The Travels of Marco Polo, Volume 2
Marco Polo and Rustichello of Pisa
Part 11 out of 23
There must have been some revival of Chinese trade in the last century, if
P. Paolino is correct in speaking of Chinese vessels frequenting
Travancore ports for pepper. (_De Barros_, Dec. II. Liv. ii. cap. 9, and
Dec. IV. Liv. v. cap. 3; _Paolino_, p. 74.)
 It appears from a paper in the Mackenzie MSS. that down to Colonel
Mackenzie's time there was a tribe in Calicut whose ancestors were
believed to have been Chinese. (See _Taylor's Catal. Raisonne_,
III. 664.) And there is a notable passage in Abdurrazzak which says
the seafaring population of Calicut were nicknamed _Chini
bachagan_, "China boys." (_India in XVth Cent._ p. 19.)
CONCERNING THE KINGDOM OF GOZURAT.
Gozurat 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 6 cubits.[NOTE 1]
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 _Tamarindi_ mixed in
sea-water, which produces a violent purging.[NOTE 2] 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 Gozurat 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
20 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
withal. Up to the age of 12 years indeed the trees give good spinning
cotton, but from that age to 20 years the produce is inferior.[NOTE 3]
[Illustration: Mediaeval Architecture in Guzerat. (From Fergusson.)]
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 marvellously 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 a
piece, whilst some of those sleeping-mats are worth ten marks.[NOTE 4]
NOTE 1.--Again we note the topographical confusion. Guzerat is mentioned
as if it were a province adjoining Malabar, and before arriving at Tana,
Cambay, and Somnath; though in fact it includes those three cities, and
Cambay was then its great mart. Wassaf, Polo's contemporary, perhaps
acquaintance, speaks of Gujarat which is commonly called Kambayat.
(_Elliot_, III. 31.)
NOTE 2.--["The origin of the name [_Tamarina_] is curious. It is Ar.
_tamar-u'l-Hind_, 'date of India,' or perhaps rather, in Persian form,
_tamar-i-Hindi_. It is possible that the original name may have been
_thamar_, ('fruit') of India, rather than _tamar_, ('date')."
NOTE 3.--The notice of pepper here is hard to explain. But Hiuen Tsang
also speaks of Indian pepper and incense (see next chapter) as grown at
_'Ochali_ which seems to be some place on the northern border of Guzerat
Marsden, in regard to the cotton, supposes here some confused introduction
of the silk-cotton tree (_Bombax_ or _Salmalia_, the Semal of Hindustan),
but the description would be entirely inapplicable to that great forest
tree. It is remarkable that nearly the same statement with regard to
Guzerat occurs in Rashiduddin's sketch of India, as translated in Sir H.
Elliot's _History of India_ (_ed. by Professor Dowson_, I. 67): "Grapes
are produced twice during the year, and the strength of the soil is such
that cotton-plants grow like willows and plane-trees, and yield produce
ten years running." An author of later date, from whom extracts are given
in the same work, viz., Mahommed Masum in his _History of Sind_,
describing the wonders of Siwi, says: "In Korzamin and Chhatur, which are
districts of Siwi, cotton-plants grow as large as trees, insomuch that men
pick the cotton mounted" (p. 237).
These would appear to have been plants of the species of true cotton
called by Royle _Gossipium arboreum_ and sometimes termed _G. religiosum_,
from its being often grown in South India near temples or abodes of
devotees; though the latter name has been applied also to the nankeen
cotton. That of which we speak is, however, according to Dr. Cleghorn,
termed in Mysore _Deo kapas_, of which _G. religiosum_ would be a proper
translation. It is grown in various parts of India, but generally rather
for ornament than use. It is stated, however, to be specially used for the
manufacture of turbans, and for the Brahmanical thread, and probably
afforded the groundwork of the story told by Philostratus of the _wild_
cotton which was used only for the sacred vestments of the Brahmans, and
refused to lend itself to other uses. One of Royle's authorities (Mr.
Vaupell) mentions that it was grown near large towns of Eastern Guzerat,
and its wool regarded as the finest of any, and only used in delicate
muslins. Tod speaks of it in Bikanir, and this kind of cotton appears to
be grown also in China, as we gather from a passage in _Amyot's Memoires_
(II. 606), which speaks of the "Cotonniers arbres, qui ne devoient etre
fertiles qu'apres un bon nombre d'annees."
The height appears to have been a difficulty with Marsden, who refers to
the _G. arboreum_, but does not admit that it could be intended. Yet I see
in the _English Cyclopaedia_ that to this species is assigned a height of
15 to 20 feet. Polo's six paces therefore, even if it means 30 feet as I
think, is not a great exaggeration. (_Royle, Cult. of Cotton_, 144, 145,
152; _Eng. Cycl._ art. _Gossypium_.)
NOTE 4.--Embroidered and Inlaid leather-work for bed-covers, palankin mats
and the like, is still a great manufacture in Rajkot and other places of
Kattiawar in Peninsular Guzerat, as well as in the adjoining region of
Sind. (Note from _Sir Bartle Frere_.) The _embroidery_ of Guzerat is
highly commended by Barbosa, Linschoten, and A. Hamilton.
The G.T. adds at the end of this passage: "E qe voz en diroi? Sachies
tout voiremant qe en ceste reingne se labore _roiaus dereusse_ de cuir et
plus sotilment que ne fait en tout lo monde, e celz qe sunt de greingnors
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.[NOTE 1] No pepper grows
there, nor other spices, but plenty of incense; not the white kind
however, but brown.[NOTE 2]
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
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, whilst 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
NOTE 1.--The town of THANA, on the landward side of the island of
Salsette, still exists, about 20 miles from Bombay. The Great Peninsular
Railroad here crosses the strait which separates Salsette from the
The _Konkan_ is no doubt what was intended by the kingdom of _Thana_.
Albiruni speaks of that city as the capital of Konkan; Rashiduddin calls
it _Konkan-Tana_, Ibn Batuta _Kukin-Tana_, the last a form which appears
in the Carta Catalana as _Cucintana_. Tieffentaller writes _Kokan_, and
this is said (_Cunningham's Anc. Geog._ 553) to be the local
pronunciation. Abulfeda speaks of it as a very celebrated place of trade,
producing a kind of cloth which was called _Tanasi_, bamboos, and
_Tabashir_ derived from the ashes of the bamboo.
As early as the 16th year of the Hijra (A.D. 637) an Arab fleet from Oman
made a hostile descent on the Island of Thana, i.e. Salsette. The place
(_Sri Sthanaka_) appears from inscriptions to have been the seat of a
Hindu kingdom of the Konkan, in the 11th century. In Polo's time Thana
seems to have been still under a Hindu prince, but it soon afterwards
became subject to the Delhi sovereigns; and when visited by Jordanus and
by Odoric some thirty years after Polo's voyage, a Mussulman governor was
ruling there, who put to death four Franciscans, the companions of
Jordanus. Barbosa gives it the compound name of TANA-MAIAMBU, the latter
part being the first indication I know of the name of Bombay (_Mambai_).
It was still a place of many mosques, temples, and gardens, but the trade
was small. Pirates still did business from the port, but on a reduced
scale. Botero says that there were the remains of an immense city to be
seen, and that the town still contained 5000 velvet-weavers (p. 104). Till
the Mahrattas took Salsette in 1737, the Portuguese had many fine villas
Polo's dislocation of geographical order here has misled Fra Mauro into
placing Tana to the west of Guzerat, though he has a duplicate Tana nearer
the correct position.
NOTE 2.--It has often been erroneously supposed that the frankincense
(_olibanum_) of commerce, for which Bombay and the ports which preceded it
in Western India have for centuries afforded the chief mart, was an Indian
product. But Marco is not making that mistake; he calls the incense of
Western India _brown_, evidently in contrast with the _white_ incense or
olibanum, which he afterwards assigns to its true locality (infra. ch.
xxxvii., xxxviii.). Nor is Marsden justified in assuming that the brown
incense of Tana must needs have been _Benzoin_ imported from Sumatra,
though I observe Dr. Birdwood considers that the term _Indian
Frankincense_ which occurs in Dioscorides must have _included_ Benzoin.
Dioscorides describes the so-called Indian Frankincense as _blackish_; and
Garcia supposes the name merely to refer to the colour, as he says the
Arabs often gave the name of Indian to things of a dark colour.
There seems to be no proof that Benzoin was known even to the older Arab
writers. Western India supplies a variety of aromatic gum-resins, one of
which was probably intended by our traveller:
I. BOSWELLIA THURIFERA of Colebrooke, whose description led to a general
belief that this tree produced the Frankincense of commerce. The tree is
found in Oudh and Rohilkhand, in Bahar, Central India, Khandesh, and
Kattiawar, etc. The gum-resin is used and sold locally as an incense, but
is soft and sticky, and is _not_ the olibanum of commerce; nor is it
collected for exportation.
The Coromandel _Boswellia glabra_ of Roxburgh is now included (see Dr.
Birdwood's Monograph) as a variety under the _B. thurifera_. Its gum-resin
is a good deal used as incense, in the Tamul regions, under the name of
_Kundrikam_, with which is apparently connected _Kundur_, one of the
Arabic words for _olibanum_ (see ch. xxxviii., note 2).
II. _Vateria Indica_ (Roxb.), producing a gum-resin which when recent is
known as _Piney Varnish_, and when hardened, is sold for export under the
names of _Indian Copal_, _White Dammar_, and others. Its northern limit of
growth is North but the gum is exported from Bombay. The tree is the
_Chloroxylon Dupada_ of Buchanan, and is, I imagine, the _Dupu_ or Incense
Tree of Rheede. (_Hort. Malab._ IV.) The tree is a fine one, and forms
beautiful avenues in Malabar and Canara. The Hindus use the resin as an
incense, and in Malabar it is also made into candles which burn fragrantly
and with little smoke. It is, or was, also used as pitch, and is probably
the _thus_ with which Indian vessels, according to Joseph of Cranganore
(in _Novus Orbis_), were payed. Garcia took it for the ancient _Cancamum_,
but this Dr. Birdwood identifies with the next, viz.:--
III. _Gardenia lucida_ (Roxb.). It grows in the Konkan districts,
producing a fragrant resin called _Dikamali_ in India, and by the Arabs
IV. _Balsamodendron Mukul_, growing in Sind, Kattiawar and the Deesa
District, and producing the Indian _Bdellium, Mukl_ of the Arabs and
Persians, used as an incense and as a cordial medicine. It is believed to
be the [Greek: Bdella] mentioned in the _Periplus_ as exported from the
Indus, and also as brought down with _Costus_ through _Ozene_ (Ujjain) to
_Barygaza_ (Baroch--see Mueller's _Geog. Graec. Minor._ I. 287, 293). It is
mentioned also (_Mukl_) by Albiruni as a special product of Kachh, and is
probably the incense of that region alluded to by Hiuen Tsang. (See last
chapter, note 3.) It is of a yellow, red, or brownish colour. (_Eng. Cyc._
art. _Bdellium_; _Dowson's Elliot_, I. 66; _Reinaud_ in _J. As._ ser. IV.
tom. iv. p. 263).
V. _Canarium strictum_ (Roxb.), of the Western Ghats, affording the _Black
Dammar_ of Malabar, which when fresh is aromatic and yellow in colour. It
abounds in the country adjoining Tana. The natives use it as incense, and
call the tree _Dhup_ (incense) and _Gugul_ (Bdellum).
Besides these resinous substances, the _Costus_ of the Ancients may be
mentioned (Sansk. _Kushth_), being still exported from Western India, as
well as from Calcutta, to China, under the name of _Putchok_, to be burnt
as incense in Chinese temples. Its identity has been ascertained in our
own day by Drs. Royle and Falconer, as the root of a plant which they
called _Aucklandia Costus_. But the identity of the _Pucho_ (which he
gives as the Malay name) with Costus was known to Garcia. Alex. Hamilton,
at the beginning of last century, calls it _Ligna Dulcis (sic)_, and
speaks of it as an export from Sind, as did the author of the _Periplus_
1600 years earlier.
My own impression is that _Mukl_ or _Bdellium_ was the brown incense of
Polo, especially because we see from Albiruni that this was regarded as a
staple export from neighbouring regions. But Dr. Birdwood considers that
the Black Dammar of _Canarium strictum_ is in question. (_Report on Indian
Gum-Resins_, by _Mr. Dalzell_ of Bot. Gard. Bombay, 1866; _Birdwood's
Bombay Products_, 2nd ed. pp. 282, 287, etc.; _Drury's Useful Plants of
India_, 2nd ed.; _Garcia; A. Hamilton_, I. 127; _Eng. Cyc._, art.
_Putchuk; Buchanan's Journey_, II. 44, 335, etc.)
CONCERNING THE KINGDOM OF CAMBAET.
Cambaet 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.[NOTE 1]
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 merchandize too tedious to mention. Merchants come here with many ships
and cargoes, but what they chiefly bring is gold, silver, copper [and
There are no pirates from this country; the inhabitants are good people,
and live by their trade and manufactures.
NOTE 1.--CAMBAET is nearer the genuine name of the city than our CAMBAY.
Its proper Hindu name was, according to Colonel Tod, _Khambavati_, "the
City of the Pillar." The inhabitants write it _Kambayat_. The ancient city
is 3 miles from the existing Cambay, and is now overgrown with jungle. It
is spoken of as a flourishing place by Mas'udi, who visited it in A.D.
915. Ibn Batuta speaks of it also as a very fine city, remarkable for the
elegance and solidity of its mosques, and houses built by wealthy foreign
merchants. _Cambeth_ is mentioned by Polo's contemporary Marino Sanudo, as
one of the two chief Ocean Ports of India; and in the 15th century Conti
calls it 14 miles in circuit. It was still in high prosperity in the early
part of the 16th century, abounding in commerce and luxury, and one of the
greatest Indian marts. Its trade continued considerable in the time of
Federici, towards the end of that century; but it has now long
disappeared, the local part of it being transferred to Gogo and other
ports having deeper water. Its chief or sole industry now is in the
preparation of ornamental objects from agates, cornelians, and the like.
The Indigo of Cambay was long a staple export, and is mentioned by Conti,
Nikitin, Santo Stefano, Federici, Linschoten, and Abu'l Fazl.
The independence of Cambay ceased a few years after Polo's visit; for it
was taken in the end of the century by the armies of Alauddin Khilji of
Delhi, a king whose name survived in Guzerat down to our own day as
_Alauddin Khuni_--Bloody Alauddin. (_Ras Mala_, I. 235.)
CONCERNING THE KINGDOM OF SEMENAT.
Semenat 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.
[Illustration: 'The Gates of Somnath,' preserved in the British Arsenal at
Agra, from a photograph (converted into elevation)]
NOTE 1.--SOMNATH is the site of the celebrated Temple on the coast of
Saurashtra, or Peninsular Guzerat, plundered by Mahmud of Ghazni on his
sixteenth expedition to India (A.D. 1023). The term "great kingdom" is
part of Polo's formula. But the place was at this time of some importance
as a commercial port, and much visited by the ships of Aden, as Abulfeda
tells us. At an earlier date Albiruni speaks of it both as the seat of a
great Mahadeo much frequented by Hindu pilgrims, and as a port of call for
vessels on their way from Sofala in Africa to China,--a remarkable
incidental notice of departed trade and civilisation! He does not give
Somnath so good a character as Polo does; for he names it as one of the
chief pirate-haunts. And Colonel Tod mentions that the sculptured memorial
stones on this coast frequently exhibit the deceased as a pirate in the
act of boarding. In fact, piratical habits continued in the islands off
the coast of Kattiawar down to our own day.
Properly speaking, three separate things are lumped together as Somnath:
(1) The Port, properly called Verawal, on a beautiful little bay; (2) the
City of Deva-Pattan, Somnath-Pattan, or Prabhas, occupying a prominence on
the south side of the bay, having a massive wall and towers, and many
traces of ancient Hindu workmanship, though the vast multitude of tombs
around shows the existence of a large Mussulman population at some time;
and among these are dates nearly as old as our Traveller's visit; (3) The
famous Temple (or, strictly speaking, the object of worship in that
Temple) crowning a projecting rock at the south-west angle of the city,
and close to the walls. Portions of columns and sculptured fragments strew
the soil around.
Notwithstanding the famous story of Mahmud and the image stuffed with
jewels, there is little doubt that the idol really termed Somnath (Moon's
Lord) was nothing but a huge columnar emblem of Mahadeo. Hindu authorities
mention it as one of the twelve most famous emblems of that kind over
India, and Ibn Asir's account, the oldest extant narrative of Mahmud's
expedition, is to the same effect. Every day it was washed with water
newly brought from the Ganges. Mahmud broke it to pieces, and with a
fragment a step was made at the entrance of the Jami' Mosque at Ghazni.
The temples and idols of Pattan underwent a second visitation at the hands
of Alauddin's forces a few years after Polo's visit (1300), and this
seems in great measure to have wiped out the memory of Mahmud. The temple,
as it now stands deserted, bears evident tokens of having been converted
into a mosque. A good deal of old and remarkable architecture remains, but
mixed with Moslem work, and no part of the building as it stands is
believed to be a survival from the time of Mahmud; though part may belong
to a reconstruction which was carried out by Raja Bhima Deva of Anhilwara
about twenty-five years after Mahmud's invasion. It is remarkable that Ibn
Asir speaks of the temple plundered by Mahmud as "built upon 56 pillars of
teak-wood covered with lead." Is it possible that it was a wooden
In connection with this brief chapter on Somnath we present a faithful
representation of those Gates which Lord Ellenborough rendered so
celebrated in connection with that name, when he caused them to be removed
from the Tomb of Mahmud, on the retirement of our troops from Kabul in
1842. His intention, as announced in that once famous _paean_ of his, was
to have them carried solemnly to Guzerat, and there restored to the (long
desecrated) temple. Calmer reflection prevailed, and the Gates were
consigned to the Fort of Agra, where they still remain.
Captain J.D. Cunningham, in his _Hist. of the Sikhs_ (p. 209), says that
in 1831, when Shah Shuja treated with Ranjit Singh for aid to recover his
throne, one of the Maharaja's conditions was the restoration of the Gates
to Somnath. This probably put the scheme into Lord Ellenborough's head.
But a remarkable fact is, that the Shah reminded Ranjit of _a prophecy
that foreboded the downfall of the Sikh Empire on the removal of the
Ghazni Gates_. This is quoted from a report of Captain Wade's, dated 21st
November, 1831. The gates were removed to India in the end of 1842. The
"Sikh Empire" practically collapsed with the murder of Sher Singh in
It is not probable that there was any _real_ connection between these
Gates, of Saracenic design, carved (it is said) in Himalayan cedar, and
the Temple of Somnath. But tradition did ascribe to them such a
connection, and the eccentric prank of a clever man in high place made
this widely known. Nor in any case can we regard as alien to the scope of
this book the illustration of a work of mediaeval Asiatic art, which is
quite as remarkable for its own character and indisputable history, as for
the questionable origin ascribed to it. (_Tod's Travels_, 385, 504;
_Burgess, Visit to Somnath_, etc.; _Jacob's Report on Kattywar_, p. 18;
_Gildemeister_, 185; _Dowson's Elliot_, II. 468 seqq.; _Asiatic
Journal_, 3rd series, vol. I.).
 So in _Elliot_, II. 74. But Jacob says there is an inscription of
a Mussulman Governor in Pattan of 1297.
CONCERNING THE KINGDOM OF KESMACORAN.
Kesmacoran 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 merchandize and industry, for they are professed traders, and
carry on much traffic by sea and land in all directions. Their food is
rice [and corn], flesh and milk, of which they have great store. There is
no more to be said about them.[NOTE 1]
And you must know that this kingdom of Kesmacoran is the last in India as
you go towards the west and north-west. 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.[NOTE 2]
And so now let us proceed, and I will tell you of some of the Indian
Islands. And I will begin by two Islands which are called Male and Female.
NOTE 1.--Though M. Pauthier has imagined objections there is no room for
doubt that _Kesmacoran_ is the province of Mekran, known habitually all
over the East as Kij-Makran, from the combination with the name of the
country of that of its chief town, just as we lately met with a converse
combination in _Konkan-tana_. This was pointed out to Marsden by his
illustrious friend Major Rennell. We find the term _Kij Makran_ used by
Ibn Batuta (III. 47); by the Turkish Admiral Sidi 'Ali (_J. As._, ser. I.
tom. ix. 72; and _J.A.S.B._ V. 463); by Sharifuddin (_P. de la Croix_,
I. 379, II. 417-418); in the famous Sindian Romeo-and-Juliet tale of Sassi
and Pannun (_Elliot_, I. 333); by Pietro della Valle (I. 724, II. 358); by
Sir F. Goldsmid (_J.R.A.S._, N.S., I. 38); and see for other examples,
_J.A.S.B._ VII. 298, 305, 308; VIII. 764; XIV. 158; XVII. pt. ii. 559:
XX. 262, 263.
The argument that Mekran was not a province of India only amounts to
saying that Polo has made a mistake. But the fact is that it often _was_
reckoned to belong to India, from ancient down to comparatively modern
times. Pliny says: "Many indeed do not reckon the Indus to be the western
boundary of India, but include in that term also four satrapies on this
side the river, the Gedrosi, the Arachoti, the Arii, and the Parapomisadae
(i.e. Mekran, Kandahar, Herat, and Kabul) .... whilst others class all
these together under the name of Ariana" (VI. 23). Arachosia, according to
Isidore of Charax, was termed by the Parthians "White India." Aelian calls
Gedrosia a part of India. (_Hist. Animal._ XVII. 6.) In the 6th century
the Nestorian Patriarch Jesujabus, as we have seen (supra, ch. xxii.
note 1), considered all to be India from the coast of Persia, i.e. of
Fars, beginning from near the Gulf. According to Ibn Khordadbeh, the
boundary between Persia and India was seven days' sail from Hormuz and
eight from Daibul, or less than half-way from the mouth of the Gulf to the
Indus. (_J. As._ ser. VI. tom. v. 283.) Beladhori speaks of the Arabs in
early expeditions as invading Indian territory about the Lake of Sijistan;
and Istakhri represents this latter country as bounded on the north and
_partly on the west_ by portions of India. Kabul was still reckoned in
India. Chach, the last Hindu king of Sind but one, is related to have
marched through Mekran to a river which formed the limit between Mekran
and Kerman. On its banks he planted date-trees, and set up a monument
which bore: _"This was the boundary of_ Hind in the time of Chach, the son
of Sflaij, the son of Basabas." In the Geography of Bakui we find it
stated that "Hind is a great country which begins at the province of
Mekran." (_N. and E._ II. 54.) In the map of Marino Sanuto India begins
from Hormuz; and it is plain from what Polo says in quitting that city
that he considered the next step from it south-eastward would have taken
him to India (supra, I. p. 110).
["The name Mekran has been commonly, but erroneously, derived from Mahi
Khoran, i.e. the fish-eaters, or _ichthyophagi_, which was the title
given to the inhabitants of the Beluchi coast-fringe by Arrian. But the
word is a Dravidian name, and appears as Makara in the _Brhat Sanhita_ of
Varaha Mihira in a list of the tribes contiguous to India on the west. It
is also the [Greek: Makaraenae] of Stephen of Byzantium, and the Makuran
of Tabari, and Moses of Chorene. Even were it not a Dravidian name, in no
old Aryan dialect could it signify fish-eaters." (_Curzon, Persia_, II. p.
"It is to be noted that Kesmacoran is a combination of Kech or Kej and
Makran, and the term is even to-day occasionally used." (_Major P.M.
Sykes, Persia_, p. 102.)--H.C.]
We may add a Romance definition of India from _King Alisaunder_:--
"Lordynges, also I fynde,
_At Mede so bigynneth Ynde_:
Forsothe ich woot, it stretcheth ferest
Of alle the Londes in the Est,
And oth the South half sikerlyk,
To the cee taketh of Affryk;
And the north half to a Mountayne,
That is ycleped Caucasayne."--L 4824-4831.
It is probable that Polo merely coasted Mekran; he seems to know nothing
of the Indus, and what he says of Mekran is vague.
NOTE 2.--As Marco now winds up his detail of the Indian coast, it is
proper to try to throw some light on his partial derangement of its
geography. In the following columns the first shows the _real_
geographical order from east to west of the Indian provinces as named by
Polo, and the second shows the order as _he_ puts them. The Italic names
are brief and general identifications.
_Real order_. _Polo's order_.
1. Mutfili (_Telingana_) 1. Mutfili
MAABAR, / 2. St. Thomas's (_Madras_). 2. St. Thomas's
including | 3. Maabar Proper, Kingdom of (Lar, west of do.).
| Sonder Bandi (_Tanjore_) 3. Maabar proper, or Soli.
\ 4. Cail (_Tinnevelly_). 4. Cail.
5. Comari (_C. Comorin_). 5. Coilum.
MELIBAR, / 6. Coilum (_Travancore_). 6. Comari.
including \ 7. Eli (_Cananore_). 7. Eli.
GUZERAT, / 8. Tana (_Bombay_). 8. (MELIBAR).
or LAR, | 9. Canbaet (_Cambay_). 9. (GOZURAT).
including | 10. Semenat (_Somnath_). 10. Tana.
\ 11. Kesmacoran (_Mekran_). 11. Canbaet.
It is difficult to suppose that the fleet carrying the bride of Arghun
went out of its way to Maabar, St. Thomas's, and Telingana. And on the
other hand, what is said in chapter xxiii. on Comari, about the North Star
not having been visible since they approached the Lesser Java, would have
been grossly inaccurate if in the interval the travellers had been north
as far as Madras and Motupalle. That passage suggests to me strongly that
Comari was the first Indian land made by the fleet on arriving from the
Archipelago (exclusive _perhaps_ of Ceylon). Note then that the position
of Eli is marked by its distance of 300 miles from Comari, evidently
indicating that this was a run made by the traveller _on some occasion_
without an intermediate stoppage. Tana, Cambay, Somnath, would follow
naturally as points of call.
In Polo's order, again, the positions of Comari and Coilum are transposed,
whilst Melibar is introduced as if it were a country _westward_ (as Polo
views it, northward we should say) of Coilum and Eli, instead of
including them, and Gozurat is introduced as a country lying _eastward_
(or southward, as we should say) of Tana, Cambaet, and Semenat, instead of
including them, or at least the two latter. Moreover, he names no cities
in connection with those two countries.
The following hypothesis, really not a complex one, is the most probable
that I can suggest to account for these confusions.
I conceive, then, that Cape Comorin (Comari) was the first Indian land
made by the fleet on the homeward voyage, and that Hili, Tana, Cambay,
Somnath, were touched at successively as it proceeded towards Persia.
I conceive that in a former voyage to India on the Great Kaan's business
Marco had visited Maabar and Kaulam, and gained partly from actual visits
and partly from information the substance of the notices he gives us of
Telingana and St Thomas's on the one side and of Malabar and Guzerat on
the other, and that in combining into one series the results of the
information acquired on two different voyages he failed rightly to
co-ordinate the material, and thus those dislocations which we have noticed
occurred, as they very easily might, in days when maps had practically no
existence; to say nothing of the accidents of dictation.
The expression in this passage for "the cities that lie in the interior,"
is in the G.T. "_celz qe sunt_ en fra terres"; see I. 43. Pauthier's text
has "_celles qui sont_ en ferme terre," which is nonsense here.
 Abulfeda's orientation is the same as Polo's.
DISCOURSETH OF THE TWO ISLANDS CALLED MALE AND FEMALE, AND WHY THEY ARE SO
When you leave this kingdom of Kesmacoran, which is on the mainland, you
go by sea some 500 miles towards the south; and then you find the two
Islands, MALE and FEMALE, lying about 30 miles distant from one another.
The people are all baptized Christians, but maintain the ordinances of the
Old Testament; thus when their wives are with child they never go near
them till their confinement, or for forty days thereafter.
In the Island however which is called Male, dwell the men alone, without
their wives or any other women. Every year when the month of March arrives
the men all set out for the other Island, and tarry there for three
months, to wit, March, April, May, dwelling with their wives for that
space. At the end of those three months they return to their own Island,
and pursue their husbandry and trade for the other nine months.
They find on this Island very fine ambergris. They live on flesh and milk
and rice. They are capital fishermen, and catch a great quantity of fine
large sea-fish, and these they dry, so that all the year they have plenty
of food, and also enough to sell to the traders who go thither. They have
no chief except a bishop, who is subject to the archbishop of another
Island, of which we shall presently speak, called SCOTRA. They have also a
As for the children which their wives bear to them, if they be girls they
abide with their mothers; but if they be boys the mothers bring them up
till they are fourteen, and then send them to the fathers. Such is the
custom of these two Islands. The wives do nothing but nurse their children
and gather such fruits as their Island produces; for their husbands do
furnish them with all necessaries.[NOTE 1]
NOTE 1.--It is not perhaps of much use to seek a serious identification of
the locality of these Islands, or, as Marsden has done, to rationalise the
fable. It ran from time immemorial, and as nobody ever found the Islands,
their locality shifted with the horizon, though the legend long hung about
Socotra and its vicinity. Coronelli's Atlas (Venice, 1696) identifies
these islands with those called Abdul Kuri near Cape Gardafui, and the
same notion finds favour with Marsden. No islands indeed exist in the
position indicated by Polo if we look to his direction "south of
Kesmacoran," but if we take his indication of "half-way between Mekran and
Socotra," the Kuria Muria Islands on the Arabian coast, in which M.
Pauthier longs to trace these veritable Male and Female Isles, will be
nearer than any others. Marco's statement that they had a bishop subject
to the metropolitan of Socotra certainly looks as if certain concrete
islands had been associated with the tale. Friar Jordanus (p. 44) also
places them between India the Greater and India Tertia (i.e. with him
Eastern Africa). Conti locates them not more than 5 miles from Socotra,
and yet 100 mile distant from one another. "Sometimes the men pass over to
the women, and sometimes the women pass over to the men, and each return
to their own respective island before the expiration of six months. Those
who remain on the island of the others beyond this fatal period die
immediately" (p. 21). Fra Mauro places the islands to the south of
Zanzibar, and gives them the names of _Mangla_ and _Nebila_. One is
curious to know whence came these names, one of which seems to be
Sanskrit, the other (also in Sanudo's map) Arabic; (_Nabilah_, Ar.,
"Beautiful"; _Mangala_, Sansk. "Fortunate").
A savour of the story survived to the time of the Portuguese discoveries,
and it had by that time attached itself to Socotra. (_De Barros_, Dec. II.
Liv. i. cap. 3; _Bartoli, H. della Comp. di Gesu_, Asia, I. p. 37; _P.
Vincenzo_, p. 443.)
The story was, I imagine, a mere ramification of the ancient and
wide-spread fable of the Amazons, and is substantially the same that
Palladius tells of the Brahmans; how the men lived on one side of the
Ganges and the women on the other. The husbands visited their wives for 40
days only in June, July, and August, "those being their cold months, as the
sun was then to the north." And when a wife had once borne a child the
husband returned no more. (_Mueller's Ps. Callisth._ 105.) The Mahabharata
celebrates the Amazon country of Rana Paramita, where the regulations were
much as in Polo's islands, only male children were put to death, and men if
they overstayed a month. (_Wheelers India_, I. 400.)
Hiuen Tsang's version of the legend agrees with Marco's in placing the
Woman's Island to the south of Persia. It was called the _Kingdom of
Western Women_. There were none but women to be seen. It was under _Folin_
(the Byzantine Empire), and the ruler thereof sent husbands every year; if
boys were born, the law prohibited their being brought up. (_Vie et
Voyages_, p. 268.) Alexander, in Ferdusi's poem, visits the City of Women
on an island in the sea, where no man was allowed.
The Chinese accounts, dating from the 5th century, of a remote Eastern
Land called Fusang, which Neumann fancied to have been Mexico, mention
that to the east of that region again there was a Woman's Island, with the
usual particulars. (_Lassen_, IV. 751.) [Cf. _G. Schlegel, Niu Kouo,
T'oung Pao_, III. pp. 495-510.--H.C.] Oddly enough, Columbus heard the
same story of an island called Matityna or Matinino (apparently
Martinique) which he sighted on his second voyage. The Indians on board
"asserted that it had no inhabitants but women, who at a certain time of
the year were visited by the Cannibals (Caribs); if the children born were
boys they were brought up and sent to their fathers, if girls they were
retained by the mothers. They reported also that these women had certain
subterranean caverns in which they took refuge if any one went thither
except at the established season," etc. (_P. Martyr_ in _Ramusio_, III. 3
v. and see 85.) Similar Amazons are placed by Adam of Bremen on the Baltic
Shores, a story there supposed to have originated in a confusion between
Gwenland, i.e. Finland, and a land of _Cwens_ or Women.
Mendoza heard of the like in the vicinity of Japan (perhaps the real
Fusang story), though he opines judiciously that "this is very doubtful
to be beleeved, although I have bin certified by religious men that have
talked with persons that within these two yeares have beene at the saide
ilands, and have seene the saide women." (_H. of China_, II. 301.) Lane
quotes a like tale about a horde of Cossacks whose wives were said to live
apart on certain islands in the Dnieper. (_Arab. Nights_, 1859, III. 479.)
The same story is related by a missionary in the _Lettres Edifiantes_ of
certain unknown islands supposed to lie south of the Marian group.
Pauthier, from whom I derive this last instance, draws the conclusion: "On
voit que le recit de Marc Pol est loin d'etre imaginaire." Mine from the
premises would be different!
Sometimes the fable took another form; in which the women are entirely
isolated, as in that which Mela quotes from Hanno (III. 9). So with the
Isle of Women which Kazwini and Bakui place to the South of China. They
became enceinte by the Wind, or by eating a particular fruit [or by
plunging into the sea; cf. _Schlegel_, l.c.--H.C.], or, as in a Chinese
tradition related by Magaillans, by looking at their own faces in a well!
The like fable is localised by the Malays in the island of Engano off
Sumatra, and was related to Pigafetta of an island under Great Java called
Ocoloro, perhaps the same.
(_Magail._ 76; _Gildem._ 196; _N. et Ex._ II. 398; _Pigafetta_, 173;
_Marsden's Sumatra_, 1st ed. p. 264.)
CONCERNING THE ISLAND OF SCOTRA.
When you leave those two Islands and go about 500 miles further towards
the south, then you come to an Island called SCOTRA. The people are all
baptized Christians; and they have an Archbishop. They have a great deal
of ambergris; and plenty also of cotton stuffs and other merchandize;
especially great quantities of salt fish of a large and excellent kind.
They also eat flesh and milk and rice, for that is their only kind of
corn; and they all go naked like the other Indians.
[The ambergris comes from the stomach of the whale, and as it is a great
object of trade, the people contrive to take the whales with barbed iron
darts, which, once they are fixed in the body, cannot come out again. A
long cord is attached to this end, to that a small buoy which floats on
the surface, so that when the whale dies they know where to find it. They
then draw the body ashore and extract the ambergris from the stomach and
the oil from the head.[NOTE 1]]
There is a great deal of trade there, for many ships come from all
quarters with goods to sell to the natives. The merchants also purchase
gold there, by which they make a great profit; and all the vessels bound
for Aden touch at this Island.
Their Archbishop has nothing to do with the Pope of Rome, but is subject
to the great Archbishop who lives at Baudas. He rules over the Bishop of
that Island, and over many other Bishops in those regions of the world,
just as our Pope does in these.[NOTE 2]
A multitude of corsairs frequent the Island; they come there and encamp
and put up their plunder to sale; and this they do to good profit, for the
Christians of the Island purchase it, knowing well that it is Saracen or
Pagan gear.[NOTE 3]
And you must know that in this Island there are the best enchanters in the
world. It is true that their Archbishop forbids the practice to the best
of his ability; but 'tis all to no purpose, for they insist that their
forefathers followed it, and so must they also. I will give you a sample
of their enchantments. Thus, if a ship be sailing past with a fair wind
and a strong, they will raise a contrary wind and compel her to turn back.
In fact they make the wind blow as they list, and produce great tempests
and disasters; and other such sorceries they perform, which it will be
better to say nothing about in our Book.[NOTE 4]
NOTE 1.--Mr. Blyth appears to consider that the only whale met with
nowadays in the Indian Sea _north of the line_ is a great Rorqual or
_Balaenoptera_, to which he gives the specific name of _Indica_. (See
_J.A.S.B._ XXVIII. 481.) The text, however (from Ramusio), clearly points
to the Spermaceti whale; and Maury's Whale-Chart consists with this.
"The best ambergris," says Mas'udi, "is found on the islands and coasts of
the Sea of Zinj (Eastern Africa); it is round, of a pale blue, and
sometimes as big as an ostrich egg.... These are morsels which have been
swallowed by the fish called _Awal_. When the sea is much agitated it
casts up fragments of amber almost like lumps of rock, and the fish
swallowing these is choked thereby, and floats on the surface. The men of
Zinj, or wherever it be, then come in their canoes, and fall on the
creature with harpoons and cables, draw it ashore, cut it up, and extract
the ambergris" (I. 134).
Kazwini speaks of whales as often imprisoned by the ebb tide in the
channels about Basra. The people harpooned them, and got much oil _out of
the brain_, which they used for lamps, and smearing their ships. This also
is clearly the sperm whale. (_Ethe_, p. 268.)
After having been long doubted, scientific opinion seems to have come back
to the opinion that ambergris is an excretion from the whale. "Ambergris
is a morbid secretion in the intestines of the cachalot, deriving its
origin either from the stomach or biliary ducts, and allied in its nature
to gall-stones, ... whilst the masses found floating on the sea are those
that have been voided by the whale, or liberated from the dead animal by
the process of putrefaction." (_Bennett, Whaling Voyage Round the Globe_,
1840, II. 326.)
["The _Pen ts'ao_, ch. xliii. fol. 5, mentions ambergris under the name
_lung sien hiang_ (dragon's saliva perfume), and describes it as a
sweet-scented product, which is obtained from the south-western sea. It is
greasy, and at first yellowish white; when dry, it forms pieces of a
yellowish black colour. In spring whole herds of dragons swim in that sea,
and vomit it out. Others say that it is found in the belly of a large fish.
This description also doubtless points to ambergris, which in reality is a
pathological secretion of the intestines of the spermaceti whale (_Physeter
macrocephalus_), a large cetaceous animal. The best ambergris is collected
on the Arabian coast. In the _Ming shi_ (ch. cccxxvi.) _lung sien hiang_ is
mentioned as a product of _Bu-la-wa_ (_Brava_ on the east coast of Africa),
and _an-ba-rh_ (evidently also ambergris) amongst the products of
_Dsu-fa-rh_ (_Dsahfar_, on the south coast of Arabia)." (_Bretschneider,
Med. Res._ I. p. 152, note.)--H.C.]
NOTE 2.--_Scotra_ probably represented the usual pronunciation of the name
SOCOTRA, which has been hypothetically traced to a Sanskrit original,
_Dvipa-Sukhadhara_, "the Island Abode of Bliss," from which (contracted
_Diuskadra_) the Greeks made "the island of _Dioscorides_."
So much painful interest attaches to the history of a people once
Christian, but now degenerated almost to savagery, that some detail maybe
permitted on this subject.
The _Periplus_ calls the island very large, but desolate; ... the
inhabitants were few, and dwelt on the north side. They were of foreign
origin, being a mixture of Arabs, Indians, and Greeks, who had come
thither in search of gain.... The island was under the king of the Incense
Country.... Traders came from _Muza_ (near Mocha) and sometimes from
_Limyrica_ and _Barygaza_ (Malabar and Guzerat), bringing rice, wheat, and
Indian muslins, with female slaves, which had a ready sale. Cosmas (6th
century) says there was in the island a bishop, appointed from Persia. The
inhabitants spoke Greek, having been originally settled there by the
Ptolemies. "There are clergy there also, ordained and sent from Persia to
minister among the people of the island, and a multitude of Christians. We
sailed past the island, but did not land. I met, however, with people from
it who were on their way to Ethiopia, and they spoke Greek."
The ecclesiastical historian Nicephorus Callistus seems to allude to the
people of Socotra, when he says that among the nations visited by the
missionary Theophilus, in the time of Constantius, were "the Assyrians on
the verge of the outer ocean towards the East ... whom Alexander the
Great, after driving them from Syria, sent thither to settle, and to this
day they keep their mother tongue, though all of the blackest, through the
power of the sun's rays." The Arab voyagers of the 9th century say that
the island was colonised with Greeks by Alexander the Great, in order to
promote the culture of the Socotrine aloes; when the other Greeks adopted
Christianity these did likewise, and they had continued to retain their
profession of it. The colonising by Alexander is probably a fable, but
invented to account for facts.
[Edrisi says (_Jaubert's transl._ pp. 47, seqq.) that the chief produce
of Socotra is aloes, and that most of the inhabitants of this island are
Christians; for this reason: when Alexander had subjugated Porus, his
master Aristotle gave him the advice to seek after the island producing
aloes; after his conquest of India, Alexander remembered the advice, and
on his return journey from the Sea of India to the Sea of Oman, he stopped
at Socotra, which he greatly admired for its fertility and the
pleasantness of its climate. Acting on the advice of Aristotle, Alexander
removed the inhabitants from their island, and established in their place
a colony of Ionians, to whom he entrusted the care of cultivating aloes.
These Greeks were converted when the Christian religion was preached to
them, and their descendants have remained Christians.--H.C.]
In the list of the metropolitan Sees of the Nestorian Church we find one
called _Kotrobah_, which is supposed to stand for Socotra. According to
Edrisi, Kotrobah was an island inhabited by Christians; he speaks of
Socotra separately, but no island suits his description of Kotrobah but
Socotra itself; and I suspect that we have here geography in duplicate, no
uncommon circumstance. There is an epistle extant from the Nestorian
Patriarch Jesujabus (A.D. 650-660), _ad Episcopos Catarensium_, which
Assemani interprets of the Christians in Socotra and the adjacent coasts
of Arabia (III. 133). Abulfeda says the people of Socotra were
Nestorian Christians and pirates. Nicolo Conti, in the first half of the
15th century, spent two months on the island (_Sechutera_). He says it was
for the most part inhabited by Nestorian Christians.
[Professor W.R. Smith, in a letter to Sir H. Yule, dated Cambridge, 15th
June, 1886, writes: "The authorities for Kotrobah seem to be (1) Edrisi,
(2) the list of Nestorian Bishops in Assemani. There is no trace of such a
name anywhere else that I can find. But there is a place called Katar
about which most of the Arab Geographers know very little, but which is
mentioned in poetry. Bekri, who seems best informed, says that it lay
between Bahrain and Oman.... Istakhri and Ibn Haukal speak of the Katar
pirates. Their collective name is the Katariya."]
Some indications point rather to a connection of the island's Christianity
with the Jacobite or Abyssinian Church. Thus they practised circumcision,
as mentioned by Maffei in noticing the proceedings of Alboquerque at
Socotra. De Barros calls them Jacobite Christians of the Abyssinian stock.
Barbosa speaks of them as an olive-coloured people, Christian only in
name, having neither baptism nor Christian knowledge, and having for many
years lost all acquaintance with the Gospel. Andrea Corsali calls them
Christian shepherds of Ethiopian race, like Abyssinians. They lived on
dates, milk, and butter; some rice was imported. They had churches like
mosques, but with altars in Christian fashion.
When Francis Xavier visited the island there were still distinct traces of
the Church. The people reverenced the cross, placing it on their altars,
and hanging it round their necks. Every village had its minister, whom
they called _Kashis_ (_Ar._ for a Christian Presbyter), to whom they paid
tithe. No man could read. The Kashis repeated prayers antiphonetically in
a forgotten tongue, which De Barros calls Chaldee, frequently scattering
incense; a word like _Alleluia_ often recurred. For bells they used wooden
rattles. They assembled in their churches four times a day, and held St.
Thomas in great veneration. The Kashises married, but were very
abstemious. They had two Lents, and then fasted strictly from meat, milk,
The last vestiges of Christianity in Socotra, so far as we know, are those
traced by P. Vincenzo, the Carmelite, who visited the island after the
middle of the 17th century. The people still retained a profession of
Christianity, but without any knowledge, and with a strange jumble of
rites; sacrificing to the moon; circumcising; abominating wine and pork.
They had churches which they called _Moquame_ (_Ar. Makam_, "Locus,
Statio"?), dark, low, and dirty, daily anointed with butter. On the altar
was a cross and a candle. The cross was regarded with ignorant reverence,
and carried in processions. They assembled in their churches three times
in the day, and three times in the night, and in their worship burned much
incense, etc. The priests were called _Odambo_, elected and consecrated by
the people, and changed every year. Of baptism and other sacraments they
had no knowledge.
There were two races: one, black with crisp hair; the other, less black,
of better aspect, and with straight hair. Each family had a cave in which
they deposited their dead. They cultivated a few palms, and kept flocks;
had no money, no writing, and kept tale of their flocks by bags of stones.
They often committed suicide in age, sickness, or defeat. When rain failed
they selected a victim by lot, and placing him within a circle, addressed
prayers to the moon. If without success they cut off the poor wretch's
hands. They had many who practised sorcery. The women were all called
_Maria_, which the author regarded as a relic of Christianity; this De
Barros also notices a century earlier.
Now, not a trace of former Christianity can be discovered--unless it be in
the name of one of the villages on the coast, _Colesseeah_, which looks as
if it faintly commemorated both the ancient religion and the ancient
language ([Greek: ekklaesia]). The remains of one building, traditionally
a place of worship, were shown to Wellsted; he could find nothing to
connect it with Christianity.
The social state of the people is much as Father Vincenzo described it;
lower it could scarcely be. Mahomedanism is now the universal profession.
The people of the interior are still of distinct race, with curly hair,
Indian complexion, regular features. The coast people are a mongrel body,
of Arab and other descent. Probably in old times the case was similar, and
the civilisation and Greek may have been confined to the littoral
foreigners. (_Mueller's Geog. Gr. Minores_, I. pp. 280-281; _Relations_, I.
139-140; _Cathay_, clxxi., ccxlv. 169; _Conti_, 20; _Maffei_, lib. III.;
_Buesching_, IV. 278; _Faria_, I. 117-118; _Ram._ I. f. 181 v. and 292;
_Jarric, Thes. Rer. Indic._ I. 108-109; _P. Vinc._ 132, 442; _J.R.G.S._
V. 129 seqq.)
NOTE 3.--As far back as the 10th century Socotra was a noted haunt of
pirates. Mas'udi says: "Socotra is one of the stations frequented by the
Indian corsairs called _Bawarij_, which chase the Arab ships bound for
India and China, just as the Greek galleys chase the Mussulmans in the sea
of Rum along the coasts of Syria and Egypt" (III. 37). The _Bawarij_ were
corsairs of Kach'h and Guzerat, so called from using a kind of war-vessel
called _Barja_. (_Elliot_, I. 65.) Ibn Batuta tells a story of a friend of
his, the Shaikh Sa'id, superior of a convent at Mecca, who had been to
India and got large presents at the court of Delhi. With a comrade called
Hajji Washl, who was also carrying a large sum to buy horses, "when they
arrived at the island of Socotra ... they were attacked by Indian corsairs
with a great number of vessels.... The corsairs took everything out of the
ship, and then left it to the crew with its tackle, so that they were able
to reach Aden." Ibn Batuta's remark on this illustrates what Polo has said
of the Malabar pirates, in ch. xxv. supra: "The custom of these pirates
is not to kill or drown anybody when the actual fighting is over. They
take all the property of the passengers, and then let them go whither they
will with their vessel" (I. 362-363).
NOTE 4.--We have seen that P. Vincenzo alludes to the sorceries of the
people; and De Barros also speaks of the _feiticeria_ or witchcraft by
which the women drew ships to the island, and did other marvels (u.s.).
 [Assemani, in his corrections (III. p. 362), gives up _Socotra_
in favour of _Bactria_.]
CONCERNING THE ISLAND OF MADEIGASCAR.
Madeigascar is an Island towards the south, about a thousand miles from
Scotra. The people are all Saracens, adoring Mahommet. They have four
_Esheks_, i.e. four Elders, who are said to govern the whole
Island. And you must know that it is a most noble and beautiful Island,
and one of the greatest in the world, for it is about 4000 miles in
compass. The people live by trade and handicrafts.
In this Island, and in another beyond it called ZANGHIBAR, about which we
shall tell you afterwards, there are more elephants than in any country in
the world. The amount of traffic in elephants' teeth in these two Islands
is something astonishing.
In this Island they eat no flesh but that of camels; and of these they
kill an incredible number daily. They say it is the best and wholesomest
of all flesh; and so they eat of it all the year round.[NOTE 1]
They have in this Island many trees of red sanders, of excellent quality;
in fact, all their forests consist of it.[NOTE 2] They have also a
quantity of ambergris, for whales are abundant in that sea, and they catch
numbers of them; and so are _Oil-heads_, which are a huge kind of
fish, which also produce ambergris like the whale.[NOTE 3] There are
numbers of leopards, bears, and lions in the country, and other wild
beasts in abundance. Many traders, and many ships go thither with cloths
of gold and silk, and many other kinds of goods, and drive a profitable
You must know that this Island lies so far south that ships cannot go
further south or visit other Islands in that direction, except this one,
and that other of which we have to tell you, called Zanghibar. This is
because the sea-current runs so strong towards the south that the ships
which should attempt it never would get back again. Indeed, the ships of
Maabar which visit this Island of Madeigascar, and that other of
Zanghibar, arrive thither with marvellous speed, for great as the distance
is they accomplish it in 20 days, whilst the return voyage takes them more
than 3 months. This (I say) is because of the strong current running
south, which continues with such singular force and in the same direction
at all seasons.[NOTE 4]
'Tis said that in those other Islands to the south, which the ships are
unable to visit because this strong current prevents their return, is
found the bird _Gryphon_, which appears there at certain seasons.
The description given of it is however entirely different from what our
stories and pictures make it. For persons who had been there and had seen
it told Messer Marco Polo that it was for all the world like an eagle, but
one indeed of enormous size; so big in fact that its wings covered an
extent of 30 paces, and its quills were 12 paces long, and thick in
proportion. And it is so strong that it will seize an elephant in its
talons and carry him high into the air, and drop him so that he is smashed
to pieces; having so killed him the bird gryphon swoops down on him and
eats him at leisure. The people of those isles call the bird _Ruc_,
and it has no other name.[NOTE 5] So I wot not if this be the real
gryphon, or if there be another manner of bird as great. But this I can
tell you for certain, that they are not half lion and half bird as our
stories do relate; but enormous as they be they are fashioned just like an
The Great Kaan sent to those parts to enquire about these curious matters,
and the story was told by those who went thither. He also sent to procure
the release of an envoy of his who had been despatched thither, and had
been detained; so both those envoys had many wonderful things to tell the
Great Kaan about those strange islands, and about the birds I have
mentioned. [They brought (as I heard) to the Great Kaan a feather of the
said Ruc, which was stated to measure 90 spans, whilst the quill part was
two palms in circumference, a marvellous object! The Great Kaan was
delighted with it, and gave great presents to those who brought it.
[NOTE 6]] They also brought two boars' tusks, which weighed more than 14
lbs. apiece; and you may gather how big the boar must have been that had
teeth like that! They related indeed that there were some of those boars as
big as a great buffalo. There are also numbers of giraffes and wild asses;
and in fact a marvellous number of wild beasts of strange aspect.[NOTE 7]
NOTE 1.--Marco is, I believe, the first writer European or Asiatic, who
unambiguously speaks of MADAGASCAR; but his information about it was very
incorrect in many particulars. There are no elephants nor camels in the
island, nor any leopards, bears, or lions.
Indeed, I have no doubt that Marco, combining information from different
sources, made some confusion between _Makdashau_ (Magadoxo) and
_Madagascar_, and that particulars belonging to both are mixed up here.
This accounts for Zanghibar being placed entirely _beyond_ Madagascar, for
the entirely Mahomedan character given to the population, for the
hippopotamus-teeth and staple trade in ivory, as well for the lions,
elephants, and other beasts. But above all the camel-killing indicates
Sumali Land and Magadoxo as the real locality of part of the information.
Says Ibn Batuta: "After leaving Zaila we sailed on the sea for 15 days,
and arrived at Makdashau, an extremely large town. The natives keep
camels in great numbers, _and they slaughter several hundreds daily_" (II.
181). The slaughter of camels for food is still a Sumali practice. (See
_J.R.G.S._ VI. 28, and XIX. 55.) Perhaps the _Shaikhs_ (_Esceqe_) also
belong to the same quarter, for the Arab traveller says that the Sultan of
Makdashau had no higher title than _Shaikh_ (183); and Brava, a
neighbouring settlement, was governed by 12 shaikhs. (_De Barros_, I.
viii. 4.) Indeed, this kind of local oligarchy still prevails on that
We may add that both Makdashau and Brava are briefly described in the
Annals of the Ming Dynasty. The former _Mu-ku-tu-su_, lies on the sea, 20
days from _Siao-Kolan_ (Quilon?), a barren mountainous country of wide
extent, where it sometimes does not rain for years. In 1427 a mission
came from this place to China. _Pu-la-wa_ (Brava, properly Barawa) adjoins
the former, and is also on the sea. It produces olibanum, myrrh, and
_ambergris_; and among animals elephants, camels, rhinoceroses, spotted
animals like asses, etc.
It is, however, true that there are traces of a considerable amount of
ancient Arab colonisation on the shores of Madagascar. Arab descent is
ascribed to a class of the people of the province of Matitanana on the
east coast, in lat. 21 deg.-23 deg. south, and the Arabic writing is in use
there. The people of the St. Mary's Isle of our maps off the east coast, in
lat. 17 deg., also call themselves the children of Ibrahim, and the island
_Nusi-Ibrahim_. And on the north-west coast, at Bambeluka Bay, Captain Owen
found a large Arab population, whose forefathers had been settled there
from time immemorial. The number of tombs here and in Magambo Bay showed
that the Arab population had once been much greater. The government of this
settlement, till conquered by Radama, was vested in three persons: one a
Malagash, the second an Arab, the third as guardian of strangers; a fact
also suggestive of Polo's four sheikhs (_Ellis_, I. 131; _Owen_, II. 102,
132. See also _Sonnerat_, II. 56.) Though the Arabs were in the habit of
navigating to Sofala, in about lat. 20 deg. south, in the time of Mas'udi
(beginning of 10th century), and must have then known Madagascar, there is
no intelligible indication of it in any of their geographies that have been
[M. Alfred Grandidier, in his _Hist. de la Geog. de Madagascar_, p. 31,
comes to the conclusion that Marco Polo has given a very exact description
of Magadoxo, but that he did not know the island of Madagascar. He adds in
a note that Yule has shown that the description of Madeigascar refers
partly to Magadoxo, but that notwithstanding he (Yule) believed that Polo
spoke of Madagascar when the Venetian traveller does not. I must say that
I do not see any reason why Yule's theory should not be accepted.
M.G. Ferrand, formerly French Agent at Fort Dauphin, has devoted ch. ix.
(pp. 83-90) of the second part of his valuable work _Les Musulmans a
Madagascar_ (Paris, 1893), to the "Etymology of Madagascar." He believes
that M. Polo really means the great African Island. I mention from his
book that M. Guet (_Origines de l'ile Bourbon_, 1888) brings the
Carthaginians to Madagascar, and derives the name of this island from
_Madax-Aschtoret_ or _Madax-Astarte_, which signifies _Isle of Astarte_
and _Isle of Tanit_! Mr. I. Taylor (_The origin of the name_ 'Madagascar,'
in _Antananarivo Annual_, 1891) gives also some fancy etymologies; it is
needless to mention them. M. Ferrand himself thinks that very likely
Madagascar simply means _Country of the Malagash_ (Malgaches), and is only
a bad transcription of the Arabic _Madagasbar_.--H.C.]
NOTE 2.--There is, or used to be, a trade in sandal-wood from Madagascar.
(See _Owen_, II. 99.) In the map of S. Lorenzo (or Madagascar) in the
_Isole_ of Porcacchi (1576), a map evidently founded on fact, I observe
near the middle of the Island: _quivi sono boschi di sandari rossi_.
NOTE 3.--"The coast of this province" (Ivongo, the N.E. of the Island)
"abounds with whales, and during a certain period of the year Antongil Bay
is a favourite resort for whalers of all nations. The inhabitants of
Titingue are remarkably expert in spearing the whales from their slight
canoes." (_Lloyd_ in _J.R.G.S._ XX. 56.) A description of the
whale-catching process practised by the Islanders of St. Mary's, or Nusi
Ibrahim, is given in the _Quinta Pars Indiae Orientalis_ of _De Bry_, p. 9.
Owen gives a similar account (I. 170).
The word which I have rendered _Oil-heads_ is _Capdoilles_ or _Capdols_,
representing _Capidoglio_, the appropriate name still applied in Italy to
the Spermaceti whale. The _Vocab. Ital. Univ._ quotes Ariosto (VII. 36):--
--"_I_ Capidogli _co' vecchi marini
Vengon turbati dal lor pigro sonno_."
The Spermaceti-whale is described under this name by Rondeletius, but from
his cut it is clear he had not seen the animal.
NOTE 4.--De Barros, after describing the dangers of the Channel of
Mozambique, adds: "And as the Moors of this coast of Zanguebar make their
voyages in ships and sambuks sewn with coir, instead of being nailed like
ours, and thus strong enough to bear the force of the cold seas of the
region about the Cape of Good Hope,.. they never dared to attempt the
exploration of the regions to the westward of the Cape of Currents,
although they greatly desired to do so." (Dec. I. viii. 4; and see also
IV. i. 12.) Kazwini says of the Ocean, quoting Al Biruni: "Then it extends
to the sea known as that of Berbera, and stretches from Aden to the
furthest extremity of Zanjibar; beyond this goes no vessel on account of
the great current. Then it extends to what are called the Mountains of the
Moon, whence spring the sources of the Nile of Egypt, and thence to
Western Sudan, to the Spanish Countries and the (Western) Ocean." There
has been recent controversy between Captain A.D. Taylor and Commodore
Jansen of the Dutch navy, regarding the Mozambique currents, and
(incidentally) Polo's accuracy. The currents in the Mozambique Channel
vary with the monsoons, but from Cape Corrientes southward along the coast
runs the permanent Lagullas current, and Polo's statement requires but
little correction. (_Ethe_ pp. 214-215; see also _Barbosa_ in _Ram._ I.
288; _Owen_, I. 269; _Stanley's Correa_, p. 261; _J.R.G.S._ II. 91;
_Fra Mauro_ in _Zurla_, p. 61; see also _Reinaud's Abulfeda_, vol. i. pp.
15-16; and _Ocean Highways_, August to November, 1873.)
[Illustration: The Rukh (from Lane's "Arabian Nights"), after a Persian
NOTE 5.--The fable of the RUKH was old and widely spread, like that of the
Male and Female Islands, and, just as in that case, one accidental
circumstance or another would give it a local habitation, now here now
there. The _Garuda_ of the Hindus, the _Simurgh_ of the old Persians, the
_'Angka_ of the Arabs, the _Bar Yuchre_ of the Rabbinical legends, the
_Gryps_ of the Greeks, were probably all versions of the same original
Bochart quotes a bitter Arabic proverb which says, "Good-Faith, the Ghul,
and the Gryphon (_'Angka_) are three names of things that exist nowhere."
And Mas'udi, after having said that whatever country he visited he always
found that the people believed these monstrous creatures to exist in
regions as remote as possible from their own, observes: "It is not that our
reason absolutely rejects the possibility of the existence of the _Nesnas_
(see vol. i. p. 206) or of the _'Angka_, and other beings of that rare and
wondrous order; for there is nothing in their existence incompatible with
the Divine Power; but we decline to believe in them because their existence
has not been manifested to us on any irrefragable authority."
[Illustration: Frontispiece showing the Bird _Rukh_.]
The circumstance which for the time localized the Rukh in the direction of
Madagascar was perhaps some rumour of the great fossil _Aepyornis_ and its
colossal eggs, found in that island. According to Geoffroy St. Hilaire,
the Malagashes assert that the bird which laid those great eggs still
exists, that it has an immense power of flight, and preys upon the greater
quadrupeds. Indeed the continued existence of the bird has been alleged as
late as 1861 and 1863!
On the great map of Fra Mauro (1459) near the extreme point of Africa
which he calls _Cavo de Diab_, and which is suggestive of the Cape of Good
Hope, but was really perhaps Cape Corrientes, there is a rubric inscribed
with the following remarkable story: "About the year of Our Lord 1420 a
ship or junk of India in crossing the Indian Sea was driven by way of the
Islands of Men and Women beyond the Cape of Diab, and carried between the
Green Islands and the Darkness in a westerly and south-westerly direction
for 40 days, without seeing anything but sky and sea, during which time
they made to the best of their judgment 2000 miles. The gale then ceasing
they turned back, and were seventy days in getting to the aforesaid Cape
Diab. The ship having touched on the coast to supply its wants, the
mariners beheld there the egg of a certain bird called _Chrocho_, which
egg was as big as a butt. And the bigness of the bird is such that
between the extremities of the wings is said to be 60 paces. They say too
that it carries away an elephant or any other great animal with the
greatest ease, and does great injury to the inhabitants of the country,
and is most rapid in its flight."
G.-St. Hilaire considered the Aepyornis to be of the Ostrich family;
Prince C. Buonaparte classed it with the _Inepti_ or Dodos; Duvernay of
Valenciennes with aquatic birds! There was clearly therefore room for
difference of opinion, and Professor Bianconi of Bologna, who has written
much on the subject, concludes that it was most probably a bird of the
vulture family. This would go far, he urges, to justify Polo's account of
the Ruc as a bird of prey, though the story of it's _lifting_ any large
animal could have had no foundation, as the feet of the vulture kind are
unfit for such efforts. Humboldt describes the habit of the condor of the
Andes as that of worrying, wearying, and frightening its four-footed prey
until it drops; sometimes the condor drives its victim over a precipice.
Bianconi concludes that on the same scale of proportion as the condor's,
the great quills of the Aepyornis would be about 10 feet long, and the
spread of the wings about 32 feet, whilst the height of the bird would be
at least four times that of the condor. These are indeed little more than
conjectures. And I must add that in Professor Owen's opinion there is no
reasonable doubt that the Aepyornis was a bird allied to the Ostriches.
We gave, in the first edition of this work, a drawing of the great
Aepyornis egg in the British Museum of its true size, as the nearest
approach we could make to an illustration of the _Rukh_ from nature. The
actual contents of this egg will be about 2.35 gallons, which may be
compared with Fra Mauro's _anfora_! Except in this matter of size, his
story of the ship and the egg may be true.
A passage from Temple's Travels in Peru has been quoted as exhibiting
exaggeration in the description of the condor surpassing anything that can
be laid to Polo's charge here; but that is, in fact, only somewhat heavy
banter directed against our traveller's own narrative. (See _Travels in
Various Parts of Peru_, 1830, II. 414-417.)
Recently fossil bones have been found in New Zealand, which seem to bring
us a step nearer to the realization of the Rukh. Dr. Haast discovered in a
swamp at Glenmark in the province of Otago, along with remains of the
_Dinornis_ or Moa, some bones (femur, ungual phalanges, and rib) of a
gigantic bird which he pronounces to be a bird of prey, apparently allied
to the Harriers, and calls _Harpagornis_. He supposes it to have preyed
upon the Moa, and as that fowl is calculated to have been 10 feet and
upwards in height, we are not so very far from the elephant-devouring
Rukh. (See _Comptes Rendus, Ac. des Sciences_ 1872, p. 1782; and _Ibis_,
October 1872, p. 433.) This discovery may possibly throw a new light on
the traditions of the New Zealanders. For Professor Owen, in first
describing the _Dinornis_ in 1839, mentioned that the natives had a
tradition that the bones belonged _to a bird of the eagle kind_. (See
_Eng. Cyc._ Nat. Hist. sub. v. _Dinornis_.) And Sir Geo. Grey appears to
have read a paper, 23rd October 1872, which was the description by a
Maori of the _Hokiol_, an extinct gigantic bird of prey of which that
people have traditions come down from their ancestors, said to have been a
black hawk of great size, as large as the Moa.
I have to thank Mr. Arthur Grote for a few words more on that most
interesting subject, the discovery of a real fossil _Ruc_ in New Zealand.
He informs me (under date 4th December 1874) that Professor Owen is now
working on the huge bones sent home by Dr. Haast, "and is convinced that
they belonged to a bird of prey, probably (as Dr. Haast suggested) a
Harrier, _double the weight of the Moa_, and quite capable therefore of
preying on the young of that species. Indeed, he is disposed to attribute
the extinction of the Harpagornis to that of the Moa, which was the only
victim in the country which could supply it with a sufficiency of food."
One is tempted to add that if the Moa or Dinornis of New Zealand had its
_Harpagornis_ scourge, the still greater Aepyornis of Madagascar may have
had a proportionate tyrant, whose bones (and quills ?) time may bring to
light. And the description given by Sir Douglas Forsyth on page 542, of
the action of the Golden Eagle of Kashgar in dealing with a wild boar,
illustrates how such a bird as our imagined _Harpagornis Aepyornithon_
might master the larger pachydermata, even the elephant himself, without
having to treat him precisely as the Persian drawing at p. 415 represents.
Sindbad's adventures with the Rukh are too well known for quotation. A
variety of stories of the same tenor hitherto unpublished, have been
collected by M. Marcel Devic from an Arabic work of the 10th century on
the "_Marvels of Hind_," by an author who professes only to repeat the
narratives of merchants and mariners whom he had questioned. A specimen of
these will be found under Note 6. The story takes a peculiar form in the
Travels of Rabbi Benjamin of Tudela. He heard that when ships were in
danger of being lost in the stormy sea that led to China the sailors were
wont to sew themselves up in hides, and so when cast upon the surface they
were snatched up by great eagles called gryphons, which carried their
supposed prey ashore, etc. It is curious that this very story occurs in a
Latin poem stated to be _at least_ as old as the beginning of the 13th
century, which relates the romantic adventures of a certain Duke Ernest of
Bavaria; whilst the story embodies more than one other adventure belonging
to the History of Sindbad. The Duke and his comrades, navigating in
some unknown ramification of the Euxine, fall within the fatal attraction
of the Magnet Mountain. Hurried by this augmenting force, their ship is
described as crashing through the rotten forest of masts already drawn to
"Et ferit impulsus majoris verbere montem
Quam si diplosas impingat machina turres."
There they starve, and the dead are deposited on the lofty poop to be
carried away by the daily visits of the gryphons:--
--"Quae grifae membra leonis
Et pennas aquilae simulantes unguibus atris
Tollentes miseranda suis dant prandia pullis."
When only the Duke and six others survive, the wisest of the party
suggests the scheme which Rabbi Benjamin has related:--
--"Quaeramus tergora, et armis
Vestiti prius, optatis volvamur in illis,
Ut nos tollentes mentita cadavera Grifae
Pullis objiciant, a queis facientibus armis
Et cute dissuta, nos, si volet, Ille Deorum
Which scheme is successfully carried out. The wanderers then make a raft
on which they embark on a river which plunges into a cavern in the heart
of a mountain; and after a time they emerge in the country of Arimaspia
inhabited by the Cyclopes; and so on. The Gryphon story also appears in
the romance of Huon de Bordeaux, as well as in the tale called 'Hasan of
el-Basrah' in Lane's Version of the _Arabian Nights_.
It is in the China Seas that Ibn Batuta beheld the Rukh, first like a
mountain in the sea where no mountain should be, and then "when the sun
rose," says he, "we saw the mountain aloft in the air, and the clear sky
between it and the sea. We were in astonishment at this, and I observed
that the sailors were weeping and bidding each other adieu, so I called
out, 'What is the matter?' They replied, 'What we took for a mountain is
"the Rukh." If it sees us, it will send us to destruction.' It was then
some 10 miles from the junk. But God Almighty was gracious unto us, and
sent us a fair wind, which turned us from the direction in which the Rukh
was; so we did not see him well enough to take cognizance of his real
shape." In this story we have evidently a case of abnormal refraction,
causing an island to appear suspended in the air.
The Archipelago was perhaps the legitimate habitat of the Rukh, before
circumstances localised it in the direction of Madagascar. In the Indian
Sea, says Kazwini, is a bird of size so vast that when it is dead men take
the half of its bill and make a ship of it! And there too Pigafetta heard
of this bird, under its Hindu name of _Garuda_, so big that it could fly
away with an elephant. Kazwini also says that the 'Angka carries off
an elephant as a hawk flies off with a mouse; his flight is like the loud
thunder. Whilom he dwelt near the haunts of men, and wrought them great
mischief. But once on a time it had carried off a bride in her bridal
array, and Hamd Allah, the Prophet of those days, invoked a curse upon the
bird. Wherefore the Lord banished it to an inaccessible Island in the
The Simurgh or 'Angka, dwelling behind veils of Light and Darkness on the
inaccessible summits of Caucasus, is in Persian mysticism an emblem of the
In Northern Siberia the people have a firm belief in the former existence
of birds of colossal size, suggested apparently by the fossil bones of
great pachyderms which are so abundant there. And the compressed
sabre-like horns of _Rhinoceros tichorinus_ are constantly called, even by
Russian merchants, _birds' claws_. Some of the native tribes fancy the
vaulted skull of the same rhinoceros to be the bird's head, and the
leg-bones of other pachyderms to be its quills; and they relate that their
forefathers used to fight wonderful battles with this bird. Erman
ingeniously suggests that the Herodotean story of the Gryphons, _from under
which_ the Arimaspians drew their gold, grew out of the legends about these
I may add that the name of our _rook_ in chess is taken from that of this
same bird; though first perverted from (Sansk.) _rath_, a chariot.
Some Eastern authors make the _Rukh_ an enormous beast instead of a bird.
(See _J.R.A.S._ XIII. 64, and _Elliot_, II. 203.) A Spanish author of
the 16th century seems to take the same view of the Gryphon, but he is
prudently vague in describing it, which he does among the animals of
Africa: "The _Grifo which some call_ CAMELLO PARDAL ... is called by the
Arabs _Yfrit_(!), and is made just in that fashion in which we see it
painted in pictures." (_Marmol, Descripcion General de Africa_, Granada,
1573, I. f. 30.) The _Zorafa_ is described as a different beast, which it
(_Bochart, Hierozoica_, II. 852 seqq.; _Mas'udi_, IV. 16; _Mem. dell'
Acad. dell' Instit. di Bologna_, III. 174 seqq., V. 112 seqq.; _Zurla_
on _Fra Mauro_, p. 62; _Lane's Arabian Nights_, Notes on Sindbad; _Benj.
of Tudela_, p. 117; _De Varia Fortuna Ernesti Bavariae Ducis_, in
_Thesaurus Novus Anecdotorum_ of Martene and Durand, vol. III. col. 353
seqq.; _I.B._ IV. 305; _Gildem._ p. 220; _Pigafetta_, p. 174; _Major's
Prince Henry_, p. 311; _Erman_, II. 88; _Garcin de Tassy, La Poesie
philos. etc., chez les Persans_, 30 seqq.)
[In a letter to Sir Henry Yule, dated 24th March 1887, Sir (then Dr.) John
Kirk writes: "I was speaking with the present Sultan of Zanzibar, Seyyed
Barghash, about the great bird which the natives say exists, and in doing
so I laughed at the idea. His Highness turned serious and said that indeed
he believed it to be quite true that a great bird visited the Udoe
country, and that it caused a great shadow to fall upon the country; he
added that it let fall at times large rocks. Of course he did not pretend
to know these things from his own experience, for he has never been
inland, but he considered he had ample grounds to believe these stones
from what he had been told of those who travelled. The Udoe country lies
north of the River Wami opposite the island of Zanzibar and about two days
going inland. The people are jealous of strangers and practise cannibalism
in war. They are therefore little visited, and although near the coast we
know little of them. The only members of their tribe I have known have
been converted to Islam, and not disposed to say much of their native
customs, being ashamed of them, while secretly still believing in them.
The only thing I noticed was an idea that the tribe came originally from
the West, from about Manyema; now the people of that part are cannibals,
and cannibalism is almost unknown except among the _Wadoe_, nearer the
east coast. It is also singular that the other story of a gigantic bird
comes from near Manyema and that the _whalebone_ that was passed off at
Zanzibar as the wing of a bird, came, they said, from Tanganyika. As to
rocks falling in East Africa, I think their idea might easily arise from
the fall of meteoric stones."]
[M. Alfred Grandidier (_Hist. de la Geog. de Madagascar_, p. 31) thinks
that the Rukh is but an image; it is a personification of water-spouts,
cyclones, and typhoons.--H.C.]
NOTE 6.--Sir Thomas Brown says that if any man will say he desires before
belief to behold such a creature as is the _Rukh_ in Paulus Venetus, for
his own part he will not be angry with his incredulity. But M. Pauthier is
of more liberal belief; for he considers that, after all, the dimensions
which Marco assigns to the wings and quills of the Rukh are not so
extravagant that we should refuse to admit their possibility.
Ludolf will furnish him with corroborative evidence, that of Padre
Bolivar, a Jesuit, as communicated to Thevenot; the assigned position will
suit well enough with Marco's report: "The bird condor differs in size in
different parts of the world. The greater species was seen by many of the
Portuguese in their expedition against the Kingdoms of Sofala and Cuama
and the Land of the Caffres from Monomotapa to the Kingdom of Angola and
the Mountains of Teroa. In some countries I have myself seen the
wing-feathers of that enormous fowl, although the bird itself I never
beheld. The feather in question, as could be deduced from its form, was one
of the middle ones, and it was 28 palms in length and three in breadth. The
quill part, from the root to the extremity, was five palms in length, of
the thickness of an average man's arm, and of extreme strength and
hardness. [M. Alfred Grandidier (_Hist. de la Geog. de Madagascar_, p. 25)
thinks that the quill part of this feather was one of the bamboo shoots
formerly brought to Yemen to be used as water-jars and called there
_feathers of Rukh_, the Arabs looking upon these bamboo shoots as the quill
part of the feathers of the Rukh.--H.C.] The fibres of the feather were
equal in length and closely fitted, so that they could scarcely be parted
without some exertion of force; and they were jet black, whilst the quill
part was white. Those who had seen the bird stated that it was bigger than
the bulk of a couple of elephants, and that hitherto nobody had succeeded
in killing one. It rises to the clouds with such extraordinary swiftness
that it seems scarcely to stir its wings. _In form it is like an eagle_.
But although its size and swiftness are so extraordinary, it has much
trouble in procuring food, on account of the density of the forests with
which all that region is clothed. Its own dwelling is in cold and desolate
tracts such as the Mountains of Teroa, i.e. of the Moon; and in the valleys
of that range it shows itself at certain periods. Its black feathers are
held in very high estimation, and it is with the greatest difficulty that
one can be got from the natives, for _one_ such serves to fan ten people,
and to keep off the terrible heat from them, as well as the wasps and
flies" (_Ludolf, Hist. Aethiop._ Comment, p. 164.)
Abu Mahomed, of Spain, relates that a merchant arrived in Barbary who had
lived long among the Chinese. He had with him the quill of a chick Rukh,
and this held nine skins of water. He related the story of how he came by
this,--a story nearly the same as one of Sindbad's about the Rukh's egg.
(_Bochart_, II. 854.)
Another story of a seaman wrecked on the coast of Africa is among those
collected by M. Marcel Devic. By a hut that stood in the middle of a field
of rice and _durra_ there was a trough. "A man came up leading a pair of
oxen, laden with 12 skins of water, and emptied these into the trough. I
drew near to drink, and found the trough to be polished like a steel
blade, quite different from either glass or pottery. 'It is the hollow of
a quill,' said the man. I would not believe a word of the sort, until,
after rubbing it inside and outside, I found it to be transparent, and to
retain the traces of the barbs." (_Comptes Rendus_, etc., ut supra; and
_Livre des Merveilles de L'Inde_, p. 99.)
Fr. Jordanus also says: "In this _India Tertia_ (Eastern Africa) are
certain birds which are called _Roc_, so big that they easily carry an
elephant up into the air. I have seen a certain person who said that he
had seen one of those birds, one wing only of which stretched to a length
of 80 palms" (p. 42).
The Japanese Encyclopaedia states that in the country of the _Tsengsz'_
(Zinjis) in the South-West Ocean, there is a bird called _pheng_, which in
its flight eclipses the sun. It can swallow a camel; and its quills are
used for water-casks. This was probably got from the Arabs. (_J. As._,
ser. 2, tom. xii. 235-236.)
I should note that the _Geog. Text_ in the first passage where the
feathers are spoken of says: "_e ce qe je en vi voz dirai en autre leu,
por ce qe il convient ensi faire a nostre livre_,"--"that which _I have
seen_ of them I will tell you elsewhere, as it suits the arrangement of
our book." No such other detail is found in that text, but we have in
Ramusio this passage about the quill brought to the Great Kaan, and I
suspect that the phrase, "as I have heard," is an interpolation, and that
Polo is here telling _ce qe il en vit_. What are we to make of the story?
I have sometimes thought that possibly some vegetable production, such as
a great frond of the _Ravenala_, may have been cooked to pass as a Rukh's
quill. [See _App._ L.]
NOTE 7.--The giraffes are an error. The _Eng. Cyc._ says that wild asses
and zebras (?) do exist in Madagascar, but I cannot trace authority for
The great boar's teeth were indubitably hippopotamus-teeth, which form a
considerable article of export from Zanzibar (not Madagascar). Burton
speaks of their reaching 12 lbs in weight. And Cosmas tells us: "The
hippopotamus I have not seen indeed, but I had some great teeth of his
_that weighed thirteen pounds_, which I sold here (in Alexandria). And I
have seen many such teeth in Ethiopia and in Egypt." (See _J.R.G.S._
XXIX. 444; _Cathay_, p. clxxv.)
 Bretschneider, _On the knowledge possessed by the Ancient Chinese of
the Arabs_, etc. London, 1871, p. 21.
 Mas'udi speaks of an island _Kanbalu_, well cultivated and populous,
one or two days from the Zinj coast, and the object of voyages from
Oman, from which it was about 500 parasangs distant. It was conquered
by the Arabs, who captured the whole Zinj population of the island,
about the beginning of the Abasside Dynasty (circa A.D. 750). Barbier
de Meynard thinks this may be Madagascar. I suspect it rather to be
_Pemba_, (See _Prairies d'Or_, I. 205, 232, and III. 31.)
 "_De la grandeza de una bota d'anfora_." The lowest estimate that I
find of the Venetian anfora makes it equal to about 108 imperial
gallons, a little less than the English butt. This seems intended. The
_ancient_ amphora would be more reasonable, being only 5.66 gallons.
 The friend who noted this for me, omitted to name the Society.
 I got the indication of this poem, I think, in Bochart. But I have
since observed that its coincidences with Sindbad are briefly noticed
by Mr. Lane (ed. 1859, III. 78) from an article in the "_Foreign
 An intelligent writer, speaking of such effects on the same sea, says:
"The boats floating on a calm sea, at a distance from the ship, were
magnified to a great size; the crew standing up in them appeared as
masts or trees, and their arms in motion as the wings of windmills;
whilst the surrounding islands (especially at their low and tapered
extremities) seemed to be suspended in the air, some feet above the
ocean's level." (_Bennett's Whaling Voyage_, II. 71-72.)
 An epithet of the _Garuda_ is _Gajakurmasin_,
"elephant-cum-tortoise-devourer," because said to have swallowed both
when engaged in a contest with each other.
 The name as pronounced seems to have been _Zangibar_ (hard _g_), which
polite Arabic changed into _Zanjibar_, whence the Portuguese made
CONCERNING THE ISLAND OF ZANGHIBAR. A WORD ON INDIA IN GENERAL.
Zanghibar is a great and noble Island, with a compass of some 2000
miles.[NOTE 1] The people are all Idolaters, and have a king and a
language of their own, and pay tribute to nobody. They are both tall and
stout, but not tall in proportion to their stoutness, for if they were,
being so stout and brawny, they would be absolutely like giants; and they
are so strong that they will carry for four men and eat for five.
They are all black, and go stark naked, with only a little covering for
decency. Their hair is as black as pepper, and so frizzly that even with
water you can scarcely straighten it. And their mouths are so large, their
noses so turned up, their lips so thick, their eyes so big and bloodshot,
that they look like very devils; they are in fact so hideously ugly that
the world has nothing to show more horrible.
Elephants are produced in this country in wonderful profusion. There are
also lions that are black and quite different from ours. And their sheep
and wethers are all exactly alike in colour; the body all white and the
head black; no other kind of sheep is found there, you may rest
assured.[NOTE 2] They have also many giraffes. This is a beautiful
creature, and I must give you a description of it. Its body is short and
somewhat sloped to the rear, for its hind legs are short whilst the
fore-legs and the neck are both very long, and thus its head stands about
three paces from the ground. The head is small, and the animal is not at
all mischievous. Its colour is all red and white in round spots, and it is
really a beautiful object.[NOTE 3]
**The women of this Island are the ugliest in the world, with their great
mouths and big eyes and thick noses; their breasts too are four times
bigger than those of any other women; a very disgusting sight.
The people live on rice and flesh and milk and dates; and they make wine
of dates and of rice and of good spices and sugar. There is a great deal
of trade, and many merchants and vessels go thither. But the staple trade
of the Island is in elephants' teeth, which are very abundant; and they
have also much ambergris, as whales are plentiful.[NOTE 4]
They have among them excellent and valiant warriors, and have little fear
of death. They have no horses, but fight mounted on camels and elephants.
On the latter they set wooden castles which carry from ten to sixteen
persons, armed with lances, swords, and stones, so that they fight to
great purpose from these castles. They wear no armour, but carry only a
shield of hide, besides their swords and lances, and so a marvellous
number of them fall in battle. When they are going to take an elephant
into battle they ply him well with their wine, so that he is made half
drunk. They do this because the drink makes him more fierce and bold, and
of more service in battle.[NOTE 5]
As there is no more to say on this subject I will go on to tell you about
the Great Province of ABASH, which constitutes the MIDDLE INDIA;--but I
must first say something about India in general.
You must understand that in speaking of the Indian Islands we have
described only the most noble provinces and kingdoms among them; for no
man on earth could give you a true account of the whole of the Islands of
India. Still, what I have described are the best, and as it were the
Flower of the Indies. For the greater part of the other Indian Islands
that I have omitted are subject to those that I have described. It is a
fact that in this Sea of India there are 12,700 Islands, inhabited and
uninhabited, according to the charts and documents of experienced mariners
who navigate that Indian Sea.[NOTE 6]
INDIA THE GREATER is that which extends from Maabar to Kesmacoran; and it
contains 13 great kingdoms, of which we have described ten. These are all
on the mainland.
INDIA THE LESSER extends from the Province of Champa to Mutfili, and
contains eight great kingdoms. These are likewise all on the mainland. And
neither of these numbers includes the Islands, among which also there are
very numerous kingdoms, as I have told you.[NOTE 7]
NOTE 1.--ZANGIBAR, "the Region of the Blacks," known to the ancients as
_Zingis_ and _Zingium_. The name was applied by the Arabs, according to De
Barros, to the whole stretch of coast from the Kilimanchi River, which
seems to be the Jubb, to Cape Corrientes beyond the Southern Tropic,
i.e. as far as Arab traffic extended; Burton says now from the Jubb to
Cape Delgado. According to Abulfeda, the King of Zinjis dwelt at Mombasa.
In recent times the name is by Europeans almost appropriated to the Island
on which resides the Sultan of the Maskat family, to whom Sir B. Frere
lately went as envoy. Our author's "Island" has no reference to this; it
is an error simply.
Our traveller's information is here, I think, certainly at second hand,
though no doubt he had seen the negroes whom he describes with such
disgust, and apparently the sheep and the giraffes.
NOTE 2.--These sheep are common at Aden, whither they are imported from
the opposite African coast. They have hair like smooth goats, no wool.
Varthema also describes them (p. 87). In the Cairo Museum, among ornaments
found in the mummy-pits, there is a little figure of one of these sheep,
the head and neck in some blue stone and the body in white agate. (_Note
by Author of the sketch on next page._)
NOTE 3.--A giraffe--made into a _seraph_ by the Italians--had been
frequently seen in Italy in the early part of the century, there being one
in the train of the Emperor Frederic II. Another was sent by Bibars to the
Imperial Court in 1261, and several to Barka Khan at Sarai in 1263; whilst
the King of Nubia was bound by treaty in 1275 to deliver to the Sultan
three elephants, three giraffes, and five she-panthers. (_Kington_, I.
471; _Makrizi_, I. 216; II. 106, 108.) The giraffe is sometimes wrought in
the patterns of mediaeval Saracenic damasks, and in Sicilian ones imitated
from the former. Of these there are examples in the Kensington Collection.
I here omit a passage about the elephant. It recounts an old and
long-persistent fable, exploded by Sir T. Brown, and indeed before him by
the sensible Garcia de Orta.
NOTE 4.--The port of Zanzibar is probably the chief ivory mart in the
world. Ambergris is mentioned by Burton among miscellaneous exports, but
it is not now of any consequence. Owen speaks of it as brought for sale at
Delagoa Bay in the south.
NOTE 5.--Mas'udi more correctly says: "The country abounds with wild
elephants, but you don't find a single tame one. The Zinjes employ them
neither in war nor otherwise, and if they hunt them 'tis only to kill
them" (III. 7). It is difficult to conceive how Marco could have got so
much false information. The only beast of burden in Zanzibar, at least
north of Mozambique, is the ass. His particulars seem jumbled from various
parts of Africa. The camel-riders suggest the _Bejas_ of the Red Sea
coast, of whom there were in Mas'udi's time 30,000 warriors so mounted,
and armed with lances and bucklers (III. 34). The elephant stories may
have arisen from the occasional use of these animals by the Kings of
Abyssinia. (See Note 4 to next chapter.)
[Illustration: Ethiopian Sheep.]
NOTE 6.--An approximation to 12,000 as a round number seems to have been
habitually used in reference to the Indian Islands; John of Montecorvino
says they are many more than 12,000; Jordanus had heard that there were
10,000 _inhabited_. Linschoten says some estimated the Maldives at 11,100.
And we learn from Pyrard de Laval that the Sultan of the Maldives called
himself Ibrahim Sultan of Thirteen Atollons (or coral groups) and of
12,000 Islands! This is probably the origin of the proverbial number. Ibn
Batuta, in his excellent account of the Maldives, estimates them at only
about 2000. But Captain Owen, commenting on Pyrard, says that he believes
the actual number of islands to be treble or fourfold of 12,000. (_P. de
Laval_ in _Charton_, IV. 255; _I.B._ IV. 40; _J.R.G.S._ II. 84.)
NOTE 7.--The term "India" became very vague from an early date. In fact,
Alcuin divides the whole world into three parts, Europe, Africa, and
India. Hence it was necessary to discriminate different Indias, but there
is very little agreement among different authors as to this
The earliest use that I can find of the terms India Major and Minor is in
the _Liber Junioris Philosophi_ published by Hudson, and which is believed
to be translated from a lost Greek original of the middle of the 4th
century. In this author India Minor adjoins Persia. So it does with Friar
Jordanus. His India Minor appears to embrace Sind (possibly Mekran), and
the western coast exclusive of Malabar. India Major extends from Malabar
indefinitely eastward. His _India Tertia_ is Zanjibar. The Three Indies
appear in a map contained in a MS. by Guido Pisanus, written in 1118.
Conti divides India into three: (1) From Persia to the Indus (i.e.
Mekran and Sind); (2) From the Indus to the Ganges; (3) All that is beyond
Ganges (Indo-China and China).
In a map of Andrea Bianco at Venice (No. 12) the divisions are--(1) India
Minor, extending westward to the Persian Gulf; (2) India Media,
"containing 14 regions and 12 nations;" and (3) India Superior, containing
8 regions and 24 nations.
Marino Sanuto places immediately east of the Persian Gulf "India Minor
_quae et Ethiopia_."
John Marignolli again has three Indias: (1) Manzi or India Maxima (S.
China); (2) Mynibar (Malabar); (3) Maabar. The last two with Guzerat are
Abulfeda's divisions, exclusive of Sind.
We see that there was a traditional tendency to make out _Three Indies_,
but little concord as to their identity. With regard to the expressions
_Greater_ and _Lesser_ India, I would recall attention to what has been
said about Greater and Lesser Java (supra, chap. ix. note 1). Greater
India was originally intended, I imagine, for the _real_ India, what our
maps call Hindustan. And the threefold division, with its inclination to
place one of the Indies in Africa, I think may have originated with the
Arab _Hind_, _Sind_, and _Zinj_. I may add that our vernacular expression
"the Indies" is itself a vestige of the twofold or threefold division of
which we have been speaking.
The partition of the Indies made by King Sebastian of Portugal in 1571,
when he constituted his eastern possessions into three governments,
recalled the old division into Three Indias. The first, INDIA, extending
from Cape Gardafui to Ceylon, stood in a general way for Polo's India
Major; the second MONOMOTAPA, from Gardafui to Cape Corrientes (India
Tertia of Jordanus); the third MALACCA, from Pegu to China (India Minor).
(_Faria y Souza_, II. 319.)
Polo's knowledge of India, _as a whole_, is so little exact that it is too
indefinite a problem to consider which are the three kingdoms that he has
_not_ described. The ten which he has described appear to be--(1) Maabar,
(2) Coilum, (3) Comari, (4) Eli, (5) Malabar, (6) Guzerat, (7) Tana, (8)
Canbaet, (9) Semenat, (10) Kesmacoran. On the one hand, this distribution
in itself contains serious misapprehensions, as we have seen, and on the
other there must have been many dozens of kingdoms in India Major instead
of 13, if such states as Comari, Hili, and Somnath were to be separately
counted. Probably it was a common saying that there were 12 kings in
India, and the fact of his having himself described so many, which he knew
did not nearly embrace the whole, may have made Polo convert this into 13.
Jordanus says: "In this Greater India are 12 idolatrous kings and more;"
but his Greater India is much more extensive than Polo's. Those which he
names are _Molebar_ (probably the kingdom of the Zamorin of Calicut),
_Singuyli_ (Cranganor), _Columbum_ (Quilon), _Molephatan_ (on the east
coast, uncertain, see above pp. 333, 391), and _Sylen_ (Ceylon), _Java_,
three or four kings, _Telenc_ (Polo's Mutfili), _Maratha_ (Deogir),
_Batigala_ (in Canara), and in _Champa_ (apparently put for all
Indo-China) many kings. According to Firishta there were about a dozen
_important_ principalities in India at the time of the Mahomedan conquest
of which he mentions _eleven_, viz.: (1) _Kanauj_, (2) _Mirat_ (or Delhi),
(3) _Mahavan_ (Mathra), (4) _Lahore_, (5) _Malwa_, (6) _Guzerat_, (7)
_Ajmir_, (8) _Gwalior_, (9) _Kalinjar_, (10) _Multan_, (11) _Ujjain_.
(_Ritter_, V. 535.) This omits Bengal, Orissa, and all the Deccan. _Twelve_
is a round number which constantly occurs in such statements. Ibn Batuta
tells us there were 12 princes in Malabar alone. Chinghiz, in
Sanang-Setzen, speaks of his vow to subdue the _twelve_ kings of the human
race (91). Certain figures in a temple at Anhilwara in Guzerat are said by
local tradition to be the effigies of the _twelve_ great kings of Europe.
(_Todd's Travels_, p. 107.) The King of Arakan used to take the title of
"Lord of the 12 provinces of Bengal" (_Reinaud, Inde_, p. 139.)
The _Masalak-al-Absar_ of Shihabuddin Dimishki, written some forty years
after Polo's book, gives a list of the provinces (twice twelve in number)
into which India was then considered to be divided. It runs--(1) _Delhi_,
(2) _Deogir_, (3) _Multan_, (4) _Kehran_ (_Kohram_, in Sirhind Division of
Province of Delhi?), (5) _Saman_ (Samana, N.W. of Delhi?), (6) _Siwastan_
(Sehwan), (7) _Ujah_ (Uchh), (8) _Hasi_ (Hansi), (9) _Sarsati_ (Sirsa),
(10) _Ma'bar_, (11) _Tiling_, (12) _Gujerat_, (13) _Badaun_, (14) _Audh_,
(15) _Kanauj_, (16) _Laknaoti_ (Upper Bengal), (17) _Bahar_, (18) _Karrah_
(in the Doab), (19) _Malawa_, (Malwa), (20) _Lahaur_, (21) _Kalanur_ (in
the Bari Doab, above Lahore), (22) _Jajnagar_ (according to Elphinstone,
Tipura in Bengal), (23) _Tilinj_ (a repetition or error), (24) _Dursamand_
(Dwara Samudra, the kingdom of the Bellals in Mysore). Neither Malabar nor
Orissa is accounted for. (See _Not. et Ext._ XIII. 170). Another list,
given by the historian Zia-uddin Barni some years later, embraces again
only _twelve_ provinces. These are (1) Delhi, (2) Gujerat, (3) Malwah, (4)
Deogir, (5) Tiling, (6) Kampilah (in the Doab, between Koil and
Farakhabad), (7) Dur Samandar, (8) Ma'bar, (9) _Tirhut_, (10) Lakhnaoti,
(11) _Satganw_, (12) _Sunarganw_ (these two last forming the Western and
Eastern portions of Lower Bengal).
 _E. Thomas_, Chronicles of the Pathan Kings of Delhi, p. 203.
TREATING OF THE GREAT PROVINCE OF ABASH WHICH IS MIDDLE INDIA, AND IS ON
Abash is a very great Province, and you must know that it constitutes the
MIDDLE INDIA; and it is on the mainland. There are in it six great Kings
with six great Kingdoms; and of these six Kings there are three that are
Christians and three that are Saracens; but the greatest of all the six is
a Christian, and all the others are subject to him.[NOTE 1]
The Christians in this country bear three marks on the face;[NOTE 2] one
from the forehead to the middle of the nose, and one on either cheek.
These marks are made with a hot iron, and form part of their baptism; for
after that they have been baptised with water, these three marks are made,
partly as a token of gentility, and partly as the completion of their
baptism. There are also Jews in the country, and these bear two marks, one
on either cheek; and the Saracens have but one, to wit, on the forehead
extending halfway down the nose.
The Great King lives in the middle of the country, the Saracens towards
Aden. St. Thomas the Apostle preached in this region, and after he had
converted the people he went away to the province of Maabar, where he
died; and there his body lies, as I have told you in a former place.
The people here are excellent soldiers, and they go on horseback, for they
have horses in plenty. Well they may; for they are in daily war with the
Soldan of ADEN, and with the Nubians, and a variety of other nations.
[NOTE 3] I will tell you a famous story of what befel in the year of
You must know that this Christian King, who is the Lord of the Province of
Abash, declared his intention to go on pilgrimage to Jerusalem to adore
the Holy Sepulchre of Our Lord God Jesus Christ the Saviour. But his
Barons said that for him to go in person would be to run too great a risk;
and they recommended him to send some bishop or prelate in his stead. So
the King assented to the counsel which his Barons gave, and despatched a
certain Bishop of his, a man of very holy life. The Bishop then departed
and travelled by land and by sea till he arrived at the Holy Sepulchre,
and there he paid it such honour as Christian man is bound to do, and
presented a great offering on the part of his King who had sent him in his
And when he had done all that behoved him, he set out again and travelled
day by day till he got to Aden. Now that is a Kingdom wherein Christians
are held in great detestation, for the people are all Saracens, and their
enemies unto the death. So when the Soldan of Aden heard that this man was
a Christian and a Bishop, and an envoy of the Great King of Abash, he had
him seized and demanded of him if he were a Christian? To this the Bishop
replied that he was a Christian indeed. The Soldan then told him that
unless he would turn to the Law of Mahommet he should work him great shame
and dishonour. The Bishop answered that they might kill him ere he would
deny his Creator.
When the Soldan heard that he waxed wroth, and ordered that the Bishop
should be circumcised. So they took and circumcised him after the manner
of the Saracens. And then the Soldan told him that he had been thus put to
shame in despite to the King his master. And so they let him go.
The Bishop was sorely cut to the heart for the shame that had been wrought
him, but he took comfort because it had befallen him in holding fast by
the Law of Our Lord Jesus Christ; and the Lord God would recompense his
soul in the world to come.
So when he was healed he set out and travelled by land and by sea till he
reached the King his Lord in the Kingdom of Abash. And when the King
beheld him, he welcomed him with great joy and gladness. And he asked him
all about the Holy Sepulchre; and the Bishop related all about it truly,
the King listening the while as to a most holy matter in all faith. But
when the Bishop had told all about Jerusalem, he then related the outrage
done on him by the Soldan of Aden in the King's despite. Great was the
King's wrath and grief when he heard that; and it so disturbed him that he
was like to die of vexation. And at length his words waxed so loud that
all those round about could hear what he was saying. He vowed that he
would never wear crown or hold kingdom if he took not such condign
vengeance on the Soldan of Aden that all the world should ring
therewithal, even until the insult had been well and thoroughly redressed.
And what shall I say of it? He straightway caused the array of his horse
and foot to be mustered, and great numbers of elephants with castles to be
prepared to accompany them;[NOTE 4] and when all was ready he set out with
his army and advanced till he entered the Kingdom of Aden in great force.
The Kings of this province of Aden were well aware of the King's advance
against them, and went to encounter him at the strongest pass on their
frontier, with a great force of armed men, in order to bar the enemy from
entering their territory. When the King arrived at this strong pass where
the Saracens had taken post, a battle began, fierce and fell on both
sides, for they were very bitter against each other. But it came to pass,
as it pleased our Lord God Jesus Christ, that the Kings of the Saracens,
who were three in number, could not stand against the Christians, for they
are not such good soldiers as the Christians are. So the Saracens were
defeated, and a marvellous number of them slain, and the King of Abash
entered the Kingdom of Aden with all his host. The Saracens made various
sallies on them in the narrow defiles, but it availed nothing; they were
always beaten and slain. And when the King had greatly wasted and
destroyed the kingdom of his enemy, and had remained in it more than a
month with all his host, continually slaying the Saracens, and ravaging
their lands (so that great numbers of them perished), he thought it time
to return to his own kingdom, which he could now do with great honour.
Indeed he could tarry no longer, nor could he, as he was aware, do more
injury to the enemy; for he would have had to force a way by still
stronger passes, where, in the narrow defiles, a handful of men might
cause him heavy loss. So he quitted the enemy's Kingdom of Aden and began
to retire. And he with his host got back to their own country of Abash in
great triumph and rejoicing; for he had well avenged the shame cast on him
and on his Bishop for his sake. For they had slain so many Saracens, and
so wasted and harried the land, that 'twas something to be astonished at.
And in sooth 'twas a deed well done! For it is not to be borne that the
dogs of Saracens should lord it over good Christian people! Now you have
heard the story.[NOTE 5]
I have still some particulars to tell you of the same province. It abounds
greatly in all kinds of victual; and the people live on flesh and rice and
milk and sesame. They have plenty of elephants, not that they are bred in
the country, but they are brought from the Islands of the other India.
They have however many giraffes, which are produced in the country;
besides bears, leopards, lions in abundance, and many other passing
strange beasts. They have also numerous wild asses; and cocks and hens the
most beautiful that exist, and many other kind of birds. For instance,
they have ostriches that are nearly as big as asses; and plenty of
beautiful parrots, with apes of sundry kinds, and baboons and other
monkeys that have countenances all but human.[NOTE 6]
There are numerous cities and villages in this province of Abash, and many
merchants; for there is much trade to be done there. The people also
manufacture very fine buckrams and other cloths of cotton.
There is no more to say on the subject; so now let us go forward and tell
you of the province of Aden.
NOTE 1.--_Abash_ (Abasce) is a close enough representation of the Arabic
_Habsh_ or _Habash_, i.e. Abyssinia. He gives as an alternative title
_Middle_ India. I am not aware that the term India is applied to Abyssinia
by any Oriental (Arabic or Persian) writer, and one feels curious to know
where our Traveller got the appellation. We find nearly the same
application of the term in Benjamin of Tudela:
"Eight days from thence is Middle India, which is Aden, and in Scripture
Eden in Thelasar. This country is very mountainous, and contains many
independent Jews who are not subject to the power of the Gentiles, but
possess cities and fortresses on the summits of the mountains, from whence
they descend into the country of Maatum, with which they are at war.
Maatum, called also Nubia, is a Christian kingdom and the inhabitants are
called Nubians," etc. (p. 117). Here the Rabbi seems to transfer Aden to
the west of the Red Sea (as Polo also seems to do in this chapter); for
the Jews warring against Nubian Christians must be sought in the Falasha
strongholds among the mountains of Abyssinia. His Middle India is
therefore the same as Polo's or nearly so. In Jordanus, as already
mentioned, we have _India Tertia_, which combines some characters of
Abyssinia and Zanjibar, but is distinguished from the Ethiopia of Prester
John, which adjoins it.
But for the occurrence of the name in R. Benjamin I should have supposed
the use of it to have been of European origin and current at most among
Oriental Christians and Frank merchants. The _European_ confusion of India
and Ethiopia comes down from Virgil's time, who brings the Nile from
India. And Servius (4th century) commenting on a more ambiguous passage--
--"_Sola India nigrum
says explicitly "_Indiam omnem plagam Aethiopiae accipimus_." Procopius
brings the Nile into Egypt [Greek: ex Indon]; and the Ecclesiastical
Historians Sozomen and Socrates (I take these citations, like the last,
Back to Full Books