Troglodytes - Encyclopedia

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TROGLODYTES (Tpo yXoSurai, from -rpc' yXn, hole, &'w, creep), "cave-dwellers," a name applied by ancient writers to different tribes in various parts of the world. Strabo speaks of them in Moesia, south of the Danube (vii. 318), in the Caucasus (xi. 506), but especially in various parts of Africa from Libya (xvii. 828) to the Red Sea. The troglodyte Ethiopians of Herodotus (iv. 183) in inner Africa, very swift of foot, living on lizards and creeping things, and with a speech like the screech of an owl, have been identified with the Tibbus of Fezzan.

According to Aristotle (Hist. An. viii. 12) a dwarfish race of Troglodytes dwelt on the upper course of the Nile, who possessed horses and were in his opinion the Pygmies of fable. But the best known of these African cave-dwellers were the inhabitants of the "Troglodyte country" (TpcoryXoSuruc))) on the coast of the Red Sea, as far north as the Greek port of Berenice, of whom an account has been preserved by Diodorus (iii. 31) and Photius (p. 454 Bekker) from Agatharchides of Cnidus, and by Artemidorus in Strabo (xvi. 776). They were a pastoral people, living entirely on the flesh of their herds, or, in the season of fresh pasture, on mingled milk and blood. But they killed only old or sick cattle (as indeed they killed old;men who could no longer follow the flock), and the butchers were called "unclean"; nay, they gave the name of parent to no man, but only to the cattle which provided their subsistence. This last point seems to be a confused indication of totemism. They went almost naked; the women wore necklaces of shells as amulets. Marriage was unknown, except among the chiefs - a fact which agrees with the prevalence of female kinship in these regions in much later times. They practised circumcision or a mutilation of a more serious kind. Their burial rites were peculiar. The dead body, its neck and legs bound together with withies of the shrub called paliurus, was set up on a mound, and pelted with stones amidst the jeers of the onlookers, until its face was completely covered with them. A goat's horn was then placed above it, and the crowd dispersed with manifestations of joy. It is supposed that the Horim or Horites, the aboriginal inhabitants of Mount Seir, if their name is correctly interpreted "cavedwellers," were a kindred people to the Troglodytes on the other side of the Red Sea.

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