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ised scholars in whom the cult for antiquity had undermined Christian faith--else had he not been acceptable to Queen Isabella. Some authors, including Ranke, have described him as occupying the post of Secretary of Latin Letters. Officially he never did. His knowledge of Latin, in a land where few were masters of the language of diplomatic and literary intercourse, was brought into frequent service, and it was no uncommon thing for him to turn the Spanish draft of a state paper or despatch into Latin." He refused a chair in the University of Salamanca, but consented on one occasion to deliver a lecture before its galaxy of distinguished professors and four thousand students. He chose for his subject the second satire of Juvenal, and for more than an hour held his listeners spellbound under the charm of his eloquence. He thus described his triumph: Domum tanquam ex Olympo victorem primarii me comitantur. * During these prosperous years in Spain, the promise made to Cardinal Ascanio Sforza was faithfully kept, though the latter's early fall from his high estate in Rome diverted Martyr's letters to other personages. With fervent and unflagging interest he followed the swift march of disastrous events in his native Italy. The cowardly murder of Gian Galeazzo by his perfidious and ambitious nephew, Lodovico il Moro; the death of the magnificent Lorenzo in Florence; the accession to power of the unscrupulous Borgia family, with Alexander VI. upon the papal throne; the French invasion of Naples—all these and other similar calamities bringing in their train the destruction of Italy, occupied his attention and filled his correspondence with lamentations and sombre presages for the future. * Talvolta era incaricato di voltare in latino le correspondenze diplomatiche pin importanti. I ministri oilor segretari ne faceano la minuta in ispagnuolo, edegli le recava nella lingua che era allora adoperata come lingua internazionale.
Ciampi, Nuova Antologia, tom. iii., p. 69. * Opus Epistolarum. Ep. lvii.
He was the first to herald the discovery of the new world/ and to publish the glory of his unknown compatriot to their countrymen. To Count Giovanni Borromeo he wrote concerning the return of Columbus from his first voyage: . . . rediit ab Antipodibus occiduis Christophorus quidam Colonus, vir ligur, qui a meis regibus ad hanc provinciam tria vix impetraverat navigia, quia fabulosa, que dicebat, arbitrabantury rediit preciosum multarum rerum sed auri precipue, qua suapte natura regiones generant tulit. Significant is the introduction of the great navigator: Christophorus quidam Colonus, vir ligur. There was nothing more to know or say about the sailor of lowly origin and obscure beginnings, whose great achievement shed glory on his unconscious fatherland and changed the face of the world.
In the year 1497 Peter Martyr was designated for a diplomatic mission that gratified his ambition and promised him an opportunity to revisit Rome and Milan.
Ladislas II., King of Bohemia, sought to repudiate his wife Beatrice, daughter of King Ferdinand of Naples, and widow of Matthias Corvinus, King of Hungary. Being a princess of Aragon, the outraged lady's appeal in her distress to her powerful kinsman in Spain found Ferdinand of Aragon disposed to intervene in her behalf. It was to champion her cause that Peter Martyr was chosen to go as ambassador from the Catholic sovereigns to Bohemia, stopping on his way at Rome to lay the case before the Pope. In the midst of his preparations for the journey the unwelcome and disconcerting intelligence that Pope Alexander VI. leaned rather to the side of King Ladislas reached Spain. This gave the case a new and unexpected complexion. The Spanish sovereigns first wavered and then reversed their decision. The embassy was cancelled
and the disappointed ambassador cheated of the distinction and pleasure he already tasted in anticipation. Four years later circumstances rendered an embassy to the Sultan of Egypt imperative. Ever since the fall of Granada, which was followed by the expulsion of Moors and Jews from Spain or their forcible conversion to Christianity if they remained in the country, the Mussulman world throughout Northern Africa had been kept in a ferment by the lamentations and complaints of the arriving exiles. Islam throbbed with sympathy for the vanquished, and thirsted for vengeance on the oppressors. The Mameluke Sultan of Egypt, aroused to action by the reports of the persecution of his brethren in blood and faith, threatened reprisals, which he was in a position to carry out on the persons and property of the numerous Christian merchants in the Levant, as well as on the pilgrims who annually visited the Holy Land. The Franciscan friars, guardians of the holy places in Palestine, were especially at his mercy. Representations had been made in Rome and referred by the Pope to Spain. King Ferdinand temporised, denying the truth of the reports of persecution and alleging that no oppressive measures had been adopted against the Moors, describing whatever hardships they may have suffered as unavoidably incidental to the reorganisation of the recently acquired provinces. His tranquillising assurances were not accepted with unreserved credence by the Sultan. By the year 1501, the situation had become so strained, owing to the knowledge spread through the Mussulman world that an edict of general expulsion was in preparation, that it was decided to despatch an embassy to soothe the Sultan's angry alarm and to protect, if possible, the Christians within his dominions from the threatened vengeance. For this delicate and novel negotiation, Peter Martyr was chosen. The avowed object of his mission has been suspected of masking some undeclared purpose, though what this may have
been is purely a matter of conjecture. He was also entrusted with a secret message to the Doge and Senate of Venice, where French influences were felt to be at work against the interests of Spain. Travelling by way of Narbonne and Avignon, the ambassador reached Venice a few days after the death of the Doge, Barbarigo, and before a successor had been elected. Brief as was his stay in the city of lagoons, every hour of it was profitably employed. He visited churches, palaces, and convents, inspecting their libraries and art treasures; he was enraptured by the beauty and splendour of all he beheld. Nothing escaped his searching inquiries concerning the form of government, the system of elections, the shipbuilding actively carried on in the great arsenal, and the extent and variety of commercial intercourse with foreign nations. Mention of his visit is made in the famous diary of the younger Marino Sanuto." Delightful and absorbing as he undoubtedly found it to linger amidst the glories of Venice, the ambassador was not forgetful that the important purpose of his mission lay elsewhere. Delivering his message to the Senate, he crossed to Pola, where eight Venetian ships lay, ready to sail to various ports in the Levant. The voyage to Egypt proved a tempestuous one, and it was the twenty-third of December when the storm-beaten vessel safely entered the port of Alexandria, after a narrow escape from being wrecked on the rocky foundations of the famous Pharos of antiquity. Christian merchants trading in the Levant were at that period divided into two groups, one of which was under the protection of Venice, the other, in which were comprised all Spanish subjects, being under that of France. The French consul, Felipe de Paredes, a Catalonian by birth, offered the hospitality of his house pending the arrival of the indispensable safe-conduct and escort from the Sultan. In the Legatio Babylonica, Peter Martyr describes, with lamentations, the squalor of the once splendid city of Alexandria, famous for its beautiful gardens, superb palaces, and rich libraries. The ancient capital of the Ptolemies was reduced to a mere remnant of its former size, and of its former glories not a vestige was perceptible." Cansu Alguri’ reigned in Cairo. A man personally inclined to toleration, his liberty of action was fettered by the fanaticism of his courtiers and the Mussulman clergy. The moment was not a propitious one for an embassy soliciting favours for Christians. The Portuguese had but recently sunk an Egyptian vessel off Calicut, commercial rivalries were bitter, and the harsh treatment of the conquered Moors in Spain had aroused religious antagonism to fever pitch and bred feelings of universal exasperation against the foes of Islam. From Rosetta Peter Martyr started on January 26th on his journey to the Egyptian Babylon,” as he was pleased to style Cairo, travelling by boat on the Nile and landing at Boulaq in the night. The next morning a Christian renegade, Tangriberdy by name, who held the important office of Grand Dragoman to the Sultan, presented himself to arrange the ceremonial to be observed at the audience with his master. This singular man, a Spanish sailor from Valencia, had been years before wrecked on the Egyptian coast and taken captive. By forsaking his faith he saved
*A di 30 Septembris giunse qui uno orator dei reali di Spagna; va al Soldano al Cairo; qual montó su le Gallie nostre di Alessandria; si dice per pregare il Soliano relaxi i frati di Monte Syon e li tratti bene, eche 30 mila Mori di Granata si sono baptizati di sua volontá, e non coacti.
*Writing to Pedro Fajardo he thus expressed himself: Alexandriam sepe perambulavi; lacrymosum est ejus ruinas intueri; centum millium atque eo amplius domorum uti per ejus vestigere licet colligere meo judicio quondam fuit Alexandria; nunc quatuor vix millibus contenta est focis; turturibus nunc et columbis pro habitationibus nidos prestat, etc.
* Also spelled Quansou Ghoury and Cansa Gouri; Peter Martyr writes Campsoo Gauro.
* Cairo was thus called in the Middle Ages, the name belonging especially to one of the city's suburbs. See Quatremère Mémoires geographiques te historiques sur l'Egypt. Paris, 1811.