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Benjamin of Tudela
Benjamin of Tudela
(Hebrew: בִּנְיָמִין מִטּוּדֶלָה‬, pronounced [binjaˈmin mituˈdela]; Arabic: بنيامين التطيلي‎;‎ Tudela, Kingdom of Navarre, 1130 – Castile, 1173) was a medieval Jewish
Jewish
traveler who visited Europe, Asia, and Africa
Africa
in the 12th century. His vivid descriptions of western Asia
Asia
preceded those of Marco Polo
Marco Polo
by a hundred years. With his broad education and vast knowledge of languages, Benjamin of Tudela
Benjamin of Tudela
is a major figure in medieval geography and Jewish history. The Travels of Benjamin is an important work not only as a description of the Jewish
Jewish
communities, but also as a reliable source about the geography and 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, his itinerary was translated into Latin
Latin
and later translated into most major European languages. It received much attention from Renaissance
Renaissance
scholars in the 16th century. While the aim of his journey cannot be known, one could postulate that the “tacit agenda” of his account was to showcase the various Jewish
Jewish
communities around the world. Thus portraying a potentially fictitious narrative of a connected Jewish
Jewish
community, similar to Ibn Battuta’s account of dar al-Islam.[1]

Contents

1 Early life 2 Journey 3 Translations of his work 4 Commemoration 5 See also 6 Notes 7 References 8 Further reading 9 External links

Early life[edit] Little is known of his early life, apart from the fact that he was from the Navarrese town of Tudela in what is now Spain.[2] Today, a street in the aljama (former Jewish
Jewish
quarter) is named after him. Journey[edit]

Benjamin of Tudela
Benjamin of Tudela
in the Sahara
Sahara
(Author : Dumouza, 19th-century engraving)

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.[1] 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.[3] 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.[4] On the other hand, he may have intended to catalog the Jewish
Jewish
communities en route to the Land of Israel
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.[5] He stopped frequently, meeting people, visiting places, describing occupations, and giving a demographic count of Jews in each town and country that he visited.[6] Benjamin provided his own evaluations of various cultures he encountered and, sometimes, drew parallels between customs he encountered.[7] His journey began in Zaragoza, further down the valley of the Ebro
Ebro
to Tarragona, Barcelona, and Girona, whence he proceeded north to France, then set sail from Marseilles. After visiting Genoa, Lucca, Pisa, and Rome, he went to Greece and Constantinople, then set off across Asia. He visited Syria, Lebanon, the Land of Israel, and northern Mesopotamia (which he called Shinar) before reaching Baghdad.[8] From there he went to Persia, then cut back across the Arabian Peninsula
Arabian Peninsula
to Egypt and North Africa, returning to the Iberian Peninsula
Iberian Peninsula
in 1173.[3] In his travels, he described a significant Jewish
Jewish
community somewhere around modern-day Ethiopia. While it appears clear that such a community exists, scholars still struggle to decide where in Africa
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.[1] His visit to the ruins outside Mosul
Mosul
is one of the earliest accurate descriptions of the site of ancient Nineveh.[9] He visited 300 cities in all, including many of importance in Jewish
Jewish
history, such as Susa, Sura, and Pumbedita. 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
Jewish
communities, including their total populations and the names of notable community leaders. He also described the customs of the local population, both Jewish
Jewish
and non-Jewish, with an emphasis on urban life. In his accounts, Benjamin of Tudela
Benjamin of Tudela
describes Baghdad
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.[10] 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 along with Philostorgius, Theodoret, and Samuel ben Samson is incorrect.[11] Eusebius of Caesarea, conversely, locates Dan/Laish more accurately in the vicinity of Paneas at the fourth mile on the route to Tyre.[12] Translations of his work[edit]

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. ISBN 0-934710-07-4 The Itinerary of Benjamin of Tudela. trans. Marcus Nathan Adler. 1907: includes map of route (p. 2) and commentary. Works by Benjamin of Tudela
Benjamin of Tudela
at Project Gutenberg Sefer Masaot Benjamin MiTudela Tri-lingual edition in Basque, Spanish and Hebrew
Hebrew
published in Pamplona, 1994 by the Government
Government
of Navarra. Xabier Kintana translated Sefer Masaot into Basque language
Basque language
and Jose Ramon Magdalena Nom de Deu translated into Spanish. This trilingual special edition of Benjamin MiTudela book has an introduction by the president of Navarra, Juan de la Cruz Alli Aranguren ISBN 9788423512867 [1] 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 ISBN 975-6698-21-7 → (Second ed. M.Ü. İlahiyat Fakültesi Vakfı Yayınları: İstanbul 2009 ISBN 978-975-548-227-9

Commemoration[edit] The name Benjamin of Tudela
Benjamin of Tudela
was adopted by a mid-19th-century traveler and author, known as Benjamin II. One of the main works of Mendele Mocher Sforim, a major 19th-century Russian Jewish
Jewish
writer, is the 1878 Masoes Benyomen Hashlishi (מסעות בנימין השלישי) (The Wanderings of Benjamin III), which is considered something of a Jewish
Jewish
Don Quixote
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
Jewish
Quarter of his hometown Tudela. The well-known Israeli poet Nathan Alterman wrote a poem about Benjamin of Tudela, which was set to music by Naomi Shemer
Naomi Shemer
and was often heard on the Israeli radio.[13] Uri Shulevitz wrote and illustrated "The Travels of Benjamin of Tudela. Through three continents in the twelfth century" in 2005. ISBN 978-0-374-37754-0. [2] See also[edit]

Ibn Battuta Exploration of Asia

Notes[edit]

^ a b c Fauvelle-Aymar, François-Xavier (2013). "Desperately Seeking the Jewish
Jewish
Kingdom of Ethiopia: Benjamin of Tudela
Benjamin of Tudela
and the Horn of Africa
Africa
(Twelfth Century)". Speculum. 88 (2): 383–404. doi:10.2307/23488846.  ^ "Benjamin of Tudela". www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org. Retrieved 2017-11-05.  ^ a b Shatzmiller 1998, p. 338. ^ Roth, Cecil. (1972) "Benjamin (Ben Jonah) of Tudela" in Encyclopedia Judaica. 4. New York: Macmillan, pp. 535-538. ^ Shatzmiller 1998, p. 347. ^ Hess, Robert L. (1965). "The Itinerary of Benjamin of Tudela: A Twelfth-Century Jewish
Jewish
Description of North-East Africa". The Journal of African History. 6 (1): 15–24. doi:10.2307/179644.  ^ copied Fauvelle-Aymar, François-Xavier. "Desperately Seeking the Jewish
Jewish
Kingdom of Ethiopia: Benjamin of Tudela
Benjamin of Tudela
and the Horn of Africa (Twelfth Century)." Speculum 88, no. 2 (2013): 383-404. https://www.jstor.org/stable/23488846. ^ Hess, Robert L. "The Itinerary of Benjamin of Tudela: A Twelfth-Century Jewish
Jewish
Description of North-East Africa." The Journal of African History 6, no. 1 (1965): 15-24. https://www.jstor.org/stable/179644.. ^ Kramer 1963, p. 8. ^ Tudela, Benjamin (1987). Adler, Elkan, ed. Jewish
Jewish
Travellers in the Middle Ages. Dover Publications, Inc.  ^ Provan, Long & Longman 2003, pp. 181–183; Wilson 2004, p. 150; Saulcy & Warren 1854, pp. 417–418 ^ Saulcy & Warren 1854, p. 418. ^ מכללת אורנים - המסע בעקבות בנימין מטודלה Archived February 14, 2008, at the Wayback Machine. (in Hebrew)

References[edit]

Kramer, Samuel Noah (1963). The Sumerians: Their History, Culture and Character. University of Chicago Press. p. 8. OCLC 399046.  Provan, Iain William; Long, V. Philips; Longman, Tremper (2003). A Biblical History of Israel. London: Westminster John Knox Press. pp. 181–183. ISBN 0-664-22090-8.  Shatzmiller, Joseph (1998). "Jews, Pilgrimage, and the Christian Cult of Saints: Benjamin of Tudela
Benjamin of Tudela
and His Contemporaries". In Goffart, Walter A.; Murray, Alexander C. After Rome's Fall: Narrators and Sources of Early Medieval History. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. pp. 337–347. ISBN 0-8020-0779-1.  Saulcy, Louis Félicien Joseph Caignart de; Warren, Edouard de (1854). Narrative of a Journey Round the Dead Sea, and in the Bible Lands; in 1850 and 1851. Including an Account of the Discovery of the Sites of Sodom and Gomorrah (second ed.). London: Parry and M'Millan. pp. 417–418. OCLC 797925862.  Wilson, John Francis (2004). Caesarea Philippi: Banias, the Lost City of Pan. I. B. Tauris. ISBN 1-85043-440-9. 

Further reading[edit]

Wikisource
Wikisource
has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Benjamin of Tudela.

Komroff, Manuel; Carpini, Giovanni di Plano, abp. of Antivari; Ruysbroeck, Willem van; Odorico, da Pordenone; Benjamin, of Tudela (1928). Contemporaries of Marco Polo, consisting of the travel records to the eastern parts of the world of William of Rubruck (1253-1255); the journey of John of Pian de Carpini (1245-1247); the journal of Friar Odoric (1318-1330) & the oriental travels of Rabbi Benjamin of Tudela (1160-1173). New York: Boni & Liveright. OCLC 3974287.  Jewish
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[edit]

Wikisource
Wikisource
has original text related to this article: Jewish
Jewish
Pilgrims to Palestine

Works by Benjamin of Tudela
Benjamin of Tudela
at Project Gutenberg Works by or about Benjamin of Tudela
Benjamin of Tudela
at Internet Archive Video Lecture on Benjamin of Tudela
Benjamin of Tudela
by Henry Abramson
Henry Abramson
of Touro College South

Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 32154389 LCCN: n80065940 ISNI: 0000 0001 1874 6300 GND: 118838059 SUDOC: 050431420 BNF: cb135132289 (data) B

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