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1486 João De Barros: Pre-protuguese Christian Influence In Benin - Culture - Nairaland

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1486 João De Barros: Pre-protuguese Christian Influence In Benin by samuk: 12:30am On May 22
1486 João de Barros: Pre-Protuguese Christian influence in Benin - Ibid., 126-7

Among the many things which the King D. João learnt from the ambassador of the king of Benin, and also from João Afonso d'Aveiro, of what they had been told by the inhabitants of these regions, was that to the east of Beny at twenty moons' journeywhich according to their account, and the short journeys they make, would be about two hundred and fifty of our leaugesthere lived the most powerful monarch of these parts, who was called Ogané. Among the pagan chiefs of the territories of Beny he was held in as great veneration as is the Supreme Pontif with us. In accordance with a very ancient custom, the king of Beny, on ascending the throne, sends ambassadors to him with rich gifts to announce that by the decease of his predecessor he has succeeded to the kingdom of Beny, and to requesst confirmation. To signify his assent, the prince Ogané sends the king a staff and a headpiece of shining brass, fashioned like a Spanish helmet, in place of a crown and sceptre. He also sends a cross, likewise of brass, to be worn round the neck, a holy and religious emblem similar to that worn by the Knights of the Order of Saint John. Without these emblems the people do not recognize him as lawful ruler, nor can he call himself truly king. All the time this ambassador is at the court of Ogané, he never sees the prince, but only the curtains of silk behind which he sits, for he is regarded as sacred.
Re: 1486 João De Barros: Pre-protuguese Christian Influence In Benin by samuk: 12:32am On May 22
When the ambassador is leaving, he is shown a foot below the curtains as a sign that the prince is within and agrees to the matters that he has raised; this foot they reverence as though it were a sacred relic. As a kind of reward for the hardships of such a journey the ambassador receives a small cross, similar to that sent to the king, which is thrown round his neck to signify that he is free and exempt from all servitudes, and privileged in his native country, as the Knights are with us. I myself knew this, but in order to be able to write it with authority, (although the King D. João in his time had also enquired well into it) when in the year 1540 certain ambassadors of the king of Beny came to this Kingdom, among whom was a man about seventy years of age who was wearing one of these crosses, I asked him the reason, and he gave an explanation similar to the above. And as in the time of the King, D. João, whenever India was spoken of, reference was always made to a very powerful king called Priest John of the Indies, who was reputed to be a Christian, it seemed therefore to the King that it might be possible to enter India by way of this kingdom. For he had learnt from the Abexijs (Abyssinian) priests who came to these parts of Spain, and also from some friars who had been from this kingdom to Jerusalem and whom he had ordered to gather information about this Prince, that his country was in the land above Egypt whence it stretched to the southern sea. Wherefore the King and his cosmographers, taking into consideration Ptolemy's general map describing Africa and its kings on the coast, as was ascertained by his discoverers, and also the distance of two hundred and fifty leagues to the east where according to the people of Beny the country of prince Ogané lay, concluded that he must be Priest John, for both were hidden behind curtains of silk and held the emblem of the cross in great veneration. And it also appeared to him that if his ships continued along the coast they had discovered, they could not fail to reach the land where the plateau promontory was, which is the boundary of that country. Therefore taking into consideration all these facts which increased his ardour for the design of discovering India, he determined to send immediately in the year 1486 both ships by sea and men by land, in order to get to the root of this matter which inspired so much hope in him.


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