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

I DEPARTED out of London in the ship called the Tiger, in the company of M. John Newbery, M. Ralph Fitch, and sixe or seven other honest marchants upon Shrove munday 1583, and arrived in Tripolis of Syria the first day of May next insuing: at our landing we went on Maying upon S. Georges Iland, a place where Christians dying aboord the ships, are woont to be buried. In this city our English marchants have a Consull, and our nation abide together in one house with him, called Fondeghi Ingles, builded of stone, square, in maner like a Closter, & every man hath his severall chamber, as it is the use of all other Christians of severall nations. This towne standeth under 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 five blocke houses or small forts, wherein is some very good artillery, and the forts are kept with about an hundred Janisaries. Right before this towne from the seaward is a banke of moving sand, which gathereth and increaseth with the Westerne winds, in such sort, that, according to an olde prophesie among them, this banke is like to swallow up & overwhelme the towne: for every yere it increaseth and eateth up many gardens, although they use 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 overlooketh the whole towne, and is strongly kept with two hundred Janisaries and good artillery. A river 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. From Tripolis I departed the 14 of May with a caravan, passing three dayes over the ridge of mount Libanus, at the end whereof we arrived in a city called Hammah, which standeth on a goodly plaine replenished with corne & 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 above 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 lives to win it, the Turke will not have it repaired; and hath written in the Arabian tongue over 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 selves one day here, we passed forward with camels three dayes more untill we came to Aleppo, where we arrived the 21 of May. This is the greatest place of traffique for a dry towne that is in all those parts : for hither resort Jewes, Tartarians, Persians, Armenians, Egyptians, Indians, and many sorts of Christians, and injoy 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 garison of foure or five hundred Janisaries. Within foure miles round about are goodly gardens and vineyards and trees, which beare goodly fruit neere unto the rivers 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 of May with M. John Newbery and his company, and came to Birrah in three dayes, being a small towne situated upon the river 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, wherof we all furnished our selves for a long journey downe the aforesayd river. And according to the maner of those that travell downe by water, we prepared a small barke for the conveyance of our selves and of our goods. These boats are flat bottomed, because the river is shallow in many places: and when men travell in the moneth of July, 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 boats, if they chance to fall on the sholds. We were eight and twenty dayes upon the water betweene Birrah and Felugia, where we disimbarked our selves and our goods. Every 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 having supped, the marchants lie aboord the barke, and the mariners upon the shores side as nere as they can unto the same. In many places upon the rivers side we met with troops of Arabians, of whom we bought milke, butter, egges, and lambs, and gave 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 gave them bread and pomgranat peeles, wherewith they use to tanne their goats skinnes which they churne withall. Their haire, apparell, and colour are altogether like to those vagabond Egyptians, which heretofore have gone about in England. Their women all without exception weare a great round ring in one of their nostrels, of golde, silver, or yron, according to their ability, and about their armes and smalles of their legs they have hoops of golde, silver or yron. All of them aswel women and children as men, are very great swimmers, and often times swimming they brought us milke to our barke in vessels upon their heads. These people are very theevish, which I proved to my cost: for they stole a casket of mine, with things of good value in the same, from under my mans head as he was asleepe: and therefore travellers keepe good watch as they passe downe the river. 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 river of Trent : it hath divers 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 June, where we made our abode seven 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 travell. This Felugia is a village of some hundred houses, and a place appointed for discharging of such goods as come downe the river: the inhabitants are Arabians. Not finding camels here, we were constrained to unlade our goods, and hired an hundred asses to cary our English marchandises onely to New Babylon over a short desert, in crossing whereof we spent eighteene houres travelling by night, and part of the morning, to avoid the great heat.

In this place which we crossed over, stood the olde mighty city of Babylon, many olde ruines wherof are easily to be seene by day-light, which I John Eldred have often beheld at my good leasure, having made three voyages betweene the new city of Babylon and Aleppo over this desert. Here also are yet standing the ruines of the olde tower of Babel, which being upon 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 have gone thither to see it, and found the remnants yet standing above a quarter of a mile in compasse, and almost as high as the stoneworke 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 every 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 joyneth upon the aforsayd small desert where the Olde city was, and the river of Tigris runneth close under 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 above 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 never so poore.

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 river of Tigris from Mosul which was called Ninive in olde time. They bring these victuals and divers sorts of marchandises upon rafts borne upon goats skins blower up ful of wind in maner of bladders. And when they have discharged their goods, they sel the rafts for fire, and let the wind out of their goats skins, and cary them home againe upon their asses by land, to make other voyages downe the river. 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. They have no raine for eight moneths together, nor almost any clouds in the skie, night nor day. Their Winter is in November, December, January and February, which is as warme as our Summer in England in a maner. This I know by good experience, because my abode at severall times in this city of Babylon hath bene at the least the space of two yeres. As we come to the city, we passe over the river of Tigris on a great bridge made with boats chained together with two mighty chaines of yron. From thence we departed in flat bottomed barks more strong & greater then those of Euphrates , and were eight and twenty dayes also in passing downe this river to Balsara, but we might have done it in eighteene or lesse, if the water had bene higher. Upon the waters side stand by the way divers townes resembling much the names of the olde prophets: the first towne they call Ozeah, & another Zecchiah. Before we come to Balsara by one dayes journey, the two rivers of Tigris and Euphrates meet, and there standeth a castle called Gurna, kept by the Turks, where all marchants pay a small custome. Here the two rivers joyned together begin to be eight or nine miles broad: here also it beginneth to ebbe and flow, and the water overflowing maketh the countrey all about very fertile of corne, rice, pulse, and dates. The towne of Balsara is a mile and a halfe in circuit: all the buildings, castle and wals, are made of bricke dried in the Sun. The Turke hath here five hundred Janisaries, besides other souldiers continually in garison and pay, but his chiefe strength is of gallies which are about five and twenty or thirty very faire and furnished with goodly ordinance. To this port of Balsara come monethly divers ships from Ormuz , laden with all sorts of Indian marchandise, as spices, drugs, Indico and Calecut cloth. These ships are usually from forty to threescore tunnes, having their planks sowed together with corde made of the barke of Date trees, and in stead of Occam they use the shiverings of the barke of the sayd trees, and of the same they also make their tackling. They have no kinde of yron worke belonging to these vessels, save only their ankers. From this place six dayes sailing downe the gulfe, they go to a place called Baharem in the mid way to Ormus: there they fish for pearles foure moneths in the yere, to wit, in June, July, August, and September. My abode in Balsara was just sixe moneths, during which time I received divers letters from M. John Newbery from Ormus, who as he passed that way with her Majesties letters to Zelabdim Echebar king of Cambaia, & unto 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 imprisonment he and his companions were delivered upon sureties, not to depart the towne without leave, at the sute of one father Thomas Stevens 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 John Story, became religious in the college of S. Paul in Goa, as we understood by their letters. I and my companion William Shales having dispatched our businesse at Balsara, imbarked our selves in company of seventy barks all laden with marchandise, having every barke 14 men to draw them, like our Westerne bargemen on the Thames , and we were forty foure dayes comming up against the streame to Babylon, where arriving and paying our custome, we with all other sorts of marchants bought us camels, hired us men to lade and drive them, furnished our selves with rice, butter, bisket, hony made of dates, onions and dates: and every marchant bought a proportion of live muttons, and hired certaine shepheards to drive them with us: we also bought us tents to lie in, and to put our goods under: and in this our caravan were foure thousand camels laden with spices and other rich marchandises. These camels will live very well two or three dayes without water: their feeding is on thistles, wormewood, magdalene, and other strong weeds which they finde upon the way. The government and deciding of all quarels and dueties to be payed, the whole caravan committeth to one speciall rich marchant of the company, of whose honesty they conceive best. In passing from Babylon to Aleppo, we spent forty dayes, travelling twenty, or foure and twenty miles a day, resting ourselves commonly from two of the clocke in the afternoone, until three in the morning, at which time we begin to take our journey. Eight dayes journey from Babylon toward Aleppo, neere unto a towne called Heit, as we crosse the river Euphrates by boates, about 3. miles from the town there is a valley wherein are many springs throwing out abundantly at great mouths, a kind of blacke substance like unto tarre, which serveth all the countrey to make stanch their barkes and boates: every one of these springs maketh a noise like unto a Smiths forge in the blowing & puffing out of this matter, which never ceaseth night nor day, and the noise may be heard a mile off continually. This vale swaloweth up all heavie things that come upon it. The people of the countrey cal 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, upon every Camels lode, which he sendeth his officers to receive of the Caravans, and in consideration hereof, he taketh upon him to conduct the sayd Caravans if they need his helpe, and to defend them against certaine prowling thieves. I and my companion William Shales came to Aleppo with the Caravan the eleventh of June, 1584. where we were joyfully received 20. miles distant from the towne by M. William Barret our Consull, accompanied with his people and Janissaries, 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. In which meane time, I made two voyages more unto Babylon, and returned by the way aforesayd, over 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 arrived at Joppe, and travelled to Rama, Lycia , Gaza , Jerusalem, Bethleem , to the river of Jordan , and the sea or lake of Zodome, and returned backe to Joppe, & from thence by sea to Tripolis, of which places because many others have published large discourses, I surcease to write. Within few dayes after imbarking my selfe at Tripolis the 22. of December, I arrived (God be thanked) in safety here in the river of Thames with divers English marchants, the 26. of March, 1588, in the Hercules of London, which was the richest ship of English marchants goods that ever was knowen to come into this realme.

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