A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels, Vol. 1
by Robert Kerr
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Voyages and Travels of Discovery in the middle ages; from the era of Alfred King of England, in the ninth century, to that of Don Henry of Portugal, at the commencement of the fifteenth century.


General Voyages and Travels, chiefly of Discovery; from the era of Don Henry in 1412, to that of George III. in 1760.


General Voyages and Travels of Discovery during the era of George III., which were conducted upon scientific principles, and by which the Geography of the globe has been nearly perfected.


Historical Deduction of the Progress of Navigation, Discovery, and Commerce, by sea and land, from the earliest times to the present period.


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Discovery of Iceland by the Norwegians.

Voyages of Ohthere to the White Sea and the Baltic.

Remarks on the situation of Sciringe-heal and Haethum, by J.R. Forster.

Voyage of Wulfstein in the Baltic.

—— of Sighelm to India.

Travels of John Erigena to Athens.

Geography of the known world as described by King Alfred.

Travels of Andrew Leucander.

Voyage of Swanus to Jerusalem.

—— of three ambassadors from England to Constantinople.

Pilgrimage of Alured to Jerusalem.

—— of Ingulphus.

Original discovery of Greenland by the Icelanders in the ninth century.

Early discovery of America by ditto, in 1001.

Travels of two Mahometans into India and China, in the ninth century.

—— of Rabbi Benjamin from Spain to China, in the twelfth century.

—— of an Englishman in Tartary, in 1243.

Sketch of the Revolutions in Tartary.

Travels of Carpina to the Moguls, &c. in 1246.

—— of Rubruquis into Tartary about 1253.

—— of Haitho, in 1254.

—— of Marco Polo into China, &c. from 1260 to 1295.

—— of Oderic, in 1318.

—— of Sir John Mandeville, in 1322.

Itinerary of Pegoletti between Asofand China, in 1355.

Voyages, of Nicolo and Antonio Zeno, in 1380.

Travels of Schiltberger into Tartary, in 1394.

—— of the Ambassadors of Shah Rokh, in China, in 1419.

Voyage and Shipwreck of Quirini, in 1431.

Travels of Josaphat Barbaro from Venice to Tanna (now Asof), in 1436.


Various early pilgrimages from England to the Holy Land, between 1097 and 1107.

Discovery of Madeira.

Discovery and conquest of the Canary Islands.

Discoveries along the coast of Africa; and conquests in India, from 1412 to 1505.

Discoveries of the world, from their commencement to 1555, by Antonio Galvano.

Journey of Contarini into Persia, in 1473-6.

Voyages of discovery by the Portuguese along the western coast of Africa, during the life of Don Henry.

Original journals of the Voyages of Cada Mosto, and Pedro de Cintra, to the coast of Africa, from 1455.

Voyages of discovery by the Portuguese along the coast of Africa, from the death of Don Henry, in 1463, to the discovery of the Cape of Good Hope in 1486.

History of the discovery and conquest of India by the Portuguese, between 1497 and 1505, by Herman Lopes de Castanecla.

Letters from Lisbon in the beginning of the 16th century, respecting the discovery of the route by sea to India, &c.


History of the discovery of America, and of some of the early conquests in the New World.

Discovery of America, by Columbus, written by his son Don Ferdinand Columbus.

—— written by Antonio de Herrera.

An account of the Voyages of Americus Vespucius to the New World, written by himself.

Discoveries and settlements of the Spaniards in the West Indies, from the death of Columbus, to the expedition of Hernando Cortes against Mexico.

History of the discovery and conquest of Mexico, written in 1568, by Captain Bernal Diaz del Castillo, one of the conquerors.


History of the discovery and conquest of Peru, written by Augustus Zarate.


Continuation of the history of Peru, extracted from the Commentaries of Garcilosso de la Vega.

History of the discovery and conquest of Chili, taken from various sources.

Discovery of Florida, and ineffectual attempts to conquer that country by the Spaniards,—from the General History of America, by Herrera.


Early English Voyages of discovery to America.

Voyages of Jacques Cartier, from St. Maloes to Newfoundland and Canada, in 1534-5.

Continuation of the discoveries and conquests of the Portuguese in the East; with some account of the early Voyages of other European nations to India.

Discoveries, &c. &c. from 1505 to 1539.

A particular relation of the expedition of Solyman Pacha, from Suez to India, against the Portuguese; written by a Venetian officer in the Turkish service on that occasion.

Account of the Voyage of Don Stefano de Gama, from Goa to Suez, in 1540; written by Don Juan de Castro.

Continuation of the account of the Portuguese transactions in India, from 1541 to the middle of the 17th century; from De Faria's Asia.


Voyages and Travels in Egypt, Syria, Arabia, Persia, and India, by Ludovico Verthema, in 1503-8.

—— in India, &c. by Cesar Frederic, in 1563-81.

Second Voyage to Barbary, in 1552, by Captain Thomas Windham.

Voyages to Guinea and Benin, in 1553, by Captain Windham and Antonio Anes Pinteado.

—— in 1554, by Captain John Lok.

—— in 1555, by William Towerson, merchant, of London.

Second Voyage to Guinea, in 1556, by William Towerson, merchant, of London.

Third, in 1558.

Instructions for an intended Voyage to Guinea, in 1561.

Voyage to Guinea, in 1562; written by William Rutter.

Supplementary account of the foregoing Voyage.

Voyage to Guinea, in 1563, by Robert Baker.

—— in 1564, by Captain David Carlet.

—— and to the Cape de Verd Islands, in 1566, by George Fenner.

Account of the embassy of Mr. Edmund Hogan to Morocco, in 1577; by himself.

Account of the embassy of Mr. Henry Roberts from Queen Elizabeth to Morocco, in 1585; by himself.

Voyage to Benin, beyond Guinea, in 1588, by James Welsh.

Supplement to the foregoing.

Second Voyage of ditto in 1590.

Voyage of Richard Rainolds and Thomas Dassel to the Senegal and Gambia, in 1591.

Some miscellaneous early Voyages of the English.

Voyage to Goa, in 1579, in the Portuguese fleet, by Thomas Stevens.

Journey over-land to India, by Ralph Fitch.

Supplement to ditto.


Voyage of Mr. John Eldred to Tripoli, and thence by land and river to Bagdat and Basorah, in 1583.

Account of the Monsoons in India, by William Barret.

First Voyage of the English to India in 1591, by Captain Geo. Raymond and James Lancaster.

Supplement to ditto, by John May.

Voyage of Captain Benj. Wood towards the East Indies, in 1596.

—— of Captain John Davis to the East Indies, in 1598.

—— of William Adams to Japan, in 1598.

—— of Sir Edward Michelburne to India, in 1604.

First Voyage of the English East India Company in 1601, under Captain James Lancaster.

Account of Java and of the English at Bantam, from 1603 to 1605.

Second Voyage of the Company, in 1604, under Captain Henry Middleton.

Third Voyage of the Company, in 1607, under Captain William Keeling.

Narrative by William Hawkins during his residence in the dominions of the Great Mogul.

Observations of William Finch, who accompanied Hawkins.

Voyage of Captain David Middleton, in 1607, to Bantam and the Moluccas.

Fourth Voyage of the Company, in 1608, under Captain Alexander Sharpey.

Voyage of Captain Richard Rowles.

Fifth Voyage of the Company, in 1609, under Captain David Middleton.

Sixth Voyage of the Company, in 1610, under Sir Henry Middleton.

Journal of the same, by Nicholas Downton.

Seventh Voyage of the Company, in 1611, under Captain Anthony Hippou.

Notices of the same, by Peter Floris.

Eighth Voyage of the Company, in 1611, under Captain John Saris.


Ninth Voyage of the Company, in 1612, under Captain Edward Marlow.

Tenth Voyage of the Company, in 1612, by Mr. Thomas Best.

Observations made on the foregoing by different persons.

Eleventh Voyage of the Company, in 1612, in the Salomon.

Twelfth Voyage of the Company, in 1613, under Captain Christopher Newport.

Voyage of Captain Downton to India, in 1614.

Supplement to ditto.

Journey of Richard Steel and John Crowther, from Agimere to Ispahan, in 1615-16.

Voyage of Captain Peyton to India, in 1615.

Proceedings of the factory at Cranganore, by Roger Hawes.

Journal of Sir Thomas Roe, ambassador from James I. to the Emperor of Hindoostan.

Voyage to India, in 1616, by Mr. Edward Terry.

Journey of Thomas Coryat from Jerusalem to the Court of the Great Mogul.

Wrongs done the English at Banda by the Dutch, in 1617-18.

Fifth Voyage of the Joint-Stock by the Company, in 1617, under Captain Pring.

Voyage of the Ann-Royal from Surat to Mokha, in 1618.

Voyage to Surat and Jasques, in 1620.

War of Ormus, and capture of that place by the English and Persians, in 1622.

Massacre of the English at Amboyna, in 1623.

Observations during a residence in the island of Chusan, in 1701, by Dr. James Cunningham.


Historical account of early circumnavigations; of Magellan, in 1519-22. of Sir Francis Drake, in 1577-80. of Sir Thomas Cnmlish, in 1586-8. of Van Noort, in 1598-1601. of George Spilbergen, in 1614-17. of Schouten and Le Maire, by Cape Horn, in 1615-17. of the Nassau fleet under Jacques Le Hermit, in 1623-6. of Captain John Cooke, accompanied by Captains Cowley and Dampier, in 1683-91. in 1703-6, by William Funnell. in 1708-11, by Captain Woods Rogers and Stephen Courtney. in 1719-22, by Captain John Clipperton. in 1719-22, by Captain George Shelvocke.


Voyage round the world, in 1721-3, by Commodore Roggewein.

—— in 1740-4, by Lord Anson.


Commodore Byron's Voyage, in 1764-6.

Captain Wallis's Voyage, in 1766-8.

Captain Carteret's Voyage, in 1766-9.

Captain Cook's first Voyage, in 1768-70.


Captain Cook's first Voyage continued and concluded..

Abstract of Bougainville's Voyage, in 1766-9.


Captain Cook's second Voyage towards the S. Pole, in 1772-5.


Captain Cook's second Voyage concluded.

Captain Cook's third Voyage, in 1776-80.


Captain Cook's third Voyage continued.


Captain Cook's third Voyage concluded.

Commodore Byron's narrative of his shipwreck, &c.; written by himself.

Bulkeley's narrative of the same.

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Dear Sir,

Unused to the adulatory language of dedications, I am well aware that any such mode of address would offend your delicacy. While, therefore, I gratify my own feelings by inscribing this work with your valued name, I only use the freedom to assure your Excellency, that I have the honour to be, with the warmest sentiments of respectful esteem and sincere regard,

Dear Sir,

Your affectionate friend, and gratefully devoted servant,


Edinburgh, 1st March 1811.


In this enlightened age, when every department of science and literature is making rapid progress, and knowledge of every kind excites uncommon interest, and is widely diffused, this attempt to call the attention of the public to a Systematic Arrangement of Voyages and Travels, from the earliest period of authentic history to the present time, ought scarcely to require any apology. Yet, on appearing before the tribunal of public opinion, every author who has not cherished an unreasonable estimate of his own qualifications, must necessarily be impressed with considerable anxiety respecting the probable reception of his work; and may be expected to offer some account of the plan and motives of what he proposes to lay before the public.

The present work is the first of the kind that has ever been attempted in Scotland: and though, as already avowed in the Prospectus, the Editor has no wish to detract from the merits of similar publications, it might appear an overstrained instance of false delicacy to decline a statement of the circumstances which, he presumes to hope, will give some prospect of the work being received with attention and indulgence, perhaps with favour. It certainly is the only General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels that has been hitherto attempted in the English language, upon any arrangement that merits the appellation of a systematic plan. And hence, should the plan adopted be found only comparatively good, in so far the system of arrangement must be pronounced the best that has been as yet devised. If this be conceded, and the fact is too obvious to require extended proof or minute elucidation, the Editor shall not feel mortified even if his arrangement may be considerably improved hereafter.

The only work on the subject that has the smallest pretensions to system, and that is fanciful, involved, irregular, abrupt, and obscure, is PURCHAS HIS PILGRIMS. Even admitting the plan of that work to be in itself excellent; although it may be a General History, so far as it extends, it certainly is in no respect a Complete Collection of Voyages and Travels. In a very large proportion of that curious work, it is the author who speaks to the reader, and not the traveller. In the present work, wherever that could possibly be accomplished, it has uniformly been the anxious desire of the Editor that the voyagers and travellers should tell their own story: In that department of his labour, his only object has been to assume the character of interpreter between them and the readers, by translating foreign or antiquated language into modern English. Sometimes, indeed, where no record remains of particular voyages and travels, as written by the persons who performed them, the Editor has necessarily had recourse to their historians. But, on every such occasion, the most ancient and most authentic accessible sources have been anxiously sought after and employed. In every extensive work, it is of the utmost consequence that its various parts should be arranged upon a comprehensive and perspicuously systematic plan. This has been accordingly aimed at with the utmost solicitude in the present undertaking; and the order of its arrangement was adopted after much deliberation, and from a very attentive consideration of every general work of the same nature that could be procured. If, therefore, the systematic order on which it is conducted shall appear well adapted to the subject, after an attentive perusal and candid investigation, the Editor confidently hopes that his labours may bear a fair comparison with any similar publication that has yet been brought forward.

In the short Prospectus of this work, formerly submitted to the public, a very general enunciation only, of the heads of the intended plan, was attempted; as that was then deemed sufficient to convey a distinct idea of the nature, arrangement, and distribution of the proposed work. Unavoidable circumstances still necessarily preclude the possibility, or the propriety rather, of attempting to give a more full and complete developement of the divisions and subdivisions of the systematic arrangement which is to be pursued, and which circumstances may require some elucidation.

An extensive and minutely arranged plan was carefully devised and extended by the Editor, before one word of the work was written or compiled, after an attentive examination of every accessible former collection; That plan has been since anxiously reconsidered, corrected, altered, and extended, in the progress of the work, as additional materials occurred: yet the Editor considers that the final and public adoption of his plan, in a positively fixed and pledged systematic form, any farther than has been already conveyed in the Prospectus, would have the effect to preclude the availment of those new views of the subject which are continually afforded by additional materials, in every progressive step of preparation for the press. The number of books of voyages and travels, as well general as particular, is extremely great; and, even if the whole were at once before the Editor, it would too much distract his attention from the division or department in which he is engaged for the time, to attempt studying and abstracting every subdivision at once. The grand divisions, however, which have been already indicated in the Prospectus, and the general principles of the plan, which are there explained, are intended to be adhered to; as no reasons have been discovered, after the most attentive consideration, for any deviation from that carefully adopted arrangement, the heads of which are here repeated.



Voyages and Travels of Discovery in the middle ages; from the era of Alfred, King of England, in the ninth century to that of Don Henry of Portugal at the commencement of the fourteenth century.


General Voyages and Travels chiefly of Discovery; from the era of Don Henry, in 1412, to that of George III. in 1760.


_Particular Voyages and Travels arranged in systematic order, Geographical and Chronological.

Note.—This part will be divided into five books, comprehending, I. Europe.—II. Asia.—III. Africa.—IV. America.—V. Australia and Polynesia; or the prodigious multitude of islands in the, great: Pacific Ocean. And all these will be further subdivided into particular chapters or sections correspondent to the geographical arrangements of these several portions of the globe_.


General Voyages and Travels of Discovery during the era of George III. which were conducted upon scientific principles, and by which the Geography of the globe has been nearly perfected. .


Historical Deduction of the Progress of Navigation Discovery and Commerce by sea and land, from the earliest times to the present period.

In the deliberate construction of this systematic plan, it has been a leading object of anxious consideration, to reduce the extensive and interesting materials of which the work is composed under a clear, intelligible, and comprehensive arrangement, so combined in a geographical and chronological series, that each successive division and subdivision, throughout the whole work, may prepare the mind of the reader for that which is to follow, and may assist the memory in the recollection of what has gone before. By these means, an attentive perusal of this work must necessarily be of material usefulness, in fixing distinct and just ideas of geography, history, and chronology in the minds of its readers; besides the important information and rational amusement which it will afford, by the frequent description of manners, customs, laws, governments, and many other circumstances, of all the countries and nations of the world.

In determining upon an era for the commencement of this work, the Editor was naturally led, from a consideration of the accidental discovery of Iceland by the Norwegians in the ninth century, as coincident with the reign of the great ALFRED, who ascended the throne of England in 872, to adopt that period as the beginning of the series, both because the commencement of modern maritime discovery took place during the reign of a British sovereign, and because we derive the earliest written accounts of any of these discoveries from the pen of that excellent prince. It is true that the first accidental discovery of Iceland appears to have been made in 861, eleven years before the accession of Alfred to the throne; yet, as the actual colonization of that island did not take place till the year 878, the seventh of his glorious reign, we have been induced to distinguish the actual commencement of maritime discovery by the modern European nations as coinciding with his era.

From that time, till the year 1412, when Don Henry, Prince of Portugal, first began to prosecute a consecutive series of maritime discoveries along the western coast of Africa, during which a long inactive period of 551 years had elapsed, the only maritime incident connected with our subject, was the accidental re-discovery of the Canary or Fortunate Islands, by a nameless Frenchman, about the year 1330, though they were not attempted to be taken possession of till 1400. This long interval, between the eras of King Alfred and Don Henry, constitutes the first Part, or grand division of our work, in the course of which, a considerable number of adventurous travellers penetrated into the almost unknown regions of Tartary and the East, and considerable notices of the empire of China, and even of Japan, and of the coast and islands of India and north-eastern Africa, were communicated to the Europeans by the Polos and others.

In separating Part IV. from Part II. the General Voyages and Travels of Discovery which have been undertaken during the long and busy reign of our present venerable Sovereign, from those of a similar nature which succeeded the discovery of the new world, and of the route by sea to India, the Editor only pays a just tribute to the enlightened spirit of the age, under the munificent and enlightened patronage of the beloved Monarch of a free and happy people. Those former voyages of Part II. were mostly undertaken from mere interested views of direct or expected commercial benefit; while these of the era of George III. originated in the grand principles of endeavouring to extend the bounds of science and human happiness.

Perhaps it may occur to some readers, that PART V. the last in order of the general heads of our plan, ought to have formed PART I. as partaking of the nature of an introduction to the subject, and forming a summary of the whole work. Upon even a very slight consideration, however, it must be obvious, that it is impossible to compose that proposed deduction in any adequate manner, until the whole mass of selected materials is possessed by the Editor, and definitively arranged. It may likewise be known to many, that introductions and prefaces, though usually placed at the beginning of books, are uniformly and necessarily last composed, and usually last printed, except in new editions.

A great variety of Collections of Voyages and Travels have been published at different periods, many of which are inaccessible from their scarcity, or from being in foreign languages: And such great numbers of Voyages and Travels to particular regions and countries have been printed, as to be Altogether unattainable by the generality of readers. Every thing, however, which could contribute to the perfection of this work has been collected, or will be carefully procured during its progress; and no pains or expense shall be withheld which, can contribute to render it as complete and comprehensive as possible. In the employment of the vast variety and extent of excellent materials, great care shall be taken to insert every useful and curious information, reduced, where necessary, to modern language; and nothing shall be omitted which is conducive to valuable information and rational amusement.

In our approach towards the present times, the multitude of particular Voyages and Travels increases prodigiously; and, in employing these, it becomes peculiarly necessary to make a selection of the best in every period, and especially of those best adapted for conveying just ideas of each geographical division and subdivision of the world; while those of less merit, but which contain useful notices of the regions and countries of which they treat, shall be carefully epitomized in illustration of the different subjects. Without the employment of discriminate selection and occasional abridgement, this work must have extended to an inconvenient and consequently expensive size, or must have been left unfinished and abrupt in some of its parts: But abridgement shall be very seldom employed and never without acknowledgment. Indeed, the grand object of the present work is to bring together a more complete and entire collection of Voyages and Travels, than has hitherto appeared in any language.

From the nature of the plan, it is utterly impossible to ascertain, with any precision, the exact length to which it may extend; but, so far as can be judged of at present, it is not expected to exceed eighteen or twenty volumes. Throughout the whole work, a series of Maps and Charts will be inserted in their proper places, carefully selected and constructed for the purpose of illustrating the various Voyages and Travels. At the close of the whole, a complete Index will be given to the entire series of volumes, so arranged as to form a regular Gazetteer of the whole world. In every article which has been adopted into this work, the original and accessory sources of all the materials shall be distinctly indicated. Notes of explanation will be given, wherever necessary; and, as many of these are drawn from various sources, the names of the authors from whom they are adopted shall always be acknowledged: Such notes as are marked by the letter E. are by the Editor of the work.

Owing to the indispensable nature of this work, it makes no positive claim to the character of an original composition, in the strict acceptation of that term; and he, therefore, who has undertaken the care of its collection and arrangement, assumes no higher title than that of Editor. In the discharge of that duty, however, the labour which he has necessarily bestowed, though always pleasing, has often been considerable, and sometimes arduous; and he trusts that the plan of the work, which is altogether original, will be found appropriately adapted to the end in view, and that the execution may appear not inadequate to the high importance of the subject. Without imputation of arrogance, he may be permitted to assert, that he has exerted the most unremitting attention and industry, in the collection, selection, and preparation of the several portions of the whole work, and in the arrangement and distribution of its parts. He has the satisfaction to add, that all his efforts have been seconded with the utmost readiness and liberality by the Proprietor of the work, who has spared no trouble, and withheld no expense, in procuring and supplying the necessary materials.

It is with much grateful satisfaction, that the Editor has to acknowledge his high obligations to the Curators and Librarians of the Edinburgh public libraries, belonging to the Faculty of Advocates, the University, and the Writers to his Majesty's Signet, for the communication of many valuable and scarce materials. Nor ought he to withhold his tribute of gratitude, on this occasion, from the liberal spirit of a private individual, the Reverend Henry White of Lichfield, who has most obligingly offered the use of his valuable Collection of Voyages and Travels, and other curious and scarce works connected with the subject, for assisting towards the perfection of this publication.

Having thus briefly announced the nature, plan, and object of the present work, of which this first Volume is now before the public, it only remains to say, that the Editor and Proprietor, each in his particular department, are resolved to exert their utmost endeavours, that nothing may be omitted which can contribute to render the work deserving of public approbation and extensive patronage.



Voyages and Travels of Discovery, from the Era of Alfred, King of England, in the Ninth Century, to the Era of Don Henry, Prince of Portugal, at the commencement of the Fifteenth Century.

CHAP. I. Discoveries in the time of Alfred, King of England, in the Ninth Century of the Christian Era.

SECT. I. Discovery of Iceland by the Norwegians, in the Ninth Century

II. Voyages of Ohthere to the White Sea and the Baltic, in the Ninth Century

III. Remarks on the situation of Sciringes-heal and Haethum, by J. R. Forster

IV. Voyage of Wulfstein in the Baltic, as related to King Alfred

IV[1]. Voyage of Sighelm to India, in the reign of Alfred, King of

V. Travels of John Erigena to Athens, in the Ninth-Century

VI. Geography of the known World, in the Ninth Century, as described by King Alfred

VII. Travels of Andrew Leucander, in the Eleventh Century

VIII. Voyage of Swanus to Jerusalem, in 1052

IX. Voyage of three Ambassadors from England to Constantinople, about 1056

X. Pilgrimage of Alured to Jerusalem, in 1058

XI. Pilgrimage of Ingulphus to Jerusalem, in 1064

II. Original Discovery of Greenland by the Icelanders, in the Ninth Century

III. Early Discovery of Winland, or America, by the Icelanders, about the year 1001

IV. Travels of two Mahometans into India and China, in the Ninth Century

V. Travels of Rabbi Benjamin from Spain to China, in the Twelfth Century

VI. Travels of an Englishman in Tartary, in 1243

VII. Sketch of the Revolutions in Tartary

VIII. Travels of John de Piano Carpini, in 1246

IX. Travels of W. de Rubruquis, about 1253

X. Travels of Haitho, Prince of Armenia, in 1254

XI. Travels of Marco Polo into China and the East; from A.D. 1260 to 1295

XII. Travels of Oderic of Portenau, in 1318

XIII. Travels of Sir John Mandeville, in 1322

XIV. Itinerary of Pegoletti, between Asof and China, in 1355

XV. Voyages of Nicolo and Antonio Zeno, in 1380

XVI. Travels of Schildtberger, in 1394

XVII. Travels of the Ambassadors of Shah Rokh, in 1419

XVIII. Voyage and Shipwreck of Quirini, in 1431

XIX. Travels of Josaphat Barbaro, in 1436

[1] By error of the press, Sect, IV. has been numerically repeated.

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[Transcriber's note: The following errata have been applied to the text.]


Page 8, line 26, for insulated read inhabited

51, 21, for phenomena read phenomenon

62, 41, after each insert of the

118 33, after thirteenth insert century

165, note 7, for Keander read Theander.






Voyages and Travels of Discovery, from the era of Alfred, King of England, in the ninth century; to the era of Don Henry, Prince of Portugal, at the commencement of the fifteenth century.


Discoveries in the time of Alfred King of England, in the ninth century of the Christian era.


In the midst of the profound ignorance and barbarism which overspread the nations of Western Europe, after the dissolution of the Roman empire in the West, a transient ray of knowledge and good government was elicited by the singular genius of the great Alfred, a hero, legislator, and philosopher, among a people nearly barbarous. Not satisfied with having delivered his oppressed and nearly ruined kingdom from the ravages of the almost savage Danes and Nordmen, and the little less injurious state of anarchy and disorganization into which the weakness of the vaunted Anglo-Saxon system of government had plunged England, he for a time restored the wholesome dominion of the laws, and even endeavoured to illuminate his ignorant people by the introduction of useful learning. In the prosecution of these patriotic views, and for his own amusement and instruction, besides other literary performances, he made a translation of the historical work of Orosius into his native Anglo-Saxon dialect; into which he interwove the relations of Ohthere and Wulfstan, of which hereafter, and such other information as he could collect respecting the three grand divisions of the world then known; insomuch, that his account of Europe especially differs very materially from that of Orosius, of which he only professed to make a translation.

Although Alfred only mounted the throne of England in 872, it has been deemed proper to commence the series of this work with the discovery of Iceland by the Nordmen or Norwegians, about the year 861, as intimately connected with the era which has been deliberately chosen as the best landmark of our proposed systematic History and Collection of Voyages and Travels. That entirely accidental incident is the earliest geographical discovery made by the modern nations, of which any authentic record now remains, and was almost the only instance of the kind which occurred, from the commencement of the decline of the Roman power, soon after the Christian era, for nearly fourteen centuries. And as the colonization of Iceland did not begin till A.D. 878, the insertion of this circumstance in the present place, can hardly be considered as at all deviating from the most rigid principles of our plan.


Discovery of Iceland by the Norwegians in the Ninth Century[1].

It were foreign to our present object to attempt any delineation of the piratical, and even frequently conquering expeditions of the various nations of Scandinavia, who, under the names of Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Danes, and Normans, so long harassed the fragments of the Roman empire. About the year 861, one Naddod, a Nordman or Norwegian vikingr, or chief of a band of freebooters, who, during a voyage to the Faro islands, was thrown by a storm upon the eastern coast of an unknown country, considerably beyond the ordinary course of navigation, to which he gave the significant name of Snio-land, or Snow-land, from the immense quantities of snow which every where covered its numerous lofty mountains, even in the height of summer, and filled its many valleys during a long and dreary winter. As Naddod gave a rather favourable account of his discovery on his return to Norway, one Gardar Suafarson, of Swedish origin, who was settled in Norway, determined upon making an expedition to Snow-land in 864; and having circumnavigated the whole extent of this new discovery, he named it from himself, Gardars-holm, or Gardars-island.

Gardar employed so long a time in this expedition, that, not deeming it safe to navigate the northern ocean during the storms of winter, he remained on the island until the ensuing spring, when he sailed for Norway. He there reported, that though the island was entirely covered with wood, it was, in other respects, a fine country. From the favourable nature of this report, one Flocke, the son of Vigvardar, who had acquired great reputation among the Nordmen or Normans, as an experienced and intrepid vikingr or pirate, resolved to visit the newly-discovered island. Flocke likewise wintered in the northern part of the island, where he met with immense quantities of drift ice, from which circumstance he chose to give it the name of Iceland, which it still bears. He was by no means pleased with the country, influenced, no doubt, by the unfavourable impression he had imbibed by spending a long protracted winter on the dreary northern shore, amid almost ever-during arctic ice, and surrounded by the most unpromising sterility; and though some of his companions represented the land as pleasing and fertile, the desire of visiting Iceland seems, for some time, to have lain dormant among the adventurous Norwegian navigators; probably because neither fame nor riches could be acquired, either by traffic or depredation, in a country which was utterly destitute of inhabitants.

At length, in 874, two friends, Ingolf and Lief, repaired to Iceland, and were so much satisfied with its appearance, that they formed a resolution of attempting to make a settlement in the country; induced, doubtless, by a desire to withdraw from the continual wars and revolutions which then harassed the north of Europe, and to escape from the thraldom which the incipient monarchies of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden, were then imposing upon the independent chiefs or vikingr of the Normans. In pursuance of this determination, Ingolf transported some people to Iceland, about the year 878, with several cattle, and all kinds of implements, to enable him to commence a colony. At this period his friend Lief was absent in the English wars; but went soon afterwards into Iceland, to which he carried the booty which he had acquired in England.

The first discoverers of Iceland are said to have found some Irish books, bells, and croziers on the coast; whence it has been imagined, that some people from Ireland had resided there previous to its discovery and settlement by the Normans. But it seems a more probable supposition, to account for these articles having been seen, that a party of Norman pirates or vikingr, who had previously landed in Ireland, or perhaps on Icolmkil, and had carried away the plunder of some abbey or monastery, had been driven to Iceland by a storm, and wrecked upon the coast, where these articles might have been washed on shore: Or they may have attributed the storm, by which they were driven so far beyond their knowledge, to the anger of the God of the Christians, for their sacrilegious robbery of a holy institution, and may have left these articles behind, in hopes of propitiating a more favourable termination to their voyage. The first settlers found extensive forests in the valleys of Iceland; and we know, from authentic documents, that corn was formerly cultivated with decent success in that northern region; whereas, in the present day, not a tree is to be found in the whole island, except some stunted birches, and very low bushes or underwood, in the most sheltered situations, and no corn will now ripen, even in the most favourable years. But the roots and stumps of large firs are still to be seen in various parts; and the injurious alteration of its climate is known to have been occasioned by the straits between old Greenland and Iceland having been many years choked up with ice, which the short summers of that high latitude are not sufficiently powerful to dissolve.

About the present period, Harold Harfagr, or the fair-haired, one of the petty sovereigns or vikingr of Norway, began to subjugate the other chieftains of the country under his paramount authority, and was so successful as to establish the Norwegian monarchy in 875. Gorm, likewise, about the same time, united the petty states of Jutland and the Danish islands into one kingdom, as Ingiald Illrode had done long before in Sweden. Such independent spirits as found themselves dissatisfied with this new order of affairs, found a sure asylum in Iceland; and the emigrations to this new country became so numerous, that Harold at length deemed it expedient to impose a tax of half a mark of silver, equal to five pounds of our modern money, on every one of his subjects who were desirous of going to settle in that island.

[1] Fragm. Vet. Islandic. ap. Langebeck, II. 31.—Forster, Hist. of Voy. and Disc. in the North, p. 50.


Voyages of Ohthere to the White Sea and the Baltic, in the Ninth Century.[1]

Some of the Norwegian chieftains, who were dissatisfied with the usurpation of supreme authority by Harold, took refuge in England, where Alfred had recently settled many of the vanquished Danes and Nordmen in the northern part of his dominions, which had been almost entirely depopulated and laid waste, by their long-continued and destructive ravages. Among these was one Ohthere, who had made himself famous by his voyages to unknown parts of the north, and who was invited to court by Alfred, to give an account of the discoveries and observations he had made during his unusual expeditions. This person had been a chief of some note in his own country, and dwelt at a place which he called Halgoland, supposed by some to have been in Numadalen, while others say in Nordland, the most northerly p province of Norway proper. In the succeeding paragraph, he is said to have dwelt opposite to the West Sea, and as Alfred only uses the word sea to denote a confined expanse or narrow channel, while he calls the ocean Garsecg, it seems highly probable, that, by the West Sea, the west ford was intended,—a channel or strait which divides the Luffoden islands from the coast of Nordland, which would clearly place the residence of Ohthere in this northern province. The account which he gave of his voyages to his royal patron, is as follows.

Ohthere told his lord King Alfred, that lie lived to the north of all the Nordmen or Norwegians; and that he dwelt in that land to the northward, opposite to the west sea; and that all the land to the north of that sea is waste and uninhabited except in a few places, to which the Finans[2] or Fins repair in winter for hunting and fowling, and for fishing in the summer. Being desirous to ascertain how far this country extended towards the north, and whether there were any inhabitants beyond these wastes, he proceeded by sea due north from his own habitation, leaving the desert land all the way on the starboard or right-hand, and the wide sea on the larboard or left-hand of his course. After three days sail, he was as far north as the whale-hunters ever go[3]; and then proceeded in his course due north for other three days, when he found the land, instead of stretching due north, as hitherto[4], to trend from thence towards the east. Whether the sea there lies within the land, he knew not[5], as he only waited for a west wind, and then sailed near that land eastwards, as far as he could, in four days; as he found the direction of the coast then to change to due south, he waited for a north wind, and then sailed due south as far as be could in five days.

In this land he found a large river, at the mouth of which he lay to, as he could not proceed much farther, on account of the inhabitants being hostile. All the land on one side of this river was inhabited, and tolerably well cultivated, but he had not met with any inhabitants till now, since he left his own country; the whole land on his right being a desert, and without inhabitants, except the fishers, fowlers, and hunters, before-mentioned, who were all Fins; and the open sea lay on his left hand during his whole voyage. The Beormas [6], indeed, had well peopled their country, for which reason he did not venture to enter upon it; and the land of the Terfenna [7], which he had passed hitherto, was all a desert, with the exception of the hunters and fishers already mentioned.

The Beormas told him many particulars about their land, and of the neighbouring countries; but he could not rely on their accounts, as he had no opportunity of seeing with his own eyes, but it seemed to him that the Beormas and Fins spoke the same language [8]. Ohthere stated, that his motive for this expedition, besides some little curiosity to explore these countries, which were unknown to his countrymen, was principally in pursuit of horse-whales [9], which are valuable, because their tusks are excellent ivory, some of which he brought to the king, and because their hides serve for making into ropes for ships. This species of the whale is much smaller than the other kind, being seldom more than seven ells in length; while the other species is often forty-eight ells long, and sometimes even fifty. In this country was the best whale-fishing that Ohthere had ever seen, the whales being so numerous, that he was one of six who killed threescore in three days[10].

Ohthere was a very rich man in those things which are considered as valuable in his country, and possessed, at the time when he came to the king, six hundred tame deer, none of which he had bought; besides which, he had six decoy deer, which are much in request among the Fins, as by means of them, they are enabled to catch wild deer. Yet, though one of the richest men in these parts, he had only twenty head of cattle, twenty sheep, and twenty swine; and what little land he had in tillage was ploughed by horses. The principal wealth of the Norman chiefs in that country consisted in tribute exacted from the Fins; being paid in skins of wild beasts, feathers, whalebone, cables and ropes for ships, made from the hides of whales or seals. Every one pays in proportion to his substance: the wealthiest paying the skins of fifteen martins, five rein-deer skins, and one bear-skin, a coat or cloak made of bear-skin or otters skins, and two cables or ship ropes of sixty ells long each, one of which is made of whale hide, and the other from the skins of seals.

According to the description given to the king by Ohthere, Northmanna-land, or Norway, is very long and narrow, all the land which is fit for pasture or tillage being on the seacoast, which is very rocky in some places. To the east of this, and parallel to the cultivated land, there are wild and huge mountains and moors, which are inhabited by the Fins. The cultivated land is broadest in the south[11], where it is sixty miles broad, and in some places more; about the middle of the country, it is perhaps thirty miles broad, or somewhat more; and where it is narrowest in the north, it is hardly more than three miles from the sea to the moors. In some places, the moors are so extensive that a man can hardly travel across them in a fortnight, and in other places perhaps in six days.

Opposite to the south part of this country is Sueoland[12], or Sweden, on the other side of the moors, and opposite to its northern part is Cwenland. The Cwens sometimes pass the moors and mountains to invade and plunder the country of the Normans; who likewise sometimes retaliate, by crossing over to spoil their land. In these moors, there are some very large meres or lakes of fresh water, and the Cwenas[13] sometimes carry their small light ships over land into these lakes, and employ them to facilitate their depredations on the Nordmen. Ohthere says, that the shire or district which he inhabited is called Halgoland, and that there were no inhabitants beyond him to the north. There is likewise a port in the southern land, which is called Sciringes-heal[14], which no one could reach in a month's sailing, even with a fair wind, at least if he lay to at night. During this voyage, the navigator must sail near the land, or make a coasting voyage along the coast of Norway towards the south, having Iraland[15], and the islands which are between that country and Norway, on his right hand; for this country continues all the way on the left hand of the navigator, from Halgoland to Sciringes-heal. As he proceeds again to the northward, a great sea to the south of Sciringes-heal runs up into this land, and that sea is so wide, that a person cannot see across it. Gotland[16] is opposite on the other side, or right-hand; and afterwards the sea of Sillende[17] lies many miles up in that country.

Ohthere farther says, that he sailed in five days from Sciringes-heal to that port which is called Haethum [18], which lies between Winedum, Seaxun, and Anglen, and makes part of Dene. When he sailed to this place from Sciringes-heal, Dene, or Denmark, was on his left, and on his right was a wide sea for three days; as were also on his right, two days before he came to Haethum, Gotland, Sillende, and many other islands, which were inhabited by the Angles before they came to Britain; and during these two days, the islands belonging to Denmark were on his left hand.

[1] Anglo-Saxon Version of Orosius, by Alfred the Great, translated by Daines Barrington, p. 9.—Langebeck, Script. Dan. II. 106-118.— Forster, Voy. and Disc. in the North, p. 53.

[2] Ohthere here calls the inhabitants of the desert Fins, and it would appear that the Laplanders are actually Fins, or Finlanders; the name of Laps or Laplanders being of modern origin, and the Danes and Norwegians still call this country Finmark.—Forst

[3] In former translations of Alfred, this passage is rendered as follows: "He was within three days sail of being as far north as the whale-hunters ever go." This expression is vague and ambiguous, and rather means that the residence from whence he set out was within three days sail, &c.; whereas the next member of the same sentence distinctly indicates a preceding three days sail, as in the adopted translation.—E.

[4] This is not quite accurate, as the coast of Norway, in the course of Ohthere, stretches N.N.E. He was now arrived at the North Cape, whence the coast towards the White Sea trends E. and by N.—E.

[5] This doubt, of whether the sea lies within the land or not, probably refers to the numerous inlets or fiords along the whole coast of Norway and Finmark, and may mean, that he did not examine whether the land might not be parcelled out into innumerable islands.—E.

[6] The Beormas are the Biarmians or Permians of the northern writers; and Perm or Permia is still mentioned among the numerous titles of the emperors of Russia.—Forat.

[7] The Terfennas are mentioned as different from the Scrite-fennas. These were distinguished by Guido, the geographer of Ravenna, in the seventh century, into Rerefinni and Scritifinni. The latter lived entirely by hunting, and wore snow-shoes in winter, called Schrit. The former subsisted on their herds of rein-deer, and perhaps ought to have been therefore called Rene-finni. The name in the text ought perhaps to have been Rhane-fenna, as he tells us they had rein-deer, and employed decoy deer to catch the wild. Perhaps Fer-fenna, from their travelling in sledges; from farra, to travel in a carriage.—Forst.

[8] It is highly probable, from this remark, in which Ohthere could not be mistaken, as it will appear in the sequel that he must have been perfectly well acquainted with the Fins, that the Biarmians were a branch of the great Finnish stock. The principal difference seems to have been, that the Fins continued to be wandering hunters and herdsmen, while the Beormas or Biarmians had advanced to the state of fixed cultivators of the soil. They had likewise an idol called Jomala, which is still the name of one of the deities of the Finlanders.—Forst.

[9] The morse is here named horse-whale by king Alfred, with infinitely greater propriety than the appellation of sea-horse, which long prevailed in our language. The tusks of this animal are still considered as excellent ivory, and are peculiarly valuable for the construction of false teeth; and leather made from the hide is still used in Russia for coach-harness, but stretches more when wet than any other leather.—Forst.

[10] It would appear, from the vast number killed, that this successful fishing must refer to the morse or horse-whale, not to the ordinary large whale.—E.

[11] In the original, the broad and comparatively fertile part of Norway is said to be in the east: the correction adopted in the text is obvious and necessary.—E.

[12] In former translations, this passage is: "opposite to this land, to the south, is Sueoland." The alteration in the text removes the ambiguity—E.

[13] Cwenland and the Cwenas appear to refer to Lapmark, and its inhabitants, the Finlanders.—Forst.

[14] See Sect. iii. p. 12, in which this place is supposed by Mr J. R. Forster to have been where Stockholm now is.

[15] Iraland obviously here means Scotland, with the Faro, Shetland, and Orkney islands.—E.

[16] This is plainly the isle of Gothland.—E.

[17] Apparently the Baltic proper is here called the sea of Sillende, and may have been named from the isle of Zeeland. Yet in this passage it seems to refer to the gulf of Bothnia, as running far up into the country.—E.

[18] See Sect. iii. p. 14, in which Forster endeavours to fix this place at Aarhuus in Jutland.


Remarks by J. M. Forster, respecting the situation of Sciringes-heal and Haethum[1].

The name of this place, Sciringes-heal, has given a great deal of trouble to former commentators on Alfred; viz. Sir John Spelman, Bussaeus, Somner, John Philip Murray, and Langebeck, who have all chosen spots totally different, in which to place Sciringes-heal. Spelman, and others, look for this place near Dantzic, where, in their opinion, the Scyres formerly resided. But, first, the spot where the Scyres lived, is by no means satisfactorily determined; and, next, it is evident that Ohthere went continually along the coast from Halgoland to Sciringes-heal, and that this coast was on his left-hand during the whole course of his navigation. The late Mr Murray placed Sciringes-heal at Skanor, in the southern extremity of Sweden; but I cannot think that this place could be five days sail from Haethum in Jutland, as it is expressly declared to have been by Ohthere. Langebeck is for carrying Sciringes-heal to Konga-hella, on the Guatelf, near Marstrand; and insists, that the name, in Alfred's account of the voyage, ought to have been written Cyninges-heal instead of Sciringes-heal. If the word had only once occurred, I might have allowed Langebeck to be right; but we meet with it five times in the space of a few lines, and always without the slightest variation in orthography. 2dly, The voyage from Halgoland to Konga-hella is not of sufficient extent to have employed a month in the passage. 3dly, Konga-hella is too near Jutland to have required five days for the voyage between it and Haethum.

Having demonstrated the insufficiency of these conjectures, we shall now endeavour to point out where Sciringes-heal was really situated. Paul Warenfried, in his Historia Longobardorum, Lib. i, cap. 7. and 10. makes mention of a district, named Scorunga, in which the Winili, or Lombards resided, for some time before they removed to Mairinga and from thence, farther on to Gotland, Anthabet, Bethaib, and Purgendaid. This Scorunga was not far from Gotland, and consequently in Sweden; and seems to have been the district in which Sciringes-heal was situated. Add to this, that Ohthere, after having described Sueoland, or Sweden, as being to the southwards of his habitation, immediately says, "there is a port in this southern land which is called Sciringes-heal." By this, he seems plainly to indicate, that this place certainly was in Sweden; and all this will appear, still more evidently, if we carefully follow the course of the voyage which he describes. First of all, he has Scotland, called Iraland, evidently by mistake, and the Orkney and Shetland islands, which lie between Scotland and Halgoland, on his right hand; and the continent is continually on his left hand, all the way, until he arrive at Sciringes- heal. But farther, a large bay stretches to the northward, deep into the country, along the coast of which he had been continually sailing; and this bay commences quite to the southward of Sciringes-heal, and is so broad that a man cannot see across, and Gotland is directly opposite to this bay[2]. But the sea, which extended from Zeeland to this spot, goes many hundred miles up into the country to the eastwards.

From Sciringes-heal, Ohthere could sail in five days to Haethum, which lies between the Wends Saxons and Angles. Now, by this voyage, we are enabled to determine, with still greater exactness, the situation of this place which we are searching for. In order to get to Haethum, he left Gotland on the right[3], and soon afterwards Zeeland likewise, together with the other islands which had been the habitation of the Angles before they went to England, while those which belonged to Denmark were on his left for two days. Sciringes-heal, therefore, is consequently in Sweden, at the entrance of the Gulf of Bothnia, which runs up into the land northwards, just on that spot where the Baltic, after having passed Zeeland, spreads into a wide gulf, extending several hundred miles into the land. Just in this place I find the Svia-Sciaeren, or Swedish Scares, a cluster of little islands, surrounded by rocks. Heal, in the northern languages, signifies a port, as in such places a ship might be kept in safety. Sciringes-heal, therefore, was "the harbour of the Scares," and was probably at the entrance of the gulf of Bothnia, and consequently where Stockholm now is; and the tract of land where these Scares lay, towards the sea, was the Scarunga of Paul Warenfried.

The port of Hasthum has occasioned much difficulty to the commentators, as well as that of Sciringes-heal; but all have agreed that it must be Sleswic, as this latter is called Haitha by Ethelwerd the Anglo-Saxon. A Norwegian poet gives it the name of Heythabae, others call it Heydaboe, and Adam of Bremen Heidaba; and this, in their opinion, is precisely the same with Haethum. It appears to me, however, that the difference between the words Haethaby and Hasthum, are by no means so inconsiderable. And I think the situation of Sleswic does not at all accord with the descriptions which are given of Haethum by Ohthere and Wulfstan. Indeed, if Sleswic be Haethum, I must confess, that I cannot in the least comprehend the course of the voyages of these ancient navigators. Ohthere tells us, that in sailing from Sciringes-heal to Haethum, he had Denmark to the left, and the open sea, for the space of three days, to the right; but that, for two days before he reached Haethum, he had Gotland and Zeeland to the right, and the islands which belong to Denmark to the left. If he had gone to Sleswic, he must have found all the Danish islands on his right hand, and not one besides Femeren on his left. This being considered, I ask how it is possible, consistent with his own description of the voyage, that the situation of Sleswic can be made to correspond with Haethum? As, in the district of Aarhuus in Jutland, there is an extensive track of land called Alheide, which is in fact a heath, I shall take the liberty to suppose, that the town, in the ninth century, lay higher up towards Al-heide, or All-heath; for the town of Aar-huus is new, and its name signifies in English Oar-house. The old town, therefore, may have been called Al-haethum, or Haethum; so, that if Ohthere set out from Stockholm for this place, Gotland was on his right hand[4], and so was Zealand. And as he sailed between Zealand and Funen, or Fyen, all the Danish islands were on his left hand, and he had the wide sea, that is, the Schager-rack, and Cattegat to the right. Farther, when Wulfsten went from Haethum, or Aarhuus to Truso, he had Weonothland, that is Funen, Fionia, or Fyen to his right; and to the left were, Langeland, Laeland, Falster, and Sconeg; together with Bornholm, Bleking, Moehre, Oeland, and Gotland. But Wendenland remained on his right, all the way to the mouth of the Vistula.

[1] Forst. Voy. and Disc. 67.

[2] It appears to me, that the description given by Ohthere, implies, that Gotland was directly opposite to Sciringes-heal, or to the east. —E.

[3] Not surely on going southwards, but after he had again turned to the northwards, after doubling the southern point of Sweden.—E.

[4] This is certainly true during the latter part of his voyage, after turning round the south end of Sweden, and standing again to the northward, between Zealand and Fyen; but in coasting down the shore of Sweden to the south, he must have left Gotland to the left,—E.


Voyage of Wulfstan in the Baltic as related to Alfred[1].

Wulfstan said that he sailed from Haethum to Truso[2] in seven days and nights, the ship being under sail all the time. Weonothland[3] was on his right; but Langaland, Laeland, Falster, and Sconeg, were on the left, all of which belong to Dene-mearkan[4]. Burgendaland[5] also, which has a king of its own, was on the left. After leaving Burgendaland, the islands of Becinga-eg, Meore, Eowland, and Gotland, were on the left, all of which belong to Sueon[6], and Weonodland[7] was all the way on the right to the mouth of the Wisle[8]. This is a very large river, and near it Witland[9], and Weonodland are situated; the former of which belongs to Estum, and the Wisle does not run through Weonodland, but through Estmere[10], which lake is fifteen miles broad. Then runs the Ilfing[11] from the eastwards into Est-mere, on the banks of which is Truso. The Ilfing flows from Est-land into the Est-mere from the east, and the Wisle through Weonodland from the south. The Ilfing, having joined the Wisle, takes its name, and runs to the west of Estmere, and northward into the sea, where it is called Wisle-mouth[12].

Est-land is a large track of country, having many towns, in each of which there is a king. It produces a great quantity of honey, and has abundance of fish. The kings, and other rich men, drink mares milk, while the poor people and slaves use only mead[13]. They have many contests among themselves; and the people of Estum brew no ale, as they have mead in profusion[14]. There is also a particular custom observed by this nation; that, when any one dies, the body remains unburnt, with the relations and friends, for a month or two; and the bodies of kings and nobles remain longer, according to their respective wealth, sometimes for half a year, during all which time it is kept in the house, and drinking and sports continue until the body is consumed[15]. When the body is carried to the funeral pile, the substance of the deceased, which yet remains, after the sports and drinking bouts, is divided into five or six heaps, or more, according to its value. These heaps are placed at the distance of a mile from each other; the largest heap at the greatest distance from the town, and the lesser heaps gradually diminishing, so that the smallest heap is nearest to the town where the dead body lies. Then all are summoned who have fleet horses, within the distance of five or six miles around, and they all strive for the substance of the dead person. He who has the swiftest horse, gains the most distant and largest heap, and the others, in just proportion, till the whole is won; then every one takes away his share, as his own property: and owing to this custom, swift horses are in great request, and extremely dear. When the wealth of the deceased has been thus exhausted, the body is taken from the house and burnt, together with the dead man's weapons and clothes; and generally, they expend the whole wealth of the deceased, by keeping the body so long in the house before it is burnt, and by these heaps which are carried off by strangers. It is the custom with the Estum to burn the bodies of all the inhabitants; and if any one can find a single bone unconsumed, it is a cause of great offence. These people, also, have the means of producing a very severe cold; by which, the dead body continues so long above ground without putrefying; and by means of which, if any one sets a vessel of ale or water in the place, they contrive that the liquor shall be frozen either in winter or summer[16].

[1] Alfred's Orosius, by Barrington, p. 16. Langebeck, Scrip. Dan. II. 118- 123. Wulfstan appears to have been a Dane, who had probably become acquainted with Ohthere, during his maritime expeditions, and had gone with him to reside in England.—Forst.

[2] There is a lake still called Truso or Drausen, between Elbing and Prussian Holland, from which, probably, the town here mentioned, which stood on the Frisch-haf, took its name.—Forst.

[3] It is necessary to distinguish accurately between Weonothland, which is probably Fuehnen, Funen, or Fionio, now called Fyen; and Weonodland or Winodland, afterwards Wendenland.—Forst.

[4] Denmark obviously, called simply Dene, in the voyages of Ohthere.—E.

[5] Probably Bornholm.—E.

[6] Called Sueoland in the voyages of Ohthere, is assuredly Sweden, to which all these islands belong. Becinga-eg, is certainly Bleking; the l being omitted in transcription, called an island by mistake. Meore is indisputably the upper and lower Moehre in Smoland; Eowland is Oeland; and Gotland is doubtless the modern isle of that name. —Forst.

[7] Weonodland, or Winodland, extends to the mouth of the Vistula; and is obviously a peculiar and independent country, totally different from Weonothland, belonging to Denmark.—Forst.

[8] Wisle, or Wisla, is the Sclavonian orthography for the Vistula, called Weichsel by the Germans, and Weissel by the Prussians.—Forst.

[9] Witland is a district of Samland in Prussia. It had this name of Witland at the time of the crusades of the Germans against Prussia. The word Wit-land, is a translation of the native term Baltikka, or the white land, now applied to the Baltic Sea.—Forst.

[10] Est-mere, a lake of fresh water, into which the Elbing and Vistula empty themselves; now called Frisch-haf, or the fresh water sea. —Forst.

[11] This is undoubtedly the Elbing which flows from lake Drausen, or Truso, and joins, by one of its branches, that arm of the Vistula which is called Neugat or Nogat.—Forst.

[12] The Ilfing, or Elbing, comes out of Esthonia, yet not from the east, as here said by Alfred, but from the south; except, indeed, he mean that arm of the Elbing which runs into the Nogat, or eastern arm of the Vistula. But the Vistula comes out of Wendenland, called Weonodland in the text, from the south; and the two rivers discharge themselves into the Frisch-haf, which stretches from west to north, or in a north-east direction; and at Pilau, goes northwards into the sea. It is certainly possible that this entrance may have been formerly called Wisle-mund, or the mouth of the Vistula, as well as the western mouth of that river.—Forst.

This concession is not necessary to the truth of Wulfstan and Alfred. There is a cross branch from Elbing, which joins the Nogat and Vistula proper; and which is probably meant in the text, where the Ilfing and Wisle, united, are said to run to the west of Est-mere, or the haf, and then north, into the sea at Wisle-mund.—E.

[13] This circumstance is singular; yet may be explained from the custom of the Tartars. The mares milk, drank by the kings and rich men, was certainly prepared into cosmos, or kumyss, the favourite beverage of the great; while mead, a much inferior liquor in their estimation, was left to the lower orders.—E.

[14] Mead was called Medo in Anglo-Saxon, in Lithuanian Middus, in Polish Miod, in Russian Med, in German Meth, in old English Metheglin: perhaps all these are from the Greek verb [Greek: methuo], to intoxicate. Alfred naturally observes, that these drinking-bouts produced many frays; and notices the reason of the Estum or Esthonians brewing no ale, because they had abundance of mead.—Forst.

[15] In a treaty between the Teutonic knights, and the newly converted Prussians, the latter engaged never to burn their dead, nor to bury them with their horses, arms, clothes, and valuables.—Forst.

[16] This power of producing cold in summer, so much admired by Wulfstan and Alfred, was probably the effect of a good ice-cellar, which every Prussian of condition had in, or near his house.—Forst.


Voyage of Sighelm and Athelstan to India, in the reign of Alfred King of England, in 883[1].

Though containing no important information, it were unpardonable in an English collection of voyages and travels, to omit the scanty notice which remains on record, respecting a voyage by two Englishmen to India, at so early a period. All that is said of this singular incident in the Saxon Chronicle, is[2], "In the year 883, Alfred sent Sighelm and Athelstan to Rome, and likewise to the shrine of Saints Thomas and Bartholomew, in India, with the alms which he had vowed." [Bartholomew was the messenger of Christ in India, the extremity of the whole earth.]—The words printed in Italics are added in translating, by the present editor, to complete the obvious sense. Those within brackets, are contained in one MS. Codex of the Saxon Chronicle, in addition to what was considered the most authentic text by Bishop Gibson, and are obviously a note or commentary, afterwards adopted into the text in transcription.

This short, yet clear declaration, of the actual voyage, has been extended by succeeding writers, who attribute the whole merit to Sighelm, omitting all mention of Athelstan, his co-adjutor in the holy mission. The first member of the subsequent paraphrase of the Saxon Chronicle, by Harris, though unauthorized, is yet necessarily true, as Alfred could not have sent messengers to a shrine, of which he did not know the existence. For the success of the voyage, the safe return, the promotion of Sighelm, and his bequest, the original record gives no authority, although that is the obvious foundation of the story, to which Aserus has no allusion in his life of Alfred.

"In the year 883, Alfred, King of England, hearing that there existed a Christian church in the Indies, dedicated to the memory of St Thomas and St Bartholomew, dispatched one Sighelm, or Sithelm, a favourite ecclesiastic of his court, to carry his royal alms to that distant shrine. Sighelm successfully executed the honourable commission with which he had been entrusted, and returned in safety into England. After his return, he was promoted to the bishoprick of Sherburn, or Shireburn, in Dorsetshire; and it is recorded, that he left at his decease, in the treasury of that church, sundry spices and jewels, which he had brought with him from the Indies."

Of this voyage, William of Malmsbury makes twice mention; once in the fourth chapter of his second book, De Gestis Regum Anglorum; and secondly, in the second book of his work; entitled, De Gestis Pontificum Anglorum; and in the chapter devoted to the Bishops of Shireburn, Salisbury, and Winchester, both of which are here added, although the only authority for the story is contained in what has been already given from the Saxon Chronicle[3].

"King Alfred being addicted to giving of alms, confirmed the privileges which his father had granted to the churches, and sent many gifts beyond seas, to Rome, and to St Thomas in India. His messenger in this business was Sighelm, bishop of Sherburn, who, with great prosperity, which is much to be wondered at in this age, penetrated into India; whence he brought on his return, splendid exotic gems, and aromatic liquors, of which the soil of that region is prolific."

"Sighelm having gone beyond seas, charged with alms from the king, even penetrated, with wonderful prosperity, to Saint Thomas in India, a thing much to be admired in this age; and brought thence, on his return, certain foreign kinds of precious stones which abound in that region; some of which are yet to be seen in the monuments of his church."

In the foregoing accounts of the voyage of Sighelm, from the first notice in the Saxon Chronicle, through the additions of Malmsbury, and the amplified paraphrase by Harris, we have an instance of the manner in which ingenious men permit themselves to blend their own imaginations with original record, superadding utterly groundless circumstances, and fancied conceptions, to the plain historical facts. Thus a motely rhetorical tissue of real incident and downright fable is imposed upon the world, which each successive author continually improves into deeper falsehood. We have here likewise an instance of the way in which ancient manuscripts, first illustrated by commentaries, became interpolated, by successive transcribers adopting those illustrations into the text; and how many fabricators of story, first misled by these additaments, and afterwards misleading the public through a vain desire of producing a morsel of eloquence, although continually quoting original and contemporary authorities, have acquired the undeserved fame of excellent historians, while a multitude of the incidents, which they relate, have no foundations whatever in the truth of record. He only, who has diligently and faithfully laboured through original records, and contemporary writers, honestly endeavouring to compose the authentic history of an interesting period, and has carefully compared, in his progress, the flippant worse than inaccuracies of writers he has been taught to consider as masterly historians, can form an adequate estimate of the enormity and frequency of this tendency to romance. The immediate subject of these observations is slight and trivial; but the evil itself is wide-spread and important, and deserves severe reprehension, as many portions of our national history have been strangely disfigured by such indefensible practices.

[1] Harris, I. 873. Hakluyt, V. II. 38.

[2] Chron. Sax. Ed. Gibson, p. 86.

[3] Hakluyt, II. 88.


Travels of John Erigena to Athens, in the Ninth Century[1].

John Erigena, of the British Nation, descended from noble progenitors, and born in the town of St. Davids in Wales; while the English were oppressed by the cruel wars and ravages of the Danes, and the whole land was in confusion, undertook a long journey to Athens, and there spent many years in the study of the Grecian, Chaldean, and Arabian literature. He there frequented all the places and schools of the philosophers, and even visited the oracle of the sun, which Esculapius had constructed for himself. Having accomplished the object of his travels, he returned through Italy and France; where, for his extraordinary learning, he was much favoured by Charles the Bald, and afterwards by Lewis the Stammerer. He translated into Latin, in 858, the books of Dionysius the Areopagite, concerning the Heavenly Hierarchy, then sent from Constantinople. Going afterwards into Britain, he became preceptor to Alfred, King of England, and his children; and, at the request of that prince, he employed his leisure in translating the Morals of Aristotle, and his book called the Secret of Secrets, or of the Right Government of Princes, into Chaldaic, Arabic, and Latin; certainly a most exquisite undertaking. At last, being in the abbey of Malmsbury, where he had gone for his recreation, in the year 884, and reading to certain evil-disposed disciples, they put him to death.

[1] Hakluyt, II. 38.


Geography of the Known World, in the Ninth Century as described by King Alfred[1].


Though not strictly conformable to our plan, as being neither a journey or voyage, it yet seemed incumbent to present our readers with this curious British production of the great Alfred King of England, which gives a singular record of the geographical knowledge of the world in the ninth century. It was originally written by Orosius, a Spanish Christian, who flourished in the end of the fourth and beginning of the fifth century, and who published a kind of History of the World, down to A. D. 416, which remained in good repute among the learned till about an hundred years ago, but is now much neglected. Near a thousand years ago, the work of Orosius was translated into Anglo-Saxon, by Alfred King of England, but, with great freedom and much licence, often using his author merely as a foundation for a paraphrase; omitting most of the introductory chapters to each book, sometimes leaving out considerable passages, and often inserting new matter. This is peculiarly the case with the first chapter of the first book, containing the whole of the geography, and which is all that has any reference to the nature of our work.

The Honourable Daines Barrington, who published the Anglo-Saxon version, with an English translation, informs us that the original MS. is in the Cotton Library, Tiberius I., and is supposed to have been written in the ninth or tenth century; but that, in making his translation, he used a transcript, made by Mr Elstob, occasionally collated with the Cotton MS. and with some other transcripts. But, before publishing a work of such curiosity and interest, he ought to have made sure of possessing a perfect copy, by the most scrupulous comparison of his transcript with the original MS.

In the following republication of the geographical chapter, much care has been taken to correct errors, chiefly in regard to direction, as east, west, north, and south, are often used interchangeably in the translation by Mr Barrington. Most of the notes are from that edition, or from J.R. Forster, who reprinted so much of this chapter as referred to northern geography, and who appears to have studied that part of the subject with great care.

As a specimen of the Anglo-Saxon, or the language of England near a thousand years ago, we have given the first sentence of this geographical chapter in the ordinary Roman letters, with a literal translation.


Ure yldran calne thysne ymbhwyrft thyses middangeardes, cwaeth Orosius, swa swa Oceanus ymbligeth utan, wone man garsecg hatath, on threo todaeldon.

Literal Translation

Our elders have divided all of this middle-earth, quoth Orosius, which Oceanus surrounds, which men calleth garsecg into three deals.

Geography of Alfred.

Sec. 1. According to Orosius, our ancestors divided the whole world which is surrounded by the ocean, which we call garsecg[2], into three parts, and they named these divisions Asia, Europe, and Africa; though some authors only admit of two parts, Asia and Europe. Asia is bounded to the southward, northward, and eastward by the ocean, and thus divides all our part of this earth from that which is to the east. On the north, Europe and Asia are separated by the Tanais or Don; and in the south, after passing the Mediterranean[3] sea, Asia and Africa join to the westward of Alexandria[4].

Sec. 2. Europe begins, as I have said before, at the Tanais, which has its source in the northern parts of the Riphean mountains[5], which are near the Sarmatic[6] ocean; and this river then runs directly south, on the west side of Alexander's temples, to the nation of the Russians[7], where it runs into the fen called Maeotis, and thence it issues eastwards with a great stream, near the town called Theodosia, into the Euxine. Then becoming narrow for a considerable track, it passes by Constantinople, and thence into the Wendel sea, or Mediterranean. The south-west end of Europe is in Ispania or Spain, where it is bounded by the ocean; but the Mediterranean almost closes at the islands called Gades, where stand the pillars of Hercules. To the westward of this same Mediterranean is Scotland[8].

Sec. 3. Asia and Africa are divided by Alexandria, a city of Egypt; and that country is bounded on the west by the river Nile, and then by Ethiopia to the south, which reaches quite to the southern ocean. The northern boundary of Africa is the Mediterranean sea all the way westwards, to where it is divided from the ocean by the pillars of Hercules; and the true western boundaries of Africa are the mountains called Atlas and the Fortunate Islands. Having thus shortly mentioned the three divisions of this earth, I shall now state how those are bounded by land and water.

Sec. 4. Opposite to the middle of the eastern part of Asia, the river Ganges empties itself into the sea, whilst the Indian ocean is to the southwards, in which is the port of Caligardamana. To the south-east of that port is the island of Deprobane[9]. To the north of the mouths of the Ganges, where mount Caucasus ends, is the port of Samera; and to the north of this port are the mouths of the river called Corogorre, in the ocean called Sericus. Now, these are the boundaries of India: Mount Caucasus is to the north, the river Indus to the west, the Red Sea[10] to the south, and the ocean to the east. In this land of India there are forty-four nations, besides the island of Taprobana or Ceylon, in which there are ten boroughs; and also many others which are situated on the banks of the Indus, and lie all to the westward of India. Betwixt this river Indus, and another to the west called Tigris, both of which empty themselves into the Red Sea[11], are the countries of Orocassia, Parthia, Asilia, Pasitha, and Media, though some writers call the whole of this land Media or Assyria[12]. The fields are much parched by the sun[13], and the roads are very hard and stony. The northern boundary of this land is Mount Caucasus, and the southern is the Red Sea. In this land there are two great rivers, the Hystaspes and Arbis, and twenty-two nations, though the whole has the general name of Parthia. To the westwards, Babilonia, Chaldea, and Mesopotamia are between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates. Within this country there are twenty-eight nations, the northern boundary being Mount Caucasus, and the Red Sea to the south. Along the Red Sea, and at its northern angle, are Arabia, Sabaea, and Eudomane, or Idumea. Beyond the river Euphrates, quite westward to the Mediterranean, and northward to Mount Taurus, even into Armenia, and southward to near Egypt, are many countries, namely Comagene, Phenicia, Damascena, Coelle, Moab, Ammon, Idumea, Judea, Palestine, and Sarracene, all of which are comprehended under the general name of Syria. To the north of Syria are the hills called Taurus, and to the north of these are Capadocia and Armenia, the former being to the westward of the latter; and to the westward of Capadocia is the country called the lesser Asia. To the north of Capadocia is the plain called Temisere, and betwixt Capadocia and lesser Asia are Cilicia and Isauria. Lesser Asia is entirely surrounded by salt water, except to the eastward; having the Euxine on the north, the Propontis and Hellespont on the west, and the Mediterranean on the south. In it is the high mountain of Olympus.

Sec. 5. To the northward of hither Egypt is Palestine, to the eastwards the land of the Sarracens, to the west is Libia, and to the south the mountain called Climax. The head of the Nile is near the cliffs of the Red Sea, though some say it is in the western part of Africa, near Mount Atlas, whence it flows over a large track of land, till it sinks; after which, it proceeds in its course, till it becomes a great sea, or wide river[14]. The spot where the river takes its rise is called by some Nuchal, and by others Dara. Hence, for some distance from the wider part, before[l5] it rises from the sand, it runs westward to Ethiopia, where it is called Jon, till it reaches the eastern part, where it becomes a wide river[16], and then it sinks again into the earth; after which it appears again opposite to the cliffs of the Red Sea, as I mentioned before, and from this place it is called the Nile. Then running from thence westwards, it divides its stream round an island called Meroe[17]; then running to the northward, it empties itself into the Mediterranean. There, in the winter season, the current at its mouth is opposed by the north winds, so that the river is spread all over the land of Egypt;[l8] and by the rich earth which it deposits, it fertilizes the whole country. The farther Egypt lies along the southern part of the Red Sea, and to the east is the ocean. To the west is the hither Egypt, and in the two Egypts there are twenty-four nations.

Sec. 6. Having before given an account of the north part of Asia, I shall now speak of its southern parts. I have before mentioned that Mount Caucasus is to the north of India, beginning eastwards on the ocean, and running due west, till it join the Armenian mountains, which the inhabitants call Parcoatrae, from which the Euphrates takes its rise; and from the Parcoatrian mountains mount Taurus runs due west, quite to Cilicia. To the north of these mountains, quite to the ocean which environs the north east end of the earth, where the river Bore empties itself into the ocean, and from thence westwards to the Caspian sea, which extends to Mount Caucasus, all the land is called Old Scythia, or Hircania. In this country there are forty-three nations, all situate at great distances from each other, on account of the barrenness of the soil[19]. Then to the westward of the Caspian unto the Tanais or Don, and the Palus Maeotis, thence south to Mount Taurus[20], and north to the ocean, is all Scythia, and is divided among thirty-two nations. The country on the east side of the Tanais is inhabited by a nation called the Alboari in the Latin tongue, which we now call Liobene. Thus have I shortly stated the boundaries of Asia, and shall now state those of Europe, as far as we are informed concerning them.

Sec. 7. From the Tanais westwards to the Rhine, which takes its rise in the Alps, and runs northward, till it falls into that branch of the ocean which surrounds Bryttannia, and southward from the Tanais to the Donua or Danube, whose source is near that of the Rhine, and which runs to the northward of Greece, till it empties itself into the Euxine[21], and north even to that part of the ocean which is called the Cwen sea[22], there are many nations; and the whole of this extensive country is called Germany. Hence to the north of the source of the Danube, and to the east of the Rhine are the people called eastern Franks[23]. To the south of them are the Swaepas[24]. On the opposite banks of the Danube, and to the south and east, are the people called Baegth-ware[25], in that part which is called Regnes-burh[26]. Due east from them are the Beme[27]. To the north-east the Thyringas[28]. To the north of these are the Old Seaxan[29]. To the north-west of these are the Frysan[30]; and to the west of Old Saxony is the mouth of the Aelfe or Elbe, as also Frysan or Friesland. Prom hence to the north-west is that land which is called Angle, with Sellinde, and some other parts of Dene[31]. To the north is Apdrede[32], and to the north-east the Wolds[33], which are called AEfeldan[34]. From hence eastwards is Wineda-land[35], otherwise called Sysyle[36]. To the south-west, at some distance, is the Macroaro[37], and these have to the west the Thyringas and Behemas, as also part of the Baegthware, all of whom have been already mentioned. And to the south, on the other side of the Donua or Danube, is the country called Carendrae[38].

Sec. 8. Southwards, towards and along the mountains which are called the Alps, are the boundaries of the Baegthware and of the Swaefas already mentioned; and then to the eastwards of the Carendrae country, and beyond the Waste[39], is Pulgara-land or Bulgaria[40]. To the east is Greca-land[41] or Greece; and to the east of the Moroaro or Moravians, is Wisle-land[42]; and to the east of that is Datia, though it formerly belonged to the Gottan[43] or Goths. To the north-east of the Moroara or Moravians, are the Delamensen[44]. East of the Delamensen are the Horithi[45]; and north of the Delamensen are the Surpe[46]; to the west also are the Syssele[47]. To the north of the Horithi is Maegtha-land[48], and north of Maegtha-land is Sermende[49], quite to the Riffin[50], or the Riphean mountains.

Sec. 9. To the south-west of Dene or Denmark, formerly mentioned, is that arm of the ocean which surrounds Brittania, and to the north is that arm which is called the Ostsea[51] or East sea; to the east and north are the north Dene[52], or North Danes, both on the continent and on the islands. To the east are the Afdrede[53]. To the south is the mouth of the AElfe or Elbe, and some part of Old Seaxna[54] or Old Saxony. The North Dene have to the north that arm of the sea which is called the East sea, and to the east is the nation of the Osti[55], and the Afdrede, or Obotrites, to the south. The Osti have to the north of them that same arm of the sea, or the Baltic, and so have the Winedas and the Burgendas[56]. Still more to the south is Haefeldan[57]. The Burgendas have this same arm of the sea to the west, and the Sweon[58] to the north. To the east are the Sermende, to the south the Surfe[59]. The Sweons have to the south the arm of the sea called Ost, and to the north, over the wastes, is Cwenland[60], to the north-west are the Scride-finnas[61], and the North-men[62] are to the west[63].

Sec. 10. We shall now speak of Greca-land or Greece, which lies south of the Danube. The Proponditis, or sea called Propontis, is eastward of Constantinople; to the north of that city, an arm of the sea issues from the Euxine, and flows westwards; to the north-west the mouths of the Danube empty themselves into the south-east part of the Euxine[64]. To the south and west of these mouths are the Maesi, a Greek nation; to the west are the Traci or Thracians, and to the east the Macedonians. To the south, on the southern arm of the Egean sea, are Athens and Corinth, and to the south-west of Corinth is Achaia, near the Mediterranean. All these countries are inhabited by the Greeks. To the west of Achaia is Dalmatia, along the Mediterranean; and on the north side of that sea, to the north of Dalmatia, is Bulgaria and Istria. To the south of Istria is the Adriatic, to the west the Alps, and to the north, that desert which is between Carendan[65] and Bulgaria.

Sec. 11. Italy is of a great length from the north-west to the south-east and is surrounded by the Mediterranean on every side, except the north-west. At that end of it are the Alps, which begin from the Mediterranean, in the Narbonese country, and end in Dalmatia, to the east of the Adriatic sea. Opposite to the Alps, on the north, is Gallia-belgica, near which is the river Rhine, which discharges itself into the Britanisca sea, and to the north, on the other side of this sea, is Brittannia[66]. The land to the west of Ligore, Liguria, is AEquitania; to the south of which is some part of Narbonense, to the south-west is Spain. To the south of Narbonense is the Mediterranean, where the Rhone empties itself into that sea, to the north of the Profent[67] sea. Opposite to the wastes is the nearer[68] part of Spain, to the northwest Aquitania, and the Wascan[69] to the north. The Profent[67] sea hath to the north the Alps, to the south the Mediterranean, to the north-east the Burgundians, and to the West the Wascans or Gascons.

$ 12. Spain is triangular, being surrounded by the sea on three sides. The boundary to the south-west is opposite to the island of Gades, Cadiz; that to the east is opposite to the Narbonense, and the third, to the north- west, is opposite to Brigantia, a town of Gallia, as also to Scotland[70], over an arm of the sea, and opposite to the mouth of the Scene or Seine. As for that division of Spain which is farthest[71] from us, it has to the west the ocean, and the Mediterranean to the north, the south, and the east. This division of Spain has to the north Aquitania, to the north-east Narbonense, and to the south the Mediterranean.

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