NEVVES FROM ALEPPO A Letter written to T. V. B. of D. Vicar of Cockfield in Southsex.

BY CHARLES ROBSON Master of Artes, Fellow of Qu. Col: in Oxford, and Preacher to the Company of our English Mer­chants [...] Aleppo

Containing many remarkeable occurrences ob­serued by him in [...] thither▪

Plus valet oculatus [...]estis unus, [...].
The witnesse of the eye doth farre excell,
the witnesse of the eare in high degree
What others doe by hearesay onely tell,
this man most plainely with his eyes did see.

LONDON, Printed for M. S. 1628


‘Deus nobiscum.’

MY duetie and loue premised. I craue your pardon Sir, for not writing you by the last shippes: my much distractednesse with the nouelty of the place, and my new employment, made mee forget almost my selfe, or else surely I should scarce haue forgotten you: to repay that neg­ligence, behold, what I sent, and doe send in parcels to others, I here make vp a compleat body for your viewe, the summary of those few obseruations, which I did take in my iour­ney, and haue taken of Aleppo.

Hauing past the Flats without danger (God be thanked,) we lay wind-bound a fort-night at Deale. At last God sending vs a faire winde [Page 2] we loosed, and sayling pleasantly alongst our owne coast iust afore the winde, neuer did so much as tacke about, or loosen sayle, till for feare of ouershooting the Straights mouth, we were glad to lie a Hull.

The next day, he that hath the windes in his hand, commanded them to follow vs; and wee finding our selues too farre North, steared our course toward the South: scarce had we kept this course fiue howers, but wee spied land to­wards the North, it beeing very foggy towards the South, and the Mariners making it, found it to be Ape hill; That one of Hercules his pil­lars which standeth on the Affrick shoare, or rather indeed one of the Iawes of that straight mouth which opens into the vaste Mediterra­nean sea. The other being the high hill of Gi­bralter on the Spanish coast. Wee entered these Iawes with a prosperous gale, and with the cur­rant wee slid along the Spanish coast, their old and new Gibralter, their Malaga and many o­ther townes, many hundred forts. I meane not to write you a Diarie, but an Epitomie. Your owne skill in Geography can direct you (I know) not onely through the Mediterranean, but the World. Where you cannot onely fol­low vs, but preuent my discourse of this passage.

The first port we made (after a little tossing in the gulfe of Leons) was Legorne, in the [Page 3] Dukedome of Florence. There we stayed three weekes. The currences that I then obserued (beside the historicall, which before this I know you haue heard) were these.

Legorne is the onely Port-towne of the Flo­rentine: strong in its situation, stronger in its Garrison which is alwayes there resident. The first & last Masse that euer I heard, or hope shal heare, was at a conuent of Capuchins a mile hence. Where one morning, I and others wal­king to see the conuent, it was our lucke fin­ding their Chappell open to enter it. Where vnexpectedly we found what we little looked for, the Friar at the Masse. Being entred, there was no retiring at the doore, yet we found one into a corner; Where we beheld with a plea­sing detestation, their ridiculous superstition. The Priest he mumbled Latin, and the people as though they had beene his Apes, when hee beat his breast they beat theirs, when hee lif­ted vp the Hoste, they lifted vp their eyes and hands, when hee kneeled, they did, and yet vn­derstood not one word what he said. I pittied them that serued the Lord of Spirits, not in Spirit and Truth, but in a mimicall action; and yet (if charitie had not preuailed against rea­son) I should and might haue doubted, Ridendi magis essent hi, magis anne dolendi: I cannot but say of theirs what Lactantius saith of the hea­thenish seruice of the Heathens to their gods. [Page 4] Lactan: lib. 1. Inst: c. 21. Quis non rideat, cum videat homines ea serio facere, quae si quis faciat in Lusu, nimis lascivus et ineptus esse videatur.

Being to stay in Legorne three weekes, I dee­med it (though there bee no Inquisition there) not safe to stay there all the time, fearing that either by the sight of their abominations, or some attracted notes of me amongst the Itali­ans, I might endanger my selfe: I tooke horse therefore and rid to Pisa, one of the two Vni­uersities of the Florentine: Florence being the other. And what I came for there, I had free libertie to obserue, their monuments and their manners; which in briefe were these.

I saw there first their Church of St. Stephen, and the Colledge of their Knights all going in long blacke cloakes with the party white and red Crosse. In their Church I saw our Ladies Picture more gloriously apparrelled then any of our picture (I would say painted) Ladies in England are, when they would seeme most glorious to dazell the eyes of doting Courti­ers. Thence I went to see their Schooles built like ours, but the comparison of ours and theirs is like chalke and cheese: they haue onely foure filled with seates like the bodies of our Parish Churches in England, and the Readers pewes standing, some in the midst, some at the end of them.

The next thing was the Hospitall of Bastards, [Page 5] maintained and brought vp, as they are begot­ten in common: for Stewes beeing heere al­lowed, all haue free accesse, and if children be begotten it is good reason all should pay for their bringing vp. Here they are put in by the Ouerseers of the Hospitall at a litle Iron grate, none knowing whose they are; Here they are brought vp neither knowing Father nor Mo­ther, and as they are capable they are bestow­ed, some to Prent [...]zes, some to Schooles, some to other things. It being vsuall with the whores their mothers, and the knaues Friers, &c: their Fathers, to set some secret marke vpon them, and so when they come to yeares to know them, whom at their birth they durst not acknowledge. Sure hee was some charitable whoore-master that was the founder of this honest Hospitall. Hauing seene and knowne Italy, I shall neuer wonder nor pitty it, if all our deboyst drunkards and whoore-masters turne Papists: and wish that they onely.

The next thing worthy note, was their great indeed, and stately Church; whose brazen gates in dumbe pictures speake the history of the Gospell. Beside it, they shewed vs a litle plot of earth, which they say was conueied from Ierusalem, and is able to dissolue a carkasse into dust within the space of foure and twenty houres. In the same Church-yard there is a Belfraye from the very foundation to the top [Page 6] stooping, not through any infirmitie of age but so built. It is a saying among them that the great Duke hath three wonderfull Towers; one in the water at Legorne, whose foundation is laid in the Sea, and is a Lanthorne or Watch­tower. Another on the land, this at Pisa. The third in the aire at Florence: whose foundation being vpon a wal of three yardes high, and one foot broad, all the body seemeth to hang in the aire, a curious peece of workemanship, they say that haue seene it; I did not.

But to returne to Pisa: other things worthy the noting there, was their Physitians Gallery furnished with the rarities of nature, diuers Mummies, curious Anatomies, all kind of Mi­nerals, the rarest drugs, bread and cheese con­uerted into stone, rare fishes, the skins and fea­thers of strange birds and beasts, all their medi­cinable parts; and as though they would rob nature to make this her treasury, here is (if you will beleeue them) the Phoenix his head: But I thinke it is rather a Pelicans, for at Smyrna I did see a liue Pelican with iust such another head. Adioyning to this curious gallery is the garden of Physitians, wherein we being wearied with seeing diuersitie of Simples and Hearbes, for a compendium it was told vs, there were two thousand kinds of Simples in that garden. This garden is of no great extent, but most excee­ding pleasant; curiously diuided into plots ac­cording [Page 7] to the nature of the hearbes there plan­ted, the cold by themselues, the hot by them­selues, &c. From Pisa we returned to Legorne, and so to Sea; and sayling along the pleasant coast of Italy, and then Calabria, not alwayes hauing the land in sight, at last we passed by a litle Island some fiue Leagues before we come to Sicilia, which belcheth out continually huge flames of fire. I did see it vomit vp eight times while we sayled in sight of it: the name of this Island is Strumbola. The next morning we dis­couered Sicilia, and the Calabrian coast, and to the eye were lockt in on euery side with land. At last we opened that ancient and dangerous Gutt that openeth into the Phare of Messina. Here before we durst enter, we expected a Pi­lot; this old Scilla and Charibdes, though it bee not so much feared as it was in ancient times, yet it is as dangerous as euer it was: on the Ca­labrian shoare there are fearefull rockes, and a strong currant, on the Sicilian shoare fearefull sands. The midst the safest, but hard to bee hit when the windes are high, hard to bee kept by reason of the currant. The old towne Scilla standeth still vpon the Calabrian shoare, Statio male fida carinis: whether seldome or neuer a­ny ships but wrackt ones approach: But God bee thankt wee past it without all danger, and sayling in the deepe Phare betwixt the plea­sant Sicilia and Calabria wee at last came to an [Page 8] anchor some three miles short of the ancient, still flourishing Messina, a most goodly citie to the eye, (for we did not goe ashoare, but onely deliuered some goods there) iust ouer against it on the Calabrian coast standeth the as ancient, but lesse flourishing Rhegium. The same day, to my no little and the rest of the passengers griefe, wee were rauished from Sicilia, which had rauished vs with delight. The Sea which parteth Sicilia from Calabria is three Leagues ouer, but seemeth to the eye scarce three miles. Sayling along here, we (at last) espied the scort­ched toppe of Boiling Aetna, now Monge Bella; whose Bellowes yet goe, but age hath tamed him, that hee doth not now burst out as he vsed to doe. After this some dayes enterposed wee entered the Archipelagus ▪ now the Arches, and there sayled ouer almost all Homers Iliads; the litle Ilands of the great Kings that inuaded Troy. The first was now called Seruga; the whole possessions of Menalaus; The most fa­mous of them are [...]ndria, Negropont, Tenos, Melos, Antimelos, the double Delos now vnin­habited, and onely sought vnto for the vaste reliques of Apolloes Temple, enuironed with those Iles which encircle it, and commonly and truely called the Cyclades. These are Surf­fo, Surffanto, Mycona, &c. At this A [...]ycona wee stayed three dayes by reason of the ex­treamitie of weather: A barren Iland of [Page 9] small extent some fifteene miles in compasse, wholly inhabited by poore Greekes, hauing but one, I cannot tell whether to call it, village or towne of the same name with the Iland, sub­iect to the Dominion and spoile of the Turkes. In all my life I neuer saw a place better peopled with woemen; their number exceeding the number of men fiue for one: The barrennesse of the Ile is much helped with the industry of the people, forcing corne out of the rocky mountaines, scarce passable for men: yet they continue so poore by reason of the Turkes pillages, that vnlesse they were merry Greekes indeed, any would wonder what delight they could take in-liuing, liuing in continuall feare, in continuall and extreame necessitie. Here (as Trauellers vse to doe) the first thing I visited was one of their Churches: where by chance I found their Septuagint, and an old man no­thing differing in pouerty or habit from the rest, there conning his lesson, I tooke the Bible and red in it; he stood amazed at it, and offring to kisse my hand spoke to me in the common Greeke, which is so degenerate from the true and ancient, that there is either none or litle af­finitie betwixt them. I answered in the learned, but I perceiued he vnderstood me as much as I did him, which was scarce one word. Then I thinking that though hee vnderstood not me he vnderstood the Bible, I spoke my minde to [Page 10] him by pointing out sentences in the Bible, but he vnderstood them as much as hee did me. I wondred at their ignorance, and Gods Iustice: and relating this story to one of the Merchants that had liued some time amongst them at Sio, hee told mee that none of their Colieroes but that read the Bible in the learned Greeke, their Leturgy being in the same, but scarce one of a hundred could vnderstand it. I did not wonder at this, calling to minde the history of our Masse-mumbling Priests in Queene Maries dayes. In all their Churches fairer then their ordinary houses, scarce either fairer or larger then ours, they haue printed, but no carued I­mages. From hence we loosed, and sayling by the famous Chios now Sios, and Mitelene old Lesbos, mixtly inhabited with Turkes and Greekes, and onely the ruines of what they were, At Port Gabro a part of Mitelene wee parted with our consorts, they towards Constan­tinople, we to the Bottom.

The next port we made was Smirna, (that fa­mous primitiue Church) now not to be found in the now Smirna, all buried vnder the beast­ly new Turkish Smirna, so that the nouelties haue swalowed vp the antiquities, and the very ruines of old Smirna are ruined: onely there remaineth a deformed forme of the ancient Amphi-theater whose Arena is now seated with Oliue trees; and Policarpus his Miter in [Page 11] the custody of the Turke: which I rather thinke to haue beene the cappe of some Tur­kish Santone, for it is all ouer wrought with Turkish letters. Loosing hence wee sailed by Pathmos, Rhodes and Cyprus, who are better de­scribed by the learned pennes of many of our English, then they can be by mee, who onely passed by them and had no opportunity to ob­serue them.

At last (by Gods fauour) wee arriued in safe­ty at Alexandretta alias Scanderone, which we found full of the carcases of houses, not one house in it. It hauing beene a litle before sackt by the Turkish Pyrats. The vnwholesomest place in the world to liue in, by reason of the grosse fogges that both discend from the high mountaines, and ascend from the moorish valleys. The hilles about it are so high, that till ten of the clocke in the morning the Sunne sel­dome or neuer peepeth ouer them. Here wee tooke horse, (not daring to stay aboue two houres) for Aleppo, paying two and twenty Dollars for a Ianizarie to be our guide, six Dol­lars and a halfe a man for our horses, besides halfe a Dollar a day to find our horses meate: our noone and nights lodging were the open fields, our victuals such as wee brought from Scanderone; our Guide proud and surly, our iourney the most troublesome that any before (by relation) euer had. Aleppo is but distant [Page 12] from Alexandretta threescore miles English, yet we made foure dayes iourneys of it: and were (though others by reason of the extreame heate of the Countrey vse onely to trauell vp­on the night) forced to trauell day and night. We (but then we knew it not) were within a flight shot almost of the fort of Christendom, the ancient and famous Antioch: and hauing all the day before ridden along the plaines of Antioche in the scortching of the Sunne, some three houres before night wee crossed the riuer Orontes with no little danger, and brought those very hilles which wee descended in the morning about midnight iust opposite to vs, there beeing not for all that dayes iourney riding, halfe a mile got towards the finishing of our iourney; it being an vsuall roguery of the Ianizaries to lead the passengers out of their way, that being so much longer on their way, they might get so many moe halfe Dol­lars. We did see in this iourney the foundations of many large cities, & in one place the steeple of a Church inuironed with the wals of a see­ming, decayed, yet large Monasterie; which we pittying, and enquiring what it had beene: ei­ther our Ianizarie through ignorance could not, or through surlinesse would not tell vs. God preserued vs almost to a miracle in helth, and the fourth day about noone, being the twenty sixt of Iune, we arriued at Aleppo: where [Page 13] I found my welcome exceed my hopes: and where euer since, (the Lord be praised for it) I enioy as good health as my dearest friend could wish me.

The aire here is most subtile, most pure, so that he which bringeth no diseases with him is troubled with few: from the end of May, till the end of October wee see no cloudes. The heat, though it be great, is more temperate then Spaine, lesse dangerous then Italy; much amiti­gated by a Westerly wind which bloweth here all the Summer long; yet by reason of the heate, as in all hote Countries, men are much subiect to Feauers, which are seldome vehe­ment; alwayes either soone preuented, or spee­dily cured. Our countrey men and the nations both obserue, that once in ten yeare the coun­trey is infected with the Pest, but which is wonderfull, begin when it will, it neuer endu­reth longer then the Twelfth of Iuly; so that, though it rage vpon the eleuenth, after the twelfth none are infected; O the wonderfull workes of God.

The countrey is part of Syria, & aboundeth, as of old, with superfluitie of all necessaries: vn­happy in nothing but the cursed Lords of it, the Turkes: The land cries out on the slothfulnes of the owners; and the vnhusbanded plaines, for many miles together blame their stupidity. The Lord when it pleaseth him will cast out [Page 14] these vsurpers, (and as I hope and pray) restore it to the true owners, the Christians. The City of Aleppo standeth in a valley which seemeth to contend with it selfe whether it should bee more pleasant or fruitfull. It is [...] walled about, but weakely in respect of our Cities in Chri­stendome: by reason of the oft change of Lords it hath lost the history of its owne anti­quitie: so that both Turkes and Christians, (the now inhabitants of it) are ignorant what it was before it was conquered by Selimus the great Turke, and beeing circumcised by him, was called by the Conquerour Alep, which in the Arabick tongue signifieth milke, by reason of the abundance of it hereabout: yet in all probabilitie it was that Zobah mentioned, 2. Sam. 8. Being within twelue miles of the val­ley of salt where Dauid did fight with Hadede­zer King of Zobah, and there being not beside it in all these parts the lest Vestigia of any City. And the Turkes and Iewes both haue a traditi­on that the Castle was built by Ioab: howsoe­uer it was not famous till of late, yet surely it was before.

For the Inhabitants of it, and the concourse of people, it is an Epitome of the whole world. There scarce being a Nation of the old World, (except that all-hated Spaniard) who hath not some trading either here or hither. English, French, Dutch, Italian, Iewes, Greekes, Persians, [Page 15] Moores, Indians, &c.. Men of all Countries, of all Religions: Georgians, Nestorians, Cophti, Ar­minians, Georgians, &c. The description of whose different customes in their conuersation, and tenents in their Religion, deserueth rather a volume then a letter: and a more appropria­ted obseruer of them, then I can bee. Where­fore omitting them, I will onely acquaint you with some obseruations of not ordinary things that are, and haue happened in and about Aleppo.

About a mile from Aleppo South-west, there is a litle craggy mountaine of Oyster and Coc­kle shels and fishe bones, though the name of Oyster or Cockle be neuer heard of in Aleppo, The Sea being threescore mile off: vnder this hill is a litle house or caue, wherein in a stone vpon the pauement is the print of a mans hand which the Turkes say was Halies, as much re­uerenced by the Persian Mahumetans, (who maintaine him to be Mahomets successor) as our Ladies pictures in Spaine or Italy, but with farre lesse pompe, farre lesse superstition, farre lesse Idolatry. Neare this there are Saxa loquacia, Graue stones that being beat vpon, sound like our bels in Europe. About twelue miles East from Aleppo, is the valley of Salt, a great lane, whose extent neither a whole dayes trauell, nor any report, could certifie vs. That which wee saw of it was partly couered with water, [Page 16] part with a short grasse, partly with sands like the sea shore. The water is saltish, and being dried vp by the heate of the sea, the sand that is left, raked together without further helpe either of mans wit or industry, becom­meth perfect and fine salt, in such abundance, that it is sufficient not onely to serue Syria, but is transported into Arabia, Persia, and other adiacent countries.

The next obseruable thing is a famous Aqua­duct that serueth and sufficeth the whole Citie with water; a relique either of the Romans cu­riositie, or the Christians care: now vsefull to those that are most vnworthy of it, the Turkes. The fountaine heads are seuen miles from A­leppo, where many fountaines vent thēselues by subterranean passages into 3. little lakes; whence the waters, (being drained into a narrow stone chanell of one yard broad & three deepe Hast to Aleppo. And being before they come thi­ther, receiued into wodden pipes, are conuei­ed into the curious cesternes, which are in the Courts of their Mos'kehs or Churches, whēce either it is fetched for priuate vses, or forct to wash the stinking feet of the profane Turke be­fore they enter vnto their bawling deuotion.

One strange thing more there is. The rub­bish and filth of the City throwen out about the wals in very few yeeres hardeneth it selfe into a rocke.

[Page 17]The historicall occurances that haue happe­ned in Turky since my comming thither are these. Tripolie December last was sackt by the Emy of Sidon. The Bashaw of Aleppo went to quell him of the two, that had giuen the first occasion of these ciuill broyles; and return­ed with a purchase of twentie thousand dol­lars from the Emy of Tripolie: first for offe­ring the Emy of Sidon some prouocation, se­condly for suffering this towne to bee sacked, hauing fewer souldiers in pay there then the King allowed pay for. At the sacking of this City, many ancient Christian maniscripts were found, and there burnt for no other cause, but because they begune in the Arabicke tongue with In nomine Patris Filii & Spiritus Sancti. The French then residing at Sidon could not re­deeme them (though they did much endea­uour it) at any price. There is no Article of Faith, so harsh to Iewe and Turkes as this of the blessed Trinitie.

The grand Vizier, that had beene almost a whole yeere on his way with the Army against Persia, wintering at Ameet (anciently Amida) died December last, and the Bashaw of Ameet succeeded him in the place of grande Vizier: The then Bashaw of Aleppo was made Bashaw of Ameet and the Bashaw of Damascus, the Ba­shaw of Aleppo. When the King appointeth a­ny Bashaw, he sheweth him a sword and a vest, [Page 19] the one instructing vs for warre, the other for peace: after this very shortly wee heard of the great Tefterdames or Lord Treasurers death. The souldiers from all parts resort to the Vizier to goe against Persia, but this yeere there can be nothing done. God encrease the mutuall enmi­tie of these his obstinate enemies, & make these Mahumetans his instruments to bee their owne mutuall executioners. We heare at this present that the Georgians haue put fifteene hundred Persians to the sword, vpon this occasion: the Persians according to their customes exacted woemen and children from the Georgians: the chiefe of the Georgians consulted together, and thinking it a fit opportunitie to breake off this cruell slauery, vsed this pollicy; they said that their people begun to be tumultuous & they could not well know what to doe, but if they would send some of their owne souldiers into some of the Georgians townes, or neare them to terrifie the people, then they might perswade thē to it. The Persians litle suspecting their fraude, sent as many neare euery great towne as they thought conuenient to strike them in a feare: but the Georgians hauing resol­ued before what to doe, vnawares issued out vp­on the Persians, and put them all to the sword, and sent their heads to the great Vizier of the Turkes. The newes is most certaine, but the manner is differently related. This day there [Page 18] came into Aleppo three Vnderheads, of the follow­ers of a rebell about Antiochia called Abasite: a­gainst whom the Bashaw of Aleppo sent out an Ar­my, and had this victory, but the rebell himselfe escaped with most of his segmen, (a kind of hireling souldiers like our cassacks in Europe.) We heare al­so from Constantinople that Smyrna hath beene sac­ked by another rebell in those parts called Gente [...]t­ogli: others say, he onely came to Smyrna, and taking away the chiefe Ianizaries and Spies, did no hurt to the Citie.

These are all the newes of Turky: we should be glad to heare some from England, I haue not had so much as one Letter, but from Master Fethplate, (who writeth businesse, not newes;) since I came from England. Remember my kindest salutes to your second selfe, and when you write into the Countrey, remember I pray you my duty to my parents, my loue to your mother, remember me in your prayers: The Lord blesse vs all.

Your very louing friend, CHAR: ROBSON.

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