The Tartars are covetous, irascible, deceitful, and merciless, beyond all men; yet, through the rigour of discipline which is exercised by their superiors, they are restrained from brawls and mutual strife. They esteem the ancient founders and fathers of their tribes as Gods, in whose honour they celebrate solemn feasts at certain fixed times; and these deities are very numerous, though only four are considered as general gods of the nation. They consider all things as created for their sole use, and do not therefore think themselves cruel or unjust in wasting and destroying the surrounding nations, whom they esteem rebels against their legitimate authority. Their bodies, though lean, are hardy and strong, with broad chests, and square high shoulders, strong, well knit joints and firm sinews, thick and large thighs, with short legs, so that, being equal to us in stature, what they want in their legs is supplied in the upper part of their bodies. Their faces are pale, with short flat noses, their eyes black and inconstant, having large eyebrows, extending down to the nose; long sharp chins, their upper jaws low and declining, their teeth long and thin, their countenances distorted, fierce and terrible.
In ancient times their country, which is situated far beyond Chaldea, was utterly waste and barren, from whence they have expelled the lions, bears, and other wild beasts. Of the tanned hides of beasts they make for themselves light but impenetrable armour, and their backs are only slightly armed, that they may not flee in battle. They use small but strong horses, which are maintained with little provender. In fight they use javelins, maces, battle-axes, and swords, but are particularly expert in the use of bows and arrows. When engaged in battle they never retire till they see the chief standard of their general give back. When vanquished they ask no quarter, and in victory they shew no compassion; and though many millions in number, they all persist as one man, in resolving to subdue the whole world under their dominion. They have 60,000 couriers who are sent before upon light horses to prepare a place for the army to encamp, and these will gallop in one night as far as our troops can march in three days. When they invade a country, they suddenly diffuse themselves over the whole land, surprising the people unarmed, unprovided, and dispersed, and make such horrible slaughter and devastation, that the king or prince of the invaded land cannot collect a sufficient force to give them battle.
Sometimes they say, they intend to go to Cologne to bring home the three wise kings into their own country; sometimes they propose to punish the avarice and pride of the Romans, who formerly oppressed them; sometimes to conquer the barbarous nations of the north; sometimes to moderate the fury of the Germans with their own mildness; sometimes in derision they say that they intend going in pilgrimage to the shrine of St James in Galicia. By means of these pretences, some indiscreet governors of provinces have entered into league with them, and have, granted them free passage through their territories; but which leagues they have ever violated, to the certain ruin and destruction of these princes and their unhappy countries.