Adventures of the European Explorers in Africa and the Scramble for Africa

Nov 2018
83
West Covina
#22
Likes: Tulius
Nov 2010
7,415
Cornwall
#24
Nov 2009
3,870
Outer world
#25
Romolo Gessi was once pretty famous with several roads and squares named after him and even a mountain in the Ruwenzori chains. It is also fun that what sort of detached him from Gordon was that remark given that Gessi was a very peculiar man: he was the son an English consul of Italian heritage and had as native tongue Italian (though he learnt more than 6 other languages, including English) and both worked and fought for Britain in Crimea and elsewhere, actually having the British citizenship before the Italian one (which he obtained in 1861); yet he fought for Italy during the Risorgimento and in Africa as well, so that's why I think he considered so offensive Gordon's remark.
An interesting figure indeed.
Back to the topic, there is a multitude of Italian explorers who mostly explored Ethiopia, Dancalia, Somalia and the area between Sudan and Kenya, given that most Italian colonial interests lay mostly in the Horn of Africa, a few of them were even butchered by natives in a series of unfortunate circumstances.
P.S. Gessi died of an illness in 1881 and was buried in Ravenna where he came from (he was actually born on a ship for Constantinople).
 
Likes: Tulius

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
4,901
Portugal
#26
Back to the topic, there is a multitude of Italian explorers who mostly explored Ethiopia, Dancalia, Somalia and the area between Sudan and Kenya, given that most Italian colonial interests lay mostly in the Horn of Africa, a few of them were even butchered by natives in a series of unfortunate circumstances.
Romolo Gessi is somewhat known, but can you give us some names here of Italian explorers? At least for me they seem relatively unknown and probably for the majority of the English speakers, quite recently I read here in the forum that almost all the explorers were British, so it is good to know some more names, outside the most usual ones.
 

Larrey

Ad Honorem
Sep 2011
5,006
#27
One of my absolute personal favourites is Carlo Piaggia. Not least because he traveled alone through central Africa under the protection of local African rulers in the 1860's. Most of the big-name explorers put together expeditions that were effectively armed military trains, and their actions and attitudes tended to match. Piaggia just walked into Africa and relied of coming to reasonable understandings with the locals.

Piaggia was the son of a miller from Lucca, very working-class, who emigrated to Egypt in the 1850's. He had jobs as coach-builder, painter etc. before hitting on the possibility of combining his interest in hunting with classes in taxidermy. So he started shooting and mounting African wild-life for sale to European tourists (birds mostly), and then sort of ended up just moving deeper and deeper into Africa.
 
Nov 2009
3,870
Outer world
#28
Romolo Gessi is somewhat known, but can you give us some names here of Italian explorers? At least for me they seem relatively unknown and probably for the majority of the English speakers, quite recently I read here in the forum that almost all the explorers were British, so it is good to know some more names, outside the most usual ones.
Orazio Antinori was a companion of Piaggia and was very particular: he fled Italy after getting a waitress pregnant, fought against the French in 1849 at Rome and then went to Egypt and later Sudan, combining the exploration and his love for ornithology (he was one of the first famous Italian ornithologists). He was an important figure for Italy in Africa: he co-founded the Italian Geographical Society and represented Italy at the Suez channel, later exploring the interior of Tunisia and then living with the Bogos tribe in Eritrea for two years (he was in his late fifties). Aged 65, in 1876 he participated in the expedition from Abissinia to the Equatorial Lakes, taking many ornithological specimens for the Natural History Museum of Genoa. He died aged 71 at Let-Marefià, Abissinia, in 1882.
Luigi Balzan explored on his own the Andes and the most unexplored areas between Argentina and Paraguay, living with the Indigenous tribes and taking several botanical elements back to Italy, where he died in 1893, just 28 years old.
Giovanni Beltrame was a missionary who explored alone the area of Blue Nile in the 1854-55 after his religious superior died in Khartoum in 1854. In 1857 he returned and founded a mission in the White Nile area, exploring the surrounding zones and mapping them (I think his maps are exhibited in Turin), later going on the Nile up to Assuan.
Vittorio Bottego in 1887 from Eritrea went on to explore the Dancalia and the Ogaden region, mapping them and taking several natural elements as part of his collection. Later he explored the Giuba area and Somalia, rapidly marching through some of the most inhospitable areas of the world; in 1893 he went on the river Pagadé up to Lake Turkana in the Galla region where he attempted to negotiate with natives for passage but was killed on 17 march 1897.
Antono Cecchi explored Scioa in 1879 (to free the abovementioned Antinori) and then participated in the Italian establishment of the colony of Eritrea. He was killed in 1896 with 14 other Italian explorers and soldiers while trekking through Somalia.
Giovanni Chiarini participated in the expedition to the Equatorial Lakes with Antinori, proceeding then south after the death of the latter, where he was imprisoned by the Queen of Ghera who believed him to be an Ethiopian spy and on October 5 1879 he died of malnutrition and malaria.
Carlo Citerni di Siena was a soldier who explored the Omo region in Somalia, the expedition he was part of was destroyed by natives and he was among the few survivors who were imprisoned, to be freed after 98 days. He later participated in the British war against the Mad Mullah, while also trekking through Somalia in 1903-1904.
He died of a tumour in Rome in 1918.
Augusto Franzoj explored various areas of Eritrea alone and unarmed in the 1880s. In 1883 he managed to recover the body of Chiarini, later returning more times to the Horn and exploring, while criticising the Italian administration, until he was expelled by the Italian governor. Later he explored the Amazonian forest but the expedition returned after several members died of yellow fever. Alone and depressed, he killed himself in 1911.
Giuseppe Maria Giulietti fought against Austria with Garibaldi in 1866; in 1879 he went with an expedition to the Scioà region and Harar, ably drawing and sketching many things he saw. In 1881 with Giuseppe Biglieri and other 14 sailors he went to further explore Dancalia but they were all killed at Beilùl on 25 May 1881.
Giuseppe Haimann was a magistrate but loved Africa: he visited many parts of the Middle East, later he explored Cirenaica and the interior of Libya where he contracted cholera and died in 1883.
Giovanni Miani explored in 1859 the Nile area looking for its source coming very close to Lake Albert (he returned after receiving wrong info from local natives). He was deeply interested in native tribes and lived for a period with the cannibals (so-called "nyam nyam", I don't know why they did not eat him). In 1871 proved the existence of Pygmies but died of fevers in 1882.
Eugenio Ruspoli explored the area between Somalia and Kenya between 1891 and 1893, when he was killed by an elephant.
Enrico Alberto d'Albertis joined the navy in 1866 and fought against Austrians, later between 1874 and 1880 he extensively sailed across the Mediterranean and to El Salvador, using old navigational tool he built himself. Between 1882 and 1896 he sailed twice around the world; between 1900 and 1905 he travelled extensively between Tunisia, Libya, Algeria and the Sahara, then proceeding to Egypt (where he participated in various diggings) and to Sudan. In 1906-1908 he visited East Africa and Ethiopia, later in 1910 he carried out his third and last voyage around the world. During WWI he patrolled the Tyrrhenian Sea and died in 1932 aged 86. He had a huge collections of weapons, natural elements and other memorabilia.
There are many other explorers though.
 
Likes: Tulius
#30
You might be surprised to hear about the role of Russian adventurers and soldiers that actually had a substantial impact on the late 19th century expansion and consolidation of the Ethiopian Empire.

Characters like Alexander Bulatovich was, as we would say these days "imbeded" with an Ethiopian army that was with the aid of modern firearms assaulting the unorganised areas and petty kingdoms in the South East of the horn. Russian officers also later assisted Emperor Menelik II in dealing with the imperial European powers; France, Italy and Britain this moral and material assistance culminated during the battle of Adwa, where Russian technicians manned the mountain artillery that provided the Ethiopian forces the indirect fire capability to match their adversaries. The Italians suffered a larger casualty rate than any European army ever since the Napoleonic wars.

The relationship was of course fundamentally changed after the Russian revolution, and a shared Orthodox faith could no longer act as a bond between the two nations. Ironically such a connection was re-established as Ethiopia had its own 1917, when the millenia old House of Solomon was ousted and communist dictatorship was ushered in.

last picture is a medieval Ethiopian Orthodox manuscript. The language is Ge'ez a liturgical that only the priests of the Church and some linguists are fluent in.
 

Attachments

Likes: martin76

Similar History Discussions