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Indonesia History - Celebes

The large island of Celebes is said to be one of the three which Ptolemy reckons among the Sindo, or Cannibal islands. The part of it best known to Europeans of the early 19th century was Makasar, situated nearly at the southernmost extremity of the western side: it was here the first European settlement on the island was established. Some of the mountains are very high. The Bontain mountain, called by the natives Lampo Batan (big belly), is the highest on the south part of the island.

It has not been ascertained by whom, or at what particular time, the name of Celebes was conferred on this island. It is generally attributed to the Portuguese, and certainly is of foreign origin: none of the natives, except those who have intercourse with Europeans, recognize either the whole island or any part of it under this appellation even among those who made use of the word, it is applied to Sumbdwa, an island about two hundred and fifty miles to the south-west of it, as well as to what is called Celebes.

The position of Celebes is the most central in the Archipelago. Immediately to the north are the Philippine islands; on the west is Borneo; on the east are the Molucca islands; and on the south is the Timor group: and it is on all sides so connected with these islands by its own satellites, by small islets, and by coral reefs, that neither by inspection on the map nor by actual observation around its coast, is it possible to determine accurately which should be grouped with it, and which with the surrounding districts. Such being the case, one should naturally expect to find, that the productions of this central island in some degree represented the richness and variety of the whole Archipelago, while one should not expect much individuality in a country, so situated, that it would seem as if it were pre-eminently fitted to receive stragglers and immigrants from all around.

As so often happens in nature, however, the fact turns out to be just the reverse of what we should have expected; and an examination of its animal productions, shows Celebes to be at once the poorest in the number of its species, and the most isolated in the character of its productions, of all the great islands in the Archipelago. With its attendant islets it spreads over an extent of sea hardly inferior in length and breadth to that occupied by Borneo, while its actual land area is nearly double that of Java; yet its Mammalia and terrestrial birds number scarcely more than half the species found in the lastnamed island.

Prior to the advent of the Portuguese there is very little known of the early history of Celebes, except that this island was much less frequented by the Chinese and Hindus than Java, Sumatra, or the Moluccas. Both the Hindu and the Mohammedan influences were slow in reaching there, and its inhabitants were very much less affected by these religions than those of Java and Sumatra.

The intercourse of these islanders with the polities of Java seems to have been ancient and frequent. The earliest records of the Bugis and Makasar states denote not only an early communication with Java, but render it highly probable that a colony from Java settled in the southwest limb of Celebes. In no other way can the transfer of the names of places from the former to the latter island, such as those of Majapdhit, Gresik, Japan, and some others, be accounted for. In the genealogy, too, of the sovereigns of huvm, one of the first of their Diwa princes is said to have been married to a princess of Majapdhit on Java.

Though some of the Bugis states have a good deal of trade, they principally depended upon themselves for subsistence. The mode of husbandry was, of course, very rude, and feudal institutions stood in the way of their improvement; but private property in the soil was established, and lands are held in free tenure or by rent-hold. The amount of the rent, in the latter case, is generally one-third of the produce, paid in kind; the cultivator is entitled to one-third, and the owner of the buffaloes or bullocks which assist is entitled to the remaining third. Labourers employed to reap are paid a sixth of what they collect. No class is excluded from a proprietary right in the soil, and the proprietor can dispose of his land by sale whenever he chooses.

The first authentic descriptions are given by the Portuguese historians, Oduardo Barbosa, Diogo de Canto, and a few others. Even in the middle of the sixteenth century Islam had not yet penetrated Celebes, and it was not before the beginning of the seventeenth century that any of the chieftains accepted this religion.

The maps published by the Dutch in the eighteenth century give a rather indifferent idea of the contour of Celebes, which has become so important in later years. As in the other islands, several tribes or nations form its population, of which the Buginese and the Makassars are the principal ones. Some of them were savage tribes; none of them more than half civilized.

In the south-western limb of the island there are two principal languages, called by Europeans the Makasar and Bugis, and by the natives Mengkasa or Mengkasara, and Wdgi or Ugi. The former, or some dialect of it, is spoken in all the districts extending from Bdlu kumba to Segere. The petty states included in this compass are Balu kumba, Bontain, Tarahdya, Qua, Mdros, and Segfre. The Bugis is much more general beyond and over the whole tract extending from Bani to Luuru, comprehending the four great states of Luwu, Bani, Waju, and Sapiag, besides their numerous dependencies.

In Makasar and its vicinity is spoken the Manahar language. The center and body of the island to the northward is distinguished by being inhabited by the Turdjas or Harafuras, who speak a more simple dialect, and are considered the aborigines of the island; and on the north-east corner of the island at Manddu and Gunung, the inhabitants are distinguished by some peculiarities.

The people seem to procure a sufficient subsistence without much exertion. The climate is salubrious, and there is abundance of water. Marriages are early. In the history of the island the years of famine are particularly noticed. The women are held in more esteem than could be expected from the state of civilization in general, and undergo none of those severe hardships, privations, or labours, that restrict fecundity in other parts of the world. Polygamy prevails, the number of wives being limited only by the means of the husband to purchase or support them. It is more difficult to procure a wife than a husband; a female slave bears a higher price in the market than a male; and the compensation fixed for the murder of a man is only thirty dollars, while that required for the life of a woman is forty.

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Page last modified: 18-04-2012 19:22:43 ZULU