Month: March 2022 (Page 1 of 8)

caspersen #4

Kempe’s right to stay at the Hospital of St Thomas of Canterbury at Rome and have religious services performed for her there, such as communion and confession, is lost do to the words of only one man; this naturally takes a lot of her mental engery for her to process(Kempe 165). Kempe is also very focused on events in which God chooses to work for her, such as when she and a German priest are able to understand one another despite not having a language in common (Kempe 169). Another one of these occasions is when Kempe was visited by and made a confession to John the Evengelist; this drives home the point that the esteem God holds her in is incredibly high (Kempe 166). Kempe also describes her relationship with certain men, such as the priest that she befriends, and the priest that gets her kicked out of the place she stays at in Rome originally, as being impacted by a certain amount of distrust (Kempe 165, 170-173). The priest whom Kempe is on good terms with gives her tests in make sure that he isn’t helping someone who was not authentic. (Kempe 170-172) This shows how complex the priest’s whom she has befriended view of her is, because he is willing to listen to someone she describes hating her. (Kempe 165, 172). Kempe is very selfless with the woman whom she finds herself helping, deciding to give her her good wine, and drinking the low-quality wine the woman had (Kempe 173-174). Kempe is in Rome for more than 6 weeks (Kempe 173), but beyond that she does not state any information about the dates of her stay in Rome in thse chapters. Readers asko find out that white clothes, what Kempe wears until she is told not to, are a sign of being more devout than others, which helps explain why she is so controversal (Kempe 165, 171-172).
Kempe is not very offended nor does she seem very surprised that the priest she considers to be her friend talks to the other one who really hates her (Kempe 172). I believe that if these events were happening today, Kempe might feel uncomfortable enough to really express it in her book. This shows us that perhaps it was more culturally acceptable to show that you have mixed emotions and feelings about someone in Kempe’s culture. (Kempe 172) That is also probably why Kempe does a very good job of making sure what helps make her seem authentic, her crying when she is not in front of many people, is in her book(Kempe 170) . I doubt that people get kicked out of communal areas solely based on the words of one person, as Kempe is describing here, today in Rome (Kempe 165). This part of Kempe’s text feels like it was written for other people to read, and to make herself look good because of its discussion of how much God loves her and her being visited by John the Evengelist (Kempe 166-167-173). However, this is hurt by her use of words to describe herself as blessed more than most people.( Kempe 163, 166 173). Another aspect of the text that contradicts her writing this all down to look good and for other people to read is the fact that she does not name the two priest whose relationships with her are greatly discussed (Kempe 165-174) I almost feel like this detail makes her less credible.
Margery Kempe, The Book of Margery Kempe, chapters 31-35, translated by BA Windeatt, Penguin Books, 1985

The Travels of Marco Polo: Male and Female Island

In the beginning of his section on the Arabian Sea, Marco Polo starts his narration with the description of two islands, named Male and Female Island. As a modern reader, the names of these islands of these islands immediately made me curious, particularly the reason as to why the inhabitants of these islands decided to separate by gender, however it was only vaguely mentioned that the men would not be able to live with their wives for the entire year (295). There is no description surrounding Polo’s stay on these islands, nor anything to do with its physical description, which indicates that Polo did not visit these islands, but instead heard stories of these locations in passing during his travels.

Polo first describes the religion of the inhabitants of the islands, which once again reinforces the notion that religion was one of the key factors in differentiating individuals. He states that the individuals on the island follow Christianity and all the residents are baptized. Due to their following of the Old Testament, Polo does not speak of the inhabitants in a negative manner. If this were a community of a different religion, Polo would not only speak of this decision to separate and the residents in a negative manner or one that highlights the differences between their customs and his own, but he would go into depth on other aspects of the community, like their death practices. Polo does not describe much about the community besides this anomaly, which insinuates that the other aspects of these islands are normal to him and his own cultural standards and practices.

Marco Polo mentions that the men of Male Island are only allowed to be on Female island for three months, solely for the purposes of reproduction, and are not able to have sex with their wives when she becomes pregnant, but are able to do what they desire when she is not. Polo describes that children stay with their mothers, but sons would have to leave at the age of twelve years old to live with their fathers on Male Island. The implications of reproduction and sex is hard to read as a modern reader, as women on Female Island simply existed to give birth and raise children. The fact that they only meet their husbands after nine months, probably after the possibility of childbirth, only to do the whole process over again is frustrating. Polo states that fact that husbands have control of their wive’s bodies as an unsurprising custom, revealing the underlying meaning of consent, or the lack thereof, as an accepted standard for Polo and his society.

I was surprised to read about the type of interdependence that the two islands had on each other. The men provided on fishing and other physical practices, while the women only managed agricultural work, on top of their duties to childrearing. I assumed that their would be a more equal distribution of labor in order for sustenance, since the groups are separated for most of the time, but it seems that this is a way for men to be in control of their wives in a different manner, forcing them to be reliant on their husbands for basic needs like food.

Ibn Fadlan And the Land of Darkness: Saqaliba

When Ibn Fadlan and his caravan are approaching the Kingdom of Saqaliba, they are met with an envoy of lesser kings (under the command of the king of Saqaliba). An envoy rode with Fadlan and at about two farsakahs away, the king of Saqaliba met the group (25). He immediately got off his horse, fell to his knees, thanked his God, and then showered Fadlan with some of the kingdom’s coinage. Fadlan’s caravan slept in tents pitched away from the king’s tent for four days while advisors, military leaders, and more, arrived to hear the caliph’s letter. Upon the king’s summoned, Fadlan and his crew presented the king with extravagances before reading the letter which had to be translated by an interpreter. In the letter, the caliph asks its readers to stand, to which the king and company did. Next, Fadlan read letters from Hamid ibn al-Abbas and Nadhiral-Harami, and the king was showered with coinage after the letters were done being read. Then, Fadlan presented the king and his wife with many gifts from his travels. The king and his wife were showered with coins after receiving their gifts (26). 

Later that night, Fadlan attended a formal dinner with the king. The king sat on an ornate throne with the lesser kings to his right, his children in front, and told Fadlan to sit on his left. A table with only meat was brought to the king; then, in accordance with Saqaliba custom, the king cuts and serves everyone meat as small tables are brought to dinner guests. The order of accommodation goes as follows: the king himself, his envoy Sawsan, Fadlan, the lesser kings, and his children. Days later, Fadlan is criticized for not bringing the money from the caliph. However, the king seems to take this lightly as he remains generously hospitable and gives Fadlan an ironic nickname, “Abu Baker the Truthful” (31). 

Fadlan recounts marvelous things like the northern lights, changing hours of daylight, tree sap and fruit, snakes, rhinoceroses, and a giant (31-42). He also records law practices that appear strange or incorrect to him. For example, he notes that inheritance laws dictate that a man’s brother receives his inheritance rather than his sons. Fadlan said that he explained the fault in this law to the king thoroughly enough that the king understood (36). Despite accounting for many punishments and practices of law, inheritance law is the only one Fadlan confronts the king about. 

While generous gifts and prayer are normal customs of Muslim societies, Fadlan is particularly conscious of how extravagant the king of Saqaliba and his company are in their customs. He notes that the women refuse his urges to veil. He notes on the volume and timing of exclamations to God. He notes many times about the coin (dirham) showers, which suggests that he is confused about the purpose of this practice and possibly thinks it is unnecessary.  

Fadlan is constantly bothered by the incorrect or imperfect practices of Islam during his travels. His criticism for those who do not practice Islam “correctly” allots him a sense of superiority, that even extends to the king. It seems that Fadlan gives the king of Saqaliba all due respect and follows the customs of Saqaliba, but he does so out of duty not genuine respect for the culture. Fadlan’s attitude towards foreign customs indicates that his own culture places emphasis on Islamic practices to be strict and takes pride in the correctness of their practices. This is conducive with an imperialist culture 

The Travels of Ibn Battutah: Kunakar (Gampola)

During his trip to Ceylon, which is modern-day Sri Lanka, Ibn Battutah visits the town of Kunakar. Ibn Battutah begins his discussion of the town by talking about its physical geography. Ibn Battutah tells that the town was built in a valley alongside a river which is called the “Channel of Rubies” because precious gems are found in it. Later in the section, Ibn Battutah goes into more detail about the rubies. Ibn Battutah says that they are only found in Kunakar and are called bahraman or carbuncles. He explains that some of the gems are fished out of the channel while others are dug out of the ground. The stones that are dug have to be cracked open like a geode to find the gems inside, which Ibn Battutah says come in a variety of colors like red, yellow and blue. Ibn Battutah also discusses how valuable these rubies are to the people of Kunakar and how they wear them on necklaces and headpieces. Ibn Battutah describes two specific examples of ruby-wearing, when he talks about the sultan of Kunakar and when the talks about the women of Ceylon. The women of Kunakar wear rubies as elaborate adornments. Even the sultan’s slave girls have headdresses decorated with rubies. The other instance of ruby-wearing is the sultan of Kunakar, called the Kunar. The Kunar owns an elephant which he rides on important occasions and the elephant wears rubies on its head. Ibn Battutah comments that the elephant is the only white elephant he has ever seen in the world. Ibn Battutah also gives an anecdote on the Kunar. He reports that the Kunar’s subordinates revolted against him and blinded him, putting his son on the throne instead. Ibn Battutah tells one other anecdote about the town of Kunakar. Ibn Battutah describes how outside of Kunakar is the mosque of Shaikh Othman of Shiraz. Ibn Battutah tells that this Shaikh used to guide pilgrims to the Foot, which is now known as Adam’s Peak. Ibn Battutah reports that the Shaikh had his hands and feet cut off because he violated Hindu law by slaughtering a cow; but because the Shaikh was so respected in the community that they only mutilated him, while his sons and slaves took over as guides for the pilgrims.

Ibn Battutah’s interests in the section on Kunakar highlight how Ibn Battutah is fascinated by two things: wonders of the world and religious matters, specifically Muslim ones. Ibn Battutah focuses on how the Muslim Shaikh was respected in the community and was virtuous, even though he was mutilated. Ibn Battutah clearly cares about the state of Muslims wherever he visits and this includes Kunakar. In the case of wonders, the stories of the elephant and the rubies both count. The story of the elephant is meant to be sensationalist because the elephant is albino, would provides a shock factor to the reader. In the case of the rubies, it is a sensationalist story because the idea of having rubies the size of hen’s eggs and palms of hands is unthinkable to most people. It also expresses the wealth of the areas that Ibn Battutah is traveling to, which elevates his own status, because he is honored in the places he visits.

The Wanderings of Felix Fabri: Brixen

Felix Fabri spends little to no time in the town of Brixen, however he does speak of some aspects of the town including the fact that the plague was present there at the time of their journey through. Fabri states that their lordships were informed that the plague was in the area and so Fabri rushed through. Fabri does not speak of the land or culture of the region, though he does talk about how he had spent a night there before in his life and about how during his stay a rich bishopric died causing fighting to break out among the nobles. Fabri also speaks of a time when the Duke of Austria known as Sigismund, set it up so that anyone who passed through the region would be excommunicated immediately whether they knew it or not. Fabri also speaks of how there is a cathedral there that he finds particularly beautiful and about how he had someone in his order who chanted canonical for hours there. He also speaks of how the canon of the church asked them what kind of friars they were and when they told him that they were Mendicants Friars, he gave them good fat alms. This type of focus on the church aspect of his previous visit shows that not only does he have a high regard for this region but he also intends for his writings to be read by those who also hold a similar value to the church and their workings in the many areas of the world. 

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