The fift voiage into Persia made by M. Thomas Banister, and master Geofrey Ducket, Agents for the Moscouie companie, began from England in the yeere 1568, and continuing to the yeere 1574 following. Written by P. I. from the mouth of M. Lionel Plumtree.
Vpon the 3. day of Iuly 1568, they embarked themselues at Yeraslaue, being accompanied with Lionel Plumtree, and some 12. English men more, in a Barke called the Thomas Bonauenture of the burden of 70. tunnes, taking also along with them of Russes to the number of 40. for their vse and imploiments. The English Barke assaulted neere Astracan by the Nagaian Tartars. It fell out in the way, before they came to Astracan by 40. miles, that the Nagaian Tartars, being a kind of thieuish and cruel people, made an assault vpon them with 18. boates of theirs, each of them being armed, some with swords, some with speares, and some others with bowes and arrowes, and the whole number of them they discouered to be about 300. men. They for their parts, although they could haue wished a quiet voyage and iourney without blowes and violence, yet not willing to be spoiled with such Barbarians as they were, began to defend themselues against their assault, by meanes whereof a very terrible and fierce fight folowed and continued hot and sharpe for two houres, wherein our men so wel plaied their parts with their caliuers, that they forced the Tartars to flee with the losse of 120 of them, as they were afterwards enformed by a Russe prisoner, which escaped from the Nagaians, and came to them to Astracan, at which towne they arriued the 20. of August.
Astracan besieged by 70000 Turks and Tartars. In this towne of Astracan they were somewhat hindered of their iourney, and staied the space of sixe weekes by reason of a great army of 70000. Turkes and Tartars which came thither vpon the instigation of the great Turke, hoping either to haue surprised it suddenly or by continuance of siege to win the same. But in the end by reason that the winter approched, as also, because they had receiued newes of a great expedition, which the Emperour of Russia was in prouiding for the defence of the said place, they were constrained to raise their siege, and to leaue the town as they found it.
Vpon their departure our men had opportunitie to proceed on their voyage, and vsing the occasion, they left Astracan, and came to Bilbil towards the end of October: from whence they went to Shauaran, where (as they lodged in their tentes) they were greatly molested with strange troopes of sholcaues or foxes, which were so busie with them that they tooke their meate and victuals out of their lodgings, and deuoured to the bare bones in one night a mighty wilde Bore that was sent vnto them for a present from the gouenour of the countrey.
Hauing staied here some three or foure daies in prouiding of cariages and other necessaries for their iourney, they departed thence and came to Shamaky, which is foure dayes iourney from the aforesayd Shauaran. In this towne of Shamaky their whole company spent out the Winter, and from thence in April folowing they tooke their iourney towards Ardouil a place of great account and much esteemed, by reason of the sepulchres of the Emperours of Persia, which for the most part lie there buried, and so is growen to bee a place of their superstitious deuotion. In this towne of Ardouil they soiourned the space of 5. or 6. moneths, finding some traffiques and sales, but to no purpose, the towne being more inhabited and frequented with gentlemen and noblemen then merchants.
The difference of religion bred great broiles in this towne whiles they remained there: for the brother sought the destruction of the brother, and the neerest kinsmen rose vp one against another, insomuch that one of their company Lionel Plumtree hath seene in one day sometimes 14 slaine in a garboile. And he being further desirous to see their maner of fight, or rather somewhat more curious to behold, then mistrustful of their blowes, was like to haue borne a share in their bloodie tragedie, being twise wounded with their shot and arrowes, although not to the death.
At this towne the Shah Thomas sent a messenger for our men to come to his presence at Casbin, to whom Thomas Banister failed not to goe, although master Ducket lay very sicke at Ardouil, and in such case that they almost despaired of his recouerie. Hee being come to the Shaugh was receiued and entertained of him with great fauour and speciall countenance, and had the most part of all his requests granted him, this onely excepted, that whereas he entreated a priuiledge or sufferance to transport and cary through his dominions certaine horses into India, the Shaugh seemed both to yeeld thereunto, and yet did not altogether denie it, but referred it to some further time. As for the point of traffique, he could not make that motion or request that was not so soone granted as it was preferred: and the Shaugh himselfe bought there of him many karsies, and made him as good paiment as any man could wish, and oftentimes would send his mony for the wares before the wares were deliuered, that he might be the surer of this honourable intended dealing.
One thing somewhat strange I thought good in this place to remember, that whereas hee purposed to send a great summe of money to Mecca in Arabia, for an offering to Mahomet their prophet, hee would not send any money or coyne of his owne, but sent to the English merchants to exchange his coyne for theirs, according to the value of it, yeelding this reason for the same, that the money of the merchants was gotten by good meanes, and with good consciences, and was therefore woorthie to be made for an oblation to their holy prophet, but his owne money was rather gotten by fraud, oppression and vnhonest meanes, and therefore was not fit to serue for so holie a vse.
After sixe moneths spent in Casbin the sayde Thomas Banister departed towards the great citie of Taruis, where being arriued, he found M. Ducket well recouered of his sicknesse, whom he had left ill at Ardouil.
At this Citie the foresayd Master Ducket made sales of the English commodities, remaining there to that purpose the space of two yeeres and a halfe. And besides other kindes of merchandises of that countrey, he bought great stores of gals which grow in great abundance at a place within one dayes iourney of the aforesayd Taruis.
After this Thomas Banister departed from Tauris, and went to Shamaky to giue order for the transporting of those commodities which were bought for England. And hauing dispatched them away, he went there hence to Arrash, a towne foure dayes iourney with camels from Shamaky for the buying of rawe silke. The death of Thomas Banister and Laurence Chapman. But there by reason of the vnwholesomnesse of the aire, and corruption of the waters in the hole time of the yeere, he with Lawrence Chapman and some other English men vnhappily died: which being knowen of M. Ducket, he immediately came from Taruis to Arrash, to take possession of the goods, for otherwise by the custome of the countrey, if there had bene no merchant or other friend of his to enter vpon that which he left, all had fallen into the Shaughs hands, which goods notwithstanding could not bee recouered from the officers, which had seized and sealed vp the same, vntill M. Ducket had bene in person with the Shaugh, and had procured his order for the deliuerie thereof.
Humfrey Greensell burnt at Ormus. Lionel Plumtree, in the meane time that M. Ducket was at Casbin in sute for goods, vpon the perswasion of certaine Bogharians, made prouision for a iourney to Cathaia, with cariages and commodities, and hauing all things ready, departed secretly with a Carauan: but being gone forwards on his way sixe dayes iourny, some fifty horsemen by the procurement of Humfrey Greensell (who afterwards being at Ormus in the East Indies, was there cruelly burnt in the Inquisition by the Portingals) were sent after him in poste from Sultan Erasbec, the Shaughs lieutenant, to fetch him backe againe, not suffering him to passe on so perillous and dangerous a iourney for feare of diuers inconueinces that might follow.
After this M. Ducket returned from Casbin to Shamaky againe, and immediately made preparation for a iourney to Cassan, being about foure dayes iourney from Shamaky, and caried with him foure mules laden with mony.
In the way of his trauel he passed through Persepolis, sometime the roiall seate of the Emperors of Persia, but now ruined and defaced, whereof remaine to be seene at this day two gates onely that are distant one from the other the space of 12 miles, and some few pinnacles in the mountains and conueiances for fresh water.
The foresaid Cassan is a towne that consisteth altogether of merchandise, and the best trade of all the land is there, being greatly frequented by the merchants of India.
Here our men bought great store of al maner of wrought silkes, and some spices, and good store of Turkie stones.
The towne is much to be commended for the ciuil and good gouernment that is there vsed. An idle person is not suffred to liue amongst them.
The child that is but fine yeeres old is set to some labour. No ill rule, disorder or riote by gaming or otherwise, is there permitted. Playing at Dice or Cards is by the law present death.
At this Cashan they remained about the space of tenne weekes, and then came down againe to Shamaky, and after some time spent in diuers places of the countrey for buying of rawe silke and other commodities, they came at last to Shauaran againe, where their ship was in harbour and then they shipt all their goods and embarked themselues also, setting sayle the eight day of May, in the yeere 1573. intending to fetch Astracan. By reason of the varietie of the windes and dangerous flats of the Caspian sea, they beat it vp and downe some 20. dayes. And the 28. day riding at anker vpon the flats, certaine Russe Cassaks, which are outlawes or banished men, hauing intelligence of their being there, and of the great wealth that they had with them, came to them with diuers boates vnder the colour of friendship, and entered their ship, but immediately they tooke their hatchets and slew diuers of the Russes that were of the ship vpon the hatches: Whereupon master Ducket, Lionell Plumtree, William Smith, the master, a man of singular valure, and Amos Riall being vnder the Spardecke did so well behaue themselues, that they skowred the hatches, and slew 14 of the Cassaks gunners, and hurt and wounded about 30 more; being of them al in number 150. at the least, armed with caliuers and other weapons fit for so villanous a purpose.
The English ship taken by the Cassaks. M. Ducket notwithstanding and the rest aforesaid receiued diuers wounds from the enemie, and were so hurt, and withall so oppressed with the multitude and force of them, that they were at last constrained to make an agreement with the Cassaks by rendring the ship into their hands, hauing receiued first their othes sworne by their crucifixes, not to do any further harme to their persons.
Thus the shippe being taken, and all the English grieuously hurt, the Cassaks immediately discharged the ship of them, putting them all into the ship boate with two or three Persian targets full of horse flesh and swines flesh, without further victuals or reliefe: they being in that case, made the best hast they could to get to Astracan: and being come to the towne, master Ducket made great sute to the captaine to haue men and boates set out for the rescuing and recouering of the ship if it were possible: who immediately sent out his sonne with fortie boates and fiue hundred men to pursue the Pirats, and by good hap came to the place where they rid at anker with the ship, but by reason of their foolishnes in striking vp their drums before they were come neere them, the Cassaks discouering the boats, cut their gables and put out to sea, whereupon the boats not being able to folow them, returned againe to Astracan. After which, 60 boats more were sent out to pursue them againe the second time: and that second army came to a place where they found many of these Cassaks and slew them, and found out the places where they had hid certaine parcels of their goods in the earth in the chests of the ship: all which they recouered againe for the English merchants, to the value of 5000 li. of 30 or 40 thousand pound, but all the rest the Cassaks in the ship had caried away.
In the same place they found further diuers of the Cassaks which the Englishmen had slaine, buried in the earth, and wrapt some in fortie or fiftie yards of Sattin and Taffataes, and some in Turkie carpets cut and spoiled by those villanous Pirats, of whom afterwards as many as could be taken, by the Persians who entirely loued the English merchants, were put to most cruell torments in all places according to their deserts.
But our men being thus spoyled of their goods, and wounded in their bodies, remained about two moneths at Astracan for their better recouerie: and hauing gotten some reasonable strength, they then prouided boates and went vp the riuer of Volga to Cazan, with such goods as they had recouered from the Cassaks. Ice in the beginning of October. From Cazan they went towards Yeraslaue, but in the way the ice intercepted them about the beginning of October, where suddenly in the night they were taken with a cruell and vehement frost, and therewithall the waters so congeled, that their boates were crushed and cut in sunder with the ice, whereby they sustained both a further danger of life and losse of goods: but as much as they could preserue with much adoe, they conueyed ouer land in sleds to Vologda, and from thence sent much of it to Saint Nicholas to be laden in the ships for England.
But Master Ducket, Lionel Plumtree and Amos Riall went with some parcels to the Mosko, and there sold certaine quantities of it to the Emperour, who pitying the mightie losse that they had sustained by his owne rebellious people and subiects, bought himselfe as much as hee liked, and payed present money for the same. 1574. So that Winter being spent out in Mosko, and such wares prouided by them as serued for England, they departed to Saint Nicholas, and there embarked in the moneth of August: and hauing endured a very terrible passage in nine weekes and three dayes, with some hardnesse of victuals, contrary and furious windes, and other sea accidents, they arriued at London in the moneth of October, one thousand fiue hundred seuentie and foure, and so make an ende of an vnfortunate voyage: which if it had pleased God to prosper, that all things had come home as safely as they were carefully prouided, and painfully laboured for, it had proued the richest voiage and most profitable returne of commoditie, that had euer bene vndertaken by English merchants, who, notwithstanding all misfortunes, lost nothing of their principall aduenture, but onely the interest and gaine that might haue risen by the vse of their stocke in the meane time.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:51