Marco Polo (1254-1324) was a Venetian merchant and traveler who introduced the history and research of his journeys in the famous work “Book of the Marvels of the World.” The book serves as a valuable source of geographical, ethnographical, and historical knowledge about Armenia, China, Kazakhstan, Iran, and other countries.
According to Marco Polo, Armenia was divided into the Greater Armenia (Մեծ Հայք – Metc Hayq) (most of modern Armenia) and Lesser Armenia (Փոքր Հայք – Poqr Hayq) (most likely, he meant Cilicia).
“This is a great country. It has its roots in a city called Yerznka (Erzincan), where the best fabrics and canvases in the world are weaved. It also has the best baths from natural springs that are available throughout the city.
The people of the country are Armenians. There are many cities and villages in the country, but the most important cities are Yerznka, the location of the Throne of the Archbishop, and Arziron (Erzurum).
Between Trebizond and Tauris, there is one castle called Baberd (Bayburt). It stands on the hill of the peninsula with silver mines nearby,” the traveler wrote.
Perhaps, Marco Polo was the first European to present the Western world with the indescribable and majestic beauty of the biblical mountain Ararat. Marco Polo wanted to convey the important fact that Mount Ararat was the final stop of Noah’s Ark.
“The top of the mountain is almost always snow-covered and very hard to climb on. Snow almost never melts and new avalanches are constantly falling upon it. In the lower parts of the mountain, you could see a rich and abundant grass cover during warm seasons.
In the summer, livestock is brought here to graze. Melting snow makes the soil dirty. The mountain is so wide that it takes more than two days to bypass it.
Lesser Armenia also has many cities and villages. The inhabitants of Lesser Armenia were hunters. There was a city called Layas situated ashore. It was a city of trade – all goods from the East (gold, silk, spices) passed through this city, where merchants from different countries came together,” Marco Polo wrote.