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Paul Zohrab

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Anne Haslund Hansen & Stig T. Rasmussen (eds.), Min Sundheds Forliis:
Frederik Christian von Havens Rejsejournal fra Den Arabiske Rejse 1760-1763.
Copenhagen, 2005.
[The loss of my health: Frederik Christian von Haven’s travel journal from the
Arabian Expedition, 1760-1763. Extracts translated by David Wilson.*]

[The Danish king Frederik V sponsored an expedition that was to explore what was loosely described as “Arabia” and to report on its languages, antiquities and botany. Von Haven was engaged as a linguist. Other members of the expedition were Peter Forsskål, a botanist, Carsten Niebuhr, a cartographer, Christian Kramer, a medical doctor, Georg Wilhelm Baurenfeind, a draughtsman, and Lars Bergen, who was to act as their orderly. On 4 Jan 1761 they embarked on the Danish warship Grønland, Captain Fisker, and, after waiting for a fair wind, sailed out of the road of Copenhagen three days later. Von Haven was violently seasick and was given permission to disembark and travel overland to rejoin the rest of the party at Marseilles. From there they proceeded to Malta, then on to Smyrna and finally to the island of Tenedos (Bozcaada in Turkish) near the mouth of the Dardanelles.]

p. 173: 15 July (1761). On Wednesday, M. Paul Zohrab1 arrived from the Dardanelles, bringing orders to Captain Fisker to stay where he was, and not to come to Constantinople but to return again to Smyrna. Mr Zohrab was the second dragoman2 for Ambassador Gähler3. He brought us a letter from the ambassador which instructed us to leave the ship Grønland, to hire our own ship or boat to get to Constantinople, and to follow the dragoman, who had orders to accompany us. The ambassador invited us to stay at his own house and to consider ourselves at home there. We really could not have expected better treatment.

16 & 17 July. The next day we resolved to hire our own boat to get to Constantinople. However, because Niebuhr was now confined to bed with dysentery, he decided that it would be best for him to stay on board for a few more days and so, with Dr Kramer, he went aboard a Danish ship that was bound for Constantinople. Three of us went ashore in the harbour of Tenedos to see if there was a caique that would be suitable for us.

p. 182: 30 July. Soon after reaching the ambassador’s house and finding our rooms, we went to see Mr Horn, the first secretary to the legation, his first dragoman, M. Paul ... 4, and Mr Schumacher, who was the cancellier, that is a kind of secretary, a special title used in the Levant. p. 183: At luncheon the company consisted of the following people: 1) the ambassador himself; 2) Mr Horn; 3) Mr Schumacher; 4) Mr Charpentier; 5) Paul Zohrab, the second dragoman; 6-10) our own party of five.

p. 191: 4 August. On Tuesday we received a bill from M. Paul Zohrab, the second dragoman at the embassy5, in which he charged us 120 piastres for the caique (although, as we learned later, he himself had only paid 80 for it ) and, besides this, 37 piastres for additional expenses. This money was paid to him out of our cash box without further argument. I forgot to mention before that he had also asked me to pay 4 Venetian sequins at the customs house for the examination of our things which was carried out after we arrived at the ambassador’s house on the 30th of last month. We were told afterwards that we had paid too much and that the dragoman always took care to arrange things in favour of himself and the Turks.

p. 204: 16 August. On Sunday I drove out with the second dragoman, Paul Zohrab, to Therapia, to spend some time with friends of his, among whom were some of the prettiest women I have ever seen6.

pp.223-224: 8 September. After we had come aboard, M. Zohrab the dragoman, who had come with us as I said, told us to behave coolly to the customs officer at the Dardanelles because he had spread disgraceful lies about him. He expected us to do this because of our friendship for him. The Turkish customs officer had written a letter to the first dragoman that discredited Paul Zohrab, accusing him of disgracing himself and his nation when he was at the Dardanelles waiting for us to arrive with the Danish ship, that is from Easter until July. The customs officer said that he had annoyed all the Turks with his stupid haughty manners, had tried to seduce Turkish women, and – what was worse – for the boat which brought us from Tenedos he had charged 120 piastres, although, under cover, he had only paid 80 piastres to the Turkish captain. He told us that all this was untrue and that we should treat the Turkish customs officer with disdain for telling us about it and daring to blame him. Until then we knew nothing about any of this, but it made us think again about various things that had seemed all right before.

p. 225: 15 September. In the evening, Niebuhr and I, who were the only ones left on shore, dined with the consul and two Turks, one of whom was the customs officer. ... We learnt that the allegations about Mr Paul Zohrab that I mentioned before were all too true. Consul Guise explained in such detail that we could not doubt it. This was reinforced to us by the customs officer who dined with us. ... Soon afterwards we learnt from the Turkish captain that when we lay at the roads outside Constantinople the same M. Zohrab had tried to persuade him to charge 50 piastres more for our baggage, which the captain would pay to him, or as they say in Turkish, which he would eat on our cargo.

  1. In the original Danish text, von Haven uses the abbreviation Mr for the French Monsieur and Hr for the Danish Herre. In the translation, the first of these is written as M. and the second as Mr. Both forms were used in referring to Paul Zohrab.

  2. Paul Zohrab is sometimes described as a Drogueman ‘dragoman’ and sometimes as a Tolk ‘interpreter’. These have both been rendered as ‘dragoman’ in the translation.

  3. Strictly speaking, S.W. von Gähler’s title was not Ambassador but Envoyé extraordinaire; elsewhere he is described as Minister and Resident. Von Haven refers to him as Hr Envoyé and Hr Gesandt. He had been sent to Turkey in 1752 to negotiate a treaty of trade and friendship, which he finally managed to do in 1756. He returned to Denmark in 1766.

  4. The original text has this gap, indicating that a surname is missing.. The person referred to was probably Paul Eremian. The Dutch archives from Smyrna show that he was Danish dragoman at Constantinople in 1761 and Carsten Niehbuhr described him as being first dragoman in 1767.

  5. Palaet, literally ‘the palace’. Buildings housing the foreign embassies in Constantinople were generally referred to as palaces.

  6. Von Haven goes on to describe their fine clothing in some detail.

[That is all that von Haven had to say about Paul Zohrab. Clearly it is only part of the story and the incident does not seem to have permanently damaged Paul’s career, for in the Europäisches Genealogisches Handbuch (Leipzig, 1786, pt 2, p. 305) he is listed as first dragoman at the Danish embassy and is still there in the Almanac des Ambassades (Brunswick, 1803, p. 38) , with Pierre Eremian as second dragoman and Jean Eremian as adjoint. Presumably they were relations of Paul Eremian, who had still been listed as first dragoman in 1782 (Europäisches Genealogisches Handbuch, Leipzig, 1782, pt 2, p. 294). Publications of that type were not necessarily up to date, but it seems safe to assume that Zohrab succeeded Eremian within a year or so of 1785. There are other references to a Danish dragoman “M. Paul”, but it is not clearwhich one is meant.]


* Michael Gelting, of the Danish State Archives, also stated in an email dated 18 June 2015, that a "Paul Zohrab was Danish consul in Arta-Saloniki in the mid-eighteenth century". -- Peter Douglas Zohrab








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