THE TERRIBILITÀ OF THE SPOTTED CAT
1485

10 luglio 1485

Magnifice et generose Domine:
Participo a Vostra Magnificenza come ho già fatto con altra lettera che mandai al console nostro in Andrianopoli, che questa mattina fu fata porta solenne per accetar l'ambasciatore del soldano, and anche io andai per vedere cose nuove, e subito presentandomi in quel cerchio che era intorno li signori, per sua grazia me fecero chiamare e sentare sopra uno scagno incontro di loro, arente i defterdari, e venne da mi un ambasciatore di questi Ungheri, che venne ultimamente con una bella compagnia alla quale mandarono un tappeto fuora del pavion.

E poi per buon spazio cominciarono a venire li presenti del sultano, e fu in prima: un animale grande come un lion con varie macchie , negro del capo fino alla coda, che era una terribilità a vederlo; di poi vennero


Mansueti, ca. 1500, detail showing a cheetah.

10 July 1485

Magnificent and Generous Lord:
I share with Your Magnificence - as I have already done with another letter that I sent to our consul in Adrianople - that this morning there was a solemn audience to receive the Ambassador of the Sultan,* and I also went to see new things, and I was promptly shown to the circle that was around the lords, by whose grace I was called and seated opposite them on a stool, among the defterdars.** After me came an ambassador of the Hungarians, who came later on with a handsome entourage to whom they sent a carpet outside the pavilion.

And then for a good while they began to bring the presents from the Sultan, and first there was an animal large as a lion with varied black spots, from head to tail, that was an awesome thing to see; after that came six most beautiful horses, the first with a saddle and

sei corsieri bellissimi,el promo con una sella e briglia d'oro, e con barda di lame all'azimesca, e i altri corsieri poi disforniti. Drio vennero tre cammeli corridori con tre selle e soccinelli di panno di seta, e coverte a lor modo; e drio di questi vennero presenti minudi: tre pappagalli bellissimi con gavvie, e quattro garzoni eunuchi neri, e due spade fornide e quattro disfornie, doi mazze di ferro bellissime, doi accette con la cima un suo fornimento, elmi, brochiere dì azzal, e drio questo furono molte selle, sanibaffi, centure, lizari, panni di seda che in verità a doi pezze per uomo erano più di ottanta per sorte che le portavano. Dietro li presenti venne l'ambasciatore con una berretta in testa e una veste damaschina verde e le maniche di recamo d'oro, e tutta la suo schiena fino in terra era coperta di zibellini.. E subito ch'el se appresentò in quel circhio li uscirono dal pavione con loro seguito e li andarono incontro. Dopo la salutatione lo menarono sotto il pavione, ed essendo di sotto il Daut bassà, ed in mezzo agli altri sentati, e ragionando per buon pezzo furono chiamati dal signore e andarono le tre bassà con l'ambasciatore e quel suo dottor grande che venne di Costantinopoli. Et entradi dal signore, stettero manco de un quarto d'ora ed escirono fuori, e tornarono a sentare sotto il pavione, e portarono fuori un gran rotolo di scritture, le quali fecero tagliare, e le lesse il dottor grande, e fu lunghissima lettura.

Da poi letto, portarono il desinare e messe molte vivande davanti li bassà and altri che sentavano con loro. Da poi il desinare fu messo avanti li defterdari e da poi furono messi otto piatti di porcellana avanti di me con diverse cose. E chiamato lo ambasciatore unghero, sedette sotto di me e mangiassimo di quel che vi era cadauno. Levati i piatti vennero i deputati e dissero all'ambasciatore unghero ch'el tornasse fora al suo primo luogo, e così fece, ed ebbe del sole quanto ne ha voluto, ed io rimasi sopra il mio scagno, ed ogni uomo ha giudicato che la persona mia sia stata molto onorata in questa giornata alle corte. E Dio sia di tutto ringraziato.

Domani si dice che anderà l'ambasciatore d'India, ed io faccio conto di riposare. Ma Luca Sofrano, portadore di questa è stato alla presente solennitade. Di nuova el sarà anche a quella di domani, e narrerà tutto alla Magnificenza Vostra e tuorrà a mi la fadiga de scriver, che in verità stando scomodo come sto, con grandissimo caldo sotto di questo padiglione non mi vien voglia di far niente de ben, nè mai in vita mia ho visto più strano solazzo di questo che non avevo pur aqua fresca da bere. Recevo per altro grandissima cortesia, ma ritardi e struzi enexplicabili, avendo anche alle spalle gli ambasciatori di tre città e se non aspettano degli altri, e ognuno vorria essere spacciato dal dire e fare le cose sue. E questa corte contrapesa, e con tanti ambasciatori è occupatissima. Io peno di mezzo, e in verità, come altre fiate ho scritto, non bisogneria metter tanta carne al fuoco, nè creder ad un giovine che non sa niente che ha riferido cosa non vera e poste le cose nostre in pericolo. Prego Dio me dia grazia che possa riescir con onore e alla Magnificenza Vostra mi racommando.

bridle of gold, and trappings worked with gold. Behind came three racing camels with three saddles and silk cushions, and covered in their fashion. And after these came the little presents: three most beautiful parrots with cages, and four black eunuch boys; two decorated swords, and four undecorated; two most beautiful iron maces, two battle axes with ornamented crests, helmets, steel shields, and behind these were many saddles, sanibaffi,*** belts, fabrics, silks, so that in truth at two pieces per man there were more than eighty by count of those who carried them. Behind the presents came the Ambassador with a beretta on his head and a robe of green damask with the sleeves embroidered in gold, and all his back down to the ground was covered with sable. Immediately as soon as he arrived at the circle they went out from the pavilion with their attendants and they went to meet them. After the greetings, they led him beside the pavilion and he was there beside Daut Pasha**** and in the midst of the others sitting, and talking for a good while, they were called by the Sultan***** and the three pashas went in with the Ambassador and that great doctor who came from Constantinople. Going in to the Sultan, they stayed less than a quarter of an hour and came out, and returned to sit beside the pavilion, and they brought out a large scroll of writing, which they cut open, and the great doctor read it, and it was a very long reading.

After the reading, they brought lunch and put many dishes before the pashas and others who were sitting with them. After, lunch was put before the defterdars, and after eight plates of porcelain were put before me with various foods. The Hungarian Ambassador was told he should sit beside me, and we should eat from each thing there. When the plates were removed, emissaries came and told the Hungarian Ambassador that he should return outside to his first place, and he did this, and he had more sun than he wanted, and I remained on my stool. Everyone has judged that my person has been much honored during this day at the court. May God be thanked for all.

It is said that the Indian Ambassador will come tomorrow, and I am making plans to rest. But Luca Sofrano, bearer of this, has been at today's ceremony. For news, he will also be at the one tomorrow, and will tell Your Magnificence everything, and will take the fatigue of writing from me, because in truth I am uncomfortable as I am, with the greatest heat under this tent, I don't feel like doing anything, and I have never in my life seen a stranger entertainment than this that does not have pure fresh water to drink. I receive, on the other hand, the greatest courtesy, but inexplicable delays and obstructions, and I also have the ambassadors of three cities on my back and no one will wait for anyone else, and each one wants to be free to discuss and work out his own affairs. And this court examines [every little] detail and with so many ambassadors is very busy. I don't feel well, and in truth, as I have written other times, I do not need to put so much flesh on the fire, neither do I trust a young man who knows nothing, who has reported things not true, and placed our affairs in peril. I pray God gives me grace that I can come out with honor and I commend myself to Your Magnificence.

         

This letter was written by Giovanni Dario from the hunting camp of the Ottoman Sultan, Beyazid, outside Adrianople. The text is found in Guglielmo Berchet, La Repubblica di Venezia e la Persia (Turin, 1865) 150-151, who states it was written in Persia. M. F. Tiepolo (2002), pp. 301-302, demonstrates this identification comes from copyists' errors and provides other documentary evidence that Dario was still based at Adrianople. I have taken the liberty of changing some of the punctuation. Pierre MacKay helped with the Turkish.

* Sultan - Qayt Beyh al Zakiri, 1468-1496, Mamluk Sultan of Egypt.
** Defterdars - officials in the Ottoman treasury.
*** Sanibaffi - fabric of double thickness. Turkish, from Pers. bafte = woven, with T sane = double.
**** Daut Pasha, 1482-1489, Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire; 1489-1497 Vizier of Roumeli.
***** Sultan - Bayezid II, 1481-1512 ruler of the Ottoman Empire.


The Sultan's camp (here, Suleiman the Magnificent) showing the Porte, or gate, of the Sultan's quarters that Dario mentions ("che questa mattina fu fata porta solenne").
From a manuscript in the Topkapi Museum in The Age of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent. ed. Esin Atıl (New York, 1987) 92-93.

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