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Some further material from the Eugen Mittwoch Nachlass1

  • Edward Ullendorff


The controversy as regards the genuineness of the allegedly seventeenth-century Ethiopian philosophers Zär'a Ya‘qob an Waldä Haywät and their two opuscula, known as hatäta ‘examination, inquiry’, has for close on a century generated scholarly discussion. In the footsteps of C. Conti Rossini (RAL, vm, 1899, 43 and RAL, xxix, 1920, 213—23) Mittwoch has adduced weighty arguments against the authenticity of the two tracts, and in his Amharische Version der Soirées de Carthage (Berlinand Leipzig, 1934) he has cited the relevant literature. I do not propose, in the present context, to traverse the same ground once again. The Ga‘az texts of the two hatäta were edited and translated by E. Littmann (CSCO, Scriptores Aethiopici, vols. 1 and 2, Leipzig 1904) and rendered from Ga‘sz into Amharic by Zämänfäs Qaddus Abraha (Asmara, 1955).

In the 1920s Eugen Mittwoch's pupil, Dr. Hans Schlobies,2 wrote to Alaqa Dästa,3 who was considered a notable student of Ethiopic literature, to enquire about indigenous knowledge of those two works. Part of the learned Aläqa's reply was published by Mittwoch in the Soirées de Carthage, 3–4, but Mittwoch's Ethiopian Nachlass (now in my possession) contains the original of Alaqa Dästa's letter which I propose to set out here in its entirety:

To the honoured Dr. Yohannes Schlobies. While I say ‘let my respectful greetings be to you and your entire family’, I present the compliments appropriate to your distinction. Honoured Sir, so far from being-as you wrote to me-' famous



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2 2 Schlobies is uncharacteristically omitted from Hammerschmidt's, EÄthiopistik an Deutschen Universitäten, Wiesbaden, 1968. Professor H. J. Polotsky has very kindly told me (letter of 25 April 1987) that Schlobies studied in Berlin together with him, though a few years older than Polotsky who was born in 1905, and in 1924–25 was about to obtain his doctorate. He had worked on Amharic under Mittwoch, and in 1930 was employed at the Berlin Seminar für orientalische Sprachen. Cf. also Polotsky, , Collected Papers, Jerusalem, 1971, p. 343, n. 3. Schlobies, unlike Mittwoch or Polotsky, had travelled to Ethiopia at least once. For his published work see Lockot, H. W., Bibliographia Aethiopica ( = Äth. Forsch., vo. 9), Wiesbaden, 1981.

3 Aläqa Dästä Täklä, Wald is the author of the well–known 'addis yamarńńa mäzgädbäbä qalat, Addis Ababa, 1970 (photograph, p. 5), and was the recipient of the Haile Sellassie Prize for Ethiopian Studies in 1969 (cf. Haile Sellassie I Prize Trust, Addis Ababa, 1974, 94 which contains biographical information on DTW).

4 I am much indebted to Professor Polotsky, H. J for reading Aläqa Dästa's letter with me during his sojourn in England in September 1987 and for many precious observations.

5 Reigned 1607–32 and was the only Ethiopian Emperor to accept Roman Catholicism, largely under the influence of Pedro Paez (Pêro Pais) and Alphonse Mendes (cf. Ullendorff, , The Ethiopians, 3rded., 1973, 6 and 7375; Beckingham, C. F, The Itinerdrio of Jeronimo Lobo, Hakluyt Society, London, 1984, Introduction, XXI ff.).

6 The regnal periods of these Emperors are apt to vary by two or three years in different Ethiopic sources.

7 Mittwoch, op. cit., 4, renders the term romawi as ‘European’, but he accepts, of course, that Aläqa Dästa refers here to the opinion of Western scholars that the writer of these tracts was the Italian Padre Giusto da Urbino (whose real name was Iacobo [= (Zär'a) Ya'qob] Curtopassi).

8 Erich Weinzinger was responsible for publishing his teacher Mondon-Vidailhet's, C.Études sur leGuragie (Vienna, 1913). Weinzinger himself had been on a commercial and scholarly mission to Ethiopia before 1910, supported by the Austrian Government, and returned there on subsequent occasions. He was the author of a number of articles on commercial subjects and current affairs (listed in Lockot's, H. W.Bibliographia Aethiopica, 1982 (= Aeth. Forsch., vol. 9), where however item 6788 appears to have been entered in error). After his return from the journey referred to by Jensen he published an article (Feb. 1921) entitled ‘Abessinien als Einwanderungsland’ (cf. Lockot, No. 692).

Professor H. J. Polotsky very kindly informs me (letter dated 25 April 1987) that one Wänzingär EnkDoktor is listed in the Yä–Ityopaya ekonomi yä–ajj mäshaf(Addis Ababa, 1944 A.M., 39) with an address in Däjazmać Afä Warq mängäd and as representative, since 1909, of a number of European commercial enterprises.

9 A more dispassionate account will be found in Bairu, Tafia's fine Ethiopia and Germany, 130–7. Baku's statement, incidentally, that Minister Syburg was recalled in 1919 and that the legation was run by Jensen from 1919 to 1921 seems to be contradicted by Jensen's account below which makes it dear that ‘der Herr Gesandte’ was still at Addis Ababa in May 1920, though anxious to leave for Germany soon.

10 This seems to me an odd statement, since—with the partial exception of Liberia—there were no independent states in Africa at that time, apart from Ethiopia.

11 Jensen had expressed similar sentiments about his compatriots in a pre–war letter to Mittwoch, dated 9th December 1910 (Ullendorff, , BSOAS, XLIII, 3, 1980, 450 = 156).

12 It was, in fact, ‘eine sehr kleine Schrift’ entitled Yä–Ityogaya hszb tarik, first published in 1914 (= 1921) at Asmara by the Swedish Evangelical Mission, and subsequently reprinted at Addis Ababa no fewer than six times, the last edition (1964 = 1971/2) with a learned introduction by Taddäsä Tamrat.

13 i.e.Auswārtiges Amt.It is interesting to note that Jensen assumed, presumably with good reason, that Mittwoch was privy to the intentions of the German Foreign Ministry as far as Abyssinia was concerned. Cf. my observations in footnote 15 on p. 436 (= p. 142) of BSOAS, XLIII, 3, 1980.

14 Then Director of the Berlin Orientalisches Seminar (cf. Ullendorff, , BSOAS, xxxv, 2, 1972, 259=121).

1 Previous material originating from Mittwoch's papers and generously handed over to the present writer byMittwoch's family has been published as follows: BSOAS, xxxiv, 1, 1971; BSOAS, xxxv, 2, 1972 and BSOAS, XLIII, 3, 1980 (= Ullendorff, Studia Aethiopica et Semitica, Äthiopistische Forschungen, vol. 24 (Stuttgart, 1987), 91–158); JRAS, 2, 1986.

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Some further material from the Eugen Mittwoch Nachlass1

  • Edward Ullendorff


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