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familiedocumenten/the travels of Moses Cassuto p.4
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The travels of Moses Cassuto, 1733-1735 and 1741-1743
A unique document is the diary of Moses Vita Cassuto, written in the first half of the eighteenth century and describing his two journeys, one to Palestine and one to England and Holland. On this page a part of the summary of this diary describing his travelling furtherfrom Safed and Tiberias in Palestine to Constantinople, anno 1734.

landing in Egypt
arrival in Hebron
Jerusalem and Safed

From Palestine to Constantinople
From Constantinople to Vienna
home: from Vienna to Florence

From Palestine to Constantinople

The Druzes

Wednesday 9 June 1734. they left Safed by mule reaching Saida late on Friday. On the way he passed many hamlets and villages belonging to a non-Moslem sect who, they say, are Philistines (i.e., the Druzes). They practise idolatry and secretly worship a mouse and a dog, hate the Turks, and woe to any who fall into their hands without ransom!

They claim to be defiled by contact with persons of other religions; they never thieve - or, if it occurs, not only the thief but hid relatives are severely punished by burning of all their
possessions; they are liberal with women and share all in common; they are wealthy in flocks and wear much silk, having many mulberry and orange trees.

On the top of a mountain they have a great city called Hasbia (modern Hasbaya), where lives their chief commander, who, they say, has under him 300.000 persons; he is independent and is only tributary to the Grand Sultan, paying yearly tribute to Constantinople in the form of silk. But when there are disagreements, the Sultan is powerless to enforce his will, on account of their position, their skill in arms, and their courage. They are infinitely numerous here in these parts in Aleppo, La Tacchia (modern Latakia), and in Tripoli.

In Hasbia are about forty houses of Hebrews, who are most hospitable and permit Jews who have become Turks (i.e., Moslems) to return to their faith as before.
Near by are the tombs of Bezalel, son of Uri, and Rabbi Eliazar ben Bartoda, the tombs of Zephania the prophet, Jezebel, and others on the top of Mount Anti-Lebanon - according to the Hebrew rubrics they are at 'Ereb Saliel, Safta, Sugeyr.


On 11 June, late on Friday, he arrived at Saida, near which were roads flanked by great cedars.
It is an important port for ships. They are mostly French from Marseilles, as there are many French merchants there, since that nation alone enjoys the privilege there of buying cotton, both raw and spun. But they also buy besides this many other goods which they ship to France at a profit. There is only one synagogue, but prayers take place in private houses as well. There is a Franciscan hospice and a place where all the French merchants meet to do their business, which is handled by Jewish brokers. There also the French Consul lives.


On Tuesday 15 June he left again by mule for Damascus, passing again through 'Philistine' (i.e., Druze) country, both mountain and plain. On the way he passed a place where there are about thirty columns and remains of many more, said to have been a Christian church, and a short section of walling of the time of St. Barbara. In the distance were the snow peaks of Anti-Lebanon.
On Sunday 20 June - Damascus - here there were nine synagogues, many of the Jews having public employment and others being engaged in trade of all kinds and possessing fine houses in a good quarter.

During his stay, he resided at the house of a Hebrew, who was the Treasurer of the Pasha. The Jewish women are accustomed to wear a round silver saucer on their heads covered with white linen; this is the last thing which they sell, only in the direst need.

At an hour's distance from the city was another synagogue built on columns, called the School of Elijah the Prophet, ascended to by a ladder and having many little windows, with a little room where the prophet is said to have been fed by the ravens. Here on every Tuesday and on the eve of the New Moon a company of Rabbis and others come for prayer; hither came also Cassuto and his host the Treasurer.

The Karaites have their own synagogue, as in Cairo.
An episode meanwhile occurred which recalls somewhat the atmosphere of intrigue and calumny 107 years later. It happened that one of the Fathers belonging to the Franciscans had been arrested and imprisoned on a charge, trumped up by their enemies, the Jesuits, of molesting a Moslem woman.
The Fathers who knew Cassuto implored his help and by his intervention with the Treasurer the monk was released.
This causes him some sad reflections on these quarrels between Christian groups.

Through Syria

Leaving Damascus on 3 July, Sabbath eve, he passed through Homs, Hama, and Mara (now Marrat-en-Noman); Aleppo was reached on Wednesday I4 July at midday. Here he claims to have seen an inscription above the gateway of the citadel stating in Hebrew that it was conquered by Joab the son of Zeruiah, the general ofKing David!
There is only one synagogue, so ancient as to be ascribed to the time of King Solomon, of moderate size, divided into two portions, right and left - that on the right being covered, that on the left open but flanked by a covered gallery of seventy two columns. Each half has an Ark and a pulpit, and services are conducted simultaneously in both. In this synagogue is the cave of the Prophet Elijah, and in a room apart the tombs of a family said to be descended from King David.

He then describes the system of merchants and agents at Aleppo and notes that though the merchants may be English, French, or other nationalities, the agents are mostly Jews.
On Thursday 12 August he left Aleppo for the coast near Alexandretta, in a large caravan of sixty persons accompanying a Cadi (a Moslem judge) home to Constantinople.
His friends advised him that, since Jews would be met on his route only in the city of Antioch, he should take an interpreter (dragoman), and an Armenian named Giovanni Araquili, who knew a little Italian,
was chosen for the task. He was mounted on a horse and helped to carry and pitch the tent.

After Harim (Boz-köy), then Antakia (Antioch). At Antakia there was a small synagogue which he visited. It was Monday morning, and the time of the service, and he was called up to the reading of the Pentateuch.
They continued through the Beilan Pass, past Payas, through Adana, Cahet Han, Yayla, 'Ciufteha', Ulukisla, Araghil, and Arab Punar. It was arranged with the rest of the caravan that he and his party should not travel on the Sabbath; so, if the caravan rested on Friday, they pushed on ahead;
if not, they caught it up on Sunday.

hardships on the way to Constantinople

Meanwhile the word was passed round among his Turkish fellow-travellers that he, like most Europeans, understood medicine and was a doctor, and he describes amusingly how he dealt with the largely imaginary ailments of a Turkish Agha and a Turkish girl and her mother, with the aid of his interpreter. For his ministrations these and his other patients were touchingly grateful.
The journey was further enlivened by the execution of a murderer among the travellers after due trial before the Cadi.

Alas! On the way, first the interpreter and then Isaac, his servant, fell seriously ill with high fever, and he must needs tend them himself without stopping. Finally the Cadi feIl gravely sick and, failing to respond to Cassuto's prescriptions, died three days' journey away from Constantinople.

In this journey of forty days they approached Constantinople by way of Ismil (E. of Konya), Honia (i.l., Konra) Ladich, Ilshin (Ilgin), Ahsciar (Aksehir), Arhit (modern Egret), Seyitgazi, 'Asechesciar' (i.e., Eski-sehir), but he decided at this point to leave the caravan and push on on their own. With his servant, Isaac, sickening ever worse, they reached Eskisehir , Sogut, Vizir Han, Lafche (modern Osmaneli, former Lefke), Cinisnich (Iznik), and Scutari, where one crosses the straits to Stamboul and Galata.

It was now 19 September 1734 when he disembarked at Galata and sought the house of a Jew who was a correspondent. Here Isaac, his servant, though staggering along from his sickness, saw a Jew, a dwarf whom he knew, the only Jew from Florence in the city, who had left twenty-five years before because there was the plague in the city. Then Cassuto found a merchant to whom he bore an introduction.
This person took them to his house at Arnautkor, where they put Isaac to bed.

Soon Cassuto fell sick himself with a high fever on 27 September, which lasted for twenty-eight days, in the course of which he drank a whole well full of quinine. He did not recover until the end of November.

Constantinople and the Jews living there

In the course of his description of the city of Constantinople, he mentions that with its villages as far as the mouth of the Black Sea there are 2,000,000 Turks, 150,000 Greeks, 100,000 Armenians, 60,000 Hebrews, and 15,000 Catholics, with as many renegades.
At the head of the last was General Bonneval, who left the service of the Emperor Charles VI for that of the Grand Sultan and became a Moslem and was appointed a Pasha of Three Tails and a General of Artillery .
'I went to call on him,' he said, 'as I had chanced to know him and serve him in 1716, when he was in Florence, having as his host Colonel Capponi, who is today Governor of Livorno.
He was then honoured by our Grand Duke and given abundant presents.
He received me with the greatest courtesy. I received his attention with pleasure; he recalled events of that time and offered me his every protection in whatever I should need, and while I was with him he entertained me for more than two hours, and favoured me with the usual coffee.
There appeared some twenty-five persons, all renegade Christians ; as Dr. Fonseca, my introducer, who knew them, told me, they were princes and persons of rank who came to pay court to General Bonneval and to confer with him, being each of them employed in the army.'

There follows a long description of Constantinople which is ofmuch interest.
In the midst of it he informs us that Jews are employed in the Customs, the mint, and the Treasury ,
and serve many of the Pashas and important persons as suppliers of goods of all kinds.
He also informs us that there are eighty beautiful and spacious synagogues with many schools of religion for youths and children and a Hebrew printing press, where books and new works by great Rabbis are continuously printed.
Books are brought from other parts of Turkey to be printed there. He then goes on to speak a little cynically about the medical profession :

'There are more doctors than sick in Constantinople because the plague which comes every year either purges and cleans it, or they die; yet in so great a population there are always some sick.
The majority are Europeans and Greeks and many Hebrews are renowned in this art, by which they make their fortunes-persons who by us would be accounted worth nothing.
But I think that it depends on the fact that the Turks, although they gladly admit some Christians to consort, dine, and eat with them because they are not scrupulous about their food and meat like the Hebrews, yet think more of the Hebrews and trust themselves to them more than to the Christians.
And in matters which involve some great secret they have no hesitation in revealing it and trusting it to a Hebrew but never to a Christian, deeming them more their enemies and the opposite of the Hebrews. In short, these doctors have good credit and make their own glory-there is little profit in the visit they make to the sick, but the great gain consists in the remedies and medicaments which they prepare and compose themselves and bring to the sick man, and in every little drop of coloured water which they sell at a high price as being things which they have had to buy; and in this way they put what they will into the human body; and I must say that the manufacture of this coloured water is better than that of other violent medicines which could burst, instead of curing, the body. Thus the doctor gains the profit and the sick man recovers'.

On Tuesday 3 January 1735 he left Constantinople.

next: to Vienna....

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