January 4th, 2008
Enno Littmann was a professor of oriental languages, first in Strassburg, then in Göttingen and Bonn and finally in Tübingen, where his beautiful house remained a centre of oriental studies in Germany up to his death. He combined a brilliant gift for languages (he fully mastered more than a dozen), wide intellectual interests and ability to build quickly a warm and intimate relationship with people of different cultures. These qualities explain why his relatively short stays in Ethiopia yielded such successful results. In addition, he had an amazing capacity for work, as can be seen from his six-volume translation of A Thousand and One Nights, completed with poetic energy within a very short period. He was also a master Arabic literature.
Enno Littmann (1875 - 1958)
His fame rests above all, however, on the works which arose from his two research visits to northern Ethiopia, where he stayed among the Mensa (Tigre) in Eritrea in autumn and winter 1905 and in Aksum from January to April 1906. During his stay among the Tigre he had the good fortune to work with a congenial partner, Naffa Wad Etman without whom the four important volumes, misleadingly entitled Publications of the Princeton Expedition to Abyssinia, would never have appeared. They contain a whole corpus of Tigre traditions and songs, and are imperishable documents of Ethiopian culture.
Littmann’s research in Aksum, where he was accompanied by Theodor von Lüpke, Daniel Krencker and Erich Kaschke, marked the beginning of a new chapter in Ethiopian studies - archeology. It is amazing how much was excavated and recorded in the short period of his stay in Aksum. This too would not have been possible without the close coopration of Ethiopian friends and partners. The members of the German team received valuable assistance from the Dejazmach Gabra Sellase Brya Gabr and from many priests and monks in Aksum. Further illustrations of Littmann’s universality are his edition of the Praise-Songs for Ethiopian Emperors in the ancient Amharic language, for which he received precious advice from Mamher Kefla Giyorgis in Jerusalem, and his remarkable booklet on Galla-Verskunst (Oromo Poetry).
Booklet: “Three Hundred Years of Ethiopian-German Academic Collaboration.”
Author: Eike Haberland
1986. 39 pages, EUR 5,—. ISBN 3-515-04766-2
Johann Wolfgang Goethe University