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Gypsy Folk Tales, by Francis Hindes Groome, [1899], at

In Crete.

From the preceding it may be safely deduced that, with our present knowledge, or rather lack of knowledge, we can seldom, if ever, fix the precise date when the Gypsies first set foot in any country. Till 1849 it was almost universally accepted that 1417, the year of their appearance at the Hanse cities of the Baltic, was also the date of their first arrival in Europe. But since then Bataillard, Hopf, and Miklosich have collected a number of passages which prove incontestably that long before then there must have been Gypsies in south-eastern Europe. Symon Simeonis, a Minorite friar, who made pilgrimage from

p. xix

[paragraph continues] Ireland to the Holy Land, tells in his Itinerarium (Camb. 1778, p, 17), how in 1322 near Candia in Crete: 'There also we saw a race outside the city, following the Greeks' rite, and asserting themselves to be of the family of Chaym [Ham]. They rarely or never stop in one place beyond thirty days, but always wandering and fugitive, as though accursed by God, after the thirtieth day remove from field to field with their oblong tents, black and low, like the Arabs', and from cave to cave. For after that period any place in which they have dwelt becomes full of worms and other nastinesses, with which it is impossible to dwell.' 1


xix:1 This passage was cited as far back as 1785 by Jacob Bryant in Archæologia, vii. 393; but another on p. 57 of the Itinerarium has hitherto escaped Gypsiologists. I give it in the original Latin:--'Item sciendum est, quod in sæpedictis civitatibus [Alexandria and Cairo] de omni secta alia ab illorum viri mulieres lactantes juvenes et cani pravæ venditioni exponuntur ad instar bestiarum; et signanter indiani schismatici et danubiani, qui omnes utriusque sexus in colore cum corvis et carbonibus multum participant; quia hii cum arabis et danubianis semper guerram continuant, atque cum capiuntur redemptione vel venditione evadunt. . . . Prædicti autem Danubiani, quamvis ab Indianis non sunt figura et colore distincti, tamen ab eis distinguuntur per cicatrices longas quas habent in facie et cognoscuntur; comburunt enim sibi cum ferro ignito facies illas vilissimas terribiliter in longum, credentes se sic flamine [?flammis] baptizari ut dicitur, et a peccatorum sordibus igne purgari. Qui postquam ad legem Machometi fuerunt conversi christianis deteriores sunt Saracenis, sicut et sunt Radiani renegati, et plures molestias inferunt. . . . Item sciendum, quod in præfatis civitatibus tanta est eorum multitudo, quod nequaquam numerari possunt.' There is much in this passage that remains obscure; but it seems clear from it that in 1322 there were in Egypt large numbers of captives, male and female, old and young, from the Danubian territories. They were black as crows and coal, and in complexion and features differed little from Indians, except that their faces bore long scars produced by burning (?a kind of tattooing, like that of the Gypsy women in 1427 at Paris on p. xii.). On conversion to Mohammedanism these Danubians were worse to the Christians than the Saracens. Were these Danubians, or some at least of them, Gypsies, prisoners of war, from the Danubian territories? and did some of them buy back their freedom and return to Europe? If so, perhaps one has here an explanation of the hitherto unexplained names 'Egyptian,' 'Gypsy,' 'Gitano,' etc., and of the story told by the western immigrants of 1417-34 of renegacy from the Christian faith.

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