CYRIACO OF ANCONA
1391 - 1455?

January 1445. On the night after the festival that celebrated the new year in the court of Thasos, we embraced each other lovingly and often, then embarked with good omens on a small boat, whose destination was ancient Ainos. The sailors, sprawled on their hard benches beneath the oars, caught some sleep, but sweet sleep did not hold your Cyriac. For long before the cock with his wakeful voice called forth the warm day, I roused the captain and his crew by singing "alleluia."

December 1445. To the distinguished, cultivated Andreolo Giustiniani, my good and most delightful friend. . . Receive from the carrier, A. Galaphatos, one marble head, one leg, and two little cypress wood boxes wrapped in cloth with this seal: K+A.

gem

Delfino's gem, a carving of Athena. 3.72 x 2.90 x 1.44cm.
Berlin, Staatliche Museen.


October 1445, Candia. Moreover, to tell you something very special, when Giovanni Delfino, that diligent and most industrious fleet commander, had displayed numerous coins and precious gems to me as I lingered by night with him on his flagship, he showed me, among other items of the same sort, a splendid crystalline signet seal the size of a thumb that is engraved in deep relief . . . When you hold up the thick part of the gem right towards the light, where the breathing limbs are seen to shine out in wondrous beauty with complete colidity, and with luminous crystal shadows in the hollows, we learn who is the maker of so splendid a thing by the Greek letters - very ancient ones - carved above.

On the Galley by Lamplight

To Tell You Something Special

My Very Good Friends


Copy by Giuliano da Sangallo of Cyriaco's drawings of the interior and exterior of
Agia Sophia, the nymph Cymodocea, and columns.
Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Barb. lat. 4424.

2 April 1444. All of us arrived safely thanks to supreme Jove's help, our most holy protector Mercury's guidance, and the favor of white-clad learned Cymodocea, the brightest of Nereus' sea-nymph daughters, who kept the deep sea calm . . . for . . . we were proceeding by sea under increasingly good winds, all sails swelling and the two tenders following along behind, tied to the stern. The voyage had passed mid-point when the larger of them raised her neck, as if she had turned into a proud sea-mammal jealous of her sister, who had conveyed us to their mother in harbor, when she saw the smaller boat riding gently ahead of her on the waves while she herself struck them amidships with no little force. Most kind Cymodocea, taking pity on her, embraced her immediately with white arms and, opening her copious bosom, hid and protected her deep within her body, immersing her beak in the broad sea the way dolphins do, increasing the number of her sisters by changing her into a nymph.

15 August 1446. On the 15th of August, the lucky, bright day of the light-bearer Diana, the middle of the month of Augustus Caesar, a day marked by the Assumption into heaven of the blessed mother of God, the Virgin Mary, a day solemnized at the sacred church of the seraphic Francis in this famous colony of Byzantine Pera with many different sorts of religious and civil celebrations, I first witnessed th solemn ceremonies in the distinguished church of bountiful Wisdom in the royal city of Constantinople, presided over by his excellency, the patriarch Gregory.

 



26 February 1555. To John Palaiologos, the divine, august, devout, successful Byzantine emperor, from Cyriac of Ancona.
After the most holy union of the faithful was achieved, to your great credit, and you left Italy, much-praised King John, I wanted, for many extraordinarily persuasive reasons, to visit your fortunate majesty in your famous palace in Byzantium, most worshipful prince. Indeed, although I had every desire to go to the west in order to see, as is my habit, whether any worthwhile antiquities have survived in these noble lands until our own day, I decided not to begin that journey without first visiting you and receiving your blessing. . . .
At length I arrived at Patras, a city of Achaea in the Peloponnesus, where I wrote immediately to your distinguished brother Constantine and disclosed what I thought he ought to know concerning this project [a possible crusade in defence of the Byzantines]. From there I went to Corinth, where I learned from Demetrios Asan, his deputy, that Constantine had recently gathered a large force from everywhere in the Peloponnesus and was about to march with his excellent brother, Thomas, from Lacedemonian Mistra to the Isthmus. There the long line of earthworks has been restored and the fateful Isthmus has again been fortified with turreted walls. From there he intends to lead his entire force through the Megarid and all of Achaea, and, now that the city of Thebes has recently been received in surrender, to invade Lebadea, Parnassian Daulis and the sacred city of Delphi, sending one division to each, and, with the good Lord's help, to free them from the barbarians, a worthy task indeed.

19 July 1444. . . the most serene emperor himself, John Palaiologos, and his brother, Theodore Porphyrogenitos, the renowned despot, left Byzantium to go on a hunt, splendidly accompanied in the usual royal manner . . .. First they set up the king's pavilion at Aphamnia . . . beside a beautiful rising spring, and, round about it, the tents of the nobles. . . . The next day, Jove's lucky day, as the unclouded sun grew bright, some went falconing for colored birds among the thorn bushes, while others tried with great eagerness to catch varieties of fish in the rivers . . . Finally, we saw emerging from a wood between the valleys and slopes of the hills a large number of huge, wing-footed stags; they crossed the plains, passing us by at a distance. . . . And finally, the Cretan falconer Manuel held out a large, long-footed lizard that a peregrine falcon had killed before my eyes in the clear sky. Then the jovial emperor invited me to receive a portion of the prey.

Above: Sangallo's version of Cyriaco's drawing of the Parthenon, and someone else's version (left). VVb2, . 28v. Far left: inscriptions and statue in Athens. B1, f. 85r.



3 December 1443. For on numerous occasions we saw Christians—boys as well as unmarried girls and masses of married women of every description—paraded pitiably by the Turks in long lines throughout the cites of Thrace and Macedonia bound by iron chains, and lashed by whips, and in the end put up for sale in villages and markets and along the shore of the Hellespont, an unspeakably shameful and obscene sight, like a cattle market, so to speak.

28 October 1448. After these princes and distinguished men had received me most cordially, they expertly showed me all of the city's important sites: first, we saw outside the city. . ., the remarkable Trojan tomb of Priam's son Polydorus, which consisted of a large mound of earth. With Cristoforo we rode to the top of this mound on horseback . . .. Then, as we explored the city everywhere more carefully, we saw numerous traces of her great antiquity: huge marbles sculptured with a variety of figures, but for the most part demolished, and we examined numerous broken statue bases with their inscriptions, whose beginnings and endings were missing. Those that were somewhat complete and chosen as more important are written down here: [missing].

 

Carved sarcophagus used to decorate the altar of a church in Kairia, near Tainaron. Photo. Stolen in modern times.
Milan. Bibliotheca Ambrosiana. Trotti 373, f. 107r.


July/August 1444. But alas! How unsightly a structure we returned to, compared to the one we inspected fourteen years ago! For then we saw thirty-one surviving columns standing erect, whereas now I find that [only] twenty-nine columns remain, some shorn of their architraves. . . . ruined and dashed to the ground, evidently by the barbarians. On the other hand, those exceptional glorious marble figures of the gods on [the temple's] outstanding, wondrous façade, remain unharmed in their nearly pristine glory, thanks to the protection of almighty Jove himself . . ..

23 October 1444. In connection with this most wondrous spring [on Crete], there are among the inhabitants in surrounding villages, and particularly in Agauousia, priests of the Greek religion who testify that, even in our own day, they have sometimes seen Diana herself with her dazzling nymphs, their white robes cast aside, nude bathers submerged in the translucent waters.

November 1444. But first I made sure to record here a fine, intact marble statue base that I found in a garden near the sea.Also, under the personal guidance of our very good friend Francesco Calvo, we saw near the walls of the city numerous caves hand-carved from the living rock, where the Thracians customarily dwell to fend off the unbearable winter, as we read recently in Pomponius Mela the illustrius geographer. Nowadays, these caverns, which are visible in the living rock, are called "Bubularia

Inscriptions from Porto Quaglio, Mani.
Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Trotti 373, f. 116v.

 

 

20 October 1447. From there on the 20th of October, we journeyed from the same city of Tainaron to the very tip of the promontory; . . .close by the port which the sailors call by the Italian name of Quaglio, near the ancient ruins of a temple of Nepture, we first found this inscription: [LEFT]

Aristoteles the priest, farewell; Pryaios the priest, son of Aristoteles, farewell; Damarmenidas the priest, son of Aristoteles, farewell.

Likewise, at a religious chapel of Michael the Archangel, on a very old tablet, partially effaced by the passage of time, an inscription in very ancient Cadmean lettering:
[LEFT]
[. . .] and Theodoros their dearest son.

 



Statue of Justinian in Constantinople.
Budapest, Budapest University Library, MS It. 3, f. 144v.

Erroneously attributed to Cyriaco.

 


November ? 1447. And at the nearer hill of [Porto Quaglio], in a grove thick with slender holm-oak saplings, at a remove of five stades from the shore, we found that huge cave from which, they say, the divine Hercules dragged Cerberus out of the lower world - although we learned that the same tale has been handed down by others from the city of Heracleia Pontica . . . and we saw that place less than a year ago.
Here, however, when we were approaching the forecourt and the gaping mouth of the pit, it was not a dragon, which the timorous rustic natives proclaimed was present within, but the racket of doves flying out of there that startled the trembling hearts of my companions. Finally, going down through the rocky entrance into the interior of the cave, accompanied by three [local] inhabitants . . . with lit candles deeper into the vast interior of the pit along with Adr[iano?] Magola and Giovanni Tabulario, a priest, we observed that the cave leads to a sheer drop.


November 1447. And when on my journey I had viewed with pleasure a lovely valley green in every direction with close-packed vineyards and trees and pleasant meadows, and utterly tranquil, the locals showed me a place bounded by natural stones where every year the youths who live in the immediate vicinity engage by ancient custom in a competition, for which their prince [Constantine] provides the prizes, which they also call the androdromon pentastadion; that is, they compete in a men's footrace over a distance of five stadia, which they run barefoot, mind you, and dressed only in a linen undertunic; and whoever runs more swiftly and comes in first is given ten bronze drachmas, which they call hyperpera; the second, five; the third, three; and after that, all the others, in order of finishing, a little cash or a quantity of Hyrcanian meat, so that none of the athletes will have gone away unrewarded, except that the prince at once rewards the one who comes in last and makes him a object of popular ridicule with the fit of an onion.
Early 1448? For today, while we were traveling from the village of Arcasa to Spartan Mistra, we saw among our companions a certain Spartan youth, tall of stature and quite handsome, George, called by the sobriquet Chirodontas, that is, "Boar's teeth," because, they say, that once, while hunting in the forest, encountering a fierce boar, he leaped onto its back, and pressing it down by sheer force, killed the prostrate beast; and that once he caught and held two men together under his arms and carried them several paces. In my case also, instead of reassuring me, and as a statement of his honesty, he caught me up with his hands on the bank of a certain small river, held me under his arm, and deposited me safely on the farther bank fo the stream. And at the next village, we saw that, brandishing an iron rod that was three fingers thick, he had split it into separate parts.

Bacchus figure.
Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Trotti 373, f.110v.

13 July 1445. . . . we settled down in the bishop's country house near Miscea, at the foot of White Mountain . . . we saw on the banks and reverenced another small, old church of the Blessed Virgin enclosed by trees laden with fruit.
But, to see what we came to see . . . those famous mountain-cypress trees - an to inspect certain antique remnants of towns that I had heard still exist . . . on the next day, Jove's lucky day, along with his excellency the bishop and accompanied by a number of rustics and huntsmen from the neighborhood, we climbed through rocky, steep hills to the White Mountains themselves. There we first inspected the towered, scattered walls of a certain very old town . . . There the bishop chose to linger, to study the walls, which were composed of huge stones, and to render to God due glory; whereas I, accompanied by a local, Basil, climbed to higher, wooded summits of the mountains, s steep, unfamiliar trail, my feet clad in sandals of Hyrcanian hide; and, under the personal guidance of our wing-footed Mercury, we saw at last the object of our quest, numerous cypresses, tall, fragrant conifers menacing the sky with their foliage, ever green, the distinguished glory of the forests..

Sleeping Ariadne (or nymph).,
Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Trotti 373, f. 113v.

Inscription from ancient Sparta.
Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Trotti 373, f. 103v.



PORTRAITS

 

Review
Edward W. Bodnar,
Cyriac of Ancona: Later Travels

CIRIACO IN THE ARGOLID

Further information on Cyriaco

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

 

Images from: Edward W, Bodnar, SJ, Cyriac of Ancona: Later Travels, and Patricia Fortini Brown, Venice & Antiquity: The Venetian Sense of the Past. Translations from Bodnar. .

 


Church of S. Ciriaco at Ancona

 

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