Mafia Essay

2022 words - 8 pages

The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, written in approximately AD50 , describes a well established trade route, linking Arabia with Azania, as the east coast of Africa was known in the Graeco-Roman era. The principal port of trade was Mocha (or Merku and Mark'a) in present day Yemen, and the last port in Azania was Rhapta, lying some two courses from the island of Menouthesias, itself 300 stadia - a measure of distance equivalent to about 50 km - from the coast. Menouthesias was "...a low island covered with trees in which are rivers..." according to the Periplus. And Rhapta lay to the south "...beside and to the east of a cape with a river..." according to a separate source, Ptolemy , in his famous Geographia. The locations of both Menouthesias and Rhapta have confounded scholars since the Periplus was first translated in 1912. Some scholars argue that Zanzibar or Pemba may be the fabled Menouthesias with Rhapta somewhere between Bagamoyo and Dar es Salaam.The trade links to Mocha indicate that the Sabaeans, ancestors of the Yemenis, claimed ancient right to over-lordship of the Azania coast, although this is believed to have been an arrangement to reduce trade competition rather than the result of conquest. Rhapta and its hinterland were governed, undoubtedly tenuously, by these people, believed to be the Ma'afir, a tribe of Himyaritic stock. The control from the Ma'afir may explain the name of "Mafia".It is not too fanciful to suggest that Mafia is the Menouthesias of the ancients and Rhapta was in the area of Kilwa. Ptolemy located Rhapta at 8o South (where the Delta lies) and "...near a big river..." these geographical descriptions and the mention of many crocodiles in the old writings certainly support the possibility of the Rufiji Delta as Cape Rhapton.A Persian family, apparently from the town of Shiraz in Persia, led by Ali bin Sultan al Husayn ben Ali settled in Kilwa in AD975. Bashat, one of his seven sons, settled in Mafia to govern under this new Kilwa Sultanate and he is thought to have established the towns of Kua and possibly Kisimani Mafia.Kilwa prospered from the gold and ivory trades, tariffs on cargoes, and as a source of pitch and resin as it is a convenient port for victual-ling and re-caulking ships. Here the literature is vague: Did Kilwa already exist as a significant port (Rhapta)? How did this new settler from Shiraz assume such economic and political power so quickly? It is hard to believe that Kilwa was not already prosperous and therefore attractive to the Persians, who stepped into or complemented an economic and power vacuum, possibly because the Yemenis were itinerant trader-sailors and did not settle . It is certainly an exceptionally good port for a sailor, with an entrance that is easily negotiated and a superb protected anchorage in deep water.Work being done by archaeologists, anthropologists and linguists strongly supports the school of thought that between AD700 and AD1250 an identifiable Swahili culture...

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