Further obseruations concerning the state of Persia, taken in the foresayd fift voyage into those partes, and written by M. Geffery Ducket, one of the Agents emploied in the same.
Shamaky is the fairest towne in all Media, and the chiefest commoditie of that countrey is rawe silke, and the greatest plentie thereof is at a towne three dayes iourney from Shamaky called Arash: Grosin or Georgia. and within 3. dayes iourney of Arash is a countrey named Grosin, whose inhabitants are Christians, and are thought to be they which are otherwise called Georgians: there is also much silke to be sold. The chief towne of that countrey is called Zegham, from whence is caried yeerely into Persia, an incredible quantitie of Hasell nuts, all of one sort and goodnesse, and as good and thin shaled as are our Filberds. Of these are caried yeerely the quantitie of 4000. Camels laden.
Of the name of the Sophy of Persia, and why he is called the Shaugh, and of other customes.
The king of Persia (whom here, we call the great Sophy) is not there so called, but is called the Shaugh. It were there dangerous to cal him by the name of Sophy, because that Sophy in the Persian tongue, is a begger, and it were as much as to call him. The great begger. He lieth at a towne called Casbin, which is situate in a goodly fertile valley of 3. or 4. daies iourney in length. The towne is but euil builded, and for the most part all of bricke, not hardened with fire, but only dried at the sunne, as is the most part of the building of all Persia. The king hath not come out of the compasse of his owne house in 33. or 34. yeeres, whereof the cause is not knowen, but as they say, it is vpon a superstition of certaine prophesies to which they are greatly addicted: he is now about 80. yeeres of age, and very lusty. And to keepe him the more lusty, he hath 4. wiues alwayes, and about 300. concubines, and once in the yeere he hath all the faire maidens and wiues that may be found a great way about brought vnto him, whom he diligently peruseth, feeling them in all parts, taking such as he liketh, and putting away some of them which he hath kept before, and with them that he putteth away, he gratifieth some such as hath done him the best seruice. And if hee chance to take any mans wife, her husband is very glad thereof, and in recompense of her, oftentimes he giueth the husband one of his old store, whom he thankfully receiueth.
How strangers are used. If any stranger being a Christian shall come before him, he must put on a new paire of shooes made in that countrey, and from the place where be entreth, there is digged as it were a causey all the way, vntil he come to the place where he shal talke with the king who standeth alwayes aboue in a gallerie, when he talketh with any strangers: and when the stranger is departed, then is the causey cast downe, and the ground made euen againe.
Of the religion of the Persians.
Their religion is all one with the Turkes, sauing that they differ who was the right successor of Mahumet. The Turkes say that it was one Homer and his sonne Vsman. But the Persians say that it was one Mortus Ali, which they would prooue in this maner. They say there was a counsell called to decide the matter who should be the successor: and after they had called vpon Mahumet to reueale vnto them his will and pleasure therein, there came among them a little Lizard, who declared that it was Mahumets pleasure that Mortus Ali should be his successor. A goodly and well grounded religion. This Mortus Ali was a valiant man and slew Homer the Turkes prophet. He had a sword that hee fought withall, with the which hee conquered all his enemies, and killed as many as he stroke. When Mortus Ali died, there came a holy prophet, who gaue them warning that shortly there would come a white Camell, vpon the which he charged them to lay the body and sword of Mortus Ali, and to suffer the Camel to cary it whither he would. The which being performed, the said white camell caried the sword and body of Mortus Ali taken vp into heauen, for whose return they haue long looked in Persia. And for this cause the king alwayes keepeth a horse ready sadled for him, and also of late kept for him one of his owne daughters to be his wife, but she died in the yere of our Lord, 1573. And they say furthermore, that if he come not shortly, they shalbe of our beliefe: much like the Iewes, looking for their Messias to come and reigne among them like a worldly king for euer, and deliuer them from the captiuitie which they are now in among the Christians, Turkes, and Gentiles.
The Shaugh or king of Persia is nothing in strength and power comparable vnto the Turke: for although he hath a great Dominion, yet is it nothing to be compared with the Turks: neither hath he any great Ordinance or gunnes, or harquebusses. Notwithstanding his eldest sonne Ismael about 25. yeeres past, fought a great battell with the Turke, and slew of his armie about an hundred thousand men: who after his returne was by his father cast into prison, and there continueth vntil this day: for his father the Shaugh had him in suspicion that he would haue put him downe, and haue taken the regiment vnto himselfe.
Their opinion of Christ. Their opinion of Christ is, that he was an holy man and a great Prophet, but not like vnto Mahumet: saying, that Mahumet was the last prophet by whom all things were finished, and was therefore the greatest. To prooue that Christ was not Gods sonne, they say that God had neuer wife, and therefore could haue no sonne or children. They go on pilgrimage from the furthest part of Persia vnto Mecha in Arabia, and by the way they visite also the sepulchre of Christ at Ierusalem, which they now call Couch Kaly.
The most part of spices which commeth into Persia is brought from the Island of Ormus, situate in the gulfe of Persia called Sinus Persicus, betweene the maine land of Persia and Arabia, &c. The Portingals touch at Ormus both in their voyage to East India and homeward againe, and from thence bring all such spices as are occupied in Persia and the regions thereabout: for of pepper, they bring very small quantitie, and that at a very deare price.
The Turkes oftentimes bring pepper from Mecha in Arabia, which they sell as good cheape as that which is brought from Ormus. Silkes are brought from no place, but are wrought all in their owne countrey. Ormus is within two miles of the maine land of Persia, and the Portingals fetch their fresh water there, for the which they pay tribute to the Shaugh or king of Persia.
Their money. Within Persia they haue neither gold nor siluer mines, yet haue they coined money both of gold and siluer, and also other small moneys of copper. There is brought into Persia an incredible summe of Dutch dollars, which for the most part are there imploied in raw silke.
Their bookes and learning. They haue few bookes and lesse learning, and are for the most part very brutish in al kind of good sciences, sauing in some kind of silke works, and in such things as pertaine to the furniture of horses, in the which they are passing good.
Such was the law of the Macedonians for treason. Their lawes are as in their religion, wicked and detestable. And if any man offend the prince, he punisheth it extremely, not onely in the person that offendeth, but also in his children, and in as many as are of his kin. Theft and murther are often punished, yet none otherwise then pleaseth him that is ruler in the place where the offence is committed, and as the partie offending is able to make friends, or with money to redeeme his offence.
Dissention for religion. There is oftentimes great mutinie among the people in great Townes which of Mortus Ali his sonnes was greatest: insomuch that sometimes in the towne two or three thousand people are together by the eares for the same, as I haue seene in the towne of Shamaky and Ardouil, and also in the great City of Tiueris, where I haue seene a man comming from fighting, in a brauerie bringing in his hand foure or fiue mens heads, carying them by the haire of the head: for although they shaue their heads most commonly twise a weeke, yet leaue they a tuft of haire vpon their heads about 2. foote long. I haue enquired why they leaue the tuft of haire vpon their heads. They answered that thereby they may easiler be carried vp into heauen when they are dead.
Their priests and preaching. Their Lent. For their religion they haue certairie priests who are apparelled like vnto other men. They vse euery morning and afternoone to go vp to the tops of their churches, and tell there a great tale of Mahumet and Mortus Ali: and other preaching haue they none. Their Lent is after Christmas, not in abstinence from flesh onely, but from all meats and drinks, vntill the day be off the side, but then they eate somtimes the whole night. And although it be against their religion to drinke wine, yet at night they will take great excesses thereof and be drunken. Their Lent beginneth at the new Moone, and they do not enter into it vntill they haue seene the same: neither yet doeth their Lent end, vntill they haue seen the next new Moone, although the same (through close weather) should not be seen in long time.
Their saints and holy men. Pilgrimage. They haue among them certaine holy men whom they call Setes, counted holy for that they or any of their ancestors haue been on pilgrimage at Mecha in Arabia, for whosoeuer goeth thither on pilgrimage to visite the sepulchre of Mahumet, both he and all his posteritie are euer after called Setes, and counted for holy men, and haue no lesse opinion of themselues. And if a man contrary one of these, he will say that he is a Saint, and therefore ought to be beleeued, and that hee cannot lie, although he lie neuer so shamefully. Thus a man may be too holy, and no pride is greater then spirituall pride of a mind puffed vp with his own opinion of holinesse. These Setes do vse to shaue their heads all ouer, sauing on the sides a litle aboue the temples, the which they leaue vnshauen, and vse to braid the same as women do their haire, and to weare it as long as it will grow.
Their praier and worshipping of God and Mahumet. Euery morning they vse to worship God, Mahumet, and Mortus Ali, and in praying turne themselues toward the South, because Mecha lieth that way from them. When they be in trauell on the way, many of them will (as soone as the Sunne riseth) light from their horses, turning themselues to the South, and will lay their gownes before them, with their swords and beads, and so standing vpright worship to the South: and many times in their prayers kneele downe, and kisse their beads, or somwhat els that lieth before them.
Washing and outward clenlinesse. The men or women doe neuer goe to make water, but they vse to take with them a pot with a spout, and after they haue made water, they flash some water vpon their priuy parts, and thus doe the women as well as the men: and this is a matter of great religion among them, and in making of water the men do cowre downe as well as the women.
Their swearing. When they earnestly affirme a matter, they will sweare by God, Mahumet, or Mortus Ali, and sometimes by all at ones: as thus in their owne language, saying, Olla, Mahumet, Ali. But if he will sweare by the Shaughs head, in saying Shaugham basshe, you may then beleeue him if you will.
The king’s magnificence. The Shaugh keepeth a great magnificence in his court: and although sometimes in a moneth or six weekes none of his nobilitie or counsaile can see him, yet goe they daily to the court, and tary there a certaine time vntil they haue knowen his pleasure whether hee will commaund them any thing or not. Pursuiuants. Hee is watched euery night with a thousand of his men, which are called his Curshes, who are they that hee vseth to send into the Countreis about his greatest affaires. When he sendeth any of them (if it be to the greatest of any of his nobilitie) he will obey them, although the messenger should beat any of them to death.
The kings company with his wiues and concubines. The Shaugh occupieth himselle alwayes two dayes in the weeke in his Bathstoue, and when he is disposed to goe thither, he taketh with him fiue or sixe of his concubines, more or lesse, and one day they consume in washing, rubbing, and bathing him, and the other day in paring his nailes, and other matters. The greatest part of his life hee spendeth amongst his wiues and concubines. Hee hath now reigned about fiftie and foure yeeres, and is therefore counted a very holy man, as they euer esteeme their kings, if they haue reigned fiftie yeeres or more: for they measure the fauour of God by a mans prosperitie, or his displeasure by a mans misfortune or aduersitie. The great Turk hath this Shaugh in great reuerence, because he hath reigned king so long time.
The succession of the kingdom. I haue sayd before that hee hath foure wiues, and as many: concubines as him listeth: and if he chance to haue any children by any of his concubines, and be minded that any of those children shall inherite after him, then when one of his wiues dieth, the concubine whom hee so fauoureth, hee maketh one of his wiues, and the childe whom he so loueth best, he ordaineth to bee king after him.
Circumcision. What I heard of the maner of their mariages, for offending of honest consciences and chaste ears, I may not commit to writing: their fasting I haue declared before. They vse circumcision vnto children of seuen yeeres of age, as do the Turkes.
Their houses, and maner of eating. Their houses (as I haue sayd) are for the most part made of bricke, not burned but only dried in the Sunne: In their houses they haue but litle furniture of houshold stuffe, except it be their carpets and some copper worke: for all their kettles and dishes wherein they eate, are of copper. They eate on the ground, sitting on carpets crosse legged as do Tailors. There is no man so simple but he sitteth on a carpet better or worse, and the whole house or roume wherein he sitteth is wholy couered with carpets. Their houses are all with flat roofes couered with earth: and in the Sommer time they lie vpon them all night.
Bondmen and bondwomen. They haue many bond seruants both men and women. Bondmen and bondwomen, is one of the best kind of merchandise that any man may bring. When they buy any maydes or yong women, they yse to fede them in all partes, as with vs men doe horses: when one hath bought a yong woman, if he like her, be will keepe her for his owne vse as long as him listeth, and then selleth her to an other, who doth the like with her. So that one woman is sometimes sold in the space of foure or fiue yeeres, twelue, or twentie times. If a man keepe a bondwoman for his owne vse, and if hee find her to be false to him, and giue her body to any other, he may kill her if he will.
Women bought and sold, and let to hire. When a merchant or traueller commeth to any towne where he entendeth to tary any time, he hireth a woman, or sometimes 2. or 3. during his abode there. And when he commeth to an other towne, he doeth the like in the same also: for there they vse to put out their women to hire, as wee do here hackney horses.
Abundance of oile issuing out of the ground. There is a very great riuer which runneth through the plaine of Iauat, which falleth into the Caspian sea, by a towne called Bachu, neere vnto which towne is a strange thing to behold. For there issueth out of the ground a marueilous quantitie of oile, which oile they fetch from the uttermost bounds of all Persia: it serueth all the countrey to burn in their houses.
This oyle is blacke, and is called Nefte:240 they vse to cary it throughout all the Countrey vpon kine and asses, of which you shall oftentimes meet with foure or fiue hundred in a company. Oleum Petroleum. There is also by the said towne of Bachu another kind of oyle which is white and very precious: and is supposed to be the same that here is called Petroleum. There is also not far from Shamaky, a thing like vnto tarre, and issueth out of the ground, 241 whereof we haue made the proofe, that in our ships it serueth well in the stead of tarre.
Two sorts of kine. In Persia are kine of two sorts: the one like vnto ours in these partes: the other are marueilous euill fauoured, with great bones and very leane, and but litle haire vpon them: their milke is walowish sweete: they are like vnto them which are spoken of in the Scripture, which in the dreame of Pharao signified the seuen deare yeeres: for a leaner or more euill fauoured beast can no man see.
Foxes in great plenty. In the countrey of Shiruan (sometime called Media) if you chance to lie in the fields neere vnto any village, as the twilight beginneth, you shall haue about you two or three hundred foxes, which make a marueilous wawling or howling: and if you looke not well to your victuals, it shal scape them hardly but they will haue part with you.
The Caspian sea doeth neither ebbe nor flowe, except sometimes by rages of wind it swelleth vp very high: the water is very salt. Howbeit, the quantitie of water that falleth out of the great riuer of Volga maketh the water fresh at the least twentie leagues into the sea. The Caspian sea is marueilous full of fish, but no kind of monstrous fish, as farre as I could vnderstand, yet hath it sundry sortes of fishes which are not in these parts of the world.
The mutton there is good, and the sheepe great, hauing very great rumpes with much fat vpon them.
Rice and mutton Is their chiefe victual.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:51