The Travels of Marco Polo, by Marco Polo

Chapter V.

Of the Kingdom of Mausul.

On the frontier of Armenia towards the south-east is the kingdom of MAUSUL. It is a very great kingdom, and inhabited1 by several different kinds of people whom we shall now describe.

First there is a kind of people called ARABI, and these worship Mahommet. Then there is another description of people who are NESTORIAN and JACOBITE Christians. These have a Patriarch, whom they call the JATOLIC, and this Patriarch creates Archbishops, and Abbots, and Prelates of all other degrees, and sends them into every quarter, as to India, to Baudas, or to Cathay, just as the Pope of Rome does in the Latin countries. For you must know that though there is a very great number of Christians in those countries, they are all Jacobites and Nestorians; Christians indeed, but not in the fashion enjoined by the Pope of Rome, for they come short in several points of the Faith.2

All the cloths of gold and silk that are called Mosolins are made in this country; and those great Merchants called Mosolins, who carry for sale such quantities of spicery and pearls and cloths of silk and gold, are also from this kingdom.3

There is yet another race of people who inhabit the mountains in that quarter, and are called CURDS. Some of them are Christians, and some of them are Saracens; but they are an evil generation, whose delight it is to plunder merchants.[NOTE 4]

[Near this province is another called MUS and MERDIN, producing an immense quantity of cotton, from which they make a great deal of buckram5 and other cloth. The people are craftsmen and traders, and all are subject to the Tartar King.]

NOTE 1. — Polo could scarcely have been justified in calling MOSUL a very great kingdom. This is a bad habit of his, as we shall have to notice again. Badruddin Lúlú, the last Atabeg of Mosul of the race of Zenghi had at the age of 96 taken sides with Hulaku, and stood high in his favour. His son Malik Sálih, having revolted, surrendered to the Mongols in 1261 on promise of life; which promise they kept in Mongol fashion by torturing him to death. Since then the kingdom had ceased to exist as such. Coins of Badruddín remain with the name and titles of Mangku Kaan on their reverse, and some of his and of other atabegs exhibit curious imitations of Greek art. (Quat. Rash. p. 389 Jour. As. IV. VI. 141.). — H. Y. and H. C. [Mosul was pillaged by Timur at the end of the 14th century; during the 15th it fell into the hands of the Turkomans, and during the 16th, of Ismail, Shah of Persia. — H. C.]

[The population of Mosul is today 61,000 inhabitants —(48,000 Musulmans, 10,000 Christians belonging to various churches, and 3000 Jews). — H. C.]

Illustration: Coin of Badruddín of Mausul.

NOTE 2. — The Nestorian Church was at this time and in the preceding centuries diffused over Asia to an extent of which little conception is generally entertained, having a chain of Bishops and Metropolitans from Jerusalem to Peking. The Church derived its name from Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople, who was deposed by the Council of Ephesus in 431. The chief “point of the Faith” wherein it came short, was (at least in its most tangible form) the doctrine that in Our Lord there were two Persons, one of the Divine Word, the other of the Man Jesus; the former dwelling in the latter as in a Temple, or uniting with the latter “as fire with iron.” Nestorin, the term used by Polo, is almost a literal transcript of the Arab form Nastúri. A notice of the Metropolitan sees, with a map, will be found in Cathay, p. ccxliv.

Játhalík, written in our text (from G. T.) Jatolic, by Fr. Burchard and Ricold Jaselic, stands for [Greek: Katholikós]. No doubt it was originally Gáthalík, but altered in pronunciation by the Arabs. The term was applied by Nestorians to their Patriarch; among the Jacobites to the Mafrián or Metropolitan. The Nestorian Patriarch at this time resided at Baghdad. (Assemani, vol. iii. pt. 2; Per. Quat. 91, 127.)

The Jacobites, or Jacobins, as they are called by writers of that age (Ar. Ya’úbkiy), received their name from Jacob Baradaeus or James Zanzale, Bishop of Edessa (so called, Mas’údi says, because he was a maker of barda’at or saddle-cloths), who gave a great impulse to their doctrine in the 6th century. [At some time between the years 541 and 578, he separated from the Church and became a follower of the doctrine of Eutyches. — H. C.] The Jacobites then formed an independent Church, which at one time spread over the East at least as far as Sístán, where they had a see under the Sassanian Kings. Their distinguishing tenet was Monophysitism, viz., that Our Lord had but one Nature, the Divine. It was in fact a rebound from Nestorian doctrine, but, as might be expected in such a case, there was a vast number of shades of opinion among both bodies. The chief locality of the Jacobites was in the districts of Mosul, Tekrit, and Jazírah, and their Patriarch was at this time settled at the Monastery of St. Matthew, near Mosul, but afterwards, and to the present day, at or near Mardin. [They have at present two patriarchates: the Monastery of Zapharan near Baghdad and Etchmiadzin. — H. C.] The Armenian, Coptic, Abyssinian, and Malabar Churches all hold some shade of the Jacobite doctrine, though the first two at least have Patriarchs apart.

(Assemani, vol. ii.; Le Quien, II. 1596; Mas’údi, II. 329–330; Per. Quat. 124–129.)

NOTE 3. — We see here that mosolin or muslin had a very different meaning from what it has now. A quotation from Ives by Marsden shows it to have been applied in the middle of last century to a strong cotton cloth made at Mosul. Dozy says the Arabs use Mauçili in the sense of muslin, and refers to passages in ‘The Arabian Nights.’ [Bretschneider (Med. Res. II. p. 122) observes “that in the narrative of Ch’ang Ch’un’s travels to the west in 1221, it is stated that in Samarkand the men of the lower classes and the priests wrap their heads about with a piece of white mo-sze. There can be no doubt that mo-sze here denotes ‘muslin,’ and the Chinese author seems to understand by this term the same material which we are now used to call muslin.”— H. C.] I have found no elucidation of Polo’s application of mosolini to a class of merchants. But, in a letter of Pope Innocent IV. (1244) to the Dominicans in Palestine, we find classed as different bodies of Oriental Christians, “Jacobitae, Nestoritae, Georgiani, Graeci, Armeni, Maronitae, et Mosolini.” (Le Quien, III. 1342.)

NOTE 4. —“The Curds,” says Ricold, “exceed in malignant ferocity all the barbarous nations that I have seen. . . . They are called Curti, not because they are curt in stature, but from the Persian word for Wolves. . . . They have three principal vices, viz., Murder, Robbery, and Treachery.” Some say they have not mended since, but his etymology is doubtful. Kúrt is Turkish for a wolf, not Persian, which is Gurg; but the name (Karduchi, Kordiaei, etc.) is older, I imagine, than the Turkish language in that part of Asia. Quatremère refers it to the Persian gurd, “strong, valiant, hero.” As regards the statement that some of the Kurds were Christians, Mas’údi states that the Jacobites and certain other Christians in the territory of Mosul and Mount Judi were reckoned among the Kurds. (Not. et Ext. XIII. i. 304.) [The Kurds of Mosul are in part nomadic and are called Kotcheres, but the greater number are sedentary and cultivate cereals, cotton, tobacco, and fruits. (Cuinet.) Old Kurdistan had Shehrizor (Kerkuk, in the sanjak of that name) as its capital. — H. C.]

NOTE 5. — Ramusio here, as in all passages where other texts have Bucherami and the like, puts Boccassini, a word which has become obsolete in its turn. I see both Bochayrani and Bochasini coupled, in a Genoese fiscal statute of 1339, quoted by Pardessus. (Lois Maritimes, IV. 456.)

MUSH and MARDIN are in very different regions, but as their actual interval is only about 120 miles, they may have been under one provincial government. Mush is essentially Armenian, and, though the seat of a Pashalik, is now a wretched place. Mardin, on the verge of the Mesopotamian Plain, rises in terraces on a lofty hill, and there, says Hammer, “Sunnis and Shias, Catholic and Schismatic Armenians, Jacobites, Nestorians, Chaldaeans, Sun-, Fire-, Calf-, and Devil-worshippers dwell one over the head of the other.” (Ilchan. I. 191.)

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