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defect, some visible symptom of failing health or advancing age, warns them that he is no longer equal to the discharge of his divine duties ; but not until such symptoms have made their appearance is he put to death. Some peoples, however, appear to have thought it unsafe to wait for even the slightest symptom of decay and have preferred to kill the king while he was still in the full vigour of life. Accordingly, they have fixed a term beyond which he might not reign,
and at the close of which he must die, the term fixed upon
being short enough to exclude the probability of his de-
1 Barbosa, A Description of the the beginning of the Sixteenth Century Coasts of East Africa and Malabar in (Hakluyt Society, 1866), p. 172 sq.
Malabar coast, had also to cut his throat in public at the end of a twelve years' reign. But towards the end of the seventeenth century the rule had been modified as follows: “A new custom is followed by the modern Samorins, that jubilee is proclaimed throughout his dominions, at the end of twelve years, and a tent is pitched for him in a spacious plain, and a great feast is celebrated for ten or twelve days, with mirth and jollity, guns firing night and day, so at the end of the feast any four of the guests that have a mind to gain a crown by a desperate action, in fighting their way through 30 or 40,000 of his guards, and kill the Samorin in his tent, he that kills him succeeds him in his empire. In anno 1695, one of those jubilees happened, and the tent pitched near Pennany, a seaport of his, about fifteen leagues to the southward of Calicut. There were but three men that would venture on that desperate action, who fell in with sword and target among the guard, and, after they had killed and wounded many, were themselves killed. One of the desperados had a nephew of fifteen or sixteen years of age, that kept close by his uncle in the attack on the guards, and, when he saw him fall, the youth got through the guards into the tent, and made a stroke at his Majesty's head, and had certainly despatched him if a large brass lamp which was burning over his head had not marred the blow; but, before he could make another, he was killed by the guards ; and, I believe, the same Samorin reigns yet. I chanced to come that time along the coast and heard the guns for two or three days and nights successively.” “It is a singular custom in Bengal,” says an old native historian of India, “that there is little of hereditary descent in succession to the sovereignty. There is a throne allotted for the king; there is, in like manner, a seat or station assigned for each of the amirs, wagirs, and mansabdars. It is that throne and these stations alone which engage the reverence of the people of Bengal. A set of dependents, servants, and attendants are annexed to each of these situations. When the king wishes to dismiss or appoint any person, whosoever is placed in the seat of the one dismissed is immediately attended and obeyed by the whole establishment of dependents, servants, and retainers annexed to the seat which he occupies. Nay, this rule obtains even as to the royal throne itself. Whoever kills the king, and succeeds in placing himself on that throne, is immediately acknowledged as king; all the amirs, wagirs, soldiers and peasants, instantly obey and submit to him, and consider him as being as much their sovereign as they did their former prince, and obey his orders implicitly. The people of Bengal say, ‘We are faithful to the throne; whoever fills the throne we are obedient and true to it.’”" A custom of the same sort formerly prevailed in the little kingdom of Passier, on the northern coast of Sumatra. The old Portuguese historian De Barros, who informs us of it, remarks with surprise that no wise man would wish to be king of Passier, since the monarch was not allowed by his subjects to live long. From time to time a sort of fury seized the people, and they marched through the streets of the city chanting with loud voices the fatal words, “The king must die ' " When the king heard that song of death he knew that his hour had come. The man who struck the fatal blow was of the royal lineage, and as soon as he had done the deed of blood and seated himself on the throne he was regarded as the legitimate king, provided that he contrived to maintain his seat peaceably for a single day. This, however, the regicide did not always succeed in doing. When Fernão Peres d'Andrade, on a voyage to China, put in at Passier for a cargo of spices, two kings were massacred, and that in the most peaceable and orderly manner, without the smallest sign of tumult or sedition in the city, where everything went on in its usual course as if the murder or execution of a king were a matter of everyday occurrence. Indeed, on one occasion three kings were raised to the dangerous elevation and sollowed each other on the dusty road of death in a single day. The people defended the custom, which they esteemed very laud
1 Alex. Hamilton, “A New Account of the East Indies,” in Pinkerton's Voyages and Travels, viii. 374.
* Sir H. M. Elliot, The History of mill, Surrey, for kindly calling my India as told by its own Historians, iv. attention to this and the following 26o. I have to thank Mr. R. S. instance of the custom of regicide. Whiteway, of Brownscombe, Shotter
able and even of divine institution, by saying that God would never allow so high and mighty a being as a king, who reigned as his vicegerent on earth, to perish by violence unless for his sins he thoroughly deserved it.' Far away from the tropical island of Sumatra a rule of the same sort appears to have obtained among the old Slavs. When the captives Gunn and Jarmerik contrived to slay the king and queen of the Slavs and made their escape, they were pursued by the barbarians, who shouted after them that if they would only come back they would reign instead of the murdered monarch, since by a public statute of the ancients the succession to the throne fell to the king's assassin. But the flying regicides turned a deaf ear to promises which they regarded as mere baits to lure them back to destruction ; they continued their flight, and the shouts and clamour of the barbarians gradually died away in the distance.” The famous traveller Ibn Batuta, a native of Tangier,
who visited the East Indies in the first half of the fourteenth century, witnessed at the court of the heathen Sultan of Java an occurrence which filled him with astonishment. He says: “During my audience with the Sultan I saw a man who held in his hand a knife like that used by a grape-gleaner. He placed it on his own neck and spoke for a long time in a language which I did not understand. After that he seized the knife with both hands at once and cut his throat. His head fell to the ground, so sharp was the blade and so great the force with which he used it. I remained dumbfoundered at his behaviour, but the Sultan said to me, “Does any one do like that in your country P’ I answered, “Never did I see such a thing.' He smiled and replied, ‘These people are our slaves, and they kill themselves for love of us.' Then he commanded that they should take away him who had slain himself and should burn him. The Sultan's officers, the grandees, the troops, and the common people attended the cremation. The sovereign assigned a liberal pension to the children of the deceased, to his wife, and to his brothers; and
1 De Barros, Da Asia, dos feitos, * Saxo Grammaticus, Historia gue os Portuguezes sizeram no descubri- Danica, viii. p. 41 o sy., ed. P. E. mento e conquista dos mares e terras do Muller (p. 334 of Mr. Elton's English Oriente, Decada Terceira, Liv. V. cap. translation). i. p. 512 sq. (Lisbon, 1777).
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they were highly honoured because of his conduct. A person, who was present at the audience when the event I have described took place, informed me that the speech made by the man who sacrificed himself set forth his devotion to the monarch. He said that he wished to immolate himself out of affection for the sovereign, as his father had done for love of the prince's father, and as his grandfather had done out of regard for the prince's grandfather.” We may conjecture that formerly the sultans of Java, like the kings of
Quilacare and Calicut, were bound to cut their own throats.
at the end of a fixed term of years, but that at a later time they deputed the painful, though glorious, duty of dying for
their country to the members of a certain family, who received
by way of recompense ample provision during their life and a handsome funeral at death. There are some grounds for believing that the reign of the ancient Dorian kings was limited to eight years, or at least that at the end of every period of eight years a new consecration, a fresh outpouring of the divine grace, was regarded as necessary in order to enable them to discharge their civil and religious duties. For it was a rule of the Spartan constitution that every eighth year the ephors should choose a clear and
moonless night and sitting down observe the sky in silence. If .
during their vigil they saw a meteor or shooting star, they inferred that the king had sinned against the deity, and suspended him from his functions until the Delphic or Olympic oracle should reinstate him in them. This custom, which has all the air of great antiquity, was not suffered to remain a dead letter even in the last period of the Spartan monarchy; for in the third century before our era a king, who had rendered himself obnoxious to the reforming party, was actually deposed on various trumped-up charges, among which the allegation that the ominous sign had been seen in the sky took a prominent place.” When we compare this custom, as K. O. Müller suggested,” with the importance of the eight-years' cycle in early Greece, and with the Homeric reference to King Minos who reigned at Cnosus for periods of nine years
* Voyage d'Ibn Batoutah, texte Arabe, accompagné d'une traduction par C. Deffrémery et B. R. Sanguinetti (Paris, 1853-58), iv. 246 sq. * Plutarch, Agis, ii. - * Die Dorier," ii. 96.