Book 1, Chapter 4

The means of situating their city or chilombo[1] and the offices and military dignities used among the nations of Ethiopia corresponding to those customary among Europeans.  Chapter IV

The method (dear readers) which the Giagas and non Giagas use to situate their cities and libatas[2] is in the following manner.  Having chosen the place where they want to found their libata they assign seven places for each of their officials to locate it.[3] It is agreed by the first, who is the Lord of the Land whether it is a kingdom or Province, that it is placed in the middle where he forms his court and royal palace inside a great square enclosure with its streets inside and without any houses near it, and inside he makes many houses both for him and his servants of his Court and courtiers and each of [46] his great men has to have a house near to the Court which they call “of service and assistance to their Lord”  and have another one inside it for when he is sick, because they all have to assist even though there may be much work to do and he who behaved otherwise would be taken as a traitor.  This is all there is to say about the first who is the lord, whether he be king, sova or giaga or other.

The second is called Colambole,[4] he placed on the right hand side in front which is called Muta a ita, that is head of war or by another name Muta a Vungo, that is head of the ship, or prow and this one always goes in the vanguard and is the first to show barbarities towards the enemies, because they make the cruelest possible example of the first ones who come into their hands and among Europeans this man is called Lieutenant General and when they have to change place they always align themselves with this official as a ship follows its path and among them this is observed as a law from their mother, and ordinarily when their Lord dies or their Singhilla[5] who among them is like a bishop, they change their place with many ceremonies and observances.

The third is the Tandala[6] who holds the place of the viceroy or viceduke among Europeans, who is situated in the rearguard which they call Iquoque,[7] that is the main road to the royal court.  When he goes to war and gives a death sentence in elections his role is the first and he governs in the absence or death of the lord, among them he is normally an elder and a good soldier and much respected by all.

The fourth is Manilumbo[8] which is among Europeans the majodomo as a man and counsellor.  The word mani means Lord, lumbo means a great wall, so he becomes the lord of the walls and because of this his office is to make the walls around the King camp and in wartime to take charge of lodging.  He is situated on the right side of the enclosure which they call Mutunda,[9] that is the eastern side.  He goes to war according to the need and assists the king or lord.  Ordinarily he is noble and serves the King also in other offices and has many vassals under his command.

The fifth, with the name of captian general, is one who is located on the left-hand side which they call Muÿa,[10] that is the western side, among Europeans he has the name of colonel.  This official is not generally in all the armies and where they are he is found he is customarily under the orders of the Colambole and the lieutenant general, when they are on the battle-field however, he is recognized as the second person of the army.

The sixth, called Ilunda,[11] means among Europeans captain of the baggage or escort which the call quiqumba,[12] or Provider General.  This one is placed in the vanguard under the lieutenant general and must be a good soldier for the escort is in his care, also in time of peace, his task is to provide of the things necessary for war such as bows, arrows, bowstrings, etc.

The seventh is another Ilunda whom they create and is known by Europeans as the quartermaster because he waits on the royal person and takes care of his house and does this both in war and in peace.  He calls himself Victualler and Provider, Manicurio[13] that is lord of eating and drinking and also of provisions.  They usually stay in the rearguard under the Tandala.  These and other officials behave as is customary in Europe, except for the cavalry, as they all go on foot but the sum of war consists in the above officials who are those who make the advance or retreat or go right or left as they think expedient.  These do not fight in military order as the Europeans do, but spread out over the field and the bravest soldier is he who is the fastest runner, most skillful in leaping or twisting his body.  The boldest, the most barbarous and the cruelest are the good and brave soldiers and the most esteemed.[14] Each of the officials has his subalterns as for example Samba Colambola which means vice-lieutenant general, Samba Tandala vice Tandala, vice governor and so on for the others.[15] Each of these has his soldiers with their captains [and] lieutenants in their black fashions.

None of the above dignitaries can sit before the king except the Colombolo to whom it concerns to pass judgement and to conclude the quarrels which arise among them, and even if the Tandala gives judgement he does not sit in front of the king.  By seat they mean a throne with a back and seat more than two palms high while others are only conceded small benches which they call qui[48]buna[16] on which they sit or else on some cloths of the country which they call Vungas[17] which are many cloths sewn together the size of a coverlet spread out on the ground by their own hand, it not being allowed for them to make use of servants as a matter of principle in the presence of their king or lord and they have to carry a small cymbal to play when the king sneezes or does something else which according to their customs necessitates the playing of this instrument.[18]

The war scouts they call Pombos[19] who make up a company of good soldiers with their captain who strike out in front of everyone to find out the enemies’ movements and give continual reports on how many of the enemy they hear and see and secure the roads.  When the king attacks the enemy in person all the lieutenants accompany him with their insignia, making various demonstrating with them and shouting in their barbarous way.  This is all I need to say on the situation of the cities and the offices and military dignities customarily used among Ethiopians.  I will not extend myself to other things nor minor offices so as not to bore the reader with things of no use.

[1].  Chilombo= kilombo, a military encampment.  On a possible etymology, see Miller, Kings and Kinsmen, pp. 167.

[2].  Libata, the sixteenth century form of the Kikongo word for village (since the mid-seventeenth century the class marker has not been used in the singular form, while the “b” has evolved first to “bh” and then to “v” in modern Kikongo).  For the seventeenth century, see Biblioteca Nazionale Vittorio Emanuele, Rome, Fundo Minori 1896, MS Varia 274, “Vocabularium latinum, hispanicum et conogese…”, fol.   “ebhata”.  The term entered Angolan Portuguese from Kikongo in this archaic form in the mid sixteenth century, and it is probably from Portuguese rather than Kimbundu or Kikongo that Cavazzi uses the term.  In the catechism of 1642, Gentio II, 8, “bata rimoxi” is used to mean “one house” (showing the same class membership as its Kikongo analog), while the same text,    uses “senzala” for village.

[3].  Andrew Battel mentioned that the Imbangala band with which he stayed that there were twelve captains and twelve gates to the kilombo ed. Ravenstein, Strange Adventures, p.

[4].  Colambole seems to be the same as Golambole or ngola a mbole.  The term first occurs as a military leader in Jesuit descriptions of Angola dating from around 1582, Beatrix Heintze,  “Unbekanntes Angola:  Der Staat Ndongo im 16. und 17. Jahrhundert” Anthropos 72 (1977):  789-90.

[5].  See MS pp. 86-91 below for further details on the Singhilla.

[6].  The position of tandala is also mentioned in early sources as a viceroy and judge, Heintze, “Angola,” 788-9.  The usage in do Couto’s catechism gives an idea of such duties, Gentio IV, 2, where Pontius Pilate was Tandala of Jerusalem, or VII, 6, where the Pope was the Tandala of the Congregation of Jesus Christ.

[7].  Iquoque= Ikwokwe or Ikoke.

[8].  Mani Lumbo= Mwene Lumbo (in Kikongo, from which it was apparently borrowed).  Cavazzi’s etymology is correct, the title is mentioned for Ndongo as well–Cadorenga, Historia 1: 137.

[9].  Mutunda= mutunda.

[10].  Muÿa= Muya.

[11].  Ilunda= Ilunda.

[12].  quiqumba= kikumba or baggage train.  The deployment of the Portuguese army in 1646, described in minute detail in Cadorenga, Historia, 1: 396-411 shows how a typical army operated with regards to the security of its quicumba, or baggage, although, of course those without any Portuguese presence might operate somewhat differently.

[13].  Manicurio= Mwene kuria Lord of eating (drinking is not found in the title).  Similar duties were performed by a person called muene quizoulo (mwene kizulo) for the army of Ndongo, according to Cadornega, História 1: 29.

[14].  For a more thorough discussion of Angolan warfare in this period, see John Thornton, “The Art of War in Angola, 1575-1680,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 30 (1988): 360-78.

[15].  Samba= nsamba.

[16].  Quibuna=kibuna.  Cadornega describes it as a small bench or stool such as used by cottlers, História 1: 620 (editor’s glossary). In Istorica Descrizione, Book 2, no. 36 Cavazzi gives its height as one rather than two palms.

[17].  In the text it this word is given as vunge= the Italian plural of Vunga, thus given here with an English (or Portuguese) plural form.

[18].  These remarks are applicable to a wide group of African societies, see, W.G.L. Randles, L’ancien royaume du Congo: des origines à 1800 (Paris, 1968), pp.      Istorica Descrizione Book 2, no. 36 adds a section on the manner in which people sit before the king, possibly drawn from notes on Kongo.

[19].  Pombi= Italian plural of Pombo or mpombo, military scouts and light infantry which Cadornega often calls gente escoteria or gente do bom pe (scouts or swift-footed people), História, 1: 396 and 619 (glossary).  He also provides a good picture of an army deployed for battle with these troops labelled, ibid 2:  following 473.