Marco Polo is no more answerable for the truth
of this ridiculous
legend of the 13th century, than the archbishop of Paris of the 19th
is for many, equally absurd, that are narrated in the French national
Catechism. Both were good catholics, and rehearsed what they had
heard, and what neither of them pretended to have seen.—E.
Of the Country of Persia, the Cities of Jasdi, Cermam and Camandu, and the Province of Reobarle.
Tauris is a great city in the province of Hircania, and is a very populous place. The inhabitants live by the exercise of manufacture and trade, fabricating, especially, stuffs of silk and gold. The foreign merchants who reside there make very great gains, but the inhabitants are generally poor. They are a mixed people, of Nestorians, Armenians, Jacobites, Georgians, Persians, and Mahometans. These last are perfidious and treacherous people, who think all well got which they can filch or steal from those of other religions; and this wickedness of the Saracens has induced many of the Tartars to join their religion; and if a Saracen be killed by a Christian, even while engaged in the act of robbery, he is esteemed to have died a martyr. It is twelve days journey from Tauris to Persia. In the confines stands the monastery of St Barasam, of which the monks resemble Carmelites: they make girdles, which they lay on the altars and give to their friends, who esteem them as holy. Persia is divided into eight kingdoms, viz. Casbin, Curdistan, Laristan, Susistan or Chorassan, Spahan, Ispahan or Fars, Shiras, Soncara, and lastly Timochaim, which is near Arboreseco, towards the north. Persia breeds excellent horses, which are sold to the Indies; also very good asses, which are sold for a higher price than the horses, because they eat little, carry much, and travel far. They have camels also, which, though not swift, are necessary in these countries, which, sometimes for a long way, yield no grass or water.
The people in these countries are very wicked and covetous, thieves and murderers, killing the merchants unless they travel in caravans, yet they profess to follow the law of Mahomet. In the cities there are excellent artificers in gold, silk, and embroidery; and the country abounds with silk-worms, wheat, barley, millet, and other kinds of grain, with plenty of fruits and wine; and though wine is forbidden by the Mahometan law, they have a gloss to correct or corrupt the text, saying, that when boiled, it changes its taste and name, and may be then drank.