account of his
undertaken in 1817, along with an account of
KER PORTER, Sir Robert, Travels in Georgia, Persia, Armenia, Ancient Babylonia, &c. &c. during the years 1817, 1818, 1819 and 1820, with numerous engravings of portraits, costumes, antiquities, &c., 2 volumes, London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme & Brown, 1821-22.
(This extract from vol. I, p. 66 onwards; the image above is Ker Porter's portrait of the Shah of Iran, Fath-Ali Shah Qajar, ruled 1797-1834; please click on image above for a full-scale version.)
Wlady-Caucasus is one of the most important, and strongest military posts the Russians possess along the foot of the Caucasus. It generally has a whole regiment in garrison ; and is the principal depot for supplying the various minor forts of the neighbouring stations in the mountains. It stands on some high ground on the banks of the Terek, sufficiently elevated to command the approach to the pass, and not near enough to any other height, to be subject to the fire of the natives. The town increases rapidly, and so does the population in its vicinity ; for here, as elsewhere along this frontier, the remark is verified, that wherever the Russians erect a fort, hundreds of Tatars draw near, and establish themselves in little villages. This voluntary proceeding, by bringing them in unsuspicious, and therefore amicable contact, with the Europeans, has tended greatly to the civilisation of this branch of the Tatar race ; and hence, it is to be hoped, the influence of humane manners may gradually diffuse itself to more distant tribes. These establishments have already made considerable progress in domestic habits, and are become attentive to certain little comforts, regarded as necessaries in ordinary civilised life, but of which their still barbarous kindred tribes have not even an idea. The people, called Tatars, are remnants of the Huns, whose too-abundant population, centuries ago, overwhelmed Europe like a deluge. The ancient consequence of this nation may still be traced in the line of country they possessed, and which was yet too narrow to contain its people. Their dominion extended over the Crimea, and all the territory between the Don and Dnieper ; stretching to the Black Sea, and looking towards the Caspian. They planted cities on the Terek and the Kuban ; and that they were worthy of a great people, the ruins of Matschar, near the former river, nobly testify.
As from this point, Wlady-Caucasus, our road would be direct through the heart of the mountains, up and down acclivities which would be termed precipices, in the more tameable Alps or Appenines of Europe, we here abandoned our piece of artillery, as well as the heavy part of the convoy ; and, lightened of these two loads, set forth, with a more volant motion, under an escort of about forty soldiers, an officer, and a few Cossacks. At starting, our good commander of the fort particularly enjoined us to keep close together. Indeed, on no account to let any one of the party stray away, or lag behind the main body ; for the path was so beset with lurking banditti, hid in all quarters of the rocks, that any straggler might instantly become their prize ; and his liberty, if not his blood, pay the forfeit of his negligence.
At six o'clock in the morning, we began our march ; taking as much military precaution as the nature of our route would admit. We crossed the Terek, over a bridge close to the town. The river there, at this season of the year, is not usually wide, but it was extremely rapid ; and, from its course being impeded by numerous rocks in its channel, the noise with which it struggles for a passage, and rushes over them, may be heard at a great distance. Along the northern bank of the stream, the huts and little gardens of the settled Tatars, soften, with their forms of the gentler picturesque, the vast and terrible outlines of nature by which they are surrounded.
The valley, through which the Terek flows, was anciently denominated Porta Caucausia, from its being the great gate of communication between the nations on each side the mountains. Katherine the Second was the first European sovereign whose troops ever passed it from the north ; a party of whom, under General Tottleben, penetrated into Georgia, and paved the way for those successes which afterwards determined the Empress to establish a high road direct from this pass to Tiflis. But this project, so pregnant with great consequences, was left to be begun and completed by her grandson, his present Imperial Majesty ; who sent General Prince Tchitchianoff, to commence the undertaking, about the beginning of the year 1804 ; and, by the most indefatigable labour on the side of the workmen, and attentive zeal on his, it is now finished : no less an achievement of incalculable utility, than it is one to be wondered at, and to command the lasting gratitude of all who have experienced its securities.
As we travelled onward, along the right bank of the river, we found it in many places full a quarter of a mile broad ; and in others, where the cliffs projected very much, it was hardly thirty yards. Indeed, I am informed, there are points, where the opposite rocks draw so near, as to narrow the stream to less than half that width. When this is the case, the turbulence and rage of the waters increase with the difficulties, to a degree that covers the barrier rocks, and the stream itself, with foam.
For the first eight or ten wersts of our march from Wlady-Caucasus, the slopes of the mountains, on both sides the Terek, were clothed with trees and thick underwood ; but, as we penetrated deeper into the valley, they gradually lost their verdure, becoming stony and barren. On reaching Baity, a small but strong fort about twelve wersts forward, the hills assumed bolder forms, presenting huge protruding masses of rock, with very few spots of shrub or tree. The road here wears rather a face of danger, and must have been made, even thus passable, by the severest labour, aided by gun-powder. It runs beneath pendant archways of stone, which are merely high enough to allow the passage under them of a low carriage ; but the path is so narrow as scarcely to admit two to move abreast, or pass each other, should they be so unlucky as to encounter ; and on one side of the road is the edge of a precipice, which, in some places, is sixty feet deep ; and in others, above one hundred. At the bottom of this abyss are the roaring waters of the Terek. In casting the eye upwards, still blacker, and terrible precipices are above us. We see large projections of rock, many thousand tons in weight, hanging from the beetling steep of the mountain, threatening destruction to all below : and it is not always a vain apprehension. Many of these huge masses have been launched downwards by the effect of a sudden thaw ; and at various times, and various places, have so completely blocked up the regular road, as to compel the traveller to pass round them, often so near the brink of the precipice, as to be at the peril of his life.
[LARS & THE DARIEL GORGE]
At another military station, called Lars, where we were to change our escort, the scene becomes still wilder and more stupendous. The valley narrows to the appearance of a frightful chasm ; so steep, so rugged, so walled in with rocks, as if cleft by the waters of the deluge. Its granite sides are almost perpendicular, and are many hundred feet in height. They are surmounted by summits lost in the clouds, which sweep along their ridges, or, rolling down the gloomy face of the abyss, form a sea of vapours, mingling with the rocks above our heads, as extraordinary as it is sublime. But, in short, that undescribable emotion of the soul, which instinctively acknowledges the presence of such amazing grandeur in Nature's works, is almost always our companion in these regions.
Most of the Russian posts here, are on stations formerly occupied by the ancients, for the same purpose ; and the remains of these old fortresses may frequently be found in digging foundations for the new. At Lars, and about a werst from it, walls and towers of a commanding height, still rise in frowning, though decayed majesty, over the abrupt points of rock which defend the passage of the valley. By some, it is said to be one of the spots, where the locks or barriers, so much in use in times of antiquity, were erected ; and indeed this part of the defile is so shut by nature, little trouble would be necessary to throw piles across, and close the whole with gates.
Evening came on, while we were yet some distance from our halting-place. I regretted it the more, as the darkness would deprive us of every sense of the scenery we were passing through, except its probable danger. The increasing gloom and indistinctness of the surrounding objects ; the history of the place, in which we now silently and apprehensively travelled ; the hoarse murmurs of the rushing waters at the foot of the ravine ; and the vague musings which possess a man journeying in the blackness of night, through strange countries, desert and solitary ; all, engendered sensations in the breast, more of terror than of fear, — an awe of something unknown.
Derial was our post for the night. As we drew near it, our road was rendered still more obscure, by its leading, for a considerable way, through a subterraneous passage cut in the solid rock. It is about a mile from the fort. We emerged on the side of the river, at the foot of a very steep precipice ; thence crossed the stream on a wooden bridge ; and, additionally guarded by a detachment from the fort, reached our quarters in safety. Thus closed our first day's advance into the Caucasus.
Information having been brought, that a marauding band of the natives were occupying a tract we must pass over next day ; tor the security of the convoy, the officer of the fort sent out a party of infantry, early in the morning, to dislodge them. Our march being therefore delayed, till news of the success of the expedition should arrive, I had time to observe some of the country through which we had passed the preceding night. The redoubt of the Russian post of Derial stands at the bottom of the gigantic chasm of that name, and is overhung by such enormous masses of rock as to make its situation terrible. On the summit of one of these promontories, impending over the left bank of the Terek, are to be seen the remains of a very ancient castle. With some difficulty I scrambled up to it, and found the ruins consisted of one strong square tower, with thick massive walls surrounding it, and encircling a space besides, sufficient to garrison several hundred soldiers. This seemed the citadel of the pass ; but I observed, that on all the points where the rocks might have formed advantageous lodgements for any enemy who had been dexterous enough to gain them, the ruins of subordinate out-works were visible. The face of the mountain behind the tower had been hewn, with manifest great labour, into a kind of aqueduct, to convey water to the garrison. And, when we consider that there would be ground within its lines to supply themselves and cattle with food, we could not suppose a place better adapted for the purposes of such a station. A subterraneous passage runs down from the castle to the bank of the river, communicating, probably, with other works which might be below, to bar more immediately, the ingress of the valley. The pass, at this place, is not more than thirty yards across ; which facility of nature, agreeing with the vestiges along its borders, leaves no doubt in my mind that this, from earliest times, has been one of the main doors of communication with the nations of the north, direct from Iberia. Pliny thus describes these defiles of the Caucasus, and the mode of maintaining them : — "Each pass was closed by large beams of wood, pointed with iron. In the midst of the narrow valley flowed a a river. The southern extremity was protected by a castle built on a high rock. This defence was to prevent incursions from the people of the north."
According to Ptolemy, there were three of these great passes. The Pyle Sarmatce, the Pyle Albanie, and the Via Caspia. It is likely that the first, the Pyle Sarmatæ, is the same with the Porta Ibericæ, or Porta Caucausia, mentioned by Strabo, and the present pass, or valley of the Terek. The two latter, the Pyle Albanie and the Via Caspia, merely bestow two names on one place, which is the pass now called Derbent. But there was another, Porta Cumana, and that lay farther westward. Pliny notices it particularly, describing its fortress by the name of Cumania. These defiles, as keys of the East, have always been vigilantly guarded by the possessors, who knew their value. But Leon the First, rather chose to incur an inroad from the Barbarians, than be at the smaller expense of keeping the gate that fixed their boundary. Justinian knew better ; and concluded a treaty with Kobad King of Persia, (A.D. 532.,) agreeing, that this pass should be protected by both sovereigns in common ; or, if totally confided to Kobad's troops, the Roman should pay the Persian monarch, one million and a hundred thousand pounds weight of gold, in reward of the double service!
The first syllable in the word Derial, as well as in that of Derbent, in the Asiatic languages, implies gate, door, or narrow pass ; which confirms the other evidences, that here was the chief barrier of the valley, and that the castellated promontories of Lars, and other minor posts lower down, were probably the chain of communication from this great station, to others of different magnitude; but all to the same purport, ports of defence against the Barbarians.
I had time sufficient, before our detachment came in, to attempt making a sketch or two of the objects around me. I took my views from the old fortified height ; and from the Russian redoubt below : but no pencil can convey, nor pen describe, the grandeur of the scene. At this one tremendous point, the chasm rises from the river's brink, upwards of a thousand feet. Its sides are broken into clefts and projections, dark and frowning; so high, so close, so overhanging, that even at mid-day the whole is covered with a shadow bordering on twilight. According to the calculations of Dr. Renniggs, who visited the Caucasus in 1781, the elevation of the mountains directly opposite the castle of Derial, is not less than three thousand seven hundred and eighty-six feet. This measurement was the result of several observations ; and it may be received as the common height of nearly the whole range, east and west, with the exception of Elborus and Kasibeck.
Our road from Derial lost nothing of its gloomy magnificence, all the way to the sort of gorge, whither the soldiers had been sent to dislodge its unwelcome guests ; and there we found a spot peculiarly wild, and fitted to the uses of its late inhabitants. Vast quantities of low thick bushes, and brushwood, occupied a suspicious-looking hollow on our left ; which natural trench, so well covered from the eye of observation, terminated at a point that communicated its egress with the accesses of the mountain. But so difficult did they seem, that only one was visible, by which it appeared possible to us for the boldest adventurers to descend. But, descend they do, and in no insufficient numbers ; concealing themselves in the thickets till opportunity presents itself to spring upon their prey. Before the precaution was adopted, to send out a party of military, literally to beat the bushes, and clear the way, this road was one continued scene of bloodshed and robbery. These mountain-brigands being sure, from knowledge of their own paths and agility in gaining them, of always escaping pursuit, never failed to be in waiting on every approaching convoy ; and keeping close behind their brush-wood, or broken rocks, fired on the unwary people as they passed ; killing, or wounding numbers. The survivors, too often taking to flight, left the spoil to the leisurely collection of the victors.
Our escort was reinforced by those who had fulfilled the advance duty of the night before ; and the whole moved on without molestation, though several times we could discern different parties of the banditti scrambling high amongst the rocks. Their desperate situations, and savage costume, heightened the Salvator-Rosa picture of the scene. But from the chance of the road not being quite free from them, I was always prevented, though often induced to halt alone for a few minutes, to snatch a hasty sketch. The officer of the convoy would not allow it, as any single straggler might be cut off in a moment, by the sudden spring of one of the undiscovered ambushes. But I could not resist the temptation entirely ; and, once or twice I detained a chasseur or two with me, while I tried to catch some loose memorandums of those mighty mountains I might never see again.
As we advanced in the valley, we found testimonies of the most terrible convulsions of nature. Basaltic columns appeared in huge masses over the surface of the mountain, and taking various directions. Some shot horizontally into its side ; some stood in erect piles against it ; and others inclined, more or less, from the perpendicular. These might be taken, when viewed at a little distance, for the ruins of some vast antediluvian city. The shattered remains of extensive palaces, castles, temples, and embattled walls, seemed to spread every where ; while, here and there, a space of scanty verdure, or a large fragment of pure granite, separated these more than semblances of awful change. There can be no doubt, that the alternate influences of heat and cold, have been prime agents in producing the present chaotic state of this valley. Anciently, subterraneous fires, and subsequently, the sun's effect upon its incumbent snows, acting also upon the interior ice, which former thaws have insinuated into the fissures of the mountains. At the season of the year when the sun's power is greatest, the snow melts into floods, and penetrating still deeper into the clefts of the rocks, loosens those which project, from their grasp of the mountain, and sends them rolling down into the glen, sweeping all before them, with a noise like thunder ; but so much louder, as to convulse the air to a degree that shakes the foundation of the neighbour cliffs, and, unriveting others, launches them also, to augment the scattered wreck below. Owing to similar accidents, the road was often obliged to wind round the obstructing masses; or when that could not be done, from the nearness of the precipice, it went over them ; the ascents and descents being of course particularly steep and hazardous. In crossing one of these, the bolt which unites the front wheels of my caleche with its carriage, broke. The dilemma was great, on account of the loss of time that would be incurred in restoring the machine to a moveable state, and afterwards (until we could reach a place where it might be properly repaired,) keeping pace with its crippled movements. The village of Kasibeck, a distance of six wersts, was the point we had in view. And by the aid of ropes, good contrivance, and the good-natured alacrity of some of the escort, who literally put their shoulders to the wheel, it and ourselves arrived without further mishap, at the desired halting place, about two o'clock P. M.
The vale now began to open, presenting a prodigiously fine scene ; an infinity of mountains, of every shape and aerial colour rising one above the other, and crowned with the pale head of the towering Kasibeck. The height of this mountain, which contests the palm of sublimity with Elborus, has been estimated by Dr. Parrot at 14,400 feet, or 2,400 fathoms, above the level of the Black Sea. And indeed, in remote times, when these countries did not boast such regularly tracked paths, these two pre-eminent pillars of the Earth, must have formed excellent land-marks for the traveller, exploring his way through such untrodden wilds. The village which now bears the name of Kasibeck, was originally called Steppan Zminda, from the church of that Saint, which stands close to it.
[STEPANTSMINDA & THE OSSETIANS]
The house where I halted, during the necessary repairs of my carriage, was the mansion of the widow of a native chief, to whom from his attachment and services to the Russians, they had given the rank of Major-general in the Imperial army. As surnames are unknown amongst these people, to accommodate himself to the usages of his new masters, he took that of Kasibeck, in reference to the hoary mountain, under whose shadow he and his ancestors had dwelt ; and, by custom, from him the village itself gradually received the same appellation.
The natives in this neighbourhood are of the Ossi tribe ; a people of mixed persuasions, christian, mahometan, and pagan. The village of Kasibeck, as well as a few others in its immediate vicinity, is inhabited by Christians professing the same faith and observances as the Georgians. Their lately deceased chief was eminent for setting an example to his people of strict attention to all religious ordinances, prayer, fasts, and holy festivals ; and he exerted his power to the utmost in constraining all under his jurisdiction, not only to take part in these sacred duties, but to preserve with reverence the remains of those ancient but ruined edifices, in which their fathers had first offered prayers to the only true God. He, himself, erected a new and elegant church for his brother Christians, very near the spot where the old one of former times is yet revered in its fallen towers. That venerable structure, together with one on the opposite hill, was the work of the renowned Princess Tamara, of Georgia, nearly six hundred years ago. Her zealous piety converted the people of her dominions to Christianity ; and we still find, in the mouldering remains of the buildings she reared to its honour, in every part of this stupendous barrier, the most noble monuments to her memory.
It is said, that the present race of Ossi Christians are amongst the most civilised of the mountaineers. This may be : but, in spite of their better faith, and better laws, they are occasionally not less expert at robbery and murder, than their brethren of mahometan and heathen creeds. The men are strong, active, and well made ; with dark complexions, and a peculiarly lowering look ; an aspect, more accordant with the latter part of their character, than that of their pretensions to piety, and its consequent blameless life.
They are habited in the manner of the Circassians ; and never appear without the common weapon of the country, a dagger, in their girdle. Its form is broad near the handle, tapering down to a long point; the whole being about eighteen inches in length. In short, there is a general appearance of offence and defence. in every thing we see ; which must always be the case as we retrograde nearer to man in a state of nature, where the law of force has not yet given place to the law of reason : every body is armed, every house is a sort of little fortress. The habitation of the late General Kasibeck is built of stone, of a quadrangular shape, somewhat like a square fort, being defended by a high parapeted wall, with loop-holes, and small watchtowers. There is only one entrance, and that is through a very narrow door which, when shut, completely closes up the whole. The family themselves inhabit one of the sides of the quadrangle, looking inwards ; and in the opposite corner are a suite of excellent rooms, set apart for the reception of travellers of distinction. I had been honoured in being ushered into these apartments as soon as I arrived ; and I was greeted by a little boy about twelve years old, the son and representative of the late General-chief, who performed the hospitable duties of the house with the grace of one twice his age. His mother, the mistress of the mansion, did not make her appearance, being unwell ; but she had ordered refreshment to be spread for me, which consisted of dried fish, some small pieces of roast meat, excellent bread and butter, and, after all, some as excellent coffee. Two of my fellow-travellers partook of this repast, and were as amused as myself with the discordant aspects and devoirs of our attendants ; their assassin-like looks and garb giving them more the appearance of banditti than that of serving-men, for they were all armed, and had their breast-pouches filled with cartridges. Indeed, it could not but cross me, once or twice, that they might eventually prove as savage as they seemed. For, it was not improbable that these very people, who were now so obsequiously providing for my wants, might, on our advance to Kobi, if I gave them opportunity, way-lay and rob, if not absolutely murder me : a mode of farewell, to recently welcomed guests, not very uncommon amongst these rapacious mountaineers. In their opinions, within the gate, and without it, makes all the difference in the rites of hospitality, and therefore in the bonds of faith, between host and traveller.
I was told the old General died rich, and that the greater part of his wealth was accumulated in the earlier part of his life, some twenty-five or thirty years before his zeal for the ways of Christianity manifested itself, along with the first appearance of the Russian military posts along the valley ; which about that time began to escort travellers, and merchandise, through its dangerous passes. Prior to this period, both merchant, and charge, depended on the good faith of the chiefs through whose possessions he must travel. To them he looked for protection, guides, and. not beasts of burthen, but men to transport his goods from Europe into Georgia; every article being then, from the trackless roads, of necessity carried on the backs of the natives. The hire of these was an immense expense; besides which, each independent chief exacted a large sum for the privilege of passing through his territory. Other tolls were also paid in the shape of cloth, linen, leather, &c. just as the will of the extortioners chose to demand. Indeed, the whole of these impositions being arbitrary, it depended entirely on the consciences of the demanders, at what charge the poor defenceless trafficker should convey away any part of his property ; and it has often been found, that he purchased safety and the transport of one-half of his goods at the dear rate of relinquishing the other. And yet, that has not been the worst of it ; for instances have occurred, when, after the proprietors of a rich convoy have paid this sort of price for the secure progress of the remainder, the chief himself, who had received the purchase for protection, has secretly dispatched parties of his own people to lie in wait ; and, on the coming up of the unfortunate merchants, they have been attacked, plundered, and murdered. No wonder, then, that the governments of some of these merchants should take the safe conduct into their own hands ; and literally show the old possessors of the pass, that their rapacity had cut up the bird with golden eggs. Since the Russians have made the roads practicable for carriages and horses, and planted military stations at convenient distances, with post-houses and well-armed escorts, the assistance of these treacherous chiefs and their people is no longer needful. The government smoothed the way for an unimpeded establishing of these settlements, by purchasing, with certain sums of money, from these chiefs, the right of exacting toll from merchants, and merchandise. It is now collected at Wlady-Caucasus, (which words mean the key of the Caucasus,) not only by imposts on all chariots, laden with goods for traffic, but each individual whose business is mercantile, pays from ten to twenty-five roubles, as his own passport : all other travellers go free.
In hopes to expedite the refitting of my unlucky carriage, I walked to the habitation of the village Vulcan, who had its repairs under his forge; and so had an opportunity of observing, a little closer, the lower order of these people, and the style of their abodes. The man himself was a rough, savage-looking fellow, black as his business, and with a countenance whose gloomy ferocity harmonised well with the burning iron under his hammer. His habitation, like that of most of his neighbours, was built of mud, on a foundation of stones, very low, and flat-roofed. A sort of shed projected in front, supported by uprights of wood : under this, was the work-shop ; and at each extremity of its roof hung the sculls of horses, while other bones of the same noble animal were scattered about near the door. At one end of this rude portico, the blacksmith was busied with his work ; and, having inspected what he was about, I took the liberty of walking into the interior of the house. I found a rather large room, excessively dark and dirty, without furniture. The only light it received was through the door, and a round hole in the roof, which latter served as a chimney : a few morsels of wood and dried dung lay smoking there, in the midst of this wretched apartment. Some earthen vessels, and a broken bowl or two, were placed round it, but no seats whatever. In one corner of the room, however, I at last discerned, through the gloom, an old wooden box, close to which stood a woman ; but on the instant she was observed, she made her exit into some still darker recess than the one in which I was standing. If I might be allowed to form an opinion of the Ossitinian fair sex from this specimen, and those I had seen in the court-yard of General Kasibeck's house, besides two or three I had passed in mv walk, I should say, they have no pretensions to beauty. Their stature is rather squat ; their visages broad-cheeked, flat-nosed, dark, and otherwise ugly excepting their eyes, and they are certainly their best feature. Dirt, rags, and splaw naked feet, might comprise the far from agreeable description, only there is sometimes a little difference in the fashion of the rags. Two or three of the women I saw, wore a sort of sheet, not the cleanest, by way of a veil ; but they did not draw it over their faces. Others were enveloped in a kind of bed-gown, with long Georgian sleeves. The lower extremities of all of them being clothed in loose trowsers. The garments of the men, by adding the badges of a wild species of warfare to their rough materials, gave something of the picturesque to what, in the women, spoke only of poverty and wretchedness. The group at the blacksmith's was particularly fitted for the sketch of a painter ; indeed, it was altogether a curious spectacle. The man himself was surrounded by ten or twelve by-standers, during his employment ; and the noise they made is not to be described. All talking, bawling, and vociferating at once, accompanying the uproar with gesticulations so violent, (the subject too being the best way of repairing the fractured iron,) that I expected every moment they would end the dispute with blows upon themselves. A gentleman, who was then with me, (and who, from his situation as inspector of the roads, is well acquainted with the character of the natives,) told me this is their universal mode of conversation. They were now amicably discussing the subject in debate; but when argument really becomes hostile contention, then, my informant said, the tumult was beyond imagination : dreadful threats, drawn daggers, in short, every species of menace and uproar ; but all, as generally, ending in mere noise and vapour ; animosities on both sides being soon drowned in brandy. Though it is so seldom that blows or bloodshed terminate these differences, yet a law, or rather a custom, exists among them, which bears some evidence that disputes did not always end so peaceably. The same law is in use with the Kabardans, and most other mountain-tribes. Should any individual fall by the hand of his neighbour, the nearest relation of the deceased is to take vengeance on the perpetrator of the murder. Instances, however, have occurred, (and they are now more frequent,) where the injured party compounds with the other for a sum of money, or a matrimonial alliance with a good dower : the feud then terminates ; and often, even closer friendship unites the two families.
In about two hours, the repairs of my carriage were completed ; but, in the meanwhile, most of my fellow-travellers had proceeded, leaving me to follow at my own time ; which I did, as speedily as possible, with an escort of twenty-five soldiers : fifteen were armed with muskets ; the purpose of the others was to assist in getting the carriage over the very steep hills, and the bad road, I was told I should encounter in my way to Kobi. This post might be rather more than sixteen wersts from the village of Kasibeck. It was now four o'clock in the afternoon, with a sky full of portentous clouds; so I had no prospect of reaching our night's lodging before the darkness and impending rain must fall about us. However, I had no alternative ; and, taking leave of my little host at the deceased General's, mounted my horse, and set forward. The caleche and escort preceded me. We descended gradually into a wide valley, crossing the Terek over a wooden bridge, at no great distance from the village. Here the river totally lost its rapidity and violence, flowing gently through the vale, which its refreshing waters covered with the finest verdure. The bordering mountains, also, at this part, showed luxuriant green, clothing the numerous ravines which indented their sides, and gave shelter to clusters of picturesque huts, inhabited by Ossitinians, and usually drawn around the remains of some old stone tower, which, in ancient days, had commanded and protected these minor passes from the inroads of hostile tribes. Enlivening as these little establishments of domestic peace were in the scene below, what was above menaced us poor travellers with very different sensations. The heads of the mountains were totally swallowed up in black clouds, which were sinking heavily down their sides, and casting so dark a shadow over every object, that night was anticipated before we had travelled half our journey. The rain, which had so long threatened, came on in torrents ; and, as may easily be conceived, increased the evils of the severe steeps which lay in our way, like a succession of furrows in a ploughed field ; and up and down which the caleche was dragged with such often-unavailing toil, by the spent horses, that had it not been for the unwearied exertions of the soldiers in extricating it from its numerous difficulties, and joking themselves to the work, we must have passed the whole of that inclement night upon the road. Sleety snow was mingled with the rain, and a cutting wind, that carried the cold through us, as if pierced with arrows.
Though we had these ascents and descents, of sufficient magnitude to make our beasts feel the difference, yet the absolute line of the road was gradual ascending ever since we left Wlady-Caucasus ; our next day's journey, therefore, from our anticipated night's resting-place, it was hoped would bring us to the highest point of our mountain route, —a circumstance I began most devoutly to wish, from apprehension that if much longer exposed to the stress of up-hill work, the bad repair of my caleche would entirely give way; a disaster of incalculable mischief to me, who had more essential calls for its use than the mere carriage of myself. But its trials, for this night, were not yet over. The darkness increased to such a degree, as did the thick falling snow, that it became impossible to see a yard before me : at length, after a tedious contest with various impediments, in the shape of heights, depths, and the darkness itself, we reached a bridge, and, for the last time, crossed the Terek, now become very narrow, and so quiet in its course, I judged all the broken rocks of the valley must be in our own path. From this spot our road lay across a plain, intersected with small shallow streams, but deep in water and snow, both of which completely drenched myself and people to the skin, so finishing what the fore-part of the evening had begun. It was not until eleven o'clock that we reached Kobi, almost chilled to death with wet and cold.
This post, like most of the others, consists of a square fort, protected by earthen embankments, pallisadoes, and a shallow ditch. A few dirty rooms, totally devoid of furniture, are set apart for the reception of travellers. In one of these, thanks to the gentlemen of the convoy who had preceded me, I found an excellent fire ; and, after drying and refreshing myself, I retired to my poor maimed vehicle to sleep ; preferring its inconvenience to the vermin and damps of the quarters within. It grew excessively cold during the night ; and on looking at the thermometer, I found it nine degrees below the freezing point, according to Reaumur. A severe frost had now succeeded the milder weather ; and, on getting out of the caleche at day-dawn, I saw nothing on all sides but lofty mountains covered with snow. The same garb of winter reached to the very gates of Kobi, not a footstep having yet broken its pale surface ; nor could I discern, by any guiding mark, in which direction the road lay, that was to commence the greatest difficulties we had yet surmounted, by taking us over the Kristawaja and Kaschour.
Not far beyond Kobi, our old companion, the Terek, is augmented by the waters of the Titri Dskali, and, immediately on this junction, makes a turn, and flows from the west for about thirty-five wersts, in a north-east direction. The source of this magnificent river, of which we now took our leave, — magnificent in the length of its course, and in the scenery through which it flows, — takes its rise in the upper valleys of the southern side of the Kasibeck, a fountain-head worthy the destination of the stream.
The many cheerful-looking villages scattered over this part of the country, which give a show of neighbourhood to Kobi, are inhabited by Ossi of Mahometan and Pagan tribes. But those who call themselves Mussulmen, like their brethren who arrogate the name of Christians, scarcely differ from their idolatrous kinsmen, excepting in a few religious usages, or rather forms ; for precept has little to do, as yet, with these barbarians. The memory of any thing that was taught by the holy personages established by the Georgian Princess, is now quickly sinking into oblivion, and the creed of Mahomet hangs by as slender a thread ; for, since the sultans have ceased to pay the sums they had agreed to give for every child that was circumcised into the law of the Prophet, these people have gradually neglected his rites, and fallen back into the idolatrous ways of their ancestors. It is, however, rather curious to observe, that, whatever general religion these tribes may profess, they all assume to themselves (and individually too) a particular protecting divine spirit, or genius, to whom they in silence address themselves when in distress of mind or body ; calling upon him for assistance, in the decision of any domestic feud, the prosecution of more general warfare, a marauding excursion, or even for success in the robbery of a caravan, or a single traveller ! So much for the standard of their religious morality !
[UP TO THE PASS OF THE CROSS]
All being in readiness to move, we started at six o'clock, from Kobi, on the morning of October the 7th, O. S. Our soldiers and Cossacks knew well the hidden track, and trod it securely, though very winding and steep, in an easterly direction, up the side of the Kristawaja, or Mountain of the Cross. The road was improved by the frost, which, otherwise, from the late wet weather, would have been extremely slippery and dangerous. We moved steadily on ; and the convoy, by degrees, but not without very laborious exertion, gained the summit of the great barrier. Both horses and men halted with infinite joy, to look around them, and, for a few minutes at least, to "rest, and be thankful."
Near the extremest height, is the source of a fine and clear chalybeate, which takes the form of a small lake on one of the projecting points, south-east of this alpine road ; whence it throws itself into the mountain-torrent of the Titri Dskali ; the waters of which, at intervals, take their rapid course under high arches, worn through the never-thawing snows which countless winters have drifted into the valleys and ravines. On the side of one of these mountain-glens, sheltered like an eagle's nest in the bosom of its native rocks, (and not far from the desperate path which is called the high road,) we discerned a human habitation ; a cottage, much superior to the usual hut of the country. On enquiry, we were told, it was occupied by an Ossitinian familv, whose business there was to assist and to succour the winter traveller iii his ascent up this terrific mountain. Should he be benighted, he finds food and a shelter. And when storms come on, like the hospices of Switzerland, these people most actively exert themselves to rescue any unfortunate passenger from the dangers and distress of such a region. The munificence of the Emperor Alexander provides for this useful establishment. The inhabitants are employed in cultivating a sufficient tract of ground near their habitation ; its produce, with sheep and goats from the little flock consigned to their charge, and a large depot of flour and brandy, are always ready for the purposes of the charity. I rode from our party, with one of my fellow-travellers, towards the cottage ; being curious to see the wood people, who, I was told, most conscientiously fulfilled the duty enjoined them ; and to ascertain from themselves, the particulars of their services.
We found the family consisted of an elderly man, two younger ones, and several boys, an old and a young woman, the mother and wife of one of the men ; but no dogs, which, like those of Saint Bernard, might assist the discovery of lost travellers amongst the snows. They informed me, it was only in the depths of winter, that occasions occurred for the exercise of their duty ; and then, independent of their own personal exertions, it often happened that a far-wandered, or half-famished traveller was rescued from impending death, by the simple means of marks being set up as guides, at certain distances, on long poles ; and, when the drift has nearly hidden their little habitation from view, some distinguishing signal, in the shape of a cloth banner, or the sculls of horses, hung out from a very high wooden post, has led many a poor perishing wretch to the rude but welcome refuge. Yet, I am sorry to add, notwithstanding all these precautions, whole companies of travellers have been overwhelmed, and smothered, by sudden snow storms ; or, by losing their road in the darkness of night, have sunk in the ravine-beds of the spring-torrents, to rise no more.
On the very apex of the Kristawaja, and just before the descent is to take place into the Aragua valley, stands a large stone cross raised on a pedestal of the same lasting materials. A proper memorandum to those who reach that point, having escaped all the accumulated dangers by which they must inevitably be encountered in making this arduous and terrible journey. But thoughtless must he be, who needs such a monitor to stimulate his most fervent acknowledgments to that Supreme Being who has brought him in safety through so many perils. Indeed, it is not possible for the mind to be more powerfully excited to pour forth its sense of dependence and gratitude, than where this sacred stone is set up ; such awful impulses present themselves on every side. The view to the south, spreads before us the rich valleys of Thuillete, amongst whose luxuriant verdure wind a thousand streams. Their bright and various meanders terminate in the bosom of the Aragua, (the Aragus of the ancients,) which, with its augmented waters, flows majestically south-east, amid the high chains of the Kumlis Zighe mountains on the west, and that of the thickly-wooded Gheff and Mogheff (Gog and Magog) on the eastward. This Arcadian prospect formed a glowing and most inviting contrast to that of the north, cold, sterile, and tremendous, where nothing was seen but the pale and cloud-wrapped summits of Kasibeck, and its rocky supporters ; which seemed now to frown upon the happy traveller, who was about to bid adieu to such unhospitable, though sublime regions.
[DOWN TO KVESHETI]
We commenced our descent. The road was by far the steepest we had yet passed. The wheels of every carriage were locked ; and, besides this precaution, ten or twelve soldiers were obliged to exert their personal strength, in holding each vehicle back with ropes, to prevent its pressing upon the horses, who could scarcely keep themselves from sliding the whole way down, upon their hinder legs. This difficulty being conquered, another presented itself of still more formidable magnitude. We were to re-ascend again, and over a mountain called the Good Gara. It had no snow on its surface, to betray the unwary foot into clefts or pitfalls ; but the peculiar form of Good Gara rendered its passage tenfold more horrible than any we had yet beheld. We stood a few minutes gazing on it, with no small astonishment ; for, on turning our backs on the winter-side of these immense barrier mountains, I had erroneously imagined, that, on reaching the holy cross at the top of Kristawaja, we had surmounted all our alpine difficulties. But we soon found that travellers arriving there from Georgia, have equal occasion to make acknowledgments for safety past, as to beseech still further the Divine protection.
Nothing can paint the terrific situation of the road which opened before us at Good Gara. It seemed little better than a scramble along the perpendicular face of a rock, whence a fall must be instant destruction. The path itself was not in fact more than from ten to twelve feet wide, and this wound round the mountain during the whole circuit, with a precipice at its side of many hundred fathoms deep. While pursuing this perilous way, we saw the heads of high hills, villages, and spreading woods, at a depth so far beneath, the eye could not dwell on it for a moment without dizziness ensuing. At the bottom of the green abyss, the Aragua appeared like a fine silver line. I dared not trust myself to gaze long on a scene, at once so sublime and so painfully terrible. But leading my horse as near as I could to that side of the road whence the Good Gara towered to the sky, and therefore opposite to that which edged the precipice, I looked with anxiety on my fellow-travellers, who were clinging to the stony projections, in their advance up this horrid escalade. What we dreaded most was, that the horses which drew the carriages might make a false step, or get frightened ; in either case, nothing could save them from rolling down the precipice. But my admiration was great as my surprise, on witnessing the steadiness and total absence of personal fear, with which the soldiers kept close to my caleche at scarcely a foot distance from the brink of the abyss, supporting the wheels with their hands, lest the loose or large stones which cumbered the path, might throw it off its balance. A length of full three English miles, we dragged on in this way, ere we durst lay aside our apprehensions, or feel that free respiration which our giddy elevation had repressed. But, perilous as we found this desperate ascent, it was nothing to the dangers of those who dare it in the winter. At that season, the whole, buried in snow, appears almost perpendicular with the side of the mountain. It can never, then, be attempted but on foot; and, on the arrival of travellers, soldiers or natives precede them, in order to find the road, and to form a path through the thick untrodden surface. They ascend in a string ; the first advances with a rope round his waist, which is held, at different lengths, by his companions as they follow one after another. This is done to prevent the leader's destruction, should his foot slip in the uncertain track. But notwithstanding all this care, no winter passes, without numbers of soldiers, Cossacks, and natives, besides travellers, falling over this dreadful steep.
On enquiring of one of my companions, a resident in the country, what was done in the case of carriages meeting in this road, he informed me, such a circumstance had been rendered impossible. When convoys were to pass in either direction, people were sent forward at a sufficiently early hour, to detain the one till the passage of the other had left the road open. In going along it, I could not but wonder at finding this, the most dangerous part in our whole route, evidently the most neglected. Independent of the extreme narrowness, and therefore, thus situated, increased peril of the road ; at every fifty yards we might stumble over large or loose stones, some half buried in the ground, and others just on the edge of the precipice. From the nature of the face of the mountains, which is a slaty kind of rock, the path could be widened and smoothed with little difficulty or labour.
When we arrived on the lower plain of mountains, (if I may be allowed the expression,) their character became less wild, taking rounder forms, finely wooded and covered with rich verdure, presenting but seldom those bold and savage rocks to which I had lately been so accustomed. At four o'clock (P. M.) we reached the fort of Kashour, which commands the valley and road leading towards Tiflis. It is built on part of the ruins of an ancient Georgian strong-hold ; the lofty tower and mouldering walls of which, preserve majestic memorials of its former consequence. These silent testimonials of empires long sunk in the dust, may be seen crumbling into the same oblivion, on almost every point of the surrounding hills. They form interesting objects in this romantic scenery ; an apparition in the wilderness, which tells of long-forgotten greatness.
At six o'clock in the morning of October 7th (0. S.), we left Kashour, attended by our usual escort of infantry and Cossacks ; and, after a short descent, crossed the Aragua over a small but well-built stone bridge. The river at this point, is not more than from twenty to thirty feet wide, and flows with a gentle stream. The valley is richly wooded on both sides ; its eastern bank being cleft into numerous glens, which run deep into the bosom of that part of the mountain, the shelters of an industrious as well as hardy race of Ossitinians. These little vales are covered every where with villages, whose lowly but cheerful abodes, are picturesquely opposed, to the dilapidated forms of the ruined turrets which are usually their neighbours. A rushing torrent, from the higher lands, commonly divides the village ; adding to its beauty, and much increasing its comfort. The proofs of considerable cultivation were very observable. They grow millet, barley, onions, and tobacco ; and breed sheep and goats, to such an extent, the nearest heights are often covered with their flocks. The aspect of the people, whom we saw tending these herds, showed in their countenances at least, marks of such milder pursuits. They looked well fed, and peaceable. But the old insignia of assassination still hung at their girdle ; and a gun was slung across their shoulders. We met others of the same establishments fording the river to gain the main road, whose garbs were yet more of the ancient warlike costume. They bore, besides the arms just mentioned, swords, somewhat curved ; and close to the hilt of each was fastened a small round shield, covered with leather, and studded curiously with nails. In dimensions, it is less than the rondel of the days of our Elizabeth, and exactly resembles that which the English bowmen wore in the time of Henry the Fifth. These mountaineers, I am told, are very expert in its management when using the dagger. They are tribes of the Mahometan and Pagan Ossi.
We followed the course of the Aragua, the whole day ; halting for a short time at another fortified post called Passanour, where we changed our horses and escort.
Between this and the next resting place, our travelling became slower ; being retarded by intervening ascents and descents of several minor hills, and the rockiness of the road. The great valley, however, which was still our path, retained its pastoral character, as long as we followed the windings of the river. While we were leisurely proceeding, the evening closed upon us ; but we did not regret the day. A beautiful moon, in a sky clearer than any that is seen in Europe at the same hour, shed its rays on every object. The effects on the vale, mountains, and river, are not to be imagined ; they were so grand, so tranquil, reposing in so soft a light. With the advance of night, succeeded a severe, but brilliant frost ; and the romantic scenery, with which we were surrounded, only became more animated by the change. Numerous fires appeared at various distances, under the shelter of trees, or beneath overhanging masses of rock. Around these, were seen groups of Cossacks, mingled with Georgians and Mountaineers, whose rude, athletic figures, marked countenances, and savage military garbs, formed pictures of the wildest character.
From the fresh air, interesting objects, and free movement of such a scene, did we pass, on our arrival at Annanour, at once into damp, darkness, and confinement. This is the place, appointed for travellers who enter Georgia by the Caucasus, to perform a quarantine of four days, before they are permitted to pursue their journey. The dirt and wretchedness of the hovels which opened to receive us, gave sad warning of our night's lodging. No better floor than — I wish I could say, the bare ground, damp and noisome ; windows, with neither glass nor shutters ; and the nooks, intended for fire-places, in so ruinous a state, that no hope could be entertained of putting them to their use. One specimen may be enough, of the comforts prepared for the unfortunate travellers, who were to find rest in the chamber myself and three companions were turned into. The floor was in many places overgrown with beds of mushrooms ! In vain we requested a more suitable spot for that night's sleep, and the probation of four days. There was no person of authority on the spot, to give any such order. The commandant of the fort lived in the town of Annanour, nearly two miles off; and, as it was too late to send to him, we were obliged to make the best of our miserable quarters ; stopping up the gaping windows (for the cold without was now extreme); lighting a fire in the mouldering chimney, and ridding the floor of its garden appearance, by the removal of the mushrooms, and other weedy nuisances in their neighbourhood. Our servants were even worse off than ourselves ; having no hole whatever to put their heads in, they bivouacked for the night under the walls of our dungeon.
This, certainly, was a most woeful reception for persons compelled to halt, after a weary journey, under the supposition of having the plague ; and much more dismal for those who came there in perfect health. In the first case, the exposures and misery of the place, would soon put an end to the troubles with the life of the poor infected wretch : while he who enters well, can hardly escape taking thence with him a severe cold at least but more likely, the seeds of disorders, to remind him for many months of the sort of "care taken of travellers in the quarantine of Annanour!"
Next morning I dispatched a soldier betimes to the commanding officer, also to the medical professor in the town, earnestly requesting better accommodation for myself and companions. Both these persons of authority soon made their appearance ; and they united in assuring me, that I was already in the best apartment of the whole range. And, by way of reconciling me the more readily with my good fortune, they added, that several general officers had recently performed quarantine in the same ; and, being so pre-eminently comfortable, it was always reserved for travellers of rank. My ideas of comfort being something different, I desired to have the windows stopped up ; and that we might have something more commodious than the bare earth to sit on, lie on, and eat off. An old rotten bedstead had been visible in one corner of the room, but it was at the peril of any one who should have attempted to put it to any of its ancient uses. In a short time, paper was pasted over the windows, and a few of the articles sent, of which we stood in so much need.
The place of quarantine consists of a collection of low buildings, on a quadrangular piece of ground, which is pallisadoed. It has two entrances, strongly guarded : that leading to the town is the most vigilantly attended, no one under probation being suffered to pass that barrier ; but, in the opposite direction we might issue forth and wander about at will over the open country. Notwithstanding the reformation in our apartment, I resumed my now common practice of passing the night in my carriage. Though a colder station than any where I might command a fire, it was at least clean and dry. But during my first attempt at sleeping there at Annanour, I was disturbed the whole night by the most hideous yellings and yelpings. Not being able to guess their cause, I enquired in the morning, and found they proceeded from vast droves of wolves and jackalls, which infest the circumjacent woods ; and often, when pressed by hunger, break into the very square of the establishment. No pleasant visitors to its poor houseless inmates, who, like our servants, might then be lying defenceless on the open ground.
The town of Annanour stands at the foot of one of the mountains of the south-western branch of Kumlis Zighe, which range forms the right bank of the Aragua. It is a place of antiquity, and once was considerable for its population and military strength. It is now reduced to a few deplorable-looking huts, some of which are shops ; and, at first view, this circumstance gave a strange, inconsistent show of animation to so miserable a remnant of departed life. But, on nearer communication, I found the inhabitants to be more civilised, to have more social intercourse amongst themselves, than in any place I had seen since I entered Asia ; and, what is the best proof, here alone I found the people of a mountain-settlement who excluded rapine and plunder from . their means of subsistence. Annanour still possesses the remains of a noble church, which stands within the walls of a castle, whose once proud towers are sinking as quickly to decay. The architectural decorations on the sacred structure, must have been a work of great skill and labour ; crosses, and stone-work, carved in the most ingenious manner, ornamenting the whole exterior of the building. On each side of the semicircular door-way, which leads to the interior, are various inscriptions, in the ancient Georgian character ; this having been, in those times, a favourite strong-hold or sanctuary for Georgia. Whenever Tiflis was threatened with an attack from Persia, or the Turk, Annanour was commonly the spot, as most secure, whither the females of the reigning family were sent; and with them the most valuable of the sovereign's property. Amongst the latter, at one time the renowned relic of the Georgians, the Cross of St. Nunia was deposited. This highly-prized relic was formed of vine-branches, bound together by the long hair of the fair saint. At present it reposes in the great church of Tiflis.
On the third evening after our arrival at the quarantine, our servants and baggage were fumigated, preparatory to our release the ensuing day. This ordeal passed, we received certificates of health ; and, having now liberty, I paid my visit to the town and the fortress. At six o'clock on the morning of October the 11th (O. S. 1817,) we re-commenced our march. We ascended the mountain to the southward of Annanour, crossing its woody summit almost directly over the town. About midway of our day's journey, we had a full view of Duschett, our next halting place ; a distance of nearly eleven wersts from our last. It is situated at the bottom of the hill we were then descending, in an extensive valley, rich with cultivation and villages, and seeming to promise a very different entertainment from that of Annanour. A great many of the natives were occupied in ploughing ; but the machine they used was exceedingly heavy, its share very sparingly clothed with iron, and so inconveniently long, that it made a furrow full two feet in width, and as deep as any hedge-ditch in England. The soil was rich, black, and weighty ; so much so, that fourteen oxen were yoked in pairs, to drag the plough through its furrows. Buffaloes are very numerous here ; and are often used for these agricultural labours, as well as for business on the road, where they sometimes carry burthens on their backs ; and at others, draw a clumsy sort of cart, with wheels of a solid piece of wood, like those of Portugal. Droves of these animals were grazing near the road, some of them of an enormous size, much larger than the largest of the English cattle I ever saw. Their cry is peculiar, for I cannot call it either lowing or bellowing : it is long and monotonous, resembling the hum of an insect ; but as much louder, as the magnitude of the one animal exceeds that of the other. The comparison may seem a strange one, but it is true.
The peasants were preparing to sow wheat and barley, which, with millet, are the only sorts of grain they cultivate with diligence. From the latter, two liquors are extracted ; one, an ardent spirit ; the other, a milder drink, extremely sour and disagreeable. Wines are not in use in this part of Georgia ; neither do we see a single vine for the benefit of its grapes as a food. By the degree in which we . draw nearer to an admired object, we often find that it gradually loses the beauties which attracted at a distance. Thus a green vale, when viewed from a height, seems luxuriant in cultivation ; but when come to the place itself, we may see a morass instead of a field. In like manner, as we approached Duschett, the appearance of the general culture we had hailed from the brow of the mountain, dispersed away into limited spots ; and we still found the traces of savage desolation, the footsteps of a lagging, because still insecure, industry.
Duschett itself, is a pretty extensive town ; with the remains of a fortress and a palace, which, in times past, were the summer residence of the kings (or Tzars) of Georgia ; and, I believe, a particular favourite with the last, the celebrated Heraclius : for his son could scarcely be said to have reigned. Being curious to have an idea of an Asiatic palace, I requested the officer commanding at this post, to be kind enough to accompany me to see it and the fortress. I found a very large square, inclosed by high stone walls, with strong towers at the angles. On one side of the interior of this square, near the wall, stands the royal edifice ; a low, unpretending-looking building, consisting of a single story, which is divided into small rooms, without other ornament than some rough carved work, in the shape of lozenges, on the timbers of the ceiling. Neither gilding nor paint, of any kind, ever seems to have touched its plain stuccoed walls. A veranda surrounds the whole ; and its flat roof formed a terrace, whence only the tops of the hills might be seen. A circumscribed prospect, for a summer-palace. But the embattled sides of the fortress, which were its protection, would allow no ampler. In the centre of the square stands a small wooden church, almost falling to the ground. It is now in contemplation to turn the palace into quarters for officers in garrison ; and to occupy the square with barracks and stables, for a new battalion destined to this important line of country.
This part of Georgia is now called the province of Kartelania, and was the ancient Iberia. Ptolemy describes it as bordered, on the north, by the Sarmatian mountains ; to the south, by a part of Armenia ; to the east, by Albania ; and to the west, by Colchis, the present Immeretia. He mentions many of its towns and villages. But Strabo, who travelled in these countries, speaks yet more decidedly of this being a flourishing, and even luxurious state. A dreary and comfortless contrast it now exhibits ! A once independent kingdom, reduced to the abject situation of a province ; and not immediately to the sovereign power itself, which might dispense consequence, with near union ; but through the double vassalage of a medium, being an appendage to another subject province, that of Georgia. Wars, and invasions from rival neighbours, gradually diminished the brave population of this little kingdom ; but their most mortal blow, was given by the hands of those amongst them who possessed ambition, without the manliness to maintain it themselves. Like other powers, who, unwittingly, have committed the same sort of national suicide, themselves taught the Lesghecs, (the people who were to be their destruction,) the passes of their country. During times of civil discords, the mutual jealousies of the Iberian chiefs subsidised bands of these warlike barbarians to fight their battles. The way once found, these conquering allies trod it at pleasure ; and, trampling on the great lords, their former pay-masters, soon reduced a people who had such inefficient leaders. From that time, the country sunk lower and lower, under the weight of oppression ; till the peasantry, entirely o-ivino1 themselves up to a kind of idle despair, the present possessors of the province found them in that mortal state of the human mind, from which it will require years of European knowledge, example, and patient energy, to rouse them into new life, social and political.
On quitting Duschett, the valley opens with a considerable expanse for a few wersts, crossing several tolerably cultivated low hills. A lake lies to the westward of the road, which, I was informed, contains a variety of good fish : one species is very large, shaped like a salmon, but when dressed it is not the same in colour, being white instead of yellow. Leaving the direction of this fine body of water, after an hour or two's march, we regained the banks of the Aragua, along which we pursued our way for the remainder of our day's journey. A valley on the opposite shore was pointed out to me as the only avenue still practicable, by which the Lesghees can repeat their inroads into the country. A Russian guard, consisting of a few infantry and Cossacks, keeps station there ; and it is sufficient for the ordinary defence of the pass, the old invaders not attempting, now, descents of any power. They are seldom seen but in marauding parties, small enough to escape pursuit, as easily as they elude vigilance in making these incursions. It is only in time of war, when the Russian soldiers may be drawn to more distant duty, that they come down in hundreds, spreading rapine and misery in every direction.
Towards dusk, we reached a post called Artiskall, where we changed horses ; and leaving our chasseurs, took an escort of Cossacks only, having but a short distance to go before we should attain our proposed sojourn for the night. We had not proceeded more than a werst or two, ere it became quite dark ; yet, the eye being used to it, I could distinguish that the increasing gloom, which deepened on us as we continued to advance, was occasioned by the closing in of the valley. At last its mountain walls drew so near each other, as totally to exclude all trace of the road ; and we had nothing to guide us from stepping into the river, that was combating the rocks at our side, but the warning noise of its course ; and, now and then, a sparkle of light on the water, shot from moon or stars through some friendly chasm in the stony canopy above us.
At nine o'clock we arrived at Mskett, once the capital of Georgia, now a wretched village. Such is the too probable consequence of a frequent change of masters ; the ravages of war, the neglect of caprice, the miseries of delegated authority, of oppression and poverty. Nothing more resembles the turn of fortune in the destiny of such a place, once the residence of kings, now the abode of penury and wretchedness, than the fate of many a proud and frail fair one. One day, we hear of her lying in the bosom of princes, on a couch of luxury and indulgence ; and ere long, perhaps, we shall be told, that she has perished on some bed of straw, without a human being to give her a drop of water, or a hand to close her eyes.
Having arrived at the forlorn remnant of the great city of Mskett, I took up my quarters amidst the ruins of its castle, where I was lodged for the night, in the cell of a priest, or protopope, belonging to the old cathedral, still existing within the walls of the fortress. We were only a short day's journey from Tiflis ; and the venerable incumbent of my cell being as kindly hospitable as his means would allow, I determined to delay my morning's march a few hours, that I might have time to view the many interesting objects of the place, and the magnificent country by which they are surrounded.
Long before Tiflis, the present capital of Georgia, had a stone laid of its foundations, or that it could have been even in contemplation to disturb the cattle which pastured on its ground, to fix the site of a new city, Mskett had been a place of importance, and of great antiquity. It was the residence of the sovereigns of the country, of large extent, and numerous population ; and many marks of its ancient strength and spaciousness may still be found along the angular piece of land which was its foundation. The situation was commanding for a royal capital, being between the rivers Aragua and Kur (the Aragus and Cyrus of the classic ages), and immediately at their point of junction ; the former river bounding the province of Kartelania (the ancient Iberia) to the south-east ; and the latter stream, from the commencement of its course, forming a barrier to Armenia.
Pliny, while writing of Iberia, observes that its chief city was called Harmastis, and that it was situated near the river Neoris. Ptolemy mentions the same place, under the name of Artanissa ; and then adds, that there is another town called Mestletta, not far from the Kur. We have no difficulty in recognising Mskett in Mestletta ; and in Harmastis, or Artanissa, too, the topography of both being such as to show them to be one city ; and the ruin on which I was quartered had originally been the strong-hold of that ancient capital. In the days of its greatness, this strong-hold inclosed the palace of the kings, as well as the metropolitan church. What remains of the former, are little more than bare and mouldering walls, excepting one small gloomy chamber, near the ground, in which a stone couch, and an altar of the same rough materials, still show memorials of the pious Nunia, who there performed her vigils. In reverence of her memory, this melancholy cell bears the name of Saint Nunia's Chapel.
The cathedral, or patriarchal church, stands in the heart of the fortress. It is a large and stately building, with a turreted spire, faced with smooth stone. The rest of the exterior workmanship is of the same character as that of the church at Annanour, intricate and full of labour ; but the interior would be very plain, were it not for the ill-painted legends of saints on the walls : and they are the less to be tolerated, since their gaudy colours disturb the fine shadowy solemnity of the grey tombs which cover the remains of departed patriarchs and deceased tzars. Amongst the latter, we were shown the place where the great and unfortunate Heraclius, the last king of Georgia reposes, with his sons, from all the troubles of his reign ;—he sleeps at rest, unconscious that the foot of a foreign sentinel treads and retreads the earth near his grave !
The good father who accompanied me mentioned, as other objects usually interesting to travellers, several holy relics. Those of the greatest note he named, were the vest of our Saviour, and part of the mantle of Elias. The first, for many years back, had been consigned to the safe-keeping of a finely wrought shrine, within the precincts of the high altar ; and the latter, with other treasures of similar character, could not be shown to me, the archimandrite being absent, to whose charge the relics were committed.
On a desolate tract of ground, nearly half a -mile northward of the walls of the fortress, stands another church, surrounded, not with tombs, but the melancholy silence of innumerable ruins, the most dismal monuments of the dead. In fact, little else than the mouldering vestiges that this once was a city, are to be seen for several wersts around. On the eastern side of the river, directly opposite to the town, rises a pointed and rocky hill, covered at the top with very extensive ruins ; —part seem the remains of a church, and the rest, from the nature of the broken walls and towers, a place of military strength. This pyramidal hill, with its mural crown, must have had a very majestic aspect, in the days of its power ; at present, it is noble even in ruins. The fortress on its height appears to have been in regular communication with the town : we may distinctly mark the track, in the remains of walled posts, which run down the slope to the very margin of the river, terminating just at the spot where it is in general fordable. The western bank is rather high, and gave a good station for a square tower which guarded the pass to the water. At a little distance, to the north, is seen a bold, projecting rock, perpendicular towards the river, which washes its foot. Its summit is spread with masses of ruin, fallen and erect ; but every where evincing the grandeur of the fabric which had once commanded from its brow. When that fabric stood in its original, unimpaired form, it must have been a castle of much greater magnitude than any of the others ; and, by its position, commanded not only its own immediate road, but the whole valley towards the Caucasus, and every approach from the mountains bordering, in that direction, on the Aragua. The situation is the best for a military post in that part of the country ; and, from the peculiar method in which parts of the remaining structure are put together, I am led to suppose, that if it were first founded by Asiatic princes, it was enlarged and strengthened by their Roman conquerors. The square tower, which 1 have mentioned a little above, as guarding the pass to the river, bears marks of the same military architects ; and the fragments of an old wall, which has evidently run along the whole face of the northern bank of the Kur, resemble, in every part, the admirable workmanship, in that way, of the Roman soldier. This wall ceases at a ruined stone bridge which crosses the Kur, and is protected by two high quadrangular towers that stand on each bank of the river. On the other side of the bridge the wall re-commences, with additional marks of fortification wherever points appear vulnerable, and takes its course all the way up, till it joins the great northern castle, on the bold projecting rock I have described before.
Plutarch's account of Roman transactions, in this part of the world, corroborates my view of the subject ; and it is to such evidence alone that we can refer as guides through the vestiges of past ages, scattered over these, now, half-barbarian wastes. He mentions, that after the subjugation of Tigranes, King of Armenia, Pompey, eager to follow his fortune, left Afranius with an adequate force, in charge of the conquered country, and set forth himself in pursuit of Mithridates. His line of march lay, of necessity, through the countries bordering on the Caucasus. The Albanians, at first, granted him a free passage ; and calculating on the performance of their promise, he proceeded confidently towards their frontier. But he had scarcely cleared the mountain defiles which lead to the western shore of the Kur, when these hardy people, either repenting their acquiescence, or having granted it merely to throw the Roman general off his guard, appeared suddenly on the opposite bank of the river, advancing towards him with every show of determined hostility. It was then the month of December, and the Roman troops celebrating the Saturnalia. But their general, who no sooner perceived his expected friends, than he saw them to be enemies, gave orders to allow the barbarians to pass the river, and then prepared his men to receive them as their broken faith deserved. The Albanians crossed in a body of forty thousand men,—so vast a multitude had they collected, to oppose their formidable foe ; but it was in vain : the discipline of the Roman band of veterans was more than a match for the population of the whole country ; and, utterly discomfited in the battle which ensued, the Albanians yielded absolute submission. The consequence was, Pompey placed his own keys in the locks of the country ; and proceeded, without further opposition, towards Iberia. According to the writers of the period I refer to, Albania was then bounded to the south by the Cyrus (or Kur), from the shores of the Caspian, to the junction of the river with the Aragua. From the nature of Pompey's views in the country, and the difficult and dangerous passage of the Caucasus between Armenia and his next great, object,—difficult from their unexplored intricacies, and dangerous from the inevitable harassing of the warlike natives, who had never known subjection,—though these mountains were his direct path, yet the more circuitous one of the eastern bank of the Kur, being altogether the most eligible, from its fewer natural obstacles, and being in part through the country of the Albanians, who had promised him a free passage, it appears that Pompey could not but take this line of march, and, accordingly, we have found his traces all along the path. The Kur is fordable in many places, particularly above Tiflis ; and between that city and Mskett lies an extensive plain, the spot, most probably, where the Iberians made a desperate stand against the formidable invader, who had already laid Albania at his feet. Indeed, that plain is the only space of ground in that district sufficiently extensive to have allowed two such opposing armies room to act ; but the Roman's fortune still held the ascendant, and there the richest parts of Iberia too, became the spoil of the victor. Having now the liberties of this brave people in his hands, Pompey took up his winter-quarters in a position to command a ready communication with his posts in both his new conquests, Albania and Iberia ; and I have little doubt that we have found those winter-quarters at Mskett. Besides its proximity to the objects just mentioned, it lay in the midst of a cultivated country, abundant in supplies for his troops, and at a point, whence he could issue at will, to pursue his plans against Mithridates, on the opening of the following spring.
Mskett is, in fact, a fortress by nature : we have only to look on it, to recognise these features ; the nearly insular situation of its site, magnificently moated by the Kur and the Aragua, the natural towers and strong-holds of its cliffs and beetling rocks, and the position in which it stands, capable of blocking up the way at once, to the passes which lead to two kingdoms. The former sovereigns of Iberia had been aware of these advantages ; and, when they seized the station for themselves, added those bulwarks of stone, which, now in ruins, cover the heights, but which, we also find to have been subsequently strengthened by the conquerors of Asia from Europe. Similar vestiges of occupation by Greeks and Romans, mingling with the old eastern fortifications erected by the native people, may be traced, not only 'in these parts, but in every pass of the mountains, to the inmost recesses of the Caucasus.
The styles of architecture, civil or military, of any particular people, are silent but decisive evidences of where those people have been. But, more than this, with regard to the spot of my present argument, Dr. Reniggs mentions, that during his stay in Georgia, he was told, that in the northern castle at Mskett a stone had been found, bearing the Greek inscription, [AKPOΣTOΠOΛIΣ] Acrostopolis. He adds, that all the Georgian historians, as well as other learned writers, speak of Mskett as the most ancient city of the kingdom ; testifying that it was in a very flourishing state, even so far back as when these regions first embraced Christianity ; and before that, we find it may have been a garrison of importance. According to D'Anville, the city of Harmozica (the Harmastis of Pliny, and the Artanissa of Ptolemy) was situated on the Kur, just at its junction with the Aragua ; while the town of Teumara occupied the banks of the latter river, at no great distance from Harmozica.
[THE RIVER CYRUS]
About eleven o'clock on the morning of October the 12th, (O. S.), we left this interesting old capital ; and, having proceeded along the northern bank of the Kur, for about a werst, crossed the river at the bridge I described before, as being situated between the two lofty Roman towers. Nothing of the ancient structure of this bridge remains, excepting the stonework from which sprung the arches. The arches gone, the massy pillars which supported them, are now connected by a sort of wood platform, over which travellers pass, and under which the river rolls in a dark and turbulent stream. On gaining its southern bank, we pursued our way in a parallel direction with the road we had just quitted, till reaching the foot of the hills where the confluence of the two rivers takes place, and then our course ran with the united stream due south. But it was a curious and a fine spectacle, to behold these two celebrated floods at the moment of junction. The dear and green waters of the Aragua formed a brilliant contrast to the heavy and sombre wave of the Kur, as they dashed into its bosom. But the union was instantaneous. And the mightier flood of Cyrus rolled onward with its tributary stream unaltered in colour, with the same proud solemnity of course.
The source of this famous river has been supposed, in almost as many different places as there have been writers to discuss the question. Strabo, will have it to rise in Armenia ; Pliny, in the Tartaric Scythian mountains ; and Ptolemy, in Colchis, the modern Immeretia. Chardin would find its spring amongst the Caucasus ; and subsequent observations have proved him so far right, that its source has been traced to the mountains that bound the province of Akiska westward, and which are a ramification of the Caucasus, though so distant from the great parent stem. From the recesses of this Akiskan branch, issue several small rivulets, which, uniting into one channel at some little distance from Agalzhicke, takes the name of Kur ; and, flowing thence through part of the Turkish dominions, gradually augments its stream by the reception of minor rivers in its course. Although its windings are various, its main direction is generally to the eastward, passing through deep valleys, and one or two extensive plains, in its way to the town of Mskett. Having paid its tribute to those venerable towers, the progress of a few wersts brings it to other ruins ; to the successor of the royal dignities, which once gave distinction to those towers ; to what was the new capital of Georgia. Its once lofty battlements, now crumbling to decay, mix their superb fragments with the less ostentatious works of modern military art ; and Tiflis, though no longer the magnificent residence of Asiatic princes, is yet the capital of a government ; and possesses a fortress, of more strength, than imposing appearance. From this point, the Kur takes a south-eastern direction, fertilizing a country of as much beauty as grandeur. The most considerable rivers which pour themselves into its channel, during this course, are, the Alazan, from the north-east ; and the Aras, (or Araxes,) from the south, which discharges itself into the Kur at about seventy miles distance from the mouth of that river. When this junction has taken place, the breadth and the depth of the Kur are so encreased, it immediately becomes navigable for much larger boats than any which could have been attempted higher up. At fifty miles lower down, it divides itself into two noble branches ; and so flows onward, through the province of Maghan, to the northwest coast of the Caspian ; whence, by these double channels, it unites its waters with the sea.
Ancient writers would lead us to suppose, that in former times this celebrated river was navigable to a much higher reach, than it is at present. We can draw no other inference, from the accounts given by some of them, of the methods in use to convey goods from India, to the Black Sea. Pliny particularly describes the route : — "Having arrived at Bactra," (modern, Balk,) he observes, "the merchandise then descends the Icarus (Jehon river) as far as the Oxus ; and thence are carried down to the Caspian. They then cross that sea, to the mouth of the Cyrus (the Kur), where they ascend that river ; and, on going on shore, are transported by land for five days, to the banks of the Phasis (Rion), where they once more embark, and are conveyed down to the Euxine."
Ancient authors, all bearing the same testimony, that such was the great road by which Europe received the luxuries of the East, we cannot but admit the fact ; but, at the same time, ocular demonstration assures us that both rivers, the Kur and the Rion, must have sunk very low in their beds since so important a traffic, as that described, could be carried up their streams to such a height as would make the land-carriage across from one to the other, only a journey of five days. Mr. Gibbon, in his work on the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and who generally wrote from collected evidence, mentions, that the Kur is navigable as high as Sarapona ; a distance of one hundred miles from its mouth, forty only of which would admit large vessels. From my own observations, and information, on the spot, I should say, that the Kur will admit very small craft only, as far up as to the point of its junction with the Alazan ; and not until it is augmented by the Aras do vessels of burthen find water. With regard to the Rion, it is not navigable even so high as Cotatis. Hence, from the present comparatively shallow state of these two rivers, instead of goods being landed, as of old time, at a point in the Kur, whence they might arrive, after a journey of only five days, at an answering navigable point on the Rion ; they would, in our times, be put on shore so low in the line of the river, as to constrain them to traverse a distance of sixteen days travelling, over a difficult and dangerous mountain-country, before they could re-embark at the necessary depth of water in the Rion. That this was not always the case, we may gather another argument, from the accounts we have of Seleucus Nicator's project for connecting the Euxine and Caspian seas by a canal ; which, being only to be effected by the union of the two rivers in question, the idea could not have been conceived at all, unless those rivers then possessed more extensive navigable channels than they do at present.
But, to return to our day's march.
[ARRIVAL IN TBILISI]
As we followed the further progress of the Kur, the mountains gradually lost both their rocks and forest-scenery, presenting immense heights covered with beautiful verdure. The course of three or four wersts brought us to a fine level expanse of country, in high cultivation, and traversed by a thousand sparkling rivulets from the hills on the western side of the plain. The river also added its waters to the refreshing beauties of the view. Our eyes turned, with a sense of repose, from the rugged wilds they had so long been contemplating, to the soft green which covered these noble hills ; but ere we had pursued our way, for quite ten wersts, over the luxuriant plain they bordered, we perceived the opening of a narrow, rocky valley. The river entered it, between two bold ranges of the mountains ; and, at the extremity of the defile, we saw the capital of Georgia, the many towers of Tiflis, rising on the, then, precipitous and again sublime banks of the Kur. But the effect produced here, is of a deeper tinge. The town itself, stands at the foot of a line of dark and barren hills, whose high and caverned sides gloomily overshadow it. Every house, every building within its walls, seems to share the dismal hue of the surrounding heights ; for a deep blackness, rests on all. The hoary battlements above, and the still majestic towers of the ancient citadel ; the spires of Christian churches, and other marks of European residents; even their testimonies of past grandeur, and present consequence ; and, what is more, present christian brotherhood ; could not, for some time, erase the horrible dungeon-impression of Asiatic dirt and barbarism, received at first view of the town. On crossing a small stone bridge, we reached the guard-house of a quarantine, about three wersts from Tiflis ; but, on delivering our papers of health, we were allowed to proceed, without further detention, towards the gates of the city. Having entered them, (with the feeling of one going into the cave of Trophonius,) I took up my quarters at the house of Khoja Aratoon, an Armenian, whose father had served, as treasurer, several of our envoys and ambassadors, when resident at the court of Persia. I was well pleased to hear the first information communicated to me by my host, that the Governor of Georgia, General Yarmolloff, was returned to Tiflis, from his embassy to the Persian monarch ; and, accordingly, next morning, I presented myself to His Excellency, and delivered my letters. His reception was in no respect like the gloom of his capital, and the sunshine within, soon spread its influence without doors.
[THE TOWN ITSELF]
Tiflis is distant from St. Petersburgh 2627 wersts, in 42" 45' N. lat., and 62° 40' E. long, according to Russian calculation. Chardin has placed it in lat. 43° and long. 64n. But Captain Monteith, of the Madras engineers, from an observation, found its latitude to be 41° 43'. The city has no claim to an antiquity beyond the lapse of a few centuries ; having been founded in the year 1063, by the Tzar Liewvang [Levan—A.B.], who wished to derive personal benefit from certain warm springs in its neighbourhood. Till that period, it could boast no habitation in the form of a house ; unless, perhaps, a few mud-hovels for the convenience of the occupiers of a small fortress, which stood on an adjacent height, and protected the valley. The remains of this ancient bulwark are still to be seen on a hill to the south of the town, at. some distance from the station of the more modern citadel, of Turkish origin. The position of the old work of the native Tzars, completely commanded the road along the western bank of the Kur ; and its dark and frowning towers, lonely as they are, still seem to threaten the passenger below. A more intimate acquaintance with the town, gradually effaced the impression of the general dreariness of its aspect ; but the effect of the circumjacent scenery always remained the same ; a vast prison, if I may so express myself, of high and beetling rocks broken into deep clefts, black and bare, and projecting in a thousand rugged and savage forms ! And on these bulwarks of nature, apparently sufficiently incarcerating of themselves, we see every where the time-destroyed additions of man : towers and battlements, lying in huge grey masses of ruin on every pointed steep ; while old mouldering walls, track the declivities till their bases touch the town, or end in the bed of the Kur. From the situation of the town, at the bottom of a ravine like this, it cannot be supposed a very desirable abode for persons used to freer space, and wider prospect. Hence the Governor-general has chosen his place of residence at a short distance from the body of the city ; on the gentle slope of a hill, fronting the river, and a fine view of the Caucasian mountains. When the house is finished, for it is now undergoing a repair, it will be distinguished by a large portico, and exterior ornamental figures sculptured in stone.
This building, with the arsenal, hospital, churches, and a few villas in the neighbourhood, are the only erections, in or near the place, that remind one at all of Europe. The rest is purely Asiatic ; but very different from the idea, commonly received in Europe, of that term,—gay minarets, painted domes, and gilded trellice-work. Here was a collection of low, flat-roofed dwellings, built of dun brick, mingled with stones and mud ; the doors and windows exceedingly small ; the latter covered with paper, glass being in little use from its scarcity and dearness : indeed, the natives have been so accustomed to live in a kind of half-darkness, from the overshadowing of their mountain, and the closeness of their abodes, that light seems no way necessary to their vocations. As a proof, they hardly ever apply to the effects of a little oil on the opacity of the paper. The streets are, without exception, narrow ; and, from the primitive state of the pathways, intolerably filthy in wet weather, and dusty in dry. However, His Excellency, the Governor, is endeavouring to obviate this inconvenience, by ordering them to be paved ; which good work is already begun. He is also establishing other improvements, by directing all ruinous houses to be either repaired, or entirely pulled down, to make way for the erection of new ones, according to handsome and more salubrious plans. Amongst other works of this nature, carried on during his late absence in Persia, are alterations in the bazar, or great marketplace for merchants. This has been totally roofed in, but with open circles left in the rafters, for the admission of air and light. Long colonnades unite it to the square of the city-guard ; which place is also lined with shops, covered from the weather with a fine range of pillared arcades ; and the natives themselves, thus sheltered in their own persons, and in that of their merchandise, from the injurious effects of rain or scorching heat, begin, though languidly, to acknowledge that these changes are improvements. The bazar is a narrow street, of a very long and winding extent. On each side of it are lines of shops of every description, such as fruiterers, grocers, barbers, cooks, mercers, sadlers, armourers, &c. &c. all open, whose various articles are spread and displayed to the best advantage. Notwithstanding the value of some of the merchandise they thus lay forth, subject to accident as well as purchase, the place is a free thoroughfare ; not merely to pedestrians, but to horsemen, to asses with burthens, and even droves of buffaloes are not excluded. Hence it is often both disagreeable and dangerous to the foot-passenger ; yet we never find it but full of people and bustle from morning until dusk. Not far from the bazar is the public caravansary, where merchant-travellers take up their quarters. Here you see, exposed on the stone or earthen floors, of dark and vaulted apartments, whatever goods the merchants who inhabit them may possess. The owner of each heap, sits cross-legged, in grave attendance, waiting the appearance of customers, or bargaining with those who arrive ; and in one of them, I discovered an old fellow-traveller, an Armenian merchant, who had passed the Caucasus with me. He was pleased with the encounter, and treated me with a kaleon, sweetmeats, and some brandy, made at Erivan. This building is circular, three stories in height with a sort of gallery running in front of each range of doors, from whence stone steps descend, to conduct passengers above or below. The centre of the court is filled with the horses and mules of the merchants in the caravansary.
At one extremity of the bazar we find a small bridge over a deep ravine, at the bottom of which flows a mountain-stream ; pure and cold at its fountain-head, but mingling here with the hot-springs, which take their rise in the adjacent heights, it becomes warm, and derives all the medicinal properties, whose fame save birth to Tiflis. Over this steaming flood we find the public baths erected. They form not only a resource in sickness, to the natives, and to travellers visiting them with the same object, but they are the daily resort of both sexes, as places of luxury and amusement. On one side of the bridge stand those appropriated to the men ; and on the other, immediately below the gloomy walls of the citadel, the range intended for the women. The water which supplies these distinct bath-houses is strongly impregnated with sulphur, having the usual offensive smell of such springs. Its degree of heat may be reckoned at from 15 to 36 degrees of Reaumur in the several basons. At the source of the hot stream it is about 42. The basons are excavated in the solid rock, over whose surface the water had originally flowed ; and these are divided, under one immense vaulted roof, into different apartments, whence even the smallest egress of day-light is excluded ; and which are merely rescued from total darkness by the faint glimmerings of a few twinkling lamps struggling with the vapours from the stream. The stench of the place, and the disorder and filth which this meagre illumination rendered visible, showed sufficient argument for the whole having been left in shade. I did not see a spot in any one of the apartments, where it was possible for a bather to lay his clothes down without the certainty of taking them up again drenched in wet and dirt. When, however, I considered that these baths are free to the entrance of all who will, and that they crowd, indiscriminately, into every chamber alike, I ceased some of my wonder at so great a dearth of order or cleanliness ; though I did not the less mark the inconveniences of their absence, as we journeyed farther through the successive boiling caverns, and felt, at every remove, a more intense heat, a denser atmosphere of steam, and an increased accumulation of all that can disgust the senses of a man used to the retirement and comfort of European baths. All sorts of people were here huddled together, scrubbing, scraping, rubbing, shaving, &c. ; the offices of each act being done, either by the companions of the bather, or the persons of the bath, who are always in attendance with the various requisites for these extraordinary modes of purifying the human frame. But to proceed would be as offensive to my reader, as it was then to myself; so I hasten to recross the bridge. There, however, I was urged by the gentleman who accompanied me, to try if we could not get a glimpse into the baths dedicated to the fair sex. The attempt seemed wild ; but, to please him, I turned towards the building, and, to our astonishment, found no difficulty in entering. An old woman was standing at the door ; and she, without the least scruple, not only showed us the way, but played our sybil the whole while. In one of the bathing-rooms nearest to the door we found a great number of naked children, of different infantine ages, immersed in a circular bath in the middle of the chamber, where their mothers were occupied in washing and rubbing them. The forms of children are always lovely ; and, altogether, there being a regularity, and its consequent cleanliness, attending the adjustment of their little persons, we looked on, without receiving any of those disagreeable impressions which had disgusted us in the baths of their fathers. Passing through this apartment, without any remark of surprise or displeasure from the mothers of the children, we entered a much larger chamber, well lighted, and higher vaulted in the roof. No water was seen here ; but a stone divan, spread with carpets and mattrasses, was placed round the room, and on it lay, or sat, women in every attitude and occupation consequent on an Asiatic bath. Some were half-dressed, and others hardly had a covering. They were attended by servants, employed in rubbing the fair forms of these ladies with dry cloths, or dyeing their hair and eye-brows, or finally painting, or rather enamelling, their faces. On quitting this apartment, (which we did as easily as we entered it, without creating the least alarm or astonishment at our audacity ;) we passed into the place whence they had just emerged from the water. Here we found a vast cavern-like chamber, gloomily lighted, and smelling most potently of sulphuric evaporations, which ascended from nearly twenty deep excavations. Through these filmy vapours, wreathing like smoke over the surface of a boiling cauldron, we could distinguish the figures of women, in every posture, perhaps, which the fancy of man could devise for the sculpture of bathing goddesses. But, I confess, we were as much shocked as surprised, at the unblushing coolness with which the Georgian Venuses continued their ablutions, after they had observed our entrance ; they seemed to have as little modest covering on their minds, as on their bodies ; and the whole scene became so unpleasant, that, declining our conductress's offer to show us farther, we made good our retreat fully satisfied with the extent of our gratified curiosity.
Persons who bathe for health do not remain longer than a few minutes, or whatever time may be proscribed, in the water • but when the bath is taken for pleasure, these people are so fond of it, that, like the Turks in the case of opium, they prolong its application to such an extent, as ultimately to be equally injurious to their strength and personal appearance, Some pass many hours every day in this debilitating atmosphere, independent of one whole day in each week ; great part of which, however, is spared from the water, to be spent in making up their faces, blackening the hair, eye-brows, and eye-lashes, so as to render only occasional repairs necessary during the ensuing week. Thus occupied in the vaulted room, these Eastern goddesses, growing in renewed beauty under the hands ol their attendant graces, meet each other in social conference; discussing family anecdotes, or little scandals of their acquaintance ; and, not unfrequently, laying as entertaining grounds of retaliation, by the arrangement of some little intrigue of their own. For, I am told, there are days in the week when any lady may engage the bath for herself alone, or with any other party she may choose to introduce as her companion. The good dame who was our conductress, I understood, is never backward in preparing such accommodation.
[ASIATIC MANNERS, BREAD, NARIKALA, THE BOTANIC GARDENS & CHURCHES]
Within these twenty years, the higher ranks of the inhabitants of Tiflis have gradually lost much of their Asiatic manners ; and it was a change to be expected, from their constant intercourse with the civil and military officers of the European empire, to which they had become a people. Such changes are not always at their earliest stage properly understood by the persons who adopt them ; hence, nations who have been long in a state of vassalage, when they first break from their chains, usually mistake licence for liberty ; and, in like manner, the fair inmates of an Eastern harem, when first allowed to show their faces to other men than their husbands, may, perhaps, be excused, if they think that the veil of modesty can no longer be of any use. Amongst the lower orders in Tiflis, the effect of European companionship has been yet more decided. Owing to the numbers of Russian soldiers, who, from time to time, have been quartered in their houses, the customary lines of separation in those houses could no longer be preserved ; and their owners were obliged to submit to the necessity of their wives being seen by their stranger guests. The morals of a soldier, with regard to women, are seldom rigid ; and these gentlemen, not making an exception to the rule, made the best of the opportunities afforded them by the occasional absence of the husbands, to eradicate all remains of female reserve, and its sacred domestic consequences, from the characters of their ignorant, but pretty wives. When the women walk abroad, they still so far retain the old custom of concealment, as to wear its costume ; and we see them tripping along, enveloped from head to foot in the large Asiatic veil, called a chadre ; and, when any of these females happen to be standing at the doors, without this safeguard, I must do them the justice to say, that I have seen more than one retreat hastily into the house, on observing herself to be attentively looked at by a man. The beauty of the Georgian women cannot be disputed ; having fine dark large eyes, very regular features, and a pleasing mild expression of countenance ; and, from these characteristics being general, if there be any thing in physiognomy, we must conclude that they are naturally sweet-tempered and amiable. The dress of the higher ranks is splendid, and carefully adjusted ; but the lower order of females, notwithstanding they share the same taste for the ceremonies of the bath, and regularly go through them all, wear clothes which seldom make acquaintance with soap or water; consequently they appear often in rags, and always in dirt.
In going towards the citadel, through the bazar, I saw several women of different degrees, flitting about under shelter of the impenetrable chadre, and it was not easy then to find out whether it covered riches or poverty. While passing along, my attention was arrested at a baker's shop, by the singular way in which the owner was forming and baking his bread. He first rolled it out, to the length and breadth of a common chamber-towel, and not much thicker ; then taking it up over the palms of his hands, threw it with admirable dexterity against the side of the oven, where it stuck. The wall of the oven being kept continually hot, by a constant supply of burning wood beneath, in a couple of minutes the cake was baked, and removed by the point of a stick. This kind of bread is in use over most part of Asia, and serves, not merely as food, but for plate and napkin during; the whole meal.
On arriving at the old citadel, I found it well worth the labour of ascending the many hazardous declivities which lead to its base. It exhibited a mass of ruins, but they were grand and imposing, and the situation in which they stood, increased the wild majesty of these Eastern towers. When the Turks took possession of Georgia in the year 1576, they erected this fortress, to awe the province from its capital ; and when the Persians over-ran the same, about two centuries after, they dismantled the venerable structure, and left it gradually to sink into the dark heaps of ruins which now mingle with the natural cliffs of the rock. Its site was well chosen, on the summit of a very high promontory, which forms the termination of the mountain that overshadows the town on its south-western side. Within the old battlements may still be found the remains of the mosque mentioned by Chardin, and which is now used as a prison for malefactors, under an officer and guard. Besides this main fortress, the Turks of the same period strengthened their hold of the town by a range of towers and walls, which enclosed it on every side ; but all are gradually disappearing, (except the wall facing the river, which still stands ;) and the spoliation of hands at home, by taking materials from these ruins, as well as from those of the citadel above, to assist in building or repairing places in the city, has done more than even the ravages of war, to level these ancient bulwarks.
Besides the peculiar pleasure, to a military taste, in viewing the remains and situation of the citadel and other works, the valley behind the public baths, which leads to the most considerable of the ruins, possesses picturesque and interesting objects in itself. In following the windings of this wide mountain cleft, for some distance, we were imperceptibly led into a deep chasm, whose dark granite sides were broken into abrupt shelves, over which rush the waters of a lofty cascade, tumbling, with great noise, into a bed of rocks beneath. Thence it flows, murmuring along, by the base of the fortress, till it unites with the broader stream of the Kur. The immediately-surrounding objects mingle more beauty with the sublime, than the first approach to Tiflis had given us to expect in any part of its adjacent scenery. Many of the cliffs are richly covered with trees and shrubs, and carry the delighted eye through rocky and umbrageous intricacies, to the shining promontory, over which shoot the waters of the fall. Still we look upward, and see the mountain of the citadel, crowned with its mouldering towers. Near to the more southern side of the mountain, we found a small spot of rising ground, covered with graves and other funeral monuments. They were those of the Turks, who possessed this province some centuries ago, and were crumbling into dust, in awful sympathy with the prouder relics of departed life and greatness, in those of their ancient fortress on the heights above. Amongst these decaying mansions of the dead, five tombs, eminently distinguished by their dimensions and architecture, still stand quite entire. They are square buildings of brick, curiously put together, and ornamented on the outside with chequered and lozenged fretwork, in various compartments and projecting friezes, cut in the brick. Each tomb lias an arched door-way, which conducts into a vaulted room. This chamber, which is the only one in the building, has no ornaments on its walls ; they are simply stuccoed, and were, probably, the place of prayer for the Moullahs (or priests) over the dead body, entombed below, of some illustrious Turkish chief. This sort of expiatory rite is religiously performed by Mahometans, on certain days, at the graves of their deceased brethren in the faith. The pavement of one of these monuments was broken up, and, in looking into the aperture, a long and narrow stone coffin became visible, wherein I could discern a scull, and other human bones. Every one of these tombs bore marks of having been frequently opened, probably in search of hidden treasure. I could not discover an inscription on, or near any of them.
There are several fine churches, of different Christian persuasions, in Tiflis ; and that which is dedicated to the Roman Catholic mode of worship is one of the most beautiful. The cathedral of Holy Sion, the great Armenian church, is more extensive, but does not equal its tolerated rival in richness and grace of architecture ; yet it has an advantage in situation, which, adding the majesty of nature to the holy sanctity of the place, seems fully to answer the character of its name. The noble waters of the Kur roll near its base, increasing in rapidity and sound, as they pour onward amongst the thickening rocks of the suddenly closing in of the bold cliffs, which embank the stream. At this narrowed point, a bridge of one single arch connects the town with a considerable suburb, called Avlabar. It is chiefly inhabited by a colony of Armenians, who fled from the neighbourhood of Erivan, during the late wars between Russia and the Persian government. Here, also, we saw the ruins of an ancient fort, church, and houses ; and about two miles further from this side of the city, stand the remains of another sacred edifice of old times, on the summit of a hill so high, that it commands the most extensive view to be found any where in the environs of Tiflis. From one side it embraces the city, with its citadel, churches, and gardens ; on the other to the north, the windings of the Kur, through the varied shores of the valley and plain ; and takes, also into the same wide landscape, not only the whole chain of mountains from the province of Kahetia to Kasibeck, but their tremendous summits, pile above pile, as far as the eye can reach to the north-west, till all are crowned by the pale and cloud-encircled head of Elborus. A Russian officer, who measured this last-named mountain, calculates it to be sixteen thousand seven hundred feet above the level of the sea.
[MT ELBRUZ AND NOAH'S ARK—A DIGRESSION]
There is a tradition here, that, during the subsiding of the deluge, the ark of Noah, while floating over these mountains in the direction of Ararat its place of final rest, it smote the head of Elborus with its keel, and the cleft it made in the mountain has remained ever since. To give any colour of feasibility to the legend, it had better have represented that the ark struck off the top of the one mountain in its passage to the other ; for, otherwise, Elborus, towering as it is, being at present much lower than Ararat, it could not have been touched at all by the sacred vessel floating towards so much higher a region. But this oral remembrance of some junction having taken place between Elborus and the earliest personages of Holy Writ, is not the only honour of the kind attached to the history of this celebrated mountain. Heathen traditions, and classical writers affirm, that Elborus was the huge and savage rock of the Caucasus to which Prometheus was chained. And who, but Eschylus, has drawn its picture ? In his pages alone, we find the magnitude, sublimity, and terrors, of that "stony girdle of the world," that quarry of the globe, whence all its other mountains may seem to have been chiselled ; such are its wondrous abysms, its vast and caverned sides, and summits of every form and altitude, mingling with the clouds. There is still a tradition amongst the natives, who reside in the valleys of Elborus, that the bones of an enormous giant, exposed there by Divine wrath, are yet to be seen on its smaller summit. Indeed the story is so much a matter of firm belief with the rude tribes in that quarter of the Caucasus, that people are to be found amongst them, who will swear they have seen these huge remains. Marvellous as the story is, it seemed so well attested that, some time ago, an European general officer thought he might make it a ground for penetrating farther than had yet been attempted, into the interior of the mountains ; and, accordingly, I was told, he set forth on this expedition, with a party of two hundred men and a light piece of artillery, to ascertain the truth of so extraordinary a tale. However, the moment was not yet arrived for a European eye to behold the remains of this dead Colossus ; for scarcely had he penetrated any distance into the recesses of the mountain, when a dreadful avalanche rolled in fury down its side, and overwhelmed the whole party, excepting its leader, and two or three soldiers. There was now no doubt amongst the natives, that the intention of the expedition was to have given charitable sepulture to the unburied corpse, and that the accident happened in consequence of the vengeance of the spirits of the mountain, who had the mysterious relics in charge ; thus to show that the doom of their being left to bleach on that unsheltered rock for ever, should never be reversed. So far, the judgment of the spirits of the mountain ! But it is more credibly believed by the persons who told me the story, that the real object of the expedition, which set forth under this mask, was to reconnoitre ground for the establishment of some good positions in the mountains.
This quarter of the globe has justly been styled the cradle of mankind ; and the long recollections of the land of their origin, to be found amongst the people of countries the most distant, even in their nursery tales, might be one minor proof, of all the dispersed families of the earth having sprung from this patriarchal home. From the earliest times, we find the regions between the Euxine and Caspian Seas, to be the noted theatre of the most heroic and marvellous actions. Events are recorded, in which not men only, but preternatural and supernatural beings played conspicuous parts. In the east, and in the west, we hear and read of the mountains of Caucasus, and their surrounding countries ; in history, in fable, and in poets' dreams. Medea prepared her magic spells in their vicinity ; and, aided by ethereal agents, renewed the decayed forms of age to all the freshness of youth and beauty. Even now the most romantic and extravagant tales arc told by the natives of the country, of these airy inhabitants of the heights. Powerful genii or demons, with their attendant benign or evil spirits, they say, still hold their courts amongst the ices of Kasibeck, the snows of Elborus, and the caverned summits of the less-towering Caucasus ; and so great is the terror amongst some of the people of the valleys, no bribe could induce them, by attempting to ascend, to incur the cruel torments denounced by these spirits on any rash mortal who should dare to explore their haunts.
[KAKHETI & GEORGIAN INDOLENCE]
During my stay at Tiflis, the weather, which was almost one continued rain, proved very unfavourable to my wish of penetrating any depth into the fine province of Kahetia, the celebrated Albania of the ancients. However, what I did see, more than answered the images impressed on my imagination, by the representations I had received of the abundant beauties of its valleys. The hills, and even mountains are clothed with the finest woods, consisting of oak, ash, chestnut, beech, and elm, intermixed with a thousand peculiarly favoured spots, (as if the benign spirits of these more genial regions had here planted their own little secret wardens,) producing the most delicious grapes, though wild, and fruits of the choicest flavour. The wines, both red and white, which are made from these natural vineyards, have always been esteemed for softness, lightness and delicacy of taste, beyond those of any other district in the province of Georgia. The valleys of Kahetia are abundant in hemp, flax, rice, millet, barley, and wheat ; and with so little trouble to the occupier of the soil, it might almost be said, they grow spontaneously. Pheasants, wild fowl of every kind, antelopes, and deer, sheep, and all sorts of domestic cattle, enrich these luxuriantly-pastured vales. The rivers, too, add their tribute of plenty to the ample stores of nature. And, to wind up the climax of such a prodigality of blessings, (for all the treasures of the mineral world may be found in the hearts of its mountains,) the climate is delightful. Indeed, heaven seems to have drawn to this happy spot the essence of all that is necessary to the wants of man. But, alas ! the man which has been placed in this earthly paradise, to keep, to dress, and to enjoy it, has neither the will to separate the weed from the good herb, nor the taste to feel that it is sweeter than his neighbour's. Sunk in apathy, he cares not whether rain or sunshine descend on the ground ; abandoned to indolence, it is all one to him, whether his food be the bramble or the grape ; and, for personal comfort, the stye would afford as pleasant a pillow as a bed of flowers : such is the present Kahetian ! But, that so strange a contrast between the man and the soil, is not always the effect of any natural cause, such as climate, &c. may be affirmed, from what was the character of the Albanian inhabitant of this very same district.
Dr. Reniggs, who resided for a considerable time in Georgia during the reign of the unfortunate Heraclius, writes thus of the general Georgian character at that time, which, of course, includes the Kahetians, their country being a province of Georgia. And in the reasons he gives for the moral defects he describes, we find the cause why the later natives of Kahetia differ so essentially from its earlier people, when the same country bore the name of Albania.
He observes, "that both the nobles and peasantry of Georgia are given up to a wretched degree of sloth, appearing to despise all laudable pursuits which require attention or labour ; and amongst others, the cultivation of the earth. But this stubborn indolence is not the natural bias of the Georgian. He is fully aware of his wants, of his miserable poverty, and of the usual means of relieving such a state ; but he has no hope, in applying to the resources apparently open to his industry. Oppression is at the door to weigh down his efforts, or rapacity at hand to seize the product of his labours. He is under the eye, and the hand, and the double yoke, first of his own chiefs, and then of the powers beyond them, till the burthen becomes too heavy to be borne erect, and the man falls prostrate,— a wretched, useless slave. Thus avarice set bounds to its own extortion, by damming up the sources whence it flows." Constant feuds amongst the chiefs themselves, rendered desperate by the total absence of all law or justice; the inroads of the Lesghees, and bloody wars with the Turks and Persians ; all combined to drive the great mass of the people into that state of utter despair, which gradually subsides into the sullen contentedness of sloth, ignorance, and poverty. This must be the universal situation of every country which has been, for any time, under the subjection, or rather mis-rule, of a ceaseless change of masters ; some absolutely barbarians, and others, who have yet to learn the science of government from Christian laws : and this was the situation of Georgia for a sad succession of times. But, about twenty years ago, it was received within the lines of the Russian empire ; and the happy effects on the minds of the people, in feeling themselves under a regular government, secure in its natural strength, and dispensing that security to its appendages, are already become very apparent. Every encouragement to industry is held out to them ; and none has more persuasion than the laws, which protect men in the possession of the fruits of their labours. The different European governors, who have been put at the head of affairs here, since the junction of the province with Russia, have done all in their power to conciliate both nobles and people, by the administration of an equal justice, and a gradual amelioration of all those circumstances which had so long disorganised, and rendered poor, savage, and miserable, all ranks of persons. Being now effectually guarded from the inroads of the Lesghees, or the more overwhelming incursions of Turks and Persians, the higher orders begin to feel again that they hold a station in their country ; and to establish the re-awakened sense in their own minds, and in the respect of the people at large, His Imperial Majesty has conferred orders and medals of distinction on many of the native nobility, with titles and commissions of military rank ; and, in short, every other excitement to the restoration, or rather civilisation, of the country, that can be offered by a generous sovereign to a brave and confiding people. That they are still brave, when they have any thing beyond mere animal existence to defend, has been made manifest during the last twelve or fourteen years. In the wars of that period, they engaged heart and hand under the banners of Russia ; and their chiefs so distinguished themselves, that many rose to the rank of generals ; still continuing the brave acts by which their new honours were won. Indeed, it is very evident how much easier their new government finds it to arouse the old spirit of Iberian and Albanian courage, in the bosoms of their Georgian descendants, than to inspire them with one for traffic and agriculture. But all will succeed in good time ; and their neighbours, the Armenians, set a stimulating example of the ways and means of industry, and show many persuasive advantages, resulting from their extensive exercise. The high reputation as a soldier, which is attached to the character of His Excellency General Yarmolloff, and the noble style of his government, not in parade, but in principle, suits well with the naturally independent minds of the people, so long chained to the soil. The marks of those evil days, now passed away, are yet upon the countenances of most of the men : a sort of cloud hangs over their brows, habitual from the gloom that once possessed their souls ; but with the growing perceptions of happier times, these shades will disappear, and the brave Georgian look as brightly to the sun, as any of his free-born brothers of the mountains.
[DRESS OF GEORGIAN LADIES & GENTLEMEN]
One evening, at an entertainment given by His Excellency the Governor-general, I had an opportunity of seeing, not only a great many of the native nobility of both sexes, but also persons of consequence from other of the Caucasian countries. The Georgian noble is particularly distinguishable by the sombre cast of visage, above described ; but though so stern, it is of a fine contour, and harmonises with the manliness of his figure and style of dress. The latter is admirably calculated for freedom of motion, and therefore cannot but show the person to advantage. It chiefly consists, first of an under garment of fine pink cloth, worn as a shirt, and discoverable by the opening of the vest at the bosom, but only as far up as the bottom of the throat, the neck being entirely bare. The vest, which is cloth also, of a different colour from the shirt, has sleeves to it, sitting easy to the arm ; and over this is the tunic or upper garment, coming down as low as the knees, but opening before ; and bound round the waist with a cloth sash, universally white, to which is attached the wearer's sword. The skirt of the tunic meets the termination of the full short trowser or breeches, which descend no lower than the knees ; the leg being covered with a sort of stocking, and a close-laced half-boot, usually black or scarlet, with a very pointed toe. All these various garments are of cloth, of as various hues ; and, frequently, very handsomely ornamented with gold lace or embroidery. Mustachios on the upper lip, with some appearance of dark curling hair in the pole of the neck, from under the high black sheepskin cap on his head, complete the dress of a Georgian gentleman. This cap is, in form and materials, the same with that in use all over Persia ; only, the Georgian "wears his, with a difference ;" not striking it down into a sort of biforked shape at the top, when putting it on, but keeping it quite erect, in its original rounded pyramidal form. The costume of the lower ranks, is marked by long trowsers, reaching to the ancles, made of an inferior kind of silk ; a dagger (or kanjar) in place of a sword, hanging to the girdle ; but the rest of the raiment, being of the same fashion with the chief's, is also of the same materials ; cloth, though of a coarser quality, and without decoration.
The dresses of the Georgian ladies bear a full proportion, in point of cumbersomeness and ornament, to the beauty they overload, in attempting to adorn it. A bandeau, round the forehead, richly set with brilliants and other costly stones, confines a couple of black tresses, which hang down on each side of a face, beautiful by nature, as its features testify, but so cased in enamel, that not a trace of its original texture can be seen ; and, what is worse, the surface is rendered so stiff, by its painted exterior, that not a line shows a particle of animation, excepting the eyes ; which are large, dark, liquid, and full of a mild lustre, rendered in the highest degree lovely, by the shade of long black lashes, and the regularity of the arched eye-brow. A silken shawl-like veil depends from the bandeau, flowing, off the shoulders, down the back ; while a thin gauze handkerchief, is fastened beneath the chin, binding the lower part of the face, and descending as low as the bosom, where it ties over the rest of the garments ; showing, through its light medium, the golden necklaces and other jewellery which decorate the vest. This latter piece of raiment is usually made of velvet, or silk richly embroidered, covering the bosom and entire waist. A close gown of brocade, with sleeves to the wrist, and an exceedingly long skirt, devolving on the ground all round, is put over the vest ; but left open in front, as far as the bottom of the waist. The whole is then confined, with a fine Kashmere shawl. The sleeves of the gown are open in front of the arm, but closed at pleasure by little pineapple- shaped gold buttons and loops. Over all this, in cold weather (which was the season in which I saw these ladies) is added the oimah, or short pelisse, of gold brocade lined with fur : it flows loose to the figure, with wide sleeves ; is open in front, reaching only a little below the knees ; and has a superb, as well as comfortable appearance. However, when the fair Georgians sit or stand together, in this gorgeous apparel, the inflexible stiffness of their position, and total absence of motion in features or complexion, give them the effect, rather of large waxen images, which open and shut their eyes by mechanical ingenuity, than that of living, breathing, lovely women.
In the course of the evening, at His Excellency's, some of the Georgian young men of rank were prevailed on to show us a specimen of their national dance ; but none of the ladies could be induced to take a part in it. Some noble Circassians who were present, very readily went through the evolutions of theirs; and the scene was far from uninteresting. It was not merely the amusement of an hour, but a spectacle which connects the histories of ages ; of one aboriginal people, with that of another ; which exhibited the athletic, unconstrained limbs of natural man, in every attitude of vigour and agility. We might rather call it a game of exercise, than dancing. Though such are the dances of almost all barbarous, or half-civilised nations ; partaking, more or less, of the characteristics of a chivalric, savage, or brutal people, according to their progress towards that point of refinement when the dance, ceasing to be an exercise of strength, or a manual display of the passions in moments of triumph or festivity, becomes a mere pastime of polished society, and a vehicle for female grace.
The Georgian dance, to which I was then a spectator, consisted of feats of activity, and many strange, and far from elegant, contortions of the limbs ; such as twisting one leg over the other, knocking the knees together, and hopping along on their hunkers : but, I fear, the generality of my readers will not understand that provincial word of the north of England ; it is, however, the only one which occurs to me, descriptive of the grotesque action, which happens to be, also, a sport amongst children of the lower orders, in our northern counties ; and it is done, by sitting down on their heels, and hopping about in that position. The Georgians, after several other bodily freaks of the kind, completed their exploits by capering on their toes. To give a proper spirit to the performers, the national music had been procured, which bore an equal rank, in points of civilisation and elegance, with the graces it was to inspire. However, it seemed to animate the motions of the brave inhabitants of Caucasus, in like manner with the influence of the bag-pipe on the vigorous limbs of our own gallant Highlanders ; for feet, hands, and head, all moved in active response to the strains of their native Orpheuses. The instruments, and the strains, are difficult to describe ; but I make the attempt, in saying, that the first consisted of an assemblage of small double-drums, in shape and size not much larger than a couple of slop-basons united ; these were beat continually, in concert with five or six instruments in the form of guitars, played upon with a bow. Their harsh scrapings, mingling incessantly with the monotonous thumping of the drums, sent forth a noise, I could only compare to that of a water-mill, without its harmony. In short, it was wild and savage ; — a sort of oral, as the kind of dance is an ocular, testimony, of the antiquity of any particular people in the country where we find such traces of the earliest states of social man! The like strains, though often uttered by very differently constructed instruments, with a similar style of dance, are yet common in the Russian peasant, and with the Cossack ; and are also to be found in Africa, and amongst the Indian nations of Asia; likewise in America, both north and south, wherever the aboriginal people have been suffered to exist. Hence any great and polished nation, has as little to be ashamed of, in the remains of these proofs of the former infancy of its state ; as any personage, of modern times, would think he had for blushing, when showing a long pedigree, to find the names of a Caractacus, or Arminius, or any other illustrious barbarian, in the line of his ancestry.
[CIRCASSIA & THE CIRCASSIANS—A DIGRESSION]
The Circassians, six in number, whom I mentioned as being present at this festivity, had been in the suite of His Excellency General Yarmolloff, during his late embassy to Persia. One of them was a prince, a man of eminent merit, and consequent weight amongst his people : and, if we may judge of the personal advantages, in point of figure and noble mien, of his compatriots at home, by those of his own person, and of his five companions, the hardier sex in Circassia are no way inferior in beauty to the long celebrated charms of their fair countrywomen. These men were tall, robust, and finely proportioned ; of bright complexions, with dark eyes and hair, wearing their beards short, with an expression of frank good-humour all over their countenances ; which makes them appear a very different race, indeed, from what is marked in the fierce physiognomies of their neighbours the ferocious Tchitchinzees and Ossitinians ; and even as distinct from the lowering eye of the dark-visaged Georgian. The costume of this people suits well with the superior order of their figures. It is martial and graceful. They wear on the head a low cap, a little pointed at top, bound with fur ; on this they place a bright steel helmet, terminating in a spiked crest : from the casque, depends a chain-mail, hanging a little over the forehead, but completely covering the ears, and, from thence, closing under the chin, falls down the breast ; and, by being attached to the hinder part of the helmet, hangs a short way down the back also ; thus skirting the whole bust of the figure, but leaving the face perfectly open. A shirt of this chain-mail, covers the bodv also, to a little beneath the hips ; and likewise defends the arms, as low down as the elbow, where it meets a kind of iron plate fitted to the arm, and reaching from the elbow to the wrist ; here a gauntlet of mail, attached to a glove, falls loosely over the hand. A kind of gambeson, usually of red cloth embroidered with gold, comes up as high as the knee ; and a short boot of brown or red leather protects the foot. Over the shirt of mail they put a surcoat of cloth or velvet, according to the quality of the wearer. A pistol, sword, and dagger, together with a light gun, are their usual weapons ; bows and arrows being, now, seldom resorted to in war, though in common times they are often seen about their persons. In short, their whole appearance, excepting that of the fire-arms, differs nothing from the garb of the English baron, in the reign of King John. To show how expert they have become in the use of the fusil, as well as what dexterous horsemen they are, I shall merely mention one instance. One morning, while riding with the Circassian Prince, and Colonel Yarmolloff, the Governor's nephew, the former put his horse off at speed ; and, while going the distance of a werst, he loaded and discharged his gun six times, taking, at the same time, very deliberate aim in various directions.
The country to which this prince belongs, is of considerable extent along the northern face of the Caucasus ; and its name (Circassia for Tcherkass) is familiar to every European ear. But it owes such celebrity rather to the long-established fame of the peculiar beauty of its women, than to any other circumstance, however note-worthy, attached to so distant a region. An unfortunate fame, to the unhappy beauties who sent it forth ; since it has, for so many ages, made the successive generations of Circassian female youth an object of constant incursions into their country. The adjoining hostile tribes steal them away either by open violence or secret surprise, and sell them at a great price to the Mahometan harems of the East. But the Circassian nation deserves attention on other grounds than this romantic fate, or rather hereditary calamity, attached to the daughters of its people. It is one of the most independent nations of the Caucasus ; and consists of many tribes, of various appearance, and in some respects of various dignity ; at least in their own estimation, which they tacitly proportion to their ideas of the relative antiquity of their seat in those renowned mountains. Compared with the rest, I believe the lineal descendants of the very ancient people of Circassia are few ; but the unpolluted stream is sufficiently distinguishable, by the unvarying superiority of its offspring, over the degenerated appearance of the tribes, whose ancestors mingled their blood with the Tatars of Dchingis (Gengis, or Zingis) Khan ; the posterity of whom continued the same inattention to the purity of their race, when subsequent events brought other stranger hordes amongst them. The generality, therefore, of the Circassian tribes differ little in manners from their mountain-neighbours of altogether different origin and names ; but the tribe of the prince I before mentioned, and his five companions, being unquestionably that of the old race, retain marks of civilisation not to be found in the others. They state their origin to be Arab ; and are proud of asserting that the stream of their blood has passed, from its first patriarchal source until now, uncontaminated by any foreign mixture. They divide themselves into three classes, —princes, nobles, and vassals ; the latter, like the clans of Scotland, being faithfully attached to their chieftains. The person of the Prince, or Chief, is held sacred ; and, during his feasts, he is waited on by his nobles. But all is done rather with the air of a patriarch served by his sons, than of slaves, or even servants, attending the nod of a master ; and the fact is so. Although the noble serves, with the greatest awe, his chief; yet his freedom and his property are totally independent of that chief's arbitrary will : neither can the noble appropriate to himself any part of the property of his dependents, nor even the chief, invade the right of the meanest. They have nothing like a written law amongst them, but are governed by a sort of common right, or by what has become an established custom from ancient usage. The great bulk of the tribe (which, from its clear descent, and superior civilisation, alone deserves the name of the Circassian nation) meet, on momentous occasions, in a sort of convocation ; where, whatever may be the cause of their assembling, the Prince always opens the business, and proposes the measure he thinks best adapted to the circumstances of the meeting. The whole body of the nobles then deliberate on what he has brought forward ; and the result is referred to a certain number of grave personages from amongst the people at large, who, by their eminent wisdom and patriarchal consequence, have acquired the title of Elders ; and are chosen on these occasions by the people, or vassals, to be their representatives. These venerable men, in their turn, discuss the matter in debate, and give in their opinion. If the three consultations are then found to agree for the measure proposed, it is adopted ; and if it be a question of social right, the decision henceforth becomes a precedent, and acts as a sort of national decree. These assemblings, like the great meetings, or wittenagemots, of our ancestors, are held in an open space, near the habitation of the prince. And, indeed, it is curious to observe how much the form and spirit, as well as place, of this simple parliament, resemble that which was the foundation-stone of our present most glorious, and, I trust, adamantine constitution.
The prince and his nobles have much the same sort of education that was bestowed on the great men amongst our Saxon ancestors ; manly exercises, and the use of arms. The prince alone is regularly taught to read and write. In all but this distinction, (which is a real superiority, as its tendency is to enlarge the knowledge where most power resides,) he is trained, from his earliest youth, along with the younger chieftains, to the management of the horse, and the mastery of every weapon in use amongst them ; and at a certain age, he accompanies his instructors and their followers in occasional excursions against the neighbouring predatory tribes, to enure him to brave danger, to rescue plunder, or retaliate rapine; and to make him acquainted alike with the passes, which will most readily conduct him into the territories of his enemies, and the avenues that might easiest lead them to his own.
The women, who are so often the only spoil sought after by the marauding tribes about Circassia, are brought up in simple and domestic habits by their mothers ; a mode of education that must make the act of being torn from their parents and country doubly distressing to the youthful victims. They are taught by their mothers, not merely the use of the needle in decorative works, but to make their own clothes, and those of the men of their family. Soon after a female infant is born, her waist is encircled by a leathern bandage, sewn tight, and which only gives way afterwards to the natural growth of the child. It is then replaced by another ; and so on, till the shape is completely formed, according to the taste of the country. The first night of her nuptials, the husband cuts the cincture with his poignard ; a custom something dangerous, and certainly terrific, to the blushing bride. After marriage the women are kept very close, not even their husbands' own relations being suffered to visit them ; but, what seems an extraordinary inconsistency, a man has no objection to allow that privilege to a stranger, whom he permits to enter the sacred precincts of his home, without himself to be a guard over its decorum. For it is a rule with the Circassians, never to be seen by a third person in the presence of their wives ; and they observe it strictly to their latest years.
On the morning of the celebration of a marriage, the bride presents her intended husband with a coat of mail, helmet, and all other articles necessary to a full equipment for war. Her father, on the same day, gives her a small portion of her dowry ; while he, at the same time, receives from his son-in-law an exchange of genealogies ; a punctilio, on which they all pique themselves with as great a nicety, as on any point of personal honour ; every man being more or less esteemed, according to the purity, and illustrious names, of his descent. When the first child of the marriage is born, the father of the bride pays up the residue of her fortune to the husband ; presenting her, at the same auspicious moment, with the distinguishing badges of a married woman, (never put on with this tribe, until offspring is the fruit of union,) which honourable marks are, a long white veil, over a sort of red coif; all the rest of the dress being white also. Indeed, white is universal with the women, married and single ; but the men always wear colours. The wife has the care of her husband's arms and armour ; and she is so habitually anxious he should not disgrace them, that if she have the most distant idea he has used them with less bravery, in any particular action, than his brethren, she never ceases assailing him with reproach and derision, till he washes away the stain of imputed cowardice, either in the blood of his enemies or his own. At present, the professed religion of these people is Mahometan ; but this sort of female heroism, speaks more like the high mind of a Spartan virgin, or a Roman matron, than one of the soulless daughters of the Arabian prophet. Formerly, the Christian faith had made some progress amongst them, but not a vestige of its ordinances is now to be found. Hospitality, however, is an eminent virtue with the tribe of the true Circassians ; and it is a no inconsequential one, in these remote regions of savage men, and more savage hostility. One of the courtesies peculiarly reserved by this tribe, to do honour to strangers, I have already mentioned ; that of admitting them to the sacredness of their domestic hearths : but this sort of welcome goes still farther, and even to a preposterous length (to say the least of it) amongst other tribes of the Caucasus, and particularly that of the Kisty. When a traveller arrives at one of their abodes, the host orders one of his daughters to do the honours of his reception, to take care of his horse and baggage, to prepare his meals, and, when night comes on, to share his bed. The refusal of the latter part of the entertainment, would be considered as a great affront to the young lady and her father. The natives of a part of Lapland, not very far from Torneo, have a similar custom ; but then it is the wife of the host, whom he delivers into the bosom of his guest ; and she remains with the stranger, as his exclusive property, during the whole of his sojourn under her husband's roof. This fact I learnt while I was in that part of the world, during the months of December and January, in the severe winter of 1812-13.
[WINTER WEATHER IN THE CAUCASUS]
Some other circumstances, besides these curious anomalies in domestic arrangements, reminded me, here, in the East, of that winter in the North, where the common inclemencies of that dreary season, were augmented to a fury and a terror, which swept the armies of the South before them, like the waves of the sea under a tempest. But here, amongst the mountains, and the valleys of Caucasus, in the winter of 1817, there were no armies of a second Xerxes to level with the dust ; only a few wandering travellers, and the villages where they lodged, were fated to fall under the weight of the present calamities of the season. The news of one of these disasters, arrived at Tiflis a short time before I left it. The Governor-general had already intimated some alarm, while remarking on the more than ordinary heavy rains, which continued to impede my excursions round the city, lest their effects should be of still more mischievous consequence to the country at large. He told me that, whenever the wet season sets in early, and with violence, at Tiflis, the snow is at the same time falling deeply on the higher regions of the Caucasus ; and the inhabitants of the upland valleys, begin to dread the too probable devastation that may ensue. But, as the pending evil does not always fall, the fluctuations of hope and fear generally prevent them seeking a more secure temporary refuge ; and they wait in terrible anxiety, watching the awfully accumulating promontory of snow, till it bursts in a moment, and all beneath are buried in the ruin. It has been an old observation, that, in the course of every seven or nine years, one of these overwhelming avalanches takes place. And, they are not always confined to the winter season, but happen at any time, when either the power of the sun, or the weight of the snows, may disengage the preponderating load from its hold on the mountain. In June 1776, the course of the Terek was stopped by one of these ice torrents ; when its impeded waters rose to the height of 258 feet, and suddenly tearing a passage through the rocky barrier of that tremendous defile, with a noise louder than thunder resounded by a thousand echoes, rushed onward in a devastating flood.
Similar was the horrid scene, report brought to us in the month of November, 1817. The pale summit of the mountain Kasibeck, on the side which shelves down into the dark valley between Derial and the village which bears the mountain's name, had been seen abruptly to move. In an instant it was launched forward ; and nothing was now beheld for the shaken snow, and dreadful over-shadowing of the falling destruction. The noise that accompanied it, was the most stunning, bursting, and rolling onward, of all that must make death certain. As the avalanche rushed on, huge masses of rock, rifted from the mountain's side, were driving before it ; and the snows, and ice of centuries, pouring down in immense shattered forms, and rending heaps, fell, like the fall of an earthquake ; covering, from human eye, villages, valleys, and people ! What an awful moment, when all was still ! — when the dreadful cries of man and beast were heard no more ; and the tremendous avalanche lay a vast, motionless, white shroud on all around.
The magnitude of the destruction will readily be comprehended, when it is understood that the depth of the snow, which thus rolled downwards in sight of the appalled inhabitants of the valley, was full twenty-eight fathoms, that is, 186 feet ; and its extent more than six wersts, or four miles, English. It immediately blocked up the course of the Terek, whose obstructed waters, beating up, in immense billows, foaming and raging against this strange impediment, seemed, at times, ready to over-top it ; but, still repelled by the firmness and height of the snow, it fell back on its bed with a roaring that proclaimed the dreadful scene to a vast distance. The overcharged waters then formed themselves into a lake, which spread down the whole valley, on the river- side of its tremendous barrier; thus completely barring all communication with Wlady Caucasus. Nearly twelve days elapsed before the river had sapped its way through so immense a body of consolidated snow ; but when it did make an opening, its flood, and fury, and devastating consequences, fell not far short of the dreadful ruin occasioned by the cause of its obstruction. Bridges, forts, every thing contiguous to its path, were washed away in the torrent.
Indeed, the traveller is scarcely ever secure, while passing through some particular defiles of these mountains. The disasters of a winter avalanche have just been described. And in summer, the rocks which project from the steep face of the precipices, frequently become loosened by the melting snows or heavy rains ; when, some sudden increase of either, severs them at once ; and they come headlong down, knocking off others in their fall, and crushing all they find beneath. The road then becomes impassable, till labourers are sent to clear the path by, perhaps, launching the broken rocks over some adjoining steep ; for, in these tracks of Caucasus, precipices are on every side, above and below. Sometimes, when the mass is too big for such an operation, they have to make a new road round the fallen rocks ; and that often brings the foot of the next traveller close to the edge of an abyss.
[LAST DAYS IN TBILISI]
My opportune arrival at Tiflis had spared me experiencing the effects of these worst of mountain horrors ; but the bad weather had yet made itself to be felt by me, in more ways than one. I was prevented exploring many interesting spots in the neighbourhood, lest some of these very floods, though in a minor decree, might have crossed me ; and I was confined in a city, where the depth of the mud in the streets would hardly suffer a man to stir without-doors. But here, I must beg leave to remark, that the mud inside of most houses, nearly equalled the quantity without ; so I was the sooner reconciled to being shut up in my own more comfortable quarters. The ordinary style of habitation in Tiflis being purely Asiatic, as I said before, is flat-roofed, covered in with hard-beaten earth. After any continued rain the water soaks through this ineffectual defence as if it were some huge filtering machine ; and, running down the inside of the walls, nay, pouring through the extended surface of the roof itself, the whole house becomes inundated. But the evil stops not there ; the earth of the floor is broken up by the flood from above ; and what was at first only a thorough drenching of water, is then little better than an actual morass. The poor inhabitants, without a dry spot to sit or lie down on, are reduced to the most wretched expedients of personal discomfort and misery. As it may be supposed, the most serious maladies are engendered during the prevalence of these floods ; and the damps which remain when the waters have long passed away, hardly ever leave the saturated walls and flooring till the warm season has very far advanced. At such moments as this I have been describing, well might travellers call it the black and dreary valley.
Such was Tiflis in the year 1817. But if the plans of the present Governor-general, for rectifying the construction of houses, be carried fully into effect, such will not be Tiflis, a few years hence. What His Excellency has already accomplished in the improvements of the public buildings, give a good specimen of the future fairer aspect of the place ; and even those alterations have rendered the Georgian capital so superior to what it was a dozen years ago, that the travelling merchant can hardly recognise its bazars and caravansary to be the same.
The skies were beginning to clear towards the 7th of November (O. S.), the time when I intended proceeding on my journey ; and I began making preparations for leaving a place where I had become acquainted with many objects of interest, and enjoyed much social pleasure, from the kindness of the Governor-general, and the attentions of his suite. Rough and hazardous as the road had been, over which I had passed, more rugged and dangerous were the ways which lay before me ; hence, it was necessary I should dispose of my carriage at Tiflis, and arrange my baggage so as to convey it on the backs of horses. The General of Cossacks, to whose charge my venerable friend the Attaman had most particularly commended my safety, provided a non-commissioned officer's escort to attend me to the utmost limit of the Russian frontier. Beyond that I must look for other guards ; and, I doubted not, for paths of still more untamed wildness ; tracks, not roads, begirt with banditti, savage as their mountain fastnesses.
Travellers are certainly indebted to Russia's possession of Georgia for the means which leads them in comparative security from the banks of the Don to the farthest shores of the Kur. And, indeed, all speculative minds, who are curious in the great labyrinths of nature, must date to his Imperial Majesty's military posts and other establishments in that province, the daily accumulating knowledge respecting Caucasus and its numberless tribes, which every succeeding traveller brings from that remote part of the world to the learned in Europe. It is from the result of such speculations, and such facilities, that the anatomy, (if I may be allowed the term,) of this colossus of nature has been made known to us. Though so illustrious a subject in ancient history, from the importance of its passes, and the battles fought to maintain them, by Greek, and Roman, with the native princes ; yet the ancient historians had but a very confused, and therefore imperfect knowledge of the Caucasus ; sometimes tracing their lines in the visions of poesy, and, at others, confounding those which the accounts of military or other travellers had rendered more distinct, with the widely spreading branches of Mount Taurus.
But I shall here sketch a general idea of the whole body of this stupendous mountain-world, to which the name of Caucasus properly belongs. It is collected from authorities that made their observations on the spot, and verified to my complete satisfaction, by the opportunities afforded me to go over much of the ground myself, where I derived nearly the same result from my own investigations ; and also some new information on the subject, arising from the natural changes of time and incidental circumstances.
[THE MOUNTAIN RANGES OF THE CAUCASUS]
We may consider the numerous ranges of Caucasus, as taking their rise from one immense body, or root of mountains, which stretches itself diagonally across that vast tract of land which lies between the Euxine and Caspian seas. This parent stem rises boldly to the westward, in the neighbourhood of the Turkish post of Anapa, then takes a sweep nearly in the form of the eastern shore of the Euxine, though considerably to its rear, and runs along as far as the confines of ancient Colchis, now called Immeretia. Thence it suddenly stretches in a line almost directly east, for upwards of 300 wersts ; then it shoots off to the south-east, taking the shape of the western shore of the Caspian, and terminating amidst the sublime ruins of the Guebre altars at Badku. This principal range boasts the gigantic Elborus and Kasibeck, towering over the loftiest summits of its other mountains, as the main bulwarks of a great fortress stand higher than its battlements. The heads of these two celebrated mountains are almost always obscured with clouds ; and when they are partially discerned by the exhalation, or rolling away of their fleecy covering, winter or summer, still we see an eternal snow upon their peaks. But the effects produced by the action of light, on this pure and elevated surface, at the rising or setting sun ; or in the beam of the moon, while the shadows of the clouds are passing away ; or when quite gone, have left the mountain's head like a pyramid of silver, or tinged with a thousand aerial colours ; are not to be described, for beauty and sublimity. Beneath these two mountains, rise the glittering peaks of others, still far above the line denominated the region of snow, and shooting over the heads of alps subordinate to them. But these, subordinate there, would be stupendous in any other situation. It is comparison that makes the great and greater, though it cannot alter the positive quality of the thing. This then, is the first, and noblest range of the Caucasus.
The second branch, is distinguished by the name of the Mossian Hills, and was the Mooschici montes of Ptolemy. It stretches along, from the vicinity of a Turkish fort called Battoumi, (in a nearly parallel direction with the first range, though at a great distance,) till it reaches the banks of the Araxes, and is lost in the plains of Mogan. This branch is again connected with the primary chain, by a series of mutual ramifications, forming rich valleys ; and spreading out into the fertile plains of Akhiska, Immeretia, Kartelania, and Georgia, reaching down to Shirvan. The most considerable line of the connecting mountains, is that called the Tchildirr range, and is to the east of the Black Sea ; whence, stretching in all directions, it mingles its widely diverging branches with those of the first and second leading chains ; and, running onward to the third, whose wild steeps embank the shores of the Euphrates, it thus connects the whole.
This third range, (known to Ptolemy by the name of the Mons Paryardes,) in some respects vaster, and, perhaps, more interesting than the other two, takes a direction, along with the Euphrates, to the south-west ; forming a third parallel chain of the Caucasus, till it terminates that answering line in Armenia : and that at the point, where stupendous Ararat towers above every other mountain. Thence, the chain makes an abrupt angle ; and, diverging suddenly due south, shoots out into all those various branches which spread themselves over Persia, and Asia Minor.
[THE ROAD TO TABRIZ]
My route from Tiflis to Tabreez leading through both these latter chains, I shall defer mentioning the particular features of each, till they present themselves in the further details of my journey. The time arrived, for its recommencement. On the same day, the 7th of November, the gentlemen who had composed the recent embassy from Russia to Persia, were to set forth on their return to St. Petersburgh ; and, as the usual northern passage over the Caucasus was still impassable, from the effects of the late avalanche, it was decided they should take the road through Derbent and Kislar. As this route lay, for one day's march, in the same direction with my own, I joined their party, for that short distance. We set out from the Governor-general's house, about three o'clock in the day. It was a fine afternoon; and His Excellency followed up his other kindnesses, by seeing us some part of the way. The road, which is indebted to him for its freedom from many old impediments, takes the sweep of the western bank of the Kur ; running along the foot of a range of hills, till they break off abruptly, near Saganlook, our projected halting-place. On looking back to Tiflis, that city wears a very different appearance, on this side, from that which intimidates the traveller on his advance from the Mskett road. Here, the view is more open ; and its hills, and rocks, seem to lose their blackness and sterility, as they turn their backs on the north. Gardens and vineyards, shaded with tall poplar-trees, shelve down to the river, brightening the stream with their waving reflections ; and giving, by such cheerfulness, a sort, of stirrup-cap to the spirits of the departing traveller, which makes full amends for the dolorous impressions that damped his approach.
About five wersts from the city, its hospitable Governor-general took leave of his countrymen, and myself. We looked after him, till the turning of the road shut him from our view, with those feelings of gratitude, and lively personal regard, the full extent of which can only be experienced in circumstances like these ; in countries, far from a man's natural friends ; where services are offered, and accepted ; and those bestowed, not with the cold and niggard hand of formal office, but with the open and the kindly heart : the disposition, that receives a countryman, like a friend ; and a stranger, like a countryman. Such was the man, to whom we had just bidden farewell. And being, in every other respect, liberal in his views, no one can be better adapted to the high station he holds in this country. His graciousness secures to him gratitude, and confidence, from the persons of all nations, to whom he is kind and serviceable ; for this talent of gaining the heart is the first step to opening it. A churlish and penurious representative, abroad, of any great empire, may, therefore, be regarded rather as an enemy, who, by such vices, undermines the interests he was sent to promote, than as a faithful minister, whose first object should be the service, and extended influence, of the state which employs him. General Yarmolloff is, in every respect, what such a representative ought to be. And, by perfectly understanding the people he is delegated to govern ; their originally natural dispositions, and the contrary habits they have acquired, under contradictory oppressions ; he manages both, with a greatness of aim, a gentleness in the means, and, at the same time, so unswerving a steadiness, that the proud and gloomy Georgians are daily becoming more sensible to the advantage of their own laws being exercised by such a foreign hand. It is natural that the mind should linger after old associations ; should, in remembering times of past distinction, under brave and generous princes, be reluctant to part with any existing memorial of such national consequence, be it no more than a name ! But the Georgians, for several generations preceding their union with Russia, had, in retaining this name—that of an independent kingdom —been actually suffering the utmost miseries of subjugation ; from the feebleness of their native rulers, and the terrible evils which poured into their undefended country, from the Mahometan powers, and the barbarous hordes of the mountains. In becoming part of Russia, the doors were shut against these oppressors ; and the rescued people soon found the substantial superiority of living in prosperity and peace, under the name, and with the rights, of a province attached to so great an empire, to all the vain glories of being called a kingdom ;— to the shade, rather than the substance, of majesty, seated in the throne of their past monarchs ; while real tyrants, in the shapes of Lesghees and other invaders, ravaged the country, and usurped the authorities of the state.
During our advance to Saganlook, which is about twelve wersts from Tiflis, we observed many picturesque objects ; and, amongst them, other time-worn memorials of the extinct dynasty of the last Georgian kings, and their yet more famous predecessors. On the eastern shore of the river, at a short distance from our proposed quarters, we saw the remains of one of the old fortresses, on the nearest heights ; and, subjacent to them, two as ancient towers, with the ruins of a bridge at their foot, which had formerly been connected with the line of the present road. On arriving at Saganlook, the place marked out for the termination of our first day's march, we found tents pitched for our reception, and an excellent supper, prepared by the Governor-general's orders. The village was about half a mile from the spot of our little encampment, but is no regular post, and therefore seldom, but when self-provided as we were, made a halting-place for travellers. We slept that night in our tents ; and, next morning, our two parties were to separate.
After taking leave of my Russian friends, whose route was then directly contrary to mine, myself and my own little band set our faces to the south-west ; gladly turning our backs on the bitter cold wind of the morning, which was blowing strongly and keenly from the north. When the line of mountains stopped at Saganlook, it did not terminate, but made an acute angle direct south ; and thence continued, stretching along the magnificent acclivities which formed, as usual, an Alpine wall to our road. On quitting Saganlook, we bade adieu to the banks of the Kur, leaving that river far to the East of our future march. Having travelled about ten wersts onward, we descended a narrow and rocky ravine, into a fertile little vale, bounded, to the rising sun, by an inconsiderable, but romantically situated lake. The hills to the westward, on our right, presented old crumbling towers ; and here and there a few clusters of mud-huts, the habitations of the peasantry, who were occupied on the low grounds, ploughing and sowing, for the early harvest. Each plough was drawn by a couple of oxen, or buffaloes.
On leaving the valley, a steep ascent brought us to an extensive plain, and to Kodi, our first post, where we took fresh horses for the baggage. It is a small place, but delightfully situated, on a fine open tract of country, which spreads eastward, almost to the shores of the Kur. After an hour's halt, we moved forward ; our point being Shoulavar, then distant nearly twenty-six wersts. The road would have been pretty good, but for the numerous little channels, which the natives had cut in every direction, for the purposes of irrigation. Having travelled fifteen wersts more, we left the fort and post of Koulagar to our right, and forded the Alget. The waters of this river were at that time no higher than our horses' bellies ; but at the seasons of thaw and rain, like other streams in this part of the world, they swell to a torrent. Two miles farther, we crossed the Gramm or Ktzia river, to which the Tabate is tributary ; and, near their junction, is the bridge mentioned by Chardin. The waters of the Ktzia were at this time rather shallow, though their rapidity reminded us of their descent from sources too capable of filling such channels to overflow.
We reached Shoulavar, our long looked-for quarters, just as night drew round us. The hour, and the situation of the post, where all was in perfect silence, gave a peculiar solemnity to its aspect. It lay in the dark gorge of a range of mountains, running due east, amongst whose deep denies we were to pursue our journey in the morning. On entering this gorge, we found ourselves in that part of Georgia, which is called the province of Somhetie. An old stone fortress, black with time, and the shadows of the night, stood in frowning solitude, on a height near the mouth of the defile, and in a position to have commanded the pass in earlier ages. At its base, is the station of the Russian guard, which consists of a few Cossacks, and a small detachment of infantry. The ruins of some ancient religious structure, added, something more, to the dark solemnity of the scene.
At eight in the morning, we ascended the mountains, which day-light had discovered to be sufficiently rugged, though not of the most formidable altitude. The road, up which we toiled for an hour, was scarcely so wide as an ordinary foot-path, and very rough all the way to the top. We then descended the opposite side, by a track of much the same difficulty ; but it gradually opened to our view a luxuriant valley, which lay at the foot of the hills, rich in cultivation, and traversed by the Bambek ; a noble river, winding its fertilising way to the north-east, while in that course, it is augmented by the united waters of the Tabate and Ktzia. This vale, so eminent in rural beauties, stretches east and west, and every where displays the bounties of the full and tranquil Bambek. The banks of the river are verdant with pastures, and shaded with trees; and the several villages, which stand amidst its abundant fields, present to the eye the fairest proofs of prosperity and comfort. In the middle of the plain, nearly ten wersts from its entrance, some striking remains still exist, of what must have been a very strong fortress. After crossing the bed of a dry river, we reached the large and populous village of Sadakloo, on the western shore of the Bambek. The inhabitants were employed separating their barley from its straw ; and this they effected by means of a sort of wooden sledge, to which were yoked a couple of oxen. Its lower surface was armed with sharp projecting stones, set closely in rows. A man stood on its upper surface, guiding the oxen, as they drew the machine hither and thither over the heaps of the unseparated grain. A woman attended, furnished with a long wooden shovel, throwing the sheaves under the sledge, as it moved round.
Our road led to the south-west, which now gradually carried us away from the margin of this beautiful river. At about three wersts from it, we left the vale, and beginning to climb again, lost sight of the Bambek. Our path across the first height, in this new ascent, was narrow and closely wooded ; and employed us nearly the whole of the remainder of the day, in surmounting its mingled steeps and thickets. Towards sun-set, we attained the summit, and reached our halting-place, the post of Tshuskar, which stands on the brow of a small conical hill. Here a grand view of the river, whose absence we had regretted in the morning-, broke upon us, as it wound amongst rocks, at the bottom of a deep ravine, between two immense piles of perpendicular cliffs. About thirty or forty Cossacks inhabited the post ; a numerous body, in very narrow dimensions ; and, consequently, not finding sufficient accommodation for myself, and the many persons I had with me, I was obliged to go a mile further into the mountains, to a rather considerable village, where lodgings might be provided me. Though the dusk had pretty far advanced, we were rewarded for this prolonged march, as we went along, by the sight of one of those happy spots of the Caucasus I have before described : beautiful little glens, smiling with the successful labours of man ; while the brows of the acclivities above showed a rich and fragrant herbage. At the village, we found warm and ample quarters. The good people set before us a plentiful regale of milk, eggs, butter, &c, with exquisite honey. This latter luxury I might have anticipated, from the propitious aspect of the country, for maintaining whole colonies of the little manufacturers ; and, I understand, it is an article of great profit to the inhabitants. Indeed, every thing I saw, spoke the fertility of the soil, and the hospitality of its possessors. They have numerous herds of cattle, with abundance of wheat, barley, millet, &c ; and, what is better than all, their content seems to equal their blessings.
At eight o'clock in the morning, we left our village friends ; and retreading our steps towards the post, soon regained the brink of the precipice, which forms one side of the high and perpendicular chasm, through which the river flows. The mountains shoot up, beyond these abrupt walls of rock, to a great height ; and, both in outline and surface, resemble those of Derbyshire ; not in altitude, for ours are but hillocks when compared with these giants of the earth. All along the valley, I observed the same variety of hue, and projection, amongst the rocks, as in the vales of that celebrated spot in my native land. Large masses of red, and grey granite, present themselves from the sides of the mountains, in a thousand romantic shapes ; ruins, castles, churches, mingling their embattled and Gothic spires with the thick foliage of the woods, which hang from steep to steep, and clothe the mountains to a vast extent.
As we travelled on to the south-east, the tracts were pointed out to me, where the silver mines were formerly worked ; the mouths of the shafts of several being still to be seen. The rocks which form them are of a yellowish sandy hue. Indeed the whole of this part of Georgia is rich in ores of different kinds, and particularly in copper, a very fine sort of which is produced near Lori. Leaving these vestiges of exhausted wealth, or rather traces where it may yet be found, at about four miles from the precipice of the Bambek, we crossed that river through a deep and rapid ford, the water dashing and roaring so as to try the mettle of both men and horses. On gaining the shore, we followed its winding line, with the river, through the whole of the rocky chasm ; sometimes, almost encaved by the projecting cliffs • at others, as completely over-shaded by the fine trees, which bent forwards, from both sides of this really beautiful dell. High over our heads, to the southward, rose a succession of heights ; and, on the summit of one of the boldest, we saw the monastery of Akpet, an extensive building, dedicated to the brethren of the holy order of Dominicans. A village stands near it, thriving and populous, I was told ; and to the activity and industry of its peasantry, the adjoining little plain, with its neighbouring hills and glens, owed their fine state of cultivation. Of course, these villagers are under the cognisance, or charge at least, of the good fathers above them. The monastery of Akpet, and another at Sennany, are the two monastic establishments, of the greatest consequence in Georgia.
After proceeding some wersts, we re-crossed the river, in front of a most terribly precipitous mountain, over which our road lay ; but this time, we crossed by a bridge : it was built of stone, and consisted of one arch ; the work, unquestionably, of the Armenian sovereigns, when this part of Georgia was under their jurisdiction, civil and religious. The architecture of the bridge is curious, and the style of the Christian emblems, which are sculptured on it, sufficiently testify its origin. Both ends are so abrupt in ascent, they would hardly be practicable at all, were it not for flights of steps by which they are faced. At one side of the western extremity of these steps, where they clasp the bank of the river, I observed a high upright, hewn, stone ; which, on examination, proved to be covered with Christian insignia, worked in the stone. The most eminent was the cross ; and round it, fretwork, with other figures, carved in a very masterly manner. Before we passed over the bridge, I had remarked two similar stones, on that side : one was raised on a pile of large stones, and had, in addition to an engraved cross, some inscriptions, in the old Armenian character ; the other stone, sculptured in the same way, lay on the ground, not far from it.
We rode on, about a mile, upon the immediate bank, or rather rocky dyke, of the river, at the base of the mountain, before the road turned to its ascent ; but when it did, the prospect was terrible. We saw one continued narrow, tortuous line, twisting amongst naked and broken cliffs, close to a nearly perpendicular precipice, at the bottom of which flowed the deep and rapid waters of the Bambek, black with the shadow of the mountain before us. When we began the ascent, we found it even more arduous than it seemed ; the road being of the solid rock, craggy and broken, and often becoming so exceedingly narrowed by the effects of winter-fractures, that a straw's breadth hardly divided the foot from the edge of the most horrible abyss I had ever seen. As we mounted steep after steep, of course this abyss deepened, showing a succession of precipices, one over the other, till we no longer heard the river at their base. Those in my party, who were acquainted with the country, declared it as desperate a passage as any in the Caucasus. Indeed, it was a subject of admiration, no less than of anxiety, in observing the difficulties, to watch the persevering steadiness with which they were breasted and overcome. The men could not help, at times, showing fatigue, but never apprehension. And the Cossack horses, who were charged with the baggage, scrambled up the dangerous zig-zags, with a labour and a care, so like the calculation of intellect, that I could not but, again and again, marvel at such appearances of reason, in mere instinct. It is, perhaps, only in expeditions like the present, that we learn the full value of these noble animals. And, as I now and then gained a higher angle of the road, and gazed down upon them, working so zealously and perilously in my service, I could not help...
[Continues for another 558 pp. (vol. I) and 808 pp. (vol. II)...]
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