Volume 1, Chapter 8, Sections 21-25 -- 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 21 -- His Reception at the Court of Corrensa.

On our arrival at the residence of Corrensa, our tent was ordered to be pitched at a considerable distance, and his agents came to demand what gifts we would offer in paying our obeisance to him. We answered that our lord the Pope had sent no gifts, as he was uncertain if we should ever arrive at their country, considering the dangerous places we had to pass through; but that we should honour him with part of those things which had been given us to defray the charges of our journey. Having received our gifts, we were conducted to the orda or tent of the duke Corrensa, and instructed to bow our left knee thrice before his door, taking great care not to set our feet on the threshold; and when entered, we were to repeat on our knees the words which we had said before. This done, we presented the letters of the Pope; but the interpreter whom we had hired at Kiow, was not able to explain them sufficiently, nor could any one be found equal to the task.

From this place post-horses were appointed to conduct us with all speed to duke Baatu, under the guidance of three Tartars.  This Baatu is the most powerful prince among them, next to their emperor. We began our journey to his court on the first Tuesday in Lent, and riding as fast as we could trot, though we changed our horses twice or thrice every day, and often travelled in the night, it was Maunday Thursday before we accomplished our journey. The whole of this journey was through the land of Comania, which is all an uniform plain, watered by four large rivers. The first of these is the Dnieper or Boristhenes; on the Russian side of which the dukes Corrensa and Montij march up and down, the latter, who marches on the other side of the plains, being the more powerful of the two.[1] The second river is the Don, or Tanais of the ancients, on the banks of which a certain prince, named Tirbon, sojourns, who is married to the daughter of Baatu.  The third and largest is the Volga or Rha, on which Baatu resides. The fourth is the Jaik or Rhymnus, on each bank of which a millenary commands. All these descend southwards in winter to the sea, and travel in summer up these rivers, towards the northern mountains.  All these rivers, especially the Volga, abound in fish, and run into the great sea, from which the arm of St George extends past Constantinople.[2] While on the Dnieper, we travelled many days upon the ice; and on the shore of the sea we found the ice three leagues broad.  Before our arrival at the residence of Baatu, two of our Tartars rode on before, to give him an account of what we had said to Corrensa.

[1] It is difficult to understand the ambiguity here used, unless we suppose that the station of Montij was on the right bank of the Dnieper; while certainly that of Corrensa was on the left or north-east bank.--E.
[2] The Euxine and Caspian are here confounded as one sea. It is scarcely necessary to observe, that the Dnieper and Don run into the Euxine, while the Volga and Jaik, or Ural, are discharged into the Caspian.--E.



Volume 1, Chapter 8, Section 22 -- The Reception of Carpini at the Court of Baatu.

When we arrived at the residence of Baatu, in the land of Comania, we were ordered to pitch our tent a full league from his station, and when we were to be introduced at his court, we were informed that it was previously necessary for us to pass between two fires. We refused this at first, but were told there was no danger, and that it was only precautionary, in case we intended any mischief to their lord, or should have brought poison along with us, as the fire would remove all evil. On which we complied, that we might remove all suspicion of any such sinister intentions. After this, when we came to the orda, we were questioned by Eldegay, the agent of the prince, respecting the gifts we meant to offer; and making the same reply we had given at the court of Corrensa, our gifts were offered and accepted; and having declared the object of our journey, we were introduced into the presence, making our obeisances, and were admonished respecting the threshold, as formerly mentioned. We then rehearsed our former oration on our knees, and produced our letters, and requested the aid of interpreters to translate them. These were sent us on Good Friday, and, with their assistance, our letters were carefully translated into the Russian, Tartarian, and Saracen languages, and presented to Baatu, who read them with attention. We were then conducted back to our lodging, but no food was given us, except a little millet in a dish, on the first evening of our arrival.

Baatu carries himself with great magnificence, having porters, and all other officers, after the manner of the emperor, and sits in an elevated place, like a throne, along with one of his wives. Some of his brothers, and sons, and nobles, sit below him, on benches, and all others on the ground, behind the rest, the men being on his right, and the women on his left. He uses some beautiful and large linen tents, which formerly belonged to the king of Hungary; and no person, however great, presumes to enter his tent without leave, except his own family. At this interview we were seated on his left hand, but on our return from the emperor, we were placed on the right. A table stands near the door of the tent or house, on which there is abundance of drink, in golden and silver vessels. Neither Baatu, nor any of the Tartar princes, drink in public, without having singers and harpers playing before them. When he rides, there is a small tent, canopy, or umbrella, carried over his head, on the point of a spear; and the same is done to all the Tartar princes and their wives. Baatu is extremely courteous to his people, yet is held in great awe; he is exceedingly sagacious, crafty in war, and inexorably cruel in battle, and has been long experienced in the conduct of warlike enterprises.



Volume 1, Chapter 8, Section 23 -- The Journey through the Land of Comania, and of the Kangittae.

On Easter eve we were again called to the court, and Eldegay, whom we have mentioned before as the agent of Baatu, came out to us from the tent, saying that we must go forwards to the court of their emperor: but they detained a part of our company, under pretence of sending them back to the Pope. We accordingly gave letters to these persons, reciting all that had hitherto occurred; but they got no farther than the residence of duke Montij, where we joined them on our return homewards. Next day, being Easter, after prayers and a slight breakfast, we departed from the court of Baatu in much dejection of spirits, accompanied by two guides. We were so feeble that we could hardly support the fatigue of riding, our only food during Lent having been millet boiled with water, and our only drink melted snow. Passing eastwards through Comania, we travelled continually with great expedition, changing our horses five times a day, and sometimes oftener; except when we had to pass through deserts, on which occasions we had stronger horses allowed, that were able to undergo the whole labour. In this manner we travelled, almost without ceasing, from the beginning of Lent, until eight days after Easter, including our journey to the court of Baatu.

On the north of Comania, immediately beyond Russia, lie the people called Morduyni-Byleri[1] in great Bulgaria, and the Bastarci in great Hungary; beyond the Bastarci are the Parositae and Samogetae; and beyond these, on the desert shores of the ocean, a people who are said to have dogs faces. On the south, Comania has the Alani, Circassians, Gazarians, Greece, and Constantinople, the land of the Iberians, the Cattes, the Brutaches, who are said to be Jews, who shave the whole of their heads, and the lands of the Scythians, Georgians, Armenians, and Turks. On the west are Hungary and Russia. Comania is a country of great length and breadth, the inhabitants of which were mostly extirpated by the Tartars, though many of them were reduced to bondage and some fled, but the fugitives have in general returned, and now serve the Tartars. We next entered the land of the Kangittae, which has few inhabitants, owing to a great scarcity of water. From this circumstance, several of the servants of Jeroslaus, duke of Russia, perished in the desert, when travelling to join him in the land of the Tartars. Both here and in Comania, we found many human bones and skulls in large heaps.[2] The Comanians and Kangittae, were pagans who dwelt in tents, and lived entirely on the produce of their flocks and herds, without practising any tillage whatever. On their conquest, a great part of the Kangittae were rooted out by the Tartars, and the remnant reduced to bondage.

[1] The Morduyni, Morduas, or Merdas, were probably the same people with those now called Tscheremisses, who call themselves Mari-murt, or the people of Mari.--E.
[2] Probably Tartar trophies of victory. Even Timour, the great Mongol conqueror after Zingis, so much vaunted by many writers for his virtues and humanity, used to order the erection of immense pyramids of recent human heads, in memory of victory.--E.



Volume 1, Chapter 8, Section 24 -- The arrival of Carpini at the first Station of the new Emperor.

From the land of the Kangittae we entered the country of the Bisermini, who speak the Comanian language and observe the law of Mahomet. In this country we saw innumerable ruined cities and castles, and many towns left desolate. The former sovereign of this country, which is full of high mountains, was called Alti Soldan, who, with all his lineage, was destroyed by the Tartars. On the south side lie Jerusalem and Baldach, or Bagdat; and on its nearest borders dwell two Tartar dukes, Burin and Cadan, sons of Thiaday the son of Zingis-chan. To the north is the land of the black Kitayans and the ocean.[1] Syban, the brother of Baatu, dwells in the land of the Bisermini. We travelled in this country from Ascension-day until eight days before the feast of St John the Baptist, 16th June, when we entered the land of the black Kitayans, in which the emperor has built a house, where we were invited to drink, and the resident there for the emperor, caused the principal people of the city, and even his own two sons, to dance before us.[2] Going from thence we came to a certain sea, having a small mountain on its banks, in which there is said to be a hole, whence such vehement tempests of wind issue in winter, that travellers can hardly pass without imminent danger. In summer the noise of the wind is heard proceeding from this hole, but it is then quite gentle. We travelled along the shore of this sea for several days, leaving it upon our left; and though this sea is not of very large dimensions, it contains a considerable number of islands.[3] Ordu, whom we have already mentioned as the senior of all the Tartar dukes, dwells in this country, in the orda or court of his father, where one of his wives bears rule. For, according to the Tartar customs, the courts of princes and nobles are never dissolved at their deaths, but are kept up under the government of one of his wives, to whom the gifts are continued which used to be given to their lords. In this place, therefore, we arrived at the first court under the immediate jurisdiction of the emperor, in which one of his wives dwelt; but as we had not yet been presented to the emperor, we were not invited, or even permitted to enter the station, but were exceedingly well entertained in our tent, after the Tartar fashion, and were allowed to remain there one day for rest and refreshment.

[1] The confused geographical notices of this traveller are so uninstructive, as not to merit any commentary. A good account of the present state of these immense regions will be found in Pinkerton's Modern Geography, articles Independent Tartary, Chinese Tartary, and Asiatic Russia. The ancient and perpetually changing distribution of nations in Scythia or Tartary, in its most extended sense, almost elude research, and would require lengthened dissertations instead of illustrative notes.--E.
[2] From the subsequent travels of Rubruquis, it will appear, that this ceremony was in honour of the Tartar messengers going from Baatu to the emperor, not from respect to the papal envoys.--E.
[3] This sea is obviously the lake Balkash, or Palkati-nor, at the south end of which our maps represent a group of islands.--E.



Volume 1, Chapter 8, Section 25 -- The Arrival of Carpini at the Court of the Emperor elect.

Leaving this place on the eve of St Peter and Paul, 28th June, we entered the country of the pagan Naymani,[1] and next day was excessively cold, attended by a great fall of snow. Indeed this country is very mountainous and excessively cold, and has very little plain ground, wherefore these nations had no tillage, but dwelt in tents, which were destroyed by the Tartars. We travelled through this country for many days, and at length entered the land of the Mongals, whom we call Tartars. Through this latter country we continued our journey for about three weeks, continually riding with great expedition, and at length arrived at the residence of the emperor elect, on the feast of Mary Magdalen, 22d July. In the whole of this journey we used extraordinary exertion, as our Tartar guides were ordered to bring us with all expedition to attend the solemn court which had been long appointed for the election of the emperor: on which account we always travelled from early morning till night, without stopping to take food; and we often came to our quarters so late, as not to get any food that night, but were forced to eat in the morning what we ought to have had for supper. We changed horses frequently every day, and travelled constantly as hard as our horses could trot.

[1] The Soongaria of modern Geography.--E.


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