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work is blameless; but the eminent names by which some of them have been supported, are sufficient to have made it worth our while to expose the sandy foundation on which they are supported.
From the accession of Alexander to the restoration of the Persian monarchy by Artaxerxes the Second, is a perfect blank in the works of Ferdusi and his followers; and of the Parthians, who continued during that long interval to be the ruling tribe of Iran, a few scattered names are all which appear to be remembered. That warlike race has been, by Ferguson and others, very rashly maintained to have been a horde of Tartar invaders, who, in the reign of Antiochus Theos, emerged from their deserts on the eastern frontier of the empire. This fancy–which merely rested on some obscure expressions of Justin and Dion Cassius, two writers so miserably credulous, that their most positive testimony on such subjects is not worth considering is very properly discarded by Sir John Malcolm. He is himself, howeyer, mistaken insupposing that the Parthians originated in Curdistan.--(p. 245.)
-A more accurate attention to what Strabo says in his fifteenth book will show that he only gives the name of Parthians to the Carduchi in the same manner in which the Scotch and Welch are by foreigners often called English, after the ruling nation; and that he places Parthia and the Parthians properly so called, in the same situation in which Herodotus placed them
many hundred years before-between Hyrcania, Aria, and Bactria, in the eastern part of Khorassen.
Nor is that opinion much better founded which Sir J. Malcolm has adopted from Silvestre de Sacy, that the religious opinions of this people were different from those of the provinces which they subdued. Their reverence for the planets was by no means inconsistent with the worship of fire as a symbol of the Supreme Being; and the custom of representing these heavenly bodies by figures corresponding with those of the Grecian mythology, was an abuse with which even the Kaianian dynasty had been seriously infected since the time of Artaxerxes Mnemon. It was, then, neither foreign extraction nor heretical principles which robbed the Arsacidæ of fame among their own contrymen ;--nor can we better account for their faring worse than their predecessors, than by supposing, with Sir J. Malcolm on the authority of native tradition, that the 300 years which intervene between Alexander and Artaxerxes Babigan were a time of anarchy and misfortunes ; that the nation was very slowly recovering from the ruin in which the Macedonian conquest had left her, and consequently little disposed or enabled to hand down the achievements of her kings to posterity ;-and that the Parthian empire, though occasionally formidable and (united against its foreign enemies, was, at home, and in the general
spirit of its government, sufficiently divided and miserable. It is evident, however, that so long a continuance of anarchy was little more favourable to the transmission of ancient than the collection of contemporary history; and it is to this long sleep of Persian literature at least as much as to the subsequent violence of the Mahommedans, that we are inclined to ascribe the defective state of the early annals of the country.
The accession of Artaxerxes Babigan was a period of general restoration, and of a professed and ostentatious return to ancient principles; and in the brilliant reigns which succeeded, the empire received the utmost degree of civilization and improvement of which it has ever been, apparently, susceptible. Accordingly, there is no part of Persian history with which we are better acquainted than the reigns of the Sassanian dynasty, and, with the exception of some poetical ornaments of small importance, the Shahpoor, Hoormuz, Baharam and Khoosrou of the native writers, differ very little in their characters or exploits from the Sapor, Hormisdas, Varanes and Cosrhoës of the Greeks.—In one respect, indeed, the Persian accounts of this period are extremely valuable, inasmuch as they alone supply the picture of that rapid decline, which, beginning with the voluptuous and oppressive, though splendid reign of the last-named monarch, prepared the way in Persia, as in Spain, for the success of the Arabian scimitar; and which sufficiently accounts, without a miracle, for the fall of Jezdejird, the Roderick of the East, and the extension of the Koran and the authority of the Caliphs to the banks of the Oxus and Jaxartes. The empire, however, thus formed, was not likely to be of long duration. When the first fervour of religious zeal had subsided which adorned the vicars of God with a dignity little less than divine, their governors and their colonies which they sent out to Seistan, Khorassan, and Herat, paid little attention to the mandates of a sovereign resident in Syria or in Egypt; and the conquered nation itself, though with the laws it had assumed the faith of the conquerors, began to feel itself too strong to respect its masters any longer. It is from this time, apparently, that we are to trace the commencement of that miserable series of revolutions in Persia, whereby the crown becomes the prize of any adventurer who can gain it, and which, by operating as a perpetual premium for violence and bloodsied, has done more îhan even Mahommedanism itself to keep back the spirit of improvement to which the natural genius of the Persians, more than most other nations, inclines them.
Yacoub-ben-Leis, the son of a pewterer in Seistan, a robber first, and afterwards a captain of condottieri, was the first of these children of fortune whom we meet with. Intrusted by Dirhemebu-Nasser, governor of Seistan, with the command of his forces, his first use of this power was to dethrone the chief who had bestowed it on him, whom he sent in chains to Bagdad ; desiring, as his recompense for displacing a rebellious ruler, the investiture of his native
province, as servant and lieutenant to the Lord of the Faithful. To Seistan he succeeded in annexing other provinces, and died at length the independent sovereign of by far the greatest part of Iran. He is described as a man of winning manners and great simplicity of demeanour. His tent was of no better materials or size than that of the meanest soldier in his army, and he boasted, in answer to the threats of the Caliph Mutu-amed-ulUllah, that a sovereign who, like himself, was contented with bread and onions, had nothing to fear from fortune. His family sat on the throne of Persia for three generations. The empire was, after their downfall, divided between the Samanee, and the Dilemee, who are chiefly remarkable as patrons of learning and poetry. We cannot very highly praise the concetto which Sir J. Malcolm has given us, as a specimen of the favoured bard Rudiki; but, whatever may have been the taste of King Nazr the son of Ahmed, his liberality at least is undoubted, whose poet laureate made his pilgrimages to his master's fields of battle, attended by 200 slaves, and with a travelling equipage of 400 camels. But the glory of these kings was completely eclipsed by the success and splendour of Mahmood of Ghisni, who, having first distinguished himself during the life-time of his father the sovereign of Herat, by his savage zeal in the invasion of India, became, on his accession to the crown, the avowed champion of the Caliphate and the rights of the Church, and easily obtained from those oriental popes the investiture of all the territories which he might conquer in a cause so holy. The fruit of his exertions was a kingdom only bounded by the Tigris, the Ganges, the Jaxartes, and the Indian
This is the king who is well known in Europe by that popular tale which represents his vizier as pretending to a knowledge of the language of birds, and explaining the liberality of an owl, who, after wishing Mahmood a long life, offered a hundred ruined villages as a dowry to her daughter. The hideous carnage which distinguished his successive conquests of India but too well evinces the justice of this sarcasm ; but this destroyer was not without his virtues. He is known in Eastern history as the patron of the arts; and the beautiful story of the manner in which he punished the unknown violator of a peasant's wife, may serve to prove that, however he might transgress the rules of justice in his own conduct, he was not disposed to tolerate the injustice of those most dear to him. The popularity, indeed, which such rulers as Mahmood enjoy is, in the East, as Sir J. Malcolm sensibly oba
serves, to be ascribed to other than base or venal motives. Where the laws have no force, the multitude are glad to find, in the tyranny of one, a resource against the violence of many; and they feel themselves more secure and less humiliated in proportion as their immediate oppressors feel the yoke of a powerful superior.
The power of Mahmood's family can scarcely be said to have survived him. His sons made war on each other; a century of anarchy succeeded; and Toghrul Beg, a Turkish chief, established on the ruins of Persia what is called the Seljuckian dynasty, which itself soon mouldered away with its own weight into a collection of independent governments. Of these, the most formidable and the most singular was that of the Sheik-al-Jubbul, (Lord of the Mountainous Country,) well known to Europeans as that terrible Old Man of the Mountains, whose followers in Syria murdered the Marquis Conrade, and endangered the life of our own king Edward Longshank.
Of this sect and its sovereigns, who, from the centre of Persia, exercised a secret but effectual authority over the distant fraternities of Mount Lebanon,* Sir J. Malcolm gives an interesting account. Hussun Subah, their founder, from whom they derived the name of Hussunee, corrupted by the Crusaders into Assassin, was originally a petty officer of the Sheljuckian king Alp Arselan. Compelled by the enmity of the grand vizier to fly the court, he found an asylum with an obscure race of sectaries who dissented from the usual creed of Mahommedans in a question as to the pedigree of the seventh Imaum. Their tenets he embraced with considerable ardour, but, not contented with them, he added several others to that creed which he taught, approaching to those of the Soofsees, or philosophical theists of the East, and in some respects, to those of the Mystics and Quietists of Europe. The inspiration of the Koran he admitted, but maintained, that it was not the outward letter but a certain internal sense which was to be profitably received and obeyed by the faithful. On the same principle he rejected all the usual modes of worship, as carnal forms which might disturb, though they could never aid that secret and fervent adoration which the soul alone could acceptably offer to its Creator. But the principal tenet which he inculcated, was that, all outward actions being them. selves indifferent to the pure and uncontaminated soul, the only proper judge of their merits or demerits was such an inspired teacher as himself, whose commands or prohibitions infallibly pro
* We learn this from Jacobus de Vitriaco. Histor. Hieros. S xiv. Primus autem et summus infaustæ religionis eorum Abbas, et locus unde principium habuerunt, et de quo Syriam venerunt in partibus est orientalibus valde remotis versus civitatem Baldacensem et partes Persidis provinciæ.-R.
ceeded from the fountain of truth and goodness. It waš this doc- . trine which made his sect the pest and terror of society, since, for the interest of the · Batteneeah,' or · Hidden Brotherhood; all crimes became meritorious; and since the persecution which they experienced from the Mahommedan sovereigns, by stimulating the Prophet to self-defence and vengeance, effectually called into action what might else have continued, as in the case of the Sooffees, a mere speculative absurdity.-The first who fell a sacrifice to this horrible faith was Nizam-ul-Mulk, the grand vizier who had formerly offended Hussun in the time of his obscurity. In the next instance a display of his power was sufficient to accomplish his
pur. pose, and the life of Sultan Sanjar who marched against this new religion was spared; though a dagger thrust into the earth close to his bedside, by an unknown hand, admonished him to withdraw his army from the impious warfare. By degrees these sanguinary methods of resistance or conquest became more frequent and atroci. ous. Two caliphs were murdered at Bagdad; and it is probable that the sect of Hussun were the cause of still more mischiefs than they actually perpetrated, and that innumerable acts of private revenge would be ventured on, while all who thus perishes were placed to the account of the · Batteneeah. Like the Jesuits of a later
age, the missionaries of his brotherhood are asserted by Jacobus de Vitriaco to have traversed, in his time, all the countries of the world, assuming with so much art the manners of different .nations, and the characters of different professions, as merchants, monks, priests, et infinitis aliis modis sese occultantes, quod vix aliquis in universo mundo adeo cautus est qui sibi possit ab eorum insidiis cavere. The story has been often told, how Hussun, in the presence of a Persian envoy, commanded two of his guards to commit suicide, and was immediately obeyed; and it is likely, that they who did not spare their own lives in his service, would not be lenient to others. Yet, of the means whereby this strange man acqui. red such an ascendency, we are little able to judge. The tale of his fictitious paradise is rejected by Sir J. Malcolm as fabulous; and, in fact, is contrary to the practice of himself and his followers, who were singularly abstinent in every thing but the blood of their fellow creatures. Like the other Sooffees, they were not originally intolerant; and the brotherhood of Mount Lebanon had actually offered to embrace the faith of the Crusaders, when the murder of their envoy by a Templar, Walter de Maisnil, -whom William of Tyre (L. XX. §. 32.) describes as 'a wicked and one-eyed man, whose breath was in his nostrils; rendered them forever the fiercest enemies of the Christian name. The prophetic and sovereign au- . thority of Hussun Subah continued to his descendants of the third generation. A descendant of Ishmael, whom the Hussunees con
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