Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

a chain of fortresses, fromthe Ural along the Tobol and the lesim as far as the Irtish. TheKirghises of the Great Horde have few connections with the Russians.

The Usbecks are the ruling people in Great Bukharia and all the southern part of Tartary. They are reputed the most civilized of the Mahometan Tartars. Still, however, they are devoted to a pastoral life, and are generally more addicted to warfare and predatory habits than to agriculture and the arts.

PERSIA.

Situation and Extent.] The name of Persia has been commonly applied to the whole country included between the Tigris on the west and the Indus on the east, and extending from the Persian gulf to the Caspian sea and the Caucasian mountains; but the eastern part of this territory has for some time been included in the new kingdom of Cabul and the independent state of Beloochisi tan, while Rossia has conquered several of the Persian provinces lying at the foot of the Caucasian mountains, and the Turks and Curds

occupy a narrow tract on the east of the Tigris. Persia, therefore, is now bounded N. by the Russian provinces in the Caucasus, the Caspian sea and Independent Tartary; E. by Cabul and Beloochistan ; S. by the Persian gulf and W. by Turkey in Asia. It extends from 26° to 41° N. lat. and from 44° to 610 40 E. Ion. The area is estimated by Hassel at about 480,000 square miles.

Divisions.] Persia is divided into the following provinces ; 1. Azerbijan. 2. Erivan or Persian Armenia. 3. Gbilan. 4. Mazanderan. 5. Irak. 6. Khuzistan. 7. Fars. 8. Laristan. 9. Kerman, 10. Khorasan.

Mountains.] A range of mountains, called by the ancients Zagros and by the Turks Tag Aiagha, leaves the Mount Taurus chain a little west of lake Van, and ruoning in a S. E. direction through the western provinces of Persia, terminates on the Persian gulf near the straits of Ormus. Another range connected with the Caucasian and Mount Taurus chains, proceeds under the name of Elwind or Elbruz along the western and southern shores of the Caspian sea, and then taking an easterly direction connects itself, it is supposed, with the Parapomisan mountains, and through them with the Hindoo Coosh and Himmaleh. Both these ranges are very lofty ; Mount Demavend, the loftiest peak in the El-. bruz chain, rises to the height of more than 10,000 feet above the level of the sea.

Face of the Country.) The northern and western frontiers are skirted by lofty chains of mountains, as already mentioned, but the interior consists of an immense, dry, salt plain. Persia suffers for want of water. There is no considerable river in the whole country; the streams which rise in the mountains, after a short course,

either falling directly into the sea or losing themselves in the desert.

Soil and Productions. The mountain streams produce all the fertility of which the empire can boast, and render the plains and vallies through wbich they flow beautiful and luxuriant in an extraordinary degree. The plain of Shiraz is the pride of Persia and almost of the east; that of Ispaban is also celebrated. The provinces on the Caspian, watered from the great chains of Caucasus and Elbruz, are of very remarkable fertility. The principal productions are the vine, the mulberry, the sugar cane and fruits and grains of various kinds. The wine of Shiraz is considered superior to any other in Asia, and that produced on the declivities of the Caucasian mountains is also highly esteemed. A large portion of the empire, however, is abandoned to pasture, and tenanted by wandering shepherds, like those of Tartary and Arabia. Territories which were formerly distinguished for fertility, are now rendered wholly unfit for culture, in consequence of those artificial canals which supplied them with the necessary moisture having been suffered to dry up. The salt with which the soil and waters are everywhere impregnated, has often accumulated and formed a species of crust on the surface of the ground, so as to render it capable of producing only soda and other saline plants. The province of Khuzistan, in the S.W. which was formerly the seat of powerful dynasties, is now scarcely distinguishable from the desert tracts by which it is surrounded. The centre and south of Persia are entirely destitute of trees, a defect arising from its aridity, and having a constant tendency to increase it.

Climate) The climate is very various. In the mountainous districts the winters are very severe, while the inhabitants of the southern plains suffer in summer from excessive heat. The mildest districts are the provinces on the Caspian where the southern fruits grow in perfection, which are rare in other parts of Persia. The most unhealthy districts are along the shore of the Persian gull, where the simoom blows over the parched fields.

Chief Towns.] Ispahan, the largest city and long celebrated as one of the most splendid in the east, is situated on the river Zenderoud in lat. 32° 25' N. lon. 52° 50' E. When visited by Chardin at the beginning of the last century it was estimated to contain 600,000 inhabitants, and there were numerous superb edisces, particularly the royal palace, which was five miles in circuit including the gardens, and is said to have surpassed every thing of the kind which is to be found in Europe ; but the city is now merely the wreck of what it formerly was, and a person may ride for miles amid its ruins. It is still, however, a great

and magnificent city. Kindeir estimates the population af 200,000, and it is the greatest emporium of inland commerce in the Persian empire, being the chief medium of communication with India and Cabul on one side and Turkey on the other.

Teheran, the present capital of Persia and residence of the king, is situated 300 miles N. of Ispahan and 65 S. of the Caspian sea. It was selected for the capital from political considerafions, the situation being convenient in carrying on war with the Russians, now the most formidable fues of Persia. It still wears the aspect of a new city, and does not contain a permanent population of more than 10,000 or 15,000, though the troops, when present, raise it to 60,000.

Tauris, 400 miles N. N. W. of Ispahan, in lon. 46° 31' E. lata 38° 20' N. is a large city, which contained according to Chardin, more than a century ago, 550,000 inhabitants, but it is now greatly reduced from its former grandeur, and Mr. Morier estimated the population in 1808 at 250,000.

Shiras, the capital of the province of Fars, and at seve ralperiods of the whole empire, is 160 miles S. of Ispahan, in a plain tween the mountains. The environs of Shiras are almost unrivalled in point of beauty and fertility. They are laid out to a great extent in magnificent gardens, the flowers and fruits of which form a favorite theme of eastern poetry. The city contains 40,000 inhabitants, and carries on an extensive commerce.

Bushire, the principal sea-port of the kingdom, is on a peninsula which projects into the Persian gulf, 100 miles W. S. W. of Shiras. Considerable trade is carried on here in the export of Persian commodities and the import of India and English goods. The population is about 5,000. Gombroon, on the gulf of Ormus, in lon. 56° E. was famous during the last century as the port of Shiras and of all the south of Persia, but its trade and population have now very much declined. Ormus, situated on a small barren island in the straits of the same name, a little to the east of Gombroon, was formerly one of the main seats of Portuguese power, and the most splendid and celebrated city in Asia, being the emporium of the trade of India with Persia, and even with Europe, its commodities being carried up the Euphrates and across the Syrian desert; but it is now in ruins and contains only 500 inhabitants.

Kerman, 150 miles E. of Shiras, was formerly one of the proudest cities of Persia, and celebrated for trade and manufactures, but the population is now reduced to 20,000. Casbin, 240 miles N. of Ispahan, has considerable trade and manufactures and 60,000 inhabitants. Meschid, the capital of Khorassan, 1,000 miles N. E. of Ispahan, carries on considerable trade with Cabul and Independent Tartary and has 50,000 inhabitants. Reshd, the capital of Ghilan, is on the shore of the Caspian sea, and is engaged in commerce with Astrachan. Erivan, the capital of the province of Erivan or Persian Armenia, is a very strong town in lon. 44° 35' E. lat. 40° 20' N. It has been repeatedly besieged by the Russians and Turks.

Ruins.] The rains of Persepolis, the ancient capital of Persia, are situated in a fine fertile plain encircled by mountains in the form of an amphitheatre, 30 miles N. N. E. of Shiras. These majestic rujos appear to be solely those of the great palace of Darius, whicb was burnt by Alexander in an interval of frenzy. This superb edifice has the walls of three of its sides still standing. The front extends 600 paces from N. to S. while the side reaching from F. to W. extends 390 paces. The columns, staircases, images and relievos are exceedingly magnificent.

There is a large mass of ruins, supposed to be those of the an, eient Susa, 170 miles W. S. W. of Ispahan. They occupy an immense space, extending in one direction about 12 miles, and con sisting like the ruins of Babylon of hillocks of earth and rubbish, covered with broken pieces of brick and colored tile. One of these mounds is a mile in circumference, and pearly a hundred feet high; and another, though not quite so high, has double the circumference.

Population.] The population is estimated by Hassel at 18,000,000. It consists partly of Persians settled in towns and villages, and partly of Iliats, a race of war-like and wandering shepherds, whose habits resemble those of the Tartars. Many tracts bearing traces of former extensive culture, are now covered by these Nomadic hordes; the husbandman, ruined by war and oppression, having deserted his fields, while the Iliats have descended from the mountains to occupy his place.

Religion ] The Persians are Mahometans of the sect of Schiites or of the followers of Ali, and are on that account viewed by the Turks with still greater abhorrence than even Chistians. They are not intolerant, except towards the Guebres or worshippers of fire, who are probably rendered odious to the modern rulers of Persia by connecting with their faith an attachment to its ancient laws and political system. This unfortunate race is now almost entirely extirpated. The Persians have many superstitious notions, having joined those peculiar to the Mahometan faith with those of the ancient worshippers of fire. They have the utmost confidence in charms, talismans, lucky and unlucky days, and sentences of Ali written upon parchment.

Character.) The Persians are gay, polished, deceitful, profuse and skilful in the use of Aattery, fond of show and ornament, eager in acquiring property and lavish in expending it. The English call them the French of the east. Olivier, who resided long both among the Persians and Turks, remarks a striking contrast between the two nations. The former are polite, active, and industrious, while the latter are brutal and slothful. He alJows to the Turk, however, magnanimity, self-esteem, steadiness in friendship and gratitude; all which are wanting in the Persian.

Literature. The Persians are the most learned people of the east; the love of poetry and the sciences may even be considered as their ruling passion. In the former their fame is decidediy superior to that of any eastern nation, the names of Hafiz,

Ferdusi and Sadi, being classic even in Europe. The late distractions of the kingdom have diminished the number of students at the colleges, but poetry is still cultivated with the same enthusiasm as ever.

Government.) The government is an absolute despotism. The shah or kiog has always been considered the vicegerent of the prophet, and entitled to the most implicit obedience. He is absolute master of the lives and property of his subjects; and the first man in the kingdom may at his command be instantly stript of his digoities and publicly bastinadoed. The wandering tribes, however, are ruled by their own kbans, who are independent in the management of their internal concerns, and merely pay military service when required.

Army.) Persia has scarcely any thing which can be called a standing army. The most efficient force consists of the royal slaves, 3,000 in number, a considerable part of whom have recently been disciplined after the European manner. The royal guards, 10,000 in number, are merely a body of militia, who have lands assigned them around the capital, and are ready to be called out at a moments warning. The Shah's main dependence, however, is on the khans of the wandering tribes, who can furnish by a great effort an army of 150,000 or 200,000 men. It consists entirely of cavalry and receives no regular pay, but in return has ample license to plunder.

Manufactures.] The Persians excel in many manufactures, particularly in works of ornament and splendor. Those rich carpets which we call Turkey, from the channel by which we receive them, are manufactured by the Iliats or wandering tribes in the plains of Persia. The Persians excel particularly in brocade and embroidery. Porcelain, nearly equal to that of China, and shawis, similar though inferior to those of Cashmere, are also enumerated among the manufactures of Persia.'

Commerce.] Trade in this empire is at a very low ebh. It has no port on the Persiao gulf except Bushire, and the small ma. rine which it once maintained there is entirely annihilated. The Caspian never was, and never can be the seat of any extensive trade ; since, besides its difficult navigation, the only country with which it affords a communication is Russia. Even this channel is nearly closed by the altitude of habitual hostility in which the two powers are now placed towards each other. The principal commerce of Persia, therefore, is carried on by caravans with Turkey on one side, and Tartary and India on the other.

« AnteriorContinuar »