Page images


vain, that we here look either for a divan of twelve great officers, forming a powerful and highly influential aristocracy, or that eclectic form of choosing a successor, both of which we find in Bórnu: nay, not even the office of a vizier meets our eye, as we peruse the tolerably rich annals of A'hmed Bábá. We find, no doubt, powerful officers also in the Songhay empire, as must naturally be the case in a large kingdom; but these appear to have been merely governors of provinces, whom the king installed or de. posed at his pleasure, and who exercised no influence upon the internal affairs of the kingdom, except when it was plunged into civil war.

These governors bore generally the title of " farma,” or “feréng," a title which is evidently of Mandingo origin*, and was traditionally derived from the institutions of the kingdom of Melle, while the native Songhay title of “koy” appears to be used only in order to denote officers of certain provinces, which originally were more intimately related to Songhay; and in this respect it is a remarkable fact, that the governor of Timbúktu or Túmbutu, is constantly called Túmbutu koy, and is only once called Túmbutu-mangha.† Besides this province, those which we find mentioned in the report of A'hmed Bábá are the following, going from east to west: — Dendi, or as it is now generally called Déndina, the country between * See Cooley, “ Negroland,” p. 75, n. 26. and p. 77, n. 28.

† Journal of the Leipsic Oriental Society, vol. ix. p. 554. If there be no mistake, there was a “koy” as well as a “farma” in some of the provinces, such as Bára.


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Kebbi and Sáy* , which I have described in the account of my own journey, and which seems to have contained a Songhay population from tolerably ancient times, at least before the beginning of the sixteenth century ; but we find none of the three divisions of this important province specified, not even Kenga or Zágha. This is to be regretted, as they appear to have been of ancient origin, and as their history, especially that of Zágha, which seems to have derived its name from the more celebrated town of the same name on the upper course of the river, would be highly interesting.

The country from hence towards the capital we never find comprised by A'hmed Bábá under a general name, nor do we meet with the names of Zabérma or Zérma, which I therefore conclude to be of more recent origin, although that country, at present so named, was evidently comprised in the kingdom of Songhay. West of Gágho, on the banks of the river, we next find the province of Banku or Bengut, which evidently comprised that part of the river which is studded with islands, as we find the inspector of the harbour of Kábara taking refuge in the district of Banku, with the whole of his fleet, after the capture of the town by the people of Mo

• A governor of the town of Sáy is perhaps indicated under the title of Súy-weli. Ibid. p. 550.

† That Banku lay between Timbúktu and Ghágo is evident from the fact, that the governor of that province fled to Gágho, when Mohammed Sadík, the governor of Bel, or Bal, marched upon the capital of the empire.

Chap. LXVI.



rocco. Passing then by the province of Bantal, the limits of which I have not been able to make out, we come to the province of Bel or Bal, which evidently comprised the country on the north side of the river round about Timbuktu, and, perhaps, some distance westwards ; but without including that town itself, which had a governor of its own, nor even the harbour of Kábara, which at that time was of sufficient importance to be placed under the inspection of a special officer or “farma,” who, however, seems to have been subjected in a certain degree to the inspection of the Bal-må, or the governor of Bal, who was able to call him to account.* The governor of the province of Bal, who bore the peculiar title of “ Bal-ma,” a word likewise of Mandingo origin, má corresponding to the Songhay word “koy," seems to have been of great importance in a military respect, while in a moral point of view the governor of the town of Timbúktu enjoyed perhaps greater authority, and the office of the Túmbutu-koy, seems always to have been filled by a learned man or fákih, proving that this town was regarded at that time as the seat of learning; and that the fákih who governed the town of Timbúktu possessed great power is evident from the fact, that Ahmed Bábá mentions it as a proof of great neglect on the part of Al Hádi the governor of Tindírma, that he did not go in person to the kádhi to pay him his compliments.


* See the account in the Journal of the Leipsic Oriental Society, p. 545.

Proceeding then westward from Bal and Timbúktu, we come to the very important province of Kúrinina, with the capital Tindírına, which very often served as a residence for the king himself, and became the chosen seat of A'skía Dáúd. The importance of the province of Kúrmina seems to have been based, not merely upon its military strength and populousness, but upon the circumstance of its having to supply Songhay Proper, together with its two large towns of Gágho and Kúkia, with grain; and it is evidently on this account, that the governor of that province is on one occasion called the storekeeper and provider of the king. * South-west from the province of Kúrmina, there were two provinces Dirina † and Bara, the exact boundaries of which it is difficult to determine; except that we know that Bara must have lain rather along the south-easterly branch of the river; while Dirma, having probably derived this name from the town of Díre, is most likely to be sought for on the north-westerly branch, although Caillié places Díriman, as he calls it, south of the river. The province or district of Sháå I may probably be identical with the district round the im

* Journal of the Leipsic Oriental Society, p. 541:-" Then he made Kishya feréng of Kúrmina, and gave him the office of

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

† It is not improbable that Dirma was originally the name or title of the governor of Díre, as Balma was that of the governor of Bal, and that it was in after times conferred upon the province of which he was the ruler. Caillié, vol. ii. p. 29.

| Journal of the Leipsic Oriental Society, p. 544.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

portant town of Sa, situated a short distance to the north-east of the lake Debu, and of which further notice will be taken in the itineraries. Proceeding further in the same direction, we have the province of Másina, a name which, under the form of Másín, is mentioned as early as the latter part of the eleventh century by El Bekri*, but the limits of which it is very difficult to define, although it is clear that its central part comprises the islands formed by the different branches of the river, the Máyo balléo and the Máyo ghannéo, or dhannéo, and probably comprised in former times the ancient and most important town of Zágha the chief seat of Tekrúr, which Háj Mohammed A'skía had conquered in the beginning of his reign. It is peculiar, however, and probably serves to show the preponderance of the element of the Fúlbe in Másina, where they seem to have established themselves from very ancient times, that the governor of this province bore the title of Másinamangha, instead of Másina-farma.

To the north-west of Másina, we have the province of Bághena, which comprised the central portion of the ancient kingdom of Ghána, or Ghánata, and the important town of Bíru, or Waláta, which, before Timbuktu rose to greater importance, that is to say, before the time of Sonni ‘Ali, was the great centre of commerce in this part of Negroland. The province of Baghena was also of considerable importance on

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »