« AnteriorContinuar »
PEOPLE OF PERSIA.
CONSIDERABLE information concerning Persia and its inhabitants, has been transmitted to modern times by the ancient classical historians, and by some of the sacred writers. We are thus enabled to perceive that the modern Persians retain the characteristics of their ancestors, to an extent unequalled probably by any other Asiatic nation that has remained in the same land in which their progenitors lived, and come down unbroken from so early a period. This is not the case, however, with the territorial limits of the country. These have varied with the ebbing and flowing tide of every dynasty, and almost of every reign.
"The limits of this kingdom in its most prosperous period," says sir John Malcolm, "may, however, be easily described; the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean to the south; the Indus and the Oxus to the east and north-east; the Caspian Sea and Mount Caucasus to the north; and the river Euphrates to the west. Vast territories on either side must now, however, be struck off from this large outline, in looking for the present and actual boundaries of Persia. It does, indeed, still reach to the Caspian Sea on the north, and to the Persian Gulf on the south. But the wild regions of Beloochistan shut it far off from the Indian Ocean and the lower part of the Indus; Affghanistan places it at a still further remove from the higher portions of that river; the domains of the Usbegs and Turcomans interpose a broad and formidable barrier between the Persians and the Oxus; Russia has pressed them down from the Caucasus, and from Georgia and Armenia, as far as the river Aras, and even below that river many leagues before it reaches the Caspian Sea; and, on the west, so far from compassing Mesopotamia to the river Euphrates, Persia is restricted by its Turkish neighbours to a natural mountain
boundary, far east of the Tigris and its tributaries, till we approach the Persian Gulf."
Thus circumscribed, modern Persia is still, however, a very extensive kingdom, from about eight hundred to one thousand miles squarethough its proper shape is rhomboidal rather than square, being at least a third larger from north-west to south-east than in the transverse direction. Geographically, it lies between 26° and 40° north latitude, and between 44° and 59° east longitude. The present population, although no accurate census is ever taken, may be roughly estimated at ten millions—a small number for so old and large a kingdom; but in these regions, wars, misgovernment, pestilence, polygamy, and, perhaps more than all together, the smallpox, prevent that rapid increase of population which we witness in our own and other countries.
The provinces of Persia are Fars, Irák, Laristân, Kuzistân, a portion of Kurdistân, Azerbijân, Ghilân, Mazanderân, and the western sections of Khorassân and Kermân. The present capital is Teherân, in the province of Irâk, situated towards the northern part of the kingdom, but nearly central from east to west.
Elam is the ancient Scriptural name of
Persia, from Elam the son of Shem, whose descendants are supposed to have been the first inhabitants of at least the western provinces, one of which took from them the name of Elymais. Irane is the term applied by the present inhabitants to their country; and Iranee, or Iranloo, (as the appellation takes the Persian or the Turkish form,) to its people. Fars, or Pars, in Hebrew, Pūras, from which Europeans derive the name of Persia, and apply it to the whole country, as it was also used by the Greeks and Romans, and by some of the sacred writers, is only the southern portion of the empire, as the name is now employed by the natives, and as a designation for their whole country it is utterly unknown to them.
Ajem, (which means a clown, or rude person, equivalent to the barbarian, Bápßapos, of the Greeks,) and Ajemistan, (clown-land,) are names which the self-conceited Osmanlees have given to what they regard as their less polished neighbours, and their home, back in the interior. No names were ever less justly applied, where the relative condition of those who give the name, and of those to whom it is given, are taken into account. The Persians, however, regardless of the origin of the names and of the
indignity implied in them, have also adopted them. Kuzzil-bash, red-head, is another name which they gave to the Sunnees, and which they have taken to themselves. It originated in the time of the Shah Ismail. The tribes which were attached to his family, and which became the most devoted promoters of the Sheah faith, were distinguished by their redcaps; the term Kuzzil-bash was thence attached to the Sheahs in general, and has thus extended to all the Persians-although, in its literal signification of "red-head," it is now more applicable to the Turks themselves than to the Persians.
A sketch of the physical characteristics of Persia may be given in a few words from Malcolm's history of that country. 'The most striking features of this extensive country are deserts and mountains, amid which are interspersed beautiful valleys and rich pastures. The valleys in the central provinces of Persia abound with the richest and most valuable vegetable productions, and may be cultivated to any extent. Trees are seldom found, except near the towns and villages; but the luxuriance with which they grow, wherever planted, shows that the climate is congenial to them. The