medieval travel

Rabban Bar Sauma 4: Ilkhanid End Times

Ghazan Khan

This episode is the conclusion of the Rabban Bar Sauma series. It's his return to the Ilkhanate and the results of his journey. It's the end of the line for him and the catholicus, and it's the changes that were going on in the Ilkhanate and how they affected the Church of the East and our main characters. (MP3)

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  • The Monks of Kublai Khan, translated by Sir E. A. Wallis Budge. The Religious Tract Society, 1928.

  • Aigle, Denise. The Mongol Empire between Myth and Reality: Studies in Anthropological History. Brill, 2014.

  • Grousset, René. Empire of the Steppes: A History of Central Asia. Rutgers University Press, 1988. 

  • Jackson, Peter. The Mongols and the Islamic World. Yale University Press, 2017.

  • Jackson, Peter. The Mongols and the West: 1221-1410. Pearson Longman, 2005.

  • Kolbas, Judith. The Mongols in Iran: Chingiz Khan to Uljaytu 1220–1309. Routledge, 2006.  

  • Lambton, Ann K. S. Continuity and Change in Medieval Persia. SUNY Press, 1988.

  • Rossabi, Morris. Voyager from Xanadu: Rabban Sauma and the First Journey from China to the West. Kodansha International, 1992.

Marco and the Polos 3: Marco and the Great, Great Khan

In the Marco Polo text, Kublai Khan is seen carried about, on hunts and at war, by up to 4 elephants.

Marco Polo was a tremendous admirer of Kublai Khan and of his Genghisid legacy more generally. This episode, we explore that admiration, the character of Kublai, and the anecdote of the treacherous minister. You'll hear about the khan at his summer palace of Shangdu, the rebellion of Nayan (with the support of Kaidu), the role of Liu Bingzhong, and the story of Ahmed. I also posted a written addition to this episode here


If you like what you hear, my Patreon is here, my Ko-fi is here, and Paypal is here.


  • The Travels of Marco Polo, the Venetian, translated by William Marsden, edited by Thomas Wright. George Bell & Sons, 1907.

  • Larner, John. Marco Polo and the Discovery of the World. Yale University Press, 1999.

  • Man, John. Marco Polo: The Journey that Changed the World. HarperCollins, 2009.

  • Olschki, Leonardo. Marco Polo's Asia. University of California Press, 1960.

  • Rossabi, Morris. Khubilai Khan: His Life and Times. University of California Press, 1988.