We went then to visit the galleys, being about twenty-five in number; the capitaine of the Galley Royal gave us most courteous entertainment in his cabin, the slaves in the interim playing both loud and soft music very rarely. Then he showed us how he commanded their motions with a nod, and his whistle making them row out. The spectacle was to me new and strange, to see so many hundreds of miserably naked persons, their heads being shaven close, and having only high red bonnets, a pair of coarse canvas drawers, their whole backs and legs naked, doubly chained about their middle and legs, in couples, and made fast to their seats, and all commanded in a trice by an imperious and cruel seaman. One Turk amongst the rest he much favoured, who waited on him in his cabin, but with no other dress than the rest, and a chain locked about his leg, but not coupled. This galley was richly carved and gilded, and most of the rest were very beautiful.

“Esclave turc” by Rembrandt. 1629. Source: BnF.

 

After bestowing something on the slaves, the capitaine sent a band of them to give us music at dinner where we lodged. I was amazed to contemplate how these miserable caitiffs lie in their galley crowded together; yet there was hardly one but had some occupation, by which, as leisure and calms permitted, they got some little money, insomuch as some of them have, after many years of cruel servitude, been able to pur- chase their liberty. The rising-forward and falling- back at their oar, is a miserable spectacle, and the noise of their chains, with the roaring of the beaten waters, has something of strange and fearful in it to one unaccustomed to it. They are ruled and chastised by strokes on their backs and soles of their feet, on the least disorder, and without the least humanity, yet are they cheerful and full of knavery.

“Vüe de leglise de S. Victor de Marseille” by Antoine Meunier. 1791. Source: BnF.

After dinner, we saw the church of St. Victor, where is that saint’s head in a shrine of silver, which weighs 600 pounds. Thence to Notre Dame, exceedingly well – built, which is the cathedral. Thence to the Duke of Guises Palace, the Palace of Justice, and the Maison da Roi; but nothing is more strange than the great number of slaves working in the streets, and carrying burdens, with their confused noises, and jingling of their huge chains. The chief trade of the town is in silks and drugs out of Africa, Syria, and Egypt, and Barbary horses, which are brought hither in great numbers. The town is governed by four captains, has three consuls, and one assessor, three judges royal; the merchants have a judge for ordinary causes. Here we bought umbrellas against the heats,1 and consulted of our journey to Cannes by land, for fear of the Picaroon Turks2, who make prize of many small vessels about these parts; we not finding a galley bound for Genoa, whither we were designed.


  1. Umbrellas, at this date, though used abroad, were unfamiliar in England. “Temperance and an umbrella must be my de- fence against the heats,” writes Edward Browne (Sir ThomasBrowne’s eldest son) from Venice in 1665.] Coryat describes them thus in 1608 :—“ Also many of them [the Italians] doe carry other fine things of a far greater price, that will cost at least a duckat, which they commonly call in the Italian tongues umbrelloes, that is, things that minister shadow unto them for shelter against the scorching heate of the sunne. These are made of leather something answerable to the forme of a little cannopy, & hooped in the inside with divers little wooden hoopes that extend the umbrella in a pretty large compasse. They are used especially by horsemen, who carry them in their hands when they ride, fastening the end of the handle upon one of their tliighes ; and they impart so long a shadow unto them, that it keepeth the heate of the sunne from the upper parts of their bodies” (Crudities, 1776, i. 135).] –AD 

  2. Barbary pirates who were active in most of coastal Europe at the time – GS