Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition
The Gaelic abridgment of the Book of Ser Marco Polo (Author: [Marco Polo])


section 1


The Lesser Armenia and Turcomania (Bk. I, cc. 1, 2).

¶3] In the first place, the Lesser Armenia, it is under tribute to Magnus. A country with abundance of towns, and unknowable treasures for trade and traffic. Glaisia,4 which stands on the sea, is its chief city. A province therein is Tursie:5 this is a mountainous country, and they (the inhabitants) worship Mahomet. Excellent horses they have and plenty of silk.

Of the Greater Armenia (Bk. I, c. 3)

¶4] Now the Greater Armenia, this is an extensive country. It is under the yoke of Magnus. They (the inhabitants) have abundance of towns and treasures. Two noble cities it hath, Agiron and Baririm6 are their names; and in that country is


the mount of Armenia. Thereon the Ark rested after escaping from the Deluge.

Of Georgia (Bk. I, c. 4)

¶5] Beside it is the province of the Sorani,7 and therein is a river of oil continually flowing, wherewith are filled the vessels and barques of the country-sides, near and far. And every one of them (the Sorani) is born with the figure of an eagle on his shoulder. They worship Jesus. There is in that country a monastery with a lake beside it, into the which the river Euphrates is flowing out of Paradise. It (the lake) hath abundance of fish from the first day of Lent till Easter, and after that there are none.

Of the Kingdom of Mosul (Bk. I, cc. 5, 6)

¶6] Another province there is in it, the kingdom of Musul, and they (the inhabitants) worship Mahomet. There is a noble city therein, named Baldasi (Bagdad). The overlord of the Saracens, whose name is Calipus (Khalif), is king thereover. Abundance of gold and treasures had he, for he liked not to entertain warriors and champions.

¶7] Alan (Alaii), the king of the Tartars, came to take his city from him by strength of battle. He had an impregnable tower filled with gold and treasures. But Calipus is taken with his tower and with his city, for there were no warriors defending him. ‘Though thou hast paid honour and respect to the gold’, saith Balan (Alaii) broke in his breast with grief and affliction for his gold and his treasures.

Of the City of Tauris (Bk. I, cc. 7–11)

¶8] There is in that country another city called Taurisius (Tabriz) with abundance of precious stones and silken garments. There was an exceeding high mountain over against that city, and a mountain on the other side. And one day the Jews heard how the Divine Gospel saith ‘If ye have faith like a grain of mustard-seed and say to this mountain Pass over! and it will pass over, and nothing will be impossible to you’; that is. if thou hast as much as a mustard-seed of the love of Jesus, the mountain


will move to the other mountain, if thou so desire. ‘The Jesus whom ye worship is a false prophet’, say the heathens, ‘and his words are lies, for if ye ask yonder mountain to move on to the other mountain it would in no wise do it for you.’ The Christians go together and beseech the one God to shift the mountain. ‘O Jesus!’ they say, ‘let not Jews and unbelievers oppress us!’ Then in the presence of the hosts the mountain arose and went upon the other mountain, and remained there forever; and at that miracle certain of the heathen received baptism.

Of the Provinces of Persia (Bk. I, c. 15)

¶9] Now (as to) the provinces of Persia, they (the inhabitants) worship the fire. 'Tis an extensive territory with eight kings over it. Excellent horses it hath, each horse worth two hundred pounds.

Of the Provinces of Camandi (Bk. I, c. 18)

¶10] The provinces of Camandi, 'tis apples and fruits of paradise which they (the inhabitants) consume. White oxen with long hair they have. Rams they have, each as large as an ass.
On its border is another country with a king over it. By cleverness and cunning they (the inhabitants) bring darkness over the face of the sun as if it were night. Throughout the provinces of Camandi they send raiders keeping near one another, ten thousand their host. These destroy the Camandians' forts and their strongholds, and kill their old men, and make hostages of their young. And Marco himself saw that lightlessness surrounding him, and to save himself from it he speedily gets him into an impregnable town. For the space of seven days that mist abides.

Of Timocauim (Bk. I, c. 22)

¶11] Now Timocauim is an extensive country, with abundance of forts and cities. A fair plain it hath, without any fruits. Bitter waters it hath. The Tree of the Sun in its northern part, a tree straight and of enormous thickness. Vast is its length. White leaves of marvellous breadth on one side thereof, green leaves on the other side. No tree grows through ground within a hundred miles from its sides.

Of Mulete (Bk. I, c. 2.3)

¶12] The provinces of Mulete (Mulehet), they (the inhabitants)


worship Mahomet. Over it there is a king named Aloadam. By him there was built in an impregnable valley on a lofty mountain a royal palace with the brightness of gold thereon, and with radiant sollars and cultivated gardens and shining fountains at its side, such as the mind of every warrior would desire; and plenty of damsels they have, and games and many feats have they. The reason why that was so fashioned is that Mahomet had said to them: ‘As ye will be here (so) ye shall be there in my kingdom after tasting death.’ Wherefore they would partake of their feasts and their banquets, and they were valiant in battles, for there was no fear of death upon them, since they were sure that after death they would be thus. ‘Mahomet's Earthly Paradise’ was the name given to that court, and an impregnable tower was built at its entrance, without any way into it save through the tower. The youths of the country would be carried into it, and their fill of feasts and banquets would be given them, and then sleep would fall upon them, to hearten their souls to Mahomet; and in a vision he would say to them: ‘According to the feasting you have had here, my feast there will endure for you.’

¶13] When Alan (Alaii) the king of the Tartars heard of this wicked practice in which Aloadan persisted, he made a hosting, and killed Aloadam with his kings and chiefs, and overturned his city, so that no stone of it was left on another.

Of Bassia (Bk. I, cc. 30, 31)

¶14] Bassia now is a land with the strength of the sun upon it. Black oxen it hath. Its people worship Mahomet. By wizardry and cunning they summon the aerial demons to converse with them, and they bring darkness over the face of the sun. Flesh and rice they consume. They have plenty of boars and wild swine, which pierce their dogs and their packs of hounds with the bristly hair on their backs and sides. And they obey no king on earth.8 There are hermits in monasteries and chapels on the peaks of mountains, fasting and making offerings to Mahomet, and having honour and great reverence from yonder nobles.

¶15] There is a great mountain in that country—the highest


mountain in the world—with a beautiful glen on its bosom. Abundance of sheep and rams in that glen. Six palms the breadth of every horn on those rams, so that dishes and bowls have been made thereof, from which dinners and feasts have been eaten, and they are used by the shepherds as a protection to their houses and dwellings against snow and storm. And neither birds nor other wild animals can abide on that mountain for cold and horror, and though fires be lit upon it, no food was boiled by them owing to the increase of cold.

Of the City of Sermacam (Bk. I, c. 34)

¶16] Now Sermacam (Samarcand) is a noble city belonging to the son of Magnus Cam. (Its folk) worship Mahomet. There were many Christians in that city. The king died. On a lofty hill outside the city was a flagstone of marble, under which the heathen were buried, and the king was buried thereunder. After him his son took the sovranty—Sigotan was the son's name,—and he believed in the Lord of the Elements, and received the baptism of Holy Church, and this seemed hard to the heathens.

¶17] Then Sigotan one day formed this project, to erect in the city a venerable chapel in honour of John the Baptist. Of the wrights from near and far the best that could be found were brought to him, and he enjoined them to spend for him all their skill and science. His wrights asked for the huge stone under which his father was buried, and that the ancestors of the Jews should be moved to the place in which they were. He grants that to them. That was a grief to the heathens; but fear of the king prevented them reproaching him. Howsoever, that structure was raised with marvellous science as would be the mind's desire of every one. There was a pillar of marble on the floor thereof to support it, with variety of every work thereon. Both were on the flagstone aforesaid.

¶18] Straightway the king died, and after him his son took the sovranty; and he did not continue on his father's track, but worshipt Mahomet. When the heathens heard that the (new) king worshipt Mahomet, they ask the Christians for the stone


under which their ancestors were buried. ‘Not so at all’, reply the Christians. ‘S. John's church would fall if that flagstone were stirred. ’ ‘Well’, say the heathens. ‘Ye shall have for it abundance of treasures’, say the Christians. ‘'Tis the flagstone that we want’, say the heathens, ‘and not (your) treasures.’ The king sided strongly with the heathens, so . . . was put on the stone, and they brought it back. On seeing this the Christians besought S. John and Jesus. Then the church stood (without the support for its pillar) just as well as it had been; and it is to-day three feet over the ground, and (so) it will remain till the end of Doom.

Of the Province of Pein (Bk. I, cc. 37, 38)

¶19] Now Pein is an extensive country with abundance of cities. A five days' journey in length. If one of its folk should go on a voyage or excursion and be twenty days without returning, his wife will sleep with another husband. Bitter waters it hath. A river along it, with plenty of precious stones; named ‘jasper’ and ‘chalcedony.’

Of the City of Lop (Bk. I, c. 39)

¶20] Now Lop is a noble city at the edge of a great desert. There is abundance of every treasure outside it, wherefore it is a place of tarriance for every one for trade and traffic and treasures. Its folk worship Mahomet. Camels and asses laden with provisions are taken by every one when he goes on that desert. Brackish waters are on it. Sandy plains and watery mountains on the way. A year's journey it is in length: thirty days' journey in breadth, without wild beasts, without cattle. On the way the demons come to have speech with the human beings. If they see any one of them apart from his company, they call him by his own name and appellation, and he follows the demons, for he is ignorant that they are not his comrades, and he never comes back. The demons play harps and timbrels to put men asleep and to tempt them.

Of the City of Sasion (Bk. I, c. 40)

¶21] After leaving those wildernesses you come to a spacious province wnth a noble city therein, having abundance of every treasure. The folk worship Mahomet. And there, after the


weariness of yonder desert, a long rest is taken in trading and trafficking. Its name is Sasion (Shachan). If one of the inhabitants has a son it is taken to be offered to the gods, along with a ram; and the babe and the ram are brought back, and a year's joint-fostering is given them, and (then) both of them are taken to the altar of the offering, and the ram is cooked and given to be eaten to the kinsmen and gossips of the babe, with great reverence to the gods. And the ram's bones are put away to be stored in their hatches.

¶22] Every dead person belonging to that city was put into a gilded bier, with cloths of silk and serge on the side of his palace (coffin?), and every night with great honour to him of meat and drink and whatsoever he was used to consume; for no one is buried in that city until his birthday. Wherefore noble herbs and balsam are put surrounding him (to keep off corruption), so that his warriors and his damsels and his comrades partake of their dinner along with him as if he were alive. And after the arrival of that day his body is burnt, with feasting and great reverence to the gods.

Of the City of Camul (Bk. I, c. 41)

¶23] Two days' journey beyond that city is another city named Camul, whose folk worship Mahomet. If a guest or an outlander come . . . journey to a hill or a fort . . . On his being seen by the warrior or chief who is master, the latter goes out over the edge of the fortress, and his wife is brought to the stranger. ‘Do to him’, says her husband, ‘as if it were I that were staying in the fortress.’ And he puts a written letter on the door, and he himself proceeds on his way, and the wife sleeps with the guest. Whatever is best of the food and raiment in the fort he places in the guest's power. Every day the warrior looks at the door to see if the guest would proceed on his journey, for this is the custom, (for the guest), to remove the letter if he should proceed; but if (the husband) see it he would never come.

¶24] Once upon a time Magnus Cam sent envoys to that city, with an epistle, and this was its contents: ‘I command you’, quoth he, ‘to turn back from the evil usage which ye follow, for in many respects it is injurious, for none of you is certain


as to his heir whom he leaves after him, and 'tis destruction to your jewels and treasures to put them under the judgment and power of guests and foreigners.’

¶25] With anger and indignation they send the envoys back to Magnus, bearing letters with these contents: ‘O Magnus Cam’, say they, ‘we beseech thee for charity and misery not to turn us back from the usage of our ancestors, for if it were so done, the earth would deprive us of her fruits. And if thou hast want of gold or many unknown treasures, thou mayst take them without resistance.’ Magnus allowed them to abide with the usage of their ancestors.

Of the Province of Singsingtalas (Bk. I, c. 42)

¶26] After turning (your) back on that province, you get to a long desert—it is a sixteen-days' journey (in length). Singsingcalas is on the other side thereof. A spacious province is this. Therein is a very lofty mountain, with salamanders upon it. They are small animals. They cause fibre to be produced on the earth in impure places, and this was collected by the folk of the province, and carried to streams and wells to be washed, and broken in vessels and mortars of brass. They kindled fires to put the fibre into the midst of them, and after burning away its impurity it came out white from the embers. Garments were afterwards made of it, and it was noble, venerable; and when it became dirty or dark, it was put on the embers to cleanse it, and it came thence clean.

Of the City of Campision (Bk. I, c. 44)

¶27] Now as to the province of Cambu, it is a spacious, extensive province. Campision is its capital city. The inhabitants, save a few Christians, worship Mahomet. They are skilful in computing constellations and stars. Fifty wives hath each of them, and every wife changes her husband if he be poor. They have no reckoning of months and quarters, but a separate name for each day of the year. They have five days specially observed, whereon they kill no animal or wild beasts, and eat no meat, and have no toil or labour. They have no incestuous marriage, save one with a sister or a mother. Now Marco tarried a year in that city.


Of the City of Caracorum (Bk. I, c. 46)

¶28] Now Caracorum was once the capital city of the Tartars, for out of it is their origin. They themselves had no king over them, but they were under tax and tribute to Prester John, the king of India, who bore another name, to wit, Unc-cam. Howbeit the kindred of the Tartars increased in Caracorum, so that their warriors and their chiefs became numerous, and there was fear of fighting them on the countrysides anear and afar. Full of fear of them was Prester John, seeing the Tartars (and) the multitude of those champions. He said to them: ‘Divide’, saith he, ‘into many provinces afar and anear, since it is not possible for Caracorum to contain you.’ There were long deserts around the city at that time, void of fortresses and mansions. Wherefore this was the counsel accepted by the nobles of the Tartars, to proceed into yonder desert and dwell therein. Thus they did.

Of Simisis (Bk. I, cc. 47, 48, 49)

¶29] At that time there was a wonderful warrior of the nobles of the Tartars named Simisis, and by them he was given kingship, for theretofore they had never been subject to a king. They settle on those hard lands and wildernesses without the might of (any) king on earth over them. (When they heard of the appointment) every one of his blood that was throughout the world gathered to the place where Simisis dwelt. That was the excellent king! He used to give every one his due. Howbeit seven kings submitted to him for dread of fighting him, for neither plunder nor outrage was undertaken on fort or city if voluntary obedience was rendered to him.

¶30] Prester John sent some one to demand the Indian tribute from him. He refuses, for he had no fear of a king. The envoys return, and Simisis abides in his own realm. And one day, after refusing the tribute, he sent envoys to demand Prester John's daughter; and Prester John said this, that he would sooner burn his daughter (alive) than give her to Simisis, ‘and for asking her’, quoth he, ‘he shall get a shameful death.’ And Prester John inflicted insult on the envoys, and they return to Simisis and relate to him what they had said and what was said to them.


¶31] Full of wrath and indignation at these messages was Simisis, and his kings and chiefs were summoned to him. ‘This is what I desire’, quoth he, ‘that we should all go by one road against Prester John to avenge upon him the insult which he has inflicted upon us.’ ‘So do we desire’, say they: they answered as with one mouth.

¶32] So those Tartar hosts march against them (the Indians), without stop or stay, to the plain of Tandud (Tanduc), and they send envoys to the king of India to challenge him to battle; and their wizards are brought to them, and they inquire of them the prophecy and omen of the battle, or how it should be to them and to Prester John. The wizards went on their hurdles of knowledge, and summoned to them demons and aerial gods; and they bring a huge bulrush, and they split it and made two halves thereof, and they name one of the halves Prester John and the other Sisimis; and by wizardry and cunning they cause the two halves of the rush to contend with each other, and the half which they named Sisimis wins the victory. The wizards go back to the Tartars in joy and gladness, (for) it seems to them that it was they who would be triumphant in the battle.

Of the battle between Sisimis and Prester John (Bk. I, c. 50)

¶33] Now Prester John, when he heard that he was challenged to battle and that an innumerable army was marching towards him, summoned to him his kings and chiefs and friends, anear and afar. Well, then, when the armies on either side saw each other they took on them their fighting-dress and their weapons of battle, and their trumpets were blown, and they shouted their warcries, and the armies on either side fell to smiting the other, splitting diadems and shields, so that there was an innumerable slaughter on this side and that. Still, however, the Indians were routed, and they were all slaughtered, and Prester John was killed. And then Sisimis took sovranty over the Indians and over many other countries, and he was the first king of the Tartars.

¶34] And in the sixth year of his reign he was hit by an arrow at a city which he was besieging, so that he was left lifeless, and was buried on the mountain Alcahi (Altai).


Of the successors of Sisimis (Bk. I, c. 51)

¶35] He left a son after him named Caiter (Cuy Khan?). He left a son named Satin (Batuy). He left a son named Roton (Alacou?). Roton left a son named Mongu. 'Tis from him that Cublay sprang, and Cublay surpassed the five other kings, and his sovranty surpassed the kingship of the Christians and the Saracens. On that very lofty mountain where Sisimis was buried there in his track the kings that succeeded him were interred. Every one, both warrior and chief, whom they (the convoy) would fall in with on the road when going to bury those kings was put to death by them, and this is what they would tell him: ‘Serve and guard the king in the other world, even as ye did before!’ When the last of these kings was buried, 'tis a slaughter of two thousand warriors that were killed to be put with him; and for the same purpose they killed the best of the horses which they found.

Of the customs of the Tartars (Bk. I, c. 52)

¶36] Now the Tartars are a numerous nation, for there is no limit to the wives or damsels which anyone may have, save the number that he is able to provide with food and clothing. But the first wife with whom a man shall sleep is she that is the superior, and the rest do sewing and handiwork. Their warriors hunt and practise warlike exercises, and the house is under the control of the wife. Their warriors have shields of leather, which are made of buffalo hide boiled. And (in war) the other battalion cannot endure the discharge of the Tartars' arrows, for to this they are reared from their swaddling-clothes. Flesh and milk are consumed by them, without excepting the flesh of deer and horses and dogs, but they would eat every flesh on earth. They like to consume the milk of their studs and their mares: ‘white wine’ (is the name) they would put upon it. And every summer they with their studs and herds visit the peaks of mountains and the hollows of rocks, having movable pavilions over them, and their sons and daughters with them, until, at the coming of the bad wintry weather, they return together with their pavilions.

Of the god of the Tartars (Bk. I, c. 53)

¶37] Natay is the god, which they worship. His figure is engraved in every house in the realm of the Tartars, with the


figure of his wife on his left shoulder and that of his son in front of him. In order that they may partake of food, the best of the Tartars' victuals is rubbed on the mouths and muzzles of the god, his wife and his son. And they spill the broth of the dinner over the door of the house, to be tasted by the gods whom they adore, for they are sure that it is Natay that rules heaven and earth.

¶38] In the provinces of the Tartars, if a young man die without a wife and a girl without a husband, after they have tasted death, their contract with one another is made, and for this reason is it made, that both may be in Natay's presence. And cattle are given to the mother of the girl, for in the provinces of the Tartars cattle are not given by the wife, and their relatives remain akin and sib to each other, just as if (the dead couple) were alive.

¶39] They have no marriage which they deem incest save one with a mother, a sister or a daughter; wherefore their warriors are the more numerous. Every one hath abundance of wives.

¶40] They are manly in battle and heroic in arms; and every one of them is able to remain for ten days on a journey or an expedition, without food or drink, save fruits of trees and the blood of their horses.

¶41] If any one commits a crime or an act not deserving of death, he gets thirty blows of a cudgel, or sixty, if the crime be greater than that, or a hundred and ten if it be thrice as great. Or if his crime be (a theft) punishable with death,9 nine times the value (of the thing stolen) is taken from him and then he is let off.

Of the plain of Ragu (Bk. I, cc. 56, 57)

¶42] Now Ragu (Bargu) is a very wide plain and forty days in length. They that dwell therein are (called) Mecrit. They live by hunting. 10 Neither corn nor vine rises above ground there. 'Tis there men see polus arcticus, that is, a certain one of the fixed stars of the firmament. There is abundance of camels and gerfalcons and elephants in those provinces. Huge stags they have, with long hair: three palms the length of every hair of them.


¶43] There is another animal there, huge his size. The semblance of a deer hath he. An admirable balsam named musk, is produced by him. It is almost a panacea (?). Two teeth in every tusk he hath: three palms the length of each of them.

¶44] No warrior's hair or beard is cut in that province. Fairest of women are their maidens. They choose11 their wives, not for nobility or reverence, but for shape and size.

¶45] In the countries of the Tartars no cattle are given with girls (on their marriage): 'tis the warriors that give cattle to their (brides') mothers.

Of the Province of Tenduc (Bk. T, cc. 59, 60)

¶46] Now Tenduc, an exceeding wide province is this, and 'tis Jesus whom the folk worship. It belongs to the realm of India, and they are under the yoke of Magnus Cam. Ever since Prester John was killed the kings who succeeded him give their daughters to the Tartar nobles as a protection against their feud and enmity.

¶47] In that province there are black cranes, of great bigness. They have other cranes with variegation of every colour, both green and red and blue. Other cranes with splendour of gold upon them. Other cranes wth a dark green spot and a red spot.

¶48] After one leaves that province a three days' journey behind him he will find on the way the city of Siaudu (Chandu), which was built by Cublay, that is. Magnus Cam. Amidst it is a palace of marble, with a royal barrack beside it, having radiant rooms, with the splendour of gold upon them, without and within.

¶49] An impregnable forest at the edge of the house, with dykes and plastered walls all around it: fifteen miles in compass. Stags and many does it hath, and every wild animal besides. Radiant meadows and pebbly streams are in that forest. Cublay is wont to hold a hunt therein. On a secret spot of the forest a mansion hath been built by him for hunting, and of bulrushes12 it hath been built. Fifteen paces is the length of each rush, and three palms its breadth, and they are tied with cords of silk, shining with gold inside and out, so that foul weather or storm may do no hurt to him or the folk that be within.


¶50] Three months of the year he is engaged in that hunting, to wit, June, July and August. But on the eighteenth day of August they take up that house till they come again. They also return to the city of Siaudu. Thereafter they, with their children, wives and herds, proceed to a very lofty mountain, to make offerings to the gods. Ten thousand white mares are along with him. After making those offerings, the milk of those white mares is put into vessels and choice bowls for Magnus, and this he would deal out to himself and to the (Royal) Blood to be drunk, and he would not give it to any other kindred nor to rabble-folk. Magnus would (also) spill that milk on the road, to be tasted by the gods.

¶51] If a warrior or anyone (else) is lawfully executed, they eat him at that sacrifice, and they do not eat him if he die of disease or illness.

¶52] By craft and (magical) cunning the king is served (at table), no one seeing anyone doing it, but the dishes and the cups moving to him through the air. This they (the enchanters) also say, that it is the gods that serve them and the king. And at that sacrifice many rams are boiled by them, and the flesh is given to the gods, and the broth is spilt on the earth. They think that for this it will yield them its produce.

¶53] Cublay hath a monastery, in which are two thousand monks, serving the gods and sacrificing to them. Other monks there are in that province, and some of them have wives, and others are keeping their rule for the gods.

Endeth the first part of this book. Beginneth the second part.


Whitley Stokes.