The Garden Guide

Book: Journey and Embassy to Samarkand
Chapter: Ruy Gonzalez De Clavijo

Turkish coast

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As the strait of Romania {The Dardanelles} was near, and the wind increased as the night advanced, the captain feared he might not be able to find the mouth of the strait, and therefore determined to work off and on until daylight. A little before midnight the wind increased to a gale, and they found themselves off the island of Merdi, and resolved to make for the island of Metellin, to mend their sails and procure a pilot. Before reaching the port, a castle called Mollenos came in sight on the said island, and presently they saw another castle called Cuaraca. At noon they anchored in the port of Metellin, and remained there until Friday, repairing damages. The town of Metellin is built on a high hill near the sea, and is surrounded by a wall with many towers; and outside there is a large suburb. This island is three hundred miles round, and contains several villages and castles, and there are many gardens and vineyards in the neighbourhood of the city. Near the town there have been, very large houses and churches, and it would seem that, in former days, the island was thickly populated; and at one end of the city, in a plain near the fountains and gardens, there are the ruins of great palaces, and in the middle of the ruins there are about forty blocks of white marble;-they say that on the top of those blocks of marble, there was once a platform, where those of the city met in council. The people of this island are Greeks, and were formerly subject to the empire of Constantinople; but they are now under a Genoese named Juan de Catalus, whose father married a daughter of the emperor. They tell a strange story concerning this Genoese: that about twenty years ago, when this lord, and his father and mother and two brothers were asleep in the castle, the earth shook and threw down the castle, killing them all except this Genoese lord, who escaped in the cradle in which he slept; and was found next day in a vineyard at the foot of the castle: and it was a great wonder that he thus escaped. When the ambassadors arrived, they found the young Emperor of Constantinople, who had married a daughter of the Lord of Metellin, and who resided a good deal in this island. A short time before, his father-in-law and brother-in-law had sailed with two galleys and five galliots, to take the city of Salonica, which belongs to the old Emperor of Constantinople; and the reason they went to attack that city, was as follows:-This young emperor lived with the Turk Murad, and, being in a city of Turkey called Solombria {Selymbria}, Mosen Buchicate, governor of Genoa, arrived there with ten galleys, and took away the said emperor to Constantinople, by force. {1355-91, John Pal�ologus, Emperor of the East, was a wretched vassal of the Turk, �the careless spectator of the public ruin.� Andronicus, his eldest son, formed a guilty friendship with Sauzes, son of the Turk Murad, and the two youths conspired against the lives of their fathers. Sauzes was blinded, and John obeyed the Turk, by doing the same to Andronicus. Manuel, the second son, became heir. Their territory was about fifty miles long, and thirty broad, between the Euxine and Sea of Marmora. Manuel succeeded in 1391, and reigned till 1425. In 1393 Bajazet besieged Constantinople. Christian princes marched from Hungary to assist Manuel; but were utterly routed at Nicopolis. John, son of Andronicus, agreed to give up Constantinople and retire to the Morea, if Bajazet would help him to drive out Manuel. To save Constantinople, Manuel gave up the city to John, and embarked for Venice. In 1395 Bajazet threatened to besiege Constantinople, and Boucicault was sent to its relief. His presence caused the blockade to be raised; but the Turks soon returned; and Manuel and Boucicault retired to France to seek aid. The invasion of Timur saved Constantinople. In 1400 Manuel passed through Italy, France, and even visited England, Henry IV and his court receiving him on Blackheath. In 1402 he returned to the Morea and Constantinople, dethroned John, and banished him to Mytilene. Manuel reigned for many years in peace, and died in 1425. His son Andronicus was invested with the principality of Thessalonica, and died of leprosy soon after the sale of that city to the Venetians} He made friends with the emperor his uncle, on condition that the town of Salonica should be given to him as a residence. Mosen Buchicate conveyed the old emperor to France, to seek aid from the king; and the young emperor was left in charge of the government until his return. The old emperor being in France, the young emperor agreed, when Murad and Timur Beg were about to fight, that if the Turk should be victorious, he would deliver up the city of Constantinople to him; and would pay him tribute. When the old emperor heard this, on his return to Constantinople, he was very angry, and ordered his nephew never to appear before him again, but to depart from his territory to the island of Estalimen; and he deprived him of the city of Salonica. As he had previously promised him the city of Salonica, and would not now give it, he and his father-in-law determined to take it, if possible. The said Juan, lord of the said island, had sent a galliot to Mosen Buchicate, in which there was an ambassador, who was ordered to say that Buchicate knew well how the old emperor had promised the city of Salonica to his son-inlaw, in his presence; but that he would now only give the island of Escalines; Juan, therefore, asked him to come and assist in taking the city, and added that he would wait for him in the island of Escalines. While the ambassadors were in the island of Metellin, the galliot, which had gone on this embassy, arrived, with the news that Buchicate had arrived in Rhodes, and had sailed again, but it was not known whither he had gone. On Saturday, the 6th of October, at dawn, they made sail, and directed their course between the land of Turkey, and the said island of Metellin, until they reached Cape St. Mary. On Sunday they doubled the cape, and came in sight of a desert island called Tenio {Tenedos ?}, on the left hand; and an inhabited island, belonging to Constantinople, called Nembro {Imbro}. The wind was foul, and continued to increase during the afternoon; and, having made little way, they wished to take shelter under the island of Tenio, which was near, but they were unable owing to the wind and current, so they anchored between the land of Turkey and the said island of Tenio, in a Strait, near which stood the great city of Troy. From this place they saw the edifices of Troy, with parts of the wall, having doors at intervals, and towers, and other buildings like castles. It is built in a plain near the sea, and extends towards some high mountains; and at the other side of the city, a high and sharp peak rose up, where it is said that there used to be a castle, called Elion. The island of Tenia, which is opposite the said city, used to be the port of the city, to which ships resorted. It was occupied by King Priam, who built a great castle on it, called Tenedos, for the defence of the shipping. This island used to be full of inhabitants, but it is now deserted. The boat was sent from the ship to procure water and wood, and some of the attendants of the embassy went to see the island, and found many vineyards and fruit trees, and game such as partridges and rabbits, and the ruins of a great castle. The reason why this island of Tenia is uninhabited, is as follows:-About twenty-two years ago, the emperor of Constantinople promised to give the said island to the Genoese, for assisting him with some galleys in his war against the Turk; but he afterwards sold it to the Venetians who settled on it, and fortified the town and castle. When the Genoese heard this, they declared that the island belonged to them, and that the emperor had promised it to them, and that he had no right to sell it to anyone. Thus there was discord between the Genoese and Venetians, and they both began to arm their fleets, and committed great slaughter amongst each other, upon this island. Peace was made on condition that neither should have it; that the town and castle should be laid in ruins, and that the island should be left uninhabited. This is one of the causes why, at this day, there is enmity between the Genoese and Venetians. On Wednesday they were unable to make sail, as the wind was still foul, and they were thus detained until Sunday. On Sunday afternoon a vessel arrived in the port of Tenio, and they sent to ask where she came from. She was from Gallipoli, a place belonging to the Turk, but on Grecian land, and was bound for Chios, with a cargo of wheat; and she brought news that a great pestilence raged at Gallipoli. The ambassadors were detained for thirteen days more, owing to the foul wind; and from the said island of Tenio they could see a very high mountain called Monteston {Mount Athos, or Monte Santo ?}, which is in the land of Greece, and where there is a monastery of Greek monks, who lead very holy lives, and will not allow a woman, nor a dog, nor a cat, nor any tame thing which has young, to come near them: and they do not eat meat. This monastery is very rich, and they say that it is two days journey from the foot of the mountain to the summit, where the monastery stands; and, besides this one, there are fifty or sixty monasteries, where the monks all dress in black, and do not drink wine, nor eat meat, nor oil, nor fish, with blood; and these things were related by some Greeks who were in the said ship, who had lived some time on that holy mountain.