The Travels of Marco Polo, by Marco Polo

Chapter vii.

How the Calif of Baudas Took Counsel to Slay All the Christians in His Land.

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

It was in the year of Christ1 . . . 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,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.”

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