Madeline Seibel Dean ’22: Book VI, Chapter XLV (Of Certain Notable Facts, Particularly One About the Guaranias)

Book VI, Chapter XLV

Of certain notable facts that the historian includes here as a reminder, until they can be addresses more fully, which are similar to what many authors have already touched upon, until they are written about more extensively in the books and parts that are convenient; particularly one about the guaranias, a weapon which has never been seen or used in any other parts except for where the author places it in these Indies—and none have written about such a weapon.

Translated by Madeline Seibel Dean ’22

I very much like a treatise called Silva de varia leçion (A Miscellany of Several Lessons), printed not long ago thanks to the work and diligence of the learned and noble gentleman Pedro Mexía. In chapter XXIV of the second part of said text he said that Dionysus, son of Jupiter and Proserpina, was the first to tame bulls; but according to Diodorus Siculus[1] and Pliny (in his Natural History[2]) it was Briges, a native of Athens, and other people say it was Triptolemus. On this subject Pedro Mexía says that it need not be only one of them, but that human ingenuity and necessity discovered and imagined it in different parts, such that some were inventors in one part and others in other parts; this too says Pompey Trogue,[3] that Abides, former king of Spain, started to tame bulls and use them to plow the land. This gentleman claims all this by citing the authors I have mentioned. So sound is his opinion from my perspective, in saying that in different parts there are various authors or inventors of a single thing, that I not only believe it with regard to what he says, but I believe it about other things as well; for this same purpose I want to say here the same of their writing regarding the inventors of arrows and slings. And I don’t want to believe Pliny,[4] who says that Scythe, son of Jupiter, found the arrows and slingshots; others attribute it to Perseus, son of Perseus, and others say that the spear-thrower or atlatl was invented by Etholus, son of Mars. Likewise, Pliny says that sails where found by Icarus to navigate and the mast and yard by Daedalus.

I see that in many parts of these our Indies, which is no older land in its creation nor its people more modern than the aforementioned inventors, the Indians are commonly archers, and one cannot prove nor should one believe that they learned it from Scythe or Perseus. And they likewise throw many spears using atlatl, with some men even carrying theirs in gold and silver, and they didn’t learn it from Etholus. Moreover, the Indians in some parts use masts, yards, and sails in their ships or canoes and piraguas, without having learned it from Icarus nor his father Daedalus. Vegetius[5] says that the Majorcans invented the sling, and Isadore also says in his Ethimologias[6] that the people of the Balearic Islands (who are the same Majorcans) were the inventors of the sling. I see that in many parts of these our Indies the sling is a common weapon, and one cannot prove nor should one believe that such an exercise was learned from the Majorcans. Moreover, I have for certain that the weapon called guarania, which the Indians use in the regions and coasts of the Paranaguaçu River (alias Plata River), the Christians had never heard nor read about, nor did the Moors or ancients hear of it, and there has been no knowledge of a similar weapon among all the offensive weapons that are so difficult to use; because even where the men use it, very few are skilled in its use. And so in Chapter XXXV this guarania was already described, and I don’t want to repeat it here so as to not tire the reader with the same lesson.

[1] Diod. Book IV and V

[2] Plin. Book VII, chapter LVI

[3] Just. Book XLIV

[4] Plin. Book VII, chapter XLIV

[5] Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus. Book I, Chapter XVI

[6] Isadore. Book XVIII, Chapter X

Image: Waffen der Naturvölker published in 1898.