Travel itineraries, travel stations and individuals in traveler networks (15th -19th century)

Ioli Vingopoulou


Travel is a personal adventure, a need for movement, fleeing, curiosity or knowledge; it is a material benefit, an end in itself or a necessity, an obligation or a way of life. It is the story of a condition that has existed since the ancient times, that has changed facades and style, but in essence has always remained the same: the transfer from one world to another, from the land of origin to another land, the new unknown and therefore attractive land.

Travelers’ accounts are the product of a complex process. Travelers set out bearing specific theoretical knowledge and ideological stances which are often subverted as a result of their travel experience. These recorded beliefs are reproduced in later texts and form stereotypes. The travel itineraries of western European travelers (15th-19th century) are in constant flux. The choice of travel itineraries rests on the reading of ancient Greek texts, ancient Latin texts, the Bible, earlier travel accounts, and literature. Thus the route followed by travelers is determined by their readings, their aims and the circumstances they come across en route.

Travel itineraries toward the eastern Mediterranean and southeastern Europe during this long period (15th-19th century) dynamically develop and are multiply diversified. Travel stations and ports where one can find accommodation or any kind of overnight lodging are registered on this network of itineraries. According to these accounts, travel stations offer information about contacts, the making of exchanges and developing interconnections among people (merchants, consuls [proxenoi], ecclesiastical and administrative officials). Such encounters are based on networks of acquaintances and on the need for security.

The selection and presentation of only certain itineraries for each time period represents the movement trends that unfold in each century, the differentiation of routes and of the navigation patterns of travelers in each period. Out of the huge number of the known travel accounts (3,000 names of authors and published works and at least 5,000 titles, translations and reprints included) it is obvious that the interactive map only indicatively registers the “travel curve” of the flow from the West to Southeastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean.


Already since the Middle Ages, travels had brought wealth, power, or even the immortality of the soul, since the pilgrimage to the Holy Land was the greatest duty of every Christian. From the 15th century, the spirit of renewal that pervaded in Europe, inextricably linked to the revival of classical studies, provided fertile ground for the revision and study of the Greek antiquity. Thus, apart from commercial travels or military movements and pilgrimage voyages, other reasons are gradually added to the travels of western Europeans to the East.


Travel, until the 16th century, consisted mostly of commercial movements and pilgrimage voyages to the Holy Sepulchre or other sacred shrines. Gradually, with the first omen of the new times and the great shifts in world balance, new routes are opened for western European travelers. Their travels and itineraries are determined by political, ideological, religious, or personal reasons. When monarchies establish embassies in Constantinople, in the 16th century, travel ceases to be exclusively a pilgrimage voyage, and also assumes political dimensions. Diplomatic delegations (Schepper, 1533) and traveling on foot to the Holy Land [P. Casola (1490), J. Palerne (1582), J. Zuallart, (1586)] are the two main pillars of the travel to the East, while at the same time, there are commercial travels, military expeditions, operations, travels out of necessity (e.g. prisoners in the Ottoman territory who were transferred), scientific travels (P. Belon, 1547-49) and wandering.


Travel itineraries followed by travelers who headed to Constantinople or Jerusalem were preferably made through Venice, which occupied territories throughout the eastern Mediterranean, secured the necessary supplying and was the city that circulated and organized pilgrimage voyages. From the 13th century Venice dominates the seas towards the entire eastern Mediterranean and in the following centuries it continues to be the economic, commercial, diplomatic and leading factor in the power equilibrium of the Mediterranean, remaining the privileged commercial and naval power that organized pilgrimage voyages and the major junction in the transfer of travelers to the East. From the port of Venice sailed successive itineraries of commercial ships or pilgrim ships which were supplied, docked, and transferred travelers to the great ports of the Adriatic and the Ionian Islands; port cities were the support centers of Venice’s thalassocracy and commercial power. Thus, Corfu, and then Zakynthos (Zante) and Cythera to the south, were a necessary anchorage for vessels, before sailing the high seas to Crete and eastern Mediterranean. From these necessary stations, namely Venice, Ragusa, the Ionian Islands, Crete, and Cyprus, vessels arrived to the Holy Land, or docked in Crete and —until 1566— Chios under the Genovese, and then headed to the capital of the Ottoman Empire. Later the ships from Marseilles were more comfortable than galleys (galera), more elegant and safer to face pirates; their equipment, speed and the seamen’s experience was comparable to that of the Dutch on high sea. Thus, the voyage from Marseilles, using the anchorages of Sardinia, Barbary, Malta, or Cythera, followed the same routes towards the Archipelagos or the Dardanelles. Traveling from Constantinople, the travelers docked in Chios and Rhodes and headed to Alexandria and of course Palestine. Land routes went across the Balkan Peninsula and from Belgrade (Beograd), via Sofia and Adrianople (Edirne), they culminated again in the Ottoman capital, or from Ragusa, stopping at Novi Pazar and Sofia, they followed the rest of the route to Constantinople. Very few travels to the hinterland of Asia Minor had been made by western European travelers before the 17th century.

It is noteworthy that in the early centuries of the travel flow (15th -16th century), travelers who moved along land routes stayed overnight in kervansarays, inns, or imarets, and other vakufi poorhouses, while they also occasionally sojourned in the houses of western European merchants. Very rarely are they invited in the houses of peasants and sometimes they are obliged to set up camp. Travelers who moved along sea routes mostly spend the night aboard the ship while they very rarely use other lodgings in houses of one of the supplying ports.


The 17th century is the time of the last turbulent Venetian-Turkish wars and the new power shifts of the power equilibrium in the circulation of trade —with the discovery of the Good Hope route by the Portuguese and the direct supply of luxury commodities from the East to the Europeans without the Muslims as mediators. It is also the century of the birth of archaeology during which pilgrims to the Holy Land (L.D. de Courmenin, 1621) and delegates to the capital of the Ottoman Empire are transformed into merchants and “pilgrims of knowledge,” empirical observers [C. de Bruyn (1678-93), A. de La Motraye (1697-1714)], who gradually penetrate the Greek territory, signaling a more systematic wandering (J. Thevenot, 1655-64), where in situ observation is combined with the constructive critique of ancient texts. Another factor that determined the presence and circulation of foreigners in the Greek territory is the settling of missionaries (Jesuit and Capuchin), who facilitated communication, gathered archaeological information and sought to convert Greek populations. The dynamic invasion of British travelers of the 17th century in the eastern Mediterranean [W. Lithgow (1619), Ed. Brown (1668-73)] is due to both the late establishment of an embassy in Constantinople at the end of the 16th century and of course the foundation of the Levant Company. On the one hand, travelers travel by land to eastern Asia Minor, hesitantly at first and then more systematically, and on the other hand, the flow of merchants who travel to the islands gradually penetrates the mainland as well. [R. de Dreux (1665-69), J. Spon (1675-76)].

In the 17th century, travelers gradually sojourn in other kinds of lodgings, are put up by local consuls or merchants of the same nationality, and occasionally stay in the houses of the locals, while sailing travelers continue to prefer to stay onboard for reasons of safety.


Yet the travel of J. Pitton de Tournefort (1700-1702) and the outcome of this travel not only subverted the readers’ knowledge mostly about the islands in the Aegean Archipelagos, but also opened new attractive travel routes (C.N.S. Sonnini, 1777-1779).

The 18th century was so devoted to the study of the ancient world that it should be called archaeo-century; archaeologists, antiquarians, and connoisseurs of the ancient world indulged in voracious archaeolatry, archaeomania, and the pillage of ancient monuments [P. Lucas (1704-08)]. Within the generalized spirit of reviving the ancient Greek past, they elevated every area in southeastern Europe and the eastern Mediterranean to a site of outmost interest. (R. Chandler, 1764-66). Travel itineraries are dispersed to all directions, off the beaten track, even though most of them start or end in the capital of the Ottoman Empire. [Elizabeth Craven (1785-6), A. L. Castellan (1796-97)]. At the same time, Athens becomes a popular destination and is approached via land routes in the mainland, via the Peloponnese, or by sea. Cities, castles, villages, settlements, sites, ancient temples, areas, islands, ports, all gain a place in the travelers’ quests, while land travel and sea travel ignore no destination whatsoever. Diplomatic travels (W. Wittman, 1799-1802) that also serve the wishes of pilgrims, small-scale delegations [A. Grasset de Saint Sauveur (1781-98), D.&N. Stephanopoli (1797-98)], archaeological interests, and the greed of collectors move travelers across the territory of the Ottoman Empire to all archaeological sites [M. G. F. A. Choiseul-Gouffier (1776-1792), E. M. Cousinery (1773-75, 1786-93)].

During this period, travelers head to sites of special interest and the aims of their travel vary; they are obliged to stay overnight in monasteries (orthodox or capuchin), houses (of priests, consuls, local officials, merchants) or even to set up camp outdoors. Of course, they prefer inns or other types of accommodation, when available, and if sailing, they invariably prefer to stay on board for the night, even when the ship is anchored at some port.


The first quarter of the 19th century is the period when very important and active travelers simultaneously flock to the Greek territory, reflecting the multifaceted nature of travel. From Ali-Pasha’s Epirus (H. Holland, 1812-13) to the clusters of the Aegean Archipelagos (W. Turner, 1816-17), from Odysseus’s Ithaca to Cydonies (Ayvalik) and Chios of the beautiful women, from the hustle and bustle of Constantinople to Crete, and from commercial Smyrna to western Peloponnese (Ch. R. Cockerel, 1810-17), from the Delphi oracle to the port of Thessaloniki, and from the salt marshes of Cyprus to Zante of currants (T. Kendrick, 1813), roads, paths, seas, and mountains are crossed by zealous travelers, lovers of the past, and amazed “readers” of the Greek reality.

Yet the 19th century is the most turbulent and “travelled” period. Precisely because it is the period of various internal border transformations, various western European interests, and various cultural transformations, the huge bulk of travel cannot be categorized as far as the aims of travelers are concerned. Massive transportation has arrived, travelling conditions have changed, and the East has become entertainment.

The subversion of the power nexus that comes about with the Revolution and the founding of the Greek State bring a new wave of travelers to the southern Greek space. The number of visitors and their need to describe, in as much detail as possible, the new image of the place are indeed impressive (H. Belle, 1868-72). On the one hand, life in the capital of the newly-founded Greek State, and on the other hand, the archaeological sites of the Peloponnese compete with each other to attract visitors (Fredrika Bremer, 1859-62). Unknown mountain paths, the political situation and its fluctuations, the in situ scientific studies, topographical and archaeological records, the antiquarians’ collecting passion, the Greek daily life in less known places, the combination of travel and botanical observation, travel impressions and war correspondences, and sea travel where the unique grace of the Greek island identity emerges, all the above “move” travelers to all directions.

In the Ionian Islands the travel flow signifies the domination of mostly British visitors who try to supervise everything. The unification of the Ionian Islands with the Greek Kingdom offers fertile ground for archaeological research and geographical studies. In Crete, travelers, apart from delegations, journalistic missions and other guises, the echo of studies of manners and nature-loving chronicles, insist on botanical or even epigraphic research (R. Paschley, 1834).

In northern Greece there are itineraries of archaeological, political, theological, and anthropological pretexts, with specialized scientific and newly-found political aims. Political fluidity and the sharpening of the crisis in the East become the path of volunteers and members of military missions, embassy secretaries, anonymous travelers, or correspondents of the press and of secret agencies (A. Slade, 1829-31). At the same time, the gradual penetration of travelers to the vast hinterland of Asia Minor shapes routes that are inextricably linked to the pillage of ancient monuments, rather than romantic pursuits [(F.V.G. Arundell (1826), Ch. Fellows (1838-44), S. G. L. E. Laborde (1826-27)]. The picturesque local color, the fatalism of Muslims, and classical memories go hand in hand across a new and relatively virgin ground. Out of the hundreds of travelers in the 19th century, all of them, with very few exceptions, briefly visited or stayed for long in Constantinople, the city of wonders and political schemes.

During the 19th century the various reasons for travel, the multiplicity of itineraries, improved travel conditions, and new kind of accommodation, all deliver a broad spectrum of overnight lodging spaces. Travelers stay in vakufi khanis, inns, farmhouses, stables, local residences, monasteries, mail stations, coffee houses, etc. Their hosts are acquaintances, or after recommendation, consular authorities, or other state agencies; they set up camp, and of course for reasons of safety, they continue to prefer staying on board, even when the ship is anchored for the night.

To conclude, travel itineraries in this long period (15th -19th century) are the outcome of the final aim of travels, of the circumstances that determine it (piracy, robbery, war, etc.) and of the repetition of earlier visits. All these factors constitute specific travel itineraries. After that, the published travel account provokes and motivates future travelers. This cycle of theoretical knowledge-personal experience-writing of memories creates a continuous exchange network of commodities and dialogue of ideas, of religious views and mentalities.

Androudis p., Χάνια και καραβάν-σεράγια στον ελλαδικό χώρο και στα Βαλκάνια (Inns and Kervansary in the Greek Territory and in the Balkans), Thessaloniki 2004.

Elavilas n., Λιμάνια και οικισμοί στο Αρχιπέλαγος της πειρατείας 15ος-19ος αιώνας (Ports and Settlements in the Archipelagos of Piracy, 15th -19th century), Athens 1997.

BouÉ a., Recueil d’itinéraires dans la Turquie d’Europe, Vienne 1854.

Vingopoulou ι., Η ανάδυση και η ανάδειξη κέντρων του ελληνισμού στα ταξίδια των περιηγητών (15ος-20ός αιώνας): ανθολόγιο από τη συλλογή του Δημητρίου Κοντομηνά (“The Emergence and Highlighting of Centers of Hellenism by Travelers, 15th -20th Century: Excerpts from the Dimitrios Kontominas Collection”), Exhibition Catalogue, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, May 6- June 16 2005, Athens 2005.

Vingopoulou i., Routes et logements des voyageurs dans la région de la Thrace (XVIe-XIXe siècles), The Historical Review / La Revue Historique 7 (2010), 299-322.

Yerasimos s., Les voyageurs dans l'Empire Ottoman, XIVe-XVIe siècles, bibliographie, itinéraires et inventaire des lieux habités, Ankara 1991.

Zachariadou e., ed., The Via Egnatia under Ottoman Rule (1380-1699), in Halycon Days in Crete II, Symposium, 9-11 January 1994, IMS, Rethymnon 1996.

Research directed by: Vingopoulou Ioli. Collaborator: Thanassakis Constantinos. GIS Cartography: Gadolou Eleni



Το όνομα του συγγραφέα της έκδοσης ή του επιμελητή της έκδοσης.


Ο τίτλος του έργου/πηγή απ’ όπου αντλήθηκαν όλες οι πληροφορίες.


Ο τόπος έκδοσης του έργου.


Η χρονολογία έκδοσης.


Το όνομα του ταξιδιώτη, ενδέχεται ο ταξιδιώτης να είναι άλλος από τον συγγραφέα του έργου.


Καταγράφεται η χρονολογία κατά την οποία κατά την οποία ο περιηγητής ξεκινάει το ταξίδι του στον χώρο της Ανατολικής Μεσογείου ή της Ν.Α. Ευρώπης.


Καταγράφεται η χρονολογία κατά την οποία ο περιηγητής ολοκληρώνει την παραμονή του στον χώρο της Ανατολικής Μεσογείου ή της Ν.Α. Ευρώπης.


Ο σκοπός του ταξιδιού του περιηγητή στην Ανατολική Μεσογείου ή στη Ν.Α. Ευρώπη.


Σημειώνεται η ημερομηνία ή χρονολογία κατά την οποία ο περιηγητής βρίσκεται στον συγκεκριμένο σταθμό του ταξιδιού του.


Το μέσο με το οποίο ο περιηγητής μετακινείται μέχρι τον συγκεκριμένο σταθμό του ταξιδιού του.


Η χώρα στην οποία σήμερα βρίσκεται η πόλη/χωριό/περιοχή όπου σταθμεύει ο ταξιδιώτης.


Το τοπωνύμιο έτσι όπως παραδίδεται από τον συγγραφέα/ταξιδιώτη.


Ο σταθμός ταξιδιού με το σημερινό τοπωνύμιο.


Το κατάλυμα στο οποίο ο περιηγητής κατέλυσε στον συγκεκριμένο σταθμό του ταξιδιού του.


Απόσπασμα από το έργο του περιηγητή που αφορά τον συγκεκριμένο σταθμό ή το κατάλυμα όπου διέμεινε.


Παραδίδονται πληροφορίες που αφορούν τον χώρο ή πρόσωπα που συνάντησε ο περιηγητής στο συγκεκριμένο σταθμό του ταξιδιού του.