The Fardle of Facions, by Johannes Boemus

Of Asie.

The Seconde Parte.

The first Chapitre.

Of Asie and the peoples moste famous therin.

Asie, the seconde part of the thre wherin to we haue said that the whole erth is diuided: tooke name as some hold opinion, of the doughter of Oceanus, and Tethis, named Asia, the wife of Iaphetus, and the mother of Prometheus. Or as other affirme, of Asius, the sonne of Maneye the Lidian. And it stretcheth it self from the South, bowtyng25 by the Easte into the Northe: hauyng on the West parte the two flouddes, Nilus and Tanais, and the whole Sea Euxinum, and parte of the middle earth sea. Vpon the other thre quarters, it is lysted in with the Occean, whiche where he cometh by Easte Asie, is called Eous (as ye would saie toward the dawnyng) by the South, Indicus (of the countrie named India) and aftre the name of the stoure Scithiane, vpon the northe Scythicus. The greate mounteine Taurus ronnyng East and West, and in a maner equally partyng the lande in twaine: leaueth one parte on the Northe side, called by the Grekes the outer Asie: and another on the South, named the inner Asie. This mounteine in many places is founde thre hundred lxxv. miles broade: and of length equalle with the whole countrie. About a fiue hundred thre skore and thre miles. From the coast of the Rhodes, vnto the farthest part of Inde, and Scythia Eastwarde. And it is deuided into many sondrie partes, in sondrie wise named, whereof some are larger, some lesse. This Asie is of suche a sise, as aucthorus holde opinion, that Affrike and Europe ioyned together: are scante able to matche it in greatnes. It is of a temperate heate and a fertile soile, and therefore full of all kindes of beaste, foule, and worme, and it hath in it many countries and Seignouries.

On the other side of the redde Sea, ouer against Egipte in Affrike: lieth the tripartite region, named Arabia, whose partes are, Petrea: boundyng West and Northe vpon Siria: and right at fronte before hym Eastwarde, Deserta: and Arabia Felix by Southe. Certein writers also adioyne to Arabia: Pancheia, and Sabea. It is iudged to haue the name of Arabus, the sonne of Apollo and Babilone.

The Arabiens beyng a greate people, and dwellyng very wide and brode: are in their liuyng very diuers, and as sondrie in religion. Thei vse to go with long heare vnrounded and forked cappes, somewhat mitre like, all aftre one sorte, and their beardes partie shauen. Thei vse not as we doe, to learne faculties and sciences one of another by apprenticehode, but looke what trade the father occupied, the same doeth the sonne generally applie himself to, and continue in. The mooste aunciente and eldest father that can be founde in the whole Countrie, is made their Lorde and Kyng. Looke what possessions any one kindrede hath, the same be commune to all those of that bloude: Yea one wife serueth theim all. Wherefore he that cometh firste into the house, laieth doune his falchion before the dore, as a token that the place is occupied. The seniour of the stocke enioieth her alnight Thus be thei all brethren and sistren one to another, throughout the whole people. Thei absteine fro the embrasinges neither of sister ne mother, but all degrees are in that poinct as indifferent to than, as to beastes of the fieldes. Yet is adulterie death emong them. And this is adulterie there: to abandon the bodie to one of another kindred. And who so is by suche an ouerthwarte begotten: is iudged a bastard, and otherwise not. Thei bancquet not lightly together, vndre the nombre of thirtie persones. Alwaie foresene that, two of the same nombre at the leaste, be Musicens. Waiters haue thei none, but one kinsman to minister to another, and one to helpe another. Their tounes and cities are wallesse, for thei liue quietly and in peace one with another. Thei haue no kinde of oyle, but that whiche is made of Sesama, but for all other thynges, thei are most blessed with plentie. They haue Shiepe greater than Kien, and verie white of woulle. Horses haue thei none, ne none desire, for that their Chamelles in al niedes serue them as well. Thei haue siluer and golde plentie, and diuerse kindes of spices, whiche other countries haue not. Laton, Brasse, Iron, Purple, Safron, the precious rote costus, and all coruen woorkes, are brought into theim by other. Thei bewrie their kyng in a donghille, for other thei wille skante take so muche laboure. There is no people that better kiepeth their promise and couenaunt, then thei doe, and thus thei behight it.

When thei wille make any solempne promise, couenaunte, or league, the two parties commyng together, bryng with them a thirde, who standyng in the middes betwixte theim bothe, draweth bloude of eche of them, in the palme of the hande, along vndre the rote of the fingres, with a sharpe stone: and then pluckyng from eche of their garmentes a little iaggue, [A small piece.] he ennoyncteth with that bloude seuen other stones, lyeng ready betwixte theim, for that purpose. And whilest he so doeth, he calleth vpon the name of Dionisius and Vrania, whom thei accompte emong the nombre of goddes, reuengers of faithelesse faithes. This done, he that was the sequestrer of the couenaunte become thsuretie for the parties. And this maner of contracte, he that standeth moste at libertie, thinketh miete to be kepte.

Thei haue no firynge but broken endes and chippes of Myrrhe, whose smoke is so vnwholsome, that excepte thei withstode the malice therof with the perfume of Styrax, it would briede in them vncurable diseases. The Cinamome whiche groweth emong theim, none gather but the priestes. And not thei neither, before thei haue sacrificed vnto the goddes. And yet further thei obserue, that the gatheryng neither beginne before the Sonne risyng, ne continue aftre the goyng doune. He that is lorde and gouernour emong them, when the whole gather is brought together, deuideth out vnto euery man his heape with a Iauelines ende, whiche thei haue ordinarily consecrate for that purpose. And emongest other, the Sonne also hath a heape deuided out for hym, whiche (if the deuision be iuste) he kindeleth immediatly with his owne beames, and brenneth into asshes. Some of the Arabiens that are pinched with penurie, without all regard of body, life, or helth, doe eate Snakes, and Addres, and suche like vermine, and therefore are called of the Grekes Ophyophagi.

The Arabiens named Nomades, occupie much Chamelles, bothe in warre and burden, and all maner cariage, farre and nighe. The floude that ronneth alonge their bordes, hathe in it as it ware limall of golde in great plentie. Whiche they neuertheles for lacke of knowledge do neuer fine into masse.

Another people of Arabia named Deboe, are for the great parte shepemasters, and brieders. Parte of them notwithstanding, occupie husbandrie, and tilthe. These haue suche plentie of gold, that oftetimes emong the cloddes in the fieldes thei finde litle peables of golde as bigge as akecornes, whiche thei vse to set finely with stones, and weare for owches aboute their necke and armes, with a very good grace. They sell their golde vnto their borderers for the thirde parte of Laton, or for the halfe parte of siluer. Partly for that they nothing estieme it, and specially for the desire of the thinges that foreiners haue. Nexte vnto them lie the Sabeis, whose riches chiefely consisteth in encence, Myrrhe and Cinamome, howbeit some holde opinion also that Baulme groweth in some places of their borders. Thei haue also many date trees very redolente of smelle, and the roote called Calamus.

There is in that contry a kinde of serpentes lurking in the rootes of trees, of haulfe a foote lengthe, whose bitinge is for the moste parte death. The plenty of swiete odours, and sauours in those quarters, doeth verely stuffe the smelling. And to avoyde that incommoditie, they oftentimes vse the fume of astincking gomme, and gotes heare chopped together. Ther is no man that hath to do to giue sentence vpon any case but the king. The mooste parte of the Sabeis apply husbandrie. The residewe gatheringe of spices and drugges. They sayle into Ethiope for trade of marchaundise, in barkes couered with leather. The refuse of their cinamome and Cassian they occupy for firing. Their chiefe citie is called Saba, and stondeth vpon a hyll. Their kynges succed by discente of bloude, not any one of the kindred certeine, but suche as the people haue in moste honour, be he good or be he badde. The king neuer dare be sene oute of his Palace, for that there goeth an olde prophecie emong them of a king that shoulde be stoned to deathe of the people. And euery one feareth it shoulde lighte on him selfe. They that are about the king of the Sabeis: haue plate bothe of siluer and golde of all sortest curiously wrought and entallied. Tables, fourmes, trestles of siluer, and all furniture of household sumptuous aboue measure. They haue also Galeries buylte vppon great pillours, whose coronettes are of golde and of siluer. Cielinges voultinges, dores and gates couered with siluer and golde, and set with precious stones: garnisshinges of yuorye, and other rare thinges whiche emong men are of price. And in this bounteous magnificence haue thei continued many yeres. For why the gredy compasse how to atteyne honoure with the vniuste rapine of other mennes goodes, that hath tombled downe headeling so many commune wealthes, neuer had place emong them. In richesse equal vnto them, are the Garrei, whose implementes of household are all of golde and siluer, and of those and yuorie together, are their portalles, their cielinges, and rophes, made. The Nabatheens of all other Arabiens are the beste husbandes, and thriftiest sparers. Their caste is wittye in winning of substaunce, but greater in kepinge it. He that appaireth the substaunce that was lefte him, is by a commune lawe punished: and contrariwise that encreaseth it, muche praysed and honoured.

The Arabiens vse in their warres swerde, bowe, launce, slinge, and battle ax. The rable of helhoundes (whom we calle Sarasines) that pestilent murreine of mankinde, came of this people. And as it is to be thoughte, at this daye the great parte of Arabia is degenerate into that name. But thei that dwell towarde Egipte, kepe yet their olde name, and lyue by butin,26 like prickers of the bordre, wherin, the swiftenes of their camelles doeth them good seruice.

25 Bending

26 Booty, from the French “Butin.”

Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 20:27