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A History of the Gipsies by Walter Simson

That the Gipsies were a tribe of Hindoo Sudras


men of note, scattered over

the provinces, likely to chronicle such an event as the appearance of the Gipsies, must necessarily have betaken themselves to the capital, as each district submitted to the conquerors, and so lost the opportunity of witnessing the migration, under such circumstances as would have made it observable, assuming that the Gipsies travelled in large companies, which, under all the circumstances of the case, was not, on all occasions, likely. The surrounding countries having been the theatre of so many changes in the history of the human family, and the inhabitants having undergone so many changes of masters, leading to so many distinct races, from the intellectual and cultivated Greek to the barbarous Arab and dusky Moor, of so various hues and habits, many of whom would be found in such a city as Constantinople, what peculiarity was there about the Gipsies to attract the notice of the haughty Greek, characterized as he was by all the feelings of disdain which his ancestors displayed in not even naming the Jews and early Christians? Then, if we consider the peculiar turn which the new-born literary pursuits of learned men assumed during that age--how it was exclusively confined to the restoration of the classics, and followed in Europe by the influx of the Greeks during the troubles of their country, we will find another reason for the manner of the first appearance of the Gipsies not being known. Nor is it to be expected that any light would be thrown on the subject by the memoirs
of any of our own countrymen, visiting the East at a time when so little intercourse existed between the West and that part of the world; nothing perhaps beyond a commercial or maritime adventurer, under the flag of another nation, or one whose whole acquirements consisted in laying lance in rest and mounting the breach in an assault; it being a rare thing even to see an English ship in the Mediterranean during the whole of the fifteenth century.

That the Gipsies were a tribe of Hindoo _Sudras_, driven, by the cruelty of Timour, to leave Hindostan, is not for a moment to be entertained; for why should that conqueror have specially troubled himself with the _lowest_ class of Hindoos? or why should they, in particular, have left Hindostan? It would have been the _ruling_, or at least the _higher_, classes of Hindoo society against which Timour would have exercised any acts of cruelty; the _lowest_ would be pretty much beneath his notice. Not only do we not read of such a people as the Hindoos ever having left their country on any such account--for it is contrary to their genius and feelings of caste to do so--but the opinion that the Gipsies left India on Timour's account rests on no evidence whatever, beyond the simple circumstance that they were first taken notice of in Europe _about_ the time of his overrunning India. Mr. Borrow very justly remarks: "It appears singular that if they left their native land to escape from Timour, they should never have mentioned, in the western world, the name of that scourge of the human race, nor detailed the history of their flight and sufferings, which assuredly would have procured them sympathy; the ravages of Timour being already but too well known in Europe." Still, Mr. Borrow does not venture to give reasons for the trustworthiness or untrustworthiness of a passage in Arabschah's life of Timour, in which it is said that Gipsies were found in Samarcand at a time before that conqueror had even directed his thoughts to the invasion of India. The description given of these Zingari or Gipsies of Samarcand is as applicable to the Gipsies as possibly can be; for in it it is said, "Some were wrestlers, others gladiators, others pugilists. These people were much at variance, so that hostilities and battling were continually arising amongst them. Each band had its chief and subordinate officers." How applicable this description is to the Scottish Gipsies, down to so late a period as the end of last century!


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