Philippe du Fresne-Canaye (1551-1610) was born in Paris and studied Law in Heidelberg. At the age of fifteen he travelled to Germany and Italy. Seven years later, in 1572, he accompanied the secretary to the Bishop of Acqs on a journey by the caravan route that diplomatic missions usually followed. Thus, Fresne went from Venice to Ragusa (Dubrovnik) and via Adrianople arrived in Constantinople in June 1573. He stayed in the Ottoman capital for six months, as a member of the French embassy under François de Noailles. On his return voyage, Fresne-Canaye sailed through the Aegean and the Ionian Sea, finally reaching Venice in October 1573. He composed his chronicle in Italian and titled it "Ephémerides". Fresne-Canaye continued his diplomatic career in England and Germany, and converted from Calvinism to Catholicism in order to become Ambassador to Venice.
In spite of his young age, his observations during his visit to Constantinople bespeak shrewd judgement and capacity for observation, although he was dazzled by the magnificence and exoticism of the Ottomans. Canaye had read the works of all the preceding travellers to the region (P. Belon, A. Thevet, P. Gilles, B. Ramberti, J. Gassot, G. Postel, N. de Nicolay) and consulted the map of Nicolaos Sofianos. His chronicle was published in French in the nineteenth century and was republished in 1986. Canaye studied the political reactions in the Empire, two years after the Ottoman defeat in the battle of Lepanto (1571), and observed the fervent effort to build new vessels in the city’s shipyards, in order to re-establish the imperial fleet. Of the information he provides on the Greeks, of special interest are his writings on Patriarch Jeremiah Tranos and the Zygomalas family in the milieu of the Patriarchate. Notable too are his description of a Greek wedding in Pera, his obvious fascination with women's costumes and coiffures, as well as the references to the situation in Chios a few years after the Ottoman invasion of 1566, and the account of his travels in Zacynthos.
Written by Ioli Vingopoulou