Mongol Group B2

Marco Polo and western asia

Geographical Features and Location

The Great Slope in Marco Polo’s accounts refers to Hormuz, also known as Ormuz. In the Miscellaneous notes of Milton’s Ormus, it describes Ormus as “a principal part of the wealth of India,” and is “in the Persian Gulf.”[6] The Kingdom of Ormus (also known as Hormuz) was established by an Omani prince in the 11th century and received its name from the fortified port city, which served as its capital. It was one of the most important ports in the Middle East when it controlled seaway trading routes through the Persian Gulf to China, India, and East Africa. “I tell you that merchants come here from India with their ships, bringing all kinda of species, precious stones, pearls, cloths, silk and gold, elephant trunks; and much more merchandise.” [1] As the primary text recalls, Hormuz is located by the sea, and the port is its main source of income. “I tell you that merchants come here from India with their ships, bringing all kinda of species, precious stones, pearls, cloths, silk and gold, elephant trunks; and much more merchandise.” [1] The city is thriving because of trade and its location. Being able to control trade going into and out of various countries at the time. Milton’s Ormus, written by John W.Draper, described a similar point, “Ormus is one of the most opulent nations of the East.” [6] They are prosperous with a consistent economy, but what really confirmed this aspect is what Herbert wrote in his journal called Travels. Herbert described Ormus in 1626 as “Having a harbour at each end and a hill in the middle with a salt and a sulphur mine.” [6]

 

Many of the contemporary travelers agreed that there were no fresh water and no vegetation on Ormus. Ormus climate was described as similar to “the arid coast of Arabia to the west and south.” [7] Joseph Salbank, an English traveler, also remarked that Ormus is “certainly the driest island in the world.” Marco Polo described Ormus as exactly this – hot and dry. This can be verified in The Description of the World, as Marco Polo commented, “Its very hot here, the sun is very hot; and the land is unhealthy.” [1] Polo also claimed in later parts of the paragraph that “you will not find any vegetation on the land” [1] due to the harsh weather. Historian Abbas Alizadeh did research regarding Hormuz’s climate. He mentions that Hormuz average rainfall is around 250–300/350 mm annually [3] which makes farming possible very risky as the land is arid. Accompanied with the temperature being 37–40 degrees in July [3], it can make the survival of animals, vegetation and humans very hard. Dehydration will most likely occur when merchants are traveling in plain areas. Polo described the plain as a five-day journey, and when reaching the slop area, there are another twenty miles before reaching Hormuz. Polo also mentions that if any merchants from another country die from the harsh weather, the king will take all the property [1]. By mentioning this, we can certainly conclude that dehydration and the heat-killed many people, and it is common in Hormuz. The most fertile land in Hormuz is to be found along the river, and this is why ports are set up so merchants and travelers can trade with ease.

 
Modern map of Hormuz
Mao Kun map showing Hormuz
 
King of Hormuz
 

Polo also briefly mentioned that the King of Hormuz is called Rukin al-Din Mahmud[1]. Although not a lot of information was provided by Marco Polo, this is still a vital aspect of verifying Polo’s account’s credibility. There were several different rules throughout the centuries, and with their names, we can identify which time period Polo visited and if it fits the time when he set out on his journey. History professor Shireen Moosvi at Aligarh Muslim University proposed that Amir Ruknuddin [5] was Hormuz ruler during the thirteenth century. The names of the ruler were inconsistent but very similar. My own comprehension of this is that there are multiple ways to write or pronounce his name. The ones that are written and or recorded are the ones that are more formal and prestigious. Like in modern times, we have nicknames, but those are not the titles recorded in our passports.

Trade
 

As Marco Polo reach Hormuz in 1295, he tells us that Indian merchants brought “ships loaded with spices, precious stones, pearls, cloth of silk and gold, elephant tusks, and much more merchandise” [1] to whom the merchants at Hormuz traded to different parts of the world. Though polo did not mention which type of species were being traded, there were many horses where Iran exported to India. Wassaf, a Persian historian, wrote during the closing decades of the thirteenth century, similarly tells us that the horses were exported to South India, but they did not survive long, creating a great and continuous demand for Persian horses. He claimed that an estimated around ten thousand Persian horses used to be annually exported.

 
Conclusion
 

The kingdom of Hormuz remained in power, in control for trading for more than two centuries. From the 1300s, where Marco Polo visited around the 1500s. In the early sixteenth century, the Safavides wanted to conquer Hormuz after seizing great power in Iran. They also considered working with the Portuguese. In 1515, Afonso de Albuquerque gained control over Hormuz. In 1622, most Hormuz buildings were destroyed, and the Safavides decided to divert all traffic to Gamrū, which was on the mainland, opposite of Hormuz. The rise of Gamrū, named Bandar’ Abbās, ultimately caused the final decline of Hormuz.

In conclusion, Marco Polo did go to Hormuz. Through looking at the geographic location, climate, historical characters, and economic activities in secondary sources, all the information provided by Marco Polo matched.

 
References
  1. Polo, Marco, and Rustichello da Pisa. The Description Of The World. 1300, p. 323.

  2. Morgan, David. The Mongols. Blackwell, 2008.

  3. Wicks, Yasmina. “Abbas Alizadeh. Ancient Settlement Systems And Cultures In The Ram Hormuz Plain, Southwestern Iran”. Abstracta Iranica, no. Volume 37-38-39, 2018. Open edition, doi:10.4000/abstractairanica.44766.

  4. Kauz, Ralph, and Roderich Ptak. “Hormuz In Yuan And Ming Sources”. Bulletin De L’ecole Française D’extrême-Orient, vol 88, no. 1, 2001, pp. 27-75. PERSEE Program, doi:10.3406/befeo.2001.3509.

  5. Moosvi, Shireen. “India’s sea trade with Iran in medieval times” Proceedings of the Indian History Congress, 2009-2010, Vol. 70 (2009-2010), pp. 240-250

  6. Draper, John W. “Milton’s Ormus.” The Modern Language Review, vol 20, no. 3, 1925, p. 323. JSTOR, doi:10.2307/3714887.

  7. Salbank, Joseph. “Mr. Salbank’s Journey (after the Ascension was cast away) through India, Persia, and part of Turky, and Arabia, A.D. 1609.”

 
Bibliography

Primary sources:

Polo, Marco, and Rustichello da Pisa. The Description Of The World. 1300, p. 30.

Morgan, David. The Mongols. Blackwell, 2008.

 

Secondary sources:

Wicks, Yasmina. “Abbas Alizadeh. Ancient Settlement Systems And Cultures In The Ram Hormuz Plain, Southwestern Iran”. Abstracta Iranica, no. Volume 37-38-39, 2018. Open edition, doi:10.4000/abstractairanica.44766.

 

Kauz, Ralph, and Roderich Ptak. “Hormuz In Yuan And Ming Sources”. Bulletin De L’ecole Française D’extrême-Orient, vol 88, no. 1, 2001, pp. 27-75. PERSEE Program, doi:10.3406/befeo.2001.3509.

 

Moosvi, Shireen. “India’s sea trade with Iran in medieval times” Proceedings of the Indian History Congress, 2009-2010, Vol. 70 (2009-2010), pp. 240-250

 

Draper, John W. “Milton’s Ormus.” The Modern Language Review, vol 20, no. 3, 1925, p. 323. JSTOR, doi:10.2307/3714887.

 

Salbank, Joseph. “Mr. Salbank’s Journey (after the Ascension was cast away) through India, Persia, and part of Turky, and Arabia, A.D. 1609.”

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