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three pairs of lovers with space



Joseph Pitts of Exeter in Devon was an Englishman whose brief stint as a sailor ended when he was captured by Algerine pirates and sold as a slave in Algiers. He then spent fifteen years as a slave, was forcibly converted to Islam and became the first Englishman known to have visited Mecca.  Escaping in 1693, he finally reached home in 1695 after further misadventures. In 1704 he published a book,  A Faithful Account of the Religion and Manners of the Mahometans, which, besides telling his story, was the most informative book yet written in English about life in the Moslem lands he had known so well.

The following extracts, which are all that touch remotely on Greek love, are taken from his fourth and last edition, “Corrected, with Additions,” and published in London in 1738.


Containing an Account of the Author’s being taken. Of an Insurrection designed by the Slaves, but disappointed. Of the Manner of selling Slaves in Algier.

When I was about fourteen or fifteen Years of Age, my Genius led me to be a Sailor, and to see foreign countries; … and having made two or three short Voyages, my Fancy was to range further abroad; … I shipp’d myself on Easter Tuesday, Anno 1678, …[pp. 1-2]

Algiers. Christian captives for sale in the slave market. Engraving 1684
Christian captives for sale in the slave-market at Algiers, from a Dutch engraving of 1684


[Captured by pirates soon after thus embarking on his first long voyage, he was taken to Algiers for sale in the market-place there …]

“The taken Slaves are sold by way of Auction, and the Cryer endeavours to make the most he can of them; and when the Bidders are at a stand, he makes use of his Rhetorick, Behold what a strong Man this is! What Limbs he has! He is fit for any Work! And see what a pretty Boy this is! No doubt his Parents are very rich, and able to redeem him with a great Ransom.” [p. 9]

“And the farthest Town in the Western Territories of Algier is Tillimsan,[1] a Town of great Note in former days, before Mahomet began his Imposture. … And the Women and Boys here are reputed the fairest  in all the Algerine Dominions, even to a Proverb. [p. 12]


An Account of the Turks[2] manner of Eating. They are much addicted to the cursed and unnatural Sin of Sodomy.

     Title page of the third edition, 1731

When [the Turks’] Camps are setting forth (of which in the next Chapter) then especially are the Soldiery apt to drink, and are abominably rude, insomuch that it very dangerous for Women to walk in any By-place, but more for Boys; for they are extremely given to Sodomy: and therefore Care is taken that it be cried about the Town, That all People take care of their Wives, and Children. And yet this horrible Sin of Sodomy is so far from being punish’d amongst them, that it is part of their ordinary Discourse to boast of their detestable Actions of that kind. ‘Tis common for Men there to fall in Love with Boys, as ’tis here in England to be in Love with Women: And I have seen many, when they have been drunk, give themselves deep Gashes on their Arms with a Knife, saying, ‘Tis for the Love they bear to such a Boy. There are many so addicted to this prodigious Sin, that they loath the Natural Use of the Woman; (such the Apostle inveighs against, Rom. i. 27) And I assure you, That I have seen several who have had their Arms full of great Cuts, as so many Tokens of their Love (or rather worse than bestial Lust) to such their Catamites. But this being so inhumane, and unnatural a thing, I profess I am asham’d to enlarge further upon it, as I could: But what I could say on this Subject, must needs be disgustful to every modest, and christian Reader; and therefore, I think, I am obliged to forbear: Only I crave leave to make this Reflection, viz. “That Intemperance in Drinking hurries Men on to the worst of Vices; and tho’ the Inclination of these hot People, and the Countenance which is given to such Crimes, are two great Incentives; yet, avoiding Intemperance, they would be less liable to them.” [pp. 25-7]


[1] تْلمسان or Tlemcen

[2] Pitts uses “Turk” in one of its two old and broad senses of any subject of the Ottoman Empire (of which Algiers was part), or of any Moslem at all.




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