Het'um the Historian's

History of the Tartars

[The Flower of Histories of the East]

[Book Three]

Chapter 47

T'amar-Khan, Sixth Ruler of the Tartars, His Authority and Lordship over Subjects

[The sixth Great Khan, oe61], T'amar-Khan, resides in the great city of Cathay called Eons [Beijing], built by his father. [The might of this Emperor is great, for he himself could effect more than all the other Tartar princes. His men are more noble, richer and better provisoned in all things than others; for there are great riches in the land of Cathay. oe61] There are three kings, rulers of large lordships, who obey this emperor, everything being referred to him and resolved by him. [They are: Chapar [Khan of Chagatai, 1300-8], Totay [Toqta Khan, ruler of Qipchaq 1291-1312], and Tarbanda [Muhammed Uljeitu Gharbanda or Khar-Banda/Khuda-Banda, Ilkhan of Persia 1304-16], oe61]

The first king subject to Tamar-Khan, Shap'ar [Chapar], resides in Turkestan [which is closer to the Emperor's lands than are the others, oe61]. He has under him some 400,000 armed horsemen with good provisions and horses. They are bold and valiant warriors. Somtimes the Emperor wages war with Chapar [and would take his lands from him, but he defends them bravely. The lordship of Chapar is all under one lord, though his brother Toqta holds a large part of his land. oe61]

The second king, Toqta, dwells in the city of Saray in the realm of Komania. He is able to muster 600,000 [700,000, oe61] warriors possessing better horses and gear than Chapar, but his men are not as brave. Sometimes they war against the King [Gharbanda], sometimes against the King of the Hungarians, and sometimes they fight amongst themselves. Currently this king is at peace.

The third king, Gharband, resides in the city of Tabriz in Greater Asia. Under him are 300,000 men [of diverse nationalities, oe62], all to be respected [as soldiers] who have everything they need [g72]. Now Chap'ar and Toqta had planned to do away with [Gharbanda's] rule, but were unable [even though they are stronger in men and lands. oe62]

The reason for this is that there are but three roads leading into the realm of Greater Asia. One goes from Turkestan requiring passage of many days through the desert, and no fodder for the horses is to be found there at all. The second route is via Lotorpent [Derbent] and is by the sea. Alexander [the Great] built a city here named the Iron Gate. [This route] is negotiable only in wintertime, but there are trenches and fortresses and armed guards there in the winter. In fact, during that season Toqta's people did attempt to pass along this route secretly. However, in that plain lovely blue birds [called seyserach, oe63] were feeding, and they flew away from the invaders, passed over to the sentries, and warned of the enemy's approach. Therefore they were ready for them. The third route passes through the great [Black] sea, which the enemy has never attempted to traverse, for the kingdom of Abkhazia is fortified by many people whom one cannot be sure of defeating. [In this manner, Gharbanda and his ancestors have defended their lands from the great might of their enemies and neighbors. oe63]

Chapter 48

More on the Tartars' Religion and Customs

[The Tartars are very diverse in manners and customs, and so it is not possible to describe all of them. oe63] They recognize one immortal God on Whom they call for help, but they have no worship of God, neither prayers nor fasts. They regard murder and prostitution as sins. They take many wives and it is obligatory for the son to marry his [widowed] mother, and for the brother, his brother's wife. They regard not removing the bit from a pasturing horse's mouth as a crime punishable by death. The Tartars are brave warriors and soldiers [g73], more obedient to their lords [than any other nation, oe63] When the lord of the Tartars goes off to war, he gives his soldiers no stipend, but they live off the booty and spoils and give a share of it to their lord. [When the Tartars go on an expedition where they expect to find no provisions, they bring with them large quantities of animals, cattle and mares, oe63] and live on milk and horsemeat which they greatly esteem. They are skilled in horsemanship and are brave mounted archers, but they are not very good as infantry, as they are slow on foot.

The Tartars are keen in taking cities and fortresses during battle. They do not consider it shameful to turn to flight, if flight is advantageous. Nor are they always so eager to make an attack; instead, if possible, they attack an enemy when the enemy is unable to resist them. Because they are brave warriors, it is difficult to fight with them or to reduce them by pursuit, for they fall back in a set fashion, turning around [in their saddles] and shooting their arrows. [When the Tartars are overcome, they flee all together, as close to each other as possible. oe64] The Tartars give what they have to people who come to them, and they themselves demand the same from others, taking by force what is not given. They know how to take another's land, but not how to hold it. They are humble when weak, but when strong or in multitudes, they are haughty. They do not want others to lie, but they themselves lie at will, except in military affairs and in confessing wrong-doings, when they will faithfully confess everything [even if they should be condemned or lose their lives, oe64].

Chapter 49

The Prerequisites for Starting a Battle

The following four preconditions are required to start a war: first, the cause must be just; second, the necessities must be on hand for beginning and ending war; third [g74], the enemy's condition and strength must be understood; fourth, the battle must be commenced at a proper time. [I, Brother Het'um, having been commanded by Our Lord the Apostle [the Pope] must address this matter. oe65] Christians wanting to capture the Holy Land have a just cause, for it is the inheritance of Christ, and our ancestors were forced to bear much from the Saracens. The Christians have sufficient strength, if they would only enter the battle united. [I say that no one ought to be in doubt about the second point, for the holy Church of Rome, which is lady and mistress of the entire world, has the power by the grace of God, and with the aid of the good knights and princes of the Christian faith and the servants of Christ, to deliver the Sepulcher and the Holy Lands from the Saracens' power. They hold and occupy these lands because of our sins. oe65] I will speak at greater length on the third and fourth points [for a good surgeon ought to know the sickness he is going to treat, just as a king or prince ought to find out about the intent, condition and status of his enemies so that he may start his war wisely, maintain it, and bring it to a good end.

To a prince making war, his enemy's secrets should not be hidden. Things learned in advance can do no harm, though unforseen matters sometimes trouble many courageous warriors who, while fighting, have no time or room to learn of approaching men and dangers. In all other sorts of endeavors if there is some flaw, a remedy may be found—but not in warfare. For soon after the pain follows the cost. Consequently, to make our narration clearer, we shall speak of the passage to the Holy Land, and also say some things about the status and condition of the lands of Egypt, the forces at Babylon [in Egypt], and their strength. oe66]

Chapter 50

Affairs of the Kingdom of Egypt and the Sultan's Capabilities

The Sultan of Egypt and Syria, named Melomasur [Malik al-Mansur Husam-ad-Din Lajin, sultan 1296-98], is a Koman by nationality. His army is composed of various peoples [of different nationalities, oe66], since the local people there are very feeble in battle. They have few infantry, but many horsemen. [Truly the greater part of them are slaves that have been bought and sold, which evil Christian men brought there to sell for greed of money; and others are war-captives who were forced to forsake the Christian religion. The slaves which are purchased are more praised and honored, and it frequently happened that large numbers would be purchased because they would be more loyal to their lord and master. oe66] The Sultan of Egypt is always wary and suspicious that disturbances do not break out among his subjects and that he not get killed, for they greatly covet the lordship. [Many sultans have been slain in this manner. oe66] The forces of Egypt consist of 20,000 cavalry [and some of them are good, seasoned fighters, oe67], but most are not. They possess choice horses and keen, but not very resistant, mules. [But they all require great caring for. oe67] The troops in Egypt are always in readiness to serve the Sultan, for all of them reside in Cairo.

[The condition of the army in Egypt is such that evey man of arms receives wages which do not exceed 120 florins. oe67]. Each one must have three horses [and a camel, to carry their things. When the Sultan brings his men out of the realm of Egypt, he gives them somewhat more, if it pleases him. The Sultan leaves his wages and offices in keeping to his barons, called admirals. To some he gives a hundred [knights]; to some two hundred, more or less, if he wants to honor one more than another. If the Sultan gives power to one admiral to keep a hundred or two hundred knights, he gives him the entire sum for their upkeep. As a result, there is a great deficiency in his service, because the admirals that provide one or two hundred knights [are providing them as] slaves purchased with their own funds, delivered with horse and harness and pressed into service. After [the admirals] give them horses and gear and receive wages for them, all the remainder [of the Sultan's funds] go into their own pockets. And so, there are few valiant men among them. oe67] [g75].

Chapter 51

The Authority of the Sultan in the Land of Syria

In the country of Syria are 5,000 troops who live off the rents of the land. There are, moreover, foreigners: Bedouins and Torkuats'ik' [Turkmens] who know well how to take cities. [They are of great help to the Sultan when he wants to besiege some land, for he may have them without giving them any wages, just some [booty]. But as for going into battle or defending his land, the above-mentioned Bedouins and Turkmens would do nothing (oe67) for the Sultan without huge payments. If the Sultan would try to force them, they would leave—the Turkmens going into the mountains, and the Bedouins to the deserts of Arabia. But the Sultan has a sergeant in the country of Moyllebech [Baalbek] and around Mount Lebanon and in the land of the Assassins who might help him in besieging a city or a castle to hold their own land. But they would not leave their country for the Sultan, nor can he force them, for there are great mountains there. The Sultan of Egypt is very skilled in taking cities and castles, and they set upon the land in diverse manner: for by crossbows, stones, tunneling under the ground, fire that cannot be extinguished and other means, they can easily take a land without any peril. oe68]

Chapter 52

The Kingdom of Egypt and How It Changed Hands

The Greeks [Byzantines] held the lordship of Egypt through generals and administrators who collected the taxes and sent them to the Emperor. They ruled until the year 704. The Egyptians, however, not wanting to endure such a burden, surrendered to the Saracens. And they chose their lord from the clan of Muhammad [and called him Caliph. And all their lords have been called caliphs. oe68] They held that lordship for 347 years. Then those Medians called Kurds occupied the lordship of Egypt.

Now in 1053 A. D. the King of Jerusalem, Amarikos [Amalric I], assembled as many Christian troops as possible, and entered the country of Egypt, conquering many cities and villages [as is written in the book of the conquests of the Holy Land. oe68] When the Caliph saw that he could not resist the Christians, he sent to the Sultan of Aleppo, called Xarakon [Asad-ad-Din al-Mansur Shirkuh], who came with a great host of soldiers and caused the Christians to flee [g76]. Seeing the greatness of Egypt, he had the Caliph arrested and thrown into jail. And he himself, a Khwarezmian from the country of Media, became the Sultan and lord of Egypt. [He was the first of his nationality to be lord of Egypt. oe69]

After his death, his son, Saladin succeeded, a man who conquered the Christians and took Jerusalem. [This Saladin was so successful that he defeated the King of Jerusalem, and took his cities by force, and took various other lands of the Christians, as it states in the book of the conquests of the Holy Land. oe69] He was succeeded by his brothers and nephews down to the time of Sultan Melik'sala [al-Malik as-Salih Aiyyub Najm-ad-Din, sultan 1240-49], who reigned when the Tartars subjugated the kingdom of Komania and were selling many Komans. He sent a large sum of money to purchase Komans [especially the young ones, oe69] who were then brought to Egypt. He loved them dearly, had them nourished and trained to ride, shoot arrows and bear other arms, and he always kept them around him.

It was in this period when the venerable Louis [VI, Saint Louis, crusading 1249-54], King of France, [had crossed the sea and been captured by the Saracens, oe69] that the Komans killed the Sultan and set up a Koman by the name of Turkinia [al-Malik al-Nu'izz Izz-ad-Din Aybak, sultan 1250-57]. Therefore, the King of France and his brother were the sooner ransomed and released from jail. [In this manner the Komans began to hold the lordship in Egypt, oe69]. The Komans of Egypt are called Qipchaqs [in the Orient, oe69]. Now after a few days, Kat'oz [al-Muzaffar Saif-ad-Din Kutuz, sultan 1259-60], also a Koman, put Turkinia to the sword and himself became Sultan under the name of Melikmees [al-Muzaffar Saif-ad-Din Kutuz]. He was the one who defeated the Tartar general Kit-Bugha whom Hulegu had sent to defend the land of Syria. When Melikmees returned to Egypt the Koman Bntuxtar killed him on the road. Bntuxtar, who styled himself Melik dayir [al-Malik Rukn-ad-Din Bibars Bunduqdar, or Baibars, sultan 1260-77], was an extremely shrewd man. He captured numerous places, and the city of Antioch in the year 1268. And he caused many losses to the King of Armenia.

During the reign of this Sultan, the King of England [Edward I, crusading 1271-72, while prince of Wales] waged war. The Sultan planned to kill him through a murderous Assassin who stabbed him with a poisoned sword. But after enduring numerous agonies, Edward recovered. After this [g77], Melik dayir was poisoned to death in Damascus and his son, Melik'sayit [al-Malik as Said Nasir-ad-din Muhammad], became Sultan [1277-79]. But the Koman Elshi [al-Mansur Saif-ad-Din Kalwun al-Elfy, sultan 1279-90] soon chased him out of the kingdom of Egypt and himself became Sultan. He captured the city of Tripoli in the year 1289.

Chapter 53

How the City of Acre was Taken from the Christians

The next year Elfy wanted to besiege the city of Acre, but he was poisoned by his general. But the latter, too, was cut to pieces by others. Then Elfy's son, Melataperah [Malik al-Ashraf Salah-ad-Din Khalik], was made Sultan [1290-93]. He took the city of Acre in the year 1291. But on one occasion when he went to the privy, he was slain by his servant who wanted to become Sultan. Then that man himself was slain by others.

After this they set up as lord and Sultan Meliknazir [al-Malik al-Nasir Muhammad, 1293-94, 1299-1309, 1310-41], the brother of Malik al-Ashraf. He is the one currently ruling. Because he was very young, he was given the Tartar Kit-Bugha as a guardian, a servant bought from his father. He ravished the lordship and had the young Sultan put in Fort Montreal, providing him with all the necessities. Kit-Bugha had himself called Melik'hatel [Malik al-Adil Ketboge, 1294-96]. Under him there was such a short supply of victuals that all the Saracens would have died had not the Christians, through love of gain, increased the food supply.

When the Tartars came, the Sultan assembled his troops and went to defend the country of Syria. And he loved his [Tartar] people dearly. Therefore, in envy, the Komans took the lordship from him and set up as lord Lashim [Malik al-Mansur Husam-ad-Din Lajin, sultan 1296-98].

[This Lajin would not kill Kit-Bugha because he was his friend, but instead he gave him a country called Sarta [Sarkhad, near Damascus]. Then he gave him the lordship of Hamah, but he would not allow Kit-Bugha to live in Egypt, oe71]. Lajin remained in [the castle of, oe71] Cairo for three years [out of fear of his men, oe71]. On one occasion, when he descended for sport into the plain, his horse fell with him and crushed [g78] his leg. Another time, during a game of chess, his servant snatched the Sultan's knife and stabbed him in the head. The murderer was beheaded there. Then great discord arose among the Saracens until they placed the young Sultan Meliknazir on the throne. [He is the one that Kit-Bugha had left in the Krak of Mount Royall, oe71] He is the one who defeated Ghazan in battle, and he is currently ruling.

[Please forgive me for dwelling on the buying and selling of Komans and the sultans who were of their lineage. I do this to demonstrate that the Saracens would not last long if an adversity befell them which prevented [the Komans] from exiting Egypt and going into another land with troops, oe71].

Chapter 54

The Position and Circumstances of Egypt

The kingdom of Egypt is extremely large and well-situated. In length it is a journey of fifteen days; in breadth, only of three. And it is like an island surrounded by desert and sand. On one border is the Greek [Mediterranean] Sea; on the east it borders the kingdom of Syria, but with an eight days' journey through sand. On the west is the Barbary [North African] land called Bardad [Libya], but between the two stretches a fifteen days' journey through desert. On the south is a king of black Christians, with an intervening twelve days' journey through desert.

In the kingdom of Egypt are five districts: first and largest is Sayit [Said]; second, Demesor [Misr]; third, Alexandria; fourth, Rheshint [Rashid/Rosetta], an island surrounded by rivers; and fifth, Timiad [Damietta]. Cairo is the greatest city, large and very wealthy. Nearby is an old city called Msr, by the Nile River, which is known as the Gehon in Scripture, and which irrigates and fertilizes the entire country. This river has an abundance of fish and is navigable. There are also crocodiles in the river which devour men, fish, and other animals. The river begins to swell [g79] during the month of August, until the feast of St. Michael, and it waters the country for forty days, after which it begins to weaken. In the city of Msr is a marble column which measures the water's level, and the price of things depends on the abundance of water. The river water is potable, but since it is too hot to drink directly, they first cool it in earthen vessels.

In the kingdom of Egypt there are two harbors on the ocean, Alexandria and Damietta. Alexandria is well fortified. [The citizens] drink water from the Nile River brought by underground tunnels into cisterns. Damietta, also by the Nile River, is surrounded by walls. It was captured twice by Christian forces: once by the King of Jerusalem and other Christian troops from the East, and a second time by the blessed Louis, King of France. The city was given back to the Saracens in exchange for the King's liberty. It was totally pulled down and rebuilt far from the river and the sea. [This place was named New Damietta. The old Damietta is all devastated. The Sultan receives many goods via the ports of Alexandria and Damietta, oe73] They have [for food] the flesh of domesticated birds, kids, fowl, but few cattle, for which they substitute camel meat.

[There are some Christians dwelling in the realm of Egypt called Copts, who observe the Jacobite rite and have many monasteries which they hold freely and in peace. These Copts are the oldest heirs of the land of Egypt, for the Saracens began ruling after them. There are things that are not found in Egypt which the Egyptians could not get without the help of others—such as iron and other things. Because of this, they could not long endure if deprived of them. In the entire realm of Egypt there is no walled fortress excepting the city of Alexandria, which is well walled. The Sultan resides in the fortress of Cairo, which is not strong. The entire land of Egypt is defended by knights. Thus, if the troops of Egypt were overcome, the land could be quickly conquered without any danger, oe73] [g80].


[of the Awgerean edition]

What follows is a modern English translation made by Robert Bedrosian from the Old English text (Book Four) published in Hetoum A Lytell Cronycle Richard Pynson's Translation (c 1520) of La Fleur des histoires de la terre d'Orient (c 1307) edited by Glenn Burger (Toronto, 1988) pp. 73-85.

[Book Four]

When is the Time to Start the War?

Briefly let me reprise this sentiment: "Ecce nunc tempus acceptabile, ecce nunc dies salutis [Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation]" [II Corinthians 6.2]. For truly the time is appropriate and right to commence war against the enemies of the holy faith. Now is the right time to give help to the Holy Land which has been in the hands of believers in evil for a long time [oe73]. Now is the right time for the lovers of Christ to consider going to the Holy Land so that the Holy Sepulcher of Our Lord may be delivered from the enemies' hands—that is the begining of our faith. Nor in times past can we recall such an apt time as now exists, as God by His pity and mercy has shown us in diverse ways. For first, God Almighty, full of mercy, has given us a pastor and Holy Father who is truly a Christian and full of virtue and who, since being seated on the Apostolic Throne has both night and day thought how he might help the Holy Land free itself from the hands of the enemies of the holy faith (who have harmed the name of Christ and the Holy Sepulcher of Our Lord). So that [the people] may truly believe that God has turned His merciful eyes to behold the Holy Land, [He] has given [us] a redeemer on earth (it is the Apostolic Father [Pope]) during whose tenure by the mercy of God, the Holy Land of Jerusalem which has been kept under the servitude of our enemies because of our sins, shall be delivered to the control of Christian men.

Why They Should Go into the Holy Land

God has shown us clearly that the time is now right for the Holy Land to be delivered out of the enemy's control. For by the grace of God, the kings and princes of Christian lands are currently in a good state and there is peace among them and [they] no longer engage in warfare and arguments as they were wont to do in the past. Consequently, it is likely that God Almighty will deliver the Holy Land. All Christian men of different lands and realms should be clothed in faith and devotion to take up the Cross and cross over the sea to aid the Holy Land and to give their bodies and wealth for the honor and reverence of Our Lord Jesus Christ, valiantly and with good will.

How the Enemies of the Christian Faith were Reduced and Put Down

Now is the proper time since God demonstrated [oe74] to the Christian people that the power of the enemies of the Christian faith has diminished; also by warfare with the Tartars who defeated them, they lost countless men in battle; also that the Sultan reigning in Egypt is an evil and worthless man. Moreover, by the power of the Tartars, all the Saracen princes who were accustomed to aid the Sultan are dead. Only one of them, the Sultan of Mardin, is left, and he has lately submitted to the Tartars. Therefore, at this time, the Holy Land could be recovered and the realm of Egypt and Syria conquered without any danger or pain. And also, the power of the enemies might be brought down more easily at present than in times past.

How Gharbanda, King of the Tartars, Offered to Go to the Holy Land with His Forces

God has also shown the Christians that the time is right because the Tartars themselves have offered to give help to the Christians against the Saracens. For this reason Gharbanda, King of the Tartars, sent his messengers offering to use all his power to undo the enemies of the Christian land. Thus, at present, the Holy Land might be recovered with the help of the Tartars and the realm of Egypt, easily conquered without peril or danger. And so Christian forces ought to leave for the Holy Land without any delay, for there is great danger in putting it off: the danger that Gharbanda, who is now a friend, should fail, and another [khan] might arise who would practise Muhammad's ways and agree with the Saracens, events which might lead to great damage and peril for the Christian lands and for the Holy Land across the sea.

Before Your Reverence, Holy Father, [Pope Clement V, 1305-14] I confess that I am not sufficiently learned to give counsel concerning so great a matter as the passage over the sea to the Holy Land. Yet, so that I do not incur the punishment of the disobedient son, I will obey the command of Your Holiness, which no good Christian should refuse. So, I shall give advice according to my limited knowledge, as wise men advise, first requesting pardon for whatever I say [oe75].

Concerning the Enemy's Strengths and Weaknesses

For the honor of Our Lord Jesus Christ, I hope to accomplish my task. I say that for the Holy Land to be conquered with the least pain and trouble, it is appropriate that Christian forces enter the land and set upon their enemies when the latter are troubled by some misfortune. For if the Christians were to undertake this enterprise when their enemies are in good shape, they could not accomplish their endeavor without great danger and suffering. Let us discuss precisely what constitutes advantage and what disadvantage. Affairs are advantageous for the enemy when the Saracens have a wise and valiant Sultan and lord who can hold his lordship without fear of rebellion. Another advantage for the enemy may be when they have been at peace and without any war with the Tartars or others for a long period, and when they have great abundance of corn and other goods in the realm of Syria; and when the routes are secure and open by land and sea so that the things which the enemy needs may be brought to them from foreign countries without any trouble; when the Saracens are at peace with the Nubians and with the Bedouins of the Egyptian desert so that they make no war or quarrel; and when the Turkmens and Bedouins dwelling in the realm of Egypt and Syria obey the Sultan of Egypt. With the conditions just mentioned, the enemies' power could rise so much that it would be impossible to overcome them.

The Names of the Nine Sultans Who were Slain and Poisoned

On the other hand, adversity might befall the enemy in various forms: when they rise up and kill their Sultan or lord as they have done in times past, and often do. For since the kinfolk of the Komans [Qipchaq] began to hold the lordship in Egypt, nine men have been designated sultans and lords over them. And of these nine sultans that have been in Egypt, the following are known to have been killed by the sword: Turquenie [al-Malik al-Mu'izz Izz-ad-Din Aybak, sultan 1250-54]; Chocas [al-Muzaffar Saif-ad-Din Kutuz, sultan 1259-60], Lachyn [Malik al-Mansur Husam-ad-Din Lajin, sultan 1296-98]; two others were poisoned: Bedocdar [al-Malik Rukn-ad-Din Bibars Bunduqdar, or Baibars, sultan 1260-77] and Elsy [al-Mansur Saif-ad-Din Kalawun al-Elfy, sultan 1279-90]. Two others [oe76] were sent into exile: Melecuaser [al-Malik al Nasir Mohamed, sultan 1293-94, 1299-1309, 1310-41] and Gynboga [Malik al-Adil Ketboge, sultan 1294-96]. Furthermore this Melecuaser, who is the current Sultan, was once put out of his office and lordship and [the events of] his life point to an evil end.

Provision against the Sultan of Egypt

The enemy might experience adversity when the Nile River rises but does not water the ground as much as is necessary [for agriculture]. Then the Saracens of Egypt would be in great need and hunger. It is not so long ago that these conditions obtained and they would have died of hunger had it not been for Christians who, out of greed for money, brought them provisions. When such need should befall the enemy, they would become impoverished and forced to sell their horses and reduce their forces; and thus, they would be unable to leave Egypt and enter Syria. Each [soldier] must carry with him all such things and baggage as he would need for eight days—for himself, his animals and household. For they encounter only sand and dunes during this eight day journey. Consequently, whoever lacks horses and camels would not have the power to depart from Egypt, and thus the Sultan would be troubled that he could not come to aid the realm of Syria. Furthermore, it would be a great adversity to the enemy, having warred a long time, if the sea routes were kept such that the things that they need most such as iron and steel could not be brought into their country from other countries. Without such things they could not long endure. Moreover, if the Nubians or Bedouins commenced war against the Sultan he might be so bothered by it that he could not leave Egypt and go to Syria. [Another opportunity] would be if the land of Syria is in need and has had a bad season due to dryness or Tartar warfare. Should the sea routes fail, the host of Egypt could not come to stay in Syria, since they would be unable to bring anything to Syria out of Egypt or other counties and could not even leave Egypt. So, if the enemies experience some of these adversities, without fail they could not leave Egypt or go to Syria. Then the [oe77] Christians might occupy the realm of Jerusalem, might repair the cities and castles and fortify them in such a way that they would never fear the power of their enemies.

How Ambassadors Should be Sent to Gharbanda, a King of the Tartars, so that the Enemies Should Have Nothing Brought to Them

As we have already discussed the fortunes and misfortunes which might befall the enemies, we shall describe in this part the beginning of the passage [expedition] to the Holy Land. I think for the safety and profit of the passage that at the outset a certain number of horsemen and footmen should go there to get familiar with the enemies' strength. It seems to me that these numbers should be sufficient at present: a thousand knights, ten galleys and three thousand workers. In addition, a legate should be sent by the Church and a wise and valiant captain to voyage with them to the island of Cyprus in the realm of Armenia, as they think best. After that, without any delay, with the counsel of the King of Armenia, they should send messengers to Gharbanda, a king of the Tartars, requiring two things. One that Gharbanda assure that nothing should get to the enemies via his territories. The other [requirement] is that he should send his messengers and men to make war in the countries of Meletur [Melitene/Malatya] and ruin and waste the Aleppo area. After that, we pilgrims and those [forces] from the realm of Cyprus and Armenia should make war and bravely invade the enemies' lands by sea and by land. They should take pains that nothing enter the enemies' lands by sea. Also our Christian forces might fortify the isle of Corcose [Ruad] which is well situated to intercept the galleys and do great damage to our enemies. Now I shall leave off describing the beginning of the war and turn to [a description] of the enemies themselves since knowledge of their condition and state must guide the counsel of the wise men implementing the present matter. The profits and benefits that might come from this first voyage and passage I shall now briefly mention [oe78].

How the Sultan of Egypt Should Be Made Subject to the Christians and the Tartars

The first consideration is this: the first passage should be arranged in such a manner that the enemies become so sorely troubled by the actions of the other Christian forces in those parts of the east, and by the Tartars, that they have no rest, but instead would suffer great worries and losses. For if the Christians and the Tartars waged war against the Sultan of Egypt by sea and by land in the realm of Syria, then the Sultan would be obliged to send his troops to keep and defend the roads, and the cities close to the sea while all others might be assailed. If the Tartars started fighting in the area around Meleton [Melitene/Malatya] in the land of Aleppo, the Sultan's men would be sent on a twenty-five day journey [to get there] and they would be coming from Babylon [Fustat in Egypt, south of Cairo]. They would be hurried, would lose their horses and weapons, and would be so weary and troubled that they could not endure. In three or four ways the enemy could lose their belongings and suffer great damages. Further, the enemy might be greatly troubled by the first passage [expedition], for with the arrival of the ten galleys of the passage, with the help of those coming from the realm of Armenia and of Cyprus, the enemies' lands might be completely ruined, and the galleys could return safely to the island of Corcose [Ruad]. Similarly, if the Sultan wanted to keep and defend the lands just mentioned, he would be forced to come in person and bring with him all of his forces from Babylon [Fustat, in Egypt] to Syria, so that he would have enough men to help all the coastline. Leaving the realm of Egypt to go to Syria would be perilous and damaging to the Sultan. He would fear treason from his own men, while the activities of the Christian forces would cause them such trouble that there would be no end to the injury. He would consume and waste all his treasure, as it is hard to believe the enormous sums that the Sultan and his men spend and consume every time they leave Egypt for Syria. Using the aforementioned galleys, the sea routes and ports might be held in such a way as to prevent anything getting to the enemy—things they need and cannot long endure without, such as iron and steel and other goods that are brought to them from foreign [oe79] countries. Moreover, the enemy would lose the taxes from the sea ports, which constitute a great sum of goods and treasure.

Should it happen that the enemies are troubled by some adversity and could not leave Egypt or aid the land of Syria, then the pilgrims of the first passage might well retake the city of Tripoli with the help of other Christian forces of the Orient. Around Mount Lebanon dwell Christian forces, about 40,000 good squires, who would greatly help the pilgrims. They have risen up against the Sultan many times, doing him and his men great harm and damage. Moreover, if Tripoli could be fortified, the Christian forces could hold it until the time of the general passage and might also take all the surrounding country, retaining the Tripoli area. This would make it easy for those coming in the general passage, since if they found a ready port there, they would surely use it.

Should it happen that the Tartars occupied the realm of the Holy Land, the Christian forces of the first passage should be ready to receive the Tartar lands and keep them. I, having a reasonable knowledge of the Tartars' will, quite frankly believe that all the lands [the Tartars] conquer from the Saracens they would willingly give in keeping to the Christian forces. For the Tartars cannot live in that country due to the great summer heat. Consequently, they would be glad that the Christian forces hold and keep them. The Tartars never fight with the Sultan of Egypt for greed of obtaining lands and cities, since they have all of Asia in their subjugation. They fight because the Sultan has always been their principal enemy and has harmed and damaged them more than anyone else, including in warfare with their own neighbors. For the reasons stated above, I believe the following numbers [of troops] will be sufficient: a thousand knights, ten galleys, and 3000 squires. I think that in this initial [expedition] twice as many men would not accomplish as much and the expense and cost would greatly multiply.

Three other benefits might accrue from this first passage. Since the pilgrims of the first passage would have spent a season there and would then know the condition and manner of the land and of the enemy, they could give warning to those other pilgrims arriving in the general passage. Let us take [oe80] [for example the possible situation with] the Tartars who, because of war or other matters or excuses, would not give help to the Christian forces against the Saracens, and that the Sultan and his men were in prosperity, and that it would not be an easy thing to conquer the Holy Land and deliver it from the enemy's power. You, Holy Father, then knowing the condition of the Holy Land, when considering the general passage would have better advice and counsel about what things would be suitable, whether to send over the general passage or to delay it for a suitable time. And thus all dangers from the enemy could be avoided.

If Your Holiness will permit me, I would make two other suggestions. One is that Your Holiness should write to the King of the Georgians (who are a Christian [people] and perhaps more devoted than any other nation to pilgrimage and the sacred relics of the Holy Land) for them to give help and support to the pilgrims to recover the Holy Land. I truly believe, for the honor of God and for reverence to Your Holiness, that they would fulfill your orders. For they are devout Christians and men of great power, valiant men of arms, and neighbors of the realm of Armenia. Second, Holy Father, You should write to the King of the Nubians (who are Christians and were converted to the Christian faith by Saint Thomas in the holy land of Ethiopia) so that they wage war against the Sultan and his men. I truly believe that these Nubians, for the honor of Our Lord and out of reverence to Your Holiness, would make war against the Sultan and his men and would cause harm and damage to their power, creating great trouble for the Sultan and his men. These letters might be sent to the King of Armenia who would have them translated into their language and send them by your messengers.

In accordance with my limited understanding I have described, devoutly and honestly, what things are necessary for the initial passage to aid the Holy Land. Now, in willing obedience to Your Holy Father's command, I will add to this what is required for the general passage over the sea.

The General Passage

The general passage could be undertaken via three routes. One would be via [oe81] Barbary [i.e. North Africa] but I would not advise it, given the condition of the country. Another [route] would be by way of Constantinople, which as is known, is the route taken in the past by Godfrey of Bullyen [Godfrey of Bouillon, d. 1100] and other pilgrims. I fully believe that the general passage might easily reach the city of Constantinople. But going through the Braz of Georgie [the Bosphorus] and by the Turks, the way would be uncertain, for Saracen Turkmens dwell in Turkey. Truly the Tartars may deliver and insure the route and might order that provisions be brought into the land of Turkey at reasonable price, sufficient for the pilgrim host and horses. As everyone knows, the other route is by sea.

Therefore, if the passage will go by sea, at every port ships must be fitted out and other necessities readied to cross over with the pilgrims. Moreover, it should be at a prearranged and appropriate time, so that all the pilgrims are ready to travel in the ships together, so they might land at Cyprus and rest themselves and their horses from the labors of the voyage. After the general passage has arrived in Cyprus and refreshed itself for a certain period, if the pilgrims of the first passage had [managed to] secure the city of Tripoli or another [city] on the coast of Syria, the expedition might be launched from there, making it much easier for them. But if the pilgrims of the first passage were unable to fortify some land in Syria, then it would be necessary for the general passage to go by way of the realm of Armenia. As mentioned, the pilgrims should refresh themselves and their horses in the realm of Cyprus until Michaelmas so that they might safely cross to the realm of Armenia. There they will find whatever they need. Truly they might tarry in the city of Tersot [Tarsus] more easily because they would find great abundance of water and pasturage for their horses there; and from the realm of Turkey which is close by, they could bring in provisions and horses and whatever they may need; in the land of Armenia, also. They might stay all winter in Armenia. When the pasture is ready, the pilgrim hosts could go to Antioch (a day's journey from the land of Armenia), thence the ships might go by sea to the port of Antioch, and thus the host [traveling on the] sea and the host [traveling on the] land would be close to each other. Next, the pilgrims should occupy the city of Antioch which they would take quickly with God's help [oe82], then they could refresh themselves in this land for a certain number of days. They could ruin and ravish their enemies' lands thereabout and thereby learn about their condition, state and will. In this area of Antioch dwell Christians who are good squires, who would come to the Christian forces in good will and perhaps do them good service. When the pilgrims depart from Antioch, they could go by the shore to the city of Lyche [Latakia]. This route would be shorter and better (and the host of Armenia could follow close after the [European] forces by land). Indeed, close to [the castle of] Margat [Marqab] by the sea is a stretch which troubles most people passing it. Should it happen that the enemy has fortified this area in such a way that the pilgrims cannot pass, our men might return to Antioch without any danger. They could [also] go by way of Ephemye [Apamea] toward Cesar [Shaizar] by the banks of the Renell River [Orontes] upward. Going by this route, the host would find good pasture and water and the enemies' lands filled with provisions and other goods, giving them great ease. By this route our men might go to the city of Haman [Hamah], which is a rich city, which the Christian forces might shortly occupy. Should the enemy happen to defend Haman (since it is a rich city), then they could not come to battle against the Christians who would have the advantage fighting in that place and would easily overcome their enemies.

If the Christian forces overcome the Sultan's host, thereafter they would encounter no further obstacles. So they should go straight to the city of Damas [Damascus] which they could take or [the inhabitants] could surrender by treaty. With the Sultan overcome, the [forces of] Damascus would not hold out, but would surrender with good will and live there safely, as they did after Halcon [Hulegu] and Casan [Ghazan] had beaten the Sultan. If the Christian forces take Damascus, they could easily conquer what remained. Should the enemy lose the battle, the Christian forces could come to Tripoli in four days from Damascus and repair the city anew. The Christian forces of Mt. Lebanon would give great help to the pilgrims in this regard. If the Christian forces can keep the city of Tripoli, then with the aid of God they will conquer the city of Jerusalem.

Accompanying the Christian forces, I think that a certain number, about 20,000, Tartars might greatly [oe83] ease and benefit the Christian forces going through the countries. Out of fear of the Tartars, the Bedouins and Turkmens would not dare to approach the Christian hosts. The other advantage would be that the Tartars would be arranging for provisions for the Christian forces and would come from distant countries to get money and other things. From the Tartars, [the Christian troops] could seek and learn information about the enemy. [This is because] the Tartars can freely dash into and out of [an area] night or day, very easily. For battling and besting cities, the Tartars might be valuable, for they are very subtle in such things. However, should it happen that Gharbanda or another in his place arrives with men to enter the land of Egypt, then it would be wise to redeploy and go far from their company. For the Tartars will not do what the Christians want them to, and the Christians might not follow the Tartars' will since [the Tartars] travel quickly on horseback, and the Christians might not [be able to] follow them because of the footmen. Furthermore, when the Tartars know that they are strong and have power, they are very proud and unreasonable and could not go without doing damage to the Christian forces, which the latter might not tolerate. Great shame and ill will might arise between them. However, there is a good solution to this, namely, that the Tartars should go via the Damascus route which they are used to, while the Christian forces should head for Jerusalem. Thus traveling far from each other, peace and friendship would be preserved between the Tartars and the Christian forces, and the might of the enemy would be confounded by two [armies] rather than one.

I will suggest another matter to Your Holiness, namely, that the plans of the Christian forces be prudently kept. For in the past, they would not keep their counsel, as a consequence of which they experienced many great sorrows while the enemy escaped many great dangers and have taken from the Christian forces the means of accomplishing their will. If news about the general passage cannot be concealed, as they will be traveling through the world, nonetheless, the enemy could inflict no damage or loss from it. For they would not have the aid of any port, and in different ways the Christian forces could conceal their intentions, appearing to do one thing but then doing something else. The fact that the Tartars could not keep their plans concealed has frequently done them great harm. For the Tartars have a custom that in the first month of January they take counsel of all the things that they have to do during that year. Thus, if they plan to make war [oe84] against the Sultan of Egypt, their plan is known to everyone soon after. The Saracens send word to the Sultan, and based on that [information] the Sultan prepares against them. The Saracens can keep ther counsel well, which has often done them good. At present what has been said about the general passage overseas to the Holy Land is sufficient.

After all this, I humbly pray that [Your] Blessed Holiness will receive my written description about the passage to the Holy Land. If I have said more or less than necessary, please forgive me. For I would not have ventured to give advice on such a great matter as the passage to the Holy Land were it not by the command of You, Holy Father, Who, after being seated on the pastoral throne by the command of God, have with all [Your] heart desired, sought and labored for the Holy Land, the rose of the precious blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, to be delivered from the evildoers. For this reason, all Christian kings and princes have been called upon to give [You] counsel about assisting in the passage to the Holy Land. Our Lord is full of mercy, experience of which shows us that He will deliver the Holy Land out of the hands of the enemy during the reign of You, Holy Father. We all should humbly pray that [God] grant him who reigns [as Pope] a long and good life, in saecula saeculorum. Amen [oe85].


Here ends the book, Flower of Histories of the East, compiled by the cleric, Brother Haiton of the Praemonstratensian Order, former lord of Corc [Korikos], cousin germaine of the King of Armenia on the oversea passage to the Holy Land, by the command of our Holy Father the Apostle [Pope] Clement V in the city of Poitiers. I, Nicholas Falcon, first wrote down this book in French, as the aforementioned Brother Haiton dictated it, without notes or exemplars; and from French translated it into Latin for our Holy Father, the Pope, in the year of Our Lord 1307, in the month of August. Deo gracias [oe202].

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