Nonfiction > Sir John Mandeville > The Marvellous Adventures of Sir John Maundevile Kt.
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Sir John Mandeville.  Marvellous Adventures.  1895.
 
Chapter V
Of many Names of Sultans, and of the Tower of Babylon
 
AND whoso will go by Land through the Land of Babylon, where the Sultan dwelleth commonly, he must get Grace of him and Leave to go more securely through those Lands and Countries.  1
  And to go to the Mount of Sinai, before that Men go to Jerusalem, they shall go from Gaza to the Castle of Daire (Daron). And after that, Men come out of Syria, and enter into a Wilderness, and there the Way is sandy; and that Wilderness and Desert lasteth an 8 Days’ Journey, but always Men find good Inns, and all that they need of Victuals.  2
  And Men call that Wilderness Achelleke. And when a Man cometh out of that Desert, he entereth into Egypt, that Men call Egypt-Canopac, and after other Languages, Men call it Morsyn. And there first Men find a good Town, that is clept Belethe (Belbais); and it is at the End of the Kingdom of Aleppo. And from thence Men go to Babylon and to Cairo.  3
  At Babylon there is a fair Church of our Lady, where she dwelled 7 Year, when she fled out of the Land of Judea for Dread of King Herod. And there lieth the Body of Saint Barbara the Virgin and Martyr. And there dwelled Joseph, when he was sold by his Brethren. And there made Nebuchadnezzar the King to be put 3 Children into the Furnace of Fire, because they were in the right Truth of Belief, the which Children Men call Anania, Azariah, Mishael, as the Psalm of Benedicite saith: but Nebuchadnezzar clept them otherwise, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that is to say, God glorious, God victorious, and God over all Things and Realms: And that was for the Miracle, that he saw God’s Son go with the Children through the Fire, as he said.  4
  There dwelleth the Sultan in his Calahelyke (for there is commonly his Seat) in a fair Castle, strong and great, and well set upon a Rock. In that Castle dwell always, to keep it and to serve the Sultan, more than 6000 Persons, that take all their Necessaries from the Sultan’s Court. I ought right well to know it; for I dwelled with him as Soldier a great while, in his Wars against the Bedouins. And he would have married me full highly to a great Prince’s Daughter, if I would have forsaken my Law and my Belief; but I thank God, I had no Will to do it, for anything that he promised me.  5
  And ye shall understand, that the Sultan is Lord of 5 Kingdoms, that he hath conquered and appropriated to himself by Strength. And these be the Names: the Kingdom of Canapac, that is Egypt; and the Kingdom of Jerusalem, where that David and Solomon were Kings; and the Kingdom of Syria, of the which the City of Damascus was chief; and the Kingdom of Aleppo in the Land of Mathe; and the Kingdom of Arabia, that belonged to one of the 3 Kings, that made Offering to our Lord, when He was born. And many other Lands he holdeth in his Hand. And therewithal he holdeth Caliphs, that is a full great Thing in their Language, and it is as much as to say King.  6
  And there were wont to be 5 Sultans; but now there is no more but he of Egypt. And the first Sultan was Zarocon, that was of Media, as was Father to Saladin that took the Caliph of Egypt and slew him, and was made Sultan by Strength. After him was Sultan Saladin, in whose Time the King of England, Richard the First, with many others, kept the Passage, that Saladin might not pass. After Saladin reigned his Son Boradin, and after him his Nephew. After that, the Comanians that were in Servage in Egypt, feeling themselves that they were of great Power, chose them a Sultan amongst them, the which made himself to be clept Melechsalan: and in his Time entered into the Country of the Kings of France, Saint Louis, and fought with him; and the Sultan took him and imprisoned him; and this Sultan was slain by his own Servants. And after, they chose another to be Sultan, that they called Tympieman; and he let deliver Saint Louis out of Prison for a certain Ransom. And after, one of these Comanians reigned, that was called Cachas, and slew Tympieman, to be Sultan; and made himself be clept Melechmenes. And after was another that had to Name Bendochdare, that slew Melechmenes to be Sultan, and called himself Melechdare. In his Time entered the good King Edward of England into Syria, and did great Harm to the Saracens. And after, was this Sultan empoisoned at Damascus, and his Son thought to reign after him by Heritage, and made himself to be clept Melechsache; but another that had to Name Elphy, chased him out of the Country and made himself Sultan. This Man took the City of Tripoli and destroyed many of the Christian Men, the Year of Grace 1289, but he was anon slain. After that was the Son of Elphy chosen to be Sultan, and called himself Melechasseraff, and he took the City of Acre and chased out the Christian Men; and this Sultan was also empoisoned, and then was his Brother made Sultan, and was clept Melechnasser. And after, one that was clept Guytoga took him and put him in Prison in the Castle of Mountroyal, and made himself Sultan by Strength, and called himself Melechadel; and he was of Tartary. But the Comanians chased him out of the Country, and did him much Sorrow, and made one of themselves Sultan, that had to Name Lachin. And he made himself to be clept Melechmanser, the which on a Day played at Chess, and his Sword lay beside him; and so it befell, that one angered him, and with his own proper Sword he was slain. And after that, they were at great Discord, to make a Sultan; and finally were accorded for Melechnasser, that Guytoga had put in Prison at Mountroyal. And this Sultan reigned long and governed wisely, so that his eldest Son was chosen after him, Melechmader, the which his Brother caused to be slain privily to have the Lordship, and made himself to be clept Melechmadabron, and he was Sultan when I departed from these Countries. 1  7
  And wit ye well that the Sultan may lead out of Egypt more than 20,000 Men of Arms, and out of Syria, and out of Turkey and out of other Countries that he holds, he may raise more than 50,000. And all those be at his Wages, and they be always with him, besides the Folk of his Country, that are without Number. And every one of them hath by the Year the Amount of 6 Score Florins; but it behoveth, that every one of them hold 3 Horses and a Camel. And in the Cities and in the Towns be Admirals, that have the Governance of the People; one hath to govern 4, and another hath to govern 5, another more, and another not a few more. And as much Pay taketh the Admiral to himself alone, as have all the other Soldiers under him; and therefore, when the Sultan will advance any worthy Knight, he maketh him an Admiral. And when there is any Dearth, the Knights be right poor, and then they sell both their Horses and their Harness.  8
  And the Sultan hath 4 Wives, one Christian and 3 Saracens, of the which one dwelleth at Jerusalem, and another at Damascus, and another at Ascalon; and when they list, they remove to other Cities, and when the Sultan will he may go visit them. And he hath as many Paramours as he liketh. For he maketh to come before him the fairest and the noblest of Birth, and the gentlest Damosels of his Country, and he maketh them to be kept and served full honourably. And when he will have one to lie with him, he maketh them all to come before him, and he beholdeth them all, which of them is most to his Pleasure, and to her anon he sendeth or casteth a Ring from his Finger. And then anon she shall be bathed and richly attired, and anointed with delicate Things of sweet Smell, and then led to the Sultan’s Chamber; and thus he doth as often as he list, when he will have any of them.  9
  And before the Sultan cometh no Stranger, but if he be clothed in Cloth of Gold, or of Tartary or of Camaka, in the Saracens’ Guise, and as the Saracens use. And it behoveth, that anon at the first Sight that Men see the Sultan, be it in a Window or in what Place else, that Men kneel to him and kiss the Earth, for that is the Manner to do Reverence to the Sultan of them that speak with him. And when that Messengers of strange Countries come before him, the People of the Sultan, when the Strangers speak to him, be about the Sultan with Swords drawn and Gisarmes 2 and Axes, their Arms lift up on high with the Weapons to smite upon them, if they say any Word that is Displeasure to the Sultan. And also, no Stranger cometh before him, but that he maketh him some Promise and Grant if that the Stranger asketh reasonably; if it be so it be not against his Law. And so do other Princes beyond, for they say that no Man shall come before no Prince, but that he be the better, and shall be more gladder in departing from his Presence than he was at the coming before him.  10
  And understand ye, that that Babylon that I have spoken of, where that the Sultan dwelleth, is not that great Babylon where the Diversity of Language was first made for Vengeance by the Miracle of God, when the great Tower of Babel was begun to be made; of the which the Walls were 64 Furlongs of Height; that is in the great Desert of Arabia, upon the Way as Men go toward the Kingdom of Chaldea. But it is full long since that any Man durst nigh to the Tower; for it is all deserted and full of Dragons and great Serpents, and full of diverse venomous Beasts all about. That Tower, with the City, was of 25 Mile in Circuit of the Walls, as they of the Country say, and as Men may deem by Estimation, from what Men tell of the Country.  11
  And though it be clept the Tower of Babylon, yet nevertheless there were ordained within many Mansions and many great Dwelling-places, in Length and Breadth. And that Tower contained great Country in its Circuit, for the Tower alone contained 10 Mile square. That Tower founded King Nimrod that was King of that Country; and he was first King of the World. And he had made an Image in the Likeness of his Father, and constrained all his Subjects to worship it; and anon began other Lords to do the same, and so began first the Idols and Simulacres.  12
  The Town and the City were full well set in a fair Country and a Plain that Men call the Country of Samar, of the which the Walls of the City were 200 Cubits in Height, and 50 Cubits in Breadth; and the River of Euphrates ran throughout the City and about the Tower also. But Cyrus the King of Persia took from them the River, and destroyed all the City and the Tower also; for he parted that River into 60 small Rivers, because that he had sworn, that he should put the River in such point, that a Woman might well pass there, without casting off of her Clothes, forasmuch as he had lost many worthy Men that trowed to pass that River by swimming.  13
  And from Babylon where the Sultan dwelleth, to go right between the Orient (East) and the Septentrion (North) toward the great Babylon, is a 40 Days’ Journey to pass by Desert. But the great Babylon is not in the Land and in the Power of the said Sultan, but is in the Power and the Lordship of Persia, and is held of the great Chan, that is the greatest Emperor and the most Sovereign Lord of the Parts beyond, and is Lord of the Isles of Cathay and of many other Isles and of a great Part of Ind, and his Land marcheth with Prester John’s Land, and he holdeth so much Land, that he knoweth not the End: and he is more mighty and a greater Lord without Comparison than is the Sultan: of his royal Estate and of his Might I shall speak more fully, when I shall speak of the Land and of the Country of Ind.  14
  Also the City of Mecca where Mohammet lieth is in the great Deserts of Arabia; and there lieth his Body full honourably in their Temple, that the Saracens call Mosque. And it is from Babylon the Less, where the Sultan dwelleth, unto Mecca above-said, near a 32 Days’ Journey.  15
  And wit well, that the Realm of Arabia is a full great Country, but therein is over-much Desert. And no Man may dwell there in that Desert for Default of Water, for that Land is all gravelly and full of Sand. And it is dry and in no way fruitful, because it hath no Moisture; and therefore is there so much Desert. And if it had Rivers and Wells, and the Land also were as it is in other Parts, it should be as full of People and as full inhabited with Folk as in other Places; for there is full great Multitude of People, where the Land is inhabited. Arabia endureth from the Ends of the Realm of Chaldea unto the last End of Africa, and marcheth with the land of Idumea toward the End of Botron (Bozra). And in Chaldea the chief City is Bagdad. And of Africa the chief City is Carthage, that Dido, that was Eneas’s Wife, founded; the which Eneas was of the City of Troy, and after was King of Italy.  16
  Mesopotamia stretcheth also unto the Deserts of Arabia, and it is a great Country. In this Country is the city of Haran, where Abraham’s Father dwelled, and from whence Abraham departed by Commandment of the Angel. And of that City was Ephraim, that was a great Clerk and a great Doctor. And Theophilus was of that City also, that our Lady saved from our Enemy. 3 And Mesopotamia endureth from the River of Euphrates, unto the River of Tigris, for it is between those two Rivers.  17
  And beyond the River of Tigris is Chaldea, that is a full great Kingdom. In that Realm, at Bagdad above-said, was wont to dwell the Caliph, that was wont to be both Emperor and Pope of the Arabians, so that he was Lord Spiritual and Temporal; and he was Successor to Mahommet, and of his Lineage. That City of Bagdad was wont to be clept Susa, and Nebuchadnezzar founded it; and there dwelled the holy Prophet Daniel, and there he saw Visions of Heaven, and there he made the Exposition of Dreams. 4  18
  And in old Time there were wont to be 3 Caliphs, and they dwelled in the City of Bagdad above-said.  19
  And at Cairo beside Babylon dwelled the Caliph of Egypt; and at Morocco, upon the West Sea, dwelled the Caliph of the People of Barbary and of the Africans. And now are there none of the Caliphs, nor nought have been since the Time of the Sultan Saladin; for from that Time hither the Sultan calleth himself Caliph, and so have the Caliphs lost their Name.  20
  And wit well, that Babylon the Less, where the Sultan dwelleth, and at the City of Cairo that is nigh beside it, be great huge Cities many and fair; and the one sits nigh the other. Babylon sits upon the River of Gyson, sometimes clept Nile, that cometh out of Terrestrial Paradise.  21
  That River of Nile, all the Year, when the Sun entereth into the Sign of Cancer, beginneth to wax, and it waxeth always, as long as the Sun is in Cancer and in the Sign of the Lion; and it waxeth in such Manner, that it is sometimes so great, that it is 20 Cubits or more of Deepness, and then it doth great Harm to the Goods that be upon the Land. For then may no Man travail to plough the Lands for the great Moisture, and therefore is there dear Time in that Country. And also, when it waxeth but little, it is dear Time in that Country, for Default of Moisture. And when the Sun is in the Sign of Virgo, then beginneth the River to wane and to decrease little by little, so that when the Sun is entered into the Sign of Libra, then Men enter between these Rivers that are made. This River cometh, running from Terrestrial Paradise, between the Deserts of Ind, and after it smiteth into the Land, and runneth long time through many great Countries under Earth. And after it goeth out under an high Hill, that Men call Alothe, that is between Ind and Ethiopia the distance of 5 Months’ Journeys from the Entry of Ethiopia; and after it environeth all Ethiopia and Mauritania, and goeth all along from the Land of Egypt unto the City of Alexandria to the End of Egypt, and there it falleth into the Sea. About this River be many Birds and Fowls, as Sikonies, that they call Ibes.  22
  Egypt is a long Country, but it is strait, that is to say narrow, for they may not enlarge it toward the Desert for Default of Water. And the Country is set along upon the River Nile, so that that River may serve by Floods or otherwise, that when it floweth it may spread abroad through the Country; so is the Country large of Length. For it raineth not but little in that Country, and for that Cause they have no Water, but if it be of the Flood of that River. And forasmuch as it raineth not in that Country, but the Air is always pure and clear, therefore in that Country be the good Astronomers, for they find there no Clouds to hinder them. Also the City of Cairo is right great and more huge than that of Babylon the Less, and it sits above toward the Desert of Syria, a little above the River abovesaid.  23
  In Egypt there be 2 Parts: the Upper, that is toward Ethiopia, and the Lower, that is toward Arabia. In Egypt is the Land of Rameses and the Land of Goshen. Egypt is a strong Country, for it hath many bad Havens because of the great Rocks that be strong and dangerous to pass by. And in Egypt, toward the East, is the Red Sea, that endureth unto the City of Coston; and toward the West is the Country of Lybia, that is a full dry Land and little of Fruit, for there is overmuch plenty of Heat, and that Land is called Fusthe. And toward the Meridional (South) Part is Ethiopia. And toward the North is the Desert, that endureth unto Syria, and so is the Country strong on all Sides. And it is well a 15 Days’ Journey of Length, and more than twice so much of Desert, and it is but a 2 Days’ Journey in Width. And between Egypt and Nubia it hath well 12 Days’ Journeys of Desert. And the Men of Nubia be Christians, but they be black as the Moors for the great Heat of the Sun.  24
  In Egypt there be 5 Provinces: that one is called Sahythe; that other Demeseer; another Resith, that is an Isle in the Nile; another Alexandria; and another the Land of Damietta. That City of Damietta was wont to be right strong, but it was twice won of the Christian Men, and therefore after that the Saracens beat down the Walls; and with the Walls and the Tower thereof, the Saracens made another City more far from the Sea, and called it the new Damietta; so that now no Man dwelleth at the former Town of Damietta. And that City of Damietta is one of the Havens of Egypt; and at Alexandria is the other. That is a full strong City, but there is no Water to drink, but if it come by Conduit from the Nile, that entereth into their Cisterns; and if any one stopped that Water from them, they might not endure there. In Egypt there be but few Forts or Castles, because that the Country is so strong of himself.  25
  At the Deserts of Egypt was a worthy Man, that was an holy Hermit, and there met with him a Monster, (that is to say, a Monster is a Thing deformed against Kind both of Man or of Beast or of anything else, and that is clept a Monster). And this Monster, that met with this holy Hermit, was as it had been a Man, that had 2 trenchant Horns on his Forehead; and he had a Body like a Man unto the Navel, and beneath he had a Body like a Goat. And the Hermit asked him what he was. And the Monster answered him, and said he was a deadly Creature, such as God had formed, and dwelled in those Deserts in purchasing his Sustenance. And he besought the Hermit, that he would pray God for him, the Which came from Heaven to save all Mankind, and was born of a Maiden and suffered Passion and Death (as we well know) and by Whom we live and be. And the Head with the 2 Horns of that Monster is yet at Alexandria for a Marvel.  26
  In Egypt is the City of Heliopolis, that is to say, the City of the Sun. In that City there is a Temple, made round after the Shape of the Temple of Jerusalem. The Priests of that Temple have all their Writings, under the Date of the Fowl that is clept Phœnix; and there is but one in all the World. And he cometh to burn himself upon the Altar of the Temple at the end of 500 Year; for so long he liveth. And at the 500 Years’ End, the Priests array their Altar nobly, and put thereupon Spices and live Sulphur and other Things that will burn lightly; and then the Bird Phœnix cometh and burneth himself to Ashes. And the first Day next after, Men find in the Ashes a Worm; and the second Day next after, Men find a Bird alive and perfect; and the third Day next after, he flieth his Way. And so there is no more Bird of that Kind in all the World, but it alone, and truly that is a great Miracle of God. And Men may well liken that Bird unto God, because that there is no God but one; and also, that our Lord arose from Death to Life the third Day. This Bird Men see often-time flying in those Countries; and he is not much more big than an Eagle. And he hath a Crest of Feathers upon his Head more great than the Peacock hath; and his Neck is yellow after the Colour of an Oriel that is a fine shining Stone; and his Beak is coloured blue as Azure; and his Wings be of purple Colour, and the Tail is yellow and red, cast in Streaks across his Tail. And he is a full fair Bird to look upon, against the Sun, for he shineth full gloriously and nobly.  27
  Also in Egypt be Gardens, that have Trees and Herbs, the which bear Fruits 7 Times in the Year. And in that Land Men find many fair Emeralds and enough; and therefore be they more cheap. Also when it raineth once in the Summer in the Land of Egypt, then is all the Country full of great Mires. Also at Cairo, that I spake of before, sell Men commonly both Men and Women of other Laws as we do here Beasts in the Market. And there is a common House in that City that is all full of small Furnaces, and thither bring Women of the Town their Eggs of Hens, of Geese, and of Ducks to be put into those Furnaces. And they that keep that House cover them with Heat of Horse Dung, without Hen, Goose or Duck or any other Fowl. And at the End of 3 Weeks or of a Month they come again and take their Chickens and nourish them and bring them forth, so that all the Country is full of them. And so Men do there both Winter and Summer.  28
  Also in that Country and in others also, Men find long Apples to sell, in their Season, and Men call them Apples of Paradise; and they be right sweet and of good Savour. And though ye cut them in never so many Gobbets or Parts, overthwart or endlong, evermore ye shall find in the Midst the Figure of the Holy Cross of our Lord Jesu. But they will rot within 8 Days, and for that Cause Men may not carry off the Apples to far Countries; and they have great Leaves of a Foot and a half of Length, and they be conformably large. And Men find there also the Tree of Adam’s Apples, that have a Bite at one of the Sides; and there be also Fig Trees that bear no Leaves, but Figs upon the small Branches; and men call them Figs of Pharaoh.  29
  Also beside Cairo, without that City, is the Field where Balm groweth; and it cometh out on small Trees, that be none higher than a Man’s Breeks’ Girdle, and they seem as of Wood that is of the Wild Vine. And in that Field be 7 Wells, that our Lord Jesu Christ made with one of His Feet, when He went to play with other Children. That Field is not so well closed, but that Men may enter at their own List; but in that Season that the Balm is growing, Men put the Place into good Keeping, that no Man dare be hardy enough to enter.  30
  This Balm groweth in no Place, but only there. And though that Men bring of the Plants, to plant in other Countries, they grow well and fair; but they bring forth no fruitful Thing, and the Leaves of Balm fall not at all. And Men cut the Branches with a sharp Flintstone, or with a sharp Bone, when Men will go to cut them; for whoso would cut them with Iron, it would destroy its Virtue and its Nature.  31
  And the Saracens call the Word “Enonck-balse,” and the Fruit, the which is as Cubebs, they call “Abebissam,” and the Liquor that droppeth from the Branches they call “Guybalse.” And Men make always that Balm to be tilled by the Christian Men, or else it would not fructify; as the Saracens say themselves, for it hath been often-time proved. Men say also, that the Balm groweth in Ind the Greater, in that Desert where the Trees of the Sun and of the Moon spake to Alexander, but I have not seen it; for I have not been so far above upward, because that there be too many perilous Passages.  32
  And wit ye well, that a Man ought to take good Care in buying Balm, but an if he know it right well, for he may right lightly be deceived. For Men sell a Gum, that Men call Turpentine, instead of Balm, and they put thereto a little Balm to give good Odour. And some put Wax in Oil of the Wood of the Fruit of Balm, and say that it is Balm. And some distil Cloves of Gilofre 5 and Spikenard of Spain and other Spices, that be well smelling; and the Liquor that goeth out thereof they call it Balm, and they think that they have Balm, and they have none. For the Saracens counterfeit it by Subtlety of Craft to deceive the Christian Men, as I have seen full many a time; and after them the Merchants and the Apothecaries counterfeit it soon after, and then it is less worth, and a great deal worse.  33
  But if it like you, I shall show how ye shall know and prove it, to the End that ye shall not be deceived. First ye shall well know, that the natural Balm is full clear, and of citron Colour and strong smelling; and if it be thick, or red or black, it is sophisticated, that is to say, counterfeited and made like it for Deceit. And understand, that if ye will put a little Balm in the Palm of your Hand against the Sun, if it be fine and good, ye shall not be able to suffer the Heat of the Sun against your Hand. Also take a little Balm with the Point of a Knife, and touch it to the Fire, and if it burn it is a good Sign. After take also a Drop of Balm, and put it into a Dish, or in a Cup with Milk of a Goat, and if it be natural Balm anon it will take and curdle the Milk. Or put a Drop of Balm in clear Water in a Cup of Silver or in a clear Basin, and stir it well with the clear Water; and if the Balm be fine and of his own Kind, the Water shall never trouble; and if the Balm be sophisticated that is to say counterfeited, the Water shall become anon troubled; and also if the Balm be fine it shall fall to the Bottom of the Vessel, as though it were Quicksilver, for the fine Balm is more heavy twice than is the Balm that is sophisticated and counterfeited. Now I have spoken of Balm.  34
  And now I shall speak of another Thing that is beyond Babylon, above the Flood of the Nile, toward the Desert between Africa and Egypt; that is to say, of the Granaries of Joseph, that he had made, to keep the Grains for the Peril of the dear Years. And they be made of Stone, fall well made of Masons’ Craft; of the which 2 be marvellously great and high, and the tothers be not so great. And every Granary hath a Gate to enter within, a little high from the Earth; for the Land is wasted and fallen since the Granaries were made. And within they be all full of Serpents. And above the Granaries without be many Scriptures of diverse Languages. And some Men say, that they be Sepultures of great Lords, that were sometime, but that is not true, for all the common Rumour and Speech of all the People there, both far and near, is that they be the Granaries of Joseph; and so find they in their Scriptures, and in their Chronicles. On the other Hand, if they were Sepultures, they would not be void within; for ye may well know, that Tombs and Sepultures be neither made of such Greatness, nor of such Highness; wherefore it is not to be believed, that they be Tombs or Sepultures.  35
  In Egypt also there be diverse Languages and diverse Letters, and of other Manner and Condition than there be in other Parts. As I shall advise you, such as they be, and the Names how they call them, to such Intent, that ye may know the Difference of them and of others,—Athoimis, Bunchi, Chinok, Durain, Eni, Fin, Gomor, Hecket, Janny, Karacta, Luzanim, Miche, Naryn, Oldache, Pilon, Quyn, Yron, Sichen, Thola, Urmron, Yph and Zarm, Thoit ([theta]).  36
  Now I will return again, ere I proceed any further, to declare to you the other Ways, that draw toward Babylon, where the Sultan himself dwelleth, that is at the Entry of Egypt; for as much as many Folk go thither first and after that to Jerusalem, as I have said to you here before. For they fulfil first the more long Pilgrimage, and after return again by the nearest Ways, because that the more nigh Way is the more worthy, and that is Jerusalem; for no other Pilgrimage is like in Comparison to it. But to fulfil their Pilgrimages more easily and more securely. Men go first by the longer Way.  37
  But whoso will go to Babylon by another Way, more short from the Countries of the West that I have rehearsed before, or from other Countries next to them—then Men go by France, by Burgundy and by Lombardy. It needeth not to tell you the Names of the Cities, nor of the Towns that be in that Way, for the Way is common, and it is known of many Nations. And there be many Havens where Men take the Sea. Some Men take the Sea at Genoa, some at Venice, and pass by the Sea Adriatic, that is clept the Gulf of Venice, that parteth Italy and Greece on that side; and some go to Naples, some to Rome, and from Rome to Brindisi and there they take the Sea, and in many other Places where that Havens be. And Men go by Tuscany, by Campania, by Calabria, by Apulia, and by the Hills of Italy, by Corsica, by Sardinia, and by Sicily, that is a great Isle and a good.  38
  In that Isle of Sicily there is a manner of a Garden, in the which be many diverse Fruits; and the Garden is always green and flourishing, all the Seasons of the Year as well in Winter as in Summer. That Isle holds in Compass about 350 French Miles. And between Sicily and Italy there is but a little Arm of the Sea, that Men call the Faro of Messina. And Sicily is between the Sea Adriatic and the Sea of Lombardy. And from Sicily into Calabria is but 8 Mile of Lombardy.  39
  And in Sicily there is a kind of Serpent, by the which Men assay and prove, whether their Children be Bastards or not, or of lawful Marriage: for if they be born in right Marriage, the Serpents go about them, and do them no Harm, and if they be born in Adultery, the Serpents bite them and envenom them. And thus many wedded Men prove if their Children be their own.  40
  Also in that Isle is the Mount Etna, that Men call Mount Gybelle, and the Volcanoes that be evermore burning. And there be 7 Places that burn and cast out diverse Flames of diverse Colour: and by the changing of those Flames, Men of that Country know when it shall be Dearth or good Time, or cold or hot or moist or dry, or in all other Manners how the Time shall be governed. And from Italy unto the Volcanoes is but 25 Mile. And Men say, that the Volcanoes be Ways to Hell.  41
  And whoso goeth by Pisa, if that Men list to go that Way, there is an Arm of the Sea, where that Men go to other Havens in those Coasts, and then Men pass by the Isle of Greaf (Corfu?) that is at Genoa. And after Men arrive in Greece at the Haven of the City of Myrok, or at the Haven of Valone, or at the City of Duras; and there is a Duke at Duras, or at other Havens in those Coasts; and so Men go to Constantinople. And after Men go by Water to the Isle of Crete and to the Isle of Rhodes, and so to Cyprus, and so to Athens, and from thence to Constantinople.  42
  To hold the more straight Way by Sea, it is well 1880 Mile of Lombardy. And after from Cyprus Men go by Sea, and leave Jerusalem and all the Country on the left Hand, unto Egypt, and arrive at the City of Damietta, that was wont to be full strong, and it sits at the Entry of Egypt. And from Damietta go Men to the City of Alexandria, that sits also upon the Sea. In that City was Saint Catherine beheaded: and there was Saint Mark the Evangelist martyred and buried, but the Emperor Leo made his Bones to be brought to Venice.  43
  And there is yet at Alexandria a fair Church, all white without Paintings; and so be all the other Churches that were of the Christian Men, all white within, for the Paynims and the Saracens made them white to do away with the Images of Saints that were painted on the Walls. That City of Alexandria is well 30 Furlongs in Length, but it is but 10 in Breadth; and it is a full noble City and a fair. At that City entereth the River Nile into the Sea, as I to you have said before. In that River Men find many precious Stones, and much also of Lignum Aloes; and it is a manner of Wood, that cometh out of Terrestrial Paradise, the which is good for many diverse Medicines, and it is right costly. And from Alexandria men go to Babylon, where the Sultan dwelleth; that sits also upon the River Nile: and this Way is the most short, to go straight unto Babylon.  44
  Now shall I say to you also the Way, that goeth from Babylon to the Mount of Sinai, where Saint Catherine lieth. Ye must pass by the Deserts of Arabia, by the which Deserts Moses led the People of Israel. And then pass Men by the Well that Moses made with his Hand in the Deserts, when the People grumbled; for they found nothing to drink. And then pass Men by the Well of Marah, of the which the Water was at first bitter; but the Children of Israel put therein a Tree, and anon the Water was sweet and good to drink. And then go Men by Desert unto the Vale of Elim, in the which Vale be 12 Wells; and there be 72 Trees of Palm, that bear the Dates the which Moses found with the Children of Israel. And from that Valley is but a good Day’s Journey to the Mount of Sinai.  45
  And who so will go by another Way from Babylon, then go by the Red Sea, that is an Arm of the Sea-Ocean. And there passed Moses with the Children of Israel, overthwart the Sea all dry, when Pharaoh the King of Egypt chased them. And that Sea is well a 6 Mile of Largeness in Breadth; and in that Sea was Pharaoh drowned and all his Host that he led. That Sea is not more red than another Sea; but in some Place thereof is the Gravel red, and therefore Men call it the Red Sea. That Sea runneth to the Ends of Arabia and of Palestine.  46
  That Sea lasteth more than a 4 Days’ Journey, and then go Men by Desert unto the Vale of Elim, and from thence to the Mount of Sinai. And ye may well understand, that by this Desert no Man may go on Horseback, because that there is neither Meat for Horse nor Water to drink; and for that Cause Men pass that Desert with Camels. For the Camel finds always Meat in Trees and on Bushes, that he feedeth him with: and he may well fast from Drink 2 days or 3. And that may no Horse do.  47
  And wit well, that from Babylon to the Mount Sinai is well a good 12 Days’ Journey, and some Men make them more. And some Men hasten and pain themselves, and so they make them less. And always Men find Latiners or Dragomen to go with them in these Countries, and further beyond, until the Time they know the Language: and it behoveth Men to bear Victuals with them, that shall last them in those Deserts, and other Necessaries to live by.  48
  And the Mount of Sinai is clept the Desert of Sin, that is to say, the Bush burning; because there Moses saw our Lord God many times in Form of Fire burning upon that Hill, and also in a Bush burning, and spake to Him. And that was at the Foot of the Hill. There is an Abbey of Monks, well builded and well closed with Gates of Iron for Dread of the Wild Beasts; and the Monks be Arabians or Men of Greece. And there is a great Convent, and they all be as Hermits, and they drink no Wine, but if it be on principal Feasts; and they be full devout Men, and live poorly and simply with Joutes 6 and with Dates, and they do great Abstinence and Penance.  49
  There is the Church of Saint Catherine, in the which be many Lamps burning; for they have of Oil of Olives enough, both to burn in their Lamps and to eat also. And that Plenty have they by the Miracle of God; for the Ravens and the Crows and the Choughs and other Fowls of the Country assemble them there every Year once, and fly thither as in Pilgrimage; and every one of them bringeth a Branch of Bays or of Olive in their Beaks instead of Offering, and leave them there; of the which the Monks make great Plenty of Oil. And this is a great Marvel. And since that Fowls that have no natural Wit or Reason go thither to seek that glorious Virgin, well more ought Men then to seek her, and to worship her.  50
  Also behind the Altar of that Church is the Place where Moses saw our Lord God in a burning Bush. And when the Monks enter into that Place, they doff both Hose and Shoes or Boots always, because that our Lord said to Moses, “Do off thy Hose and thy Shoes, for the Place that thou standest on is Land holy and blessed.” And the Monks call that Place Bezaleel, that is to say, the Shadow of God. And beside the high Altar, on 3 Steps of Height is the Feretrum or Shrine of Alabaster, where the Bones of Saint Catherine lie. And the Prelate of the Monks sheweth the Relics to the Pilgrims, and with an Instrument of Silver he fretteth the Bones; and then there goeth out a little Oil, as though they were in a manner sweating, that is neither like to Oil nor to Balm, but it is full sweet of Smell; and of that they give a little to the Pilgrims, for there goeth out but little Quantity of the Liquor. And after that they shew the Head of Saint Catherine, and the Cloth that she was wrapped in, that is yet all bloody; and in that same Cloth so wrapped, the Angels bare her Body to the Mount Sinai, and there they buried her with it. And then they shew the Bush, that burned and wasted nought, in the which our Lord spake to Moses, and other Relics enough.  51
  Also, when the Prelate of the Abbey is dead, I have understood, by Information, that his Lamp quencheth. And when they choose another Prelate, if he be a good Man and worthy to be Prelate, his Lamp shall light with the Grace of God without touching of any Man. For every one of them hath a Lamp to himself, and by their Lamps they know well when any of them shall die. For when any one shall die, the Light beginneth to change and to wax dim; and if he be chosen to be Prelate, and is not worthy, his Lamp quencheth anon. And other Men have told me, that he that singeth the Mass for the Prelate that is dead—he shall find upon the Altar the Name written of him that shall be the Prelate chosen. And so upon a Day, I asked of the Monks, both one and other, how this befell. But they would tell me nothing, until the Time that I said that they should not hide the Grace that God did them, but that they should publish it to make the People have the more Devotion, and that they did sin to hide God’s Miracle, as it seemed to me. For the Miracles that God hath done and yet doth every Day, be the Witness of His Might and of His Marvels, as David saith in the Psalter: “Mirabilia Testimonia Tua, Domine,” that is to say, “Lord, Thy Marvels be Thy Witness.” And then they told me, both one and other, how it so befell full many a time, but more I might not have of them.  52
  In that Abbey entereth no Fly, neither Toads nor Newts, nor such foul venomous Beasts, neither Lice nor Fleas, by the Miracle of God, and of our Lady. For there were wont to be so many such manner of Filths, that the Monks were in Will to leave the Place and the Abbey, and were gone from thence upon the Mountain above to eschew that Place; and our Lady came to them and bade them turn again, and from this forwards never entered such Filth in that Place amongst them, nor never shall enter hereafter. Also, before the Gate is the Well, where Moses smote the Stone, from the which the Water came out plenteously.  53
  From that Abbey Men go up the Mountain of Moses, by many Steps. And then Men find first a Church of our Lady, where that she met the Monks, when they fled away for the Vermin above-said. And more high upon that Mountain is the Chapel of Elijah the Prophet; and that Place they call Horeb, whereof Holy Writ speaketh, “Et ambulavit in Fortitudine Cibi illius usque, ad Montem Oreb;” that is to say, “And he went in Strength of that Meat unto the Hill of God, Horeb.” And then nigh is the Vine that Saint John the Evangelist planted that Men call Raisins (Staphis). 7 And a little above is the Chapel of Moses, and the Rock where Moses fled to for Dread when he saw our Lord face to face. And in that Rock is printed the Form of his Body, for he smote himself so strongly and so hard into that Rock, that all his Body was bedded within through the Miracle of God. And there beside is the Place where our Lord took to Moses the 10 Commandments of the Law. And there is the Cave under the Rock where Moses dwelt, when he fasted 40 Days and 40 Nights.  54
  And from that Mountain Men pass a great Valley to go to another Mountain, where Saint Catherine was buried by the Angels of the Lord. And in that Valley is a Church of 40 Martyrs, and there sing the Monks of the Abbey, often-time: and that Valley is right cold. And after Men go up the Mountain of Saint Catherine, that is more high than the Mount of Moses; and there, where Saint Catherine was buried, is neither Church nor Chapel, nor other dwelling Place, but there is an Heap of Stones about the Place, where her Body was put by the Angels. There was wont to be a Chapel, but it was cast down, and the Stones lie there yet. And albeit that the Collect of Saint Catherine says, that it is the Place where our Lord taught the 10 Commandments to Moses, and there, where the blessed Virgin Saint Catherine was buried, ye are to understand it as being in the same Country, or in one bearing the same Name; for both in one Place and the other is a Hill clept the Mount of Sinai. But it is a great Way from one to the other, and a great deep Valley between them.  55
 
Note 1. By this we are able to settle the date of Sir John’s leaving Egypt; this must have been at the end of 1341, as Melechmadabron only reigned six months, and was deposed on the 11th January, 1342. [back]
Note 2. Bills or battle-axes. [back]
Note 3. Theophilus sold himself to the Devil, and, repenting, was saved by the Virgin Mary: a legend of the Middle Ages. [back]
Note 4. A spurious book, popular in those times. [back]
Note 5. A kind of clove. [back]
Note 6. An ancient dish in cookery, made probably of gourds. [back]
Note 7. Greek: [Greek], a bunch of grapes. [back]
 
 
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