The Travels of Marco Polo, by Marco Polo

The Book of Marco Polo.


Great Princes, Emperors, and Kings, Dukes and Marquises, Counts, Knights, and Burgesses! and People of all degrees who desire to get knowledge of the various races of mankind and of the diversities of the sundry regions of the World, take this Book and cause it to be read to you. For ye shall find therein all kinds of wonderful things, and the divers histories of the Great Hermenia, and of Persia, and of the Land of the Tartars, and of India, and of many another country of which our Book doth speak, particularly and in regular succession, according to the description of Messer Marco Polo, a wise and noble citizen of Venice, as he saw them with his own eyes. Some things indeed there be therein which he beheld not; but these he heard from men of credit and veracity. And we shall set down things seen as seen, and things heard as heard only, so that no jot of falsehood may mar the truth of our Book, and that all who shall read it or hear it read may put full faith in the truth of all its contents.

For let me tell you that since our Lord God did mould with his hands our first Father Adam, even until this day, never hath there been Christian, or Pagan, or Tartar, or Indian, or any man of any nation, who in his own person hath had so much knowledge and experience of the divers parts of the World and its Wonders as hath had this Messer Marco! And for that reason he bethought himself that it would be a very great pity did he not cause to be put in writing all the great marvels that he had seen, or on sure information heard of, so that other people who had not these advantages might, by his Book, get such knowledge. And I may tell you that in acquiring this knowledge he spent in those various parts of the World good six-and-twenty years. Now, being thereafter an inmate of the Prison at Genoa, he caused Messer Rusticiano of Pisa, who was in the said Prison likewise, to reduce the whole to writing; and this befell in the year 1298 from the birth of Jesus.

Chapter I.

How the Two Brothers Polo Set Forth from Constantinople to Traverse the World.

It came to pass in the year of Christ 1260, when Baldwin was reigning at Constantinople,1 that Messer Nicolas Polo, the father of my lord Mark, and Messer Maffeo Polo, the brother of Messer Nicolas, were at the said city of CONSTANTINOPLE, whither they had gone from Venice with their merchants’ wares. Now these two Brethren, men singularly noble, wise, and provident, took counsel together to cross the GREATER SEA on a venture of trade; so they laid in a store of jewels and set forth from Constantinople, crossing the Sea to SOLDAIA.2

NOTE 1. — Baldwin II (de Courtenay), the last Latin Emperor of Constantinople, reigned from 1237 to 1261, when he was expelled by Michael Palaeologus.

The date in the text is, as we see, that of the Brothers’ voyage across the Black Sea. It stands 1250 in all the chief texts. But the figure is certainly wrong. We shall see that, when the Brothers return to Venice in 1269, they find Mark, who, according to Ramusio’s version, was born after their departure, a lad of fifteen. Hence, if we rely on Ramusio, they must have left Venice about 1253–54. And we shall see also that they reached the Volga in 1261. Hence their start from Constantinople may well have occurred in 1260, and this I have adopted as the most probable correction. Where they spent the interval between 1254 (if they really left Venice so early) and 1260, nowhere appears. But as their brother, Mark the Elder, in his Will styles himself “whilom of Constantinople,” their headquarters were probably there.

Illustration: Castle of Soldaia or Sudak

NOTE 2. — In the Middle Ages the Euxine was frequently called Mare Magnum or Majus. Thus Chaucer:—

“In the GRETE SEE,

At many a noble Armee hadde he be.”

The term Black Sea (Mare Maurum v. Nigrum) was, however, in use, and Abulfeda says it was general in his day. That name has been alleged to appear as early as the 10th century, in the form [Greek: Skoteinae], “The Dark Sea”; but an examination of the passage cited, from Constantine Porphyrogenitus, shows that it refers rather to the Baltic, whilst that author elsewhere calls the Euxine simply Pontus. (Reinaud’s Abulf. I. 38, Const. Porph. De Adm. Imp. c. 31, c. 42.)

+ Sodaya, Soldaia, or Soldachia, called by Orientals Súdak, stands on the S.E. coast of the Crimea, west of Kaffa. It had belonged to the Greek Empire, and had a considerable Greek population. After the Frank conquest of 1204 it apparently fell to Trebizond. It was taken by the Mongols in 1223 for the first time, and a second time in 1239, and during that century was the great port of intercourse with what is now Russia. At an uncertain date, but about the middle of the century, the Venetians established a factory there, which in 1287 became the seat of a consul. In 1323 we find Pope John XXII. complaining to Uzbek Khan of Sarai that the Christians had been ejected from Soldaia and their churches turned into mosques. Ibn Batuta, who alludes to this strife, counts Sudak as one of the four great ports of the World. The Genoese got Soldaia in 1365 and built strong defences, still to be seen. Kaffa, with a good anchorage, in the 14th century, and later on Tana, took the place of Soldaia as chief emporium in South Russia. Some of the Arab Geographers call the Sea of Azov the Sea of Sudak.

The Elder Marco Polo in his Will (1280) bequeaths to the Franciscan Friars of the place a house of his in Soldachia, reserving life occupation to his own son and daughter, then residing in it. Probably this establishment already existed when the two Brothers went thither. (Elie de Laprimaudare, passim; Gold. Horde, 87; Mosheim, App. 148; Ibn Bat. I. 28, II. 414; Cathay, 231–33; Heyd, II. passim.)

Chapter ii.

How the Two Brothers Went on Beyond Soldaia.

Having stayed a while at Soldaia, they considered the matter, and thought it well to extend their journey further. So they set forth from Soldaia and travelled till they came to the Court of a certain Tartar Prince, BARCA KAAN by name, whose residences were at SARA1 and at BOLGARA [and who was esteemed one of the most liberal and courteous Princes that ever was among the Tartars.]2 This Barca was delighted at the arrival of the Two Brothers, and treated them with great honour; so they presented to him the whole of the jewels that they had brought with them. The Prince was highly pleased with these, and accepted the offering most graciously, causing the Brothers to receive at least twice its value.

Illustration: Map to illustrate the Geographical Position of the CITY of SARAI

Illustration: Part of the Remains of the CITY of SARAI near TZAREV North of the AKHTUBA Branch of the VOLGA

After they had spent a twelvemonth at the court of this Prince there broke out a great war between Barca and Aláu, the Lord of the Tartars of the Levant, and great hosts were mustered on either side.3

But in the end Barca, the Lord of the Tartars of the Ponent, was defeated, though on both sides there was great slaughter. And by reason of this war no one could travel without peril of being taken; thus it was at least on the road by which the Brothers had come, though there was no obstacle to their travelling forward. So the Brothers, finding they could not retrace their steps, determined to go forward. Quitting Bolgara, therefore, they proceeded to a city called UCACA, which was at the extremity of the kingdom of the Lord of the Ponent;4 and thence departing again, and passing the great River Tigris, they travelled across a Desert which extended for seventeen days’ journey, and wherein they found neither town nor village, falling in only with the tents of Tartars occupied with their cattle at pasture.5

NOTE 1. — + Barka Khan, third son of Jújí, the first-born of Chinghiz, ruled the Ulús of Juji and Empire of Kipchak (Southern Russia) from 1257 to 1265. He was the first Musulman sovereign of his race. His chief residence was at SARAI (Sara of the text), a city founded by his brother and predecessor Bátú, on the banks of the Akhtuba branch of the Volga. In the next century Ibn Batuta describes Sarai as a very handsome and populous city, so large that it made half a day’s journey to ride through it. The inhabitants were Mongols, Aás (or Alans), Kipchaks, Circassians, Russians, and Greeks, besides the foreign Moslem merchants, who had a walled quarter. Another Mahomedan traveller of the same century says the city itself was not walled, but, “The Khan’s Palace was a great edifice surmounted by a golden crescent weighing two kantars of Egypt, and encompassed by a wall flanked with towers,” etc. Pope John XXII., on the 26th February 1322, defined the limits of the new Bishopric of Kaffa, which were Sarai to the east and Varna to the west.

Sarai became the seat of both a Latin and a Russian metropolitan, and of more than one Franciscan convent. It was destroyed by Timur on his second invasion of Kipchak (1395–6), and extinguished by the Russians a century later. It is the scene of Chaucer’s half-told tale of Cambuscan:—

“At Sarra, in the Londe of Tartarie,

There dwelt a King that werried Russie.”

[“Mesalek-al-absar (285, 287), says Sarai, meaning ‘the Palace,’ was founded by Bereké, brother of Batu. It stood in a salty plain, and was without walls, though the palace had walls flanked by towers. The town was large, had markets, madrasas — and baths. It is usually identified with Selitrennoyé Gorodok, about 70 miles above Astrakhan.” (Rockhill, Rubruck, p. 260, note.)— H. C.]

Several sites exhibiting extensive ruins near the banks of the Akhtuba have been identified with Sarai; two in particular. One of these is not far from the great elbow of the Volga at Tzaritzyn: the other much lower down, at Selitrennoyé Gorodok or Saltpetre–Town, not far above Astrakhan.

The upper site exhibits by far the most extensive traces of former population, and is declared unhesitatingly to be the sole site of Sarai by M. Gregorieff, who carried on excavations among the remains for four years, though with what precise results I have not been able to learn. The most dense part of the remains, consisting of mounds and earth-works, traces of walls, buildings, cisterns, dams, and innumerable canals, extends for about 7–1/2 miles in the vicinity of the town of Tzarev, but a tract of 66 miles in length and 300 miles in circuit, commencing from near the head of the Akhtuba, presents remains of like character, though of less density, marking the ground occupied by the villages which encircled the capital. About 2–1/2 miles to the N.W. of Tzarev a vast mass of such remains, surrounded by the traces of a brick rampart, points out the presumable position of the Imperial Palace.

M. Gregorieff appears to admit no alternative. Yet it seems certain that the indications of Abulfeda, Pegolotti, and others, with regard to the position of the capital in the early part of the 14th century, are not consistent with a site so far from the Caspian. Moreover, F. H. Müller states that the site near Tzarev is known to the Tartars as the “Sarai of Janibek Khan” (1341–1357). Now it is worthy of note that in the coinage of Janibek we repeatedly find as the place of mintage, New Sarai. Arabsháh in his History of Timur states that 63 years had elapsed from the foundation to the destruction of Sarai. But it must have been at least 140 years since the foundation of Batu’s city. Is it not possible, therefore, that both the sites which we have mentioned were successively occupied by the Mongol capital; that the original Sarai of Batu was at Selitrennoyé Gorodok, and that the New Sarai of Janibek was established by him, or by his father Uzbeg in his latter days, on the upper Akhtuba? Pegolotti having carried his merchant from Tana (Azov) to Gittarchan (Astrakhan), takes him one day by river to Sara, and from Sara to Saracanco, also by river, eight days more. (Cathay, p. 287.) In the work quoted I have taken Saracanco for Saraichik, on the Yaik. But it was possibly the Upper or New Sarai on the Akhtuba. Ibn Batuta, marching on the frozen river, reached Sarai in three days from Astrakhan. This could not have been at Tzarev, 200 miles off.

In corroboration (quantum valeat) of my suggestion that there must have been two Sarais near the Volga, Professor Bruun of Odessa points to the fact that Fra Mauro’s map presents two cities of Sarai on the Akhtuba; only the Sarai of Janibeg is with him no longer New Sarai, but Great Sarai.

The use of the latter name suggests the possibility that in the Saracanco of Pegolotti the latter half of the name may be the Mongol Kúnk “Great.” (See Pavet de Courteille, p. 439.)

Professor Bruun also draws attention to the impossibility of Ibn Batuta’s travelling from Astrakhan to Tzarev in three days, an argument which had already occurred to me and been inserted above.

[The Empire of Kipchak founded after the Mongol Conquest of 1224, included also parts of Siberia and Khwarizm; it survived nominally until 1502. — H. C.]

(Four Years of Archaeological Researches among the Ruins of Sarai [in Russian] by M. Gregorieff [who appears to have also published a pamphlet specially on the site, but this has not been available]; Historisch-geographische Darstellung des Stromsystems der Wolga, von Ferd. Heinr. Müller, Berlin, 1839, 568–577; Ibn. Bat. II. 447; Not. et Extraits, XIII. i. 286; Pallas, Voyages; Cathay, 231, etc.; Erdmann, Numi Asiatici, pp. 362 seqq.; Arabs. I. p. 381.)

NOTE 2. — BOLGHAR, our author’s Bolgara, was the capital of the region sometimes called Great Bulgaria, by Abulfeda Inner Bulgaria, and stood a few miles from the left bank of the Volga, in latitude about 54° 54’, and 90 miles below Kazan. The old Arab writers regarded it as nearly the limit of the habitable world, and told wonders of the cold, the brief summer nights, and the fossil ivory that was found in its vicinity. This was exported, and with peltry, wax, honey, hazel-nuts, and Russia leather, formed the staple articles of trade. The last item derived from Bolghar the name which it still bears all over Asia. (See Bk. II. ch. xvi., and Note.) Bolghar seems to have been the northern limit of Arab travel, and was visited by the curious (by Ibn Batuta among others) in order to witness the phenomena of the short summer night, as tourists now visit Hammerfest to witness its entire absence.

Russian chroniclers speak of an earlier capital of the Bulgarian kingdom, Brakhimof, near the mouth of the Kama, destroyed by Andrew, Grand Duke of Rostof and Susdal, about 1160; and this may have been the city referred to in the earlier Arabic accounts. The fullest of these is by Ibn Fozlán, who accompanied an embassy from the Court of Baghdad to Bolghar, in A.D. 921. The King and people had about this time been converted to Islam, having previously, as it would seem, professed Christianity. Nevertheless, a Mahomedan writer of the 14th century says the people had then long renounced Islam for the worship of the Cross. (Not. et Extr. XIII. i. 270.)

Illustration: Ruins of Bolghar.

Bolghar was first captured by the Mongols in 1225. It seems to have perished early in the 15th century, after which Kazan practically took its place. Its position is still marked by a village called Bolgari, where ruins of Mahomedan character remain, and where coins and inscriptions have been found. Coins of the Kings of Bolghar, struck in the 10th century, have been described by Fraehn, as well as coins of the Mongol period struck at Bolghar. Its latest known coin is of A.H. 818 (A.D. 1415–16). A history of Bolghar was written in the first half of the 12th century by Yakub Ibn Noman, Kadhi of the city, but this is not known to be extant.

Fraehn shows ground for believing the people to have been a mixture of Fins, Slavs, and Turks. Nicephorus Gregoras supposes that they took their name from the great river on which they dwelt ([Greek: Boúlga]).

[“The ruins [of Bolghar],” says Bretschneider, in his Mediaeval Researches, published in 1888, vol. ii. p. 82, “still exist, and have been the subject of learned investigation by several Russian scholars. These remains are found on the spot where now the village Uspenskoye, called also Bolgarskoye (Bolgari), stands, in the district of Spask, province of Kazan. This village is about 4 English miles distant from the Volga, east of it, and 83 miles from Kazan.” Part of the Bulgars removed to the Balkans; others remained in their native country on the shores of the Azov Sea, and were subjugated by the Khazars. At the beginning of the 9th century, they marched northwards to the Volga and the Kama, and established the kingdom of Great Bulgaria. Their chief city, Bolghar, was on the bank of the Volga, but the river runs now to the west; as the Kama also underwent a change in its course, it is possible that formerly Bolghar was built at the junction of the two rivers. (Cf. Reclus, Europe russe, p. 761.) The Bulgars were converted to Islam in 922. Their country was first invaded by the Mongols under Subutai in 1223; this General conquered it in 1236, the capital was destroyed the following year, and the country annexed to the kingdom of Kipchak. Bolghar was again destroyed in 1391 by Tamerlan. In 1438, Ulugh Mohammed, cousin of Toka Timur, younger son of Juji, transformed this country into the khanate of Kazan, which survived till 1552. It had probably been the capital of the Golden Horde before Sarai.

With reference to the early Christianity of the Bulgarians, to which Yule refers in his note, the Laurentian Chronicle (A.D. 1229), quoted by Shpilevsky, adduces evidence to show that in the Great City, i.e. Bulgar, there were Russian Christians and a Christian cemetery, and the death of a Bulgarian Christian martyr is related in the same chronicle as well as in the Nikon, Tver, and Tatischef annals in which his name is given. (Cf. Shpilevsky, Anc. towns and other Bulgaro–Tartar monuments, Kazan, 1877, p. 158 seq.; Rockhill’s Rubruck, Hakl. Soc. p. 121, note.) — H. C.]

The severe and lasting winter is spoken of by Ibn Folzán and other old writers in terms that seem to point to a modern mitigation of climate. It is remarkable, too, that Ibn Fozlán speaks of the aurora as of very frequent occurrence, which is not now the case in that latitude. We may suspect this frequency to have been connected with the greater cold indicated, and perhaps with a different position of the magnetic pole. Ibn Fozlán’s account of the aurora is very striking:—“Shortly before sunset the horizon became all very ruddy, and at the same time I heard sounds in the upper air, with a dull rustling. I looked up and beheld sweeping over me a fire-red cloud, from which these sounds issued, and in it movements, as it were, of men and horses; the men grasping bows, lances, and swords. This I saw, or thought I saw. Then there appeared a white cloud of like aspect; in it also I beheld armed horsemen, and these rushed against the former as one squadron of horse charges another. We were so terrified at this that we turned with humble prayer to the Almighty, whereupon the natives about us wondered and broke into loud laughter. We, however, continued to gaze, seeing how one cloud charged the other, remained confused with it a while, and then sundered again. These movements lasted deep into the night, and then all vanished.”

(Fraehn, Ueber die Wolga Bulgaren, Petersb. 1832; Gold. Horde, 8, 9, 423–424; Not. et Extr. II. 541; Ibn Bat. II. 398; Büschings Mag. V. 492; Erdmann, Numi Asiat. I. 315–318, 333–334, 520–535; Niceph. Gregoras, II. 2, 2.)

NOTE 3. — ALAU is Polo’s representation of the name of Hulákú, brother of the Great Kaans Mangu and Kublai and founder of the Mongol dynasty in Persia. In the Mongol pronunciation guttural and palatal consonants are apt to be elided, hence this spelling. The same name is written by Pope Alexander IV., in addressing the Khan, Olao, by Pachymeres and Gregoras [Greek: Chalaù] and [Greek: Chalaon], by Hayton Haolon, by Ibn Batuta Huláún, as well as in a letter of Hulaku’s own, as given by Makrizi.

The war in question is related in Rashíduddín’s history, and by Polo himself towards the end of the work. It began in the summer of 1262, and ended about eight months later. Hence the Polos must have reached Barka’s Court in 1261.

Marco always applies to the Mongol Khans of Persia the title of “Lords of the East” (Levant), and to the Khans of Kipchak that of “Lords of the West” (Ponent). We use the term Levant still with a similar specific application, and in another form Anatolia. I think it best to preserve the terms Levant and Ponent when used in this way.

[Robert Parke in his translation out of Spanish of Mendoza, The Historie of the great and mightie kingdome of China . . . London, printed by I. Wolfe for Edward White, 1588, uses the word Ponent: “You shall understande that this mightie kingdome is the Orientalest part of all Asia, and his next neighbour towards the Ponent is the kingdome of Quachinchina . . . (p. 2).”— H. C.]

NOTE 4. — UCACA or UKEK was a town on the right bank of the Volga, nearly equidistant between Sarai and Bolghar, and about six miles south of the modern Saratov, where a village called Uwek still exists. Ukek is not mentioned before the Mongol domination, and is supposed to have been of Mongol foundation, as the name Ukek is said in Mongol to signify a dam of hurdles. The city is mentioned by Abulfeda as marking the extremity of “the empire of the Barka Tartars,” and Ibn Batuta speaks of it as “one day distant from the hills of the Russians.” Polo therefore means that it was the frontier of the Ponent towards Russia. Ukek was the site of a Franciscan convent in the 14th century; it is mentioned several times in the campaigns of Timur, and was destroyed by his army. It is not mentioned under the form Ukek after this, but appears as Uwek and Uwesh in Russian documents of the 16th century. Perhaps this was always the Slavonic form, for it already is written Uguech (= Uwek) in Wadding’s 14th century catalogue of convents. Anthony Jenkinson, in Hakluyt, gives an observation of its latitude, as Oweke (51° 40’), and Christopher Burrough, in the same collection, gives a description of it as Oueak, and the latitude as 51° 30’ (some 7’ too much). In his time (1579) there were the remains of a “very faire stone castle” and city, with old tombs exhibiting sculptures and inscriptions. All these have long vanished. Burrough was told by the Russians that the town “was swallowed into the earth by the justice of God, for the wickednesse of the people that inhabited the same.” Lepechin in 1769 found nothing remaining but part of an earthen rampart and some underground vaults of larger bricks, which the people dug out for use. He speaks of coins and other relics as frequent, and the like have been found more recently. Coins with Mongol–Arab inscriptions, struck at Ukek by Tuktugai Khan in 1306, have been described by Fraehn and Erdmann.

(Fraehn, Ueber die ehemalige Mong. Stadt Ukek, etc., Petersb. 1835; Gold. Horde; Ibn Bat. II. 414; Abulfeda, in Büsching, V. 365; Ann. Minorum, sub anno 1400; Pétis de la Croix, II. 355, 383, 388; Hakluyt, ed. 1809, I. 375 and 472; Lepechin, Tagebuch der Reise, etc., I. 235–237; Rockhill, Rubruck, 120–121, note 2.)

NOTE 5. — The great River Tigeri or Tigris is the Volga, as Pauthier rightly shows. It receives the same name from the Monk Pascal of Vittoria in 1338. (Cathay, p. 234.) Perhaps this arose out of some legend that the Tigris was a reappearance of the same river. The ecclesiastical historian, Nicephorus Callistus, appears to imply that the Tigris coming from Paradise flows under the Caspian to emerge in Kurdistan. (See IX. 19.)

The “17 days” applies to one stretch of desert. The whole journey from Ukek Bokhara would take some 60 days at least. Ibn Batuta is 58 days from Sarai to Bokhara, and of the last section he says, “we entered the desert which extends between Khwarizm and Bokhara, and which has an extent of 18 days’ journey.” (III. 19.)

Chapter iii.

How the Two Brothers, After Crossing a Desert, Came to the City of Bocara, and Fell in with Certain Envoys There.

After they had passed the desert, they arrived at a very great and noble city called BOCARA, the territory of which belonged to a king whose name was Barac, and is also called Bocara. The city is the best in all Persia.1 And when they had got thither, they found they could neither proceed further forward nor yet turn back again; wherefore they abode in that city of Bocara for three years. And whilst they were sojourning in that city, there came from Alau, Lord of the Levant, Envoys on their way to the Court of the Great Kaan, the Lord of all the Tartars in the world. And when the Envoys beheld the Two Brothers they were amazed, for they had never before seen Latins in that part of the world. And they said to the Brothers: “Gentlemen, if ye will take our counsel, ye will find great honour and profit shall come thereof.” So they replied that they would be right glad to learn how. “In truth,” said the Envoys, “the Great Kaan hath never seen any Latins, and he hath a great desire so to do. Wherefore, if ye will keep us company to his Court, ye may depend upon it that he will be right glad to see you, and will treat you with great honour and liberality; whilst in our company ye shall travel with perfect security, and need fear to be molested by nobody.”2

NOTE 1. — Hayton also calls Bokhara a city of Persia, and I see Vámbéry says that, up till the conquest by Chinghiz, Bokhara, Samarkand, Balkh, etc., were considered to belong to Persia. (Travels, p. 377.) The first Mongolian governor of Bokhara was Buka Bosha.

King Barac is Borrak Khan, great-grandson of Chagatai, and sovereign of the Ulús of Chagatai, from 1264 to 1270. The Polos, no doubt, reached Bokhara before 1264, but Borrak must have been sovereign some time before they left it.

NOTE 2. — The language of the envoys seems rather to imply that they were the Great Kaan’s own people returning from the Court of Hulaku. And Rashid mentions that Sartak, the Kaan’s ambassador to Hulaku, returned from Persia in the year that the latter prince died. It may have been his party that the Venetians joined, for the year almost certainly was the same, viz. 1265. If so, another of the party was Bayan, afterwards the greatest of Kublai’s captains, and much celebrated in the sequel of this book. (See Erdmann’s Temudschin, p. 214.)

Marsden justly notes that Marco habitually speaks of Latins, never of Franks. Yet I suspect his own mental expression was Farangi.

Chapter iv.

How the Two Brothers Took the Envoys’ Counsel, and Went to the Court of the Great Kaan.

So when the Two Brothers had made their arrangements, they set out on their travels, in company with the Envoys, and journeyed for a whole year, going northward and north-eastward, before they reached the Court of that Prince. And on their journey they saw many marvels of divers and sundry kinds, but of these we shall say nothing at present, because Messer Mark, who has likewise seen them all, will give you a full account of them in the Book which follows.

Chapter V.

How the Two Brothers Arrived at the Court of the Great Kaan.

When the Two Brothers got to the Great Kaan, he received them with great honour and hospitality, and showed much pleasure at their visit, asking them a great number of questions. First, he asked about the emperors, how they maintained their dignity, and administered justice in their dominions; and how they went forth to battle, and so forth. And then he asked the like questions about the kings and princes and other potentates.

Chapter vi.

How the Great Kaan Asked All About the Manners of the Christians, and Particularly About the Pope of Rome.

And then he inquired about the Pope and the Church, and about all that is done at Rome, and all the customs of the Latins. And the Two Brothers told him the truth in all its particulars, with order and good sense, like sensible men as they were; and this they were able to do as they knew the Tartar language well.1

NOTE 1. — The word generally used for Pope in the original is Apostoille (Apostolicus), the usual French expression of that age.

It is remarkable that for the most part the text edited by Pauthier has the correcter Oriental form Tatar, instead of the usual Tartar. Tattar is the word used by Yvo of Narbonne, in the curious letter given by Matthew Paris under 1243.

We are often told that Tartar is a vulgar European error. It is in any case a very old one; nor does it seem to be of European origin, but rather Armenian;1 though the suggestion of Tartarus may have given it readier currency in Europe. Russian writers, or rather writers who have been in Russia, sometimes try to force on us a specific limitation of the word Tartar to a certain class of Oriental Turkish race, to whom the Russians appropriate the name. But there is no just ground for this. Tátár is used by Oriental writers of Polo’s age exactly as Tartar was then, and is still, used in Western Europe, as a generic title for the Turanian hosts who followed Chinghiz and his successors. But I believe the name in this sense was unknown to Western Asia before the time of Chinghiz. And General Cunningham must overlook this when he connects the Tátaríya coins, mentioned by Arab geographers of the 9th century, with “the Scythic or Tátár princes who ruled in Kabul” in the beginning of our era. Tartars on the Indian frontier in those centuries are surely to be classed with the Frenchmen whom Brennus led to Rome, or the Scotchmen who fought against Agricola.

1 See J. As. sér. V. tom. xi. p. 203.

Chapter vii.

How the Great Kaan Sent the Two Brothers as His Envoys to the Pope.

When that Prince, whose name was CUBLAY KAAN, Lord of the Tartars all over the earth, and of all the kingdoms and provinces and territories of that vast quarter of the world, had heard all that the Brothers had to tell him about the ways of the Latins, he was greatly pleased, and he took it into his head that he would send them on an Embassy to the Pope. So he urgently desired them to undertake this mission along with one of his Barons; and they replied that they would gladly execute all his commands as those of their Sovereign Lord. Then the Prince sent to summon to his presence one of his Barons whose name was COGATAL, and desired him to get ready, for it was proposed to send him to the Pope along with the Two Brothers. The Baron replied that he would execute the Lord’s commands to the best of his ability.

After this the Prince caused letters from himself to the Pope to be indited in the Tartar tongue,1 and committed them to the Two Brothers and to that Baron of his own, and charged them with what he wished them to say to the Pope. Now the contents of the letter were to this purport: He begged that the Pope would send as many as an hundred persons of our Christian faith; intelligent men, acquainted with the Seven Arts,2 well qualified to enter into controversy, and able clearly to prove by force of argument to idolaters and other kinds of folk, that the Law of Christ was best, and that all other religions were false and naught; and that if they would prove this, he and all under him would become Christians and the Church’s liegemen. Finally he charged his Envoys to bring back to him some Oil of the Lamp which burns on the Sepulchre of our Lord at Jerusalem.3

NOTE 1. — + The appearance of the Great Kaan’s letter may be illustrated by two letters on so-called Corean paper preserved in the French archives; one from Arghún Khan of Persia (1289), brought by Buscarel, and the other from his son Oljaitu (May, 1305), to Philip the Fair. These are both in the Mongol language, and according to Abel Rémusat and other authorities, in the Uighúr character, the parent of the present Mongol writing. Facsimiles of the letters are given in Rémusat’s paper on intercourse with Mongol Princes, in Mém. de l’ Acad. des Inscript. vols. vii. and viii., reproductions in J. B. Chabot’s Hist. de Mar Jabalaha III., Paris, 1895, and preferably in Prince Roland Bonaparte’s beautiful Documents Mongols, Pl. XIV., and we give samples of the two in vol. ii.1

NOTE 2. —“The Seven Arts,” from a date reaching back nearly to classical times, and down through the Middle Ages, expressed the whole circle of a liberal education, and it is to these Seven Arts that the degrees in arts were understood to apply. They were divided into the Trivium of Rhetoric, Logic, and Grammar, and the Quadrivium of Arithmetic, Astronomy, Music, and Geometry. The 38th epistle of Seneca was in many MSS. (according to Lipsius) entitled “L. Annaei Senecae Liber de Septem Artibus liberalibus.” I do not find, however, that Seneca there mentions categorically more than five, viz., Grammar, Geometry, Music, Astronomy, and Arithmetic. In the 5th century we find the Seven Arts to form the successive subjects of the last seven books of the work of Martianus Capella, much used in the schools during the early Middle Ages. The Seven Arts will be found enumerated in the verses of Tzetzes (Chil. XI. 525), and allusions to them in the mediaeval romances are endless. Thus, in one of the “Gestes d’Alexandre,” a chapter is headed “Comment Aristotle aprent à Alixandre les Sept Arts.” In the tale of the Seven Wise Masters, Diocletian selects that number of tutors for his son, each to instruct him in one of the Seven Arts. In the romance of Erec and Eneide we have a dress on which the fairies had portrayed the Seven Arts (Franc. Michel, Recherches, etc. II. 82); in the Roman de Mahommet the young impostor is master of all the seven. There is one mediaeval poem called the Marriage of the Seven Arts, and another called the Battle of the Seven Arts. (See also Dante, Convito, Trat. II. c. 14; Not. et Ex. V., 491 seqq.)

NOTE 3. — The Chinghizide Princes were eminently liberal — or indifferent — in religion; and even after they became Mahomedan, which, however, the Eastern branch never did, they were rarely and only by brief fits persecutors. Hence there was scarcely one of the non-Mahomedan Khans of whose conversion to Christianity there were not stories spread. The first rumours of Chinghiz in the West were as of a Christian conqueror; tales may be found of the Christianity of Chagatai, Hulaku, Abaka, Arghun, Baidu, Ghazan, Sartak, Kuyuk, Mangu, Kublai, and one or two of the latter’s successors in China, all probably false, with one or two doubtful exceptions.

1 See plates with ch. xvii. of Bk. IV. See also the Uighúr character in the second Païza, Bk. II. ch. vii.

Illustration: The Great Kaan delivering a Golden Tablet to the Brothers. From a miniature of the 14th century.

Chapter viii.

How the Great Kaan Gave Them a Tablet of Gold, Bearing His Orders in Their Behalf.

When the Prince had charged them with all his commission, he caused to be given them a Tablet of Gold, on which was inscribed that the three Ambassadors should be supplied with everything needful in all the countries through which they should pass — with horses, with escorts, and, in short, with whatever they should require. And when they had made all needful preparations, the three Ambassadors took their leave of the Emperor and set out.

When they had travelled I know not how many days, the Tartar Baron fell sick, so that he could not ride, and being very ill, and unable to proceed further, he halted at a certain city. So the Two Brothers judged it best that they should leave him behind and proceed to carry out their commission; and, as he was well content that they should do so, they continued their journey. And I can assure you, that whithersoever they went they were honourably provided with whatever they stood in need of, or chose to command. And this was owing to that Tablet of Authority from the Lord which they carried with them.1

So they travelled on and on until they arrived at Layas in Hermenia, a journey which occupied them, I assure you, for three years.2 It took them so long because they could not always proceed, being stopped sometimes by snow, or by heavy rains falling, or by great torrents which they found in an impassable state.

Illustration: Castle of Ayas.

NOTE 1. — On these Tablets, see a note under Bk. II. ch. vii.

NOTE 2. — AYAS, called also Ayacio, Aiazzo, Giazza, Glaza, La Jazza, and Layas, occupied the site of ancient Aegae, and was the chief port of Cilician Armenia, on the Gulf of Scanderoon. Aegae had been in the 5th century a place of trade with the West, and the seat of a bishopric, as we learn from the romantic but incomplete story of Mary, the noble slave-girl, told by Gibbon (ch. 33). As Ayas it became in the latter part of the 13th century one of the chief places for the shipment of Asiatic wares arriving through Tabriz, and was much frequented by the vessels of the Italian Republics. The Venetians had a Bailo resident there.

Ayas is the Leyes of Chaucer’s Knight —

(“At LEYES was he and at Satalie”)—

and the Layas of Froissart. (Bk. III. ch. xxii.) The Gulf of Layas is described in the xix. Canto of Ariosto, where Mafisa and Astolfo find on its shores a country of barbarous Amazons:—

“Fatto è ‘l porto a sembranza d’ una luna,” etc.

Marino Sanuto says of it: “Laiacio has a haven, and a shoal in front of it that we might rather call a reef, and to this shoal the hawsers of vessels are moored whilst the anchors are laid out towards the land.” (II. IV. ch. xxvi.)

The present Ayas is a wretched village of some 15 huts, occupied by about 600 Turkmans, and standing inside the ruined walls of the castle. This castle, which is still in good condition, was built by the Armenian kings, and restored by Sultan Suleiman; it was constructed from the remains of the ancient city; fragments of old columns are embedded in its walls of cut stone. It formerly communicated by a causeway with an advanced work on an island before the harbour. The ruins of the city occupy a large space. (Langlois, V. en Cilicie, pp. 429–31; see also Beaufort’s Karamania, near the end.) A plan of Ayas will be found at the beginning of Bk. I. — H. Y. and H. C.

Chapter ix.

How the Two Brothers Came to the City of Acre.


They departed from Layas and came to ACRE, arriving there in the month of April, in the year of Christ 1269, and then they learned that the Pope was dead. And when they found that the Pope was dead (his name was Pope * *), 1 they went to a certain wise Churchman who was Legate for the whole kingdom of Egypt, and a man of great authority, by name THEOBALD OF PIACENZA, and told him of the mission on which they were come. When the Legate heard their story, he was greatly surprised, and deemed the thing to be of great honour and advantage for the whole of Christendom. So his answer to the two Ambassador Brothers was this: “Gentlemen, ye see that the Pope is dead; wherefore ye must needs have patience until a new Pope be made, and then shall ye be able to execute your charge.” Seeing well enough that what the Legate said was just, they observed: “But while the Pope is a-making, we may as well go to Venice and visit our households.” So they departed from Acre and went to Negropont, and from Negropont they continued their voyage to Venice.2 On their arrival there, Messer Nicolas found that his wife was dead, and that she had left behind her a son of fifteen years of age, whose name was MARCO; and ’tis of him that this Book tells.3 The Two Brothers abode at Venice a couple of years, tarrying until a Pope should be made.

NOTE 1. — The deceased Pope’s name is omitted both in the Geog. Text and in Pauthier’s, clearly because neither Rusticiano nor Polo remembered it. It is supplied correctly in the Crusca Italian as Clement, and in Ramusio as Clement IV.

It is not clear that Theobald, though generally adopted, is the ecclesiastic’s proper name. It appears in different MSS. as Teald (G. T.), Ceabo for Teabo (Pauthier), Odoaldo (Crusca), and in the Riccardian as Thebaldus de Vice-comitibus de Placentia, which corresponds to Ramusio’s version. Most of the ecclesiastical chroniclers call him Tedaldus, some Thealdus. Tedaldo is a real name, occurring in Boccaccio. (Day iii. Novel 7.)

NOTE 2. — After the expulsion of the Venetians from Constantinople, Negropont was the centre of their influence in Romania. On the final return of the travellers they again take Negropont on their way. [It was one of the ports on the route from Venice to Constantinople, Tana, Trebizond. — H. C.]

NOTE 3. — The edition of the Soc. de Géographie makes Mark’s age twelve, but I have verified from inspection the fact noticed by Pauthier that the manuscript has distinctly xv. like all the other old texts. In Ramusio it is nineteen, but this is doubtless an arbitrary correction to suit the mistaken date (1250) assigned for the departure of the father from Constantinople.

There is nothing in the old French texts to justify the usual statement that Marco was born after the departure of his father from Venice. All that the G. T. says is: “Meser Nicolau treuve que sa fame estoit morte, et les remès un filz de xv. anz que avoit à nom Marc,” and Pauthier’s text is to the same effect. Ramusio, indeed, has: “M. Nicolò trovò, che sua moglie era morta, la quale nella sua partita haveva partorito un figliuolo,” and the other versions that are based on Pipino’s seem all to have like statements.

Chapter X.

How the Two Brothers Again Departed from Venice, on Their Way Back to the Great Kaan, and Took with Them Mark, the Son Of Messer Nicolas.

When the Two Brothers had tarried as long as I have told you, and saw that never a Pope was made, they said that their return to the Great Kaan must be put off no longer. So they set out from Venice, taking Mark along with them, and went straight back to Acre, where they found the Legate of whom we have spoken. They had a good deal of discourse with him concerning the matter, and asked his permission to go to JERUSALEM to get some Oil from the Lamp on the Sepulchre, to carry with them to the Great Kaan, as he had enjoined.1 The Legate giving them leave, they went from Acre to Jerusalem and got some of the Oil, and then returned to Acre, and went to the Legate and said to him: “As we see no sign of a Pope’s being made, we desire to return to the Great Kaan; for we have already tarried long, and there has been more than enough delay.” To which the Legate replied: “Since ’tis your wish to go back, I am well content.” Wherefore he caused letters to be written for delivery to the Great Kaan, bearing testimony that the Two Brothers had come in all good faith to accomplish his charge, but that as there was no Pope they had been unable to do so.

NOTE 1. — In a Pilgrimage of date apparently earlier than this, the Pilgrim says of the Sepulchre: “The Lamp which had been placed by His head (when He lay there) still burns on the same spot day and night. We took a blessing from it (i.e. apparently took some of the oil as a beneficent memorial), and replaced it.” (Itinerarium Antonini Placentini in Bollandists, May, vol. ii. p. xx.)

[“Five great oil lamps,” says Daniel, the Russian Hégoumène, 1106–1107 (Itinéraires russes en Orient, trad. pour la Soc. de l’Orient Latin, par Mme. B. de Khitrowo, Geneva, 1889, p. 13), “burning continually night and day, are hung in the Sepulchre of Our Lord.”— H. C.]

Chapter xi.

How the Two Brothers Set Out from Acre, and Mark Along with Them.

When the Two Brothers had received the Legate’s letters, they set forth from Acre to return to the Grand Kaan, and got as far as Layas. But shortly after their arrival there they had news that the Legate aforesaid was chosen Pope, taking the name of Pope Gregory of Piacenza; news which the Two Brothers were very glad indeed to hear. And presently there reached them at Layas a message from the Legate, now the Pope, desiring them, on the part of the Apostolic See, not to proceed further on their journey, but to return to him incontinently. And what shall I tell you? The King of Hermenia caused a galley to be got ready for the Two Ambassador Brothers, and despatched them to the Pope at Acre.1

Illustration: Portrait of Pope Gregory X.

NOTE 1. — The death of Pope Clement IV. occurred on St Andrew’s Day (29th November), 1268; the election of Tedaldo or Tebaldo of Piacenza, a member of the Visconti family, and Archdeacon of Liège, did not take place till 1st September, 1271, owing to the factions among the cardinals. And it is said that some of them, anxious only to get away, voted for Theobald in full belief that he was dead. The conclave, in its inability to agree, had named a committee of six with full powers which the same day elected Theobald, on the recommendation of the Cardinal Bishop of Portus (John de Toleto, said, in spite of his name, to have been an Englishman). This facetious dignitary had suggested that the roof should be taken off the Palace at Viterbo where they sat, to allow the divine influences to descend more freely on their counsels (quia nequeunt ad nos per tot tecta ingredi). According to some, these doggerel verses, current on the occasion, were extemporised by Cardinal John in the pious exuberance of his glee:—

“Papatûs munus tulit Archidiaconus unus

Quem Patrem Patrum fecit discordia Fratrum.”

The Archdeacon, a man of great weight of character, in consequence of differences with his Bishop (of Liège), who was a disorderly liver, had gone to the Holy Land, and during his stay there he contracted great intimacy with Prince Edward of England (Edward I.). Some authors, e.g. John Villani (VIII. 39), say that he was Legate in Syria; others, as Rainaldus, deny this; but Polo’s statement, and the authority which the Archdeacon took on himself in writing to the Kaan, seem to show that he had some such position.

He took the name of Gregory X., and before his departure from Acre, preached a moving sermon on the text, “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem,” etc. Prince Edward fitted him out for his voyage.

Gregory reigned barely four years, dying at Arezzo 10th January, 1276. His character stood high to the last, and some of the Northern Martyrologies enrolled him among the saints, but there has never been canonisation by Rome. The people of Arezzo used to celebrate his anniversary with torch-light gatherings at his tomb, and plenty of miracles were alleged to have occurred there. The tomb still stands in the Duomo at Arezzo, a handsome work by Margaritone, an artist in all branches, who was the Pope’s contemporary. There is an engraving of it in Gonnelli, Mon. Sepolc. di Toscana.

(Fra Pipino in Muratori, IX. 700; Rainaldi Annal. III. 252 seqq.; Wadding, sub. an. 1217: Bollandists, 10th January; Palatii, Gesta Pontif. Roman. vol. iii., and Fasti Cardinalium, I. 463, etc.)

Chapter xii.

How the Two Brothers Presented Themselves Before the New Pope.

And when they had been thus honourably conducted to Acre they proceeded to the presence of the Pope, and paid their respects to him with humble reverence. He received them with great honour and satisfaction, and gave them his blessing. He then appointed two Friars of the Order of Preachers to accompany them to the Great Kaan, and to do whatever might be required of them. These were unquestionably as learned Churchmen as were to be found in the Province at that day — one being called Friar Nicolas of Vicenza, and the other Friar William of Tripoli.1 He delivered to them also proper credentials, and letters in reply to the Great Kaan’s messages [and gave them authority to ordain priests and bishops, and to bestow every kind of absolution, as if given by himself in proper person; sending by them also many fine vessels of crystal as presents to the Great Kaan].2 So when they had got all that was needful, they took leave of the Pope, receiving his benediction; and the four set out together from Acre, and went to Layas, accompanied always by Messer Nicolas’s son Marco.

Now, about the time that they reached Layas, Bendocquedar, the Soldan of Babylon, invaded Hermenia with a great host of Saracens, and ravaged the country, so that our Envoys ran a great peril of being taken or slain. 3 And when the Preaching Friars saw this they were greatly frightened, and said that go they never would. So they made over to Messer Nicolas and Messer Maffeo all their credentials and documents, and took their leave, departing in company with the Master of the Temple.4

NOTE 1. — Friar William, of Tripoli, of the Dominican convent at Acre, appears to have served there as early as 1250. [He was born circa 1220, at Tripoli, in Syria, whence his name. — H. C.] He is known as the author of a book, De Statu Saracenorum post Ludovici Regis de Syriâ reditum, dedicated to Theoldus, Archdeacon of Liège (i.e. Pope Gregory). Of this some extracts are printed in Duchesne’s Hist. Francorum Scriptores. There are two MSS. of it, with different titles, in the Paris Library, and a French version in that of Berne. A MS. in Cambridge Univ. Library, which contains among other things a copy of Pipino’s Polo, has also the work of Friar William:—“Willelmus Tripolitanus, Aconensis Conventus, de Egressu Machometi et Saracenorum, atque progressu eorumdem, de Statu Saracenorum,” etc. It is imperfect; it is addressed THEOBALDO Ecclesiarcho digno Sancte Terre Peregrino Sancto. And from a cursory inspection I imagine that the Tract appended to one of the Polo MSS. in the British Museum (Addl. MSS., No. 19,952) is the same work or part of it. To the same author is ascribed a tract called Clades Damiatae. (Duchesne, V. 432; D’Avezac in Rec. de Voyages, IV. 406; Quétif, Script. Ord. Praed. I. 264–5; Catal. of MSS. in Camb. Univ. Library, I. 22.)

NOTE 2. — I presume that the powers, stated in this passage from Ramusio to have been conferred on the Friars, are exaggerated. In letters of authority granted in like cases by Pope Gregory’s successors, Nicolas III. (in 1278) and Boniface VIII. (in 1299), the missionary friars to remote regions are empowered to absolve from excommunication and release from vows, to settle matrimonial questions, to found churches and appoint idoneos rectores, to authorise Oriental clergy who should publicly submit to the Apostolic See to enjoy the privilegium clericale, whilst in the absence of bishops those among the missionaries who were priests might consecrate cemeteries, altars, palls, etc., admit to the Order of Acolytes, but nothing beyond. (See Mosheim, Hist. Tartar. Eccles. App. Nos. 23 and 42.)

NOTE 3. — The statement here about Bundúkdár’s invasion of Cilician Armenia is a difficulty. He had invaded it in 1266, and his second devastating invasion, during which he burnt both Layas and Sis, the king’s residence, took place in 1275, a point on which Marino Sanuto is at one with the Oriental Historians. Now we know from Rainaldus that Pope Gregory left Acre in November or December, 1271, and the text appears to imply that our travellers left Acre before him. The utmost corroboration that I can find lies in the following facts stated by Makrizi:—

On the 13th Safar, A.H. 670 (20th September 1271), Bundúkdár arrived unexpectedly at Damascus, and after a brief raid against the Ismaelians he returned to that city. In the middle of Rabi I. (about 20–25 October) the Tartars made an incursion in northern Syria, and the troops of Aleppo retired towards Hamah. There was great alarm at Damascus; the Sultan sent orders to Cairo for reinforcements, and these arrived at Damascus on the 9th November. The Sultan then advanced on Aleppo, sending corps likewise towards Marash (which was within the Armenian frontier) and Harran. At the latter place the Tartars were attacked and those in the town slaughtered; the rest retreated. The Sultan was back at Damascus, and off on a different expedition, by 7th December. Hence, if the travellers arrived at Ayas towards the latter part of November they would probably find alarm existing at the advance of Bundúkdár, though matters did not turn out so serious as they imply.

“Babylon,” of which Bundúkdár is here styled Sultan, means Cairo, commonly so styled (Bambellonia d’Egitto) in that age. Babylon of Egypt is mentioned by Diodorus quoting Ctesias, by Strabo, and by Ptolemy; it was the station of a Roman Legion in the days of Augustus, and still survives in the name of Babul, close to old Cairo.

Malik Dáhir Ruknuddín Bíbars Bundúkdári, a native of Kipchak, was originally sold at Damascus for 800 dirhems (about 18l.), and returned by his purchaser because of a blemish. He was then bought by the Amir Aláuddín Aidekín Bundúkdár (“The Arblasteer”) whose surname he afterwards adopted. He became the fourth of the Mameluke Sultans, and reigned from 1259 to 1276. The two great objects of his life were the repression of the Tartars and the expulsion of the Christians from Syria, so that his reign was one of constant war and enormous activity. William of Tripoli, in the work above mentioned, says: “Bondogar, as a soldier, was not inferior to Julius Caesar, nor in malignity to Nero.” He admits, however, that the Sultan was sober, chaste, just to his own people, and even kind to his Christian subjects; whilst Makrizi calls him one of the best princes that ever reigned over Musulmans. Yet if we take Bibars as painted by this admiring historian and by other Arabic documents, the second of Friar William’s comparisons is justified, for he seems almost a devil in malignity as well as in activity. More than once he played tennis at Damascus and Cairo within the same week. A strange sample of the man is the letter which he wrote to Boemond, Prince of Antioch and Tripoli, to announce to him the capture of the former city. After an ironically polite address to Boemond as having by the loss of his great city had his title changed from Princeship (Al–Brensíyah) to Countship (Al–Komasíyah), and describing his own devastations round Tripoli, he comes to the attack of Antioch: “We carried the place, sword in hand, at the 4th hour of Saturday, the 4th day of Ramadhán, . . . Hadst thou but seen thy Knights trodden under the hoofs of the horses! thy palaces invaded by plunderers and ransacked for booty! thy treasures weighed out by the hundredweight! thy ladies (Dámátaka, ‘tes DAMES’) bought and sold with thine own gear, at four for a dinár! hadst thou but seen thy churches demolished, thy crosses sawn in sunder, thy garbled Gospels hawked about before the sun, the tombs of thy nobles cast to the ground; thy foe the Moslem treading thy Holy of the Holies; the monk, the priest, the deacon slaughtered on the Altar; the rich given up to misery; princes of royal blood reduced to slavery! Couldst thou but have seen the flames devouring thy halls; thy dead cast into the fires temporal with the fires eternal hard at hand; the churches of Paul and of Cosmas rocking and going down — then wouldst thou have said, ‘Would God that I were dust!’ . . . As not a man hath escaped to tell thee the tale, I TELL IT THEE!”

A little later, when a mission went to treat with Boemond, Bibars himself accompanied it in disguise, to have a look at the defences of Tripoli. In drawing out the terms, the Envoys styled Boemond Count, not Prince, as in the letter just quoted. He lost patience at their persistence, and made a movement which alarmed them. Bibars nudged the Envoy Mohiuddin (who tells the story) with his foot to give up the point, and the treaty was made. On their way back the Sultan laughed heartily at their narrow escape, “sending to the devil all the counts and princes on the face of the earth.”

(Quatremère’s Makrizi, II. 92–101, and 190 seqq.; J. As. sér. I. tom. xi. p. 89; D’Ohsson, III. 459–474; Marino Sanuto in Bongars, 224–226, etc.)

NOTE 4. — The ruling Master of the Temple was Thomas Berard (1256–1273), but there is little detail about the Order in the East at this time. They had, however, considerable possessions and great influence in Cilician Armenia, and how much they were mixed up in its affairs is shown by a circumstance related by Makrizi. In 1285, when Sultan Mansúr, the successor of Bundúkdár, was besieging the Castle of Markab, there arrived in Camp the Commander of the Temple (Kamandúr-ul Dewet) of the Country of Armenia, charged to negotiate on the part of the King of Sis (i.e. of Lesser Armenia, Leon III. 1268–1289, successor of Hayton I. 1224–1268), and bringing presents from him and from the Master of the Temple, Berard’s successor, William de Beaujeu (1273–1291). (III. 201.)— H. Y. and H. C.

Chapter xiii.

How Messer Nicolo and Messer Maffeo Polo, Accompanied by Mark, Travelled to the Court of the Great Kaan.

So the Two Brothers, and Mark along with them, proceeded on their way, and journeying on, summer and winter, came at length to the Great Kaan, who was then at a certain rich and great city, called KEMENFU.1 As to what they met with on the road, whether in going or coming, we shall give no particulars at present, because we are going to tell you all those details in regular order in the after part of this Book. Their journey back to the Kaan occupied a good three years and a half, owing to the bad weather and severe cold that they encountered. And let me tell you in good sooth that when the Great Kaan heard that Messers Nicolo and Maffeo Polo were on their way back, he sent people a journey of full 40 days to meet them; and on this journey, as on their former one, they were honourably entertained upon the road, and supplied with all that they required.

NOTE 1. — The French texts read Clemeinfu, Ramusio Clemenfu. The Pucci MS. guides us to the correct reading, having Chemensu (Kemensu) for Chemenfu. KAIPINGFU, meaning something like “City of Peace,” and called by Rashiduddin Kaiminfu (whereby we see that Polo as usual adopted the Persian form of the name), was a city founded in 1256, four years before Kublai’s accession, some distance to the north of the Chinese wall. It became Kublai’s favourite summer residence, and was styled from 1264 Shangtu or “Upper Court.” (See infra, Bk. I. ch. lxi.) It was known to the Mongols, apparently by a combination of the two names, as Shangdu Keibung. It appears in D’Anville’s map under the name of Djao–Naiman Sumé. Dr. Bushell, who visited Shangtu in 1872, makes it 1103 li (367 miles) by road distance viâ Kalgan from Peking. The busy town of Dolonnúr lies 26 miles S.E. of it, and according to Kiepert’s Asia that place is about 180 miles in a direct line north of Peking.

(See Klaproth in J. As. XI. 365; Gaubil, p. 115; Cathay, p. 260; J. R. G. S. vol. xiiii.)

Chapter xiv.

How Messer Nicolo and Messer Maffeo Polo and Marco Presented Themselves Before the Great Kaan.

And what shall I tell you? when the Two Brothers and Mark had arrived at that great city, they went to the Imperial Palace, and there they found the Sovereign attended by a great company of Barons. So they bent the knee before him, and paid their respects to him, with all possible reverence [prostrating themselves on the ground]. Then the Lord bade them stand up, and treated them with great honour, showing great pleasure at their coming, and asked many questions as to their welfare, and how they had sped. They replied that they had in verity sped well, seeing that they found the Kaan well and safe. Then they presented the credentials and letters which they had received from the Pope, which pleased him right well; and after that they produced the Oil from the Sepulchre, and at that also he was very glad, for he set great store thereby. And next, spying Mark, who was then a young gallant,1 he asked who was that in their company? “Sire,” said his father, Messer Nicolo, “’tis my son and your liegeman.”2 “Welcome is he too,” quoth the Emperor. And why should I make a long story? There was great rejoicing at the Court because of their arrival; and they met with attention and honour from everybody.

So there they abode at the Court with the other Barons.

NOTE 1. —“Joenne Bacheler.”

NOTE 2. —“Sire, il est mon filz et vostre homme.” The last word in the sense which gives us the word homage. Thus in the miracle play of Theophilus (13th century), the Devil says to Theophilus:—

“Or joing

Tes mains, et si devien mes hom.

Theoph. Vez ci que je vous faz hommage.”

So infra (Bk. I. ch. xlvii.) Aung Khan is made to say of Chinghiz: “Il est mon homes et mon serf.” (See also Bk. II. ch. iv. note.) St. Lewis said of the peace he had made with Henry III.: “Il m’est mout grant honneur en la paix que je foiz au Roy d’Angleterre pour ce qu’il est mon home, ce que n’estoit pas devant.” And Joinville says with regard to the king, “Je ne voz faire point de serement, car je n’estoie pas son home” (being a vassal of Champagne). A famous Saturday Reviewer quotes the term applied to a lady: “Eddeva puella homo Stigandi Archiepiscopi.” (Théâtre Français au Moyen Age, p. 145; Joinville, pp. 21, 37; S. R., 6th September, 1873, p. 305.)

Chapter xv.

How the Emperor Sent Mark on an Embassy of His.

Now it came to pass that Marco, the son of Messer Nicolo, sped wondrously in learning the customs of the Tartars, as well as their language, their manner of writing, and their practice of war; in fact he came in brief space to know several languages, and four sundry written characters. And he was discreet and prudent in every way, insomuch that the Emperor held him in great esteem.1 And so when he discerned Mark to have so much sense, and to conduct himself so well and beseemingly, he sent him on an ambassage of his, to a country which was a good six months’ journey distant.2 The young gallant executed his commission well and with discretion. Now he had taken note on several occasions that when the Prince’s ambassadors returned from different parts of the world, they were able to tell him about nothing except the business on which they had gone, and that the Prince in consequence held them for no better than fools and dolts, and would say: “I had far liever hearken about the strange things, and the manners of the different countries you have seen, than merely be told of the business you went upon;"— for he took great delight in hearing of the affairs of strange countries. Mark therefore, as he went and returned, took great pains to learn about all kinds of different matters in the countries which he visited, in order to be able to tell about them to the Great Kaan.3

NOTE 1. — The word Emperor stands here for Seigneur.

What the four characters acquired by Marco were is open to discussion.

The Chronicle of the Mongol Emperors rendered by Gaubil mentions, as characters used in their Empire, the Uíghúr, the Persian and Arabic, that of the Lamas (Tibetan), that of the Niuché, introduced by the Kin Dynasty, the Khitán, and the Báshpah character, a syllabic alphabet arranged, on the basis of the Tibetan and Sanskrit letters chiefly, by a learned chief Lama so-called, under the orders of Kublai, and established by edict in 1269 as the official character. Coins bearing this character, and dating from 1308 to 1354, are extant. The forms of the Niuché and Khitán were devised in imitation of Chinese writing, but are supposed to be syllabic. Of the Khitán but one inscription was known, and no key. “The Khitan had two national scripts, the ‘small characters’ (hsiao tzu) and the ‘large characters’ (ta tzu).” S. W. Bushell, Insc. in the Juchen and Allied Scripts, Cong. des Orientalistes, Paris, 1897. — Die Sprache und Schrift der Juchen von Dr. W. Grube, Leipzig, 1896, from a polyglot MS. dictionary, discovered by Dr. F. Hirth and now kept in the Royal Library, Berlin. — H. Y. and H. C.

Chinghiz and his first successors used the Uíghúr, and sometimes the Chinese character. Of the Uíghúr character we give a specimen in Bk. IV. It is of Syriac origin, undoubtedly introduced into Eastern Turkestan by the early Nestorian missions, probably in the 8th or 9th century. The oldest known example of this character so applied, the Kudatku Bilik, a didactic poem in Uíghúr (a branch of Oriental Turkish), dating from A.D. 1069, was published by Prof. Vámbéry in 1870. A new edition of the Kudatku Bilik was published at St. Petersburg, in 1891, by Dr. W. Radloff. Vámbéry had a pleasing illustration of the origin of the Uíghúr character, when he received a visit at Pesth from certain Nestorians of Urumia on a begging tour. On being shown the original MS. of the Kudatku Bilik, they read the character easily, whilst much to their astonishment they could not understand a word of what was written. This Uíghúr is the basis of the modern Mongol and Manchu characters. (Cf. E. Bretschneider, Mediaeval Researches, I. pp. 236, 263.)— H. Y. and H. C.

Illustration: Hexaglot Inscription on the East side of the Kiu Yong Kwan

Illustration: Hexaglot Inscription on the West side of the Kiu Yong Kwan

[At the village of Keuyung Kwan, 40 miles north of Peking, in the sub-prefecture of Ch’ang Ping, in the Chih-li province, the road from Peking to Kalgan runs beyond the pass of Nankau, under an archway, a view of which will be found at the end of this volume, on which were engraved, in 1345, two large inscriptions in six different languages: Sanskrit, Tibetan, Mongol, Báshpah, Uíghúr, Chinese, and a language unknown till recently. Mr. Wylie’s kindness enabled Sir Henry Yule to present a specimen of this. (A much better facsimile of these inscriptions than Wylie’s having since been published by Prince Roland Bonaparte in his valuable Recueil des Documents de l’Époque Mongole, this latter is, by permission, here reproduced.) The Chinese and Mongol inscriptions have been translated by M. Ed. Chavannes; the Tibetan by M. Sylvain Lévi (Jour. Asiat., Sept.-Oct. 1894, pp. 354–373); the Uíghúr, by Prof. W. Radloff (Ibid. Nov.-Dec. 1894, pp. 546, 550); the Mongol by Prof. G. Huth. (Ibid. Mars–Avril 1895, pp. 351–360.) The sixth language was supposed by A. Wylie (J. R. A. S. vol. xvii. p. 331, and N.S., vol. v. p. 14) to be Neuchih, Niuché, Niuchen or Juchen. M. Devéria has shown that the inscription is written in Si Hia, or the language of Tangut, and gave a facsimile of a stone stèle (pei) in this language kept in the great Monastery of the Clouds (Ta Yun Ssu) at Liangchau in Kansuh, together with a translation of the Chinese text, engraved on the reverse side of the slab. M. Devéria thinks that this writing was borrowed by the Kings of Tangut from the one derived in 920 by the Khitans from the Chinese. (Stèle Si–Hia de Leang-tcheou . . . J. As., 1898; L’éctriture du royaumes de Si–Hia ou Tangout, par M. Devéria . . . Ext. des Mém . . . présentés à l’Ac. des. Ins. et B. Let. 1’ère Sér. XI., 1898.) Dr. S. W. Bushell in two papers (Inscriptions in the Juchen and Allied Scripts, Actes du XI. Congrés Orientalistes, Paris, 1897, 2nd. sect., pp. 11, 35, and the Hsi Hsia Dynasty of Tangut, their Money and their peculiar Script, J. China Br. R. A. S., xxx. N.S. No. 2, pp. 142, 160) has also made a special study of the same subject. The Si Hia writing was adopted by Yuan Ho in 1036, on which occasion he changed the title of his reign to Ta Ch’ing, i.e. “Great Good Fortune.” Unfortunately, both the late M. Devéria and Dr. S. W. Bushell have deciphered but few of the Si Hia characters. — H. C.]

The orders of the Great Kaan are stated to have been published habitually in six languages, viz., Mongol, Uíghúr, Arabic, Persian, Tangutan (Si–Hia), and Chinese. — H. Y. and H. C.

Gházán Khan of Persia is said to have understood Mongol, Arabic, Persian, something of Kashmiri, of Tibetan, of Chinese, and a little of the Frank tongue (probably French).

The annals of the Ming Dynasty, which succeeded the Mongols in China, mention the establishment in the 11th moon of the 5th year Yong-lo (1407) of the Sse yi kwan, a linguistic office for diplomatic purposes. The languages to be studied were Niuché, Mongol, Tibetan, Sanskrit, Bokharan (Persian?) Uíghúr, Burmese, and Siamese. To these were added by the Manchu Dynasty two languages called Papeh and Pehyih, both dialects of the S.W. frontier. (See infra, Bk. II. ch. lvi.-lvii., and notes.) Since 1382, however, official interpreters had to translate Mongol texts; they were selected among the Academicians, and their service (which was independent of the Sse yi kwan when this was created) was under the control of the Han-lin-yuen. There may have been similar institutions under the Yuen, but we have no proof of it. At all events, such an office could not then be called Sse yi kwan (Sse yi, Barbarians from four sides); Niuché (Niuchen) was taught in Yong-lo’s office, but not Manchu. The Sse yi kwan must not be confounded with the Hui t’ong kwan, the office for the reception of tributary envoys, to which it was annexed in 1748. (Gaubil, p. 148; Gold. Horde, 184; Ilchan. II. 147; Lockhart in J. R. G. S. XXXVI. 152; Koeppen, II. 99; G. Devéria, Hist. du Collége des Interprétes de Peking in Mélanges Charles de Harlez, pp. 94–102; MS. Note of Prof. A. Vissière; The Tangut Script in the Nan-K’ou Pass, by Dr. S. W. Bushell, China Review, xxiv. II. pp. 65–68.)— H. Y. and H. C.

Pauthier supposes Mark’s four acquisitions to have been Báshpah-Mongol, Arabic, Uighúr, and Chinese. I entirely reject the Chinese. Sir H. Yule adds: “We shall see no reason to believe that he knew either language or character” [Chinese]. The blunders Polo made in saying that the name of the city, Suju, signifies in our tongue “Earth” and Kinsay “Heaven” show he did not know the Chinese characters, but we read in Bk. II. ch. lxviii.: “And Messer Marco Polo himself, of whom this Book speaks, did govern this city (Yanju) for three full years, by the order of the Great Kaan.” It seems to me [H. C.] hardly possible that Marco could have for three years been governor of so important and so Chinese a city as Yangchau, in the heart of the Empire, without acquiring a knowledge of the spoken language. — H. C. The other three languages seem highly probable. The fourth may have been Tibetan. But it is more likely that he counted separately two varieties of the same character (e.g. of the Arabic and Persian) as two “lettres de leur escriptures”— H. Y. and H. C.

NOTE 2. —[Ramusio here adds: “Ad und città, detta Carazan,” which, as we shall see, refers to the Yun-nan Province.]— H. C.

NOTE 3. — From the context no doubt Marco’s employments were honourable and confidential; but Commissioner would perhaps better express them than Ambassador in the modern sense. The word Ilchi, which was probably in his mind, was applied to a large variety of classes employed on the commissions of Government, as we may see from a passage of Rashiduddin in D’Ohsson, which says that “there were always to be found in every city from one to two hundred Ilchis, who forced the citizens to furnish them with free quarters,” etc., III. 404. (See also 485.)

Chapter xvi.

How Mark Returned from the Mission Whereon he had Been Sent.

When Mark returned from his ambassage he presented himself before the Emperor, and after making his report of the business with which he was charged, and its successful accomplishment, he went on to give an account in a pleasant and intelligent manner of all the novelties and strange things that he had seen and heard; insomuch that the Emperor and all such as heard his story were surprised, and said: “If this young man live, he will assuredly come to be a person of great worth and ability.” And so from that time forward he was always entitled MESSER MARCO POLO, and thus we shall style him henceforth in this Book of ours, as is but right.

Thereafter Messer Marco abode in the Kaan’s employment some seventeen years, continually going and coming, hither and thither, on the missions that were entrusted to him by the Lord [and sometimes, with the permission and authority of the Great Kaan, on his own private affairs.] And, as he knew all the sovereign’s ways, like a sensible man he always took much pains to gather knowledge of anything that would be likely to interest him, and then on his return to Court he would relate everything in regular order, and thus the Emperor came to hold him in great love and favour. And for this reason also he would employ him the oftener on the most weighty and most distant of his missions. These Messer Marco ever carried out with discretion and success, God be thanked. So the Emperor became ever more partial to him, and treated him with the greater distinction, and kept him so close to his person that some of the Barons waxed very envious thereat. And thus it came about that Messer Marco Polo had knowledge of, or had actually visited, a greater number of the different countries of the World than any other man; the more that he was always giving his mind to get knowledge, and to spy out and enquire into everything in order to have matter to relate to the Lord.

Chapter xvii.

How Messer Nicolo, Messer Maffeo, and Messer Marco, Asked Leave of the Great Kaan to Go Their Way.

When the Two Brothers and Mark had abode with the Lord all that time that you have been told [having meanwhile acquired great wealth in jewels and gold], they began among themselves to have thoughts about returning to their own country; and indeed it was time. [For, to say nothing of the length and infinite perils of the way, when they considered the Kaan’s great age, they doubted whether, in the event of his death before their departure, they would ever be able to get home.1] They applied to him several times for leave to go, presenting their request with great respect, but he had such a partiality for them, and liked so much to have them about him, that nothing on earth would persuade him to let them go.

Now it came to pass in those days that the Queen BOLGANA, wife of ARGON, Lord of the Levant, departed this life. And in her Will she had desired that no Lady should take her place, or succeed her as Argon’s wife, except one of her own family [which existed in Cathay]. Argon therefore despatched three of his Barons, by name respectively OULATAY, APUSCA, and COJA, as ambassadors to the Great Kaan, attended by a very gallant company, in order to bring back as his bride a lady of the family of Queen Bolgana, his late wife.2

When these three Barons had reached the Court of the Great Kaan, they delivered their message, explaining wherefore they were come. The Kaan received them with all honour and hospitality, and then sent for a lady whose name was COCACHIN, who was of the family of the deceased Queen Bolgana. She was a maiden of 17, a very beautiful and charming person, and on her arrival at Court she was presented to the three Barons as the Lady chosen in compliance with their demand. They declared that the Lady pleased them well.3

Meanwhile Messer Marco chanced to return from India, whither he had gone as the Lord’s ambassador, and made his report of all the different things that he had seen in his travels, and of the sundry seas over which he had voyaged. And the three Barons, having seen that Messer Nicolo, Messer Maffeo, and Messer Marco were not only Latins, but men of marvellous good sense withal, took thought among themselves to get the three to travel with them, their intention being to return to their country by sea, on account of the great fatigue of that long land journey for a lady. And the ambassadors were the more desirous to have their company, as being aware that those three had great knowledge and experience of the Indian Sea and the countries by which they would have to pass, and especially Messer Marco. So they went to the Great Kaan, and begged as a favour that he would send the three Latins with them, as it was their desire to return home by sea.

The Lord, having that great regard that I have mentioned for those three Latins, was very loath to do so [and his countenance showed great dissatisfaction]. But at last he did give them permission to depart, enjoining them to accompany the three Barons and the Lady.

NOTE 1. — Pegolotti, in his chapters on mercantile ventures to Cathay, refers to the dangers to which foreigners were always liable on the death of the reigning sovereign. (See Cathay, p. 292.)

NOTE 2. — Several ladies of the name of BULUGHAN (“Zibellina”) have a place in Mongol–Persian history. The one here indicated, a lady of great beauty and ability, was known as the Great Khátún (or Lady) Bulughan, and was (according to strange Mongol custom) the wife successively of Abáka and of his son ARGHUN, the Argon of the text, Mongol sovereign of Persia. She died on the banks of the Kur in Georgia, 7th April, 1286. She belonged to the Mongol tribe of Bayaut, and was the daughter of Hulákú‘s Chief Secretary Gúgah. (Ilchan. I. 374 et passim; Erdmann’s Temudschin, p. 216.)

The names of the Envoys, ULADAI, APUSHKA, and KOJA, are all names met with in Mongol history. And Rashiduddin speaks of an Apushka of the Mongol Tribe of Urnaut, who on some occasion was sent as Envoy to the Great Kaan from Persia — possibly the very person. (See Erdmann, 205.)

Of the Lady Cocachin we shall speak below.

NOTE 3. — Ramusio here has the following passage, genuine no doubt: “So everything being ready, with a great escort to do honour to the bride of King Argon, the Ambassadors took leave and set forth. But after travelling eight months by the same way that they had come, they found the roads closed, in consequence of wars lately broken out among certain Tartar Princes; so being unable to proceed, they were compelled to return to the Court of the Great Kaan.”

Chapter xviii.

How the Two Brothers and Messer Marco Took Leave of the Great Kaan, and Returned to Their Own Country.

And when the Prince saw that the Two Brothers and Messer Marco were ready to set forth, he called them all three to his presence, and gave them two golden Tablets of Authority, which should secure them liberty of passage through all his dominions, and by means of which, whithersoever they should go, all necessaries would be provided for them, and for all their company, and whatever they might choose to order.1 He charged them also with messages to the King of France, the King of England,2 the King of Spain, and the other kings of Christendom. He then caused thirteen ships to be equipt, each of which had four masts, and often spread twelve sails.3 And I could easily give you all particulars about these, but as it would be so long an affair I will not enter upon this now, but hereafter, when time and place are suitable. [Among the said ships were at least four or five that carried crews of 250 or 260 men.]

And when the ships had been equipt, the Three Barons and the Lady, and the Two Brothers and Messer Marco, took leave of the Great Kaan, and went on board their ships with a great company of people, and with all necessaries provided for two years by the Emperor. They put forth to sea, and after sailing for some three months they arrived at a certain Island towards the South, which is called JAVA,4 and in which there are many wonderful things which we shall tell you all about by-and-bye. Quitting this Island they continued to navigate the Sea of India for eighteen months more before they arrived whither they were bound, meeting on their way also with many marvels, of which we shall tell hereafter.

And when they got thither they found that Argon was dead, so the Lady was delivered to CASAN, his son.

But I should have told you that it is a fact that, when they embarked, they were in number some 600 persons, without counting the mariners; but nearly all died by the way, so that only eight survived.5

The sovereignty when they arrived was held by KIACATU, so they commended the Lady to him, and executed all their commission. And when the Two Brothers and Messer Marco had executed their charge in full, and done all that the Great Kaan had enjoined on them in regard to the Lady, they took their leave and set out upon their journey.6 And before their departure, Kiacatu gave them four golden tablets of authority, two of which bore gerfalcons, one bore lions, whilst the fourth was plain, and having on them inscriptions which directed that the three Ambassadors should receive honour and service all through the land as if rendered to the Prince in person, and that horses and all provisions, and everything necessary, should be supplied to them. And so they found in fact; for throughout the country they received ample and excellent supplies of everything needful; and many a time indeed, as I may tell you, they were furnished with 200 horsemen, more or less, to escort them on their way in safety. And this was all the more needful because Kiacatu was not the legitimate Lord, and therefore the people had less scruple to do mischief than if they had had a lawful prince.7

Another thing too must be mentioned, which does credit to those three Ambassadors, and shows for what great personages they were held. The Great Kaan regarded them with such trust and affection, that he had confided to their charge the Queen Cocachin, as well as the daughter of the King of Manzi,8 to conduct to Argon the Lord of all the Levant. And those two great ladies who were thus entrusted to them they watched over and guarded as if they had been daughters of their own, until they had transferred them to the hands of their Lord; whilst the ladies, young and fair as they were, looked on each of those three as a father, and obeyed them accordingly. Indeed, both Casan, who is now the reigning prince, and the Queen Cocachin his wife, have such a regard for the Envoys that there is nothing they would not do for them. And when the three Ambassadors took leave of that Lady to return to their own country, she wept for sorrow at the parting.

What more shall I say? Having left Kiacatu they travelled day by day till they came to Trebizond, and thence to Constantinople, from Constantinople to Negropont, and from Negropont to Venice. And this was in the year 1295 of Christ’s Incarnation.

And now that I have rehearsed all the Prologue as you have heard, we shall begin the Book of the Description of the Divers Things that Messer Marco met with in his Travels.

NOTE 1. — On these plates or tablets, which have already been spoken of, a note will be found further on. (Bk. II. ch. vii.) Plano Carpini says of the Mongol practice in reference to royal messengers: “Nuncios, quoscunque et quotcunque, et ubicunque transmittit, oportet quod dent eis sine morâ equos subductitios et expensas” (669).

NOTE 2. — The mention of the King of England appears for the first time in Pauthier’s text. Probably we shall never know if the communication reached him. But we have the record of several embassies in preceding and subsequent years from the Mongol Khans of Persia to the Kings of England; all with the view of obtaining co-operation in attack on the Egyptian Sultan. Such messages came from Ábáka in 1277; from Arghún in 1289 and 1291; from Gházán in 1302; from Oljaitu in 1307. (See Rémusat in Mém. de l’Acad. VII.)

Illustration: Ancient Chinese War Vessel.

NOTE 3. — Ramusio has “nine sails.” Marsden thinks even this lower number an error of Ramusio’s, as “it is well known that Chinese vessels do not carry any kind of topsail.” This is, however, a mistake, for they do sometimes carry a small topsail of cotton cloth (and formerly, it would seem from Lecomte, even a topgallant sail at times), though only in quiet weather. And the evidence as to the number of sails carried by the great Chinese junks of the Middle Ages, which evidently made a great impression on Western foreigners, is irresistible. Friar Jordanus, who saw them in Malabar, says: “With a fair wind they carry ten sails;” Ibn Batuta: “One of these great junks carries from three sails to twelve;” Joseph, the Indian, speaking of those that traded to India in the 15th century: “They were very great, and had sometimes twelve sails, with innumerable rowers.” (Lecomte, I. 389; Fr. Jordanus, Hak. Soc., p. 55; Ibn Batuta, IV. 91; Novus Orbis, p. 148.) A fuller account of these vessels is given at the beginning of Bk. III.

NOTE 4. — I.e. in this case Sumatra, as will appear hereafter. “It is quite possible for a fleet of fourteen junks which required to keep together to take three months at the present time to accomplish a similar voyage. A Chinese trader, who has come annually to Singapore in junks for many years, tells us that he has had as long a passage as sixty days, although the average is eighteen or twenty days.” (Logan in J. Ind. Archip. II. 609.)

NOTE 5. — Ramusio’s version here varies widely, and looks more probable: “From the day that they embarked until their arrival there died of mariners and others on board 600 persons; and of the three ambassadors only one survived, whose name was Goza (Coja); but of the ladies and damsels died but one.”

It is worth noting that in the case of an embassy sent to Cathay a few years later by Gházán Khan, on the return by this same route to Persia, the chief of the two Persian ambassadors, and the Great Khan’s envoy, who was in company, both died by the way. Their voyage, too, seems to have been nearly as long as Polo’s; for they were seven years absent from Persia, and of these only four in China. (See Wassáf in Elliot, III. 47.)

NOTE 6. — Ramusio’s version states that on learning Arghún’s death (which they probably did on landing at Hormuz), they sent word of their arrival to Kiacatu, who directed them to conduct the lady to Casan, who was then in the region of the Arbre Sec (the Province of Khorasan) guarding the frontier passes with 60,000 men, and that they did so, and then turned back to Kiacatu (probably at Tabriz), and stayed at his Court nine months. Even the Geog. Text seems to imply that they had become personally known to Casan, and I have no doubt that Ramusio’s statement is an authentic expansion of the original narrative by Marco himself, or on his authority.

Arghún Khan died 10th March, 1291. He was succeeded (23rd July) by his brother Kaikhátú (Quiacatu of Polo), who was put to death 24th March, 1295.

We learn from Hammer’s History of the Ilkhans that when Gházán, the son of Arghún (Casan of Polo), who had the government of the Khorasan frontier, was on his return to his post from Tabriz, where his uncle Kaikhatu had refused to see him, “he met at Abher the ambassador whom he had sent to the Great Khan to obtain in marriage a relative of the Great Lady Bulghán. This envoy brought with him the Lady KÚKÁCHIN (our author’s Cocachin), with presents from the Emperor, and the marriage was celebrated with due festivity.” Abher lies a little west of Kazvín.

Hammer is not, I find, here copying from Wassáf, and I have not been able to procure a thorough search of the work of Rashiduddin, which probably was his authority. As well as the date can be made out from the History of the Ilkhans, Gházán must have met his bride towards the end of 1293, or quite the beginning of 1294. Rashiduddin in another place mentions the fair lady from Cathay; “The ordu (or establishment) of Tukiti Khatun was given to KUKACHI KHATUN, who had been brought from the Kaan’s Court, and who was a kinswoman of the late chief Queen Bulghán. Kúkáchi, the wife of the Padshah of Islam, Gházán Khan, died in the month of Shaban, 695,” i.e. in June, 1296, so that the poor girl did not long survive her promotion. (See Hammer’s Ilch. II. 20, and 8, and I. 273; and Quatremère’s Rashiduddin, p. 97.) Kukachin was the name also of the wife of Chingkim, Kublai’s favourite son; but she was of the Kungurát tribe. (Deguignes, IV. 179.)

NOTE 7. — Here Ramusio’s text says: “During this journey Messers Nicolo, Maffeo, and Marco heard the news that the Great Khan had departed this life; and this caused them to give up all hope of returning to those parts.”

NOTE 8. — This Princess of Manzi, or Southern China, is mentioned only in the Geog. Text and in the Crusca, which is based thereon. I find no notice of her among the wives of Gházán or otherwise.

On the fall of the capital of the Sung Dynasty — the Kinsay of Polo — in 1276, the Princesses of that Imperial family were sent to Peking, and were graciously treated by Kublai’s favourite Queen, the Lady Jamui. This young lady was, no doubt, one of those captive princesses who had been brought up at the Court of Khánbálik. (See De Mailla, IX. 376, and infra Bk. II. ch. lxv., note 6.)

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