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Medieval Sourcebook:
Accounts of the Routes of the Jewish Merchants to the East, 847

From the time of the barbarian invasions until the time of the Crusades, Semitic merchants conducted most of the inland trade of Europe. The routes they followed were the main Asiatic arteries of trade and their European tributaries. Many of the kinds of goods flowing to and from the Orient are mentioned in this document.

These merchants speak Arabic, Persian, Roman (Greek), the language of the Franks, Andalusians, and Slavs. They journey from west to east, from east to west, partly on land, partly by sea. They transport from the west eunuchs, female and male slaves, silk, castor, marten, and other furs, and swords. They take ship in the land of the Franks, on the Western Sea, and steer for Farama (Pelusium). There they load their goods on the backs of camels, and go by land to Kolzum (Suez) in five days' journey over a distance of twenty-five parasangs. They embark in the East Sea (Red Sea) and sail from Kolzum to El-Jar (port of Medina) and Jeddah (port of Mecca); then they go to Sind, India, and China. On their return they carry back musk, aloes, camphor, cinnamon, and other products of the Eastern countries to Kolzum, and bring them to Farama, where they again embark on the Western Sea. Some make sail for Constantinople to sell their goods to the Romans; others go to the palace of the king of the Franks to place their goods.

Sometimes these Jew merchants prefer to carry their goods from the land of the Franks in the Western Sea, making for Antioch (at the mouth of the Orontes); thence they go by land to Al-Jabia (?) where they arrive after three days' march. There they embark on the Euphrates for Bagdad, and then sail down the Tigris to Al-Obolla. From Al-Obolla they sail for Oman, Sind, Hind (Hin dustan), and China. All this is connected one with another.

These different journeys can also be made by land. The merchants who start from Spain or France go to Sous al-Akza (Morocco), and then to Tangiers, whence they march to Kairuwan (Tunisia), and the capital of Egypt. Thence they go to Al-Kamla, visit Damascus, Al-Kufa, Bagdad, and Basrah, cross Ahwaz, Fars, Kirman, Sind, Hind, and arrive at China. Sometimes they likewise take the route behind Rome, and passing through the country of the Slavs, arrive at Khamlij, the capital of the Khazars. They embark on the Jorjan Sea, arrive at Balkh, betake themselves from there across the Oxus and continue their journey toward the Yurts of the Toghozghor, and from there to China.


From: Joseph Jacobs, Jewish Contributions to Civilization, (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1919), pp. 194-196, reprinted in Roy C. Cave & Herbert H. Coulson, A Source Book for Medieval Economic History, (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Co., 1936; reprint ed., New York: Biblo & Tannen, 1965), pp. 151-152.

Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton. The text has been modernized by Prof. Arkenberg.

This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the document is copyright.Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source. No permission is granted for commercial use.

© Paul Halsall, September 1998


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