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

section 3

Begin the chapters of the third book.

¶144] Here is the beginning of the marvels and description of India, by Marcus on his voyage in the first place.


Of Merchant ships on the Indian seas (Bk. III, c. 1)

¶145] They set a fence of planks over their barques to protect them from the sea-waves. They put no pitch thereon, but oil and chalk with hemp chopped small and mixed with them, and with this (mixture) they pay their ships. It sticks to them always, and protects their weak vessels when at sea. Every ship has four sails. Every year for the space of seven years they put one plank over another, until there are seven planks, back to back, on each of the (first) planks; and (hen they use her no longer for voyaging: on the high seas.

Of the Island of Sipangu (Bk. III, cc. 2, 3, 4)

¶146] Now Sipangu is an island in the high seas, and it hath a king over it who is subject to no king on earth. The people have abundance of gold, which their king forbids them to send into other countries by trade or traffic. In the depth of the sea is that island, so that there are few ships or barques to which it is known.

¶147] They have a capital city. In the midst thereof the king has built a noble palace with a royal hall and radiant chambers. Both of them he covered with plates of purified gold. There was no skylight along it that was not closed with gold, and that was to its floor.

¶148] One day Magnus Cam sent an army to conquer that island. It was commanded by two generals named Abatam and Uosachim. The fleet (in which they embarked) put out to sea and landed in Sipangu. They leave their ships and began to invade the country, so that they took the strong city that lay in island. They overcome it by dint of swords and shields, and inflicted slaughter on the folk of the city, men, boys and women, save only eight, out of whom they, with their spear-points or sword-edges, were unable to get a drop of blood. For they (the eight) had demonic charms cunningly put on them by magic and devilry by means of stones inside their skins, so that the wounds closed behind them, wherefore they could not be slain. When the Tartars learned this, they beat them with cudgels and rocks of the earth, so that their bones and bodies were shattered, and they left them lifeless.


¶149] As to the generals, a bitter (?) quarrel grew up between them concerning the jewels and treasures of the city and the rest of the country, so that neither would obey the other's orders. And the armies hated each other more than the people of the country. So they turned back again to the fleet. After they had embarked, an exceeding great storm scattered them. There was an island on their lee. The tempest drove the best part of the ships against the sides and shores of the island: plank was not left on plank; and (many of) their fighting-men and soldiers were overwhelmed. The other part of the fleet sailed straight back to the countries of the Tartars. After losing all hope of life, thirty thousand of the troops in the (shipwrecked part of) the fleet got to shore in the island on planks and benches of their vessels. No one could count the number of them that were drowned. The Tartars then remained on their island without food or drink.

¶150] Now the king of Sipangu, when he was told of that misfortune to the fleet of the Tartars, brings his armies to him. They proceed in their ships, and land on the island wherein the Tartars were staying. They go on shore to destroy them. The Tartars. however, took another road behind them, reached their ships (which were left unguarded), and landed in the island of Sipangu. They march before the royal city. The citizens open the gates wide, for they knew not that the armies they saw were not the armies of their own country. So the Tartars seize the city; but the armies in the island get away on board some of the ships (which had not been carried off), and take the road on the track of the Tartars.

¶151] When they saw that the city was captured, the islanders summon their soldiers and their champions afar and anear, and beleaguer the city. They fall to combats and destroying each other, till they had a slaughter of soldiers hither and thither. Seven months they were at that attack; for the Tartars hoped that Magnus Cam would succour them. Then the Tartars surrender the city, and they were delivered to Cublay. They separated, one from the other, in peace and good will.

¶152] Sipangu, now, is an extensive realm. The fairest of


fighting-men for their armies and for their young women. They believe in idols and images, and their forms are carven by them with three heads or with four faces on one head, or with ten hands on one body, or even with a hundred hands, they are of opinion that the more shapes their gods have, the greater are their powers. When a captive is taken from a foreign country into that island, if a ransom be sent after him he gets his freedom. If he remain unloosed they kill him and boil him, and eat him with great honour.

¶153] Folk that have travelled through the Indian sea have formerly put a number on its islands. (They said) that seven thousand and forty-seven islands are found therein, of which few are uninhabited and many are extensive kingdoms.

Of the country culled Chamba (Bk. 11, c. 5)

¶154] Ciamba, now, is a sea-island subject to a king. 'Tis white pepper that grows in that kingdom.

¶155] There are in the year but two winds that blow on those islands, half the year, without changing, back from it (i. e. Ciambu), and the other half, without changing, towards it.

¶156] Magnus Cam once sent a chieftain of his household with enormous armies into Ciamba to conquer it by might of battle. Such was its strength and the valour of its fighting-men that they could not destroy a single fort or city. Then the host fell to cutting down their crops and their vines. Then Acupius, the king of the island, sent envoys to yield tribute to Magnus, and the king was then aged, for such was the number of wives he had formerly that his children were three hundred and thirty, whereof thrice fifty were soldiers valiant in battle. Howbeit, he makes submission to Magnus Cam; and agrees to pay him twenty elephants every year for ever. And they, the king and the army, part from each other in peace and good will.

Of the great island of Java (Bk. III, c. 6

¶157] Java is a great island on the border of that kingdom, and its king is not under the sway of any king on earth. Three thousand miles is the compass of that kingdom. It is full of every good thing in the world.


Of the isles of Gendur, Gondur and Leoach (Bk. III, c. 7)

¶158] Gendur and Gondur are on the border of that kingdom. Two sea-islands are they, possessing abundance of every treasure. The island of Leoach (Locac) is outside them. It is an extensive kingdom. and its king is servant to no king on earth. Manly and numerous are its fighting-men. A luminance of gold and elephants throughout it.

Of the Isle of Pentam (Bk. III, c. 8)

¶159] The Isle of Pentam (Bintang), then, this is a country abounding in fruitful woods, with a shallow sea around it, (only) four feet in depth. For a hundred miles on each side of it no ship is fit to sail or steer on that sea.

Of the Island of Little Java and the Kingdoms of Ferlech and Basman (Bk. III, c. 9)

¶160] Now as to the Island of Little Java (Sumatra), 'tis a spacious country, subject to seven kings. ‘I myself,’ says Marco, ‘have been in six of these kingdoms.’ Two thousand miles is the girth of that island.

¶161] The kingdom of Fer-lech, then, is the first of these kingdoms in which I dwelt. They (the townsfolk) worship Mahomet: and the first animal that anyone (of the hill-people) shall see at daybreak is the god whom he worships till sunrise on the morrow. They eat the flesh of dogs and human beings and every winged thing in the world.

¶162] Basman, then, is the second of these kingdoms. 'Tis a mountainous country, and the people have no law at all save to spend their lives like any wild animal, or beasts. And they say that they honour Magnus Cam; but they give him no tribute or due. There is abundance of unicorns throughout that kingdom. It hath the hair of a buffalo, the head of a pig, and the legs of an elephant, a huge horn at the division of the two eyes, and a tongue with plenty of prickles thereon. This last is its weapon of destruction. There is abundance of every kind of ape in that country. Folks hunt a species of small apes which have the shape of human beings, and they take them for sale in many countries: and tis this they say,


that these apes are young men, and the kings of the many countries prize their flesh for eating.

Of the Kingdoms of Samara and Dragoiam (Bk. III. c. 10)

¶163] Samaria (Samara) is the third of these kingdoms. Neither vine nor wheat grows through mould in it, wherefore the people eat flesh and rice-bread. There is a wood in that country, and men girdle its trees so that juice drops from them like watery pipes. Red and white are the colours of that juice. It is collected in covered pots by the folk of the country, so that they have enough of the drink which they get in this wise; and it is better than wine.

¶164] The fourth of these kingdoms is Dragoiam. If disease attack anyone, they inquire of their sorcerers whether there is any help for him. The sorcerers go to get an omen from the gods. If they say that there is no help for him, his kinsmen and his friends come together to him, and they say to him: ‘Is it not better for thee to be eaten by us while thy form and thy flesh abide upon thee than to be eaten by the worms after thou hast been corrupted by the disease from which thou art suffering’. (Then) he is killed by them, and they partake of his flesh with much reverence.

Of the Kingdoms of Lambri and Fansur (Bk. III, c. 11)

¶165] Lambri is the fifth of these kingdoms. There is a wood named Birsi (brazil) in this country. The people of the country take its trees (leg. shoots) out of the ground and transplant them, and they are three years growing above the ground without being cared for (?). Then they come with excellent fruits upon them.
There is a part of the people of that province on peaks of mountains and in hollows of cliffs, and on their old men tails grow as on dogs.

¶166] Fansur is the sixth of these kingdoms. Therein no corn whatever nor vine grows through ground, wherefore they live on rice. As we said before, the juice dropping from the trees is their beverage. There is in this country a tree of vast thickness. The folk of that country take from the inside of the


bark of those trees as much meal and excellent flour as suffices them for food.

Of the Island of Necuran (Bk. III, c. 12)

¶167] After leaving that country thou wilt find a sea-island named Necuran (Nicobar). The people worship Mahomet. Not a man or woman of them has any clothing whatever; but they go stark naked just as when they are born.

Of the Island Augamam (Bk. III, c. 13)

¶168] At the side of that island thou wouldst find the island of Augamam (Andaman).

Of the Island Seylam (Bk. III, c. 14)

¶169] This (Seylam = Ceylon) is a spacious kingdom: the folk worship Mahomet. It was once 3100 miles in compass, till an inroad of the sea caused by wind consumed it, so that today its girth is only 2000 miles. The folk of that country consider that there is no better island on earth. Only a few of its people wear clothing. The force of the wind lifts many of them into the sea, so that they are drowned. Their king obeys no king on earth. The folk of that country do not go to battle; but if they have a quarrel they bring outlanders to help them, and give them pay out of their treasures. There are plenty of precious stones in it. The king has the finest stone in the world: 'tis red, as thick as a man's arm, and a span in length. 'Tis as clear as embers without a spark. Magnus Cam sent envoys to ask the king for this precious stone. The king replied that the stone was an ancestral treasure of the kingfolk of Seylam, and that he himself was not empowered to give it up.

Of Mulahar (Bk. III. cc. 16, 17)

¶170] Towards the coast of that island is India. The nearest part of it is the province of Maabar (Malabar). This is ruled by five kings. The name of the king of the first of these kingdoms is Buaar scuderba.17 The folk spend their lives completely and always naked. There is abundance of precious stones in that country: and that king is wont to wear always an hundred and four jewels on his neck, and more thereof on his hands and feet. Every day he offers one hundred and four


prayers to the gods, and the same number every night, that he may have their help. Five (hundred) choice wives he hath.

¶171] Now Uar is the second of these kingdoms. An ox is the god of their adoration. They do not kill the ox, and they eat not his flesh if he be killed. They make an excellent balsam of his flesh and his tallow, and this they rub on the corners and angles of the mansion, in order that the mansion may be hallowed by having the tallow of the sacred ox rubbed upon it.

¶172] If a king of theirs, or a chief, comes to die. they kill his comrades and all the officers he had, so that they may attend him in the other world; and they also kill his wife, to put her with him, for fear of her having another husband; and they burn both their bodies.

Of the body of Saint Thomas (Bk. III, c. 18)

¶173] 'Tis in that country the apostle Thomas was martyred, after going to preach God's word unto them: and if any of the descendants of his executioners remain, he cannot go in over the threshold of the church in which Thomas' body was buried. And the place in which they killed him is today red with his blood, just as it was on the first day. The mould makes a panacea for every one who partakes of little or much of it in a potion. There are a few Christians about the village that contains Thomas' body. Many miracles of the True God are shewn there.

¶174] In Uar, too, no one looks on any of the sins with women as sin.

¶175] The people of that country lie on the ground, and 'tis this that they say: ‘Of the earth we are, and to the earth we shall go.’ They never partake of wine, and they utter (?) no curse or abuse of any one that drinks it. They wash themselves every day. No one has any weapons save a spear and shield. They never steal anything. No one is ever killed by them as a feat of arms. No horse of their studs ever grows up so that in every year they purchase ten thousand horses. (There are) five kings of Malabar. Boiled flesh and eggs and rice their horses eat. Every year almost all their horses die of the uncouth food. And owing to the excessive heat of the sun, the people of the country wend their ways stark-naked: tor no one can travel that country save during three months in the year, namely June, July, August, that is, the two last months of summer and the


first month of autumn. Death would carry them off with the sun's rays if they were not holpen by these months.18 Black hawks they have: the best of hawks are they. Bats they have as big as ravens.

¶176] Now the kingdom of the pagans is the fifth kingdom of the province of Malabar. An ox is the god of their adoration, and they say this, that the shape of the Devil is white, wherefore they paint the images of their gods black. And they put black ointments and oils on themselves, so that they may be of the same colour as their gods. And if one of them be white at his birth they stay not till he become dark.

¶177] If they go into a battle or conflict they take with them hair of the ox which they worship as God, and they have no treasures that they more regard.

Of the Kingdom of Mutfili (Bk. III, c. 19)

¶178] The realm of Mutfili, then, is at the frontier of the kingdom of the Pagans, and it submits to no king on earth. There are neither streams nor rivers throughout that country—they have only bright wells pouring out of the depth of the earth. In these when they ebb at sunrise, men find abundance of precious stones. There are mountains and lofty peaks in that country, with white eagles upon them, and plenty of venomous serpents; and the huge eagles eat the serpents and of these precious stones are formed in the birds, so that the like of those stones is not found save there: their names are adamant, which is the same as diamond. Those eagles dwell in huge trees, and such is their valour that the people of the country are afraid to go near them. So they put pieces of flesh into the indestructible glen which is below them. The eagles on seeing the flesh swoop down from above. Then the people of the country go after them, and find the precious stones in their droppings, after having (thus) got the eagles away from them. And the best of these stones belong to the neighbouring kings, and the rest of them is taken for sale athwart the world.

Of the Kingdom of Lar and the Brahmans (Bk. III, c. 20)

¶179] The kingdom of Lar, now, the folk never tell a lie. Ahraiamini (Brahmans) is the appellation (of those) that dwell


therein. They never partake of wine or flesh; and no human being or other animal is ever killed by them. Each of them hath (but) one wedded wife. They eat no tree or green leaf, supposing that a soul exists therein. They are always stark-naked, and the god whom they worship is an ox. After the death of this ox they make ashes of his bones, and form it on them.19 Abstinent and fasting for the gods are they. The form of an ox is painted on the forehead of each of them, and the leaves of the Tree of Paradise are the dishes whereon they eat.

Of the Kingdoms of Cailum and Cumor (Bk. III, cc. 22, 23)

¶180] The country of Coylus, then, this is an extensive kingdom. It serves no king on earth; and no one there sleeps with a companion, unless they are both in the third degree of kinship, or the woman is a surviving wife of the man's father or brother. There are plenty of black lions in that country. Polus arcticus (the North star) is seen therein risen a cubit above the sea.

¶181] The kingdom of Cumor (Kumári). and the kingdom of Melibor, and the kingdom of Gusurach (Guzerat), and the kingdom of Coria (Thána) and the kingdom of Combaech (Cambaet) and the kingdom of Semanach (Semenat) and the kingdom of Osmacoram (Kesmacoran), they belong to the Greater India, and many kingdoms besides them; and the tongue would be weary in giving a description of them.

¶182] They that know the sea formerly reckoned 12700 islands in that Indian sea, besides the islands of Lesser India; and we will here mention a few of them.

Of the Island of the Women and the Island of the Men (Bk. III, c. 31)

¶183] There are two islands in the depth of that sea. and the people worship Jesus. The ‘Island of the Women’ and the ‘Island of the Men’ are the names they bear. The women never stir out of their own island; but in every month, for three days and nights, the men go to them as their yokefellows, each man abiding with his wife in her own house during that space of time. Then the men return to their houses till the following month; and 'tis thus that they spend their life. When the


women bear children, if girls, they rear them up to sewing and handiwork, but if boys, they send them to their fathers, to be brought up to manly deeds.

¶184] The men are keen hunters of the beasts of sea and land. Both men and women consume milk and flesh and every kind of fruit of sea and land. A bishop is chief over them.

Of the Island of Scoria (Bk. III, c. 32)

¶185] Now that bishop has an island called Scoria (Socotra), five hundred miles from them (the Island of the Women and the Island of the Men), and he has many men who are believers and others who are idolaters. They never wear raiment or clothing. By their heathenism the Jews turn ships under sail against the wind, and (then) seize them and divide (their cargoes) among them.

Of the Island of Madeigascar (Bk. III, c. 33)

¶186] After leaving Scoria a journey of ten hundred miles thou wilt find a huge island, the greatest of the islands of earth, two thousand miles in compass. Madeigascar is its name. It hath many races of men. They worship Mahomet. They eat the flesh of camels. 'Tis hard to reckon all the camels they have. White are these camels, and there is not on earth a breed to which they can be compared for size. They have vast woods: which are red, both leaves and bark. Many flocks they have of many kinds of birds, both common and rare. They have also enormous winged things, named Rukh, biggest of the birds of earth.20 In their talons they take up the elephants into the firmament, and drop them again, so that they make fragments of their limbs, and then they eat them.

Of the Island of Zanzibar (Bk. III, c. 35)

¶187] After this thou wilt find another island: vast is its size, two thousand miles in compass. Its name is Samsibár (Zanzibar). Many gigantic races inhabit it. Huge noses in the fronts of their foreheads, (and) their eyes askew. They have black hair and broad lips. As broad as any four of the human kind are their men and their women, but they are not taller than others. More valiant than (any) four is (each of them) for


strength and fighting. They have no horses, but they fight on elephants and camels. They have neither raiment nor clothes. Flesh and milk and rice they consume. Their beverages are made of sugar and rice and many herbs also, for they have no vines. And they give their elephants and their camels draughts of these beverages to increase their spirit and their fury for the battling.

¶188] Having gone over a few of them, there is now nothing more but to rest from tales of the islands and countries of India, for we should never succeed in giving an account of them (all). But these are the limits of the two Indias as regards many lands: the Greater India, from the province of Malabar to Rosmocorum (Kesmacoran), and the Lesser India, from Caiamba to Mechile.

Of the province of Abash (Bk. III. c. 35)

¶189] Abash (Abyssinia), then, is a vast kingdom ruled by seven kings, of whom four are worshipping the true God, and there is a cross of gold on the forehead of each of them, and they are manly in battles, for they have been trained to war by contending with the heathens. The three other kings are given over to unbelief and idolatry.

¶190] And the kingdom of Aden, the soldan is king over them.

¶191] And once upon a time the king of Abash conceived this project: to proceed to the place where Jesus was buried. ‘By no means’, said his nobles and his soldiers to him, ‘for we should be afraid that the heathens would kill thee on the road, for 'tis through them thou wouldst fare. Thou hast a holy bishop’, say they, ‘and send him, with plenty of gold, to Jesu's sepulchre’ . . .