Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

spent an innocent and useful life, whatever may have been their religion.” This opinion, our author adds, was deemed heretical by the Turks, and Rustan, indeed, was suspected of not being orthodox on several other points. As it is an essential article in the creed of the orthodox Mahometans, that no Christian can be saved, they regard it as their duty to endeavour, by all means, to convert them to their faith.

Busbequins had some conversation with Rustan respecting the difference between the religion of the Turks and the Persians: the latter began by inquiring whether the war between France and Spain was still raging : on being told it was, he expressed his surprise that two nations of the same religion should be at war. On this, our author observed, it is not more surprising than that you and the Persians should be at war.

That is quite a different matter,” replied Rustan, “ for I would have you know, that we have a greater aversion to the Persians than to the Christians, and regard them as greater infidels.”

While Busbequius was at Constantinople, the king of the Colchians arrived' there; and he took every opportunity of gaining information respecting bim, his country, and the manners of the people. The country is situated near the Pbasis, near the Euxine, not far from Caucasus. The king's name was Dadianus, a man of great dignity and height, but of savage manpers: his train, which was numerous, and nearly all in rags, were clothed in coarse garments. In the Colchian army, the chief men are defended by large and uncouth coats of mail; their weapons are swords and spears; but the soldiers themselves have no defensive armour; their weapons are arrows, or clubs; their cavalry ride without saddles or bridles.

The country they inhabit is naturally very fertile, but ill cultivated : such is its natural fertility, that even a negligent and rude culture produces, in one year, sufficient millet to serve the inhabitants during two. They make good wine from vines trained to lofty trees; these vines, thus trained, last for many ages. Honey and wax, from wild bees, abound : and the woods supply them with all kinds of animals; every part is full of pheasants and partridges. The gourds, besides being of a very rich flavour, grow to the length of three feet, and upwards, a sufficient proof of the fertility of the soil. Few of the inhabitants are acquainted with silver money; still fewer with gold: whenever any silver is brought into the country, it is set apart for the ornaments or vessels of their temples. All their trade is carried on by barter; hence, they require little or no money. The revenue is paid in kind; and the king is abundantly supplied in the same manner, with all he needs, or wishes for, to eat, to drink, to clothe himself, to pay his servants, and reward his favorites. In fact, his palace is like a public granary: from it, the poor,

4

and those whose crops have failed, are supplied with the necessaries of life.

It is customary, when a merchant arrives, for the captain to make the king a present: he accepts any thing that is offered ; and, in return, gives a feast. The table, on this occasion, is set out in a large building, surrounded by the royal stables; the king sits, or rather reclines, at the head of it: at a short distance from him, the guests are accommodated. The food is various, principally game; wine is in profusion; and the guest who drinks most is the most acceptable. The queen with her attendants, dine in the same room, but at a separate and distant table. The behaviour at table is not distinguished for gravity or decorum.

After dinner, the king conducts his guests to the woods; there, under the shade of the trees, the common people may be seen enjoying themselves, by singing, and dancing, and drinking wine. Certain musical stringed instruments are fixed along planks; these are struck with rods; and the people accompany the sounds, thus produced, with songs, in praise of their mistresses, and of the heroes of their nation. Among the names of the latter, if Busbequius was rightly informed, that of Roland frequently occurs whence, or how derived, he could not conjecture, unless it had come through Godfrey of Boulogne.

Indolent, and enjoying a fertile soil and a fine climate, the Colchians are not very strict in their morals. The husband offers his wife; the brother, his sister; to the stranger during his abode: married as well as unmarried women are allowed great liberty; and the men deem it their duty, as well as a pleasure, to oblige and accommodate them in every respect. Many are mothers at ten years of age. The inhabitants are notorious thieves: cunning and expertness in thieving are deemed, by them, high and honorable qualifications : he who does not possess them, is despised, and often sold for a slave. An Italian merchant, who had been in the country, told Busbequius that, while he was in one of the temples, the priest stole his sword from him; the merchant was aware of the theft; but did not notice it at the time. Soon afterwards, however, he gave the scabbard to the priest, telling him, there was the scabbard, as he already had got the sword.

When they enter their temples, they pay little respect to the images of the Virgin, Peter, Paul, or any of the other saints ; but, immediately, make up to that of St. George on horse-back; this they kiss all over, not even omitting the shoes of the horse. They believe he was a great warrior, who, in a battle with an evil demon, either came off victorious, or, certainly, was not subdued.

Busbequius expresses his surprise at the custom of the princes of the East approaching one another with rich presents, at the first interviews; the King of Colchis brought, as a present to Soliman, a dish made out of a single carbuncle, which, he was told, shone with such lustre, as to supply, to those who carried it, the place of the sun at midnight. The king brought, likewise, twenty white falcons, a species of bird very common in Colchis.

Busbequius was visited, during his stay in Constantinople, by most European merchants who visited that city; and, from all, he derived some important and interesting information, either regarding their trade, or the countries they had travelled into: aniong others, an amber merchant, from Dantzic, came to see him, who dealt very largely in that article. This merchant having, at various times, brought immense quantities into Turkey, and always found a ready sale for it, was curious to ascertain what became of it, and to what use it was applied. He, at length, learnt that most of it was sent into Persia, where it was in high estimation, all the private apartments, and sacred places, being ornamented with it. This merchant gave Busbequius some Dantzic beer, with which he seems to have been much pleased; but his Greek and Italian servants at first disdained such a vulgar beverage, till, learning that it was wholesome, they drank it in greater quantity than their master wished.

For three months, he was permitted to reside near the Turkish camp, which he describes with great minuteness and clearness: according to him, it formed a striking contrast to the camps of the Germans, and must have been very different from the Turkish camps of the present day. There was the utmost regularity and order, in the distribution of the soldiers : everywhere, profound silence and quiet: no brawling, no insolent words uttered, or actions done. Every place was kept scrupulously clean; nothing to offend the sight or smell ; no drinking or gaming, for the Turks are ignorant of cards and dice. He relates a story of a soldier, who died of his wounds on the banks of the Danube; his last words were addressed to that river, beseeching it, as, in its course, it would pass by his native village, to assure his relations and friends, that he had met an honourable, and not unrevenged, death, fighting for the spread of his religion, and the glory of his country. At these words, his companions, lamenting their own fate, expressed, in strong language, how much they envied his glorious death, and how willingly they would exchange their condition for his. For the Turks believe, that the souls of none gain such easy and speedy admission into heaven, as those who die in battle. During his visits to the camp, our author examined the slaughtering place of the Janissaries, of whom there were 4,000 in the army; for

these, there were only four or five carcases of sheep hanging up, a small supply of animal food for so many men. Expressing his surprise, he was told that few eat it, and that the greatest part of their provisions was brought from Constantinople; on in quiring of what it consisted, a Janissary was pointed out to him, lying on the ground, and eating, out of a wooden dish, à mess composed of turnips, garlic, onions, carrots, cucumbers, mashed up with salt and vinegar; his drink was water. This was during one of their fasts, a period, our author adds, when in Europe, even in well regulated cities, and still more in camps, a license seems to be taken, of indulging in all kind of gluttony, riot, gaming, and debauchery. He describes, in very strong language, the conscientious and rigid manner, in which the Turks observe all their fasts; and the solemn and slow decorum with which they satisfy their hunger and thirst, even when they must be suffering from them. Nearly opposite to the house in which he lived, was a Mosque; and, near it, a place where snow, brought from the Asiatic Olympus, was sold : often did he see the Turks, in the extreme heat of summer, on quitting the Mosque, go into this tavern, and he was always struck with the deliberate manner in which they drank the cold water. They never eat or drink any thing, if they can possibly avoid it, in a standing posture, but always lying down or reclining.

The plague, which raged in Constantinople, made its appearance in Busbequius's dwelling : after some hesitation and delay, he was permitted to remove to a small island a short distance from the city. His physician, who, we have already mentioned, disbelieved in the contagion of the plague, and would take no precautions, while he was attending one of Busbequius's servants, was seized with it; nor would he admit he had caught the disease, even when all the symptoms were evident and strong upon him. The very day before he died, he told Busbequius, who came to see him, that he should soon be well again. Busbequius had heard that he had a sore on his chest, and asked him if it was so ; he acknowledged it was, and shewed it to him, but said it was of no moment, having been caused from too tight a garment. That evening, as the servants were putting clean clothes on him, they observed several spots, which they said were flea-bites. But he was no longer deceived: on examining them, he pronounced them to be, not flea-bites, but symptoms of approaching dissolution: in the morning, he died. Busbequius felt his loss severely.

In his retreat, our author enjoyed himself much. He was allowed to do what he pleased, and to examine not only the island in which he was, bụt also the neighbouring islands : he describes them as uncommonly pleasant and fertile, especially in a variety of rare and beautiful flowers. The surrounding sea

[blocks in formation]

abounded in fish, which he caught with the hook or net. He had the convenience of some Greek fishing-boats, with their crews; and he describes, in a very pleasing manner, his various fishing adventures, and their results.

When the weather did not admit of this sport, he amused himself on shore, in seeking for rare plants; and sometimes, for the sake of exercise, walked round the whole island. In these excursions, he had for a companion a Franciscan Monk, a young man, but exceedingly fat, unwieldy, and indolent. Busbequius seems to have taken a mischievous pleasure in walking this monk out of breath ; nor did he stop, or slacken his

pace, till his garments were wet with perspiration; he, all the while, asking, what need there was of such haste, and whether they were pursuing, or were the pursuers, or were hurrying on with some important despatches. When they arrived at the house again, the monk would throw himself on a bed, exclaiming, it was all over with him ; and it was not till after frequent and earnest entreaty, that he could be persuaded to rise and come to dinner.

Busbequius, having heard that some of the inhabitants of the Tauric Chersonesus bore evident marks of a German origin, in their language, manners, features, and form, was very desirous to see some of them; this desire, he was at length enabled to gratify, two of them having come to Constantinople, on some public business. One of these was taller than the other, and resembled much, in the expression of his countenance, a Fleming or Batavian ; the other was shorter, more compactly made, of a brownish complexion, and, in origin and language, a Greek. From them, Busbequius learnt, that their nation was warlike, inhabiting several villages, from which the prince of the Tartars obtained the troops he could most depend upon for skill and bravery. They gave many instances of the barbarism of their nation; but, at the same time, of their sagacity. The Turks have a common saying among them, that other nations have their wisdom written in books; but,, that the Tartars have eaten their books, and, hence, have it hid in their breasts, out of which it proceeds; whenever they open their mouths. Many of their customs are rude and indelicate: they use no spoons for their soups, but lift it to their mouths in the hollow of their hands. They do not prepare the horseflesh, of which they are very fond, by any mode of cookery; but, cutting it into slices, place it under their saddles, when they ride, and thus render it sodden and fit for their food. Their prince eats from a silver table : the first, as well as the last dish at their feast, is a horse's head; “in the same manner," adds Busbequius, “ as, with us, butter is the first and last dish."

He gives a list of words in their language, resembling the

« EdellinenJatka »