The Travels of Marco Polo, by Marco Polo

Chapter xix.

Of the Descent to the City of Hormos.

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.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.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.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.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.]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.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.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
     experienced_. . . . . . . .    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:—

  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 miles _over very deep snow_ brought 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 and _Jirufti_ partridge. . . . 
     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.”

     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.)

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 Harem:

“Wine, too, of every clime and hue,

Around their liquid lustre threw

Amber Rosolli3 — 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

    Timoni . . .

In luogo di timoni

    Fa spere5 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 Ahmed Ben 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, today 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 unidiomatic; but I must confess I see nothing unPersian 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 that Las, 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.

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