In many regards, the Genoese Polo and the Moroccan Battuta provided mirror images of the epic medieval wanderer: Polo was a Christian, intensely curious about the peoples, customs, and places he visited, and almost completely dependent on the goodwill of the Mongol khans of China and central Asia. By contrast, Battuta was Muslim, profoundly uncurious about the non-Islamic world, and achieved his greatest degree of wealth, fame and influence in the Muslim court of Delhi.
The Polos [Marco, his father Niccolò and uncle Maffeo] eagerly sought contact with the non-Christians of Asia, if for no other reason than simply to survive and conduct business. Polo's fascination with and openness to outside influences shines through every page of his memoirs; the same cannot be said of Battuta, who exudes a remarkable lack of interest in non-Muslim peoples and affairs. About all that ties the two accounts together is that concerned the East and were transcribed by a professional writer.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
Further Quote on What Hath Christianity Wrought
Following up on last week's speculation on theology, here's leftist William Bernstein contrasting the two well-known chroniclers of 14th Century China, Marco Polo and Ibn Battuta, in his spring 2008 work A Splendid Exchange: How Trade Shaped the World, at 96-97: