صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

his life, and had gradually risen from a state of servitude to his post of confidence near the Sultan's person. Tangriberdy availed himself of the opportunity afforded by his duties, to relate to the ambassador the story of his life and his forcible conversion, declaring that, in his heart, he clung to the Christian faith and longed to return to his native Spain. Whether his sentiments were sincere or feigned, his presence in an influential capacity at the Sultan's court was a fortuitous circumstance of which the ambassador gladly took advantage. The audience was fixed for the following morning at daybreak, and that night Tangriberdy lodged the embassy in his own palace. Traversing the streets of Cairo, thronged with a hostile crowd curious to view the giaour, Peter Martyr, accompanied by the Grand Dragoman and his Mameluke escort, mounted to the citadel, where stood the stately palace built by Salah-Eddin. After crossing two courts he found himself in a third, where sat the Sultan upon a marble dais richly draped and cushioned. The prostrations exacted by Eastern etiquette were dispensed with, the envoy being even invited to sit in the august presence. Thrice the Sultan assured him of his friendly disposition; no business was transacted, and after these formalities the ambassador withdrew as he had come, a second audience being fixed for the following Sunday. Meanwhile, the envoys from the Barbary States, who were present for the purpose of defeating the negotiations, excited the populace by appeals to their fanaticism, reminding them of the cruelties endured by their brethern of the true faith at the hands of Spaniards. They even declared that if Cansu Alguri consented to treat with the infidels, he was no true son of Islam. A council of military chiefs was summoned which quickly decided to demand the immediate dismissal of the Christian ambassador. Tangriberdy, who sought to alter this determination, was even threatened with death if he persisted in his opposition. Remembering that he owed his throne to the Mamelukes, who had exalted and destroyed no less than four Sultans within as many years, Cansu Alguri quailed before the outburst of popular fury. He ordered Tangriberdy to conduct the obnoxious visitor from the capital without further delay. Peter Martyr, however, received this intimation with unruffled calm and, to the stupefaction of Tangriberdy, refused to leave until he had accomplished his mission. Such audacity in a mild-mannered ecclesiastic was as impressive as it was unexpected. The Grand Dragoman had no choice but to report the refusal to the Sultan. By what arguments he prevailed upon Cansu Alguri to rescind his command, we know not, but a secret audience was arranged in which Martyr describes himself as speaking with daring and persuasive frankness to the Sultan. He availed himself in the most ample manner of diplomatic license in dealing with facts, and succeeded in convincing his listener that no Moors had been forced to change their religion, that the conquest of Granada was but the re-establishment of Spanish sovereignty over what had been taken by conquest, and finally that nobody had been expelled from the country, save lawless marauders, who refused to abide by the terms of the fair treaty of peace concluded between Boabdil and the Catholic sovereigns. He closed his plea by adroitly introducing a scapegoat in the person of the universally execrated Jew, against whom it was the easiest part of his mission to awaken the dormant hatred and contempt of the Sultan. Into willing Mussulman ears he poured a tirade of abuse, typical of the epoch and the nation he represented: . . . proh si scires quam morbosum, quam pestiferum; quamgue contagiosum pecus istud de quo loqueris sit, tactu omnia fedant, visu corrumpunt sermone destruunt, divina et humana preturbant, inficiunt, prostrant miseros vicinos circumveniunt, radicitus expellant, funestant; ubicumque pecunias esse presentiunt, tamguam odori canes tnsequunt; detegunt, effundiumt, per mendacia, perjuria, dolos insidias per litas, si catera non seppetunt, extorquere illas laborant: aliena miseria, dolore, gemitu, mestitia gaudent. With every word of this diatribe, the representative of the Prophet was in perfect agreement. United in the bonds of a common hatred, than which no union is closer, a treaty between the two powers was easily concluded. The military chiefs were converted to the advantages of friendly relations with Spain, and means were devised to calm the popular excitement. Assisted by some monks of the Mount Sion community, the successful ambassador drafted the concessions he solicited, all of which were graciously accorded by the mollified Egyptians. Christians were henceforth to be permitted to rebuild and repair the ruined sanctuaries throughout the Holy Land; the tribute levied on pilgrims was lightened and guaranties for their personal safety were given. It is noteworthy that only religious interests received attention, no mention being made of commercial privileges. More noteworthy still, is the absence of anything tangible given by the adroit envoy in exchange for what he got. The Sultan was reassured as to the status of such Moors as might remain under Spanish rule, and was encouraged to count upon unspecified future advantages from the friendship of King Ferdinand. A truly singular result of negotiations begun under such unfavourable auspices, though the value of concessions, to the observance of which nothing constrained the Sultan, seems problematical, and was certainly less than the ambassador, in his naive vanity, hastened to assume and proclaim. While the text of the treaty was being prepared, Peter Martyr occupied himself in collecting information concerning the mysterious land where he found himself. Egypt was all but unknown to his contemporaries, whose most recent information concerning the country was derived from the writings of the ancients. The Legatio Babylonica, consisting of three reports to the Spanish sovereigns, to which addenda were later made, contains a mass of historical and geographical facts, of which Europeans were ignorant; nothing escaped the ambassador's omnivorous curiosity and discerning scrutiny, during what proved to be a veritable voyage of discovery. He treats of the flora and fauna of the country; he studied and noted the characteristics of the great life-giver of Egypt—the Nile. The Mamelukes engaged his particular attention, though much of the information furnished him about them was erroneous. He plunged into antiquity, visited, measured, and described the Sphinx and the Pyramids— also with many errors. Christian tradition and pious legends have their place in his narrative, especially that of Matarieh-ubi Christus latuerat when carried by his parents into Egypt to escape the Herodian massacre of the Innocents. On the twenty-first of February, Peter Martyr, escorted by a guard of honour composed of high court officials and respectfully saluted by a vast concourse of people, repaired to the palace for his farewell audience. In taking an affectionate leave of him, the Sultan presented him with a gorgeous robe, heavy with cunningly-wrought embroideries. Christian and Mussulman were friends. Six days later he left the capital for Alexandria, where he embarked on April 22d for Venice.

[ocr errors]

Leonardo Loredano had meantime been elected Doge in succession to the deceased Agostino Barbarigo. Spanish interests in the kingdom of Naples were seriously compromised, and the diligence of the French envoys threatened to win Venice from the neutral policy the Republic had adopted and convert it into an ally of Louis XII.

On June 30th, Peter Martyr landed in Venice and immediately sought audience of the new Doge, to whom he repeated the message he had delivered a few months before to the Senate. Perceiving the headway made by French influence, he wrote to Spain, explaining the situation and urging the sovereigns immediately to despatch an embassy to counteract the mischievous activity of , the French. He offered, as an alternative, to himself assume the negotiations if the requisite instructions were sent to him. King Ferdinand ignored the proffer of service, but, acting upon the information sent him, entrusted the business to Lorenzo Suarez de Figueroa, who had been his ambassador in Venice in I495. Zealous for his adopted country and, possibly, overconfident in consequence of his easy success in Egypt, Peter Martyr did not wait for the credentials he had solicited but made the mistake of treating affairs for which he had received no mandate. The French envoys were quick to detect his opposition, and as prompt to take advantage of the false position in which the diplomatic novice had unwarily placed himself. His unaccredited presence and officiousness in the capital of the Doges were made to appear both offensive and ridiculous. The adherents of the French party denounced him as an intriguer, and spread the report that he was a spy in the pay of Spain. His position speedily became intolerable, unsafe even, and he was forced to escape secretly from the city; nor did he stop until he reached his native Lombardy, where he might rely upon the protection of his kinsmen, the Marshal Trivulzio and the Borromeos, to shield him from the consequences of his indiscretion.

He writes with emotion of the visit he paid to his native town of Arona and the scenes of his childhood, where he renewed acquaintance with the charms of one of the loveliest landscapes in Italy. He yielded to early memories,

« السابقةمتابعة »