The Travels of Marco Polo/Preface/Chapter 6

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How the Great Kaan Asked All About the Manners of the Christians, and Particularly About the Pope of Rome[edit]

And then he inquired about the Pope and the Church, and about all that is done at Rome, and all the customs of the Latins. And the Two Brothers told him the truth in all its particulars, with order and good sense, like sensible men as they were; and this they were able to do as they knew the Tartar language well.[1]


  1. The word generally used for Pope in the original is Apostoille (Apostolicus), the usual French expression of that age.

    It is remarkable that for the most part the text edited by Pauthier has the correcter Oriental form Tatar, instead of the usual Tartar. Tattar is the word used by Yvo of Narbonne, in the curious letter given by Matthew Paris under 1243.

    We are often told that Tartar is a vulgar European error. It is in any case a very old one; nor does it seem to be of European origin, but rather Armenian; though the suggestion of Tartarus may have given it readier currency in Europe. Russian writers, or rather writers who have been in Russia, sometimes try to force on us a specific limitation of the word Tartar to a certain class of Oriental Turkish race, to whom the Russians appropriate the name. But there is no just ground for this. Tatar is used by Oriental writers of Polo's age exactly as Tartar was then, and is still, used in Western Europe, as a generic title for the Turanian hosts who followed Chinghiz and his successors. But I believe the name in this sense was unknown to Western Asia before the time of Chinghiz. And General Cunningham must overlook this when he connects the Tatariya coins, mentioned by Arab geographers of the 9th century, with "the Scythic or Tatar princes who ruled in Kabul" in the beginning of our era. Tartars on the Indian frontier in those centuries are surely to be classed with the Frenchmen whom Brennus led to Rome, or the Scotchmen who fought against Agricola.