SIEBER, Franz Wilhelm. Travels in the island of Crete, in the year 1817..., London, Richard Phillips, 1823.
Franz Wilhelm Sieber (1789-1844) was a naturalist of Austrian descent. As he had an inclination for graphic arts, he initially studied architecture, to later turn to natural history and especially botany. Sieber travelled to several parts of the world (Italy, Crete, Greece, Egypt, the Middle East, Australia, Mauritius island, South Africa), and collected specimens of the flora of each land, as well as antiquities and ethnographic material. His collection of Egyptian antiquities was later bought by the Munich Academy of Sciences. He was corresponding member of the Royal Academy of Munich, the Natural History Society of Paris and the Imperial Academy of Sciences of Moscow.
Sieber gave names to approximately twenty species of flora. He also claimed to have discovered a cure for rabies. He sought material support in order to develop this medicine, but finally ended his days in a psychiatric hospital, after fourteen years of confinement.
Sieber started out on his journey from Trieste in December 1816, accompanied by a gardener and a servant. In January 1817 he reached Crete, then under Ottoman rule. After a short stay at Chandax (Heraklion), he settled at Chania, from where he toured the whole island. He collected specimens of plants and at the same time offered his medical services to the locals. Sieber also stayed at Rethymno and then at Chandax again, while he also made excursions to Lasithi area and southern Crete. At his friends' suggestion, he published the impressions of his travells in a two-volume work in German (1823). In the same year, an abridged version of the same work was released in English.
After Joseph Pitton de Tournefort (1700), Sieber is the first European traveller to have toured Crete and collected information on the island. He provides plenty of data on Ottoman administration, social life (nutrition, music and dance), religious ceremonies, empirical medicine (medication, vaccines, potions etc.), singularities of language and place names, and, naturally, on the rich flora of the island.
Written by Ioli Vingopoulou