The Garden Guide

Book: Journey and Embassy to Samarkand
Chapter: Ii. Constantinople

Galatea - Pera

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Pera is a small city, but well peopled and surrounded with a wall, and it contains good and handsome houses. It is inhabited by Genoese, and is a lordship of Genoa. It is peopled by Genoese and Greeks, and is so close to the sea, that between the wall and the water there is not sufficient breadth for a carrack to pass. The wall runs along the shore, and then ascends a hill, on the top of which there is a great tower, whence the city is watched. This hill, however, is not so high as another outside the town, which rises above it; and on that eminence the Turk encamped when he besieged Pera and Constantinople, and here they fought, and hurled missiles from engines. The Turk twice assaulted the city, and blockaded it by sea and land for six months, with four hundred thousand, men on land, and sixty galleons and ships by sea; but they were unable to enter, nor even to occupy a suburb, so that it seems that the Turks are not good combatants, as they could not enter. The sea between Pera and Constantinople is narrow, not being more than a mile across, which is the third of a league; and this sea serves as the port for both cities; and I hold it to be the best and most beautiful in the world, and the most secure from all winds. Vessels lying in it are also secure from enemies, who cannot enter if both cities are of one mind. It is very deep and clear, so that the largest ship can come close to the walls, and place a gangboard to the shore. The land of Turkey is also very close to these two cities; and opposite Constantinople, on the land of Turkey, there is a plain near the sea, called Scutari. Many vessels pass from these cities to the land of Turkey every day. The Genoese obtained the city of Pera in the following way. They bought the site, as much as a bullock's hide cut into strips would go round, from an emperor, and on it they have built the city; and they made two walls, in which they enclosed two suburbs which were near the city. But the primary jurisdiction over the city belongs to the emperor, and he has certain rights over it. The Genoese call this city Pera, but the Greeks call it Galata; and they give it this name because, before the city was built, there were certain places here, where flocks of sheep were collected every day, and they took the milk from those which they were going to sell in the city, and for this reason they call it Galata, which means the milk yard, for milk in their language is gala. It is now ninety-six years, a little more or less, since this city was built. There are two very handsome monasteries in Pera, one dedicated to St. Paul, the other to St. Francis. The ambassadors went to see them both.