The Story of the Mongols Whom We Call Tartars

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We presented to him also the letters of the Lord Pope ; but as our interpreter, whom we had brought with us from Kiew, was not able to translate them for him, nor was there any one else competent to do so, they could not be interpreted. This Bati is more powerful than all the other Tartar princes save the Emperor, whom he is held to obey. We started for Bati's camp on the Monday after the first Sunday of Quadragesima 26th February , and riding as fast as horses could go trotting, for we had fresh horses three or four times nearly every day, we rode from morning to night, and very often even at night, and it was not before Wednesday in Holy Week 4th April that we could get to him.

We crossed the whole country of the Comans, which is all a plain, and has four great rivers. The first is called the Neper, along which, on the side of Ruscia, roams Corenza, and on the other side through those plains, Mauci, who is mightier than Corenza. Secondly, the Don, along which roams a certain prince called Catan, who has as wife Bati's sister.

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The third is the Volga, a very big river, along which goes Bati. The fourth is called Jaec, along which go two Millenarii, one along one side of the river, the other along the other. All these chiefs descend in winter time to the sea, and in summer go up the courses of these rivers to the mountains. Now this sea is the Mare-Magnum from which goes out the arm of Saint George which goes to Constantinople.

We went along for many days on the ice on the Neper. We went for many days along the shore of this sea, which on account of the ice was very dangerous in several places; for it freezes along the coast quite three leagues out. But before we came to Bati, two of our Tartars went ahead to tell him all we had said at Corenza's. When then we came to Bati on the borders of the Comans' country, we were made to camp a good league from their tents, and before we were taken to his court we were told we would have to pass between two fires, which we refused to do under any consideration.

But they told us: "Fear not, we only make you pass between these two fires lest perchance you think something injurious to our lord, or if you carry some poison, for the fire will remove all harm. Presents having been given and accepted, the procurator called Eldegai questioned us as to our coming ; and to him we gave the same reasons as we had previously given to Corenza.

Having entered then we said what we had to say on bended knees, and then we presented him the letters of the Pope , and requested that interpreters be given us able to translate them. These were given us on Good Friday 6th April , and we carefully translated the letters into the Ruthenian, Saracenic, and Tartar languages, and this latter interpretation was given to Bati, who read it and noted it carefully. This Bati holds his court right magnificently, for he has door-keepers and all the other officials like unto their Emperor.

He sits also in a raised place, as on a throne, with one of his wives ; but every one else of his family , as well his brothers and his sons as others of lesser degree, sit lower down on a bench in the middle of the tent. All the other people sit behind them on the ground, the men to the right, the women to the left. He has tents made of linen pannis lzneis. They are large and quite handsome, and used to belong to the King of Hungary. And no outsider save a servant dare enter the tent, no matter how great and mighty he may be, unless he is called, unless perchance he knows he is wanted.

In the middle of the dwelling near the door is a table, on which is placed drink in gold and silver vases; and Bati never drinks, nor does any prince of the Tartars, especially when they are in public, without there being singing and guitar playing. And when he rides out, there is always carried over his head on a pole an umbrella or little awning; and all the very great princes of the Tartars do likewise.

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This Bati is kind enough to his own people, but he is greatly feared by them. He is, however, most cruel in fight ; he is very shrewd and extremely crafty in warfare, for he has been waging war for a long time.

On Holy Saturday 7th April we were called to his tent and that same procurator of Bati's came out to us, and told us from him that we were to io to the Emperor Cuyuc in their country, and that some of our party would be kept there with Bati in the expectation that they would want to send them back to the Lord Pope. We gave them letters concerning all we had done to carry back to the Pope , but when they , had got as far as Mauci, he detained them until our return.

As for ourselves, on the day of the Resur- rection of the Lord 8th April , having said mass and settled everything, accompanied by the two Tartars who had been detailed to us at Corenza's, we started out most tearfully, not knowing whether we were going to life or death.

Comania hath to the north of it, immediately after Ruscia, the Morduins, the Bilers, or great Bulgaria, the Bascarts or great Hungary; after the Bascarts, the Parrosits and the Samogeds, after the Samogeds those who are said to have dog-faces, who live in the deserts along the coasts of the Ocean.

To the south it i. To the west it has Hungary and Ruscia. The Tartars killed these Comans; some fled from before them, and others were reduced to slavery.


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Most of those who fled have come back to them. After that we entered the country of the Cangitae, which in many places suffers from a great scarcity of water, and in which but few people remain on account of this deficiency of water. And so it happened that the men of leroslav, Duke of Ruscia, who were going to join him in the country of the Tartars, lost some of their number who died of thirst-in this desert.


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In this country and also in Comania, we found many human skulls and bones scattered about on the ground like cattle-dung. We travelled through this country of the Cangitae from the eighth day after Easter to nearly the Ascension of our Lord. These people are pagans, and the Comans as well as the Cangitae do not till the soil, but only live on the produce of their animals; nor do they build houses, but live in tents.

The Tartars have also annihilated them, and now occupy their country; those of them. Leaving the country of the Cangitae we entered that of the Bisermins. We found in that country in- numerable ruined cities, overthrown villages, and many deserted towns. There is a great river in that country whose name I do not know, and on which stands a city called Ianckint, and also another called Barchin, and still another called Ornas, and many more whose names I do not know.

The country has very high mountains ; to the south of it is Jerusalem, Baldach, and the whole country of the Saracens. Near its borders are stationed the chiefs Burin and Cadan, who are uterine brothers. To the north of it is a part of the country of the Black Kitayans and an Ocean, and in that quarter is stationed Sitan, a brother of Bati. We travelled through this country from the feast of the Ascen- sion 17th May to about eight days before the feast of Saint John the Baptist 24th June.

After that we entered the country of the Black Kitayans, in which they i. Leaving this place we found a not very large lake, and as we did not ask its name, we do not know it.

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On the shore of this lake was a little hill, in where there is said to be an opening, whence in winter there issue out such great tempests of wind that people can barely and at great. In summer, however, though one always hears the sound of the winds, but little comes out of the opening, according to what the inhabitants told us. This country has great abundance of streams, not large ones, however ; on either bank of these rivers are woods, but of no great width.

For it is a custom among the Tartars that the courts of their princes and nobles are riot broken up on their death , but some women are always appointed who govern them, and the same proportion of presents are given them that their lord had been in the habit during his life of allowing them. After this we came to the first orda of the Emperor, in which was one of his wives; but as we had not yet seen the Emperor they would not invite us nor let us come into her orda, though they had us well served in our own tent, according to Tartar fashion; and they kept us there for a whole day, so that we might rest.


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Proceeding thence on the eve of the feast of Saint Peter 28th June , we entered the country of the Naiman, who are pagans. On the day of the feast of the apostles Peter and Paul 29th June there fell in that place a great snow, and we experienced great cold. These two nations do not till the soil, but like the Tartars live in tents. These latter have nearly exterminated them.

We travelled through this country many days. After that we entered the country of the Mongals, whom we call Tartars. And we journeyed through that country for three weeks, I think riding hard, and on the day of the feast of blessed Mary Magdalen 22nd July we arrived at Cuyuc's, the present emperor. Along all this part of the route we travelled very fast, for our Tartars had been ordered to take us quickly to the solemn court which had already been convened for several years for the election of an emperor, so that we might be present at it.

So we had to rise at dawn and travel till night without a stop; often we arrived so late that we did not eat at night, but that which we should have eaten at night was given us in the morning; and we went as fast as the horses could trot, for there was no lack of horses, having usually fresh horses during the day, those which we left being sent back, as I have stated previously ; and in this fashion we rode rapidly along without interruption.

When we reached Cuyuc's camp, he caused us to be given a tent and allowances such as the Tartars are in the habit of giving; but they treated us better than they did the other ambassadors.

The story of the Mongols whom we call the Tartars =

And when we had been there five or six days, he sent us to his mother, where the solemn court was being held. When we got there they had already erected a great tent made of white purple, which in our opinion was large enough to hold more than two thousand persons; and around it a wooden paling had been made, and it was ornamented with divers designs.

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On the second or third day we went with the Tartars who had been assigned to guard us to this tent ; and all the chiefs met there, and each one was riding around in a circle over hill and dale with his men. On the first day they were all dressed in white purple; on the second day, and then it was that Cuyuc came to the tent, they were dressed in red purple ; on the third day they were all in blue purple, and on the fourth day in the finest baldakins.

In the paling near the tent were two big gates: one through which only the Emperor could pass, and at which there was no guard though it was open, for no one would dare to go in or out by it; and the other way by which all those who had admittance went in, and at this one were guards with swords, bows and arrows, and if anyone came near the tent outside of the set bounds, he was beaten if caught, or shot at with headless arrows if he ran away.

The horses were kept at about two arrow-flights, I should say, from the tent. And many of the horses there were which had on their bits, breast-plates, saddles and cruppers quite twenty marks worth of gold I should think. And so the chiefs held counsel beyond the tent, and discussed the election, while all the rest of the people were far away from the tent. And there they remained till about noon, when they began drinking mare's milk, and they drank till evening so plentifully that it was a rare sight. They called us inside the tent , and gave us mead, for we would not drink mare's milk at all; and this was a great honor they showed us; and they kept on urging us to drink, but not being in the habit of it, we could not do so, and we let them see that it was distasteful to us, so they stopped pressing us.

In the great square was the duke Jeroslav of Susdal in Ruscia, and several princes of the Kitayans and Solanges, also two sons of the King of Georgia, a soldan, the ambassador of the Calif of Baldach, and more than ten other soldans of the Saracens, I believe, and as we were told by the procurators. For there were more than four thousand envoys, as well those bringing tribute as those offering presents, soldans and other chiefs who had come to present themselves in person, those who had been sent by their rulers , and those who were governors of countries.

All these were put together outside the paling, and drink was given to them at the same time; as for ourselves and the duke Jeroslav, whenever we were outside with them they always gave us a higher place.