Also known as Ludivico de
Varthema, the Italian traveller from the town of Bologna has
left behind him, a valuable account of his experiences of
Vijayanagara in the early 16th century. He is believed to
have lived between 1465-1517. He left from Venice in 1502
and travelled through Arabia, India, Central Asia, Burma,
and Malaysia before sailing around Africa to return home in
1507. He was the first Christian known to have made a pilgrimage
to the Islamic holy city of Mecca. His account of Middle Eastern
and Asiatic wanderings was widely circulated throughout Europe
and earned him high fame in his own lifetime. He made significant
discoveries (especially in Arabia) and made many valuable
observations of the peoples he visited.
The original account, in
Italian, was published at Rome on the 6th of December 1510
at the request of Lodovico de Henricis da Corneto of Vicenza
by Stephano Guillireti de Loreno and Hercule de Nani, both
of Bologna. The translation followed here was made by John
Winter Jones in 1863, edited by G. P. Badger, and published
under the title of "The Itinerary of Ludovico di Varthema
of Bologna from 1502 to 1508" the same title we use
in the text below.
He describes Vijayanagar
as a great city, "very large and strongly walled. It
is situated on the side of a mountain, and is seven miles
in circumference. It has a triple circlet of walls."
It was very wealthy and well supplied, situated on a beautiful
site, and enjoying an excellent climate. The king "keeps
up constantly 40,000 horsemen" and 400 elephants. The
elephants each carry six men, and have long swords fastened
to their trunks in battle - a description which agrees
with that of Nikitin and Paes.
"The common people go quite naked, with the exception
of a piece of cloth about their middle. The king wears a cap
of gold brocade two spans long.... His horse is worth more
than some of our cities on account of the ornaments which
it wears." Calicut, he says, was ruined in consequence
of its wars with the Portuguese.