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History / Guillaume de Rubruk / Historical notes

Guillaume de Rubruk

Historical notes

Nicholas Zharkikh

Historical information in a Rubruk's work clearly divided into three groups:

– information from biblical and ancient times;

– information from the time of early Christianity;

– information from recent history and the present (in Rubruk's time the events of late a 12 – a 1 half 13th cent. were modern history, and only now they are considered the Middle Ages…)

Information from biblical and ancient times we mainly discussed in the section "Sources of work" and here we don't repeat.

Information from a times of early Christianity is few (4 episodes), but surprisingly accurate:

Chapter Rubruk's text Comment
1 a city called Kersona, where Saint Clement was martyred 1 cent. A.D.
51 This bishop told me that near there was the church in which blessed Bartholomew and also blessed Judas Thaddeus were martyred. St. Judas Thaddeus said to have been buried in st.Thaddeus monastery (in the north-west of Iran, ca. 60 km west of Nakhichevan).
There is no unique tradition about place of st.Bartholomew's burial: in the "city of Albania, in Greater Armenia", but where is this place – unknown.
52 in Sebaste in Lesser Hermenia in the Greater Week, and we visited there the sepulcher of the Forty Martyrs. 320 A.D.
52 we came to Cesarea of Capadocia, where there is a church of saint Basil the Great. Basil the Great (330 – 379) really died at Caesarea.

We see that all these messages relate to the period 1 – 4 cent A.D. and correspond to reality.

Diagram of coexistence of historical persons

Diagram of coexistence of historical persons

From the diagram the coexistence of historical figures shows that "modern history" began for Rubruk about 1170, when the historical scene entered Tooril (Wang Khan of keraites) and its ally and adversary Temuchzhyn (Chyngis Khan Mongolian). Depth of the information from "recent history" is about 80 – 85 years, ie three generations. This is probably the maximum possible depth of the oral historical memory (all the more ancient events merge in folklore "ancient times").

Only mention on the fall of Antioch (1098) stands in a Rubruk's work isolated between early Christian and modern times. With this reference is related news of the mysterious Con-cham:

At the time when the Franks took Antioch the sovereignty of these northern regions belonged to a certain Con cham […] the Turks sent for succor against the Franks to King Con cham; for from these parts came all the Turks. That Con was of Caracatay. Now Cara means black, and Catay is the name of a people, so Caracatay is the same as "Black Catay." And they are so called to distinguish them from the Cathayans who dwell by the ocean in the east, and of whom I shall tell you hereafter. Those Caracatayans lived in highlands through which I passed, and at a certain place amidst these alps dwelt a certain Nestorian, a mighty shepherd and lord over a people called Nayman, who were Nestorian Christians. When Con cham died, that Nestorian raised himself to be king (in his stead) and the Nestorians used to call him King John, and to say things of him ten times more than was true […] So great reports went out concerning this King John; though when I passed through his pasture lands, no one knew anything of him save a few Nestorians. On those pasture lands lived Keu Chan [Güyük], to whose court went Friar Andrew, and I also passed through them on my way back.

Comments by N.P. Shastina to this place in the 1957 edition says:

Con-cham was a Gur Khan, which means "great khan" or "universal Khan". This title was adopted in 1125 Yelü Dashi, founder of the Kara-Khitan Khanate.

If this were so, we would have one more event from the early 12th century. But, in my opinion, it is impossible to accept this interpretation. First, Rubruk's combination that Antiochene Turks sent for help up on the opposite edge of Asia, is unhappy; as my thought, they sent to Asia Minor to the Seljuk Turks (who lived just north of Antioch). If we reject this assumption, the news of the Con-cham concentrated in Central Asia. Fundamentally important is a clear Rubruk's indication that he passed through the Kara-Khitan land. Knowing the route of Rubruk, it is easy to understand that it is the place between Tien Shan and Altai, on the present eastern Kazakhstan and western part of modern Chinese Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. This – the territory of Kara-Khitans since 1125, when they are under Jurchens' pressure were forced to leave their original territory (around modern Beijing; these eastern lands of Kara-Khitans Rubruk not visited).

All the 6 Kara-Khitans rulers called themselves Gur-khan, and we can think about any of them. So I think Rubruk collected mentions not about Yelü Dashi (1124 – 1143), the first governor of this state, but about Yelü Zhilugu (1177 – 1211). After his death, authorities took Prince Kuchluk (1211 – 1218) – naiman of kin and Nestorian in faith (just like in Rubruk). So, in my opinion, Con-cham was a Yelü Zhilugu, and King John – Kuchluk. Since Kuchluk's death past 35 years, so Rubruk was able to write least some memory of him, although his short reign did not leave a significant mark.

So I think that the news of the Con-cham and King John does not exceed the limits established for our "recent history". The hypothesis of some historians, that King John in Rubruk was Inanch Khan of naimans, mercenary should be rejected because Inanch Khan was not ruled over Kara-Khitans.

The remaining episodes in Rubruk's "modern history" not require such detailed explanations and presented in tabular form. Some explanations borrowed from the comments for publication in 1957, and partially compiled by me (they are marked M.Zh.).

Chapter Rubruk's text Comment
1 the Suevi and Hiberi, who do not obey the Tartars. Probably Svans. The Tartars conquered Iberians in 1239
1 Trapesund, which hath its own lord, Guido by name, who is of the family of the emperors of Constantinople, and he obeyeth the Tartars. Guido was Andronikos I Gidos (1222 – 1235)
1 Then lies Sinopoli, who belongs to the Sultan of Turkey, it is equally [to] obey. This sentence is skipped in the english translations. After the defeat at Köse Dağ (June 26, 1243) the Rum sultanate became a vassal of the Mongol khans.
1 After that is the country of Vastacius, whose son is called Ascar after his maternal grandfather, and who is not subject [to Tatars]. Vastacius – John III Doukas Vatatzes, emperor of Nicaea (1222 – 3 Nov 1254). Askar – Theodore Lascaris, his son (reigned 1254 – 1258)
All authors unanimously indicate that the empire of Nicaea not obeyed Tartars (M.Zh.)
1 Blakia, which is the land of Assan, and minor Bulgaria as far as Sclavonia, all pay them tribute. Assan – Michael II Asen (1246-1256). Bulgaria paid tribute to the Tatars from 1242.
1 when the Tartars came such a multitude of Comans entered this province, all of whom fled to the shore of the sea 1223, 1236
11 the lord emperor of Constantinople was sending (by me) letters Baldwin II, last emperor of the Latin Empire (1228-1261)
16 the Alans or Aas, who are Christians and still fight the Tartars. This news is repeated in the 50th chapter (M.Zh.)
50 The Alans in these mountains still hold out against [the Tartars]
16 certain Saracens called Lesgi, who likewise owe them no allegiance [to the Tatars] Lezgian people are indeed Muslims. This news is repeated in the 50th chapter (M.Zh.)
50 Between the sea and the mountains are Saracens called Lesgi, [who live] in the mountains and who also withstand [the Tartars]
17 For he had heard of you from Messire Baldwin of Hainaut. French knight in the service of the emperor in Constantinople, Baldwin II.
19 This John had a brother, also a mighty shepherd, whose name was Unc; and he lived beyond the alps of the Caracatayans, some three weeks journey from his brother, and he was lord of a little town called Caracarum [=Qaraqorum], and the people he had under his rule were called Crit and Merkit, and they were Nestorian Christians. Wang Khan of Kerait, proper name of which was Toghrul. He ruled in 1171-1196, 1198-1203.
Kerait (independent until 1203) and Merkit (independent until 1206).
19 Now King John being dead without an heir, his brother Unc was brought in, and caused himself to be proclaimed Chan, and his flocks and herds were driven about as far as the borders of the Mo'al.
19 At that time there was a certain Chingis, a blacksmith, among the people of Mo'al, and he took to lifting the cattle of Unc Chan whenever he could, so that the herdsmen complained to their lord Unc Chan. So he got together an army, and made a raid into the land of the Mo'al, seeking for this Chingis, but he fled among the Tartars and hid himself there. Then this Unc Chan having got great booty from the Mo'al and the Tartars went back. Then that Chingis spoke to those Tartars and to those Mo'al, saying, "'Tis because we are without a chief, that our neighbors oppress us." And they made him chief and captain of the Tartars and the Mo'al. Then he secretly got together an army and fell upon Unc Chan and defeated him, so that he fled to Cathay. The victory over Unc – probably in 1203 (M.Zh.)
19 And it was there that his daughter was captured, and Chingis gave her to wife to one of his sons, who by her had Mangu who now reigneth. Sorghaghtani Beki, the mother of Möngke Khan, was the daughter not of Ong Khan (Unc at Rubruk), but his younger brother.
23 The rest may be learned from the chronicles, for it is a well established fact that those provinces from Constantinople and which were called Bulgaria, Blackia end Sclavonia were provinces of the Greeks, and that Hungary was Pannonia. Hungary – from the beginning of the 10th century.
Bulgaria became independent from Constantinople in 1185;
Sclavonia – I think it means Serbia, which became independent with the end of the 12th century. (M.Zh.)
24 This Chingis, the first Chan, had four sons, whose descendants are very numerous.
25 only the following circumstances of the death of their master Buri. Probably after the enthronement of Möngke (1251), when some princes of Chagatai and Ögedei families were put to death. Buri was the grandson of Chagatai.
28 Chingis Chan therefore gave his daughter to their [Uighur] king. Daughter's name was Altun-Bike. This happened about 1209 (M.Zh.)
28 to the east among those mountains are the Tanguts, most valiant men, who captured Chingis in war; and he, peace being made, and once freed by them, subdued them. Genghis Khan fought Tangut s several times during 1202 – 1227's. and died shortly after the capture of Xingqing – the capital of Tangut. The news that the Tangut captured Genghis Khan was wrong (M.Zh.)
28 In that land [Cathay] are many provinces, the greater number of which do not yet obey the Mo'al
30 we entered the plain in which was the ordu of Keu Chan, and which used to be the country of the Naiman, who were the real subjects of that Prester John. Keu Chan = Güyük.
30 When Keu Chan died, Baatu wanted Mangu to be Chan. As to the death of this Keu I could learn nothing definite. 1248
30 Keu had a brother called Siremon, who on the advice of the wife of Keu and her vassals, went in great state toward Mangu as if to do him homage. In truth, however, he intended to kill him, and to exterminate all his ordu. 1251
34 We found there a certain Christian from Damascus, who said he had come for the Soldan of Mont Real and of Crac [=Karak], who wished to become the tributary and friend of the Tartars. Mont Real (Montreal), Crac (Kerak) – Crusader castles in West Jordan. In 1189 Saladin captured them and later they belonged to Egypt. (M.Zh.)
35 Furthermore, the year before I arrived there, a certain clerk had come there from Acon, who called himself Raymond, but whose name was in truth Theodolus […] Then Mangu asked the name of the bishop. He said that he was called Oto […] he had before that heard of what happened at Mensura 1253
42 Then came a great number of Christians, Hungarians, Alans, Ruthenians, Georgians, Hermenians, all of whom had not seen the sacrament since their capture. 1237 – 1242's.
44 Furthermore, Mangu Chan has eight brothers; three uterine, and five by the father. Modern researchers count 10 Tolui's sons. Rubruk called uterine brothers sons Tolui and Sorghaghtani – Möngke, Kublai Khan, Hulagu and Ariq-Böke. Other sons named Jurikha, Qutughtu, Bujek, Mukha, Satukhtai and Sabukhtai. Rubruck writes about five brothers by father, probably, with the exception of counting early died Bujek about whom no news since 1251 (M.Zh.)
44 One of the uterine ones he sent to the country of the Hacsasins, whom they call Mulidet, and he ordered him to put them all to death. In October 1253 Hulagu marched from Mongolia in the campaign (M.Zh.)
44 Another came toward Persia and has already entered, it is believed, the land of Turkie, and will thence send an army against Baldach and against Vastacius. Explicit Rubruk's error as out that Möngke have four uterine brother, not three (as correctly pointed out earlier). In fact, Hulagu had to act against the assassins and against Persia.
44 One of the others he sent into Cathay, against those who do not yet obey him. Kublai was sent in 1251 to continue the subjugation of China.
44 His youngest uterine brother, Arabuccha by name, he keeps near him Ariq-Böke, the younger brother of Möngke Khan.
44 For one of his own brothers by the father had captured him in Hungary, in a city called Belgrade, where was also a Norman Bishop from Belevile near Rouen. Most likely, Belgrade on the Danube. 1242
In addition to Batu, following Chingizides participated in the campaign: sons of the Juchi – Horde-Ezhen, Shiban, Tangkut and Burke, grandson of Chagatai – Buri and son of Chagatai – Baydar, sons Ögedei – Güyük and Kadan, sons of Tolui – Bujek and Möngke, son of Genghis Khan Kulkhan, grandson of Genghis Khan's brother Argasun. Comparison of this list with Rubruk's note conclusively establish that «one of his own brothers» was a Bujek. (M.Zh.)
44 I had been constantly hoping that the king of Hermenia would come. Hethum I, king of Minor (Cilicia) Armenia (1226 – 1270), made a journey to the Karakorum (1254 – 1255).
48 At this time I saw there the envoy of the Caliph of Baldach
I saw also the envoy of a certain Soldan of India
I saw there also envoys of the Soldan of Turkia, who had brought him rich presents
Caliph of Baghdad at that time was Al-Musta'sim (ruled in 1242-1258)
48 For Mangu told me with his own lips that Camus was the worst kind of a witch, and that she had destroyed her whole family by her witchcraft. Camus is Oghul Qaimish, Güyük's wife. She was executed after the accession of Möngke, ie in 1251 or 1252's. (M.Zh.)
49 On the middle branch is a town called Summerkent, which is without walls; but when the river is in flood it is surrounded by water. For eight years the Tartars were around it before they got it. Unknown town in the middle of the Volga.
50 the Crosminians used to be in this plain They were Khwarezmians, occupying Azerbaijan in 1225 – 1231's. (M.Zh.)
50 there at the base of the mountains is a great city called Ganges, which used to be their capital, and which prevented the Curges from coming down into the plain. Ganja was the capital of khwarezmian Prince Jalal ad-Din in 1225 – 1231's. (M.Zh.)
51 But Baachu had me taken to a certain city called Naxua, which used to be the capital of a great kingdom, and was a large and beautiful city; but the Tartars have reduced it to nearly a desert. This city in modern Nakhichevan. The city was destroyed by Mongols in the 1221-1222 years.
51 we came to the country of Sahensa, once the most powerful Curgian prince, but now tributary to the Tartars, who have destroyed all its fortified places. Sahensa was the distortion of "shahinshah" – the title of rulers of Ani. At Rubruk's time Ani's shahin-shah was Vahram, who after the conquest of his possessions by Mongols (1236) had to serve in the Mongol army and take part in the capture of Erzurum.
51 His father, Zacharias by name, had got this country of the Hermenians, for delivering them from the hands of the Saracens. During the reign of Tamara (1184-1213) were liberated the cities of Ani, Kars, Dvin and the whole North of Armenia. So there were formed a princedom of Armenian princes Zakarides (1199 – 1236), named after one of them, Zakhariah, an outstanding military leader who in the service of the Georgian king, and held a high position commander in chief of the Georgian kingdom. (M.Zh., after )
52 We crossed the valley in which the Soldan of Turkie had been defeated by the Tartars. Battle at Köse Dağ in Asia Minor took place June 26, 1243, between the troops of the Mongol commander Bayju Noyon and Rum sultan Kaykhusraw II.
53 For the Soldan who was defeated by the Tartars had as a legitimate wife an Iberian woman, by whom he had one son, a weakling, who he ordered should be Soldan [after him]. By a Greek concubine, whom he gave [later on] to a certain powerful emir, he had another; and he had yet another by a Turk; and a lot of Turks and Turkomans conspired with this one to kill the sons of the Christian [women].
They arranged, as I was told, that when they had gained the victory they would destroy all the churches, and put to death all those who would not become Saracens. He was, however, defeated, and many of his followers were killed. A second time he got together an army, and that time he was made prisoner, and is still kept in chains. Pacaster, the son of the Greek woman, has arranged with his half-brothers that he shall be Soldan, for the latter is delicate, and they have sent him to the Tartars; and this has angered his relatives on the side of his mother, the Iberian or Georgian woman. So it is that a child governs in Turkic without a treasure, with few soldiers and many enemies.
sultan – Ghiyath al-Din Kaykhusraw II (died in 1246..1247's.)
the wife of Iberia – Tamara, the daughter of the Georgian Queen Rusudan;
weakling son-heir – Ala ad-Din Kay Kobad, was born ca. 1239, the youngest son;
greek concubine – unknown by the name daughter of Greek priest;
another son (from Greek) – Ruckn al-Din Arslan Kulug; Rubruck calls him Pacaster, he was born ca. 1235 and was the eldest of the sons;
the third son (by an unknown Turkish women from Konya) – Azz ad-Din Kai Kaus was born ca. 1237, second son;
all three brothers were constantly at odds with each other, resorting to the patronage of the Mongols.
"a child governs in Turkic" – an Rubruk's exaggeration , Ruckn al-Din was more than 20 years. (M.Zh.)
53 The son of Vastacius is delicate, and is at war with the son of Assan, who likewise is a youth, and under the yoke of the Tartars. son of Vastacius – Theodore Lascaris (1221 – 1258), the third emperor of Nicaea (1255-1258), who was at that time not less than 34 years, although Rubruk inclined to consider he as boy. Theodore Lascaris suffered from epilepsy, which is reflected in the definition "delicate".
son of Assan – Michael Asen, who ruled in Bulgaria in 1245-1258 years. He was enthroned being a child. Between the Nicaea Emperor Theodore Lascaris and the Bulgarian Michael Asen was a war, which ended in complete defeat of Michael in 1255

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