The travels of Sig. Pietro della Valle, a noble Roman, into East-India and Arabia Deserta in which, the several countries, together with the customs, manners, traffique, and rites both religious and civil, of those Oriental princes and nations, are faithfully described : in familiar letters to his friend Signior Mario Schipano : whereunto is added a relation of Sir Thomas Roe's Voyage into the East-Indies.
Della Valle, Pietro, 1586-1652., Roe, Thomas, Sir, 1581?-1644., Havers, G. (George)

SECTION XIII. Of their Physitians, Diseases, Cures; When they begin their year; How they measure their time, &c.

HEre are those which pretend unto much skill in Physick, though (for ought I could ever there observe) the people make but little use of them, they fearing more Medicum quam Morbum; and therefore do believe the Physitian to be the more dangerous disease.

The common Diseases of that Countrey are Bloody-Fluxes, with others that come not to blood, Hot-Fevers, Calentures, which seize on and fire the head and brain, more than other parts. These, many times put our men at Sea into very high di∣stempers, especially while they are under the Torrid Zone, which makes the poor creatures visited with them, sometimes to conceit the spacious Sea and Waves therein to be great Fields full of Haycocks; and if they were not sometimes happily pre∣vented, would leap over-board to tumble in them.

For ordinary Agues, such as are so common among us, and for those two torments rather than diseases (when they are felt in extremity) the Gout and the Stone, they have the happiness to be ignorant of them.

But sometimes they are visited with an inflammation, or an ex∣treme Page  415 Burning, such as is spoken of, Deut. 28.22. or rather with a most grievous Pestilence, which on a sudden sweeps away many thousands when it comes into great populous Cities. This Pesti∣lence makes the bodies of Men there which are visited with it, like an House, which on a sudden is covered all over with fire at once. The City Amadavar (at our being there with the King) was visited with this Pestilence in the moneth of May, and our Family was not exempted from that most uncomfortable visita∣tion; for within the space of nine dayes, seven persons that were English of our Family were taken away by it, and none of those which dyed lay sick above twenty hours, and the major part well and sick, and dead in twelve hours. As our Surgeon (who was there all the Physician we had, and he led the way) falling sick at mid-day, and the following mid-night dead. And there were three more that followed him, one immediately after the other, who made as much haste to the Grave as he had done, and the rest went after them, within that space of time (I named before.) And (as before I observed) all those that dyed in our Family of this Pestilence, had their Bodies set all on fire by it, so soon as they were first visited; and when they were dy∣ing, and dead, broad spots of a black and blew colour ap∣peared on their Breasts; and their flesh was made so extreme hot by their most high distemper, that we who survived, could scarce endure to keep our hands upon it.

It was a most sad time, a fiery Tryal indeed. But such is the goodness of Almighty God, that he makes the miseries of Men here, Aut tolerabiles, aut breves, either sufferable, or short; so that if the thing imposed be extreme heavy to be born, it continues not long, as this most grievous visitation, most violent for the time, like a mighty storm, and then blown away. For here the mercy of God suddenly stept in, betwixt the living and the dead; so that not onely in our Family, but also in that great City, the Plague was stayed.

All our Family [my Lord Ambassadour onely excepted] were visited with this sickness; and we all, who through Gods help and goodness out-lived it, had many great blisters, fill'd with a thick yellow watery substance, that arose upon many parts of our bodies, which when they brake, did even burn and corrode our skins, as it ran down upon them.

For my part I had a Calenture before at Mandoa, which brought me even into the very Jaws of Death, from whence it pleased God then to rescue and deliver me, which amongst thousands and millions of mercies more received from him, hath, and shall for ever give me cause to speak good of his Name.

There are very few English which come thither, but have some violent sickness, which if they escape, and live temperate∣ly, they usually enjoy very much health afterward. But Death made many breaches unto my Lord Ambassador's Family, for of four and twenty Waiters, besides his Secretary and my self, there Page  416 was not above the fourth Man returned home. And he himself by violent Fluxes, was twice brought even to the very brink of the Grave.

The Natives of East-India in all their violent hot diseases, make very little use of Physicians, unless it be to breathe a Vein sometimes, after which they use much fasting as their most hopeful remedy.

The foul Disease is too common in those hot Climates, where the people that have it are much more affected with the trouble it brings, than with the sin or shame thereof.

The people in East-India live up to our greatest Ages; but without all question they have more old people than we; a thing not to be wondered at, if we consider the great Tempe∣rance of that people in general in their eating and drinking.

But to proceed. The Hindooes or Heathens there begin their year the first day of March. The Mahometans begin theirs, the tenth, at the very instant as the Astrologers there ghess that the Sun enters into Aries, their year as ours is divided into twelve Moneths, or rather into thirteen Moons, for according to them they make many payments. They distinguish their time in a much different manner from us, dividing the day into four, and the night into as many parts, which they call Pores; which again they subdivide each of them into eight parts, which they call Grees; measured according to the ancient cu∣stom, by water dropping out of one vessel into another, by which there alwayes stands a Man appointed for that service, to turn that vessel up again when it is all dropped out, and then to strike with an hammer (upon the brim of a concave piece of Metal, like the inner part of a large Platter, hanging by the brim on a wire) the number of those Pores, and Grees as they pass. It hath a deep sound, and may be heard very far; but these are not common amongst them. Neither have they any Clocks, or Sun-Dials, to shew them further how their time passeth.

We lived there some part of our time a little within, or under the Tropick of Cancer, and then the Sun was our Zenith, or Ver∣ticle at noon-day directly over our heads, at his return to his Northern bounds (of which I have spoken something before.) The Sun-rising there, was about six hours in the Morning before its appearing here, so that it is twelve of the Clock with them, when it is but six with us. We had the Sun there above the Ho∣rizon in December, when the dayes are shortest near eleven hours; and in June when they are at their fullest length, some∣what more than thirteen hours; which long absence of the Sun there from the face of the Earth, was very advantagious to cool both the Earth and Air. I proceed to speak