García de Silva Figueroa (December 29, 1550 – July 22, 1624)
was a Spanish diplomat, and the first Western traveller to correctly
identify the ruins of Takht-e Jamshid in
Persia as the location of
Persepolis, the ancient capital of the
Achaemenid Empire and one of
the great cities of antiquity.
1 Life and work
3 See also
4 External links
Life and work
De Silva was born in
Zafra in the Spanish province of Badajoz. He
served in the military in Flanders, and later was appointed governor
of Badajoz. In 1612, Philip III, King of both
Spain and Portugal,
chose De Silva as his ambassador to the court of Shah Abbas, the
Safavid monarch. Before he could reach Persia, however, De Silva was
Goa due to his strong disagreements with its Portuguese
viceroy, and he did not arrive at his destination until October 1617.
De Silva's embassy was Philip III's return to the two Abbas I had sent
to him shortly before, one of them in the person of the Englishman
Robert Shirley and the other in the ones of the Persian Dengiz Beg and
Augustinian friar Antonio de Gouvea.
During his stay in Persia, De Silva dealt with various diplomatic
issues of importance, including the sealing of an alliance against the
Ottoman Empire, a longstanding enemy of the three powers involved:
Portugal and Spain.
De Silva travelled extensively throughout Persia, visiting the cities
Qom and Isfahan among others. He went to see the ruins of
Persepolis, and described its splendours in a vivid letter to the
Alfonso de la Cueva, marqués de Bedmar. This letter made a great
impression in the learned circles of Europe, and was quickly
Latin and English. In Isfahan he met the Italian
traveller Pietro della Valle, who later went to
Goa following the way
De Silva had done to reach there.
On his travels, De Silva had amassed a large collection of rare art
objects; these he tried to take home with him to
Spain when his
sojourn ended in 1619. He wrote a full account of his travels under
the title Totius legationis suae et Indicarum rerum Persidisque
commentarii. It was translated into French by the Dutchman Abraham de
Wicquefort in 1667. The original manuscript is preserved today in the
National Library in Madrid, and was published completely for the first
time there in 1903.
De Silva's memoirs contain a great deal of detailed information
relating to Persian geography, history and culture. He described,
among many other things, the funerary practices of the Zoroastrians,
the sport of organized bull-fighting in Persian towns, and the
cultivation of date palms in southern Iran. His narrative is now
regarded as a valuable source document on early 17th-century Persia.
De Silva's return trip to
Spain was eventful and frustrating. He
Goa in 1621, and then, in 1622, Mozambique, but too
late in season to round the
Cape of Good Hope
Cape of Good Hope he had to go back again
to Goa. When, after a long delay, he was able to re-embark for Spain.
He died at sea before reaching his destination.
L’ambassade de don Garcias de Silva Figueroa en Perse, publiée à
Paris par Louis Billaine, 1667.
Serrano Sanz, M. (ed.) (1903). Comentarios de Don García de Silva y
Figueroa de la embajada que de parte del rey de España don Felipe III
hizo al rey Xa Abas de
Persia (in Spanish). Sociedad de Bibliófilos
Españoles. CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
Gil, Luis (1989). Epistolario diplomático de D. García De Silva y
Figueroa (in Spanish). Institución Cultual El Brocense.
Alonso, Carlos (1993). La embajada a
Persia de D. García De Silva y
Figueroa (1612-1624) (in Spanish). Diputación Provincial de Badajoz.
Works by or about
García de Silva Figueroa at Internet Archive
ISNI: 0000 0000 8966 6685
BNF: cb122425443 (data)