Robert Kerr.

A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels — Volume 01 Arranged in Systematic Order: Forming a Complete History of the Origin and Progress of Navigation, Discovery, and Commerce, by Sea a online

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one day's journey, you come to Al-Bugg, where are 200 Jews; and in another
half days journey, to Manziptha, where there are 200 Jews; Ramira is four
leagues distant, having 700 Jews; and thence, in five days journey, you
come to Lamkhala, where there are 500 Jews. In two days journey more, you
arrive at Alexandria, which was sumptuously built, and strongly
fortified, at the command of Alexander the Macedonian. On the outside of
the city, there is still to be seen a great and beautiful edifice, which is
said to have been the college of Aristotle, the tutor of Alexander, wherein
were twenty schools, frequented in former times by the learned men of the
whole world, who assembled to learn the philosophy of Aristotle, and this
academy was adorned with stately marble porticos. The city itself is
excellently built, and well paved, having many vaults and arches
underneath, some of which are a whole mile in length, leading from the gate
of Rosetta to the gate leading to the sea. The haven extends a whole mile
in length, and at this place, a very high tower was built, called Hemegarah
by the inhabitants, and Magar-Iscander by the Arabs, which signifies the
Pharos of Alexander. It is reported that Alexander fixed a curious mirror
on the top of this tower, by means of which, all warlike ships sailing from
Greece, or out of the west into Egypt, might be seen at the distance of
five hundred leagues. But a Greek captain, who had great knowledge of the
sciences, came thither with his ship, and ingratiated himself in the favour
of the king, by presents of gold and silver and rich silks. He likewise
took great pains to acquire the friendship of the officer who had charge of
the mirror and watch-tower, by frequently entertaining him in his ship, and
at length was permitted to go into, and stay in the tower, as often, and as
long as he pleased. One day, he gave a magnificent entertainment to the
keeper of the tower and his men, and dosed them so plentifully with wine,
that they all fell fast asleep; on which he broke the mirror to pieces, and
then sailed away in the night. Since then, the Christians have infested the
coasts of Egypt with their ships of war, and have taken the two large
islands of Crete and Cyprus, which remain at this day under the power of
the Greeks. The Pharos is still used as a beacon for the service of ships
bound to Alexandria, and can be discerned by day or night, from the
distance of an hundred miles, as a vast fire is kept burning there all
night for the purpose.

Egypt enjoys a large share of trade, and is frequented by almost all
nations; and the port of Alexandria swarms with vessels from every part of
Christendom, as from Valencia, Tuscany, Lombardy, Apulia, Malfi, and
Sicily. Others come from the most northern parts of Europe, and even from
inland places; as from Cracow, Cordova, Spain, Russia, Germany, Sweden,
Denmark, England, Flanders, Artois, Normandy, France, Poitou, Angiers,
Gascony, Arragon, and Navarre. There come many also from the western
empire of the Ishmaelites or Arabs, as from Andalusia, Algarve, Africa, and
even Arabia, besides what come by the Indian ocean from Havilah or
Abyssinia, and the rest of Ethiopia, not omitting the Greeks and Turks. To
this, country likewise are brought the richest merchandizes of the Indies,
and all sorts of perfumes and spices, which are bought by the Christian
merchants. The city is extremely populous, on account of its extensive
commerce; and for the greater conveniency in the carrying on of their
dealings, every nation has its separate factory. There is, near the sea
side, a marble tomb, on which are engraven the figures of all sorts of
birds and beasts, with an inscription in such old characters, that no one
can now read them; whence it is believed that it had belonged to some king
who governed that country before the deluge. The length of this sepulchre
is fifteen spans, and it is six spans broad[32]. To conclude, there are
about 3000 Jews in Alexandria.

Leaving Egypt, Benjamin made an expedition from Damietta to Mount Sinai,
and returned to Damietta, whence he sailed to Messina in Sicily, and
travelled to Palermo. Crossing into Italy, he went by land to Rome and
Lucca. He afterwards crossed the Alps, and passed through a great part of
Germany, mentioning, in his remarks, the great multitudes of Jews who were
settled in the numerous cities of that extensive empire, insisting at large
on their wealth, and generosity, and hospitality to their distressed
brethren, and gives a particular detail of the manner in which they were
received. He informs us, that at the entertainments of the Jews they
encourage each other to persist in hoping for the coming of their Messiah,
when the tribes of Israel shall be gathered under his command, and
conducted back into their own country. Until this long expected event shall
arrive, they hold it their duty to persevere in their obedience to the law
of Moses, to lament with tears the destruction of Jerusalem and Zion, and
to beseech the Almighty to pity them in their affliction, and restore them
at his appointed time. He asserts that his countrymen are not only settled
in all the provinces and cities of the German empire, but through all the
countries of the north, to the very extremities of Russia; and describes
that country as so cold in winter that the inhabitants could not stir out
of doors. He tells us that France, which the Rabbins call Tzorphat, is full
of the disciples of the wise men, who study the law day and night, and are
extremely charitable to their distressed brethren; and concludes with an
earnest prayer to God, to remember his promise to the children of Israel,
to return unto them, and to reassemble them from among all the nations,
through which, in his wrath, he has dispersed them.

Towards the end of his travels[33], Benjamin mentions that Prague in
Bohemia is the beginning of Sclavonia. In speaking of the Russian empire,
he says it extends from the gates of Prague to the gates of [Hebrew]
_Phin,_ a large town at the beginning of the kingdom. In that country the
animals called [Hebrew] _Wairegres_, and [Hebrew] _Neblinatz_ are found.
Interpreters disagree about the meaning of these words. But it clearly
appears that _Phin_ is no other than _Kiow_, then the capital of the
Russian empire; and we should therefore read [Hebrew:] _Chiw_: and indeed
the interpreters might easily have supposed that the word was wrong
written, from its wanting the final _nun_. Russia has always been famous
for its gray foxes or gray squirrels, which, in the Russian language, are
called [Hebrew] in the Hebrew text, therefore, of Benjamin, we should read
[Hebrew] _Waiwerges_, which as nearly resembles the Russian word, as a
Spanish Jew could possibly write it. The name of the other animal should be
written [Hebrew] _Zeblinatz_, by which are meant Sables. Jordanis had
before this called these skins _Sapphilinias pelles_. - _Forst_.

[1] Harris, I. 545. Forster, 91.

[2] So named as descended from Javan: the Jewish writers affecting to
employ scripture names for modern countries and nations. - E.

[3] Manuel Comnenes, who reigned from 1143 to 1180. - E.

[4] These names are corrupt orthographies of the Greek titles in the
Hebrew. Manuel being an emperor, Benjamin names all his great officers
kings. - E.

[5] Psianki may, perhaps, be Poland, and Buria Bavaria. - E.

[6] The Arabs, so called from their supposed ancestor, Ismael. - E.

[7] Perhaps Blachernae. - E.

[8] The Karaites were a sect among the Jews, who confined their observances
and religious belief to the precepts of Moses, while the Rabbinists
followed all the wild fancies of the Talmud. An excellent account of
these sects is to be found in the Lettres Juives, or Jewish Spy, by
the Marquis d'Argens. - E.

[9] Perhaps only an exaggerated account of some Jewish independent tribe in
Arabia, of which there were once a considerable number, as
particularly mentioned in the History of Mahomet. - E.

[10] Probably the Ahwaz, as he seems to have gone from Bassora. - E.

[11] This must be an error in the author, as the Tigris does not come near
that city. - E.

[12] This story is told by other Jewish writers, but with some unimportant
variations; and there have been many such pretended Messiahs, who
persuaded the Jews of the east into revolts, for which consult
Basnage, Histoire des Juifs. - Harris.

[13] The whole secret of this miracle may be easily explained. David
escaped from prison, and told all the rest of the story to the
ignorant and credulous Jews of Omaria, from whom the fable has been
handed down to Benjamin and other believing relaters. - E.

[14] Shiraz, about forty miles from which are the ruins of Persepolis. - E.

[15] The distance here is extremely corrupt, and perhaps four months are
meant. - E.

[16] The ridiculous impressing of ancient scriptural names for the
geographical features of the country, and the nations which inhabited
it in his time, and his rambling itinerary, by days journeys, without
pointing out the precise direction of the routs, render it next to
impossible to investigate the real objects of his observations with
any decent chance of success. - E.

[17] This description suits the Calmuks. - E.

[18] Once a great city in the N.W. of Irac-agemi, not far from Cashbin. See
Chardin's Travels in Persia, to be found afterwards in this
collection. - E.

[19] This island has much puzzled commentators, some of whom have wandered
to Ormus in quest of its situation. It is probably the flat country of
Assyria, between the Tigris and Euphrates, below Bagdat, which he may
have mistaken for an island; or it may refer to the Delta of the
Tigris and Ahwas. The extent mentioned in the text does not say
whether it is to be understood as the length or circumference of the
island. - E.

[20] This must be at or near Bahrein, in the Persian Gulf, famous for its
pearl-fishery. - E.

[21] Nisan, the first month of the Jewish year, contains the latter half of
our March and former half of April; Tisri is equivalent to half of
September and half of October. - E.

[22] From the circumstance of pepper being plenty in this place it is
probable that some part of Malabar is meant, where he may have found a
colony of Parsees. Astronomy is often called astrology by old
writers. - E.

[23] This must have been some secret mechanical contrivance, all wonders
unknown to the ignorant being attributed by them to magic art. - E.

[24] Tzin is obviously China. By the Nikpha, or coagulated sea, the sea of
Tartar may be intended; concerning which, some ill-told stories may
have reached Benjamin, of mariners having been frozen up. The
situation of Cinrog it is impossible to ascertain; but it must have
been some part of India, where voluntarily burning alive is still
practised, but only by the widows of the higher casts. - E.

[25] Benjamin here obviously speaks of the Jews in the mountains of
Abyssinia, still known there under the name of Falassa. It would
appear, that the previously indicated courses led across the peninsula
of Arabia and the Red Sea; but his names of places are
unintelligible. - E.

[26] Perhaps Asowan in upper Egypt, which is rendered probable by the
journey through the desert. - E.

[27] Harris considered Gana to mean Guinea; but it is probably Nigritia,
or the inland country of Africa, on the Niger or Joliba. - E.

[28] Perhaps Memphis, as he evidently alludes to the pyramids. - E.

[29] Kahira, or Cairo, called also Messir. - E.

[30] Elul contains from the middle of August to the middle of September and
Tisri from that to the middle of October. But the Nile begins to rise
in the middle of June, and returns to its usual level in October. - E.

[31] Of the Rabbinists or Talmudists. - E.

[32] This may possibly have been the Sarcophagus brought lately from
Alexandria, and deposited in the British museum, under the strange
idea of having been the tomb of Alexander. Benjamin seems to have
known nothing about the hieroglyphics, with which his tomb was
obviously covered. - E.

[33] This short commentary upon three words in that part of the travels of
Benjamin, which has been omitted in Harris, is extracted from Forster,
Hist of Voy. and Disc. in the North, p. 92, and shews the extreme
difficulty of any attempt to give an accurate edition of the whole
work, if that should be thought of, as it would require critical skill
not only in Hebrew, but in the languages of the different countries to
which the travels refer. - E.


_Travels of an Englishman into Tartary, and thence into Poland, Hungary,
and Germany, in 1243_.[1]

This earliest remaining direct account of the Tartars, or Mongols receiving
that name, which is extremely short and inconclusive, is recorded by
Matthew Paris, in a letter from Yvo de Narbonne to the archbishop of
Bourdeaux, and is here given as a literary curiosity.

* * * * *

Provoked by the sins of the Christians, the Lord hath become as it were a
destroying enemy, and a dreadful avenger; having sent among us a
prodigiously numerous, most barbarous, and inhuman people, whose law is
lawless, and whose wrath is furious, even as the rod of God's anger,
overrunning and utterly ruining infinite countries, and cruelly destroying
every thing where they come with fire and sword. This present summer, that
nation which is called Tartars, leaving Hungary, which they had surprised
by treason, laid siege, with many thousand soldiers, to the town of
Newstadt, in which I then dwelt, in which there were not above fifty men at
arms, and twenty cross-bow-men, left in garrison. All these observing from
certain high places the vast army of the enemy, and abhorring the beastly
cruelty of the accomplices of Antichrist, signified to the governor the
hideous lamentations of his Christian subjects, who, in all the adjoining
provinces, were surprised and cruelly destroyed, without any respect of
rank, fortune, age, or sex. The Tartarian chieftains, and their brutishly
savage followers, glutted themselves with the carcasses of the inhabitants,
leaving nothing for the vultures but the bare bones; and strange to tell,
the greedy and ravenous vultures disclaimed to prey on the remains left by
the Tartars. Old and deformed women they gave for daily sustenance to their
cannibals: The young and beautiful they devoured hot, but smothered them
shrieking and lamenting under their forced and unnatural ravishments; and
cutting off the breasts of tender virgins to present as dainties to their
leaders, they fed themselves upon their bodies.

Their spies having descried from the top of a high mountain the Duke of
Austria, the King of Bohemia, the Patriarch of Aquileia, the Duke of
Carindiia, and as some say, the Earl of Baden, approaching with a mighty
power towards them, the accursed crew immediately retired into the
distressed and vanquished land of Hungary, departing as suddenly as they
had invaded, and astonishing all men by the celerity of their motions. The
prince of Dalmatia took eight of the fugitives, one of whom was recognized,
by the Duke of Austria as an Englishman, who had been perpetually banished
from England for certain crimes. This man had been sent twice as a
messenger and interpreter from the most tyrannical king of the Tartars to
the king of Hungary, menacing and fortelling those mischiefs which
afterwards happened, unless he would submit himself and his kingdom to the
yoke of the Tartars. Being urged by our princes to confess, the truth, this
man made such oaths and protestations, as I think might have served to make
even the devil be trusted.

He reported of himself, that presently after his banishment, being then
about thirty years of age, and having lost all he possessed at dice in the
city of Acon[2] he set off from thence, in the middle of winter, wearing
nothing but a shirt of sacking, a pair of shoes, and a hairy cap; and,
being shaven like a fool, he uttered an uncouth noise, as if he had been
dumb, and wandered about through many countries in search of food. At
length, through fatigue, and change of air and diet, he fell grievously
sick in Chaldea, insomuch that he was weary of his life. Being compelled to
remain there a long time to recover his strength, and having some learning,
he began to write down the words he heard spoken, and in a short time made
himself so much master of the language, as to be reputed a native; and in
this manner he attained expertness in many languages. The Tartars got
notice of this man by means of their spies, and drew him by force among
them; and, having been admonished by an oracle or vision to extend their
dominion over the whole earth, they allured him by many offers of reward,
to serve them as an interpreter. He gave the following account of the
manners and superstitions of the Tartars, of the disposition and stature of
their bodies, and of their country and manner of fighting.

The Tartars are covetous, irascible, deceitful, and merciless, beyond all
men; yet, through the rigour of discipline which is exercised by their
superiors, they are restrained from brawls and mutual strife. They esteem
the ancient founders and fathers of their tribes as Gods, in whose honour
they celebrate solemn feasts at certain fixed times; and these deities are
very numerous, though only four are considered as general gods of the
nation. They consider all things as created for their sole use, and do not
therefore think themselves cruel or unjust in wasting and destroying the
surrounding nations, whom they esteem rebels against their legitimate
authority. Their bodies, though lean, are hardy and strong, with broad
chests, and square high shoulders, strong, well knit joints and firm
sinews, thick and large thighs, with short legs, so that, being equal to us
in stature, what they want in their legs is supplied in the upper part of
their bodies. Their faces are pale, with short flat noses, their eyes black
and inconstant, having large eyebrows, extending down to the nose; long
sharp chins, their upper jaws low and declining, their teeth long and thin,
their countenances distorted, fierce and terrible.

In ancient times their country, which is situated far beyond Chaldea, was
utterly waste and barren, from whence they have expelled the lions, bears,
and other wild beasts. Of the tanned hides of beasts they make for
themselves light but impenetrable armour, and their backs are only slightly
armed, that they may not flee in battle. They use small but strong horses,
which are maintained with little provender. In fight they use javelins,
maces, battle-axes, and swords, but are particularly expert in the use of
bows and arrows. When engaged in battle they never retire till they see the
chief standard of their general give back. When vanquished they ask no
quarter, and in victory they shew no compassion; and though many millions
in number, they all persist as one man, in resolving to subdue the whole
world under their dominion. They have 60,000 couriers who are sent before
upon light horses to prepare a place for the army to encamp, and these will
gallop in one night as far as our troops can march in three days. When they
invade a country, they suddenly diffuse themselves over the whole land,
surprising the people unarmed, unprovided, and dispersed, and make such
horrible slaughter and devastation, that the king or prince of the invaded
land cannot collect a sufficient force to give them battle.

Sometimes they say, they intend to go to Cologne to bring home the three
wise kings into their own country; sometimes they propose to punish the
avarice and pride of the Romans, who formerly oppressed them; sometimes to
conquer the barbarous nations of the north; sometimes to moderate the fury
of the Germans with their own mildness; sometimes in derision they say that
they intend going in pilgrimage to the shrine of St James in Galicia. By
means of these pretences, some indiscreet governors of provinces have
entered into league with them, and have, granted them free passage through
their territories; but which leagues they have ever violated, to the
certain ruin and destruction of these princes and their unhappy countries.

[1] Hakluyt, I, 22.

[2] Acre, in Palestine - E.


_Sketch of the Revolutions in Tartary_.

Our limits do not admit of any detailed account of the history of those
numerous and warlike pastoral nations, which in all ages have occupied the
vast bounds of that region, which has been usually denominated Scythia by
the ancients, and Tartary by the moderns: yet it seems necessary to give in
this place, a comprehensive sketch of the revolutions which have so
strikingly characterized that storehouse of devastating conquerors, to
elucidate the various travels into Tartary which are contained in this
first book of our work; and in this division of our plan, we have been
chiefly guided by the masterly delineations on the same subject, of the
eloquent historian of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire[1].

In their navigation of the Euxine, and by planting colonies on its coasts,
the Greeks became acquainted with Western Scythia, extending from the
Danube, along the northern frontiers of Thrace, to mount Caucasus. The
great extent of the ancient Persian Empire, which reached at one period
from the Danube to the Indus, exposed its whole northern frontier to the
Scythian nations, as far to the east as the mountains of Imaus or Caf, now
called the Belur-tag. The still more eastern parts of Scythia or Tartary
were known of old to the Chinese, and stretch to the utmost north-eastern
bounds of Asia. Thus from the Danube and Carpathian mountains, in long.
26°. E, to the promontory of Tschuts-koi-nos, or the East Cape of Asia, in
long. 190°. E. this vast region extends in length 160 degrees of longitude,
or not less than 8000 miles. Its southern boundaries are more difficultly
ascertainable: but, except where they are pressed northwards by the
anciently civilized empire of China, these may be assumed at a medium on
the thirty-fifth degree of north latitude; from, whence Scythia or Tartary
extends in breadth to the extremity of the frozen north.

Next to the nomadic nations of Western Scythia, who encountered and baffled
the arms of Darius, King of Persia, under the general name of Scythians,
who were perhaps congeneric, or the same with those afterwards known by the
name of Goths, the dreaded name of the Huns became known to the declining
Roman Empire. But our object does not require us to attempt to trace the
history of these nations, under their various appellations of Huns, Topa,
Geougen, Turks, Chozars, and others, till the establishment of the vast
empire of Zingis connected the history and devastating conquests of the
Tartars with the affairs of modern Europe[2].

In the beginning of the thirteenth century, Temugin, the son of a Mogul
chief, laid the foundations of a vast empire in the north east of Tartary
or Mongolia. His father had reigned over thirteen hordes or tribes of the
Moguls, Moals, or Monguls: and as it was not customary for these warlike
tribes to submit to be ruled over by a boy, Temugen, who at the death of
his father was only thirteen years of age, had to contend with his
revolted, subjects, and had to obey a conqueror of his own nation. In a new
attempt to recover the command over the subjects of his, father, he was
more successful: and under the new appellation of _Zingis_, which signifies
_most great_, he became the conqueror of an empire of prodigious extent. In
person, or by means of his lieutenants, he successfully reduced the
nations, tribes, or hordes of Tartary or Scythia, from China to the Volga,
and established his undisputed authority over the whole pastoral world. He
afterwards subjugated the five northern provinces of China, which were long
imperfectly known under the name of Kathay; and successively reduced
Carisme or Transoxiana, now great Bucharia, Chorassan, and Persia: and he
died in 1227, after having exhorted and instructed his sons to persevere in
the career of conquest, and more particularly to complete the conquest of

The vast empire established by Zingis, was apportioned among his four
principal sons, Toushi, Zagatai, Octai, and Tuli, who had been respectively
his great huntsman, chief judge, prime minister, and grand general. Firmly

Online LibraryRobert KerrA General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels — Volume 01 Arranged in Systematic Order: Forming a Complete History of the Origin and Progress of Navigation, Discovery, and Commerce, by Sea a → online text (page 13 of 52)