Page images

their edges covered with clay to prevent them from burning, are used in houses in lieu of candles. Three or four of them will boil a kettle of water, and thus serve to dress meat and vegetables.

795. Religion and Government. The ancient Per. sians were Sabians, or worshippers of the sun, moon, stars and fire, but inahometanism is now the religious faith of the country. The Persians, however, have rejected many of its absurdities, and adopted a milder system. They are called Chias, and are deemed heretics, while the pretended true believers are called Sunnis. Their priests are styled mullas, or akonds, that is readers, who are also employed as the instructors of children. There are also in Persia wandering monks, called fakirs and calendars, a sort of sturdy beggars, who live upon alms. The government is and always has been despotic, and the people are oppressed by the exactions of khans or beglerbegs.

796. Population and Manners. The population of Persia is computed to be ten or twelve millions. The Persians in the north are of a fair complexion, in the south of a dark brown. They possess a sanguine temperament, are corpulent, with black hair, high forehead, aquiline nose, full cheeks, and a large chin. They are gay, polite, hospitable, but passionate. They shave the head, and wear a bonnet, but the beard is sacred. They often wear three or four light, loose garments, over each other, fastened with a sash. Their outer garment is a large cloke of thick cloth. The women wrap round the head pieces of silk of different colors. They are cleanly in their persons and habitations. Marriages are managed by females, with many ceremonies. Polygamy is allowed, but the first married wife is the chief. Suicide is uncommon, and duels unknown.'

797. Language and Learning. The ancient Persian language had a common origin with the Hebrew and Arabic, the Sanscrit of Hindoostan, and the Teutonic of Europe. The affinity is still discoverable in the radical words. The present Persian is remarkable for its strength and melody. Literature was anciently cultivatod with success in Persia, but the ancient books were mostly destroyed by the Mahometan conquerors in the the 7th century. It is not, however, wholly neglected, and the learning of Persia bears some resemblance to that of Europe.

798. Chief Cities. Ispahan. The capital of Persia is Ispahan, which stands on the small river Zenderud. It is said to have been in the last century 24 miles in circumference, and to contain 600,000 inhabitants. The streets are narrow and ill paved ; the walls of earth in ill repair ; but the royal square and its market, the palaces, mosks, baths, and other public edifices, are magnificent. It is surrounded by a beautiful country, diversified by mountains. In 1722, it was taken and plundered by the Afgans, its population reduced, and its splendor impaired.

799. Shiraz. The second city is Shiraz, in the south eastern part of the kingdom, situated in a fertile valley, and surrounded by a wall 25 feet high and 10 feet thick. In the neighborhood are many summer houses and gardens, with avenues of cypress and sycamore, leading to parterrs of flowers, refreshed with fountains. The citadel is of brick, defended with artillery; and the mosk of the late prince, Kerim, is splendid. The climate is delightful, especially in spring, when the fields are covered with verdure, and the groves resound with the melody of the nightingale, the goldfinch, and the linnet.

800. Other Towns. Teffiz, the capital of Georgia, on the Kur, is a town, with 20,000 inhabitants. It is meanly built, but has springs of hot water, and a trade in furs sent to Turkey. Derbent, on the Caspian, is a place of some trade. Erivan, on the west, is a large town, but not well built. About 30 miles south is the noted mount Ararat. Tebriz, or Tauriz, is a large town, with spacious and magnificent bazars, and a square capable of containing 30,000 troops in order of battle: In the eastern provinces are Candahar and Herat, cities which carry on a communication between Persia and Hindoostan.

801. Agriculture. The soil of Persia is chiefly barren, and much labor is bestowed upon watering the lands.

The northern provinces, however, have a good soil. Wheat is the most common grain in Persia, but rice is also a principal article of food. Barley, millet, and some rye, are cultivated. The plow used in Persia is small, and drawn by lean oxen, harnessed by the breast, instead of the head, in which lies the chief strength of the anis mal. Great use is made of pigeon's dung, which lies two years to meliorate before it is used. In the north west, vines are covered with earth during winter.

802. Manufuctures and Commerce. Persia has been noted for its manufactures of cloth, silk, lether and iron.

The carpets are esteemed excellent, many of which passing to Europe through Turkey, are called Turkey carpets. The bows of the Persians were formerly in high estimation, and their sabers are damasked in a manner not to be imitated. Their manufactures of cotton and wool, and those of goat's and camel's hair, with their silks, brocades and velvets, are of superior excellence. The trade of Persia is with Hindoostan, Russia and Turkey, while some of its manufactures pass to Africa and Europe by the Persian Gulf.

ARABIA. 803. Situation and Extent. Arabia, the south western point of Asia, lies between the 12th and 30th degrees of north latitude, and between the 35th and 60th degrees of east longitude. Its length is at least 1400 miles, and its medial bredth about 800. Arabia is bounded by the Turkish dominions on the north, but on the other sides, is inclosed by the gulf of Persia and the Ocean on the east and south, and by the Red Sea, or Arabian Gulf, on the west.

804. Face of the Country. The center of Arabia presents the aspect of a vast plain of barren sand and gravel, dotted with spots of soil'which produce some grass and shrubs. The shores of the sea, however, offer some fertile land, as do some of the mountainous regions. The chief mountains which are known, run nearly parallel to the Red Sea, at the distance of 50, 100 or 150 miles. Among these are Sinai and Horeb, famous in Jewish history. Through the center of Arabia runs &

vast desert called Neged; and in all this extensive coun: try, there is no considerable river.

305. Inhabitants. The Arabians are regarded as the descendants of Ishmael, who, it was predicted, would be at enmity with all other nations. They are dispersed over a barren country, which is incapable of cultivation, and of course will not support inhabitants in large communities. Hence they must live a scattered, wandering life, destitute of the arts and civilization which spring from a settled, populous state of society, and without any well regulated government to restrain their natural propensities. They have never been subdued except partially, nor can they be, for no army of enemies can long subsist in their country. Hence the more roving tribes of Arabs are addicted to robbery and a lawless course of life ; but in the southern parts of Arabia, where the land is fertile, the Arabs are an honest, hospitable people.

806. Religion. The ancient religion of Arabia was idolatry, and human beings were sacrificed to idols. Afterwards Sabianism, consisting in the worship of the sun, moon and stars, and of fire, was introduced from Chaldea. This is the worship of the host of heaven,which is interdicted in scripture. In the 7th century, Mahomet, an impostor, proclaimed himself the prophet of God, and established a new religion, which was carried with fire and sword over Arabia, Egypt and Barbary ; over Turkey, Persia, and into Hindoostan ; and this system of faith remains in all those countries.

807. Government. Arabia is subject to numerous petty chiefs, called imams, emirs, or sheiks, who are considered as the vicars of Mahomet, and are strictly ecclesiastics. Under these chiefs are the fakis and dolas, or governors of provinces. The dola corresponds with the Turkish pashaw. The magistrate of a town is called emir, or commander; the cadi is, as in Turkey, a judge in both civil and ecclesiastical affairs. But numerous tribes of Arabs, inhabiting the deserts, and calied Bedoweens, love about for plunder, and are little subject to any established authority.

808. Manners and Customs. The Arabs, like all the inhabitants of the northern coast of Africa, are of a dark complexion, of a middle stature, with thin meager bodies, The more civilized Arabians, in Yeman, are polite and hospitable. When they salute each other, they lay the right hand upon the heart, and a superior raises his hand in token of respect. Their chief food is curra, a kind of millet, mixed with camel's milk, oil, butter or fat, and little flesh is used. Food is set on tables a foot high, on a mat, on which the people sit. The chief drink is coffee. Strong liquors, tho forbid by the koran, are not wholly neglected. Tobacco is smoked, and also a plant resenibling hemp, which produces intoxication. Polygamy is permitted, but is confined to the rich.

809. Dress and Arms. The Arabs, like other oriental nations, wear loose dresses, as well adapted to a warm climate, consisting of a shirt and large trowbers, with a girdle of lether, in which they carry a dagger and knife. Over the shoulder is worn a large piece of linen, and the head is burdened with bonnets of linen or cotton, often richly embroidered with gold, around which is a sash of muslin, with fringes of silk or gold hanging down behind. This thick covering for the head seems intended to defend the Arabians from the fatal effects of the sun's rays, in their scorching climate. Some shave the head, and the feet are generally bare. The females wear a similar loose dress, and in Yemen they wear rings, bracelets, and necklaces of false pearls. Sometimes a ring in the nose is worn, as in Hindoostan and among the natives of America. The nails are stained red, the feet and hands a yellowish brown, and the eye-lashes are darkened with antimony.

810, Language and Literature. The Arabic is derived from the same root as the Hebrew, Assyrian and Egyptian, but is now divided into a great variety of dialects. The characters or letters are different from those of any language of Europe. The Arabians were formerly distinguished for their literature and cultivation of science, and to this day the rich maintain instructors to teach their children. In the chief citics are colleges for teaching astronomy, astrology, philosophy and medicin,

« PreviousContinue »