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Ibn Baṭṭū;ṭa's Journey to Bulghàr: Is it a Fabrication?

  • Stephen Janicsek

Extract

The Moorish traveller Ibn Baṭṭūṭa occupies a peculiar place in medieval geography, not only because his journeys were so extensive, exceeding in length even those of Marco Polo, but because the record of them contains such a fantastic mixture of items of information, some valuable or precise, others worthless or vague in the extreme, regarding the different cities, provinces, and distinguished men that he had seen. Everyone who has traced out his journey step by step must agree that there are serious arguments against the trustworthiness of his statements regarding several of the cities which he claimed to have visited. On the other hand, it is exceedingly difficult to substantiate the suspicions thus aroused. He was a skilful narrator, and did not himself, as is well known, write down the record of his journeys; consequently the existence of one or two errors in his account of a city or a district does not prove anything against him, since it must be allowed that his memory occasionally played him false. Besides, Ibn Battuta was a typical son of the medieval East, a fact which explains certain systematic faults in his narrative. For example, he is very inconsequent; sometimes he speaks at length of a small village, and sometimes devotes no more than one or two words to a celebrated city. Sometimes, but not always, he gives an impression of sincerity, saving frankly that he was badly treated by so-and-so, or that he was told about such and such a city or country, but did not himself visit it. For this reason one is naturally inclined to accept his word when he says that he personally visited a place.

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page 792 note 1 Ed. Defremery, ii, 398–9, ed. of Cairo, i, 217.

page 793 note 1 Ed. Defremery, ii, 399–400, 402; ed. of Cairo, i, 217–18.

page 794 note 1 Brit. Mus. Or. 2676, fol. 70a; India Office, Nr. 600, fol. 514a.

page 794 note 2 Markwart, Joseph, Ein arabischer Bericht über die arktischen (uralischen) Länder aus dem 10 Jahrhundert. (Ungarische Jahrbücher, Berlin und Leipzig, IV Band, p. 263.)

page 794 note 3 “Die Redensart, durch welche unser Text [i.e. Muḥ. 'Aufī], Ibn Faḍlān und al-Mas'ūdī die kurzen Sommernächte von Bulghār veran-schaulichen, ist offenbar ein stereotyper volkstümlicher Ausdruck.” (Markwart, op. cit., p. 280.)

page 795 note 1 Yāqūt, ed. Wüstenfeld, i, 725.

page 795 note 2 Ed. de Goeje, 1870, p. 225.

page 795 note 3 Ed. de Goeje, 1872, p. 285.

page 795 note 4 Markwart (op. cit., p. 287) calculates the date of his visit to Bulghār as 16–18 Ramaḍān, 732 = 11–13 June, 1332.

page 796 note 1 Ed. Defremery, i, 79, and ii, 446 (Cairo ed., i, 22, 230).

page 796 note 2 Ed. Defremery, ii, 411 (Cairo ed., i, 220).

page 797 note 1 See ii, 411 (Cairo ed., i, 220):

page 797 note 2 Ed. Defremery, i, 79 (Cairo ed., i, 22).

page 798 note 1 ii, 367–8 (i, 209).

page 798 note 2 ii, 379 (i, 212).

page 798 note 3 ii, 446 (i, 230).

page 799 note 1 Op. cit., p. 262.

page 799 note 2 Ibid., p. 302.

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Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society
  • ISSN: 1356-1863
  • EISSN: 1474-0591
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-the-royal-asiatic-society
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