27.5.09

Einhörner in der Moschee von Mekka

Almost all the visitors to Mecca take note of the pigeons in the Hand recount one or other of the legends current about them. But Varthema [Ludovico di Varthema, c. 1470-1517] saw there what no other visitor recorded, either before or since.

In another part of the said temple is an enclosed place in which there are two live unicorns, and these are shown as very remarkable objects which they certainly are. I will tell you how they are made. The elder is formed like a colt of thirty months old, and he has a horn in his forehead, which horn is about three braccia [nearly six feet] in length. The other unicorn is like a colt of one year old, and he has a horn of about four palmi long [about sixteen inches]. The color of the said animal resembles that of a dark bay horse, and his head resembles that of a stag; his neck is not very long, and he has some thin and short hair which hangs on one side; his legs are slender and lean like those of a goat; the foot is a little cloven in the fore part, and long and goat-like, and there are some hairs on the hind part of the said leg. Truly this monster must be a very fierce and solitary animal. These two animals were presented to the Sultan of Mecca as the finest things that could be found in the world at the present day, and as the richest treasure ever sent by a king of Ethiopia, that is, by a Moorish king. He made this present in order to secure an alliance with the said Sultan of Mecca. (Varthema 1863: 49)

Whatever said animal was, Varthema certainly knew what he saw. Possibly a unicorn.

F.E. Peters: Mecca. A Literary History of the Muslim Holy Land. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1994. S. 172f.
 

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