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0054 Notes on Marco Polo : vol.2
Notes on Marco Polo : vol.2 / Page 54 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000246
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650   224. ETHIOPIA

in some region in the vicinity of India, but some more information may be worth giving here. Helped by the vagueness of the term « India » in the early Middle Ages, too reasons seem to me to have played a great part in the misconception. One was the theory of the four rivers flowing from Paradise, one of which, the P-1)wv or Jihün, was identified with both the Oxus and the Nile (see « Gion »); the other, the title of the very popular legend of « Barlaam and Joasaph ». Although the story is really derived from that of 5akyamuni (see « Josafat »), its title says that it was brought ix 17)C, ÉvaoTipaÇ Twv AE6t6it ov xwpaS, -ri?S 'Iv863v Scyop.év14, « from the 'interior' region of the Ethiopians, the one called 'of the Indians' » (cf. H. ZOTENBERG, Notice sur le livre de Barlaam et Joasaph, 5, 69). ZOTENBERG (p. 83) thought that the mention of these Ethiopians as &,;..>. Habasah, « Abyssinians », in the Arabic version of the legend was not original, but due to a later change. Through Father PEETERS' masterly investigations in Anal. Bolland., XLIX [1931], 276-312, we know that, contrary to ZOTENBERG'S theory, the legendary biography of gâkyamuni, translated into Pahlavi about A. D. 500, was later retranslated into Arabic, then into Georgian, and the Georgian, or possibly the Arabic version, was used c. A. D. 1000 by the Greek forger of the famous novel. So it is the Arabic translation which is responsible for the location of the story in « Abyssinia »; this, in its turn, was rendered as « Ethiopia » by the Georgian translator (cf. MARR', in ZVOIRAO, xi, 50-51), and the « Interior Ethiopia called India » became popular in the West owing to the great diffusion of the novel in Greek and Latin. I shall examine under « Prester Johan » to what extent the Ethiopian India of Barlaam and Joasaph may have to be taken into account in the story of Prester John.

PEETERS (IOC. tit., 296) says that, according to the conception which still prevailed among European geographers of the 13th-14th cents., what was then meant as « Ethiopia » was Transgangetic India; and a reference is given to Mgr. MERCATI'S, Monum. Vaticana veterem diocesim Columbensem... respicientia, 1923, p. 8. It is true that « India parva que est Ethiopia » is strangely misplaced in the so-called Marino Sanudo map between « Persia » and « India magna » (in fact north-west of the latter). But the said map, due in fact to Paolino da Venezia, is a poor production, of very small account. On the Catalan Map, dated 1375, « Ethiopia » is at its proper place in Africa. The reference to Mgr. Mercati bears on Pope John XXII's letter of December 1, 1329, commending « magnifico viro Imperatori Aethiopum » Jourdain Cathala, bishop of « Columbum » (= Quilon) in India. Under « Abasce », I have already expressed the opinion, contrary to that of GOLUBOVICH, MERCATI, MOULE, and PEETERS, that in John XXII's letter, and probably also in Montecorvino's letter of February 13, 1306, Ethiopia (i. e. Abyssinia) was really meant. At least for John XXII's letter, a document which was not yet published when my note on « Abasce » was written seems to settle the question. It is well known that John XXII had divided missionary work in Asia between the Franciscans and the Dominicans, the Franciscans having the « Tartars of the Ponent » (= the Golden Horde), Mongolia, and China, and the Dominicans the dominions of the Ilkhans in Persia, the greater part of the « Middle Empire », i. e. Cayatai dominions, and India; Jourdain Cathala's bishopric of Columbum, like the rest of the Dominican missions, was under the authority of the archbishopric of Suitâniyah (Sultanieh), created in 1318. Now, one of the archbishops of Sultanieh, John III (de Galonifontibus ?), probably a Frenchman, who had long lived in the East, came back to Europe c. 1398 with a mission from Tamerlane and was still in the West when he wrote in 1404