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0098 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 98 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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82   60. BARSAMO

names; cf. for instance Avest. Spentôdàta > Pahl. Spendiàt > Pers. Ispendiâr, Arab. Isfendiàr

(Jus'rr, Iranisches Namenbuch, 308).

For the general problem of Barlaam and Josaphat, see «Iosafat ».


barsamo R

RAMUSIO is our only source here. No identification is proposed in RR, 34, or in B', 438, although, as YULE has shown (Y, r, 77), the saint must be S. Barçauma. Polo may have dictated *« Barsoma », and the name may have been « italianized» afterwards, perhaps by RAMUSIO. I must remark, nevertheless, that Vincent de Beauvais, as quoted by YULE, writes the name of the saint as «Brassamus» (Mentellin, in 1473, prints « Braisamus » [xxxr, 142]; I have not checked the name in the different mss. and other editions of Vincent).

I also agree with YULE when he believes that the said monastery is the famous monastery of S. Barçauma, south-east of Malatia, not far from Gargar, the present Borsûn Qal'äsi. It was at times the residence of the Jacobite patriarch in the 12th and 13th cents. The name of the monastery was given in honour of the famous monophysite archimandrite, -,- 458. His cult was so profitable to the monastery in the 13th cent. that the Armenians then built another monastery of S. Barçauma (cf. EI, s. v. «Rûm Kal'a»; Hist. des Crois., Arm., r, 163, 342-343; Bar Hebraeus, Chron. Syr., transi. BRUNS, 343-344, 523; Chron. ecclésiast., ed. LAMY, II, 691-798, passim).

While phonetic analogy and religious history seem to preclude any identification of the monastery of « Barsamo » other than with the monastery of S. Barçauma, south-east of Malatia, YULE does not refer to the difficulty raised by the geographical data of the text. Polo's a count of Armenia is followed by that of Georgia, then by digressions on Mosul and Bagdad, then by a chapter on Tabriz. It is at the end of the chapter on Tabriz, and when we have already been told that we are about to enter Persia, that RAMUSIO inserts his chapter on the monastery of «Barsamo», «on the borders of Tauris». The monastery of « Barsamo » would thus appear to be to the south of Tabriz, or at least in Tabriz province. On the other hand, the monastery of Barçauma is to the west of the Euphrates, and about twice as far from Tabriz as from the gulf of Alexandretta. The only explanation I can suggest is that « on the borders of Tauris » is the result of RAMUSro's editing, and that in RAMUSIO, our only source, the chapter is out of place. This displacement is not necessarily connected with the difference in the order of chapters which is discussed in vol. r, 104.

The order of the Carmelites had been founded in the Holy Land in the middle of the 12th cent. I am not sufficiently informed of their particular garb in the 13th cent. to draw from it any conclusion as to that of the monks of S. Barçauma.

As for the Brothers of the Holy Spirit, their order had been founded at Montpellier c. 1160, and they attended to the poor and the sick; their statutes were confirmed in 1198 by Innocent III.