Imágenes de páginas

of Iran. Some part of Media is all which they at any time appear to have subdued; Persia remained an independent nation as low down as the reign of Astyages ;--and the more eastern provinces of Bactria, Aria, and Chorasmia were first united under a single sceptre considerably after the Medes had recovered themselves from the yoke of Assyria. Nor do the circumstances by which, according to Ferdusi and his imitators, the Paishdadian dynasty was brought to an end, in the least degree correspond with those which are described by the Grecian writers as attending the revolt of the Medes and the subsequent ruin of Nineveh.

The hypothesis which Sir J. Malcolm has adopted is liable to still greater objections, inasmuch as no instance can be found in any history, eastern or western, in which a dynasty is described as one single person; and we may be sure that Žohauk-(if indeed he had any more real existence than the Scythian Humber who invaded Yorkshire in the reign of King Locrine, or than King Lud who imposed his name on one of the gates of London)—will be found to be an exaggeration of some individual enemy, not an aggregate term for many successive governors., And both this hypothesis and that of Sir William Jones are disproved by the infinite difference of character and renown between Deïoces, the Romulus at once and Numa of his country, and a sovereign who, like Kaikobad, was neither the first of the native kings, nor renowned for any reform or legislation whatever ;-who is distinguished by the Persians only as having led an obstinate and ill-conducted expedition into a country of enchanters. The idea adopted by Anquetil du Perron is free, no doubt, from any of these difficulties.; but it labours, on the other hand, under the equally fatal exception of being contrary to the general tenor of the Persian history, which no where supposes that, during either the Paishdadian or Kaianian dynasty, the empire of Iran was dismembered ;-and which by ascribing to Jemsheed the foundation of Persepolis, plainly gives us to understand that the power of the Paishdadian sovereigns extended to the neighbourhood of the Euphrates. The truth is, that all these eminent persons whose opinions we have examined have been more or less misled by a notion of the very high antiquity to which the traditions of Persia ascend. If, however, there be any circumstance in the Shah Nameh which is more obviously fabulous than the rest, it is unquestionably that monstrous system of chronology which assigns to some of its sovereigns a reign above a thousand years, and distributes twenty kings from Kaiomurs to Alexander, over a space of almost thirty centuries. Nor-as the notion of including many kings under a single name is too improbable to deserve any long examination--can we conceive any reason which can be assigned for such a mode of reckon

[ocr errors]

ing, if it be not that admiration of antiquity which leads all mankind to throw back their national origin to as early a period as possible, and a desire, perhaps, on the part of Mohammedans to reconcile the chronology of Persia with their notions respecting that of Moses; and, having once made Kaiomurs the son or grandson of Noah, to assign him a date corresponding with that of the patriarch from whose loins they derived him.

But if, rejecting a calculation which even the warmest supporters of the Persian historians regard as, in most instances, untenable, we compute the duration of the twenty reigns of these two dynasties, at an average somewhatexceeding that to which the sovereigns of Europe attain, we shall obtain a result very little different from the 380 years assigned by the best Grecian authorities to that series of monarchs which began with Deroces, and ended with Darius Codomannus. Nor is this the only coincidence. Seventeen successive kings of the Medes and Persians are reckoned by the Greeks; and if, from the Persian list of the Paishdadian and Kaianian sovereigns, we strike out Zohauk and Afrasiaib, (who, as usurpers and foreigners, have, clearly, no business there,) and Homai, who may be suspected, from the account given of her in the Shah Nameh, to have merely acted as regent during the minority of her son, the same number of seventeen reigns from Kaiomurs to Darab II. will appear in Ferdusi's Catalogue. We shall thus obtain in the great Kaiomurs a worthy counterpart, both in character and renown, to the Deroces of Herodotus; and when we recollect that, while dates are, of all historic truths, the most easily forgotten, the number of kings in the regal table is, of all others, the least liable to fabulous perversion, --we may readily allow that this imperfect outline of the times anterior to Alexander may have descended uninjured to those in which Ferdusi flourished, and that the Grecian and oriental historians do really concur in one circumstance which their respective champions have, hitherto, very little considered.

We are aware that this doctrine of the comparatively recent date to which the history of Persia ascends (though in substance supported by the authority of Newton) has been combated by very plausible arguments. It has been urged by one whose works we never read without delight, and seldom without acquiescence, that it would be "unaccountably strange, that, although Abraham had found a regular monarchy in Egypt; although the kingdom of Yemen had just pretensions to very high antiquity, although the Chinese, in the twelfth century before our era, had made approaches, at least, to the present form of their extensive dominions; and although we can hardly suppose the first Indian monarch to have reigned less than three thousand years ago, yet Persia, the most delightful, the most compact, the most desirable

country of them all, should have remained for so many ages unsettled and disunited.* And the astronomical calculations of the learned Bailly, which fix the first institution of the Neuruz to the year A. Č. 3209, would seem to ascribe at least an equal antiquity to Jemsheed, by whom, if we believe the Persians, that computation of time was introduced into their country. But to the observation of Sir William Jones we would reply, that our hypothesis by no means involves, as a necessary conclusion, that Persia or Media was uncivilized till the reign of Deioces,-far less that the name of king or of a regular government was unknown in Iran till he ascended the throne. It is extremely possible that the account of these political changes which he effected, may be exaggerated both by Herodotus and Ferdusi, and that the whole of his exploits was confined to the union of the discordant tribes who inhabited Media and Hyrcania, and the consequent reduction of Persia. Assyria (which both Sir William Jones and Sir J. Malcolm include in Iran) we know had kings from the very earliest ages, and it is probable that all these countries might have never lost, from the time of Noah, that degree of civilization which the Asiatics have never very greatly exceeded or fallen short of. But this by no means. makes it necessary to suppose that they were united under a single despot. We have no good reason to believe that the kings of India who reigned 3000 years ago were masters of the whole peninsula ; and there is room between the spacious bounds of Iran for four or five kingdoms as large as either Yemen or Egypt, and which would not thrive at all the worse in the arts of war or peace for being thus what Sir William Jones would call • disunited. But of that mighty empire into which these separate governments were eventually melted down, we have no right whatever, from any abstract probability, to fix the commencement at an earlier period than that assigned by Herodotus ; nor have we any greater cause for wondering that such an union was not effected sooner, than an Asiatic would have for expressing his astonishment that the several kingdoms of Continental Europe have not long since coalesced in one unwieldy sovereignty. And that this compulsory union did not take place in Iran till a period comparatively recent, we can hardly require a stronger proof than the want in ancient writers of any common name for the countries between the Tigris and the Indus. Sir John Malcolm is mistaken when he supposes that, either in the Scriptures or the early Grecian authors, the name of Persia is in any case applied to the whole extent of that country which is so called by modern Europeans. By Daniel and Ezra, Pars or Persia

* Sir W. Jones's Sixth Discourse before the Asiatic Society, Bailly, Hist. de l'Astronomie, p. 130.

is only used in contradistinction to Madai, or Media ; and, by the Greeks, the several districts of Caramania, Media, Parthia, Persia, Susiana, are never described as subdivisions of one great region, but as distinct and adjoining nations, of which some had, at different times, achieved the conquest of their neighbours. Iran, or Eeran,-under which general name these countries are, by the modern inhabitants of the East, comprised, --is not a name expressive of political union. In Pehlivi it means the Land of Be. lievers, and denoted with the followers of Zoroaster that general agreement in religion which we, in our own case, express by the term of Christendom."* But, for this very reason, its

usage cannot be more ancient than the Prophet to whose tenets it refers ; and the fact that this name does not occur in any of the writers of Grecian antiquity, would induce us to believe that it was of still inore recent introduction.

To that objection which arises from the calculation of Bailly, we should find it, perhaps, more difficult to make a reply, were it pot a circumstance of ordinary occurrence in fabulous and legendary history, to ascribe to its heroes actions and characteristics drawn from the mythology of foreign countries, and of ages the most distant from those in which they were themselves supposed to have flourished. The practice of the Greeks is well known, which decorated Hercules with all the adventures of all the foreign gods and heroes which fell in their way. Much of the fabulous exaggeration which distinguishes our British Arthur is derived from the Arthur of the middle ages being confounded with a far more ancient mythological personage, the proprietor of the waggon of Arcturus and the harp in the constellation Lyra. With the heathen mythologists, the circumstances and dignity of Noah's flood may seem to have been applied to a local inundation which, in the days of Deucalion, ravaged Thessaly; and Prometheus, himself the son of Japheth, has been transformed into the maker of mankind. Nor. can we wonder, when we consider the very defective knowledge of their ancestors which the Persians appear to have retained, that such traditions as the Magi possessed respecting Adam and Noah should, in common with the neighbouring superstitions of Bacchus and Rama, have been applied by them to the first person whose name appeared in their history; or that, though Jemsheed might have done little more than reform the details of their calendar, they should ascribe to him the far more ancient inventions of the Neu. ruz, the cycle of 1440 years, and the division of his subjects into

* See Vol. i. p. 258, of Sir J. Malcolm's History, for a very curious and learned Note on this subject. To the testimony there cited of Moullah Firoze, we can add the remarkable correspondence between the Pehlivi word Eer, faith, and the Slavopic Veero, which is only Eer with the digamma. To the same source we may refer the German Ehre, and (herhaps) the Latin Vereor,


tribes or professions. There is, indeed, in all rude nations, and among the vulgar of every age and country, a sort of unwillingness to confess their want of information, which induces them to ascribe pretty much at random, whatever ancient customs prevail among them, and whatever fragments of antiquity are found in their fields or cities, to those names in historywith which they themselves are best acquainted. To Solomon every unclaimed act of magnificence or wisdom is ascribed by the modern Arabs; and to Jemsheed, the Solomon of the Guebres, the establishment of these ancient customs would be attributed without any very scrupulous examination into the agreement of dates and circumstances. The calculation, then, of Bailly, though it will establish the fact that the nation by whom the Neuruz was originally adopted, were, at the early period mentioned by him, in a state of considerable advancement in astronomical knowledge, will not prove either that Jemsheed was then alive, or even that it was the Persians themselves by whom this cycle was invented. And whatever may be thought of the latter supposition, the probability of the former is by far too slight to be set in opposition to the strong resemblance which has been remarked between the characters of Kaiomurs and Deïoces, and the coincidence in the number of reigns which, according to both Greeks and Persians, intervened between the foundation of the monarchy and its destruction by the king of Macedon.

Those, however, who are still discontented with thep eriod which we assign to Persian history or tradition, may seek, if they please, some traces of those times which preceded Deïoces, in the mystical treatise of Mohsin Fani; and (whenever they shall be discovered) in the Zend and Pehlivi manuscripts from which he professes to have derived his information. For ourselves, we have already, perhaps, detained the reader too long in this region of palpable obscurity, nor should we have so severely taxed his patience, if it had not been of considerable importance to the whole system of sacred and profane chronology to bring finally to the test the comparative merits of the eastern and western historians. We shall not, we trust, in future, hear it gravely maintained, that'the scholars of Europe have, in their notions of eastern history, been misled for 2000 years by Grecian egotism and Jewish ignorance,-that the

great Nebuchadnezzar, and the greater Cyrus, were themselves no more than lieutenants to king Lolirasp,—that Xerxes was the petty governor of a province in Asia Minor,--that “Sardanapalus was an hereditary nabob of Nineveh, who lost his life in maintaining his government for the family of Cyrus, against Darius, son of Hystaspes,'—and that this last sovereign, and not the Astyages of Herodotus, was the patron and protector of Daniel. Of all these dreams, it is our duty to observe, Sir John Malcolm's

« AnteriorContinuar »