The Mountains of Rasselas
An Ethiopian AdventureBook - 1998
Two centuries ago Dr Johnson captured the imagination of Europe with his romantic tale Rasselas. He described the strange fate of the royal princes of Abyssinia, who were condemned to be imprisoned in a mountain fastness until they died or the order of the succession called them to the throne.
How much of this was truth and how much legend?
When he was 21, Thomas Pakenham decided to visit Ethiopia to discover the truth. In 1955, just down from Oxford, he set off for Gondar, capital of the Abyssinian empire in Johnson's day. His quest then took him to parts of the country where no European had been seen before. There he found that the predicament of the prisoners had been even more melodramatic than Johnson had surmised.
He also made a remarkable archaeological discovery. At Bethlehem, Ethiopia, he stumbled on a medieval church of the finest style yet recorded.
The book of his extraordinary journey was published in 1959. Now, nearly forty years later, Thomas Pakenham retraces his footsteps, adding historical insight and new colour photography to his original story.
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In the mid-50s the author made three expeditions by mule through remote and rugged areas of northwestern Ethiopia. He explored ancient Coptic churches and fortresses while listening to local folklore. Forty years later the author returns by helicopter. This travelogue is lavishly illustrated with stunning photographs.
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