The Travels of Marco Polo, by Marco Polo

Chapter lxx.

Concerning the Very Noble City of Saianfu, and How its Capture was Effected.

Saianfu is a very great and noble city, and it rules over twelve other large and rich cities, and is itself a seat of great trade and manufacture. The people are Idolaters (and so forth). They have much silk, from which they weave fine silken stuffs; they have also a quantity of game, and in short the city abounds in all that it behoves a noble city to possess.

Now you must know that this city held out against the Great Kaan for three years after the rest of Manzi had surrendered. The Great Kaan’s troops made incessant attempts to take it, but they could not succeed because of the great and deep waters that were round about it, so that they could approach from one side only, which was the north. And I tell you they never would have taken it, but for a circumstance that I am going to relate.

You must know that when the Great Kaan’s host had lain three years before the city without being able to take it, they were greatly chafed thereat. Then Messer Nicolo Polo and Messer Maffeo and Messer Marco said: “We could find you a way of forcing the city to surrender speedily;” whereupon those of the army replied, that they would be right glad to know how that should be. All this talk took place in the presence of the Great Kaan. For messengers had been despatched from the camp to tell him that there was no taking the city by blockade, for it continually received supplies of victual from those sides which they were unable to invest; and the Great Kaan had sent back word that take it they must, and find a way how. Then spoke up the two brothers and Messer Marco the son, and said: “Great Prince, we have with us among our followers men who are able to construct mangonels which shall cast such great stones that the garrison will never be able to stand them, but will surrender incontinently, as soon as the mangonels or trebuchets shall have shot into the town.”1

The Kaan bade them with all his heart have such mangonels made as speedily as possible. Now Messer Nicolo and his brother and his son immediately caused timber to be brought, as much as they desired, and fit for the work in hand. And they had two men among their followers, a German and a Nestorian Christian, who were masters of that business, and these they directed to construct two or three mangonels capable of casting stones of 300 lbs. weight. Accordingly they made three fine mangonels, each of which cast stones of 300 lbs. weight and more.2 And when they were complete and ready for use, the Emperor and the others were greatly pleased to see them, and caused several stones to be shot in their presence; whereat they marvelled greatly and greatly praised the work. And the Kaan ordered that the engines should be carried to his army which was at the leaguer of Saianfu.3

And when the engines were got to the camp they were forthwith set up, to the great admiration of the Tartars. And what shall I tell you? When the engines were set up and put in gear, a stone was shot from each of them into the town. These took effect among the buildings, crashing and smashing through everything with huge din and commotion. And when the townspeople witnessed this new and strange visitation they were so astonished and dismayed that they wist not what to do or say. They took counsel together, but no counsel could be suggested how to escape from these engines, for the thing seemed to them to be done by sorcery. They declared that they were all dead men if they yielded not, so they determined to surrender on such conditions as they could get.4 Wherefore they straightway sent word to the commander of the army that they were ready to surrender on the same terms as the other cities of the province had done, and to become the subjects of the Great Kaan; and to this the captain of the host consented.

So the men of the city surrendered, and were received to terms; and this all came about through the exertions of Messer Nicolo, and Messer Maffeo, and Messer Marco; and it was no small matter. For this city and province is one of the best that the Great Kaan possesses, and brings him in great revenues.5

NOTE 1. — Pauthier’s MS. C. here says: “When the Great Kaan, and the Barons about him, and the messengers from the camp . . . heard this, they all marvelled greatly; for I tell you that in all those parts they know nothing of mangonels or trebuchets; and they were so far from being accustomed to employ them in their wars that they had never even seen them, nor knew what they were.” The MS. in question has in this narrative several statements peculiar to itself,1 as indeed it has in various other passages of the book; and these often look very like the result of revision by Polo himself. Yet I have not introduced the words just quoted into our text, because they are, as we shall see presently, notoriously contrary to fact.

NOTE 2. — The same MS. has here a passage which I am unable to understand. After the words “300 lbs. and more,” it goes on: “Et la veoit l’en voler moult loing, desquelles pierres il en y avoit plus de lx routes qui tant montoit l’une comme l’autre” The Bern has the same. [Perhaps we might read lx en routes, viz. on their way. — H.C.]

NOTE 3. — I propose here to enter into some detailed explanation regarding the military engines that were in use in the Middle Ages.2 None of these depended for their motive force on torsion like the chief engines used in classic times. However numerous the names applied to them, with reference to minor variations in construction or differences in power, they may all be reduced to two classes, viz. great slings and great crossbows. And this is equally true of all the three great branches of mediaeval civilisation — European, Saracenic, and Chinese. To the first class belonged the Trebuchet and Mangonel; to the second, the Winch–Arblast (Arbalête à Tour), Springold etc.

Whatever the ancient Balista may have been, the word in mediaeval Latin seems always to mean some kind of crossbow. The heavier crossbows were wound up by various aids, such as winches, ratchets, etc. They discharged stone shot, leaden bullets, and short, square-shafted arrows called quarrels, and these with such force we are told as to pierce a six-inch post (?). But they were worked so slowly in the field that they were no match for the long-bow, which shot five or six times to their once. The great machines of this kind were made of wood, of steel, and very frequently of horn;3 and the bow was sometimes more than 30 feet in length. Dufour calculates that such a machine could shoot an arrow of half a kilogram in weight to a distance of about 860 yards.

The Trebuchet consisted of a long tapering shaft or beam, pivoted at a short distance from the butt end on a pair of strong pyramidal trestles. At the other end of the shaft a sling was applied, one cord of which was firmly attached by a ring, whilst the other hung in a loop over an iron hook which formed the extremity of the shaft. The power employed to discharge the sling was either the strength of a number of men, applied to ropes which were attached to the short end of the shaft or lever, or the weight of a heavy counterpoise hung from the same, and suddenly released.

Illustration: Mediaeval Artillery Engines. Figs. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Chinese; Figs. 6, 7, 8, Saracenic: the rest Frank.

Supposing the latter force to be employed, the long end of the shaft was drawn down by a windlass; the sling was laid forward in a wooden trough provided for it, and charged with the shot. The counterpoise was, of course, now aloft, and was so maintained by a detent provided with a trigger. On pulling this, the counterpoise falls and the shaft flies upwards drawing the sling. When a certain point is reached the loop end of the sling releases itself from the hook, and the sling flies abroad whilst the shot is projected in its parabolic flight.4 To secure the most favourable result the shot should have acquired its maximum velocity, and should escape at an angle of about 45°. The attainment of this required certain proportions between the different dimensions of the machine and the weight of the shot, for which, doubtless, traditional rules of thumb existed among the mediaeval engineers.

The ordinary shot consisted of stones carefully rounded. But for these were substituted on occasion rough stones with fuses attached,5 pieces of red-hot iron, pots of fused metal, or casks full of Greek fire or of foul matter to corrupt the air of the besieged place. Thus carrion was shot into Negropont from such engines by Mahomed II. The Cardinal Octavian, besieging Modena in 1249, slings a dead ass into the town. Froissart several times mentions such measures, as at the siege of Thin l’Evêque on the Scheldt in 1340, when “the besiegers by their engines flung dead horses and other carrion into the castle to poison the garrison by their smell.” In at least one instance the same author tells how a living man, an unlucky messenger from the Castle of Auberoche, was caught by the besiegers, thrust into the sling with the letters that he bore hung round his neck, and shot into Auberoche, where he fell dead among his horrified comrades. And Lipsius quotes from a Spanish Chronicle the story of a virtuous youth, Pelagius, who, by order of the Tyrant Abderramin, was shot across the Guadalquivir, but lighted unharmed upon the rocks beyond. Ramon de Muntaner relates how King James of Aragon, besieging Majorca in 1228, vowed vengeance against the Saracen King because he shot Christian prisoners into the besiegers’ camp with his trebuchets (pp. 223–224). We have mentioned one kind of corruption propagated by these engines; the historian Wassáf tells of another. When the garrison of Dehli refused to open the gates to Aláuddin Khilji after the murder of his uncle, Firúz (1296), he loaded his mangonels with bags of gold and shot them into the fort, a measure which put an end to the opposition.

Ibn Batuta, forty years later, describes Mahomed Tughlak as entering Dehli accompanied by elephants carrying small balistae (ra’ádái), from which gold and silver pieces were shot among the crowd. And the same king, when he had given the crazy and cruel order that the population of Dehli should evacuate the city and depart to Deogir, 900 miles distant, having found two men skulking behind, one of whom was paralytic and the other blind, caused the former to be shot from a mangonel. (I.B. III. 395, 315.)

Some old drawings represent the shaft as discharging the shot from a kind of spoon at its extremity, without the aid of a sling (e.g. fig. 13); but it may be doubted if this was actually used, for the sling was essential to the efficiency of the engine. The experiments and calculations of Dufour show that without the sling, other things remaining the same, the range of the shot would be reduced by more than a half.

In some of these engines the counterpoise, consisting of a timber case filled with stones, sand, or the like, was permanently fixed to the butt-end of the shaft. This seems to have been the Trebuchet proper. In others the counterpoise hung free on a pivot from the yard; whilst a third kind (as in fig. 17) combined both arrangements. The first kind shot most steadily and truly; the second with more force.

Those machines, in which the force of men pulling cords took the place of the counterpoise, could not discharge such weighty shot, but they could be worked more rapidly, and no doubt could be made of lighter scantling. Mr. Hewitt points out a curious resemblance between this kind of Trebuchet and the apparatus used on the Thames to raise the cargo from the hold of a collier.

The Emperor Napoleon deduces from certain passages in mediaeval writers that the Mangonel was similar to the Trebuchet, but of lighter structure and power. But often certainly the term Mangonel seems to be used generically for all machines of this class. Marino Sanudo uses no word but Machina, which he appears to employ as the Latin equivalent of Mangonel, whilst the machine which he describes is a Trebuchet with moveable counterpoise. The history of the word appears to be the following. The Greek word [Greek: mágganon], “a piece of witchcraft,” came to signify a juggler’s trick, an unexpected contrivance (in modern slang “a jim”), and so specially a military engine. It seems to have reached this specific meaning by the time of Hero the Younger, who is believed to have written in the first half of the 7th century. From the form [Greek: magganikòn] the Orientals got Manganík and Manjánik,6 whilst the Franks adopted Mangona and Mangonella. Hence the verbs manganare and amanganare, to batter and crush with such engines, and eventually our verb “to mangle.” Again, when the use of gunpowder rendered these warlike engines obsolete, perhaps their ponderous counterweights were utilised in the peaceful arts of the laundry, and hence gave us our substantive “the Mangle” (It. Mangano)!

The Emperor Napoleon, when Prince President, caused some interesting experiments in the matter of mediaeval artillery to be carried out at Vincennes, and a full-sized trebuchet was constructed there. With a shaft of 33 feet 9 inches in length, having a permanent counterweight of 3300 lbs. and a pivoted counterweight of 6600 lbs. more, the utmost effect attained was the discharge of an iron 24-kilo. shot to a range of 191 yards, whilst a 12–1/2-inch shell, filled with earth, ranged to 131 yards. The machine suffered greatly at each discharge, and it was impracticable to increase the counterpoise to 8000 kilos., or 17,600 lbs. as the Prince desired. It was evident that the machine was not of sufficiently massive structure. But the officers in charge satisfied themselves that, with practice in such constructions and the use of very massive timber, even the exceptional feats recorded of mediaeval engineers might be realised.

Such a case is that cited by Quatremère, from an Oriental author, of the discharge of stones weighing 400 mans, certainly not less than 800 lbs., and possibly much more; or that of the Men of Bern, who are reported, when besieging Nidau in 1388, to have employed trebuchets which shot daily into the town upwards of 200 blocks weighing 12 cwt. apiece.7 Stella relates that the Genoese armament sent against Cyprus, in 1373, among other great machines had one called Troja (Truia?), which cast stones of 12 to 18 hundredweights; and when the Venetians were besieging the revolted city of Zara in 1346, their Engineer, Master Francesco delle Barche, shot into the city stones of 3000 lbs. weight.8 In this case the unlucky engineer was “hoist with his own petard,” for while he stood adjusting one of his engines, it went off, and shot him into the town.

With reference to such cases the Emperor calculates that a stone of 3000 lbs. weight might be shot 77 yards with a counterpoise of 36,000 lbs. weight, and a shaft 65 feet long. The counterpoise, composed of stone shot of 55 lbs. each, might be contained in a cubical case of about 5–1/2 feet to the side. The machine would be preposterous, but there is nothing impossible about it. Indeed in the Album of Villard de Honnecourt, an architect of the 13th century, which was published at Paris in 1858, in the notes accompanying a plan of a trebuchet (from which Professor Willis restored the machine as it is shown in our fig. 19), the artist remarks: “It is a great job to heave down the beam, for the counterpoise is very heavy. For it consists of a chest full of earth which is 2 great toises in length, 8 feet in breadth, and 12 feet in depth”! (p. 203).

Such calculations enable us to understand the enormous quantities of material said to have been used in some of the larger mediaeval machines. Thus Abulfeda speaks of one used at the final capture of Acre, which was entrusted to the troops of Hamath, and which formed a load for 100 carts, of which one was in charge of the historian himself. The romance of Richard Coeur de Lion tells how in the King’s Fleet an entire ship was taken up by one such machine with its gear:—

“Another schyp was laden yet

With an engyne hyghte Robinet,

(It was Richardys o mangonel)

And all the takyl that thereto fel.”

Twenty-four machines, captured from the Saracens by St. Lewis in his first partial success on the Nile, afforded material for stockading his whole camp. A great machine which cumbered the Tower of St. Paul at Orleans, and was dismantled previous to the celebrated defence against the English, furnished 26 cart-loads of timber. (Abulf. Ann. Muslem, V. 95–97; Weber, II. 56; Michel’s Joinville, App. p. 278; Jollois, H. du Siège d Orleans, 1833, p. 12.)

The number of such engines employed was sometimes very great. We have seen that St. Lewis captured 24 at once, and these had been employed in the field. Villehardouin says that the fleet which went from Venice to the attack of Constantinople carried more than 300 perriers and mangonels, besides quantities of other engines required for a siege (ch. xxxviii). At the siege of Acre in 1291, just referred to, the Saracens, according to Makrizi, set 92 engines in battery against the city, whilst Abulfaraj says 300, and a Frank account, of great and small, 666. The larger ones are said to have shot stones of “a kantar and even more.” (Makrizi, III. 125; Reinaud, Chroniques Arabes, etc., p. 570; De Excidio Urbis Acconis, in Marlène and Durand, V. 769.)

How heavy a mangonade was sometimes kept up may be understood from the account of the operations on the Nile, already alluded to. The King was trying to run a dam across a branch of the river, and had protected the head of his work by “cat-castles” or towers of timber, occupied by archers, and these again supported by trebuchets, etc., in battery. “And,” says Jean Pierre Sarrasin, the King’s Chamberlain, “when the Saracens saw what was going on, they planted a great number of engines against ours, and to destroy our towers and our causeway they shot such vast quantities of stones, great and small, that all men stood amazed. They slung stones, and discharged arrows, and shot quarrels from winch-arblasts, and pelted us with Turkish darts and Greek fire, and kept up such a harassment of every kind against our engines and our men working at the causeway, that it was horrid either to see or to hear. Stones, darts, arrows, quarrels, and Greek fire came down on them like rain.”

The Emperor Napoleon observes that the direct or grazing fire of the great arblasts may be compared to that of guns in more modern war, whilst the mangonels represent mortar-fire. And this vertical fire was by no means contemptible, at least against buildings of ordinary construction. At the sieges of Thin l’Evêque in 1340, and Auberoche in 1344, already cited, Froissart says the French cast stones in, night and day, so as in a few days to demolish all the roofs of the towers, and none within durst venture out of the vaulted basement.

The Emperor’s experiments showed that these machines were capable of surprisingly accurate direction. And the mediaeval histories present some remarkable feats of this kind. Thus, in the attack of Mortagne by the men of Hainault and Valenciennes (1340), the latter had an engine which was a great annoyance to the garrison; there was a clever engineer in the garrison who set up another machine against it, and adjusted it so well that the first shot fell within 12 paces of the enemy’s engine, the second fell near the box, and the third struck the shaft and split it in two.

Already in the first half of the 13th century, a French poet (quoted by Weber) looks forward with disgust to the supercession of the feats of chivalry by more mechanical methods of war:—

“Chevaliers sont esperdus,

Cil ont auques leur tens perdus;

Arbalestier et mineor

Et perrier et engigneor

Seront dorenavant plus chier.”

When Gházán Khan was about to besiege the castle of Damascus in 1300, so much importance was attached to this art that whilst his Engineer, a man of reputation therein, was engaged in preparing the machines, the Governor of the castle offered a reward of 1000 dinars for that personage’s head. And one of the garrison was daring enough to enter the Mongol camp, stab the Engineer, and carry back his head into the castle!

Marino Sanudo, about the same time, speaks of the range of these engines with a prophetic sense of the importance of artillery in war:—

“On this subject (length of range) the engineers and experts of the army should employ their very sharpest wits. For if the shot of one army, whether engine-stones or pointed projectiles, have a longer range than the shot of the enemy, rest assured that the side whose artillery hath the longest range will have a vast advantage in action. Plainly, if the Christian shot can take effect on the Pagan forces, whilst the Pagan shot cannot reach the Christian forces, it may be safely asserted that the Christians will continually gain ground from the enemy, or, in other words, they will win the battle.”

The importance of these machines in war, and the efforts made to render them more effective, went on augmenting till the introduction of the still more “villanous saltpetre,” even then, however, coming to no sudden halt. Several of the instances that we have cited of machines of extraordinary power belong to a time when the use of cannon had made some progress. The old engines were employed by Timur; in the wars of the Hussites as late as 1422; and, as we have seen, up to the middle of that century by Mahomed II. They are also distinctly represented on the towers of Aden, in the contemporary print of the escalade in 1514, reproduced in this volume. (Bk. III. ch. xxxvi.)

(Etudes sur le Passé et l’Avenir de l’Artillerie, par L. N. Bonaparte, etc., tom. II.; Marinus Sanutius, Bk. II. Pt. 4, ch. xxi. and xxii.; Kington’s Fred. II., II. 488; Froissart, I. 69, 81, 182; Elliot, III. 41, etc.; Hewitt’s Ancient Armour, I. 350; Pertz, Scriptores, XVIII. 420, 751; Q. R. 135–7; Weber, III. 103; Hammer, Ilch. II. 95.)

NOTE 4. — Very like this is what the Romance of Coeur de Lion tells of the effects of Sir Fulke Doyley’s mangonels on the Saracens of Ebedy:—

“Sir Fouke brought good engynes

Swylke knew but fewe Sarazynes —

* * *

“A prys tour stood ovyr the Gate;

He bent his engynes and threw thereate

A great stone that harde droff,

That the Tour al to roff

* * *

“And slough the folk that therinne stood;

The other fledde and wer nygh wood,

And sayde it was the devylys dent,” etc.

Weber, II. 172.

NOTE 5. — This chapter is one of the most perplexing in the whole book, owing to the chronological difficulties involved.

SAIANFU is SIANG-YANG FU, which stands on the south bank of the River Han, and with the sister city of Fan-ch’eng, on the opposite bank, commands the junction of two important approaches to the southern provinces, viz. that from Shen-si down the Han, and that from Shan-si and Peking down the Pe-ho. Fan-ch’eng seems now to be the more important place of the two.

The name given to the city by Polo is precisely that which Siang-yang bears in Rashiduddin, and there is no room for doubt as to its identity.

The Chinese historians relate that Kúblái was strongly advised to make the capture of Siang-yang and Fan-ch’eng a preliminary to his intended attack upon the Sung. The siege was undertaken in the latter part of 1268, and the twin cities held out till the spring [March] of 1273. Nor did Kúblái apparently prosecute any other operations against the Sung during that long interval.

Now Polo represents that the long siege of Saianfu, instead of being a prologue to the subjugation of Manzi, was the protracted epilogue of that enterprise; and he also represents the fall of the place as caused by advice and assistance rendered by his father, his uncle, and himself, a circumstance consistent only with the siege’s having really been such an epilogue to the war. For, according to the narrative as it stands in all the texts, the Polos could not have reached the Court of Kúblái before the end of 1274, i.e. a year and a half after the fall of Siang-yang, as represented in the Chinese histories.

The difficulty is not removed, nor, it appears to me, abated in any degree, by omitting the name of Marco as one of the agents in this affair, an omission which occurs both in Pauthier’s MS. B and in Ramusio. Pauthier suggests that the father and uncle may have given the advice and assistance in question when on their first visit to the Kaan, and when the siege of Siang-yang was first contemplated. But this would be quite inconsistent with the assertion that the place had held out three years longer than the rest of Manzi, as well as with the idea that their aid had abridged the duration of the siege, and, in fact, with the spirit of the whole story. It is certainly very difficult in this case to justify Marco’s veracity, but I am very unwilling to believe that there was no justification in the facts.

It is a very curious circumstance that the historian Wassáf also appears to represent Saianfu (see note 5, ch. lxv.) as holding out after all the rest of Manzi had been conquered. Yet the Chinese annals are systematic, minute, and consequent, and it seems impossible to attribute to them such a misplacement of an event which they represent as the key to the conquest of Southern China.

In comparing Marco’s story with that of the Chinese, we find the same coincidence in prominent features, accompanying a discrepancy in details, that we have had occasion to notice in other cases where his narrative intersects history. The Chinese account runs as follows:—

In 1271, after Siang-yang and Fan-ch’eng had held out already nearly three years, an Uighúr General serving at the siege, whose name was Alihaiya, urged the Emperor to send to the West for engineers expert at the construction and working of machines casting stones of 150 lbs. weight. With such aid he assured Kúblái the place would speedily be taken. Kúblái sent to his nephew Abaka in Persia for such engineers, and two were accordingly sent post to China, Alawating of Mufali and his pupil Ysemain of Huli or Hiulie (probably Ala’uddin of Miafarakain and Ismael of Heri or Herat). Kúblái on their arrival gave them military rank. They exhibited their skill before the Emperor at Tatu, and in the latter part of 1272 they reached the camp before Siang-yang, and set up their engines. The noise made by the machines, and the crash of the shot as it broke through everything in its fall, caused great alarm in the garrison. Fan-ch’eng was first taken by assault, and some weeks later Siang-yang surrendered.

The shot used on this occasion weighed 125 Chinese pounds (if catties, then equal to about 166 lbs. avoird.), and penetrated 7 or 8 feet into the earth.

Rashiduddin also mentions the siege of Siangyang, as we learn from D’Ohsson. He states that as there were in China none of the Manjaníks or Mangonels called Kumghá the Kaan caused a certain engineer to be sent from Damascus or Balbek, and the three sons of this person, Abubakr, Ibrahim, and Mahomed, with their workmen, constructed seven great Manjaníks which were employed against SAYANFU, a frontier fortress and bulwark of Manzi.

We thus see that three different notices of the siege of Siang-yang, Chinese, Persian, and Venetian, all concur as to the employment of foreign engineers from the West, but all differ as to the individuals.

We have seen that one of the MSS. makes Polo assert that till this event the Mongols and Chinese were totally ignorant of mangonels and trebuchets. This, however, is quite untrue; and it is not very easy to reconcile even the statement, implied in all versions of the story, that mangonels of considerable power were unknown in the far East, with other circumstances related in Mongol history.

The Persian History called Tabakát-i-Násiri speaks of Aikah Nowin the Manjaníki Khás or Engineer-inChief to Chinghiz Khan, and his corps of ten thousand Manjaníkis or Mangonellers. The Chinese histories used by Gaubil also speak of these artillery battalions of Chinghiz. At the siege of Kai-fung fu near the Hwang–Ho, the latest capital of the Kin Emperors, in 1232, the Mongol General, Subutai, threw from his engines great quarters of millstones which smashed the battlements and watch-towers on the ramparts, and even the great timbers of houses in the city. In 1236 we find the Chinese garrison of Chinchau (I-chin-hien on the Great Kiang near the Great Canal) repelling the Mongol attack, partly by means of their stone shot. When Hulaku was about to march against Persia (1253), his brother, the Great Kaan Mangku, sent to Cathay to fetch thence 1000 families of mangonellers, naphtha-shooters, and arblasteers. Some of the crossbows used by these latter had a range, we are told, of 2500 paces! European history bears some similar evidence. One of the Tartar characteristics reported by a fugitive Russian Archbishop, in Matt. Paris (p. 570 under 1244), is: “Machinas habent multiplices, recte et fortiter jacientes

It is evident, therefore, that the Mongols and Chinese had engines of war, but that they were deficient in some advantage possessed by those of the Western nations. Rashiduddin’s expression as to their having no Kumghá mangonels, seems to be unexplained. Is it perhaps an error for Karábughá, the name given by the Turks and Arabs to a kind of great mangonel? This was known also in Europe as Carabaga, Calabra, etc. It is mentioned under the former name by Marino Sanudo, and under the latter, with other quaintly-named engines, by William of Tudela, as used by Simon de Montfort the Elder against the Albigenses:—

“E dressa sos Calabres, et foi Mal Vezina

E sas autras pereiras, e Dona, e Reina;

Pessia les autz murs e la sala peirina.”9

(“He set up his Calábers, and likewise his Ill–Neighbours,

With many a more machine, this the Lady, that the Queen,

And breached the lofty walls, and smashed the stately Halls.”)

Now, in looking at the Chinese representations of their ancient mangonels, which are evidently genuine, and of which I have given some specimens (figs. I, 2, 3), I see none worked by the counterpoise; all (and there are six or seven different representations in the work from which these are taken) are shown as worked by man-ropes. Hence, probably, the improvement brought from the West was essentially the use of the counterpoised lever. And, after I had come to this conclusion, I found it to be the view of Captain Favé. (See Du Feu Grégeois, by MM. Reinaud and Favé, p. 193.)

In Ramusio the two Polos propose to Kúblái to make “mangani al modo di Ponente“; and it is worthy of note that in the campaigns of Aláuddín Khilji and his generals in the Deccan, circa 1300, frequent mention is made of the Western Manjaniks and their great power. (See Elliot, III. 75, 78, etc.)

Of the kind worked by man-ropes must have been that huge mangonel which Mahomed Iba Kásim, the conqueror of Sind, set in battery against the great Dagoba of Daubul, and which required 500 men to work it. Like Simon de Montfort’s it had a tender name; it was called “The Bride.” (Elliot, I. 120.)

Before quitting this subject, I will quote a curious passage from the History of the Sung Dynasty, contributed to the work of Reinaud and Favé by M. Stanislas Julien: “In the 9th year of the period Hien-shun (A.D. 1273) the frontier cities had fallen into the hands of the enemy (Tartars). The Pao (or engines for shooting) of the Bwei–Hwei (Mahomedans) were imitated, but in imitating them very ingenious improvements were introduced, and pao of a different and very superior kind were constructed. Moreover, an extraordinary method was invented of neutralising the effects of the enemy’s pao. Ropes were made of rice-straw 4 inches thick, and 34 feet in length. Twenty such ropes were joined, applied to the tops of buildings, and covered with clay. In this manner the fire-arrows, fire-pao, and even the pao casting stones of 100 Lbs. weight, could cause no damage to the towers or houses.” (Ib. 196; also for previous parts of this note, Visdelou, 188; Gaubil, 34, 155 seqq. and 70; De Mailla, 329; Pauthier in loco and Introduction; D’Ohsson, II. 35, and 391; Notes by Mr. Edward Thomas, F.R.S.; Q. Rashid., pp. 132, 136.) [See I. p. 342.]

[Captain Gill writes (River of Golden Sand, I. p. 148): “The word ‘P’ao’ which now means ‘cannon,’ was, it was asserted, found in old Chinese books of a date anterior to that in which gunpowder was first known to Europeans; hence the deduction was drawn that the Chinese were acquainted with gunpowder before it was used in the West. But close examination shows that in all old books the radical of the character ‘P’ao’ means ‘stone,’ but that in modern books the radical of the character ‘P’ao’ means ‘fire’; that the character with the radical ‘fire’ only appears in books well known to have been written since the introduction of gunpowder into the West; and that the old character ‘P’ao’ in reality means ‘Balista.’” — H.C.]

[“Wheeled boats are mentioned in 1272 at the siege of Siang-yang. Kúblái did not decide to ‘go for’ Manzi, i.e. the southern of the two Chinese Empires, until 1273. Bayan did not start until 1274, appearing before Hankow in January 1275. Wuhu and Taiping surrendered in April; then Chinkiang, Kien K’ang (Nanking), and Ning kwoh; the final crushing blow being dealt at Hwai-chan. In March 1276, the Manzi Emperor accepted vassaldom. Kiang-nan was regularly administered in 1278.” (E. H. Parker, China Review, xxiv. p. 105.)— H.C.]

Siang-yang has been twice visited by Mr. A. Wylie. Just before his first visit (I believe in 1866) a discovery had been made in the city of a quantity of treasure buried at the time of the siege. One of the local officers gave Mr. Wylie one of the copper coins, not indeed in itself of any great rarity, but worth engraving here on account of its connection with the siege commemorated in the text; and a little on the principle of Smith the Weaver’s evidence:—“The bricks are alive at this day to testify of it; therefore deny it not.”

Illustration: Coin from a treasure hidden at Siang-yang during the siege in 1268–73, lately discovered.

1 And to the Bern MS. which seems to be a copy of it, as is also I think (in substance) the Bodleian.

2 In this note I am particularly indebted to the researches of the Emperor Napoleon III. on this subject. (Etudes sur le passé et l’avenir de l’Artillerie; 1851.)

3 Thus Joinville mentions the journey of Jehan li Ermin, the king’s artillerist, from Acre to Damascus, pour acheter cornes et glus pour faire arbalestres — to buy horns and glue to make crossbows withal (p. 134).

In the final defence of Acre (1291) we hear of balistae bipedales (with a forked rest?) and other vertiginales (traversing on a pivot) that shot 3 quarrels at once, and with such force as to stitch the Saracens to their bucklers — cum clypeis consutos interfecerunt.

The crossbow, though apparently indigenous among various tribes of Indo–China, seems to have been a new introduction in European warfare in the 12th century. William of Brittany in a poem called the Philippis, speaking of the early days of Philip Augustus, says:—

“Francigenis nostris illis ignota diebus Res erat omnino quid balistarius arcus, Quid balista foret, nec habebat in agmine toto Rex quenquam sciret armis qui talibus uti.” — Duchesne, Hist. Franc. Script., V. 115.

Anna Comnena calls it [Greek: Tzágra] (which looks like Persian charkh), “a barbaric bow, totally unknown to the Greeks”; and she gives a very lengthy description of it, ending: “Such then are the facts about the Tzagra, and a truly diabolical affair it is.” (Alex. X. — Paris ed. p. 291.)

4 The construction is best seen in Figs. 17 and 19. Figs. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 in the cut are from Chinese sources; Figs. 6, 7, 8 from Arabic works; the rest from European sources.

5 Christine de Pisan says that when keeping up a discharge by night lighted brands should be attached to the stones in order to observe and correct the practice. (Livre des faits, etc., du sage Roy Charles, Pt. II. ch. xxiv.)

6 Professor Sprenger informs me that the first mention of the Manjanik in Mahomedan history is at the siege of Táyif by Mahomed himself, A.D. 630 (and see Sprenger’s Mohammed [German], III. 330). The Annales Marbacenses in Pertz, xvii. 172, say under 1212, speaking of wars of the Emperor Otho in Germany: “Ibi tunc cepit haberi usus instrumenti bellici quod vulgo tribok appellari solet.”

There is a ludicrous Oriental derivation of Manjanik, from the Persian: “Man chi nek”! “How good am I!” Ibn Khallikan remarks that the word must be foreign, because the letters j and k ([Arabic] and [Arabic]) never occur together in genuine Arabic words (Notes by Mr. E. Thomas, F.R.S.). It may be noticed that the letters in question occur together in another Arabic word of foreign origin used by Polo, viz. Játhalík.

7 Dufour mentions that stone shot of the mediaeval engines exist at Zurich, of 20 and 22 inches diameter. The largest of these would, however, scarcely exceed 500 lbs. in weight.

8 Georg. Stellae Ann. in Muratori, XVII. 1105; and Daru, Bk. viii. § 12.

9 Shaw, Dresses and Decorations of the Middle Ages, vol. i. No 21.

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