The Story of the Mongols Whom We Call the Tartars - Friar Giovanni di Piano Carpini's Account of His Embassy to the Court of the Mongol Khan tr by Erik Hildinger (1996).pdf

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© Copyright 1996 by Branden
Publishing Company, Inc.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
THE STORY OF THE MONGOLS
Giovanni, da Pian del Carpine, Archbishop of
Antivari, d. 1252.
[Historia Mongolorum. English]
The story of the Mongols whom we call the Tartars
= Historia Mongalorum quos nos Tartaros
appellamus : Friar Giovanni di Piano Carpini's
account of his embassy to the court of the Mongol
Khan / translated by Erik Hildinger. p. cm.
Includes bibliographic references and index.
ISBN 0-8283-2017-9 (pbk.)
1. Mongols—History.
2. Asia—Description and travel.
I. Title.
DS6.G5413 1996
950'.04942-dc20
96-940
CIP
BRANDEN PUBLISHING COMPANY, Inc.
17 Station Street
Box 843 Brookline Village
Boston, MA 02147
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WHOM WE CALL THE TARTARS - 5
Chapter Seven ....................................................... 79
How The Tartars Make Peace; the Countries they have
Conquered, the Countries which have Resisted them
Successfully, and the Despotism the Tartars Exert over
their Subjects
Contents
Preface ......................................................................6
Translator's Note..................................................... 30
Prologue ................................................................. 34
Chapter Eight .............................................. 85
How to Fight the Tartars and what to Expect; the Arms
and Organization of such Forces; How to Meet Tartar
Cunning in Battle, and how to Supply Fortresses and
Cities, and What should be Done with Captives
Chapter One...............................................................
The Tartar Country, its Location and Description and its
Weather
Chapter Two ........................................................ 36
The People, their Clothes, Homes, Possessions and
Marriages
Chapter Nine .........................................................94
The Provinces We Passed Through and their Location;
the Court of the Emperor of the Tartars and his Gov-
ernment, and the Witnesses who Met us there
Chapter Three....................................................... 42
Religion, What the Tartars Believe are Sins; Divination,
Absolution and Funeral Rites
Notes........................................... ......................... 121
Bibliography.......................................................... 128
Index..................................................................... 131
Chapter Four......................................................... 50
Their Good and Bad Customs, their Food and their
Habits
Chapter Five.......................................................... 55
The Founder of the Tartar Empire, its Princes and the
Power of the Emperor and his Government
Chapter Six ......................................................... . 7 1
War, the Organization of the Tartar Forces, their Arms,
their Tactics when Fighting and their Cruelty to Cap-
tives, How they Besiege Forts, and their Treachery
toward those who Surrender to them
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WHOM WE CALL THE TARTARS - 7
The steppe has three distinct areas. To the north a
forested belt, then the great grasslands, and finally the
desert regions. The better areas were the object of
constant struggles among the steppe tribes, whether
Mongols, Turks, Merkits, Tatars, Naimans, or any of a
dozen nations who are only names today. The trigger of
such a conflict might be a political shift among the
tribes, or a period of drought, a common occurrence on
the steppe, which caused one tribe to seek better
territory at the expense of another. Thus, every man
was, of necessity, a warrior. War is the profession of the
steppe and, among pre-industrial peoples, no one is
better at it. Europe knew this from the incursions of the
Huns and Magyars in the fifth and eighth centuries; it
was revisited by this scourge in the thirteenth, and it was
stunned.
In April 1241 Mongol armies had killed some one
hundred thousand European knights and men-at-arms in
Poland and Hungary. They had beaten every western
army they had come against. Henry II of Silesia was
dead, Boleslav IV, Count of the Poles, was in hiding,
and the kingdom of Hungary no longer existed; its king,
Bela IV, was fleeing to the Adriatic coast pursued by a
Mongol army determined to kill him. As for the country
itself, the Mongols began to systematically strip and
depopulate it and to strike coins. It belonged to Batu,
grandson of Jinghiz Khan, the Emperor of All Men.
Meanwhile, Pope Gregory IX and the Holy Roman
Emperor Frederick II prepared to continue their personal
war while Mongol scouts approached Venice. There
was no army the Europeans could muster to oppose
them. There seemed no reason to suppose that western
Europe would not suffer the fate of central Europe and
Russia.
PREFACE
T
he modern state of Mongolia lies to the west and
north of China. Seven hundred years ago those
who spoke the Mongol language, Tungisic in
origin, also lived on the steppes further north and west
in what is now Russia and Siberia, and many still do.
These Asian people competed for a living with their
more numerous Turkic-speaking cousins and their
occasional incursions into the civilized lands surrounding
the steppes had generally had horrifying consequences
for sedentary nations.
The Mongols were a nomadic people living from
their herds and flocks. Thus they moved between two
areas summer and winter, to find grazing for the ani-
mals. Their homes were (and some still are) gers, round
felt tents easily disassembled or moved from place to
place. They travelled by horse which had first been
domesticated in southern Russia perhaps three thousand
five hundred years ago. They fought interminably
among themselves and the bow was their weapon— metal
is hard to work and scarce in the steppe. In any case
they were superb archers.
Mongol society, like that of other steppe peoples,
was simple. The religion was shamanistic, an ancient
and primitive belief in a multitude of spirits such as is
found in northern Asia and among the natives of the
Americas who had crossed the Bering straight from Asia
so long before.
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WHOM WE CALL THE TARTARS - 9
8 - THE STORY OF THE MONGOLS...
away as France and Germany, and members of the
military orders. These last, such as the Knights Templar
and the Hospitallers were monks who submitted to rigid
personal discipline and fought as knights for the protec-
tion of the church. They were Europe's most disciplined
and professional soldiers. This army numbered about
thirty thousand.
Duke Henry of Silesia drew up a similar, somewhat
larger army. To the south, King Bela of Hungary
gathered his forces, but found it difficult as his nobles
mistrusted his power and were uncooperative.
The Mongol column which had gone north began to
search for resistance in Poland. Baidar and Kaadan
were aware of Duke Henry's army and determined to
meet and prevent it supporting Bela in Hungary in his
contest with Batu and Subotai. Far to the south Subotai
and Batu's forces approached the guarded Hungarian
passes of the Carpathians.
After slow going in the snow for a few weeks the
northern column under Baidar and Kaadan split into
two. On March 18 they met the first resistance, the
combined armies of Boleslav and Prince Mieceslas. The
Mongols split the Europeans apart at the battle, the
Poles heading south, the Slavs west. The Mongols then
swept ahead to Kracow from which the inhabitants were
fleeing; they burnt the city. This done, they tossed a
bridge across the Oder and took Breslau only to discover
that the Duke Henry of Silesia had gathered his army
near Liegnitz, now Legnica in modern Poland. Henry's
army numbered about forty thousand and awaited
support from a Bohemian army of fifty thousand under
King Wenceslas. The Mongols were outnumbered and
knew of Wenceslas's approach. Baidar and Kaadan
In February 1241 the Mongol army had left its base
in southern Russia and begun to cross the frozen rivers
into central Europe. It consisted of about seventy
thousand men, all of them cavalry. Nominally com-
manded by Batu, a grandson of Jinghiz Khan, he was
guided by his grandfather's famous lieutenant, Subotai,
a brilliant campaigner. This general had commanded in
the campaigns against the Northern Sung of China and
had helped in the destruction of the Kwarizmian Em-
pire. He had planned the campaign against Europe for
a year and the results would show.
The Mongols had defeated every major Russian
principality and had spent a year resting and regrouping
in what is now the Ukraine before crossing into central
Europe. Their target was Hungary, though to achieve its
defeat the Mongols wished to remove opposition from
other quarters. To that end the Mongol army was
divided into two unequal forces. The smaller part of
about thirty thousand men started off first at the begin-
ning of March and went north into Poland to draw off
any support for Hungary that might be found there. It
was commanded by two of Jinghiz Khan's grandsons,
Baidar and Kaadan, and swept in a northward arc past
the edge of the Carpathians and into Poland. The larger
army of about forty thousand advanced under the
command of Subotai and Batu a few days later and was
itself broken into two contingents each of which entered
the Carpathians by a different route and crossed into
Hungary.
Mongols scouts were seen ranging Poland and
Hungary and the European nobility began to muster
armies. Count Boleslav IV of Poland, one of several
lords who claimed to be its king, assembled one. It
consisted of Polish knights, foreign knights from as far
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