[Sidenote: How far was there diffusion of his Book in his own day?]

75. But we must return for a little to Polo’s own times. Ramusio states, as we have seen, that immediately after the first commission of Polo’s narrative to writing (in Latin as he imagined), many copies of it were made, it was translated into the vulgar tongue, and in a few months all Italy was full of it.

The few facts that we can collect do not justify this view of the rapid and diffused renown of the Traveller and his Book. The number of MSS. of the latter dating from the 14th century is no doubt considerable, but a large proportion of these are of Pipino’s condensed Latin Translation, which was not put forth, if we can trust Ramusio, till 1320, and certainly not much earlier. The whole number of MSS. in various languages that we have been able to register, amounts to about eighty. I find it difficult to obtain statistical data as to the comparative number of copies of different works existing in manuscript. With Dante’s great Poem, of which there are reckoned close upon 500 MSS.,[1] comparison would be inappropriate. But of the Travels of Friar Odoric, a poor work indeed beside Marco Polo’s, I reckoned thirty-nine MSS., and could now add at least three more to the list. [I described seventy-three in my edition of Odoric.—H. C.] Also I find that of the nearly contemporary work of Brunetto Latini, the Tresor, a sort of condensed Encyclopaedia of knowledge, but a work which one would scarcely have expected to approach the popularity of Polo’s Book, the Editor enumerates some fifty MSS. And from the great frequency with which one encounters in Catalogues both MSS. and early printed editions of Sir John Maundevile, I should suppose that the lying wonders of our English Knight had a far greater popularity and more extensive diffusion than the veracious and more sober marvels of Polo.[2] To Southern Italy Polo’s popularity certainly does not seem at any time to have extended. I cannot learn that any MS. of his Book exists in any Library of the late Kingdom of Naples or in Sicily.[3]

Dante, who lived for twenty-three years after Marco’s work was written, and who touches so many things in the seen and unseen Worlds, never alludes to Polo, nor I think to anything that can be connected with his Book. I believe that no mention of Cathay occurs in the Divina Commedia. That distant region is indeed mentioned more than once in the poems of a humbler contemporary, Francesco da Barberino, but there is nothing in his allusions besides this name to suggest any knowledge of Polo’s work.[4]

Neither can I discover any trace of Polo or his work in that of his contemporary and countryman, Marino Sanudo the Elder, though this worthy is well acquainted with the somewhat later work of Hayton, and many of the subjects which he touches in his own book would seem to challenge a reference to Marco’s labours.

[Sidenote: Contemporary references to Polo.]

76. Of contemporary or nearly contemporary references to our Traveller by name, the following are all that I can produce, and none of them are new.

First there is the notice regarding his presentation of his book to
Thibault de Cepoy, of which we need say no more (supra, p. 68).

Next there is the Preface to Friar Pipino’s Translation, which we give at length in the Appendix (E) to these notices. The phraseology of this appears to imply that Marco was still alive, and this agrees with the date assigned to the work by Ramusio. Pipino was also the author of a Chronicle, of which a part was printed by Muratori, and this contains chapters on the Tartar wars, the destruction of the Old Man of the Mountain, etc., derived from Polo. A passage not printed by Muratori has been extracted by Prof. Bianconi from a MS. of this Chronicle in the Modena Library, and runs as follows:—

“The matters which follow, concerning the magnificence of the Tartar Emperors, whom in their language they call Cham as we have said, are related by Marcus Paulus the Venetian in a certain Book of his which has been translated by me into Latin out of the Lombardic Vernacular. Having gained the notice of the Emperor himself and become attached to his service, he passed nearly 27 years in the Tartar countries.”[5]

Again we have that mention of Marco by Friar Jacopo d’Acqui, which we have quoted in connection with his capture by the Genoese, at p. 54.[6] And the Florentine historian GIOVANNI VILLANI,[7] when alluding to the Tartars, says:—

“Let him who would make full acquaintance with their history examine the book of Friar Hayton, Lord of Colcos in Armenia, which he made at the instance of Pope Clement V., and also the Book called Milione which was made by Messer Marco Polo of Venice, who tells much about their power and dominion, having spent a long time among them. And so let us quit the Tartars and return to our subject, the History of Florence.”[8]

[Sidenote: Further contemporary references.]

77. Lastly, we learn from a curious passage in a medical work by PIETRO OF ABANO, a celebrated physician and philosopher, and a man of Polo’s own generation, that he was personally acquainted with the Traveller. In a discussion on the old notion of the non-habitability of the Equatorial regions, which Pietro controverts, he says:[9]

[Illustration: Star at the Antarctic as sketched by Marco Polo[10].]

“In the country of the ZINGHI there is seen a star as big as a sack. I know a man who has seen it, and he told me it had a faint light like a piece of a cloud, and is always in the south.[11] I have been told of this and other matters by MARCO the Venetian, the most extensive traveller and the most diligent inquirer whom I have ever known. He saw this same star under the Antarctic; he described it as having a great tail, and drew a figure of it thus. He also told me that he saw the Antarctic Pole at an altitude above the earth apparently equal to the length of a soldier’s lance, whilst the Arctic Pole was as much below the horizon. ‘Tis from that place, he says, that they export to us camphor, lign-aloes, and brazil. He says the heat there is intense, and the habitations few. And these things he witnessed in a certain island at which he arrived by Sea. He tells me also that there are (wild?) men there, and also certain very great rams that have very coarse and stiff wool just like the bristles of our pigs.”[12]

In addition to these five I know no other contemporary references to Polo, nor indeed any other within the 14th century, though such there must surely be, excepting in a Chronicle written after the middle of that century by JOHN of YPRES, Abbot of St. Bertin, otherwise known as Friar John the Long, and himself a person of very high merit in the history of Travel, as a precursor of the Ramusios, Hakluyts and Purchases, for he collected together and translated (when needful) into French all of the most valuable works of Eastern Travel and Geography produced in the age immediately preceding his own.[13] In his Chronicle the Abbot speaks at some length of the adventures of the Polo Family, concluding with a passage to which we have already had occasion to refer:

“And so Messers Nicolaus and Maffeus, with certain Tartars, were sent a second time to these parts; but Marcus Pauli was retained by the Emperor and employed in his military service, abiding with him for a space of 27 years. And the Cham, on account of his ability despatched him upon affairs of his to various parts of Tartary and India and the Islands, on which journeys he beheld many of the marvels of those regions. And concerning these he afterwards composed a book in the French vernacular, which said Book of Marvels, with others of the same kind, we do possess.” (Thesaur. Nov. Anecdot. III. 747.)

[Sidenote: Curious borrowings from Polo in the Romance of Bauduin de

78. There is, however, a notable work which is ascribed to a rather early date in the 14th century, and which, though it contains no reference to Polo by name, shows a thorough acquaintance with his book, and borrows themes largely from it This is the poetical Romance of Bauduin de Sebourc, an exceedingly clever and vivacious production, partaking largely of that bantering, half-mocking spirit which is, I believe, characteristic of many of the later mediaeval French Romances.[14] Bauduin is a knight who, after a very wild and loose youth, goes through an extraordinary series of adventures, displaying great faith and courage, and eventually becomes King of Jerusalem. I will cite some of the traits evidently derived from our Traveller, which I have met with in a short examination of this curious work.

Bauduin, embarked on a dromond in the Indian Sea, is wrecked in the territory of Baudas, and near a city called Falise, which stands on the River of Baudas. The people of this city were an unbelieving race.

  “Il ne créoient Dieu, Mahon, né Tervogant,
Ydole, cruchéfis, déable, né tirant.” P. 300.

Their only belief was this, that when a man died a great fire should be made beside his tomb, in which should be burned all his clothes, arms, and necessary furniture, whilst his horse and servant should be put to death, and then the dead man would have the benefit of all these useful properties in the other world.[15] Moreover, if it was the king that died—

  “Sé li rois de la terre i aloit trespassant,
* * * * *
Si fasoit-on tuer, .viij. jour en un tenant,
Tout chiaus c’on encontroit par la chité passant,
Pour tenir compaingnie leur ségnor soffisant.
Telle estoit le créanche ou païs dont je cant!”[16] P. 301.

Baudin arrives when the king has been dead three days, and through dread of this custom all the people of the city are shut up in their houses. He enters an inn, and helps himself to a vast repast, having been fasting for three days. He is then seized and carried before the king, Polibans by name. We might have quoted this prince at p. 87 as an instance of the diffusion of the French tongue:

  “Polibans sot Fransois, car on le doctrina:
j. renoiés de Franche. vij. ans i demora,
Qui li aprist Fransois, si que bel en parla.” P. 309.

Bauduin exclaims against their barbarous belief, and declares the Christian doctrine to the king, who acknowledges good points in it, but concludes:

  “Vassaus, dist Polibans, à le chière hardie,
Jà ne crerrai vou Dieux, à nul jour de ma vie;
Né vostre Loy ne vaut une pomme pourie!” P. 311.

Bauduin proposes to prove his Faith by fighting the prince, himself unarmed, the latter with all his arms. The prince agrees, but is rather dismayed at Bauduin’s confidence, and desires his followers, in case of his own death, to burn with him horses, armour, etc., asking at the same time which of them would consent to burn along with him, in order to be his companions in the other world:

  “Là en i ot. ij’e. dont cascuns s’escria:
Nous morons volentiers, quant vo corps mort sara!”[17] P. 313.

Bauduin’s prayer for help is miraculously granted; Polibans is beaten, and converted by a vision. He tells Bauduin that in his neighbourhood, beyond Baudas—

                     “ou. v. liewes, ou. vi.
Ché un felles prinches, orgoellieus et despis;
De la Rouge-Montaingne est Prinches et Marchis.
Or vous dirai comment il a ses gens nouris:
Je vous di que chius Roys a fait un Paradis
Tant noble et gratieus, et plain de tels déliis,
* * * * *
Car en che Paradis est un riex establis,
Qui se partist en trois, en che noble pourpris:
En l’un coert li clarés, d’espises bien garnis;
Et en l’autre li miés, qui les a resouffis;
Et li vins di pieument i queurt par droit avis—
* * * * *
Il n’i vente, né gèle. Che liés est de samis,
De riches dras de soie, bien ouvrés à devis.
Et aveukes tout che que je chi vous devis,
I a. ij’e puchelles qui moult ont cler les vis,
Carolans et tresquans, menans gales et ris.
Et si est li dieuesse, dame et suppellatis,
Qui doctrine les autres et en fais et en dis,
Celle est la fille au Roy c’on dist des Haus-Assis.”[18] Pp. 319-320.

This Lady Ivorine, the Old Man’s daughter, is described among other points as having—

“Les iex vairs com faucons, nobles et agentis.”[19] P. 320.

The King of the Mountain collects all the young male children of the country, and has them brought up for nine or ten years:

  “Dedens un lieu oscur: là les met-on toudis
Aveukes males bestes; kiens, et cas, et soris,
Culoères, et lisaerdes, escorpions petis.
Là endroit ne peut nuls avoir joie, né ris.” Pp. 320-321.

And after this dreary life they are shown the Paradise, and told that such shall be their portion if they do their Lord’s behest.

  “S’il disoit à son homme: ‘Va-t-ent droit à Paris;
Si me fier d’un coutel le Roy de Saint Denis,
Jamais n’aresteroit, né par nuit né par dis,
S’aroit tué le Roy, voïant tous ches marchis;
Et déuist estre à fources traïnés et mal mis.'” P. 321.

Bauduin determines to see this Paradise and the lovely Ivorine. The road led by Baudas:

  “Or avoit à che tamps, sé l’istoire ne ment,
En le chit de Baudas Kristiens jusqu’ à cent;
Qui manonent illoec par tréu d’argent,
Que cascuns cristiens au Roy-Calife rent.
Li pères du Calife, qui régna longement,
Ama les Crestiens, et Dieu primièrement:
* * * * *
Et lor fist establir. j. monstier noble et gent,
Où Crestien faisoient faire lor sacrement.
Une mout noble pière lor donna proprement,
Où on avoit posé Mahon moult longement.”[20] P. 322.

The story is, in fact, that which Marco relates of Samarkand.[21] The Caliph dies. His son hates the Christians. His people complain of the toleration of the Christians and their minister; but he says his father had pledged him not to interfere, and he dared not forswear himself. If, without doing so, he could do them an ill turn, he would gladly. The people then suggest their claim to the stone:

  “Or leur donna vos pères, dont che fu mesprisons.
Ceste pierre, biaus Sire, Crestiens demandons:
Il ne le porront rendre, pour vrai le vous disons,
Si li monstiers n’est mis et par pièches et par mons;
Et s’il estoit desfais, jamais ne le larons
Refaire chi-endroit. Ensément averons
Faites et acomplies nostres ententions.” P. 324.

The Caliph accordingly sends for Maistre Thumas, the Priest of the
Christians, and tells him the stone must be given up:

  “Il a. c. ans ut plus c’on i mist à solas
Mahon, le nostre Dieu: dont che n’est mie estas
Que li vous monstiers soit fais de nostre harnas!” P. 324.

Master Thomas, in great trouble, collects his flock, mounts the pulpit, and announces the calamity. Bauduin and his convert Polibans then arrive. Bauduin recommends confession, fasting, and prayer. They follow his advice, and on the third day the miracle occurs:

  “L’escripture le dist, qui nous achertéfie
Que le pierre Mahon, qui ou mur fut fiquie,
Sali hors du piler, coi que nul vous en die,
Droit enmi le monstier, c’onques ne fut brisie.
Et demoura li traus, dont le pière ert widie,
Sans pière est sans quailliel, à cascune partie;
Chou deseure soustient, par divine maistrie,
Tout en air proprement, n’el tenés a falie.
Encore le voit-on en ichelle partie:
Qui croire ne m’en voelt, si voist; car je l’en prie!” P. 327.

The Caliph comes to see, and declares it to be the Devil’s doing. Seeing Polibans, who is his cousin, he hails him, but Polibans draws back, avowing his Christian faith. The Caliph in a rage has him off to prison. Bauduin becomes very ill, and has to sell his horse and arms. His disease is so offensive that he is thrust out of his hostel, and in his wretchedness sitting on a stone he still avows his faith, and confesses that even then he has not received his deserts. He goes to beg in the Christian quarter, and no one gives to him; but still his faith and love to God hold out:

  “Ensément Bauduins chelle rue cherqua,
Tant qu’à .j. chavetier Bauduins s’arresta,
Qui chavates cousoit; son pain en garigna:
Jones fu et plaisans, apertement ouvra.
Bauduins le regarde, c’onques mot ne parla.” P. 334.

The cobler is charitable, gives him bread, shoes, and a grey coat that was a foot too short. He then asks Bauduin if he will not learn his trade; but that is too much for the knightly stomach:

  “Et Bauduins respont, li preus et li membrus:
J’ameroie trop miex que je fuisse pendus!” P. 335.

The Caliph now in his Council expresses his vexation about the miracle, and says he does not know how to disprove the faith of the Christians. A very sage old Saracen who knew Hebrew, and Latin, and some thirty languages, makes a suggestion, which is, in fact, that about the moving of the Mountain, as related by Marco Polo.[22] Master Thomas is sent for again, and told that they must transport the high mountain of Thir to the valley of Joaquin, which lies to the westward. He goes away in new despair and causes his clerk to sonner le clocke for his people. Whilst they are weeping and wailing in the church, a voice is heard desiring them to seek a certain holy man who is at the good cobler’s, and to do him honour. God at his prayer will do a miracle. They go in procession to Bauduin, who thinks they are mocking him. They treat him as a saint, and strive to touch his old coat. At last he consents to pray along with the whole congregation.

The Caliph is in his palace with his princes, taking his ease at a window.
Suddenly he starts up exclaiming:

  “‘Seignour, par Mahoumet que j’aoure et tieng chier,
Le Mont de Thir enportent le déable d’enfeir!’
Li Califes s’écrie: ‘Seignour, franc palasin,
Voïés le Mont de Thir qui ch’est mis au chemin!
Vés-le-là tout en air, par mon Dieu Apolin;
Jà bientost le verrons ens ou val Joaquin!'” P. 345.

The Caliph is converted, releases Polibans, and is baptised, taking the name of Bauduin, to whom he expresses his fear of the Viex de la Montagne with his Hauts-Assis, telling anew the story of the Assassin’s Paradise, and so enlarges on the beauty of Ivorine that Bauduin is smitten, and his love heals his malady. Toleration is not learned however:

  “Bauduins, li Califes, fist baptisier sa gent,
Et qui ne voilt Dieu crore, li teste on li pourfent!” P. 350.

The Caliph gives up his kingdom to Bauduin, proposing to follow him to the
Wars of Syria. And Bauduin presents the Kingdom to the Cobler.

Bauduin, the Caliph, and Prince Polibans then proceed to visit the Mountain of the Old Man. The Caliph professes to him that they want help against Godfrey of Bouillon. The Viex says he does not give a bouton for Godfrey; he will send one of his Hauts-Assis straight to his tent, and give him a great knife of steel between fie et poumon!

After dinner they go out and witness the feat of devotion which we have quoted elsewhere.[23] They then see the Paradise and the lovely Ivorine, with whose beauty Bauduin is struck dumb. The lady had never smiled before; now she declares that he for whom she had long waited was come. Bauduin exclaims:

  “‘Madame, fu-jou chou qui sui le vous soubgis?’
Quant la puchelle l’ot, lors li geta. j. ris;
Et li dist: ‘Bauduins, vous estes mes amis!'” Pp. 362-363.

The Old One is vexed, but speaks pleasantly to his daughter, who replies with frightfully bad language, and declares herself to be a Christian. The father calls out to the Caliph to kill her. The Caliph pulls out a big knife and gives him a blow that nearly cuts him in two. The amiable Ivorine says she will go with Bauduin:

“‘Sé mes pères est mors, n’en donne. j. paresis!'” P. 364.

We need not follow the story further, as I did not trace beyond this point any distinct derivation from our Traveller, with the exception of that allusion to the incombustible covering of the napkin of St. Veronica, which I have quoted at p. 216 of this volume. But including this, here are at least seven different themes borrowed from Marco Polo’s book, on which to be sure his poetical contemporary plays the most extraordinary variations.

[Sidenote: Chaucer and Marco Polo.]

[78 bis.—In the third volume of The Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, Oxford, 1894, the Rev. Walter W. Skeat gives (pp. 372 seqq.) an Account of the Sources of the Canterbury Tales. Regarding The Squieres Tales, he says that one of his sources was the Travels of Marco; Mr. Keighley in his Tales and Popular Fictions, published in 1834, at p. 76, distinctly derives Chaucer’s Tale from the travels of Marco Polo. (Skeat, l. c., p. 463, note.) I cannot quote all the arguments given by the Rev. W. W. Skeat to support his theory, pp. 463-477.

Regarding the opinion of Professor Skeat of Chaucer’s indebtedness to Marco Polo, cf. Marco Polo and the Squire’s Tale, by Professor John Matthews Manly, vol. xi. of the Publications of the Modern Language Association of America, 1896, pp. 349-362. Mr. Manly says (p. 360): “It seems clear, upon reviewing the whole problem, that if Chaucer used Marco Polo’s narrative, he either carelessly or intentionally confused all the features of the setting that could possibly be confused, and retained not a single really characteristic trait of any person, place or event. It is only by twisting everything that any part of Chaucer’s story can be brought into relation with any part of Polo’s. To do this might be allowable, if any rational explanation could be given for Chaucer’s supposed treatment of his ‘author,’ or if there were any scarcity of sources from which Chaucer might have obtained as much information about Tartary as he seems really to have possessed; but such an explanation would be difficult to devise, and there is no such scarcity. Any one of half a dozen accessible accounts could be distorted into almost if not quite as great resemblance to the Squire’s Tale as Marco Polo’s can.”

Mr. A. W. Pollard, in his edition of The Squire’s Tale (Lond., 1899) writes: “A very able paper, by Prof. J. M. Manly, demonstrates the needlessness of Prof. Skeat’s theory, which has introduced fresh complications into an already complicated story. My own belief is that, though we may illustrate the Squire’s Tale from these old accounts of Tartary, and especially from Marco Polo, because he has been so well edited by Colonel Yule, there is very little probability that Chaucer consulted any of them. It is much more likely that he found these details where he found more important parts of his story, i.e. in some lost romance. But if we must suppose that he provided his own local colour, we have no right to pin him down to using Marco Polo to the exclusion of other accessible authorities.” Mr. Pollard adds in a note (p. xiii.): “There are some features in these narratives, e.g. the account of the gorgeous dresses worn at the Kaan’s feast, which Chaucer with his love of colour could hardly have helped reproducing if he had known them.”—H. C.]

[1] See Ferrazzi, Manuele Dantesca, Bassano, 1865, p. 729.

[2] In Quaritch’s catalogue for Nov. 1870 there is only one old edition of
Polo; there are nine of Maundevile. In 1839 there were nineteen MSS.
of the latter author catalogued in the British Museum Library. There
are now only six of Marco Polo. At least twenty-five editions of
Maundevile and only five of Polo were printed in the 15th century.

[3] I have made personal enquiry at the National Libraries of Naples and
Palermo, at the Communal Library in the latter city, and at the
Benedictine Libraries of Monte Cassino, Monreale, S. Martino, and

    In the 15th century, when Polo’s book had become more generally
diffused we find three copies of it in the Catalogue of the Library of
Charles VI. of France, made at the Louvre in 1423, by order of the
Duke of Bedford.

    The estimates of value are curious. They are in sols parisis, which
we shall not estimate very wrongly at a shilling each:—

“No. 295. Item. Marcus Paulus; en ung cahier escript de lettre formée en françois, à deux coulombes. Commt. ou ii’e fo. ‘deux frères prescheurs,’ et ou derrenier ‘que sa arrières.’ X. s. p.

“No. 334. Item. Marcus Paulus. Couvert de drap d’or, bien escript & enluminé, de lettre de forme en françois, à deux coulombes. Commt. ou ii’e fol.; ‘il fut Roys,’ & ou derrenier ‘propremen,’ à deux fermouers de laton. XV. s. p.

“No. 336. Item. Marcus Paulus; non enluminé, escript en françois, de lettre de forme. Commt. ou ii’e fo. ‘vocata moult grant,’ & ou derrenier ‘ilec dist il.’ Couvert de cuir blanc, à deux fermouers de laton. XII. s. p.

(Inventaire de la Bibliothèque du Roi Charles VI., etc. Paris, Société des Bibliophiles, 1867.)

[4] See Del Reggimento e de’ Costumi delle donne di Messer Francesco da Barberino, Roma, 1815, pp. 166 and 271. The latter passage runs thus, on Slavery:—

      “E fu indutta prima da Noé,
E fu cagion lo vin, perchè si egge:
Ch’ egli è un paese, dove
Son molti servi in parte di Cathay:
Che per questa cagione
Hanno a nimico il vino,
E non ne beon, nè voglion vedere.”

The author was born the year before Dante (1264), and though he lived to 1348 it is probable that the poems in question were written in his earlier years. Cathay was no doubt known by dim repute long before the final return of the Polos, both through the original journey of Nicolo and Maffeo, and by information gathered by the Missionary Friars. Indeed, in 1278 Pope Nicolas III., in consequence of information said to have come from Abaka Khan of Persia, that Kúblái was a baptised Christian, sent a party of Franciscans with a long letter to the Kaan Quobley, as he is termed. They never seem to have reached their destination. And in 1289 Nicolas IV. entrusted a similar mission to Friar John of Monte Corvino, which eventually led to very tangible results. Neither of the Papal letters, however, mentions Cathay. (See Mosheim, App. pp. 76 and 94.)

[5] See Muratori, IX. 583, seqq.; Bianconi, Mem. I. p. 37.

[6] This Friar makes a strange hotch-potch of what he had read, e.g.: “The Tartars, when they came out of the mountains, made them a king, viz., the son of Prester John, who is thus vulgarly termed Vetulus de la Montagna!” (Mon. Hist. Patr. Script. III. 1557.)

[7] G. Villani died in the great plague of 1348. But his book was begun soon after Marco’s was written, for he states that it was the sight of the memorials of greatness which he witnessed at Rome, during the Jubilee of 1300, that put it into his head to write the history of the rising glories of Florence, and that he began the work after his return home. (Bk. VIII. ch. 36.)

[8] Book V. ch. 29.

[9] Petri Aponensis Medici ac Philosophi Celeberrimi, Conciliator, Venice, 1521, fol. 97. Peter was born in 1250 at Abano, near Padua, and was Professor of Medicine at the University in the latter city. He twice fell into the claws of the Unholy Office, and only escaped them by death in 1316.

[10] [It is curious that this figure is almost exactly that which among oriental carpets is called a “cloud.” I have heard the term so applied by Vincent Robinson. It often appears in old Persian carpets, and also in Chinese designs. Mr. Purdon Clarke tells me it is called nebula in heraldry; it is also called in Chinese by a term signifying cloud; in Persian, by a term which he called silen-i-khitai, but of this I can make nothing.—MS. Note by Yule.]

[11] The great Magellanic cloud? In the account of Vincent Yanez Pinzon’s Voyage to the S.W. in 1499 as given in Ramusio (III. 15) after Pietro Martire d’Anghieria, it is said:—”Taking the astrolabe in hand, and ascertaining the Antarctic Pole, they did not see any star like our Pole Star; but they related that they saw another manner of stars very different from ours, and which they could not clearly discern because of a certain dimness which diffused itself about those stars, and obstructed the view of them.” Also the Kachh mariners told Lieutenant Leech that midway to Zanzibar there was a town (?) called Marethee, where the North Pole Star sinks below the horizon, and they steer by a fixed cloud in the heavens. (Bombay Govt. Selections, No. XV. N.S. p. 215.)

The great Magellan cloud is mentioned by an old Arab writer as a white blotch at the foot of Canopus, visible in the Tehama along the Red Sea, but not in Nejd or ‘Irák. Humboldt, in quoting this, calculates that in A.D. 1000 the Great Magellan would have been visible at Aden some degrees above the horizon. (Examen, V. 235.)

[12] This passage contains points that are omitted in Polo’s book, besides the drawing implied to be from Marco’s own hand! The island is of course Sumatra. The animal is perhaps the peculiar Sumatran wild-goat, figured by Marsden, the hair of which on the back is “coarse and strong, almost like bristles.” (Sumatra, p. 115.)

[13] A splendid example of Abbot John’s Collection is the Livre des Merveilles of the Great French Library (No. 18 in our App. F.). This contains Polo, Odoric, William of Boldensel, the Book of the Estate of the Great Kaan by the Archbishop of Soltania, Maundevile, Hayton, and Ricold of Montecroce, of which all but Polo and Maundevile are French versions by this excellent Long John. A list of the Polo miniatures is given in App. F. of this Edition, p. 527.

It is a question for which there is sufficient ground, whether the Persian Historians Rashiduddin and Wassáf, one or other or both, did not derive certain information that appears in their histories, from Marco Polo personally, he having spent many months in Persia, and at the Court of Tabriz, when either or both may have been there. Such passages as that about the Cotton-trees of Guzerat (vol. ii. p. 393, and note), those about the horse trade with Maabar (id. p. 340, and note), about the brother-kings of that country (id. p. 331), about the naked savages of Necuveram (id. p. 306), about the wild people of Sumatra calling themselves subjects of the Great Kaan (id. pp. 285, 292, 293, 299), have so strong a resemblance to parallel passages in one or both of the above historians, as given in the first and third volumes of Elliot, that the probability, at least, of the Persian writers having derived their information from Polo might be fairly maintained.

[14] Li Romans de Bauduin de Sebourc III’e Roy de Jhérusalem; Poème du XIV’e Siècle; Valenciennes, 1841. 2 vols. 8vo. I was indebted to two references of M. Pauthier’s for knowledge of the existence of this work. He cites the legends of the Mountain, and of the Stone of the Saracens from an abstract, but does not seem to have consulted the work itself, nor to have been aware of the extent of its borrowings from Marco Polo. M. Génin, from whose account Pauthier quotes, ascribes the poem to an early date after the death of Philip the Fair (1314). See Pauthier, pp. 57, 58, and 140.

[15] See Polo, vol. i. p. 204, and vol. ii. p. 191.

[16] See Polo, vol. i. p. 246.

[17] See Polo, vol. ii. p. 339.

[18] See Polo, vol. i. p. 140. Hashishi has got altered into Haus Assis.

[19] See vol. i. p. 358, note.

[20] See vol. i. p. 189, note 2.

[21] Vol. i. pp. 183-186.

[22] Vol. i. pp. 68 seqq. The virtuous cobler is not left out, but is made to play second fiddle to the hero Bauduin

[23] Vol. i. p. 144.


[Sidenote: Tardy operation, and causes thereof.]

79. Marco Polo contributed such a vast amount of new facts to the knowledge of the Earth’s surface, that one might have expected his book to have had a sudden effect upon the Science of Geography: but no such result occurred speedily, nor was its beneficial effect of any long duration.

No doubt several causes contributed to the slowness of its action upon the notions of Cosmographers, of which the unreal character attributed to the Book, as a collection of romantic marvels rather than of geographical and historical facts, may have been one, as Santarem urges. But the essential causes were no doubt the imperfect nature of publication before the invention of the press; the traditional character which clogged geography as well as all other branches of knowledge in the Middle Ages; and the entire absence of scientific principle in what passed for geography, so that there was no organ competent to the assimilation of a large mass of new knowledge.

Of the action of the first cause no examples can be more striking than we find in the false conception of the Caspian as a gulf of the Ocean, entertained by Strabo, and the opposite error in regard to the Indian Sea held by Ptolemy, who regards it as an enclosed basin, when we contrast these with the correct ideas on both subjects possessed by Herodotus. The later Geographers no doubt knew his statements, but did not appreciate them, probably from not possessing the evidence on which they were based.

[Sidenote: General characteristics of Mediaeval Cosmography.]

80. As regards the second cause alleged, we may say that down nearly to the middle of the 15th century cosmographers, as a rule, made scarcely any attempt to reform their maps by any elaborate search for new matter, or by lights that might be collected from recent travellers. Their world was in its outline that handed down by the traditions of their craft, as sanctioned by some Father of the Church, such as Orosius or Isidore, as sprinkled with a combination of classical and mediaeval legend; Solinus being the great authority for the former. Almost universally the earth’s surface is represented as filling the greater part of a circular disk, rounded by the ocean; a fashion that already existed in the time of Aristotle and was ridiculed by him.[1] No dogma of false geography was more persistent or more pernicious than this. Jerusalem occupies the central point, because it was found written in the Prophet Ezekiel: “Haec dicit Dominus Deus: Ista est Jerusalem, in medio gentium posui eam, et in circuitu ejus terras;”[2] a declaration supposed to be corroborated by the Psalmist’s expression, regarded as prophetic of the death of Our Lord: “Deus autem, Rex noster, ante secula operatus est salutem in medio Terrae” (Ps. lxxiii. 12).[3] The Terrestrial Paradise was represented as occupying the extreme East, because it was found in Genesis that the Lord planted a garden east ward in Eden.[4] Gog and Magog were set in the far north or north-east, because it was said again in Ezekiel: “Ecce Ego super te Gog Principem capitis Mosoch et Thubal … et ascendere te faciam de lateribus Aquilonis,” whilst probably the topography of those mysterious nationalities was completed by a girdle of mountains out of the Alexandrian Fables. The loose and scanty nomenclature was mainly borrowed from Pliny or Mela through such Fathers as we have named; whilst vacant spaces were occupied by Amazons, Arimaspians, and the realm of Prester John. A favourite representation of the inhabited earth was this [Symbol]; a great O enclosing a T, which thus divides the circle in three parts; the greater or half-circle being Asia, the two quarter circles Europe and Africa.[5] These Maps were known to St. Augustine.[6]

[Sidenote: Roger Bacon as a geographer.]

81. Even Ptolemy seems to have been almost unknown; and indeed had his Geography been studied it might, with all its errors, have tended to some greater endeavours after accuracy. Roger Bacon, whilst lamenting the exceeding deficiency of geographical knowledge in the Latin world, and purposing to essay an exacter distribution of countries, says he will not attempt to do so by latitude and longitude, for that is a system of which the Latins have learned nothing. He himself, whilst still somewhat burdened by the authoritative dicta of “saints and sages” of past times, ventures at least to criticise some of the latter, such as Pliny and Ptolemy, and declares his intention to have recourse to the information of those who have travelled most extensively over the Earth’s surface. And judging from the good use he makes, in his description of the northern parts of the world, of the Travels of Rubruquis, whom he had known and questioned, besides diligently studying his narrative,[7] we might have expected much in Geography from this great man, had similar materials been available to him for other parts of the earth. He did attempt a map with mathematical determination of places, but it has not been preserved.[8]

It may be said with general truth that the world-maps current up to the end of the 13th century had more analogy to the mythical cosmography of the Hindus than to any thing properly geographical. Both, no doubt, were originally based in the main on real features. In the Hindu cosmography these genuine features are symmetrised as in a kaleidoscope; in the European cartography they are squeezed together in a manner that one can only compare to a pig in brawn. Here and there some feature strangely compressed and distorted is just recognisable. A splendid example of this kind of map is that famous one at Hereford, executed about A.D. 1275, of which a facsimile has lately been published, accompanied by a highly meritorious illustrative Essay.[9]

82. Among the Arabs many able men, from the early days of Islám, took an interest in Geography, and devoted labour to geographical compilations, in which they often made use of their own observations, of the itineraries of travellers, and of other fresh knowledge. But somehow or other their maps were always far behind their books. Though they appear to have had an early translation of Ptolemy, and elaborate Tables of Latitudes and Longitudes form a prominent feature in many of their geographical treatises, there appears to be no Arabic map in existence, laid down with meridians and parallels; whilst all of their best known maps are on the old system of the circular disk. This apparent incapacity for map-making appears to have acted as a heavy drag and bar upon progress in Geography among the Arabs, notwithstanding its early promise among them, and in spite of the application to its furtherance of the great intellects of some (such as Abu Rihán al-Biruni), and of the indefatigable spirit of travel and omnivorous curiosity of others (such as Mas’údi).

[Sidenote: Marino Sanudo the Elder.]

83. Some distinct trace of acquaintance with the Arabian Geography is to be found in the World-Map of Marino Sanudo the Elder, constructed between 1300 and 1320; and this may be regarded as an exceptionally favourable specimen of the cosmography in vogue, for the author was a diligent investigator and compiler, who evidently took a considerable interest in geographical questions, and had a strong enjoyment and appreciation of a map.[10] Nor is the map in question without some result of these characteristics. His representation of Europe, Northern Africa, Syria, Asia Minor, Arabia and its two gulfs, is a fair approximation to general facts; his collected knowledge has enabled him to locate, with more or less of general truth, Georgia, the Iron Gates, Cathay, the Plain of Moghan, Euphrates and Tigris, Persia, Bagdad, Kais, Aden (though on the wrong side of the Red Sea), Abyssinia (Habesh), Zangibar (Zinz), Jidda (Zede), etc. But after all the traditional forms are too strong for him. Jerusalem is still the centre of the disk of the habitable earth, so that the distance is as great from Syria to Gades in the extreme West, as from Syria to the India Interior of Prester John which terminates the extreme East. And Africa beyond the Arabian Gulf is carried, according to the Arabian modification of Ptolemy’s misconception, far to the eastward until it almost meets the prominent shores of India.

[Sidenote: The Catalan Map of 1375, the most complete mediaeval embodiment of Polo’s Geography.]

84. The first genuine mediaeval attempt at a geographical construction that I know of, absolutely free from the traditional idola, is the Map of the known World from the Portulano Mediceo (in the Laurentian Library), of which an extract is engraved in the atlas of Baldelli-Boni’s Polo. I need not describe it, however, because I cannot satisfy myself that it makes much use of Polo’s contributions, and its facts have been embodied in a more ambitious work of the next generation, the celebrated Catalan Map of 1375 in the great Library of Paris. This also, but on a larger scale and in a more comprehensive manner, is an honest endeavour to represent the known world on the basis of collected facts, casting aside all theories pseudo-scientific or pseudo-theological; and a very remarkable work it is. In this map it seems to me Marco Polo’s influence, I will not say on geography, but on map-making, is seen to the greatest advantage. His Book is the basis of the Map as regards Central and Further Asia, and partially as regards India. His names are often sadly perverted, and it is not always easy to understand the view that the compiler took of his itineraries. Still we have Cathay admirably placed in the true position of China, as a great Empire filling the south-east of Asia. The Eastern Peninsula of India is indeed absent altogether, but the Peninsula of Hither India is for the first time in the History of Geography represented with a fair approximation to its correct form and position,[11] and Sumatra also (Java) is not badly placed. Carajan, Vocian, Mien, and Bangala, are located with a happy conception of their relation to Cathay and to India. Many details in India foreign to Polo’s book,[12] and some in Cathay (as well as in Turkestan and Siberia, which have been entirely derived from other sources) have been embodied in the Map. But the study of his Book has, I conceive, been essentially the basis of those great portions which I have specified, and the additional matter has not been in mass sufficient to perplex the compiler. Hence we really see in this Map something like the idea of Asia that the Traveller himself would have presented, had he bequeathed a Map to us.

[Some years ago, I made a special study of the Far East in the Catalan Map. (L’Extrême-Orient dans l’Atlas catalan de Charles V., Paris, 1895), and I have come to the conclusion that the cartographer’s knowledge of Eastern Asia is drawn almost entirely from Marco Polo. We give a reproduction of part of the Catalan Map.—H. C.]

[Illustration: Part of the Catalan Map (1375).]

[Sidenote: Confusions in Cartography of the 16th century, from the endeavour to combine new and old information.]

85. In the following age we find more frequent indications that Polo’s book was diffused and read. And now that the spirit of discovery began to stir, it was apparently regarded in a juster light as a Book of Facts, and not as a mere Romman du Grant Kaan.[13] But in fact this age produced new supplies of crude information in greater abundance than the knowledge of geographers was prepared to digest or co-ordinate, and the consequence is that the magnificent Work of Fra Mauro (1459), though the result of immense labour in the collection of facts and the endeavour to combine them, really gives a considerably less accurate idea of Asia than that which the Catalan Map had afforded.[14]

And when at a still later date the great burst of discovery eastward and westward took effect, the results of all attempts to combine the new knowledge with the old was most unhappy. The first and crudest forms of such combinations attempted to realise the ideas of Columbus regarding the identity of his discoveries with the regions of the Great Kaan’s dominion;[15] but even after AMERICA had vindicated its independent position on the surface of the globe, and the new knowledge of the Portuguese had introduced CHINA where the Catalan Map of the 14th century had presented CATHAY, the latter country, with the whole of Polo’s nomenclature, was shoved away to the north, forming a separate system.[16] Henceforward the influence of Polo’s work on maps was simply injurious; and when to his nomenclature was added a sprinkling of Ptolemy’s, as was usual throughout the 16th century, the result was a most extraordinary hotch-potch, conveying no approximation to any consistent representation of facts.

Thus, in a map of 1522,[17] running the eye along the north of Europe and Asia from West to East, we find the following succession of names: Groenlandia, or Greenland, as a great peninsula overlapping that of Norvegia and Suecia; Livonia, Plescovia and Moscovia, Tartaria bounded on the South by Scithia extra Imaum, and on the East, by the Rivers Ochardes and Bautisis (out of Ptolemy), which are made to flow into the Arctic Sea. South of these are Aureacithis and Asmirea (Ptolemy’s Auxacitis and Asmiraea), and Serica Regio. Then following the northern coast Balor Regio,[18] Judei Clausi, i.e. the Ten Tribes who are constantly associated or confounded with the Shut-up Nations of Gog and Magog. These impinge upon the River Polisacus, flowing into the Northern Ocean in Lat. 75°, but which is in fact no other than Polo’s Pulisanghin![19] Immediately south of this is Tholomon Provincia (Polo’s again), and on the coast Tangut, Cathaya, the Rivers Caramoran and Oman (a misreading of Polo’s Quian), Quinsay and Mangi.

[Sidenote: Gradual disappearance of Polo’s nomenclature.]

86. The Maps of Mercator (1587) and Magini (1597) are similar in character, but more elaborate, introducing China as a separate system. Such indeed also is Blaeu’s Map (1663) excepting that Ptolemy’s contributions are reduced to one or two.

In Sanson’s Map (1659) the data of Polo and the mediaeval Travellers are more cautiously handled, but a new element of confusion is introduced in the form of numerous features derived from Edrisi.

It is scarcely worth while to follow the matter further. With the increase of knowledge of Northern Asia from the Russian side, and that of China from the Maps of Martini, followed by the surveys of the Jesuits, and with the real science brought to bear on Asiatic Geography by such men as De l’Isle and D’Anville, mere traditional nomenclature gradually disappeared. And the task which the study of Polo has provided for the geographers of later days has been chiefly that of determining the true localities that his book describes under obsolete or corrupted names.

[My late illustrious friend, Baron A. E. Nordenskiöld, who has devoted much time and labour to the study of Marco Polo (see his Periplus, Stockholm, 1897), and published a facsimile edition of one of the French MSS. kept in the Stockholm Royal Library (see vol. ii. Bibliography, p. 570), has given to The Geographical Journal for April, 1899, pp. 396-406, a paper on The Influence of the “Travels of Marco Polo” on Jacobo Gastaldi’s Maps of Asia. He writes (p. 398) that as far as he knows, none “of the many learned men who have devoted their attention to the discoveries of Marco Polo, have been able to refer to any maps in which all or almost all those places mentioned by Marco Polo are given. All friends of the history of geography will therefore be glad to hear that such an atlas from the middle of the sixteenth century really does exist, viz. Gastaldi’s ‘Prima, seconda e terza parte dell Asia.'” All the names of places in Ramusio’s Marco Polo are introduced in the maps of Asia of Jacobo Gastaldi (1561). Cf. Periplus, liv., lv., and lvi.

I may refer to what both Yule and myself say supra of the Catalan
Map.—H. C.]

[Sidenote: Alleged introduction of Block-printed Books into Europe by
Marco Polo.]

87. Before concluding, it may be desirable to say a few words on the subject of important knowledge other than geographical, which various persons have supposed that Marco Polo must have introduced from Eastern Asia to Europe.

Respecting the mariner’s compass and gunpowder I shall say nothing, as no one now, I believe, imagines Marco to have had anything to do with their introduction. But from a highly respectable source in recent years we have seen the introduction of Block-printing into Europe connected with the name of our Traveller. The circumstances are stated as follows:[20]

“In the beginning of the 15th century a man named Pamphilo Castaldi, of Feltre … was employed by the Seignory or Government of the Republic, to engross deeds and public edicts of various kinds … the initial letters at the commencement of the writing being usually ornamented with red ink, or illuminated in gold and colours

“According to Sansovino, certain stamps or types had been invented some time previously by Pietro di Natali, Bishop of Aquiloea.[21] These were made at Murano of glass, and were used to stamp or print the outline of the large initial letters of public documents, which were afterwards filled up by hand…. Pamphilo Castaldi improved on these glass types, by having others made of wood or metal, and having seen several Chinese books which the famous traveller Marco Polo had brought from China, and of which the entire text was printed with wooden blocks, he caused moveable wooden types to be made, each type containing a single letter; and with these he printed several broadsides and single leaves, at Venice, in the year 1426. Some of these single sheets are said to be preserved among the archives at Feltre….

“The tradition continues that John Faust, of Mayence … became acquainted with Castaldi, and passed some time with him, at his Scriptorium,… at Feltre;”

and in short developed from the knowledge so acquired the great invention of printing. Mr. Curzon goes on to say that Panfilo Castaldi was born in 1398, and died in 1490, and that he gives the story as he found it in an article written by Dr. Jacopo Facen, of Feltre, in a (Venetian?) newspaper called Il Gondoliere, No. 103, of 27th December, 1843.

In a later paper Mr. Curzon thus recurs to the subject:[22]

“Though none of the early block-books have dates affixed to them, many of them are with reason supposed to be more ancient than any books printed with moveable types. Their resemblance to Chinese block-books is so exact, that they would almost seem to be copied from the books commonly used in China. The impressions are taken off on one side of the paper only, and in binding, both the Chinese, and ancient German, or Dutch block-books, the blank sides of the pages are placed opposite each other, and sometimes pasted together…. The impressions are not taken off with printer’s ink, but with a brown paint or colour, of a much thinner description, more in the nature of Indian ink, as we call it, which is used in printing Chinese books. Altogether the German and Oriental block-books are so precisely alike, in almost every respect, that … we must suppose that the process of printing then must have been copied from ancient Chinese specimens, brought from that country by some early travellers, whose names have not been handed down to our times.”

The writer then refers to the tradition about Guttemberg (so it is stated on this occasion, not Faust) having learned Castaldi’s art, etc., mentioning a circumstance which he supposes to indicate that Guttemberg had relations with Venice; and appears to assent to the probability of the story of the art having been founded on specimens brought home by Marco Polo.

This story was in recent years diligently propagated in Northern Italy, and resulted in the erection at Feltre of a public statue of Panfilo Castaldi, bearing this inscription (besides others of like tenor):—

To Panfilo Castaldi the illustrious Inventor of Movable Printing Types, Italy renders this Tribute of Honour, too long deferred.

In the first edition of this book I devoted a special note to the exposure of the worthlessness of the evidence for this story.[23] This note was, with the present Essay, translated and published at Venice by Comm. Berchet, but this challenge to the supporters of the patriotic romance, so far as I have heard, brought none of them into the lists in its defence.

But since Castaldi has got his statue from the printers of Lombardy, would it not be mere equity that the mariners of Spain should set up a statue at Huelva to the Pilot Alonzo Sanchez of that port, who, according to Spanish historians, after discovering the New World, died in the house of Columbus at Terceira, and left the crafty Genoese to appropriate his journals, and rob him of his fame?

Seriously; if anybody in Feltre cares for the real reputation of his native city, let him do his best to have that preposterous and discreditable fiction removed from the base of the statue. If Castaldi has deserved a statue on other and truer grounds let him stand; if not, let him be burnt into honest lime! I imagine that the original story that attracted Mr. Curzon was more jeu d’esprit than anything else; but that the author, finding what a stone he had set rolling, did not venture to retract.

[Sidenote: Frequent opportunities for such introduction in the age following Polo’s.]

88. Mr. Curzon’s own observations, which I have italicised about the resemblance of the two systems are, however, very striking, and seem clearly to indicate the derivation of the art from China. But I should suppose that in the tradition, if there ever was any genuine tradition of the kind at Feltre (a circumstance worthy of all doubt), the name of Marco Polo was introduced merely because it was so prominent a name in Eastern Travel. The fact has been generally overlooked and forgotten[24] that, for many years in the course of the 14th century, not only were missionaries of the Roman Church and Houses of the Franciscan Order established in the chief cities of China, but a regular trade was carried on overland between Italy and China, by way of Tana (or Azov), Astracan, Otrar and Kamul, insomuch that instructions for the Italian merchant following that route form the two first chapters in the Mercantile Handbook of Balducci Pegolotti (circa 1340).[25] Many a traveller besides Marco Polo might therefore have brought home the block-books. And this is the less to be ascribed to him because he so curiously omits to speak of the art of printing, when his subject seems absolutely to challenge its description.

[1] “They draw nowadays the map of the world in a laughable manner, for they draw the inhabited earth as a circle; but this is impossible, both from what we see and from reason.” (Meteorolog. Lib. II. cap. 5.) Cf. Herodotus, iv. 36.

[2] In Dante’s Cosmography, Jerusalem is the centre of our [Greek: oikouménae], whilst the Mount of Purgatory occupies the middle of the Antipodal hemisphere:—

      “Come ciò sia, se’l vuoi poter pensare,
Dentro raccolto immagina Sion
Con questo monte in su la terra stare,
Sì, ch’ ambodue hann’ un solo orrizon
E diversi emisperi”….
Purg. IV. 67.

[3] The belief, with this latter ground of it, is alluded to in curious verses by Jacopo Alighieri, Dante’s son:—

      “E molti gran Profeti
Filosofi e Poeti

Fanno il colco dell’ Emme
Dov’ è Gerusalemme;
_Se le loro scritture
Hanno vere figure:

      E per la Santa fede
Cristiana ancor si vede
Che’ l’ suo principio Cristo_
Nel suo mezzo conquisto
Per cui prese morte
E vi pose la sorte
—(Rime Antiche Toscane, III. 9.)

Though the general meaning of the second couplet is obvious, the expression il colco dell’ Emme, “the couch of the M,” is puzzling. The best solution that occurs to me is this: In looking at the world map of Marino Sanudo, noticed on p. 133, as engraved by Bongars in the Gesta Dei per Francos, you find geometrical lines laid down, connecting the N.E., N.W., S.E., and S.W. points, and thus forming a square inscribed in the circular disk of the Earth, with its diagonals passing through the Central Zion. The eye easily discerns in these a great M inscribed in the circle, with its middle angular point at Jerusalem. Gervasius of Tilbury (with some confusion in his mind between tropic and equinoxial, like that which Pliny makes in speaking of the Indian Mons Malleus) says that “some are of opinion that the Centre is in the place where the Lord spoke to the woman of Samaria at the well, for there, at the summer solstice, the noonday sun descends perpendicularly into the water of the well, casting no shadow; a thing which the philosophers say occurs at Syene”! (Otia Imperialia, by Liebrecht, p. 1.)

[4] This circumstance does not, however, show in the Vulgate.

[5] “Veggiamo in prima in general la terra
Come risiede e come il mar la serra.

      Un T dentro ad un O mostra il disegno
Come in tre parti fu diviso il Mondo,
E la superiore è il maggior regno
Che quasi piglia la metà del tondo.

      ASIA chiamata: il gambo ritto è segno
Che parte il terzo nome dal secondo
AFFRICA dico da EUROPA: il mare
Mediterran tra esse in mezzo appare.”
La Sfera, di F. Leonardo di Stagio Dati, Lib. iii. st. 11.

[6] De Civ. Dei, xvi. 17, quoted by Peschel, 92.

[7] Opus Majus, Venice ed. pp. 142, seqq.

[8] Peschel, p. 195. This had escaped me.

[9] By the Rev. W. L. Bevan, M.A., and the Rev. H. W. Phillott, M.A. In Asia, they point out, the only name showing any recognition of modern knowledge is Samarcand.

[10] His work, Liber Secretorum Fidelium Crucis, intended to stimulate a new Crusade, has three capital maps, besides that of the World, one of which, translated, but otherwise in facsimile, is given at p. 18 of this volume. But besides these maps, he gives, in a tabular form of parallel columns, the reigning sovereigns in Europe and Asia connected with his historical retrospect, just on the plan presented in Sir Harris Nicolas’s Chronology of History.

[11] I do not see that al-Birúni deserves the credit in this respect assigned to him by Professor Peschel, so far as one can judge from the data given by Sprenger (Peschel, p. 128; Post und Reise-Routen, 81-82.)

[12] For example, Delli, which Polo does not name; Diogil (Deogír); on the Coromandel coast Setemelti, which I take to be a clerical error for Sette-Templi, the Seven Pagodas; round the Gulf of Cambay we have Cambetum (Kambayat), Cocintaya (Kokan-Tana, see vol. ii. p. 396), Goga, Baroche, Neruala (Anharwala), and to the north Moltan. Below Multan are Hocibelch and Bargelidoa, two puzzles. The former is, I think, Uch-baligh, showing that part of the information was from Perso-Mongol sources.

[13] I see it stated by competent authority that Romman is often applied to any prose composition in a Romance language.

In or about 1426, Prince Pedro of Portugal, the elder brother of the illustrious Prince Henry, being on a visit to Venice, was presented by the Signory with a copy of Marco Polo’s book, together with a map already alluded to. (Major’s P. Henry, pp. 61, 62.)

[14] This is partly due also to Fra Mauro’s reversion to the fancy of the circular disk limiting the inhabited portion of the earth.

[15] An early graphic instance of this is Ruysch’s famous map (1508). The following extract of a work printed as late as 1533 is an example of the like confusion in verbal description: “The Territories which are beyond the limits of Ptolemy’s Tables have not yet been described on certain authority. Behind the Sinae and the Seres, and beyond 180° of East Longitude, many countries were discovered by one [quendam] Marco Polo a Venetian and others, and the sea-coasts of those countries have now recently again been explored by Columbus the Genoese and Amerigo Vespucci in navigating the Western Ocean…. To this part (of Asia) belong the territory called that of the Bachalaos [or Codfish, Newfoundland], Florida, the Desert of Lop, Tangut, Cathay, the realm of Mexico (wherein is the vast city of Temistitan, built in the middle of a great lake, but which the older travellers styled QUINSAY), besides Paria, Uraba, and the countries of the Canibals.” (Joannis Schoneri Carolostadtii Opusculum Geogr., quoted by Humboldt, Examen, V. 171, 172.)

[16] In Robert Parke’s Dedication of his Translation of Mendoza’s, London, 1st of January, 1589, he identifies China and Japan with the regions of which Paulus Venetus and Sir John Mandeuill “wrote long agoe.” —MS. Note by Yule.

[17] “Totius Europae et Asiae Tabula Geographica, Auctore Thoma D. Aucupario. Edita Argentorati, MDXXII.” Copied in Witsen.

[18] This strange association of Balor (i.e., Bolor, that name of so many odd vicissitudes, see pp. 178-179 infra) with the shut-up Israelites must be traced to a passage which Athanasius Kircher quotes from R. Abraham Pizol (qu. Peritsol?): “Regnum, inquit, Belor magnum et excelsum nimis, juxta omnes illos qui scripserunt Historicos. Sunt in eo Judaei plurimi inclusi, et illud in latere Orientali et Boreali,” etc. (China Illustrata, p. 49.)

[19] Vol. ii. p. 1.

[20] A short Account of Libraries of Italy, by the Hon. R. Curzon (the late Lord de la Zouche); in Bibliog. and Hist. Miscellanies; Philobiblon Society, vol. i, 1854, pp. 6. seqq.

[21] P. del Natali was Bishop of Equilio, a city of the Venetian Lagoons, in the latter part of the 14th century. (See Ughelli, Italia Sacra, X. 87.) There is no ground whatever for connecting him with these inventions. The story of the glass types appears to rest entirely and solely on one obscure passage of Sansovino, who says that under the Doge Marco Corner (1365-1367): “certe Natale Veneto lasciò un libro della materie delle forme da giustar intorno alle lettere, ed il modo di formarle di vetro.” There is absolutely nothing more. Some kind of stencilling seems indicated.

[22] History of Printing in China and Europe, in Philobiblon, vol. vi. p. 23.

[23] See Appendix L. in First Edition.

[24] Ramusio himself appears to have been entirely unconscious of it, vide supra, p. 3

[25] This subject has been fully treated in Cathay and the Way Thither.


89. It remains to say a few words regarding the basis adopted for our English version of the Traveller’s record.

[Sidenote: Text followed by Marsden and by Pauthier.]

Ramusio’s recension was that which Marsden selected for translation. But at the date of his most meritorious publication nothing was known of the real literary history of Polo’s Book, and no one was aware of the peculiar value and originality of the French manuscript texts, nor had Marsden seen any of them. A translation from one of those texts is a translation at first hand; a translation from Ramusio’s Italian is, as far as I can judge, the translation of a translated compilation from two or more translations, and therefore, whatever be the merits of its matter, inevitably carries us far away from the spirit and style of the original narrator. M. Pauthier, I think, did well in adopting for the text of his edition the MSS. which I have classed as of the second Type, the more as there had hitherto been no publication from those texts. But editing a text in the original language, and translating, are tasks substantially different in their demands.

[Sidenote: Eclectic formation of the English Text of this Translation.]

90. It will be clear from what has been said in the preceding pages that I should not regard as a fair or full representation of Polo’s Work, a version on which the Geographic Text did not exercise a material influence. But to adopt that Text, with all its awkwardnesses and tautologies, as the absolute subject of translation, would have been a mistake. What I have done has been, in the first instance, to translate from Pauthier’s Text. The process of abridgment in this text, however it came about, has been on the whole judiciously executed, getting rid of the intolerable prolixities of manner which belong to many parts of the Original Dictation, but as a general rule preserving the matter. Having translated this,—not always from the Text adopted by Pauthier himself, but with the exercise of my own judgment on the various readings which that Editor lays before us,—I then compared the translation with the Geographic Text, and transferred from the latter not only all items of real substance that had been omitted, but also all expressions of special interest and character, and occasionally a greater fulness of phraseology where condensation in Pauthier’s text seemed to have been carried too far. And finally I introduced between brackets everything peculiar to Ramusio’s version that seemed to me to have a just claim to be reckoned authentic, and that could be so introduced without harshness or mutilation. Many passages from the same source which were of interest in themselves, but failed to meet one or other of these conditions, have been given in the notes.[1]

[Sidenote: Mode of rendering proper names.]

91. As regards the reading of proper names and foreign words, in which there is so much variation in the different MSS. and editions, I have done my best to select what seemed to be the true reading from the G. T. and Pauthier’s three MSS., only in some rare instances transgressing this limit.

Where the MSS. in the repetition of a name afforded a choice of forms, I have selected that which came nearest the real name when known. Thus the G. T. affords Baldasciain, Badascian, Badasciam, Badausiam, Balasian. I adopt BADASCIAN, or in English spelling BADASHAN, because it is closest to the real name Badakhshan. Another place appears as COBINAN, Cabanat, Cobian. I adopt the first because it is the truest expression of the real name Koh-benán. In chapters 23, 24 of Book I., we have in the G. T. Asisim, Asciscin, Asescin, and in Pauthier’s MSS. Hasisins, Harsisins, etc. I adopt ASCISCIN, or in English spelling ASHISHIN, for the same reason as before. So with Creman, Crerman, Crermain, QUERMAN, Anglicè KERMAN; Cormos, HORMOS, and many more.[2]

In two or three cases I have adopted a reading which I cannot show literatim in any authority, but because such a form appears to be the just resultant from the variety of readings which are presented; as in surveying one takes the mean of a number of observations when no one can claim an absolute preference.

Polo’s proper names, even in the French Texts, are in the main formed on an Italian fashion of spelling.[3] I see no object in preserving such spelling in an English book, so after selecting the best reading of the name I express it in English spelling, printing Badashan, Pashai, Kerman, instead ofBadascian, Pasciai, Querman, and so on.

And when a little trouble has been taken to ascertain the true form and force of Polo’s spelling of Oriental names and technical expressions, it will be found that they are in the main as accurate as Italian lips and orthography will admit, and not justly liable either to those disparaging epithets[4] or to those exegetical distortions which have been too often applied to them. Thus, for example, Cocacin, Ghel or Ghelan, Tonocain, Cobinan, Ondanique, Barguerlac, Argon, Sensin, Quescican, Toscaol, Bularguci, Zardandan, Anin, Caugigu, Coloman, Gauenispola, Mutfili, Avarian, Choiach, are not, it will be seen, the ignorant blunderings which the interpretations affixed by some commentators would imply them to be, but are, on the contrary, all but perfectly accurate utterances of the names and words intended.

The -tchéou (of French writers), -choo, -chow, or -chau[5] of English writers, which so frequently forms the terminal part in the names of Chinese cities, is almost invariably rendered by Polo as -giu. This has frequently in the MSS., and constantly in the printed editions, been converted into -gui, and thence into -guy. This is on the whole the most constant canon of Polo’s geographical orthography, and holds in Caagiu (Ho-chau), Singiu (Sining-chau), Cui-giu (Kwei-chau), Sin-giu (T’sining-chau), Pi-giu (Pei-chau), Coigangiu (Hwaingan-chau), Si-giu (Si-chau), Ti-giu (Tai-chau),Tin-giu (Tung-chau), Yan-giu (Yang-chau), Sin-giu (Chin-chau), Cai-giu (Kwa-chau), Chinghi-giu (Chang-chau), Su-giu (Su-chau), Vu-giu (Wu-chau), and perhaps a few more. In one or two instances only (as Sinda-ciu, Caiciu) he has -ciu instead of -giu.

The chapter-headings I have generally taken from Pauthier’s Text, but they are no essential part of the original work, and they have been slightly modified or enlarged where it seemed desirable.

* * * * *

    “Behold! I see the Haven nigh at Hand,
To which I meane my wearie Course to bend;
Vere the maine Shete, and beare up with the Land,
The which afore is fayrly to be kend,
And seemeth safe from Storms that may offend.
* * * * *
There eke my Feeble Barke a while may stay,
Till mery Wynd and Weather call her thence away.”


[1] This “eclectic formation of the English text,” as I have called it for brevity in the marginal rubric, has been disapproved by Mr. de Khanikoff, a critic worthy of high respect. But I must repeat that the duties of a translator, and of the Editor of an original text, at least where the various recensions bear so peculiar a relation to each other as in this case, are essentially different; and that, on reconsidering the matter after an interval of four or five years, the plan which I have adopted, whatever be the faults of execution, still commends itself to me as the only appropriate one.

Let Mr. de Khanikoff consider what course he would adopt if he were about to publish Marco Polo in Russian. I feel certain that with whatever theory he might set out, before his task should be concluded he would have arrived practically at the same system that I have adopted.

[2] In Polo’s diction C frequently represents H., e.g., Cormos = Hormuz; Camadi probably = Hamadi; Caagiu probably = Hochau; Cacianfu = Hochangfu, and so on. This is perhaps attributable to Rusticiano’s Tuscan ear. A true Pisan will absolutely contort his features in the intensity of his efforts to aspirate sufficiently the letter C. Filippo Villani, speaking of the famous Aguto (Sir J. Hawkwood), says his name in English was Kauchouvole. (Murat. Script. xiv. 746.)

[3] In the Venetian dialect ch and j are often sounded as in English, not as in Italian. Some traces of such pronunciation I think there are, as in Coja, Carajan, and in the Chinese name Vanchu (occurring only in Ramusio, supra, p. 99). But the scribe of the original work being a Tuscan, the spelling is in the main Tuscan. The sound of the Qu is, however, French, as in Quescican, Quinsai, except perhaps in the case of Quenianfu, for a reason given in vol. ii. p. 29.

[4] For example, that enthusiastic student of mediaeval Geography, Joachim
Lelewel, speaks of Polo’s “gibberish” (le baragouinage du Venitien)
with special reference to such names as Zayton and Kinsay, whilst
we now know that these names were in universal use by all foreigners
in China, and no more deserve to be called gibberish than
Bocca-Tigris, Leghorn, Ratisbon, or Buda.

[5] I am quite sensible of the diffidence with which any outsider should
touch any question of Chinese language or orthography. A Chinese
scholar and missionary (Mr. Moule) objects to my spelling chau,
whilst he, I see, uses chow. I imagine we mean the same sound,
according to the spelling which I try to use throughout the book. Dr.
C. Douglas, another missionary scholar, writes chau.

No. I.
(Prologue; Book I. Chapters 1-36; and Book IV.)]




Great Princes, Emperors, and Kings, Dukes and Marquises, Counts, Knights, and Burgesses! and People of all degrees who desire to get knowledge of the various races of mankind and of the diversities of the sundry regions of the World, take this Book and cause it to be read to you. For ye shall find therein all kinds of wonderful things, and the divers histories of the Great Hermenia, and of Persia, and of the Land of the Tartars, and of India, and of many another country of which our Book doth speak, particularly and in regular succession, according to the description of Messer Marco Polo, a wise and noble citizen of Venice, as he saw them with his own eyes. Some things indeed there be therein which he beheld not; but these he heard from men of credit and veracity. And we shall set down things seen as seen, and things heard as heard only, so that no jot of falsehood may mar the truth of our Book, and that all who shall read it or hear it read may put full faith in the truth of all its contents.

For let me tell you that since our Lord God did mould with his hands our first Father Adam, even until this day, never hath there been Christian, or Pagan, or Tartar, or Indian, or any man of any nation, who in his own person hath had so much knowledge and experience of the divers parts of the World and its Wonders as hath had this Messer Marco! And for that reason he bethought himself that it would be a very great pity did he not cause to be put in writing all the great marvels that he had seen, or on sure information heard of, so that other people who had not these advantages might, by his Book, get such knowledge. And I may tell you that in acquiring this knowledge he spent in those various parts of the World good six-and-twenty years. Now, being thereafter an inmate of the Prison at Genoa, he caused Messer Rusticiano of Pisa, who was in the said Prison likewise, to reduce the whole to writing; and this befell in the year 1298 from the birth of Jesus.



It came to pass in the year of Christ 1260, when Baldwin was reigning at Constantinople,[NOTE 1] that Messer Nicolas Polo, the father of my lord Mark, and Messer Maffeo Polo, the brother of Messer Nicolas, were at the said city of CONSTANTINOPLE, whither they had gone from Venice with their merchants’ wares. Now these two Brethren, men singularly noble, wise, and provident, took counsel together to cross the GREATER SEA on a venture of trade; so they laid in a store of jewels and set forth from Constantinople, crossing the Sea to SOLDAIA.[NOTE 2]

NOTE 1.—Baldwin II (de Courtenay), the last Latin Emperor of
Constantinople, reigned from 1237 to 1261, when he was expelled by Michael

The date in the text is, as we see, that of the Brothers’ voyage across the Black Sea. It stands 1250 in all the chief texts. But the figure is certainly wrong. We shall see that, when the Brothers return to Venice in 1269, they find Mark, who, according to Ramusio’s version, was born after their departure, a lad of fifteen. Hence, if we rely on Ramusio, they must have left Venice about 1253-54. And we shall see also that they reached the Volga in 1261. Hence their start from Constantinople may well have occurred in 1260, and this I have adopted as the most probable correction. Where they spent the interval between 1254 (if they really left Venice so early) and 1260, nowhere appears. But as their brother, Mark the Elder, in his Will styles himself “whilom of Constantinople,” their headquarters were probably there.

[Illustration: Castle of Soldaia or Sudak]

NOTE 2.—In the Middle Ages the Euxine was frequently called Mare Magnum or Majus. Thus Chaucer:—

                  “In the GRETE SEE,
At many a noble Armee hadde he be.”

The term Black Sea (Mare Maurum v. Nigrum) was, however, in use, and Abulfeda says it was general in his day. That name has been alleged to appear as early as the 10th century, in the form [Greek: Skoteinae], “The Dark Sea”; but an examination of the passage cited, from Constantine Porphyrogenitus, shows that it refers rather to the Baltic, whilst that author elsewhere calls the Euxine simply Pontus. (Reinaud’s Abulf. I. 38, Const. Porph. De Adm. Imp. c. 31, c. 42.)

+ Sodaya, Soldaia, or Soldachia, called by Orientals Súdak, stands on the S.E. coast of the Crimea, west of Kaffa. It had belonged to the Greek Empire, and had a considerable Greek population. After the Frank conquest of 1204 it apparently fell to Trebizond. It was taken by the Mongols in 1223 for the first time, and a second time in 1239, and during that century was the great port of intercourse with what is now Russia. At an uncertain date, but about the middle of the century, the Venetians established a factory there, which in 1287 became the seat of a consul. In 1323 we find Pope John XXII. complaining to Uzbek Khan of Sarai that the Christians had been ejected from Soldaia and their churches turned into mosques. Ibn Batuta, who alludes to this strife, counts Sudak as one of the four great ports of the World. The Genoese got Soldaia in 1365 and built strong defences, still to be seen. Kaffa, with a good anchorage, in the 14th century, and later on Tana, took the place of Soldaia as chief emporium in South Russia. Some of the Arab Geographers call the Sea of Azov the Sea of Sudak.

The Elder Marco Polo in his Will (1280) bequeaths to the Franciscan Friars of the place a house of his in Soldachia, reserving life occupation to his own son and daughter, then residing in it. Probably this establishment already existed when the two Brothers went thither. (Elie de Laprimaudare, passim; Gold. Horde, 87; Mosheim, App. 148; Ibn Bat. I. 28, II. 414; Cathay, 231-33; Heyd, II. passim.)



Having stayed a while at Soldaia, they considered the matter, and thought it well to extend their journey further. So they set forth from Soldaia and travelled till they came to the Court of a certain Tartar Prince, BARCA KAAN by name, whose residences were at SARA[NOTE 1] and at BOLGARA [and who was esteemed one of the most liberal and courteous Princes that ever was among the Tartars.][NOTE 2] This Barca was delighted at the arrival of the Two Brothers, and treated them with great honour; so they presented to him the whole of the jewels that they had brought with them. The Prince was highly pleased with these, and accepted the offering most graciously, causing the Brothers to receive at least twice its value.

[Illustration: Map to illustrate the Geographical Position of the CITY of

[Illustration: Part of the Remains of the CITY of SARAI near TZAREV North of the AKHTUBA Branch of the VOLGA]

After they had spent a twelvemonth at the court of this Prince there broke out a great war between Barca and Aláu, the Lord of the Tartars of the Levant, and great hosts were mustered on either side.[NOTE 3]

But in the end Barca, the Lord of the Tartars of the Ponent, was defeated, though on both sides there was great slaughter. And by reason of this war no one could travel without peril of being taken; thus it was at least on the road by which the Brothers had come, though there was no obstacle to their travelling forward. So the Brothers, finding they could not retrace their steps, determined to go forward. Quitting Bolgara, therefore, they proceeded to a city called UCACA, which was at the extremity of the kingdom of the Lord of the Ponent;[NOTE 4] and thence departing again, and passing the great River Tigris, they travelled across a Desert which extended for seventeen days’ journey, and wherein they found neither town nor village, falling in only with the tents of Tartars occupied with their cattle at pasture.[NOTE 5]

NOTE 1.— + Barka Khan, third son of Jújí, the first-born of Chinghiz, ruled the Ulús of Juji and Empire of Kipchak (Southern Russia) from 1257 to 1265. He was the first Musulman sovereign of his race. His chief residence was at SARAI (Sara of the text), a city founded by his brother and predecessor Bátú, on the banks of the Akhtuba branch of the Volga. In the next century Ibn Batuta describes Sarai as a very handsome and populous city, so large that it made half a day’s journey to ride through it. The inhabitants were Mongols, Aás (or Alans), Kipchaks, Circassians, Russians, and Greeks, besides the foreign Moslem merchants, who had a walled quarter. Another Mahomedan traveller of the same century says the city itself was not walled, but, “The Khan’s Palace was a great edifice surmounted by a golden crescent weighing two kantars of Egypt, and encompassed by a wall flanked with towers,” etc. Pope John XXII., on the 26th February 1322, defined the limits of the new Bishopric of Kaffa, which were Sarai to the east and Varna to the west.

Sarai became the seat of both a Latin and a Russian metropolitan, and of more than one Franciscan convent. It was destroyed by Timur on his second invasion of Kipchak (1395-6), and extinguished by the Russians a century later. It is the scene of Chaucer’s half-told tale of Cambuscan:—

  “At Sarra, in the Londe of Tartarie,
There dwelt a King that werried Russie.”

[“Mesalek-al-absar (285, 287), says Sarai, meaning ‘the Palace,’ was founded by Bereké, brother of Batu. It stood in a salty plain, and was without walls, though the palace had walls flanked by towers. The town was large, had markets, madrasas—and baths. It is usually identified with Selitrennoyé Gorodok, about 70 miles above Astrakhan.” (Rockhill, Rubruck, p. 260, note.)—H. C.]

Several sites exhibiting extensive ruins near the banks of the Akhtuba have been identified with Sarai; two in particular. One of these is not far from the great elbow of the Volga at Tzaritzyn: the other much lower down, at Selitrennoyé Gorodok or Saltpetre-Town, not far above Astrakhan.

The upper site exhibits by far the most extensive traces of former population, and is declared unhesitatingly to be the sole site of Sarai by M. Gregorieff, who carried on excavations among the remains for four years, though with what precise results I have not been able to learn. The most dense part of the remains, consisting of mounds and earth-works, traces of walls, buildings, cisterns, dams, and innumerable canals, extends for about 7-1/2 miles in the vicinity of the town of Tzarev, but a tract of 66 miles in length and 300 miles in circuit, commencing from near the head of the Akhtuba, presents remains of like character, though of less density, marking the ground occupied by the villages which encircled the capital. About 2-1/2 miles to the N.W. of Tzarev a vast mass of such remains, surrounded by the traces of a brick rampart, points out the presumable position of the Imperial Palace.

M. Gregorieff appears to admit no alternative. Yet it seems certain that the indications of Abulfeda, Pegolotti, and others, with regard to the position of the capital in the early part of the 14th century, are not consistent with a site so far from the Caspian. Moreover, F. H. Müller states that the site near Tzarev is known to the Tartars as the “Sarai of Janibek Khan” (1341-1357). Now it is worthy of note that in the coinage of Janibek we repeatedly find as the place of mintage, New Sarai. Arabsháh in his History of Timur states that 63 years had elapsed from the foundation to the destruction of Sarai. But it must have been at least 140 years since the foundation of Batu’s city. Is it not possible, therefore, that both the sites which we have mentioned were successively occupied by the Mongol capital; that the original Sarai of Batu was at Selitrennoyé Gorodok, and that theNew Sarai of Janibek was established by him, or by his father Uzbeg in his latter days, on the upper Akhtuba? Pegolotti having carried his merchant from Tana (Azov) to Gittarchan (Astrakhan), takes him one day by river to Sara, and from Sara to Saracanco, also by river, eight days more. (Cathay, p. 287.) In the work quoted I have taken Saracanco for Saraichik, on the Yaik. But it was possibly the Upper or New Sarai on the Akhtuba. Ibn Batuta, marching on the frozen river, reached Sarai in three days from Astrakhan. This could not have been at Tzarev, 200 miles off.

In corroboration (quantum valeat) of my suggestion that there must have been two Sarais near the Volga, Professor Bruun of Odessa points to the fact that Fra Mauro’s map presents two cities of Sarai on the Akhtuba; only the Sarai of Janibeg is with him no longer New Sarai, but Great Sarai.

The use of the latter name suggests the possibility that in the Saracanco of Pegolotti the latter half of the name may be the Mongol Kúnk “Great.” (See Pavet de Courteille, p. 439.)

Professor Bruun also draws attention to the impossibility of Ibn Batuta’s travelling from Astrakhan to Tzarev in three days, an argument which had already occurred to me and been inserted above.

[The Empire of Kipchak founded after the Mongol Conquest of 1224, included also parts of Siberia and Khwarizm; it survived nominally until 1502.—H. C.]

(Four Years of Archaeological Researches among the Ruins of Sarai [in Russian] by M. Gregorieff [who appears to have also published a pamphlet specially on the site, but this has not been available]; Historisch- geographische Darstellung des Stromsystems der Wolga, von Ferd. Heinr. Müller, Berlin, 1839, 568-577; Ibn. Bat. II. 447; Not. et Extraits, XIII. i. 286; Pallas, Voyages; Cathay, 231, etc.; Erdmann, Numi Asiatici, pp. 362 seqq.; Arabs. I. p. 381.)

NOTE 2.—BOLGHAR, our author’s Bolgara, was the capital of the region sometimes called Great Bulgaria, by Abulfeda Inner Bulgaria, and stood a few miles from the left bank of the Volga, in latitude about 54° 54′, and 90 miles below Kazan. The old Arab writers regarded it as nearly the limit of the habitable world, and told wonders of the cold, the brief summer nights, and the fossil ivory that was found in its vicinity. This was exported, and with peltry, wax, honey, hazel-nuts, and Russia leather, formed the staple articles of trade. The last item derived from Bolghar the name which it still bears all over Asia. (See Bk. II. ch. xvi., and Note.) Bolghar seems to have been the northern limit of Arab travel, and was visited by the curious (by Ibn Batuta among others) in order to witness the phenomena of the short summer night, as tourists now visit Hammerfest to witness its entire absence.

Russian chroniclers speak of an earlier capital of the Bulgarian kingdom, Brakhimof, near the mouth of the Kama, destroyed by Andrew, Grand Duke of Rostof and Susdal, about 1160; and this may have been the city referred to in the earlier Arabic accounts. The fullest of these is by Ibn Fozlán, who accompanied an embassy from the Court of Baghdad to Bolghar, in A.D. 921. The King and people had about this time been converted to Islam, having previously, as it would seem, professed Christianity. Nevertheless, a Mahomedan writer of the 14th century says the people had then long renounced Islam for the worship of the Cross. (Not. et Extr. XIII. i. 270.)

[Illustration: Ruins of Bolghar.]

Bolghar was first captured by the Mongols in 1225. It seems to have perished early in the 15th century, after which Kazan practically took its place. Its position is still marked by a village called Bolgari, where ruins of Mahomedan character remain, and where coins and inscriptions have been found. Coins of the Kings of Bolghar, struck in the 10th century, have been described by Fraehn, as well as coins of the Mongol period struck at Bolghar. Its latest known coin is of A.H. 818 (A.D. 1415-16). A history of Bolghar was written in the first half of the 12th century by Yakub Ibn Noman, Kadhi of the city, but this is not known to be extant.

Fraehn shows ground for believing the people to have been a mixture of Fins, Slavs, and Turks. Nicephorus Gregoras supposes that they took their name from the great river on which they dwelt ([Greek: Boúlga]).

[“The ruins [of Bolghar],” says Bretschneider, in his Mediaeval Researches, published in 1888, vol. ii. p. 82, “still exist, and have been the subject of learned investigation by several Russian scholars. These remains are found on the spot where now the village Uspenskoye, called alsoBolgarskoye (Bolgari), stands, in the district of Spask, province of Kazan. This village is about 4 English miles distant from the Volga, east of it, and 83 miles from Kazan.” Part of the Bulgars removed to the Balkans; others remained in their native country on the shores of the Azov Sea, and were subjugated by the Khazars. At the beginning of the 9th century, they marched northwards to the Volga and the Kama, and established the kingdom of Great Bulgaria. Their chief city, Bolghar, was on the bank of the Volga, but the river runs now to the west; as the Kama also underwent a change in its course, it is possible that formerly Bolghar was built at the junction of the two rivers. (Cf. Reclus, Europe russe, p. 761.) The Bulgars were converted to Islam in 922. Their country was first invaded by the Mongols under Subutai in 1223; this General conquered it in 1236, the capital was destroyed the following year, and the country annexed to the kingdom of Kipchak. Bolghar was again destroyed in 1391 by Tamerlan. In 1438, Ulugh Mohammed, cousin of Toka Timur, younger son of Juji, transformed this country into the khanate of Kazan, which survived till 1552. It had probably been the capital of the Golden Horde before Sarai.

With reference to the early Christianity of the Bulgarians, to which Yule refers in his note, the Laurentian Chronicle (A.D. 1229), quoted by Shpilevsky, adduces evidence to show that in the Great City, i.e. Bulgar, there were Russian Christians and a Christian cemetery, and the death of a Bulgarian Christian martyr is related in the same chronicle as well as in the Nikon, Tver, and Tatischef annals in which his name is given. (Cf. Shpilevsky, Anc. towns and other Bulgaro-Tartar monuments, Kazan, 1877, p. 158 seq.; Rockhill’s Rubruck, Hakl. Soc. p. 121, note.) —H. C.]

The severe and lasting winter is spoken of by Ibn Folzán and other old writers in terms that seem to point to a modern mitigation of climate. It is remarkable, too, that Ibn Fozlán speaks of the aurora as of very frequent occurrence, which is not now the case in that latitude. We may suspect this frequency to have been connected with the greater cold indicated, and perhaps with a different position of the magnetic pole. Ibn Fozlán’s account of the aurora is very striking:—”Shortly before sunset the horizon became all very ruddy, and at the same time I heard sounds in the upper air, with a dull rustling. I looked up and beheld sweeping over me a fire-red cloud, from which these sounds issued, and in it movements, as it were, of men and horses; the men grasping bows, lances, and swords. This I saw, or thought I saw. Then there appeared a white cloud of like aspect; in it also I beheld armed horsemen, and these rushed against the former as one squadron of horse charges another. We were so terrified at this that we turned with humble prayer to the Almighty, whereupon the natives about us wondered and broke into loud laughter. We, however, continued to gaze, seeing how one cloud charged the other, remained confused with it a while, and then sundered again. These movements lasted deep into the night, and then all vanished.”

(Fraehn, Ueber die Wolga Bulgaren, Petersb. 1832; Gold. Horde, 8, 9, 423-424; Not. et Extr. II. 541; Ibn Bat. II. 398; Büschings Mag. V. 492; Erdmann, Numi Asiat. I. 315-318, 333-334, 520-535; Niceph. Gregoras, II. 2, 2.)

NOTE 3.—ALAU is Polo’s representation of the name of Hulákú, brother of the Great Kaans Mangu and Kublai and founder of the Mongol dynasty in Persia. In the Mongol pronunciation guttural and palatal consonants are apt to be elided, hence this spelling. The same name is written by Pope Alexander IV., in addressing the Khan, Olao, by Pachymeres and Gregoras [Greek: Chalaù] and [Greek: Chalaon], by Hayton Haolon, by Ibn Batuta Huláún, as well as in a letter of Hulaku’s own, as given by Makrizi.

The war in question is related in Rashíduddín’s history, and by Polo himself towards the end of the work. It began in the summer of 1262, and ended about eight months later. Hence the Polos must have reached Barka’s Court in 1261.

Marco always applies to the Mongol Khans of Persia the title of “Lords of the East” (Levant), and to the Khans of Kipchak that of “Lords of the West” (Ponent). We use the term Levant still with a similar specific application, and in another form Anatolia. I think it best to preserve the termsLevant and Ponent when used in this way.

[Robert Parke in his translation out of Spanish of Mendoza, The Historie of the great and mightie kingdome of China … London, printed by I. Wolfe for Edward White, 1588, uses the word Ponent: “You shall understande that this mightie kingdome is the Orientalest part of all Asia, and his next neighbour towards the Ponent is the kingdome of Quachinchina … (p. 2).”—H. C.]

NOTE 4.—UCACA or UKEK was a town on the right bank of the Volga, nearly equidistant between Sarai and Bolghar, and about six miles south of the modern Saratov, where a village called Uwek still exists. Ukek is not mentioned before the Mongol domination, and is supposed to have been of Mongol foundation, as the name Ukek is said in Mongol to signify a dam of hurdles. The city is mentioned by Abulfeda as marking the extremity of “the empire of the Barka Tartars,” and Ibn Batuta speaks of it as “one day distant from the hills of the Russians.” Polo therefore means that it was the frontier of the Ponent towards Russia. Ukek was the site of a Franciscan convent in the 14th century; it is mentioned several times in the campaigns of Timur, and was destroyed by his army. It is not mentioned under the form Ukek after this, but appears as Uwek and Uwesh in Russian documents of the 16th century. Perhaps this was always the Slavonic form, for it already is written Uguech (= Uwek) in Wadding’s 14th century catalogue of convents. Anthony Jenkinson, in Hakluyt, gives an observation of its latitude, as Oweke (51° 40′), and Christopher Burrough, in the same collection, gives a description of it as Oueak, and the latitude as 51° 30′ (some 7′ too much). In his time (1579) there were the remains of a “very faire stone castle” and city, with old tombs exhibiting sculptures and inscriptions. All these have long vanished. Burrough was told by the Russians that the town “was swallowed into the earth by the justice of God, for the wickednesse of the people that inhabited the same.” Lepechin in 1769 found nothing remaining but part of an earthen rampart and some underground vaults of larger bricks, which the people dug out for use. He speaks of coins and other relics as frequent, and the like have been found more recently. Coins with Mongol-Arab inscriptions, struck at Ukek by Tuktugai Khan in 1306, have been described by Fraehn and Erdmann.

(Fraehn, Ueber die ehemalige Mong. Stadt Ukek, etc., Petersb. 1835; Gold. Horde; Ibn Bat. II. 414; Abulfeda, in Büsching, V. 365; Ann. Minorum, sub anno 1400; Pétis de la Croix, II. 355, 383, 388; Hakluyt, ed. 1809, I. 375 and 472; Lepechin, Tagebuch der Reise, etc., I. 235-237; Rockhill, Rubruck, 120-121, note 2.)

NOTE 5.—The great River Tigeri or Tigris is the Volga, as Pauthier rightly shows. It receives the same name from the Monk Pascal of Vittoria in 1338. (Cathay, p. 234.) Perhaps this arose out of some legend that the Tigris was a reappearance of the same river. The ecclesiastical historian, Nicephorus Callistus, appears to imply that the Tigris coming from Paradise flows under the Caspian to emerge in Kurdistan. (See IX. 19.)

The “17 days” applies to one stretch of desert. The whole journey from Ukek Bokhara would take some 60 days at least. Ibn Batuta is 58 days from Sarai to Bokhara, and of the last section he says, “we entered the desert which extends between Khwarizm and Bokhara, and which has an extent of 18 days’ journey.” (III. 19.)



After they had passed the desert, they arrived at a very great and noble city called BOCARA, the territory of which belonged to a king whose name was Barac, and is also called Bocara. The city is the best in all Persia.[NOTE 1] And when they had got thither, they found they could neither proceed further forward nor yet turn back again; wherefore they abode in that city of Bocara for three years. And whilst they were sojourning in that city, there came from Alau, Lord of the Levant, Envoys on their way to the Court of the Great Kaan, the Lord of all the Tartars in the world. And when the Envoys beheld the Two Brothers they were amazed, for they had never before seen Latins in that part of the world. And they said to the Brothers: “Gentlemen, if ye will take our counsel, ye will find great honour and profit shall come thereof.” So they replied that they would be right glad to learn how. “In truth,” said the Envoys, “the Great Kaan hath never seen any Latins, and he hath a great desire so to do. Wherefore, if ye will keep us company to his Court, ye may depend upon it that he will be right glad to see you, and will treat you with great honour and liberality; whilst in our company ye shall travel with perfect security, and need fear to be molested by nobody.”[NOTE 2]

NOTE 1.—Hayton also calls Bokhara a city of Persia, and I see Vámbéry says that, up till the conquest by Chinghiz, Bokhara, Samarkand, Balkh, etc., were considered to belong to Persia. (Travels, p. 377.) The first Mongolian governor of Bokhara was Buka Bosha.

King Barac is Borrak Khan, great-grandson of Chagatai, and sovereign of the Ulús of Chagatai, from 1264 to 1270. The Polos, no doubt, reached Bokhara before 1264, but Borrak must have been sovereign some time before they left it.

NOTE 2.—The language of the envoys seems rather to imply that they were the Great Kaan’s own people returning from the Court of Hulaku. And Rashid mentions that Sartak, the Kaan’s ambassador to Hulaku, returned from Persia in the year that the latter prince died. It may have been his party that the Venetians joined, for the year almost certainly was the same, viz. 1265. If so, another of the party was Bayan, afterwards the greatest of Kublai’s captains, and much celebrated in the sequel of this book. (See Erdmann’s Temudschin, p. 214.)

Marsden justly notes that Marco habitually speaks of Latins, never of Franks. Yet I suspect his own mental expression was Farangi.



So when the Two Brothers had made their arrangements, they set out on their travels, in company with the Envoys, and journeyed for a whole year, going northward and north-eastward, before they reached the Court of that Prince. And on their journey they saw many marvels of divers and sundry kinds, but of these we shall say nothing at present, because Messer Mark, who has likewise seen them all, will give you a full account of them in the Book which follows.



When the Two Brothers got to the Great Kaan, he received them with great honour and hospitality, and showed much pleasure at their visit, asking them a great number of questions. First, he asked about the emperors, how they maintained their dignity, and administered justice in their dominions; and how they went forth to battle, and so forth. And then he asked the like questions about the kings and princes and other potentates.



And then he inquired about the Pope and the Church, and about all that is done at Rome, and all the customs of the Latins. And the Two Brothers told him the truth in all its particulars, with order and good sense, like sensible men as they were; and this they were able to do as they knew the Tartar language well.[NOTE 1]

NOTE 1.—The word generally used for Pope in the original is Apostoille (Apostolicus), the usual French expression of that age.

It is remarkable that for the most part the text edited by Pauthier has the correcter Oriental form Tatar, instead of the usual Tartar. Tattar is the word used by Yvo of Narbonne, in the curious letter given by Matthew Paris under 1243.

We are often told that Tartar is a vulgar European error. It is in any case a very old one; nor does it seem to be of European origin, but rather Armenian;[1] though the suggestion of Tartarus may have given it readier currency in Europe. Russian writers, or rather writers who have been in Russia, sometimes try to force on us a specific limitation of the word Tartar to a certain class of Oriental Turkish race, to whom the Russians appropriate the name. But there is no just ground for this. Tátár is used by Oriental writers of Polo’s age exactly as Tartar was then, and is still, used in Western Europe, as a generic title for the Turanian hosts who followed Chinghiz and his successors. But I believe the name in this sense was unknown to Western Asia before the time of Chinghiz. And General Cunningham must overlook this when he connects the Tátaríya coins, mentioned by Arab geographers of the 9th century, with “the Scythic or Tátár princes who ruled in Kabul” in the beginning of our era. Tartars on the Indian frontier in those centuries are surely to be classed with the Frenchmen whom Brennus led to Rome, or the Scotchmen who fought against Agricola.

[1] See J. As. sér. V. tom. xi. p. 203.



When that Prince, whose name was CUBLAY KAAN, Lord of the Tartars all over the earth, and of all the kingdoms and provinces and territories of that vast quarter of the world, had heard all that the Brothers had to tell him about the ways of the Latins, he was greatly pleased, and he took it into his head that he would send them on an Embassy to the Pope. So he urgently desired them to undertake this mission along with one of his Barons; and they replied that they would gladly execute all his commands as those of their Sovereign Lord. Then the Prince sent to summon to his presence one of his Barons whose name was COGATAL, and desired him to get ready, for it was proposed to send him to the Pope along with the Two Brothers. The Baron replied that he would execute the Lord’s commands to the best of his ability.

After this the Prince caused letters from himself to the Pope to be indited in the Tartar tongue,[NOTE 1] and committed them to the Two Brothers and to that Baron of his own, and charged them with what he wished them to say to the Pope. Now the contents of the letter were to this purport: He begged that the Pope would send as many as an hundred persons of our Christian faith; intelligent men, acquainted with the Seven Arts,[NOTE 2] well qualified to enter into controversy, and able clearly to prove by force of argument to idolaters and other kinds of folk, that the Law of Christ was best, and that all other religions were false and naught; and that if they would prove this, he and all under him would become Christians and the Church’s liegemen. Finally he charged his Envoys to bring back to him some Oil of the Lamp which burns on the Sepulchre of our Lord at Jerusalem.[NOTE 3]

NOTE 1.— + The appearance of the Great Kaan’s letter may be illustrated by two letters on so-called Corean paper preserved in the French archives; one from Arghún Khan of Persia (1289), brought by Buscarel, and the other from his son Oljaitu (May, 1305), to Philip the Fair. These are both in the Mongol language, and according to Abel Rémusat and other authorities, in the Uighúr character, the parent of the present Mongol writing. Facsimiles of the letters are given in Rémusat’s paper on intercourse with Mongol Princes, in Mém. de l’ Acad. des Inscript. vols. vii. and viii., reproductions in J. B. Chabot’s Hist. de Mar Jabalaha III., Paris, 1895, and preferably in Prince Roland Bonaparte’s beautiful Documents Mongols, Pl. XIV., and we give samples of the two in vol. ii.[1]

NOTE 2.—”The Seven Arts,” from a date reaching back nearly to classical times, and down through the Middle Ages, expressed the whole circle of a liberal education, and it is to these Seven Arts that the degrees in arts were understood to apply. They were divided into the Trivium of Rhetoric, Logic, and Grammar, and the Quadrivium of Arithmetic, Astronomy, Music, and Geometry. The 38th epistle of Seneca was in many MSS. (according to Lipsius) entitled “L. Annaei Senecae Liber de Septem Artibus liberalibus.” I do not find, however, that Seneca there mentions categorically more than five, viz., Grammar, Geometry, Music, Astronomy, and Arithmetic. In the 5th century we find the Seven Arts to form the successive subjects of the last seven books of the work of Martianus Capella, much used in the schools during the early Middle Ages. The Seven Arts will be found enumerated in the verses of Tzetzes (Chil. XI. 525), and allusions to them in the mediaeval romances are endless. Thus, in one of the “Gestes d’Alexandre,” a chapter is headed “Comment Aristotle aprent à Alixandre les Sept Arts.” In the tale of the Seven Wise Masters, Diocletian selects that number of tutors for his son, each to instruct him in one of the Seven Arts. In the romance of Erec and Eneide we have a dress on which the fairies had portrayed the Seven Arts (Franc. Michel, Recherches, etc. II. 82); in the Roman de Mahommet the young impostor is master of all the seven. There is one mediaeval poem called the Marriage of the Seven Arts, and another called the Battle of the Seven Arts. (See also Dante, Convito, Trat. II. c. 14; Not. et Ex. V., 491 seqq.)

NOTE 3.—The Chinghizide Princes were eminently liberal—or indifferent— in religion; and even after they became Mahomedan, which, however, the Eastern branch never did, they were rarely and only by brief fits persecutors. Hence there was scarcely one of the non-Mahomedan Khans of whose conversion to Christianity there were not stories spread. The first rumours of Chinghiz in the West were as of a Christian conqueror; tales may be found of the Christianity of Chagatai, Hulaku, Abaka, Arghun, Baidu, Ghazan, Sartak, Kuyuk, Mangu, Kublai, and one or two of the latter’s successors in China, all probably false, with one or two doubtful exceptions.

[1] See plates with ch. xvii. of Bk. IV. See also the Uighúr character in
the second Païza, Bk. II. ch. vii.

[Illustration: The Great Kaan delivering a Golden Tablet to the Brothers.
From a miniature of the 14th century.]



When the Prince had charged them with all his commission, he caused to be given them a Tablet of Gold, on which was inscribed that the three Ambassadors should be supplied with everything needful in all the countries through which they should pass—with horses, with escorts, and, in short, with whatever they should require. And when they had made all needful preparations, the three Ambassadors took their leave of the Emperor and set out.

When they had travelled I know not how many days, the Tartar Baron fell sick, so that he could not ride, and being very ill, and unable to proceed further, he halted at a certain city. So the Two Brothers judged it best that they should leave him behind and proceed to carry out their commission; and, as he was well content that they should do so, they continued their journey. And I can assure you, that whithersoever they went they were honourably provided with whatever they stood in need of, or chose to command. And this was owing to that Tablet of Authority from the Lord which they carried with them.[NOTE 1]

So they travelled on and on until they arrived at Layas in Hermenia, a journey which occupied them, I assure you, for three years.[NOTE 2] It took them so long because they could not always proceed, being stopped sometimes by snow, or by heavy rains falling, or by great torrents which they found in an impassable state.

[Illustration: Castle of Ayas.]

NOTE 1.—On these Tablets, see a note under Bk. II. ch. vii.

NOTE 2.—AYAS, called also Ayacio, Aiazzo, Giazza, Glaza, La Jazza, and Layas, occupied the site of ancient Aegae, and was the chief port of Cilician Armenia, on the Gulf of Scanderoon. Aegae had been in the 5th century a place of trade with the West, and the seat of a bishopric, as we learn from the romantic but incomplete story of Mary, the noble slave-girl, told by Gibbon (ch. 33). As Ayas it became in the latter part of the 13th century one of the chief places for the shipment of Asiatic wares arriving through Tabriz, and was much frequented by the vessels of the Italian Republics. The Venetians had a Bailo resident there.

Ayas is the Leyes of Chaucer’s Knight,—

(“At LEYES was he and at Satalie”)—

and the Layas of Froissart. (Bk. III. ch. xxii.) The Gulf of Layas is described in the xix. Canto of Ariosto, where Mafisa and Astolfo find on its shores a country of barbarous Amazons:—

“Fatto è ‘l porto a sembranza d’ una luna,” etc.

Marino Sanuto says of it: “Laiacio has a haven, and a shoal in front of it that we might rather call a reef, and to this shoal the hawsers of vessels are moored whilst the anchors are laid out towards the land.” (II. IV. ch. xxvi.)

The present Ayas is a wretched village of some 15 huts, occupied by about 600 Turkmans, and standing inside the ruined walls of the castle. This castle, which is still in good condition, was built by the Armenian kings, and restored by Sultan Suleiman; it was constructed from the remains of the ancient city; fragments of old columns are embedded in its walls of cut stone. It formerly communicated by a causeway with an advanced work on an island before the harbour. The ruins of the city occupy a large space. (Langlois, V. en Cilicie, pp. 429-31; see also Beaufort’s Karamania, near the end.) A plan of Ayas will be found at the beginning of Bk. I. —H. Y. and H. C.




They departed from Layas and came to ACRE, arriving there in the month of April, in the year of Christ 1269, and then they learned that the Pope was dead. And when they found that the Pope was dead (his name was Pope * *), [NOTE 1] they went to a certain wise Churchman who was Legate for the whole kingdom of Egypt, and a man of great authority, by name THEOBALD OF PIACENZA, and told him of the mission on which they were come. When the Legate heard their story, he was greatly surprised, and deemed the thing to be of great honour and advantage for the whole of Christendom. So his answer to the two Ambassador Brothers was this: “Gentlemen, ye see that the Pope is dead; wherefore ye must needs have patience until a new Pope be made, and then shall ye be able to execute your charge.” Seeing well enough that what the Legate said was just, they observed: “But while the Pope is a-making, we may as well go to Venice and visit our households.” So they departed from Acre and went to Negropont, and from Negropont they continued their voyage to Venice.[NOTE 2] On their arrival there, Messer Nicolas found that his wife was dead, and that she had left behind her a son of fifteen years of age, whose name was MARCO; and ’tis of him that this Book tells.[NOTE 3] The Two Brothers abode at Venice a couple of years, tarrying until a Pope should be made.

NOTE 1.—The deceased Pope’s name is omitted both in the Geog. Text and in Pauthier’s, clearly because neither Rusticiano nor Polo remembered it. It is supplied correctly in the Crusca Italian as Clement, and in Ramusio as Clement IV.

It is not clear that Theobald, though generally adopted, is the ecclesiastic’s proper name. It appears in different MSS. as Teald (G. T.), Ceabo for Teabo (Pauthier), Odoaldo (Crusca), and in the Riccardian as Thebaldus de Vice-comitibus de Placentia, which corresponds to Ramusio’s version. Most of the ecclesiastical chroniclers call him Tedaldus, some Thealdus. Tedaldo is a real name, occurring in Boccaccio. (Day iii. Novel 7.)

NOTE 2.—After the expulsion of the Venetians from Constantinople, Negropont was the centre of their influence in Romania. On the final return of the travellers they again take Negropont on their way. [It was one of the ports on the route from Venice to Constantinople, Tana, Trebizond.—H. C.]

NOTE 3.—The edition of the Soc. de Géographie makes Mark’s age twelve, but I have verified from inspection the fact noticed by Pauthier that the manuscript has distinctly xv. like all the other old texts. In Ramusio it is nineteen, but this is doubtless an arbitrary correction to suit the mistaken date (1250) assigned for the departure of the father from Constantinople.

There is nothing in the old French texts to justify the usual statement that Marco was born after the departure of his father from Venice. All that the G. T. says is: “Meser Nicolau treuve que sa fame estoit morte, et les remès un filz de xv. anz que avoit à nom Marc,” and Pauthier’s text is to the same effect. Ramusio, indeed, has: “M. Nicolò trovò, che sua moglie era morta, la quale nella sua partita haveva partorito un figliuolo,” and the other versions that are based on Pipino’s seem all to have like statements.



When the Two Brothers had tarried as long as I have told you, and saw that never a Pope was made, they said that their return to the Great Kaan must be put off no longer. So they set out from Venice, taking Mark along with them, and went straight back to Acre, where they found the Legate of whom we have spoken. They had a good deal of discourse with him concerning the matter, and asked his permission to go to JERUSALEM to get some Oil from the Lamp on the Sepulchre, to carry with them to the Great Kaan, as he had enjoined.[NOTE 1] The Legate giving them leave, they went from Acre to Jerusalem and got some of the Oil, and then returned to Acre, and went to the Legate and said to him: “As we see no sign of a Pope’s being made, we desire to return to the Great Kaan; for we have already tarried long, and there has been more than enough delay.” To which the Legate replied: “Since ’tis your wish to go back, I am well content.” Wherefore he caused letters to be written for delivery to the Great Kaan, bearing testimony that the Two Brothers had come in all good faith to accomplish his charge, but that as there was no Pope they had been unable to do so.

NOTE 1.—In a Pilgrimage of date apparently earlier than this, the Pilgrim says of the Sepulchre: “The Lamp which had been placed by His head (when He lay there) still burns on the same spot day and night. We took a blessing from it (i.e. apparently took some of the oil as a beneficent memorial), and replaced it.” (Itinerarium Antonini Placentini in Bollandists, May, vol. ii. p. xx.)

[“Five great oil lamps,” says Daniel, the Russian Hégoumène, 1106-1107 (Itinéraires russes en Orient, trad. pour la Soc. de l’Orient Latin, par Mme. B. de Khitrowo, Geneva, 1889, p. 13), “burning continually night and day, are hung in the Sepulchre of Our Lord.”—H. C.]



When the Two Brothers had received the Legate’s letters, they set forth from Acre to return to the Grand Kaan, and got as far as Layas. But shortly after their arrival there they had news that the Legate aforesaid was chosen Pope, taking the name of Pope Gregory of Piacenza; news which the Two Brothers were very glad indeed to hear. And presently there reached them at Layas a message from the Legate, now the Pope, desiring them, on the part of the Apostolic See, not to proceed further on their journey, but to return to him incontinently. And what shall I tell you? The King of Hermenia caused a galley to be got ready for the Two Ambassador Brothers, and despatched them to the Pope at Acre.[NOTE 1]

[Illustration: Portrait of Pope Gregory X.]

NOTE 1.—The death of Pope Clement IV. occurred on St Andrew’s Day (29th November), 1268; the election of Tedaldo or Tebaldo of Piacenza, a member of the Visconti family, and Archdeacon of Liège, did not take place till 1st September, 1271, owing to the factions among the cardinals. And it is said that some of them, anxious only to get away, voted for Theobald in full belief that he was dead. The conclave, in its inability to agree, had named a committee of six with full powers which the same day elected Theobald, on the recommendation of the Cardinal Bishop of Portus (John de Toleto, said, in spite of his name, to have been an Englishman). This facetious dignitary had suggested that the roof should be taken off the Palace at Viterbo where they sat, to allow the divine influences to descend more freely on their counsels (quia nequeunt ad nos per tot tecta ingredi). According to some, these doggerel verses, current on the occasion, were extemporised by Cardinal John in the pious exuberance of his glee:—

  “Papatûs munus tulit Archidiaconus unus
Quem Patrem Patrum fecit discordia Fratrum.”

The Archdeacon, a man of great weight of character, in consequence of differences with his Bishop (of Liège), who was a disorderly liver, had gone to the Holy Land, and during his stay there he contracted great intimacy with Prince Edward of England (Edward I.). Some authors, e.g. John Villani (VIII. 39), say that he was Legate in Syria; others, as Rainaldus, deny this; but Polo’s statement, and the authority which the Archdeacon took on himself in writing to the Kaan, seem to show that he had some such position.

He took the name of Gregory X., and before his departure from Acre, preached a moving sermon on the text, “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem,” etc. Prince Edward fitted him out for his voyage.

Gregory reigned barely four years, dying at Arezzo 10th January, 1276. His character stood high to the last, and some of the Northern Martyrologies enrolled him among the saints, but there has never been canonisation by Rome. The people of Arezzo used to celebrate his anniversary with torch-light gatherings at his tomb, and plenty of miracles were alleged to have occurred there. The tomb still stands in the Duomo at Arezzo, a handsome work by Margaritone, an artist in all branches, who was the Pope’s contemporary. There is an engraving of it in Gonnelli, Mon. Sepolc. di Toscana.

(Fra Pipino in Muratori, IX. 700; Rainaldi Annal. III. 252 seqq.; Wadding, sub. an. 1217: Bollandists, 10th January; Palatii, Gesta Pontif. Roman. vol. iii., and Fasti Cardinalium, I. 463, etc.)



And when they had been thus honourably conducted to Acre they proceeded to the presence of the Pope, and paid their respects to him with humble reverence. He received them with great honour and satisfaction, and gave them his blessing. He then appointed two Friars of the Order of Preachers to accompany them to the Great Kaan, and to do whatever might be required of them. These were unquestionably as learned Churchmen as were to be found in the Province at that day—one being called Friar Nicolas of Vicenza, and the other Friar William of Tripoli.[NOTE 1] He delivered to them also proper credentials, and letters in reply to the Great Kaan’s messages [and gave them authority to ordain priests and bishops, and to bestow every kind of absolution, as if given by himself in proper person; sending by them also many fine vessels of crystal as presents to the Great Kaan].[NOTE 2] So when they had got all that was needful, they took leave of the Pope, receiving his benediction; and the four set out together from Acre, and went to Layas, accompanied always by Messer Nicolas’s son Marco.

Now, about the time that they reached Layas, Bendocquedar, the Soldan of Babylon, invaded Hermenia with a great host of Saracens, and ravaged the country, so that our Envoys ran a great peril of being taken or slain. [NOTE 3] And when the Preaching Friars saw this they were greatly frightened, and said that go they never would. So they made over to Messer Nicolas and Messer Maffeo all their credentials and documents, and took their leave, departing in company with the Master of the Temple.[NOTE 4]

NOTE 1.—Friar William, of Tripoli, of the Dominican convent at Acre, appears to have served there as early as 1250. [He was born circa 1220, at Tripoli, in Syria, whence his name.—H. C.] He is known as the author of a book, De Statu Saracenorum post Ludovici Regis de Syriâ reditum, dedicated to Theoldus, Archdeacon of Liège (i.e. Pope Gregory). Of this some extracts are printed in Duchesne’s Hist. Francorum Scriptores. There are two MSS. of it, with different titles, in the Paris Library, and a French version in that of Berne. A MS. in Cambridge Univ. Library, which contains among other things a copy of Pipino’s Polo, has also the work of Friar William:—”Willelmus Tripolitanus, Aconensis Conventus, de Egressu Machometi et Saracenorum, atque progressu eorumdem, de Statu Saracenorum,” etc. It is imperfect; it is addressed THEOBALDOEcclesiarcho digno Sancte Terre Peregrino Sancto. And from a cursory inspection I imagine that the Tract appended to one of the Polo MSS. in the British Museum (Addl. MSS., No. 19,952) is the same work or part of it. To the same author is ascribed a tract called Clades Damiatae. (Duchesne, V. 432; D’Avezac in Rec. de Voyages, IV. 406; Quétif, Script. Ord. Praed. I. 264-5; Catal. of MSS. in Camb. Univ. Library, I. 22.)

NOTE 2.—I presume that the powers, stated in this passage from Ramusio to have been conferred on the Friars, are exaggerated. In letters of authority granted in like cases by Pope Gregory’s successors, Nicolas III. (in 1278) and Boniface VIII. (in 1299), the missionary friars to remote regions are empowered to absolve from excommunication and release from vows, to settle matrimonial questions, to found churches and appoint idoneos rectores, to authorise Oriental clergy who should publicly submit to the Apostolic See to enjoy the privilegium clericale, whilst in the absence of bishops those among the missionaries who were priests might consecrate cemeteries, altars, palls, etc., admit to the Order of Acolytes, but nothing beyond. (See Mosheim, Hist. Tartar. Eccles. App. Nos. 23 and 42.)

NOTE 3.—The statement here about Bundúkdár’s invasion of Cilician Armenia is a difficulty. He had invaded it in 1266, and his second devastating invasion, during which he burnt both Layas and Sis, the king’s residence, took place in 1275, a point on which Marino Sanuto is at one with the Oriental Historians. Now we know from Rainaldus that Pope Gregory left Acre in November or December, 1271, and the text appears to imply that our travellers left Acre before him. The utmost corroboration that I can find lies in the following facts stated by Makrizi:—

On the 13th Safar, A.H. 670 (20th September 1271), Bundúkdár arrived unexpectedly at Damascus, and after a brief raid against the Ismaelians he returned to that city. In the middle of Rabi I. (about 20-25 October) the Tartars made an incursion in northern Syria, and the troops of Aleppo retired towards Hamah. There was great alarm at Damascus; the Sultan sent orders to Cairo for reinforcements, and these arrived at Damascus on the 9th November. The Sultan then advanced on Aleppo, sending corps likewise towards Marash (which was within the Armenian frontier) and Harran. At the latter place the Tartars were attacked and those in the town slaughtered; the rest retreated. The Sultan was back at Damascus, and off on a different expedition, by 7th December. Hence, if the travellers arrived at Ayas towards the latter part of November they would probably find alarm existing at the advance of Bundúkdár, though matters did not turn out so serious as they imply.

“Babylon,” of which Bundúkdár is here styled Sultan, means Cairo, commonly so styled (Bambellonia d’Egitto) in that age. Babylon of Egypt is mentioned by Diodorus quoting Ctesias, by Strabo, and by Ptolemy; it was the station of a Roman Legion in the days of Augustus, and still survives in the name of Babul, close to old Cairo.

Malik Dáhir Ruknuddín Bíbars Bundúkdári, a native of Kipchak, was originally sold at Damascus for 800 dirhems (about 18_l._), and returned by his purchaser because of a blemish. He was then bought by the Amir Aláuddín Aidekín Bundúkdár (“The Arblasteer”) whose surname he afterwards adopted. He became the fourth of the Mameluke Sultans, and reigned from 1259 to 1276. The two great objects of his life were the repression of the Tartars and the expulsion of the Christians from Syria, so that his reign was one of constant war and enormous activity. William of Tripoli, in the work above mentioned, says: “Bondogar, as a soldier, was not inferior to Julius Caesar, nor in malignity to Nero.” He admits, however, that the Sultan was sober, chaste, just to his own people, and even kind to his Christian subjects; whilst Makrizi calls him one of the best princes that ever reigned over Musulmans. Yet if we take Bibars as painted by this admiring historian and by other Arabic documents, the second of Friar William’s comparisons is justified, for he seems almost a devil in malignity as well as in activity. More than once he played tennis at Damascus and Cairo within the same week. A strange sample of the man is the letter which he wrote to Boemond, Prince of Antioch and Tripoli, to announce to him the capture of the former city. After an ironically polite address to Boemond as having by the loss of his great city had his title changed from Princeship (Al-Brensíyah) to Countship (Al-Komasíyah), and describing his own devastations round Tripoli, he comes to the attack of Antioch: “We carried the place, sword in hand, at the 4th hour of Saturday, the 4th day of Ramadhán,… Hadst thou but seen thy Knights trodden under the hoofs of the horses! thy palaces invaded by plunderers and ransacked for booty! thy treasures weighed out by the hundredweight! thy ladies (Dámátaka, ‘tes DAMES’) bought and sold with thine own gear, at four for a dinár! hadst thou but seen thy churches demolished, thy crosses sawn in sunder, thy garbled Gospels hawked about before the sun, the tombs of thy nobles cast to the ground; thy foe the Moslem treading thy Holy of the Holies; the monk, the priest, the deacon slaughtered on the Altar; the rich given up to misery; princes of royal blood reduced to slavery! Couldst thou but have seen the flames devouring thy halls; thy dead cast into the fires temporal with the fires eternal hard at hand; the churches of Paul and of Cosmas rocking and going down—, then wouldst thou have said, ‘Would God that I were dust!’ … As not a man hath escaped to tell thee the tale, I TELL IT THEE!”

A little later, when a mission went to treat with Boemond, Bibars himself accompanied it in disguise, to have a look at the defences of Tripoli. In drawing out the terms, the Envoys styled Boemond Count, not Prince, as in the letter just quoted. He lost patience at their persistence, and made a movement which alarmed them. Bibars nudged the Envoy Mohiuddin (who tells the story) with his foot to give up the point, and the treaty was made. On their way back the Sultan laughed heartily at their narrow escape, “sending to the devil all the counts and princes on the face of the earth.”

(Quatremère’s Makrizi, II. 92-101, and 190 seqq.; J. As. sér. I. tom. xi. p. 89; D’Ohsson, III. 459-474; Marino Sanuto in Bongars, 224-226, etc.)

NOTE 4.—The ruling Master of the Temple was Thomas Berard (1256-1273), but there is little detail about the Order in the East at this time. They had, however, considerable possessions and great influence in Cilician Armenia, and how much they were mixed up in its affairs is shown by a circumstance related by Makrizi. In 1285, when Sultan Mansúr, the successor of Bundúkdár, was besieging the Castle of Markab, there arrived in Camp the Commander of the Temple (Kamandúr-ul Dewet) of the Country of Armenia, charged to negotiate on the part of the King of Sis (i.e. of Lesser Armenia, Leon III. 1268-1289, successor of Hayton I. 1224-1268), and bringing presents from him and from the Master of the Temple, Berard’s successor, William de Beaujeu (1273-1291). (III. 201.)—H. Y. and H. C.



So the Two Brothers, and Mark along with them, proceeded on their way, and journeying on, summer and winter, came at length to the Great Kaan, who was then at a certain rich and great city, called KEMENFU.[NOTE 1] As to what they met with on the road, whether in going or coming, we shall give no particulars at present, because we are going to tell you all those details in regular order in the after part of this Book. Their journey back to the Kaan occupied a good three years and a half, owing to the bad weather and severe cold that they encountered. And let me tell you in good sooth that when the Great Kaan heard that Messers Nicolo and Maffeo Polo were on their way back, he sent people a journey of full 40 days to meet them; and on this journey, as on their former one, they were honourably entertained upon the road, and supplied with all that they required.

NOTE 1.—The French texts read Clemeinfu, Ramusio Clemenfu. The Pucci MS. guides us to the correct reading, having Chemensu (Kemensu) for Chemenfu. KAIPINGFU, meaning something like “City of Peace,” and called by Rashiduddin Kaiminfu (whereby we see that Polo as usual adopted the Persian form of the name), was a city founded in 1256, four years before Kublai’s accession, some distance to the north of the Chinese wall. It became Kublai’s favourite summer residence, and was styled from 1264 Shangtu or “Upper Court.” (See infra, Bk. I. ch. lxi.) It was known to the Mongols, apparently by a combination of the two names, as Shangdu Keibung. It appears in D’Anville’s map under the name of Djao-Naiman Sumé. Dr. Bushell, who visited Shangtu in 1872, makes it 1103 li (367 miles) by road distance viâ Kalgan from Peking. The busy town of Dolonnúr lies 26 miles S.E. of it, and according to Kiepert’s Asia that place is about 180 miles in a direct line north of Peking.

(See Klaproth in J. As. XI. 365; Gaubil, p. 115; Cathay, p. 260; J. R. G. S. vol. xiiii.)



And what shall I tell you? when the Two Brothers and Mark had arrived at that great city, they went to the Imperial Palace, and there they found the Sovereign attended by a great company of Barons. So they bent the knee before him, and paid their respects to him, with all possible reverence [prostrating themselves on the ground]. Then the Lord bade them stand up, and treated them with great honour, showing great pleasure at their coming, and asked many questions as to their welfare, and how they had sped. They replied that they had in verity sped well, seeing that they found the Kaan well and safe. Then they presented the credentials and letters which they had received from the Pope, which pleased him right well; and after that they produced the Oil from the Sepulchre, and at that also he was very glad, for he set great store thereby. And next, spying Mark, who was then a young gallant,[NOTE 1] he asked who was that in their company? “Sire,” said his father, Messer Nicolo, “’tis my son and your liegeman.”[NOTE 2] “Welcome is he too,” quoth the Emperor. And why should I make a long story? There was great rejoicing at the Court because of their arrival; and they met with attention and honour from everybody.

So there they abode at the Court with the other Barons.

NOTE 1.—”Joenne Bacheler.”

NOTE 2.—”Sire, il est mon filz et vostre homme.” The last word in the sense which gives us the word homage. Thus in the miracle play of Theophilus (13th century), the Devil says to Theophilus:—

                                    “Or joing
Tes mains, et si devien mes hom.
Theoph. Vez ci que je vous faz hommage.”

So infra (Bk. I. ch. xlvii.) Aung Khan is made to say of Chinghiz: “Il est mon homes et mon serf.” (See also Bk. II. ch. iv. note.) St. Lewis said of the peace he had made with Henry III.: “Il m’est mout grant honneur en la paix que je foiz au Roy d’Angleterre pour ce qu’il est mon home, ce que n’estoit pas devant.” And Joinville says with regard to the king, “Je ne voz faire point de serement, car je n’estoie pas son home” (being a vassal of Champagne). A famous Saturday Reviewer quotes the term applied to a lady: “Eddeva puella homo Stigandi Archiepiscopi.” (Théâtre Français au Moyen Age, p. 145; Joinville, pp. 21, 37; S. R., 6th September, 1873, p. 305.)



Now it came to pass that Marco, the son of Messer Nicolo, sped wondrously in learning the customs of the Tartars, as well as their language, their manner of writing, and their practice of war; in fact he came in brief space to know several languages, and four sundry written characters. And he was discreet and prudent in every way, insomuch that the Emperor held him in great esteem.[NOTE 1] And so when he discerned Mark to have so much sense, and to conduct himself so well and beseemingly, he sent him on an ambassage of his, to a country which was a good six months’ journey distant.[NOTE 2] The young gallant executed his commission well and with discretion. Now he had taken note on several occasions that when the Prince’s ambassadors returned from different parts of the world, they were able to tell him about nothing except the business on which they had gone, and that the Prince in consequence held them for no better than fools and dolts, and would say: “I had far liever hearken about the strange things, and the manners of the different countries you have seen, than merely be told of the business you went upon;”—for he took great delight in hearing of the affairs of strange countries. Mark therefore, as he went and returned, took great pains to learn about all kinds of different matters in the countries which he visited, in order to be able to tell about them to the Great Kaan.[NOTE 3]

NOTE 1.—The word Emperor stands here for Seigneur.

What the four characters acquired by Marco were is open to discussion.

The Chronicle of the Mongol Emperors rendered by Gaubil mentions, as characters used in their Empire, the Uíghúr, the Persian and Arabic, that of the Lamas (Tibetan), that of the Niuché, introduced by the Kin Dynasty, the Khitán, and the Báshpah character, a syllabic alphabet arranged, on the basis of the Tibetan and Sanskrit letters chiefly, by a learned chief Lama so-called, under the orders of Kublai, and established by edict in 1269 as the official character. Coins bearing this character, and dating from 1308 to 1354, are extant. The forms of the Niuché and Khitán were devised in imitation of Chinese writing, but are supposed to be syllabic. Of the Khitán but one inscription was known, and no key. “The Khitan had two national scripts, the ‘small characters’ (hsiao tzu) and the ‘large characters’ (ta tzu).” S. W. Bushell, Insc. in the Juchen and Allied Scripts, Cong. des Orientalistes, Paris, 1897.—Die Sprache und Schrift der Juchen von Dr. W. Grube, Leipzig, 1896, from a polyglot MS. dictionary, discovered by Dr. F. Hirth and now kept in the Royal Library, Berlin.—H. Y. and H. C.

Chinghiz and his first successors used the Uíghúr, and sometimes the Chinese character. Of the Uíghúr character we give a specimen in Bk. IV. It is of Syriac origin, undoubtedly introduced into Eastern Turkestan by the early Nestorian missions, probably in the 8th or 9th century. The oldest known example of this character so applied, the Kudatku Bilik, a didactic poem in Uíghúr (a branch of Oriental Turkish), dating from A.D. 1069, was published by Prof. Vámbéry in 1870. A new edition of the Kudatku Bilik was published at St. Petersburg, in 1891, by Dr. W. Radloff. Vámbéry had a pleasing illustration of the origin of the Uíghúr character, when he received a visit at Pesth from certain Nestorians of Urumia on a begging tour. On being shown the original MS. of the Kudatku Bilik, they read the character easily, whilst much to their astonishment they could not understand a word of what was written. This Uíghúr is the basis of the modern Mongol and Manchu characters. (Cf. E. Bretschneider, Mediaeval Researches, I. pp. 236, 263.)—H. Y. and H. C.

[Illustration: Hexaglot Inscription on the East side of the Kiu Yong Kwan]

[Illustration: Hexaglot Inscription on the West side of the Kiu Yong Kwan]

[At the village of Keuyung Kwan, 40 miles north of Peking, in the sub- prefecture of Ch’ang Ping, in the Chih-li province, the road from Peking to Kalgan runs beyond the pass of Nankau, under an archway, a view of which will be found at the end of this volume, on which were engraved, in 1345, two large inscriptions in six different languages: Sanskrit, Tibetan, Mongol, Báshpah, Uíghúr, Chinese, and a language unknown till recently. Mr. Wylie’s kindness enabled Sir Henry Yule to present a specimen of this. (A much better facsimile of these inscriptions than Wylie’s having since been published by Prince Roland Bonaparte in his valuable Recueil des Documents de l’Époque Mongole, this latter is, by permission, here reproduced.) The Chinese and Mongol inscriptions have been translated by M. Ed. Chavannes; the Tibetan by M. Sylvain Lévi (Jour. Asiat., Sept.-Oct. 1894, pp. 354-373); the Uíghúr, by Prof. W. Radloff (Ibid. Nov.-Dec. 1894, pp. 546, 550); the Mongol by Prof. G. Huth. (Ibid. Mars-Avril 1895, pp. 351-360.) The sixth language was supposed by A. Wylie (J. R. A. S. vol. xvii. p. 331, and N.S., vol. v. p. 14) to be Neuchih, Niuché, Niuchen or Juchen. M. Devéria has shown that the inscription is written in Si Hia, or the language of Tangut, and gave a facsimile of a stone stèle (pei) in this language kept in the great Monastery of the Clouds (Ta Yun Ssu) at Liangchau in Kansuh, together with a translation of the Chinese text, engraved on the reverse side of the slab. M. Devéria thinks that this writing was borrowed by the Kings of Tangut from the one derived in 920 by the Khitans from the Chinese. (Stèle Si-Hia de Leang-tcheouJ. As., 1898; L’éctriture du royaumes de Si-Hia ou Tangout, par M. Devéria … Ext. des Mém … présentés à l’Ac. des. Ins. et B. Let. 1’ère Sér. XI., 1898.) Dr. S. W. Bushell in two papers (Inscriptions in the Juchen and Allied Scripts, Actes du XI. Congrés Orientalistes, Paris, 1897, 2nd. sect., pp. 11, 35, and the Hsi Hsia Dynasty of Tangut, their Money and their peculiar Script, J. China Br. R. A. S., xxx. N.S. No. 2, pp. 142, 160) has also made a special study of the same subject. The Si Hia writing was adopted by Yuan Ho in 1036, on which occasion he changed the title of his reign to Ta Ch’ing, i.e. “Great Good Fortune.” Unfortunately, both the late M. Devéria and Dr. S. W. Bushell have deciphered but few of the Si Hia characters.—H. C.]

The orders of the Great Kaan are stated to have been published habitually in six languages, viz., Mongol, Uíghúr, Arabic, Persian, Tangutan (Si-Hia), and Chinese.—H. Y. and H. C.

Gházán Khan of Persia is said to have understood Mongol, Arabic, Persian, something of Kashmiri, of Tibetan, of Chinese, and a little of the Frank tongue (probably French).

The annals of the Ming Dynasty, which succeeded the Mongols in China, mention the establishment in the 11th moon of the 5th year Yong-lo (1407) of the Sse yi kwan, a linguistic office for diplomatic purposes. The languages to be studied were Niuché, Mongol, Tibetan, Sanskrit, Bokharan (Persian?) Uíghúr, Burmese, and Siamese. To these were added by the Manchu Dynasty two languages called Papeh and Pehyih, both dialects of the S.W. frontier. (See infra, Bk. II. ch. lvi.-lvii., and notes.) Since 1382, however, official interpreters had to translate Mongol texts; they were selected among the Academicians, and their service (which was independent of the Sse yi kwan when this was created) was under the control of the Han-lin-yuen. There may have been similar institutions under the Yuen, but we have no proof of it. At all events, such an office could not then be called Sse yi kwan (Sse yi, Barbarians from four sides); Niuché (Niuchen) was taught in Yong-lo’s office, but not Manchu. The Sse yi kwan must not be confounded with the Hui t’ong kwan, the office for the reception of tributary envoys, to which it was annexed in 1748. (Gaubil, p. 148; Gold. Horde, 184; Ilchan. II. 147; Lockhart in J. R. G. S. XXXVI. 152; Koeppen, II. 99; G. Devéria, Hist. du Collége des Interprétes de Peking in Mélanges Charles de Harlez, pp. 94-102; MS. Note of Prof. A. Vissière; The Tangut Script in the Nan-K’ou Pass, by Dr. S. W. Bushell, China Review, xxiv. II. pp. 65-68.)—H. Y. and H. C.

Pauthier supposes Mark’s four acquisitions to have been Báshpah-Mongol, Arabic, Uighúr, and Chinese. I entirely reject the Chinese. Sir H. Yule adds: “We shall see no reason to believe that he knew either language or character” [Chinese]. The blunders Polo made in saying that the name of the city, Suju, signifies in our tongue “Earth” and Kinsay “Heaven” show he did not know the Chinese characters, but we read in Bk. II. ch. lxviii.: “And Messer Marco Polo himself, of whom this Book speaks, did govern this city (Yanju) for three full years, by the order of the Great Kaan.” It seems to me [H. C.] hardly possible that Marco could have for three years been governor of so important and so Chinese a city as Yangchau, in the heart of the Empire, without acquiring a knowledge of the spoken language.—H. C. The other three languages seem highly probable. The fourth may have been Tibetan. But it is more likely that he counted separately two varieties of the same character (e.g. of the Arabic and Persian) as two “lettres de leur escriptures“—H. Y. and H. C.

NOTE 2.—[Ramusio here adds: “Ad und città, detta Carazan,” which, as we shall see, refers to the Yun-nan Province.]—H. C.

NOTE 3.—From the context no doubt Marco’s employments were honourable and confidential; but Commissioner would perhaps better express them than Ambassador in the modern sense. The word Ilchi, which was probably in his mind, was applied to a large variety of classes employed on the commissions of Government, as we may see from a passage of Rashiduddin in D’Ohsson, which says that “there were always to be found in every city from one to two hundred Ilchis, who forced the citizens to furnish them with free quarters,” etc., III. 404. (See also 485.)



When Mark returned from his ambassage he presented himself before the Emperor, and after making his report of the business with which he was charged, and its successful accomplishment, he went on to give an account in a pleasant and intelligent manner of all the novelties and strange things that he had seen and heard; insomuch that the Emperor and all such as heard his story were surprised, and said: “If this young man live, he will assuredly come to be a person of great worth and ability.” And so from that time forward he was always entitled MESSER MARCO POLO, and thus we shall style him henceforth in this Book of ours, as is but right.

Thereafter Messer Marco abode in the Kaan’s employment some seventeen years, continually going and coming, hither and thither, on the missions that were entrusted to him by the Lord [and sometimes, with the permission and authority of the Great Kaan, on his own private affairs.] And, as he knew all the sovereign’s ways, like a sensible man he always took much pains to gather knowledge of anything that would be likely to interest him, and then on his return to Court he would relate everything in regular order, and thus the Emperor came to hold him in great love and favour. And for this reason also he would employ him the oftener on the most weighty and most distant of his missions. These Messer Marco ever carried out with discretion and success, God be thanked. So the Emperor became ever more partial to him, and treated him with the greater distinction, and kept him so close to his person that some of the Barons waxed very envious thereat. And thus it came about that Messer Marco Polo had knowledge of, or had actually visited, a greater number of the different countries of the World than any other man; the more that he was always giving his mind to get knowledge, and to spy out and enquire into everything in order to have matter to relate to the Lord.



When the Two Brothers and Mark had abode with the Lord all that time that you have been told [having meanwhile acquired great wealth in jewels and gold], they began among themselves to have thoughts about returning to their own country; and indeed it was time. [For, to say nothing of the length and infinite perils of the way, when they considered the Kaan’s great age, they doubted whether, in the event of his death before their departure, they would ever be able to get home.[NOTE 1]] They applied to him several times for leave to go, presenting their request with great respect, but he had such a partiality for them, and liked so much to have them about him, that nothing on earth would persuade him to let them go.

Now it came to pass in those days that the Queen BOLGANA, wife of ARGON, Lord of the Levant, departed this life. And in her Will she had desired that no Lady should take her place, or succeed her as Argon’s wife, except one of her own family [which existed in Cathay]. Argon therefore despatched three of his Barons, by name respectively OULATAY, APUSCA, and COJA, as ambassadors to the Great Kaan, attended by a very gallant company, in order to bring back as his bride a lady of the family of Queen Bolgana, his late wife.[NOTE 2]

When these three Barons had reached the Court of the Great Kaan, they delivered their message, explaining wherefore they were come. The Kaan received them with all honour and hospitality, and then sent for a lady whose name was COCACHIN, who was of the family of the deceased Queen Bolgana. She was a maiden of 17, a very beautiful and charming person, and on her arrival at Court she was presented to the three Barons as the Lady chosen in compliance with their demand. They declared that the Lady pleased them well.[NOTE 3]

Meanwhile Messer Marco chanced to return from India, whither he had gone as the Lord’s ambassador, and made his report of all the different things that he had seen in his travels, and of the sundry seas over which he had voyaged. And the three Barons, having seen that Messer Nicolo, Messer Maffeo, and Messer Marco were not only Latins, but men of marvellous good sense withal, took thought among themselves to get the three to travel with them, their intention being to return to their country by sea, on account of the great fatigue of that long land journey for a lady. And the ambassadors were the more desirous to have their company, as being aware that those three had great knowledge and experience of the Indian Sea and the countries by which they would have to pass, and especially Messer Marco. So they went to the Great Kaan, and begged as a favour that he would send the three Latins with them, as it was their desire to return home by sea.

The Lord, having that great regard that I have mentioned for those three Latins, was very loath to do so [and his countenance showed great dissatisfaction]. But at last he did give them permission to depart, enjoining them to accompany the three Barons and the Lady.

NOTE 1.—Pegolotti, in his chapters on mercantile ventures to Cathay, refers to the dangers to which foreigners were always liable on the death of the reigning sovereign. (See Cathay, p. 292.)

NOTE 2.—Several ladies of the name of BULUGHAN (“Zibellina”) have a place in Mongol-Persian history. The one here indicated, a lady of great beauty and ability, was known as the Great Khátún (or Lady) Bulughan, and was (according to strange Mongol custom) the wife successively of Abáka and of his son ARGHUN, the Argon of the text, Mongol sovereign of Persia. She died on the banks of the Kur in Georgia, 7th April, 1286. She belonged to the Mongol tribe of Bayaut, and was the daughter of Hulákú’s Chief Secretary Gúgah. (Ilchan. I. 374 et passim; Erdmann’s Temudschin, p. 216.)

The names of the Envoys, ULADAI, APUSHKA, and KOJA, are all names met with in Mongol history. And Rashiduddin speaks of an Apushka of the Mongol Tribe of Urnaut, who on some occasion was sent as Envoy to the Great Kaan from Persia,—possibly the very person. (See Erdmann, 205.)

Of the Lady Cocachin we shall speak below.

NOTE 3.—Ramusio here has the following passage, genuine no doubt: “So everything being ready, with a great escort to do honour to the bride of King Argon, the Ambassadors took leave and set forth. But after travelling eight months by the same way that they had come, they found the roads closed, in consequence of wars lately broken out among certain Tartar Princes; so being unable to proceed, they were compelled to return to the Court of the Great Kaan.”



And when the Prince saw that the Two Brothers and Messer Marco were ready to set forth, he called them all three to his presence, and gave them two golden Tablets of Authority, which should secure them liberty of passage through all his dominions, and by means of which, whithersoever they should go, all necessaries would be provided for them, and for all their company, and whatever they might choose to order.[NOTE 1] He charged them also with messages to the King of France, the King of England,[NOTE 2] the King of Spain, and the other kings of Christendom. He then caused thirteen ships to be equipt, each of which had four masts, and often spread twelve sails.[NOTE 3] And I could easily give you all particulars about these, but as it would be so long an affair I will not enter upon this now, but hereafter, when time and place are suitable. [Among the said ships were at least four or five that carried crews of 250 or 260 men.]

And when the ships had been equipt, the Three Barons and the Lady, and the Two Brothers and Messer Marco, took leave of the Great Kaan, and went on board their ships with a great company of people, and with all necessaries provided for two years by the Emperor. They put forth to sea, and after sailing for some three months they arrived at a certain Island towards the South, which is called JAVA,[NOTE 4] and in which there are many wonderful things which we shall tell you all about by-and-bye. Quitting this Island they continued to navigate the Sea of India for eighteen months more before they arrived whither they were bound, meeting on their way also with many marvels, of which we shall tell hereafter.

And when they got thither they found that Argon was dead, so the Lady was delivered to CASAN, his son.

But I should have told you that it is a fact that, when they embarked, they were in number some 600 persons, without counting the mariners; but nearly all died by the way, so that only eight survived.[NOTE 5]

The sovereignty when they arrived was held by KIACATU, so they commended the Lady to him, and executed all their commission. And when the Two Brothers and Messer Marco had executed their charge in full, and done all that the Great Kaan had enjoined on them in regard to the Lady, they took their leave and set out upon their journey.[NOTE 6] And before their departure, Kiacatu gave them four golden tablets of authority, two of which bore gerfalcons, one bore lions, whilst the fourth was plain, and having on them inscriptions which directed that the three Ambassadors should receive honour and service all through the land as if rendered to the Prince in person, and that horses and all provisions, and everything necessary, should be supplied to them. And so they found in fact; for throughout the country they received ample and excellent supplies of everything needful; and many a time indeed, as I may tell you, they were furnished with 200 horsemen, more or less, to escort them on their way in safety. And this was all the more needful because Kiacatu was not the legitimate Lord, and therefore the people had less scruple to do mischief than if they had had a lawful prince.[NOTE 7]

Another thing too must be mentioned, which does credit to those three Ambassadors, and shows for what great personages they were held. The Great Kaan regarded them with such trust and affection, that he had confided to their charge the Queen Cocachin, as well as the daughter of the King of Manzi,[NOTE 8] to conduct to Argon the Lord of all the Levant. And those two great ladies who were thus entrusted to them they watched over and guarded as if they had been daughters of their own, until they had transferred them to the hands of their Lord; whilst the ladies, young and fair as they were, looked on each of those three as a father, and obeyed them accordingly. Indeed, both Casan, who is now the reigning prince, and the Queen Cocachin his wife, have such a regard for the Envoys that there is nothing they would not do for them. And when the three Ambassadors took leave of that Lady to return to their own country, she wept for sorrow at the parting.

What more shall I say? Having left Kiacatu they travelled day by day till they came to Trebizond, and thence to Constantinople, from Constantinople to Negropont, and from Negropont to Venice. And this was in the year 1295 of Christ’s Incarnation.

And now that I have rehearsed all the Prologue as you have heard, we shall begin the Book of the Description of the Divers Things that Messer Marco met with in his Travels.

NOTE 1.—On these plates or tablets, which have already been spoken of, a note will be found further on. (Bk. II. ch. vii.) Plano Carpini says of the Mongol practice in reference to royal messengers: “Nuncios, quoscunque et quotcunque, et ubicunque transmittit, oportet quod dent eis sine morâ equos subductitios et expensas” (669).

NOTE 2.—The mention of the King of England appears for the first time in Pauthier’s text. Probably we shall never know if the communication reached him. But we have the record of several embassies in preceding and subsequent years from the Mongol Khans of Persia to the Kings of England; all with the view of obtaining co-operation in attack on the Egyptian Sultan. Such messages came from Ábáka in 1277; from Arghún in 1289 and 1291; from Gházán in 1302; from Oljaitu in 1307. (See Rémusat in Mém. de l’Acad. VII.)

[Illustration: Ancient Chinese War Vessel.]

NOTE 3.—Ramusio has “nine sails.” Marsden thinks even this lower number an error of Ramusio’s, as “it is well known that Chinese vessels do not carry any kind of topsail.” This is, however, a mistake, for they do sometimes carry a small topsail of cotton cloth (and formerly, it would seem from Lecomte, even a topgallant sail at times), though only in quiet weather. And the evidence as to the number of sails carried by the great Chinese junks of the Middle Ages, which evidently made a great impression on Western foreigners, is irresistible. Friar Jordanus, who saw them in Malabar, says: “With a fair wind they carry ten sails;” Ibn Batuta: “One of these great junks carries from three sails to twelve;” Joseph, the Indian, speaking of those that traded to India in the 15th century: “They were very great, and had sometimes twelve sails, with innumerable rowers.” (Lecomte, I. 389; Fr. Jordanus, Hak. Soc., p. 55; Ibn Batuta, IV. 91; Novus Orbis, p. 148.) A fuller account of these vessels is given at the beginning of Bk. III.

NOTE 4.—I.e. in this case Sumatra, as will appear hereafter. “It is quite possible for a fleet of fourteen junks which required to keep together to take three months at the present time to accomplish a similar voyage. A Chinese trader, who has come annually to Singapore in junks for many years, tells us that he has had as long a passage as sixty days, although the average is eighteen or twenty days.” (Logan in J. Ind. Archip. II. 609.)

NOTE 5.—Ramusio’s version here varies widely, and looks more probable: “From the day that they embarked until their arrival there died of mariners and others on board 600 persons; and of the three ambassadors only one survived, whose name was Goza (Coja); but of the ladies and damsels died but one.”

It is worth noting that in the case of an embassy sent to Cathay a few years later by Gházán Khan, on the return by this same route to Persia, the chief of the two Persian ambassadors, and the Great Khan’s envoy, who was in company, both died by the way. Their voyage, too, seems to have been nearly as long as Polo’s; for they were seven years absent from Persia, and of these only four in China. (See Wassáf in Elliot, III. 47.)

NOTE 6.—Ramusio’s version states that on learning Arghún’s death (which they probably did on landing at Hormuz), they sent word of their arrival to Kiacatu, who directed them to conduct the lady to Casan, who was then in the region of the Arbre Sec (the Province of Khorasan) guarding the frontier passes with 60,000 men, and that they did so, and then turned back to Kiacatu (probably at Tabriz), and stayed at his Court nine months. Even the Geog. Text seems to imply that they had become personally known to Casan, and I have no doubt that Ramusio’s statement is an authentic expansion of the original narrative by Marco himself, or on his authority.

Arghún Khan died 10th March, 1291. He was succeeded (23rd July) by his brother Kaikhátú (Quiacatu of Polo), who was put to death 24th March, 1295.

We learn from Hammer’s History of the Ilkhans that when Gházán, the son of Arghún (Casan of Polo), who had the government of the Khorasan frontier, was on his return to his post from Tabriz, where his uncle Kaikhatu had refused to see him, “he met at Abher the ambassador whom he had sent to the Great Khan to obtain in marriage a relative of the Great Lady Bulghán. This envoy brought with him the Lady KÚKÁCHIN (our author’s Cocachin), with presents from the Emperor, and the marriage was celebrated with due festivity.” Abher lies a little west of Kazvín.

Hammer is not, I find, here copying from Wassáf, and I have not been able to procure a thorough search of the work of Rashiduddin, which probably was his authority. As well as the date can be made out from the History of the Ilkhans, Gházán must have met his bride towards the end of 1293, or quite the beginning of 1294. Rashiduddin in another place mentions the fair lady from Cathay; “The ordu (or establishment) of Tukiti Khatun was given to KUKACHI KHATUN, who had been brought from the Kaan’s Court, and who was a kinswoman of the late chief Queen Bulghán. Kúkáchi, the wife of the Padshah of Islam, Gházán Khan, died in the month of Shaban, 695,” i.e. in June, 1296, so that the poor girl did not long survive her promotion. (See Hammer’s Ilch. II. 20, and 8, and I. 273; and Quatremère’s Rashiduddin, p. 97.) Kukachin was the name also of the wife of Chingkim, Kublai’s favourite son; but she was of the Kungurát tribe. (Deguignes, IV. 179.)

NOTE 7.—Here Ramusio’s text says: “During this journey Messers Nicolo, Maffeo, and Marco heard the news that the Great Khan had departed this life; and this caused them to give up all hope of returning to those parts.”

NOTE 8.—This Princess of Manzi, or Southern China, is mentioned only in the Geog. Text and in the Crusca, which is based thereon. I find no notice of her among the wives of Gházán or otherwise.

On the fall of the capital of the Sung Dynasty—the Kinsay of Polo—in 1276, the Princesses of that Imperial family were sent to Peking, and were graciously treated by Kublai’s favourite Queen, the Lady Jamui. This young lady was, no doubt, one of those captive princesses who had been brought up at the Court of Khánbálik. (See De Mailla, IX. 376, and infra Bk. II. ch. lxv., note 6.)



[Illustration: Aias, the LAIAS of POLO, from an Admiralty Chart]

[Illustration: Position of Diláwar, the supposed Site of POLO’S DILAVAR]




There are two Hermenias, the Greater and the Less. The Lesser Hermenia is governed by a certain King, who maintains a just rule in his dominions, but is himself subject to the Tartar.[NOTE 1] The country contains numerous towns and villages,[NOTE 2] and has everything in plenty; moreover, it is a great country for sport in the chase of all manner of beasts and birds. It is, however, by no means a healthy region, but grievously the reverse.[NOTE 3] In days of old the nobles there were valiant men, and did doughty deeds of arms; but nowadays they are poor creatures, and good at nought, unless it be at boozing; they are great at that. Howbeit, they have a city upon the sea, which is called LAYAS, at which there is a great trade. For you must know that all the spicery, and the cloths of silk and gold, and the other valuable wares that come from the interior, are brought to that city. And the merchants of Venice and Genoa, and other countries, come thither to sell their goods, and to buy what they lack. And whatsoever persons would travel to the interior (of the East), merchants or others, they take their way by this city of Layas.[NOTE 4]

Having now told you about the Lesser Hermenia, we shall next tell you about Turcomania.

NOTE 1.—The Petite Hermenie of the Middle Ages was quite distinct from the Armenia Minor of the ancient geographers, which name the latter applied to the western portion of Armenia, west of the Euphrates, and immediately north of Cappadocia.

But when the old Armenian monarchy was broken up (1079-80), Rupen, a kinsman of the Bagratid Kings, with many of his countrymen, took refuge in the Taurus. His first descendants ruled as barons; a title adopted apparently from the Crusaders, but still preserved in Armenia. Leon, the great-great-grandson of Rupen, was consecrated King under the supremacy of the Pope and the Western Empire in 1198. The kingdom was at its zenith under Hetum or Hayton I., husband of Leon’s daughter Isabel (1224-1269); he was, however, prudent enough to make an early submission to the Mongols, and remained ever staunch to them, which brought his territory constantly under the flail of Egypt. It included at one time all Cilicia, with many cities of Syria and the ancient Armenia Minor, of Isauria and Cappadocia. The male line of Rupen becoming extinct in 1342, the kingdom passed to John de Lusignan, of the royal house of Cyprus, and in 1375 it was put an end to by the Sultan of Egypt. Leon VI., the ex-king, into whose mouth Froissart puts some extraordinary geography, had a pension of 1000_l._ a year granted him by our Richard II., and died at Paris in 1398.

[Illustration: Coin of King Hetum and his Queen Isabel.]

The chief remaining vestige of this little monarchy is the continued existence of a Catholicos of part of the Armenian Church at Sis, which was the royal residence. Some Armenian communities still remain both in hills and plains; and the former, the more independent and industrious, still speak a corrupt Armenian.

Polo’s contemporary, Marino Sanuto, compares the kingdom of the Pope’s faithful Armenians to one between the teeth of four fierce beasts, the Lion Tartar, the Panther Soldan, the Turkish Wolf, the Corsair Serpent.

(Dulaurier, in J. As. sér. V. tom. xvii.; St. Martin, Arm.; Mar. San. p. 32; Froissart, Bk. II. ch. xxii. seqq.; Langlois, V. en Cilicie, 1861, p. 19.)

NOTE 2.—”Maintes villes et maint chasteaux” This is a constantly recurring phrase, and I have generally translated it as here, believing chasteaux (castelli) to be used in the frequent old Italian sense of a walled village or small walled town, or like the Eastern Kala’ applied in Khorasan “to everything—town, village, or private residence— surrounded by a wall of earth.” (Ferrier, p. 292; see also A. Conolly, I. p. 211.) Martini, in his Atlas Sinensis, uses “Urbes, oppida, castella,” to indicate the three classes of Chinese administrative cities.

NOTE 3.—”Enferme durement.” So Marino Sanuto objects to Lesser Armenia as a place of debarkation for a crusade “quia terra est infirma” Langlois, speaking of the Cilician plain: “In this region once so fair, now covered with swamps and brambles, fever decimates a population which is yearly diminishing, has nothing to oppose to the scourge but incurable apathy, and will end by disappearing altogether,” etc. (Voyage, p. 65.) Cilician Armenia retains its reputation for sport, and is much frequented by our naval officers for that object. Ayas is noted for the extraordinary abundance of turtles.

NOTE 4.—The phrase twice used in this passage for the Interior is Fra terre, an Italianism (Fra terra, or, as it stands in the Geog. Latin, “infra terram Orientis“), which, however, Murray and Pauthier have read as an allusion to the Euphrates, an error based apparently on a marginal gloss in the published edition of the Soc. de Géographie. It is true that the province of Comagene under the Greek Empire got the name of Euphratesia, or in Arabic Furátiýah, but that was not in question here. The great trade of Ayas was with Tabriz, viâ Sivas, Erzingan, and Erzrum, as we see in Pegolotti. Elsewhere, too, in Polo we find the phrase fra terre used, where Euphrates could possibly have no concern, as in relation to India and Oman. (See Bk. III. chs. xxix. and xxxviii., and notes in each case.)

With regard to the phrase spicery here and elsewhere, it should be noted that the Italian spezerie included a vast deal more than ginger and other things “hot i’ the mouth.” In one of Pegolotti’s lists of spezerie we find drugs, dye-stuffs, metals, wax, cotton, etc.



In Turcomania there are three classes of people. First, there are the Turcomans; these are worshippers of Mahommet, a rude people with an uncouth language of their own.[NOTE 1] They dwell among mountains and downs where they find good pasture, for their occupation is cattle-keeping. Excellent horses, known as Turquans, are reared in their country, and also very valuable mules. The other two classes are the Armenians and the Greeks, who live mixt with the former in the towns and villages, occupying themselves with trade and handicrafts. They weave the finest and handsomest carpets in the world, and also a great quantity of fine and rich silks of cramoisy and other colours, and plenty of other stuffs. Their chief cities are CONIA, SAVAST [where the glorious Messer Saint Blaise suffered martyrdom], and CASARIA, besides many other towns and bishops’ sees, of which we shall not speak at present, for it would be too long a matter. These people are subject to the Tartar of the Levant as their Suzerain.[NOTE 2] We will now leave this province, and speak of the Greater Armenia.

NOTE 1.—Ricold of Montecroce, a contemporary of Polo, calls the Turkmans homines bestiales. In our day Ainsworth notes of a Turkman village: “The dogs were very ferocious;… the people only a little better.” (J. R. G. S. X. 292.) The ill report of the people of this region did not begin with the Turkmans, for the Emperor Constantine Porphyrog. quotes a Greek proverb to the disparagement of the three kappas, Cappadocia, Crete, and Cilicia. (In Bandurit I. 6.)

NOTE 2.—In Turcomania Marco perhaps embraces a great part of Asia Minor, but he especially means the territory of the decaying Seljukian monarchy, usually then called by Asiatics Rúm, as the Ottoman Empire is now, and the capital of which was Iconium, KUNIYAH, the Conia of the text, and Coyne of Joinville. Ibn Batuta calls the whole country Turkey (Al-Turkiýah), and the people Turkmán; exactly likewise does Ricold (Thurchia and Thurchimanni). Hayton’s account of the various classes of inhabitants is quite the same in substance as Polo’s. [The Turkmans emigrated from Turkestan to Asia Minor before the arrival of the Seljukid Turks. “Their villages,” says Cuinet, Turquie d’Asie, II. p. 767, “are distinguished by the peculiarity of the houses being built of sun-baked bricks, whereas it is the general habit in the country to build them of earth or a kind of plaster, called djès“—H. C.] The migratory and pastoral Turkmans still exist in this region, but the Kurds of like habits have taken their place to a large extent. The fine carpets and silk fabrics appear to be no longer produced here, any more than the excellent horses of which Polo speaks, which must have been the remains of the famous old breed of Cappadocia. [It appears, however (Vital Cuinet’s Turquie d’Asie, I. p. 224), that fine carpets are still manufactured at Koniah, also a kind of striped cotton cloth, called Aladja.—H. C.]

A grant of privileges to the Genoese by Leon II., King of Lesser Armenia, dated 23rd December, 1288, alludes to the export of horses and mules, etc., from Ayas, and specifies the duties upon them. The horses now of repute in Asia as Turkman come from the east of the Caspian. And Asia Minor generally, once the mother of so many breeds of high repute, is now poorer in horses than any province of the Ottoman empire.

(Pereg. Quat. p. 114; I.B. II. 255 seqq.; Hayton, ch. xiii.; Liber Jurium Reip. Januensis, II. 184; Tchihatcheff, As. Min., 2’de partie, 631.)

[The Seljukian Sultanate of Iconium or Rúm, was founded at the expense of the Byzantines by Suleiman (1074-1081); the last three sovereigns of the dynasty contemporaneous with Marco Polo are Ghiath ed-din Kaïkhosru III. (1267-1283), Ghiath ed-din Mas’ud II. (1283-1294), Ala ed-din Kaïkobad III. (1294-1308), when this kingdom was destroyed by the Mongols of Persia. Privileges had been granted to Venice by Ghiath ed-din Kaïkhosru I. (+ 1211), and his sons Izz ed-din Kaikaua (1211-1220), and Ala ed-din Kaïkobad I. (1220-1237); the diploma of 1220 is unfortunately the only one of the three known to be preserved. (Cf. Heyd, I. p. 302.)—H. C.]

Though the authors quoted above seem to make no distinction between Turks and Turkmans, that which we still understand does appear to have been made in the 12th century: “That there may be some distinction, at least in name, between those who made themselves a king, and thus achieved such glory, and those who still abide in their primitive barbarism and adhere to their old way of life, the former are nowadays termed Turks, the latter by their old name of Turkomans.” (William of Tyre, i. 7.)

Casaria is KAISARÍYA, the ancient Caesareia of Cappadocia, close to the foot of the great Mount Argaeus. Savast is the Armenian form (Sevasd) of Sebaste, the modern SIVAS. The three cities, Iconium, Caesareia, and Sebaste, were metropolitan sees under the Catholicos of Sis.

[The ruins of Sebaste are situated at about 6 miles to the east of modern Sivas, near the village of Gavraz, on the Kizil Irmak. In the 11th century, the King of Armenia, Senecherim, made his capital of Sebaste. It belonged after to the Seljukid Turks, and was conquered in 1397 by Bayezid Ilderim with Tokat, Castambol and Sinope. (Cf. Vital Cuinet.)

One of the oldest churches in Sivas is St. George (Sourp-Kévork), occupied by the Greeks, but claimed by the Armenians; it is situated near the centre of the town, in what is called the “Black Earth,” the spot where Timur is said to have massacred the garrison. A few steps north of St. George is the Church of St. Blasius, occupied by the Roman Catholic Armenians. The tomb of St. Blasius, however, is shown in another part of the town, near the citadel mount, and the ruins of a very beautiful Seljukian Medresseh. (From a MS. Note by Sir H. Yule. The information had been supplied by the American Missionaries to General Sir C. Wilson, and forwarded by him to Sir H. Yule.)

It must be remembered that at the time of the Seljuk Turks, there were four Medressehs at Sivas, and a university as famous as that of Amassia. Children to the number of 1000, each a bearer of a copy of the Koran, were crushed to death under the feet of the horses of Timur, and buried in the “Black Earth”; the garrison of 4000 soldiers were buried alive.

St. Blasius, Bishop of Sebaste, was martyred in 316 by order of Agricola, Governor of Cappadocia and Lesser Armenia, during the reign of Licinius. His feast is celebrated by the Latin Church on the 3rd of February, and by the Greek Church on the 11th of February. He is the patron of the Republic of Ragusa in Dalmatia, and in France of wool-carders.

At the village of Hullukluk, near Sivas, was born in 1676 Mekhitar, founder of the well-known Armenian Order, which has convents at Venice, Vienna, and Trieste.—H. C.]



This is a great country. It begins at a city called ARZINGA, at which they weave the best buckrams in the world. It possesses also the best baths from natural springs that are anywhere to be found.[NOTE 1] The people of the country are Armenians, and are subject to the Tartar. There are many towns and villages in the country, but the noblest of their cities is Arzinga, which is the See of an Archbishop, and then ARZIRON and ARZIZI.[NOTE 2]

The country is indeed a passing great one, and in the summer it is frequented by the whole host of the Tartars of the Levant, because it then furnishes them with such excellent pasture for their cattle. But in winter the cold is past all bounds, so in that season they quit this country and go to a warmer region, where they find other good pastures. [At a castle called PAIPURTH, that you pass in going from Trebizond to Tauris, there is a very good silver mine.[NOTE 3]]

And you must know that it is in this country of Armenia that the Ark of Noah exists on the top of a certain great mountain [on the summit of which snow is so constant that no one can ascend;[NOTE 4] for the snow never melts, and is constantly added to by new falls. Below, however, the snow does melt, and runs down, producing such rich and abundant herbage that in summer cattle are sent to pasture from a long way round about, and it never fails them. The melting snow also causes a great amount of mud on the mountain].

The country is bounded on the south by a kingdom called Mosul, the people of which are Jacobite and Nestorian Christians, of whom I shall have more to tell you presently. On the north it is bounded by the Land of the Georgians, of whom also I shall speak. On the confines towards Georgiania there is a fountain from which oil springs in great abundance, insomuch that a hundred shiploads might be taken from it at one time. This oil is not good to use with food, but ’tis good to burn, and is also used to anoint camels that have the mange. People come from vast distances to fetch it, for in all the countries round about they have no other oil.[NOTE 5]

Now, having done with Great Armenia, we will tell you of Georgiania.

NOTE 1.—[Erzinjan, Erzinga, or Eriza, in the vilayet of Erzrum, was rebuilt in 1784, after having been destroyed by an earthquake. “Arzendjan,” says Ibn Batuta, II. p. 294, “is in possession of well-established markets; there are manufactured fine stuffs, which are called after its name.” It was at Erzinjan that was fought in 1244 the great battle, which placed the Seljuk Turks under the dependency of the Mongol Khans.—H. C.] I do not find mention of its hot springs by modern travellers, but Lazari says Armenians assured him of their existence. There are plenty of others in Polo’s route through the country, as at Ilija, close to Erzrum, and at Hássan Kalá.

The Buckrams of Arzinga are mentioned both by Pegolotti (circa 1340) and by Giov. d’Uzzano (1442). But what were they?

Buckram in the modern sense is a coarse open texture of cotton or hemp, loaded with gum, and used to stiffen certain articles of dress. But this was certainly not the mediaeval sense. Nor is it easy to bring the mediaeval uses of the term under a single explanation. Indeed Mr. Marsh suggests that probably two different words have coalesced. Fr.-Michel says that Bouqueran was at first applied to a light cotton stuff of the nature of muslin, and afterwards to linen, but I do not see that he makes out this history of the application. Douet d’Arcq, in his Comptes de l’Argenterie, etc., explains the word simply in the modern sense, but there seems nothing in his text to bear this out.

A quotation in Raynouard’s Romance Dictionary has “Vestirs de polpra e de bisso que est bocaran,” where Raynouard renders bisso as lin; a quotation in Ducange also makes Buckram the equivalent of Bissus; and Michel quotes from an inventory of 1365, “unam culcitram pinctam (qu. punctam?) albam factam de bisso aliter boquerant.”

Mr. Marsh again produces quotations, in which the word is used as a proverbial example of whiteness, and inclines to think that it was a bleached cloth with a lustrous surface.

It certainly was not necessarily linen. Giovanni Villani, in a passage which is curious in more ways than one, tells how the citizens of Florence established races for their troops, and, among other prizes, was one which consisted of a Bucherame di bambagine (of cotton). Polo, near the end of the Book (Bk. III. ch. xxxiv.), speaking of Abyssinia, says, according to Pauthier’s text: “Et si y fait on moult beaux bouquerans et autres draps de coton.” The G. T. is, indeed, more ambiguous: “Il hi se font maint biaus dras banbacin e bocaran” (cotton and buckram). When, however, he uses the same expression with reference to the delicate stuffs woven on the coast of Telingana, there can be no doubt that a cotton texture is meant, and apparently a fine muslin. (See Bk. III. ch. xviii.) Buckram is generally named as an article of price, chier bouquerant, rice boquerans, etc, but not always, for Polo in one passage (Bk. II. ch. xlv.) seems to speak of it as the clothing of the poor people of Eastern Tibet.

Plano Carpini says the tunics of the Tartars were either of buckram (bukeranum), of purpura (a texture, perhaps velvet), or of baudekin, a cloth of gold (pp. 614-615). When the envoys of the Old Man of the Mountain tried to bully St. Lewis, one had a case of daggers to be offered in defiance, another a bouqueran for a winding sheet (Joinville, p. 136.)

In accounts of materials for the use of Anne Boleyn in the time of her prosperity, bokeram frequently appears for “lyning and taynting” (?) gowns, lining sleeves, cloaks, a bed, etc., but it can scarcely have been for mere stiffening, as the colour of the buckram is generally specified as the same as that of the dress.

A number of passages seem to point to a quilted material. Boccaccio (Day viii. Novel 10) speaks of a quilt (coltre) of the whitest buckram of Cyprus, and Uzzano enters buckram quilts (coltre di Bucherame) in a list of Linajuoli, or linen-draperies. Both his handbook and Pegolotti’s state repeatedly that buckrams were sold by the piece or the half-score pieces—never by measure. In one of Michel’s quotations (from Baudouin de Sebourc) we have:

  “Gaufer li fist premiers armer d’un auqueton
Qui fu de bougherant et plaine de bon coton.”

Mr. Hewitt would appear to take the view that Buckram meant a quilted material; for, quoting from a roll of purchases made for the Court of Edward I., an entry for Ten Buckrams to make sleeves of, he remarks, “The sleeves appear to have been of pourpointerie,” i.e. quilting. (Ancient Armour, I. 240.)

This signification would embrace a large number of passages in which the term is used, though certainly not all. It would account for the mode or sale by the piece, and frequent use of the expression a buckram, for its habitual application to coltre or counterpanes, its use in the auqueton of Baudouin, and in the jackets of Falstaff’s “men in buckram,” as well as its employment in the frocks of the Mongols and Tibetans. The winter chapkan, or long tunic, of Upper India, a form of dress which, I believe, correctly represents that of the Mongol hosts, and is probably derived from them, is almost universally of quilted cotton.[1] This signification would also facilitate the transfer of meaning to the substance now called buckram, for that is used as a kind of quilting.

The derivation of the word is very uncertain. Reiske says it is Arabic, Abu-Kairám, “Pannus cum intextis figuris”; Wedgwood, attaching the modern meaning, that it is from It., bucherare, to pierce full of holes, which might be if bucherare could be used in the sense of puntare, or the Frenchpiquer; Marsh connects it with the bucking of linen; and D’Avezac thinks it was a stuff that took its name from Bokhara. If the name be local, as so many names of stuffs are, the French form rather suggests Bulgaria. [Heyd, II. 703, says that Buckram (Bucherame) was principally manufactured at Erzinjan (Armenia), Mush, and Mardin (Kurdistan), Ispahan (Persia), and in India, etc. It was shipped to the west at Constantinople, Satalia, Acre, and Famagusta; the name is derived from Bokhara.—H. C.]

(Della Decima, III. 18, 149, 65, 74, 212, etc.; IV. 4, 5, 6, 212; Reiske’s Notes to Const. Porphyrogen. II.; D’Avezac, p. 524; Vocab. Univ. Ital.; Franc.-Michel, Recherches, etc. II. 29 seqq.; Philobiblon Soc. Miscell. VI.; Marsh’s Wedgwood’s Etym. Dict. sub voce.)

[Illustration: Castle of Baiburt.]

NOTE 2.—Arziron is ERZRUM, which, even in Tournefort’s time, the Franks called Erzeron (III. 126); [it was named Garine, then Theodosiopolis, in honour of Theodosius the Great; the present name was given by the Seljukid Turks, and it means “Roman Country”; it was taken by Chinghiz Khan and Timur, but neither kept it long. Odorico (Cathay, I. p. 46), speaking of this city, says it “is mighty cold.” (See also on the low temperature of the place, Tournefort, Voyage du Levant, II. pp. 258-259.) Arzizi, ARJISH, in the vilayet of Van, was destroyed in the middle of the 19th century; it was situated on the road from Van to Erzrum. Arjish Kalá was one of the ancient capitals of the Kingdom of Armenia; it was conquered by Toghrul I., who made it his residence. (Cf. Vital Cuinet, Turquie d’Asie, II. p. 710).—H. C.]

Arjish is the ancient Arsissa, which gave the Lake Van one of its names.
It is now little more than a decayed castle, with a village inside.

Notices of Kuniyah, Kaisariya, Sivas, Arzan-ar-Rumi, Arzangan, and Arjish, will be found in Polo’s contemporary Abulfeda. (See Büsching, IV. 303-311.)

NOTE 3.—Paipurth, or Baiburt, on the high road between Trebizond and Erzrum, was, according to Neumann, an Armenian fortress in the first century, and, according to Ritter, the castle Baiberdon was fortified by Justinian. It stands on a peninsular hill, encircled by the windings of the R. Charok. [According to Ramusio’s version Baiburt was the third relay from Trebizund to Tauris, and travellers on their way from one of these cities to the other passed under this stronghold.—H. C.] The Russians, in retiring from it in 1829, blew up the greater part of the defences. The nearest silver mines of which we find modern notice, are those of Gumish-Khánah (“Silverhouse”), about 35 miles N.W. of Baiburt; they are more correctly mines of lead rich in silver, and were once largely worked. But the Masálak-al-absár (14th century), besides these, speaks of two others in the same province, one of which was near Bajert. This Quatremère reasonably would read Babert or Baiburt. (Not. et Extraits, XIII. i. 337; Texier, Arménie, I. 59.)

NOTE 4.—Josephus alludes to the belief that Noah’s Ark still existed, and that pieces of the pitch were used as amulets. (Ant. I. 3. 6.)

Ararat (16,953 feet) was ascended, first by Prof. Parrot, September 1829; by Spasski Aotonomoff, August 1834; by Behrens, 1835; by Abich, 1845; by Seymour in 1848; by Khodzko, Khanikoff, and others, for trigonometrical and other scientific purposes, in August 1850. It is characteristic of the account from which I take these notes (Longrimoff, in Bull. Soc. Géog. Paris, sér. IV. tom. i. p. 54), that whilst the writer’s countrymen, Spasski and Behrens, were “moved by a noble curiosity,” the Englishman is only admitted to have “gratified a tourist’s whim”!

NOTE 5.—Though Mr. Khanikoff points out that springs of naphtha are abundant in the vicinity of Tiflis, the mention of ship-loads (in Ramusio indeed altered, but probably by the Editor, to camel-loads), and the vast quantities spoken of, point to the naphtha-wells of the Baku Peninsula on the Caspian. Ricold speaks of their supplying the whole country as far as Baghdad, and Barbaro alludes to the practice of anointing camels with the oil. The quantity collected from the springs about Baku was in 1819 estimated at 241,000 poods (nearly 4000 tons), the greater part of which went to Persia. (Pereg. Quat. p. 122; Ramusio, II. 109; El. de Laprim. 276; V. du Chev. Gamba, I. 298.)

[The phenomenal rise in the production of the Baku oil-fields between 1890-1900, may be seen at a glance from the Official Statistics where the total output for 1900 is given as 601,000,000 poods, about 9,500,000 tons. (Cf. Petroleum, No. 42, vol. ii. p. 13.)]

[1] Polo’s contemporary, the Indian Poet Amír Khusrú, puts in the mouth of his king Kaikobád a contemptuous gibe at the Mongols with their cotton-quilted dresses. (Elliot, III. p. 526.)



In GEORGIANIA there is a King called David Melic, which is as much as to say “David King”; he is subject to the Tartar.[NOTE 1] In old times all the kings were born with the figure of an eagle upon the right shoulder. The people are very handsome, capital archers, and most valiant soldiers. They are Christians of the Greek Rite, and have a fashion of wearing their hair cropped, like Churchmen.[NOTE 2]

This is the country beyond which Alexander could not pass when he wished to penetrate to the region of the Ponent, because that the defile was so narrow and perilous, the sea lying on the one hand, and on the other lofty mountains impassable to horsemen. The strait extends like this for four leagues, and a handful of people might hold it against all the world. Alexander caused a very strong tower to be built there, to prevent the people beyond from passing to attack him, and this got the name of the IRON GATE. This is the place that the Book of Alexander speaks of, when it tells us how he shut up the Tartars between two mountains; not that they were really Tartars, however, for there were no Tartars in those days, but they consisted of a race of people called COMANIANS and many besides.[NOTE 3]

[Illustration: Mediaeval Georgian Fortress, from a drawing dated 1634. “La provence est tonte plene de grant montagne et d’estroit pas et de fort”]

[In this province all the forests are of box-wood.[NOTE 4]] There are numerous towns and villages, and silk is produced in great abundance. They also weave cloths of gold, and all kinds of very fine silk stuffs. The country produces the best goshawks in the world [which are called Avigi].[NOTE 5] It has indeed no lack of anything, and the people live by trade and handicrafts. ‘Tis a very mountainous region, and full of strait defiles and of fortresses, insomuch that the Tartars have never been able to subdue it out and out.

There is in this country a certain Convent of Nuns called St. Leonard’s, about which I have to tell you a very wonderful circumstance. Near the church in question there is a great lake at the foot of a mountain, and in this lake are found no fish, great or small, throughout the year till Lent come. On the first day of Lent they find in it the finest fish in the world, and great store too thereof; and these continue to be found till Easter Eve. After that they are found no more till Lent come round again; and so ’tis every year. ‘Tis really a passing great miracle![NOTE 6]

That sea whereof I spoke as coming so near the mountains is called the Sea of GHEL or GHELAN, and extends about 700 miles.[NOTE 7] It is twelve days’ journey distant from any other sea, and into it flows the great River Euphrates and many others, whilst it is surrounded by mountains. Of late the merchants of Genoa have begun to navigate this sea, carrying ships across and launching them thereon. It is from the country on this sea also that the silk called Ghellé is brought.[NOTE 8] [The said sea produces quantities of fish, especially sturgeon, at the river-mouths salmon, and other big kinds of fish.][NOTE 9]

NOTE 1.—Ramusio has: “One part of the said province is subject to the Tartar, and the other part, owing to its fortresses, remains subject to the King David.” We give an illustration of one of these mediaeval Georgian fortresses, from a curious collection of MS. notices and drawings of Georgian subjects in the Municipal Library at Palermo, executed by a certain P. Cristoforo di Castelli of that city, who was a Theatine missionary in Georgia, in the first half of the 17th century.

The G. T. says the King was always called David. The Georgian Kings of the family of Bagratidae claimed descent from King David through a prince Shampath, said to have been sent north by Nebuchadnezzar; a descent which was usually asserted in their public documents. Timur in his Institutes mentions a suit of armour given him by the King of Georgia as forged by the hand of the Psalmist King. David is a very frequent name in their royal lists. [The dynasty of the Bagratidae, which was founded in 786 by Ashod, and lasted until the annexation of Georgia by Russia on the 18th January, 1801, had nine reigning princes named David. During the second half of the 12th century the princes were: Dawith (David) IV. Narin (1247-1259), Dawith V. (1243-1272), Dimitri II. Thawdadebuli (1272-1289), Wakhtang II. (1289-1292), Dawith VI. (1292-1308).—H. C.] There were two princes of that name, David, who shared Georgia between them under the decision of the Great Kaan in 1246, and one of them, who survived to 1269, is probably meant here. The name of David was borne by the last titular King of Georgia, who ceded his rights to Russia in 1801. It is probable, however, as Marsden has suggested, that the statement about the King always being called David arose in part out of some confusion with the title of Dadian, which, according to Chardin (and also to P. di Castelli), was always assumed by the Princes of Mingrelia, or Colchis as the latter calls it. Chardin refers this title to the Persian Dád, “equity.” To a portrait of “Alexander, King of Iberia,” or Georgia Proper, Castelli attaches the following inscription, giving apparently his official style: “With the sceptre of David, Crowned by Heaven, First King of the Orient and of the World, King of Israel,” adding, “They say that he has on his shoulder a small mark of a cross, ‘Factus est principatus super humerum ejus,’ and they add that he has all his ribs in one piece, and not divided.” In another place he notes that when attending the King in illness his curiosity moved him strongly to ask if these things were true, but he thought better of it! (Khanikoff; Jour. As. IX. 370, XI. 291, etc.; Tim. Instit. p. 143; Castelli MSS.)

[A descendant of these Princes was in St. Petersburg about 1870. He wore the Russian uniform, and bore the title of Prince Bagration-Mukransky.]

NOTE 2.—This fashion of tonsure is mentioned by Barbaro and Chardin. The latter speaks strongly of the beauty of both sexes, as does Della Valle, and most modern travellers concur.

NOTE 3.—This refers to the Pass of Derbend, apparently the Sarmatic Gates of Ptolemy, and Claustra Caspiorum of Tacitus, known to the Arab geographers as the “Gate of Gates” (Báb-ul-abwáb), but which is still called in Turkish Demír-Kápi, or the Iron Gate, and to the ancient Wall that runs from the Castle of Derbend along the ridges of Caucasus, called in the East Sadd-i-Iskandar, the Rampart of Alexander. Bayer thinks the wall was probably built originally by one of the Antiochi, and renewed by the Sassanian Kobad or his son Naoshirwan. It is ascribed to the latter by Abulfeda; and according to Klaproth’s extracts from the Derbend Námah, Naoshirwan completed the fortress of Derbend in A.D. 542, whilst he and his father together had erected 360 towers upon the Caucasian Wall which extended to the Gate of the Alans (i.e. the Pass of Dariel). Mas’údi says that the wall extended for 40 parasangs over the steepest summits and deepest gorges. The Russians must have gained some knowledge as to the actual existence and extent of the remains of this great work, but I have not been able to meet with any modern information of a very precise kind. According to a quotation from Reinegg’s Kaukasus (I. 120, a work which I have not been able to consult), the remains of defences can be traced for many miles, and are in some places as much as 120 feet high. M. Moynet indeed, in the Tour du Monde (I. 122), states that he traced the wall to a distance of 27 versts (18 miles) from Derbend, but unfortunately, instead of describing remains of such high interest from his own observation, he cites a description written by Alex. Dumas, which he says is quite accurate.

[“To the west of Narin-Kaleh, a fortress which from the top of a promontory rises above the city, the wall, strengthened from distance to distance by large towers, follows the ridge of the mountains, descends into the ravines, and ascends the slopes to take root on some remote peak. If the natives were to be believed, this wall, which, however, no longer has any strategetical importance, had formerly its towers bristling upon the Caucasus chain from one sea to another; at least, this rampart did protect all the plains at the foot of the eastern Caucasus, since vestiges were found up to 30 kilometres from Derbend.” (Reclus, Asie russe, p. 160.) It has belonged to Russia since 1813. The first European traveller who mentions it is Benjamin of Tudela.

Bretschneider (II. p. 117) observes: “Yule complains that he was not able to find any modern information regarding the famous Caucasian Wall which begins at Derbend. I may therefore observe that interesting details on the subject are found in Legkobytov’s Survey of the Russian Dominions beyond the Caucasus (in Russian), 1836, vol. iv. pp. 158-161, and in Dubois de Montpéreux’s Voyage autour du Caucase, 1840, vol. iv. pp. 291-298, from which I shall give here an abstract.”

(He then proceeds to give an abstract, of which the following is a part:)

“The famous Dagh bary (mountain wall) now begins at the village of Djelgan 4 versts south-west of Derbend, but we know that as late as the beginning of the last century it could be traced down to the southern gate of the city. This ancient wall then stretches westward to the high mountains of Tabasseran (it seems the Tabarestan of Mas’údi)…. Dubois de Montpéreux enumerates the following sites of remains of the wall:—In the famous defile of Dariel, north-east of Kazbek. In the valley of the Assai river, near Wapila, about 35 versts north-east of Dariel. In the valley of the Kizil river, about 15 versts north-west of Kazbek. Farther west, in the valley of the Fiag or Pog river, between Lacz and Khilak. From this place farther west about 25 versts, in the valley of the Arredon river, in the district of Valaghir. Finally, the westernmost section of the Caucasian Wall has been preserved, which was evidently intended to shut up the maritime defile of Gagry, on the Black Sea.”—H. C.]

There is another wall claiming the title of Sadd-i-Iskandar at the S.E. angle of the Caspian. This has been particularly spoken of by Vámbéry, who followed its traces from S.W. to N.E. for upwards of 40 miles. (See his Travels in C. Asia, 54 seqq., and Julius Braun in the Ausland, No. 22, of 1869.)

Yule (II. pp. 537-538) says, “To the same friendly correspondent [Professor Braun] I owe the following additional particulars on this interesting subject, extracted from Eichwald, Periplus des Kasp. M. I. 128.

“‘At the point on the mountain, at the extremity of the fortress (of Derbend), where the double wall terminates, there begins a single wall constructed in the same style, only this no longer runs in a straight line, but accommodates itself to the contour of the hill, turning now to the north and now to the south. At first it is quite destroyed, and showed the most scanty vestiges, a few small heaps of stones or traces of towers, but all extending in a general bearing from east to west…. It is not till you get 4 versts from Derbend, in traversing the mountains, that you come upon a continuous wall. Thenceforward you can follow it over the successive ridges … and through several villages chiefly occupied by the Tartar hill-people. The wall … makes many windings, and every 3/4 verst it exhibits substantial towers like those of the city-wall, crested with loop-holes. Some of these are still in tolerably good condition; others have fallen, and with the wall itself have left but slight vestiges.’

“Eichwald altogether followed it up about 18 versts (12 miles) not venturing to proceed further. In later days this cannot have been difficult, but my kind correspondent had not been able to lay his hand on information.

[Illustration: View of Derbend

“Alexandre ne poit paser quand il vost aler au Ponent … car de l’un les est la mer, et de l’autre est gran montagne que ne se poent cavaucher. La vre est mout estroit entre la montagne et la mer.”]

“A letter from Mr. Eugene Schuyler communicates some notes regarding inscriptions that have been found at and near Derbend, embracing Cufic of A.D. 465, Pehlvi, and even Cuneiform. Alluding to the fact that the other Iron-gate, south of Shahrsabz, was called also Kalugah, or Kohlugahhe adds: ‘I don’t know what that means, nor do I know if the Russian Kaluga, south-west of Moscow, has anything to do with it, but I am told there is a Russian popular song, of which two lines run:

  ‘”Ah Derbend, Derbend Kaluga,
Derbend my little Treasure!”‘

“I may observe that I have seen it lately pointed out that Koluga is a
Mongol word signifying a barrier; and I see that Timkowski (I. 288)
gives the same explanation of Kalgan, the name applied by Mongols and
Russians to the gate in the Great Wall, called Chang-kia-Kau by the
Chinese, leading to Kiakhta.”

The story alluded to by Polo is found in the mediaeval romances of Alexander, and in the Pseudo-Callisthenes on which they are founded. The hero chases a number of impure cannibal nations within a mountain barrier, and prays that they may be shut up therein. The mountains draw together within a few cubits, and Alexander then builds up the gorge and closes it with gates of brass or iron. There were in all twenty-two nations with their kings, and the names of the nations were Goth, Magoth, Anugi, Eges, Exenach, etc. Godfrey of Viterbo speaks of them in his rhyming verses:—

    “Finibus Indorum species fuit una virorum;
Goth erat atque Magoth dictum cognomen eorum
* * * * *
Narrat Esias, Isidorus et Apocalypsis,
Tangit et in titulis Magna Sibylla suis.
Patribus ipsorum tumulus fuit venter eorum,” etc.

Among the questions that the Jews are said to have put, in order to test Mahommed’s prophetic character, was one series: “Who are Gog and Magog? Where do they dwell? What sort of rampart did Zu’lkarnain build between them and men?” And in the Koran we find (ch. xviii. The Cavern): “They will question thee, O Mahommed, regarding Zu’lkarnain. Reply: I will tell you his history”—and then follows the story of the erection of the Rampart of Yájúj and Májúj. In ch. xxi. again there is an allusion to their expected issue at the latter day. This last expectation was one of very old date. Thus the Cosmography of Aethicus, a work long believed (though erroneously) to have been abridged by St. Jerome, and therefore to be as old at least as the 4th century, says that the Turks of the race of Gog and Magog, a polluted nation, eating human flesh and feeding on all abominations, never washing, and never using wine, salt, nor wheat, shall come forth in the Day of Antichrist from where they lie shut up behind the Caspian Gates, and make horrid devastation. No wonder that the irruption of the Tartars into Europe, heard of at first with almost as much astonishment as such an event would produce now, was connected with this prophetic legend![1] The Emperor Frederic II., writing to Henry III. of England, says of the Tartars: “‘Tis said they are descended from the Ten Tribes who abandoned the Law of Moses, and worshipped the Golden Calf. They are the people whom Alexander Magnus shut up in the Caspian Mountains.”

[See the chapter Gog et Magog dans le roman en alexandrins, in Paul
Meyer’s Alexandre le Grand dans la Littérature française. Paris, 1886,
II. pp. 386-389.—H. C.]:

  “Gos et Margos i vienent de la tiere des Turs
Et. cccc. m. hommes amenerent u plus,
Il en jurent la mer dont sire est Neptunus
Et le porte d’infier que garde Cerberus
Que l’orguel d’Alixandre torneront a reüs
Por çou les enclot puis es estres desus.
Dusc’ al tans Antecrist n’en istera mais nus.”

According to some chroniclers, the Emperor Heraclius had already let loose the Shut-up Nations to aid him against the Persians, but it brought him no good, for he was beaten in spite of their aid, and died of grief.

The theory that the Tartars were Gog and Magog led to the Rampart of Alexander being confounded with the Wall of China (see infra, Bk. I. ch. lix.), or being relegated to the extreme N.E. of Asia, as we find it in the Carta Catalana.

These legends are referred to by Rabbi Benjamin, Hayton, Rubruquis,
Ricold, Matthew Paris, and many more. Josephus indeed speaks of the Pass
which Alexander fortified with gates of steel. But his saying that the
King of Hyrcania was Lord of this Pass points to the Hyrcanian Gates of
Northern Persia, or perhaps to the Wall of Gomushtapah, described by

Ricold of Montecroce allows two arguments to connect the Tartars with the Jews who were shut up by Alexander; one that the Tartars hated the very name of Alexander, and could not bear to hear it; the other, that their manner of writing was very like the Chaldean, meaning apparently the Syriac (anté, p. 29). But he points out that they had no resemblance to Jews, and no knowledge of the law.

Edrisi relates how the Khalif Wathek sent one Salem the Dragoman to explore the Rampart of Gog and Magog. His route lay by Tiflis, the Alan country, and that of the Bashkirds, to the far north or north-east, and back by Samarkand. But the report of what he saw is pure fable.

In 1857, Dr. Bellew seems to have found the ancient belief in the legend still held by Afghan gentlemen at Kandahar.

At Gelath in Imeretia there still exists one valve of a large iron gate, traditionally said to be the relic of a pair brought as a trophy from Derbend by David, King of Georgia, called the Restorer (1089-1130). M. Brosset, however, has shown it to be the gate of Ganja, carried off in 1139.

(Bayer in Comment. Petropol. I. 401 seqq.; Pseudo-Callisth. by Müller, p. 138; Gott. Viterb. in Pistorii Nidani Script. Germ. II. 228; Alexandriade, pp. 310-311; Pereg. IV. p. 118; Acad. des Insc. Divers Savans, II. 483; Edrisi, II. 416-420, etc.)

NOTE 4.—The box-wood of the Abkhasian forests was so abundant, and formed so important an article of Genoese trade, as to give the name of Chao de Bux (Cavo di Bussi) to the bay of Bambor, N.W. of Sukum Kala’, where the traffic was carried on. (See Elie de Laprim. 243.) Abulfeda also speaks of the Forest of Box (Shará’ ul-buks) on the shores of the Black Sea, from which box-wood was exported to all parts of the world; but his indication of the exact locality is confused. (Reinaud’s Abulf. I. 289.)

At the present time “Boxwood abounds on the southern coast of the Caspian, and large quantities are exported from near Resht to England and Russia. It is sent up the Volga to Tsaritzin, from thence by rail to the Don, and down that river to the Black Sea, from whence it is shipped to England.” (MS. Note, H. Y.)

[Cf. V. Helm’s Cultivated Plants, edited by J. S. Stallybrass, Lond., 1891, The Box Tree, pp. 176-179.—H. C.]

NOTE 5.—Jerome Cardan notices that “the best and biggest goshawks come from Armenia,” a term often including Georgia and Caucasus. The name of the bird is perhaps the same as ‘Afçi, “Falco montanus.” (See Casiri, I. 320.) Major St. John tells me that the Terlán, or goshawk, much used in Persia, is still generally brought from Caucasus. (Cardan, de Rer. Varietate, VII. 35.)

NOTE 6.—A letter of Warren Hastings, written shortly before his death, and after reading Marsden’s Marco Polo, tells how a fish-breeder of Banbury warned him against putting pike into his fish-pond, saying, “If you should leave them where they are till Shrove Tuesday they will be sure to spawn, and then you will never get any other fish to breed in it.” (Romance of Travel, I. 255.) Edward Webbe in his Travels (1590, reprinted 1868) tells us that in the “Land of Siria there is a River having great store of fish like unto Salmon-trouts, but no Jew can catch them, though either Christian and Turk shall catch them in abundance with great ease.” The circumstance of fish being got only for a limited time in spring is noticed with reference to Lake Van both by Tavernier and Mr. Brant.

But the exact legend here reported is related (as M. Pauthier has already noticed) by Wilibrand of Oldenburg of a stream under the Castle of Adamodana, belonging to the Hospitallers, near Naversa (the ancient Anazarbus), in Cilicia under Taurus. And Khanikoff was told the same story of a lake in the district of Akhaltziké in Western Georgia, in regard to which he explains the substance of the phenomenon as a result of the rise of the lake’s level by the melting of the snows, which often coincides with Lent. I may add that Moorcroft was told respecting a sacred pond near Sir-i-Chashma, on the road from Kabul to Bamian, that the fish in the pond were not allowed to be touched, but that they were accustomed to desert it for the rivulet that ran through the valley regularly every year on the day of the vernal equinox, and it was then lawful to catch them.

Like circumstances would produce the same effect in a variety of lakes, and I have not been able to identify the convent of St. Leonard’s. Indeed Leonard (Sant Lienard, G. T.) seems no likely name for an Armenian Saint; and the patroness of the convent (as she is of many others in that country) was perhaps Saint Nina, an eminent personage in the Armenian Church, whose tomb is still a place of pilgrimage; or possibly St. Helena, for I see that the Russian maps show a place called Elenovka on the shores of Lake Sevan, N.E. of Erivan. Ramusio’s text, moreover, says that the lake was four days in compass, and this description will apply, I believe, to none but the lake just named. This is, according to Monteith, 47 miles in length and 21 miles in breadth, and as far as I can make out he travelled round it in three very long marches. Convents and churches on its shores are numerous, and a very ancient one occupies an island on the lake. The lake is noted for its fish, especially magnificent trout.

(Tavern. Bk. III. ch. iii.; J. R. G. S. X. 897; Pereg. Quat. p. 179; Khanikoff, 15; Moorcroft, II. 382; J. R. G. S. III. 40 seqq.)

Ramusio has: “In this province there is a fine city called TIFLIS, and round about it are many castles and walled villages. It is inhabited by Christians, Armenians, Georgians, and some Saracens and Jews, but not many.”

NOTE 7.—The name assigned by Marco to the Caspian, “Mer de Gheluchelan” or “Ghelachelan,” has puzzled commentators. I have no doubt that the interpretation adopted above is the correct one. I suppose that Marco said that the sea was called “La Mer de Ghel ou (de) Ghelan,” a name taken from the districts of the ancient Gelae on its south-western shores, called indifferently Gíl or Gílán, just as many other regions of Asia have like duplicate titles (singular and plural), arising, I suppose, from the change of a gentile into a local name. Such are Lár, Lárán, Khutl, Khutlán, etc., a class to which Badakhshán, Wakhán, Shaghnán, Mungán, Chág-hanián, possibly Bámián, and many others have formerly belonged, as the adjectives in some cases surviving, Badakhshi, Shaghni, Wákhi, etc., show[2] The change exemplified in the induration of these gentile plurals intolocal singulars is everywhere traced in the passage from earlier to later geography. The old Indian geographical lists, such as are preserved in the Puránas, and in Pliny’s extracts from Megasthenes, are, in the main, lists of peoples, not of provinces, and even where the real name seems to be local a gentile form is often given. So also Tochari and Sogdi are replaced by Tokháristán and Sughd; the Veneti and Taurini by Venice and Turin; the Remi and the Parisii, by Rheims and Paris; East-Saxons and South-Saxons by Essex and Sussex; not to mention the countless -ings that mark the tribal settlement of the Saxons in Britain.

Abulfeda, speaking of this territory, uses exactly Polo’s phrase, saying that the districts in question are properly called Kíl-o-Kílán, but by the Arabs Jíl-o-Jílán. Teixeira gives the Persian name of the sea as Darya Ghiláni. (See Abulf. in Büsching, v. 329.)

[The province of Gíl (Gílán), which is situated between the mountains and the Caspian Sea, and between the provinces of Azerbaíján and Mazandéran (H. C.)], gave name to the silk for which it was and is still famous, mentioned as Ghelle (Gílí) at the end of this chapter. This Seta Ghella is mentioned also by Pegolotti (pp. 212, 238, 301), and by Uzzano, with an odd transposition, as Seta Leggi, along with Seta Masandroni, i.e. from the adjoining province of Mazanderán (p. 192). May not the Spanish Geliz, “a silk-dealer,” which seems to have been a puzzle to etymologists, be connected with this? (See Dosy and Engelmann, 2nd ed. p. 275.) [Prof. F. de Filippi (Viaggo in Persia nel 1862,… Milan, 1865, 8vo) speaks of the silk industry of Ghílán (pp. 295-296) as the principal product of the entire province.—H. C]

The dimensions assigned to the Caspian in the text would be very correct if length were meant, but the Geog. Text with the same figure specifies circuit (zire). Ramusio again has “a circuit of 2800 miles.” Possibly the original reading was 2700; but this would be in excess.

NOTE 8.—The Caspian is termed by Vincent of Beauvais Mare Seruanicum, the Sea of Shirwan, another of its numerous Oriental names, rendered by Marino Sanuto as Mare Salvanicum. (III. xi. ch. ix.) But it was generally known to the Franks in the Middle Ages as the SEA OF BACU. Thus Berni:—

  “Fuor del deserto la diritta strada
Lungo il Mar di Bacu miglior pareva.”
(Orl. Innam. xvii. 60.)

And in the Sfera of Lionardo Dati (circa 1390):—

  “Da Tramontana di quest’ Asia Grande
Tartari son sotto la fredda Zona,
Gente bestial di bestie e vivande,
Fin dove l’Onda di Baccù risuona,” etc. (p. 10.)

This name is introduced in Ramusio, but probably by interpolation, as well as the correction of the statement regarding Euphrates, which is perhaps a branch of the notion alluded to in Prologue, ch. ii. note 5. In a later chapter Marco calls it the Sea of Sarai, a title also given in the Carta Catalana. [Odorico calls it Sea of Bacuc (Cathay) and Sea of Bascon (Cordier). The latter name is a corruption of Abeskun, a small town and island in the S.E. corner of the Caspian Sea, not far from Ashurada.—H. C.]

We have little information as to the Genoese navigation of the Caspian, but the great number of names exhibited along its shores in the map just named (1375) shows how familiar such navigation had become by that date. See also Cathay, p. 50, where an account is given of a remarkable enterprise by Genoese buccaneers on the Caspian about that time. Mas’údi relates an earlier history of how about the beginning of the 9th century a fleet of 500 Russian vessels came out of the Volga, and ravaged all the populous southern and western shores of the Caspian. The unhappy population was struck with astonishment and horror at this unlooked-for visitation from a sea that had hitherto been only frequented by peaceful traders or fishermen. (II. 18-24.)

NOTE 9.—[The enormous quantity of fish found in the Caspian Sea is ascribed to the mass of vegetable food to be found in the shallower waters of the North and the mouth of the Volga. According to Reclus, the Caspian fisheries bring in fish to the annual value of between three and four millions sterling.—H. C.]

[1] See Letter of Frederic to the Roman Senate, of 20th June, 1241, in Bréholles. Mahommedan writers, contemporary with the Mongol invasions, regarded these as a manifest sign of the approaching end of the world. (See Elliot’s Historians, II. p. 265.)

[2] When the first edition was published, I was not aware of remarks to like effect regarding names of this character by Sir H. Rawlinson in the J. R. As. Soc. vol. xi. pp. 64 and 103.



On the frontier of Armenia towards the south-east is the kingdom of MAUSUL. It is a very great kingdom, and inhabited[NOTE 1] by several different kinds of people whom we shall now describe.

First there is a kind of people called ARABI, and these worship Mahommet. Then there is another description of people who are NESTORIAN and JACOBITE Christians. These have a Patriarch, whom they call the JATOLIC, and this Patriarch creates Archbishops, and Abbots, and Prelates of all other degrees, and sends them into every quarter, as to India, to Baudas, or to Cathay, just as the Pope of Rome does in the Latin countries. For you must know that though there is a very great number of Christians in those countries, they are all Jacobites and Nestorians; Christians indeed, but not in the fashion enjoined by the Pope of Rome, for they come short in several points of the Faith.[NOTE 2]

All the cloths of gold and silk that are called Mosolins are made in this country; and those great Merchants called Mosolins, who carry for sale such quantities of spicery and pearls and cloths of silk and gold, are also from this kingdom.[NOTE 3]

There is yet another race of people who inhabit the mountains in that quarter, and are called CURDS. Some of them are Christians, and some of them are Saracens; but they are an evil generation, whose delight it is to plunder merchants.[NOTE 4]

[Near this province is another called MUS and MERDIN, producing an immense quantity of cotton, from which they make a great deal of buckram[NOTE 5] and other cloth. The people are craftsmen and traders, and all are subject to the Tartar King.]

NOTE 1.—Polo could scarcely have been justified in calling MOSUL a very great kingdom. This is a bad habit of his, as we shall have to notice again. Badruddin Lúlú, the last Atabeg of Mosul of the race of Zenghi had at the age of 96 taken sides with Hulaku, and stood high in his favour. His son Malik Sálih, having revolted, surrendered to the Mongols in 1261 on promise of life; which promise they kept in Mongol fashion by torturing him to death. Since then the kingdom had ceased to exist as such. Coins of Badruddín remain with the name and titles of Mangku Kaan on their reverse, and some of his and of other atabegs exhibit curious imitations of Greek art. (Quat. Rash. p. 389 Jour. As. IV. VI. 141.).—H. Y. and H. C. [Mosul was pillaged by Timur at the end of the 14th century; during the 15th it fell into the hands of the Turkomans, and during the 16th, of Ismail, Shah of Persia.—H. C.]

[The population of Mosul is to-day 61,000 inhabitants—(48,000 Musulmans, 10,000 Christians belonging to various churches, and 3000 Jews).—H. C.]

[Illustration: Coin of Badruddín of Mausul.]

NOTE 2.—The Nestorian Church was at this time and in the preceding centuries diffused over Asia to an extent of which little conception is generally entertained, having a chain of Bishops and Metropolitans from Jerusalem to Peking. The Church derived its name from Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople, who was deposed by the Council of Ephesus in 431. The chief “point of the Faith” wherein it came short, was (at least in its most tangible form) the doctrine that in Our Lord there were two Persons, one of the Divine Word, the other of the Man Jesus; the former dwelling in the latter as in a Temple, or uniting with the latter “as fire with iron.” Nestorin, the term used by Polo, is almost a literal transcript of the Arab form Nastúri. A notice of the Metropolitan sees, with a map, will be found in Cathay, p. ccxliv.

Játhalík, written in our text (from G. T.) Jatolic, by Fr. Burchard and Ricold Jaselic, stands for [Greek: Katholikós]. No doubt it was originally Gáthalík, but altered in pronunciation by the Arabs. The term was applied by Nestorians to their Patriarch; among the Jacobites to the Mafrián or Metropolitan. The Nestorian Patriarch at this time resided at Baghdad. (Assemani, vol. iii. pt. 2; Per. Quat. 91, 127.)

The Jacobites, or Jacobins, as they are called by writers of that age (Ar. Ya’úbkiy), received their name from Jacob Baradaeus or James Zanzale, Bishop of Edessa (so called, Mas’údi says, because he was a maker of barda’at or saddle-cloths), who gave a great impulse to their doctrine in the 6th century. [At some time between the years 541 and 578, he separated from the Church and became a follower of the doctrine of Eutyches.—H. C.] The Jacobites then formed an independent Church, which at one time spread over the East at least as far as Sístán, where they had a see under the Sassanian Kings. Their distinguishing tenet was Monophysitism, viz., that Our Lord had but one Nature, the Divine. It was in fact a rebound from Nestorian doctrine, but, as might be expected in such a case, there was a vast number of shades of opinion among both bodies. The chief locality of the Jacobites was in the districts of Mosul, Tekrit, and Jazírah, and their Patriarch was at this time settled at the Monastery of St. Matthew, near Mosul, but afterwards, and to the present day, at or near Mardin. [They have at present two patriarchates: the Monastery of Zapharan near Baghdad and Etchmiadzin.—H. C.] The Armenian, Coptic, Abyssinian, and Malabar Churches all hold some shade of the Jacobite doctrine, though the first two at least have Patriarchs apart.

(Assemani, vol. ii.; Le Quien, II. 1596; Mas’údi, II. 329-330; Per. Quat. 124-129.)

NOTE 3.—We see here that mosolin or muslin had a very different meaning from what it has now. A quotation from Ives by Marsden shows it to have been applied in the middle of last century to a strong cotton cloth made at Mosul. Dozy says the Arabs use Mauçili in the sense of muslin, and refers to passages in ‘The Arabian Nights.’ [Bretschneider (Med. Res. II. p. 122) observes “that in the narrative of Ch’ang Ch’un’s travels to the west in 1221, it is stated that in Samarkand the men of the lower classes and the priests wrap their heads about with a piece of white mo-sze. There can be no doubt that mo-sze here denotes ‘muslin,’ and the Chinese author seems to understand by this term the same material which we are now used to call muslin.”—H. C.] I have found no elucidation of Polo’s application of mosolini to a class of merchants. But, in a letter of Pope Innocent IV. (1244) to the Dominicans in Palestine, we find classed as different bodies of Oriental Christians, “Jacobitae, Nestoritae, Georgiani, Graeci, Armeni, Maronitae, et Mosolini.” (Le Quien, III. 1342.)

NOTE 4.—”The Curds,” says Ricold, “exceed in malignant ferocity all the barbarous nations that I have seen…. They are called Curti, not because they are curt in stature, but from the Persian word for Wolves…. They have three principal vices, viz., Murder, Robbery, and Treachery.” Some say they have not mended since, but his etymology is doubtful. Kúrt is Turkish for a wolf, not Persian, which is Gurg; but the name (Karduchi, Kordiaei, etc.) is older, I imagine, than the Turkish language in that part of Asia. Quatremère refers it to the Persian gurd, “strong, valiant, hero.” As regards the statement that some of the Kurds were Christians, Mas’údi states that the Jacobites and certain other Christians in the territory of Mosul and Mount Judi were reckoned among the Kurds. (Not. et Ext. XIII. i. 304.) [The Kurds of Mosul are in part nomadic and are called Kotcheres, but the greater number are sedentary and cultivate cereals, cotton, tobacco, and fruits. (Cuinet.) Old Kurdistan had Shehrizor (Kerkuk, in the sanjak of that name) as its capital.—H. C.]

NOTE 5.—Ramusio here, as in all passages where other texts have Bucherami and the like, puts Boccassini, a word which has become obsolete in its turn. I see both Bochayrani and Bochasini coupled, in a Genoese fiscal statute of 1339, quoted by Pardessus. (Lois Maritimes, IV. 456.)

MUSH and MARDIN are in very different regions, but as their actual interval is only about 120 miles, they may have been under one provincial government. Mush is essentially Armenian, and, though the seat of a Pashalik, is now a wretched place. Mardin, on the verge of the Mesopotamian Plain, rises in terraces on a lofty hill, and there, says Hammer, “Sunnis and Shias, Catholic and Schismatic Armenians, Jacobites, Nestorians, Chaldaeans, Sun-, Fire-, Calf-, and Devil-worshippers dwell one over the head of the other.” (Ilchan. I. 191.)



Baudas is a great city, which used to be the seat of the Calif of all the Saracens in the world, just as Rome is the seat of the Pope of all the Christians.[NOTE 1] A very great river flows through the city, and by this you can descend to the Sea of India. There is a great traffic of merchants with their goods this way; they descend some eighteen days from Baudas, and then come to a certain city called KISI, where they enter the Sea of India.[NOTE 2] There is also on the river, as you go from Baudas to Kisi, a great city called BASTRA, surrounded by woods, in which grow the best dates in the world.[NOTE 3]

In Baudas they weave many different kinds of silk stuffs and gold brocades, such as nasich, and nac, and cramoisy, and many another beautiful tissue richly wrought with figures of beasts and birds. It is the noblest and greatest city in all those regions.[NOTE 4]

Now it came to pass on a day in the year of Christ 1255, that the Lord of the Tartars of the Levant, whose name was Alaü, brother to the Great Kaan now reigning, gathered a mighty host and came up against Baudas and took it by storm.[NOTE 5] It was a great enterprise! for in Baudas there were more than 100,000 horse, besides foot soldiers. And when Alaü had taken the place he found therein a tower of the Califs, which was full of gold and silver and other treasure; in fact the greatest accumulation of treasure in one spot that ever was known.[NOTE 6] When he beheld that great heap of treasure he was astonished, and, summoning the Calif to his presence, he said to him: “Calif, tell me now why thou hast gathered such a huge treasure? What didst thou mean to do therewith? Knewest thou not that I was thine enemy, and that I was coming against thee with so great an host to cast thee forth of thine heritage? Wherefore didst thou not take of thy gear and employ it in paying knights and soldiers to defend thee and thy city?”

The Calif wist not what to answer, and said never a word. So the Prince continued, “Now then, Calif, since I see what a love thou hast borne thy treasure, I will e’en give it thee to eat!” So he shut the Calif up in the Treasure Tower, and bade that neither meat nor drink should be given him, saying, “Now, Calif, eat of thy treasure as much as thou wilt, since thou art so fond of it; for never shalt thou have aught else to eat!”

So the Calif lingered in the tower four days, and then died like a dog. Truly his treasure would have been of more service to him had he bestowed it upon men who would have defended his kingdom and his people, rather than let himself be taken and deposed and put to death as he was.[NOTE 7] Howbeit, since that time, there has been never another Calif, either at Baudas or anywhere else.[NOTE 8]

Now I will tell you of a great miracle that befell at Baudas, wrought by
God on behalf of the Christians.

NOTE 1.—This form of the Mediaeval Frank name of BAGHDAD, Baudas [the Chinese traveller, Ch’ang Te, Si Shi Ki, XIII. cent., says, “the kingdom of Bao-da,” H. C.], is curiously like that used by the Chinese historians, Paota (Pauthier; Gaubil), and both are probably due to the Mongol habit of slurring gutturals. (See Prologue, ch. ii. note 3.) [Baghdad was taken on the 5th of February, 1258, and the Khalif surrendered to Hulaku on the 10th of February.—H. C.]

NOTE 2.—Polo is here either speaking without personal knowledge, or is so brief as to convey an erroneous impression that the Tigris flows to Kisi, whereas three-fourths of the length of the Persian Gulf intervene between the river mouth and Kisi. The latter is the island and city of KISH or KAIS, about 200 miles from the mouth of the Gulf, and for a long time one of the chief ports of trade with India and the East. The island, the Cataea of Arrian, now called Ghes or Kenn, is singular among the islands of the Gulf as being wooded and well supplied with fresh water. The ruins of a city [called Harira, according to Lord Curzon,] exist on the north side. According to Wassáf, the island derived its name from one Kais, the son of a poor widow of Síráf (then a great port of Indian trade on the northern shore of the Gulf), who on a voyage to India, about the 10th century, made a fortune precisely as Dick Whittington did. The proceeds of the cat were invested in an establishment on this island. Modern attempts to nationalise Whittington may surely be given up! It is one of the tales which, like Tell’s shot, the dog Gellert, and many others, are common to many regions. (Hammer’s Ilch. I. 239; Ouseley’s Travels, I. 170; Notes and Queries, 2nd s. XI. 372.)

Mr. Badger, in a postscript to his translation of the History of Omán (Hak. Soc. 1871), maintains that Kish or Kais was at this time a city on the mainland, and identical from Síráf. He refers to Ibn Batuta (II. 244), who certainly does speak of visiting “the city of Kais, called also Síráf.” And Polo, neither here nor in Bk. III. ch. xl., speaks of Kisi as an island. I am inclined, however, to think that this was from not having visited it. Ibn Batuta says nothing of Síráf as a seat of trade; but the historian Wassáf, who had been in the service of Jamáluddín al-Thaibi, the Lord of Kais, in speaking of the export of horses thence to India, calls it “the Island of Kais.” (Elliot, III. 34.) Compare allusions to this horse trade in ch. xv. and in Bk. III. ch. xvii. Wassáf was precisely a contemporary of Polo.

NOTE 3.—The name is Bascra in the MSS., but this is almost certainly the common error of c for t. BASRA is still noted for its vast date-groves. “The whole country from the confluence of the Euphrates and Tigris to the sea, a distance of 30 leagues, is covered with these trees.” (Tav. Bk. II. ch. iii.)

NOTE 4.—From Baudas, or Baldac, i.e. Baghdad, certain of these rich silk and gold brocades were called Baldachini, or in English Baudekins. From their use in the state canopies and umbrellas of Italian dignitaries, the word Baldacchino has come to mean a canopy, even when architectural. [Baldekino, baldacchino, was at first entirely made of silk, but afterwards silk was mixed (sericum mixtum) with cotton or thread. When Hulaku conquered Baghdad part of the tribute was to be paid with that kind of stuff. Later on, says Heyd (II. p. 697), it was also manufactured in the province of Ahwaz, at Damas and at Cyprus; it was carried as far as France and England. Among the articles sent from Baghdad to Okkodai Khan, mentioned in the Yüan ch’ao pi shi (made in the 14th century), quoted by Bretschneider (Med. Res. II. p. 124), we note: Nakhut (a kind of gold brocade),Nachidut (a silk stuff interwoven with gold), Dardas (a stuff embroidered in gold). Bretschneider (p. 125) adds: “With respect to nakhut and nachidut, I may observe that these words represent the Mongol plural form of nakh and nachetti…. I may finally mention that in the Yüan shi, ch. lxxviii. (on official dresses), a stuff, na-shi- shi, is repeatedly named, and the term is explained there by kin kin (gold brocade).”—H. C.] The stuffs called Nasich and Nac are again mentioned by our traveller below (ch. lix.). We only know that they were of silk and gold, as he implies here, and as Ibn Batuta tells us, who mentions Nakh several times and Nasíj once. The latter is also mentioned by Rubruquis (Nasic) as a present made to him at the Kaan’s court. And Pegolotti speaks of both nacchi and nacchetti of silk and gold, the latter apparently answering to Nasich. Nac, Nacques, Nachiz, Nacíz, Nasís, appear in accounts and inventories of the 14th century, French and English. (See Dictionnaire des Tissus, II. 199, and Douet d’ Arcq, Comptes de l’Argenterie des Rois de France, etc., 334.) We find no mention of Nakh or Nasíj among the stuffs detailed in the Aín Akbari, so they must have been obsolete in the 16th century. [Cf. Heyd, Com. du Levant, II. p. 698; Nacco, nachetto, comes from the Arabic nakh (nekh); nassit (nasith) from the Arabic nécidj.—H. C.] Quermesis or Cramoisy derived its name from the Kermes insect (Ar. Kirmiz) found on Quercus coccifera, now supplanted by cochineal. The stuff so called is believed to have been originally a crimson velvet, but apparently, like the mediaeval Purpura, if not identical with it, it came to indicate a tissue rather than a colour. Thus Fr.-Michel quotes velvet of vermeil cramoisy, of violet, and of blue cramoisy, and pourpres of a variety of colours, though he says he has never met with pourpre blanche. I may, however, point to Plano Carpini (p. 755), who describes the courtiers at Karakorum as clad in white purpura.

The London prices of Chermisi and Baldacchini in the early part of the 15th century will be found in Uzzano’s work, but they are hard to elucidate.

Babylon, of which Baghdad was the representative, was famous for its variegated textures in very early days. We do not know the nature of the goodly Babylonish garment which tempted Achan in Jericho, but Josephus speaks of the affluence of rich stuffs carried in the triumph of Titus, “gorgeous with life-like designs from the Babylonian loom,” and he also describes the memorable Veil of the Temple as a [Greek: péplos Babylónios] of varied colours marvellously wrought. Pliny says King Attalus invented the intertexture of cloth with gold; but the weaving of damasks of a variety of colours was perfected at Babylon, and thence they were called Babylonian.

The brocades wrought with figures of animals in gold, of which Marco speaks, are still a spécialité at Benares, where they are known by the name of Shikárgáh or hunting-grounds, which is nearly a translation of the name Thard-wahsh “beast-hunts,” by which they were known to the mediaeval Saracens. (See Q. Makrizi, IV. 69-70.) Plautus speaks of such patterns in carpets, the produce of Alexandria—”Alexandrina belluata conchyliata tapetia.” Athenaeus speaks of Persian carpets of like description at an extravagant entertainment given by Antiochus Epiphanes; and the same author cites a banquet given in Persia by Alexander, at which there figured costly curtains embroidered with animals. In the 4th century Asterius, Bishop of Amasia in Pontus, rebukes the Christians who indulge in such attire: “You find upon them lions, panthers, bears, huntsmen, woods, and rocks; whilst the more devout display Christ and His disciples, with the stories of His miracles,” etc. And Sidonius alludes to upholstery of like character:

  “Peregrina det supellex
* * *
Ubi torvus, et per artem
Resupina flexus ora,
It equo reditque telo
Simulacra bestiarum
Fugiens fugansque Parthus.” (Epist. ix. 13.)

A modern Kashmír example of such work is shown under ch. xvii.

(D’Avezac, p. 524; Pegolotti, in Cathay, 295, 306; I. B. II. 309, 388, 422; III. 81; Della Decima, IV. 125-126; Fr.-Michel, Recherches, etc., II. 10-16, 204-206; Joseph. Bell. Jud. VII. 5, 5, and V. 5, 4; Pliny, VIII. 74 (or 48); Plautus, Pseudolus, I. 2; Yonge’s Athenaeus, V. 26 and XII. 54;Mongez in Mém. Acad. IV. 275-276.)

NOTE 5.—[Bretschneider (Med. Res. I. p. 114) says: “Hulagu left Karakorum, the residence of his brother, on the 2nd May, 1253, and returned to his ordo, in order to organize his army. On the 19th October of the same year, all being ready, he started for the west.” He arrived at Samarkand in September, 1255. For this chapter and the following of Polo, see: Hulagu’s Expedition to Western Asia, after the Mohammedan Authors, pp. 112-122, and the Translation of the Si Shi Ki (Ch’ang Te), pp. 122-156, in Bretschneider’s Mediaeval Researches, I.—H. C.]

NOTE 6.—[“Hulagu proceeded to the lake of Ormia (Urmia), when he ordered a castle to be built on the island of Tala, in the middle of the lake, for the purpose of depositing here the immense treasures captured at Baghdad. A great part of the booty, however, had been sent to Mangu Khan.” (Hulagu’s Exp., Bretschneider, Med. Res. I. p. 120.) Ch’ang Te says (Si Shi Ki, p. 139): “The palace of the Ha-li-fa was built of fragrant and precious woods. The walls of it were constructed of black and white jade. It is impossible to imagine the quantity of gold and precious stones found there.”—H. C.]

NOTE 7.—

  “I said to the Kalif: ‘Thou art old,
Thou hast no need of so much gold.
Thou shouldst not have heaped and hidden it here,
Till the breath of Battle was hot and near,
But have sown through the land these useless hoards
To spring into shining blades of swords,
And keep thine honour sweet and clear.
* * * * *
Then into his dungeon I locked the drone,
And left him to feed there all alone
In the honey-cells of his golden hive:
Never a prayer, nor a cry, nor a groan
Was heard from those massive walls of stone,
Nor again was the Kalif seen alive.’
This is the story, strange and true,
That the great Captain Alau
Told to his brother, the Tartar Khan,
When he rode that day into Cambalu.
By the road that leadeth to Ispahan.” (Longfellow.)[1]

The story of the death of Mosta’sim Billah, the last of the Abbaside
Khalifs, is told in much the same way by Hayton, Ricold, Pachymeres, and
Joinville. The memory of the last glorious old man must have failed him,
when he says the facts were related by some merchants who came to King
Lewis, when before Saiette (or Sidon), viz. in 1253, for the capture of
Baghdad occurred five years later. Mar. Sanuto says melted gold was poured
down the Khalif’s throat—a transfer, no doubt, from the old story of
Crassus and the Parthians. Contemporary Armenian historians assert that
Hulaku slew him with his own hand.

All that Rashiduddin says is: “The evening of Wednesday, the 14th of Safar, 656 (20th February, 1258), the Khalif was put to death in the village of Wakf, with his eldest son and five eunuchs who had never quitted him.” Later writers say that he was wrapt in a carpet and trodden to death by horses.

[Cf. The Story of the Death of the last Abbaside Caliph, from the Vatican
MS. of Ibn-al-Furat
, by G. le Strange (Jour. R. As. Soc., April, 1900,
pp. 293-300). This is the story of the death of the Khalif told by
Ibn-al-Furat (born in Cairo, 1335 A.D.):

“Then Hulagu gave command, and the Caliph was left a-hungering, until his case was that of very great hunger, so that he called asking that somewhat might be given him to eat. And the accursed Hulagu sent for a dish with gold therein, and a dish with silver therein, and a dish with gems, and ordered these all to be set before the Caliph al Musta’sim, saying to him, ‘Eat these.’ But the Caliph made answer, ‘These be not fit for eating.’ Then said Hulagu: ‘Since thou didst so well know that these be not fit for eating, why didst thou make a store thereof? With part thereof thou mightest have sent gifts to propitiate us, and with part thou shouldst have raised an army to serve thee and defend thyself against us! And Hulagu commanded them to take forth the Caliph and his son to a place without the camp, and they were here bound and put into two great sacks, being afterwards trampled under foot till they both died—the mercy of Allah be upon them.”—H. C.]

The foundation of the story, so widely received among the Christians, is to be found also in the narrative of Nikbi (and Mirkhond), which is cited by D’Obsson. When the Khalif surrendered, Hulaku put before him a plateful of gold, and told him to eat it. “But one does not eat gold,” said the prisoner. “Why, then,” replied the Tartar, “did you hoard it, instead of expending it in keeping up an army? Why did you not meet me at the Oxus?” The Khalif could only say, “Such was God’s will!” “And that which has befallen you was also God’s will,” said Hulaku.

Wassáf’s narrative is interesting:—”Two days after his capture the Khalif was at his morning prayer, and began with the verse (Koran, III. 25), ‘Say God is the Possessor of Dominion! It shall be given to whom He will; it shall be taken from whom He will: whom He will He raiseth to honour; whom He will He casteth to the ground.’ Having finished the regular office he continued still in prayer with tears and importunity. Bystanders reported to the Ilkhan the deep humiliation of the Khalif’s prayers, and the text which seemed to have so striking an application to those two princes. Regarding what followed there are different stories. Some say that the Ilkhan ordered food to be withheld from the Khalif, and that when he asked for food the former bade a dish of gold be placed before him, etc. Eventually, after taking counsel with his chiefs, the Padishah ordered the execution of the Khalif. It was represented that the blood-drinking sword ought not to be stained with the gore of Mosta’sim. He was therefore rolled in a carpet, just as carpets are usually rolled up, insomuch that his limbs were crushed.”

The avarice of the Khalif was proverbial. When the Mongol army was investing Miafarakain, the chief, Malik Kamál, told his people that everything he had should be at the service of those in need: “Thank God, I am not like Mosta’sim, a worshipper of silver and gold!”

(Hayton in Ram. ch. xxvi.; Per. Quat. 121; Pachym. Mic. Palaeol. II. 24; Joinville, p. 182; Sanuto, p. 238; J. As. sér. V. tom. xi. 490, and xvi. 291; D’Ohsson, III. 243; Hammer’s Wassáf, 75-76; Quat. Rashid. 305.)

NOTE 8.—Nevertheless Froissart brings the Khalif to life again one hundred and twenty years later, as “Le Galifre de Baudas.” (Bk. III. ch. xxiv.)

[1] Not that Alaü (pace Mr. Longfellow) ever did see Cambalu.



I will tell you then this great marvel that occurred between Baudas and

It was in the year of Christ[NOTE 1] … that there was a Calif at Baudas who bore a great hatred to Christians, and was taken up day and night with the thought how he might either bring those that were in his kingdom over to his own faith, or might procure them all to be slain. And he used daily to take counsel about this with the devotees and priests of his faith,[NOTE 2] for they all bore the Christians like malice. And, indeed, it is a fact, that the whole body of Saracens throughout the world are always most malignantly disposed towards the whole body of Christians.

Now it happened that the Calif, with those shrewd priests of his, got hold of that passage in our Gospel which says, that if a Christian had faith as a grain of mustard seed, and should bid a mountain be removed, it would be removed. And such indeed is the truth. But when they had got hold of this text they were delighted, for it seemed to them the very thing whereby either to force all the Christians to change their faith, or to bring destruction upon them all. The Calif therefore called together all the Christians in his territories, who were extremely numerous. And when they had come before him, he showed them the Gospel, and made them read the text which I have mentioned. And when they had read it he asked them if that was the truth? The Christians answered that it assuredly was so. “Well,” said the Calif, “since you say that it is the truth, I will give you a choice. Among such a number of you there must needs surely be this small amount of faith; so you must either move that mountain there,”—and he pointed to a mountain in the neighbourhood—”or you shall die an ill death; unless you choose to eschew death by all becoming Saracens and adopting our Holy Law. To this end I give you a respite of ten days; if the thing be not done by that time, ye shall die or become Saracens.” And when he had said this he dismissed them, to consider what was to be done in this strait wherein they were.

NOTE 1.—The date in the G. Text and Pauthier is 1275, which of course cannot have been intended. Ramusio has 1225.

[The Khalifs in 1225 were Abu’l Abbas Ahmed VII. en-Nassir lidini ‘llah (1180-1225) and Abu Nasr Mohammed IX. ed-Dhahir bi-emri ‘llah (1225-1226).—H. C.]

NOTE 2.—”Cum sez regisles et cum sez casses.” (G. T.) I suppose the former expression to be a form of Regules, which is used in Polo’s book for persons of a religious rule or order, whether Christian or Pagan. The latter word (casses) I take to be the Arabic Kashísh, properly a Christian Presbyter, but frequently applied by old travellers, and habitually by the Portuguese (caxiz, caxix), to Mahomedan Divines. (See Cathay, p. 568.) It may, however, be Kází.

Pauthier’s text has simply “à ses prestres de la Loi.”



The Christians on hearing what the Calif had said were in great dismay, but they lifted all their hopes to God, their Creator, that He would help them in this their strait. All the wisest of the Christians took counsel together, and among them were a number of bishops and priests, but they had no resource except to turn to Him from whom all good things do come, beseeching Him to protect them from the cruel hands of the Calif.

So they were all gathered together in prayer, both men and women, for eight days and eight nights. And whilst they were thus engaged in prayer it was revealed in a vision by a Holy Angel of Heaven to a certain Bishop who was a very good Christian, that he should desire a certain Christian Cobler,[NOTE 1] who had but one eye, to pray to God; and that God in His goodness would grant such prayer because of the Cobler’s holy life.

Now I must tell you what manner of man this Cobler was. He was one who led a life of great uprightness and chastity, and who fasted and kept from all sin, and went daily to church to hear Mass, and gave daily a portion of his gains to God. And the way how he came to have but one eye was this. It happened one day that a certain woman came to him to have a pair of shoes made, and she showed him her foot that he might take her measure. Now she had a very beautiful foot and leg; and the Cobler in taking her measure was conscious of sinful thoughts. And he had often heard it said in the Holy Evangel, that if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee, rather than sin. So, as soon as the woman had departed, he took the awl that he used in stitching, and drove it into his eye and destroyed it. And this is the way he came to lose his eye. So you can judge what a holy, just, and righteous man he was.

NOTE 1.—Here the G. T. uses a strange word: “Or te vais a tel cralantur.” It does not occur again, being replaced by chabitier (savetier). It has an Oriental look, but I can make no satisfactory suggestion as to what the word meant.



Now when this vision had visited the Bishop several times, he related the whole matter to the Christians, and they agreed with one consent to call the Cobler before them. And when he had come they told him it was their wish that he should pray, and that God had promised to accomplish the matter by his means. On hearing their request he made many excuses, declaring that he was not at all so good a man as they represented. But they persisted in their request with so much sweetness, that at last he said he would not tarry, but do what they desired.



And when the appointed day was come, all the Christians got up early, men and women, small and great, more than 100,000 persons, and went to church, and heard the Holy Mass. And after Mass had been sung, they all went forth together in a great procession to the plain in front of the mountain, carrying the precious cross before them, loudly singing and greatly weeping as they went. And when they arrived at the spot, there they found the Calif with all his Saracen host armed to slay them if they would not change their faith; for the Saracens believed not in the least that God would grant such favour to the Christians. These latter stood indeed in great fear and doubt, but nevertheless they rested their hope on their God Jesus Christ.

So the Cobler received the Bishop’s benison, and then threw himself on his knees before the Holy Cross, and stretched out his hands towards Heaven, and made this prayer: “Blessed LORD GOD ALMIGHTY, I pray Thee by Thy goodness that Thou wilt grant this grace unto Thy people, insomuch that they perish not, nor Thy faith be cast down, nor abused nor flouted. Not that I am in the least worthy to prefer such request unto Thee; but for Thy great power and mercy I beseech Thee to hear this prayer from me Thy servant full of sin.”

And when he had ended this his prayer to God the Sovereign Father and Giver of all grace, and whilst the Calif and all the Saracens, and other people there, were looking on, the mountain rose out of its place and moved to the spot which the Calif had pointed out! And when the Calif and all his Saracens beheld, they stood amazed at the wonderful miracle that God had wrought for the Christians, insomuch that a great number of the Saracens became Christians. And even the Calif caused himself to be baptised in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen, and became a Christian, but in secret. Howbeit, when he died they found a little cross hung round his neck; and therefore the Saracens would not bury him with the other Califs, but put him in a place apart. The Christians exulted greatly at this most holy miracle, and returned to their homes full of joy, giving thanks to their Creator for that which He had done.[NOTE 1]

And now you have heard in what wise took place this great miracle. And marvel not that the Saracens hate the Christians; for the accursed law that Mahommet gave them commands them to do all the mischief in their power to all other descriptions of people, and especially to Christians; to strip such of their goods, and do them all manner of evil, because they belong not to their law. See then what an evil law and what naughty commandments they have! But in such fashion the Saracens act, throughout the world.

Now I have told you something of Baudas. I could easily indeed have told you first of the affairs and the customs of the people there. But it would be too long a business, looking to the great and strange things that I have got to tell you, as you will find detailed in this Book.

So now I will tell you of the noble city of Tauris.

NOTE 1.—We may remember that at a date only three years before Marco related this story (viz. in 1295), the cottage of Loreto is asserted to have changed its locality for the third and last time by moving to the site which it now occupies.

Some of the old Latin copies place the scene at Tauris. And I observe that a missionary of the 16th century does the same. The mountain, he says, is between Tauris and Nakhshiwan, and is called Manhuc. (Gravina, Christianita nell’ Armenia, etc., Roma, 1605, p. 91.)

The moving of a mountain is one of the miracles ascribed to Gregory
Thaumaturgus. Such stories are rife among the Mahomedans themselves. “I
know,” says Khanikoff, “at least half a score of mountains which the
Musulmans allege to have come from the vicinity of Mecca.”

Ramusio’s text adds here: “All the Nestorian and Jacobite Christians from that time forward have maintained a solemn celebration of the day on which the miracle occurred, keeping a fast also on the eve thereof.”

F. Göring, a writer who contributes three articles on Marco Polo to the Neue Züricher-Zeitung, 5th, 6th, 8th April, 1878, says: “I heard related in Egypt a report which Marco Polo had transmitted to Baghdad. I will give it here in connection with another which I also came across in Egypt.

“‘Many years ago there reigned in Babylon, on the Nile, a haughty Khalif who vexed the Christians with taxes and corvées. He was confirmed in his hate of the Christians by the Khakam Chacham Bashi or Chief Rabbi of the Jews, who one day said to him: “The Christians allege in their books that it shall not hurt them to drink or eat any deadly thing. So I have prepared a potion that one of them shall taste at my hand: if he does not die on the spot then call me no more Chacham Bashi!” The Khalif immediately sent for His Holiness the Patriarch of Babylon, and ordered him to drink up the potion. The Patriarch just blew a little over the cup and then emptied it at a draught, and took no harm. His Holiness then on his side demanded that the Chacham Bashi should quaff a cup to the health of the Khalif, which he (the Patriarch) should first taste, and this the Khalif found only fair and right. But hardly had the Chacham Bashi put the cup to his lips than he fell down and expired.’ Still the Musulmans and Jews thirsted for Christian blood. It happened at that time that a mass of the hill Mokattani became loose and threatened to come down upon Babylon. This was laid to the door of the Christians, and they were ordered to stop it. The Patriarch in great distress has a vision that tells him summon the saintly cobbler (of whom the same story is told as here)—the cobbler bids the rock to stand still and it does so to this day. ‘These two stories may still be heard in Cairo’—from whom is not said. The hill that threatened to fall on the Egyptian Babylon is called in Turkish Dur Dagh, ‘Stay, or halt-hill.’ (L.c. April, 1878″)—MS. Note, H. Y.



Tauris is a great and noble city, situated in a great province called YRAC, in which are many other towns and villages. But as Tauris is the most noble I will tell you about it.[NOTE 1]

The men of Tauris get their living by trade and handi crafts, for they weave many kinds of beautiful and valuable stuffs of silk and gold. The city has such a good position that merchandize is brought thither from India, Baudas, CREMESOR,[NOTE 2] and many other regions; and that attracts many Latin merchants, especially Genoese, to buy goods and transact other business there; the more as it is also a great market for precious stones. It is a city in fact where merchants make large profits.[NOTE 3]

The people of the place are themselves poor creatures; and are a great medley of different classes. There are Armenians, Nestorians, Jacobites, Georgians, Persians, and finally the natives of the city themselves, who are worshippers of Mahommet. These last are a very evil generation; they are known as TAURIZI.[NOTE 4] The city is all girt round with charming gardens, full of many varieties of large and excellent fruits.[NOTE 5]

Now we will quit Tauris, and speak of the great country of Persia. [From
Tauris to Persia is a journey of twelve days.]

NOTE 1.—Abulfeda notices that TABRÍZ was vulgarly pronounced Tauriz, and this appears to have been adopted by the Franks. In Pegolotti the name is always Torissi.

Tabriz is often reckoned to belong to Armenia, as by Hayton. Properly it is the chief city of Azerbaiján, which never was included in ‘IRAK. But it may be observed that Ibn Batuta generally calls the Mongol Ilkhan of Persia Sáhib or Malik ul-‘Irák, and as Tabriz was the capital of that sovereign, we can account for the mistake, whilst admitting it to be one. [The destruction of Baghdad by Hulaku made Tabriz the great commercial and political city of Asia, and diverted the route of Indian products from the Mediterranean to the Euxine. It was the route to the Persian Gulf by Kashan, Yezd, and Kermán, to the Mediterranean by Lajazzo, and later on by Aleppo,—and to the Euxine by Trebizond. The destruction of the Kingdom of Armenia closed to Europeans the route of Tauris.—H. C.]

NOTE 2.—Cremesor, as Baldelli points out, is GARMSIR, meaning a hot region, a term which in Persia has acquired several specific applications, and especially indicates the coast-country on the N.E. side of the Persian Gulf, including Hormuz and the ports in that quarter.

NOTE 3.—[Of the Italians established at Tabriz, the first whose name is mentioned is the Venetian Pietro Viglioni (Vioni); his will, dated 10th December, 1264, is still in existence. (Archiv. Venet. XXVI. pp. 161-165; Heyd, French Ed., II. p. 110.)—H. C.] At a later date (1341) the Genoese had a factory at Tabriz headed by a consul with a council of twenty four merchants, and in 1320 there is evidence of a Venetian settlement there. (Elie de la Prim, 161; Heyd, II. 82.)

Rashiduddin says of Tabriz that there were gathered there under the eyes of the Padishah of Islam “philosophers, astronomers, scholars, historians, of all religions, of all sects; people of Cathay, of Machin, of India, of Kashmir, of Tibet, of the Uighúr and other Turkish nations, Arabs and Franks.” Ibn Batuta, “I traversed the bazaar of the jewellers, and my eyes were dazzled by the varieties of precious stones which I beheld. Handsome slaves, superbly dressed, and girdled with silk, offered their gems for sale to the Tartar ladies, who bought great numbers. [Odoric (ed. Cordier) speaks also of the great trade of Tabriz.] Tabriz maintained a large population and prosperity down to the 17th century, as may be seen in Chardin. It is now greatly fallen, though still a place of importance.” (Quat. Rash., p. 39; I. B. II. 130.)

[Illustration: Ghazan Khan’s Mosque at Tabriz.—(From Fergusson.)]

NOTE 4.—In Pauthier’s text this is Touzi, a mere clerical error, I doubt not for Torizi, in accordance with the G. Text (“le peuple de la cité que sunt apelés Tauriz”), with the Latin, and with Ramusio. All that he means to say is that the people are called Tabrizís. Not recondite information, but ’tis his way. Just so he tells us in ch[*illegible*]u that the people of Hermenia are called Hermins, and elsewhere that the people of Tebet are called Tebet. So Hayton thinks it not inappropriate to say that the people of Catay are called Cataini, that the people of Corasmia are called Corasmins, and that the people of the cities of Persia are called Persians.

NOTE 5.—Hamd Allah Mastaufi, the Geographer, not long after Polo’s time, gives an account of Tabriz, quoted in Barbier de Meynard’s Dict. de la Perse, p. 132. This also notices the extensive gardens round the city, the great abundance and cheapness of fruits, the vanity, insolence, and faithlessness of the Tabrízis, etc. (p. 132 seqq.) Our cut shows a relic of the Mongol Dynasty at Tabriz.



On the borders of (the territory of) Tauris there is a monastery called after Saint Barsamo, a most devout Saint. There is an Abbot, with many Monks, who wear a habit like that of the Carmelites, and these to avoid idleness are continually knitting woollen girdles. These they place upon the altar of St. Barsamo during the service, and when they go begging about the province (like the Brethren of the Holy Spirit) they present them to their friends and to the gentlefolks, for they are excellent things to remove bodily pain; wherefore every one is devoutly eager to possess them.[NOTE 1]

NOTE 1.—Barsauma (“The Son of Fasting”) was a native of Samosata, and an Archimandrite of the Asiatic Church. He opposed the Nestorians, but became himself still more obnoxious to the orthodox as a spreader of the Monophysite Heresy. He was condemned by the Council of Chalcedon (451), and died in 458. He is a Saint of fame in the Jacobite and Armenian Churches, and several monasteries were dedicated to him; but by far the most celebrated, and doubtless that meant here, was near Malatia. It must have been famous even among the Mahomedans, for it has an article in Bákúi’s Geog. Dictionary. (Dír-Barsúma, see N. et Ext. II. 515.) This monastery possessed relics of Barsauma and of St. Peter, and was sometimes the residence of the Jacobite Patriarch and the meeting-place of the Synods.

A more marvellous story than Marco’s is related of this monastery by Vincent of Beauvais: “There is in that kingdom (Armenia) a place called St. Brassamus, at which there is a monastery for 300 monks. And ’tis said that if ever an enemy attacks it, the defences of the monastery move of themselves, and shoot back the shot against the besieger.”

(Assemani in vol. ii. passim; Tournefort, III. 260; Vin. Bell. Spec. Historiale, Lib. XXX. c. cxlii.; see also Mar. Sanut. III. xi. c. 16.)



Persia is a great country, which was in old times very illustrious and powerful; but now the Tartars have wasted and destroyed it.

In Persia is the city of SABA, from which the Three Magi set out when they went to worship Jesus Christ; and in this city they are buried, in three very large and beautiful monuments, side by side. And above them there is a square building, carefully kept. The bodies are still entire, with the hair and beard remaining. One of these was called Jaspar, the second Melchior, and the third Balthasar. Messer Marco Polo asked a great many questions of the people of that city as to those Three Magi, but never one could he find that knew aught of the matter, except that these were three kings who were buried there in days of old. However, at a place three days’ journey distant he heard of what I am going to tell you. He found a village there which goes by the name of CALA ATAPERISTAN,[NOTE 1] which is as much as to say, “The Castle of the Fire-worshippers.” And the name is rightly applied, for the people there do worship fire, and I will tell you why.

They relate that in old times three kings of that country went away to worship a Prophet that was born, and they carried with them three manner of offerings, Gold, and Frankincense, and Myrrh; in order to ascertain whether that Prophet were God, or an earthly King, or a Physician. For, said they, if he take the Gold, then he is an earthly King; if he take the Incense he is God; if he take the Myrrh he is a Physician.

So it came to pass when they had come to the place where the Child was born, the youngest of the Three Kings went in first, and found the Child apparently just of his own age; so he went forth again marvelling greatly. The middle one entered next, and like the first he found the Child seemingly of his own age; so he also went forth again and marvelled greatly. Lastly, the eldest went in, and as it had befallen the other two, so it befell him. And he went forth very pensive. And when the three had rejoined one another, each told what he had seen; and then they all marvelled the more. So they agreed to go in all three together, and on doing so they beheld the Child with the appearance of its actual age, to wit, some thirteen days.[NOTE 2] Then they adored, and presented their Gold and Incense and Myrrh. And the Child took all the three offerings, and then gave them a small closed box; whereupon the Kings departed to return into their own land.

NOTE 1.—Kala’ Atishparastán, meaning as in the text. (Marsden.)

NOTE 2.—According to the Collectanea ascribed to Bede, Melchior was a hoary old man; Balthazar in his prime, with a beard; Gaspar young and beardless. (Inchofer, Tres Magi Evangelici, Romae, 1639.)



And when they had ridden many days they said they would see what the Child had given them. So they opened the little box, and inside it they found a stone. On seeing this they began to wonder what this might be that the Child had given them, and what was the import thereof. Now the signification was this: when they presented their offerings, the Child had accepted all three, and when they saw that they had said within themselves that He was the True God, and the True King, and the True Physician.[NOTE 1] And what the gift of the stone implied was that this Faith which had begun in them should abide firm as a rock. For He well knew what was in their thoughts. Howbeit, they had no understanding at all of this signification of the gift of the stone; so they cast it into a well. Then straightway a fire from Heaven descended into that well wherein the stone had been cast.

And when the Three Kings beheld this marvel they were sore amazed, and it greatly repented them that they had cast away the stone; for well they then perceived that it had a great and holy meaning. So they took of that fire, and carried it into their own country, and placed it in a rich and beautiful church. And there the people keep it continually burning, and worship it as a god, and all the sacrifices they offer are kindled with that fire. And if ever the fire becomes extinct they go to other cities round about where the same faith is held, and obtain of that fire from them, and carry it to the church. And this is the reason why the people of this country worship fire. They will often go ten days’ journey to get of that fire.[NOTE 2]

Such then was the story told by the people of that Castle to Messer Marco Polo; they declared to him for a truth that such was their history, and that one of the three kings was of the city called SABA, and the second of AVA, and the third of that very Castle where they still worship fire, with the people of all the country round about.[NOTE 3]

Having related this story, I will now tell you of the different provinces of Persia, and their peculiarities.

NOTE 1.—”Mire.” This was in old French the popular word for a Leech; the politer word was Physicien. (N. et E. V. 505.)

Chrysostom says that the Gold, Myrrh, and Frankincense were mystic gifts indicating King, Man, God; and this interpretation was the usual one. Thus Prudentius:—

  “Regem, Deumque adnunciant
Thesaurus et fragrans odor
Thuris Sabaei, at myrrheus
Pulvis sepulchrum praedocet.” (Hymnus Epiphanius.)

And the Paris Liturgy:—

  “Offert Aurum Caritas,
Et Myrrham Austeritas,
Et Thus Desiderium.
Auro Rex agnoscitur,
Homo Myrrha, colitur
Thure Deus gentium.”

And in the “Hymns, Ancient and Modern”:—

  “Sacred gifts of mystic meaning:
Incense doth their God disclose,
Gold the King of Kings proclaimeth,
Myrrh His sepulchre foreshows.”

NOTE 2.—”Feruntque (Magi), si justum est credi, etiam ignem caelitus iapsum apud se sempiternis foculis custodire, cujus portionem exiguam, ut faustam praeisse quondam Asiaticis Regibus dicunt.” (Ammian. Marcell. XXIII. 6.)

NOTE 3.—Saba or Sava still exists as SÁVAH, about 50 miles S.W. of Tehrân. It is described by Mr. Consul Abbott, who visited it in 1849, as the most ruinous town he had ever seen, and as containing about 1000 families. The people retain a tradition, mentioned by Hamd Allah Mastaufi, that the city stood on the shores of a Lake which dried up miraculously at the birth of Mahomed. Sávah is said to have possessed one of the greatest Libraries in the East, until its destruction by the Mongols on their first invasion of Persia. Both Sávah and Ávah (or Ábah) are mentioned by Abulfeda as cities of Jibal. We are told that the two cities were always at loggerheads, the former being Sunni and the latter Shiya. [We read in the Travels of Thévenot, a most intelligent traveller, “qu’il n’a rien érit de l’ancienne ville de Sava qu’il trouva sur son chemin, et où il a marqué lui-même que son esprit de curiosité l’abandonna.” (Voyages, éd. 1727, vol. v. p. 343. He died a few days after at Miana, in Armenia, 28th November, 1667). (MS. Note.—H. Y.)]

As regards the position of AVAH, Abbott says that a village still stands upon the site, about 16 miles S.S.E. of Sávah. He did not visit it, but took a bearing to it. He was told there was a mound there on which formerly stood a Gueber Castle. At Sávah he could find no trace of Marco Polo’s legend. Chardin, in whose time Sávah was not quite so far gone to decay, heard of an alleged tomb of Samuel, at 4 leagues from the city. This is alluded to by Hamd Allah.

Keith Johnston and Kiepert put Ávah some 60 miles W.N.W. of Sávah, on the road between Kazvin and Hamadan. There seems to be some great mistake here.

Friar Odoric puts the locality of the Magi at Kashan, though one of the versions of Ramusio and the Palatine MS. (see Cordier’s Odoric, pp. xcv. and 41 of his Itinerary), perhaps corrected in this, puts it at Saba—H. Y. and H. C.

We have no means of fixing the Kala’ Atishparastán. It is probable, however, that the story was picked up on the homeward journey, and as it seems to be implied that this castle was reached three days after leaving Sávah, I should look for it between Sávah and Abher. Ruins to which the nameKila’-i-Gabr, “Gueber Castle,” attaches are common in Persia.

As regards the Legend itself, which shows such a curious mixture of Christian and Parsi elements, it is related some 350 years earlier by Mas’údi: “In the Province of Fars they tell you of a Well called the Well of Fire, near which there was a temple built. When the Messiah was born the King Koresh sent three messengers to him, the first of whom carried a bag of Incense, the second a bag of Myrrh, and the third a bag of Gold. They set out under the guidance of the Star which the king had described to them, arrived in Syria, and found the Messiah with Mary His Mother. This story of the three messengers is related by the Christians with sundry exaggerations; it is also found in the Gospel. Thus they say that the Star appeared to Koresh at the moment of Christ’s birth; that it went on when the messengers went on, and stopped when they stopped. More ample particulars will be found in our Historical Annals, where we have given the versions of this legend as current among the Guebers and among the Christians. It will be seen that Mary gave the king’s messengers a round loaf, and this, after different adventures, they hid under a rock in the province of Fars. The loaf disappeared underground, and there they dug a well, on which they beheld two columns of fire to start up flaming at the surface; in short, all the details of the legend will be found in our Annals.” The Editors say that Mas’údi had carried the story to Fars by mistaking Shíz in Azerbaiján (the Atropatenian Ecbatana of Sir H. Rawlinson) for Shiraz. A rudiment of the same legend is contained in the Arabic Gospel of the Infancy. This says that Mary gave the Magi one of the bands in which the Child was swathed. On their return they cast this into their sacred fire; though wrapt in the flame it remained unhurt.

We may add that there was a Christian tradition that the Star descended into a well between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Gregory of Tours also relates that in a certain well, at Bethlehem, from which Mary had drawn water, the Star was sometimes seen, by devout pilgrims who looked carefully for it, to pass from one side to the other. But only such as merited the boon could see it.

(See Abbott in J. R. G. S. XXV. 4-6; Assemani, III. pt. 2, 750; Chardin, II. 407; N. et Ext. II. 465; Dict. de la Perse, 2, 56, 298; Cathay, p. 51; Mas’udi, IV. 80; Greg. Turon. Libri Miraculorum, Paris, 1858, I. 8.)

Several of the fancies that legend has attached to the brief story of the Magi in St. Matthew, such as the royal dignity of the persons; their location, now in Arabia, now (as here) at Saba in Persia, and again (as in Hayton and the Catalan Map) in Tarsia or Eastern Turkestan; the notion that one of them was a Negro, and so on, probably grew out of the arbitrary application of passages in the Old Testament, such as: “Venient legati ex Aegypto: AETHIOPIA praevenit manus ejus Deo” (Ps. lxviii. 31). This produced the Negro who usually is painted as one of the Three. “Reges THARSIS et Insulae munera offerent: Reges ARABUM et SABA dona adducent” (lxxii. 10). This made the Three into Kings, and fixed them in Tarsia, Arabia, and Sava. “Mundatio Camelorum operiet te, dromedarii Madian et EPHA: omnes de SABA venient aurum et thus deferentes et laudem Domino annunciantes” (Is. lx. 6). Here were Ava and Sava coupled, as well as the gold and frankincense.

One form of the old Church Legend was that the Three were buried at Sessania Adrumetorum (Hadhramaut) in Arabia, whence the Empress Helena had the bodies conveyed to Constantinople, [and later to Milan in the time of the Emperor Manuel Comnenus. After the fall of Milan (1162), Frederic Barbarossa gave them to Archbishop Rainald of Dassel (1159-1167), who carried them to Cologne (23rd July, 1164).—H. C.]

The names given by Polo, Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, have been accepted from an old date by the Roman Church; but an abundant variety of other names has been assigned to them. Hyde quotes a Syriac writer who calls them Aruphon, Hurmon, and Tachshesh, but says that some call them Gudphorbus, Artachshasht, and Labudo; whilst in Persian they were termed Amad, Zad-Amad, Drust-Amad, i.e. Venit, Cito Venit, Sincerus Venit. Some called them in Greek, Apellius, Amerus, and Damascus, and in Hebrew, Magaloth, Galgalath, and Saracia, but otherwise Ator, Sator, and Petatoros! The Armenian Church used the same names as the Roman, but in Chaldee they were Kaghba, Badadilma, Badada Kharida. (Hyde, Rel. Vet. Pers. 382-383; Inchofer, ut supra; J. As. sér. VI. IX. 160.)

[Just before going to press we have read Major Sykes’ new book on Persia. Major Sykes (ch. xxiii.) does not believe that Marco visited Baghdád, and he thinks that the Venetians entered Persia near Tabriz, and travelled to Sultania, Kashán, and Yezd. Thence they proceeded to Kerman and Hormuz. We shall discuss this question in the Introduction.—H. C.]



Now you must know that Persia is a very great country, and contains eight kingdoms. I will tell you the names of them all.

The first kingdom is that at the beginning of Persia, and it is called CASVIN; the second is further to the south, and is called CURDISTAN; the third is LOR; the fourth [SUOLSTAN]; the fifth ISTANIT; the sixth SERAZY; the seventh SONCARA; the eighth TUNOCAIN, which is at the further extremity of Persia. All these kingdoms lie in a southerly direction except one, to wit, Tunocain; that lies towards the east, and borders on the (country of the) Arbre Sol.[NOTE 1]

In this country of Persia there is a great supply of fine horses; and people take them to India for sale, for they are horses of great price, a single one being worth as much of their money as is equal to 200 livres Tournois; some will be more, some less, according to the quality.[NOTE 2] Here also are the finest asses in the world, one of them being worth full 30 marks of silver, for they are very large and fast, and acquire a capital amble. Dealers carry their horses to Kisi and Curmosa, two cities on the shores of the Sea of India, and there they meet with merchants who take the horses on to India for sale.

In this country there are many cruel and murderous people, so that no day passes but there is some homicide among them. Were it not for the Government, which is that of the Tartars of the Levant, they would do great mischief to merchants; and indeed, maugre the Government, they often succeed in doing such mischief. Unless merchants be well armed they run the risk of being murdered, or at least robbed of everything; and it sometimes happens that a whole party perishes in this way when not on their guard. The people are all Saracens, i.e. followers of the Law of Mahommet.[NOTE 3]

In the cities there are traders and artizans who live by their labour and crafts, weaving cloths of gold, and silk stuffs of sundry kinds. They have plenty of cotton produced in the country; and abundance of wheat, barley, millet, panick, and wine, with fruits of all kinds.

[Some one may say, “But the Saracens don’t drink wine, which is prohibited by their law.” The answer is that they gloss their text in this way, that if the wine be boiled, so that a part is dissipated and the rest becomes sweet, they may drink without breach of the commandment; for it is then no longer called wine, the name being changed with the change of flavour.[NOTE 4]]

NOTE 1.—The following appear to be Polo’s Eight Kingdoms:—

I. KAZVÍN; then a flourishing city, though I know not why he calls it a kingdom. Persian ‘Irák, or the northern portion thereof, seems intended. Previous to Hulaku’s invasion Kazvín seems to have been in the hands of the Ismailites or Assassins.

II. KURDISTAN. I do not understand the difficulties of Marsden, followed
by Lazari and Pauthier, which lead them to put forth that Kurdistan is not
Kurdistan but something else. The boundaries of Kurdistan according to
Hamd Allah were Arabian ‘Irak, Khuzistán, Persian ‘Irak, Azerbaijan and
Diarbekr. (Dict. de la P. 480.) [Cf. Curzon, Persia pass.—H. C.] Persian Kurdistan, in modern as in mediaeval times, extends south beyond
Kermanshah to the immediate border of Polo’s next kingdom, viz.:

III. LÚR or Lúristán. [On Lúristán, see Curzon, Persia, II. pp. 273-303, with the pedigree of the Ruling Family of the Feili Lurs (Pusht-i-Kuh), p. 278.—H. C.] This was divided into two principalities, Great Lúr and Little Lúr, distinctions still existing. The former was ruled by a Dynasty called the Faslúyah Atabegs, which endured from about 1155 to 1424, [when it was destroyed by the Timurids; it was a Kurd Dynasty, founded by Emad ed-din Abu Thaher (1160-1228), and the last prince of which was Ghiyas ed-din (1424). In 1258 the general Kitubuka (Hulagu’s Exp. to Persia, Bretschneider, Med. Res. I. p. 121) is reported to have reduced the country of Lúr or Lúristán and its Atabeg Teghele.—H. C.]. Their territory lay in the mountainous district immediately west of Ispahan, and extended to the River of Dizfúl, which parted it from Little Lúr. The stronghold of the Atabegs was the extraordinary hill fort of Mungasht, and they had a residence also at Aidhej or Mal-Amir in the mountains south of Shushan, where Ibn Batuta visited the reigning Prince in 1327. Sir H. Rawlinson has described Mungasht, and Mr. Layard and Baron de Bode have visited other parts, but the country is still very imperfectly known. Little Lúristán lay west of the R. Dizfúl, extending nearly to the Plain of Babylonia. Its Dynasty, called Kurshid, [was founded in 1184 by the Kurd Shodja ed-din Khurshid, and existed till Shah-Werdy lost his throne in 1593.—H. C.].

The Lúrs are akin to the Kurds, and speak a Kurd dialect, as do all those Ilyáts, or nomads of Persia, who are not of Turkish race. They were noted in the Middle Ages for their agility and their dexterity in thieving. The tribes of Little Lúr “do not affect the slightest veneration for Mahomed or the Koran; their only general object of worship is their great Saint Baba Buzurg,” and particular disciples regard with reverence little short of adoration holy men looked on as living representatives of the Divinity. (Ilchan. I. 70 seqq.; Rawlinson in J. R. G. S. IX.; Layard in Do. XVI. 75, 94; Ld. Strangford in J. R. A. S. XX. 64; N. et E. XIII. i. 330, I. B. II. 31; D’Ohsson, IV. 171-172.)

IV. SHÚLISTÁN, best represented by Ramusio’s Suolstan, whilst the old French texts have Cielstan (i.e. Shelstán); the name applied to the country of the Shúls, or Shauls, a people who long occupied a part of Lúristán, but were expelled by the Lúrs in the 12th century, and settled in the country between Shíráz and Khuzistán (now that of the Mamaseni, whom Colonel Pelly’s information identifies with the Shúls), their central points being Naobanján and the fortress called Kala’ Safed or “White Castle.” Ibn Batuta, going from Shiraz to Kazerun, encamped the first day in the country of the Shúls, “a Persian desert tribe which includes some pious persons.” (Q. R. p. 385; N. et E. XIII. i. 332-333; Ilch. I. 71; J. R. G. S. XIII. Map; I. B. II. 88.) [“Adjoining the Kuhgelus on the East are the tents of the Mamasenni (qy. Mohammed Huseini) Lúrs, occupying the country still known as Shúlistán, and extending as far east and south-east as Fars and the Plain of Kazerun. This tribe prides itself on its origin, claiming to have come from Seistán, and to be directly descended from Rustam, whose name is still borne by one of the Mamasenni clans.” (Curzon, Persia, II. p. 318.)—H. C.]

V. ISPAHAN? The name is in Ramusio Spaan, showing at least that he or some one before him had made this identification. The unusual combination ff, i.e. sf, in manuscript would be so like the frequent one ft, i.e. st, that the change from Isfan to Istan would be easy. But why Istan_it_?

VI. SHÍRÁZ [(Shir = milk, or Shir = lion)—H. C.] representing the province of Fars or Persia Proper, of which it has been for ages the chief city. [It was founded after the Arab conquest in 694 A.D., by Mohammed, son of Yusuf Kekfi. (Curzon, Persia, II. pp. 93-110.)—H. C.] The last Dynasty that had reigned in Fars was that of the Salghur Atabegs, founded about the middle of the 12th century. Under Abubakr (1226-1260) this kingdom attained considerable power, embracing Fars, Kermán, the islands of the Gulf and its Arabian shores; and Shíráz then flourished in arts and literature; Abubakr was the patron of Saadi. From about 1262, though a Salghurian princess, married to a son of Hulaku, had the nominal title of Atabeg, the province of Fars was under Mongol administration. (Ilch. passim.)

VII. SHAWÁNKÁRA or Shabánkára. The G. T. has Soucara, but the Crusca gives the true reading Soncara. It is the country of the Shawánkárs, a people coupled with the Shúls and Lúrs in mediaeval Persian history, and like them of Kurd affinities. Their princes, of a family Faslúyah, are spoken of as influential before the Mahomedan conquest, but the name of the people comes prominently forward only during the Mongol era of Persian history. [Shabánkára was taken in 1056 from the Buyid Dynasty, who ruled from the 10th century over a great part of Persia, by Fazl ibn Hassan (Fazluïeh-Hasunïeh). Under the last sovereign, Ardeshir, Shabánkára was taken in 1355 by the Modhafferians, who reigned in Irak, Fars, and Kermán, one of the Dynasties established at the expense of the Mongol Ilkhans after the death of Abu Saïd (1335), and were themselves subjugated by Timur in 1392.—H. C.] Their country lay to the south of the great salt lake east of Shíráz, and included Niriz and Darábjird, Fassa, Forg, and Tárum. Their capital was I/g or I/j, called also Irej, about 20 miles north-west of Daráb, with a great mountain fortress; it was taken by Hulaku in 1259. The son of the prince was continued in nominal authority, with Mongol administrators. In consequence of a rebellion in 1311 the Dynasty seems to have been extinguished. A descendant attempted to revive their authority about the middle of the same century. The latest historical mention of the name that I have found is in Abdurrazzák’s History of Shah Rukh, under the year H. 807 (1404). (See Jour. As. 3d. s. vol. ii. 355.) But a note by Colonel Pelly informs me that the name Shabánkára is still applied (1) to the district round the towns of Runiz and Gauristan near Bandar Abbas; (2) to a village near Maiman, in the old country of the tribe; (3) to a tribe and district of Dashtistan, 38 farsakhs west of Shíráz.

With reference to the form in the text, Soncara, I may notice that in two passages of the Masálak-ul-Absár, translated by Quatremère, the name occurs as Shankárah. (Q. R. pp. 380, 440 seqq.; N. et E. XIII.; Ilch. I. 71 and passim; Ouseley’s Travels, II. 158 seqq.)

VIII. TÚN-O-KÂIN, the eastern Kuhistán or Hill country of Persia, of which Tún and Káin are chief cities. The practice of indicating a locality by combining two names in this way is common in the East. Elsewhere in this book we find Ariora-Keshemur and Kes-macoran (Kij-Makrán). Upper Sind is often called in India by the Sepoys Rori-Bakkar, from two adjoining places on the Indus; whilst in former days, Lower Sind was often called Diul-Sind. Karra-Mánikpúr, Uch-Multán, Kunduz-Baghlán are other examples.

The exact expression Tún-o-Káin for the province here in question is used by Baber, and evidently also by some of Hammer’s authorities. (Baber, pp. 201, 204; see Ilch. II. 190; I. 95, 104, and Hist. de l’Ordre des Assassins, p. 245.)

[We learn from (Sir) C. Macgregor’s (1875) Journey through Khorasan (I. p. 127) that the same territory including Gháín or Kaïn is now called by the analogous name of Tabas-o-Tún. Tún and Kaïn (Gháín) are both described in their modern state, by Macgregor. (Ibid. pp. 147 and 161.)—H. C.]

Note that the identification of Suolstan is due to Quatremère (see N. et E. XIII. i. circa p. 332); that of Soncara to Defréméry (J. As. sér. IV. tom. xi. p. 441); and that of Tunocain to Malte-Brun. (N. Ann. des V. xviii. p. 261.) I may add that the Lúrs, the Shúls, and the Shabánkáras are the subjects of three successive sections in the Masálak-al-Absár of Shihábuddin Dimishki, a work which reflects much of Polo’s geography. (See N. et E. XIII. i. 330-333; Curzon, Persia, II. pp. 248 and 251.)

NOTE 2.—The horses exported to India, of which we shall hear more hereafter, were probably the same class of “Gulf Arabs” that are now carried thither. But the Turkman horses of Persia are also very valuable, especially for endurance. Kinneir speaks of one accomplishing 900 miles in eleven days, and Ferrier states a still more extraordinary feat from his own knowledge. In that case one of those horses went from Tehran to Tabriz, returned, and went again to Tabriz, within twelve days, including two days’ rest. The total distance is about 1100 miles.

The livre tournois at this period was equivalent to a little over 18 francs of modern French silver. But in bringing the value to our modern gold standard we must add one-third, as the ratio of silver to gold was then [1:12] instead of [1:16]. Hence the equivalent in gold of the livre tournois is very little less than 1_l._ sterling, and the price of the horse would be about 193_l._[1]

Mr. Wright quotes an ordinance of Philip III. of France (1270-1285) fixing the maximum price that might be given for a palfrey at 60 livres tournois, and for a squire’s roncin at 20 livres. Joinville, however, speaks of a couple of horses presented to St. Lewis in 1254 by the Abbot of Cluny, which he says would at the time of his writing (1309) have been worth 500 livres (the pair, it would seem). Hence it may be concluded in a general way that the ordinary price of imported horses in India approached that of the highest class of horses in Europe. (Hist. of Dom. Manners, p. 317;Joinville, p. 205.)

About 1850 a very fair Arab could be purchased in Bombay for 60_l._, or even less; but prices are much higher now.

With regard to the donkeys, according to Tavernier, the fine ones used by merchants in Persia were imported from Arabia. The mark of silver was equivalent to about 44_s._ of our silver money, and allowing as before for the lower relative value of gold, 30 marks would be equivalent to 88_l._ sterling.

Kisi or Kish we have already heard of. Curmosa is Hormuz, of which we shall hear more. With a Pisan, as Rusticiano was, the sound of c is purely and strongly aspirate. Giovanni d’Empoli, in the beginning of the 16th century, another Tuscan, also calls it Cormus. (See Archiv. Stor. Ital.Append. III. 81.)

NOTE 3.—The character of the nomad and semi-nomad tribes of Persia in those days—Kurds, Lúrs, Shúls, Karaunahs, etc.—probably deserved all that Polo says, and it is not changed now. Take as an example Rawlinson’s account of the Bakhtyáris of Luristán: “I believe them to be individually brave, but of a cruel and savage character; they pursue their blood feuds with the most inveterate and exterminating spirit…. It is proverbial in Persia that the Bakhtiyaris have been compelled to forego altogether the reading of the Fatihah or prayer for the dead, for otherwise they would have no other occupation. They are also most dextrous and notorious thieves.” (J. R. G. S. IX. 105.)

NOTE 4.—The Persians have always been lax in regard to the abstinence from wine.

According to Athenaeus, Aristotle, in his Treatise on Drinking (a work lost, I imagine, to posterity), says, “If the wine be moderately boiled it is less apt to intoxicate.” In the preparation of some of the sweet wines of the Levant, such as that of Cyprus, the must is boiled, but I believe this is not the case generally in the East. Baber notices it as a peculiarity among the Kafirs of the Hindu Kush. Tavernier, however, says that at Shíráz, besides the wine for which that city was so celebrated, a good deal of boiled wine was manufactured, and used among the poor and by travellers. No doubt what is meant is the sweet liquor or syrup called Dúsháb, which Della Valle says is just the Italian Mostocotto, but better, clearer, and not so mawkish (I. 689). (Yonge’s Athen. X. 34; Baber, p. 145; Tavernier, Bk. V. ch. xxi.)

[1] The Encyc. Britann., article “Money,” gives the livre tournois of this period as 18.17 francs. A French paper in Notes and Queries (4th S. IV. 485) gives it under St. Lewis and Philip III. as equivalent to 18.24 fr., and under Philip IV. to 17.95. And lastly, experiment at the British Museum, made by the kind intervention of my friend, Mr. E. Thomas, F.R.S., gave the weights of the sols of St. Lewis (1226-1270) and Philip IV. (1285-1314) respectively as 63 grains and 61-1/2 grains of remarkably pure silver. These trials would give the livres (20 sols) as equivalent to 18.14 fr. and 17.70 fr. respectively.



Yasdi also is properly in Persia; it is a good and noble city, and has a great amount of trade. They weave there quantities of a certain silk tissue known as Yasdi, which merchants carry into many quarters to dispose of. The people are worshippers of Mahommet.[NOTE 1]

When you leave this city to travel further, you ride for seven days over great plains, finding harbour to receive you at three places only. There are many fine woods [producing dates] upon the way, such as one can easily ride through; and in them there is great sport to be had in hunting and hawking, there being partridges and quails and abundance of other game, so that the merchants who pass that way have plenty of diversion. There are also wild asses, handsome creatures. At the end of those seven marches over the plain you come to a fine kingdom which is called Kerman.[NOTE 2]

NOTE 1.—YEZD, an ancient city, supposed by D’Anville to be the Isatichae of Ptolemy, is not called by Marco a kingdom, though having a better title to the distinction than some which he classes as such. The atabegs of Yezd dated from the middle of the 11th century, and their Dynasty was permitted by the Mongols to continue till the end of the 13th, when it was extinguished by Ghazan, and the administration made over to the Mongol Diwan.

Yezd, in pre-Mahomedan times, was a great sanctuary of the Gueber worship, though now it is a seat of fanatical Mahomedanism. It is, however, one of the few places where the old religion lingers. In 1859 there were reckoned 850 families of Guebers in Yezd and fifteen adjoining villages, but they diminish rapidly.

[Heyd (Com. du Levant, II. p. 109) says the inhabitants of Yezd wove the finest silk of Taberistan.—H. C.] The silk manufactures still continue, and, with other weaving, employ a large part of the population. The Yazdi, which Polo mentions, finds a place in the Persian dictionaries, and is spoken of by D’Herbelot as Kumásh-i-Yezdi, “Yezd stuff.” [“He [Nadir Shah] bestowed upon the ambassador [Hakeem Ataleek, the prime minister of Abulfiez Khan, King of Bokhara] a donation of a thousand mohurs of Hindostan, twenty-five pieces of Yezdy brocade, a rich dress, and a horse with silver harness….” (Memoirs of Khojah Abdulkurreem, a Cashmerian of distinction … transl. from the original Persian, by Francis Gladwin … Calcutta, 1788, 8vo, p. 36.)—H. C.]

Yezd is still a place of important trade, and carries on a thriving commerce with India by Bandar Abbási. A visitor in the end of 1865 says: “The external trade appears to be very considerable, and the merchants of Yezd are reputed to be amongst the most enterprising and respectable of their class in Persia. Some of their agents have lately gone, not only to Bombay, but to the Mauritius, Java, and China.”

(Ilch. I. 67-68; Khanikoff, Mém. p. 202; Report by Major R. M. Smith, R.E.)

Friar Odoric, who visited Yezd, calls it the third best city of the Persian Emperor, and says (Cathay, I. p. 52): “There is very great store of victuals and all other good things that you can mention; but especially is found there great plenty of figs; and raisins also, green as grass and very small, are found there in richer profusion than in any other part of the world.” [He also gives from the smaller version of Ramusio’s an awful description of the Sea of Sand, one day distant from Yezd. (Cf. Tavernier, 1679, I. p. 116.)—H. C.]

NOTE 2.—I believe Della Valle correctly generalises when he says of Persian travelling that “you always travel in a plain, but you always have mountains on either hand” (I. 462). [Compare Macgregor, I. 254: “I really cannot describe the road. Every road in Persia as yet seems to me to be exactly alike, so … my readers will take it for granted that the road went over a waste, with barren rugged hills in the distance, or near; no water, no houses, no people passed.”—H. C.] The distance from Yezd to Kermán is, according to Khanikoff’s survey, 314 kilomètres, or about 195 miles. Ramusio makes the time eight days, which is probably the better reading, giving a little over 24 miles a day. Westergaard in 1844, and Khanikoff in 1859, took ten days; Colonel Goldsmid and Major Smith in 1865 twelve. [“The distance from Yezd to Kermán by the present high road, 229 miles, is by caravans, generally made in nine stages; persons travelling with all comforts do it in twelve stages; travellers whose time is of some value do it easily in seven days.” (Houtum-Schindler, l.c. pp. 490-491.)—H. C.]

Khanikoff observes on this chapter: “This notice of woods easy to ride through, covering the plain of Yezd, is very curious. Now you find it a plain of great extent indeed from N.W. to S.E., but narrow and arid; indeed I saw in it only thirteen inhabited spots, counting two caravanserais. Water for the inhabitants is brought from a great distance by subterraneous conduits, a practice which may have tended to desiccate the soil, for every trace of wood has completely disappeared.”

Abbott travelled from Yezd to Kermán in 1849, by a road through Báfk, east of the usual road, which Khanikoff followed, and parallel to it; and it is worthy of note that he found circumstances more accordant with Marco’s description. Before getting to Báfk he says of the plain that it “extends to a great distance north and south, and is probably 20 miles in breadth;” whilst Báfk “is remarkable for its groves of date-trees, in the midst of which it stands, and which occupy a considerable space.” Further on he speaks of “wild tufts and bushes growing abundantly,” and then of “thickets of the Ghez tree.” He heard of the wild asses, but did not see any. In his report to the Foreign Office, alluding to Marco Polo’s account, he says: “It is still true that wild asses and other game are found in the wooded spots on the road.” The ass is the Asinus Onager, the Gor Khar of Persia, or Kulanof the Tartars. (Khan. Mém. p. 200; Id. sur Marco Polo, p. 21; J. R. G. S. XXV. 20-29; Mr. Abbott’s MS. Report in Foreign office.) [The difficulty has now been explained by General Houtum-Schindler in a valuable paper published in the Jour. Roy. As. Soc. N.S. XIII., October, 1881, p. 490. He says: “Marco Polo travelled from Yazd to Kermán viâ Báfk. His description of the road, seven days over great plains, harbour at three places only, is perfectly exact. The fine woods, producing dates, are at Báfk itself. (The place is generally called Báft.) Partridges and quails still abound; wild asses I saw several on the western road, and I was told that there were a great many on the Báfk road. Travellers and caravans now always go by the eastern road viâ Anár and Bahrámábád. Before the Sefavíehs (i.e. before A.D. 1500) the Anár road was hardly, if ever, used; travellers always took the Báfk road. The country from Yazd to Anár, 97 miles, seems to have been totally uninhabited before the Sefavíehs. Anár, as late as A.D. 1340, is mentioned as the frontier place of Kermán to the north, on the confines of the Yazd desert. When Sháh Abbás had caravanserais built at three places between Yazd and Anár (Zein ud-dín, Kermán-sháhán, and Shamsh), the eastern road began to be neglected.” (Cf. Major Sykes’ Persia, ch. xxiii.)—H. C.]



Kerman is a kingdom which is also properly in Persia, and formerly it had a hereditary prince. Since the Tartars conquered the country the rule is no longer hereditary, but the Tartar sends to administer whatever lord he pleases.[NOTE 1] In this kingdom are produced the stones called turquoises in great abundance; they are found in the mountains, where they are extracted from the rocks.[NOTE 2] There are also plenty of veins of steel and Ondanique.[NOTE 3] The people are very skilful in making harness of war; their saddles, bridles, spurs, swords, bows, quivers, and arms of every kind, are very well made indeed according to the fashion of those parts. The ladies of the country and their daughters also produce exquisite needlework in the embroidery of silk stuffs in different colours, with figures of beasts and birds, trees and flowers, and a variety of other patterns. They work hangings for the use of noblemen so deftly that they are marvels to see, as well as cushions, pillows quilts, and all sorts of things.[NOTE 4]

In the mountains of Kerman are found the best falcons in the world. They are inferior in size to the Peregrine, red on the breast, under the neck, and between the thighs; their flight so swift that no bird can escape them.[NOTE 5]

On quitting the city you ride on for seven days, always finding towns, villages, and handsome dwelling-houses, so that it is very pleasant travelling; and there is excellent sport also to be had by the way in hunting and hawking. When you have ridden those seven days over a plain country, you come to a great mountain; and when you have got to the top of the pass you find a great descent which occupies some two days to go down. All along you find a variety and abundance of fruits; and in former days there were plenty of inhabited places on the road, but now there are none; and you meet with only a few people looking after their cattle at pasture. From the city of Kerman to this descent the cold in winter is so great that you can scarcely abide it, even with a great quantity of clothing.[NOTE 6]

NOTE 1.—Kermán is mentioned by Ptolemy, and also by Ammianus amongst the cities of the country so called (Carmania): “inter quas nitet Carmana omnium mater.” (XXIII. 6.)

M. Pauthier’s supposition that Sirján was in Polo’s time the capital, is incorrect. (See N. et E. XIV. 208, 290.) Our Author’s Kermán is the city still so called; and its proper name would seem to have been Kuwáshír. (See Reinaud, Mém. sur l’Inde, 171; also Sprenger P. and R. R. 77.) According to Khanikoff it is 5535 feet above the sea.

Kermán, on the fall of the Beni Búya Dynasty, in the middle of the 11th century, came into the hands of a branch of the Seljukian Turks, who retained it till the conquests of the Kings of Khwarizm, which just preceded the Mongol invasion. In 1226 the Amir Borák, a Kara Khitaian, who was governor on behalf of Jaláluddin of Khwarizm, became independent under the title of Kutlugh Sultan. [He died in 1234.] The Mongols allowed this family to retain the immediate authority, and at the time when Polo returned from China the representative of the house was a lady known as thePádishah Khátún [who reigned from 1291], the wife successively of the Ilkhans Abaka and Kaikhatu; an ambitious, clever, and masterful woman, who put her own brother Siyurgutmish to death as a rival, and was herself, after the decease of Kaikhatu, put to death by her brother’s widow and daughter [1294]. The Dynasty continued, nominally at least, to the reign of the Ilkhan Khodabanda (1304-13), when it was extinguished. [See Major Sykes’ Persia, chaps, v. and xxiii.]

Kermán was a Nestorian see, under the Metropolitan of Fars. (Ilch. passim; Weil, III. 454; Lequien, II. 1256.)

[“There is some confusion with regard to the names of Kermán both as a town and as a province or kingdom. We have the names Kermán, Kuwáshír, Bardshír. I should say the original name of the whole country was Kermán, the ancient Karamania. A province of this was called Kúreh-i-Ardeshír, which, being contracted, became Kuwáshír, and is spoken of as the province in which Ardeshír Bábekán, the first Sassanian monarch, resided. A part of Kúreh-i-Ardeshír was called Bardshír, or Bard-i-Ardeshír, now occasionally Bardsír, and the present city of Kermán was situated at its north-eastern corner. This town, during the Middle Ages, was called Bardshír. On a coin of Qara Arslán Beg, King of Kermán, of A.H. 462, Mr. Stanley Lane Poole reads Yazdashír instead of Bardshír. Of Al Idrísí’s Yazdashír I see no mention in histories; Bardshír was the capital and the place where most of the coins were struck. Yazdashír, if such a place existed, can only have been a place of small importance. It is, perhaps, a clerical error for Bardshír; without diacritical points, both words are written alike. Later, the name of the city became Kermán, the name Bardshír reverting to the district lying south-west of it, with its principal place Mashíz. In a similar manner Mashíz was often, and is so now, called Bardshír. Another old town sometimes confused with Bardshír was Sírján or Shírján, once more important than Bardshír; it is spoken of as the capital of Kermán, of Bardshír, and of Sardsír. Its name now exists only as that of a district, with principal place S’aídábád. The history of Kermán, ‘Agd-ul-‘Olá, plainly says Bardshír is the capital of Kermán, and from the description of Bardshír there is no doubt of its having been the present town Kermán. It is strange that Marco Polo does not give the name of the city. In Assemanni’s Bibliotheca Orientalis Kuwáshír and Bardashír are mentioned as separate cities, the latter being probably the old Mashíz, which as early as A.H. 582 (A.D. 1186) is spoken of in the History of Kermán as an important town. The Nestorian bishop of the province Kermán, who stood under the Metropolitan of Fars, resided at Hormúz.” (Houtum-Schindler, l.c. pp. 491-492.)

There does not seem any doubt as to the identity of Bardashir with the present city of Kermán. (See The Cities of Kirman in the time of Hamd-Allah Mustawfi and Marco Polo, by Guy le Strange, Jour. R. As. Soc. April, 1901, pp. 281, 290.) Hamd-Allah is the author of the Cosmography known as the Nuzhat-al-Kulub or “Heart’s Delight.” (Cf. Major Sykes’ Persia, chap. xvi., and the Geographical Journal for February, 1902, p. 166.)—H. C.]

NOTE 2.—A MS. treatise on precious stones cited by Ouseley mentions Shebavek in Kermán as the site of a Turquoise mine. This is probably Shahr-i-Babek, about 100 miles west of the city of Kermán, and not far from Párez, where Abbott tells us there is a mine of these stones, now abandoned. Goebel, one of Khanikoff’s party, found a deposit of turquoises at Taft, near Yezd. (Ouseley’s Travels, I. 211; J. R. G. S. XXVI. 63-65; Khan. Mém. 203.)

[“The province Kermán is still rich in turquoises. The mines of Páríz or Párez are at Chemen-i-mó-aspán, 16 miles from Páríz on the road to Bahrámábád (principal place of Rafsinján), and opposite the village or garden called Gód-i-Ahmer. These mines were worked up to a few years ago; the turquoises were of a pale blue. Other turquoises are found in the present Bardshír plain, and not far from Mashíz, on the slopes of the Chehel tan mountain, opposite a hill called the Bear Hill (tal-i-Khers). The Shehr-i-Bábek turquoise mines are at the small village Kárík, a mile from Medvár-i-Bálá, 10 miles north of Shehr-i-Bábek. They have two shafts, one of which has lately been closed by an earthquake, and were worked up to about twenty years ago. At another place, 12 miles from Shehr-i-Bábek, are seven old shafts now not worked for a long period. The stones of these mines are also of a very pale blue, and have no great value.” (Houtum-Schindler, l.c. 1881, p. 491.)

The finest turquoises came from Khorasan; the mines were near Maaden, about 48 miles to the north of Nishapür. (Heyd, Com. du Levant, II. p. 653; Ritter, Erdk. pp. 325-330.)

It is noticeable that Polo does not mention indigo at Kermán.—H. C.]

NOTE 3.—Edrisi says that excellent iron was produced in the “cold mountains” N.W. of Jiruft, i.e. somewhere south of the capital; and Jihán Numá, or Great Turkish Geography, that the steel mines of Niriz, on the borders of Kermán, were famous. These are also spoken of by Teixeira. Major St. John enables me to indicate their position, in the hills east of Niriz. (Edrisi, vol. i. p. 430; Hammer, Mém. lur la Perse, p. 275; Teixeira, Relaciones, p. 378; and see Map of Itineraries, No. II.)

[“Marco Polo’s steel mines are probably the Parpa iron mines on the road from Kermán to Shíráz, called even to-day M’aden-i-fúlád (steel mine); they are not worked now. Old Kermán weapons, daggers, swords, old stirrups, etc., made of steel, are really beautiful, and justify Marco Polo’s praise of them” (Houtum-Schindler, l.c. p. 491)—H. C.]

Ondanique of the Geog. Text, Andaine of Pauthier’s, Andanicum of the Latin, is an expression on which no light has been thrown since Ramusio’s time. The latter often asked the Persian merchants who visited Venice, and they all agreed in stating that it was a sort of steel of such surpassing value and excellence, that in the days of yore a man who possessed a mirror, or sword, of Andanic regarded it as he would some precious jewel. This seems to me excellent evidence, and to give the true clue to the meaning of Ondanique. I have retained the latter form because it points most distinctly to what I believe to be the real word, viz. Hundwáníy, “Indian Steel.”[1] (See Johnson’s Pers. Dict. and De Sacy’s Chrestomathie Arabe, II. 148.) In the Vocabulista Arabico, of about A.D. 1200 (Florence, 1871, p. 211), Hunduwán is explained by Ensis. Vüllers explains Hundwán as “anything peculiar to India, especially swords,” and quotes from Firdúsi, “Khanjar-i-Hundwán,” a hanger of Indian steel.

The like expression appears in the quotation from Edrisi below as Hindiah, and found its way into Spanish in the shapes of Alhinde, Alfinde, Alinde, first with the meaning of steel, then assuming, that of steel mirror, and finally that of metallic foil of a glass mirror. (See Dozy and Engelmann, 2d ed. pp. 144-145.) Hint or Al-hint is used in Berber also for steel. (See J. R. A. S. IX. 255.)

The sword-blades of India had a great fame over the East, and Indian steel, according to esteemed authorities, continued to be imported into Persia till days quite recent. Its fame goes back to very old times. Ctesias mentions two wonderful swords of such material that he got from the king of Persia and his mother. It is perhaps the ferrum candidum of which the Malli and Oxydracae sent a 100 talents weight as a present to Alexander.[2] Indian Iron and Steel ([Greek: sídaeros Indikòs kaì stómoma]) are mentioned in the Periplus as imports into the Abyssinian ports. Ferrum Indicumappears (at least according to one reading) among the Oriental species subject to duty in the Law of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus on that matter. Salmasius notes that among surviving Greek chemical treatises there was one [Greek: perì baphaes Indikou sidaérou], “On the Tempering of Indian Steel.” Edrisi says on this subject: “The Hindus excel in the manufacture of iron, and in the preparation of those ingredients along with which it is fused to obtain that kind of soft Iron which is usually styled Indian Steel (HINDIAH).[3] They also have workshops wherein are forged the most famous sabres in the world…. It is impossible to find anything to surpass the edge that you get from Indian Steel (al-hadíd al-Hindí).”

Allusions to the famous sword-blades of India would seem to be frequent in Arabic literature. Several will be found in Hamása’s collection of ancient Arabic poems translated by Freytag. The old commentator on one of these passages says: “Ut optimos gladios significet … Indicos esse dixit,” and here the word used in the original is Hundwániyah. In Manger’s version of Arabshah’s Life of Timur are several allusions of the same kind; one, a quotation from Antar, recalls the ferrum candidum of Curtius:

“Albi (gladii) Indici meo in sanguine abluuntur.”

In the histories, even of the Mahomedan conquest of India, the Hindu infidels are sent to Jihannam with “the well-watered blade of the Hindi sword”; or the sword is personified as “a Hindu of good family.” Coming down to later days, Chardin says of the steel of Persia: “They combine it with Indian steel, which is more tractable … and is much more esteemed.” Dupré, at the beginning of this century, tells us: “I used to believe … that the steel for the famous Persian sabres came from certain mines in Khorasan. But according to all the information I have obtained, I can assert that no mine of steel exists in that province. What is used for these blades comes in the shape of disks from Lahore.” Pottinger names steel among the imports into Kermán from India. Elphinstone the Accurate, in his Caubul, confirms Dupré: “Indian Steel [in Afghanistan] is most prized for the material; but the best swords are made in Persia and in Syria;” and in his History of India, he repeats: “The steel of India was in request with the ancients; it is celebrated in the oldest Persian poem, and is still the material of the scimitars of Khorasan and Damascus.”[4]

Klaproth, in his Asia Polyglotta, gives Andun as the Ossetish and Andan as the Wotiak, for Steel. Possibly these are essentially the same with Hundwáníy and Alhinde, pointing to India as the original source of supply. [In the Sikandar Nama, e Bará (or “Book of Alexander the Great,” written A.D. 1200, by Abu Muhammad bin Yusuf bin Mu, Ayyid-i-Nizamu-‘d-Din), translated by Captain H. Wilberforce Clarke (Lond., 1881, large 8vo), steel is frequently mentioned: Canto xix. 257, p. 202; xx. 12, p. 211; xlv. 38, p. 567; lviii. 32, pp. 695, 42, pp. 697, 62, 66, pp. 699; lix. 28, p. 703.—H. C.]

Avicenna, in his fifth book De Animâ, according to Roger Bacon, distinguishes three very different species of iron: “1st. Iron which is good for striking or bearing heavy strokes, and for being forged by hammer and fire, but not for cutting-tools. Of this hammers and anvils are made, and this is what we commonly call Iron simply. 2nd. That which is purer, has more heat in it, and is better adapted to take an edge and to form cutting-tools, but is not so malleable, viz. Steel. And the 3rd is that which is called ANDENA. This is less known among the Latin nations. Its special character is that like silver it is malleable and ductile under a very low degree of heat. In other properties it is intermediate between iron and steel.” (Fr. R. Baconis Opera Inedita, 1859, pp. 382-383.) The same passage, apparently, of Avicenna is quoted by Vincent of Beauvais, but with considerable differences. (See Speculum Naturale, VII. ch. lii. lx., and Specul. Doctrinale, XV. ch. lxiii.) The latter author writes Alidena, and I have not been able to refer to Avicenna, so that I am doubtful whether his Andena is the same term with the Andaine of Pauthier and our Ondanique.

The popular view, at least in the Middle Ages, seems to have regarded Steel as a distinct natural species, the product of a necessarily different ore, from iron; and some such view is, I suspect, still common in the East. An old Indian officer told me of the reply of a native friend to whom he had tried to explain the conversion of iron into steel—”What! You would have me believe that if I put an ass into the furnace it will come forth a horse.” And Indian Steel again seems to have been regarded as a distinct natural species from ordinary steel. It is in fact made by a peculiar but simple process, by which the iron is converted directly into cast-steel, without passing through any intermediate stage analogous to that of blister-steel. When specimens were first examined in England, chemists concluded that the steel was made direct from the ore. The Ondanique of Marco no doubt was a fine steel resembling the Indian article. (Müller’s Ctesias, p. 80; Curtius, IX. 24; Müller’s Geog. Gr. Min. I. 262; Digest. Novum, Lugd. 1551, Lib. XXXIX. Tit. 4; Salmas. Ex. Plinian. II. 763; Edrisi, I. 65-66; J. R. S. A. A. 387 seqq.; Hamasae Carmina, I. 526; Elliot, II. 209, 394;Reynolds’s Utbi, p. 216.)

[Illustration: Texture, with Animals, etc., from a Cashmere Scarf in the
Indian Museum.

“De deverses maineres laborés à bestes et ausiaus mout richement.”]

NOTE 4.—Paulus Jovius in the 16th century says, I know not on what authority, that Kermán was then celebrated for the fine temper of its steel in scimitars and lance-points. These were eagerly bought at high prices by the Turks, and their quality was such that one blow of a Kermán sabre would cleave an European helmet without turning the edge. And I see that the phrase, “Kermání blade” is used in poetry by Marco’s contemporary Amír Khusrú of Delhi. (P. Jov. Hist. of his own Time, Bk. XIV.; Elliot, III. 537.)

There is, or was in Pottinger’s time, still a great manufacture of matchlocks at Kerman; but rose-water, shawls, and carpets are the staples of the place now. Polo says nothing that points to shawl-making, but it would seem from Edrisi that some such manufacture already existed in the adjoining district of Bamm. It is possible that the “hangings” spoken of by Polo may refer to the carpets. I have seen a genuine Kermán carpet in the house of my friend, Sir Bartle Frere. It is of very short pile, very even and dense; the design, a combination of vases, birds, and floral tracery, closely resembling the illuminated frontispiece of some Persian MSS.

The shawls are inferior to those of Kashmir in exquisite softness, but scarcely in delicacy of texture and beauty of design. In 1850, their highest quality did not exceed 30 tomans (14_l._) in price. About 2200 looms were employed on the fabric. A good deal of Kermán wool called Kurk, goes viâ Bandar Abbási and Karáchi to Amritsar, where it is mixed with the genuine Tibetan wool in the shawl manufacture. Several of the articles named in the text, including pardahs (“cortines”) are woven in shawl-fabric. I scarcely think, however, that Marco would have confounded woven shawl with needle embroidery. And Mr. Khanikoff states that the silk embroidery, of which Marco speaks, is still performed with great skill and beauty at Kermán. Our cut illustrates the textures figured with animals, already noticed at p. 66.

The Guebers were numerous here at the end of last century, but they are rapidly disappearing now. The Musulman of Kermán is, according to Khanikoff, an epicurean gentleman, and even in regard to wine, which is strong and plentiful, his divines are liberal. “In other parts of Persia you find the scribblings on the walls of Serais to consist of philosophical axioms, texts from the Koran, or abuse of local authorities. From Kermán to Yezd you find only rhymes in praise of fair ladies or good wine.”

(Pottinger’s Travels; Khanik. Mém. 186 seqq., and Notice, p. 21; Major Smith’s Report; Abbott’s MS. Report in F. O.; Notes by Major O. St. John, R.E.)

NOTE 5.—Parez is famous for its falcons still, and so are the districts of Aktúr and Sirján. Both Mr. Abbott and Major Smith were entertained with hawking by Persian hosts in this neighbourhood. The late Sir O. St. John identifies the bird described as the Sháhín (Falco Peregrinator), one variety of which, the Fársi, is abundant in the higher mountains of S. Persia. It is now little used in that region, the Terlán or goshawk being most valued, but a few are caught and sent for sale to the Arabs of Oman. (J. R. G. S. XXV. 50, 63, and Major St. John’s Notes.)

[“The fine falcons, ‘with red breasts and swift of flight,’ come from Páríz. They are, however, very scarce, two or three only being caught every year. A well-trained Páríz falcon costs from 30 to 50 tomans (12_l._ to 20_l._), as much as a good horse.” (Houtum-Schindler, l.c. p. 491.) Major Sykes, Persia, ch. xxiii., writes: “Marco Polo was evidently a keen sportsman, and his description of the Sháhin, as it is termed, cannot be improved upon.” Major Sykes has a list given him by a Khán of seven hawks of the province, all black and white, except the Sháhin, which has yellow eyes, and is the third in the order of size.—H. C.]

NOTE 6.—We defer geographical remarks till the traveller reaches Hormuz.

[1] A learned friend objects to Johnson’s Hundwáníy = “Indian Steel,” as too absolute; some word for steel being wanted. Even if it be so, I observe that in three places where Polo uses Ondanique (here, ch. xxi., and ch. xlii.), the phrase is always “steel and ondanique.” This looks as if his mental expression were Púlád-i-Hundwáni, rendered by an idiom like Virgil’s pocula et aurum.

[2] Kenrick suggests that the “bright iron” mentioned by Ezekiel among the wares of Tyre (ch. xxvii. 19) can hardly have been anything else than Indian Steel, because named with cassia and calamus.

[3] Literally rendered by Mr. Redhouse: “The Indians do well the combining of mixtures of the chemicals with which they (smelt and) cast the soft iron, and it becomes Indian (steel), being referred to India (in this expression).”

[4] In Richardson’s Pers. Dict., by Johnson, we have a word Rohan, Rohina (and other forms). “The finest Indian steel, of which the most excellent swords are made; also the swords made of that steel.”



After you have ridden down hill those two days, you find yourself in a vast plain, and at the beginning thereof there is a city called CAMADI, which formerly was a great and noble place, but now is of little consequence, for the Tartars in their incursions have several times ravaged it. The plain whereof I speak is a very hot region; and the province that we now enter is called REOBARLES.

The fruits of the country are dates, pistachioes, and apples of Paradise, with others of the like not found in our cold climate. [There are vast numbers of turtledoves, attracted by the abundance of fruits, but the Saracens never take them, for they hold them in abomination.] And on this plain there is a kind of bird called francolin, but different from the francolin of other countries, for their colour is a mixture of black and white, and the feet and beak are vermilion colour.[NOTE 1]

The beasts also are peculiar; and first I will tell you of their oxen. These are very large, and all over white as snow; the hair is very short and smooth, which is owing to the heat of the country. The horns are short and thick, not sharp in the point; and between the shoulders they have a round hump some two palms high. There are no handsomer creatures in the world. And when they have to be loaded, they kneel like the camel; once the load is adjusted, they rise. Their load is a heavy one, for they are very strong animals. Then there are sheep here as big as asses; and their tails are so large and fat, that one tail shall weigh some 30 lbs. They are fine fat beasts, and afford capital mutton.[NOTE 2]

In this plain there are a number of villages and towns which have lofty walls of mud, made as a defence against the banditti,[NOTE 3] who are very numerous, and are called CARAONAS. This name is given them because they are the sons of Indian mothers by Tartar fathers. And you must know that when these Caraonas wish to make a plundering incursion, they have certain devilish enchantments whereby they do bring darkness over the face of day, insomuch that you can scarcely discern your comrade riding beside you; and this darkness they will cause to extend over a space of seven days’ journey. They know the country thoroughly, and ride abreast, keeping near one another, sometimes to the number of 10,000, at other times more or fewer. In this way they extend across the whole plain that they are going to harry, and catch every living thing that is found outside of the towns and villages; man, woman, or beast, nothing can escape them! The old men whom they take in this way they butcher; the young men and the women they sell for slaves in other countries; thus the whole land is ruined, and has become well-nigh a desert.

The King of these scoundrels is called NOGODAR. This Nogodar had gone to the Court of Chagatai, who was own brother to the Great Kaan, with some 10,000 horsemen of his, and abode with him; for Chagatai was his uncle. And whilst there this Nogodar devised a most audacious enterprise, and I will tell you what it was. He left his uncle who was then in Greater Armenia, and fled with a great body of horsemen, cruel unscrupulous fellows, first through BADASHAN, and then through another province called PASHAI-DIR, and then through another called ARIORA-KESHEMUR. There he lost a great number of his people and of his horses, for the roads were very narrow and perilous. And when he had conquered all those provinces, he entered India at the extremity of a province called DALIVAR. He established himself in that city and government, which he took from the King of the country, ASEDIN SOLDAN by name, a man of great power and wealth. And there abideth Nogodar with his army, afraid of nobody, and waging war with all the Tartars in his neighbourhood.[NOTE 4]

Now that I have told you of those scoundrels and their history, I must add the fact that Messer Marco himself was all but caught by their bands in such a darkness as that I have told you of; but, as it pleased God, he got off and threw himself into a village that was hard by, called CONOSALMI. Howbeit he lost his whole company except seven persons who escaped along with him. The rest were caught, and some of them sold, some put to death.[NOTE 5]

NOTE 1.—Ramusio has “Adam’s apple” for apples of Paradise. This was some kind of Citrus, though Lindley thinks it impossible to say precisely what. According to Jacques de Vitry it was a beautiful fruit of the Citron kind, in which the bite of human teeth was plainly discernible. (Note toVulgar Errors, II. 211; Bongars, I. 1099.) Mr. Abbott speaks of this tract as “the districts (of Kermán) lying towards the South, which are termed the Ghermseer or Hot Region, where the temperature of winter resembles that of a charming spring, and where the palm, orange, and lemon-tree flourish.” (MS. Report; see also J. R. G. S. XXV. 56.)

[“Marco Polo’s apples of Paradise are more probably the fruits of the Konár tree. There are no plantains in that part of the country. Turtle doves, now as then, are plentiful, and as they are seldom shot, and are said by the people to be unwholesome food, we can understand Marco Polo’s saying that the people do not eat them.” (Houtum-Schindler, l.c. pp. 492-493.)—H. C.]

The Francolin here spoken of is, as Major Smith tells me, the Darráj of the Persians, the Black Partridge of English sportsmen, sometimes called the Red-legged Francolin. The Darráj is found in some parts of Egypt, where its peculiar call is interpreted by the peasantry into certain Arabic words, meaning “Sweet are the corn-ears! Praised be the Lord!” In India, Baber tells us, the call of the Black Partridge was (less piously) rendered “Shír dáram shakrak,” “I’ve got milk and sugar!” The bird seems to be the [Greek: attagàs] of Athenaeus, a fowl “speckled like the partridge, but larger,” found in Egypt and Lydia. The Greek version of its cry is the best of all: “[Greek: trìs tois kakoúrgois kaká]” (“Threefold ills to the ill-doers!”). This is really like the call of the black partridge in India as I recollect it. [Tetrao francolinus.—H. C.]

(Chrestomathie Arabe, II. 295; Baber, 320; Yonge’s Atken. IX. 39.)

NOTE 2.—Abbott mentions the humped (though small) oxen in this part of Persia, and that in some of the neighbouring districts they are taught to kneel to receive the load, an accomplishment which seems to have struck Mas’udi (III. 27), who says he saw it exhibited by oxen at Rai (near modern Tehran). The Aín Akbari also ascribes it to a very fine breed in Bengal. The whimsical name Zebu, given to the humped or Indian ox in books of Zoology, was taken by Buffon from the exhibitors of such a beast at a French Fair, who probably invented it. That the humped breeds of oxen existed in this part of Asia in ancient times is shown by sculptures at Kouyunjik. (See cut below.)

[Illustration: Humped Oxen from the Assyrian Sculptures at Koyunjik.]

A letter from Agassiz, printed in the Proc. As. Soc. Bengal (1865), refers to wild “zebus,” and calls the species a small one. There is no wild “zebu,” and some of the breeds are of enormous size.

[“White oxen, with short thick horns and a round hump between the shoulders, are now very rare between Kermán and Bender ‘Abbás. They are, however, still to be found towards Belúchistán and Mekrán, and they kneel to be loaded like camels. The sheep which I saw had fine large tails; I did not, however, hear of any having so high a weight as thirty pounds.” (Houtum-Schindler, l.c. p. 493.)—H. C.]

The fat-tailed sheep is well known in many parts of Asia and part of Africa. It is mentioned by Ctesias, and by Aelian, who says the shepherds used to extract the tallow from the live animal, sewing up the tail again; exactly the same story is told by the Chinese Pliny, Ma Twan-lin. Marco’s statements as to size do not surpass those of the admirable Kampfer: “In size they so much surpass the common sheep that it is not unusual to see them as tall as a donkey, whilst all are much more than three feet; and as to the tail I shall not exceed the truth, though I may exceed belief, if I say that it sometimes reaches 40 lbs. in weight.” Captain Hutton was assured by an Afghan sheep-master that tails had occurred in his flocks weighing 12 Tabriz mans, upwards of 76 lbs.! The Afghans use the fat as an aperient, swallowing a dose of 4 to 6 lbs! Captain Hutton’s friend testified that trucks to bear the sheep-tails were sometimes used among the Taimúnis (north of Herat). This may help to locate that ancient and slippery story. Josafat Barbaro says he had seen the thing, but is vague as to place. (Aelian Nat. An. III. 3, IV. 32; Amoen. Exoticae; Ferrier, H. of Afghans, p. 294;J. A. S. B. XV. 160.)

[Rabelais says (Bk. I. ch. xvi.): “Si de ce vous efmerveillez, efmerveillez vous d’advantage de la queue des béliers de la Scythie, qui pesait plus de trente livres; et des moutons de Surie, esquels fault (si Tenaud, dict vray) affuster une charrette au cul, pour la porter tant qu’elle est longue et pesante.” (See G. Capus, A travers le roy. de Tamerlan, pp. 21-23, on the fat sheep.)—H. C.]

NOTE 3.—The word rendered banditti is in Pauthier Carans, in G. Text Caraunes, in the Latin “a scaranis et malandrinis.” The last is no doubt correct, standing for the old Italian Scherani, bandits. (See Cathay, p. 287, note.)

NOTE 4.—This is a knotty subject, and needs a long note.

The KARAUNAHS are mentioned often in the histories of the Mongol regime in Persia, first as a Mongol tribe forming a Tuman, i.e. a division or corps of 10,000 in the Mongol army (and I suspect it was the phrase the Tuman of the Karaunahs in Marco’s mind that suggested his repeated use of the number 10,000 in speaking of them); and afterwards as daring and savage freebooters, scouring the Persian provinces, and having their headquarters on the Eastern frontiers of Persia. They are described as having had their original seats on the mountains north of the Chinese wall nearKaraún Jidun or Khidun; and their special accomplishment in war was the use of Naphtha Fire. Rashiduddin mentions the Karánut as a branch of the great Mongol tribe of the Kunguráts, who certainly had their seat in the vicinity named, so these may possibly be connected with the Karaunahs. The same author says that the Tuman of the Karaunahs formed the Injú or peculium of Arghún Khan.

Wassáf calls them “a kind of goblins rather than human beings, the most daring of all the Mongols”; and Mirkhond speaks in like terms.

Dr. Bird of Bombay, in discussing some of the Indo-Scythic coins which bear the word Korano attached to the prince’s name, asserts this to stand for the name of the Karaunah, “who were a Graeco-Indo-Scythic tribe of robbers in the Punjab, who are mentioned by Marco Polo,” a somewhat hasty conclusion which Pauthier adopts. There is, Quatremère observes, no mention of the Karaunahs before the Mongol invasion, and this he regards as the great obstacle to any supposition of their having been a people previously settled in Persia. Reiske, indeed, with no reference to the present subject, quotes a passage from Hamza of Ispahan, a writer of the 10th century, in which mention is made of certain troops called Karáunahs. But it seems certain that in this and other like cases the real reading was Kazáwinah, people of Kazvin. (See Reiske’s Constant. Porphyrog.Bonn. ed. II. 674; Gottwaldt’s Hamza Ispahanensis, p. 161; and Quatremère in J. A. sér. V. tom. xv. 173.) Ibn Batuta only once mentions the name, saying that Tughlak Sháh of Dehli was “one of those Turks called Karáunas who dwell in the mountains between Sind and Turkestan.” Hammer has suggested the derivation of the word Carbine from Karáwinah (as he writes), and a link in such an etymology is perhaps furnished by the fact that in the 16th century the word Carbine was used for some kind of irregular horseman.

(Gold. Horde, 214; Ilch. I. 17, 344, etc.; Erdmann, 168, 199, etc.; J. A. S., B. X. 96; Q. R. 130; Not. et Ext. XIV. 282; I. B. III. 201; Ed. Webbe, his Travailes, p. 17, 1590. Reprinted 1868.)

As regards the account given by Marco of the origin of the Caraonas, it seems almost necessarily a mistaken one. As Khanikoff remarks, he might have confounded them with the Biluchis, whose Turanian aspect (at least as regards the Brahuis) shows a strong infusion of Turki blood, and who might be rudely described as a cross between Tartars and Indians. It is indeed an odd fact that the word Karáni (vulgo Cranny) is commonly applied in India at this day to the mixed race sprung from European fathers and Native mothers, and this might be cited in corroboration of Marsden’s reference to the Sanskrit Karana, but I suspect the coincidence arises in another way. Karana is the name applied to a particular class of mixt blood, whose special occupation was writing and accounts. But the prior sense of the word seems to have been “clever, skilled,” and hence a writer or scribe. In this sense we find Karáni applied in Ibn Batuta’s day to a ship’s clerk, and it is used in the same sense in the Ain Akbari. Clerkship is also the predominant occupation of the East-Indians, and hence the term Karáni is applied to them from their business, and not from their mixt blood. We shall see hereafter that there is a Tartar term Arghún, applied to fair children born of a Mongol mother and white father; it is possible that there may have been a correlative word like Karáun (from Kará, black) applied to dark children born of Mongol father and black mother, and that this led Marco to a false theory.

[Major Sykes (Persia) devotes a chapter (xxiv.) to The Karwán
in which he says: “Is it not possible that the Karwánis are
the Caraonas of Marco Polo? They are distinct from the surrounding
Baluchis, and pay no tribute.”—H. C.]

[Illustration: Portrait of a Hazára.]

Let us turn now to the name of Nogodar. Contemporaneously with the Karaunahs we have frequent mention of predatory bands known as Nigúdaris, who seem to be distinguished from the Karaunahs, but had a like character for truculence. Their headquarters were about Sijistán, and Quatremère seems disposed to look upon them as a tribe indigenous in that quarter. Hammer says they were originally the troops of Prince Nigudar, grandson of Chaghatai, and that they were a rabble of all sorts, Mongols, Turkmans, Kurds, Shúls, and what not. We hear of their revolts and disorders down to 1319, under which date Mirkhond says that there had been one-and-twenty fights with them in four years. Again we hear of them in 1336 about Herat, whilst in Baber’s time they turn up as Nukdari, fairly established as tribes in the mountainous tracts of Karnúd and Ghúr, west of Kabul, and coupled with the Hazáras, who still survive both in name and character. “Among both,” says Baber, “there are some who speak the Mongol language.” Hazáras and Takdaris (read Nukdaris) again occur coupled in the History of Sind. (See Elliot, I. 303-304.) [On the struggle against Timur of Toumen, veteran chief of the Nikoudrians (1383-84), see Major David Price’s Mahommedan History, London, 1821, vol. iii. pp. 47-49, H. C.] In maps of the 17th century, as of Hondius and Blaeuw, we find the mountains north of Kabul termed Nochdarizari, in which we cannot miss the combination Nigudar-Hazárah, whencesoever it was got. The Hazáras are eminently Mongol in feature to this day, and it is very probable that they or some part of them are the descendants of the Karáunahs or the Nigudaris, or of both, and that the origination of the bands so called, from the scum of the Mongol inundation, is thus in degree confirmed. The Hazáras generally are said to speak an old dialect of Persian. But one tribe in Western Afghanistan retains both the name of Mongols and a language of which six-sevenths (judging from a vocabulary published by Major Leech) appear to be Mongol. Leech says, too, that the Hazáras generally are termed Moghals by the Ghilzais. It is worthy of notice that Abu’l Fázl, who also mentions the Nukdaris among the nomad tribes of Kabul, says the Hazáras were the remains of the Chaghataian army which Mangu Kaan sent to the aid of Hulaku, under the command of Nigudar Oghlan. (Not. et Ext. XIV. 284; Ilch. I. 284, 309, etc,; Baber, 134, 136, 140; J. As. sér. IV. tom. iv. 98; Ayeen Akbery, II. 192-193.)

So far, excepting as to the doubtful point of the relation between Karáunahs and Nigudaris, and as to the origin of the former, we have a general accordance with Polo’s representations. But it is not very easy to identify with certainty the inroad on India to which he alludes, or the person intended by Nogodar, nephew of Chaghatai. It seems as if two persons of that name had each contributed something to Marco’s history.

We find in Hammer and D’Ohsson that one of the causes which led to the war between Barka Khan and Hulaku in 1262 (see above, Prologue, ch. ii.) was the violent end that had befallen three princes of the House of Juji, who had accompanied Hulaku to Persia in command of the contingent of that House. When war actually broke out, the contingent made their escape from Persia. One party gained Kipchak by way of Derbend; another, in greater force, led by NIGUDAR and Onguja, escaped to Khorasan, pursued by the troops of Hulaku, and thence eastward, where they seized upon Ghazni and other districts bordering on India.

But again: Nigudar Aghul, or Oghlan, son of (the younger) Juji, son of Chaghatai, was the leader of the Chaghataian contingent in Hulaku’s expedition, and was still attached to the Mongol-Persian army in 1269, when Borrak Khan, of the House of Chaghatai, was meditating war against his kinsman, Abaka of Persia. Borrak sent to the latter an ambassador, who was the bearer of a secret message to Prince Nigudar, begging him not to serve against the head of his own House. Nigudar, upon this, made a pretext of retiring to his own headquarters in Georgia, hoping to reach Borrak’s camp by way of Derbend. He was, however, intercepted, and lost many of his people. With 1000 horse he took refuge in Georgia, but was refused an asylum, and was eventually captured by Abaka’s commander on that frontier. His officers were executed, his troops dispersed among Abaka’s army, and his own life spared under surveillance. I find no more about him. In 1278 Hammer speaks of him as dead, and of the Nigudarian bands as having been formed out of his troops. But authority is not given.

The second Nigudar is evidently the one to whom Abu’l Fázl alludes. Khanikoff assumes that the Nigudar who went off towards India about 1260 (he puts the date earlier) was Nigudar, the grandson of Chaghatai, but he takes no notice of the second story just quoted.

In the former story we have bands under Nigudar going off by Ghazni, and conquering country on the Indian frontier. In the latter we have Nigudar, a descendant of Chaghatai, trying to escape from his camp on the frontier of Great Armenia. Supposing the Persian historians to be correct, it looks as if Marco had rolled two stories into one.

Some other passages may be cited before quitting this part of the subject. A chronicle of Herat, translated by Barbier de Meynard, says, under 1298: “The King Fakhruddin (of Herat) had the imprudence to authorise the Amir Nigudar to establish himself in a quarter of the city, with 300 adventurers from ‘Irak. This little troop made frequent raids in Kuhistan, Sijistan, Farrah, etc., spreading terror. Khodabanda, at the request of his brother Ghazan Khan, came from Mazanderan to demand the immediate surrender of these brigands,” etc. And in the account of the tremendous foray of the Chaghataian Prince Kotlogh Shah, on the east and south of Persia in 1299, we find one of his captains called Nigudar Bahadur. (Gold. Horde, 146, 157, 164; D’Ohsson, IV. 378 seqq., 433 seqq., 513 seqq.; Ilch. I. 216, 261, 284; II. 104; J. A. sér. V. tom. xvii. 455-456, 507; Khan. Notice, 31.)

As regards the route taken by Prince Nogodar in his incursion into India, we have no difficulty with BADAKHSHAN. PASHAI-DIR is a copulate name; the former part, as we shall see reason to believe hereafter, representing the country between the Hindu Kush and the Kabul River (see infra, ch. xxx.); the latter (as Pauthier already has pointed out), DIR, the chief town of Panjkora, in the hill country north of Peshawar. In Ariora-Keshemur the first portion only is perplexing. I will mention the most probable of the solutions that have occurred to me, and a second, due to that eminent archaeologist, General A. Cunningham. (1) Ariora may be some corrupt or Mongol form of Aryavartta, a sacred name applied to the Holy Lands of Indian Buddhism, of which Kashmir was eminently one to the Northern Buddhists. Oron, in Mongol, is a Region or Realm, and may have taken the place of Vartta, giving Aryoron or Ariora. (2) “Ariora,” General Cunningham writes, “I take to be the Harhaura of Sanscrit—i.e. the Western Panjáb. Harhaura was the North-Western Division of the Nava- Khanda, or Nine Divisions of Ancient India. It is mentioned between Sindhu-Sauvira in the west (i.e. Sind), and Madra in the north (i.e. the Eastern Panjáb, which is still called Madar-Des). The name of Harhaura is, I think, preserved in the Haro River. Now, the Sind-Sagor Doab formed a portion of the kingdom of Kashmir, and the joint names, like those of Sindhu-Sauvira, describe only one State.” The names of the Nine Divisions in question are given by the celebrated astronomer, Varaha Mihira, who lived in the beginning of the 6th century, and are repeated by Al Biruni. (See Reinaud, Mém. sur l’Inde, p. 116.) The only objection to this happy solution seems to lie in Al Biruni’s remark, that the names in question were in general no longer used even in his time (A.D. 1030).

There can be no doubt that Asidin Soldan is, as Khanikoff has said, Ghaiassuddin Balban, Sultan of Delhi from 1266 to 1286, and for years before that a man of great power in India, and especially in the Panjáb, of which he had in the reign of Ruknuddin (1236) held independent possession.

Firishta records several inroads of Mongols in the Panjáb during the reign of Ghaiassuddin, in withstanding one of which that King’s eldest son was slain; and there are constant indications of their presence in Sind till the end of the century. But we find in that historian no hint of the chief circumstances of this part of the story, viz., the conquest of Kashmir and the occupation of Dalivar or Dilivar (G. T.), evidently (whatever its identity) in the plains of India. I do find, however, in the history of Kashmir, as given by Lassen (III. 1138), that in the end of 1259, Lakshamana Deva, King of Kashmir, was killed in a campaign against the Turushka (Turks or Tartars), and that their leader, who is called Kajjala, got hold of the country and held it till 1287.[1] It is difficult not to connect this both with Polo’s story and with the escapade of Nigudar about 1260, noting also that this occupation of Kashmir extended through the whole reign of Ghaiassuddin.

We seem to have a memory of Polo’s story preserved in one of Elliot’s extracts from Wassáf, which states that in 708 (A.D. 1308), after a great defeat of a Mongol inroad which had passed the Ganges, Sultan Ala’uddin Khilji ordered a pillar of Mongol heads to be raised before the Badáun gate, “as was done with the Nigudari Moghuls” (III. 48).

We still have to account for the occupation and locality of Dalivar; Marsden supposed it to be Lahore; Khanikoff considers it to be Diráwal, the ancient desert capital of the Bhattis, properly (according to Tod) Deoráwal, but by a transposition common in India, as it is in Italy, sometimes calledDiláwar, in the modern State of Bháwalpúr. But General Cunningham suggests a more probable locality in DILÁWAR on the west bank of the Jelam, close to Dárápúr, and opposite to Mung. These two sites, Diláwar-Dárápúr on the west bank, and Mung on the east, are identified by General Cunningham (I believe justly) with Alexander’s Bucephala and Nicaea. The spot, which is just opposite the battlefield of Chiliánwála, was visited (15th December, 1868) at my request, by my friend Colonel R. Maclagan, R.E. He writes: “The present village of Diláwar stands a little above the town of Dárápúr (I mean on higher ground), looking down on Dárápúr and on the river, and on the cultivated and wooded plain along the river bank. The remains of the Old Diláwar, in the form of quantities of large bricks, cover the low round-backed spurs and knolls of the broken rocky hills around the present village, but principally on the land side. They cover a large area of very irregular character, and may clearly be held to represent a very considerable town. There are no indications of the form of buildings,… but simply large quantities of large bricks, which for a long time have been carried away and used for modern buildings…. After rain coins are found on the surface…. There can be no doubt of a very large extent of ground, of very irregular and uninviting character, having been covered at some time with buildings. The position on the Jelam would answer well for the Diláwar which the Mongol invaders took and held…. The strange thing is that the name should not be mentioned (I believe it is not) by any of the well-known Mahomedan historians of India. So much for Diláwar…. The people have no traditions. But there are the remains; and there is the name, borne by the existing village on part of the old site.” I had come to the conclusion that this was almost certainly Polo’s Dalivar, and had mapped it as such, before I read certain passages in the History of Zíyáuddín Barni, which have been translated by Professor Dowson for the third volume of Elliot’s India. When the comrades of Ghaiassuddin Balban urged him to conquests, the Sultan pointed to the constant danger from the Mongols,[2] saying: “These accursed wretches have heard of the wealth and condition of Hindustan, and have set their hearts upon conquering and plundering it. They have taken and plundered Lahor within my territories, and no year passes that they do not come here and plunder the villages…. They even talk about the conquest and sack of Delhi.” And under a later date the historian says: “The Sultan… marched to Lahor, and ordered the rebuilding of the fort which the Mughals had destroyed in the reigns of the sons of Shamsuddin. The towns and villages of Lahor which the Mughals had devastated and laid waste he repeopled.” Considering these passages, and the fact that Polo had no personal knowledge of Upper India, I now think it probable that Marsden was right, and that Dilivar is really a misunderstanding of “Città di Livar” for Lahàwar or Lahore.

The Magical darkness which Marco ascribes to the evil arts of the Karaunas is explained by Khanikoff from the phenomenon of Dry Fog, which he has often experienced in Khorasan, combined with the Dust Storm with which we are familiar in Upper India. In Sind these phenomena often produce a great degree of darkness. During a battle fought between the armies of Sindh and Kachh in 1762, such a fog came on, obscuring the light of day for some six hours, during which the armies were intermixed with one another and fighting desperately. When the darkness dispersed they separated, and the consternation of both parties was so great at the events of the day that both made a precipitate retreat. In 1844 this battle was still spoken of with wonder. (J. Bomb. Br. R. A. S. I. 423.)

Major St. John has given a note on his own experience of these curious Kermán fogs (see Ocean Highways, 1872, p. 286): “Not a breath of air was stirring, and the whole effect was most curious, and utterly unlike any other fog I have seen. No deposit of dust followed, and the feeling of the air was decidedly damp. I unfortunately could not get my hygrometer till the fog had cleared away.”

[General Houtum-Schindler, l.c. p. 493, writes: “The magical darkness might, as Colonel Yule supposes, be explained by the curious dry fogs or dust storms, often occurring in the neighbourhood of Kermán, but it must be remarked that Marco Polo was caught in one of these storms down in Jíruft, where, according to the people I questioned, such storms now never occur. On the 29th of September, 1879, at Kermán, a high wind began to blow from S.S.W. at about 5 P.M. First there came thick heavy clouds of dust with a few drops of rain. The heavy dust then settled down, the lighter particles remained in the air, forming a dry fog of such density that large objects, like houses, trees, etc., could not even faintly be distinguished at a distance of a hundred paces. The barometers suffered no change, the three I had with me remained in statu quo.” “The heat is over by the middle of September, and after the autumnal equinox, there are a few days of what is best described as a dense dry fog. This was undoubtedly the haze referred to by Marco Polo.” (Major Sykes, ch. iv.) —H. C.]

Richthofen’s remarkable exposition of the phenomena of the löss in North China, and of the sub-aerial deposits of the steppes and of Central Asia throws some light on this. But this hardly applies to St John’s experience of “no deposit of dust.” (See Richthofen, China, pp. 96-97 s. MS. Note, H. Y.)

The belief that such opportune phenomena were produced by enchantment was a thoroughly Tartar one. D’Herbelot relates (art. Giagathai) that in an action with a rebel called Mahomed Tarabi, the Mongols were encompassed by a dust storm which they attributed to enchantment on the part of the enemy, and it so discouraged them that they took to flight.

NOTE 5.—The specification that only seven were saved from Marco’s company is peculiar to Pauthier’s Text, not appearing in the G. T.

Several names compounded of Salm or Salmi occur on the dry lands on the borders of Kermán. Edrisi, however (I. p. 428), names a place called KANÁT-UL-SHÁM as the first march in going from Jiruft to Walashjird. Walashjird is, I imagine, represented by Galashkird, Major R. Smith’s third march from Jiruft (see my Map of Routes from Kermán to Hormuz); and as such an indication agrees with the view taken below of Polo’s route, I am strongly disposed to identify Kanát-ul-Shám with his castello or walled village of Canosalmi.

[“Marco Polo’s Conosalmi, where he was attacked by robbers and lost the greater part of his men, is perhaps the ruined town or village Kamasal (Kahn-i-asal = the honey canal), near Kahnúj-i-pancheh and Vakílábád in Jíruft. It lies on the direct road between Shehr-i-Daqíánús (Camadi) and the Nevergún Pass. The road goes in an almost due southerly direction. The Nevergún Pass accords with Marco Polo’s description of it; it is very difficult, on account of the many great blocks of sandstone scattered upon it. Its proximity to the Bashakird mountains and Mekrán easily accounts for the prevalence of robbers, who infested the place in Marco Polo’s time. At the end of the Pass lies the large village Shamíl, with an old fort; the distance thence to the site of Hormúz or Bender ‘Abbás (lying more to the west) is 52 miles, two days’ march. The climate of Bender ‘Abbás is very bad, strangers speedily fall sick, two of my men died there, all the others were seriously ill.” (Houtum-Schindler, l.c. pp. 495-496.) Major Sykes (ch. xxiii.) says: “Two marches from Camadi was Kahn-i-Panchur, and a stage beyond it lay the ruins of Fariáb or Pariáb, which was once a great city, and was destroyed by a flood, according to local legend. It may have been Alexander’s Salmous, as it is about the right distance from the coast, and if so, could not have been Marco’s Cono Salmi. Continuing on, Galashkird mentioned by Edrisi, is the next stage.”—H. C.]

The raids of the Mekranis and Biluchis long preceded those of the Karaunas, for they were notable even in the time of Mahmud of Ghazni, and they have continued to our own day to be prosecuted nearly on the same stage and in the same manner. About 1721, 4000 horsemen of this description plundered the town of Bander Abbasi, whilst Captain Alex. Hamilton was in the port; and Abbott, in 1850, found the dread of Bilúch robbers to extend almost to the gates of Ispahan. A striking account of the Bilúch robbers and their characteristics is given by General Ferrier. (See Hamilton, I. 109; J. R. G. S. XXV.; Khanikoff’s Mémoire; Macd. Kinneir, 196; Caravan Journeys, p. 437 seq.)

[1] Khajlak is mentioned as a leader of the Mongol raids in India by the poet Amir Khusrú (A.D. 1289; see Elliot III. 527).

[2] Professor Cowell compares the Mongol inroads in the latter part of the 13th and beginning of the 14th century, in their incessant recurrence, to the incursions of the Danes in England. A passage in Wassáf (Elliot, III. 38) shows that the Mongols were, circa 1254-55, already in occupation of Sodia on the Chenab, and districts adjoining.



The Plain of which we have spoken extends in a southerly direction for five days’ journey, and then you come to another descent some twenty miles in length, where the road is very bad and full of peril, for there are many robbers and bad characters about. When you have got to the foot of this descent you find another beautiful plain called the PLAIN OF FORMOSA. This extends for two days’ journey; and you find in it fine streams of water with plenty of date-palms and other fruit-trees. There are also many beautiful birds, francolins, popinjays, and other kinds such as we have none of in our country. When you have ridden these two days you come to the Ocean Sea, and on the shore you find a city with a harbour which is called HORMOS.[NOTE 1] Merchants come thither from India, with ships loaded with spicery and precious stones, pearls, cloths of silk and gold, elephants’ teeth, and many other wares, which they sell to the merchants of Hormos, and which these in turn carry all over the world to dispose of again. In fact, ’tis a city of immense trade. There are plenty of towns and villages under it, but it is the capital. The King is called RUOMEDAM AHOMET. It is a very sickly place, and the heat of the sun is tremendous. If any foreign merchant dies there, the King takes all his property.

In this country they make a wine of dates mixt with spices, which is very good. When any one not used to it first drinks this wine, it causes repeated and violent purging, but afterwards he is all the better for it, and gets fat upon it. The people never eat meat and wheaten bread except when they are ill, and if they take such food when they are in health it makes them ill. Their food when in health consists of dates and salt-fish (tunny, to wit) and onions, and this kind of diet they maintain in order to preserve their health.[NOTE 2]

Their ships are wretched affairs, and many of them get lost; for they have no iron fastenings, and are only stitched together with twine made from the husk of the Indian nut. They beat this husk until it becomes like horse-hair, and from that they spin twine, and with this stitch the planks of the ships together. It keeps well, and is not corroded by the sea-water, but it will not stand well in a storm. The ships are not pitched, but are rubbed with fish-oil. They have one mast, one sail, and one rudder, and have no deck, but only a cover spread over the cargo when loaded. This cover consists of hides, and on the top of these hides they put the horses which they take to India for sale. They have no iron to make nails of, and for this reason they use only wooden trenails in their shipbuilding, and then stitch the planks with twine as I have told you. Hence ’tis a perilous business to go a voyage in one of those ships, and many of them are lost, for in that Sea of India the storms are often terrible.[NOTE 3]

The people are black, and are worshippers of Mahommet. The residents avoid living in the cities, for the heat in summer is so great that it would kill them. Hence they go out (to sleep) at their gardens in the country, where there are streams and plenty of water. For all that they would not escape but for one thing that I will mention. The fact is, you see, that in summer a wind often blows across the sands which encompass the plain, so intolerably hot that it would kill everybody, were it not that when they perceive that wind coming they plunge into water up to the neck, and so abide until the wind have ceased.[NOTE 4] [And to prove the great heat of this wind, Messer Mark related a case that befell when he was there. The Lord of Hormos, not having paid his tribute to the King of Kerman the latter resolved to claim it at the time when the people of Hormos were residing away from the city. So he caused a force of 1600 horse and 5000 foot to be got ready, and sent them by the route of Reobarles to take the others by surprise. Now, it happened one day that through the fault of their guide they were not able to reach the place appointed for their night’s halt, and were obliged to bivouac in a wilderness not far from Hormos. In the morning as they were starting on their march they were caught by that wind, and every man of them was suffocated, so that not one survived to carry the tidings to their Lord. When the people of Hormos heard of this they went forth to bury the bodies lest they should breed a pestilence. But when they laid hold of them by the arms to drag them to the pits, the bodies proved to be so baked, as it were, by that tremendous heat, that the arms parted from the trunks, and in the end the people had to dig graves hard by each where it lay, and so cast them in.][NOTE 5]

The people sow their wheat and barley and other corn in the month of November, and reap it in the month of March. The dates are not gathered till May, but otherwise there is no grass nor any other green thing, for the excessive heat dries up everything.

When any one dies they make a great business of the mourning, for women mourn their husbands four years. During that time they mourn at least once a day, gathering together their kinsfolk and friends and neighbours for the purpose, and making a great weeping and wailing. [And they have women who are mourners by trade, and do it for hire.]

Now, we will quit this country. I shall not, however, now go on to tell you about India; but when time and place shall suit we shall come round from the north and tell you about it. For the present, let us return by another road to the aforesaid city of Kerman, for we cannot get at those countries that I wish to tell you about except through that city.

I should tell you first, however, that King Ruomedam Ahomet of Hormos, which we are leaving, is a liegeman of the King of Kerman.[NOTE 6]

On the road by which we return from Hormos to Kerman you meet with some very fine plains, and you also find many natural hot baths; you find plenty of partridges on the road; and there are towns where victual is cheap and abundant, with quantities of dates and other fruits. The wheaten bread, however, is so bitter, owing to the bitterness of the water, that no one can eat it who is not used to it. The baths that I mentioned have excellent virtues; they cure the itch and several other diseases.[NOTE 7]

Now, then, I am going to tell you about the countries towards the north, of which you shall hear in regular order. Let us begin.

NOTE 1.—Having now arrived at HORMUZ, it is time to see what can be made of the Geography of the route from Kermán to that port.

The port of Hormuz, [which had taken the place of Kish as the most important market of the Persian Gulf (H. C.)], stood upon the mainland. A few years later it was transferred to the island which became so famous, under circumstances which are concisely related by Abulfeda:—”Hormuz is the port of Kermán, a city rich in palms, and very hot. One who has visited it in our day tells me that the ancient Hormuz was devastated by the incursions of the Tartars, and that its people transferred their abode to an island in the sea called Zarun, near the continent, and lying west of the old city. At Hormuz itself no inhabitants remain, but some of the lowest order.” (In Büsching, IV. 261-262.) Friar Odoric, about 1321, found Hormuz “on an island some 5 miles distant from the main.” Ibn Batuta, some eight or nine years later, discriminates between Hormuz or Moghistan on the mainland, and New Hormuz on the Island of Jeraun, but describes only the latter, already a great and rich city.

The site of the Island Hormuz has often been visited and described; but I could find no published trace of any traveller having verified the site of the more ancient city, though the existence of its ruins was known to John de Barros, who says that a little fort called Cuxstac (Kuhestek of P. della Valle, II. p. 300) stood on the site. An application to Colonel Pelly, the very able British Resident at Bushire, brought me from his own personal knowledge the information that I sought, and the following particulars are compiled from the letters with which he has favoured me:—

“The ruins of Old Hormuz, well known as such, stand several miles up a creek, and in the centre of the present district of Minao. They are extensive (though in large part obliterated by long cultivation over the site), and the traces of a long pier or Bandar were pointed out to Colonel Pelly. They are about 6 or 7 miles from the fort of Minao, and the Minao river, or its stony bed, winds down towards them. The creek is quite traceable, but is silted up, and to embark goods you have to go a farsakh towards the sea, where there is a custom-house on that part of the creek which is still navigable. Colonel Pelly collected a few bricks from the ruins. From the mouth of the Old Hormuz creek to the New Hormuz town, or town of Turumpak on the island of Hormuz, is a sail of about three farsakhs. It may be a trifle more, but any native tells you at once that it is three farsakhs from Hormuz Island to the creek where you land to go up to Minao. Hormuzdia was the name of the region in the days of its prosperity. Some people say that Hormuzdia was known as Jerunia, and Old Hormuz town as Jerun.” (In this I suspect tradition has gone astray.) “The town and fort of Minao lie to the N.E. of the ancient city, and are built upon the lowest spur of the Bashkurd mountains, commanding a gorge through which the Rudbar river debouches on the plain of Hormuzdia.” In these new and interesting particulars it is pleasing to find such precise corroboration both of Edrisi and of Ibn Batuta. The former, writing in the 12th century, says that Hormuz stood on the banks of a canal or creek from the Gulf, by which vessels came up to the city. The latter specifies the breadth of sea between Old and New Hormuz as three farsakhs. (Edrisi, I. 424; I. B. II. 230.)

I now proceed to recapitulate the main features of Polo’s Itinerary from
Kermán to Hormuz. We have:—

1. From Kermán across a plain to the top of a
mountain-pass, where extreme cold was
. . . . . . . . 7
2. A descent, occupying . . . . . . . 2
3. A great plain, called Reobarles, in a much warmer
climate, abounding in francolin partridge, and in
dates and tropical fruit, with a ruined city of former
note, called Camadi, near the head of the plain,
which extends for . . . . . . . . 5
4. A second very bad pass, descending for 20 miles, say 1
5. A well-watered fruitful plain, which is crossed to
Hormuz, on the shores of the Gulf . . . . 2

Total 17

No European traveller, so far as I know, has described the most direct road from Kermán to Hormuz, or rather to its nearest modern representative Bander Abbási,—I mean the road by Báft. But a line to the eastward of this, and leading through the plain of Jiruft, was followed partially by Mr. Abbott in 1850, and completely by Major R. M. Smith, R.E., in 1866. The details of this route, except in one particular, correspond closely in essentials with those given by our author, and form an excellent basis of illustration for Polo’s description.

Major Smith (accompanied at first by Colonel Goldsmid, who diverged to Mekran) left Kermán on the 15th of January, and reached Bander Abbási on the 3rd of February, but, as three halts have to be deducted, his total number of marches was exactly the same as Marco’s, viz. 17. They divide as follows:—

Marches 1. From Kermán to the caravanserai of Deh Bakri in the pass so called. “The ground as I ascended became covered with snow, and the weather bitterly cold” (Report) . . . . . . . . . 6 2. Two milesover very deep snowbrought him to the top of the pass; he then descended 14 miles to his halt. Two miles to the south of the crest he passed a second caravanserai: “The two are evidently built so near one another to afford shelter to travellers who may be unable to cross the ridge during heavy snow-storms.” The next march continued the descent for 14 miles, and then carried him 10 miles along the banks of the Rudkhanah-i-Shor. The approximate height of the pass above the sea is estimated at 8000 feet. We have thus for the descent the greater part of . . . . 2 3. “Clumps of date-palms growing near the village showed that I had now reached a totally different climate.” (Smith’s Report.) And Mr. Abbott says of the same region: “Partly wooded … and with thickets of reeds abounding with francolin andJiruftipartridge…. The lands yield grain, millet, pulse, French- and horse-beans, rice, cotton, henna, Palma Christi, and dates, and in part are of great fertility…. Rainy season from January to March, after which a luxuriant crop of grass.” Across this plain (districts of Jiruft and Rudbar), the height of which above the sea, is something under 2000 feet . . . . . . . . . . . 6 4. 6-1/2 hours, “nearly the whole way over a most difficult mountain-pass,” called the Pass of Nevergun . . . 1 5. Two long marches over a plain, part of which is described as “continuous cultivation for some 16 miles,” and the rest as a “most uninteresting plain” . . . . . 2 — Total as before . . . . 17

In the previous edition of this work I was inclined to identify Marco’s route absolutely with this Itinerary. But a communication from Major St. John, who surveyed the section from Kermán towards Deh Bakri in 1872, shows that this first section does not answer well to the description. The road is not all plain, for it crosses a mountain pass, though not a formidable one. Neither is it through a thriving, populous tract, for, with the exception of two large villages, Major St. John found the whole road to Deh Bakri from Kermán as desert and dreary as any in Persia. On the other hand, the more direct route to the south, which is that always used except in seasons of extraordinary severity (such as that of Major Smith’s journey, when this route was impassable from snow), answers better, as described to Major St. John by muleteers, to Polo’s account. The first six days are occupied by a gentle ascent through the districts of Bardesir and Kairat-ul-Arab, which are the best-watered and most fertile uplands of Kermán. From the crest of the pass reached in those six marches (which is probably more than 10,000 feet above the sea, for it was closed by snow on 1st May, 1872), an easy descent of two days leads to the Garmsir. This is traversed in four days, and then a very difficult pass is crossed to reach the plains bordering on the sea. The cold of this route is much greater than that of the Deh Bakri route. Hence the correspondence with Polo’s description, as far as the descent to the Garmsir, or Reobarles, seems decidedly better by this route. It is admitted to be quite possible that on reaching this plain the two routes coalesced. We shall assume this provisionally, till some traveller gives us a detailed account of the Bardesir route. Meantime all the remaining particulars answer well.

[General Houtum-Schindler (l.c. pp. 493-495), speaking of the Itinerary from Kermán to Hormúz and back, says: “Only two of the many routes between Kermán and Bender ‘Abbás coincide more or less with Marco Polo’s description. These two routes are the one over the Deh Bekrí Pass [see above, Colonel Smith], and the one viâ Sárdú. The latter is the one, I think, taken by Marco Polo. The more direct roads to the west are for the greater part through mountainous country, and have not twelve stages in plains which we find enumerated in Marco Polo’s Itinerary. The road viâ Báft, Urzú, and the Zendán Pass, for instance, has only four stages in plains; the road, viâ Ráhbur, Rúdbár and the Nevergún Pass only six; and the road viâ Sírján also only six.”

Marches. The Sárdú route, which seems to me to be the one followed by Marco Polo, has five stages through fertile and populous plains to Sarvízan . . . . . 5 One day’s march ascends to the top of the Sarvízan Pass 1 Two days’ descent to Ráhjird, a village close to the ruins of old Jíruft, now called Shehr-i-Daqíánús . . 2 Six days’ march over the “vast plain” of Jírúft and Rúdbár to Faríáb, joining the Deh Bekrí route at Kerímábád, one stage south of the Shehr-i-Daqíánús . . . . 6 One day’s march through the Nevergún Pass to Shamíl, descending . . . . . . . . . 1 Two days’ march through the plain to Bender ‘Abbás or Hormúz . . . . . . . . . . 2 — In all . . . . . . 17

The Sárdú road enters the Jíruft plain at the ruins of the old city, the Deh Bekrí route does so at some distance to the eastward. The first six stages performed by Marco Polo in seven days go through fertile plains and past numerous villages. Regarding the cold, “which you can scarcely abide,” Marco Polo does not speak of it as existing on the mountains only; he says, “From the city of Kermán to this descent the cold in winter is very great,” that is, from Kermán to near Jíruft. The winter at Kermán itself is fairly severe; from the town the ground gradually but steadily rises, the absolute altitudes of the passes crossing the mountains to the south varying from 8000 to 11,000 feet. These passes are up to the month of March always very cold; in one it froze slightly in the beginning of June. The Sárdú Pass lies lower than the others. The name is Sárdú, not Sardú from sard, “cold.” Major Sykes (Persia, ch. xxiii.) comes to the same conclusion: “In 1895, and again in 1900, I made a tour partly with the object of solving this problem, and of giving a geographical existence to Sárdu, which appropriately means the ‘Cold Country.’ I found that there was a route which exactly fitted Marco’s conditions, as at Sarbizan the Sárdu plateau terminates in a high pass of 9200 feet, from which there is a most abrupt descent to the plain of Jíruft, Komádin being about 35 miles, or two days’ journey from the top of the pass. Starting from Kermán, the stages would be as follows:—I. Jupár (small town); 2. Bahrámjird (large village); 3. Gudar (village); 4. Ráin (small town)…. Thence to the Sarbizan pass is a distance of 45 miles, or three desert stages, thus constituting a total of 110 miles for the seven days. This is the camel route to the present day, and absolutely fits in with the description given…. The question to be decided by this section of the journey may then, I think, be considered to be finally and most satisfactorily settled, the route proving to lie between the two selected by Colonel Yule, as being the most suitable, although he wisely left the question open.”—H. C.]

In the abstract of Major Smith’s Itinerary as we have given it, we do not find Polo’s city of Camadi. Major Smith writes to me, however, that this is probably to be sought in “the ruined city, the traces of which I observed in the plain of Jíruft near Kerimabad. The name of the city is now apparently lost.” It is, however, known to the natives as the City of Dakiánús, as Mr. Abbott, who visited the site, informs us. This is a name analogous only to the Arthur’s ovens or Merlin’s caves of our own country, for all over Mahomedan Asia there are old sites to which legend attaches the name of Dakianus or the Emperor Decius, the persecuting tyrant of the Seven Sleepers. “The spot,” says Abbott, “is an elevated part of the plain on the right bank of the Hali Rúd, and is thickly strewn with kiln-baked bricks, and shreds of pottery and glass…. After heavy rain the peasantry search amongst the ruins for ornaments of stone, and rings and coins of gold, silver, and copper. The popular tradition concerning the city is that it was destroyed by a flood long before the birth of Mahomed.”

[General Houtum-Schindler, in a paper in the Jour. R. As. Soc., Jan. 1898, p. 43, gives an abstract of Dr. Houtsma’s (of Utrecht) memoir, Zur Geschichte der Saljuqen von Kerman, and comes to the conclusion that “from these statements we can safely identify Marco Polo’s Camadi with the suburb Qumadin, or, as I would read it, Qamadin, of the city of Jiruft.”— (Cf. Major Sykes’ Persia, chap. xxiii.: “Camadi was sacked for the first time, after the death of Toghrul Shah of Kermán, when his four sons reduced the province to a condition of anarchy.”)

Major P. Molesworth Sykes, Recent Journeys in Persia (Geog. Journal, X. 1897, p. 589), says: “Upon arrival in Rudbar, we turned north wards and left the Farman Farma, in order to explore the site of Marco Polo’s ‘Camadi.’… We came upon a huge area littered with yellow bricks eight inches square, while not even a broken wall is left to mark the site of what was formerly a great city, under the name of the Sher-i-Jiruft.”—H. C.] The actual distance from Bamm to the City of Dakianus is, by Abbott’s Journal, about 66 miles.

The name of REOBARLES, which Marco applies to the plain intermediate between the two descents, has given rise to many conjectures. Marsden pointed to Rúdbár, a name frequently applied in Persia to a district on a river, or intersected by streams—a suggestion all the happier that he was not aware of the fact that there is a district of RUDBAR exactly in the required position. The last syllable still requires explanation. I ventured formerly to suggest that it was the Arabic Lass, or, as Marco would certainly have written it, Les, a robber. Reobarles would then be RUDBAR-I-LASS, “Robber’s River District.” The appropriateness of the name Marco has amply illustrated; and it appeared to me to survive in that of one of the rivers of the plain, which is mentioned by both Abbott and Smith under the title of Rúdkhánah-i-Duzdi, or Robbery River, a name also applied to a village and old fort on the banks of the stream. This etymology was, however, condemned as an inadmissible combination of Persian and Arabic by two very high authorities both as travellers and scholars—Sir H. Rawlinson and Mr. Khanikoff. The Les, therefore, has still to be explained.[1]

[Major Sykes (Geog. Journal, 1902, p. 130) heard of robbers, some five miles from Mináb, and he adds: “However, nothing happened, and after crossing the Gardan-i-Pichal, we camped at Birinti, which is situated just above the junction of Rudkhána Duzdi, or ‘River of Theft,’ and forms part of the district of Rudán, in Fars.”

“The Jíruft and Rúdbár plains belong to the germsír (hot region), dates, pistachios, and konars (apples of Paradise) abound in them. Reobarles is Rúdbár or Rüdbáris.” (Houtum-Schindler, l.c. 1881, p. 495.)—H. C.]

We have referred to Marco’s expressions regarding the great cold experienced on the pass which formed the first descent; and it is worthy of note that the title of “The Cold Mountains” is applied by Edrisi to these very mountains. Mr. Abbott’s MS. Report also mentions in this direction, Sardu, said to be a cold country (as its name seems to express [see above,—H. C.]), which its population (Iliyáts) abandon in winter for the lower plains. It is but recently that the importance of this range of mountains has become known to us. Indeed the existence of the chain, as extending continuously from near Kashán, was first indicated by Khanikoff in 1862. More recently Major St. John has shown the magnitude of this range, which rises into summits of 15,000 feet in altitude, and after a course of 550 miles terminates in a group of volcanic hills some 50 miles S.E. of Bamm. Yet practically this chain is ignored on all our maps!

Marco’s description of the “Plain of Formosa” does not apply, now at least, to the whole plain, for towards Bander Abbási it is barren. But to the eastward, about Minao, and therefore about Old Hormuz, it has not fallen off. Colonel Pelly writes: “The district of Minao is still for those regions singularly fertile. Pomegranates, oranges, pistachio-nuts, and various other fruits grow in profusion. The source of its fertility is of course the river, and you can walk for miles among lanes and cultivated ground, partially sheltered from the sun.” And Lieutenant Kempthorne, in his notes on that coast, says of the same tract: “It is termed by the natives the Paradise of Persia. It is certainly most beautifully fertile, and abounds in orange-groves, and orchards containing apples, pears, peaches, and apricots; with vineyards producing a delicious grape, from which was at one time made a wine called amber-rosolli“—a name not easy to explain. ‘Ambar-i-Rasúl, “The Prophet’s Bouquet!” would be too bold a name even for Persia, though names more sacred are so profaned at Naples and on the Moselle. Sir H. Rawlinson suggests ‘Ambar-‘asali, “Honey Bouquet,” as possible.

When Nearchus beached his fleet on the shore of Harmozeia at the mouth of the Anamis (the River of Minao), Arrian tells us he found the country a kindly one, and very fruitful in every way except that there were no olives. The weary mariners landed and enjoyed this pleasant rest from their toils. (Indica, 33; J. R. G. S. V. 274.)

No. II.
Kerman to Hormuz (Bk I. Ch. 19)]

The name Formosa is probably only Rusticiano’s misunderstanding of Harmuza, aided, perhaps, by Polo’s picture of the beauty of the plain. We have the same change in the old Mafomet for Mahomet, and the converse one in the Spanish hermosa for formosa. Teixeira’s Chronicle says that the city of Hormuz was founded by Xa Mahamed Dranku, i.e. Shah Mahomed Dirhem-Ko, in “a plain of the same name.”

The statement in Ramusio that Hormuz stood upon an island, is, I doubt not, an interpolation by himself or some earlier transcriber.

When the ships of Nearchus launched again from the mouth of the Anamis, their first day’s run carried them past a certain desert and bushy island to another which was large and inhabited. The desert isle was called Organa; the large one by which they anchored Oaracta. (Indica, 37.) Neither name is quite lost; the latter greater island is Kishm or Brakht; the former Jerún,[2] perhaps in old Persian Gerún or Gerán, now again desert though no longer bushy, after having been for three centuries the site of a city which became a poetic type of wealth and splendour. An Eastern saying ran, “Were the world a ring, Hormuz would be the jewel in it.”

[“The Yüan shi mentions several seaports of the Indian Ocean as carrying on trade with China; Hormuz is not spoken of there. I may, however, quote from the Yüan History a curious statement which perhaps refers to this port. In ch. cxxiii., biography of Arsz-lan, it is recorded that his grandson Hurdutai, by order of Kubilai Khan, accompanied Bu-lo no-yen on his mission to the country of Ha-rh-ma-sz. This latter name may be intended for Hormuz. I do not think that by the Noyen Bulo, M. Polo could be meant, for the title Noyen would hardly have been applied to him. But Rashid-eddin mentions a distinguished Mongol, by name Pulad, with whom he was acquainted in Persia, and who furnished him with much information regarding the history of the Mongols. This may be the Bu-lo no-yen of the Yüan History.” (Bretschneider, Med. Res. II. p. 132.)—H. C.]

NOTE 2.—A spirit is still distilled from dates in Persia, Mekran, Sind, and some places in the west of India. It is mentioned by Strabo and Dioscorides, according to Kämpfer, who says it was in his time made under the name of a medicinal stomachic; the rich added Radix Chinae, ambergris, and aromatic spices; the poor, liquorice and Persian absinth. (Sir B. Frere; Amoen. Exot. 750; Macd. Kinneir, 220.)

[“The date wine with spices is not now made at Bender ‘Abbás. Date arrack, however, is occasionally found. At Kermán a sort of wine or arrack is made with spices and alcohol, distilled from sugar; it is called Má-ul-Háyát (water of life), and is recommended as an aphrodisiac. Grain in the Shamíl plain is harvested in April, dates are gathered in August.” (Houtum-Schindler, l.c. p. 496.)

See “Remarks on the Use of Wine and Distilled Liquors among the
Mohammedans of Turkey and Persia,” pp. 315-330 of Narrative of a Tour
through Armenia, Kurdistan, Persia, and Mesopotamia
…. By the Rev.
Horatio Southgate,… London, 1840, vol. ii.—H. C.]

[Sir H. Yule quotes, in a MS. note, these lines from Moore’s Light of the

  “Wine, too, of every clime and hue,
Around their liquid lustre threw
Amber Rosolli[3]—the bright dew
From vineyards of the Green Sea gushing.”] See above, p. 114.

[Illustration: The Double or Latin Rudder, as shown in the Navicella of
Giotto. (From Eastlake.)]

The date and dry-fish diet of the Gulf people is noticed by most travellers, and P. del a Valle repeats the opinion about its being the only wholesome one. Ibn Batuta says the people of Hormuz had a saying, “Khormá wa máhí lút-i-Pádshahi,” i.e. “Dates and fish make an Emperor’s dish!” A fish, exactly like the tunny of the Mediterranean in general appearance and habits, is one of the great objects of fishery off the Sind and Mekran coasts. It comes in pursuit of shoals of anchovies, very much like the Mediterranean fish also. (I. B. II. 231; Sir B. Frere.)

[Friar Odoric (Cathay, I. pp. 55-56) says: “And there you find (before arriving at Hormuz) people who live almost entirely on dates, and you get forty-two pounds of dates for less than a groat; and so of many other things.”]

NOTE 3.—The stitched vessels of Kermán ([Greek: ploiária raptà]) are noticed in the Periplus. Similar accounts to those of our text are given of the ships of the Gulf and of Western India by Jordanus and John of Montecorvino. (Jord. p. 53; Cathay, p. 217.) “Stitched vessels,” Sir B. Frere writes, “are still used. I have seen them of 200 tons burden; but they are being driven out by iron-fastened vessels, as iron gets cheaper, except where (as on the Malabar and Coromandel coasts) the pliancy of a stitched boat is useful in a surf. Till the last few years, when steamers have begun to take all the best horses, the Arab horses bound to Bombay almost all came in the way Marco Polo describes.” Some of them do still, standing over a date cargo, and the result of this combination gives rise to an extraordinary traffic in the Bombay bazaar. From what Colonel Pelly tells me, the stitched build in the Gulf is now confined to fishing-boats, and is disused for sea-going craft.

[Friar Odoric (Cathay, I. p. 57) mentioned these vessels: “In this country men make use of a kind of vessel which they call Jase, which is fastened only with stitching of twine. On one of these vessels I embarked, and I could find no iron at all therein.” Jase is for the Arabic Djehaz.—H. C.]

The fish-oil used to rub the ships was whale-oil. The old Arab voyagers of the 9th century describe the fishermen of Siraf in the Gulf as cutting up the whale-blubber and drawing the oil from it, which was mixed with other stuff, and used to rub the joints of ships’ planking. (Reinaud, I. 146.)

Both Montecorvino and Polo, in this passage, specify one rudder, as if it was a peculiarity of these ships worth noting. The fact is that, in the Mediterranean at least, the double rudders of the ancients kept their place to a great extent through the Middle Ages. A Marseilles MS. of the 13th century, quoted in Ducange, says: “A ship requires three rudders, two in place, and one to spare.” Another: “Every two-ruddered bark shall pay a groat each voyage; every one-ruddered bark shall,” etc. (See Due. under Timonus and Temo.) Numerous proofs of the use of two rudders in the 13th century will be found in “Documenti inediti riguardanti le due Crociate di S. Ludovico IX., Re di Francia, etc., da L. T. Belgrano, Genova, 1859.” Thus in a specification of ships to be built at Genoa for the king (p. 7), each is to have “Timones duo, affaiticos, grossitudinis palmorum viiii et dimidiae, longitudinis cubitorum xxiiii.” Extracts given by Capmany, regarding the equipment of galleys, show the same thing, for he is probably mistaken in saying that one of the dos timones specified was a spare one. Joinville (p. 205) gives incidental evidence of the same: “Those Marseilles ships have each two rudders, with each a tiller (? tison) attached to it in such an ingenious way that you can turn the ship right or left as fast as you would turn a horse. So on the Friday the king was sitting upon one of these tillers, when he called me and said to me,” etc.[4] Francesco da Barberino, a poet of the 13th century, in the 7th part of his Documenti d’Amore (printed at Rome in 1640), which instructs the lover to whose lot it may fall to escort his lady on a sea-voyage (instructions carried so far as to provide even for the case of her death at sea!), alludes more than once to these plural rudders. Thus—

  “—— se vedessi avenire
Che vento ti rompesse
In luogo di timoni
Fa spere[5] e in aqua poni.” (P. 272-273.)

12th Century Illumination (After Pertz)
Seal of Winchelsea.
12th Century Illumination (After Pertz)
From Leaning Tower (After Jal)
After Spinello Aretini at Siena
From Monument of St Peter Martyr]

And again, when about to enter a port, it is needful to be on the alert and ready to run in case of a hostile reception, so the galley should enter stern foremost—a movement which he reminds his lover involves the reversal of the ordinary use of the two rudders:—

  “L’ un timon leva suso
L’ altro leggier tien giuso
Ma convien levar mano
Non mica com soleàno,
Ma per contraro, e face
Cosi ‘l guidar verace.” (P. 275.)

A representation of a vessel over the door of the Leaning Tower at Pisa shows this arrangement, which is also discernible in the frescoes of galley-fights by Spinello Aretini, in the Municipal Palace at Siena.

[Godinho de Eredia (1613), describing the smaller vessels of Malacca which he calls bâlos in ch. 13, De Embarcaçôes, says: “At the poop they have two rudders, one on each side to steer with.” E por poupa dos bâllos, tem 2 lêmes, hum en cada lado pera o governo. (Malacca, l’Inde mérid. et le Cathay, Bruxelles, 1882, 4to, f. 26.)—H. C.]

The midship rudder seems to have been the more usual in the western seas, and the double quarter-rudders in the Mediterranean. The former are sometimes styled Navarresques and the latter Latins. Yet early seals of some of the Cinque Ports show vessels with the double rudder; one of which (that of Winchelsea) is given in the cut.

In the Mediterranean the latter was still in occasional use late in the 16th century. Captain Pantero Pantera in his book, L’Armata Navale (Rome, 1614, p. 44), says that the Galeasses, or great galleys, had the helm alla Navarresca, but also a great oar on each side of it to assist in turning the ship. And I observe that the great galeasses which precede the Christian line of battle at Lepanto, in one of the frescoes by Vasari in the Royal Hall leading to the Sistine Chapel, have the quarter-rudder very distinctly.

The Chinese appear occasionally to employ it, as seems to be indicated in a woodcut of a vessel of war which I have traced from a Chinese book in the National Library at Paris. (See above, p. 37.) [For the Chinese words for rudder, see p. 126 of J. Edkins’ article on Chinese Names for Boats and Boat Gear, Jour. N. China Br. R. As. Soc. N.S. XI. 1876.—H. C.] It is also used by certain craft of the Indian Archipelago, as appears from Mr. Wallace’s description of the Prau in which he sailed from Macassar to the Aru Islands. And on the Caspian, it is stated in Smith’s “Dict. of Antiquities” (art. Gubernaculum), the practice remained in force till late times. A modern traveller was nearly wrecked on that sea, because the two rudders were in the hands of two pilots who spoke different languages, and did not understand each other!

(Besides the works quoted see Jal, Archéologie Navale, II. 437-438, and Capmany, Memorias, III. 61.)

[Major Sykes remarks (Persia, ch. xxiii.): “Some unrecorded event, probably the sight of the unseaworthy craft, which had not an ounce of iron in their composition, made our travellers decide that the risks of the sea were too great, so that we have the pleasure of accompanying them back to Kermán and thence northwards to Khorasán.”—H. C.]

NOTE 4.—So also at Bander Abbási Tavernier says it was so unhealthy that foreigners could not stop there beyond March; everybody left it in April. Not a hundredth part of the population, says Kämpfer, remained in the city. Not a beggar would stop for any reward! The rich went to the towns of the interior or to the cool recesses of the mountains, the poor took refuge in the palm-groves at the distance of a day or two from the city. A place called ‘Ishin, some 12 miles north of the city, was a favourite resort of the European and Hindu merchants. Here were fine gardens, spacious baths, and a rivulet of fresh and limpid water.

The custom of lying in water is mentioned also by Sir John Maundevile, and it was adopted by the Portuguese when they occupied Insular Hormuz, as P. della Valle and Linschoten relate. The custom is still common during great heats, in Sind and Mekran (Sir B. F.).

An anonymous ancient geography (Liber Junioris Philosophi) speaks of a people in India who live in the Terrestrial Paradise, and lead the life of the Golden Age…. The sun is so hot that they remain all day in the river!

The heat in the Straits of Hormuz drove Abdurrazzak into an anticipation of a verse familiar to English schoolboys: “Even the bird of rapid flight was burnt up in the heights of heaven, as well as the fish in the depths of the sea!” (Tavern. Bk. V. ch. xxiii.; Am. Exot. 716, 762; Müller, Geog. Gr. Min. II. 514; India in XV. Cent. p. 49.)

NOTE 5.—A like description of the effect of the Simúm on the human body is given by Ibn Batuta, Chardin, A. Hamilton, Tavernier, Thévenot, etc.; and the first of these travellers speaks specially of its prevalence in the desert near Hormuz, and of the many graves of its victims; but I have met with no reasonable account of its poisonous action. I will quote Chardin, already quoted at greater length by Marsden, as the most complete parallel to the text: “The most surprising effect of the wind is not the mere fact of its causing death, but its operation on the bodies of those who are killed by it. It seems as if they became decomposed without losing shape, so that you would think them to be merely asleep, when they are not merely dead, but in such a state that if you take hold of any part of the body it comes away in your hand. And the finger penetrates such a body as if it were so much dust.” (III. 286.)

Burton, on his journey to Medina, says: “The people assured me that this wind never killed a man in their Allah-favoured land. I doubt the fact. At Bir Abbas the body of an Arnaut was brought in swollen, and decomposed rapidly, the true diagnosis of death by the poison-wind.” Khanikoff is very distinct as to the immediate fatality of the desert wind at Khabis, near Kermán, but does not speak of the effect on the body after death. This Major St. John does, describing a case that occurred in June, 1871, when he was halting, during intense heat, at the post-house of Pasangan, a few miles south of Kom. The bodies were brought in of two poor men, who had tried to start some hours before sunset, and were struck down by the poisonous blast within half-a-mile of the post-house. “It was found impossible to wash them before burial…. Directly the limbs were touched they separated from the trunk.” (Oc. Highways, ut. sup.) About 1790, when Timúr Sháh of Kabul sent an army under the Sirdár-i-Sirdárán to put down a revolt in Meshed, this force on its return was struck by Simúm in the Plain of Farrah, and the Sirdár perished, with a great number of his men. (Ferrier, H. of the Afghans, 102; J. R. G. S. XXVI. 217; Khan. Mém. 210.)

NOTE 6.—The History of Hormuz is very imperfectly known. What I have met with on the subject consists of—(1) An abstract by Teixeira of a chronicle of Hormuz, written by Thurán Sháh, who was himself sovereign of Hormuz, and died in 1377; (2) some contemporary notices by Wassáf, which are extracted by Hammer in his History of the Ilkhans; (3) some notices from Persian sources in the 2nd Decade of De Barros (ch. ii.). The last do not go further back than Gordun Sháh, the father of Thurán Sháh, to whom they erroneously ascribe the first migration to the Island.

One of Teixeira’s Princes is called Ruknuddin Mahmud, and with him Marsden and Pauthier have identified Polo’s Ruomedam Acomet, or as he is called on another occasion in the Geog. Text, Maimodi Acomet. This, however, is out of the question, for the death of Ruknuddin is assigned to A.H. 675 (A.D. 1277), whilst there can, I think, be no doubt that Marco’s account refers to the period of his return from China, viz. 1293 or thereabouts.

We find in Teixeira that the ruler who succeeded in 1290 was Amir Masa’úd, who obtained the Government by the murder of his brother Saifuddin Nazrat. Masa’úd was cruel and oppressive; most of the influential people withdrew to Baháuddin Ayaz, whom Saifuddin had made Wazir of Kalhát on the Arabian coast. This Wazir assembled a force and drove out Masa’úd after he had reigned three years. He fled to Kermán and died there some years afterwards.

Baháuddin, who had originally been a slave of Saifuddin Nazrat’s, succeeded in establishing his authority. But about 1300 great bodies of Turks (i.e. Tartars) issuing from Turkestan ravaged many provinces of Persia, including Kermán and Hormuz. The people, unable to bear the frequency of such visitations, retired first to the island of Kishm, and then to that of Jerún, on which last was built the city of New Hormuz, afterwards so famous. This is Teixeira’s account from Thurán Sháh, so far as we are concerned with it. As regards the transfer of the city it agrees substantially with Abulfeda’s, which we have already quoted (supra, note 1).

Hammer’s account from Wassáf is frightfully confused, chiefly I should suppose from Hammer’s own fault; for among other things he assumes that Hormuz was always on an island, and he distinguishes between the Island of Hormuz and the Island of Jerún! We gather, however, that Hormuz before the Mongol time formed a government subordinate to the Salghur Atabegs of Fars (see note 1, ch. xv.), and when the power of that Dynasty was falling, the governor Mahmúd Kalháti, established himself as Prince of Hormuz, and became the founder of a petty dynasty, being evidently identical with Teixeira’s Ruknuddin Mahmud above-named, who is represented as reigning from 1246 to 1277. In Wassáf we find, as in Teixeira, Mahmúd’s son Masa’úd killing his brother Nazrat, and Baháuddin expelling Masa’úd. It is true that Hammer’s surprising muddle makes Nazrat kill Masa’úd; however, as a few lines lower we find Masa’úd alive and Nazrat dead, we may safely venture on this correction. But we find also that Masa’úd appears as Ruknuddin Masa’úd, and that Baháuddin does not assume the princely authority himself, but proclaims that of Fakhruddin AhmedBen Ibrahim At-Thaibi, a personage who does not appear in Teixeira at all. A MS. history, quoted by Ouseley, does mention Fakhruddin, and ascribes to him the transfer to Jerún. Wassáf seems to allude to Baháuddin as a sort of Sea Rover, occupying the islands of Larek and Jerún, whilst Fakhruddin reigned at Hormuz. It is difficult to understand the relation between the two.

It is possible that Polo’s memory made some confusion between the names of RUKNUDDIN Masa’úd and Fakhruddin AHMED, but I incline to think the latter is his RUOMEDAN AHMED. For Teixeira tells us that Masa’úd took refuge at the court of Kermán, and Wassáf represents him as supported in his claims by the Atabeg of that province, whilst we see that Polo seems to represent Ruomedan Acomat as in hostility with that prince. To add to the imbroglio I find in a passage of Wassáf Malik Fakhruddin Ahmed at-Thaibi sent by Ghazan Khan in 1297 as ambassador to Khanbalig, staying there some years, and dying off the Coromandel coast on his return in 1305. (Elliot, iii. pp. 45-47.)

Masa’úd’s seeking help from Kermán to reinstate him is not the first case of the same kind that occurs in Teixeira’s chronicle, so there may have been some kind of colour for Marco’s representation of the Prince of Hormuz as the vassal of the Atabeg of Kermán (“l’homme de cest roy de Creman;” see Prologue, ch. xiv. note 2). M. Khanikoff denies the possibility of the existence of any royal dynasty at Hormuz at this period. That there was a dynasty of Maliks of Hormuz, however, at this period we must believe on the concurring testimony of Marco, of Wassáf, and of Thurán Sháh. There was also, it would seem, another quasi-independent principality in the Island of Kais. (Hammer’s Ilch. II. 50, 51; Teixeira, Relacion de los Reyes de Hormuz; Khan. Notice, p. 34.)

The ravages of the Tartars which drove the people of Hormuz from their city may have begun with the incursions of the Nigudaris and Karaunahs, but they probably came to a climax in the great raid in 1299 of the Chaghataian Prince Kotlogh Shah, son of Dua Khan, a part of whose bands besieged the city itself, though they are said to have been repulsed by Baháuddin Ayas.

[The Dynasty of Hormuz was founded about 1060 by a Yemen chief Mohammed Dirhem Ko, and remained subject to Kermán till 1249, when Rokn ed-din Mahmúd III. Kalháti (1242-1277) made himself independent. The immediate successors of Rokn ed-din were Saif ed-din Nazrat (1277-1290), Masa’úd (1290-1293), Bahad ed-din Ayaz Sayfin (1293-1311). Hormuz was captured by the Portuguese in 1510 and by the Persians in 1622.—H. C.]

NOTE 7.—The indications of this alternative route to Kermán are very vague, but it may probably have been that through Finn, Tárum, and the Sírján district, passing out of the plain of Hormuz by the eastern flank of the Ginao mountain. This road would pass near the hot springs at the base of the said mountain, Sarga, Khurkhu, and Ginao, which are described by Kämpfer. Being more or less sulphureous they are likely to be useful in skin-diseases: indeed, Hamilton speaks of their efficacy in these. (I. 95.) The salt-streams are numerous on this line, and dates are abundant. The bitterness of the bread was, however, more probably due to another cause, as Major Smith has kindly pointed out to me: “Throughout the mountains in the south of Persia, which are generally covered with dwarf oak, the people are in the habit of making bread of the acorns, or of the acorns mixed with wheat or barley. It is dark in colour, and very hard, bitter, and unpalatable.”

Major St. John also noticed the bitterness of the bread in Kermán, but his servants attributed it to the presence in the wheat-fields of a bitter leguminous plant, with a yellowish white flower, which the Kermánis were too lazy to separate, so that much remained in the thrashing, and imparted its bitter flavour to the grain (surely the Tare of our Lord’s Parable!).

[General Houtum-Schindler says (l.c. p. 496): “Marco Polo’s return journey was, I am inclined to think, viâ Urzú and Báft, the shortest and most direct road. The road viâ Tárum and Sírján is very seldom taken by travellers intending to go to Kermán; it is only frequented by the caravans going between Bender ‘Abbás and Bahrámábád, three stages west of Kermán. Hot springs, ‘curing itch,’ I noticed at two places on the Urzú-Báft road. There were some near Qal’ah Asgber and others near Dashtáb; they were frequented by people suffering from skin-diseases, and were highly sulphureous; the water of those near Dashtáb turned a silver ring black after two hours’ immersion. Another reason of my advocating the Urzú road is that the bitter bread spoken of by Marco Polo is only found on it, viz. at Báft and in Bardshír. In Sírján, to the west, and on the roads to the east, the bread is sweet. The bitter taste is from the Khúr, a bitter leguminous plant, which grows among the wheat, and whose grains the people are too lazy to pick out. There is not a single oak between Bender ‘Abbás and Kermán; none of the inhabitants seemed to know what an acorn was. A person at Báft, who had once gone to Kerbelá viâ Kermánsháh and Baghdád, recognised my sketch of tree and fruit immediately, having seen oak and acorn between Kermánsháh and Qasr-i-Shírín on the Baghdád road.” Major Sykes writes (ch. xxiii.): “The above description undoubtedly refers to the main winter route, which runs viâ Sírján. This is demonstrated by the fact that under the Kuh-i-Ginao, the summer station of Bandar Abbás, there is a magnificent sulphur spring, which, welling from an orifice 4 feet in diameter, forms a stream some 30 yards wide. Its temperature at the source is 113 degrees, and its therapeutic properties are highly appreciated. As to the bitterness of the bread, it is suggested in the notes that it was caused by being mixed with acorns, but, to-day at any rate, there are no oak forests in this part of Persia, and I would urge that it is better to accept our traveller’s statement, that it was due to the bitterness of the water.”—However, I prefer Gen. Houtum-Schindler’s theory.—H. C.]

[1] It is but fair to say that scholars so eminent as Professors Sprenger and Blochmann have considered the original suggestion lawful and probable. Indeed, Mr. Blochmann says in a letter: “After studying a language for years, one acquires a natural feeling for anything un-idiomatic; but I must confess I see nothing un-Persian in rúdbár-i-duzd, nor in rúdbár-i-lass…. How common lass is, you may see from one fact, that it occurs in children’s reading-books.” We must not take Reobarles in Marco’s French as rhyming to (French) Charles; every syllable sounds. It is remarkable thatLas, as the name of a small State near our Sind frontier, is said to mean, “in the language of the country,” a level plain. (J. A. S. B. VIII. 195.) It is not clear what is meant by the language of the country. The chief is a Brahui, the people are Lumri or Numri Bilúchis, who are, according to Tod, of Jat descent.

[2] Sir Henry Rawlinson objects to this identification (which is the same that Dr. Karl Müller adopts), saying that Organa is more probably “Angan, formerly Argan.” To this I cannot assent. Nearchus sails 300 stadia from the mouth of Anamis to Oaracta, and on his way passes Organa. Taking 600 stadia to the degree (Dr. Müller’s value), I make it just 300 stadia from the mouth of the Hormuz creek to the eastern point of Kishm. Organa must have been either Jerún or Lárek; Angan (Hanjám of Mas’udi) is out of the question. And as a straight run must have passed quite close to Jerún, not to Larek, I find the former most probable. Nearchus next day proceeds 200 stadia along Oaracta, and anchors in sight of another island (Neptune’s) which was separated by 40 stadia from Oaracta. This was Angan; no other island answers, and for this the distances answer with singular precision.

[3] Moore refers to Persian Tales.

[4] This tison can be seen in the cuts from the tomb of St. Peter Martyr and the seal of Winchelsea.

[5] Spere, bundles of spars, etc., dragged overboard.