Volume 7, Chapter 5 -- Voyages and Travels in Egypt, Syria, Arabia, Persia, and India, by Ludovico Verthema, in 1503: *section index*


Volume 7, Chapter 5, Section 9 -- Observations on various parts of India.

As there was no convenience for trade at Calicut, on account of war with the Portuguese, because the inhabitants in conjunction with the Mahometans had murdered 48 Portuguese while I was in that city, my faithful friend and companion Cociazenor the Persian, formerly mentioned, thought it best for us to depart from thence. Indeed, in revenge for that cruel murder, the Portuguese have ever since waged cruel war upon Calicut, doing infinite injury to the city and people. Wherefore, departing from thence by way of a fine river, we came to a city named Caicolon[83], which is fifty leagues from Calicut. The inhabitants of this city are idolaters, but it is frequented by many merchants from different places, as its district produces excellent pepper. At this place we found certain merchants who were Christians, calling themselves followers of the apostle St Thomas. They observe Lent, or the fast of forty days, as we do, and believe in the death and resurrection of Christ, so that they celebrate Easter after our manner, and observe the other solemnities of the Christian religion after the manner of the Greeks. They are commonly named John, James, Matthew, Thomas, and so forth, after the names of the apostles. Departing thence, after three days' journey we came to another city named Coulan, about twenty leagues from Caicolon. The king of this place is an idolater, and has an army of 20,000 men always on foot. Coulan has an excellent harbour, and the surrounding country produces plenty of pepper, but no corn. By reason of the wars, we made no stay here, and on our way farther we saw people fishing for pearls, in the manner already mentioned when treating of Ormuz.

The city of Coromandel on the sea coast, is seven days' sail from Coulan. It is very large, but without walls, and is subject to the king of Narsinga, being within sight of the island of Ceylon[84]. After passing the southern point of Cape Comorin, the eastern coast of India produces abundance of rice. This city is resorted to by vast numbers of Mahometan merchants from many distant countries, as from it they can travel to various great regions and cities of India. At this place I met with certain Christians, who affirm that the body of St Thomas the apostle is buried in a certain place about twelve miles from the city, where several Christians continually dwell to guard the body of the saint. They told me that these Christians are evil intreated [[=badly treated]] by the natives, on account of the war carried on by the Portuguese against the people of the country; and that the Christians are often murdered in secret, that it may not be known to the king of Narsinga, who is in amity with the Portuguese, and greatly favours the Christians. Once on a time there was a conflict between the Christians and Mahometans, in which one of the Christians was sore wounded in the arm. He immediately repaired to the sepulchre of St. Thomas, where, making his prayers and touching the holy shrine, he was immediately healed by miracle, upon which, as it is said, the king of Narsinga has ever since greatly favoured the Christians. At this place my companion sold much of his merchandize; but on account of war raging in the country, we determined to depart, and sailing with much danger over a gulf 20 leagues broad, we came to the large island of Zailon, or Ceylon.

This island of Ceylon is 1000 miles in circumference, and is divided among four powerful kings; and because of the wars which then raged among them we could not remain long there to acquire any minute knowledge of the country and manners of its inhabitants. It contains many elephants. At the foot of a very long and high mountain there are found many precious stones called piropi or rubies, which are got in the following manner. The adventurers purchase from the king a certain measure of the ground where these rubies are found, being about a cubit square, for which they pay five pieces of gold, yet under the condition that there shall always be an officer belonging to the king present while they are digging, that if any stone be found beyond the weight of ten carats it may be reserved for the king, all under that weight belonging to the adventurer. Not far from that mountain they find other precious stones, as jacinths, sapphires, and topazes, besides others. The soil of Ceylon produces the sweetest fruits I ever saw, especially cloves[85] and Assyrian apples of wonderful sweetness, and its other productions are similar to those of Calicut. The cinnamon-tree is much like our bay, only that the leaves are smaller and somewhat white. The true cinnamon is the bark of this tree, which is gathered every third year, and of which the island produces great quantities. When first gathered, it is by no means so sweet and fragrant as it becomes a month afterwards when thoroughly dry.

A Mahometan merchant assured my companion, that on the top of a high mountain in the centre of this island, there is a certain cave or den where the inhabitants resort for devotion, in memory of our first parents, who, as they allege, lived in that place in continual penitence, after breaking the covenant with God, which is confirmed by the print of Adam's feet being still to be seen there above two spans in length. The inhabitants of this island are subject to the king of Narsinga, to whom they pay tribute. The climate is temperate and healthy, though situated so near the equinoctial line. The people are of a dark tawny colour, and wear slight cotton dresses, having the right arm bare, as is the universal custom of the Indians; the men being by no means warlike, neither have they the use of iron. In this island my companion sold the king a great deal of saffron and coral.

In three days sail we came to a city named Paleachet or Pullicat, belonging to the king of Narsinga, a famous mart for rich commodities, and especially for jewels and precious stones brought from Ceylon and Pegu, and where likewise abundance of spices are sold. Many Mahometan merchants dwell in this city; and being received into one of their houses, we told him whence we came, and that we had brought saffron and coral for sale, with other merchandise, of which he was very glad. At this city wheat is scarce, but rice is to be had in great plenty; and in other respects the productions of the neighbouring country are much the same as at Calicut. But as the inhabitants were preparing for war, we departed from thence, and after thirteen days sail we arrived at the city of Tarnasari or Tanaserim, a hundred miles distant.

The city of Tanaserim is not far from the sea, well walled, seated on a fine plain, and has a famous port on a fine river that runs past its north side. The king is an idolater of great power, and is constantly at war with the kings of Narsinga and Bengal[86]. He is able to bring into the field an hundred thousand foot and as many cavalry, together with a hundred of the largest and finest elephants I ever saw. The weapons of his troops are swords, round bucklers, peltes, bows and arrows, and javelins or darts made of long reeds; they also use for defence cotton jackets wrought very hard and close quilted. The houses in their towns are built close together like those in Italy. This country produces wheat, cotton, silk of various kinds, Brazil wood, sundry kinds of fruit like those of Italy, with Assyrian apples, oranges, lemons, citrons, gourds, cucumbers, and many others. It has many animals both wild and tame. Among the former are oxen and cows, sheep, goats, hogs, and deer. The wild beasts are lions, wolves, catamountains, and musk cats or civets. In the woods are many peacocks and falcons, with popinjays or parrots, some of which are entirely white, while others are of seven different colours. There are plenty of hares and partridges, and several kinds of birds of prey larger than eagles. These birds are black and purple, with several white feathers intermixed, having yellow bills tipped beautifully with crimson, which are so large that the handles of swords are sometimes made of the upper mandible. Their cocks and hens are the largest I ever saw, and both the natives and the Mahometans who dwell there, take great delight in cock-fighting, on which they venture large sums. I have seen them fight for six hours, yet will they sometimes kill at the first stroke.

Some of their goats are much larger and handsomer than ours, and of these the females have often four kids at one birth. So abundant are animals in this country, that twelve sheep may be bought for a single piece of gold worth about a pistole. Some of their rams have horns like a buck, and are much bigger and fiercer than ours. Their buffaloes are not so good as those of Italy. This coast has abundance of fine large fish, which are sold very cheap. The natives eat the flesh of all kinds of beasts except cows, and feed sitting on the ground without cloth or carpet, having their meat in wooden vessels artificially wrought. Their drink is sugar and water. Their beds are raised from the ground like ours. Their apparel is a cloak or mantle of cotton cloth, leaving one arm bare, but some wear inner vests or shirts of silk or cotton. All go bareheaded, except the priests, who have a kind of caps of two spans long on their heads, with a knob on the top about the size of an acorn, all sparkling with gold. They delight in ear-rings, but have neither rings nor bracelets. The complexion of the natives inclines towards fair, as the air is more temperate than at Calicut. In their tillage and reaping there is little difference from the manner of Italy.

When the king or any of the priests or great men die, their bodies are burned on a large pile of wood, and all the while the assistants sacrifice to the devil. The ashes are then gathered into earthen jars like those of Samos, and are preserved or buried in their houses. While the bodies are burning, they cast into the fire all manner of perfumes, as wood of aloes, myrrh, frankincense, storax, sandal-wood, and many other sweet gums, spices, and woods: In the meantime also, they make an incessant noise with drums, trumpets, pipes, and other instruments, much like what was done of old by the Greeks and Romans, when deifying their departed great men. Likewise during these obsequies, there are 15 or 20 persons disguised like devils, continually walking round the fire with strange gesticulations. All the while the wife of the deceased stands alone beside the fire weeping and lamenting her loss. Fifteen days afterwards she invites all the kindred of her husband to a feast, when they go at night in a body to the place where the husband was burnt, the widow being dressed in all her jewels and richest attire, using on this occasion the help of her relations to decorate her person to the utmost. At this place a pit of some size is prepared and filled with dry reeds, covered over with a silk cloth to conceal the pit. Then a fire of sweet woods is kindled in the pit; and when all the guests have been heartily feasted, the widow having eaten a great quantity of betola so as to make her mad or drunk, a great company of their musicians habited like devils, with burning sticks in their mouths, dance around the fire, and then make a sacrifice to the great devil Deumo. The widow then runs about like a person bereaved of her senses, dancing and rejoicing after a strange manner; then turning to the persons disguised like devils, she commends herself to their prayers, desiring them to make intercession for her with Deumo, that after this transitory life she may be received among his angels. When all the ceremonies are finished, she takes leave of all her kindred, and then lifting up her hands, and with a sudden loud cry, she leaps into the flaming pit, on which her kindred cover her up with faggots of sweet wood, and great quantities of pitch or bitumen, that she may be speedily consumed. If the widow refuses thus to sacrifice herself, she would be ever afterwards esteemed an evil woman, hated of all men, and even in danger of being slain by her own and her husband's kindred. The king is generally present at these ceremonies, which are not used at the death of ordinary people, but only for kings, priests, and great men.

Justice in strictly administered in this country. Whoever kills a man is adjudged to die as at Calicut. Proof of giving or receiving is taken by writings or by witnesses, the governor of the city being chief judge. If any merchant stranger die there without children, all his goods fall to the king. When the king dies, he is succeeded in the throne by his children. The children of the natives divide equally among them all the possessions of their father. When any Mahometan merchant dies, their bodies are embalmed with many sweet spices and gums, and being placed in wooden coffins, they are buried with their faces towards Mecca. In their manner of writing they use parchment as we do, and not the leaves of trees as at Calicut. Their vessels are a kind of shallow brigantines or barks with flat bottoms, which draw very little water. Some also use foists having double foreparts[87], and two masts, but these have no decks. They have also some vessels of large burden, even carrying a thousand tons, in which they have several boats, and these are used when they go to Malacca for spices.

Having finished our business at Tanaserim, we packed up all our wares and embarked for Bengal, distant 700 miles from Tanaserim, whither we arrived in twelve days sailing. In fruitfulness and abundance of all things this city[88] may contend for eminence with any city in the world. The kingdom dependent upon this city is very large, rich, and populous, and the king, who is a Mahometan, maintains an army of 200,000 men, including cavalry and infantry, with which he keeps up almost continual wars against the king of Narsinga. This country is so fruitful that it possesses everything conducive to the use of man, abounding in all kinds of beasts, wholesome fruits, and corn. It has spices also of several kinds, and vast abundance of cotton and silk. No other region in the world is comparable to this, so that there are many rich merchants. Every year there depart from hence fifty ships laden with cloths of cotton or silk, bound for the cities of Turkey, Syria, Arabia, Persia, Ethiopia, and India. There are also many merchant strangers, who buy precious stones from the natives.

We found here many Christian merchants who were born, as they told us, in the city of Sarnau. They had brought to this great mart wood of aloes and laser, which latter yields the sweet gum called laserpitium, commonly called belzoi, or benzoin, which is a kind of myrrh. They bring also musk and several other sweet perfumes. These Christian merchants told us, that in their country were many Christian princes, subject to the great khan, who dwells in the city of Cathay[89]. The dress of these Christians was of camblet, very loose and full of plaits, and lined with cotton; and they wore sharp pointed caps of a scarlet colour, two spans high. They are white men, believing in one God with a trinity of persons, and were baptized after our manner. They believe in the doctrines of the evangelists and apostles, and write from right to left like the Armenians. They celebrate the birth and crucifixion of Christ, observe the forty days of Lent, and keep the days of several saints. They wear no shoes, but have a kind of hose of silk on their legs, garnished with jewels. On their fingers they wore rings with stones of wonderful splendour. At their meat they use no tables, but eat lying on the ground, feeding upon flesh of all kinds. They affirmed also that there are certain Christian kings, whom they called Rumi, bordering on the Turks.

When these Christians had seen the precious merchandise belonging to my companion, and particularly a great branch of coral, they earnestly advised him to accompany them to a certain city, whither they were bound, assuring him that by their procurement he should sell this to very great advantage, especially if he would take rubies in payment, by means of which he might easily gain 10,000 pieces of gold, assuring him that these stones were of much greater value in Turkey than in the east. And as they were ready to depart the very next day in a foist bound for the city of Pegu, where they meant to go, my companion consented to go with them, more especially as he expected to find there certain Persians his countrymen. Wherefore departing with these men from Bengal, and sailing across a great gulf to the south-east, we came at length to the city of Pegu, which is 1000 miles from Bengal.

The city of Pegu is situated on the continent, not far from the sea, and upon a large river, by which merchandise are conveyed to or from the city very conveniently. The city is walled, and the houses are well built. The king and his subjects are idolaters, of a fairer complexion than those of Tanaserim, as the climate is rather cooler, but in dress, manner of living, and general appearance, in every respect resemble the inhabitants of that other city. The king has a vast army both of horse and foot, among whom are many native Christians, who have six pardaos of monthly pay. The beasts and fowls are much the same as at Calicut, so that they have abundance of animal food; and besides these they have a few elephants. This country produces the best timber I ever saw, either for building ships or houses; and has many reeds or canes of vast size, as large in diameter as the body of a man or a large barrel. Civet-cats or musk-cats are so plenty that three may be bought for one piece of gold. This city produces very little merchandise for purchase, except precious stones, and especially rubies, which are brought thither from another city named Cassela, thirty days journey towards the east, where also they procure other precious stones called smaragdes or emeralds.

On our arrival at Pegu, the king was at the distance of twenty-five days' journey making war upon the king of Ava; but returned shortly afterwards in great triumph on account of a victory he had obtained over his enemy. Though this king is very rich and powerful, he does not use such pompous and magnificent ceremony as the king of Calicut, and is so affable and accessible, that even a child may come into his presence and speak to him; yet the rich jewels, pearls, and precious stones, especially rubies, with which he is decorated surpass all belief, and exceed the value of a great and flourishing city. His fingers are full of rings, his arms all covered with bracelets, and his legs and feet covered with similar ornaments, all gloriously beset and sparkling with the finest precious stones, and his ears so loaded with jewels that they hang down half a span. With all these splendid jewels he shines in a dark night as if with the sunbeams.

At a favourable opportunity, the Christian merchants whom we had accompanied to Pegu gave intimation to the king of the valuable merchandise which my companion had brought for sale, and accordingly he sent for us on the following day, desiring my companion to bring the goods which he had to dispose of. Among other things he had two great branches of coral so large and beautiful as had not been seen before, which the king took great pleasure to look upon, and being astonished at these things, he asked the Christian merchants what men we were. They answered that we were Persians. The king then desired to know if we would sell these things. Upon this my companion desired the interpreters to say to the king, that they were all his own, and that he begged he would do him the honour to accept them freely. The king then said that he had been two years continually at war with the king of Ava, by which his treasure was consumed, but if my companion would bargain for them by way of exchange for precious stones, especially rubies, that he would content him for the coral. Then said my companion to the interpreters, "I pray you give the king to understand that I desire nothing else for my goods than the good-will of his majesty, and therefore that I humbly intreat he may take of my goods what pleases him best without money or payment of my kind." When the king heard this, he said that he had often been told the Persians were courteous and liberal men, but that he had never known any one so generous as this, and swore by the head of the devil, that he would try whether he or the Persian were most liberal.

Upon this he ordered one of his attendants to bring him a casket of precious stones. This casket was a span and a half square, entirely full of rubies, the inside being divided into many compartments where the stones were sorted in order according to their sizes. When he had opened the casket, he ordered it to be placed before the Persian, desiring him to take of these precious rubies as many as he thought fit. But my companion, as if still more provoked to generosity by the liberality of the king, spoke to him in these words, "Most high and honourable sovereign! Such is my sense of your generous conduct to me, that I swear by the head of Mahomet and all the mysteries of his holy religion, that I freely and gladly give you all my goods. I do not travel in search of gain, but merely from a desire to see the world; in which I have not hitherto found any thing that has given me so much delight as the generous favour your majesty has now been pleased to shew me!" To this the king answered, "Will you yet contend with me in liberality?" Then selecting some rubies from all the compartments in the casket, out of which he took as many as he could hold in his hand, being two hundred rubies, he gave all these to the Persian with most royal munificence, and commanded him not to refuse. He gave also to each of the Christians two rubies worth not less than a thousand crowns; but those he gave to the Persian were reckoned worth a hundred thousand crowns. This king therefore certainly exceeds all the kings of the earth in munificence, both in manner and in richness of his gifts. About this time news came to Pegu that the king of Ava was advancing against him with a vast army, on which the king of Pegu went to meet him with one almost innumerable.

Two days after the departure of the king from Pegu, we sailed towards the city of Malacca, where we arrived after a voyage of eight days. Not far from this city is a famous river named Gaza[90], the largest I ever saw, as it is 25 miles broad, and on the other side of it is seen the very large island of Sumatra, which by old writers was called Taprobana, and which is said by the inhabitants to be 500 miles in circuit[91]. Upon our arrival at Malacca, called by some Melcha, we were commanded to appear before the sultan, who is a Mahometan and tributary to the great sultan of Chini[92], because as is said the city was built about 80 years before on account of the convenience of its harbour, being one of the best in the ocean, and to which doubtless many ships resort for trade. This region is not everywhere fruitful, yet it has a sufficiency of corn and cattle, although scarce of wood. They have plenty of birds of the same kind with those at Calicut, but the popinjays or parrots are more beautiful. It produces sandal-wood and tin; likewise elephants, horses, sheep, kine, pardalles or leopards, buffalos, peacocks, and many other beasts and birds. The country has but few products of value, so that its only merchandise is spices and silk. The people are of a blackish ash-colour, and are clothed like the Mahometans of Memphis, otherwise called Cayr, Alchayr, or Babylon, on the Nile. They have very large foreheads, round eyes, and flat noses; and they are so much given to murder and robbery that it is dangerous to go abroad in the night, for they kill one another like dogs, and therefore merchants always remain on board their ships in the night. The people are fierce, barbarous, and unruly, insomuch that they will not submit to any governor, being altogether addicted to sedition and rebellion, and they always threaten to quit the country when their rulers endeavour to enforce order; which threat they are certainly able to execute, as their country is upon the sea-coast.

We stopped no time at Malacca, but hiring a brigantine we sailed from thence for the island of Sumatra, and arrived at the city of Pyder or Pedier about 80 miles from the mainland, where we found an excellent harbour. The island of Sumatra is governed by four kings, who with their people are all idolaters, and do not differ much in fashions, apparel, and manner of life from the inhabitants of Tanaserim. They are of a whitish colour with large foreheads, round eyes; and of brasyll (?) colour. They wear their hair long, have very broad and flat noses, and are of low mean stature. Their money is of gold, silver, and tin. On one side the gold coin has the head of a devil, and on the other a waggon or chariot drawn by elephants. The silver coin is similar, and ten of them passes for one of gold; but it requires 25 pieces of tin to equal one gold piece. In this country there are a greater number and finer elephants than in any other place I have been in. The people are by no means warlike, being entirely devoted to merchandise and gain; they use strangers with much kindness and hospitality, and justice is well administered. They have in this island great abundance of long pepper, which in their language is called Molaga, and is much longer and whiter than any other, yet very light and strong; it is sold by measure like corn, and is to be had in such plenty that twenty ships are loaded with it every year for Cathay, or China, where it is much in request on account of the coldness of the climate. The tree which produces this pepper has a larger body, with broader and flatter leaves than the pepper tree of Calicut.

This island produces plenty of silk, which is the work of worms as with us; but there is another kind brought forth on the trees spontaneously without any care or labour, which is worse than the other. Here likewise grows the laser tree, which produces the precious gum called Laserpitium or Belzoe[93], as we were told by the inhabitants and merchants, but not having myself seen it I am unable to give any distinct account of this substance. Variety is always pleasing, and ingenious minds can never be satiated with contemplating the marvellous and diversified works of God in nature: Therefore, that the reader may take the more pleasure in these my writings, or at least may experience less tediousness in reading them, I have thought good to set down such things as I have seen more at large. It is therefore to be understood that the reason of no great quantity of aloes or Laserpitium being brought to us is because it comes from the farthest parts of the earth. There are three kinds or sorts of aloes, differing greatly in point of goodness. The most perfect is that called Calampat, which is not found in Sumatra, but is brought from the city of Sarnau near which it grows, as we were told by our companions the Christian merchants formerly mentioned. There is another kind of aloes called Juba or Luba, brought to Sumatra by the before mentioned river or strait, but I know not from what country. The third kind is called bochor. These Christian merchants also told us that none of the finest and best kind of aloes is brought to us, because it comes from the kingdoms of Cathay, Chini, Macym, Sarnau, and Gravay, countries much richer than ours and more abounding in gold, having kings of great power and riches, who take great delight in sweet savours and use them much more than our western princes, owing to which circumstance the true and best kind of aloes is worth ten crowns the pound even in the city of Sarnau.

We were taught by the said Christian merchants our companions, how to know and distinguish the two kinds of the sweet gums called aloes or Laserpitium. One of them had a certain portion of them both, and about two ounces of the best sort of aloes called calampat. Taking a piece of this in his hand and holding it close for about as long as one might take to rehearse the psalm Miserere mei Deus three times, the aloes become hot, and on opening his hand gave out a savour of incredible sweetness, such as I had never experienced from any other substance. He took also about the size of a walnut of the common laserpitium or belzoe, and half a pound of that which comes from the city of Sarnau, and putting both into different chafing-dishes with burning coals in a close chamber, the small quantity of belzoe far exceeded, in sweetness of flavour, the other which weighed half a pound, and would even have done so had it been two pounds weight[94]. In this region also is found the substance called lacca from which a bright red colour is procured. This is the gum of a tree not much unlike our walnut tree[95]. In Pedier I saw in one street not less than 500 bankers or exchangers of money; and at this place they make many curious works, such as fine baskets garnished with gold, which were sold for two crowns each[96]. This is a famous mart to which innumerable merchants resort. The inhabitants wear mantles of silk, and syndones (?) made of cotton.

This country has plenty of wood fit for the construction of ships. Those which they build are of a strange fashion, named gunchos or junks, having three masts with two stems and two sterns, having gouvernals or rudders on both. When sailing on the ocean and having given their sails to the wind, if it be afterwards needful to have more sails, not changing the first they go backwards without turning the ship and using only one mast[97]. The natives are most expert swimmers, and have a wonderful contrivance for producing fire in an instant. Their houses are very low and built of stone, and instead of tiles or thatch they are covered by the hide of a fish called tartaruca which is found in that part of the Indian sea, which is so huge a monster that one of their skins which I saw weighed 330 pounds. There are likewise serpents in this country much larger than those at Calicut.

At this place our Christian friends, meaning to prosecute their own affairs, proposed to take their leave of us, but my Persian companion spoke to them in this manner; "Though my friends I am not your countryman, yet being all brethren and the children of Adam, I take God to witness that I love you as if you were of my own blood, and children of the same parents, and considering how long we have kept company together in a loving manner, I cannot think of parting from you without much grief of mind: Besides, even if you would leave me, I hope you will not desert this my companion who is of the same faith with yourselves." Then the Christians asked how I, being a Persian, happened to be of the Christian faith. To which my companion answered that I was no Persian, but had been bought at Jerusalem. On hearing the holy name of Jerusalem pronounced, the Christians lifted up their hands and eyes to heaven, and prostrating themselves thrice kissed the ground; then rising up, they asked what age I was of when brought from Jerusalem. Being told that I was then fifteen years of age, they said I might well remember my country; to which my companion answered that I did so assuredly, and had often given him much pleasure by the things I had told him concerning it. Then the merchants said that although they had long desired to return into their own country, which was far from thence, they would still bear us company to those places to which we proposed going. Preparing ourselves therefore for a voyage, we took shipping and in fifteen days we came to the island of Bandan or Banda, whence nutmegs and mace are procured.

In this voyage to the isle of Banda, we passed about twenty islands, some of them inhabited and some desert. This island of Banda is very low, savage, and barren, being about 100 miles in circuit. It has neither king nor governor, but is inhabited by a savage and brutal people, who live without law, order, or government, dwelling in low huts scarcely rising above the ground, and having a scanty shirt for their whole clothing. Their complexion inclines towards white, and they are of low stature: They go bareheaded and barefooted, with their hair hanging down, having broad round foreheads. They are idolaters, and worse even than the Poliars and Hyrana[98] of Calicut, being of dull apprehension, little strength, and altogether barbarous in their manners. The soil bears no fruits except nutmegs, which grow on a tree very much like the peach in its branches and leaves. Before the nut becomes ripe, the mace expands round like a red rose; but when the nut ripens the mace closes and embraces the nut, and both are gathered together, which the natives do without rule or order, catch who catch may, all things being there in common. The tree yields fruit of its own nature without grafting or pruning, and it is so common and plentiful that twenty-six pound weight is sold for three souses or half a carline of the money which is current at Calicut. These islanders have no other order of justice than the law of nature, and live therefore without lawsuits or any of those contentions proceeding from thine and mine.

Having tarried three days in Banda, my companion asked the Christian merchants where was the region which produces cloves, and they told him that these were found in an island named Monoch or Molucca, six days sail from Banda. We therefore resumed our voyage, and came there in seven days. This island[99] is very narrow, yet is longer than Banda, and the inhabitants are even more barbarous than those of Banda, for if it were not for the human shape, they differ in nothing from brutes. Their colour is whiter, owing to the air being colder. This island produces cloves, which likewise grow on several small and desolate islands on its coast. The body of the tree resembles the box-tree, and has leaves almost like the bay tree. When the cloves are ripe, the inhabitants beat them off the tree with long canes, having previously laid mats under the tree to receive them. The soil is sandy, and so low under the horizon that the north star cannot be seen[100]. The price of cloves is about double that formerly mentioned for nutmegs, but they are sold by measure, as the natives are entirely ignorant of the use of weights.

As we were conversing together respecting our voyages, the Christian merchants addressed me as follows: "Dearly beloved friend, as by the grace of God we are come thus far in safety, we will, if it so please you go to visit one of the finest islands in the world, and so rich as we believe you have never seen. But we must go in the first place to another island named Borneo, where we shall procure a larger vessel, as we have to cross a deep and rough sea." My companion then desired them to do as they thought proper. Therefore hiring a larger foist, we directed our voyage to that island, sailing to the southward both by day and night, and passing our time in much pleasant conversation. The merchants, among other things, asked me many questions respecting the ceremonies and solemnities of the Christian religion as used among us in Europe. And when I made mention of the Veronica or Vernacle of the face of Christ[101], and of the heads of St Peter and St Paul, the chiefest of the apostles, they told me secretly that if I would go with them, I should become a great man in their country by my knowledge of these divine things. But being deterred by the length of the journey, and fearful that I might never be able to get home, I refused to accompany them. At length we came to Borneo, which is 200 miles from Molucca and is somewhat bigger[102] and as low under the horizon. The inhabitant are idolaters of a sharp wit and decent manner of life. Their complexion inclines towards fair. They do not all dress alike, as some wear cotton shirts, while others have camblet mantles, and others wear pointed caps of a red colour. They are under regular government and submit to laws, which are righteously administered. This island yields great quantities of camphor, which I was told was the gum of a tree; but I dare not affirm this for fact, as I have never seen the way in which it is procured.

At Borneo my companion hired a light bark for 100 pieces of gold, and having laid in provisions for the voyage, we directed our course for the great island of Gyava, or Java, to which we came in five days, sailing towards the south. Our pilot used the mariner's compass with lodestone, and the sea chart, as ours do. Observing that the north star could not be seen, my companion asked the Christian merchants in what manner they guided their course in those seas. To this the pilot made answer, that in navigating these southern seas, they were particularly guided by five stars, and one other particular star which was directly opposite the north star, and that they also used the lodestone, which always points to the north. He said moreover, that beyond the island of Java there was a certain people who were antipodes to them of European Sarmatia, inhabiting a cold climate, and as near to the antarctic pole as Sarmatia is to the arctic, as was evident by the shortness of their day, which was only four hours long in winter[103], in which conversation we took much delight.

Proceeding on our voyage for five days, we came to the great island of Java, in which there are many kingdoms and peoples, all idolaters, but of sundry manners and customs. Some worship the sun, others the moon, some consider cows as their gods, while others worship all day whatever they first meet in the morning. This island produces silk, which grows spontaneously in the woods, and has the finest emeralds in the world, as also great plenty of gold and copper. The soil is as productive of corn and fruits as that of Calicut, and has an abundance of flesh. The inhabitants are an honest and fair-dealing people, much of the same stature and colour with Europeans, but with larger foreheads, very large eyes of a brazil or red colour, with flat noses, and wear their hair long. It has a great number of birds different from ours, except peacocks, turtle-doves, and crows, which are the same as we have. In their dress, the natives wear mantles or cloaks of cotton, silk, or camblet, always having one arm bare. They have no defensive armour, as they are hardly ever at war; but when they go to sea they use bows and arrows, and likewise poisoned arrows made of reeds, which they blow from long hollow canes, and the poison with which these arrows are infected is so virulent that death certainly follows from the slightest wound. They have no kind of fire-arms. They eat all kinds of flesh, fish, or fruit, as they please or can procure.

Some of the natives of this island are so very barbarous, that when their parents become feeble from age, so as to be useless to themselves and others, they bring them into the public market and sell them to the cannibals who eat human flesh, who immediately upon buying them, kill and eat them. Likewise when any young person falls into disease of which they do not expect he shall recover, his kinsmen sell him in the same manner to the cannibals. When my companion expressed his horror at this barbarous and savage practice, a certain native merchant observed, "that no sacrifice could redeem the sins of the Persians, who gave the flesh of their dead to be eaten by the worms." Abhorring these savage manners, we returned to our ship not willing to tarry longer in that island. While we were there, the Christian merchants, who were ever desirous to shew us strange things which we might relate at our return to our own country, made us remark that the sun at noon-day was to the north of us, which as they said is always the case in the month of July. I must acknowledge however, that I hardly remember these things distinctly, as I had then almost forgot the names of our months. At this island my companion bought two fine emeralds for 1000 pieces of gold, and likewise two children who were eunuchs, for two hundred pieces, as there are in that country certain merchants who deal solely in these young eunuchs.

After remaining fifteen days in Java, being weary of the barbarous manners of the inhabitants, and of the coldness of the country at that season of the year, we determined to prosecute our voyage back to India, as there were no other regions in these eastern parts worth seeing. Wherefore, hiring a light bark, we departed from thence, and having sailed fifteen days to the north-west, we came to the city of Malacca, where we remained three days. At this place we took our leave of the Christian merchants, with sorrowful minds and many friendly embraces. Of this separation I was sore grieved, and had I been a single man without wife and children[104], I certainly would never have separated from such dear friends. Leaving them therefore at Malacca, they remained at that place, whence they said they meant shortly to return to the city of Sana[105]. My Persian companion and I went on board a foist, in which we returned to Coromandel. While on this voyage the pilot informed us that there were about seven thousand small islands in the eastern sea, beyond Sumatra and Java. While at Malacca my companion bought as much spices, perfumes of various kinds, and silk, as cost him 5000 pieces of gold. We were fifteen days on our voyage to Coromandel, and remained there twenty days. Hiring another foist we sailed thence to the city of Coulan, where we found twenty-two Portuguese Christians. Fearing they might seize me as a spy, I began to contrive how I might make my escape from thence; but as there were many Mahometans there who knew that I had been on the pilgrimage to Mecca, I changed my purpose, and we soon afterwards went to Calicut by way of the river, which took us twelve days.

[Footnote 83: From the distance and direction of the journey or voyage, this name may possibly be an error or corruption for Cranganore.--E.]
[Footnote 84: From other circumstances in the text, particularly the neighbourhood of the place where St Thomas lay buried, the city here alluded to was probably Meliapour, which formerly stood not far from Madras, or the famous Mahubulipoor, the city of the great Bali, 16 or 18 miles from the English settlement. The author, as on many other occasions, gives the name of the country to the capital. As to being in sight of Ceylon, this may be an error in transcription, and we ought to read that on the voyage between Coulan and the city of Coromandel; the author passed in sight of Ceylon.--E.]
[Footnote 85: Cloves are certainly not found in Ceylon.--E.]
[Footnote 86: It is not easy to conceive by what means this could be, as Pegu, Ava, Aracan, and Tipera, intervene between Tanaserim and Bengal, and the bay of Bengal between Tanaserim and Narsinga or the Carnatic, none of the powers mentioned being possessed of any maritime force.--E.]
[Footnote 87: This is not easily understood, unless it may mean that they are so built that they may sail with either end foremost.--E.]
[Footnote 88: Here, as usual, the name of the country is given instead of the chief city, and we have no means even to guess what place is indicated, unless perhaps the Satigan of other ancient relations, which appears to have been a city on the Hoogly river, or western branch of the Ganges.--E.]
[Footnote 89: The capital of Cathay or northern China is Cambalu or Pekin, but it is difficult to make anything of these Christian natives of Sarnau, or of their many Christian princes in Tartary; unless we may suppose Verthema to have mistaken the followers of the Lama of Thibet for Christians, as appears to have been done by some of the more ancient travellers in our early volumes.--E.]
[Footnote 90: It is obvious from the context, that this famous river of Gaza refers to the Straits of Malacca.--E.]
[Footnote 91: The Taprobana of the ancients certainly was Ceylon. Sumatra is about 977 statute miles in length, and 200 in its greatest breadth, so that its circumference must exceed 2500 miles.--E.]
[Footnote 92: By Chini in the text is probably meant Acheen in Sumatra.--E.]
[Footnote 93: From similarity of names this appears to be Benzoin, or benzoe, sometimes called gum benjamin; yet from some circumstances in the sequel it may possibly indicate camphor.--E.]
[Footnote 94: It is impossible to determine from the account in the text what is meant by these articles of sweet scent under the names of aloes, laserpitium, belzoe, calampat, luba, and bochor; all of which seem to be different names of the same substance in different degrees of quality, and assuredly not the drugs now known by the name of aloes and benzoin. There is a sweet-scented wood in the east known by the name of lignum aloes, and possibly the sweet gum called belzoe may have been extracted from it, or from that which produces the oil of rhodium.--E.]
[Footnote 95: Gum lac, long believed the gum of a tree, is now known to be the work of insects, serving as a nidus for their young, in the same manner as bees wax is used by the honey bee.--E.]
[Footnote 96: Perhaps filagree work?--E.]
[Footnote 97: This account of the mode of navigation is inexplicable, or at least obscure. Perhaps it is meant to express that they do not tack, but sail with either end foremost as suits the change of wind or direction of the ship.--E.]
[Footnote 98: These are named on a former occasion Nirani.--E.]
[Footnote 99: Instead of one island, the Moluccas are a group of islands, the largest of which, Gilolo, is about 200 miles from N. to S. On its western side are several small islands, the most important of which for the produce of cloves are Ternate and Tidore. Gilolo was probably the island visited by Verthema.--E.]
[Footnote 100: A strange mode of expressing that Gilolo is immediately under the line.--E]
[Footnote 101: The Veronica among the Catholics, is the handkerchief with which our Saviour is supposed to have wiped his face during his passion, which they allege took from his bloody sweat a miraculous impression or portrait of his countenance.--E.]
[Footnote 102: Instead of being only somewhat larger than Gilolo, Borneo is perhaps the largest island in the world, except New Holland, being about 880 English miles in its greatest diameter from S.W. to N.E. and 550 in the opposite direction at the widest.--E.]
[Footnote 103: This pilot must have been acquainted with the southern extremity of South America, or must have built this information on hypothesis, as there is no known inhabited land of this description to the South of Java--E.]
[Footnote 104: This oblique insinuation of having a wife and children, is rather contradictory to several circumstances in the early part of the itinerary of Verthema.--E.]
[Footnote 105: This is probably a mistake for Sarnau, whence the Christians are said to have come.--E.]


Volume 7, Chapter 5, Section 10 -- Continuation of the Author's Adventures, after his Return to Calicut.

After so many long and dangerous voyages and peregrinations, in which we had partly satisfied our desire of travel, and were partly wearied by the many inconveniencies we had undergone, we began to consider of the best means for returning to our native country. I will therefore briefly relate what happened to me by the way, that other men, taking example by my travels, may know better how to conduct themselves in like situations, if similar inclinations should move them to undertake such voyages. In Calicut we found two Christians of Milan in Italy, who had come to India with licence from the king of Portugal, on purpose to buy precious stones. The names of these men were John Maria and Peter Anthony. I was more rejoiced at the sight of these men than I can express, and knowing them to be Christians by their fair complexions, though they could not know me as I was naked like the natives, I immediately spoke to them, informing them that I also was a Christian, and their countryman. Then, taking me kindly by the hand, they brought me to their house, where, for joy of this unexpected meeting, we could scarcely satisfy ourselves with tears, embraces, and kisses, for it seemed a strange thing to me thus to find men who spoke my own language, and even to speak it myself.

They told me that they were in great favour with the king of Calicut, yet anxiously wished to get hack to their native country, but knew not how, as they had fled from the Portuguese, and durst not run the risk of falling into their hands, having made many pieces of great cannon and other ordnance for the king of Calicut, and that now the Portuguese fleet would shortly be there. When I proposed to endeavour to go to Cananore, and solicit their pardon from the Portuguese admiral, they said that could not be looked for, as they were well known to many of the kings and princes between Calicut and Cananore, who were friendly to the Portuguese, and who would certainly intercept them, as they had made above 400 guns, great and small, and could never hope for pardon. By this I could perceive how fearful a thing it is to have an evil conscience, and called to remembrance the saying of the poet:-- "Multa male timeo, qui feci multa proterve." That is to say, "I fear much evil because I have done much."

These men had not only made many pieces of artillery for the infidels, to the great injury of the Christians, in contempt of Christ and his holy religion, but had also taught the idolaters both how to make and use them. While I remained in Calicut, I saw them give a mould to the idolaters, by which they might cast brass cannon of sufficient bigness to receive a charge of 105 cantaros or measures of powder. At this time also there was a Jew in Calicut who had built a handsome brigantine, in which were four large iron cannons; but Providence soon after gave him his due reward, as he was drowned while bathing in the river. To return to the two Italians: God knows how earnestly I endeavoured to persuade them never to make any more guns or artillery for the infidels, in contempt of God, and to the great detriment of our most holy faith. At my words, tears fell from the eyes of Peter Anthony; but John Maria, who perhaps was not so anxious to return home, said it was all one to him whether he died in India or Italy, and that God only knew what was decreed for him. Within two days after I returned to my companion, who had wondered what was become of me, fearing that I was either sick, or had died, or run away. I told him that I had been all night in the temple, that he might not suspect my great intimacy with the Christians.

While I remained in the lodging of my companion, there came to him two Persian merchants from the city of Cananore, saying that they had bad news to tell him, as there had arrived twelve Portuguese ships, which they had actually seen. Then asked he what manner of men were these Portuguese? To this the Persians answered, that they were Christians, armed in cuirasses of bright iron, and had built an impregnable fortress at Cananore. Then turning to me, my companion asked what kind of people these were. To this I answered, that they were a nation of wicked people, entirely given up to robbery and piracy on the seas: And I can truly say, that he was not so sorry for these news as I was rejoiced at their arrival. After the rumour spread of the arrival of the Portuguese, I began to be in fear for myself, and to consider what was best to be done to ensure my safety; and considering that nothing could be easier among these ignorant people than to gain a reputation of holiness by hypocrisy, I used to lurk about the temple all day without meat, as all the people thought, but in the night I had my fill in the house of the two Milanese. By this device, everyone took me for a saint or holy person, so that in a few days I could go about all the city without being suspected. To help me in this assumed character, a rich Mahometan merchant of Calicut happened to fall sick, having his belly so constipated that he could get no ease; and as he was a friend of my Persian companion, and the disease daily increased, he at last asked me if I had any skill in physic. To this I answered, that my father was a physician, and that I had learnt many things from him.

He then took me along with him to see his friend the sick merchant, and being told that he was very sick at the head and stomach, and sore constipated, and having before learnt that he was a great eater and drinker, I felt his pulse, and said that he was filled with choler or black bile, owing to surfeiting, and that it was necessary he should have a glyster. Then I made a glyster of eggs, salt, and sugar, together with butter and such herbs as I could think of upon a sudden; and in the space of a day and a night I gave him five such glysters, but all in vain, for his pains and sickness increased, and I began to repent me of my enterprise. But it was now necessary to put a good face on the matter, and to attempt some other way, yet my last error seemed worse than ever. Endeavouring to inspire him with confidence, I made him lie grovelling on his belly, and, by cords tied to his feet, I raised up the hinder part of his body, so that he rested only on his breast and hands; and in this posture I administered to him another glyster, allowing him to remain in that position for half an hour. On beholding this strange mode of practice, my Persian friend asked me, if that was the manner of treating sick people in my country, to which I answered that it was, but only in cases of extremity; on which he observed with a smile, that he believed it would certainly relieve him one way or other. In the mean time, the sick man cried out in his own language, "It is enough, it is enough, for my soul now departeth." We comforted him as well as we could, desiring him to have patience yet a little longer; and almost immediately his belly was loosened, and he voided like a gutter. We then let him down, and he continued to discharge a prodigious quantity, so that shortly the pain of his head and stomach left him, and his fever was assuaged, which gave us all great joy. By this adventurous cure, and my counterfeit holiness, I grew into great credit, and when my patient offered me ten pieces of gold as my reward, I would only accept two, which I gave away immediately among the poor.

These silly people believed implicitly in my hypocrisy, which I shewed in a constrained gravity of countenance and deportment, and by forbearing openly from eating flesh, insomuch that all thought themselves happy to have me at their houses, or to kiss my hands and feet. The report also of my companion, that he had met with me first at Mecca, where I had gone to see the body of the holy prophet Mahomet, greatly increased among the Mahometans the opinion of my sanctity. But all this while, I used to resort secretly in the night to the house of the Milanese Christians; and learning from them that the twelve Portuguese ships were arrived at Cananore, I thought that it was now a favourable opportunity for me to escape. I remained, however, for seven days more, learning everything I could respecting the preparations that were making by the king of Calicut and his people against the Portuguese, in regard to their army, artillery, and everything relative to the war. But, before I speak of the manner of my departure, it may be proper to say something of the religious practices of the Mahometans.

For calling the people to the mosque, their priests and other ministers, of whom there are a great number, ascend to the highest tower of the temple, where they sound three or four brass trumpets instead of bells, and then call to the people in a loud voice to come to prayers. Then stopping one ear with their finger, they call out in their own language, Alla u eccubar, etc. That is to say, "God is great! God is great! Come to the temple of the great God! Come pray to the great God! God is great! God is great! God was! God is! Mahomet, the messenger of God, shall arise!" They even invited me to the mosque, and desired me to pray to God for the Mahometans; and this I did outwardly, but with quite a different meaning from them. They have certain daily and stated prayers as we have, in which they call upon God as their father, and they even vouchsafe to name the blessed Virgin Mary; but they always wash before prayers. Standing all in order, after the priest has prayed, the whole people pray in their own language.

At this time I feigned myself sick, and finding some occasion or pretext for going to Cananore, I advertised my companion thereof, who gave me his consent, saying that he would shortly follow me to that place, and in the meantime gave me letters recommending me to a friend and countryman of his, a rich merchant at that place, desiring him to give me kind entertainment for his sake. The day before my departure, I made the before-mentioned Milanese Christians privy to my intentions, and my companion made me join company with two other Persian merchants who were going to Cananore, as there were then in Calicut many merchants of Persia, Syria, and Turkey. Therefore, on the 1st of December, having hired a light bark, I and my two companions set sail; but had hardly got from shore an arrow-flight, when four of the nairs of the king's guard called to the pilot of our vessel, and ordered him, in the king's name, to come to land. When the nairs understood who we were, they asked the Persians why they carried me along with them, without licence from the king? Then the Persians said, that this was a holy man, who meant to accompany them to Cananore. The nairs answered, that they knew I was a person who had wrought miracles; but as I could speak the language of the Portuguese, it was to be feared that I might betray their secrets to the enemy, and give them notice of the navy and army which had been prepared at Calicut against them, and therefore they strictly enjoined the pilot to carry us no farther. He accordingly obeyed their orders, and left us on the shore.

It was then proposed by one of the Persians that we should return to Calicut, on which I advised him to take heed how he did so, as he would be in danger of losing all his silks, if it should be discovered that he had not paid the king's custom. Then he asked my advice as to what I thought was best for us to do in the present exigency, and I advised that we should travel along the shore, in hopes of finding some other bark for our purpose. They agreed to this proposal, and we accordingly travelled twelve miles along the shore, our slaves carrying our baggage; and I leave any judicious person to conceive the terror I was in, during this time, of being stopped by the servants of the king of Calicut. At length, by good providence, we found a poor fisherman, who agreed to carry us in his boat to Cananore, where we arrived in safety late at night. We went immediately to wait upon the Persian merchant, to whom I had letters of recommendation from my companion. Their tenor was as follows: That he should receive me into his house, and entertain me in a friendly manner, till his own arrival, and that whatever friendship was shewn me should be considered as done to himself, as I was a holy man, and united with him in the strictest friendship. Immediately on reading this letter, the merchant laid his hand on his head, and bid me welcome, swearing by his head that I was in safety, and caused a good supper to be set before us. After supper, the Persians and I took a walk by the sea side, and we soon came to where the Portuguese ships were lying at anchor. I am utterly unable to express the joy I felt on seeing these ships, but which I took care should not be observed by my companions. In our walk, I observed where the Portuguese had built their fortress, and determined within myself to go there as soon as possible.

Next day, finding a fit opportunity, I went towards the Portuguese fortress, which is not above four furlongs from the city of Cananore, and chanced to meet two Portuguese by the way, at whom I inquired in Spanish if that were the fortress of the Portuguese. They asked if I were a Christian? and having answered that I was, they demanded to know whence I came? I told them that I was from Calicut, on which they said they would immediately shew me the way to their governor, whose name was Lorenzo[106], son to the viceroy. They accordingly brought me before him, and when I was come into his presence, I fell down on my knees, and entreated him in all humility, for the sake of Christ, to whom I was consecrated in baptism, that he would have compassion upon me, and deliver me out of the hands of these infidel dogs. When it was noised about in the city that I had escaped to the Christians, there began a stir and mutiny among the people, upon which the governor commanded his officers and men to put their artillery and all things in readiness, lest the people in their sudden rage should make any attempt against the fortress; but every thing was speedily pacified. After this, the governor took me by the hand into a hall or room by ourselves, and demanded to know what the king and people of Calicut were preparing to do against the Christians. I informed him of all things as far as I knew, having diligently inquired into all their preparations and designs. When I had thus informed the governor of all I knew, he appointed a galley commanded by one Joam Serano to carry me to the viceroy, who was then at Cochin.

The viceroy received me very favourably, and then I gave him an account of all the warlike preparations at Calicut. After this I humbly implored pardon for the two Italians, Peter Anthony and John Maria, who had made artillery for the infidel princes, declaring that they were desirous to return to the Christians, and would do them good service, for that all they had hitherto done at Calicut was by constraint, and that all they asked was a safe conduct and money to defray their charges. The viceroy listened to my petition, and three days afterwards he sent me back to Cananore with letters to his son, commanding him to deliver me as much money as might suffice for the Christian spies at Calicut. At Cananore, I procured an idolater who from poverty had been forced to pawn his wife and children, and engaged him to carry a letter from me to the two Milanese at Calicut, informing them that the viceroy had granted their pardon and safe conduct, with money for their charges. I desired them to make no one privy to their intended departure, and particularly not to let it be known to their slaves or concubines, each of them having a concubine, a child, and a slave, and to leave all their goods behind, except things of great value, such as gold coin and precious stones. They had a very fine diamond of 32 carats, reckoned to be worth 35,000 crowns; a pearl of 24 carats; 2000 rubies, some of which weighed one carat, and others a carat and half; upwards of 60 bracelets, garnished with many fine jewels; and about 1500 pieces of gold coin. But in consequence of their covetousness, while they sought to save all they lost all, and their lives to boot; for, not content with carrying off all these riches, they would needs carry along with them, in spite of the advice I sent, four guns, three monkeys, two muskets, and two of those wheels on which precious stones are polished.

The attempt to carry off these bulky articles was the cause of their destruction, as one of their slaves gave notice to the zamorin or king of Calicut of what was going on. The zamorin would not at first believe the information, having conceived a good opinion of their fidelity, yet sent four of his nairs to examine into the truth of the information. But the slave, perceiving that the zamorin seemed inclined to deal favourably with them, went to the cady or chief priest of the Mahometans, and told him all that he had said to the zamorin, adding that the two Christians had disclosed all their secrets to the Portuguese. The eddy immediately convened a council of all the Mahometan merchants, willing them to give an hundred pieces of gold to the king of Gioghi[107], who was then at Calicut, and to speak to him in the following terms: "It is not unknown to you, most noble prince, that when your majesty came to this place some years ago, we received you in a more honourable manner than we are now enabled to do. The change in our behaviour is not owing to any want of good will towards you, but is occasioned by the great and manifold injuries which we have sustained, and are daily suffering from our mortal enemies the Christians. We have at the present moment a notable example of this in two Christian traitors now residing in this city, who have disclosed all our secrets to the Portuguese; and therefore we most humbly petition that you would be pleased to accept from us an hundred pieces of gold, and to issue your commands that these traitorous Christians shall be slain."

When this oration was repeated to the king of Gioghi, he immediately accepted the gift, and consented to the prayer of the petition, and appointed two hundred of his followers to put the Milanese to death. These men, that they might not be suspected by the devoted Christians, came in small bodies to their house, only ten at a time, as if to demand their customary reward. But on seeing so great a number of men assembled about their house, the Christians began to suspect that they were in search of something beyond their usual reward or offering, wherefore taking to their arms, they so bravely defended themselves, that they slew six of the assailants and wounded forty: But at length some of the Gioghi or Jogues, shot them both with arrows from cross-bows, one being sore wounded in the head and the other in the body; and as soon as they saw them fall, they broke into the house and cut their throats. Then taking the warm blood into the palms of their hands, they drank it up, using the most contumelious [=contemptuous] expressions against the Christians. After this murder, the concubine of John Maria came to Cananore with her young son, whom I bought of her for eight pieces of gold, and had him baptized by the name of Lorenzo, as he was christened on the festival of St Laurence. But he died within a year afterwards of the lues venerea, which disease has been spread over almost the whole world, as I have seen many infected with it 400 miles beyond Calicut. It is there called pua, and they affirm that it was not seen there till about seventeen years before; yet it is there more grievous and destructive than with us in Italy.

[Footnote 106: Don Francisco de Almeyda was viceroy of Portuguese India from 1507 to 1510, both inclusive, and his son Lorenzo made a conspicuous figure on several occasions under his father. It is true that Verthema appears in the present journal to have returned from India to Europe in the end of 1506 or beginning of 1507; but the dates of the present journal are exceedingly few and vague, and the incidents which it relates could hardly have occurred in so short a period as between the commencement of 1503 and close of 1506.--E.]
[Footnote 107: This king of Gioghi was probably the chief bramin in the southern part of India, a species of patriarch or pope of the braminical idolatry, similar to the king of Joga, formerly mentioned, in Guzerat, in these travels of Verthema. In a future part of our collection we shall have a more favourable opportunity of explaining the hierarchy of the Hindoos.--E.]


Volume 7, Chapter 5, Section 11 -- Account of a memorable Battle between the Mahometan Navy of Calicut and the Portuguese.

On the 4th of March 1506, intelligence was received at Cananore of the death of the two Milanese Christians at Calicut, and on the same day the Calicut fleet set sail from the cities of Pavan (?), Capagot (?), Pandaram (?), and Trompatam (?). It consisted of 208 vessels[108], of which 84 were ships of considerable size and burden, and the rest were rowing vessels which are called paraos. This great fleet was manned with a prodigious number of Mahometans richly dressed in purple silk and cotton, also with high pointed caps after their fashion of the same colour, lined with silk, having their arms decked with many bracelets, and embroidered gloves on their hands. For weapons, they had Turkish bows, swords, lances, peltes[109], and all kind of guns made in our manner. When we saw their fleet proceeding in order and well appointed, it seemed afar off like a great wood, so numerous were the masts, yet were we in sure belief that God would give us the victory over the blasphemers of his holy name, and that we should prevail against the idolaters and Saracens, the ancient enemies of the religion of the blessed Jesus.

Therefore the valiant knight our governor, Don Lorenzo, the son of Don Francisco de Almeyda, viceroy of India, who had the supreme command of twelve Portuguese ships, with the assistance of the admiral, assembled all the Portuguese soldiers and mariners by sound of trumpet, and spoke to them after this manner: "Dear friends, and brethren in one God and in one faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, it is now time for us to consider that our Lord spared not to give his precious body unto death for our sakes; wherefore it is our bounden duty to spend our lives in defence of his glory and of our holy faith, assuring ourselves of victory over these infidel dogs, who are hated of God, being the progeny of the devil. Now, therefore, fighting in his holy name and under the banner of his cross, shew yourselves valiant, as you have now a fair opportunity to gain eternal fame in defending the glorious cause of your Lord and Saviour. Therefore, along with me, raising our hearts to God, and our arms with force and courage against the enemy, in the name of the Lord, let us manfully give the onset." When Don Lorenzo had spoken these words, the priest went up to the highest part of the ship, holding in his hands the picture of Christ nailed to the cross, which he exposed to the view of all the soldiers, and earnestly exhorted them to remember the commands of God, and the holy faith in which they were consecrated by baptism, having no doubt that all their sins should be forgiven to those who fell in the cause of God. Then blessing them in the name of the Lord, he pronounced the absolution and forgivenness of their sins. This exhortation of the priest so moved all our hearts, that tears of joy ran from our eyes, and we were all animated with a desire of dying in the holy cause.

In the meantime the Mahometan fleet made sail towards us, and on the same day our admiral went to reconnoitre their fleet with two foists, and passing between two of their largest ships discharged his ordnance on both sides, on purpose to try the strength of those ships in which they placed the greatest confidence. But nothing of any importance occurred this day. Next day the enemy made sail towards Cananore, and sent a message to our commanders, saying, that if they were permitted to pursue their voyage they would not attack us. To this it was answered, that the Christians had not forgotten the perjury and violated faith of the Mahometans, when they prevented the Christians from passing that way on a former occasion, and had slain 47 Portuguese, and robbed them of 4000 pieces of gold: Wherefore, they might proceed at their peril, and should learn of what spirit and reputation in arms the Christians were composed. Then said the Mahometans, "Mahomet will defend us and confound the Christians." Then with great fury they assaulted us all at once, thinking to have forced their way through our fleet, as they were only 10 miles from Cananore. Our admiral intentionally allowed them to draw near until they were right over against Cananore, when he intended to set upon them with all his force, that the rajah or king of Cananore might be a witness of the valour of the Christians.

When the trumpeter of the admiral sounded the charge as a signal of battle, the admiral immediately assaulted two of the largest ships of the enemy, casting his grappling irons and chains, that he might fight them hand to hand. After throwing our grapplings three times in vain, they caught hold the fourth time, on which the Christians boarded the greatest ship, and made such havoc that the whole crew of 600 Mahometans were slain, not one escaping or being made prisoner. Encouraged by this success, the admiral immediately grappled another large ship which had chained itself to one of the Christian foists; this ship was likewise taken and sunk, with the loss of 500 Mahometans. Discouraged by this defeat, the Mahometans assailed our twelve foists with all their force, and carried them away. On this emergency the captain of the galley, Joam Serano, shewed the utmost gallantry, as he fiercely assaulted in his single galley those ships of the enemy which had carried away our foists, and made such prodigious slaughter among the Mahometans as seemed quite incredible, so that he recovered all the foists, and sunk two other Mahometan ships. The conflict continued with unabated fury from morning till the darkness of the night parted the combatants, and God so favoured the Christians that few of them were slain, though many were wounded.

I must not omit to notice the zeal and courage displayed by Simon Martin, the captain of one of our ships, on the following occasion in this battle. It so happened that the brigantine in which I was, was at one time somewhat parted from the rest of our ships, on which four ships of the enemy assailed us all at once; and 150 of the Mahometans having boarded our vessel, constrained us to flee to the poop for safety. While we were in this extreme danger, Simon Martin leapt on board our vessel, invoking the name of Jesus to aid him, and fought with such desperate valour that he slew six of the enemy with his own bond. Encouraged by his gallantry, we came down from the poop to his assistance, and so handled the Mahometans that they leapt overboard for safety, when some of them were drowned and others escaped by swimming. Upon this our success, the enemy sent down four other foists to help those who were already engaged against us. But our captain took several empty casks in which gunpowder had been kept before, and placed them in such a manner on the side of our brigantine, that they seemed like large pieces of artillery, standing beside them with a fire-stick or lighted match, as if about to discharge them. This device put the enemy in such fear that they departed from us.

Our admiral continued to pursue the enemy, and gave them another great overthrow, taking seven of their foists laden with various kinds of merchandise, and sank ten others by the shot of his artillery, one of which was laden with elephants. His enemy, seeing the ocean almost covered with the bodies of their slain, their principal ships taken, sunk, or much injured, and having lost all hope of victory, endeavoured to save themselves by flight. But the Portuguese determined to follow up their success, and again brought them to battle, which continued a whole day and night, to the utter discomfiture of the Mahometans, most of whose vessels were sunk. At this time some of our foists saw a large ship belonging to the enemy at some distance, and made sail towards her; but as the enemy saw themselves overmatched, they hurled all their carriages into the sea[110], after which they leapt overboard themselves, in hopes to swim on shore, as they are most expert swimmers. But our men followed them even to the shore with lances, cross-bows, and stones, killing them while swimming, so that the sea was coloured with their blood. Yet about 200 of them escaped on shore, after swimming about 20 miles. These Mahometans are all exceedingly expert swimmers, being accustomed to it from their early youth; and while we pursued them, they often dived and remained so long under water, that we thought they had sunk outright, and when they came up again and floated on the water, we thought we had been deceived by phantoms. They were however mostly all destroyed afterwards by one mischance or another, so that on this occasion the enemy lost a prodigious number of men. After the battle and pursuit ceased, our admiral sent some boats on shore in sundry places to number the dead bodies, which had been cast up by the sea, when about 3000 were found, besides many that had been carried away by the sea.

The king of Cananore beheld this great victory from the shore, and gave great commendations to the Portuguese for their valour, and very deservedly; for, though I have been in many hard-fought battles, I never saw greater valour than was displayed on this occasion by the Portuguese. After this great victory, we thought to have enjoyed peace and security, but worse events ensued; for the king of Cananore, who was a great friend to the Portuguese, died a few days afterwards, and was succeeded by a mortal enemy to the Christians, and a great friend to the zamorin, by whose interest he had been advanced to the kingdom of Cananore. This new king assembled his forces to make war against the Portuguese in all haste, believing that much of their ammunition had been expended in the late naval battle, and that their men were much wearied, and for the most part wounded, so that they would be unable to make any great resistance. To aid him on this occasion, the zamorin sent him 24 pieces of great cannon. This war began on the 7th of April, and continued to the 20th of August [111], before peace was restored. It were too long to recount all the brave actions performed by the Christians in this war against the Mahometans [112], who never encountered them with less than twenty-five or twenty-six thousand men and 140 pieces of artillery. The enemy on this occasion were armed in the manner already mentioned respecting the weapons of the inhabitants of Calicut, and the Christians in the harness and with the weapons then used by us in Europe[113].

In their wars, the infidels divide their army into many wings, or brigades, of two or three thousand men each, only one of which proceeds to battle at a time, all the rest waiting the result of this charge before they proceed to join battle. While marching to give battle, it passes all imagination to conceive the prodigious noise made by innumerable musical instruments after their fashion, which fill the ears of their soldiers and encourage them to fight; while in the mean time a great number of men run before with artificial fireworks[114]. At last they give the onset with such fury and outcry, that two or three thousand of them are often able to put to flight 10,000 men who are unused to this mode of warfare. But God in his merciful providence never forsakes those who believe in his holy religion, as was now exemplified in our distress. For, while the Portuguese were in a manner overwhelmed with the multitude of their enemies, the joyful news arrived that a new fleet had come from Portugal to Cananore, under the valiant knight Don Tristan de Cunna, who was immediately informed of the straits to which we were reduced. He immediately sent us a reinforcement of 300 valiant soldiers, well provided with defensive armour, and weapons of offence, after the manner of the Christians.

On the arrival of these succours, we were so encouraged that we would have burnt the city of Cananore, if our admiral had permitted us. But on learning the arrival of this reinforcement, the enemy were so cast down that they sought to make peace with us by every means they could think of, and appointed one Mamalmaricar, a man of great riches and wisdom, to be their ambassador, with full powers to conclude peace. This man accordingly waited on our admiral, who told him that he could not make peace without the authority of the viceroy, who was then at Cochin: Yet it was thought best not to reject the proffered peace, as, during war, the Portuguese could not send home their ships with the commodities of India, and for this reason the viceroy agreed to the conclusion of peace.

To mingle some pleasure with these tragedies, I shall now rehearse a pleasant story, worthy of being remembered. One day after the peace was settled, I happened to walk in the city of Cananore with some merchant idolaters, with whom I was acquainted before the war. They asked me to show them a certain Christian, much taller and stronger than any of the others, who used every day to slay about twenty of the Mahometans, and who at one time, when assailed by fifty of the nairs, escaped unhurt. At first I answered, that this valiant Christian had gone to Cochin to the viceroy: But after some farther consideration, I told them that this soldier was the God of the Portuguese, the great God who had created the world. Then answered they, that the Mahometans had said as much to them already, and therefore they were inclined to believe that the God of the Christians was better and more powerful than theirs. Thus it came to be rumoured all over the country that the Portuguese had overcome more by the assistance of God, than by the strength of man.

These people are wonderfully simple and ignorant, and are easily astonished at very trifling matters; for when they saw one of our company ring a small hand-bell, and that it ceased to make a noise when set down, they took it for a miracle, saying one to another, "Doubtless the God of these men is greater than ours, for when they touch that little instrument it speaks, and when they touch it not it is silent." They took much delight in seeing the celebration of mass; and when the priest lifted up the holy bread, or host, I said unto them, "Behold the God of the Christians and of all the world." To which they answered, "You say truly, but we see him not." I repeat this that it may be seen how ignorant these people are. Yet are they great sorcerers, and can enchant the most venomous serpents, so as to do no harm, though their venom is so powerful as to kill only by touching. They are likewise of wonderful agility, and are astonishingly expert in vaulting, running, leaping, swimming, tumbling, walking on ropes, and such other feats of activity.

[Footnote 108: According to the account of this great armament formerly given in the History of the Portuguese Transactions in India, the fleet of the Mahometans and Zamorin on this occasion consisted of 260 paraos, 60 of which exceeded the size of the armed ships then used in India by the Portuguese. The action between the Portuguese and their enemies is there stated to have been in 1508.--E.]
[Footnote 109: Perhaps cross-bows, or it may probably signify leathern targets, or shields made of pelts or skins.--E.]
[Footnote 110: Perhaps they threw their guns overboard to lighten their vessel and facilitate their escape.--E.]
[Footnote 111: From the context, combined with the date of the late naval action, as given from the History of the Portuguese Transactions, this land-war with the rajah of Cananore must have been in 1509.--E.]
[Footnote 112: In the naval battle the principal force at least must have been Mahometans, as the Hindoos do not use the sea; but, in this land-war with the new rajah of Cananore, the nairs would constitute the main force of the enemy, though there might be some Mahometan auxiliaries.--E.]
[Footnote 113: The European soldiers then wore defensive armour and shields. And besides matchlocks, their offensive arms were pikes, swords, and cross-bows.--E.]
[Footnote 114: Probably alluding to a kind of javelins armed with a species of rockets, which have long been used in the wars of India, and often produce great disorder among the crowded masses of their ill-disciplined troops.--E.]


Volume 7, Chapter 5, Section 12 -- Navigation of the Author to Ethiopia, and return to Europe by Sea.

Those who engage to write any history, ought to keep in mind what they have promised, lest after all their pains and trouble they only reap shame and reproach. Wherefore, having in the beginning of this performance engaged to write concerning the navigation of Ethiopia, I shall now make an end of my long travels and peregrinations, by a description of this voyage, in which I shall speak of such things as I saw by the way, on my return from India to my long wished-for country, along with the Portuguese.

Leaving India on the 7th of December[115], we directed our course to Ethiopia[116]; and having sailed across the great gulf we came to the island of Monzambrick, or Mozambique, which is under the dominion of the king of Portugal. But before our arrival there, we saw many towns and fortresses by the way, belonging to the Portuguese, in the kingdoms of Melinda and Mombaza. They have also some strong fortresses in Mozambique and Sofala. Were I to enlarge upon the memorable deeds of the valiant Tristran de Cunna, on his return from India, I should enter upon a subject far beyond my powers, being such as would rather require the pen of a Homer or a Virgil. For he invaded and subdued the great cities of Gogia, Pati, and Crava[117], and also the goodly island of Sacutara (Socotoro), where a fortress was erected by order of the king of Portugal. I omit also to speak of many islands which we saw by the way, such as the island of Cumeris, or Curia Muria, and six others, which produce plenty of ginger, sugar, and other goodly fruits, and the most fruitful island of Penda, which is likewise subject to the Portuguese.

From the island of Mozambique, which belongs to Portugal, it brought much gold and ivory, but these come from the continent of Ethiopia. This island is not large, but has a commodious port, and is inhabited by black Mahometans[118], who are in great want of all the necessaries of life, having no corn or provisions but what are brought from the continent. We landed on the continental part of Ethiopia to see the country, where we saw a barbarous Vagabond people of blacks, both men and women going entirely naked, except covering their parts of shame with leaves of trees. Their lips are two fingers thick, their foreheads very large, and they have great teeth as white as snow. They are exceedingly timorous and fearful of armed men; wherefore six of us, well armed with muskets, and accompanied by a black slave who knew the country, went a considerable way inland to view the country. When we had gone forwards a day's journey, we came to many herds of elephants, and our guide recommended to us to carry burning firebrands in our hands, as these beasts are afraid of fire above all things; but we chanced to fall in with three female elephants that had lately calved, and they could not be scared by our fire, but followed us so far that we were obliged to save ourselves by scrambling up a steep mountain.

When we were about ten miles inland, we came to a cave on the side of a mountain inhabited by some of the black natives, whose manner of speech was so strange and chattering, like so many apes, that I am unable to express the manner of their language, which comes near the strange jargon used by the muleteers of Sicily, when they drive their mules[119]. Our pilot asked us if we were inclined to purchase any cattle from these people, saying that we might have them at a very low price; but suspecting that he either mocked us, or meant, in concert with the natives, to impose upon us, we said that we had no money. Then he told us that these people wanted no money, having already gold in greater plenty than we, which they procure not far from where we were. On asking him what articles they were desirous of in payment for their cattle, he said they preferred things of small value, such as pins, knives, scissars, looking-glasses, hawks-bells, bags, or boxes, to contain their gold, copper rings, janglings to hang at their timbrils, bosses, laces, broaches, copper-chains, caskanets, bracelets, and such like baubles to deck their wives and children. We then said that we would willingly give them such things for their cattle if they would bring them to us at the shore; but the pilot said the natives would drive them to the next mountain, but no farther on any condition.

Then one of our companions said that he had a boss of engraven copper, and a small bell; and as I had none of such merchandise, and yet was desirous of eating fresh meat, I said I would give one of my shirts to buy cattle. The pilot engaged to make our purchases to the best advantage, and calling five or six of the natives about him, he shewed them our goodly jewels, and demanded from them three hundred head of cattle. The natives, not differing much from beasts, answered by signs that they would only give fifteen. At length we made a bargain, though we still suspected some deceit; yet they kept their promise, and sent us fifteen beasts by two of their companions. We had scarcely gone when we heard a noise and tumult among them, and were in some fear lest these troglodytes [=cave-dwellers]  might follow to do us some injury, wherefore leaving the cattle we took to our weapons. But they made signs to us to fear nothing, and the pilot told us they were quarrelling who should have the copper boss. Then recovering our cattle, we drove them forward to the top of the mountain, where we dismissed the two natives, and continued our journey towards the coast. While driving our cattle past a little wood, we again fell in with the elephants, which put us in such fear that we abandoned our cattle and trusted to our feet, making the best of our way to the island.

Having made provision for our voyage of such things as could be procured at Mozambique, we sailed for the Cape of Good Hope, passing the island of St. Lawrence, otherwise called Madagascar, which is 80 leagues from the nearest part of the continent. I suppose that in a short time the Portuguese will be masters of this island, as they have burned and destroyed many of its towns and villages, and are much feared by the natives. So far as I conjecture by my peregrinations, especially those in India and Ethiopia, it is my opinion that the king of Portugal is likely to be the richest king in the world, if he continue as he has begun; and certainly his dignity and godly zeal is not unworthy of such high fortune, as by his means the knowledge of the Christian faith is greatly extended. In Cochin, where the viceroy of India resides, every holiday ten or twelve Mahometans or idolaters are professed to our religion; so that we may have good hope that in time our faith may greatly spread with the blessing of God, who hath given such miraculous victories to the Christians; wherefore all who profess to believe in the holy name of Christ, ought incessantly to pray to God to assist the king of Portugal in so godly an enterprise.

When we had sailed about two hundred miles beyond the Cape of Good Hope, there arose a sudden tempest of contrary wind, which towed us to and fro for seven days in great danger, but we escaped by the blessing of God. After the cessation of this tempest, and when we had again proceeded other two hundred miles on our voyage, a new tempest arose, which scattered all our ships during six days that it continued, so that we did not all meet again till our arrival at Lisbon in Portugal. I was in a ship called the St. Vincent, belonging to one Bartholomew, a Florentine, who was a citizen of Lisbon. She was a vessel of great size, and carried seven hundred tons of spices of all kinds. We passed the island of St Helena, near which we saw certain fishes of such enormous bigness that one of them was as large as a great house. When they rise above water, or gape or yawn, the upper jaw covers all the forehead, as it were a soldier in shining armour, and when they swim along the surface of the deep, the forehead seems three paces broad. As they swam about near the ships, they raised such a commotion in the sea that we discharged all our artillery to drive them away. We soon afterwards came to an island named Ascension, where we saw many birds about the size of ducks, which were so stupid that we took them with our hands, yet immediately afterwards they shewed wonderful fierceness. In that island we saw no outer living creatures besides these birds, which seemed as if they had never seen mankind before, and there were prodigious quantities of fish around its shores.

Having sailed many days beyond that island, we seemed to have returned again into our own world, as the north star, the guide of mariners, appeared to us. Here we have a good opportunity of refuting the opinion of those who think that it is impossible to sail in the regions of the antartic pole by the guidance of the north star; for it is undeniable that the Portuguese sail by the aid of the north polar star, although entirely hidden from their sight in the antartic region of the sea. Yet they frequently refresh the virtue of the needle by means of that stone which ever naturally points towards the north. A few days afterwards we arrived at a fair region, in which are seen many islands called the Astures Açores, so named from the multitude of that species of eagles or hawks which are called açores or azores. These islands are variously named, as Pico, Martii, Corvo, Flores, St George, Gratiosa and Fyal. From thence we went to the island of Tercera, where we remained two days. All these are very fertile, and have abundance of all the necessaries of life.

Departing from thence, we came in seven days sailing to Luxburne or Ulisbona (Lisbon), in Portugal. On my arrival I was carried to the presence of the king, whose hand I had the honour to kiss, and with most humble reverence I thanked his majesty for the great favour I had found with his officers and subjects in India. He entertained me very graciously at his court, until I had informed him fully of all that I had observed in my peregrinations in various parts of India. Some days afterwards, I shewed his majesty the letters-patent by which his viceroy in India had honoured me with the order of knighthood, and humbly requested of his majesty to confirm the same under his great seal, which he was graciously pleased to grant. Then departing from Lisbon, with the passport and safe conduct of the king, I returned at length, after these my long and perilous travels, to my long-desired native home, the city of Rome, by the blessing of God, to whom be all honour and glory.

[Footnote 115: Probably of the year 1508.--E.]
[Footnote 116: It is hardly necessary to remark, that the term Ethiopia is here applied to the western coast of Africa on the ocean.--E.]
[Footnote 117: The Gogia of the text is probably Oja, on the coast of Africa, 17 leagues from Melinda, and Pati may possibly be some corruption of Paniany, both of these places having been reduced by de Cunna. Crava may be an error for Brava, on the western coast of Africa.--E.]
[Footnote 118: Perhaps this expression ought to have been black-a-moors, the old name for negroes.--E.]
[Footnote 119: Perhaps alluding to the cluck, which occurs perpetually in the language of the Hottentots, resembling the sound used in some parts to urge on a horse, and which is inexpressible in orthography.--E.]


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