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Benjamin of Tudela ( he, בִּנְיָמִין מִטּוּדֶלָה, ; ar, بنيامين التطيلي ''Binyamin al-Tutayli'';‎
TudelaTudela may refer to: *Tudela, Navarre, a town and municipality in northern Spain ** Benjamin of Tudela Medieval Jewish traveller ** William of Tudela, Medieval troubadour who wrote the first part of the ''Song of the Albigensian Crusade'' ** Battle ...
,
Kingdom of Navarre ) , religion = , common_languages = , title_leader = Monarch A monarch is a head of state A head of state (or chief of state) is the public persona who officially embodies a state (polity) ...
, 1130 Castile, 1173) was a medieval
Jewish Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2 , Israeli pronunciation ) or Jewish people are an ethnoreligious group and nation originating from the Israelites Israelite origins and kingdom: "The first act in the long drama of Jewish history is ...

Jewish
traveler who visited
Europe Europe is a continent A continent is any of several large landmass A landmass, or land mass, is a large region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of scienc ...

Europe
,
Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere, Eastern and Northern Hemisphere, Northern Hemisphere of the Earth, Hemispheres. It shares the continental landmass of Eurasia with the cont ...

Asia
, and
Africa Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most populous continent A continent is any of several large landmass A landmass, or land mass, is a large region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', ...

Africa
in the 12th century. His vivid descriptions of western Asia preceded those of
Marco Polo Marco Polo (, , ; September 15, 1254January 8, 1324) was a merchant, explorer, and writer who travelled through Asia along the between 1271 and 1295. His travels are recorded in ' (also known as ''Book of the Marvels of the World '' and '' ...

Marco Polo
by a hundred years. With his broad education and vast knowledge of languages, Benjamin of Tudela is a major figure in medieval
geography Geography (from Ancient Greek, Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of the Earth and Solar System, planets. The first person t ...

geography
and
Jewish history Jewish history is the history of the Jews, and their nation, Judaism, religion and Jewish culture, culture, as it developed and interacted with other peoples, religions and cultures. Although Judaism as a religion first appears in Greek records d ...
. ''The Travels of Benjamin'' is an important work not only as a description of the Jewish communities, but also as a reliable source about the geography and
ethnography Ethnography (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is ap ...

ethnography
of the Middle Ages. Some modern historians credit Benjamin with giving accurate descriptions of everyday life in the Middle Ages. Originally written in
Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as one of the spoken languages of the Israelites and their longest-survivi ...
, his itinerary was translated into
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became ...

Latin
and later translated into most major European languages. It received much attention from
Renaissance The Renaissance ( , ) , from , with the same meanings. is a period Period may refer to: Common uses * Era, a length or span of time * Full stop (or period), a punctuation mark Arts, entertainment, and media * Period (music), a concept in ...

Renaissance
scholars in the 16th century. His journeys reveal the concurrent interconnectedness and diversity of Jewish communities during this time period.


Early life

Little is known of his early life, apart from the fact that he was from the Navarrese town of
TudelaTudela may refer to: *Tudela, Navarre, a town and municipality in northern Spain ** Benjamin of Tudela Medieval Jewish traveller ** William of Tudela, Medieval troubadour who wrote the first part of the ''Song of the Albigensian Crusade'' ** Battle ...
in what is now
Spain , image_flag = Bandera de España.svg , image_coat = Escudo de España (mazonado).svg , national_motto = , national_anthem = , image_map = , map_caption = , image_map2 ...

Spain
. Today, a street in the ''
aljama ''Aljama'' (, , ) is a term of Arabic Arabic (, ' or , ' or ) is a Semitic language that first emerged in the 1st to 4th centuries CE.Semitic languages: an international handbook / edited by Stefan Weninger; in collaboration with Geoffrey ...
'' (former Jewish quarter) is named after him.


Journey

There is no consensus among scholars as to Benjamin of Tudela's exact route, although most scholars believe from his itinerary that he travelled on a popular route frequented by travelers at the time. Benjamin set out on his journey from the northeast Iberian Peninsula around 1165, in what may have begun as a pilgrimage to the
Holy Land The Holy Land (: , la, Terra Sancta; : or ) is an area roughly located between the and the Eastern Bank of the . Traditionally, it is synonymous both with the biblical and with the . The term "Holy Land" usually refers to a territory ro ...

Holy Land
.. It has been suggested he may have had a commercial motive as well as a religious one. Several times the subject shows an interest in the coral trade, perhaps as a professional gem-merchant. On the other hand, he may have intended to catalog the Jewish communities ''en route'' to the
Land of Israel The Land of Israel () is the traditional Jewish name for an area of indefinite geographical extension in the Southern Levant The Southern Levant is a geographical region In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical ...

Land of Israel
to provide a guide where hospitality could be found for Jews traveling to the Holy Land, or for those fleeing oppression elsewhere. He stopped frequently, meeting people, visiting places, describing occupations, and giving a demographic count of Jews in each town and country that he visited. Benjamin provided his own evaluations of various cultures he encountered and, sometimes, drew parallels between customs he encountered. His journey began in
Zaragoza Zaragoza, also known in English as Saragossa, is the capital city of the Province of Zaragoza, Zaragoza Province and of the autonomous communities of Spain, autonomous community of Aragon, Spain. It lies by the Ebro river and its tributaries, the ...

Zaragoza
, further down the valley of the
Ebro , name_etymology = , image = Zaragoza shel.JPG , image_size = , image_caption = The Ebro River in Zaragoza , map = SpainEbroBasin.png , map_size = , map_caption = The Ebro r ...
to
Tarragona Tarragona ( , also , , ; Phoenician Phoenician may refer to: * Phoenicia, an ancient civilization * Phoenician alphabet * Phoenician language * List of Phoenician cities * Phoenix, Arizona See also * Phoenix (mythology) * Phoenicia (disambigu ...

Tarragona
,
Barcelona Barcelona ( , , ) is a city on the coast of northeastern Spain. It is the capital and largest city of the autonomous community of Catalonia, as well as the second most populous municipality of Spain. With a population of 1.6 million within ci ...

Barcelona
, and
Girona Girona (, ; es, Gerona ) is a city in northern Catalonia Catalonia (; ca, Catalunya ; Aranese, Aranese Occitan: ''Catalonha'' ; es, Cataluña ) is an Autonomous communities of Spain, autonomous community in the northeastern corner of S ...
, whence he proceeded north to
France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several large landmasses ...
, then set sail from
Marseilles Marseille ( , , ; also spelled in English as Marseilles; oc, Marselha ) is the prefecture A prefecture (from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languag ...
. After visiting
Genoa Genoa ( ; it, Genova ; locally ; lij, Zêna ; English, historically, and la, Genua) is the capital of the Regions of Italy, Italian region of Liguria and the List of cities in Italy, sixth-largest city in Italy. In 2015, 594,733 people lived ...

Genoa
,
Lucca Lucca ( , ) is a city and ''comune The (; plural: ) is a of , roughly equivalent to a or . Importance and function The provides essential public services: of births and deaths, , and maintenance of local roads and public works. ...

Lucca
,
Pisa Pisa ( , or ) is a city and ''comune The (; plural: ) is a Administrative division, local administrative division of Italy, roughly equivalent to a township or municipality. Importance and function The provides essential public ser ...

Pisa
, and
Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of comune of Rome (metropolitan city of Capital Rome, region Lazio, Italy).svg , map_caption = The te ...

Rome
, he went to
Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, Elláda, ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeastern Europe Southeast Europe or Southeastern Europe () is a geographical subregion A subregion is a part of a larger region In geogr ...
and
Constantinople la, Constantinopolis ota, قسطنطينيه , alternate_name = Byzantion (earlier Greek name), Nova Roma ("New Rome"), Miklagard/Miklagarth (Old Norse Old Norse, Old Nordic, or Old Scandinavian is a stage of development of North Germa ...

Constantinople
, then set off across Asia. He visited
Syria Syria ( ar, سُورِيَا or ar, سُورِيَة, ''Sūriyā''), officially the Syrian Arab Republic ( ar, ٱلْجُمْهُورِيَّةُ ٱلْعَرَبِيَّةُ ٱلسُّورِيَّةُ, al-Jumhūrīyah al-ʻArabīyah as-S ...
,
Lebanon Lebanon ( , ar, لُبْنَان, translit=lubnān, ), officially the Republic of Lebanon or the Lebanese Republic, is a country in Western Asia Western Asia, West Asia, or Southwest Asia, is the westernmost subregion A subregion is a part ...
, the
Land of Israel The Land of Israel () is the traditional Jewish name for an area of indefinite geographical extension in the Southern Levant The Southern Levant is a geographical region In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical ...

Land of Israel
, and northern Mesopotamia (which he called Shinar) before reaching
Baghdad Baghdad (; ar, بَغْدَاد ) is the capital of Iraq Iraq ( ar, الْعِرَاق, translit=al-ʿIrāq; ku, عێراق, translit=Êraq), officially the Republic of Iraq ( ar, جُمْهُورِيَّة ٱلْعِرَاق '; ku, ...

Baghdad
. From there he went to
Persia Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia, and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia. It is bordered to the northwest by Armenia and Azerbaijan, to the north by the Caspian Sea, to the northeast by Tu ...

Persia
, then cut back across the
Arabian Peninsula The Arabian Peninsula (; ar, شِبْهُ الْجَزِيرَةِ الْعَرَبِيَّة, , "Arabian Peninsula" or , , "Island of the Arabs") is a peninsula of Western Asia, situated northeast of Africa on the Arabian Plate. At , the ...
to
Egypt Egypt ( ar, مِصر, Miṣr), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identi ...
and
North Africa North Africa or Northern Africa is a region encompassing the northern portion of the African continent. There is no singularly accepted scope for the region, and it is sometimes defined as stretching from the Atlantic shores of Mauritania in th ...

North Africa
, returning to the
Iberian Peninsula The Iberian Peninsula , ** * Aragonese Aragonese or Aragones may refer to: * Something related to Aragon, an autonomous community and former kingdom in Spain * the Aragonese people, those originating from or living in the historical region ...

Iberian Peninsula
in 1173. In his travels, he described a significant Jewish community somewhere around modern-day Ethiopia. While it appears clear that such a community exists, scholars still struggle to decide where in Africa he actually visited—a lack of uniform spelling makes it hard to distinguish what places Benjamin and other contemporary writer travel writers are actually referencing. His visit to the ruins outside
Mosul Mosul ( ar, الموصل, al-Mawṣil, ku, مووسڵ, translit=Mûsil, Turkish Turkish may refer to: * of or about Turkey Turkey ( tr, Türkiye ), officially the Republic of Turkey, is a country straddling Southeastern Europe a ...

Mosul
is one of the earliest accurate descriptions of the site of ancient
Nineveh Nineveh (; ar, نَيْنَوَىٰ '; syr, ܢܝܼܢܘܹܐ, Nīnwē; akk, ) was an ancient Assyria Assyria (), also called the Assyrian Empire, was a n kingdom and of the that existed as a state from perhaps as early as the 25th ...
. He visited 300 cities in all, including many of importance in Jewish history, such as
Susa Susa (; Cuneiform Cuneiform is a Logogram, logo-Syllabary, syllabic writing system, script that was used to write several languages of the Ancient Near East. The script was in active use from the early Bronze Age until the beginning of the ...

Susa
,
Sura A ''surah'' (; ar, سورة, sūrah) is the equivalent of "chapter" in the Qur'an The Quran (, ; ar, القرآن , "the recitation"), also romanized Qur'an or Koran, is the central religious text of Islam, believed by Muslims to be ...
, and
Pumbedita Pumbedita (sometimes Pumbeditha, Pumpedita, or Pumbedisa; arc, פוּמְבְּדִיתָא ''Pūmbəḏīṯāʾ'', "The Mouth of the River,") was an ancient city located near the modern-day city of Fallujah Fallujah ( ar, ٱلْفَلُّ ...
. In addition, he gathered information on many more areas that he heard about in his travels, including China and Tibet. He recorded details on cultures such as that of Al-Hashishin, the hemp smokers, introducing Western Europeans to people and places far beyond their experience. He described his years abroad in a book, ''The Travels of Benjamin'' (מסעות בנימין, ''Masa'ot Binyamin'', also known as ספר המסעות, ''Sefer ha-Masa'ot'', ''The Book of Travels''), which describes the countries he visited, with an emphasis on the Jewish communities, including their total populations and the names of notable community leaders. He also described the customs of the local population, both Jewish and non-Jewish, with an emphasis on urban life. In his accounts, Benjamin of Tudela describes Baghdad with great enthusiasm, making particular note of the virtuosity of the Caliph. He often writes of the respect and intermingle that he encounters between Judaism and Islam. He gave detailed descriptions of sites and landmarks passed along the way, as well as important buildings and marketplaces. Although Benjamin is noted for citing sources and is generally regarded by historians as trustworthy, some of his claims are faulted as relying on earlier writers. For instance, Benjamin's identification of Laish (Tel Dan) with
Baniyas Baniyas ( ar, بانياس ') is a city in Tartous Governorate, northwestern Syria, located south of Latakia (ancient Laodicea) and north of Tartous (ancient Tortosa). It is known for its citrus fruit orchards and its export of wood. North of ...
along with Philostorgius, Theodoret, and Samuel ben Samson is incorrect. Eusebius of Caesarea, conversely, locates Dan/Laish more accurately in the vicinity of Paneas at the fourth mile on the route to Tyre, Lebanon, Tyre.


Translations of his work

*Benjamin of Tudela. ''The Itinerary of Benjamin of Tudela: Travels in the Middle Ages''. Trans. Marcus Nathan Adler. Introductions by Michael A. Signer, Marcus Nathan Adler, and A. Asher. Published by Joseph Simon/Pangloss Press, 1993.
''The Itinerary of Benjamin of Tudela''.
trans. Marcus Nathan Adler. 1907: includes map of route (p. 2) and commentary. PDF format.

Nathan Marcus Adler (trans., ed., New York: Phillip Feldheim, Inc., 1907), reprint by Hebrew University – Department of History of Israel, 1960. Text document, accessed July 2020. * * Sefer Masaot Benjamin MiTudela Tri-lingual edition in Basque language, Basque, Spanish language, Spanish and
Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as one of the spoken languages of the Israelites and their longest-survivi ...
published in Pamplona, 1994 by the Government of Navarra. Xabier Kintana translated Sefer Masaot into Basque language and Jose Ramon Magdalena Nom de Deu translated into Spanish. This trilingual special edition of Benjamin MiTudela book has an Foreword, introduction by the president (government title), president of Navarra, Juan de la Cruz Alli Aranguren

* Tudelalı Benjamin ve Ratisbonlu Petachia, Ortaçağ’da İki Yahudi Seyyahın Avrupa, Asya ve Afrika Gözlemleri [trans. by Nuh Arslantas, from Marmara University, Istanbul] Kaknüs: İstanbul 2001 → (Second ed. M.Ü. İlahiyat Fakültesi Vakfı Yayınları: İstanbul 2009


Commemoration

The name Benjamin of Tudela was adopted by a mid-19th-century traveler and author, known as J. J. Benjamin, Benjamin II. One of the main works of Mendele Mocher Sforim, a major 19th-century Russian Jewish writer, is the 1878 ''Masoes Benyomen Hashlishi'' (מסעות בנימין השלישי) (''The Wanderings of Benjamin III''), which is considered something of a Jewish ''Don Quixote'' and whose title is clearly inspired by Benjamin of Tudela's book. A street in Jerusalem's Rehavia neighborhood, Rehov Binyamin Mitudela (רחוב בנימין מטודלה), is named after him—as is a street in the former Jewish Quarter of his hometown Tudela. A high-school in his hometown is named ''Benjamín de Tudela'' after him too. The well-known Israeli poet Nathan Alterman wrote a poem about Benjamin of Tudela, which was set to music by Naomi Shemer and was often heard on the Israeli radio.מכללת אורנים – המסע בעקבות בנימין מטודלה
Uri Shulevitz wrote and illustrated "The Travels of Benjamin of Tudela. Through three continents in the twelfth century" in 2005. .


See also

*Ibn Battuta *Exploration of Asia


Notes


References

* * * * * *Jacobs, Martin. ''Reorienting the East: Jewish Travelers to the Medieval Muslim World.'' Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014. *Jacobs, Martin. “‘A Day’s Journey’: Spatial Perceptions and Geographic Imagination in Benjamin of Tudela’s Book of Travels.” ''Jewish Quarterly Review'' 109, no. 2 (2019): 203-232.


Further reading

* *Jewish Virtual Library
"Benjamin of Tudela."
* Anna K. Dulska: “Abrahamic Coexistence in the Twelfth-Century Middle East? Jews among Christians and Muslims in a Travel Account by a Navarrese Jew, Benjamin of Tudela”, Journal of Beliefs & Values, DOI: 10.1080/13617672.2017.1317520, http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/zWEMrqQ8q99rwvTpsQem/full


External links

* *
Video Lecture on Benjamin of Tudela
by Henry Abramson of Touro College South {{DEFAULTSORT:Benjamin Of Tudela 12th-century writers Explorers of Asia Holy Land travellers Jewish explorers Jewish historians Explorers of Iran Historians of Iran Medieval Jewish travel writers Medieval Navarrese Jews Pilgrimage accounts Sephardi Jews Medieval Spanish Jews Spanish explorers Beta Israel 12th-century Jews 1130 births 1173 deaths People from Tudela, Navarre