From the travels of Josaphat Barbaro, an ambassador from Venice, first to Tana (Azof), and then to Persia, some information may be drawn respecting the commerce of these parts of Asia, about the middle of the fifteenth century. He particularly describes the Wolga as being navigable to within three days’ journey of Moscow, the inhabitants of which sail down it every year to Astrakan for salt. Astrakan was formerly a place of consequence and trade, but had been laid waste by Tamerlane. Russia is a fertile country, but extremely cold. Oxen and other beasts are carried to market in the winter, slaughtered, with their entrails taken out, and frozen so hard, that it is impossible to cut them up: they are very numerous and cheap. The only fruits are apples, nuts, and walnuts. Bossa, a kind of beer, is made in Russia. This liquor is still drank in Russia: it is made from millet, and is very inebriating. The drunkenness of the Russians is expressly and pointedly dwelt upon. Barbaro adds, that the grand duke, in order to check this vice, ordered that no more beer should be brewed, nor mead made, nor hops used. The Russians formerly paid tribute to Tartary; but they had lately conquered a country called Casan; to the left of the Wolga, in its descent. In this country a considerable trade is carried on, especially in furs, which are sent by way of Moscow to Poland, Prussia, and Flanders. The furs, however, are not the produce of Kasan, but of countries to the north-east, at a great distance.
Barbaro is very minute and circumstantial in his description of the manners, dress, food, &c. of the Georgians. He visited the principal towns of Persia. Schiraz contained 200,000 inhabitants. Yezd was distinguished and enriched by its silk manufactures.
HISTORICAL SKETCH OF THE PROGRESS OF DISCOVERY AND COMMERCE, FROM THE MIDDLE OF THE FIFTEENTH TO THE BEGINNING OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY.
The improvement of mankind in knowledge and civilization evidently depends on the union of three circumstances,—enlarged and increased desires, obstacles in the way of obtaining the objects of these desires, and practicable means of overcoming or removing these obstacles. The history of mankind in all ages and countries justifies and illustrates the truth of this remark; for though it is, especially in the early periods of it, very imperfect and obscure, and even in the later periods almost entirely confined to war and politics, still there are in it sufficient traces of the operation of all those three causes towards their improvement in knowledge and civilization.