To The Glory of Aethiopis

December 5, 2018

 

The sequel to the Iliad known as Aethiopis was composed by an author named Arctinus nearly a century after Homer. Much of the original was lost, some scholars claiming that the oral tale is even older than the written Iliad itself. Yet so popular and important was this tale in the Iliad cycle that it was again compiled in written form by Quintus of Smyrna under the title The Fall Of Troy in the 4th century CE. An army from Africa, together with a contingent of fierce female Amazons led by the famous Penthesilea, comes to the aid of the besieged Trojans. The army of Aethiopia is led by King Memnon of whom Achilles claims to have been one of the greatest warriors he ever faced in one on one combat. Both Achilles and Memnon wear armor fashioned for them by the god of metallurgists himself, Hephaistos. So important is the duel between these two great champions that the gods make them seem as giants so all can bear witness to the great battle of the age. It is also interesting to note that it is only after Memnon and the army from Aethiopia is defeated are the Greeks able to penetrate the city of Troy and conquer it once and for all. 

While the continent and it's people was viewed as exotic and strange by the ancient Greeks, there was according to ancient historical accounts and legends an established contact that belies the idea that Africa was an unknown, dark and mysterious continent, which became the popular notion of Africa in later European views. The exploits of great 'Aethiopian' warrior kings and queens abound in a number of stories from Greek and other mythologies, which tell us of great civilizations, mighty cities and empires and a well respected military and heroic tradition replete with notable warriors and legendary heroes. 

  

There far off, beyond Saharan sand
Beyond Ramses’ pyramids, in a most unfamiliar land

Mighty nations did rise and wane

Amid trial and effort, blood and pain

Armies of heroes and warriors ride

Their steeds to glory, never to hide

From any who would dare invade

Be warned...in your own blood will ye wade!

For men and women of Aethiopia wear

Their swords and daggers 'pon muscled torsos, fit and fair

Perfect are they in feature and height

As gods they strut, in all their might

And when a babe is born the child is blessed 

With the cold feel of a blade, pressed 

Upon blue-black skin so as to know  

In the warrior's path they must grow

To make a name through deeds, to recall

To be remembered by one and all

So long ago were such legends made

By warriors known, though memory may fade
Rising and falling, all the while
Like the rising and falling of the river Nile


Sing ye, bard, the song of Kandake
Mighty queen, awaiting the threats of Alexander
To the Siwa oasis the Macedonian phalanx marched

The throats of his soldiers, dry and parched
“We’ll go no further to test Nubian might!”
For they saw her, in the morning light
Sat she royally upon the back of an elephant of war
Surrounded by her spearmen, archers
Slingers and more
Their golden armor shining bright in the Sun…
The battle had already been won
So turned he, Alexander the king
And flew he East, as a bird taking wing
For no nation dare oppose the ruler of Meroe
Only to leave their bones in the desert
As if they were but seeds to sow

Recite the tale of Memnon, who did march to Troy
With an army ten thousand strong, in his employ
All his life he dreamed of the day
To challenge in combat the swift Achilles, who’d say
That never did he, hero of the Greeks
Cross sword or spear with another who doth wreaks
Such fearsome blows with precision and skill
Before making the inevitable kill
But alas, Memnon paid the price for fame
For immortality is itself to blame
Sacrificed he half his force, and self upon that day
‘Pon Trojan field, brave daughters and sons doth lay…
In heaps and mounds, a lifeless utopia
Many tears would yet be shed, in far off Aethiopia 


The great Myrina of Atlantean fame
Did beat the Gorgons in their own game
Conqueror of Arabia, Syria and more
She settled upon the Aegea
n’s shore

In battle did Mopsus, the king of Thrace
Deliver her the final grace
Slew he the conqueror, his sword stained crimson red
The Libyan queen was now dead
According to Plato, Myrina is not legend, but history
Sadly, the details of her deeds are lost in mystery 

 

From tigers and lions they learn to fight
Elephants, wisdom, the water buffalo, might
From the giraffe they gain their demeanor and bearing
Noble, proud under the colorful tunics they are wearing
Surely the ancients thought them close to heaven
Where the gods did prepare bread to leaven
There on Kilamanjaro, Solomon it is said
Buried his treasure behind walls of lead
Protected by legions of blue-green jinn
Untouched by man, ne’er to be seen
What secrets lie buried in Aethiopia’s past?
Will we come to know the truth, at last?


The griot bards pluck their kora harps at night

And flautists play until first light

And as workers start their day anew

They labor with energy kindled through

Those legends told and epics recited

Of brave men and women in whose deeds they delighted

To hear again and again the glorious story

Of those brave heroes of Aethiopia, in all her ancient glory
                                                                     
                                                                           Ismail Butera, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Kwaanza as Memnon, king of Aethiopia 


Photo above, Cece Carriker as the Nubian warrior Bethesekyme

Photos, Jay Richards

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

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