The Travels of Marco Polo/Preface/Chapter 8

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How the Great Kaan Gave Them a Tablet of Gold, Bearing His Orders in Their Behalf[edit]

When the Prince had charged them with all his commission, he caused to be given them a Tablet of Gold, on which was inscribed that the three Ambassadors should be supplied with everything needful in all the countries through which they should pass--with horses, with escorts, and, in short, with whatever they should require. And when they had made all needful preparations, the three Ambassadors took their leave of the Emperor and set out.

When they had travelled I know not how many days, the Tartar Baron fell sick, so that he could not ride, and being very ill, and unable to proceed further, he halted at a certain city. So the Two Brothers judged it best that they should leave him behind and proceed to carry out their commission; and, as he was well content that they should do so, they continued their journey. And I can assure you, that whithersoever they went they were honourably provided with whatever they stood in need of, or chose to command. And this was owing to that Tablet of Authority from the Lord which they carried with them.[1]

So they travelled on and on until they arrived at Layas in Hermenia, a journey which occupied them, I assure you, for three years.[2] It took them so long because they could not always proceed, being stopped sometimes by snow, or by heavy rains falling, or by great torrents which they found in an impassable state.





Footnotes[edit]

  1. On these Tablets, see a note under Bk. II. ch. vii.
  2. AYAS, called also Ayacio, Aiazzo, Giazza, Glaza, La Jazza, and Layas, occupied the site of ancient Aegae, and was the chief port of Cilician Armenia, on the Gulf of Scanderoon. Aegae had been in the 5th century a place of trade with the West, and the seat of a bishopric, as we learn from the romantic but incomplete story of Mary, the noble slave-girl, told by Gibbon (ch. 33). As Ayas it became in the latter part of the 13th century one of the chief places for the shipment of Asiatic wares arriving through Tabriz, and was much frequented by the vessels of the Italian Republics. The Venetians had a Bailo resident there.

    Ayas is the Leyes of Chaucer's Knight,--

    ("At LEYES was he and at Satalie")--
    and the Layas of Froissart. (Bk. III. ch. xxii.) The Gulf of Layas is described in the xix. Canto of Ariosto, where Mafisa and Astolfo find on its shores a country of barbarous Amazons:--
    "Fatto e 'l porto a sembranza d' una luna," etc.
    Marino Sanuto says of it: "Laiacio has a haven, and a shoal in front of it that we might rather call a reef, and to this shoal the hawsers of vessels are moored whilst the anchors are laid out towards the land." (II. IV. ch. xxvi.)

    The present Ayas is a wretched village of some 15 huts, occupied by about 600 Turkmans, and standing inside the ruined walls of the castle. This castle, which is still in good condition, was built by the Armenian kings, and restored by Sultan Suleiman; it was constructed from the remains of the ancient city; fragments of old columns are embedded in its walls of cut stone. It formerly communicated by a causeway with an advanced work on an island before the harbour. The ruins of the city occupy a large space. (Langlois, V. en Cilicie, pp. 429-31; see also Beaufort's Karamania, near the end.) A plan of Ayas will be found at the beginning of Bk. I. --H. Y. and H. C.