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PIETRO DELLA VALLE (1586–1652)

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Originally appearing in Volume V27, Page 863 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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PIETRO DELLA VALLE (1586–1652), Italian traveller in the East, came of a noble Roman family, and was born on the 11th 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—(1p 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, 165o). 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.
End of Article: PIETRO DELLA VALLE (1586–1652)
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