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Persia Revisited by Thomas Edward Gordon

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[Illustration: H.I.M. Nasr-ed-Din, The Late Shah,
on the steps of the Peacock Throne]

* * * * *







K.C.I.E., C.B., C.S.I.

_Formerly Military Attache and Oriental Secretary to
Her Majesty's Legation at Tehran._

Author of 'The Roof of the World'


* * * * *


On revisiting Tehran last autumn, I was struck with the evidence of
progress and improvement in Persia, and on returning home I formed the
idea of publishing a short account of my journey, with observations and
opinions which are based on my previous experiences, and have reference
also to what has been recorded by others. In carrying out this idea, I
have made use of information given in the well-known books on Persia by
Malcolm, Fraser, Watson and Curzon.

'Persia Revisited,' as first written, comprised up to Chapter VI. of the
book; but just as I had finished it for publication, the sad news of the
assassination of the Shah, Nasr-ed-Din, was received. I then saw that my
book, to be complete, should touch on the present situation in Persia,
and accordingly I added two chapters which deal with the new Shah and
his brothers, and the Sadr Azem and the succession.

The illustrations are from photographs by M. Sevragine of Tehran, with
the exception of the likeness of H.I.M. the Shah Mozuffer-ed-Din, and
that of H.H. Ali Asghar Khan, Sadr Azem, which latter, by Messrs. W. and
D. Downey, of Ebury Street, London, is published by their kind


_May, 1896._



--London to Baku
--Oil-wells and works
--Persians abroad
--Caspian steamers
--Caspian salmon
--Enzelli lagoon
--The Jews in Persia
--Resht trade
--'My eye'
--Russian road
--The tobacco 'strike,' 1891
--Collapse of Tobacco Regie
--Moulla opposition


--The late Shah's long reign
--His camp life
--Persian Telegraph Intelligence Department
--Farming the revenues
--Condition of the people
--The shoe question
--The Customs
--Importation of arms
--Martini-Henry rifles
--Indo-European telegraph


--Kasvin grapes
--Persian wine
--Vineyards in Persia
--Wine manufacture
--Mount Demavend
--Afshar volcanic region
--Quicksilver and gold
--Tehran water-supply
--Village quarrels
--Tehran tramways
--Bread riots
--Mint and copper coin


--Religious tolerance in Tehran
--Katie Greenfield's case
--Babi sect
--Liberal opinions
--German enterprise in Persia
--Railways in Asia Minor
--Russian road extension
--Railways to Persian frontiers
--The Karun River
--Trade development
--The Kajar dynasty
--Life titles
--Chieftainship of tribes
--The Pearl cannon


--The military tribes and the royal guard
--Men of the people as great monarchs
--Persian sense of humour
--Nightingales and poetry
--Legendary origin of the royal emblem
--Lion and Sun
--Ancient Golden Eagle emblem
--The Blacksmith's Apron the royal standard


--The Order of the Lion and the Sun
--Rex and Dido
--Endurance of Persian horses
--The Shah's stables
--The sanctuary of the stable
--Long-distance races
--A country of horses
--The _gymkhana_ in Tehran
--Olive industry near Resht
--Return journey
--Grosnoje oil field
--Russian railway travelling
--Improved communication with Tehran




--Shrine of Shah Abdul Azim
--Death of Nasr-ed-Din Shah
--Jemal-ed-Din in Tehran
--Shiahs and Sunnis
--Islam in Persia




--The Shah Mozuffer-ed-Din
--His previous position at Tabriz
--Character and disposition
--His sons
--Accession to the throne
--Previous accessions in the Kajar-dynasty
--Regalia and crown jewels
--Position of the late Shah's two sons, Zil-es-Sultan and Naib-es-Sultaneh
--The Sadr Azem (Grand Vazir)
--Prompt action on the death of the late Shah

* * * * *












* * * * *


'_El Sultan, Bin el Sultan, Bin el Sultan, Bin el Sultan.
El Sultan, Nasr-ed-Din Shah, Kajar_.'

'_The King, Son of the King, Son of the King, Son of the King.
The King, Nasr-ed-Din Shah, Kajar line_.'

* * * * *



--London to Baku
--Oil-wells and works
--Persians abroad
--Caspian steamers
--Caspian salmon
--Enzelli lagoon
--The Jews in Persia
--Resht trade
--'My eye'
--Russian road
--The tobacco 'strike,' 1891
--Collapse of Tobacco Regie
--Moulla opposition.

The Persians, as a people still nomadic in their habits, and much given
to long pilgrimages, have good knowledge of the ways and means of making
a journey pleasant. Their saying, '_Avval rafik, baad tarik_' (First a
companion, then the road), is one which most travellers can fully
appreciate. Accordingly, when planning a trip in the autumn of 1895 to
the Land of Iran, I cast about for a companion, and was fortunate enough
to meet with two friends, both going that way, and who, moreover, like
myself, had previously journeyed in Persia.

We decided to take the Odessa route to Batoum, and we went by Berlin,
Oderberg, and Lemberg. At Odessa we found that a less expensive, and
more comfortable, though perhaps half a day longer route, lies by
Warsaw. On that line there are fewer changes, and only one Customs
examination, whereas by, Oderberg there are two examinations, Austrian
and Russian. Moreover, through tickets are issued _via_ Warsaw, a
convenience not provided _via_ Oderberg--fresh tickets and re-booking of
luggage being necessary there, and again both at Pod Voloczyska and
Voloczyska, on the Austrian and Russian frontiers. We came in for a
crowded train of first-class passengers going from the Vienna direction
to Jalta, a favourite seaside place in the Crimea, which has two
fashionable seasons--spring and autumn. These people were making for the
accelerated mail-steamer, which leaves Odessa for Batoum every Wednesday
during the summer service, touching at Sebastopol, Jalta, and
Novorossisk. We were making for the same steamer, and found crowded
cabins. The mass of luggage to be examined at Voloczyska caused much
confusion and delay, and it was only by discreetly managed appeals to
the working staff that we were able to push our way and pass on,
without anything being left behind. There appeared to be orders for very
special examination of books and papers at Voloczyska, and these were
carried out in a foolishly perfunctory manner. In my luggage, the man
who searched passed over a bulky tourist writing-case, but carried off
to a superior a Continental Bradshaw, a blank notebook, and a packet of
useful paper, notwithstanding my open show of their innocence. The man
soon returned with another official, who smiled at the mistake, and good
naturedly helped to close up my baggage.

We began our journey well by a rapid run to Odessa, arriving there on
the day of departure of the fast boat, and landing at Batoum in six and
a half days from London. The steamers on this service are about 2,500
tons, 2,400 horse-power, with large accommodation for passengers. The
cabins are comfortable, and the saloons excellent and well served, and
all are lit with the electric light. These boats are, I believe,
Tyne-built. They are broad of beam, and behave well in bad weather.
Novorossisk is a growing great port, situated in a very pretty bay. It
has lately been joined by railway to the main trunk line connecting with
Moscow, and passing through Rostov. This connection enables it to
attract considerable trade from the Don and the Volga, and also to take
much from Rostov and Taganrog, when the Azov approaches are closed with
ice. A very fine sea-wall, to give effectual protection to the railway
loading-piers, and the shipping generally, is now being completed at a
total cost of L850,000. Novorossisk is said to have the biggest
'elevator' in the world. The scenery all along the coast, from the
Crimea to Batoum, is very fine, and in autumn the voyage is most

We left Batoum on the night of the day of our arrival. The departure of
the through train to Baku had been changed from morning to night, and
this allowed of travelling by day over that part of the line which
before used to be passed at night. We had previously seen Tiflis, and
therefore did not break our journey. The weather was warm, but not such
as to cause discomfort. As we approached Tiflis the carriages and
buffets became crowded to excess, with townspeople returning from
Saturday-to-Monday holiday, the fine weather having enticed them out to
various places along the line. The railway-carriages on the Batoum-Baku
line are very comfortable, and the refreshment-rooms are frequent and
well provided, so travelling there is made easy and pleasant. The
journey occupies thirty-two hours.

We reached Baku on September 16, the ninth day from London, and arranged
to leave for Enzelli, on the Persian coast, the port for Tehran, at
midnight the next day. Through the kindness of a member of the Greek
house of Kousis, Theophylactos and Co., we were shown over the oil-wells
and refineries belonging to M. Taghioff, a millionaire of Persian origin
(the name probably was Taghi Khan). The story goes that, on becoming
wealthy through the oil industry in its early days, he presented the
young township with a church, school-house, and hospital, and, in
recognition of his generous public spirit, the Government gave him a
grant of the waste land on which his works now stand, and out of which
millions of roubles have come to him from oil-springs. Our visit had the
appearance of bringing him luck in the form of a new fountain rush. We
had seen all the works and wells; none of the latter were flowing, and
the usual steam-pumping was going on. We were about to leave, when a
commotion at the wells attracted our attention, and we saw the dark
fluid spouting up from two to three hundred feet through the open top of
the high-peaked wooden roof erected over each of the wells. On hurrying
back, we saw the great iron cap, which is swung vertically when the pump
is working, lowered and fixed at some height over the mouth of the well,
to drive the outward flow down into the hollow all round and out into
the ditch leading to the reservoirs. The force of the gush was shown by
the roar of the dash against the iron cap, and the upward rush had the
appearance of a solid quivering column. The flow was calculated at fifty
thousand gallons an hour. The business of refining is generally in the
hands of others than the producers; but some of the larger
firms--notably the Rothschilds, Nobel Brothers, and Taghioff--are both
producers and refiners. This means of course, the employment of very,
much larger capital.

There is a great dash of the gambling element in the oil-well business
at Baku. Large sums are spent in boring operations, and success so
often stands off that all available capital is sunk in the ground and
swallowed up. Even with good signs, it is impossible to foresee the
results or the extent of production, and there is also an extraordinary
irregularity in the outcome of the separate naphtha-bearing plots. An
instance was mentioned to me of a peasant proprietor who had made enough
money on which to live sumptuously, but he hungered for more, and
engaged in further boring operations. He was on the verge of losing
everything, when oil was suddenly struck, and he made a fortune. He
laboured hard himself, and literally went to sleep a poor working man,
and awoke to find his dream of riches realized.

Baku has been immensely improved in every way of late, and now has good
streets, hotels, and shops. Water, which was a great want before, is
well supplied from condensers which belong to the town. The rise in the
value of house property and building sites within the last ten years has
been enormous, and great part of the money thus made has gone to native
owners, Persians (or Tartars, as all Mohammedans are called here), and I
was told of a plot of building ground with a small house on it, which
had been originally bought for 600 roubles, being lately sold for
30,000. The town is growing in size, and new buildings are rising, which
give an appearance of prosperity and increasing trade. The harbour is
crowded with steamers and sailing vessels, and the wharfs present a busy
sight. The loading and unloading is quickly done by steam-cranes and
powerful porters, who come in numbers from the Persian districts of
Khalkhal and Ardabil. I watched with much interest a gang of these men
at work. They were wonderfully quick, quiet, and methodical in their
ways, and showed great capacity for handling and carrying heavy weights.

Baku swarms with Persians, resident and migratory. They are seen
everywhere--as shopkeepers, mechanics, masons, carpenters, coachmen,
carters, and labourers, all in a bustle of business, so different from
Persians, at home. Climate or want of confidence produces indolence
there, but here and elsewhere out of Persia they show themselves to be
active, energetic, and very intelligent. They are in great numbers at
all the censes of trade in the adjoining countries--at Constantinople,
Damascus, Aleppo, Baghdad, Tiflis, Askhabad, and other towns. Most of
the new buildings in Tiflis were built by Persians, and thousands were
engaged in the construction of the Trans-Caspian Railway. The permanent
workmen now employed on it are largely Persians, and Askhabad has a
resident population of over twelve thousand. There were said to be
twenty thousand Persians, from the provinces of Azerbaijan and Hamadan,
working last summer on the new railway from Tiflis to Alexandropol and
Kars, now being built, and doubtless many of them will permanently
settle on the line.

It is said that there are half a million thus located and working out of
Persia, but I think that this is an exaggerated estimate. Most of them
retain their nationality, for while they grumble loudly in their own
country, yet when away they swear by it, and save money steadily to
enable them to return home. Their nomadic character is the cause of this
readiness to seek employment abroad. I was told that in 1894-95 twenty
thousand Persian passports were issued from the Embassy in
Constantinople. This would include pilgrims as well as home visitors.
It is this love of country (not in the sense, however, of patriotism as
understood in the West) which makes a Persian cling to his national
representative abroad, and willingly pay for frequent registration as a
subject who is entitled to protection and permission to return home
whenever he may choose. As a rule, the Persian abroad always appears in
the distinctive national dress--the tall black lambskin cap and the coat
with ample skirt of many pleats.

I have mentioned the Persian porters who are seen at Baku; they are also
to be found at Petrovsk and Astrachan, and are generally preferred to
the local labourers, who, in common with their class in Russia, take a
long drink once a week, often unfitting them for their work the
following day. The Persians are of sober habits, and can be relied upon
for regular attendance at the wharfs and loading-stages. They have
learnt, however, to take an occasional taste of the _rakivodka_ spirit,
and when reminded that they are Mohammedans, say that the indulgence was
prohibited when no one worked hard. These porters are men of powerful
physique, and display very great strength in bearing separate burdens;
but they cannot work together and make a joint effort to raise heavy
loads, beyond the power of one man. Singly, they are able to lift and
carry eighteen poods, Russian weight, equal to six hundred and
forty-eight pounds English.

In the newspaper correspondence on the burning Armenian Question, I have
seen allusion made to the poor physique of the Armenian people; but as
far as my observation goes in Persia, Russian Armenia, and the Caucasus,
there is no marked difference between them and the local races, and on
the railway between Baku and Tiflis Armenian porters of powerful form
are common, where contract labour rates attract men stronger than their

Though much of the wealth which has come out of the Baku oil-fields has
been carried away by foreign capitalists, yet much remains with the
inhabitants, and the investment of this has promoted trade in the
Caspian provinces, and multiplied the shipping. There are now between
one hundred and eighty and two hundred steamers on the Caspian, besides
a large number of sailing craft of considerable size, in which German
and Swedish, as well as Armenian and Tartar-Persian, capital is
employed. The Volga Steam Navigation Company is divided into two
companies--one for the river, and the other for the Caspian. The latter
owns six large steamers, with cargo capacity of from sixty to eighty
thousand poods, liquid measurement, for oil-tank purposes, equalling
nine hundred to twelve hundred tons. They have German under-officers,
and Russian captains. It is likely that the German officers come from
the German colonies on the Volga, and probably some of the capital also
comes from that quarter. This Volga Steam Navigation Company was
established over fifty years ago by a Scotchman, named Anderson, and
some of the vessels first built are still used on the river as

Many of the best steamers on the Caspian are officered by Swedes and
Finns, most of whom speak English, acquired whilst serving in English
ships sailing to all parts of the globe. The Mercury Company, which runs
the superior steamers and carries the mails on the Caspian, has Swedish
and Finn officers, but it is said that they are now to be replaced by
Russian naval officers as vacancies occur. This company's vessels are
well appointed, have good cabins, and are fitted with the electric
light. But the best of Caspian mail-boats are most uncomfortable in
rough weather for all but those whom no motion whatever can affect.
Owing to the shoal water on all the coast circumference of this sea, the
big boats are necessarily keelless, and may be described as but great
barges with engines, and when at anchor in a rolling sea their movement
is terribly disturbing.

We embarked in the _Admiral Korneiloff_, one of the Mercury Company's
best boats, on the night of September 17, and arrived at Enzelli on the
morning of the 19th. I was amused on the voyage to hear the sailors'
version of the story how the Caspian became a Russian sea, on which no
armed Persian vessel can sail. The sovereignty of this Persian sea was
ceded to Russia by the Treaty of Gulistan in 1813, and the sailors say
that on the Shah being pressed over and over again to consent, and
desiring to find some good excuse to do so, a courtier, seeing the royal
inclination, remarked that Persia suffered sorely from salt soil and
water, which made land barren, and that sea-water was of no use for
irrigation, nor any other good purpose. The Shah on this asked if it
were really true that the water of the Caspian was salt, and on being
assured that it was, he said the Russians might have the whole of it.

We found an improvement at Enzelli in the form of a hotel kept by a
Greek, with accommodation good enough to be very welcome. We had
excellent fresh salmon at breakfast, which reminded me of the doubt that
has often been expressed of the true salmon being found in an inland
sea. The Caspian fish is a genuine salmon of the same habits as the
marine species known in Europe, with the one sad exception that it will
not look at nor touch fly or bait in any form or shape, and therefore
gives no sport for the rod. The trout in the upper waters of the streams
that the salmon run up, take the fly freely and give good sport, but all
attempts by keen and clever fishermen to hook a salmon have failed. The
fish are largely netted, and same are sent to Tehran packed in ice,
while a good business is done in salting what cannot be sold fresh. The
existence of salmon in this inland salt sea, which lies eighty-four feet
below the level of the ocean, is supposed to be due to its connection
with the open sea having been cut off by a great upheaval in the
prehistoric time.

After breakfast we were confronted with a functionary new to us in
Persia, one charged with the demand for passports and their examination.
He is prepared to provide passports for those arriving without them, and
to _vise_ when this has not been previously done. Considering the
practice in force with Persia's near neighbour, and the crowd of
deck-passengers always coming and going, it was not likely that this
formality as a source of income would fail to be adopted. The linguistic
educational qualification for the post is evidently confined to Russian,
for on finding that I spoke Persian, the officer asked me for the
information he pretended to seek from the English passports. He
acknowledged the farce he was called upon to play, and we proceeded
without any farther inquiry. The day was warm, but not oppressively so;
the sea-breeze helped the boat across the lagoon and up the Pir-i-Bazaar
stream, and the weather being dry, we reached Resht in carriages By the
Mobarakabad route, without the splashing plunging through a sea of mud
which is the general disagreeable experience of the main road.

The Enzelli Lagoon is a swarming haunt of numerous kinds of wild-fowl
and fishing birds. Conspicuous among the waders in the shallows and on
the shore are the pelican and the stork. The place is a paradise to
them, teeming with fish and frog food. One of my companions described
what he had witnessed in a struggle with a wounded stork in the shallow
water of this lagoon. He and a friend were out after wild-duck, and his
friend, desiring to bag a giant stork, which looked splendid in his
strongly contrasted pure white and deep black plumage, fired, and
wounded the bird. His Persian servant, with thoughts intent on cooking
it, ran, knife in hand, to cut its throat in the orthodox manner, so as
to make it lawful for a Mohammedan to eat. The bird, on being seized,
struggled hard with its captor, and, snapping its elongated bill widely
in wild terror, by accident got the man's head jammed between its
mandibles. The keen cutting edges of the long strong beak scarified the
man's cheeks, and made him scream with pain and with frantic fear that
it was _his_ throat which was being cut. His master went to his
assistance and released him by wrenching open the stork's bill, but he
was so occupied with supporting his swooning servant that time was given
for the wounded stork to hurry away in safety, flapping its long wings
and snapping its powerful beak, as is the habit of this voiceless bird,
with all the appearance of triumph.

Enzelli is becoming the port of entry, for the North of Persia, of tea
from India and China. Till within a very short time most of the tea for
Persia, Trans-Caspia, and Russian Turkistan so far as Samarkand, passed
up from Bombay by the Persian Gulf ports. The late reduction in Russian
railway charges, and the low sea-freights from the East in the
oil-steamers returning to Batoum, have brought about this change.
Arrangements have been made for transit to Baku of Russian-owned tea
consigned to Persia on special terms of Customs drawback, and it is now
sold cheaper in Resht than in Baku, where it has a heavy duty added to
the price. The thin muslin-like manufactures of India, in demand in
Central Asia for wear in the hot dry summer, and which found their way
there from the Persian Gulf, are now following the same route as the
tea. Thus, steam and waterway are competing still more with the camel,
to make the longest way round the shortest one in point of time, and the
cheapest to the customers' homes.

As with tea, so Russian beet-sugar is cheaper at Enzelli-Resht than at
Baku, owing to the State bounty on export. The consumption of tea and
sugar, already large in Persia, is certain to increase in the North
through this development of Russian trade. French beet-sugar continues
to compete by way of Trebizond to Tabriz, but if the experiment now
being tried of manufacturing sugar in the vicinity of Tehran from beet
succeeds, the Persians will benefit further by competition.

The Russian trade in Persia is mostly in the hands of Armenians, some of
whom have amassed considerable wealth. It is only in the West that the
Jew is regarded as the sample of superior sharpness in the walks of life
that call for the exercise of the qualities most necessary in the
operation of getting the better of one's neighbour. In the East both the
Greek and the Armenian are ahead of him in this respect, and the popular
saying is, 'One Greek equals two Jews, and one Armenian equals two
Greeks.' But, to the credit of the Armenian traders, it should be said
that they are bold and enterprising in a newly-opened country, as well
as clever in an old one. It may be here mentioned that there is no
opening in Persia for the native Jew; he is there refused the facilities
which lead to wealth, and is strictly confined to the poorest
occupations. It is not unlikely that the severe treatment of the Jews in
Persia has its origin in the hatred inspired by the conduct of
Saad-u-Dowleh, a Jewish physician, who rose to the position of Supreme
Vazir under the King Arghoun Khan, in 1284. This Minister owed his
advancement to his pleasing manners and agreeable conversation, and he
gained such an ascendancy over his weak royal master as to be allowed to
remove all Mohammedans from places of trust and profit, and even to
carry his persecution to the length of commanding that no one professing
that faith should appear at Court. The Eastern Christians were then much
more prominent and numerous than they afterwards became, and
Saad-u-Dowleh sank his people's dislike of the Nazarene in his greater
hate of the Mohammedan, so that he employed the former to replace the
followers of the Arabian Prophet whom he dismissed from office and
banished from Court. The penalty of death was exacted for this
persecution, for Saad-u-Dowleh was murdered almost at the same instant
that his sovereign master expired.

The silk trade of Resht, which has suffered so much for many years from
the disease that attacked the silkworms in the Caspian provinces, and
spread to all the Persian silk districts, is now recovering. The
introduction of cellular seed has been attended with much success, and
there is a rapidly-increasing export of cocoons. The fresh start in this
old industry has given an impetus to mulberry-tree cultivation, and
waste land is in considerable demand for planting purposes.

An attempt is now being made to grow tea on the low hills near Batoum.
It is not yet known what may be the ultimate chances of success, but
already what is being done there is having the effect of suggesting a
similar experiment near Resht. The conditions of the soil on many of the
wooded hill-slopes in the Persian Caspian provinces, where every
gradation of climate and atmosphere can be met with, appear to be well
adapted for the tea-plant. The cart-road to Kasvin, now being
constructed by a Russian company, will pass through some of these
well-favoured parts, and this will help to draw attention to natural
resources which have hitherto been unnoticed.

As old Persian travellers, we were at once reminded of our return to the
land of complimentary address and extravagant phrase by the frequent
reply '_Chashm_' (My eye!), the simple slang expression known in our
country, and which 'Trilby' has made better known by its introduction on
the stage. The word is an abbreviation of '_Ba sar o chashm'_ (By my
head and eyes! May my eyes be put out, and my head taken off, if I obey
not!). We also heard the similar but less formal reply _Chira_?
Why?--meaning, why not? why should I not do as you desire? i.e. you will
be obeyed.

We travelled to Kasvin, halfway to Tehran, over the execrable road which
leads from Resht. For the first forty miles the landscape was lovely
from wooded slopes, green growth and clear running water. The
post-houses are just as they were--ill-provided, and affording the very
smallest degree of comfort that it is possible for a 'rest-house' to
give. They had been in some way improved for the reception of General
Prince Karaupatkin, and his suite, who visited Tehran to announce to the
Shah the accession of H.I.M. Nicolas II.; but no effort to maintain the
improvement had been made, except in one place--Menzil. The _on dit_ in
Tehran was, that the successful launching of the Russian cart-road
enterprise, now fairly well in hand, is entirely due to Prince
Karaupatkin's strong representation on his return to St. Petersburg. He
is said to have taken the opportunity of telling the Shah, in answer as
to his journey up, that he was greatly surprised to find the road
leading to the capital such a very bad one; whereupon his Majesty
remarked that the blame lay with his own countrymen, who, after begging
for a monopoly concession to construct a good road, had held on to it
and done nothing, and they had the right, so long as the contract time
allowed, to prevent others from making the road. The Russian press,
which interested itself in the matter, pointed out that what was wanted
to give an impetus to their trade in North Persia was good roads, not
bounties, and it may be that the interest which is believed to be
guaranteed by the Government on the road capital will take the place of
trade bounties. The money subscribed is sufficient to provide a
solidly-built road, and the idea is that it will be aligned so as to be
fit for railway purposes in the future. The existing cart-road from
Kasvin to Tehran is but a track, lined out fairly straight over a level
bit of high-lying country, with a few bridges over small streams. The
distance, ninety-five miles, is comfortably covered in fourteen to
eighteen hours in carriages drawn by three horses. The nature of the
ground makes this road a good fair-weather one, and as the Russian
company has rented it from the Persian concessionnaire, we may expect to
hear of considerable improvements, so as to encourage an increase of the
Persian waggon traffic which already exists on it. The completion of a
system of quick communication between the Russian Caspian Sea base and
the capital of Persia must attract the practical attention of all who
are interested in Persian affairs.

Many of the Moullas, in their character as meddlers, are always ready to
step forward in opposition to all matters and measures in which they
have not been consulted and conciliated. So the Russian road from Resht
was pronounced to be a subject for public agitation by the Tabriz
Mujtahid, Mirza Javad Agha, who, since his successful contest over the
Tobacco Regie, has claimed to be one of the most important personages in
Persia. This priest is very rich, and is said to be personally
interested in trade and 'wheat corners' at Tabriz, and as he saw that
the new road was likely to draw away some of the Tabriz traffic, he set
himself the task of stirring up the Moullas of Resht to resent, on
religious grounds, the extended intrusion of Europeans into their town.
The pretence of zeal in the cause was poor, because the Resht Moullas
are themselves interested in local prosperity, and the agitation failed.

A change is coming over the country in regard to popular feeling towards
priestly interference in personal and secular affairs. The claim to have
control of the concerns of all men may now be said to be but the first
flush of the fiery zeal of divinity students, fresh from the red-hot
teachings of bigoted Moulla masters, who regret the loss of their old
supremacy, and view with alarm the spread of Liberalism, which seems now
to be establishing itself in Persia.

The unfortunate episode of the Tobacco Regie in 1891 gave the Moullas a
chance to assert themselves, and they promptly seized the opportunity to
champion a popular cause of discontent, and the pity of it was that the
enterprise which raised the disturbance was English. This tobacco
monopoly had been pictured as a business certain to produce great gains,
and the people were thus prepared for the reports which were spread of
high prices to be charged on what they regard as almost a necessary of
life. The conditions of the country were not fully studied before the
monopoly powers were put in force. A suggestion was made that the
company's operations should be confined at first to the foreign export,
which would have returned a good profit, and that afterwards a beginning
should be made at Tehran, to prove to the people that the monopoly would
really give them better tobacco, and not raise prices, which the company
claimed would be the result of their system. But everything was planned
on an extensive scale, and so were prospective profits. The picture of a
rapid road to fortune had been exhibited, and it was therefore decided
that the full right of monopoly should be established at once. An
imprudent beginning was made in exercising the right of search in a
manner which alarmed some people for the privacy of their homes, a
dangerous suggestion in a Mohammedan community.

The suspicions and fears of all--buyers, sellers, and smokers--were
easily worked upon by the priests, ever ready to assert the supremacy of
the Church over the State. And then the biggest 'strike' I know of took
place. Mirza Hassan, the High-Priest of Kerbela, the most sacred shrine
of the Shiah Mohammedans, declared tobacco in Persia to be 'unlawful' to
the true believer, and everyone--man, woman, and child--was forbidden to
sell or smoke it. The 'strike' took place on a gigantic scale, a million
or two certainly being engaged in it, and steps were taken to see the
order from Kerbela carried out rigorously. 'Vigilance men,' under the
Moullas' directions, made raids on suspected tea-shops, to find and
smash the 'kalian' pipes which form part of the stock-in-trade of
these places of refreshment. The Shah was faced with the sight of silent
and forsaken tea-shops as he passed through the streets of Tehran, and
he saw the signs of the censuring strike in the rows of empty benches,
on which his subjects used to sit at their simple enjoyment of pipes and
tea. The interdiction reached the inner homes of all, and even in the
_anderuns_ and boudoirs of the highest (all of which are smoking-rooms)
it was rigidly obeyed. The priestly prohibition penetrated to the
palaces, and royalty found authority set at defiance in this matter. A
princely personage, a non-smoker, is said to have long urged and
entreated a harem favourite, too deeply devoted to tobacco, to moderate
her indulgence in it, but to no effect. On the strike being ordered, she
at once joined it, and his Highness is reported to have said, 'My
entreaties were in vain, my bribes of jewels were refused, yet the
priest prevails.' And this was at a place where not long before Moullas
had been at a discount.


There are now signs of the people resenting the arrogant assumption or
power by the Moullas, and freeing themselves from their thraldom. There
has always been great liberty of opinion and speech in Persia, and six
hundred years ago the poets Khayyam and Hafiz took full advantage of
this in expressing their contempt for the 'meddling Moullas.' Not very
long ago the donkey-boys in one of the great towns would on occasion
reflect the popular feeling by the shout '_Br-r-r-o akhoond!_' (Go on,
priest!) when they saw a Moulla pattering along on his riding donkey.
_Biro_ is Persian for 'go on,' and, rolled and rattled out long and
loud, is the cry when droves of load-carrying donkeys are driven. The
donkey-boy in Persia is as quick with bold reply as he is in Egypt and
elsewhere. There is a story that a high Persian official called out to a
boy, whose gang of burden-bearing donkeys obstructed his carriage, 'Out
of the way, ass, you driver of asses!' and was promptly answered, 'You
are an ass yourself, though a driver of men!'

As a finish to this reference to the Tobacco Regie in Persia, I may
mention it is believed that, had the company started as ordinary
traders, they, having the command of ready money, would have succeeded
well. The commencement made in the centres of tobacco cultivation
impressed the peasant producers most favourably; they appreciated the
advantages of cash payments, and regretted the cessation of the system,
and the governors benefited by the readiness with which the taxes were
paid. But the explanation of monopoly, a word which was then unknown in
Persia, raised the fears of the people, and those who had the money to
spare laid in a supply of tobacco before the concession came into force.
This was regarded by the poor as proof of the coming rise in price, and
they therefore hailed the Moullas as their deliverers from the
threatened calamity of dear tobacco.

The only public debt of Persia is that of a loan contracted in order to
pay the compensation for cancelment of this concession, and the expenses
which had been incurred; but the sale by the Government of the foreign
export (part of the cancelled concession) very nearly provides for the
loan. The Societe de 'Tombac' of Constantinople, which bought the
monopoly of export, has had difficulties to contend with, caused by a
Persian combination to buy from the cultivators and sell to the foreign
agents. A prominent Moulla was named as interested in this business,
which was in reality at direct variance with the principles on which the
priesthood had declared the original concession to be 'unlawful.' This
interference with the free trade conditions existing when the
Constantinople company made its contract led to a dispute, which ended
with a fresh agreement, in which there is said to be a stipulation that,
should the Persian Tobacco Regie in its original form be revived at any
time, French subjects are to have the first offer.

After disposing of the Tobacco Regie, the triumphant Moullas desired to
extend their prohibition to all foreign enterprise in Persia, and they
pronounced against the English Bank, which was doing its work quietly,
and without detriment to the business of others. But the Shah gave them
clearly to understand that their pretensions would be permitted no
further, and that they were to cease from troubling. They then made an
attempt to establish the impression of their power in a visible sign on
all men, by commanding discontinuance of the Persian fashion of shaving
the chin, so that the beard should be worn in accordance with Mohammedan
custom. Again they talked of organizing coercion gangs, to enforce the
order on the barbers, under threat of wrecking their shops. At this time
a foreign diplomat, during an audience of the Shah, on being asked by
his Majesty, according to his wont, what news there was in the European
quarter of the town, mentioned this latest phase of Moulla agitation as
tending to unsettle men's minds. The Shah passed his hand lightly over
his shaven chin, and said, with a touch of humour and royal assurance:
'See, I shave; let them talk; they can do nothing.'

It is wrong to suppose that the people of Persia are dead to all desire
for progress, and that their religion is a bar to such desire. It is not
so. Many of the Moullas, it is true, are opposed to education and
progress. One frankly said of the people in reference to education,
'They will read the Koran for themselves, and what will be left for us
to do?' The country is advancing in general improvement, slowly, but yet
moving forward; not standing still or sliding back, as some say. The
Moulla struggles in 1891-92 to gain the upper hand produced a feeling of
unquiet, and the most was made of all grievances, so as to fan the
flames of discontent. Pestilent priests paraded the country, and did
their utmost to excite religious fanaticism against the Government.
These agitators spoke so loudly and rashly that the ire of the old
religious leaders, the higher Moullas, men of learning and tranquil
temper, who had not joined the party of retrogression, was roused. The
knowledge of this emboldened the sober-minded to speak out against the
arrogance and conceit of the new self-elected leaders. Open expression
of opinion led to the criticism, 'These priests will next desire to rule
over us.' The Nomads, who have always declined to be priest-ridden, also
showed that they were ready to resist any attempts to establish a
religious supremacy in temporal affairs; and then, by judicious
management of rival jealousies and conflicting interests, the Shah
succeeded in his policy of complete assertion of the royal power. It may
be that the Moullas were made to understand that, just as the Chief
Priest had risen at a great assembly before Nadir Shah, and advised him
to confine himself to temporal affairs, and not to interfere in matters
of religion, so similar sound advice in the reverse order was given for
their guidance.


--The late Shah's long reign
--His camp life
--Persian Telegraph Intelligence Department
--Farming the revenues
--Condition of the people
--The shoe question
--The customs
--Importation of arms
--Martini-Henry rifles
--Indo-European telegraph

Nasr-ed-din Shah was the two hundred and fifty-fourth Sovereign who had
successively ascended the throne of Persia. He succeeded his father,
Mahomed Shah, on September 10, 1848, and would have entered on his
jubilee, the fiftieth year of his reign, according to the Mohammedan
calendar, on May 6, 1896, had not his life been suddenly cut short by a
dastardly assassin on Friday, May 1. This was, I think, the longest
reign of any Persian monarch that can be ascertained with historical
accuracy, except that of Shah Tamasp, who died A.D. 1576, after
occupying the throne for fifty-three years; but this credits him with
having begun his reign at the age of ten years. Nasr-ed-Din Shah
ascended the throne at the age of seventeen. Up to the last his Majesty
was remarkable as retaining all his physical and mental energies; his
health was excellent, due no doubt to his love of nomadic life and its
simple habits. He was passionately fond of the chase, and passed much of
his time in the saddle. It might well be said of him, as of the ancient
Persian monarchs, that the royal edicts were written 'at the stirrup of
the King,' for his Ministers had to follow him into the camp and the
hunting-field, and this prevented his Court becoming lapped in luxury.
Large tracts were preserved for him for ibex and moufflon on the
mountains, and antelope on the plains, and the hawking of duck or
partridge on by-days. This nomadic life, with its hunting habits,
encouraged the pleasant, easy manner which attracted his subjects and
commanded their confidence. He was an energetic worker, and had full
knowledge of all home and foreign affairs. He was superior to all palace
intrigues, if any existed, and his Ministers were rarely changed. The
long continuance in office of his councillors added to the feeling of
public security which his own strong personality had given to the

In appearance Nasr-ed-Din Shah was little changed since 1889, when his
figure was a well-known one in Europe. He showed the same alertness of
step, brightness of look and manner, and smartness of dress, which
distinguished him then. In his Court he was a striking figure, in marked
contrast to those about him, for it must be confessed that all in
attendance showed some neglect of appearance which compared unfavourably
with the _tout ensemble_ of their Sovereign. This may possibly have been
a subtle form of flattery, so that the Shah alone might catch the eye
and be the 'observed of all observers'--'le Roi-Soleil'--of the land of
the Lion and the Sun.

No one probably saw more clearly than the Shah that the system of
farming out the administration of the provinces from year to year is
bad, both for the Treasury and the people; but he knew well that reform,
to be sure and certain, must be slow and gradual, for change in Persia,
with its ancient traditions and old memories, cannot be effected at one
stroke. He had done much to mitigate the evil of the present system by
establishing telegraphic communication with all the centres of
provincial government, thus placing himself in close touch with his
subjects, even in the most remote parts. Gradually the confidence which
began in his near neighbourhood had extended throughout the country, and
there was a firm belief in the minds of the people that the Shah could
be approached by all. But it can well be imagined that it takes a
desperate case to induce those who are oppressed in distant places to
have recourse to such a public mode of communicating grievances as the
telegraph. Yet the telegraph is so employed at times, the senders of the
telegrams giving their names openly, and confidently awaiting the

The Persian Telegraph Department has a peculiar importance in being the
secret agency by which the Shah is served with an independent and
reliable daily report of all that goes on throughout the country. The
system of direct reports of the conduct of governors, by special
resident officials, which was established in the days of Darius the
King, has developed into the present secret service daily telegrams.
Nominations to all the telegraph appointments are made by the Minister
in charge of the department, who bears the appropriate title of
Mukbir-i-Dowleh (Intelligencer of the State).

An instance of the power exercised through this system occurred within
my personal knowledge a few years ago. A local dignitary in a distant
province fell under the frown of the Prince Governor, who, actuated by
greed, imposed on him a heavy fine for an imaginary offence. The fine
was not paid, on which a charge of contumacy was made, and this was
punished by the cruel bastinado and imprisonment. The Telegraph-master,
notwithstanding the fact of the Governor being a near relative of the
late Shah, reported the circumstance in all its details. The telegraph
enabled the Shah to make his presence felt in distant places, as well as
his power, for he was in the habit of occasionally summoning a Governor
to the office at the other end of the wire, to hear his commands spoken
on the spot. In this instance the Shah, after personal inquiry, ordered
the release of the prisoner, and on being informed some days later that
this had not been done, the Telegraph-master was directed to take the
telegraphic royal command to the prison, and see it instantly obeyed.
The official carried out his instructions, and the guards at once set
the prisoner free.

The system of farming out the provinces gives rise to much grumbling,
which perhaps, on close examination, may be found to be without full
reason. The real cause of complaint is the absence of fair fixed
taxation demands. Every village has to pay a tithe of its annual value
to the State, and previous to collection the place is visited by one of
the provincial officials, and the fullest details of the circumstances
of each family are ascertained. The limit of the official robbery which
follows is the ability to pay, as measured by the patience of the
sufferers. The peasantry are peaceful, frugal, and easily governed, but
there is a point beyond which they cannot be pressed without risk of
making them turn on the oppressor. They have now learnt the strength of
the defence they possess in the power of making their grievances known.
No doubt the provincial levy of taxation charges doubles the State
tithe, one-half of the whole amount being taken by the Governor and the
officials; but all this does not mean more than one-fifth of the village
income, for the general assessment was made before the existing
improvement in the circumstances of the cultivators had taken place more
or less all over the country. There was then little demand for products
which are now exported and paid for in gold, thus giving a high price in
the silver currency of the country. After the provincial taxation, there
are local charges, which may possibly add a further 2 or 3 per cent, to
the total amount. Formerly insecurity and want of confidence confined
cultivation and stock-breeding to the barest limits, but it is evident
now that the inhabitants can look to enjoy the fruits of their labour,
and they are extending their fields of exertion. On the whole, it may be
said that the peasantry and labouring classes in Persia are fairly well
off, and I think their condition can bear a favourable comparison with
that of the same classes in other countries.

In the course of my journeying in Persia, I generally found excellent
quarters in the village houses. The rather mean outer appearance of the
dwellings conveys the idea of poor accommodation within, but the reality
is a pleasing disclosure of plain but well-carpeted rooms, with dados of
matting or felt for the backs of the sitters by the wall. I always
looked out for village lodgings when travelling off the main roads, and
in wintry weather they were very comfortable from their open well-built
clay fireplaces giving out heat without the nuisance of smoke. On these
occasions I had ample opportunity to observe the every-day life of the
people, and I was struck with much which showed that their manners and
ways had been favourably touched and turned by a softening civilization
of old date. I also there saw clear evidence of the origin of the
Eastern shoe question, a matter which has often given rise to warm
discussion in Persia and India; I allude to the removal of shoes on
entering the inner rooms of a house. In India it is taken to imply
inferiority, and since the establishment of British supremacy the custom
has never been complied with by a European except in cases of personal
employment in a native State. I remember an instance in point when a
sergeant piper of a Highland regiment took service with one of the
Punjab Sikh chiefs, to instruct a bagpipe band which the Rajah had
formed in admiration of Scottish Highland music. In the contract paper
which set forth in detail the duties, pay, and allowances of the
instructor, the sergeant expressly stipulated that he should not be
required to remove his shoes on entering the Rajah's room when a
European was present. The origin of the custom of removing the shoes was
clearly to avoid soiling the carpets in the house or tent, on which the
inmates sat, ate, and slept.

Felts and rush-mats, no doubt, formed the first floor-coverings for
tents and houses; but as arts and manufactures grew in Central Asia, the
pastoral tribes, with whom, there being little or no agricultural work
for the women and children, the woollen industries began, introduced
carpets with coloured designs, many of the patterns of which are known
to be of very old date, and still remain in the hands of certain
families as their own carefully-guarded secrets and property. These
carpets then became their pictures, framed in felt side-strips, on which
people sat, slept, and transacted business. At meals the centre is
covered with a cloth, on which the dishes are placed; and I think the
carpet is regarded similarly as a well-polished dining-table was in the
West in olden days, when the cloth was removed at the end of the
courses. At other times it may be supposed that the pretty carpets are
their pictures on the floor, just as ours are on the wall; in fact, many
carpets of old design are so lovely and delicate that they are hung on
the walls of European residents' houses in Persia as being too good to
be trodden on. In the village houses the peasants always leave their
shoes at the inner doors, and when a man arrives in riding-boots, with
no intention of staying long, he complies with the object of the custom
by sitting on the edge of the carpet, or felt, and tucking his legs
underneath him, so that the feet may not touch or soil it. In this there
is no question of inferior and superior, for all are socially equal; it
is merely a matter of good manners and friendly feeling, just as
signified in the West by removal of the hat or cap. It would appear that
in the reception of Western Envoys at the Court of Persia it was
customary to change the boots or shoes for slippers, or to cover them
with these; but the practice was generally regarded as derogatory to
the dignity of the national representative, and sometimes became the
subject of strong protest and resentment. There is reason to believe
that the custom always cropped up with every Envoy as an annoying cause
of heated discussion and disagreeable feeling. On the occasion of the
reception of Mr. Anthony Jenkinson, Queen Elizabeth's Envoy at the Court
of Persia in 1561, this shoe question assumed an acute form; and when a
pair of the Shah's slippers was sent to him to be worn at the interview
with his Majesty, it is said that what was meant as attention was taken
for insult. The interview took place without the slippers being used,
and the meeting was not of a cordial character.

But besides this shoe difficulty at the Court of Persia, there was also
a divergence of opinion regarding the lower garments, as the tight
knee-breeches and hose of the West were considered improper in the East,
and it is believed that the roomy Turkish _shalwar_ trousers were
required to be worn as 'overalls' to hide the legs on occasions of royal
audience. In connection with this phase of Eastern idea, an incident
happened with Sir Douglas Forsyth's diplomatic mission to the Amir of
Kashgar in 1873-74, which is worth mentioning here. The camp-sergeant
with the mission was Sergeant Rhind, of the 92nd Highlanders, and on the
Envoy and staff being received at Yarkand by the Governor of that
province, the second highest dignitary in the kingdom, it was understood
that, as he was most exacting in the full observance of all formalities,
much would depend upon his report of our demeanour, appearance, and
general conduct. This Governor kept quite a little Court, and we
accordingly paid our visit in all the show of a dress parade. Sergeant
Rhind attended in kilted uniform, and his appearance attracted
considerable shy and sly notice. Mahomed Yunis, the Governor, was a man
of severe ideas, and while pretending not to see the Highlander, who
stood behind us during the interview, he was reported to say after our
departure that his costume appeared to be incomplete. Some weeks
afterwards, on our reaching Kashgar, the capital in the North, and
preparing for the formal audience of the Sovereign, the famous Ataligh
Ghazi, the Court master of the ceremonies, appeared suddenly before the
appointed time, and announced most peremptorily that the sergeant was to
accompany us fully dressed. He explained that the kilt with bare knees
was objectionable, and could not be tolerated at the Ataligh's Court; so
the trews had to be substituted for the showy garb of old Gaul. The
indoor dress worn by Persian ladies is not unlike our Highland kilt.

The shoe question was finally settled in a clause of the Turkmanchai
treaty of 1828, which is accepted by all the foreign legations. It
provides that goloshes or shoe-coverings shall be worn, to be removed
before entering the audience-room or going into the Shah's presence, and
this practice continues at the present time. The 'dragoman'
establishments are much more attached to old ideas than Turks and
Persians, and they cling to their presumed monopoly of knowledge of all
Court and social customs in order to enhance their importance. The
Persians move with the times, and understand Western modes of showing
respect; yet I heard it said by a local light that it was a breach of
good taste to salute the Shah by lifting the hat, and that it offended
Mohammedan notions of propriety to remove the head-covering in society.
Accordingly, I once saw some European gentlemen wearing their hats in
the reception-room of one of the Shah's Ministers; but on observing
others who were known to be well acquainted with Persian feeling
entering with hat in hand, they, who were under the guidance of a
'dragoman', adopted the European custom. In Fraser's 'Persia', we are
told that when Shah Abbas the Great received Sir Dodmore Cotton,
Ambassador from James I., his Majesty, 'being desirous of pleasing his
guests, drank to the health of the King of England. At the name of his
Sovereign the Ambassador stood up and took off his hat. Abbas smiled,
and likewise raised his turban in token of respect.'

[Illustration: PERSIAN LADY AT HOME.]

The farming system which is applied to the Customs in Persia continues
to cause considerable loss to the State. An extension of the same direct
control as is exercised in the Telegraph Department would show most
favourable results. Under the present short-sighted system the interests
of all the contractors lie in suppressing correct information and giving
misleading statistics, so that the annual bidding may be kept low. But
notwithstanding this, the truth leaks out to indicate that trade in
Persia is increasing. There are now signs of practical advice at
Tehran, to consider the establishment of a properly constituted Persian
control Board of Customs, by which a well-organized service, under the
central authority, may be maintained, and a considerable increase of
revenue secured. It may be said that all merchants in Persia benefit by
the farming system, for under it they can arrange to have their goods
passed on payment of a lump sum, and with but the merest show of
examination of invoices. In this manner they manage to get consignments
through the Customs at less than the fixed tariff. On a late rumour of a
foreign control of the Customs being likely, the Russian Armenian
merchants engaged in trade in the North frankly represented the fact of
arrangements being made with the authorities at the ports, to take less
than the treaty 5 per cent. on exports and imports, and they urged that
the custom was of such old date and long continuance as to make it a
fully recognised right. They stated that their trade was established on
this basis, and they protested against any change. There can be no doubt
that the same custom prevails in the South, and all along the frontier.
As the farming contracts are much subdivided, competition operates to
reduce rates, so as to induce change of trade routes. Thus, I heard of a
merchant in Central Persia, whose communications are with the South,
asking a contractor in the North for a quotation of his terms, so as to
make it advantageous for him to send his goods that way. In the matter
of contraband articles, the farming system lends itself to encourage the
passing of what the State forbids, as the middlemen and their servants
are tempted to make as much money as possible during the short time of
their annual contract engagements. In a country like Persia, where pride
of arms prevails to keep up the habit of carrying them, there is a
steady demand for modern breech-loading rifles. The Government is alive
to the necessity of preventing the importation of firearms, and from
time to time seizures are made of consignments smuggled under the guise
of merchandise. With a large nomad and semi-nomad population of warlike
and predatory instincts, almost every man of whom lays by money most
diligently, bit by bit, for the purchase of a breechloader and
cartridges, it is obvious that the interests of Government call for the
strongest check to the foreign trade in arms; but it may be taken for
granted that so long as the Customs are farmed out on the present system
the supply will be passed in to meet the demand. The favourite weapon is
the Martini-Henry, and there are many thousands in the possession of the
nomads and villagers. This rifle, as the Peabody-Martini, was first
introduced into the country during the late Turko-Russian War, when,
being the Turkish army weapon, it fell by thousands into the hands of
Russian soldiers, who sold them to the Persian sutlers and pedlars
allowed to accompany the troops. The Persians had shown their usual
energy and enterprise abroad by becoming camp-traders with the Russian
forces engaged on active service in Asia Minor, and they sent the
captured arms, which they purchased in large numbers, over the border
into Persia, where they fetched good prices. A profitable trade in
cartridges followed the introduction of the new rifle, and judging by
the well-filled belts and bandoliers which I saw on the North-western
frontier (Kurdistan and Azerbaijan), the business appears to be a well
established one. In the course of time and trade this rifle found its
way South to the fighting Bakhtiaris, Lurs, and Arabs, and the general
vote in its favour brought about a supply of 'trade' Martini-Henry arms
imported by way of the Persian Gulf, so that now in Persia what is known
as the 'Marteen' has become the popular arm in private possession. The
'Remington' has its possessors and admirers among the Karun Arab tribes,
who get their arms from Baghdad and Turkish sources. There is a brisk
trade in ammunition for the breechloader, and so keen is the desire to
secure and supplement the supply that solid-drawn brass cartridge-cases,
which admit of being used over and over again, with boxes of caps and
sets of reloading apparatus, are now in brisk demand.

At Kasvin our eyes were refreshed with the sight of the
excellently-equipped Indo-European telegraph line, which comes in there
from Tabriz and the North, and passes on to Tehran and India. This line,
with its wires carried on tall iron standard posts stretching far in a
dominating manner over the country, seems to stand forth as a strong
witness to the effectual command and control exercised by the Shah's
Government at the present time. On the first establishment of this line
there was much conjecture as to the great risk of continued interruption
from the mischief of man; and failure to complete the land working at
the outset dissatisfied commercial men in England, so that to maintain
certain communication the Red Sea cable was laid. But new land lines
were erected which worked equally well as the cable, and the firm
insistence by the Persian Government on heavy damages for all malicious
injury gradually developed the perfect security which comes from local
interests demanding the fullest protection. The service by this line is
now as certain and quick as that of the ocean cable; in fact, I think
the average speed of messages between London and Calcutta is greater
_via_ Tehran than _via_ Suez. There was an interesting race last year
between the companies to communicate to India the result of the Derby,
and it was won in a way by the cable line. The messages were
simultaneously despatched from Epsom, that by Tehran reaching Bombay
five seconds before the other, but as the name of the winning horse only
was given correctly, Karachi, six hundred miles distant, had to be
asked for a repetition of the names of the second and third horses. The
cable telegram gave the three names accurately. Had Karachi been agreed
upon as the point of arrival for India, instead of Bombay, the
Indo-European would have won this telegraph race.


--Kasvin grapes
--Persian wine
--Vineyards in Persia
--Wine manufacture
--Mount Demavend
--Afshar volcanic region
--Quicksilver and gold
--Tehran water-supply
--Village quarrels
--Tehran tramways
--Bread riots
--Mint and copper coin.

The grape harvest was being gathered at Kasvin as we passed through. The
place is well known for its extensive vineyards and fine fruit-gardens.
Its golden grapes have a wide reputation, and these, with the white
species, also grown there, are in steady demand for wine manufacture,
which is carried on in the town, notwithstanding the greatly
disproportionate number of Moullas among the inhabitants. Large
quantities of the grapes are also sent to Tehran for wine purposes
there. Persia keeps up the character for strong wine which it had 600
B.C., when the Scythian invaders took to it so eagerly as to establish
the saying, 'As drunk as a Scythian.' It was said that these
hard-headed, deep-drinking, wild warriors were always thirsting for
'another skinful,' and were ever ready to declare that the last was
always the best. Eighteen hundred years later, Hafiz, the merry poet,
sang aloud the praises of Shiraz wine, which to this day bears a high
reputation in Persia, a reputation which was royally good in the
traditional bygone time long before Cyrus, when it appears to have been
highly appreciated in the festivities of Glorious Jamshed, the founder
of Persepolis. The poet Omar Khayyam, in moralizing over the ruins of
the fallen splendour of that famous place, speaks in Fitzgerald's

'They say the lion and the lizard keep
The Court where Jamshed gloried and drank deep.'

The Persian poet-historian Firdausi ascribes to Jamshed the discovery of
wine in his leisure from kingly duties and scientific pursuits, for to
him is attributed the invention of many useful arts, and the
introduction of the solar year for measurement of time, the first day of
which, when the sun enters Aries, he ordered to be celebrated by a
splendid festival. It is called Nauroz, or New Year's Day, and is still
the greatest festival in Persia. This single institution of former days,
under a different religion and system of measuring time, has triumphed
over the introduction of Mohammedanism, and is observed with as much joy
and festivity now as it was by the ancient inhabitants of Persia.

According to Moulla Akbar's manuscripts, quoted in Malcolm's 'History of
Persia,' Jamshed was immoderately fond of grapes, and desired to
preserve some which were placed in a large vessel and lodged in a vault
for future use. When the vessel was opened, the grapes had fermented,
and their juice in this state was so acid that the King believed it must
be poisonous. He had some other vessels filled with the juice, and
'Poison' written upon each; these were placed in his room. It happened
that one of his favourite ladies was afflicted with nervous headaches,
the pain of which distracted her so much that she desired death, and
observing a vessel with 'Poison' written on it, she took it and
swallowed its contents. The wine, for such it had become, overpowered
the lady, who fell down in a sound sleep, and awoke much refreshed.
Delighted with the remedy, she repeated the doses so often that the
King's 'poison' was all drunk. He soon discovered this, and forced the
lady to confess what she had done. A quantity of wine was then made, and
Jamshed and all his Court drank of the new beverage, which, from the
circumstance that led to its discovery, is to this day known in Persia
as _zahr-i-khush_, or the pleasing poison. After that the manufacture of
wine became a regular industry, and spread from Shiraz, where it
originated. At the present time the process of manufacture is similar to
what it was then, in that the grape-juice is collected in large
Ali-Baba-like jars and buried in the ground. Alexander the Great is said
to have followed the festive example of his royal predecessor, and to
have drunk deep in the majestic halls of Persepolis. It has been
supposed by some that he caused the splendid palaces there to be set on
fire in a drunken freak.

As a pendant to the story of a lady's discovery, in the time of Jamshed,
of wine as an efficacious cure for nervous headache, another is told
which ascribes to a lady the withdrawal of a royal decree against the
sale and use of wine. The Shah Hussein, on his accession to the throne
in 1694, displayed his religious zeal by forbidding the sale of wine,
and he ordered the destruction of all the stock of it that was in the
royal cellars at Ispahan. But his grandmother, by feigning herself ill,
and wholly dependent upon wine for cure, not only prevailed upon him to
revoke the decree, but also persuaded him to drink some in pure regard
to herself, with the result that he fell away from priestly influence
and became a tippler. Unfortunately for the nation, this grandmother's
guidance led Shah Hussein to ruin by wine and women, and dragged him
down to the deep degradation of surrendering Persia to the cruel tyranny
of the Afghan occupation.

Wood being scarce in Persia, and poles, stakes, and sticks for upright
and lateral support not being easily procurable, the mode of culture of
the vine has come to be by planting in deep broad trenches, with high
sloping banks, up and over which the stems and branches run and fall.
The trenches are made to lie so as to allow of the bank-slopes having
the best exposure. This is the system followed on the flat, but in hilly
ground, by means of careful trimming and the assistance of piled stones,
the plants are made to develop strong standard stems, with bunchy,
bushy tops. I was particularly struck a few years ago with the neat,
well-tended vineyards at the village of Imam-Zadeh-Ismail, in the hills
about forty miles north-west of Persepolis. Almost the whole of the
village lands were laid out in vineyards, well walled and beautifully
kept. The vines looked as if they were tended by those who understood
their culture well, and they appeared to thrive wonderfully on the light
soil of the place. Surprising energy had been shown in clearing the
ground, which was naturally stony; and there was abundant evidence of
much patient labour in the garden-like enclosures. Vineyards occupied
all the flat ground on which the village stood, and they extended up the
slopes. Hillside clearing was going on all around for further planting
of vines, which were seen to flourish there. Raisins are largely made
there, and I was told by my Kashkai conductor (for I was well off the
beaten track and required a guide), who seemed to know what he was
talking about, that the fresh grapes were used for wine, but not in the
village. The religious character of the chief inhabitants of the
village, who are sheikhs, and guardians of the Holy Shrine of the
mausoleum of the Imam-Zadeh-Ismail, which lies within its limits,
prevents the preparation there of the forbidden fermented juice of the
grape. The shrine is endowed with the village lands rent free, and all
these lands are devoted to vine cultivation. The vineyards at Shiraz
have been greatly extended of late years, and particular attention is
now paid to the cultivation of the Kholar grape, as the best suited for
wine. This grape takes its name from the village of Kholar, which is
within a few miles of the town. Tabriz, Hamadan, Isfahan, and Shiraz
produce the best wine in Persia. Red and white are made at all these
places; the white wine of Hamadan is a sort of strong sauterne, and some
of it has quite a delicate flavour; Isfahan produces a wine of a port
character, and the best shiraz is sometimes like new madeira. All these
wines resemble in strength those that are now made in Australia.
Something is wanting in the mode of manufacture to make the wine capable
of improvement with keeping, and also of bearing transport. The advent
of the Russian road will probably lead to the development of Kasvin's
large area of fruitful vines, and the success which has attended
vineyard industry at Derbend, on the Caspian, may encourage similar
enterprise there.

As neither law nor custom forbids the manufacture of wine by
non-Mohammedans, the cultivation of the grape spreads, and the making of
wine increases. From this it may be inferred, as there is little export
of wine from Persia, that all the produce is not consumed by
non-Mohammedans. As a matter of fact, the religious law which forbids
wine to Mohammedans is not rigidly observed; in truth, they are not all
total abstainers, and the delightful poison, as chronicled by Moulla
Akbar, is known to be a convenient remedy for all manner of moods, ills,
and complaints, nervous, imaginary, and real. They have been described
as drinking well when they do break the religious law, for they have a
saying that 'there is as much sin in a glass as in a flagon.' The
Persians have never thoroughly accommodated themselves to the creed of
their Semitic conquerors; they show profound respect for the externals
of Mohammedanism, and are sincere in their practice of piety and the
obligations of religion and charity; but they have always indulged in
the fancies and ideas of the great school of free-thinking philosopher
Sofis, whose observance of the ordinances of severe and joyless life is
notedly lax.

The weather was lovely as we journeyed over the Kasvin plain to Tehran,
towards the end of September. Autumn in the North of Persia is a
gloriously fine season, almost spring-like in many ways, and, indeed, it
is called there the 'second spring.' The landscape then, though nearly
barren of verdure, has a beauty of its own in warm soft colours, and the
atmospheric effects on the hills and distances, evening and morning, are
of wonderfully delicate tones and tints. The prominent feature in the
landscape near Tehran is the grand cone-shaped Mount Demavend, about
forty miles to the north-east, which shoots up 19,400 feet above
ocean-level, and overtops all the surrounding heights by 6,000 feet or
more. It stood out bold, cold, and clear against the blue sky, and
looked beautifully white with a fresh covering of new snow, and it was
more than usually distinct, from being clear of the cloud-crown it
usually wears. In the evening the massive peak presented a splendid
appearance, looking as in a white heat from the shine of the setting
sun, which, though lost to view below the horizon, yet lighted up the
old volcano.

Demavend has long been asleep, but the great earthquakes of 1891, 1893
and 1895 in Astrabad and Kuchan to the eastward, and Khalkhal in the
north-west, show that its underground fires are still alight. The scene
of the last is about one hundred miles north-east of the old volcanic
region of Afshar, remarkable for its remains of vast 'cinter' cones,
formed by the flowing geysers of long, long ago, and which were
shattered and scattered by some mighty explosion, when the great geysers
boiled up and burst their walls. Here is seen the Takht-i-Suliman, a
ruined fort of very ancient date, which local tradition describes as one
of King Solomon's royal residences, shared by his Queen, Belgheiz (of
Sheba), whose summer throne is also shown on a mountain height above.
This ruin incloses a flowing geyser of tepid sea-green water, about 170
feet deep, the temperature of which was 66 deg. when I visited the place in
1892. Near it is the Zindan-i-Suliman (Solomon's Dungeon), an extinct
geyser, 350 feet deep. It shows as a massive 'cinter' cone, 440 feet
high, standing prominently up in the plain. This district was visited
and fully described by the late Sir Henry Rawlinson, and a further
account of it has been given by Mr. Theodore Bent, who, with Mrs. Bent,
went there in 1889.

The volcanic district of Afshar has long been known for its quicksilver,
which from time to time has been found in small quantities. Some seven
or eight hundred years ago Arab miners laboured long in their search for
the main cinnabar vein which undoubtedly lies hidden there, and their
wide workings in laying open a whole hillside, where signs of cinnabar
are still seen, show what great gangs of labourers they must have had at
their command. The Persian Mines Corporation in 1891-92 engaged in
operations at the same point, but, after considerable sinking of shafts
and driving of galleries into the heart of the hill, they decided to
cease work, being disappointed, like their Arab predecessors, in not
finding quickly what they had traced by clear signs up to its mountain
source. A few miles below the site of these cinnabar-mine operations
there are ancient gold-washing workings, and within thirty miles are
heavy veins of quartz.

Tehran displays a marked advance in many of the resources of
civilization; houses of an improved style are springing up, the roadways
are better attended to, and there is a great increase in the number of
carriages. The Prime Minister's new house, near the British Legation, is
situated in beautiful gardens, set off with pretty lakelets and terraced
grounds, which give slopes for flowing waterfalls. These gardens, in
common with all in the town, are tenanted every year by nightingales of
sweet song. It is now proposed to enclose an adjoining available space
to form a people's park, which would be a great place of enjoyment in
summer to a people of poetic imagination like the Persians, who delight
in the green glade with the cool sound of flowing water. The severe
cholera epidemic of 1892 showed the absolute necessity of an improvement
in the rude sanitary system which then existed, and a beginning has been
made in the daily careful cleaning of the streets and removal of refuse.
But a better and increased water-supply is greatly needed for the town,
which is becoming larger every year. People who have money to spend
appear to be attracted more than ever to the capital. Those who before
were content with the provincial towns now build houses in Tehran. The
superior houses have garden-ground attached, and much tree-planting is
done. The demand for water increases, but the supply is not
supplemented. Years ago the utmost was made of the sources from which
water is drawn; no pains have been spared to extract every possible drop
of water from the heart of the hills within a considerable distance, and
to convey it undiminished by evaporation to the city. This is done by
underground channels called _kanats_, which are excavated with great
ingenuity and skill, and are marvels of industry. This system prevails
all over Persia, and existence as well as the fertility of the soil
mainly depends on the water-supply thus obtained. The sandy expanse
round Yezd in the desert of South-eastern Persia has been made literally
to blossom like the rose by means of these subterranean channels, some
of which are tunnelled for a distance of thirty miles. I was there in
spring-time, and was then able to see what a wonder-worker water is in

The pressing need of more water for Tehran has now drawn attention to
the proposals of some years ago for increasing the supply. One of these
was to divert to the south an affluent of the Upper Lar, which rises in
the Elburz range, and flows into the Caspian. It was seen that this
could be done by cutting a new channel and tunnelling from a point
sufficiently high, where the stream runs in an elevated valley between
the double ridge of the range. The work would have been similar, but
simpler, to what was completed last year in Madras, where the upper
Periyar stream was changed from a western to an eastern flow. The
execution of the Lar project would be easy, and it would not practically
affect the volume of water in the main stream, which receives many
tributaries below the proposed point of piercing the watershed. But the
Lar Valley was one of the Shah's summer retreats, and a favourite
pasture-ground for his brood mares and young stock. It is, moreover, a
popular resort of flock-owning nomads, and as the Shah's love of camp
life there led him to fear injury to the grassy plains and slopes of
his favourite highlands, the project was abandoned.

There was another scheme to construct a series of reservoirs by means of
strong barriers at the foot of the lower ravines of the Elburz range,
eight miles north of Tehran, in which to keep the winter water which
comes from the melting snow. The whole mountain-chain is covered with
snow each year from top to bottom. In April and May the snow melts, and
the precious water flows away where it is not wanted. Were this water
stored, it would be made available in the succeeding hot months. The
sloping plain between the hills and the town is capable, with
irrigation, of great fertility, and the construction of these reservoirs
would prove a veritable gold-mine.

The distribution of water is a most important part of village
administration in Persia. The work of cutting off and letting on water
with most exact observance of time-measurements is carried out by a
waterman called _mirab_ (lord of the water) whose office is hereditary,
subject, however, to the special judgment of popular opinion. The duties
demand a clear head and nimble foot, and the waterman, in hastening
from point to point, has to show all the alertness of a street
lamplighter. He has to keep a correct count of time, for water is
apportioned by the hour, and his memory for all the details of change,
sale, and transfer must be good and unchallenged. When he becomes too
old, or otherwise incapacitated for the performance of his work with the
necessary quickness, he avails himself of the assistance of a son or
someone whom he proposes with the village approval to bring up as his
successor. The old man is then to be seen going leisurely along the
water-courses which issue from the underground channels, accompanied by
his young deputy carrying the long-handled Persian spade, ready to run
and execute his orders. Disputes between village and village over
_kanat_ water-cuts form the subject of severe fights occasionally, and
the saying is that water and women are the main causes of village
quarrels in Persia.

It was a hot day in June, and having been up before daylight so as to
start at earliest dawn and avoid the mid-day heat for my whole party, we
were all in the enjoyment of afternoon sleep, when the courtyard was
invaded by a shouting mob of excited villagers, calling on me to hear
their story and bear witness to their wounds. They said they were the
tenants of the landlord whose house I was occupying, and they begged me
as his guest to make a statement of their case, so that justice might be
done. There had been a dispute over an irrigation channel, and the
opposing side having mustered strong, they were overpowered by numbers
and badly beaten. Some of the hurts they had received were ugly to look
at, having been inflicted with the long-handled Persian spade, the
foot-flanges of which make it a dangerous weapon. After a patient
hearing, and getting some plaster and simple dressing for their cuts and
bruises, they went away satisfied. So much for water as a cause of
quarrel, but an instance of the other cause, woman, which had come under
my notice shortly before, was more seriously characteristic. It occurred
at Shamsabad, on the border of the Aberkoh Desert, between Yezd and
Shiraz. I halted there after the long night journey across the desert,
and immediately I was settled in my village quarters, the master of the
house in which I lodged asked me to look at the gunshot wounds of one
of his young men, and to prescribe and provide in any way I could
towards healing them. I asked if any bones were broken, saying that I
could do little or nothing in such a case. I was told that they were but
flesh wounds, and on the young man coming in, I was shown a ragged long
cut between the lower ribs, and a deepish wound in the fleshy part of
the leg, which had evidently been made by slugs or buckshot. I
prescribed careful cleansing, and the use of lint and lotion, and I gave
a supply of the necessary material. I asked how the thing had happened,
and the young fellow told me that he and his brother had been
treacherously attacked at a water-mill, whilst having the family grain
ground, by some Aberkoh youths, between whose family and his there was a
longstanding blood-feud; that they both had been shot at close quarters,
and his brother had died of his wounds two days before.

The master of the house, who was also headman of the village, explained
that the blood-feud had been carried on for five generations, and had
originated in a 'little maid' who, being betrothed in their village, had
eloped with a young man of Aberkoh. The disappointed bridegroom had
afterwards taken his successful rival's life, and the deadly demand of a
life for a life had, in accordance with the law of revenge, been made
and exacted for the past five generations. He said the elders had hoped
the quarrel was nearly dead, as there had been long peace between the
parties, but suddenly the hot blood of youth had risen to renew it, and
now there was fear of further murder. In that remote district the
ancient first principles of natural justice had still strong hold upon
the people, and formed, in the absence of established law, the defence
of families and communities.

The knowledge that a man is considered disgraced who allows the blood of
his father or brother to pass unrevenged makes many a murderer in
thought pause, and depart from the deed. Accordingly, in those lawless
parts, as a rule, order reigns, and disputes and differences are
discussed by the village 'gray-beards,' who generally are able to
arrange a compromise. But in the reckless rage of a lost love the deed
is done, which carries its fatal consequences to future generations, as
in the case I have mentioned. I told the old village headman, who was
really the local judge, that in some of the wild parts of Firanghistan
there were similar occurrences, and that the best form of reconciliation
in the present instance would be 'wife for wife,' the first offending
family giving a girl-love to a husband-lover on the other side, and thus
finally closing the quarrel in the happiest manner. I said that under
such circumstances intermarriages were generally the best means of
improving friendship and terminating feuds between families.

The Tehran street tramways continue to work, though the profit return is
small. The company began with graduated fares, but I heard they were
considering a minimum general charge, which it was thought would
encourage more traffic, especially in the visits of women to one
another, as their outdoor dress is unsuited to walking in comfort. The
tramway cars have separate compartments for women. The travelling pace
is necessarily slow, in order to avoid hurt or harm to people and
animals in the crowded thoroughfares. In the East, accidents at the
hands of Europeans or their employes are not readily understood or
easily accepted as such. The Tehran Tramways Company has had its trials
in this respect. At one time it was the heavy hurt of a boy, son of a
Syud, one of the 'pure lineage', a descendant of the family of the
Prophet, on which the populace, roused by the lashing lamentations of
the father, damaged the car and tore up the line. On another occasion a
man, in obstinate disregard of warning, tried to enter at the front, and
was thrown under the wheels. Again the excitable bystanders were worked
up to fury and violence, and the Governor of the town gave judgment
against the company for 'blood-money'. The counter-claim for damage done
to the line enabled a compromise to be effected. Oriental indifference
is the chief cause of the accidents. 'It is impossible but that offences
will come, but woe unto him through whom they come.' For 'offences', the
Oriental reading is 'accidents'.

In all large Persian towns there is a numerous class of 'roughs' known
as the _kullah-numdah_ (felt-caps; they wear a brown hard-felt low hat
without a brim), excitable and reckless, and always ready for
disturbance. They are the 'casuals', who live from hand to mouth, those
to whom an appeal can be made by the careful working class when the
price of bread is run up to famine figure, owing to the 'cornering' of
wheat, which of late years has been much practised in Persia. The baker
used to be the first victim of popular fury in a bread riot, and it is
said that one was baked alive in his own oven. But in these times of
grain speculation in Persia, the people have learnt to look in 'wheat
corners' for the real cause of dear bread, and in consequence the bread
riots have become more formidable, as was proved lately at Tabriz. On a
previous occasion the Vali Ahd (now H.I.M. the Shah), who, as
Governor-General of Azerbaijan, resided at Tabriz, found himself unable
to cope with the difficulty, and abandoned his projected visit to
Tehran, so as to apply the money he had provided for it to cheapening
bread for the people. This practical pocket-sympathy with them secured a
popularity which will bring its reward.

Next to the 'wheat-ring' as a cause of disturbance and riot comes what
may be called the 'copper-ring' of Tehran, which is likely to produce
serious trouble throughout the country. The Royal Mint in Persia is
worked on the farming system, the evils of which have now extended to
the currency. The low price of copper allows of it being coined at an
enormous profit, and advantage has been taken of this to a dangerous
extent. The whole country is now poisoned with 'black money,' as the
coppers are called, and it is at a heavy discount. This bears cruelly on
the labouring classes and all who are paid in copper coin. Owing to
exchange with Europe keeping above silver, that metal cannot be imported
and coined, so as to give a gain to the Mint-master, who has no idea of
sacrificing any of the great profit he has made on copper. No silver has
been coined since March, 1895, and this is the Mint-master's excuse for
sending out copper in great quantities, to take the place of silver.
Twenty copper shahi go to a kran (present exchange value 4-1/2d.), and
in the absence of silver employers of labour pay wholly in copper, which
for bazaar purposes is at a discount, so much so that, when a purchase
is beyond question above a kran in amount, an agreement as to payment in
silver or copper is first made, and then the bargaining begins. In a
country where money bears a high value, as proved by the fact that
accounts are still reckoned in dinars, an imaginary coin, of which one
thousand go to a silver kran and fifty to a copper shahi, the
depreciation I have mentioned is a very serious affair, for it touches
the mass of the people sorely. When travelling off the beaten track in
Persia, I have always been amused and interested in hearing my
head-servant announce loudly in a tone of importance and satisfaction to
my village host for the night that I had ordered so many 'thousands' to
be given for house-room, fuel, barley, straw, etc. The kran was never
mentioned; it was always a 'thousand.'[A]

[Footnote: A: Since the above was written, information has been received
that the late Shah, about three weeks before his death, promulgated a
decree directing the Mint coinage of copper to be suspended for a term
of five years, and intimating that the Customs, Post-office and
Telegraph departments would accept copper coin to a certain amount in
cash transactions, at a fixed rate. And, further, arrangements have been
made with the Imperial Bank of Persia to purchase, on account of the
Government, copper coin up to a certain sum, from small _bona-fide_
holders who are in possession of it in the regular course of retail
business for the necessaries of life.]


--Religious tolerance in Tehran
--Katie Greenfield's case
--Babi sect
--Liberal opinions
--German enterprise in Persia
--Railways in Asia Minor
--Russian road extension
--Railways to Persian frontiers
--The Karun River
--Trade development
--The Kajar dynasty
--Life titles
--Chieftainship of tribes
--The Pearl cannon.

The late Shah was always liberal and conciliatory in the treatment of
his Christian subjects throughout the country, and this is a matter
which, at the present time, deserves special notice. In the history of
Persia many proofs of friendly feeling towards Christians are to be
found, and the sovereigns appear to have led the popular mind in the way
of goodwill to them. Shah Abbas the Great was an example of kind and
considerate tolerance, and it was Shah Abbas II who said of them, 'It is
for God, not for me to judge of men's consciences: and I will never
interfere with what belongs to the tribunal of the Great Creator and
Lord of the universe.' The Western Christian missionaries are fully
protected in their mission work among the Eastern Christians in Persia
on the understanding that they do not actively and directly engage in
proselytizing Mohammedans.


The American Presbyterian is the only mission in Tehran, and it carries
on its work so smoothly and judiciously that the sensitive
susceptibilities of the most fanatical Moullas are never roused nor
ruffled. They have succeeded well by never attempting too much. They
show their desire to benefit all classes and creeds, and during the
severe cholera outbreak In 1892 the hospital they established in the
city for the medical treatment of all comers up to the utmost extent of
their accommodation and ability was a powerful and convincing proof of
their good work and will. The disease was of a very fatal type, and its
deadly ravages called forth a display of devotion and self-sacrifice
which deserved and obtained the highest commendation from all Persians
and Europeans.

While on this subject, the splendid example set by the Governor of the
town, the Vazir Isa Khan, should be noticed. He was very wealthy, and
did much to relieve the sufferings and wants of the poor who were
attacked by the disease. He remained in the city while the epidemic
raged, and would not seek safety in flight to the adjoining mountains,
as many had done. But, sad to say, he fell a victim at the last, and his
wife, who had remained with him throughout, died of the disease two days
before him.

It will be remembered that in 1891 an agitation was raised regarding the
reported abduction of an Armenian girl, named Katie Greenfield, by a
Kurd in Persian Kurdistan. An attempt which was made to take the girl
back to her family caused the couple to cross the frontier into Turkish
Kurdistan, and great excitement among the Kurds on both sides of the
border was created. The contention grew, and commissioners and consuls,
with troops, Persian and Turkish, took part in it. In the end it was
made perfectly clear that the girl had gone off with Aziz, the Kurd, as
the husband of her own choice, and had embraced the Mohammedan faith by
her own wish. The Kurds in Persian Kurdistan appear to live on friendly
terms with their Armenian village neighbours, and on this occasion a
runaway love-match became the cause of some popular excitement in
England, and much trouble and tumult on the Perso-Turkish frontier.

The Armenian Archbishop in Persia, who resides at Isfahan, is always a
Russian subject from the monastery of Etchmiadzin, near Erivan, the seat
of the Catholicus, the primate of the orthodox Armenian Church, and this
doubtless has its effect in suggesting protection and security. France
also for a longtime past has steadily asserted the right to protect the
Catholic Armenian Church in Persia, and once a year the French Minister
at Tehran, with the Legation secretaries, attends Divine service in the
chapel there in full diplomatic dress and state, to show the fact and
force of the support which the Church enjoys. France similarly takes
Catholic institutions in Turkey under her protection, and appears to be
generally the Catholic champion in the East.

The careful observer in Tehran cannot fail to be struck with the
religious tolerance shown to non-Mohammedan Persian subjects in the
'shadow of the Shah.' Amongst these, other than Christians, may be
mentioned the Guebres (Parsees) and the Jews. Persecuted in the
provinces, they receive liberal treatment in Tehran, and it is to be
hoped that the late Shah's gracious example will in time be followed by
his Majesty's provincial governors.

The Babi sect of Mohammedans, regarded as seceders from Islam, but who
assert their claim to be only the advocates for Mohammedan Church
reform, are at last better understood and more leniently
treated--certainly at Tehran. They have long been persecuted and
punished in the cruellest fashion, even to torture and death, under the
belief that they were a dangerous body which aimed at the subversion of
the State as well as the Church. But better counsels now prevail, to
show that the time has come to cease from persecuting these sectarians,
who, at all events in the present day, show no hostility to the
Government; and the Government has probably discovered the truth of the
Babi saying, that one martyr makes many proselytes.

The Babis aim at attracting to their ranks the intelligent and the
learned, in preference to the ignorant and unlearned; and it is believed
that now sufficient education whereby to read and write is absolutely
necessary for membership. They wish to convince by example, and not by
force, and this accounts for the absence of active resistance to the
persecutions from which they often suffer most grievously. They say that
they desire to return to original Mohammedanism, as it first came from
the Arabian desert, pure and simple, and free from the harsh intolerance
and arrogance which killed the liberal spirit in which it was conceived.
They deplore the evil passions and fierce animosities engendered by
religious differences; they tolerate all creeds having a common end for
good, and seek to soften the hearts of those who persecute them, by
showing that they but wish for peace on earth and goodwill to all men.
They have a widespread organization throughout Persia, and many learned
Moullas and Syuds have secretly joined them. They have always been firm
in their faith, even unto death, rejecting the offer of life in return
for a declaration against the Bab, him whom they regard as the messenger
of good tidings.

An acknowledged authority on the Bab, the founder of this creed, has
written that he 'directed the thoughts and hopes of his disciples to
this world, not to an unseen world.' From this it was inferred he did
not believe in a future state, nor in anything beyond this life. Of
course, among the followers of a new faith, liberal and broad in its
views, continued fresh developments of belief must be expected; and with
reference to the idea that the Babis think not of a hereafter, I was
told that they believe in the re-incarnation of the soul, the good after
death returning to life and happiness, the bad to unhappiness. A Babi,
in speaking of individual pre-existence, said to me, 'You believe in a
future state; why, then, should you not believe in a pre-existent state?
Eternity is without beginning and without end,' This idea of
re-incarnation, generally affecting all Babis, is, of course, an
extension of the original belief regarding the re-incarnation of the
Bab, and the eighteen disciple-prophets who compose the sacred college
of the sect.

Some time ago signs began to appear of a general feeling that the
persecution of the Babis must cease. Many in high places see this, and
probably say it, and their sympathy becomes known. At one time a high
Mohammedan Church dignitary speaks regarding tolerance and progress in a
manner which seems to mean that he sees no great harm in the new sect.
Then a soldier, high in power and trust, refers to the massacres of
Babis in 1890 and 1891 as not only cruel acts, but as acts of insane
folly, 'for,' he said, 'to kill a Babi is like cutting down a
chenar-tree, from the root of which many stems spring up, and one
becomes many.' Then a Moulla, speaking of the necessity of a more humane
treatment of the Babis, and others of adverse creeds, says that he looks
for the time when all conditions of men will be equally treated, and all
creeds and classes be alike before the law. Omar Khayyam, the
astronomer-poet of Persia, who wrote about eight hundred years ago, gave
open expression to the same liberal-minded views, urging tolerance and
freedom for all religious creeds and classes.

The last murderous mob attack led by Moullas against the Babis occurred
at Yezd in April, 1891. It was probably an outcome of the Babi massacre
which had taken place at Isfahan the previous year, and which, owing to
the fiercely hostile attitude of the priests, was allowed to pass
unnoticed by any strong public condemnation. On that occasion a party of
the sect, pursued by an excited and blood-thirsty mob, claimed the
'sanctuary' of foreign protection in the office of the Indo-European
Telegraph Company, and found asylum there. Negotiations were opened with
the Governor of the town, who arranged for a safe conduct to their homes
under military escort. Trusting to this, the refugees quitted the
telegraph-office, but had not proceeded far before they were beset by a
furious crowd, and as the escort offered no effectual resistance, the
unfortunates were murdered in an atrociously cruel manner. The Shah's
anger was great on hearing of this shameful treachery, but as the
Governor pleaded powerlessness from want of troops, and helplessness
before the fanaticism of the frenzied mob led by Moullas, the matter was
allowed to drop.

Considering the great numbers of Babis all over Persia, and the ease
with which membership can be proved, it strikes many observers as
strange that murderous outbreaks against them are not more frequent. The
explanation is that, besides the accepted Babis, there is a vast number
of close sympathizers, between whom and the declared members of the sect
there is but one step, and a continued strong persecution would drive
them into the ranks of the oppressed. It might then be found that the
majority was with the Babis, and this fear is a fact which, irrespective
of other arguments, enables the influential and liberal-minded Moullas
to control their headstrong and over-zealous brethren.

The isolated outbreaks that do occur are generally produced by personal
animosity and greed of gain. Just as has been known in other countries
where a proscribed religion was practised in secret, and protection
against persecution and informers secured by means of money, so in many
places the Babis have made friends in this manner out of enemies.
Individuals sometimes are troubled by the needy and unscrupulous who
affect an excess of religious zeal, but these desist on their terms
being met. Occasionally in a settlement of bazaar trading-accounts, the
debtor, who is a Mohammedan, being pressed by his creditor, whom he
knows to be a Babi, threatens to denounce him publicly in order to avoid

I witnessed an instance of 'sanctuary' asylum being claimed in the
stable of one of the foreign legations at Tehran by a well-known
Persian merchant, a Babi, who fled for his life before the bazaar
ruffians to whom his debtor had denounced him, urging them to smite and
slay the heretic. It was believed that the practice of black-mailing the
Babis was such a well-known successful one at Yezd that some of the low
Mohammedans of the town tried to share in the profits and were
disappointed. This, it was said, led to the massacre which occurred
there in April, 1891.

The Babis, notwithstanding divergence of opinion on many points, yet
attend the mosques and the Moulla teachings, and comply with all the
outward forms of religion, in order to avert the anger which continued
absence from the congregation would draw upon them from hostile and
bigoted neighbours. Two of them were suddenly taxed in the Musjid with
holding heterodox opinions, and were then accused of being Babis. The
discussion was carried outside and into the bazaar, the accusers loudly
reviling and threatening them. They were poor, and were thus unable to
find protectors at once. When being pressed hard by an excited mob which
had collected on the scene, an over-zealous friend came to their aid,
and said, 'Well, if they are Babis, what harm have they done to anyone?'

On this the tumult began, and the ferocity of the fanatical crowd rose
to blood-heat. The sympathizer was seized, and as the gathering grew,
the opportunity to gratify private animosity and satisfy opposing
interests was taken advantage of, and three other Babis were added,
making six in all who were dragged before the Governor to be condemned
as members of an accursed sect. The Moullas urged them to save their
lives by cursing the Bab, but they all refused. The wives and children
of some of them were sent for so that their feelings might be worked
upon to renounce their creed and live, but this had no effect in shaking
their resolution. When told that death awaited them, they replied that
they would soon live again. When argued with on this point of their
belief, they merely said that they could not say how it was to be, but
they knew it would be so. They were then given over to the cruel mob,
and were hacked to death, firm in their faith to the last.

The temptation to make away with others in a similar manner produced
two more victims during the night, but these the Governor tried to save
by keeping them in custody. The brutal mob, however, howled for their
blood, and made such an uproar that the weak Governor, a youth of
eighteen, surrendered them to a cruel death, as he had done the others.
These two, like their brethren, refused to curse the Bab and live.

The Moullas have ever been defeated in their efforts to produce
recantation from a Babi, and it is this remarkable steadfastness in
their faith which has carried conviction into the hearts of many that
the sect is bound to triumph in the end. The thoughtful say admiringly
of them, as the Romans said of the Christians, whom they in vain doomed
to death under every form of terror, 'What manner of men are these, who
face a dreadful death fearlessly to hold fast to their faith?' An
instance is mentioned of a Babi who did recant in order to escape the
martyr's death, but he afterwards returned to his faith, and suffered
calmly the death he had feared before.

The Moullas who led the Yezd massacre desired to associate the whole
town in the crime, and called for the illumination of the bazaars in
token of public joy. The order for this was given, but the Governor was
warned in time to issue a countermand. It was found by the state of
public feeling, and told to those in authority, who were able to realize
the danger, that, as one-half or more of the shopkeepers were Babis,
they would not have illuminated, for to have done so would imply
approval of the murders and denial of their faith. Their determination
to refuse to join in the demonstration of joy would have roused further
mob fury, and the whole body of Babis, impelled by the instinct of
self-preservation, would have risen to defend themselves.

The late Shah was deeply troubled and pained on hearing of this cruel
massacre, and removed the Governor, who was his own grandson (being the
eldest son of his Royal Highness the Zil-es-Sultan), notwithstanding the
excuses urged in his favour, that the priestly power which roused the
mob was too strong for him to act and prevent the murders. It is
probable that the Government is assured of the peaceful nature of the
Babi movement as it now exists; and with the orders to put an end to
persecution, supported in some degree by popular feeling, we may hope
to hear no more of such crimes as were committed at Isfahan and Yezd in
1890 and 1891.

The Babi reform manifests an important advance upon all previous modern
Oriental systems in its treatment of woman. Polygamy and concubinage are
forbidden, the use of the veil is discouraged, and the equality of the
sexes is so thoroughly recognised that one, at least, of the nineteen
sovereign prophets must always be a female. This is a return to the
position of woman in early Persia, of which Malcolm speaks when he says
that Quintus Curtius told of Alexander not seating himself in the
presence of Sisygambis till told to do so by that matron, because it was
not the custom in Persia for sons to sit in presence of their mother.
This anecdote is quoted to show the great respect in which the female
sex were held in Persia at the time of Alexander's invasion, and which
also was regarded as one of the principal causes of the progress the
country had made in civilization. The Parsees to this day conduct
themselves on somewhat similar lines, and though we have not the
opportunities of judging of maternal respect which were allowed to the
Greeks, yet the fact of the same custom being shown in a father's
presence at the present time seems to point to the rule of good manners
to mothers being yet observed. And we know, from what happened on the
death of Mohamed Shah in 1848, that a capable woman is allowed by public
opinion to exercise openly a powerful influence in affairs of State at a
critical time when wise counsels are required. The Queen-mother at that
time became the president of the State Council, and cleverly succeeded
in conciliating adverse parties and strengthening the Government, till
the position of the young Shah, the late Sovereign, was made secure.

For a long time Russia and England were regarded as the only great
Powers really interested in the future of Persia; but within the last
few years it has been observed that Turkey, in showing an intention to
consolidate her power in the Baghdad and Erzeroum pashaliks, was likely
to be in a position to renew old claims on the Persian border. France
has also lately increased her interest in Persia, and Germany has now
entered the field of enterprise there in the practical manner of
improving the road from Khani Kin, on the Turkish frontier, to Tehran,
connecting it with a road from Baghdad. It will probably be found that
this road-scheme belongs to the company under German auspices who are
now constructing a railway which is ultimately to connect Baghdad with
the Bosphorus, and part of which is already working. The trunk-line
passes by Angora, Kaisarieh, Diarbekr, Mardin, and Mosul; and a
loop-line leaves it at Eski Shehr, which, going by Konia, Marasch, and
Orfa, rejoins it at Diarbekr.

There was an idea that, as Konia is a most promising field for the
production of exports, the Smyrna lines competed so eagerly for the
concession to extend there that the Porte was enabled to make terms with
the Anatolian Railway Company (to which I have alluded) for the
extension to Baghdad, which strategically is of great importance. It was
said that the strong competition placed the Government in the position
of the man in the Eastern story who went to the bazaar to sell an old
camel, and a young cat of rare beauty. The cat was shown off sitting on
the camel, and was desired by many purchasers; but there was no bid for
the camel. The competition for the cat ran high, and then the owner
announced that the one could not be sold without the other, on which the
camel was bought with the cat. But as a matter of fact there was no
opening for competition for the Konia branch. The Anatolian Railway had
preferential rights for what is called the southern or loop line, which
I have mentioned as passing through Konia, and rejoining the main or
northern line at Diarbekr. They also have preferential rights of
extension to Baghdad, and they mean to carry the line there.

The Smyrna Aidin railway has lately had a considerable improvement in
its traffic, from the barley of Asia Minor being in increased demand in
addition to its wheat. This means that the material for the beer as well
as the bread of the masses elsewhere is found to be abundant and cheap
there, and the extension of railway communication in those regions will
most probably increase the supply and demand. The same trade in barley
has lately sprung up in Southern Persia and Turkish Arabia, and for some
time past, while the low price of wheat discouraged the existing wheat
trade there, it has been found profitable to export barley from the
Gulf ports. Barley is the cheapest grain in Persia, where it is grown
for home consumption only, being the universal food for horses. Owing to
want of care with the seed, and the close vicinity of crops, the wheat
was often so mixed with barley as to reduce the price considerably, and
the question of mixture and reduction was always a very stormy one. When
I was at Ahwaz, on the Karun, in 1890, I saw a machine at work
separating the grains, and the Arab owners waiting to take away the
unsaleable barley, the wheat being bought for export by a European firm
there which owned the machine. The Arab sellers probably now move to the
other side of the machine to carry away the unsaleable wheat, the barley
being bought for export owing to the turn of trade.

The German group that has obtained the Persian road concession has also
taken up the old project of an extension of the Tehran tramways to the
villages on the slopes of the Shimran range, all within a distance of

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