Volume 1, Chapter 16 -- Travels of John Schildtberger into Tartary, in 1394.[1]

John Schildtberger, a native of Munich in Bavaria, went with the army of King Sigismund of Hungary, against the Turks in 1394. In 1395, being taken prisoner, he was sent by Bajazet, whose name he always writes Weyasit, into Asia. In the great battle, in which Bajazet was defeated, and taken captive by Timur, Schildtberger was again made prisoner, and accompanied that conqueror in all his expeditions, till his death in 1405, at Otrar or Farab, though Schildtberger says that he died in his capital of Samarcand. After the death of Timur, he entered into the service of Shah-Rokh, and was left by that prince among the auxiliary troops, which assisted his brother Miran-Shah against Kara-Joseph, a Turkomanian emir of the black-weather tribe. Miran-shah having been made prisoner and beheaded by Kara-Joseph, Schildtberger followed the standards of Abubekr, the son of Miran-shah.

At this time, there lived in the court of Abubekr, a prince named Zegra, a son of the khan of Great Tartary, to whom Ideku[2] sent word that he would resign to him the sovereignty of Kiptschak. Zegra accordingly set out for Great Tartary, accompanied by Schildtberger, and four others. Their route lay through Strana,[3] which produces good silk; then through Gursey, Gurghia, or Georgia, which is inhabited by Christians; after this, through the country of Lahinsham,[4] where silk is cultivated; and through Schurban, or Shirvan, where the silk is produced from which the silk stuffs of Damascus and Kaffer[5] are made. They next passed through Bursa,[6] which is situated in Turkey, and from whence the fine silk of which velvet is manufactured, is sent to Venice and Lucca: This is an unhealthy country. Their route next lay through Temur-capit, Demir-Kapi or Derbent, which signifies, in the Tartarian language, the Iron-gate, and which separates Persia from Tartary. They then went through a town of great strength, called Origens,[7] situated in the middle of the Edil. After this, their way was through the mountainous country of Setzalet, in which there are many Christians, who have a bishop and some Carthusian monks, who perform the service in the Tartarian language, that the common people may understand what is sung and read. They were now arrived in Great Tartary, at the camp of Ideku, who had just assembled all his forces and was going to march into the land of Ibissibur.[8] In this expedition, they employed two months of continual marching; in the course of which, they crossed a range of mountains, thirty-two days' journey in length, and at their extremity, there is a desert, which is the end of the world;[9] which desert is uninhabitable from the number of reptiles and wild beasts with which it is infested. These mountains are inhabited by roaming savages, who are hairy all over, except their faces and hands,[10] and who subsist on green leaves and roots, or whatever they can procure. In this country, also, there are wild asses as large as horses. The inhabitants employ dogs, as large as asses, to draw carts and sledges, and some times feed upon them. They are Christians, and they bury, their young people who die in celibacy, with music and rejoicing, eating and drinking at their graves. In this country they cultivate nothing but beans, and they eat no bread. Having made a conquest of Bissibur, they marched into Walor,[11] which they also conquered, and then returned into Kiptschak.

At this period, there was a high officer of state among the Tartars, called Obmann, who had usurped the power of nominating and deposing the khan, and to whom all the lords or chiefs were subservient. This anomalous dignity was now held by Ideku; who, as has been already mentioned, had invited Zegra to accept the dignity of khan. This Ideku, with the khan, all the nobility, and the whole people, wandered continually up and down the country, with their wives and children, their cattle, and whole property, to the number of about 100,000 people, having no fixed abodes, but dwelling in moveable huts, at all seasons of the year. At this time there was a king in Tartary, named Schudicho chey or Kom, or Schadibeck-knan, the son of Timur-Utluck, grandson of Timur-melik-aglen, and great-grandson of Urus-Khan. This Schadibeck reigned from 1401 to 1406. Immediately on hearing that Ideku was approaching, he took to flight; but was pursued, and killed in a skirmish. Ideku appointed Polat or Pulad-khan, the son[12] of Schadibeck, to be his successor, who reigned a year and a half, between 1406 and 1408. After him Segel-Aladie, or Zedy-khan, the son of Tokatmysch or Toktemysch-khan, got possession of the throne; but he was soon expelled by Timur-Khan, the son of Timur-Uduck, and brother of Pulad-Khan, who reigned fourteen months. Thebak, the brother of Pulad-khan, took the field against Timur-khan, and killed him, but was unable to attain the sovereignty, as his brother Kerunhardin ascended the throne, which he only held for five months. Thebak again endeavoured to dispossess his brother Kerunhardin, but was unable to effectuate his purpose; for at this juncture, Ideku interposed, and conferred the sovereignty on Zegra, in the room [[=place]] of both. Zegra, however, continued khan only for nine months, when Mohammed-khan, son of the before-mentioned Timur-khan, and grandson of Timur Utluck, gained a pitched battle against Ideku and Zegra, in which Ideku was made prisoner, and Zegra fled into a country called Descht-Kiptscha. Mohammed was in his turn driven from the throne by Waroch; from whom Mohammed soon after retook his dominions. He was again driven out by Doblaberd, who only kept possession for three days, when he was in his turn dethroned by Waroch. He again was soon afterwards slain by Mohammed, who a third time attained the sovereign power. After these repeated revolutions, Zegra made ah unsuccessful attempt to recover the throne, in which enterprize he lost his life.

On the death of Zegra, Schildtberger, and the other four Christians who had been in his service, attached themselves to Manustzusch, who had been counsellor to that prince. This person went upon a journey to Kaffa in the Crimea, where six different religions are professed among the mixed inhabitants of that peninsula, a part of whom are Christians. After a residence there of five months, Manustzusch crossed the straits of Zabake in the country called Zeckchas or Zikchia, where he sojourned for six months. But the sultan of Turkey sent a message to the sovereign of that country, requesting that Manustzusch might not be allowed to remain there any longer; and upon this he removed into the land of Magrill.[13]

Schildtberger and his Christian companions, reflecting that they were now only three days' journey from the Black Sea, formed a resolution to endeavour to return into their own country. With this view, having taken leave of Manustzusch, they went to the capital of the country of Bathan,[14] whence they requested to be conveyed across into Christendom, but were refused. Upon this they rode four days' journey along the coast, when at length they espied a ship at about eight Italian miles from the shore. They made signals to the people on board by means of fire, and a boat was sent to inquire their purpose; and having convinced the boats crew that they, were Christians, by rehearsing the Lord's prayer, Ave Maria, and creed, and these people having reported an account of them to the captain, of the ship, boats were sent back to bring them on board. Having escaped many dangers, they landed at Constantinople, where they were well received by John Palaeologus, the Grecian emperor, who: sent them by sea to the castle of Kilia, at the mouth of the Danube. Schildtberger here parted from his companions, and went with some merchants to Akkerman[15] in Wallachia. From thence he went to Sedhof or Sutschawa, the capital of Moldavia, or the lesser Walachia. Hence to Lubick called otherwise Lwow or Lemberg, the capital of White Russia, where he was detained by illness for three months. From that place he went to Cracow, the capital of Poland; and by Breslau in Silesia, Misnia, Eger, Ratisbon, and Freysingen, back to Munich, having been absent for more than thirty-two years.

[1] Forster, Voy. and Disc. in the North, p. 158.
[2] About this period, many abuses subsisted among the Golden Tribe on the Wolga. Mamay and Ideku, or Yedeghey-khan, called Edigi by Schildtberger, had not the title of great khan of the Golden Tribe in Kiptschak, but held in fact the supreme power in their hands, and set up khans from among the royal family, or deposed them at their pleasure.--Forst
[3] The names are much disfigured, and the commencement of the journey is not mentioned; but, from the course afterwards, this may be some corruption for Armenia, or one of its districts.--E.
[4] Perhaps a corruption for Daghistan.--E.
[5] Perhaps Kahira, or Cairo.--E.
[6] Schildtberger, or his transcriber, calls this the town of Bursa, by mistake for the mountain of Al-Burs.--Forst.
[7] Probably Agrachan; as both Astracan and Saray had been demolished by Timur. As to his saying that it stood in the middle of the Edil, Etilia, or Wolga, that may be a mistake; but at any rate, Edil signifies any river whatever.--Forst.
[8] Bissibur or Issibur, is the ancient Russian town of Isborsk.--Forst.
It would appear that the present expedition was into Siber, or Siberia.--E.
[9] This appears to refer to the Uralian chain, and the frozen regions of the north of Russia.--E.
[10] A mistake, by confounding close-made dresses of fur with the notion of naked men, covered all over with shaggy hair.--E.
[11] Probably Wolgar, Bulgar, or Bulgaria, is here meant.--E
[12] From the sequel he appears rather to have been his brother.--E.
[13] This is probably a corruption for Mangrill, or Mingrelia.--E.
[14] Forster explains this by substituting the names of Bebian and Bedias as synonymous. No such name occurs in our best maps; but there is a place near the country of Mingrelia in Guria on the Black-Sea, named Batum, which may be here indicated--E.
[15] This place is called in the text Weisseburgh, signifying the White Town, otherwise named Akkerman or Akkiermann, Asprecastro, Tschetatalba, and Belgorod.--Forst.
From the concluding sentence, Schildtberger, who began his travels, or rather captivity in 1394, must have returned to Munich about 1426 or 1427--E.


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