VARTHEMA, Ludovico di

VARTHEMA, Ludovico di. Bologna 1470? — Rome before June 1517. Italian Traveller in India. Claiming to have started his travels only in order to win fame he left Italy late in 1502 and travelled on the route Venice–Cairo–Beyrout–Damas–Mecca (the first known non-Muslim there), using Muslim robe, then by ship to Aden, where he was emprisoned as a Christian spy. Escaping to North-East Africa he sailed to Diu, and after visiting Ormuz and Herat to Cambay. Then sailed to Mangalore, visited Vijayanagar, and again by ship Calicut–Quilon–Ceylon–Pulicat–Negapatam–Tarnasseri–Banghella–Pegu–Malacca–Sumatra–Borneo. Returning to India he became factor in Cochin and returned to Europe around Cape in a Portuguese ship in 1507. Knighted in Lisbon. Last years living in Rome. Note, however, that Tucci says he left around 1500 and travelled 7 years.

Unlike some other travellers Varthema gave a personal narrative of his experiences, although some details seem dubious. The parts about Persia and South-East Asia may be just hearsay (Rubiés). His book includes a good descriptions of Cambay and especially of Calicut and gives a good opinion of the Hindus and their morality. Naturally he also had some of the prejudices of his time (Indians worship Devil).

Publications: Itinerario de Ludouico de Varthema Bolognese. Rome 1510, translated into Latin (name as Vertomannus) and 5 modern languages (German 1515, English in Purchas, then Hakluyt Soc. 32. 1863; Italian in Ramusio), e.g. The Itinerary of Ludovico di Varthema of Bologna from 1502 to 1508 as tr. from the original Italian edition of 1510 by John Winter Jones in 1863, with a discourse … by R. C. Temple. 85+121 p. L. 1928. The original Italian text was ed. by E. Musacchio, Bologna 1991.

Sources: *J. Aubin, “Deux Chrétiens au Yémen Tahiride”, JRAS 3, 1993, 33-75; Franci 1991, 55-76; Oaten, 63–66; J.-B. Rubiés, Literature of Travel and Explor. 3, 2003, 1234-1236; Tucci 2005, 53-56; Wikipedia.

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