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Rabban Bar Sauma's trek from China to Rome a key to world history (Part I)

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【Summary】Why was the failure of Rabban Bar Sauma’s mission to the Vatican so important to world history? The reason is simple. The Europeans wanted Jerusalem. They needed the Middle East as a land-based gateway to India and China. When an agreement with the Mongol Empire to dethrone Islam from the Middle East could not be reached, Europeans had to turn to the seas to find oceanic maritime routes “to the East.”

Original Anthony    Oct 04, 2016 6:00 PM PT
Rabban Bar Sauma's trek from China to Rome a key to world history (Part I)
Anthony C. LoBaido

By Anthony C. LoBaido
The name "Marco Polo" evokes feelings of excitement and adventure. From a simple children's swimming pool game to a sweeping multi-season television drama on Netflix, "Marco Polo" still resonates in American, Western and global culture. Starring Zhu Zhu, arguably the most beautiful Chinese woman out of all 1.3 billion plus Chinese on planet Earth, the Netflix series features stunning landscapes, an amazing cast, terrific costumes and outstanding martial arts battles. Yet there is another series Netflix could easily have made to rival "Marco Polo." That series is "Rabban Bar Sauma."
A Nestorian monk named Rabban Bar Sauma is in effect, "Marco Polo in Reverse." His mission from China to ancient Mesopotamia (Iraq) and the Vatican changed the world forever for one very special reason – the mission was a spectacular failure. That failure would alter the entire planet for the next 800 years and perhaps beyond. (This will be explained in the space below …)
Born in Zhongdu (an ancient name of Beijing) in 1220 B.C.-, Rabban Bar Sauma died in ancient Iraq on January 20th,, 1294. In between those years the world changed forever. History teaches us that Rabban Bar Sauma was born into a wealthy Christian family who descended from Uighurs in Turkistan. At the age of 23, he became a teacher and ascetic monk of some notoriety.
It should be noted that the Nestorians spoke Aramaic, which is the same language Jesus Christ spoke. The name "Rabban" means "Rabbi" or "teacher" in Hebrew. "Bar Sauma" means "Son of Fasting" in Aramaic. Some say that he began his pilgrimage to the Middle East at the age of 40. He traveled bravely through Afghanistan and Armenia all the way to the city of Mosul in Iraq.
One account of his life reads:
"With his disciple Marcus he attempted a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, passing through Gansu and Khotan (Hotan) in western China, Khorāsān in Iran, and Azerbaijan before reaching Baghdad, the residence of the catholicos, or head, of the Nestorian church. Unable to reach Jerusalem because of local fighting, he stayed some time in Nestorian monasteries in Armenia before being called back to Baghdad by the catholicos to head a mission to Abagha, the Mongol Il-khan (‘regional khan') of Iran. Later he was appointed visitor general of the Nestorian congregations of the East, a post similar to that of archdeacon.
"In 1287 bar Sauma was sent on a mission to the Christian monarchs of western Europe by Abagha's son Arghūn, a religious eclectic and Christian sympathizer who hoped to persuade the Christian kings to join him in expelling the Muslims from the Holy Land. Traveling to Constantinople, bar Sauma was received hospitably by the Byzantine emperor Andronicus II Palaeologus, but on reaching Rome he learned that Pope Honorius IV had just died. He was interviewed by the Sacred College of Cardinals, who, less interested in his mission than in his theological tenets, asked him to recite the Nestorian creed. Reluctant to do so, as Nestorianism was considered a heresy in the West, he left Rome and traveled to Paris, staying a month at the court of King Philip IV, and to Bordeaux, where he met Edward I of England. Neither monarch was willing to commit to an alliance with Arghūn.
"Leaving France, bar Sauma passed back through Rome and met the newly elected pope, Nicholas IV, before returning to Iran. Later he was appointed chaplain to the Il-khan's court and still later retired to Marāgheh in Azerbaijan to found a church. A perceptive traveler, he kept a diary in Persian that presents an outsider's view of medieval Europe. An English translation is included in Sir E.A. Wallis Budge's The Monks of Kûblâi Khân (1928; reissued as The Monks of Kublai Khan, 2003)."
So in effect, Rabban Bar Sauma might be seen as the very first "diplomat" to travel form Asia to Europe. At that time, the Europeans were being tempted into forming an alliance with the Mongol Empire to retake control of Jerusalem from the Islamic rulers. This is where the key turning point of history transpired. (This will also be described in detail in the space below.) One must remember that great moments in history often go by virtually unnoticed.
Another account says in regard to Rabban Bar Sauma being the "first [Sino] diplomat" that, "[This] is ridiculous, considering it's a journey you can make just by walking, the fact that the Silk Road has been in use since prehistory, and the fact that there are Chinese texts from the 3rd century describing the Roman Empire and its rulers, culture, and peoples."
This same account says, "Around 1287, the Mongol Khan Arghun decided to attempt the formation of a Franco-Mongol alliance, and sent Rabban Bar Sauma and his student to Europe for negotiation." As mentioned, the Nestorian monk met with the kings of both France and England.

This same account says, "Around 1287, the Mongol Khan Arghun decided to attempt the formation of a Franco-Mongol alliance, and sent Rabban Bar Sauma and his student to Europe for negotiation." As mentioned, the Nestorian monk met with the kings of both France and England.

Why was the failure of Rabban Bar Sauma's mission to the Vatican so important to world history? The reason is simple. The Europeans wanted Jerusalem. They needed the Middle East as a land-based gateway to India and China. When an agreement with the Mongol Empire to dethrone Islam from the Middle East could not be reached, Europeans had to turn to the seas to find oceanic maritime routes "to the East."


(End of Part I)


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