William of Rubruck (also William of Rubruk, Willem van Ruysbroeck, Guillaume de Rubrouck, Willielmus de Rubruquis, born ca. 1220 in Rubrouck, northern France, died ca. 1293) was a Flemish Franciscan missionary and explorer. His account is one of the masterpieces of medieval geographical literature comparable to that of Marco Polo.
William accompanied Louis IX on the Seventh Crusade in 1248. In May, 1253, on Louis' orders, he set out from Constantinople on a missionary journey to convert the Tartars. With William's party were Bartolomeo da Cremona, an intendant called Gosset and an interpreter named Homo Dei (Abdullah). William of Rubruck's was the fourth European mission to the Mongols. Before him went Giovanni da Pian del Carpine in 1245, Ascelin in 1247 and André de Longjumeau in 1248. The King was encouraged to send another mission by reports of the presence of Nestorian Christians at the Mongolian court.
William crossed the Black Sea, traversed the Crimea and then continued eastward; nine days after crossing the Don he met Sartaq Khan, ruler of the Kipchak Khanate. The Khan sent William on to his father, Batu Khan, at Sarai near the Volga. Batu refused conversion and sent the ambassadors on to the great Mongol Mangu Khan. They reached Karakorum at Easter, 1254. After residing there for some time, they returned home, without having achieved their goal, reaching Cyprus in the spring of 1255.
On his return, William presented to the king a very clear and precise report, entitled
- Itinerarium fratris Willielmi de Rubruquis de ordine fratrum Minorum, Galli, Anno gratia 1253 ad partes Orientales.
In this report, he described the peculiarities of China as well as many geographical observations, making it the first scientific description of central Asia. Besides many anthropological observations such as his suprise at the presence of Islam in Inner Asia
William also answered a long-standing question proving that the Caspian was an inland sea and did not flow into the Arctic Ocean; although earlier Scandinavian explorers had doubtless already known this, he was the first to report it.
William's report is divided into 40 chapters. Chapters 1 - 10 relate general observations about the Mongols and their customs. Chapters 11 - 40 give an account of the course and the events of William's voyage.
The report of William of Rubruck is one of the great masterpieces of medieval geographical literature comparable to that of Marco Polo, although they are very different. William was a good observer, and an excellent writer. He asked many questions along the way and did not take folk tale and fable as truth. Because he wrote in Latin his report was not as widely read or known as Marco Polo who wrote in the vernacular.
Table of Contents
- 1. The Province of Gazaria
- 2. The Tartars and their houses
- 3. Their beds and their drinking pots
- 4. Their drinks, and how they provoke one another to drinking
- 5. Their food
- 6. How they make their drink called Cosmos (See: kumis)
- 7. The beasts which they eat, their garments, and their manner of hunting
- 8. How they cut their hair, and how their women adorn themselves
- 9. The duties of the Tartarian women, their labours and their marriages
- 10. Execution of justice and judgement, deaths and burials
- 11. Our first entrance among the Tartars, and of their ingratitude
- 12. The court of Scatai, and how the Christians drink no Cosmos
- 13. How the Alanians came unto us on Pentecost
- 14. Saracen which said that he would be baptized; certain men which seemed to be lepers
- 15. Our afflictions, and the Comanians' manner of burial
- 16. The dominion of Sartach and his subjects
- 17. The court of Sartach
- 18. How we were charged to go to Batu the Father of Sartach
- 19. How Sartach, and Mangu Khan, and Ken Khan do reverence to Christians
- 20. Russians, Hungarians and Alanians; the Caspian Sea
- 21. The court of Batu, and how we were entertained by him
- 22. Our journey towards the court of Mangu Khan
- 23. The river of Iaic; divers regions or nations
- 24. Of the hunger, and thirst, and other miseries, which we sustained in our journey
- 25. How Ban was put to death; concerning the habitation of the Teutonic men
- 26. How the Nestorians, Saracens, and Idolaters are joined together
- 27. Their Temples and idols; how they behave themselves in worshipping their false gods
- 28. Divers nations; a people which were wont to eat their own parents
- 29. Our journey to the court of Mangu Khan
- 30. Mangu's court and the first audience
- 31. At Mangu's court
- 32. Mangu's palace at Karakorum; the feast of Easter
- 33. William's sickness and the death of the Nestorian priest
- 34. Karakorum and the family of Mangu
- 35. William seeks permission to return
- 36. The last audience with Mangu
- 37. The soothsayers
- 38. The Khan's festivals; the letter to be sent to King Louis
- 39. The journey to the court of Batu in Hircania
- 40. The journey from Hircania to Tripoli
- ^ Devin De Weese, Devin A, ( DeWeese. "Islamization and Native Religion in the Golden Horde", Penn State Press, Sep 1, 1994, ISBN 0-271-01073-8 pg.3
Rubruck's account was partly edited and translated into English by Richard Hakluyt in 1598-1600. The full account has been edited by the Société de Géographie in the "Recueil de voyages et de mémoires", IV (Paris, 1893), English translation by Rockhill, "The Journey of William of Rubruk to the Eastern Parts" (London, 1900, ISBN 0-8115-0327-5). The Hakluyt Society released an updated translation in 1990 (see below).
- "William Rubruck" from the Catholic Encyclopedia.
- The iournal of frier William de Rubruquis ed. Richard Hakluyt, University of Adelaide library. From the 1598 Hakluyt translation. Includes original Latin.
- William of Rubruck's Account of the Mongols, Silk Road Seattle, University of Washington. From the 1900 Rockhill translation.
- Map of Rubruck's Route, Silk Road Seattle, University of Washington
- Rubrouck Museum
- William of Rubruck, The Mission of Friar William of Rubruck: His Journey to the Court of the Great Khan Mongke, 1253-1255 (Works Issued by the Hakluyt Society,), translated by Peter Jackson, David Morgan, 1990, with commentary and extensive notes by two noted Mongol specialists make it the preferred edition for those who wish full scholarly annotation. ISBN 0-904180-29-8
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