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Marco Polo In Reverse
US&WR ^ | 2-23-2004 | Ulrich Boser

Posted on 02/26/2004 12:06:55 PM PST by blam

Special Report 2/23/04

Marco Polo in Reverse

In the spring of 1288 a curious throng packed the Vatican to celebrate Easter and glimpse a visitor from the far side of the world. Rabban Sauma, a Mongolian Christian, had braved a 7,000-mile trek from Beijing. But when he received the Eucharist from the pope, he broke down and sobbed. The crowd's loud amens shook the church.

Sauma was the Mongol Empire's first envoy to Europe, just 50 years after Mongol armies were repulsed at the gates of Vienna. Much of his diaries have survived, giving a unique perspective on the West. "Sauma is a reverse Marco Polo," says Morris Rossabi of the City University of New York, author of Voyager from Xanadu: Rabban Sauma and the First Journey from China to the West. And while Polo set out to find trading opportunities, Sauma aimed to forge an alliance to drive the Muslims from the Middle East. It was "an extraordinary example of early geopolitics," says Rossabi.

A calling. Sauma's mission began as a pilgrimage. Born near Beijing, he was a cleric in the Nestorian Church--now a small sect in Iran and Iraq but then flourishing in China. In 1275, in his 50s, Sauma and a disciple felt the call of the Holy Land. They left for Jerusalem without meeting Marco Polo, who reached the Beijing court of Kublai Khan, the Mongol ruler, about the same time.

Sauma's party crossed the Taklimakan Desert in western China on camels--"a toilsome and fatiguing journey of two months," he wrote. The trip from China to the Middle East took four years in all. But fighting near Jerusalem kept him from visiting, and he lingered in Baghdad.

In 1287 Iran's Mongolian ruler tapped Sauma to lobby Europe's kings for help in conquering the Middle East. Sauma shared mass with Edward I of England, visited King Philip IV in Paris, and stayed at the Vatican. His descriptions of Italy still resonate: It "resembled paradise; its winter was not [too] cold, and its summer not [too] hot. Green foliage is found therein all the year round."

Yet he failed to broker a deal between Europe and the Mongols and returned to Baghdad, where he died in 1294. "If Sauma had been successful, history would have been very different," says Jack Weatherford of Macalester College. "Europe would have ruled Jerusalem and Egypt, and they would not have sailed around looking for a new trade route," he says. In other words, no Vasco da Gama, no Columbus--and a world as strange to us as Europe appeared to Sauma. -Ulrich Boser


TOPICS: News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: godsgravesglyphs; marco; mongolia; polo; reverse; vatican
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1 posted on 02/26/2004 12:06:56 PM PST by blam
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To: farmfriend
Christian Designs Found In Tomb Stones Of Eastern Han Dynasty
2 posted on 02/26/2004 12:09:18 PM PST by blam
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To: Fedora
Bricks With Molded Design Unearthed In Chongqing (Caucasians In Ancient China)
3 posted on 02/26/2004 12:13:23 PM PST by blam
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To: blam
Cool post.

On a semi-related topic, does anyone know the most current thinking about Marco Polo? I think I read somewhere that people who study these things aren't really sure now that Marco Polo really made the trip he's credited with -- I guess there's a little speculation that the records of his journey might be an exaggeration. Hopefully that idea has been disproved -- I like the idea that Marco Polo actually made his trip.
4 posted on 02/26/2004 12:27:55 PM PST by 68skylark
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To: 68skylark
"I guess there's a little speculation that the records of his journey might be an exaggeration."

That's the latest that I've read. Some say he may never have left Bactria.

5 posted on 02/26/2004 12:32:37 PM PST by blam
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To: blam
Much of his diaries have survived

Does that get on anyone else's nerves? Where's the proofing for published articles these days?

6 posted on 02/26/2004 1:00:42 PM PST by antiRepublicrat
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To: antiRepublicrat
"Does that get on anyone else's nerves?"

Irritates me to no end...I see it everywhere these days.

7 posted on 02/26/2004 2:02:20 PM PST by blam
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To: 68skylark; blam
I think most experts still accept that Marco Polo went to China. Frances Wood's book, Did Marco Polo Go to China? is an interesting read and treats the subject judiciously.
8 posted on 02/26/2004 2:13:47 PM PST by Verginius Rufus
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To: Verginius Rufus
I think most experts still accept that Marco Polo went to China.

Thanks. That's what I want to believe. So unless someone has some real good evidence to the contrary, that's what I'll believe.

9 posted on 02/26/2004 2:22:44 PM PST by 68skylark
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To: blam; *Gods, Graves, Glyphs; A.J.Armitage; abner; adam_az; AdmSmith; Alas Babylon!; ...
Gods, Graves, Glyphs
List for articles regarding early civilizations , life of all forms, - dinosaurs - etc.
Let me know if you wish to be added or removed from this ping list.
10 posted on 02/26/2004 5:35:34 PM PST by farmfriend ( Isaiah 55:10,11)
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To: farmfriend
For those interested: Mysteries Of Noah's Flood is coming up on (TLC) The Learning Channel at 10:00 ET.
11 posted on 02/26/2004 6:09:23 PM PST by blam
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To: 68skylark
Marco Polo claims to have seen Noah's Ark on Mt Ararat too. (Mt Ararat is 17,000 feet high)
12 posted on 02/26/2004 7:09:26 PM PST by blam
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To: blam
Very interesting. I know the Romans established trade routes with China during the Han Dynasty (In its early periods, China had largely been isolated from the influences of other civilizations. This changed dramatically around the year AD 25 and the Later Han dynasty. Trade routes between China and India brought Buddhist missionaries and established the "Silk Road" that led to contact with societies as distant as the Roman Empire. . .166: Traders from the Roman Empire arrive in Tonkin ). I have independently found some evidence that Roman military training methods influenced the development of Chinese martial arts, so I've suspected there was other cross-cultural contact as well. Later in medieval times there is evidence of heretical Gnostic Christian influence on Taoist tradition.
13 posted on 02/26/2004 8:14:29 PM PST by Fedora
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To: antiRepublicrat
I hope you're not criticising ourmodern standards of Enligh teaching and writing. Grammar is a lifestyle choice (as I'm sure you understand) and if we tell people they're doing it wrongly then they'll feel themselves to be failures and suffer liss of self-esteem...
14 posted on 02/27/2004 6:21:52 AM PST by Androcles ((PS - Please do not proof this sentence)...huge sarcasm tags for this...)
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To: blam
"Sauma was the Mongol Empire's first envoy to Europe, just 50 years after Mongol armies were repulsed at the gates of Vienna."

Somebody is confusing Mongols with Turks here. There was nothing in Europe capable of repulsing the golden horde in 1240; Europe got lucky and the golden horde got recalled upon the death of Oktai Khan.

15 posted on 02/27/2004 6:26:53 AM PST by greenwolf
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To: greenwolf
"Europe got lucky and the golden horde got recalled upon the death of Oktai Khan."

I remember reading that. Wasn't he one of the four brothers?

16 posted on 02/27/2004 6:58:59 AM PST by blam
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To: blam
Oktai was one of Chengis Khan's four sons by his first wife and the first to rule the empire after Chengis Khan's death.

The Mongols at that time were 300 years ahead of the rest of the world in military science. There was no possibility of any European army defeating the Golden Horde (the large army which Batui and Subudai had brought across the Volga in 1236) or of halting any serious move it might have made.
17 posted on 02/27/2004 7:58:57 AM PST by greenwolf
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To: greenwolf
"Oktai was one of Chengis Khan's four sons by his first wife and the first to rule the empire after Chengis Khan's death."

Yup. I thought Ghengis split the empire among his four sons.

18 posted on 02/27/2004 9:48:50 AM PST by blam
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19 posted on 05/25/2006 11:02:44 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
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The City of Light: The Hidden Journal of the Man Who Entered China Four Years Before Marco Polo The City of Light:
The Hidden Journal of the Man
Who Entered China Four Years Before Marco Polo

by Jacob D'Ancona
tr by David Selbourne

20 posted on 06/12/2006 11:16:52 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (All Moslems everywhere advocate murder, including mass murder, and they do it all the time.)
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