The Book of Ser Marco Polo

Date: 1903

Show Summary

Chapter XLIV the Travels of Marco Polo



The Three Magi


In Persia is the city of Saba, from which the Three Magi set out when they went to worship Jesus Christ;2 and in this city they are buried, in three very large and beautiful monuments, side by side. . . . The bodies are still entire, with the hair and beard remaining. One of these was called Jaspar, the second Melchior, and the third Balthasar. Marco Polo asked a great many questions of the people of that city as to those three Magi, but never one could he find who knew aught of the matter, except that these were three kings who were buried there in days of old. However, at a place three days’ journey distant he heard of what I am going to tell you. He found a village there which goes by the name of Cala Ataperistan, which is as much as to say, "The Castle of Fire-worshipers." And the name is rightly applied, for the people there do worship fire, and I will tell you why.

They relate that in old times three kings of that country went away to worship a Prophet that was born, and they carried with them three kinds of offerings, gold, frankincense, and myrrh, in order to ascertain whether that prophet was God, or an earthly king, or a physician. For, said they, if he takes the gold, then he is an earthly king; if he takes the incense, he is God; if he takes the myrrh, he is a physician.

So it came to pass when they had come to the place where the Child was born, the youngest of the three kings went in first, and found the Child apparently just of his own age; so he went forth again, marveling greatly. The middle one entered next, and like the first he found the Child seemingly of his own age; so he also went forth again and marveled greatly. Lastly, the eldest went in and, as it had befallen the other two, so it befell him. And he went forth very pensive. And when the three had rejoined one another, each told what he had seen; and then they all marveled the more. So they agreed to go in all three together, and on doing so they beheld the Child with the appearance of its actual age, to wit, some thirteen days. Then they adored, and presented their gold and incense and myrrh. And the Child took all the three offerings and then gave them a small closed box; whereupon the kings departed to return into their own land.

And when they had ridden many days, they said they would see what the Child had given them. So they opened the little box and inside it they found a stone. . . . The gift of the stone implied that their faith in the Child as the True God, and the True King, and the True Physician should abide firm as a rock. But not understanding this meaning of the stone, they cast it into a well. Then straightway a fire from Heaven descended into that well wherein the stone had fallen.

When the three kings beheld this marvel, they were sore amazed and were greatly troubled that they should have cast away the stone. So they took the fire and carried it away into their own country, and placed it in a rich and beautiful church, where the people keep it continually burning and worship it as a god, and all the sacrifices they offer are kindled with that fire.

1 , the translation by Sir Henry Yule, revised by Henri Cordier. 2 vols. 3d edition. London, 1903. John Murray.

1Book of Ser Marco Polo, bk. 1, chs. 13–14.

2 The story of the visit of the three wise men from the East to Jerusalem, at the time of the birth of Jesus, is found only in St. Matthew’s Gospel (ii, 1–3).

Related Resources

None available for this document.

Download Options

Title: The Book of Ser Marco Polo

Select an option:

*Note: A download may not start for up to 60 seconds.

Email Options

Title: The Book of Ser Marco Polo

Select an option:

Email addres:

*Note: It may take up to 60 seconds for for the email to be generated.

Chicago: Sir Henry Yule, trans., The Book of Ser Marco Polo in Readings in Early European History, ed. Webster, Hutton (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1926), 465–467. Original Sources, accessed September 29, 2023,

MLA: . The Book of Ser Marco Polo, translted by Sir Henry Yule, in Readings in Early European History, edited by Webster, Hutton, Boston, Ginn and Company, 1926, pp. 465–467. Original Sources. 29 Sep. 2023.

Harvard: (trans.), The Book of Ser Marco Polo. cited in 1926, Readings in Early European History, ed. , Ginn and Company, Boston, pp.465–467. Original Sources, retrieved 29 September 2023, from