Travels Of Marco Polo
[Excerpted from Marco Polo, The book of Ser Marco Polo, the Venetian, concerning the kingdoms and marvels of the East, Henry Yule, tr. (London, J. Murray, 1871)]
Thirteenth Century Eurasia was dominated by the greatest steppe empire in history, the Mongol Great Khanate founded by Genghiz Khan. In a period of 40 years, the Mongols under Genghiz Khan and his successors conquered most of Eurasia (including China, Korea, Central Asia, Persia, Iraq, Siberia, Russia, and much of Eastern Europe). They were stopped only by the Mamluks in Lebanon, Japanese. For the next 50 years, most of Eurasia was under one rule. This allowed merchants and missionary from western Europe to travel freely along trade routes previously dominated by Muslims. One of the earliest European descriptions of Asia is that of Marco Polo, a Venetian who reputed served in the court of the last Great Khan, Kublai Khan. While some scholars question the authenticity The Travels of Marco Polo, in nonetheless presents a vivid picture of such far away places as Mongolia and Central Asia, Japan and South Asia, India and East Africa. Below are excerpts from The Travels that describe these and other places.
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 you shall find therein all kinds of wonderful things, and the divers histories of the great Armenia, and of Persia, and of the Land of the Tartar, and of India, and of many another country of which our book does 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 may put full faith in the truth of all its contents.
For let me tell you that since our Lord God did mold with His hands our first Father Adam, even until this day, never has there been Christian, or Pagan, or Tartar, or Indian, or any man of any nation, who in his own person has 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 twenty-six 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, 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 brothers, 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.
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 traveled till they came to the court of a certain Tartar prince, Barka Khan by name, whose residences were at Sarai and at Bolgara and who was esteemed one of the most liberal and courteous princes that ever was among the Tartars. This Barka was delighted at the arrival of the two brothers, and treated them with great honor; 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.
After they had spent a twelvemonth at the court of this prince there broke out a great war between Barka and Hulagu, the lord of the Tartars of the Levant, and great hosts were mustered on either side.
But in the end Barka, 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 traveling forward. So the brothers, finding they could not retrace their steps, determined to go forward. Quitting Bolgara, therefore, they proceeded to a city called Ukek, which was at the extremity of the kingdom of the lord of the Ponent; and thence departing again, and passing the great River Tigris, they traveled 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.
Chapter III: How The Two Brothers, After Crossing A Desert, Came To The City Of Bokhara, and Fell In With Certain Envoys There
After they had passed the desert, they arrived at a very great and noble city called Bokhara, the territory of which belonged to a king whose name was Borrak, and is also called Bokhara. The city is the best in all Persia. 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 Bokhara for three years. And whilst they were sojourning in that city, there came from Hulagu, lord of the Levant, envoys on their way to the court of the Great Khan, 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 honor and profit shall come thereof." So they replied that they would be right glad to learn how. "In truth," said the envoys, "the Great Khan hath never seen any Latin, and he hath a great desire so to do. Wherefore, if you will keep us company to his court, you may depend upon it that he will be right glad to see you, and will treat you with great honor and liberality; while in our company you shall travel with perfect security, and need fear to be molested by nobody."
Chapter IV: How The Two Brothers Took The Envoys' Counsel, And Went To The Court Of The Great Khan
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 northeastward, 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 Khan
When the two brothers got to the Great Khan, he received them with great honor 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 Khan 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.
Chapter VII: How The Great Khan Sent The Two Brothers As His Envoys To The Pope.
When that prince, whose name was Kublai Khan, 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, 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 letters were to this purport: He begged that the Pope would send as many as a hundred persons of our Christian faith; intelligent men, acquainted with the seven arts, 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.
Chapter VIII: How The Great Khan 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 traveled 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 honorably 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.
So they traveled on and on until they arrived at Ayas in Armenia, a journey which occupied them, I assure you, for three years. 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.
Chapter IX: How The Two Brothers Came To The City Of Acre
They departed from Ayas 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 Clement IV), 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 honor 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. 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. The two brothers abode at Venice a couple of years, tarrying until a Pope should be made.
Chapter X: How The Two Brothers Again Departed From Venice, On Their Way Back To The Great Khan, 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 Khan 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 Khan, as he had enjoined. 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 Khan; 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 Khan, 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.
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 Khan, and got as far as Ayas. 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 Ayas 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 Armenia caused a galley to be got ready for the two ambassador brothers, and despatched them to the Pope at Acre.
Chapter XII: How The Two Brothers Presented Themselves Before The New Pope
And when they had been thus honorably 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 honor and satisfaction, and gave them his blessing. He then appointed two friars of the order of preachers to accompany them to the great Khan, 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. He delivered to them also proper credentials, and letters in reply to the great Khan'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 Khan. 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 Ayas, accompanied always by Messer Nicolas' son Marco.
Now, about the time that they reached Ayas, Bundakdar, the Sultan of Babylon, invaded Armenia with a great host of Saracens, and ravaged the country, so that our envoys ran a great peril of being taken or slain. 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.
Chapter XIII: How Messer Nicolo And Messer Maffeo Polo, Accompanied By Mark, Traveled To The Court Of The Great Khan
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 Khan, who was then at a certain rich and great city, called Kaiminfu. 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 Khan 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 Khan heard that Messers Nicolo and Maffeo Polo were on their way back, he sent people a journey of full forty days to meet them; and on this journey, as on their former one, they were honorably entertained upon the road, and supplied with all that they required.
Chapter XIV: How Messer Nicolo And Messer Maffeo Polo And Marco Presented Themselves Before The Great Khan
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 honor, 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 Khan 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, he asked who was that in their company? "Sir," said his father, Messer Nicolo, "'tis my son and your liegeman." "Welcome is he too," said 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 honor from everybody.
So there they abode at the court with the other barons.
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. And so when he discerned Mark to have so much sense, and to conduct himself so well and beseemingly, he sent him on an embassy of his, to a country which was a good six months' journey distant. 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 Khan.
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 Khan'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 Khan, 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 favor. 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 inquire 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 Khan 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 Khan's great age, they doubted whether, in the event of his death before their departure, they would ever be able to get home. 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 Bulughan, wife of Arghun, 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 Arghun's wife, except one of her own family which existed in Cathay. Arghun therefore dispatched three of his barons, by name respectively Uladai, Apushka, and Koja, as ambassadors to the great Khan, attended by a very gallant company, in order to bring back as his bride a lady of the family of queen Bulughan, his late wife.
When these three barons had reached the court of the great Khan, they delivered their message, explaining wherefore they were come. The Khan received them with all honor and hospitality, and then sent for a lady whose name was Kukachin, who was of the family of the deceased queen Bulughan. She was a maiden of seventeen, 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.
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 marvelous 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 Khan, and begged as a favor 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.
Chapter XVIII: How The Two Brothers And Messer Marco Took Leave Of The Great Khan, 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. He charged them also with messages to the king of France, the king of England, the king of Spain, and the other kings of Christendom. He then caused thirteen ships to be equipped, each of which had four masts, and often spread twelve sails. And I could easily give you all particulars about these, but as it would be so long as 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 two hundred and fifty or two hundred and sixty men.
And when the ships had been equipped, the three barons and the lady, and the two brothers and Messer Marco, took leave of the great Khan, 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, and in which there are many wonderful things which we shall tell you all about by and by. 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 Arghun was dead, so the lady was delivered to Ghazan, his son.
But I should have told you that it is a fact that, when they embarked, they were in number some six hundred persons, without counting the mariners; but nearly all died by the way, so that only eight survived.
The sovereignty when they arrived was held by Kaikhatu, 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 Khan had enjoined on them in regard to the lady, they took their leave and set out upon their journey. And before their departure, Kaikhatu gave them four golden tablets of authority, two of which bore gerfalcons, one bore lions, while the fourth was plain, and having on them inscriptions which directed that the three ambassadors should receive honor 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 two hundred horsemen, more or less, to escort them on their way in safety. And this was all the more needful because Kaikhatu was not the legitimate lord, and therefore the people had less scruple to do mischief than if they had had a lawful prince.
Another thing too must be mentioned, which does credit to those three ambassadors, and shows for what great personages they were held. The great Khan regarded them with such trust and affection, that he had confided to their charge the queen Kukachin, as well as the daughter of the king of Manzi, to conduct to Arghun 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; while the ladies, young and fair as they were, looked on each of those three as a father, and obeyed them accordingly. Indeed, both Ghazan, who is now the reigning prince, and the queen Kukachin 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 Kaikhatu they traveled 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.
Chapter XLVI. Of The City Of Karakorum
Karakorum is a city of some three miles in compass. It is surrounded by a strong earthen rampart, for stone is scarce there. And beside it there is a great citadel wherein is a fine palace in which the governor resides. It is the first city that the Tartars possessed after they issued from their own country. And now I will tell you all about how they first acquired dominion and spread over the world.
Originally the Tartars dwelt in the north on the borders of Manchuria. Their country was one of great plains; and there were no towns or villages in it, but excellent pasture lands, with great rivers and many sheets of water; in fact it was a very fine and extensive region. But there was no sovereign in the land. They did, however, pay tax and tribute to a great prince who was called in their tongue Ung Khan, the same that we call Prester John, him in fact about whose great dominion all the world talks. The tribute he had of them was one beast out of every ten, and also a tithe of all their other gear.
Now it came to pass that the Tartars multiplied exceedingly. And when Prester John saw how great a people they had become, he began to fear that he should have trouble from them. So he made a scheme to distribute them over sundry countries, and sent one of his barons to carry this out. When the Tartars became aware of this they took it much amiss, and with one consent they left their country and went off across a desert to a distant region towards the north, where Prester John could not get at them to annoy them. Thus they revolted from his authority and paid him tribute no longer. And so things continued for a time.
Chapter XLVII: Of Jengis, And How He Became The First Khan Of The Tarters
Now it came to pass in the year of Christ's incarnation 1187 that the Tartars made them a king whose name was Jengis Khan. He was a man of great worth, and of great ability, eloquence, and valor. And as soon as the news that he had been chosen king was spread abroad through those countries, all the Tartars in the world came to him and owned him for their lord. And right well did he maintain the sovereignty they had given him. What shall I say? The Tartars gathered to him in astonishing multitude, and when he saw such numbers he made a great furniture of spears and arrows and such other arms as they used, and set about the conquest of all those regions till he had conquered eight provinces. When he conquered a province he did no harm to the people or their property, but merely established some of his own men in the country along with a proportion of theirs, while he led the remainder to the conquest of other provinces. And when those whom he had conquered became aware of how well and safely he protected them against all others, and how they suffered no ill at his hands, and saw what a noble prince he was, then they joined him heart and soul and became his devoted followers. And when he had thus gathered such a multitude that they seemed to cover the earth, he began to think of conquering a great part of the world. Now in the year of Christ 1200 he sent an embassy to Prester John, and desired to have his daughter to wife. But when Prester John heard the Jengis Khan demanded his daughter in marriage he waxed very wroth, and said to the envoys, "What impudence is this, to ask my daughter to wife! Wist he not well that he was my liegeman and serf? Get ye back to him and tell him that I had liever set my daughter in the fire than give her in marriage to him, and that he deserves death at my hand, rebel and traitor that he is!" So he bade the envoys begone at once, and never come into his presence again. The envoys, on receiving this reply, departed straightway, and made haste to their master, and related all that Prester John had ordered them to say, keeping nothing back.
Chapter XLVIII: How Jengis Mustered His People To March Against Prester John
When Jengis Khan heard the brutal message that Prester John had sent him, such rage seized him that his heart came nigh to bursting within him, for he was a man of a very lofty spirit. At last he spoke, and that so loud that all who were present could hear him: "Never more might he be prince if he took not revenge for the brutal message of Prester John, and such revenge that insult never in this world was so dearly paid for. And before long Prester John should know whether he was his serf or no!"
So then he mustered all his forces, and levied such a host as never before was seen or heard of, sending word to Prester John to be on his defense. And when Prester John had sure tidings that Jengis was really coming against him with such a multitude, he still professed to treat it as a jest and a trifle, for, quoth he, "these be no soldiers." Nevertheless he marshaled his forces and mustered his people, and made great preparations, in order that if Jengis did come, he might take him and put him to death. In fact, he marshaled such a host of many different nations that it was a world's wonder.
And so both sides got them ready to battle. And why should I make a long story of it? Jengis Khan with all his host arrived at a vast and beautiful plain which was called Tenduc, belonging to Prester John, and there he pitched his camp; and so great was the multitude of his people that it was impossible to number them. And when he got tidings that Prester John was coming, he rejoiced greatly, for the place afforded a fine and ample battle ground, so he was right glad to tarry for him there, and greatly longed for his arrival.
But now leave we Jengis and his host, and let us return to Prester John and his people.
Chapter XLIX: How Prester John Marched To Meet Jengis
Now the story goes that when Prester John became aware that Jengis with his host was marching against him, he went forth to meet him with all his forces, and advanced until he reached the same plain of Tenduc, and pitched his camp over against that of Jengis Khan at a distance of twenty miles. And then both armies remained at rest for two days that they might be fresher and heartier for battle.
So when the two great hosts were pitched on the plains of Tenduc as you have heard, Jengis Khan one day summoned before him his astrologers, both Christians and Saracens, and desired them to let him know which of the two hosts would gain in battle, his own or Prester John's. The Saracens tried to ascertain, but were unable to give a true answer; the Christians, however, did give a true answer, and showed manifestly beforehand how the event should be. For they got a cane and split it lengthwise, and laid one half on this side and one half on that, allowing no one to touch the pieces. And one piece of cane they called Jengis Khan, and the other piece they called Prester John. And then they said to Jengis: "Now mark! and you will see the event of the battle, and who shall have the best of it; for whose cane soever shall get above the other, to him shall victory be." He replied that he would fain see it, and bade them begin. Then the Christian astrologers read a Psalm out of the Psalter, and went through other incantations. And lo! while all were beholding, the cane that bore the name of Jengis Khan, without being touched by anybody, advanced to the other that bore the name of Prester John, and got on the top of it. When the prince saw that he was greatly delighted, and seeing how in this matter he found the Christians to tell the truth, he always treated them with great respect, and held them for men of truth forever after.
Chapter L: The Battle Between Jengis Khan And Prester John
And after both sides had rested well those two days, they armed for the fight and engaged in desperate combat; and it was the greatest battle that ever was seen. The numbers that were slain on both sides were very great, but in the end Jengis Khan obtained the victory. And in the battle Prester John was slain. And from that time forward, day by day, his kingdom passed into the hands of Jengis Khan till the whole was conquered.
I may tell you that Jengis Khan reigned six years after this battle, engaged continually in conquest, and taking many a province and city and stronghold. But at the end of those six years he went against a certain castle that was called Ho-chau, and there he was shot with an arrow in the knee, so that he died of his wound. A great pity it was, for he was a valiant man and wise.
I will now tell you who reigned after Jengis, and then about the manners and customs of the Tartars.
Chapter LI: Of Those Who Reign After Jengis Khan, And Of The Customs Of The Tartars
Now the next that reigned after Jengis Khan, their first lord, was Kuyuk Khan, and the third prince was Batu Khan, and the fourth was Hulagu Khan, the fifth Mangu Khan, the sixth Kublai Khan, who is the sovereign now reigning, and is more potent than any of the five who went before him; in fact, if you were to take all those five together, they would not be so powerful as he is. Nay, I will say yet more; for if you were to put together all the Christians in the world, with their emperors and their kings, the whole of these Christians, - aye, and throw in the Saracens to boot, - would not have such power, or be able to do so much as this Kublai, who is the lord of all the Tartars in the world, those of the Levant and of the Ponent included; for these are all his liegemen and subjects. I mean to show you all about this great power of his in this book of ours.
You should be told that all the grand Khans, and all the descendants of Jengis their first lord, are carried to a mountain that is called Altay to be interred. Wheresoever the sovereign may die, he is carried to his burial in that mountain with his predecessors; no matter if the place of his death were one hundred days' journey distant, thither must he be carried to his burial.
Let me tell you a strange thing, too. When they are carrying the body of any emperor to be buried with the others, the convoy that goes with the body doth put to the sword all whom they fall in with on the road, saying: "Go and wait upon your lord in the other world!" For they do in sooth believe that all such as they slay in this manner do go to serve their lord in the other world. They do the same too with horses; for when the emperor dies, they kill all his best horses, in order that he may have the use of them in the other world, as they believe. And I tell you as a certain truth, that when Mangu Khan died, more than twenty thousand persons, who chanced to meet the body on its way, were slain in the manner I have told.
Chapter LII: Concerning The Customs Of The Tartars
Now that I have begun to speak of the Tartars, I have plenty to tell you on that subject. The Tartar custom is to spend the winter in warm plains, where they find good pasture for their cattle, while in summer they betake themselves to a cool climate among the mountains and valleys, where water is to be found as well as woods and pastures.
Their houses are circular, and are made of wands covered with felts. These are carried along with them wherever they go; for the wands are so strongly bound together, and likewise so well combined, that the frame can be made very light. Whenever they erect these huts the door is always to the south. They also have wagons covered with black felt so efficaciously that no rain can get in. These are drawn by oxen and camels, and the women and children travel in them. The women do the buying and selling, and whatever is necessary to provide for the husband and household; for the men all lead the life of gentlemen, troubling themselves about nothing but hunting and hawking, and looking after their goshawks and falcons, unless it be the practice of warlike exercises.
They live on the milk and meat which their herds supply, and on the produce of the chase, and they eat all kinds of flesh, including that of horses and dogs, and Pharaoh's rats, of which last there are great numbers in burrows on those plains. Their drink is mare's milk.
They are very careful not to meddle with each other's wives, and will not do so on any account, holding that to be an evil and abominable thing. The women, too, are very good and loyal to their husbands, and notable housewives withal. Ten or twenty of them will dwell together in charming peace and unity, nor shall you ever hear an ill word among them.
The marriage customs of Tartars are as follows. Any man may take a hundred wives if he so please, and if he is able to keep them. But the first wife is ever held most in honor, and as the most legitimate, and the same applies to the sons whom she may bear. The husband gives a marriage payment to his wife's mother, and the wife brings nothing to her husband. They have more children than other people, because they have so many wives. They may marry their cousins, and if a father dies, his son may take any of the wives, his own mother always excepted; that is to say the eldest son may do this, but no other. A man may also take the wife of his own brother after the latter's death. Their weddings are celebrated with great ado.
Chapter LIII: Concerning The God Of The Tartars
This is the fashion of their religion. They say there is a most high god of heaven, whom they worship daily with thurible and incense, but they pray to him only for health of mind and body. But they have also a certain other god of theirs called Natigay, and they say he is the god of the earth, who watches over their children, cattle, and crops. They show him great worship and honor, and every man has a figure of him in his house, made of felt and cloth; and they also make in the same manner images of his wife and children. The wife they put on the left hand, and the children in front. And when they eat, they take the fat of the meat and grease the god's mouth withal, as well as the mouths of his wife and children. Then they take of the broth and sprinkle it before the door of the house; and that done, they deem that their god and his family have had their share of the dinner.
Their drink is mare's milk, prepared in such a way that you would take it for white wine; and a right good drink it is, called by them Kumiz.
The clothes of the wealthy Tartars are for the most part of gold and silk stuffs, lined with costly furs, such as sable and ermine, vair and fox skin, in the richest fashion.
Chapter LIV: Concerning The Tartar Customs Of War
All their harness of war is excellent and costly. Their arms are bows and arrows, sword and mace; but above all the bow, for they are capital archers; indeed, the best that are known. On their backs they wear armor of cuirbouly, prepared from buffalo and other hides, which is very strong. They are excellent soldiers, and passing valiant in battle. They are also more capable of hardships than other nations; for many a time, if need be, they will go for a month without any supply of food, living only on the milk of their mares and on such game as their bows may win for them. Their horses also will subsist entirely on the grass of the plains, so that there is no need to carry store of barley or straw or oats; and they are very docile to their riders. These, in case of need, will abide on horseback the livelong night, armed at all points, while the horse will be continually grazing.
Of all troops in the world these are they which endure the greatest hardships and fatigue, and which cost the least; and they are the best of all for making wide conquests of country. And this you will perceive from what you have heard and shall hear in this book; and, as a fact, there can be no manner of doubt that now they are the masters of the biggest half of the world. Their troops are admirably ordered in the manner that I shall now relate.
You see, when a Tartar prince goes forth to war, he takes with him, say, one hundred thousand horse. Well, he appoints an officer to every ten men, one to every hundred, one to every thousand, and one to every ten thousand, so that his own orders have to be given to ten persons only, and each of these ten persons has to pass the orders only to other ten, and so on; no one having to give orders to more than ten. And every one in turn is responsible only to the officer immediately over him; and the discipline and order that comes of this method is marvelous, for they are a people very obedient to their chiefs. Further, they call the corps of one hundred thousand men a Tuc; that of ten thousand they call a Toman; the thousand they call Miny; the hundred Guz; the ten On. And when the army is on the march they have always two hundred horsemen, very well mounted, who are sent a distance of two marches in advance to reconnoitre, and these always keep ahead. They have a similar party detached in the rear, and on either flank, so that there is a good lookout on all sides against a surprise. When they are going on a distant expedition they take no gear with them except two leather bottles for milk; a little earthenware pot to cook their meat in, and a little tent to shelter them from rain. And in case of great urgency they will ride ten days on end without lighting a fire or taking a meal. On such an occasion they will sustain themselves on the blood of their horses, opening a vein and letting the blood jet into their mouths, drinking till they have had enough, and then staunching it.
They also have milk dried into a kind of paste to carry with them; and when they need food they put this in water, and beat it up till it dissolves, and then drink it. It is prepared in this way: they boil the milk, and when the rich part floats on the top they skim it into another vessel, and of that they make butter; for the milk will not become solid till this is removed. Then they put the milk in the sun to dry. And when they go on an expedition, every man takes some ten pounds of this dried milk with him. And of a morning he will take a half pound of it and put it in his leather bottle, with as much water as he pleases. So, as he rides along, the milk paste and the water in the bottle get well churned together into a kind of pap, and that makes his dinner.
When they come to an engagement with the enemy, they will gain the victory in this fashion. They never let themselves get into a regular medley, but keep perpetually riding round and shooting into the enemy. And as they do not count it any shame to run away in battle, they will sometimes pretend to do so, and in running away they turn in the saddle and shoot hard and strong at the foe, and in this way make great havoc. Their horses are trained so perfectly that they will double hither and thither, just like a dog, in a way that is quite astonishing. Thus they fight to as good purpose in running away as if they stood and faced the enemy, because of the vast volleys of arrows that they shoot in this way, turning round upon their pursuers, who are fancying that they have won the battle. But when the Tartars see that they have killed and wounded a good many horses and men, they wheel round bodily, and return to the charge in perfect order and with loud cries: and in a very short time the enemy are routed. In truth they are stout and valiant soldiers, and inured to war. And you perceive that it is just when the enemy sees them run, and imagines that he has gained the battle, that he has in reality lost it; for the Tartars wheel round in a moment when they judge the right time has come. And after this fashion they have won many a fight.
All this that I have been telling you is true of the manners and customs of the genuine Tartars. But I must add also that in these days they are greatly degenerated; for those who are settled in Cathay have taken up the practices of the idolaters of the country, and have abandoned their own institutions; while those who have settled in the Levant have adopted the customs of the Saracens.
Chapter LV: Concerning The Administration Of Justice Among The Tartars
The way they administer justice is this. When any one has committed a petty theft, they give him, under the orders of authority, seven blows of a stick, or seventeen, or twenty-seven, or thirty-seven, or forty-seven, and so forth, always increasing by tens in proportion to the injury done, and running sometimes up to one hundred and seven. Of these beatings, sometimes they die. But if the offense be horse stealing, or some other great matter, they cut the thief in two with a sword. However, if he is able to ransom himself by paying nine times the value of the thing stolen, he is let off. Every lord or other person who possesses beasts has them marked with his peculiar brand, be they horses, mares, camels, oxen, cows, or other great cattle, and then they are sent abroad to graze over the plains without any keeper. They get all mixed together, but eventually every beast is recovered by means of its owner's brand, which is known. For their sheep and goats they have shepherds. All their cattle are remarkably fine, big, and in good condition.
They have another notable custom, which is this. If any man have a daughter who dies before marriage, and another man have had a son also die before marriage, the parents of the two arrange a grand wedding between the dead lad and lass. And marry them they do, making a regular contract! And when the contract papers are made out they put them in the fire, in order, as they will have it, that the parties in the other world may know the fact, and so look on each other as man and wife. And the parents thenceforward consider themselves sib to each other, just as if their children had lived and married. Whatever may be agreed on between the parties as dowry, those who have to pay it cause to be painted on pieces of paper and then put these in the fire, saying that in that way the dead person will get all the real articles in the other world.
Now I have told you all about the manners and customs of the Tartars; but you have heard nothing of the great state of the grand Khan, who is the lord of all the Tartars and of the supreme imperial court. All that I will tell you in this book in proper time and place, but meanwhile I must return to my story which I left off in that great plain when we began to speak of the Tartars.
Chapter LVI: Sundry Particulars Of The Plain Beyond Karakorum
And when you leave Karakorum and the Altay, in which they bury the bodies of the Tartar sovereigns, as I told you, you go north for forty days till you reach a country called the plain of Bargu. The people there are called Mekriti; they are a very wild race, and live by their cattle, the most of which are stags, and these stags, I assure you, they used to ride upon. Their customs are like those of the Tartars, and they are subject to the great Khan. They have neither corn nor wine. They get birds for food, for the country is full of lakes and pools and marshes, which are much frequented by the birds when they are moulting, and when they have quite cast their feathers and can't fly, those people catch them. They also live partly on fish.
And when you have traveled forty days over this great plain you come to the ocean, at the place where the mountains are in which the peregrine falcons have their nests. And in those mountains it is so cold that you find neither man nor woman, nor beast nor bird, except one kind of bird called Barguerlac, on which the falcons feed. They are as big as partridges, and have feet like those of parrots and a tail like a swallow's, and are very strong in flight. And when the grand Khan wants peregrines from the nest, he sends thither to procure them. It is also on islands in the sea that the gerfalcons are bred. You must know that the place is so far to the north that you leave the north star somewhat behind you towards the south! The gerfalcons are so abundant there that the emperor can have as many as he likes to send for. And you must not suppose that those gerfalcons which the Christians carry into the Tartar dominions go to the great Khan; they are carried only to the prince of the Levant.
Chapter I: Of The Merchant Ships Of Manzi That Sail Upon The Indian Seas
Having finished our discourse concerning those countries wherewith our book has been occupied thus far, we are now about to enter on the subject of India, and to tell you of all the wonders thereof.
And first let us speak of the ships in which merchants go to and fro among the Isles of India.
These ships, you must know, are of fir timber. They have but one deck, though each of them contains some fifty or sixty cabins, wherein the merchants abide greatly at their ease, every man having one to himself. The ship has but one rudder, but it has four masts; and sometimes they have two additional masts, which they ship and unship at pleasure.
Moreover the larger of their vessels have some thirteen compartments or severances in the interior, made with planking strongly framed, in case mayhap the ship should spring a leak, either by running on a rock or by the blow of a hungry whale as shall betide often, for when the ship in her course by night sends a ripple back alongside of the whale, the creature seeing the foam fancies there is something to eat afloat, and makes a rush forward, whereby it often shall stave in some part of the ship. In such case the water that enters the leak flows to the bilge, which is always kept clear; and the mariners having ascertained where the damage is, empty the cargo from that compartment into those adjoining, for the planking is so well fitted that the water cannot pass from one compartment to another. They then stop the leak and replace the lading.
The fastenings are all of good iron nails and the sides are double, one plank laid over the other, and caulked outside and in. The planks are not pitched, for those people do not have any pitch, but they daub the sides with other matter, deemed by them far better than pitch; it is this. You see they take some lime and some chopped hemp, and these they knead together with a certain wood oil; and when the three are thoroughly amalgamated, they hold like any glue. And with this mixture they paint their ships.
Each of their great ships requires at least two hundred mariners some of them three hundred. They are indeed of great size, for one ship shall carry five thousand or six thousand baskets of pepper and they used formerly to be larger than they are now. And aboard these ships, you must know, when there is no wind they use sweeps, and these sweeps are so big that to pull them requires four mariners to each. Every great ship has certain large barks or tenders attached to it; these are large enough to carry one thousand baskets of pepper, and carry fifty or sixty mariners apiece some of them eighty or one hundred, and they are likewise moved by oars; they assist the great ship by towing her, at such times as her sweeps are in use or even when she is under sail, if the wind be somewhat on the beam; not if the wind be astern, for then the sails of the ship would take the wind out of those of the tenders, and she would run them down. Each ship has two or three of these barks, but one is bigger than the others. There are also some ten small boats for the service of each great ship, to lay out the anchors, catch fish, bring supplies aboard, and the like. When the ship is under sail she carries these boats slung to her sides. And the large tenders have their boats in like manner.
When the ship has been a year in work and they wish to repair her, they nail on a third plank over the first two, and caulk and pay it well; and when another repair is wanted they nail on yet another plank, and so on year by year as it is required. However, they do this only for a certain number of years, and till there are six thickness of planking. When a ship has come to have six planks on her sides, one over the other, they take her no more on the high seas, but make use of her for coasting as long as she will last, and then they break her up.
Now that I have told you about the ships which sail upon the ocean sea and among the isles of India, let us proceed to speak of the various wonders of India; but first and foremost I must tell you about a number of islands that there are in that part of the ocean sea where we now are, I mean the islands lying to the eastward. So let us begin with an island which is called Chipangu.
Chapter II: Description Of The Island Of Chipangu, And The Great Khan's Despatch Of A Host Against It
Chipangu is an island towards the east in the high seas, fifteen hundred miles distant from the continent; and a very great island it is.
The people are white, civilized, and well favored. They are idolaters, and are dependent on nobody. And I can tell you the quantity of gold they have is endless; for they find it in their own islands, and the king does not allow it to be exported. Moreover few merchants visit the country because it is so far from the mainland, and thus it comes to pass that their gold is abundant beyond all measure.
I will tell you a wonderful thing about the palace of the lord of that island. You must know that he has a great palace which is entirely roofed with fine gold, just as our churches are roofed with lead, insomuch that it would scarcely be possible to estimate its value. Moreover, all the pavement of the palace, and the floors of its chambers, are entirely of gold, in plates like slabs of stone, a good two fingers thick; and the windows also are of gold, so that altogether the richness of this palace is past all bounds and all belief.
They have also pearls in abundance, which are of a rose color, but fine, big, and round, and quite as valuable as the white ones. In this island some of the dead are buried, and others are burnt. When a body is burnt, they put one of these pearls in the mouth, for such is their custom. They have also quantities of other precious stones.
Kublai, the grand Khan who now reigns, having heard much of the immense wealth that was in this island, formed a plan to get possession of it. For this purpose he sent two of his barons with a great navy, and a great force of horse and foot. These barons were able and valiant men, one of them called Abacan and the other Vonsainchin, and they weighed with all their company from the ports of Zayton and Kinsay, and put out to sea. They sailed until they reached the island aforesaid, and there they landed, and occupied the open country and the villages, but did not succeed in getting possession of any city or castle. And so a disaster befell them, as I shall now relate.
You must know that there was much ill will between those two barons, so that one would do nothing to help the other. And it came to pass that there arose a north wind which blew with great fury, and caused great damage along the coasts of that island, for its harbors were few. It blew so hard that the great Khan's fleet could not stand against it. And when the chiefs saw that, they came to the conclusion that if the ships remained where they were the whole navy would perish. So they all got on board and made sail to leave the country. But when they had gone about four miles they came to a small island, on which they were driven ashore in spite of all they could do; and a large part of the fleet was wrecked, and a great multitude of the force perished, so that there escaped only some thirty thousand men, who took refuge on this island.
These held themselves for dead men, for they were without food, and knew not what to do, and they were in great despair when they saw that such of the ships as had escaped the storm were making full sail for their own country without the slightest sign of turning back to help them. And this was because of the bitter hatred between the two barons in command of the force; for the baron who escaped never showed the slightest desire to return to his colleague who was left upon the island in the way you have heard; though he might easily have done so after the storm ceased; and it endured not long. He did nothing of the kind, however, but made straight for home. And you must know that the island to which the soldiers had escaped was uninhabited; there was not a creature upon it but themselves.
Now we will tell you what befell those who escaped on the fleet, and also those who were left upon the Island.
Chapter III: What Further Came Of The Great Khan's Expedition Against Chipangu
You see those who were left upon the island, some thirty thousand souls, as I have said, did hold themselves for dead men, for they saw no possible means of escape. And when the king of the great island got news how the one part of the expedition had saved themselves upon that isle, and the other part was scattered and fled, he was right glad thereat, and he gathered together all the ships of his territory and proceeded with them, the sea now being calm, to the little isle, and landed his troops all round it. And when the Tartars saw them thus arrive, and the whole force landed, without any guard having been left on board the ships the act of men very little acquainted with such work, they had the sagacity to feign flight. Now the island was very high in the middle, and while the enemy were hastening after them by one road they fetched a compass by another and in this way managed to reach the enemy's ships and to get aboard of them. This they did easily enough, for they encountered no opposition.
Once they were on board they got under weigh immediately for the great island, and landed there, carrying with them the standards and banners of the king of the island; and in this wise they advanced to the capital. The garrison of the city, suspecting nothing wrong, when they saw their own banners advancing supposed that it was their own host returning, and so gave them admittance. The Tartars as soon as they had got in seized all the bulwarks and drove out all who were in the place except the pretty women, and these they kept for themselves. In this way the great Khan's people got possession of the city.
When the king of the great island and his army perceived that both fleet and city were lost, they were greatly cast down; however, they got away to the great island on board some of the ships which had not been carried off. And the king then gathered all his host to the siege of the city, and invested it so straitly that no one could go in or come out. Those who were within held the place for seven months, and strove by all means to send word to the great Khan; but it was all in vain, they never could get the intelligence carried to him. So when they saw they could hold out no longer they gave themselves up, on condition that their lives should be spared, but still that they should never quit the island. And this befell in the year of our Lord 1279. The great Khan ordered the baron who had fled so disgracefully to lose his head. And afterwards he caused the other also, who had been left on the island, to be put to death, for he had never behaved as a good soldier ought to do.
But I must tell you a wonderful thing that I had forgotten, which happened on this expedition.
You see, at the beginning of the affair, when the Khan's people had landed on the great island and occupied the open country as I told you, they stormed a tower belonging to some of the islanders who refused to surrender, and they cut off the heads of all the garrison except eight; on these eight they found it impossible to inflict any wound! Now this was by virtue of certain stones which they had in their arms inserted between the skin and the flesh, with such skill as not to show at all externally. And the charm and virtue of these stones was such that those who wore them could never perish by steel. So when the barons learned this they ordered the men to be beaten to death with clubs. And after their death the stones were extracted from the bodies of all, and were greatly prized.
Now the story of the discomfiture of the great Khan's folk came to pass as I have told you. But let us have done with that matter, and return to our subject.
Chapter IV: Concerning The Fashion Of The Idols
Now you must know that the idols of Cathay, and of Manzi, and of this island, are all of the same class. And in this island as well as elsewhere, there be some of the idols that have the head of an ox, some that have the head of a pig, some of a dog, some of a sheep, and some of divers other kinds. And some of them have four heads, while some have three, one growing out of either shoulder. There are also some that have four hands, some ten, some a thousand! And they do put more faith in those idols that have a thousand hands than in any of the others. And when any Christian asks them why they make their idols in so many different guises, and not all alike, they reply that just so their forefathers were wont to have them made, and just so they will leave them to their children, and these to the after generations. And so they will be handed down for ever. And you must understand that the deeds ascribed to these idols are such a parcel of deviltries as it is best not to tell. So let us have done with the idols, and speak of other things.
But I must tell you one thing still concerning that island and 'tis the same with the other Indian islands, that if the natives take prisoner an enemy who cannot pay a ransom, he who hath the prisoner summons all his friends and relations, and they put the prisoner to death, and then they cook him and eat him, and they say there is no meat in the world so good! - But now we will have done with that island and speak of something else.
You must know the sea in which lie the islands of those parts is called the sea of Chin, which is as much as to say "The Sea over against Manzi." For, in the language of those isles, when they say Chin, 'tis Manzi they mean. And I tell you with regard to that eastern sea of Chin, according to what is said by the experienced pilots and mariners of those parts, there be seven thousand four hundred and fifty-nine islands in the waters frequented by the said mariners; and that is how they know the fact, for their whole life is spent in navigating that sea. And there is not one of those islands but produces valuable and odorous woods like the lign-aloe, aye and better too; and they produce also a great variety of spices. For example in those islands pepper grows as white as snow, as well as the black in great quantities. In fact the riches of those islands is something wonderful, whether in gold or precious stones, or in all manner of spicery; but they lie so far off from the mainland that it is hard to get to them. And when the ships of Zayton and Kinsay do voyage there they make vast profits by their venture.
It takes them a whole year for the voyage, going in winter and returning in summer. For in that sea there are but two winds that blow, the one that carries them outward and the other that brings them homeward: and the one of these winds blows all the winter, and the other all the summer. And you must know these regions are so far from India that it takes a long time also for the voyage thence.
Though that sea is called the sea of Chin, as I have told you, yet it is part of the ocean sea all the same. But just as in these parts people talk of the sea of England and the sea of Rochelle, so in those countries they speak of the sea of Chin and the sea of India, and so on, though they all are but parts of the ocean.
Now let us have done with that region which is very inaccessible and out of the way. Moreover, Messer Marco Polo never was there. And let me tell you the great Khan has nothing to do with them, nor do they render him any tribute or service.
So let us go back to Zayton and take up the order of our book from that point.
Chapter V: Of The Great Country Called Champa
Leaving the port of Zayton you sail westward and something southwestward for one thousand five hundred miles, passing a gulf called Hainan, having a length of two months' sail towards the north. Along the whole of its southeast side it borders on the province of Manzi, and on the other side with Anin[21 and Toloman, and many other provinces formerly spoken of. Within this gulf there are innumerable islands, almost all well peopled; and in these is found a great quantity of gold dust, which is collected from the sea where the rivers discharge. There is copper also, and other things; and the people drive a trade with each other in the things that are peculiar to their respective islands. They have also a traffic with the people of the mainland, selling them gold and copper and other things; and purchasing in turn what they stand in need of. In the greater part of these islands plenty of grain grows. This gulf is so great, and inhabited by so many people, that it seems like a world in itself.
You must know that on leaving the port of Zayton you sail westsouthwest for one thousand five hundred miles, and then you come to a country called Champa, a very rich region, having a king of its own. The people are idolaters and pay a yearly tribute to the great Khan, which consists of elephants and nothing but elephants. And I will tell you how they came to pay this tribute.
It happened in the year of Christ 1278 that the great Khan sent a baron of his called Sotu with a great force of horse and foot against this king of Champa, and this baron opened the war on a great scale against the king and his country.
Now the king whose name was Accambale was a very aged man, nor had he such a force as the baron had. And when he saw what havoc the baron was making with his kingdom he was grieved to the heart. So he bade messengers get ready and despatched them to the great Khan. And they said to the Khan: "Our lord the king of Champa salutes you as his liege lord, and would have you to know that he is stricken in years and long has held his realm in peace. And now he sends you word by us that he is willing to be your liegeman, and will send you every year a tribute of as many elephants as you please. And he prays you in all gentleness and humility that you would send word to your baron to desist from harrying his kingdom and to quit his territories. These shall henceforth be at your absolute disposal, and the king shall hold them of you."
When the great Khan had heard the King's ambassage he was moved with pity, and sent word to that baron of his to quit that kingdom with his army, and to carry his arms to the conquest of some other country; and as soon as this command reached them they obeyed it. Thus it was then that this king became vassal of the great Khan, and paid him every year a tribute of twenty of the greatest and finest elephants that were to be found in the country. But now we will leave that matter, and tell you other particulars about the king of Champa.
You must know that in that kingdom no woman is allowed to marry until the king shall have seen her; if the woman pleases him then he takes her to wife; if she does not, he gives her a dowry to get her a husband withal. In the year of Christ 1288, Messer Marco Polo was in that country, and at that time the king had, between sons and daughters, three hundred and twenty-six children, of whom at least one hundred and fifty were men fit to carry arms.
There are very great numbers of elephants in this kingdom, and they have lign-aloes in great abundance. They have also extensive forests of the wood called Bonus, which is jet black, and of which chessmen and pen cases are made. But there is nought more to tell, so let us proceed.
Chapter VI: Concerning The Great Island Of Java
When you sail from Champa, one thousand five hundred miles in a course between south and southeast, you come to a great island called Java. And the experienced mariners of those islands who know the matter well, say that it is the greatest island in the world, and has a compass of more than three thousand miles. It is subject to a great king and tributary to no one else in the world. The people are idolaters. The island is of surpassing wealth, producing black pepper, nutmegs, spikenard, galingale, cubebs, cloves, and all other kinds of spices.
This island is also frequented by a vast amount of shipping, and by merchants who buy and sell costly goods from which they reap great profit. Indeed the treasure of this island is so great as to be past telling. And I can assure you the great Khan never could get possession of this island, on account of its great distance, and the great expense of an expedition there. The merchants of Zayton and Manzi draw annually great returns from this country.
Chapter VII: Wherein The Isles Of Sondor And Kondor Are Spoken Of; And The Kingdom Of Lohok
When you leave Champa and sail for seven hundred miles on a course between south and southwest, you arrive at two islands, a greater and a less. The one is called Sondor and the other Kondor. As there is nothing about them worth mentioning, let us go on five hundred miles beyond Sondor, and then we find another country which is called Lohok. It is a good country and a rich; it is on the mainland; and it has a king of its own. The people are idolaters and have a peculiar language, and pay tribute to nobody, for their country is so situated that no one can enter it to do them ill. Indeed if it were possible to get at it, the great Khan would soon bring them under subjection to him.
In this country the brazil which we make use of grows in great plenty; and they also have gold in incredible quantity. They have elephants likewise, and much game. In this kingdom too are gathered all the porcelain shells which are used for small change in all those regions, as I have told you before.
There is nothing else to mention except that this is a very wild region, visited by few people; nor does the king desire that any strangers should frequent the country, and so find out about his treasure and other resources. We will now proceed, and tell you of something else.
Chapter VIII: Of The Island Called Pentam, And The City Malayur
When you leave Lohok and sail for five hundred miles towards the south, you come to an island called Pentam, a very wild place. All the wood that grows thereon consists of odoriferous trees. There is nothing more to say about it; so let us sail about sixty miles further between those two islands. Throughout this distance there is but four paces' depth of water, so that great ships in passing this channel have to lift their rudders, for they draw nearly as much water as that.
And when you have gone these sixty miles, and again about thirty more, you come to an island which forms a kingdom, and is called Malayur. The people have a king of their own, and a peculiar language. The city is a fine and noble one, and there is great trade carried on there. All kinds of spicery are to be found there, and all other necessaries of life.
Chapter IX: Concerning The Island Of Java The Less, The Kingdoms Of Perlak And Pasei
When you leave the island of Pentam and sail about one hundred miles, you reach the island of Java the less. For all its name 'tis none so small but that it has a compass of two thousand miles or more. Now I will tell you all about this island.
You see there are upon it eight kingdoms and eight crowned kings. The people are all idolaters, and every kingdom has a language of its own. The island hath great abundance of treasure, with costly spices, lign-aloes and spikenard and many others that never come into our parts.
Now I am going to tell you all about these eight kingdoms, or at least the greater part of them. But let me premise one marvelous thing, and that is the fact that this island lies so far to the south that the North Star, little or much, is never to be seen!
Now let us resume our subject, and first I will tell you of the kingdom of Perlak.
This kingdom, you must know, is so much frequented by the Saracen merchants that they have converted the natives to the law of Mahommet--I mean the townspeople only, for the hill people live for all the world like beasts, and eat human flesh, as well as all other kinds of flesh, clean or unclean. And they worship this, that, and the other thing; for in fact the first thing that they see on rising in the morning, that they do worship for the rest of the day.
Having told you of the kingdom of Perlak, I will now tell of another which is called Pasei.
When you quit the kingdom of Perlak you enter upon that of Pasei. This also is an independent kingdom, and the people have a language of their own; but they are just like beasts without laws or religion. They call themselves subjects of the great Khan, but they pay him no tribute, indeed they are so far away that his men could not go there. Still all these islanders declare themselves to be his subjects, and sometimes they send him curiosities as presents. There are wild elephants in the country, and numerous unicorns, which are very nearly as big. They have hair like that of a buffalo, feet like those of an elephant, and a horn in the middle of the forehead, which is black and very thick. They do no mischief, however, with the horn, but with the tongue alone; for this is covered all over with long and strong prickles and when savage with any one they crush him under their knees and then rasp him with their tongue. The head resembles that of a wild boar, and they carry it ever bent towards the ground. They delight much to abide in mire and mud. 'Tis a passing ugly beast to look upon, and is not in the least like that which our stories tell of as being caught in the lap of a virgin; in fact, 'tis altogether different from what we fancied. There are also monkeys here in great numbers and of sundry kinds; and goshawks as black as crows. These are very large birds and capital for fowling.
I may tell you moreover that when people bring home pygmies which they allege to come from India, 'tis all a lie and a cheat. For those little men, as they call them, are manufactured on this island, and I will tell you how. You see there is on the island a kind of monkey which is very small, and has a face just like a man's. They take these, and pluck out all the hair except the hair of the beard and on the breast, and then they dry them and stuff them and daub them with saffron and other things until they look like men. But you see it is all a cheat; for nowhere in India nor anywhere else in the world were there ever men seen so small as these pretended pygmies.
Now I will say no more of the kingdom of Pasei, but tell you of others in succession.
Chapter X: The Kingdoms Of Samatra And Dagroian
So you must know that when you leave the kingdom of Pasei you come to another kingdom called Samatra, on the same island. And in that kingdom Messer Marco Polo was detained five months by the weather, which would not allow of his going on. And I tell you that here again neither the polestar nor the stars of the Maestro were to be seen, much or little. The people here are wild idolaters; they have a king who is great and rich; but they also call themselves subjects of the great Khan. When Messer Mark was detained on this island five months by contrary winds, he landed with about two thousand men in his company; they dug large ditches on the landward side to encompass the party, resting at either end on the sea haven, and within these ditches they made bulwarks or stockades of timber for fear of those brutes of man eaters; for there is great store of wood there; and the islanders having confidence in the party supplied them with victuals and others things needful. There is abundance of fish to be had, the best in the world. The people have no wheat, but live on rice. Nor have they any wine except such as I shall now describe.
You must know that they derive it from a certain kind of tree that they have. When they want wine they cut a branch of this, and attach a great pot to the stem of the tree at the place where the branch was cut; in a day and a night they will find the pot filled. This wine is an excellent drink, and is got both white and red. It is of such surpassing virtue that it cures dropsy and tisick and spleen. The trees resemble small date palms; . . . and when cutting a branch no longer gives a flow of wine, they water the root of the tree, and before long the branches again begin to give out wine as before. They have also great quantities of Indian nuts as big as a man's head, which are good to eat when fresh; being sweet and savory, and white as milk. The inside of the meat of the nut is filled with a liquor like clear fresh water, but better to the taste, and more delicate than wine or any other drink that ever existed.
Now that we have done telling you about this kingdom, let us quit it, and we will tell you of Dagroian.
When you leave the kingdom of Samatra you come to another which is called Dagroian. It is an independent kingdom, and has a language of its own. The people are very wild, but they call themselves the subjects of the great Khan. I will tell you a wicked custom of theirs.
When one of them is ill they send for their sorcerers, and put the question to them, whether the sick man shall recover of his sickness or no. If they say that he will recover, then they let him alone till he gets better. But if the sorcerers foretell that the sick man is to die, the friends send for certain judges of theirs to put to death him who has thus been condemned by the sorcerers to die. These men come, and lay so many clothes upon the sick man's mouth that they suffocate him. And when he is dead they have him cooked, and gather together all the dead man's kin and eat him. And I assure you they do suck the very bones till not a particle of marrow remains in them; for they say that if any nourishment remained in the bones this would breed worms, and then the worms would die for want of food, and the death of those worms would be laid to the charge of the deceased man's soul. And so they eat him up stump and rump. And when they have thus eaten him they collect his bones and put them in fine chests, and carry them away, and place them in caverns among the mountains where no beast nor other creature can get at them. And you must know also that if they take prisoner a man of another country, and he cannot pay a ransom in coin, they kill and eat him straightway. It is a very evil custom and a parlous.
Now that I have told you about this kingdom let us leave it, and I will tell you of Lambri.
Chapter XI: Of The Kingdoms Of Lambri And Fansur
When you leave that kingdom you come to another which is called Lambri. The people are idolaters, and call themselves the subjects of the great Khan. They have plenty of camphor and of all sorts of other spices. They also have brazil in great quantities. This they sow, and when it is grown to the size of a small shoot they take it up and transplant it; then they let it grow for three years, after which they tear it up by the root. You must know that Messer Marco Polo aforesaid brought some seed of the brazil, such as they sow, to Venice with him, and had it sown there; but never a thing came up. And I fancy it was because the climate was too cold.
Now you must know that in this kingdom of Lambri there are men with tails; these tails are of a palm in length, and have no hair on them. These people live in the mountains and are a kind of wild men. Their tails are about the thickness of a dog's. There are also plenty of unicorns in that country, and abundance of game in birds and beasts.
Now then I have told you about the kingdom of Lambri.
You then come to another kingdom which is called Fansur. The people are idolaters, and also call themselves subjects of the great Khan; and understand, they are still on the same island that I have been telling you of. In this kingdom of Fansur grows the best camphor in the world call Canfora Fansuri. It is so fine that it sells for its weight in fine gold.
The people have no wheat, but have rice which they eat with milk and flesh. They also have wine from trees such as I told you of. And I will tell you another great marvel. They have a kind of trees that produce flour, and excellent flour it is for food. These trees are very tall and thick, but have a very thin bark, and inside the bark they are crammed with flour. And I tell you that Messer Marco Polo, who witnessed all this, related how he and his party did sundry times partake of this flour made into bread, and found it excellent.
There is now no more to relate. For out of those eight kingdoms we have told you about six that lie at this side of the island. I shall tell you nothing about the other two kingdoms that are at the other side of the island, for the said Messer Marco Polo never was there. However we have told you about the greater part of this island of the lesser Java: so now we will quit it.....
Chapter XII: Concerning The Island Of Nicobar
When you leave the island of Java the less and the kingdom of Lambri, you sail north about one hundred and fifty miles, and then you come to two Islands, one of which is called Nicobar. In this island they have no king nor chief, but live like beasts. And I tell you they go all naked, both men and women, and do not use the slightest covering of any kind. They are idolaters. Their woods are all of noble and valuable kinds of trees; such as Red Sanders and indian nut and cloves and brazil and sundry other good spices.
There is nothing else worth relating; so we will go on, and I will tell you of an island called Andaman.
Chapter XIII: Concerning The Island Of Andaman
Andaman is a very large island. The people are without a king and are idolaters, and no better than wild beasts. And I assure you all the men of this island of Andaman have heads like dogs, and teeth and eyes likewise; in fact, in the face they are all just like big mastiff dogs! They have a quantity of spices; but they are a most cruel generation, and eat everybody that they can catch, if not of their own race. They live on flesh and rice and milk, and have fruits different from any of ours.
Now that I have told you about this race of people, as indeed it was highly proper to do in this our book, I will go on to tell you about an island called Ceylon, as you shall hear.
Chapter XIV: Concerning The Island Of Ceylon
When you leave the Island of Andaman and sail about a thousand miles in a direction a little south of west, you come to the island of Ceylon, which is in good sooth the best Island of its size in the world. You must know that it has a compass of two thousand four hundred miles, but in old times it was greater still, for it then had a circuit of about three thousand and six hundred miles, as you find in the charts of the mariners of those seas. But the north wind there blows with such strength that it has caused the sea to submerge a large part of the island; and that is the reason why it is not so big now as it used to be. For you must know that, on the side where the north wind strikes, the island is very low and flat, insomuch that in approaching on board ship from the high seas you do not see the land till you are right upon it. Now I will tell you all about this island.
They have a king there whom they call Sendemain, and are tributary to nobody. The people are idolaters, and go quite naked except that they cover the middle. They have no wheat, but have rice, and sesamun of which they make their oil. They live on flesh and milk, and have tree wine such as I have told you of. And they have brazil wood, much the best in the world.
Now I will quit these particulars, and tell you of the most precious article that exists in the world. You must know that rubies are found in this island and in no other country in the world but this. They find there also sapphires and topazes and amethysts, and many other stones of price. And the king of this island possesses a ruby which is the finest and biggest in the world; I will tell you what it is like. It is about a palm in length, and as thick as a man's arm; to look at, it is the most resplendent object upon earth; it is quite free from flaw and as red as fire. Its value is so great that a price for it in money could hardly be named at all. You must know that the great Khan sent an embassy and begged the king as a favor greatly desired by him to sell him this ruby, offering to give for it the ransom of a city, or in fact what the king would. But the king replied that on no account whatever would he sell it, for it had come to him from his ancestors.
The people of Ceylon are no soldiers, but poor cowardly creatures. And when they have need of soldiers they get Saracen troops from foreign parts.
Chapter XX: Concerning The Province of Lar Whence The Brahmans Come
Lar is a province lying towards the west when you quit the place where the body of St. Thomas lies; and all the Brahmans in the world come from that province.
You must know that these Brahmans are the best merchants in the world, and the most truthful, for they would not tell a lie for anything on earth. If a foreign merchant who does not know the ways of the country applies to them and entrusts his goods to them, they will take charge of these, and sell them in the most loyal manner, seeking zealously the profit of the foreigner and asking no commission except what he pleases to bestow. They eat no flesh, and drink no wine, and live a life of great chastity, having intercourse with no women except with their wives; nor would they on any account take what belongs to another; so their law commands. And they are all distinguished by wearing a thread of cotton over one shoulder and tied under the other arm, so that it crosses the breast and the back.
They have a rich and powerful king who is eager to purchase precious stones and large pearls; and he sends these Brahman merchants into the kingdom of Maabar called Sola, which is the best and noblest province of India, and where the best pearls are found, to fetch him as many of these as they can get, and he pays them double the cost price for all. So in this way he has a vast treasure of such valuables.
These Brahmans are idolaters; and they pay greater heed to signs and omens than any people that exists. I will mention as an example one of their customs. To every day of the week they assign an augury of this sort. Suppose that there is some purchase in hand, he who proposes to buy, when he gets up in the morning takes note of his own shadow in the sun, which he says ought to be on that day of such and such a length; and if his shadow be of the proper length for the day he completes his purchase; if not, he will on no account do so, but waits till his shadow corresponds with that prescribed. For there is a length established for the shadow for every individual day of the week; and the merchant will complete no business unless he finds his shadow of the length set down for that particular day. Also to each day in the week they assign one unlucky hour, which they term Choiach. For example, on Monday the hour of half tierce, on Tuesday that of tierce, on Wednesday nones, and so on.
Again, if one of them is in the house, and is meditating a purchase, should he see a tarantula such as are very common in that country on the wall, provided it advances from a quarter that he deems lucky, he will complete his purchase at once; but if it comes from a quarter that he considers unlucky he will not do so on any inducement. Moreover, if in going out, he hears any one sneeze, if it seems to him a good omen he will go on, but if the reverse he will sit down on the spot where he is, as long as he thinks that he ought to tarry before going on again. Or, if in traveling along the road he sees a swallow fly by, should its direction be lucky he will proceed, but if not he will turn back again; in fact they are worse in these whims than so many Patarins!
These Brahmans are very long-lived owing to their extreme abstinence in eating. And they never allow themselves to be let blood in any part of the body. They have capital teeth, which is owing to a certain herb they chew, which greatly improves their appearance, and is also very good for the health.
There is another class of people called Yogi, who are indeed properly Brahmans, but they form a religious order devoted to the idols. They are extremely long-lived, every man of them living to one hundred and fifty or two hundred years. They eat very little, but what they do eat is good; rice and milk chiefly. And these people make use of a very strange beverage; for they make a potion of sulphur and quicksilver mixed together and this they drink twice every month. This, they say, gives them long life; and it is a potion they are used to take from their childhood.
There are certain members of this order who lead the most ascetic life in the world, going stark naked; and these worship the ox. Most of them have a small ox of brass or pewter or gold which they wear tied over the forehead. Moreover they take cow dung and burn it, and make a powder thereof; and make an ointment of it, and daub themselves withal, doing this with as great devotion as Christians do show in using holy water. Also if they meet any one who treats them well, they daub a little of this powder on the middle of his forehead.
They eat not from bowls or trenchers, but put their victuals on leaves of the apple of paradise and other big leaves; these, however, they use dry, never green. For they say the green leaves have a soul in them, and so it would be a sin. And they would rather die than do what they deem their law pronounces to be sin. If any one asks how it comes that they are not ashamed to go stark naked as they do, they say, "We go naked because naked we came into the world, and we desire to have nothing about us that is of this world. Moreover, we have no sin of the flesh to be conscious of, and therefore we are not ashamed of our nakedness, any more than you are to show your hand or your face. You who are conscious of the sins of the flesh do well to have shame, and to cover your nakedness."
They would not kill an animal on any account, not even a fly, or a flea, or a louse, or anything in fact that has life; for they say these have all souls, and it would be sin to do so. They eat no vegetables in a green state, only such as are dry. And they sleep on the ground stark naked, without a scrap of clothing on them or under them, so that it is a marvel they don't all die, in place of living so long as I have told you. They fast every day in the year, and drink nought but water. And when a novice has to be received among them they keep him awhile in their convent, and make him follow their rule of life. And then, when they desire to put him to the test, they send for some of those girls who are devoted to the idols, and make them try the continence of the novice with their blandishments. If he remains indifferent they retain him, but if he shows any emotion they expel him from their society. For they say they will have no man of loose desires among them.
They are such cruel and perfidious idolaters that it is very devilry! They say that they burn the bodies of the dead, because if they were not burnt worms would be bred which would eat the body; and when no more food remained for them these worms would die, and the soul belonging to that body would bear the sin and the punishment of their death. And that is why they burn their dead!
Now I have told you about a great part of the people of the great province of Maabar and their customs; but I have still other things to tell of this same province of Maabar, so I will speak of a city thereof which is called Kayal.
Chapter XXI: Concerning The City Of Kayal
Kayal is a great and noble city, and belongs to Ashar, the eldest of the five brother kings. It is at this city that all the ships touch that come from the west, as from Ormuz and from Kish and from Aden, and all Arabia, laden with horses and with other things for sale. And this brings a great concourse of people from the country round about, and so there is great business done in this city of Kayal.
The king possesses vast treasures, and wears upon his person great store of rich jewels. He maintains great state and administers his kingdom with great equity, and extends great favor to merchants and foreigners, so that they are very glad to visit his city.
This king has some three hundred wives; for in those parts the man who has most wives is most thought of.
As I told you before, there are in this great province of Maabar five crowned kings, who are all own brothers born of one father and of one mother, and this king is one of them. Their mother is still living. And when they disagree and go forth to war against one another, their mother throws herself between them to prevent their fighting. And should they persist in desiring to fight, she will take a knife and threaten that if they will do so she will cut off the paps that suckled them and rip open the womb that bore them, and so perish before their eyes. In this way has she full many a time brought them to desist. But when she dies it will most assuredly happen that they will fall out and destroy one another.
All the people of this city, as well as of the rest of India, have a custom of perpetually keeping in the mouth a certain leaf called Tembul, to gratify a certain habit and desire they have, continually chewing it and spitting out the saliva that it excites. The lords and gentlefolks and the king have these leaves prepared with camphor and other aromatic spices, and also mixed with quicklime. And this practice was said to be very good for the health. If any one desires to offer a gross insult to another, when he meets him he spits this leaf or its juice in his face. The other immediately runs before the king, relates the insult that has been offered him, and demands leave to fight the offender. The king supplies the arms, which are sword and target, and all the people flock to see, and there the two fight till one of them is killed. They must not use the point of the sword, for this the king forbids.
Chapter XXV: Concerning The Kingdom Of Malabar
Malabar is a great kingdom lying towards the west. The people are idolaters; they have a language of their own, and a king of their own, and pay tribute to nobody.
In this country you see more of the North Star, for it shows two cubits above the water. And you must know that from this kingdom of Malabar, and from another near it called Guzerat, there go forth every year more than a hundred corsair vessels on cruise. These pirates take with them their wives and children, and stay out the whole summer. Their method is to join in fleets of twenty or thirty of these pirate vessels together, and then they form what they call a sea cordon, that is, they drop off till there is an interval of five or six miles between ship and ship, so that they cover something like a hundred miles of sea, and no merchant ship can escape them. For when any one corsair sights a vessel a signal is made by fire or smoke, and then the whole of them make for this, and seize the merchants and plunder them. After they have plundered them they let them go, saying: "Go along with you and get more gain, and that mayhap will fall to us also!" But now the merchants are aware of this, and go so well manned and armed, and with such great ships, that they don't fear the corsairs. Still mishaps do befall them at times.
There is in this kingdom a great quantity of pepper, and ginger, and cinnamon, and turbit, and of nuts of India. They also manufacture very delicate and beautiful buckrams. The ships that come from the east bring copper in ballast. They also bring hither cloths of silk and gold, and taffetas; also gold and silver, cloves and spikenard, and other fine spices for which there is a demand here, and exchange them for the products of these countries.
Ships come hither from many quarters, but especially from the great province of Manzi. Coarse spices are exported hence both to Manzi and to the west, and that which is carried by the merchants to Aden goes on to Alexandria, but the ships that go in the latter direction are not one to ten of those that go to the eastward; a very notable fact that I have mentioned before.
Now I have told you about the kingdom of Malabar; we shall now proceed and tell you of the kingdom of Guzerat. And you must understand that in speaking of these kingdoms we note only the capitals; there are great numbers of other cities and towns of which we shall say nothing, because it would make too long a story to speak of all.
Chapter XXVI: Concerning The Kingdom Of Guzerat
Guzerat is a great kingdom. The people are idolaters and have a peculiar language, and a king of their own, and are tributary to no one. It lies towards the west, and the North Star is here still more conspicuous, showing itself at an altitude of about six cubits.
The people are the most desperate pirates in existence, and one of their atrocious practices is this. When they have taken a merchant vessel they force the merchants to swallow a stuff called tamarind mixed in sea water, which produces a violent purging. This is done in case the merchants, on seeing their danger, should have swallowed their most valuable stones and pearls. And in this way the pirates secure the whole. In this province of Guzerat there grows much pepper, and ginger, and indigo. They have also a great deal of cotton. Their cotton trees are of very great size, growing full six paces high, and attaining to an age of twenty years. It is to be observed however that, when the trees are so old as that, the cotton is not good to spin, but only to quilt or stuff beds with. Up to the age of twelve years indeed the trees give good spinning cotton, but from that age to twenty years the produce is inferior.
They dress in this country great numbers of skins of various kinds, goat skins, ox skins, buffalo and wild ox skins, as well as those of unicorns and other animals. In fact so many are dressed every year as to load a number of ships for Arabia and other quarters. They also work here beautiful mats in red and blue leather, exquisitely inlaid with figures of birds and beasts, and skilfully embroidered with gold and silver wire. These are marvelously beautiful things; they are used by the Saracens to sleep upon, and capital they are for that purpose. They also work cushions embroidered with gold, so fine that they are worth six marks of silver apiece, while some of those sleeping mats are worth ten marks.
Chapter XXVII: Concerning The Kingdom Of Tana
Tana is a great kingdom lying towards the west, a kingdom great both in size and worth. The people are idolaters, with a language of their own, and a king of their own, and tributary to nobody. No pepper grows there nor other spices, but plenty of incense; not the white kind, but brown.
There is much traffic here, and many ships and merchants frequent the place; for there is a great export of leather of various excellent kinds, and also of good buckram and cotton. The merchants in their ships also import various articles, such as gold, silver, copper, and other things in demand.
With the king's connivance many corsairs launch from this port to plunder merchants. These corsairs have a covenant with the king that he shall get all the horses they capture, and all other plunder shall remain with them. The king does this because he has no horses of his own, while many are shipped from abroad towards India; for no ship ever goes thither without horses in addition to other cargo. The practice is naughty and unworthy of a king.
Chapter XXVIII: Concerning The Kingdom Of Cambay
Cambay is a great kingdom lying further west. The people are idolaters, and have a language of their own, and a king of their own, and are tributary to nobody.
The North Star is here still more clearly visible; and henceforward the further you go west the higher you see it.
There is a great deal of trade in this country. It produces indigo in great abundance; and they also make much fine buckram. There is also a quantity of cotton which is exported hence to many quarters; and there is a great trade in hides, which are very well dressed; with many other kinds of merchandise too tedious to mention. Merchants come here with many ships and cargoes, but what they chiefly bring is gold, silver, copper and tutty.
There are no pirates from this country; the inhabitants are good people, and live by their trade and manufactures.
Chapter XXIX: Concerning The Kingdom Of Somnath
Somnath is a great kingdom towards the west. The people are idolaters, and have a king and a language of their own, and pay tribute to nobody. They are not corsairs, but live by trade and industry as honest people ought. It is a place of very great trade. They are forsooth cruel idolaters.
Chapter XXX: Concerning The Kingdom Of Kijmekran
Kijmekran is a kingdom having a king of its own and a peculiar language. Some of the people are idolaters, but the most part are Saracens. They live by merchandise and industry, for they are professed traders, and carry on much traffic by sea and land in all directions. Their food is rice and wheat, flesh and milk, of which they have great store. There is no more to be said about them.
And you must know that this kingdom of Kijmekran is the last in India as you go towards the west and northwest. You see, from Maabar on, this province is what is called the Greater India, and it is the best of all the Indies. I have now detailed to you all the kingdoms and provinces and chief cities of this India the greater, that are upon the seaboard; but of those that lie in the interior I have said nothing, because that would make too long a story.
Chapter XX: Concerning King Kaunchi Who Rules The Far North
You must know that in the far north there is a king called Kaunchi. He is a Tartar, and all his people are Tartars, and they keep up the regular Tartar religion. A very brutish one it is, but they keep it up just the same as Jengis Khan and the proper Tartars did, so I will tell you something of it.
You must know then that they make them a god of felt, and call him Natigai; and they also make him a wife; and then they say that these two divinities are the gods of the earth who protect their cattle and their corn and all their earthly goods. They pray to these figures, and when they are eating a good dinner they rub the mouths of their gods with the meat, and do many other stupid things.
The king is subject to no one, although he is of the imperial lineage of Jengis Khan, and a near kinsman of the great Khan. This king has neither city nor castle; he and his people live always either in the wide plains or among great mountains and valleys. They subsist on the milk and flesh of their cattle, and have no grain. The king has a vast number of people, but he carries on no war with anybody, and his people live in great tranquillity. They have enormous numbers of cattle, camels, horses, oxen, sheep, and so forth.
You find in their country immense bears entirely white, and more than twenty palms in length. There are also large black foxes, wild asses, and abundance of sables; those creatures I mean from the skins of which they make those precious robes that cost a thousand bezants each. There are also vairs in abundance; and vast multitudes of the Pharaoh's rat, on which the people live all the summer time. Indeed they have plenty of all sorts of wild creatures, for the country they inhabit is very wild and trackless.
And you must know that this king possesses one tract of country which is quite impassable for horses, for it abounds greatly in lakes and springs, and hence there is so much ice as well as mud and mire, that horses cannot travel over it. This difficult country is thirteen days in extent, and at the end of every day's journey there is a post for the lodgment of the couriers who have to cross this tract. At each of these post houses they keep some forty dogs of great size, in fact, not much smaller than donkeys, and these dogs draw the couriers over the day's journey from post house to post house, and I will tell you how. You see the ice and mire are so prevalent, that over this tract, which lies for those thirteen days' journey in a great valley between two mountains, no horses, as I told you, can travel, nor can any wheeled carriages either. Wherefore they make sledges, which are carriages without wheels, and made so that they can run over the ice, and also over mire and mud without sinking too deep in it. Of these sledges indeed there are many in our own country, for 'tis just such that are used in winter for carrying hay and straw when there have been heavy rains and the country is deep in mire. On such a sledge then they lay a bearskin on which the courier sits, and the sledge is drawn by six of those big dogs that I spoke of. The dogs have no driver, but go straight for the next post house, drawing the sledge famously over ice and mire. The keeper of the post house however also gets on a sledge drawn by dogs, and guides the party by the best and shortest way. And when they arrive at the next station they find a new relay of dogs and sledges ready to take them on, while the old relay turns back; and thus they accomplish the whole journey across that region, always drawn by dogs.
The people who dwell in the valleys and mountains adjoining that tract of thirteen days' journey are great huntsmen, and catch great numbers of precious little beasts which are sources of great profit to them. Such are the sable, the ermine, the vair, the ercolin, the black fox, and many other creatures from the skins of which the most costly furs are prepared. They use traps to take them, from which they can't escape. But in that region the cold is so great that all the dwellings of the people are underground, and underground they always live.
There is no more to say on this subject, so I shall proceed to tell you of a region in that quarter, in which there is perpetual darkness.
Chapter XXI: Concerning The Land Of Darkness
Still further north, and a long way beyond that kingdom of which I have spoken, there is a region which bears the name of Darkness, because neither sun nor moon nor stars appear, but it is always as dark as with us in the twilight. The people have no king of their own, nor are they subject to any foreigner, and live like beasts. They are dull of understanding, like half witted persons.
The Tartars however sometimes visit the country, and they do it in this way. They enter the region riding mares that have foals, and these foals they leave behind. After taking all the plunder that they can get they find their way back by help of the mares, which are all eager to get back to their foals, and find the way much better than their riders could do.
Those people have vast quantities of valuable peltry; thus they have those costly sables of which I spoke, and they have the ermine, the ercolin, the vair, the black fox, and many other valuable furs. They are all hunters by trade, and amass amazing quantities of those furs. And the people who are on their borders, where the light is, purchase all those furs from them; for the people of the land of darkness carry the furs to the light country for sale, and the merchants who purchase these make great gain thereby, I assure you.
The people of this region are tall and shapely, but very pale and colorless. One end of the country borders upon great Russia. And as there is no more to be said about it, I will now proceed, and first I will tell you about the province of Russia.
Chapter XXII: Description Of Russia And Its People. Province Of Lac.
Russia is a very great province, lying towards the north. The people are Christians, and follow the Greek doctrine. There are several kings in the country, and they have a language of their own. They are a people of simple manners, but both men and women very handsome, being all very white and tall, with long, fair hair. There are many strong defiles and passes in the country; and they pay tribute to nobody except to a certain Tartar king of the Ponent, whose name is Toktai; to him indeed they pay tribute, but only a trifle. It is not a land of trade, though to be sure they have many fine and valuable furs, such as sables, in abundance, and ermine, vair, ercolin, and fox skins, the largest and finest in the world, and also much wax. They also possess many silver mines, from which they derive a large amount of silver.
There is nothing else worth mentioning; so let us leave Russia, and I will tell you about the Great Sea, and what provinces and nations lie round about it, all in detail; and we will begin with Constantinople. - First, however, I should tell you of a province that lies between north and northwest. You see in that region that I have been speaking of, there is a province called Lac, which is conterminous with Russia, and has a king of its own. The people are partly Christians and partly Saracens. They have abundance of furs of good quality, which merchants export to many countries. They live by trade and handicrafts.
There is nothing more worth mentioning, so I will speak of other subjects; but there is one thing more to tell you about Russia that I had forgotten. You see in Russia there is the greatest cold that is to be found anywhere, so great as to be scarcely bearable. The country is so great that it reaches even to the shores of the ocean sea, and 'tis in that sea that there are certain islands in which are produced numbers of gerfalcons and peregrine falcons, which are carried in many directions. From Russia also to Oroech it is not very far, and the journey could be soon made, were it not for the tremendous cold; but this renders its accomplishment almost impossible.
Now then let us speak of the Great Sea, as I was about to do. To be sure many merchants and others have been there, but still there are many again who know nothing about it, so it will be well to include it in our book. We will do so then, and let us begin first with the Strait of Constantinople.
Chapter XXIII: He Begins To Speak Of The Straits Of Constantinople, But Decides To Leave That Matter
At the straits leading into the Great Sea, on the west side, there is a hill called the Faro. - But since beginning on this matter I have changed my mind, because so many people know all about it, so we will not put it in our description, but go on to something else. And so I will tell you about the Tartars of the Ponent, and the lords who have reigned over them.
Chapter XXIV: Concerning The Tartars Of The Ponent And Their Lords
The first lord of the Tartars of the Ponent was Sain, a very great and puissant king, who conquered Russia and Comania, Alania, Lac, Menjar, Zic, Gothia, and Gazaria; all these provinces were conquered by king Sain. Before his conquest these all belonged to the Comanians, but they did not hold well together nor were they united, and thus they lost their territories and were dispersed over divers countries; and those who remained all became the servants of king Sain.
After king Sain reigned king Batu, and after Batu Barka, and after Barka Mangu Timur, and after Mangu Timur king Tudai Mangu, and then Toktai, the present sovereign.
Now I have told you of the Tartar kings of the Ponent, and next I shall tell you of a great battle that was fought between Hulagu, the lord of the Levant, and Barka, the lord of the Ponent.
So now we will relate out of what occasion that battle arose, and how it was fought.
Chapter XXV: Of That War That Arose Between Hulagu And Barka, And The Battles That They Fought
It was in the year 1261 of Christ's incarnation that there arose a great discord between king Hulagu, the lord of the Tartars of the Levant, and Barka, the king of the Tartars of the Ponent; the occasion whereof was a province that lay on the confines of both, which both claimed and each was too proud to yield it to the other.
They mutually defied each other, each declaring that he would go and take it, and he would see who dared hinder him. When things had come to this point, each summoned his followers to his banner, and they exerted themselves to such a degree that within six months each had assembled full three hundred thousand horsemen, very well furnished with all things appertaining to war according to their usage.
And when his preparations were complete, Hulagu, the lord of the Levant, set forth with all his people. They marched for many days without any adventure to speak of, and at last they reached a great plain which extends between the Iron Gates and the Sea of Saral. In this plain he pitched his camp in beautiful order; and I can assure you there was many a rich tent and pavilion therein, so that it looked indeed like a camp of the wealthy. Hulagu said he would tarry there to see if Barka and his people would come; so there they tarried, abiding the enemy's arrival. This place where the camp was pitched was on the frontier of the two kings. Now let us speak of Barka and his people.
Chapter XXVI: How Barka And His Army Advanced To Meet Hulagu
Now when king Barka had made all his preparations, and knew that Hulagu was on his march, he also set out on his way, and in due time reached the same plain where his enemies awaited him, and encamped at about ten miles' distance from him. Barka's camp was quite as richly decked out as that of Hulagu, and his army was more numerous, for it numbered full three hundred and fifty thousand horsemen. The two armies rested two days, during which Barka called his people together, and addressed them as follows: - "Fair sirs," said he, "you know certainly that since I came into possession of the land I have loved you like brothers and sons, and many of you have been in many great battles with me, and you have assisted me to conquer a great part of the lands we hold. You know that I share everything I have with you, and you ought in return to do your best to support my honor, which hitherto you have done. You know what a great and powerful man Hulagu is, and how in this quarrel he is in the wrong, and we are in the right, and each of you ought to feel assured that we shall conquer him in battle, especially as our number exceeds his; for we know for certain that he has only three hundred thousand horsemen, while we have three hundred and fifty thousand as good men as his and better. For all these reasons, then, you must see clearly that we shall gain the day, but since we have come so great a distance only to fight this battle, it is my will that we give battle three days hence, and we will proceed so prudently and in such good order that we cannot fail of success, and I pray you all to show yourselves on this occasion men of courage, so that all the world shall talk of your deeds. I say no more than that I expect every one of you to be well prepared for the day appointed."
Chapter XXVII: How Hulagu Addressed His Followers
When Hulagu knew certainly that Barka was come with so great an army, he also assembled his chiefs, and addressed them as follows: - "Fair brothers, and sons, and friends," said he, "you know that all my life I have prized you and assisted you, and hitherto you have assisted me to conquer in many battles, nor ever were you in any battle where we failed to obtain the victory, and for that reason are we come here to fight this great man Barka; and I know well that he has more men than we have, but they are not so good, and I doubt not but we shall put them all to flight and discomfiture. We know by our spy that they intend to give us battle three days hence, of which I am very glad, and I pray you all to be ready on that day, and to demean yourselves as you used to do. One thing only I wish to impress upon you, that it is better to die on the field in maintaining our honor, than to suffer discomfiture; so let each of you fight so that our honor may be safe, and our enemies discomfited and slain."
Thus each of the kings encouraged his men, and waited for the day of the battle, and all prepared for it in the best way they could.
Chapter XXVIII: Of The Great Battle Between Hulagu And Barka
When the day fixed for the battle arrived, Hulagu rose early in the morning, and called his men to arms, and marshaled his army with the utmost skill. He divided it into thirty squadrons, each squadron consisting of ten thousand horsemen; and to each he gave a good leader and a good captain. And when all this was duly arranged, he ordered his troops to advance, which they did at a slow pace, until they came half way between the two camps, where they halted and waited for the enemy. On the other side, king Barka had drawn up his army, which was arranged in thirty-five squadrons, exactly in the same manner as that of Hulagu's, and he also ordered his men to advance, which they did within half a mile of the others. There they made a short halt, and then they moved forward again till they came to the distance of about two arbalest shots of each other. It was a fair plain, and wonderfully extensive, as it ought to be, when so many thousands of men were marshaled in hostile array, under the two most powerful warriors in the world, who moreover were near kinsmen, for they were both of the imperial lineage of Jengis Khan. After the two armies had remained a short while in face of each other, the naccars at length sounded, upon which both armies let fly such a shower of arrows at each other that you could hardly see the sky, and many were slain, man and horse. When all their arrows were exhausted, they engaged with swords and maces, and then the battle was so fierce that the noise was louder than the thunder of heaven, and the ground was covered with corpses and reddened with blood. Both the kings distinguished themselves by their valor, and their men were not backward in imitating their example. The battle continued in this manner till dusk, when Barka began to give way, and fled, and Hulagu's men pursued furiously, cutting down and slaying without mercy. After they had pursued a short distance, Hulagu recalled them, and they returned to their tents, laid aside their arms, and dressed their wounds; and they were so weary with fighting, that they gladly sought repose. Next morning Hulagu ordered the bodies of the dead to be buried, enemies as well as friends, and the loss was so great on both sides that it would be impossible to describe it. After this was done, Hulagu returned to his country with all his men who had survived the battle.
Chapter XXIX: How Tuda Mangu Was Lord Of The Tartars Of The Ponent
You must know there was a prince of the Tartars of the Ponent called Mangu Timur, and from him the sovereignty passed to a young gentleman called Tulabugha. The Tudai Mangu, who was a man of great influence, with the help of another Tartar king called Noghai, slew Tulabugha and got possession of the sovereignty. He reigned not long however, and at his death Toktai, an able and valiant man, was chosen sovereign in the place of Tudai Mangu. But in the meantime two sons of that Tulabugha who was slain were grown up, and were likely youths, able and prudent.
So these two brothers, the sons of Tudai Mangu, got together a goodly company and proceeded to the court of Toktai. When they had gotten there they conducted themselves with great discretion, keeping on their knees till Toktai bade them welcome, and to stand up. Then the eldest addressed the sovereign thus: "Good my lord Toktai, I will tell you to the best of my ability why we be come hither. We are the sons of Tudai Mangu, whom Tulabugha and Noghai slew, as thou well knowest. Of Tulabugha we will say no more, since he is dead, but we demand justice against Noghai as the slayer of our father; and we pray thee as sovereign lord to summon him before thee and to do us justice. For this cause are we come!"
When Toktai had heard the youth, he knew that what he said was true, and he replied, "Fair friend, I will willingly yield to your demand of justice upon Noghai, and for that purpose we will summon him to court, and do everything which justice shall require." Then Toktai sent two messengers to Noghai, and ordered him to come to court to answer to the sons of Tulabugha for the death of their father; but Noghai laughed at the message, and told the messengers he would not go. When Toktai heard Noghai's message, he was greatly enraged, and said in the hearing of all who were about him, "With the aid of God, either Noghai shall come before me to do justice to the sons of Tulabugha, or I will go against him with all my men and destroy him."
Chapter XXX: Of The Second Message That Toktai Sent To Noghai, And His Reply
He then sent two other messengers, who rode in all haste to the court of Noghai, and on their arrival they presented themselves before him and saluted him very courteously, and Noghai told them they were welcome. Then one of the messengers said: "Fair sir, Toktai sends you word that if you do not come to his court to render justice to the sons of Tulabugha, he will come against you with all his host, and do you all the hurt he can both to your property and person; therefore resolve what course you will pursue, and return him an answer by us." When Noghai heard Toktai's message, he was very angry, and replied to the messenger as follows: "Sir messenger," said he, "now return to your lord and tell him from me, that I have small fear of his hostility; and tell him further, that if he should come against me, I will wait for him at the entrance of my territory, for I will meet him half way. This is the message you shall carry back to your lord." The messenger hastened back, and when Toktai received this answer, he immediately sent his messengers to all parts which were under his rule, and summoned his people to be ready to go with him against king Noghai, and he had soon collected a great army. When Noghai knew certainly that Toktai was preparing to come against him with so large a host, he also made great preparation, but not so great as Toktai, because, though a great and powerful king, he was not so great or powerful as the other.
Chapter XXXI: How Toktai Marched Against Noghai
When Toktai's army was ready, he commenced his march at the head of two hundred thousand horsemen, and in due time reached the fine and extensive plain of Nerghi, where he encamped to wait for his opponent. With him were the two sons of Tulabugha, who had come with a fair company of horsemen to avenge the death of their father. Noghai also was on his march, with a hundred and fifty thousand horsemen, all young and brave men, and much better soldiers than those of Toktai. He arrived in the plain where Toktai was encamped two days after him, and established his camp at a distance of ten miles from him.
Chapter XXXII: How Toktai And Noghai Addressed Their People, And The Next Day Join Battle
The king Toktai assembled his chiefs, and said to them: "Sirs, we are come here to fight king Noghai and his men, and we have great reason to do so, for you know that all this hatred and rancor has arisen from Noghai's refusal to do justice to the sons of Tulabugha; and since our cause is just, we have every reason to hope for victory. Be therefore of good hope; but at all events I know that you are all brave men, and that you will do your best to destroy our enemies." Noghai also addressed his men in the following terms: "Fair brothers and friends," said he, "you know that we have gained many great and hard fought battles, and that we have overcome better men than these. Therefore be of good cheer. We have right on our side; for you know well that Toktai was not my superior to summon me to his court to do justice to others. I will only further urge you to demean yourselves so in this battle that we shall be talked of everywhere, and that ourselves and our heirs will be the most respected for it."
Chapter XXXIII: The Valiant Feats And Victory Of King Noghai
Next day they prepared for battle. Toktai drew up his army in twenty squadrons, each with a good leader and captain; and Noghai's army was formed in fifteen squadrons. After a long and desperate battle, in which the two kings, as well as the two sons of Tulabugha, distinguished themselves by their reckless valor, the army of Toktai was entirely defeated, and pursued from the field with great slaughter by Noghai's men, who, though less numerous, were much better soldiers than their opponents. Full sixty thousand men were slain in this battle, but king Toktai, as well as the two sons of Tulabugha, escaped.
Chapter XXXIV: And Last Conclusion
And now you have heard all that we can tell you about the Tartars and the Saracens and their customs, and likewise about the other countries of the world as far as our researches and information extend. Only we have said nothing whatever about the Greater Sea and the provinces that lie round it, although we know it thoroughly. But it seems to me a needless and useless task to speak about places which are visited by people every day. For there are so many who sail all about that sea constantly, Venetians, and Genoese, and Pisans, and many others, that everybody knows all about it, and that is the reason that I pass it over and say nothing of it.
Of the manner in which we took our departure from the court of the great Khan you have heard at the beginning of the book, in that chapter where we told you of all the vexation and trouble that Messer Maffeo and Messer Nicolo and Messer Marco had about getting the great Khan's leave to go; and in the same chapter is related the lucky chance that led to our departure. And you may be sure that but for that lucky chance, we should never have got away in spite of all our trouble, and never have got back to our country again. But I believe it was God's pleasure that we should get back in order that people might learn about the things that the world contains. For according to what has been said in the introduction at the beginning of the book, there never was a man, be he Christian or Saracen or Tartar or Heathen, who ever traveled over so much of the world as did that noble and illustrious citizen of the city of Venice, Messer Marco the son of Messer Nicolo Polo.
Thanks be to God! Amen! Amen!
1. The City was in Latin control from the 4th Crusade in 1204 until the Byzantine recapture in 1266. With the return of the city to Byzantine control, the Genoese supplanted the Venetians as the main commercial power in Constantinople.
2. A Venetian trading post in the Crimea.
3. Polo often confounds Tartars with Mongols. The Tartars were Turkic-speaking allies of the Mongols who were instrumental in the western conquests of the Mongol Empire.
4. Berke Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan and Khan of the Golden Horde, 1257-166..
5. Both of these towns were major islamic trade centers along the Volga River.
6. Grandson of Genghis Khan and founder of the Il-Khan dynasty in the Middle East, 1251-1265.
7. Bukhara a famed oasis city in Central Asia, now part of Uzbekistan.
8. The great Khan was Kublai Khan, grandson of Genghis and ruler of Mongolia and China. Following his death in 1294 the united mongol Empire broke up into regional khanates.
9. The last Crusader stronghold in the holy Land. It would fall to the Mamluks in 1291.
10. Euboia, a Venetian-held island in the Aegean.
11. Il-Khan, son of Hulagu.
12. The old capital of the Mongol Empire. Kublai khan moved his headquarters to Peking.
13. A legendary Christian King of Asia who supposedly would cooperate with Western Christendom in a campaign against Islam. For centuries, Western Europeans confounded the personalities of Hulagu, Genghis Khan, and the Kings of Georgia and Ethiopia with this phantom ruler. Morco Polo confaounds prester John with with one of Genghis Khan's tribal enemies. There is an element of historical truth in his account in that the father and grandfather of the Wang-Khan (Ung-Khan) of the Kerayit, Togrul, had Christian names Marguz (Marcus) and Qurjaquz (Kyriacus). and that a number of Kerayits were converted to Nestorian Christianity in the 11th Century.
16. Polo is probably describing the ruler of the White Horde or Siberian Tatars, who were not Islamicized until the 1400's.
17. Khan of the Golden Horde or Kipchak tatars, 1290-1312..
18. Perhaps Lechia or thepresent-day Ukraine.
19. Khanate of the Golden Horde.
20. Conqueror of the MiddleEast and founder of the Il Khan Dynasty.
21. Berke Khan, Ruler of the Golden Horde.
22. Khan of the Golden Horde, 1280-1287.
23. rival of golden horde Khan, founder of the western Nogai tatars.