POCOCKE, Richard. A Description of the East, and Some other Countries…, Cyprus and Candia…, the Islands of the Archipelago, Asia Minor, Thrace, Greece…, vol. I, London, W. Bowyer, 1743-45.


Richard Pococke (1704-1765) came from a prominent family. He studied at Cambridge, followed a career in the church and became a prelate. Pococke travelled in Europe (France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Poland, Hungary) together with his cousin from 1733 to 1736. In 1737, he set out on a tour of the East which lasted three years; starting from Egypt, he visited the Holy Land, Cyprus, Crete, the Aegean islands, Asia Minor and modern-day Continental and Northern Greece, the last two being territories hardly trodden by travellers at that time. Pococke travelled in Ireland in the years 1747-1760. From 1765 onwards he made various journeys in Britain as a bishop.

Pococke’s voyage to the East was full of unexpected occurences: while in Egypt, he had an audience with the Orthodox patriarch; in Judaea, he was able to swim in the Red Sea. In his work, he dedicates special chapters to Cyprus, Crete, Psara, Lesbos, Tenedos, Lemnos, Samos and Patmos, and describes the Black Sea. In Asia Minor, Pococke toured Smyrna, Cydonies (Eyvalik), Ephesus, Caria, Ierapolis in Phrygia, Ancara, the Troad, Bithynia, Thrace and Istanbul. He then reached travelled to Thessaloniki and reached Athens by land, through Pharsala, Zitouni (Lamia), Euboea, Copaïs, Thebes, and Fyli in Attica. In Athens, he presented the voevod of the city with various gifts and was thus free to tour all the monuments. Subsequently, he visited Eleusis, Corinth, Patras and Cephalonia.

This “pompous treatise”, as Edmund Gibbon called Pococke’s chronicle, is the work of an insightful and diligent traveller,albeit lacking of literary style. Pococke cites numerous Greek and Roman authors such as Strabo, Herodotus, Diodorus, Pliny, Ptolemy, Pomponius Mela, Pausanias, Philostratus and Aelian. The work appealed greatly to the public while the author was still alive, and was translated into French, German and Flemish. Pococke provides sufficient, and at times abundant information on Ottoman administration, commersce, customs and traditions, architecture and natural history.

He also provides a thorough description of Egyptian monuments and a detailed list of the equipment carried by the caravans to Mecca, comprised of hundreds of camels transporting pilgrims and their baggage. Pococke also presents the monuments of Thessaloniki and includes tables of the height of the Nile floods at their various stages. He also gives a list of cities, bishops and metropolitan bishops under the Patriarch of Alexandria.

Coming after G.Sandys' original illustration and before the thorough depiction of monuments in J. Stuart and N. Revett's editions, the illustration in Pococke's work is able to satisfy even the most demanding readers. Besides this impressive work in which he combined his personal experiences with plagiarised material and narratives of other travellers, Pococke published the ancient inscriptions he had collected as “Inscriptiorum Antiquarum Graec et Latin Liber” in 1752. His prolific correspondence with his mother and his travelling companion Jeremie Milles is also expected to be published soon.

Pococke's account of his eastern trip is one of the first thorough descriptions of Egyptian monuments. The cedar forest he planted with seeds he himself had brought from Lebanon still exists in Ireland. All the antiquities Pococke had collected were sold in London in 1766.

Written by Ioli Vingopoulou

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