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Pietro Della Valle

Pietro della Valle (2 April 1586 – 21 April 1652) was an Italian traveler in Asia.

Contents

Biography

Pietro della Valle was born in Rome from a wealthy noble family.

His early life was divided between the pursuits of literature and arms. He was a cultivated man, who knew Latin, Greek, Greek mythology, and the Bible. He also became a member of the Roman academy of the Umoristi, and acquired some reputation as a versifier and rhetorician. Mario Schipano, a professor of medicine in Naples suggested the idea of travelling in the East to Pietro as an alternative to suicide in response to disappointment in love. It was this last who received the letters, a sort of diary, from Pietro's travels.

Before leaving Naples, he took a vow of pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He left Venice by boat from on the 8th of June 1614 and reached Constantinople; he remained there for more than a year and acquired a good knowledge of Turkish and a little Arabic. On the 25th of September 1615 he went to Alexandria with a suite of nine persons, because he travelled always as a nobleman of distinction, and with every advantage due to his rank. From Alexandria he went on to Cairo, and, after an excursion to Mount Sinai, left Cairo for the Holy Land. He arrived there on the 8th of March 1616 in time to take part to the Easter celebrations at Jerusalem.

After visiting the holy sites, Pietro travelled from Damascus to Aleppo. After seeing a portrait of the beautiful Assyriann Christian princess Maani, he went to Baghdad. Afterward, he visited Persia (The first documented ancestors of the Persian cats were imported from Persia into Italy in 1620 by Pietro della Valle); which was at that time in war with Turkey, so he had to leave Baghdad on the 4th of January 1617. Accompanied by his wife he proceeded by Hamadan to Isfahan, and joined Shah Abbas in a campaign in northern Persia, in the summer of 1618. Here he was well received at court and treated as the shah's guest.

On his return to Isfahan he began to think of going back home through India rather than adventure himself again in Turkey, but the state of his health and the war between Persia and the Portuguese at Ormuz generated problems. In October 1621 he left Isfahan, visited Persepolis and Shiraz and made his way to the coast. But it was not until January 1623 that he found a passage for Surat on the English ship Whale, Captain Nicolas Woodcock.

He sejourned in India until November 1624, his headquarters being Surat and Goa. In India Pietro Della Valle was introduced to the King Vekatappa Nayaka of Keladi, South India by Vithal Shenoy, the chief administrator of those territories.The accounts of his travels are one of the most important sources of history of the region.

He was at Muscat in January 1625, and at Basra in March. In May he started by the desert route to Aleppo, and boarded on a French ship at Alexandretta. He reached Cyprus and finally Rome on the 28th of March 1626. There, he was received with many honors, not only from the literary circles but also from the Pope Urban VIII, who appointed him a gentleman of his bedchamber. The rest of his life was uneventful; he married as his second wife a Georgian orphan of a noble family, Mariuccia (Tinatin de Ziba), who had been adopted by his first wife as a child, travelled with him and was the mother of fourteen children. He died in Rome on the 21st of April 1652.

By 1665 the portion of his "Travels" dealing with India and with his return had been translated into English. They contain accounts of his discussions with "Hindoo" brahmins about whether the Egyptians or Indians first came up with the concept of reincarnation, a dialogue with a woman who invited him to her upcoming sati, a description of the barefoot Queen of Olaza, who was out on the embankments giving directions to her engineers--and many other bits of first-rate ethnography.

Della Valle also composed some vocal and instrumental music and was a librettist.

Works

  • "Funeral Oration on his Wife Maani", whose remains he brought with him to Rome and buried there (1627)
  • Account of Shah Abbas (1628)
  • The Travels in Persia (2 parts) were published by his sons in 1658, and the third part (India) in 1663.

Sources

See these works for excerpts of the early English translation and for further information:

http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00generallinks/dellavalle/index.html

  • R. Amalgia, 'Per una conoscenza piii completa della figura e dell'opera di Pietro della Valle', Rendiconti delVAccademia dei Lincei, series vin, vol. vi, 1951, 375-81.
  • L. Bianconi, Viaggio in Levante di Pietro della Valle, Florence, 1942
  • P. G. Bietenholz, Pietro della Valle 1586-1652: Studien zur Oeschichte der Orientkenntnis und des Orientbildes im Abendlande, Basel-Stuttgart, 1962
  • Wilfrid Blunt, Pietro's pilgrimage: a journey to India and back at the beginning of the seventeenth century, London, 1953.
  • I. Ciampi, Della vita e delle opera di Pietro della Valle, il Pellegrino, Rome, 1880
  • E. Rossi, ' Pietro della Valle orientalista romano (1586-1652) ', Oriente Moderno, XXXIII, 1953, 49-64
  • ________, 'Versi turchi e altri scritti inediti di Pietro della Valle', Rivista degli Studi Orientali, xxn, 1947, 92-8
  • A complete edition of della Valle's letters to Mario Schipano is by G. Gancia, Viaggi di Pietro della Valle, il Pellegrino, Brighton, 1843
  • Other letters from Persia have been edited by F. Gaeta and L. Lockhart, viaggi di Pietro della Valle: Lettere dalla Persia, vol. I, Rome, 1972.
  • John Gurney has two informative articles on della Valle: One is J. D. Gurney. “Pietro della Valle: The Limits of Perception” in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, Vol. 49 (1986), no. 1, pp. 103–116; the other one is his entry in the Encyclopedia Iranica

See also

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

PIETRO DELLA VALLE (1586-1652), Italian traveller in the East, came of a noble Roman family, and was born on the 11 th of April 1586, in the family palace built by Cardinal Andrea. His early life was divided between the pursuits of literature and arms. He saw active service against the Moors of Barbary, but also became a member of the Roman academy of the Umoristi, and acquired some reputation as a versifier and rhetorician. The idea of travelling in the East was suggested by a disappointment in love, as an alternative to suicide, and was ripened to a fixed purpose by a visit to the learned Mario Schipano, professor of medicine in Naples, to whom the record of Pietro's travels was addressed in the form of very elaborate letters, based on a full diary. Before leaving Naples he took a vow of pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and, sailing from Venice on the 8th of June 1614, reached Constantinople, where he remained for more than a year, and acquired a good knowledge of Turkish and a little Arabic. On the 25th of September 1615 he sailed for Alexandria with a suite of nine persons, for he travelled always as a nobleman of distinction, and with every advantage due to his rank. From Alexandria he went on to Cairo, and, after an excursion to Mount Sinai, left Cairo for the Holy Land on the 8th of March 1616, in time to assist at the Easter celebrations at Jerusalem. Having visited the holy sites, he journeyed by Damascus to Aleppo, and thence to Bagdad, where he married a Syrian Christian named Maani, a native of Mardin, who died in 1621. He now desired to visit Persia; but, as that country was then at war with Turkey, he had to leave Bagdad by stealth on the 4th of January 1617. Accompanied by his wife he proceeded by Hamadan to Isfahan, and joined Shah Abbas in a campaign in northern Persia, in the summer of 1618. Here he was well received at court and treated as the shah's guest. On his return to Isfahan he began to think of returning by India rather than adventure himself again in Turkey; but the state of his health, and the war between Persia and the Portuguese at Ormuz, created difficulties. In October 1621 he started from Isfahan, and, visiting Persepolis and Shiraz, made his way to the coast; but it was not till January 1623 that he found passage for Surat on the English ship "Whale." In India he remained till November 1624, his headquarters being Surat and Goa. He was at Muscat in January 1625, and at Basra in March. In May he started by the desert route for Aleppo, and took ship at Alexandretta on a French vessel. Touching at Cyprus he reached Rome on the 28th of March 1626, and was received with much honour, not only by literary circles, but by Pope Urban VIII., who appointed him a gentleman of his bedchamber. The rest of his life was uneventful; he married as second wife a Georgian orphan of noble family, Mariuccia (Tinatin de Ziba), whom his first wife had adopted as a child, and who had accompanied him in all his journeys. By her he had fourteen sons. He died at Rome on the 21st of April 1652.

In Pietro della Valle's lifetime there were printed - (1) a Funeral Oration on his Wife Maani, whose remains he brought with him to Rome and buried there (1627); (2) an Account of Shah Abbas, printed at Venice in 1628, but not published; (3) the first part of the letter describing his Travels (Turkey, 1650). The Travels in Persia (2 parts) were published by his sons in 1658, and the third part (India) in 1663. An English translation appeared in 1665 (fol.). Of the Italian text the editon of Brighton, 1843 (2 vols. 8vo), is more esteemed than the other reprints. It contains a sketch of the author's life by Gio. P. Bellori (1622). Della Valle's story is often prolix, with a tendency to the rhetorical; but he is clear and exact, well informed and very instructive, so that his work still possesses high value.


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