Historical Context in Candide
In European courts and upper class society it was customary for a gentleman to kiss a lady's hand as a show of respect or affection. To engage in any overt sexual acts, such as kissing on the mouth, was frowned upon by the aristocracy and would've constituted a severe breach of etiquette.
Pangloss' philosophy mirrors that of many during the Enlightenment, especially Baron Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibnitz, a German polymath and philosopher whose optimism was based on a strong faith in God and predestination. If God has a predestined plan for us all, then He must know what's best for us, and if He knows what's best, then He must have created the best possible world for us. Voltaire exaggerates this philosophy to reveal its faults.
In the 18th Century, when Candide was written, a person's weight was often indicative of their social status, as it signified that one was wealthy enough to afford to put food on the table. Many people, such as the Flemish Baroque painter Rubens, considered large women like the Baroness beautiful and revered them highly.
Pedanius Dioscorides (c. 40 – 90), a Greek physician and traveling surgeon for the Roman army. That a surgeon in the 1700s would still be using methods dating from ancient Greece suggests that he isn't, in fact, a very good surgeon, and that medicine in the early modern period left something to be desired.
In 18th Century Europe, guns were generally larger, bulkier, and less wieldy, taking fewer rounds of ammunition and requiring a great deal of time to load. The "bullets" of Prussian guns were in fact small balls of lead that were shot like pellets at a target. Their results were analogous to those of modern bullets.
In Candide's philosophy, as taught to him by Pangloss, belief in free will doesn't necessarily mean that one doesn't believe in God. In fact, Liebnizian optimism, from which Pangloss' philosophy derives, states that God gave humans free will that they might choose to love Him (their punishment for not doing so being physical evil, or pain and suffering, which reflects their metaphysical evil, or imperfection).
In effect, to give them an IOU declaring his intent to pay them back for their generosity. Notes such as this were, by and large, a formality and didn't guarantee that the borrower would repay the lender. Candide's offer characterizes as a genteel (but not necessarily financially responsible) young man.
In Prussia in the 18th Century, the unit of currency was the "Thaler," a variant of the German Reichsthaler, which used a different fraction of silver in its minting. The "crown" was a form of British currency in use at the time of this translation into English and was not likely to have been seen in a Prussian inn at that time.
Modern readers will likely recognize the word "comrade" in its form as an identifier used by Soviets and members of the Eastern Bloc in years of Communist rule. However, Candide was written in 1759, a full century before the word began to pick up overt political connotations. Here, it's used to signify nationality, not political affiliation.
Voltaire, a Frenchman, spent several years in the court of Frederick of Prussia, socializing with noble Germans, Prussians, and Russians. He would've been familiar with German names and cities like the fictional Waldberghofftrarbk-dikdorff, with which he pokes fun at the complex and consonant-heavy German language.
Bulgarians, that is, Prussians, who were at war with the French during the time Voltaire wrote Candide. The King of the Bulgarians is said to represent Frederick the Great, leader of the Prussians during the Seven Years' War against the French (1756 – 1763).
A florin was a gold coin struck in Florence in the Middle Ages. Over time, the term was applied to a number of different coins, including the English two-shilling bob, the German Rheingulder, and the Dutch guilder, the coin most likely referred to here.
Here, "Persian stuffs" refers to Persian fabrics, in particular to textiles with elaborate, ornamental designs, such as brocade. Holland and Persia didn't establish trade until the 17th Century, when the Dutch East India Company began importing Persian textiles, spices, and ceramic wares. To save money, they began producing some of these items in Holland, as Voltaire mentions here.
Anabaptists were members of a Christian sect that believed people shouldn't be baptized at infancy but should wait until they were old enough to choose to believe in God. Once they had professed their faith, they were then baptized. This character, James, hasn't been baptized yet, but in describing him as "good" Voltaire implies that he most likely will be.
Voltaire trails off, but we can assume that this is a bucket of urine and possibly feces. Up until the modern age, chamber pots or buckets were used as toilets and dumped out of the window onto the street when they were full. Reportedly, gentlemen started walking on the outside of the street when walking with a lady to prevent her from being the victim of such an event.
In the 18th Century, warfare was a very formal and ostentatious affair, with battlefields containing not just soldiers and cannons but trumpet players and other musicians making music for the troops. "Hautboys" are double-reeded wind instruments and "fifes" are like high-pitched flutes.
Historical records prove this statement wrong. In fact, all of these societies fell victim to venereal diseases early in their development. It is true, however, that the incidence of STDs in these countries, and in particular in Japan, has been significantly lower than in Europe, which may be due in part to their differing attitudes toward sex.
A "friar" is a member of a religious order, in particular the Dominicans, Augustines, Carmelites, and Franciscans, who were known to wear gray robes such as the one mentioned here. Notice how Voltaire has taken great pains to trace this disease through all classes of society, implying that no one (regardless of their religion or their class) is safe.
In the 18th Century, venereal diseases were thought to have come to Europe from Hispaniola in the West Indies, through some followers of Christopher Columbus who later fought in the siege of Naples. From this latter circumstance, a venereal disease was known, for some time, as the Neapolitan disease.
A Familiar was an officer of the Spanish Inquisition, a Roman Catholic tribunal established in the 15th Century to control heresy and to pass judgment on the wicked. Today, the Spanish Inquisition is most well-known for its barbaric acts of torture, which including quartering their prisoners and burning them at the stake. To cross a Familiar of the Inquisition meant almost certain death.
At some Christian burials, priests were known to throw wheat, wine, and oil onto a coffin. This practice likely derives from ancient Greece, where wine, oil, milk, and honey were poured over a grave to honor the dead. Candide, having never experienced wounds this severe, thinks that he will die soon and wants to ensure that Pangloss gives him a proper burial.
The Japanese had such a strong aversion to the Christian faith that they compelled Europeans trading with them to trample on the cross, renounce all tenets of Christianity, then swear that it wan't their faith. Traders who did so weren't considered heretics or heathens because this was considered a necessary aspect of trade, not unlike how Pangloss overlooks his venereal disease because visiting America also resulted in chocolate.
Ships that have been anchored in port or were docked before the earthquake, which had an estimated magnitude of 8.5-9.0, making it one of the strongest and deadliest earthquakes in all of history. It's very unlikely that Candide and Pangloss would've survived both the shipwreck and the earthquake, just as it's very unlikely that Candide would've survived the gauntlet in Chapter II, but Voltaire has proven that he doesn't care about such trivialities.
Pangloss and Candide have been caught in the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake, also known as the Great Lisbon Earthquake, a real event that occurred on Saturday, November 1, 1755, on the holiday of All Saints' Day. The earthquake itself was followed by fires and tsunami, which together destroyed Lisbon and the surrounding areas, killing an estimated 100,000 people.
Jewish people are prohibited from eating pork. As believers in a faith other than Christianity, the Jewish people were subject to the torture of the Inquisition, where they either denounced their religion or faced execution. The Inquisition also targeted Muslims, protestants, homosexuals, and certain ethnic groups, such as gypsies. This is yet another example of religious extremism in the book.
From the Portuguese meaning act of faith, an auto-da-fe was a ritual of public penance ordered by the Inquisition to purify heretics before they were executed. After the Lisbon earthquake, a large auto-da-fé was held in a fruitless attempt to ward off further earthquakes. By calling this auto-da-fe "beautiful," Voltaire lampoons the Familiars of the Inquisition, who were believed to enjoy the torture they ordered.
A mountain range in southern Spain that stretches some 250 miles East to West, nearly touching the Portuguese border. Thus, we know that the three travelers have crossed the border into Spain and are in some ways safe from prosecution, provided they don't get caught by another Inquisitor or the Holy Brotherhood.
The Santa Hermandad, a group of religious police offers created by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabelle of Spain in the late 15th Century. The Holy Brotherhood would not generally have had jurisdiction in Lisbon, Portugal, but, given the earthquake, they may be present to restore order to the ruined city and aid the Inquisition during the auto-da-fe.
Andalusian horses, also known as Pure Spanish Horses, hail from the region of Andalusia on the Iberian Peninsula and are known for their good breeding and excellent performance both on the racetrack and in the field. Don Issachar possesses these horses because he's a wealthy nobleman; Cunegonde and Candide would never be able to afford them on their own.
A reference to the theory of Humorism, which says that a person's temperament is governed by the balance of the four "humours" in his body (phlegm, blood, yellow bile, and black bile), which in turn make you either phlegmatic, sanguine, choleric, or melancholic. If someone is choleric, they are restless, easily angered, and commandeering.
In the 1750s, the Jesuits (members of the Society of Jesus, a male congregation of believers that take vows of poverty and chastity and commit their lives to charity work) undertook an historic mission to Paraguay, where they established a small church, which then started a rebellion against the Portuguese crown.
Technically, the old woman isn't referring to Mount Atlas, a volcano in Antarctica, but to the Atlas Mountains, a range of mountains that runs through Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia. The inhabitants of this region, in her mind, stand in for all African peoples, which, like her mistake in geography, proves her to be incredibly racist, as is to be expected in that time period.
Moulay Ismail ibn Sharif, the second ruler of the Moroccan Alaouite dynasty, known as the "Warrior King" in his country because he was an especially cruel tyrant with skill on the battlefield. He's alleged to have fathered some 800 children, over half of which were sons. After his death, his sons fought over the throne, though how many fought, and if this civil war was as bloody as the old woman suggests, remains unclear.
The Knights of Malta was a religious military order also known as the Knights Hospitaller or the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem. In 1530, after years of having no headquarters, King Charles I of Spain gave them Malta, Gozo, and Tripoli, for the price of a Maltese falcon (a hunting bird) to be paid every year on All Saints' Day. The old woman mentions the Knights in order to seem worldly and give credence to her story.
The Pope doesn't technically have an army or soldiers, but is protected within the Vatican City and on missions by the Swiss Guards, a group of Swiss soldiers that watches over the Holy See, or the capital of the Catholic world, and (less famously) over some small foreign courts. Early Swiss Guards were typically mercenaries bought to protect the Vatican City and were thus prone to surrendering at the first sign of danger, as is depicted here.
Sallee is a Moroccan port that was once used as a headquarters for pirates, or "corsairs." A corsair was typically a privateer or sailor who attacked the boats of merchants or travelers. Given that Gaeta is a city in Italy not terribly far from Palestrina, the Sallee corsair would've had to be sailing unusually close to the Italian shore to board their little galley. (Why they chose to sail rather than travel this relatively short distance by carriage is unclear.)
Also known as the Chair or Throne of St. Peter, this altar in St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City is one of the most ostentatious altars in all of Italy: a giant, gilt bronze sculpture that towers over the priests and was once used by the Pope as a throne on which he granted people audiences.
Opera "bouffe" is a style of opera that was prevalent in France in the late 19th Century. Opera "buffa" is a term that generally refers to the Italian comic opera, which was popularized during the Renaissance and is mistakenly called "opera bouffe" here. This kind of comic opera is in line with the "carousals" the old woman speaks of and to the general atmosphere of merriment at her wedding.
Engaged to be married, as in a fiance. In the mid-18th Century and in some parts of the world today, marriages were arranged by parents, and children (male or female) had little to no say in their spouses. These arranged marriages were often political in nature, functioning like treaties between two kingdoms or cities. In this case, that treaty would be between Palestrina and Massa Carara.
The Venus de Medici, a marble copy of a bronze sculpture created in ancient Greece in the 1st Century BCE. It's currently housed in the Uffizi Gallery in Rome and, though not as famous as the Venus de Milo, is considered to be one of the models of classic Western ideals of beauty. Voltaire makes this comparison to the Venus de Medici in order to evoke sympathy from the reader.
Palestrina is an ancient Italian city just to the east of Rome. In 1630, it and its surrounding lands were bought by the Barberini family, one of the wealthiest Italian families of the time, who treated the city like a small kingdom and declared themselves princes and princesses. As the daughter of the Princess, the old woman would've been considered (within Palestrina, at least) royalty, which makes her current state all the more remarkable.
Voltaire, being a satirist, wanted to poke fun at organized religion, but didn't want to risk a charge of heresy by claiming that any real Pope had a bastard child. Pope Urban X, then, is a fabrication, the last Pope named Urban being Urban VIII, who died in 1644. Urban X, as Pope, shouldn't have had any children, and it's this hypocrisy and corruption that Voltaire addresses in the old woman's story.
Johan Robeck, a Swedish-German philosopher who wrote an essay that legitimized suicide from a theological perspective. His primary argument was that life was a gift from God, and that, as a gift, we are free to dispense with it as we please. He himself committed suicide in 1739 by drowning himself in a river near Bremen, Germany, the allusion to which builds on the themes of death and religion in the book.
A city in Southern Holland, or the Netherlands. Notice how Voltaire uses this sentence both to establish the passage of time and the old woman's movement from East to West, reversing the trip she took at the beginning of this chapter and brining her back to Western Europe after a long journey abroad.
A Boyar, a member of the Russian aristocracy. In the 17th Century and up until 1861, when serfdom was abolished, Russia was still a feudal society, and aristocratic landowners like this Boyard had many slaves like the old woman, in addition to overseeing thousands of serfs, or peasants, who worked the land for them. Tensions caused by this system contributed to the unrest that caused the Russian Revolution in 1917.
An aromatic oil or resin, typically used in medicine to treat wounds or sores. Often, it's associated with a specific substance that has been dissolved in oil or turpentine, as in balsam of aniseed, sulphur, etc. Medieval medical sources list the balsam of Capahu or Capivi as the one used after circumcision, but it's unclear exactly what kind of balsam the old woman is referring to here.
An ancient name for the Mer d'Azof or the Sea of Azof, which we now think of as a northern extension of the Black Sea. Notice how the old woman refuses to use an Eastern word (Azof) and instead falls back on the Roman name, Palus Meotides, which would've fallen out of fashion by the time of this book's writing. This is a byproduct of the colonialism that sought to Westernize Eastern cultures.
The Janissaries were a select group of prisoners and Christians who were forced to fight for the Ottoman Empire and convert to Islam in the 14th Century. An "aga" is a civil officer or military leader within the Muslim community, making an Aga of the Janissaries one of its many leaders. This passage traces the old woman's path from West to East, taking her to Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire.
The word "seraglio" typically refers to a house or to a part of a house where Muslim women are secluded, but may also refer to a harem or a polygamous household. It's unclear from this line whether the old woman is referring to the former or the latter. It may well be that she has mistaken the segregated women for a harem, making it one some ways both.
The Bubonic Plague, which killed off some 25 to 50 million people in Europe in the 13th and 14th Centuries. It was also known as the Black Death and can still be found in certain parts of Africa. In the 17th Century, when this book is set, there was no major outbreak of the Bubonic Plague, which makes the old woman's statements factually inaccurate.
"Dey" was the title given to the ruler of the regency of Algiers under the Ottoman Empire from 1671 to 1830, when the French conquered Algeria. It's highly unlikely, however, that a mere eunuch (even one supposed to be on a diplomatic mission) would have the opportunity to sell a woman to the king or any of his subordinates. The old woman's story has, in time, become fantastical beyond belief (but still in keeping with the logic of the book as a whole).
In Voltaire's time, Darwin had yet to present his theory of evolution, and few scientists believed that there was any connection between humans and primates. Voltaire likely makes this reference to poke fun of the religious officials who disdained any comparisons between humans and animals. Today, we would refer to these people as Creationists.
The Mémoires of Trevoux, a French academic journal founded in 1701 by the Jesuits. It was a prominent journal in France, appearing once a month and containing scholarly and theological articles written both by Jesuits and people of other Christian sects. As a young German, Candide isn't terribly likely to know of this journal, though Voltaire may be overlooking that fact to make a clever reference to a Jesuit periodical.
A "rill" is a small brook or stream, which can be described as "purling" when it makes a murmuring, babbling sound as that of running water. In the late 18th Century, when this book is set, large portions of the Paraguayan rainforests were uninhabited and unexplored. Beautiful, idyllic meadows such as these are almost impossible to find today.
The Moguls were a Muslim dynasty of Mongol origin that ruled in the Indian subcontinent from the 16th to 19th Century. The Moguls were famously wealthy and ostentatious, and the richness of their kingdom inspired the modern word "mogul," meaning someone of wealth and means.
The capital city of French Guiana, a department or region of France on the Atlantic coast of South America. As part of the French Empire, Cayenne was the site of much foreign trade, and it should be fairly easy for Candide and Cacambo to find passage on a ship to another part of the world (ideally, one where Candide isn't wanted for multiple murders).
Keep in mind that, in the 1700s, there were no machines that could safely "hoist" Candide and Cacambo over the mountains, and that planes were not invented until much later. Voltaire doesn't go into great deal about this machine, for good reason, but likely he was thinking of some sort of cargo plane too fantastic for him to include (even in this satirical work).
An English explorer, soldier, and politician, Sir Walter Raleigh was the first Englishman commissioned to explore the state we now know as Virginia. He never visited North America himself, but did send men to found the ill-fated Roanoke Colony. Today, he's better known for leading expeditions to find El Dorado in 1595 and 1617. He was, of course, unsuccessful.
A mythical city of gold in South America. The legends concerning El Dorado have changed over time, but most indicate that it is a city of gold that has been lost somewhere in the jungles of Peru. In the 15th and 16th Centuries, this city was believed to be on the shores of Lake Parime, and many expeditions were undertaken to find it. To this day, the city hasn't been discovered.
The Incan Empire was the largest empire in pre-Columbian America, encompassing modern day Peru, as well as large portions of Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina, and Chile. It was also one of the richest empires in South America, leaving ruins behind that, while not made of gold and silver, display an astonishing level of wealth and prosperity. The Incan Empire dissolved in the late 16th Century, well before Voltaire's time.
Venice, once a major kingdom in Italy, was nearly destroyed by the Black Death and suffered a long decline after the glory days of the Renaissance. In 1797, just a few decades after Candide was written, Venice became a territory of Austria, but at the time it was still a "free" state in the sense of it being a port of trade that didn't answer to any of the kingdoms Candide is afraid of now.
The Republic of Suriname was colonized in the 17th Century by the Dutch and the English, who cultivated coffee, sugar cane, and cotton, among other exports. It's the smallest country in South America and borders French Guiana on the East. Currently, there's no city known as Surinam, but Candide and Cacambo may be visiting the town of Paramaribo, which later became the capital of the country.
It's important to remember here that Galileo posed his theory that the Earth isn't the center of the universe a mere century before this book was written, and at that time not much was known about the planet's origins. Many people still believed that the ocean were endless, and some wrote "Here Be Dragons" on maps where there were unknown or uncharted waters. Here, you can see how confusion about science and natural history contributes to widespread ignorance.
A reference to the two assassination attempts on Henry IV: the first by Jean Châtel in 1594, and the successful attempt by one Francois Ravaillac in 1610. Atrebatum likely refers to Calleva Atrebatum, a city in what it now known as Silchester, Englan. The French have reason to fear an attack from the English, who have already made an (unsuccessful) attempt on the French King, Louis XV.
This is a reference to Adrienne Lecouvreur (1690 – 1730), a famous French actress who, because she was an actress when she died, was denied the right of a Christian burial. The name Miss Monime may be taken from the play Mithridate, written by famed French dramatist Racine, in which the character Monime falls in love with Xiphares, a young man who isn't her fiancé. The character of Monime was based on a Macedonian noblewoman married to King Mithridates.
In this, we can clearly see Voltaire expressing his own opinions about the state of French drama, which was evidently deplorable. The most famous French dramatist of the time was Moliere, the author of plays like The Invalid and Tartuffe. (Voltaire once described his character Mahomet as being like Tartuffe, but with armies.)
In Candide's time and up until the modern era, the act of "bleeding" or blood-letting to treat illnesses was common and believed to help "purify" the blood of disease, aiding a patient's recovery. In fact, the opposite was true, and blood loss such as this contributed to many deaths by weakening the immune system. Voltaire makes fun of the practice here in an effort to prove that it shouldn't be used.
A reference to Admiral George Byng, a great English officer who was executed on March 14, 1757, because he was found guilty of losing a battle to the French. This allusion is personal for Voltaire because he attempted to save the Admiral's life—to no avail—which for him demonstrates the senseless and brutal nature of life.
One of an order of Italian monks, established in 1524, opposed to the Reformation. Their order was founded to raise the level of piety and respect in the Roman Catholics Church, and as such their friars held no property, begged no alms, and lived entirely on what God provided for them. Typically, they worked as preachers and teachers in order to survive.
The Carnival of Venice, a world-renowned carnival that ends on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. The Carnival is most known for the elaborate masks it inspires and for the costumes that the revelers where in the streets. Today, the highlight of the Carnival is the costume contest, but in Candide's time there were many other diversions, not all of them polite.
The ancient Greek philosopher Plato divided the soul into three parts (the heart, the mind, and the stomach). In The Republic, perhaps his most famous work, Plato argues that the stomach is the source of all desire for things like food, money, and sex. One who doesn't like any food, therefore, is someone for whom life has become passionless, making the Senator into an essentially unfeeling and disagreeable person.
John Milton (1608 - 1684), a 17th Century English poet most known for the epic poem Paradise Lost, in which Milton retells the story of the Garden of Eden, focusing on the temptation of Adam and Eve by the serpent Satan. In the poem, Sin and Death are personified, with Sin being Satan's daughter and Death being their child. The Senator doesn't care for this poem, as is to be expected by now.
Seneca the Younger, a Roman philosopher from the 1st Century CE. Seneca was a Stoic philosopher who believed that one's actions had to be in accordance with one's ideas of nature, and that virtue was a fine substitute for happiness. Seneca was also a great dramatist and humorist, and his ideas were well-respected in the early Church. He's often considered an early proponent of Humanism, which seems to be the determinant of what the Senator does and doesn't like.
Cicero was himself an attorney and made grand speeches in defense of his client that are still read today for their intellectual rigor, clarity of expression, and understanding of the moral obligations of the law. That the Senator cares nothing for Cicero's understanding of the law suggests that he's no longer particularly interested in his job or, indeed, in anything.
Cicero, a Roman politician, philosopher, and orator well known for his inspired prose and his theories on law, governance, and truth. One of his works, De Officis, was the second book ever to be printed after the invention of the printing press (the first was the Gutenberg Bible). Notice that Candide holds the philosopher Cicero in higher esteem than the poet Horace, which confirms what we already know of his priorities.
Horace (65 - 8 BCE), a Roman lyric poem most famous for his Odes, a collection of four books of poetry written about love, religion, wine, friendship, and patriotism, among other things. He's also well-known for his Satires, two collection of satirical poems which address the themes of politics, marriage, and religion, among other things. These are referenced in the following passage when the Senator speaks of Horace's travels to Brundusium, which he finds very dull.
Ludovico Ariosto, a 16th Century Italian poet best known for his epic poem Orlando Furioso, which describes the adventures of Orlando, Emperor Charlemagne, and the Franks in their battle against a group of Arab peoples known as the Saracens. Ariosto also coined the term Humanism, a prominent school of through in the Italian Renaissance which focused on human potential rather than the influence of God.
Torquato Tasso, a 16th Century Italian poet best known for his poem Jerusalem Delivered, which fictionalizes the many battles between Christians and Muslims during the Siege of Jerusalem and the First Crusade. Tasso suffered from mental illness and died just a few days before he was to be honored for his poetry by the Pope himself.
These are all characters from Virgil's Æneid, an epic poem written in Latin in the 1st Century BCE. It is similar in style and content to The Iliad, Homer's epic poem, and follows the hero Æneas in his journey home from the Trojan War. Æneas travels to Carthage, Sicily, and the Underworld in his journey, mirroring Odysseus' journey home in The Odyssey.
Voltaire refers to Homer's The Iliad, in which Helen of Troy, the wife of Agamemnon, runs away with Paris, the Prince of Troy, sparking the Trojan War. This epic poem does, indeed, have an endless stream of battles, a pantheon of gods who prove feckless, and little to nothing to do with Helen herself, whose desires are written off as a feminine weakness.
A reference to Shakespeare's play Julius Caeser, in which the title character, Caesar, is betrayed by his friend, Brutus, who stabbed him in the Roman Senate with the help of the senators. Cato, the son of the great philosopher Marcus Cato, was a soldier in Brutus' army and plays a small part before dying in battle. His character was noble and heroic, and his death, like Caesar's, is considered a tragedy.
Raphael, a painter and sculptor of the High Renaissance in Italy, most famous for his painting The School of Athens and for his portraits of the nobility, which are described here as being too dark and (so the collector thinks) anatomically inaccurate. It's possible that the darkness described here comes from the deterioration of the paint, which needs to be restored periodically. For instance, the paintings in the Sistine Chapel were darkened by smoke for centuries until they were restored to their original grandeur in the 1980s and 1990s.
Stanislaw I of Poland reigned twice, from 1704 to 1709 and from 1733 to 1766. In 1709, he was deposed by Augustus II the Strong, who had been king before him until the nobility forced him to abdicate. In 1733 following Augustus' death Stanislaw returned from exile to regain the throne, reigning for three years until he was deposed. He spent the remainder of his life as the Duke of Lorraine.
Ivan VI Antonovich of Russia was declared Emperor of Russia while still an infant but was soon deposed by Elizabeth the Great of Russia, daughter of Peter I, who was the Emperor of Russia until his death in 1682. Peter's brother, Ivan V, took the throne, leaving it to his son, the Ivan seen here, whose fate we learn in this passage.
The Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, equivalent to a king or emperor. Sultan Ahmed III reigned from 1703 to 1730, when he was deposed by Mahmud I. Voltaire mistakenly states that Mahmud I is the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire at this point in the narrative, even though his reign ended in 1754, the year before the Great Lisbon Earthquake. Voltaire should've said that the Sultan was either Osman III or Mustafa III, depending on how much time has passed in the story.
A captain from Levant, a historical region including the islands of the Eastern Mediterranean and many of the countries in the Middle East. Eventually, the word was used to refer specifically to Muslims and to citizens of the Ottoman Empire. Voltaire uses it here to refer to Muslims who worked as traders in the Middle East and Mediterranean.
From the Latin meaning "Our Father," a paternoster is a prayer in the Christian Church (in particular, the Lord's prayer, which Jesus taught to his disciples when they asked how God wanted them to pray). In a mosque, however, the paternoster would be out of place, as Muslims do not receive the Lord's Prayer. Pangloss is using the word to mean "prayers" in general, even though the term is technically inaccurate.
A civil judge in some Middle Eastern communities, particularly among the Turks, Arabs, and Persians. This "cadi" has imprisoned the Baron for bathing naked with a young Muslim man (in what we can assume is a euphemism for sex). The Baron, you'll remember, has had many close "friendships" with men in the church, as we learned in Chapter XV. These homosexual relationships were strictly forbidden and could easily have resulted in a death sentence for the Baron.
Latin for "so that he might work." In the Bible, Adam was a gardener who tended to all the flora and the fauna of the Garden of Eden, cultivating the plants in accordance with God's will. Though God did not make man for the express purpose of working, he made us do so in order to improve our character, so that we would not become lazy or idle (a sin in Christian theology).
From the Book of Judges in the Bible: Eglon oppressed the Israelites, demanding excessive tribute, which led to his assassination. The rest of the people listed here are kings mentioned either in the Bible or in ancient and pre-modern history. Pangloss uses all these examples to prove his point that living modestly is sometimes for the best.
The name given to the government of the Ottoman Empire. This is a metonym (a figure of speech that refers to the meaning of a thing or a word without using the name of the thing itself). Here, the "Sublime Porte" refers to the arched gate through which citizens would have to pass to reach the central government buildings.