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0320 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 320 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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304   158. CINGHIS

« on that account, Chinghiz-khan felt uneasy in his heart ». This event seems to have taken place in 1202. It does not seem open to doubt that it is a distorted echo of it which appears in Polo's texts, and for once the date there given, « 1200 », is not so far from the truth.

CHINGHIZ-KHAN AS KING DAVID. — Chinghiz-khan was first heard of in Europe, though not under his true name, in 1221, when an Arabic report on his advance against the Mussulmans reached Damietta, where it was translated into Latin. This document, fraught with a very rich though often corrupt nomenclature, has been studied in great detail by ZARNCKE in the second instalment of his monograph Der Priester Johannes, and it is to be regretted that CORDIER, while mentioning ZARNCKE in a final note, should not have used his work to correct and supplement YULE'S most valuable note on Prester John in Y, I, 231-237. This « charta » of 1221, as ZARNCKE calls it, has come down to us in three redactions. In the first one, the longest, Chinghiz-khan appears as King David, the younger son of King Israel, son himself of King « Sarchisi », son of King John, son of King Bulgaboga (var. Bulchabot, Bidgaboga), a believer in Christ Jesus. The second redaction speaks merely of King David, a servant of the Lord; the third one, of the Christian King David, son of Prester John of India. Though such a genealogy of Chinghiz-Khan is out of the question, the names are not fantastic : David, « Sarchisi » (Sargis, Sergius, mistaken by ZARNCKE, II, 31, for a non-Christian Turkish name) and John are good Christian names; a Seljuk prince was called Israel; « Bulgaboga » seems to be a regular Turkish name, *Bilgä-buga (not a Mongolian name, as is said in ZARNCKE, II, 31). The arrival of the document at Damietta in 1221 finds a striking confirmation in an Arabic source which ZARNCKE did not know, the History of the Patriarchs of Alexandria. Passages from this work relating to the siege of Damietta by the Franks have been translated by BLOCHET as an appendix to his translation of the section of Maqrizi's History of Egypt (Sulûk) relating to the time of the Crusades before the Mamluk Sultans. Under the year 937 of the Martyrs (- = A. D. 1221), a paragraph begins as follows (BLOCHET, Histoire d'Êgypte, 563) : « That year, the news was received that a sovereign of the east who was called « king of China » (malïk-as-.S n), and who had in his service a great number of Turks from the country of I Iïta (see « Catai ») and from Qïpcaq, had vanquished the Hwârizmsâh, King of Persia... » Mussulman and Armenian writers often spoke of Chinghiz-khan as having come from « China »; this is the result of the undue extension which the name Zin or Sin had received in the Middle Ages (see « Cin »). It is certainly the same report which is alluded to in the History of the Patriarchs of Alexandria, the Latin versions of which were published by ZARNCKE. Two reasons may have contributed to their calling Chinghiz-khan a Christian king. It was a natural tendency to see a Christian in the sovereign who had destroyed the Mussulman Empire of Hwârizm, and the more so since a tradition had been current for almost a century that a great Nestorian king and priest called John reigned far away, somewhere in « India » (see « Prester John » ). The second reason is that there were actually many Nestorians in Central Asia, and the report which came to Damietta in 1221 may well have been composed in Nestorian circles to impress the Mussulmans of Syria and Egypt and to make them relax their antagonistic attitude towards the Nesto rian communities. Similar reports were circulated in Armenia. Kirakos, speaking of the sudden appearence of the Mongols in Armenia in 1220, says (BROSSET, Deux historiens arméniens, 100) :