Volume 2, Chapter 2 -- The Journey of Ambrose Contarini, Ambassador from the Republic of Venice, to Uzun-Hassan, King of Persia, in the years 1473, 4, 5, and 6; written by himself.
*Section 1* -- The Ambassador, after passing through Germany, Poland, Russia, and the Tartarian Deserts, or Upper European Sarmatia, arrives at Caffa or Theodosia
*Section 2* -- Contarini, leaving Kaffa, crosses the Euxine to the city of Phasis, whence he pursues his journey through Mingrelia, Georgia, and part of Armenia, into Persia
*Section 3* -- Arrival of Contarini at Tauris or Ecbatana, the royal city of Uzun-Hassan, and continuation of his journey through Persia to Ispahan, where the king then resided
*Section 4* -- Contarini accompanies Uzun-Hassan from Ispahan to Tauris, where he finds Ambassadors from the Duke of Burgundy and the Prince of Muscovy, and gets leave to return to Venice
*Section 5* -- Journey of Contarini from Persia, through Georgia and Mingrelia, to the city Phasis
*Section 6* -- Leaving Phasis, Contarini travels through Mingrelia and Georgia, into Media, and, passing the Caspian, arrives in Tartary
*Section 7* -- Arrival of Contarini at Citracan, and journey from thence, through several dangers among the Tartars, to Muscovy along with some merchants
*Section 8* -- Contarini, after crossing European Sarmatia, arrives at Moscow, the capital of White Russia, and is presented to the Grand Duke
*Section 9* -- Contarini leaves Moscow, and having passed through Lithuania, Poland, and Germany, arrives at Venice
*Section 10* -- Recapitulation of some circumstances respecting Persia



This relation of a journey into Persia, between the years 1473 and 1477, is from a collection of voyages and travels, principally in Asia, made in the twelfth, thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries, which was published at the Hague, in the French language, in 1735. That collection usually goes under the name of Bergeron, whose name appears on the title somewhat equivocally as the author; but who is mentioned in the advertisement as a writer belonging to the middle of the preceding century; and the only part of the work that can be attributed to him, is a Treatise of Navigation, and of the Modern Voyages of Discovery and Conquest, especially those made by the French, &c. which serves as an introduction to this compilement. The editor of this collection gives no account of himself, or of the sources from whence he has derived his different articles; and only says that the journal of Contarini was translated into French, that it might be published along with the other contents of his volume. From the Bibliotheque Universelle des Voyages, by G. Boucher de la Richarderie, a new work of great research, published at Paris in 1808, we learn that the journal of Contarini was published in Italian at Venice, in a duodecimo volume, in 1543. So far as is known to us, it now appears for the first time in an English translation. This article might have been more aptly placed towards the close of the first part of the present collection, but escaped notice in proper time; and it appears of too much importance, both in itself, and as an early document, to be omitted from punctilious attention to rigid systematic arrangement.


"The illustrious republic of Venice, having done me the honour to appoint me ambassador to Uzun-Hassan, king of Persia, I accepted the employment with much pleasure, both that I might do acceptable service to my own country and for the general good of Christendom. I neither considered the difficulties nor the dangers of the journey, but placed my trust solely on the assistance of God; preferring the interests of my country, and of the Christian world, to my own ease and safety. On purpose to render my discoveries useful to the public, I have carefully and briefly recorded every circumstance deserving of attention, that occurred during my long and laborious journey; as relative to the provinces, cities, and places through which I travelled, and the manners and customs of the different nations among whom I sojourned. In short, I have omitted nothing deserving of notice, that occurred during my three years' journey, having left Venice on the first day of Lent, in the year 1473, and having returned to my beloved country on the 24th of February in the year 1476."[1]

[1] In the latter part of this journey, the date of his return to Venice is the 10th of April.--E.

Volume 2, Chapter 2, Section 1 -- The Ambassador, after passing through Germany, Poland, Russia, and the Tartarian Deserts, or Upper European Sarmatia, arrives at Caffa or Theodosia.

I left Venice on the 23d of February, in the year 1473, accompanied by the venerable priest Stephen Testa, who acted as my chaplain and secretary, and by Demetrius de Seze, my interpreter, together with two servants, Maffei de Bergamo, and John Ungaretti, all of us disguised in ordinary German dresses, our money being concealed in the clothes of Stephen Testa. We went by water in the first place to the church of St. Michael in Murano, where we heard mass, and received the benediction of the prior; after which we mounted our horses, which were there in waiting, and reached Treviso[2] the same day. I anxiously wished to have procured some person to accompany us on the journey who knew the road, but could not meet with any, nor could I even procure a guide for hire. Leaving Treviso on the 24th, we arrived that day at Cogiensi, now called Cornegliano;[3] and knowing the dangers and difficulties we must experience during our long journey, we here confessed, and partook of the holy sacrament of the eucharist, after which we resumed our journey. We fortunately overtook a German, named Sebastian, who said he knew me and the object of my journey, and offered to keep us company to Nuremburgh. I gladly accepted of this person as a companion of our journey, inwardly thanking God for affording us a guide. We continued our journey to the frontiers of Germany, passing through several cities and castles belonging to different princes and bishops, vassals of the empire, among which the city of Augsburg seemed one of the most beautiful. Not far from that place our German companion, Sebastian, left us, taking the road for Francfort. We parted from him with many embraces, giving him thanks for his numerous attentions, and mutually wishing each other a good journey.

Having procured a new guide, we arrived at Nuremburg on the 10th of March. This is a fine city, having a river running through the middle of it, and is defended by an excellent citadel. While here, I inquired of my landlord if there were any travellers going our way. He informed me that there were two ambassadors from the king of Poland then in the city, who, he was certain, would be happy to receive a visit from me. I therefore sent my chaplain, Stephen Testa, to inform these gentlemen of my being in Nuremburg, and of the purpose of my journey, and of my desire to pay them a visit. They received my message with much civility, and I accordingly went to wait upon them. These gentlemen were counsellors of state to his Polish Majesty, one of whom was an archbishop, and the other a knight, named Paul. After mutual compliments, I informed them that I proposed paying my respects to their sovereign, and was furnished with a passport. Notwithstanding the sorry equipage in which I travelled, they received me with much honour. I remained four days in Nuremburg, during which I formed a friendly intimacy with the Polish ambassadors, and then resumed my journey in their company, being likewise accompanied by an ambassador belonging to the king of Bohemia, eldest son of the king of Poland.

Departing from Nuremburg on the 14th of March, now nearly sixty horsemen in company, we crossed through Germany, always lodging in good cities or castles, some of which were extremely beautiful, both in respect to their situation and the excellence of their fortifications; but I omit describing them, as they are well known to travellers. The journey across Germany took us twelve days, during which we passed through the greater part of the dominions of the Maregrave of Brandenburg, and arrived at the imperial city of Francfort, a tolerably good and well fortified city on the Oder. We rested here till the 29th of March. As this city is near the confines of Poland, we had an escort of cavalry belonging to the Maregrave of Brandenburg, which accompanied us to the frontiers. These soldiers were well mounted and armed, and marched in good order. On the last day of March we arrived at Miedzyrzyez,[4] which is a small city, but strong and pleasant, and is the first place on the frontiers of Poland.

From that place till we reached Stragone, or Poznan, which took us three days journey, we saw no place worth notice. Poznan is particularly remarkable on account of a great fair, which is resorted to by many merchants. Leaving Poznan on the 3d of April, we arrived on the 9th at Lenczycz,[5] where Casimir, king of Poland, then resided. In this journey we found neither cities nor considerable castles, and had much reason to remember Germany with regret, both on account of bad lodgings and every other circumstance. When my arrival was announced to the king, he sent two of his gentlemen to wait upon me, who assigned me a tolerably commodious lodging. Next day being Easter, when no business of any kind is transacted, I rested after the fatigues of the journey. On the following morning the king sent me a robe of black damask, according to the custom of the country, that I might go to court, which I did, accompanied by several persons of distinction, and had the honour to pay my respects to the king, according to the ceremonies of that court; after which I presented the letters of our illustrious republic to his majesty, and explained to him the nature of my commission. The king was pleased to invite me to dinner, which was served much in the same manner as with us, the dishes being in great abundance, and well dressed. As soon as dinner was over, I asked permission to retire, which was accordingly granted. Two days afterwards I was again sent for to court, when the king gave orderly answers to all the proposals which I had made in the name of our republic, and with so much benevolent attention towards me, that I learned by experience that he justly deserved the character of the best king who had reigned in Poland for a great many years. He was pleased to appoint me two guides, one of whom was to accompany me through Poland, and the other through lower Russia, to Kiow,[6] or Magrano, which is the key of the kingdom. I humbly thanked his majesty in the name of the republic, and took my leave.

I left Lenczycz on the 14th of April, on my journey through Poland, which is a flat country, ornamented with many forests; but the great want of convenient lodgings is a sure proof that it is not very fertile, nor much abounding in the necessaries of life. On the 19th I arrived at Lublin, a tolerable city, defended by a citadel. The three sons of the king resided there at this time for their education. The eldest of these princes was about fourteen years of age, and the two others considerably younger. Learning that they wished to see me, providing that their father had not forbidden, I waited upon them, and was received with much politeness, the eldest conversing with me in the most obliging manner, and I observed that they behaved with much respect to their preceptor. I took my leave of them, returning thanks for their civilities, and they parted from me with as much courtesy as I had experienced in my reception. Leaving Lublin, and continuing our journey through Poland, we arrived on the 20th of April in lower Russia, which is subject to the king of Poland. In this part of our journey we travelled five whole days through thick woods, and, except meeting with a very few castles, we lodged for the most part in country houses. On the 25th, we came to a town named Jusch, which is defended by a wooden castle. We rested here for some time, yet not without danger, as the inhabitants were quite mad with drunkenness, on account of celebrating certain marriages. This country produces no wine, but the natives prepare a liquor from honey, which is stronger and more intoxicating even than wine. Leaving this place, we came to another village named Aitomir, in which likewise there is a wooden castle. During the whole of our journey of the 29th, we travelled through forests, in constant danger of robbers who infested all the roads; and we knew not where to pass the night, or to procure any refreshments, insomuch that we had to sleep in the woods, keeping strict watch lest we might be surprised by the banditti. On the 30th of April we reached Belligraoch, which signifies the white fort, where we were lodged in the royal palace, and passed the night with much inconvenience.

On the first of May we reached the city of Kiow,[7] or Magraman. The governor of this city, which stands beyond the frontiers of Polish Russia, was a Polander and Catholic, named Pamartin. Immediately on learning my arrival from the guides sent along with me by the king, he appointed me a lodging, which was sufficiently small, considering the size of the city. He here visited me, and sent me a sufficient supply of provisions. This city serves as a barrier or frontier garrison against the Tartars, and is celebrated for a great fair, to which the merchants bring rich furs, and other goods from Upper Russia. From hence the merchants travel in a large caravan to Caffa or Theodosia in the Crimea; but are often surprised and very ill treated by the Tartars during their journey. The country about Kiow abounds in grain and cattle. The inhabitants of this place occupy the whole day in their affairs till three o'clock, employing all the rest, till night, in drinking and quarrels, the natural consequence of drunkenness. On the day of my arrival, governor Pamartin sent some of his gentlemen to invite me to dinner, which I accepted with as much politeness as I could express. He received me very honourably, offering me every service in his power, in the most obliging manner; saying, that he was ordered by the king of Poland to treat me in every thing as well as possible; on which I thanked him for his polite attentions, and endeavoured to recommend myself to his friendship. From him I was informed that he was in daily expectation of the arrival of an ambassador from Lithuania, going with presents to the prince of the Tartars, who was to have an escort of 200 Tartar horse; and, if I were inclined to take advantage of this opportunity, by which means I should travel in much greater safety, I had better wait the arrival of this ambassador. I accepted of this offer most willingly; and we then sat down to a magnificent entertainment; at which the bishop of Kiow, who was brother to the governor, and many other persons of consequence were present. We wanted nothing which could contribute to make the dinner pleasant. Good company, good cheer, and music during the repast. The only circumstance I did not like was, that it lasted too long; as I had more need for sleep and rest, after my fatiguing journey, than of all the good cheer that could be offered. In consequence, as soon as dinner was ended, I took my leave, and retired to my lodgings in the city; the governor living in the castle, which is only of wood. The city of Kiow stands on the river named anciently Boristhenes, and Danambre by the natives, which we Italians call Lerissa, and which falls into the Euxine.

On the 10th of May,[8] the ambassador of Lithuania arrived; and, as he was to set out next day after mass, I went to pay him my compliments, accompanied by M. Pamartin; who directed him, on the part of the king of Poland, to take care of me, and to conduct me in perfect safety to Theodosia. To this the ambassador answered, that he had every respect for the orders of his majesty, the sovereign arbiter of his life and death, and would carefully obey his orders. I thanked M. Pamartin for all his kindnesses, as he had frequently visited me, and had supplied me with every thing I needed for subsistence during my stay; and, as some token of my gratitude, I made him a present of a tolerably good German horse, which had carried me hitherto. We here parted with the rest of our horses, which were quite unfit for our farther use, and procured horses of the country for the remainder of our journey; and, on parting with the guides who had accompanied us to Kiow by orders of the king, I rewarded them for their attention and good conduct.

I left Kiow on the 11th of May, along with the Lithuanian ambassador; and as I was unable to travel on horseback, on account of pains in my feet, I travelled in a carriage, which had served me for that purpose ever since I left the king of Poland at Lenczycz. The first place we came to was Cerca, belonging to the king of Poland, where we waited till the 15th, for the Tartar horse who came to escort us on our journey. After their arrival we set out on our journey through the great desert of Tartary, and came to the Boristhenes, which separates Tartary from Russia, and which is some miles broad.[9] As it was necessary to pass the river, our Tartars cut down some trees, the stems of which they fastened together into a raft, which was covered over by the branches, and upon which the whole of our baggage was placed. They fastened their horses by the tails to this raft, by which means it was dragged across the river, they themselves swimming along-side of their horses, and holding by their manes. We had likewise to swim our horses across, in which we succeeded, by the blessing of God, but in much fear and danger at this, to us, unusual mode of navigation. When we got over, we had to remain a whole day on the other side to collect and replace our baggage.

While among the Tartars, their officers eyed me with much attention and suspicion; and, during our new journey through the desert beyond the river, the Lithuanian ambassador informed me, by means of the interpreter, that the Tartar officers had come to a resolution to carry me to their prince, as they could not allow a person of my appearance to go on to Theodosia without his permission. I was much alarmed by this intelligence, believing that I should incur considerable risk of having the purposes of my journey frustrated by this measure, and, therefore, earnestly recommended to the ambassador to keep in mind the orders he had received on the part of the king of Poland respecting me, and the promises he had made to Pamartin; and I promised to make a present of a sword to the interpreter if he succeeded to extricate me from my embarrassment. The interpreter reported my fears and wishes to the ambassador, who succeeded, after drinking with the Tartars, in persuading them that I was of Genoa; and, by means of a present of fifteen ducats, he obtained permission for me to go direct for Theodosia. Our journey through the desert continued till the 9th of June, during which we suffered many hardships, having, at one time, been a whole day and night without water. At length it became necessary for us to part company, the Lithuanian ambassador and his escort taking the direct road to Bachiserai,[10] at which place the prince of the Tartars resided. On this occasion, a Tartar was appointed to be our guide to Theodosia, and we parted from the escort, not without considerable apprehensions of some sudden attack from the Tartars, yet much satisfied at getting rid of that crew, for they smelt so abominably, from feeding on horse flesh, that it was quite intolerable to come near them.

Our whole company passed the ensuing night in carts covered with skins, in which we were soon surrounded by a great number of persons, inquiring who we were. On being informed by our Tartar guide that I was of Genoa, they supplied us with milk, and left us. Resuming our journey next morning early, we arrived that day, which was the 16th of June, at the suburbs of Theodosia, otherwise called Kaffa. Filled with gratitude for our preservation through so many dangers, we went privately into a church to give thanks to God for our safe arrival; and from thence I sent my interpreter to inform the Venetian consul of my arrival. He immediately sent his brother to wait upon me, advising me to remain where I was till night, when he carried me privately to a house belonging to him in the same suburb, where I was exceedingly well received. I here found Paulus Omnibamus, who had left Venice three months before me, under the orders of our illustrious republic.

[2] Called Tarvisin, in the original.--E.
[3] Called Conigiano, in the edition of Bergeron.--E.
[4] This small city stands on a small river which runs into the Werta, at the western extremity of what was Poland, about sixty-seven miles from Poznan. It is called Messaricie in the original.--E.
[5] Lausicie in the original.--E.
[6] Named Chio in the original. The second name, Magrano, is afterwards called Magraman by Contarini, or his French translator.--E.
[7] Named Chio in the original, but which must necessarily be Kiow, or Kieu, now belonging to Russia. The three formerly mentioned stages Jusch, Aitomir, and Belligraoch, must either be villages of too little importance to find a place in geographical maps, or their names are so corrupted as to be unintelligible. The direct road from Lublin to Kiow passes through the palatinates of Russia, Wolhynia, and Kiow, provinces of ci-devant Poland, now annexed to the Russian empire.--E.
[8] The original says April, but attention to the context distinctly points out this necessary correction.--E.
[9] From this circumstance it evidently appears that the journey from Kiow had hitherto been on the right or west of the Dnieper or Boristhenes, through the country of the Nogais Tartars, now forming the western portion of the Russian province of Catharinoslau; and we may suppose the wide part of that river they had now to cross to have been somewhere about Cherson.--E.
[10] Named Arcercheriher in the French translation of Contarini; but which must necessarily be some corruption of Baschiserai, the residence of the khan of the Crim Tartars.--E.



Volume 2, Chapter 2, Section 2 -- Contarini, leaving Kaffa, crosses the Euxine to the city of Phasis, whence he pursues his journey through Mingrelia, Georgia, and part of Armenia, into Persia.

It is impossible for me to give any exact description of the city of Kaffa, or Theodosia, or of its government, as the danger of incurring suspicion obliged me to remain continually at home; on which account I can only mention such particulars as I learned from others. It is situated on the Euxine, and is celebrated for a great fair, which is much frequented, on which account the city is very populous, and is said to be very rich and powerful. I hired a vessel belonging to Anthony Valdat, which lay in the Palus Meotis, to carry me to the city of Phasis. When I was ready to embark, I met with two Armenians, one of whom had been on an embassy to Rome, from Uzun Hassan, and was persuaded by them to prefer disembarking at Tina, about an hundred miles from Trebisond, instead of Phasis, alleging that from Tina it was only four hours journey to a castle named Arrius, which depended upon the king of Persia, and promising to conduct us to that place in safety. Although I was by no means satisfied with this advice, I allowed myself to be guided by the consul and his brother, who agreed in opinion with the Armenians. I accordingly left Kaffa on the 4th of June,[1] accompanied by the consul, who went with me to the river, where our vessel was in waiting. I had formerly agreed with the master for our passage to Phasis at seventy ducats, but on occasion of the change in our destination, I was now obliged to pay an hundred. Being aware that I should not be able to meet with any person to serve us at the place we were going to, I used the precaution to hire nine men from Kaffa, to assist the mariners of our vessel, and to procure provisions for us in our journey through Georgia and Mingrelia.

We embarked on the 15th of June, and made sail across the Euxine, direct for Tina, but had hardly got twenty miles on our voyage, when a contrary wind sprung up from the east. Observing the mariners consulting together in an extraordinary manner, I became curious to know the purpose of their discourse. Accordingly, one Bernard, the brother-in-law of our captain, said to me that he understood we proposed going to Tina, but advised me by no means to do so; as a certain Subassa roamed about that neighbourhood with a band of cavalry, who would certainly make us slaves if we fell into his hands. On this advice I changed my purpose, and the wind becoming more favourable, we made sail for Liasi and Phasis, and arrived at Varsi on the 29th of June, where I disembarked my horses and baggage, and sent them from thence by land to Phasis, which is sixty miles from that place. Varsi is a castle, with a small village in Mingrelia, belonging to a lord named Gorbola, to whom likewise Caltichea,[2] a place of small importance on the coast of the Euxine, is subject. The inhabitants of this country are very miserable, and the only productions are hemp, wax, and silk.

On the 1st of July we arrived near Phasis, followed by a vessel filled with Mingrelians, who seemed all to be fools or drunk. Quitting the vessel, we went up the river in a boat, passing an island in the mouth of the river, where Oetes, the father of Medea the enchantress, is said to have reigned. On this island we spent the night, and were sadly infested by midges. Next day we went up the river in the boat, passing the city of Asso, which stands on its banks in the midst of a forest. I here found one Nicholas Capella, of Modena, who commanded in these parts, and a Circassian woman named Martha, who had been the slave of a person of Genoa, but was now married. This Martha received me with much kindness, and with her I staid two days. Phasis is a city of Mingrelia, subject to prince Bendian, whose dominions extend only about three days journey in length. The country is very mountainous, and full of forests. The inhabitants are so fierce and savage, that they might be accounted wild beasts. Their principal drink is beer; they have some corn and wine, but in very small quantities; boiled millet being their ordinary food, which is a very poor kind of nourishment. They sometimes procure wine and salted fish from Trebisond, and import salt from Kaffa, without which they could not exist. Their only productions consist in a small quantity of hemp and wax. If they were industrious, they might procure abundance of fish, which are very numerous in their river. They are Christians, according to the Greek ritual, to which they have added many gross superstitions.

I left Phasis on the 4th of July, accompanied by Nicholas Capella, and crossed the river Mare on a float. That day and the next, we travelled through a considerable portion of Mingrelia, always among woods and mountains. Towards the evening of the 5th, we came to the habitation of prince Bendian, whom we found, with all his court, reclining on a plain, under the shade of some trees. I sent Nicholas Capella to inform him of my quality, and to ask permission to pay him my respects, which was accordingly granted. I saluted him, therefore, with great respect, as he sat on the ground with his wife and children, and he made me sit down beside him. After explaining the purpose of my journey, I requested he would have the goodness to appoint me a guide. He expressed his satisfaction at my arrival in his dominions, and granted my request. He afterwards sent me some bread, a piece of beef, and the head of a sow, but so under-done, that it required the extreme necessity in which we then were to induce us to eat of his provisions; but when we cannot get what we like, we must put up with what can be had. We had to wait a whole day for the promised guide. The plain in which we found prince Bendian, is surrounded by very fine trees, resembling box, but much more lofty. The prince seemed about fifty years of age, and had a tolerably handsome countenance, but his manners were perfectly ridiculous.

On the 7th of July we continued our journey, always among woods and mountains, and next day passed the river which divides Mingrelia from Georgia, having to pass the night in the open air, and, what was worse, we had nothing to eat. On the 9th, we arrived at a small city named Cotachis,[3] which is defended by a stone fort, and where we saw a temple that seemed very ancient. We had here to pass a bridge over a large river, before reaching the plain in which the huts of Plangion, king of Georgia, are situated. The fort and city of Cotachis belong to Plangion. I waited upon the commander of this place, who invited me to dinner. He was seated on the ground, on which I, and those of my suite who accompanied me, and some friends of the governor, all sat down. Before us was laid a greasy skin, on which they served us with bread, radishes, some flesh, and other execrable articles with which I was not acquainted. They continually offered me wine in large goblets, to fill me drunk, according to their abominable customs, as they are as foolish and beastly as the Mingrelians. Finding that I would not join them in deep drinking, they held me in great contempt, insomuch that I found it extremely difficult to get leave to retire and to continue my journey. But at length they brought me a guide to conduct me to the king of Georgia.

I left Cotachis on the 12th of July; and, after travelling the whole day through woods and mountains, we rested for the night in a meadow at the foot of a mountain, near a castle named Scandes,[4] in which king Pangrates[5] resides. My guide here left me on purpose to inform the king of my arrival; promising to return immediately with another guide to serve me during the rest of the journey. We had accordingly to pass the whole night in the wood, starving of hunger, and full of anxiety. The guide came back early in the morning, accompanied by two of the king's secretaries, who informed me that the king was gone to Cotachis, and had ordered them to make an inventory of all our baggage, and of every thing we had about us; after which we should be provided with a passport, to travel free from payment of any duties through the whole country. They proceeded accordingly in their examination and inventory with the most rigorous exactness, even noting down the very shirts we then wore. After this they ordered me to mount my horse, and to go along with them to the king, leaving all my people behind. I used my best endeavours to be excused from this; but, instead of listening to me, they loaded me with insolence; and the only favour I could obtain, and that with the utmost difficulty, was permission to take my interpreter along with me. We accordingly resumed our journey, without meat or drink, and arrived much fatigued at Cotachis towards night; where my interpreter and me were left all night to our repose under a tree, where, indeed, they sent us some bread and fish.

The remainder of my people were taken to a miserable village, where they were left in charge of the priest; and our mutual anxiety may be easily guessed.

Next morning I was carried before the king, whom I found sitting on the ground in a hut, surrounded by several of his nobles. After paying my respects, he asked me a great number of questions, and among the rest, how many kings there were in the world? It came into my fancy to answer that there were twelve. On which he signified that I was right, and that he was one of the number; and that he was much surprised that I should come into his dominions without bringing him a letter from my sovereign. To this I answered, that when I left my own country, I did not expect to travel through his dominions, otherwise my sovereign would assuredly have given me letters in charge for his majesty; and with this answer he seemed satisfied. He asked many other extraordinary questions, from which I conjectured that my guide had maliciously represented me as carrying many valuable things; and it is probable, if this had been the case, that I had never been allowed to escape out of their hands. The royal secretaries endeavoured to persuade me that I ought to make the king a present of any article that might strike his fancy among my small baggage; but I got off without making any present, except compliments, and requesting him to appoint some one to conduct me through his dominions. This he was pleased to promise, as likewise to give me a free passport, without paying any duties, as I carried no merchandize. Accordingly, I took my leave of the king on the 14th of July, returning to the tree I formerly mentioned as my lodging, where the secretary brought me the promised passport and a guide. I then returned to my people at the village where they were kept in my absence, and was received with much joy, as the priest had represented the king as the cruellest tyrant in the world. My people could not contain themselves for excess of joy at my safe return, and even the miserable priest was so touched at the scene, that he provided us with something to eat, and we slept there that night as well as we could.

Next day, being the 15th of July, we provided ourselves with some bread and wine, to comfort ourselves on the way, and resumed our journey through thick forests and terrible mountains, which continued for two days. In the evening of the 16th, we stopped near a spring, where we remained during the night in the open air, being obliged to light a fire on account of the coldness of the weather, though in the middle of summer. On the 17th of the same month we arrived at Goride,[6] which belongs to the king of Georgia. This city is built on a plain, watered by a large river, and is defended by a citadel which is built upon a rock. Our guide notified our arrival to the commandant, who ordered us a house for our lodgings, apparently for the purpose of extorting a present; for shortly afterwards he informed me that he had letters from the king, by which he was ordered to receive twenty-six ducats from me for himself, and that I should pay six to my guide. I endeavoured to evade this demand, by saying that the king had received me favourably, to whom I had already given seventy ducats, and could not give any thing more, and urged my free passport. But he would listen to nothing I could urge, and I was forced to comply with his extortion. He even detained me till the 19th of the month, and even then I had extreme difficulty to get leave to depart. The inhabitants of the city, who deserve rather to be ranked among beasts, looked at us with as much astonishment as if they had never seen any other men than ourselves. They told us that, on the top of a high mountain in a neighbouring forest, there was a great church, in which was an image of the Virgin, which worked many miracles, and that the church was served by forty monks, whom they named Calojeriens.[7] But our anxiety to get out of this abominable country, prevented us from paying our devotions at that famous church. Georgia, indeed, is a somewhat better country than Mingrelia, but the manners of the people and their way of living is equally brutal; and such were the distresses and difficulties I encountered in travelling through both, that it would be tedious to relate them. On the 20th of July we left the abominable city of Goride, where we had suffered so many vexations, and continued, our journey through forests and over mountains, occasionally falling in with villages where we purchased provisions. We had always to pass the nights on the ground near some spring or rivulet, during most part of our journey through Mingrelia and Georgia.

[1] We have already seen that it was the 16th of that month when Contarini arrived at Kaffa. Much confusion has occurred in the dates of this journey, which we have no means of correcting, and must, therefore, be contented with them as they are--E.
[2] The names of places in this journal are so corrupted as to be often quite unintelligible. Varsi may possibly be Vardon, in the district to the northwest of Mingrelia, named Abkhas; and Caltichea may perhaps be Sulhuali, a sea port about 30 miles to the east. Phasis probably refers to some town on the river of that name, perhaps Subastei.--E.
[3] Probably Cutais in Imeritia, on the river Riene.--E.
[4] Perhaps Sarassan, about forty miles S. E. from Cutais.--E.
[5] Apparently the same prince named Plangion a little before.--E.
[6] Gori in Georgia, on the river Kur. The journey hitherto must have been through Mingrelia, then apparently subject to the prince or king of Georgia.--E.
[7] Probably Caloyers.--E.



Volume 2, Chapter 2, Section 3 -- Arrival of Contarini at Tauris or Ecbatana, the royal city of Uzun-Hassan, and continuation of his journey through Persia to Ispahan, where the king then resided.

On the 22d of July we began to ascend a mountain of prodigious height, insomuch, that when night came on we had scarcely reached the top, where we had to pass the night without water. Resuming our journey in the morning, we descended the other side of the mountain, and entered the province of Armenia, which is under the dominion of Uzun-Hassan.[1] In the evening we were conducted to a fort named Reo, which stands in the plain, between a deep river and a high mountain, and which is garrisoned by Turks in the service of Uzun-Hassan, but the neighbouring village is inhabited by Armenians. We rested in this place till the 25th of July, waiting the arrival of a guide to direct us in the remainder of the journey, and being well treated by the inhabitants, we rewarded them to their satisfaction. The Armenian who had joined us at Kaffa, under pretence of being an ambassador from Uzun-Hassan to the Pope, was recognized by the inhabitants of this village as an impostor and a notorious robber, and many were astonished how we had escaped from his machinations: I got rid of him therefore immediately, and made him restore me a horse which I had lent him for the journey; after which I procured a priest of an honest character to conduct me to Tauris. Leaving Reo with my new guide on the 26th of July, we ascended a mountain, and came on the other side to a plain surrounded by hills, where we found a village inhabited by Turks, near which we had to pass the night in the open air, though the inhabitants treated us with decent civility. Next morning we departed before day, having to pass another mountain, on the side of which was a village inhabited by Turks, among whom we should have run extreme hazard of our lives if they had seen us; but by using much diligence we avoided this danger, and got down into an extensive plain, full of fine pastures, and travelled with great expedition that we might pass the night at a respectable distance from the lawless inhabitants of the hills. On the 29th we passed the mountain of Noah, or Ararat, which is so lofty that it is covered with snow the whole year. We were told that many who had attempted to reach the top of this mountain had never been more heard of, while others, on making the same attempt, said, on their return, that it was quite inaccessible.

From this place forwards we travelled through extensive plains intermixed with hills, and arrived on the 30th of July at a castle named Chiagri, inhabited by Armenians. Finding abundance of bread, wine, and poultry in this place, we rested here for a day, and then set out with a new guide for Ecbatana or Tauris. Leaving Chiagri towards evening of the 1st August, we came next day to an Armenian village at the foot of a mountain, where we had to cross a river in boats, and were informed that Uzun-Hassan had formerly gained a great victory near this place over the Tartars, having hemmed them into a corner, where their army wasted away with famine and disease. The ruler of these Tartars, named Sultan Buzech,[2] was made prisoner, and was afterwards put to death. We here saw, on our left hand, eleven Armenian villages, near each other, who were Catholic Christians, their bishop being under submission to the Roman pontiff. The country is extremely agreeable, and is the most fertile of all the provinces of Persia. We arrived on the 3d of August at a large village called Marerich, near which we passed the night, and had to ride all the next day through a plain country exposed to great heat, which was greatly aggravated, as we could not procure a single drop of water for ourselves or our horses. On the way we met several Turkmans, whose custom it is to encamp here and there about the country, wherever they can find pasture for their cattle, and to change their residence as the pastures become exhausted. These people are abominable robbers, and look upon rapine as their highest glory; and as we had great reason to be afraid of them, I gave orders to all my people to tell whoever we met, that I was journeying to wait upon their sovereign, which was the only expedient for saving us from their violence.

We arrived on the 4th of August at the city of Ecbatana or Tauris,[3] which stands in a plain, and is surrounded by an earthen rampart in bad repair. There are high mountains in its neighbourhood, which are said to be the Taurus of the ancients. I here lodged with a very good man, who gave us two sleeping chambers, a convenience we had been long unused to. He was quite astonished how we should have been able to escape the dangers of our journey, as all the roads were blocked up; and on asking him the reason, he told us that Ogurlu Mohammed,[4] the eldest son of Uzun-Hassan, had rebelled against his father, and had taken possession of Sylas[5] or Persepolis, of which he had appointed his younger brother Khalil[6] as governor. Uzun-Hassan had assembled an army to reduce Persepolis and his sons to obedience; but a certain satrap named Zagarli, who commanded in the neighbouring mountains, favoured the cause of Ogurlu, and had ravaged the whole country, to the very gates of Tauris, with a body of 3000 horse, owing to which, all the roads were obstructed and unsafe. He farther informed us, that the governor of Tauris had one day issued forth to endeavour to put a stop to the marauders, but had been defeated by Zagarli, with the loss of most of his troops, and had even great difficulty in escaping back to the city. I inquired why the inhabitants of Tauris did not take arms in their own defence, in a time of so much danger; but he answered, although they were obedient to the governor, they were quite unused to war. On learning the state of affairs in this place, I resolved to leave it as soon as possible, that I might get to the king; but I could neither procure a guide, nor prevail on the governor to shew me any favour. By the advice of my landlord I kept myself very much concealed, and employed my interpreter and Augustin of Pavia, whom I had brought with me from Kaffa because he understood a little Persian, to purchase our provisions, in which employment they were exposed to much ill treatment, and were often in hazard of their lives.

Some days afterwards, one of the sons of Uzun-Hassan, named Masu-beg,[7] came to Tauris with 1000 horse, to defend the city from the incursions of Zagarli. I waited on this prince, having great difficulty to obtain an audience, telling him that I was sent as ambassador to his father, and had need of guides, whom I prayed him to provide me; but it was quite ineffectual, as he hardly deigned to answer me, and took no kind of interest in me or my affairs, so that I was obliged to return disappointed to my lodgings. Masu-beg endeavoured to raise money from the inhabitants of Tauris for the purpose of levying soldiers, but they resisted his demands, and all the shops of the city were shut up. In this emergency, being unable to procure provisions, I was obliged to quit my lodgings, with all my people, taking refuge in an Armenian church, where they gave us a small place in which to keep our horses; and I ordered all my people to keep constantly within doors, to avoid meeting with injury. My apprehensions on this occasion may easily be conceived; but God, who had already protected us in so many dangers, was mercifully pleased to deliver us from that which now hung over us. On the 7th of September, Bertonius Liompardus,[8] whom I had before seen at Kaffa, and who had been sent by our illustrious republic, arrived at Tauris. He was accompanied by his nephew, named Brancalione, and having come by way of Trebisond was a month later than me in reaching Tauris. I now dispatched Augustin de Pavia, of whom I have before made mention, with letters to the republic of Venice, in which I gave an account to the senate of all that had happened to us hitherto. I sent this man by way of Alapia, where he at length arrived in good health, after having escaped many dangers.

Although I remained in Tauris till the 22d of September, I was not able to acquire any exact knowledge of the city, having been forced to conceal myself the whole time. It is a large city, but its territory in some places is uncultivated, and I believe nowhere very populous; it abounds, however, in all the necessaries of life, but these are dear. Much silk is produced in this neighbourhood, which is exported by way of Alapia. A considerable quantity of cloth is manufactured in the place, which likewise abounds in various merchandize, but I did not hear of any pearls or precious stones. Fortunately for us a Cadilaskir, one of the counsellors of Uzun-Hassan, arrived about this time at Tauris, who returned from an embassy into Turkey, where he had unsuccessfully endeavoured to negociate a peace between his master and the Turkish government. Immediately on learning the arrival of this person, I used every effort to procure an interview, in which I succeeded, and by means of a present, I prevailed on him to admit me and my retinue into his suite. He received me with much civility, and granted all I asked, assuring me that, with the blessing of God, he would conduct me in safety to the king. Among his slaves there were two Illyrian renegadoes, who formed a strict intimacy with my people, to whom they promised to give every assistance in their power, and to give us due notice of the departure of their master, which they faithfully performed, and for which I rewarded them.

On the 22d of September we departed from Tauris with the Persian counsellor, accompanied likewise by a great many merchants and others, who took the advantage of travelling under his protection, from fear of being plundered by the rebels. This country in which we now travelled was quite level, with very few hills, so dry that we saw no trees except along the sides of rivers, and having only a few small villages, in which we purchased what was necessary for our journey, and always rested before mid-day in the open air, being unable to travel during the height of the sun, on account of the great heat. Travelling in this manner, we arrived at Sultanie on the 27th of September. This city appeared to be very handsome, surrounded by walls, and defended by a good citadel. We saw here three most curious brazen gates, which had been made at Damascus, the finest things I ever beheld, which must have cost a great deal of money. The city of Sultanie stands in a plain at the foot of a range of mountains, some of which are exceedingly steep and precipitous, and the inhabitants of which are forced to remove into lower situations during winter, on account of the severity of the cold. We remained there for three days, and resumed our journey on the 30th of September, travelling sometimes in plains, and sometimes among hills, but always taking up our quarters for the night in the open air.

On the 6th of October we arrived at Sena,[9] a city without walls, situated in a plain on the banks of a river, and surrounded by trees, in which city we passed the night in tolerably bad quarters. We departed from thence on the 8th, and stopping, according to our usual custom, in the fields, I was seized with a violent intermittent fever, insomuch that I could hardly get on horseback next day, and that with infinite distress. We arrived early next day at Kom, where I was forced to stop, all my attendants being seized in a similar manner with myself, except our priest Stephen Testa, who took care of us all. Our fever was so malignant that we were all delirious during the height of the access or hot fit. I was afterwards informed that the royal counsellor sent to visit me, begging my excuse that he could not wait for me, because it was necessary for him to repair without delay to the king; but that he had left one of his attendants with me as a guide, and that I need not now be under any apprehension, as there were none in that part of the country to do me harm. I remained here a long time sick. The city of Sena or Sava is not large, and has mud walls, being situated in a champaign country, which is well peopled, and abounds in every thing necessary to life.

On the 24th of October, being much recovered, we resumed our journey, though I was still so weak as to find much difficulty in sitting on horseback. Next day we arrived, at the city of Cashan,[10] which very much resembles Kom, except that it is somewhat handsomer. On the following day, we came to Nethas, or Nathan. This city stands likewise in a flat country, which produces much wine. I remained here one day, both to recruit my strength, and because I felt some return of my fever. On the 28th of October, I prepared as well as I was able to finish my journey, which was all on plain ground, and arrived at Ispahan, where Uzun-Hassan then resided, on the 3d of November, having employed twenty- four days in our journey from Tauris to this place. I immediately sought out the dwelling of Josaphat Barbaro,[11] the ambassador of Venice, and went to him. He received, me with much joy, and many embraces were mutually given and received, and we rejoiced together on my safe arrival. But as I had much need of rest, I very soon went to bed. When the king heard of my arrival, he sent some of his slaves to congratulate me, who presented me with some refreshments sent by his majesty.

Early in the morning of the 4th November, some of the kings slaves came to require that Josaphat Barbaro and I should come to court. On being introduced to an audience, we found the king attended by eight of his principal officers. Having made my obeisance after the manner of the country, I presented the letters of the republic, and explained the subject of my mission.[12] When I had finished speaking, he answered me in every point, and in few words; and, among other things, he excused his conduct in having been obliged to retire to this part of his kingdom. After this we were ordered to be seated, and his courtiers gave us an entertainment according to the Persian fashion, which consisted of many dishes tolerably well dressed. After the repast, we took leave of the king, and retired to our quarters. Two days afterwards, we were again sent for to court, when most of the royal apartments were shewn me. The king then resided in a very pleasant country palace, situated on the banks of a river. In one of the rooms, there was a painting of Ogurlu- Mohammed, the kings eldest son, leading the sultan Busech, or Abu Saïd, tied with a rope; and in another picture the decapitation of Busech was represented. We were again invited to an entertainment, at which many different kinds of confections were served up. We remained at Ispahan till the 25th of November, during which period we were frequently invited to court. The city of Ispahan, like the rest of the Persian cities, is surrounded by earthen-ramparts. It stands in a plain, and is abundantly supplied with all the necessaries of life. Having rebelled against the king, it was besieged and suffered much injury; for, being obstinately defended, it was subjected to the resentment of the conqueror and the fury of the soldiers.

Persia is a very flat and arid country, in many parts of which there are salt lakes. In such parts as can be supplied with water, grain and other fruits of the earth are produced in abundance, and there are plenty of beasts of all kinds, as it is everywhere intersected and surrounded by fertile mountains, but everything is very dear. The Venetian quart of wine is sold for three or four ducats; but bread is not so dear in proportion. A camel's load of wood costs a ducat. Flesh is dearer than with us, and seven hens cost a ducat; but other articles of provisions are cheaper. The Persians are a civil and humane people; and though Mahometans, they do not hate the Christians. The women are very modestly dressed, and ride on horseback with even more grace than the men; and, judging from the good appearance of the men, the women are probably handsome.

[1] Uzun-Hassan in the Turkish language signifies Hassan the long, which prince was likewise named Hassan-beg, or Lord Hassan, and Ozun-Azembeg, or the long lord Azem or Hassan. By different European writers his name has been corrupted into Unsun Cassan, Uxun-Cassan, and Usum- Chasan. He was a Turkman emir of the Ak-koyunla dynasty, or white sheep tribe, whose ancestor, the governor of a province under the descendants of Timor, had rendered himself independent in the north and west of Persia.--E.
[2] This prince, whose real name was probably Abu Said, was the emir of the Kara-koyunla dynasty, or black sheep tribe of the Turkmans, who had risen to independence after the death of Timor, and who had long contended with the prince of the white sheep tribe for ascendancy. These two tribes derived their distinctive appellations of the black and white weathers, from some peculiarity in their ensigns or dress, equivalent to the distinguishing uniforms and banners of our European armies.--E.
[3] Called Tebriz in modern times.--E.
[4] In the original this name is corrupted to Gurlumamech; but we learn from the Modern Universal History, that his real name was that expressed in the text of our translation.--E.
[5] The ruins supposed to be those of Persepolis are situated near Istakar, about forty miles north from the modern city of Shiraz, in the province of Fars or Persia proper; but the names in the original are often so corrupted as to defy even conjecture. Sylas is probably meant for Shiras.--E.
[6] Named Chali in the original; but it is to be noted that the ch of the Italian is pronounced as k in English.--E.
[7] It is difficult to determine whether Contarini here means Maksud-beg or Masih-beg, as Uzun-Hassan had two sons of these names; Maksad was the elder, and may have been the person named in the text Masu. Bec or Beg signifies Lord or Prince.--E.
[8] The person mentioned before by Contarini as a messenger from Venice, and whom he met with at Kaffa, was named on that occasion Paulus Omnibamus, totally dissimilar from the name in this part of the text. --E.
[9] Assuredly the Sava of modern maps, a city of Irac-agemi, which stands upon one of these extraordinary rivers, so numerous in Persia, which lose themselves in the sands, after a short but useful run.--E.
[10] About sixty miles S. S. E. from Kom. I am disposed to think that Contarini has slumpt [[=compressed?]] his journey on the present occasion; as it is hardly to be believed a person in the weak state he describes himself could have travelled with so much rapidity. Besides, so far as we can learn from his journal, he travelled always with the same set of horses. Indeed the sequel immediately justifies this suspicion, as the subsequent dates are more distant than the travelling days of the text would warrant.--E.
[11] See Travels of Josaphat Barbaro to Asof in 1436, in our Collection, Vol I. p. 501, in the introduction to which article, it will be seen that he had been sent on an embassy from Venice to Uzun-Hassan in 1572, two years before Contarini; and appears to have remained in the east for fourteen years in that capacity, after the departure of Contarini on his return to Venice.--E.
[12] This nowhere distinctly appears; but we may easily understand incidentally, and from the history of the period, that the Venetian republic endeavoured to stir up enemies to the Turkish empire in the east, being unable to resist its power, now exerted against them in the Morea and the Greek islands; and we may even surmise that Uzun-Hassan was subsidized by the Venetians to make war upon the Turks.--E.



Volume 2, Chapter 2, Section 4 -- Contarini accompanies Uzun-Hassan from Ispahan to Tauris, where he finds Ambassadors from the Duke of Burgundy and the Prince of Muscovy, and gets leave to return to Venice.

The king left Ispahan with all his court on the 25th of November for Tauris, and we travelled along with him, passing through most of the places which we had seen in going to Ispahan. In this journey we always slept in tents in the fields, and the camp was well supplied with provisions, as many merchants had received orders to provide grain, victuals of all kinds, and all sorts of necessaries. On the 14th of November we arrived at Kom, where we remained two days under tents, exposed to extremely cold weather, and experienced much difficulty to procure a small house in which to shelter ourselves. We continued at this place till the 21st of March 1474, during which interval we went frequently to court, to pay our respects to the king, on which occasions we were generally invited to dinner. The Persian court is very magnificent, being attended by many high officers of state, and every day 400 persons dine along with the king. These are all seated on the ground, and are served in copper basons with boiled rice, or some other mess made of flesh and grain boiled together; but the king is served in great magnificence at a separate table, with a great variety of dishes of different kinds of meat. During his meals, the king is often served with wine, and then the musicians sing and play upon flutes such songs and tunes as the king pleases to order. The king is of a good size, with a thin visage and agreeable countenance, having somewhat of the Tartar appearance, and seemed to be about seventy years old. His manners were very affable, and he conversed familiarly with every one around him; but I noticed that his hands trembled when he raised the cup to his lips. It is not needful that I should enumerate all the audiences which I had on the subject of my mission, of which I shall make occasional mention hereafter.

On the 21st of March the king and all the court left Kom, on their journey towards Tauris, the baggage being carried by camels and mules. Each day we hardly exceeded ten or twelve, or at the most twenty Italian miles, and always stopt at each encampment till the forage in the neighbourhood was consumed. The Persian mode of travelling is thus: The women always arrive first at the new camp, where they set up the tents and cook provisions for their husbands. They are well clothed and ride upon good horses, which they manage with much dexterity. The Persian nation is very magnificent, and exceedingly fond of pomp, and shew, and it is very agreeable to see their march at some distance. They are very careful of their camels, of which they have great numbers, even the poorest seldom travelling with less than seven of these animals; by this means, the prodigious train which attends the court appears to consist of many more persons than it actually contains. When the king entered Ecbatana, his suite consisted of about 2000 persons, but many left the camp on the march, as it suited their fancy or convenience, and the king never had above 500 horse along with him. The royal tents were exceedingly beautiful and magnificent, and his bed was ornamented with scarlet hangings. The merchants who attended the camp sold every thing at a high price. All of our party were accommodated with tents, as we belonged to the suite of the king, who often honoured us with an invitation to supper, and at other times frequently sent us refreshments. We were always treated with much civility, and never received any injuries or affronts.

On the 31st of May the king encamped about fifteen miles from Tauris, when a certain monk of the Boulonnois named Louis, who called himself patriarch of Antioch, and envoy from the Duke of Burgundy, arrived at the camp, attended by five horsemen. The king asked if we knew him, and we accordingly told what we knew without dissimulation. Next day the king gave him an audience, at which we were present by command. This patriarch presented to the king three robes of gold tissue, three others of scarlet silk, and some of fine cloth, and opened his commission, making many great offers of service from his prince, and many fine promises in very magnificent terms, which do not appear proper for me to repeat, and which the king did not seem to care much about. We were all invited to dinner, during which the king started many questions, to which he gave very pertinent answers himself. After dinner we returned to our tents.

On the 2d of June we arrived at Tauris, in which place lodgings were appointed for us. Six days afterwards, Uzun-Hassan sent for the patriarch and us to court; and although he had three or four times informed me already that I must prepare to return into Italy, leaving my colleague Barbaro at his court, I could not reconcile myself to the journey, and had done every thing in my power to put off my departure. When we went to court, the king addressed himself first to the patriarch, whom he ordered to return to his prince, and to say from him, that he, the king, would very shortly declare war against the Turks, having already taken the field with that view, and that he never failed in performing his promises. He then turned to me, saying, "Return to your country, and tell your masters that I shall very soon make war upon the Ottomans, and desire them to do their duty as I shall do mine. I know no one better fitted to carry this message than you, who have accompanied me from Ispahan, and have seen my preparations; so that you are able to inform the Christian princes of all that you have seen, and of my good intentions." I offered several reasons for excusing myself from obeying these commands, which gave me much vexation; but the king looked at me with a severe expression of countenance, saying, "It is my pleasure for you to go, and I command you. I shall give you letters for your masters, which will inform them of my sentiments and the reasons of your return." In this state of embarrassment, I was advised by the patriarch and M. Josaphat to comply with a good grace; on which I replied to the king as follows: "My departure, Sir, gives me much distress; but since you judge it proper, I make no more objections, and am ready to obey your orders. Wherever I may go, I shall speak of your great power and goodness, and the honours I have received from your majesty, and shall exhort all the princes of Christendom to join their forces with you against the common enemy." My speech pleased the king, and he answered me kindly according to his wonted manner. After retiring from this andienqe, the king sent some Persian robes to the patriarch and me, made of fine stuff and very beautifully ornamented, and presented each of us with a horse and some money to assist us during our journey.

We remained two days at Tauris after the kings departure, and set out on the 10th of June to rejoin the court, which was then encamped in a pleasant spot among excellent pastures and plenty of fine wells; about twenty-five miles from Tauris. We remained there till the pastures were eaten bare, and then marched about fifteen miles farther. On the 27th of June the king gave us our final audience, at which he gave us presents for our respective sovereigns; that is to say, to the patriarch for the Duke of Burgundy; to myself for the republic; and to one Marcus Ruffus, who had come with an embassy from the prince of Muscovy. The presents consisted in certain pieces of workmanship made in the European fashion, two swords, and certain ornaments for the head, which are usually fastened to bonnets. There were two Persian ambassadors in the audience-chamber, one of whom was destined on a mission into Russia. At length the king turning towards the patriarch and me, addressed us nearly as follows: "You will return with all speed to your masters, and will tell them and all the other Christian princes from me, that I have used all diligence in taking the field to make war on the Turks, as it had been concerted between them and me. The emperor of the Turks is at present in Constantinople, and will make no enterprize of importance this year. As for myself, I propose sending one part of my army to reduce my rebellious son, and another against the Turkish generals, while I shall remain here at hand, to act against the enemy as occasion may require."

He gave orders, both to us and to his own ambassadors, to report this to all the princes of Christendom. I did not receive these orders with more satisfaction than I had done the former; but I had no means of escape and must necessarily obey. Wherefore, having taken our leaves, we prepared for our departure, and were unexpectedly commanded to remain till next day. In the mean time, he conveyed a great part of his infantry during the night to the other side of a mountain. Next morning early, the Ruiscasson, or conductor of ambassadors, carried us to the top of the hill, as meaning to confer with us on some important subject, and on the appearance of the Persian infantry under march, he pointed them out to us as if he had been surprised at seeing so many additional troops coming to the royal camp. The better to favour this deception, some of his slaves exclaimed as astonished, that there were a great many soldiers, and that at least 10,000 were coming to reinforce the army. But we easily saw through the contrivance, and were certain that these pretended new troops were merely the ordinary royal escort, which had only changed their position to impose upon us. After this little comedy, the Ruiscasson gave us the royal letters for our masters, and we returned to our tents. From the information of M. Josaphat and others, the military force of this king cannot exceed 20,000 cavalry, some of whom have wooden bucklers about eighteen inches long. Others have a kind of cuirasses made of very thin plates of steel, which they wear over their ordinary habits. Their usual arms are bows and arrows, and cimeters, while some have small leathern targets covered with silk, and others carry helmets and cuirasses. Their horses are beautiful and vigorous, and very numerous. In regard to the manners of the Persians, and the state of the kingdom, I shall mention what I know of these subjects as occasion may offer during the recital of my travels; but I do not think it proper to weary my readers with any lengthened detail.



Volume 2, Chapter 2, Section 5 -- Journey of Contarini from Persia, through Georgia and Mingrelia, to the city Phasis.

Being entirely ready to depart on the 1st of July, we took leave of M. Josaphat Barbaro in his tent, when we mutually shed tears in sincere grief at our separation. Having recommended myself to the protection of God, I mounted on horseback, and began my journey, accompanied by the patriarch of Antioch, Marcus Ruffus the Muscovite, and the two Persian ambassadors, intending to return by way of Phasis, which is under the dominion of Uzun-Hassan. To this route we were advised by certain birds of bad augury, who were omens of the terrible dangers we had to encounter in the sequel. Coming to the villages of the catholic Armenians, formerly mentioned, we were well received by their bishops, and attended the mass regularly during three days that we had to remain here, laying in a stock of provisions for the journey. From thence we came to the frontiers of Georgia, travelling through plains interspersed with hills, and arrived on the 12th of July at Typsi,[1] which is subject to the king of the Georgians. This city stands upon a hill, at the foot of which runs the river Tigre, and it is defended by a good castle on the summit of an eminence. It was formerly a celebrated place, but is at present almost utterly ruined, though beginning to revive, and contains many good catholics. In this place we took up our lodgings with a person named Arminius, of the catholic faith. In travelling through Georgia, we found a few villages composed of huts, and some castles among the mountains, but these were rare and distant.

On the 19th of July, being near the frontiers of Mingrelia, we chanced to meet with Pangratius, king of Georgia, in the midst of a forest surrounded by mountains, and went to pay our respects to him, when he invited us to dinner. We had to sit on the ground, having a skin spread before us instead of a table-cloth, and were served with roasted meat and fowls, very ill dressed; but, by way of making amends, they frequently presented us with large goblets of wine, as they seem to place all dignity and merit in deep drinking. For this reason it is their custom, at the conclusion of their meals, to challenge one another to drink, and he who empties the greatest number of goblets, is held in highest esteem. As the Turks drink no wine, their presence was some restraint that day on their usual bacchanalian contests, and as we neither could nor would compete with them, we were held in great contempt. The king was about forty years old, and of large make, with a strong resemblance to the Tartar countenance. We parted from the king of Georgia next day, and on the 22d of July, on the confines of Mingrelia, we fell in with a Georgian commander at the head of some troops, both cavalry and infantry who was posted in this place to prevent injury from the disorders that had broke out in Mingrelia, in consequence of the death of Bendian, prince of that country. These people stopped, and frightened us with, many cruel menaces; but at length, after being robbed of two quivers full of arrows, and having to gratify them with some money, we escaped from them, and made the best of our way to a distance. Leaving the public road, we struck off into a thick wood, where we passed the night in prodigious apprehension.

On the following day, while approaching the city of Cotati,[2] we met some peasants in a narrow pass, who prevented us for some time from going forwards, and even threatened to put us to death. After much altercation, and many threats, they seized three horses belonging to the Turks,[3] which were with great difficulty redeemed for twenty ducats. On the evening we reached Cutais, which is a royal fortress. While passing a bridge over a river, early in the morning of the 24th of July, we were again attacked by robbers, who came upon us suddenly, and, after many threats, forced us to pay the full value of our horses, before they would allow us to continue our journey. After passing this bridge, we entered Mingrelia, where we followed our wonted custom of sleeping under the canopy of heaven, though we had many worse inconveniencies and dangers to encounter: for, on the 25th of July, having passed over a river by means of rafts, we were conducted to the dwelling of a certain lady, named Maresca, sister of the deceased prince Badian, who received us at first with much civility, and treated us with bread and wine, after which we were conducted into a field belonging to her, which was close shut on all sides. On the morrow, when we were about to depart, we offered her a present of twenty ducats, as a return for her hospitality, which at first she pretended to refuse; but we soon discovered her treachery, as she insisted on our paying two ducats as a ransom for each of our horses. We expressed our astonishment at this rapacity, and endeavoured to represent our inability to comply with such exorbitant demands, but all to no purpose, and we were forced to comply, being afraid that she might even have plundered us of every thing.

Leaving this rapacious dame, we arrived at Phasis on the 27th of July, some on horseback and others in boats, where we again lodged with Martha the Circassian lady, whom I formerly mentioned. After having run many risks in our journey, we here learnt a piece of most afflictive news, that the Turks had taken possession of Kaffa or Theodosia in the Crimea, by which we were deprived of our last resource, and shut out apparently from every hope of continuing our voyage homewards. Our distress on receiving this intelligence may easily be conceived, and, in fact, we were so much cast down, as not to know what measures to pursue, or to which hand to turn us. Louis, the patriarch of Antioch, resolved upon going through Tartary and Russia, with which route he was acquainted. It was to no purpose that I urged the promises we had mutually come under at the beginning of our journey, never to separate on any account. To this he answered, that the unforeseen circumstances which had occurred, were a sufficient warrant to every one to consult his own individual safety. I insisted and beseeched him not to treat me with such unfeeling cruelty, but all in vain, for he prepared to set off along with the Turkish ambassador, who had been sent by Uzun-Hassan as his particular companion. In this extremity I went to Marcus Ruffus, and the Turkish ambassador who was joined with him by the king of Persia, to whom I mentioned my intention of returning back to Uzun-Hassan. They pretended to approve my plan, and even to join me, and we embraced as entering, into promise of keeping together; but they secretly came to a determination of taking their journey through the province of Gorgore, which is subject to Calcicanus, and to the city of Vati,[4] which is on the frontiers of the Turks, and pays tribute to the Grand Signior.

The patriarch set out on the 6th of August, and the next day Marcus Ruffus followed him, accompanied by several Russians, partly on horseback, and partly by means of boats. Their intentions were to travel from Vati, by Shamaki, anciently Cyropolis, and thence into Tartary. Thus left alone in a strange land, I leave any reasonable person to think what were the embarrassments with which I was surrounded. I was unacquainted with a single individual, having no company but that of my domestics, and had very little money remaining. In short, I was reduced almost to despair, of ever being able to get out of the country. In this state of distress I fell into a violent fever, and could get no other nourishment but bread and water, and a pullet occasionally with much difficulty; and my fever increased to such a degree that I became delirious. All my domestics were attacked soon after with the same fever, the priest Stephen only excepted, who had to take care of us all. My only bed was a wretched mattress, which had been lent me by a person named John Volcan; and my life was despaired of by every one, till the 9th of September, when, by the cares of Stephen and of Martha, my good hostess, or rather through the mercy of God, the fever abated, and I soon recovered my former health, to the astonishment of every one. My domestics likewise recovered, and we began again to consult on the best means of escaping out of our present situation. Some proposed to take the road of Syria, but I deemed this too dangerous; and we at length came to the determination, of going by Shamaki, into Tartary, and thence by Russia, Poland, and Germany. I got accordingly on horseback on the 10th of September, but had hardly rode two miles when I was forced to dismount and rest myself on the ground. I was, therefore, obliged to return to my lodging in Phasis, where we remained till the 17th, when, being all of us restored to health and strength, we again resumed our journey, after having implored the protection and assistance of God. I now took a certain Greek into my service, who could speak the Mingrelian language, who occasioned me a thousand troubles, which it were tedious to recount.

[1] This in all probability is a corruption of Tiflis, or Teffliz, the capital of Georgia Georgia, which is situated on the river Kur or Cyrus, erroneously named Tigre in the text. The proper name of this country is Gurgi-stan, or the country of the Gurgi which has been corrupted by the Europeans into Georgia.--E.
[2] Cutais in Imeritia, named Cotachis on a former occasion in the text. --E.
[3] These Turks must have been the Persian ambassadors of Uzun-Hassan;--E.
[4] This proposed route seems to have been through the province of Guria to Batum; and, from the sequel, to have returned to Georgia and Shirvan, passing through Derbent and the Caspian gates, or Daghisten, into western Tartary. But the names in the text are too corrupt for any certainty. Calcicanus, in the text, is probably a corruption of Kalo Johannes, who was then prince, or emperor, of Trebisond.--E.


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