The British physician Julius Griffiths started out on his journey to the faraway East, influenced, as he states in his introduction, by his “natural and irresistible inclination to visit distant and unfrequented countries”, and with the project of gathering exact and impartial data on countries and people. Griffiths, who later became member of the Edinburgh Royal Society of Medicine, published the account of part of his travels only, in a work dedicated to Lady Craven which was translated into French in 1812.
Griffiths left England in June 1785. Travelling by way of Gibraltar, Nice in France, Genova, Sicily, Cythera, Tinos and Chios, he reached Izmir, where he stayed for a month. Afterwards, he travelled to Istanbul by way of Lemnos and the Dardanelles. In his account, he describes the city of Istanbul, its monuments and everyday life in the Ottoman capital, while his text is accompanied by tables of economic and commercial data. His voyage continued as he journeyed to the Dardanelles, Tenedos, Mytilene, Psara, Chios, and reached Izmir, from where he toured the inland of Asia Minor, travelling with a caravan. He visited Sardes, Philadelpheia, Afyon Kara Hissar, Konya, Cilicia, Adana and Antioch. From Antioch, he crossed the border over to Syria and visited Aleppo in June 1786. The rest of his voyage, to Basra, Mumbai and several other locations of India, as well as the countries of Eastern Asia, can only be outlined by means of the map which accompanies his travel account.
Griffiths' observations and the incidents which he describes paint a vivid picture of public and private life in the Eastern Mediterranean. His rendering is generally impartial, as he avoids taking a stance in favour of one ethnic group or other.
Written by Ioli Vingopoulou