May 14th, 2014

(relatively) recent

Rabban Bar Ṣauma

I was reading the Travels of Marco Polo recently. Unfortunately, the Wordsworth Classics edition I read did not have any explanatory notes whatsoever, so afterwards I started reading, bit by bit, through the online edition of the Victorian translation by Sir Henry Yule. Sometimes things I read there led me in the direction of further research on Wikipedia; and at one point I was reading about characters with names like Rabban Bar Ṣauma.

With such an Aramaic name, it was obvious that this character must have been a Babylonian rabbi, of the era of the Gaonim, right?

Wrong. Actually, he was a Nestorian Christian monk, of Uyghur ethnicity, born in or near Beijing. Sometimes it's worth remembering we Jews didn't have a monopoly on the Aramaic language...

—Originally posted on Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments. Please comment there using OpenID or a DreamWidth account (which you no longer need an invite code to create). Though I am leaving comments enabled on LiveJournal for a bit, please don't comment here if you can do so there instead.