| Diwan special issue |

Ivan Pederin

Born in 1934 in Split (Croatia), lives in Zadar (Croatia).

GREEK LITERATURE, ISLAM AND THE HOLY LAND IN THE LATE-MEDIEVAL EUROPEAN TRAVELOGUE

The terms in the title denote the three basic themes of the medieval travelogue in Europe, which were modified at the end of the Middle Ages and after the Crusades. Instead of the crusade-based travelogues, a research-travelogue arose, so travelogue writers sought and found Christians in Central Asia, India and China, as potential allies against Islam. At the same time, pilgrimages to the Holy Land continue, even to this day. The following is our outline and review of a travelogue by Dante, which shows his deep knowledge of Greek travelogues; a travelogue by a traveller in Asia, which was received with considerable interest in Germany; and a description of a pilgrimage to holy places, not only Christian, but also Jewish and Muslim ones.

Instead of a universal culture based on Jerusalem, the great padre Dante (il gran padre Dante), as described by Alfieri in his famous sonnet, created literature in Italian, which paved the way for humanism. His Divine Comedy (La Divina commedia) relies on the classical tradition or, more precisely, the tradition of classical travelogue, i.e. The Aeneid by Virgil, which was used to create the myth of Rome's superiority, quella Roma onde cristo é romano (Paradiso XXXII, 102), the Rome that was born when Aeneas came to Italy, led by providence. With his arrival, Rome became the chosen one, so Dante punished Cassius and Brutus by placing them along with Judas at the bottom of the inferno, into Lucifer's jaws, in the horrendous ice-cold lake, Cocitu. Dante put Aeneas on a par with St Paul, who was the leader of an almost apostolic mission1. This picture of Rome differs widely from that of Rome-the-whore, even if it

1 Comitato nazionale per le celebrazioni del VII centennario della nascita di Dante, Dante e Roma, Atti del Convegno di studi a cura della Casa Di Dante sotto gli auspici del Comune di Roma, in collaborazione con l'Istituto di Studi Romani, Roma, 8-9. 10. aprile 1965, Firenze, 1965, Ettore Parataore, L'Ereditá classica in Dante, p. 3-18;

had been the capital of the world, caput mundi, at the time when Dante was an emissary, orator et certus nuntius, of his city, but without ever really understanding the global policy of Pope Nicholas III. Dante was a godly man, closer to the Old than the New Testament and he had the spirit of a paladin, not of a heretic2.

All of the above indicates (and it is not stated by the cited authors) that Dante's starting point was The Aeneid, which is, in its most important parts, a travelogue. E. Paratore believes that Dante could not have based his work on authentic Greek writings, although he considered Homer a supreme poet – poeta sovrano. Dante mainly relied on the classical travelogue for portrayals of the voyage to the other world3. This type of travelogue depicts cosmic relations, shamanistic journeys into the areas of deceased ancestors, who reveal the secret of the future world to the shamans. Both Ulysses and Aeneas went on such a shamanistic journey in order to talk to the souls of the deceased. The journey made them feel superior to the community they led4. Dante also went on such a journey in his Divine Comedy.

Dante referred to Lukian from Samosat, Syria (125/192) who, in his dialogues Μενιπποσ η Νεκνοµαντεια ε Ικαροµενιπποσ η Υπερϖεφελοσ, described a journey to the other world as a journey first to hell, and then to heaven. Menippe relates how he, somewhere near Babylon, went to the underworld, led by a Zoroastrian wizard. There he met a wise physician Tiresius who took him, together with Mithrobarzanes, from one circle of hell to another. They reached Minos, who tried the souls of the deceased, judging their sins and vices. The three of them continued the journey and met the dog Cerberus, Chimera and other infernal monsters that tortured the souls of the deceased, i.e. Ulysses, Nestor, Palamedes, Diogenes, Sardanapal, Midas and others. All

2 Dante e Roma…Arsenio Frugoni, Dante e Roma dal suo tempo, p. 75-79. Paolo Brezzi, Dante e

la chiesa del suo tempo, Ibid. p. 98-101. 108, 110; 3 P. Habermehl, Jenseitsreise, Reallexikon für Antike und Christentum, Sachwörterbuch zur

Auseinandersetz und des Christentums mit der Antiken Welt, herausgegeben von Ernst Dassman,

Carsten Colpe, Albrecht Dihle, Josef Engmann, Wolfgang Spezer, Klaus Traede, Lieferunng

132/133, p. 494-583. On shamanism, see: G. van der Leeuw, La religion dans son essence et ses

manifestations, Phénoménologie de la religion, Payot, Paris, 1970. Par. 26,2. p. 212-213; 4 Nicoló Mineo, Dante, Bari, Laterza, 1970. p. 168. cita per fonti di Dante profezie bibliche, l'apoc-

alissi, libri ebraici e nonché medievalli, viaggi ultramondiani, visioni, l'Eneide, Il libro de profeta

Daniel dell'Antico Testamaento, Somnium Scipionis di Cicerone e la Visio Pauli medievale;

of them were cursed for their frightful sins, especially for the injustices done to the poor whose spirits were not among the cursed ones. In another dialogue, Ikaromenippos relates his journey to heaven, where he went because he did not completely trust philosophers. He flew through the regions of the moon, the sun and the stars, looking down towards the earth, where he found adulteresses, thieves etc. Mercury brought him to Jupiter's throne, and Jupiter questioned him about everything that was happening in the world, especially in Greece. Then he took him to the place where he gave audiences and listened to pleas. Jupiter told him that he was highly dissatisfied with people because of their vices.

Dante applied Lukian to the circumstances Florence was in, so he described a journey he had never taken – a theological, imaginary journey, appropriate to the situation in Italy and Europe at the time. Already in the 12th century, intellectuals were making requests that the Church be freed of the ties with this world, that it be a true successor of Christ and completely evangelical. Those were the followers of St Francis. Even Dante requested a Church of the spirit, Ecclestia spiritualis, and saw the Pope as the head of the new synagogue, from which all the evil in the world radiated, and he considered Rome to be the great whore of the Apocalypse, led by the Antichrist5. It was the time of efflorescence of universities, thanks to the influence of the mendicant order. Dante had many friends among the intellectuals, such as Brunetto Latini and Guido Cavalcanti6.

An author named Johannes Schiltberger wrote a travelogue Reisen in Europa, Asia und Afrika von 1394 bis 14277. The title was added later, because the manuscript had been untitled. Schiltberger was a soldier in the army of Tsar Sigismund, which headed towards Videm, Bulgaria from Munich in 1394. That army of 16 000 men faced the army of Sultan Bayezid, which numbered 200 000 soldiers and, when the battle near Nicopolis began, the Turks were assisted by the troops of a Serbian despot. Sigismund's army suffered a defeat and his soldiers fled. Schiltberger himself was taken prisoner, along with many other soldiers,

5 Dante e Roma. Raoul Manselli, Dante e l'Ecclesia spiritualis, p. 119-124; 6 Nicoló Mineo, Dante, Bari, Laterza, 1970. p. 13-14; 7 Herausgegeben und erlautert von Karl Friedrich Neumann, Unveranderter Nachdruck der

Ausgabe München, 1859, Amsterdam 1976;

and then followed a massacre, in which about 10 000 prisoners were put to death on the spot. Schiltberger was not executed because he was only 16 years old, instead he was taken to join the Sultan's army. At the time, the Sultan was in a conflict with his brother-in-law, Karaman. Schiltberger fought in the battle in which Karaman's army was defeated, and Karaman himself taken prisoner and put to death, after which his head was impaled on a stake. Bayezid's army advanced further on towards Konya, conquering some other cities in the East and severely punishing their enemies. Then, Bayezid's army made an advance on Syria, towards the Euphrates River. The narration lacks motivation and the author's point of view, so he is not actively involved in the stormy events that he describes. In the meantime, the Tatars had made an invasion with their powerful army and attacked the Turks, so Bayezid sent his troops, led by his older son, to resist them. After that, Schiltberger describes the death of Warcggoch in Egypt, and the negotiations that took place after his death. Bayezid exiled Otman from Damask, so he joined Tamerlane's army, which then attacked Damask, besieged it, and Tamerlan punished some of the city's defenders by burying them alive. Schiltberger was taken prisoner again, this time by Tamerlane, so he joined his army, which used elephants in battle. He went to India with Tamerlan's army and they got through to the Ganges River. He described the downfall of Ispahan, when Tamerlane executed all the men who were over 14 years old. Tamerlane gathered the younger men in a field where they were run over by a cavalry troop before their mothers' eyes. Schiltberger goes on to describe Tamerlane's death and the rule of his sons following it. Further on, he reached the Caucasus and then the harbours that were visited by Venetian tradesmen. After that he reached the Volga River, where Eastern Orthodox Christians were already living, but there were also some inhabitants who were Roman Catholics. Then he continued his journey towards Siberia.

This travelogue, much like Marco Polo's travelogue Million, lacks a sense of geographical space. The author described horses and dogs, noticed the presence of Christians and depicted the funeral services of the Hungarian peoples in Central Asia. Then he described the Bulgarians and their dukes in the area of the Volga River basin; he moved across Walachia to the then Nunov (Ardschisch), which is today's Bucharest, and then crossed the Galati to reach Salonika. He continued his journey to Efes, where the grave of St John the Baptist was situated. Here the author retained his Christian perspective. He then went through Anatolia, towards the East, travelled along the Euphrates River downstream, and reached Armenia and Georgia (Kursi), where he found Eastern Orthodox Christians. He describes the zoo in Baghdad with lions and other beasts, reports on the Arabic and Persian language spoken there, as well as the Turkish and Persian spoken in Samarkand. He describes the food of the Tatars, who ate millet and drank mare milk – kumis. Again, he arrives on the Black Sea coast, where he finds Genovese and Venetian trade colonies, but also some Jews, divided into two confessions. He mentions with pride that he climbed Mount Sinai, where God's revelation to Moses had occurred. He visits the site of Jesus' crucifixion and describes Jerusalem and Jesus' suffering almost as a pilgrim. He goes on to describe Hebron with the graves of patriarchs and, finally, the pepper cultivated in India. He also includes Alexandria in his descriptions, but he mentions almost nothing that would interest merchants.

In general, this is a narration of an ordinary soldier who has little motivation. The author relates what he saw simply because he had to see it, he could not have avoided seeing it, and he never had his own initiative. The descriptions of Islamic religious ceremonies and the history of the caliphs are the most valuable parts of this travelogue. The author wrote about the Muslim fast, their funeral services, food and sermons. He described the conversion of a Christian to a Muslim. A convert would have to raise a finger and to repeat il lach illallach, Mechmet sin Warer bott. Then, they would take him to an imam who would wrap a new piece of cloth around his head. People would gather around the convert, who would then mount a horse and ride through the streets. The horse would be led by two alims who would praise Mohammed in a loud voice. Only then would the convert be taken to a mosque and circumcised. The imam would fashion a cross out of a woman's girth, and the convert would have to tread on it. Schiltberger also describes the foundations of Islamic theology. Muslims believed that Jesus had been a son of the Virgin and they respected him as prophet, but they did not believe he had been crucified, for God would never have allowed it. Muslims respected Abraham and

Moses, but they despised Christians, who, in their opinion, followed the wrong law, which was not celestial, and which the Muslims themselves did not respect. Schiltberger goes on to describe Constantinople and the patriarch, and the relationship between Eastern Orthodox Christians and Roman Catholics, and the Pope, who was considered, by Eastern Orthodox Christians, to be lower ranking than the patriarch. Finally, he describes Christian Orthodox religious ceremonies, their liturgies, their fasting, their christenings customs and anti-Catholic prejudices, one of which is that Roman Catholic priests should not be saying Mass every day. The dead are washed prior to burial, but deceased priests are buried in a sitting position. Schiltberger also depicts the matrimonial customs in Ossetia in the Caucasus Mountains, where it had to be proven that the bride was an untouched virgin; Armenian missions in Mesopotamia; and the Armenian Church service with wine instead of water. An Armenian priest says Mass only at dawn, he is not allowed to sleep after midnight, and he is forbidden to have sexual intercourse with his wife three days prior to saying Mass. Armenian priests are not allowed to shave or shear their hair. Marriage is divorceable, but a divorcé is not allowed to remarry. Their churches contain no pictures. Schiltberger describes the hatred between Greeks and Armenians, which is related to the siege of Constantinople, when Basileus (the Tsar) turned to the Armenians for help in the war against the Tatars. Armenians responded but sent only 40 cavalry-men, so Basileus thought it was a joke. However, the faith of those knights was so great that they defeated the powerful Tatar army. Then, the Tsar brought 40 virgins to have them impregnated by the 40 knights, whom he later had executed. This is one of the very few anecdotes in Schiltberger's narration.

Schiltberger finally reached the Crimea, where he managed to go on board a Genovese ship, and introduced himself as a Christian to the crew. They did not believe him and demanded that he recite the Lord's Prayer, to see if he really was a Christian. He arrived in Constantinople and said that he had escaped from Muslim captivity. In Constantinople he was received by Joaness II, to whom he related his adventures. Then he went to Bucharest – Tunov, Lvov, and, finally, Eger and Regensburg in Germany.

This travelogue is a narration of an ordinary soldier who was taken prisoner twice and who travelled through the mentioned areas mostly against his will. This is why the travelogue lacks a standpoint from which the world could be observed; and while it is void of the author's interest, it contains his boastfulness. The valuable parts of this travelogue are the descriptions of the religious ceremonies belonging to different religions in the East, as well as the description of the prejudices among those religions, which were the result of centennial periods of conflict and war. For the first time, different religions are portrayed through their everyday customs in addition to descriptions of their theological teachings. The world described by Schilberger is a world of religious wars with inconceivable massacres, atrocities and unheard-of suffering. And yet, this travelogue includes no trace of one's homesickness nor a desire to remain in one's homeland forever. Travelogues of the late Middle Ages were imbued with a curiosity that surpassed even the curiosity of the Greek travelogue. In the late Middle Ages, travelogues depicted the world that was yet to be explored, the promising world of affluence. It was a world remote from the Bible, and far away from all holy places. It was the world that Europe was seeking, ready to conquer and exploit it. In time, Venice became the centre of this world. The period began with Dante, who wrote an imaginary journey based on science and literature, and not on experience, for he travelled very little. Over the years, the travelogue changed its form and deviated from literary patterns and established itineraries, it turned towards the unpredictable adventure, so, little by little, travelling became a destiny.

In the late Middle Ages, pilgrims continued to visit the Holy Land. One of them was Bernard von Breitenbach, a Dean from Mainz, who made his pilgrimage to the Holy Land in the 15th century, accompanied by the Dominican, Felix Faber, who wrote a travelogue about this pilgrimage8. Breitenbach travelled with a large entourage, including Johann von Holms Lichna, two court interpreters, and a Dutch painter. The trav

8 Ivan Pederin, Jadranska Hrvatska u austrijskim i njemačkim putopisima, Zagreb, 1991. p. 20. Krajem XVI st. je ruski trgovac Trifun Korobejnikov, koji se u svom Hoženiju opisivao kao griješnik, putovao u Carigrad, Palestinu i dalje. Zapiscki russkih putescetvenikov XVI-XVII bb. Sostavlenie, podgotovka tekstov, komentari doktora filologiceskih nauk N.I. Prokofieva, kandidata filologiceskih nauk L.L. Alehinoj, Mosca, 1988. p. 23-68;

elogue even includes the contract that Breitenbach signed with the captain of the ship that took them to Palestine. Faber describes the journey, the arrival and his encounter with the Christians in Palestine. He describes the Holy Land with all of the commonplace details, and he even includes a description of Hebraic, Greek, Arabian and Chaldean inscriptions. He describes, with interest, the ethnic and religious mosaic of Jerusalem, the domestic population and the pilgrims on their pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulchre. In addition, there are some remarks about the Jews stating that, due to their excessive pride, they never comprehended the divine nature of Jesus, so they hated Catholics more than anyone else in the world. Proceeding to Gaza on camel-back, he goes on to describe the difficulties of the journey as well as the merchants - unbelievers who cheated travellers. He depicts the streets of Cairo and the weight of the groceries that street vendors carried on the tops of their heads. Many homeless people slept in the streets, and slaves were sold at the market. Faber also describes the crocodiles in the Nile, as well as a hippopotamus. He describes Cairo as a very beautiful city and also devotes some attention to a number of its neighbouring villages. The presence of the spirit of humanism can be discerned in this travelogue, an interest for Chaldean, Greek and Arabian inscriptions, yet it still seems that the travelogue is under the pressure of the conventional itinerary.

There are a few anti-Semitic remarks in some parts of the travelogue but, generally, Jews are described as brothers who had gone astray. The travelogue also contains instances of the arrogance of a Westerner, who considers himself superior to the Levantines, perhaps because of their impoliteness and their habit of swindling pilgrims in that area. On the other hand, a decline in religious enthusiasm can be discerned, which brings this travelogue closer to amateur scientific research. This can also be seen in the evolution of the pilgrimage to the Rab Island, for example, but later on, in the 16th century, when pilgrimages gradually began to transform into journeys for the purposes of pleasure and education.9

Characteristic of this travelogue is the emphasis of cultural elements at the expense of religious ones and also its feudalisation. The trav

9 Ivan Pederin, Uprava, crkva, politika i kultura na Rabu u XVI stoljeću, Radovi Zavoda za povijesne znanosti Hrvatske akademije znanosti i umjetnosti u Zadru, 36 (1994) p. 145;

elogue writer no longer travels alone or in the company of other pilgrims and he no longer travels on foot as it was customary in the early Christian period.10

He is now accompanied by an entourage of more or less learned and reputable men who depended on him, and one of them even writes the travelogue. The entourage was selected based on the model of the court. At the court, culture and literature played an important role, at least until the end of the 18th century. At the court, there would be a praeceptor (preceptor), who was the sovereign's deputy, a tutor of his children, and a master of ceremonies, which imbued the court culturally and politically, but also the populous, because popular ceremonies were held concurrently with the courtly ceremonies. Furthermore, the court would also employ a capelnicus (a bandmaster), who was in charge of music; an astrologus (an astrologer), who was a fortune-teller; and a banker, i.e. an alchemista, who would think of ways to produce gold. The court ceremony was closely related, that is, it followed the church service delivered by a bishop. In this particular case, one such praeceptor wrote this travelogue, so this is another instance where the court is portrayed as both the cultural, political and religious institution at the same time.

Translated by Mirza Džanić

 

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