“The Travels of Marco Polo” – The Description of Greater Armenia

“The Travels of Marco Polo” – The Description of Greater ArmeniaMarco Polo, a prominent Italian merchant, explorer, and writer, traveled to a plethora of locations around the world. One of them was Armenia.

In his “The Travels of Marco Polo” written in cooperation with Rustichello da Pisa, Marco Polo briefly described Armenia. As written in Chapter III “Description of Greater Hermenia”, the great country of Armenia began in the city of Arzinga that was known for the best buckrams in the world. There were many towns and villages in Armenia, but the most noble of them were Arzinga (the See of an Archbishop), as well as Arziron and Arzizi.

Polo also mentioned the best baths from natural springs that could be found in the world. In summer, the whole gamut of hosts of the Tartars of the Levant frequented Armenia since its land was an outstanding pasture for their cattle. In contrast, winter featured unparalleled cold that forced the Tartar hosts to leave the country for warmer regions with temporary pastures.

Polo also mentioned that it was in Armenia that the Noah’s Ark stood on the top of “a certain great mountain” [Ararat]. Atop that mountain, the continuous and never-melting snow, as well as constant falls prevented anyone from ascending. The snow melted below though to produce such abundant herbage that in the summer, cattle were sent there for excellent and never-failing pasture. On the other hand, the snow also caused mud on the mountain.

Marco Polo also mentioned the neighbors of the country: the southern kingdom called Mosul inhabited by Jacobite and Nestorian Christians and the northern Land of the Georgians. On the boundary towards Georgiania lied an abundant oil spring that could supply a hundred of shiploads at once. While the oil wasn’t good for use with food, it was good to burn and to be used to anoint camels that have mange. All the surrounding countries didn’t have other oil, so people came from far corners to collect it.

The autograph of Armenian King Hayton (Hethum I) as presented in the book (scan).
A photo of the page with Hayton’s autograph.
A photo of the page with Hayton’s autograph.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *