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SOME ACCOUNT OF THE CITY OF ISFAHAN
THE CITY OF ISFAHAN.
reign. Its principal mosque, the noble palace of ChehelISPAHAN, Isfahan, or Spahawn, (for, like most eastern
Sitoon, the beautiful avenues and palaces called the Chanames, it is spelt by Europeans in various ways, the chief har-Baah, or. “ Four Gardens," the principal bridge over town of the Persian province of Irak, and for ages the the river Zeinderood, and several of the finest palaces in capital of the Persian monarchy, was long distinguished the city and its suburbs, all owe their origin to this sovereign. for opulence and splendour, in a region which has always A minute account of his works is given by the French been remarkable for the wealth and magnificence of its traveller, Sir John Chardin, who visited Persia at different cities. It is now much fallen from the high condition which periods between 1664 and 1677; but the following sketch, it then enjoyed ; it has ceased to be the royal residence, from the pen of Sir Robert Ker Porter, will convey a more and its streets no longer display the same picture of pro- lively impression of the condition of the city than any sperity that characterized them in the days of its former
detailed description. grandeur. Still, however, it is the most populous place
“ During his reign, nearly a million of people animated in the kingdom of Persia ; and, even in its present desola- its busy streets, and the equally flourishing peasantry of tion, has much to excite the interest and admiration of the by their labour, the markets of this abundant population.
more than fourteen villages in its neighbourhood, supplied, traveller.
Its bazars were filled with merchandise from every quarter ITS EARLY HISTORY.
of the globe, mingled with the rich bales of its own celeThe origin of Isfahan is not to be traced with any cer- brated manufactories. Industry, diligence, activity, and tainty. By some the city is supposed to have arisen from business-like negotiations, were seen and heard' every the ruins of Hecatompylos, the metropolis of the ancient where. The caravanserais were crowded with merchants kingdom of Parthia; while, by others, it is identified with and goods of Europe and of Asia; while the court of the the Aspadana of the geographer Ptolemy. It is men- great Shah was the resort of ambassadors from the proudest tioned in history at an early period of the Christian æra: kingdoms, not only of the east but of the west. Travellers and under the rule of the Caliphs of Bagdad, who conquered thronged thither to behold its splendours, and 10 enjoy the Persia soon after the birth of Mohammedanism, and gracious reception bestowed by its monarch on the learned compelled its inhabitants to embrace that religion, it was and ingenious of all lands and religions. He endowed a place of considerable importance. When Timour, or mosques with the splendour of palaces, while his gardens Tamerlane, invaded Persia, Isfahan surrendered, the open to the people, resounded with fêtes and revelling." moment he encamped before it, and, appeased by this ready submission, the conqueror spared the town, but
ITS CAPTURE BY THE AFFGHANS imposed a heavy contribution on its inhabitants.
It was in the year 1722, during the reign of Shah Sultan accident, however, unhappily changed its destiny: The Hussein, that "Mahmood, the ruler of the tribes known by sound of a drum, which a young blacksmith was beating the name of Affghans, having defeated the Persian army for his amusement one night, was mistaken for an
in a pitched battle, advanced to attack Isfahan. The alarm; a number of the citizens assembled, and became consternation that reigned throughout the city was extreme; so irritated from a communication to each other of the the king called a council, at which it was determined that distress which their subjection occasioned them, that they he should remain in his capital, and preparations were at once commenced an attack upon their oppressors. accordingly made for its defence. New levies were raised, Before morning nearly 3000 of the Tartars, who had been the ruinous parts of the walls were repaired; intrench quartered in the city, were slain; the gates were then shut, ments were thrown up at the most exposed points, and to prevent an immediate assault, for to maintain a suc
especial care was taken to fortify the bridges, by which a cessful defence was hopeless.
communication is kept up between Isfahan on the northern, The rage of Timour, on hearing the fate of his soldiers, and its suburbs on the southern bank, of the river Zeinexceeded all bounds; he would listen to no terms of capi- derood. tulatio -, and Isfahan was doomed to be an example of the
But the weakness of the Shah, and the incapacity of fate which awaited the cities that should dare to oppose his ministers, rendered all his resources of no avail. In him in his career of conquest. The unfortunate inhabit, the suburb of Julfa, there dwelt ants knew what they had to expect, and despair increased which had grown up to a high pitch of prosperity, under
colony of Armenians, the strength of their resistance; but their struggles were
the fostering care of the great Abbas and his immediate vain—the walls were carried by storm, and the cruel con
successors; of late years, however, it had suffered much queror, not content with permitting pillage and slaughter, injury, and been treated with every kind of indignity. commanded that every one of his soldiers should bring the bravery of these Christian merchants was unquestioned, him a certain number of heads. Of these no less than and now that danger threatened their sovereign, none sur70,000 were afterwards piled in pyramids, as monuments passed them in zeal on his behalf; but the Persians were of his savage revenge: to compute the whole number of mindful of the oppression which they had practised on the slain was found impossible. This event, which occurred in 1387, is recorded by those whom they had injured, resolved to disarm them.
this unhappy people, and distrusting, naturally enough, Timour in his Institutes, or Memoirs, with characteristic The king was made to declare that he had more reliance conciseness. “I conquered," he says, “ the city of Isfahan, and I trusted in the people of Isfahan; and I deli, other of his subjects, and that to them he should intrust
on the valour and loyalty of the Armenians, than on any vered the castle into their hands, and they rebelled ; and the guard of his royal person ; but when, in obedience to the Darogah, whom I had placed over them, they slew, his command, they appeared before his palace, they were with three thousand of the soldiers; and I also com
ordered to lay down their arms and depart. manded that a general slaughter should be made of the
Julfa, thus deprived of the means of defence, could not people of Isfahan."
long resist the assault of the Affghans; and the brave ITS CONDITION UNDER SHAH* ABBAS Armenians were compelled to capitulate on very severe THE GREAT.
terms. Mahmood then commenced his operations on The most renowned monarch that ever sat upon the throne Isfahan itself; but having failed in an attack on one of of Persia is Abbas I., surnamed the Great, who reigned the principal, bridges, he fell back, and made overtures
a peace. These were rejected; and the fierce Affghan from 1585 to 1628. His name is one of the few that sur
employed himself for the next month, in ravaging the vive in the memory of his countrymen; and he occupies country round about. He then renewed the attack, and the same place in their stories that the celebrated Caliph having gained one of the bridges, spread his troops on all Haroon-al-Raschid holds in the well-known tales of the Araoians. Moreover, he is, by common consent, the builder sides of the city, resolving to trust for its reduction to the of all bridges, caravanserais, and palaces throughout his famine which had commenced soon after his first approach, dominions, and, indeed, the author of every improvement
and was increasing every day. His anticipations were in ancient times. To Isfahan in particular he was a great correct; the scarcity, within Isfahan grew gradually to benefactor; he fixed on that city as the capital of his domi- such an extent, that the populace became unmanageable; nions, and its population was more than doubled during his and the unhappy Shah sent a deputation to Mahmood,
offering to accept the terms which he had formerly rejected. • Shah is the title of the Persian monarch.
"The king of Persia," replied the proud Affghan, "offers
me nothing that is in his disposal. Himself and all his traveller from Shiraz enters it in this direction, and obtains family are within my power; and he is no longer master his first view of this great metropolis from an eminence of the three provinces which he so generously desires to about five miles distant; there it bursts at once upon his bestow upon me. It is the fate of the whole empire that sight in all the splendour of its glittering domes and lofty must be decided between us."
palaces, a picture, indeed, of gorgeous magnificence, well The condition of the inhabitants now became quite seeming to excuse the Persian's proud boast, that Isfahan hopeless; but the inhuman policy of Mahmood led him to is “half the world." Near this spot is to be seen a small procrastinate the siege. His army was not large, and its round monument covered with a cupola, and marked with safety would be endangered if he entered the city while an inscription in the Cufick character; it is called the the Persians so far exceeded it in numbers; he resolved, Tower of the Shatir, or running footman. Chardin says therefore, that many of the poor citizens should perish by that those who aspired to enter into the service of the king hunger before he signed the treaty. “What lieart can in that capacity, were obliged, as a proof of their strength reflect without horror,” exclaims the old traveller, Jonas and activity, to accomplish twelve separate journeys from Hanway, on the dreadful circumstances of the famine the gate of the royal palace to this pillar, and back, between caused by this artful conduct! In the month of August, the rising and setting of the sun, or a distance of 120 horses, mules, and other beasts of burden, were become so miles in about fourteen hours. Local tradition, however, excessively dear, that none but the king and the principal ascribes to it the following origin. lords about him, or some of the wealthiest inhabitants, In former days, a king of Persia promised to give his could afford to eat of them. Notwithstanding the aversion daughter in marriage to any one who would run on foot which the Persians have, from their religion, for dogs, and before him, while he rode on horseback, from Shiraz to some other animals, which they look upon as unclean, yet Isfahan. One of his Shatirs accepted the offer, and as many as they could find were consumed in a few days. nearly accomplished the task; but when he reached the The people afterwards fed on the bark of trees, leaves, and eminence marked by the tower, the king began to fear lest leather, which they softened with boiling water; but when he should be called upon to redeem his pledge, and had this sad resource was also exhausted, they had no other recourse to the expedient of dropping his whip. The support than human flesh. What pencil can describe their man's body was so encompassed with ligatures, and in a hollow eyes, their trembling knees, their emaciated bodies ! state of such excitement, that if he had stooped, his death The streets, the public squares, and the very gardens of must immediately have followed: he knew this, and contriv the palace, were strewed with dead bodies, which none had ing therefore to take up the whip with his foot, he carried it the heart or strength to bury. The water of the Zein- to his hand, and presented it to his master. The monarch derood was so corrupted by the number of carcasses thrown more alarmed than before, now dropped his ring. The into it, that it was not potable; and, in a less wholesome poor Shatir saw that his doom was sealed, and he met it climate, the air must have been infected to that degree, as bravely; for exclaiming, “ O king! you have broken your to destroy what few inhabitants were left alive."
word, but I will show you my submission to the last;" he For two months did this misery continue. At length, on stooped, picked up the ring, and died. the 21st of October, the king, clad in deep mourning, came A near approach destroys much of the impression that out of his palace, and walking through the principal streets is created by the first appearance of Isfahan. Its desolaof Isfahan, bewailed aloud the misfortunes of his reign. Ontion is not observable at a distance, for the groves and the morrow, he abdicated his throne, and quitted the city for avenues, and spreading orchards with which this capital the Affghan camp, attended by some of his nobles, and abounds, screen its many ruins, and allow only its palaces, about three hundred troops. They moved on slowly," and mosques, and loftier buildings, to be seen. But it is a says Hanway, “with their eyes fixed on the ground; the melancholy sight that meets the eye of the traveller as he few inhabitants who had strength to see this mournful draws near to what is now the city, and passes through cavalcade, expressed their grief by a gloomy silence, large deserted tracts, covered with houses in different which presaged the sad effects of this melancholy event." stages of decay,--among which, at wide intervals, may be
The following year was marked by a dreadful massacre discovered a few inhabited dwellings. “ One might of the Persians in Isfahan, arising from Mahmood's alarm suppose," says Mr. Morier, “that God's curse had extended lest his army should be overpowered. But in 1729, the over parts of this city, as it did over Babylon. Houses, city was taken by the troops of the celebrated Nadir, who bazars, mosques, palaces, whole streets, are to be seen in expelled the Affghans from Persia, and afterwards mounted total abandonment; and I have rode for miles among its the throne of that kingdom. In the numerous convulsions ruins, without meeting with any living creature, except, which have distracted the empire since that period, it has perhaps, a jackal peeping over a wall, or a fox running to fallen into the hands of various parties ; but never has it his hole." recovered from the calamities which it suffered under the
STREETS, &c. merciless rule of the barbarian Affghans.
The streets of Isfahan differ not much, in general appear SITUATION AND EXTENT.
ance, from those of other cities in Persia, but they have Isfahan, as we have before remarked, stands on the very little resemblance to those of European capitals. They northern bank of the Zeinderood ; its suburbs, Julfa and
are, for the most part, narrow, dirty, and crooked, and Abbas-abad being on the southern. This river is not of possess an air of extreme dulness. The shops are all to any magnitude, except in the spring-season, when the
be found in the bazars, which, to a stranger, are the melting of the mountain-snows swells the volume of its
most amusing place of resort, and which are so extensive
as to enable him to walk under cover for two or three waters into a respectable size; but the large daily supply that is afterwards drawn off through the dikes cut for the
miles together. “ Many of the scenes so familiar to us in irrigation of the neighbouring country, soon reduces it to
the Arabian Nights," says Mr. Morier, are here realized. an insignificant stream, flowing through its stony bed in
-The young Christian merchant; the lady of quality, two or three narrow channels, each not exceeding thirty or
attended by her eunuch and her she-slave; the Jewish forty feet in breadth, and so shallow as to be fordable in a
physician; the dalal, or crier, showing goods about; the hundred places. It has its rise in the mountains to the barber Alnascar, sitting with his back against the wall in a
very little shop; and thus almost every character may be west, and after passing through the city, is said to be absorbed in the sand-desert to the south-east. In Chardin's
met with." The shops are merely receptacles for the time, Isfahan, together with its suburbs, was “one of the goods of the trader, who returns every night to his dwell largest cities in the world, not less than twenty-four miles ing in some other part of the city. in circumference;" the present circuit of the inhabited
The chief square of Isfahan is the Maidan Shah, which city scarcely exceeds one quarter of that extent. It was
was formerly surrounded by busy shops, and regarded as formerly surrounded by a mud wall; but that was entirely
one of the chief orraments of this great city; its length is destroyed by the Affghans.
about 2,600 feet, and its breadth 700. Each side of it The approach to the city from the south, is through a
presents a double range of arches, and has its centre desolate tract called the Hezzar Derreh, or Thousand character; two of these fronts may be seen in the en
adorned with some edifice remarkable for grandeur or for Valleys, which, according to Persian tradition, is the scene of the battles between Roostem* and the dragon,' to whose
graving contained in page 161. The domed building to poisonous exhalations its barrenness is attributed. The
the left is the mosque of Looft Allah, on the north-eastern
side of the quadrangle; that to the right, or on the south, * A celebrated hero,-a sort of Persian Hercules, the boast and
east, is the Mesjed Shah, a superb edifice, built by Shah glory of his countrymen.
Abbas the Great, On the north-west stands the great
gate, or rather tower of entrance to the royal bazar; and built by Shah Abbas the Great. It stands in the middle on the south-west is the Ali Capi, or gate of Ali, from of an immense square, which is intersected by various which our view is taken. Immediately over this gate canals, and planted in different directions with the beautiful 18 a large chamber, which is open on all sides butchenar tree. Before it, is spread a large sheet of water, one, and thus looks out in almost every direction. On the from the furthest extremity of which, the palace is, we are side nearest to the balustrade that faces the square, a raised lold,“ beautiful beyond either the power of language or platform marks the spot where, in former days, the Great the correctness of pencil to delineate.” The entire front Shah Abbas was wont to place his royal seat, and thence of the building is open to the garden, the roof being susreview his troops galloping and skirmishing beneath, or tained by a double range of columns, exceeding forty feet witness the combats of wild animals, or behold his people in height, and each shooting up from the united backs gaily enjoying their favourite sports, anxious to exhibit of four lions of white marble. The shafts of the columns their strength and agility under the royal eye. From the rising from these extraordinary bases are covered with roof of this building an extensive view of the city is Arabesque patterns and foliages in looking-glass, gilding, obtained, but the spectator is somewhat too near. In the and painting; some twisting spirally, others winding in days of its ancient prosperity, the picture must have been golden wreaths, or running into lozenges, stars, and various splendid; it is now a saddening sight, for one of its promi-fanciful devices of ingenious workmanship. The ceiling nent features is a vast great heap of mouldering ruins, is decorated in a similar style, its ornaments being still which tell melancholy tale of former grandeur and pre beautifully fresh and brilliant, and the floor is covered with sent desolation.
a carpet of the richest material, which is of the same date
as the building, and far superior in texture to those of the HOUSES.
present day. From this saloon an arched recess leads into The houses of Isfahan consist of only one story, and have an extensive hall, “in whicho we are told, “ all the caprices, seldom any windows looking into the street; a circumstance and labours, and cost of Eastern magnificence, have been to which much of the dull monotonous appearance of the lavished, to an incredible prodigality." This banquetingpublic thoroughfares must be ascribed. They are flat- chamber, (for that such it was, is indicated by the character roofed, and built of brick, and have each a small court, of its decorations,) has its walls embellished by six large which is shut in by a high wall, and to which a part of the paintings, which, though designed without the smallest sitting-rooms are entirely open, though furnished with a knowledge of perspective, and in many respects ridiculous, large curtain, to be let down when they are not in use. are yet invaluable as registers of the manners of the age But if the dwellings have little height, they are com in which they were executed, of the general aspect of the posed of so many compartments, that even the meanest persons they are designed to commemorate, and of the of them cover a considerable extent of ground. The only costumes of the several nations asembled at the feasts, or entrance is usually by one gate, which takes its character engaged in the battles which they represent. pretty much from the rank and station of its owner. A Many of the palaces which existed in Chardin's time, poor man's door is scarcely three feet in height; and this, are still perfect; and some new ones have been crected we are told, is a measure of precaution, adopted to hinder within the present century, by one of the governors of the servants of the great from entering it on horseback, / Isfahan, who having risen from the humble station of a which they would make no scruple to do when perpetrating small shopkeeper, to the high rank of one of the king's any act of oppression.
ministers, was indefatigable in his efforts to improve the The houses of the nobility and public officers are generally condition of his native city. No buildings can be more splendid, and may vie with some of the palaces of the striking than some of these palaces. The front room or monarch. The court, into which the outer gate opens, is hall is in general very open, supported by pillars that generally large, and laid out in walks, having their sides are carved and gilded in the most exquisite manner; while planted with flowers, and refreshed by fountains. To this the large glass windows, through which it receives a mellow court all the principal apartments of the mansion, which are light, are curiously stained with a variety of colours. inhabited by men, open; and adjoining to it, but completely Before each of these palaces is an open space with a foun distinct, is a smaller court, around which are the inner tain, near which the domestics stand to watch the looks apartments belonging to the females of the family. Almost and words of the lord of the dwelling, who is generally every dwelling of any consequence in Isfahan has a garden seated at one of the windows. We have given a repreattached to it; and this, while it adds to the beauty and sentation of one of them in page 168. salubrity of the city, must greatly increase its extent, and enable us the more readily to credit the statement of
MOSQUES AND COLLEGES. Chardin, that, in its more prosperous days, its walls were
In the time of Chardin, the walls of Isfahan contained no twenty-four miles in circumference.
less than 162 mosques and 48 colleges; most of these are GARDENS AND PALACES.
still standing, in various stages of repair. Of the former,
the principal is the Mesjed Shah, or Royal Mosque, which One of the most noble ornaments of Isfahan is the was built by Shah Abbas the Great, and dedicated to Chahar Bagh, or “ Four Gardens," a superb avenue 3000 Mehedi, one of the twelve Imaums, or descendants of Mopaces in length, and seventy in breadth, which extending hammed. It is related that the king was unable to com on either side of the Zeinderood, approaches, with a gentle plete the structure for want of materials, and that he pro · declivity, both ends of the principal bridge across that posed to despoil one of the existing mosques, which then river. It is planted with double rows of the lofty chenar,- | held the principal rank among the sacred edifices of the a species of sycamore, with a verdure like that of the city; he was, however, diverted from this purpose by the plane, -of which the Persians are extremely fond, and which arguments of the priests, who represented to him, that if grows here in great perfection. On the borders are built he wished to ensure durability for his new temple, it a number of private palaces, which, though uninhabited behoved him not to demolish the works of his predecessors, for more than a century, are still in good repair, and con- in order to obtain its completion, inasmuch as his successors tribute much to the beauty of the city. The style of their would think themselves justified, if, for a like object, they architecture is light and pleasing, as may be seen from our
treated his works in a like manner. engraving in page 165, though it is neither regular nor The outer entrance to this mosque is a lofty portico, magnificent; and their situation gives them at a distance which will be seen by a reference to the engraving in page a very picturesque effect. The gardens, which are situated 161, occupies the centre of the south-eastern side of the on either side of this avenue, are very beautiful, and are Royal Square. On each side is a lofty minaret, having an called by the Persians the Hesht Beheste, or eight paradises. open gallery at its top; and in the centre is the doorway, They are laid out in regular walks, shaded by even rows of closed by a pair of folding gates, about 12 feet in breadth, tall umbrageous chenars, interspersed with a variety of and of a height in proportion, and cased with plates of pure fruit-trees, and every kind of Howering-shrub. Canals silver, which are marked with inscriptions from the Korán, flow down the avenues in the same undeviating lines, and and decorated with characteristic ornaments in relief. generally terminate in some large marble basin ornamented This noble entrance, across which an iron chain is thrown, with sparkling fountains. The effect is described as grand; to prevent the near approach of horses and cattle, leads to and it is much increased by the occasional glimpses which the great court of the mosque, at the end of which stands various openings permit, of the glittering palaces which the body of the edifice, surmounted by a vast dome, which ornament this charming spot.
is accounted one of the most beautiful specimens of Persian The finest palace in Isfahan is the Chehel Sitoon, or architecture. This, and the whole of the numerous ranges Palace of Forty Pillars, which, as we before observed, was of building which surround it, are constructed of massive
PRIVATE PALACE IN THE CHAHAR BAGH, AT ISFAHAN. blocks of stone, covered with tiles, richly lacquered, and
INHABITANTS. bearing the usual inscriptions of sentences from the Koran: The population of Isfahan was once very large. In the The interior of this mosque is richly decorated, and is said time of Chardin, the highest estimate was 1,100,000; but this, to possess much grandeur and solemnity.
by a more moderate calculation, was reduced to 600,000. The mosque of Looft Allah, which occupies the north- In the statements of modern writers there is considerable eastern side of the square, and is also represented in our discrepancy. According to Olivier, the number of inhaengraving, is a more simple building than the Mesjed bitants had fallen, in 1796, to 50,000; but the restoration Shah; but the workmanship is, throughout, of the best of tranquillity and public security, raised it, in 1800, to kind, both in the solid masonry and in the light elegant 100,000. Mr. Morier, in his first journey, computes it to be decorations. The beautiful marble of Tabreez, which is 400,000, because the second minister of the king, a native celebrated for its yellow hue, and its transparency, is em:
of the city, and long its governor, informed him that there ployed in different parts of the structure in large blocks, were 80,000 families; he adds, however, that much must highly polished ; and the walls of the interior, together be allowed for the exaggeration of a Persian. The same with the ceiling of the dome, are embellished in the usual gentleman, on his second journey, rated the population at style. The exterior fronts, the portals, and the arch of the only 60,000, his calculation being founded on the number door, are all covered with lacquered tiles, marked, according of sheep killed for the consumption of the city. Mr. to the ordinary practice, with various inscriptions.
Kinneir, in his Geographical Memoir, states it at 200,000, Of the colleges, the most remarkable is that known by and this is generally received as the most probable account. the name of the Medresse Jeddah. Its entrance is very
The inhabitants are quick and intelligent, and differ handsome; a lofty portico, enriched with pillars fantas-, much, both in appearance and character, from the peasantry tically twisted, leads through a pair of immense folding who dwell in the villages around. Almost every man above gates, made of solid brass, richly ornamented with pure the very lowest order can read and write, and artizans and silver, like the gates of the royal mosque, and having their shopkeepers are often as familiar as those of the higher surface highly carved and embossed with flowers, and ranks with the works of their favourite poets. The people verses from the Korán; these open into a vestibule with a
are, in general, active and industrious; but they are domed roof, which at once conducts into the spacious court usually classed with the inhabitants of Cashan, and some of the college, planted thickly with flowers, and over other cities, as remarkable for their cowardice. They have, shadowed by lines of lofty trees. The right side of this indeed, at all times been more celebrated as silk-weavers, square is occupied by the mosque, which is still a beautiful than as warriors, and are now considered as the best manubuilding, faced by two minarets and surmounted by a
facturers and the worst soldiers in Persia. dome, the interior of which is richly spread with variegated
When Nadir Shah returned to Persia from his invasion tiles, bearing on them invocations to Mohammed, and of India, he published a proclamation, permitting the verses of the Korán in the fullest profusion. The other followers of his army to return to their homes. It is sides of the square are occupied, one by a lofty and beau- related, that 30,000 of them who belonged to Cashan and tiful portico, and the remaining two by rooms for the Isfahan, applied to the monarch for a guard of a hundred students, twelve in each front, arranged in two stories. musketeers, to escort them safe to their wives and children. These apartments are little square cells, spread with
“ Cowards," exclaimed Nadir, in a fury, “would I were a carpets, * and appeared to me," says Mr. Morier," admi- robber again, for the sake of waylaying and plundering ment of this college, the beauty and serenity of the cli- you all. Is not my success a miracle," continued he to
those around him, with such a set of dastards in my mate, and the shrubbery and water in the courts, would have combined to constitute it in my eyes a sanctuary for
RELIGION. learning, and a nursery for the learned, if it had been in any other country."
The inhabitants of Isfahan, and the Persians generally, When Sir R. K. Porter visited Isfahan, there were are Mohammedans, of the sect called Shiahs, or followers about a hundred students inhabiting this college; they of Ali, who are considered as heretics by the Turks and receive their education free of expense to themselves, the Arabs, and others holding the Soonee doctrine. The difmoollah, or “ learned man," who instructs them, being paid ference between these two rival sects arises thus. When by the government.
Mohammed died, the succession to his power was disputed
between Ali, bis son-in-law and cousin, and Aboubeker, | intercourse with Persia, declared by a paper, given under his his father-in-law; but the fortunes of the latter prevailed, hand, for which he had no doubt received a handsome fee, and he reigned for two years and a half. Omar succeeded That provided the Elchee entered the gate of Teheran, at him, and was followed by Osman, and, on the death of the forty-five minutes past two o'clock, P.M., on the 13th of latter, Ali was restored to what he deemed his long-lost November, 1800, success would attend his negotiation, rights. The Shiahs maintain that he ought to have suc- and he would accomplish all his wishes.'” ceeded to the caliphate at the death of Mohammed ; and, The best chronometer in the party, was placed in the consequently, they consider Aboubeker, Omar, and Osman hands of Meerza Aga Meer, one of the Persians attached as usurpers, and deny all the traditions which rest upon to the mission, whose situation enabled him to ride in the their authority. These, on the other hand, are upheld by procession, sufficiently near the Elchee, to prompt him to the Soonees, who hold those rulers to be beyond all others go a little faster or slower, in order that the gate of the the most entitled to the regard and veneration of posterity. capital, might be entered at the exact moment. “The This, and other minor points of difference, cause a ran- crowds of people we now saw," continues the writer, corous and irreconcileable hostility between the two sects; announced that we were in the suburbs of Teheran. I and names which are never mentioned but with blessings heard Aga Meer whisper the Elchee, ‘You have yet ten by the one, are hourly cursed by the other.
minutes-a little slower. Quicker!' was afterwards proThe Christian religion has at no time made any progress nounced in an under-tone. Again I heard Slower! in Persia, though the kingdom has been visited by many then Now !' and the charger of the Elchee put his foot missionaries. There is, amid the mountains of Koor- over the threshold of the gate of Teheran. “Al hamd-ooldistan", a small colony of Nestorians; and a Romanillâh! Thanks be to God!' said the Meer, with a Catholic mission has long been established at Isfahan. delighted countenance; "it was the very moment,-how We have already mentioned the colony of Armenians, fortunate !' This sentiment was general among the who dwell in the suburb of Julfa; they enjoy the free | Persians, in our suite. Some of them might have doubted exercise of their religion, and divine service is performed the sincerity of the Elchee's belief in the occult sciences, in several of their churches weekly. The Jews in Persia but even these were pleased at the consideration given to are not numerous, and are scorned and contemned by what he deemed their prejudices." the inhabitants. The Guebres, or “worshippers of fire,”
COSTUME. are scarcely treated with less rigour; they have, consequently, been compelled either to emigrate to India, or to It is remarked as extraordinary that an Asiatic nation so abjure the religion of their ancestors, and a few families much charmed hy show and brilliancy, and possessed of so in the towns of Kerman and Yezd are all that now remain lively an imagination as the Persians are, should have of the disciples of Zoroaster.
adopted for their apparel the dark and sombre hues which Like other followers of the Mohammedan faith, the Per
are now universal among all ranks, and give them an sians are extremely superstitious; and all of them, from appearance of melancholy, so much at variance with the the peasant to the prince, place unbounded faith in astro- character of their real temperament. Under the rule of the logical predictions. Amulets and talismans are at all race of kings who preceded the present dynasty, their dress times worn about their persons, and nothing is done by a displayed an air of gaiety; but at present, brown, olive, man of any consequence or property without reference to green, and blue, of dark tints, are the prevailing colours. the stars. If any measure is to be adopted, if a voyage or Their chief garments arema pair of very wide trousers, journey is to be commenced, if a new dress is to be put on, reaching below the ancle—a shirt extending a few inches -the almanack and astrologer must be consulted, and the below the hips, over the trowsers—a tight vest, descending lucky moment discovered.
to the middle of the leg, and furnished with sleeves, exA curious instance of this, is mentioned by Sir John tending to the wrist, but open at the elbows—and a long Malcolm, who gives it on the authority of the late Dr. vest reaching to the ancle, but fitting tight to the body only Jukes, long a resident in Persia, and an eye-witness as far as the hips, and then buttoning at the side. Around of the whole transaction. In the year 1806, when a Persian the waist is bound a sash, of Cashmerian shawl, or of the ambassador was about to proceed to India, he was informed common shawl of the country, or of English chintz, or of by his astrologer, of a most fortunate conjunction of the flowered muslin; its size, when unrolled, being about eight stars, which if missed, was not likely to occur again for yards long and one broad In this is stuck a small dagger, some months. He instantly determined, that though he ornamented according to the wealth of the possessor, and could not embark, as the ship was not ready that was to exhibiting all gradations between an enamelled pummel carry him, to move from his house in the town of Bushire, set in precious stones, and a common handle of bone or to his tents, which were pitched at a village, five miles off
, wood. The head-dress is a black sheep-skin cap, about to receive him. It was, however, discovered by the one foot and a half high, which used formerly to be enastronomer, that he could neither be allowed to go out of circled with a shawl; but, at present, this is a distinction the door of his own dwelling, nor at the gate of the fort, confined to a privileged few. The coverings for the feet are
an invisible but banetul constellation was exactly very carefully attended to. In winter, a thick woollen sock opposite, and shed dangerous influence in that direction. is worn; and in the air, or during a journey, the legs and To remedy this, a large aperture was made in the wall of feet are bound round with a long bandage of cloth, which his house; but that only opened into his neighbour's; and is increased with the advance of the cold. The slipper is four or five more walls were to be cut through, before the remarkable for turning up at the toe, and for its formidable ambassador and his friends could reach the street. They | iron heels, which are an inch and a half in height, and are then went to the beach, intending to take a boat, and often used as an instrument of punishment, by beating with proceed two miles by sea, in order that their backs might them on the offender's mouth. be turned on the dreaded constellation ; but the sea was Jewels are not generally worn, except by the king, who rough, and the party hesitated encountering a real danger, displays them with an excessive profusion. His subjects to avoid an imaginary one. In this dilemma, the governor assert that when the monarch is dressed in his most splenwas solicited to allow a part of the wall of the town to be did robes, and is seated in the sun, the eye cannot gaze on thrown down, that a mission, on which so much depended, the dazzling brilliancy of his attire; and the truth of this might not be exposed to misfortune. The request, extra- boast is well confirmed in the following extract from the ordinary as it may appear, was complied with, and the Sketches of Persia, referring to the occasion of the audience cavalcade marched over the breach to their tents.
given to the envoy of the Governor-general of India. “His The following extract, from the Sketches of Persia, dress baffled all description. The ground of his robes was contains a lively description of the attention paid to white; but he was so covered with jewels of an extraordiastrological predictions, on the occasion of the entry of the nary size, and their splendour, from his being seated where British mission into Teheran.
the rays of the sun played upon them, was so dazzling, that “The period of entering Teheran, had been long fixed it was impossible to distinguish the minute parts which by the Elcheet, who had consulted an eminent astrologer, combined to give such amazing brilliancy to his whole at Isfahan, upon this subject. The wise man, after casting figure." Perhaps no monarch in the universe possesses his nativity, and comparing what he found written in jewels of equal value with those of the king of Persia ; the the book of his destiny, with the object of his mission, finest of them were plundered by Nadir Shah from the imwhich he had been told was the establishment of friendly perial treasury of Delhi. Among them is the “sea of light,"
which weighs one hundred and eighty-six carats, and is See the Saturday Magazine, Vol. IV., p. 69.
considered to be the diamond of the finest lustre in + The Persians call an ambassador, Elchee,
the world; the “crown of the moon," weighing one hundrell