Rabban Sauma Part 8 The History of the Christian Church

    • Christianity

This is episode 8 in the remarkable tale of a Chinese Marco Polo named Rabban Sauma.Well, it’s taken us 7 episodes to get to the point of Sauma’s story that’s set him as a historical figure we even know about. If it weren’t for what follows, even though he’s already lived a genuinely epic life, he’d be little more than a footnote to his companion Marcos’ story. For it was Marcos, not Sauma who became the Catholicos, the reigning patriarch of the entire Nestorian Church, under the name of Mar Yaballaha III.But it’s what happens next that moves Sauma into the ranks of history’s greatest tales.Having been commissioned and provisioned by the Mongol Ilkhan Arghun in Persia to head west with an embassy to the Christian rulers of Europe to enter an alliance against the Muslim Mamluks holding the Middle East, Rabban Sauma set out in early 1287.This section of his travels was nothing like his earlier trek from China to Persia, fraught as that had been with trackless deserts and precipitous peaks. The geography was far more easily traversed, and the population more dense, so there was little worry for provisions along the way. One thing that was similar to the earlier journey was the numerous bandits and petty warlords, then the pirates that sailed the Black and Mediterranean Seas.Accompanying him were a couple European merchants who’d been conducting business in the East and could act as translators. Mostly like due to the editing of Sauma’s Syrian translator, described in the last episode, the route he took from Persia to the Black Sea is omitted from the account. He most likely took the main caravan route that passed through Mosul in Mesopotamia and ended at Trebizond.Because this route was well travelled by an ever-burgeoning column of merchants, caravanserais were established every 20 miles. These were large camps were caravans could replenish and night. Each caravanserai had a large central court surrounded by a curtained area, open to the sky, for various functions, like, sleeping, bathing, and prayers. Larger, more established caravanserais had mosques, churches, or conversely, brothels. Caravanserais provided protection from local bandits as well as entertainment in the form of jugglers, dancers, and storytellers. A good number of Arabic folk tales center on the life of the caravanserais. Merchants, guides, and camel grooms passed along information about local conditions to one another, as well as news from the wider world.At Trebizond, Sauma’s party entered a ship to sail over the Black Sea. The ship must have been a large one as it held 300 passengers. Sauma reports it was overcrowded, lacked adequate provisions and had no accommodations for sleeping. Sauma made the best of the time by giving lectures on the tenets of his faith which the other passengers and crew found interesting. Fortunately, the trip was both uneventful and short. No storms or pirates troubled them. A few days after launching from Trebizond, they landed at Constantinople.Now in the capital of the Byzantine Empire, Sauma followed the pattern he’d keep for the rest of his adventure in the West. He immediately sought contact with the ruler. He sent two assistants to the palace notifying officials there of the arrival of an embassy from the Mongol Court of Persia. Of course, these assistants weren’t the first to bear news to Emperor Andronicus II of the arrival of someone of importance from the East. The Byzantine Empire was, after all, Byzantine; the Emperor had eyes and ears everywhere. That’s why Sauma was careful to make sure he reached out to Andronicus quickly. Lest the Emperor begin to wonder why he was there.  Now notified of Sauma’s desire for an audience, officials were sent from court to issue a formal invitation.Sauma was greeted with pomp and ceremony. He was received in the Great Palace, then undergoing repairs a

This is episode 8 in the remarkable tale of a Chinese Marco Polo named Rabban Sauma.Well, it’s taken us 7 episodes to get to the point of Sauma’s story that’s set him as a historical figure we even know about. If it weren’t for what follows, even though he’s already lived a genuinely epic life, he’d be little more than a footnote to his companion Marcos’ story. For it was Marcos, not Sauma who became the Catholicos, the reigning patriarch of the entire Nestorian Church, under the name of Mar Yaballaha III.But it’s what happens next that moves Sauma into the ranks of history’s greatest tales.Having been commissioned and provisioned by the Mongol Ilkhan Arghun in Persia to head west with an embassy to the Christian rulers of Europe to enter an alliance against the Muslim Mamluks holding the Middle East, Rabban Sauma set out in early 1287.This section of his travels was nothing like his earlier trek from China to Persia, fraught as that had been with trackless deserts and precipitous peaks. The geography was far more easily traversed, and the population more dense, so there was little worry for provisions along the way. One thing that was similar to the earlier journey was the numerous bandits and petty warlords, then the pirates that sailed the Black and Mediterranean Seas.Accompanying him were a couple European merchants who’d been conducting business in the East and could act as translators. Mostly like due to the editing of Sauma’s Syrian translator, described in the last episode, the route he took from Persia to the Black Sea is omitted from the account. He most likely took the main caravan route that passed through Mosul in Mesopotamia and ended at Trebizond.Because this route was well travelled by an ever-burgeoning column of merchants, caravanserais were established every 20 miles. These were large camps were caravans could replenish and night. Each caravanserai had a large central court surrounded by a curtained area, open to the sky, for various functions, like, sleeping, bathing, and prayers. Larger, more established caravanserais had mosques, churches, or conversely, brothels. Caravanserais provided protection from local bandits as well as entertainment in the form of jugglers, dancers, and storytellers. A good number of Arabic folk tales center on the life of the caravanserais. Merchants, guides, and camel grooms passed along information about local conditions to one another, as well as news from the wider world.At Trebizond, Sauma’s party entered a ship to sail over the Black Sea. The ship must have been a large one as it held 300 passengers. Sauma reports it was overcrowded, lacked adequate provisions and had no accommodations for sleeping. Sauma made the best of the time by giving lectures on the tenets of his faith which the other passengers and crew found interesting. Fortunately, the trip was both uneventful and short. No storms or pirates troubled them. A few days after launching from Trebizond, they landed at Constantinople.Now in the capital of the Byzantine Empire, Sauma followed the pattern he’d keep for the rest of his adventure in the West. He immediately sought contact with the ruler. He sent two assistants to the palace notifying officials there of the arrival of an embassy from the Mongol Court of Persia. Of course, these assistants weren’t the first to bear news to Emperor Andronicus II of the arrival of someone of importance from the East. The Byzantine Empire was, after all, Byzantine; the Emperor had eyes and ears everywhere. That’s why Sauma was careful to make sure he reached out to Andronicus quickly. Lest the Emperor begin to wonder why he was there.  Now notified of Sauma’s desire for an audience, officials were sent from court to issue a formal invitation.Sauma was greeted with pomp and ceremony. He was received in the Great Palace, then undergoing repairs a

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