The Crusades. Franciscan Missionaries.
At length the long period of barbarism which accompanied and followed the fall of the Roman empire drew to a close in Europe. The crusades had a very favourable influence on the intellectual stated of the Western nations. Interesting regions, known only by the scant reports of pilgrims, were made the objects of attention and research; while religious zeal, and the hope of gain, combined with motives of mere curiosity, induced several persons to travel by land into remote regions of the East, far beyond the countries to which the operations of the crusaders extended. Among these was Benjamin of Tudela, who set out from Spain in 1160, traveled by land to Constantinope, and having visited India and some of the eastern island, returned to Europe by way of Egypt after an absence of 13 years.
Christian missionary zeal was another motive for exploration. John of Plano Carpini in Perugia, a Franciscan monk, was the head of one of the missions dispatched by Pope Innocent to call the chief and people of the Tatars to a better mind. He reached the headquarters of Batu, on the Volga, in February 1246; and, after some stay, went on to the camp of the great khan near Karakorum, and retuned safely in the autumn of 1247. A few years afterwards, a Fleming named Rubruquis was sent by St Louis on a mission to the Tatar chiefs, and wrote a very interesting narrative. He entered the Black Sea in May 1253, visited Batu and the court of the great khan Mangu near Karakorum, and got back to Antioch about the end of June 1255. Rubruquis had the merit of being the first modern traveller who gave a correct account of the Caspian Sea. He ascertained that it has no outlet. A nearly the same time Hayton, king of Armenia, made a journey to Karakorum in 1254, by a route far to the north of that followed by Carpini and Rubruquis. He was treated with honour and hospitality and returned by way of Otrar, Samarkand, and Tabriz, to his own territory. The curious narrative of King Hayton was translated by Klaproth.
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