Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation, by Richard Hakluyt

The voyage of M. Iohn Eldred to Trypolis in Syria by sea, and from thence by land and riuer to Babylon and Balsara. 1583.

I departed out of London in the ship called the Tiger, in the company of M. Iohn Newbery, M. Ralph Fitch, and sixe or seuen other honest marchants vpon Shroue munday 1583, and arriued in Tripolis of Syria the first day of May next insuing: at our landing we went on Maying vpon S. Georges Iland, a place where Christians dying aboord the ships, are woont to be buried. In this city our English marchants haue a Consull, and our nation abide together in one house with him, called Fondeghi Ingles, builded of stone, square, in maner like a Cloister, and euery man hath his seuerall chamber, as it is the vse of all other Christians of seuerall nations. [the description of Tripolis in Syria.] This towne standeth vnder a part of the mountaine of Libanus two English miles distant from the port: on the side of which port, trending in forme of an halfe Moone, stand fiue blocke houses or small forts, wherein is some very good artillery, and the forts are kept with about an hundred Ianisaries. Right before this towne from the seaward is a banke of mouing sand, which gathereth and increaseth with the Western winds, in such sort, that, according to an olde prophesie among them, this banke is like to swallow vp and ouerwhelme the towne: for euery yere it increaseth and eateth vp many gardens, although they vse all policy to diminish the same, and to make it firme ground. The city is about the bignesse of Bristow, and walled about, though the walles be of no great force. The chiefe strength of the place is in a Citadell, which standeth on the South side within the walles, and ouerlooketh the whole towne, and is strongly kept with two hundred Ianisaries and good artillery. [Sidenote: Store of white silke.] A riuer passeth thorow the midst of the city, wherewith they water their gardens and mulbery trees, on which there grow abundance of silke wormes, wherewith they make great quantity of very white silke, which is the chiefest naturall commodity to be found in and about this place. This rode is more frequented with Christian marchants, to wit, Venetians, Genouois, Florentines, Marsilians, Sicilians, Raguses, and lately with English men, then any other port of the Turks dominions. [Sidenote: The city of Hammah.] From Tripolis I departed the 14 of May with a carauan, passing three dayes ouer the ridge of mount Libanus, at the end whereof we arriued in a city called Hammah, which standeth on a goodly plaine replenished with corne and cotton wooll. On these mountaines which we passed grow great quantity of gall trees, which are somewhat like our okes, but lesser and more crooked: on the best tree a man shall not finde aboue a pound of galles. This towne of Hammah is fallen and falleth more and more to decay, and at this day there is scarse one halfe of the wall standing, which hath bene very strong and faire: but because it cost many mens liues to win it, the Turke will not haue it repaired; and hath written in the Arabian tongue ouer the castle gate, which standeth in the midst of the towne, these words: Cursed be the father and the sonne that shall lay their hands to the repairing hereof. Refreshing our selues one day here, we passed forward with camels three dayes more vntill we came to Aleppo, where we arriued the 21 of May. This is the greatest place of traffique for a dry towne that is in all those parts: for hither resort Iewes, Tartarians, Persians, Armenians, Egyptians, Indians, and many sorts of Christians, and enioy freedome of their consciences, and bring thither many kinds of rich marchandises. In the middest of this towne also standeth a goodly castle raised on high, with a garrison of foure or fiue hundred Ianisaries. Within four miles round about are goodly gardens and vineyards and trees, which beare goodly fruit neere vnto the riuers side, which is but small; the walles are about three English miles in compasse, but the suburbs are almost as much more. The towne is greatly peopled. We departed from thence with our camels the last day of May with M. Iohn Newbery and his company, and came to Birrah in three dayes, being a small towne situated vpon the riuer Euphrates, where it beginneth first to take his name, being here gathered into one chanell, whereas before it commeth downe in manifolde branches, and therefore is called by the people of the countrey by a name which signifieth a thousand heads. Here is plenty of victuals, whereof we all furnished our selues for a long iourney downe the aforesayd riuer. And according to the maner of those that trauell downe by water, we prepared a small barke for the conueyance of our selues and of our goods. [Sidenote: Euphrates shallow.] These boates are flat bottomed, because the riuer is shallow in many places: and when men trauell in the moneth of Iuly, August, and September, the water being then at the lowest, they are constrained to cary with them a spare boat or two to lighten their owne boates, if they chance to fall on the sholds. [Eight and twenty days iourney by riuer.] We were eight and twenty dayes vpon the water betweene Birrah and Felugia, where we disimbarked our selues and our goods. Euery night after the Sun setteth, we tie our barke to a stake, go on land to gather sticks, and set on our pot with rice or brused wheat, and hauing supped, the marchants lie aboord the barke, and the mariners vpon the shores side as nere as they can vnto the same. [Arabians vpon the riuer of Euphrates.] In many places vpon the riuers side we met with troops of Arabians, of whom we bought milke, butter, egges, and lambs, and gaue them in barter, (for they care not for money) glasses, combes, corall, amber, to hang about their armes and necks, and for churned milke we gaue them bread and pomgranat peeles, wherewith they vse to tanne their goats skinnes which they churne withall. [The Arabian women weare golde rings in their nostrels.] Their haire, apparell, and colour are altogether like to those vagabond Egyptians, which heretofore haue gone about in England. Their women all without exception weare a great round ring in one of their nostrels, of golde, siluer, or yron, according to their ability, and about their armes and smalles of their legs they haue hoops of golde, siiuer or yron. All of them as wel women and children as men, are very great swimmers, and often times swimming they brought vs milke to our barke in vessels vpon their heads. These people are very theeuish, which I prooued to my cost: for they stole a casket of mine, with things of good value in the same, from vnder my mans head as he was asleepe: and therefore trauellers keepe good watch as they passe downe the riuer. [Euphrates described.] Euphrates at Birrah is about the breadth of the Thames at Lambeth, and in some places narrower, in some broader: it runneth very swiftly, almost as fast as the riuer of Trent: it hath diuers sorts of fish in it, but all are scaled, some as bigge as salmons, like barbils. We landed at Felugia the eight and twentieth of Iune, where we made our abode seuen dayes, for lacke of camels to cary our goods to Babylon: the heat at that time of the yere is such in those parts, that men are loth to let out their camels to trauell. This Felugia is a village of some hundred houses, and a place appointed for discharging of such goods as come downe the riuer: the inhabitants are Arabians. Not finding camels here, we were constrained to vnlade our goods, and hired an hundred asses to cary our marchandises onely to New Babylon ouera short desert, in crossing whereof we spent eighteene houres trauelling by night, and part of the morning, to auoid the great heat.

[The ruines of olde Babylon.] In this place which we crossed ouer, stood the olde mighty city of Babylon, many olde ruines whereof are easily to be seene by day-light, which I Iohn Eldred haue often beheld at my good leasure, hauing made three voyages betweene the new city of Babylon and Aleppo ouer this desert. Here also are yet standing the ruines of the olde tower of Babel, which being vpon a plaine ground seemeth a farre off very great, but the nerer you come to it, the lesser and lesser it appeareth; sundry times I haue gone thither to see it, and found the remnants yet standing aboue a quarter of a mile in compasse, and almost as high as the stone worke of Pauls steeple in London, but it sheweth much bigger. The bricks remaining in this most ancient monument be halfe a yard thicke, and three quarters of a yard long, being dried in the Sunne onely, and betweene euery course of bricks there lieth a course of mattes made of canes, which remaine sound and not perished, as though they had bene layed within one yeere. The city of New Babylon ioineth vpon the aforesayd small desert where the Olde city was, and the riuer of Tigris runneth close vnder the wall, and they may if they will open a sluce, and let the water of the same runne round about the towne. It is aboue two English miles in compasse, and the inhabitants generally speake three languages, to wit, the Persian, Arabian and Turkish Tongues: the people are of the Spaniards complexion: and the women generally weare in one of the gristles of their noses a ring like a wedding ring, but somewhat greater, with a pearle and a Turkish stone set therein: and this they do be they neuer so poore.

[Rafts borne vpon bladders of goat skins.] This is a place of very great traffique, and a very great thorowfare from the East Indies to Aleppo. The towne is very well furnished with victuals which come downe the riuer of Tigris from Mosul which was called Niniuie in olde time. They bring these victuals and diuers sorts of marchandises vpon rafts, borne vpon goats skins blowenvp full of wind in maner of bladders. And when they haue discharged their goods, they sel the rafts for fire, and let the wind out of their goats skins, and cary them home againe vpon their asses by land, to make other voyages downe the riuer. The building here is most of bricke dried in the Sun, and very litle or no stone is to be found: their houses are all flat-roofed and low. [Sidenote: Seldome rain.] They haue no raine for eight moneths together, nor almost any clouds in the skie night nor day. Their Winter is in Nouember, December, Ianuary and February, which is as warme as our Summer in England in a maner. This I know by good experience, because my abode at seuerall times in this city of Babylon hath bene at the least the space of two yeeres. As we come to the city, we passe ouer the riuer of Tigris on a great bridge made with boats chained together with two mighty chaines of yron. [Eight and twenty dayes iourney more by riuer, from Babylon to Balsara.] From thence we departed in flat bottomed barks more strong and greater then those of Euphrates, and were eight and twenty dayes also in passing downe this riuer to Balsara, but we might haue done it in eighteene or less, if the water had bene higher. Vpon the waters side stand by the way diuer townes resembling much the names of the olde prophets: the first towne they call Ozeah, and another Zecchiah. Before we come to Balsara by one dayes iourney, the two riuers of Tigris and Euphrates meet, and there standeth a castle called Curna, kept by the Turks, where all marchants pay a small custome. Here the two riuers ioyned together begin to be eight or nine miles broad: here also it beginneth to ebbe and flow, and the water ouerflowing maketh the countrey all about very fertile of corne, rice, pulse, and dates. The towne of Balsara is a mile and an halfe in circuit: all the buildings, castle and wals, are made of bricke, dried in the Sun. The Turke hath here fiue hundred Ianisaries, besides other souldiers continually in garison and pay, but his chiefe strength is of gallies which are about fiue and twenty or thirty very faire and furnished with goodly ordinance. To this port of Balsara come monethly diuers ships from Ormuz, laden with all sorts of Indian marchandise, as spices, drugs, Indico and Calecut cloth. These ships are vsually from forty to threescore tunnes, hauing their planks sowed together with corde made of the barke of Date trees, and in stead of Occam they vse the shiuerings of the barke of the sayd trees, and of the same they also make their tackling. [Ships made without yron in the Persian gulfe.] They haue no kind of yron worke belonging to these vessels, saue only their ankers. From this place six dayes sailing downe the gulfe, they goe to a place called Baharem in the mid way to Ormus: there they fish for pearles foure moneths in the yeere, to wit, in Iune, Iuly, August, and September. [Zelabdim Echebar king of Cambaia.] My abode in Balsara was iust sixe moneths, during which time I receiued diuers letters from M. Iohn Newberry from Ormus, who as he passed that way with her Maiesties letters to Zelabdim Echebar king of Cambaia, and vnto the mighty emperour of China, was traiterously there arrested, and all his company, by the Portugals, and afterward sent prisoner to Goa; where after a long and cruell imprisonmeat, he and his companions were deliuered vpon sureties, not to depart the towne without leaue, at the sute of one father Thomas Steuens, an English religious man which they found there: but shortly after three of them escaped, whereof one, to wit, M. Ralph Fitch, is since come into England. The fourth, which was a painter called Iohn Story, became religious in the college of S. Paul in Goa, as we vnderstood by their letters. [He returneth from Balsara to Aleppo.] I and my companion William Shales hauing dispatched our businesse at Balsara, imbarked our selues in company of seuenty barks all laden with marchandise, hauing euery barke 14. men to draw them, like our Westerne bargemen on the Thames, and we were forty foure dayes comming vp against the streame to Babylon, [Their provision of victuals.] where arriuing and paying our custome, we with all other sorts of marchants bought vs camels, hired vs men to lade and driue them, furnished our selues with rice, butter, bisket, hony made of dates, onions and dates: and euery marchant bought a proportion of liue muttons, and hired certaine shepheards to driue them with vs: we also bought vs tents to lie in and to put our goods under: [A Carauan of foure thousand Camels.] and in this our carauan were foure thousand camels laden with spices, and other rich marchandises. These camels will liue very well two or three dayes without water: their feeding is on thistles, wormewood, magdalene, and other strong weeds which they finde vpon the way. The gouernment and deciding of all quarels and dueties to be payed, the whole carauan commiteth to one speciall rich marchant of the company, of whose honesty they conceiue best. In passing from Babylon to Aleppo, we spent forty dayes, trauelling twenty, or foure and twenty miles a day, resting ourselues commonly from two of the clocke in the afternoone, vntill three in the morning, at which time we begin to take our iourney. Eight dayes iourney from Babylon toward Aleppo, neere vnto a towne called Heit, as we crosse the riuer Euphrates by boates, about 3. miles from the town there is a valley wherein are many springs throwing out abundantly at great mouths, a kinde of blacke substance like vnto tarre, which serueth all the countrey to make stanch their barkes and boates: euery one of these springs maketh a noise like vnto a Smiths forge in the blowing and puffing out of this matter, which neuer ceaseth night nor day, and the noise may be heard a mile off continually. This vale swalloweth vp all heauie things that come vpon it. The people of the countrey call it in their language Babil gehenham, that is to say, Hell doore. As we passed through these deserts, we saw certaine wild beasts, as wild asses all white, Roebucks, wolfes, leopards, foxes, and many hares, whereof we chased and killed many. Aborise the king of the wandring Arabians in these deserts hath a dutie of 40. s. sterling, vpon euery Camels lode, which he sendeth his officers to receiue of the Carauans, and in consideration hereof, he taketh vpon him to conduct the sayd Carauans if they need his helpe, and to defend them against certaine prowling thieues. [William Barret Consul in Aleppo.] I and my companion William Shales came to Aleppo with the Carauan the eleuenth of Iune, 1584. where we were ioyfully receiued 20. miles distant from the towne by M. William Barret our Consull, accompanied with his people and Ianissaries, who fell sicke immediately and departed this life within 8. dayes after, and elected before his death M. Anthonie Bate Consul of our English nation in his place, who laudably supplied the same roome 3. yeeres. [Two voyages more made to Babylon.] In which meane time I made two voyages more vnto Babylon, and returned by the way aforesayd, ouer the deserts of Arabia. And afterwards, as one desirous to see other parts of the countrey, I went from Aleppo to Antioch, which is thence 60. English miles, and from thence went downe to Tripolis, where going aboord a small vessell, I arriued at Ioppe, and trauelled to Rama, Lycia, Gaza, Ierusalem, Bethleem, to the riuer of Iordan, and the sea or lake of Zodome, and returned backe to Ioppe, and from thence by sea to Tripolis, of which places because many others haue published large discourses, I surcease to write. Within few dayes after imbarking my selfe at Tripolis the 22. of December, I arriued (God be thanked) in safety here in the riuer of Thames with diuers English marchants, the 26. of March, 1588, in the Hercules of London, which was the richest ship of English marchants goods that euer was knowen to come into this realme.

Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 19:52