The Travels of Marco Polo, by Marco Polo

Chapter xi.

Of the Noble City of Tauris.

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.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.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.4 The city is all girt round with charming gardens, full of many varieties of large and excellent fruits.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.

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Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 16:24