The Travels of Marco Polo, by Marco Polo

Chapter ii.

Concerning the Province of Turcomania.

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.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.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.]

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