Wednesday, 31 July 2013

The Martyrdom of Michael of Chernigov and another gruesome story.



Seeing that there are lot of Russians who click on my blog, I thought it a good idea to publish something more from the travel account of Johannes de Plano Carpini.  For details of his Liber Tartarorum, I refer to my post about the burial customs of the Mongols.

Almost casually, when talking about the religion of the Mongols, Johannes tells about what he heard what the Mongols (called Tatars in this version of his account) did with Michael of Chernigov (1185 -20 September 1246). At that time the Ukraine was invaded by the Mongols and Michael had to submit to Batu Khan – the story is far more complicated, but for details read the link below. As a sign of submission he has to walk between two fires – which he does, but he refuses to bow for an idol of Chingis Khan, because as a Christian he will not bow for a dead person. Batu then orders Michael to be killed. The text uses satellitem for the person who had to fulfil this order and the link says it was Doman of Putivls. I am not sure, but I have the impression that this must have been a Russian vassal. In the Orthodox Church Michael is since then revered as martyr. This event took place when Johannes made his journey to the Mongols and is probably the earliest account of Michaels‘ death.
Johannes continues his story and then mentioned what happed to Andreas of Chernigov (Saruogle or Sciruogle in this text). He was accused of stealing horses from the Mongols and selling them elsewhere. The accusation could not be proved, but still he was killed. Then his younger brother came with the widow to plea that their country would not be occupied. Johannes uses this story as an example to illustrate a custom of the Mongols: the so-called levirate marriage, named after this custom in the Old Testament, which prescribes that a brother should marry the widow of a deceased brother. Andreas’ brother is forced to make love – not quite the right word – with his brothers’ widow.


Regarding the text: I had to edit it because of the bad scanning.  Fortunately I found a critical edition with the help of which I could emend the text of the Latin Library: http://archive.org/details/relationdesmong00avezgoog
As I have provided a translation, I have not added a wordlist. I hasten to say that the translation is meant to understand the Latin text and has no literary pretension.

Unum Deum credunt, quem credunt esse factorem omnium visibilium et invisibilium. Et credunt eum tam bonorum in hoc mundo quam poenarum esse factorem: non tamen orationibus vel laudibus, aut ritu aliquo ipsum colunt. Nihilominus habent idola quadam de filtro ad imaginem hominis facta; et illa ponunt et utraque parte ostii stationis, et subtus illa ponunt quiddam de filtro in modum uberis factum, et illa credunt esse pecorum custodes, et eis beneficium lactis et pullorum praestare. Alia vero faciunt de pannis sericis, et illa multum honorant. Quidam ponunt illa in pulchro curru tecto ante ostium stationis: et quicunque aliquid de illo curru furatur, sine ulla miseratione occiditur. Duces, millenarii, et centenarii unum semper habent in medio stationis. Praedictis idolis offerunt primum lac omnis pecoris et iumenti. Et cum primo comedere et bibere incipiunt, primo offerunt eis de cibariis et potu. Et cum bestiam aliquam occidunt, offerunt cor idolo quod est in curru in aliquo cypho, et dimittunt usque mane, et tunc auferunt de praesentia eius et decoquunt et manducant. Primo etiam imperatori faciunt idolum, quod ponunt in curru antequam stationem honorifice, sicut vidimus ante ordam imperatoris istius offerunt munera multa. Equos etiam offerunt ei, quos nullus audet ascendere usque ad mortem. Alia etiam animalia eidem offerunt. Qua vero occidunt ad manducandum, nullum os ex eis confringunt, sed igni comburunt. Et etiam ad meridiem tanquam Deo inclinant, et inclinare faciunt alios nobiles, qui se reddunt eisdem. Unde nuper contigit quod Michael, qui fuit unus de magnis ducibus Russiae , cum iuisset ad se reddendum Bati, fecerunt eum prius inter duos ignes transire. Post hoc dixerunt, quod ad meridiem Cyngis inclinaret. Qui respondit, quod Bati et servis suis inclinaret libenter, sed imagini hominis mortui non inclinaret, quia non licet hoc facere Christianis. Et cum saepe diceretur, quod inclinaret, et nollet, mandavit ei praedictus per filium Ieroslai, quod occideretur si non inclinaret.

Martyrium Michaelis ducis Russiae.

Qui respondit, quod potius vellet mori, quam hoc faceret, quia non liceret. At ille satellitem unum misit, qui tam diu contra cor eum in ventre calce percussit, quousque deficeret. Tunc quidam de suis militibus qui astabat comfortans eum dixit: Esto robustus quia hac poena non diu tibi durabit, et statim sequetur gaudium sempiternum: post hoc fuit caput eius cultello praecisum. Militi vero praedicto fuit caput etiam cultello amputatum. Solem igitur lumina et ignem venerantur et adorant, et aquam et terram, eis ciborum et potus primitias offerentes, et mane potissime antequam comedant et bibant: quia de cultu Dei nullam legem obseruant, neminem cogunt suam fidem vel legem negare. Accidit tamen dum adhuc nuper essemus in terra quod Andreas dux de Saruogle [Vel, Sciruogle. Andreas dux Russiae.] qua est in Russia fuit apud Bati accusatus, quod educeret equos Tartarorum de terra et venderet alias, et cum tamen non esset probatum fuit, occisus: quod audiens iunior frater eius, venit cum uxore occisi ad ducem praedictum Bati, volens supplicare, ne terra tolleretur eisdem. Qui dixit par esse, quod uxorem fratris carnalis praedicti duceret in uxorem: et mulieri praecepit ducere illum in virum secundum consuetudinem Tartarorum. Qui respondit, quod prius vellet occidi, quam faceret contra legem. At ille, nihilominus tradidit eam illi, quamvis renuerat quantum posset: et duxerunt ambo in lecto, et posuerunt puerum super illam plorantem et clamantem et cogerunt eos commisceri coactione non conditionali, sed absoluta.


They believe in one God, whom they believe to be the maker of all things visible and invisible. And they believe him to be both the maker of good in this world as well as evil. However they worship him neither with prayers nor with laudations or some rite. Nevertheless they have some idols on felts, made according to the image of a man. And they put these on both sides of the entrance of their yurt, and below these they put some image made of felt in the form of an udder and they believe them to be guardians of their cattle and for them to preside over the output of milk and calves. Other idols they make of silken cloths and they honour them much. Some put these in a beautifully covered wagon before the entrance of their yurt and whoever steals something from that wagon is killed without mercy.
Headmen, those heading a thousand man and those heading a hundred men always have one in the middle of their camp. They offer to aforementioned idols the first of milk of all cattle and mares. And before they start eating and drinking, they first offer them from the food and beverage.
And when they kill some beast, they offer the heart to the idol which is in the wagon in some vessel and leave it till the morning and then they take it away from its presence and cook it and eat it. First of all they make an idol or the emperor, which they put with pump in a wagon in front of the camp; like we have seen before the court of that emperor, they offer many gifts.
They even offer horses to that idol, which no one dares to mount till their death. They also offer other animals, which indeed they kill for eating; they break no bone from these, but burn it with fire.
And they even bow (to the idol) southwards, like to God, and they make other nobles bow too, who submit to them. So it happened recently that Michael, who was one of the great leaders of Russia, had to go between two fires, when he went to Batu to submit himself. After that, they said that he should bow southwards to Genghis. He answered that he would gladly bow to Batu and his companions, but he would not bow to the image of a dead human being, because it was not allowed for Christians to do so. And though he was often told that he should bow, he refused. The aforementioned (Batu) told him through the son of Jaroslav that he would be killed if he did not bow. He answered that he rather wanted to die than do this, because it was not allowed. But Batu sent a vassal, who kicked him so long with his heel in the belly towards the heart, till he would die. Then someone of his soldiers who was present, spoke comforting him: `Be strong, because this punishment will not take long for you and eternal joy will follow immediately.’ After that his head was cut off with a knife. The head of the aforementioned soldier was severed too with a knife.
They venerate further sun, stars and fire, and worship water and earth, to which they offer the firstlings of food and drink and especially in the morning before they eat and drink.
As they observe no prescript concerning the worship of God, they force no one to abandon his faith or prescript. Nevertheless, it recently happened that while we were still in the country that Andreas, leader of Saruogle (or Sciruogle, Andreas, leader of Russia), which is in Russia, was accused before Batu, that he led away horses from the Tatars and sold them elsewhere, and though this could not be proved, he was killed. On hearing this, his younger brother came with the wife of the killed man to the aforementioned Batu, wanting to beseech that the land would not be taken from them. He (Batu) said that it was proper that he should take the wife of his deceased brother as wife and he ordered the woman to take him as wife according to the practice of the Tatars. He answered, that he rather wanted to be killed, than act against the law. But he (Batu) nevertheless gave her over to him, though he refused a much as he could. And they brought both to a bed and placed the boy upon her, who was weeping and screaming, and they forced them to make love by force, not on conditions but ruthlessly.


The link has a translation of the martyrdom of Michael from the Ystoria Mongolorum, which differs from the Liber Tartarorum, though it is obvious that the texts are closely related.