Itinerarium fratris Willielmi de Rubruuis de ordine

Itinerarium fratris Willielmi de Rubruuis de ordine fratrum Minorum Galli Anno gratia 1253 ad partes Orientales This account provides a decent window on how the Mongols lived in the mid 13th century There is an astonishing level of similarity to today as far as everyday life While sometimes rambling and preachy after all he was a monk Rubruck does provide a relatively objective view of what he observed This book by Father William of Rubruck in which he describes his diplomatic mission in 1254 on behalf of Louis IX of France to the court of the Mongolian emperor Mongke is a treasure Contrary to his famous contemporary Marco Polo Rubruck is an exemplary chronicler describing only what he has witnessed personally Rubruck who seems to consume even Cervoise barley beer than Asterix is a charming narrator who makes this book a pleasure to read Probably not as exciting as Giovanni da Pian del Carpin's travels to Mongolia a decade earlier but probably a better account overall The narrative is extensive detailed and the author is a far skeptical about dog headed people or whatever but he still falls for a kneeless people story Möngke Khan's playing of the religions off of one another is masterful in keeping with the Mongolian tradition Particularly liked the monk's description of the Nestorians and the Buddhists His trouble with interpreters is funny though he eventually hooks up with a a European who has been hired as an architect at the Khan's palace and who built an interesting fountainMy other favourite bitsThe Nestorians there know nothing They say their offices and have sacred books in Syrian but they do not know the language so they chant like those monks among us who do not know grammar and they are absolutely depraved In the first place they are usurers and drunkards; some even among them who live with the Tartars have several wives like them When they enter church they wash their lower parts like Saracens; they eat meat on Friday and have their feasts on that day in Saracen fashion The bishop rarely visits these parts hardly once in fifty years When he does they have all the male children even those in the cradle ordained priests so nearly all the males among them are priests Then they marry which is clearly against the statutes of the Fathers and they are bigamists for when the first wife dies these priests take another They are all simoniacs for they administer no sacrament gratis They are solicitous for their wives and children and are conseuently intent on the increase of their wealth than of the faith And so those of them who educate some of the sons of the noble Mo'al though they teach them the Gospel and the articles of the faith through their evil lives and their cupidity estrange them from the Christian faith for the lives that the Mo'al themselves and the Tuins Buddhists from Chinese T'ao yen man of the path The term properly refers only to priests but Rubruck applies it here to all Buddhists or idolaters lead are innocent than theirsAnother version of Caesar's kneeless elk Can definitely see how this leads to all of the crazy shit in the Prester John letters especially once you realize how little context people had for thisOne day a priest from Cathay was seated with me and he was dressed in a red stuff of the finest hue and I asked whence came such a color; and he told me that in the countries east of Cathay there are high rocks among which dwell creatures who have in all respects human forms except that their knees do not bend so that they get along by some kind of jumping motion; and they are not over a cubit in length and all their little body is covered with hair and they live in inaccessible caverns And the hunters of Cathay go carrying with them mead with which they can bring on great drunkenness and they make cup like holes in the rocks and fill them with this mead For Cathay has no grape wine though they have begun planting vines but they make a drink of rice So the hunters hide themselves and these animals come out of their caverns and taste this liuor and cry Chin chin so they have been given a name from this cry and are called Chinchin Then they come in great numbers and drink this mead and get drunk and fall asleep Then come the hunters who bind the sleeper's feet and hands After that they open a vein in their necks and take out three or four drops of blood and let them go free; and this blood he told me was most precious for coloring purples They also told me as a fact which I do not however believe that there is a province beyond Cathay and at whatever age a man enters it that age he keeps which he had on entering Möngke Khan's 'diplomatic' letter to the king of FranceFinally the letter he sends you being finished they called me and interpreted it to me I wrote down its tenor as well as I could understand through an interpreter and it is as follows The commandment of the eternal God is in Heaven there is only one eternal God and on Earth there is only one lord Chingis Chan This is word of the Son of God Demugin or Chingis 'sound of iron' For they call him Chingis 'sound of iron' because he was a blacksmith; and puffed up in their pride they even say that he is the son of God This is what is told you Wherever there be a Mo'al or a Naiman J Whosoever we are whether a Mo'al or a Naiman or a Merkit or a Musteleman wherever ears can hear wherever horses can travel there let it be heard and known; those who shall have heard my commandments and understood them and who shall not believe and shall make war against us shall hear and see that they have eyes and see not J For the moment they hear my order and understand it but place no credence in it and wish to make war against us you shall see that though they have eyes they shall be without sight; and when they shall want to hold anything they shall be without hands and when they shall want to walk they shall be without feet this is the eternal command of God This through the virtue of the eternal God through the great world of the Mo'al is the word of Mangu Chan to the lord of the French King Louis and to all the other lords and priests and to all the great realm of the French that they may understand our words For the word of the eternal God to Chingis Chan has not reached unto you either through Chingis Chan or others who have come after himThese two monks who have come from you to Sartach Sartach sent to Baatu; but Baatu sent them to us for Mangu Chan is the greatest lord of the Mo'al realm Now then to the end that the whole world and the priests and monks may be in peace and rejoice and that the word of God be heard among you we wanted to appoint Mo'al envoys to go back with these your priests But they replied that between us and you there is a hostile country and many wicked people and bad roads; so they were afraid that they could not take our envoys in safety to you; but that if we would give them our letter containing our commandments they would carry them to King Louis himself So we do not send our envoys with them; but we send you in writing the commandments of the eternal God by these your priests the commandments of the eternal God are what we impart to you And when you shall have heard and believed if you will obey us send your ambassadors to us; and so we shall have proof whether you want peace or war with us When by the virtue of the eternal God from the rising of the Sun to the setting all the world shall be in universal joy and peace then shall be manifested what we are to be But if you hear the commandment of the eternal God and understand it and shall not give heed to it nor believe it saying to yourselves 'Our country is far off our mountains are strong our sea is wide' and in this belief you make war against us you shall find out what we can do He who makes easy what is difficult and brings close what is far off the eternal God He knows In 1253 the Flemish Franciscan friar William of Rubruck made his way to the courts of the Mongol rulers Batu and Möngke bearing a letter from the French Crusader king Louis IX This book is an annotated a translation from Latin of his subseuent report to the king It is a fascinating and rare glimpse of the life of the Mongols during the heyday of their empire in the aftermath of the conuests of Genghis Khan and a true masterpiece of European medieval travel literature William is a keen observer who writes throughout with clarity and discernment of the many wonders he encounters on his journey and we see through his eyes as he makes the enormous journey to the fabled Tent City capital of the Mongols Karakorum Along his way he freuently rubs shoulders with Muslims Nestorian Christians soothsayers and Chinese and Tibetan priests and monks and makes what is very probably the first European report of the Tibetan system of reincarnating lamas I was certain going in that this would be a fascinating read but I was surprised by how engaging and brisk it is It is superbly translated and annotated by Peter Jackson and David Morgan who unobtrusively offer excellent support in their rich footnotes detailing the geography politics and cultural background with great erudition I believe subseuent generations of historians will take for granted a fact that we seem to be in the slow process of waking up to realize now the mobile and dynamic cultures of Central Eurasia including but not limited to the peoples of the steppe are not peripheral or incidental to the history of Europe and Asia but central to it The dynamics of the high civilizations of the landmass cannot be understood on an elementary level without attending to the rich systemic interplay between its various centers which inevitably plays out historically through the movements of these peoples This book offers a rare first hand glimpse at one of the greatest of these nomadic civilizations and is a thrilling and illuminating work of a high order Fascinating glimpse into the lives of several people from the eastern steppes and beyond circa 1254 Medieval travel literature is always a real kick but for some reason it had never occurred to me how perilous it would be to travel hundreds of miles without significant giftstribute to provide to the rulers whose territory one is passing through Needless to say they run out of butter biscuits really uickly Rubruck references many many times how irritating he finds the begging habits of the various interpreters and servants who he meets It was already past the third hour so they set down their dwellings near some water and Scatay's interpreter came to us and as soon as he learnt that we had never been among them before he begged of our provisions and we gave him some He wanted also a gown for he was to act as translator of our words in the presence of his master We excused ourselves He also considers them to be fairly stupid which doesn't reflect all that well on Rubruck He also notes every time he enters into the presence of some wealthy so and so and they don't deign to give him adeuate food or supplies hypocrite much? One can imagine how terrifying it would be to translate all the things he says out loud to parties of men not known for their pacifistic ualities Overall very funny and interesting Definitely worth a read if you have any interest in olden times Mongolian customs or the cleverness which goes straight over Rubruck's head of Genghis Khan's grandson William of Rubruck was a Flemish friar who journeyed to the Mongols in 1253 1255 when they were a mysterious enemy for the West having uickly overrun Central Asia Eastern Europe and the Near East On the orders of the king of France William was initially sent to the Mongol ruler Sarta Khan then sojourning in what is now Ukraine on the basis of the mistaken impression that Sarta had converted to Christianity Sarta sent William on to his father Batu Khan a short distance to the east who in turn sent William on to the Great Khan Möngke all the way over in Mongolia After a few months at Möngke’s court William then headed back by way of what is now Azerbaijan Armenia and TurkeyIt was a fairly long and impressive journey for a European at the time and the account that William wrote for the king of France upon his return is a valuable source on Mongol customs of the time and what Europeans thought of them William describes for example the Mongols’ diet clothing animal husbandry standards of beauty and social classes It isn’t just about the Mongols though In Central Asia William encountered many representatives of the Armenian and Nestorian churches and so readers will get a palpable sense of the rivalry between William’s proud Roman Catholicism and these other Christian communitiesThis is an entertaining read and a rare window into what must have been a lively historical era William mentions meeting so many other Europeans in Central Asia Germans Hungarians French A large number of Europeans ended up among the Mongol lands because the Mongols abducted them from their homes and enslaved them but in addition there must have been a lively interchange between East and West in terms of trade but no writings from all these people have come down to us At the time of my review here the most up to date and ample translation and commentary on William’s work is the one by Peter Jackson and David Morgan published in 1990 As a translation it is smooth reading and the commentary is helpful in telling us what places and people William was referring to exactly and the editors also compare Williams account to other words like Rashid Al Din who back up some of his claims The commentary however now feels outdated Were this published just a few years later it would benefit from eg recent scholarship on the Hungarian–Bashkir connection or the Mordvin–Burtas connection Indeed by failing to draw on many Soviet sources and preferring instead scholarship in German or English Jackson and Morgan’s commentary was out of date the moment it was published Finally Jackson Morgan make certain mistakes referring to the Mordvins as a “Finnish” people conflating Turkic and Turkish that suggest they were not themselves proficient in those matters and therefore their version would have benefited from some peer review Мотивацією до прочитання даної книги стало бажання дізнатися більше про життя русів у XIII столітті На жаль відомостей про них виявилося занадто мало натомість розповідь рясніла подробицями про життя монголів татар згадувалися тибетці китайці вірмени та численні інші народи того часу Українцям буде цікаво дізнатися про країну Моксель де не панувало право та її мешканців що дійшли з татарами аж до НімеччиниАвтор дотримується фактологічного викладу схиляючись до оціночних суджень лише у випадку переваг християнства над ідолопоклонництвом ісламом тощо Згадує чимало цікавих деталей як то наявність паперових грошей у Китаї у той час коли руси використовували для платежів шкірки тварин чи значення слова драгоман перекладач з перекрученого арабського тарджуман Читач не знайде у книзі фантастичних істот а з міфів наявний лише переказаний йому чужоземцями про видобування червоного барвника у Китаї Книгу перекладено з латини Андрієм Содоморою Варто звернути увагу на факт що сучасних перекладів цього твору дуже мало існують англійський французький та італійський що зявилися у 2009 2014 роках Scholarship is impressive translation is good the content itself is mind numbingly boring Essentially Rubruck spends 250 pages complaining about hard travel days describing minutiae of Nestorian church services briefly mentioning that the mission trip was a complete failure near the end and very rarely describing anything of interest about the daily life of the Mongols or interreligious dialogue or anything else that might be insightful in any way about any topic An interesting text about Friar William's travels He endured trials hardships weather bad interpreters lack of food drink etc in his travels yet gives a lively account of his time in his telling of it to King Louis IX of France Truthfully he comes across a bit whiny at times but I would have been too given the circumstances under which he traveled I enjoyed this particular passage where Friar William is debating religion with some idolators a version of Buddhism Then they asked me somewhat mockingly 'Where is God?'To which I replied 'Where is your soul?''In our bodies' they said'Is it not everywhere in your body' I asked 'and in complete control of it and yet is not to be seen? In this way God is everywhere and governs all things while being invisible because He is wisdom and understanding' But at this point when I wanted to argue further with them my interpreter who was tired and incapable of finding the right words made me stop talkingWhile the footnotes were helpful I found them tedious to read in relation to Friar William's text Additionally it would have helped had I been familiar with Franciscan interpretations of Christianity while reading William of Rubruck was a Franciscan friar who wrote the first great travel book about Asia In 1253–55 he made the journey from the Holy Land to the court of the Great Khan Möngke at araorum in Mongolia and back again William was interested in all that he saw His account is particularly vivid because he related to the individual people he met This is the first annotated translation to be made from the definitive Latin text published by A Van den Wyngaert in 1929 and Peter Jackson and David Morgan are to be congratulated on producing an exemplary edition The historical introduction is comprehensive and succinct the translation excellent and idiomatic while the notes clarify the text and explain why important variant readings have been chosen Bernard Hamilton Times Literary Supplement

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