The Travels of Marco Polo — Volume 1 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 996 pages of information about The Travels of Marco Polo Volume 1.

Under the Persian branch, at least, of the house the degree of honour was indicated by the number of lions’ heads upon the plate, which varied from 1 to 5.  The Lion and Sun, a symbol which survives, or has been revived, in the modern Persian decoration so called, formed the emblem of the Sun in Leo, i.e. in highest power.  It had already been used on the coins of the Seljukian sovereigns of Persia and Iconium; it appears on coins of the Mongol Ilkhans Ghazan, Oljaitu, and Abusaid, and it is also found on some of those of Mahomed Uzbek Khan of Kipchak.

[Illustration:  Seljukian Coin with the Lion and Sun.]

Hammer gives regulations of Ghazan Khan’s on the subject of the Paizah, from which it is seen that the latter were of different kinds as well as degrees.  Some were held by great governors and officers of state, and these were cautioned against letting the Paizah out of their own keeping; others were for officers of inferior order; and, again, “for persons travelling on state commissions with post-horses, particular paizah (which Hammer says were of brass) are appointed, on which their names are inscribed.”  These last would seem therefore to be merely such permissions to travel by the Government post-horses as are still required in Russia, perhaps in lineal derivation from Mongol practice.  The terms of Ghazan’s decree and other contemporary notices show that great abuses were practised with the Paizah, as an authority for living at free quarters and making other arbitrary exactions.

[Illustration:  “TABLE D’OR DE COMMANDEMENT,” THE PAIZA OF THE MONGOLS.  FROM A SPECIMEN FOUND IN E. SIBERIA.]

The word Paizah is said to be Chinese, Pai-tseu, “a tablet.”  A trace of the name and the thing still survives in Mongolia.  The horse-Bai is the name applied to a certain ornament on the horse caparison, which gives the rider a title to be furnished with horses and provisions on a journey.

[Illustration:  Second Example of a MONGOL PAIZA, with Superscription in the Uighur Character, found near the River Dnieper, 1845.]

Where I have used the Venetian term saggio, the French texts have here and elsewhere saics and saies, and sometimes pois. Saic points to saiga, which, according to Dupre de St. Maur, is in the Salic laws the equivalent of a denier or the twelfth part of a sol. Saggio is possibly the same word, or rather may have been confounded with it, but the saggio was a recognised Venetian weight equal to 1/6 of an ounce.  We shall see hereafter that Polo appears to use it to indicate the miskal, a weight which may be taken at 74 grains Troy.  On that supposition the smallest tablet specified in the text would weigh 18-1/2 ozs.  Troy.

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