ftition of Benjamin the Jew, in discovering the interior and remote provinces of Asia. All ChriItendom having been alarmed with accounts of the rapid progress of the Tartar arms under Zengis Khan, Innocent IV, who entertained most exalted ideas concerning the plenitude of his own power, and the submission due to his injunctions, sent Father John de Plano Carpini , at the head of a mission of Franciscan monks, and Father Afcolino , at the head of another of Dominicans , to exhort Kayuk Khan, the grandson of Zengis, who was then at the head of the Tartar empire, to embrace the Christian faith, and to defift from defolating the earth by his arms. The haughty descendant of the greatest conqueror Afia had ever beheld, astonished at this strange mandate from an Italian priest, whose name and jurisdietion were alike unknown to him , received it with the contempt which it merited, though he dismissed the mendicants who delivered it with impunity. But as they had penetrated into the country by different routes, and followed for some time the Tartar camps, which were always in motion, they had an opportunity of visiting a great part of Asia. Carpini, who proceeded by the way of Poland and Russia, travelled through its northern provinces as far as the extremities of Thibet. Ascolino, wo seems to have landed somewhere in Syria, advanced through its fouthern provinces, into the interior parts of Pera fia n).

a) Hakluyt. I, p. 21. Bergeron tom. 1.

Not long after, St Louis of France contributed farther towards extending the knowledge which Europeans had begun to acquire of those distant regions. (1253) Some designing impo. ftor, who took advantage of the slender acquain. tance of Christendom with the state and character of the Asiatic nations, having informed him that a powerful Chan of the Tartars had embraced the Christian faith, the monarch listened to the tale with pious credulity, and instantly resolved to send ambassadors to this illustrious convert, with a view of inciting him to attack their cummon enemy the Saracens in one quarter, while he fell upon them in another. As monks were the only persons in that age who possessed such a degree of knowledge as qualified them for a fervice of this kind, he employed in it Father Andrew, a Jacobine, who was followed by Father William de Rubruquis, a Franciscan. With respect to the progress of the former , there is no memorial extant. The journal of the latter has been published. He was admitted into the prea sence of Mangu, the third Khan in succession from Zengis, and made a circuit through the interior. parts of Asia , more extensive than that of any European who had hitherto explored them o).

To those travellers, whom religious zeal sent forth to vifit Afia , succeeded others who ventured into remote conntriés, from the prospect of commercial advantage, or from motives of mere m) Hakluyt, i. 21. Bergerom tom. I,

C. T, T:25 aed nosemitest of thele was Masen 29:0.Venetin of a Doble famiy, (1269.) Eizag ezgled er i tide, accordr to the cases of His egit.ts a piring mirdihet forzsbere of activity core esten

live than wi$ 150ret to it by the eitabited t c carried in tole pous of Earope and Asia, which the l'er.etians frecuented. This promted him to travel into ucknown countries, in expeEation of opening with them a commercial intercourse, more fired to the fanguine ideas and hopes of a young adventurer,

As his father had already carried some European commodities to the court of the great Chan of the Tartars , and had disposed of them to advantage, he resorted thither. Under the protection of Kublay Chan , the most powerfull of all the Succeffors of Zengis, he continued his mercantile peregrinations in Asia upwards of twenty-six years; and during that time advanced towards the east, far beyond the utmost boundaries to which any European traveller had ever proceeded. Instead of following the course of Carpini and Rubruquis, along the vast un peopled plains of Tartary , he passed through the chief trading cities in the more cultivated parts of Asia, and penetrated to Cambalu, or Pecking, the capital of the great kingdom of Cathay, or China, subject at that time to the fucceffors of Zengis, He made more than one voyage on the Indian ocean, he traded in many of the islands, from

which Europe had long received fpiceries and other commodities, which it held in high estimation . though unacquainted with the particular countries to which it was indebted for those precious productions; and he obtained information concerning several countries, which he did · not visit in person, particularly the island Zigangry, probably the same now known by the name of Japan p). On his return , he astonished his contemporaries with his descriptions of vaft re

gions , whose names had never been heard of - in Europe , and with such pompous accounts of

their fertility, their populousness, their opulence, the variety of their manufactures, and the extent of their trade , as rose far above the con

ception of an uninformed age. * (1322) About half a century after Marco Polo,

Sir John Mandeville, an Englishman, encouraged by his example, visited most of the countries in the east wich he had described , and, like him, published an account of them q). The narrations of those early travellers abound with many wild incoherent tales, concerning giants, enchanters, and monsters. But they were not , from that circumstance, less acceptable to an ignorant age, which delighted in what was marvellous. The wonders which they told, mostly on hearsey, filled the multitude with admiration. The facts which they related from their own observation,

P.) Viaggi di Marco Polo. Ramus. ii. 2. Bergeron, tom. il. g) Voyages and Traveis, by Sir John Mandeville.

[ocr errors]

attracted the attention of the more difcerning, The former, wich may be considered as the popular traditions and fables of the countries through which they had passed, -were gradually disregarded as Europe advanced in knowledge. The latter , howewer incredible some of them may have appeared in their own time, have been confirmed by the observations of modern travelo lers. By means of both, howewer, the curiosity of mankind was excited with respect to te remote parts of the earth , their ideas were enlarged, and they were not only insensibly difpofed to attempt new discoveries, but received such information as directed to that particular course in which these were afterwards carried on,

And by the invention of the mariners compass,

While this fpirit was gradually forming in Europe, a fortunate discovery was made , which contributed more than all the efforts and ingenuity of preceding ages, to improve and to extend navigation. That wonderful property of the magnet by which it communicates such virtue to' a needle or slender rod of iron , as to point towards the poles of the earth,, was observed. The use which might be made of this in directing navigation was immediately perceived. That most valuable, but now familiar instrument, the mariners compass, was formed. When, by means of it, navigators found that at all seasons, and in eyery place, they could discover the north and

« ElőzőTovább »