Rapt attention

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Prester John

Emperor of the Abyssinians
I am about through the first two hundred pages or so of the original Travels of Marco Polo.

It is such an interesting story, largely corroborated and free of much embellishment, following the Venetian man and his father and uncle around the farthest reaches of the globe starting in 1271 ce .

You learn a lot about the world, which 13th century land where a man might offer up his wife for you to sleep with, what to eat, where to find the best musk perfume and the finest silks, Marco certainly got around the world.

Just an amazing character, who made himself invaluable to the great Kubla Khan.

One of the things I find interesting is to the many references to one Prester John. I'm thinking maybe a pope. But no. I looked him up today.

Prester John or John the Elder was a powerful Christian ruler of the east, certainly one of legend.
John, a wealthy and powerful “priest and king,” reputedly a lineal descendant of the Magi who had visited the Christ Child, defeated the Muslim kings of Persia in battle, stormed their capital at Ecbatana, and intended to proceed to Jerusalem but was impeded in the last goal because of difficulties in crossing the Tigris River.
John was said to rule over a Nestorian kingdom which included parts of India. His legend reportedly hearkens all the way back to the New Testament.

Polo is now in Thibet (Tibet) in the course of my reading. He says the idolatrous inhabitants are murderous, dirty and disheveled and that the young girls are encouraged to engage in sex before marriage as nobody wants an inexperienced bride. Will let you know if I uncover anything else interesting.


Anonymous said...

Author please?

Blue Heron said...

Classic Marsden and Wright translation.