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Ludovico di Varthema an Italian traveller from Bologna left Venice in 1502,
for the East, returning six years later.
wrote in a book published in Rome in 1510, the story of his journey.
Varthema was the first
Westerner to describe nutmeg trees, which he saw growing in the Bandas, a
tiny archipelago of nine islands about a thousand miles east of Java. The
Bandas were just one small part of the region that used to be called the
Spice Islands (and are now called the Moluccas), but they were the only
islands in the world on which round nutmeg grew.
In 1511, when Portuguese ships anchored off Ternate, an Islamic governement had been in control there for about thirty years. During the 16th century, Muslim governments established themselves in several places in the Indonesian archipelago, icluding ports where the Portuguese did business. Portuguese communities prospered under archipelago rulers at various ports, but Portuguese authorities were determined to seize power over Mollucas.
Portuguese traders, scribes, skilled craftsmen, adventurers, sailors, and soldiers were men. They came without women, and they rented temporary wives from slave dealersin the ports where they worked.
The Portuguese injected a new look and sound into archipelago ports. Portuguese men covered the body with shirts, jackets and trousers, and they wore shoes and hats. They fostered cultivation of tobacco and the habit of smoking it. A number of Portuguese words entered Malay and other archipelago languages, and Portuguese became a trade language used by buyers and sellers alongside Malay.