Volume 1, Chapter 8, Sections 16-20 -- The Travels of John de Plano Carpini and other Friars, sent about the year 1246, as ambassadors from Pope Innocent IV, to the great Khan of the Moguls or Tartars: *section index*


Volume 1, Chapter 8, Section 16 -- Of the Expedition of Duke Cyrpodan.

At the same time Occoday-khan sent duke Cyrpodan with an army to the south, against the pagan Kergis, who have no beards, whom he subdued. After which he marched against the Armenians, whom he conquered, and likewise subdued a part of Georgia. The other part of that country is likewise under subjection, and pays an yearly tribute of 20,000 yperperas. He thence marched into the dominions of the great and powerful soldan of the Deuri, whom he defeated; and proceeded to the country of the soldan of Aleppo, which he subdued; and afterwards reduced the caliph of Baldach or Bagdat to subjection, who is forced to pay a daily tribute of 400 byzants, besides baldekins[1] and other gifts. Every year the Tartar emperor sends messengers to require the presence of the caliph; who sends back great gifts besides the regular tribute, to prevail on the emperor to excuse his absence.

Duke Cyrpodan and his army still propose to invade more distant countries, and have not yet returned into Tartary.

[1] This is probably a manufacture of Bagdat or Baldach, from whence its name; and may have been flowered silk or cloth of gold.--E.



Volume 1, Chapter 8, Section 17 -- Of the Military conduct of the Tartars.

Zingis-khan divided the Tartars into companies or divisions of ten, of an hundred, and of a thousand each, every one of which had its appropriate officer. Over every ten millenaries he placed one general; and over an army of several bodies of ten thousand men, two or three dukes, one of whom had the superior command. When they join battle against their enemies, unless the whole army retreat by common consent, all who fly are put to death. If one, two, or more of a decury proceed bravely to battle, and the rest do not follow, the cowards are slain. If one, two, or more of the decury are made prisoners and the rest do not rescue them, they are put to death. Every man must have two bows, or at least one good bow, three quivers full of arrows, an axe, and certain ropes to draw the military machines. The rich or officers have sharp-pointed swords, somewhat curved and sharp on one edge. They wear helmets, coats of mail, and cuisses, and their horses even are armed. Some have their own armour and that of their horses made of leather, ingeniously doubled and even tripled. The upper parts of their helmets are of iron or steel, but the hood which protects their neck and throat is of leather. Some have all their defensive armour composed of many small plates of iron, a hand-breadth long and an inch broad, perforated with eight small holes, by which they are tied with small leather thongs to strong thongs of leather underneath, so that the plates overlap each other in regular series, and are firmly knit together. The armour both of men and horses is often made in this fashion, and is kept finely burnished. Some carry lances having hooks, to pull their enemies from horseback. Their arrow-heads are exceedingly sharp on both edges, and every man carries a file to sharpen them. Their targets are made of wicker, but they are hardly ever carried, except by the night guards, especially those in attendance upon the emperor and the princes.

The Tartars are exceedingly crafty in war, in which they have been continually engaged for the last forty-two years against all the surrounding nations. When they have to pass rivers, the principal people secure their garments in bags of thin leather, drawn together like purses, and closely tied. They fix these to their saddles, along with their other baggage, and tie the whole to their horse's tail, sitting upon the whole bundle as a kind of boat or float; and the man who guides the horse is made to swim in a similar manner, sometimes having two oars to assist in rowing, as it were, across the river. The horse is then forced into the river, and all the other horses follow, and in this manner they pass across deep and rapid rivers.[1] The poorer people have each a purse or bag of leather well sewed, into which they pack up all their things, well tied up at the mouth, which they hang to the tails of their horses, and thus swim across.

[1] This mode of passing over rivers, though carefully translated, is by no means obviously described. I am apt to suppose that the leathern bags, besides holding the apparel and other valuables, were large enough to be blown up with air so as to serve as floats, like those used by the,ancient Macedonians; a practice which they may have learnt from the Scythians. The Latin of Vincentius Beluacensis appears to have been translated from the French original of Carpini, from the following circumstance: What is here translated their other baggage is, in the Latin, alias res duriores; almost with certainty mistakenly rendered from the French leurs autres hardes.--E.



Volume 1, Chapter 8, Section 18 -- How the Tartars ought to be resisted.

No single kingdom or province can resist the Tartars, as they gather men for war from every land that is subjected to their dominion; and if any neighbouring province refuses to join them, they invade and lay it waste, slaughtering the inhabitants or carrying them into captivity, and then proceed against another nation. They place their captives in the front of battle, and if they do not fight courageously they are put to the sword. Wherefore, if the princes and rulers of Christendom mean to resist their progress, it is requisite that they should make common cause, and oppose them with united councils. They ought likewise to have many soldiers armed with strong bows and plenty of cross-bows[1], of which the Tartars are much afraid. Besides these, there ought to be men armed with good iron maces, or with axes having long handles. The steel arrow-heads should be tempered in the Tartar manner, by being plunged, while hot, into water mixed with salt, that they may the better be able to penetrate the armour of the Tartars. Our men ought likewise to have good swords, and lances with hooks to drag them from their saddles, which is an easy matter; and ought to have good helmets and armour of proof for themselves and horses: And those who are not so armed ought to keep in the rear of those who are, to discharge their arrows and quarrels over the heads of their companions.

Our armies ought to be marshalled after the order of the Tartars, already described, and under the same rigorous laws of war. Whoever betakes himself to plunder before victory is perfectly ascertained, should suffer death. The field of battle ought to be chosen, if possible, in a plain, where every thing may be seen around. The army should by no means be drawn up in one body, but in many divisions, not too distant. One band ought to be dispatched against those who first advance, while another remains prepared to assist in time of need. Scouts ought to be sent out on every side, to give notice of the approach of the enemy; that band may always be sent to meet band as they come on, as the Tartars are always anxious to surround their enemies. Each band ought however to be cautious not to pursue too far when their enemies fly, lest they fall into a snare or ambush, as the Tartars fight more by stratagem than by main force; and this the rather, that our people may not fatigue their horses, in which we do not abound, while the Tartars always have such numbers that they seldom remount one horse, till after three or four days rest. Should even the Tartars retire towards their own country, our army ought by no means to retreat or separate; as they often practise this stratagem to delude their enemies and induce them to divide, and then return suddenly to destroy the country at their pleasure. Our generals ought to keep their troops day and night on the alert, and always armed, ready for battle; as the Tartars are always vigilant like the devils, and are ever devising how to commit mischief. Finally, when a Tartar falls from his horse in battle, he ought immediately to be taken or slain; as when on foot even they are excellent archers, and destructive to men and horses[2].

[1] The word here used in the Latin, balistais, is probably corrupted in transcription for balistariis; and may either mean cross-bow-men, or men for working balistae, the ancient artillery, if the expression be allowable. Arcubalistarii is the appropriate middle age Latin for men armed with cross-bows.--E.
[2] Our good minorite seems in this chapter to have studied the old proverb, fas est ab hoste doceri; but except in the leading political advice of the section, he might have been better employed in following the adage of ne sutor ultra crepidam.--E.


Volume 1, Chapter 8, Section 19 -- Of the Journey of Friar John de Plano Carpini, to the First Guard of the Tartars[1].

Setting out, by command from the apostolic See, upon our journey to the Tartars, lest there might arise danger from their proximity to the church of God, we came first to the king of Bohemia, with whom we were acquainted, and who advised us to travel through Poland and Russia, because he had kinsmen in Poland, through whose assistance we might be enabled to travel in Russia; and he supplied us with recommendatory letters and passports, giving us free passage as his charges through his dominions, whence we proceeded to the court of Boleslaus, duke of Silesia, his nephew, who was likewise known and friendly to us. He treated us in the same hospitable manner, and transmitted us free of expense to Conrad, duke of Lautiscia, or Masovia, where, by God's grace, Wasilico[2], duke of Russia, then was, from whom we fully learned the arts of the Tartars, as he had sent messengers to them who were already returned. Learning that it was necessary for us to make presents, we caused some skins of beavers and other animals to be purchased with part of the money which had been given us in charity to defray our expences; and we received more of the same skins from duke Conrad, from Grimislava, duchess of Cracow, from the bishop, and from certain nobles of that place. And at the request of the duke, bishop, and nobles of Cracow, Wasilico conducted us into his country, and entertained us there for some days at his expense. Likewise he convened his bishops at our request, to whom we read the Pope's letters, admonishing them to return into the unity of the church, adding our own exhortation to the same purpose. But because duke Daniel, the brother of Wasilico was absent at the court of Baatu, they could not then give a satisfactory answer.

After this Wasilico sent us forward to Kiow, the chief city of Russia, under the conduct of one of his servants; in which journey we were in great danger of our lives from the Lithuanians, who often invaded the borders of Russia in the very places through which we had to pass; but by means of this servant we were secured against any injury from the Russians, of whom indeed the greater part had been slain, or carried into captivity by the Tartars. In this journey we had almost perished of cold at Danilou[3], through the prodigious depth of the snow, although we travelled in a wagon. On our arrival at Kiow, and consulting with the millenary[4], and other nobles, respecting our farther journey, we were advised not to carry the horses we then had into Tartary, as they would all certainly die by the way, as they were not used to dig under the snow in search of grass like the Tartar horses, and no food could be procured for them, as the Tartars make no provision of hay or straw, or any other provender, against winter. We determined therefore to leave them behind, under the care of two servants, till our return, and by means of presents, we prevailed on the millenary to allow us post-horses and a guide. We began our journey on the second day after the Purification[5], and arrived at Canow, which was under the immediate dominion of the Tartars. The governor allowed us horses, and a guide to another town, of which one Micheas, a most malicious person, was governor; who, gained by our presents, conducted us to the first station of the Tartars.

[1] The journal of Carpini begins here, that of Asceline never appears.--E.
[2] At this period Jeroslaw, or Jeroslaus, was grand duke of Wolodimir or Wladimire, then considered as the sovereigns of Russia, who was succeeded by Alexander.--Playf. Syst. of Chronol. Wasilico, therefore, or Wasile, must have been a subordinate duke, or a junior member of the reigning family.--E.
[3] There is a town named Danilovska, near the S. E. frontiers of European Russia.--E.
[4] From this circumstance, it may be presumed that Kiow was then occupied by a guard of Tartars, under a commander of a thousand men.--E.
[5] This was the 4th February, probably of 1247.--E.


Volume 1, Chapter 8, Section 20 -- Of his first Reception by the Tartars.

On the first Saturday after Ash-Wednesday, while we were taking up our quarters for the night, near sunset, a number of armed Tartars came suddenly upon us, in a threatening manner, demanding who we were. Having told them that we were messengers from the Pope, and giving them some victuals, they immediately went away. When we proceeded on our journey next morning, the chiefs of this guard met us, and demanded to know the purpose of our journey. We answered "That we were messengers from our Lord the Pope, the father and lord of the Christians, going to their emperor and princes, and the whole Tartar nation, to desire peace and friendship between the Tartars and the Christians: And as the Pope wished the Tartars to become great, and to acquire the favour of God, he admonished them by us, and by his letters, to embrace the faith of Christ, without which they could not be saved: That the Pope was astonished to hear of their monstrous slaughter of mankind, more especially of the Hungarians, Mountaineers, and Polanders, who were his subjects, and who had neither injured, or attempted to injure the Tartars; and as God is sore offended by such proceedings, the Pope admonished them to refrain in future, and to repent of what they had done, and requested an answer as to their future intentions." On which they promised us horses and a guide to Corrensa, but for which favour they demanded presents. Some of them rode swiftly on before, to inform Corrensa of our message, and we followed. This Corrensa is general or duke of all the Tartars who are placed as a guard against the people of the West, lest some enemy might suddenly invade them; and is said to have 60,000 men under his command.


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