Gypsies, Gypseys, or Gipsies
Gypsies, Gypseys, Or Gipsies (a corrupt form of Egyptians), the English name of a singular vagabond race of people, with a language and laws or customs peculiar to themselves, found throughout the whole of Europe, and in parts of Asia, Africa, and America, and everywhere noted for their aversion to the habits of settled life, and for the practice of deceptive tricks and thieving. They bear different names in different countries. In France they are called Bohemiens (because the)' first came thither from Bohemia, or from boem, an old French word meaning sorcerer, because of their practising on the credulity of the vulgar); in Spain, Gitanos or Zincali; in Germany, Zigeuner; in Italy, Zingari; in Holland, Heyde-hen (heathens); in Sweden and Denmark, Tartars; in Sclavic countries, Tsigani; in Hungary, Cziganjok; in Turkey, Tshengenler; in Persia, Sisech; in Arabia, Harami, etc. Various nicknames are also applied to them, as Cagoux and Gueux in France; Zieh-Gauner (wandering rogues) in Germany, and Tinklers in Scotland. They call themselves Rom (men or husbands; comp. Coptic Rem), Calo (black), or Sinte (from Ind; hence Zincali, or black men from Ind,.
Origin and History. — In the absence of any historical records of their migrations, their original country and the causes which drove them thence to scatter so widely over the earth have been the subject of speculation among the learned, and various theories have been proposed as solutions of the mystery of their origin and history. Some writers have connected them with the Σιγύνναι, mentioned by Herodotus (v, 9) as a people of Median extraction dwelling beyond the Lower Danube, and the Σίγιννοι, described by Strabo (§ 520) as living near Mount Caucasus, and practising Persian customs. Others have referred them variously to Tartary, Nubia, Mesopotamia, Assyria, Ethiopia, Morocco, etc.; but the account which the Gypsies, at their appearance in Western Europe, gave of themselves, claimed "Little Egypt" as the original home of the race, whence they were driven in consequence of the Moslem conquests. According to one version of the story, pope Martin V imposed on them, as a penance for their renunciation of the true faith, a life of wandering and an inhibition of the use of a bed for seven years; according to another version, God himself had doomed them to this vagabond life because their forefathers had refused hospitality to Joseph and Mary when they took refuge in Egypt with the infant Saviour — " a notion which has, curiously enough, been partly revived in' our own day by Roberts, with this difference only, that he proves them, from the prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, to be the descendants of the ancient Egyptians, and their wanderings to be the predicted punishment of the various iniquities of their forefathers" (Chambers). We owe to the once-prevalent belief that they were from Egypt the origin of the English term Gypsies and the Spanish Gitanos. The results of the investigations made within the last hundred years in the fields of comparative philology and ethnology prove beyond reasonable grounds of doubt that the theories above named are erroneous, and that we must look to India, "the nursing home of nations" (tellus gentium nutria:), as also the fatherland of the Gypsies. It is now the almost, if not entirely universally received opinion that they came to Europe from Hindustan, either impelled by the ravages of Tamer-lane, or, more probably, at an earlier date, in quest of fresh fields for the enjoyment of their vagabond life, and the exercise of their propensity for theft and deception. This view of their origin rests upon their physiological affinities with Asiatic types of men, as well as on the striking resemblances between the Gypsy language and Hindustanee, and the similarity of their habits and modes of life to those of many roving tribes of India, especially of tile Nuts or Bazegurs, who are styled the Gypsies of India, and are counterparts of those in Europe, both in other respects and also in having no peculiar religion, since they have never adopted the worship of Brahma. The Nuts are thought by some to be an aboriginal race, prior even to the Hindus. Another theory, which seeks to reconcile the Gypsy statement of an Egyptian origin with the clear evidences of a Hindu one, would find their ancestors in the mixed multitude that went out from Egypt with Moses (see Ex 12:38; Nu 11:4; Ne 13:3), and who, according to this view, passed onward to India and settled there, and from their descendants, subsequently, bands of Gypsies migrated to Europe, probably at different times and by different routes (see Simson).
The earliest supposed reference to Gypsies in European literature is contained in a German paraphrase of Genesis, written about A.D. 1122 by an Austrian monk, in which mention is made of "Ishmaelites and braziers, who go peddling through the wide world,-having neither house nor home, cheating people with their tricks, and deceiving mankind, but not openly." In the early part of the 15th century they had established themselves in Hungary and Wallachia, and began to spread over Western Europe in considerable numbers; one of their bands, which appeared at Basic in 1422, numbered, according to the old Swiss historian Stumpf, 14,000. They were under a kind of feudal leadership of so-called dukes, knights, etc., and, telling the story of their expulsion from Egypt and penal pilgrimage, sought to excite sympathy. At first they were well received as Christian pilgrims performing their allotted penance; but the deception was soon found out, and their thefts and impositions on the credulity of the people soon caused them to be regarded as nuisances and pests to society. Very stringent, even barbarously cruel laws were enacted, and in most places enforced against them, without, however, extirpating them, or seriously diminishing their numbers. After the middle of the 18th century more humane views in regard to them obtained, and measures were employed to improve their social and moral condition with some degree of success. A society for their improvement was formed at Southampton, England, in 1832, by the Roy. George Crabbe, and a school has been established at Farnham, in Dorsetshire, "in which Gypsy children are instructed in the knowledge of Scripture, where they are at the same time trained for service and taught various trades." The number of them who adopt more settled modes of life is increasing, according to Simson, who further states that Gypsies have been found occupying honorable and responsible positions in public as well as private life, and reckons the celebrated John Bunyan among Gypsies. Grellman estimated the number of Gypsies in Europe at 700,000 to 800,000. Simson (p. 493) considers that estimate far too low, and thinks there are at least 4,000,000 in Europe and America. The Gypsies, as a race, have no religion: and, indeed, are usually described as destitute of religious sentiments or ideas, their language containing no word signifying God, soul, or immortality. But the sacrifice of horses, which, Simson asserts, formerly constituted a part of the Gypsy marriage ceremonies, and is still a necessary part of a valid divorce ceremony, not only involves a religious idea, but presents a coincidence with Hindu mythological conceptions. SEE GANGES. They have, for policy's sake, often conformed, so far as necessary, to the religion of the country in which they roved, but Velasquez says sarcastically, "The Gypsies' church was built of lard, and the dogs ate it." In regard to their morals, little that is commendatory can be said. They are described as squalid, thievish, treacherous, and revengeful, and their most strongly-marked virtue, viz. a strict regard for the corporeal chastity (lacha) of their women, is sadly disfigured by the permission allowed them to employ the grossest licentiousness in manner merely in order to allure others to vice for the sake of gain as procuresses. Stone of them show great aptitude for music, and the choirs of Moscow owe their chief excellence to them, and among the Hungarian Gypsies are found the most celebrated violinists of that country. They furnish a field for the display of the religious activities of this age, full of difficulties, yet provocative of effort, and Christians should zealously labor and pray for the conversion of this race, assured that its evangelization and consequent moral and material elevation will be one of the grandest of the victories of the Gospel over degradation and sin promised to the Church of Christ in its conflicts here.
Language and Version. — The Gypsies call their language Rommany, and modern philological researches prove that it belongs to the Sanscrit family. It has doubtless received additions and modifications from the languages of the countries in which the race has sojourned, yet it is still so nearly the same with modern Hindu stance that a Gypsy can readily understand a person speaking in that dialect — a far(which tends to verify the statements made as to the zealous care with which the Gypsies have cherished their ancestral tongue. Mr. George Borrow, who devoted himself to the study of their language and life, translated the whole of the New Testament into the Spanish dialect of Rommany, and in 1838 printed at Madrid 500 copies of the Gospel of Luke, in the translation of which, as far as the eighth chapter, he had been assisted by Gypsies. This version was found to be perfectly intelligible to the Gitanos, and copies were eagerly sought after by them, not, Mr. Borrow thinks, because of the truths it contained, but from a desire to see and read their broken jargon in print, lie remarks: "The only words of assent I ever obtained, and that rather of a negative kind, were the following from the mouth of a woman: 'Brother, you tell us strange things, though perhaps you do nut lie; a month since I would sooner have believed these tales than that this day I should see one who could write Rommany.'" The following specimen of the version is from Bagster's Bible of every Land, p. 111 — Lu 6:27-29: "27 Tami penelo a sangue sos lo Junelais: Camelad a jires dasch-manuces, querelad mistos a junos sos camelan sangue choro. 28 Majarad a junos sos zermanelan a sangue, y manguelad a Debel por junos sos araquerelan sangue choro! 29 Y a o sos curare tucue andre, yeque mejilla, dinle tambien a aver. Y a o sos nicobelare tucue o uchardo, na o impidas lliguerar tambien a furi." For further information on the Gypsies and their language, see the following works: Peyssonel, Observations historiques el geograiphiques sur les peuples barbares qui ont habite les bords du Danube et du Pont-Euxin (Paris, 1765, 4to); Pray, Annales regum Hunga-riae ad annum Chr. MDLXIV deducti (Vienna, 1764-70, 5 pts. fol.); Grellman, Historische Versuch uber die ῥ Zigeuner (2d ed. Gottingen, 1787; English translation by Roper, Lond. 1787, 4to); Bischoff; Deutch-Zigeuner-isches Woterbuch (Ilmenau, 1827); Kogalmichan, is-quisse sur l'histoire, les Maurs et la langue des Cigains (Berlin, 1837); Predari, Origine e vicende dei Zingari (Milan, 1841); Pott, Die Zigeuner in Europa und Aden (Halle, 1844-45, 2 vols. 8vo — "the most wonderfully thorough and exhaustive book ever written on the subject of the Gypsies and their language"); Von Heister, Ethnographie und geschichtliche Notizen uber die Zigeuner (Konigsberg, 1842); Bataillard, De l'apparition et de la dispersion des Bohemiens en Europe (in 5th vol. of the Bibliotheque de Nicole de Chartres, 1844; Bohtlingk, Die Sprache der Zigeuner in Russland (St. Petersburg, 1852); Borrow, The Zincali (London and N. York); Bagster's Bible of every Land (Lond. u. d.), p. 111-13; Simson, A History of the Gipsies (N. York and Lond. 1866, 12mo); Roberts, Gypsies, their Origin, Continuance, etc. (Lond. 8vo); Brand, Popular Antiquities (Lond. 1842, 3 vols. post 8vo), iii, 45-53; Thos. Browne, Works (London, 1852, Bohn's ed.), ii, 204-6; Chambers, Cyclopaedia, s.v.; New American Cyclopaedia, 8:612 sq. (J.W.M.)