Volume 1, Chapter 9 -- Travels of William de Rubruquis into Tartary, about the year 1253.
*Dedication by the Author*
*Section 1* -- Commencement of the Journey
*Section 2* -- Of the Tartars and their Houses
*Section 3* -- Of their Beds and Drinking-cups
*Section 4* -- Of their Kinds of Drink, and Fashion of Drinking
*Section 5* -- Of their Food
*Section 6* -- How they make the Drink called Cosmos
*Section 7* -- Of the Beasts they eat, of their Garments, and of their Hunting parties
*Section 8* -- Of the Fashion of their Hair, and the Ornaments of their Women
*Section 9* -- Of the Duties and Labours of the Women, and of their Nuptials
*Section 10* -- Of their Laws and Judgments, and of their Death and Burial
*Section 11* -- Of our first Entering among the Tartars, and of their Ingratitude
*Section 12* -- Of the Court of Zagathai, and how the Christians drink no Cosmos
*Section 13* -- How some Alanians visited them on the Eve of Pentecost
*Section 14* -- Of a Saracen who desired to be Baptized, and of men who seemed Lepers
*Section 15* -- Of our Distresses, and of the Comanian funerals
*Section 16* -- Of the Dominions and Subjects of Sartach
*Section 17* -- Of the Magnificence of the Court of Sartach
*Section 18* -- They are ordered to proceed to Baatu, the Father of Sartach
*Section 19* -- Of the Reverence shewn by Sartach, Mangu-khan, and Ken-chan, to the Christians
*Section 20* -- Of the Russians, Hungarians, Alanians, and of the Caspian
*Section 21* -- Of the Court of Baatu, and our Entertainment there
*Section 22* -- The Journey to the Court of Mangu-khan
*Section 23* -- Of the River Jaic or Ural, and of sundry Regions and Nations
*Section 24* -- Of the Hunger, Thirst, and other Miseries we endured
*Section 25* -- Of the Execution of Ban, and concerning the residence of certain Germans
*Section 26* -- How the Nestorians and Mahometans are mixed with Idolaters
*Section 27* -- Of their Temples and Idols, and the Worship of their Gods
*Section 28* -- Of sundry Nations, and of certain People who used to eat their Parents
*Section 29* -- Of Cailac, and the Country of the Naymans
*Section 30* -- Description of the Country of the Naymans, with an Account of the Death of Ken-khan and of his Wife and Eldest Son
*Section 31* -- Arrival at the Court of Mangu-khan
*Section 32* -- The Introduction of Rubruquis to Mangu-khan
*Section 33* -- Of a Woman of Lorain, and a Goldsmith of Paris, and several other Christians, whom they found at the Court of Mangu-khan
*Section 34* -- Of a Grand Feast given by Mangu-khan and of the Ceremonies of the Nestorians
*Section 35* -- Of a great Cure performed by the Armenian monk Sergius, on one of the Wives of Mangu-khan
*Section 36* -- Account of the Country under the Dominion of the Great Khan of the Manners and Customs of his Subjects; of a Wonderful Piece of Mechanism, constructed by a French Goldsmith; and of the Palace of the Khan at Caracarum
*Section 37* -- Of certain disputes between Rubruquis and the Saracens and Idolaters, at the Court of Mangu-khan, respecting Religion
*Section 38* -- The last audience of Rubruquis with Mangu-khan, and the letter he received for the King of France
*Section 39* -- The departure of Rubruquis from the Court of Mangu-khan, and his journey by Saray and other places, to Tripoly in Syria



These travels were undertaken by order of Louis IX. of France, usually called St. Louis. In the original, or at least in the printed copies which have come down to our times, Rubruquis is said to have commenced his journey in the year 1253; but this date is attended with some difficulties, as we are certain that king Louis was a prisoner from 1249 to 1254. It is possible, indeed, that he may have dispatched this mission while a prisoner; yet it is more probable, that the date may have been vitiated in transcription. The real name of this early traveller, who was a friar of the minorite order, is said to have been Van Ruysbroek,[2] from a village of that name near Brussels, Latinized, or Frenchified rather, into De Rubruquis. By Hakluyt he is named Rubruk. The version here offered to the public, is a translation from the Latin copy in Hakluyt, as addressed by the adventurous traveller to his royal master, after his return from traversing the whole extent of Tartary; the English translation, by that early and meritorious collector, being far too antiquated for modern readers.

[1] Hakluyt, I. 80. for the Latin, and I.101. for the English. See likewise Harris, I. 556.
[2] Pinkerton, Mod. Geogr. II. xvi.



Dedication by the Author

To the Most Excellent and Most Christian Lord Louis, by the Grace of GOD the illustrious King of the French; Friar William de Rubruquís, the meanest of the Minorite Order, wisheth health and continual triumph in CHRIST JESUS.

It is written in the book of Ecclesiasticus, "That the truly wise man shall travel through strange countries; for he hath tried the good and evil among men." All this, Sire, I have performed; and I wish I may have done so as a wise man, and not as a fool. For many do foolishly those things which have been done by wise men, and I fear I may be reckoned among that number. But as you were pleased to command me at my departure, that I should write down every thing I saw among the Tartars, and should not fear to write long letters, I now therefore obey your orders, yet with awe and reverence, as wanting fit language in which to address so great a king.



Volume 1, Chapter 9, Section 1 -- Commencement of the Journey.

Be it known, therefore, to your sacred majesty, that in the year 1253, on the 7th of May, we entered into the sea of Pontus, which the Bulgarians call the Great Sea;[1] which I was informed, by certain merchants, is 1008 miles in length, and is in a manner divided, about its middle, into two parts, by means of two provinces which project into it, one on the north, and the other on the south. That which is on the south is called Synope, and contains the castle and port of the Sultan of the Turks. The northern province is called Gasaria by the Latins,[2] and Cassaria by the Greek inhabitants of its coast, which is the same with Caesaria; and from thence certain headlands extend southwards into the sea, towards Synope, from the nearest part of which they are 300 miles distant; so that the distance from these points to Constantinople is 700 miles in length and breadth, and 700 miles to Hiberia in the east, which is a province of Georgia.

We arrived in the province of Gasaria, or Casaria, which is of a triangular form, having a city named Kersova on its western extremity, in which St. Clement suffered martyrdom. While sailing past that city, we saw an island containing a church, which is said to have been built by the angels. In the middle of this province, and on a cape to the south, stands the city of Soldaia, directly facing Synope. And here all merchants land who come from Turkey, in their way to the north, and embark here again on their return from Russia and the north for Turkey; these latter bring ermines and martins, and other valuable furs, and the former carry cloths made of cotton, or bombasins, and silk webs, and aromatic spices. On the east of this province is the city of Matriga,[3] where the Tanais flows into the Pontus, by a mouth of twelve miles wide.[4] Before this river enters the Euxine, it forms itself into a sea towards the north, of seven hundred miles in length and breadth, but in no place above six paces deep, so that it is not navigable for large vessels: For which reason, the merchants of Constantinople, when they arrive at the city of Matriga, send their barks to the Tanais, where they purchase dried fish, sturgeons, thosas, barbels, and many other sorts of fish.

This province of Casaria has the sea on three sides; on the west, where stands Kersova, or the city of St Clement; on the south, where is the city of Soldaia, at which we landed; and on the east, where Matriga is situated at the mouth of the Tanais. To the east of that mouth is the city of Zikia, and the countries of the Suevi and Hiberi still further east, all of which are not under the dominion of the Tartars. To the south is Trebisond, which has its own prince, named Guido, who, although of the imperial race of Constantinople, is under the Tartar dominion; and next to it is Synope, which belongs to the sultan of the Turks, who is likewise subjected to the Tartars. Beyond this is the country of Vastacius, whose son is named Astar, after his maternal grandfather, and this country is not under the dominion of the Tartars. From the mouth of the Tanais to the Danube, and even beyond the Danube towards Constantinople, including Walachia, which is the country of Assanus, and the lesser Bulgaria as far as Solonia, pay tribute to the Tartars, who of late years have exacted an axe from each family, and all the corn which they find in heaps, in addition to the regular tribute.

We landed at Soldaia[5] on the 21st of May, where certain merchants of Constantinople had previously arrived, who reported that ambassadors from the Holy Land were coming thither, on their way to Sartach; although I had publickly declared on palm Sunday, in the church of St Sophia, that I was no ambassador from you or any one, and only travelled to these infidels, in conformity with the rule of our order. On our arrival, these merchants advised me to be cautious of what I said; for, as they had already reported that I was an ambassador, if I should now say the contrary, I should be refused a free passage. Upon this, I addressed myself to the lieutenants of the city, because the captains had gone with the tribute to Baatu, and were not yet returned: saying, "We have heard in the Holy Land, that your lord Sartach[6] had become a Christian, which hath greatly rejoiced all the Christians, and especially the most Christian King of the French, who is there in pilgrimage, fighting against the Saracens, that he may redeem the Holy Land out of their hands: Wherefore, I desire to go to Sartach, that I may carry him letters from the king my master, in which he gives him intelligence of importance to all Christendom." They received us graciously, and entertained us hospitably in the cathedral church; the bishop had been at the court of Sartach, and told me many good things concerning him, which I did not find afterwards to be true. They then gave us our choice, either to have carts drawn by oxen, for carrying our baggage, or sumpter horses; and the Constantinopolitan merchants advised me to purchase covered carts, like those in which the Russians carry their peltry, in which I should put every thing which was wanted for daily use; because, if I were to take packhorses, I should be constrained to pack and unpack at every baiting place, and that besides, I should ride more easily in the carts than on horseback. By following their evil advice, I was two months in travelling to Sartach, which I might have accomplished in one on horseback. I had brought with me from Constantinople fruits of various kinds, muscadel wine, and delicate biscuits, to present to the captains, that I might obtain free passage, having been advised by the merchants, that these persons gave a very cold reception to such as applied to them empty handed. The governors or captains being absent, I caused all these things to be packed up in one of the carts, being informed that they would be acceptable presents to Sartach.

We began our journey about the beginning of June, having four covered carts of our own, and two others which they furnished to us, in which we carried our bedding, and we were allowed five riding horses for ourselves, our company consisting of five persons; viz. myself and my companion, Friar Bartholomew of Cremona, Goset, the bearer of these letters, the man of God Turgeman,[7] and a servant or slave, named Nicholas, whom I had purchased at Constantinople, out of the alms we had received. The people of Soldaia likewise allowed us two men to drive our carts, and to take care of our horses and oxen.

There are several lofty promontories on the shore of Casaria, between Kersova[8] and the mouth of the Tanais; and there are forty castles between Kersova and Soldaia, at almost each of which a distinct language is spoken; and among these are many Goths who speak the Teutonic language.[9] Beyond these mountains, towards the north, extends a most beautiful wood, in a plain, which is full of springs and rivulets; and beyond this wood is an extensive plain, continuing for five days journey to the northern extremity of this province, where it contracts into a narrow space, having the sea on the east and west, and a great ditch is drawn between these two seas. In this plain the Comani dwelt before the coming of the Tartars, and compelled the before-mentioned cities and castles to pay tribute; and upon the coming of the Tartars, so vast a multitude of the Comani took refuge in this province, flying to the sea shore, that the living were forced to feed upon the dying, as I was assured by a merchant, an eye-witness, who declared, that the survivors tore in pieces with their teeth, and devoured the raw flesh of the dead as dogs do carrion. Towards the extremity of this province, there are many large lakes, having salt springs on their banks, and when the water of these springs reaches the lake, it coagulates into hard salt like ice. From these salt springs, Sartach and Baatu draw large revenues; as people come from all parts of Russia to procure salt, and for each cart-load, they pay two webs of cotton cloth, equal in value to half an yperpera. Many vessels come likewise by sea for salt, all of which pay tribute, in proportion to the quantities which they carry away. On the third day after leaving Soldaia, we fell in with the Tartars, on joining whom, I thought myself entered into a new world; wherefore, I shall use my best endeavours to describe their manners and way of life.

[1] The Euxine or Black Sea. Though not expressed in the text, he probably took his departure from Constantinople.--E
[2] By the Latins are here obviously meant the inhabitants of western Europe. The province here mentioned is the Crimea; the Taurica Chersonesus of the ancients, or the modern Taurida.--E.
[3] At the mouth of one of the branches of the Kuban is the town of Temruck, formerly called Tmutrakhan by the Russians, and Tamatarcha by the Greeks; this has been corrupted to Tamaterca, Materca, and Matriga.--Forst.
[4] This obviously refers to the canal of communication between the sea of Azoph and the Euxine.--E.
[5] Called likewise Soldeya, Soldadia and Sogdat, now Sudak.--E.
[6] Sartach was the son of Baatu-khan.--E.
[7] This name is probably meant to imply the Trucheman, Dragoman, or interpreter; and from the strange appellative, Man of God, he may have been a monk from Constantinople, with a Greek name, having that signification: perhaps Theander--E.
[8] Cherson or Kersona, called likewise Scherson, Schursi, and Gurzi.--E.
[9] These castles of the Goths, first mentioned by Rubruquis, were afterwards noticed by Josaphat Barbaro, a Venetian, in 1436; and Busbeck conversed with some of these Goths from the Crimea at Constantinople in 1562, and gives a vocabulary of their language. From the authority of Rubruquis misunderstood, some ancient map makers have inserted the Castella Judeorum instead of Gothorum in the Crimea, and even Danville placed them in his maps under the name of Chateaux des Juifs, castles of the Jews.--Forst.



Volume 1, Chapter 9, Section 2 -- Of the Tartars and their Houses.

They have no permanent city, and they are ignorant of the future. They divide all Scythia among them; and each leader, according to the number of his followers, knows the boundaries of his pastures, and where he ought to feed his flocks in winter and summer, and in spring and autumn. In winter they descend into the warmer regions of the south, and in summer they travel towards the colder countries of the north. Such pastures as have no water, are reserved for winter use, when there is snow on the ground, as the snow there serves instead of water.

The houses in which they sleep are founded on a round structure of wattled rods, and the roof is formed of wickers, meeting above in a small roundel, from which arises a neck like a chimney, all of which they cover with white felt; and they often cover over the felt with lime, or white earth and powdered bones to make it bright: sometimes their houses are black; and the felt about the neck of the dome is decorated with a variety of pictures. Before the door, likewise, they hang a felt, ornamented with painting; and they employ much coloured felt, painted with vines, trees, birds, and beasts, for decorating their dwellings. Some of these houses are so large as to measure thirty feet in breadth. I once measured the distance between the wheel ruts of one of their waggons to be twenty feet, and when the house was upon the waggon, it spread beyond the wheels at least five feet on each side. I have counted twenty-two bullocks dragging one waggon, surmounted by a house; eleven in one row, according to the breadth or the waggon, and other eleven before these. The axle of this waggon was very large, like the mast of a ship; and one man stood in the door of the house, upon the waggon, urging on the oxen. They likewise make quadrangular structures of small split wicker, like large chests, and frame for them an arched lid or cover of similar twigs, having a small door at the front end; and they cover this chest or small house with black felt, smeared over with suet or sheeps' milk,[1] to prevent the rain from penetrating; and these are likewise decorated with paintings or feathers. In these they put all their household goods and treasure; and they bind these upon higher carts, drawn by camels, that they may be able to cross rivers without injuring their contents. These chests are never taken down from the carts to which they belong. When their dwelling-houses are unloaded from the waggons, their doors are always turned to the south; and the carts, with the chests which belong to each house, are drawn up in two rows, one on each side of the dwelling, at about the distance of a stone's throw.

The married women get most beautiful carts made for themselves, which I am unable to describe without the aid of painting, and which I would have drawn for your majesty, if I had possessed sufficient talents. One rich Moal, or Tartar, will have from a hundred to two hundred such carts with chests. Baatu has sixteen wives, each of whom has one large house, besides several small ones, serving as chambers for her female attendants, and which are placed behind the large house; and to the large house of each wife there belong two hundred chest-carts. When the camp is formed, the house of the first wife is placed on the west, and all the rest extend in one line eastwards, so that the last wife is on the east, or left of all. And between the station of each wife there is the distance of a stone's throw, so that the court of a rich Moal appears like a large city, but in which there are very few men. One girl is able to lead twenty or thirty carts; for the ground being quite plain, they fasten the carts, whether drawn by camels or oxen, behind each other, and the girl sits on the front of the foremost cart of the string, directing the cattle, while all the rest follow with an equable motion. If they come to any difficult passage, the carts are untied from each other, and conducted across singly; and they travel at a very slow pace, only so fast as an ox or a lamb can easily walk.

[1] The butter from ewe-milk is probably here meant.--E.



Volume 1, Chapter 9, Section 3 -- Of their Beds and Drinking-cups.

After having placed the house on the ground, with its door turned to the south, the bed of the master is placed to the north, opposite the door. The place of the women is always on the east, or on the masters left hand, where he sits on his bed with his face to the south, and the place of the men on his right hand, to the west; and when any men enter into the house, they never hang up their quivers on the womens side. Over the head of the lord there is placed an image or puppet of felt, which is called the masters brother, and a similar image over the head of the mistress, which is called her brother; and a little higher between these, there is one very small and thin, which is, as it were, the keeper of the house. The mistress places at the foot of her bed, on the right hand, in a conspicuous place, the skin of a kid, stuffed with wool, or some such material, and beside that a small puppet looking towards the maidens and women. Near the door, on the womens side of the house, there is another image, with a cows udder, as the guardian of the women who milk the kine. On the masters side of the door is another image, having the udder of a mare, being the tutelary deity of the men who milk the mares. When they meet together for drinking, they, in the first place, sprinkle the master's idol with some of the liquor, and then all the rest in their order; after which a servant goes out of the house with a cup of drink, and sprinkles thrice towards the south, making a genuflexion between each, in honour of the fire, then towards the east, in honour of the air, next towards the west, in honour of the water, and lastly, towards the north, for the dead. When the lord takes the cup in his hand to drink, he first pours a part on the ground; and if he is to drink on horseback, he first spills a portion on the neck and mane of his horse. After the servant has made his libations to the four quarters of the world, he returns into the house, and two other servants are ready with two other cups and salvers, to carry drink to the lord and his wife, who sit together on a bed. When he has more than one wife, she with whom he slept the night before sits beside him that day, and all the other wives must come to her house that day to drink; and all the gifts which the lord receives that day are deposited in her chests. Upon a bench there stands vessels of milk and other drinks, and drinking cups.



Volume 1, Chapter 9, Section 4 -- Of their Kinds of Drink, and Fashion of Drinking.

In winter they make excellent drink of rice, millet, and honey, which is clear like wine; and they have wine brought to them from distant countries. In summer they care not for any drink except cosmos, which always stands within the door, and beside it is a minstrel with his instrument of music. I saw no citerns, lutes, and viols, such as ours, but they have many other instruments which we have not. When the lord begins to drink, one of his servants exclaims aloud Ha! and the minstrel begins to play. When they make a great feast, all the guests clap their hands and dance to the music, the men before the lord, and the women before the lady of the house. When the lord hath drank, the servant calls out as before, and the minstrel ceases; then all drink round in their turns, both men and women, and they sometimes carouse on hearing the news of a victory, to a shameful and beastly degree. When they desire to provoke one to drink, they seize him by the ears, dragging them strongly, as if to widen his throat, clapping their hands, and dancing before him. When they mean to do great honour to any person, one takes a full cup, having one on his right hand, and another on his left, and these three advance towards him who is to receive the cup, singing and dancing before him; but when he reaches out his hand to receive the cup, they suddenly draw back, and come forwards again in the same manner, and they thus delude him three or four times, till he seems very eager, when they give him the cup, and keep dancing, singing, and stamping with their feet, till he has finished his draught.



Volume 1, Chapter 9, Section 5 -- Of their Food.

They eat indifferently of all dead animals, even such as have died of disease; and among such numbers of cattle and flocks, many animals must die almost continually. But in summer, when they have plenty of cosmos, or mares milk, they care little for any other food. When an ox or horse happens to die, they cut its flesh into thin slices, which they dry in the sun and air, which preserves it from corruption, and free from all bad smell. From the intestines of their horses they make sausages, better than those which are made of pork, and which they eat when newly made, but the rest of the flesh is reserved for winter use. Of the hides of oxen they form large bags, which they dry in a wonderful manner in the smoke. Of the hinder part of their horse skins they fabricate excellent sandals. They will make a meal for fifty, or even an hundred men, of the carcase of one ram. This they mince in a bowl, mixed with salt and water, which is their only seasoning, and then, with the point of a knife, or a little fork made on purpose, like those with which we eat pears and apples stewed in wine, they reach to every one of the company a morsel or two, according to the number; the master of the house having first served himself to his mind, before any of the rest, and if he gives a particular portion to any one, that person must eat it up, without giving any of it to another, or if he is unable to eat the whole, he takes it home with him, or gives it to his servant to take care of, if he has one, otherwise he puts it into his own saptargat, or square leather bag, which they carry always with them for such purposes, or for preserving any bones which they have not time to pick thoroughly, that they may clean them well afterwards, and that nothing may be lost.


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