EGYPT IN 1783 BY CONSTANTIN-FRANÇOIS VOLNEY
Constantin-François de Chassebœuf (1757-1820), comte de Volney, a name he coined from Voltaire and Ferney, was a French nobleman and scholar, who decided to use “a small inheritance which fell to me” to acquire useful knowledge through travel in these historically influential lands, where he stayed for three years.
His book Voyage en Egypte et en Syrie was published in 1787, and anonymously translated from the French as Travels through Syria and Egypt for publication in two volumes in London the same year.
The following excerpt is Volney’s only reference to Greek love, concerned Egypt, where he stayed in for seven months of 1783. The text is taken from the first edition, volume one, pp. 184-5.
Travels Through Syria and Egypt in the Years 1783, 1784 and 1785 by M. C-F. Volney
CHAP. XI. SECT. VII
Manners of the Mamlouks
The Mamlouks were a military caste of enslaved mercenaries who had once ruled Egypt and continued to exercise considerable power there until 1811 as vassals of the Ottoman Empire. They came from the Ottomans’ Christian dominions.
The manners of the Mamlouks are such that, though I shall strictly adhere to truth, I am almost afraid I shall be suspected of prejudice and exaggeration. Born for the most part in the rites of the Greek church, and circumcised the moment they are bought, they are considered by the Turks themselves as Renegadoes, void of faith and of religion. Strangers to each other, they are not bound by those natural ties which unite the rest of mankind. Without parents, without children, the past has done nothing for them, and they do nothing for the future. Ignorant and superstitious from education, they become ferocious from the murders they commit, perfidious from frequent cabals, seditious from tumults, and base, deceitful, and corrupted by every species of debauchery. They are, above all, addicted to that abominable wickedness which was at all time the vice of the Greeks and of the Tartars, and is the first lesson they receive from their masters. It is difficult to account for this taste, when we consider that they all have women, unless we suppose they seek in one sex, that poignancy of refusal which they do not permit the other. It is however very certain, that there is not a single Mamlouk but is polluted by this depravity; and the contagion has spread among the inhabitants of Cairo, and even the Christians of Syria who reside in that city.
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