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The Travels of Ludovico di Varthema in Egypt, Syria, Arabia Deserta and Arabia Felix, in Persia, India, and Ethiopia, A.D. 1503 to 1508Edit

Italian originalEdit

Capitolo delli Unicorni nel tempio dela Mecha non molti usitati in altri lochi.

Da unaltra banda del ditto tempio e una murata nellaquale sta dentro dui Unicorni vivi & li se mostrano per cosa grandissima come e certo: Liquali diro come sono fatti. El magior e fatto come un polledro de trenta mesi & ha un corno nella fronte elquale corno sie circa tre braccia de longeza. Laltro unicorno sie come seria un polledro de uno anno: & ha un corno longo circa quatro palmi. El colore del ditto animale sie come un cavallo saginato scuro: & ha la testa come un cervo & ha el collo non molto longo con alcuna crina rara & curta che pendeno ad una banda: & ha la gamba sottile & asciuta come un capriolo il pede suo e un poco fesso davanti & longia e caprina: & ha certi peli dalla banda de drieto de ditte gambe. Veramente questo mostra de essere un ferocissimo & deserto animale. Et questi due ani mali furono presentati allo Soldano della Mecha per la piu bella cosa che hogi se trovi al mondo & per piu ric cho thesoro liquali furono mandati da uno Re de Ethyopia, cioe da un re Moro elquale li fece questo presente per fare parentato con el ditto Soldano de la Mecha.

English translation (J.W. Jones, 1863)Edit

The chapter concerning the unicorns in the temple of Mecca, not very common in other places

In another part of the said temple is an enclosed place in which there are two live unicorns, and these are shown as very remarkable objects, which they certainly are. I will tell you how they are made. The elder is formed like a colt of thirty months old, and he has a horn in the forehead, which horn is about three braccia in length. The other unicorn is like a colt of one year old, and he has a horn of about four palmi long. The colour of the said animal resembles that of a dark bay horse, and his head resembles that of a stag; his neck is not very long, and he has some thin and short hair which hangs on one side; his legs are slender and lean like those of a goat; the foot is a little cloven in the fore part, and long and goat-like, and there are some hairs on the hind part of the said legs. Truly this monster must be a very fierce and solitary animal. These two animals were presented to the Sultan of Mecca as the finest things that could be found in the world at the present day, and as the richest treasure ever sent by a king of Ethiopia, that is, by a Moorish king. He made this present in order to secure an alliance with the said Sultan of Mecca.

AnalysisEdit

The British soldier by the name of Richard Francis Burton says in A Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Medinah and Meccah (1855) about these unicorns that they "might, therefore, possibly have been African antelopes, which a lusus naturae had deprived of their second horn. But the suspicion of fable remains." The editor of this translation of The Travels, George P. Badger, himself entrenched in the era, when the existence of the unicorn was still debated, initially agrees with Burton, supposing that Varthema simply saw two anomalous specimens of the Oryx. However, as he points out, it is doubtful a malformed antelope would be considered worthy to be a royal gift. After reviewing various reports throughout the world, he is converted to the belief in unicorns.

The Travels of Ludovico di Varthema in Egypt, Syria, Arabia Deserta and Arabia Felix, in Persia, India, and Ethiopia, A.D. 1503 to 1508Edit

Italian originalEdit

Vidi pur qui anchora altre vacche, quale havevano solo un corno nel la fronte, elqual corno e longo un palmo e mezzo, & el ditto corno guarda piu verso la schina della vacca che non guarda inanzi, & il colore di questa sie rosso

English translation (J.W. Jones, 1863)Edit

I also saw here [in the city of Zeila in Ethiopia] other cows, which had a single horn in the forehead, which horn is a palmo and a half in length, and turns more towards the back of the cow than forwards. The color of these is red

AnalysisEdit

Another unicorns, although clearly different from the ones seen in Mecca, could be African black rhinoceroses, which lived in Varthema's time (but not in George Badger's!) at the coasts of eastern Africa. A certain problem is that they have two horns and not just one; however if we presume that the front one was sawed off, the other's location roughly agrees with the description. The horn is somewhat short, though. A palmo and a half is 5,9 inches (15 cm) and the black rhino's horns are typically 20 inches long.

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