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0044 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.1 / Page 44 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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But there is more. Hsüan-Tsang, who was Hara's guest in 643 and left India in 644, speaks of the « Western 'Kingdom of Women' » (tÏ i pc Hsi Nü-kuo), which lay to the southwest of the kingdom of Fu-lin (Frain = Rôm, the Roman Orient). According to the Chinese pilgrim, there were only women in that country, some of the precious productions of which were sold in Fu-lin. « That is why the king of Fu-lin sends every year men who have sexual intercourse with those women ... » In that Kingdom of Women, Ltvi saw « the famous kingdom of Amazons ruled by the Queen Candace [this is not quite correct; Candace was not a queen of the Amazons], which has taken such an important place in the development of the Romance of Alexander ». « The yearly sending of human stallions to the kingdom of the Amazons », LEvi adds, «is not mentioned, as fàr as I know, in any of the numerous versions of the Romance; but it frequently appears in the literature of the Physiologus and of the Mirabilia. The Chinese monk must have noted a version of the tale which had undergone some contamination, or perhaps he himself is responsible for a contamination between two tales he had heard.»

Without maintaining that LEvi has conclusively proved his case, I am prepared to accept the bulk of his deductions. A weak point of his argument is that, as he has himself stated (p. 422), there are several Kingdoms of Women mentioned in Chinese historical literature, as well as in Indian and in Mussulman sources (see « Female [Island] »). While many tales of the Physiologus have found their way to India and the Far East (or sometimes may have originated there and been carried to the West), it is moreover somewhat risky to assume a double origin for Hsüantsang's brief account. On the other hand, LEvi said nothing as to the date when the Romance of Alexander could have reached India or as to the channels through which it may have passed. We may perhaps add more precise indications on these points.

The Kingdom of the Amazons, or Kingdom of Women, is well known in the Mussulman versions of the legend of Alexander. Its most detailed exponent is no other than Firdausi. Alexander first sends to the Kingdom of Women a philosopher from Rôm, and afterwards himself reaches the country, the main city of which was called rj.* Hâram (cf. MOHL, Livre des Rois, 8vo ed. v, 206, 208; SPIEGEL, Die Alexandersage bei den Orientalen, Leipzig, 1851, 28; NÖLDEKE, loc. cit. 51). The name Hârûm is unexplained. Although it was not adduced in SCHAEDER'S Iranica (1934), phonetically it may very well be a doublet of Rôm, Ram, and represent the form with an initial h- which is known in Armenian, has passed to Frôm in Middle-Iranian and is the original of Ch. Fu-lin. In Firdausi's time, this form would be a survival, but its curious misapplication to a city of the Kingdom of Women would find some sort of explanation in the relations which, according to Hsüan-tsang, existed between Ram and the Kingdom of Women. If Hsüan-tsang really owed his information to an Iranian source which had reached the basin of the Ganges, that lost source may have also spoken of the men annually dispatched to the Kingdom of Women by the king of Rôm.

The question of date remains. If a Romance of Alexander corresponding to the PseudoCaliisthenes was known in India in time to leave traces in the writings of Bàna and Hsüan-tsang, it must have reached India in 630-640 at the latest. On the other hand, the only likely channel for a transmission of the Greek romance to India is Pahivi. But NÖLDEKE has shown that the Pahivi translation of the Pseudo-Callisthenes can neither be earlier than the end of the 6th cent.,