The works of Ricoldus de Monte Crucis, a Dominican friar who travelled the Middle East in the aftermath of the fall of the Crusader States, are notable for their differentiated and multi-faceted approach to Muslims and to heterodox Christian communities he encountered on his journey. However, it can be shown that Ricoldus shapes his ethnographic narrative according to the communicative goals of each text. This paper explores the different constructions of otherness in Ricoldus – ranging from early examples of the ‘Noble Savage myth’ to commonplace portrayals of heresy – and aims at determining their functions for the line of argument in each work.
Italian adventurer and raconteur Ludovico di Varthema (d. 1517) is best known for visiting Mecca and traveling throughout South Asia – and for his fluid identity, which included posing as a Muslim, that facilitated his journeys. But his Itinerario also holds a fascinating account of late Mamluk Damascus, where he stayed to learn Arabic. Varthema commented at length on the medieval city’s oppressive military government and soldiers’ abuse of local women. He also detailed Damascus’s economy, natural environment, and Christian identity. This paper will analyse the account against Varthema’s wider bid for authority with his home audience, using Arabic primary sources and scholarship on pilgrimage, Orientalism, Mediterranean hybridity, and a putative shift from late medieval to early modern world travel.