Monday, August 13, 2012

The Sabaot

 
        A History can be written in many ways. The idea of it ever being an objective process would result in lists of names, some of which might have no spelling, and in hard to remember dates and other angry moments.  And while too often an historical account has a bias, it also contains a story.  This is a story from many years ago, and this story, along with the Kingdom of Prestor John and the Island of Atlantis, has been described as both rubbish and as absolute truth. 

      The Sabeans and the Israelites spent some part of their history as sub-clans of the Ancient Egyptian hierarchy, an organizational structure that was more politically complex than anything the west has yet to produce or comprehend as exemplified by each and every western incursion Eastwards.  About fifteen hundred years before Christ, the Israelites pissed off Pharaoh by becoming overly influential, and they had to make a run for it.  The Sabeans, were a military clan, and it's possible some of the Sabeans drowned while chasing Moses.  The Bible reckons Sabeans were from the desert.  King James version called the Sabeans 'men of the common sort.'  The New American Standard version calls Sabeans 'drunkards.'  And I guess this is because the New American Standard version is holier than King James wanted his bible to be.  But most do agree the Sabeans were useful to Pharaoh, until a Persian invasion of Egypt two thousand five hundred years ago.  A tribulation that drove The Sabeans into a five hundred year journey in search of their own promised land, or ancestral home.

 
      Herodotus, the Greek Historian, claims to have actually asked the Sabeans where they had come from.  Their reply was "We are from the Holy Land of God in the South."  The Book of Job reckoned the desert from where the Sabeans originally hailed was Arabia.  Some will argue that Job should know because not far from where he had his camp, Sabeans attacked his neighbors and made off with their Oxen and Donkeys, and worse they killed the servants.  Which in those days was rather a regular and very irritating occurrence.   The Koran reckons the Sabeans were from Yemen.  Much wiser head will say this holy land was in Uganda. Some suggest the Tororo Hills in South Eastern Uganda.  Some will say it was the land of the Karamojong.  But I don't think so, because Karamojong, in their own language means 'the old men sat down.'  A name that stuck to their clan around two thousand years ago, when the Karamojong  became lumpen and refused to travel further into the swamps of Teso, or south toward the lake, or East toward the cold mountain.  Which, some say, enabled the Karamojong to better concentrate upon stealing cattle from the more honest men who lived all around them. But I wouldn't say that, because to this day I am a little nervous of the Karamojong. 

     Steven Kiprotich is from that part of the world which some call West of Mount Elgon, others call Masaba, or perhaps Bagisu but which when I was little, Okanya and I called, "Way Over There Beyond Bukedea The other Side Of The Karamojong Where the Sabaot Are."  It was a place of great wonder in my mind, a place where Leopards and Heroes lived and probably Eden.  And I'd like to still go on thinking it's where the Sabeans settled, which is what Okanya's mother's father told us.  Nor did I ever really try to understand the Olympics, except in terms of jingoistic rah-rah and equally poor behavior, until maybe yesterday when Saboat from Uganda won a Gold Medal in Olympic Marathon.


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