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Title: Persia Revisited
Author: Gordon, Thomas Edward, 1832-1914
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Persia Revisited" ***

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[Illustration: H.I.M. Nasr-ed-Din, The Late Shah,
on the steps of the Peacock Throne]

       *       *       *       *       *







K.C.I.E., C.B., C.S.I.

_Formerly Military Attaché and Oriental Secretary to
Her Majesty's Legation at Tehran._

Author of 'The Roof of the World'


       *       *       *       *       *


On revisiting Tehran last autumn, I was struck with the evidence of
progress and improvement in Persia, and on returning home I formed the
idea of publishing a short account of my journey, with observations and
opinions which are based on my previous experiences, and have reference
also to what has been recorded by others. In carrying out this idea, I
have made use of information given in the well-known books on Persia by
Malcolm, Fraser, Watson and Curzon.

'Persia Revisited,' as first written, comprised up to Chapter VI. of the
book; but just as I had finished it for publication, the sad news of the
assassination of the Shah, Nasr-ed-Din, was received. I then saw that my
book, to be complete, should touch on the present situation in Persia,
and accordingly I added two chapters which deal with the new Shah and
his brothers, and the Sadr Azem and the succession.

The illustrations are from photographs by M. Sevragine of Tehran, with
the exception of the likeness of H.I.M. the Shah Mozuffer-ed-Din, and
that of H.H. Ali Asghar Khan, Sadr Azem, which latter, by Messrs. W. and
D. Downey, of Ebury Street, London, is published by their kind


_May, 1896._



--London to Baku
--Oil-wells and works
--Persians abroad
--Caspian steamers
--Caspian salmon
--Enzelli lagoon
--The Jews in Persia
--Resht trade
--'My eye'
--Russian road
--The tobacco 'strike,' 1891
--Collapse of Tobacco Régie
--Moulla opposition


--The late Shah's long reign
--His camp life
--Persian Telegraph Intelligence Department
--Farming the revenues
--Condition of the people
--The shoe question
--The Customs
--Importation of arms
--Martini-Henry rifles
--Indo-European telegraph


--Kasvin grapes
--Persian wine
--Vineyards in Persia
--Wine manufacture
--Mount Demavend
--Afshar volcanic region
--Quicksilver and gold
--Tehran water-supply
--Village quarrels
--Tehran tramways
--Bread riots
--Mint and copper coin


--Religious tolerance in Tehran
--Katie Greenfield's case
--Babi sect
--Liberal opinions
--German enterprise in Persia
--Railways in Asia Minor
--Russian road extension
--Railways to Persian frontiers
--The Karun River
--Trade development
--The Kajar dynasty
--Life titles
--Chieftainship of tribes
--The Pearl cannon


--The military tribes and the royal guard
--Men of the people as great monarchs
--Persian sense of humour
--Nightingales and poetry
--Legendary origin of the royal emblem
--Lion and Sun
--Ancient Golden Eagle emblem
--The Blacksmith's Apron the royal standard


--The Order of the Lion and the Sun
--Rex and Dido
--Endurance of Persian horses
--The Shah's stables
--The sanctuary of the stable
--Long-distance races
--A country of horses
--The _gymkhana_ in Tehran
--Olive industry near Resht
--Return journey
--Grosnoje oil field
--Russian railway travelling
--Improved communication with Tehran




--Shrine of Shah Abdul Azim
--Death of Nasr-ed-Din Shah
--Jemal-ed-Din in Tehran
--Shiahs and Sunnis
--Islam in Persia




--The Shah Mozuffer-ed-Din
--His previous position at Tabriz
--Character and disposition
--His sons
--Accession to the throne
--Previous accessions in the Kajar-dynasty
--Regalia and crown jewels
--Position of the late Shah's two sons, Zil-es-Sultan and Naib-es-Sultaneh
--The Sadr Azem (Grand Vazir)
--Prompt action on the death of the late Shah

       *       *       *       *       *












       *       *       *       *       *


'_El Sultan, Bin el Sultan, Bin el Sultan, Bin el Sultan.
El Sultan, Nasr-ed-Din Shah, Kajar_.'

'_The King, Son of the King, Son of the King, Son of the King.
The King, Nasr-ed-Din Shah, Kajar line_.'

       *       *       *       *       *



--London to Baku
--Oil-wells and works
--Persians abroad
--Caspian steamers
--Caspian salmon
--Enzelli lagoon
--The Jews in Persia
--Resht trade
--'My eye'
--Russian road
--The tobacco 'strike,' 1891
--Collapse of Tobacco Régie
--Moulla opposition.

The Persians, as a people still nomadic in their habits, and much given
to long pilgrimages, have good knowledge of the ways and means of making
a journey pleasant. Their saying, '_Avval rafîk, baad tarîk_' (First a
companion, then the road), is one which most travellers can fully
appreciate. Accordingly, when planning a trip in the autumn of 1895 to
the Land of Iran, I cast about for a companion, and was fortunate enough
to meet with two friends, both going that way, and who, moreover, like
myself, had previously journeyed in Persia.

We decided to take the Odessa route to Batoum, and we went by Berlin,
Oderberg, and Lemberg. At Odessa we found that a less expensive, and
more comfortable, though perhaps half a day longer route, lies by
Warsaw. On that line there are fewer changes, and only one Customs
examination, whereas by, Oderberg there are two examinations, Austrian
and Russian. Moreover, through tickets are issued _viâ_ Warsaw, a
convenience not provided _viâ_ Oderberg--fresh tickets and re-booking of
luggage being necessary there, and again both at Pod Voloczyska and
Voloczyska, on the Austrian and Russian frontiers. We came in for a
crowded train of first-class passengers going from the Vienna direction
to Jalta, a favourite seaside place in the Crimea, which has two
fashionable seasons--spring and autumn. These people were making for the
accelerated mail-steamer, which leaves Odessa for Batoum every Wednesday
during the summer service, touching at Sebastopol, Jalta, and
Novorossisk. We were making for the same steamer, and found crowded
cabins. The mass of luggage to be examined at Voloczyska caused much
confusion and delay, and it was only by discreetly managed appeals to
the working staff that we were able to push our way and pass on,
without anything being left behind. There appeared to be orders for very
special examination of books and papers at Voloczyska, and these were
carried out in a foolishly perfunctory manner. In my luggage, the man
who searched passed over a bulky tourist writing-case, but carried off
to a superior a Continental Bradshaw, a blank notebook, and a packet of
useful paper, notwithstanding my open show of their innocence. The man
soon returned with another official, who smiled at the mistake, and good
naturedly helped to close up my baggage.

We began our journey well by a rapid run to Odessa, arriving there on
the day of departure of the fast boat, and landing at Batoum in six and
a half days from London. The steamers on this service are about 2,500
tons, 2,400 horse-power, with large accommodation for passengers. The
cabins are comfortable, and the saloons excellent and well served, and
all are lit with the electric light. These boats are, I believe,
Tyne-built. They are broad of beam, and behave well in bad weather.
Novorossisk is a growing great port, situated in a very pretty bay. It
has lately been joined by railway to the main trunk line connecting with
Moscow, and passing through Rostov. This connection enables it to
attract considerable trade from the Don and the Volga, and also to take
much from Rostov and Taganrog, when the Azov approaches are closed with
ice. A very fine sea-wall, to give effectual protection to the railway
loading-piers, and the shipping generally, is now being completed at a
total cost of £850,000. Novorossisk is said to have the biggest
'elevator' in the world. The scenery all along the coast, from the
Crimea to Batoum, is very fine, and in autumn the voyage is most

We left Batoum on the night of the day of our arrival. The departure of
the through train to Baku had been changed from morning to night, and
this allowed of travelling by day over that part of the line which
before used to be passed at night. We had previously seen Tiflis, and
therefore did not break our journey. The weather was warm, but not such
as to cause discomfort. As we approached Tiflis the carriages and
buffets became crowded to excess, with townspeople returning from
Saturday-to-Monday holiday, the fine weather having enticed them out to
various places along the line. The railway-carriages on the Batoum-Baku
line are very comfortable, and the refreshment-rooms are frequent and
well provided, so travelling there is made easy and pleasant. The
journey occupies thirty-two hours.

We reached Baku on September 16, the ninth day from London, and arranged
to leave for Enzelli, on the Persian coast, the port for Tehran, at
midnight the next day. Through the kindness of a member of the Greek
house of Kousis, Theophylactos and Co., we were shown over the oil-wells
and refineries belonging to M. Taghioff, a millionaire of Persian origin
(the name probably was Taghi Khan). The story goes that, on becoming
wealthy through the oil industry in its early days, he presented the
young township with a church, school-house, and hospital, and, in
recognition of his generous public spirit, the Government gave him a
grant of the waste land on which his works now stand, and out of which
millions of roubles have come to him from oil-springs. Our visit had the
appearance of bringing him luck in the form of a new fountain rush. We
had seen all the works and wells; none of the latter were flowing, and
the usual steam-pumping was going on. We were about to leave, when a
commotion at the wells attracted our attention, and we saw the dark
fluid spouting up from two to three hundred feet through the open top of
the high-peaked wooden roof erected over each of the wells. On hurrying
back, we saw the great iron cap, which is swung vertically when the pump
is working, lowered and fixed at some height over the mouth of the well,
to drive the outward flow down into the hollow all round and out into
the ditch leading to the reservoirs. The force of the gush was shown by
the roar of the dash against the iron cap, and the upward rush had the
appearance of a solid quivering column. The flow was calculated at fifty
thousand gallons an hour. The business of refining is generally in the
hands of others than the producers; but some of the larger
firms--notably the Rothschilds, Nobel Brothers, and Taghioff--are both
producers and refiners. This means of course, the employment of very,
much larger capital.

There is a great dash of the gambling element in the oil-well business
at Baku. Large sums are spent in boring operations, and success so
often stands off that all available capital is sunk in the ground and
swallowed up. Even with good signs, it is impossible to foresee the
results or the extent of production, and there is also an extraordinary
irregularity in the outcome of the separate naphtha-bearing plots. An
instance was mentioned to me of a peasant proprietor who had made enough
money on which to live sumptuously, but he hungered for more, and
engaged in further boring operations. He was on the verge of losing
everything, when oil was suddenly struck, and he made a fortune. He
laboured hard himself, and literally went to sleep a poor working man,
and awoke to find his dream of riches realized.

Baku has been immensely improved in every way of late, and now has good
streets, hotels, and shops. Water, which was a great want before, is
well supplied from condensers which belong to the town. The rise in the
value of house property and building sites within the last ten years has
been enormous, and great part of the money thus made has gone to native
owners, Persians (or Tartars, as all Mohammedans are called here), and I
was told of a plot of building ground with a small house on it, which
had been originally bought for 600 roubles, being lately sold for
30,000. The town is growing in size, and new buildings are rising, which
give an appearance of prosperity and increasing trade. The harbour is
crowded with steamers and sailing vessels, and the wharfs present a busy
sight. The loading and unloading is quickly done by steam-cranes and
powerful porters, who come in numbers from the Persian districts of
Khalkhal and Ardabil. I watched with much interest a gang of these men
at work. They were wonderfully quick, quiet, and methodical in their
ways, and showed great capacity for handling and carrying heavy weights.

Baku swarms with Persians, resident and migratory. They are seen
everywhere--as shopkeepers, mechanics, masons, carpenters, coachmen,
carters, and labourers, all in a bustle of business, so different from
Persians, at home. Climate or want of confidence produces indolence
there, but here and elsewhere out of Persia they show themselves to be
active, energetic, and very intelligent. They are in great numbers at
all the censes of trade in the adjoining countries--at Constantinople,
Damascus, Aleppo, Baghdad, Tiflis, Askhabad, and other towns. Most of
the new buildings in Tiflis were built by Persians, and thousands were
engaged in the construction of the Trans-Caspian Railway. The permanent
workmen now employed on it are largely Persians, and Askhabad has a
resident population of over twelve thousand. There were said to be
twenty thousand Persians, from the provinces of Azerbaijan and Hamadan,
working last summer on the new railway from Tiflis to Alexandropol and
Kars, now being built, and doubtless many of them will permanently
settle on the line.

It is said that there are half a million thus located and working out of
Persia, but I think that this is an exaggerated estimate. Most of them
retain their nationality, for while they grumble loudly in their own
country, yet when away they swear by it, and save money steadily to
enable them to return home. Their nomadic character is the cause of this
readiness to seek employment abroad. I was told that in 1894-95 twenty
thousand Persian passports were issued from the Embassy in
Constantinople. This would include pilgrims as well as home visitors.
It is this love of country (not in the sense, however, of patriotism as
understood in the West) which makes a Persian cling to his national
representative abroad, and willingly pay for frequent registration as a
subject who is entitled to protection and permission to return home
whenever he may choose. As a rule, the Persian abroad always appears in
the distinctive national dress--the tall black lambskin cap and the coat
with ample skirt of many pleats.

I have mentioned the Persian porters who are seen at Baku; they are also
to be found at Petrovsk and Astrachan, and are generally preferred to
the local labourers, who, in common with their class in Russia, take a
long drink once a week, often unfitting them for their work the
following day. The Persians are of sober habits, and can be relied upon
for regular attendance at the wharfs and loading-stages. They have
learnt, however, to take an occasional taste of the _rakivodka_ spirit,
and when reminded that they are Mohammedans, say that the indulgence was
prohibited when no one worked hard. These porters are men of powerful
physique, and display very great strength in bearing separate burdens;
but they cannot work together and make a joint effort to raise heavy
loads, beyond the power of one man. Singly, they are able to lift and
carry eighteen poods, Russian weight, equal to six hundred and
forty-eight pounds English.

In the newspaper correspondence on the burning Armenian Question, I have
seen allusion made to the poor physique of the Armenian people; but as
far as my observation goes in Persia, Russian Armenia, and the Caucasus,
there is no marked difference between them and the local races, and on
the railway between Baku and Tiflis Armenian porters of powerful form
are common, where contract labour rates attract men stronger than their

Though much of the wealth which has come out of the Baku oil-fields has
been carried away by foreign capitalists, yet much remains with the
inhabitants, and the investment of this has promoted trade in the
Caspian provinces, and multiplied the shipping. There are now between
one hundred and eighty and two hundred steamers on the Caspian, besides
a large number of sailing craft of considerable size, in which German
and Swedish, as well as Armenian and Tartar-Persian, capital is
employed. The Volga Steam Navigation Company is divided into two
companies--one for the river, and the other for the Caspian. The latter
owns six large steamers, with cargo capacity of from sixty to eighty
thousand poods, liquid measurement, for oil-tank purposes, equalling
nine hundred to twelve hundred tons. They have German under-officers,
and Russian captains. It is likely that the German officers come from
the German colonies on the Volga, and probably some of the capital also
comes from that quarter. This Volga Steam Navigation Company was
established over fifty years ago by a Scotchman, named Anderson, and
some of the vessels first built are still used on the river as

Many of the best steamers on the Caspian are officered by Swedes and
Finns, most of whom speak English, acquired whilst serving in English
ships sailing to all parts of the globe. The Mercury Company, which runs
the superior steamers and carries the mails on the Caspian, has Swedish
and Finn officers, but it is said that they are now to be replaced by
Russian naval officers as vacancies occur. This company's vessels are
well appointed, have good cabins, and are fitted with the electric
light. But the best of Caspian mail-boats are most uncomfortable in
rough weather for all but those whom no motion whatever can affect.
Owing to the shoal water on all the coast circumference of this sea, the
big boats are necessarily keelless, and may be described as but great
barges with engines, and when at anchor in a rolling sea their movement
is terribly disturbing.

We embarked in the _Admiral Korneiloff_, one of the Mercury Company's
best boats, on the night of September 17, and arrived at Enzelli on the
morning of the 19th. I was amused on the voyage to hear the sailors'
version of the story how the Caspian became a Russian sea, on which no
armed Persian vessel can sail. The sovereignty of this Persian sea was
ceded to Russia by the Treaty of Gulistan in 1813, and the sailors say
that on the Shah being pressed over and over again to consent, and
desiring to find some good excuse to do so, a courtier, seeing the royal
inclination, remarked that Persia suffered sorely from salt soil and
water, which made land barren, and that sea-water was of no use for
irrigation, nor any other good purpose. The Shah on this asked if it
were really true that the water of the Caspian was salt, and on being
assured that it was, he said the Russians might have the whole of it.

We found an improvement at Enzelli in the form of a hotel kept by a
Greek, with accommodation good enough to be very welcome. We had
excellent fresh salmon at breakfast, which reminded me of the doubt that
has often been expressed of the true salmon being found in an inland
sea. The Caspian fish is a genuine salmon of the same habits as the
marine species known in Europe, with the one sad exception that it will
not look at nor touch fly or bait in any form or shape, and therefore
gives no sport for the rod. The trout in the upper waters of the streams
that the salmon run up, take the fly freely and give good sport, but all
attempts by keen and clever fishermen to hook a salmon have failed. The
fish are largely netted, and same are sent to Tehran packed in ice,
while a good business is done in salting what cannot be sold fresh. The
existence of salmon in this inland salt sea, which lies eighty-four feet
below the level of the ocean, is supposed to be due to its connection
with the open sea having been cut off by a great upheaval in the
prehistoric time.

After breakfast we were confronted with a functionary new to us in
Persia, one charged with the demand for passports and their examination.
He is prepared to provide passports for those arriving without them, and
to _visé_ when this has not been previously done. Considering the
practice in force with Persia's near neighbour, and the crowd of
deck-passengers always coming and going, it was not likely that this
formality as a source of income would fail to be adopted. The linguistic
educational qualification for the post is evidently confined to Russian,
for on finding that I spoke Persian, the officer asked me for the
information he pretended to seek from the English passports. He
acknowledged the farce he was called upon to play, and we proceeded
without any farther inquiry. The day was warm, but not oppressively so;
the sea-breeze helped the boat across the lagoon and up the Pir-i-Bazaar
stream, and the weather being dry, we reached Resht in carriages By the
Mobarakabad route, without the splashing plunging through a sea of mud
which is the general disagreeable experience of the main road.

The Enzelli Lagoon is a swarming haunt of numerous kinds of wild-fowl
and fishing birds. Conspicuous among the waders in the shallows and on
the shore are the pelican and the stork. The place is a paradise to
them, teeming with fish and frog food. One of my companions described
what he had witnessed in a struggle with a wounded stork in the shallow
water of this lagoon. He and a friend were out after wild-duck, and his
friend, desiring to bag a giant stork, which looked splendid in his
strongly contrasted pure white and deep black plumage, fired, and
wounded the bird. His Persian servant, with thoughts intent on cooking
it, ran, knife in hand, to cut its throat in the orthodox manner, so as
to make it lawful for a Mohammedan to eat. The bird, on being seized,
struggled hard with its captor, and, snapping its elongated bill widely
in wild terror, by accident got the man's head jammed between its
mandibles. The keen cutting edges of the long strong beak scarified the
man's cheeks, and made him scream with pain and with frantic fear that
it was _his_ throat which was being cut. His master went to his
assistance and released him by wrenching open the stork's bill, but he
was so occupied with supporting his swooning servant that time was given
for the wounded stork to hurry away in safety, flapping its long wings
and snapping its powerful beak, as is the habit of this voiceless bird,
with all the appearance of triumph.

Enzelli is becoming the port of entry, for the North of Persia, of tea
from India and China. Till within a very short time most of the tea for
Persia, Trans-Caspia, and Russian Turkistan so far as Samarkand, passed
up from Bombay by the Persian Gulf ports. The late reduction in Russian
railway charges, and the low sea-freights from the East in the
oil-steamers returning to Batoum, have brought about this change.
Arrangements have been made for transit to Baku of Russian-owned tea
consigned to Persia on special terms of Customs drawback, and it is now
sold cheaper in Resht than in Baku, where it has a heavy duty added to
the price. The thin muslin-like manufactures of India, in demand in
Central Asia for wear in the hot dry summer, and which found their way
there from the Persian Gulf, are now following the same route as the
tea. Thus, steam and waterway are competing still more with the camel,
to make the longest way round the shortest one in point of time, and the
cheapest to the customers' homes.

As with tea, so Russian beet-sugar is cheaper at Enzelli-Resht than at
Baku, owing to the State bounty on export. The consumption of tea and
sugar, already large in Persia, is certain to increase in the North
through this development of Russian trade. French beet-sugar continues
to compete by way of Trebizond to Tabriz, but if the experiment now
being tried of manufacturing sugar in the vicinity of Tehran from beet
succeeds, the Persians will benefit further by competition.

The Russian trade in Persia is mostly in the hands of Armenians, some of
whom have amassed considerable wealth. It is only in the West that the
Jew is regarded as the sample of superior sharpness in the walks of life
that call for the exercise of the qualities most necessary in the
operation of getting the better of one's neighbour. In the East both the
Greek and the Armenian are ahead of him in this respect, and the popular
saying is, 'One Greek equals two Jews, and one Armenian equals two
Greeks.' But, to the credit of the Armenian traders, it should be said
that they are bold and enterprising in a newly-opened country, as well
as clever in an old one. It may be here mentioned that there is no
opening in Persia for the native Jew; he is there refused the facilities
which lead to wealth, and is strictly confined to the poorest
occupations. It is not unlikely that the severe treatment of the Jews in
Persia has its origin in the hatred inspired by the conduct of
Saad-u-Dowleh, a Jewish physician, who rose to the position of Supreme
Vazir under the King Arghoun Khan, in 1284. This Minister owed his
advancement to his pleasing manners and agreeable conversation, and he
gained such an ascendancy over his weak royal master as to be allowed to
remove all Mohammedans from places of trust and profit, and even to
carry his persecution to the length of commanding that no one professing
that faith should appear at Court. The Eastern Christians were then much
more prominent and numerous than they afterwards became, and
Saad-u-Dowleh sank his people's dislike of the Nazarene in his greater
hate of the Mohammedan, so that he employed the former to replace the
followers of the Arabian Prophet whom he dismissed from office and
banished from Court. The penalty of death was exacted for this
persecution, for Saad-u-Dowleh was murdered almost at the same instant
that his sovereign master expired.

The silk trade of Resht, which has suffered so much for many years from
the disease that attacked the silkworms in the Caspian provinces, and
spread to all the Persian silk districts, is now recovering. The
introduction of cellular seed has been attended with much success, and
there is a rapidly-increasing export of cocoons. The fresh start in this
old industry has given an impetus to mulberry-tree cultivation, and
waste land is in considerable demand for planting purposes.

An attempt is now being made to grow tea on the low hills near Batoum.
It is not yet known what may be the ultimate chances of success, but
already what is being done there is having the effect of suggesting a
similar experiment near Resht. The conditions of the soil on many of the
wooded hill-slopes in the Persian Caspian provinces, where every
gradation of climate and atmosphere can be met with, appear to be well
adapted for the tea-plant. The cart-road to Kasvin, now being
constructed by a Russian company, will pass through some of these
well-favoured parts, and this will help to draw attention to natural
resources which have hitherto been unnoticed.

As old Persian travellers, we were at once reminded of our return to the
land of complimentary address and extravagant phrase by the frequent
reply '_Chashm_' (My eye!), the simple slang expression known in our
country, and which 'Trilby' has made better known by its introduction on
the stage. The word is an abbreviation of '_Ba sar o chashm'_ (By my
head and eyes! May my eyes be put out, and my head taken off, if I obey
not!). We also heard the similar but less formal reply _Chira_?
Why?--meaning, why not? why should I not do as you desire? i.e. you will
be obeyed.

We travelled to Kasvin, halfway to Tehran, over the execrable road which
leads from Resht. For the first forty miles the landscape was lovely
from wooded slopes, green growth and clear running water. The
post-houses are just as they were--ill-provided, and affording the very
smallest degree of comfort that it is possible for a 'rest-house' to
give. They had been in some way improved for the reception of General
Prince Karaupatkin, and his suite, who visited Tehran to announce to the
Shah the accession of H.I.M. Nicolas II.; but no effort to maintain the
improvement had been made, except in one place--Menzil. The _on dit_ in
Tehran was, that the successful launching of the Russian cart-road
enterprise, now fairly well in hand, is entirely due to Prince
Karaupatkin's strong representation on his return to St. Petersburg. He
is said to have taken the opportunity of telling the Shah, in answer as
to his journey up, that he was greatly surprised to find the road
leading to the capital such a very bad one; whereupon his Majesty
remarked that the blame lay with his own countrymen, who, after begging
for a monopoly concession to construct a good road, had held on to it
and done nothing, and they had the right, so long as the contract time
allowed, to prevent others from making the road. The Russian press,
which interested itself in the matter, pointed out that what was wanted
to give an impetus to their trade in North Persia was good roads, not
bounties, and it may be that the interest which is believed to be
guaranteed by the Government on the road capital will take the place of
trade bounties. The money subscribed is sufficient to provide a
solidly-built road, and the idea is that it will be aligned so as to be
fit for railway purposes in the future. The existing cart-road from
Kasvin to Tehran is but a track, lined out fairly straight over a level
bit of high-lying country, with a few bridges over small streams. The
distance, ninety-five miles, is comfortably covered in fourteen to
eighteen hours in carriages drawn by three horses. The nature of the
ground makes this road a good fair-weather one, and as the Russian
company has rented it from the Persian concessionnaire, we may expect to
hear of considerable improvements, so as to encourage an increase of the
Persian waggon traffic which already exists on it. The completion of a
system of quick communication between the Russian Caspian Sea base and
the capital of Persia must attract the practical attention of all who
are interested in Persian affairs.

Many of the Moullas, in their character as meddlers, are always ready to
step forward in opposition to all matters and measures in which they
have not been consulted and conciliated. So the Russian road from Resht
was pronounced to be a subject for public agitation by the Tabriz
Mujtahid, Mirza Javad Agha, who, since his successful contest over the
Tobacco Régie, has claimed to be one of the most important personages in
Persia. This priest is very rich, and is said to be personally
interested in trade and 'wheat corners' at Tabriz, and as he saw that
the new road was likely to draw away some of the Tabriz traffic, he set
himself the task of stirring up the Moullas of Resht to resent, on
religious grounds, the extended intrusion of Europeans into their town.
The pretence of zeal in the cause was poor, because the Resht Moullas
are themselves interested in local prosperity, and the agitation failed.

A change is coming over the country in regard to popular feeling towards
priestly interference in personal and secular affairs. The claim to have
control of the concerns of all men may now be said to be but the first
flush of the fiery zeal of divinity students, fresh from the red-hot
teachings of bigoted Moulla masters, who regret the loss of their old
supremacy, and view with alarm the spread of Liberalism, which seems now
to be establishing itself in Persia.

The unfortunate episode of the Tobacco Régie in 1891 gave the Moullas a
chance to assert themselves, and they promptly seized the opportunity to
champion a popular cause of discontent, and the pity of it was that the
enterprise which raised the disturbance was English. This tobacco
monopoly had been pictured as a business certain to produce great gains,
and the people were thus prepared for the reports which were spread of
high prices to be charged on what they regard as almost a necessary of
life. The conditions of the country were not fully studied before the
monopoly powers were put in force. A suggestion was made that the
company's operations should be confined at first to the foreign export,
which would have returned a good profit, and that afterwards a beginning
should be made at Tehran, to prove to the people that the monopoly would
really give them better tobacco, and not raise prices, which the company
claimed would be the result of their system. But everything was planned
on an extensive scale, and so were prospective profits. The picture of a
rapid road to fortune had been exhibited, and it was therefore decided
that the full right of monopoly should be established at once. An
imprudent beginning was made in exercising the right of search in a
manner which alarmed some people for the privacy of their homes, a
dangerous suggestion in a Mohammedan community.

The suspicions and fears of all--buyers, sellers, and smokers--were
easily worked upon by the priests, ever ready to assert the supremacy of
the Church over the State. And then the biggest 'strike' I know of took
place. Mirza Hassan, the High-Priest of Kerbela, the most sacred shrine
of the Shiah Mohammedans, declared tobacco in Persia to be 'unlawful' to
the true believer, and everyone--man, woman, and child--was forbidden to
sell or smoke it. The 'strike' took place on a gigantic scale, a million
or two certainly being engaged in it, and steps were taken to see the
order from Kerbela carried out rigorously. 'Vigilance men,' under the
Moullas' directions, made raids on suspected tea-shops, to find and
smash the 'kalian' pipes which form part of the stock-in-trade of
these places of refreshment. The Shah was faced with the sight of silent
and forsaken tea-shops as he passed through the streets of Tehran, and
he saw the signs of the censuring strike in the rows of empty benches,
on which his subjects used to sit at their simple enjoyment of pipes and
tea. The interdiction reached the inner homes of all, and even in the
_anderuns_ and boudoirs of the highest (all of which are smoking-rooms)
it was rigidly obeyed. The priestly prohibition penetrated to the
palaces, and royalty found authority set at defiance in this matter. A
princely personage, a non-smoker, is said to have long urged and
entreated a harem favourite, too deeply devoted to tobacco, to moderate
her indulgence in it, but to no effect. On the strike being ordered, she
at once joined it, and his Highness is reported to have said, 'My
entreaties were in vain, my bribes of jewels were refused, yet the
priest prevails.' And this was at a place where not long before Moullas
had been at a discount.


There are now signs of the people resenting the arrogant assumption or
power by the Moullas, and freeing themselves from their thraldom. There
has always been great liberty of opinion and speech in Persia, and six
hundred years ago the poets Khayyam and Hafiz took full advantage of
this in expressing their contempt for the 'meddling Moullas.' Not very
long ago the donkey-boys in one of the great towns would on occasion
reflect the popular feeling by the shout '_Br-r-r-o akhoond!_' (Go on,
priest!) when they saw a Moulla pattering along on his riding donkey.
_Biro_ is Persian for 'go on,' and, rolled and rattled out long and
loud, is the cry when droves of load-carrying donkeys are driven. The
donkey-boy in Persia is as quick with bold reply as he is in Egypt and
elsewhere. There is a story that a high Persian official called out to a
boy, whose gang of burden-bearing donkeys obstructed his carriage, 'Out
of the way, ass, you driver of asses!' and was promptly answered, 'You
are an ass yourself, though a driver of men!'

As a finish to this reference to the Tobacco Régie in Persia, I may
mention it is believed that, had the company started as ordinary
traders, they, having the command of ready money, would have succeeded
well. The commencement made in the centres of tobacco cultivation
impressed the peasant producers most favourably; they appreciated the
advantages of cash payments, and regretted the cessation of the system,
and the governors benefited by the readiness with which the taxes were
paid. But the explanation of monopoly, a word which was then unknown in
Persia, raised the fears of the people, and those who had the money to
spare laid in a supply of tobacco before the concession came into force.
This was regarded by the poor as proof of the coming rise in price, and
they therefore hailed the Moullas as their deliverers from the
threatened calamity of dear tobacco.

The only public debt of Persia is that of a loan contracted in order to
pay the compensation for cancelment of this concession, and the expenses
which had been incurred; but the sale by the Government of the foreign
export (part of the cancelled concession) very nearly provides for the
loan. The Société de 'Tombac' of Constantinople, which bought the
monopoly of export, has had difficulties to contend with, caused by a
Persian combination to buy from the cultivators and sell to the foreign
agents. A prominent Moulla was named as interested in this business,
which was in reality at direct variance with the principles on which the
priesthood had declared the original concession to be 'unlawful.' This
interference with the free trade conditions existing when the
Constantinople company made its contract led to a dispute, which ended
with a fresh agreement, in which there is said to be a stipulation that,
should the Persian Tobacco Régie in its original form be revived at any
time, French subjects are to have the first offer.

After disposing of the Tobacco Régie, the triumphant Moullas desired to
extend their prohibition to all foreign enterprise in Persia, and they
pronounced against the English Bank, which was doing its work quietly,
and without detriment to the business of others. But the Shah gave them
clearly to understand that their pretensions would be permitted no
further, and that they were to cease from troubling. They then made an
attempt to establish the impression of their power in a visible sign on
all men, by commanding discontinuance of the Persian fashion of shaving
the chin, so that the beard should be worn in accordance with Mohammedan
custom. Again they talked of organizing coercion gangs, to enforce the
order on the barbers, under threat of wrecking their shops. At this time
a foreign diplomat, during an audience of the Shah, on being asked by
his Majesty, according to his wont, what news there was in the European
quarter of the town, mentioned this latest phase of Moulla agitation as
tending to unsettle men's minds. The Shah passed his hand lightly over
his shaven chin, and said, with a touch of humour and royal assurance:
'See, I shave; let them talk; they can do nothing.'

It is wrong to suppose that the people of Persia are dead to all desire
for progress, and that their religion is a bar to such desire. It is not
so. Many of the Moullas, it is true, are opposed to education and
progress. One frankly said of the people in reference to education,
'They will read the Koran for themselves, and what will be left for us
to do?' The country is advancing in general improvement, slowly, but yet
moving forward; not standing still or sliding back, as some say. The
Moulla struggles in 1891-92 to gain the upper hand produced a feeling of
unquiet, and the most was made of all grievances, so as to fan the
flames of discontent. Pestilent priests paraded the country, and did
their utmost to excite religious fanaticism against the Government.
These agitators spoke so loudly and rashly that the ire of the old
religious leaders, the higher Moullas, men of learning and tranquil
temper, who had not joined the party of retrogression, was roused. The
knowledge of this emboldened the sober-minded to speak out against the
arrogance and conceit of the new self-elected leaders. Open expression
of opinion led to the criticism, 'These priests will next desire to rule
over us.' The Nomads, who have always declined to be priest-ridden, also
showed that they were ready to resist any attempts to establish a
religious supremacy in temporal affairs; and then, by judicious
management of rival jealousies and conflicting interests, the Shah
succeeded in his policy of complete assertion of the royal power. It may
be that the Moullas were made to understand that, just as the Chief
Priest had risen at a great assembly before Nadir Shah, and advised him
to confine himself to temporal affairs, and not to interfere in matters
of religion, so similar sound advice in the reverse order was given for
their guidance.


--The late Shah's long reign
--His camp life
--Persian Telegraph Intelligence Department
--Farming the revenues
--Condition of the people
--The shoe question
--The customs
--Importation of arms
--Martini-Henry rifles
--Indo-European telegraph

Nasr-ed-din Shah was the two hundred and fifty-fourth Sovereign who had
successively ascended the throne of Persia. He succeeded his father,
Mahomed Shah, on September 10, 1848, and would have entered on his
jubilee, the fiftieth year of his reign, according to the Mohammedan
calendar, on May 6, 1896, had not his life been suddenly cut short by a
dastardly assassin on Friday, May 1. This was, I think, the longest
reign of any Persian monarch that can be ascertained with historical
accuracy, except that of Shah Tamasp, who died A.D. 1576, after
occupying the throne for fifty-three years; but this credits him with
having begun his reign at the age of ten years. Nasr-ed-Din Shah
ascended the throne at the age of seventeen. Up to the last his Majesty
was remarkable as retaining all his physical and mental energies; his
health was excellent, due no doubt to his love of nomadic life and its
simple habits. He was passionately fond of the chase, and passed much of
his time in the saddle. It might well be said of him, as of the ancient
Persian monarchs, that the royal edicts were written 'at the stirrup of
the King,' for his Ministers had to follow him into the camp and the
hunting-field, and this prevented his Court becoming lapped in luxury.
Large tracts were preserved for him for ibex and moufflon on the
mountains, and antelope on the plains, and the hawking of duck or
partridge on by-days. This nomadic life, with its hunting habits,
encouraged the pleasant, easy manner which attracted his subjects and
commanded their confidence. He was an energetic worker, and had full
knowledge of all home and foreign affairs. He was superior to all palace
intrigues, if any existed, and his Ministers were rarely changed. The
long continuance in office of his councillors added to the feeling of
public security which his own strong personality had given to the

In appearance Nasr-ed-Din Shah was little changed since 1889, when his
figure was a well-known one in Europe. He showed the same alertness of
step, brightness of look and manner, and smartness of dress, which
distinguished him then. In his Court he was a striking figure, in marked
contrast to those about him, for it must be confessed that all in
attendance showed some neglect of appearance which compared unfavourably
with the _tout ensemble_ of their Sovereign. This may possibly have been
a subtle form of flattery, so that the Shah alone might catch the eye
and be the 'observed of all observers'--'le Roi-Soleil'--of the land of
the Lion and the Sun.

No one probably saw more clearly than the Shah that the system of
farming out the administration of the provinces from year to year is
bad, both for the Treasury and the people; but he knew well that reform,
to be sure and certain, must be slow and gradual, for change in Persia,
with its ancient traditions and old memories, cannot be effected at one
stroke. He had done much to mitigate the evil of the present system by
establishing telegraphic communication with all the centres of
provincial government, thus placing himself in close touch with his
subjects, even in the most remote parts. Gradually the confidence which
began in his near neighbourhood had extended throughout the country, and
there was a firm belief in the minds of the people that the Shah could
be approached by all. But it can well be imagined that it takes a
desperate case to induce those who are oppressed in distant places to
have recourse to such a public mode of communicating grievances as the
telegraph. Yet the telegraph is so employed at times, the senders of the
telegrams giving their names openly, and confidently awaiting the

The Persian Telegraph Department has a peculiar importance in being the
secret agency by which the Shah is served with an independent and
reliable daily report of all that goes on throughout the country. The
system of direct reports of the conduct of governors, by special
resident officials, which was established in the days of Darius the
King, has developed into the present secret service daily telegrams.
Nominations to all the telegraph appointments are made by the Minister
in charge of the department, who bears the appropriate title of
Mukbir-i-Dowleh (Intelligencer of the State).

An instance of the power exercised through this system occurred within
my personal knowledge a few years ago. A local dignitary in a distant
province fell under the frown of the Prince Governor, who, actuated by
greed, imposed on him a heavy fine for an imaginary offence. The fine
was not paid, on which a charge of contumacy was made, and this was
punished by the cruel bastinado and imprisonment. The Telegraph-master,
notwithstanding the fact of the Governor being a near relative of the
late Shah, reported the circumstance in all its details. The telegraph
enabled the Shah to make his presence felt in distant places, as well as
his power, for he was in the habit of occasionally summoning a Governor
to the office at the other end of the wire, to hear his commands spoken
on the spot. In this instance the Shah, after personal inquiry, ordered
the release of the prisoner, and on being informed some days later that
this had not been done, the Telegraph-master was directed to take the
telegraphic royal command to the prison, and see it instantly obeyed.
The official carried out his instructions, and the guards at once set
the prisoner free.

The system of farming out the provinces gives rise to much grumbling,
which perhaps, on close examination, may be found to be without full
reason. The real cause of complaint is the absence of fair fixed
taxation demands. Every village has to pay a tithe of its annual value
to the State, and previous to collection the place is visited by one of
the provincial officials, and the fullest details of the circumstances
of each family are ascertained. The limit of the official robbery which
follows is the ability to pay, as measured by the patience of the
sufferers. The peasantry are peaceful, frugal, and easily governed, but
there is a point beyond which they cannot be pressed without risk of
making them turn on the oppressor. They have now learnt the strength of
the defence they possess in the power of making their grievances known.
No doubt the provincial levy of taxation charges doubles the State
tithe, one-half of the whole amount being taken by the Governor and the
officials; but all this does not mean more than one-fifth of the village
income, for the general assessment was made before the existing
improvement in the circumstances of the cultivators had taken place more
or less all over the country. There was then little demand for products
which are now exported and paid for in gold, thus giving a high price in
the silver currency of the country. After the provincial taxation, there
are local charges, which may possibly add a further 2 or 3 per cent, to
the total amount. Formerly insecurity and want of confidence confined
cultivation and stock-breeding to the barest limits, but it is evident
now that the inhabitants can look to enjoy the fruits of their labour,
and they are extending their fields of exertion. On the whole, it may be
said that the peasantry and labouring classes in Persia are fairly well
off, and I think their condition can bear a favourable comparison with
that of the same classes in other countries.

In the course of my journeying in Persia, I generally found excellent
quarters in the village houses. The rather mean outer appearance of the
dwellings conveys the idea of poor accommodation within, but the reality
is a pleasing disclosure of plain but well-carpeted rooms, with dados of
matting or felt for the backs of the sitters by the wall. I always
looked out for village lodgings when travelling off the main roads, and
in wintry weather they were very comfortable from their open well-built
clay fireplaces giving out heat without the nuisance of smoke. On these
occasions I had ample opportunity to observe the every-day life of the
people, and I was struck with much which showed that their manners and
ways had been favourably touched and turned by a softening civilization
of old date. I also there saw clear evidence of the origin of the
Eastern shoe question, a matter which has often given rise to warm
discussion in Persia and India; I allude to the removal of shoes on
entering the inner rooms of a house. In India it is taken to imply
inferiority, and since the establishment of British supremacy the custom
has never been complied with by a European except in cases of personal
employment in a native State. I remember an instance in point when a
sergeant piper of a Highland regiment took service with one of the
Punjab Sikh chiefs, to instruct a bagpipe band which the Rajah had
formed in admiration of Scottish Highland music. In the contract paper
which set forth in detail the duties, pay, and allowances of the
instructor, the sergeant expressly stipulated that he should not be
required to remove his shoes on entering the Rajah's room when a
European was present. The origin of the custom of removing the shoes was
clearly to avoid soiling the carpets in the house or tent, on which the
inmates sat, ate, and slept.

Felts and rush-mats, no doubt, formed the first floor-coverings for
tents and houses; but as arts and manufactures grew in Central Asia, the
pastoral tribes, with whom, there being little or no agricultural work
for the women and children, the woollen industries began, introduced
carpets with coloured designs, many of the patterns of which are known
to be of very old date, and still remain in the hands of certain
families as their own carefully-guarded secrets and property. These
carpets then became their pictures, framed in felt side-strips, on which
people sat, slept, and transacted business. At meals the centre is
covered with a cloth, on which the dishes are placed; and I think the
carpet is regarded similarly as a well-polished dining-table was in the
West in olden days, when the cloth was removed at the end of the
courses. At other times it may be supposed that the pretty carpets are
their pictures on the floor, just as ours are on the wall; in fact, many
carpets of old design are so lovely and delicate that they are hung on
the walls of European residents' houses in Persia as being too good to
be trodden on. In the village houses the peasants always leave their
shoes at the inner doors, and when a man arrives in riding-boots, with
no intention of staying long, he complies with the object of the custom
by sitting on the edge of the carpet, or felt, and tucking his legs
underneath him, so that the feet may not touch or soil it. In this there
is no question of inferior and superior, for all are socially equal; it
is merely a matter of good manners and friendly feeling, just as
signified in the West by removal of the hat or cap. It would appear that
in the reception of Western Envoys at the Court of Persia it was
customary to change the boots or shoes for slippers, or to cover them
with these; but the practice was generally regarded as derogatory to
the dignity of the national representative, and sometimes became the
subject of strong protest and resentment. There is reason to believe
that the custom always cropped up with every Envoy as an annoying cause
of heated discussion and disagreeable feeling. On the occasion of the
reception of Mr. Anthony Jenkinson, Queen Elizabeth's Envoy at the Court
of Persia in 1561, this shoe question assumed an acute form; and when a
pair of the Shah's slippers was sent to him to be worn at the interview
with his Majesty, it is said that what was meant as attention was taken
for insult. The interview took place without the slippers being used,
and the meeting was not of a cordial character.

But besides this shoe difficulty at the Court of Persia, there was also
a divergence of opinion regarding the lower garments, as the tight
knee-breeches and hose of the West were considered improper in the East,
and it is believed that the roomy Turkish _shâlwâr_ trousers were
required to be worn as 'overalls' to hide the legs on occasions of royal
audience. In connection with this phase of Eastern idea, an incident
happened with Sir Douglas Forsyth's diplomatic mission to the Amir of
Kashgar in 1873-74, which is worth mentioning here. The camp-sergeant
with the mission was Sergeant Rhind, of the 92nd Highlanders, and on the
Envoy and staff being received at Yarkand by the Governor of that
province, the second highest dignitary in the kingdom, it was understood
that, as he was most exacting in the full observance of all formalities,
much would depend upon his report of our demeanour, appearance, and
general conduct. This Governor kept quite a little Court, and we
accordingly paid our visit in all the show of a dress parade. Sergeant
Rhind attended in kilted uniform, and his appearance attracted
considerable shy and sly notice. Mahomed Yunis, the Governor, was a man
of severe ideas, and while pretending not to see the Highlander, who
stood behind us during the interview, he was reported to say after our
departure that his costume appeared to be incomplete. Some weeks
afterwards, on our reaching Kashgar, the capital in the North, and
preparing for the formal audience of the Sovereign, the famous Ataligh
Ghazi, the Court master of the ceremonies, appeared suddenly before the
appointed time, and announced most peremptorily that the sergeant was to
accompany us fully dressed. He explained that the kilt with bare knees
was objectionable, and could not be tolerated at the Ataligh's Court; so
the trews had to be substituted for the showy garb of old Gaul. The
indoor dress worn by Persian ladies is not unlike our Highland kilt.

The shoe question was finally settled in a clause of the Turkmanchai
treaty of 1828, which is accepted by all the foreign legations. It
provides that goloshes or shoe-coverings shall be worn, to be removed
before entering the audience-room or going into the Shah's presence, and
this practice continues at the present time. The 'dragoman'
establishments are much more attached to old ideas than Turks and
Persians, and they cling to their presumed monopoly of knowledge of all
Court and social customs in order to enhance their importance. The
Persians move with the times, and understand Western modes of showing
respect; yet I heard it said by a local light that it was a breach of
good taste to salute the Shah by lifting the hat, and that it offended
Mohammedan notions of propriety to remove the head-covering in society.
Accordingly, I once saw some European gentlemen wearing their hats in
the reception-room of one of the Shah's Ministers; but on observing
others who were known to be well acquainted with Persian feeling
entering with hat in hand, they, who were under the guidance of a
'dragoman', adopted the European custom. In Fraser's 'Persia', we are
told that when Shah Abbas the Great received Sir Dodmore Cotton,
Ambassador from James I., his Majesty, 'being desirous of pleasing his
guests, drank to the health of the King of England. At the name of his
Sovereign the Ambassador stood up and took off his hat. Abbas smiled,
and likewise raised his turban in token of respect.'

[Illustration: PERSIAN LADY AT HOME.]

The farming system which is applied to the Customs in Persia continues
to cause considerable loss to the State. An extension of the same direct
control as is exercised in the Telegraph Department would show most
favourable results. Under the present short-sighted system the interests
of all the contractors lie in suppressing correct information and giving
misleading statistics, so that the annual bidding may be kept low. But
notwithstanding this, the truth leaks out to indicate that trade in
Persia is increasing. There are now signs of practical advice at
Tehran, to consider the establishment of a properly constituted Persian
control Board of Customs, by which a well-organized service, under the
central authority, may be maintained, and a considerable increase of
revenue secured. It may be said that all merchants in Persia benefit by
the farming system, for under it they can arrange to have their goods
passed on payment of a lump sum, and with but the merest show of
examination of invoices. In this manner they manage to get consignments
through the Customs at less than the fixed tariff. On a late rumour of a
foreign control of the Customs being likely, the Russian Armenian
merchants engaged in trade in the North frankly represented the fact of
arrangements being made with the authorities at the ports, to take less
than the treaty 5 per cent. on exports and imports, and they urged that
the custom was of such old date and long continuance as to make it a
fully recognised right. They stated that their trade was established on
this basis, and they protested against any change. There can be no doubt
that the same custom prevails in the South, and all along the frontier.
As the farming contracts are much subdivided, competition operates to
reduce rates, so as to induce change of trade routes. Thus, I heard of a
merchant in Central Persia, whose communications are with the South,
asking a contractor in the North for a quotation of his terms, so as to
make it advantageous for him to send his goods that way. In the matter
of contraband articles, the farming system lends itself to encourage the
passing of what the State forbids, as the middlemen and their servants
are tempted to make as much money as possible during the short time of
their annual contract engagements. In a country like Persia, where pride
of arms prevails to keep up the habit of carrying them, there is a
steady demand for modern breech-loading rifles. The Government is alive
to the necessity of preventing the importation of firearms, and from
time to time seizures are made of consignments smuggled under the guise
of merchandise. With a large nomad and semi-nomad population of warlike
and predatory instincts, almost every man of whom lays by money most
diligently, bit by bit, for the purchase of a breechloader and
cartridges, it is obvious that the interests of Government call for the
strongest check to the foreign trade in arms; but it may be taken for
granted that so long as the Customs are farmed out on the present system
the supply will be passed in to meet the demand. The favourite weapon is
the Martini-Henry, and there are many thousands in the possession of the
nomads and villagers. This rifle, as the Peabody-Martini, was first
introduced into the country during the late Turko-Russian War, when,
being the Turkish army weapon, it fell by thousands into the hands of
Russian soldiers, who sold them to the Persian sutlers and pedlars
allowed to accompany the troops. The Persians had shown their usual
energy and enterprise abroad by becoming camp-traders with the Russian
forces engaged on active service in Asia Minor, and they sent the
captured arms, which they purchased in large numbers, over the border
into Persia, where they fetched good prices. A profitable trade in
cartridges followed the introduction of the new rifle, and judging by
the well-filled belts and bandoliers which I saw on the North-western
frontier (Kurdistan and Azerbaijan), the business appears to be a well
established one. In the course of time and trade this rifle found its
way South to the fighting Bakhtiaris, Lurs, and Arabs, and the general
vote in its favour brought about a supply of 'trade' Martini-Henry arms
imported by way of the Persian Gulf, so that now in Persia what is known
as the 'Marteen' has become the popular arm in private possession. The
'Remington' has its possessors and admirers among the Karun Arab tribes,
who get their arms from Baghdad and Turkish sources. There is a brisk
trade in ammunition for the breechloader, and so keen is the desire to
secure and supplement the supply that solid-drawn brass cartridge-cases,
which admit of being used over and over again, with boxes of caps and
sets of reloading apparatus, are now in brisk demand.

At Kasvin our eyes were refreshed with the sight of the
excellently-equipped Indo-European telegraph line, which comes in there
from Tabriz and the North, and passes on to Tehran and India. This line,
with its wires carried on tall iron standard posts stretching far in a
dominating manner over the country, seems to stand forth as a strong
witness to the effectual command and control exercised by the Shah's
Government at the present time. On the first establishment of this line
there was much conjecture as to the great risk of continued interruption
from the mischief of man; and failure to complete the land working at
the outset dissatisfied commercial men in England, so that to maintain
certain communication the Red Sea cable was laid. But new land lines
were erected which worked equally well as the cable, and the firm
insistence by the Persian Government on heavy damages for all malicious
injury gradually developed the perfect security which comes from local
interests demanding the fullest protection. The service by this line is
now as certain and quick as that of the ocean cable; in fact, I think
the average speed of messages between London and Calcutta is greater
_viâ_ Tehran than _viâ_ Suez. There was an interesting race last year
between the companies to communicate to India the result of the Derby,
and it was won in a way by the cable line. The messages were
simultaneously despatched from Epsom, that by Tehran reaching Bombay
five seconds before the other, but as the name of the winning horse only
was given correctly, Karachi, six hundred miles distant, had to be
asked for a repetition of the names of the second and third horses. The
cable telegram gave the three names accurately. Had Karachi been agreed
upon as the point of arrival for India, instead of Bombay, the
Indo-European would have won this telegraph race.


--Kasvin grapes
--Persian wine
--Vineyards in Persia
--Wine manufacture
--Mount Demavend
--Afshar volcanic region
--Quicksilver and gold
--Tehran water-supply
--Village quarrels
--Tehran tramways
--Bread riots
--Mint and copper coin.

The grape harvest was being gathered at Kasvin as we passed through. The
place is well known for its extensive vineyards and fine fruit-gardens.
Its golden grapes have a wide reputation, and these, with the white
species, also grown there, are in steady demand for wine manufacture,
which is carried on in the town, notwithstanding the greatly
disproportionate number of Moullas among the inhabitants. Large
quantities of the grapes are also sent to Tehran for wine purposes
there. Persia keeps up the character for strong wine which it had 600
B.C., when the Scythian invaders took to it so eagerly as to establish
the saying, 'As drunk as a Scythian.' It was said that these
hard-headed, deep-drinking, wild warriors were always thirsting for
'another skinful,' and were ever ready to declare that the last was
always the best. Eighteen hundred years later, Hafiz, the merry poet,
sang aloud the praises of Shiraz wine, which to this day bears a high
reputation in Persia, a reputation which was royally good in the
traditional bygone time long before Cyrus, when it appears to have been
highly appreciated in the festivities of Glorious Jamshed, the founder
of Persepolis. The poet Omar Khayyam, in moralizing over the ruins of
the fallen splendour of that famous place, speaks in Fitzgerald's

  'They say the lion and the lizard keep
   The Court where Jamshed gloried and drank deep.'

The Persian poet-historian Firdausi ascribes to Jamshed the discovery of
wine in his leisure from kingly duties and scientific pursuits, for to
him is attributed the invention of many useful arts, and the
introduction of the solar year for measurement of time, the first day of
which, when the sun enters Aries, he ordered to be celebrated by a
splendid festival. It is called Nauroz, or New Year's Day, and is still
the greatest festival in Persia. This single institution of former days,
under a different religion and system of measuring time, has triumphed
over the introduction of Mohammedanism, and is observed with as much joy
and festivity now as it was by the ancient inhabitants of Persia.

According to Moulla Akbar's manuscripts, quoted in Malcolm's 'History of
Persia,' Jamshed was immoderately fond of grapes, and desired to
preserve some which were placed in a large vessel and lodged in a vault
for future use. When the vessel was opened, the grapes had fermented,
and their juice in this state was so acid that the King believed it must
be poisonous. He had some other vessels filled with the juice, and
'Poison' written upon each; these were placed in his room. It happened
that one of his favourite ladies was afflicted with nervous headaches,
the pain of which distracted her so much that she desired death, and
observing a vessel with 'Poison' written on it, she took it and
swallowed its contents. The wine, for such it had become, overpowered
the lady, who fell down in a sound sleep, and awoke much refreshed.
Delighted with the remedy, she repeated the doses so often that the
King's 'poison' was all drunk. He soon discovered this, and forced the
lady to confess what she had done. A quantity of wine was then made, and
Jamshed and all his Court drank of the new beverage, which, from the
circumstance that led to its discovery, is to this day known in Persia
as _zahr-i-khûsh_, or the pleasing poison. After that the manufacture of
wine became a regular industry, and spread from Shiraz, where it
originated. At the present time the process of manufacture is similar to
what it was then, in that the grape-juice is collected in large
Ali-Baba-like jars and buried in the ground. Alexander the Great is said
to have followed the festive example of his royal predecessor, and to
have drunk deep in the majestic halls of Persepolis. It has been
supposed by some that he caused the splendid palaces there to be set on
fire in a drunken freak.

As a pendant to the story of a lady's discovery, in the time of Jamshed,
of wine as an efficacious cure for nervous headache, another is told
which ascribes to a lady the withdrawal of a royal decree against the
sale and use of wine. The Shah Hussein, on his accession to the throne
in 1694, displayed his religious zeal by forbidding the sale of wine,
and he ordered the destruction of all the stock of it that was in the
royal cellars at Ispahan. But his grandmother, by feigning herself ill,
and wholly dependent upon wine for cure, not only prevailed upon him to
revoke the decree, but also persuaded him to drink some in pure regard
to herself, with the result that he fell away from priestly influence
and became a tippler. Unfortunately for the nation, this grandmother's
guidance led Shah Hussein to ruin by wine and women, and dragged him
down to the deep degradation of surrendering Persia to the cruel tyranny
of the Afghan occupation.

Wood being scarce in Persia, and poles, stakes, and sticks for upright
and lateral support not being easily procurable, the mode of culture of
the vine has come to be by planting in deep broad trenches, with high
sloping banks, up and over which the stems and branches run and fall.
The trenches are made to lie so as to allow of the bank-slopes having
the best exposure. This is the system followed on the flat, but in hilly
ground, by means of careful trimming and the assistance of piled stones,
the plants are made to develop strong standard stems, with bunchy,
bushy tops. I was particularly struck a few years ago with the neat,
well-tended vineyards at the village of Imâm-Zadeh-Ismail, in the hills
about forty miles north-west of Persepolis. Almost the whole of the
village lands were laid out in vineyards, well walled and beautifully
kept. The vines looked as if they were tended by those who understood
their culture well, and they appeared to thrive wonderfully on the light
soil of the place. Surprising energy had been shown in clearing the
ground, which was naturally stony; and there was abundant evidence of
much patient labour in the garden-like enclosures. Vineyards occupied
all the flat ground on which the village stood, and they extended up the
slopes. Hillside clearing was going on all around for further planting
of vines, which were seen to flourish there. Raisins are largely made
there, and I was told by my Kashkai conductor (for I was well off the
beaten track and required a guide), who seemed to know what he was
talking about, that the fresh grapes were used for wine, but not in the
village. The religious character of the chief inhabitants of the
village, who are sheikhs, and guardians of the Holy Shrine of the
mausoleum of the Imam-Zadeh-Ismail, which lies within its limits,
prevents the preparation there of the forbidden fermented juice of the
grape. The shrine is endowed with the village lands rent free, and all
these lands are devoted to vine cultivation. The vineyards at Shiraz
have been greatly extended of late years, and particular attention is
now paid to the cultivation of the Kholar grape, as the best suited for
wine. This grape takes its name from the village of Kholar, which is
within a few miles of the town. Tabriz, Hamadan, Isfahan, and Shiraz
produce the best wine in Persia. Red and white are made at all these
places; the white wine of Hamadan is a sort of strong sauterne, and some
of it has quite a delicate flavour; Isfahan produces a wine of a port
character, and the best shiraz is sometimes like new madeira. All these
wines resemble in strength those that are now made in Australia.
Something is wanting in the mode of manufacture to make the wine capable
of improvement with keeping, and also of bearing transport. The advent
of the Russian road will probably lead to the development of Kasvin's
large area of fruitful vines, and the success which has attended
vineyard industry at Derbend, on the Caspian, may encourage similar
enterprise there.

As neither law nor custom forbids the manufacture of wine by
non-Mohammedans, the cultivation of the grape spreads, and the making of
wine increases. From this it may be inferred, as there is little export
of wine from Persia, that all the produce is not consumed by
non-Mohammedans. As a matter of fact, the religious law which forbids
wine to Mohammedans is not rigidly observed; in truth, they are not all
total abstainers, and the delightful poison, as chronicled by Moulla
Akbar, is known to be a convenient remedy for all manner of moods, ills,
and complaints, nervous, imaginary, and real. They have been described
as drinking well when they do break the religious law, for they have a
saying that 'there is as much sin in a glass as in a flagon.' The
Persians have never thoroughly accommodated themselves to the creed of
their Semitic conquerors; they show profound respect for the externals
of Mohammedanism, and are sincere in their practice of piety and the
obligations of religion and charity; but they have always indulged in
the fancies and ideas of the great school of free-thinking philosopher
Sofis, whose observance of the ordinances of severe and joyless life is
notedly lax.

The weather was lovely as we journeyed over the Kasvin plain to Tehran,
towards the end of September. Autumn in the North of Persia is a
gloriously fine season, almost spring-like in many ways, and, indeed, it
is called there the 'second spring.' The landscape then, though nearly
barren of verdure, has a beauty of its own in warm soft colours, and the
atmospheric effects on the hills and distances, evening and morning, are
of wonderfully delicate tones and tints. The prominent feature in the
landscape near Tehran is the grand cone-shaped Mount Demavend, about
forty miles to the north-east, which shoots up 19,400 feet above
ocean-level, and overtops all the surrounding heights by 6,000 feet or
more. It stood out bold, cold, and clear against the blue sky, and
looked beautifully white with a fresh covering of new snow, and it was
more than usually distinct, from being clear of the cloud-crown it
usually wears. In the evening the massive peak presented a splendid
appearance, looking as in a white heat from the shine of the setting
sun, which, though lost to view below the horizon, yet lighted up the
old volcano.

Demavend has long been asleep, but the great earthquakes of 1891, 1893
and 1895 in Astrabad and Kuchan to the eastward, and Khalkhal in the
north-west, show that its underground fires are still alight. The scene
of the last is about one hundred miles north-east of the old volcanic
region of Afshar, remarkable for its remains of vast 'cinter' cones,
formed by the flowing geysers of long, long ago, and which were
shattered and scattered by some mighty explosion, when the great geysers
boiled up and burst their walls. Here is seen the Takht-i-Sulimân, a
ruined fort of very ancient date, which local tradition describes as one
of King Solomon's royal residences, shared by his Queen, Belghéiz (of
Sheba), whose summer throne is also shown on a mountain height above.
This ruin incloses a flowing geyser of tepid sea-green water, about 170
feet deep, the temperature of which was 66° when I visited the place in
1892. Near it is the Zindân-i-Sulimân (Solomon's Dungeon), an extinct
geyser, 350 feet deep. It shows as a massive 'cinter' cone, 440 feet
high, standing prominently up in the plain. This district was visited
and fully described by the late Sir Henry Rawlinson, and a further
account of it has been given by Mr. Theodore Bent, who, with Mrs. Bent,
went there in 1889.

The volcanic district of Afshar has long been known for its quicksilver,
which from time to time has been found in small quantities. Some seven
or eight hundred years ago Arab miners laboured long in their search for
the main cinnabar vein which undoubtedly lies hidden there, and their
wide workings in laying open a whole hillside, where signs of cinnabar
are still seen, show what great gangs of labourers they must have had at
their command. The Persian Mines Corporation in 1891-92 engaged in
operations at the same point, but, after considerable sinking of shafts
and driving of galleries into the heart of the hill, they decided to
cease work, being disappointed, like their Arab predecessors, in not
finding quickly what they had traced by clear signs up to its mountain
source. A few miles below the site of these cinnabar-mine operations
there are ancient gold-washing workings, and within thirty miles are
heavy veins of quartz.

Tehran displays a marked advance in many of the resources of
civilization; houses of an improved style are springing up, the roadways
are better attended to, and there is a great increase in the number of
carriages. The Prime Minister's new house, near the British Legation, is
situated in beautiful gardens, set off with pretty lakelets and terraced
grounds, which give slopes for flowing waterfalls. These gardens, in
common with all in the town, are tenanted every year by nightingales of
sweet song. It is now proposed to enclose an adjoining available space
to form a people's park, which would be a great place of enjoyment in
summer to a people of poetic imagination like the Persians, who delight
in the green glade with the cool sound of flowing water. The severe
cholera epidemic of 1892 showed the absolute necessity of an improvement
in the rude sanitary system which then existed, and a beginning has been
made in the daily careful cleaning of the streets and removal of refuse.
But a better and increased water-supply is greatly needed for the town,
which is becoming larger every year. People who have money to spend
appear to be attracted more than ever to the capital. Those who before
were content with the provincial towns now build houses in Tehran. The
superior houses have garden-ground attached, and much tree-planting is
done. The demand for water increases, but the supply is not
supplemented. Years ago the utmost was made of the sources from which
water is drawn; no pains have been spared to extract every possible drop
of water from the heart of the hills within a considerable distance, and
to convey it undiminished by evaporation to the city. This is done by
underground channels called _kanats_, which are excavated with great
ingenuity and skill, and are marvels of industry. This system prevails
all over Persia, and existence as well as the fertility of the soil
mainly depends on the water-supply thus obtained. The sandy expanse
round Yezd in the desert of South-eastern Persia has been made literally
to blossom like the rose by means of these subterranean channels, some
of which are tunnelled for a distance of thirty miles. I was there in
spring-time, and was then able to see what a wonder-worker water is in

The pressing need of more water for Tehran has now drawn attention to
the proposals of some years ago for increasing the supply. One of these
was to divert to the south an affluent of the Upper Lar, which rises in
the Elburz range, and flows into the Caspian. It was seen that this
could be done by cutting a new channel and tunnelling from a point
sufficiently high, where the stream runs in an elevated valley between
the double ridge of the range. The work would have been similar, but
simpler, to what was completed last year in Madras, where the upper
Periyar stream was changed from a western to an eastern flow. The
execution of the Lar project would be easy, and it would not practically
affect the volume of water in the main stream, which receives many
tributaries below the proposed point of piercing the watershed. But the
Lar Valley was one of the Shah's summer retreats, and a favourite
pasture-ground for his brood mares and young stock. It is, moreover, a
popular resort of flock-owning nomads, and as the Shah's love of camp
life there led him to fear injury to the grassy plains and slopes of
his favourite highlands, the project was abandoned.

There was another scheme to construct a series of reservoirs by means of
strong barriers at the foot of the lower ravines of the Elburz range,
eight miles north of Tehran, in which to keep the winter water which
comes from the melting snow. The whole mountain-chain is covered with
snow each year from top to bottom. In April and May the snow melts, and
the precious water flows away where it is not wanted. Were this water
stored, it would be made available in the succeeding hot months. The
sloping plain between the hills and the town is capable, with
irrigation, of great fertility, and the construction of these reservoirs
would prove a veritable gold-mine.

The distribution of water is a most important part of village
administration in Persia. The work of cutting off and letting on water
with most exact observance of time-measurements is carried out by a
waterman called _mirab_ (lord of the water) whose office is hereditary,
subject, however, to the special judgment of popular opinion. The duties
demand a clear head and nimble foot, and the waterman, in hastening
from point to point, has to show all the alertness of a street
lamplighter. He has to keep a correct count of time, for water is
apportioned by the hour, and his memory for all the details of change,
sale, and transfer must be good and unchallenged. When he becomes too
old, or otherwise incapacitated for the performance of his work with the
necessary quickness, he avails himself of the assistance of a son or
someone whom he proposes with the village approval to bring up as his
successor. The old man is then to be seen going leisurely along the
water-courses which issue from the underground channels, accompanied by
his young deputy carrying the long-handled Persian spade, ready to run
and execute his orders. Disputes between village and village over
_kanat_ water-cuts form the subject of severe fights occasionally, and
the saying is that water and women are the main causes of village
quarrels in Persia.

It was a hot day in June, and having been up before daylight so as to
start at earliest dawn and avoid the mid-day heat for my whole party, we
were all in the enjoyment of afternoon sleep, when the courtyard was
invaded by a shouting mob of excited villagers, calling on me to hear
their story and bear witness to their wounds. They said they were the
tenants of the landlord whose house I was occupying, and they begged me
as his guest to make a statement of their case, so that justice might be
done. There had been a dispute over an irrigation channel, and the
opposing side having mustered strong, they were overpowered by numbers
and badly beaten. Some of the hurts they had received were ugly to look
at, having been inflicted with the long-handled Persian spade, the
foot-flanges of which make it a dangerous weapon. After a patient
hearing, and getting some plaster and simple dressing for their cuts and
bruises, they went away satisfied. So much for water as a cause of
quarrel, but an instance of the other cause, woman, which had come under
my notice shortly before, was more seriously characteristic. It occurred
at Shamsabad, on the border of the Aberkoh Desert, between Yezd and
Shiraz. I halted there after the long night journey across the desert,
and immediately I was settled in my village quarters, the master of the
house in which I lodged asked me to look at the gunshot wounds of one
of his young men, and to prescribe and provide in any way I could
towards healing them. I asked if any bones were broken, saying that I
could do little or nothing in such a case. I was told that they were but
flesh wounds, and on the young man coming in, I was shown a ragged long
cut between the lower ribs, and a deepish wound in the fleshy part of
the leg, which had evidently been made by slugs or buckshot. I
prescribed careful cleansing, and the use of lint and lotion, and I gave
a supply of the necessary material. I asked how the thing had happened,
and the young fellow told me that he and his brother had been
treacherously attacked at a water-mill, whilst having the family grain
ground, by some Aberkoh youths, between whose family and his there was a
longstanding blood-feud; that they both had been shot at close quarters,
and his brother had died of his wounds two days before.

The master of the house, who was also headman of the village, explained
that the blood-feud had been carried on for five generations, and had
originated in a 'little maid' who, being betrothed in their village, had
eloped with a young man of Aberkoh. The disappointed bridegroom had
afterwards taken his successful rival's life, and the deadly demand of a
life for a life had, in accordance with the law of revenge, been made
and exacted for the past five generations. He said the elders had hoped
the quarrel was nearly dead, as there had been long peace between the
parties, but suddenly the hot blood of youth had risen to renew it, and
now there was fear of further murder. In that remote district the
ancient first principles of natural justice had still strong hold upon
the people, and formed, in the absence of established law, the defence
of families and communities.

The knowledge that a man is considered disgraced who allows the blood of
his father or brother to pass unrevenged makes many a murderer in
thought pause, and depart from the deed. Accordingly, in those lawless
parts, as a rule, order reigns, and disputes and differences are
discussed by the village 'gray-beards,' who generally are able to
arrange a compromise. But in the reckless rage of a lost love the deed
is done, which carries its fatal consequences to future generations, as
in the case I have mentioned. I told the old village headman, who was
really the local judge, that in some of the wild parts of Firanghistan
there were similar occurrences, and that the best form of reconciliation
in the present instance would be 'wife for wife,' the first offending
family giving a girl-love to a husband-lover on the other side, and thus
finally closing the quarrel in the happiest manner. I said that under
such circumstances intermarriages were generally the best means of
improving friendship and terminating feuds between families.

The Tehran street tramways continue to work, though the profit return is
small. The company began with graduated fares, but I heard they were
considering a minimum general charge, which it was thought would
encourage more traffic, especially in the visits of women to one
another, as their outdoor dress is unsuited to walking in comfort. The
tramway cars have separate compartments for women. The travelling pace
is necessarily slow, in order to avoid hurt or harm to people and
animals in the crowded thoroughfares. In the East, accidents at the
hands of Europeans or their employés are not readily understood or
easily accepted as such. The Tehran Tramways Company has had its trials
in this respect. At one time it was the heavy hurt of a boy, son of a
Syud, one of the 'pure lineage', a descendant of the family of the
Prophet, on which the populace, roused by the lashing lamentations of
the father, damaged the car and tore up the line. On another occasion a
man, in obstinate disregard of warning, tried to enter at the front, and
was thrown under the wheels. Again the excitable bystanders were worked
up to fury and violence, and the Governor of the town gave judgment
against the company for 'blood-money'. The counter-claim for damage done
to the line enabled a compromise to be effected. Oriental indifference
is the chief cause of the accidents. 'It is impossible but that offences
will come, but woe unto him through whom they come.' For 'offences', the
Oriental reading is 'accidents'.

In all large Persian towns there is a numerous class of 'roughs' known
as the _kullah-numdah_ (felt-caps; they wear a brown hard-felt low hat
without a brim), excitable and reckless, and always ready for
disturbance. They are the 'casuals', who live from hand to mouth, those
to whom an appeal can be made by the careful working class when the
price of bread is run up to famine figure, owing to the 'cornering' of
wheat, which of late years has been much practised in Persia. The baker
used to be the first victim of popular fury in a bread riot, and it is
said that one was baked alive in his own oven. But in these times of
grain speculation in Persia, the people have learnt to look in 'wheat
corners' for the real cause of dear bread, and in consequence the bread
riots have become more formidable, as was proved lately at Tabriz. On a
previous occasion the Vali Ahd (now H.I.M. the Shah), who, as
Governor-General of Azerbaijan, resided at Tabriz, found himself unable
to cope with the difficulty, and abandoned his projected visit to
Tehran, so as to apply the money he had provided for it to cheapening
bread for the people. This practical pocket-sympathy with them secured a
popularity which will bring its reward.

Next to the 'wheat-ring' as a cause of disturbance and riot comes what
may be called the 'copper-ring' of Tehran, which is likely to produce
serious trouble throughout the country. The Royal Mint in Persia is
worked on the farming system, the evils of which have now extended to
the currency. The low price of copper allows of it being coined at an
enormous profit, and advantage has been taken of this to a dangerous
extent. The whole country is now poisoned with 'black money,' as the
coppers are called, and it is at a heavy discount. This bears cruelly on
the labouring classes and all who are paid in copper coin. Owing to
exchange with Europe keeping above silver, that metal cannot be imported
and coined, so as to give a gain to the Mint-master, who has no idea of
sacrificing any of the great profit he has made on copper. No silver has
been coined since March, 1895, and this is the Mint-master's excuse for
sending out copper in great quantities, to take the place of silver.
Twenty copper shahi go to a kran (present exchange value 4-1/2d.), and
in the absence of silver employers of labour pay wholly in copper, which
for bazaar purposes is at a discount, so much so that, when a purchase
is beyond question above a kran in amount, an agreement as to payment in
silver or copper is first made, and then the bargaining begins. In a
country where money bears a high value, as proved by the fact that
accounts are still reckoned in dinars, an imaginary coin, of which one
thousand go to a silver kran and fifty to a copper shahi, the
depreciation I have mentioned is a very serious affair, for it touches
the mass of the people sorely. When travelling off the beaten track in
Persia, I have always been amused and interested in hearing my
head-servant announce loudly in a tone of importance and satisfaction to
my village host for the night that I had ordered so many 'thousands' to
be given for house-room, fuel, barley, straw, etc. The kran was never
mentioned; it was always a 'thousand.'[A]

[Footnote: A: Since the above was written, information has been received
that the late Shah, about three weeks before his death, promulgated a
decree directing the Mint coinage of copper to be suspended for a term
of five years, and intimating that the Customs, Post-office and
Telegraph departments would accept copper coin to a certain amount in
cash transactions, at a fixed rate. And, further, arrangements have been
made with the Imperial Bank of Persia to purchase, on account of the
Government, copper coin up to a certain sum, from small _bona-fide_
holders who are in possession of it in the regular course of retail
business for the necessaries of life.]


--Religious tolerance in Tehran
--Katie Greenfield's case
--Babi sect
--Liberal opinions
--German enterprise in Persia
--Railways in Asia Minor
--Russian road extension
--Railways to Persian frontiers
--The Karun River
--Trade development
--The Kajar dynasty
--Life titles
--Chieftainship of tribes
--The Pearl cannon.

The late Shah was always liberal and conciliatory in the treatment of
his Christian subjects throughout the country, and this is a matter
which, at the present time, deserves special notice. In the history of
Persia many proofs of friendly feeling towards Christians are to be
found, and the sovereigns appear to have led the popular mind in the way
of goodwill to them. Shah Abbas the Great was an example of kind and
considerate tolerance, and it was Shah Abbas II who said of them, 'It is
for God, not for me to judge of men's consciences: and I will never
interfere with what belongs to the tribunal of the Great Creator and
Lord of the universe.' The Western Christian missionaries are fully
protected in their mission work among the Eastern Christians in Persia
on the understanding that they do not actively and directly engage in
proselytizing Mohammedans.


The American Presbyterian is the only mission in Tehran, and it carries
on its work so smoothly and judiciously that the sensitive
susceptibilities of the most fanatical Moullas are never roused nor
ruffled. They have succeeded well by never attempting too much. They
show their desire to benefit all classes and creeds, and during the
severe cholera outbreak In 1892 the hospital they established in the
city for the medical treatment of all comers up to the utmost extent of
their accommodation and ability was a powerful and convincing proof of
their good work and will. The disease was of a very fatal type, and its
deadly ravages called forth a display of devotion and self-sacrifice
which deserved and obtained the highest commendation from all Persians
and Europeans.

While on this subject, the splendid example set by the Governor of the
town, the Vazir Isa Khan, should be noticed. He was very wealthy, and
did much to relieve the sufferings and wants of the poor who were
attacked by the disease. He remained in the city while the epidemic
raged, and would not seek safety in flight to the adjoining mountains,
as many had done. But, sad to say, he fell a victim at the last, and his
wife, who had remained with him throughout, died of the disease two days
before him.

It will be remembered that in 1891 an agitation was raised regarding the
reported abduction of an Armenian girl, named Katie Greenfield, by a
Kurd in Persian Kurdistan. An attempt which was made to take the girl
back to her family caused the couple to cross the frontier into Turkish
Kurdistan, and great excitement among the Kurds on both sides of the
border was created. The contention grew, and commissioners and consuls,
with troops, Persian and Turkish, took part in it. In the end it was
made perfectly clear that the girl had gone off with Aziz, the Kurd, as
the husband of her own choice, and had embraced the Mohammedan faith by
her own wish. The Kurds in Persian Kurdistan appear to live on friendly
terms with their Armenian village neighbours, and on this occasion a
runaway love-match became the cause of some popular excitement in
England, and much trouble and tumult on the Perso-Turkish frontier.

The Armenian Archbishop in Persia, who resides at Isfahan, is always a
Russian subject from the monastery of Etchmiadzin, near Erivan, the seat
of the Catholicus, the primate of the orthodox Armenian Church, and this
doubtless has its effect in suggesting protection and security. France
also for a longtime past has steadily asserted the right to protect the
Catholic Armenian Church in Persia, and once a year the French Minister
at Tehran, with the Legation secretaries, attends Divine service in the
chapel there in full diplomatic dress and state, to show the fact and
force of the support which the Church enjoys. France similarly takes
Catholic institutions in Turkey under her protection, and appears to be
generally the Catholic champion in the East.

The careful observer in Tehran cannot fail to be struck with the
religious tolerance shown to non-Mohammedan Persian subjects in the
'shadow of the Shah.' Amongst these, other than Christians, may be
mentioned the Guebres (Parsees) and the Jews. Persecuted in the
provinces, they receive liberal treatment in Tehran, and it is to be
hoped that the late Shah's gracious example will in time be followed by
his Majesty's provincial governors.

The Babi sect of Mohammedans, regarded as seceders from Islam, but who
assert their claim to be only the advocates for Mohammedan Church
reform, are at last better understood and more leniently
treated--certainly at Tehran. They have long been persecuted and
punished in the cruellest fashion, even to torture and death, under the
belief that they were a dangerous body which aimed at the subversion of
the State as well as the Church. But better counsels now prevail, to
show that the time has come to cease from persecuting these sectarians,
who, at all events in the present day, show no hostility to the
Government; and the Government has probably discovered the truth of the
Babi saying, that one martyr makes many proselytes.

The Babis aim at attracting to their ranks the intelligent and the
learned, in preference to the ignorant and unlearned; and it is believed
that now sufficient education whereby to read and write is absolutely
necessary for membership. They wish to convince by example, and not by
force, and this accounts for the absence of active resistance to the
persecutions from which they often suffer most grievously. They say that
they desire to return to original Mohammedanism, as it first came from
the Arabian desert, pure and simple, and free from the harsh intolerance
and arrogance which killed the liberal spirit in which it was conceived.
They deplore the evil passions and fierce animosities engendered by
religious differences; they tolerate all creeds having a common end for
good, and seek to soften the hearts of those who persecute them, by
showing that they but wish for peace on earth and goodwill to all men.
They have a widespread organization throughout Persia, and many learned
Moullas and Syuds have secretly joined them. They have always been firm
in their faith, even unto death, rejecting the offer of life in return
for a declaration against the Bab, him whom they regard as the messenger
of good tidings.

An acknowledged authority on the Bab, the founder of this creed, has
written that he 'directed the thoughts and hopes of his disciples to
this world, not to an unseen world.' From this it was inferred he did
not believe in a future state, nor in anything beyond this life. Of
course, among the followers of a new faith, liberal and broad in its
views, continued fresh developments of belief must be expected; and with
reference to the idea that the Babis think not of a hereafter, I was
told that they believe in the re-incarnation of the soul, the good after
death returning to life and happiness, the bad to unhappiness. A Babi,
in speaking of individual pre-existence, said to me, 'You believe in a
future state; why, then, should you not believe in a pre-existent state?
Eternity is without beginning and without end,' This idea of
re-incarnation, generally affecting all Babis, is, of course, an
extension of the original belief regarding the re-incarnation of the
Bab, and the eighteen disciple-prophets who compose the sacred college
of the sect.

Some time ago signs began to appear of a general feeling that the
persecution of the Babis must cease. Many in high places see this, and
probably say it, and their sympathy becomes known. At one time a high
Mohammedan Church dignitary speaks regarding tolerance and progress in a
manner which seems to mean that he sees no great harm in the new sect.
Then a soldier, high in power and trust, refers to the massacres of
Babis in 1890 and 1891 as not only cruel acts, but as acts of insane
folly, 'for,' he said, 'to kill a Babi is like cutting down a
chenar-tree, from the root of which many stems spring up, and one
becomes many.' Then a Moulla, speaking of the necessity of a more humane
treatment of the Babis, and others of adverse creeds, says that he looks
for the time when all conditions of men will be equally treated, and all
creeds and classes be alike before the law. Omar Khayyam, the
astronomer-poet of Persia, who wrote about eight hundred years ago, gave
open expression to the same liberal-minded views, urging tolerance and
freedom for all religious creeds and classes.

The last murderous mob attack led by Moullas against the Babis occurred
at Yezd in April, 1891. It was probably an outcome of the Babi massacre
which had taken place at Isfahan the previous year, and which, owing to
the fiercely hostile attitude of the priests, was allowed to pass
unnoticed by any strong public condemnation. On that occasion a party of
the sect, pursued by an excited and blood-thirsty mob, claimed the
'sanctuary' of foreign protection in the office of the Indo-European
Telegraph Company, and found asylum there. Negotiations were opened with
the Governor of the town, who arranged for a safe conduct to their homes
under military escort. Trusting to this, the refugees quitted the
telegraph-office, but had not proceeded far before they were beset by a
furious crowd, and as the escort offered no effectual resistance, the
unfortunates were murdered in an atrociously cruel manner. The Shah's
anger was great on hearing of this shameful treachery, but as the
Governor pleaded powerlessness from want of troops, and helplessness
before the fanaticism of the frenzied mob led by Moullas, the matter was
allowed to drop.

Considering the great numbers of Babis all over Persia, and the ease
with which membership can be proved, it strikes many observers as
strange that murderous outbreaks against them are not more frequent. The
explanation is that, besides the accepted Babis, there is a vast number
of close sympathizers, between whom and the declared members of the sect
there is but one step, and a continued strong persecution would drive
them into the ranks of the oppressed. It might then be found that the
majority was with the Babis, and this fear is a fact which, irrespective
of other arguments, enables the influential and liberal-minded Moullas
to control their headstrong and over-zealous brethren.

The isolated outbreaks that do occur are generally produced by personal
animosity and greed of gain. Just as has been known in other countries
where a proscribed religion was practised in secret, and protection
against persecution and informers secured by means of money, so in many
places the Babis have made friends in this manner out of enemies.
Individuals sometimes are troubled by the needy and unscrupulous who
affect an excess of religious zeal, but these desist on their terms
being met. Occasionally in a settlement of bazaar trading-accounts, the
debtor, who is a Mohammedan, being pressed by his creditor, whom he
knows to be a Babi, threatens to denounce him publicly in order to avoid

I witnessed an instance of 'sanctuary' asylum being claimed in the
stable of one of the foreign legations at Tehran by a well-known
Persian merchant, a Babi, who fled for his life before the bazaar
ruffians to whom his debtor had denounced him, urging them to smite and
slay the heretic. It was believed that the practice of black-mailing the
Babis was such a well-known successful one at Yezd that some of the low
Mohammedans of the town tried to share in the profits and were
disappointed. This, it was said, led to the massacre which occurred
there in April, 1891.

The Babis, notwithstanding divergence of opinion on many points, yet
attend the mosques and the Moulla teachings, and comply with all the
outward forms of religion, in order to avert the anger which continued
absence from the congregation would draw upon them from hostile and
bigoted neighbours. Two of them were suddenly taxed in the Musjid with
holding heterodox opinions, and were then accused of being Babis. The
discussion was carried outside and into the bazaar, the accusers loudly
reviling and threatening them. They were poor, and were thus unable to
find protectors at once. When being pressed hard by an excited mob which
had collected on the scene, an over-zealous friend came to their aid,
and said, 'Well, if they are Babis, what harm have they done to anyone?'

On this the tumult began, and the ferocity of the fanatical crowd rose
to blood-heat. The sympathizer was seized, and as the gathering grew,
the opportunity to gratify private animosity and satisfy opposing
interests was taken advantage of, and three other Babis were added,
making six in all who were dragged before the Governor to be condemned
as members of an accursed sect. The Moullas urged them to save their
lives by cursing the Bab, but they all refused. The wives and children
of some of them were sent for so that their feelings might be worked
upon to renounce their creed and live, but this had no effect in shaking
their resolution. When told that death awaited them, they replied that
they would soon live again. When argued with on this point of their
belief, they merely said that they could not say how it was to be, but
they knew it would be so. They were then given over to the cruel mob,
and were hacked to death, firm in their faith to the last.

The temptation to make away with others in a similar manner produced
two more victims during the night, but these the Governor tried to save
by keeping them in custody. The brutal mob, however, howled for their
blood, and made such an uproar that the weak Governor, a youth of
eighteen, surrendered them to a cruel death, as he had done the others.
These two, like their brethren, refused to curse the Bab and live.

The Moullas have ever been defeated in their efforts to produce
recantation from a Babi, and it is this remarkable steadfastness in
their faith which has carried conviction into the hearts of many that
the sect is bound to triumph in the end. The thoughtful say admiringly
of them, as the Romans said of the Christians, whom they in vain doomed
to death under every form of terror, 'What manner of men are these, who
face a dreadful death fearlessly to hold fast to their faith?' An
instance is mentioned of a Babi who did recant in order to escape the
martyr's death, but he afterwards returned to his faith, and suffered
calmly the death he had feared before.

The Moullas who led the Yezd massacre desired to associate the whole
town in the crime, and called for the illumination of the bazaars in
token of public joy. The order for this was given, but the Governor was
warned in time to issue a countermand. It was found by the state of
public feeling, and told to those in authority, who were able to realize
the danger, that, as one-half or more of the shopkeepers were Babis,
they would not have illuminated, for to have done so would imply
approval of the murders and denial of their faith. Their determination
to refuse to join in the demonstration of joy would have roused further
mob fury, and the whole body of Babis, impelled by the instinct of
self-preservation, would have risen to defend themselves.

The late Shah was deeply troubled and pained on hearing of this cruel
massacre, and removed the Governor, who was his own grandson (being the
eldest son of his Royal Highness the Zil-es-Sultan), notwithstanding the
excuses urged in his favour, that the priestly power which roused the
mob was too strong for him to act and prevent the murders. It is
probable that the Government is assured of the peaceful nature of the
Babi movement as it now exists; and with the orders to put an end to
persecution, supported in some degree by popular feeling, we may hope
to hear no more of such crimes as were committed at Isfahan and Yezd in
1890 and 1891.

The Babi reform manifests an important advance upon all previous modern
Oriental systems in its treatment of woman. Polygamy and concubinage are
forbidden, the use of the veil is discouraged, and the equality of the
sexes is so thoroughly recognised that one, at least, of the nineteen
sovereign prophets must always be a female. This is a return to the
position of woman in early Persia, of which Malcolm speaks when he says
that Quintus Curtius told of Alexander not seating himself in the
presence of Sisygambis till told to do so by that matron, because it was
not the custom in Persia for sons to sit in presence of their mother.
This anecdote is quoted to show the great respect in which the female
sex were held in Persia at the time of Alexander's invasion, and which
also was regarded as one of the principal causes of the progress the
country had made in civilization. The Parsees to this day conduct
themselves on somewhat similar lines, and though we have not the
opportunities of judging of maternal respect which were allowed to the
Greeks, yet the fact of the same custom being shown in a father's
presence at the present time seems to point to the rule of good manners
to mothers being yet observed. And we know, from what happened on the
death of Mohamed Shah in 1848, that a capable woman is allowed by public
opinion to exercise openly a powerful influence in affairs of State at a
critical time when wise counsels are required. The Queen-mother at that
time became the president of the State Council, and cleverly succeeded
in conciliating adverse parties and strengthening the Government, till
the position of the young Shah, the late Sovereign, was made secure.

For a long time Russia and England were regarded as the only great
Powers really interested in the future of Persia; but within the last
few years it has been observed that Turkey, in showing an intention to
consolidate her power in the Baghdad and Erzeroum pashaliks, was likely
to be in a position to renew old claims on the Persian border. France
has also lately increased her interest in Persia, and Germany has now
entered the field of enterprise there in the practical manner of
improving the road from Khani Kin, on the Turkish frontier, to Tehran,
connecting it with a road from Baghdad. It will probably be found that
this road-scheme belongs to the company under German auspices who are
now constructing a railway which is ultimately to connect Baghdad with
the Bosphorus, and part of which is already working. The trunk-line
passes by Angora, Kaisarieh, Diarbekr, Mardin, and Mosul; and a
loop-line leaves it at Eski Shehr, which, going by Konia, Marasch, and
Orfa, rejoins it at Diarbekr.

There was an idea that, as Konia is a most promising field for the
production of exports, the Smyrna lines competed so eagerly for the
concession to extend there that the Porte was enabled to make terms with
the Anatolian Railway Company (to which I have alluded) for the
extension to Baghdad, which strategically is of great importance. It was
said that the strong competition placed the Government in the position
of the man in the Eastern story who went to the bazaar to sell an old
camel, and a young cat of rare beauty. The cat was shown off sitting on
the camel, and was desired by many purchasers; but there was no bid for
the camel. The competition for the cat ran high, and then the owner
announced that the one could not be sold without the other, on which the
camel was bought with the cat. But as a matter of fact there was no
opening for competition for the Konia branch. The Anatolian Railway had
preferential rights for what is called the southern or loop line, which
I have mentioned as passing through Konia, and rejoining the main or
northern line at Diarbekr. They also have preferential rights of
extension to Baghdad, and they mean to carry the line there.

The Smyrna Aidin railway has lately had a considerable improvement in
its traffic, from the barley of Asia Minor being in increased demand in
addition to its wheat. This means that the material for the beer as well
as the bread of the masses elsewhere is found to be abundant and cheap
there, and the extension of railway communication in those regions will
most probably increase the supply and demand. The same trade in barley
has lately sprung up in Southern Persia and Turkish Arabia, and for some
time past, while the low price of wheat discouraged the existing wheat
trade there, it has been found profitable to export barley from the
Gulf ports. Barley is the cheapest grain in Persia, where it is grown
for home consumption only, being the universal food for horses. Owing to
want of care with the seed, and the close vicinity of crops, the wheat
was often so mixed with barley as to reduce the price considerably, and
the question of mixture and reduction was always a very stormy one. When
I was at Ahwaz, on the Karun, in 1890, I saw a machine at work
separating the grains, and the Arab owners waiting to take away the
unsaleable barley, the wheat being bought for export by a European firm
there which owned the machine. The Arab sellers probably now move to the
other side of the machine to carry away the unsaleable wheat, the barley
being bought for export owing to the turn of trade.

The German group that has obtained the Persian road concession has also
taken up the old project of an extension of the Tehran tramways to the
villages on the slopes of the Shimran range, all within a distance of
ten miles from the town. The Court, the city notables, and the foreign
legations, with everyone who desires to be fashionable, and can afford
the change, reside there during the warm months--June, July, August and
September. The whole place may be described as the summer suburb of the
capital, and there is great going to and fro.

I have already mentioned the Russian road now under construction from
the Caspian Sea base to Kasvin, with the object of enabling Russian
trade to command more thoroughly the Tehran market. The total distance
from the coast to the capital is two hundred miles. There is an
old-established caravan track over easy country, from Kasvin to Hamadan
in the south--west, distant about one hundred and fifty miles. It has
lately been announced that the Russian Road Company has obtained a
concession to convert this track into a cart-road in continuation of
that from Resht. It is seen that with improved communication Russian
trade may be made to compete successfully at Hamadan, which is only
about fifty miles further from the Caspian Sea base than Tehran, and
there will also be the advantage of a return trade in cotton from
Central Persia, as Armenian merchants now export it to Russia from as
far South as Isfahan and Yezd. The German road from Baghdad to Tehran
will be met at Hamadan.

Kermanshah and Hamadan, through which the German road will pass, are
both busy centres of trade in districts rich in corn, wool, and wine.
They are also meeting-points of the great and ever-flowing streams of
pilgrims to Kerbela _viâ_ Baghdad, said to number annually about one
hundred thousand. This has been a popular pilgrim route, as well as
trade route, for centuries, and with greater facilities on an improved
road the traffic is certain to increase.

It is said that the alignment of the Russian road from Resht is to be
made in view of a railway in the future. The same will probably be done
in the Hamadan extension, and it is believed that the German road will
be similarly planned. All this would mean that behind the concessions
are further promises for the time when railway construction comes.
Looking into the dim distance, the eye of faith and hope may see the
fulfilment of railway communication from India to Europe by a connection
between the Quetta or Indus Valley line and Kermanshah.

This brings us to the agreement of 1890 between Persia and Russia to
shut out railways till the end of the century. This agreement, when made
known, was regarded as proof of a somewhat barbarian policy on the part
of Russia, unwilling or unable herself to assist in opening up Persia
and improving the condition of the country. But there is some reason for
the idea that the Shah himself was ready to meet the Russian request, so
as to keep back the railway which he feared would soon connect his
capital with the Caucasus. There was much railway talk in Persia in
1890, and Russia knew that it would take quite ten years to complete her
railway system up to the Northern frontiers of Persia and Afghanistan.
The railway now being made from Tiflis to Alexandropol and Kars will
probably send out a line down the fertile valley of the Aras to Julfa,
ready for extension across the Persian frontier to Tabriz, and a branch
may be pushed forward from Doshakh, or Keribent, on the Trans-Caspian
railway, to Sarakhs, where Russia, Persia, and Afghanistan meet, to
facilitate trade with Herat as well as Meshed. In the meanwhile also the
cart-roads, ready for railway purposes if wanted, from the Caspian Sea
base to Kasvin, Tehran, and Hamadan, will be completed.

Russia insisted on regarding the opening of the Karun to the navigation
of the world as a diplomatic victory for England, and a distinct
concession to British commerce, which is predominant in the South. She
therefore thought out well what to get from the Shah in return, to
favour her commercial policy in the North, and the ten years'
prohibition of railways was the result. Russia desires commercial
predominance in Persia just as England does, and she will use all the
influence which her dominating close neighbourhood gives to obtain the
utmost favour and facilities for her trade.

While Russia and England were thus engaged in strong commercial rivalry,
Germany unexpectedly made her appearance in the Western region of
Central Persia, where their competition meets. Nor has Persia been idle
in trading enterprise; her merchants are not only aiming at getting more
exclusively into their own hands the interior commerce of the country,
but they have established direct relations with firms in foreign
countries, and now work in active competition with the European houses
which in old days had almost all the export and import trade in their
own hands. The introduction of the Imperial Bank of Persia has given an
impetus to this new spirit of native enterprise by affording facilities
which before were not available on the same favourable terms. The Nasiri
Company, a mercantile corporation of Persians, was formed in 1889 to
trade on the Karun, and it commenced operations with two small steamers.
Later, a third steamer was added, and they are now negotiating for the
purchase of a fourth. They have a horse tramway, about one and a half
miles long, to facilitate the necessary transhipment of cargo between
the upper and lower streams, where the Ahwaz Rapids break the river
navigation. This trading corporation has strong support, and the Persian
Government is earnest in giving it every assistance, so that it may
develop into an effectual agency for the revival of the prosperity which
made the Karun Valley in old times what the Nile Valley is now.

Messrs. Lynch Brothers also run a large steamer on the Lower Karun in
connection with a 'stern-wheeler' (Nile boat pattern) on the upper
stream, and between them and the Nasiri Company a regular and quick
communication is maintained between Bombay and Shuster. One of the
articles of import at the latter place is American kerosene-oil for lamp
purposes, to take the place of the Shuster crude petroleum, said to have
been used there for centuries. This petroleum contains an unusual amount
of benzine, and being highly explosive in lamps, the Shuster people, who
can afford to pay for the safer substance, have taken to American oil.
The Shuster petroleum-springs belong to a family of Syuds in the town,
and did not fall within the field of the Persian Mines Corporation.
These oil-springs may yet become the object of practical operations
should the Nasiri Company develop the resources of the Karun Valley.

Belgium has also taken an active interest in Persia lately, the tramway
company, and the glass manufactory at Tehran, and the beet-sugar factory
in the vicinity, having all been established with Belgian capital; and
Holland, who is believed to be seeking an opening in Persia, may find
her opportunity in the Karun Valley irrigation works. The creation of
strong international interests in Persia should have the best effect in
strengthening her national independence, developing her natural
resources, and introducing good government. And the peaceful succession
of the lawful heir to the throne should go far to carry the country
forward in the path of progress and prosperity. It is evident that the
strong sentiment attaching to the late Shah's long and peaceful reign,
and the popular feeling of loyalty to him which influenced the people,
has had the effect of enforcing the royal will in favour of the heir
legitimately appointed by Nasr-ed-Din Shah.


The reigning family of Persia are the hereditary chiefs of the royal
Kajar tribe, and still preserve the customs of that position. They have
not changed the manly habits of a warlike race for the luxury and
lethargy which sapped the energies and ruined the lives of so many
monarchs of Persia. Up to the time of the present ruling dynasty the
princes of the blood were immured in the harem, where their education
was left to women and their attendants, and until the death of the King
his destined successor was not known. At that period the son of the
lowest slave in the harem was deemed equally eligible to succeed to the
throne with the offspring of the proudest princess who boasted the
honour of marriage with the Sovereign. And similarly as in the West,
up to about four hundred years ago, the Crown was generally made secure
by murder, every actual or possible rival for the throne being blinded
or removed from the scene. This was the practice of the Soffivean
dynasty, which preceded the Kajar. But with the change which then took
place, this hideous practice disappeared, and usages more congenial to
the feelings of the military tribes which support the throne were
established. Under the late Shah the princes of the blood were employed
in the chief governments of the country, and exercised all the powers
and responsibilities of office.

Persia may be described as a theocratic democracy under an absolute
monarchy. There is no hereditary rank but that of royal birth, and that
of the chiefs of the military tribes, who may be regarded as a military
aristocracy; but there is a system of life titles which secure to the
holders certain privileges and immunities, and are much prized. The
titles are nominally descriptive of some personal quality, talent, or
trust, such as Councillor of the State, Confidant of the King, Trusted
of the Sultan; they are also bestowed upon ladies in high position. The
name of an animal is never introduced into the title; at least, I have
only heard of one instance to the contrary in modern times. An
individual of European parentage was recommended to the late Shah's
notice and favour by his Persian patrons, and they mentioned his great
wish to be honoured with a title. His Majesty, who had a keen sense of
humour, observed the suggestive appearance of the candidate for honours,
and said, 'Well, he is Hujabr-i-Mulk' (the Lion of the Country). The new
noble was ready with his grateful thanks: 'Your sacred Majesty, may I be
thy sacrifice;' but he added in a subdued tone, 'A lion requires at
least a lamb a day.' The Shah laughed at the meaning speech, and said,
'Let him have it.' The granting of a title does not give any emolument
unless specially directed. As a precedent for this title, the Shah may
have had in his mind the story of Ali Kuli Khan, one of the favourites
of Shah Suliman. During the reign of Shah Abbas this chief was generally
in prison, except when his services were required against the enemies of
his country. This had gained for him the name of the Lion of Persia, as
men said that he was always chained except when wanted to fight.

The Shah can raise whomsoever he chooses from the lowest to the highest
position or post, except in the most powerful of the nomad tribes, where
the nomination to chieftainship is confined to the elders of the leading
families, who generally represent two lines from one head, one being in
the opposition when the other is in power. The chieftain of a clan
considers himself superior in real rank to the most favoured Court
title-holder, and the chiefs of the military tribes may be termed the
hereditary nobility of Persia. The monarch may, by his influence or
direct power, alter the succession, and place an uncle in the situation
of a nephew, and sometimes a younger brother in the condition of an
elder, but the leader of the tribe must be of the family of their chief.
The younger sons and nephews are enrolled in the royal guard, and the
Shah is thus enabled by judicious change and selection to keep his hold
upon the tribe. Change of chiefs is not always effected peacefully. The
wild tribesmen who, in feudal fashion, attach themselves as idle
men-at-arms to a popular leader are sometimes disinclined to accept his
fall from favour without an appeal to arms. But the royal authority
prevails in the end, and the new chiefs rule begins, and lasts just so
long as Fortune smiles and the Shah wills.

A marked instance of this was shown in July, 1892, when Jehan Shah
Khan-Ilbegi was deprived of the chieftaincy of the Afshar section of the
powerful Shahsevend tribe, who range from Ardebil to Tehran. The famous
Nadir Shah was originally a simple trooper of this tribe, and belonged
to the colony of it which was planted at Deregez on the Turkoman border.
The ostensible cause of the chiefs removal from power was that with his
own hands he had killed his wife, the sister of his cousin,
Rahmat-ulla-Khan, who was known to be his rival in the tribe for place
and power. Jehan Shah had unjustly accused her of being unfaithful to
him, and going to her house, he called her out, and, notwithstanding her
appearing with a copy of the Sacred Koran in her hand, shot her dead
while in the act of swearing on the holy book that she was innocent of
all guilt. Jehan Shah than went in search of the tribesman whom he
suspected of being her paramour, and killed him also. The matter was
reported to the Shah, then in camp in Irak, who ordered Jebam Shah to
be deprived of the chieftainship, and Rahmat-ulla-Khan to be appointed
Ilbegi in his place. It was further ordered that Jehan Shah should be
arrested and sent as a prisoner to Tehran. The Ihtisham-e-Dowleh-Kajâr,
cousin of the late Shah and Governor of Khamseh, in which province Jehan
Shah was then located with his clan, was directed to carry out the royal

Much telegraphing had taken place on the subject, and as cipher was not
used, Jehan Shah, by means of money and influence, was able to obtain
the fullest information of all that passed, and as he was known to have
a numerous personal following armed with Peabody-Martini rifles, the
Governor was instructed to act with caution. He accordingly had recourse
to stratagem, and gave out that the object of his journey to the tribal
quarters was to coerce a section of the tribe which had been giving
trouble. He therefore asked Jehan Shah to assist him, and this gave the
chief a good excuse for assembling his men. The Prince Governor took
with him one hundred cavalry and four hundred infantry, but no attention
was paid to the ammunition, and they started without a proper supply.

Rahmat-ulla-Khan was fully aware of the Governor's real intentions, but
the influence and power of the popular chief prevented any partisan
gathering against him. He therefore could only depend upon the Persian
troops to enforce the order of the Shah, and was unable to do more than
prepare a reception tent and provide a luncheon for the Prince and his
people, about eight miles in advance of their camp, at a place appointed
for the meeting with himself and Jehan Shah. On approaching this place,
these two, with the elders and the tribesmen, went forward for the
customary ceremonial reception of the Governor. Jehan Shah dismounted
and saluted with the utmost show of respect; but on reaching the tent
which had been prepared for them by his rival, he declined to enter and
partake of his hospitality, declaring that he preferred to pass on to
his own tents, some distance off, his mounted following of fifteen
hundred men accompanying him. The Governor knew that Jehan Shah had
become dangerous from the devotion of his well-armed followers, and the
readiness of the main body of the fierce fighting tribesmen to support
him. He had evidently contemplated his arrest and seizure at the place
of meeting, but the show of force and feeling in Jehan Shah's favour was
too strong to admit of any such attempt. He therefore decided to declare
openly the object of his coming, and after lunch he assembled the elders
of the tribe, and summoned Jehan Shah to his presence, who, however,
declined to obey. The Prince on this announced his deposition, and the
appointment of Rahmat-ulla-Khan in his place, showing at the same time
the Shah's written commands. He then appears to have indulged in some
violent abuse of Jehan Shah, and again sent an order to secure his

In the meanwhile, that chief had taken counsel with his tribal
following, numbering about fifteen hundred, armed with breechloaders,
and finding them entirely on his side, and determined to dispute the
rule of his rival, he served out cartridges freely, and decided to
discuss the matter with the Governor. He left most of his men at some
distance, and presented himself attended by only a few. The Prince
informed him of the Shah's orders, and after some contentious talk, he
held out the royal firman for him or any of those with him to read. On
one of the elders moving forward to take the paper, Jehan Shah suddenly
motioned them all back with his hands, and the Prince, taking alarm at
this appearance of a signal, called out to his guards to seize Jehan
Shah. There was a shout and a rush, and some of Jehan Shah's men from
behind fired over the heads of the soldiers, who, however, returned the
fire point-blank, killing and wounding several of the Shahsevends. The
tribesmen then opened fire in earnest, and the Prince with his troops
promptly fled. All ran and rode for their lives, pursued by the furious
enemy. Some of the servants kept with their master, and remounted him
twice when the horses he rode were wounded and disabled. The tribesmen
are said to have made him a special target, for he was most conspicuous
in rich dress, and a third time he and his horse were rolled over
together, he receiving two bullet-wounds. He was then seized, partially
stripped, and treated with great indignity. The pursuit was kept up to
his camp, which was captured and plundered; thirty-five of his men were
killed, and fifty wounded. One of the Prince's officials, also
wounded, was taken with him, and both were kept prisoners for three


In the meantime Jehan Shah, having recovered from his mad fury, trembled
at the recollection of his crime, and dreading the vengeance which he
saw was certain to follow, he packed up his valuables and fled with a
few followers to the Caspian coast. He had the intention to escape by
steamer to Baku, but failing in this, owing to all communication with
Russian territory having been suspended during the outbreak of cholera
then prevailing, he determined to make his way by land across the
Northern frontier. Being closely pursued by a party of Persian cavalry,
he abandoned all his baggage, and with great difficulty reached Tabriz,
where he was constrained to take sanctuary in the house of the chief
Moulla. He died there after enduring existence for about six months
under circumstances and with surroundings which must have been supremely
hateful to him. I was at Tabriz in the end of 1892, while he was there,
and I was told by one who had seen him that he was a sad sight then, the
hereditary head of the Afshar Shahsevends, a section of a royal tribe,
herding in misery with a crowd of criminals seeking sanctuary in order
to avoid the avenger of blood. On the first news of the occurrence the
Shah ordered the immediate mobilization of the infantry regiments of
Khamseh and Kasvin, and this had the effect of dispersing the tribe,
facilitating the work of retribution, and establishing the power of the
new chief. This incident had the best political result in aiding the
Kajar policy of breaking up the ruling families and the cohesion of the
dangerous tribes, and asserting fully the authority of the Tehran
Central Government. Jehan Shah had gradually improved and strengthened
his position by increasing the superior armament of his tribesmen (who
were said to have three thousand breechloaders) and laying in a large
supply of cartridges, so that, with his wealth, influence, and
popularity, he must have been regarded as dangerously powerful. No doubt
the conceited confidence thus produced led him to indulge in the
ungovernable rage which wrecked his freedom and ended his life. The
tribesmen said that the wife whom he killed was truly innocent; but
being themselves men of wild ways and tempestuous temper, they thought
he had been harshly judged, and they therefore stood by him to resist
his seizure and deportation.

As in England four hundred years ago, every place of worship is a sacred
refuge; and the dwelling-house of the Chief Priest gives similar
protection. This right of sanctuary continues in force throughout
Persia; but to benefit by it for any length of time, money is very
necessary, for without such aid, or when the supplies fail, starvation
steps in to drive the refugee out. While in sanctuary, compromise and
arrangement may be effected, so that the fugitive may be allowed to go
unmolested, the relatives paying, or becoming 'bail' for, the
blood-money or compensation agreed upon. A fugitive from justice,
oppression, or revenge often claims the privilege of sanctuary in the
house or premises of a local dignitary of influence, whose house would
not be unceremoniously entered by pursuers, and this affords time either
to meet the demands or accusations made, or to escape to a safer place.

At Tehran there is a big gun, said to have been brought by Nadir Shah
from Delhi, and known as the Pearl Cannon. It is said to be so called
from having had a string of pearls hung on it near the muzzle when it
was on show in Imperial Delhi. This was probably the case, for we know
that heavy guns in India were regarded with a degree of respect and
reverence almost approaching worship. The gunners of the Maharajah
Runjeet Singh, the Lion of the Punjab, used to 'salaam' to their guns,
and to hang garlands of the sweet-scented _champak_ flower, which is
used in temples and at festivals, round the muzzles. The Pearl Cannon
occupies a prominent position close to the Shah's palace, and has always
been recognised as possessing a semi-sacred character, and giving the
right of sanctuary to those who touch it and remain by it.

I remember a regiment of infantry, represented by three hundred men who
were 'off duty' and available for the demonstration, claiming the
privilege of this great gun sanctuary after they had assailed the house
of their Colonel in order to wreak their vengeance on him, as he was
suspected of withholding their pay. The officer's servants were warned
in time, and closed the courtyard door, so that the rioters were unable
to enter; but they relieved their feelings by battering the door with
stones and damaging the Colonel's carriage, which they found outside.
Having thus created a great disturbance and excited considerable rumour,
they proceeded to the Pearl Cannon, and gave vent to their grievances in
loud cries, which reached the royal palace, on which the Shah,
Nasr-ed-Din, was made acquainted with all the facts, and caused the
soldiers' wrongs to be redressed. One of the charges against the Colonel
was that he had managed, by lending money to the men, to gain possession
of their village lands by unfair means--for he was a landlord in the
same district, and desired to add to his holding. The corps was the
Lârâjani territorial infantry battalion, and an English resident at
Tehran, who caught the name as Larry-Johnny, said the whole incident was
'quite Irish, you know.'


--The military tribes and the royal guard
--Men of the people as great monarchs
--Persian sense of humour
--Nightingales and poetry
--Legendary origin of the royal emblem
--Lion and Sun
--Ancient Golden Eagle emblem
--The Blacksmith's Apron the royal standard.

The warlike nomads form a most important part of the military strength
of Persia, and it has always been the policy of the Sovereign to secure
their personal attachment to him as the direct paramount chief of each
martial clan. In pursuance of this policy, the royal guard, known as
Gholam-i-Shah, or Slaves of the King, which protects and escorts the
Shah in camp and quarters, is mainly composed of bodies of horse
furnished from the best and most powerful of the military tribes. These
come from all quarters of the empire, and are headed and officered by
members of the most influential families, so that they may be regarded
as hostages for the loyalty and fidelity of the chiefs. All are changed
from time to time, and thus a system of short service prevails, to give
as many as possible a term of duty with the royal guard.

The term _gholam_, or slave, has always been given as a title to the
personal guards, and everyone who is admitted to the corps claims the
envied distinction of Gholam-i-Shah. This guard has a very ancient
origin, and service in it is highly prized as giving opportunities of
attracting the attention and gaining the favour of the King. The great
Sovereign Sabuktagin, who reigned in the tenth century, was said to have
risen from the ranks of the royal guard. All the couriers of the foreign
legations at Tehran are styled Gholam, and the title is accepted as an
honourable one, meaning a mounted servant of courage and trust, who is
ready to defend to the death all interests committed to his charge.

The total strength of 'the guard' is twelve hundred and fifty, of whom
two hundred are the élite, called _gholam peshkhidmet_ (personal
attendants) and mostly belong to the Kajar, the Shah's own tribe, with
which his Majesty always identified himself in the most public manner,
and thus made every man proud of his clanship with the King. I here
allude to the royal signature, 'Nasr-ed-Din, Shah, Kajar.' These
superior guardsmen have all the rank of gentleman, and may be called the
mounted 'gentlemen at arms' of the guard. They have the customary right
of appointment to Court and palace posts, such as door-keeper, usher,
messenger, etc. Their service is for life, and is hereditary, a son
succeeding his father, and taking his place in the guard when promotion,
age, illness, or death creates a vacancy. They have distinctive
horse-trappings with silver neck-straps, breastplates, and headstalls,
which pass from father to son, and have become highly prized heirlooms.
The Shah was most partial to the representative tribesmen of his guard,
and his happy characteristics as a King of nomadic taste and camp-like
ways, in familiar acquaintance with all about him, were well shown at a
military review which I witnessed at Tehran some years ago. The review
was a special one, held in honour of the Swedish officers deputed by
King Oscar II. of Norway and Sweden to convey the high order of the
Seraphin to his Majesty the Shah, and as many troops as possible were
called in from the surrounding districts to take part in it. The royal
guard mustered strong, and when they marched past, the Shah stepped
forward to the saluting line, so as to be closer to them, and called out
to each troop, and named each commander in terms of praise and pleasure.
This display of personal knowledge of the men, and acquaintance with
their leaders, drew from them a perfect buzz of delight.

On this occasion the smart appearance of the Bakhtiari horse attracted
particular attention. The Persian bystanders showed their pride in these
popular mounted mountaineers by the admiring exclamation, 'Here come the
Bakhtiaris!' They were very noticeable by their white felt, round,
brimless hats, and the good line they preserved when passing. The
Bakhtiaris (Lurs) are the most numerous and powerful of all the military
tribes, and are noted for their superior martial qualities both as horse
and foot. They are of the most ancient Persian descent, and have held
the hills and valleys of Luristan from time immemorial; while all the
other military tribes may be said to be of much later date, and of
foreign origin--Arab, Syrian, Turk, and Tartar. Competent authorities,
who have had full opportunity of judging, agree in saying that they are
as good material for soldiers as can be found anywhere. I was greatly
interested in hearing the Shah's Prime Minister speak in glowing terms
of the gallantry of the Bakhtiari infantry at the capture of Kandahar
under Nadir Shah, who, after subduing them in their own mountains, won
them over to serve him loyally and well in his conquering campaigns
against Afghanistan and India. The Grand Vizier mentioned the
circumstance of the Bakhtiari contingent, after one of the many repulses
met in the repeated attempts to carry Kandahar by storm, having in the
evening, when all was quiet on both sides, assaulted without orders and
captured a commanding, position in the defences, which they had failed
to take during the day. The shouts of the victors roused the resting
besiegers, and Nadir at once took advantage of the success to carry the
citadel and gain possession of the town. As a closing remark concerning
these nomad tribes, I may mention that they regard themselves as in
every way superior to the settled inhabitants, and express this conceit
in their saying, 'One man of the tents is equal to two of the town.'

I have mentioned the prerogative of the Shah to raise whomsoever he
chooses from the lowest to the highest position, except under
restrictions in the military tribes. This quite falls in with the
democratic spirit which lies dormant among the people, ready to be
displayed in willingness to accept a Sovereign of signal power who
springs from the lower ranks of life. The social equality which Islam
grants to all men was nothing new to Persia in forming ideas regarding a
popular leader and elected King. The descent of such a man is deemed of
little consequence in the minds of a people who look to personification
of power as the right to rule. In fact, with them it is said that the
fame of such a man is in proportion to the lowness of his origin. They
know of notable instances of the nation being delivered from terrible
tyranny and degrading foreign subjection, and being made gloriously
great, by men of the people. They point to Kawâh, the blacksmith, who
headed a revolt against the monstrously cruel usurper King Zohâk, using
his apron as a banner, and finally overthrew and slew him, and placed
Faridûn, a Prince of the Peshdâdian dynasty, on the throne which he
might have occupied himself. This blacksmith's apron continued for ages
to be the royal standard of Persia. In the ninth century,
Yacub-bin-Leis, called the Pewterer, as he had worked when young at that
(his father's) trade, made his way to the throne by sheer force of
strong character and stout courage. He remained the people's hero to the
last, was noted for his simple habits, for keeping with his name his
trade appellation (Suffâri, the Pewterer), and for never having been
wantonly cruel or oppressive. In the tenth century, when the great
Sabuktagin rose from soldier to Sovereign, we see the principle of
selection in preference to hereditary succession practised and accepted
by the nation. And the choice was justified by the glory he gave to the
Persian arms in extending the empire to India, and in the further
conquests of his soldier-son, Mahmud, who succeeded to his father's
throne, and added still more to the greatness of the kingdom, till it
reached from Baghdad to Kashgar, from Georgia to Bengal, from the Oxus
to the Ganges.

When the country was groaning under the Afghan yoke, it was the daring
spirit of one from the ranks of the people, Nadir Kuli (Shah), who
conceived the overthrow of the oppressor and the recovery of Persian
independence. Originally a simple trooper of the Afshar tribe, he
advanced himself by valour, boldness, and enterprise, and crowned his
successes by winning the admiration of the royal leaders and adherents,
who on the death of the infant King, Abbas III., son of Shah Tamasp,
elected him to be their King. As such he carried the war into the
country of the evicted oppressors, and established the power of the
empire from the Oxus to Delhi, whence he returned with the splendid
spoil which yet enriches and adorns the Crown of Persia. It speaks much
for Nadir Shah's strong character that, having gained such distinction,
he did not allow flatterers to find amid the obscurity of his birth the
lost traces of great ancestors. He never boasted a proud genealogy; on
the contrary, he often spoke of his low birth, and we are told that even
his flattering historian had to content himself with saying that the
diamond has its value from its own lustre, and not from the rock in
which it grows. A characteristic story of this remarkable man is that
on demanding a daughter of his vanquished enemy, Mahmud Shah, the
Emperor of Delhi, in marriage for his son, Nasr-ullah, he was met with
the answer that for alliance with a Princess of the Imperial house of
Timor a genealogy of seven generations was required. 'Tell him,' said
Nadir, 'that Nasr-ullah is the son of Nadir Shah, the son of the sword,
the grandson of the sword, and so on till they have a descent of
seventy, instead of seven generations.' Nadir, the man of action and
blood and iron, had the greatest contempt for the weak, dissolute Mahmud
Shah, who, according to the native historian of the time, was 'never
without a mistress in his arms and a glass in his hand,' a debauchee of
the lowest type, as well as a mere puppet King. In the end the demon of
suspicion poisoned the mind of Nadir to such an extent that he became
madly murderous, and assassination ended his life. The Persians say that
he began as a deliverer and ended as a destroyer.

As a people, the Persians are of a happy disposition and bright
imagination, doubtless produced by the dry, clear air of their high
tableland, which relieves from dullness and depression. They enjoy a
joke and laugh heartily, and they are able to see that most things have
their comic side. The late Shah was quick to show the merry look of
appreciation when something amusing was said. At the Nauroz Court
reception of the Corps Diplomatique all the Legations, headed by the
Turkish Embassy, were ranged in a semicircle in front of the Shah, and
after the congratulatory address was delivered by the Sultan's
Ambassador, his Majesty advanced and walked round slowly, pausing to say
a few words to each Minister. His face lit up with animation when he
spoke to one whom he knew to be able to reply in the Persian tongue. On
one occasion, after speaking with the Ottoman Ambassador, who is always
a Persian linguist (Persian being an obligatory subject of qualification
for the Tehran post), he passed on to a Minister who was a good Persian
scholar. Further on he found an equally well--qualified colloquial
proficient in another; and on finding himself before a well-known very
clever diplomatist for whom he had a great personal liking, he smiled
and said pleasantly, 'Have you learnt any Persian yet?' The Minister
bowed, and, looking duly serious, said in Persian, 'I know something.'
The Minister meant to say that he knew a little, but the word
'something,' as used, could be taken, as in English, to signify 'a thing
or two.' Such a meaning from the diplomatist who spoke was quite
appropriate, and the Shah laughed softly and looked much amused.

As another instance (but in this case of grim humour) of seeing the
comic side, a Prince Governor of a province, sitting in judgment,
ordered a merchant to pay a fine of fifty tomans, but, though well known
to be rich, he protested his utter inability to pay, saying he had never
seen such a sum of money, and begged for some other punishment which the
Prince in his wisdom and mercy would command. His Highness then
suggested a choice of eating fifty raw onions, or eating fifty sticks
(the Oriental mode of expression when speaking of bastinado strokes), or
paying the fifty tomans. Persians are fond of raw onions, those they eat
being small, and the merchant enjoyed the prospect of thus saving his
money. He thought that the punishment had been ordered in ignorance, so,
concealing his feeling of happy surprise, and affecting fear, he
elected for onions. He struggled hard with them, but could not swallow
more than half the number. He was then asked to pay the fine, but he
claimed his further choice of the fifty sticks. Triced up, he underwent
the pain of twenty-five well laid on to the soles of his feet, and then
called out that he would willingly pay the fifty tomans to have no more.
On this he was cast loose, and the Prince said, 'You fool! you had a
choice of one of three punishments, and you took all three.'

Persian servants regard their fixed pay as but a retaining fee, and look
for their real wages in perquisites. They show considerable ingenuity
and brightness of idea in reasons for purchasing this, that, and the
other thing, not really required, but affording opportunities for
'pickings.' A new head-servant, on looking round his master's premises,
and seeing no opening for a fresh purchase, at last cast his eye on the
fowls, kept to secure a supply of fresh eggs, instead of the doubtful
ones bought in the bazaar. He introduced stale eggs into the fowl-house,
and on their condition being remarked at breakfast, he gravely explained
that he had noticed the hens were old, and it sometimes happened that
old hens laid stale eggs, whereas young hens always laid fresh eggs; so
he suggested clearing out the fowl-house and restocking it with young

The leisure time the servants have is not always well spent, it is true,
but they have ideas of imagination and sentiment, which in some degree
is suggestive of refinement. I have seen this shown in their love of
singing birds, and their dandy ways of dress; for some of them are very
particular as to the cut of a coat and the fit of a hat. I have
sometimes been interested in seeing them carefully tending their pet
nightingales, cleaning the cages, and decking them out with bits of
coloured cloth and any flowers in season. In November I saw quite a
dozen cages thus brightened, each with its brisk-looking nightingale
occupant, put out in the sunshine in the courtyard; and on asking about
such a collection of cages, was told rather shyly, as if fearing a smile
at their sentimental ways, that there was an afternoon tea that day in
the neighbourhood, to which the nightingales and their owners were
going. These singing-bird-parties are held in the underground rooms of
houses, which are cool in summer and warm in winter, and I imagine the
company and rivalry of a number of birds in the semi-darkness, with
glimmering light from the 'kalian' pipes, and the bubbling of water in
the pipe-bowls, and the boiling samovar tea-urns, all combine to cheat
the birds pleasantly into believing that it is night-time in the spring

The Persian poets brought the nightingale much into their songs of
praise of earthly joys. The bulbul, of which they wrote and sang, was
the European nightingale, which visits Persia in spring to sing and love
and nest. They pass as far South as Shiraz, where they meet the plump
little Indian bulbul, which is often mistaken for the Shiraz poets'
singing-bird. The word is applied to both species in India and Persia,
but the birds are quite different in shape, plumage, and voice. They
meet at Shiraz, a place which possesses a climate so temperate and
equable as to bring together the birds and fruits of the East and West,
North and South; for there I saw and heard the Indian bulbul and the
hoopoe, the European nightingale, the cuckoo, and the magpie, and I know
that the fruits range from apples to dates.

The nightingale is the favourite pet singing-bird of the Persians. I had
good information regarding the manner of obtaining them for cage
purposes from some small boys who were engaged picking roses in a
rose-garden at Ujjatabod, near Yezd. There are two large rose-gardens in
that oasis in the Yezd Desert, where the manufacture of rose-water and
the attar essence is carried on. The gardens are appropriately favourite
haunts of the nightingales on their return with the season of gladness
from their winter resorts in the woods of the Caspian coast. The Persian
poets tell of the passionate love of the nightingale for the scented
rose, and in fanciful figure of speech make the full-blossomed flower
complain of too much kissing from its bird-lover, so that its sweetness
goes, and its beauty fades far too sadly soon. The boys told me of the
number of family pairs, their nests and eggs, and said that they took
the young male birds when fully fledged and about to leave the nest, and
brought them up by hand at first, till able to feed themselves. There is
a great demand in the towns for the young nightingales, which in Persia
sing well in captivity, so rarely the case with the bird in Europe. The
shopkeepers like to have their pet birds by them, and in the nesting
season they may be heard all over the bazaars, singing sweetly and
longingly for the partners they know of by instinct, but never meet.

There is much pleasing romance and sentiment in the popular idea
regarding the origin of the national emblem, Sher o Khurshed (the Lion
and the Sun). The following legend concerning it was told to me by the
Malik-ut-Tujjar, or Master of the Merchants of Tehran, a gentleman well
versed in Persian history, literature, and lore, and who spoke with all
the enthusiasm of national pride. When the first monarchy of Ajam
(Persia) was founded by Kai Uramâs, some five thousand years ago, the
sun was in the sign of Asad (Leo), the highest tower in the heavens, and
the lion was therefore taken as the Persian emblem, and it so remained
without the sun over it, as now shown, till about six hundred years ago.
Ghazan Khan, who then reigned as King, was so attached to his wife, the
Queen Khurshed (the Sun), that he desired to perpetuate her name by
putting it on the coins he struck; but the Ulema objected to a woman's
name on the King's coin, whereupon he decided to put her face on a
rising sun above the national emblem of the lion, as now seen in the
well-known royal arms of Persia. The story is that King Ghazan's
affection for his Queen, Khurshed, was such that he styled her Sham'bu
Ghazan (the Light of Ghazan).

This may have been the origin of the expression Khurshed Kullah, or
Sun-crowned, which I have seen stated is a term that was used to denote
the Sovereign of an empire, but from the fact of the features and style
of dressing the hair shown in the sun-picture being those of a woman, I
think the title may be regarded as applied only to queens. Catherine II.
of Russia, from the magnificence of her Court, her beauty and ambition,
and her fame in love and war, was known in Persia during her lifetime as
Khurshed Kullah, and she is still designated by that title.

I would here mention another instance of a Mohammedan monarch desiring
to publish to his people in the most sovereign manner his high regard
for a wife by putting her name on the current coin. The reign of the
Emperor Jehangir, son of Akbar the Great, the founder of the Moghul
Empire in India and the builder of Agra, was chiefly remarkable for the
influence exercised over him by his favourite wife, Nur Mahal, the Light
of the Harem, immortalized by Moore in 'Lalla Rookh.' The currency was
struck in her name, and we are also told that in her hands centred all
the intrigues that make up the work of Oriental administration. She lies
buried by the side of her husband at Lahore, the capital of the Punjab.

The subject of Ghazan Khan's succession to the throne of Persia is an
unusually interesting one. He was a Moghul chief of the line of Chengiz
Khan, and, holding Persia in tributary dependence for his sovereign
master the Khakan, was at the head of one hundred thousand tried Tartar
warriors. Persia was then Mohammedan, and the proposal was made to him
to join the new faith, and become the King-elect of an independent Iran.
He consulted his commanders, and then decided to enter Islam and become
King. His apostasy was followed by the instant conversion of his hundred
thousand men, who, with the true spirit of Tartar soldiers, followed
their leader into the pale of Islam, and soon became the active
supporters of the faith which they had so suddenly embraced. We can
imagine the triumphant joy of the proselytizing priests as they passed
down the crowded ranks of the time-hardened, weather-proof warrior sons
of the bow and spear, who on June 17, 1265, paraded at Firozkoh, where
the Tartar host was then encamped, to repeat the Mohammedan confession
of faith. To them the learning of the Arabic words must have been the
severest exercise they had ever been called upon to practise, and it is
easy to think of the muttered swearing among the puzzled veterans that
what was good enough for their leader was good enough for them, and that
they were ready to do as he had done, without further talk or ceremony.
Islam was then most actively aggressive, extending by the argument of
smooth speech or sharp sword, as occasion demanded, and the Moullas must
have regarded with enthusiastic pride the glorious reinforcement they
had brought to its armies by the consecration of such a splendid warrior
host to the service of their Church.

Ghazan Khan was the first of this race of kings from the line of Chengiz
who threw off all allegiance to Tartary by directing that the name of
the monarch of that empire should not in future be put on the Persian
coins. On the coins which he struck, the Mohammedan creed, 'There is no
God but God, and Mohammed is His Prophet,' was inscribed instead of the
name and titles of the Khakan. He had not the courage of his heart's
desire to strike his wife's name on the coins, as Jehangir did, but he
was differently placed, in that, as a fresh convert and a new King by
the favour of Islam, he felt himself unable to put aside the priests who
had bribed him with a crown. Malcolm, in remarking on Ghazan Khan's
accession to the throne of Persia, says that Henry IV. of France
similarly changed his creed to secure the crown.

Ghazan Khan reigned about the middle of the thirteenth century, and was
known in Europe for his supposed readiness to assist in re-establishing
the Christians in the Holy Land. He was deemed a wise and just Prince,
and it is believed that his policy led him to seek the aid of the States
of Europe in order to improve the position and condition of himself and
his kingdom. It is said that Pope Boniface VIII endeavoured by a display
of his connection with Ghazan Khan to excite the Christian princes to
another Crusade, and it was probably this connection with the head of
the Christian Church which led to a general impression among Western
writers that Ghazan Khan was not sincere in his conversion to
Mohammedanism, and was at heart a Christian. There is reason to think
that the secret spring of his action was to weaken the Egyptian Empire,
which he regarded as hostile and dangerous to himself and Persia. It is
not clear whether Ghazan Khan apostatized from the religion of his
ancestors or that of the Christians, but he is believed to have been
attached all his life to the latter faith, though he does not appear to
have made a public declaration of his belief in its doctrines. He
professed Mohammedanism in order to obtain the crown, but his life had
been passed in friendship with Christians, and in wars with the
followers of the faith he adopted.

Xenophon mentions that the royal emblem of Persia from early times was a
golden eagle with outstretched wings, resting on a spearhead like the
Roman eagle, but he makes no allusion to a standard. Persian historians
tell of a famous standard carried from the mythical time of Zohâk to
that of the last of the Pehlevi kings. Their story is that Kawâh, a
blacksmith, raised a successful revolt against the implacably cruel King
Zohâk in the earliest time of Persian sovereignty, and relieved the
country from his terrible tyranny by putting him to death. The
victorious blacksmith then placed on the throne Faridûn, a Prince of the
Peshdâdian dynasty, who adopted his apron, which had been the standard
of revolt, as the royal banner of Persia. As such it was said to be
richly ornamented with jewels, to which every king, from Faridûn
to the last of the Pehlevi monarchs, added. It was called the
Durafsh-i-Kawâh[1] (the Standard of Kawâh), and continued to be the
royal standard of Persia till the Mohammedan conquest, when it was taken
in battle by Saad-e-Wakass, and sent to the Khalif Omar. Malcolm said
that the causes which led to the sign of Sol in Leo becoming the arms of
Persia could not be distinctly traced, but thought there was reason to
believe that the use of this symbol was not of very great antiquity. He
said, with reference to it being upon the coins of one of the Seljukian
dynasty of Iconium, that when this family was destroyed by Halaku,
the grandson of Chengiz, it was far from improbable that that Prince or
his successor adopted this emblematical representation as a trophy of
his conquest, and that it has remained ever since among the most
remarkable of the royal insignia of Persia. He also mentioned the
opinion that this representation of Sol in Leo was first adopted by
Ghiat-u-dîn-Kai-Khusru-bin-Kai-Kobad, 1236 A.D., and that the emblem is
supposed to have reference either to his own horoscope or that of his
Queen, who was a Princess of Georgia. This approaches the legend told by
the Malik-ut-Tujjar of Tehran, for the face depicted on Sol is that of a

[Transcriber's note 1: The original text has Durnfsh-i-Kawâh. The original
Farsi is Derafsh-i-Kaviani. The typesetter must have read an
'a' as an 'n'. Durnfsh is otherwise unpronounceable.]


--The Order of the Lion and the Sun
--Rex and Dido
--Endurance of Persian horses
--The Shah's stables
--The sanctuary of the stable
--Long distance races
--A country of horses
--The _gymkhana_ in Tehran
--Olive industry near Resht
--Return journey
--Grosnoje oil-field
--Russian railway travelling
--Improved communication with Tehran.

The distinguished Persian Order of the Lion and the Sun was instituted
by Fateh Ali Shah, in honour of Sir John Malcolm, on his second mission
to the Court of Persia in 1810, in company with Pottinger, Christie,
Macdonald-Kinneir, Monteith, and other British officers, who rendered
excellent service to Persia in organizing a body of her troops. These
officers were followed by others, who in 1834, under Sir Henry Lyndsay
Bethune, led the troops they had trained against the Pretenders who, on
the death of Fateh Ali Shah, opposed the succession of the Vali Ahd
(heir-apparent), Mohamed Shah, father of the late Sovereign. The
Pretenders were defeated by Sir Lyndsay Bethune, and thus England
established the stability of the throne of the Kajars in the direct
line, and carried out the will of the great Fateh Ali Shah, who had
appointed his grandson to succeed him after the death of his son, Abbas
Mirza. During all the changes since Mohamed Shah's accession, Persia has
always had reason to regard England as a friendly neighbour who has no
aggressive designs against her. This feeling must have become conviction
on finding that the defeat she suffered in 1856 caused her no loss of
territory in the South, and the Order of the Lion and the Sun continues
to be a signal sign of strong friendship between the two nations.

There are two great St. Bernard dogs belonging to the British Minister
at Tehran, which, by their leonine appearance and tawny red colour,
massive forms and large limbs, have made a remarkable impression on the
imaginative Persian mind. They are dogs of long pedigree, being son and
daughter of two famous class champions. Never being tied up, but
allowed full freedom, they are perfectly quiet and good-natured, though
at first sight, to the nervous, they may look doubtful, if not
dangerous. These powerful giant dogs accompany the Minister's wife in
her walks, and seem to know that they are to guard and protect; showy,
gay Rex precedes, with his head up and eyes all about, while Dido
follows, with head down, lioness-like, watchful and suspicious. Painful
experience has taught the street-scavenger curs, which dash savagely at
strange dogs, to slink away at the sight of this pair of champions, and
the passers-by, who, as Mohammedans, are merciless to dogs, treat them
as quite different from the dog they despise, so that they walk along
feared and respected by all, man and dog alike. A Persian gentleman,
riding past with his mounted followers, drew up at the sight of these
St. Bernards, and said, 'I would give the finest Kerman shawl, or the
very best Persian horse, for a puppy dog of that breed.'


Some of the mendicant dervishes of Tehran are of wild look, with matted
locks, and with howling voice go about demanding, not begging, alms.
They regard a giver as under some obligation to them, for affording him
the means of observance of a duty imposed by religion. These stalk along
defiantly, carrying club or axe, and often present a disagreeable
appearance. One of them came suddenly by a side-path behind the
Minister's wife, and followed, yelling out his cry of 'Hakk, hakk!' It
was almost dark, and he did not see the great dogs, which had gone
ahead. His cry and continued close-following steps were disturbing, so I
turned and asked him either to go on at once or keep farther back. He
frowned at what no doubt he considered my bad taste in objecting to his
pleasing and superior presence, and hastened his pace a little to pass,
but stopped suddenly on seeing the 'lion-dogs' belonging to the
Janâb-i-Khanum-i-Sifarat (the Lady Excellency of the Legation), and
asked to be allowed to follow us, saying he would be perfectly quiet. On
reaching the Legation gate, and seeing his way clear, the dogs having
entered, he left, saying gently, 'Goodnight; God be with you.'

Formerly a lady could hardly walk about without some little fear of look
or laugh calculated to annoy. This is often the case in a Mohammedan
country, the meaning being that the figure and face should be shrouded
and veiled. But in presence of Rex and Dido there is no sign of the
light look or laugh; on the contrary, there is rather the respectful
gesture of, 'The road is free to thee.' The vivid imagination of the
Persian pictures the group as personifying the Imperial arms, the Lady
with the Royal guard, the Lion of Iran.

Before the warriors of the Mehdi made the term 'dervish' better known,
it was commonly understood to signify a beggar. But though the
derivation is 'before the door,' yet this does not mean begging from
door to door. The dervish originally was a disciple who freed himself
from all family ties, and set forth without purse or scrip to tell of a
new faith among a friendly people, and to tarry here or there as a
welcome guest. In due course he developed into a regular soldier of the
Church, and as schisms arose and the fires of religious animosities were
kindled, various orders of fighting fanatics, calling themselves
dervishes, sprang into existence. Such were the Ismailis, first known as
the Hassanis, in Persia, in the eleventh century, similar in character
to the present dervishes of the Soudan. In the more favourable sense of
the word, the true dervishes of to-day in Persia represent the spiritual
and mystic side of Islam, and there are several orders of such, with
members who belong to the highest and wealthiest ranks.

In the time of Fateh Ali Shah, the mendicant dervishes, who were then as
numerous and profligate in Persia as vagrant monks used to be in Spain
and Italy, became such a pest that one of the first acts of his
successor, Mahomed Shah, was to direct that no beggars should be
tolerated except the lame, the sick, and the blind, and that all
able-bodied men appearing in dervish garb were to be seized for military
service. The profession fell out of fashion then, and there are now
comparatively few mendicant dervishes to be seen. Those that still wear
the 'ragged robe' do not all appear to follow the rules of poverty,
self-denial, abstinence, and celibacy. One there was, a negro from
'darkest Africa,' who attached himself as a charity-pensioner to the
British Legation in Tehran, and was to be seen in all weathers, snow and
sunshine, fantastically dressed, chattering and chuckling in real Sambo
style. He knew that his religious cry of 'Ya Hoo' was characteristic of
him, and he was always ready to shout it out to the 'Ingleez,' whose
generosity he had reason to appreciate. He had a story of being a prince
of fallen fortune, who was kidnapped in Central Africa, traded and
bartered across Arabia, and abandoned in North Persia. He was known as
the Black Prince. During the cholera epidemic of 1892, he took up his
residence under some shady chenar-trees of great age, a recognised
resting-place for dervishes, close to the summer-quarters of the English
Legation at Gulhek, in the vicinity of Tehran. One day he sat outside
the gate and poured forth a pitiable tale of the death of his wife from
cholera during the night, and begged for money to pay for her burial.
Having made his collection, he disappeared at nightfall, leaving his
dead partner under the chenar-trees, and it was then discovered that he
had possessed two wives, who called him _agha_, or master, and he had
departed with the survivor, leaving the other to be buried by strangers.
After that he was known as the Prince of Darkness.

The privileged beggars or mendicant dervishes of Tehran are not all of
the stained, soiled, dust-and-ashes description; some are occasionally
seen presenting a pleasing contrast in washed white garments, and of
neat appearance. There was one such in Tehran, a well-known cheerful old
man, who looked as if he could, in quiet company, tell entertaining
stones, for recitation is adopted by some of these wandering dervishes
as a pleasant means of livelihood, and many of them in the storytelling
art show considerable talent, cultivated taste, and retentive memory.
But, to be successful, they must be able to indulge in variations of
their old stories by the introduction of new incidents which they have
heard or invented. One who is known for good style is always welcomed at
the many tea-shops and gardens in village and town.


In a most unlikely spot, on a long stretch of sand in the Yezd Desert, I
met a well-dressed dervish in clean, cool white clothes, who stopped on
perceiving that I was a 'Firanghi,' and, gently swaying his neat
dervish-dole dish, said quietly, 'Charity; alms are as dew-drops from
the heavens,' a most appropriate speech in the sandy waterless waste.
Membership with the higher dervish orders appears to signify and
convey something of the character of Freemasonry. I know of one
highly-placed Persian gentleman who is a dervish, and also of a European
gentleman of Oriental light and learning who has been admitted to the
same order. A famous Prime Minister of Persia in past time, Haji Mirza
Aghasi, was a well-known but rather eccentric dervish. My knowledge of
this was the means, on one occasion, of averting a disagreeable display
of violence by a gay sort of madcap, the relative of a post-house
master, who had attached himself as groom to the stable establishment.
My smart Armenian servant, who was equally good as groom or table
attendant, had taken off his warm pea-jacket to help in bracing up the
loads on my baggage post-horses, which were to be driven loose at a
canter, the usual practice when riding post with extra baggage. A
powerful, merry-talking groom, who came forward with the horses, picked
up the jacket and put it on, saying that the morning was cold. And so it
was, for the month was November. When all was ready for a start, my
servant asked him for the jacket, but the laughing _diwana_, or
eccentric fellow, said it was a gift to him, and refused to part with
it. Warm words passed, and I intervened and told him to drop his
dervish ways and give back the jacket. The _diwana_ became excited, and
shouted to all who were standing by that I had called him a dervish, and
had hurt his feelings badly. I then told him he was hard to please, as
surely a High Vazir was good enough to be compared with, for was it not
true that the famous Haji Mirza Aghasi was of the noble order of
dervishes. He took in slowly what I said, then smiled, and gave back the
jacket with a good grace. The Persians have a proverb similar to our own
regarding giving to beggars, '_Avval khesh, baad darvesh_' (First our
own, then the beggar. Charity begins at home).

The ordinary Persian horses are small, but very wiry and enduring. In
harness they are also capable of very long journeys in light draught, as
proved in the carriage service between Tehran and Kasvin. The distance
is about ninety-seven miles, divided into six stages. On arriving at one
of these, I found that all the posting horses had been taken by a
Russian Mohammedan merchant who was travelling ahead of me in great
style, with five carriages. I had two vehicles, one a carriage for
myself, and the other a _tarantass_ for my servant and luggage, each
drawn by three horses. There was considerable traffic on the road then,
and the horses had only a few hours in the stable between 'turns.' It
was night when I arrived at the post-house, and though anxious to go on,
I had no option but to remain there till the horses should come back
from the next stage. On their return, after three hours' rest and a feed
of barley, six took my carriage and waggon to the next post-house,
sixteen miles, where again I found an empty stable, the horses which had
gone with the party ahead of me not having come back. On inquiring
judiciously from the post-house master if the horses which had brought
me from the last stage were able to do another, I was told that with an
hour's rest and an extra feed they would be ready to go on. And they
travelled the second stage well, showing no signs of distress. These
horses had done sixteen miles in draught, and sixteen miles in cantering
back to their stable during the evening and night; then thirty-two miles
in draught with me in the morning, and after a short rest were to return
the same distance to their own stable, all in double-quick time.

I had the privilege of again seeing what I consider one of the most
interesting sights in Persia, the stables of his Majesty the Shah. They
contain the very best blood in Asia, and comprise the pick of the finest
horses in Arabia, Persia, Kurdistan, Karadagh, Khorasan, and the
Turkoman country, also the choicest home-breds from the horse-farms
belonging to the late Shah and his sons, the present Shah and the
Zil-es-Sultan, all of them great horse fanciers and breeders. The late
Shah had three breeding establishments: one in the vicinity of Tehran,
another near Hamadan, and the third at Maragha, in Azerbaijan, where the
pasture is good. In each of these there are said to be about one
thousand mares and foals. There is no part of the establishment of a
monarch of Persia to which more attention is paid than his horses. They
are always placed under the care of an officer of high rank, who is
styled Mir Akhor.

The Mir Akhor (Master of the Horse), Mohamed Hussein Mirza, a Prince of
royal blood, shows by his intimate knowledge of the history of each
horse, and the good condition of all and everything under his care, that
he loves his charge well. We were first shown the racing-stud, called
_mal-i-shart_ (race-horses), thirteen in number, all in hard condition
(the Persian expression is, 'as hard as marble'), and showing good bone
and much muscle. They were Arabs, but not all imported from Arabia, some
being bred from pure stock in the late Shah's establishments. The royal
races are held at Doshan Tepé, six miles from Tehran, where there is a
soft sand-soil course, said to be a two-mile one, but the correct
measurement is one and a half miles. The Persians breed and train for
long-distance speed and endurance, and the races at Doshan Tepé are from
three to nine miles. The Prince pointed out the last winner of the
nine-mile race, saying that he ran it in twenty-five minutes. This horse
was a well-shaped, warm gray Arab, with black points. He, with a darker
gray and a chestnut, all Arabs of pure breed from Nejd, none of which it
is said can be obtained except by free gift, or rare capture in war,
took the eye most with their make and shape. All were ridden slowly
round the yard by their 'feather-weight' jockey-boys, dressed in red
racing-jackets and blue breeches, with long, soft leather boots, and
coloured handkerchiefs bound tightly round their heads in place of
caps. I think these _shart_ horses in the royal stables, which are
always kept in galloping-condition, are the outcome of the old days of
flight or fight, when it was necessary to be always prepared for raid,
attack, or treachery, and so often man's best friend in pressing need
was his horse.

  'A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse!'

After the racing stud came the riding-horses, sixty-two in all:
deer-like Arabs of the best desert blood of Nejd and Anizah, and others
of a stouter build from the country of the Jaf Kurds; selected
cross-breeds from Persian and Turkish Kurdistan, and bigger-boned
animals from the Karadagh, the result of a strong strain of good
Northern blood. There were some long, low, powerful Yamut and other
breeds from the Turkoman country, and some good-looking active small
horses from Khorasan. From the Kashkai breeding-grounds near Shiraz were
shown some fine big horses of high quality, also neat, stout mixed
breeds from the hills and plains of Luristan and Persian Arabistan; and
Arabs of the best type, bred from 'blood stock' by the Shah's sons,
also choice specimens from the royal home farms.

Three gray Arabs, favourites of the late Shah, were brought out, set off
with gold collars, and their points were gone over to show how
powerfully safe they were as riding-horses on the hillside and the
plain. One of them was said to be getting too old for good work, but he
was bursting so with flesh and spirits that he threw out before and let
out behind in such vigorous wide-circling style as to scatter the crowd
of spectators, _gholams_, guards, and grooms. The most powerful and
best-shaped among the riding-horses, in my opinion, were a Jaf (Kurd)
dappled gray, and two big gray Turkomans, the latter very deep in the
girth, and distinguished by the long, fine neck so common to their
class, and rather large but lean heads, showing blood and breeding. The
Turkomans say that the superior size and strength of their horses over
others are due to the rich grass of their pasturelands, I may conclude
this short account of the royal stud by mentioning that, as Persia is
essentially a country of horses and horsemen, every foreign Minister on
first arrival and presentation to the Shah receives the gift of a horse
from his Majesty's stables. All these horses had their tails plaited or
tied up. The Persians never cut a horse's tail, but tie it up, which not
only improves the animal's appearance, but prevents the tail trailing on
the ground, or being whisked about when wet or dirty, to the annoyance
of the rider. The tail is only knotted up when the horse is made ready
for riding, otherwise it remains loose, to be used for flipping off

The stable of the King is deemed one of the most sacred of sanctuaries,
and this usage continues in force to the present time. The stables of
the foreign Legations are also regarded, by reason of the Ilchi-Envoy
representative sovereign character, as affording a similar asylum, and
in 1890 I was witness to protection being thus claimed in the stable of
the British Minister. The military tribes of Persia have always regarded
this sanctuary of the stable with the most superstitious reverence. 'A
horse,' they say, 'will never bear him to victory by whom it is
violated.' In a Persian MS. referred to by Malcolm, all the misfortunes
of Nadir Mirza, the grandson of Nadir Shah, are attributed to his having
violated the honour of the stable by putting to death a person who had
taken refuge there. The same writer says that the fleeing criminal finds
a place of safety at the head of the horse even when tied up in the open
air; the fugitive touches the headstall, and is safe so long as he
remains there. Malcolm again tells us of what is still observed, that it
is not unusual for those of the military tribes who desire to show their
respect at the funerals of chiefs and soldiers of high reputation to
send a horse without a rider, but with arms upon the saddle, to swell
the train of the mourning cavalcade. The favourite charger of the
departed warrior, carrying his arms and clothes, accompanies the
procession; the sheepskin cap he wore is placed on the pommel of his
saddle; his scarf sash, or _kumarbund,_ is bound round the horse's neck,
and his boots are laid across the saddle. In all this may be seen the
origin of similar customs now followed by the most civilized nations,
and of the regard in which the horse is held as 'the noble animal.'

The late Shah had not a single English or European riding-horse in his
stables, nor are any such seen in the country except some from
Russia--heavy, coarse animals, bred in the Don districts, and used for
carriage purposes. The artillery with the Persian Cossack brigade at
Tehran also have a few Russian horses. Nasr-ed-Din had such a high
appreciation of Arab and Eastern horses, of which he was in a position
to get the very best, that he found it difficult to understand what he
considered the fancy prices paid in England for racing stock. The story
is told that when he was shown Ormonde at Eaton Hall, in 1889, and was
informed that £14,000 had been offered for him, he tapped the ground
briskly with his cane, and said in a vivacious manner: 'What! £14,000
offered for him? Sell him, sell him now to-day. Why, he may be dead
to-morrow.' He would have been astonished to hear that Ormonde
afterwards changed owners at the advanced price of about £30,000.

In speaking to two friends, competent judges of such matters, about the
breeding and training for long-distance races in Persia, and the time in
which it was said the nine miles had been run, I found that, while one
thought the time might be reasonably correct, the other was more than
doubtful. I have since then seen in the _Journal of the United Service
Institution of India_, 1886, a paper on 'Horse-breeding in Central Asia,
translated from the Russian of Kostenko by W.E.G.,' in which the
following details regarding the Kirghiz race-meetings and the pace and
staying powers of their horses are given. M. Kostenko mentions that the
details are taken from an article by M. Garder in the _Voyenni Sbornik_
for 1875. He says that among the Inner Kirghiz Horde, races for prizes
were instituted by the Minister of State Domains, beginning with the
year 1851. On October 4 of the same year a circular course measuring
four miles was made, and the horses ran five times round it. The winner
did the 20 miles in 48 minutes and 45 seconds. Commencing with 1853, the
races were run over a distance of 13-1/3 miles on a circular course, and
of these races detailed information from 1869 was obtained.

The greatest speed was recorded on October 2, 1853, when the distance
(13-1/3 miles) was done in 27 minutes and 30 seconds. The longest time,
on the other hand, was 39 minutes 30 seconds.

The Chief Administration of the State Studs did not credit the
information sent from the Horde, so that in 1856 there was sent to the
sitting committee a second mètre, for the speed to be followed on it,
the circumference of the circle having been previously measured. The
president of the committee repotted that the measurement of the course
was correct, except that in every 4 versts (2-2/3 miles) it was out
17-1/2 feet. The deficiency was then made good. Accordingly, on October
2 a trial was held, at which the speed was checked with the aid of the
second mètre that had been forwarded, and several watches with
seconds-hands. These showed the 13-1/3 miles run in 31 minutes. Of
nineteen races run over this course, the average time was 33 minutes 40

In 1861 a race was run over another circular course, measuring about
3-1/2 miles, five times round. The mare that won performed the
distance--about 17 miles--in 48 minutes 45 seconds. In the Kalmak
_uluses_ (groups of nomad tents) of the Astrachan Government, races of
10 miles have been held. The greatest speed recorded was in 1864, viz.,
23 minutes 56 seconds; the longest time was in the same year, viz., 27
minutes. The average time between 1862 and 1865, and 1867 and 1869, was
25 minutes 15 seconds.

The riders in these races are lads of not more than ten or twelve years
of age. They are in no way specially trained, as from early age they are
always riding, and grow up in good condition for hard exercise. Their
weights range from four to six stone.

The Persians are a nation of horsemen still, and most of them can ride
well. All the migratory tribes breed horses, and such is the habit of
observation of horses in the country, that, as a rule, a man is known by
his horse, just as in some parts of England a man is known by his dog.
Owing to the notice thus taken of a man's horse, a party of nomad
brigands who carried off all my baggage-train in 1890 were discovered
and hunted down. There is a road guard service for all the King's
highways in Persia, and an annual fixed sum is allowed for its
maintenance. Officials with influence among the neighbouring nomads farm
this service on the main roads, and entertain a certain number of
'black-mail' men for each stage from the various tribal sections to keep
watch and ward. The official who farms the road guard service is held
liable to pay compensation for losses by robbery, and this stimulates
the energies of all to recover stolen property and to keep the highways
safe and secure. Incidents of robbery occasionally happen, but, all
things considered, the system may be said to work fairly well, as
instanced in the recovery of my baggage.

I had taken a short-cut over the hills to avoid some miles of circuit by
the highroad, and on the way I met the relieved Governor of Luristan
returning to Tehran, with a long train of well-guarded laden mules. Some
little distance behind them came three mounted nomads, armed with
Martini-Henry rifles (the common arm now in Persia), and showing
well-filled cartridge belts. They rode up to me and my party, consisting
of a _gholam_ courier and two servants, all mounted. One of the nomads,
riding a chestnut mare, while examining me intently, dropped a short
stick which he carried, alongside of me, and on dismounting to pick it
up, his mare wheeled round towards me, and I saw that she had lost her
right eye. We passed on, and shortly rejoined the highroad, and when
close to the next halting stage, a post-boy, driving three loose
post-horses before him, galloped up to say that he had seen my baggage
mules driven off the highroad by five armed nomads. The road guards were
called, and on hearing my description of the three men we had met, and
that one of them was riding a one-eyed chestnut mare, they at once said,
'Kara Beg and his sons are in this,' and rode off to follow the trail.
Almost all my luggage was recovered that night, and Kara Beg was hunted
hard, and disappeared. He had been suspected of several robberies
carefully carried out, so that detection was difficult; but in my case
it appeared that he had hung on to the rear of the Luristan Governor's
baggage without being able to steal anything, and when disappointment
had made his men sore and reckless, they followed up my mules, which had
no guard, and carried them off. The tribal road guards knew where to
find him and his men, and soon had most of the plundered property back.
The recovery was due to identification of his mare.

The English national love of sport has lately introduced into Tehran the
popular _gymkhana_, an institution which hails from India, where it is
English enterprise under an Indian name. The British Legation has
started this amusement, and it seems to provide energy for many who had
longed for some fresh outdoor exercise, but could not organize it. Now,
when weather permits, there are weekly gatherings for variety races,
tent-pegging, and paper-chases. A very amusing and effective novelty,
which I saw there for the first time, was a donkey tug-of-war. This new
'gym' was imported by a sporting young diplomatic secretary, who had
lately arrived from Cairo, where he had seen it in full exercise. Tehran
has excellent riding-donkeys for hire, well turned out, and attended by
the usual smart-tongued youth. Eight donkeys, four a side, heading
outwards, all ridden by Europeans, mostly English, were engaged in this
sport. Neither whip nor spur was allowed. The rope was passed along
under the right arm, and held as each rider thought best. At the word
'_Off!'_ heels were brought into fast play on the donkeys' ribs to make
them move forward, and the scenes that followed were ludicrous and
exciting. Riders were pulled off backward, and, still hanging on to the
rope, they managed to remount and get again into the pulling line in
time to drag off someone on the opposite side, who had lost his balance
on the sudden 'go' forward from the lessened strain. This amusement was
a highly popular one with the laughing spectators.

Our travelling-party on the outward journey had separated at Tehran, and
I travelled back homeward alone. I left Tehran in the middle of
November, and as there had been a heavy fall of snow some days before, I
quite expected to have a cold crossing of the Kharzan Pass over the
Elburz range. I did the journey to Kasvin comfortably in a carriage, and
rode thence to Resht in three days. I was unexpectedly fortunate in
finding that the bright weather had freed the road over the pass from
snow, and I had a perfect day, with still air, for that part of my ride.

About halfway between Kasvin and Resht the road passes through the
extensive olive-groves of Rudbar, which for many centuries has been the
centre of a flourishing olive-oil and soap business. There are about
sixty villages in the district engaged in this industry; they possess
from eighty to one hundred thousand trees, each yielding on an average
from six to nine pounds' weight of fruit a year. The olive as a
fruit-tree has been known in Persia from a comparatively early period,
and it is not surprising to hear the villagers ascribe quite a fabulous
age to some of the old trees, just as in Italy some olives are credited
with an equally astonishing antiquity.

To me it has appeared that the habit the olive has of sending up new
stems from the root of an old trunk--just as the chenar sycamore does in
Persia--may have made the old trees become young again, and thus
present, to succeeding generations in the villages, the look of the same
old trunks. Messrs. Kousis, Theophylactos and Co., of Baku, have
obtained a concession for pressing and refining olive-oil in this
district, and I observed the buildings which they are erecting for their
business rising on the right bank of the river there.

Near Rudbar commences the thick growth of various hard-wood trees, which
flourish well in the damp soil of the Caspian slopes and lowlands, and
in November their foliage was surpassingly lovely, with many warm tints,
from delicate red to deep russet and shades of shot-green and brown. On
some of the high, thickly-wooded hills, the different colours ran in
well-defined belts, showing where particular kinds of trees had found
most favourable soil, and had grasped it to the exclusion of all others.

About forty miles from the Caspian coast I fell in with rain and
mud--such mud as cannot be realized without being seen. I embarked at
Enzelli on board a small Russian steamer, the _Tehran_, which had taken
the place of one of the usual large vessels employed on the
mail-service. The sea was rising as I embarked, and I was lucky in
getting on board before the surf on the bar at the mouth of the lagoon
became impassable. The steamer had five hundred tons of iron cargo on
board, machinery for electric light and other purposes, intended for
Tehran, but which could not be landed owing to the rolling sea. It was
therefore carried back to Baku, a second time within a fortnight, for
accident had prevented it being landed on the previous voyage.

There is always this risk of wind and weather preventing landing at
Enzelli. Proposals have been made to remove the bar sufficiently to
allow steamers of eight hundred tons to pass into the lagoon harbour;
but the expense of doing this, and keeping up dredgers, would be
great--too great, it is thought, to allow of any profitable return. The
same landing difficulties are experienced at Astara and Lenkoran, the
places of call between Enzelli and Baku. Should there be any intention
of eventually making a railway from the coast to Kasvin and Hamadan,
there to meet a line to Baghdad, then it would be the best course in
every way to connect Resht with Baku by a railway along the coast,
passing through Astara and Lenkoran.

The coast country is famous for its rice, which could be extensively
cultivated, and the resources in forest and fishery produce are great.
There would be considerable local traffic as the country opened up, and
the through trade in oil from Baku would be a paying one. I believe the
Russians know that it would be cheaper to build a railway along this
coast-line of about three hundred miles, with such trade capabilities,
than, in the absence of harbours, to erect breakwaters, make sheltered
anchorages, and dredge navigation channels. For two-thirds of the
distance the line would lie in Russian territory.

I met at Enzelli a foreign artist, whose acquaintance I had formed in
Tehran, where he made some good pictures of local life and scenery. He
was loud in his complaints of the elements--the heavy rain and the awful
mud. He had come down the road with a minimum of travelling comforts,
and had been rather miserable. On going off to the mail-boat in the
steam-launch, he vented his feelings of disgust with Persia by spitting
over the side towards the land, and saying, 'Ach! ach! what a country!
'May I never see it again!' When I reminded him of Tehran and its club,
he acknowledged that he had enjoyed his stay there, and appreciated the
place; but the rain and sea of mud at Resht had drowned and smothered
all his pleasant memories of Persia.

The voyage to Baku was uneventful. There are two Astaras, one Persian,
the other Russian, with the frontier stream between them. The steamer
remained part of the night at the former place, and moved in the morning
three miles to the anchorage opposite the latter. There the Russian
Customs officers came on board to examine luggage. The first mate of the
steamer, a Swedish Finn, attended the search proceedings, and became
much interested In a rusty pistol which was found in the luggage of one
of the deck passengers. The question arose, Was the pistol loaded? and
he undertook to find out. He raised the hammer to full cock, and,
placing the muzzle in his mouth, he blew down the barrel, with his
finger on the cap nipple, to feel if the air passed through. He naïvely
explained to me the certainty of this mode of discovering whether a
percussion arm is loaded or not. In this instance the pistol was thought
to be loaded, but it was found to be only choked with rust.

I had intended to return _viâ_ Constantinople, but on arrival at Baku I
learnt that the damage done to the railway between Tiflis and Batoum by
a storm of unprecedented fury and unusually heavy floods was so extended
and bad as to stop all traffic for a long time. I went to Oujari, a
station one hundred and sixty miles from Baku, where I was hospitably
entertained by Mr. Andrew Urquhart, a Scotch gentleman, established
there with a factory and hydraulic presses for the liquorice-root
industry, and from there I entered into telegraphic communication with
Tiflis to ascertain if I could get a carriage to Vladikavkas, so as to
join the railway and proceed home through Russia. There was such a
number of passengers detained at Tiflis, _en route_ to Batoum, and all
anxious to go to Vladikavkas by road, that I found I should have to wait
long for my turn. Accordingly, after six days' stay with my hospitable
friend, I went back to Baku and took steamer to Petrovsk, whence I
travelled by rail to Moscow and St. Petersburg on my way to England
_viâ_ Berlin.

A great petroleum field is now being developed near Grosnoje, a station
on the Petrovsk Vladikavkas railway, north of the main Caucasus range;
and an English company has had the good fortune, after venturing much,
to find the fountain for which they and others have long looked. After
carrying on 'sounding' operations for some time, and sinking several
wells, oil was at length 'struck' towards the end of August at a depth
of three hundred and fifty feet, and it came up with such force as to
reach a height of five hundred feet above ground. The well was on a
hillside, and the valley below had been dammed up previously to form a
reservoir capable of holding a large supply of oil. But such was the
flow from the fountain, that after a few days it rose above the dam,
and, although every effort was made to raise and strengthen it, the oil
overflowed, and the top of the dyke was carried away. Millions of
gallons were lost, though on its course down the valley the oil
completely filled another reservoir, which had been prepared for the oil
of a rival company, but which never came from their own wells.
Eventually the main flow of oil found its own level in a low-lying piece
of ground, about four miles below the broken dam.

As the fountain continued to flow with almost undiminished vigour, the
Governor of Grosnoje began to be alarmed at the damage which was being
done by this deluge of oil, and he therefore placed four hundred
soldiers at the disposal of the English engineer in charge, and by their
organized labour he was able to repair the dam, so that the flow of oil
was checked. A friend, from whom I received this account, visited the
place on November 27, and saw the fountain still playing to a height of
twenty feet, and also the lake of oil which had been formed. The lake
was about three hundred and fifty yards long, one hundred and twenty
yards wide, and from fifty to sixty feet deep. The fountain was still
playing on January 10, but it shortly afterwards ceased to flow. The
same company had another stroke of luck in again 'striking oil' last
month at another spot, some little distance from the original fountain,
while, strange to say, none of the other companies engaged in
prospecting for oil there have as yet succeeded in getting so much as a
gallon. All this flow of fortune to the one firm reads very like the
luck of Gilead Beck in the 'Golden Butterfly.'

Mr. Stevens, H.B.M.'s Consul for the consular district of Batoum, shows
in his report for 1894 that the demand for naphtha fuel is increasing in
Russia at such a rate, owing to it being more and more widely adopted
for railways, steamers, factories, and other undertakings using
steam-power, that the time appears by no means far distant when the
Russian home market may be in a position to consume in the shape of fuel
almost the entire output of the wells of the Caspian, and he adds that
probably the supply will even be insufficient to meet the demand. With
all this in view, the value of the Grosnoje wells, situated as they are
on the main line of railway through the heart of Russia, is likely to
prove very great.

I landed in a heavy snowstorm at Petrovsk on November 30, and found the
whole country under its winter sheet. Since October 1 all railway fares
and charges in Russia have been greatly reduced, and the policy now
appears to be to encourage travelling and traffic, which must result in
a general improvement of the minds and condition of the people.

Railway travelling in Russia is now much cheaper than in any other
country; a through first-class ticket from the Caspian to St.
Petersburg, seventeen hundred miles, is but £4 10s., and the other
classes are low in proportion. The carriages are comfortable, and the
refreshment-rooms excellent.

With accurate information as to the sailings from Petrovsk to Baku and
Enzelli, one can now go from London to Tehran in fourteen days. This, of
course, means steady travelling, frequent changes, a saddle-seat for
about one hundred miles (which can now be reduced to seventy-five), and
some previous experience of rough life, so as to reconcile the
traveller to the poor accommodation afforded in a Persian post-house.
But the Russian road, now under construction, will soon change the rough
ride into a fairly comfortable carriage-drive, with well-provided
post-houses for food and rest.




--Shrine of Shah Abdul Azim
--Death of Nasr-ed-Din Shah
--Jemal-ed-Din in Tehran
--Shiahs and Sunnis
--Islam in Persia.

The famous shrine and sanctuary of Shah Abdul Azim, about five miles
from Tehran, is a very popular place of pilgrimage with the inhabitants
of the town, and its close neighbourhood to the crowded capital makes it
a great holiday, as well as religious, resort. This shrine has been
specially favoured by many sovereigns, and particularly by those of the
present dynasty. On the Mohammedan special weekly day of prayer and
mosque services, Friday, called Juma, or the day of the congregation,
Shah Abdul Azim is visited by great numbers of people.

On Friday, May 1, this sanctuary was the scene of one of the saddest
events which has ever happened in Persia--the murder within its sacred
precincts of Nasr-ed-Din Shah, a monarch who was about to celebrate the
jubilee of a reign which will always be remembered, not only for its
remarkable length, but also for its peaceful character and general
popularity. The proof of this popularity is that Nasr-ed-Din Shah was
able to leave his country on three occasions for visits to Europe, and
returned each time to receive a welcome from his subjects. This in
itself is unprecedented in Eastern history.

I little thought when I had the honour of conversing with him in October
last that it was possible that a King so admired and loved by his
people, and then looking forward with pride and pleasure to the
celebration of his approaching jubilee, should perish in their midst by
the hand of an assassin within five days of the event.

Passing over what in the early years of his reign, through the
exigencies of the times and the pitfalls of intrigue, led to the
shedding of blood, we see in his later years a reluctance to inflict
capital or severe punishment which almost amounted to a serious fault.
I remember an instance of this in the case of a notorious highway
robber, guilty of many murders, who was spared so long, that it was only
on the bad effect of leniency becoming prominently dangerous to traders
and travellers that the extreme penalty was sanctioned. I have already
mentioned how the people had learnt to put their trust in the late
Shah's desire to protect them against oppressive government in the
provinces, and how he had made himself popular with the military and
nomad tribes. The crime which has caused his death will undoubtedly be
regarded as sacrilege, both with reference to the life which was taken
and the sanctuary which it violated. And the abhorrence of the crime
will strengthen what it was intended to end or weaken, viz., the
influence and power of the Kajar dynasty. With the impressionable
Persians there will be but one feeling, of shuddering horror that such a
thing could be done by one of their own faith, who was a subject of
their Sovereign.

A criminal of the deepest dye can abide with perfect impunity in the
Mohammedan sanctuary, and the tranquillity of this sacred safety, we are
told, brings reflection and repentance to work the redemption of many
from evil ways. Thus we can understand how horror-struck the nation must
be at the thought of the Shah being mortally wounded while in the pious
act of kneeling in reverence on passing the chain which marks the actual
line where the 'bast' or sanctuary begins.

The murder is said to have been prompted by the well-known agitator,
Jemal-ed-Din, who, though called an Afghan, is really a native of
Hamadan, in Western Persia; but having travelled and resided a short
time in Afghanistan, the term 'Afghani' was added to his name. He was
well known in Tehran in 1891 for his vehement and violent public
speaking against all Western innovations. I have seen it stated that it
was owing to him the tobacco monopoly was withdrawn, as he had roused
the Moullas throughout Persia, and wellnigh brought about a revolution.
Jemal-ed-Din no doubt took a strong part at Tehran in the agitation, but
he was in no way such a prominent leader of it as has been represented.
The sudden introduction of systematic labour and Excise regulations
under foreign direction, by which it was said a few depots were to
displace the numerous retail shops and stalls, at once created a
hostile army of unemployed small owners of hereditary businesses, who
worked on the fears and feelings of the mass of the people. The Moullas
and guild-masters then took the lead, and brought about the cancelment
of the concession. All this I have previously described. It suited well
the nature of a stormy petrel like Jemal-ed-Din to find himself in
Tehran at that time, and he became an inflammatory public orator of the
hottest kind. At first he confined himself to speaking against the
tobacco monopoly and all European enterprise, and on his violent
speeches being made the subject of some remonstrance, the Shah said that
the Persians had long enjoyed great liberty of speech, and with them
words generally took the place of deeds. But this freedom was
misunderstood by Jemal, who gradually grew bolder, until his
revolutionary utterances went beyond all endurance. He scarcely veiled
his contempt for the Crown, and his opinion that all should combine to
rid Persia of the rule of the Shah and the continuance of the Kajar
dynasty. He was warned, but would not listen to reason; he was then
arrested, and informed of the decision to deport him from Persia. On the
day of his departure from Tehran under escort, he managed to make his
escape, and took sanctuary in the same shrine of Shah Abdul Azim where
the Shah was mortally wounded on May 1 by his follower, Mirza Mohamed
Reza. Jemal opened negotiations with the Government from his asylum, and
was finally persuaded to leave Persia quietly. It was said that he
received generous treatment in the matter of his leaving, but I am aware
that he stated he had cause for complaint on this head. We must bear in
mind, however, that he was a hot hater of the Shah, and a thorough
'irreconcilable.' On quitting Persia he went to Constantinople, where he
appeared to be allowed such free expression of disrespect to his
Sovereign that the Shah addressed a remonstrance to the Sultan, who
stated in reply that Jemal was leaving for some remote place to employ
himself in literary work.

As a native of Hamadan, Jemal-ed-Din is a Persian subject; he is also of
the Shiah faith, though it is believed that, in order to make things
easy for himself, he passes as a Sunni where the State religion is of
that creed. He was well received by the Shah on his visit to Tehran in
1890 as a man of learning and letters, and it is said that he accepted
and enjoyed his hospitality. This, however, did not prevent him plotting
against his royal host, and doing his utmost to compass the downfall of
the Kajar dynasty. He probably saw clearly during his stay in Persia
then that the Shah's authority rested too strongly in the minds of the
people, by reason of his long and peaceful reign and mild rule, to give
any hope of a successful revolution during his lifetime. And it may have
been in this connection that recourse was had to assassination.

Jemal-ed-Din is credited among Orientals with a powerful energy and will
in working on the enthusiasm of others, and establishing a moral
despotism over them. His disciple, Mohamed Reza, appears to have
resembled his teacher in reckless disregard of kindness, and
determination to render evil for good. In him a willing hand was
apparently found to carry out the first part of Jemal-ed-Din's programme
for the reformation of Persia, but the possibility of madness in the act
of murder was not foreseen. For the horror of the crime has been so
intensified from being committed in the holy shrine of the sainted Shah
Abdul Azim, that its object must be defeated in the most complete
manner, and the reaction will result in stronger attachment to the
throne of the Kajars.

Jemal-ed-Din held a brief for the union of Sunni and Shiah, an idea
which from time to time has found favour with some advanced leaders of
the former faith. He spoke of the gain to Islam in sinking their
religious differences, and joining to form one Church and one creed. He
was said to be very earnest on this point, and he succeeded in planting
his opinions in Persia, as shown by the subject being still occasionally
discussed. But the idea is entirely of foreign growth, and is generally
introduced by enthusiasts like Jemal-ed-Din, who have exchanged their
Persian national pride of Church and State for the ambition to see Islam
ruling as one power from Constantinople to Pekin. These visionaries fail
to see what thoughtful Persian politicians and Churchmen know well, that
the Shiah schism has preserved Persia as a nation, for without it the
incentive to popular cohesion would long ago have ceased.

The annual Passion-play to commemorate the murder and martyrdom of the
progeny of Ali, and the solemn fast-days when their assassins are
cursed and reviled, which are observed all over Persia, serve to keep
alive their patriotism and pride of independence, for with the Persians,
religion and patriotism are synonymous terms. There is probably no
country where Church and State are more closely and fortunately bound
together than Persia. Had the sovereignty not been Shiah, it would long
ago have disappeared between its Sunni neighbours. With them the
persecution of the 'accursed Rafizi,' as they speak of the sect, is the
exercise of a holy duty, and their enslavement by Sunnis is a
meritorious act, giving the heretics an opportunity of benefiting by
example, and of rescue from perdition by conversion to the orthodox
faith. Thus it was that the Hazaras and Shiah inhabitants of the small
principalities on the head-waters of the Oxus were sold into Sunni
slavery, and the purchase of the Shiah Circassians in the Turkish
markets was justified on the same grounds. The bitter experience of ages
has taught all Shiahs that, once helplessly at the mercy of the Sunnis,
there must be absolute submission on all points. This conviction has
buried itself deep in the minds of the Persian people, and they now and
then are painfully reminded of the savage readiness of their Sunni
neighbours to emphasize the fact.

In 1892 a bazaar quarrel in Herat between Sunni and Shiah traders grew
to a disturbance, and culminated in some of the latter, Persian
subjects, being slain and their goods plundered, the Moullas solemnly
pronouncing their judgment that it was 'lawful' for Sunnis to take the
lives as well as the property of the heretical Shiahs. The Shah, on the
representation of the Meshed religious authorities, addressed a
remonstrance to the Amir Abdul Rahman Khan, who, being a strong and wise
ruler, made reparation. The religious antagonism is very bitter in
Afghanistan, and were it not for the warlike character and good fighting
qualities of the Shiah Kizzilbash tribe at Kabul, their presence at the
capital would not be tolerated by the bigoted Moullas. The common danger
makes the Kizzilbashes a united band and dangerous foe, and arms them to
be always ready to fight for their lives. They have become a power which
it is the policy of the rulers to conciliate, and thus secure their
support. But notwithstanding this, the fanatical hatred of the orthodox
Sunni, as representing both Church and State, cannot be suppressed. I
was with General Sir William Mansfield (the late Lord Sandhurst) when
he, being Commander-in-Chief in India, had a conversation with the Amir
Sher Ali of Kabul on general subjects, in the course of which the Amir,
in rather a captious manner, made some sharp remarks on what he called
the hostile differences in the Christian Church; Sir William rejoined by
referring to the great division in Islam between Sunni and Shiah, and
asked if there were many of the latter faith at Kabul. A look of
displeasure passed over Sher Ali's face as, half turning towards his
people who stood behind him, he said, in a severe tone, 'Yes, there are
a few of the dogs there, sons of burnt fathers.'

The mutual hatred ever existing with Sunni and Shiah has always worked
against very cordial relations between Turkey and Persia, and once
certainly, in the sixteenth century, the fear of Persia, then actively
hostile on the south-eastern border, benefited Austria and Russia by
deterring the Turkish Power, in the days of its triumph and strength,
from extended aggressive operations north and west of Constantinople.
Accordingly, the reconciliation of Sunni and Shiah has long been a
cardinal point of policy with the Porte. While it appears that Austria
thus benefited in an indirect manner through Turkey's fear of Persia, it
is an interesting coincidence that, from the time the latter extended
her diplomatic relations beyond those with Russia and England, which,
for a considerable period, were the only Western Powers represented at
the Shah's Court, Austria has held a prominently friendly position in
Persia. Austrian officers have long been employed in her army, and the
fact of the Emperor Francis Joseph and the late Shah Nasr-ed-Din having
ascended their thrones within three months of each other in the same
year (1848) was regarded by the latter as an association with himself of
the highest honour and amity. And this brings to my recollection a
matter connected with the Austrian Legation at Tehran which occurred
after the deportation of Jemal-ed-Din in 1891. Mohamed Reza, the
murderer of the late Shah, remained in Tehran, and continued the
treasonable practices which had been originated by Jemal, even to the
extent of disseminating his revolutionary opinions by means of printed

The press used for printing was a lithographic one, and one of the
Mirzas employed by the Austrian Legation having been drawn into Jemal's
secret society, he was induced to set it up in his own house. The usual
informer accomplice was found, or offered himself, for the purpose of
betraying his brethren, and the police became so keen on capture that
oblivious of the privilege enjoyed by the employé of a foreign Legation,
they entered the Mirza's house and arrested him in the act of printing
treasonable papers from the lithographic press. The Mirza was carried
off to prison before the Minister knew of the occurrence, but, on being
informed, he promptly made a strong remonstrance against the violation
of international privilege. The fullest satisfaction was at once given;
the Chief of Police called and apologized, and the prisoner was released
and sent to the Legation.

The Minister conducted his own inquiry, and on undeniable proof of the
truth of what was alleged, he dismissed the Mirza from his post, and
the Persian authorities were then free to arrest him. The Mirza was kept
a prisoner for some time, and was eventually released with Mohamed Reza
and his companions. The Tehran telegram of May 4 tells us that Mohamed
Reza continued his old course of public hostility to the Government, and
was again imprisoned, but once more obtained his release, and was
granted a pension by the Shah, notwithstanding which he remained
discontented, as the 'black-mailer' generally does, greed suggesting
that the price paid for silence is inadequate. This lenient treatment of
the conspirators was quite characteristic of the later disposition of
Nasr-ed-Din Shah, and his averseness to judicial severity.

From what is now known regarding the Mohammedan revival and Church union
contemplated by Jemal-ed-Din, it is obvious that the idea of any
connection between Babism and the crime at Shah Abdul Azim is out of the
question, for the Babis of Persia and Jemal-ed-Din's followers have
little or nothing in common. I have already told how the former are
averse to violent measures, practise no public preaching, and suffer in
silence, while the latter we know shout aloud and try to terrorize.

When Nadir Shah accepted the throne, he insisted on the abandonment of
the Shiah schism and reunion with the Sunni faith, and he went to
extreme lengths in suppressing the unwillingness of the clergy to accept
the arbitrary decree which he issued in proclaiming his mandate. His
attempt to bridge the great gulf between the hostile creeds entirely
failed, and the Persians remained Shiahs. Freedom of thought and liberty
of speech are national characteristics and privileges, and with minds
never thoroughly subjected to severe Church discipline, the people have
been ever ready to indulge in free criticisms on religious and other
matters. They had no desire to study a new religion, even at the command
of their King, and, judging that any change would be irksome, they sided
with the Moullas, and without display refused to be Sunnis. Nadir's
devotion to ambition was greater than his love of religion, and his
object in trying to drive all into one creed was to remove the obstacles
to the progress of his Imperial power among the Sunnis of India,
Afghanistan, Central Asia, and Asia Minor. On issuing his mandate to
form the Shiahs into a new branch of the true faith, he intimated to the
Emperor of Constantinople his high aim at general concord among

Islam, as it was forced on Persia, was the faith of foreign conquerors
and oppressors, so it never has had the same considerable influence on
the people as elsewhere. This, taken with their habits of freedom of
thought and love of romance and poetry, inclined them to champion the
Shiah schism, which, on the fall of the Arab power, they adopted for
their National Church. I refer to this in connection with what is now
reported of Jemal-ed-Din's relations with the chiefs of the State Church
party at Constantinople, for in his preachings in Persia there were
clear signs of movement towards a great Mohammedan revival, which was to
restore Islam to its old dominant position in the world.




--The Shah Mozuffer-ed-Din
--His previous position at Tabriz
--Character and disposition
--His sons
--Accession to the throne
--Previous accessions in the Kajar Dynasty
--Regalia and crown jewels
--Position of the late Shah's two sons,
  Zil-es-Sultan and Naib-es-Sultaneh
--The Sadr Azem (Grand Vazir)
--Prompt action on the death of the late Shah.

Among the great families of Tartary from whom the chiefs of the royal
Kajar tribe claim descent, much importance has always been given to the
birth of the mother of a candidate for high position. Therefore, in the
choice of an heir to the throne, Persia, as now represented by the Kajar
dynasty, looks to the claims of the mother as well as the father, and
requires royal birth on both sides. For this reason Mozuffer-ed-Din
Mirza, the second son of the late Shah, his mother being a Kajar
Princess, was preferred to the first-born, Sultan Masud Mirza, known
as the Zil-es-Sultan. It has been customary with the Kajars to have the
Vali Ahd, or Heir-apparent, at a distance from the capital, and for him
to be nominal Governor-General of Azerbaijan, the richest and most
important province of Persia. Its capital is Tabriz, a town of
considerable commercial prosperity, through its Russian and other
foreign trade connections. The mother of Mozuffer-ed-Din Mirza
maintained a dignified position of high influence at the Court of the
late Shah until her death, which took place at Tehran in May, 1892.
During the intrigues and disquieting rumours which at one time
prevailed, the strong influence of the mother of Mozuffer-ed-Din Mirza
was always present to watch over his interests in the Shah's palace, and
when she died his friends feared that he had lost his only good
protector. But the Sadr Azem, then known as the Amin-es-Sultan, rightly
interpreting the true feelings of the royal father and the people,
promptly filled the vacancy himself, and has now led the nation to act
as executors of the will of the departed Shah in securing the peaceful
succession of the heir whom he appointed.


There has been much speculation regarding the character, abilities, and
disposition of Mozuffer-ed-Din Shah. I think the general opinion formed
of him by those who have had opportunity of judging is favourable. He is
of kindly disposition, and has pleasing manners, and though prudence has
demanded that as Heir-apparent he should not take a very active part in
public affairs, yet there have been occasions on which he showed himself
to be a capable ruler. His position made it absolutely necessary that he
should avoid all appearance of impatience of subjection to the Central
Government, and he showed considerable tact in never giving cause for
suspicion on this point. He was most successful in keeping clear of
everything that could offend the susceptibilities of his royal father,
and was always regarded as a dutiful son and a loyal subject. His was a
most difficult position to fill, and the fact that he filled it to the
satisfaction of the Shah proves that he possesses the qualities of
prudence, patience, and good judgment.

Mozuffer-ed-Din Mirza had with him for a long time as Kaimakam, or
Vazir, the well-known Amir-i-Nizam, who was virtually Governor-General
of Azerbaijan, for the Shah held him personally responsible for the
administration of the province. He was a man of strong character, and
had great influence in Azerbaijan. His wealth also added to his
importance, and it was not surprising, perhaps, that he considered
himself qualified to hold independent opinions. The active resistance to
the tobacco monopoly was first shown in Tabriz, and he was said to have
encouraged opposition to the wishes of the Central Government. In
consequence of this the Shah summoned him to Tehran in the end of 1891,
and early in 1892 appointed him to be Governor-General of Kurdistan and
Kermanshah, a post which he still holds. On this change taking place,
Mozuffer-ed-Din was directed to assume responsible charge of the
Northern province, and has continued to exercise it till now. The
Amir-i-Nizam was succeeded as Kaimakam by Haji Mirza Abdul Rahim, who
was formerly Persian Minister at St. Petersburg, and as his predecessor
had been Minister at Paris for some years, the European experiences of
these able Vazirs no doubt aided the further education of the Vali Ahd.
The association of enlightened companions and Ministers gave him
opportunities of gaining knowledge which not only informed him on
matters of public importance and general interest, but was also
calculated to prepare him for the position of Sovereign. It has been
said of him that he is entirely Russian in his inclinations, and
considering his long residence at Tabriz, within view, as it were, of
the great power of Russia's vast empire, it would be strange if he had
not been strongly impressed with the vital necessity of securing the
goodwill of the Czar, and we may feel certain that the advice and
opinions of the two Vazirs I have mentioned were to this effect. But it
does not follow that Mozuffer-ed-Din Shah's mind is wholly bent in that
one direction. Judging from the present as well as the past, he knows
well he can believe in England's sincere desire to preserve the same
friendly relations with him as existed with his father, and that she
wishes to see Persia strong, prosperous, and independent.

While the Amir-i-Nizam was at Tabriz, his energetic management left
nothing for the Prince to do, and as, moreover, a policy of caution
debarred him from taking a very active part in public affairs, he
occupied himself chiefly with the simple amusements of a country
gentleman. He was greatly interested in his horse-breeding farms
established on the fine pasturelands of Maragha, near Lake Urumia, and
made frequent visits there. He is a good horseman and a keen sportsman
with gun, rifle, and falcon, just as his father was, and his love of
life in the open brought him much in contact with the people in a manner
that developed the good-nature for which he is known. He possesses in a
large measure the pleasing characteristics of a nomad chief, and on the
departure of the Amir-i-Nizam, his personal qualities, added to the
sympathetic exercise of his duties, made his rule popular.

While his prominent brothers have benefited pecuniarily to a
considerable extent by the positions which they hold, the Vali Ahd was
content to maintain a miniature Court on a modest scale, keeping up his
dignity in a fitting manner, and showing no desire to amass money. The
people were aware of this, and respected him for not taking advantage of
his opportunities to enrich himself as others might have done. More than
once lately mention has been made in the papers of the large fortune
which the Zil-es-Sultan is said to have acquired at Isfahan, and
invested in foreign securities.

Mention may here be made of the first two sons of Mozuffer-ed-Din Shah.
The elder is Mohamed Ali Mirza, twenty-four years of age, whose mother
is a daughter of Mirza Taki Khan, Amir-el-Kebir and his wife, who was
the favourite sister of the late Shah. The second is Malik Mansur, about
fifteen years of age, whose mother is a daughter of Ismail Mirza, a
Prince of the reigning Kajar family. The latter is spoken of as an
engaging and bright-looking youth, and is generally believed to be the
favourite son. The other sons are not much known nor mentioned as yet,
but it may be said that the succession in the direct line appears to be
well assured.

Naturally the health of the Heir-apparent was a matter of great
consequence to himself, in the first place in view of his future, and
secondly to those who desired to see the nomination to the succession
undisturbed, for change would have produced great uncertainty and unrest
throughout the country. When I visited Tabriz in the end of 1892, there
were three physicians attached to the Vali Ahd's Court. One was the
Hakim Bashi, Mirza Mahmud Khan, a Persian of superior education and
professional training, who was in constant attendance on the Prince, and
with him were associated the English Dr. Adcock (who had then been four
years in Tabriz, and is still with Mozuffer-ed-Din Shah), and an Italian
doctor, S. Castaldi, brother of the wife of the Russian Consul-General,
regarding whom I have no late information.

The succession of Mozuffer-ed-Din Shah so far has been peaceful,
notwithstanding the fears of many that opposition would appear in the
South. This is the first time with the present dynasty that on the death
of the Shah the Vali Ahd has found no rival in his path. Curzon stated
very decidedly in his important work on Persia that a contest for the
throne was most improbable, and his forecast has proved correct.
Mozuffer-ed-Din Shah is the fifth Sovereign of the Kajar dynasty, which
was founded by Agha Mohamed Shah, and I may here remark that the reign
of the late Shah was just within one year of completing a century of
royal rule shared by only three successive sovereigns of this line, a
notable fact in an Oriental kingdom.

Fateh Ali Shah succeeded to the throne in 1797, having been appointed
Vali Ahd by his uncle, Agha Mohamed Shah, who had no family of his own.
He was the son of Hussein Kuli Khan (full brother of the Shah),
Governor-General at Shiraz, and he was there with his father when called
to the throne at Tehran. On the death of Agha Mohamed Shah in camp with
his army on the Northern frontier, General Sadik Khan, chief of the
Shekaki tribe in Azerbaijan, seized the opportunity to gain possession
of the Crown jewels and treasure, and quitted the camp with his men; but
the rest of the troops marched at the command of the strong Prime
Minister Haji Ibrahim, to the capital, which by his orders was held by
the Kajar chief, Mirza Mohamed Khan, for the legitimate heir of the
Shah. Two competitors for the Crown appeared in the South, in the
persons of Fateh Ali Shah's own father, and a son of Zaki Khan Zend; but
both, as well as the Shekaki chief who advanced similar claims in the
North, and Nadir Mirza, grandson of the great Nadir Shah, who had
entered Khorasan from Afghanistan, and raised the standard of revolt,
were soon defeated and driven into submission. The Shakaki chief was
able from his possession of the Crown jewels and treasure to make terms
for pardon and preferment; but he afterwards broke his oath of
allegiance, and rebelled. He was captured and confined in a dungeon,
where his life soon ceased.

Fateh Ali Shah died in 1834, and was succeeded by his grandson, Mohamed
Shah, son of the capable Abbas Mirza, who predeceased his father. He was
at Tabriz, holding the post of nominal Governor-General of Azerbaijan,
which was the customary position assigned to the Vali Abd, when his
grandfather died, and I have in a previous chapter told of the part
taken by British officers in defeating the Pretenders, who attempted to
dispute his right to the throne. These Pretenders were his uncles Ali
Mirza, the Zil-es-Sultan, and Hussein Ali Mirza, Governor-General at
Shiraz, each of whom proclaimed himself King. Fateh Ali Shah died at
Isfahan while on his way to Shiraz to compel the obedience of his son
Hussein Ali Mirza, who in expectation of his father's death from age and
infirmity had decided to withhold payment of revenue to the Crown. The
rebellious son advanced with an army, and took possession of the jewels
and treasure which his father had brought with him; and his brother, the
Zil-es-Sultan, seized what had been left at Tehran, but Mohamed Shah
afterwards regained possession of the whole.

Nasr-ed-Din, son and heir-apparent of Mohamed Shah, was present at his
post of Governor-General of Azerbaijan when his father died in Tehran,
and there was an interval of disturbance for the six or seven weeks
which passed between the death of the one King and the coronation of the
other. During this period revolution prevailed in the towns, and robbery
and violence in the country. The son of Ali Mirza, the Zil-es-Sultan,
the Prince-Governor of Tehran, who had disputed the succession of
Mohamed Shah, issued forth from his retirement in Kasvin to contest the
Crown with his cousin; but the attempt came to an inglorious end. A
revolt at Meshed with a similar object also failed, and then Mirza Taki
Khan, Amir-i-Nizam, proceeded successfully to consolidate the power of
Nasr-ed-Din Shah, whose long reign, and on the whole good rule, have so
accustomed the people to peace that the old ways of revolution and
revolt on the death of a Shah have been forgotten and changed.

The regalia and Crown jewels of Persia mentioned in these changes of
royal rule have, by inexplicable good fortune, been preserved from
plunder while in the hands of rebels. The Crown jewels are in great part
a portion of the splendid spoil which Nadir Shah obtained in the sack of
Delhi, when it was the capital of the richest empire in the East. On his
assassination near Meshed, the treasury was seized by the troops, and
while a considerable share, including the famous Koh-i-Nur diamond,
which now adorns the English crown, fell to the Afghans with Nadir's
army, the greater part, with the Koh-i-Nur companion diamond, known as
the Darya-i-Nur (Sea of Light), was secured by Persian soldiers, who hid
it all away in Khorasan and the adjoining districts.

When Agha Mohamed Shah found leisure from his wars and work of firmly
establishing his authority, he turned his attention to the recovery of
Nadirs jewels, and proceeded to Meshed, where, by means of cunning and
cruelty, he succeeded in wresting from the plunderers of Nadir's camp,
and others, the rare collection of gems and ornaments now in the royal
treasury at Tehran. The value of the collection is believed to be very

The singular preservation of the regalia and Crown jewels of Persia from
plunder while they were in the hands of rebels after the death of Agha
Mohamed Shah, and again on the death of Fatch Ali Shah, is most
remarkable. A superstitious feeling of fear and respect appears to have
kept them from being lost from the Crown, or it may be that, on the
principle of 'safety in numbers,' every one, with a prospective share of
the plunder in view, was a check on his neighbour against theft of that
which they thought belonged to all.

Sultan Masud Mirza, better known as the Zil-es-Sultan, the eldest son of
the late Shah, has generally been regarded as likely to challenge the
right of his younger brother to the throne. His ambition and overweening
self-confidence combined to make him imprudent in permitting his
partisans to speak aloud of his superior qualifications as a successor
to his father. The late Shah's considerate treatment of him on all
occasions also led him to make ill-judged requests for such extended
rule in the South that his father said Persia was not large enough for
two Shahs. I think his idea of a viceroyalty in the South came from
foolish vanity, and not from any serious thought of semi-independence,
as some who heard him speak on this subject supposed.

His father always wrote to him as 'my well-beloved first-born,' and up
to 1888 he allowed him great power and freedom of action. He was fond of
'playing at soldiers,' and he went to work at this amusement with such
energy and will that he formed a numerous and very efficient army under
well-trained officers, too good, the Shah thought, to be quite safe.
Nasr-ed-Din sent an officer whom he could trust to Isfahan to bring back
a true report on the army there; and such was the Zil's self-assurance,
that he went out of his way to show him everything, and to make the most
of his force.

The Shah, on learning all, became jealous or suspicious, and ordered the
reduction of the troops to the moderate limits really required for
provincial purposes. As affairs then stood, the Zil, with his
well-appointed army, was master of the situation, but he was constrained
to submit. He singled out the Amin-es-Sultan (now the Sadr Azem) as his
enemy at Court, and regarded him as the strong adviser who influenced
the Shah. His relations with Tehran then became so strained that the
Shah summoned him to his presence to have his wishes clearly explained
to him. The meeting of father and son did not tend to smooth matters,
and the latter, allowing his temper to carry him to extreme lengths,
tendered his resignation of the various governments he held, asking only
to retain the governorship of Isfahan. His request was granted, and from
that time he made no secret of his enmity to the Prime Minister.

Two or three years later the Shah restored to him some of the provinces
which he had resigned in 1888, and this enabled, him to carry out more
successfully the task which he had set himself, viz., that of amassing
money, after his army was broken up. The warlike Bakhtiari tribe form
the most important part of the military strength under the nominal
command of the Zil-es-Sultan, but he alienated them entirely by his
cruel and treacherous murder of their popular chief, Hussein Kuli Khan,
in 1882, and the long imprisonment of his son, the equally popular
Isfendiar Khan. Now that he has promised allegiance to his brother,
Mozuffer-ed-Din Shah, we may regard the peace of the South as assured.

The Naib-es-Sultaneh, Kamran Mirza, as Minister of War,
Commander-in-Chief, and Governor of Tehran, who was in constant
attendance on his father, was also regarded by foolish partisans as a
likely successor to the throne, but he himself never entertained the
idea. His position as head of the army gives him no real power--in fact,
it rather takes from his influence as Governor of Tehran; for the
soldiers look upon him as a costly appendage, for whose pleasures and
palaces their pay is clipped.

There is really no standing army, in Persia as we understand such,
except the royal guard and the weak Persian Cossack brigade at Tehran.
The artillery and infantry which do all the garrison work are militia
regiments, embodied for two years at a time. The conditions are one
year's service to two years' leave, and that they serve under their own
local chiefs and officers. The administration of regiments is given to
Ministers, high officials, and others for purposes of emolument or
distinction, as the case may be. This system gives the influence over
the troops to those who deal with their pay, and not to the
Commander-in-Chief, who is regarded merely as the keeper of the great
gate through which the pay passes after toll is taken. The
Naib-es-Sultaneh, equally with his brother, the Zil-es-Sultan, appears
to have a great dislike to the Prime Minister, whose loyalty to the
Sovereign and his heir could not fail to create strong jealousy in high

I shall now finish with a few remarks on the able and sagacious Sadr
Azem, the Prime Minister, who, by his strong character, resolute will,
and prompt action, has proved his loyalty to the Crown and his fidelity
to the Shah. He became Prime Minister at an unusually early age for such
a high position, and this preferment drew upon him the jealousy and envy
of many in such a manner as often to cause him great embarrassment.
There can be no doubt of his conspicuous energy and talent. His pleasing
manner and happy disposition attract adherents and gain for him their
best services. In addition to his personal qualities, he has an
astonishing knowledge of public affairs, which makes him a most valuable
Minister. With the people he is deservedly popular, for not only is he
liberal and kind, but he understands their feelings and can interpret
their minds.

[Illustration: MIRZA ALI ASGHAR KHAN, SADR AZEM (_From a Photograph by
Messrs. W. and D. Downey_)]

He was beside Nasr-ed-Din Shah in the shrine of Shah Abdul Azim when the
assassination took place, and at once brought his Majesty back to the
palace in Tehran. This happened about two o'clock in the afternoon, and
the Shah breathed his last within four hours afterwards. It appears that
the Sadr Azem immediately grasped the situation, and put himself in
telegraphic communication with the Vali Ahd at Tabriz, four hundred
miles distant. He then summoned all the Ministers, State officials,
military commanders, and the most influential people of the city, to the
palace, and announced the death of the Shah. Under his able guidance,
the prompt recognition of Mozuffer-ed-Din Mirza as Shah, in accordance
with the will of his father, was effected.

The English and Russian Legations, as representing the two strongest and
chiefly interested European Powers, were immediately informed, and the
Minister of the former, and the Charge d'Affaires of the latter, were
invited to the palace. On their arrival, the Sadr Azem wired to the Vali
Ahd in their presence the allegiance of the whole party who were there
assembled. This was done about four or five hours after the death of
Nasr-ed-Din Shah, and the following morning, in consequence of this
decisive action, Mozuffer-ed-Din was publicly proclaimed Shah of Persia.

Thus the electric telegraph, which Nasr-ed-Din Shah introduced into
Persia, has been the means of helping most materially to save the
country from the uncertainty which has hitherto always produced
revolution and civil war in the interval between the death of one Shah
and the accession of his successor.


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