*Section 1* -- Of the Navigation from Venice to Alexandria in Egypt, and from thence to Damascus in Syria
*Section 2* -- Of the City of Damascus
*Section 3* -- Of the Journey from Damascus to Mecca, and of the Manners of the Arabians
*Section 4* -- Observations of the Author during his residence at Mecca
*Section 5* -- Adventures of the Author in various parts of Arabia Felix, or Yemen
*Section 6* -- Observations of the Author relative to some parts of Persia
*Section 7* -- Observations of the Author on various parts of India
*Section 8* -- Account of the famous City and Kingdom of Calicut
*Section 9* -- Observations on various parts of India
*Section 10* -- Continuation of the Author's Adventures, after his Return to Calicut
*Section 11* -- Account of a memorable Battle between the Mahometan Navy of Calicut and the Portuguese
*Section 12* -- Navigation of the Author to Ethiopia, and return to Europe by Sea
This ancient itinerary into the east, at the commencement of the sixteenth century, together with the subsequent chapter, containing the peregrinations of Cesar Frederick, about 80 years later, form an appropriate supplement to the Portuguese transactions in India, as furnishing a great number of observations respecting the countries, people, manners, customs, and commerce of the east at an early period. We learn from the Bibliotheque Universelle des Voyages I. 264, that this itinerary was originally published in Italian at Venice, in 1520. The version followed on the present occasion was republished in old English, in 1811, in an appendix to a reprint of HAKLUYT'S EARLY VOYAGES, TRAVELS, AND DISCOVERIES; from which we learn that it was translated from Latine into Englishe, by Richarde Eden, and originally published in 1576. In both these English versions, the author is named Lewes Vertomannus; but we learn from the Biol. Univ. des Voy. that his real name was Ludovico Verthema, which we have accordingly adopted on the present occasion, in preference to the latinized denomination used by Eden. Although in the present version we have strictly adhered to the sense of that published by Eden 236 years ago, it has appeared more useful, and more consonant to the plan of our work, to render the antiquated language into modern English: Yet, as on similar occasions, we leave the Preface of the Author exactly in the language and orthography of Eden, the original translator.
The itinerary is vaguely dated in the title as of the year 1503, but we learn from the text that Verthema set out upon the pilgrimage of Mecca from Damascus in the beginning of April 1503, after having resided a considerable time at Damascus to acquire the language, probably Arabic; and he appears to have left India on his return to Europe, by way of the Cape of Good Hope and Lisbon, in the end of 1508. From some circumstances in the text, but which do not agree with the commencement, it would appear that Verthema had been taken prisoner by the Mamelukes when fifteen years of age, and was admitted into that celebrated military band at Cairo, after making profession of the Mahometan religion. He went afterwards on pilgrimage to Mecca, from Damascus in Syria, then under the dominion of the Mameluke Soldan of Egypt, and contrived to escape or desert from Mecca. By some unexplained means, he appears to have become the servant or slave of a Persian merchant, though he calls himself his companion, and along with whom he made various extensive peregrinations in India. At length he contrived, when at Cananore, to desert again to the Portuguese, through whose means he was enabled to return to Europe.
In this itinerary, as in all the ancient voyages and travels, the names of persons, places, and things, are generally given in an extremely vicious orthography, often almost utterly unintelligible, as taken down orally, according to the vernacular modes of the respective writers, without any intimate knowledge of the native language, or the employment of any fixed general standard. To avoid the multiplication of notes, we have endeavoured to supply this defect, by subjoining those names which are now almost universally adopted by Europeans, founded upon a more intimate acquaintance with the eastern languages. Thus the author, or his translator Eden, constantly uses Cayrus and Alcayr, for the modern capital of Egypt, now known either by the Arabic denomination Al Cahira, or the European designation Cairo, probably formed by the Venetians from the Arabic. The names used in this itinerary have probably been farther disguised and vitiated by a prevalent fancy or fashion of giving Latin terminations to all names of persons and places in Latin translations. Thus, even the author of this itinerary has had his modern Roman name, Verthema, latinized into Vertomannus, and probably the Cairo, or Cayro of the Italian original, was corrupted by Eden into Cayrus, by way of giving it a latin sound. Yet, while we have endeavoured to give, often conjecturally, the better, or at least more intelligible and now customary names, it seemed proper to retain those of the original translation which we believe may be found useful to our readers, as a kind of geographical glossary of middle-age terms.
Of Verthema or Vertomannus we only know, from the title of the translation of his work by Eden, that he was a gentleman of Rome; and we learn, at the close of his itinerary, that he was knighted by the Portuguese viceroy of India, and that his patent of knighthood was confirmed at Lisbon by the king of Portugal. The full title of this journal or itinerary, as given by the original translator, is as follows; by which, and the preface of the author, both left unaltered, the language and orthography of England towards the end of the sixteenth century, or in 1576, when Eden published his translation, will be sufficiently illustrated.--Ed.
THE NAUIGATION AND VYAGES OF LEWES VERTOMANNUS, GENTLEMAN OF THE CITIE OF ROME, TO THE REGIONS OF ARABIA, EGYPTE, PERSIA, SYRIA, ETHIOPIA AND EAST INDIA, BOTH WITHIN AND WITHOUT THE RYUER OF GANGES, ETC. IN THE YEERE OF OUR LORDE 1503. CONTEYNING MANY NOTABLE AND STRAUNGE THYNGES, BOTH HYSTORICALL AND NATURALL TRANSLATED OUT OF LATINE INTO ENGLYSHE, BY RICHARDE EDEN. IN THE YEERE OF OUR LORDE 1576.
THE PREFACE OF THE AUTHOR.
There haue been many before me, who, to know the miracles of the worlde, haue with diligent studie read dyuers authours which haue written of such thynges. But other giuing more credit to the lyuely voyce, haue been more desirous to know the same, by relation of such as haue traueyled in those countreys, and seene such thinges whereof they make relation, for that in many bookes, geathered of vncertaine aucthoritie, are myxt false thinges with true. Other there are so greatly desirous to know the trueth of these thinges, that they can in no wyse be satisfied vntyll, by theyr owne experience they haue founde the trueth by vyages and perigrinations into straunge countreys and people, to know theyr maners, fashions, and customes, with dyuers thynges there to be seene: wherein the only readyng of bookes could not satisfie theyr thirst of such knowledge, but rather increased the same, in so much, that they feared not with losse of theyr goods and daunger of lyfe to attempte great vyages to dyuers countreys, with witnesse of theyr eyes to see that they so greatly desired to knowe. The whiche thyng among other chaunced vnto me also, for as often as in the books of Hystories and Cosmographie, I read of such marueylous thynges whereof they make mention [especially of thynges in the east parts of the world], there was nothyng that coulde pacifie my vnquiet mynde, vntyll I had with myne eyes seene the trueth thereof.
I know that some there are indued with hygh knowledge, mountyng vnto the heauens, whiche will contempne these our wrytinges as base and humble, by cause we do not here, after theyr maner, with hygh and subtile inquisition intreate of the motions and dispositions of the starres, and gyue reason of theyr woorkyng on the earth, with theyr motions, retrogradations, directions, mutations, epicicles, reuolutions, inclinations, diuinations, reflexions, and suche other parteyning to the science of Astrologie: whych certeynely we doe not contempne, but greatly prayse. But measuryng vs with our owne foote, we will leaue that heauie burden of heauven to the strong shoulders of Atlas and Hercules: and only creepyng vpon the earth, in our owne person beholde the situations of landes and regions, with the maners and customes of men, and variable fourmes, shapes, natures, and properties of beastes, fruites, and trees, especially suche as are among the Arabians, Persians, Indians, Ethiopians. And whereas in the searchyng of these thynges we have [thanked be God], satisfied our desire, we thinke neuerthelesse that we haue done little, excepte we should communicate to other, such thynges as we haue seene and had experience of, that they lykewyse by the readyng therof may take pleasure, for whose sakes we have written this long and dangerous discourse, of thynges whych we haue seene in dyvers regions and sectes of men, desiryng nothyng more then that the trueth may be knowen to them that desyre the same. But what incommodities and troubles chaunced vnto me in these vyages, as hunger, thirst, colde, heate, warres, captiuitie, terrours, and dyuers other suche daungers, I will declare by the way in theyr due places.
[Footnote 33: Hakluyt, iv. App. pp. 547--612. Ed. Lond. 1810-11.]
Volume 7, Chapter 5, Section 1 -- Of the Navigation from Venice to Alexandria in Egypt, and from thence to Damascus in Syria.
Should anyone wish to know the cause of my engaging in this voyage, I can give no better reason than the ardent desire of knowledge, which hath moved me and many others to see the world and the wonders of creation which it exhibits. And, as other known parts of the world had been already sufficiently travelled over by others, I was determined to wait and describe such parts as were not sufficiently known. For which reason, with the grace of God, and calling upon his holy name to prosper our enterprise, we departed from Venice, and with prosperous winds we arrived in few days at the city of Alexandria in Egypt. The desire we had to know things more strange and farther off did not permit us to remain long at that place; wherefore sailing up the river Nile, we came to the city of new Babylon, commonly called Cayrus or Akayr, Cairo or Al-cahira, called also Memphis in ancient times.
On my first arrival at this place I was more astonished than I can well
express, yet on a more intimate observation it seemed much inferior to
the report of its fame, as in extent it seemed not larger than Rome, though
much more populous. But many have been deceived in regard to its size by
the extensive suburbs, which are in reality numerous dispersed villages
with fields interspersed, which some persons have thought to belong to
the city, though they are from two to three miles distant, and surround
it on all sides. It is not needful to expatiate in this place on the manners
and religion of this city and its environs, as it is well known that the
inhabitants are Mahometans and Mamelukes; these last being Christians who
have forsaken the true faith to serve the Turks and Mahometans. Those of
that description who used to serve the Soldan of Babylon in Egypt, or Cairo,
in former times before the Turkish conquest, used to be called Mamelukes,
while such of them as served the Turks were denominated Jenetzari
or Janisaries. The Mameluke Mahometans are subject to the Soldan of Syria.
As the riches and magnificence of Cairo, and the Mameluke soldiers by whom it is occupied are well known, we do not deem it necessary to say anything respecting them in this place. Wherefore departing from Babylon in Egypt, or Cairo, and returning to Alexandria, we again put to sea and went to Berynto, a city on the coast of Syria Phoenicia, inhabited by Mahometans and abounding in all things, where we remained a considerable time. This city is not encompassed with walls, except on the west side where there are walls close to the sea. We found nothing memorable at this place, except an old ruined building where they say St. George delivered the king's daughter from a cruel dragon which he slew, and then restated [[=restored]] the lady to her father. Departing from thence we went to Tripoli in Syria, which is two days' sail to the east of Berynto. It is inhabited by Mahometans who are subject to the lieutenant or governor of Syria under the Soldan. The soil of the neighbouring country is very fertile, and as it carries on great trade this city abounds in all things. Departing from thence we came to the city of Comagene of Syria, commonly called Aleppo, and named by our men Antioch. This is a goodly city, which is situated under mount Taurus and is subject to the lieutenant of Syria under the Soldan of Egypt. Here are the scales or ladders as they are called of the Turks and Syrians, being near mount Olympus. It is a famous mart of the Azamians and Persians. The Azamians are a Mahometan people who inhabit Mesopotamia on the confines of Persia.
Departing from Antioch we went by land to Damascus, a journey of ten days; but mid-way we came to a city named Aman in the neighbourhood of which there grows a great quantity of gossampine or cotton, and all manner of pleasant fruits. About six miles from Damascus on the declivity of a mountain is a city called Menin, inhabited by Greek Christians who are subject to the governor of Damascus. At that place there are two fine churches, which the inhabitants allege were built by Helena the mother of the emperor Constantine. This place produces all kinds of fruit in great perfection, especially excellent grapes, and the gardens are watered with perpetual fountains.
[Footnote 34: To accommodate this curious article to our mode of arrangement, we have made a slight alteration of the nomenclature of its subdivisions; calling those in this version Sections, which in the original translation of Mr Eden are denominated chapters; and have used the farther freedom of sometimes throwing several of these chapters into one section.--E.]
[Footnote 35: This is a gross error, as Aleppo is above 80 English miles N.E. and island from Antioch. From the sequel it is evident that Antioch is the place meant by Vertomannus in the text, as the scales, mart, or staple of the Syrian trade.--E.]
Volume 7, Chapter 5, Section 2 -- Of the City of Damascus.
Departing from Menin we came to Damascus, a city so beautiful as surpasses all belief, situated in a soil of wonderful fertility. I was so much delighted by the marvellous beauty of this city that I sojourned there a considerable time, that by learning the language I might inquire into the manners of the people. The inhabitants are Mahometans and Mamelukes, with a great number of Christians who follow the Greek ritual. It may be proper in this place to give some account of the Hexarchatus or commander of Damascus, who is subject to the lieutenant of Syria, which some call sorya. There is a very strong castle or fortress, which was built by a certain Etruscan or native of Florence in Tuscany, while he was exarch or governor of Damascus, as appears by a flower of the lily graven on marble, being the arms of Florence. This castle is encompassed by a deep ditch and high walls with four goodly high towers, and is entered by means of a drawbridge which can be let down or taken up at pleasure. Within, this castle is provided with all kinds of great artillery and warlike ammunition, and has a constant guard of fifty Mamelukes, who wait upon the captain of the castle and are paid by the viceroy of Syria. The following story respecting the Florentine exarch or governor of Damascus was related to me by the inhabitants. One of the Soldans of Syria happened to have poison administered to him, and when in search of a remedy he was cured by that Florentine who belonged to the company of Mamelukes. Owing to this great service he grew into high favour with the Soldan, who in reward made him exarch or governor of Damascus in which he built the before mentioned citadel. For saving the life of their Soldan this man is still reputed among them as a saint, and after his death the sovereignty of Damascus returned to the Syrians.
The Soldan is said to be much beloved by his princes and lords, to whom he is ever ready to grant principalities and governments, reserving always to himself the yearly payment of many thousands of those pieces of gold called saraphos or serafines, and anyone who neglects payment of the stipulated tribute is liable to be immediately put to death. Ten or twelve of the chief noblemen or governors always reside with the Soldan to assist him with their councils and to carry his orders into execution. The Mameluke government is exceedingly oppressive to the merchants and even to the other Mahometan inhabitants of Damascus. When the Soldan thinks fit to extort a sum of money from any of the nobles or merchants, he gives two letters to the governor of the castle, in one of which is contained a list of such as he thinks proper to be invited into the castle, and in the other is set down what sum the Soldan is pleased to demand from his subjects; and with these commands they immediately comply. Sometimes however the nobles are of such power that they refuse to attend at the castle when summoned; and knowing that the tyrant will offer them violence, they often escape into the dominions of the Turks. We have noticed that the watchmen who are stationed in the towers do not give warning to the guard by calling out as with us, but by means of drums each answering the other; and if any of the sentinels be asleep and do not answer the beat of the patrole in a moment, he is immediately committed to prison for a whole year.
This city is well built and wonderfully populous, much frequented and extremely rich, and abounds in all kinds of commodities and provisions, such as flesh, corn, and fruits. It has fresh damascene grapes all the year round, with pomegranates, oranges, lemons, and excellent olive trees; likewise the finest roses I ever saw, both red and white. The apples are excellent, but the pears and peaches are unsavoury, owing as is said to too much moisture. A fine clear river runs past the city, which is so well supplied with water that almost every house has a fountain of curious workmanship, many of them splendidly ornamented with embossed or carved work. Outwardly their houses are very plain, but the insides are beautifully adorned with various ornaments of the stone called oplus or serpentine marble. The city contains many temples which they call mosques, the most beautiful of which is built after the manner of St. Peter's at Rome, and as large, only that the middle has no roof being entirely open, all the rest of the temple being vaulted. This temple has four great double gates of brass, and has many splendid fountains on the inside, in which they preserve the body of the prophet Zacharias, whom they hold in great veneration. There are still to be seen the ruins of many decayed canonical or Christian churches, having much fine carved work. About a mile from the city the place is pointed out where our Saviour spoke to St. Paul, saying, "Paul! Paul! why persecutest thou me!" at which place all the Christians who die in the city are buried. The tower also is shewn in which Paul was imprisoned, which joins the wall of the city; but even the Mahometans do not attempt to shut up that part of the tower through which St Paul was conducted by the angel, alleging that when they close it up over night it is found open again next morning. They likewise point out the houses in which they say that Cain slew his brother Abel, which are in a certain valley about a mile from the city, but on the side of a hill skirting that valley.
The Mamelukes or stranger soldiers who inhabit Damascus live in a most licentious manner. They are all men who have forsaken the Christian faith, and who have been purchased as slaves by the governor of Syria. Being brought up both in learning and warlike discipline, they are very active and brave; and all of them, whether high or low, receive regular wages from the governor, being six of those pieces of gold called serafines monthly, besides meat and drink for themselves and servants, and provender for their horses; and as they shew themselves valiant and faithful their wages are increased. They never walk singly about the city, which would be deemed dishonourable, but always by two or three together; and if they chance to meet with two or three women in the streets, for whom even they are in use to wait in the neighbourhood of such houses as the women frequent, licence is granted to such as first meet them to carry them to certain taverns where they abuse them. When the Mamelukes attempt to uncover the faces of these women, they strive all they can to prevent being known, and are generally allowed to go away without having their veils lifted. Hence it sometimes happens, when they think to have abused the daughter of some nobleman or person of condition, that they have fallen in with their own wives, as actually happened while I was there.
The women of Damascus beautify and adorn themselves with great attention, wearing silk clothes, which they cover with an outer garment of cotton as fine as silk. They wear white buskins, and red or purple shoes, having their heads decorated with rich jewels and ear-rings, with rings on their fingers and splendid bracelets on their arms. They marry as often as they please, as when weary of, or dissatisfied with, their husbands, they apply to the chief of their religion, called the cady, and request of him to divorce them, which divorcement is called talacare in their language, after which they are at liberty to contract a new marriage; and the same liberty is allowed to the husbands. Some say that the Mahometans have usually five or six wives, but as far as I could learn they have only two or three.
They eat openly in the markets or fairs, and there they cook all their food, living on the flesh, of horses, camels, buffaloes, goats, and other beasts, and use great quantities of fresh cheese. Those who sell milk drive flocks of forty or fifty she-goats through the streets, which they bring to the doors of those who buy, driving them even into their chambers, though three stories high, where the animals are milked, so that everyone gets their milk fresh and unadulterated. These goats have their ears a span long, and are very fruitful. They use many mushrooms, as there are often seen at one time 20 or 30 camels loaded with mushrooms coming to market, and yet all are sold in two or three days. These are brought from the mountains of Armenia, and from Asia Minor, now called Turkey, Natolia, or Anatolia. The Mahometans use long loose vestures both of silk and cloth, most having hose or trowsers of cotton, and white shoes or slippers. When any Mahometan happens to meet a Mameluke, even though the worthier person, he must give place and reverence to the Mameluke, who would otherwise beat him with a staff. Though often ill used by the Mahometans, the Christians have many warehouses in Damascus, where they sell various kinds of silks and velvets, and other commodities.
Volume 7, Chapter 5, Section 3 -- Of the Journey from Damascus to Mecca, and of the Manners of the Arabians.
On the 8th of April 1503, having hired certain camels to go with the caravan to Mecca, and being then ignorant of the manners and customs of those with whom I was to travel, I entered into familiarity and friendship with a certain Mameluke captain who had forsaken our faith, with whom I agreed for the expences of my journey, and who supplied me with apparel like that worn by the Mamelukes, and gave me a good horse, so that I went in his company along with other Mamelukes. This advantage cost me much money and many gifts. Thus entering on our journey, we came in three days to a place called Mezaris, where we tarried other three days that the merchants might provide all necessaries for the journey, and especially camels. There is a certain prince called Zambei, of great power in Arabia, who had three brothers and four sons. This prince possessed 40,000 horses, 10,000 mares, and 4000 camels, which he kept in a country two days' journey in extent. His power is so great, that he is at war with the Soldan of Egypt, the governor of Damascus, and the prince of Jerusalem all at once. His chief time of robbing and plundering is in harvest, when he often falls unexpectedly on the Arabians, invading their lands and carrying away their wheat and barley, employing himself continually in predatory incursions. When his mares are weary with continual running, he stops to rest them, and gives them camel's milk to drink, to refresh and cool them after their fatigue. These mares are of most wonderful swiftness, and when I saw them they seemed rather to fly than to run. In riding, these Arabians only cover their horses with cloths or mats, and their own clothing is confined to a single vesture somewhat like a petticoat. Their weapons are long lances or darts made of reeds, ten or twelve cubits long, pointed with iron and fringed with silk. The men are despicable-looking people, of small stature, of a colour between black and yellow, which we call olive, having voices like women, and long black hair flowing on their shoulders. They are more numerous than can well be believed, and are continually at war among themselves. They inhabit the mountains, and have certain times appointed for going out on predatory excursions, when they march in troops in great order, carrying with them their wives and children, and all their goods. Their houses or tents rather are carried on camels, having no other houses, but dwelling always in tents like soldiers. These tents are made of wool, and look black and filthy.
On the 11th of April we departed from Mezaris to the number of 40,000 men with 35,000 camels, having only sixty Mamelukes to guide and guard us. We were regularly marshalled for the march into a van and main body, with two wings, in which order the caravans of pilgrims always travel in these regions. From Damascus to Mecca is a journey of forty days and forty nights. Departing from Mezaris we continued our journey that day till the twenty-second hour of the day. Then our captain or Agmirus, having given the appointed signal, the whole caravan immediately halted and disburdened the camels, two hours only being allowed for rest and refreshment for the men and beasts. Then upon a new signal the camels were all reloaded, and we resumed our march. Every camel has for one feed five barley loaves, raw and not baked, as large as pomegranates. We continued our second day's journey like the first, all day and night, from sun-rise to the twenty-second hour of the day, and this was the constant regular order. Every eighth day they procure water by digging the ground or sand, though sometimes we found wells and cisterns. Likewise after every eight days, they rest two days, that the camels and horses may recover strength. Every camel bears an incredible load, being equal to that which is borne by two strong mules.
At every resting-place at the waters, they are always obliged to defend themselves against vast numbers of Arabians, but these conflicts are hardly ever attended with bloodshed, insomuch that though we often fought with them, we had only one man slain during the whole journey, these Arabians are so weak and cowardly that our threescore Mamelukes have often driven 60,000 Arabians before them. Of these Mamelukes, I have often seen wonderful instances of their expertness and activity. I once saw a Mameluke place an apple on the head of his servant at the distance of 12 or 14 paces, and strike it off from his head; another while riding at full speed took the saddle from his horse, and carried it some time on his head, and put it again on the horse without checking his career.
At the end of twelve days' journey we came to the valley of Sodom and Gomorra, which we found, as is said in the holy scripture, to retain the ruins of the destroyed city as a lasting memorial of God's wrath. I may affirm that there are three cities, each situated on the declivity of three separate hills, and the ruins do not seem above three or four cubits high, among which is seen something like blood, or rather like red wax mixed with earth. It is easy to believe that these people were addicted to horrible vices, as testified by the barren, dry, filthy unwholesome region, utterly destitute of water. These people were once fed with manna sent from heaven, but abusing the gifts of God, they were utterly destroyed. Departing about twenty miles from this place, about thirty of our company perished for want of water, and several others were overwhelmed with sand. A little farther on we found water at the foot of a little hill, and there halted. Early next morning there came to us 24,000 Arabians, who demanded money from us in payment of the water we had taken, and as we refused them any money, saying that the water was the free gift of God to all, we came to blows.
We gathered ourselves together on the mountain as the safest place, using our camels as a bulwark, all the merchants and their goods being placed in the middle of the camels while we fought manfully on every side. The battle continued for two days, when water failed both with us and our enemies, who encompassed the mountain all round, continually calling out that they would break in among our camels. At length our captain assembled all the merchants, whom he commanded to gather twelve hundred pieces of gold to be given to the Arabians: but on receiving that sum they said it was too little, and demanded ten thousand pieces and more for the water we had taken. Whereupon our captain gave orders that every man in the caravan who could bear arms should prepare for battle. Next morning our commander sent on the caravan with the unarmed pilgrims inclosed by the camels, and made an attack upon the enemy with our small army, which amounted to about three hundred in all. With the loss only of one man and a woman on our side, we completely defeated the Arabians of whom we slew 1500 men. This victory is not to be wondered at, considering that the Arabians are almost entirely unarmed being almost naked, and having only a thin loose vesture, while their horses are very ill provided for battle, having no saddles or other caparisons.
Continuing our march after this victory, we came in eight days to a mountain about ten or twelve miles in circuit, which was inhabited by about 5000 Jews. These were of very small stature, hardly exceeding five or six spans in height, and some much less. They have small shrill voices like women, and are of very dark complexions, some blacker than the rest. Their only food is the flesh of goats. They are all circumcised and follow the Jewish law, and when any Mahometan falls into their hands they flay him alive. We found a hole at the foot of the mountain out of which there flowed an abundant source of water, at which we loaded 16,000 camels, giving great offence to the Jews. These people wander about their mountain like so many goats or deer, not daring to descend into the plain for fear of the Arabians. At the bottom of the mountain we found a small grove of seven or eight thorn trees, among which we found a pair of turtle doves, which were to us a great rarity, as during our long journey hitherto we had seen neither beast nor bird.
Proceeding two days' journey from the mountain of the Jews, we came to Medinathalnabi or Medina. Four miles from this city we found a well, where the caravan rested and remained for a whole day, that we might wash ourselves and put on clean garments to appear decently in the city. Medina contains about three hundred houses of stone or brick, and is well peopled, being surrounded by bulwarks of earth. The soil is utterly barren, except at about two miles from the city there are about fifty palm trees which bear dates. At that place, beside a garden, there is a water-course which runs into a lower plain, where the pilgrims are accustomed to water their camels. I had here an opportunity to refute the vulgar opinion that the tomb or coffin of the wicked Mahomet is at Mecca, and hangs in the air without support. For I tarried here three days and saw with my own eyes the place where Mahomet was buried, which is here at Medina, and not at Mecca. On presenting ourselves to enter the Meschita or mosque, which name they give to all their churches or temples, we could not be allowed to enter unless along with a companion little or great, who takes us by the hand and leads us to the place where they say that Mahomet is buried.
His temple is vaulted, being about 100 paces long by 80 in breadth, and is entered by two gates. It consists of three parallel vaults, which are supported by four hundred pillars of white bricks, and within are suspended about three thousand lamps. In the inner part of this mosque or temple is a kind of tower five paces in circuit, vaulted on every side, and covered with a large cloth of silk, which is borne up by a grate of copper curiously wrought, and at the distance of two paces on every side from the tower, so that this tower or tomb is only seen as through a lattice by the devout pilgrims. This tomb is situated in an inner building toward the left hand from the great mosque, in a chapel to which you enter by a narrow gate. On every side of these gates or doors are seen many books in the manner of a library, twenty on one side, and twenty-five on the other, which contain the vile traditions of Mahomet and his companions. Within this chapel is seen a sepulchre in which they say that Mahomet lies buried with his principal companions, Nabi, Bubacar, Othamar, Aumar, and Fatima.
Mahomet, who was a native Arabian, was their chief captain. Hali or Ali was his son in-law, for he took to wife his daughter Fatima. Bubacar or Abubeker, was as they say exalted to be chief councillor and governor under Mahomet, but was not honoured with the office of apostle or prophet. Othamar and Aumar, Othoman and Omar, were chief captains in the army of Mahomet. Every one of these have particular books containing the acts and traditions which relate to them, whence proceed great dissentions and discords of religion and manners among these vile people, some of whom adhere to one doctrine and some to another, so that they are divided into various sects among themselves, and kill each other like beasts, upon quarrels respecting their various opinions, all equally false, having each their several patrons, doctors, and saints, as they call them. This also is the chief cause of war between the Sophy of Persia and the grand Turk, both of whom are Mahometans, yet they live in continual and mortal hatred of each other for the maintenance of their respective sects, saints, and apostles, every one thinking their own the best.
The first evening that we came to Medina, our captain, or Emir of the pilgrimage, sent for the chief priest of the temple, and declared that the sole object of his coming thither was to visit the sepulchre and body of the Nabi or prophet, as they usually call Mahomet, and that he understood the price generally paid for being admitted to a sight of these mysteries was four thousand gold serafines. He told him likewise that he had no parents, neither brothers nor sisters, kindred, wife, nor children; that he had not come hither to purchase any merchandise, such as spices, bacca, spikenard, or jewels, but merely for the salvation of his soul and from pure zeal for religion, and was therefore exceedingly desirous to see the body of the prophet. To this the priest answered in apparent anger, "Darest thou, with those eyes with which thou hast committed so many abominable sins, presume to look on him by whom God created heaven and earth?" The captain replied that he spoke true, yet prayed him that he might be permitted to see the prophet, when he would instantly have his eyes thrust out. Then answered the Side or chief priest, "Prince! I will freely communicate all things to you. It is undeniable that our holy prophet died at this place; but he was immediately borne away by angels to heaven and there received among them as their equal." Our captain then asked where was now Jesus Christ the son of Mary, and the Side said that he was at the feet of Mahomet: To which the captain replied that he was satisfied, and wished for no more information. After this, coming out of the temple, he said to us, "See I pray you for what stuff I would have paid three thousand serafines of gold!"
That same evening at almost three o'clock of the night, ten or twelve elders of the city came into the encampment of our caravan, close by one of the gates of the city, where running about like madmen, they continually cried out aloud, "Mahomet the apostle of God shall rise again: O prophet of God thou shalt rise again. God have mercy upon us!" Alarmed by these cries, our captain and all of us seized our weapons in all haste, suspecting that the Arabians had come to rob our caravan. On demanding the reason of all this outcry, for they cried out as is done by the Christians when any miraculous event occurs, the elders answered, "Saw you not the light which shone from the sepulchre of the prophet?" Then said one of the elders, "Are you slaves?" meaning thereby bought men or Mamelukes; and when our captain answered that we were Mamelukes, the elder replied, "You, my lords, being new to the faith, and not yet fully confirmed in the religion of our holy prophet, cannot see these heavenly things." To which our captain answered, "O! you mad and insensate beasts! I thought to have given you three thousand pieces of gold; but now I shall give you nothing, you dogs and progeny of dogs!" Now, it is to be understood that the pretended miraculous light which was seen to proceed from the sepulchre, was merely occasioned by a flame made by the priests in the open part of the tower formerly mentioned, which they wished to impose on us as a miracle. After this our commander gave orders that none of the caravan should enter into the temple. Having thus seen with my own eyes, I can assuredly declare that there is neither iron nor steel, nor magnet stone by which the tomb of Mahomet is made to hang in the air, as some have falsely imagined, neither is there any mountain nearer to Medina than four miles. To this city of Medina corn and all other kinds of victuals are brought from Arabia Felix, Babylon or Cairo in Egypt, and from Ethiopia by way of the Red Sea, which is about four days journey from the city.
Having remained three days in our encampment on the outside of Medina to rest and refresh ourselves and our animals, and being satisfied, or disgusted rather, by the vile and abominable trumperies, deceits, and hypocritical trifles of the Mahometan delusions, we determined to resume our journey; and procuring a pilot or guide, who might direct our way by means of a chart and mariner's box or compass, as is used at sea, we bent our journey towards the west, where we found a fair well or fountain whence flowed an abundant stream of water, and where we and our beasts were satisfied with drink. According to a tradition among the inhabitants, this region was formerly burnt up with drought and sterility, till the evangelist St Mark procured this fountain from God by miracle.
We came into the sea of sand before our arrival at the mountain of the Jews, formerly mentioned, and in it we journeyed three days and nights. This is a vast plain covered all over by white sand as fine almost as flour; and if by evil chance any one travels south while the wind blows to the north, they are overwhelmed by drifted sand. Even with the wind favourable, or blowing in the direction of their journey, the pilgrims are apt to scatter and disperse, as they cannot see each other at ten paces distance. For this reason those who travel across the sea of sand are enclosed in wooden cages on the backs of camels, and are guided by experienced pilots by chart and compass, as mariners on the ocean. In this journey many perish by thirst, and many by drinking with too much avidity when they fall in with wells. Owing to this Momia is found in these sands, being the flesh of such as have been drowned in the sea of sand, which is there dried up by the heat of the sun, and the excessive dryness of the sand preventing putrefaction. This Momia or dried flesh is esteemed medicinal; but there is another and more precious kind of Momia, being the dried and embalmed bodies of kings and princes, which have been preserved in all times from corrupting.
When the wind blows from the north-east, the sand rises, and is driven against a certain mountain, which is a branch from Mount Sinai; and in that place we found certain pillars artificially wrought, which are called Januan. On the left hand side of that mountain, and near the highest summit, there is a cave or den, to which you enter by an iron gate, and into which cave Mahomet is said to have retired for meditation. While passing that mountain, we heard certain horrible cries and loud noises, which put us in great fear. Departing therefore from the fountain of St. Mark, we continued our journey for ten days, and twice in that time we had to fight against fifty thousand Arabians. At length, however, we arrived at Mecca, where we found every thing in confusion, in consequence of a civil war between two brothers who contended for the kingdom of Mecca.
[Footnote 36: The Emir Haji, or captain of the pilgrimage, which name of office is transposed in the text to Haji-emir, corrupted Agmir, and latinized Agmirus.--E.]
[Footnote 37: This account of the stature of the Jewish tribe cannot fail to be much exaggerated, otherwise the text must have been corrupted at this place; as we cannot well conceive of a tribe in Arabia not exceeding four feet two inches in average height.--E.]
[Footnote 38: This name ought probably to have been written Medinat-al-nabi, and is assuredly the holy city of Medina, in which Mahomet was buried.--E.]
[Footnote 39: This seems to refer to some official residents of Medina, who must accompany the pilgrims in their visits to the holy places, probably for profit.--E.]
[Footnote 40: This word is obviously berries, and signifies coffee.--E.]
[Footnote 41: Counting from sunset after the manner of the Italians.--E.]
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