Γαλιόνι, 1580, Στοά των Χαρτών, Βατικανό
The baffling winds and the current forced us off our course almost to Barbary; whence, with a strong west wind, we shaped our course northwards, to make a landfall. After three days on this course, on Saturday, the 28th, in the morning watch, we made an islet called Strival (Strophades). It may be five miles about, and is flat and uninhabited, but for a monastery of caloiros with some cattle. There is good water, for which both Christian and Turkish galleys frequent it.
Presently, as the light grew, we saw the Isle of Zante, for which we were bound, and continued our voyage thither. We rounded it by the east, and at six in the evening we cast anchor in the port, which is on the northern coast (actually north-eastern).
This Isle of Zante is sixty miles about, and as it were fenced around with high mountains, amidst which lies a spacious plain, full of vineyards, olive groves, and cornfields. These last yield only four months supply, and for the rest of the year the island depends on imported grain. Wherefore the Signory of Venice, who own the Isle, keep there at all times a great store of millet, so that in case of urgent need they can help the people. But as to the vineyards and olive orchards, the produce of so little land seems past belief; for of dried Corinthian grapes (Zante currants), one year with another, they gather from fifteen to twenty thousand arrobas (172.5 to 230 tons by my calculations). Their wine comes to between sixteen and eighteen thousand pipes (kegs), of the best quality, and the olive oil to over five hundred pipes.
On this account the Isle is much frequented by French, English, and other ships. The climate is indifferent, but there is plenty of good fruit and herbs, of flowers, useful or fragrant, and of honey. But wood is scarce, and must be imported, and there is no great plenty of fish.
In and about the city there is plenty of water, but in the rest of the Isle it is scarce; and I was told by credible persons — though I saw it not myself — that in some places they sometimes knead their bread with wine, for want of water (This is true for paximadhi, a kind of biscuit, but to give it flavour and not because of water shortage).
There are two ports, the better in the north, where is the chief town of the Isle. It may have three thousand houses of cut stone and lime, with tiled roofs, at the foot of a high mountain, whereon is a citadel. This is the residence of the Governor, impregnable by its position and fortification, well armed and garrisoned, and provided with all else needful for its defence.
The natives are Greeks, and there are amongst them in the city thirty or forty houses of Jewish merchants, besides others in the towns and hamlets, whereof the Isle has several. I was invited to one of these, called Gayetan (Ghaitani), to see certain games in honour of a Greek saint's feast. These were attended by most of the folk of the city, only three miles away. As soon as we got into the town, we found in the streets great fires at which were roasted whole from three hundred to four hundred sheep, for the purchase and entertainment of the visitors.
After that, the guests from the city and from other towns joined those of the village in messes, and danced together, to the music of their own voices, having a precentor to whom the rest answered. After that they had jousts, and other very pleasant pastimes.
The other port on the southern coast is called Chery (Keri), and lies five miles away from this, by the level way through the valley above mentioned. There is here a town of the same name, and near it a pond, from within which arises constantly and abundantly a black and fine bitumen like tar (this is mentioned by Herodotus and today it is known as Herodotus’ Spring). Salt also is made in the Isle, enough for its own needs, and some is exported. Those who come here for trade export, besides local produce, silk, wax, hides, saffron, galls, and other goods, imported in great abundance from the Morea. This, the old Peloponnese, lies only ten miles east of the Isle, and on a hill thereof one can see a fine castle, commonly called "Castel Torneze" (Chlemoutzi or Clarenza castle). All this was lately Venetian territory, but now the Turks possess it.
The night after our arrival a Turkish galley entered the port, in flight, as they said, from two Christian galleys that had chased her. Next morning there came in seven, belonging to the Signory of Venice, and three more joined them later on. Upon the Turkish galley's entrance, inquest was speedily made as to the rights and wrongs of her case; and after much debate they let her go free, on condition of instant departure, finding that she had aboard the King of Argel (Algiers), bound for Constantinople on a summons from the Grand Turk. But most men thought this was but a pretence.
By the terms existing between them, no Turkish galleys may enter the ports or waters of the Signory without their express permission; and, if found therein, these are fair prize, and their companies, if they resist, subject to military execution, provided that it be done within twenty-four hours of capture. After that term they may neither be slain nor held captive, but must be set free; and he who should transgress (sic) these rules would be subject to severe punishment.
Upon our coming into port we stayed aboard for the night, and all went ashore in the morning. Though we had clean bills of health great difficulties were made about granting pratique, wherein the Signory are most vigilant. As a great favour, and on special interest made, we were detained in a warehouse whilst the health officers took counsel how to deal with us.
The Governor, the praveedor (provveditor) of the squadron, and other distinguished friends of our comrade, Piero dal Ponte, did all they could for us. Yet we could get no release until three o'clock of the afternoon; so strictly is the business managed amongst those nations. During this delay and confinement, I wondered at the abundance of presents and refreshments sent to Piero dal Ponte. We were about forty in number; yet we never stopped eating and drinking of the same all day; to say nothing of
plenty that was given to our guards, though these were not paid at our cost, as is the practice here.
On our release, Piero dal Ponte carried Domenico Calegary and myself to visit the proveditor of the squadron, and there to the citadel to the Governor, both of whom used him with much honour and favour. The rest of our time we spent in seeing whatever was worth it, while our ship took in cargo. Her arrival was inconvenient enough to some others already loading in the port. For it is the law, in all ports of the Signory, that no other ship may take in cargo while a Venetian bottom is available.
There is in this port a fishery which I noted as remarkable. In July and August there come to this and other isles, from the archipelago, great shoals of savalos. Of these the fishermen picket a living female to a stake or cane, set in the harbour bottom with good scope of horsehair line. The male fish, seeing the decoy, resort to her at once, and the men strike them without intermission. Yet the heat of desire will allow no warning way into their silly brains; and so, with many such decoys, the men take innumerable fish. They salt the flesh and roe, which last are called butargas and much esteemed in all those regions.
I saw in this Isle great use of negro slaves, some of whom were brought direct from Africa; but most by the English, who had got them in past years by plundering the Portuguese ships from Guynea and Angola.
Twelve land miles north-west of this port is the Isle of Safalonya (Cephalonia), also Venetian territory; and at twenty miles to the northward are clearly seen some islets called Scorsolary (Curzolari or Echinades), where was the sea-fight between the Turk and the League, wherein the Senor Don John of Austria was captain-general (Battle of Lepanto).
To conclude, the women of this Isle are mostly good-looking, and ride in men's fashion when they go into the country. Both men and women live, and sing, and dance very much like our Portuguese of the province 'twixt Duero and Minho.
We stayed here eight days for want of a wind, which we would not lose when we got it, sailing at noon on Sunday, the 5th of June. But it headed us in the evening, and as we could not clear the sound betwixt Zante and Safalonya, we must needs put back into port. It is worth consideration that, from Harmuz to this place, I never left port without being forced so to put back, and could make no fair start. The wind that drove us back brought into port a ship of Venice from Naples, bringing, amongst other news, that of the birth of our Lord the Prince of Spain, and of the creation of the Holy Father, Pope Paul the Fifth, of which we were all glad. The same day we had word that the corsair Murat Arrays (Murat or Murad Reis) was in the Gulf of Venice with seven galleys.
On Tuesday, the Sth of June, the wind began to favour us, and we sailed again with two other ships. One of these was a Venetian, homeward bound from Cypro, and the other a little English ship, also bound for Venice. I thought that as she was lighter and swifter, she might make a better voyage, and committed to a friend of mine, of Zante, who took passage aboard her, a packet of papers for Venice. But it is ill to count on what may chance at sea; and this ship, after suffering much trouble, and being forced into Corfu to water, got into Venice twenty days later than we did.
We ourselves, sailing with that favouring wind, made but twelve miles through the Sound, and could not get out of it with our best endeavour. For the wind headed us, and drove us back. Without returning into port, we rounded the Isle southwards, and after three days beating against head winds, on Thursday, the 16th of the month, we saw Corfu far in the north.