannot find a helper, in the time of their torment and old age (re’esomu), they come to invective and blasphemy against God and man.”

  • 90 In A215, added in upper line spacing.
  • 91.

ወከመዝ፡ ኵሎሙ፡ እለ90፡ ይነሥ91ቱ፡ ሥርዓተ፡ ፈጣሪ፡ ይሠገሩ፡ በግብረ፡ እደዊሁ።.
“And thus all those who destroy the order of the Creator are caught in the trap which they have laid with their hand.”

  • 92.
  • 93.
  • 94.
  • 95.

ወዓዲ፡ የኃ92ድግ፡ እግዚአብሔር፡ ስሕተተ፡ ወእከየ፡ ማዕ93ከለ፡ ሰብእ፡ እስመ፡ ነፍሳቲነ፡ ሀለዋ፡ ውስተ፡ ዝንቱ፡ ዓለም፡ ከመ፡ ውስተ፡ ብሔረ፡ ፈቲን፡ በዘይትመ94ከሩ፡ ቦቱ፡ ኅሩያነ፡ እግዚአብሔር፡ በከመ፡ ይበ95፡ ጠቢብ፡ ሰሎሞን፡ እስመ፡ እግዚአብሔር፡ አምከሮሙ፡ ለጻድቃን፡ ወረከቦሙ፡ ድልዋነ፡ ሎቱ፡ ከመ፡ ወርቅ፡ ዘይትፈተን፡ በምንሐብ፡ አምከሮሙ፡ ወከመ፡ ጽንሐሕ፡ ውኩፍ፡ ተወክፎሙ [Wisdom 1].
“And still God allows for error and evil among men so that our souls (nafsātina) might live in this world as in a land of temptation, so that God’s chosen ones might be put to the test, as the wise Solomon says: ‘God put the righteous to the test and found them worthy of him. And as gold in the crucible he has tried them, as a burnt offering he has accepted them’ [Wisdom 1].”

  • 96.

ወእምድኅረ፡ ሞትነሰ፡ አመ፡ ንገብእ96፡ ኀበ፡ ፈጣሪነ፡ ንሬኢ፡ ከመ፡ እግዚአብሔር፡ ሠርዓ፡ ኵሎ፡ በጽድቅ፡ ወበዓቢይ፡ ጥበብ፡ ወከመ፡ ኵሉ፡ ፍኖቱ፡ እግዚአብሔር፡ ሣህል፡ ጽድቅ ወርትዕ[Ps. 24].
“And after our death, when we return to our Creator, we shall see how God has ordained in righteousness and great wisdom, and how all the ways of the Lord [are made] of mercy and truth [Ps. 24] that all his ways [are] true and upright.”

  • 97.
  • 98 ወይፈቱ፡ ዓዲ።.

ወከመሰ፡ ነፍስነ፡ ተሐዩ፡ እምድኅረ፡ ሞተሥጋነ፡ ይትዓወቅ፡ እስመ፡ በዝንቱ፡ ዓለም፡ ኢይትፌጸም፡ ፍትወትነ፡ ወእለ፡ አልቦሙ፡ የሐ97ሥሡ፡ ወእለ፡ ቦሙ፡ ይፈቅዱ፡ ይወስኩ፡ ዓዲ፡ ለዘበሙ፡ ወእመኒ፡ አጥረየ፡ ብእሲ፡ ኵሎ፡ ዘሀሎ፡ ውስተ፡ ዓለም፡ ኢይጸግብ፡ ወዓዲ፡ ይፈቱ98።.
“And the fact that our soul lives after our death the death of our flesh is obvious (yet’āwaq) because in this world our desire is not satisfied: those who do not have, seek, and those who possess want to add more to what they have, and even if man possessed all that exists in the world he would not be satisfied and would still desire.”

  • 99 The grammatical structures differ but the meaning is similar.

ወዝንቱ፡ ጠባይዓ፡ ፍጥረትነ፡ ያጤይቅ፡ ይኤምር፡ ከመ፡ ኢተፈጠርነ፡ ለንብረተ፡ ዝ ዓለም፡ ባሕቲቱ፡ አላ፡ ወለዘይመጽእ፡ ንብረት፡ በዘነፍሳት፡ ዘፈጸማ፡ ወበህየ፡ ነፍሳት፡ እለ፡ ፈጸማ፡ ፈቃደ፡ ፈጣሪሆን፡ ይጸግባ፡ ፍጹመ፡ ወኢይፈትዋ፡ እንከ፡ ካልአ፡ ነገረ .
“And this disposition (abāy’ā) of our nature (ferat-na) shows (yāēyeq) indicates (ye’ēmer) that we have not been created solely for life in this world (nebrata ze-’ālam) but rather for the life to come (la-za-yema’e nebrat); and there the souls which have fulfilled99 the will of their Creator are totally satisfied and desire nothing else.”

አስመ፡ እንበለዝ፡ ፍጥረተ፡ ሰብእ፡ እምኮነ፡ ንቱገ፡ ወእምኢረከበ፡ ኵሎ፡ ዘይትፈቀድ፡ ሎቱ።.
For without it man’s nature would be imperfect and would not find all that it requires.”

  • 100 A215: top line spacing insertion.
  • 101 A234: amlak; A215: egzihabēr.

ወዓዲ፡ ነፍስ፡ ትክል100፡ ተሐሊ፡ አምላከ፡ እግዚአብሔርሃ፡ ወትርአዮ፡ለአምላክ፡ በሕሊናሃ ዓዲ፡ ትክል፡ ተሐሊ፡ ነቢረ፡ ለዓለም።.
“And still my our soul can imagine (tekl tahali) its God101 and see him God by its thought (ba-elinā-hā). And still it can imagine itself enduring forever (nabira la-’ālam).”

ወእግዚአብሔር፡ ኢወሀባ፡ በከንቱ፡ ተሐሊ፡ ዘንተ፡ አለ፡ ዳዕሙ፡ በከመ፡ ወሀባ፡ ተሐሊ፡ ወሀባሂ፡ ወትርከብ።.
“And God did not allow it in vain to to think this; rather, just as he allowed it to think, so too he allowed it to find.”

ወዓዲ፡ በዝ ዓለም፡ ኢይትፌጸም፡ ኵሉ፡ ጽድቅ፡ ወሰብእ፡ እኩያነ፡ ይጸግቡ፡ እምሠናያተዝ፡ ዓለም፡ ወየዋሃን፡ ይርኅቡ ቦእኩይ፡ ዘይትፌሣሕ፡ ወቦ ሠናይ፡ ዘይቴክዝ፡ ቦዓማፂ፡ ዘይትፌጋዕ፡ ወቦ፡ ጻድቅ፡ ዘይበኪ።.
“And also, in this world, not all justice is fulfilled, and the wicked are satisfied with the goods of this world and the humble go hungry. There is a wicked man who rejoices, there is a good man who grieves. There is an unjust man who lives in pleasure and there is a righteous man who weeps.

  • 102.
  • 103 ዓሥ.

ወበእንተዝ፡ ይትፈቀድ፡ እምድኅረ፡ ሞትነ፡ ካልእ102፡ ንብረት፡ ወካልዕ፡ ጽድቅ፡ ፍጹም፡ ዘይፈድዮ፡ ለኵሉ፡ በከመ፡ ምግባሩ። ወየአስ103ዮሙ፡ ለእለ፡ ፈጸሙ፡ ፈቃደ፡ ፈጣሪ፡ ዘተከሥተ፡ ሎሙ፡ በብርሃነ፡ ልቡናሆሙ ወበሕግ፡ ፍጥረት፡ ወለእለ፡ ዓቀቡ፡ ሕገ፡ ጠባይዓዌ፡ ዘፍጥረቶሙ።.
“And for this, after our death, another life (nebrat) and another perfect justice are necessary, which reward each man according to his actions and which reward those who have fulfilled the will of the creator, revealed to them by the light of their reason and by the law of creation (egga ferat), and for those who have respected the natural law (egg) of their creation.”

  • 104.
  • 105.

ወሕገ፡ ፍጥረትስ፡ ጥይቅት፡ ይእቲ፡ ጥዩቅ፡ ውእቱ፡ እስመ፡ ልቡናነ፡ ይነግረነ፡ ክሡተ፡ ለእመ፡ ነሐትታ። ወባሕቱ፡ ሰብእ፡ ኢፈቀዱ፡ ይሕ104 ትቱ፡ ወያበድሩ፡ ወአብደሩ፡ ይእመኑ፡ በቃለ፡ ሰብእ፡ እምይሕ105ሥሡ፡ ፈቃደ፡ ፈጣሪሆሙ፡ በጽድቅ።.
“And the law of creation (egga ferat) is obvious because our reason speaks clearly to us if we examine it (la-ema naatetā). Yet men did not want to make the examination (yetetu) and preferred to believe in the words of men rather than seek (em-yeeśeśu) the will of the their creator through truth.”

54The aim of this visualization is to render the modifications at work in the text visible, with a view to evaluating its nature. It seems quite obvious that these are variants made by an author who has a real concern for the text, and not simple changes made by a scrupulous copyist with an appreciation for beautiful language. Thus certain passages are quite simply added. Some of them are of a logical bent; for example, at the end of the first paragraph, the argument “because the order of God is more powerful than the order of men” serves to consolidate the demonstration that remained somewhat suspended in the declarative mode. Other additions are of a more complementary nature. Thus the specification “and by what is not of his nature” is added, with a rather tendentious taste for crude detail, to the list of sins of the monks. Yet another example is the addition “There is an unjust man who lives in pleasure”, which provides a third point of illustration, where the text of 234 already had two. But most of the modifications consist in slight adjustments to the syntax which serve to clarify, specify, embellish or nuance the first version of the text. One senses an author anxious to deliver a beautiful text but unwilling to modify the content. In only one place, in a modest change that transforms “my soul” into “our soul,” can we see the author deliberately erasing his singularity behind a conventional plural.

55It seems to me that it is in this presentation of an author at work on his text that the real key to understanding the making of the atatā is to be found. By sending two copies of the atatā Zar’a Yā’eqob into Antoine d’Abbadie’s collection, Giusto d’Urbino illustrated the proverb “the best is the enemy of the good”, for he allowed for the possibility of observing the text’s development.

Conclusion

56This marks the end of the time of the experts, a cruel period in which the forger was unmasked. His work was reduced to an object to be stripped down for the sake of finding scientific proof of its inauthenticity. Philology provided the method of investigation and its conclusions won the support of the academic community, even if we have seen that the comparison of the Amharic text of the Soirées de Carthage with the Ge’ez text of the atatā could not suffice to prove a Giusto d’Urbino authorship, given its methodological shortcomings. Throughout the period of debunking, the debate did not go beyond this epistemological framework or beyond this scholarly milieu: it played out internally, and the fight against forgery was waged with the weapons of the community of “Ethiopianists”. It is curious to note that no philosopher has examined the text, and even that no Orientalist has focused as a historian on the text itself. The meanings signified by the text, though wide-ranging, have not been studied, any more than its material components have been. This is why, in the first article of this series, I carefully examined the material evidence of these texts, subjecting them to codicological analysis and placing them in the different corpuses that might contextualize them. In this second article, I returned to the texts and to their historicity. The tools of textual genetics derived from philology sufficed to prove a Giusto d’Urbino authorship by showing the author at work on his text. This is an addition to the body of evidence which had already been gathered by C. Conti Rossini and which I re-examined here.

  • 106 M. Kamel, 1945.
  • 107 Zamanfas Qeddus Abrehā, 1948 E.C. (1955-1956).
  • 108 Zamanfas Qeddus Abrehā, 1956.
  • 109 L. Ricci, 1964; L. Ricci, 1969, p. 901, note 29.
  • 110 S. Pankhurst, 1955, p. 359-365.

57And yet, after the Second World War, a few publications in Ethiopia showed that the atatā were considered to be authentically Ethiopian philosophical texts. All of these publications ignored the Western academic debate. As early as 1945, an article by Murad Kamel in the Ethiopian Herald drew attention to this text and to its contents, and offered a literal summary of it.106 Subsequently, in 1955-1956, the Ge’ez texts of the atatā were edited, without any introduction or mention of the origin of the texts, by Zamanfas Qeddus Abrehā of Adwā.107 The same author also produced a translation into Amharic.108 Nevertheless, the intentions of Zamanfas Qeddus Abrehā, who presided over the re-circulation of these texts, were, to say the least, biased. Indeed, L. Ricci accused him of having published these texts to defend his Protestant faith and to harm the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, which value celibacy and fasting.109 Around the same time, Sylvia Pankhurst, in her work entitled Ethiopia. A Cultural History, in turn presented a summary of the atatā without contextualizing it in any way other than by placing it in the context of the “civil war” opposing Roman Catholics to the Church of Alexandria in Ethiopia at the beginning of the seventeenth century.110 The path was opened for the text to be rehabilitated. This will be the subject of the fourth article in this series, which looks at the second life of the atatā in the context of African philosophy.

58Before that, the next article, the third in the series, will be from the perspective of the historian. Indeed, how does one read this text today from a historical perspective? Could it have been written during the seventeenth century, or is it the heir to nineteenth-century modes of thought? This will be an opportunity to question the possibility of writings concering the self in Ethiopian Christian culture, a subject that is rarely addressed but crucial in the analysis of an autobiography. Another question is that of the impact of communication tools on thought or, in other words: in a culture of restricted literacy and in which orality was greatly valorized, could a text such as the atatā have been produced? This is certainly an ambitious question, but one that I intend to explore.

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Bibliographie

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Kamel, M., 1945, “Ethiopian philosophers of the 17th century”, The Ethiopian Herald, 14 juillet 1945.

Kropp, M., 1992, “A statistic and stylistic approach for resolving the problem of authorship of Hatäta Zär’a-Ya’qob”, Deutsche Zusammenfassung des Vortrags für das International Seminar on Zär’a-Ya’qob Fälasfawi, mai 1992 [unpublished, available on academia.edu ].

Littmann, E., 1904, Philosophi Abissini, sine Vita et Philosophia Magistri Zar’a Ya’qob einseque Discipuli Walda-Heywat Philosophia, Paris [Corpus scriptorum christianorum orientalium 18-19, Scriptores Aethiopici 1-2], 65 et 66 p.

Littmann, E., 1930, “Compte rendu de “Ethiopica & Amharica” de George F. Black, The New York Public Library, 1928”, in Orientalistische Literaturzeitung Monatsschrift für die Wissenschaft vom ganzen Orient und seine Bezlehungen zu den angrenzenden Kulturkreisen, XXIII, 8/9, p. 653-656.

Massaja, G., 1984 (rééd.), Memorie storiche del Vicariato Apostolico dei Galla : 1845-1880 : manoscritto autografo vaticano, Città del Vaticano, Archivio vaticano [Collectanea archivi Vaticani 10-11], vol. 1 et vol. 2.

Mittwoch, E., 1934, Die amharische Version der Soirées de Carthage mit einer Einleitung : Die angeblichen abessinischen Philosophen des 17. Jahrhunderts, Berlin et Leipzig, Walter De Gruyter [Abessinische Studien 2].

Pankhurst, S., 1955, Ethiopia. A Cultural History, Essex, Lalibela House.

Ricci, L., 1964, “Le ultime fortune di Giusto da Urbino”, in A Francesco Gabrieli. Studi orientalistici offerti nel sessantesimo compleanno dai suoi colleghi e discepoli, Rome, p. 225-241.

Ricci, L., 1969, “Letterature dell’ Etiopia”, in O. Botto, Storia delle letterature d’Oriente, 1, Milan, p. 801-936.

Simon, J., 1936, “Le atatā Zar’a Ya’qob et le atatā Walda Heywat”, Orientalia, V, n° 1, p. 93-101.

Simon, J., 1937, “Un mawaddes adressé au P. Juste d’Urbin”, Orientalia, VI, p. 214-221.

Sumner, C., 1976, Ethiopian philosophy. The Treatise of Zär’a Ya‘ǝqob and of Wäldä Ḥǝywat. text and authorship, vol. 2, Addis Abeba.

Sumner, C., 1983, Sagesse éthiopienne, Paris [Recherches sur les civilisations 1].

Tarducci, F., 1899, P. Giusto da Urbino, missionario in Abissinia, e le esplorazioni africane, Bologne.

Turaiev, B., 1920, “Абиссинская литература” [La littérature d’Abyssinie], Литература Востока, вып. 2. Пг, p. 152-161.

Wion, A., 2012, “Lettres du R. P. Juste d’Urbin “ à Antoine d’Abbadie Manuscrit BnF NAF 23852, fol. 3- 128v : Notes de travail”. halshs-02863840

Za-Manfas Qeddus Abrehā, 1948 E.C. [1955-1956], Ge’ez atatā za-Zar’a Yā‘eqob aksumāwi wa-Walda eywat enfrāzāwi, Ethiopian Philosophy.

Za-Manfas Qeddus Abrehā, 1956, Ityop̣yaweyan filosofiwoč. atäta zä-Zärʾä Yaʿqob Aksumawi wä-Wäldä eywät Enfrazawi, Asmara.

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Notes

1 “Nous sommes tellement habitués à opposer le faux au vrai qu’en lisant ce titre [La guerre du faux], le lecteur sera incité à penser qu’on y parle de discours faux qui masquent la vérité des choses. Comme si, en amont de ces analyses de discours faux, il y avait, rassurante et débonnaire, une métaphysique de la vérité. Eh bien, il n’en est rien. Ici, il est question de discours qui masquent d’autres discours. De discours qui croient dire a pour suggérer b ou de discours qui croient dire a mais qui en fait devraient être interprétés comme b ; ou encore de discours qui croient dire quelque chose et qui masquent leur propre inconsistance, leur propre contradiction ou leur propre impossibilité.”

2 See Anaïs Wion, “L’histoire d’un vrai faux traité philosophique (atatā Zar’a Yā‘eqob et atatā Walda eywat). Épisode 1: Le temps de la découverte. De l’entrée en collection à l’édition scientifique (1852-1904)” (“The History of a Genuine Fake Philosophical Treatise (atatā Zar’a Yā‘eqob and atatā Walda eywat). Episode 1: The Time of Discovery. From Being Part of a Collection to Becoming a Scholarly Publication (1852-1904)”), Afriques [Online], Débats et lectures, published online on 22 February 2013, consulted on 14 October 2021. https://doi.org/10.4000/afriques.1063.

3 C. Conti Rossini first published an in extenso translation of Takla Hāymānot's manuscript, in Italian (C. Conti Rossini, 1916, p. 74-78, for the passage concerning Giusto, with a very complete footnote already synthesizing all the elements necessary to attribute to him the authorship of the Ḥatatā). Then, in his 1920 article, he provided in Amharic the passage in Takla Hāymānot's text accusing Giusto d'Urbino, see C. Conti Rossini, 1920, p. 218.

4 See for example his letter to Antoine d'Abbadie dated January 1854, ms BnF NAF 23852, fol. 49-50. He also collected many qenē in his manuscripts, such as in his grammar (qenē published by S. Grébaut, 1935; see also J. Simon, 1937), as well as in a collection of mawaddes which was stolen from him when he was arrested in 1855 (letter to Antoine dated 7 June 1855, ms BnF NAF 23852, fol. 82-83).

5 This accusation would have significant repercussions within the Propaganda Fide since, after Giusto D’Urbino’s death, the latter’s superiors tried to recover the manuscript(s) of Warqē lest it should fall into the wrong hands and damage the reputation of the Catholic Church in Ethiopia. However, it seems that none of those who tried to avoid a scandal had read the work, and the fear it instilled in them also stemmed from their ignorance of its subject matter. See the documents published and translated by Claude Sumner, in C. Sumner, 1976, p. 181-199.

6 C. Conti Rossini, 1916, p. 76-77.

7 Letter of 14 July 1854, ms Bnf NAF 23852, fol. 59-60.

8 “J’ai eu presque tous les jours de ces dialogues avec mon maître de langue éthiopiques [sic] et avec les autres savants qui m’entouraient.” Vittorio Emanuele National Library, ms Orient 134, fol. 98v, cited by J. Simon, 1937, p. 100.

9 To be continued in the fourth article in this series.

10 “J’ai appris assez bien le ግዕዝ [ge‘ez] et je suis très content d’avoir suivi votre conseil de l’apprendre. Il m’a coûté bien de la patience mais à présent se vérifie en moi le proverbe ትዕግሥትሰ፡ በጊዜሁ፡ ይከውን፡ መሪረ፡ ወድኅሬሁ፡ ይጥዕም፡ እመዓር። [“la persévérance en son temps est amère, mais par la suite elle est plus douce que le miel”].” Ms NAF 23852, fol. 13-14.

11 Ms NAF 23852, fol. 17-18.

12 “Réduit à l’extrême pauvreté pour me perfectionner le mieux que je pouvais dans les sciences éthiopiques, est-ce que je ne devais pas avoir recours à vous qui êtes le chef de l’académie éthiopique ? N’ayant ni or ni argent, je pouvais offrir mes travaux”.

13 This request is expressed here for the first time and then repeated in correspondence, see for example the letter of 27 November 1854, ms NAF 23852, fol. 73-75.

14 Giusto d'Urbino is here referring to a denunciation known to us from a letter he wrote to Massaja, in which he bears witness to Antoine d’Abbadie’s bad intentions towards their mission. According to Giusto d'Urbino, Antoine d'Abbadie informed the Coptic metropolitan, abunā Salāmā, of Giusto’s missionary activity in the Oromo country and had spies sent there. He allegedly also intercepted a letter addressed to Massaja before conveying it to Salāmā. Giusto d'Urbino explicitly accuses Antoine d'Abbadie of wanting to have them expelled from Ethiopia and implicitly of being a false Catholic, of having become Orthodox, and of pretending to be a priest. This letter does not seem to be dated; it is kept in the archives of the Propaganda Fide and translated in: C. Sumner, 1975, p. 144-149.

15[Moi j’avais espéré que tu me ferais entrer dans ta maison au moment de ma vieillesse et que tu m’aurais institué lecteur et gardien de tes livres éthiopiens, et scribe et traducteur de ceux-ci. Mais toi, aujourd’hui, par ton silence, tu as anéanti mon espoir. Si vraiment tu me payes avec aversion, à cause de ce qui a été dit auparavant lors de l’affaire de l’abuna Salāmā, ce n’est pas bien à toi. En effet c’est toi qui es la cause de ma venue dans ce pays et depuis tu m’as donné de l’espoir avec beaucoup de paroles. Est-ce que le pauvre se trompe quand il demande l’aumône au riche ? Mais moi je ne veux rien d’autre que la rétribution de mon labeur, et une petite somme d’argent m’est suffisante aujourd’hui, et je la rembourserai par mon intelligence dans toutes ces choses ge’ez qu’il me demandera. Si toi tu ne me demandes rien, alors Dieu l’espoir des pauvres est mon espoir et je vendrai les fruits de mon labeur à celui qui me nourrira. Que Dieu te bénisse et t’apporte la joie et accomplisse pour toi tout ce que tu veux, amen.]

16 E. Littmann, 1904, txt, p. 21- 22: ወአበድር፡ ፍሬ፡ ፃማየ፡ እሴሰይ, p. 48.

17 See below the double copy of qenē accompanying the Ge'ez manuscript of the Soirées de Carthage which was offered to Massaja.

18 F. Tarducci, 1899, p. 23, citing the notizie dell’Archivio Provinciale dei Cappuccini della Marche, confermati per lettera dal R. do Parroco di Matraia.

19 And this stands whether in the year 1851, 1852 or even 1853.

20 Manfred Kropp had come to the same conclusions, according to notes prepared for a seminar which he kindly passed on to me after meticulously reading the proofs of this article. These notes, as well as a research project initiated in 1992 on a stylistic and statistical study of the texts of the Ḥatatā Zar' a Yā 'eqob and the Soirées de Carthage (M. Kropp, 1992), are now available online, on his academia.edu page.

21 Letter of 14 July 1854, ms NAF 23852, fol. 59-60.

22 Thus the following names mean: Ḫāyla Sellāsē, “Strength of the Trinity”; Takla Hāymānot, “Plant of Faith”; Ba'eda Māryām, “By the hand of Mary”; etc.

23 See especially chapters 8 and 12 of the Ḥatatā Zar'a Yā'eqob.

24Une servante, âgée environ de 30 ans, laide comme un démon mais bonne comme un ange, et sage trois fois plus qu’une Abyssine.

25 Letter of Easter 1854, ms NAF 23852, fol. 51-54.

26 Dove aveva lasciata tutta la sua famigilia [“Where he had left his entire family”], G. Massaja, 1984, vol. 2, p. 279.

27 On the assumption that the Catholic monk Takla Hāymānot’s version of Giusto’s arrest can be trusted. The former accused Giusto of giving an evasive response to the metropolitan Salāmā regarding his Catholic faith so as not to be considered an evangelizer: When they had made him stand before him, the metropolitan questioned him about his faith, saying: ‘One is the person and two the natures of Our Lord Jesus Christ.’ And he answered, saying: ‘My faith is that the Lord and love are one.’ The metropolitan further said to him: ‘Do you not perhaps say that [Jesus] from the highest of the heavens descended and was born of Mary?’ He answered him and said: ‘The book tells me so, but I do not believe it, nor have I ever taught it since coming [here].’ In this way he found favour with the metropolitan. In fact, the latter gave him leave to remain in his post; but he preferred to go back to his own country” [“Quando lo ebbero fatto stare al suo cospetto, il metropolita lo interrogo circa la sua fede, dicendo: Una è la persona e due le nature del Nostro Signore Gesù Cristo. Ed egli rispose dicendo : La mia fede è che unico è il Signore e l’amore. Inoltre gli disse il metropolita: Non dici forse che [Gesù] dall’eccelso dei cieli discese e che da Maria nacque ? Gli replico dicendo : Me lo dice il libro, ma io non lo credo, nè ho mai insegnato da quando venni sino ad ora. In questo modo egli aveva trovato grazia presso il metropolita. Infatti, questi gli dette licenza di rimanere al suo posto ; ma preferendo egli andarsene al suo paese], see C. Conti Rossini, 1916, p. 77.

28 “Seeing in Ludolf that he had a book of Philosophy in Ethiopic, I looked for it everywhere. I was given a large volume which was indeed entitled መጽሐፈ፡ ፍልስፋ፡ [Maṣḥafa Fālsefā]. But apart from a few moral maxims of the ancient Greek philosophers, there is nothing philosophical about it. It is a long preaching lecture to the monks and a series of praises to the cherubim and seraphim, to Abraham and St. George etc.” (“Voyant en Ludolf qu’il avait en étiopique [sic] un livre de Philosophie je l’ai cherché partout. On m’a apporté un gros volume qui en effet est intitulé መጽሐፈ፡ ፍልስፋ፡ [Maṣḥafa Fālsefā]. Mais excepté quelques sentences morales des anciens philosophes grecs, il n’y a rien de philosophe. C’est un long prêche aux moines et des louanges aux chérubins et aux séraphins à Abraham et à St Georges etc.). Letter of 20 September 1850 to Antoine d'Abbadie.

29 “Since for now my mind does not have what it takes to fill this letter = I put my soul into babbling = Never have I studied man so much as when I started being in a position to understand him less, that is, since I have been in Abyssinia, far from all the means that could help me in the search for truth. When I was studying psychology, some of the proofs advanced in favour of the spirituality of the human soul seemed to me to be demonstrations. At any rate, at least Sherloch says that it is easier to prove the spirituality of the soul than its materiality. I do not doubt that today and I perhaps never will. But when I examine my soul, I see that the body's dependence is so great that it seems not to have a life principle of its own. I know everything that anatomists say about the wonders of the nervous system, which is almost never entirely subject to the soul’s authority. But let us turn to [the realm of] thought. Descartes is smart with his innate ideas. But my masters and my observations have led me to believe that we have only acquired (acquisite) or fictitious (fittizie) ideas, that is to say ideas composed of other ideas already acquired by the senses. It is also almost impossible for me to imagine an immense being without expanse, an eternity without succession, i.e. without time etc. etc. because my senses have taught me nothing of the kind. Now if my soul had a life principle of its own, if it were spiritual, it should be able to tell me something about the nature of the mind, and about what happens outside matter and time. Besides, how can a mind be prevented by material walls from understanding at least what is going on around it? It is the Creator's will – that is the only answer – which has made someone believe that our soul is only a wicked angel, trapped inside the body as though in a prison until it has atoned for its wrongdoings” (the French original is reproduced in “Episode 1”), letter of 5 May 1854, NAF 23852, fol. 55-56.

30 “Si je sais quelque chose, je ne le dois qu’à Dieu et à moi. Personne ne m’a instruit ni fait instruire. On n’a fait qu’empêcher ou retarder le développement de mon esprit. Je crois avoir sur Dieu et sa providence des idées très justes et j’ai l’orgueil de ne les avoir reçues de personne. J’ai été moi-même mon maître.”

31 All translated passages are taken from Claude Sumner’s 1976 English translation, unless otherwise stated.

32 “La solitude où je suis ici m’a contraint à l’examen ou plutôt à des hypothèses pour voir s’il y a un moyen d’être content de Dieu et de l’Univers. […] Je n’ai pas voulu examiner d’abord s’il y a ou non un Dieu. J’ai trop d’intérêt à croire qu’il y a un Dieu et une providence. […] Ce fondement posé comme un principe démontré, j’ai dû faire bien de longs examens et d’étranges hypothèses pour accorder ce Dieu et cette Providence avec l’ordre actuel de l’Univers pour en être content. Tous les vieux récits, tout en voulant faire accorder cet ordre avec cette providence, ne faisaient à chaque pas que m’en rendre le désaccord plus sensible. J’ai rejeté tout, pas comme faux ou douteux, mais parce qu’il ne me contentait pas. J’ai cru voir un autre accord qui me contente et selon cet accord je ferai ma profession de foi qui sera trop longue pour être ajouter [sic] ici-même en abrégé. Vous l’aurez tôt ou tard.”

33 “In my despair yesterday I burnt six of my manuscripts’ notebooks, which were worthless. I will burn many more. I feel powerful and I produce nothing but nonsense. So forget me and my productions”. (“Au désespoir j’ai brûlé hier six cahiers de mes manuscrits qui ne valaient rien. J’en brulerai [sic] encore beaucoup. Je me sens puissant et je ne produis que des sottises. À l’oubli donc moi et mes productions.”) Letter accompanying the box of manuscripts sent from Cairo to Antoine d'Abbadie, NAF 23852, fol. 121-122.

34 “As for my grammar and any other work, good or bad, were it a masterpiece, I would never publish it and I would never allow it to be published under my name. You undoubtedly have no need of my Ethiopic scribbles to make yourself known to the learned world; and I did not offer them to you for that purpose. For heaven's sake, have you suspected it? I offered them to you so that if you found something useful in them you could remould it in your own way and then publish it anonymously or under some other name, such as that of the academy or institute or some other literary society. This is so that my work doesn't perish with me – I who am very perishable” (“Quant à ma grammaire et à tout autre travail bon ou mauvais, fut-il [sic] un chef-d’œuvre, je ne le publierai jamais et je ne permettrai jamais de le publier en mon nom. Vous n’avez sans doute aucun besoin de mes barbouillages éthiopiques pour vous faire connaître du monde savant et je ne vous les offrais pas dans ce but-là. Parbleu, est-ce que vous avez pu le soupçonner ? Je vous les offrais afin que si vous y trouviez quelque chose d’utile vous auriez pu le refaçonner à votre manière et puis le publier anonyme ou sous un nom quelconque comme de l’académie ou de l’institut ou autre société littéraire. C’est afin que mes travaux ne périssent pas avec moi qui suis très périssable”), letter of January 1854 to Antoine d'Abbadie, NAF 23852, fol. 49-50.

35 J. Simon, 1937, p. 101.

36 F. Bourgade, 1847.

37 It was about nothing less than “forming a religious and civilizing association for Africa” (“former une association religieuse et civilisatrice pour l’Afrique”) in order to restore it to its past glory, when it was the “metropolis of the Church of Africa” (“métropole de l’Église d’Afrique”), as the preface of the book announces.

38 G. Massaja, 1984, vol. 1, p. 278.

39 G. Massaja, vol. 2, 18861, p. 128; 19842, p. 278.

40 In October 1851, he wrote to Antoine: “They sent me the Soirées de Carthage by Mr Abbot Bourgade. Believing I was doing something useful for the Christian religion, I translated them into giiz. I have already translated six dialogues and later I will write a copy for those who like to see the superiority of the religion of Jesus Christ over the religion of Mohammed” (“On m’a envoyé les Soirées de Carthage par M. l’abbé Bourgade. Croyant faire une chose utile pour la religion chrétienne, je les traduis en giiz. J’ai déjà traduit six dialogues après j’en fairai [sic] écrire quelque copie pour ceux qui aiment à voir la supériorité de la religion de Jésus-Christ au-dessus de la religion de Mohammed”), NAF 23852, fol. 15-16.

41 “I translated into ግዕዝ፡ [Ge'ez] the Soirées de Carthage by Bourgade, which መምህራን [scholars] from Abyssinia found very suitable for deliberating with Muslims. Four or five copies have already been made” (“J’ai traduit en ግዕዝ፡ [Ge‘ez] les Soirées de Carthage par Bourgade que les መምህራን [savants] de l’Abyssinie ont trouvées très propres pour questionner avec les musulmans. On en a déjà fait 4 ou 5 copies”), letter of 9 March 1852 to Antoine d'Abbadie, NAF 23852, fol. 19-20.

42 G. Massaja, 1984, vol. 1, p. 278.

43 S. Grébaut, 1926.

44 S. Grébaut, E. Tisserand, 1935, p. 613-614.

45 The original work was written in French and nothing in it suggests an Arabic origin. Giusto d'Urbino may have added this specification to lend a more authentic tinge to the work, and to attenuate its Western features. It is also in keeping with Ethiopian tradition to attribute a distant origin to a work.

46 According to the catalogue’s notice: ዝንቱ፡ ቀሲስ፡ ተዋቅሠ፡ [sic] ምስለ፡ እስላም፡ በልሳነ፡ ዓረቢ፡ ወድኅረ፡ ጻሐፈ፡ ዘንተ፡መጽሐፈ፡ በልሳነ፡ ፍራንስ፡ ወአባ፡ ዮስጦስ፡ ተርጐሞ፡ በልሳነ፡ ግዕዝ፡ በ፲፻ወ፰፻፡ ወ፵፬ ዓመት፡ እምልደተ፡ ክርስቶስ፡ በዘመነ፡ ዮሐንስ፠ ኦአኃውየ፡ ዘታነብብዎ፡ ለዝንቱ፡ መጽሐፍ፡ ኢትንቅፉ፡ ግድፈቶ፡ አላ፡ አርትዕዎ፡ ወአስተሣንይዎ፡ በአእምሮትክሙ። ወሰአሉ፡ በእንቲአየ፡ ኀበ፡ እግዚአብሔር፡ ከመ፡ ይትወከፈኒ፡ በምሕረቱ፡ ለዓለመ፡ ዓለም፡ አሜን።, S. Grébaut, E. Tisserand, 1935, p. 613-614.

47 The identification of the hand as well as all the information relating to this manuscript (to which I did not have access) is taken from its cataloguer.

48 In upper line spacing.

49 Difficult to read in the catalogue.

50 “Dicit Abba Yostos : Ab amico, quem amo, non me separet, Iacobe, illa cui dictum est “unus”, sufficit enim duobus. Auris tua audiet ubi rogatio est dilecti. Si oderit te populus, qui spem ultimae resurrectionis non habet, ne videat te in morte oculus congregationis, quem posui ego, tempore vocationis, procuratorem et auxiliatorem.”

51 I would like to thank Daniel Assefa and Emmanuel Fritsch, with whom I conducted a first reading of the text in Addis Ababa in November 2011. I would also like to thank Gérard Colin, with whom I took up the translation again in March 2012. Manfred Kropp also made pertinent remarks during the final proofreading of this article. I have made a choice among the different possible interpretations we discussed during these readings, without claiming to provide a definitive translation of this poem, which is obscure to say the least. The French translation proposed by Giusto d'Urbino himself, reproduced hereafter, will allow erudite and curious readers to decide for themselves!

52 My original French translation, on which the above English translation is based, ran as follows: “Abbā Yosos dit : / De l’ami que tu aimes ne me sépare pas, / Yā‘eqob ce qui est dit pour un / Vaut pour deux. / Là où est la prière de l’aimé, ton oreille [est] attentive. / Et si te prennent en haine les gens qui n’ont pas / D’espoir en la résurrection finale / Que la mort, l’œil de la Congrégation, ne te voit pas / Puisque j’ai établi au moment de l’appel (awā’ē) / Que c’est toi le chef (magābi) et c’est toi l’auxiliaire (radā’ē).”

53 “De l’ami que tu aimes, ne me divise point, Antoine, / car ce qui est dit (destiné) pour un suffit à deux / Là où ton oreille écoute la prière de ton ami. / Et lorsque te hais [sic] un peuple qui n’a pas d’espérance de la dernière résurrection, / Ne te regarde pas la mort, l’œuil [sic] de l’assemblée : / Puisque dans la prière [mots biffés : je l’ai fait] j’ai constitué / Toi (mon) gouverneur, toi (mon) aide”, J. Simon, 1937, p. 101.

54 F. Bourgade, 1847, p. 39-41 (and not Chapter 1, paragraph 1, as mentioned by C. Conti Rossini).

55 F. Bourgade, 1847, p. 101-103, is the only reference given by C. Conti Rossini, 1920, p. 8; but this theme is in fact a recurrent one in the Soirées.

56 C. Sumner, 1976, p. 238.

57 “Son of man, discern what is before you; the camel, the ox, and the donkey are created for your service, but this line of shackled beings are your brothers; respect them, love them. [...] And the chains fell off. There were neither masters nor slaves. They were brothers” (“Fils de l’homme, discerne ce qui est devant toi ; le chameau, le bœuf et l’âne sont créés pour ton service, mais cette file d’êtres enchaînés sont tes frères ; respecte-les, aime-les. […] Et les chaînes tombaient. Il n’y avait ni maîtres, ni esclaves. C’étaient des frères”), F. Bourgade, 1847, p. 127.

58 It would be useful to compare them to one another to ascertain whether they come from the same translation.

59 See Alemé Esheté, 1974; G. Hudson, Tekeste Negash, 1987.

60 E. Mittwoch published it as early as 1929 in Mitteilungen des Seminars für Orientalische Sprache, 32, p. 99-192.

61 ወአባ፡ ዮስጦስ፡ ተርጐሞ፡ በልሳነ፡ ግዕዝ፡ በ፲ወ፰፻፵ወ፬ዓመት፡ እምልደተ፡ እግዚእነ፡ ወመድኃኒነ፡ ኢየሱስ፡ ክርስቶስ፡ ሎቱ፡ ስብሐት፡ በዘመነ፡ ዮሐንስ፡ ወንጌላዊ።. “And abbā Yosos translated it into G’ez in 1844 [1851/1852], the year of the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, may he be praised, the year of the evangelist John.” According to the edition by E. Mittwoch, 1934.

62 ሮማዊ፡ ነው፡ የሚሉትም፡ መርማሪዎች፡ እንዲህ፡ ያለ፡ ሊቅ፡ በኢትዮጵያ፡ አይገኝም፡ በማለት፡ ነው፡እንጂ፡ እርሱ፡ ግን፡ ፍጹም፡ ኢትዮጵያዊ፡ እንደሆነ፡ ካጻጽፉና፡ ከመጽሐፉ፡ ይታወቃል።, quoted by E. Mittwoch, 1934, p. 3-4. He received this information from his colleague H. Schlobies, who pointed out that the texts of the atatā were known in Ethiopia only through European printed editions and not through handwritten copies. According to Dawit Worku, the Ethiopian intellectual in question was Alaqā Dastā Takla Wald, the author of an Amharic dictionary which was published in 1956-1957, Dawit Worku, 2012, p. 89.

63 E. Mittwoch, 1934, p. 7. This is indeed what J. Simon would reproach him shortly afterwards in a long 1936 article, which tackles his entire demonstration point by point. It is worth noting in passing that the circulation of scholarly information was achieved through individual scholars’ efforts to synthesize articles written in different languages. Thus the arguments of C. Conti Rossini (1916 and 1920), who wrote in Italian, were repeated by E. ˙Mittwoch, who wrote in German (1934). Mittwoch’s arguments were in turn taken up by J. Simon, who wrote in French (1936).

64 F. Bourgade, 1847, p. 86, quotation from the Koran: “Those who believe, and the Jews, and the Sabians, and the Christians, in a word, whoever believes in God and in the last day, and has practised virtue, these will be free from all fear and will not be afflicted.” (“Ceux qui croient, et les juifs, et les sabéens, et les chrétiens, en un mot quiconque croit en Dieu et au jour dernier, et aura pratiqué la vertu, ceux-là seront exempts de toute crainte et ne seront pas affligés.”) The Amharic translation of this passage in E. Mittwoch, 1934, p. 55, l. 145: ዳግመኛ፡ ቍራን፡ በአንቀጸ፡ ማዕድ፡ አይሁድ፡ ክርስትያን፡ የሳባ፡ ሰዎች፡ (ya-Sābā sawoč) ባንድ፡ አምላክ፡ የሚያምኑ፡ ሁሉ፡ ዕለተ፡ ደይንም፡.

65 atatā Gabra Heywat, chap. 5, in E. Littmann, 1904, p. 34: ወለሰብአ፡ ህንድ፡ ቦሙ፡ ሊሉይ፡ ሃይማኖት።ወለሰብአ፡ ሖማር፡ ወለሰብአ፡ ሳባ፡ (la-sab’a Sābā) ወለካልአን፡ ከማሁ፡ ወኵሎሙ፡ ይብሉ፡ ሃይማኖትነ፡ እምእግዚአብሔር፡ ውእቱ።

Translation: “And the people of India have another faith. And the people of imyār and the people of Sābā and others. And all of them say that their faith comes from God.”

66 It would also be worth identifying those authors who did not take C. Conti Rossini’s article into account, such as J. M. Harden who, in his 1926 Introduction to Ethiopian Christian Litterature, was still convinced that he was dealing with an authentic text.

67 B. Turaev, 1920, p. 159, following E. Mittwoch, 1934.

68 E. Littmann, 1930, in the context of a review of a work which makes reference to the “philosophical essay of Zara Yaqob” (on p. 7) without knowledge of Conti Rossini’s discovery that the work was a forgery (“Auch spricht er S. 7 von dem “philosophical essay of Zara Yaqob”, ohne Conti Rossini’s Entdeckung zu kennen, dass dies Werk eine Mystifikation ist.”)

69 E. Cerulli, 1926, p. 173, n. 2.

70 I. Guidi, 1932, p. 77.

71 J. Simon, 1936, p. 101.

72 J. Simon, 1937, p. 214, n. 2.

73 L. Ricci, 1969, p. 849.

74 I would like to thank Gérard Colin for proofreading this translation with me.

75.

76.

77 ንርአይ፡ ቦቱ፡.

78 E. Mittwoch notes the great iteration of this noun in the Ḥatatā, E. Mittwoch, 1934, p. 9.

79 The syntax of the A215 and A234 manuscripts is different in this negation but the meaning remains the same.

80.

81.

82.

83.

84.

85 The four references to biblical readings are indicated in the margins in Manuscript 234, in the hand of Giusto d'Urbino and in French. Manuscript 215 does not contain these indications.

86.

87.

88.

89.

90 In A215, added in upper line spacing.

91.

92.

93.

94.

95.

96.

97.

98 ወይፈቱ፡ ዓዲ።.

99 The grammatical structures differ but the meaning is similar.

100 A215: top line spacing insertion.

101 A234: amlak; A215: egzihabēr.

102.

103 ዓሥ.

104.

105.

106 M. Kamel, 1945.

107 Zamanfas Qeddus Abrehā, 1948 E.C. (1955-1956).

108 Zamanfas Qeddus Abrehā, 1956.

109 L. Ricci, 1964; L. Ricci, 1969, p. 901, note 29.

110 S. Pankhurst, 1955, p. 359-365.

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Référence électronique

Anaïs Wion, « The History of a Genuine Fake Philosophical Treatise (atatā Zar’a Yā‘eqob and atatā Walda eywat). Episode 2: The Time of Debunking, The Time in the Wilderness (from 1916 to the 1950s) »Afriques [En ligne], Débats et lectures, mis en ligne le 18 octobre 2021, consulté le 03 décembre 2021. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/afriques/3188 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/afriques.3188

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Anaïs Wion

CNRS Research Fellow, Institut des Mondes Africains (IMAF)

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