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DID THE ROMANS COLONIZE AMERICA?
SOME EPITHETS AND IDIOMS IN THE ABORIGINAL INDIAN NAMES
As an evidence that the early colonists of America-or at least those who named the rivers of the Continent-are really of comparatively modern extraction, we may cite the fact that their nomenclature abounds in adjectives and descriptive phrases, while the language of primitive men in remote eras, as stated in a previous paragraph, indicates only the briefest nouns and verbs. A great majority of the (apparent) epithets in the native American names have unmistakable identity with the Latin. Roman idioms and phrases are presented with very curious and interesting development in analyses of those names-especially names of some of the great rivers of the Continent.
The Roman term for great was the well-known word magnus. Its abbreviation in the Latin was magh, ma (or mal, which refers to its Sanscrit root. Mak is the brief transcript of the Greek synonym.)* The letter M was sometimes used as an abbreviation.
Now it is a very curious and striking fact that this letter M, or some other abbreviation of inagnus, is in the native “ appellation ”t of nearly all our great waters. It is, indeed, in the name of all, with the exception of those where the sublime idea is indicated by terms other than in magnus; or where there was some conspicuous natural fact so distinctive as to require illustration otherwise—as, for instance, in the case of the ORINOCO of South America. I believe this word is simply Orien aqua-or the river that runs to the Sunrise. This is in perfect illustration of the actual physical fact; no other river in the world for the same distance runs more directly to the Sunrise, or to the Oriens, than the ORINOCO. There is another river in North America that had originally the same Indian namethe Orien(s)aqua. It is a river that runs so nearly to the sunrise, that in an easterly course of over two hundred miles it crosses a single parallel of
* An abbreviation, the equivalent (in pronunciation) of the Greek root mak, is usually given in our transcripts of Indian names, printed “ mac"—as in Potomac, Merrimac, etc. An examination of the originals of these leads to the conclusion that the “mac" here is but the abbreviation of mah aqua-or simply m-ac-the final syllable having been suppressed, as in the French abbreviation “ac" for aqui.
Our Pilgrim Fathers “suppressed” the Indian in many ways. + The term “appellation" is used in deference, and reference also, to the quotation from Mr. Jefferson.-Aug. No.
latitude six or eight times. Its ancient name has been corrupted to "Ro. anoke;" but if the student desires to find how the earliest explorers of Virginia and North Carolina wrote the word, the versions will be found in “ Hawks' History of North Carolina." Local tradition preserves the original name yet in the famous "Oronoko tobaccou" that grows along this river.
These, indeed, are remarkable coincidences. The early Indian's mind was thoroughly scientific, and titles were truly characteristic. Definite expression, as we have stated elsewhere, was conveyed in the word coined. Hence, when a river name was spoken, the audience at once knew the character of the water. This was the general rule, though exceptions appear. We cannot now determine the facts fully, because many of the descriptives of the Indian names are evidently gone from the more modern title. We know that even in the historical period many of these (descriptives) have been dropped. For instance, we have now simply “ MACKINAW," where it was originally MichiLLI MACKINAW (or Ma-aqua-na). We have now in our geographies and on our maps simply “ Haw,” where the original was Saxapahaw-two well-known descriptives gone from the ancient name. We have also “TOE," where it was originally Estatoe. Numerous examples could be cited had we space for illustration.
The Latin birth of the descriptive in the examples given will be seen as we proceed.
Not only have the Indian names been often shorn of their strength and vigor by the abbreviative spirit of our modern age, but sometimes those names have been clad in the most fanciful of garbs by literary zesthetes. In a group of the fanciful names appear TENNESSEE and MISSISSIPPI.
Let us analyze the latter, as it is one of our great waters having in the title the letter M. * Before we proceed, however, with the task of analysis, we should formulate full principles upon which we can proceed legitimately, dealing, as we have to, partly with the absolutely unknown. There is a principle, well understood in the higher branches of mathematical science, applied in the elucidation of problems where, with a knowledge of three factors, the fourth or the unknown is an easy demonstration. In
Among the waters of the Western Continent, having in their aboriginal titles the letter M, are Mississippi, Missouri, Merrimac, Potomac, Moratoc (lower Roanoke), Michigan, Kallamuckee (great Tennessee), We-apa-ma-ooka (Albemarle Sound), Ma-aqua-esque-don (Delaware Bay), Maaqua or Mahaqua (Hudson), Appomatoc (James ?), Minnesota, Alabama, Amaccura (in Florida and South America also), Ammasona (Amazon), Vermaha (La Plata), Mackinaw (Lake Superior), and Wasmasaw (Cooper). Webster says that Massachusetts means "great hills.” The tradition in regard to nearly all the names cited connects the term "great " with the words.
the case of the Indian names we often have undisputed facts in our favor. In the example ORINOCO we have the illustration of a physical nature that cannot be controverted. Secondly, the fact that the Indians' words mean something—the fact that they have definite significance-certainly cannot be eliminated from the problems before us, if we have the evident descriptive epithet yet remaining with the name. We have also often the testimonies traditional. Fortunately the gap lying between the coinage of the word and its communication to our ancestors in the historical period was not so great, but that the truths of history were often securely held in the memories of the native, and correctly transmitted. We should not, however, attach too great importance to mere tradition, unless it is corroborated by the physical and the verbal facts. If these, however, shall all agree, and a comparative investigation reveals a further coincidence and corroboration in the Latin language-in the Roman theory-we certainly must consider the evidence decidedly in our favor, if not irrefutably sustaining the positions assumed.
Applying the touchstones, let us begin with the Mississippi, the greatest of our rivers. There are many traditions in regard to this name. There is one-given in “Barnes' School History”—which gives the meaning as “the gathering of the waters.” Certainly there is the great physical fact illustrated there—in the current of that mighty stream; the waters of nearly half a continent are “gathered" in its embrace. The physical and the traditional here agree. We encounter, however, a difficulty in determining the full verbal facts, for our learned men are not fully agreed as to the true word. Hence we are required to evolve or produce order out of the chaotic material found in historical and literary archives. The modern writing, “ Mississippi,” as previously observed, is a work of fancy. The original has been given as “ Metche Sepe" by grave and learned authority; and “sepe” or “sippi,” is a recognized term for river in the Indian. These evidently have origin in APA—the “epe” or “ippi” being mere corrupt pronunciations of the Wallachian word (apa). There are, I think, less than a dozen of the Indian river names now written in "epe" or “ippe ;” while in scores of them the river term is rendered in APA and ABA. Marquette, in 1673, gave the original word as “Metchi Sipi." The missionary Allouez, in 1665, wrote it “Messipi ;” and one of the transcripts of the river name given by De Soto, the discoverer, in 1540, shows“Mico (or Meso).
The original name is evidently composed of two terms——the prefix being something which the early writers endeavored to transcribe as “ Messe," “Messa," or "Metcha." A close scrutiny of all the testimony bearing upon the name-comparing it with the word MISSOURI-makes the true aboriginal name MESSIS APA. * We must take the name MISSOURI into consideration from the fact that geographers and geologists alike generally regard the Missouri as the true Mississippi. The Indian evidently took the same view of the rivers; for the two words are almost identical in origin and significance.
The descriptive in the names are pure Latin. They come from the verb ineto, which means to measure, or to gather together. In conjugating the verb these forms are developed: meto, messis, messoi (or messio). The latter means "the gathering." This epithet, joined with the Sanscrit term RI, which is indicative of the rapid, rushing current so characteristic of this river, gives us almost the identical orthography originally used (by our earliest explorers there) for the name MESSUIRI.
There are nice subtle differences in the two names -MESSUIRI and MESSISAPA--that betray in their coinage a mind schooled in science, not only the science of lexicography, but of geography and hydrography also. From Memphis down—say from the point where De Soto first discovered
* I certainly have as much authority in the premises for this writing as those had who changed Metchi sipi to Metche sepe.
+ A few writers appear to be thrown off their guard in endeavoring to clear up the mysteries that hang around the aboriginal American ; they endeavor-so it seems to the present author-to solve the problems by consideration of the modern savage and his barbaric dialects with their modern infusions. The fact is, these—the modern savage and his dialect-are the products of so many corrupting influences that in attempting their solution one becomes involved in the most inscrutable mazes of difficulty and darkness. Learned philologists have dwelt long on the Indian language in analyses of the mere grammatical structure. Grammatical philosophy is indeed the most capricious and unreliable of all the sciences. For what possible analogy is there in the outward structure of such terms-so intimately connected in significance-as "go" and "went,” "good" and "better” (instead of good-er), and in such as bonus (or the old form of the word, duonus), melior, and optimus? These, it is true, are representative of the “irregular"in grammatical science, and allowance must be made for the “irregular" in the Indian.
If we attempt the correct analyses of waters, the nearer we obtain them from the fountain-head, the purer will be the specimen for the alembic. So with the Indian and his language ; the further back the historical track we can go, the fewer the difficulties to be encountered. These papers are discussing the aborigines of America—not the modern savages of our great West.
Grammatical structures are often merely and purely individual and dialectic, and devoid of philosophical formula. They are constantly changing. Moreover, they have birth in ideas that do not antedate the modern dialect itself; and often they do not conform to model or ancestry. Many things about the Indian seem to conform to the Roman. Prescott, the historian (Conquest Mexico, vol. i., pp. 112-13) says, that in the mathematical sciences the early Indian system was in one particular “identical with the Roman," and that “Roman sports” and “Roman games" entered into the amusements of the aborigines. In fact, the ruins of a theater, built on the very model of the Roman Forum, were found in Mexico, at Tezcacallo. Numerous architectural analogies exist in the Indian and Roman.
the river-the name MESSISAPA truly applies. This word means, with the Latin theory in regard to the prefix--the gathered water. Above that point the river is gathering into its embrace the other great waters of the valley; and hence the legitimate application of the participle to the upper river, hence the Messui-ri-truly the gathering river—and not the “ muddy river," as some authorities say the word means.
These are certainly striking, if not startling, testimonies revealing the Indian's knowledge of the mother (Latin) tongue. There is, without doubt, in them a corroboration of the threefold facts—the verbal, the physical, and the traditional.
But these are not all the valuable facts in connection with the river that evince the Indians' knowledge. The Mississippi was known to the early aborigines also as the CHUCKAGUA (Ramsay's Annals of Tennessee). This is the title, doubtless, which gave rise to the tradition that the meaning of the name was “Great Father of Waters.” We see the term “water”in the word in the Spanish version of the Latin aqua. The expression “Great Father" is supposed to be represented or expressed by the prefix "Chuc," which is furthermore supposed to be same as the Hebrew Jal * (or Jehovah) -the Great Father. This Hebrew term, or its corruption, is often found in the Indian nomenclature, and written in transcripts showing now “Chi," “Che," “Chu," etc.: and what is more remarkable still, this term is nearly always in names applying to waters about which there is great mystery or grandeur. It appears to be a fact that the word Jehovah was once known in purity to the early colonists of America. The Choctaw Lexicon has it as belonging to that language. And that their word is not a mere modern appropriation or adaptation of the ancient one we have striking evidence. The Choctaws print it as “Chihowah.” Now an ancient tradition gives the aboriginal name of the Delaware river as ChihoHOCCI (or really Chihoaqua). The legend (as recorded by Mrs. Ellett-Poems Tradition of “ Delaware Water Gap”) † is that God's Finger-or the Finger of the Great Spirit,---once touched the mountain, at a place now known as Delaware Water Gap; the rocks were then rent asunder, and the waters released from their long confinement in the valleys beyond. Hence the name-simply God's River.
Reserving for a future article other illustrations of the Indians' use of the Hebrew term, let us return to those names wherein the Latin magnus or its abbreviation is seen.
* In the Spanish language--from which we get the Indian originals-Ch ảnd J are the same in sound.
+ Citation made from memory-the authority not at hand at this writing.