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Nomads of the Steppe: Asia before Genghis Khan Essay

Plano Carpini and William of Rubruck were two Franciscans, who visited the Central Asia in the middle of the XII century and left the detailed descriptions of the peoples and the nations in Eurasian region and specifically of the Mongol Empire in those times. Both travellers were the first Europeans, who visited Mongolia. They both distinguished Mongols from Tatars, and described differences between Mongols and other nations of the Central Asia. The journeys of Carpini and of Rubruck took place almost in the same time period and with the same purpose.

Plano Carpini started his mission in 1245 on errand of the Pope Innocent IV, and William of Rubruck travelled in 1252-1255 with the diplomatic mission of the French King Louis IX. The routes of the both missionaries were similar. Rubruck left from Acre in Palestine, then travelled by sea to the Crimean town of Sudak and then by land went along the Azov Sea coast and the River of Don to Sarai, the residence of Batu Khan, and then – through the Central Asia to the City of Karakorum, the capital of the Mongol Empire. Carpini followed the same route; except for he travelled to the Azov Sea by land: through Poland and Kiev.

After returning from the trip Carpini made the detailed report for the Pope which got the name “History of the Mongols” or “Liber Tartorum” (Emerson 259). In this report of Carpini described original appearance, way of life, and political system of Mongols. Unlike Rubruck an Italian traveller brings many fantastic histories over, in particular the fact of cannibalism among Mongols. Rubruck proved himself as an attentive observer and thin psychologist. He tries to verify all facts. When passing quite unbelievable legends he makes reservations of a dubiousness of such information.

The monk described the state of China in those years; he was the first who proved that the Caspian Sea is an internal mainland reservoir and does not have an output to the Arctic. Probably Rubruck saw much more, than Carpini what can be explained with higher rank of Carpini’s mission. Carpini and Rubruck were priests; therefore they spent much time to the research of Mongol religious faiths. They both “believed erroneously that the effigies in the Mongol encampments were idols which they worshipped” (Jackson 141). In actual fact such figures showed the ancestors of Mongols, which meant much for the ancient Mongols.

Rubruck was struck with numerous likenesses between Christian ceremonies and ceremonies of Buddhists and Shamanists. The works of Plano Carpini and William of Rubruck are the most valuable material about the history and way of life of Mongols during the greatest period of the Mongolian empire development. Works Cited Dawson, Christofer. Mission to Asia. Toronto: University of Toronto Press in association with the Medieval Academy of America, 1980. Emerson K. Richard. Key Figures in Medieval Europe. New York: CRS Press, 2006. Jackson Peter. The Mongols and the West, 1221-1410. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited, 2005.


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