Page images
[ocr errors]

fossils, so the limestone of the westerly ranges of the Persian Apennines becomes, on the plain of Musul, soft, pliable, and redolent with the shells of Trachelopodous Mollusca, and Menomyairous, and Dimyairus Conchifera."


[ocr errors]

Persia, it has been said, is subject to two great inconveniences, which more than counterbalance the excellence of its climate, and the fertility of its soil; namely, the want of trees and water. There is not a navigable river in the wide range of country between the Tigris and the Indus, and, in many parts, even a well is a rare and valuable possession. The table-land of Iran, with the mountain ranges which surround it on the north and south, is very sparingly watered. The southern mountain ranges are too bare and low to attract sufficient moisture to form perennial streams, except in a few places. The northern mountains give rise to a great number of water courses; but as soon as they enter the plain, the small volume of water which they pour down is absorbed in irrigation, and only a few streams reach the desert, where they are quickly lost in the dry and thirsty soil. It is only in the table-land of Azerbigan, and in the mountains of Kurdistan, that there is a good supply of water. The rivers of Ghilan and Mazanderan are very limited in their courses. The most considerable river in Azerbigan ii the Sefi Rud, or White River, which is also known by the Turkish name of Kizil Ozien. This river rises within the mo intains of Kurdistan, south of 36° n. lat., and traverses the mo: * mountainous district of Azerbigan; running a circuitous cou 'se, first eastnorth-east for about one hundred miles, and then about the same distance northward. When near 37° 30' n. lat., it breaks through the western chain of the mountains of Massula, and turns to the south-east for about eighty miles, draining the valley between the two ranges of the Massula mountains. At the western extremity of the Elburz range, it is joined by the river Shahrud, which drains the valleys in the western portion of the Elburz mountains, and flows onward about one hundred miles. After its junction with this river, the Kizil Ozien flow's about thirty miles in the narrow valley separating the Elburz mountains from the Massula ranges on the east, and enters the plain of Ghilan, through which it passes to the Caspian sea. On the table-land of Azerbigan, the bed of the Kizil Ozien is generally many hundred feet, and some

times a thousand feet below the adjacent country: hence its streams can nowhere be used for the purposes of irrigation. Besides this river, the Aji and the Jaghatu demand a passing

a notice. These rivers, each running about one hundred miles, fall into the lake of Urumiyeh. Both of them are extensively used in the irrigation of the valleys through which they flow, and also the plain of Urumiyeh. There are many rivers which drain the mountains of Kurdistan, and its numerous valleys. Three of these, the Diayalah, which joins the Tigris below Bagdad, the Kerkhah, which falls into the Shatel-Arab, and the Karoon or Kuran, flowing into the same, run between two and four hundred miles. “ The rivers," says Ainsworth, “ which may be considered as forming the hydrographical basin of Khusistan are, the Kerah, the Ab-izal, the Kuran, the Jerahi, and the Indigan. These rivers, however, are, like most of the rivers of Persia, insignificant when compared with the Tigris, or Euphrates. They were but as pools of water, thinly scattered over the landscape."

To remedy this defect, as necessity is the mother of invention, extraordinary efforts were made in ancient times to irrigate the lands by artificial means. Wheels were so constructed as to draw up the water from such streams as lay nearest, and conveyed it over the fields: and an ingenious contrivance was formed of connecting successive wells. by subterranean conduits, called khanats in Persia, and cauraizees in Affghanistan. Polybius says of such, as constructed in Media: "There are rivulets and springs underground; but no one except those that know the country can find them.” But the frequent revolutions to which Persia has been subjected,

have from time to time demolished these useful contrivances; and these water courses, of which there were not less than 15,000 in the inner district of Nishapoor, are now in a state of comparative neglect. Zoroaster's precepts to plant“useful trees,'' and to “

convey water to the dry lands," have long been unheeded, though he annexed salvation to the pursuit

. “He," says this founder of the Magian faith, “ who sows the ground with care and diligence acquires a greater stock of religious merit than he could gain by repeating ten thousand prayers." This it was that inspired the ancient Persians, under the Sassanian dynasty, to perform these great works, the result of which was a flourishing state of agriculture, and great national prosperity, as recorded by Curtius, Ammianus, Marcellinus, and other ancient writers. But the Mohammedan faith, under which the Persians now live, inculcates far different

. principles to these. Under its withering influence, the Persians, like other Mohammedans, are satisfied with what good things they find, and care not to labour for posterity. They look upon life, it has been said, as a great road, wherein men ought to be contented with such things as fall' in their way. Reposing in carnal ease, they forget the duties of life: and hence it is, that the flourishing state of agriculture which once existed in Persia, is no where to be traced at the present day; so much depends, even in temporal matters, upon the principles of the religion a nation professes. Chardin thinks, that if the Turks were to inhabit this country, it would soon be more impoverished than it is; whereas, if the Armenians or Parsees were to become its masters, it would be restored to its ancient fertility.

The manner in which these subterraneous water courses were constructed, may be discerned in the following account which Elphinstone gives of those in Affghanistan, which are precisely the same as in Persia : “ The next contrivance for obtaining water," he says, " is the sort of conduit which is called a cauraiz, or cahrees. It is known by the same name in Persia, but is there most frequently called a kaunat, or

, khanat. It is thus made :-The spot where the water is to issue must be always at the foot of a slope extending to a hill, and the ground must be examined, to ascertain whether there are springs, and in what direction they lie. When the spot is fixed, a very shallow well is sunk, and another of greater depth is made at some distance up the slope. A succession of wells is made in this manner, and connected by a subterraneous passage from well to well. The wells increase in depth as the ground ascends, but are so managed, that the passage which connects them, has a declivity towards the plain. Many springs are discovered during this process, but

, the workman stops them up, that they may not interrupt his operations, until he has finished the last well

, when he opens the springs, and the water rushes through the channel, rises in the wells to the height of its source, and is poured out from the lowest into a water course, which conducts it over the fields. When the cauraiz, or conduit is completed, the wells are of no further use except to allow a man to descend occasionally to clear out the channel. The distance between the wells varies from ten yards to 100. It is usually about fifty. The dimensions of the channel are generally no more than necessary to allow the water to work, but some are much larger. I have heard of one near Subzewaur, in Persian Khorassan, through which a horseman might ride with a lance over his shoulder. The number of wells, and, consequently, the length of the cauraiz, depend on the number of springs met with, as the chain is generally continued, either till water enough has been obtained, or till the wells become so. deep as to render it inconvenient to proceed. I have heard of various lengths, from two miles to thirty-six, but I should suppose the usual length was under the shortest of these measures. It may be supposed that the expense of so laborious a structure must be great; but the rich are fond of laying out their money on these means of bringing waste land into cultivation, and it is by no means uncommon for the poor to associate to make a cauraiz, and to divide the land which it irrigates amongst them. Cauraizees are common in all the west of the country, and their numbers are on the in

I know but of one on the east of the range of Solimaun, which is at Tuttore, in Damaun. They are in use over all Persia, as they have been in Toorkistaun; but they are now neglected in the latter country, even their name is not known in India.”



The most considerable of the lakes of Persia is that of Urumiyeh, or Shahee, which is more than eighty miles long, and about twenty-six in extreme breadth: The water, in the deepest part, is four fathoms, but the average depth is only two fathoms. The shores of the lake shelve so gradually, that this depth is rarely attained within two miles of the land. The water is much salter than that of the ocean, and its specific gravity is such, that a vessel of 100 tons burden is said not to draw more than from three to four feet. A gale of wind, moreover, raises the waves only a few feet, and they subside into a calm as soon as the storm has passed. This lake receives many streams, but it has no outlet.

Besides the lake of Urumiyeh, there is another of great note, namely, that of Bakhtegan. By some geographers, the lake of Bakhtegan is confounded with the salt lake of Shiraz, whereas the western extremity of the Bakhtegan lake is full thirty-six miles north-east of the south-east extremity of that of Shiraz. The lake of Bakhtegan is the reservoir of all the streams of Hollow Persia, or those that irrigate the vales of Morgaub, Istaker, and Kurbal. At the present day, it is generally called Deria Niriz, or Lake of Niriz: by ancient geographers it was called the lake of Bakh. tegan, from a ruined village east of Kheir. Ebn Haukel says of it: “ Among these is the lake of Bakhtegan. Into this flows the river Kur, which is near Hhekan, or Khefan, and it reaches nearly to Zahek in Kirman (Carmania.) The extent of this lake is twenty farsangs, nearly eight miles, in length; and the water of it is bitter, and on the borders are wild beasts of various kinds, such as lions, leopards, or tigers, and others; and the region of this lake, which belongs to the kuveh (district) of Istaker, (Persepolis,) comprises several villages.” Hamdallah Mastowfi says, that in its vicinity are tracts of soil impregnated with salt; that its length is twelve, its breadth seven, and its circumference thirty-four farsangs. These accounts were written about A. D. 950.

To the ancient writers the lake seems to have been unknown, for it is neither mentioned by Strabo nor Curtius, nor others who mention the expedition of Cyrus ; nor is it spoken of by the Greek or Roman geographers. On this account it is marked on some of the maps of ancient countries as unknown to the ancients.” The same may be said of the lake of Shiraz, or, as it is called by Hamdallah Cazvini, Mahluiah. This latter lake, it may be added, extends to within six miles southeast of Shiraz, being from twenty to twenty-five miles long, and twelve parasangs, or nearly forty-eight miles in circumference.



As might be expected, in so vast an extent of country as Persia, the climate is very varied: some parts, indeed, are wintry cold, while others are parched with heat at the same • time of the year.

The plain of Ghilan and Mazanderan posesses a climate peculiar to itself. This arises from the circumstances that it is below the sea level; that it has a vast expanse of water to the north ; and that it is enclosed on the south by a high range of mountains. The plain has a rainy and dry season. In the month of September, heavy gales commence, which impel the clouds against the mountain wall of Elburz, and the rain descends in torrents, accompanied by appalling thunder-storms. The rain continues in the plain to the middle of January, but on the slopes of the mountains it is converted into snow about the beginning of November, and the quantity that falls is enormous. It is said to rise in many places from one to two fathoms, and to carry away

« EelmineJätka »