The Mongol territories were expanded by warfare, so the warfare had a significant influence on their history. Even after the built of the Mongol Empire, the war still weighted for their political stand. “Who is the next Khan” was the most important question during that era. But the authenticity of these wars should be doubted: Were all events represent the truth? Were all the descriptions about these Mongol wars represent the facts?

I will focus on the war between Toqto’a and Noqai. The story was long and needed to be traced to the 1290s. Tuda-Mengu was the khan of the Golden Horde as the successor of Mengu-Timur in 1280-1287. However, he killed Tole Buqa with the “help of another king of the Tartars named Noqai” ( Polo, 219). Since the political upheavals happened all the time, Tuda-Mengu has died as well. This time, Toqto’a was elected for the lordship and became the Khan of the Golden Horde. Meanwhile, the two sons of Tole Buqa found Toqto’a and “went to the court of Toqto’a” (Polo, 219). They asked for Toqto’a’s assistance in revenge. After hearing the children’s appeal, Toqto sent “two envoys to Noqai and ordered him to come to court to make an account.” (Polo, 220). On the other hand, Noqai showed an uncompromising attitude and refused to go. Toqto’a was insulted by Noqai’s attitude and said that he will attack him if he still made such a decision. The Toqto’s envoy still got the same answer from Noqai’s side, so he launched a war. 

                                                       The portrait of Toqto’a (

Both sides made great preparation, although Noqai’s force was not as much powerful as Toqto’a’s: Toqto “was taking a good 200,000 horsemen.” (Polo, P221)

Before the warfare, both Toqto’a and Noqai spoke to their army and tried to boost morale. Although Toqto’a prepared more than Noqai, he lost more people than Noqai. To show bravery to Toqto’a’s army, Toqto “threw himself among his enemies as if he cared nothing for his death; he struck right and left.” (Polo, P222)

But King Noqai was brave as well since he “comported himself valiantly.” (Polo, p222) At last, “Noqai won the battle; and I tell you that a good 60,000 men died; but King Toqto’a escaped, and Töle Buqa’s 2 sons escaped as well.” (Polo, P223)


The history of this war recorded in the book The Description of the World by Marco Polo was like what I described previously. I was confused about some descriptions and doubted the authenticity of this work. 

First, How could he experience all the events that happened in history? Was Marco Polo really be in there or not? His description of the war was detailed and perfect. He knew the event from the beginning to the end. On the other hand, his identity wasn’t the transcriber of history? How could he acquire all the information?

Second, who was the one wrote this book? Who was the pronoun “I” refer to? If Marco Polo was the author, why he didn’t introduce his situation under each circumstance? Why, sometimes, Polos appeared, which was a third-person perspective? Can we trust the people who write this book?

Third, regarding this war, Toqto’ a was the Khan of the Golden Horde. How could he launched a war just because the rancor needed to be resolved, and he felt that he was insulted by Noqai’s attitude? Was there any political or economic implication behind the revenge itself?



By reviewing other resources, I found that I am not the only one who doubted Marco Polo’s work’s authenticity.

Another book, The Book of Marco Polo, edited by Henry Yule, described a similar story about the war between Toqto’s a and Noqai. However, the author stated his questions in the footnotes. First, based on the history that most historians agreed, the ones asked for revenge weren’t the sons of Töle Buqa, but the sons of Tuda-Mengu: “The sons Totamangu (Tuda-Mengu) who claim vengeance from Toctai (Toqto’a) against Nogai (Noqai) for having aided Tole Buqa to slay their father.” (Yule, 497) The relationship between the two versions was completed opposite each other. Who was the one being slain by Noqai became the mystery? If most scholars agreed the history was the real one, the event described by Marco Polo was problematic. 

Instead of Tuda-Mengu killed Tole Buqa with the help from Noqai, the history was far more simple: Tuda-Mengu abdicated in 1287 and “replaced by Tulbugha (Tole Buqa).” (Yule, 497) The reason why Noqai wanted to kill Tole Buga was that they quarreled. Yule mentioned Noqai was an influential prince in Mongol history as the great great grandson of Chinggis Khan. Just as what Yule mentioned here, The Mongols was written by David Morgan also mentioned the facts that Noqai was the “co-ruler of the Golden Horde” (Morgan, 1477) and he was a “powerful Golden Horde Prince” (Morgan, 2268). However, in The Description of the world, written by Marco Polo, he used King Noqai referred to Noqai instead of Prince Noqai. Although Marco Polo knew the existence of Noqai, he did not understand the family tree clearly. 

But still, the war between Toqto’a and Nagai truly existed. Since the Polos backed to their hometown and the story ended with the failure of Toqto’a. However, the Toqto’s started a second round invasion to Noqai, and they won this time. The chronology was doubted here. 

      Zhijiu Yang also expressed concerns about the authenticity as well in his book元史三论 The three debates around the history of the Yuan dynasty. In his book, it concluded an article from Tongliu Lv. The travels of Marco Polo was not written just by Marco Polo himself but combined the efforts of another Italian person called Rustichello. Yang stated that Rustichello was hugely influenced by the France literature, especially the cavalier culture. He read tons of literature works such as Tristan and Isolde, and these works influenced him a lot. (Lv, 187) In Marco Polo’s book, there were many detailed and fabulous descriptions about the war between Toqto’a and Noqai, such as “He threw himself among his enemies as if he cared nothing for his death; he struck right and left.” (Polo, p222). Lv stated that the detailed and outstanding description of the war reflected Rustichello’s writing style. Besides, other scholars thought that after episode 201, the amount of factual and historical description was curtailed, and the legendary and romantic description about the war increased instead. (Lv, P200). It was true that the factual part such as the date and location appeared less frequently, and the last few chapters were more like a literature work instead of historical work. 

      After reading and analyzing other scholar’s work, some of my doubts and confusion were explained. Although Marco Polo recorded many events in detail, not all of them were authentic nowadays historians’ points of view. Some of the time and places couldn’t match with acknowledged chronology. Second, the book was not completely written by Marco Polo himself. Rustichello is also involved in this creative process. However, we still need to admit that Marco Polo’s work was valuable, and it still offered a description of the historical event: such as the war between Toqto’a and Noqai. The war existed, but some of the details were not true. We could conclude that not all were authentic in Marco Polo’s work.