Volume 1, Chapter 10 -- Travels of Haitho, Prince of Armenia, in Tartary, in 1254.

Volume 1, Chapter 10, Section 1 -- Introduction.[1]

Haitho, or Hatto, was the son of Livon, or Leon II., nephew of Haitho I., king of Armenia Minor, in Lesser Asia. At the demise of his father, he refused to accept of the crown, which he resigned in favour of his brother Thores or Theodore; but assisted him and his son and successor, Leon III., in all the wars and troubles in which they were engaged during many years. During the reign of his father in 1254, accompanied by his wife and child, he travelled to the court of Mangu-khan, the great sovereign of the Tartars or Mongals, for the purpose of obtaining an abatement of the tribute which had been imposed by these conquerors upon his country, and appears to have been successful in his negotiations. His journey into the east took place in the same year in which Rubruquis was on his return; and while at the court or leskar of Sartach, he was of material service to two of the attendants of Rubruquis, who had been left at that station; and who but for his interference must have perished by famine, or would have been reduced to slavery. Forster asserts that Haitho met with Rubruquis, who was then on his return home; but we have already seen, in the account of the travels of Rubruquis, that the two travellers did not meet.

In the year 1305, when he must have become very old, Haitho became a monk of the Praemonstratensian order at Episcopia in Cyprus. He afterwards went to Poitou in France, where he dictated in French to Nicholas Salconi, a history of the events which had occurred in the east from the first commencement of the conquests of the Tartars or Mongals, including the reigns of Zingis-khan and his successors, to Mangu-khan inclusively; and a particular narrative of the history of his own country, Armenia Minor, from the reign of Haitho I. to that of Leon II. both inclusive. This account Salconi translated into Latin in 1307, by order of the reigning Pope.

The travels of Haitho being perfectly contemporary with those of Rubruquis, are not sufficiently interesting to be here inserted; and the historical part of his relations have no connection with the plan of this work, which it would swell beyond due bounds: But the following brief account of his geographical description of the east, as it existed in the thirteenth century, and as abstracted by J. R. Forster, in his Voyages and Discoveries in the North, have been deemed worthy of insertion, together with the observations or commentaries of that ingenious author.

[1] Forst. Hist. of Voy. and Disc. in the North, p. 113.


Volume 1, Chapter 10, Section 2 -- Geographical Notices of the East in the Thirteenth Century, by Haitho.

§ 1. The empire of Kathay is one of the most extensive, most opulent, and most populous in the world, and is entirely situated on the sea coast. The inhabitants have a very high notion of their own superior intelligence, which they express by saying, that they only of all the people on earth have two eyes; to the Latins they allow one, and consider all other nations as blind. The Kathayans have small eyes and no beards. Their money consists of small square pieces of paper, impressed with the seal of their emperor. To the west, this empire is bounded by that of the Tarsae; to the north by the desert of Belgian; and to the south by the sea, in which there are innumerable islands. The inhabitants of Kathay are exceedingly skilful and ingenious in all works of art and in manufactures, but are of a very timorous disposition.

[In the foregoing description, and in the traits of character, the empire and inhabitants of northern China are distinctly indicated.--Forst.]

§ 2. The empire of Tarsa is divided into three provinces, each of which has a sovereign who assumes the title of King. The inhabitants are called Jogur, the Jugur or Uigur of other authors. They are divided into many tribes, ten of whom are Christians, and the rest heathens. They abstain from every article of food which has ever had life, and drink no wine, but raise abundance of corn. Their towns are very pleasant, and contain great numbers of idol temples. They are not inclined to war, but learn all arts and sciences with great facility, and have a particular manner of writing, which is adopted by all the neighbouring nations. To the east, this country is bounded by Kathay, to the west by Turkestan, to the north by an extensive desert, and to the south by a very rich province, named Sym or Peim, in which diamonds are found, and which, is situated between Kathay and India.

[It appears, that Haitho here describes the country of the Uigurs in conjunction with that of the Gete: but how it came to receive the name of Tarsae I know not.--Forst.]

§ 3. Turkestan is bounded on the east by the empire of Tarsae, to the west by Khorasmin or Khuaresm, and to the south it extends to the desert which forms the northern frontier of India. In this country there are few good towns; but many extensive plains, which afford excellent pasturage to cattle, and the inhabitants are almost universally shepherds and tenders of cattle. They dwell mostly in tents, and in huts which can be transported from place to place. They cultivate only a small quantity of corn, and have no wine. Their drink is beer and milk, and they subsist upon meat with rice and millet. The people are known by the name of Turks, and are of the Mahometan religion. Such of them as live in towns use the Arabian letters. Ocerra or Otrar is the capital of this country.

§ 4. Khorasmin or Khuaresm, is a populous, pleasant, and fertile country, containing many good and strong towns, the capital being Khorasme. The country produces abundance of corn, and very little wine. This empire borders on a desert of an hundred days journey in extent. To the west is the Caspian sea, to the north Kumania, and to the east Turkestan. The inhabitants are heathens, without letters or laws. The Soldini are the most intrepid of warriors; have a particular language of their own, for which they employ the Greek characters in writing; and they follow the usages and rites of the Greek church, being subject in spirituals to the Patriarch of Antioch.

[According to Ulug-Beg, who was himself prince of this country, the capital of Khuaresm is the city of Korkang, and no author except Haitho has ever mentioned a place called Khorasme. The Soldini, whom he mentions as Christians of the Greek church, are unknown; perhaps they may have been the Sogdians.--Forst.]

§ 5. Kumania is of vast extent; but, owing to the inclemency of its climate, is very thinly inhabited. In some parts, the cold is so intense in winter, that neither man nor beast can remain in them; and in other parts the heat is so extreme, and they are so infested with swarms of flies, as to be quite intolerable. The whole country is flat and level, and without woods, except some orchards near the towns. The inhabitants live in tents, and use the dung of their cattle as fuel. It is bounded on the east by a desert towards Khorasmia; to the west is the great sea, or Euxine, and the sea of Tenue, Tanna, or Azof; to the north, is the empire of Kaffia or Kiow; and to the south it extends to the great river Etile or Wolga, which passes the capital. This river is frozen over every year, and men and beasts walk upon the ice as on dry land; along the banks of the river are many small trees; and on the other side of the river, the country is inhabited by a people, who, though not Kumanians, are subject to the Khan. Some live towards the high mountains of Cocas or Caucasus, in which there are white kites. This range of mountains extends between the Black Sea or Euxine on the west, and the Caspian on the east; this latter has no connection with the ocean, but is a vast lake called a sea, on account of its extent, being the largest lake in the world, and contains a great quantity of excellent fish. It divides Asia into two parts; that to the east being called Lower Asia, and that to the west Greater Asia. In the Caspian mountains, abundance of buffalos and many other wild beasts are found. In this sea there are many islands, to which numerous birds resort to breed; particularly the falcons called Pegrim,[1] Esmetliones,[2] and Bousacei,[3] and many other birds not to be found elsewhere. The largest town of Kumania is Sara or Saray, which was large and of great renown, but has been ravaged, and almost entirely destroyed by the Tartars, who took it by storm.

[It is obvious, that Haitho here describes that part of the empire of the Mongals which was subject to Baatu-khan. The Euxine or Black Sea, he calls the Great Sea. The sea of Tenue is that of Tanna or Azof, the town at the mouth of the Tanais or Don having been known by both of these names, the former evidently derived from the ancient name of the river, or the river from the town, and of which the modern name Don is a mere corruption. The empire of Kaffia is obviously that of Kiow, Kiovia, or Kiavia, long the capital of the Russian empire, and the residence of the czars or great dukes.--Forst.]

§ 6. Beyond the great mountain of Belgian or Bilkhan, the Tartars lived formerly without religion, or the knowledge of letters, being chiefly employed in tending their flocks; and were so far from warlike, that they readily submitted to pay tribute to any neighbouring prince who made the demand. All the tribes of the Tartars were known by the name of Mogles, Moguls or Mongals; and in process of time they increased so much, as to form seven populous independent nations. The first was called Tartar, after a province of that name, which was their original habitation; the second Tangot, Tangut, or Tongusians; the third Kunat; the fourth Jalair or Thalair; the fifth Sonich; the sixth Monghi; and the seventh Tabeth. Prompted by a vision and a command from God, the chiefs of these nations chose Changi or Zinghis to be their sovereign ruler or Great Khan; and we are told that when he came down from the mountains of Belgian, the sea withdrew nine feet, and made a way for him where there was none before.

[This seems to be the same history with that of Irganekon, which is also related by Abulgasi. The mountain Belgian must be looked for in the environs of lake Balehas, in the country of Organum or Irganekon. According to the Nighiaristan, a collection of oriental history, the Turkomanni likewise came from a place called Belgian or Bilkhan.--Forst.]

[1] Faucon Pelerin, the Pilgrim Falcon,--Forst.
[2] Esmerliones, or Merlins.--Forst.
[3] The Bondree and Sacre, or the Honey-buzzard and Sacre.--Forst.


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