The Travels of Marco Polo, by Marco Polo

Chapter xxiv.

Concerning the Tartars of the Ponent and Their Lords.

The first lord of the Tartars of the Ponent was SAIN, a very great and puissant king, who conquered ROSIA and COMANIA, ALANIA, LAC, MENJAR, ZIC, GOTHIA, and GAZARIA; all these provinces were conquered by King Sain. Before his conquest these all belonged to the Comanians, but they did not hold well together nor were they united, and thus they lost their territories and were dispersed over divers countries; and those who remained all became the servants of King Sain.[NOTE 1]

After King Sain reigned King PATU, and after Patu BARCA, and after Barca MUNGLETEMUR, and after Mungletemur King TOTAMANGUL, and then TOCTAI the present sovereign.2

Now I have told you of the Tartar kings of the Ponent, and next I shall tell you of a great battle that was fought between Alau the Lord of the Levant and Barca the Lord of the Ponent.

So now we will relate out of what occasion that battle arose, and how it was fought.

NOTE 1. —+The COMANIANS, a people of Turkish race, the Polovtzi[or “Dwellers of the Plain” of Nestor, the Russian Annalist] of the old Russians, were one of the chief nations occupying the plains on the north of the Black Sea and eastward to the Caspian, previous to the Mongol invasion. Rubruquis makes them identical with the KIPCHAK, whose name is generally attached to those plains by Oriental writers, but Hammer disputes this. [See a note, pp. 92–93 of Rockhill’s Rubruck. — H.C.]

ALANIA, the country of the Alans on the northern skirts of the Caucasus and towards the Caspian; LAC, the Wallachs as above. MENJAR is a subject of doubt. It may be Májar, on the Kuma River, a city which was visited by Ibn Batuta, and is mentioned by Abulfeda as Kummájar. It was in the 14th century the seat of a Franciscan convent. Coins of that century, both of Majar and New Majar, are given by Erdmann. The building of the fortresses of Kichi Majar and Ulu Majar (little and great) is ascribed in the Derbend Nameh to Naoshirwan. The ruins of Majar were extensive when seen by Gmelin in the last century, but when visited by Klaproth in the early part of the present one there were few buildings remaining. Inscriptions found there are, like the coins, Mongol–Mahomedan of the 14th century. Klaproth, with reference to these ruins, says that Majar merely means in “old Tartar” a stone building, and denies any connection with the Magyars as a nation. But it is possible that the Magyar country, i.e. Hungary, is here intended by Polo, for several Asiatic writers of his time, or near it, speak of the Hungarians as Majár. Thus Abulfeda speaks of the infidel nations near the Danube as including Aulák, Majárs, and Serbs; Rashiduddin speaks of the Mongols as conquering the country of the Bashkirds, the Majárs, and the Sassan (probably Saxons of Transylvania). One such mention from Abulghazi has been quoted in note 2 to ch. xxii.; in the Masálak-al-Absár, the Cherkes, Russians, Aas (or Alans), and Majar are associated; the Majar and Alán in Sharifuddin. Doubts indeed arise whether in some of these instances a people located in Asia be not intended.1 (Rubr. p. 246; D’Avezac, p. 486 seqq.; Golden Horde, p. 5; I.B. II. 375 seqq.; Büsching, IV. 359; Cathay, p. 233; Numi Asiatici, I. 333, 451; Klaproth’s Travels, ch. xxxi.; N. et Ex. XIII. i. 269, 279; P. de la Croix, II. 383; Rein. Abulf. I. 80; D’Ohsson, II. 628.)

[“The author of the Tarikh Djihan Kushai, as well as Rashid and other Mohammedan authors of the same period, term the Hungarians Bashkerds (Bashkirs). This latter name, written also Bashkurd, appears for the first time, it seems, in Ibn Fozlan’s narrative of an embassy to the Bulgars on the Volga in the beginning of the 10th century (translated by Fraehn, ‘De Bashkiris,’ etc., 1822). . . . The Hungarians arrived in Europe in the 9th century, and then called themselves Magyar (to be pronounced Modjor), as they do down to the present time. The Russian Chronicler Nestor mentions their passing near Kiev in 898, and terms them Ugry. But the name Magyar was also known to other nations in the Middle Ages. Abulfeda (ii. 324) notices the Madjgars; it would, however, seem that he applies this name to the Bashkirs in Asia. The name Madjar occurs also in Rashid’s record. In the Chinese and Mongol annals of the 13th century the Hungarians are termed Madja-rh.” (Bretschneider, Med. Res. I. pp. 326–327.)— H.C.]

ZIC is Circassia. The name was known to Pliny, Ptolemy, and other writers of classic times. Ramusio (II. 196 v) gives a curious letter to Aldus Manutius from George Interiano, “Della vita de’ Zychi chiamati Circassi,” and a great number of other references to ancient and mediaeval use of the name will be found in D’Avezac’s Essay, so often quoted (p. 497).

GOTHIA is the southern coast of the Crimea from Sudak to Balaklava and the mountains north of the latter, then still occupied by a tribe of the Goths. The Genoese officer who governed this coast in the 15th century bore the title of Capitanus Gotiae; and a remnant of the tribe still survived, maintaining their Teutonic speech, to the middle of the 16th century, when Busbeck, the emperor’s ambassador to the Porte, fell in with two of them, from whom he derived a small vocabulary and other particulars. (Busbequii Opera, 1660, p. 321 seqq.; D’Avezac, pp. 498–499; Heyd., II. 123 seqq.; Cathay, pp. 200–201.)

GAZARIA, the Crimea and part of the northern shore of the Sea of Azov, formerly occupied by the Khazars, a people whom Klaproth endeavours to prove to have been of Finnish race. When the Genoese held their settlements on the Crimean coast the Board at Genoa which administered the affairs of these colonies was called The Office of Gazaria.

NOTE 2. — The real list of the “Kings of the Ponent,” or Khans of the Golden Horde, down to the time of Polo’s narrative, runs thus: BATU, Sartak, Ulagchi (these two almost nominal), BARKA, MANGKU TIMUR, TUDAI MANGKU, Tulabugha, Tuktuka or TOKTAI. Polo here omits Tulabugha (though he mentions him below in ch. xxix.), and introduces before Batu, as a great and powerful conqueror, the founder of the empire, a prince whom he calls Sain. This is in fact Batu himself, the leader of the great Tartar invasion of Europe (1240–1242), whom he has split into two kings. Batu bore the surname of Sain Khan, or “the Good Prince,” by which name he is mentioned, e.g., in Makrizi (Quatremère’s Trans. II. 45), also in Wassáf (Hammer’s Trans. pp. 29–30). Piano Carpini’s account of him is worth quoting: “Hominibus quidem ejus satis benignus; timetur tamen valde ab iis; sed crudelissimus est in pugnâ; sagax est multum; et etiam astutissimus in bello, quia longo tempore jam pugnavit.” This Good Prince was indeed crudelissimus in pugnâ. At Moscow he ordered a general massacre, and 270,000 right ears are said to have been laid before him in testimony to its accomplishment. It is odd enough that a mistake like that in the text is not confined to Polo. The chronicle of Kazan, according to a Russian writer, makes Sain succeed Batu. (Carpini, p. 746; J. As. sér. IV. tom. xvii. p. 109; Büsching, V. 493; also Golden Horde, p. 142, note.)

Batu himself, in the great invasion of the West, was with the southern host in Hungary; the northern army which fought at Liegnitz was under Baidar, a son of Chaghatai.

According to the Masálak-al-Absár, the territory of Kipchak, over which this dynasty ruled, extended in length from the Sea of Istambul to the River Irtish, a journey of 6 months, and in breadth from Bolghar to the Iron Gates, 4 (?) months’ journey. A second traveller, quoted in the same work, says the empire extended from the Iron Gates to Yughra (see p. 483 supra), and from the Irtish to the country of the Nemej. The last term is very curious, being the Russian Niemicz, “Dumb,” a term which in Russia is used as a proper name of the Germans; a people, to wit, unable to speak Slavonic. (N. et Ex. XIII. i. 282, 284.)

[“An allusion to the Mongol invasion of Poland and Silesia is found in the Yuen-shi, ch. cxxi., biography of Wu-liang-ho t’ai (the son of Su-bu-t’ai). It is stated there that Wu-liang-ho t’ai [Urtangcadai] accompanied Badu when he invaded the countries of Kin ch’a (Kipchak) and Wu-la-sz’ (Russia). Subsequently he took part also in the expedition against the P’o-lie-rh and Nie-mi-sze.” (Dr. Bretschneider, Med. Res. I. p. 322.) With reference to these two names, Dr. Bretschneider says, in a note, that he has no doubt that the Poles and Germans are intended. “As to its origin, the Russian linguists generally derive it from nemoi, ‘dumb,’ i.e., unable to speak Slavonic. To the ancient Byzantine chroniclers the Germans were known under the same name. Cf. Muralt’s Essai de Chronogr. Byzant., sub anno 882: ‘Les Slavons maltraités par les guerriers Nemetzi de Swiatopolc’ (King of Great Moravia, 870–894). Sophocles’ Greek Lexicon of the Roman and Byzantine periods from B.C. 146 to A.D. 1100: ‘Nemitzi’ Austrians, Germans. This name is met also in the Mohammedan authors. According to the Masálak-al-Absár, of the first half of the 14th century (transl. by Quatremère, N. et Ext. XXII. 284), the country of the Kipchaks extended (eastward) to the country of the Nemedj, which separates the Franks from the Russians. The Turks still call the Germans Niemesi; the Hungarians term them Nemet.”— H.C.]

Illustration: Figure of a Tartar under the feet of Henry II, Duke of Silesia, Cracow, and Poland, from the tomb at Breslau of that Prince, killed in battle with the Tartar host at Liegnitz, 9th April, 1241.

1 This doubt arises also where Abulfeda speaks of Majgaria in the far north, “the capital of the country of the Madjgars, a Turk race” of pagan nomads, by whom he seems to mean the Bashkirs. (Reinaud’s Abulf. I. 324.) For it is to the Bashkir country that the Franciscan travellers apply the term Great Hungary, showing that they were led to believe it the original seat of the Magyars. (Rubr. 274, Plan. Carpin. 747; and in same vol. D’Avezac, p. 491.) Further confusion arises from the fact that, besides the Uralian Bashkirs, there were, down to the 13th century, Bashkirs recognised as such, and as distinct from the Hungarians though akin to them, dwelling in Hungarian territory. Ibn Said, speaking of Sebennico (the cradle of the Polo family), says that when the Tartars advanced under its walls (1242?) “the Hungarians, the Bashkirs, and the Germans united their forces near the city” and gave the invaders a signal defeat. (Reinaud’s Abulf. I. 312; see also 294, 295.) One would gladly know what are the real names that M. Reinaud refers Hongrois and Allemands. The Christian Bashkirds of Khondemir, on the borders of the Franks, appear to be Hungarians. (See J. As., sér. IV. tom. xvii. p. 111.)

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