CELEBRATED TRAVELLERS BETWEEN THE TENTH AND THIRTEENTH CENTURIES.
Next in order of succession we come to the name of Jean du Plan de Carpin, or as some authors render it simply, Carpini. He was a Franciscan or Grey Friar, born in 1182, at Perugia in Italy. It is well known what inroads the Mongolians had made under Gengis-Khan, and in 1206 this chieftain had made Karakorum, an ancient Turkish town, his capital. This town was a little north of China. His successor Ojadaï, extended the Mongolian dominion into the centre of China, and, after raising an army of 600,000 men, he even invaded Europe. Russia, Georgia, Poland, Moravia, Silesia, and Hungary, all became the scenes of sanguinary conflicts which almost always ended in favour of the invaders. The Mongols were looked upon as demons possessed with superhuman power, and Western Europe was terrified at their approach.
Pope Innocent IV. sent an ambassador to the Tartars, but he was treated with arrogance; at the same time he sent other ambassadors to the Tartars living in North-Eastern Tartary, in the hope of stopping the Mongolian invasion, and as chief in this mission, the Franciscan Carpini was chosen, being known to be a clever and intelligent diplomatist. Carpini was accompanied by Stephen, a Bohemian; they set out on the 6th of April, 1245, and went first to Bohemia, where the king gave them letters to some relations living in Poland, who he hoped might facilitate their entrance into Russia. Carpini had no difficulty in reaching the territory of the Archduke of Russia, and by his advice they bought beaver and other furs as presents for the Tartar chiefs. Thus provided, they took a north-easterly route to Kiev, then the chief town of Russia and now the seat of Government of that part, but they travelled in fear of the Lithuanians, who scoured the country at that time.
The Governor of Kiev advised the Pope's envoys to exchange their own for Tartar horses, who were accustomed to seek for their food under the snow, and thus mounted they had no difficulty in getting as far as Danilisha. There they both were attacked by severe illness; when nearly recovered they bought a carriage, and in spite of the intense cold set out again. Arrived at Kaniev, on the Dnieper, they found themselves in the frontier town of the Mongol empire, and hence they were conducted to the Tartar camp by one of the chiefs, whom they had made their friend by gifts. In the camp they were badly received at first, but being directed to the Duke of Corrensa, who commanded an army of 60,000 men forming the advanced guard: this general sent them with an escort of three Tartars to Prince Bathy, the next in command to the Emperor himself. Relays of horses were prepared for them on the road, they travelled night and day, and thus passed through the Comans' country lying between the Dnieper, the Tanais, the Volga, and the Yaik, frequently having to cross the frozen rivers, and finally reaching the court of Prince Bathy on the frontiers of the Comans' country. "As we were being conducted to the prince," says Carpini, "we were told that we should have to pass between two fires, in order to purify us from any infection we might carry, and also to do away with any evil designs we might have towards the prince, which we agreed to do that we might be freed from all suspicion."
The prince was seated on his throne in the midst of his courtiers and officers in a magnificent tent made of fine linen. He had the reputation of being a just and kind ruler of his people, but very cruel in war. Carpini and Stephen were placed on the left of the throne, and the papal letters, translated into a language composed of Tartar and Arabic, were presented to the prince. He read them attentively and then dismissed the envoys to their tents, where their only refreshment was a little porringer full of millet.
This interview took place on Good Friday, and the next day Bathy sent for the envoys, and told them they must go to the Emperor. They set out on Easter-day with two guides; but having lived upon nothing but millet, water, and salt, the travellers were but little fit for a journey; nevertheless their guides obliged them to travel very quickly, changing horses five or six times in a day. They passed through almost a desert country, the Tartars having driven away nearly all the inhabitants. They came next to the country of the Kangites to the east of Comania, where there was a great deficiency of water; in this province the people were mostly herdsmen, under the hard yoke of the Mongolians.
Carpini was travelling from Easter till Ascension-Day through the land of the Kangites, and thence he came into the Biserium country, or what we call Turkestan in the present day; on all sides the eye rested on towns and villages in ruins. After crossing a chain of mountains the envoys entered Kara-Kâty on the 1st of July; here the governor received them very hospitably, and made his sons and the principal officers of his court dance before them for their amusement.
On leaving Kara-Kâty the envoys rode for some days along the banks of a lake lying to the north of the town of Zeman, which must be, according to M. de Rémusat, the Lake Balkash. There lived Ordu, the eldest of the Tartar captains, and here Carpini and Stephen took a day's rest before encountering the cold and mountainous country of the Maimans, a nomadic people living in tents. After some days the travellers reached the country of the Mongols, and on the 22nd of July arrived at the place where the Emperor was, or rather he who was to be Emperor, the election having not yet taken place.