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Genus Bey
Home > Mezzofanti > Eminent linguists > Ancient period > Genus Bey

A most interesting account is given of him, under his Turkish name of Genus Bey, by Thevet, in that curious repertory—his Cosmographie Universelle He was the son of a poor fisherman, of the Island of Corfu; and while yet a boy, was carried away by pirates and sold as a slave at Constantinople. Thence he was carried into Egypt, Syria, and other Eastern countries ; and he would also seem to have visited most of the European kingdoms, or at least to have enjoyed the opportunity of intercourse with natives of them all. His proficiency in the languages both of the East and West, drew upon him the notice of the Sultan, who appointed him his First Dragoman, with the rank of Pasha. Thevet (who would seem to have known him personally during bis wanderings,) describes him in his quaint old French, as " the first man of his day for speaking divers sorts of languages, and of the happiest memory under the Heavens." He adds, that this extraordinary man " knew perfectly no fewer than sixteen languages, viz : Greek, both ancient and modern, Hebrew, Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Moorish, Tar tar, Armenian, Russian, Hungarian, Polish, Italian, Spanish, German, and French." Genus Bey, was, of course, a renegade ; but, from a circumstance related by Thevet, he ap-pears to have retained a reverence for his old faith, though not sufficiently strong to be proof against temptation, He was solicited by some bigoted Moslems to remove a bell, which the Christians had been permitted to erect in their little church. For a time he refused to permit its removal; but at last he was induced by a large bribe, to accede to the demand. Thevet relates that, in punishment of his sacrilegious weakness, he was struck with that loathsome disease which smote King Herod,and •perished miserably in nine days from the date of this inauspicious act. In Naima's " Annals of the Turkish Empire," another renegade, a Hungarian by birth,_is mentioned, who spoke fourteen languages, and who, in consequence of this accomplishment was employed during a siege to carry a message through ' the lines of the blockading army.

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