Treatise of Zera Yacob, Chapter II
May 3, 2012 § Leave a comment
While I was teaching in my district, many of my friends came to dislike me. During this period there was no real friendship and as a result men became jealous of one another. I surpassed the others in knowledge and in love of one’s neighbour and I was on good terms with all, even with the Frang [foreigners; i.e. the Portuguese] and the Copts. And while I was teaching and interpreting the Books, I used to say: “The Frang say this and this” or “The Copts say that and that,” and I did not say: “This is good, that is bad,” but I said: “All these things are good if we ourselves are good.” Hence I was disliked by all; the Copts took me for a Frang, the Frang for a Copt. They brought a charge against me many times to the king; but God saved me. At that time, a certain enemy of mine, Walda Yohannes, a priest from Aksum and a friend of the king, went [to bring a charge against me:] since the love of kings could be won by perfidious tongue. This betrayer went to the king and said this about me: “Truly this man misleads the people and tells them we should rise for the sake of our faith, kill the king and expel the Frang.” He also said many other similar words against me. But being aware of all this and frightened by it, I took three measures of gold which I possessed and the Psalms of David, with which I prayed, and fled at night. I did not tell anyone where was going. I reached a place close to the Takkaze River, and the next day, as I felt hungry I went out in fear to beg the farmers for some bread. I ate what they gave me and ran away. I lived in this manner for many days. On my way to Shoa, I found an uninhabited location. There was a beautiful cave at the foot of a deep valley, and I said [to myself:] “I shall live here unnoticed.” I lived there for two years until [King] Susenyos died. “At times I would leave [the cave] and go to the market or to the country of the Ahmara as they took me for a hermit who goes about begging and gave me enough to appease my hunger. People however, did not know where I dwelt. Alone in my cave, I felt I was living in heaven. Knowing the boundless badness of men, I disliked contact with them. I built a fence of stone and thorny bush so that wild animals would not endanger my life at night, and I made an exit through which I could escape if ever people searched for me; there I lived peacefully praying with all my heart on the Psalms of David and trusting that God was hearing me.
This chapter is still strictly biographical, and I don’t have much to say about it. It would be interesting to know, though, to what extent Zera Yacob was diplomatic about the rival views of the Copts and Catholics because he had already become fairly skeptical about revealed religion. This skepticism was hinted at in chapter I as well.
Things start getting philosophical in chapter III.