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Title: The Cradle of Mankind - Life in Eastern Kurdistan
Author: Wigram, Edgar T.A. (Edgar Thomas Ainger), 1864-, Wigram, W.A.
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.

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               THE CRADLE OF MANKIND






[Illustration: THE RIVER OF EDEN.


The view down stream from the mouth of the Ori valley, a little above
Tal. The distant snow peak is Ghara Dagh on the southern side of Tkhuma.

No. 1]

                             THE CRADLE OF

                       LIFE IN EASTERN KURDISTAN


           THE REV. W. A. WIGRAM. B.D. (Camb.) D.D. (Lambeth)


                         SIR EDGAR T. A. WIGRAM
                       AUTHOR OF "NORTHERN SPAIN"

                         SIR EDGAR T. A. WIGRAM

                            SECOND EDITION.


                          A. & C. BLACK, LTD.,
                  4, 5 & 6, SOHO SQUARE, LONDON, W.1.

                  _First Edition published May, 1914._
             _Second Edition, with two additional Chapters,
                        published Autumn, 1922._

_The truth is, that ye ken naething about our hill country, or Hielands
as we ca' them. They're a kind of wild world by themselves, full of
heights and howes, caverns, lochs, rivers and mountains, that it would
tire the very deevil's wings to flee to the tap of them. And the folk
are clean anither set frae the likes of huz; there's nae bailie-courts
amang them--nae magistrates that dinna bear the sword in vain. Never
another law hae they but the length of their dirks; the broad-sword's
pursuer, and the target is defender, and the stoutest head bears langest



The first sixteen chapters of this book were given to the public in the
spring of the year 1914. Since that date the country has acquired an
additional interest for Englishmen, owing to the British acceptance of a
"mandate" for its supervision and also to the picturesque and heroic
part played in the Great War by the "Assyrian" mountaineers.

While no attempt has been made to tell the full tale of "England in
Irak," it has been thought well to take the opportunity given by the
appearance of a second edition, and to bring the story of the Assyrian
nation up to the date of writing; and the facts which the two concluding
chapters record have been collected and verified during a prolonged
personal intercourse with the principal actors on the spot.



It requires at least four persons to compound a salad sauce, say the
Spaniards. The requisite incompatibilities can never co-exist in one. A
spendthrift should squander the oil, and a miser dole out the vinegar. A
wise man should dispense the salt, and a madman should do the stirring.

Similarly, it has been stated that it takes two people at least to write
a book of travel; a newcomer to give the first impressions and an old
resident to reveal the true inwardness of things.

Though the quality of the ingredients must remain of more importance
than the proportions, the authors of the present volume hope that at
least the latter are correct. One of the writers has spent but three
months in the country, the other has lived there for ten years. One was
quite ignorant of the East, and spoke no word of any Oriental language;
the other had become so intimate with the tribesmen of his own locality,
that they had even begun to tell him of their superstitions--the last
secret that they ever disclose.

And the country itself possesses most intense and varied interest. It
contains some of the grandest scenery, and some of the most venerable
monuments in the world. It is the very _fons et origo_ of our
Indo-European ancestors. Its traditions connect it with the Garden of
Eden, with Noah, and with Abraham. Its folk-lore preserves the old
Nature-worship which originated in the brains of the Ape-man. Its
history records the very dawn of civilization, and the rise and fall of
the earliest of the great empires. The every-day life of its present
inhabitants is to this hour the life of the Patriarchs, the life of
Europe in the Dark Ages, the life of the Highlands of Scotland in the
days of Stewart Kings.

It is not an accessible country, even when judged by half-civilized
standards. It is visited on sufferance only, even by its nominal rulers
themselves. Fortune has given to the authors the opportunity of
travelling through it, and of residing in it, and they have ventured to
set down in these chapters the impressions it has left upon their minds.

The opportunity of residence in this country, it may be stated, came to
one of the authors through his membership of the "Archbishop of
Canterbury's Assyrian Mission." This Mission (which consists of five or
six clergy of the Church of England) has been maintained in the district
in question, by successive Archbishops, for a period of about
twenty-five years. It exists at the request of the Patriarch and other
authorities of the "Nestorian" or "Assyrian" Church, and it works with
the object of educating the clergy and laity of that body, without
disturbing them in their membership of their own ancient and interesting







V. THE TEMPLE OF THE DEVIL            87



VIII. A MASTER OF MISRULE            158

IX. THE DEBATABLE LAND               176





XIV. THE GREAT CAÑONS                284



XVII. OUR SMALLEST ALLY              359

XVIII. DEAD SEA FRUIT                392

GLOSSARY                             417

INDEX                                421



1. THE RIVER OF EDEN                  _Frontispiece_

                                       _Facing Page_

2.MOSUL                                          33

3. SHEIKH ADI                                    48

4. THE "PICTURE ROCKS" OF BAVIAN                 81

5. AKRA                                          96

6. ORAMAR                                       129

7. THE HERIKI VALLEY                            144


9. THE CITADEL ROCK, VAN                        209

10. THE QUDSHANIS MOUNTAINS                     224


12. A MOUNTAIN BRIDGE                           272

13. THE GORGE OF THE ZAB, TYARI                 305

14. TRAVELLING IN LOWER TKHUMA                  320

15. CHAL                                        353

16. ENTRANCE TO AMADIA                          368


    FROM THE PASS ABOVE QUDSHANIS               366



GREAT GRANARY OF DARAS                           51

CHURCH OF ST. JAMES AT NISIBIS                   59


CHURCH OF MAR B'ISHU                            185


TEMPLE OF ISHTAR'I BABYLON                      355

with inset of mesopotamia            (insert at end)




The belated Jinn who emerged out of Suleiman's Brass Bottle into
twentieth-century London found there, amid much that was strange to him,
some beings of his own kin. These were the railway locomotives,
obviously Jann like himself, but yet more oppressively treated; bound by
spells of appalling potency to labours more arduous and wearisome than
Suleiman had ever conceived.

And truly his blunder was plausible: for if Jann be extinct nowadays
(which one doubts after visiting Asia), then assuredly cylinders and
boilers are charged with the might of the Jann. They are set to work
regularly now instead of rarely and spasmodically; and though they raise
less dust and clamour their net output is considerably more. The slaves
of the Lamp and the Ring developed intense explosive energy, but their
effective radius was limited. They could rear Aladdin's palace in a
night, or transport him to Africa in a twinkling; but these more
domesticated Titans are capable of transmogrifying whole communities,
and advancing the clock of progress five hundred years at a span.

And now the modern Magrabis, the busy Western magicians, have let slip
these formidable Efrits against the City of Al Raschid himself: and one
fine morning his descendants will awake from the slumber of centuries to
find themselves environed by a new heaven and a new earth.

The Baghdad railway has started. It has penetrated inland to Aleppo.
"That great river, the river Euphrates," is bitted with its girders and
caissons. One more stride will carry it to Mosul across a country so
open and even that it needs but the bedding of the sleepers; and a
journey which now takes a fortnight will be accomplished in a ten-hour
run. What is now a mere stagnant backwater will thus be suddenly scoured
out by one of the main channels of the world's commerce; and who can
venture to calculate the changes which will follow? Western reform will
not convert the East any more than Alexander's conquests converted it;
but it may evolve unintentionally some new sort of Frankenstein's Man.

But meanwhile the East waits unconscious. It takes no thought for the
morrow. The shadow of coming events is perceived indeed, but not
understood. As it was in the days of Noë, so in most things, it still
continues: and the traveller of this generation may still find east of
Aleppo those manners and customs unaltered, which the next may find
clean swept away. Thus it is possible that some interest may attach to a
desultory description of life as it is for the moment still enjoyed, or
endured, in those regions; and which better ordered communities may
perhaps find rather _bizarre_.

Aleppo, the present railhead, is a large Oriental city, lying pooled in
a shallow depression round the great castle which dominates its roofs.
It is beginning to show signs of Westernization; and the quarter nearest
the railway station is blossoming with boulevards and hotels. But it is
the returning, and not the outgoing, traveller who will be most struck
by these symptoms. The latter will only be consumed with wonder that
such a crude and guileless imitation should be thought to pass muster as
the real thing. Outwardly the place is being refurbished, and the new
"Frank" houses flaunt themselves as bravely as their compeers around the
_Soko_ at Tangier; but within they are full of all Oriental uncleanness
and discomfort, for the Turk is quite satisfied as soon as he gets

The major part of the town consists of narrow crooked and ill-paved
streets, overhung on each side by toppling wooden oriels, which almost
engage with each other like cogs across the road; and amid this maze of
grimy alleys lurk the mosques, the only noteworthy buildings, whose
minarets show up prominently from a distance, but afford little guidance
near at hand.

The great castle which dominates Aleppo occupies the flat summit of an
immense mound, not much smaller than that of Corfe Castle, which is
piled conspicuously upon a gentle eminence just within the confines of
the city. The core of this mound may be natural, but the bulk of it is
artificial; for it was originally one of the great High Places of that
Baal worship which flourished pre-eminently in Northern Syria, and which
has left us similar monuments of its dominion in the neighbouring mounds
at Homs and Baalbek. The base of this mound is encircled by a deep dry
moat, and its sloping sides are revetted with masonry; while its crest
is crowned by the towers and walls which form the _enceinte_ of the
citadel, and access is provided at one end only through a most
magnificent gate. The citadel owes its present form to Saladin, who is
said to have employed as his workmen the captive Crusaders whom he had
taken at the battle of Tiberias. There are some Western features in the
building which give colour to this supposition; but the place was a
notable stronghold long previous to Saladin's day.

Aleppo was one of the few fortresses that made a respectable defence
against the Moslems at the time of their first irruption. None of the
great frontier towns to the eastward,--Edessa, Amida and Dara--so much
as stood a real siege. Such was the bitterness of party strife, both
civil and religious, within the Byzantine Empire at that period, that
the Arab invaders were welcomed rather than resisted in these lands.

The citadel of Aleppo, however, was defended by a certain Youkinna, till
even the redoubtable Caled, "the Sword of Allah," began to despair of
success. Only the direct command of the Khalif Omar had induced him to
persevere with the leaguer when a valiant slave named Dames volunteered
to attempt a _coup de main_. Caled approved his design; and to favour
its execution withdrew his forces to a distance. Thus Youkinna, rather
too readily, assumed that the siege was raised. The sentinels relaxed
their vigilance, and the garrison had taken to carousing, when Dames
with thirty companions crept up in the darkness to the walls. With the
stalwart slave as their base they built up a human ladder, each man in
succession clambering on to the shoulders of those below. The man on the
seventh tier gripped the battlements, and scrambled over them, and then,
letting down his turban, hauled up his associates one by one. Cutting
down the few guards they encountered the Moslems then made for the
gateway, and succeeded in gaining possession of it ere the garrison was
fully aroused. Here they maintained themselves till daybreak when Caled
arrived to relieve them, and Youkinna thereupon surrendered, seeing that
further resistance was vain.

Aleppo accepted its fate and has since remained Mohammedan. The
Byzantines did indeed temporarily recover it little more than three
hundred years later, when the waning power of the Abbasside Khalifs
enabled Nicephorus and Zimisces to push their armies almost to Baghdad.
But this was a transitory conquest; a plundering raid rather than an
occupation. The Greeks and Romans had always been alien intruders, and
now their Asiatic provinces had reverted to Asia for good.

Another equally transitory raid left a more enduring impression--not
indeed upon Aleppo in particular, but upon Mesopotamia at large. For in
the year 1400 the country was visited by that most destructive of all
conquerors, the terrible Timour the Tartar. He signalized his capture of
Aleppo, as usual, by the erection of a gigantic pyramid of human heads;
and (as was not unusual) he solaced himself while the pile was being
reared by discussing theological problems with the learned doctors of
the town. Poor wretches! they must have felt rather like a regiment of
philosophers paraded for an interview with the Theban Sphinx; especially
when their dangerous questioner opened proceedings with the bland
inquiry, "Which are the true martyrs,--those who die fighting for me, or
for my foes?" But fortunately they had an Oedipus among them who parried
the thrust by quoting the words of the Prophet, "All who die fighting
for conscience' sake are martyrs, no matter under what ensign they

The conquests of Timour may be regarded as closing the history of
Mesopotamia; that first and most striking chapter in the history of the
civilization of the world. Here mankind had first emerged from
barbarism, and constructed the city of Babylon. Here had arisen the
successive great empires that had their seats at Carchemish, at Nineveh,
at Persepolis, at Seleucia-Ctesiphon, and at Antioch; and here after
aeons of conquest and re-conquest there could yet arise the splendours
of Baghdad. Invincibly fertile and populous the land still seemed able
to revive after each successive devastation; but at last its power of
recuperation was exhausted; and after Timour's day there is no more left
to tell. Other conquerors had destroyed and rebuilt; but the Tartars
were only destroyers. They razed the cities to the dust; they massacred
every living creature; they demolished even the irrigation works that
gave fertility to the fields. And the desert which spreads to this day
over all the plains to the eastward is, far more truly than his
mausoleum at Samarcand, the monument of Timour the Lame.

Yet Aleppo itself was near enough to the sea to recover even from this
disaster; and within 150 years of Timour's conquest it was once more one
of the chief marts of the East. Hither came the London Turkey merchants,
among them the "Master of the Tiger." Hither, with the Venetians, came
Othello, to have his memorable encounter with the "heathen Turk." John
Verney was trading here in the middle of the seventeenth century, and
describes it as "the most famous city in all the Grand Seignior's
dominions for the confluence of merchants of all nations." Among the
commodities dealt with he enumerates the "oak galls for dyers" which are
still a valuable harvest in the Kurdistan mountains; but he makes no
mention of the liquorice, which is now the most important of all.

Aleppo owes its prosperity chiefly to the Arabs; for though, under the
name of Berea, it was well known both to the Greeks and Romans, it never
appears in their days to have been a particularly important place. No
doubt it profited by the decline of Antioch, which had been the second
city in the Byzantine Empire. The new direct railway line to Iskanderun
harbour will henceforth augment its importance; and when the completion
of the Baghdad railway links it up with Constantinople and India it may
even attain the position once held by Antioch itself.

Our own business at Aleppo was confined to the hire of a carriage to
convey us and our baggage and our fortunes across the desert to Mosul.
This was a subject which involved us in some three days' delicate
diplomacy; and eventually we closed with a contractor who offered to
take us through at the price of nine pounds for a nominal fortnight's
journey,[1] with two mejidies (about seven shillings) extra for every
day that we chose to call a halt.

The carriage in which we proposed to achieve our _hegira_ consisted of a
sort of four-wheeled coster's barrow, endowed with flea-like agility by
a perfect cat's-cradle of springs. It had a seat in front for the
driver, and a shelf behind on which our baggage could be corded; but
there were no seats for the passengers, and accordingly we spread our
sleeping bags upon a thick litter of straw. Most of the springs and many
of the spokes had been broken and the fractures had been swathed in
string. This required great quantities of string. Finally the tarpaulin
tilt which enclosed the body of the vehicle (and which was ostensibly
designed for shelter) proved useful for fielding the cargo whenever it
got skied by the jolts. Such a carriage is known as "an _araba_," or
alternatively as an _yaili_--a name which is probably onomatopoeic,
for it is about the "slithiest" thing that runs on wheels.[2]

This equipage was drawn by four scraggy ponies; not that it weighed
anything worth mentioning, but because the roads were bad. Two of the
beasts were harnessed to the pole, and two tacked on by traces outside,
like the team of a Homeric chariot. They could seldom be induced to
trot, and generally our rate of progress fell even below the minimum
that is ordinarily expected of "hollow jades of Asia"; for we cannot
have averaged more than twenty miles a day. Our driver was a lank, dank,
hook-nosed creature who reminded us irresistibly of Ikey Moses in the
old Ally Sloper cartoons, and who looked as if he had been shipwrecked
on a desert island a great many times and always in the same suit. He
grumbled much at the amount of our baggage, and a great deal more
because we insisted that he should carry a good supply of fodder; but we
think that he--or at all events his horses--must eventually have felt
grateful to us for not having given way.

The road, as it issues from Aleppo, rises gradually on to a heathy
upland somewhat similar to Salisbury Plain. Here it soon becomes a mere
wheel track--a good enough path to lead to a moorland farmstead, but a
poor sort of thing to confide in for a journey of 200 miles. At every
two or three leagues its stages are marked off by villages; generally
forlorn little groups of one-storied flat-roofed stone hovels, but
sometimes a more pretentious affair where the houses rise to two stories
and which (on the strength of such superiority) feels justified in
calling itself a town. Often even the meanest of these were formerly
towns indeed, and instead of being called El Bab or Membij, were known
by such high-sounding names as Bambyce and Hierapolis.[3] The hummocks
and hollows which mark the foundations of their ancient edifices form a
wide margin all around the outskirts, and the surface is strewn for acre
on acre with dislocated fragments of columns and great squared blocks of
stone. At one point where we made a short halt, we were able to decipher
a few tags of Latin inscriptions;--_cos_, _divi_, _cæsar_ and a few
other similar words. They were deeply, but rudely incised, as though cut
in sheer idleness by some unoccupied soldier. A householder who saw us
examining them led us to the door of his hut where he showed us another
inscription. In this case the lettering was Arabic, and we could read no
more than the name of Allah:--a fact which caused great consternation to
our householder, for he had been using it as a threshold.

We halted each night at some village _khan_, the Turkish synonym for the
better known Persian word _caravanserai_, which forms the common house
of entertainment both for man and beast. A typical _khan_ consists of a
great square courtyard full of foul dust in dry weather and of fouler
mud in wet. Often have we felt inclined to bless the hard frost at night
in winter time, which has enabled us next morning to walk to our
carriage on the top of the mud instead of wading through. The courtyard
is enclosed by a range of miserable hovels--the sort of shanties which
might perhaps pass muster as tool sheds in allotment gardens, those
"lodges in gardens of cucumbers," which Isaiah considered the nadir of
dilapidation. Some of these take rank as stables and others as guest
chambers. In point of comfort and cleanliness there is little to choose
between them; but occasionally the guest chambers are on an upper story,
and then the humans are somewhat better off than the brutes. Let us
assume, not to be too sanguine, that our room will be on the ground
floor; and, not to be too despondent, that we shall get a room to

Such a room will be about 9 feet square, and will boast a ramshackle
door and (perhaps) a shuttered window. Its floor will be about six
inches below the level of the yard--we mean the mud. It will be
furnished, like the Prophet's chamber, with "a bed, a stool, and a
candlestick;" _videlicet_--with a rush mat or a rough plank bedstead, a
small table (this only occasionally), and a paraffin lamp upon the wall.
For a small additional fee the _Khanji_[4] will bring us a charcoal
brazier; but (not wishing to be asphyxiated) we must leave this to burn
outside until the blue flames subside. Here we are at liberty to make
our own beds, and to cook and eat such provisions as we may have brought
with us. The room is never swept, and prudent travellers will often take
the precaution of bringing their own carpet with them. The regular
charge for such an apartment is five piastres (10_d._) a night.

Our fellow guests are mostly Kurds or Arabs, with Syrians and Armenians
rather more sparsely intermixed. They may be told apart by their
languages, or less certainly by their dress; for the Arabs are the only
folk hereabouts who adhere very scrupulously to their own distinctive
costume. This consists of a gown, generally of some striped or plain
soft-coloured material, reaching almost to the feet, and girt about the
waist with a bright coloured sash. A V-shaped opening from neck to waist
shows an embroidered shirt-front under, and over all is worn an _abba_
or Arab cloak. The _abba_ is generally of woollen fabric, either dark
brown, or boldly striped with black and white or brown and white in
broad and narrow stripes arranged alternately. For winter wear it is
often made of sheepskin, worn woolly side out during wet weather, and
woolly side in during dry. On their heads they wear a bright coloured
head cloth, either of silk or cotton, which is kept in position by a
double coil of soft black rope forming a sort of wreath. They usually
wear their hair long.

The Kurds also in the plain villages often wear an Arab type of costume;
but the muleteers and other travellers are clad in a nondescript garb
which seems based upon a Turkish original. The typical Turkish trousers
are made from a piece of stuff whose width is equal to the length of the
leg from waist to ankle. This is folded to form a square, sewn up the
sides, and furnished with a cord run round the top to gird in at the
waist. A couple of holes for the feet are cut at the two bottom corners,
and the garment is then complete. This of course leaves an immense
amount of slack between the legs, and superior tailors get rid of this
to some extent by a certain amount of shaping; but a very sufficient
surplus is always allowed to remain. Above this is worn a waistcoat,
with a coloured sash and a kind of zouave jacket. The waistcoat, the
lappets of the jacket, and the pockets of the trousers are often adorned
with braiding; and the rough frieze of which the dress is composed is
generally blue, black or brown. Sheepskin jackets are often worn in
winter time.

On their heads they wear sometimes an Arab head cloth, sometimes a
Turkish fez, sometimes the conical felt cap of the Kurds and Syrians,
either with or without a turban. In cold weather they swathe the ends of
their turbans about their faces, muffling themselves up to the eyes and
making themselves look even more complete ruffians than they did before.

The officials and well-to-do classes wear what they consider to be
European costume, but always top it off with a fez.

One of the first impressions which besets a traveller in these parts is
the reality of the curse of Babel. For a curse it is most emphatically,
though some of our home-bred cranks would appear to regard it as a
blessing; and it is devoutly to be wished that all those crack-brained
politicians who are seeking to promote the revival of Erse and Gælic and
Cymric might be awarded some practical experience of the realization of
their dreams. The Swiss boasted that he had three native languages; but
the inhabitants of Asiatic Turkey are provided with at least six. Arabic
is dominant on the plains; Syriac and Kurdish in the mountains; Armenian
on the plateaus to the northward; and Greek in western Asia Minor.
Turkish, except in Anatolia, is only the official language; but we
suppose it deserves recognition along with the other five. Naturally
each of these main stems branches off into dialects by the score; and if
these are to be reckoned separately the Turkish Empire is still as
polyglot as that of Nebuchadnezzar himself.

No one of course speaks all the languages; but no one can get on at all
comfortably without speaking a minimum of two. That number will probably
enable him at least to find an interpreter in most of the villages which
favour the four remaining tongues.

The nationalities are as diverse as the languages, and are interwoven
together in the most bewildering entanglement; not by separate districts
dovetailed into one another like the pieces of a jig-saw puzzle, but by
tiny fragmentary communities dispersed like different grains shaken up
vigorously in a bag. The village is the largest unit; and where one
village is Syrian, the next may be Kurdish, the next Armenian, the next
Yezidi; all out of sympathy with each other and all resolutely refusing
to mix. Here and there in the medley one may find occasionally a
specimen which has no affinity whatever with any neighbouring
nationality. Membij, for example, is a village of Circassians, fugitives
from the Russian occupation who were given an asylum here by the Sultan
Abdul Hamid. We have sometimes wondered whether this extraordinary
mixture may not be the fruit of the policy adopted by the ancient
Assyrians, who were wont to disperse their captive nations through all
the length and breadth of their domain; but the same thing is seen in
the European provinces of Turkey where Assyrians and Persians never
penetrated, and where Serbs, Bulgars, Greeks and Roumanians form an
equally tangled skein.

English critics talk glibly enough of Turkey being an Asiatic Power, and
being capable of regenerating herself by concentrating her energies in
Asia. They seem to be under the delusion that Turkey in Asia is mainly
inhabited by Turks! As a matter of fact (except as aforesaid, in
Anatolia) one may live for years in Asiatic Turkey without so much as
meeting a single Turk. Even the official classes are largely Circassians
and Arnauts; and the bulk of the population are Arabs and Armenians and
Syrians and Greeks and Kurds, all of whom are profoundly disaffected and
only acquiesce in Turkish rule because they will on no account support
each other in usurping its place.

The problem of Asiatic Turkey, like the problem of Thrace and Macedonia,
is simply that none of the component races can be trusted to govern the
rest, and that all are so inextricably intermingled that it is
impossible to parcel them out into distinct homogeneous States. We must
own some sympathy with the Turks, the old conquering race, who once
fully vindicated their hegemony. But their day is now past: their
natural force abated. And though they still hold the tiller (thanks to
the dissensions among their crew) they have no longer the strength to
keep the ship under control. Their empire is too great for their
shrunken numbers to govern, and they find themselves choked by the
subject races with whom they have failed to assimilate.

On the third day after leaving Aleppo we reached the banks of the
Euphrates; here a broad and rapid river, divided into three or four
channels by a string of flat sandy islets. The right bank, from which we
descended, is formed by a range of chalky hills breaking off into cliffs
here and there; but the left bank is lower and flatter with an edging of
conglomerate rock; and under each bank is a wide foreshore of greyish
sand, which is of course all covered whenever the river is high. Its
waters must have been singularly shrunken when Xenophon forded it at
Thapsacus, a hundred miles lower down, and found it no more than breast
deep; for here it is quite unfordable and can only be crossed by

The ferry boats are big spoon-shaped craft with low square bows and high
pointed sterns. They are built of very rough planking, which looks as if
it could not possibly be watertight, and some very vigorous caulking
must have been employed to attain that end. They are steered by a huge
flimsy paddle, formed of two or three poles roughly lashed together and
pivoted upon the stern post; and what motive power is required is
supplied by an iron-shod punt-pole. A crew of two men, one to steer and
one to punt, work these unwieldy arks from a small half-deck at the

Our carriage was backed into one of the boats over the bows, to the
accompaniment of an infinity of yelling, and sundry mules and camels
were disposed as packing round the sides. Then away we drifted,
broadside on, down the rapid stream; wriggled into a back eddy under the
lee of one of the islands; and eventually stranded safely about half a
mile down upon the further shore. The boats had to be towed up stream a
mile or more before they were able to recross; and we were lucky to have
found them on the right bank, for the process of getting them over might
well have meant an hour's delay.

The point where we crossed the river is unmarked by any village, but a
considerable town named Birijik lies about thirty miles up stream.

A lordlier city once dominated these solitary reaches; for fifteen miles
nearer lies the little village of Jerablus, and all around Jerablus lie
the mighty mounds which cover the ruins of Carchemish, and among which
the gangs of workmen employed by the British Museum are now engaged in
recovering the long hidden secrets of the ancient Hittite kings.
Carchemish was the capital of the Hittites, that most ancient and most
mysterious of all the great nations which once held dominion over
northern Syria. Their history is still a sealed book to us; for though
we have recovered many of their inscriptions, we have as yet found no
key to their decipherment. All that we know of them at present has been
gleaned from the records of Egypt and Assyria. We are still awaiting the
day when another Rosetta Stone shall unlock for us the secrets of a
people, whose capital was already a dead city when Nebuchadnezzar
defeated Pharaoh Necho under its walls 600 years before Christ.

But though the Hittites have vanished utterly for so many thousand
years, we may still trace their influence in the handiwork of the
natives to this day. The villages which border the Euphrates--and a few
others nearer Aleppo--are entirely distinct in character from all those
in the districts around. The houses are not square and flat-roofed like
those in ordinary villages; but circular conical buildings, of a shape
between a beehive and a sugar-loaf, built of sun-dried mud, and packed
tightly together within a walled enclosure, looking exactly like the
haycocks in a crowded rick-yard in England. Houses of precisely this
shape are represented on the Egyptian bas-reliefs recording the conquest
of the _Khati_ by the Pharaoh Rameses II; and there can be little doubt
that the type has persisted continuously down to the present time. It
may even perhaps be argued with a certain amount of plausibility that
the men who build such villages are remotely of Hittite blood!

The villages in Asiatic Turkey are ordinarily the property of some
landowner; and the system of tenure is worth mentioning, for it must
date from Patriarchal times. The Government claims as revenue an eighth
of all the produce;[5] and the remaining seven-eighths is divided
equally between the village owner and the cultivators. The villagers
have also to pay to the Government an eighth of the value of the fodder
computed to have been consumed by their flocks and herds; and have
further to deliver the Government eighth free of charge at the
tax-farmers' storehouses. By law this obligation is restricted to one
hour's journey--_i.e._ there is supposed to be a storehouse in every
village--but in practice they have often to carry it three or four times
as far. They have also to pay a land tax of about 5 per cent. They keep
all the straw as their perquisite; and it is the landlord's duty to
provide them with the seed grain.

This sounds as if the landlord got the lion's share of the profits. And
if he be miserly he does; but most of them interpret their signoral
duties in a more liberal spirit. The landlord is expected to keep a
guest house in his village, and a man in charge of it. Here anyone, be
he villager or traveller, can get a free meal and free lodging. One big
man in this district is reputed to expend food to the value of £1000
annually in such hospitality, including corn to the value of £400 in
bread alone. Moreover, the landlord acts as a sort of savings bank to
his villagers. If any of them is in distress and applies to him, he will
relieve him. He will never think of sparing as long as his barns hold
anything. He lives simply, as they do; and he holds that "Allah will

All payments should be considered as being made in kind, not in money;
for coin is scarce in Turkey, and not very generally used.[6] Even if
it were more plentiful it is but a fluctuating security; for the coins
in common use are the silver ones, and these are never current at their
face value.[7] The gold £1 Turkish, nominally worth 100 piastres,
fetched at the time of our visit from 102 piastres at Mosul to 114 at
Aleppo; and the value of Mejidies (nominally 20 piastres), and of 5
piastre-pieces, varied also in different degrees. This is not all the
fault of the Government; for while home trade and industry must be
sorely hampered by such eccentricities, the Constantinople banks (which
are run by European syndicates) are not altogether displeased. They can
make a profit on the deal, for they hold most of the bullion: and when
any particular coin has much appreciated anywhere, they can unload their
stock of it at that particular place.

Eastward from the Euphrates our track leads over rather lower country,
an open undulating heathland which melts gradually into alluvial plain.
Here and there, dispersed about the surface, are wide patches of stony
ground; and where the track chances to skirt them it is usually found
that many of the stones have been piled up into little pillars, five or
six one upon the other making a column about two feet high. Each patch
will contain twenty or thirty of these little pillars. They are set up
by casual wayfarers as a sort of votive memorial, just as the Patriarch
Jacob set up his pillar at Bethel.

A similar habit prevails in the mountain districts; but there it is more
customary to insert the votive stone in the forked branch of a tree.
Cairns also are frequently seen at the sides of the paths in the
mountains; but these are generally erected to mark the site of some
murder, and it is usual for each passer-by to add his stone to the pile.
If you were a friend of the victim you deposit your offering gently; if
you were his enemy you hurl it on vindictively. Thus the pile grows
apace any way, and it is to be presumed that his _manes_ are appeased.

Near the village of Seruj we reach the outskirts of the great plain of
Mesopotamia. Its levels stretch away southward as far as the eye can
see. But our track edges still to the left and presently enters the hill
country, the first and lowest undulations of the great mountain range
towards the north.

It must have been on some of these spurs that the wrecks of Crassus'
army found refuge after their great defeat by the Parthians in the year
53 B.C. Carrhae, which gave its name to the battle, lay in the midst of
the plains some twenty-five miles to the southward, and the actual scene
of the fighting was some distance further south still: but the beaten
troops made for the mountains, their only asylum from their pursuers;
and here the last cohorts were surrounded and forced to lay down their

Carrhae was a place of ill-omen for the Romans, for only 300 years later
another similar disaster befell them upon the same ground. Here in the
year 260 the Emperor Valerian was defeated and captured by Sapor I, the
King of the Sassanid Persians, who had by this time inherited the
Arascid Parthians' domains. Roman accounts assert that the hapless
Emperor was flayed alive; but the Persians more credibly relate that he
was kept a prisoner, and employed in building the great bridge across
the Karun river at Shushter.[8] Both accounts agree that after his death
his skin was stuffed, and preserved as a grim trophy in the Palace at
Seleucia Ctesiphon.

A short distance within the hills our track struck the great metalled
road that runs from Birijik to Urfa. It is a road which, as far as it
goes, might be called good in any country: but only the Urfa half of it
is completed; it comes to an untimely end not far from the point where
we struck at, which was somewhere about a third of the way to Birijik.
The remaining section, however, served us admirably, and we trundled
along it in fine style for the last three hours of our day's journey,
threading a winding rocky valley which debouched at the back of the

Oriental cities as a rule are rather a disappointment to sightseers.
Picturesque they are indeed, but in such a squalid fashion that much of
their charm is blighted. They are a mere agglomeration of hovels, with a
few fine features here and there. We have even heard it said of
Constantinople itself that, having seen the approach to the Golden Horn,
the traveller had better take his departure; for that every nearer
inspection brings a fresh disillusionment in its train. Urfa, however,
may rank as one of the exceptions. It is beyond question the most
picturesque city in Mesopotamia. And, being built chiefly of stone, it
has some dignity in its dilapidation, and wears its tattered finery with
an aristocratic air.

Urfa lies just at the foot of the hills, half enclosed by two bold
limestone promontories. The upper part of the town is pooled in the bay
between them, and the lower and larger portion is split out into the
plain. It is almost surrounded by its ancient walls, which are largely
of Roman workmanship; and its mosques and minarets and all its prominent
buildings are constructed almost entirely of a rich golden-brown stone.
The streets are of course mere alleys, narrow and tortuous; but retain
here and there many traces of architectural ornamentation; and among and
around the houses grow cypresses and other trees. The principal mosque,
once a Christian cathedral, is an old Byzantine basilica, and above it
rises conspicuously a noble octagonal tower. The present Armenian church
is also of great antiquity, though hardly of the First Century, which is
what the Armenians claim.[9]

The promontory to the west of the town is crowned by the ancient
citadel; now a mere shell, but imposing from its situation, and
surmounted by two lofty Roman columns formerly a portion of a temple
portico.[10] Towards the town the hill is precipitous, but on the
further side the slope is gradual; and accordingly the whole of this
face, together with the two return ends, is defended by one of the most
magnificent dry moats that exists anywhere in the world. It is hewn out
of solid rock, with sides that are absolutely vertical; and may measure
even now about thirty feet deep and not less than thirty feet wide.
Formerly it could be crossed at two or three places by narrow wooden
drawbridges; and the posterns to which they gave access can still be
seen in the walls. At what epoch this moat was constructed we did not
feel competent to determine. The walls are partly Saracenic, partly
Roman, and partly Sassanian; they are now extremely ruinous and of no
very formidable height.[11]

Urfa in classical days was known by the name of Edessa, and was the
capital city of that king Abgarus of Osroëne, whose Epistle to our Lord
is included among the Apocryphal Gospels. This tale is something more
than a legend, for it dates from the beginning of the fourth century;
and is related by the historians Eusebius and Moses of Khorene, who both
profess to have derived their authority from contemporary documents
which they had themselves inspected among the royal archives at Edessa.
They tell us how the king was afflicted with leprosy, and how he sought
in vain to be cured by the physicians and sorcerers of his own land. How
at length he heard report of the miracles that were being wrought in
Judaea by Jesus the Prophet of Galilee; and how he dispatched
ambassadors to Him, entreating Him to come and heal his disease and to
instruct his people, offering Him at the same time a secure asylum from
the hatred of the unbelieving Jews. These ambassadors were the "certain
Greeks"[12] who are mentioned in St. John's Gospel as having been
introduced to our Lord by Philip on the day of His triumphant entry into
Jerusalem; and they brought back to Abgarus a verbal message (or some
say an actual letter dictated by our Lord to Thomas) promising that one
of His Apostles should be sent to Edessa in due time.

Accordingly soon after the Ascension the Apostle Thaddeus was sent by
Thomas to preach the Word in Osroëne. He came and healed Abgarus of his
leprosy; and the king and all his people thereupon embraced the
Faith.[13] Thaddeus himself passed onwards to Armenia and Eastern
Mesopotamia, where he founded the Parthian or Assyrian, now called the
"Nestorian," Church.

We may at least say of this legend that it is nearly as well
authenticated as that which attributes the foundation of the Church of
Rome to Peter; and far better than those which claim Spain for James the
Great, or Britain for Joseph of Arimathea. The stories have this much in
their favour--that at all events they are not mutually contradictory.
Peter and James are conceded to the West; while Eastern tradition
contents itself with Thomas and Thaddeus and Bartholomew. One would
expect only the illustrious names in any mere fabricated tales.

At least it is historically certain that the Gospel was brought to
Edessa almost within the Apostolic ages; and that Edessa formed the main
distributing centre for the preachers who evangelized the East.

Osroëne in Abgarus' days formed a sort of buffer state between the
Parthian and Roman Empires; and a little later it experienced the usual
fate of buffer states, and was absorbed by the Empire of Rome. Under its
new suzerains Edessa took rank as an important frontier fortress, and
stood many a siege in the long-drawn wars between the kings of the
Sassanid Persians and the Emperors of Byzantine Rome. Moreover it was a
great educational centre, the seat of a famous university, which was
eventually suppressed by the Byzantine Emperor Zeno in the year 489 on
the ground that it was tainted by the heresy of Nestorianism.

But Edessa has acquired one peculiar interest in the eyes of Western
historians from the fact that it was the easternmost conquest that was
ever achieved by the Crusades. When Godfrey de Bouillon reached Antioch
in the year 1097 his brother Baldwin was in command of one of the
divisional armies that sallied forth to raid the country round about.
Many of the Crusading chieftains won themselves little principalities in
the course of these plundering expeditions; but Baldwin had better luck
than any, though it does not appear that it was any better deserved. He
penetrated eastward to Edessa; and found that city governed by a petty
Christian kinglet, who welcomed the Crusaders effusively and adopted
Baldwin as his successor. How far such welcome and adoption were
voluntary we have no means of ascertaining. Probably the poor Christian
Emir felt that he could not help himself. At any rate, he was killed
soon after in an insurrection (not without suspicion of Baldwin's
connivance), and the latter reigned in his room.

Upon Godfrey's death in 1100, Baldwin became King of Jerusalem, and made
over his principality to his cousin Baldwin du Bourg. He, too, succeeded
to Jerusalem in his turn in 1118; and the next Count of Edessa was
Jocelyn, a fine old fighter, whose exploits made his name a terror to
every Paynim in the land. Neither Baldwin II nor Jocelyn were altogether
in luck's way. Both were taken captive near Edessa by Balak the Prince
of Aleppo, and confined together in the strong castle of Khortbert.
Jocelyn succeeded in escaping, and presently had the satisfaction of
slaying Balak in battle with his own hand: but Baldwin remained a
prisoner for a period of seven years.

Jocelyn died in 1132, leaving his feeble-spirited son to succeed
him,[14] and thereafter the fortunes of the Crusaders began very rapidly
to wane. Their first invasion had been happily timed; for the last great
Seljuk Sultan, Malek Shah, had died two or three years previously, and
had left his empire to be disputed among his four sons. Thus for a time
there had been no single great ruler to unite the Moslems against the
Christians. But now a new power was being built up by Zanghi the Atabek
at Mosul; and under him, and his successors Noureddin and Saladin, it
grew more formidable every year. Zanghi--Sanguin, as the Crusaders
called him--laid siege to Edessa in 1144, and Milicent the queen regent
of Jerusalem found herself powerless to send aid. Zanghi breached the
walls by undermining one of the towers; the stormers overtook the flying
garrison before they could enter the citadel; and an indiscriminate
massacre brought the Christian dominion to an end.

There are still a good number of Christians both Armenian and Syrian at
Urfa, and the Syrian Monastery of Rabban Ephrem stands conspicuously at
the head of the bay. Rabban Ephrem was a handsome young monk, a refugee
from Nisibis when that city was ceded to Persia. He came to Urfa in
search of an eligible hermitage, and encountered there (so says the
legend) a damsel with roguish eyes.

"Oh damsel, why dost thou look upon me?" demanded the scandalized
solitary. "Man should keep his eyes fixed on the ground; for it is
written that out of it he was taken."

"Verily it is as thou sayest;" responded the damsel demurely. "Wherefore
woman may look upon man freely, for it is written that woman was taken
out of man."

"Lo! here is wisdom indeed," exclaimed the anchorite in amazement. "If
the women of Urfa are so wise, how wise must the men be! Of a surety I
will make my abode here, and gather wisdom at the fountain head."

So Rabban Ephrem settled down at Urfa, probably in one of the rock-cut
cells in the hill fronting the castle. But as he was misguided enough to
exclude all the women from his monastery, we fear it is only too
probable that he did not get as much wisdom as he hoped.

But the real patron saint of Urfa is no other than the Patriarch
Abraham; for the Moslems all believe implicitly that Urfa is Ur of the
Chaldees.[15] They have here Abraham's cradle, and his tomb (which they
never allow Christians to look upon); and they have the Pool of Abraham
also, which is the principal sight in all their town.

Abraham's Pool is a great stone tank which is fed by a never-failing
spring. Along one side rise the domes and minarets of Abraham's Mosque
(which is also inviolable by Christians) and the steps by which pious
Moslems descend into the Pool to bathe. In the pool live Abraham's carp.
The water is positively thick with them. No one is permitted to catch
them so long as they remain in their Sanctuary; but they venture at
their own proper peril into the stream which flows out from one end. It
is considered a pious act to feed them; and the great fat gluttons
follow us as we walk along the margin, with their heads bobbing out of
the water, begging for handfuls of boiled maize. When we throw them
_largesse_ there is such a rush for it that many of them got hoisted
bodily out of their element on their fellows' backs; and it must be
regretfully added that they often gorge themselves so immoderately that
they float away gasping, belly uppermost, as though they were in an
apoplectic fit.

Abraham's interest in the pool is explained by a delicious legend. He
had refused to worship fire when ordered to do so by Nimrod; and the
mighty conqueror was so exasperated that he hurled him with his own
hands from the summit of the citadel rock into a burning fiery furnace
which he had kindled for his reception at the bottom. The Patriarch
dropped unhurt, though it was a long cast even for Nimrod; and the
fountain sprang up at the touch of his feet and extinguished the fiery

If this explanation should appear to be not quite sufficiently coherent,
we can only admit that primitive Paganism tells a much more plausible
tale. The pool belonged of old to Derceto (Dagon, Atergatis), the
ancient Syrian fish-goddess. They are lineal descendants of her carp
that inhabit its waters to this day.




Due east and west, from the Gulf of Iskanderun almost to the heel of the
Caspian, there stretches a range of lofty mountains--a sort of natural
bulwark, fencing off the high rugged plateau of Asia Minor on the north
from the low level plain of Mesopotamia on the south. At its western
extremity this range is known as the Taurus, but further east it appears
now to possess no generic name; yet it well deserves so much
distinction, for it is here that the peaks attain their highest
altitude, and hold in their wild recesses some of the grandest scenery
in the world.

The hills which we entered near Urfa are the first outposts of these
mountains, but at this point of their line the outposts are very far
advanced. We must push on for two or three days across a broad
undulating upland before we find ourselves approaching the foot of the
main chain itself. On the whole it is a dull enough journey; for though
the snow summits rise nobly on the horizon ahead of us, the heathlands
immediately round us are as barren as land can be. There are a few
sordid Kurdish villages at four or five hours intervals, but apart from
these there is nothing for the eye to rest on; and our own little party,
crawling slowly across the landscape, seem to be the only living
creatures except the ubiquitous hooded crows.

During the second day, however, we became aware of another feature,
which, if it adds no beauty, at least lends interest to the scene. A
layer of higher ground is thrust across the plateau. It radiates out
into long flat tongues; and its steep escarpments are littered all over
with the big black boulders that have fallen from the bristly fringe
along the upper edge. These boulders are covered with a grey-green
lichen, and mottled with patches of moss of a warmer and richer green;
but no other kind of vegetation seems able to flourish among them, and
the prevailing tone of the landscape is a gloomy bilious grey. To those
who have seen it before such a picture needs no commentary. A vast
outpouring of volcanic scoriæ has covered the whole countryside.

As we pursue our way further the signs become yet more pronounced. The
Acropolis of the little town of Severek is perched, like Bamborough
Castle, on a platform of basalt rock. Not far off at the village of
Kainak is an isolated cone--once doubtless a miniature crater: and we
remember that Diarbekr is built of basalt also--Diarbekr, two days'
journey away. Whence came this prodigious outflow of seventy miles in
diameter, and of four thousand square miles in area--as large as the
county of York?

A full day's journey ahead of us, all along the eastern horizon, lies a
huge squat bun-shaped mountain, just over 6000 feet high. This is Karaja
Dagh, the great extinct volcano, the outermost of that group of
volcanoes which lie to the north of Mesopotamia, in Armenia and eastern
Kurdistan. This region must have been the scene, at some remote
geological epoch, of some of the greatest eruptions that have ever
occurred on this globe. The five huge craters which produced them (not
to mention a host of smaller ones)[16] are ranged diagonally athwart the
country in a line some 300 miles long. At the north-eastern end is
Alageuz, 150 miles south of the Caucasus. Then come Ararat, Sipan, and
Nimrud; with Karaja at the south-western end. The biggest of all perhaps
was Nimrud, a mountain but little higher than Karaja, but possessing the
third largest crater that is known to exist in the world. Karaja would
seem to consist of a group of associated craters; something like the
Puy de Dome mountains, but infinitely grander in scale.

It is held by many commentators that the site of the Garden of Eden was
near modern Van and Bitlis, round about the head waters of the
Euphrates, the Tigris, the Araxes, and the Zab. If so, then the Garden
of Eden now lies buried beneath the lava of these volcanoes; and where
could we find fitter antitypes of the Cherubim with the flaming swords?

Karaja juts out towards the plains like a huge cape, isolated from the
mountains; and our road slowly heaves itself upward to find a way over
its tail. As a road it is incredibly villainous, for it takes the basalt
boulders _au naturel_, and hardly an attempt has been made anywhereto
form a surface at all.[17] Round our left sweep the desolate fields of
broken and disintegrating lava. On our right they rise, terrace on
terrace, toward the mountain from which they flowed. And as we leave the
mountain behind, and continue our way to the eastward, the aspect of the
country changes little: it is still lava that surrounds us on every

At length, two full days beyond Severek, we descry a city ahead of us. A
city notable for its size, and yet more for its menacing aspect:--a grim
black row of massive towers and curtains, with the slender stems of a
dozen minarets shooting up into the sky behind the ramparts like reeds
behind a dyke of stone. The snow peaks on our left stretch beyond it,
and fade off gradually into the distance; and as we draw nearer we
perceive that on our right the town is guarded by the deep ravine of the
Tigris. Such is Diarbekr--Black Amida; whose classical name is not yet
disused entirely, and which owes its inseparable epithet to the basalt
of which it is built.

The city crowns a bold rocky bluff overhanging the gorge of the Tigris,
which flows some 300 feet beneath it in a broad and sandy bed. The river
is here wide and deep, and its modern name--_Shat_, the
Arrow--testifies the rapidity of its current; but a little below the
city its course is checked by a bridge and a weir. In the severe winter
of 1910-11 it was frozen over so hard at this point that the caravans of
camels were able to cross it on the ice. The river covers the eastern
face of the city; and the ground falls fairly steeply along the southern
face also. But toward the remaining two faces the approaches are over
level ground.

We possess many cities in Europe which are still entirely encircled by
Roman or mediæval ramparts. Such are Carcassonne, Aigues Mortes, Avila,
Lugo, and Rothenburg; and we may add Constantinople, though in this case
the circuit is incomplete. But, having seen all these examples, we feel
bound to put it on record that the basalt walls of Diarbekr are
distinctly the finest of all. The walls are some forty feet high and
about five miles in circuit, and are strengthened at frequent intervals
by eighty massive towers. Most of these are semicircular, but some are
semioctagonal. They are spaced about three and a half diameters apart,
and project boldly from the curtain walls between. The line traced by
the walls is irregular, skirting the edges of the hollows; and at each
salient angle is a huge circular bastion. The gateways are somewhat
insignificant, being mere holes in the walls flanked by a tower on
either side: and this is characteristic of most Roman fortifications,
the gateways of Lugo (for instance) being very similar in design.[18]

The curtain walls are from ten to fifteen feet thick; thinner along the
river front, where the precipitous basalt cliffs rendered assault almost
impracticable; and thicker along the other three sides. These sides are
further protected by a moat cut in the solid rock, but neither so deep
nor so wide as the giant moat at Urfa. Along the inner edge of this
moat, some paces from the base of the ramparts, is a low breastwork of
masonry as at Constantinople and Carcassonne. A loopholed and vaulted
gallery is carried along the top of the ramparts, and above this were
the battlements, so that the defenders had a double banquette.[19] The
towers are vaulted internally, and have double banquettes also; and the
garrison could reach their stations by a double staircase at every
tower. The citadel is at the north east corner overhanging the gorge of
the river, and in the midst of it is a huge mass of masonry, once the
mount of the demolished keep.

The walls are beyond all doubt, in the main, of Roman construction;
though some Saracenic additions have since been incorporated in the
work. They are built of squared black basalt, which has weathered
externally to a dull yellow tone owing to the lichen which has
overspread the surface. Possibly this process was assisted by the fact
that some twenty years ago it was deemed a good idea to whitewash them,
in order to give a distinguished welcome to a specially prominent Pasha!
But fortunately the traces of this sacrilege are almost obliterated now.

The houses in the town for the most part are a set of squalid hovels,
intersected in all directions by a maze of narrow crooked streets. Our
carriage fairly stuck in one of these alleys as we were attempting to
pass through it; and for some minutes it seemed problematical whether we
should be able to wriggle free. Yet not all the houses are mean; and in
the quarter near the citadel, the residence of the chief officials, a
very considerable number are solidly constructed of stone. Some few of
these are genuinely old, and possess a good deal of interest. They are
often built in two colours, with alternate horizontal bands of black
basalt and yellow marble, resembling not a little the black and white
marble buildings of Pistoia. It is curious how this taste for coloured
ornamentation seems inherent in the dwellers in volcanic districts,
where materials of different colours are always readily available. The
same trait is very conspicuous in the volcanic districts of Auvergne.
The most notable example at Diarbekr is a big mansion in the main
thoroughfare. A house very similar in type to the old palaces of Spain
and Italy; bare, square and prison-like outside, and entered by a single
great doorway; but with graceful arcaded porticoes surrounding the
_patio_ within. Once, no doubt, it was indeed a palace, the abode of
some prominent magnate: but now it is only a _khan_; and a _khan_ so
notoriously filthy that even our _Arabaji_ shrank from an encounter with
its fleas.

The principal Mosque is also of peculiar interest, and presents an
architectural problem which has never been quite fully solved. Two sides
of its courtyard are formed by the façades of an ancient palace--a
palace of regal dimensions, and constructed in a style that is
admittedly unique. One of these façades is in two stories, with a
pointed arcade below and square-headed windows over; the other has now
but one story which consists of a pointed arcade.[20] These are not
quite Romanesque in style, but more Romanesque than Oriental. They are
rather like primitive versions of the Otto Heinrichs Bau at Heidelberg
Schloss. But the building to which they are nearest akin is Diocletian's
famous palace at Spalatro; albeit they are far less massive, and far
more fantastically ornate. The theory most generally adopted concerning
them is that they formed part of the palace of the Armenian king,
Tiridates; and this theory is strongly supported by their resemblance to
the palace at Spalatro, for Diocletian and Tiridates were contemporaries
and close allies.

Amida was one of the great fortresses that guarded the southern frontier
of the Roman Empire. Northward, in Asia Minor, _Pax Romana_ had a fairly
long innings; but Parthia and Persia to the southward were at no time
definitely subdued. The hold of the Romans on Mesopotamia was indeed in
some sort analogous to the hold of the Austrians on Italy previous to
1860. They regarded it as within their "Sphere of Influence," and
sometimes they judged it expedient to "assert their interests" by
invading it. But generally they found that enterprise was a bit beyond
their capacity; their real "Scientific Frontier" lay along the mountains
in the north. And here they, too, maintained their four great
fortresses; not ranged in a square like the famous Austrian
Quadrilateral, but _en échelon_ one behind the other along the southern
slopes of the hills. Nisibis and Daras were in the forefront; Amida and
Edessa withheld in reserve behind them. And though thus in the second
rank, Amida got its full share of fighting when the kings of
resuscitated Persia began to make invasions in their turn.

Amida's defences were perfected, and its arsenal formed, by Constantius;
and it was Constantius' great opponent Sapor II who undertook its first
memorable siege. The great Sassanid Shah invaded the Roman territory
with a huge army of 100,000 men in the year 360. He had at first
intended to ignore the fortresses and to scour the hinterland for
plunder; but as he rode past the walls of Amida an arrow struck his
helmet, and he turned upon the place like an angry bull. His summons was
answered by a volley from the _balistæ_ which slew the only son of his
chief auxiliary, Grumbates the king of the Chionites; and Sapor swore to
the bereaved father that he would not rest till he had taken the city in

For seventy-three days he pressed his assaults with the utmost fury and
persistence. He brought up battering rams and huge wooden towers
constructed for him by Roman deserters; and on one occasion he succeeded
in surprising one of the towers upon the river frontage, but the seventy
picked archers who occupied it were overwhelmed by the garrison and
slain. At last he breached the walls; and though some of the garrison
(including the historian Ammianus) cut their way through his lines on
the further side, and thus succeeded in escaping, the rest, with all the
inhabitants, were massacred in the ensuing storm.

Yet Amida had at least performed the duty which is ordinarily expected
of a fortress. It had held back the tide of invasion for the period of a
whole campaign. Sapor had lost a third of his army; and the season was
too far advanced for any further operations. He retreated again into
Persia, and abandoned the city that he had won.

An even more notable siege occurred in the year 502. King Kobad, the
father of the yet mightier Chosroes I. invested the city that autumn;
assailing it from the western side (as Sapor had done before him), and
employing similar siege engines to those of his predecessor's days.[21]
The garrison caught the blows of his rams on reed mattresses lowered
from the ramparts, and greased the drawbridges of his wooden towers so
effectively that the stormers could not cross. Also they employed
"winged words" of such singular virulence and pungency as to scandalize
even their own historian.[22] He felt obliged to draw the line at
"Lime-house," though boiling oil and firebrands were fair. "If the
bishop had still been alive he would never have permitted it;" and
indeed when the women took to stripping themselves on the ramparts, and
taunting the besiegers with their inability to sack the place, we may
grant that any bishop would have had good cause to protest!

Kobad next "cast a mount" against the walls in the manner of Sargon and
Sennacherib; a huge incline of earth and brushwood to give his men
access to the parapet. The besieged breached their own wall under it,
and secretly drew away the core; propping the cavity with balks of
timber, and then filling it with combustibles. When the assault began
they fired their mine; and an hour or two later the mound collapsed
beneath the feet of the attacking columns, precipitating the luckless
stormers into the blazing furnace below.[23]

Three months had passed in vain assaults, and Kobad had made no
progress. His thinly clad Persians were suffering terribly from the
winter cold; and the Great King swallowed his dignity and offered to
raise the siege for half a crown! But success had made the defenders
more insolent than ever, and they scorned even this show of homage. They
retaliated by sending him a bill for the vegetables which his army had
consumed out of their gardens. This was too much for Kobad, and he
resolved to fight to a finish. Three days later the laugh was on his

One night a party of Persians were pursuing a certain Kutrigo who had
sallied from a privy postern to make a raid on their camp. As they
neared the walls they received no challenge, and not an arrow was shot
at them. That particular tower was manned by the "Sleepless" monks of
Anzetene; and it chanced that "a certain man" (in the most friendly
spirit) had given them a good supper and wine to drink, so that they
were all in deep slumber. The Persians seized their opportunity and made
themselves masters of the tower. The garrison were aroused and hurried
up to expel them, endeavouring to cut away the vaulted floor under their
feet. The Persians planted their scaling ladders and swarmed to the help
of their comrades; and for thirty-six hours continuously the fight raged
furiously on the wall. Peter of Amkhoro, a man of gigantic stature and
clad in complete armour, held the banquette on one side against the
utmost efforts of the Persians: but in the opposite direction they
pushed on from tower to tower till at last they gained one of the
gateways. The army poured in irresistibly, and the massacre began.

Kobad allowed his army three full days to sack the city, and at the end
of that time 80,000 corpses were carried out through the north gate that
the king might enter at the south. Even so the Persians' vengeance was
not sated, and they demanded leave from their king to execute one tenth
of the survivors to appease the _manes_ of their own dead comrades.[24]
They bore these wretched victims outside the city walls, and killed
them "in all sorts of ways."

[Illustration: MOSUL.

View from the bridge, looking up stream. The Tomb of Cassim is one of
the more distant buildings near the water-side.]

Kobad pillaged the city thoroughly, sending his booty away on rafts down
the Tigris to Ctesiphon; and when he himself departed, he left a certain
Glon to hold the fortress with a garrison of 3000 men. This seems a
small enough force to man such an extent of rampart: yet at first it
proved amply sufficient; and when the Roman general Patricius attempted
to regain the city he was repulsed completely and ignominiously, though
the Romans were much more skilled than the Persians in the conduct of a
siege. But Amida was not yet at the end of its agony: and what all the
emperor's horses and all the emperor's men had so conspicuously failed
to accomplish was reserved for the grim persistence of an irregular

Farzman was an active local Sheikh who had espoused the cause of the
Romans, and who had made his name a terror to the Persians by a
multitude of daring deeds. He was only in command of 500 horse; and any
attempt to form a regular siege of such a first-class fortress would of
course have been ridiculous. But an adroitly handled cavalry force can
do a good deal in the way of "containing" an Oriental city. In the
winter of 1911 Shuja ed Dowleh, the Agha of Maragha, nearly reduced
Tabriz, with all its 300,000 inhabitants, with an equally puny band.

Farzman knew full well that the Persians in Amida could not have had
time to replenish their magazines. He quietly cut off communication with
the surrounding villages, and suppressed the daily market that was held
without the walls. Glon very naturally grew restive; and listened
greedily to a certain Gadono, a prominent local sportsman, who told him
that he had located Farzman's camp in the course of his hunting
excursions, and would enable him to take it by surprise. Accordingly
Glon sallied out with all his available cavalry. But the wily Gadono had
been in communication with Farzman. The "surprise" had been all arranged
beforehand; and Glon and his party were wiped out.

This signal miscarriage of their "aggressive defence" profoundly
disconcerted the Persians. Glon's son, now in chief command, kept
breathing out threatenings and slaughter; but he no longer had any
cavalry, and his infantry was barely sufficient to man the ramparts and
overawe the citizens within. He shut up all the able-bodied inhabitants,
to the number of 10,000, in the Stadium; and calculated by this measure
to free his own hands for the defence. But, struggle as he might, he
could not snap the line which held him:--Farzman had hooked a salmon
with a trout rod, but he played it in masterly style.

Then came days of horror unutterable. The prisoners in the Stadium were
left without any food whatever. They ate their boots, and their belts,
and finally preyed on each other; and when the wretched survivors were
let loose as no longer worth guarding, they crawled out of their prison
"like men risen from the dead." By this time the city itself was almost
in equal extremity. Many of the living skeletons from the Stadium were
enticed into the houses by the starving women and there killed and
devoured. The garrison were so reduced by hunger that they could
scarcely carry their weapons; and the Persian commandant sent to Farzman
to say that he was willing to capitulate.

Farzman granted easy terms. They might go off on rafts down the Tigris,
taking all their property with them, as many as elected to go. And he
himself, on their departure, took possession of that ghastly charnel
house; and assisted by the new bishop, Thomas (the same who was later to
build Daras), set to work to import new inhabitants, and nurse the dead
city back to life.

Diarbekr in 1895 was one of the centres of the Armenian massacres, and
as many as 2500 perished in this place alone. Little enough was heard
about it at the time in England, where attention was almost monopolized
by yet more monstrous holocausts; but what passed then as a mere local
incident wears a very different aspect when we visit the actual spot
where it was enacted--when we see the doors still splintered and patched
in the houses which were stormed by the rioters, the photographs of the
luckless victims still treasured in the albums of their surviving
friends and relatives, and the ghastly bald patch in the midst of the
city where the Armenian quarter was razed to the ground and has never
been re-erected to this day.

The massacre was undoubtedly prompted by the Government of
Constantinople; but their agents were the fanatical Kurds who swarm in
the slums of Diarbekr, and who flocked in eagerly from the surrounding
villages to take a hand in the work of slaughter and to share in the
plunder which followed. That the massacre was political and not
religious was proved by the fact that the Syrian Christians (who are
also numerous in Diarbekr) did not suffer to anything like the same
extent as their Armenian co-religionists. The crowd of refugees who
sought sanctuary in the Jacobite cathedral were not molested, and only
isolated individuals fell victims to the fury of the mob. That the
outbreak wore a mask of fanaticism was a thing inevitable in the Orient.
The perpetrators were the Kurdish riff-raff; and on this point
Mohammedan _badmashes_ are alike all over the world. Only religious zeal
can excite their passions dangerously; and when their passions are
dangerously excited they always find expression in religious zeal.[25]
But the very fact that a distinction was made between Armenians and
Syrians, is alone sufficient to indicate that in this instance the mob
was under some sort of control.

The hatred of the Turks for the Armenians is due to the fact that the
Armenians are the only one of their subject nations of whom the Turks
are afraid. The Arabs and Kurds are their co-religionists, and have no
national cohesion. The Nestorian and Jacobite Syrians are either too few
to be dangerous, or too thoroughly tamed by long subjection to have any
desire to rebel. But the Armenians are numerous and imbued with national
aspirations; and though the majority of them are inoffensive
cultivators, they include a considerable number of intelligent and
capable men. A small percentage too are active political propagandists,
who continue to work persistently to overthrow the present régime. Under
equal political conditions the Armenians would soon secure dominance:
and this would be a subversal which the Turks could never endure. So
when the Armenians grow restive the Turks resolve to "take precautions."
They cannot cope with them in cleverness, but in physical force they

Will there be further massacres? It is an ever-present danger. The Turks
do not wish it--it makes trouble with the European Embassies; and, after
all, slaughtering the Armenians is killing the goose that lays the
golden eggs. The Kurdish chiefs do not wish it either, for they too
stand to lose pecuniarily: but beneath them seethes the fanatical mob,
easily roused by hot-headed agitators, a sort of open powder magazine
which any stray firebrand may ignite. "I will give you full warning if I
can," said a friendly Vali to a gentleman of our acquaintance; "but I
can only tell you that I see no danger just now. There is talk of
course--there is always talk; and so long as the talk reaches our ears
it is not likely to go further. When you see little groups whispering
together outside the mosques, and breaking up whenever a Christian
passes within earshot--that is the real danger-signal, and you can see
that as well as I."

There was plenty of "talk" at Diarbekr; and we frequently heard the
children (no doubt in imitation of their elders) invoking curses on us
as we passed along the streets. The tension must have become greater
since: for the Moslems will have been touched in the raw at the result
of the Balkan fighting, and are prone to avenge their discomfiture on
any Christian who is ready to hand. Moreover the Constitution had not
altogether improved matters: for it was inaugurated by a general amnesty
whereby all exiles and prisoners had been released. Some were certainly
innocent sufferers, but a large number would have been much better kept
in durance; and Diarbekr was consequently growing anxious at the
intrigues of Abdul Reshek Agha, grandson and heir to Bedr Khan Beg of
Massacre memory,[26] who had just got reinstated in his ancestral
stronghold in Bohtan. He was credited with an ambition to establish
himself under the ægis of the Russians, as Shah of United Kurdistan: and
though a "United Kurdistan" is a sufficiently Utopian conception, such
an attempt might well begin with an Armenian massacre, and bring Russian
intervention in its train.

The old régime used to deal with such dangers tactfully, if not
altogether discreetly, according to our insular ideas. And this may be
exemplified by the case of another Bedr Khan Beg, a scion of the same
family--a tale which, if not _vero_, is so _ben trovato_ that we cannot
refrain from quoting it; and which at least shows the sort of methods
with which the Government was credited, and in which its liege subjects
were quite disposed to acquiesce.

The Sultan, in an expansive mood, had recalled Bedr Khan Beg from exile,
and proposed to re-invest him with part of his ancestral domain. That
gratified gentleman blossomed out luxuriantly under such sympathetic
usage, and began asking for all sorts of powers and privileges, and
reviving a whole host of dormant claims. The Government grew rather
uneasy, but showed no signs of displeasure. It granted each demand in
turn; escorted him with high distinction on board a warship; and
dispatched him to Trebizond en route for his satrapy.

Two days later the ship was back at its anchorage. Perhaps it had
forgotten something. Perhaps it needed some repairs to its engines. But
it seemed in no hurry to start again; and it presently transpired that
Bedr Khan Beg was no longer on board. He had not been seen to land; and
the ship could have touched at no harbour. There is often some apparent
inconsequence in the movements of Government ships. "_Et quaesitum est
a_ Toad-in-the-hole _ubi est ille_ Bedr Khan Beg?" "_Non est inventus._"

The Young Turks have adopted a self-denying ordinance with regard to
such expedients; but they have hardly attempted to touch that cancer of
Ottoman rule--the chronic corruption of the Administration. Turkey
enjoys an admirable code of laws, and a revenue system which should be
the envy of our own fiscal extremists; but it has also evolved along
with them that other modern panacea, a multiplicity of jobs. Every
single official, be he Old Turk or Young Turk, Arnaut or Armenian, is
frankly "on the make." His post entitles him nominally to a starvation
salary: yet he pays for it with a bribe, and he knows it is well worth
paying for, since the incidental pickings will enable him to "make his

The present officials did not reprobate their predecessors' conduct in
this: they only envied their opportunities. If they had been allowed a
chance of getting a look in themselves, they would have been quite
content with things as they were. But the Old Gang had packed the
Government so artfully that nothing but a revolution could oust them;
and so in due course the inevitable revolution happened. But the methods
of administration remain essentially the same.

Internal development of the empire is hardly ever attempted. The
standing instructions appear to be "Thou shalt do nothing at all." The
central Government is quite content if open revolt is avoided; and if
the taxes are gathered regularly enough to pay the officials' salaries,
and to maintain the standing army. Abdul Hamid even attempted to
dispense with paying the army; and this ill-judged bit of economy was
the primary cause of his overthrow. An army is an institution which
cannot be prudently starved.

Of course all this systematized corruption involves huge losses to the
Government. The officials, for a consideration, will always allow their
friends to "make a bit;" and will often undervalue their property for
assessment by as much as 90 per cent. The Kurds are favoured at the
expense of the Christians because their support has to be courted,
although in the development of the country they are much the least
valuable asset. Yet even the Kurds are not reconciled by such means to
the paying of their taxes. Not so much because the taxes are heavy as
because they are unremunerative. They see no return for their money: no
roads, no education, no irrigation works. They are paying not taxes but
tribute, like the old vassal kings under Assyria; and consequently they
are always ripe for revolt, if they see any prospect of obtaining
external aid to enable them to revolt successfully; again like the
vassal kings under Assyria, who knew well that they would get flayed
alive if they failed.

The best one can say of the administration of justice is that it
probably is not quite as corrupt as it appears to be. The judge takes
bribes from both sides with a view to remaining unbiased; and, if he is
scrupulous, restores his bribe to the loser. In criminal cases, however,
one must make allowance for a further principle. Among ourselves
criminal acts are regarded as an offence against the State, and it is
the State's duty to exact the penalty. But the Turks are inclined to
regard such acts merely as an offence against the individual. The State
does no more than recognize the right of the injured party (or his
representative) to take his own revenge--if he can.[27] It will only
itself occasionally condescend to act as his representative, if he
chances to be an influential person, or if some influential outsider
(say the British Consul) may be thereby obliged. Such a point of view is
very primitive, and inevitably leads to much injustice; but we cannot
hope to see this remedied until the Turk has digested our own Western
principles, and he has not made digestion easier by electing to swallow
them whole.

With regard to the Kurds[28] we desire to speak as charitably as we are
able; and we may find warrant for this in the words of Mar Ephrem, the
Syrian Bishop of Urmi, who, writing to the Archbishop of Canterbury,
could say no worse of them than that they were _wakshi_ folk. _Wakshi_
means merely "uneducated;" but it is only fair to add that it is a term
of much greater opprobrium than seems quite reasonable in a country
where not one man in a hundred is able to read or write.

The lack of education which the bishop laments is akin to that "weakness
in arithmetic" which caused the Irishman to be hanged. They are apt to
have more sheep in their villages than they can legitimately account
for. They are a pastoral race, leaving agriculture almost exclusively to
the Syrians and Yezidis; but we fear that their "pastoral" ideals are
hardly those of Corydon or Meliboeus. Rather are they the modern
representatives of those Elliots and Maxwells and Johnstones who used to
practise "the faithful herdman's art" upon our own border; and it might
well be said to them (as was said to the chief of another great family
whose enormities have since culminated in the acquisition of a

    _Had everye honeste man his awin kye,_
    _A right puir clan thy name wad be!_

Such doings are hardly criminal according to their own code of morals;
and if they confined themselves to cattle raiding, or even to an
occasional clean murder, we should be able to think of them more kindly.
But we fear that yet darker deeds must sometimes be reckoned against
them; deeds like those of Edom o' Gordon, or Black Adam of Cheviot, or
like that which drew Hepburn's vengeance on Bertram of Mitford tower. It
is highly interesting, no doubt, to find Donald Bean Lean in the flesh
still practising his old avocations in the highlands of Asia Minor; but
if we could also find there "the kindly gallows of Crieff," we do not
hesitate to avow that our state would be the more gracious.

There is a British Vice-Consulate at Diarbekr, but at the date of our
visit it was vacant. It is one of those posts which our Government is
apt to suppress whenever retrenchment seems advisable. Certainly the
Vice-Consul must lead a dull enough life; and the British trade, which
is the ostensible cause of his appointment, is a very nebulous entity.
Yet the mere presence of a European constitutes a very real protection
of the subject races in such an environment; and we owe at least this
much recognition of our treaty obligations towards them.[29]

Our national prestige in the East rests chiefly on our dominance in
India; and this is reflected in the fact that our Indian consulates in
the south are much better maintained than those in the north, which are
controlled from Europe. Our prestige too is a waning quantity. We are
living, as it were, on the capital accumulated for us by such men as
Stratford Canning; and it must be confessed that latterly our policy has
not been that of a Great Power. We seem content to preserve barbarism in
Mesopotamia in order to make our position in India easier; and to
discourage the Baghdad railway because it will make our frontier harder
to defend. That our military men should take this view is excusable.
They know our present unpreparedness; and some day it might even be
their duty to destroy that railway, because forces at their disposal
will not otherwise be adequate for defence. But from a national
standpoint such a dog-in-the-manger policy must eventually bring its own
punishment. Our most straightforward, and in the end our wisest, course
would be to promote all developments, and to shoulder manfully the
obligations which they entail.

We resumed our journey from Diarbekr across a lava-covered country by
perhaps the bumpiest bit of road between Aleppo and Mosul. We and all
our possessions were kept bouncing about in our _araba_ like so many dry
peas in a pod. The springs of a second carriage that was travelling
with us burst, and had to be spliced with string. Presently our own pole
broke off short at the socket, and had to be lashed up with string
likewise. By some miraculous dispensation the splice held out to Mardin.

These accidents and repairs delayed us, and nightfall caught us still on
the moorland. Our driver went astray off the almost invisible pathway,
and after a while was reduced to hunting for it with matches. We fished
out a portable candle-lamp, which gave somewhat more illumination; but
which scarcely seemed adequate for the next undertaking that awaited
us--the fording of a fairly wide river, running strongly, about axle
deep. Good luck, however, attended us, and we at length got safely to
our _khan_.

Next morning we were clear of the volcanic district and pursued our way
up a winding and fertile valley, which was threaded (for a marvel) by a
very presentable road. But over the _col_ at the head there was no road
whatever, and our horses had to scramble up a mountain side, rugged with
earth-fast boulders and the roots of stunted trees. But this was the
last of our obstacles. The road now revived intermittently; and though
but half finished and hilly, it held on to the end of our stage. Towards
evening we climbed the long zigzag ascent to the top of a 3000 feet
mountain, and, crossing the ridge, wheeled immediately into the streets
of the city of Mardin.

Mardin occupies a superb situation at the summit of one of the eminences
which are ranged like a wall along the northern border of the
Mesopotamian plain. All trace of an intervening plateau has here been
completely eliminated; and from the foot of the declivity the ground
stretches away to the southward in one illimitable level. The furthest
identified landmark, a huge _tel_ rising conspicuously in the far
distance, was pointed out to us as Tel Kokab nearly eighty miles away.

These mountains are the Jebel Tur, the Mount Athos of the extreme east.
They are a wild and barren district, containing very few villages, but
thickly studded with ancient Christian monasteries; some of which date
back to the seventh, eighth and ninth centuries, and most of which are
still occupied by small companies of Syrian monks.[30] Mardin is
situated at the western extremity of this region; and the northern and
eastern boundaries are formed by a loop of the Tigris, which flows
behind the upland from Diarbekr to Jezire ibn Omar and issues there on
to Mosul plain.

The hill on which the city stands is of a form which is not uncommon
among the Kurdistan highlands, It rises from the plain in a single steep
slope, unbroken almost from base to summit; but it culminates in a
cresting of precipitous rock, so even and vertical that it looks like an
artificial wall. Immediately behind the city this cresting forms an
isolated knoll, cut off at the back and ends as abruptly as along the
front, and thus forming an immense table with a perfectly level top.
Many of the hills adjoining are of similar conformation; and another,
almost a replica of it, may be seen in the mountains further eastward,
forming the site of the town of Amadia.

Amadia is built entirely on the level top, and the encircling line of
precipice serves it instead of a rampart: but at Mardin the space on the
summit is only sufficient for the citadel, and the town lies just at the
foot of the precipice, sprawling down the southern slope of the hill.
The houses look forth across the plain, each over the roof of its
neighbour; and as even the lowest rank must be fully 1500 feet above
plain level, they form a conspicuous assemblage visible for scores of
miles away.

The town is some two miles in length and perhaps half a mile in width,
and is reputed to contain about 80,000 inhabitants. It is built of a
warm-coloured stone similar to that employed at Urfa; and, like Urfa, is
largely composed of good substantial buildings, which can sustain a
certain amount of dilapidation without lapsing altogether into squalor.
The streets are narrow and tortuous, and run for the most part
longitudinally; thus it is evident that the cliff which overhangs them
cannot (like the Amadia cliff) be in the habit of dropping fragments
down the slope beneath it; otherwise the lanes would run vertically,
and be a good deal wider than they are! Some of the principal mosques
possess considerable architectural pretensions, with Arabesque
stalactite corbelling inserted in the coves over the doorways, and a
certain amount of good carving introduced here and there on the facades.
They are generally covered with fluted domes--a rather unusual feature,
but one which is very conducive to the general effectiveness of the

Mardin is a walled city, but its walls were never very formidable and
are now mostly ruinous. They consist but of broken fragments even on the
citadel rock. The place was no Roman fortalice like Urfa or Diarbekr,
and the part that it played in history was not of any great note. For
some time it was the capital city of a petty dynasty of little
independent Sultans; and the tomb of one of the most powerful of these
forms a graceful adjunct to one of the chief mosques. One unique
distinction, however, belongs to its rock-perched citadel. This is said
to have held out successfully against the invincible Timour himself.

Mardin is in these days best known to us as the residence of the
Patriarch of the Jacobites--Mar Ignatius, the modern inheritor of the
throne of Antioch, that earliest of all Metropolitan sees. He resides at
Deir el Za'aferan, the "Monastery of the Yellow Rocks," which is
situated about five miles eastward upon the southern slope of the
mountains, in a position very similar to that of the town itself but on
a separate hill. Deir el Za'aferan is a very ancient foundation dating
from the fifth or sixth century; and certain fragments of its original
structure still survive to this day, incorporated in the existing
buildings. They are of pronouncedly classical character, and display a
strong similarity to the admittedly Roman work in the Church of St.
James at Nisibin: but the major part of the monastery is of much more
modern construction; for it has been almost constantly occupied ever
since the date of its erection, and subjected to many vicissitudes,
being frequently ruined and rebuilt.

The Syrian "Jacobite" Christians are a poor remnant now, but they were
once the dominant Church in that group of old Roman provinces that we
style loosely, "Syria and Palestine," but which Romans called "The
Orient," _Praefactura Orientalis_.

Syriac (_i.e._ Aramaic) was the vernacular of these lands, whose capital
for both ecclesiastical and political matters was Antioch. Their use of
a separate language gave a national tinge to their Christianity; and
they resented the Greek uniformity which the Emperor of Constantinople
for political reasons sought to impose upon them. They fought this
battle on the doctrinal field, refusing to accept the "Constantinopolitan"
council of Chalcedon, and finding in that refusal a rallying-point for
their own desire for independence.

For some time, it seemed probable that the emperor would seek to
reconcile the discontented provinces by abandoning the council to which
they objected; this policy, however, was rejected by Justinian
(527-565), with the result that these "Monophysite"[31] malcontents
organized themselves on a footing of separation from the Greek Church,
but they remained in fellowship with the Churches of Armenia and Egypt;
and the bulk of the Christian population of these provinces was in
sympathy with them.

Thus, when the Mohammedan invasions of the seventh century commenced,
the Arabs found that the bulk of the provincials were disposed to
receive them as deliverers rather than as foes. In return, they
recognized these Monophysites as the dominant Christian _millet_ of
these provinces, and so they remained for centuries.

Their nickname of "Jacobite" has nothing whatever to do with the "White
Rose Society," but was given them during the sixth century. Justinian
attempted to force them into "Orthodoxy" by imprisoning their bishops,
so as to prevent the ordination of any clergy but those of whom he
approved. While in prison, the bishops consecrated a certain monk
Jacobus Baradaeus, to the episcopate, and gave him a "roving
commission." For thirty-five years he wandered from place to place in a
beggar's horse-cloth (_bara'da_), and reorganized the whole separatist

Their Patriarch claims to be a true representative of the original
Patriarchate of Antioch. In the days of their oppression, he was
naturally not permitted to reside there, and shifted his quarters from
monastery to monastery, till he settled at last at Deir el Za'aferan.
The Greeks have of course a Patriarch of the see, though they have to
admit the existence of gaps in his line of ancestry, and a Latin
claimant of the same was established in the time of the Crusades. These
reside now at Damascus and Beyrout respectively.

The Jacobite Church comprises about a quarter of a million adherents in
Asiatic Turkey with--we believe--twelve bishops; and there are about the
same number under British rule in Malabar.

Neither they nor their eastern neighbours the "Nestorians" hold now (if
they ever did) the peculiar heresies which their names suggest, and
which their enemies credited them with teaching. Each has now come to
teach, and perhaps has always taught, all the doctrine that their
Orthodox opponents sought to guard at the councils which these
Separatists nevertheless continue to repudiate. The old division
continues; but more as a matter of convenience than of principle, and
the more intelligent bishops on both sides admit that all real
differences have disappeared.

Yet no fusion is likely at present, for the rank and file are
unreconciled, and fortify their mutual suspicion with all sorts of
groundless ideas. "Is it really true," asked an old Jebel Tur monk in
all simplicity, "that the Nestorians wash their altar with asses' blood
before they celebrate the Eucharist?"

The Nestorian deacon who attended us, and who heard this amazing
aspersion, could hardly be restrained from falling on the inquirer there
and then!




From the eastern gate of Mardin the road decants itself plainwards in a
skein of curves and zigzags--a vertical descent of 2000 feet, spinning
out its gradients to a length of five or six miles. It is not at all a
bad road. One could easily bicycle down it--and perhaps even bicycle up
it if in specially strenuous mood. But it is, as it were, the swan-song
of the modern Ottoman Telfords, and as soon as it reaches the level it
reverts into a sheaf of footpaths. Henceforth to the end of our journey
we saw no more metalled roads.

We had now, too, a further reminder of the fact that we were quitting
civilization, for a couple of _zaptiehs_ rode with us to escort us over
the stage to Nisibin. Hitherto such protection had been deemed needless:
but in these remoter districts the Government prefers to have some
tangible assurance of a European traveller's safety, seeing that it is
liable to be held responsible if he is unfortunate enough to come to
grief. Thus that modest intruder finds himself passed on from city to
city with all the pomp and circumstance of an armed cavalry escort; and
afflicted at every stage with the consciousness that he is passing
current at a face value vastly in excess of his intrinsic worth.

The _zaptiehs_ are a sort of military police, analogous to the Spanish
Civil Guard or the Royal Irish Constabulary; though we fear that these
two _corps d'elite_ would not be likely to feel gratified at a
suggestion that such deplorable ragamuffins should "march through
Coventry" with them. Personally, for the most part, they are
good-humoured and obliging fellows; accepting rough weather and hard
lodging with the utmost philosophy. Also they rather welcome the chance
of a little escort duty. It is a pleasant change from the monotony of
garrison life; and there is a tip to look forward to finally, though
this must be "under the rose." "You have not mentioned that you've given
us a present?" said one of our fellows with engaging _naïveté_ when we
asked him to carry back a letter--"Because it isn't allowed!"

But though Western civilization extends thus far no longer, there is not
wanting tangible evidence to prove that it was here long ago. In the
midst of one of the first plain villages there rises, like a lofty
_aiguille_, the angle of a Roman watch tower. It seems impossible that
such a slender fragment should be able to withstand wind and weather
much longer; but hitherto the huge square blocks have stood firm though
all support has fallen away. A Roman church (or more probably a Roman
house converted into a church) stands in another village; and at the end
of a short day's journey we turned aside to visit some yet more striking

The mountains at this point ravel out on to the plain in a line of
gently sloping spurs, and from between two of these issues a broad and
shallow but never-failing stream. The spurs immediately westward of it
are conspicuously gashed across with wide deep transverse trenches; and
as we draw nearer we perceive that the ridge on each side of the river
is crested with a ruined rampart, and that the hollow enclosed between
them is a regular sugar bowl of huge disjointed stones. Here and there
out of the chaos rises the fragment of a mighty tower or a massive
skeleton archway, and presently we can descry a few wretched Kurdish
hovels half hidden among the débris of the great devastated city.

Such is now the fortress of Daras, once the Metz or Belfort of its age.

[Illustration: SHEIKH ADI.

The upper end of the buildings showing the forecourt and entrance
gateway: and (apparently) "the Proprietor," seated on the wall above.]

In the year 503, after the disastrous campaign which witnessed the fall
of Amida and the failure to recapture Nisibis, the Emperor Anastasius
took his generals severely to task "for that they did not prosper nor
succeed in the war according to his will under the Lord." The
unfortunate generals protested that they could not reasonably expect to
defeat a potentate who was manifestly commissioned by Providence to
chastise the backsliding Romans--especially when he had such a large
army. But they closed their jeremiads with one eminently practical
suggestion viz.--that it was quite hopeless to attack Nisibis unless
they had a strong base of operations close by. This notion appealed to
Anastasius--a great believer in fortification, and the builder of the
famous "Long Walls," the Byzantine Lines of Tchatalja. After some
consideration he fixed upon Daras as the site of his new fortress; and
(as it was church property) he bought it honestly, and commissioned
Thomas, the Bishop of Amida, to undertake the contemplated work. The
commander of the covering army was one Felicissimus, of whom it is
significantly chronicled that "he was not at all covetous;" but all the
engineering work seems to have been supervised by the bishop. Anastasius
supplied him with money freely, and engaged that neither he nor his
successors should demand any accounts of the expenditure--which seems
rather an extreme test even of a bishop's integrity. He specially
stipulated, however, that none of the workmen should be defrauded of
their wages, having ascertained (no doubt by a system of trial and
error) that "cities (on the frontier) got built quicker that way." It is
worthy of remark that a day's wage at that time was 4 _keratin_
(2_d._)[32] and that the services of an ass were rated as precisely
equivalent to a man's. Upon these principles the work progressed
rapidly, and the city was finished in three years; Kobad being engaged
upon his eastern frontier, and quite unaware of what was going on.

"Is she not fair, my daughter of a year?" cried Coeur de Lion proudly
as he gazed on Chateau Gaillard: and to build Chateau Gaillard in one
year was certainly a fine achievement, yet it was as nothing in
comparison to the building of Daras in three. It gives us a great idea
of the resources of the Byzantine Empire that Anastasius, an
undistinguished, albeit a conscientious, ruler should have been able to
bequeath to us so superb a monument of his power. Dara is very similar
in site, as it is accidentally similar in name, to another Roman
foundation, the town of Daroca in Aragon. It lies pooled in a cup-like
depression between the two rims of high ground which are crested with
its formidable ramparts; and through the midst of it flows the little
river, which cannot be diverted anywhere and thus ensures a constant
water-supply. At either end of the depression the ramparts stoop from
their opposing heights and join hands with each other across the stream.
At these points the water is admitted and discharged through cunningly
contrived water-gates consisting of several small arches, once defended
by metal grilles the mortices for which may still be seen. Formerly no
doubt these arches could be closed by sluices. Thus a wide and deep
inundation could be formed without the walls at the upper gate, which
would provide additional protection; and a similar reservoir could be
collected within the walls at the lower gate, and discharged to
overwhelm any battering engines that might be advanced against the city
from the plain.

The walls which crown the flanking heights are of singularly massive
construction, and defended by a deep wide moat cut out of the solid
rock. As at Diarbekr and Urfa (and in Spain at Lugo and Astorga) they
are strengthened at frequent intervals by solid projecting round towers.

Within the city itself are some even more notable monuments. The
builders of the fortress did not rely exclusively on the river for their
water-supply, but provided a huge underground cistern, fed by a
rock-hewn conduit and capable of storing nearly five million gallons at
need. This cistern consists of ten parallel vaulted tunnels, each about
150 feet long and 13 to 14 feet wide, with an internal height of 40 feet
from the floor to the crown of the vault. The division walls of this
structure are thickly encrusted with lime deposit, thus proving
conclusively the purpose for which it was designed.

[Illustration: CROSS SECTION


A little distance away is a sort of square platform of masonry, rising a
few feet above the general level of the ground. We penetrated into it by
a dark and narrow passage, and groping our way gingerly down a steep
descent by the light of a couple of candles we found ourselves at last
in a titanic cellar, 60 feet long and 50 wide, divided by a massive
arcade into two naves, and roofed by a double barrel vault 50 feet above
the level of the floor. This is doubtless the Great Granary mentioned
by Zachariah of Mitylene; but (being underground) it is of course now
deemed to have been a dungeon, and is known locally as "the Big
Oubliette." The prodigious size of the stones employed in building it,
and the extreme solidity of the masonry, made us think of the famous
cisterns at Constantinople as very inferior structures indeed.[33]

The use of such very large stones is a notable feature of Dara and gives
a more grandiose character to ruins magnificent in themselves. Two
average sized blocks on the ramparts, which still lay conveniently _in
situ_, afforded ample area for the accommodation of a camp bed; and each
of the two taken separately must have weighed not much short of a ton.
Even the houses appear to have been built of stones as large as those
used in the fortifications. It would seem that they were employed in
sheer bravado, as was undoubtedly the case with the yet bigger stones of
Baalbec. Now all lie scattered at random over the whole area of the
city, and it puzzles us not a little to conceive how such singularly
solid buildings can have been so utterly overthrown. Earthquakes or
battering rams might have demolished them; but then one would expect to
find the débris lying in heaps as it fell. The stones might have been
removed to construct new houses and enclosures; but then they would be
disposed in some sort of regular lines. Did some Timour deliberately
give order that no stone should be left upon another? Even he might have
been daunted at such an undertaking, when the removal of each several
block could employ a file of men for a day.

It is ever a futile task to prop a falling empire by the construction of
prodigious defences; but at least Daras filled the gap long enough to
witness the dawn of a more prosperous day. In the year 529--twenty-five
years after the building of the city--Belisarius faced the Persian army
on the flat ground just outside the lower water-gate. Perozes, the
Persian commander, led a host of 40,000 soldiers; and the young Roman
general had but 25,000, a motley agglomeration of Goths, Huns, and
Heruls--for at this period it was the Romans' custom to impress their
Gothic captives to fight against the Persians, and their Persian
captives to fight against the Goths. Belisarius distrusted his army; and
with very sufficient reason. So great had been the decay of Roman
"virtue" that over a generation had elapsed since last they had won a
victory in the field! He drew up his troops behind a strong line of
entrenchments, so close under the walls of the city that they
constituted rather an outwork of the permanent fortifications than
regular field works of the orthodox type. Indeed, but that he had some
scope for counter attack, he seemed rather preparing for a siege than
for a battle. Remarkably timid tactics for a general who was soon to
prove himself the most dashing commander of his age!

The Persians must have been pretty confident to venture upon attacking
such a position. But Perozes felt no doubt of the issue, and sent in an
arrogant message to the city ordering the baths to be made ready for his
use that night. His troops attacked the Roman left so strongly as
actually to force the trenches; but, disordered by their success, they
offered an opening to the Herul cavalry, and a furious charge drove them
back in complete disarray. Thus, freed from anxiety for his left,
Belisarius was able to employ his whole reserve in a decisive charge on
the flank of the Persian left who were endeavouring to envelop his
right. This wing, the flower of the Persian army, was cut off and
annihilated; but Belisarius, true to his prudent tactics, would not
trust his raw troops in a prolonged pursuit. Perozes was thus enabled to
carry off most of his wounded; cunningly inviting the citizens of
Nisibis to come for the plunder of Daras, and thus obtaining the use of
enough wagons to convey his maimed soldiers away.

We outspanned our caravan for the night on the very site of Belisarius'
entrenchments just outside the lower water-gate; for the city enclosure
itself is so cumbered with its own ruins that it is actually impossible
to take wheeled vehicles inside. We might have carried our baggage in;
and the Armenian priest of the village (for there are about fifteen
Armenian families living there) offered us the use of his house most
pressingly, representing that our so honouring him would "increase his
name" among the Kurds. But on this occasion we judged it better to keep
all our possessions together, and stay ourselves to watch over their
safety; and so (as already hinted) we spread our beds on the ramparts,
just high enough up to avoid the mists which might be expected to rise
from the stream. It proved rather a draughty lodging, but this fact did
not trouble us greatly; and we slept undisturbed until the morning star
was high enough to give warning of the coming of the sun.

There is a side-show attached to Dara which is scarcely less interesting
than itself; and as soon as we found ourselves in full possession of
breakfast and daylight (two events which were practically
contemporaneous) we decided that, before continuing our journey, we
would turn back a mile or so westward to visit the tombs and caves.
These make those conspicuous scars which had already attracted our
attention as we approached the city--the wide deep transverse gashes
which are scored across the neighbouring hill sides.

The rock-cut moat of the city could supply but a small part of the
material required for all the buildings, and accordingly shoulder after
shoulder of the hills to the westward has been pierced with quarries for
more stone. When the masons had finished their job these quarries were
promptly appropriated by a flourishing colony of hermits,[34] who
honeycombed all the exposed faces with hundreds of cells and tombs. The
cells are mostly cut into the vertical faces; the standard pattern
having a round-arched recess for a porch, with a seat on either side of
it, and a small square-headed doorway in the middle admitting to a cell
about eight feet square. One of the seats in the porch is often hollowed
out to form a grave for the occupant of the hermitage or sometimes this
niche has been cut out in the floor or wall of his cell. Other graves
are above the quarries, sunk vertically into the horizontal surfaces.
These have an oblong opening, and widen out below beehive-wise so as to
form two or more tombs. The opening was covered in with a gable-shaped
sarcophagus lid, and many of these are lying about though none are
actually in position. No doubt they have been removed by searchers after
buried treasure.

The biggest of all the caves must have served as the anchorites' church.
It has an elaborately carved doorway with bas-relief panels over it
representing apparently the Nativity and the Descent into Hades. The
interior is irregularly quadrilateral, and must measure about
thirty-five feet across. It has a flat ceiling, and is partly surrounded
by a gallery, about eight feet wide and eight feet below the ceiling,
supported on a range of rock-cut corbelled arches. There is nothing to
indicate the position of the altar, and the eastern side is occupied by
the doorway; but the altar may have stood in the centre of the floor.
The level of the floor itself is also a matter for conjecture, as at
present it is deeply covered with débris. The place is now used as a
sheep shelter, and is known as the _khan_ or "Inn." It is lit by a
single small window immediately over the door.

There is interest enough at Dara to occupy an archæologist for weeks
together--for months if he sees fit to excavate--but we had to resume
our journey, and we knew that if we wanted more archæologizing we should
have no difficulty whatever in finding opportunity on the road. About
three hours eastward of Dara stands another Roman fortalice--a big
square castle standing in lonely grandeur amid the desolate plain. The
walls are now sadly shattered, excepting the great round bastion which
is planted at one of the angles; and within the ruined enclosure is
hutted a squalid community of miserable half-naked Kurds. This is
doubtless the castle between Nisibis and Daras which Justinian ordered
to be built in the first year of his reign. It was not auspiciously
founded, for Kobad's army descended upon the builders before the work
was completed, and the Romans were crushingly defeated, leaving most of
their commanders[35] on the field. The future course of the war was,
however, more favourably influenced by the fact that a certain junior
general, of the name of Belisarius, escaped.

Another three hours of slow progress, and we find ourselves approaching
another township. The first indication of its neighbourhood is the
apparition of a cobble-paved causeway, which gradually consolidates
itself out of the dust of the desert, and holds its course steadily
onward in a straight undeviating line. Probably it too is Roman, and if
so the Romans were the last people who troubled to repair it; for it is
so appallingly bumpy, and so frequently intersected by irrigation
ditches, that the vehicles tactfully ignore it and keep to the unpaved
ground. It leads us at length to a village which is somewhat larger than
Dara, but which lacks all Dara's evidences of bygone wealth and
grandeur. This place boasts a _khan_ and a market, and is the seat of a
local governor. But if it has not fallen so low as its neighbour, it has
fallen infinitely farther: for this wretched hamlet is Nisibis, once the
impregnable fortress which marked the furthest limit of the power of
Imperial Rome.

Nisibis was won for Rome by the conquering arm of Lucullus. It was known
then as Antioch in Mygdonia, because its fertile fields and shady groves
irresistibly reminded the Graecian colonists of their lovely Antioch of
Daphne. What a satire on Plutarch's explanation are the grim wastes
which now environ it, and the barren hummocks of drift sand which have
covered its ruins like a shroud! The Romans fortified the city with a
triple rampart and a deep moat, and esteemed it (as it often proved
itself) the principal bulwark of the east. They maintained a strong
garrison in it; and the inhabitants, living in a state of constant
warfare with the Parthians and Sassanid Persians, made almost as
reliable soldiers as the regular legionaries themselves.

When Sapor II made war on Constantius it was Nisibis that checked his
invasions. Between the years 338 and 350 it sustained no fewer than
three sieges, and on each of those three occasions it repulsed the
invader from its walls. The last siege was also the greatest. Sapor
advanced to the attack at the head of an enormous army drawn from all
parts of Persia and India, and pressed his assaults most vehemently for
a period of over three months. The garrison was ably commanded by Count
Lucilianus, but the soul of the defence was the celebrated bishop St.
James of Nisibis; and Sapor, finding that he could make no impression by
ordinary methods, conceived the idea of raising an enormous dam to
obstruct the Jag-jag river (the ancient Mygdonius) and so flooding the
place out. As the city lies in a slight depression this Gargantuan
scheme was just feasible; and Sapor did actually contrive to create such
an inundation that he could launch a fleet upon it and assail the
defenders of the walls on level terms. The combined effect of the flood
and the floating batteries opened a breach 150 feet wide, and the Great
King ordered an immediate assault: but the attacking columns were bogged
in the deep mud, and environed by invisible pot-holes; and to cap all,
the elephants stampeded and trampled them underfoot by scores. At
nightfall the Persians drew off, and the breach was repaired before
morning. Sapor had lost 20,000 soldiers and broke up the siege in
despair. Legend asserts that his retreat was much expedited by a
prodigious plague of flies which descended on the Persian camp in
response to the sainted bishop's orisons: but a sceptic might argue that
when you have an Oriental army, with its usual disregard of every
possible sanitary precaution, encamping in a marsh for three months
during the height of a Mesopotamian summer, it needs no miraculous
interference to account for something phenomenal in the way of flies!

Alas! all these efforts were wasted. Thirteen years later the Emperor
Julian was killed in his famous expedition against Ctesiphon. Jovian, in
order to extricate the army, was compelled to sign an ignominious
treaty; and one of the chief conditions that Sapor insisted upon was
that Nisibis should be ceded into his hands. The inhabitants implored
the emperor's pity. Let him but give them leave to defend themselves,
they would ask for no external aid. But Jovian was cowed by defeat, and
afraid of offending the conqueror: and the townsfolk, well aware that
they could expect no mercy from a potentate whom they had thrice
discomfited, withdrew with all their possessions and left an empty city
in the Persians' hands.

Nisibis under its new masters proved as impregnable a fortress as ever;
but it won a new title to fame while under Sassanian rule. In the year
489 the Monophysite Emperor Zeno suppressed the great College of Edessa
on the ground that it was tainted with Nestorianism. The Christian
bishop of Nisibis was at that time a certain Bar Soma; a prelate of the
type which asserted itself more prominently in the Middle Ages, in such
men as Henry Despenser the martial bishop of Norwich, or Carillo the
turbulent primate of Toledo. Bar Soma was a personage of some
consequence at the Persian Court, and in fact seems to have held a
position somewhat akin to Warden of the Marches. He had himself been a
scholar at Edessa, and had remained on intimate terms with most of the
professors; and he conceived the idea of re-establishing the college in
his own cathedral town.

The college thus refounded prospered exceedingly, and remained for many
generations the most important educational centre in the East. It
boasted about 1000 students (for Oriental students pack close), and
though its course was primarily theological, yet it did much to keep
alive profane knowledge as well. Thus it forms a not unimportant link
between ancient and modern learning. The wisdom of the Greeks, which it
received from Edessa, it handed on in its turn to Baghdad and Cordova
and Salamanca; and perhaps even Oxford and Cambridge and Paris and Padua
may owe to the college of Nisibis more than they are quite aware.

There may well be good booty at Nisibin for an archæologist with a turn
for excavation, for the mounds and hillocks which encircle it are
manifestly piled on ancient walls. But there is little enough above
ground--a bridge which is so badly battered that the carts prefer
fording the river; a fragment or two of old walling; and a group of five
monolithic columns, about two-fifths buried in débris, which are known
as the columns of weighing, and which probably formed part of the
peristyle of the forum. There remains, however, one special monument of
even more interest to the ecclesiologist than to the antiquarian--the
Church of St. James of Nisibis, one of the oldest Christian edifices in
the world.


Few indeed are the Christian churches of earlier date than the fifth
century. Even the famous basilicas at Ravenna and Parenzo were only
erected in the sixth. With the possible exception of Sta. Pudentiana at
Rome there is no fourth-century church remaining in Europe, and even in
Asia and Africa the examples may be counted on the fingers of the hand.
But the date of St. James' church at Nisibis cannot possibly be later
than the year 363, when the city was ceded to the Persians; and as it
was built to receive the tomb of the saint (who died shortly after 350),
it may be not improbably regarded as the citizens' thank-offering for
their deliverance from the great siege.

The church was originally triple, dedicated no doubt to the Holy
Trinity, and consisting of three square _cellæ_ placed side by side.
Each _cella_ measured about twenty-five feet in width, and had a small
semicircular recess in the centre of the eastern wall. A pair of arched
openings, each about four feet wide, gave access from _cella_ to
_cella_; and a wider archway in each of the western walls opened into a
triple narthex, furnished with three double doorways which opened into a

The central _cella_ is almost perfect as high as the cornice; but is
roofed with a modern dome and pendentives, and has nothing to indicate
conclusively the form of the original roof. The northern _cella_ has
been more damaged and restored; but still retains the narthex doorways
(now blocked) which the central narthex has lost. The southern _cella_,
with its narthex, has been entirely destroyed.

The side openings are spanned by heavy stone lintels, as also are the
doorways in the narthex; but the western arches, and these over the
apses, are open. Around them all internally runs a bold and richly
carved architrave, which is also continued intermediately as a string
along the walls. The foliage and mouldings throughout are thoroughly
classical in feeling, and the work has all been executed in very
finished style.

The tomb of St. James is in a tiny crypt under the altar in the centre
of the central _cella_. It consists of a stone sarcophagus covered with
a heavy ridged lid; and it is highly probable that his bones have never
been disturbed.

The central _cella_ is still used for Christian worship, and has
probably been so used continuously ever since the church was built. The
northern _cella_, however, is not at present used. The Christians who
live at Nisibin are Jacobites, and their Qasha inhabits a sort of little
prophet's chamber built up against the northern wall of the church.

A change had to be made in our personnel for the ensuing section of the
journey. The _zaptiehs_ who had accompanied us from Mardin had reached
the end of their beat, and we had to apply for a fresh escort to carry
us on to Mosul. One of our two new protectors had travelled with "Rabbi
Mr. Wigram" before and "knew him to be virtuous and generous," so
relations promised to be harmonious. They were instructed to call for us
at the _khan_ at daybreak, "as soon as there was light enough to
distinguish between a black thread and a white." They turned up fairly
punctually; but it then transpired that two of our horses needed
shoeing, and that the drivers (of course) had not considered it
necessary to attend to the matter until it was time to start. Thus the
day was quite two hours old when we forded the Jag-jag river, and bumped
off along the causeway which leads from the end of the bridge.

Eastward from Nisibin to Mosul--a distance of 120 miles as the crow
flies--lies a stretch of unmitigated desert which is known by the
expressive name of the _Chôl_. For a journey of four or five days
(according to the conditions of travelling) you pass no permanent human
habitation, and the same monotonous level lies before you at every
stage. You must carry your own provisions with you, your own shelter for
your nightly bivouacs, and (if you are prudent) your own furnace for
boiling the water. Even that water itself is only found at rare
intervals in stagnant muddy puddles or intermittent and starveling

The _Chôl_ is no sandy desert like the Obi or the Sahara. It is rather
what the Spaniards would call a _dehesa_ or _despoblada_--a waste which
might be made fertile by the expenditure of a little pains. It is
covered with sparse grass and stunted shrubs, and thistles which are by
no means stunted; and a little desultory cultivation which is carried on
along the outskirts proves that, with the re-establishment of
irrigation, it might again be converted into one of the granaries of the
world. Once it supported an immense population, for it was the home of
the ancient Assyrians; and though the nucleus of that nation was
concentrated at Nineveh and the adjacent townships, yet there must have
been thousands of surrounding villages to supply food for the crowded
cities and recruits for the mighty armies which dominated the whole
Eastern world.

They have left some trace of their handiwork, for the whole extent of
the desert is studded with gigantic _tels_ spaced six or seven miles
apart--huge mounds of earth as big as Silbury Hill. What purpose these
can have originally served is a matter of much conjecture. Possibly they
were sepulchral tumuli, possibly the mounts of village castles, possibly
high places for the performance of sacrificial rites; but in any case it
is evident that they cannot have been erected without a vast amount of
human labour, and that the whole of the present population would not
suffice to raise one. Now they serve chiefly as landmarks by which the
faintly marked road can steer its course towards the horizon; and in
several instances they still form burial places, possibly from some
vague feeling that they must have been sacred long ago.

The more direct southerly road from the Euphrates ferry to Mosul
traverses this desolate region for a journey of fully ten days; but the
three or four days extra entailed by the divergence through Diarbekr
bring with them their own compensation in the shape of greater interest
on the way. Moreover the _Chôl_ has its dangers. In summer it is a
veritable furnace, and tall awe-inspiring dust devils stalk about it
like wandering Jann. But the chief terror of travellers is the "Poison
Wind" or _Sâm_, a faint invisible eddy of scorching air, which will pick
out a single man or beast from the midst of a caravan and strike him
down instantly senseless, sometimes even killing him on the spot.

At the other end of the scale the district is not exempt from blizzards.
In the extraordinarily severe winter of 1910-1911 the northern part of
the _Chôl_ was visited by a prodigious snowstorm--a most unusual
phenomenon--and many parties of Arabs were positively snowed under in
their encampments and perished of cold and hunger before they were able
to extricate themselves.[36] A wandering Kurd related to us how he had
stumbled on such a camp after the visitation was over. His suspicion
that something was amiss was first aroused by the fact that he
encountered no challenge either from man or dog. When he came to the
tents he found them full of dead bodies. The only living creatures among
them were one old woman and a mare. Feeling sure that the old woman must
die in any case he only brought the mare away with him; "but she died
too," he said plaintively, "before I could get her to my camp."

More than one carriage load of travellers perished on the road in that
catastrophe; but our only discomfort on this occasion was a steady
downpour of rain. We were told that we ought to feel grateful for
it--that at least it would ensure us against any shortage of water. But
no one can be expected to feel very grateful for five successive rainy
bivouacs: and even our _zaptiehs_ grumbled a little--three wet days they
were prepared for, but no one ever expected to get more! Our horses were
the principal sufferers, for the wheels bit deep into the sodden ground
and picked up huge dollops of loam which festooned themselves around the
felloes. We walked many miles to relieve them; but it was like walking
over wet plough-land in England, and we were obliged to pause every few
paces in order to disburden ourselves of the lumps which had balled on
our feet. Stiff European boots are not nearly so good for such work as
the flexible brogues of the natives; and the spongy pads of the camels
are apparently the best things of all.

Some of the wild life of the desert showed itself in a herd of gazelle,
which cantered across our pathway a mile or so ahead. We roused, too, a
flock of herons, several sheldrake, a wild goose or two, and an
occasional covey of larks. After dark we became aware of the jackals,
which began whining dolefully around us; and on one occasion at
nightfall, loping along the skyline just over our bivouac, we espied a
solitary wolf. Human beings were a very great rarity, despite the fact
that we were following a recognized highway, and for two consecutive
days the only sign of their neighbourhood was a solitary black Arab tent
which we spied some four miles to the right. Twice, however, we
encountered a caravan of camels--about seventy strong in one instance,
and about thirty in the other. Camels are preferred to mules on the
plains as they carry much heavier burdens. Moreover one man (with a
donkey) can look after seven or eight camels, whereas a caravan of mules
requires about a man apiece.

Our choice of camping-grounds was dictated each night by the presence of
water; for despite the steady downpour very little remained upon the
surface, and the rain apparently soaks through immediately into the
underlying strata, as on the _Causses_ of Auvergne. The water was always
muddy and sometimes bitter; but as we invariably boiled it, and kept the
beasts away from it till we had filled our kettles, we believe that we
swallowed nothing worse than sterilized mud. We used to spread our beds
on the lee edge of our waterproof ground sheets, and draw the outer edge
over us as an additional protection. But the rain sometimes penetrated
everything, and in the morning we would find great pockets of water
between the double thicknesses of the waterproof sheets. Decidedly
camping-out is an amusement to be practised in the summer when the
nights are short, for nights in the open are very tedious. You turn in
about seven-thirty, and awake (thinking it nearly dawn) to find that it
is eleven. You wake again about two; and then at gradually diminishing
intervals, till at last you are rejoiced to find it five-thirty--breakfast
time. Once in the middle of the night we were disturbed by one of
the horses breaking picket; and the owner arose and gave chase, with
frequent ejaculations of _Mashallah_! (Praise God!)--hardly the sort of
comment that one would expect from a British dragoon!

In the afternoon of the fourth day the _zaptiehs_ began to hold out
hopes to us of lodging that night under shelter; for a big
semi-permanent Arab encampment was generally to be found at this stage.
And sure enough a little later we were able to make out some eight or
nine big black tents, grouped around the remains of a ruined village
with the wreck of a castle on its _tel_. Several such ruined villages
are found here and there about the desert, but the inhabitants have long
since been badgered out of them by Turkish tax-collectors and Arab
raiders. The Arabs, though delightful hosts and most romantic features
in a landscape, are not desirable neighbours. They submit to no control
whatever; and, only a few months before, they had pillaged a Government
caravan, which was conveying a big pumping engine to Mosul, and carried
off all the gun-metal bearings under the delusion that they were

We dispatched a _zaptieh_ ahead of us to announce our approach and to
bespeak hospitality; but dusk had already fallen before we ourselves
arrived. The jaded horses had heavy work to drag the carriages forward;
and we walking on in front of them, reached the outskirts of the camp a
considerable distance ahead. Here, however, we were met by our returning
_zaptieh_, who would not hear of our proceeding further. The _Sheikh
Birader Effendi_ (Milord Brother Esquire) had already caused him great
scandal by walking so much and so needlessly when he had hired a
carriage to ride in; and now he insisted that we should fatally
compromise our dignity if we did not drive up like gentlemen to our
entertainer's tent door.

We drove the last 200 yards accordingly, and dismounted at one of the
largest tents; where we were courteously welcomed by Sheikh Ahmed Agha,
a fine-looking elderly Arab of medium height and active build, with a
pointed grizzled beard and a nose like the beak of an eagle. He shook
hands with us _à la Franga_, and led us into his tent, where he made us
sit down opposite to him on mattresses spread on the ground.

The tent was some forty yards long and twelve yards wide; about twelve
feet high at the ridge and three to four feet at the eaves. It was
supported upon a row of seven central poles, and the guy ropes were
exceedingly long, the pegs being three dozen yards beyond the overhang
of the eaves. The space between the eaves and the ground was filled up
partly by hanging cloths, and partly by piles of dried thistles, which
come in useful as fuel. The tent cloth was of black goats' hair, very
loosely woven like coarse English sacking. We could see daylight through
it everywhere; particularly at the (horizontal) seams, where it gaped
like an old umbrella. The smoke oozed freely through it; and next
morning every tent in the camp was veiled in a sort of blue nimbus, the
combined effect of smoke and evaporation. Such a texture can afford but
indifferent protection against rain, but is needed chiefly as a shelter
from the sun.

At the further end of the tent were about a dozen shackled camels, which
we could hardly see in the darkness, but heard grunting and gurgling all
night. Next the camels were four or five mares tethered to a manger.
White mares and flea-bitten greys are most in demand in this country, as
they are considered to feel the heat less than bays or browns. Black
horses are reputed unlucky, and may consequently often be bought cheap.

Next, in the centre of the tent, sat the Sheikh; with his back against
one of the poles, and the fire burning on the ground before him: and
opposite him, with our backs against the next pole, sat we. Behind us
was a reed partition shutting off the women's quarters, and with them
(to judge by the sounds) lived the poultry and the sheep. A sort of
enclosed yard, hedged in with piles of dried thistles, had been formed
for their special benefit outside their end of the tent.

There was no light except the fire and our own imported candle. When the
inmates wanted a blaze they threw on an armful of thistles; but their
principal fuel consisted of cakes of dried camels' dung which an old
fire tender built up in the form of a hollow cone. Our _zaptiehs_ and
several of the Sheikh's tribesmen sat with us; and two small boys, his
grandsons, cuddled themselves up against his knees. The Sheikh of course
spoke only Arabic, and we had to converse through an interpreter; but
one of the _zaptiehs_ was a great chatterbox, so the conversation did
not flag. The women naturally did not show, but (like Sarah, Abraham's
wife) they were by no means inattentive listeners; and the Sheikh got
frequently prompted by a shrill "Ask him so and so!" from behind the

From time to time we were served with tiny cups of black coffee
containing about a tablespoonful each; and our supper consisted of a
dish of fried eggs and dates. We have been told by a travelled Syrian
(though we will not vouch for his authority), that an uninvited guest
should be cautious when he is offered coffee by an Arab chief. He may
accept the first two cups--that is just conventional politeness--but the
offer of a third is a hint that he had better be going, and if he is too
obtuse to take it, the next hint may be given with a gun! We, however,
drank several cups and experienced no resentment; and our night in the
black tents of Kedar was one of the pleasantest on the road.

We made a late start the next morning, for it would have been
discourteous to hurry; and apparently Arabs, when camping, are not
particularly early birds. Our host bade us farewell at his tent door,
and accepted with great amiability the trifling present which we offered
to him in recognition of his hospitality. Any suggestion of payment
would of course have been an insult; but a present is often expected,
and always well received.

It was a brighter morning; and the _zaptiehs_ hazarded an opinion that
"Allah would be merciful." Far to the north we could see once more the
mountains of Kurdistan, with gleams of sun sparkling on their
snow-fields; and nearer to us on the southward lay the long barren
ridges of the Sinjar. But this promise of better things was of very
short duration, and before mid-day the rain had recommenced.

At nightfall we reached our last camping-ground, overlooking the river
Tigris; and here we underwent our last drenching--the longest and
heaviest of all. We lay dozing under our waterproofs listening to the
patter of the raindrops, and fondly hoping that the dawn might bring us
just five minutes respite to enable us to pack up and stow away in the
dry. But at last we started up desperately--bundled our beds on to the
carriages--and dashed away dripping and reckless without even waiting
for food. We knew that just twelve miles ahead we should find real
houses with roofs to them--that an hour would bring us to cultivated
fields again, and two hours within sight of Mosul. We passed through the
city gate with as much relief as the snail and the tortoise must have
felt when they entered Noah's Ark at the tail of the procession; and
descended joyfully from that weary _araba_ in which we had been cooped
up like Bajazets for a journey of seventeen days.




There are more pleasant places in the world than the city of Mosul. Hot,
white, and dusty, it lies on a rather "hummocky" site along the right
(or western) bank of the Tigris, looking across to where the mounds of
Nebi Yunus and Koyunjik mark the site of Nineveh.

It boasts a population of about eighty thousand souls, of whom perhaps a
fourth are Christians, and five thousand Jews: and the whole is
surrounded by a wall and moat which enclose rather more than a square
mile of ground--an area about equal to the city of London.

The wall may follow old lines, but is itself no more than a century old.
It is rapidly splitting to pieces owing to the poorness of its
construction, a process much assisted both by private citizens and by
the Government, both of whom wish to make use of its stones. Probably,
the foundations are shaky, for the whole town suffers from that failing;
and every minaret in the place has a conspicuous kink in it, except the
principal one, which has two.

The town does not now fill up its walls, a large quarter at the northern
end having been so devastated by plague about three hundred years ago
that it was abandoned. This area now remains empty, and there is in
consequence a certain amount of "overflow" beyond the walls at the
southern end of the town, where stands the Government serai with the
barracks of the troops in its neighbourhood.

Mosul is not a seaport, though the Government of his Britannic Majesty
would seem to be invincibly ignorant on this point. When the Consulate
was re-established here a few years ago, the gentleman appointed asked
for a grant for the furnishing of his reception-room, but was refused,
on the ground that his only guests would be "a few old sea captains"; to
this day his successors are required to make an annual return of the
British shipping that has discharged cargo here, though nothing except a
"_keleg_" (the local type of raft, of which we shall hear more) ever
comes within three hundred miles of the place!

Mosul boasts one vice that is at least unusual in the land, for it is a
smoky town. A pall hangs over much of the city, from the kilns where the
local marble is burnt into lime. Nearly the whole city is built in what
is known as _jess_ construction. This is a primitive type of building,
the walls of all houses being formed with rough blocks of stone,
"balled" in lime cement, and so put together. The roof is domed in the
same way, but to save material the spandrils are usually filled in with
large earthenware pots, which may or may not stand the weight put upon
them. As a style, it is deceptive, for it looks solid, enduring, and
weather-proof, and yet is none of the three: a house built in it seldom
stands for eighty years, the thrust of the dome normally bringing the
walls down by the end of that period.

The construction, which cracks freely, has a way of absorbing much of
the rain that falls upon it, so that a house is seldom really dry in
winter; and the cement has a delightful trick (which is appreciated
during a Mosul summer) of storing up heat during the day and gradually
releasing it during the night.

The town is composed, like most Oriental cities, of a maze of winding
featureless lanes, all of the same white cement, and rarely of a width
that forbids a cat to jump across from one roof to the opposite; they
are innocent of lamps, or rather were so till the late Nazim Pasha (then
Vali of Baghdad, and superintendent of this province also) visited the
place; when paraffin lamps were put up in his honour, and now stand
unlighted on their brackets. The pavement is of large cobble-stones,
worn smooth by many generations of slippers and bare feet; and the whole
town is, of course, innocent of drains. Hence, in the rainy season it
is well to put a portable bridge across the street if you propose to
visit your neighbour, or to wear wooden pattens some six inches in

Only the doorways break the blank walls in the street fronts of the
houses, but the courtyards within are undeniably picturesque, and are of
a plan that is at least ancient, for it is identical with that found in
the cities of ancient Assyria, unearthed by the German excavator of
to-day. An entry, carefully constructed so as to prevent the passer-by
from seeing within even when the door is open, conducts into a
courtyard, surrounded by a two-storied cloister, carried on monolithic
pillars of the local grey alabaster. The court is usually paved, and the
house-front often cased, with the same material. A deep open recess at
one side provides a summer lounge. A water conduit usually runs through
the court itself, and the central part is often used as a garden.

The house of a rich man invariably has its _serdab_, or underground
summer-parlour, where you may get any coolness that is going in the
fierce summer heats. The thermometer then goes up regularly to 120°, and
seldom sinks below 95° by night or day--a fact attested by a certain
British Consul, who tried the experiment of hatching out a sitting of
eggs, left uncovered in a disused (and perhaps rather specially hot)
room of his Consulate.

Resident Europeans say that the _serdab_ may be cool, but that, unless
very well seasoned, you are apt to pay for the use of it by a dose of
the country fever.

Hot winds blow in from the desert which comes up to the very walls, and
the dust from the kilns and pounding-yards (where mules drag rude
rollers over the lime to grind it to powder) flies on their wings all
over the city; so that, from this cause, and from the glare of the white
walls ophthalmia is even more prevalent here than in most Oriental
cities, and lung disease of various kinds abounds. Another local plague
is the famous "button," which is found from Aleppo to Baghdad, and is
believed to go back to the days of Job. This is sometimes called "the
date," from its appearance, and is no more than a painless, but very
unsightly, boil; which refuses to heal for twelve months and leaves a
permanent scar behind. The infection is believed to be carried by flies,
and the disease certainly manifests itself, as a rule, on the face or
hands, while those who shave are particularly liable to it. Local
scandal tells of a certain German Consul who despised all precautions
and slept on the roof of his house without curtains, and (the night
being hot) without pyjamas also; an imprudence for which he paid the
penalty in thirty fine "buttons" scattered all over his consular person!

Thermantidotes, ice supplies, and all other luxuries of English life in
India are unknown in Mosul, though an enterprising Christian resident in
the town did once introduce an ice-machine. This was certainly welcomed
by the Vali, as the only sign of the new régime that he had found in
Mosul (it was shortly after the revolution), and as the only token of
progress of any sort that he could note as a result of the fifty years
that had elapsed since he had formerly been in the place as a very
junior civil officer.

There was strong conservative opposition to the introduction even of
such a mild instalment of progress; though perhaps it might have been
mollified, had the pioneer been a little more liberal with his
distribution of _bakhshish_! As it was weird accusations circulated
against the new engine; it smelt so abominable that the whole
neighbourhood of the factory was unhealthy (as though one stink more or
less could make any difference in Mosul); it turned out its ice red-hot,
and materially increased the heat that it was proposing to alleviate;
and it was an impious interference with the decrees and arrangements of
Allah. The ice-merchant, however, had not been born in Mosul, and bred
in America, without learning a thing or two; and he craftily put the
general commanding the garrison on the free-list for ice. He calculated
that, after the first week or so, a gentleman, who did not keep the law
about total abstinence too strictly, would not tolerate any interference
with the coolness of his drinks. That expedient worked admirably, and
all interference was summarily squashed, for so long as the machine
continued to work at all. That, however, was not many weeks, for no
machinery that is not absolutely and completely "fool-proof" can stand
the handling it gets from an Arab, and in Mosul the simplest repair may
necessitate months of delay. There will be no market for machinery in
the interior of Turkey, until good repair shops can be provided as well.

As capital of the province Mosul is the residence of a Vali, but the
town is administered under him by an "administrative council of
reputable citizens," who are popularly believed to be the most corrupt
gang of the sort in all Turkey. And we devoutly hope that the imputation
is true, for any clique which is more corrupt than they are must be
black indeed. Their leader is one Haji Ahmed, "son of the soap-seller,"
ibn Sabonji; a large landed proprietor who has accumulated his estate by
the simple process of ordering any unhappy Naboth whose land bordered on
his own to sell to him at any price that his big neighbour cared to
name. If the small man consented, well and good; if not, then an
accusation against him, accompanied with a trifle of _bakhshish_ to the
investigating judge, secured that the imprudent Naboth should live
untried in the town prison till such time as he should see reason.

This worthy has had ups and downs in his life, and once fell very foul
of a Vali, who was seized with natural zeal to check the plundering of
the public purse when he found that Sabonji Pasha had laid hands on
certain funds that he had intended to appropriate himself! Thus that
distinguished member of the town council was pilloried; _i.e._ was put
on a donkey with his face blackened and turned to the tail, and so led
round the town; being thereafter put into the cesspool of the Government
"_Serai_" to pass the night. "_Iyba_" (shame) such as this would end the
career of most men, but Sabonji has some unusual gifts, and intrigue and
bribery soon brought him into power again.

The fact that one of the finest and largest houses in the town was built
by one of the smaller legal officials, nominally out of fifteen months'
saving of a salary which, when paid, amounted to sixty pounds per annum,
may perhaps be evidence of what "pickings" amount to in the trade of
law; and the story of a recent episode (occurring in the year of grace
1910) in the career of a prominent and highly respected citizen of the
town will speak more clearly than long descriptions.

Seyyid Ullah was the principal burglar of Mosul, having inherited a
practice in that profession from his father, as naturally as son may
follow sire in the medical business in England. Housebreaking was what
he specialized in, and the usual mode of procedure was to dig through
the wall of a house with pickaxes from the street; it having been found,
by experience, that this was less laborious than breaking down an
iron-bound door. Of course, arrangements had to be made that the police
should be well away on the other side of the town (if they were not
engaged, as sometimes happened, in securing the ends of the street
against any interruption), but there was seldom any difficulty about
that. It was an understood thing, seemingly, that you must not interfere
with the trade by which a man earned his bread; and Seyyid Ullah was
only held to have over-stepped his legitimate rights once--when he cut
off a woman's hands! Even then, it was admitted in extenuation that
there really was no other way of getting her gold bangles.

Having, acquired a competence in his profession, Seyyid Ullah retired as
he grew older; but, like other energetic gentlemen, found that he really
needed something to do. For this reason, he took to smuggling tobacco, a
profitable occupation, but one that brought him into collision with the
Government in a way that mere burglary had never done--for tobacco is a
Government monopoly. So one night a caravan of mules on their way to his
house were attacked by the guards of the "Regie," and not only were the
loads lost, but there was a dead policeman to explain. He had died of a
Mannlicher bullet; and there was only one rifle of that type in
Mosul--the property of Seyyid Ullah; who notoriously allowed nobody else
to handle it. Moreover the bullet had apparently come from a roof where
that poor man was standing at the time.

Some unscrupulous enemy put all these coincidences before the
Government, with the result that Seyyid Ullah was arrested, and even
ordered into gaol. Not that he entered it, for gaol is not for such as
he; he merely sat in the coffee-shop outside, and when that enemy who
had given the information went past on his way to market, he was mobbed
and hustled by the Seyyid's followers, till a formal petition had to be
sent in to the Vali that he should be requested to go inside. Of course
they gave him the best room, with a window looking over the street; and
the governor of the prison used to give him his company to dinner and
pass the time over a backgammon board; but he complained that the damp
was bad for his rheumatism.

At last the worthy man was tried; and acquitted without a stain upon his
character. The court held (so far as foreign residents could understand)
that the policeman had been guilty of contributory negligence, in that
he got in the way of a bullet that was travelling about on its lawful
occasions; and that all facts about the make of the rifle, and so on,
were irrelevant details.

A free man again, Seyyid Ullah came at once to call upon the British
Consul, to explain that he quite understood that his release from the
machinations of his enemies was due solely to the influence of his
Excellency the Bey; and that he was more than ready to undertake any job
the Consul desired, in the way of removing any objectionable person, for
he must own that the expenses incidental to his acquittal had made a sad
hole in his savings!

Some time previous to this, there had been great complaining among the
merchants of Mosul over the depredations of a certain gang of thieves,
all of whom were well known to the police, and who were plundering
peaceful citizens apparently at their own sweet will.

Authority, though most unwilling, was prodded into some sort of
activity, and that particular gang was arrested and stowed in gaol. The
robberies, however, did not diminish a whit; and after a while the
governor of the prison pointed out this fact to the Vali. Evidently
"those poor men" had been wrongly arrested after all, and ought in
fairness to be released--seeing that they had never been tried. This
seemed reasonable, but there was the usual delay before doing anything,
and in those few days the true explanation came to light. The honourable
the governor of the prison was in the habit of letting the gang in
question out of the gaol every night, "to go and sleep at their own
houses." They returned again before dawn, thus getting the most
satisfactory alibi any man could desire; while, in consideration of his
complacency, the governor was taking half their plunder! It is true that
this official was dismissed from his post in consequence, but apparently
he received no further penalty of any sort.

This may, perhaps, sound a "tough yarn"; yet we may find a fairly recent
parallel for it in England. The memoirs of William Hickey record an even
worse scandal of one of the London bailiffs in the latter half of the
eighteenth century. Our boasted superiority to this sort of thing is of
very recent date, and perhaps will not be of very long duration.

The Governor-General or Vali, who ruled this city of confusion and
corruption, was perhaps as good a man as could have been selected for a
job where his powerlessness to effect any real improvement would have
broken the heart of anyone who still had any enthusiasms or delusions

Tahir Pasha was an Albanian by blood, though he had grown grey in the
Sultan's service, and had certainly never seen his own mountains since
boyhood. Still, "once an Arnaut, always an Arnaut," and, as a general
rule, men of that very striking race are the best possible Ottoman
officials; particularly in places where their duty is (or is supposed to
be) the preservation of an even balance between the various Christian
and Mussulman races.

It is impossible for an Arnaut to despise all Christians just because of
their religion; for a large proportion of his own race are of that
creed, and it is an axiom that every Arnaut is congenitally superior to
every other specimen of manhood. That being so, he may despise all his
subjects equally (and very probably does so), but at least he does not
despise any one set specially, and there is always a chance of his doing
some justice among them.

And this Tahir Pasha did, to the limits of his not very extensive power.
He had no great belief in Reform, or for that matter in anything else
(except the straightness of certain English gentlemen whom he knew, and
in the genius of his favourite hero, Admiral Nelson): and he held
shrewdly that "you cannot build very high, when your bricks are made of
wet mud"--and of Mosul slime at that he might have added, though he did
not say so in words. Still, under his rule nobody's lot was intolerable
if it was impossible for anybody to be really comfortable; and he had
absolutely nothing to learn in the art of keeping a simmering province
from boiling over, when the Government had no force to back its orders,
and did not wish to have any open row. He was an elderly man, tall and
portly; with a "short" face, framed in a close-cropped, white beard, and
a shrewd and humorous expression. Nature had given him a most attractive
manner; and by virtue of it he had survived two revolutions in the
country, being the only man of his rank to do so. When things went
amiss, "he sat on the stile and continued to smile," and almost always
found that the method softened the heart of the most furious of cows.

Further, he was singularly cleanhanded, as Ottoman officials go. Even
those who declared that he took bribes in his youth admitted that he
refused them in his old age--"unless they were very big," they added.
Well, for the bribes, what is an official to do, whose salary, is in the
first place, wholly inadequate; and in the second, not paid? When he did
not need them, he ceased to take them. "How otherwise? I liked him, I
confess," as Browning put it, of a character that much resembled the old
Albanian; whose name (by the way) is, being interpreted, "Innocent," and
who had the reputation throughout his province of never sending a
petitioner away dissatisfied, and yet of never making a promise that it
was inconvenient to keep.

Moreover, there were times when Tahir Pasha could insist on justice; and
the fact is rare in Turkey. In 1910 a particularly dastardly murder was
committed in Mosul, the murderer being a Christian by race, a member of
the "Chaldaean" or "Uniat Nestorian" Church; while the victim was of
the older and independent Nestorian body.[38] The murderer was, most
deservedly, sentenced to death; but that does not at all necessarily
imply execution in Turkey. To begin with, Ottoman law lays it down that
in a murder case the next of kin of the victim has the right to require
the remission of the death sentence if he desires it. This is no doubt a
relic of the days when every man could avenge or forgo his own quarrels
as he chose; but in practice, it works out very inconveniently for the
man in question, who, in addition to losing his own nearest relative,
has to undergo a lot of "peaceable persuasion" from the murderer's
relations, till he chooses to exercise the right. In this case, however,
the next of kin, also a Nestorian, stood firm, and claimed his legal

On this the murderer showed the real depth of his Christianity by
sending word to Tahir Pasha that if his life were spared he would turn
Moslem. Whether the Mollahs were desirous of obtaining so doubtful a
convert does not appear, but at least the Pasha was not eager.

"Of course, I am bound to be glad that he proposes to turn Moslem," he
said grimly. "It may even be better for him in the next world. Still,
his head has got to come off in this."

But now a third difficulty arose, from the fact that the lawful
executioner refused to act. Like Koko in "The Mikado," this _Monsieur de
Strasbourg_ declared that he "had never cut off a gentleman's head in
his life, and did not know how it was done." Under these circumstances,
there was nothing for it but to call for a volunteer; and another
relative of the murdered man generously offered to do his best, if they
would lend him a sabre. "You had better do your best," said some
official, "for if you fetch the head off with one chop you shall have
thirty pounds, but if it takes a second blow you go to prison for five
years!" Under this stimulus the amateur executioner did his part to
admiration, and took the head off finely.

Even so there was an afterpiece to the play, for many folk made the
conduct of this murderer a ground for a most unfair attack on the
Patriarch of the Chaldaean Church, saying, "Now we see what sort of
Christian Mar Immanuel trains." The retort that his Grace made, if not
exactly scrupulous, was at least effective. Ignoring the offer to turn
Moslem altogether, he declared, "Pupil of mine? He certainly was, and I
am proud of him. He is a Christian martyr, for he would not have been
executed if it had not been for that wicked Nestorian heretic!" And he
cited in proof of his saintliness the "miraculous" light above the

The light was there certainly, a form of phosphorescence that is seen at
times above a fresh grave in that dry air, and which is usually taken as
a proof of the sanctity of the occupant. We suppose that we may be
thankful that this rather doubtful character was not enrolled among the

It will be inferred from the foregoing incident that religion in Mosul
is of a somewhat militant type. It is in fact one of the most fanatical
towns in the empire; and was surely the only place where men wept openly
in the streets on hearing of the deposition of Abdul Hamid, and
exclaimed, "Now is the pillar of Islam fallen."

The establishment of a British Consulate there, after a long
interregnum, was either the cause or excuse for an outbreak. Certain
Dervishes fastened on the fact that the flagstaff on the Consulate was
higher than the crescent on the dome of a certain tomb, called the tomb
of Cassim, where a descendant of the Prophet was interred. It was, of
course, intolerable that the accursed red-cross flag should flaunt
itself above the crescent, and a mob assembled at the Consul's gates,
shouting under the leadership of a Dervish of some fame, "O Fatima,
Fatima, daughter of the Prophet, will you not avenge the shame of your

Rather strangely it had never occurred to them to resent the fact that a
Christian Church had been standing higher than the tomb for centuries;
yet the Consulate was in fact an empty monastery, rented from the
authorities of the "Jacobite" Church by its present occupier.

Of course, the British official respects the monastic churches, which
number two; and they are used for service on certain festal days.

As for the tomb which caused the _emeute_; if Fatima, or somebody else,
does not see to it soon, it will disappear into the Tigris, on the bank
of which river it stands. The current is eating into the bank under its
foundations, and the whole fabric is leaning over dangerously. Its fall
would be a loss, for it is a fine specimen of Arab architecture; and
besides, the British Consul would be blamed. Obviously, the cause of the
disaster will be Cassim's desire to be rid of such bad company.

As a city Mosul is singularly well be-bishoped. No fewer than three
Roman Catholic prelates exercise jurisdiction in it over their various
flocks; and there is, in addition, at least one "Jacobite" bishop; one
Nestorian (who is at present in exile on the charge that his presence is
a cause of disturbance to other people), and sundry Armenian, Greek, and
Anglican Christians who render obedience to none of the resident bishops
at all. The facts will bear a word of explanation; particularly as the
existence of more than one Roman Catholic bishop in one diocese seems
strangely contradictory to the discipline of that Church elsewhere.

In the days of the Byzantine Empire the attempt to enforce Greek
uniformity on all nations resulted in various national stocks (Syrian,
Armenian, and Egyptian, for instance) adopting any "heresy" that chanced
to be on the tapis, as a protest against what they regarded as "Greek
dictation." While the dispute, both doctrinal and national, was still
being fought out, the great Mussulman invasions began; and the
nationalities in question cheerfully accepted the Mohammedan rule, which
gave to them a religious freedom which the Greek Christian Empire had
denied. The Arab, and the Turk who followed him, were perfectly willing
to see their Christian subjects divided as much as they liked; and
recognized the Armenian, Syrian, Chaldaean, and Coptic nations as
"_millets_" in their empire; a "_millet_" being the technical term for a
subject nation of Christians, organized (as they always were) in a
church, under their own hierarchy of Patriarch, bishops, and clergy.
Thus these various national churches, all called heretical by both
Greeks and Latins, continued to exist under Turkish rule.


No. 4]

In the later days of the Turkish Empire Roman Catholic missions brought
education to these Christians; and the Roman Church allowed such
portions of these old national churches as could be brought to submit to
papal supremacy, to retain their own hierarchy, and their ancient
services, expurgated to some extent. All these "Uniat" or "reconciled"
bodies are, of course, subject to the Pope, but their members do not,
normally, communicate with one another. Historically, one rejoices at
the preservation of so many ancient rites and bodies, and the method was
sound policy also from the point of view of the proselytizing agents of
the Roman Church; for both Nestorian and Jacobite might both be brought
to acknowledge the supremacy of a distant Pope, if that Pope's agents
had somewhat to give in the way of protection or education, but neither
could ever be brought to associate with "that other" whose tenets his
church existed to repudiate.

Thus, with sound prudence, rules about diocesan jurisdiction that hold
elsewhere are dropped in the Middle East; and Mosul boasts at least
three Roman Catholic bishops, namely, a Chaldaean or "Nestorian
Uniat"[39] Patriarch, with several bishops under him; a Syrian Catholic
or "Jacobite Uniat"[39a] bishop, subordinate to the Patriarch of that
church at Beyrout; and an "Apostolic Delegate," or Papal Legate, who
exercises a general superintendence over all Roman Catholic bishops in
Mesopotamia, but has direct spiritual jurisdiction over only the handful
of Frenchmen who reside actually in Mosul, and any other "Christian of
the Latin rite" who may chance to come that way.

There is also a strong colony of Jews in the city, still living in their
ancient quarter; where they have lived, they say (with every appearance
of truth), since Sargon of Assyria brought their ancestors from captured
Samaria in the eighth century B.C. Like all of their kind they are
traders, for the place is a centre of local trade. Still, most of the
wares in the market, other than raw material like wool and oak-galls,
come originally from Manchester or Reading; and one doubts if it would
still be possible to find in Mosul any of that fine "muslin" which has
carried the name of the city over all the world.

One branch of the local export trade to which we may refer is that in
liquorice, a plant that grows wild freely on the plain. The fact that
European merchants were anxious to buy it caused much wonderment; but
presently the real explanation got known and was accepted by everybody.
"King George of England likes nothing so much as sucking liquorice; and
he has sent twenty-five millions of English sovereigns to secure a
supply that shall last him all his life."

On the left bank of the Tigris, opposite to Mosul, lies Nineveh, and the
one place is approached from the other by a bridge that is thoroughly
characteristic of Turkey; it goes, that is to say, some two-thirds of
the way over the river, crossing just that part of the bed which is dry
for most of the year. As the real channel is approached, the bridge
stops abruptly, and a series of pontoon-like barges takes the place of
it. This bridge of boats is itself removed in flood-time, and the
traveller may then, given good luck, get over in the course of an hour,
with the help of a very clumsy ferry-boat. Bridges, it may be said, are
regarded in Turkey rather as natural impediments to travel than as
assistants to it; and the fact that "there are bridges on that road" is
always made an excuse for asking twice the usual fare for a carriage.

The bridge of boats at Mosul is civic property; and is hired out
annually to anyone who will farm it, for a very substantial sum. The
lessee is expected to keep the whole bridge in order, and charges a toll
on every man or animal that crosses the bridge.

Nominally the rent of the bridge is spent, of course, upon the needs of
the city, and is handed over to the administrative council for that end.
Still, when a city has no pavements or lamps or drainage, or any of the
numerous unnecessary things that the West indulges in because it has
more money than it knows what to do with, after all it has no needs.

A city, too, is composed of citizens, argue the councillors; and what is
spent for the needs of worthy citizens is, in a sense, spent for the
benefit of the city; and what citizens can be worthier than those who
toil daily at the administrative council for the benefit of their
fellows? So the bridge rent is spent on those worthy objects; and as yet
nobody has raised any other objection than that he was himself left out
of the sharing of the plunder. What the narrow-minded Western calls
corruption will not cease till public opinion condemns it; and what
passes for public opinion in Turkish provinces now can imagine no other
way of getting anything done.

Musing thus on problems of municipal reform we cross the bridge and ride
over the mile or so of flat foreshore, that now separates the river from
the walls of Nineveh. Once the Tigris washed the base of Koyunjik, the
site of Sennacherib's palace, and formed an impregnable barrier against
all assaults from that side, but the day dawned at last of which an old
prophecy had spoken, when the river joined the besiegers, and betrayed
the city to its foes. A great flood swept away the walls, leaving wide
breaches all along the frontage; and as the waters subsided, lo the
river had cut a new channel, and the whole of the side which it had
guarded lay completely open to attack.

Wherefore King Sardanapalus (who was not Assurbanipal, but a successor
of his named Sinsariskun) gathered together all his treasure and his
wives and his children, and died as a king should die, in the flames of
his own palace.

Nineveh fell in the year 608 B.C., overthrown by Cyaxares, the king of
the Medes, and his better known ally, Nabopolassar, the father of
Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. She had been hard pressed more than
once before, but had triumphed eventually over each successive peril.
The ultimate explanation of this final overthrow was indeed nothing more
or less than the exhaustion caused by generations of conquest. There
were no true Assyrians left--only a half-bred race, the fruit of
incessant inter-marriages; and when they succumbed, they had no power of
recuperation. "Nineveh is laid waste, who shall bemoan her? Her people
is scattered upon the mountains, and no man gathereth them."

There is but little above ground at Nineveh now. The long walls remain,
looking much like derelict railway embankments; and the great moat,
fifty yards in width, and twenty feet deep, into which the waters of the
river Khozr could be turned at will, still girdles the city round. Sunk
as it is in conglomerate rock, this moat is a monument of patient
labour. Of the two great mounds where the King's palaces stood, Koyunjik
and Nebi Yunus, the former and larger has probably yielded the last of
its important secrets to the British Museum. It is well, however, to
remember that the same was said of Karnak, in Egypt, and the richest of
all finds have come to light there since then. You can never be sure
that you have got all that is in a mound, till, _more fossorum
Germanicorum_, you have passed the whole of it through a fine sieve.

Still, the search has been fairly thorough. The excavators however, left
one of the great human-headed bulls above ground; and it may be of
interest to record that this monument (which was presumably the property
of the British Museum) first generously parted with its head to mend a
mill; and was subsequently sold for the sum of three shillings and six
pence by the Vali of Mosul (not worthy old Tahir Pasha, but his
predecessor), and burnt into lime by its purchaser.

The second mound, Nebi Yunus--alas, one can but gnash one's teeth in
envy and anger when one knows that the favourite palace of Esarhaddon
lies beneath it--that king whose smaller house elsewhere has yielded the
finest specimens of Assyrian art yet known. And this, his _chef
d'oeuvre_, cannot be examined, because of the mosque of Nebi Yunus
(Jonah the Prophet) that stands in the midst of the Turkoman village
that crowns it. The Prophet will be very angry if you disturb him, say
the Mussulmans, and will take vengeance dire![40] If it were indeed
Jonah that lies there, there might be something in the argument; for the
Prophet is known to have had a temper. But it is not he. After all,
seeing that his prophecy of the destruction of Nineveh was not
fulfilled, the top of the mound that covers the ruins of the city is
perhaps the one spot of earth where it is quite impossible for him to be
buried! As a matter of fact, the mosque is an old Nestorian church, once
the cathedral of that body in the days when their independent
patriarchate was in Mosul; and the occupant of the tomb is John the
Lame, a worthy Patriarch of the thirteenth century, who now gets
compensation for a life of hardship in his posthumous honours as Jewish
Prophet and Mussulman Saint.

Mar John the Lame was a friend to knowledge and learning in his life;
and it must be a real annoyance to the good old man to think that his
corpse has been made into an obstacle to both of them now that he has
done with it!

Only one of the treasures of the palace has ever come to light, viz. a
pair of bronze oxen, found in the process of cleaning out the well in
the court of the mosque. These "idols" were promptly melted down; and
they now, in the form of a window grating, keep thieves from a
gentleman's house in Mosul.

The old order is changing in Mosul as elsewhere; or will change when the
Baghdad Railway comes and brings light and sanitation into its
picturesque corruption. The domination of the present governing clique
will go, and one hopes that something better will take its place. Will
whatever happens to come be a real improvement on the open bribery of
Sabonji, and the humorous tolerance of Tahir Pasha? Some things will
mend. The small merchant, for instance, will no longer be made to buy
his stock from the local member of the administrative council; and
warned that if he dares to import for himself from Aleppo, that caravan,
at any rate, will not pass the Shammar Arabs. The youthful heroes of
that tribe will no longer be told by the old men "in the good old days
of our fathers, a young fellow had to kill his lion before he thought
himself man enough to take a wife. Now you must, at any rate, rob a
caravan." All that will be to the good. Still, the experience of towns
like Beyrout and Smyrna suggests that, after all, the known evils of the
East may be preferable to the unknown crop that will spring from a
confusion of East and West.




We have long been partial to pilgrimage. Partly because we love all old
habits. Because "it was so our fathers did in the days of old;" and
because, quite apart from that intrinsically "excellent reason," we have
yet another reason which may well be thought "good enough." We have
found that the original promoters of that pastime were people of
singular discrimination, and endowed with a positive genius for
exploiting attractive resorts. The shrines to which they sent their
penitents are so many realms of delight to the vagrant pleasure-seeker;
and who could pick out for himself a more ideal holiday paradise than
Lourdes or Monserrat or Covadonga or Rocamadour?

We have ranged in quest of palms and scallop shells through the length
and breadth of Christendom, from the Holy Sepulchre in the east to
Santiago de Compostela in the west; and nowhere have we been
disappointed of receiving our temporal reward. Yet we feel it is rather
hard measure to be grudged all ulterior benefits--to be told that,
having roamed "without intention," our spiritual profits are _nil_.

However, such disqualification affords us some compensating latitude. If
our gain be exclusively temporal we can run but little spiritual risk.
The less respectable shrines may prove just as eligible as the orthodox,
and we can visit Mecca and Benares with as much immunity as Rome.
_Flectere si nequeo Superos, Acheronta movebo_; and a call on the witch
of Endor will at least assure us a thrill. In which dangerous frame of
mind it becomes an overwhelming attraction to a professed patron of
pilgrimages, to find himself within easy visiting distance of the only
temple extant which is specifically and avowedly dedicated to the Author
of Evil Himself.

Nearly every form of religion which has yet been known to man seems at
some time or other to have struck root in the soil of Mesopotamia; and
there are but few of the number that have left no stumps or fossils to
remind us of the days when they were yet flourishing in their pride.
Some have bequeathed us the ruins of their temples, their sacrificial
ash heaps, their votive tablets, or the images of their gods. Some
survive but in fragments of fantastic folk-lore, still lingering on
ineradicably as the parasites of more modern creeds. But one of the
oldest and weirdest of all is still a living reality--the religion of
the Yezidis or "Devil-worshippers" who congregate principally in the
_vilayet_ of Mosul.

"Devil-worshippers" they are indeed; for they themselves do not scruple
to admit that the Being whom they seek to propitiate is actually
identical with the _Sheitan_ of the Christians and Moslems and Jews.
But, fortunately for the morals of the neighbourhood, their homage stops
short of imitation. Theirs is a religion of Faith, and not of Works.
They are under no obligation to make evil their good according to the
boast of Milton's Satan; but only to "respect the great place" of their
Divinity, and see to it that he is "sometime honoured for his burning

Thus, though they are accused of many enormities,[41] it does not appear
that they are actually worse in theory, or half so vicious in practice,
as many of the most blameless of their "true-believing" neighbours: and
"good Christian men who are stable in the faith" may adventure
themselves into their Vale of Devils with no more material misgivings
than worthy Sir John Mandeville of old.

The Yezidis form one of the recognized _millets_, or subject religious
sects, existing in the Turkish Empire. But recognition in their case by
no means implies toleration. They are universally abhorred as
outcasts--almost as "untouchables"--like the _cagots_ of the Pyrenees,
or the lowest _pariahs_ of Hindustan. A Christian is a "dog" to a
Moslem, and a Jew ranks many octaves lower; but there is no room on the
chromatic scale to show the position of a Yezidi: he is the sort of
human being that is less regarded than a beast.

A Yezidi crossed our path some five or six miles from Mosul. He gave us
a very wide berth, keeping quite a hundred yards away. But it chanced
that his line lay to windward; and our escort rode at him furiously,
fairly bellowing with indignation. How dared he have the effrontery to
intrude his unclean carcass "betwixt the wind and our nobility?"

And presently another Yezidi actually tacked himself on to our party,
following us (at a very humble distance) for two or three hours along
the road. "It would be a good deed to kill the dog," was our _zaptieh's_
muttered comment; "but while he is under the _Effendi's_ shadow, I
suppose I must let him alone!"

Yet withal there is a spice of fear in the contempt which is felt for
the Yezidis. They are "ower sibb" to the Devil to be quite safe subjects
for abuse. They seem to be regarded in much the same light as witches
used to be by our own seventeenth-century ancestors. It is virtue to
revile and maltreat them: and by daylight, with a sufficient mob to back
you, you may feel secure from their resentment. But it is another matter
altogether to pass their door alone after dark!

The Yezidis form a considerable community numbering in all some 150,000;
for about 500 villages own allegiance to their _Mira_,[42] and there are
many detached colonies residing in alien towns. These villages are
widely distributed--isolated for the most part singly among the
surrounding Kurds and Christians. Some are as far west as Aleppo; some
as far north as Tiflis (where all the town scavengers are Yezidis); some
as far east as Teheran. Their nucleus is in the Sinjar mountains, in the
desert south-west of Mosul; where they are secured from invasion by the
barricades of rock, and the waterless wastes which environ them. But the
central shrine of their faith, the Jerusalem of their vows and
offerings, is the cryptic Temple of Sheikh Adi, hidden just within the
fringe of the northern mountains which overlook the great Mosul plain.

It was late on an autumn evening that we neared the last stage of our
journey thither. We had quitted the plains about mid-day; and our course
had lain for some miles along a sparsely cultivated valley, tucked in
behind the outermost ripple which the mountains fling down upon the
wold. On our right lay this barbican ridge, from the crest of which one
might look forth across all the plain of Tigris; while on our left the
hills rose higher, more rugged and more precipitous--a second, but still
a subordinate, breastwork of the lordly Oberland behind.

Here and there the solitude was punctuated by a squalid Kurdish village
whose inhabitants were thriftily using the tents which had served for
their camps all the summer, to hood in their stacks of fodder against
the expected winter snows. And one of these--Ain Sufni "Shipwell,"--perched
on a traverse of high ground which is piled right across the valley
is pointed out by Yezidi tradition as being the building place of the
Ark. Here the main valley still trends forward; but, as we descended
from the village, our guides doubled back to the left and dived into a
masked ravine which had hitherto lurked invisible behind a shoulder of
the heights.

Wide should be the gate and broad the way which leadeth to--the shrine
of MELEK TAÜS; but the glen in question is shaggy and narrow and
tortuous, tangled with clumps of tamarisk, and cumbered with water-worn
boulders the jetsam of the winter floods. Since noon the sky had been
overcast, and now a dreary drizzle had smudged all the landscape into a
grey monochrome. Our jaded beasts sprawled and stumbled disheartedly
over the wet and slippery stones.

Soon our path began edging up towards a _col_ in the ridge to the right
of us, where a little Kurdish village hung limply over the saddle, and a
curtain of lowering clouds trailed its ragged fringe across the gap. But
just as we started the ascent, we perceived that the true end of the
valley lay round an elbow in the opposite direction; and at its head,
conspicuous against the dark hillside above the trees which lay matted
in the hollow, rose the tall pale cone of a remote and isolated
building--the "Great Mascot" of the Yezidis.[43]

How effectively the stage was set for that last mile of our Black
pilgrimage! Not the least detail seemed lacking to enhance the eeriness
of the scene. The dusk was rapidly lowering, the gorge grew narrower and
deeper; and the gnarled boughs which overhung the pathway turned the
twilight almost into night. A sodden carpet of fallen leaves muffled the
clatter of the horse-hoofs; and no sound was heard but the bubbling of
the rivulet, and the steady plash of the bloated raindrops that had
gathered on the twigs of the trees. High overhead on our right towered
the wan gaunt walls of the Satanic monastery: but not a voice nor a
glimmer of light bespoke the presence of any inmates; and as we stumbled
up the broken stairs, between crumbling walls and under ruinous arches,
we felt like Sintram in his goblin valley or Childe Roland approaching
the Dark Tower.

By the time we had reached the further angle of the building we had
risen to the level of its terraces; and as we wheeled into the little
fore-court, the general uncanniness of our surroundings received its
finishing touch. The gates stood closed before us, and nowhere was there
a sign of any living creature--but in every niche and crevice there
flickered a tiny fairy lamp! The wandering tourist in County Wicklow who
was taken to task by an infuriated landlord for trespassing in the
"Devil's Glen," pleaded in extenuation that he "had never expected to
meet the proprietor;" but to us at this particular juncture, the
apparition of "The Proprietor" would have seemed the most natural event
in the world!

Our retinue appeared less affected. Perhaps they were not so
impressionable; or more probably they confided in our superior magic,
and argued _a La Española_ that we "knew a point more than the Fiend."
Our henchman strode boldly to the gates and hammered upon them lustily.
For some time he woke only the echoes: and when at length a voice
answered, the owner thereof was evidently none too anxious to open. In
this land it is rarely an angel that one entertains unaware after
dark![44] The magic word _Ingiliz_, however, proved a veritable "Open
Sesame." "_Ingiliz!_" repeated the unseen janitor in a tone of delighted
amazement. In a minute the gates creaked open; and a couple of priests
in dirty white gaberdines with scarlet turbans and sashes, grinning all
over their bearded faces, were amiably beckoning us in.

There is indeed good sound policy in the readiness with which the
subject races of Turkey are disposed to welcome a European visitor. His
presence under their roof will certainly secure them from raiding for
that one night at any rate; and the suspicion that they have influential
foreign friends will "increase their name" permanently among their
truculent neighbours, and serve as a sort of protection for several
weeks to come.

A steep and crazy stone staircase turned down just inside the gateway;
but our long-suffering mountain-bred beasts tripped down it as neatly as
rope-dancers. Through a door on our right, as we passed, we caught a
glimpse of the interior of a big vaulted guard room, where a party of
Yezidi men and women were grouped around a blazing bonfire. The ruddy
glare of the flames and the murky smoke-wreaths eddying overhead,
suggested forcibly that these minions of Lucifer were sampling a model
Inferno; but we slipped past their Malebolge unobserved. Our conductors
led us along the lower terrace, and assigned us lodgings in a tower
abutting on the wall of the temple--the chamber (as they informed us)
which was always reserved for the use of the High Priest of their sect,
Ali Beg himself, whenever he paid one of his periodical visits to his
tribal shrine.

It was a good-sized lofty room, roofed with a pointed stone vault: but
it boasted no window; and apparently no chimney, for the fire that was
lit for our benefit soon filled all the space above the level of the
door lintel with a dense and suffocating smoke. To us as we squatted on
the floor this was no particular hardship; but a hand raised overhead
reached into a warm smoky stratum, and if we rose to cross the room we
had to bend double under pain of asphyxiation. The Yezidis seem more
callous to smoke even than the Kurds and Syrians. The latter do
generally provide a hole in the roof above the fire.

The young prior of the monastery, a nephew of Ali Beg, played the part
of host. He had been preferred to his post by his uncle, to whom he pays
a fixed composition (equivalent to £120 _per annum_) for the privilege
of receiving the offerings of the faithful whom he entertains at the
shrine. The entertainment which he provided for us consisted of the
local pancake bread and a big dish of lentils; on which we supped very
composedly, albeit we had no "long spoons." Then followed coffee served
in a brazen jug with a gigantic spout like the beak of a toucan: and,
after a cigarette or two, our host took leave of us; while we and our
_posse comitatus_ disposed ourselves to sleep on the floor.

Our earliest thought the next morning was to inspect the Diabolical
Temple; for the Yezidis, unlike their Mohammedan neighbours, are quite
willing to exhibit their shrine. The sun was rising brightly as we
emerged into the daylight; and the wakening glen in its rich autumn
colouring looked a very different place from the gloomy gully up which
we had crept the night before.

There is no village at Sheikh Adi. The place consists simply of the
temple and its appurtenances, forming, in fact, a monastery, though it
is not actually so called. The buildings hang along the steep brae-side
which forms the left bank of the river; the uppermost tier being notched
deeply into the slope, and the lower terraced out boldly above the
margin of the burn. The temple rises in the centre of the upper tier,
conspicuous for the fluted spires which form the roofs of the
sanctuaries. These fluted conical spires are a distinguishing
characteristic of Yezidi architecture, and their appearance, on any
building is strong _primâ facie_ evidence of Yezidi origin.

All above and around the monastery the hillside is spangled with scores
of rude little oratories, mostly in a ruinous condition. These were
erected sometimes by individual worshippers and sometimes by
communities. The founder of such a chapel is thought to acquire singular
merit; and it is held that, at his death, his chantry will be
transported with him to paradise and serve as his heavenly mansion in
the life to come. A lamp is lit in each of them by the temple priests at
sundown, and at the same time other lamps are lit all over the temple,
thus forming the necromantic illumination which so startled us the
previous night. They only continue burning for about half an hour; but
we chanced to arrive just in time to get the full effect.

Within the main gateway of the monastery a flight of eight or ten steps
leads down into a little sunken quadrangle; and the opposite side of
this is occupied by the façade of the temple--a plain square wall of
ashlar, unpierced by any window, but having a small arched doorway
placed near the corner on the left. Many of the stones in this façade
have queer cabalistic patterns, rudely incised in the surface so as to
leave the device in low relief. The priests insist that these are all
meaningless--mere bits of fanciful ornament introduced by the Christian
builders:[45] but though it is likely enough that the original meaning
of them is forgotten, it is manifestly absurd to pretend either that
they never had any, or that none is attributed to them now. There are no
Christian symbols among them; and the devices which recur most
frequently represent a hatchet and a comb:[46] but the most ominous and
the most prominent of all is the famous Snake, which is carved in relief
on the door jamb, and which receives the peculiar attention of being
kept carefully blacked.


Three or four Yezidi worshippers were making their round of the
quadrangle, prostrating themselves before certain niches and at several
other recognized points. They devoutly kissed the threshold of the door,
and several of the stones in the walls (by no means always the carved
ones), but we did not see any of them pay particular homage to the

The priests were prepared for our visit, and were waiting at the door to
receive us. They at once admitted us to the temple, first begging us to
remove our shoes. This action is to be regarded as mere politeness, not
as "bowing down in the house of Rimmon;" for it is customary to remove
the shoes in Turkey, even when only entering a room.[47]

The body of the temple consists of twin naves, divided longitudinally by
a pointed arcade, and roofed with two pointed barrel vaults. The general
effect of the architecture is very similar to that of a rude early
thirteenth-century church in the mountain districts of England. The
naves lie due east and west; and possibly this Orientation was
intentional, for certain traces of sun worship do survive in the Yezidi
creed. But more probably the lines of the building were dictated by the
nature of the site, for the longer axis would naturally run parallel
with stream and hill. Moreover any significance that might be attached
to the arrangement is altogether discounted by the fact that the
sanctuary is placed, not at the eastern end, but in the centre of the
northern side. This is a plan which is frequently followed in the more
easterly Christian churches; and which indicates that the builders
adopted as their model, not the Roman basilica, but the Persian Audience

[Illustration: AKRA.

From the south-west. The figures are those of Rabban Werda and others of
our suite.

No. 5]

The floor of the southern nave is three steps lower than that of the
northern; and at its western end is a square tank of running water, sunk
below the level of the floor. Ceremonial ablutions have a prominent
place in the ritual of Yezidi worship. There is a second tiny tank in
the quadrangle: and a third (evidently fed by the overflow of the tank
in the nave) just under the south-western angle of the temple, on the
level of the lower terrace. A dwarf wall between the arcade pillars
fences off the central bays of the upper nave, thus enclosing a sort of
presbytery in front of the opening to the sanctuary.

At the eastern end we turned to the left through a door in the northern
wall, and entered the square chamber under the smaller and more easterly
of the two conical spires. From this we passed back into the sanctuary
itself; a larger square chamber, situated under the larger spire, and
thus, placed practically in the centre of the northern nave wall.[48] A
low doorway, closed with an iron grille, opens from the nave into this
sanctuary; and immediately behind the opening stands a sort of ark,
rather smaller than the shrine of St. Alban, and completely shrouded in
red drapery. We were led up to it, but bidden not to touch it: so we
stood round solemnly, and gazed.

"What is in it?" we asked our interpreter, the Syrian Deacon, Werda--a
man of some education, who is generally superior to the superstitions of
his race. But in this Domdaniel of Sorcery even his assurance was
wavering--"I will tell you later," he replied nervously. "I cannot say
it in this place." It was not till we were safe again in the quadrangle
that he approached us with much circumspection, and confided to us in
an awestruck whisper, "the King of the Peacocks is in that big chest!"

_Melek Taüs_, "the King of the Peacocks," is the Yezidi euphemism for
Sheitan; who of course must never be referred to by the latter
disparaging name.[49] His image in the form of a peacock is regarded as
the Yezidi Palladium; and it was his principal image which was kept in
that red-draped shrine.

There are seven images or _s[=a]nj[=a]ks_[50] in the charge of the
Yezidi priesthood. One is always kept at Sheikh Adi; and the rest go on
circuit in the villages, to be exhibited to the faithful, and to receive
the temple tithes.[51] Their progress is somewhat precarious; for the
Kurds (when they can) like to capture them, thus combining pleasure and
profit with a parade of religious zeal. It is probably one of these
_sanjaks_ which is now in the British Museum; and, "if he had guessed
that King George would like it," Mar Shimun "would have been delighted
to make him a present of another," which was known to have been straying
about Tyari a year or two before. The Kurds themselves roundly assert
that they carried off the actual headquarters image when they looted the
temple in 1892; but the priests contend that it had been already placed
in hiding, and that the plunderers found only a dummy. The Kurds would
of course say they took it, even if they did not; and the priests would
equally of course deny it, even if they did. Both alternatives are
equally probable; and the image has always been secreted so jealously
that any identification is impossible.[52] There is therefore nothing to
prevent us from believing whichever we choose.

But although _Melek Taüs_ no doubt is the dominant guardian of Sheikh
Adi, we feel that behind his presentment there broods an older tutelary
shade. For when we quitted the larger sanctuary, and passed back again
into the more eastern one, "Rabbi Mr. Wigram" headed at once for a small
door in a corner, from whence a steep stone staircase plunged down into
the bowels of the rock. A priest had planted himself in front of that
door, making himself as broad as possible, and valiantly trying to mask
it; and when he found concealment impossible, he pointedly bowed us
away. They had shown us the shrine of _Melek Taüs_; but here was
something which they could not show us. Here was one secret of Sheikh
Adi which must be kept inviolate still.

What would they have said, we wonder, had they been told that one of
their visitors had already actually penetrated into that Holy of Holies?
Would they have hailed him as a prophet? Would they have murdered him
for sacrilege? Or would they have compromised matters by flatly refusing
to believe? We discreetly kept our own counsel; but the thing had been
done notwithstanding. And the story of how it happened needs a few
explanatory remarks.

In the year 1892 there came a new _Vali_ to Mosul--a sanguine and active
"Reformer" whose name was Osman Bey. He had set out from Constantinople
equipped with a Radical "Program" and his programme (as is usual with
programmes) was planned on an extensive scale. He had to do just three
things--to cure the Arabs of Nomadism; to make the Kurds pay their
taxes; and finally to induce the Yezidis to discard their heathenish
superstition. The first problem floored him promptly, for the Arabs
decamped to the desert; and the Kurdish chiefs eyed him pretty blankly
when he proceeded to propound Problem II. But when he got to "thirdly
and lastly," and invited their co-operation, the worthy fellows cheered
up amazingly and found things looked feasible after all. Taxation was
much less intolerable when viewed in relation to its context, for the
"Peaceable Persuasion" of the Yezidis would leave them a profit on the

Accordingly all through the _vilayet_ the unhappy Yezidis were attacked
and plundered; their women were carried into captivity, their men were
tortured and slain. And while the Government troops were ravaging the
plain villages, Sheikh Adi itself (hitherto immune from such
visitations) was completely ransacked by the Kurds. It was not till
after sixteen years that the poor proscribed Yezidis were reinstated.
Until the general amnesty at the revolution they remained in exile from
their shrine. Consequently when "Rabbi Mr. Wigram" visited the place in
1907 he found it only tenanted by the Moslem Mollah in charge.

The Mollah allowed him to go anywhere, scoffing valiantly at Yezidi
superstitions; and through that gloomy doorway the investigator
accordingly went. But afterwards the sceptic admitted that _down there_
he had never ventured; and had never in the least expected to see his
visitor come up again alive!

Unfortunately at the time the searcher failed to realize the unique
nature of his opportunity and consequently did not push his explorations
as thoroughly as he otherwise would. It was very dark down the
staircase, and he was only provided with matches. But it seemed to him
that he had penetrated into a vast natural cavern, teeming with rills of
trickling water--the birthplace of the sacred spring, which feeds the
temple tanks, and forms the main source of the rivulet which flows down
the glen below.

And here, perhaps, we have the key to the time-honoured sanctity of
Sheikh Adi. It was primarily a seat of that fountain worship which is
one of the earliest of all known cults. _Melek Taüs_ himself was but a
later accretion, though now he has usurped pre-eminence; and even yet
his worshippers are half-conscious of a god behind their god. Sacred
fountains by the dozen, and sacred trees by the score, may still be met
with in these outlandish regions. But in Christian and Moslem villages
they are reverenced somewhat shamefacedly. Among the followers of a
lower religion the old superstition has retained a firmer hold.

The Yezidis possess no systematized religion woven by some great teacher
into one harmonious whole. They make shift instead with a bewildering
agglomeration of superstitions pieced together into an amazing
patchwork. The central article of their creed is that propitiation of
the Evil Principle which was originally the conception of the Persian
dualists; but with this is incorporated the world-old Nature worship of
trees and fountains and fire and of all the host of heaven; upon it are
grafted innumerable later doctrines derived from the Jews the Christians
and the Moslems; and apparently it was by the Gnostics that the whole
medley was finally moulded into something approaching its present form.

Their reverence for _Sheikh Shams-ed-din_, the sun, is evinced by the
fact that they daily kiss the ground at the spot where his rays first
rest; that they adore him at rising and setting, and sacrifice white
oxen at his shrine. A somewhat similar homage is also paid to the moon;
and they always bury their dead facing towards the north star. Their
reverence for fountains of water appears in their ceremonial
lustrations, including the baptism of their children in the temple tank
at Sheikh Adi. Fire they so far honour that they deem it impiety to spit
into it; and perhaps a survival of serpent worship may be traced in the
famous black snake.

From the Persians they borrowed the conception of a good and an evil
principle; and probably also their belief in the transmigration of
souls. From the Jews they learned to identify Ahriman, the evil
principle, with Satan; to practise circumcision, and blood offerings,
and other points of the Mosaic ritual;[53] and to reverence the writings
of the Old Testament, which they consider equally authoritative with the
New Testament and the Koran. They share our Christian belief in the
divinity of the Founder of our religion, albeit they consider _Melek
Taüs_ a greater divinity than Him. They respect the Sign of the Cross;
but perhaps not exclusively as a Christian symbol, for the use of that
sign was established even in pre-Christian days. Other tenets they have
borrowed from Islam; for they regard Mohammed as a prophet, and Mecca
as a holy place; and texts from the Koran are engraved on the walls of
their temple. Moreover they hold that their sacred spring is derived
from the well Zemzem, whose waters Sheikh Adi miraculously conducted to
their present fount.

Many points of this weird belief have no doubt been adopted piecemeal,
in the hope of obtaining toleration from their Mohammedan lords. But if
such was their hope it was futile. Their admitted reverence for Sheitan
constitutes an abomination which neither Moslem nor Christian can
condone. Thus their lot has been always oppression and often the
bitterest persecution. How can such a strange compound superstition have
inspired them with their heroic fortitude?

If the truth of a creed can be gauged by the number and constancy of its
martyrs, then the place we should yield to the Yezidis must be one of
the highest of all. Small as their sect has always been, they can count
their martyrs by hundreds of thousands. And seldom indeed has any Yezidi
of full age been known to abjure his religion, either under stress of
torment or through fear of death. The massacre of 1892 was but the
latest (and one of the mildest) of a long list of similar inflictions.
Less than fifty years previously all the Yezidis of the Sheikhan were
driven from their villages by a great irruption of Kurds under the Beg
of Rowandiz, and fled for refuge to Mosul. The flooded Tigris cut them
off; and so many thousands were massacred by their pursuers upon the
site of Nineveh that the principal mound over Sennacherib's palace
acquired the ominous name of Kouyunjik--"the shambles of the sheep." The
tale of earlier massacres runs back to the very dawn of their history.
Even Sinjar has not always proved a sanctuary, though there they have
been less hard pressed.

But still the sect lives on; and (what is stranger yet) it occasionally
attracts proselytes! Why a Christian should turn Moslem, we can
understand--at least he ensures worldly advancement. But what
conceivable benefit can he look to acquire by turning Yezidi? Unless
indeed he is tired of life, and has a conscientious objection to

One peculiar privilege, however, has recently been conceded to the
Yezidis. They have gained that exemption from military service which
Kurds and Christians earnestly desire. This was done not exactly in
kindness to them, but more for the comfort of the army. For, about a
dozen times a day, every Moslem is accustomed to "take refuge with Allah
from Sheitan the stoned:" and a Yezidi who hears such blasphemy has a
choice of just two alternatives; either he may kill the blasphemer, or
he may commit suicide himself!

Mohammed in the Koran draws a very emphatic distinction between those
unbelievers who are "men of a book," and those who are not; between the
Christians and Jews, who follow a written revelation; and the idolaters,
who follow tradition alone. The former may be admitted to tribute; but
the latter are expressly condemned to extermination.

Now the Yezidis also are in fact "men of a book;" though this would not
probably be considered much extenuation for "worshipping Sheitan." But
for a very long period they guarded their book so jealously as actually
to invite the pains and penalties of being supposed to have none. Two
sacred books, however, they have; the _Kitab el Aswad_, or Black
Book,[54] dating from about the tenth century; and the _Kitab el Jilwa_,
or Book of Enlightenment, which dates from about the thirteenth; and
from these we are able to gather some of the principal articles of their

The Yezidis believe in a Supreme Being--Yazdan, "the Most High." But to
Him they pay no worship. He is the Lord of Heaven, and takes no account
of earth. From His name in all probability they derive their own
appellation of Yezidis; though the Moslems (or at least the Shiites)
declare that they inherit it from Yezid ibn Mo'awiya, the murderer of
Hosein, and see in it an additional argument for persecuting them.[55]

From _Yazdan_ emanated seven Great Spirits, of whom _Melek Taüs_ was the
first and most powerful. To him was committed the creation of the world;
and the governance of it for 10,000 years, of which 4000 still remain to
run. _Melek Taüs_ is an evil and a fallen spirit; but not fallen beyond
redemption. He is a sort of celestial Absalom--vicious, tyrannical,
rebellious; but secure of ultimate pardon and rehabilitation. "Shall
there not at length come a time when the Chief of the Archangels shall
be restored to his first pre-eminence? And will he not then be mindful
of the poor Yezidis, who alone of all mankind never cursed him in his

There is something distinctly quaint in this picture of a reclaimed
Satan, still cherishing a faint grudge against those who denounced him
in his unregenerate days.

_Melek Isa_ (Jesus) is the second of the Great Spirits; and He too shall
reign for 10,000 years when _Melek Taüs'_ reign is done. The story of
His incarnation and passion is accepted as told in the Christian
scriptures; but it is held that this, His first, coming was premature
and that so He failed to break the power of evil. He did not, however,
die upon the Cross, _Melek Taüs_ snatched Him away, leaving only a
phantom in His room.[56]

The Yezidis render to _Melek Isa_ a sort of secondary worship. His reign
is not yet; and being good He is not so formidable as evil. Thus at
their great feast they sacrifice one sheep to Him, while to _Melek Taüs_
they sacrifice seven. _Melek Isa_ is merciful, slow to anger, and of
great kindness, but _Melek Taüs_ is a jealous and exacting god.

Sheikh Adi is a semi-mythical personage who may be described as the
Yezidi Prophet. He is sometimes identified with Mar Adai (St. Thaddeus)
the Apostle of the Christians; but there seems some historical evidence
that he lived in the tenth century, and that he was originally a Magian
who had fled from Aleppo when the Magian cult was suppressed. He was
probably the author or compiler of the sacred books; and is said to have
been the first who taught disciples. According to some traditions he is
considered almost divine; and at the Last Day he will carry all the
Yezidis to heaven in a tray on his head, and pass them through
unquestioned. But according to another legend he was a mere mortal, who
had in life bitter experience of the devilment of his peculiar deity.
For while he was gone on pilgrimage to Mecca, _Melek Taüs_ personated
him among his disciples; dwelling with them, instructing them, and at
last ascending visibly to Heaven. Thus when poor Sheikh Adi returned he
was promptly slain as an impostor; and then _Melek Taüs_, reappearing,
confessed the trick that he had played, and gave orders that the
ill-used devotee was henceforth to be honoured as a saint.

The Yezidis have a regular hierarchy of seven orders of priesthood. They
hold a great annual feast at Sheikh Adi in October; which is continued
for eight days, and is attended by all the faithful who can come. Layard
was present on two such occasions, and shared in the feasting and
merry-making; but no unbeliever has ever been permitted to witness the
rites and ceremonies enacted within the temple itself. Pilgrimage to
Sheikh Adi is incumbent on every Yezidi; but he is not commanded to
pray; and he leaves that duty to his priests. Fasting can also be
performed by deputy; and a group of Yezidis will select one of their
number to do all their fasting for them, confessing to him the acts
which need expiation, and paying him a capitation fee for carrying out
the corresponding penances.

The Yezidis understand the nature of an oath, but the oath must be
properly administered; and, lest any of the sect should appear as
witnesses in our own courts of justice, it may be convenient to state
exactly how the thing is done. A circle is drawn round the man to whom
the oath is propounded, and he is told "All within that circle is the
property of _Melek Taüs_. Now answer falsely if you dare!" One would
have thought that to the Father of Lies falsehood would be the one thing
most pleasing. But apparently when you are put to your purgation it is
most emphatically otherwise. So we may conclude that the Prince of
Darkness is really a gentleman after all.

The distinctive costume of the men consists of white tunic, trousers and
jacket, with a scarlet turban and sash. The women wear the same costume,
except that the tunic is longer and reaches nearly to the ankle; and
they also have an oblong red mantle, draped from the left shoulder under
the right arm.

We quitted Sheikh Adi in the course of the forenoon, the young prior
accompanying us to the monastery gate in order to bid us farewell. He
would accept no payment for our entertainment, representing that it was
the custom of the monastery to keep open house for its visitors;[57] but
"out of love for us he could not refuse" the gift that we proffered
instead. We followed a very steep and rugged pathway, clambering out of
the glen up the hillside immediately opposite; and from the notch at the
summit we got our last view of that unhallowed Hoodoo House, and saw
once more to the southward the ocean-like levels of Mosul.

Being now so deeply entered in devilry we had resolved to top off our
orgy by paying our respects to the Satanic Pontiff, Ali Beg the _Mira_
of the Yezidis, whose home lay close to our road. A descent even rougher
than the ascent led us down to the terrace of heath land from which the
mountains arise; and here, on a sort of cape jutting out over the lower
plain country, we came upon the _Mira's_ castle--a large defensible
house with a walled courtyard. A beautifully clear little river issues
from a spring just above it, and girdles the base of the hill on which
the "castle" stands; and along the banks of the stream lies the Yezidi
village of Baadri, one of their principal settlements in the district of

The castle seemed pretty well garrisoned; for plenty of men were in
evidence when we dismounted in the courtyard. But it is only constructed
of _jess_ work; and the cracks which showed conspicuously in the walls
of the _Mira's_ reception room suggested that repairs were getting a bit

This _diwan khana_ is a good-sized vaulted chamber; and its whitewashed
walls were scrawled all over with rough pencil drawings of steam-boats
and locomotives; as though the _Mira's_ visitors had been trying to
explain to him the nature of these monstrosities, neither of which can
be seen within a journey of ten days. The room was empty when we
entered, but the _Mira_ appeared almost immediately, and seated us
beside him on the dais at the end.

The High Priest of the Devil is a pronounced Anglophil,[58] a fact which
will doubtless be deemed significant by our country's continental
friends. He is also on terms of traditional amity with Mar Shimun, the
Catholicos of the "Nestorian" Christians; for though the Christians
abhor the "Devil Worshippers" most piously, both _millets_ are driven
into sympathy by the common oppression of the Kurds.

Ali Beg was rather a big man, as men go in the mountain districts;
probably about six feet high, and about forty-five years of age. He wore
a dark brown _abba_ with gold embroidery round the collar; but we could
make out but little of his features, as he kept his face closely muffled
in the folds of his red Yezidi turban. This, however, was not to be
attributed to any desire to imitate the veiled prophet of Khorassan, but
only to the fact that he had a bad cold; an indisposition which had
prevented his intended journey to Mosul. His manner was melancholy and
depressed, as befitted the chieftain of a persecuted people; but perhaps
this also, more prosaically, may be partly attributed to the cold.

He was attended by a Yezidi Sheikh, a very handsome man with a long
black beard, wearing a white turban, and a gown and _abba_ of soft
dove-coloured brown. The _Sheikhs_ are the second order of the Yezidi
hierarchy; the _Cawwals_ or priests forming the third order, and _Pirs_,
_Kuchaks_, _Fakirs_ and _Mollas_ being entrusted with various minor

The _Mira_ is virtually the Khalif of his _millet_; absolute both
temporally and spiritually--a sort of combination of emperor and pope.
No one dreams of questioning any order of his, or of breathing any
complaint of him to the Government. The _Mira_ can do no wrong. All his
followers' goods are at his disposal. If he claims a woman, she is
yielded to him; if he kills a man, nobody objects. Nay, the very fact of
the _Mira_ having killed him confers on the victim such holiness that he
becomes automatically secure of immediate admission to paradise; and
under such desirable conditions who has any cause to object? The office
of _Mira_ is hereditary, as such offices are in this country; for the
idea of sanctity running in families is common both among Christians and
Kurds. Mar Shimun among the former, and the Sheikhs of Barzan and Neri
among the latter, may be quoted as parallel cases; and the practice has
at least a respectable precedent in the house of Aaron among the

Ali Beg is dead since our visit. Dead, by what (for a _Mira_ of the
Yezidis) may be fairly described as "natural death;" for he was just
"murdered by his successor" like any old Irish king. That the succession
should be allowed to go out of the family would be a thing blasphemous
to hint at; but that the rightful heir should seek to accelerate his
accession is only a part of the game. It is a sporting game too; for if
the adventurer fails, he dies himself by torture for sacrilege the most
monstrous. But if he succeeds he is _Mira_, with all the _Mira's_
immunities. His predecessor is promoted to paradise, and he reigns
absolute in his room.

Wherefore, as might well be expected, the _Mira_ is wont to take
precautions; and keeps his potential successors rather studiously at
arm's length. But the heir (in this case his nephew)[60] had this time
taken precautions also; and had escaped across the Russian frontier,
there to watch and bide his time. In the summer which followed our visit
he stole back again from his exile; and fortune favoured his enterprise,
for the _Mira_ fell by his hand. So now there is another _Mira_, the
legitimate ruler of all the Yezidis; and no one will question his
authority--until the end of his reign.

All unsuspicious of the coming tragedy we bade farewell to Ali Beg at
the door of his _diwan khana_; having duly tasted of his hospitality,
and assured each other of our mutual good will. One of his _Leichtach_
escorted us to a point about a mile from the castle, and thence we soon
gained the pathway by which we were to return to Mosul.

We finished this nefarious excursion by lodging in a Yezidi village; for
the whole stage was rather too far to be accomplished in a single day.
And the normal state of relations between "True Believers" and "Devil
Worshippers" was disclosed to us rather instructively when we began
inquiring for bread. Our host denied categorically that there was so
much as a crumb in the village--until (with a good deal of trouble) we
convinced him that we proposed to pay! Apparently it is quite unusual
for anyone to pay anything to a Yezidi. It is a "work of supererogation"
and consequently of the nature of sin. The sight of our money produced
lots of things; but our sulky host was quite spoiled by it. He proceeded
to take offence with us because we did not invite him to dine![61] Thus
Yezidis would seem by nature to be as wicked as workhouse orphans, and
no doubt a little barbarity is essential to keep them in hand.

The fruit of our three days' transgression was revealed to us a little
later, when we found that two of our followers (Moslems too, to make the
crime more heinous) had been obviously indulging in _raki_[62] to
celebrate their return to Mosul. "It is all your fault _Effendim_" they
pleaded when we began to scold them. "It was you who betrayed our
innocence into the abode of _Sheitan_. And lo, this thing has befallen
us. We have touched pitch and are defiled."



One may go to Aleppo by train, and by carriage one may get on to Mosul;
but he who would penetrate further must adopt more primitive means.
Nothing that runs upon wheels can enter the Kurdistan highlands. And the
"heir of all the ages," travelling there in A.D. 1900, finds himself no
better off than his forerunners of B.C. 1100, whose Great King recorded
amazedly on slabs of imperishable granite the fact that "I,
Tiglath-Pileser, was obliged to go on foot!"

Accordingly our _Dramatis Personae_ had to be radically recast at Mosul.
We were escorted by two fresh _zaptiehs_; our baggage was corded on pack
mules; and for our own riding we had saddle horses--or perhaps more
accurately ponies, for they stood about fourteen hands high.

Our attendants deserve a paragraph to themselves; for they are
representatives of a nation which we have hitherto scarcely mentioned,
but of whom in the remaining chapters we shall have a great deal to
tell. Aziz and Yukhanan were Syrians who had come down from their
mountain villages to await our arrival at Mosul. They were about
twenty-five years of age, attired in the costume of the highlands, and
imbued with true highland contempt for the dwellers in cities and
plains. Outwardly there is little to distinguish them from the Kurds
among whom they are domiciled; but the fact of their speaking a
different language proves that they must ultimately be derived from a
totally different stock; for Kurdish is akin to Persian, and is
consequently an Aryan language; but Syriac is Semitic, and is the
nearest modern equivalent of that Aramaic which was spoken in Palestine
during the lifetime of our Lord. Their own traditions aver (and in many
cases their physiognomy affords strong support to the contention)[63]
that they are the lineal descendants of the ancient Assyrians. Some will
quite glibly assert that their family ancestor was Nebuchadnezzar; and
if it be true (as the Welsh maintain) that blood feuds are a most
valuable factor in ensuring the preservation of genealogies, then
certainly these fellows have had every reason for keeping their
pedigrees up to date.

In religion both men were Christians, and, what is more, _Shamashas_
(Deacons): members of the ancient East Syrian, often called the
Nestorian Church. But Syrian Deacons (though properly ordained) are not
necessarily engaged exclusively in the performance of clerical duties;
albeit they will always have received some sort of educational training,
and (as in the present instances) will probably be able to read and

The regular mountain costume consists of a sort of zouave jacket, worn
open over a loose shirt; and very wide trousers, girt tightly around a
rather slim waist. The point of junction between these two garments is
masked by a broad sash. The material of which they are composed is
generally a coarse Isabella-coloured fabric, striped at rather wide
intervals with a narrow red or blue line. Green is less frequently seen,
because it is the colour of the false prophet, but when the grounding is
purple it is sometimes trimmed with green. The stripes are disposed
vertically on the jacket and trousers, and horizontally on the sleeves;
but the suit is often such a mass of patches that but little of the
original survives. The head-dress is a conical felt cap,[64] which is
often bound round with a turban. The front half of the head is shaved;
and Tyari men wear their back hair plaited into two small pigtails, one
on either side. The sash is generally garnished with a knife or pistol
when the men are at home in the mountains; and often, slung across the
shoulder, they carry an antiquated gun.

The Kurds wear a similar costume, but a much more extensive arsenal; and
the weapons with which they are furnished are usually of more modern
type. This forms the main tangible distinction by which it is possible
to tell a Kurd from a Syrian: but somehow a certain ruffianly swagger is
the truest hall-mark of a Kurd.

The third man who had joined our party was a certain _Rabban_ Werda
(Friar Rose) who acted as our chief lieutenant. He too, like the others,
was a deacon, but he was more usually addressed as _Rabban_; for he was
one of a queer religious order which still survives in eastern
Christendom, and which corresponds to one of the aspects assumed by
monasticism in the west. _Rabbans_--and _Rabbantas_--(for there are a
few women also in the order)--have bound themselves not to marry, not to
use a razor,[65] and not to eat flesh meat. But they do not live in
communities, nor obey any definite rule; and, except in the three
particulars mentioned, they lead much the same life as other men. It is
from the ranks of the _Rabbans_ that the Syrian episcopate is recruited;
for, by old tradition, _Abunas_ or bishops must be celibate, though the
_Qashas_ or priests are always married men.

_Rabban_ Werda in personal appearance was the image of the immortal
Sancho Panza; and he wore, with his gorgeous purple trousers, a European
frock-coat and a fez. But his worth is not to be gauged by his rather
uninspiring exterior. Though his views of our twentieth century may have
sometimes a tinge of artlessness, in his own mediæval environment he is
as intelligent and reliable a henchman as anyone need desire.

For the journey into the mountains does indeed carry us back to
mediævalism; or at least to the Highlands of Scotland as they existed
two hundred years ago. And the sensations of Bailie Nicol Jarvie on his
trip to the glens of the Lennox may be easily recaptured by a modern
tourist in the Highlands of Hakkiari to-day.

We crossed the pontoon bridge at Mosul, and the broad alluvial levels
which have silted up the ancient channel of the Tigris; and had soon
ascended once more on to that wide rolling wold which stretches to the
snow-capped mountains that lie along the horizon to the north. On our
right we left the vast enclosure which marks the site of the city of
Semiramis; and the mounds which cover those mighty ramparts which the
old Assyrian conquerors once kept festooned with the skins of captive
kings. But we have many a mile to travel before we are really clear of
the site of ancient Nineveh, for the space comprised within the walls
was only its inner nucleus; and without was a great Garden City of
mansions and parks and orchards, analogous to the present garden city
which environs the town of Van. Greater Nineveh may well have embraced
the outlying palaces of Khorsabad, and the temples of Nimrud; and this
would easily account for the "great city of three days' journey,"
(_i.e._ of about sixty miles in circumference) of which the Prophet

The annihilation of this huge metropolis is one of the most astounding
cataclysms in all the world's history. We possess its most intimate
records almost up to the hour of its agony: and those records tell only
of continual conquests, and of the building of palaces by its kings.
Then falls a sudden great silence. For fifty years we hear nothing. And
when fresh records take up the story, these are written in another
language, and in another character, and tell of cities and peoples which
have hardly been even named before. Nineveh had vanished utterly; and
within two hundred years of its fall Xenophon's army marched across the
very site of it without so much as dreaming of giving its ruins a name.


One of the reaches near Tal

page 284]

Other armies than Xenophon's have marched and fought over its ruins.
Here, in B.C. 331, Alexander the Great encountered the great army of
Darius at the little village of Gaugamela in the angle between the
Tigris and the Zab. This was that great "decisive battle of the world"
which was to decide the Empire of Asia, and Alexander's signal victory
laid the whole of Persia at his feet. Gaugamela is about equidistant
between Nineveh and Arbela, which lies about twenty miles from the
battlefield on the further side of the Zab river. But all Darius'
baggage and treasure were parked around Arbela; and as the pursuers
poured headlong towards the place where they would find the plunder, it
is Arbela and not Nineveh which has given its name to that day.

Here too in A.D. 627, upon the very site of Nineveh, was fought the last
battle in the long duel between the Sassanid Persians and the Byzantine
Romans. Five years previously the Emperor Heraclius, driven within the
very walls of Constantinople, had sallied from his last refuge, and had
created in northern Syria the army with which he made his last throw.
For five years he had marched and fought among the mountains of Armenia,
striking right and left with unerring judgment and with unvarying
success, at the armies which hemmed him round. At last Chosroës, brought
to bay in his turn, mustered his troops for the final struggle, and met
him on the site of Nineveh with an army of (it is said) 500,000 men. The
Persians fought with desperation, and "it was easier to kill than to
break them," but once more the skill and good fortune of the
warrior-emperor triumphed; and he himself with his own hand slew
Rhazates the Persian Commander,[67] in single combat between the armies
before the battle was joined. The power of Chosroës was crushed: but the
Romans were as much exhausted by the long-drawn struggle as the
Persians; and, within a few years, both empires alike succumbed to the
onslaught of the Mohammedans.[68]

In a bird's-eye view from the mountains this country seems all one dead
level, with the solitary height of Jebel Maklub rising like an island in
the midst. But, to the wayfarer actually traversing it, it is a range of
hills and hollows, with marshy valleys[69] intervening between sparsely
cultivated downs. A few good-sized villages are passed, the largest
being Tel Keif and Tel Uskof--each, as their names imply, grouped round
the base of an ancient _tel_: and after a long day's journey (performed
at the pace of the mules, which is rather slower than walking) we reach
the township of Alkosh, placed just at the foot of the hills.

A glance at the map would suggest that it is by no means easy to
determine the precise point where the plains end and where the mountains
begin. But actually there is no such uncertainty. The breastwork range
of the mountains rears itself up like a wall above the minor
inequalities of the plateau, and the heights stretch away right and left
continuously as though they were toeing a line. Of all the countries of
Europe, Spain is the land which is nearest in sympathy with the Orient;
and the sudden uplift of the Cantabrian mountains above the basin of the
Duero is an excellent reproduction of the rise of the Kurdistan ranges
above the plain of Mosul.

Alkosh, at the foot of the steeps, is just an unmitigated sun trap; and
the town seems positively sizzling under the blaze that is poured on it
from the south. It is a mean little hole; but its synagogue boasts a
notable shrine in the tomb of the prophet Nahum, who of course also
holds local brevet rank (like Jonah) as a Mussulman saint. Commentators
generally assert that the Elkosh of Nahum was in Palestine; but local
tradition adheres unshakenly to the claims of the Assyrian Alkosh, and
the Jews make an annual pilgrimage in order to visit this shrine. After
all there is much to be urged for it. Nahum was "of the children of the
captivity," and he certainly knew his Nineveh better than most dwellers
in Palestine can have done.

It was a weird and striking effect that we witnessed from it next
morning. The clouds lay low and horizontal above the plain beneath us;
and many of them seemed to have sunk on to the ground, and looked
exactly like lakes under the level rays of the rising sun. As his orb
rose higher they lifted, and dispersed into wreaths of vapour. How well
might such an effect have inspired the words of the Prophet, "Nineveh is
of old as a pool of water: yet they shall flee away!"

Some three miles east of Alkosh lies a great recess in the
mountains--hardly so much a valley as a deep pocket among the cliffs.
And at the end of this pocket is ensconced one of the most interesting
Christian relics in these regions--the ancient monastery of Rabban
Hormizd, the Scetis of the uttermost east. Rabban Hormizd is no western
monastery; it is a typical Oriental Laura: a rookery of independent
hermits rather than a community of monks. And to speak of it as a
"rookery" is hardly so descriptive as to call it a warren of
sand-martins; for the anchorites' cells are all caves, some natural and
some artificial, burrowed into the escarpments of a great natural

Rabban Hormizd, the original and eponymous hermit, established himself
here in the eighth century; and the fame of his singular sanctity soon
drew hundreds of other eremites to the neighbourhood of his lonely
retreat. Here he lived praying, fasting, and macerating himself after
the manner of the Great St. Anthony; and wrestling mightily with the
devils who notoriously frequent such desert spots. He was evidently a
believer in "close action," for the adjoining pocket is known as the
Vale of Devils; and, appropriately enough, a little village of
"Devil-Worshippers" is situated at the mouth of it to this day.

But perhaps in the eyes of Rabban Hormizd even the very devils
themselves were not so foul an abomination as the great rival monastery
on Jebel Maklub,[70] which rises conspicuous in the midst of Mosul plain
in full sight of his cell. For Rabban Hormizd was a "Nestorian," while
the monks of Sheikh Mattai were "Jacobites;" their monastery being still
the abode of their _Maphrian_, the second dignitary in their church.
Both sects are equally obnoxious to the intermediate orthodox; but they
are even more obnoxious to each other, for they draw towards opposite

His zeal against the monks of Sheikh Mattai roused Rabban Hormizd to the
great deed of his lifetime. He actually quitted his cell (for the only
occasion on record) and started on a lone-hand raid against his
adversaries' stronghold. The monks of Sheikh Mattai received him
hospitably, and gave him lodging in their monastery. But at dead of
night he arose and groped his way to their library, where the works of
"the accursed Cyril" stood stored like cordite shells. By virtue of his
prayers he summoned up a miraculous spring in the centre of the floor,
and carefully washed every line of writing off every page of their
books! Then leaving them a collection of nice clean leaves free from
every taint of heresy, he departed joyfully to his hermitage and
thereafter stirred from it no more.

This scandalous transaction was of course accounted to him for
righteousness; and indeed Oriental religious controversies continue to
be conducted on very similar lines to this day!

The monastery of Rabban Hormizd has always been kept going ever since
the date of its foundation; but now it is only the _Succursale_ of the
big modern monastery established on the plains below it, and there are
but some four or five monks still left in the old mother house. They are
Uniat Nestorians who have submitted themselves to the Papacy, and are
consequently not at all in charity with the independent Nestorian church
from which they have seceded. Hearing that we were going to Tyari, the
home of the independent Nestorians, they inquired artlessly "Pray, do
you know anything of a deacon there? one Werda, a _very_ wicked
person--a tall man with a red beard?" (Our deacon is short and rotund,
and his beard is black).

"I am _Shamasha_ Werda," replied that worthy with a twinkle.

"Oh! but we don't think you can be the man we mean!" protested our hosts
in some consternation.

"Oh, yes! I am," persisted the delighted deacon.[71]

Despite this _contretemps_, however, we got on with our hosts very
amicably. They fed us with tea and cake, and wine from their own
vineyard; and finished by conducting us over their monastery and showing
us all the sights.

The place must be a furnace in summer time, for the _cirque_ faces due
southward; the tawny precipices are completely destitute of vegetation,
and must radiate the heat mercilessly all round that breathless pit. In
the caves would lurk such coolness as was going; but the lack of water
must have been a sore trial in summer. Hermits, however, are generally
credited with requiring a very moderate supply.

The cells lie some way up the ramp, and are reached by a steep zigzag
pathway. How many of them there may be we do not pretend to guess; but
we think we may safely say hundreds; for they extend laterally for
several hundred yards along the concave sweep of the corrie, and (like
the port-holes of an old line-of-battle ship) they are ranged up in tier
above tier. They are not of any uniform pattern, like the older
hermitages at Dara; and some few (probably those which have been most
recently occupied) are furnished with windows and doors. A series of
narrow pathways and rude rock staircases strings the whole assortment
together, and by these the solitaries were enabled to assemble at their

Here and there the main pathway is barred by the erection of a rude
arched gateway: but the only real building is the church, which is
terraced out on a buttress of rock. This church is comparatively modern,
dating from about 1500; but behind it, jammed against the face of the
cliff, is another and much older church erected in the ninth or tenth
century, and adorned with some nice bits of carving somewhat similar to
the Runic work of our own land. Behind this again, excavated in the rock
itself, is the veritable cell of Rabban Hormizd--a chamber some eight
feet square, and approached by a sort of winding rabbit burrow. The
original door and window of this cell are now closed, the church having
been built up against it; and the grave of the hermit is placed in one
of the walls, at a spot which is situated immediately behind the altar.

The church of Rabban Hormizd is very much "Lord of Name," that is it
enjoys great repute as a place of pilgrimage; and the virtue for which
it is chiefly celebrated is the healing of the insane, or (as they are
more commonly called in this country) the "possessed." The lunatic
(often quite willing) is solemnly conducted to the church, and is
tethered up in it for the night with a ponderous iron chain and collar
affixed to a staple in the wall.[72] By morning (unless he is very mad
indeed) he will usually profess himself cured. Quite a number of other
mountain churches can boast a similar reputation, but their methods of
treatment (as will be hereafter related) are often more drastic still.

We rejoined our caravan at the mouth of the gorge, and pursued our way
steadily eastward along the foot of the mountains; passing first the
village of Baadri, dominated by Ali Beg's castle, and then rejoining the
road which we had followed previously on our visit to the Yezidi shrine.
Some two hours beyond Ain Sufni, we reached the river Gomel, a fairly
large mountain stream; and here we swung round to the left, perhaps half
a mile up the river, in order to get a passing glimpse of the famous
"Picture Rocks" of Bavian.[73]

The Gomel emerges from the mountains by a flat-bottomed winding valley
shut in on either hand by vertical walls of rock; and along the cliffs
on the right bank a little above the point of exit, hangs that
marvellous gallery of "pictures" so well known to Assyriologists. The
principal bas-relief is a huge square panel, graven on the face of a
rock bastion which immediately overhangs the stream. It comprises four
gigantic figures; now wofully battered and weather-beaten, but awesome
beyond all telling in the loneliness of that desolate glen. Some dozen
smaller panels are ranged above it, along an upper story of the cliff;
and at its foot two great detached stone tables lie half submerged in
the waters of the stream. The design of the big panel is self-repeating,
each half being mirrored by the other; and this circumstance is of great
assistance in deciphering the details of the work. For, some thousand
years after the carvings were executed, a party of mis-begotten hermits
came to settle down in the valley, and burrowed a set of cells for
themselves along the face of the cliff. Two or three of these vandals
chose to excavate immediately behind the great panel, and cut out their
windows in the middle of it, quite regardless of the "idols" outside.
With fortunate carelessness, however, they did not do their damage
symmetrically, and the portions destroyed upon one side remain on the
other intact. The subject is King Sennacherib making an offering to the
goddess Ishtar; and the inscription records the destruction of Babylon,
which had rebelled against him at the commencement of his reign, and
which he took and razed to the ground.

The panels on the cliff above are all identical with each other. They
have semi-circular heads, and are carved with the figure of the king. Of
the two great slabs in the water, one bears on its face three
figures--apparently the god Bel and two worshippers--and is carved on
one of the angles into a small human-headed bull. The second is so much
eroded that it is impossible to distinguish the design.

It seems that the cliffs of the Gomel were one of the principal quarries
which supplied the materials for constructing the ancient palaces of
Nineveh. Most of the great slabs were quarried from the upper beds of
the limestone, and were brought down to the river bank, at the foot of
the principal bas-relief, by a broad inclined way which can still be
distinctly traced. Down this they could be lowered on rollers, and would
then be safely deposited upon the spit of sand and shingle piled up
under the bank by the river; for this work would be done in summer, at a
time when the waters were low. The gravel beneath the slab would then be
dug away in sections; and, bit by bit, there would be inserted under it
a wicker-framed raft or _keleg_ supported on inflated skins. Given a
sufficiency of skins such a raft can be made to float anything, and in
autumn, when the river rose again, the slab would be floated down to the
Tigris, and landed under the walls of Nineveh near the palace for which
it was destined. The two slabs now lying in the water were evidently
intended to be transported in this manner, but for some cause (which we
can now only guess at) they were eventually abandoned unshipped.
Possibly they were mis-handled and damaged. Possibly the building of the
palace was interrupted by the assassination of Sennacherib, and was
never resumed subsequently when Esarhaddon had quelled Sharezer's

It is conceivable that the great panel also would eventually have been
cut from the rock behind it, lowered on to the spit beneath, and
dispatched in similar fashion; but it is perhaps more likely that this
was always intended to remain as a permanent monument in its present
site. The smaller panels along the crest of the cliff do not look as if
they had been destined for removal. They were probably carved for mere
"swank," to give dignity to the royal quarries; or to keep the carvers'
hands in, at a time when contract work was slack.

The handling and moving of the ponderous blocks habitually employed by
the ancients would tax even modern constructors, with all the resources
of machinery and steam power which nowadays they have at command. But
the Assyrians (like the Romans after them) could avail themselves of a
limitless amount of dirt-cheap labour. The hordes of captives taken in
their wars had to be used somehow; and no one raised any objection if
they were rather rapidly used up. Men cost less than oxen or asses, and
their strength could be applied more effectively. They could be drilled
to keep step, and to give their tugs in unison. Moreover the old
Oriental task-masters possessed an asset which we have lost--a supreme
scorn for being unduly hurried. They could well afford to spend a
generation or so on buildings which were designed to endure for
centuries, and which might have endured for millennia if only they had
been left alone.

But even their works of utility have been no more spared by posterity
than the tablets which recorded their learning, or the palaces which
were the trophies of their pride. And such a work also had its source at
the quarries in the Gomel valley; one of those splendid irrigating
channels which used to feed the desert with the waters of life.[74] Its
course can be traced for some distance alongside the banks of the river;
where for yards upon yards the ample conduit is hewn through spurs of
solid rock. Werda had seen further remains of it far away on the plains
to the southward; "and the villagers were carrying off the stone facing
of the embankments to use in building their huts." It was "only the work
of infidels," and consequently fair loot for anyone. Now European
engineers are labouring to re-establish what might have been so easily

The "Pictures of Bavian" are at least exempt from the fate which has
befallen most pictures. They are fixed for ever immovably in the
position for which they were designed. They are like some forgotten "Old
Master" which still hangs tarnished and ill-lit above the altar where it
was dedicated; and which shows there far more nobly than when restored
and exhibited in a brand-new gilded frame on a glaring gallery wall.
There are far finer Assyrian sculptures in the Louvre and the British
Museum than the grim, gaunt, battered sentinels that keep watch over the
Gomel vale. But ranged along a Bloomsbury corridor they are obviously
mere graven images; while enthroned amid the solitudes of their own
eerie mountains they seem to be the very gods themselves.

There are several similar bas-reliefs scattered here and there about the
mountains--some fairly well preserved like those at Malthaiyah between
Dohuk and Alkosh, some now almost obliterated like that by the gate of
Amadia. The great king seems to have delighted in setting his seal upon
any conspicuous point that was reached by his conquering armies: and to
this day that instinct re-asserts itself in the behaviour of Private
Atkins, who delights to carve the badge of his regiment upon any
conspicuous precipice in Afghanistan.

A caravan moves but slowly, but it generally wants to keep moving, and
the novice who is travelling with it finds that he is allowed few
lengthy halts. The old stagers always seem thinking of some point a
little way ahead which they would much prefer to have behind them.
Sometimes it is a bad bit of road which can only be traversed in broad
daylight; sometimes a river which may suddenly be rendered unfordable by
the intervention of an unforeseen spate. On this stage the unknown
factor was the conduct of the Khozr river, a much more considerable
stream than the Gomel, which lay some four hours further east; and whose
behaviour on the present occasion was more problematical than usual
because the dark clouds to the northward might imply heavy rain in the

"Rabbi Mr. Wigram" had lively recollections of his last experiences with
the Khozr. He had been kept for three days on the banks of it, waiting
for the floods to subside. And he had forded it at last "in his birthday
suit," with the water over his horse's withers, and his clothes slung
over his shoulders to keep them out of the wet. We are wont to deride
the rustic who _expectat dum defluat amnis_; but our derision only
shows our own ignorance as much as his expectancy showed his. The rustic
was quite well acquainted with the behaviour of his own mountain rivers,
and knew that when they were in spate there was simply nothing else to
be done.

And our chances of passing the Khozr were rendered additionally dubious
by the fact that none of our party knew the right road to take for the
fords. The _zaptiehs_ had never been in this district and could offer us
no assistance. The _Rabbi Effendi_ had approached the river from a
different direction, and that some years before. We caught a guide in
one of the villages; but as his first step was to ask the way himself at
the very next village that we came to, we grew distrustful of his
capacity and dismissed him again to his home. Few of the inhabitants
ever stray beyond the bounds of their own village, and on a more
extended excursion they are often hopelessly at sea.

Thus thrown on our own resources we took a bee-line across the moorland,
steering our course by the light of nature and by a very small scale
map. And fortune so far favoured us that we found the river in its very
mildest mood; and though we had struck it at none of the recognized
fording-places, there was no difficulty in getting across.

But safe on the further bank our perplexities recommenced again. The
dusk was falling rapidly, and we needed a lodging for the night. By now
we should have been at Khalilka, a prosperous and desirable village,
which is part of the private estate of the ex-Sultan Abdul Hamid, and
which on that account enjoys immunity from taxes and conscription and
raids.[75] But of course in missing the fords we had also missed
Khalilka, and not knowing whether it were above or below us, were
uncertain which way to turn. However, it was tolerably obvious that if
we followed the river either way we should presently find a village of
some sort; and a little distance down the left bank we alighted upon a
straggling hamlet of miserable Kurdish hovels, which we unanimously
accepted as being "Hobson's choice."

Of course no _khan_ is to be looked for in any of these outlying
villages, and it is customary for the traveller to quarter himself upon
the _rais_ or head man. He will obtain fire and shelter, and liberty to
eat his own provisions, and possibly (if he is fortunate) will be able
to purchase bread. Such entertainment should be requited, if mine host
is poor, in money; if he is a person of importance, by some kind of
trifling gift. Hospitality is hardly ever refused even to the humblest
wayfarer, and public opinion quite backs a man who enforces it if it is

In the present case the only shelter available was the veranda of the
_rais'_ house; which afforded us a roof certainly, but no outer
wall--only a wattle hurdle about five feet high. Here, however, we
kindled a fire, and packed ourselves in pretty comfortably; though the
night was made constantly hideous by the howling of the village dogs.
Their uproar was not unjustified, for (as we were informed next morning)
a scavenging pack of "you-eë-yahs" had been prowling round the hamlet
all night. A "you-eë-yah" is a sort of hyæna which haunts the
neighbourhood of villages, and gives intimation of its presence by
incessantly howling out its own name. It is known alternatively as a
_Ghul_ or _Sheitan_ because it is addicted to digging up and devouring
the corpses buried in the graveyards; a foul and stealthy brute, but not
dangerous to man. We had heard the howls all night intermittently
between the volleys of barking, but had thought it was only the village
cats taking their share in the row.

Next day the road was easier to follow; not because it was marked more
clearly, but because its direction was defined by a string of Mohammedan
cemeteries which were dotted across the moorland at intervals of three
or four miles. These are small square walled enclosures, generally with
a _santon's_ tomb in the middle, and with tall slender Moslem
head-stones marking some of the principal graves. The country was open
and undulating, but everywhere barren and pebbly; one can hardly as yet
call it stony, as that more emphatic word will be urgently needed later
on. Here and there were traces of villages; but these were all abandoned
and ruined, with nothing left but foundations, or a fragment or two of
broken wall. The only inhabited villages stood high on the hills
overlooking us, generally with an Agha's castle planted somewhat
aggressively in the midst.

There is something unnatural in this desertion, for the land might
obviously be cultivated, and within the walls of the cemeteries there
stand many well-grown trees.[76] But the key to the flight of the
inhabitants is not the parsimony of nature:

    _Rookhope stands in a pleasant place_
    _If the false thieves wad let it be._

And this essential condition is very conspicuously lacking in the
country between Bavian and Akra, not to mention several districts
further north; for across this ground twice a year pass that horde of
human locusts, the wandering Heriki tribesmen; and one skinning every
six months is more than any village can survive.

The Heriki are a large tribe of Kurdish nomads who possess no permanent
domicile. They encamp in winter on the plain of Mosul, and in summer on
the loftier and cooler plateau of Urmi; and with all their flocks and
herds and their other possessions, they migrate every spring from Mosul
to Urmi, and every autumn from Urmi to Mosul. It is not a good thing for
a village to lie in the track of the Heriki, for everything that is not
too hot or too heavy they annex and carry away. They "lift" the sheep
and cattle first; then the rugs and kettles and pitchers and the scanty
household plenishing; and they leave their hapless entertainers with
nothing but bare walls and rags.

We had learned something of their thoroughness at our last night's
lodgings on the Khozr; for in the veranda of the _rais'_ house we had
found three or four large bales, securely corded up in pieces of carpet,
and had casually asked what they were. Our poor host replied
despondently that he was "warehousing" them for the Heriki. They would
call upon him and claim them when next they passed that way. No; they
paid him nothing for "warehousing," but he had to be responsible for
them; and he had to restore four-fold if any of the contents were lost.

"And what is in them?" we asked. The poor wretch grew even more
dejected. "Oh, it is all my own property; my own rugs and cooking pots,"
he replied. "That is to say part of it mine, and part the property of
the other villagers, which the Heriki took from us when they plundered
the village last time!"

So complete was the reign of terror which the impudent scoundrels had
established, and so powerless was the Government to keep their
depredations in check, that they could actually dragoon their victims
into keeping their own plunder till they called for it, and go off for
six months quite confident that their orders would be implicitly obeyed!

Our day's stage ended at Akra; a considerable mountain township and the
seat of a Turkish _kaimakam_, a departmental governor, subordinate in
the present instance to the _Vali_ of the province of Mosul. Akra
displays itself most imposingly to a traveller approaching from the
westward, and indeed forms a striking spectacle from whatever point it
is viewed. Behind it a group of steep-pitched ridges are gabled out from
the main mountain chain like a range of gigantic dormers, and drop down
in rugged hipped ends to the level plain far below. Their crests are
hacked and indented like the "dissipated saw" of the Bab Ballads, and
the intervening gorges are half choked with the avalanches of boulders
which have cascaded down their flanks. The lower portions of these
gorges are filled with trees which grow in the terraced garden plots
alongside the little rivulets, but the upper slopes are all bare and
tawny like broken craters of half-baked clinker brick.

[Illustration: ORAMAR.

Looking northward across the gorge towards the crags of Supa Durig
between Jilu and Baz.

No. 6]

One of the most prominent of these ridges breaks down into a sort of
saddle, and surges up again into a rocky knoll before its final descent
to the plain; and across this saddle are hung the houses of Akra, with
the ruined fragments of its ancient citadel crowning the highest
point of the rocky ridge above. The bulk of the town overflows into the
ravine on the western side, where the houses are ranged round the sweep
of the hollow like the stepped seats of an amphitheatre. So steep are
the slopes on which they lie that the roof of each house serves as a
front yard to its next door neighbour, or perhaps one should say to its
neighbour on the next story; and the streets are all so narrow that they
are quite undiscernible from a distance, though one of them is in fact
wide enough to accommodate a rudimentary bazaar.

Akra does not boast a _khan_, but our _zaptiehs_ had already decided for
us at what house we were to spend the evening. We were to put up with
the _malmudir_, the departmental treasurer;[77] and one of our escort
had already spurred ahead to inform that worthy functionary of the treat
that was in store for him. This seemed rather an arbitrary proceeding,
but the _malmudir_ quite acquiesced in it. We met him at the entrance to
the town, walking out to make us welcome; a young and pleasant looking
man, who greeted us in French very hospitably, and guided us up the
steep stepped streets to his house on the saddle above.

None of the houses in Akra can be called in any way palatial, and
probably the _malmudir's_ lodging was a typical residence of the better
class. He occupied a single apartment on the first floor, the big
landing outside serving as his kitchen and servant's room, and the
ground floor consisting only of an entrance hall and lumber room. The
furniture of his living room (as usual) consisted only of carpets and
cushions. The windows were set very low down, so that one could see out
of them comfortably when squatting on the floor; and above them were
square recesses which served as receptacles for books.

He gave us a capital supper, consisting of fried eggs, rissoles wrapped
in cabbage, and a curry of meat and fruit. This was served in several
dishes on one large tray, round which we all sat cross-legged straying
from dish to dish with our wooden spoons. We had only one tumbler
between the three of us, which we all used in turn; and the meal was
concluded with the usual tiny cups of coffee.[78]

Meanwhile he poured out his woes to us: woes with which we could
heartily sympathize, and which afforded an instructive commentary upon
the progress of Turkish "Reform." He himself was a native of Aleppo, a
Syrian Catholic Christian. He had been duly trained for his post in the
Government offices at Constantinople; and had received his present
appointment in pursuance of that great Principle which was first
enunciated at the Revolution, recognizing that Christians and Moslems
should possess equal standing in the State. This admirable theory worked
fairly in Constantinople itself, and even at the more accessible
provincial capitals such as Smyrna and Aleppo; but alas for its
practical efficacy in such out-of-the-way districts as Mosul! It would
take at least a generation for reform to filter through here! Here all
the administrative offices had been long since cornered by the
invincibly corrupt "Old Gang;" a set of pig-headed reactionaries whose
dead weight nothing could shift. What use was it to tell them that
Christians and Moslems were equal, when the Koran expressly stated that
they were emphatically not? Why should they use the powers that were
their inalienable birthright to make true believers obey a Christian

Accordingly the poor _malmudir_ found himself cold-shouldered and
thwarted at every turn by the officials who were nominally his
colleagues; by the _cadi_, or judge of the district; by the _binbashi_
who controlled the police. They persistently refused to support him in
carrying out his own duties, particularly if the defaulters whom he
wished to bring to book chanced to be their own private friends; and
their continual snubbing of him had infected even his own subordinates
who obeyed him grudgingly and reluctantly. The _kaimakam_, his immediate
chief, had indeed always shown himself friendly; but even with his
support he felt he could make no headway; and, though still but new to
his office, he was already sick of the job. Indeed he had already
written twice to the _Vali_ begging to be transferred to Beirut or
Aleppo, but as yet he had received no answer. This however, we privately
thought, was not surprising; for Tahir Pasha never answers anybody; and
every official in his _vilayet_ would like to be transferred to Beirut
or Aleppo if he could!

Of course it is not at all improbable that centuries of subjection have
left the Christians in Turkey constitutionally unfit for positions of
authority: that, for all their superior intelligence, they are at
present as incapable of governing Turks and Kurds and Arabs as the
Bengali Babus are of governing Pathans and Sikhs. But even if the power
is latent in them, it is bound at first to be exercised in the face of
intense resentment; and this fact will long constitute a formidable
obstacle to any constitutional reform.

It seemed that the _malmudir's_ welcome to us was to some extent
accounted for by the distinction which European visitors would confer
upon him in the eyes of his carping colleagues. He was earnest with us
to remain as his guests for a second day in order that he might exhibit
us; but from this we begged to excuse ourselves as we could not spare
the time. However, _faute de mieux_, we might at least call on the
_kaimakam_, and thither our host conducted us as soon as we had finished
our coffee.

The _kaimakam_ resided in the Government House, a dilapidated two-story
building disposed around a forlorn courtyard and generally resembling a
_khan_. It was picturesque enough in a slummy way, and the groups of
soldiers snoozing under the lanterns in the deep entrance archway would
merit yet higher commendation. But there was little enough of
traditional "Oriental glamour" about the dirty white-washed walls; and
the governor's official audience hall resembled an ill-kept village
school-room. Conversation turned on the Italian war; a subject on which
all parties were profoundly ignorant; for we had heard nothing since
leaving Europe, and the _kaimakam_ nothing but what Government channels
allowed to filter through. The Government does not encourage the
dissemination of inauspicious news; and herein no doubt they act
prudently, for such news might easily excite the Kurds to break out in
reprisals against the nearest Christians. But it is certainly somewhat
amazing to discover how thoroughly authentic intelligence can be
stifled. They had heard of nothing but Turkish victories: have very
likely heard nothing else to this day.[79]

Two or three of the prominent residents dropped in to chat while we were
sitting there; but the resident whom we would most have wished to see
was unfortunately not among them. For among the inhabitants of Akra is
an old gentleman of the bluest blood in Asia--the last living descendant
of the Khalif Harun al Raschid the hero of the Arabian Nights. Akra
formed a part of the Abbassides' ancestral principality before they
attained to the Khalifate; and when their dynasty was overthrown by the
Seljuk Sultans in 1050, it was to their ancient patrimony that they
retired again. Now even this last possession has also slipped through
their fingers; and the poor old survivor, though his social status is
impregnable, lives on, as a private citizen of Akra, in very reduced
circumstances indeed.

Our final impressions of Akra were gleaned in the bazaar, and induce us
to rank it more highly as a centre of sport than of business. "Rabbi Mr.
Wigram" had needed some trifling repair to his boots, and had
accordingly sent them overnight to a cobbler. But when the boots were
returned next morning, the part that needed repair had been ignored
completely, and the repairer had only displayed his forethought by
appropriating the English nails.

Akra, however, in this respect had certainly shown more enterprize than
Mosul; for the _Sheikh Birader Effendi_ had previously tried his fortune
there. He had the prescience to allow three days for the job; but when
the boots were demanded on the morning of the fourth day they had not
even lost their nails. Friday (it was explained) had been the Mohammedan
Sabbath, and Saturday the Jewish, and Sunday the Christian; and no doubt
a Bank Holiday on Monday was only averted by the fact of the boots being
prematurely reclaimed.[80]

The second incident at Akra was of a still more farcical character. A
Kurd had come in from the mountains in order to purchase a mule, and
after a good deal of chaffering had traded off a pistol in exchange. The
seller had promptly proceeded to test the purchase money by the rather
drastic method of firing a bullet through his leg; and, on the accident
being reported to us, we had deemed it our duty to go and volunteer
"first aid." The patient, however, was quite content with his own
remedies, and not at all anxious to experiment in new-fangled treatment
_a la Franga_. He was plugging the hole himself with a mixture of butter
and cow dung which he was poking in with a stick! Probably this dressing
possesses some kind of antiseptic qualities; for it is much favoured in
the mountains, and somehow does not seem to prevent the wounds healing.
But perhaps the cure results not by virtue, but in spite, of the remedy,
for with these tough-fibred mountaineers "first intention" will hardly
be denied.




"It is real rough travelling in the mountains," says the Mosul resident
casually; and the traveller just arrived from Europe hears that innocent
observation with dismay. He has undergone a fortnight of _arabas_ and
_khans_ and _chóls_ and _zaptiehs_, and lo! that purgatorial experience
is dismissed as a holiday jaunt. It is therefore with some misgiving
that he enters those formidable mountains where he has been promised
enlightenment as to what "real rough travelling" means.

Let it be recorded for his consolation that he will learn the worst at
the outset. If he is not daunted at Akra he may quite fairly count on
winning through. The ascent from that town to the top of the pass behind
it is as nasty a bit of climbing as any in all Hakkiari, and he who
achieves it with credit may pass as a graduated mountaineer. The path is
not so nerve-shaking in appearance as some of the dizzy goat-tracks that
have to be encountered beyond it; but it is an epitome of every trial
which can be ordinarily presented in concrete form. It is steep and
rugged and rotten. It traverses slabs of sloping rock, and sheets of
slippery scree. Its surface is pitted like honeycomb with holes about
twelve inches deep and six or eight inches in diameter; and if any
better traps could be devised for tripping unwary pedestrians, or
breaking the legs of horses, no doubt they would be provided to make the
entanglement complete. Our _katarjis_ admit that it is bad, but regard
the badness as incorrigible. "Her nainsell didna mak ta road" (a fact
that is quite self-evident), and "if shentlemans are seeking ta Red
Gregarach" what better going can they expect?

From the summit of the pass (full three thousand feet above the plain)
we descend into a fertile valley, well watered by a mountain rivulet,
and feathery with lofty pampas reed; and an equal ascent on the further
side brings us to the top of a second range of mountains, from which we
can take our first survey of the wild land whither we are bound.

Beneath us lies the Zab valley, a chaos of hummocks and hollows all
flung together confusedly like the waves of a choppy sea; and the broad
bright ribbon of the river, almost equal in volume to the Tigris, picks
out a devious passage through a maze of interlacing bluffs. The opposite
side of the chasm is defined by a bold escarpment, scarred by the tracks
of winter torrents and buttressed by jagged limestone fins. And above
this, along the horizon, tower the great snow peaks of the Hakkiari
Oberland--the _rigidus Niphates_ of Horace; the spot where (according to
Milton) Satan first planted his feet when he alighted on the new-made

An iron-bound untamable fastness--a regular Brigands' Paradise--it is
known as the Ashiret country, that is to say, "the Country of the
Clans." And the inhabitants (to do them justice) are quite ready to
exploit its capabilities. Though nominally Turkish subjects they are
actually semi-independent; half borderers of the type of Johnny
Armstrong, half highlanders of the type of Rob Roy. Here the Sultan's
decrees are worth little without a visible backing of bayonets; and
every individual filibuster does that which is right--or more accurately
that which is expedient--in his own eyes. Such authority as exists
anywhere is for the most part in the hands of the tribal chieftains: and
the suzerainty of the Stamboul Government is just about as effective as
the suzerainty of the old kings of Scotland on the north side of
Stirling Bridge.

There are three degrees of security for a traveller in Asiatic Turkey.
There are districts where he is safe: there are districts where a
_zaptieh_ can keep him safe: and there are districts where a _zaptieh_
can't. Our knights-errant brought us down loyally to the village of Biri
Kupra, a ramshackle Kurdish hamlet which stands at the foot of the pass.
They escorted us on the next morning as far as the banks of the
river--but when we reached the ferry their responsibility came to an
end. Across they could not follow us. It was the Sheikh of Barzan's
country. And the _Hukumet_ felt some delicacy about parading their
officials in his domain. No doubt he would receive them
graciously--under favour and without prejudice; but there was no earthly
use in pretending that _zaptiehs_ could protect us there.

It is rather an adventure for a native to travel in the Ashiret country.
Supposing that he is at all worth robbing, he should sound his way
carefully as he goes. But Europeans enjoy more security. The tribesmen
have made the discovery that if a European is molested there is almost
inevitably a row. His ambassador prods up the _Hukumet_, and the
_Hukumet_ sends an expedition; and "a mort o' troops" march through the
country, and live at free quarters in the villages, and imprison a
number of people who are probably not at all to blame. Thus, though the
original aggressor is generally the last person to be directly
incommoded, he incurs quite a lot of unpopularity for "breeding such a
function" in the land. Even the most reckless marauder will think twice
before pulling his trigger upon a convoy that is travelling under the
protection of a European hat: and thus the wearer of the hat aforesaid
finds that every native who is travelling in his direction will tack
himself on to his party and "walk under his shadow" as far as their ways

We ourselves in the present instance had no cause for any disquietude;
for the Sheikh of Barzan is not only one of the most powerful but one of
the most respectable of the mountain chieftains, and is pleased to
regard all Englishmen as his particular friends.

The Zab, at the point where we struck it, is a broad, deep, rapid,
river; and fording is out of the question either for man or beast. The
Sheikh usually maintains a horse ferry, of the type we used on the
Euphrates; but this was temporally _hors de combat_, being reported to
have sprung a leak. We found it beached on the further shore, and it
certainly seemed to us that a little human ingenuity and two or three
gallons of tar were all that it needed to make it seaworthy; but all
parties seemed quite content to put up for a time with the _keleg_--a
little wattle hurdle buoyed up on four inflated skins.

The _keleg_ could only carry two passengers at a time, or alternatively
a very small cargo; and the beasts had all to be unloaded, and induced
(most reluctantly) to swim. Thus it took a long time to transport us;
but presently we were all loaded up again and proceeded about an hour's
march up a little lateral valley, till we reached the village of Barzan
at the foot of the great flanking hill.

Barzan is rather larger than an average Kurdish village, but boasts no
distinguishing feature to suggest its importance in the land. Most of
even the less powerful chiefs are housed in defensible "castles"; but
the Sheikh of Barzan "dwells among his own people," and his palace is
just an agglomeration of several ordinary houses joined in one. It
possesses no outer door at all (or none that we have ever discovered),
and we entered it by the simple process of stepping on to the roof, and
walking across to the summer reception room, a rude _belvedere_ on the
farther side. The Sheikh, it appeared, was absent. He had gone on a
visit to Amadia, and was expected back the day after to-morrow; but as
we were journeying westward we should certainly meet him next day.
Meanwhile we were made warmly welcome by his old major-domo the
Imaum[81] (an old friend of some of our party), by his young mollah or
domestic chaplain, and by several truculent-looking _duinhewassels_ who
formed part of his regular following.

We could not, of course, be allowed to pass by the house without eating;
but we specially begged of our hosts that (as we were anxious to push
forward) they would only give us such food as they could quickly and
easily prepare. And we hold it a genuine proof of their friendliness
that they actually did as we asked them, bringing eggs, bread, honey,
and tea. A big man, who wishes to do you honour formally, would consent
to no such curtailment. He would probably keep you waiting for hours
while he killed and dressed a sheep.

When we arose to depart the imaum and mollah went with us to a certain
tree beyond the village in order to "pour us on our road." All important
houses in these parts have some recognized point on the approach to
them, whither the owner proceeds to welcome and dismiss his guests. It
is recorded that on one occasion only (in order to meet the British
Consul) the Sheikh rode out in person as far as this statutory tree.

Our hosts had provided us with an armed escort--a "Boy of the Belt" in a
red turban, indicating that he belonged to the Sheikh's personal
body-guard. And under his guidance we proceeded for a day and a half up
the valley, a journey somewhat comparable to the progress of a beetle
across the ridges and furrows of a ploughed field. The hills are too
stony for cultivation; but here and there a fan of good soil has spread
itself out from the mouth of one of the gullies, and has been terraced
into grain plots by the inhabitants of the village hard by. These
villages (judged by local standards) may be called fairly
prosperous-looking, for the Sheikh is a merciful over-lord: but the
"roads" are consistently villainous; the "Far Cry" was an asset at

In our eyes the first of these symptoms is the one to determine our
sympathies. We can forgive much in this country to a chieftain who does
(as a rule) honestly exert himself to keep order; who has realized that
it pays him better to protect his vassals than to oppress them; and who
can be trusted to administer some sort of "Jeddart Justice" in fairly
equable fashion to Kurd and Christian alike. But by Turkish officials
generally we fear he is less appreciated. The Old Turks hate him with an
A because he is Able, and the Young because he is Autocratic: and we
cannot pretend to deny that he is sometimes "a bit of a handful," and
that his methods of administration are rather ingenuously Draconian.

As recently as in 1909 he was at open war with the Government, and in
this particular quarrel he was not very greatly to blame. The chief
sinners were Sabonji Pasha and some of the corrupt gang who were running
the administration at Mosul. They coveted some of the Sheikh's villages,
and the Sheikh refused to part.[82] Accordingly they trumped up a charge
that he was conspiring against the _Hukumet_; a charge which could
readily be made plausible, for there is not a chief in the province but
lets his tongue loose against the Government at times. The true test of
serious disaffection, however, is the courting of Russian assistance;
and the prominent Russophiles hereabouts are the Sheikh's particular
_bêtes noirs_.

At any rate the charge won credence. The Sheikh's friends were arrested
and imprisoned. An army was marched into his territory; his villages
were seized and occupied, and his wives carried off to Mosul. The Sheikh
himself for some months was a homeless fugitive in the mountains; and it
was then that he reaped the fruit of his good treatment of his
villagers, for not a man, Christian or Moslem, ever dreamt of betraying
him to his foes. Then, too, we first made his acquaintance, disguised in
mean raiment and attended by a single follower, lurking in some of the
Christian villages just beyond the limits of his domain.

But the scoring was not all on one side. Vich Ian Vohr boasted that the
race of Ivor would seldom take the field with fewer than five hundred
claymores; and the Sheikh of Barzan can muster certainly five thousand,
and possibly twice that force. These levies were no more discommoded by
the destruction of their "base of operations" than a swarm of the local
red hornets whose nest has been demolished by a stone. Three of the
seven regiments mobilized against them were captured _en bloc_ among the
crags, with arms, ammunition, and artillery; and no commensurate losses
were ever inflicted on the mountaineers.[83] Mosul was denuded of troops
in order to maintain the struggle and the inhabitants were in a frenzy
of terror lest the ubiquitous highlanders should swoop on the
defenceless town. But that the Sheikh shrank from a step which would be
bound to make the breach irreparable, it is indeed highly probable that
these would have proved no empty fears. He is said to have declared
roundly that if matters went much farther he intended to capture the
place and make it over to the British Vice-Consul! That gentleman was by
no means desirous of receiving so inconvenient a gift!

A peace was concluded at last; and the Sheikh was pleased to attribute
it very largely to the friendly offices of the British; though really
the principal factor was the intervention of a level-headed _Vali_ at
Mosul.[84] We did little more than insist that the Sheikh's wives ought
to be set at liberty and treated with fitting distinction; and that,
when the "conspiracy" of which he was accused had been officially
admitted to be non-existent, there was no longer any valid reason for
keeping the "conspirators" in jail. But the Sheikh is "easy with them
that have shown themselves easy with him," and those who take the
trouble to "'gree wi' Rob" are usually gainers on the deal.

We traversed one of the battlefields in the course of our journey
westward: a crater-like hollow in the wilderness, environed by steep
stony hills. Here one of the Government regiments encountered the Sheikh
and his army; for the Sheikh was present in person, though he left the
actual conduct of operations to a certain Abd-'l-Kadr who acted as his
"chief of the host." It was the first regular pitched battle, and the
tribesmen were somewhat awed at the prospect of engaging the _Hukumet_;
for which cause, in order to inspirit them, the Sheikh himself fired the
first shot. In Kurdistan the firing of a gun constitutes an appeal for
assistance; and the Sheikh, with fine dramatic instinct, fired his gun
straight towards heaven, appealing to Allah Himself. The event of the
day--the capture of the entire regiment, with three pieces of mountain
artillery--was thus a prodigious enhancement of his Holiness's[85]
personal prestige. Not only had he scored a valuable point in his
secular and temporal capacity, but he was held to have signally
vindicated his spiritual pre-eminence as well.

The Sheikh, in the eyes of his followers, is not merely a great tribal
chieftain. They believe in his hereditary sanctity: and his clansmen are
also his devotees. This fact is strikingly exemplified by an incident
which had occurred a little earlier, and which was related to us by Mar
Shimun, the Patriarch of the Assyrian Christians, who himself inspires
equal veneration among his own adherents.[86] A column in pursuit of the
Sheikh caught a small boy who had dropped behind the party, and demanded
of him with menaces which way the fugitives had gone. But the child was
as staunch as steel. "By the Holy Name of the Sheikh I will not tell!"
he answered. And that was all they could get out of him either by
coaxing or threats. The Turkish Captain was fortunately a kind-hearted
fellow, and did not ill-use his small captive; but he did not omit, in
releasing him, to draw a moral from his pluck. "We shall not make much
of this war," he observed, with a smile to his officers. "You can judge
from this example with what sort of folk we have to deal. This child is
in my power utterly. None would call me to account if I killed him. And
yet, knowing this, he defies me; and swears by his Sheikh as by a god!"

It was on the evening of the second day after we had quitted Barzan that
we drew near to the hamlet of Suryi, planted in the re-entering angle
formed by the confluence of the Oramar river with the Zab. It is a mean
little place, consisting of some twenty cabins which spill themselves
down the face of a steep brae a little way back from the river; and at
the top of the bank stands the castle of the village Agha--a rudely
built fortified residence like a second-rate border peel tower. It was
here that we looked to meet the Sheikh, for it is a recognized
halting-point between Amadia and Barzan; and, crossing the Oramar river,
we bent our way towards the tower.

It was about five o'clock in the evening that we reached the first house
in the village, and the crowd of men and horses which was grouped around
the castle was a proof that the Sheikh, "with his tail on," had already
arrived from Amadia. News of our approach had preceded us; and we were
met by an embassage from his Holiness bearing an invitation (or should
we say "command" under the circumstances?) to partake of his hospitality
for the night. We dismounted at the castle door amid a throng of wild
retainers, and at the top of the rude stone staircase we were greeted by
the Sheikh in person; who led us into the "_belai_"[87] (or
_belvedere_), which served him as his temporary audience hall, and
motioned us to seats on a mattress spread immediately opposite his own.

It was a prodigious condescension from so great a man that he should
have come to the stair head to meet us. Most great chiefs will contrive
to be absent from the room when European guests are admitted, that they
may not have to rise to receive them, and so seem to admit inferiority.
But presently the Sheikh vouchsafed us a still greater honour--one that
perfectly staggered his followers--by even condescending to sup with us.
To think that a man of his holiness should actually eat with two

Abdul Selim, Sheikh of Barzan, is quite a young man of about
twenty-eight years of age. Like most mountaineers he is of medium
height, with a slight and active figure and a grave but pleasant face.
He was dressed in a white fez and turban, white shirt and trousers, a
black gown trimmed with red, and a green cloak over all. His retinue
consisted of between thirty and forty retainers--"Boys of the Belt,"
distinguished by their red turbans, and positively festooned with
bandoliers. Many of these fellows must have been carrying quite two
hundred rounds of ball cartridge, and their rifles--Sniders and
Martinis--were piled around the walls of the _belai_. All showed most
obsequious deference towards their young chieftain; and it may give some
adequate conception of the reverence which they entertain for him to
record the fact that he himself, in his own proper person, is a _ziaret_
or place of pilgrimage "within the meaning of the Act." By his own
immediate followers his commands are obeyed instantly and without
question; and we have not the least doubt that had he ordered us to be
shot, instead of entertaining us graciously, the sentence would have
been executed unhesitatingly, Europeans though we were.

An instructive example of their diligence occurred shortly after our
visit. A long-standing feud between the Christians of Tkhuma and some of
their Kurdish neighbours had recently blazed into activity; and the
latter, rather unsportingly, were endeavouring to persuade their
co-religionists to join them in a _jehad_ or "holy war." A _jehad_ is an
ugly business: and we were much relieved when the Sheikh of Barzan
interfered strongly to quash it; refusing himself to sanction it, and
prohibiting his vassals from joining in. He was moved to this action, we
verily believe, partly by a wish to oblige us, and partly by his own
prejudices in favour of law and order; for he had no particular cause to
show favour to the Tkhuma _maliks_, since they had refused to shelter
him when he was a fugitive in the war.

Deprived of the Sheikh's countenance the _jehad_ proved a rather damp
squib. But for a moment it seemed just possible that some of his vassals
would break out in spite of him. And scenting insubordination in a
certain Tettu Agha, who was about the biggest recalcitrant, the Sheikh
dispatched one of his henchmen in order to emphasize his commands. The
envoy entered the Agha's castle and was duly received in audience. He
delivered his chieftain's message, but the Agha proved sullen and
obstinate. He reiterated his remonstrances, but the Agha refused to give

"The Sheikh's word must not be broken," concluded the plenipotentiary.
"The Sheikh has sent me to you to tell you to stop at home."

"And what do I care if he has?" retorted the Agha mutinously. "Let the
Sheikh send his orders to others. I don't intend to obey."

The Sheikh's man sprang to his feet, and flung himself upon the rebel. A
minute later he burst from the room, brandishing a dripping dagger, and
leaving Tettu Agha dead on his own dais.

"The Sheikh's word shall not be broken," he proclaimed.

This incident was generally regarded as going a little far perhaps; but
no one thought of protesting. The lamented Tettu had never been exactly
popular; and what else could he expect, anyway, if he "wadna do what
M'Callum More bade"?

[Illustration: THE HERIKI VALLEY.

The mountain at the head of the valley is a shoulder of Sat Dagh. The
terrace fields of a mountain village appear in the lower corner.

No. 7]

The very rooms in which we were sitting, sipping tea and smoking
cigarettes with his Holiness, had been the scene of what Major Dugald
Dalgetty would call "a very pretty little _camisado_" during the
progress of the late campaign. The castle, as a frontier post, was a
position of some importance; and it was a shrewd loss to the Sheikh when
the Agha whom he had placed in charge of it betrayed his trust to his
foes. The Agha was fully aware that his _seigneur_ might feel sore about
it. He kept the place strongly garrisoned, and posted around it a double
line of sentries and watch-dogs. The approaches on two sides are barred
by the rivers, unfordable and icy cold in winter; and on the third side
rise precipitous mountains, barely climbable even by day. But one night
in a winter blizzard, when the very dogs had crept away to seek shelter,
the Sheikh's men seized their opportunity and wormed their way up to the
fort. The howling of the tempest drowned the noise of their picks as
they cautiously loosened stone after stone from the walling; and at
length they formed an opening large enough for one man to creep through
at a time. When the next morning broke the treacherous Agha lay dead,
with every man of his garrison around him: and the gentleman who was
acting as host to the Sheikh and ourselves this evening had been there
and then appointed successor. Presumably he was a "sure man."

Our supper consisted of bowls of whey, and of rice with pieces of
chicken. The Sheikh and eight or ten of his principal henchmen ate with
us, all helping themselves out of the common dishes with wooden ladles
and spoons. They all ate extremely sparingly; but this was probably out
of etiquette, the Sheikh himself setting the example because he was
feeling indisposed. Upon another occasion, when the Sheikh came to call
upon us, his four attendants were credited with having consumed a whole

To his own men the Sheikh spoke but rarely, though pleasantly and often
smilingly; and they never seemed to speak to him unless they had been
first addressed. With us (as he spoke only Kurdish) he had to converse
through an interpreter; and the matters debated for the most part
concerned the petty politics of the countryside. He bewailed the
universal lawlessness, which, he said (we fear rather inaccurately), was
as bad for Kurds as for Christians; and observed that it was strange
that neither England nor Russia seemed capable of bringing in reform.
"You have gone to India," he protested, "and you stay there, though you
are not wanted. Why cannot you come to us who do want you? You would be
welcomed everywhere here."

Such feelings are well-nigh universal among all the more reputable
chieftains. They would appreciate any strong Government, no matter of
what nation or creed. The only folk really content with the present
condition of Asiatic Turkey are those who have merited hanging: and we
grant that this class would poll strong.

Hearing that we were returning to England within a few months at the
latest, the Sheikh volunteered to accompany us--of course with an
adequate "tail." He would call on the Archbishop of Canterbury and get
him to establish schools in his villages; and then he would go on to see
King George at Windsor, with whose aid he made no question he could
arrange for the settlement of Kurdistan. Alas! We could hold out no
hopes. But the suggestion was made in dead earnest; and we fear that
when we did start homewards we were careful not to let the Sheikh know.

Finally he desired to consult us medicinally. He was troubled with an
affection of the eyes[89]--in point of fact trachoma--and begged us to
give him some medicine which was capable of affording relief. We could
do nothing for him at the time; but shortly afterwards we were able to
bring up an English doctor from the C.M.S. hospital at Mosul and let the
Sheikh have the benefit of his professional skill.

It then transpired that in the interval he had consulted a native
practitioner; a wandering Yezidi medicine-man who had recently drifted
to Barzan. The Yezidi had diagnosed the watering of the eyes as due to
an excess of moisture behind the eye-balls, and had proposed running a
red-hot skewer through the Sheikh's head from temple to temple, in order
to dry up the "superfluous moisture" at the fountain head! This
horrifying suggestion was both made and received quite seriously. But
the Sheikh, very reasonably, had elected to consult the English doctor
first. We did not feel much surprised at his Holiness's reluctance to
submit to this treatment: but we did feel some admiration for the heroic
assurance of the Yezidi doctor in proposing it. Being pierced through
the temples with a red-hot skewer would not be a pleasant way of dying;
but it would be luxury compared with the sort of devices which the
Sheikh's followers might be expected to practise on the operator, by way
of obtaining consolation for the patient's untimely decease.

The Sheikh was, we fear, rather crestfallen to find that the English
doctor also wished to operate; and stipulated that he should first see
the operation practised on one of his train (who had nothing the matter
with him at all). The _vile corpus_ was quite willing; but unfortunately
the doctor jibbed at it, and eventually decided to prescribe a slower
and less certain treatment. We hope that this will prove adequate: but
we should have felt sorely tempted to perform a sham operation on the
volunteer, in order to overcome the Sheikh's reluctance to submit
himself to the real one.

There was no room for us to lodge that night in the Agha's castle. The
place was already more than full with the Sheikh's train and the Agha's
household. Accordingly his Holiness presently dismissed us, coming again
to the stair-head to do so, and sending a gentleman cateran to guide us
to a house in the village which he had ordered to be reserved for our
use. Here he came next morning to see us a little before daybreak, to
make his _adieux_ on departure, and to return (as he phrased it) the
call which we had made on him the night before. This was, however, only
a formal call, and lasted a very few minutes. He was anxious to start
his day's journey, and soon rode off towards the Oramar ferry with his
picturesque ruffians in his train.

We did not start for another hour. We had first to consume the breakfast
which our host the Agha had brought down for us; and, moreover, as all
the Sheikh's train had got to be transported across the river, it would
obviously be at least an hour before the ferry was available for our
use. Furthermore the Agha could urge that we had no cause whatever to
hurry. We were bound for the little village of Erdil, reported only a
three hours' journey; and we had much better wait "till the sun had got
into the valley" and had warmed up the frosty air a little so as to make
riding more pleasant. In the alternative he suggested that we had better
not go at all, because the road was infamous, and riding absolutely
impossible. "Horses couldn't go, and mules couldn't go, and Englishmen
couldn't walk." But we were pledged to visit Erdil, so we over-ruled
this objection. Moreover, we felt it highly impolitic to admit that
there was any place in existence where "Englishmen couldn't walk."

Erdil is a tiny derelict Christian village situated in the Oramar valley
a little above its confluence with the Zab. All the surrounding villages
are inhabited by Kurds and Moslems; and as from year's end to year's end
it is hardly ever visited by any outside Christian, Rabban Werda had
begged us earnestly at least to give it a call. Moreover we might make
discoveries. Erdil was reputed to possess some "old books" which it was
willing to show to Rabbi Dr. Wigram, and had sent us one Ibrahim, an
Erdilite, who promised to lead us to the _cache_. "Old books," in
ninety-nine cases out of one hundred, are apt to prove not worth the
seeking. But a scholar would never forgive himself for missing the
hundredth chance.

The Oramar river is a noble stream, not inferior to the Zab in volume,
gushing forth from a grim rocky portal which notches the Zab's mountain
wall. We were assured that no European had ever yet traversed its
gorges; and the assertion is certainly corroborated by the fact that the
best map of these regions leaves this corner perfectly blank. In view of
the repute of the road we felt half inclined for an instant to leave our
animals at Suryi, and call again for them on returning. But we thought
this would be too great a temptation for even a friendly Agha, and
finally resolved to take them along.

Crossing the Oramar by the ferry, and keeping up the left bank of the
river, we entered almost immediately a magnificent rocky ravine. On
either hand rose gaunt and tawny precipices fully two thousand feet in
altitude, scored all over their upper faces with the lines of the
contorted strata, and thinly clothed near the bases with gnarled and
stunted oak scrub. A deep, green, rapid river filled the whole of the
narrow invert, and this channel was thickly cumbered by a selection of
some of the very largest boulders that we have ever seen. Apparently
there are many deep pockets just behind the faces of the precipices; and
the water collecting in these, splits away the outer wall when it
freezes, and sheds the gigantic fragments into the chasm. Not a few of
these fallen masses must have been as big as the Marble Arch.

The pathway did not belie the report we had heard of it at Suryi. It
scrambled along the steep bank above the river; narrow, broken, and half
strangled among blocks of fallen stone. Three times that morning we had
to unload the mules, hand the packs across the obstructions, and load
again on the further side. Our red-turbanned cateran, who still led us,
would pause now and then in the pathway, indicating the landscape at
large with a flourish of his arm like a showman, and regarding us with a
triumphant grin. But whether he wished to express his admiration of the
romantic scenery, or his appreciation of its defensive capabilities, or
merely to apprise us that Erdil lay absolutely on the summit of
everything--as in fact it did--we were not quite able to decide.

This gorge was a few months later the scene of a notable exploit,
achieved by the Sheikh of Barzan at the expense of those _hostes humani
generis_ the Heriki Kurds. This horde of wandering robbers, the bane of
all settled communities, are wont (as already related) to migrate each
spring and autumn to and fro between Mosul and Urmi. They can travel by
several routes; but all routes converge upon one point--the "Bridge of
Rocks" over the Zab a little above Suryi. Here the Zab, as it issues
from the mountains, is throttled (like the Wharfe at Bolton) into a
narrow crack between shelving slabs of rock. The slabs are deeply
undercut, and the depth of the crack must be considerable; for at one
point, where a big rock table rises in mid current, the great river can
be crossed in two strides!

Here the Heriki always pass over, at a point where the width of the
river is about twenty-five feet. They build a bridge for themselves
every spring, and it lasts till the next winter floods. This is the sole
piece of honest and useful work which is ever achieved by those
incorrigible plunderers; and out of it accordingly a remorseless Nemesis
has fashioned "a whip to scourge them." Here the Government posts its
troops when it wishes to collect their taxes; and if they have injured
any of the Sheikh of Barzan's villages, he exacts compensation here.

Now the previous autumn, on their downward journey, the Heriki had
lifted two or three thousand sheep belonging to some Christian villages.
The villagers appealed to the English, and the English to the
Government; but of course there was not the least chance of obtaining
any redress. The following spring, however, when the Heriki were nearly
due again, we received a visit from the Sheikh of Barzan, who himself
(though he did not say so) seemed to have a crow to pick with the tribe.
"See here, Effendim," he argued; "the _Hukumet_ can never get those
sheep for you. We know they haven't got troops enough to get their own
taxes this year. Now supposing it were suggested to the _Vali_ that _I_
should be appointed to collect those taxes. Perhaps it is even possible
I might get back some of the sheep."

The Effendi shrugged his shoulders, and did not think much would come of
it; but the astute old _Vali_ of Mosul saw the humour of the notion at
once. It was quite true he had given up hope of getting the Heriki's
taxes. He even anticipated difficulty in getting the Sheikh of Barzan's.
This scheme would lubricate the bearings most admirably in both
directions: and the Sheikh was appointed tax-collector _pro hac vice_ by
return of post.

The Heriki came down to their bridge, rejoicing to find it unoccupied.
They crossed, and pushed on to Suryi, and the Sheikh broke down the
bridge behind. They entered the Oramar valley; and a few miles up they
found the "Boys of the Belt" barring it, with the Sheikh's _Ban_ and
_arrière Ban_ posted on the crags around them; and received a polite
demand-note from his Holiness the _Fermier Général_ requesting immediate
payment of taxes, sheep, _and costs_.

Even a Government regiment could hardly have got so much without
fighting; but the Sheikh had thrown his net so deftly that his captives
could not even kick. There was nothing for it but to pay, and look
pleasant, and this the Heriki chiefs did with what grace they could. We
confess that we doubt grievously whether any large percentage of sheep
got back to their original owners; but all the country was jubilant to
see the original biters so badly bit.

We held our course up the valley for about three hours--and a bittock;
and at this point Ibrahim the Erdilite cheerfully observed that we were
just half way. As he had previously assured us that the total distance
was three hours we were provoked to "pour cold words on him." All sorts
of things get "poured" in Syriac: you "pour" your guest into bed; you
"pour" your enemy into prison;[90] you "pour a howl" at a man when you
shout at him from a distance; and to "pour cold words" upon him is to
"give him a bit of your mind." However, we could not blame poor Ibrahim
very severely for a fault which he shares with all his nation--a total
inability to conceive any measurement of time.

Soon after we bore to the right and entered a tributary valley; a
narrower gorge, dark and chilly, where the pools still lay hard frozen
all along the shadier side. The path rose more steeply now with a spiral
twist to the right like the final turn of a corkscrew. We were rising on
to the top of the precipice which had overshadowed our morning's march.
The last pitch was the steepest of any; but here the ground was less
rugged, and a few sketchy outlines of terraces tried to pose as
cultivated fields. At last we emerged on a tiny plateau, a sprocket on
the slope of the mountain, and beheld the dozen rough stone cabins which
compose the village of Erdil.

Erdil is not the remotest spot on earth; for beyond it we could descry
another and yet remoter Kurdish village some five hours further up the
vale. But it is at least the remotest spot we are ever likely to get to.
A site for an eagle's eyrie rather than for an abode of man. Thrust out
on a little green tongue between two abysmal valleys it commands a
superb panorama of the mountains which lie to the northward; range
succeeding to range in seven successive _sierras_ till they culminate in
the snowy crests of Sat and Jilu, no less than fourteen thousand feet
high. And in all that craggy wilderness there was scarcely a vestige of
habitation. No wonder the villagers were excited by the advent of
visitors from the world beyond.

The populace poured out to greet us. They conducted us to the house of
the village _rais_ or head man. They installed us in his one room in the
seat of honour by the fireplace; and thronged in eagerly after us, men,
women, and children to kiss our hands. They were by no means an
ill-looking crowd, and many of the girls were quite well favoured; dark
haired, but fair complexioned; sturdy and deeply bronzed. The men wore
the usual mountain dress;[91] and the women were clad in figured blue
smocks and turbans, girt at the waist with blue sashes, and wearing
their long open sleeves knotted together behind them in order to keep
the ends out of the way. The usual full dress of the mountain women
consists of a smock reaching from the neck to about midway between knee
and ankle; and a jacket of the same length worn over it, folded across
in front, and slit up as high as the waist on either side. The whole is
girt round with a sash; and on their heads they wear kerchiefs, or (in
the Tkhuma district) little round caps edged with silver coins. Their
hair is worn down their backs, plaited in three, four, or five long
pigtails, with a six-inch horse-hair tassel worked in at the end of each
plait. The smocks are usually of some figured material, but striped
stuff is commoner for the jackets; and the colours which they chiefly
favour are Indian red or indigo blue. Usually they go barefoot in their
villages, but when they are on a journey they wear a sort of brogue like
the men.[92]

The _rais'_ house was a typical sample of the ordinary mountain cabin;
walled with rough stone rubble, and floored with beaten earth. The low,
flat, smoke-blackened ceiling was formed with unsquared poplar stems,
upon which was spread a bed of brushwood[93] roofed over with a thick
layer of mud. The mud of course cracks in dry weather and the roof
becomes very leaky; but it can be quickly consolidated with the little
stone roller which is kept on the roof for the purpose, and thus be made
once more watertight as soon as the rains return. The _tanura_, or
fireplace, is a beehive-shaped hole dug out in the centre of the
floor,[94] and the smoke finds an exit (eventually) through a hole in
the roof above. There are no windows whatever, and the doorway is a very
low one; and thus in most cases the smoke-hole serves the inmates for
skylight as well.

Poor Erdil! Forgotten and isolated, and steeped in poverty and
ignorance, it supplies an apt illustration of the conditions of life
which prevail among the Kurdish-owned Christian villages in the
mountains. Conditions which were commoner still before the advent of the
Archbishop's Mission, and which are still all too common in certain
outlying districts like Bohtan. Indeed, in many respects Erdil deserves
to be congratulated. Politically, as the inhabitants themselves
admitted, they have no great cause to complain. Their owner is the Agha
of Suryi; and consequently their over-lord is the Sheikh of Barzan, who
is nicknamed "the Sheikh of the Christians," because he treats his
Christian vassals so well. His tolerance secures them from persecution,
and his vigorous rule from raiding; and they gave him the same
testimonial that was given in old days to King Brian Boru in Ireland,
that you "might safely leave a gold bracelet on a bush by the road in
his domain."

But religiously they were left destitute. Their Patriarch seemed to have
forgotten them. All the surrounding villages were Moslem, and their
nearest co-religionists were a long day's journey away. They had their
church and their service books, and a parson's glebe and cottage; but
thirty years had elapsed since last they had a priest of their own in
the village, and it was but seldom that even a wandering deacon had
visited them during all that time. For thirty years they had no one to
celebrate their services, no one to marry them, no one to baptize their
children, no one to bury their dead; and one of the first requests that
they proffered to "Rabbi Mr. Wigram" was that he would at least recite
the Church of England burial service over the graves of those who had
died within the last few years. Surely it is no small credit to them
that under such circumstances they remained even nominally Christian;
and we feel some satisfaction in recording that a little time after our
visit their Patriarch found himself able to send them the priest whom
they desired.

The "old books" which they had promised to show us proved (as we had
more than half expected) to be only the usual Church Service books.[95]
They had kept them jealously hidden in an underground cave in a
vineyard; knowing vaguely that they were somehow sacred, but otherwise
quite ignorant of their contents, for, of course, not a man in the
village could read. The cave must have been quite a dry one, for the
books had not suffered in any way; and we cannot doubt that on our
departure they were again committed to the _cache_.

The church was a well-built stone edifice, dating possibly from the
sixteenth century; and though disused for so long a period, it was kept
clean and in good repair. Within it that Sunday evening we recited our
English Evensong; the villagers standing round reverently and joining in
the Amens, the only word they could understand. The "_Sheikh Birader
Effendi_" must confess that this strange little service was to him one
of the most impressive in which he has ever shared.

The wild rough life of the villagers was reflected in the supper that
they provided for us. Where else might one dine on ibex collops and
bread made of acorn meal? The latter sounds somewhat unpalatable, but
was in fact not at all bad eating. The queer little oaks which grow in
Kurdistan bear very large acorns almost as big as small walnuts; and
these are not nearly so bitter as English acorns but rather like
chestnuts in taste. Often they are roasted and eaten as we eat chestnuts
in England; but generally they are ground to meal for breadmaking, and
mixed with an equal proportion of barley meal. The natives grow a little
wheat likewise, so wheaten bread is not quite unknown to them; but of
this, as is to be expected, they get only a very small supply.

It was while we were breakfasting next morning that Erdil produced its
final originality in the way of diet. Some hunters had come in
overnight, and had brought with them the carcass of a boar. They had cut
him up for convenience of transport; but his huge hoofs (as big as a
cow's) and his bristly iron-grey hide proved that he must have been a
truly formidable monster: and for five piastres (ten pence) they sold us
a big chunk of the meat. His hide was the most valuable part of him, and
for this they hoped to obtain as much as two mejidies (eight shillings),
since it made such excellent shoes. It seemed little short of a crime to
allow so magnificent a pelt to be so ignominiously disposed of; but we
did not see, if we purchased it, how we were to carry it away.

Mindful of the difficulties we had found in bringing our beasts up to
Erdil, we determined in taking them down again to try and lighten their
loads. Our own personal belongings were consigned to two stalwart
porters, who undertook to guide us by a short cut, practicable only for
pedestrians; while our beasts were to make the long circuit and meet us
at the mouth of the gorge.

A few weeks later, on the Flushing packet, the steward eyed that baggage
dubiously, and opined we should need "two strong porters" to carry it up
to the train. At his words there arose in our minds a vision of two
grizzled Syrians carrying all that baggage on their shoulders, for three
hours, with scarcely a breather, across the face of a precipice which
would have made the steward's hair stand on end! As a matter of fact
each load (though it certainly looked overwhelming) totalled up to about
sixty pounds, which is the load of a porter on the Alps.

Half an hour we ascended gradually and slantingly along the face of the
mountain; and then the ground vanished from under us with a suddenness
which took away our breath. The cliff broke away from our toes sheer
down to the river beneath us, a drop (to compute it by guesswork) of
something like two thousand feet. It was a grand, if somewhat a dizzy,
spectacle; but our guides never checked for an instant. They skipped
over the lip of the precipice, and went tripping along a ledge on the
face of it, as if they considered such travelling the most ordinary
thing in the world. This then was the real "three hours' route" which
led from Erdil to Suryi, the path where "horses couldn't go, and mules
couldn't go, and Englishmen couldn't walk."

With regard to the horses and mules we endorse the description most
cordially; but for ordinary capable pedestrians it was not so very
terrible after all. True, it looked rather a fly-on-the-wall business
when seen from a little distance; but the ledges, if narrow, were firm,
and there was generally plenty of hand hold. Moreover the rocks
themselves, though they had looked absolutely vertical when seen from
below the previous morning, all proved to be more or less sloping and
not quite destitute of brushwood; so it is possible one might have
recovered oneself even had one slipped from the path. The worst bits
were at the beginning and end of our traverse, where the track led over
steeply tilted slabs. Here our European nailed boots refused to bite on
the surface, and the porters in their hempen brogues got across much
more happily than we. These hempen brogues are almost universally worn
by the hillmen, and are admirable footwear for rock work; but they need
patching every evening to be ready for the journey next day. Even
English boots, however, cannot long stand this sort of travelling. Let
them be made ever so strongly they are cut to pieces in three months.

Half way across the face of the precipice, while pausing to rest a few
minutes, we were able by means of our glasses to see our horses coming
on behind. They were then just turning into the main valley, having
accomplished about half their journey; and though we had given them an
hour's start at Erdil, we had fully two hours to wait for them at the
mouth of the Oramar gorge.




The valley in which Barzan lies is a great fold in the earth's surface,
running due east and west from Jezireh on the Tigris past Amadia to the
mountains on the Persian frontier; a distance of about 120 miles. It
forms a sort of huge natural moat to the mountain citadel of Hakkiari;
and the counterscarp is represented by the series of lower parallel
ridges which rise behind Akra, Sheikh Adi and Rabban Hormizd,
overlooking Mosul plain.

This great trench appears continuous, but is, in fact, occupied
successively by four distinct rivers which break into it from the
northern mountains, run for some little distance along it, and then
break out again towards the south. The Zab takes possession at about
mid-distance and runs eastward for thirty-five miles or so, its section
thus roughly coinciding with the jurisdiction of his Holiness of Barzan:
and the extreme eastern section is occupied by the Neri river, which
descends from the Persian mountains to unite its waters with the Zab.

Our road does not get any easier as we enter the Neri valley. All travel
in fact is impossible anywhere in the neighbourhood of the stream. The
track keeps high up on the slope of the Sat range, crossing one
tributary gorge after another, and the incessant ascents and descents
are formidably rugged and steep. The path is exceedingly narrow, and the
slope not far short of precipitous: and the traveller feels rather as if
he were riding along the gutter of a steep-pitched roof.

We had companions on the way; for the Heriki Kurds were in the act of
conducting their usual migration from Mosul plain to the upland pasture
of Tergawar.[96] Thus we were constantly passing their large flocks of
sheep, and parties of their well-armed men-folk; a feat that was
sometimes made ticklish by the exceeding narrowness of the road. As far
as we were concerned, they were harmless companions enough. The "Boy of
the Belt" whom the Sheikh of Barzan had sent with us was ample security
against any attempt being made on our mightinesses; and they seemed as
pleasant and jolly a set of brigands as a man need wish to meet. It is
true that we had a slight misunderstanding with one particular shepherd;
but that was misapprehension pure and simple, and brought about no evil
results. The lad was so picturesque an object as he strode up the pass
in front of his sheep, clad in his rough cloak with long gun, shepherd's
crook, and pipe all complete, that we begged him to do us the favour of
standing still for a moment, in order that we might secure his portrait.
Our friend, however, was new to the camera, and (very pardonably)
thought that it was a lethal weapon. He fled like a hare to the cover of
the nearest rocks, and prepared to shoot us thence; nor could any
blandishments make him relax his attitude of suspicion. Recent events
had made him distrustful of anything that looked Governmental.

If, however, the Heriki were just friendly travelling companions for us,
they were regarded much in the light of an annual migration of wolves by
all the villages on the road. These were all standing to arms till the
danger should have passed--the sheep penned in folds close to the
houses, the women all within doors, and the men with guns in hand, much
inclined to shoot at the stranger first and ask whether he did not mean
mischief after. A little _yourt_[97] that we purchased at one place was
only handed out to us through one loop-hole while the master of the
house kept us covered with a gun from another. Albeit when we had duly
handed over coin of the realm in payment, that gentleman became
effusively friendly and apologetic--through his closed and barred door.

Really, these precautions were not uncalled for. The Heriki carry off
everything that happens to fall in their way, as incidents already
recorded to testify, and "stealis and reifis" with as much impunity as
the "common thiefis of Liddisdail" in old Sir R. Maitland's day.

    _They plainly throw the country rydis,_
    _I trow the mekil deil thame gydis!_
          _Quhair thay onset,_
          _Ay in thair gait,_
    _Thair is na yet nor dor thame bydis._

Poor fellows, they were rather out of humour too, because things had not
been going quite well with them. Hitherto, it had been easy to avoid all
the attentions of the tax-collector by a proper timing of their
migrations, coupled with a little _bakhshish_ to officials; and at the
worst they could always go over the border to Persia out of the
jurisdiction. Now, however, their condition had greatly deteriorated.
Persia had gone so much farther off owing to recent changes, and Ottoman
officials were to be found even in the summer pastures which had been
free of them before. Thus does a "rectification of frontier," such as
Turkey was then carrying out at the expense of Persia,[98] bring
unmerited trouble upon quiet folk.

We stayed for one night in the village of Sat, which gives its name to
the whole range. The place is Christian (Nestorian), but its inhabitants
have a name for quarrelsomeness and love of intrigue that makes them a
proverb among their not very peaceful nation. Such at least is the
description given of their character by their own Patriarch, who is, we
suppose, the highest authority possible on such a matter; and we give
the legend illustrative of the fact, as current among the nation and
recounted to us by his Grace himself.

A woman of Sat was once on a journey, near to a Nestorian village
unnamed, when she met an old acquaintance on the road outside. This was
no less a person than Satana himself, who was sitting on a stone,
weeping bitterly.

"O Brother, what is your trouble?" said the sympathizing lady.

"I am broken-hearted," sobbed the poor fiend; "I have been trying to sow
strife in this village for seven years and have not raised a single
quarrel in that time; I must give it up."

"Cheer up! let me try my hand;" said the lady; and the couple went
together to the village, where they found a bridal party just leaving
the church. What measures were taken by the woman history (prudently)
sayeth not; but within half an hour bride and bridegroom were pulling
one another's hair, and the friends of each were taking part in a very
pretty fight.

"Now you can stay here and be happy," said the woman of Sat to her

"Thank you," said Satana, "But while you are here, I really think my
presence would be superfluous."

One is completely outside the power of the Government in the Barzan-Neri
district, but not quite out of touch with its officials notwithstanding.
In one of the remotest of villages, in a deep gorge running up into the
Sat range, and called Bi-Kar, we actually found a Government mudir. It
is true that he had no power; and any collecting of taxes that took
place in the neighbourhood was done by wholly unauthorized agencies; but
there he was, presumably as a testimony to the existence of the

Like most Ottoman officials, he was delightfully courteous to the chance
visitor; and in this case perhaps the welcome was not mere politeness,
but real joy in speaking to an educated man once more. For years in that
remote glen, he had enjoyed no conversation with any but policemen and
Kurds. His story was typical of those of a good many of the young
Ottoman official class. Educated at Stamboul, in the college for
Government servants, he had (like most of the younger men of his day)
been attracted by the "Young Turk" propaganda, and its hopes for a
reformed and revived Ottoman Empire. Something brought his reforming
sympathies to light; and a prompt order from Abdul Hamid dispatched him
to this corner of the earth, with a black mark against his name, and no
chance of promotion, or any sort of career.

Three years passed in that exile, and then the revolution gave him some
hope of a change. But the years that had elapsed since then had only
been evidence that he was forgotten by the new régime as thoroughly as
the old one could have wished; and here was he, an educated and capable
man, settling down while still under thirty as a soured, disappointed
minor official. He was one of the many tragedies of Ottoman rule.

Laboriously enough, we pushed on for three days' travel, a daily ascent
and descent of 3000 feet marking our progress. The tracks were always
feasible enough for mules, though as viewed from a distance they had a
painfully dizzy aspect; and the deep gorges between each pair of ridges
were places of marvellous beauty. The valley of Heriki lives in our
memory as perhaps the most exquisite of all. We descended the crags and
steep slopes of the mountain side--coming down 2000 feet in half an hour
on foot, though of course the animals might take four times as long--to
a glen that was one garden, thick with walnut and poplar trees,
interspersed with figs and with vines trained from tree to tree, all in
the glory of their best foliage. Trees flourished here luxuriantly from
the soil and climate, and were respected for the one reason that makes a
Kurd respect anything; for the whole glen is one great cemetery. As its
name implies, it is the original home of the nomad tribe with whom we
had just been journeying. From this spot there set out the five
eponymous ancestors of the five septs that make the tribe to-day; and
hither every man of name and fame is borne for burial among the great
ones of his house. There is much romance about this most turbulent of
nomad tribes; and it is not diminished by the fact that (if legend tells
true) they were Christians once; in the days when Nestorian bishops,
nomad like their flocks, had for diocese "the tents of the Kurds." One
relic of their ancient Christianity they are said to bear with them
still (we follow the account given by old Nestorian priests), namely,
the head of a Christian martyr, one of the several saints George of
Eastern legend. This is the palladium of their tribe, and is borne about
in a chest either by the principal chief among them, or by some holy
mollah in the clan.

A three days journey from Barzan takes the traveller to the domain of
the great rival of the chief of that ilk, viz. the Sheikh of Shamsdin,
who has his palace at Neri. This man is at least as powerful as his
neighbour; and indeed Obeid-Allah of Shamsdin, grandfather of the
present Sheikh, had thoughts of carving out for himself a separate
principality, a buffer between Turkey and Persia. He was able to invade
the latter country in force, and to besiege the city of Urmi for some
weeks in the early "seventies." He failed, however (though the success
of the Sheikh of Koweit in an analogous scheme shows that it was not
impossible under favourable circumstances); and he and his son
Abd-l-Kadr were removed to Constantinople as state prisoners, while his
second son, Saddik or Zadok, was left as head of the tribe. Shrewder
than his father, Saddik was content with the reality of power, and
accumulated wealth by tobacco smuggling on the most magnificent scale.
His caravans went down to Persia, often 100 mules strong, in open
defiance of the "Regie" officials; and a large portion of the proceeds
was invested in rifles, smuggled from Russia to Urmi. If the troops in
Trans-Caucasia were not much libelled, many of them came from their
barracks, in exchange for _vodka_!

A _kaimakam_, and an inspector of the "_Regie_" (the Governmentally
recognized tobacco monopoly) both reside at Neri; and are generously
provided with apartments in the fine house built by the Sheikh out of
the profits of the industry which their official duty is to stop. But
both of these domestic animals are most gratifyingly tame.

Not all of the Sheikh's income went in rifles, or even in _bakhshish_.
He once wrote politely to the author, asking for a recommendation to an
English bank, as he had some savings to deposit with them. The writer
named a bank or two; and knowing that his Holiness expected ten to
fifteen per cent. on money ready at call, did not think much would
follow. But eventually some thousands of pounds did actually find their
way to Lombard Street; for this prince of tobacco smugglers was in very
solvent circumstances indeed! A Kurdish brigand chief with a large
banking account in England sounds a wildly impossible conception. Yet
William Hickey records how another wholesale smuggler hailed a
homeward-bound China clipper in mid channel, and purchased all her
skipper's private stock of tea with a cheque for £800, which was
accepted without the least demur. So such things were certainly done in
the England of 1770!

Saddik was a terrible oppressor of Christians in his early days, and his
deliberate murder of one particular bishop, whom he had invited to his
house as a guest, shocked even the robust Kurdish conscience.[99] Years
brought wisdom, however; and he realized that to massacre or dispossess
good cultivators was bad economy. So such as remain are allowed to live,
though it must be owned that their condition is but very little removed
from serfdom. Among these properties of his is an Archbishop. The second
dignitary of the Nestorian Church, the Metropolitan Mar Khanan-Ishu,
resides in the Sheikh's country. He lives of course in his own monastic
house, and is allowed the use of his own property; but he is practically
a prisoner in the hands of "that Great One," maintained much as the
Norman adventurers in Italy maintained certain Popes, as the readiest
instrument for governing their own subjects.

Both officially and personally, as hereditary Sheikh of Shamsdin, and as
an Imaum of eminence, Sheikh Saddik had a great reputation among
Moslems, and knotty problems came to him for solution. Thus it was at
his "_diwan_" that a perplexed tribesman presented himself one day with
a fine cock under his arm, and the query, "What ought to be done with
this fowl? It has taken to preaching Christianity!" He was asked for an
explanation, and told how three times in his hearing the bird had
proclaimed, "_The_ religion is the religion of Jesus." And sure enough
when the cock was produced in evidence it immediately repeated at the
top of its voice "_Din Din el Seyidna Isa_"; or at least what all
present unanimously interpreted as being those words. That it was a
miracle none doubted: but was it of Allah, or of Sheitan? If the latter,
of course the owner could wring the cock's neck and the incident would
be closed. If the former, ought he, a good Mussulman, to obey it and
turn Christian?

The Sheikh considered the matter; and gave an answer that at once showed
some skill in casuistry, and was as bitter and well merited a gibe at
Christian divisions as one could wish. The miracle was declared to be
from Allah; and the cock must in no wise be slain, but preserved as an
honoured and sacred fowl. However, there were many sects of Christians,
and each one claimed that its particular version of Christianity was
"_the_ religion of _Seyidna Isa_." The cock had given no evidence as to
which was the right one; so, until all Christians should agree together,
or till the bird should give another and more explicit oracle, no true
believer need do anything. It is an episode that shows many aspects of
the Oriental mind.

Sheikh Saddik was a ruffian, but a fine and strong character withal. His
son and successor, Taha, has inherited all his ruffianism without the
stronger qualities. At the age of nineteen years he weighed precisely
that number of stone; and when a day's journey was unavoidable, it took
two sturdy mules, with specially padded saddles, to bear his gross
carcass along the way. He has the bad taste to wear European clothes (or
what he takes to be such, corduroy trousers and butcher boots), and
presents a strong family resemblance to the "Claimant." His younger
brother, Sheikh Musa, once fell foul of the British military Consul from
Van, in a way that has since been vigorously impressed on his memory.
The officer in question, accompanied by the writer, arrived at this
place in the spring of 1909; and the party was of course entertained as
guests of the house in the absence of the master. We had arrived at
noon, and had sent the horses out to pasture and rest, when one of the
_katarjis_ came running up with tidings much resembling those of the
servants of Job, and in much the same state of mind as that of those
unfortunates. The Sabaeans, represented by the personal servants of the
Sheikh, had come down on the animals as they were feeding, and
disregarding all protests had carried off every one!

There was of course a tremendous storm, for a deadlier insult to guest
and British Consul could hardly be imagined; and the tame _kaimakam_ was
required to procure the instant return of the stolen property. He, poor
man, was grievously perplexed between his fear of the Consul on the one
hand, and his fear of his proprietor on the other. Between the two, he
collapsed in something very like tears, ejaculating "What can I do? They
were the Sheikh's men who took them." He did send out his two
_zaptiehs_, with a consular kavass, to bring back the beasts; but as
soon as they were outside the village, those two worthies sat themselves
on the ground and informed the kavass that, _kaimakam_ or no _kaimakam_,
they were not going to do anything against the Sheikh's followers if
they knew it!

The animals were returned that evening; and it came out that Sheikh Musa
had suddenly conceived the idea that he would give a picnic to his
womenkind; wherefore the order "bring horses" had been issued, and
obedience to it was expected.

"There are no horses, your Greatness," the servants had said.

"No horses? There are horses!" pointing to the meadow where the Consul's
animals were at grass.

"But those are the Consul's, your Greatness."

"The Consul's! Am I Sheikh, or am I not?"

So the horses were brought; and it is to be hoped that the trouble that
followed, and the fine that had to be paid, was a salutary lesson to

Of late years, a family quarrel has rather diminished the power of
Sheikh Taha. His uncle Abd-l-Kadr, son of Obeid-Ullah, returned from
Constantinople with the claim to be (what he is by all laws of
primogeniture) the Head of the House. Fighting followed between the two;
a proceeding which would not have done much harm to anyone had the
Kurds only fought among themselves. Naturally, however, the poor serfs
of Christians (whose allegiance both parties claimed) suffered as those
do suffer who have the misfortune to find themselves between the upper
and nether millstones.

Both Sheikhs were arrested, but a compromise was arranged. Abd-l-Kadr
agreed to accept a liberal allowance from the family funds; and to live
in Stamboul, the city he knew, rather than set up as a savage chief in

A day's journey from the Sheikh's house at Neri brings the traveller to
the land of the Christian "_ashirets_" of Jilu and Baz.

_Ashiret_ is a word that strictly means "tribe" or clan; but as
descriptive of status it is contrasted with "_rayat_" or subject; and
means that the bearers of the name pay tribute (when it can be got out
of them) and not taxes. The Ottoman Government is only now extending its
power, as a practical thing, into Kurdistan at all. All the Mussulman
dwellers in the land were until lately "_ashiret_," and much in the same
position as the Highlanders "beyond the line" in days previous to the
"forty-five." A fair proportion of the Christian dwellers there,
happening to have arms, are "_ashiret_" as well.

Those who are unarmed are in the unpleasant position of having to serve
two masters (both of them abominably bad ones), and are "_rayat_" both
to the Government, as far as its power goes; and to the Kurdish chiefs,
as far as they can enforce theirs. The whole position is comprehensible
to those who live among the people; but to the foreigner, it appears to
be (and is) the negation of law, order, and all that we mean by good
government. It is the old life of the highlands of Scotland, complicated
and worsened immensely by the division between Christianity and Islam.

Still, among the _ashirets_ who carried arms, whether Christian or
Moslem, the position was by no means intolerable a generation ago.
Besides it was extremely picturesque. The various tribes fought one
another freely; and of course the feuds usually, though not always,
followed the religious and racial line of division.

Still, arms were approximately equal; and the Christians, though
outnumbered, had strong positions to defend, and were of good fighting
stock, as men of Assyrian blood should be. So, until Abdul Hamid's day,
the parties were fairly matched on the whole; and generations of
"cross-raiding" had evolved an understanding in the matter, capable of
summary statement as "Take all you like, but do not damage what you
leave; and do not touch the women." Thus, live-stock were fair loot, and
so were carpets and other house-furniture, and arms of course. But the
house must not be burnt, and standing crops and irrigating channels not
touched, while a gentlemanly brigand would leave the corn-store alone.
Women were never molested when a village of _ashirets_ was raided, until
a few years ago. And this was so thoroughly understood that it was not
necessary even to guard them; a custom which by an interesting parallel
prevailed on our own Scotch border in the fourteenth century.[100] When,
however (as sometimes happened), a party of Kurds at feud with other
Kurds, plundered a Christian village that was "_rayat_" to the chief of
the other party, girls might be carried off, with the other live stock.
Even so, however, wives were sacrosanct.

Of late years things have changed for the worse in this respect. Women
are not always respected now; and the free distribution of rifles among
the Kurds has done away with all the old equality. This was done, when
the late Sultan raised the "_Hamidie_" battalions; partly for the
defence of his throne, partly perhaps with the idea of keeping the
Christians in subjection. Now when to odds in numbers you add the
additional handicap implied in the difference between Mauser and
flint-lock, the position becomes impossible; and the balance has since
inclined steadily against the Christian tribes.

The fights of old were not usually very deadly, for though a good deal
of home-made powder was burned, these mountaineers are tough, and hard
to kill. The writer has known an instance of a Kurd who was shot through
the body in a tribal skirmish; after which he walked home, and observed
to his wife, "Beastly nuisance this: here is a brand-new shirt, and two
holes in it; and it will want washing too!"

Jilu is a curious little mountain canton--a fan of narrow gorges
descending from the rugged Galiashin range, the highest peak of which,
Supa Durig, approaches 14,000 feet. Their union forms the Oramar River,
that considerable tributary of the Zab mentioned in the previous
chapter. Nothing but "terrace cultivation" is possible on the bare rocky
slopes; and the earth that composes the fields has usually to be carried
to the spot where the terrace wall has been built to retain it, in
baskets on men's backs. A spot has to be chosen which is reasonably safe
from avalanches; else the poor farmer may find, some spring morning,
that not only his crop, but his whole field, has been swept away in the

Men of Jilu have a harder life than even the average mountaineer of
Kurdistan; and hence it is, no doubt, that they have developed the
_wanderlust_, which is far more strongly marked in them than in most of
their fellow countrymen. They wander everywhere in search of work,
though they always drift back to this strange little canton at the end.
Starting with nothing but the clothes they stand up in, and very ragged
clothes too, they apparently never starve, and occasionally bring back a
fortune. Men are to be found in Jilu who helped to build the forts of
Port Arthur; and who corrected the writer on certain points connected
with that fortress when the siege was being discussed in the patriarch's
_diwan_. Who served guns on board the American battleships off Cuba; or
have (goodness alone knows how) found some charitable person to give
them a university education in America. One of these wanderers brought
back £3000; or, to be accurate, brought it to within a few days' journey
of his home, when his luck deserted him at last, for he met a party of
Kurds, and the robbers made the haul of their wicked lives. It was the
cruellest trick of fortune; but he owned to have made the money in one
very doubtful trade that these fellows practise; and we could not avoid
the feeling that the thief by violence had as good a right to the spoil
as had the thief by fraud.

The trade in question is this. Jilu men have made the discovery that
folk in Europe and America have much sympathy with an ancient and
struggling church, and are willing to give considerable sums to assist
it. So they collect for "schools and orphanages." Men go by the dozen to
gather in money, nominally for these objects; but actually spend it on
their own needs alone. American police know the trick well, and indeed
have invented the term "fake-priest" as descriptive of this branch of
the great profession of roguery.

One can feel some sympathy with the rascals who thus answer the old
question "why did Allah create fools, if not for the profit of wise
men?" They are in absolute and utter poverty; and they know that by
going to foreign parts, and there "slinging a yarn" that they would not
expect their own people to take seriously, they can gather sums that
mean wealth to them. It is a great temptation; and it will continue till
such time as charity and common sense begin to run in double harness,
and charitable folk at home refuse to extend to these Orientals the
trust they would never repose in one of their own countrymen.

Further, tried by their own standards, these Orientals are not cheating.
An Eastern does not understand the administration of a Trust. What you
give, you give; and may Allah reward you for your charity. But, when you
have given it, it is yours no longer; and why should you complain if its
owner finds that he needs it for something different to his original
intent. You gave it for a school? Well, he really meant to use it for a
school then; but afterwards he found that he needed it for his own
family. It is his; why not? Narrow-minded man, why use the ugly word

So, while sympathizing with these rascals, we advise no man to give
them money; or even to trust the interesting documents they produce,
sealed with the patriarchal seal. Forgery is singularly easy in a land
where the seal is the sole signature, and any seal-cutter can copy it
from an impression.

So the "_Jiluayi_" wander; reproducing to-day in all details the seller
of relics who rode to Canterbury with Chaucer. One enterprising member
of the fraternity made a considerable sum by selling in four Russian
villages the four feet of the ass on which our Lord rode into Jerusalem;
and only got into trouble when the temptation to supply the demand of a
fifth village for another foot overpowered his prudence. Another, in
India, suffered even worse things. He had gathered about £300 from
various places; mainly by his absolute refusal to go away from anywhere
till something was given him. But in Malabar he was arrested as a
Russian spy, and dragged before a zealous native magistrate. Knowing, by
experience at home, the danger of telling the truth to any official, and
particularly of owning to the possession of money, he declared that he
was a very poor man and had not a penny in the world; thus sticking to
the lie, when the truth would probably have secured his safety. The
magistrate handed him over to the police to be searched, and they of
course found the gold upon him, and appropriated the whole. Then they
reproduced their victim in court, saying that as far as they could
ascertain he had spoken the truth, and that he really had no money. On
this, he was discharged.

The central shrine and cathedral of the district of Jilu is the ancient
church of Mar Zeia, a building remarkable enough to merit a word of
description to itself. In structure it is not very different from any
other mountain church; being a mere rectangular box of stone, with a
roof vaulted within and flat without, and arranged according to the
usual type of Nestorian building, which we must describe later. It is
its contents that are unique.

For centuries, Jilu men who have gone "to countries" (or foreign parts
generally) have made a practice of giving gifts to this shrine on their
return; and it, unlike other churches, has never been plundered by any
foe, for a reason that will presently appear.

The consequence is that the building contains such a collection of _ex
voto_ offerings as can hardly be matched in the world, reaching back for
one is afraid to say how long. The most modern feature is a grand
collection of American clocks, alarm and otherwise, that hang on a cord,
touching one another, all across the church. Bells, usually of small
size (for half a mule load or 125 lbs. is the strict limit of weight
that can be transported in one mass), are hung everywhere; long strings
of them decorating the curtain that veils the sanctuary. Vestments for
the priests, of Russian cut and make, hang all along the walls; while
ostrich eggs and coral speak of the connexion with Malabar. Finally,
away at the back, and covered thick with dust, stand rows of "China
jars," said to have been brought back thence when this Nestorian church
had its bishops at Pekin and Singan in the eighth century, and which
connoisseurs would probably think cheap at their weight in gold.

Strangest perhaps of all, if genuine, is the charm that has preserved
all these treasures from the spoiler. A _zaptieh_ had accompanied us
from the seat of government at Neri, and had entered the church with us,
reverently removing hat and shoes at the door. He now approached the
young bishop who was showing us his treasures, and said "My Lord, you
will allow me to see the handkerchief of Mohammed the Prophet?" "By all
means," said the bishop; and going to a recess in the wall, he produced
thence a bundle of silk wrappings, which were removed one after the
other, revealing a piece of plain linen, inscribed with Arabic
characters. This either is, or is supposed to be, a _firman_ of
protection for this church, issued by the Prophet himself, and written
on his own napkin. Whether it is, whether it can be, genuine is not for
us to say.[101] This is certain at least; that every Kurd believes in
its genuineness: and the _zaptieh_ bowed before it with the utmost
reverence, placed it on his forehead and eyes for a moment, and finally
returned it, with an offering to the shrine which represented about a
week's pay. Genuine or not, the fact of its existence has saved this
church and its contents from plunder many a time and oft, and will
probably continue to do so; though it must be owned that at one terrible
outbreak of Moslem fanaticism in the year 1847, not even reverence for
the name of the Prophet saved a similar document in the hands of the
Patriarchial family from destruction, the members of the family from
slaughter, or an even wealthier church from plunder.

We were the guests of the Bishop of Jilu, Mar Sergius, in his very
primitive palace; and as we had arrived at noon, spent a good deal of
the afternoon "holding _Diwan_" in his reception room--sitting that is
in the seat of honour on a low _diwan_, while all the village came to
us, and talked of anything and everything that occurred to them. Many of
course desired medicine, for any Englishman is a doctor by hereditary
right; and always carries with him good "English salt," which is
quinine, as well as other drugs.

So, "distribute medicines manfully" is the rule for the traveller here,
whether you chance to know anything about the trade or not. Fever you
can recognize at any rate, or the patient will recognize it for you; and
if you have not the ghost of a notion what the disease is, look doubly
wise and administer something harmless and bitter. The nastier the drug,
the more it will stimulate the faith of the sufferer, and that, after
all, is the essential thing. Speaking generally, you will cure more
efficiently when you do not know what the trouble is, than when you do.
Only remember certain rules. First, that to give mild aperients to an
Oriental is a sinful waste of good drugs; and diminishes faith in
foreign medicines, which is worse. Second, if you go by book at all,
give three times the "book dose" to an Assyrian, and five times the
amount to a Kurd; for then you may produce some sort of effect. This
instruction was given to the writer by men of experience when he was new
to the country, and it staggered him for the moment, but he was
reassured. "Yes," said a worthy member of the Syrian nation, "it is
very difficult to poison a Kurd at all; and if you succeed, it does not
much matter."

Still, we own that we have once known an Oriental suffer from an
overdose. He had applied to a Syrian friend for an aperient; and the
friend (who called himself _hakim_ on the strength of three months spent
as bottle-washer in an American Mission dispensary) had given him "a
strong medicine." Both parties were startled at the result; and as the
writer turned up opportunely next day, he was called in as a consultant,
and found the victim in a very reduced state indeed after a night spent
upon the rack!

"What did you give him?" he asked the _hakim_.

"Croton oil," said he.

"And how much?"

"Oh, not much; only a teaspoonful."

(N.B. half a minim is the maximum allowed by the British

Persian tea-spoons are not as big as English, so perhaps he had not
given much more than thirty times the full dose. The consultant gave it
as his opinion that as the patient had survived twenty-four hours, he
would recover; and the event justified his wisdom.

There was one case brought to us that afternoon, however, that was quite
beyond our skill. A man came with a tale of woe expressed in a mountain
dialect that we could not follow; and the bishop had to be impressed as
interpreter. He heard, and collapsed in a fit of laughter, gasping out,
"He wants a medicine to quiet his wife's tongue, Rabbi."

"Tell him I am not a worker of miracles, my lord," said we.

The most important subject of local politics that came up for discussion
was an attempt recently made by a reforming local governor to take a
census of the men of Jilu. A Government official had come among them
with papers and ink, and proceeded to write down all their names. When
they asked what it was all about, he explained that it was the elections
to the _Mejlis-i-Mebussan_, the Turkish Parliament; and that if their
names were written down properly they should have a member all to
themselves, who should be a man of Jilu, and should live in
Constantinople and draw a fine salary, just for sitting in the capital
and representing their grievances to the Sultan.

The idea seemed a good one, and folk gave in their names freely, till
the census was nearly finished. But then it occurred to them that
perhaps they had been hasty, and that these lists might be used for
other things than the election of an M.P. What if they were a basis for
taxation? or even worse, for the drafting of their young men to the
army? The result was that a "strong deputation" went after the
Government mudir (who, by the way, was an Armenian), confiscated all his
papers and burnt them. He was disposed to think that he was fortunate in
that he had not been himself thrown on to the pile.

A casually minded Government took no notice of the little incident,
which after all only concerned an Armenian underling.[102] Had it been a
real Turkish official, there would probably have been trouble for every
one concerned; and a good many more besides.



Jilu, take it all round, is the most savage bit of primæval chaos in all
the "_ashiret_" districts of Kurdistan; yet a short journey beyond it
brings us to a district which is in a much more advanced stage of
geological development, the strange plain of Gawar. Starting in the
morning from one of the glens which lie absolutely under the peaks and
crags of Galiashin, our caravan has to traverse one of the grandest,
narrowest, and rockiest gorges even in this land of wild ravines--the
magnificent gorge of Ishtazin. And yet by the evening, after crossing a
range that much resembles our own Sussex downs on a large scale, we are
camping on an absolutely level plain of great extent--the "_Gawar_."

This word, presumably Kurdish, appears to mean a level plain surrounded
by mountains; and it is used, singly and in combination, more than once
in the neighbourhood. But our new camping-place is "_the_ Gawar" _par
excellence_, "The Level." It is the bed of an ancient lake, and so has a
general family resemblance to the "morfa" of Tremadoc in North Wales,
though the hills surrounding it are considerably higher than Snowdon;
and the change from mountain to plain is so abrupt and obvious that one
can say definitely to a few yards where one leaves the one and enters on
the other. The point is further emphasized, by an old pebble beach.


From the top of the "Staircase" pass immediately above Amadia. The
mountain in the centre is Ghara Dagh on the southern side of Tkhuma. To
the left is Galiashin, the dominant peak of Jilu; and Sat Dagh further
off upon the right. The crags in the middle distance rise up out of the
Zab Gorge.

No. 8]

The plain measures about sixteen miles by ten, and is in form an oval
with pointed ends, the long axis running nearly north and south. It is
absolutely treeless, save for a few poplars round the villages that are
scattered over its face. Though but little of the plain is cultivated
it is all magnificently fertile; for the black alluvial soil grows
anything that will endure the long winter and deep snow natural at an
elevation of six thousand feet; and the corn and melons of Gawar are
famous throughout the land.

A considerable river, the Nihila or Nile, wanders down the centre and is
joined by several others from the high mountains at the sides. This
river on leaving the plain flows northward through a deep and fine gorge
to join the Albak; and their united streams constitute the Zab.

Being thus a dead level, Gawar looks as easy a place to cross as well
can be. We see our destination before us perhaps twelve miles away, and
nothing seems to be necessary but to make a bee-line for it. In reality
few things are more difficult than crossing this or a similar plain,
unless you know the way or have a guide who knows it. The river is
bordered with wide swamps; and such fords as exist upon it (and they are
not many) can only be approached from certain directions: while the
stranger is constantly liable to stumble (like the luckless Duke of
Monmouth) on "rhines" or irrigating channels; the muddy bottoms of which
are unfordable for animals, except at certain points known only to the
villagers around.

A fertile level like this should swarm with villages and carry a large
population; but of the villages that once were here (almost all of which
were Nestorian Christian) many are now absolutely deserted, and others
have become Kurdish and so do little work in the world. This has been
brought to pass, not by the villagers abandoning their Christianity--for
that is so rare a thing as to be almost unknown--but by what foreign
residents characterize as "the hermit crab Act."

This process is as follows. Given a village of Christians, with Kurds in
the neighbourhood: a party of Kurds (men who have probably made their
own village too hot to hold them, or who have quarrelled with their
chief) come and settle at free quarters in the place as "guests." The
villagers cannot turn them out; for the intruders are armed, and they
are not; and stingless worker bees can hardly expel sting-bearing
drones. If they appeal to the Government for redress, the official is
bribed by the intruders to do nothing (the _bakhshish_ being extorted
from the villagers); and the answer is made "have not these Mussulmans
the right to reside where they like?" If any man does head an attempt to
evict them, a "dead set" is made at him till he is worried into leaving
the village and his land; and this the Kurds immediately appropriate,
forcing the other villagers to work it for them without pay. The village
mill is usually one of the first places taken, and a liberal percentage
of the corn goes as a fee for the grinding of it. Meantime, what the
presence of these fellows means for the "_rayats_" in the way of petty
oppression, and what the consequences are to the girls of the village,
anyone who has some knowledge of human nature can be left to guess for

If the plan prospers other Kurds join; and the leader of the gang
presently builds him a small hold, or kala (again with the forced labour
of the villagers), and at length the bulk of the Christians are worried
out of the country. Only a few are kept, as serfs, to till for their new
masters the land that they and their fathers once owned; and what was a
Christian village has become Kurd.

If ever one sees a Kurdish village which has good fields, and signs of
good cultivation, one can be sure that it was originally Christian, and
that it has gone through this process.

Apart from the brutality of the proceeding, the matter illustrates the
impossibility of the Turk as a modern governor, unless he is most
radically reformed and supervised. One presumes that what the Government
wants is a set of peaceable, tax-paying subjects. Yet here, not one
village, but scores of villages, inhabited by peaceable _rayats_ who do
pay their taxes and ask for nothing better than to be left alone under
Ottoman rule; are allowed to be emptied, and filled up by Kurds who let
the land go to waste, who never pay taxes at all, and can be trusted
_not_ to fight for the Turk in any real emergency.

However, the officials of the day benefit by the _bahkshish_ that the
Kurds pay them. And here we touch the real root of the matter. The Turk
is not deliberately aiming at the extirpation of his Christian subjects.
He has no deeper policy in his mind than just to go on _eskissi gibi_,
"in the same old way," and let the officials fill their pockets in
peace. As a man he has many virtues; and there never was an Englishman
yet who dealt with him, and did not come to like him: but as a governor
he is execrable; in that he is too lazy to see that things go well, and
allows an unspeakably corrupt Civil Service to ruin the land as it
likes. Will he ever do the one thing that can save him, and allow
himself to be administered by some European Power, as Egypt has been?
Perhaps a quotation from "Odysseus," shrewdest of European observers of
Turkey, can give the answer. "'This country is just one big dish of
soup,' said the _Vali_, 'and nobody has any real use for soup except to
eat it. We eat in the old-fashioned way, with big spoons; you want to
come along with gimlets and bore holes in the bottom of it, and suck.
Then you propose that eating with spoons shall be abolished as old
fashioned, because you know that we have no gimlets, and don't
understand sucking.'"[103]

A level plain like Gawar, with a Government headquarters and garrison at
its town of Diza, ought to be as easily controlled a _kaimakamlik_ as
one could wish. And so it is normally; though an Albanian _kaimakam_,
Haidar Beg, did rouse rather a storm when he put a recalcitrant Kurdish
chief on a donkey, face to the tail, and rode him in that fashion all
round Diza town. Still he had the place in order; "Not a dog barked
without leave when Haidar ruled," is the local saying to this day.

Some time after his departure, however, the district was the scene of
one of the very few attacks on a British Consul that have taken place in
the land. Lawless as the country is, the foreign resident is generally
safe; because such trouble follows for everybody if he is interfered
with. In twelve years, the writer has only known five deliberate attacks
on Europeans (though plenty were planned and did not come off); and
only one of the five had fatal consequences,--at least to the European.
Three of these attacks were on British Consuls--"for the fellows will go
wandering into such dangerous places, just to make maps," as a harassed
Ottoman official explained.

In this case the British Consul, accompanied by the writer, had reached
the plain of Gawar from Neri. They were "escorted" by a _zaptieh_
provided by the Sheikh of that place and belonging to his tribe; and as
it was just subsequent to the incident of the stolen horses, escort and
travellers were not on the very best of terms. _Zaptieh_ and muleteers
declared that they would stop, early in the afternoon, at a Kurdish
village called Alikhan, at the entry into Gawar plain; while the
Englishmen had ordered that a push should be made for Diza. The
_zaptieh_ waxed so insolent in the dispute that he was summarily
dismissed. He dashed off in a fury to the village, and called on the men
of the place to come out and plunder the Franks as they passed. These
poured out like bees at the call, and a scuffle resulted in which the
baggage mule of the party was captured with the bulk of its load. Only
the maps and photographic negatives were salved: and the two Englishmen
and their kavass were pursued by the crowd for about half an hour, deep
into the swamps towards Diza; while the _zaptieh_ (apparently the only
man who had a gun) kept firing steadily on them till his cartridges gave
out. Perhaps the most discreditable side to the whole affair was that he
failed to hit even one of the party in that period; but it was a Turkish
Government rifle that he was using; so that probably, under the
circumstances, the target was the safest place. The Consul's Serbian
kavass begged most earnestly for permission to try "just one shot" in
answer; but the Consul knew too well what the result of that one shot
might be, and did not wish to kill.

We must add that prompt redress was given on this occasion. Soldiers
were dispatched to the guilty village from Diza without delay. The
stolen goods were restored; and the two muleteers brought in as
prisoners. But the _zaptieh_, the principal culprit, had escaped.

The _kaimakam_ had a taste for melodrama, and had the prisoners brought
before him immediately. He called upon the Consul for his statement, and
then demanded of the prisoners what they had got to say.

These worthies at once paraded an arm (said to be broken) and a black
eye (the genuineness of which was past question), and poured out a flood
of eloquence. They had marched all day, and were very weary; and had
begged of the Consul to let the exhausted beasts feed for one little
half-hour before pushing further on. This he had refused, with oaths and
vile abuse; beating deponent the while till his arm was broken, and he
lay helpless on the grass. Assault on the Consul? Before Allah there had
been no such thing. How could they lift a hand against his greatness?
Had not the _zaptieh_ fired shots? Nay, he had but interceded with the
Bey in all humility; and the Bey had turned on him and deponent (raising
his head painfully from the grass) saw the _zaptieh_ flying for dear
life, while the Consul pursued him, firing shots at him from a revolver!

It was a fine coherent tale, and well told; but the witness's dramatic
instinct carried him away in the course of it, and he gesticulated
freely with the "broken" arm.

The _kaimakam_ rose with the majesty natural to one who combines the
offices of judge and jury, and delivered the judgment of the court. "The
English do not tell lies; but ye are liars and the sons of liars. Bring
fetters, and hale these scoundrels to the dungeon forthwith." Fetters of
pantomimic magnitude were brought accordingly; but while they were being
put on, the _kaimakam_ marred the grandeur of the proceedings by
suggesting to the Consul that as he had now two captives on whom he
could wreak his vengeance, perhaps he might be disposed to pardon the
third, who would be hard to catch!

He was somewhat disappointed on finding that the impracticable
Englishman was willing to pardon the two who had been caught; but
disposed to insist that the worst criminal must be punished! However,
the fugitive was caught and imprisoned later.

As for the two muleteers, they were released in an hour or so at our
request; and came to express their hope that the little unpleasantness
would not cause any diminution of the customary _bahkshish_! It was not
their fault, really; they had been possessed of the Devil at the time,
and that was surely excuse enough for poor simple men!

The seat of a governorship of low grade, like a _kaimakamlik_, is always
a home of oppression in Turkey. "Jack in office" is not an unknown thing
elsewhere; but he is usually not worse than annoying, and is sometimes
amusing. In Turkey, however (particularly in the out-of-the-way
districts), there is nobody to exercise a wholesome discipline on Jack,
or to care much what he does in small matters.

Further, all the officials at such posts are low down in the scale,
whether they have been long in the service or not; and so they have
either no character to lose, or else a fortune to make. An elderly man,
who has made his money and his name, is sometimes as good a governor as
the people are in a condition to appreciate; but not so the junior. Thus
it comes to pass that British Consuls of experience say that they have
known good _Valis_ fairly often, and even decent _mutaserifs_
occasionally; but a good _kaimakam_ is a _rara avis_ indeed. We have
known two in ten years; both of them being Albanians, and both
gentlemen. But in each case the barbarian was not very far below the
surface--any more than he is in an Englishman sometimes.

Thus in a small centre like Diza of Gawar, even the European traveller
may occasionally meet with discourtesy; particularly since the
Revolution has given the petty official an excuse for saying: "We are
civilized and constitutional now; therefore we need not treat these
beastly Franks with any more consideration than our own people."

We have even heard of such things as the commandeering of the beasts of
an English traveller "for Government service." The act implies that the
beasts and their owner are marched off with military baggage or
something equivalent, for an unknown distance and time. The horses
(which are the owner's livelihood) are usually not released till they
are broken down with overwork, and are never paid for. "Government does
not pay."

In the case referred to, the English traveller appealed, of course, to
the _kaimakam_; and received a courteous apology, and an assurance that
the soldiers should be ordered to return the animals. But the sergeant
in charge of the party, while admitting that he had received the order,
declared that he would see the _kaimakam_ hanged before obeying it; so
matters did not seem to be appreciably advanced. On the following
morning, however, the traveller's servant turned up, with the horses,
and a broad grin.

"Well done, Yukhanan! How did you get them?" said the traveller.

"Why, Rabbi, I found that my enemy Ratu the Kurd was in the town with
three mules. So I just said to the soldiers, 'there are much better
beasts down there; and no one will mind if you take them, while there's
bound to be a row if you take these.'"

So all ended well; though the Englishman, who thought he had carried
matters with quite a properly high hand, was humiliated on hearing his
servant observe to the universe at large, "Nevertheless, had Rabbi Mr.
X. been here, _he_ would have thrashed those soldiers as they deserved
long before this."[104]

The plain of Gawar is apparently rather a favourite haunt of those whom
the Oriental will speak of (very rarely, and nervously) as "the Good
People"--the Jann of the "Arabian Nights." One cave in particular, in
the hills that border the plain, is notoriously teeming with them; and
any man who enters there usually comes out mad, if he ever emerges at
all. Once, a few years ago, a party of thirty Kurds undertook its
exploration, and went in well armed. They did not penetrate far,
however, for presently one of the leaders saw, or thought he saw,
_something_; and superstitious panic being one of the most infectious
things under the sun, the whole party bolted instantly. Being rather
ashamed of themselves when they reached the open air, they impressed an
unfortunate Christian to go and see what it was that they had run away
from; and when he (not unnaturally) demurred at going alone to
investigate that which had just put thirty armed men to flight, they
simply gave him the choice between doing that and being shot

Under this pressure he entered, and vanished for some hours; at the end
of which time he crawled out--mad as his predecessors had been. In time,
however, he recovered more or less, and told a marvellous tale; though
how far the poor fellow really believed it, and how far he was giving
his tyrants their money's worth, so to speak, is a problem past our

He told how he had followed the cave till it widened out into a spacious
meadow, down the middle of which meandered the stream that flowed from
its mouth. On either side of the river stood stately palaces of marble
(? stalactite formation), and in front of these, on thrones of gold set
with jewels, sat all the kings of the Jann, attended by their houris and
their vassals. They summoned the intruder before their _diwan_, and
sentenced him to instant death for having violated their privacy: but on
his plea of strong compulsion, he was reprieved and released; though
awful warnings were uttered against any other profane person who should
presume to enter this their sanctuary.

Such is the story told to us by the Patriarch of the Nestorian Church; a
gentleman who is sufficiently educated to smile at the superstitions of
his fathers--at least during the day, and in European company. And
anyone who will take magnesium wire and penetrate into the cavern, will
certainly gain much local _kudos_, and may possibly have an interesting

"Will you come with us, your Grace, and see what is really in the cave?"
we asked of the Patriarch when he had finished his story.

"I will Rabbi--that is if you will go in first;" replied his

[Illustration: CHURCH OF MAR B'ISHU]

Two roads lead from Diza of Gawar (the name Diza is a common one) down
to the plain of Urmi; but we took the more difficult and picturesque,
leading down the valley of Mar B'Ishu. This is one of the most famous of
the shrines of the Nestorian Church, commemorating a hermit round whose
cell a monastery subsequently gathered. The monastery has passed away,
but a group of three Christian villages fill the valley (a small side
gorge just off the main road); and here the church still stands, an
unusually elaborate specimen of Nestorian architecture.

Externally it is like all the mountain churches, a mere cube of masonry;
though rather larger than usual, for in this case the external
dimensions are an approximate square of eighty feet. The building has a
stone vault, the flat mud roof of the country being superimposed as an
outer covering. It was, however, too great a feat for the mountain
builders to throw an arch of eighty feet span, twenty feet being as much
as they could compass; and hence the interior of the building is divided
into the multitude of separate chapels and vestibules, sacristies and
baptisteries, as shown on the plan--a plan which may give some idea of
the building, but can make no claim to accuracy.

Windows are almost unknown in the mountain churches, the sanctuary in
particular being almost pitch dark at all times; and the door, to avoid
risk of desecration,[106] is seldom more than three feet in height.
Close by the church is the cell in the cliff (a small natural cavern)
that was the hermitage of Mar B'Ishu, the _Rabban_. And here a freakish
water-drip has formed a stalactite which has a rude resemblance to the
human figure; and which is accordingly reverenced as a statue of the
saint formed by angel's hands.

Considered as a work of art, the statue does not do any great credit to
its supernatural artists; but it is a most exceptional thing to find an
image of any sort, or of any origin, reverenced by any member of the
Nestorian Church. No Evangelical has a greater dislike for anything that
savours of "idolatry." Even pictures are rigorously forbidden in their
churches; though curtains and the like are employed to as great an
extent as their means allow. As an "ornament," only the plain cross (in
wood or metal), with no figure upon it, is permitted; and this, lying on
a table at the entry of the sanctuary, is kissed by every worshipper as
he enters the church. No other sacred symbol is ever introduced.

If the Nestorians, however, are "Protestant" enough in some ways to
satisfy the most rigid of English Evangelicals, they have some other
customs that would considerably startle those good people; and
conspicuous among these is their rite of animal sacrifice. This church
of Mar B'Ishu is one of many in the land which are "Lord of Name"; and
whither folk bring regularly goats and sheep, and sometimes even oxen,
that they may be solemnly sacrificed at the church door.

The rite is practically the same as described in Leviticus, except that
there is no burning of any part of the offering. The animal is brought,
and its throat cut by the man who brings it; after which the priest
takes of the blood and "strikes in on the lintel of the door" of the
church. A solemn feast then takes place on the flesh of the sacrifice,
the priest having his regular perquisites of hide and shoulder. The
custom has the look of an Old Testament survival; but as a matter of
fact, we suspect that it is far older than Moses. We may have here
essentially the same sacrifices as those which were old in this land in
the days when Abraham went forth from it; and which Moses merely
codified in the wilderness some centuries after Abraham had taught them
to his sons.

Sacrifice, it must be remembered, is not peculiar to these Nestorians.
Yezidis, as already mentioned, practise similar rites. And every
Mussulman will do the same at least once in the year; for on the _Korban
Bairam_ he always sacrifices an animal of some sort, in remembrance of
Father Abraham's sacrifice, not of Isaac (as Jews and Christians
erroneously say), but of Ishmael.

At first it seems strange, and contrary to the whole tenor of the New
Testament, to find Christians still persisting in the sacrifices of the
old dispensation. But an Oriental has usually a good reason at the back
of his mind for everything that he does; if only the Western can have
the patience to find it, and to remember that European lines are not the
only ones on which the human intellect can work.

In this case, if you ask him why he sacrifices, he is apt to reply, "Why
not? It was the custom of my fathers of old, and can you show me any
text that forbids it?"

If you produce texts about "one offering," or any others of the sort, he
has still a thrust to deliver that it is hard to parry. "Excuse me, but
is not Saint Paul's example as good as Saint Paul's precept,[107] which
our fathers do not interpret in the same way as you do. He took the four
young men, and saw to it that an offering was made for himself and every
one of them. May we not do what Saint Paul did?"

So the sacrifices continue: openly in this out-of-the-way corner of the
world; and under the rose in better known parts, like Palestine, more
frequently than many people believe. Nothing that ever was well
established in the East has altogether ceased to exist in the hearts of

The gorge narrows below Mar B'Ishu, passing the only fresh-water lake in
Kurdistan, which was brought into being a few years ago by a great
landslip. In the ravine is a curious series of springs charged so
heavily with iron that the water looks almost blood colour as it wells
out of the rock, and leaves deep crimson stains on the cliffs. Its taste
is curiously acrid; and (as might be expected) it is freely used as a
tonic, and is very good for the purpose.

Local legend declares that it was by this road that the victorious
Persians brought away the True Cross from Jerusalem, when Chosroës,
after his capture of that city, sent the relic as a gift to his
Christian queen, Shirin; and that healing waters sprang up wherever the
bearers put down their sacred load.

The gorge dies out in the curious fold of the hills that is called
Mergawar at one point of its length, Tergawar at another, and other
names at other places. It is not a true valley, for the rivers run
across it and break through its boundary hills by deep gorges; but it
forms, on the eastern side of the Hakkiari Mountains, much the same sort
of moat as is formed on the southern side by the similar valley of

It provides an easy passage practicable in the depth of winter, from
Armenia to Kirkuk and Baghdad. And it was probably for this reason that
the Ottoman Government so coveted the possession of this district; for
it afforded them the means of moving the Baghdad army corps to the
Russian frontier, without making the long detour to the west that would
otherwise be necessitated by the mountains of Kurdistan.

Tergawar has always been a land of war, even when it was not a debatable
land between Turkey and Persia. Here are several villages of
Nestorians--as ever a good fighting stock; and these being tolerably
well armed are chronically at feud with their Kurdish neighbours, a
small broken clan recognizing no one head, and known as the "Begzadi."
The principal Christian chief, a man of the name of Bajan, had a
reputation as a warrior even among those who were men of war from their
youth. His absolute fearlessness had brought him triumph repeatedly
against the longest odds, and his enemies even esteemed him
invulnerable. One day, in the heat of a fight, he forced his way
single-handed into a house where five Kurds had gathered; and they
surrendered to him in a body. When their friends chaffed them
afterwards, saying, "Bajan is a good fighter, no doubt; but still he was
but one, and you were five"; they simply replied, "Well, what could we
do? We fired at him, and the bullets flattened on his coat."

Even to this day old men who have served under John Jacob in India will
say that they have seen him shake the bullets out of his tunic after a

Tough old Bajan is dead now, we regret to say; but dead in a way
befitting. He went to help a Kurdish friend in battle, just from sheer
love of a fight; and a bullet that took him behind the ear and came out
at his forehead was too much even for his invulnerability.

The Christians of the Tergawar villages (Marwana, Kurana, Balulan, and
others) were good fighters, as has been said, but fairly good average
Christians withal; though one owns sorrowfully that fiery old Bajan was
"not so good a Christian as so good a knight should be." They were
undeniably rowdy and turbulent, however; quarrelling among themselves
almost as much as they did with the Kurds! Grazing rights and boundaries
were usually the _casus belli_; a fruitful cause of bad blood, whether
among the Dandie Dinmonts of Liddesdale or the borderers of Persia and

As Christians, they have, of course, their clergy; but these are
peasants like themselves, living as they do, and hardly better taught.
The _qashi_ or priests may indeed be able to read the services, and it
is not the thing for them to take part actually in the tribal battles.
But this disability does not apply to the deacons (_shamashi_), who in
the Nestorian Church form a regular grade in the ministry, with regular
duties of their own, and are not merely candidates for the priesthood.
These may go out to fight if the case requires it; and more than one
reverend deacon among them leads the fighting as efficiently as he leads
the prayers.

One prominent Kurdish Agha, a certain Bedr Khan Beg, takes out his
Christian village to battle, as readily as his Kurdish one: and the
village deacon is his second in command.

This Bedr Khan Beg is no relation whatever to his famous (or infamous)
namesake of Bohtan, of whom we make mention elsewhere. He is a chief of
the Begzadi Kurds whose prowess and activity have won him much local
reputation, but who can boast no such formidable following as the
Sheikhs of Neri or Barzan. For ourselves, we feel bound to speak well of
him; for did he not once offer, out of pure goodwill, to make
proclamation in the district that if we or any of our servants had to
complain of any molestation, "I, Bedr Khan Beg, will hang at least two
Kurds every time!" It is true that we scrupled to lay ourselves under
such an obligation to him; but Bedr Khan Beg (like General Robert
Craufurd) had a reputation of being uncommonly likely to carry out his

He adopted a similar expedient with conspicuous success a little later.
Some citizen of Urmi owed him money, and refused to discharge his just
debt. Accordingly he published his intention of killing one _Seyyid_ a
month until such time as he received payment. Urmi _Seyyids_ are mostly
_Shiahs_, whereas Bedr Khan Beg is a _Sunni_; though it may be doubted
whether this was a point to which he attached much weight.

The unfortunate _Seyyids_, of course, had no concern in the debt
whatever; but they are the most influential caste in Urmi. And now, to
save their own skins, they began to apply pressure to the debtor: which
was exactly what Bedr Khan Beg had calculated upon all along![108]

Of the two bishops who control the church in this land, one (now dead)
was a feeble old man, noted only for possessing in his house the
fiercest fleas in all Mergawar. The other, however, is of a different
stamp. Not that one counts him as precisely an ideal Prelate, seeing
that he occasionally has to stop to spell a word in the service, and
would be put to it to write his own name. However, in Kurdistan you are
not in the twentieth century, but in the fourteenth--or perhaps the dark
ages outright--and in those times Mar Dinkha of Tergawar might readily
be paralleled in England. There was a Bishop Beaumont of Durham who made
five or six shots at the word _episcopalis_ in the reading of a formal
document; and finally swore a round oath--said _soit pour dit_--and went
on. Now we have often heard Mar Dinkha stumble, but we have never heard
him swear!

There are better precedents for his lack of learning, too, than mediæval
England can furnish. The "Apostolical Constitutions" (a fourth century
composition) distinctly contemplate the existence of illiterate bishops
as a very possible phenomenon. "If the bishop cannot write, he should be
at least possessed of native shrewdness," says the author of the
compilation. Is not the age of Nicaea a good time for precedents, O
purist in matters ecclesiastical? Mar Dinkha would pass the test
proposed there; and his discipline, if of the roughest, is perhaps for
that reason the better suited for his flock. Once he came to his friends
of the Archbishop's Mission with a request for a new pastoral staff. The
old one (a stout stick of oak) had "become broken" over the back of a
village _qasha_ (rector) whom he found ploughing on Sunday!

In the year 1903 the chronic trouble among these disorderly elements
blazed up in a notable conflagration. Grazing quarrels started it, as
usual; but it must be owned that the hotheads among the Christians did
their best to aggravate matters. They had a trick of ridiculing the
differences between _Shiah_ and _Sunni_ among the Mussulmans, by
labelling one dog "Ali" and another "Mohammed," dressing them up as
soldier and _mollah_, and then setting them to fight; and this might
well have angered more peaceable people than their Begzadi neighbours.
It was not surprising that a confederacy was formed to attack the guilty
village of Mawana, which was then at open feud with its Christian ally
of Balulan, and so appeared an easy prey.

If the men of Mawana had gone out of their way to provoke the quarrel,
at least they fought it out stoutly. Finding how formidable was the
confederacy against them, they gathered together--some fifty fighters in
all--and went up in a body to the church of the village. There each and
all kissed the cross, as a solemn committal of their cause to God, and
then commenced the fighting. Though outnumbered seven to one they beat
back four assaults in the course of seven days. "And in that time," as
they told proudly after, "not any of the houses of our village were
burnt, save one; and that belonged to a man of the Protestants, who had
refused to come and kiss the cross with the rest of us." Still, as their
cartridges ran low, the matter began to look ugly; for if the Kurds
should ever be able to close, numbers must tell their tale.

On the seventh night of the siege help came unexpectedly. Over the hill
lay the other Christian village of Balulan, just then at open feud with
Mawana, and so without immediate concern in this quarrel. Still, as they
heard of the siege, they began to grow more and more restive. Ablahad,
the village deacon, at last gathered all the men together, told them
that now they must forget the feud, and called for volunteers to go down
with him and help their brethren. Soon he had as many as he wanted, a
picked band, with all the cartridges they could carry. Old Bajan could
not give them leave to go, but he carefully and ostentatiously looked
the other way; and the little party stole out that night to put their
lives in hazard for their enemies.

The deacon knew his ground; and (strictly enjoining his men to hold
their fire) he led them straight down upon one of the strongest Kurdish
pickets. There was a challenge--and no reply. The sentry fired--and the
startled picket sprang to their feet. It was the chance for which
Ablahad was waiting! One shattering volley at close quarters disabled
eight and twenty of the enemy. The Christians were through the leaguer,
and entered Mawana without losing a man, and with their supply of
cartridges intact.

Nor was this all their success; for so badly were the besiegers' nerves
shaken that (thinking the relieving force to be far larger than it
really was) they raised the siege that night, and departed to their
homes. "And when men arose in the morning and looked out, thanks be to
God, the enemy had departed."

Gallant _shamasha_ Ablahad did not live long after his brilliant
success. About a fortnight later he, with a party of Mawana men, was
caught in a little isolated village by overwhelming numbers of Kurds.
The Kurds, to their credit be it said (though fully aware of his recent
exploit), offered him leave to depart in safety and honour as soon as
they learned of his presence among their foes. Bedr Khan Beg himself,
the leader of their party, came forward in person to bring the message
before the firing began.

"We have no quarrel with you, _shamasha_; nor with Bajan your Lord. And
we seek for none. Do you go your way," he cried. "But for these men of
Mawana there is blood between us and them and we must settle it here."

"I thank you for your offer," replied the deacon firmly. "But I am here
with my friends, and I will see it out with them."

The fight was desperate; but it could have but one ending. The houses
were fired; and though the defenders cut their way through the walls
from room to room hoping to escape under cover of the smoke, they had
finally to choose between suffocation and coming out into the open. And
there the little band were shot down to the last man.

And so died Ablahad the deacon, surely by as good a death as a man need
wish to die.

Bedr Khan Beg reported the facts himself to the English in Urmi;
pointing out that really under the circumstances he could do no
otherwise than stand by the faith of Islam in the fight; "but you will
understand that my heart is the same as ever, and there is no breach of
friendship between me and you."

Picturesque and grand as the fighting days were, they came to an end
shortly after this episode. In 1906 the Persian Government determined to
make an effort to reduce the Kurds to order; and some sort of force was
sent up to the mountains for the purpose, the Christians being called on
to assist the Persian Government in the work. Unfortunately the Turkish
authority took this opportunity to intervene, and to secure (as they
hoped) a border province which they coveted. A small Turkish force was
sent for the purpose, probably in response to some appeal of the Kurds
for help; and at its appearance the Persian army fled to Urmi in the
most absurd panic. As for their allies, the Assyrians of the Tergawar
villages, whom they had called to arms on their side (and who alone had
behaved decently on that day of shame), nobody gave a second thought to
them. So the villages they had defended so long and so gallantly were
plundered by the Kurds at last, the Turks making no effort to prevent so
ordinary an incident of war. After the Persian army had fled, it was the
men of the villages who, under their own leaders and against heavy odds,
covered the retreat of their women and children.

For some time the Tergawar men were refugees in Urmi plain; and some of
them were accommodated there in villages built by local notables, who
were glad of the opportunity of securing that valuable economic factor,
a good head of labour for their estates. When the Ottoman occupation of
the border province seemed to be assured, many of them ventured back to
their homes, and reoccupied some at least of their villages. But with
the evacuation of the disputed territory by the Ottomans, as a
consequence of the need of all possible troops in the Balkans, the face
of events was altered once again. However, in the interval, Urmi had
become to all intents and purposes Russian territory; and if the
province is nominally Persian, it is practically under Russian rule. The
rule of the Muscovite may not be all that one would wish, but at least
he is not likely to sanction open war between the tribes; and if only
order is guaranteed, the Christians may hope to be able to live in the
future more tranquilly, if less picturesquely, than they have done in
the past.




On their eastern side the Hakkiari Mountains subside into the plain of
Urmi, and the journey down to that town from Tergawar is quite a tame
affair after such wild experiences as are furnished by Jilu and Baz. We
have merely to cross the last two down-like ridges of mountain, and then
the country changes, with the startling suddenness induced by
irrigation, to a fertile crop-covered plain, plentifully chequered with

Ten years ago Urmi town was but an overgrown village, crowded with mean
houses of sun-dried mud brick, and girdled with crumbling mud walls.
Only occasionally did a gateway of burnt brick, with some pretensions to
architecture, usher one into the courtyard of some notable; into a
garden constructed exactly on the lines depicted in the Assyrian
sculptures, and a house in a state of more or less disrepair. Within the
walls the city remains thus to this day; though recent changes have
promoted the growth of a suburb with an air of "underdone Tiflis," where
Persians have produced a bad imitation of the Russian imitation of
European style.

By far its most picturesque feature (not excepting even the mosque
courtyards) is its great Bazaar. This is a good specimen of the usual
Persian type, which is far more ambitious than the Turkish. It is a maze
of ill-lit corridors, roofed with domical brick vaults, and lined on
either side with the booths of the merchants and artificers. It will be
long ere a visitor's eyesight can accustom itself to the darkness, and
longer still ere his "bump of locality" can master the intricate
windings of the passages. He will enter in to explore them joyfully, for
they are a perfect feast of Oriental _genre_ subjects depicted in the
richest of subdued harmonious colouring; but if he wishes to emerge
again, he had better charter a guide!

The alleys are lit only by small holes pierced in the crowns of the
vaulting; and so solid seem the beams of light that fall athwart the
dustladen gloom, that the passenger instinctively checks his pace before
he ventures to breast them.

The townsfolk are mostly Persians; and the typical costume of the lower
classes consists of rather loose trousers, with a wide-skirted tunic
coming down as low as the knee and girt at the waist with a sash. Over
this they usually wear a sleeveless jacket of brown frieze, and the cap
is of light brown felt, shaped like half a gourd. It is practically the
same dress that we see represented as Persian on the old Greek
sculptures. Richer men wear a full-skirted coat of dark blue, with a cap
of black astrachan.

The working women wear much the same costume as the men, except that the
tunic is rather longer, and the trousers rather tighter. Also, the
colour of their garments is usually dull red, while that of the men is
blue or grey; and they muffle the upper part of the body in a voluminous
wrapper of indigo blue. The country women, when they have finished their
marketing, are accustomed to discard their trousers directly they get
outside the city gate. They then pack their purchases in the legs, and
march off with them on their necks like a yoke, quite unconscious of the
least impropriety!

Urmi plain is a proverb for richness in Persia, and its cultivators
(Christian for the most part) have an hereditary skill in their art.
They grow some seven and twenty varieties of grape, and the export of
raisins to Russia is a very large one. The grapes when gathered are
dipped in a strong solution of lye to keep off wasps, and so exposed to
dry for a fortnight on earthen floors sloping to the sun. Few things in
the country are more striking than the mass of purple and golden grapes
on such a floor, resembling, but far surpassing in richness, one of the
famous carpets of the land.

The Persian summer is reliable, or such a method would be impossible;
for anything like a sprinkle of rain during the drying time is ruin for
the crop of the year.

The frontier line between Persia and Turkey may be uncertain, but at
least the customs go on; and we found the authorities in that department
waiting for us where we entered the plain. Our managing servant,
however, is a master of strategy in these matters; and all the loads
chanced to be lagging some distance behind, save one that carried the
indispensable food-box. This was removed at the order of the Government,
and opened; on which the first things to appear were the tea apparatus
and the medicine chest. The sight of this last reminded the official
that he had fever lately; "Could the Englishman spare him a little
quinine?" Of course we could; and perhaps (as our servant suggested) he
might like some tea also;[109] the English sahib was sure to want some
while waiting for the loads to come up. There was a stream handy, and
the invaluable "primus" stove in the box; so that the customs officer
and the writer were amicably having tea together under a tree when the
mules arrived.

"Shall I take down the boxes?" said the wily Dinkha, smoothly.

"_Wallah Effendim_, this English sahib is not a merchant! Pass upon your
way, and may Allah go with you."

And so, the customs barrier was passed; for politeness seldom fails in
the East.

On occasions, of course, things do not go so well. We remember the
despair of an unfortunate American bride who had come out fresh to the
country, with her husband, as missionaries. A dinner-set of rather good
china (a wedding present) had preceded her by some weeks, and was
waiting for her in her new home, where she eagerly unpacked it.

It had been sent out to Trebizond, properly packed in hay and straw; but
the officials there, being suspicious for some reason, had searched it
to the very bottom--though of course without finding anything
contraband. Then, to save themselves trouble, they had just stuffed the
goods into the case again, without the hay packing; and as there was
naturally some room to spare at the end, had thrown in some saucepans,
flat-irons, and the iron weights of a lever weighing-machine, and so
sent the whole on a three weeks' journey across country. Its condition
at the end of that experience may be imagined. We believe that one plate
had survived; and it now adorns, in the character of a monument, the
lady's drawing-room wall!

Urmi city and plain was the Mecca of one of the noblest of the religious
faiths and philosophies that man has evolved for himself; for it was the
birthplace of Zoroaster, and was for centuries a stronghold of the
fire-worshippers' cult. Their most sacred shrine, Sirsh (now
Takht-i-Sulieman), is a little to the south; and ruins of the greatest
of the fire temples still stand there, beside the weird crater-lake of
Zindan. Not a Zoroastrian, however (as far as we know), is found in this
district now; though a few still cluster round the Towers of Silence at
Resht, and there is, of course, an important community of them in
Bombay. Even there, however, their numbers are disproportionate to their
influence, and even those small numbers are diminishing.

Once Urmi plain was their principal Holy Place; and even now, every
village of importance stands on or near one of the great ash heaps
(often covering acres of ground) that mark the sites where the sacred
fires were kept perpetually burning. These memorials have fallen on very
evil days lately; for the present owners of the land have found that
good wood ash is one of the best of manures for their fields, and the
heaps are steadily diminishing in consequence. Strange relics are
uncovered in them at times, and are sold to the foreigner as _antikas_;
though usually it is impossible to be certain where, or under what
circumstances, they were found, and they lose much of their historical
value in consequence. One such discovery suggested grim rites at one
period, as a part of the Zoroastrian ritual; for several skulls were
unearthed, the owners of which had been killed by copper nails hammered
into the brains, and still resting embedded in the bone.

Zoroaster was a reformer rather than a founder of a religion; and the
sites that became fire-temples after his date (the seventh century
before Christ) were probably shrines of some kind of worship for ages
before that period. Thus the explorer can still find near them (and
often buried under their advancing flanks as they grew in size) the
tombs of chiefs of the Bronze Age, with spear-heads and sword-blades of
that metal, and finely worked golden ornaments of a distinctive
shell-like pattern. These were the tribes, one may suppose, that the
Assyrians encountered, when (somewhere about 1000 B.C.) they tried to
extend their empire into this fertile country, and fought a battle on
the waters of the lake of which a picture still remains among their
carvings. Their warriors were supported on inflated sheep-skins; a
precaution that seems hardly necessary in such water, for Lake Urmi is a
good second in the matter of buoyancy to the Dead Sea itself.

The lake is of a good size, perhaps forty miles by eighty, though at no
place is it more than about thirty feet in depth. Its saltness is
remarkable, for the bather sits in deep water much as in an armchair,
with his head and shoulders emerging. Swimming is difficult, for the
legs are so apt to kick clean out above the surface; and on landing, any
scratch or cut on the person makes its presence very noticeable. The
rash British Consul who once took a header in, as he was accustomed to
do in ordinary salt water, is not likely soon to forget his experience.

It is, of course, a "dead sea," for there is absolutely nothing living
in it save a variety of shrimp of low organization. All fish carried
down into it by the rivers die at once. Still it is an exhilarating
place for a swim, provided that a bucket of fresh water is available for
a wash down before attempting to dry. There are rocky promontories on
the shore at intervals, but, as a rule, the water is very shallow near
the bank; a fact borne impressively into the consciousness of a member
of the Royal Geographical Society who was making investigations in this
land. His boat grounded hopelessly three-quarters of a mile from shore,
and he had to wade that distance in waist-deep water with a muddy
bottom; while every time he lifted a foot, a large bubble of
sulphuretted hydrogen rose to the surface, and burst under his nose!

St. Thomas the Apostle once crossed the lake--on his way to India as
local tradition has it--but in a fashion less laborious and odoriferous
than did the scientist. He walked on the water's surface; a smaller
miracle in this case than some parallels in the lives of the saints, yet
no small portent all the same. In memory of it all Urmi comes down for a
solemn and ceremonial bathe in the waters on the anniversary of the
passage, the fifteenth day of August. Other folk have to cross in boats,
usually the very clumsiest craft that swim on any sheet of water in the
world, with masts built after the style of an old-fashioned bear's pole.
With a strong wind dead astern, they move perhaps two miles an hour, and
may get over in a day and a night. In any other case the sail is hauled
down, and they wait for better times; so that the voyage of forty miles
may last for a week or even more. Latterly, enterprise has risen to a
steamer, plying between the ports of Urmi and Tabriz, and passing
through the winding channel that divides the two principal islands of
the lake, "Sheep Island" and "Donkey Island." With luck, this craft may
manage the passage (on the rare occasions when the engine does not break
down and have to be repaired _en route_) in six hours. The regular
programme, however, is a doleful remark from the engine-room "_Machina
qizdi_," "The machine has lost its temper"; and a halt that may last
some hours, or may endure for a day. As for the islands, they are
uninhabited by man. How the second got its name we know not; but "Sheep
Island" has some herds of wild sheep, which have been long enough
isolated to develop some characteristic peculiarities in their very fine

Urmi is one of the most ancient centres of Christianity in the land; for
if local tradition is to be trusted, the Faith was brought here by no
less a person than one of the "Wise Men," who came from the East to the
manger at Bethlehem. Oriental story, naturally, has nothing to say to
their traditional migration to the city of Cologne; though it does
include the three traditional names, Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar, as
those of three of the band of twelve "Magi" who journeyed together to
Palestine, looking for the fulfilment of the prophecy of that ancient
initiate of their religion, Balaam the son of Beor. As for the identity
of the Magian who came back to his home at Urmi, and brought the "Good
News" with him; do not his revered bones rest to this day in the church
of St. Mary in the city, and is not that proof enough? Like many another
Oriental legend, it is at least more ancient, and less improbable, than
is the story of the "Three Kings" of the city on the Rhine.

Many beautiful traditions or parables gather round the visit of the Magi
in the East, as in the West; and one of them may be recounted here. "Our
fathers say" that when Adam went forth from the garden, he took with him
two things as memorials of his lost Paradise. These were some of the
spices that grew upon the Tree of Knowledge, and one branch gathered
from the Tree of Life. They were preserved by his descendants in the
East, as tokens that the lost inheritance would be given back again some
day; and when at last the Wise Men knew that He had come, who was to
restore it, and went forth to do Him homage, those spices were the
frankincense that they offered at Bethlehem. The branch of the Tree of
Life they took with them also, and left in Jerusalem; and there those
who knew not what they did, took it, and used it for the cross-beam of
the Tree on Calvary.

Originally the church in Urmi, like that in the mountains, was of that
"East Syrian" communion which its enemies called Nestorian. It is very
certain, however, that the body did not teach what Nestorius of
Constantinople was condemned for teaching, in the year 431; and indeed
it is very doubtful whether either he or anybody else ever did so.

It has since become the prey of foreign missions of various complexions,
such as Russian Orthodox, French Roman Catholic, and American
Presbyterian; each of which has been anxious to win the body over to
what they are convinced is a much better form of Christianity, and could
not conscientiously be content to leave it in its old independence,
while recalling it to its own ancient rule. All three have achieved a
good deal of success, and the "Old Church" is now a small minority; but
to a member of the Church of England it appears doubtful whether the
success was worth winning. Do you improve the Oriental Christian by
taking him out of the Church of his fathers and inducing him to join any
other body? He has his faults in the Old Church, and plenty of them; and
there is an element of truth in the accusation so often thrown at him,
that he is an invertebrate, backboneless creature--Christian, only
because his fathers were Christian before him. There is no doubt that
his religion is an external armour of inherited habit and belief; and
that he is, so to speak, crustaceous rather than vertebrate in his
spiritual construction. We will assume it as certain that all those who
make this fact a reproach to him would themselves have become
Christians, had they been born heathens or Mussulmans. Still, if a
zealous reformer extracts the lobster from his shell (a feat which can
be performed, if you disregard the lobster's feelings), even that
drastic operation does not enable him to develop a backbone. He merely
develops a fresh armour of habit, that may or may not be superior to the
old. Further, invertebrate though the Oriental Christian may be (and,
therefore, of course, of a far lower type than the vertebrate European
Protestant), he has the peculiar powers of his species; and can endure
an amount of cutting and hacking, without losing his faith, which would
altogether destroy the spiritual life of a higher type of Christian. The
gift of passive endurance may appear small to those who have it not; but
at least it can claim Gospel approval.

Even those who do not sympathize with "Mission Effort" usually admit
readily that it has called out a wonderful devotion in those who give
themselves to it, no matter what the particular form of their
Christianity may be. It is true, however, in this as in other things,
that "_corruptio optimi, pessima_"; and there is in Urmi and its
neighbourhood a good deal of mission work gone bad.

The various European missions (the word includes American in this case)
are above reproach; none of their members taking more than a sufficient
maintenance. But there are various small missions (usually managed
entirely by natives but financed from Europe) which simply exist to
provide a comfortable living for the native "pastor" who manages them.
These profess usually to evangelize the Mussulmans, but as a matter of
fact simply gather small congregations of men already Christian from
among the relations of the "Missionary."

It would be very much better if the good people who support these would
put their work under the superintendence of some one of the larger
missions in the place; and not install the Oriental in a position where
opportunities for fraud are so easy that even a European might easily
succumb to them.

As for mission work among Moslems, there is practically none, in this
province at any rate. Nothing but philanthropic and educational efforts
are possible at present, so long as the _sheriat_ or "sacred law" is
recognized by every Moslem as immeasurably superior to any civil
enactments, and death consequently remains the legal penalty for every
apostate from Islam.[110] How can the European missionary (himself
necessarily protected) expect success, when he has to call his converts
to face daily peril of death which his own European status forbids him
to share?

There is another point to be remembered. There is no doubt that
Christianity if preached as the Asiatic faith which it really is, and
not as the European religion which we have (inevitably and properly)
made it for ourselves, can do much for the Islamic races. It is equally
certain that those Islamic races can do much for Christianity. But,
with all their reverence for Seyidna Isa (our Lord Jesus) Mussulmans
will never accept Him, even as a superior prophet to their
Hazrat-i-Mohammed, till they learn to respect the native Christians whom
they see among them. So it would seem that all mission work must
necessarily apply itself first to the uplifting of the native
Christians, and leave the conversion of Islam to the future. Islam
meanwhile has to face a great problem of its own; viz. will faith in
their Prophet's teaching survive the impact of modern science, coupled
with the political subjugation of the last great Moslem Powers? If not,
what will take its place? For who dare contemplate such a phenomenon as
a religionless East?

Urmi considers itself a civilized and educated town, and all its
prominent citizens wear the most correct of _alafranga_ clothes. Even
the mysteries of the right relation of collar and tie have been mastered
now, perplexing though the problem is. But behind all this aping of
modernity one rejoices unfeignedly (if perhaps unrighteously) to find a
good deal of primitive paganism. That oldest faith of the land, the
aboriginal tree-worship, still lingers in the villages; and indeed is
only despised by the townsfolk when the foreigner is within hearing.
Does not the Sacred Tree of the village of Kerdami--a noble ilex of most
unusual size--still command more than reverence? A rag from the garments
of any sufferer from any disease has only to be tied on to one of its
branches to secure relief infallibly. Once only has any man been known
to treat it with any disrespect, when a profane villager of Protestant
sympathies dared to abstract a fallen bough that was still sound enough
to make a bridge for a wide irrigation cut in his field. Soon, however,
he had reason to repent his temerity; for first the roof of his outhouse
fell, and then his buffalo died; then his wife died, and finally his son
fell ill. In terror at the series of calamities, he restored the bough
and made a propitiatory offering at one of the neighbouring churches; on
which the lad recovered. And none has dared to speak against the tree

Churches at which offerings are made are numerous in the neighbourhood,
and one of these, Mar Sergius,[111] is particularly famous in the land.
This saint protects travellers provided that they offer a black lamb to
him before setting out; but his special _métier_ is the curing of the
"possessed," or _shidâni_--a name used both of lunatics and epilepts.
The treatment in this case is that, after solemn prayer and benediction,
the patient is consigned to a certain cell in the foundations of the
church, which was once no doubt the abode of an ascetic. It is of
"beehive" structure, and a regular "little ease" in pattern; for the
inmate can neither sit, stand, nor lie in any comfort. There the sick
person remains for a full night, or sometimes for twenty-four hours; and
the fact is at all events past question, that a very fair proportion of
those who submit to the discipline come out cured. It is of course a
case of faith-healing, natural enough in people who have never been
taught the modern heresy that the age of "miracles" is past; though we
own that profane Europeans have suggested that as a solitary night in
that vermin-swarming den might well drive a sane man mad, it is
therefore conceivable that it might drive a mad person sane!

Inscriptions in the church, by the way, indicate that under certain
circumstances it is allowable to sleep in the _bait shidâni_ by proxy.
We have read there the statement that "I, John, the son of Jacob, have
slept here in the cell, on behalf of my sister Khua, who was unable to
come. Grant, O Lord Almighty, that by the power of the prayers of Thy
servant Mar Sergius, it may be profitable to her." Mussulmans are as
ready to avail themselves of the curative powers of the shrine as are
Christians; and we have known a party of Heriki make liberal offerings
to the church, and attend a Christian service in the same, to testify
their gratitude for the recovery of an epileptic girl.

Many Mussulmans seem to hold that Christianity, whether of an ancient
or modern type, has marvellous power against disease; and their belief
received what they regarded as a signal confirmation when the cholera
visited Urmi in 1905. Mussulmans took, of course, no precautions against
it; for how could merely boiling the water frustrate the Will of Allah?
The marvel is that the whole of their quarters of the town were not
depopulated, when one considers the conditions under which they live. It
was not unusual, for instance, to see dead bodies washed before burial
in the conduit of drinking water! One can only assume a relative
immunity, acquired originally, but transmitted by inheritance, to this
and similar filth diseases; and the point may be worth study, as
throwing light on the question whether acquired characteristics can pass
by inheritance.

Christians, as a general rule, took the precautions that the European
missionaries advised: with the result that while four thousand
Mussulmans died in the city alone (the numbers in the villages were
unknown), only five individual Christians perished; and one of these was
a Christian scientist who refused to boil his water. Mussulmans held
that Azrael was showing undue partiality to infidels, and many of them
even put the Cross over their doors to deceive him! One would like to
investigate the state of mind that dictated that act! Fancy trying to
fool the Angel of Death!

There was, of course, a good deal of panic, and every stomach-ache was
put down as cholera at first. One man even declared that he had seen the
fatal microbes following the American doctor about, "like little dogs";
but the general belief was that he had been indulging in strong

Almost all the Mussulmans in Urmi itself, and the plain around it, are
of the _Shiah_ persuasion, as good Persians should be. In consequence
the celebrations of Mohurram are particularly striking. Long processions
of mourners parade through the streets, beating their breasts, and
mourning for the martyrs Hassan and Hosein; while occasional bands of
devotees rush by in white garments striking at their shaven heads with
the heavy "Mohurram knives" (which are really short broadswords of old
Roman pattern), till the blood gushes out upon them. As the heads are
shaven it is true that a light blow will draw blood, and that therefore
the ceremony can be made a matter of display and little more. As a fact,
however, there is no sham about it, for the feast scarcely ever passes
without one man at any rate actually dying from his self-inflicted
wounds; at least this was certainly the case before the Russian

Practically Urmi is a Russian town now; and every good _Shiah_ must feel
that Mohurram, with infidel bayonets to keep the streets clean and
orderly, has been robbed of its soul if not of its outward pomp. The
processions still take place of course, and are even more magnificent
with increasing wealth; but "Ichabod"--where is the old glory? The
occupation crept in gradually, and came unperceived; but it is there,
and will continue. First came the purely religious mission, for the
protection and education of those Christians who wished to become
members of the Orthodox Church. Then a Consul had to be sent, to protect
the resident Russian priests and monks. Next, to avert any possible
peril for the Consul, there must be an escort of Cossacks for him; and
when the Persian Government is manifestly so feeble that the road cannot
be kept open even for the Royal Mail, what can Consul and Consul-General
do but patrol the roads for the public good? And then behold the
occupation as complete and permanent as that of the English in Egypt. In
both cases, the result looks as if there had been a deep-laid and
unscrupulous plan all along. In both cases there has been no such thing;
but circumstances have pushed the men on the spot into action; and
authority at home (with more or less of unwillingness) has had to
acquiesce. Neither Power has been able to avoid the feeling, "_mea res
agitur, paries cum proximus ardet_." It is all for the best for those
most concerned, for now there is safety, comfort, wealth, and an even
law for all; but all the same one's memory turns lovingly to the
picturesque, dirty, disreputable days of a few years ago!

In those days, a real _Seyyid_ (or even a sham one) had the rights that
a Descendant of the Prophet ought to have.

[Illustration: THE CITADEL ROCK, VAN.

No. 9]

He lived at free quarters where he chose (on Christian villagers mostly)
and paraded the streets in a flowing purple robe with a green turban,
which indicated by its folds and pattern whether the wearer was
descended from the Prophet by the male or female line.

He was hated by all creeds maybe, but he was feared by all
notwithstanding; by Moslems for his supposed spiritual rank, by
Christians for his undoubted worldly power. Woe to the Christian dog who
presumed to shirk getting off his horse and standing at the salute when
the _Seyyid_ rode by; it was an unmerited favour that he should be
allowed to ride a horse at all!

Of course, there are gibes against the clan in plenty: for the more
grossly superstitious a man is, the more impossible he finds it to keep
his tongue off the Church which nevertheless he dares not disobey. When
all else is bound, it is hard if speech is not free!

Thus we are told how Khoja Nazr-ed-din was sent out by his wife one day
to buy egg-plants for dinner.

"Don't know what they are like," said the Khoja.

"Mudhead," said his wife, "there are lots in the market--fat purple
things with green heads."

"Oh, I know then," said the khoja; and he came back with a _Seyyid_ in
full robes.

"Here's the egg-plant, wife. What shall I do with it?" he demanded.

"Rip it open and cut off its head," came the voice from the kitchen,
"and then put it in the pot."

The khoja, obedient man, did his best to follow instructions, and a very
dishevelled _Seyyid_ succeeded in escaping into the street.

Khoja[112] Nazr-ed-din is a sort of Oriental Joe Miller, upon whom any
story can be fathered, from Stamboul to Kandahar. But how completely the
"Arabian Nights" atmosphere survives in Urmi to this day may be judged
from the following story, which was told to us as a true one, and which
the narrator at any rate believed implicitly. Let us call it,


There lived of late in the city of Urmi a _Seyyid_ of the _Seyyids_,
whose name was Haji Kas. And he was a rich man and a powerful, who had
thrice performed the Pilgrimage to Mecca; and who was a friend to the
governor and the kadi, and had in repute among the mollahs and imaums.

Now it is said by the Poet (upon whom be peace), "if thy neighbour hath
made the Pilgrimage once, beware of him; if twice remove into the next
street." And Haji Kas had three times made the Pilgrimage. Wherefore all
men feared him greatly, for he regarded neither God nor man.

Now there was a certain householder in the city who had a garden which
Haji Kas coveted; and forasmuch as he would not sell, Haji Kas reviled
him and persecuted him, and brought false accusation against him before
the kadi in the courts of law. So that householder went to his house
sorrowful and sore vexed; and sat him down in an inner chamber, and ate
not, and covered his face.

Howbeit that householder had a wife, and she was a fair woman and a
wise; and when she saw her husband sorrowing, she said unto him, "What
aileth thee, O my lord, that thou eatest nothing and art sad?" And he
answered, "Because of Haji Kas the _Seyyid_; for he seeketh to take from
me my garden, and hath brought false accusation against me; and moreover
the kadi hath eaten bribes at his hand." And the woman laughed, and
said, "Truly, thou doest ill to fret thyself for such a matter. Leave
Haji Kas to me. I will give thee vengeance on Haji Kas."

So the woman arose in the morning, and donned her fairest raiment, and
perfumed herself with musk, and painted her eyes with kohl; and she took
her veil, and went forth, and came to the street where Haji Kas dwelt.
And as the _Seyyid_ passed by, she drew aside her veil and ogled him,
and said, "O Moslem, canst thou tell me the dwelling-place of Haji Kas?"
And Haji Kas answered, "I am he. What wouldst thou with me?" And she
drew aside her veil further, and smiled, and said, "Thy servant is a
woman of Teheran,[113] and married to a man of Urmi. And my husband hath
gone on a journey, and hath sent me a writing of divorcement. And behold
my neighbours said unto me, 'Seek not advice of any in this matter, save
only of the upright Haji Kas.'"

(The narrator dwelt on the flirtation lovingly, and at great length, but
here we are obliged to curtail it.)

Then Haji Kas lighted down from his horse, and took her by the hand and
said, "O my lady of beauty, verily in this matter thy neighbours
counselled thee well." But the woman drew away from him, and veiled
herself, and answered, "It is not meet that we talk together in the
street at this time. Come to my house at sundown, and I will give thee
welcome; and there shalt thou instruct me in all that it behoves me to

So Haji Kas arose after nightfall, and went secretly to the house that
the woman had appointed to him; and she opened to him, and set meat and
drink before him; and while they made merry together, behold, there was
a knocking at the door. And the woman went softly to hearken; and she
said, "It is my husband. Lo! he is returned from his journey, and I wist
not aught of his coming; and I fear that he will do us a mischief, if he
find us together in the house."

Then said Haji Kas, "I conjure thee, O my lady, that thou show me a way
of escape." But she answered, "There is no other door. Hide thee in this
great chest; I only have the key thereof, and when my husband is
departed then straightway I will set thee free."

So Haji Kas entered the chest, and the woman turned the key upon him.
And she opened the door to her husband, and said, "A greeting to thee!
Behold, I have taken Haji Kas in the snare that I have laid." And the
man said, "Where is he?" And she answered, "He is in that chest. Cord
it tightly, and we will eat and be merry, and thereafter we will take
counsel what we shall do with Haji Kas."

And when the morning morrowed, the man arose, and said, "What shall we
now do with Haji Kas? Come let us open the chest, and I will beat him
and let him go." But the woman said, "Not so. Call thou hither a porter,
and lay the chest upon his shoulders, and bid him bear it to the bazaar;
and let Achmet the salesman cry it for sale to the highest bidder; but
charge him to sell it unopened; no man shall know what is in it, until
that it is sold." Then the man did as the woman had bidden him, and the
porter departed to the bazaar.

And as he was going down he met a water-seller; and the water-seller
said, "A greeting to thee. Whither goest thou?" And he answered, "I bear
this chest to the bazaar." Then said the water-seller, "What is in it?"
And the porter said, "Nay that I know not, for no man may know what is
in it till it is sold."

Then the water-seller went near and hearkened; and he said, "There is
some living thing within it. Beware lest it be a jinn. Peradventure it
will do thee hurt." And the porter dropped the chest, and sprang away
from it, and cried, "I take refuge with Allah from Satan the stoned."

Then the water-seller answered, "See now this pool of water. It is my
counsel that thou sink the chest awhile therein."

Now when Haji Kas heard that saying he cried aloud out of the chest,
saying "See thou do it not, for I am the _Seyyid_, Haji Kas." And the
porter answered, "Nay, but this is a cunning jinn." And Haji Kas cried,
"By Allah, I am indeed the _Seyyid_, and if thou let me go I will give
thee a great reward."

But the porter said, "Not so; for I have been paid my hire and my charge
is laid upon me. If then I deliver not the chest to Achmet, who will
henceforth employ me in the bazaar?"

Then Haji Kas spake to the water-seller saying, "I pray thee then,
friend, that thou will hie thee to the house of my son; and bid him
haste to the bazaar, and buy the chest of Achmet, how great soever may
be the price thereof. And let him bear it away unopened, that I be not
discovered therein."

So the water-seller ran to bear the message, and the porter took the
chest and bore it to the bazaar.

And Achmet the salesman took the chest and set it on the bench before
him, and he cried aloud, "O Moslems, I have for sale a chest--a chest
and all that is in it. What will ye give me for the chest, and for the
contents of the chest?"

And the merchants said, "What is in the chest?" And Achmet answered,
"Nay that I know not, for none may know what is in it until that it is
sold." Then the merchants came together; and one said, "It is a good
chest. I will give a toman[114] for it." And another said, "I will give
two tomans." Then came to them the son of Haji Kas, breathless with much
running, and he cried aloud unto the salesman, saying, "Oh, Achmet, sell
me the chest for five tomans." And a Jew merchant answered, "I will give
six tomans"; and the Haji's son said, "I will give thee twelve!"

Then the merchants spake one to another, saying, "Verily we know not
what is in the chest; but behold the Haji's son knoweth, and it seemeth
that it is a thing of price. Of a surety it is smuggled tobacco from the
warehouse of the Sheikh; or maybe hashish, and worth much gold." And
they that were aforetime backward were now eager to buy.

But though many bid for the chest, yet the Haji's son bid higher, and
Achmet the salesman sold him the chest for sixty tomans; and he wiped
his brow, and paid the money and called a porter to bear the chest away.

But the porter who had brought the chest had stood by, listening to the
bidding; and he laughed till his legs gave way beneath him, and he
rolled on the ground in his mirth. And while the merchants wondered at
him, he gat his breath, and sat up, and cried aloud, and said, "By
Allah, O Moslems, was there ever seen the like? This man hath bought his
own father for the price of sixty tomans. Haji Kas the _Seyyid_ is in
that great chest!"

And when the merchants heard that saying, they ran upon the chest and
brake it open; and Haji Kas sat up, and blinked at them therein. And all
the merchants laughed till the bazaar rang with their laughter; and they
held their sides, and the tears ran down their faces, and they rolled on
the ground whooping, even as the porter had done.

Then Haji Kas arose, and gat him out of the chest; and he and his son
slank away in shame together. And it came to pass after a few days, that
he sold his house, and all that appertained to him in that city, and
departed into another country, and returned to Urmi no more.

       *       *       *       *       *

Governors in the old days did not often lift their hands against the
_Seyyids_; the experience of those who tried to do so, teaching them
wisdom. Twice the effort was made; but in each instance the privileged
corporation that had religious sentiment behind it was able to win. Once
the Vali-Ahd[115] had tried to meet the undoubted difficulty caused by
the fact that no governor could keep the Kurdish raiders in order, by
making the biggest brigand of the countryside Governor of Urmi province;
on the same principle as a certain King of England once made The O'Neill
Viceroy of Ireland. The Governor, Hassan Beg of the Marku Kurds, was at
least commendably energetic; and being, like all Kurds, a _Sunni_, he
despised all _Shiahs_ equally, whether they were _Seyyids_ or not. He
began operations by blowing a batch of them from guns--a fate which they
probably richly deserved, but which roused much scandal, for no amount
of hereditary sanctity will get you to Heaven in little bits! But
presently one such victim escaped. He bribed the artillery-men; and they
put him with his arm round the gun's muzzle, instead of with his back to
it. (The execution took place in the midst of a big parade-ground, so
that the fraud was not too conspicuous.) Bang went the gun: but the holy
man stood unharmed. Up went the cry, "A miracle! a miracle!" and the mob
immediately assaulted the governor's house. He had taken the precaution
of bringing a garrison of his own tribesmen with him to his new post,
so the attack failed; but he thought it more prudent to leave the city
that night and go home. His tenure of the governorship of Urmi had been
brief; but like the kingship of Roumania was "always a pleasant

In the year 1902 another governor, one Mejid-es-Sultaneh, also attempted
reform. He proposed to clean the streets and have a pure water-supply; a
scheme which was admirable as far as it went, though an American
missionary in the town did suggest that "his Excellency had better make
the streets before he scrapes them." Another aspiration of his,
expressed in the words that there would never be any real reform in
Persia, "till one can see a _Seyyid_ hanging on every tree round Urmi,"
was also a perfectly sound one; but unfortunately he lacked the power to
execute his admirable ideas. Thus, when Mohurram came round, friction
began. By immemorial custom a deputation of _Seyyids_ waits on the
governor at that feast; for then (like the Jews of old) they have the
right to demand that he "release unto them one prisoner, whomsoever they
will." Mejid-es-Sultaneh was willing enough to honour custom, but had
let the college of _Seyyids_ know, unofficially, that there was one man
whom they were not to ask for. It had cost some trouble to get him into
the jail, and he was to hang. They accepted at once this challenge to a
trial of strength, and demanded that man and no other. The governor had
the whole deputation thrashed and turned out of his house; sending
orders to the prison to hang the man without more ado.

The _Seyyids_ were naturally furious; and they were able to pull strings
at Teheran till Mejid-es-Sultaneh was exiled. He only escaped
confiscation of his property by executing a hurried deed of gift of the
whole of it, in legally binding form, to an English merchant at Tabriz.
He trusted absolutely, and justifiably, to that man's verbal promise
that the income should be paid over to him, and the capital restored if
ever the original owner were in a position to claim it again.

As for trial, or any pretence of justice, even for a man in this
position, there was none. Such things are mere empty words to a ruler
who on another occasion invited a prominent Kurdish chief to a
conference, swearing on the Koran that, if he came, he should leave
Tabriz in safety and honour. The Kurd (Jaffar Agha by name) came on that
assurance. He had his conference and started home, loaded with honours
and decorations. One hundred yards from the gate of Tabriz he was called
back for a last word. He returned fearlessly; entered the reception
room--and was shot dead from behind a grating. So the Shah kept faith
with a man who trusted to his honour.

Under such rule, government broke down utterly and absolutely in Persia;
and the Turks took the opportunity of carrying out the aggression
mentioned in the previous chapter, and occupying the strip of frontier
they had long coveted. Not content with this, they encouraged a system
of open raids over the whole district of Urmi, with the avowed intention
of showing the Persians "you cannot control or bridle these Kurds, and
so you had better let us do it, for we can." The writer was in Urmi at
the time; living, as an Englishman does in these lands, in personal
sanctuary. To shoot an Englishman is too dangerous an amusement
(fascinating though it admittedly is) for any gentleman to indulge
in--unless the temptation is very great indeed. The experience was
interesting; for what one saw was anarchy, apparently with no power of
redemption. _Vis consili expers_ the Government of Persia had always
been; and when at last it fell under the weight of its own corruption,
there was no force left to set up any fresh rule at all. Folk had been
accustomed to look to the _Hukumet_ for everything; and when it was gone
they lacked the political instinct to set up anything to take its place.

The strangest rumours circulated: such as the statement that a caravan
of five hundred camels had arrived in Tabriz from Russia, loaded with
nothing but _tanzimat_ (reform); or that "Enjuman Effendi" (Monsieur
Parliament) had been appointed governor of the land by the Shah, and
that he was a very great man and had very many wives. The collapse of
the central Government did not, however, affect daily life in the
villages; except that the raiding bands of Kurds walked about the
countryside rather more at their ease than was the case normally.

In one instance a party of twelve robbers marked down a village some
thirty miles from the frontier; looted it, and insolently drove their
plunder along the high roads to their own home again. They made no
attempt at concealment or even hurry; and ten miles per diem being about
the limit that a sheep can be taken comfortably, the process must have
occupied three days at the least. It is true that the Turkish Governor,
on hearing of the exploit, did insist on the return of the animals,
greatly to the disgust of the raiders. However, they did not go quite
without profit; for finding that the beasts had got to go back, they
took the precaution of shearing them first!

At the time, we were endeavouring to give the local "Nestorian" clergy a
week's instruction in matters pastoral and devotional. As part of the
course, we ordered the whole gathering to write a sermon on the text,
"As lambs in the midst of wolves." We could not help feeling a profane
sympathy with the teaching propounded in one of the discourses;--that
undoubtedly Christians were lambs, as Scripture said; but that what was
most needful under the circumstances was that they should develop the
teeth and claws of wolves! The doctrine received practical support from
an incident that occurred before the week ended, when two of the deacons
present announced, "By your leave, _Rabbi_, we must go."

"And wherefore, O deacon?"

"Because our village is being attacked by Kurds, _Rabbi_; and it is
needful for us to go and help beat them."

Leave was given readily enough; but when was a respectable "retreat"
interrupted by such an incident before?

As for the official who was called Governor of Urmi, he sat in the
walled town, and did nothing. Once he expressed a general hope that
things would go better in the near future; because he had hired a
murderer to assassinate Bedr Ismail Agha, the man who was doing most of
the raiding at the time. But even the rôle of First Murderer in the
Government troupe was bungled; a gratuitous bit of mismanagement, for
there was plenty of talent for the part.

Christian townships in the neighbourhood, finding themselves in daily
risk of plunder, sent in to complain to his Excellency; and "soldiers"
were actually ordered to go out and protect them. They started; but
returned in two hours, stating that they had heard a rumour that there
were Kurds on the road. They had, of course, never dreamed of doing
anything to molest the people they were sent out to punish; but in
compensation, they had robbed all the unfortunate villagers, Christian
and Mussulman alike, whom they met upon the way coming to seek shelter
in the town!

When one of the townships in question, Gukhtapa, renewed its request for
some sort of protection, the governor could only regret his inability to
afford any assistance "because the soldiers say that they won't go." He
generously offered to send Kurdish irregulars of another tribe, Marku
men, who might be persuaded to "sit in the village." "Thank you," said
the applicants, "but of the two we prefer the robbers who will go away
again, to the robbers who will sit there indefinitely." They then took
their own measures for protection; giving hospitality to a party of
Tergawari Christians, driven from their homes by the Turkish aggression,
and glad to earn their living by so congenial an occupation as fighting
for it.

Ultimately, the Ottoman Government sent a "High Commissioner" to settle
the disputed frontier; and the official who appeared was that genial
general-utility man of the Empire, Tahir Pasha of Mosul. He settled
himself quite comfortably in the house of the Ottoman Consul; a
gentleman who (to give a touch of farce to the tragically comic opera
that all concerned were playing) was one of the most successful of those
"Jilu men" referred to in a previous chapter. This genius had
accumulated quite a fortune by collecting money from the charitable in
British Columbia for an orphanage in Macedonia (whither he had neither
been nor meant to go); and had really carried his nefarious trade to a
point where it became almost respectable, because he had actually
swindled the Pope! He had got a decoration out of the Holy Father, by
posing as an important mountain chief, converted to true Catholicism at
the threshold of the Apostles; and by promising to bring his whole tribe
to confess the same. One feels that cheating _in excelsis_ in this
fashion confers a halo of semi-respectability on such a supreme artist;
and the impression was apparently shared by the Ottoman Government, for
they had felt that no man could be fitter to represent the Sultan in
Urmi, and he had been nominated acting Consul accordingly.

The British Consul-General from Tabriz had come over to help in the
settlement of the frontier dispute, and a rather delicate point arose in
consequence. The Ottoman Consul was, of course, most desirous to come
and pay his respects to his esteemed British colleague; but would like
to be assured first that the warrant for swindling that was out against
him in British Columbia, would not be executed if he came into a British
Consulate. He complained sadly that the expenses of entertaining Tahir
Pasha were ruining him; but unfeeling people pointed out that he had no
cause to grumble. His money had been given for the sustenance of
Macedonian orphans; and his Excellency was a Macedonian of sorts, being
an Albanian, and (as he was over seventy) most likely an orphan as well.
Thus some of the money was going at last for something that resembled
the intention of the donors!

It presently appeared that the instructions the worthy old Pasha had
received were, in brief, to waste all the time possible, and do as
little else as might be. As these jumped absolutely with his own
inclination, he fulfilled them _con amore_; while it was hard to say
whether the British Consul was more annoyed or amused at the

"All Kurds are Turkish subjects, surely," said the Pasha mildly; "a
treaty says so, somewhere."

"But there are some tribes of Kurds right down on the Indian frontier in
Beluchistan, Excellency. Do you mean to claim them too?"

"Well, why not? If they raid over your frontier, let the Sultan know;
and he will send a punitive expedition as soon as possible."

Or there might come a mild protest on the part of the Persian Governor,
anent the arrival of some two hundred armed Kurds, "to pay their
respects to Tahir Pasha."

"What is the meaning of this armed invasion of Persian territory, your

"Well, well, these Persians are hard to deal with. We let their pilgrims
go over our frontier to Kerbela in droves, and say nothing; and when a
few good peaceable fellows come over to pay their respects to the
Sultan's representative you have these complaints at once. So
unneighbourly, you know."

To drive a wily old Australian cow may be hard; but it is child's play
to getting an old Turk to do business when his instructions are to waste

So the frontier dispute dragged on _ad infinitum_ till the British
Consul left it to settle itself, and went back to Tabriz. The Russians
could not allow a country where they had large interests to go to rack
and ruin through anarchy, and the present practical occupation of
northern Persia was the result.



The country between Urmi and Van is easy, as travel goes in Kurdistan;
and, speaking normally, safe. High hills, rising to as much as 11,000
feet, cover the country; and one great mountain saddle, the Chokh range,
has to be crossed. But the hills are rounded, and grass-grown in summer;
and the valleys wide and fertile, though for the most part uncultivated,
and carrying a scanty population. A long winter and heavy snowfall are
natural at such an elevation, and a journey at that time of year is
always a toilsome experience and may be a dangerous one. It is not
pleasant, for instance (as once happened here to the writer), to find
oneself in a position where baggage-horses can get neither forward nor
back; and where the whole party has the duty of "humping" the loads and
carrying them for some hours in deep snow.

That too zealous reformer, Mejid-es-Sultaneh, owns much property among
these lower hills; and this fact is responsible for the development of a
new type of village, the invention of that English gentleman to whom he
assigned his property. It will be understood that "a good head of
labour" is as necessary for a Persian estate now as it was for a
mediæval manor in England; but conditions may make it difficult to
maintain that desirable thing. Hence, when the Englishman found himself
charged with a large depopulated estate, he bethought him of settling
upon it the dispossessed Christians of Tergawar. They were put there
upon the usual terms of the Persian village system, which deserves a
word to itself.

The "Lord of the country-side" who owns the land, assigns a certain
district to a village. It is his business to provide seed-corn; and in
this particular case he built the houses as well, though usually that is
not necessary. The villagers then pay him, instead of a money rent, a
proportion of the crop, varying from a third to a half of the corn
grown. Vineyards pay the same proportion; but if you desire to grow
melons, you must ask leave and pay a special rent; for this is a crop
that is exhausting for the land, and still more for the water.

A big landlord will often own many villages; and in such cases he places
a steward in charge of each, to compute the amount of produce due to him
and to receive his proper share. It is easy to understand from this the
method by which the "unjust steward" of the parable proposed to defraud
his lord: neither is it at all difficult to sympathize with that lord's
"commendation," in a land which still believes implicitly in the policy
of "setting a thief to catch a thief," and where it is recorded that
Ahmed the Calamity and Hassan the Pestilence were made captains of the
watch at Baghdad for no other reason than that "they excelled all men in
villainy and tricks of cunning."

Both sides profited by the arrangement in the Mejid-es-Sultaneh estate;
the owner getting a good supply of labour for a previously unproductive
property, and the villagers a new home in the land.

They were of course in some danger from Kurds; and it was to meet this
that the new type of village was evolved by the English administrator--a
type which is much to his credit as an amateur military engineer. In
ordinary villages the flat-roofed shielings are huddled together without
plan or defensibility. But in these, a square space of perhaps 2 acres
was enclosed by a wall of mud brick some twelve feet high, with
projecting towers at the corners and one good strong gate. Then the
houses of the village were built against this wall on the inner side;
their flat roofs forming an excellent "banquette" for the defence of the
battlemented wall, while the towers provided a flanking fire. The
central space was left clear, except for the village church, and
provided ample accommodation for the flocks. The Kurds came and
reconnoitred, and cursed the inventive and innovating Englishman up hill
and down dale. Half a dozen men with flint-locks could keep thirty of
the best of them outside such a place; and we believe that no village
built on this pattern has ever been seriously attacked.

Normally this district ought to be safe for Europeans; yet it was the
scene of one of the narrowest escapes that the writer has ever
experienced. In the summer of 1909, when Urmi plain was in the condition
of anarchy mentioned in the last chapter, some of the Christian villages
protected themselves by enlisting parties of exiles who belonged to the
fighting clans of Tergawar; men who loved a battle for its own sake, and
who also had a very special personal grudge against the Kurds who were
most obnoxious to their hosts. Hence it came to pass that when the Kurds
of a certain district came down to plunder the village of Ardishai, with
their usual insolent confidence, they met with a most unexpectedly warm
reception. In fact they walked straight into a well arranged ambush;
whence they only escaped with the loss of fourteen dead, besides
wounded; and several captured horses. This was of course a fearful blow
to their prestige, and they went home "with their faces blackened," and
feeling that something must be done to wipe off that stain.

The most obvious thing to do was to destroy the whole of the next party
of travellers that came their way from Urmi district; and, as it
happened, this was the writer's caravan. A party was detailed for the
job; and when we reached the village of Umbi, one easy day out from
Urmi, and asked for hospitality for the night, this party settled there
also, camping on the roof next to the one we were occupying. We were not
aware of the fact, and in any case were safe in the village; for any
attack there would be at once a breach of hospitality, and a crime for
which it would be too easy to fix responsibility. Our would-be
murderers, however, made no secret before their hosts as to what their
errand was; and the men of the village, though naturally interested and
sympathetic, advised them to push the business no farther. "You see,
this is an English party;" they argued. "Now we killed just one American
three years ago and have not heard the last of that trifle yet.[116] You
had better drop the scheme." Finding, however, that their guests were
resolute, the hosts were far too good sportsmen to interfere by giving
any warning to the intended victims; and the gang, who knew they could
easily catch our slow-moving caravan, allowed us to go on our way next
day, and followed after at their leisure.

We stopped about noon to call on a small Agha whose hold stood near the
road; and were sitting at lunch with him under a tree outside the house
when this party of five well-armed Kurds rode up and dismounted. The
Agha invited them to join us at our meal; and though we were surprised
at their refusal, we did not attach any importance to the matter. We
said farewell, and started on the road. As soon as we were gone,
however, our host, who had read the signs better, turned at once to his
new visitors. "Now then, what is your game? Why would you not eat with
the Englishman? or was it me that you had a grudge against?"

The Kurds were as frank with him as with their hosts of the previous
night; but he took a different view of the matter.

"No, you don't if you please! I have no special interest in that
Englishman or any other; but if he is killed on my land it is me that
the Government will come down on. Take another party; it makes no odds
to you, and will not cause trouble for other gentlemen."


From the village of Shwawutha, the scene of the incident related on p.
263. The Zab river is just visible at the foot of the glen, and beyond
it rises the great mass of the Kokobuland Dagh. Qudshanis lies just
below the snow line, at the head of the lateral valley opposite.

No. 10]

As there was after all no personal feeling in the matter, they agreed to
that compromise; and we proceeded safely. When we heard the tale later
we could only be grateful to our host for his consideration; and
convinced even more in the semi-fatalistic belief that is apt to soak
into one in a land of "_Kismet_"--the belief that every man is immortal
till his work is done.

There was an afterpiece to the play; what had very nearly been a tragedy
developing into something resembling a farce. This is not unusual in the
East; for the angel, (or devil) charged with looking after the Persian
and Ottoman empires, has a strong--if grim--sense of humour; and
mercifully sees to it that the most serious and painful of matters shall
always have also a ridiculous side. Our kind hosts at Umbi, having
allowed reasonable time for their guests to carry out their expressed
intentions, reported them at Urmi as already accomplished; saying that
the Englishman and his party had been actually killed. "Is it not
already done sahib?" is what your servant says to you about some order
that he may, or may not, intend to carry out when convenient; and the
minds of these gentlemen were working on similar lines. Word was
accordingly brought to the British Consul, then staying in Urmi, that
some of the men for whom he was responsible had been murdered. At first
that official was blankly incredulous. One acquires a large fund of
scepticism about all rumours in the East, and this was a man of some
experience. Still, the report grew and grew, and was confirmed again and
again, and the bald and unconvincing narrative was embellished with
corroborative detail; till at last somebody with an artistic mind came
in to declare that he had not only seen our corpses lying on a certain
pass, but had smelt them as well; and gave the name of the Sheikh whose
bridle was now adorned by the writer's beard! Even consular scepticism
broke down under this strain; and a caravan was got ready, and even
coffins ordered for us so that decent interment might be given to our
bodies; when a Nestorian _qasha_ turned up opportunely from the
mountains, and was summoned before the Consul at once.

"Have you heard anything of this reported murder of Mr. Wigram on the
Jerma pass, on the 25th day of the month?" was the query.

"I have sahib; but I think that on the whole it is not true, because I
had tea with him at Qudshanis" (well beyond the scene of the supposed
murder), "on the 30th."

As the road goes north-west towards Van, the traveller gradually enters
the land of the Armenian Christians, leaving the Assyrian or Nestorian
land behind. Kurdistan, which is the general though unofficial title for
the land where the Kurds live, embraces both; and of course any Turk
will tell you that there is no such land as Armenia or Armenistan. Under
the old régime, the word was carefully erased from all maps or books
that entered the country,[117] lest erroneous teaching should be given
in the Sultan's schools; and much in the same spirit, books on chemistry
were sometimes barred, because they contained the treasonable formula,
H_{2}O. The seditiousness of this is perhaps not obvious: but it will be
clear to the meanest capacity when it is explained that H_{2} means, and
can only mean, Hamid II, Sultan of Turkey; and if you supply the
obviously understood symbol = between the 2 and the O, you get the
appalling doctrine, "Hamid II = Zero," which clearly cannot be allowed
to pass.

Armenia then, does not exist; though there are districts where Armenians
are the prevailing type of Christians; and we are now entering one of
them. Of course there is a certain amount of "interlacing," and isolated
villages of either form of Christianity are found scattered among the
districts mainly inhabited by the other.

Bashkala, which will be found upon the map, is the seat of government
for the district; and this place is inhabited mainly by Jews, who are,
as always, the financiers and merchants of the land. It is a postal
centre, principally remarkable for the fact that the post goes to that
point from Van, for distribution to such centres as Julamerk, Neri, and
Diza; but only strays on to them, when a _zaptieh_ or policeman happens
to be going in that direction. Then he takes on the letterbag, provided
that he does not forget, or that it is not too heavy for him to carry.
Hence letters and papers sometimes spend some time in that office; and
we remember the courteous remark of the _mutaserif_[118] of the place,
who observed to us when we called upon him on the way to Van after a
winter spent in Qudshanis, "_Effendim_, the papers you used to receive
during the winter had very good pictures in them." It sounded cool, but
after all, the poor man had little to read; the papers were none the
worse for his looking at them, and he never meddled with the letters.
Also, he always sent them on when he had done with them, and his action
did not even imply any delay in the forwarding; so it seemed to us that
there was nothing very much to complain about.

Somewhat to the west of the Urmi-Van road, and up among the highest of
the mountains, stands one interesting memorial of the past. One
particular valley runs down from the edge of lake Van to the Tigris; a
pass open practically all the year round, between the plain of
Mesopotamia and the Armenian plateau. It should be a highroad for
commerce; but the Kurds who live in it are too turbulent to allow any
traveller to pass that way as a rule, and it is very little known in
consequence. It was a passage of strategic importance, however, in the
days when Rome held Nisibis as her frontier post on the Persian border;
and when Armenia was a buffer state of most uncertain loyalty, between
the Roman and Sassanid Persian empires. Hence it was a road to guard;
and Roman engineers planted upon it one of the grandest of Roman
fortresses, which stands to this day practically unruined. Diocletian,
who fortified this strategic frontier, was probably its builder; and it
must have been evacuated when Jovian ceded the provinces to Persia some
fifty years after his day. Since then it has remained derelict, for
anyone to occupy who cared; and so it stands still--one of the grandest
Roman relics anywhere.

It is a great square fortress, built after the pattern of their camps,
with the prætorium as its citadel in the centre of the western side.
One wall, the northern, has been pulled down to provide material for the
mediæval Kurdish _kala_ into which the general's quarters have been
transformed; but this probably embodies much of the old citadel in
itself. The whole would well repay examination by an expert--provided
that its present owner could be got to understand the difference between
antiquarianism and espionage, which is doubtful in the extreme.

A miserable Kurdish village occupies the interior of this grand fort;
the hovels being built, of course, from the hewn stones of the walls.
But even these "beggars hutting in the palace" are dimly aware that such
a place has harboured greater men than they; and tell you that it was
the work of giants and enchanters--at which one does not wonder.

The writer once visited the spot, in company with the British military
Consul of Van; being attracted both by the interest of the building
itself, and also by a story that there was a hoard of ancient documents
in some unknown tongue in one of the rooms of the castle. The tale is
quite probably true, though the documents may be of any date; but the
present owner of the place politely denied all knowledge of them. His
guest was a marvel of erudition, he declared, but had been misinformed
in this particular; and so he changed the subject to something that
interested him more. This was the Consul's Mannlicher rifle, a beautiful
tool that always excited envy everywhere, and was invaluable as a topic
of conversation. Our host examined it, dandled it, played with it; and
finally proposed a fair exchange--that rifle against his newly married
wife! A deal which the Englishman rather ungallantly declined.

Disappointed in this, the Agha started yet another hare, with a hint
that if we could oblige him in this, he might find it possible to
refurbish his own memory in the matter of the documents. He told us a
long tale of woe, of which the principal feature was that his hereditary
enemy had recently been building a fine new castle, just in the one spot
where he least wished to see it. We sympathized, but were not very
clear what we could do in the matter, till we were enlightened by a
confidential whisper from our host. "Look here Bey, I know the ways of
you English, and you're sure to have a little dynamite; you always have.
Could you not spare me just a few cartridges? I want--_to kill a few

We were the guests of the Agha for the evening, and ate of course what
was set before us; next day, however, there was some bargaining to be
done for the fowl that was to have the honour of providing our supper
that night. It is always well to buy your fowl in the morning, because
it saves time at the hour of cooking; and it is easier to drive a
bargain when you are obviously not dependent on the completion of the
purchase for getting your next meal. Here the Consul's kavass hit on an
ingenious expedient. The Consul had a good rook-rifle with him; and the
kavass, a Serb by nationality, was a very good shot with it. Five
piastres was the sum demanded for the old cock we had fixed on; two was
our offer, which is the usual market rate. The kavass produced the rifle
and made a sporting suggestion. "Look here," he said to the owner, "the
bird is about eighty yards off. If I bring him down with one shot, will
you let me have him for two piastres? If I have to spend a second
cartridge, you shall have the full five." A Kurd has a sport-loving
soul, and the offer was accepted at once; particularly as their rifles
do not throw too accurately. The kavass bowled the fowl over neatly; and
the same trick got us several dinners at a fair rate that journey,
though naturally it could not be played in the same place twice.

When this frontier province was occupied by the Turks (an event that
occurred shortly before the revolution), it was strongly garrisoned from
end to end. But the sufferings of the unhappy soldiers in the ensuing
winter were terrible. No provision was made for their accommodation; no
medical stores were provided; and hardly any food. It says much for the
troops that they did not loot every village in the neighbourhood; but
the fact is that "Nefer Mustafa" (the Turkish Tommy Atkins) is the most
easily disciplined and normally one of the kindliest of men. He is not
the most intelligent of soldiers, but he is the most obedient; and he
will march and starve, fight or freeze, and die in scores of dysentery
and cholera, not only without a mutiny, but even without a sense of
grievance against anybody; though he can hardly be ignorant that the
rascally minor officials are making their profit out of the stores which
he does not get. In one particular case, two battalions, amounting to
perhaps 1200 men in all (the contractors probably drew stores, &c., for
the 2000 they should have been, but that is a detail), were marched from
Van to Tergawar late one autumn. There they remained, billeted in the
deserted villages, till the following spring; when such of them as could
walk were brought back to Van once more. Four months' peace service in
that district, without a shot being fired, had brought those 1200 men
down to 400; of whom a bare half were able to march at all! It was
simply the work of cold, hunger, fever, and neglect! Things did improve
with the army under the new régime, or did for a while at any rate; but
the pre-revolutionary state of things would have been regarded as
exaggerated for a comic opera but for the tale of human suffering that
it implied.

The pay of the soldier was nominally one or two piastres a day; but when
he got this magnificent sum, which was not often, it was paid him in
_sanads_, Government assignats, not cash. The local treasury, moreover,
would not cash them (in fact, they were usually payable in some other
province than that where the poor recipient was quartered), and no shop
would look at them as payment for goods. Certain merchants made a
business of buying them, at 1/5th of the face value, and presenting them
in the proper quarter, when they might perhaps get half the sum due. The
Government would be debited with the full amount; and the officials got
the balance. By a final touch, which surely nobody but Ottoman officials
of the old régime could have conceived, the Government would not receive
its own bank-notes from its own soldiers in payment of its own taxes!
Those had to be paid in gold, the Government only accepting silver at a
heavy premium.

Add to this that the soldier, nominally enlisted for five years with the
Colours, and seven in the "_Redif_" or Reserve, was never allowed his
discharge. Greybeards in the ranks were the commonest of sights; and we
have seen men serving in 1905 who bore the medal granted for the defence
of Plevna in 1878, and who had never been discharged.

Bashkala, to which we must now return, is two days journey from Van; and
the road crosses the lofty Chokh range, an obstacle easy enough in
summer, but uncommonly formidable in winter. At the best of times it is
impassable to artillery, though a road could be constructed across it
with a little labour. Half of it has in fact been accomplished, and a
properly graded track, with wide sweeps and zigzags, goes up part of the
ascent. Like most Turkish roads, however, it has neither beginning nor
end, and nobody ever uses it. A little more trouble over the removal of
the rocks in which it terminates at each end (and which keep it
inacessible to all beasts of burden) would have made it useful. However,
when this point had been reached, the official interested in it was
recalled, or the money ran out, or the _Vali_ wanted the funds for
something else; and so it remains unfinished and useless to this day. It
is somehow characteristic of the Arab and Ottoman races (though not of
all Orientals) that they can form magnificent designs, and can begin and
work at them for a time. Seldom, however, can they finish them, and
never can they undertake the toil of maintenance and repair. So
magnificent monuments and civil works fall into utter decay, and boats
go to ruin everywhere, for lack of a ha'porth of tar.

One of the gorges of the Chokh range was the scene of a strange episode
during the Armenian massacres of 1896. A party of Armenians, mostly
women and children, were endeavouring to escape by this route, in the
early spring. At that season frequent avalanches descend from the upper
slopes to the bottom of the defiles, choking them for hundreds of yards
on end. The streams of course make their way under the snow, winding
through caverns which no man dare enter; for the water nearly fills the
tunnel, and the roofs are constantly collapsing as the melting
proceeds. As the party approached one of these caverns, making their
way along the track on the hillside above it, they found their pursuers
close behind. "Let us fall into the hands of God rather than into those
of the Kurds," said their leader; and wading into the stream, they
entered the snow-cave. As they did so another avalanche thundered down
the slope behind them blocking the entrance of their refuge and burying
them under the snow. "They have gone to their deaths," said the
pursuers, and halted where they were. But, as a matter of fact, the
refugees were just within the cavern when the avalanche fell. This
naturally dammed back the ice-cold torrent for a while, and they were
able to crawl down the empty bed to the lower end of the passage. Here
they emerged, hidden from their enemies by the curvature of the valley,
and so escaped!

It may well be recorded too that at least one man of this district, Agha
Zohar of Zirnek, sheltered the Armenians who fled to his country for
refuge in that black time. When the slaughterers came in pursuit, and
said that it was the order of the Sultan that the Armenian dogs should
die, he replied proudly that he knew of no order of any Sultan that
could constrain a gentleman to surrender his guests to the sword! The
refugees had brought some few cattle with them, and these they offered
as a reward to their protector. He not only refused to accept them, but
gave them pasturage with his own herds till it was safe for the men to
return to their homes.

The best type of Moslem gentleman is unsurpassed in any land.

The half-way house between Bashkala and Van is the city of Khoshab,
which boasts the one castle of our acquaintance, which really embodies
the dreams of Gustave Doré. As we give a picture of it, we may spare the
reader any attempt at a description; but may say that though the main
part of the architecture is Seljuk in style and date, it presents some
features that are of European character, and support the local tradition
that its real designer was a "Frank" of Italian birth--though whether a
captive or an adventurer is left uncertain. The same tradition says also
that the castle was built by the illustrious Saladin, the only Kurd
whom history is able to mention with esteem. The place may perhaps have
been part of his family property, but as he was born in Egypt, he can
hardly have dwelt in it himself. Certainly there was a stronghold here
long before the days of either Saladin or Mohammed, for the masonry of
the lower courses of one of the great towers cries aloud that it is
Urartian. It was built, that is, by the men of that ancient kingdom
whose capital was at Dhuspas, (which is Van), in the days when
Tiglath-Pileser ruled at Nineveh; and which disputed the sovereignty of
Asia with the might of Assur itself. That subject, however, belongs to
another chapter.

In the neighbourhood of Khoshab there is one monument that was probably
venerable even when the Urartian foundations of that grand castle were
laid; and that is one of the finest "_ziarets_" that we have seen in
Kurdistan. A great isolated hill, Boshet Dagh by name, stands up in the
vicinity; rising to 11,000 feet, and commanding one of the grandest
views in the country, from Ararat in the north to Shamsdin in the south.
It is yet so easy of ascent that a horse can easily be ridden the whole
way up; and it forms an ideal "High Place," like those of the Old

Here, the men of old time (and how old one is afraid to say) constructed
a Temple of the orthodox Semitic pattern, such as once stood at
Jerusalem, and still remains at Baalbek. It comprises a court for
worshippers, where sacrifice can be offered; an outer sanctuary; and an
inner shrine. All is rudely built of course, but all the essential
features are there; even to the detail of "ceremonial pillars," like the
"Jachin and Boaz" of Solomon's temple, which are here represented by a
round score of rough dwarf columns. What these stood for in the mind of
their builders it is hard to say. They are a witness, perhaps, of a
covenant between man and God, like those which Jacob set up at Bethel.
In any case, there they stand; a token of how thoroughly the most
primitive form of Semitic religion is a living reality to-day. No
fossiliferous strata preserve the forms of past ages more thoroughly
than does the corporate mind of the living East; though it is often
hard to extract the fossils, and harder to ascertain their true

An easy road takes us from Khoshab to Van, down a valley that should
bear a large population; but where to-day nothing but a chilly wind
wanders, that makes living unpleasant, and is said to blight wheat.
"There were Armenian villages here once," said a Nestorian to us, "but
when the Kurds turned them out, this wind came, and now none can live
here. It is the breath of the curse of the dispossessed upon their
oppressors." And so the fertile Havatsor plain lies empty, though
villages abound upon its borders; and though a prosperous little town
stands where the road begins to climb the low pass leading over the last
range to the gardens and orchards of Van.




We enter a new world as we come up from the south to the land which is
never called Armenia officially, but where the Armenians dwell. The
great plain of Mesopotamia, the wild gorges of the range of Taurus, are
left behind; and the traveller emerges on to a lofty plateau, averaging
6000 feet above the sea, and dotted with the cones of one of the great
volcanic fields of the world. Sipan and Ararat are both magnificent
peaks, though the crater of the latter has been weathered away. Nimrud
Dagh offers the student of eruptive phenomena such a field for his study
as can hardly be matched in the world; and the lava flows from Mount
Etna, which are out and away the most magnificent in Europe, are not to
be compared for a moment with the twenty miles square of "black glacier"
that have streamed from the fissures of Tendurek Dagh. These mountains,
as already related, are grouped around the site which tradition has
assigned to the Garden of Eden; and it is on the peaks of Niphates, the
Hakkiari mountains to the southward, that Milton has pictured Satan
alighting to wreak his vengeance on God's new creation Man.

One of these great lava flows, that of Nimrud Dagh, forms the dam that
holds up the large salt lake of Van; a body of water of about the size
of the lake of Geneva, but carrying almost as much mineral matter in
suspension as does the companion lake of Urmi. In this case, however,
the mineral is not ordinary salt, but borax (bi-borate of sodium, to be
accurate); so that the water is pleasanter to swim in, and not so
absolutely fatal to animal life.

At certain seasons of the year the mouths of the rivers that enter the
lake swarm with fish--a variety of bleak. They run up into fresh water
to spawn, and in the process are scooped out by the basket-load. Certain
types of water-snake also haunt the rocky shores.

These are about four feet long, and creamy white in colour (or appear
so, when seen through some depth of water); and they have the
characteristic wedge-shaped head that one generally associates with

Given better means of transport, and better government, one may yet see
Lake Van become a health resort and a _bad_; for its waters are
certainly curative in certain types of skin disease. The writer has
known an obstinate case of soriasis cured by a summer spent in camp on
the lake, with regular bathing as part of the day's programme. The
effect on human hair is also very peculiar; for an English lad with
ordinary light-brown hair developed, under similar treatment, an aureole
of the purest gold ever seen on human head. The change seemed permanent
too, at least as regarded all that was above scalp-level at the time.
Later growth was unfortunately of the original hue!

This country was formerly the home of one of the great empires of
ancient history; that of the Urartians, or Khaldians, who could dispute
the hegemony of Asia with Assur, at the time when the first colonists
were settling on the seven bare hills that afterwards were Rome. Van
(Dhuspas as it was then called) was their capital; and their kings had
their palace on the great limestone ridge that rises, like the vertebrae
of some huge saurian, 300 feet above the alluvial plain. As a stronghold
this rock was impregnable, and could turn back even Assur at her
strongest; and to this day the masses of cyclopean masonry on its crest,
and the scores of inscribed cuneiform tablets on its precipitous faces,
bear witness to the might of its former lords. The language in which
these inscriptions are written is unknown elsewhere (unless it may prove
to have affinity with the mysterious Hittite, in spite of the difference
of script); but fortunately a tri-lingual inscription left by Xerxes the
son of Darius has enabled the records to be deciphered. They do not, as
a rule, possess as much interest as the Assyrian inscriptions; and are
usually to the effect that "I, Menuas son of Ishpuinis, set up this
stone, and invoke the Curse of Cowdray upon the man who throws it down."
Menuas, and his son Argistis, were the two most powerful monarchs who
occupied the throne of Dhuspas; and their reigns (B.C. 820 to 760 or
thereabouts) coincided with a period of decadence in the rival power of
Assyria. But in 735 B.C. the Empire of Urartu succumbed before Tiglath
Pileser II; though their then king, Sharduris II, was able to make good
his defence of this unconquerable citadel.

The plateau of Van is at present the home of the Armenian race; but it
is very doubtful whether these have any connexion with the aboriginal
Khaldian inhabitants. Their own traditions absolutely contradict the
theory; but their modern national writers are apt to claim such descent,
now that European scientists have made out the meaning of the
inscriptions. Whatever their blood may be, there the Armenians are now;
but it is one of the features of that most tangled problem, the Armenian
question, that members of the race are never more than a minority,
wherever they are found.

Men of that nationality exist everywhere; and no "shadrach" in a blast
furnace refuses more obstinately to melt and become assimilated to the
rest of the iron ore, than they refuse to assimilate themselves to their
neighbours. They are found elsewhere only in colonies; but even in this
their original home, massacre, oppression, and the deliberate planting
of counter-balancing colonies of Kurds in villages whence the original
owners have been expelled, has reduced them to something less than half
the present population.

As a people there are few who have a good word for them. They are said
to be cowardly and treacherous; to be mere money-grubbers, and so on _ad
nauseam_. The charges vary; but all agree that the objects of them are
objectionable somehow. They seem, in fact, to be a sort of Dr. Fell of
nationalities; for every one dislikes them, though often enough they
cannot tell the reason. Even the writer, who has not the least objection
to thieves, murderers, and devil-worshippers, and who has a kindly
feeling for a successful cheat, admits to getting on less well with
Armenians than with other Orientals.

And yet there is much about them that anyone must admire. They have, in
fact, much in common with the Jew, who excites much the same feeling
among many estimable people! Both have the same attachment, alike to
money and to their own peculiar form of religion. Both have the same
power of endurance and toughness. And as both have had much the same
treatment for generations, and both are nations without a country, they
have developed much the same characteristics. Money and intrigue have
been their only weapons; and they have naturally come to think these the
most important of all things. We can have nothing but admiration for
their devotion to their nation, with which their religion and their
church is bound up; and they have a high sense of their duty to it, as
shown by their educational institutions. Men call them a nation of
cowards; but that charge at least is false. In the massacres of 1895,
armed men were butchering unarmed; and there was no test of anything but
passive endurance. Yet how many could have saved their lives by a mere
verbal acceptance of Islam? We shall have a good deal to say to the
discredit of the revolutionaries among them, the "_Fedais_;" but at
least the terror that that very small body could inspire among Turks and
Kurds in three provinces ought alone to acquit them of any reproach of

Both as nation and as church they have a long history, for which we may
refer the reader to such works as Lynch's "Armenia." They have been
subject to the Ottoman Turks since the year 1365, when the latest of a
series of Armenian kingdoms finally collapsed. But outlying colonies of
their nation exist, as is well known, in several lands, notably in
Persia and India.

Their Christianity dates back to 312 A.D. when the whole people was
converted by the joint efforts of their king, Tiridates, and Saint
Gregory the Illuminator. The Greek Church calls them heretical; but
their heresy is in truth no more than a resolution to maintain the
independence of their church, which is now the sole expression of their
nationality, and is prized accordingly. It is true that they refuse to
accept one of the Councils that most of the world calls "General," viz.
that of Chalcedon; but they have been at some pains to insert into their
version of the creed words expressly condemnatory of that peculiar
"Monophysite" heresy which their rejection of Chalcedon is supposed to
affirm; and their real cause for disagreeing with that Council was its
recognition of the Primacy of the Patriarch of Constantinople.

For some time after their conquest the Armenians had nothing particular
to complain of in their lot as Ottoman subjects. The Turk had no cause
to fear anybody, for his dominion was unshaken, and it is only when he
fears that he is oppressive and cruel. Moreover if his method of
government did suggest the habits of a man who lives on capital rather
than income, there was still a good deal of capital left, and all was
comfortable for every one while it lasted. The Armenians were rather the
favourites among the subject races. They were the _millet-i-zadik_, the
loyal people, who had no friends outside the empire, and no political
aspirations, but were content to be Ottoman subjects provided that their
religious institutions were respected. Any interference with these was
the last thing that the Turk contemplated; for the Mussulman was, to do
him justice, the first ruler that was really tolerant in religious
matters. Armenians were very convenient underlings in all the work of
governing. "We Turks do not know how to make money, we only know how to
take it;" and a Turk does not know to this day, and probably never will
learn, how really to govern a country. His sole conception is to occupy
the land, and take as much money from his subjects as his needs require.
His instincts are really those of the nomad; the _rayats_ are his sheep
and cows,--there to be milked. He does not want to kill them, for he is
a kindly fellow; and besides, who ever kills his own cattle wantonly?
But if a sheep exhibits an unpleasant independence of disposition, and
propagates the blasphemous doctrine that it was created for other things
than the due provision of milk, wool, and mutton in due season for its
lawful owner, the shepherd is apt to say it is a vicious beast, and to
take measures accordingly.

The country that the Turk acquired had of course to be administered
somehow; but it was not Turks by blood that did the administering. The
high officials were usually the selected children, taken from their
Christian parents by the "Janissary" tribute (which provided also the
_corps d'elite_ of the army). Or else they were European adventurers and
renegades; or (in the case of many of the very best of them) Albanians.
The underlings were very largely Armenians, who form most admirable
subordinates in all Government offices. They were never trusted with any
high executive posts; but they did all the inferior work, and no
objection was raised to their filling their own pockets the while.

There were isolated cases of oppression in plenty, as there always will
be when Armenian and Turk deal with one another; but it was not Turkish
tyranny that was invariably to blame. We have known of an Armenian
father, on his death-bed, giving his last charge to his son, as follows:
"Grigor, these are the last words of your father; and see that you
honour and obey them, as such words should be honoured."

"I will my Father; on my head and eyes be it," said the youth.

"My son, never pay your taxes until you have been thrashed."

Under these circumstances, it really does not prove brutality in the
tax-collector, if he sometimes thinks he may as well begin with the
stick, and so save trouble all round.[119]

The fact is, that to try and get the better of the Government in a
bargain (or for that matter, of anybody else) is an Armenian's notion
of sport; and abstractedly, there is as much to be said for it as for
professional football! Very pretty fencing sometimes results, as the
following case may show. Educational institutions and church property
have to be registered in the names of trustees; and, in consideration of
the fact that they pay no taxes, certain fees are demanded when a new
name has to be registered. The idea of saving that expense appealed to
all Armenians; and there was the further consideration that no one of
them ever feels any confidence in another's honest administration of any
trust fund. A brilliant idea occurred to some genius. He would secure a
trustee who was indubitably honest and immortal as well; the property
should stand in the name of the Patron Saint!

So, in one instance (the thing was done repeatedly) the school attached
to the church of SS. Peter and Paul was solemnly registered in the names
of Peter, son of Jonas, fisherman by trade, resident at Capernaum in the
province of El Kuds (Jerusalem), and Paul, father's name unknown,
tentmaker by trade, resident at Tarsus in the province of Adana. The
scheme worked admirably for a while; and when the Ottoman officials
realized what was being done, and objected to losing their fees, it must
be owned that they played the game prettily. They sent in a formal
notification to the Armenian authorities, that they understood that
these two trustees, Petrus Effendi and Paulus, were now dead; and (so
far as their information went) that both gentlemen had died intestate.
If this were so, then in course of law their trust property would revert
to the "Ministry of Pious Benefactions," whence very little of it would
ever come out for the use of any Armenians!

There was a terrible scare for a while among those concerned; but
Turkish good nature came into play, and the matter was dropped, in
consideration of proper trustees being registered in future--and no
doubt a decent _bakhshish_ to the officials concerned.

While the nation as a whole was not badly off, individuals were often in
a position of privilege, owing to some personal claim that they happened
to have on some official. One of these, which endures to the present
day, is so remarkable as to deserve special notice.

The house of the Armenian priest of Adeljivas, on Lake Van, is
officially recognized as having perpetual immunity from all forms of
taxation. The family legend has it that their ancestor was the personal
servant of Ali, the nephew of the Prophet, in some warlike expedition
that he made. The scene of the campaign is said to have been Egypt.

Ali was hit in some skirmish by an arrow, which pierced his heel and
broke in the wound. The steel could not be found and extracted, and
signs of mortification set in, so that the doctors gave up hope. Still
the Khalif, though he thought himself dying, insisted on rising from his
couch to say his prayers as a good Mussulman should; while his faithful
Christian servant stood behind him the while. One of the attitudes of
Moslem prayer involves bowing forward from a kneeling posture till the
forehead touches the ground. (It is this attitude that makes such a
headgear as the fez or turban obligatory for a Moslem. The hat is not
removed in prayer, and yet the forehead must touch the ground.)
Naturally, a wound on the heel was drawn open by this act, and the
Armenian saw the arrowhead in the flesh. He, prompt man, dropped on his
knees, got a good hold of it with his teeth, and pulled! The steel came
out, but Ali fainted with the pain, and the servant fled, fearing he had
killed his master. The latter recovered, however, and ordered search to
be made for his benefactor; and when he had found him, told him to name
his own reward. Perpetual immunity for all males of his house from all
taxes was what the practically minded Armenian chose; and Ali granted
him this boon at once, giving him a piece of his own robe in testimony.
Each successive Khalif has recognized the act of his great predecessor,
and in many cases has given a _firman_ declaring the same; and these
documents are now stored in the house of the present holder of the
privilege. They naturally form a most interesting collection; ranging,
as they do, from the great purple and gold parchments, works of art of
great value to connoisseurs, which were granted by Sulieman the
Magnificent and Murad the "Father of Clubs," down to the flimsy
half-sheet of notepaper which bears the seal of Abdul Hamid II.

With them is kept what purports to be the original fragment of the robe
of Ali; which is a valuable possession in itself, for water in which it
has been dipped is a specific for most diseases for all faiths. The
piece of stuff has some unusual qualities certainly, if it is genuine;
for it is said to have lasted undecayed through some thirteen centuries
of soaking and drying again. As for the cures it works, they are genuine
enough, provided that the patient has sufficient faith!

Gradually, however, the comfortable state of things referred to, from
which both Ottomans and Armenians profited, changed and took a bad turn.
The Ottoman Government grew worse itself absolutely; and much worse
relatively to the progress made by other nations in Europe. Turks saw
one Christian nation after another (Greek, Bulgar, and Serb) slip from
their control, and grew more and more suspicious of those that remained;
while these became more and more aware and resentful of their
sufferings. The old oppression and corruption grew worse; while the old
laziness and good nature that had tempered things helped less. The
latter qualities, however, are not quite extinct even yet, as a case
from the writer's own knowledge may illustrate.

An unfortunate Assyrian _qasha_ was arrested on some charge or other;
and after he had endured some months of close confinement in a very foul
prison, was tried and fully acquitted--and then sent back to prison
again indefinitely, because he could not pay to the jailer the fees he
had incurred during his avowedly illegal confinement! One must admit
that the same thing used to happen in England during the eighteenth
century; but perhaps the English official would not have been as kindly
as was the Ottoman _Vali_, who replied to the intercession of the writer
by saying, "Well it is a hard case. Look here, _Effendim_, you can have
him out any Sunday for service, if you will promise to send him back on
the Monday!"

That official's successor, by the way, had the idea of doing things more
in order; and signalized his departure from the old slack ways by
inviting any folk who had the misfortune to be under sentence of death
in his province, to come in and be executed without more delay. When the
order had gone out, he set about inquiring how many he might expect to
surrender themselves; and found that the number of gentlemen who were
under sentence of outlawry in his jurisdiction, and liable to death or
imprisonment for life on arrest, amounted to between seven and eight
hundred, and included every Kurdish Agha of any note in the
_vilayet_![120] The decree caused much inconvenience; for naturally
there was some delicacy felt about coming to pay your respects to the
new governor under the circumstances.

While the Government got worse, the national self-consciousness of the
Armenians developed; particularly in the light of the fact that they saw
how other subject nations, who made sufficient noise, were given their
independence by Europe. They began demanding reform, and a measure of
autonomy; requests which it was natural they should make, in light of
the fact that they could not help being aware that they were far
cleverer and more adaptable than the Turks, and that nevertheless they
were treated as an inferior race by them. On the other hand, the Turkish
feeling was "This country is ours and we mean to rule it. Equality of
treatment such as these Armenians demand is a sheer impossibility; for
the reason that the races are not equal. While we have the power, we can
keep them under; but to put them on an equality means that in a very few
years we shall be under them." Reform is anathema to the Turk, for he
knows (even if he cannot put the matter into words) that reform means
subjection of the Turk to the _ray[=a]t_.

Armenians, and many of the friends of the Armenians, seem unable to
understand this side of the question. They cried out in horror at the
steps (certainly sufficiently grim ones) which the Turk took to
preserve his threatened rule: and not without full cause; for the steps
referred to were the Armenian massacres. Still, the fact is that if you,
being in the same field with a bull, choose to wave a red handkerchief,
it really is no use to explain that any animal of ordinary intelligence
ought to have known that you only wanted to blow your own nose; and that
anyhow the creature's prejudice against red is very unreasonable! The
Turk thinks he has a right to rule; but the only methods he knows are
those which did not shock the conscience of anybody in the seventeenth
century, but do shock the European conscience now; and hence his verdict
was, "The way to get rid of the Armenian question is to get rid of the

This was how matters stood between the parties in the period 1904-1910
when the writer was resident in Van. At that time the reforming or
revolutionary party among the Armenians was known by the generic name of
the "_Fedais_;"[121] and was divided internally into two parties, the
"_Armeni_" who were more or less moderate in their views and methods,
and the "_Tashnak_"[122] society, which advocated open violence.

The line which the Tashnak brotherhood followed was simply this:--to
provoke open massacre by deeds that they knew must infuriate the Turk;
in the hope that if only the massacre was horrible enough, European
intervention would follow. There are perhaps two things that may be said
in excuse for this appalling line of action. First, that the Tashnakists
did expose themselves pretty freely to those perils which they were
deliberately drawing down on their unfortunate fellow countrymen; and
second, that they had seen success follow the adoption of very similar
methods in Greece, Serbia, and Bulgaria. The headquarters of their
organization were in the Caucasus, that sink of all that is disorderly
in the Russian Empire; but they had their local leaders in Turkey, and
Van was one of their most important centres. Their object was the
creation of an independent or autonomous Armenia; and they worked on
parallel, but by no means on friendly, lines with the "Young Turk"

As to their methods, Armenian sympathizers were expected to support them
voluntarily; but blackmail and terrorism were also used
freely--particularly on the wealthier merchants, who (having something
to lose) were not merely blind opponents of the Turkish régime. Thus in
one case a merchant was captured, and simply given the choice between
paying £100 to the cause, or forfeiting his ears; when he offered £50,
he was told that in that case only one ear would be taken. Under that
pressure he paid, and was released; with the warning that immediate
death would follow any attempt to obtain redress from the Government.

In like fashion, the Bishop of Akhtamar, near Van, was deliberately
murdered; either for not supporting the movement with church funds,
or--as some said--for not exerting himself sufficiently to obtain
redress from the Government for his oppressed flock.

Sometimes, however, they did execute a sort of irregular justice. One
notorious Kurdish oppressor at least was found shot; and information was
sent to the Government that this was the justice administered by the
Tashnakist organization for what that man had done, and that therefore
if any of the dead man's immediate _rayats_ were charged with it, the
Government officials would hear more of the matter. Had they confined
themselves, under the existing circumstances, to this twentieth-century
version of the _Vehm-gericht_, it would not have been difficult to
sympathize with them.

Their local organization consisted of a small "inner ring," which had
not more than a dozen members at most. Next to them came perhaps 600
"sworn soldiers," who were well armed with Mauser pistols, and had each
of them taken an oath to fight to the death under the orders of the
"ring," and never to surrender under any circumstances. Beyond these
again were "adherents" in indefinite number (perhaps 3000 in all), for
whom guns had been smuggled in, and stored in secret arsenals; with the
idea that this force could be called to arms if ever an opportunity of
open rebellion arrived. If the massacre they courted should begin, these
arms could of course be of use for defensive purposes.

The guns were a "scratch lot;" the best being Mausers, but the majority
Russian military rifles. It would seem that discipline in the Caucasus
was benevolently slack, and that very few questions were asked if a
soldier sold his rifle for vodka. They had also a good supply of bombs,
the material for which was transported from the Caucasus, and made up
locally by a chemist of the band.

In the summer of 1905, the Fedais at large attempted what might be
called a guerrilla war on a fairly large scale in the district of Mush,
to the west of Lake Van. They said they were interfering to protect the
peasants from the troops. The troops said that they had been marched
down to protect the peasants from the brigands. And the unfortunate
peasants heartily wished both parties away! In any case, there were some
300 Tashnakists wandering in the land, having arrived in small parties
from Russia; and they were levying open war on the Government, which had
to reinforce the local garrison by some 6000 men to deal with the
annoyance, and then failed to catch them. One may have one's own opinion
of the cause and methods of the Fedais; but it must be admitted that
their claim that Armenians proved themselves to be as good fighting men
individually as any Turk was well substantiated.

In one case, a party of some twenty of these desperadoes were fairly
caught by 700 Government troops, regular and irregular, upon an isolated
and waterless hill. It did seem that these men were cornered, for there
was not cover for a rat to escape by, and no man can fight against
thirst. However, the Armenians did not wait for the next day's attack,
but came down that moonless night, provided with the weapons they
had--rifles, bombs, and electric torches. Obviously, they had a leader
with a head on his shoulders, for their plans were regularly laid. They
advanced in couples; and as soon as a challenge was heard Armenian A
threw the flashlight from his electric torch on to the sentry, and
Armenian B threw the bomb at him and annihilated him. The explosion
roused the camp; but the band of Fedais rushed straight on, flashing
their lights and throwing their bombs at anything that came in their
way. Naturally, half trained troops were not going to face Sheitan
himself in this style. They broke; and the band went through without the
loss of a man, thanks to an ingenious combination of the tactics of
Gideon with those of the modern anarchist.

On another occasion the result was not quite so successful, though the
revolutionaries secured a full price for every man they lost.

Eighteen Fedais, their work done, were endeavouring to leave the
country, but were forced by sheer hunger to halt near a friendly
village, while food was provided for them. Somehow, the fact of their
presence leaked out, and the Kurds of the neighbourhood gathered to the
prey. The men took refuge in three small caves that stood side by side,
serving, as is often the case, for sheepfolds. These were hollowed
artifically in loose conglomerate rock, their roof being formed by a
comparatively thin shelf of projecting limestone. The Fedais put their
bombs in readiness at the cave mouths; these forming their sole weapon:
though the fact that they were carrying some £6000 in gold on their
persons made them a prize worth winning. One party of Kurds occupied the
top of the shelf of rock, while the main body prepared for a frontal
attack. As these rushed up the slope, an Armenian in the central cave
took up a bomb from the heap that lay ready, and hurled it at the enemy.
His aim was not too good, however, for the missile hit the edge of the
rock and exploded; the concussion naturally detonating the whole
magazine. Of course the six Armenians in that cave were never seen
again; though the writer was shown some of the coins that were then in
their waist-belts, and which had in several cases been blown clean into
the rock, looking as if they had been battered with a hammer on an
anvil. If the garrison perished, however, their cave was turned for the
moment into a great cannon. Every Kurd in the path of the explosion was
killed; and the roof of the cavern, with all the men on it, disappeared
into space. Thirty-five Kurds missing altogether, besides a number
wounded, was fair recompense for the loss of six men. The assailants had
no wish to face the two remaining caves after the reception they got
from the first one, and the rest of the party effected their retreat

Nature aided the Tashnakists, by giving them practically inexpugnable
strongholds in the land, with ready exits into Persian territory. The
great crater of Nimrud, some six miles across, was one of their refuges;
and this is paved for much of its area with a maze of corrugated lava
whence no man who knows the runs can be dislodged. Here are also hot
springs, just of a temperature to sit in comfortably, in which some of
these fellows actually lived for weeks during an Armenian winter, with
the thermometer far below zero. They had rigged up an ingenious
arrangement, so that they could lie in the water and sleep with their
heads above the surface.

Their strangest stronghold, however, was the giant lavaflow of Tendurek.
Here either the lava has streamed from great horizontal fissures, or
possibly the whole mountain has been blown away by the discharge of an
accumulation of energy. Whatever the cause, an area some twenty miles
square has been covered with a sea of black lava; which has split and
fissured in every direction as it cooled, and now resembles nothing so
much as a gigantic black glacier. It is a place where any number of men,
and any amount of stores, could lie _perdu_ for as long as they wished;
for there is an abundant supply of water in the crevasses. One edge of
the field is admittedly in Persian territory, and so cannot be policed,
even if it were a simple matter to put a cordon round such a place. All
the guns of the empire might bombard the stronghold to the crack of doom
without inconveniencing its occupants, except by an occasional lucky
shot; and the garrison could issue from it at any point to cut up any
isolated post. It is an absolutely ideal guerrilla stronghold; for men
can move from end to end of it unseen, while every movement of the
besieger is conspicuous to them on the bare downs that surround it.

Of course, the game was a superb one for the Tashnakists, or for anyone
who enjoys gambling against heavy odds with death as the penalty. For
the unhappy Armenian _rayats_, who wanted to be let alone and given a
chance to make a living, it was a different story. The revolutionaries
wanted to do them good, no doubt; but few folk really like being done
good to. And to like the peculiar Tashnakist method of getting them
massacred for the assumed benefit of posterity was impossible for human
nature. "We used to have one set of masters, and Allah knows that they
were hard enough," was the moan they made; "now we have two, and Allah
alone knows which is the harder." The revolutionaries came down on them,
and demanded, at the mouth of a pistol, supplies to enable them to fight
against the Government. Then they withdrew, and the Government came down
on the poor _rayats_ in their turn (or in some cases turned the Kurdish
irregulars loose upon them), for their crime in "resetting" avowed
rebels against the State. How many deaths took place in the summer of
1905 in the Mush district was never known; but the estimates of those
who were in a position to know put the numbers at about 5000.

One party of the Fedais, in the course of their retreat to Persian
territory entered the city of Van, where their proceedings gave a good
instance _in petto_, of their whole _modus operandi_.

Entering the "garden city" by night, they encountered one of the police
patrols; and a skirmish resulted, in which a policeman was shot. Of
course the troops were called out, and the house in which the rebels had
been received was attacked and burnt, after another and sharper
skirmish. Still they effected their retreat from it, and were lost to
sight for a moment in the walled gardens of the town.

The _Vali_ had now to choose. Should he order a strict search for those
who were in open war against the Government and had thus outraged his
authority? It was in his power to do so, and catch and destroy this band
of a dozen men; but it was not in his power to hold the troops if the
search, with its attendant street-fighting, once began; and the act
spelt massacre for an unknown number of peaceful Armenians. On the other
hand, could he allow those rebels to retire uninjured? What would his
master the Sultan say to him if he did? And would the troops, one of
whose comrades had been "murdered by these Armenian dogs," obey him if
he gave such an order? For twenty-four hours the scales wavered, every
foreign house and Consulate being packed with terrified Armenian
refugees. While in the Turkish quarter of the town the panic was hardly
less, though less conspicuous; for to them every Armenian was a Fedai,
and every Fedai had his pockets full of bombs.

The twelve Tashnakists themselves were probably the only people
unconcerned; for they had won their game, though they might have to pay
the forfeit of their lives, a thing that they had deliberately risked
throughout. If they were allowed to withdraw, they had at least flaunted
the Government in its provincial capital, and dictated terms to it
there. If the attack was made, they could die fighting, and had secured
the great "massacre advertisement," for which they had been playing
throughout. The fact is that an opponent who is reckless of his own life
is very awkward to deal with! All honour is certainly due to the _Vali_
(that same Tahir Pasha whom we knew in Mosul later), for he decided
that, come what might, he would not order the massacre of those whom he
was there to protect. He was able to induce the military commandant to
withdraw the troops to barracks, and allow the Tashnakists to effect
their retreat. He risked his career to save his subjects from their own

Peace ruled in Van for a year or two after this incident; but the
importation of rifles and other revolutionary material continued, and
considerable arsenals were accumulated: the Kurds on the frontier being
glad enough to earn good pay by asking no questions as to the nature of
the loads that passed through their territory. Government was vaguely
aware of what was going on, and was uneasy; particularly as an
oppressive _Vali_ (successor of the shrewd old Tahir) was actually
murdered by the Fedais. As this event took place in Russian territory,
when the man was on a journey to Constantinople, no local disturbance
was caused by it.

The acting _Vali_ who took his place, one Ali Riza, was quietly at work
in his house one night in February 1908, when he was informed that an
Armenian insisted on seeing him on some important business, which he
would disclose to no underling. After some demur he was admitted, and
came to the point at once. "See here, _Vali_ Pasha. My name is David;
and I am come to tell you that I am one of the 'inner ring' of the
Tashnakist society. For reasons of my own, I mean to disclose everything
that I know to the Government. Give me a band of men now, and I will
take them this very night to the house where the rest of the 'ring' are
to assemble; and to-morrow, I will show you the depôts of rifles and

The motive for this act of exceptionally black treachery was, of course,
some quarrel with his comrades. Several versions of this, all coherent
enough, but all contradictory, circulated in the town during the next
few days; the most probable being the obvious one that he and his chief
(the man was second in command of the Van organization) had both fallen
in love with the same girl. Most agreed, however, that David had somehow
become aware that sentence of death had been passed on him by "the
circle"; and hence had declared, "then I will at least have my revenge

Will it be believed that the _Vali_ was either too fearful, or too
stupid, to rise to this opportunity? He gave orders to keep the man in
custody till next day, saying, "then he shall show us the depôts; and if
his story is true about the guns, we can proceed to arrest the brigands
themselves." All suggestions that the guns could not be removed without
some delay, but that the brigands would certainly not continue in that
night's meeting-place after the discoveries had begun, were unavailing;
and nothing was done that night. Next day the man redeemed his pledge,
and there was rare excitement in Van. Rifles by the hundred were
unearthed from various places; and one realized, in watching the
searchers, how admirably a mud house lends itself to the making of a
_cache_. The earth of Van sets into excellent sun-dried brick (in fact
Urartian forts built of it in 800 B.C., remain to this day), and house
walls of this material are usually about three feet thick. A hollow
large enough to contain a score of rifles can easily be excavated in the
middle third of the thickness, and the place built up again. Once let
the fresh mud plaster have time to dry, and what tapping or sounding
will reveal the hollow that exists behind it? Rifles to the number of
nearly 500, half a million cartridges, and some three hundred packets of
dynamite, were the spoil of that day.[123]

One must own that the search was conducted as courteously as might be. A
large proportion of the cartridges were found in a recess of the wall in
the sanctuary of one specially prominent church; but every care was
taken not to disturb the adornments of the altar, though irreverent
conduct would not have been without excuse just then. Similarly, a young
woman found alone in one of the houses that the searchers entered, was
not only not molested, but was even allowed to exhaust a most copious
vocabulary of abuse on the head of the informer. It was strange to see
the Turkish soldiers knocking civilly at doors which could have been
sent in by a blow from the butt of a rifle.

The Tashnakists did not part with these cherished treasures without at
least a snap. The carts taking the plunder to the citadel were attacked
in the street as they left the Armenian quarter; and a very pretty
skirmish followed. The combatants took cover in the houses on opposite
sides of the road, and fired at one another thence, while the prize of
victory lay on the ground between them. With real politeness to the
foreigner they selected a battle-ground under the very windows of the
British Consulate, so that that official and his guests enjoyed a most
interesting view of the proceedings. As a matter of fact, however, it
was not courtesy that dictated the choice, but the desire of the Fedais
to have their right flank covered by the Consulate garden, which was
necessarily neutral ground. The skirmish lasted for about an hour,
during which time about twenty-five men (if you count every scratch)
were killed or wounded; and the battle was finally brought to a close by
a bullet striking the heap of dynamite that lay exposed in the road.
Nobody knew whether this was accident or design; but naturally the blow
detonated all that was there, and a magnificent explosion resulted.
However, with its usual freakishness, the explosive only excavated a
huge pit in the roadway, and did no other harm; not even injuring the
overturned cart that lay by it!

Of course the Tashnakists vowed vengeance on David, who was made a sort
of hero by the Turks, and granted a liberal pension; perhaps with the
feeling that he was not likely to draw it for long. Various Mussulman
officials declared openly that if he should be attacked, they would
exact a hundred lives for his; and it is believed that the principal
Tashnakists, hearing of this, ordered that no step should be taken
against him. However, they were unable to control their followers; and
after an interval of about six weeks, David was shot down in the street
by a lad named Tirlamazian, and died a few days later. The assassin
escaped for a time.

The Turks kept their word: for something over 100 Armenians (mostly
honest shopkeepers returning from the market) were butchered at once by
the "black-heads" (_kara-bashlar_, the low class civilian
population).[124] Again it appeared that the troops, assisted by the
Mussulman populace, would break into the Armenian quarters of the town,
and that a most hideous massacre would follow. Both sides stood to arms,
and for a matter of five weeks the tension was very great; hardly any
Armenians venturing to leave their quarters. On the other hand, the
Turks had just as much fear of entering there, for the position was
eminently defensible. The houses of the garden city were too solidly
built to be much damaged by field artillery (which was all that was
available); and standing as they do for the most part in large gardens
surrounded by mud walls, there was a distinct possibility that the
troops (if they entered the quarter at all) might be very seriously
entangled in them. Further, all the Turkish and Kurdish forces had a
very lively respect for the prowess of the Tashnakists, and an
exaggerated idea of their numbers.

So the position continued; an anomaly that surely would be possible only
in Turkey. A force of armed rebels standing at bay in one ward of the
scattered town, and defying the Government in the other. While all the
time (for men must eat and Armenians must trade) business was conducted
pretty much as usual in the market of _Hach Poghan_, which stood
conveniently on neutral ground at the edge of the two districts. The
foreign Consuls, by the way, had insisted that food should not be cut
off from the Armenian quarter, on proper payment for it!

Even in Turkey such a position could not continue indefinitely. As soon
as a sufficient body of troops, regular and irregular, had been
accumulated, and resistance was manifestly hopeless, the Armenian
quarter was formally occupied, and regular search made for arms and
revolutionaries. Many of the former were found and confiscated; and the
twelve members of the "ring" endeavoured to effect their escape from the
town. But this they now found impossible. After some searching, their
place of concealment was disclosed; and they were marked to ground in
one of the _kerezes_ or subterranean channels that bring water from the
mountains to the town.

These _kerezes_ are made by sinking pits at intervals of about fifty
yards, to a depth of about thirty feet, and tunnelling from one to the
other. Many of them date back to the Urartian period of history. In this
case, the troops were able to ascertain that the objects of their search
were probably in a certain length of channel; but it was difficult to
devise any means of making sure, or of getting them out. One soldier,
however, volunteered to be lowered down alone to investigate; a plucky
act, for it entailed something like a descent into the den of wolves at
bay. Down he went; and discovered that they had selected exactly the
right one of the series of pits, for he was lowered into the very midst
of the gang of Fedais. They seized him, of course, and were about to
kill him, when he got his word in first. "Look here, you can kill me of
course, but what good will it do you? When I do not come out, my officer
will know that you are here, and you can just be smoked out like
jackals. Your game is up, and you had better surrender to me."

Well, the position was hopeless; and possibly eight and forty hours in a
dark drain, sitting cramped together with your feet in cold water, and
the prospect of slow suffocation to follow, has a damping effect on the
courage of the bravest. Anyhow, these twelve men, maugre their vow never
to surrender under any circumstances, did surrender to the one; and the
soldier had the well-earned satisfaction of sending each of the party up
in turn, in the bight of a rope, to where his comrades were waiting for
them above ground. They were taken to the town prison, of course, and
confined there.

Grim tales are told of torture in such places, when it is needful to
extract information from the prisoner; and deprival of sleep and
hammering the finger-ends are the reported methods. Still, nothing of
the kind was inflicted on these men (save that one of them, the lad
Tirlamazian, was flogged), though it was of course known that they had a
good deal of important information to give. During their stay in Van
jail, they had nothing worse than most uncomfortable detention to
complain of; though confinement in a foul cell, swarming with vermin,
may become a very fair imitation of torture after a few hours,
particularly if the prisoner is chained so that he cannot scratch!

Orders were sent, we believe, for the forwarding of at least the chief
of the Tashnakists, Aram, to Constantinople, under strong guard. Once in
the clutches of Abdul Hamid his fate would have been a grim one
indeed. But before the decree was executed, a marvellous transformation
took place. This was nothing less than the Turkish Revolution of 1908,
with its consequent amnesty for all political offences. All proceedings
were dropped, and the prisoners emerged to be greeted as national heroes
after their confinement.


The larger arch opens into the Sanctuary, the veil of which is never
withdrawn except for the celebration of _Qurbana_. The smaller opens
into the Sacristy, where is also the font. _Ex voto_ offerings of
aromatic herbs hang from the tie beams; and the Church is lit only by a
tiny cruciform loophole at the west end, so that the interior is almost
pitch dark.

No. 11]

Very soon, however, the real problem of the relations of the Armenian
and Ottoman began to come up again in a slightly different form.

The Young Turk ideal was an Ottoman Empire; with equal rights no doubt
for all who were content to become Ottomans, but Ottomanization for all.
The Tashnakists (who kept up their organization, observing, in answer to
all protests, that it was as necessary for them as was that of the
Committee of Union and Progress for others) were Armenians first and
foremost; and further were anxious to set about the immediate
realization of a programme that was wildly Radical, not to say
Socialistic, in its objects. Confiscation of all landed property;
disendowment and disestablishment of the Church;[125] universal suffrage
(which was to include female suffrage by the way), and the abolition of
all religious teaching in schools, were some of the planks of their
"platform." All authority, save that of the nation, was disowned; even a
parent was not to exercise any power over his son. In fact all the
reforms that even a Socialist admits must come in gradually in the West,
were to be administered _en bloc_ to an astonished East.

Even a schoolmaster's authority was declared anathema according to the
modern dogmas, and attempts were made to act on this hopeful doctrine.
Thus, a certain missionary in the town forbade his Armenian pupils to
smuggle revolvers, and other contraband dear to the heart of every boy,
into the school premises. Having reason to suspect that the command had
been disobeyed, he began a search in the boys' boxes; but while in the
stooping attitude necessary for the purpose, he was vehemently assaulted
_a posteriori_ with hat-pins by his pupils, and was solemnly forbidden
by the Tashnakists either to cane or to expel those guilty of this
_lèse-majesté_. The first punishment was derogatory to the dignity of
the young rascals as free-born Armenian citizens; the second deprived
them of their natural Right to a good education. Further, it was
solemnly argued, "if we do not send our boys to your school what will
become of you? The funds have been subscribed by the friends of Armenia
for our teaching, not for your livelihood." To manage a school under
these conditions was obviously difficult; and to quote John Dryden, "the
sons of Belial had a glorious time." But at last the absurdity of the
_impasse_ forced even the Tashnakists to be a little more reasonable.

"We work for those who come a hundred and fifty years hence," said Aram
proudly to the _Vali_.

"Leave that to Allah," said the more practically minded Turk, "and help
us Turks to work for to-morrow."

"Well you see, I do not believe in Allah," said the Armenian; who, like
most of these Fedais, had been so highly educated that it was impossible
for him to believe that any power could have made so supreme a _chef
d'oeuvre_ as his magnificent self.

"What? Won't He recognize your importance?" said the Turk shrewdly;
after which it was not wonderful that they did not part on too friendly
a footing.

However, the Tashnakists soon found that the attachment of their
countrymen to the old church that had kept their nation alive through
the centuries, was so strong that some outward deference must be paid to
it. Therefore, on the principle that it is well to do thoroughly that
which you have to do, Aram became a Sunday-school teacher! The spectacle
of this atheistic revolutionary (who had deliberately planned, and
executed, murders by the dozen; and was indirectly responsible for
heaven alone knew how much bloodshed besides), solemnly teaching little
girls their Catechism, was at least striking, if not particularly

Time went on; and gradually, the utter failure of the effort of the
"Young Turks" to effect the regeneration of their country became
manifest. The handicap against them was cruelly heavy. They were
themselves without experience in working that great crazy combination of
makeshifts which men call the Ottoman Government. Yet kept going it must
be; and the only men who had the requisite knowledge were just that
clique of unspeakably corrupt officials whom it would have been the
first duty of any good Government to clear away. Further, while the
great mass of the subjects of the Sultan, of whatever creed; are easily
governed folk enough, and obey any order that the _Hukumet_ gives,
within certain limits; yet everywhere in each one of the varied nations
there was a small, noisy and irreconcilable minority--sets of men who
could work neither with the Government nor with one another.

There was the blind, fanatical opposition of the mollahs, and those
Mussulmans whom they influenced. There were the self-styled leaders of
each separate Christian nation; who usually misrepresented the
inarticulate _rayats_ most woefully, and were clamouring for the
immediate introduction of "reforms," that would have provoked a
conservative reaction in France or America. And, moreover, there were
very many others of the type that prefers troubled waters, because they
are the best to fish in. Further, the Young Turks were themselves
theorizers, and theory ridden. Ottomans and secularists, who wished to
Ottomanize every one and to disregard religion; and did not realize how
much the twin principles of religion and nationality went for in the
land they wished to govern.

Thus they brought upon themselves a needless Albanian revolt, and saw
much of their prestige vanish in it. They outraged the prejudices of
every conservative Mussulman by their open disregard of such an
institution as Ramazan. They offended the very Christians whom they were
trying to benefit, by the proposal to remove all the distinctive
privileges of each _millet_, and make them all Ottoman subjects and
citizens alike. The effect was to make them all as wrathful as the thief
who found that he was not to be honoured with a higher gallows than his

Had time been given them, and had the army continued to back them,
things might have gone well; for no European proverb holds in Turkey,
and there it is not the case that "you can do anything with bayonets
except sit on them." Bayonets enough make a very comfortable seat for
the Government, or seem to do so. Still, time was not given; and two
disastrous wars have not left much of the prestige that is the breath of
life to an Oriental Government.

The Turk has the misfortune to be an anachronism in power. His present
methods were those of every European Government some five hundred years
ago; but European consciences have developed in the interval, and his
has not. Modern civilization, though willing enough to shut its eyes to
a good deal that is ugly, cannot avoid seeing what the Turk does. He
happens to occupy lands which must attract the religious and antiquarian
interest of the world, and which are the nearest unexploited field for
European capital besides. He is then, and must be, in the limelight.
Still, you cannot do in the limelight what sentiment will allow you to
do in the dark; and the trouble is, that the Turk knows no other way of
doing his business than the habits he learnt when everything was dark.
You can give an old dog a new collar, but you cannot teach him new
tricks; and even calling the Government of Turkey "constitutional," has
not altered its methods. Bribery is more costly now than under the old
regime, in that you have to insure against risk; but it is not less
prevalent: and the Turk has been given an excellent additional reason
for disregarding the advice of foreign Consuls; for what _locus standi_
have they in a Civilized and Constitutional country like the Ottoman
Empire? These facts appear to a European resident to be the two
principal results of the "new régime" after five years. What can Dame
Europe say or do to the grim old mastiff, who can still bite enough to
make her very nervous about handling him, and who says "What my enemies
have left me of the kennel is mine; and while it remains mine I will
manage it as I like."

     NOTE. It is one of the consolations of life in Turkey that the more
     tragically serious a thing is in reality, the more certain it is to
     present a comic aspect in practice.

     A good instance of this was provided for the foreigner in Van,
     shortly after the proclamation of the Constitution in that city.

     The position of women in the East is a great and important question
     enough, in all conscience; and on its right solution depends
     probably the future of those lands; yet the problem presented
     itself in Van in the guise of a battle between old and young which
     had all the elements of absurdity in it.

     A caravan load of what professed to be the latest Paris fashion in
     hats arrived at Van; and the younger female population (who had
     been previously obliged to veil themselves for several reasons)
     took to the innovation very kindly. They discovered, however, that
     by doing so they had roused the wrath of conservative mamma, and of
     even more conservative grandmamma, who declared that "nobody will
     ever marry you if you go about with your face naked in that

     As a matter of fact, the Armenian Pyramus had no more objection to
     looking on Thisbe's uncovered face than has his European cousin.
     The real objection lay deeper. Hitherto marriages have been
     arranged, as is right and proper, between the mothers and
     grandmothers on each side; and the bridegroom never sees his bride
     till the knot has been tied. If, however, damsels took to going
     about "with their faces naked in that fashion," there obviously
     might be difficulties in getting the consent of the young man to
     the marriage arranged by his seniors; and it was even possible that
     young people might take to settling things between themselves. In
     this case, the rule of grandmamma over the house totters to its
     very foundations--which is a catastrophe too terrible to be
     contemplated for an instant. Hence _obsta principiis_ was the
     order, and the hats were confiscated. Picture the feelings of those
     scores of damsels who, having acquired European hats for the first
     time, found themselves deprived of them; and condemned--not to a
     transparent veil or becoming _mantilla_--but to a thick knitted
     shawl drawn over the face whenever there was a male animal about.

     Conservatism triumphed on this occasion; but had the new régime
     been a success, we fancy that feminine youth would have put up a
     better fight for it. As things were, the old conditions persisted,
     which had made it none too safe for any young girl to allow her
     face to be seen in the streets; and they gave way. No doubt the
     battle will be renewed at a later date, and possibly with better




Most of us have some recollection of the legend of "Prester John,"
particularly in the version given in "Ariosto"; the legend of a
Christian king ruling his people in the midst of infidels; a king who
was yet a priest and who celebrated Mass regularly; who had a kingdom in
the midst of wild inaccessible mountains, girdled by cloud and storm;
and who was tormented by the harpies that came daily and snatched the
food from his table. We read, too, how he was visited by the wandering
English knight Astolpho, and how that hero drove away the harpies by the
blast of his magic horn.

It sounds a staggering statement to make, but it is nevertheless the
truth, that all these stories told by the Italian poet as legends
current in his day, are literally the fact in all essentials (or were so
until very lately), with the Patriarch of the Nestorians in Kurdistan.
He is the "Bishop-Prince" of a mountain kingdom of Christians; subject
to the Sultan of course, but still a recognized ruler, and ruler by
virtue of his Episcopal rank. Even the mountains over which the
hippogrif bore Astolpho were hardly more inaccessible than those which
girdle the village of Qudshanis; while a very good imitation of the
harpies that tormented Prester John are found in the Kurds that ravage
the land. English visitors are there too, as members of what is known as
the "Archbishop's Assyrian Mission;"[126] though they, alas, have no
magic horn with which to drive away the harpies of to-day.

If, however, the old magical power has gone, some prestige attaches to
the name of the English still; for villages where they reside are not
raided when all others suffer, for fear that some evil may thereafter
befall the thief. The writer once spent a night in a little village of
Nestorians in this immediate district, called Shwawutha; a village whose
little rock-built church is shown in one of our illustrations.
Hospitality was given him there, as a matter of course; but in the
middle of the night he was roused by a Dutch concert of the most
pronounced description. Men shouted, women screamed, cattle bellowed,
and sheep bleated; while a shot or so told that something warlike was
afoot. And soon folk came rushing in to tell him that the Kurds had
descended on the village, and were engaged at that moment in turning it
inside out.

Sure enough, when he emerged in somewhat sketchy toilet, he found
himself in the midst of some five and twenty well armed ruffians. Most
of them were gathered on the threshing-floors, and threatening the
villagers with their rifles; while the rest were coolly rounding up the
sheep for the purpose of driving them away. Deponent had some talk with
their leader, carefully introducing himself as an Englishman, and laying
stress on the fact that he was going down from that village to the seat
of government, to interview the _Vali_ and the British Consul. And
presently the robber excused himself for a moment and gave an order in
Kurdish, which was not understood by his interlocutor, but which
resulted in his men allowing the sheep to remain in their folds. He then
turned round and explained with all politeness that he and his young men
were on a peaceful journey, and desired to be the guests of the village
for the rest of that night. Would the _Effendi_ use his influence with
the headman to get him to extend hospitality to them? He tactfully
ignored the fact that you do not usually occupy a village with an armed
force at two in the morning as a preliminary to asking to be received as
a guest!

The _Effendi_ told the headman that he had better let it go at that,
lest worse should befall him; for naturally he had no means whatever of
controlling these fellows if they should break loose. A meal was
hurriedly prepared for all the gang, and he sat with their chief till
unholy hours that night, or morning, exchanging yarns. Eventually he had
the satisfaction of seeing the marauders depart at daybreak. No harm had
been done to the place; though had it not been for the "accident" of the
presence of an Englishman, there would have been a different tale to

The village of Qudshanis, which is the residence of the Nestorian or
Assyrian Patriarch, "Mar Shimun," and the headquarters of his Church,
has a marvellous situation. It lies on a sloping "alp" of rugged
pasture, between two mountain torrents which spring from the towering
snow-fields to the west of it; and which descend in gradually deepening
gorges, enclosing the tongue-shaped plateau on which the village stands.
They meet beneath the point of the tongue at the base of a lofty wedge
of rock; and thence the united stream flows on, joined by others on its
way, till it falls into the Zab some two hours below the village.
Nestorian tradition regards the Zab as the Pison, one of the four rivers
of Paradise; and the Patriarch will occasionally date his official
letters "from my cell on the River of the Garden of Eden."

The official title of the Church, whose principal bishop resides in this
romantic, but singularly inaccessible, spot is "the Church of the East."
This title was given to it originally by those whom we call "the Eastern
Christians," viz. those of Constantinople and Antioch; and by it they
meant the Church to the east of them, beyond the frontier of the Roman
Empire, in what was then the kingdom of the Sassanid Persians. In the
days of its greatness, this communion extended itself marvellously, in
just those countries where Christianity finds it hardest to establish a
footing now. In the year 1300 its bishops were distributed from Damascus
to Pekin, and from Tartary to Malabar. The "Syrian Christians" of the
latter land, though they now own a different jurisdiction, still remain
as a memorial of its missionary zeal in the fifth century; and the
Singan monument in the very heart of China tells of the presence of
this "pacific, philosophical, and excellent religion" there also, and
commemorates the names of sundry of its bishops and clergy. Nay, the
historic Prester John (for he was an historical figure strange to say)
was of this Church. A dynasty of Tartar princes of the eleventh century
were Christians; and the name of their founder, Ung Khan, readily became
Yukhanan, which is John, in Syriac-speaking mouths. Whether he ever was,
as a matter of fact, an ordained presbyter is more questionable.

Massacre (particularly the tremendous massacres of Tamerlane about the
year 1400), oppression, and the proselytism of better protected and
educated bodies, have reduced this Church now to a few wild tribes of
mountaineers living in a most inaccessible country; and to a fringe of
_rayat_ villages, many of whom are little better than serfs to the Kurds
near whom they live. Yet the Church still exists, guarding its
independence and its ancient rites, and boasting with legitimate pride
that it, alone of all peoples, still uses in daily life the language
that our Lord spoke on earth. Whether the dialects of vernacular Syriac
that are here in use would have been intelligible in Palestine in the
first century of this era, may be doubted; but the statement is so far
true, that the language is unquestionably a variant of the Aramaic
referred to.

As this Church is a survival of so much that is ancient and that has
passed away from other lands, it is appropriate that here alone in all
the world, the "temporal power of the Church" should still survive. It
is little more than a shadow now, but not a dead thing yet. Mar Shimun
holds the village of Qudshanis, and the lands that belong to it, by
grant from the Sultan; and until lately every inhabitant of the place
was in the happy condition of paying neither rent, rates, nor taxes to
anyone. Unfortunately the grant was a merely verbal one, made in the
days when you did not ask your king to sign papers from fear that he
would "play the Jew" and go back from his given word, and when the
evidence of the "grey-beards" of a place was enough to prove a fact. Now
there is a new rule in the land, the rule of forms and pens and ink and
paper; and this new régime has not recognized the old right. A harmless
and picturesque survival has gone; taken away in the interests of
civilization and uniformity, by the same people who were so desirous of
substituting a Parisian boulevard for the Roman walls of Constantinople,
and for the same reason.

One other feature of the old rights remains--besides the fact that the
peacock, the bird of royalty, still walks the patriarchal terrace.[127]
The wild Christian tribes of Hakkiari, whither no Government of any sort
has ever extended, still pay tribute to their Patriarch for transmission
to the Sultan; and not taxes through the tax-collector, like the rest.
This, again, is based on custom only, and if it were challenged (as it
will be ere long), the tribes could show no document acknowledging their
right; for it simply arose from the fact that the Ottoman Government was
not disposed, or able, to enforce their government practically in this
wild district. It was easier to give the Patriarch, whom the tribesmen
did reverence, a few decorations and a small salary, and to set him to
collect such tribute as he could get the tribesmen to pay. It was an
acknowledgment of jurisdiction that could be made more effective if ever
the opportunity should offer.

Westerns, accustomed to correct Western notions of managing Church and
State, hear with a shock that the patriarchate of this ancient church is
hereditary in one family; as indeed is the case also with almost all its
bishoprics. Bishops do not marry (though other clergy are free to do so
at their will), so the office cannot go from father to son. It does go,
however, from uncle to nephew, and so keeps in the "Episcopal house".

It is a strange custom; yet it is not so long since it prevailed in at
least one part of Europe; for fifty years ago it was the established
order of things in Montenegro. We believe that it was the father of the
present King Nicholas who first refused to be consecrated bishop, and to
refrain from marriage, when he acceded to the hereditary chieftainship
of the "Black Mountain;" though all his predecessors had done so before
him. If the custom went on so long in Europe, one need not wonder
overmuch if it still prevails under similar circumstances in a remoter

The fact is, that among Christians who are still in the wild tribal
stage of evolution, the Episcopate is much too important a thing in the
tribe to be allowed out of the House of the Chief. Further, the idea of
hereditary high priesthood, or family sanctity at any rate, is
thoroughly congruous to Oriental thought. Among the Kurds, Sheikhship,
which is hereditary religious chieftainship, is a common thing enough;
and the Aaronic high-priesthood is at least a respectable precedent to
refer to! Perhaps the Patriarch's own statement of the case, as made to
the writer, gives as good a defence for the custom as can be made. "Of
course, we know that this _Natar-cursiya_ system" (the Syriac name for
the habit) "is as thoroughly against primitive practice and our own
canons as a thing can well be. Tell me though, you who know our people
and circumstances, what other way is open to us? Free election by our
wild tribesmen? That means a free fight every vacancy. Nomination by the
Turkish Government? If we were lucky, we might get some feeble old monk,
who had done no harm to anyone, and never would do any good. We should
be much more likely, however, to get some supple blackguard, who asked
for a bishopric as his pay for some dirty job done for a Turkish _Vali_.
So we have dropped into this hereditary system; and we think that we
have as good a chance of a good bishop as others have of a good king."
Really the writer had no reply to make; and could only feel thankful
that his Holiness had not the knowledge that would have enabled him to
continue, "and you know, however uncanonical and unprimitive it is, it
cannot well be more so than nomination by a lay Prime Minister. You
maintain that custom because it works fairly well. So do we."

One result of an hereditary Episcopate is that the bishop is often
absurdly young in years. The present holder of the Patriarchate is of
the mature age of twenty-three, and is in the ninth year of his
consecration! That a lad of that age (though admittedly maturity comes
quickly in the East) should take himself very seriously as an
Archbishop, is too much to be expected. Still he does take himself very
seriously as the responsible Head of his nation; as the one to whom all
have the right to turn in their need, and who is bound to help them to
the limits of his power. Long ago, a poet in this land sketched what an
ideal king should be; and the main feature of his portrait was that such
an one should "preserve the souls of the poor," "delivering the poor
when he crieth" and counting "their blood dear in his sight." That is
still the ideal of kingship in this land; and this lad (to his credit be
it said) has loyally endeavoured to live up to it. It would have been
easy for Mar Shimun to make comfortable terms for his House and himself,
had he been content to leave his people to look after their own
interests. On the contrary, he has habitually sacrificed his own ease
and comfort; and has run serious risks again and again, in order that he
may try to protect "the sheep whom God has committed to him" either from
Kurdish raider, or from the worse oppression of the Ottoman minor
official. The Eastern ruler who rules for his people is a rare
phenomenon and a high character.

An instance or two of the sort of work this young man has to do, and the
spirit in which he undertakes it, will give some idea of the conditions
of his life. The writer has known a case, where an important mountain
chief brought up an unworthy candidate for priest's orders, only a few
weeks after the lad had himself been consecrated as Patriarch. The
request was met with the silence which in the East means refusal. It was
repeated more urgently, to be met again by a quiet but decided negative.

"But the man is your own cousin my Lord!" said the astonished chief;
"how can you refuse this to him?"

"_Malik_" (_i.e._, "chief") came the answer, delivered without either
swagger or fear, "the whole _millet_ is equally 'the cousin' of its

On another occasion, he had to undertake a piece of work most eminently
episcopal in character, but hardly usual in the West, viz. the
reconciliation of a feud between a Kurdish and a Christian tribe.

Preliminaries were arranged by him between the two chiefs; and it was
finally agreed that twenty "leading men" from each sept should meet with
Mar Shimun in a certain valley, where the last points could be settled
at a personal interview, and peace formally made. The Patriarch was
prepared, of course, for the fact that every delegate came fully armed;
but he had not quite expected that each one of the forty should think it
needful for his dignity to come like Vich Ian Vohr, "with his tail on,"
accompanied that is by four or five followers, all also armed! Further,
each side (as was discovered later) had provided an ambush in a
convenient place, so as not to be taken unawares in the event of
treachery on the part of the other.

Walking with naked lights in a powder magazine was a safe business
compared to that conference; and the Patriarch, having got his parties
in two villages, divided by a stream, spent most of the day going to and
fro between them, arranging the final details. All was settled at last;
and "Now," said the Patriarch, "leave your guns here in the shade, and
come down to the stream and shake hands."

They came as ordered, without their guns. But it was observed that every
man of the forty came down with his right hand on the hilt of his
dagger; and when he had to take it away in order to grasp the hand of
his opposite number, he put his left hand there instead! However, all
passed off well; though the Armenian servant who handed round the coffee
that formed the ceremonial hospitality which all had to share, trembled
so violently that he upset the cups! For a moment it was a question
whether this would be taken as a joke or a bad omen. Then luckily
somebody laughed; and a general guffaw saved the situation.

When all were talking in friendly wise, and chaffing one another over
the episodes of the feud, it was discovered that each party had brought
down its local lunatic to provide amusement for them during the hours of
waiting. Some one with a sporting soul suggested forming a ring, and
putting up a cock-fight between these two unfortunates. Mar Shimun did
his best to dissuade them; having a well-grounded fear that if the two
came to blows, each man of the forty would take sides with his own
idiot, and that the whole feud would be re-opened with a particularly
sanguinary fight. However, to his relief, though to the disappointment
of others, the lunatics showed themselves possessed of more sense than
any of their companions. Each was provided with a thick stick, and told
that the other had insulted all his ancestry; but they fell to talk
before proceeding to "lay on load;" and got on together so well that
they spent the rest of that day in friendly converse. When they finally
parted, each declared that the other was the most sensible man and the
best company that he had met in all his life.

In all his work, both spiritual and political, Mar Shimun has had two
helpers, one of whom is with him still. This is his sister Surma, "Lady
Surma of the house of Mar Shimun;" a singularly cultivated and
high-minded woman. She has been thoroughly well educated (_e.g._ she
speaks English well, and is well read in such authors as Scott,
Stevenson and C. M. Yonge, besides English devotional theology), she yet
remains a thorough Oriental, and a devoted member of her own Church. She
is a recognized authority in all the rites and services,[128] and the
trusted adviser of her brother (whose senior she is by a couple of
years) in all the work of his office. Lady Surma is a professed nun
(_rabbanta_) of the Nestorian Church; but this does not imply a
cloistered life, for monasticism in this land has developed in a very
peculiar fashion. The monasteries and nunneries have practically all
perished, though their endowments (or some of them) are still recognized
as Church property; but monks and nuns--_rabbans_ and _rabbantas_, still
continue. Those who feel the "call to the religious life" follow it in
their own families; living unmarried, abstaining from meat, and devoting
themselves to good works and the services of the church. They maintain
themselves by their own labour, and (with the exceptions mentioned)
follow no special rule. If they marry, for instance, they have departed
from a high purpose, but have broken no solemn vow. Rather strangely,
the system has thus fallen back to something very like what "the
virginal life" was in the early days of the Church, before monastic
rules were formulated. This has come about without the knowledge or
intent of its present professors; but the parallel with the conditions
of _e.g._ third century Africa is amazingly close.[129]

As bishop, Mar Shimun is of course a _rabban_ also, and as such eats no
meat. This, however, implies no great hardship in Qudshanis, where
indeed the visitor may be recommended to consult his own comfort by
following the same rule; for meat is both hard to come by and seldom
good to eat.[130] The course of generations, however, has evolved quite
a number of good vegetarian recipes, not indeed for the patriarchal
table, for there is none, but for the patriarchal tray!

Mar Shimun's other counsellor was an Englishman of most exceptional
character; the late Doctor William Browne, of the "Archbishop's
Mission;" who for twenty-five years lived in this remote village as
adviser and friend of this Church, and of two successive Patriarchs in
it. In spirit a devoted fifth-century hermit, who somehow was born in
nineteenth-century England, he applied himself whole-heartedly to the
care of the Nestorian Church and its members, as their teacher, healer,
and at times rebuker. He lived their life with them, and now sleeps in
their midst. Many of the memories of one of the most picturesque and
romantic of modern lives were lost irrevocably at his accidental death
in 1910; but one or two which the writer received from him are worth
inserting, as throwing light both on the conditions under which he
lived, and on the character of the man himself.

In January and February of the year 1900, the news of the "Black Week"
in South Africa in the previous December filtered slowly through the
glens of Kurdistan. Mr. Browne (as he then was) was in his room in the
village of Qudshanis, when two visitors were announced; deacons of the
Church both, and good friends of their host. In they came, appearing
fully armed and equipped for a journey.

"Peace be to you, deacons," said the Englishman, "Are you going on a
journey at this season?"

"Upon you be peace Rabbi," came the answer; "Could you tell us the way
to South Africa?"

"To South Africa? Why on earth do you want to go there?"

"Well, Rabbi, we owe a good deal to you English; it seems from what we
hear that you fellows don't understand fighting behind rocks. Now we do
know _that_ here in Hakkiari if we know nothing else, and we thought we
ought to go and help."

They would certainly have been a picturesque reinforcement for Lord
Roberts; but it came out on inquiry that there really was no way of
getting to Africa without crossing the ocean, a prospect far more
dreadful than battling with any number of Boers; and so the volunteers
returned regretfully to their homes.

The "debt which they owed to the English," by the way, was principally
the service rendered to their nation by Stratford Canning in 1847; when
he insisted on the restoration of the children stolen as slaves by the
Kurds under Bedr Khan Beg, the Mira of Bohtan, who perpetrated a fearful
massacre of these mountaineers in that year. The return of those who had
been given up as dead (and who were brought back in some cases from
Aleppo and Smyrna) made a deep impression on the people, and has never
been forgotten since.

[Illustration: A MOUNTAIN BRIDGE.

A characteristic example near the village of Alot on the Lesser Zab.

No. 12]

On another occasion, a worthy old _qasha_, or priest, _Qasha_ Tuma by
name, better known for his straight shooting than for his learning,
turned up to interview Mr. Browne; assured him of his attachment to the
English, and asked if there was nothing he could do to serve him.

"Certainly, _Qasha_," said the Englishman; "gather the boys of your
village and teach a school; I will find you books enough."


"Nay Rabbi, that is quite beyond me. It is as much as I can do to read
the services. But, if there was anyone whom you wished shot now, I
should be delighted to undertake the job!"

Mar Shimun is accustomed to think of himself rather as Chief of his
nation than as Patriarch of its Church (or to be accurate, not to
separate those two offices in his mind); but it is as Patriarch
notwithstanding that he appeals to the imagination of outsiders--Patriarch
of one of the most interesting and picturesque Churches in the world.
We give a picture of his Cathedral, which like most of the mountain
shrines is very small in size, and resembles a border "peel-tower"
rather than a church of the type we are accustomed to.[131] Orientals
are not troubled with any desire for pews and either stand through the
service, or kneel or sit upon the floor during the Lessons and sermon,
and thus a very small nave will accommodate a very fair congregation.
Though the Church of Mar Shalitha at Qudshanis measures at the most
a scant thirty feet square, we have seen a congregation of about 400
accommodated in it; and that without more crowding than was advisable
to keep people warm before the dawning of a Kurdistan winter's day.
Once only, we may mention, have the Christmas day services been
postponed till after sunrise; and that was on an occasion when a wild
snowstorm, of the sort known by the expressive name of the "white
darkness," made it a physical impossibility for any person to win his
way over the 200 yards that divide the church from the village.

Internally the church is divided into nave and sanctuary; the latter
being partitioned off by a fairly solid wall, and raised on three steps
above the nave level. Outside the sanctuary door two solid "tables" of
masonry carry the book of the Gospels, and the Cross which is kissed by
every person who enters the building. Curtains and small votive
offerings form the decorations, the latter being chiefly bunches of
aromatic herbs, which are suspended from the tie beams; but in these
matters the Nestorian is of more than evangelical severity, and will
allow no picture, far less any image, to be brought into the church.
Even a stained glass window would excite his prejudice, if it contained
any figures; a fact which is no doubt due to his desire to escape any
reproach of "idolatry" from his Mohammedan neighbours.[132]

The Liturgy of this Church is one of the oldest used in any part of
Christendom; for it is practically certain that it existed in something
like its present form by the year 450, and tradition ascribes it to an
even earlier date. However, in a land where all services were until very
lately manuscript and not printed, a certain amount of "fluidity" is
natural; and indeed at certain services anyone who will bring an anthem
of his own composition is entitled to have it chanted!

Evening celebrations of the Eucharist (_Qurbana_ is the Syriac name for
the Rite) are customary on the vigils of the greater festivals; and
these are performed in a way that suggests a possible and most
beneficial concordat on that disputed point between the "high" and "low"
divisions of the Church of England, for all who attend the evening
celebration in the Nestorian Church do so fasting!

That so ancient a Church as this isolated body should have certain rites
peculiar to itself, in addition to those that are variants of services
common to all Christendom, is of course to be expected; and every
Nestorian attaches great importance to what is known among them as the
"Succession of the Leaven." Like all Orientals they celebrate the
Eucharist with leavened bread,[133] and a certain amount of this is
reserved after each "_Qurbana_" for one purpose, and one only. That
purpose is neither communion of the sick, nor adoration; but the
leavening of the dough that is to be baked for the next celebration.
That baking of the bread, as is general with Orientals, is performed by
the priest himself, and in the sacristy of the church, at a special
preliminary office; and the admixture of the reserved crumbs at once
leavens it, and puts it "into connexion" with that used on the previous
occasion. And so they hold it is put "into connexion" with that used at
all previous celebrations also, back to the institution in the upper
room at Jerusalem. As a matter of history, the fact can be of course
neither proved nor disproved. As a piece of instructive and interesting
ceremonial, we imagine that at the least nobody could object to it;
while many would envy such a possession.

It is at the patriarchal _diwan_ that the real life of Qudshanis finds
its centre. At this solemn gathering, which is held daily in the course
of the afternoon, anyone may be present; and anyone may bring forward
any conceivable business that he wishes to have discussed in public.
Coffee and tobacco go round, and for picturesqueness the gathering is
hard to beat. It is composed mostly of mountaineers who look as if they
had stepped down from the Assyrian sculptures, clad in loose home-spun
coats and trousers, gay cummerbunds that are wrapped round and round
their waists, and high felt caps that have been their headgear since
time immemorial. Below these hang the long, plaited pigtails that form
the traditional arrangement of their long hair. A bishop, or so, in long
dark robes, serves as a foil to the many coloured dresses of the men of
Tyari and Tkhuma; and the wonderfully handsome face of the young
Patriarch (for good looks are part of the inheritance of the men of his
family) forms a centre to the whole. He has himself unfortunately
departed from the tradition of his fathers, and wears semi-European
dress, which is seldom becoming to the Asiatic. Any visitor at Qudshanis
is expected to attend the reception; and indeed to be in the place and
not to be sometimes at the _diwan_ of the Patriarch is a marked act of
discourtesy and almost a proclamation of disloyalty. As far as the
writer can make out, something the same line of thought governs the
Oriental attendance at the services of his church. In attending the
_Qurbana_, he is attending the _diwan_ of that Great Power to whom he
certainly does not intend to be openly disloyal.

Absolutely any business may be discussed, or any subject brought forward
at these gatherings. Who is to be _malik_ of such and such a district;
what villages stand in need of clergy; what terms of agreement can be
suggested for the settlement of some grazing dispute. And though these
questions may be settled _in camera_, the meanest man has his chance of
making his opinion heard. If there is no special business to talk over,
other subjects crop up; and a good fund of general information is a
desirable possession for any Englishman who may be present, for strange
questions are put before his wisdom. Thus, he may be asked why it is the
case that some wild animals take so much more killing than do others; or
invited to pass an opinion as to whether it is really the fact that
shooting stars are the javelins cast by the Seraphim at the Jann, when
they see them come up from earth to the lower courts of heaven for the
purposes of eavesdropping. Once, a worthy old priest started the problem
whether the angels kept the Fasts of the Church; and this was discussed
with much learning and in true scholastic style. The theory propounded
that they could hardly fast because they did not eat was scouted on the
authority of the text, "Man did eat angels' food;" this proving that
they certainly ate something! "Then they eat but do not fast" said some;
but that seemed unlikely, for of all sorts of men known to these
present, whether Christian, Mussulman, Jew or Devil-worshipper, the only
folk who did not fast in some way were the American Missionaries, and
there was a general feeling that this was not quite a conclusive
precedent![134] Finally the meeting somehow hammered out the very
sensible conclusion that laws made for fallen creatures like man did
not necessarily bind unfallen beings; and the matter was left at that.

Occasionally some queer anecdote is related by one of the visitors; and
one of these sticks in our memory as exemplifying the exceeding
toughness and callousness of the Kurd. A gentleman of that race was
riding his mule along one of the mountain paths when he was caught by an
avalanche, which carried him down some distance, and then (in the
sportive way that avalanches sometimes have) flung him on one side with
his leg broken, but with his mule unhurt. He was ill enough off even so;
for the spot was very lonely, and it was near nightfall. There was frost
in the air already, and the temperature would be somewhere about zero
before dawn. But by great good luck another traveller passed, and that
traveller the victim's own brother. This model of fraternal affection
rode off with the mule "lest it should get stolen," and left his brother
in the snow till morning! But the latter was little the worse for his
experience after all!

This episode was told us, as it happened, on the day after the query why
some animals were very hard to kill; when we had explained that roughly,
the lower the animal in the scale of creation, the more cutting and
hacking he would stand. Hearing of the Kurd's adventures, the Patriarch
looked across at us and observed drily, "I always thought that Kurds
were precious low animals, Rabbi, and now I know it."

On the same occasion, a visitor detailed his own experience, when he had
gone to pay a visit of sympathy to a Kurdish neighbour, who had recently
lost some near relative. He entered the house, and found all the family
as he had expected, seated wailing round the fireplace, as proper
Kurdish custom dictates. They will sit thus, literally in the ashes, for
some days; keeping up a low keening continuously, though at times some
one of the party, without the least warning, will spring to his feet and
shriek. Any visitor who wishes to express sympathy, takes up a shovelful
of ashes from the hearth and pours it on the heads of the whole circle.
The Christian, of course, did not neglect this act of courtesy, but
performed it liberally. However, quite unintentionally, he took up some
live coals in the shovel, and these, by ill-luck, went down the neck of
one of the mourners, who at once sprang to his feet with a howl,
exclaiming "I burn, I burn," and began tearing his clothes off. This,
however, was quite ordinary behaviour, for wailing and rending of
garments are habitual on these occasions; so all the family simply sat
still and wailed in sympathy. The unlucky lad was really painfully,
though not dangerously, burnt before his friends could be brought to
understand that his sufferings were physical rather than mental!

As the recognized head of the Christian "_ashirets_" of Tyari and
Tkhuma, and as the present holder of what all Mussulmans of the district
recognize as a most ancient and venerable throne, Mar Shimun has a high
position among the Kurds personally; though that fact does not, of
course, keep them from plundering his people. In the past, indeed, it
has not always availed to protect the House of the Patriarch itself from
outrage; for when Bedr Khan Beg, the formidable Mira of Bohtan, attacked
these Christian tribes in 1845--and perpetrated a massacre so appalling
that the years are dated from it to this day--a special attempt was made
to "extirpate the head of this brood of serpents."

Qudshanis itself was ravaged; the church plundered; and many priceless
records utterly destroyed. Even a _firman_ said to be signed by the
Prophet himself, and specially granting toleration to members of this
body, was destroyed; no doubt as a forgery, because it condemned the
very thing that its captors were in the act of doing. Whether as a
matter of fact the document in question was actually Mohammed's own
dictation and sealing, cannot of course be proved now; but tradition has
it that he was taught what he knew of Christianity by a monk of this
body, so the story may be true. It is perhaps more probable that the
grant in question was made by Omar, who was Khalif at the time that the
Mussulmans over-ran Persia; and who is known to have made some such
grant of toleration to the Nestorian Patriarch of his day.

However that may be, it is the fact that every Kurd in the district of
Hakkiari (a general name for the mountain districts of southern
Kurdistan) has some reverence for Mar Shimun, as a sort of titular head
of the land, and as a man of as much hereditary sanctity as a Christian
can aspire to. Thus, strict Mussulmans will often consider that the
flesh of animals killed by Christians is not clean enough for a true
believer to eat. Who can tell if it has been properly made _hallal_ or
no? If, however, the beast has been killed by one of the patriarchal
family, the strictest Moslem will not hesitate; particularly if the
slaughtering has been done with one particular knife that is one of the
heirlooms of the house.

Many other strange survivals of old days remain in this home of ancient
semi-royalty and even more ancient patriarchate, but these must suffice.
There are few spectacles more romantic and more attractive than that of
this young man whom Providence has called to so difficult a position,
loyally doing his best, with the help of his devoted sister, to guide
and preserve those that are entrusted to him; to save them in the perils
that encompass them, and to make them once more worthy inheritors of
their own splendid past.

     NOTE. The conclusion of this chapter provides an opportunity for
     the insertion of a few notes upon the bird and animal life of the
     mountains of Hakkiari. The subject has some interest of its own;
     though the fact that every self-respecting man in the country
     carries a gun prevents the land from ranking as a sportsman's

     Ibex are fairly common in the southern portions of the range, which
     are also the more rugged; and moufflon are to be obtained upon the
     lofty downs of the Armenian plateaux--but not in any great numbers.
     The former carry very fine heads, and we have seen them with knobs
     that marked a life of ten or even eleven years, and a measurement,
     round the curve of the horn, of over four feet.

     Bears are common enough to be a nuisance in the spring--when they
     do much harm to the flocks--and are usually of the ordinary brown
     type. Sometimes they are of a greyish colour; and the district of
     Jilu can boast a variety which is described as "white." The only
     skin of the type that the writer has seen, however, was light sandy
     in hue, and it is probably no more than a slight local variant in

     Generally they are hunted in a strictly utilitarian way; the object
     being not so much as to provide sport as to get rid of a nuisance.
     All the men of the village who can raise anything that can be fired
     without bursting go out _en masse_, and beat the hillside till the
     quarry is roused. When that happens there is as much firing as at
     an ordinary tribal skirmish; and by the time the skin is brought
     in, it sometimes has some resemblance to a fishing-net.

     One good man of Qudshanis, however, had a more sporting
     disposition, and made a practice of hunting the bear in a way that
     would have delighted the soul of the Emperor Maximilian, with no
     other weapon than a short stick (some eight inches long, pointed at
     the ends) and a dagger. His method was to track the bear to his
     lair, to approach to within arm's length if possible, and then
     rouse the enemy. It seems that the bear could be trusted to stand
     at gaze for an instant with open mouth, and the hunter (so said
     deponent, who was the worthy old steward of the Nestorian
     Patriarch) then thrust the stick into his mouth, thus propping his
     jaws apart. The bear was sure to use his paws to get rid of the
     nuisance, and so laid himself open to just one stab from the
     dagger. It was certainly a sporting method, and the hunter got many
     skins and much local _kudos_, the latter being certainly well

     However, as often happens, there came a day when something went
     wrong. Precisely what happened was not known, for the hunter was,
     as usual, alone--and he never came back to explain how he had

     As is the case with many half-wild races, Assyrians regard the bear
     as half-human, or at all events nearer to man than other beasts;
     and are convinced, among other things, that he understands human
     speech. In one instance known to the writer, a girl went down to
     the fruit-orchards one summer evening with the reprehensible
     purpose of helping herself from trees that did not belong to her
     family. As she peered up the tree in the dusk, she saw the soles of
     a pair of feet above her, and called to the supposed boy to throw
     her down a share of the fruit. She got no answer, and so went on:
     "Then I'll go and tell Abraham that you are stealing his fruit, and
     he will come out with a gun and a stick." At that word, a
     half-grown bear dropped out of the tree beside her, and she
     perceived that the feet had been his, and not those of a boy. (The
     resemblance between the footprint of a bear and that of a man, in
     snow, is remarkably close.) It would be hard to say which party was
     the most scared, for they ran away in opposite directions; but,
     naturally, nothing would persuade the girl that the bear had not
     understood her.

     Wild boar is fairly common in the lower hills, which are
     forest-clad; but the sportsman must reconcile himself to shooting
     them, for orthodox "pig-sticking" is out of the question in that
     land. Some of the Christian tribes (though they keep no domestic
     swine) will shoot and eat these beasts; and at times play unkind
     tricks on their Mussulman neighbours, inviting them to a banquet
     and putting pig before them. Kurds are not too particular under
     these circumstances, though they will not eat the meat knowingly.
     Still, if trapped thus, they salve their consciences with the
     remark: "The Christian had the sin, and I had the good dinner." It
     is, however, only men of Tkhuma who act thus. The good folk of
     Tyari might not be above scoring off the enemy in that or any other
     way, but they will never themselves eat either pork or hare. They
     do not realize, however, that the rule is not peculiar to that
     elect people, their own tribe. A good lady of that valley once
     expressed to the writer her disgust at hearing that Christians were
     to be enrolled in the army in future. "How can I endure to have my
     sons set to eat pigs' flesh among the Mussulmans?" Nothing would
     persuade her that they were not likely to be exposed to that horror
     at any rate.

     Wolves are numerous, and their packs are at times a positive danger
     to life, particularly in hard winters. Solitary travellers are
     known to have been pulled down by them; and the local sheepdog is
     of necessity a powerful and savage brute, though he has little of
     the sagacity of a Scotch collie. We have known a case in which a
     pack of wolves (driven by hunger, of course) actually entered the
     suburbs of the city of Van, and sent in a crafty old she-wolf as
     decoy. She brought a pack of rash street-dogs out at her tail, and
     the ambush was a great and shining success. The wolves got a good
     meal for once, and the nights in that quarter of the city were more
     peaceful for some time after. In the same winter (that of 1905-6,
     which was of exceptional severity) a pack of hunger-driven wolves
     actually invaded an Armenian village, and remained in possession of
     it for a matter of an hour. All human beings were driven to take
     cover in the houses, and every dog in the place was killed, while
     the middens were cleaned up as they had not been for many a day.
     The folds could not be entered, nor could the houses--else a grim
     tragedy would have been enacted--and, after a while, the enemy
     withdrew, after a strange temporary reversal of the normal
     condition of things.

     Leopards are still to be found in the mountains, but very rarely.
     We have, however, seen a cub in captivity, and he was certainly not
     imported into the land. Lynx and marten are rare now; and the
     foul-eating "ghoul," which is apparently a type of hyæna, is found
     on Mosul plain, as mentioned above, in company with the equally
     disreputable jackal. The lion which, on the evidence of Assyrian
     sculptures, was once common on the Mesopotamian plain, is extinct
     now; though old men among the Arabs still look back fondly to the
     days when a youth was expected to prove his manhood by killing one
     as a gift to his bride.

     If the lion is extinct, however, another great beast that figures
     with him as royal game for the King of Nineveh would seem to be not
     quite exterminated yet. This is the aurochs, which appears
     repeatedly on the carvings in the British Museum.

     We have never seen this animal in life, but we once saw the head of
     something of the _genus bos_ on the wall of the house of a Kurdish
     gentleman of Amadia. Its preservation was deplorable, but it had
     long fine horns, and its colour had been white originally, as is
     the case with wild cattle elsewhere, but is very rare with the
     domestic animal. We observed to our host that his ox had unusually
     fine horns, but he declared "that is no common ox, _Effendim_; it
     is one of the wild cattle of the mountains, of which there are very
     few in these days." We regret to add that seven years later the
     head had perished altogether, which is a distinct loss; still,
     there is other evidence that the animal is not entirely extinct as

     Birds are not numerous, but what there are are mostly of the
     decorative order. The great golden eagle is fairly plentiful in the
     mountains, and the black one is seen at times. Vultures and kites
     are common enough; and Haji Laqlaq the stork comes in regularly
     from his pilgrimage to Mecca in the spring. Magpies are plentiful
     and are seen in flocks of twenty at a time, in numbers that
     preclude any superstition attaching to them. They are good
     scavengers; and the parts that appear as black in their English
     cousins are seen, on examination, to be of a dark metallic blue and
     green in these specimens, so that the total effect is really

     The "blue jay" too, is really blue in this land; for he does not
     confine himself to a few blue feathers in his wings, as with us,
     but does equal honour to both our universities, by appearing with a
     Cambridge blue body and Oxford blue wings, and thus has a
     magnificent appearance. Even he is outdone by the kingfisher, who
     is a large specimen of his kind, and clothes himself entirely in
     deep metallic blue with a marvellous sheen. That at least is the
     livery of the fisher on the River Zab. Lower down on the Tigris,
     the blue is light in colour, though equally metallic in tone, and
     is set off by a pair of bright russet wings.

     The hoopoe comes in the summer and is, as ever, an attractive and
     gay neighbour, with his body of bright chestnut, and wings and
     crest of barred black and white. Nestorians call him "the bird of
     Solomon," and tell the familiar legend of his crown; but Armenians
     account for it in a different way. "Their fathers say" that the
     hoopoe was once a damsel, very pretty, but also very conceited, who
     would not veil her face as decency dictates, but kept the covering
     that should have concealed it cocked up on the top of her head, so
     that all the young men could see her. So she was turned into a
     hoopoe, and goes about for ever in the same flirty way as of old,
     with the veil still on the top of her head in the guise of a crest!

     Of all feathered fowl, however, none are more brilliant in colour
     than the bee-eater and the golden oriol. A gold-coloured body and
     black wings distinguish the latter; but we have never been able to
     satisfy ourselves as to how many hues go to the livery of the small
     and quick-flying bee-eater. Gold, red, green, and blue all form
     part of it we know; and a flock of them flying in the sun is at
     least a beautiful sight, though not one that is too welcome to the
     keeper of hives. If only they would turn their attention to flies
     of other varieties, one would afford them unstinted praise; as it
     is, one pardons their iniquities for the sake of their good looks.

     Page 275. NOTE. We add a note to make this matter clearer, for the
     benefit of liturgiologists. Two sorts of leaven are put into the
     dough to leaven it, and both are called "melka" (King, cf the
     Spanish title for the Host "Su Majestad.")

     One of these is a portion taken, before consecration, from the loaf
     prepared for the last celebration, and reserved for this purpose.
     The other consists of a mere pinch of flour, or of bread reduced
     once more to the consistency of flour, which is kept in a special
     vessel in the sanctuary.

     The tradition concerning this is as follows. When the Lord
     distributed the elements at the first Qurbana in the upper room, he
     gave a double portion of the bread to St. John. The Apostle
     consumed one part and reserved one, which he moistened with the
     blood of Christ on Calvary, and divided, after the Ascension, into
     twelve portions. One was given to each Apostle when they went forth
     to preach, that the act of mingling particles of it with the dough
     to be consecrated at every Eucharist, might connect the bread used
     on each occasion with that used at the first. This Melka is
     supplemented as needful, either with pulverised bread from the
     Qurbana or with fine flour, (our informant was not clear on this
     point), and is held to contain particles of the original, or at
     least to have been put into connexion with it.




Qudshanis is probably a spot that is unique on the world's surface; but
on leaving it for the south, the traveller soon finds himself in a land
that is fascinating enough, though plenty of parallels might be found
for it, even in the present orderly world, and numbers in the history of
every nation in the past. This land is the country of the Nestorian
"_ashirets_" of Tyari, Tkhuma, Diz, Baz, and a few other wild mountain
cantons; men who live under the peculiar conditions described in an
earlier chapter.

It is to be expected that the natural features of a land where so
primitive a state of things prevails will be rugged; and those of
Hakkiari are wild and strange enough to merit a special description. The
mountains are in fact a section of that great Taurus range, which
extends in a curve from the shores of the Mediterranean to somewhere
south of Baghdad. At this point they are pierced by a large river, the
Zab, which rises well to the north of them on the Armenian plateau; and
with rare determination bores its way clean through the range, till it
emerges on the Mesopotamian level to the south of it, and so falls into
the Tigris a little below Mosul. The cleft that it makes in the
mountains is one of the great _cañons_ of the world, comparable, in the
opinion of those who have seen all, to the gorges of Yosemite and the
"great Cañon of Colorado." Midway in its course the peaks of Supa Durig
and Koka Bulend, the two kings of that wilderness, stand opposite to one
another. Each is nearly fourteen thousand feet in height above the sea;
and as a bird flies, their crests are not more than twelve miles apart.
But the level of the river Zab that flows between them is only 4000 feet
above the sea at that point, so that the net depth of the gorge is over
9000 feet.

We presume that this insistence on the part of the river arises from the
fact that the huge wrinkle of the earth's surface which men call the
mountains of Taurus is of later date than the elevation of the plateau
to the north of it; and that consequently, as the rivers were already
flowing to the south, they steadily gouged away the barrier, as it was
being slowly heaved up. Or perhaps the Zab may have found some great
crevasse in the mountains which gave it the opportunity that it needed.
Whatever the process, the result has been a series of most magnificent
gorges, with walls falling almost precipitously from the level of
eternal snow to that of fig-tree, vine, and olive; and side ravines
which are scarcely inferior to the main gorge in grandeur. So narrow is
the chasm, and so steep the sides of it, that even at the river level
avalanches form a very real danger to spring travel, and must often be
crossed by hundreds in a day's march. Such crossing is not too easy; for
smooth snow at an angle of 40°, terminated by a drop into a swollen
torrent, may be dangerous for any caravan to traverse; and many are the
tales told of the escapes or deaths of mountaineers.

One man of our acquaintance was caught by a descending avalanche and
swept down the hill by the moving mass. While motion lasted, he was of
course fairly safe; but he had the wits to remember that the peril must
come when the foremost part of the great snow-slide was checked on the
level, and the hinder part, still advancing, squeezed itself together
like a telescoping railway train. By good luck he was upright when
motion ceased and he felt the snow consolidating round him. Working his
body frantically to and fro, he made as it were a little cell for
himself, so that he remained uncrushed; but he was buried and held a
prisoner, for his legs and feet were fast. There he remained for three
days, for a man can breathe through a considerable thickness of even
compressed snow; and there he was when his friends came out to search
for his dead body. They probed the snow with stick; and, as it happened,
poked one down actually into his chamber, so that he was able to catch
the end of it and hold on. He was extricated but little the worse.

An American missionary in the land had a similar experience in one of
the side valleys. He and his party made a rash attempt to cross a slope
of new snow, lying to the depth of perhaps six inches on the smooth
surface of old hard stuff; and naturally they started an avalanche. The
whole party of eleven men were borne down a matter of 2000 feet; and the
marvel was that only one of them perished.

At one particular place an enormous avalanche is an annual event, owing
to the peculiar configuration of the gorges. The winter fall on a whole
mountain side is artfully concentrated into one funnel-shaped valley,
which discharges into the Zab itself; and the snow-slide frequently dams
the stream for some hours. There is a profitable harvest of great fish
to be gathered in the dry bed below the dam at that time; though such
gleaning is of an unusually exciting character. For naturally when the
dam does go, it goes with a rush; and the point of safety is a good
distance above the normal level of the current!

The average width of the river in the mountains is perhaps fifty yards,
and its pace is very great; yet such temporary bridgings are not
uncommon. The writer has seen a case where an avalanche had not only
crossed the river, but had then been swirled round by the configuration
of the rocky slope on the other side, so that it overwhelmed a house
that had been built in what appeared to be an absolutely safe recess.
Seven lives were lost on that occasion, though one old man was found
living after six days burial under the snow, the roof-beams having so
fallen as to make a protection for his head.

In such a land as this, life is a hard matter; all cultivation is on
terraces, built as described above, and subject to the constant danger
of destruction by flood or avalanche.

Barring such accidents the terrace fields are fertile enough, if they
have a sufficiency of water; but this again has to be supplied them
artificially by leading the irrigation channels from the main stream
(often along precipitous faces of rock) and maintaining them carefully
when built. Millet and rice are the staple crops; the former furnishing
food both for man and beast, for its long stalks are excellent fodder.
Its grain is very sustaining as food, as we know from experience, but it
is not attractive. In fact bread made from it rather suggests that your
host has run short of flour, and has eked matters out with an equivalent
weight of sawdust! Even so, however, "it is better to eat millet bread
and carry a gun, than to be an unarmed _rayat_ under the Ottoman" under
present conditions.

Roads are of course unknown in the land, and there is no such thing as a
wheeled vehicle from one end of Hakkiari to the other. Tracks scramble
up the gorges along the slopes of shale, and climb by what are known as
_stangi_ over and round projecting noses of precipice. A _stanga_ is a
built up track; the stones being often held in place, by their own
weight only, on branches of trees stuck in crevices of the rock, and
projecting out over the torrent.

Mules can get along these roads fairly well, being to the manner born;
and sheep and goats do well enough also. But certain villages have a
happy immunity from the attentions of the raider, owing to the fact that
no quadruped can be driven along the tracks that lead from them. Such
cattle as they possess were either born on the land, or were carried up
in the days of their calfhood on men's backs. As for horses, it is a
tradition that they cannot be got through the gorges at all, and nobody
but a mad Englishman ever thinks of attempting such a thing. It has been
done twice, however; once by the writer, and once by a military Consul
from Van. Of course the horses were not ridden; and in fact had each of
them two men to look after their needs, one at the head to lead them,
and the other at the tail to hold them on to the track when it went
round sharp corners at a steep angle. This secured that when the poor
beast slipped at such a place, he did not fall into the river, but onto
the track; after which a man held his head down to prevent his
struggling to rise (which would have meant disaster), till all the men
who could get a hold of him were gathered round. Then came the signal,
"Are you ready--lift!" and the astonished horse found himself raised
with a straight hoist upwards, like a baby, and so set on his feet once
more. Thus they were got through; but they all left their shoes behind!

The bridges which cross the river form quite a feature of the land, and
show considerable engineering skill; though the crossing of them needs a
steady head as they are constructed at present. In principle, they are
true cantilevers. Piers are built at some convenient place, and a long
"bracket" of poplar trees is built out over the stream from each
shoreward side. The butts are weighted down with stones, and the
projecting ends are perhaps forty feet apart. Two long poplars are then
slung side by side between the ends of the converging brackets, and a
floor of withy hurdles makes the bridge complete.

As the trunks are very elastic, the whole structure swings considerably
even if it does remain horizontal. Often, however, it acquires a
pronounced tilt to one side or the other; and in any case a three-foot
track without any sort of parapet is narrow for a bridge. By old rule,
you ought not to look down in crossing such a place, lest the sight of
the torrent whirling below should unnerve you. In this case, however,
look down you must, and make the best of the vision of the torrent as
seen through the withy hurdle floor; for that floor is full of holes and
other traps and stumbling blocks, and if you trip, disaster follows!
Even natives sometimes condescend to be led across these places, or even
to crawl; but animals vary as much as menfolk in their behaviour on such
occasions. The writer has known a plains-bred horse walk over one of
these bridges as if to the manner born, without even a man to his tail;
and has seen a mountain-bred mule jib till he had to be ignominiously
towed through the river by a combination of tethering and baggage ropes!

One would expect that the useful donkey would be the very best of all
possible animals for use in this land; but the Assyrians of Tyari have a
prejudice against him. "He that is Lord of Ears"--his name is quite
unmentionable,--is _iyba_ for the _ashirets_. _Iyba_ is an institution
that needs some explaining. The word means "shame;" but the European
presently gets the impression that it can be extended to cover any
mortal thing which he orders, and which for any reason the native does
not want to do. Anyway, the poor donkey is _iyba_, and no mountaineer
will own one. A legendary man of Tyari dared to do so once; but life was
made such a burden to him by the jeers of all his kin, that at last he
hove the unfortunate jackass into the Zab from one of the bridges we
have been describing, and was free of further reproach. A mule is
honourable enough, if you are so fortunate as to own one; but it is
etiquette to address a hybrid beast like that in Kurdish (which is a
second tongue to all mountaineers); whereas your ox, being a proper and
biblical sort of animal, is addressed in Syriac, which is a good
Christian tongue.

So far does prejudice against the ass go, that when the Gospel for Palm
Sunday has to be read, the priest (who usually translates the text as he
reads from the "Old Syriac" of the Pshitta into the Vernacular)
substitutes a word that means "colt" for "ass." One poor rector, who
determined to be faithful to the text, found that sundry "aggrieved
parishioners" were complaining of him to the Patriarch for a shameless
falsification of the sacred Scriptures.

Nor is there a prejudice only against the ass. Few mountaineers will eat
the hare, or the pig, in that these come under Levitical prohibition.
And as regards the eating of other animals, we remember this
conversation with a certain trusted servant and steward, which speaks
for itself. "Tell me O Rabbi; is the thing really true which they say,
that the French do eat frogs?"

"It is true, O deacon; and they say that they are good."

"Rabbi; if we had a man who did that in Tkhuma, we should kill him."

Hitherto, there has been no law in the land (as may perhaps be inferred
from the foregoing paragraph), but tribal custom has ruled; and in
consequence Hakkiari has been the home of good manners, and of that
self-respect which comes from a sense of natural superiority to the
plainsman! This last is strongly developed among them; "The greatest
nation in all the world," said an _ashiret_ Christian one day, "is the
English. Next to that comes the Tyari." (One may readily guess that this
was the speaker's own tribe.) "Third, but a long way behind these, is
the Russian. There are no other nations."

This sense of congenital superiority brought the writer into rather hot
water, when in the year 1904 he brought a select party of these wild
Highlanders down to the city of Van, there to receive at his hand
instruction that (it was hoped) would "soften their morals and not allow
them to be ferocious."

They came, they deposited their goods; they ate a meal. And forthwith
went out into the street and began to thrash all the Armenians they
could find! There was some sort of excuse urged, "The dogs dared to
laugh at our long hair, Rabbi." But the real reason, as subsequently
explained, was the general feeling that the sooner these inferior beings
learnt to know their place, the better it would be for the comfort of

Next day a complaint came in from an American mission, also established
in the town. These _ashirets_ had caught the Armenian headmaster of
their school, and were playing leap-frog over him in the street, greatly
to the scandal of his pupils, who were, however, all too scared (or
possibly too appreciative) to attempt a rescue!

Stealing, properly so called, is almost unknown in the mountains. There
are of course a good many things that are practically held in common,
and which you take when you need, such as pasturage for instance; but
theft is very rare and punished with exemplary severity. A father of
unusually Roman disposition has actually been known to assent to the
death sentence passed on his son when that young man had so far
disgraced himself as to steal. It must be owned, however, that death was
only adjudged in this case because nobody could think of any
alternative. No prison was available; and yet something must be done
under the circumstances; so what was there for it but to shoot the man?
The Patriarch forbade that penalty, and the unworthy mountaineer was
only banished from his valley.

It is of course clearly understood in Hakkiari--and one hopes that the
English reader understands it also--that robbery and theft are not at
all the same thing. Any gentleman may go on the raid. His plunder is his
lawful property, and his exploit a source of legitimate pride. In fact,
their code is exactly similar to that of another thorough gentleman,
Evan Dhu Maccombich; "He that steals a cow from a poor widow is a thief,
but he that lifts a herd of cattle from the Sassenach is a gentleman
drover." The good folk of Tyari have been in the habit for generations
of imitating the heroes of another of Scott's novels in these matters;
for a tithe of all the plunder got in raids went always to the Church of
Mart Miriam (Lady Mary, _i.e._ the Blessed Virgin), in the valley of
Walto. "They paid tithe on every drove they took from the south; and if
they were something lightly come by, and their confessor knew his
business, I have known them make the tithe a seventh." Alas, however,
those days are passing; and though the devotion of the men of Tyari is
as good as ever, the profits of raids are not what they were.

One case, indeed, is recorded (his Holiness the Patriarch is our
authority for the tale) when the raiders had some scruples about
disposing of their spoil. The heroes of the incident were the men of Diz
valley, who had successfully lifted a cow from some Kurdish neighbours,
and were proposing that she should furnish a sumptuous Christmas
banquet. Some scrupulous soul, however, had grave doubts whether the
beast, having been Mussulman property so lately, was clean enough for a
religious purpose of that kind.[135]

The worthy rector of Diz rose to the occasion when this religious
difficulty was put before him. _Rabbi qasha_ exorcised the cow; and so
was honoured with an invitation to the banquet at which she subsequently
figured as the _pièce de resistance_!

We have given in a previous chapter the "rules to govern the conduct of
a gentleman in case of feud;" and the only occasion when these do not
hold, is when a _Jehad_ is proclaimed by Moslems. When you go to war in
the name of Allah and religion, you are naturally entitled to commit any
atrocity you like, and usually do so. The old courtesies, too, were
further abrogated as the result of the Armenian massacres of 1895. The
systematic outraging of the women then was part of the Turkish plan, and
seems to have been the deliberate order of Abdul Hamid. When such acts
had been once authorized by the Khalif, it was natural that the lower
type of Kurd should not readily return to the better ways of his fathers
in more ordinary raids.

Speaking generally, however, feuds are carried on with great lightness
of heart, much gaiety, and very little malice. The writer has known men
who were at open feud with one another meet in the household of the
English Mission (where of course, truce was observed), and chaff one
another in most friendly wise as they shared tea with the English
"apostles." In war time even "booby traps" (or something like them) were
not unknown; and once the men of Tyari rejoiced in a score gained over
an opponent, who feared to make any attack upon a position held in truth
by a dozen men and boys, because they suddenly found themselves
confronted with a formidable battery of artillery which they had not
credited the Tyari men with possessing at all.

As a matter of fact, the cannon were mere dummies; and were neither more
nor less than beehives (the local beehive is a long narrow thing, in
shape much resembling an old-fashioned eel-trap), which had been
artfully faked for the occasion and plastered all over with black mud!

The heroes of this exploit were so delighted with their score, that they
set to work to make a cannon of their very own. A hollow poplar trunk
formed the barrel this time, and it was wrapped round with bands of iron
on a system not unlike that on which a modern "wire-wound" gun is made
at Elswick, though the materials were hardly such as Messrs. Armstrong's
inspector would have approved.

The engine was only meant to bluff their enemies, and did that well on
at least one occasion; but the temptation to see what it could do got
too much for its possessors, and they (with the wonderful courage of
ignorance) charged the thing and fired it! Of course, it burst; but the
providence that guards schoolboys guarded these boys too, and nobody was

Some years ago, the chances in these feuds and battles were about even;
and had they continued so the writer could not have found it in his
heart to advocate the abolition of so ancient and interesting a form of
sport, nor would any of the combatants have wished it. It is true that
the Christians had usually to face odds in numbers; but they had strong
positions to defend, and such a reputation as fighting men, that the
Kurds themselves admitted that when you went against the men of Tyari
and Tkhuma, it was well to have odds of five to one in numbers on your
side. Then, however, each side used old guns of much the same character;
flint-locks to wit, with home-made powder and bullets. This, as noted
elsewhere, is not the case now; for the Kurds have been equipped with
more modern arms. The powder the folk of the mountains manufactured for
themselves, being able to get sulphur in plenty in their hills, and
burning their own charcoal. Nitre could always be gathered in some
caverns where the sheep were folded, but our knowledge of chemistry does
not enable us to say exactly how. Bullets were easy to come by, for lead
crops out in thick veins in certain gorges, and can be absolutely cut
out of the rock in chunks for the purpose. As for the casting, it is
wonderful what unsuspected uses there are for a thimble! Nobody dreams
of using it hereabouts as an assistance to sewing; but when set in a
lump of clay, it makes a very tolerable bullet-mould!

One skilful old priest of our acquaintance earned quite a good income
by converting muzzle-loaders into "Martinis," which is the general term
for any sort of breech-loader. He was a very fair smith, and though his
copies of the Martini lock and breech mechanism might not have passed
the War Office standard, they were very satisfactory for their owners.

Some artists hope to improve the local brand of gunpowder. One of the
first questions put to us during our wanderings in the mountain glens
was, "Rabbi, is it oak charcoal or walnut that you English use for the
making of your gun-medicine?" "Neither, but willow," said we, that piece
of unclerical information having somehow stuck in our mind from some old
"book of useful knowledge." Hence it would appear that the most unlikely
things come in useful at times, for the answer materially increased our

Many a primitive practice and habit goes on in these mountains, but
perhaps the most startling to a stranger is the taking of the bath
_coram publico_; a custom which is common to both Christians and Kurds.
The _rationale_ of the habit is sound enough. Mud floors get damp and
unhealthy with the weekly wash, and the much splashing of water that it
entails; let it then be done in the open, by the spring or river, where
a fire can be lit to heat the water and for the comfort of the bather.

It is a little disconcerting for the European at first, and seems a
startling drop back through a good many centuries, when you turn a
corner in the road suddenly, and find yourself confronted by a group of
maidens, who have put all their clothes in the big copper to wash, and
are engaged in performing that office for one another. However, if the
stranger is embarrassed, they are not. It is not manners to stare of
course; and they sit still undisturbed till the man has passed, without
even interrupting their conversation. Good narrow-minded folk at home
say that they have no sense of decency. That, however, is an absolute
libel; and it is far more near to the truth to say that it is the sense
of indecency that is absent, as it was in the Garden of Eden. Layard had
experience of this custom when he brought men of these tribes down to
Mosul to work at his excavations. This he did for convenience' sake, in
that they, having only a mountaineer's superstitions, were immune to
those of the plain; and did not raise the same difficulties about
digging in the mounds that the Arabs did. Naturally, his excavators
brought their wives and daughters to cook for them; and naturally, those
ladies brought their habits, and took their tubs as they had always done
at home. When it was represented to them by their employer that they had
scandalized the decent and respectable city of Mosul by so doing, they
replied innocently, "But, sahib, if the Mussulmans object, they need not
look." A Saturday tub in Tyari is a solemn and proper ceremonial. All
the family go down together, and the washing is carried out, in true
Homeric style, by the ladies personally. The old women scrub the old
men, and the damsels the youths. When the men have finished the girls
take their tubs.

Certainly one poor Englishman had a painful experience, when he, a
newcomer to the country, took a walk down the valley of Tyari on a
Saturday afternoon. Turning a corner abruptly, he found a fair maiden
sitting in all innocence in her bath. The Englishman had been properly
brought up, so he averted his gaze, and passed by, as far away as the
narrow limits of the path allowed. However, the damsel had been properly
brought up too, but in a rather different school; and seeing that it was
a _qasha_ (Priest), who was passing, she sprang out of her bath and came
to kiss his hand as politeness dictates. Saint Anthony fled, totally
misunderstanding her purpose; and the damsel followed after, ejaculating
plaintively "Rabbi, Rabbi, what have I done that you will not allow me
to kiss your hand?" It is said that he ultimately covered his eyes with
his left hand, and extended his right at arm's length for the salute.
However, a very few weeks' experience gave him perfect indifference to
the spectacle.

Old chivalrous rules of the obligation of hospitality still hold in the
mountains; and a conspicuous instance of this was given by one of the
Nestorian _maliks_ in the January of 1907. As a general rule, no effort
is made to march troops through these hills, for it is at once toilsome,
useless and dangerous. In that month, however, a company of infantry
were sent through the gorge of the Zab, with orders to report at
Julamerk, a seat of government to the north of it; the object probably
being to show that the thing could be done.

Being at best but half-trained men of Kurdish blood, and knowing that
they had been sent where no troops had gone before, they naturally got
more and more "jumpy" as they penetrated the gorge, and began to see an
ambush behind every rock. Thus when they met a party of four Tyari men
descending the road, they opened fire on them and shot down the lot!

This was not, we believe, the cold-blooded murder that it seemed, but a
pure fit of nerves on the part of undisciplined men. However, having
done it, they were naturally more frightened than ever at what they had
done; and fairly ran for it (so far as anyone can run on those roads,
which is not very fast), to the house of a prominent Christian _malik_
of Tyari, Ismail of Chumba. They crossed the bridge to his house; and so
demoralized were they that they did not even secure safety by breaking
it down behind them, a result that could have been secured by ten
minutes' work with a pocket-knife. They told the chief that they had
killed his own clansmen without provocation, and asked him to protect
them! It says much for mountain chivalry that he recognized the claim of
the suppliant without hesitation, and promised to do his best, _if_ it
was in his power to control his own tribesmen under the circumstances.

Those tribesmen gathered very soon for their revenge, and came up the
valley towards Chumba in force; and then the _malik_ went out and met
them at the bridge, to urge that the thing had been after all an
accident, so to speak, and not a butchery, and that it must be judged as
such. A long and hot discussion followed; the tribesmen saying, with
some force, that they did not care whether the thing was an accident or
not; their men were dead, and they would have blood for blood. All
arguments were tried in vain, till at last the mountaineers summed up,
"It is no good, _malik_; you have done your best, but we must have our
revenge, and that is our last word. Stand out of the way."

At that Ismail took his stand on the bridge and used his final argument.
"If that is your last word, now hear mine. These men are my guests now,
and have eaten my bread and are in my house. What they did before is
nothing to me; and if it were my own brother they had killed I would
guard them now. If you dare to attack, I and mine will defend them; and
you will have to kill your own chief before you lay hand on any one of
his guests." At that the avengers held back and hesitated till night
fell; and under that cover, Malik Ismail and his son Shlimun escorted
their guests into safety by the tracks over the hills, and led them
unharmed to Julamerk. The whole was as fine an act of chivalry as these
days can show.

With their chivalry goes as is often the case with mountaineers, a vein
of what we can call nothing but school-boyishness. The pure lark of a
fight appeals to them irresistibly. In the spring of 1912, the men of
one particular Christian district known as Salabekan contrived to carry
out a most successful raid against their neighbours over the hill, the
Kurds of Châl. It was only an episode in a feud that had dragged on for
many years, but was executed with some skill; the raiders securing 500
sheep without even waking their late owners! When they were well on
their way home, however, it occurred to some young hotheads that there
is really no satisfaction in lifting your enemy's sheep, unless you know
that he knows who has scored off him!

    _Now Simmy, Simmy of the side,_
    _Come out and see a Johnstone ride!_

sang the old moss-trooper who had looted Crichton's stable; so,
agreeably to "the Galliard's" principles, they went back again to the
village, there to fire shots and shout contumely till the Kurds were
awakened and came out. Then of course a fight resulted, in which three
or four men were killed. This excited our wrath; not because we grudged
them a Kurd or so; still less the sheep that they had fairly earned, and
which were very likely theirs originally anyhow; but because among the
Kurdish dead was a policeman (the Agha of Châl being a Government
_mudir_ among other things), and we feared that a dead policeman would
take a great deal of explaining! However, it all ended happily, the
officer not being missed! Still, we thought it only our duty to urge the
desirability of making up the feud upon Mar Shimun; and asked him if he
could not use his patriarchal influence in that direction. His Holiness
quite agreed with us that it was most desirable. "Really, the Christians
ought to make peace now. They are three corpses and four guns to the

With their "larkishness" goes also a boy's touchiness and sensitiveness
to a slight. The writer once went down through the district of Tkhuma,
having as companion one of the chiefs of the canton, whose guest he
naturally was when passing the man's village. A few weeks later he
returned; to be met at the border of the district by another chief, one
Yalda, of almost equal influence with his previous host.

"It is my hope that you are going to stay with me this time Rabbi."

As the answer was not given immediately, the gentleman proceeded to
explain the necessity of the case.

"You see, you stayed with Giwergis when you were here before; and that
was all right, as you came down with him. This time though, you ought to
come to me. If you do I shall be very glad to see you; but if you
don't--well I fear that the only thing for me is to shoot you!"

The invitation was accepted, and no more pleasant host could any man
have had.

A sad scandal is related of a certain apostle of teetotalism who found
himself in a mountain village on the day of a wedding feast. He was
cordially invited to stop and share in the feasting and dancing; and did
so--to reprove excesses and see that decorum was preserved. In due
course the governor of the feast invited him to take wine with him, and
this the total abstainer a little too curtly declined. The mountaineer
bristled up immediately. Such a refusal was a downright insult. And
literally at the pistol's mouth the poor guest had to gulp the draught
down. Nor was that the end of his woes. The other guests were all ripe
for frolic; and all that afternoon the unhappy man was haunted by a
procession of rollicking caterans, each equipped with a practicable
rifle and a large goblet of wine. Of course there was no refusing such
very insistent hospitality; and over the inevitable _dénouement_ we feel
ourselves constrained to draw a veil.

The fact is though, that boys with guns in their hands can be dangerous,
when their feelings are hurt, or when for any reason they are
frightened; and then they may turn against their best friends. Only once
in his twenty-five years of residence did Dr. Browne find these
mountaineers turn really nasty with him, and on that occasion, the men
concerned were our good friends of Tkhuma; though the blame did not
really rest on them.

A certain Roman Catholic intriguer in the nation desired to dispose of
Dr. Browne's influence, and was not particular either as to the methods
he employed or as to the result of them, whether for the foreigner or
for his own people. Having ascertained that Dr. Browne was proposing a
journey into Tkhuma, and having discovered some details of his plans, he
sent a message down into the district. "See here, that Englishman is
coming down your way with a companion; and his real intent is to destroy
your religion. You will see that when he comes he will do this and
that--things that look quite innocent, but which will be a sign to you
that I speak truth. Then do you deal with him according to your zeal."

Down came the Englishman with his companion, and did the acts named, to
find that he had roused a storm. For some days both were kept as
prisoners in the house of one of the village chiefs; and matters got so
far that the leading men were actually debating, in the presence of
their captives, whether they should kill them or not. This question
occasioned a quarrel, and knives were drawn in the dispute. Then Dr.
Browne stepped forward, knowing of course what the trouble was about
(for he spoke the Syriac tongue like a native), but (we are convinced)
only stirred by the scandal of Christians quarrelling and fighting with
one another. He, the prisoner in their hands, rebuked them paternally
for that sin; talked to them generally for their good; and finally
issued his orders that before proceeding with the discussion the two
that had drawn knives on one another should exchange the kiss of peace!
Well, they did. Being slightly ashamed of themselves, they kissed and
made friends like the children that they are. But after they had done
that, at the order of the Englishman, it was really impossible to go on
discussing whether they should kill him; and so the whole incident

Courage, coolness and humour are a necessity for the European who would
wander here; but with them he is practically as safe as in London. Men
deficient in those qualities may at any time find themselves in an
awkward position; as befell a certain unfortunate "Frank" who came into
the land to study Kurdish folk-lore, "without a pass from Roderick Dhu."
He had disregarded the advice given him, to take some "Nestorian" from
the house of the Patriarch, who could guarantee his character and
explain his naturally puzzling proceedings to both Kurd and Christian;
and took instead an Armenian who knew nothing of the land.

Accompanied by this man, he went down into the land of Tkhuma, which is
as wild a district of Christian _ashirets_ as any in Hakkiari. It was
just after harvest, and folk had nothing to do; so a little friendly
fight was in progress between two Christian villages. Of course the
foreign traveller was stopped and questioned by armed men, who demanded
who he was and what he had come for. Had he told the truth, and said
that he was neutral in the dispute, he might have been as safe as the
Kenites were, when Sisera was fighting out his quarrel with certain
Israelitish _ashirets_: but his wretched Armenian was panic-struck, and
was at some pains to explain that his master had come down in the
interests of one particular faction, and was the intimate friend of its
leader. As a matter of fact (though he did not realize it till too
late), the gentlemen who had stopped him were prominent leaders on the
other side. Hence, taking the man's own account of himself as true, they
were much disposed to deal with him as an enemy and a spy.

Fortunately they postponed sentence till they had reported the case to
Mar Shimun; and the Patriarch ordered that he should be released, that
his property (which had naturally been confiscated) should be returned
to him, and that he should be conducted out of the district. They
obeyed, only retaining one "kodak" as a trophy, and led him to their
frontier. Still, it was not in human nature to refrain from representing
that the journey was very dangerous; and that they could not dream of
letting so honoured a man go without a large escort--and a large fee for
each member of it, payable in advance.

Thus escorted, the traveller was taken to the border of the Christian
territory, where as luck would have it, they encountered a party of Châl

"What have you there?" said the Châl men.

"A Frank of sorts, who says he wants to study your manners and customs,"
said the Tkhumans.

"Hand him over to us, and he shall have ample opportunity," said the

So he had; for having been once robbed by the Christians, he was now
robbed over again by the Kurds, and this time there was no Patriarch to
appeal to. Thus it was a very tattered and woe-begone traveller who was
at last delivered at Amadia. He was certainly uninjured personally, save
in self-esteem; but otherwise nothing was left him but the clothes he
stood up in, which were not many; and perhaps he was fortunate in
retaining as much as that!

Amadia is the nearest Government centre to the Tyari and Tkhuma
districts; and in connexion with it we may here recount an adventure of
that worthy old _qasha_ Tuma mentioned in the last chapter. His
reverence had come down to the place, accompanied by a deacon, on some
business of his own; and both had been promptly arrested. It was not
for any particular crime, but perhaps in the expectation that some
reason would turn up if they were kept long enough; perhaps on the
principle of tribal responsibility for the acts of any individual, for
the men of Tyari had been doing some raiding about that time!

Government having some experience of the fact that Tyari men are hard to
catch and harder to hold, a sentry was kept permanently in the cell with
the pair, and another posted outside it. Still, the _qasha's_
pocket-knife was not taken from him, but left him for his meals. Of
course, the cell door had to be opened at times; and on one of these
occasions the key (which according to local custom was not of metal, but
a notched slip of wood) was given to the _qasha_ to hold for a moment.
Instantly he "spaced" the notches with his thumb, which is the usual way
of measuring anything in this country, and noted the shape of the key.
Before very long, the sentry contracted the habit of going to sleep in
the cell; and in those intervals, priest and deacon contrived to get a
slat of wood out of the roof, and set to work with no other guide than
the memory of the measure taken, to make a duplicate key. It was soon
finished; and one morning the sentry's slumber was rudely interrupted,
by finding both his prisoners at his throat. He was tied up and gagged
quietly; and then came the exciting moment, when the key was first tried
in the door. Greatly to the credit of the locksmiths, it fitted; and
soon the sentry outside the door, who was not more watchful than his
fellow, was safely locked up beside him in the cell and left to await
discovery. The priest and deacon were off, on the road to their own
mountains; with two good Martini rifles, late Government property, as
compensation for their stay at the Government house!

Wild tribesmen on the one side with a tribesman's virtues and vices,
attractive mischief-loving boys on another, are all these mountaineers;
but there are other aspects of their character that show them as capable
of acting like devoted men. This comes out most markedly in their
attachment to their own historic Church and their readiness to work on
its behalf. One good case of this came to the writer's knowledge in the
village of Rabat, in Tal. Here the brother of the headman of the village
was murdered by some Kurds; and the crime must have been one of peculiar
atrocity, for even the leathery Kurdish conscience was so severely
shocked that the local Aghas decreed that a blood-fine must be paid; and
a sum of £60 was actually handed over in cash at their order. The
headman accepted the money, as a sign that the feud was finally closed,
but declared that he would take no compensation for his brother's death.
He handed over the whole sum (a far larger amount than he had ever seen
before or was likely to see again) for the repair of the village church,
which stood in great need of it. Spurred by this example the whole
village turned to, and the edifice was pulled down and rebuilt; every
man, woman and child in the place helping to drag the stones from the
mountain, tending the kilns where the lime was burnt, or assisting in
some other way. The land being almost treeless, the fuel for the kilns
was provided by the sacrifice of many of the walnut trees that grew
round the village; and be it noted that these were not only valuable
property in themselves, but also the source of the one luxury allowed to
these people during their long and rigid Lent. The gift meant that the
donors would most of them live on millet bread and water, and nothing
else, for several Lents to come; so it may be understood that those who
gave a walnut tree gave what cost more than the signing of a cheque. No
man took a penny for his labour, save a party of artisans from another
district, under whose directions the whole was carried out;[136] and as
these guilds of builders have that secret of proportion that a modern
architect often strives for in vain, the result has been a singularly
impressive building, vaulted, and proof against everything save wanton
destruction; a monument for some centuries to come of the devotion of
the villagers to their church.

True it is that this devotion may take bizarre shapes at times. One
district was annoyed by the proselytising efforts of some Romish
teachers, who were seeking (of course quite rightly on their
principles) to draw away the Nestorians to another obedience, and had
succeeded with a certain number of them. A zealous deacon of the old
church, much annoyed at this declension from the ways and faith of the
fathers, disclosed to the writer a notable scheme for soaking the walls
of the little Roman chapel with paraffin, and setting light to it during
service, so as to dispose of chapel and worshippers at once.

In some natural horror, his Rabbi rebuked him, making him recite the
Sixth Commandment and other appropriate passages of scripture. He
certainly promised to respect Western prejudices in the matter, and kept
his word loyally; but incidentally showed that quotation is a game at
which two can play. "What you say is true no doubt Rabbi. But yet you
know that these Papists are after all little better than idolaters; and
it is written that the good King Josiah did bid his people burn the
idolaters' bones!"

A case that is perhaps even stranger was the sad lot of a Jewish
village, which was situate, for its sins, in the land of Berwar, just
within comfortable raiding distance of Tyari territory. Jewish villages
are rare in the land, but there are a few; mostly claiming descent from
the "ten tribes" which were settled here by Sargon.

If the descent so claimed be correct, the lot of these poor Hebrews was
doubly hard; for they were raided on three successive Good Fridays by
the Tyari men, not because of any feud, but purely out of respect for
the day! Something had to be done, in the raiders' opinion, to show
their abhorrence of an act about which they had much the same feelings
as King Clovis; and much the same uncertainty as to dates.

The episode was mediæval, but the people are mediæval; and even more
civilized people sometimes use the Jews equally ill. The Tyari men must
have sung with right good will in those years, the anthem of their
Easter vigil service: "Woe to the people of the Jews!"

That strange observances, beliefs, and superstitions should linger in
this corner of Asia, even to a greater extent than in other parts, is
natural enough. Second sight, however (to take one widespread
phenomenon), does not seem to be so common a faculty here as is the case
in Scotland; or it may be simply that the Oriental is more chary of
speaking of such a matter to a foreigner. Still, we have heard of cases;
notably that of a Seer whom his fellow tribesmen consulted on all
matters of importance, and who foretold at the last the disaster that
would befall them in one special raid. "If you go out to battle now;" he
said, "you will flee seven ways before the Mussulmans; and though you
yourself, chief, will be saved by a willow tree, death will be my
portion." The prophecy was literally fulfilled; the Christians being
routed in the skirmish, and scattered. The Seer himself (whom the Kurds
had intended to spare) was killed by a random shot; and the chief took
to flight, and being pursued, had to save himself by swimming the Zab.
He was, however, swept away by the current and only escaped by clinging
to a projecting branch of willow.


One of the reaches near Tal.

No. 13]

One case of this second-sight, or vision, concerned the writer himself
when making a late autumn visit to Qudshanis from Van in 1907, in
company with the late Bishop Collins of Gibraltar. We were expected at
the place; but terribly bad weather made them not only give up hope of
our arrival, but even hold special services of prayer for our safe
return to Van. Under these circumstances, a certain deacon of Tkhuma,
Nwiya[137] by name, who was servant to the Rev. W. H. Browne, came
rushing in to his master early one morning in great excitement. "They
are coming, Rabbi; they are coming after all. I saw them in a vision by
night, and they will be here this day. But I saw them coming up the
valley, not down it as Mr. Wigram said he would come. The bishop was
wearing a black hat, and Mr. Wigram a white one." Three hours later, the
_avant-courier_ we had sent before us actually arrived; and in the
course of the day the party reached Qudshanis by the route named by the
deacon (which had been adopted when the more direct route proved
impassable), the bishop wearing an astrakhan fur cap, and the writer a
sun-helmet. Any suspicion of confederacy may be ruled out of the
question without hesitation, for it was a physical impossibility; and
clairvoyance, or some form of thought transference, seems to be the most
natural explanation of so strange a coincidence of foreword and fact.

Every nation has, of course, its own superstitions about the mystery of
birth, as exemplified in the case of our own ancestors by the belief in
"the changeling." In the case of these Nestorians, the danger that
menaces the new-born is a sort of fearful night-hag, called the
_khwarha_, that carries off and destroys the child. To guard against her
visits, the child must be watched day and night for the first days of
its life (baptism is usually administered on the eighth day), while an
onion and a wool-comb must be kept in the same room. The smell of the
former makes the spirit sneeze and deprives her of power; while the
latter (which is of iron and so exercises a protective influence of
itself) entangles her long locks, so that she flees in terror.[138] An
old man in the household of the Patriarch tells how he was once set to
take his turn at watching a certain important infant, and was so far
negligent that he went out of the room to smoke a cigarette. As he did
so, he saw the terrible _khwarha_ approach, change herself into the form
of an ibex with very long horns (deponent sayeth not what was her
appearance previously, which is a pity), and dash into the room. Of
course the conscience-stricken watcher dashed in after her; but to his
huge relief found his charge sleeping quietly (a happy effect due no
doubt to the protective influence of the comb and the onion), so all
ended well. Still that moment is a remembrance of horror to that old man
to this day.

Here, as in other districts that we have referred to, the power of
faith-healing is a very real thing. Recourse is had to any church that
chances to be "Lord of Name" for that purpose, and the result is quite
often successful. Certain ordeals have to be gone through at times,
success in them being an omen of success in the prayer. Thus the church
of Mar Abd-Ishu, in Tal (once the hermitage of an ascetic of great
local fame, and situated in a cave high up on an almost inaccessible
precipice), is a great place of resort for childless couples who desire
offspring. After prayer, it is the proper thing to pass through "Mar
Abd-Ishu's passage," which is a natural cleft in the rock, somewhat
analogous to St. Wilfrid's needle at Ripon.

An easy passage is a sign of the granting of the prayer; but failure
does not imply (as in the English parallel) a bad private character. It
only means that the saint expects his fee; and this must be promised him
before he will grant what is required. As a matter of fact, a slim
person can usually get through the hole easily, but an adult can only do
so at one particular angle; and if he is not fortunate enough to hit on
this, he may have difficulty; for no assistance may be given by the
unauthorized spectator. A Kurdish chief attempted it once to the
writer's knowledge, seeing that he desired a son; but he stuck firmly in
the crevice and could neither get back nor forward! Scared almost out of
his wits, he jumped at the idea that a gift to the saint might let him
through; and when small gifts were not accepted, he raised his terms
till he was offering all his sheep and half his rifles, and still the
saint held on! He was then told, however, that big bribes were no good;
but that he must promise exactly what the saint happened to want, and
that his Holiness was sometimes very capricious. The Kurd had to go
through a good deal of exercise in guessing what it was that a saint in
paradise, who had been an ascetic on earth, would be most likely to
covet; but at last he hit on the right thing (or got into precisely the
right position), and was released on promising some forty-five piastres,
or eight shillings. It is pleasing to add that he paid up faithfully,
and that he subsequently got the son that he desired; so that his
respect for Christian institutions has much increased.

This shrine, indeed, has a high reputation among all faiths. It has only
been robbed once, by Kurds; and on that occasion the robbers were
promptly put to death by their own fellow tribesmen, and the spoil

Lunacy meets with a peculiar treatment among the men of Tyari (their
neighbours declare that all the tribe are mad together, and support that
statement by various tales at their expense, which it is well not to
repeat in their vicinity[139]). When all visits to a church of Name
fail, the patient is absolutely buried alive. He is prepared for burial
exactly as if he were a corpse, borne to the graveyard on a bier, and
interred with the full church service. A small opening is left for him
to breathe through; and at the end of twenty-four hours, he is carefully
resurrected. The nervous shock has often beneficial results; but
naturally not always.

It must be owned, too, that the last case in which this treatment was
tried to the knowledge of the writer produced a good deal of
ill-feeling, because it was so doubtful whether the man was cured or
not. He was buried quite properly; and his friends came at the right
time to disinter him. But as soon as the stones were removed, he sprang
up, exclaiming, "I am risen! I am risen! it is the Last Day!" Then,
looking round disgustedly on the men who had come to assist him:
"Whoever would have expected to see _you_ at the Resurrection of the

Query: is that man still mad? His friends would like to think so. But
they have an uneasy feeling that he "knows a hawk from a hernshaw when
the wind is southerly."

If the Tyari men are thus buried prematurely at times, there was an
ancient custom among them (now extinct for generations), according to
which they could dispense with burial altogether. Like many uncivilized
peoples, in all climates, they had a habit of putting the aged out of
the way of the young when they had no more joy in life; and in their own
case got rid of them by throwing them down a special one of the numerous
precipices in their country. The story goes that the habit came to be
stopped through one particular man, who was carrying up his own father
to dispose of him in the time-honoured way. As he scaled the mountain,
he put down his burden to rest for a minute, at one particular tree;
and as he did so, he heard the old man chuckle.

"And what have you got to laugh at now?" said the son.

"Ah well, I was just remembering"; said the old fellow. "It came to my
mind how when I was carrying my old father up here, I put him down to
rest myself just at this same tree; and it seemed to me rather comic.
Your son, little Yaqub, will do just the same with you when your time
comes, no doubt."

That set the son, who had hitherto been acting just as custom decreed,
thinking about things in a new way. He had to admit that he did not like
the idea of his little son carrying him up in this fashion to throw him
down a precipice; and perhaps it might be that his own old father did
not quite like it either! So the end of his cogitations was that he
carried the old man down again, and faced the horror of refusing to do
as his fathers had done. Thus the custom fell into disuse.

Good people in England will of course be startled at the idea of such a
custom ever having prevailed among even "nominal Christians;" in
blissful ignorance of the fact that our own ancestors acted in very
similar fashion when they were at a similar stage of development. Human
nature is much the same all the world over; and we believe that the
practice of killing off the old people (useless mouths to fill) did not
die out in Christian Sweden till the fifteenth century. The "family
clubs" used for dispatching them were usually kept in the churches![140]

     NOTE. One of the quaintest of the stories told at the expense of
     these "Men of Gotham" was related to the writer by Mar Shimun, who
     is a singularly good raconteur. It befell once in the time of
     summer that the sun was hidden by clouds. This is so unusual a
     phenomenon in that favoured land that the men of Tyari held a
     solemn meeting to discuss what could be done in the matter; and
     decided that the day-star had probably got entangled in a cave on
     the lip of their tremendous gorge, and that if it was not
     disentangled at once disastrous consequences would follow. A
     deputation went up accordingly to do their best; and the first man
     to reach the cave mouth at once stooped and looked into the
     darkness, where he saw two luminous orbs. "It's all right," he said
     to his friends; "here is the sun and the moon, too. I will crawl
     in and let them loose." In he crawled accordingly; but found that
     unluckily for him the lights were the eyes of a leopard, and it,
     skilful animal, took off his head with one snap. As he did not come
     out again, or answer to questions, his companions pulled him out by
     the heels--when, behold, he had no head on. "Dear, dear," said the
     leader, "this is very odd. Tell me, some of you, had Yukhanan his
     head with him when we came up, or did he leave it in the house?" No
     man was quite sure on that point, so all went down to ask his wife.
     "O Sinji, wife of Yukhanan, say now. Did your man leave his head
     down here when we went up the hill this morning, for we cannot find
     it now?" Sinji searched in the house, but presently came out with
     the news: "It is not here, anyhow." "Ah, well," said the leader,
     "he must have dropped it on the way up. The boys will find it and
     bring it down when they drive home the goats at sunset."




To the south of the Christian cantons of Tkhuma and Salabekan, and
separated from them by a series of high rocky ridges, lies the long
trough-like valley of Amadia, which is here known alternatively as the
Sapna. At its eastern end, as already related, dwell the Sheikhs of
Barzan and Neri; but the western portion is divided among a group of
petty Kurdish Aghas, who are of course _ashiret_ in status like their
neighbours, and who occupy both the main Sapna valley itself, the Ghara
ranges which form the counterscarp separating it from Mosul plain, and
the Berwar valley which lies parallel with it to the northward.

These chiefs, of whom the Mira of Berwar and the Agha of Châl are the
principal, are "small men." None of them can claim a personal following
of more than a few hundred at most; though one or other may figure
prominently at times as the head of a confederacy. Their chronic
condition is that of outlawry for proved acts of violence; and in the
land of Ghara in particular there does not seem to be a single gentleman
of name who is not in that enviable condition--or if there is, we never
heard of him in the course of three years' residence. This fact,
however, does not in the least affect anyone's comfort, or even the
friendliness of his relations with the officials of the Government. It
is rather a _cachet_ of gentility than otherwise.

Bigger men live to east and west of them; namely our old acquaintance
the Sheikh of Barzan, and the Agha of the Sindigul Kurds, whose name is
Abdi. When these men have a disagreement with the Government, it is not
a case of mere outlawry, but of open war; and the Government does not
always, by any means, get the better of them. Abdi Agha of the
Sindigulis is perhaps the better off; for he has a stronghold of the
most magnificent description, to which no Government troops have ever
penetrated, and which is a fair set-off against the religious prestige
of his neighbour. This stronghold is the lofty tableland of Tanina; a
great plateau among the mountains where there are wood and water for the
whole tribe, and pasture in abundance for all their sheep the whole
summer through. It can only be approached, the tale goes (for no
foreigner has ever been allowed to visit its summit), by three easily
guarded ascents; and when once the tribe are on the top, they can afford
to laugh at any force the Government of the district can send against
them. A large force set to blockade the place could not be fed in the
district, while small detachments guarding the "ports" could be
overwhelmed in detail. No doubt resolute troops could storm it; but the
cost would be heavy. The only weakness of the sanctuary appears to lie
in this; that neither man nor beast can live on the top of it during the
winter. When the autumn gales and early snows begin, come down they
must; and in this fact would lie the opportunity of a Government that
really cared about the enforcement of order.

Throughout the district there are plenty of Christian villages, almost
entirely of the Nestorian church, though at the western end of it some
belong to the "Jacobite" body. All of these, however, are _rayat_ or
feudally subordinate, to the Kurdish chiefs among whom they live, and
are little better in fact than serfs. The principal town of the land,
Amadia, is a fully equipped seat of government, with a _kaimakam_, a
lieutenant of gendarmerie, a district judge, and all complete. But his
Excellency the Governor knows better than to issue any order that he
thinks likely to be unpleasant to his neighbours.

Thus these second-rate Aghas are left pretty much to the freedom of
their own will, and the result is as bad a Government as can well be
imagined. An important chief, like the Sheikh of Barzan, may at least
tolerate no other tyrant; and may possibly see that killing off the bees
is not the best way of getting a permanent supply of honey. But the
small men have their own feuds with one another; their train of
dependents that must be supported somehow; and, moreover, a total
absence of conscience--or even of the enlightened self-interest that is
sometimes its working substitute.

As for appealing to the Government for redress against the Agha's
misdoings that is entirely wasted labour; and anyone who does so is apt
to be given a lesson by the feudal chief, to warn others from doing the

A description of some of the actual proceedings of two of the chiefs may
enable the reader who has no knowledge of the ways of Ottoman officials
in the remoter districts to learn what Turkish rule really means.
Reshid, the Mira of Berwar, pays so much lip-deference to the
Government's authority that he does condescend to buy from it the right
of collecting the taxes from the Christian villages, year by year. This
right is usually farmed out by the local officials (the fact that this
is expressly illegal has nothing to do with the matter), the contractor
paying a fixed sum to the Treasury, and making what he can out of the
place. Reshid pays a sum of £5 for each village, which the Treasury
gets; and perhaps another £5 goes in _bakhshish_, to secure that there
shall be no competition, or that some flaw shall be found in any other
offer. Then he extracts some £200 from each village.[141]

It is possible that this is not much more than double the real
assessment; still, even so, one would have thought that it might be
worth while for the provincial governments to institute a better system;
for when that is done in some thirty villages, it really represents a
material loss to a Treasury that is perennially empty. However, you may
talk to a Turk till you are tired, and represent to him that his system
is simply robbery, and stupid robbery too; and that with better methods
he would get ten times as much with one tenth the trouble. You are told
politely to your face that you are under a misapprehension; though this
ignorance of the country is of course pardonable in a foreigner. What is
said or thought privately may perhaps be guessed.

In feuds anything may happen. Thus Mira Reshid has a standing feud, of
twenty years date now, with the men of Tyari; which is said to have
commenced with a treacherous murder under trust in the Mussulman's own
house. It blazed up fiercely in the summer of 1908; and that not without
excuse from the Kurd's point of view, for some Tyari hot-heads (angry at
the fact that a proposed reconciliation had not come off) had carried
out a raid in Berwar territory, and killed Reshid's own brother. That he
should cut the bullet out of the corpse, and send word to the chief of
the Lizan valley (whence the raiders had come) that he was keeping it to
shoot through his heart, was fair enough; but he certainly went beyond
all ordinary rules in proclaiming a _Jehad_ or holy war of Islam against
Christianity, on account of what was at the most a mere tribal feud.

However, all the neighbouring tribes of Kurds rallied at that call, and
he was able to muster 8000 men, armed with modern rifles, against the
short 1500 flintlocks that was all that the threatened sub-district of
Lizan could produce. It says much for the reputation of the Tyari
fighters, that even under those circumstances the Kurds dared no frontal
attack, and were content to make a long counter-march through the
mountains, to reach the head of that Lizan valley (a tributary of the
Zab) which the Christians were defending. Then they marched down it,
plundering as they went, while the Christians on the hill above saw
their houses go up in smoke one after the other.

There was little spoil to take, for the sheep and women had been
prudently sent away to the north; but all the usual courtesies of war
went by the board that day. Trees were girdled; houses and standing
crops were burnt; irrigating channels broken down so as to ruin the
crops in other fields; and the conquerors marched down the valley to
fulfil an old threat that they would "dance in St. George's Church on
St. George's day," and thereafter carry fire and sword up the main
valley of Tyari; which was not directly concerned in the feud.

This last outrage, however, was averted by one daring deed. The church
in question stands at the foot of the side valley, close by the bridge
over the Zab that forms the sole passage to the larger threatened
district. One chief of the Christian mountaineers saw that a band of
brave men might throw themselves into a house which commanded both, and
save their brethren, even if they themselves were ruined. He called for
volunteers who would come down with him and cut across the Kurdish
advance in the effort to gain that point. He would only take men who
would put their lives on the hazard, for no quarter is given in _Jehad_.
He got his party; and the writer must be allowed some pride in the fact
that one of the members of this forlorn hope was a pupil of his own, a
member of the "English School," named Saypu. They reached their point
and prepared for defence; Saypu's last preparation being to take his own
school-books out of the house (which, as it happened, was his own home)
and hide them in a hole in the rock. It was the first token of affection
he had given for them in his life! The little band made good their
defence; and as they had not to deal with the main body of their enemy,
they were actually able to carry out a sortie on their foes as they
retired. Saypu, who had gone into the fight with a borrowed flint-lock,
came out of it with a breech-loader of his own, the fairly won spoil of
its late owner! More important than this, however, was the fact that the
bridge was held. Though the side-valley was burnt from end to end, the
main one was saved from ravage; and the Christians were able to hold
their service on the following Sunday in the still undesecrated Church
of St. George.

Such an open war as this roused even the Ottoman Government to asking
questions; though to do the officials justice, they would have been glad
enough to leave the matter alone if only British Embassies and
Consulates had left them in peace. As it was, they consented to send a
commissioner to somewhere near the district, with instructions to "do
_takikat_" in the case. As a matter of etymology, _takikat_ means
examination or inquiry. As a matter of practice, it means sending an
official with instructions to waste time, and do nothing elaborately;
while the Government at headquarters says to the interfering foreigner,
"you must allow us reasonable space and opportunity for action." After a
few months, this phrase is altered; and the reply is, "well, after all,
it happened a long time ago, and we cannot go into the matter now." In
this case, the commissioner got as far as Amadia, and sent a summons to
Reshid to come down and explain his conduct. Reshid sent out five pounds
to the messenger, and the information that he was ill in bed, and the
gentleman must call again; and this quite satisfied everybody.

This is the sort of procedure that fills a Consul with despair. It is
hard enough to get a disciplinary or reforming order out of the central
Government; and when you have got it, what better are you? There is no
possibility of getting the thing executed. Every Jack-in-office in the
Ottoman service knows what is meant by a "watery command"--an order
extracted by foreign pressure which he is meant to disregard. They know
when the authority means business, and then they answer the rein at
once; but they also know when it does not, and then they do nothing.
Foreign influence cannot possibly see to it that there is a Consul in
every place where oppression can arise. No Power can keep one in every
mudirate; and nothing short of that would be effective. If Turkey is
ever to be reformed, it must be by foreigners who have executive as well
as advisory authority; power, that is, to hang an official who does not
obey orders, or a chief who breaks the peace. Half a dozen such men
would have Kurdistan as safe as Hyde Park inside a year, for if there is
one chance in twenty of trouble ensuing, the Kurd does not raid.

Reshid's only rival in Berwar is the Agha of Châl,[142] an old man who
is the government _Mudir_ of his district. He is also a _Sufi_ by
religious profession; and both of these circumstances should make for
respectability; for the _Mudir_ is put there to keep order, being lowest
on the scale of local governors, and _Sufis_ are usually supposed to be
quiet mystics. Many of them are so in fact, and most interesting
religious philosophers to talk with; but this man is noted for being on
the whole the most crafty murderer in the country-side. It is of course
something to rise to eminence in a profession so crowded as that
peculiar one is locally; but perhaps that is not the most remarkable
thing about this particular Agha. He is the only man of the writer's
acquaintance who keeps a really large herd of domestic Jews. Châl
village is largely populated by men of that race; and they are to all
intents and purposes the serfs of the Agha--his tame money-spinners. The
writer was even offered full rights in one of them for the sum of five
pounds; and if the bargain would have held in more civilized districts
(and the vendor, to do him justice, did not realize that it would not),
it might have been as profitable an investment as is ever likely to come
his way! A Jew of one's very own, bound to put all his financial skill
at your disposal, and to use it solely for your benefit, would be a most
valuable property.

There are other chiefs who keep "tame Jews" in this fashion, though not
on the same scale as does the wise man of Châl. Naturally, you are
expected to protect your own Hebrew, and to guard him against all other
oppressors; even as the King of England used to do, when he had absolute
property in all the Jews in England, and saw to it that their debtors
did not default. Kurdish Aghas, however, do not always rise to this
duty; and the writer has known a case, where the unfortunate Israelite,
who was owned in this fashion by one Agha, was robbed of every penny and
rag he possessed by that Agha's rival. Poor Ibrahim complained, of
course, to his natural lord, on the ground that it was _iyba_ to that
master himself, if his property was robbed in this style. The chief had
to admit that there was something in the argument; but redress by force
of arms (the obvious method) was impossible, because the robber was far
too nearly his equal in strength.

"Your face is blackened my Lord," pleaded the poor Hebrew.

"It is indeed," said the Agha; "but I can't go to war with him

Presently he had a really brilliant inspiration. "Look here Ibrahim; I
have it! I'll go and rob his Jew myself!"

That being the way the Kurdish mind works, it will be readily understood
that their unfortunate Christian _rayats_ run considerable peril when
there happens to be feud between two Aghas. Under those circumstances,
it is just as satisfactory on the point of honour--and a good deal more
profitable and less risky--to raid your opponents' unarmed Christian
villages, than his armed Kurdish ones. Both sides practise this amiable
habit with great satisfaction to themselves; and the poor _rayats_
suffer accordingly.

The presence of one powerful Kurdish chief ruling a whole country-side
is thus a distinct improvement (however tyrannous he may be) on the rule
of several rivals. He may at least have the sense to realize that it is
unprofitable to carry the oppression of the _rayats_ too far, lest the
cattle should be ungrateful enough to die on his hands. A story is told
of the brother of the notorious Bedr Khan Beg, that on one occasion when
that great destroyer of Christians was meditating a further massacre, he
appeared in the _diwan_ in labourer's dress, armed with a shovel.

"_Mashallah._ Why this masquerade?" asked his brother the chief.

"Well brother, it is what we shall have to do, if you go on with your
game of massacring all Christians. You will leave none to do the work on
the land."

The acted parable went home, as so often was the case in biblical times;
and the proposed raid was countermanded.

During the Italian and Bulgarian wars, there was of course much heated
feeling among Mussulmans, and much wild talk of a massacre of all
Christians. A Kurd indulging in that sort of swagger in a Christian
village was countered by an argument which naturally no European would
have expected, but which we have reason to believe had considerable
weight in many quarters.

"Of course, you can massacre us," said an old priest, "we are in your
hands. But then, what will King George do?"

"King George!" said the Kurd contemptuously, "his arm does not reach to

"No, but he has millions of Mussulman _rayats_ in India," said the
Christian. "If you kill us, think you that he will not take life for
life from them?"

The Kurd was staggered. At first, he was disinclined to believe it
possible for any Christian King to have Mussulman _rayats_. But when
assured on that point, he quite admitted the probability--and more, the
propriety--of King George retaliating on Mussulmans in India for
anything their co-religionists might do to Christians in Kurdistan. The
Oriental is quite philosopher enough to grasp the notion of

Moreover it must be inferred that a Kurd has a ghost of a conscience. He
does not himself expect to sleep quiet in his grave unless some
Christian places a rag on it in token of forgiveness. It is a weird
belief, but is fully accepted on all hands. A noted marauder was lately
buried near Amadia, and three Tyari men passing his grave after
nightfall heard awful groans proceeding from it. One, bolder than his
comrades, went nearer, and found an asthmatic sheep. An unlucky
discovery, for it utterly ruined the moral.

The character of the country is tamer than that we have just been
traversing, for it is only in the most rugged and inaccessible gorges
that the _ashiret_ Christians have been able to maintain their
independence. In these Berwar and Sapna districts, the wilder ranges
have been left behind. The valleys are wider, and the hills are usually
forest clad; the prevailing tree being a small type of oak. Fortunately
this is a valuable crop in itself, for it produces a very large
oak-apple; and this is used freely in the dyeing of the local cloth, so
that the trees have a good chance of preservation. The colours produced
vary, according to the process, from pale yellow to dark brown; but as
is always the case with pure vegetable dyes, all are excellent in tone,
and a most gratifying contrast to the cold hard aniline dyes that
European science has introduced to ruin the once beautiful carpets of
this land.

The hills are mostly of limestone, and lie in long parallel ranges, due
east and west, with steep crags and precipices on the crests, and long
tree-clad slopes below. They gradually lose their elevation as they
approach the Mosul plain; but even at the last stand up over that
endless level with a startling abruptness. The rivers, true to their
habit in this land of contradictions, burst clean through these ranges
in their southern course, though they naturally receive tributaries in
each one of the parallels.

Good coal lies under much of this country; the writer having actually
seen one six-foot seam that crops out at four several points along a
line of sixty miles, and is probably continuous in other directions
also. It is of course quite unworked at present. Turkish political
economy teaches that for so long as the coal is there, it is safe, and a
solid national asset. If, however, you dig it up and burn it, it is gone
and cannot be replaced. Besides, mining concessions, or anything else
likely to bring in the foreigner, are anathema to the Ottoman and are
never granted if they can possibly be avoided.


No. 14]

The principal landmark in the Sapna valley is the town of Amadia; a city
set on a hill indeed--perched on the summit of a great isolated knoll
which juts out from the mountains behind it like a bastion from the
curtain of a fortress. The slopes of this knoll are surmounted by a
cresting of limestone precipice, so even and continuous round the whole
circuit of the level summit that it looks from a little distance like a
prodigious artificial wall. The place must have been a notable
stronghold even in Assyrian days, as a much battered bas-relief on
the rock face by the main gate testifies: but the ramparts which Nature
has given it were always sufficient protection; and, except at the two
entrance gateways, no further defences were required. It is now but a
group of mean hovels, no more than a rather large village; but it ranks
in the Sapna valley as the metropolis of the country-side.

Amadia is the only seat of Ottoman Government in the neighbourhood; and
for this reason it was in its vicinity that a "Station" of the
Archbishop's Assyrian Mission was established when it was desirable to
find some centre reasonably accessible for the mountaineers of Tyari and
Tkhuma. This establishment caused a most natural fluttering of the
dovecotes in that respectable and old-fashioned neighbourhood. That the
Kurds should feel eminently disgusted was only to be expected. Good
respectable brigands as they were, and had been for generations, and
having a vested interest in the perpetuation of conditions that made
their ancient trade profitable; what else could they be expected to
feel, at the advent of a Frank who was not only unraidable personally,
but whose mere presence made it appreciably more difficult to raid
others? Formerly if there had ever been questions about the
appropriation of sheep (which did not happen often), it was always easy
to persuade the _kaim[=a]k[=a]m_ to do nothing, and report nothing. An
Englishman, however, was in touch with his Consul, (accursed
institution), and that Consul with the _Vali_; and _Valis_ have a way of
not sympathizing with a Kurdish gentleman's necessities, unless you
purchase that sympathy rather expensively.

Furthermore, there was the Roman Catholic bishop of the district; and he
also objected (and again most naturally and rightly from his point of
view) to the coming of an institution that might put backbone into the
"heretical" church which he was in process of annexing gradually to the
one true fold. We must own that his lordship's methods of going to work
in the matter were perhaps a little crude; but the fact is, that it is
the grossest injustice to judge the modern East by a twentieth-century
standard. If you choose to go and live in mediæval times (somewhere in
the thirteenth century let us say), you must not complain if the people
act in fashion reminiscent of that age. It is best to cultivate a sense
of historical perspective instead, and enjoy the picturesqueness of

The bishop in question was not a European himself, but a native of the
country, and a member of the Chaldæan Church; and there is not the
slightest reason for thinking that his tutors (the Dominican Fathers of
Mosul) were aware of his rather mediæval methods. He would not be likely
to report too definitely to them (if he had any direct correspondence
with them at all, which is not probable) on the broad principle,
familiar in that land, that there are things which a Frank can never be
got to understand, and which for the sake of his peace of mind he had
better not know! His immediate superior, the Chaldæan Patriarch, may
have been better informed. He is an Oriental and so of an understanding
mind; a vigorous mind withal, and not troubled with needless scruples.

It being then desirable to remove the intruding Englishman, his
lordship's first step was to request the _Vali_ to issue an order to
that effect, on the ground that the writer's morals were so abominably
bad, that the Kurds could not tolerate his presence. This attempt
failed; the _Vali_ taking the line that Kurdish morals were not his
business, and that in any case he thought that even an Englishman could
hardly make them worse than they were. We regret to say that his
Excellency, having given this decision, went to lunch with the British
Consul in order to share the ribald joke.

Foiled there, his lordship the bishop next appealed to the local Kurds.
"If you allow that Englishman to settle there" he told them, "he will
set the Government on to you, every time you go a-raiding; and you will
never be able to rob a Christian village in peace and safety again." Of
course the fact was true enough; or rather, it was true that the
foreigner would do his best to produce that desirable result, as far as
the narrow limits of his power extended; and it was all to the good that
the Kurds should believe it. Still, as an Episcopal argument, it was
odd. However, it is the general feeling of the East, that there is no
stone too dirty to throw at your enemy; and that if you set a train for
his destruction, there is never any risk of your getting hoist with your
own petard. It is, after all, only the mediæval feeling, that it was
quite fair to call in the devil to do your work, and then cheat him of
his pay!

Another argument urged upon the Kurds by the bishop was that the coming
of the English meant annexation in the near future. However, this
"back-fired" sadly. Many Kurds, after inquiring if the tale was really
true, exclaimed: "Glory be to Allah! Let us hope the English will be
quicker about it than they sometimes are." For a very fair proportion of
the men in every tribe are really sick of the state of no-government
around them. They are tired of disorder, more than tired of the Turk;
and have discovered that raiding really does not pay in the long run.
Good sport it is; but the outgoings are too heavy. No raids will pay for
the up-keep of a large "following" for ever; and yet if you practise
raiding, a large following must be kept up. So, unable to establish any
sort of government other than the tribal themselves, they are disposed
to welcome almost any change, or the intervention of almost any
foreigner. Though, of course, however welcome a foreigner might be at
first, he would be sure to get cordially hated later when the sweets of
order palled in their turn.

Some Kurdish gentlemen were disposed to welcome the coming of the
English for other and more personal reasons. Among these was a certain
Agha Reshid of Ghara (a distinct man from his namesake of Berwar) whose
fame as a murderer rivalled even that of the Agha of Châl. This
distinguished man came to visit us one day, sadly scaring our household
staff by the train that he thought necessary for his dignity; and
perhaps for his safety also, for both the Government and his private
enemies had designs upon him.

"Will you receive him, Rabbi?" said the servants, "he is the man who has
committed fifteen murders himself."

He proved, however, to be, like Lambro, "as mild a mannered man as ever
scuttled ship or cut a throat;" and after the usual compliments,
disclosed his real business. "Could we see our way to registering him as
a British subject?" The fact was, as he explained, that his enemies were
getting quite troublesome to him now, over the crimes they said he had
committed; and if we could oblige him in this, then he would be entitled
to Consular protection, and that would give him a clean slate. As usual,
in return for that favour he would cheerfully undertake the removal of
any enemies of ours whom we named.

We could only regret our inability to do him the service asked, and
explain that there was really nobody whom we wished to have murdered; a
statement which in the light of our known relations to our neighbours
was received with an incredulity that was courteous, but quite
undisguised. In the interests of science, however, we had to put one
further question. "O Agha, that thing which your enemies say of you
concerning those fifteen murders; is it true at all?"

"O _Effendim_," he answered coolly; "they were all of them my enemies
but two. And one of them was a Jew who had looked at my womankind."

We could not come to an understanding, but we parted the best of

As for the Christian villagers, they of course welcomed the arrival of
what promised protection, and refused to believe any disclaimers of
political power and aims. "Now we shall be able to send out our sheep to
the far pastures," they proclaimed. To do so previously would have been
a mere invitation to cattle-raiders, which they would not have been slow
to accept!

The person who was most to be pitied in the whole matter was the
unfortunate Governor of Amadia. He had to veil under a decent show of
politeness the disgust that he must have felt over the advent of a
nuisance whom he was bound to protect; and a critic whom he could not
turn out, or altogether disregard. Further, all his Kurdish neighbours
who desired the removal of the foreigner were sure that the governor
could do it if he would; and that he would have done so, had he not been
bribed in a contrary sense.

One can spare some pity for a poor man who finds himself losing his
popularity with his friends for not doing what he would give his ears to
do, if only he were able. Constant petitions were made to him to expel
the foreigner; and when in a weak moment he tried to purchase peace by
issuing an order to that effect, the impracticable Englishman not only
refused to obey it, but appealed to his Consul; and so brought down on
him a sharp reprimand from the _Vali_, and a reminder of the existence
of the "Capitulations" and foreign privileges under them. Yet how was he
to get that fact into a Kurd's understanding?

Finding that the poor _kaimákam_ was not to be moved, the neighbours
thought of taking action themselves. A syndicate of them actually
suggested a reward of £1000 to anyone who would abate the nuisance by
removing the foreigner finally and absolutely from this world. Sundry
gentlemen were willing to undertake the job; so at least local
informants assured us. Maybe their fears spoke, but the thing has been
done with British officers since. This syndicate, however, declined to
produce the money till the job was done; and negotiations broke down on
that point, leaving the Englishman with the satisfaction of feeling that
he was at least rated quite decently high. It would have been a blow to
his natural self-esteem had the price put on his head been a low one;
but £1000 elevates one into an aristocratic circle, to a fellowship with
Claude Duval, Ned Kelly the Australian, "the man Charles Stuart" and
"the Nigger General who almost ruined old Virginny."

Meantime, the British Consul in Mosul felt a little natural anxiety at
these proposals concerning one of his charges, and communicated with a
friend on the matter. This friend was that Abdi Agha of the Sindiguli
Kurds mentioned earlier in this chapter, who was on the most amicable
terms with all English, because his daughter had just been cured in the
English hospital in Mosul. The Consul's suggestion ran much as follows.
"See here my friend; you know those men of Amadia are talking wildly and
making petitions. Could you, who have influence with them, give them a
hint that they are knocking their heads against a stone wall? You know
we none of us want to have trouble; but I shall be obliged to take
serious notice if they go too far."

"Certainly Bey, on my head and eyes be it," said the obliging Agha; and
this was the form in which the "hint" arrived. "O you men of Amadia!
Dogs that you are, I hear that you are barking against my English
friends. Know now that if you do not cease from this forthwith, I will
rob every caravan of yours that goes down to Mosul!"

Application had been made at Constantinople for a _firm[=a]n_ for the
building of a mission house, and this business was proceeding with the
leisureliness characteristic of Ottoman rule. A curious episode occurred
during its progress. The British Consul of Mosul, having naturally left
that oven during the summer, had come up to Amadia; and was there
staying with the writer on the site of the future house, when a Servian
gipsy appeared in the land. This was an old woman, who was unable to
speak any one of the numerous languages current in Kurdistan, and
communicated with the natives by signs only. The Consul's kavass,
however, was a Montenegrin, and through him we were able to communicate
with her. She professed herself a skilled fortune-teller, and
accordingly, more by way of challenge than anything else, she was asked
to show her skill. She asked for anything that the Consul had worn, and
having been given a fragment of an old neck-tie, cut it into shreds,
strewed these on the surface of some water, and presently, after
studying the signs, gave her verdict. "You have come up hither about the
building of a large house on this spot, and there has been a great deal
of opposition to it. However, you need not be afraid, for you have
overcome it, and the house will be built and will abide." About six
weeks later came the news that the issue of the _firm[=a]n_ for the
purpose was practically secured.

Another curious instance of clairvoyance came to the knowledge of the
writer in the same village. A child was lost, and after searching for
it in vain, the parents applied to a certain aged _qashâ_, renowned for
his skill in _kharashutha_ (magic) of all kinds. His method was to take
a pebble from a running stream, and grind it to powder with certain
prayers. Then a long series of names of localities was written on slips
of paper, and these and the dust together were strewn on a basin of
water taken from the running stream. Again prayers were recited, ending
with the invocation, "give a perfect lot;" and the slip of paper that
first floated to the side was taken. The place it named seemed
impossible; for it was a pass between two high mountains, very difficult
of access. Still the parents went up to search; and there sure enough
was found the dead body of the child, who, in obedience to the
mysterious law observed in several such cases, had climbed from height
to height, when lost, till he sank exhausted.

A better position than Amadia for getting unusual knowledge as to the
ways of life and thought in this remote land could hardly be imagined;
particularly when, as was the case with us, medical practice was added
to educational work. This was done partly out of philanthropy, partly
because nothing is so efficient as dosing to take away prejudice! Weird
complaints came to us for doctoring, as will readily be understood; and
possibly the treatment they received would have been considered even
weirder from a real doctor's point of view.[144] Thus the village idiot
came up one day to beg for a cure. He knew that he was mad, and he also
knew the reason; namely that long ago an unscrupulous foe had put a
donkey's brains into his soup, and he had eaten them unwittingly, and
had naturally gone crazy.

We thought of setting imagination to cure what imagination had created,
by solemnly tying our friend down, making a small wound on his stomach,
and then exhibiting some scrap of raw meat to him as the donkey's brain,
safely extracted. We have known of similar cases cured by precisely that
method elsewhere; particularly a girl in Mosul who was persuaded that
she had swallowed a lizard, which was eating her up internally. She
fully intended to die of it; but recovered perfectly on being
chloroformed and being shown, on "coming to" again, a small cut on her
own person, and a lizard in spirits! However, the patient in this case
refused to submit to the operation, and perhaps it was as well; for one
is rather playing with fire in executing such a scheme.

On another occasion, a Kurd came to one of our European staff, with a
request to have a tooth extracted. The Frank, who had served some
apprenticeship at that art, did his office deftly; and the Kurd, filled
with gratitude, offered two mejids (seven shillings) as a fee. This was
refused, as no fees were taken; and the patient was even more
astonished. However, he was a Mussulman gentleman, and to receive a
benefit without making return for it was unthinkable; hence if his next
proposal was bizarre, at least the kindness was genuine.

"Look here, _Effendim_, you are a Christian, are you not? Well, when I
get to Paradise, I shall have seventy houris. You will not have any
where you are going; and I think I may spare you--two!"

An interesting corollary to the above proposition would seem to be that
the market value of a houri is 3/6 sterling, plus compound interest on
that sum for say twenty years, which seems cheap.

Perhaps our most remarkable patient, however, was a poor fellow who was
brought in by a deputation of the men of his village, with a request
that we would cure him of the evil eye! If he looked at a crock of milk,
it upset; if at a sheep, the wolf got it; if at a child, it was likely
enough to tumble into the fire. They were quite fair about the matter,
fully recognizing that it was the poor fellow's misfortune, not his
fault. Still, he was such a nuisance to all the neighbours, that it was
to be hoped that English knowledge would cure him. Unfortunately, we had
to own that there was nothing in the British Pharmacopoeia that
professes to deal with this form of trouble; and though we had, as a
matter of fact, plenty of charms against the evil eye in our possession
(invocations of the Archangel Gabriel against "that light and vile
daughter of perdition" with power to send it away "into the desolate
land, where cocks crow not and foot of beast treads not, there to walk
up and down in dry places, seeking rest and finding none") yet we felt
on the whole that it would not be proper to use these, and the
deputation had to go away disappointed.[145]

Once, on a journey, we have known surgical aid demanded in rather
menacing fashion. We had halted by a spring, when a party of Kurds, all
fully armed of course, turned up from the opposite direction, and
demanded of our servant who and what we might be. Hearing that we were
English, the leader strode over to us at once, displayed a paralysed
arm, and observed, "You have got to cure that."

"That is quite beyond our power, we fear," said we, "you must take that
to the hospital in Mosul."

"Well you know, I think you ought to cure it; because you did it."

"We did it? We never set eyes on you before."

"Well, if it was not you, it was your Consul; but you English are all
one set. He did it when he was shooting at us."

Our friend was, as we then understood, one of the gang who had, a few
years previously, attacked a British Consul in this neighbourhood.[146]
There had been a pretty sharp skirmish, of which this gentleman bore the
token in a bullet that had cut the sinews of his right arm. The Consul
gained great _kudos_ in the affair; for he not only beat off his
assailants, but killed their leader, a man who had the reputation of
being "proof" against shot and steel. Such reputations are almost as
common in these regions now as they were in the highlands of Scotland in
the seventeenth century; but (in spite of the local facilities) the
possessors of such immunity are not held to have acquired it by direct
compact with the Evil One, like Claverhouse and Dalziel, but to have
been born with it in course of nature. Mirza Agha, the Kurd in question,
certainly did his best to live up to his character; for though he
received three wounds that would each have been fatal to most men (two
in the head, and one in the body) he did not die until the fifth day
after the battle.

This comrade of his was not disposed to take vengeance (as might perhaps
have been expected) on all and sundry Englishmen for the loss of his
arm. Having expressed his sense of what was befitting, and provided us
with an instance of the survival of tribal responsibility, for which as
students of history we were bound to be grateful to him, he went on his
way and we saw him no more.

Gradually our relations with our neighbours improved. It is difficult to
keep up malice against a man who provides good "English salt" (quinine);
and thus folk became interestingly, but almost inconveniently, friendly.
What ought one to do, when the wife of a Kurd, who has got into trouble
with his Agha, asks for your intercession; and all the Christians in the
neighbourhood, as well as the man's own friends, assure you that the
object of their prayer is a very good and charitable man, barring the
fact that he commits murders occasionally? What is the really "fit and
beautiful" in the following cause matrimonial, when the applicants come
and throw themselves in the road at your horse's feet, and declare that
you are welcome to ride over them, but get up they will not, till you
have promised them redress?

Jevdet, a worthy Kurd of Ghara (outlaw, of course, like every man in
that happy Alsatia), betrothed his daughter Amin to a neighbour, Tewfik,
in settlement of a debt owed to the latter.[147] However, Amin rebelled
and ran away to a worthy old man of Amadia, one Abd-l-Aziz, who is a
sort of universal uncle to all the neighbourhood, and is at the bottom
of most local intrigues. Abd-l-Aziz, resourceful man, thought that an
alliance with the damsel's family would be valuable; so he betrothed her
at once to a nephew of his own, and reported her to her parents as
"lost, and I don't know where to find her." Presently, however, Amin,
being a lady, changed her mind--mollified by the news that Tewfik had
actually spent the sum of £20 to get possession of her--and got a letter
through to him somehow, begging him to come like a true lover, and
rescue her from the consequences of her own actions. Under these
circumstances Jevdet and Tewfik both came and threw themselves at the
feet of the writer and the Consul, assured us that they had no hope save
in Allah and ourselves, and begged for redress!

Yet of all the negotiations in which we were engaged, that which sticks
most in our memory is the matter of Abdurrahman the Kurd, and the
difficulty first of getting him into prison and afterwards of getting
him out. Abdurrahman had the impudence to rob a messenger who was
bringing down letters to us. He took everything except the letters
themselves (which was courteous) and allowed the messenger to come
wading through the winter snow to our house, clad in nothing but the

This was a thing that could not be allowed to pass, and we demanded the
arrest and imprisonment of the thief, who was known to the robbed man.
At first the governor professed inability to do anything in the matter,
and did not see that any duty was incumbent on him. However, an appeal
to the _Vali_ at Mosul produced an order, and in due course Abdurrahman
was lodged in the town gaol. "Get him imprisoned here, not at Mosul,
Rabbi!" had been the advice of one of our servants. "It is no punishment
to be imprisoned at Mosul; they give bread to the captives there
_almost every day_." In more primitive Amadia your friends are at
liberty to supply you; but if they omit that attention, you do not eat.

Abdurrahman had plenty of friends, so he did not fare badly in the
prison; but when he had been there about a week, we received a message
from the _kaimakam_. Would we mind saying if our thirst for vengeance
was glutted yet? For if so, our victim might be released. We sent a
reply to the effect that it was no case of private vengeance, but of the
peace of his Majesty the Sultan; and that if, as we presumed,
Abdurrahman had now served his full sentence, of course he could be

"Oh no," replied the ever-courteous but bored Governor, "our wisdom was
labouring under a misapprehension in this. As for the peace of the
Sultan, his Majesty had not got any; and as for sentence, he had never
even tried the man yet. In fact, he had been at some pains to explain to
our victim's relations (a fairly wild sept of Kurds) that it was not his
fault that their kinsman was in durance, but purely the doing of that
Englishman, who had insisted on it so."

"Then release him with our blessing," said we. "Ten days in the hole you
call a prison is more than enough for a trifling indiscretion such as he

"Then please," came the message in reply, "would we mind coming up to
the town to sign a document to that effect?" It had been already
prepared, and only needed signature, and a man of our wisdom would
understand that this was necessary, and that in a civilized and
constitutional land like Turkey, the formalities of law must be

It seemed to us that no great formality could be needful for the release
of a man who had never been tried; but presently we sacrificed a day's
work, rode up to the citadel and after the usual compliments asked for
the necessary document.

"Well, for the document--it should be written at once. It was not indeed
needful that we should sign it, or in fact that any should be written;
but--well, as we were there--would we take it amiss if the _kaimakam_
mentioned that he had been suffering sadly from stomach-ache these
days, and would be grateful if we would prescribe." The rascal had
calculated, quite correctly, that we should never trouble to come up
just for his indigestion, but that if we knew that our victim was
languishing in durance till we appeared, we were pretty certain to do
so! The ingenuity of the "score" so delighted us, that the only revenge
we took was to prescribe the nastiest medicine at our disposal; and so
the document was drawn up, signed, sealed and delivered, and we went off
home in the belief that the business was done now.

No such thing, however. The policeman, who presently came down to take
up the medicine informed us that it was impossible to release our
captive, for the sufficient reason that his Excellency had now been
examining the case, and had come to the conclusion that he was innocent.
Had he been guilty, all would have been well; but he thought that it was
a case of mistaken identity, and proposed to keep poor Abdurrahman till
the messenger could come down to swear to him. If that messenger came as
soon as he was summoned (the very last thing he was likely to do) that
would not mean a delay of more than a fortnight. And then the prisoner
could be released--if innocent, on the ground that he had done nothing;
if guilty, as having served his full sentence several times over!

On this, we frankly threw up the game, and sent word to the Governor
that we were going off on a six weeks' journey, and could not be heard
of till its close. He might keep his prisoner, or ours, in prison till
the crack of doom if he liked; or might release him at once.

Naturally, as soon as we were over the hill, he chose the latter
alternative. Abdurrahman came out again; and he bore so little malice
that on return we found a message from him awaiting us, to the effect
that he would never have meddled with the messenger had he known that
the man belonged to us; and that he would bring us the horns of the
first ibex he shot that summer as a peace-offering. And so, in fact, he
did, and we became very good friends.

Spirits of the mountain and plain beset the path of the wayfarer in
this land, as might be expected. Thus, Mosul plain is haunted by a
fearful type of vampire, the "_hiblabashi_," a satyr, half-man
half-goat, who lures travellers from the path, and sucks their
blood.[148] There is a tomb of one such at Aradin, a village in the
lower hills, whence there issues at times a terrible gadfly, that
infects all whom it bites with madness and hydrophobia. Mercifully,
however, bane and antidote lie, as ever, side by side; for there is a
sulphurous spring by the side of the tomb, and it has healing virtue for
those afflicted in this way.

Belief in a vampire was, of course, practically universal at some period
all the world over; and this is the only thing that the Montenegrin
kavass mentioned above was ever known to fear, having had practically
first-hand acquaintance with one.[149] There is, however, another sort
of spirit that is more peculiar to this land; a type of "brownie" that
haunts the sheepfolds, where the shepherds have often to keep lonely
vigil and get into the frame of mind when men see all sorts of strange
things. In one case, the pixy in question used to come and sit opposite
to the shepherd by the watchfire, and exactly imitate his every action
in dead silence. At last this supernatural companion got on to the
shepherd's nerves. He consulted a wise man, and was given advice that
shows how recent in date the tale must be. He put a bowl of water on his
side of the fire, and a bowl of paraffin on the other; and then, when
the brownie came, he proceeded to soak his own clothes with the water.
The being, of course, imitated him, and did not perceive the difference
between water and oil. After a while, the shepherd took a blazing brand
from the fire and applied it to his clothes, where, of course, it went
out. The brownie did likewise, and found himself in a blaze; on which he
jumped up and fled howling, being apparently material enough to feel
fire. All the other spirits of mountain and river gathered at his call,
and the shepherd began to fear that he had roused Elfindom in good
earnest: but the scorched one, with really magnificent fairness,
declared that after all it was his own doing; and thereafter the
shepherd was left unmolested of nights.

Still, of all survivals from early ages in this land, whether
monumental, superstitious, or religious, none is more remarkable than
the "Sacrifice of Noah." It must be understood that no people here, save
the Armenians, look on the great cone which we call Ararat, but which is
locally known as Aghri Dagh, as the spot where the ark rested. The
biblical term is "the mountains of Ararat" or Urartu, and the term
includes the whole of the Hakkiari range. A relatively insignificant
ridge, known as Judi Dagh, is regarded as the authentic spot by all the
folk in this land; and it must be owned that the identification has
something to say for itself. It is one of the first ranges that rise
over the level of the great plain; and if all Mesopotamia (which to its
inhabitants was the world) were submerged by some great cataclysm, it is
just the spot where a drifting vessel might strand.

Whatever the facts, the tradition goes back to the year A.D. 300 at
least. That date is, of course, a thing of yesterday in this country;
but the tale was of unknown antiquity then, and is firmly rooted in the
social consciousness now. In consequence, Noah's sacrifice is still
commemorated year by year on the place where tradition says the ark
rested--a _ziaret_ which is not the actual summit of the mountain but a
spot on its ridge. On that day (which, strange to say, is the first day
of Ilul, or September 14 of our calendar, and not May 27 mentioned in
the account in Genesis) all faiths and all nations come together,
letting all feuds sleep on that occasion, to commemorate an event which
is older than any of their divisions.

Christians of all nations and confessions, Mussulmans of both _Shiah_
and _Sunni_ type, Sabaeans, Jews, and even the furtive timid Yezidis are
there, each group bringing a sheep or kid for sacrifice; and for one day
there is a "truce of God" even in turbulent Kurdistan, and the smoke of
a hundred offerings goes up once more on the ancient altar. Lower down
on the hillside, and hard by the Nestorian village of Hasana, men still
point out Noah's tomb and Noah's vineyard, though this last, strange to
say, produces no wine now. The grapes from it are used exclusively for
_nipukhta_ or grape treacle, possibly in memory of the disaster that
once befell the Patriarch.

Yezidi legend has it that the ark had a narrow escape of foundering
during its voyage to Judi Dagh, and what would have befallen the race of
man then? It bumped sadly on mount Sinjar, and sprung a serious leak in
consequence.[150] Disaster was only averted by the promptitude of the
Serpent, who wriggled into the hole, coiled himself into a ball on each
side, and then pulled together tightly like a rivet to caulk the leak.
There he remained till the voyage was over; whereupon Noah (with rather
doubtful gratitude) sacrificed and burnt him at once. He must have left
a brood behind him, to be the ancestors of the present stock; but he
perished, and he got his revenge, for from his ashes came forth fleas.
It is at least an unusual thing to find a story of any sort that
attributes disinterested conduct to a serpent; and this legend can
claim, at any rate, such support as is given to it by the great
abundance of the insect referred to in the neighbourhood of this their
original home.

An American sufferer once assured the writer of his conviction that in
the course of ages, the very structure of the sandbank on which stands
the town of Jezireh (just at the foot of Judi Dagh, and on the river
Tigris) had been metamorphosed; and that it was now composed exclusively
of flies, fleas, and fever microbes in approximately equal proportions!
Experience, it must be admitted, makes one disposed to agree with him.
The town is "more Lord of Fleas than any place in Kurdistan."

    _Fhairshon had a son_
    _Who married Noah's daughter._

And it is gratifying to find that the memory of this mythical personage
is still preserved in the land where he wooed his bride. Noah's
son-in-law (so we are told) was a giant of such prodigious stature that
his attempt at "spoiling ta' flood by drinking up ta' water" may have
had some initial success. Of course he could not get inside the ark, but
he obligingly sat astride of it, and paddled it about with his feet.
What became of him later the legend sayeth not. No doubt he carried off
his wife to Scotland with him; and so passed beyond local ken.

Time passed gradually at Amadia, till even the leisurely Ottoman
processes were complete, and the imperial _firm[=a]n_ for the building
of an "English house" at that centre was duly issued. All ill-feeling
with our neighbours had practically died out before that date; and the
last of it vanished with the document's arrival, every Sanballat and
Geshem in the neighbourhood coming to call, and to explain how delighted
he personally had always been to have us there, and how it was only
"those others" who stirred up bad blood. It is true that one more
consistent man observed, on the occasion of the public reading of the
formal charter in the _diwan_ of the governor, "Poor Mohammed Reshid!
_He_ has to do whatever these Franks tell him"; but he prudently kept
that remark under his breath.

A solemn festival marked the burying of the hatchet; after which the
guests, having consumed more than one sheep between them, went home in
procession with all the spoons of the household in their hats! This
would have suggested at home that the wearers had dined not only well,
but too well; but in Kurdistan it expresses no more than an unusual
satisfaction with the banquet.

     NOTE. Much of the district of Bohtan (a region which lies to the
     westward of the Sapna valley) is practically unknown to Europeans;
     being inhabited only by wild tribes of Kurds, with a scattering of
     Christians mostly of the Nestorian Church, as their _rayats_. It is
     extremely rugged, and the gorges of the River Bohtan are among the
     very finest to be found even in that land.

     The following tale of one of its inhabitants is worthy of record,
     as showing the heroism and fidelity that can be exhibited at times
     by this downtrodden people.

     The writer was anxious to visit the Nestorian villages of the
     district and had arranged with the Patriarch that he should do so;
     but found the scheme vetoed by the British Consul of Van, on the
     ground that "I have been speaking to the _Vali_ on the matter, and
     he says that two companies of soldiers would not be enough to
     guard you there." Under these circumstances he abandoned the
     journey; but Rabban Werda, a deacon of the Nestorian Church,
     already mentioned in these pages, then volunteered to go alone into
     the district and see what he could do for the people there. He
     volunteered with, of course, full knowledge of the fact that,
     though there would at all events be questions asked if the
     Englishman got shot, nobody would trouble about such a trifle as
     the death of a mere _rayat_ like himself.

     He went and he returned safely; and in the course of his journey he
     visited a village called Shernakh, where he received hospitality as
     usual in the house of the Agha, but was surprised to find himself
     treated with more consideration than is the general lot of a
     Christian wanderer under the circumstances.

     While he was at supper, one of the Kurdish servants came to him to
     say: "Sir Priest, if you have finished, the Lady would wish to
     speak to you." "The Lady?" said the deacon, in natural wonder at
     the Lady of a Mussulman house asking to see a Christian guest who
     was not even a Frank doctor. "The Lady. Our Christian Lady," said
     the Kurd; and in absolute bewilderment the deacon allowed himself
     to be led to the women's part of the house, and to a private room
     in it. Here an aged woman rose to greet him, saying: "God has given
     me my prayer at last, and, after sixty years of captivity, I see a
     Christian priest before I die."

     Her story was as follows: When a girl in her 'teens she had been
     carried off from her home as part of the spoil in some raid, like
     the little maid who waited on Naaman's wife; and had been assigned
     as a portion of his share to the grandfather of the then Agha of
     the village. The date was fixed in her mind, by the fact that the
     first task given her in her captivity was the baking of bread for
     the Kurds who were going on a great raid against her own
     kinsfolk--the raid of Bedr Khan Beg in 1845, which is an episode
     from which men date still.

     Since then, she had been a captive and slave in the Mussulman
     house, the only Christian in the place. She had begun, as might be
     expected, as the fag and drudge of all the other servants; but had
     raised herself by sheer force of character and her own integrity
     till she was now manager of household and farm: and she had been,
     by the Kurds' own admission, "a blessing to the house" since the
     day that she entered it. Further (information again volunteered by
     the Kurds themselves) she had not only kept her Christianity in her
     solitude, but in a household where all lived in common nobody had
     ever known her to neglect her daily prayers or her Friday's fast,
     or to do needless work on the Sunday.

     One request only she made of the deacon. Finding that he was not
     the priest she had thought, and therefore was not able to give her
     the "_qurbana_" she had hoped to receive, she asked him to give her
     some of the "blessed bread" which her memory told her he would be
     likely to have with him. This is bread blessed, but not
     consecrated, at the Eucharist, and often carried with them by
     Nestorians on a long journey. This he was able to do, and she
     declared that she would keep it to be her "_viaticum_" when the
     time of her release should come.

     Surely one may seek through a good many of the "Acta Sanctorum"
     before finding a nobler confession of Christ than that made by this
     nameless Nestorian woman.




The road from Amadia to Mosul is tolerably easy, by comparison, as the
successive ranges sink gradually toward the Mesopotamian level. We had
timed our journey craftily; it being now fairly hot in the lowlands; for
we wished the moon to be full on the night that we emerged from the
mountains, so that we might travel by her light across the plain to
Mosul. A journey by day across the Mosul plain is not to be undertaken
too lightly in summer, when the thermometer registers 120° in the shade.
By night it is comfortable enough, and the moon makes the journey easy;
though we own that it is very sleepy work at times. On this occasion the
writer accomplished a feat that had previously been always beyond him,
viz. that of sleeping in the saddle as the horse walked on. The nap can
hardly have been a long one, but he achieved a real dream, and it was
not terminated by a collapse into the dust.

By day, the heat is very trying, and there is a real danger occasionally
in that strange phenomenon the "_Sâm_." This is apparently a very small
whirlwind, akin to those which cause the "dust-devils" common enough in
the land at all times, but composed of intensely heated air, flavoured
often with sulphurous fumes. A man struck by it simply collapses, and
unless prompt attendance can be given him he dies in a few minutes. The
face is "blackened," and decomposition sets in very speedily. The
natives not unnaturally refer to it as a "Poison wind."

The phenomenon wanders about in the freakish fashion that we associate
with the American tornadoes, though it never is dangerous, like them,
from its mere pace and power. It will take one man out of a straggling
party, or even a man on horse-back, while leaving his horse and his
companion on foot unscathed.

A British Consul has told the writer how on one occasion, turning to
speak to his kavass who was riding a few yards behind him, he suddenly
felt the hot blast and smelt the sulphurous fumes; while the kavass
collapsed, and fell from his horse as if he had been shot. Prompt
attention and stimulants revived the sufferer on that occasion, but it
was a narrow escape. Had he been alone he would have died past question.

Nobody seems to have investigated the matter scientifically, or to have
compared it with like phenomena in other lands (such as Scinde for
instance) where conditions are similar. It is really not surprising that
the natives should put down the effect to a blow from a malignant
"Jinn," though one suspects that as a matter of fact the explanation is
this. Sudden contact with the heated, sulphur-laden blast of the little
whirlwind just "tips the balance," and induces a stroke of heat-apoplexy
in cases where the victim is already verging on that condition. Possibly
the _Sâm_ is a last legacy of the now quiescent volcanoes; for similar
sulphurous eddies, of a far less violent description, were playing about
the surface of the sea off the Riviera coastline for some time after the
great earthquake at San Remo in 1887.

In Mosul the hospitable Consulate received us once more, while the
_keleg_ that was to take us down the Tigris to Baghdad was in process of
construction. A _keleg_ is probably one of the most ancient types of
river craft in the world, and is built in this wise. First, a frame of
light poles, much like hop-poles, is tied fairly firmly together with
cord. This may be of any size, but a fair-sized one for a small party is
perhaps twelve feet square. Next a number of sheep-skins, each taken
from the animal with the minimum of cutting, and with all apertures
firmly tied up, are fastened beneath that frame. A _keleg_ of the size
named requires about 100 skins. These are inflated by the lungs of the
_kelegji_, through a reed inserted into one of the legs of the skin; and
the legs also form convenient points for attachment to the frame.
Finally a few heavy logs, usually poplar or walnut trunks sawn in half,
are placed side by side on the frame, so as to form a rough floor, and
the craft is complete in all essentials. In our own particular case some
further arrangements were made for comfort. A portion of the "deck" was
properly floored with boards, and this portion covered with a hut made
of reed mats on a light frame, large enough to contain a bed easily, and
to serve as living-room during the day.

Such a craft is as buoyant as well can be; this one carrying six men
with ease, beside a fair amount of luggage. Its method of progress is
simply to drift down the fairly rapid current of the Tigris as far as is
required. On reaching the destination, all the wood is sold for what it
will fetch to the timber merchants, while the skins are deflated and
packed on a donkey for transport up the river, for there is no means of
towing the craft back against the stream. A pair of clumsy oars do what
steering is necessary, and keep the vessel in the main current.

A raft voyage is probably the most absolutely restful mode of travel
known, if only the wanderer is in no hurry to reach his destination; and
that of course no genuine traveller ever ought to be. You go on, never
hasting, never halting (unless a strong wind happens to pin you to one
bank for a while), and the river must get you to your destination at the
last. As to dates there is a pleasing uncertainty; but we may say that
from Mosul to Baghdad the quickest voyage ever known was two days and a
half, and the longest fourteen.

Naturally, you provision your craft for the voyage before starting,
getting all that you desire in Mosul; and it may be noted here that for
cooking purposes the writer has found nothing better than a "Primus"
stove. Ports of call where you can reprovision are not numerous, but
they do exist.

For one desiring a rest-cure the method may be recommended confidently.
You lie on your camp bed under the shade of your grass hut, watching
the shore slide past your sleepy eyes. If the heat grows too great, your
servant dashes water over the grass matting, and you are cool. Is fruit
your desire? He emits a doleful howl, which is answered from the bank,
and presently a nude cultivator turns up alongside, buoyed up on the
inflated skin on which he has swum out, and towing a large melon from
one of the gardens that line the river, which conveniently floats just
awash. Is a bath desirable? You strip and slide off the edge of your
_keleg_, taking a sheep-skin to act as buoy, or pillow if you like. You
swim for as long as you feel inclined, or drift down while the craft
keeps pace with you. You are in the land of the lotus eaters on a
_keleg_ voyage--but you had better take a few books to read!

Altogether the writer fully sympathizes with the feeling of a Chaldæan
bishop, who was scandalized at discovering that a certain Dominican
Father held himself excused from observing Lent during a voyage of this
kind "because he was on a journey." "Why, good gracious," said his
lordship, "he might as well claim exemption from fasting in Paradise!"

It must be owned that there is not much in the way of scenery in this
portion of the river. If you want that, you must go to the upper reaches
of the Tigris, and travel from Diarbekr down to Mosul, threading the
great gorges _en route_.[151] There you will get magnificence, and it
may be excitement too; for there are rapids in the defile, and _kelegs_
have been known to be wrecked in them. Mesopotamia does not give you
mountains. Still, there is one stretch of fair scenery (though not a
gorge to be compared with the canons of Tyari), where the "Jebel Makdul"
crosses the river, and a fine stretch of dull red cliff, relieved by a
wide streak of grey alabaster, lines the bank for some miles. Here
stands a fine old stronghold, much resembling one of the Rhine castles,
the "Kalat-el-Bint," or Maiden Castle. Shortly after, you pass a sulphur
spring, which is not an uncommon thing in the land; still, it is not
often that you find one so odoriferous as to awake the peaceful
slumberer in mid-stream!

Somewhat lower, the lesser Zab joins the Tigris, descending from a city
that we visited at one period of our wanderings in the land, and of
which we include a picture.

This is Kirkuk, a town which contains, in its present name, one of the
few memorials of the old Seleucid rulers. It is a contraction of "Karka
d'Bait Seluk," the "Citadel of the house of Seleucus." As a city, it is
far older than the kingdoms of Alexander's successors, for it stands on
one of the largest and most ancient of "tels"; and the traveller may
"acquire merit" by visiting the mosque where are the tombs of Shadrach
and Abednego. Meshach, the guide will tell you, is there too, but the
site of his grave has unfortunately been forgotten.

The mosque of the picture, however, is not that of the tombs, but the
_tekke_, or hermitage where dwelt the most famous character of modern
Kirkuk. This was a Kurdish Sheikh of such surpassing sanctity and zeal
for Islam, that Abdul Hamid used to correspond with him in a private
cipher; and was accustomed to ask by telegraph for his prayers, whenever
he was meditating anything exceptionally black.

Normally, the banks of the river are high, or at least appear so in
autumn. No doubt the river is often bank full in springtime when the
snows are melting, and its pace is then materially faster. Generally the
only feature on the shores are the primitive irrigating machines, the
"_sakkiyehs_," a type that cannot have altered very much since the days
of Abraham. They consist of nothing but pits sunk in the high bank down
to water-level, and communicating with the stream, so that there is
always water in them. A skin bucket is lowered into the pit and dragged
up again by a cord passing over a pulley; and an ox walking to and fro
on an inclined plane supplies the motive power.

Two or three days below Mosul the river passes by one point of great
interest; the mounds of Kala Shargat, once Assur, the sacred city of
Assyria. These are now being excavated and examined thoroughly by
German savants of the Deutsche Orientalische Gesellschaft. As seen from
a little distance, the place has no very exciting appearance. It rather
resembles a group of exaggerated sandhills, rising at one point into a
blunt pyramid, the "_Ziggurat_." In spring the plain is covered with
flowers, but all these have vanished long before autumn, and the colour
of the whole is that of pale brown paper; the only scrap of green being
the rather discouraged-looking garden at the side of the house occupied
by the excavating staff.

Here hospitable and kindly gentlemen receive the traveller most warmly,
and we have the opportunity of seeing German perseverance at work on a
most congenial task. Their method is undeniably thorough, and suggests
unlimited resources. You have a set of mounds before you, covering
perhaps twenty acres or more, and rising to a height of about eighty
feet. A light railway is laid down, running well out into the desert;
and the whole of those mounds, or something like it, goes through a fine
sieve, and is carried off into the wilderness and dumped. When a
pavement is reached in this process, that level is cleared absolutely,
and everything worth preserving is preserved, with careful plans showing
the position in which it was found. Then that pavement is broken up, and
progress made to the next level; and so the work is continued till
virgin soil is reached.

Assur, it would seem, was a shrine long before "Assyria went out of
Babylon and builded Nineveh." There are unmistakable signs of a Hittite
occupation before them. It was news to the writer that this people had
ever penetrated so far to the east and south. When the place fell into
Assyrian hands it became their great sacred city; so that almost every
king of whom there is record seems to have felt bound to leave there
some mark of his reign. Even the latest of the line, Sinsariskun, who
ruled for a few weeks only before the Medes stormed Nineveh, and who
perished in the flames of his palace, has done some building here. Hence
there is a series of at least seven temples on the site; though in each
case the lines of the original foundation were faithfully followed, and
are preserved above ground now in the Arabian "_kala_" which occupies
the ground. This "_kala_," by the way, cost considerable trouble to the
excavators. Occupying the site it did, it had to come down if the most
important portion of the work was not to go undone; but it was a
terrible business to secure that result. The wretched place figured in
formal reports as a complete modern fortress of the highest strategical
importance; and permission to dismantle it was only given at last on
condition of rebuilding it afterwards, exactly as it was before. As this
cost something under £100, an inference may be drawn as to the character
of the "fort."

The temple is of the ordinary "Semitic" type, and so follows the same
general plan as Solomon's at Jerusalem, and the larger one at Baalbek.
That is to say, there was an inner shrine, or _cella_, into which
normally none could enter, and a _naos_ before it corresponding to the
"holy place" at Jerusalem. Outside the temple was a series of
"concentric" courts, of irregular shape, and probably varying degrees of
sanctity, each one lower in level than the one within it. One of these
contained the great altar for sacrifice, and the tank for ablutions. The
altar was approached (again as at Jerusalem) by a sloping ramp and not
by steps. "Thou shalt not go up by steps unto Mine altar"--a device
probably meant to facilitate the leading up of the sacrificial beasts.
The whole is of mud brick; stone, or even burnt brick being only used
for ornament; and the tank mentioned was made watertight by a thick
lining of asphalt, still _in situ_. If the temple has not yielded any
such sculptures as have been found in the palaces of Nineveh and
Khorsabad, many minor _antikas_ have come to light there; and perhaps
the most interesting was a fine model of a flash of lightning, in gold,
and about a metre in length. This was no doubt the _ex voto_ offering of
some great man in old days, but no inscription was found to explain it.
Its discovery caused great excitement in Turkish official circles,
report having necessarily been sent by the Ottoman commissioner who is
supposed to superintend the excavation. Stories circulated of the
finding of a "great treasure of gold"; which was, of course, exactly
what most people believed the Franks to have been digging for all along.
Accordingly two regiments were dispatched to the place, one from Mosul
and one from Baghdad, to receive the treasure and escort it duly to some
Government headquarters. Naturally, no difficulty was made about the
surrender; for the Germans were under pledge to put all articles that
they found in the Museum at Constantinople, and had not the least
intention of breaking their word. One wonders, however, by how much the
cost of moving say, 1200 men for ten days' march, exceeded the intrinsic
value of a thin strip of gold, about thirty-eight inches long!

The temple of Assur and the king's palace there form, as is usual, a
sort of royal quarter of the city, and stand together at one edge of the
great mound. They look out over the plain to the "summer temple,"
whither the images of the gods were solemnly conveyed every year, when
the heat became too much for their comfort in their regular residence.
This was a great portico or enclosed garden rather than a temple, and
was apparently stone built, which is a rarity in this land.

Perhaps the most striking feature of the excavations, after the great
temple itself, is what the excavators call "the Oriental Pompeii." This
is the old town, of date similar to the palace; and therefore going back
to about 1000 B.C., though it was inhabited long after the fall of the
Assyrian Empire. It is interesting to see how, in every detail of the
planning of the houses, the arrangements common in Mosul to-day
reproduce this early period. Perhaps the streets in the older city are
rather better paved and drained than in the modern one, but that is
almost the only difference. We will allow, however, that some progress
has been made in such a matter as the disposal of the bodies of the
dead. Good folk in Mosul are more than a little casual about this as it
is; but they do have graveyards. Their ancestors in Assur put the dead
under the floors of the living rooms, and often with scarce six inches
between the top of the great pot that served as coffin and the level of
the room. They may, as suggested, have sealed up that particular room of
the house; yet even so----!

Bidding farewell to our hospitable hosts we drifted on down stream,
shooting in the process a few very mild rapids. The behaviour of a
_keleg_ in such places is perhaps a little startling to a nervous
person; though as a matter of fact its safety lies in its eccentricity.
Being composed of nothing but a multitude of separate skins, tied onto a
very flexible frame, it twists and wriggles and "hogs and sags" in a
manner most bewildering to the stranger on it, though it always comes
out well into smooth water at the end. It is however, somewhat startling
to be awakened at night by what seems a most unusually complicated

Other _kelegs_ appear as we descend. Even in the present thinly
populated state of the country, they are fairly numerous, and must have
been far more so when the "Ten Thousand" marched up the eastern bank of
this river. Indeed, they must have been so familiar, that it is a matter
for surprise that the Greeks feared to make use of them, when it was a
question of how to cross the Tigris with their baggage; particularly as
they had at least one man in the army who was bred to their use. Still,
they shrank from the unfamiliar, and preferred to abandon all their
plunder and take to the hazardous passage of the mountains.

Tekrit, another city of vast antiquity, was reached and passed. This was
a place of some importance in the ecclesiastical history of the land, as
having been a stronghold of the Jacobites against the dominant Nestorian
Church. It also marks a change in the geography, indicated by a change
of _kelegji_. By law of that ancient brotherhood, the river falls into
three stretches, and each man must stick to his own portion--Diarbekr to
Mosul, Mosul to Tekrit, or Tekrit to Baghdad. This custom does somehow
correspond to some subtle alteration in conditions, though we cannot
trace how or why. But the fact remains that below that point the cattle
develop humps, which they do not affect elsewhere; and that the traffic
on the river is conducted not only in _kelegs_, but also in _ghufas_,
which are not to be seen higher up.

A _ghufa_ is, if anything, more ancient than a _keleg_, for its type
dates back to the flood, if not to the times before it; and the
Babylonian "deluge tablets" seem to picture Shamashnapastim (the
equivalent of Noah), as navigating a gigantic _ghufa_ of 140 cubits
diameter. The craft is nothing but a wicker-work coracle of palm
basket-work, circular in shape, but "pitched within and without with
pitch" instead of being provided with a hide covering. In size it may be
anything from the dimensions of a clothes' basket up to twenty or
twenty-five feet in diameter, according to the size of the palm-spathes
that form its ribs. It can hardly be capsized, and can carry enormous
weights; but it is difficult to steer without practice, a novice tending
to go round and round in a circle of small diameter.[152]

_Ghufas_ are hardly seen above Samarra, which is some fourteen hours
below Tekrit, for the source of the bitumen with which they are pitched
is near to the lower city. Samarra is itself historic enough, though it
only appears in Western history as the scene of the action in which
Julian fell. As a shrine and _ziaret_ of the _Shiah_ Mussulmans,
however, it is second in sanctity only to Kerbela itself; for it is the
burial-place, not indeed of the two grandsons of the Prophet, but of
many of their comrades who fell beside them on the day of the "battle of
the ditch"; and a magnificent mosque covers their bones.

To an antiquarian, however, there is something at Samarra of far greater
interest than anything of either Roman or Mussulman history; for there
stands the only _ziggurat_ or Babylonian temple tower that has not been
ruined in the lapse of centuries. By some fortunate freak of fate, the
great pyramid, with its spiral ascent to the summit, was preserved when
worship ceased in the temple below. It went on as Zoroastrian
fire-temple; and subsequently as minaret to the great mosque which
Harun-l-Rashid built at its foot. That has gone now, and only a square
of ruinous wall remains; but we owe some gratitude to the Abbassid, who
was great enough to revere the monument of an older day.

So the monument has been preserved to our own time, and stands still
with its brick casing practically intact. It must be beyond comparison
the oldest tower in the world, for Samarra was one of the earliest of
Babylonian shrines.

This site is, we believe, the one which the German excavators have
decided to examine next, as soon as their work at Kala Shergat, which is
now rapidly approaching completion, shall be finally done; and we
understand that a preliminary survey, and perhaps a little experimental
digging, has given them the right to hope for a harvest of most
exceptional richness. One must trust that the proximity of the mosque
will not hinder their work.

Slowly the last stage of the journey is accomplished, for the river
current becomes gentler as it approaches the great delta of the two
rivers. Hereabouts the capital of the country has stood since time
began, though it has changed its place and name again and again. Date
groves appear on the shore in place of melon gardens; and flocks of big
pelicans (called "water-sheep" locally) gather on the sand-banks,
accompanied by the only type of kingfisher which is quakerishly serious
in his garb. Both above and below, his cousins flaunt magnificent
metallic hues; but in the reaches above Baghdad he keeps to a simple
black and white livery. Finally, "Baghdad's walls of fretted gold" are
seen in the distance, and the _keleg_ has to be exchanged for a _ghufa_,
for facility of shooting the bridge of boats.

Baghdad is civilization once more; a town that boasts hotels and
European shops and costumes, besides being a railway terminus at
present, to which trains may possibly attain in the future. Also it is a
steamer port, being the highest point on the river to which the boats of
Messrs. Lynch, which connect this place with Bassora and the open sea,
are permitted to ascend.

We may see trains at Baghdad in a few years, but the engineers who are
constructing the railway keep it enveloped in mystery now, and allow no
man to approach without an order from the Governor-General of the town.
One assumes there is good reason for this, though it is not obvious what
harm anyone could do by looking at the steel sleepers.

Baghdad is considered thoroughly Oriental, and may appear so to the
traveller who makes his entrance to Mesopotamia this way; but to one
coming from the interior it has a flavour of new Turkey, semi-reformed,
and unimproved. The big street that runs right through the town, to stop
short at the garden wall of the British Consulate, is by way of being a
parable of young Turkey, that started out with magnificent projects but
without weighing the difficulties in the way, or its own powers of
overcoming them. In this particular case, the _Vali_ of the town,
anxious to set about his improvements, proposed to drive a road through
the gardens of the British Residency, without with your leave or by your
leave; regardless of the fact that the street, if desired, could be
taken with equal ease by another route, where he would have found the
British authorities ready to co-operate and assist. When the Consul
protested, the road-makers were told to go on and carry out their
orders; and only the ominous presence of a sepoy sentry on the top of
the wall they proposed to demolish made them hold their hands. It was a
reproduction in little of the British sentry who promenaded the _Pont de
Jena_ at Paris when Blucher proposed to blow up that offensively named
structure. To pull down a wall was nothing, but to knock down the sentry
was a more formidable thing.

It is melancholy, however, and suggests the presence of a malevolent
demon, when you see high-minded men set on carrying out lofty aims in
such a way that they must fail, and that their own best friends are
unable either to save or to help them. That has been the bane of Turkey
since her revolution, coupled with an invincible ignorance of the truth
that phrases will not clean pigsties.

Baghdad is the necessary starting-point for a pilgrimage to Babylon; and
there are facilities for the expedition, in that the place lies only
just to one side of the road to Kerbela, whither go _Shiah_ pilgrims
every day in scores. Hence carriages are easily to be got, with relays
of beasts on the way, and a start in the late afternoon will bring the
traveller to Babylon in time for breakfast next day.

These conveyances are rude wagonettes, provided with springs in plenty,
and drawn by four mules or horses harnessed abreast. The seats provided
are merely hard wooden slats, narrow and uncomfortable, and the European
is not advised to make use of them. A long cord passed from side to side
across the carriage, so as to make a sort of hammock on which a camp
mattress may be placed, is far preferable, and enables one to lie at
ease all the night through. Whether one will get much sleep is
questionable. The road is a mere unmetalled track, and the horses go at
a brisk hand-gallop, taking all irregularities as they come; so that the
carriage is apt to play "cup and ball" with its contents all the way.
However, a halt from 10 P.M. to 2 A.M. affords a welcome respite.

Still if the European cannot sleep, the native is of a superior type.
Our assistant driver passed most of the journey rolled up in a ball
under the feet of his superior on the box. There, though apparently in
momentary danger of tumbling off under the wheels, he snored without
interruption, under conditions that might have kept the Fat Boy wakeful
and alert, never stirring save at the halts, and perhaps not being
really roused even then. It is certain that he got off, took the collars
from one set of animals and put them on to the next; but the act seemed
absolutely mechanical and somnambulistic, and when it was accomplished
he rolled into his place again and snored once more.

With the dawn we were making our way through a gap in that great wall
that so struck the imagination of Herodotus, and which still runs like
an abandoned railway embankment across the level plain. One must
question, however, whether the great structure was really (as the
"Father of History" tells us) built of burnt brick throughout, "laid in
bitumen, and bonded with reeds at every thirty courses." Faced with that
material it probably was; but it certainly has the appearance of being
built, like most of the houses of the town, of unbaked mud.

Germans as hospitable as their compatriots at Assur received us at
Babylon, and showed what they, working on the same thorough plan as
their comrades, have uncovered of the greatest city of the ancient

Three great mounds, or sets of mounds, cover the ruins of Babylon, viz.
Babil, Kasr (the palace mound), and Amran. It is the centre one of these
that is now being excavated; though what has been uncovered is little
but the foundations and basements of buildings, or in many cases nothing
but the "matrices" from which every single burnt brick has been removed.
The city has been used as a brick-quarry for centuries, Baghdad and
various other towns being built almost entirely from this material; and
it is a rather melancholy reflection that, when the Germans have
finished their work, it is most probable that every brick they have
uncovered will follow the others in the course of a few years. No matter
how deep they bury them, they will be dug up, for good burnt building
material commands its price in a city like Baghdad. One must get what
consolation one can from the fact that at least good and accurate plans
of the whole will be available.

All the buildings of the central mound are uncovered now, presenting to
the casual visitor the appearance of a mere bewildering maze of
brickwork, in which it is very easy to get lost, though all is clear
enough to the expert eyes of the guide. Practically all that has been
found is of the date of Nebuchadnezzar; for only one building above
ground is the work of his father, Nabopolassar, and the most systematic
borings have found nothing below.

At first sight it is strange that a city which was ancient in the days
of Abraham should have no monuments older than those of a man who came
very late in her history, and was in fact a sort of Louis XIV of
Chaldaea; but there is an historical explanation of the fact. Babylon
was utterly destroyed by Sennacherib of Assyria at about the time Rome
was in building, it being the intention of that ruler that no man should
dwell there more. This was his punishment for the series of
rebellions against his authority, stirred up by that Merodach Baladan of
Chaldaea, whose ambassadors make one transitory appearance in the Book
of Kings. The awe which the whole world felt at this destruction of the
most ancient and venerable of cities is reflected in the words of
Isaiah: "Babylon is fallen, is fallen; and all the graven images of her
gods He hath broken unto the ground."

[Illustration: CHAL.

The home of the chartered brigand mentioned on p. 317. A deep gorge is
interposed immediately beyond the village; and beyond the further hills
lie the valleys of Lower Tkhuma and Salabekan.]

Of course the king could not attain his end. Men simply would not
abandon the "Gate of the Gods," the Mother of civilization and culture
for four thousand years; and Esarhaddon, the successor of Sennacherib,
had to give permission for the rebuilding. Still, nothing very
magnificent was attempted, and thus, when Chaldaea rose to empire under
Nebuchadnezzar, there was nothing ancient and venerable in her capital.
The King had a _tabula rasa_ for his great building schemes.

And what schemes these were! Really one cannot refuse sympathy to the
words of pride recorded by the Prophet, when one sees even the ruins in
their present state. "Is not this great Babylon, that I have built?"
Scarce a brick is found that does not bear his name. Rome's _Via Sacra_
at its grandest can hardly have rivalled Babylon's Processional Way--a
road eighty feet wide from kerb to kerb, exclusive of the twenty foot
pathways on either side; and this paved throughout with slabs of
alabaster, a yard square and half a yard in thickness, bedded on layer
after layer of brick laid in bitumen. And the setting of the road was in
keeping. It was lined from end to end with sculptured bulls and
griffins, and the great gate of Ishtar spans it midway in its length. It
runs from the grand temple of Merodach in the south, out to the mount of
Babil in the north; forming, as it were, the spinal cord of the whole
city, and passing just under the walls of the royal Palace.

Here the bulk of what has been uncovered consists of suite after suite
of small rooms, usually in sets of four or six, and probably forming the
apartments of the multitudinous Court officials. Also, there are long
ranges of vaulted cellars and store-rooms; where in some cases the
arches of the roof and door-way have survived for a testimony that the
Chaldaeans were well acquainted with the principle of the vault. The
great feature of the Palace, however, is the Hall of Audience--the
scene, in all probability, of Belshazzar's feast--which happens to be
the only part where the walls stand up above the original ground level.
This is a grand hall indeed, measuring 200 feet by 80, and therefore as
large as the nave of many a cathedral; and one can still trace opposite
the doorway the apse that was the site of the throne. It is surprising
to find that Chaldaean builders dared throw a vault across such a space
as this; yet the total absence of the bases of any internal columns
(such as would be needed to support a timber roof), unites with the
extraordinary thickness of the side wall to convince the German
excavators that such was actually the case. A "wagon vault" of such a
span would be no mean feat even now; though the Sassanid builders did
not fear it, as may be seen in the still existing "Arch of Chosroës" on
the site of ancient Ctesiphon. This great vault, shown in our
illustration, may still be seen standing near Baghdad, and was in all
probability a replica of Nebuchadnezzar's hall.

To the north of the Palace was the deep dry moat which bounded both the
city and the royal quarter; and which the Processional Way crossed, most
probably by a bridge, though of this no evidence remains. The German
excavators consider that this moat, or at all events some part of it,
was the "den of lions" of the King of Babylon. There is evidence in
parallel instances that such was the case elsewhere.

Of course the great temples of Bel-Merodach, Ishtar, and other gods,
form a feature of the city, and have been most carefully excavated. They
were constructed on a plan that seems strange to the Western; for they
have no precinct, or have lost what they had, and the houses of the
poorest quarter of the town actually abutted on the walls of the holiest
of them.

Herodotus speaks of "courts two stadia square," but one cannot reconcile
this with the facts. In design they seem to have followed the local
type of house; for they consist of a series of comparatively small
chambers, built round a small court. The shrine (which has usually an
"ante-shrine" before it) is no more than an inner chamber at one end of
this court; and has usually a secret passage behind it, communicating
with the chambers where the priests lodged, and which it is difficult to
believe was not intended for the production of "miraculous" oracles.
Strangest of all perhaps is it to find that, while fine material like
burnt brick, enamel, alabaster and hewn stone, is lavished on the
palaces and secular buildings of the city, the temples of the gods are
without exception built of plain sun-dried mud brick.


This extends even to the altars, which stand on a small pavement just
without the main doorways, and practically in the street. There is no
stone anywhere in any of the buildings, save the blocks on which the
great doors revolved, which were buried out of sight.[153]

There must have been a reason for this choice, and economy can be ruled
out of court without hesitation. Perhaps it is most probable that
religious conservatism was the real motive. Men had built their temples,
like their houses, of unburnt brick for centuries before they learned
the art of burning it; and when that art had been acquired, the old
material was still regarded as the proper one for the sacred purpose,
and preserved accordingly. In like fashion the Jewish altar was for
centuries composed of unhewn blocks of stone in a brazen frame, because
the original altars of their patriarchs were unhewn of necessity. As a
matter of fact, the very rudeness of the material of these temples has
saved them from destruction when other buildings have perished. It was
worth nobody's while to transport unbaked brick anywhere, and in
consequence, now that the dêbris has been removed, the temple walls
stand up to a far greater height than do those of the palace. One fears,
however, that this cannot continue, for of course mud needs to be
sheltered from rain-drip if it is to last; though if that condition be
secured it is one of the most durable forms of building.

These temples can hardly have been beautiful monuments. Impressive they
doubtless were, for size and proportion together can hardly fail in
securing that; but impressive in the fashion of an older world. Built
just when Greece was feeling her way to the matchless grace of the
Parthenon, they stood like the elephant among beasts--the memorial of an
earlier age of evolution, but a sight of awe and wonder to the younger
races of men.

It is interesting, too, to find that even that younger civilization has
its monument here among the tombs of the old. Babylon fell before the
Persian, and her glory passed away. But when the Persian fell before the
Greek Alexander, that last of the great kings of the East showed himself
the first of modern rulers also, in that he had dreams of uniting
ancient East and modern West in one great empire. It was a dream that
passed with the dreamer; though it has been revived time and again
since, and noble men will spend and be spent for it even now. Alexander
had ideas of transplanting the finest flower of Greek culture to his
new capital in the East--for such he intended Babylon to be. The dramas
of Æschylus and Sophocles should be performed in ancient and restored
Babylon; and with that object he ordered the construction of a Greek
theatre of the best pattern of his day, in the mud brick of Babil.
Strange parable of his great dreams, and strange exotic too, it stands
to this day in the suburbs of Babylon; a memorial to all time of that
first effort of the West to educate and assimilate the East--that East
which it found so easy to overrun and so impossible to understand.

So "Babylon, the glory of nations, the beauty of the Chaldees'
excellency," stands now uncovered for an hour, though a short time will
see her hidden once more, and perhaps finally removed to form the
material for modern houses.

Meantime, what of the land itself, which was the garden of the earth
once, and is little but a mixture of swamp and desert now? The waters
that men taught to make the land fruitful have been only its destruction
when they were left uncontrolled. Will the great scheme that an English
engineer has put forward make the land a garden once more? It can, of
course--on the condition that it is properly managed. For nothing can
take away the marvellous fertility of the soil; and there will be water
for irrigation as long as the snow falls on Hakkiari and Ararat to feed
the Tigris and the Euphrates.

If the work is managed, when finished, by the men who designed and
executed it, it will do as much for the delta of Mesopotamia as the
"Barrage" of the Nile has done for its delta, or the dam of Assouan for
upper Egypt. But the Barrage, when built, stood absolutely useless for
decades, because those who ruled the country would not trust the
builders to administer their own work, fearing the power that such a
position would give them in the land that they were saving. Will those
men of the same stock who rule in Mesopotamia submit to govern by
foreign advice, and so save the country? Or will they say (as they have
always thought hitherto), "We cannot save our rule by compliance. Let
the land go to ruin, and the people too. At least it is ours, and we
will rule it to the end."

One who knew the Ottoman better than most has said, "If you want to know
what a Turk will do under any circumstances, think first what you would
do yourself; then what he ought to do; then what it is his obvious
interest to do. After that, you can rule out all those alternatives with
complete confidence; and that will at least narrow down the field of
possible choice."

Still, we must hope for the best. May it be an omen that the date-palm
(Babylon's ancient and beautiful emblem of fertility and life) is now
springing up anew in every trench of the excavations at Babil--sown
there by the stones of the dates served out as rations to the native
staff of labourers.



Nine years have elapsed since the last chapter was written, and the hope
with which it ends has been most tragically deferred. Nearer Asia has
been swept by another of those great cataclysms with which its past
history has rendered it but too familiar--in this case a back-wash only
of a yet more worldwide catastrophe, but scarcely less devastating than
the ravages of Genghis or Timour. Of those mentioned by name in our
earlier chapters a large proportion have perished. Nay, whole
communities and nations have been almost completely erased. And some
brief epilogue is needed to tell of the fate that has befallen them, and
to arouse some new interest among Englishmen in the future of those
battered remnants whom their Treaties still pledge them to protect.

The most prominent place in our previous narrative has been given to the
Assyrian Christians, and especially to the Ashiret mountaineers of
Hakkiari, who formed the most virile and independent section of that
tiny nation and Church. And it is but fitting that we should again give
them precedence in the "Footnote to the History of the Great War" which
we are now contributing; since, in this obscure corner of the stage upon
which that portentous drama was enacted, they played perhaps the most
prominent and assuredly the worthiest part.

The first news of the outbreak of war was brought to Mar Shimun at
Qudshanis. He had just returned thither from Van, where he had been
discussing Governmental business with the Vali. The discussions had been
most amicable; and he had brought back with him a whole crop of promises
for the redress of grievances--promises which he had accepted with
becoming gratitude, but at the recognised rate of discount, having had
ripe experience of the value at which they were apt to be redeemed. And
he was far from feeling reassured by the startling tidings that now
reached him; for all knew the sort of justice that the Ottoman reserved
for his helots whenever the eyes of Europe might chance to be diverted

He soon saw an earnest of his misgivings in the sacking of isolated
Armenian villages, and in renewed outbreaks of the feuds which were
perpetually simmering on the Persian border between the Begzade Kurds
and the Assyrians of Mergawar and Tergawar. A general massacre of all
Christians began to be openly talked about; and when (in November) the
expected happened, and Turkey entered the lists as a combatant, that
event was signalised by the pillaging of all the Christian villages near
Bashkala with the practically open approval of the local Ottoman

The first open fighting, however, occurred in neutral Persia--a country
which should (theoretically) have been out of bounds to both sides. But
Urmi, though nominally Persian, had for years been practically
administered by the resident Russian "consul," and the Turks were not
altogether unjustified in electing to regard it as enemy territory. A
mixed force of Turks and Kurds swept down from the mountains upon Urmi,
massacring the wretched Armenians, and driving before them the
struggling Assyrians from the villages of Mergawar and Tergawar. They
felt so confident of victory that, when within a mile or two of the
city, they flung away the reserves of bread that they had brought with
them, relying on the promise of their leaders that next day they would
be sacking the bazaars. And, verily, it looked as if they would be; for
Urmi is only defended by a ruinous mud wall, and its sole effective
garrison (apart from the Assyrian auxiliaries) was the Russian consular
guard. But it was now discovered that the consul had also in reserve a
considerable stock of arms and ammunition, and with these the clansmen
were rearmed. An opportune Russian reinforcement arrived in the nick of
time from Tabriz, and the great assault on the morrow was decisively and
bloodily repulsed. The invaders recoiled to the mountains, where their
ill-disciplined Kurdish levies dispersed; and soon another defeat of a
second Kurdish force near Suj Bulak rendered the position at Urmi, at
all events, temporarily secure.

But the Russian commanders were uneasy. Enver Pasha's invasion of
Transcaucasia was by now beginning to make headway, and the Russians
were recalling their detachments in Azerbaijan to meet the threat to
Batum. They told the American missionaries that the utmost they could
promise them was not to withdraw without full notice; and even this
guarded promise proved illusory, for the very next morning brought them
imperative orders from headquarters directing immediate evacuation. The
whole Russian force marched off instantly--and in their train some
10,000 of the Christian population of Urmi, taking with them such scanty
provision as they were able at the moment to collect. They saved their
bare lives by their flight, and eventually the greater part of them
found a miserable asylum at Tiflis; but the hardships of their journey,
and of their prolonged exile, exacted a terrible toll.

The fate of those who remained proved that the fugitives' forebodings
had been well grounded. Urmi was abandoned once more to the wretched
misrule of the Persians; and the man who obtained chief authority was
that same Mejid es Sultaneh of whom we have already spoken on page 215.
In those days he had been generally regarded as one of the most
enlightened and free-thinking of the Persian nobility. His reforming
tendencies had earned him disgrace and exile; and it had been to the
generosity of sympathetic English merchants that he had owed the
preservation of his forfeited estates. But apparently the only lesson
that he had been capable of learning from adversity was the wisdom of
truckling to iniquity, and he now reappeared as a pan-Islamic fanatic of
the most virulent and reactionary type.

The Persian magnates were as much averse to Turkish domination as to
Russian, and might have been expected to evince some gratitude to their
Christian neighbours for the prominent share they had taken in repelling
the recent assault. But apparently they argued in their own minds that
the very presence of the Christians had in some sort invited the
invasion; that anyway they had helped the hated Russians, and that a
general persecution of them would be the best way of conciliating the

So some hundreds of these poor wretches were massacred during the
winter--driven out in batches of 50 or 60 to one or other of the
neighbouring villages, and there mercilessly put to death. Among them
were a batch of 70 from the Christian villages of Gawar, who had been
impressed to act as porters by the Turks in the recent invasion and had
given their captors the slip when the invading army took to flight.
These were marched back towards Gawar and handed over to the
Kurds--possibly the very men who had impressed them--by whom they were
all knifed or clubbed to death.

In these massacres perished Mar Dinkha,[154] the Bishop of Mergawar; and
we, who have laughed at his oddities must not omit to pay our tribute to
the heroism of the old man's martyrdom. Utterly crippled by his
injuries, he spent his last hours in prison crawling to and fro to
comfort his fellow-sufferers--his last moments in bestowing absolution
upon them as each in turn preceded him to death.

It should be noted by our phil-Islamites that, in nearly every instance,
all these victims were offered their lives on the sole condition of
apostasy. With Islam (when free to express itself) it is still "the
Koran or the sword."

Mercifully the return of spring brought a respite from this reign of
terror. Enver's invasion of Transcaucasia had been utterly crushed at
Sara Hamish. The Russian outposts spread south again, and Urmi was
reoccupied once more.

With the Assyrian tribesmen in the mountains the crisis had not
developed so rapidly. The Turks themselves were anxious to defer it.
Indeed, there is no valid reason to doubt that they would have liked to
evade it altogether. This knot of hardy mountaineers ensconced in their
rocky fastnesses were far more difficult to eradicate than ten times
their number of Armenians--poor, spiritless hucksters and husbandmen
dispersed in open villages and towns. There was little spoil to be won
from them--many more hard knocks than ha'pence--and the force that would
be needed to subdue them was wanted rather urgently elsewhere. Moreover,
if they could only be cajoled into complacency they might prove quite a
useful asset later as independent witnesses to character. The Armenian
massacres were now really beginning, and the Turks were inflexibly
resolved to persist in them to the uttermost. There could come no
protests from Europe, but perhaps from America there might--and the
presence of American missionaries in the country rendered it impossible
for the facts to be altogether hid. It would be but prudent accordingly
to prepare a line of apology, and to invest with some faint plausibility
the plea that this monstrous holocaust had been "exaggerated," and that
such "repressive measures" as had been adopted were really no more than
were necessary to quell an incipient revolt. Such a plea might gain
valuable corroboration from the fact that another Christian _millet_,
living in the same provinces and under the same conditions as the
Armenians, had nevertheless continued loyal to their suzerains, and had
seen in the Turks' proceedings no cause of apprehension for themselves.
On military grounds also the mountaineers were worth conciliating; for,
if Turkish Armenia were invaded, this little garrison on their flank
might sensibly hamper the defenders.

Thus, quite high bids were made for what the Turks called Assyrian
loyalty, and what the Assyrians (clinging fondly to their traditional
but shadowy independence) preferred to style alliance. Their Patriarch,
their bishops, and their chiefs were all to be salaried. They were to be
armed. They were to be allowed absolute freedom for education. And many
of the Assyrian leaders felt certainly much tempted to clinch the
bargain, and to adopt what (on the face of things) seemed manifestly the
safer course.

But the very magnitude of these Greek gifts aroused the distrust of the
majority. They knew well that Turkish promises were apt to prove so
much "hot air." The arms and salaries were things that could never be
expected to materialise. They doubted even the immunity which all these
lavish promises implied. _Jehad_ had been proclaimed, and they were
Christians in a Moslem country. Could the Turks guarantee them from the
attacks of their turbulent Kurdish neighbours--attacks from which they
had never been wholly exempt even in their most tranquil periods, and to
which the proclamation of _Jehad_ would now give sanction and cohesion?
Could they even rest assured that the Turks themselves would not attack
them as soon as their hands were freed from the embarrassments which now
beset them? They saw the fate that had overtaken their co-religionists,
the Armenians and Jacobites; the fate that had befallen their own
fellow-tribesmen in the outlying districts to the East. Every night
brought their Patriarch news (for now none dared travel by day) of some
fresh massacre perpetrated in some of their isolated villages. One night
came five successive messengers from five different villages; and all
closed their tidings with the same refrain, "I only am escaped to tell."
Would it not be better to trust to their own right arms? To the chance
of help from Russia, to the fainter chance of help from England? These
nations had always befriended them, and with them their real sympathies

Yet the peril was great and obvious. They were in the very jaws of the
wolf, and who could blame them if they elected to play for safety? They
could rest assured at all events that England and Russia would not. They
might argue, with their Yezidi neighbours (and with a good many other
more enlightened folk in less remote districts than Sheikh Adi) that it
was safer to offend a good God, who might forgive, than a malignant
Devil who assuredly would not.

Meanwhile the war was still distant, and no final choice was forced on
them. Through the winter the nation wavered. But it was significant that
the Patriarch quitted Qudshanis (which lay on the outskirts of his
territory, and close to the Turkish garrison at Julamerk), and withdrew
across the Zab into the rugged mountain fastnesses of Diz. This seemed
to portend rejection of the Turkish overtures, yet in truth under what
other conditions could he continue to negotiate with a Government which
had just inaugurated the Armenian massacres by treacherously kidnapping
and assassinating their chiefs?

Then, in the spring of 1915, the war took a turn in Russia's favour. The
Turkish invasion of Transcaucasia was defeated, and the Russian invasion
of Turkish Armenia began. A Russian army reached Van and relieved the
Armenians beleaguered there; and a detachment thrust forward to Bashkala
sent a formal invitation to the Assyrians to throw in their lot with the
Allies. The invitation was boldly accepted; and the point that seems
definitely to have turned the scale in favour of acceptance was the
religious character that had been given to the war by the Turkish
proclamation of _Jehad_. The Assyrians felt that they were now called to
play their part on the side of Humanity and Christendom; and as soon as
the call came definitely they braved all the risks that it involved.

But no doubt it is too much to assert that they were guided entirely by
this higher motive. They were (as our previous chapters have indicated)
a nation of fighters with a healthy, carnal appetite for what is
vulgarly called "a jolly row." And they were probably swayed in the same
direction by the fact that all their neighbours with whom they had
long-standing and (in the main) very just causes of quarrel, were ranged
on the contrary side. The war-song of _Shamasha_ Ephraim was soon in all
men's mouths in the mountain villages, and some of its spirited lines
deserve quoting as evincing the ardour with which they entered the war:

    Brothers, up and arm you; 'tis the Turk assails you;
    Lo, the day is dawning when we march to meet the foe!
    Quit your flocks and cornfields, grip your trusty rifles,
    Forth we go to battle in the name of Mar Shimun.

    Stand by one another, clansmen of the nation,
    Tkhuma by Tyari, and let Baz by Jilu stand.
    Like a band of brothers, hearts and hands united,
    Forth we go to battle in the name of Mar Shimun.

    David is our leader, valiant in the combat,
    He is captain over us to lead us forth to war.
    Danger shall not daunt us, fear shall flee before us,
    Forth we go to battle in the name of Mar Shimun.

    Young men of the nation, tribes renowned in story,
    Mighty men in battle were our fathers' kings of old.
    Raging through the valleys, storming o'er the mountains,
    Forth we go to battle in the name of Mar Shimun.

    Nineveh the holy[155] beckons back her children;
    Know ye not her ancient walls shall be the victor's crown?
    There alone, Assyrians, shall our race be stablished,
    Forth we go to battle in the name of Mar Shimun.

Their valour was soon to be tested for scarcely had they committed
themselves, when the Russians withdrew again northward and left them to
fight it out alone. A formidable accumulation of enemies was promptly
mustered against them, and within five weeks of their decision the
Assyrians were battling for their lives. Mira Reshid[156] the tyrant of
Berwar, led the confederated Kurds from the westward against Lizan and
Lower Tyari and with him marched a strong contingent of regular troops
from Mosul with batteries of mountain guns. Chumba and Upper Tyari were
attacked by the Artosh Kurds and the regular troops from Julamerk. The
Agha of Chal[157] brought his forces against Salabekan and Tkhuma; and
Sutu Agha of Oramar assailed Jilu and Baz. The Christians were
outnumbered on all sides and were much worse equipped than their
enemies; for except for a small supply of rifles and ammunition which
they had obtained from the Russians their arms were all sadly obsolete.

And yet the general result of this great combined attack was failure.
Qudshanis was pillaged and burned and the Valley of Lizan was occupied.
So also were the villages in the Sapna and Berwar valleys; but these
were all open and isolated, and had never been regarded as tenable. The
attacks on Jilu, Chumba and Salabekan were all three heavily repulsed.
Thus, after a week's hard fighting the Assyrians had lost only the
outskirts of their territory on the right (or western) bank of the Zab,
and had kept all their key fastnesses (on the eastern side of it)
intact. It was only the first round certainly, but the Turks had been
foiled for a season; and it was hoped that the Russian operations in
Armenia might eventually bring them relief.


Looking across the Zab Gorge, which at this point is about 3,000 feet

Then followed a deed as brutal and dastardly as it was
characteristically Turkish. Hormizd, Mar Shimun's eldest brother, a
young man of three-and-twenty, had been at Constantinople for his
education--at the Turkish Government's own invitation--for a period of
over two years. As soon as Turkey entered the war, he had been arrested
and placed in confinement, and obviously could have had no personal
responsibility for any of the events that had occurred subsequently. He
was now sent under guard to Mosul to be used for the foulest of

The Vali of that city was no longer worthy old Tahir.[158] With the good
luck that had generally attended him, and which he had generally
merited, he had been gathered to his fathers little more than a
twelve-month before. His successor, Haidar Beg, was a ruffian--a fit
tool for higher placed ruffians--and this man now sent Mar Shimun the
message: "Your brother is in my hands, and unless you surrender he

The brothers were almost of an age. They had been bound together from
infancy by ties of the closest affection. It is vain to hope that any
words of ours can succeed in conveying to our readers the poignancy of
the trial to which Mar Shimun now found himself subjected. But his
choice was the choice of Guzman the Good. "My people are in my charge,
and they are many," he answered; "how can I betray them for the sake of
one, though that one be my brother?" And, on the receipt of this answer,
Hormizd was put to death.

[Illustration: ENTRANCE TO AMADIA.

No. 16]

Mar Shimun had made two attempts to obtain further succour from the
Russians during the five or six weeks' respite which succeeded the first
attacks. And on the second occasion some reinforcement appears to have
been sent, but it is not quite known at what period, while it is
certain that it never arrived. For some years previous to the war common
rumour had persistently credited the Russians with having secretly
sapped the allegiance of many prominent chiefs among the Kurds; and as
soon as war broke out it had been confidently expected that these men
would turn against Turkey. How far this rumour was justified is perhaps
known positively to no one; but it is certain that, while hopes of
plunder and butchery lasted, the Kurds all sided with the Turks. Perhaps
the Russians may have had some cause to think that the more prosperous
aspect of their affairs in Asia Minor might now be prompting these
double traitors to think better of their first bargain. Anyway a party
of some 400 Cossacks was about this time pushed up from Urmi into
Oramar. Sutu Agha received them most graciously, and sent two of his own
sons with them to guide them on their further journey. But secretly he
betrayed them into an ambush which he had prepared with the assistance
of the Kurds of Shemsdinan, and in the deep Balanda gorge they were
exterminated to the last man.

The second assault on the Assyrians was delivered in the middle of
August; and this time the assailants had the formidable assistance of
the Kurds of Barzan, who lay to the south of Tkhuma, and formed the
connecting link between the co-ordinated assaults from Oramar on the
east and from Berwar on the west. Our friend Sheikh Abdul Selim[159] was
unhappily no longer their leader. The Government had always looked with
a jealous eye on the tolerant "Sheikh of the Christians," and a few
months earlier he had been enticed down to Mosul by the Vali Haidar Beg,
and there secretly put to death.

It is doubtful perhaps whether, had he still been in power, he would
have been able to resist the pressure put upon him by the _Hukumet_ (and
by his own tribesmen) to play his part in an official _Jehad_. After all
he was a Moslem, and a Turkish vassal, and a consistent contemner of
Russians, so wherefore should he stand aside? But he might have proved a
chivalrous, albeit a formidable, enemy, and his influence might have
alleviated some of the vindictiveness of the campaign.

For this second assault was successful. It was from the southern side
that the Christian valleys were most assailable; and Tkhuma, Baz, Jilu,
and Tyari were ravaged from end to end. The churches and houses were
burned, the fields wasted, the trees cut down, the irrigation channels
demolished; and the valleys were thus rendered practically uninhabitable
for years.

It was in this devastation that the famous church of Mar Zeia in
Jilu[160] was plundered for the first time in its history--maugre that
notable talisman that had always preserved it previously, the Charter of
Protection granted to it (as believed) by Mohammed himself. But its fate
was not quite unavenged. A fierce young Kurdish chieftain, the eldest
son of Simco Agha of the Shekak Kurds, was the leader of the spoilers;
and he (like Fanatic Brooke) had boasted that he would not rest till he
had seen the ruin of every Christian church in the land. As he now stood
at the door, watching the destruction of that wonderful and weird
collection of age-old votive offerings, a bullet fired at extreme range
took him in the head, and he dropped dead on the desecrated threshold.

But though beaten out of their valleys, the Assyrians were not yet done
with. They now took refuge on their _Yailas_--the upland pastures on the
laps of the mountains, 10,000 feet above sea-level--whither they had
always been accustomed to drive their flocks and herds in summer, and
where a considerable part of the nation used generally to remain
encamped as long as the cattle were there. It was summer still, and the
cattle had been driven there as usual: the _Yailas_ were, therefore,
already well provisioned, and there is always water from the melting

These strongholds are only approachable by a few precipitous pathways,
and the Kurdish attempts to penetrate to them were everywhere easily
repulsed. Raiding parties of Assyrians were even able to sally down from
them into the valleys, and carry back small supplies of corn from the
hidden granaries in the villages. Lack of salt was the chief privation
that the bulk of the people suffered during their sojourn here, but salt
is wellnigh a necessity to an Oriental; and their Patriarch, who (as a
_Rabban_) was prohibited by his vows from eating flesh meat, was obliged
to live almost entirely upon milk and parched corn.

But if the _Yailas_ were impregnable, there was yet one fatal defect in
them. It is absolutely and utterly impossible for any creature to live
there in winter. Autumn was already beginning; and, at these lofty
altitudes, the first snows may fall as early as October. The Assyrians
were virtually "treed" (to use an expressive Americanism); and their
enemies, as fully conscious of the defect in their position as they
were, were content to form a leaguer round them, and wait till they
should come down to be killed.

In this almost hopeless position, Mar Shimun determined on making one
final appeal to the Russians. Accompanied by one of his principal chiefs
(the _Malik_ Khoshaba of Lizan) and by two other companions, he quitted
the _Yaila_ of Shina[161] at the head of the Tal and Tkhuma gorges to
make his way across the mountains and down to Urmi Plain. The whole
intervening country was thickly beset with enemies; but, travelling
mostly by night and with experienced guides, the little party succeeded
in accomplishing their daring journey, and reached the Russian outposts
near Salmas.

But only to meet disappointment. The local Russian commanders professed
themselves utterly unable to render the least assistance, and could only
offer the Patriarch the abjectly despairing counsel that, now he himself
had escaped, he had better remain in safety, and not sacrifice his life
uselessly by a vain attempt to return. Mar Shimun indignantly refused to
rest even one night in safety, and turned back at once to the mountains
to share his people's doom.

The outlook was now truly terrible, but the Assyrians were determined
not to perish without one more struggle. They would attempt to break
the leaguer and force their way down to Urmi Plain. Even for an
uncumbered army this could hardly be thought a promising enterprise; and
the tribesmen were but ill-armed and poorly disciplined. Moreover, they
must endeavour to carry off with them their non-combatants--women and
children. They would number in all about 25,000 persons, and flocks and
herds besides. Their route, as all know who have travelled there, lay
through one of the most rugged and most difficult of the mountain
districts in Asia; and the paths are seldom wide enough for two men to
walk on them abreast. It was a desperate expedient, but to stay was
certain death. Surrender meant massacre, for there was no mercy either
in Turk or Kurd; and if the worst came to the worst, it was better to
die fighting. Moreover, they had leaders who knew how to make the most
even of the slenderest chances; and the plan which they resolved to
attempt was marked by all the hardihood and ingenuity of desperation.

The bulk of their foes lay to the eastward, blocking all the direct
tracks to Urmi, and drawing their sustenance from the fertile fields of
Gawar, where Nuri Beg had just completed a peculiarly atrocious massacre
of the unarmed Christians of the plain. Therefore they would break out
westward, where no one would dream of expecting them. They would march
in two bands, lest their line should be strung out unwieldily--and
perhaps with a tacit prevision like that of the patriarch Jacob, that if
one band was caught and overwhelmed the other might have chances of
escape. They would cross the Zab by the flimsy wooden bridges near the
mouths of the lateral valleys of Diz and Tal.[162] Then, making a wide
circuit northward, they would reunite on the further side of Julamerk,
whence one more long day's march would bring them to Albaq (near
Bashkala) and the pass that led to Salmas Plain.

And, in the face of all military probability, this daring plan actually
succeeded. If the Assyrians were but poorly disciplined, the Kurds who
beleaguered them were no better.


These built-up sections, or "_Stangi_," are a feature of the mountain

The pursuers who should have pressed on their tracks, as soon as they
found that the _Yailas_ had been evacuated, stayed behind to quarrel
over the division of such sheep as had been abandoned; and the isolated
detachments that strove to check their progress were surprised by their
sudden sally and easily brushed aside.

The Patriarch marched with the Tal column, and his march was marked by
an incident as moving as it is picturesque. His route led him over a
lofty mountain col near Julamerk,[163] whence for the last time he was
able to look down upon the little green "alp" that marked the site of
his own village of Qudshanis; and, as he paused to gaze, one natural
sigh escaped him: "When shall I ever drink the waters of Qudshanis
again?" The words were caught by as attentive ears as those of the three
mighty men who followed the son of Jesse. Without a word to their
chieftain a small party of devoted warriors broke away from the line of
march, burst through the Kurdish picket that attempted to bar the path
against them, and brought back to their beloved Patriarch a pitcher of
water from the Qudshanis spring.

The columns from Tal and Diz joined hands again at Kotranis, and the
reunited nation reached Albaq according to plan. Here they had one last
struggle; for a body of Kurds from Gawar had crossed the Zab by one of
the higher bridges and cut into their path ahead of them. But the pass
was carried triumphantly by a detachment under Khoshaba of Lizan; and
the Assyrians, saved by their own exertions, poured at last into Salmas

It was not a beaten host that arrived--or, at all events, no more beaten
than that untamable Serbian army which, just at this very same period,
was being driven from its own country by the combined Austrians and
Bulgars. They had held their own against great odds as long as
resistance was possible; and, when forced to retreat under appalling
difficulties, they had brought away with them not only their women and
children, but a large proportion of their flocks and herds as well.
They had indeed suffered heavy losses in the fighting and many women and
children had succumbed to the hardships of the retreat. But their spirit
was still unbroken, as they were yet destined amply to prove.

Their irruption over the border of Persia introduced an additional
complication into a medley of anomalies which was already quite
complicated enough. Persia was nominally neutral, but too weak to
enforce her neutrality; and both combatants were still professedly
respecting a neutrality which their every act ignored.

Azerbaijan is an appanage of the _Vali Ahd_ (the Persian heir-apparent).
The Governor of Urmi is consequently his nominee, and the Governor's
Advisory Council are the Moslem notables of the place. But the infamous
régime which these gentry had established during the previous winter had
been promptly suppressed by the Russians as soon as they returned in the
spring. The Governor still held his post--was he not still (nominally)
Governor? But the only orders he was allowed to issue were those that
were put into his mouth by the Russian "consul." And, if the Russian
consul chose to take previous council with anyone, he consulted not the
Moslem notables, but the despised local Christians, who possessed no
_locus standi_ in the eyes of the Government at all. How intolerable
this position must have seemed to a city full of fanatical Moslems will
be appreciated by those who know the overbearing arrogance with which
fanatical Moslems are accustomed to treat any Christian helots who may
be subject to them, and the amount of swagger which an Oriental menial
is apt to assume to celebrate his emancipation. But, grin as they might
in secret, they did not dare do so openly in the presence of Russian
soldiery; and, indeed, though he may be a bully, the Persian is
generally a coward.

And now to complete their afflictions came this horde of ruffians from
the mountains--men whom they despised, not merely as Christians, but as
savages yet of whose physical prowess they were all mortally afraid; men
who had lost their all, and who (so at least Urmi credited) had been
accustomed from their cradles to regard robbery and bloodshed as their
ordinary daily work. Here they were with arms in their hands and Urmi at
their mercy.

Yet in truth (in the words of Dr. Macdowell of the American Hospital at
Urmi) the newcomers "behaved much better than anyone could reasonably
expect." They certainly plundered at first--not, indeed, in the district
of Salmas where the Patriarch had settled himself, but in the
neighbourhood of Urmi where there was no controlling hand. But it is
certain also that the Persians who complained of them had themselves
been asking for trouble rather importunately. Starving men with arms in
their hands are apt to grow rather restive when they find conspicuously
hard bargains being driven at their expense; and, having just saved
their bare lives by means of their trusty weapons, they are mighty
suspicious of invitations to surrender those weapons in exchange for a
little food. Moreover, they had uglier treatment to complain of. Ijlal
el Mulk, the Persian Governor of Urmi, came suddenly upon a party of
Assyrians as he turned the sharp, rocky point at the northern end of the
lake which is known as "Snatch-beard Corner," and promptly loosed his
guards upon them in sheer panic terror, under the crazy delusion that
they were an ambuscade. But even events like these were presently
smoothed over; and, as there were plenty of deserted villages in the
districts of Urmi and Salmas, the Assyrians found little difficulty in
gradually suiting themselves with new homes.

Meanwhile they were not quite oblivious of the fact that "there was
still a war on." Now, for the first time, they began to get adequately
armed with modern rifles and ammunition from the Russian arsenals. And
perhaps it deserves to be recorded that they took extremely kindly to
bombing. Bombs made such noble detonations when used liberally in
echoing ravines. Surma, the Patriarch's sister (as the only
non-combatant who carried sufficient authority), was installed in charge
of the ammunition depot; and, after living for months in a house crammed
to the doors with high explosives, was amused to overhear a couple of
her reckless tribesmen lamenting her pitiable "nervousness," because
she had sternly prohibited their smoking when they came to fetch powder
from the magazine.

They now grew distinctly assiduous in the payment of a series of return
calls upon their lately exulting Kurdish enemies. Sutu Agha's stronghold
at Oramar was captured and sacked; and this victory regained for them
quite a lot of the plunder of Jilu. Chal fell to a well-planned raid
under David, the Patriarch's brother; and the summer camps of the nomad
Heriki[164] yielded quite a rich booty of sheep. These forays were
conducted in much more gentlemanly fashion than the harrying of the
Christian valleys in the autumn of 1915. The son of the Agha of Chal for
instance, was captured at the fall of that fastness, and was at once
released on a verbal promise that he would arrange an exchange of
prisoners--a promise which (to the Kurds' credit) was for once loyally
redeemed. "Grass soon grows over blood that has been shed in fair
fight"; and if these courtesies were more often reciprocated by the
Moslems we might entertain some hope of eventual peace in Kurdistan.

These diversions had at least the effect of immobilising a good number
of Kurdish levies, who might otherwise have caused annoyance on the
flank of the Russian advance to Erzerum; and the Russians rewarded this
service by a lavish distribution of decorations which were immensely
appreciated and universally worn. Mar Shimun himself received a personal
letter of congratulation from the Tsar, and was welcomed with high
distinction at Tiflis by the Grand Duke Nicholas.

Thus matters continued prosperous till the autumn of 1917, when the
outlook again became fearfully overclouded by omens of Russian collapse.
The munitions of war had never before been so plentiful as they were at
this period in eastern Asia Minor. The arsenals of England, France, and
America had been pouring material into the country to equip the armies
of Russia. But the men for whom it was intended had no longer spirit to
use it; and an Allied Commission had been despatched in hot haste to the
Caucasus to try and rake together a few substitutes to replace their
exhausted protagonist.

There was plenty of fighting spirit still to be found among the
Assyrians and a certain dour gloomy inveteracy among some Armenian units
further north. Between these lay the territory of Simco (_i.e._, Ismail)
Agha of the Shekak Kurds; and the allied liaison officers conceived the
notion that these three elements might be combined into a coherent line
of defence.

Simco was the Agha whom we mentioned on page 228 as anxious to acquire a
British consul's Mannlicher rifle at the price of his newly married
wife. At Kotur he held a position of high strategic importance; and he
commanded a considerable following, comprising some 2000 horse. He had
participated two years previously in the combined attack on the
Assyrians; but it was thought he would feel no scruples about changing
sides, if it could be shown that it was worth his while. And certainly
he had no cause to love the Persians; for his own brother (and
predecessor in the chieftainship) was that same Jaffar who had been so
foully assassinated at Tabriz by the ex-Shah when he was _Vali

The scheme on the whole was a good one and its advantages were obvious.
But it had one fatal objection--the connecting link was a Kurd.
Hanpartsunian, the Armenian leader, was most reluctant to admit him to
the league; and when Mar Shimun heard the proposal he shared his
reluctance to the full. But in those days British officers were rather
inclined to assume that Kurds were "indifferent honest." It is believed
that after four years' experience of administration in Mesopotamia they
would now vote this theory obsolete.

Despite their rooted prejudices to the contrary, the Armenian and
Assyrian chieftains allowed themselves to be over-persuaded, and the
plan won acquiescence from their followers. Simco embraced it with
enthusiasm, and swore upon the Koran to keep faith with his Christian
associates, protesting (somewhat anomalously) that he regarded the
Assyrian Patriarch as "the Religious Head of Kurdistan."

This ill-assorted alliance was soon to be crucially tested. Some Russian
assistance had been counted upon, and 250 Russian officers were to have
undertaken the organisation of the combined force. But the officers
never arrived; and what Russian force still remained in the district
gradually melted away to nothing. Russia was no longer only a falling
wall whose collapse might be averted by buttressing. The very bricks of
which it was built had disintegrated, and resolved into the mud from
which they had been made.

It was now February, 1918--not yet quite the darkest hour upon the
Western Front, but already very nearly so. And in the East the collapse
of Russia had completely convinced all waverers that Germany and her
allies had virtually won the war. The all-conquering Mackensen was
rumoured to be already on his way to assume the command at Mosul, and to
besom the British out of Mesopotamia; and Ijlal el Mulk plucked up heart
of grace, and issued a grandiose proclamation ordering the Assyrians to
lay down their arms.

Mar Shimun wrote a letter of protest to Mukht-i-Shems, the Persian
Governor of Tabriz, reiterating that his people were merely refugees,
and carried arms solely for their own protection. But these were facts
of which the Persians had, of course, been fully aware for two years and
more. They did not want an apology--only a pretext for falling on their
unwelcome guests.

Then abruptly the flash-point was reached. For some weeks an explosion
had manifestly been growing inevitable, but what precisely caused it was
never known. There was a sudden outbreak at Urmi--two days of sharp
street fighting--and the Moslems were crushed decisively, and the
Assyrians remained masters of the town.

Foiled utterly in open warfare, the Persians turned at once to their
more familiar trade of treachery; and Mukht-i-Shems, the official
representative of his nation, a Persian nobleman with an English
education, wrote plainly to Simco Agha to tell him that he might earn
the gratitude of the Persian Government by the assassination of Mar
Shimun. The Kurd took the hint promptly. He had already been growing
uneasy at the conviction that after all he had espoused the losing side;
and now he wrote to Mar Shimun (who by this time had returned to
Salmas), requesting that he would meet him at a conference to discuss
the new situation caused by the Russian debacle.

The trap was cunningly baited. Such a conference seemed not merely
desirable, but imperative. What could be more natural under the
circumstances than a meeting between two sworn allies? And Mar Shimun,
accompanied by his brother David and a few other friends, drove out to
the Armenian village of Koni Shehr, which was the appointed

There were whispers that treachery was intended. An Armenian villager
was told by a friendly Kurd: "There is no danger for _your_ folk"; and
on this he at once sent off his son with a warning message, which was
unhappily disregarded. As the party entered the house where the meeting
was to be held, David pointed to a group of Kurds upon a neighbouring
roof, and asked "what those fellows wanted." But the Patriarch had
seemingly determined that he must "trust all in all, or not at all."
"They only want to get a good view, I suppose," he answered, and passed

Simco received him most cordially. The ceremonial hospitality, which
throughout the East is held to set the seal of inviolability upon the
guest's person, was duly offered and accepted. The conference proceeded,
and terminated without the least hint of disagreement; and Simco, with
marked deference, conducted his guest to the door.

His turning back was the signal. There was a volley from the roof, and
the Patriarch was shot dead. It was an almost literal repetition of the
treachery perpetrated upon Simco's own brother by the _Vali Ahd_ eight
years before. How David escaped is a mystery. He was wounded, but
friendly Armenians snatched him into one of the adjoining houses and hid
him till the search was over. In the ensuing confusion only one other
member of the party was actually killed and the rest succeeded in

The Patriarch's body was treated with the grossest indignity--stripped,
and flung out into the street. But afterwards it was reverently taken up
by the Armenians and buried by their priest in the village church. In
those medieval times to which Benyamin Mar Shimun belonged alike by
character and training that church would be held to enshrine the relics
of a martyr.

The almost incredulous fury with which the wild tribesmen learned the
news of their beloved Patriarch's murder can, perhaps, be barely
imagined by people less primitive than they. In the first gust of their
rage they began a massacre of the Kurds in Urmi; but this was quickly
arrested by the interposition of their chiefs. Polus a younger brother,
was chosen as the Patriarch's successor; and under David and Khoshaba a
strong force mustered to avenge his death.

With these two there marched a third leader. And among the many
disreputable characters who "made good" during war-time, it can surely
not be easy to find a parallel to Petros of Baz--that knavish exploiter
of bogus Macedonian orphanages, whose shady antecedents were recounted
on page 218. With the fruits of his youthful peculations he had acquired
a prominent position in Urmi, no less than that of Ottoman consul. Thus,
as soon as the war broke out, he was able to pose as a leader; and from
the husk of a glib-tongued swindler there now emerged a born Captain of
_guerilleros_, whose achievements during these later stages were among
the most remarkable in the war. Like several others of his kidney, he
has since (we regret to say) reverted. But assuredly, while the ball
lasted it cannot be denied that this arch-thief showed a singularly
handsome leg.

Simco's army was thoroughly routed and his castle at Chara captured; but
he himself unhappily escaped and has since been allowed even by the
allies of his victim, to reap all the profits of his crime. In his house
was found the actual letter which he had received from Mukht-i-Shems
prompting him to the Patriarch's murder. Can it be wondered that the
wrath of the Assyrians burns yet more hotly against the Persian than it
does against the Turk?

But the crushing of their false friend did not deminish the number of
their enemies. The Christians were now threatened on all sides by Turk,
by Kurd, and by Persian; and in Urmi they had to control a seething
hostile community considerably more numerous than themselves. The
British advance from Baghdad had still penetrated no higher than Tekrit,
250 miles to the southward; and all hope of Russian help was gone. They
were still well off for munitions; but the bulk of the lavish supplies
which had been intended for the armament of Russia had fallen into the
hands of their enemies, and the Turkish armies in Eastern Asia Minor
were now equipped as no Turkish armies in that district had ever been
equipped before.

There still remained, however, some scattered contingents of
Armenians--unhappily divided against themselves by bitter internecine
dissensions--and with one of these led by a grim fighter named Andranik
who commanded a personal following of about 5000, there was still some
chance of effecting a junction. Petros got into communication with him,
and a plan was concerted to this end.

Had the plan succeeded it is probable, in the light of subsequent
events, that the Assyrians would have been able to keep their hold upon
Urmi until the Armistice. But the Turks held the interior lines and Ali
Ihsan, their commander in this district, was unluckily a General of
considerable capacity. He flung himself across Petros' path as he
pressed northward and repulsed his attempt to break through. Petros,
better as a tactician than as a strategist, unhappily did not renew the
assault at the moment when perseverance might have earned victory; and
Ali Ihsan, in the nick of time, was able to turn upon Andranik, and beat
him back after a long day's desperate fighting in the streets of Khoi.

Nevertheless the Assyrians still continued to present a bold front to
their enemies; and for three months, under Petros' able leadership, they
beat back in battle after battle all the attacks that were delivered
against them both north and south of Urmi. They are said to have fought
no fewer than fourteen actions in this time. In one of these, at Ushnu,
they captured nearly 350 Turkish regular soldiers, besides 5 machine
guns and 2 pieces of field artillery; and with almost unbelievable
generosity these prisoners were released upon parole.

"But what of your Kurdish prisoners, Saypu?" we asked of the stalwart
young warrior whose maiden exploit in arms we related on page 315.

"We took no Kurdish prisoners, Rabbi," replied Saypu grimly, "after the
death of Mar Shimun."

Their humanity is more to their credit, since they knew well the fate of
their kinsfolk in the outlying villages which they were forced to
abandon, and might learn thence to what fate they themselves were doomed
should they fail to make good their defence. Ali Ihsan had now gone
southward to take over the command at Mosul, and to be defeated by
General Marshall in the last battle of the war. The Turkish leader in
the north was now Jevdet Bey, previously Vali of Van, the brutal son of
kind old Tahir and brother-in-law of Enver Pasha, a man who had already
earned eternal infamy by his pitiless massacres of the Armenians at Van.
Now on one occasion he forced the entire population of a village,
numbering it is said 700, and including all the women and children, to
dig a deep trench for their own grave along the foot of a lofty mud
wall. When the trench was finished they were marched into it. The wall
was thrown down on the top of them; and every soul was buried alive. On
another occasion a village, which had defended itself to the last
cartridge, surrendered at last on fair conditions which the Turks
solemnly confirmed by oaths taken on the Koran. Every male was
immediately massacred; every female stripped and outraged, and then
turned adrift naked to crawl to Urmi as she could.

Such incidents are, of course, but samples of hundreds of similar
atrocities perpetrated by the Turks upon their Christian helots during
the recent war. Neither is it permissible for any honest chronicler to
leave them unrecorded, so long as there are any advocates for a policy
of leaving Christians subject to Turks.

And the cruel mercies of Islam seemed now closing round the Assyrians.
Their fighting force was steadily dwindling and now their ammunition was
running out. The end was almost in sight; but once more there came a
gleam of hope just as the last hope seemed extinguished, and an
aeroplane appeared over Urmi on July 8th, 1918. It was saluted with a
hot fusillade, for all, of course, deemed it Turkish. But presently it
dawned upon someone that the tricoloured circles were not a Turkish
emblem, and it was wildly welcomed to earth. Captain Pennington of the
Royal Air Force had flown from Miani in the south over 150 miles of
unknown and hostile country; and, having escaped his friends' bullets,
was next nearly suffocated by their embraces, for all, of course, argued
(Oriental-like) that their final relief was now assured.

But Captain Pennington was no more than the far-advanced scout of a
woefully weak flying column, consisting of a machine-gun company and a
squadron of the 14th Hussars; and these had only penetrated as far as
the village of Sain Kaleh, 100 miles to the south. Yet he bore a message
of hope. They had escorted thither a first instalment of money,
munitions, and officers; and if only the Assyrians could gain touch with
them these supplies might enable them to hold out.

But how could touch be established? Urmi was now menaced by a force of
two Turkish divisions--the 5th from the north and the 6th from the
south--and by large irregular levies of Kurds and Persians as well. It
was agreed that Petros, with the Urmi division of his army, should
attempt to clear the way to Sain Kaleh; and that the Salmas division
should hold on to Urmi till his return. It was once more a desperate
chance; but the Assyrians had only preserved themselves hitherto by
taking a whole series of desperate chances. Unhappily, on this occasion,
they could only partly win through.

Petros marched south, and, with his usual skill and daring, defeated the
6th Division at Suj Bulak, and drove them into the mountains towards
Rowanduz. But, unfortunately, the 5th Division learned of his departure,
and seized the opportunity to deliver a vigorous assault upon those who
had remained behind. The line of the Nazlu River, which the Assyrians
had sought to hold was forced; and the defeated mountaineers swept back
in confusion upon Urmi. Panic seized upon that hapless city. Under the
protection of the Assyrians it had become a sort of asylum of refuge for
thousands of fugitives who had escaped from previous massacres; and now
the whole Christian population--Assyrian and Armenian, men, women, and
children--determined instantly on flight. Harvest had just been
gathered, so they had food available, and enough beasts and vehicles to
improvise some kind of transport; and soon the whole mob was trailing
southward in an agony of terror and despair. Somewhere in that direction
lay their last faint hope of survival, and, heedless of order or
discipline, they fled in Petros' wake.

That flight was a ghastly tragedy, comparable perhaps, while it lasted,
only to that terrible trek of the Calmuck Tartars so graphically
depicted by De Quincey. Provisions, indeed, were adequate; and, had they
been unmolested, the fugitives might have won through without very great
loss or suffering. But their enemies swarmed on their tracks like wolves
upon a drove of cattle. Even before they cleared the city the bazaar
ruffians under Mejid es Sultaneh freed from the fear of their recent
masters, were cutting the throats of the stragglers as they emerged from
their houses; and hampered by hosts of non-combatants--dispirited and
without cohesion--that long, slow, straggling convoy formed a fatally
vulnerable prey. The mountaineers, indeed, suffered less than the
townsfolk as being more accustomed than they to conditions of trek and
battle. It was even said, unkindly but plausibly, that the Tyari men
eventually reached their journey's end not only with all their women,
but with more sheep than they had at the start. But for all the
conditions were terrible enough. Men were slaughtered by hundreds; women
stripped and outraged; girls borne off to Mussulman harems; and many
who dropped from the ranks were seen to roll themselves in filth and
ordure in the hope of escaping the violation which they knew was their
probable fate. It must be within the mark to state that at least 15,000
persons--a fourth of the whole number--perished in those dreadful days.

The British were no longer at Sain Kaleh. Petros had been a week late at
his rendezvous, and they had strict orders not to linger in such a
perilously advanced position. But happily they were not beyond recall,
and, with Petros' army to back them, they now hurried back to bring aid.
That handful of well-armed and disciplined men fell like a thunderbolt
into the midst of the disorderly hordes of the pursuers, and, ignorant
what force might be following, these scattered before them in dismay.
There was one instance where seven men equipped with a Lewis gun, and
led by Captains Savage and Scott-Ollson, dashed at a force of several
hundred Kurds who were besetting a group of fugitives, and drove them
off in confusion--a feat that might have earned a lay in the annals of
the Round Table.

It took three days' sharp fighting to complete the rescue, for the
fugitives only struggled in by driblets and the Kurds and Persians who
clung to them were loth to relinquish their prey. But at last the
Assyrians' purgatory was over. The column was re-formed at Sain Kaleh
and proceeded by easier stages 200 miles further southward to Hamadan.
They were blamed for plundering on this march; and, undoubtedly, they
did plunder wholesale. But what wonder? They were utterly destitute and
had surely every possible excuse for regarding Persia as an enemy
country. And be it recorded to their honour that by the admission even
of their enemies, and though the atrocities that their own women had
suffered were still fresh in their memories even now no Mussulman woman
was insulted or maltreated by them.

Early in September they were transferred to the great refugee camp which
had been prepared for their reception at Baquba on the Diala near
Baghdad; and here they were established when Turkey sued for peace a few
weeks later. Not less than two-thirds of their nation must have perished
in their four years' trial; but, like Sir Hugh Percy, they had "saved
the bird in their bosom," and assuredly had no cause for shame in the
plucky part that they had played.

The fate of their neighbours, the Armenians, is already too well known
to be dwelt upon, but, alas! too little regarded, for us to pass over it
even here. We have sketched the horrors endured by one small sister
community--a community whose position was admittedly much more
defensible, and whose stout-hearted resistance enabled them to avert the
worst. Multiply those horrors twenty fold to allow for the greater
numbers of the Armenians. Double them again for the helplessness that
robbed them of self-defence. And our minds are incapable of grasping the
scope of a butchery more hideous and widespread than any that has
horrified Asia since the ravages of the Tartar hordes. "Then there took
place such wholesale slaughter and unrestrained looting and excessive
torture and mutilation as is hard to hear spoken of, even generally; how
think you, then, of the details? There happened things I dare not
mention, therefore imagine what you will."[166]

Nay, the Tartar massacres after all were mostly perpetrated in hot
blood, and in days that followed close upon battles; but these
advisedly, upon unresisting helots, and persistently for months and
years. In these the blind fury of the fanatic and the blood-lust of the
Kurdish robber were deliberately manipulated by cool-headed and
calculating administrators. And even Abdul Hamid's cruelty was not so
coarse and stupid as that of the low-bred upstarts who now reigned in
his room.

Talaat Pasha's own letters are extant to prove how he hounded on his
underlings to the butchery; how he dismissed and disgraced those who
shrank from the ghastly tasks imposed upon them; nay, even those who
permitted the slightest alleviation of horrors at which their souls
sickened; how he insisted repeatedly and categorically that not even
children must be spared. And Enver and Djemal, his fellow-triumvirs,
seconded him inexorably in all.

That some Turks did venture on protests we are ready to admit gladly;
but with the bulk of the nation the crime was actually popular. No
Mollah raised his voice to denounce it; and there was never the least
difficulty in finding plenty of willing executioners. The crime was the
crime of the Ottoman nation and of the Stamboul Caliphate, and the
criminals are still rejoicing in the success and impunity of their

The programme of massacre was identical in practically every district.
First, the chief local leaders of the Armenians (Parliamentary Deputies
and so forth) were quietly entrapped and assassinated before their vague
forebodings had ripened into serious alarm. Then those who had been
called up for military service (of course, the pick of the nation) were
disarmed, drafted into labour battalions, and set to road-making and
other tasks in remote and sparsely populated districts, where they were
soon worn out with hard work, exposure, and starvation, or shot down at
leisure in idle sport by their armed guards. Then all the better class
townsfolk--doctors, teachers, merchants, tradesmen, and artificers--were
arrested, formed into columns, and marched away from their homes,
ostensibly for some distant destination. It was arranged that armed
Kurds (or their own escort) should fall upon them during the journey;
and all that was known of them subsequently was that they had never
arrived. The villages and towns were then sacked in detail, and the men
almost all exterminated, though young and good-looking girls were
reserved for the Mussulman harems. If any pretext were needed, it was
generally supplied by demanding the surrender of a stated number of
rifles, which it was assumed that the villagers were concealing, and
torture was often applied to extort what they had never possessed.

Then the "Red Massacres" were over, and the "White Massacres" started.
The victims of these were mostly the miserable women and their
children--practically all who still survived. These were formed up into
columns and literally marched to death. With bleeding feet, starving and
unsheltered, they were driven pitilessly forward--day after day, week
after week--on a march that was never intended to have any ending till
the last of them had dropped and died. And such of them as survived to
cross the Taurus were finally thrust forth into the bleak foodless
waterless desert; Talaat professing with fiendish effrontery that he was
thus "colonising Mesopotamia."

Surely if ever assassination was justified it was in the death of this
monster, and it is the shame of all Europe that it was to an assassin
that they left the task.

We have said that some Turks protested, and were deprived of their
offices for protesting. The Vali of Aleppo and the Mutaserif of Mardin
were two of these. In some towns the Moslem population presented
petitions against the massacres. In Urfa--even in fanatical Urfa--there
was one such petition sent in. Diarbekr was true to its grim traditions,
and here there was no relenting. Here the notables of the city had
formed a "Committee for the Study of the Armenian Question," and the
fruit of their "Studies" was a revival of Carrier's infamous _noyades_.
The clothes of which the victims were stripped before they were flung
overboard were, with sickening shamelessness, sold openly by their
executioners in the bazaar.

At Mosul the sword was stayed; we cannot conceive for what reason. But
perhaps the Arabs, though equally keen robbers, were not found such
practised butchers as the Kurds.

Jevdet Bey, the Vali of Van, was one of the most relentless murderers;
and the thoroughness of his methods in the villages of his _Vilayet_
even caused him to be employed as an expert in redeeming slackness
elsewhere. But of Van city itself--thanks to its proximity to the
frontier--he made rather a botched job. Aram, the Tashnakist whom we
mentioned in an earlier chapter[167] was by accident absent from the
city when the other two local leaders were assassinated. The Armenians
took alarm betimes and stood on their defence.

Van was a large sprawling city, and the Armenians formed rather the
larger half of the population. They had much previous experience of
massacres and alarms of massacre; and they now drew together
instinctively in their own quarter of the Garden City, and fortified
themselves with abattis and barricades. They sent a message to their
Moslem fellow-citizens that they had no quarrel with them and were only
defending themselves against the Vali. And the Moslems replied
sympathetically though they said they would be obliged to fight.

Perhaps it was owing to their lukewarmness that Jevdet, though supported
by the regular soldiers of the garrison, never ventured to deliver a
formal assault upon the entrenched quarter; but there was much desultory
fighting, and most of the city was burned. Jevdet relied principally
upon blockading his victims, and reducing them by hunger; and, to
quicken their surrender, he even refrained from massacring the few
surviving villagers, and drove them into the entrenchments to help in
consuming supplies. After four weeks' leaguer this scheme was on the
point of succeeding, when suddenly the despairing Armenians saw their
enemies preparing to withdraw. The Russians advancing from Sara Hamish
had approached within striking distance, and next day Van was relieved.

When the Russians withdrew a little later the Armenians, of course, fled
with them, and took refuge across the border, near Tiflis and Erivan.
How many of them, we wonder, have survived their later tribulations--war,
famine, typhus, internecine strife and Bolshevism?

And the motive for all this butchery? The alleged "plot" is merely a
subterfuge. The Armenians would, no doubt, have welcomed the coming of
the Russians; what subject race in Turkey would not? But, until the
Russians arrived, they were no more a menace to the rear of the Turks
than the citizens of occupied Belgium were to the rear of the Germans.
There is something, perhaps, in the suggestion that one motive was sheer
plunder. Many Armenians were wealthy; and the Turks, impoverished by a
series of wars, were intent on seizing their wealth, never reflecting
that by the extermination of their cleverest traders, and their best
artificers and husbandmen, they were only consigning themselves to a
deeper and more hopeless poverty. There was certainly also a religious
motive; for, though we can hardly say that the profession of Islam would
in all cases have secured quarter, yet it is certain that this was made
an essential condition in the sparing of the few who were spared. And
what but religious bigotry could have involved the Jacobites in the fate
of the Armenians? There was no plot to fear from the Jacobites. They had
neither the cohesion nor the national aspirations of the Armenians.
Their escapes in previous massacres prove that the Turks could have
spared them if they wished. And yet this time they were not spared.

But professed infidels like Talaat and Enver are not swayed by religious
bigotry. It was national and political bigotry that was the ruling
motive with them. They only consented to the sparing of apostates
because apostasy in those regions sets the seal upon the abjuration of
nationality. And in the Ottoman Empire they meant the Turk to reign
alone. In their extirpation of the Armenians the Young Turks were
carrying out a deliberate national policy, conceived by the Old Turks
more than a generation before. And the Young Turks, taking it over, had
only been waiting their opportunity till the preoccupation of Europe
should leave their hands untied.

It only remains to add that the Yezidis were not massacred. And, even in
such a plethora of massacres, it is strange they should have suffered
such neglect. We can only suppose that _Melek Taüs_, seeing all idle
hands so desirably occupied, devoted his unaccustomed leisure to taking
care of his own.



The tale of the British administration of Mesopotamia (or Irak) is the
familiar one of magnificent work done by men on the spot, which is yet
hampered by the feebleness and indecision of "statesmen" at home,
coupled with the activities of newspapers interested mainly in what an
expert of old time, George III., called "that damnably dirty business,
party politics." The tale, however--though one that is well worth the
telling--is too long a one to be put in at the end of a book dealing
with only a part of the land concerned, and here we must confine
ourselves to that of which we have personal knowledge--viz., the
fortunes of the tormented Assyrian nation after they reached "the haven
where they would be," the protection of the British. General affairs can
only be touched on so far as they concern this people.

We left the nation established in the huge refugee camp at Baqubah, near
Baghdad, where they became one of the sights and sensations of
Mesopotamia. They considered that their troubles were over at last, and,
indeed, one of their number even broke out into English poetry to
celebrate the fact, and presented his ode (which he would have been
better advised to write in Syriac) to the General Officer commanding the

    We wish to express our thanks and great wish
    To all our friends, especially the British;
    For we are under the protection of the world's greatest monarch,
    Who to us in this wilderness is like the shadow of the rock.

    All gentlemen from the headquarters,
    Soldiers, sergeants, corporals, and officers,
    All sisters and doctors, with bottles number one, two, three,
    They have from typhoid and relapsing fever made us free!

The idea of the people was that they would very speedily be put back,
under British protection, in their old homes; and that full compensation
(and incidentally full revenge) for all past sufferings and losses would
be assured them. They were the allies of the victors in the war; and
there was, of course, no limit either to the power or the wealth of
their British protectors. The inability of European statesmen to make a
peace at all,[168] and the fact that the British Government, in
consequence, could not make up its mind what it wanted to do, or could
do, either with the country at large or with this relatively small
factor in it, were matters simply outside their mental horizon. "Our own
country, under British protection," was their simple and intelligible
demand; a "benevolent" government was all that British authorities could
promise them in return, and, meantime, there was nothing to do but to
wait. If you maintain anyone in idleness, you soon produce a pauper with
all a pauper's vices. Assyrians proved no exception to that rule, and
paupers they soon became, taking all that was given, and expecting more.
They declined to do even necessary camp work without payment; and the
quarrelsomeness and disposition to intrigue that have been their bane
since the beginning appeared among them again.

One thing, however, they could do which was useful--they could fight. A
double battalion of infantry, with one mounted company, was raised from
among them, and put under picked British officers. Such officers, as has
been shown many a time, can make good soldiers out of far worse material
than warlike mountaineers; and the mutual regard that is usual in such
cases soon grew up between the officers and their men. "See that lad
there?" said one of these officers to the writer. "He sprained his ankle
on the way down, but he turned up on parade with it next day hideously
swollen. He only burst out crying when I told him he must not march, and
went off to a bonesetter, who slashed it all round with a blunt knife
and rubbed in gunpowder. Then he turned up again, begging to be allowed
to march with the regiment!"

It is true that some difficulties arose. It had been intended to raise
two battalions: one of mountaineers, and one of Urmi men. The latter,
however (owing to the mistaken advice of some foreign friends), demanded
impossible conditions of service; while the mountain men declared their
readiness to go anywhere, if only they had British officers to lead
them. The double battalion was raised, in consequence, of the mountain
men alone. Then Petros Agha, who was now describing himself as the
"Commander-in-Chief of the Assyrian Army," demanded as of right that any
contingent raised should be under his orders, with such British officers
to assist him as he judged expedient. When this modest demand was
refused, he began intriguing against the project, till it became
necessary to shepherd him gently out of the camp, and suggest Baghdad
(or India) as his residence in future. The force was raised however, and
the little campaign that became necessary against the Kurds in the
summer of 1919 gave these hillmen an opportunity of getting as near to
their own conception of heaven as some of them are ever likely to get,
for they were given good rifles and good leaders, and a real chance of a
slap at their hereditary enemies!

Experienced judges were loud in praise of their marching and fighting
capacities, though admitting that they were "a trifle indiscriminate" at
times. "Those Assyrians have got into it quick," said the G.O.C. on one
occasion, noting how quickly the men opened fire in their advance up a
hill they had been ordered to clear of the enemy. "Oh no, sir," said an
A.D.C., who had experience of the creature; "I'll bet what you like it's
a pig they are firing at!" He did them but a small injustice; it was a
bear and not a boar; but having finished him, they cleared the hill.
"How did the Assyrians really do in the fighting?" asked a British
officer of a Subadar of the Gurkhas with whom they were brigaded. "Why
did you not give us the same mountain sandals that they wear?" came the
answer. "Then we should have done as well as they did!" Verily, when
Gurkhas apologise for not doing as well as the irregular, there is no
fault to find with the fighting capacity of the latter.[169]

Once, it must be admitted, a party of them found civilised campaigning
too slow, and committed the heinous crime of deserting while on active
service; but the apology they sent in (in a mixture of Syriac and
English) went far to redeem their fault. "To the beloved and reverend
Major Knight, our Commander, peace and love be multiplied," it began.
"Dear Father, be it known to you that we did not run away because we did
not wish to kill Kurds, but because we so wished to kill them; and by
the blessing of God, we have been doing that thing for ten days. Regret
to report following casualty: soldier, private, one. But we have killed
a lot more Kurds. Now, dear Father, if you will promise to punish us
yourself, we will come in. But we fear going to Mosul Gaol."

The Major promised that if they came in he would punish them all right,
and he did so; but he subsequently squared matters somehow with his
conscience, and reported that there had been a gratifying absence of
crime on active service!

The campaign had the effect of clearing what is known as the Sapna area
of Kurds; and, incidentally, the house of the English Mission at
Bibaydi, the building of which has been referred to,[170] was fortified
and occupied by British troops. Those old enemies of the writer who had
prophesied that "if that house is built we shall see British troops in
it before our beards are grey," were so delighted at the fulfilment of
their prophecy, and at the local kudos that it brought them, that they
entirely forgot their ill-feeling against the Englishman who had caused
it, and greeted him on a visit as a long-lost friend![171]

Men on the spot now held that the Assyrian problem could be solved at
once; the nation could be settled in the area that they had helped to
clear and conquer, where they would be an admirable frontier guard for
the future state of Irak. Suggestions to this effect were sent home, but
no answer was returned. Those in authority could neither allow the men
on the spot to act for themselves, nor could they produce any other
plan. It was not that they objected (that would at least have been
positive action of a sort), but they neither could, nor would, say or do
anything; and so time passed until local circumstances (notably the
impossibility of keeping British troops dangling in the hills till folk
in comfortable offices at home had made up what they pleased to call
their minds) made a withdrawal inevitable, and a promising scheme

By a very unfortunate decision the Assyrian contingent was disbanded
shortly after this, owing to some breaches of discipline in the corps.
Men who were at least being kept from idleness were thus returned to
Baqubah, where a policy of pauperising was sapping all the morale of the
nation; and where Assyrian and British, tied up together under
uncomfortable conditions for too long, were rapidly getting on one
another's nerves, and each showing the other their worst side! About the
same time, too, the nation was deprived of its titular leader by the
death of Polus Mar Shimun, their patriarch. Tuberculosis brought on by
hardship had become worse in the dust-laden air of Baqubah, and a
removal to the purer air of Sheikh Mattai[172] by Mosul had been too
late to stop the disease. A flicker of improvement at the last had
encouraged him as is so often the case, and he returned to his own
people, but only to die. Meantime Authority, both in Mesopotamia and
England, was getting very anxious to be rid of the Assyrians--as is
frequently the case, when a man knows that he has neglected a good
opportunity of getting a thing done. And it was at this juncture, when
the nation had no titular head and all were anxious to be rid of an
incubus, that Agha Petros came forward with a new scheme. Somewhat to
the north of the area occupied by the British was a stretch of
relatively fertile land, extending from the plain of Gawar to the town
of Ushnu, which had once been largely Christian and was now practically
derelict. To the east it stretched nearly to the Urmi plain; on the west
it bordered on the Hakkiari mountains. Petros proposed to lead up the
whole nation, duly armed, and to occupy this "Gawar-Ushnu" area. There
they would be in a state of practical independence under his rule, and
those Urmi folk who wished to return to their own homes could do so,
while Hakkiari would be open to the mountaineers. The fighting men could
go up first and take seizin[AA?] of the land, and the women and
non-combatants could follow after a little.

The scheme was not impossible, provided that the people had enough of
cohesion to unite on any scheme at all, and Petros enough of the
statesman in him to enable him to execute any. If feasible, it certainly
had the merit of providing an Anglophile buffer state just where one was
most wanted; and as such, and as offering some means of getting the
refugees off the shoulders of the British taxpayer, it was accepted by
the Mesopotamian authorities, and urged with more or less of authority
on the nation at large. Under this pressure, the bulk of the nation
accepted it; though it is to be feared that one of its merits in their
eyes was its indefiniteness, and the fact that it could be interpreted
by everybody in his own sense. An Assyrian state with a measure
(undefined) of British protection was what everyone wanted; but everyone
also assumed that the area of the supposed state would include his own
old home. And it is to be feared that Petros Agha[173] got a large
measure of his support by promises to the effect that everybody should
have just what he wanted, if only he was willing to come up with his
true national leader to get it!

Even so the Patriarchal House, and certain sections of the mountaineers
as well, rejected the scheme, owing to their rooted distrust of Petros
and all his works. This, however, was disregarded. The "House," left
leaderless by the death of the Patriarch, and by the fact that Surma
Khanim (possessor of the best brain in it) had gone to England to put
the case of her nation before the Government[174] was just then at a
discount in the nation and had left the camp for Mosul. It was therefore
ignored. It was assumed that the recalcitrant sections would follow with
the rest when they found themselves alone; and so preparations were made
for the breaking-up of the Baqubah camp, and the transfer of its inmates
to Mindan (north-east of Mosul), which could be the base of the new

Assyrian ill-luck, however, dogged the scheme throughout. Time was of
the essence of the plan, if several thousand people had to be got up to
a high tableland, and there to provide food and shelter for themselves
before the winter set in, and one cause of delay after another
supervened. There was a change in the central authority first, for Sir
Arnold Wilson, acting Chief Commissioner, was not only removed from
office, but practically dismissed from the service of the King.
Politicians at home found it convenient to make the good man on the spot
the scapegoat for the fact that the policy they had approved was more
expensive than they had anticipated, and were full of virtuous
indignation because he did not effect in Mesopotamia the drastic
economies which they could not themselves enforce in England. A new
Chief Commissioner (Sir Percy Cox) was soon in the field; but the change
implied delay, and the new man had not (owing perhaps to his home
instructions) that power of giving a quick decision on a question which
had been one of the strong points of his predecessor. Sir Percy,
however, approved the general lines of the policy laid down, and the
move to Mindan was in full swing when the Arab rising of 1920 put a stop
to all action. All fighting men and all transport were imperatively
needed elsewhere, and the Assyrian problem had to wait.

The story of the rising itself does not concern us, though the fighting
men of the Assyrians were actively engaged in it in support of the
Government. Men began to ask what new form of lunacy had possessed those
in authority, that they had disbanded an existing force composed of such
good material, and so absolutely trustworthy. It is true that some of
the fighting was pure self-defence, for the Baqubah camp was left to
look after itself, in the assurance that Assyrians could do so, but in
forgetfulness of the fact that they had been disarmed! For some time the
place was in real peril, particularly when a train loaded with rifles
and ammunition for its defence was derailed some miles from camp.

The force raised in the camp, however, though then armed with a
"scratch" armament, rescued the train and its contents,[175] and from
that time forward the camp was in a state of safety. Skirmishes took
place near it, and after one of these the combatants boasted to their
British officer of the number of Arabs whom they had accounted for.
"Oh, rubbish!" said the officer. "I know how many bullets go astray, and
you need not tell me you hit as many as that." The disgusted
mountaineers said nothing; but after the next action laid out before a
rather horrified Englishman a large number of human ears--right ears all
of them. "Look here, sahib! You can't say we didn't hit those fellows,
anyhow!" Those who already had been transported to Mindan, though
outside the real area of the rising, were not entirely deprived of their
share of the fun. A disorderly tribe of Kurds, the Surchi, thought that
so good an opportunity of making trouble ought not to be missed, and
undertook a raid in the Akra district. The Assyrians had the
satisfaction of sweeping the raiders into the Zab, and of thus restoring
order in that corner of the world.

While this was being done, steps had been taken in Baqubah camp which
tended to split up an already divided nation still further. Polus Mar
Shimun, the Patriarch, had died as stated, and the larger half of the
nation had been removed, under the leadership of Petros Agha, to Mindan.
Those who remained took that opportunity of electing and consecrating
Ishai, son of David d'Mar Shimun and nephew of Polus and Benyamin, to
the Patriarchate--the new prelate being a child of twelve years old! It
is true that, according to the old "_natar cursiya_ system"[176] this
lad was the lawful heir of his departed uncle; but even so the election,
according to that very tribal custom to which they were appealing, was
an affair for the whole nation, and not of a minority in it. The
electing party looked on themselves as the "faithful remnant," who
remained loyal to the old head of the tribes when the bulk of them had
gone off after a new leader who was not of the Sacred House; and also
urged, not too consistently, that the "Mindan seceders" had, in fact,
knowledge of the proceeding, and made no objection to it. In spite of
this defence, the step was a disastrous and improper one; a decision
that, in the opinion of the wiser of the party responsible, would not
have been taken "had Surma _Khanim_ been here."[177] It divided the
nation when union was the one necessity, and degraded the Patriarch into
a mere party leader; while at the same time it gave a fresh lease of
life to just those ancient anomalies (such as the hereditary
Patriarchate and the temporal power of the holder of that office) which
men of experience saw had outlived their usefulness, and for which they
were seeking to provide a decent euthanasia. However, the thing was done
and could not be undone, though the British Director of Repatriation
marked his disapproval of a step which he did not feel entitled to
forbid, by giving an order that no British officer was to attend the
consecration ceremony.

The Arab rising flickered out in due course, but the summer had passed
before the rising did; and when the question of the Assyrian settlement
came up again, those who knew the country shook their heads over the
prospect of moving masses of population at such a season of the year.
October had begun--the month that sees the first snows on the hills--and
there were signs of an early winter. Warnings to that effect, however,
were disregarded, and the Assyrian force that was to go up and clear the
ground under Petros Agha was concentrated at Akra.[178] and made ready
for its march. It numbered about 5,000 men--mountaineers and Urmi men
combined--and made an impressive show under a multitude of cross-bearing
banners. High titles abounded, for Petros as Commander-in-Chief was at
least liberal in this direction. A "Field-Marshal" served under him,
sporting crossed batons on his khaki-clad shoulders, with Generals,
Brigadier-Generals, and Colonels by the score. But if titles were
plenty, experience was far to seek; and considering what a tremendous
risk was being run in sending up the force at all, at so late a date as
the end of October, there was a marvellous casualness shown about the
whole affair. Those in authority seemed to be only anxious to be rid of
the people and the problem together, and to act on the assumption that
if once they could be got over the boundary all would go well, or that
at least the British Government would not be concerned if it did not.
Good rifles were provided, with ammunition, some mountain-guns, and
plenty of mules for transport. There was also a big dump of provisions,
and medical stores in abundance; but when the Assyrians wanted to leave
these behind, those who were there to protect these wild people from
their own folly and ignorance allowed them to do so; and the force moved
off with not so much as a bandage, with provisions for a short seven
days, and no means of securing a regular supply after that. In fact,
these people who were in theory to go up to a land, occupy and colonise
it, and maintain themselves there for a winter, were allowed to go off
with the equipment of a raid and nothing else!

The British officers who were to accompany the force "in a purely
advisory capacity" (three British Lieutenants, to wit) made some
representations, urging in particular the provision of proper
pack-saddles for the mountain-guns sent with the force. They were told
the guns could go on their own carriages, as it would be a stiff pull
over Akra Dagh, but plain sailing after that! A man who can stand at
Akra, and think that the rugged ridge behind that town is the only
obstacle between him and Gawar Plain, has the strangest ideas of the
land he is sending his subordinates into!

No doubt Petros was to blame. An Assyrian who wants to get to a place
will tell you that the road is easy, with the gayest defiance of facts;
and men who will go off with a small raiding party, with no equipment
save rifles and the clothes they wear, have not the least notion that
"an army cannot charge in and out again like a troop of hussars." Those
who directed this "Repatriation" were supposed to know something of that
most difficult of problems, land transport in country where no
mechanical means are available; but they did not force the Assyrians to
benefit by their knowledge.

The frontier was crossed; the Zab, swollen by recent rain, was crossed
also, though with some difficulty in the face of opposition from the
local Kurds, of the Barzan and Zibar tribes. These were swept aside,
however, though in the action Petros rather amused the British officers
by the fact that he would persist in firing his few guns at the mountain
landscape at large. "Hadn't you better wait till you have a target of
some sort to fire at?" they urged. "You won't hurt the rocks, even if
that is your object." "The noise will impress the Kurds," said Petros,
and went on wasting his small supply of artillery cartridges. Barzan
village was stormed and burned, the only remarkable piece of loot
secured therein being a copy of the Book of Common Prayer. It bore the
stamp of a Canadian parish--"St. Luke, North Battleford, Saskatchewan.
_Not to be taken away._" Had the little book been able to speak, it
might have told of strange adventures.

All this took time, however, and provisions began to fail. While the
rations lasted, there had been little looting, if any; but when men are
hungry it takes better discipline than that of such a force as this to
keep them to their ranks and duty. Also, day after day of pitiless cold
rain (such as is common in late autumn in this land) began to tell on
the health and spirits of the Urmi plainsmen, who were quite unused to
such conditions of travel as these. Many broke down altogether, more
than 100 died on the way--the mortality among the animals being also
very heavy--while hundreds abandoned rifles and gear, and turned back to
the refuge of the British once more. The subsequent comment of the
British officers on this proceeding was terse and forcible. Stripped of
some rather unquotable verbiage, it amounts to the statement that a
Tyari man may be as big a thief as heaven ever made, but at least he
will leave his head before his rifle! In fact, one of the two wings into
which the force was divided, that composed of Urmi men, had lost all
spirit and "go" before they were half-way through the mountains. Had
they had to face an enemy of any enterprise, they would have been like
sheep before the butcher.

At this moment news came from the mountaineers of Tyari and Tkhuma
which, though different enough in character from that current among the
plainsmen, was at least equally fatal as far as the success of the
expedition was concerned. These clansmen formed the left, or western, of
the two columns of advance, and when the defeated Zibari Kurds retired
in the westerly direction, they had pursued them till they had lost
touch with their Urmi companions. Now they were in their own mountains,
free from all control, and well armed; their faces were toward their own
homes, and also toward the homes of their hereditary enemies.

What did they care for Urmi men and the settlement of Persia, when
balanced against such a chance of loot and vengeance? Off they went on
the raid, seeing in every Kurd a foe, in every village lawful prize.
Nerwa and Rikan were turned out and burned, Tyari men being quite
reckless of the fact that in all Kurdistan none had been so orderly and
so loyal to the British as the men of these two districts! Word had gone
to the Agha of Chal that he was to cut off the retreat of the fleeing
Zibaris, and he had come out, more or less as an ally of the Assyrians,
to do so. Either from deliberate treachery, or merely from the
indiscipline natural in such a force, troops of the Tyari and Tkhuma men
got round his flank and into his villages, and Chal also went up in
flame and smoke. A glance at the map will show that their wild career
had now brought them again to the Zab, and to the district of Berwar.
Mira Reshid,[179] the biggest brigand in the district, now held this
land as representing British Authority (having undergone, we hope, a
change of soul like Petros Agha); and he now gathered his forces and
held the bridges over the Zab in the name of King George, while a most
naturally indignant British Political officer was hurrying up from
Dohuk with such police as he could gather. The mountaineers' wild career
was now stayed, and like schoolboys who have broken bounds, anticipatory
of dire consequences, but yet feeling that the "rag" had been worth it,
they obeyed the angry master's orders, and returned to the plains and
British authority. The Urmi men, feeling that they could do nothing by
themselves, had also drifted back; and Petros Agha himself, having
entirely lost his army, found that he and his "personal staff" could do
nothing but follow their example. He reported on arrival that he had not
been able to do what he intended, but he was sure that the Government
would be pleased, "because the moral effect upon the Kurds was so
extremely good!"[180]

As it happened Government was anything but pleased; the whole expedition
had failed, the money spent on it was wasted, the problem that they had
hoped solved was still on their hands, and the Kurds, whom it was most
important just then to keep quiet and contented, were all in a state of
entirely justifiable suspicion and wrath. How could they be expected to
believe that this was not what Government had intended? Those
responsible for the arrangements that had broken down so utterly were,
of course, furious, and planned condign punishment for the guilty
hillmen; but these were vetoed by the Political authorities, who perhaps
felt that, whatever the guilt of the men of Tyari, the blame did not
lie entirely with them! The camp at Mindan was reorganised and set going
once more, and harassed authority set itself to consider what could be
done with a problem difficult enough before, and now tangled worse than
ever. One thing only was clear, that in any case it was hopeless to
attempt anything till spring; and so refugees and British, each
extremely cross with the other, settled down for the winter in camp at
Mindan, with nothing settled but the extreme difficulty of a settlement!

Government fell back on a scheme of "settlement by infiltration," or
putting the people on the sites of villages that had "gone vacant" in
time past, either through the war, or by virtue of the general decline
of population during the later years of the Ottoman Empire. It was, of
course, not the "enclave" that had once been planned for them and which
they had been given the opportunity of securing, nor was it "their own
country" for most of them, and they did not at all like the notion of
being put where they could go, with Moslem neighbours and sometimes
Moslem landlords.

Their behaviour towards these was not, it must be owned, altogether
conciliatory. There were cases of villagers put under a particularly
good landlord (and a good Moslem gentleman _is_ a gentleman), who
accepted large advances from him on condition of promising to reap his
crops at a certain wage-rate in harvest, and then (with true up-to-date
spirit) struck for a large advance at the last moment! Even then the
landlord was not anxious to take steps. It was, he said, a point of
honour with him: he had never put any tenant, of any religion, in the
law courts yet.

"Neither shall you now, Agha," said the local Political officer; "but
the Government has its honour, too, and these fellows shall carry out a
contract to which the Government was a party."

In another case, too, one had to admit that the Christians were asking
for trouble. It is not neighbourly to kill a pig, cut him up, and put
the _disjecta membra_ of him in and about the only spring from which
your Mussulman neighbours have to draw their water!

Delay followed delay, it seeming to be the policy of the Government to
keep those who were getting on one another's nerves tied together in
idleness. Home authority said that it would give a "block grant" of
£500,000 to settle the whole Assyrian problem, but would not allow those
on the spot to get to work at the plan they had prepared, being
apparently under the impression that when you are settling people "on
the land" they can begin farming operations on it at any season. "I am
willing to tackle Joshua's job," said a harassed official, "and try to
settle these tribes in a promised land of sorts. Still, unlike Joshua, I
cannot stop the sun, and the summer is advancing now!"

At last permission was received, and preparations commenced for the
movement of the people, tribe by tribe, to villages on and about the
northern border of Irak. The fact that the border was still undefined,
and the only thing clear to everyone on the spot was that the line
suggested by the unratified Treaty of Sèvres was unworkable, added yet
another element of confusion to the problem. One person who was doing
his efficient best to "queer the whole show" was Petros Agha. When
inquiry was made into the fiasco of November, 1920, that worthy had got
off at least as cheaply as he deserved, being acquitted of anything
worse than incompetence and gross mismanagement. There was nothing to
show that he intended Tyari and Tkhuma to go off and raid as they did,
when he assigned to them just that part of his line from which it was
easiest to do so! Thus, he had not been put into prison with others, and
was using his freedom to intrigue against any plan of settling his
people which was not under his control.

His dream now (and how far the man believes in his own dreams is a
problem beyond our solving) was of an "independent Assyria," a thin
strip that should stretch between Turkish and Irak territory, from Urmi
in Persia to Alexandretta on the Mediterranean, the whole to be under
French protection! This he put forward at the moment when the French
were deciding that even Cilicia was beyond their power to hold; and he
perpetually urged all of his nation to have nothing to do with any
British schemes for their disposal, for was not he, Petros Agha, just
coming back with boundless supplies of French rifles and French
napoleons, to lead them back in triumph to their own land once more?
That at least was the song sung by his agents in Mindan camp in his
name, and no suggestion as to the desirability of shepherding the man
out of the country met with any response. In particular, his influence
was thrown against the most hopeful element in the Government
scheme--viz., the reconstitution of the Assyrian contingent. The attempt
to raise an Arab force in Mesopotamia was not looking too promising just
then, and military men were proposing to collect afresh the force that
they had so unfortunately thrown away before, and to use the best
fighting element in Irak in the defence of the land. It was to be as
numerous a force as the nation could raise, and to be officered by
British officers.[181] Petros passed the word round (or his agents in
camp did it for him), that no man who regarded Petros as his leader must
enlist, and Government would not allow those charged with recruiting for
the force to stop this counter-Government propaganda! It says something
for the possibilities of using this nationality in the one way it can be
really of use, that under these circumstances some 600 men were
enrolled. On the final removal of Petros (see below) this number went up
at once to over 2,000. It was only British advice, given for the sake of
the people, that fixed that limit.

However, the wheels continued to revolve, if slowly, and with a vast
amount of creaking and of worry to political officers who had the work
of settling some 10,000 recalcitrant people. This trifling job was
thrown in as a sort of additional faggot on the top of an already heavy
load! Arrangements were come to with the Kurds of Berwar for the return
of the Christians to that district, and to that of Ashitha beyond it, it
being held that if that country was perhaps not strictly in Irak, at
least it had never been efficiently in Turkey! The local Kurds, indeed,
behaved quite unexpectedly well, seeming to regard the presence of their
old Christian neighbours as a part of the established disorder of
things, which had a sort of vested right to be restored. One was
reminded of certain married couples who lead a "cat and dog life" in one
another's society, but who yet both crave for the accustomed irritation
if ever it is withdrawn! They recognised the right of the returning
Christians to their old lands and villages, and even to a half of the
crops that were in the ground, in places where the land was being
cultivated by Kurds after the Christians had left it. Sometimes there
were difficulties to settle, but surprisingly seldom.

In one case, some nomad Kurds who owed no allegiance to anybody had
developed ambitions to try a more settled life, and had sat them down in
a little group of villages known as the Halamun district, far away from
anywhere. These fellows showed no eagerness to clear out and let the
lawful owners return. It took a visit from the assistant Political
Officer and a long argument to put matters straight here, and matters at
one time got so strained that the Kurds began debating whether it would
not be better to kill the English intruder there and then. This matter
was solved by the A.P.O. (who quite understood the matter under debate)
coolly going to bed, and to sleep, in the midst of them, and so leaving
them to talk the interesting problem over. When he woke up in the
morning the Kurds were ready with a compromise. They would turn out of
three of the four villages under debate, but wanted to retain one. This
was agreed to. So matters went on. A pass through a seemingly impassable
range is always found as you approach it. Caravan after caravan of
tribesmen (each caravan perhaps 1,000 strong) was moved in turn from
Mindan camp and up to the distributing centre at Dohuk, whence they
could be forwarded, after considerable grumbling, to the destination
which was marked out for them. Every man, woman, and child received the
Government grant of 120 rupees at Dohuk, and sometimes there were
unforeseen claimants. One lady walked in triumphant with a baby that had
not been there when she left Mindan two days before. She had simply gone
aside from the caravan as it travelled, produced this infant, and then
put it on the top of the bundle she was carrying, and so finished the
day's journey! She wanted the Government to make the usual "capitation
grant" to this new arrival. Strictly, he (or she) was not entitled to
it, as not having been on the roll at the time of the departure from
Mindan! Still, a point was stretched in this case.

The tribesmen were, of course, armed for self-defence, receiving a quota
of rifles; and a very delicate business it was, in the light of recent
events, to determine the proportion of guns that would enable them to
defend themselves, and at the same time not tempt them to go a-raiding
against their neighbours! This danger was a real one, as may be seen
from the request of one Tabriz, an Amazonian lady who had led her own
retainers in person through all the fighting, and who now specially
demanded two rifles for herself. "Why two, Tabriz?" "One to kill the
Turkish Agha of Chal, and the other to kill the man who killed my
brother, and who is now in your gendarmerie!"

In spite of such grateful flashes of humour the business was a weary
one, hearing the same sort of grumbles from an endless succession of
people over and over again, and trying to get them to see that, when
they could not get what they would like, it was better to take what they
could get! One thought with profound admiration of Moses. We had not 1
per cent of the mass of people whom he had to manage for forty years;
and yet--so far as is recorded--he only lost his temper once, and then
only hit out at the rock instead of his tormentors! Would that we could
say as much.

Ultimately, the thing got done somehow, and the people put where, given
honest work and fair luck, they had at least a chance of living. The
writer, as a reward for his small share in the work, found himself
identified, not with Moses or Joshua, but with a much humbler Scriptural
character. A flippant friend declared that he had always wanted to make
the acquaintance of "that Egyptian" (Acts xxi. 38) "who made an uproar,
and led out into the wilderness 4,000 men that were murderers," and now
at last he had done so! The final stage of the work consisted in the
settlement of the Patriarchal family in the "English Mission House" at
Bibaydi (the property of the Archbishop of Canterbury), which was
repaired and made ready for their reception. During the later stages of
the _volks-wanderung_, they had remained rather in the background,
seeming to acquiesce in a rather unfortunate manner in their own
supersession by Petros Agha and his partisans. It was, therefore, a
satisfaction to see them settled in a place where they could resume
their proper work for their people; and where the old loyalty has a
chance of crystallising afresh, though perhaps in a new form, round the
ancient ecclesiastical throne they represent. The ultimate removal of
Petros Agha[182] from the land, and the arrangement of working
understandings with the local Kurds, both help in the same direction,
and the boy-patriarch shows signs (under the influence of his aunt and
guardian) of developing on sound lines. Indications that the human boy
in him is not entirely swamped by his office (the fact that the
Patriarch has been known to snowball official callers suggests joyous
visions of what might be at episcopal palaces in England) will probably
be thought, at least by English folk, absolutely healthy symptoms!

The mountaineers were thus settled in a place where they could live,
even if they had to fight famine, local diseases, and domestic foes, and
their settlement provides a centre to which scattered refugees may
rally. With the Urmi sections, however, it is a different case. It was
simply impossible for British authority to guarantee protection to these
folk if they returned to their old home in Persia, and equally
impossible for the Persian "Government" to protect them when there.

The only effective authority in the Urmi district is the ruffian Simco,
and the feeling against the return of the expelled Christians is far
more pronounced in Persia than in Kurdistan. In Kurdistan the war was
simply a large instance of the feuds that had always been fought out in
the land since time began. In Persia it was an unprecedented, and
largely successful, rising of an inferior and subject race! This is a
thing far harder to forgive. Thus, in Kurdistan the Kurds were ready to
clear out of "Christian lands" that they had actually occupied and
tilled; in Persia, the Mussulmans were ploughing the Assyrian village
sites, and building houses on the vineyards, in their readiness to face
any loss and labour, if only all trace of the Christians could be

The British authorities declared that they could not repatriate men of
Urmi. Every individual would receive a "capitation grant" similar to
that given to others, and every family would be given lands, in Irak, if
they would accept them. If they returned to Persia, it must be as
individual Persian subjects at their own risk. It was a hard saying, but
one does not see what else they could possibly say.

Even so, the drawing force of their own land was too strong to be
resisted in many cases. "The earth that bore us lies lightest on our
bones," and some thousands of Urmi people (there were some 10,000 of
them in all) sought to return to their own land. Many settled in
Mesopotamian towns, and found work there, but hardly any accepted the
lands in Irak that the Government would give. Nothing is harder than
helping folk! At first there were difficulties about the reception of
even individuals at the frontier, but this was overcome, and several
thousand returning refugees drifted to centres like Hamadan and Tabriz
(where others of their co-nationals had preceded them), there to wait
and live as they could, till fate should open a way for them to return
to their own. One must admit with deep regret that, for these people,
the result of joining the Entente in the war has been the utter
extinction of a community of Christians who trace back their life to the
Magi who came to worship at the manger of Bethlehem. Even the life of
their mountain brethren is not assured. If war, famine, and disease
shall spare them, and if a British democracy that fought the war to
secure the safety of small nations shall not make peace at the price of
handing over a small allied nation to its avowed and bitter enemy, then
it may, perhaps, be allowed the chance of doing what it desires to do,
and of continuing to serve England in the only way in which it can
render service. But that matter is not settled at the date of writing.

The Assyrian settlement then has been, like the Mesopotamian settlement
of which it is a part--like the whole Peace for that matter--a "botched
job." A piece of work that might have been finely done has, in fact,
been just patched up to go on somehow: because the Democracy that was
going to make the world safe is too tired to finish its work; and
because it was unwilling or unable to make up its mind as to what it
wanted at all.

The spectacle is a pitiable one, only redeemed by the magnificent work
done in Mesopotamia by the officers who now seem likely to meet the
usual reward of those who serve the British Government well!

Turkey in 1918 was willing to accept absolutely any terms that Britain
laid down, with thanks to Allah that they were not more severe. "We
don't even care who governs us now," said a Turk of position to the
writer (then a prisoner in Turkish hands in Anatolia). "No conceivable
Government can be as bad as our own, and we only hope that the British
will take us over." Then, because our "statesmen" did not know what they
wanted, came delay, delay, delay: till the Turk could gather his forces
again, and show himself, as usual, a good fighter, but uncivilised and
uncivilisable; absolutely incapable of recognising that a _rayah_ has
or can have rights, and equally incapable of seeing anything wrong in
his habit of dealing with even the suspicion of "treason" by massacring
every man and ravishing every woman! There may have been some excuse for
maintaining him in Europe before the war, when to abolish him meant the
outbreak of one. Now, after it, he has been maintained to be the seed of
future trouble, by statesmen who proclaimed the "war to abolish war";
and on their heads rests the guilt of the future massacres that will
surely arise after the gigantic lesson they have given to the world that
massacres can be committed with impunity, if only they are big and
horrible enough!

The war was "to make the world safe for Democracy." Has Democracy shown
itself capable of dealing with the world? Its weaknesses are, first,
that it cannot trust its agents. No race on earth has such
administrators as the British; and the writer, who has been privileged
to live with some of them and see their working, only hopes some day to
be able to tell the story of what he has seen, that England may have at
least the chance of knowing what manner of men they are who serve her in
despised Mesopotamia. Yet, because one man in a hundred may show himself
no true sahib, and may fall under temptations that he has never been
trained to bear, Democracy at home hampers the ninety-nine good men for
that reason; and will not allow the man on the spot, who knows, to act
on his own judgment in crises, without delaying reference to those who
neither know nor can know.

Second, Democracy, as represented by its leaders at home, gives pledges
lightly, and abandons them. "Its vows are lightly spoken; its faith is
hard to bind." In the East, decision and firmness come first. A governor
who has these will always be respected, even if he be cruel as no
Englishman can be. Let him be just as well, and he is worshipped. But
how can he be firm and decisive when those at home will not let him act
for himself, and send him ever-varying orders from Downing Street?

It is this conduct in the British Government; this failure, not in the
men on the spot, but in those at home, that calls out all the worst
qualities in Turk and Arab, Armenian and Assyrian. Few people know
better than the writer how annoying those latter types can be, but they
can respect and serve a Government that knows its own mind. It is
because of this evil spirit that we have ourselves evoked that some now
clamour for the complete evacuation of Mesopotamia.

This is a claim to which in honour we cannot yield. Even apart from the
guardianship that we have definitely accepted under treaty, we have
contracted a moral obligation that it is impossible for us to disown. We
did not make war on the inhabitants of Mesopotamia; we came to free them
from the domination of the Turk. Having so freed them, we cannot
honourably leave them till fresh authority has arisen to control the
disorderly elements that swarm in every quarter of that land. That was
our pledge to those who have stood by us through good and ill.

We have cast out one unclean spirit; now, if we leave the house empty,
seven other spirits more wicked than the Turk will enter in, and the
last state of Mesopotamia will be worse than the first.

_Printed by_ LOWE & BRYDONE (PRINTERS) LTD., _London, N.W. 1_.


     =Abba.= An Arab cloak. See p. 9.

     =Agha.= "Master." The title of a petty chieftain, chiefly in use
     among the Kurds.

     =Araba.= A light carriage. See p. 6. The driver is an =Arabaji=.

     =Ashiret.= "Feudatory." See p. 167.

     =Baita= (or Bait). A living room (Syriac).

     =Beg= (or Bey). Perhaps equivalent to "Honourable." A title given to
     Europeans as well as to local chiefs.

     =Belai.= Perhaps equivalent to Belvedere. See p. 142.

     =Binbashi.= Lit. the commander of 1000 men. A "Major" (Turkish),
     often written Bimbashi, for euphony.

     =Birader.= "Brother" (Kurdish).

     =Cadi.= "Judge" or "Magistrate."

     =Capitulations.= The charters defining the privileges of foreign
     residents in Turkey. Originally granted by the Sultans of the
     sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and confirmed in their present
     form in 1870.

     =Chôl.= The desert. See p. 61.

     =Dagh.= "Mountain" (Turkish).

     =Deir.= "Monastery" (Syriac).

     =Diwan.= Lit. "Sofa" or "Däis"; hence an "Audience" or "Reception."
     =Diwan Khana=, "A Reception Room."

     =Effendi.= "Sir." A title given especially to Europeans.

     =Fedai.= An Armenian terrorist. See p. 245.

     =Firman.= An Imperial rescript.

     =Franga.= "Frank"; i.e. European.

     =Giaour.= An "Infidel"; i.e. one who is not a Moslem.

     =Haj.= The obligatory pilgrimage to Mecca, which is incumbent upon
     all strict Moslems. =Haji=, one who has performed the pilgrimage.
     Shiahs go also on "Haj" to the tomb of Hossein at Kerbela.

     =Hakim.= A physician.

     =Hamidié.= The battalions of irregular soldiers embodied by Abdul
     Hamid II.

     =Hegira.= The flight of Mohammed from Mecca in 622 A.D.

     =Imaum.= Properly one who leads the Responses in the public services
     in the Mosques. A Moslem divine, learned in the =Sheriat= or Sacred

     =Iyba.= "Shame"; "Infra dig."

     =Jebel.= "Mountain" (Arabic).

     =Jehad.= A "Holy War," undertaken for the defence of Islam against

     =Kaimakam.= A Turkish district governor of the third rank, inferior
     to a =Vali= and a =Mutaserif=. =Kaimakamlik=, the district governed by a

     =Kala.= "Castle."

     =Kalima.= The Moslem Confession of Faith.

     =Katar.= "Mule." =Katarji.= A "Muleteer."

     =Kavass.= An armed attendant, usually attached to a foreign

     =Keleg.= A raft buoyed on inflated skins. See pp. 137 and 340.
     =Kelegji=, the man who works it.

     =Khan.= An "Inn" (Turkish). =Khanji=, an "Inn-keeper."

     =Khan.= "Chief" (Persian). A title of respect.

     =Malik.= "Chief" (Syriac). Akin to =Melek=, "King." A title in use
     among the Mountain Syrians as about equivalent to =Agha= among the

     =Mar.= "Lord." Fem. =Mart.= (Syriac). A title given by
     the Syrians to the Saints and Bishops of their Church.

     =Mejidié.= A Turkish silver coin of the value of twenty =piastres=.
     Equivalent at present rates to about 3s. 9d.

     =Millet.= Any subject religious sect officially recognized as
     existing in the Ottoman Empire. See pp. 80 and 89.

     =Mira.= "Ruler." A form of =Amir= or =Emir= (Arabic). A title given to
     the Chief of the Yezidis, and to certain prominent Chiefs among the

     =Mohurram.= The ten days' mourning observed by the Shiah Moslems in
     memory of Hassan and Hosein, the sons of Ali: particularly in
     memory of the latter, slain by his rival Yezid at Kerbela in 680.

     =Mollah.= A Moslem priest.

     =Mudir.= A Turkish local governor of the fourth and lowest rank;
     inferior to a =Vali=, a =Mutaserif=, and a =Kaimakam=.

     =Mutaserif.= A Turkish provincial governor of the second rank;
     inferior to a =Vali.=

     =Piastre.= A Turkish coin, worth about 2-1/4d.

     =Pshitta.= The ancient Syriac version of the Holy Scriptures.

     =Qasha.= A Christian priest (Syriac).

     =Rabban.= Fem. =Rabbanta= (Syriac). A Christian who has adopted certain
     Monastic obligations. See pp. 113 and 270.

     =Rabbi.= "Teacher" (Syriac). The title usually given by the Syrians
     to the members of the Archbishop's Assyrian Mission.

     =Rais.= The head man of a village.

     =Ramazan.= The great Moslem Fast, lasting one lunar month; during
     which time no food may be taken from sunrise to sunset.

     =Rayat.= "Subject" or "Serf"; see p. 167.

     =Regie.= An inter-national trading company, which rents the tobacco
     monopoly from the Ottoman Government.

     =Sam.= The "Poison Wind" of the desert. See pp. 62 and 339.

     =Santon.= A Moslem saint.

     =Serai.= Strictly a "yard" or "quadrangle"; hence a house which is
     built around a quadrangle: often "Government House."

     =Seyyid.= A descendant of the Prophet Mohammed.

     =Shamasha.= A Christian deacon (Syriac).

     =Sheikh.= Lit. "Elder." A title given especially to Moslem chiefs
     possessing high religious authority.

     =Sheriat.= The "Sacred Law," as enunciated in the Koran.

     =Shiah.= An important sect among the Moslems, dominant in Persia and
     India, who maintain that Ali, Mohammed's son-in-law, was his
     legitimate and hereditary successor, and who accordingly repudiate
     the authority of Ali's three predecessors in the Khalifate, Abu
     Bekr, Omar, and Othman.

     =Sufi.= A Moslem mystic of somewhat pantheistic sympathies.

     =Sunni.= The Orthodox Moslems, dominant in Turkey, who regard Abu
     Bekr, Omar, and Othman as being legitimate Khalifs and assign them
     precedence over Ali.

     =Tashnak.= The Armenian Revolutionary Society. See p. 245.

     =Tel.= A prehistoric barrow or tumulus.

     =Vali.= A Provincial Governor-General. A Turkish governor of the
     highest rank.

     =Vilayet.= The province under the jurisdiction of a =Vali=.

     =Yezidi.= See chap. iv, pp. 87-110.

     =Zaptieh.= A policeman of the Turkish constabulary. See p. 47.

     =Ziaret.= A Moslem place of pilgrimage; usually the tomb of a saint.



Abbassides, Khalifs at Baghdad, 4, 115-6 _n._, 349;
  their last living descendant, 132

Abdi Agha (of the Sindiguli Kurds), his stronghold at Tanina, 311-2;
  his "hint" to the men of Amadia, 325-6

Abdul Hamid II, Sultan of Turkey, incidents of his rule, 37, 38;
  arms the Kurds as _Hamidié_ irregulars, 168;
  countenances the Armenian Massacres, 232, 292;
  his deposition deplored in Mosul, 79;
  his reverence for Sheikh Abd-l-Kadr of Kirkuk, 343;
  his endorsement of Ali's _Firman_ at Adeljivas, 243;
  _lèse-majesté_ in the expression, H_{2}O., 226

Abdurrahman the Kurd, his robbery of our messenger, 331;
  his imprisonment and release, 331-3

Abgarus, King of Osroëne, legend of, 18-9

Ablahad the Deacon, his exploits and death, 192-4

Abraham the Patriarch, claimed as tutelary saint of Urfa, 22-3;
  teaches his descendants to offer sacrifices, 187

Adeljivas, the Armenian priest of, and his hereditary privilege, 242-3

Akra, 128-33; 401-2

Aleppo, 1-7;
  origin of name, 22 _n._

Alexander the Great, his victory at Arbela, 115;
  his design to fix his capital at Babylon, 356-7;
  his theatre there, _ib._

Ali (the fourth Khalif), his _Firman_ to the family
   of the Armenian priest at Adeljivas, 242-3

Ali Beg (Mira of the Yezidis), 93;
  his castle, 106-7;
  his authority over his followers, 107-8;
  murdered by his successor, 108-9

Ali Ihsan, Turkish General, 382-3

Ali Riza (_Vali_ of Van), interviewed by David, the Fedai informer, 252;
  his steps to suppress the Fedais, 252-7

Alkosh, 116-7

Amadia, 43-4, 321-33, 337;
  _Kai makam_ of, endeavours to expel us from Sapna, 324-5;
  our dealings with him concerning Abdurrahman the Kurd, 331-3

Amida, _see_ Diarbekr

Anastasius, Emperor, gives orders for the building of Daras, 49

Antioch, 5;
  seat of Patriarchate, 44-6

Arabs, costume of, 9-10;
  encampment of, 65-7;
  unruliness of, 65, 85-6, 99, 399-401

Aram, chief of the Fedais at Van, captured, 256-7;
  Amnestied, and let loose again, 258-9

Ararat, Aghri Dagh, 25, 335

Archbishop's Assyrian Mission, _see_ Preface;
  _also_, 153, 262, 271, 321

Armenians, their national characteristics, 237-9;
  their conquest by the Turks, 238;
  their condition under the Turks, 35-6, 239-45;
  their perverseness, 240-1;
  massacred in 1895 at Urfa, 17 _n._;
  also at Diarbekr, 34-6;
  and elsewhere, 244-5;
  escape their pursuers in the Chokh Mountains, 231-2;
  sheltered by Zohar Agha, 232;
  Their revolutionary organizations, 245-7;
    their outbreaks at Mush and Van in 1905, 247-51;
    their arsenals betrayed, 252-3;
    their murder of the informer, 254;
    their leaders captured, 255-7;
    and amnestied at the Revolution, 257;
    impracticability of their Programme of "Reform," 257-9;
    massacres in the Great War, 360, 363-4, 383, 385, 387-91;
    resistance of their fighting units, 378, 382

Assur, _see_ Kala Shergat

Assyrian Empire, 39, 122-4;
  its final fall, 83-4, 114;
  its conquest of Urmi, 200;
  of Urartu, 236-7;
  and of Babylon, 121, 352-3

Assyrian remains, at Nineveh, 69, 83-5, 114;
  at Bavian, 121-4;
  at Amadia, 320-1;
  at Kala Shergat, 343-6

Assyrians, the East Syrian Highlanders supposed
   to be descended from them, 112, 168;
  their share in the Great War, 359-387;
  under British protection at Baqubah, 392-400;
  difficulties of re-settlement, 400-415, _see also_ East Syrian Christians

Assyrian contingent, formation, 393-4;
  exploits, 394-5, 399-400;
  disbandment, 396;
  re-embodiment, 399;
  dissolution under Petros Agha, 404-5;
  re-constitution under Iraq government, 408

Avalanches, 285-6;
  escapes from, 278, 285-6;
  Armenian escape through, 231-2


Babylon, 350-7;
  destroyed by Sennacherib, 121, 352-3;
  rebuilt by Nebuchadnezzar, 352-4;
  chosen by Alexander the Great as the capital of his empire, 356-7

Babylonian charms, still in use, against the evil eye, etc., 329 _n._

Babylonian remains, at Samarra, 348-9;
  at Babylon, 350-7

Baghdad, 349-50

Baghdad Railway, progress of, at Aleppo, 1-2;
  at Mosul, 85;
  at Baghdad, 349-50

Bajan, Malik of Balulan, his exploits and death, 189

Baldwin I and II, Counts of Edessa in the Crusades, 20-1

Bar Soma, Bishop of Nisibis, founds the University of Nisibis, 58

Baqubah, formation of refugee camp, 386, 392, 396;
  attacked by revolted Arabs, 399-400

Barzan, the Sheikh of, 134-54;
  his country, 134-7;
  his "palace," 137-8;
  his fair treatment of his subjects, 138, 153-4, 312-3;
  devotion of his clansmen, 141, 143-5;
  his war with the Government, 139-41, 143-5;
  his reception of us at Suryi, 142-3;
  his quashing of Tettu's _Jehad_, 143-4;
  his request for medical assistance, 146-7;
  his "score" off the Heriki Kurds, 149-51;
  put to death by Turks, 369;
  storming of Barzan village, 403

Bashkala, 226-7, 231;
  postal arrangements at, 226-7

Bathing _al fresco_ in the mountain districts, 294-5

Bavian, Assyrian sculptures at, 121-4

Baz, 167, 303 _n._, 366, 370, 381

Bazaar, humours of, at Akra, 132-3;
  Persian, at Urmi, 196-7

Bedr Khan Beg, Mira of Bohtan, his massacres of
   the Syrian Christians in 1845, 37, 279, 338;
  banished to Candia, 37 _n._;
  reproved by his brother, 318

Bedr Khan Beg, grandson of last, suppressed by the Government, 37

Bedr Khan Beg, of the Begzadi Kurds, his dark and sunny sides, 190, 193-4

Begzadi Kurds, 189

Belisarius wins the battle of Daras, 52-3;
  his previous escape, 56

Berwar, 311, 319-20;
  Jewish village raided on Good Fridays by the Tyari Christians, 304;
  misdeeds of Mira Reshid, 311-16;
  in the Great War, 366, 369, 404;
  resettlement in, 409

Bibaydi, building of English Mission House, 321 _et seq._;
  its conversion into British military post, 395-6;
  selection as the seat of the Patriarchate, 411

Blood money, awarded in expiation for murder, 303

Blood offerings, practised by Abraham, 187;
  by the Yezidis at Sheikh Adi, 101, 104;
  by the Christians at Mar B'Ishu, 187-8;
  and at Mar Sergius and elsewhere, 205-6;
  by Moslems at the Feast of Bairam, 187;
  by all creeds at Noah's Altar on Judi Dagh, 335

Bohtan, _see_ Bedr Khan Beg, tale of the Christian Captive, 337-8

Bridges--at Shuster, said to have been
   built by the captive Emperor Valerian, 16;
  at Dara (Roman), 52 _n._;
  at Nisibis (Roman), 59;
  at Mosul, 82-3;
  near Suryi (the "Bridge of Rocks" erected by the Heriki Kurds), 149;
  in the mountain districts, 288;
  at Chumba, 296;
  at Lizan, held against the Kurdish raiders, 315

British Consul (from Van, 1909), affronted by Sheikh Musa of Neri, 165-6;
  attacked by escort in Gawar, 179-82;
  entertained by an ingenuous Agha between Urmi and Van, 228-9;
  (from Tabriz) at Urmi on the frontier commission, 219-20;
  hears of our murder, and arranges for our funeral, 225-6;
  (from Mosul) canvasses Abdi Agha in our interest, 325-6;
  visits us at Amadia, 326, 331;
  his interview with the Servian prophetess, 326;
  (from Van, 1902) attacked by Kurds in Sapna, 329-30

British Consulates--at Diarbekr, 40-1;
  at Mosul, 69-70, 75, 340;
  its establishment the cause of a mild religious riot, 79-80;
  at Van, a good point for seeing the fight between
   the Government troops and the Fedais, 253-4;
  at Baghdad, 350

British influence, a waning quantity, 40-1;
  exerted on behalf of the Yezidis, 107;
  to secure fair usage for the Sheikh of Barzan, 140;
  and on behalf of the East Syrian Christians, 272;
  a valuable factor for the prevention of oppression, 41, 263-4, 321, 324

British invasion of Mesopotamia, 379, 382-4, 386-7

Browne, the late Rev. W. H., incidents of his life at Qudshanis, 271-3;
  his perilous predicament in the hands of the men of Tkhuma, 299-300


Capital punishment, as carried out at Mosul, 77-9;
  as left in abeyance at Van, 244

Carchemish, 13

Cave monasteries, at Urfa, 18 _n._;
  at Dara, 54-5;
  at Rabban Hormizd, 117-20;
  at Bavian, 121;
  at Maragha, 185 _n._

Censorship of books in Turkey, 226

Census taking in the mountains, 174-5

Châl, raided by the Tyari men, 297-8;
  sacked by Assyrians, 377, 404

Châl, The Agha of: _mudir_, murderer, and Jew farmer, 317;
  joins coalition against Assyrians, 366;
  reconciled to British authority, 404;
  Tabriz' vendetta against him, 410

Chaldæan Christians (Uniat Nestorians), 80-1;
  in the monastery of Rabban Hormizd, 118-9;
  proposal to eliminate them in Tal, 303-4;
  their bishop in Sapna, his medæival methods of controversy, 321-3

Charrae, Crassus' defeat at, 16;
  Valerian's defeat at, _ib._;
  its identity with Abraham's Haran, 22 _n._

Chokh Dagh, the road across, 231;
  escape of Armenian fugitives in its gorges, 231-2

Chôl, the, 61-8

Cholera, at Urmi, 207

Chosroës I., king of the Sassanid Persians, his siege of Edessa, 31 _n._

Chosroës II., king of the Sassanid Persians,
   his capture of the "True Cross," 188;
  his defeat by the Emperor Heraclius at Nineveh, 115;
  his palace at Seleucia-Ctesiphon, 354

Churches--at Dara, in the Cave Monastery, 55;
  at Deir el Za'aferan, 44;
  at Erdil, Oramar, 154-5;
  at Rabat, Tal, rebuilt by the villagers, 302-3;
  at Rabban Hormizd, 119-20;
  at Shwawutha, 263, 274 _n._;
  at Urfa, scene of the Armenian massacre, 17;
  of Mar Abd' Ishu, Tal, 306-7;
  of Mar B'Ishu, Gawar, 185-8;
  of Mar Giwergis, Lizan, 315;
  of Mar Sergius, Urmi, 205-6;
  of Mar Shalitha, Qudshanis, 273-6;
  of Mar Zeia Jilu, 171-3;
    sack of, 370;
  of Mart Miriam, Urmi, 202;
  of Mart Miriam, Walto, 291;
  of St. James at Nisibin (fourth-century Roman), 59-61;
  of SS. Peter and Paul at Van, its property registered
   in the names of the patron saints, 241

Commandeering of our horses by Sheikh Musa at Neri, 165-6;
  of an English traveller's horses by soldiers at Diza of Gawar, 182-3

Constantius, Emperor, fortifies Amida, 30

Costume, of Arabs and Kurds, 9-10;
  of the upper official classes, 10;
  of the Yezidis, 92, 106-8;
  of Syrian and Kurdish mountaineers, 112-3, 143;
  of Syrian women, 152;
  of Persians at Urmi, 197;
  of Seyyids at Urmi, 209;
  in Mar Shimun's _Diwan_, 276

Cox, Sir Percy, Chief Commissioner of Mesopotamia, 399, 411 _n._

Crassus, defeated by the Parthians at Charrae, 16

Crusaders, employed as captives to build Aleppo citadel, 3;
  their capture and loss of Edessa, 20-1

Cyaxares, king of the Medes, captures Nineveh, 83


Dara, anciently Daras, the building of the city, 48-9;
  its ruins, 48-52;
  the battle, 52-3;
  the ancient quarries, 54-5

David d'Mar Shimun, his leadership during the war, 366, 377, 381;
  his escape at the murder of the Patriarch, 380;
  his son elected to the Patriarchate, 400

David, the Armenian informer, betrays the rebel arsenals at Van, 252-3;
  murdered, 254

Deir el Za'aferan, 44-6

Derceto, worshipped at Edessa, 23

Devil worship, _see_ Yezidis

Dhuspas, _see_ Van

Diarbekr, anciently Amida, its walls and monuments, 26-9;
  its siege by Sapor, II, 30-1;
  by Kobad, 31-3;
  and by Farzman, 33-4;
  massacre of the Armenians at, 34-5;
  British Consulate at, 40-1;
  massacres during the Great War, 389

Diz, the _Qasha_ and the looted cow, 291-2;
  during the war, 365, 372-4

Diza of Gawar, 179, 180-3, 185

Donkeys, regarded as _infra dig_ by the _Ashirets_, 288-9;
  their use on _Kelegs_, 348 _n._


East Syrian Christians (Nestorians), 80-1, 112, 118-9;
  origin and former importance of their church, 19, 264-5;
  its present condition, 150-3, 202-4, 265;
  their patriarch and hierarchy, 264-8, 112-3;
  their churches, rites and ceremonies, 185-8, 274-6;
  their constancy to their religion, 154, 177, 337-8

Eden, traditional site of, 26, 235, 264

Edessa, _see_ Urfa

Enver Pasha, invades Trans-Caucasia 361-2;
  his responsibility for Armenian massacres, 387, 391

Episcopate in the East Syrian Church, hereditary, 266-8

Erdil, 147-57

Esarhaddon, king of Assyria, 122, 353;
  his palace at Nineveh, Nebi Yunus, 84-5

Euphrates River, crossing of, 12-3

Evil Eye, belief in, and charms against, 328-9


Farzman, recaptures Amida from the Persians, 33-4

Fasting, as a religious observance, importance of,
   in an Oriental's eyes, 259, 277-8, 338, 342;
  the "Rogation of the Ninevites," 85 _n._;
  strictness of the Nestorian Lent, 303; 405 _n._

Fedais (Armenian Terrorists), their methods and organization, 245-7;
  their outbreak at Mush, 247-50;
  their exploits there, 247-9;
  their strongholds, 249-50;
  their incursion into Van, 250-1;
  their arsenals betrayed, 252-4;
  their leaders captured, 255-6;
    and amnestied, 257;
  their proceedings since the Revolution, 257-9

Ferries, across the Euphrates near Birijik, 12-3;
  across the Tigris at Mosul, 82;
  across the Zab at Barzan, 136-7

Feuds, general conduct of, 167-9, 292-4;
  dormant in the "Apostles'" house, 292;
  composed by the Patriarch's intervention, 268-70, 298;
  by payment of blood money, 303;
  feuds between Christians and Kurds in Tergawar, 189-90, 192-4;
  the author unwittingly involved, 223-5;
  feuds between the men of Châl and Tkhuma, 143, 297-8;
  between Reshid Beg and the men of Lizan, 314-5

Fire worship, traces of, 101, 199-200

Fishing, by dynamite, 229;
  in the river-bed after an avalanche, 286

Fountain worship, traces of, 100, 101


Gawar, 176-85;
  oppression of the Christian inhabitants, 177-9;
  attacked in the marshes by our own escort, 179-82;
  state of the Government, 182-3;
  the Cave of the Jann, 183-5;
  massacres during the war, 362, 372;
  proposed resettlement of Assyrians in, 397-8, 401-5

German excavators, at Kala Shergat, 343-7;
  at Babylon, 352-7

Ghara, 311;
  Reshid Agha wishes to be enrolled as a British subject, 323-4

Ghufas, in use on the lower Tigris, 347-9

Goblins, etc., belief in, 183-4, 333-5

Gregory the Illuminator, Saint, converts the Armenians, 238-9


Haidar Beg, Vali of Mosul, his murder of Hormizd, 368;
  of the Sheikh of Barzan, 369

Haji Kas, and how his own son bought him, story of, 210-4

Hakkiari, _see_ Barzan, Jilu, Neri, Oramar, Tkhuma, Tyari, etc.

Hassan and Hosein, sons of Ali, the mourning
   for them at Urmi (Mohurram), 207-8;
  tombs of their comrades at Samarra, 348;
  Pilgrimage to Hosein's tomb at Kerbela, 220, 350-1

Hassan Beg, of the Marku Kurds, Governor of Urmi, 214-5

Heraclius, Emperor, his victory over the Persians at Nineveh, 115

Heriki Kurds, their migrations and depredations, 127-8, 159-60;
  their original home, 162-3;
  their tribal palladium, _ib._;
  their encounter with the Sheikh of Barzan, 149-51;
  their orisons at the shrine of Mar Sergius, 206;
  "Hermit Crab Act" (so-called) 177-9;
  plundered of their sheep by Assyrians during the war, 377

Hermits' cells attached to churches, 206, 275 _n._

Herodotus, inaccuracies in his description of _kelegs_ and _ghufas_, 348 _n._;
  of the walls of Babylon, 351-2;
  and of the Babylonian temples, 354-5

High places for worship, 3, 62, 233-4, 343

Hittites, traces of their empire, 13-4, 344

Hormizd d'Mar Shimun, murdered by the Turkish government, 368

Houses, at Diarbekr, 28;
  at Mosul, 70-1;
  identical with the plans of the ancient houses at Assur, 346;
  at Akra, 129, 131;
  in the mountain districts, 142 _n._, 153


Inns and lodgings, on the plains, 8-9, 109, 125-6;
  in the mountains, 152-3, 155

Invulnerability, reputations of, 189, 329-30

Ishtar, Temple of, at Babylon, 354-6

Ismail, Malik of Chumba, protects the
   Turkish soldiers who seek refuge with him, 296-7


Jacobites, Monophysite Christians, 44-46;
  at Deir el Za'aferan, the seat of their Patriarch, _ib._;
  at Nisibin, 61;
  at Mosul, 80-1;
  at Sheikh Mattai, 118;
  in Sapna, 312;
  formerly at Tekrit, 347;
  massacres during the Great War, 364, 391

Jaffar Agha, murdered by the Shah at Tabriz, 216

James of Nisibis, Saint, his defence of Nisibis, 57;
  his church and tomb, 59-61

Jebel Maklub, 116;
  monastery of Sheikh Mattai, 118

Jebel Sinjar, 67;
  Yezidi stronghold, 90, 102, 154 _n._

Jebel Tur, a district full of ancient monasteries, 42-3, 46

Jevdet of Ghara, his difficulties as to the marriage of his daughter, 330-1

Jevdet Bey, Vali of Van, his massacres of Assyrians, 383;
  and of Armenians, 389, 390

Jews at Mosul, claiming descent from the ten tribes, 81-2;
  in Berwar, making the same claim, 304;
  at Bashkala, 226;
  suspected of ritual murder, 88 _n._;
  raided by the Tyari Christians on Good Fridays, 304;
  farmed by the Agha of Châl, 317;
  and by other Kurdish Aghas, 317-8;
  their pilgrimage to Nahum's tomb at Alkosh, 116;
  and to Noah's altar, 335

Jilu, 167-76;
  wandering habits of the tribesmen, 169-71;
  their Church of Mar Zeia, 171-3;
  the _Diwan_ of their bishop, 173-4;
  troubles of a census taker, 174-5;
  during the war, 366, 370, 377

Job, said to have dwelt at Urfa, 22 _n._

Jonah the Prophet, his reputed tomb at Nineveh, 84-5;
  his fast, 85 _n._;
  his estimate of the size of Nineveh confirmed, 114

Judi Dagh, the traditional resting-place of the Ark, 335-6

Julian, Emperor, defeated by Sapor II, 57-8, 348

Justinian, Emperor, attempts to suppress the Jacobites, 45;
  his castle between Dara and Nisibin, 56


Kala Shergat, anciently Assur, excavations, 343-6

Karaja Dagh, 25-6

Kelegs, on the Tigris, 70, 340-2, 347;
  on the Zab, 136-7;
  employed for transporting the Assyrian sculptures, 122

Kerbela, 220, 348, 350-1

Khoja Nazr-ed-din and the Seyyid, story of, 209

Khosbaba of Lizan, his leadership during the war, 371, 374, 381

Khoshab Kala, 232-3

Kirkuk, 343

Kobad, king of the Sassanid Persians, captures Amida, 31-3;
  sends his queen on pilgrimage to the monastery at Dara, 54 _n._;
  defeats Justinian's army, 55-6

Kouyunjik, _see_ Nineveh, origin of name, 102

Kurds, their origin, 39 _n._; 111;
  their costume, 9-10, 112-3;
  their toughness and hardihood, 133, 168-9, 173-4, 278, 329-330;
  their turbulence and plundering, 39-40, 216-8, 222-4, 263-4;
  their oppression of Christians, 177-8, 279, 319, 337 _n._;
    and of Yezidis, 99-100, 102;
  favoured by the Government to its own detriment, 38-9, 178-9;
  _see also_ Barzan, Begzadi, Châl, Heriki, Neri, Sapna,
   Reshid Agha, Zohar Agha, &c.; in the Great War;
  acquiescence in Assyrian repatriation, 409


Labaree, the Rev. Benjamin, of the American
   Mission, murdered, 191 _n._, 224 _n._

Languages of the various tribes, 10, 111-2, 265, 289

Legends, of the Roman columns in Urfa Citadel, 18 _n._;
  of King Abgarus of Osroëne, 18-9;
  of Rabban Ephrem of Urfa, 21-2;
  of Abraham at Urfa, 22-3;
  of Sheikh Adi and Melek Taüs, 105;
  of Rabban Hormizd at Sheikh Mattai, 117-8;
  of the woman of Sat and the Devil, 160-1;
  of the True Cross, 188;
  of St. Thomas walking across Lake Urmi, 201;
  of the Wise Men of the East, 202;
  of Prester John, 262;
  of the hoopoe, 283;
  of the Tyari man and his father, 308-9;
  of the Tyari men searching for the sun, 309-10;
  of Noah and the Deluge, 90, 335-7

Liturgy of the East Syrian Christians, 270 _n._, 275-6

Lizan, raided by Mira Reshid of Berwar, 314-5;
  the defence of the bridge, 315;
  during the war, 366, 371, 374

Lyke-wake for the dead, 278-9


Madness, as treated at "Churches of Name," 120, 206;
  by the Tyari men, 308;
  and by the Archbishop's Mission, 327-8

Mardin, 42-6

Mar Dinkha, Bishop of Tergawar, 191;
  his martyrdom; 362

Marku Kurds, 214, 218

Marriage, inadmissible when the best man has been smoking, 277 _n._;
  marriage problems submitted for our solution at Amadia, 330-1

Mar Sergius, Bishop of Jilu, 172-4

Mar Shimun (Benyamin), Patriarch of the East Syrian Christians, 262, 264;
  his temporal authority, 262, 265-6, 279-80;
  his ecclesiastical jurisdiction, 262, 266-7, 271, 273-4;
  his youth, 266-8;
  his reputation among his people, 141, 268;
  his interventions as peace-maker 268-70, 298;
  his _Diwan_, 276-9;
  his leadership of his people during the Great War, 359-81;
  his personal heroism, 368, 371;
  murder by Simko Agha, 380-1

Mar Shimun (Ishai), his election to the Patriarchate, 400;
  his resettlement at Bibaydi, 411

Mar Shimun (Polus) his election to the Patriarchate, 381;
  his death, 396-7

Mawana, siege and relief, 192-3.

Massacres, of the Armenians at Urfa, 17 _n._;
  at Diarbekr, 34-6;
  in Van _Vilayet_, 231-2, 244-5, 250, 254;
  of the East Syrian Christians by Bedr Khan Beg, 37, 279;
  of the Yezidis, 99-100, 102;
  by Kobad at Amida, 32-3;
  by Timour in Mesopotamia, 4-5, 265;
  in the Great War, 360-4, 368, 372, 383-91

Medical treatment, as suggested by a Yedizi _hakim_, 146;
  as practised by a Syrian _hakim_, 174;
  and by the Archbishop's Mission, 146-7, 173-4, 327-30, 332-3

Mejid-es-Sultaneh, Governor of Urmi, 215;
  administration of his estate, 221-3;
  conduct during the war, 361, 385

Melek Taüs, Satan, the Yezidi deity, 90-106

Mergawar, 188, 360

Mesopotamia, 16, 42, 61-4, 341-9;
  irrigation scheme, 357-8;
  British administration of, 373, 392-3, 396-9, 405-8, 412-15

Mindan, refugee camp at, 398, 400, 406, 408-10

Mohammed the Prophet, his reputed _Firman_ to
   the Church of Mar Zeia, Jilu, 172-3;
  and to the Patriarchal Church at Qudshanis, 279

Mohammedans, mission work among, 204

Mohurram, at Urmi, 215

Money, in Turkey, 14-5

Mosul, 69-83, 85-6, 340-1;
  description of city, 69-72;
  incidents of life in it, 72-83

Murderous attempts upon Europeans, upon the author
   and the British Consul in Gawar, 179-82;
  upon the author between Urmi and Van, 223-6;
  upon the Rev. Benjamin Labaree (American),
   murdered in 1905, 191 _n._, 224 _n._;
  upon an Englishman in Hakkiari, 277 _n._;
  upon Capt. Maunsell, R.A., British Consul at Van in 1902, 329

Mush, Armenian outbreak, 247-50;
  exploits of the Fedai parties, 247-9


Nabopolassar, Allied with Cyaxares against Nineveh, 83;
  begins to rebuild Babylon, 352

Nahum the Prophet, his tomb at Alkosh, 116-7

Nazim Pasha, _Vali_ of Baghdad, at Mosul, 70;
  makes peace with the Sheikh of Barzan, 140

Nebuchadnezzar, his victory at Carchemish, 13;
  his rebuilding of Babylon, 352-4;
  claimed as an ancestor by some Mountain Syrians, 112

Neri, the Sheikh of, 163-7;
  Sheikh Obeid Allah, 163;
  Sheikh Saddik, his tobacco smuggling, 163;
  his banking account in London, 163-4;
  his oppression of Christians, 164;
  his judgment concerning the inspired cock, 164-5;
  Sheikh Taha, 165;
  his dispute with his uncle Abd-l-Kadr, 166-7;
  his brother's (Sheikh Musa's) affront to the British Consul, 165-6

Nestorians, _see_ East Syrian Christians

Nimrud Dagh, 25, 235;
  Fedai stronghold in crater, 249

Nineveh, site of the city, 83-5, 114-5;
  its size, 114;
  its fall, 83-4;
  battles upon the site, 115

Niphates mountains, the modern Hakkiari, 135, 235

Nisibin, anciently Nisibis, 56-61;
  captured by Lucellus, 56;
  besieged by Sapor II, 57;
  ceded to Persia by Jovian, 57-8;
  Bar Soma's University, 58;
  Church of St. James, 59-61

Noah, building of the Ark, 90;
  voyage of the Ark, 335;
  the Ark rests on Judi Dagh, Noah's Altar, tomb, and vineyard, 335-6;
  the Ark represented as a _Ghufa_, 347-8


Old manuscripts, rumours of their existence, 154, 228

Omar, second khalif, supposed to have granted
   toleration to the Nestorians, 172, 279

Omayyedes, Khalifs at Damascus, 103 _n._, 115-6 _n._

Oramar, 148-57;
  Agha of, joins coalition against Assyrians, 366;
  betrays Cossack re-inforcement, 369;
  his stronghold sacked, 377

Osman Bey, _Vali_ of Mosul, his massacre of the Yezidis, 99-100

Osroëne, _see_ Abgarus


Persian officials at Urmi, their impotence, 194, 208, 214-8;
  their attempts to put down the Seyyids, 214-5;
  and to remedy disorder by assassination, 215-6, 217-8, 378, 380;
  conduct during the war, 360-2, 375-6, 379-80, 410

Pennington, Capt., R.A.F., his flight from Miani to Urmi, 384

Petros Ello of Baz, his youthful rogueries, 218;
  his leadership of the Assyrian armies, 381-6;
  his impracticable pretensions since the armistice, 394, 397-8, 407-8, 411;
  his futile irruption into Hakkiari, 401-5

Prester John, legend of, 262, 265

Prisons in Turkey, 151, 331-2;
  easy-going confinement of prisoners, 75, 243-4;
  rumours of the employment of torture, 256;
  escape of Qasha Tuma and his deacon, 301-2


Qashas (priests), married men, 113;
  usually non-combatants in fights, 190

Qudshanis, 264-80;
  site of village, 264, _see also_ Mar Shimun;
  deserted by Patriarch, 364;
  burned by Kurds, 366;
  "Waters of Qudshanis," 374

Qurbana (the Eucharist), among the East Syrian Christians, 275-6, 338;
  a Jacobite monk's query respecting it, 46


Rabat, building of the church, 302-3

Rabban Ephrem of Urfa, legend of, 21-2

Rabban Hormizd, legend of, 117-8

Rabban Hormizd, the Cave Monastery, 117-20

Rabbans and Rabbantas, 113, 270-1

Rabban Werda, 113;
  at Sheikh Adi, 97-8;
  at Rabban Hormizd, 118-9;
  at Bavian, 123;
  his journey to Bohtan, 337-8

Raids, general theory and practice, 39-40, 167-9, 291, 323;
  women not molested formerly, 168, 292;
  raids by the Kurds on Urmi plain, 216-8, 223;
  at Shwawutha, 263-4;
  by Mira Reshid on Lizan, 314-6;
  by the Tkhuma men on Châl, 297-8;
  by the Diz men, 291-2;
  by the Tyari men on Berwar, 304;
  by the Kurds on the Yezidis, 99-100, 102;
  _see also_ Bedr Khan Beg, Heriki Kurds, etc.

Reshid Agha, of Ghara, his fifteen murders, and his
   wish to become a British subject, 323-4

Reshid Beg, Mira of Berwar, his brigandage, 311-3;
  his profits as a tax-gatherer, 313;
  his _Jehad_ against Lizan, 314-5;
  his evasion of punishment, 316;
  joins coalition against Assyrians, 366;
  recognized as representative of British authority, 404

Revolution in Turkey, general results, 38, 130-1, 257-61

Ritual murder, charged against Jews and Yezidis, 88 _n._

Roads, 16-7, 41-2, 47, 231

Roman remains, near Aleppo, 7-8;
  at Urfa, 17-8;
  at Diarbekr, 26-9;
  at Deir el Za'aferan, 44;
  near Mardin, 48;
  at Dara, 48-51, 54-6;
  at Nisibin, 56-61;
  between Urmi and Van, 227-8

Rowandiz, Beg of, massacres the Yezidis, 102

Russia, her support courted by Kurdish intriguers, 37, 139;
  intervenes in the Tergawar frontier dispute, 195;
  occupies Urmi, 208, 220;
  the asylum of the Armenian revolutionists, 245-6;
  evacuates Urmi, 360-1;
  returns, 362, 375;
  relieves Van, 365, 390;
  invites the Assyrians to join in the war, 365;
  accords them slight support, 366, 368-9, 371, 376-7;
  collapses, 377-80


Sabonji Pasha, the "Tammany Boss" of Mosul, 73, 85;
  foments the war with the Sheikh of Barzan, 139, 140 _n._

Sakkiyehs, on the Tigris banks, 343

Saladin, 21;
  builds the citadel at Aleppo, 3;
  owner of Khoshab Kala, 232-3

Salmas, 371-2, 374, 376

Samarra, 348-9

Sapna, eastern portion, _see_ Barzan, 135-8;
  anarchy in western portion, 311-3;
  the Chaldaean bishop and his intrigues, 321-3;
  during the war, 366;
  re-settlement schemes, 395-6, 411

Sapor I, king of the Sassanid Persians, defeats the Emperor Valerian, 16

Sapor II, king of the Sassanid Persians, captures Amida, 30-1;
  repulsed at Nisibis, 57;
  defeats the Emperor Julian, 57-8, 348

Sargon, king of Assyria, leads the ten tribes of Israel captive, 81-2, 304

Sassanian Empire, _see_ Chosroës, Kobad, and Sapor;
  _also_ Bar Soma

Sassanian remains, at Urfa, 18;
  at Seleucia Ctesiphon, 354

Sat, tale of the woman of Sat, 160-1;
  the forgotten _Mudir_, 161-2;
  the Heriki Valley, 162-3

Savage and Scott-Ollson, Capts., 14th Hussars.
   Rescue of Assyrian refugees, 386

Second sight, instances of, 304-6, 326-7

Seleucid Empire, 343

Seljuk sultans, 21, 132

Seljukian remains, 232

Sennacherib, king of Assyria, his destruction of Babylon, 121, 352-3;
  his palace at Nineveh (Koyunjik), 83-4;
  his quarries at Bavian, 121-4

Serpent worship, traces of, 101

Seyyid Ullah, of Mosul, his burglaries and smuggling, 74-5

Seyyids, at Urmi, their insolence, 208-9;
  attempts to deal with them by Governors of Urmi, 208-15;
  and by Bedr Khan Beg, 190-1;
  _see also_ Khoja Nazr-ed-din, and Haji Kas

Shamashas, deacons, in the East Syrian Church, 112, 190, 192-4

Shamsdin, _see_ Neri

Sheikh Adi, the Yezidi Prophet, 104-5

Sheikh Adi, Yezidi Temple, 90-101

Sheikh Mattai, monastery, 117-8

Shwawutha, raided by Kurds during author's stay there, 263-4;
  church, 274 _n._

Simko, Agha of the Shekak Kurds, 216, 370;
  allies himself with the Assyrians and Armenians, 378-9;
  turns traitor and assassinates Mar Shimun, 380-2;
  his present predominance at Urmi, 412

Sindiguli Kurds, 311-2

Sinsariskun (Sardanapalus), king of Assyria, his death, 83;
  his temple at Assur, 344

Sipan Dagh, 25, 335 _n._

Stones, set up as votive monuments, 15, 233;
  as sepulchral cairns, 15-6

Sun worship, traces of, 101;
  _see also_ High Places

Superstitions, of Jann, goblins, etc. 183-4, 277, 333-5;
  of the _Hiblabashi_ or vampire, 333-4;
  of the _Khwarha_, 306;
  of unquiet spirits, 319;
  _see also_ Second sight, Evil eye, and Yezidis

Surma, sister of Mar Shimun, 270-1;
  installed in charge of magazine, 376-7;
  her mission to England, 400-1

Suryi, 142-7


Tahir Pasha, _Vali_ of Mosul, 76-8;
  on the frontier commission at Urmi, 218-20;
  _Vali_ at Van during Armenian outbreak, 251;
  death, 368

Tal, the rebuilding of Rabat Church, 302-3;
  proposal for eliminating Chaldaean intruders, 303-4;
  shrine of Mar Abd' Ishu, 306-7;
  during the war, 371-4

Talaat Pasha, his massacres of Armenians, 387-91

Taxes, 14-5;
  corrupt assessments, 38-9

Tax-gathering, by the _Malmudir_ at Akra, 129-31;
  in the mountain districts, 161-3, 175 _n._;
  by the sheikh of Barzan, 150-1;
  by Mira Reshid of Berwar, 313-4

Tekrit, 347

Tendurek Dagh, 235;
  Fedai stronghold, 249-50

Tenure of land, in Turkey, 14;
  in Persia, 221-2

Tergawar, 188-95;
  turbulence of the Christian tribesmen, 189-90, 192;
  their chief, Bajan, 189;
  their bishop, Mar Dinkha, 191;
  their defence and relief of Mawana, 192-3;
  driven from their homes by the Ottoman occupation, 194;
  enlisted as garrisons by the villages near Urmi, 218, 223;
  installed in Mejid-es-Sultaneh's villages, 220-3;
  return to their homes, 194-5;
  driven out in Great War, 360

Tettu Agha, suppressed by the Sheikh of Barzan, 143-4

Thaddeus, Saint (Mar Adai), the Apostle of the East, 18-9, 104

Thomas, Bishop of Amida, 34;
  builder of Daras, 49

Thomas, Saint, the Apostle of India, 18-9;
  legend of his walking across Lake Urmi, 201

"Three Children," the, their burial-place, 343

Tigris River, at Diarbekr, 26-7;
  at Mosul, 69-70, 82-3, 114;
  Mosul to Baghdad, 340-9

Timour the Tartar, his ravages in Mesopotamia, 4-5, 265;
  his repulse from the citadel of Mardin, 44

Tiridates, king of Armenia, his palace at Amida, 29;
  his conversion to Christianity, 238-9

Tkhuma, 143, 284;
  fighting reputation of the clansmen, 293;
  their views on frog-eating, 289;
  their raid on the Kurds of Châl, 297-8;
  their readiness to resent a slight, 298;
  their treatment of a tackless teetotaler, 298-9;
  and of an intrusive ethnologist, 300-1;
  the Rev. W.H. Browne in a dangerous predicament among them, 299-300;
  during the war, 366, 369-71, 404-6

Travelling, on the plains, 6-7, 41-2, 47-8;
  across the Chôl, 61-4, 339-40;
  in the mountain districts, 111, 113-4, 124-5,
   134-6, 138, 147-9, 155-9, 287-8;
  by _keleg_ down the rivers, 341-2

Tree worship, traces of, 100, 127 _n._, 205

True Cross, a Legend of the, 188

Tuma, Qasha of Tyari, volunteers to kill the Rev. W. H. Browne's enemies, 273;
  imprisoned at Amadia, and breaks out, 301-2

Turkish officials, their courtesy, 161, 179, 243;
  their corruption and laziness, 38-9, 73-6, 130-1,
   178-9, 180-2, 239-40, 313, 315-6;
  their occasional outbursts of ferocity, 34-6, 244-5;
  individuals under the thumb of local chiefs, 163, 312;
  or forgotten in remote corners, 161-2;
  the prospect under the new _régime_, 38, 130-1, 259-61, 357-8;
  _see also_ Tahir Pasha, a Sabonji Pasha, and Amadia, _Kaimakam_ of

Turkish soldiers, their ill-treatment by Government, 38, 229-31;
  their good behaviour, 229-31, 253

Tyari, 284-8;
  prejudices of the clansmen, 288-90;
  their _amour propre_, 290;
  their fighting reputation, 293;
  their feuds and raids, 273, 290-4;
  their representatives volunteer to aid the
   British Army in South Africa, 272;
  their primitive habits, 294-5;
  their chivalry, 295-7;
  their skill in prison breaking, 301-2;
  their devotional raids on the Jews of Berwar, 304;
  their reputation of being "all mad together," 308, 309 _n._;
  their treatment of lunacy, 308;
  their former method of dealing with old age, 308-9;
  their exploits in the Great War, 366, 370, 385, 403-6


Urfa, formerly Edessa, 17-23, 27, 389

Ur of the Chaldees, site of, 22

Urartian remains, at Firek Gol., 123 _n._;
  at Khoshab, 233;
  at Van, 236-7, 253

Urartu, ancient empire of, 236-7

Urmi, 196-7, 205-20;
  vicissitudes during the Great War, 360-2, 369, 371-2, 375-6, 379, 381-5;
  conditions since the war, 412-3;
  difficulties with the Urmi Christians, 394, 397, 403-4, 407, 412-3

Urmi, Lake, 200-1


Valerian, Emperor, defeated by Sapor I, 16

Vampires, belief in, 333-4

Van, anciently Dhuspas, 245-61;
  capital of the Empire of Urartu, 236-7;
  Armenian outbreak at, 250-7;
  its fate during the war, 365, 383, 389-90

Van Lake, 235-6;
  curative properties of its waters, 236

Volcanic districts in Kurdistan, 24-6, 41-2, 235, 249-50, 340


War song of the Assyrians, 365-6

Wild animals, 63-4, 126, 155, 280-3

Wilson, Sir Arnold, Acting Chief Commissioner, Mesopotamia, 396 _n._, 398-9

Wise men of the East, legend of the, 202, 413


Xenophon, his fording of the Euphrates, 12;
  his march up the banks of the Tigris, 342 _n._, 347;
  and across the site of Nineveh, 114;
  his encounters with the Carduchi, 39 _n._

Xerxes, trilingual inscription at Van, 236-7


Yailas, defence and evacuation of, 370-4

Yezidis, 87-100;
  their belief, 88, 98-9, 100-6;
  their temple at Sheikh Adi, 91-100;
  their stronghold on Jebel Sinjar, 89-90, 102, 154 _n._;
  their Mira, 106-9;
  their ill-repute among their neighbours, 88-9;
  oppressed, proscribed, and massacred, 99-100, 102, 109;
  the Yezidi _hakim_ at Barzan, 146;
  immunity from massacre during the war, 391;
  proposal to enrol in a contingent, 408 _n._


Zab, River, in eastern Sapna, 135-7, 142;
  at the "Bridge of Rocks," near Suryi, 149;
  its sources, 177;
  identified with the Pison, 264;
  its gorges in Tyari, 284-9;
  at Lizan bridge, 315;
  scene of operations in the Great War, 368, 372, 374, 400, 403-4

Zab River, Lesser, 343

Zanghi the Atabek captures Edessa, 21

Zaptiehs, as escort to European travellers, 46-7, 61, 67;
  their opinion of Yezidis, 89;
  considered _de trop_ in the Sheikh of Barzan's country, 135-6;
  refuse to act against the Sheikh of Neri, 166;
  attempt to shoot us in Gawar, 180-1

Zibari Kurds, 403-4

Ziggurats, at Kala Shergat, 344;
  at Samarra, 348-9

Zohar Agha of Zirnek, preserves the fugitive Armenians, 232

Zoroaster, the Prophet of the Fire Worshippers, 199-200



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[1] The direct journey across the desert occupies about ten days, and
this is the route followed by the Government pack mules which carry
the mails; but we diverged slightly to the northward in order to visit
Urfa, Diarbekr, and Mardin.

[2] _Yaili_ is really a Turkish word meaning "springy."

[3] Hierapolis, _alias_ Bambyce, or Bembij, was sacred to the worship
of Astarte. Here one of the most notable remains is a great underground
conduit, with deep circular inspection pits descending into it at
frequent intervals. An American lady inspecting these pits observed
artlessly that "now she understood where all those columns came from."
Apparently she imagined that they had been extracted like so many corks!

[4] A _Khanji_ keeps a _khan_ (an inn), just as an _Arabaji_ drives an
_araba_ (a carriage), or a _Katarji_ a _katar_ (a mule). The _ji_ is
simply a suffix meaning a worker.

[5] It may be said that the Government revenue is entirely derived from
the land; and it is at least quaint to observe that the pet ideal of
our own extremest Radicalism is at present actually realized (of all
places in the world) in Turkey!

[6] An English cheque in Turkey will often pass from hand to hand like
a banknote, and may be current for months before it reaches the bank.
Indeed a cheque is more readily accepted than a banknote. It is more
familiar to the money-changers. Also, if it gets purloined in the post,
the loss is more easily recoverable.

[7] Weights and measures are in a similar state of chaos: _e.g._ each
village has its own "stone" (a real material stone varying in size and
weight _ad libitum_), and will sell its produce by no other standard.

[8] The bridge is now broken; but enough of it remains to reflect great
credit on its builder, whether he was actually the Emperor Valerian or

[9] This church was the scene of one of the most fiendish incidents in
the terrible Armenian massacres of 1895. Over two thousand refugees of
all ages and both sexes had crowded into the sacred edifice to seek
sanctuary from their pursuers. The Moslems thrust through the doors
and windows fragments of broken furniture and carpets saturated with
paraffin, and burnt or suffocated every soul.

[10] A legend attaches to these columns which should make a strong
appeal to anyone with gambling instincts. One of the two is full of
gold and silver; the other acts as stopper to a prodigious fountain
of water which is capable of producing another Noachian flood. He who
pulls down the former will win wealth beyond the dreams of avarice;
but if he touches the latter he will eliminate mankind. Which is which
no one can tell, for the two are precisely similar, and consequently
nobody hitherto has had courage to risk the attempt.

[11] There are many tombs and hermits' cells in the hill which faces
the castle, similar to the combs and cells of Dara, which will be
described in chap. iii. One of the tombs near the moat has a door
formed of a great stone disc running in a groove and socket. Of this
type in all probability was the tomb of our Lord.

[12] The inhabitants of Osroëne might be quite correctly described as
"Greeks"; that word being often used in the New Testament as merely
equivalent to "Gentiles."

[13] "They have continued Christian to this day," writes Eusebius; a
statement which is not quite accurate, for Paganism was re-established
later. Yet there were undoubtedly a large number of Christians in
Edessa in Eusebius' day.

[14] Many of the Crusaders had married Asiatic wives, and the children
of such ill-assorted marriages were generally a pretty poor lot. This
fact contributed very sensibly to the fall of the Latin kingdom of

[15] The true Ur of the Chaldees was either Erech or Tel Mugayir in
Babylonia; but Haran, Abraham's later home, lay a considerable distance
further north. Local traditions identify it with Harran (Carrhæ)
about twenty-five miles south of Urfa, the proudest boast of whose
inhabitants is the possession of Rebekah's Well. Other corroborative
traditions assert that the Patriarch lost many cattle in fording the
Euphrates near Birijik; and that the Arabic name of Aleppo (Haleb,
"milk")was bestowed upon it in compliment to his pedigree cow. Jacob
was certainly journeying northwards when he fled from Beersheba to
Bethel; but this fact does not necessarily favour the Urfa tradition,
for his direct line to Babylonia would cross an impassable desert. The
Ibrahim of Urfa was perhaps some local hero who has got credited with
his namesake's deeds. It may be added that a further tradition asserts
that Urfa was the home of Job.

[16] A multitude of basalt boulders covering quite a considerable
area lie in the midst of the alluvial levels a little to the east of
Nisibin. These are, of course, obviously volcanic, but it is not quite
obvious how they get there: for Karaja and Nimrud, the nearest admitted
craters, are each a hundred miles away.

[17] It is said that they were cleared away once; and that the
inhabitants promptly replaced them, lest they should lose the fees that
accrued to them for helping carriages along the road!

[18] The spacing of the towers also is just about the same as at Lugo
and Astorga; but the irregular outline of the works is less usual, the
Romans generally adopting a more formal plan.

[19] The walls of Constantinople had similar double banquettes. In this
case the walls were double; and the two walls, taken together, must
have made a stronger defence than the single wall at Amida. But neither
of the two, taken separately, was quite so formidable in itself.

[20] The whole is built of basalt with yellow marble columns, and
yellow marble bands here and there.

[21] The science of war has made little progress in these parts since
the days of the Assyrians. To this day a Kurdish chieftain, when
besieging his rival's castle, will endeavour to force an entry by
mining the walls with picks.

[22] Zachariah of Mitylene.

[23] Chosroes employed the same device in his siege of Edessa a little
later. In this case the mine was fired prematurely and (lest the smoke
should betray them) the defenders pelted the mound with fireballs
so that the Persians never suspected that the real danger was under
ground. Presently the fire got beyond all quenching, and the mound was
destroyed completely; the smoke of its burning being visible fifty
miles away. Such counter-strokes were rather dangerous, as sometimes
the wall itself burst with the heat of the bonfire; but the basalt
walls of Amida were doubtless pretty well inured.

[24] Kobad's losses had amounted to 50,000, so there were plenty of
_manes_ to appease.

[25] We may quote a parallel incident which occurred in India soon
after the Mutiny. An old cultivator was being examined as witness
with regard to the outbreak in his town. He had heard a great row, he
explained, but at first he took no notice. He thought it was "only
the Rajah plundering the bazaar." But soon the riot came nearer, and
he could distinguish the shouts of "Allah." And at that word he grew
frightened. It must mean real mischief when the mob invoked the name of

[26] See pp. 227, 338. Bedr Khan Beg's massacres of the mountain
Christians occurred in 1843, and are described by Layard in his
"Nineveh and its Remains." Under pressure from the British Ambassador,
Bedr Khan and his family were eventually banished to Candia--"a totally
inadequate punishment."

[27] Or rather, he has now written the Code Napoleon side by side with
this system, and left authority to take its choice between the two, and
to apply the code that is least trouble in each case!

[28] The Kurds are a very ancient people, no doubt identical with
the "Carduchi" who gave so much trouble to the Ten Thousand in the
Anabasis. Their modern Russian name "Kurdischi" is a transliteration of
the Greek.

[29] These oppressed nationalities cherish pathetically futile hopes
of British intervention, recognizing rightly that England is the only
disinterested power. But the only power ever likely to interfere
effectively is Russia; and though those who have tried Russian rule
have found themselves bitterly disillusioned, it must be admitted that
the Russians preserve better order than the Turks. What the country
needs is a set of self-sacrificing administrators, with no axe of their
own to grind, who will devote themselves solely to the good of the
people. No other nation can furnish such administrators as England: and
no other nation so obstinately refuses to recognize their worth.

[30] These monasteries have been visited and described by the Rev. O.
H. Parry and Miss G. Lothian Bell.

[31] _i.e._ "Believers in one nature"; the name was given them because
they rejected the technical term enforced at Chalcedon, which declared
that Christ existed "_in two natures_," the Divine and the Human.

[32] It is a remarkable proof of the persistency of Eastern conditions
that, up to the commencement of the present century, 1 piastre (2_d._)
was still regarded as the regular day's wage.

[33] The Chronicler also alludes to the baths as a monument fit to rank
even with the granary and the cistern; but the limited time at our
disposal did not allow us to identify these. The bridge and the river
embankments are, however, conspicuous works.

[34] The establishment of this hermit monastery must have followed
immediately upon the building of the city: for it is written that
in 526 the Queen of King Kobad, being possessed by a demon, and
having sought relief in vain from her own magicians, sorcerers, and
soothsayers (who only succeeded in "introducing more demons into her")
came hither to consult a certain holy hermit named Moses, and was duly
healed by his prayers. Kobad was, of course, officially a Zoroastrian
(and privately, of all incredible things, a Communist); but even to
this day the mountain Moslems not infrequently go on pilgrimage to
Christian shrines.

[35] Justinian, it may be noted, had equipped this army with such a
plethora of commanders that their defeat can hardly cause surprise.

[36] The snowfall on this occasion was even more prodigious in the
mountains. The valley of Amadia was buried under an _average_ depth of
fourteen feet, and not a man could stir beyond his own village for a
period of fully four weeks! Fortunately the villagers had their winter
stock of provisions and fuel, and so did not suffer like the nomads;
but the hares and partridges were exterminated, and have only just
begun to reappear.

[37] The driving belt also formed part of the loot, and this was a
good, useful bit of leather; so the game was generally voted quite
worth the candle after all.

[38] See p. 81 for an explanation of these terms.

[39] The terms are not technically correct, but are used for clearness'

[39a] The terms are not technically correct, but are used for
clearness' sake.

[40] Jonah is still a great personage in the district. The Fast which
he is said to have instituted, now known as the "Rogation of the
Ninevites," is still observed annually by the members of all religious
denominations--an extraordinary survival even in this extraordinary

[41] Thus they are even charged with human sacrifices; and it is said
that, when a Yezidi falls ill, his relatives seek to propitiate the
Power of Evil in his favour by murdering a Christian or Kurd. The
charge is widely believed, but quite unsupported. It reminds one of
the old accusation of ritual murder which was so often brought against
the Jews in mediæval Europe; and which, by the way, is still devoutly
believed by the Syrians--"Surely you would not eat Jews' bread, Rabbi?
How can you be sure it is not made with the blood of a Christian child?"

[42] This is really the same word as Amir. The title is also given
occasionally to some of the local Kurdish chiefs.

[43] Mascot means simply a temple, and is used by the Yezidis for
mosques and churches as well as for their own shrine. Etymologically it
is no doubt identical with _masjid_, _mezquita_, mosque.

[44] When approaching a village by night it is considered correct to
give warning, either by sending a messenger ahead, or by firing a gun
as one draws near, so that the villagers may be prepared for visitors.
Otherwise it is not at all improbable that the intruders may be saluted
with a fusillade!

[45] The Yezidis all agree that their temple was built by Christian
workmen, and the monks at Rabban Hormizd even went so far as to say
that it was once a Christian church. The former statement is possibly
true; but the latter highly improbable. Sheikh Adi must have been a
holy place long before the days either of Christians or Yezidis; and
that Christian monks may have occupied it for a time in the days of the
Roman Empire is about the utmost that we can reasonably concede.

[46] A hatchet forms part of the Mira's insignia when he is fully
arrayed for performing religious rites; and a comb has also certain
magic properties, as instanced on p. 306.

[47] The Christians always remove their shoes in their churches, in
addition to uncovering their heads.

[48] Another chamber, now used as an oil store for the temple lamps,
opens out of the sanctuary to the westward. It is conceivable that
this may have been the original nave, following the true lines
of Orientation; and that the naves on the south side were added
subsequently when larger accommodation was required.

[49] The Yezidis are so careful on this point that they even avoid
words which are at all similar in sound to Sheitan, such as _shat_ an
arrow and _keitan_ a thread.

[50] _i.e._ "Standards."

[51] They also act medicinally; the water in which they are washed
being a great specific against every kind of disease.

[52] When Mrs. Badger visited Sheikh Adi the priest showed her an image
which they said was that of _Melek Taüs_. But this was almost certainly
a bronze lamp in the form of a bird, which they produced to appease
her importunity. We are informed, however, that a later visitor has
actually seen and photographed one of the _sanjaks_.

[53] These practices, of course, did not originate in the Mosaic
ritual, and the Yezidis may possibly have borrowed them direct from a
yet older source.

[54] This owes its name to the fact of its having contained the word,
Sheitan--now in every instance carefully erased.

[55] It is possible that the Yezidis themselves at one time encouraged
this misconception; for, so long as the Ommayedes were on the throne,
Yezid's name may have helped to gain them toleration.

[56] In this legend we meet with the only official explanation to
account for _Melek Taüs_ being represented as a peacock. When the Marys
came to the empty tomb and found no body within it, _Melek Taüs_ (says
the legend) appeared to them as a Dervish and related what he had
done. To rebuke their doubts, he took a cock which had been killed,
cooked, and dismembered, and restored it to life in their sight. He
then vanished; first informing them that henceforth he would choose
to be worshipped in the form of the most beautiful of birds. The
representation of Deities under the form of birds was familiar to the
ancient Babylonians.

[57] The duty of hospitality is incumbent upon all Eastern monasteries;
and often where the monastery has become extinct this duty has passed
to the present tenants of its lands.

[58] From the days of "the Great Elchi" onward the English Ambassadors
have interfered occasionally, and with some success, in favour of the
persecuted Yezidis; and this fact explains their gratitude towards the
English race.

[59] "Divine right" is an axiom in the East; and the Khalifate soon
became hereditary, though at first it was endeavoured to make it
elective. To this day at Constantinople, though a Sultan may be deposed
or murdered, it is always a member of the House of Othman who is
appointed in his room.

[60] Not the same nephew that we had met at Sheikh Adi.

[61] This was really rather a bit of cheek. It would be thought
presumptuous even in a Kurd.

[62] A coarse local kind of Anise

[63] See, for instance, the head on the title-page--a portrait of
a Syrian priest, the late Qasha Khoshaba, who might have been a
reincarnation of Sargon.

[64] These caps are precisely of the shape which we see on Assyrian

[65] A clean-shaven man in the East is regarded as something
emasculate, and in order to escape reproach one must wear at least a
moustache. Laymen often shave the beard and whiskers, but a bishop or
priest never shaves; and to shave a priest is esteemed as practically
equivalent to unfrocking him.

[66] Gibbon takes the "six-score thousand persons who could not
discern between their right hand and their left" as referring only to
the children, and thus calculates the total population of Nineveh at
700,000 souls. Taking a line from Mosul we might estimate that about
150,000 could actually be housed within the walls.

[67] Chosroës had sent him forth with the significant instruction: "If
you cannot conquer, you can die."

[68] On the same ground in 750 was fought the great battle which
transferred the Khalifate from the dynasty of the Omayyades to the
Abbassides. There can be few spots on the earth's surface which have
seen three such decisive days.

[69] One of these marshy valleys is known locally as the Dungeon of
Solomon, that potent necromancer having here imprisoned the rebellious
Jann, by pegging them into the mud.

[70] The monastery of Sheikh Mattai, perched high up on the southern
slopes of Jebel Maklub, is very similar to Rabban Hormizd in general
situation, but consists of buildings, not of caves.

[71] Of course he was: though physically (and we hope morally) the
accuracy of the description was not so striking as might be wished.

[72] A strong chain is advisable; for in one of the Tkhuma churches
a lunatic who had been similarly tethered succeeded in wrenching the
staple from the wall. The old priest entering next morning discovered
him squatting on the altar, having torn up all the service books,
and set the hangings on fire! He was further anxious to strangle
the priest, who only just eluded him. Evidently this was a case of
possession by Apollyon himself.

[73] The nearest village to these sculptures is Hinnis, upon the right
bank of the river at the point where our road struck it; but they take
their name from the larger village of Bavian, situated on the left bank
a little lower down.

[74] There are several remains of reservoirs also, built on the
southern side of the mountains by the Assyrians, and on the northern by
the Urartians. In one instance (at Firek Gol, near Van) even the dam is
still intact, but is no longer watertight.

[75] Abdul Hamid, for all his shortcomings, was apparently a pretty
good landlord. Khalilka had to pay to him only one-third of its rice
crop and one-fifth of its other produce; which is a considerably
smaller proportion than local custom would justify.

[76] These trees are often "sacred trees," from which no one will dare
to take fuel. For there are still "sacred trees" in this country--as
there were in the days when the bas-reliefs of Nineveh were carved.

[77] The _malmudir_ of Akra supervises the taxation of about 150
villages, and about £10,000 in taxes pass annually through his hands.
His salary is about £120, while that of a _kaimakam_ is £500 to £800,
according to the importance of his district. These are not exactly
princely (even when they are paid regularly), but it is, of course,
possible to increase them by well-recognized, if not quite legitimate,

[78] We spent the night in equally brotherly fashion, our beds being
spread out for us side by side on the floor of the room. Our host even
wished us to take turn and turn about with the hubble-bubble with which
he solaced his last waking moments; but we pleaded that this was a
taste which we had not acquired.

[79] The prevalent opinion in Mosul was that the Tripoli, where the
war was raging, was the Asiatic Tripoli. The comet which was visible
about this time presaged destruction to the Italians, "because you
will observe that the tail points towards Italy"--the aforesaid comet
standing vertically in the north-eastern quarter of the sky.

[80] Tuesday, it may be added, is esteemed inauspicious by Christians,
because on that day Judas Iscariot made his covenant with the chief
priests. Wednesday is the Yezidi Sabbath; but apparently anyone may
work on Thursday. Thursday will probably be early closing day when
reform is inaugurated in the land.

[81] The Imaum is virtually a sort of parish clerk, leading the
Responses in the public services at the mosque; and our friend was as
gravely self-important as any English parish clerk could be.

[82] The Sheikh tried to purchase peace honestly; but his enemies
outraged even local morality by accepting his bribes, and persisting in
their machinations.

[83] They were mostly half-trained Kurdish levies, who were not quite
easy in their consciences at fighting such a Holy Man as the Sheikh,
and had moreover a pretty shrewd suspicion that they were being
employed in Sabonji's interests and not the _Hukumet's_. The Sheikh
used merely to disarm his prisoners, and then release them on parole.
As he had nowhere to keep them, his only alternative would have been to
kill them; and this would have meant a war of extermination, which he
did not wish to provoke.

[84] This was Nazim Pasha, then Vali of Baghdad, who was subsequently
Commander-in-Chief of the Ottoman army in the Balkan War, and was
assassinated by the partisans of Enver Bey during the negotiations
for peace. He so entirely exonerated the Sheikh as to award him £1000
indemnity--on paper: but the Sheikh had suffered heavily from the
plunder of his villages, and gained nothing but prestige.

[85] The correct title to use in addressing the Sheikh is
"_Corban_"--"Your Holiness."

[86] The regular oath of a Tyari Christian is: "By the head of Mar

[87] A "_belai_" forms the top story of many of the mountain houses. It
is quite open on one side (usually the northern) and forms the general
family living room during the summer heats. In winter it is used as a
hay barn, and thus helps to warm the room below.

[88] Except one hoof, to be accurate--such at least was the cook's
report. Scott points out that the Scotch highlanders also would eat
prodigious meals when they got the chance, though ordinarily their fare
was very meagre.

[89] Eye disease is terribly prevalent in all the neighbouring
provinces. It is originated by dust and want of cleanliness, and
aggravated by persistent neglect.

[90] In this connexion sometimes the phrase is unpleasantly literal.
The prison at Akra, for instance, is a regular bottle-shaped dungeon
like those at Alnwick and Berkeley, and in many Continental keeps.

[91] See p. 112.

[92] It is to be feared that sometimes they adopt other masculine
habiliments, particularly (for instance) in winter, for convenience in
getting through deep snow. We went once to rout up a workman who had
failed to turn up at his job in the morning. He was still in bed, we
discovered. A fact which did not tend to appease us until he faltered
out his excuse. "But my wife has gone away to work, Rabbi; and has
taken my only pair of trousers"--when we fear that the Rabbi's laughter
brought these confidences to a sudden end.

[93] This brushwood harbours all sorts of vermin, including scorpions
and serpents, which latter are rather encouraged because they are
reputed to eat the rest. The proper way to get rid of them is to make
up a blazing fire, and pile on to it a quantity of sheep's horns or
goats' horns (cow's horns will not do). This sounds as if it ought to
get rid of much worse things than serpents!

[94] The _tanura_ serves also as an oven, and when the fire has
subsided into embers the thin pancakes of dough (the form in which
bread is usually made in the mountains) are plastered round the hot
sides of the pit.

[95] Most "old books" have now been ferreted out, and perhaps the only
earths yet untried are in the Yezidi villages of the Sinjar. These
villages were formerly Christian; and there is a widespread conviction
(strenuously denied by the Yezidis) that old Christian books still
remain there, carefully secreted in certain caves. We have heard from a
Syrian priest that he himself once actually saw some spread out to dry
in the sun because they had got damp in a flood. He was at once headed
off when he tried to look at them; but could see from the title-page
that one was "The Works of Diodorus," a famous Eastern doctor whose
writings have been entirely lost.

[96] This journey was actually made in the spring of 1909, and was thus
earlier in date than the events recorded in the last chapter.

[97] Alternatively _mesta_--curds; the usual form of dairy produce
hereabouts--identical with Jael's "Butter in a lordly dish."

[98] Turkey has since evacuated the disputed province.

[99] See "Highlands of Asiatic Turkey," by Lord Percy. The victim was
Mar Gabriel of Urmi.

[100] See the writings of Æneas Sylvius Piccolomini, quoted by Milman,
"Latin Christianity," XIII, xvi. The Italian, however, entirely
misunderstood the chivalrous practice.

[101] The Prophet himself never left Arabia; and even Omar--a favourite
legendary hero in these parts--never came north of Jerusalem.

[102] The life of a minor official in Turkey is not a happy one. We
have recently heard of the experience of a tax-collector in this
seventh year of upright and constitutional government, who undertook
the adventurous job of gathering the taxes from Tkhuma and Tyari, (!)
at a wage of £3 per month. After two months' work he asked for an
instalment of his salary. "My dear fellow, you shall have it all,"
said the _Mal-mudir_; "there are no more arrears in these days; you
take all your salary--subject to the official deductions, of course."
Accordingly he presented the applicant with a schedule of these
"deductions" (which amounted to £5 10s. 9d. out of the total of £6),
and the balance of 9s. 3d. in silver!

[103] From "Turkey in Europe" by "Odysseus"

[104] These truculent ruffians (when they have thoroughly earned a
thrashing) will often accept it with most edifying docility. We have
heard the late Dr. Browne, an old gentleman of the mildest manners and
most fragile appearance, lamenting with the utmost artlessness that he
had been obliged to thrash his muleteers. Consuls do not approve the
habit, but have been known to practise it nevertheless.

[105] There is some real danger in exploring these caverns, for if you
do not often find real _Jann_, you are always liable to stumble on a

We were once exploring a "cave-monastery," near Maragha; one feature
of which was a long passage, burrowing into the rock, and expanding at
intervals into cells, like balls threaded on a string.

Down this we crawled, with an antiquarian's eagerness, our guide
politely allowing us to go first. When we were well in, a voice came
from behind us: "_Rabbi_, there's a wolf who generally lives down here,
but I don't know if he's in now!"

[106] _I.e._ by Kurds driving cattle into the building. This outrage is
exceptional, but not unknown.

[107] Orientals usually attribute the Epistle to the Hebrews to St.

[108] We fear that other episodes in the career of this polite brigand
are of a far darker hue. He was at least concerned in the murder of an
American Missionary--the Rev. Benjamin Labaree--in 1905.

[109] Tea is considered a great luxury, and men of moderate means will
actually ruin themselves by indulging in it. Not so much owing to the
cost of tea as to that of the sugar, for they use about as much sugar
as the tea will dissolve.

[110] Owing to Russian influence, this statement now needs some
qualification as far as Urmi is concerned.

[111] It is a double church really: Mar Sergius and Mar Bacchus:
these very popular saints in the East, among whose churches that at
Constantinople is the most famous, were Persian martyrs of the fifth
century; and the church of Mar Sergius near Urmi claims to mark the
site of their martyrdom.

[112] The word has been adopted into English, as a relic, probably, of
Crimean slang; and the "Ancient Society of Codgers" may claim khoja
Nazr-ed-din as a member of their club. Literally, it means "eunuch" or
"tutor"; but in common speech implies rather "old fellow."

[113] Persian women have a high reputation for cleverness; a repute
which is exemplified in the saying that every Moslem, to be happy,
requires at least four wives. A Persian because of her wit, and a
Circassian because of her beauty; an Armenian to do the cookery and
housework, and a Kurdish woman to thrash, as a wholesome example to the
other three.

[114] At the present price of silver about 3_s._ 6_d._

[115] Heir-Apparent of Persia; Azerbaijan is his hereditary province.

[116] This was the Rev. Benjamin Labaree, of the American Presbyterian
Mission, Urmi, who was murdered by the _Seyyid_ Nur-ed-din, on account
of some personal grudge that he had (or fancied he had) against another
member of that mission. The _Seyyid_ was little better than a madman;
though, of course, not the less of a holy man or of a dangerous
scoundrel on that account. It appears (though there is not absolute
certainty in the matter) that Mr. Labaree was offered life if he would
renounce Christianity by repeating "the _kalima_," and died as a martyr
on his refusal.

[117] Even Bibles used to reach their destination with the word Armenia
neatly obliterated; but we feel there was some excuse for the censor
who confiscated a batch of hymn books on the ground that "Onward
Christian Soldiers" was a sort of Armenian _Marseillaise_!

[118] _i.e._ Governor. The rank is intermediate between _kaimakam_ and

[119] "I'll tell you what it is," cried an irritated British Consul to
an Armenian petitioner, "if ever we did undertake the administration
of your country, you fellows would have to pay your taxes." "What!"
exclaimed that gentleman in dismay, "_every year?_"

[120] The criminals who were not sentenced must have been far more
numerous. The _Vali_ must have felt like the old Lord of Perugia, who
had to grant a general amnesty lest he should depopulate the town!

[121] The word "_Fedai_" is Persian, and comes from a root that
means sacrifice, and implies "one who sacrifices himself for a
cause." Thus a volunteer in a forlorn hope would be a _Fedai_; and
the term was originally applied to the devoted Assassins of the "Old
Man of the Mountain" in crusading days. Ottomans usually called the
revolutionaries simply "brigands." A third society, the _Huntchak_, was
worked on the same lines as the _Tashnak_, and was incorporated with it

[122] _Tashnak_ means a banner.

[123] Some were found in the writer's own residence; a Tashnakist
having taken service with him for the express purpose of securing a
good _cache!_ The soldiers were hugely delighted with their haul, and
gave us some packets of dynamite as mementoes!

[124] Otherwise "Bashi-bazouks." This word of formidable memory means
merely "rotten-heads," and is barrack slang for a civilian mob.

[125] It may be a novelty to some readers to hear that all varieties
of Christianity, as well as of Islam, are established and endowed by
the State in Turkey. Bishops are appointed by the State and are State
paid in part; and church organizations are recognized, given power, and
controlled as such. The fallacious assumption implied in the query,
"_quid Christianis cum regibus?_" does not deceive the Oriental as
easily as it appears to do the Western.

[126] See the Preface.

[127] Until quite lately his Beatitude maintained a court jester
also--one Shlimun (Solomon), who died a few years ago. He was an
amusing scamp, but his sense of humour was sometimes rather _outré_.

[128] The priest has been known to stop in the middle of service, and
ask her where he is to go on; for they are simple folk, and the Use is
very complex.

[129] See Benson, "Cyprian," pp. 51-57. The scandals there referred to,
however, are quite absent from the modern Nestorian Church.

[130] This advice applies even more forcibly to travellers in the
remoter villages. There almost the only food obtainable is the
local pancake bread. The sole delicacies are "butter (_i.e._ curds)
and honey," as they were in the days of Isaiah. Eggs may be got
occasionally; but the pampered European who lusts for flesh meat had
better bring it with him in tins. Life is too hard in the mountains to
yield more than the barest necessaries; and the slaughter of a sheep
for a banquet is a very exceptional extravagance indeed.

[131] The churches serve as refuges for the women and children whenever
the villages are raided, and are thus built with an eye to security.
Often they are planted in almost impregnable sites, like the little
church of Shwawutha in our illustration.

[132] Attached to the church are a couple of anchorites' cells, and
within the last twenty-five years one of these was actually inhabited
by a venerable hermit--the _rabban_ Yonan. The incumbent is entitled to
reside there still--if he likes.

[133] See additional note, p. 283.

[134] Fasting as a religious observance is most strictly enforced
among the Syrians. We have known a priest refuse to proceed with a
marriage service (which, of course, is ranked as a Sacrament) because
he discovered that the best man had been smoking that morning! It was
only after thrashing the delinquent that he relented and finished the

Smoking breaks a fast. And this fact was exemplified in a ludicrous
sequel to an ugly attack on an Englishman which occurred in these
parts in 1912. The Englishman had evaded his assailants, and found
shelter for the night in a village: but it was quite likely he would
be pursued; and at daybreak next morning every one's nerves were very
much on edge. The sun's rays had just touched the hill-top opposite,
and the shadows were rapidly sinking into the valley, when over the
ridge, running as hard as he could leg it, there swooped a solitary
Kurd. None could doubt the nature of his tidings; and they watched with
their hearts in their mouths as he tore down the slope towards them,
leapt the stream, flung himself on the grass beside it, and--_lit a

It was _Ramazan_: and he only wished to reach a spot where the sun had
not yet risen, in order to enjoy a last smoke!

[135] Tyari men would not have eaten her at all; not for that reason,
but because they have scruples about touching beef. "Our Fathers did
not do so."

[136] The Baz men are hereditary builders, and migrate in a body to
Mosul in winter in order to undertake such work.

[137] _i.e._ "Prophet."

[138] A comb is one of the mystic symbols which are carved on the
Yezidi temple at Sheikh Adi.

[139] See note at end of chapter.

[140] See Tylor, "Anthropology," ch. xvi.

[141] Reshid's personal reputation may be gleaned from the fact that
natives travelling in our company have begged us to pocket their
cash for them while passing through his borders. Even our inviolable
"shadow" was not quite good enough there!

[142] _Châl_ in Turkish means Thieve!--habitually, and preferably with
violence. But this, though admirably apposite, is not an accredited

[143] The writer was recounting this anecdote at a meeting after his
return to England when an old gentleman in the audience was overheard
to remark, in a scandalized voice: "Tut, tut, tut; why didn't he give
him in charge?"

[144] There are no coroner's inquests in the mountains; but we never
killed any one as far as we know.

[145] "Books of remedies" and collections of charms like the one
referred to are often found among the Nestorians, and the substance
of them is often of almost incredible antiquity. The writer once
translated some specimens he had selected to a friend learned in
Assyriology and found that they were essentially identical with the
charms on the oldest of the Babylonian tablets. A substratum of the
oldest faith of the land has survived all the changes of seven thousand

[146] The incident occurred in 1901 or 1902. The officer concerned was
Captain Maunsell, R.A., then British Vice-Consul at Van. The English
"Apostles" do not usually carry arms. It might answer if they could be
sure of disabling an assailant; for then he would come to be doctored,
and amicable relations would be re-established. But to kill him would
start a blood feud, and to miss him would be worst of all. The _vacuus
viator_ is safer than one who carries such a valuable prize as an
English gun.

[147] The lady is usually allowed very little choice. We were consulted
once in a knotty case where a girl had been betrothed to one man by
her father and another by her mother; and we mildly suggested that she
might at least be allowed a casting vote. "What can it matter to her,
Rabbi?" said the Bishop of Berwar who was acting as arbitrator; "one
husband is as good as another!"

[148] "And satyrs shall dance there" is the final touch in Isaiah's
picture of the desolation of Babylon. This is doubtless the identical

[149] He entirely confirmed Mr. Bram Stoker's evidence that the King of
the Vampires is Dracula.

[150] Armenians aver that this happened on the summit of Sipan Dagh,
near Van. Noah, on feeling the bump, ejaculated "_Sipan Allah!_"
(Praise God!) and this gave its name to the mountain. He must have been
the only mariner on record to feel delight at such an event.

[151] These were the gorges that drove Xenophon to take to the
mountains in the Anabasis. He could march up the left bank of the river
about as high as Jezireh; but there the ravine grew too narrow and
difficult for troops.

[152] Herodotus seems to have confused the _keleg_ and the _ghufa_ in
his notes; for both existed, on the evidence of the sculptures, in his
day. He speaks of "circular craft, covered with skins and caulked with
bitumen," and made on wooden frames. He adds that at the journey's
end the wood was sold, and the skins carried back "to Armenia" on the
back of a donkey that had made the voyage down on the vessel. All his
details are right, as regards one or other of the two types, save only
the voyaging donkey. An experienced jackass will jump readily into a
_ghufa_ and be ferried across, or some way down, the river; but he does
not, in these days at any rate, come all the way down from Diarbekr to
Baghdad. However, there is no reason why he should not.

[153] Under these was in each case a small chamber, just large enough
to contain the miniature image of the "guardian of the threshold" that
was invariably placed there.

[154] See p. 191.

[155] This is not precisely the epithet that is usually applied to
Nineveh in Scripture; but a touch of national prejudice changes the
point of view. The Assyrian Tyrtæus was a refugee from Serai, near Van.

[156] See pp. 311 _et seq._

[157] See p. 317.

[158] See pp. 76-78, 251, etc.

[159] See pp. 136 _et seq._

[160] See pp. 171-73.

[161] The _Yaila_ of Shina lies amid the mountains which are shown in
the illustration facing p. 176. It would be near the extreme left of
the picture, facing the precipices of Ghara Dagh.

[162] The Tal gorge debouches upon the Zab from the left, near the
further end of the reach shown in the frontispiece. See also p. 288.

[163] This must have been a col in the distant mountain range, shown in
the illustration facing p. 257.

[164] See pp. 127, 159, etc.

[165] See p. 216.

[166] The Kitab ul Fakhri on the Tartar sack of Baghdad.

[167] See pp. 256-69. Firebrand as he was, Aram on this occasion did
all he could to avert disorder, exhorting the Armenians to suffer
anything rather than give a pretext for "repression."

[168] The delay was partly owing to the "Sykes-Picot Treaty" which left
Mosul in the French sphere. The French could not work this treaty, and
for long would not consent to its abrogation, and the fact tied British

[169] A quaint episode marked the campaign. After storming--and
plundering--a Kurdish village, some exultant mountain warriors came
to their C.O. to announce that they had secured the most valuable
loot they could hope to win. They presented to the amused officer
an enormous MS. tome of Church services! It was a copy of their
"Khudra"--_i.e._, the collection of the variable parts of the offices
on all Sundays and ferials of the "circle" (khudra) of the year, an
enormously enlarged equivalent to the Collects and occasional prayers
of the Book of Common Prayer. They begged for a mule from the transport
train to carry this sacred trophy at the head of the column on the
march, and it gives some idea of the size of the book when we say that
the mule was actually necessary to carry it, though, as the companion
volume of the "Gezza" (Treasury, containing the prayers for saints'
days) was not there, it was not more than half a load for the beast.
For the rest of the campaign the book was the palladium and standard
of the corps, and was given a voluntary guard of honour every night.
Subsequently, it was presented to the Patriarch, and is now in use in
his church.

[170] Pp. 321 _et seq._

[171] The Ottoman Government had, during the war, some notion of
hanging the writer "because he had built a house to serve as a British
fort." He escaped by a clerical error, heartlessly described by Sir
A. Wilson as "one of those errors of routine inevitable in even the
best administrations!" His name, in the list of civil prisoners, was
transliterated one way; on the list of criminals, in another. We hope
that this posthumous justification of the sentence is as satisfactory
to the judges as it is to the criminal!

[172] See p. 118.

[173] "Sandy McPherson," said Lord Justice Braxton to the "panel"
before him, "ye are a vera ingenious chiel, but ye'll be nane the waur
of a haanging." And one is reminded of this verdict by the character
of that sporting and alluring rascal, Agha Petros. The man is a good
fighter, who under other circumstances might have earned high rank; but
whose lot has been cast in places that have developed that "kink" in
his nature that will prevent him from ever being chevalier of a higher
order than that of "Industrie." He declared to the writer--with a
frankness that does him credit--that he had read the earlier edition of
this book, and that all said of him therein (see pp. 218-19) was true;
but he added that he had become a changed man since.

It is certainly the fact that this hawk has since learned to fly at
higher game, but he still must be classified among "raptores." Alas
that so many good fellows are rascals!

[174] See note on p. 401.

[175] When the Assyrians made their attack, an officer in the train
judged it better to get out on the side remote from the action, "lest
he should see things that it might be his duty to report."

[176] See p. 267.

[177] Surma _Khanim_ spent several months, in the years 1919-20, in
England, where she was the guest of the "Sisters of Bethany," who have
an interest in her people of long standing. The object of her visit was
to put the claims and position of her people before the British Home
Authorities, and, if possible, before those of Europe at large. She at
least secured a courteous hearing from British Cabinet Ministers, and
though she was unable to extract any definite promises from men who did
not themselves know what they wanted, she left the impression of a very
striking personality on the minds of those who had been accustomed to
think of Assyrians as a mere barbarian nuisance.

[178] See illustration facing p. 128.

[179] See pp. 311 _et seq._ Reshid had been "reconciled" the previous
autumn; his formidable "Castle" at Deir Sherish being razed so flat
that (as reported by the gleeful Assyrians) "You wouldn't think it had
ever been there!"

[180] Some of the heroes of this Odyssey retired into Mosul Gaol for
a while in consequence of it, and were still there at the following
Easter. Then a pitiful petition was sent in on their behalf (or, at
least, on behalf of the "Old Churchmen" among them) to the effect:
"Please let those out for Easter who have been keeping their fast so
properly in prison. Never mind about the Protestants--_they_ have been
eating the good prison food and don't matter."

Unfortunately, even this pathetic plea did not move the Gallio who then
sat in the seat of authority! However, all were released soon after.

Gaol has become, as a result of British rule, quite unpopular in Mosul.
You can no longer sit in the prison and take your ease there, sending
out for your food and tobacco, as under the Turk. Instead, you have
to wear "an unbecoming frock" like the gentleman in the Bab ballads,
and work on the roads. So "wearing the cap" is disliked in Mosul, the
more as it is no longer possible, when weary of captivity, to hire a
substitute to take your place there and make up the tale of captives!

[181] It was proposed to raise some companies of Yezidis for the levy
also, and they would serve British officers most loyally. However, up
to the time of writing this has not been done, though they offer good
military material, and their home in Jebel Sinjar lies conveniently on
the flank of the one line of advance possible to the one enemy. The
only difficulty (given separate companies of Yezidis, as of Assyrians)
seems to lie in the British words of command used throughout the "Mosul
levy," and which Orientals who know no English pick up with marvellous
quickness. For any sound resembling "Sheitan" is blasphemy to the ears
of a Yezidi. How then is it possible to address to them the mystic
adjuration "'Shun"?

[182] Petros was ill-advised enough to try and blackmail the High
Commissioner! He claimed present payment of Rs. 38,000, alleged to have
been spent by him out of his own funds on the expedition to Gawar!
Failing immediate payment of this, he would denounce Sir P. Cox's
dealings with his people to the League of Nations, the French Republic,
and the Pope. To his amazement he was told that he might go to all
three, and the devil as well if he liked (the connection with the Pope
was not so obvious to Petros as to the angry A.D.C.), and had better
begin by leaving the office.

       *       *       *       *       *

Typographical errors corrected by the etext transcriber:

Selencia=> Seleucia {pg 5}

admittted=> admitted {pg 100}

bridgroom=> bridegroom {pg 161}

left a one=> left alone {pg 178}

France or Amercia=> France or America {pg 259}

inacessible=> inaccessible {pg 264}

callousnesss=> callousness {pg 378}

faily well=> fairly well {pg 287}

is a good as ever=> is as good as ever {pg 291}

mattter=> matter {pg 301}

Hand him over over to us=> Hand him over to us {pg 301}

did not minish=> did not deminish {pg 382}

cavavan=> caravan {pg 409}

deserted by Patriach, 364;=> deserted by Patriarch, 364; {pg 427}

shrin of Mar Abd' Ishu, 306-7;=> shrine of Mar Abd' Ishu, 306-7; {pg

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This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
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