Álvaro da Costa’s journey to Persia and Turkey (1611), the ruins of Babylon, and the riddles of globalization





Travel literature, Microhistory, First globalization, Mesopotamia, Babel, Discoveries, Ruins


This article analyzes Álvaro da Costa’s return trip from the Estado da Índia to Lisbon in 1611. The constraints of Costa’s travel allow us to discuss some common assumptions about the character and spirit of early modern travelers and to illustrate some of the limits of travelers’ observations and the peculiar modes of knowledge they displayed. Reading through the many misunderstandings and apparent mistakes that Costa introduced in his Tratado da viagem, the article also explores the complex dynamics of “discovery” and argues that early modern globalization must be understood as a manyfold process. Individuals not only disposed of different information, but they also used very diverse frameworks to interpret and make sense of such information. The article contrasts Costa’s use of older but resilient interpretative frameworks with more modern and more accurate interpretations and shows that very different perceptions about world connections coexisted during the early modern age. In particular, the article focuses on how Costa actively combined his observations of the ruins of Babylon and other cities he found on his route with previous paradigms of universal history, such as biblical theories on the historical succession of empires.


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How to Cite

Martínez Bermejo, S. (2023). Álvaro da Costa’s journey to Persia and Turkey (1611), the ruins of Babylon, and the riddles of globalization. Culture &Amp; History Digital Journal, 12(1), e011. https://doi.org/10.3989/chdj.2023.011




Funding data

Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación
Grant numbers PGC2018-094150-B-C22