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if the Italians and Spaniards either knew not the art of killing, or possessed not in their dialects a verb expressive of the deed, till they learned the same from the Arabs.
2nd. Of the Queen.
The Persian term for this piece is Farz or Firz, which, as an adjective, signifies "wise" or "learned;" and, as a substantive, it denotes a "Counsellor," a "Minister," or a "General." The forms Farzan, Farzin, and Farzi are also in use, but less frequently. In this latter sense, viz., that of General, the Arabs adopted the word on receiving the game itself from the Persians; and conveyed it unaltered to Western Europe, where it was Latinized into Farzia, or Fercia. The French slightly altered the latter form into Fierce, Fierge, and Vierge. This last appellation was probably conferred on it in honour of the "Blessed and Holy Virgin," whence naturally came the modern terms Dame, Dama, and Donna, &c. I do not, however, agree with the ordinary herd of writers, who, merely repeating each other, will have it that our Queen originated from the word Vierge or Dame. On the contrary, we know it as a fact, that the Queen was introduced on the board as far back as the reign of Charlemagne at least; hence the terms Ferzia and Regina are used as synonymous in our early Latin manuscripts, such for instance as that quoted by Hyde (p. 179), said to be as old as the time of the Anglo-Saxons. It is highly probable that the Byzantines were the first people who substituted the Queen for the original " Minister" or " General," as we shall observe hereafter.
3rd. Of the Bishop.
This piece was by the Persians called Pil, "an elephant," which the Arabs, not having the letter P in their
language, write Fil, (with an F), or, with their own definite article, Al-Fil. This last term they introduced into Western Europe, where it was Latinized into the forms Alphilus and Alfinus; and by gradual corruption, it became in the Roman dialects, Alfieres, Alfiere, Alfino Aufin, &c., &c. Its Arabic origin is unquestionable, as is fully indicated from a piece of absurdity peculiar to the people of the South in their appropriation of words from the Arabic language. They almost invariably incorporate the article al with the substantive, so as to form one single word, such as Alcoran, Alchymy, Alcohol. Now, in all of these the first syllable, on which we ridiculously place the full emphasis, is merely the article al; and to this already articled word we very preposterously prefix our own article, and say, "the Alcoran," and "the Alcohol," instead of "the Kuran," &c. It would appear, however, that the French, at some period or other, Heaven knows how, got rid of the article al, or rather, had not adopted it, in the term al-Fil, which they must have called le Fil, whence came le Fol and le Fou, which last term is still in use. Upon the whole, I cannot help thinking that the French must have all along retained the Arabic word Fil, "pur et simple," as they received it from the Saracens, in the days of the good Prince Eudes of Acquitaine.
4th. Of the Rook.
This is the only Chess piece that has for countless ages preserved, with but little alteration, its original Sanskrit name, Roka, "a boat," or "ship." The Persians slightly modified the Sanskrit term into Rukh, which in their language denotes "a hero," or "champion." The Arabs received the word unaltered from the Persians, and brought the same along with them to
Western Europe. Rochus, as well as the more modern forms, Roc, Roque, Rocco, Roch, Rock, and Rook. It so happens that the Italians have in their own language a word somewhat similar in sound and spelling, which signifies "a fortress," or "castle;" and this gave rise to their Torre or Castello, thence came the Tour, Thurm, Tower, and Castle, now to be met with in most European languages. Yet there be some wise men who will have it that the Castle originated from the hauda, (vulgarly howdah), carried on the back of the elephant; a speculation that speedily falls to the ground, for the piece called the Elephant by the Persians and Arabs, was, and still is, the same as our Bishop, and never meant our Rook. I consider, then, that the only inference to be drawn from what I have just stated respecting the King, Queen, Bishop, and Rook, is, that Western Europe received the Game of Chess from the Saracens, and not from the Greeks of the Lower Empire.
Thence came the Latinized form
I have said nothing of the Knight and Pawns, as their names, moves, and powers have remained unaltered in all lands ever since the first time they were arranged on the board, near the banks of the "Sacred Ganga," some 5,000 years ago. The Sanskrit Asva, the Persian Asp, and the Arabic Faras, all denote "a Horse;" but not "a Rider," "Cavalier," or "Knight," as in modern Europe. The Italian Cavallo and the Russian Kōnie, however, are true and literal translations of the Oriental terms, both meaning merely a "Horse." The original Sanskrit for the Pawn is Padata, Padāti or Vatika, which simply means a "pedestrian," or "foot soldier." Persian term is Piyada, which is of a similar signification, and closely allied to the Sanskrit. The Arabs modified the word into Baidak, which signifies in their language
the Chess Pawn and nothing else. The older Latin terms we meet with are Pedes and Pedester; but in this case we can found no argument on the mere similarity of names, as the Sanskrit word denoting foot happens to be derived from the very same root that furnishes the word both to the Latin and the Greek. This will best appear on comparing the genitive case of the word denoting foot in each of the three languages. Thus, Sanskrit, pad-asya, Greek, Tod-os, and Latin ped-is, are evidently of one and the same origin.
Most modern writers are so greatly fascinated with the idea that "Chess was brought to Europe by the Crusaders"—that they entirely overlook the more obvious route through Spain. Twiss, I do believe, for once stumbles upon the truth, when he says in the first paragraph of his book, that-" The Persians taught it [Chess] to the Arabians, who introduced it into Spain." We further find in the second volume of the "Chess Players' Chronicle" a communication to the same effect by Mr. F. W. Cronhelm, of Halifax; but this gentleman does not, like Twiss, content himself by barely stating the fact-he very laudably endeavours to prove it; but so very inaccurate are his proofs, that they sadly damage his cause. He says that," when adopted by the Arabs, they naturally named the King Sheik," &c. Arabs never did call the King Sheik, as we
Now, the well know They have
from their written works, &c., on the game. to this day retained the original Persian word Shah, as I have already shown. Mr. Cronhelm then proceeds to the word mate, which he asserts to be, "not merely Arabic, but also Persic and Shanskrita!" This statement, if true, would be an interesting discovery in philology. The word māt is purely Arabic, and neither "Persic nor Shanskrita." It is true the Persians now use the term mat, which they
have adopted from the Arabic. In Sanskrit there is no such word as māt to denote "dead" or "killed."
I have already pointed out the absurdity of deriving the Spanish matar and matador from the Arabic, when the Latin origin of the terms is so palpable. Finally, there is one assertion by Mr. Cronhelm which I hold to be particularly “worthy of confirmation,” viz., "The ancient Arabian and Spanish chronicles bear testimony to the prevalence of Chess in these courts" [of Cordoba, &c.] Now, I have myself no doubt respecting the fact, that Spain was the first country in Western Europe into which Chess entered; far less do I doubt the prevalence of the Game at the various Moorish courts named by Mr. Cronhelm-but anent "the ancient Arabian and Spanish chronicles," bearing testimony thereunto, &c., I hae my doots. Nevertheless, Mr. Cronhelm's cause is so very good in itself, that it will bear a great number of bad proofs.
Let us now examine our second alternative, viz., what probability is there that Chess came to Central Europe from Constantinople? We do not know what names the Byzantines gave to the pieces, on receiving the game from the Persians. It is probable that, like their neighbours the Scythians and Sclavonic tribes, they translated most of the terms into their own language; but of this we are uncertain. Suffice it to say, that not knowing the Greek names for the various pieces, we are debarred from coming to any conclusion on the subject by arguments founded on etymological and philological deductions. All we can say is, that it is quite possible, and not altogether improbable, that Chess may have been communicated to some parts of Central Europe from Constantinople, as well as from Spain, in the eighth century of the Christian æra.