The Travels of Sir John Mandeville, by John Mandeville

Chapter XIV

Of the City of Damascus. Of Three Ways to Jerusalem; One, by Land and by Sea; Another, More by Land THAN BY SEA; AND THE Third Way to Jerusalem, All by Land

NOW after that I have told you some part of folk in the countries before, now will I turn again to my way, for to turn again on this half. Then whoso will go from the land of Galilee, of that that I have spoke for, to come again on this half, men come again by Damascus, that is a full fair city and full noble, and full of all merchandises, and a three journeys long from the sea, and a five journeys from Jerusalem. But upon camels, mules, horses, dromedaries and other beasts, men carry their merchandise thither. And thither come the merchants with merchandise by sea from India, Persia, Chaldea, Armenia, and of many other kingdoms.

This city founded Eliezer Damascus, that was yeoman and dispenser of Abraham before that Isaac was born. For he thought for to have been Abraham’s heir, and he named the town after his surname Damascus. And in that place, where Damascus was founded, Cain slew Abel his brother. And beside Damascus is the Mount Seir. In that city of Damascus there is great plenty of wells. And within the city and without be many fair gardens and of diverse fruits. None other city is not like in comparison to it of fair gardens, and of fair disports. The city is great and full of people, and well walled with double walls. And there be many physicians. And Saint Paul himself was there a physician for to keep men’s bodies in health, before he was converted. And after that he was physician of souls. And Saint Luke the evangelist was disciple of Saint Paul for to learn physic, and many other; for Saint Paul held then school of physic. And near beside Damascus was he converted. And after his conversion ne dwelt in that city three days, without sight and without meat or drink; and in those three days he was ravished to heaven, and there he saw many privities of our Lord.

And fast beside Damascus is the castle of Arkes that is both fair and strong.

From Damascus men come again by our Lady of Sardenak, that is a five mile on this half Damascus. And it sitteth upon a rock, and it is a full fair place; and it seemeth a castle, for there was wont to be a castle, but it is now a full fair church. And there within be monks and nuns Christian. And there is a vault under the church, where that Christian men dwell also. And they have many good vines. And in the church, behind the high altar, in the wall, is a table of black wood, on the which sometime was depainted an image of our Lady that turneth into flesh: but now the image sheweth but little, but alway, by the grace of God, that table evermore drops oil, as it were of olive; and there is a vessel of marble under the table to receive the oil. Thereof they give to pilgrims, for it heals of many sicknesses; and men say that, if it be kept well seven year, afterwards it turns into flesh and blood. From Sardenak men come through the vale of Bochar, the which is a fair vale and a plenteous of all manner of fruit; and it is amongst hills. And there are therein fair rivers and great meadows and noble pasture for beasts. And men go by the mounts of Libanus, which lasts from Armenia the more towards the north unto Dan, the which is the end of the Land of Repromission toward the north, as I said before. Their hills are right fruitful, and there are many fair wells and cedars and cypresses, and many other trees of divers kinds. There are also many good towns toward the head of their hills, full of folk.

Between the city of Arkez and the city of Raphane is a river, that is called Sabatory; for on the Saturday it runs fast, and all the week else it stand still and runs not, or else but fairly. Between the foresaid hills also is another water that on nights freezes hard and on days is no frost seen thereon. And, as men come again from those hills, is a hill higher than any of the other, and they call it there the High Hill. There is a great city and a fair, the which is called Tripoli, in the which are many good Christian men, yemand the same rites and customs that we use. From thence men come by a city that is called Beyrout, where Saint George slew the dragon; and it is a good town, and a fair castle therein, and it is three journeys from the foresaid city of Sardenak. At the one side of Beyrout sixteen mile, to come hitherward, is the city of Sydon. At Beyrout enters pilgrims into the sea that will come to Cyprus, and they arrive at the port of Surry or of Tyre, and so they come to Cyprus in a little space. Or men may come from the port of Tyre and come not at Cyprus, and arrive at some haven of Greece, and so come to these parts, as I said before.

I have told you now of the way by which men go farrest and longest to Jerusalem, as by Babylon and Mount Sinai and many other places which ye heard me tell of; and also by which ways men shall turn again to the Land of Repromission. Now will I tell you the rightest way and the shortest to Jerusalem. For some men will not go the other; some for they have not spending enough, some for they have no good company, and some for they may not endure the long travel, some for they dread them of many perils of deserts, some for they will haste them homeward, desiring to see their wives and their children, or for some other reasonable cause that they have to turn soon home. And therefore I will shew how men may pass tittest and in shortest time make their pilgrimage to Jerusalem. A man that comes from the lands of the west, he goes through France, Burgoyne, and Lumbardy. And so to Venice or Genoa, or some other haven, and ships there and wends by sea to the isle of Greff, the which pertains to the Genoans.

And syne he arrives in Greece at Port Mirrok, or at Valoun, or at Duras, or at some other haven of that country, and rests him there and buys him victuals and ships again and sails to Cyprus and arrives there at Famagost and comes not at the isle of Rhodes. Famagost is the chief haven of Cyprus; and there he refreshes him and purveys him of victuals, and then he goes to ship and comes no more on land, if he will, before he comes at Port Jaffa, that is the next haven to Jerusalem, for it is but a day journey and a half from Jerusalem, that is to say thirty-six mile. From the Port Jaffa men go to the city of Rames, the which is but a little thence; and it is a fair city and a good and mickle folk therein. And without that city toward the south is a kirk of our Lady, where our Lord shewed him to her in three clouds, the which betokened the Trinity. And a little thence is another city, that men call Dispolis, but it hight some time Lidda, a fair city and a well inhabited: there is a kirk of Saint George, where he was headed. From thence men go to the castle of Emmaus, and so to the Mount Joy; there may pilgrims first see Jerusalem. At Mount Joy lies Samuel the prophet. From thence men go to Jerusalem. Beside their ways is the city of Ramatha and the Mount Modyn; and thereof was Matathias, Judas Machabeus father, and there are the graves of the Machabees. Beyond Ramatha is the town of Tekoa, whereof Amos the prophet was; and there is his grave.

I have told you before of the holy places that are at Jerusalem and about it, and therefore I will speak no more of them at this time. But I will turn again and shew you other ways a man may pass more by land, and namely for them that may not suffer the savour of the sea, but is liefer to go by land, if all it be the more pain. From a man be entered into the sea he shall pass till one of the havens of Lumbardy, for there is the best making of purveyance of victuals; or he may pass to Genoa or Venice or some other. And he shall pass by sea in to Greece to the Port Mirrok, or to Valoun or to Duras, or some other haven of that country. And from thence he shall go by land to Constantinople, and he shall pass the water that is called Brace Saint George, the which is one arm of the sea. And from thence he shall by land go to Ruffynell, where a good castle is and a strong; and from therein he shall go to Puluual, and syne to the castle of Sinope, and from thence to Cappadocia, that is a great country, where are many great hills. And he shall go though Turkey to the port of Chiutok and to the city of Nicaea, which is but seven miles thence. That city won the Turks from the Emperor of Constantinople; and it is a fair city and well walled on the one side, and on the other side is a great lake and a great river, the which is called Lay. From thence men go by the hills of Nairmount and by the vales of Mailbrins and strait fells and by the town of Ormanx or by the towns that are on Riclay and Stancon, the which are great rivers and noble, and so to Antioch the less, which is set on the river of Riclay. And there abouts are many good hills and fair, and many fair woods and great plenty of wild beasts for to hunt at.

And he that will go another way, he shall go by the plains of Romany coasting the Roman Sea. On that coast is a fair castle that men call Florach, and it is right a strong place. And uppermore amongst the mountains is a fair city, that is called Tarsus, and the city of Longemaath, and the city of Assere, and the city of Marmistre. And when a man is passed those mountains and those fells, he goes by the city of Marioch and by Artoise, where is a great bridge upon the river of Ferne, that is called Farfar, and it is a great river bearing ships and it runs right fast out of the mountains to the city of Damascus. And beside the city of Damascus is another great river that comes from the hills of Liban, which men call Abbana. At the passing of this river Saint Eustace, that some-time was called Placidas, lost his wife and his two children. This river runs through the plain of Archades, and so to the Red Sea. From thence men go to the city of Phenice, where are hot wells and hot baths. And then men go to the city of Ferne; and between Phenice and Ferne are ten mile. And there are many fair woods. And then men come to Antioch, which is ten mile thence. And it is a fair city and well walled about with many fair towers; and it is a great city, but it was some-time greater than it is now. For it was some-time two mile on length and on breadth other half mile. And through the midst of that city ran the water of Farphar and a great bridge over it; and there was some-time in the walls about this city three hundred and fifty towers, and at each pillar of the bridge was a stone. This is the chief city of the kingdom of Syria. And ten mile from this city is the port of Saint Symeon; and there goes the water of Farphar into the sea. From Antioch men go to a city that is called Lacuth, and then to Gebel, and then to Tortouse. And there near is the land of Channel; and there is a strong castle that is called Maubek. From Tortouse pass men to Tripoli by sea, or else by land through the straits of mountains and fells. And there is a city that is called Gibilet. From Tripoli go men to Acres; and from thence are two ways to Jerusalem, the one on the left half and the other on the right half. By the left way men go by Damascus and by the flum Jordan. By the right way men go by Maryn and by the land of Flagramy and near the mountains into the city of Cayphas, that some men call the castle of Pilgrims. And from thence to Jerusalem are three day journey, in the which men shall go through Caesarea Philippi, and so to Jaffa and Rames and the castle of Emmaus, and so to Jerusalem.

Now have I told you some ways by land and by water that men may go by to the Holy Land after the countries that they come from. Nevertheless they come all to one end. Yet is there another way to Jerusalem all by land, and pass not the sea, from France or Flanders; but that way is full long and perilous and of great travel, and therefore few go that way. He that shall go that way, he shall go through Almayne and Prussia and so to Tartary. This Tartary is holden of the great Caan of Cathay, of whom I think to speak afterward. This is a full ill land and sandy and little fruit bearing. For there grows no corn, ne wine, ne beans, ne peas, ne none other fruit convenable to man for to live with. But there are beasts in great plenty: and therefore they eat but flesh without bread and sup the broth and they drink milk of all manner of beasts. They eat hounds, cats, ratons, and all other wild beasts. And they have no wood, or else little; and therefore they warm and seethe their meat with horse-dung and cow-dung and of other beasts, dried against the sun. And princes and other eat not but once in the day, and that but little. And they be right foul folk and of evil kind. And in summer, by all the countries, fall many tempests and many hideous thunders and leits and slay much people and beasts also full often-time. And suddenly is there passing heat, and suddenly also passing cold; and it is the foulest country and the most cursed and the poorest that men know. And their prince, that governeth that country, that they clepe Batho, dwelleth at the city of Orda. And truly no good man should not dwell in that country, for the land and the country is not worthy hounds to dwell in. It were a good country to sow in thistle and briars and broom and thorns and briars; and for no other thing is it not good. Natheles, there is good land in some place, but it is pure little, as men say.

I have not been in that country, nor by those ways. But I have been at other lands that march to those countries, as in the land of Russia, as in the land of Nyflan, and in the realm of Cracow and of Letto, and in the realm of Daristan, and in many other places that march to the coasts. But I went never by that way to Jerusalem, wherefore I may not well tell you the manner.

But, if this matter please to any worthy man that hath gone by that way, he may tell it if him like, to that intent, that those, that will go by that way and make their voyage by those coasts, may know what way is there. For no man may pass by that way goodly, but in time of winter, for the perilous waters and wicked mareys, that be in those countries, that no man may pass but if it be strong frost and snow above. For if the snow ne were not, men might not go upon the ice, ne horse ne car neither.

And it is well a three journeys of such way to pass from Prussia to the land of Saracens habitable. And it behoveth to the Christian men, that shall war against them every year, to bear their victuals with them; for they shall find there no good. And then must they let carry their victual upon the ice with cars that have no wheels, that they clepe sleighs. And as long as their victuals last they may abide there, but no longer; for there shall they find no wight that will sell them any victual or anything. And when the spies see any Christian men come upon them, they run to the towns, and cry with a loud voice; KERRA, KERRA, KERRA. And then anon they arm them and assemble them together.

And ye shall understand that it freezeth more strongly in those countries than on this half. And therefore hath every man stews in his house, and in those stews they eat and do their occupations all that they may. For that is at the north parts that men clepe the Septentrional where it is all only cold. For the sun is but little or none toward those countries. And therefore in the Septentrion, that is very north, is the land so cold, that no man may dwell there. And, in the contrary, toward the south it is so hot, that no man ne may dwell there, because that the sun, when he is upon the south, casteth his beams all straight upon that part.

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 23:10