GYPSIES, a wandering folk, scattered through every Euro pean land, over the greater part of western Asia and Siberia; found also in Egypt and the northern coast of Africa, in America and even in Australia. No correct estimate of their numbers out side of Europe can be given, and even in Europe the information derived from official statistics is often contradictory and unre liable.
In the Syriac version of the apocryphal Book of Adam, known as the Cave of Treasures and compiled probably in the 6th cen tury occurs the passage : "And of the seed of Canaan were as I said the Aegyptians ; and, lo, they were scattered all over the earth and served as slaves of slaves" (ed. Bezold, German translation, p. 25). No reference to such a scattering and serfdom of the Egyptians is mentioned anywhere else. This must have been a legend, current in Asia Minor, and hence probably transferred to the swarthy Gypsies.
In France they are known as Boherniens. Other names have been bestowed upon them, such as Walachi, Saraceni, Agareni, Nubiani, etc. They were also known as Tartars in Germany, or as "Heathen," Heydens. As to the origin of the name Atzigan, Miklosich derives the word from the Athinganoi, a name originally belonging to a peculiar heretical sect living in Asia Minor near Phrygia and Lycaonio, known also as the Melki-Zedekites. The members of this sect observed very strict rules of purity, as they were afraid to be defiled by the touch of other people whom they considered unclean. They therefore acquired the name of Athin ganoi (i.e., "Touch-me-nots"), who are described by Byzantine historians of the 9th century as soothsayers, magicians and ser pent-charmers.
The Gypsies of Europe who, starting from the ancient Byzan tine empire have travelled westwards and spread over Europe, America and Australia call themselves by the name of Rom, the woman being Romni and the stranger Gazi. Many etymologies have been suggested for the word Rom. Miklosich identified it with Doma or Domba, a low caste of Upper India. This agrees with the view that "the language of European Gypsies" shows many points of correspondence with the dialect of Indian Gypsy tribes such as the Doms. . . . The language of the Gypsies of Europe, however, points towards the extreme north-west of India and . . . the hypothesis might be hazarded that members of the same vagrant race from which the Indian Gypsies are descended come up to the north-west and remained there long enough to adapt their language to the practice prevailing among frontier tribes. Some of them passed on before this adaptation took place and became the ancestors of the Armenian Gypsies whose language does not point to the north-west frontier but rather to Hindustan. The bulk of these Gypsies later on brought their language, as modified among frontier tribes, to Europe, and became the ancestors of the Romany Chals (Linguistic Survey of India, vol. xi., 1922, p. II). Another view, supported by a careful exam ination of phonetic data, is that the language is of the central group with evidence of a later migration to and contact with the north west group of Sanskritic languages in India. Gaster suggested that having no home and no country of their own and no political traditions and no literature, they would naturally identify them selves with the people in whose midst they lived, and called them selves Rom (cf. Ronzaioi, Romanoi), a natural name, and flatter ing to their vanity. This origin of the name would explain why it is limited to the European Gypsies.
At least three centuries before historical evidence proves the immigration of the genuine Gypsy, there had been wayfaring smiths, travelling from country to country. Their successors, the Gypsies, took up their crafts and probably assimilated a good pro portion of these vagrants of the west of Europe. The name given to the former, who probably were Oriental or Greek smiths and pedlars, was then transferred to the new-corners. Hopf has proved the existence of Gypsies in Corfu before 1326. Before 1346 the empress Catherine de Valois granted to the governor of Corfu authority to reduce to vassalage certain vagrants who came from the mainland.
By the end of the 1 sth century they must have been settled for a sufficiently long time in the Balkan Peninsula and the countries north of the Danube, such as Transylvania and Walachia, to have been reduced to the same state of serfdom as prevailed in Corfu in the second half of the i4th century. At that time there must already have been in Walachia settled Gypsies treated as serfs, and migrating Gypsies plying their trade as smiths, musicians, dancers, soothsayers, horse-dealers, etc., for we find the voivode Alexander of Moldavia granting these Gypsies in the year 1478 "freedom of air and soil to wander about and free fire and iron for their smithy." But a certain portion, prob ably the largest, became serfs, to be sold, exchanged and in herited. The Gypsies followed at least f our distinct pursuits in Rumania and Transylvania, where they lived in large masses. A goodly proportion of them were tied to the soil; in consequence their position was different from that of the Gypsies who had started westwards and who are nowhere found to have obtained a permanent abode for any length of time, or to have been treated, except for a very short period, with any consideration of humanity.
Their appearance in the West is first noted by chroniclers early in the i sth century. In 1414 they are said to have already arrived in Hesse. In 1418 they reached Hamburg, 1419 Augs burg, 1428 Switzerland. In 1427 they had entered France (Prov ence). A troupe is said to have reached Bologna in 1422, on a pilgrimage to Rome, undertaken for some act of apostasy. After this first immigration a second and larger one seems to have followed in its wake, led by Zumbel. The Gypsies spread over Germany, Italy and France between the years 1438 and 1512. About i 5oo they must have reached England.
The Act of Henry VIII. 22, C. 1 o dealt with the Gypsy problem in England. Albert Krantzius (Krantz), in his Saxonia (xi. 2), says that in the year 1417 there appeared for the first time in Germany a people uncouth, black, dirty, barbarous, called in Italian "Ciani," who indulge specially in thieving and cheating. They had among them a count and a few knights well dressed, others followed afoot. The women and children travelled in carts. They also carried with them letters of safe-conduct from the emperor Sigismund and other princes, and they professed that they were engaged on a pilgrimage of expiation for some act of apostasy. This people have no country and travel through the land. They live like dogs and have no religion although they allow themselves to be baptized in the Christian faith. They live without care and gather unto themselves also other vagrants, men and women. Their old women practise fortune-telling, and whilst they are telling men of their future they pick their pockets. He uses the name by which these people were called in Italy, "Ciani." Crusius, the author of the Annales Suevici, knows their Italian name Zigani and the French Bohemiens. Not one of these oldest writers mentions them as coppersmiths or farriers or musicians.
In 1907 a "drive" was undertaken in Germany against the Gypsies. Li 1904 the Prussian Landtag adopted unanimously a proposition to examine anew the question of granting peddling licences to German Gypsies; that on the i7th of February 1906 the Prussian minister issued special instructions to combat the Gypsy nuisance; and in various parts of Germany and Austria a special register was kept for the tracing of the genealogy of vagrant and sedentary Gypsy families.
In Rumania they were divided mainly into two classes, (1) Robi or Serfs, who were settled on the land and deprived of all individual liberty, being the property of the nobles and of churches or monastic establishments, and (2) the Nomadic va grants. They were subdivided into four classes according to their occupation, such as the Lingurari (woodcarvers ; lit. "spoon makers"), Caldarari (tinkers, coppersmiths and ironworkers), Ursari (lit. "bear drivers") and Rudari (miners), also called Aurari (gold-washers), who used formerly to wash the gold out of the auriferous river-sands of Walachia. A separate and smaller class consisted of the Gypsy Laeshi or Vatraslii (settled on a homestead or "having a fireplace" of their own). Each shatra or Gypsy community was placed under the authority of a judge or leader, these officials were subordinate to the bulubaslia or voivod, who was himself under the direct control of the yuzbasha (or governor appointed by the prince from among his nobles) . The yuzbaslia was responsible for the regular income to be derived from the vagrant Gypsies, who were considered and treated as the prince's property. These voivodi or yuzbashi who were not Gyp sies by origin often treated the Gypsies with great tyranny. The Robi could be bought and sold, freely exchanged and inherited, and were treated as the negroes in America down to 1856, when their final freedom in Moldavia was proclaimed. In Hungary and in Transylvania the abolition of servitude in 1781-1782 carried with it the freedom of the Gypsies. In 1866 the Gypsies became Rumanian citizens. On Jan. 6, 1906 the first Gypsy Con gress was held in Sofia, for the purpose of claiming political rights for the Turkish Gypsies or Gopti as they call themselves.
Their religious views are a strange medley of the local faith, which they everywhere embrace, and some old-world supersti tions which they have in common with many nations. Among the Greeks they belong to the Greek Church, among the Moham medans they are Mohammedans, in Rumania they belong to the National Church. In Hungary they are , mostly Catholics, according to the faith of the inhabitants of that country. They have no ethical principles and they do not recognize the obliga tions of the Ten Commandments. There is extreme moral laxity in the relation of the two sexes, and on the whole they take life easily and are complete fatalists. At the same time they are great cowards and they play the role of the fool or the jester in the popular anecdotes of eastern Europe. There the poltroon is al ways a Gypsy, but he is good-humoured and not so malicious as those Gypsies who had endured outlawry in the west of Europe.
There is nothing specifically of an Oriental origin in their religious vocabulary. In general their beliefs, customs, tales, etc., belong to the common stock of general folklore, and many of their symbolical expressions find their exact counterpart in Rumanian and modern Greek, and often read as if they were direct translations from these languages. The nomadic Gypsies carry on the ancient craft of coppersmiths, or workers in metal; they also make sieves and traps, but in the East they are seldom farriers or horse-dealers. They are far-famed for their music, in which art they are unsurpassed. The Gypsy musicians were the troubadours and minstrels of eastern Europe. Liszt ascribed to the Gypsies the origin of the Hungarian national music. This is an exaggeration. Equally famous is the Gypsy woman for her knowledge of occult practices. She is the real witch; she knows charms to injure the enemy or to help a friend. She can break the charm if made by others. They use either the local language of the natives in the case of charms, or a slightly Romanized form of Greek, Rumanian or Slavonic. The old Gypsy woman is also known for her skill in palmistry and fortune-telling by means of a special set of cards, the well-known Tarok of the Gypsies. They have also a large stock of fairy tales resembling in each country the local fairy tales, in Greece agreeing with the Greek, and in Rumania with the Rumanian fairy tales.
The majority of Gypsies in America might be vaguely classified as Vlach. There are two distinct varieties. The smaller is known as the Karavlase (black Vlachs), or Baia (gold-washers). What little Romani they speak has been picked up from Anglo-Ameri can gypsies. Rumanian is their "secret" tongue, though they lived in Serbia for a time before starting on their wide migrations. Of these a number are bear-leaders, and nearly all are fortune-tellers. The other variety forms the bulk of American Gypsies. For lack of a better term we must call them the nomads. Among them selves they speak a relatively pure dialect of Romani; but the per centage of Rumanian loan-words would indicate that at one time they nomadized in Vlach countries. They may be met anywhere, from China to Africa; but nowhere as frequently as in the United States. There are also large numbers in South America. They subdivide themselves into tribes: the Mac vaya, so named from a region in northern Serbia, the Kalderds, from their former profession as coppersmiths, Rusore, Ungeresore, etc., from the countries where they lived longest before coming to America. In spite of slight differences of dialect and customs, these tribes are homogeneous, and mix with no other group, not even the Baias. They have their own courts (romano-kris), conducted in the man ner of the Gypsy-like peoples of India. Taboos are strictly en forced and punished by fines, or expulsion from the tribe, mah rime (defilement, rejection).
The large silk kerchief, worn over the head by the married women, the necklaces of gold coins, the gay dresses, are distinc tive. They travel by train and motor car and live by the fortune-telling of the women. Formerly most of them were copper smiths. A few are professional musicians, and nearly all have a talent for music. They have preserved many stories and songs in their own language. In summer they live in tents; but during the cold months they move into the cities, where they live in stores. Prosperity is tending to Americanize them; but like all Romanies they readily revert to age-old traits.