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to all nations. People from all Christian kingdoms resort to Alexandria, from Valentia, Tuscany, Lombardy, Apulia, Amalfi, Sicilia, Rakuvia, Catalonia, Spain, Roussillon, Germany, Saxony, Denmark, England, Flandres, Hainault, Normandy, France, Poitou, Anjou, Burgundy, Mediana, Provence, Genoa, Pisa, Gascony, Arragon, and Navarre. From the west you meet Mohammedans from Andalusia, Algarve, Africa, and Arabia, as well as from the countries towards India, Savila, Abyssinia, Nubia, Yemen, Mesopotamia, and Syria, besides Greeks and Turks*. From India they import all sorts of spices, which are bought by Christian merchants. The city is full of bustle, and every nation has its own fonteccho (or hostelry) there.
On the sea-shore is a marble sepulchre, upon which are depicted all sorts of birds and beasts, all in very ancient characters, which nobody can decipher; but it is supposed that it is the tomb of a king of very ancient date, who reigned even before the flood. The length of the tomb is fifteen spans by six in breadth.
Alexandria contains about three thousand Jews.
From hence we reach Damietta, which is Caphtort, in two days; this place contains about two hundred Jews. Half a day from thence to Sunbat, the inhabitants of which sow flax and weave fine linen, which forms a very considerable article of exportation. Four days to Ailah, which is Elim of Scripture; it belongs to the Bedouin Arabs. Two days to Rephidim, which is inhabited by Arabians, and contains no Jews. One day to Mount Sinai, on the summit of which the Syrian monks possess a place of worship. At the base of the mountain is a large village; the inhabitants, who speak the Chaldean language, call it Tour Sinai. The mountain is small, is in possession of the Egyptians, and is distant five days from Mizraim. The Red Sea is one day's journey from Mount Sinai; this sea is an arm of the Indian Sea.
Back to Damietta, from whence by sea to Tennis, the Chanes of Scripture, an island of the sea, containing about
* Mr. Asher has first given a clear and intelligible translation of the names of the different countries who traded to Alexandria; and he observes that, in drawing it up, Benjamin probably follows some list of the fontecchi, or hostelries of the merchants of different nations, made for the use of captains arriving there.
This appears to be an error of our traveller.
forty Israelites; here is the boundary of the empire of Egypt. From thence we go, in twenty days, by sea to Messina, on the coast of the island of Sicily, situated on the strait called Lunir, an arm of the sea which divides Calabria from Sicily. This city contains about two hundred Jews, and is beautifully situated in a country abounding with gardens and orchards, and full of good things. Most of the pilgrims who embark for Jerusalem assemble here, because this city affords the best opportunity for a good passage.
Two days from thence stands Palermo, a large city, two square miles in extent. It contains the extensive palace of king William*, and is inhabited by about fifteen hundred Jews and many Christians and Mohammedans. The country is rich in wells and springs, grows wheat and barley, and is covered with gardens and orchards; it is, in fact, the best in the whole island of Sicily. This city is the seat of the viceroy, whose palace is called Al-Hacina, and contains all sorts of fruit trees, as also a great spring, surrounded by a wall, and a reservoir called Al-Behira, in which abundance of fish are. preserved. The king's vessels are ornamented with silver and gold, and are ever ready for the amusement of himself and his women. There is also a large palace, the walls of which arė richly ornamented with paintings and with gold and silver. The pavement is of marble and rich mosaic, representing all sorts of figures; in the whole country there is no building equal to this.
The island begins at Messina, where many pilgrims meet, and extends to Catania, Syracuse. Masara, Pantaleone, and Trapani, being six days in circumference. Near Trapani is found the stone called coral, in Arabic, al-murgant.
* William II. king of Sicily, who reigned from 1166 to 1189. On his accession he was only twelve years of age; and during his minority Stephen, archbishop of Palermo, governed Sicily as chancellor under the queen dowager. It is to him that Benjamin alludes under the title of viceroy; in 1169 the viceroy was driven from Sicily by a revolt of the inhabitants of Palermo, and it was therefore probably early in that year that Benjamin was in the island.
+ Coral (Arabic, bessed; Persian, merjan). The Sicilian coral is mentioned by several old writers. The produce of the fishery at Messina is stated by Spallanzani ("Travels in the Two Sicilies," vol. iv. p. 308, &c.) to amount to twelve quintals of 250 lbs. each. Edrisi mentions the fishery of this production to have been carried on by the Sicilians, and states that it was inferior to the species found on the African coast.
thence you cross over and reach Rome in three days; from Rome by land in five days to Lucca, from whence you get in twelve days to Bardin, by Mount Maurienne, and over the passes of Italy.
Here are the confines of Germany, a country full of hills and mountains. The Jewish congregations of Germany inhabit the banks of the great river Rhine, from Cologne, where the empire commences, unto Cassanburg, the frontier of Germany, which is fifteen days' journey, and is called Ashkenas by the Jews. These are the cities of Germany which contain congregations of Israelites, all situated on the river Moselle-Coblence, Andernach, Kaub, Kartania, Bingen, Worms, and Mistran. In fact, the Jews are dispersed over all countries, and whoever hinders Israel from being collected, shall never see any good sign, and shall not live with Israel. And at the time which the Lord has appointed to be a limit of our captivity and to exalt the horn of his anointed, every one shall come forth and shall say, I will lead the Jews and I will assemble them."
These cities contain many eminent scholars; the congregations are on the best terms with one another, and are friendly towards strangers. Whenever a traveller visits them they are rejoiced thereat and hospitably receive him. They are full of hopes, and say—" Be of good spirit, dear brethren, for the salvation of the Lord will be quick, like the twinkling of an eye; and, indeed, were it not that we had doubted hitherto that the end of our captivity had not yet arrived, we should have assembled long ago; but this is impossible before the time of song arrive, and the sound of the cooing turtle gives warning; then will the message arrive, and we will say, The name of the Lord be exalted!" They send letters to one another, by which they exhort to hold firm in the Mosaic law. Those that spend their time as mourners of the downfall of Sion and the destruction of Jerusalem, are always dressed in black clothes, and pray for mercy before the Lord, for the sake of their brethren.
Beside the cities which we have already mentioned as being in Germany, there are, further, Astransburg, Duidisburg, Mantern, Pisingas, Bamberg, Zor, and Regensburg, on the confines of the empire; all these cities contain many rich and Psalms, xxxv. 27.
* Solom. Song, ii. 12.
learned Jews. Further on is the country of Bohemia, called Prague. Here begins Sclavonia, called by the Jews who inhabit it Khenaan, because the inhabitants sell their children to all nations, which is also applicable to the people of Russia. The latter country is very extensive, reaching from the gates of Prague to those of Kiev, a large city on the confines of the empire. The country is very mountainous and full of forests; in the latter the beasts called vaiverges are met, which yield the sable fur or ermine. In winter the cold is so intense that nobody ventures to leave his house. So far the kingdom of Russia.
The kingdom of France, called by the Jews Tsarphat, reaches from the town of Alsodo to Paris, the metropolis, and is six days in extent. This city, situated on the river Seine, belongs to king Louis †, and contains many learned men, the equal of which are to be met with at present nowhere upon earth they employ all their time upon the study of the law, are hospitable to all travellers, and on friendly terms with all their Jewish brethren.
May the Lord in his mercy be full of compassion towards them and us, and may he fulfil towards both the words of his Holy Scripture (Deut. xxx. 3), "Then the Lord thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the Lord thy God hath scattered thee."-Amen, Amen, Amen.
Vaiverges, Polish wiewiórka, the white squirrel, a quadruped, the skins of which were considered to be of great value.
Louis le Jeune, who reigned from 1137 to 1185.
THE BOOK OF SIR JOHN MAUNDEVILLE.
FORASMUCH as the land beyond the sea, that is to say, the Holy Land, which men call the land of promise or of behest, passing all other lands, is the most worthy land, most excellent, and lady and sovereign of all other lands, and is blessed and hallowed with the precious body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ; in the which land it pleased him to take flesh and blood of the Virgin Mary, to environ that holy land with his blessed feet; and there he would of his blessedness shadow him in the said blessed and glorious Virgin Mary, and become man, and work many miracles, and preach and teach the faith and the law of Christian men unto his children; and there it pleased him to suffer many reprovings and scorns for us; and he that was king of heaven, of air, of earth, of sea, and of all things that are contained in them, would only be called king of that land, when he said, "Rex sum Judeorum," that is to say, I am king of the Jews; and that land he chose before all other lands, as the best and most worthy land, and the most virtuous land of all the world; for it is the heart and the middle of all the world; by witness of the philosopher, who saith thus Virtus rerum in medio consistit:" that is to say, The virtue of things is in the middle; and in that land he would lead his life, and suffer passion and death from the Jews for us, to redeem and deliver us from the pains of hell and from death without end, which was ordained for us for the sin of our first father Adam, and for our own sins also; for, as for himself, he had deserved no evil: for he thought never evil nor did evil, and he that was king of glory and of joy might best in that place suffer death, because he chose in that land, rather than in any other, to suffer his passion and his death: for he that will publish any thing to make it openly known, he will cause it to be cried and proclaimed in the middle place of a town; so that the thing that is proclaimed and pronounced may equally reach to all parts: right so, he that was creator of all the world would suffer for us at Jerusalem, that is the middle of the world, to the end and intent that his passion and his death, which was published