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Home > Mezzofanti > Eminent linguists > Spanish and Portuguese linguists > Covilham

A Portuguese of the same period, Pedro de Covilham, is mentioned by Damian a Goes in his curious book, Be Ethiopian Moribus in terms which, if we could take them literally, should entitle him to a place among the linguists. During the reign of John II. of Portugal (1481-95) Covilham, who had already distinguished himself as an explorer under Alfonzo Y., was sent, in company with Alfonzo de Payva, in search of the kingdom of Prester John, which the traditional notions of the time placed in Abyssinia. Payva died upon the expedition. Covilham, after visiting India, the Persian Gulf and exploring both the coasts of the Red Sea, at length reached Abyssinia, where he was received with much distinc- by the King. He married in the country, and obtained large possessions; but, in accordance with a law of Abyssinia similar to that which still exists in Japan, prohibiting any one who may have once settled in the country ever again to leave it, he was compelled to adopt Abyssinia as a second home. When, therefore, he was recalled by John II., the King of Abyssinia refused to relinquish him, pleading " that he was skilled in almost all the languages of men" and that he had made to him, as his own adopted subject, large grants of land and other possessions. Covilham, after a residence of thirty-three years, was still alive in 1525, when the embassy under Alvarez de Lima reached Abyssinia.

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