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The fift voiage into Persia made by M. Thomas Banister, and master Geofrey Ducket, Agents for the Moscovie companie, begun from England in the yeere 1568. and continuing to the yeere 1574. following. Written by P. I. from the mouth of M. Lionel Plumtree.

UPON the 3. day of July 1568. they embarked themselves at Yeraslave, being accompanied with Lionel Plumtree, and some 12. English men more, in a Barke called the Thomas Bonaventure of the burden of 70. tunnes, taking also along with them of Russes to the number of 40. for their use and imploiments. It fell out in the way, before they came to Astracan by 40. miles, that the Nagaian Tartars, being a kind of thievish and cruel people, made an assault upon 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 discovered to be about 300. men. They for their parts, although they could have wished a quiet voyage and journey without blowes and violence, yet not willing to be spoiled with such Barbarians as they were, began to defend themselves against their assault, by meanes whereof a very terrible & fierce fight folowed and continued hot & sharpe for two houres, wherein our men so wel plaied their parts with their calivers, 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 arrived the 20. of August.

In this towne of Astracan they were somwhat hindered of their journey, and staied the space of sixe weekes by reason of a great army of 70000. Turkes and Tartars which came thither upon the instigation of the great Turke, hoping either to have 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 received newes of a great expedition, which the Emperour of Russia was in providing for the defence of the said place, they were constrained to raise their siege, & to leave the town as they found it.

Upon their departure our men had opportunitie to proceed on their voyage, and using the occasion, they left Astracan, and came to Bilbil towards the end of October: from whence they went to Shavaran, where (as they lodged in their tentes) they were greatly molested with strange troopes of sholcaves or foxes, which were so busie with them that they tooke their meate and victuals out of their lodgings, and devoured to the bare bones in one night a mighty wilde Bore that was sent unto them for a present from the governour of the countrey.

Having staied here some three or foure daies in providing of cariages and other necessaries for their journey, they departed thence and came to Shamaky, which is foure dayes journey from the aforesayd Shavaran. In this towne of Shamaky their whole company spent out the Winter, and from thence in April folowing they tooke their journey 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 devotion. In this towne of Ardouil they sojourned the space of 5. or 6. moneths, finding some traffique 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 up 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 have borne a share in their bloodie tragedie, being twise wounded with their shot and arrowes, although not to the death.

At this towne the Shaw Thamas 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 recoverie. Hee being come to the Shaugh was received and entertained of him with great favour and speciall countenance, and had the most part of all his requests granted him, this onely excepted, that whereas he entreated a priviledge or sufferance to transport and cary through his dominions certaine horses into India, the Shaugh seemed loth 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 delivered, 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 unhonest meanes, and therefore was not fit to serve for so holie a use.

After sixe moneths spent in Casbin the sayde Thomas Banister departed towards the great citie of Tauris , where being arrived, he found M. Ducket well recovered 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 store of gals which grow in great abundance at a place within one dayes journey of the aforesayd Tauris .

After this Thomas Banister departed from Tauris , and went to Shamaky to give order .for the transporting of those commodities which were bought for England. And having dispatched them away, he went there hence to Arrash, a towne foure dayes journey with camels from Shamaky for the buying of rawe silke. But there by reason of the unwholesomnesse of the aire, and corruption of the waters in the hote time of the yeere, he with Lawrence Chapman and some other English men unhappily died: which being knowen of M. Ducket, he immediatly came from Tauris 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 upon that which he left, all had fallen into the Shaughs hands, which goods notwithstanding could not bee recovered from the officers which had seized and sealed up the same, untill M. Ducket had bene in person with the Shaugh, and had procured his order for the deliverie thereof.

Lionel Plumtree, in the meane time that M. Ducket was at Casbin in sute for goods, upon the perswasion of certaine Bogharians, made provision for a journey to Cathaia, with cariages and commodities, and having all things ready, departed secretly with a Caravan: but being gone forwards on his way sixe days journy, some fifty horsemen by the procurement of Humfry 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 Soltan Erasbec, the Shaughs lieutenant, to fetch him backe againe, not suffering him to passe on so perillous and dangerous a journey for feare of divers inconveniences that might follow.

After this M. Ducket returned from Casbin to Shamaky againe, and immediately made preparation for a journey to Cassan, being about foure dayes journey from Shamaky, and caried with him foure mules laden with mony.

In the way of his travel he passed through Persepolis, sometime the roiall seate of the Emperors of Persia, but now altogether 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 conveiances 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 civil and good government that is there used. An idle person is not suffred to live amongst them.

The child that is but five 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 downe againe to Shamaky, and after some time spent in divers places of the countrey for buying of rawe silke and other commodities, they came at last to Shavaran againe, where their ship was in harbour, and then they shipt all their goods and embarked themselves 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 up and downe some 20. dayes. And the 28. day riding at anker upon the flats, certaine Russe Cassaks, which are outlawes or banished men, having intelligence of their being there, and of the great wealth that they had with them, came to them with divers boates under the colour of friendship, and entred their ship, but immediately they tooke their hatchets & slew divers of the Russes that were of the ship upon the hatches: Whereupon master Ducket, Lionell Plumtree, William Smith, the master, a man of singular valure, and Amos Riall being under the Spar-decke, did so well behave themselves, 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 calivers and other weapons fit for so villanous a purpose.

M. Ducket notwithstanding and the rest aforesaid received divers 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, having received 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 grievously 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 have men and boates set out for the rescuing and recovering of the ship if it were possible: who immediately sent out his sonne with fortie boates and five 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 up their drums before they were come neere them, the Cassaks discovering 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: & that second army came to a place where they found many of those 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 recovered 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 divers of the Cassaks which the Englishmen had slaine, buried in the earth, and wrapt some in fortie or fifty yards of Sattin and Taffataes, and some in Turkie carpets cut & spoiled by those villanous Pirats, of whom afterwards as many as could be taken by the Persians who entirely loved 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 recoverie: & having gotten some reasonable strength, they then provided boates and went up the river of Volga to Cazan, with such goods as they had recovered from the Cassaks. From Cazan they went towards Yeraslave, 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 preserve with much adoe, they conveyed over 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 subjects, bought himselfe as much as hee liked, and payed present money for the same. So that Winter being spent out in Mosko, and such wares provided by them as served for England, they departed to Saint Nicholas, and there embarked in the moneth of August: and having 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 arrived at London in the moneth of October, one thousand five hundred seventie and foure, and so made an ende of an unfortunate voyage: which if it had pleased God to prosper, that all things had come home as safely as they were carefully provided, and painfully laboured for, it had proved the richest voiage and most profitable returne of commoditie, that had ever bene undertaken by English merchants, who, notwithstanding all misfortunes, lost nothing of their principall adventure, but onely the interest and gaine that might have risen by the use of their stocke in the meane time.

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