Estudos e Documentos 9 (volume 4)
Lisbon, Centro de História de Além-Mar, 2011
The Centro de História de Além-Mar – Universidade Nova de Lisboa and Universidade dos Açores (CHAM) has just published a volume of studies concerning the embassy of Don García de Silva y Figueroa, envoy of Felipe III, King of the Spanish Monarchy, to the royal court of Shah ‘Abbas I, ruler of Safavi Persia. This embassy implied a very long journey through the Orient which took place between 1614 and 1624.
Don García’s surviving works include a small text about Tamerlan, appended in the narratives of the medieval traveler Ruy González de Clavijo, the Historia del Gran Tamorlan e Itinerario e Enarración del Viaje y Relacion de la Embajada que Ruy Gonzalez de Clavijo le hizo (edition of Eugénio Llaguno, 1782); and a vast epistolary corpus edited by Luis Gil in García de Silva y Figueroa. Epistolario Diplomatico (Cáceres,1989).
However, the greatest literary work of Don García is the travel journal in which he narrates his embassy to the Orient, whose manuscripts are today at the Biblioteca Nacional de Madrid. This outstanding historical source is better known as Comentarios de D. Garcia de Silva y Figueroa de la embajada que de parte del rey de España don Filipe III hizo al rey Xa Abbas de Persia, title of its only complete edition so far (edited by Manuel Serrano y Sanz, 1903-1905). It was a very late contribution, since the first known, though very incomplete edition, was published in Paris (1667) by Abraham de Wicquefort.
The book we are referring to in this article constitutes the fourth part of a project conducted by CHAM to renew and stimulate the study of Don García’s work and travels, called “Relações de Portugal com a Pérsia durante a União Ibérica: os Comentarios de Don García de Silva y Figueroa” (“Relations between Portugal and Persia during the Iberian Union: the Comentarios of Don García de Silva y Figueroa), financed by Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (PTDC/HAH/69734/2006). The three other parts of the project will be published soon, and will include a new critical edition of the Comentarios (volumes 1-2, edited by Rui Loureiro and Vasco Resende) as well as a volume containing annotations, commentaries, glossaries, etc. (volume 3, coordinated by Rui Loureiro).
These studies were the result of one of the various workshops conducted within the project, which took place at Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian (Lisbon). Its thread is the journey of the Spanish ambassador, though their thematic range is very wide, which allows to display the enormous potential of Don Garcia’s work and other related sources for the study of 17th century’s geography, history and culture in regions where, at the time, the East and the West were constructing new dynamics that helped to shape the Modern world.
We can mention some of the topics, both general and specific, that are expounded in these articles. For example, the complex political context, which involved European courts, the Ottoman empire and the Safavi empire, with all the rivalries and convergences generated within that strategic framework; the practices that gave substance to different diplomatic traditions and languages (e.g. of European countries and of the Safavi court); the nautical aspects of the traditional maritime routes to Asia, as reported by Don García; and even some reflections about the economic, cultural and political role of the capital of the Portuguese Estado da Índia, Goa, one of the most relevant loci that served as a platform for travelling in the Middle East and through the Indian Ocean, situated along Don García de Silva y Figueroa’s itinerary.
The studies presented in this book are rather diverse. However, we must highlight a specific topic which has an indubitable relevance for the editorial line of Res Antiquitatis: the travels of Don Garcia through the lands of Persia, that allowed him to observe several ancient ruins with his own eyes, such as Persepolis. His written observations are unique because they constitute one of the first empiric reports made available to Europe about archeological realities in the Orient that one can consider as crucial as cultural references for the construction of Western and Christian civilisation. It includes drawings of stone reliefs of Persepolis, and even reproductions of Cuneiform script. Don García de Silva y Figueroa had an objective attitude towards these ancient vestiges which he confronted with his great knowledge of both Biblical and Classical cultures.
On a very fortunate coincidence, this volume came out during the conference of Professor Joaquín Córdoba in Lisbon (21st October 2011), in which this eminent researcher presented the editorial history of the Comentarios, the context surrounding the journey of Don García and also the descriptions of ancient remains he found and registered in his diary.
For more information, visit: http://cham.fcsh.unl.pt/pages/publicacoes.htm
Luis GIL, “Biografia de don García de Silva y Figueroa”, p. 3 (“Biography of don García de Silva y Figueroa”).
Luis GIL (ed.), “La «Epistola de rebus Persarum» de don Garcia de Silva y Figueroa”, p. 61 (“The «Epistola de Rebus Persarum» of don García de Silva y Figueroa”).
Joan-Pau RUBIÉS (ed.), “«Relación de la Embaxada que hiço en Persia Don García de Silva y Figueroa» (1620) by his secretary Saulisante”, p. 135.
José Manuel GARCIA, “García de Silva y Figueroa e o contexto da sua passagem por Lisboa”, p. 173 (“García de Silva y Figueroa and the context of his passage through Lisbon”).
José Manuel Malhão PEREIRA, “Aspectos náuticos das viagens por mar de D. García de Silva y Figueroa entre 1614 e 1624”, p. 183 (“Nautical aspects of the travels by sea of D. García de Silva y Figueroa between 1614 and 1624”).
Ângela Barreto XAVIER, “Entre a curiosidade e a melancolia. Deambulações pela Goa de Don García”, p. 207 (“Between curiosity and melancholy. Wanderings about the Goa of Don García”).
Carla Alferes PINTO, “Presentes ibéricos e ‘goeses’ para ‘Abbas I: a produção e consumo de arte e os presentes oferecidos ao Xá da Pérsia por D. García de Silva y Figueroa e D. frei Aleixo de Meneses”, p. 245 (“Iberian and ‘goese’ presentes for ‘Abbas I: the production and consumprion of art and the presents offered to the Shah of Persia by D. García de Silva y Figueroa and D. frei Aleixo de Meneses”).
Willem FLOOR, “At the royal court of Shah ‘Abbas I (1589-1629)”, p. 279.
Vasco RESENDE, “Itinéraires et voyageurs portugais en Perse safavide”, p. 299.
Caroline MAWER, “Travelling in Safavid Persia : Following in the footsteps of Don D. García de Silva y Figueroa”, p. 313.
Francisco CARAMELO, “Visões da Antiguidade nos Comentarios de Don D. García de Silva y Figueroa”, p. 345 (“Visions of Antiquity in the Comentarios of Don D. García de Silva y Figueroa”).
Zoltán BIEDERMANN, “Um viajante sem mapas? Figueroa e a cartografia da Pérsia”, p. 367 (“A traveller without maps? Figueroa and the cartography of Persia”).
Elio C. BRANCAFORTE, “The encounter between Pietro della Valle and García de Silva y Figueroa at the Safavid court of Shah ‘Abbas I”, p. 395.
Juan GIL, “D. García de Silva y D. Vicente Nogueira”, p. 411.
Maria João FERREIRA, “Os Portugueses e o negócio da seda persa: a participação lusitana no comércio de seda do início do século XVII”, p. 451 (“The Portuguese and the trade of Persian silk: the Lusitan participation in silk trade at the beginning of the 17th century”).