Page:Frederic Shoberl - Persia.djvu/186

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159
PERSIA.

people, whose naturalization so speedily enriched the kingdom, now live in deplorable indigence, and the remnant of them is daily dwindling away. Julfa is still their principal abode; but instead of the 3400 houses which it could boast in the days of Shah Abbas, at present it can scarcely reckon 300. The vast extent of the ruins which surround it, and the remains of magnificence still apparent in the walls of some of its former houses, confirm the accounts given by Chardin and other travellers of its ancient splendour. Though the few Armenians who still remain, have had a great patron in the present prime minister, who, while he held the post of Ameen-ad-dowlah and governor of Ispahan, encouraged others to settle at Julfa, yet there is an appearance of misery about them, which indicates a want of confidence in the government under which they live.

Their principal church is a fine building, handsomely ornamented within, and, what is esteemed a great privilege in Mahometan countries, enjoys the use of a bell. Some of their other churches, for notwithstanding the smallness of their community, they still have twelve, also have bells: but others, as well as that belonging to the convent of nuns, have only a board suspended between two wooden pillars, which is beaten by a mallet to call the people to prayers.

The Armenians profess a Christianity differing but little from that of the Roman Catholics. Like the latter, they have seven sacraments; but they deny the existence of Purgatory, though they offer up prayers for the dead.

The tombs of the Armenians are generally composed of one oblong block of black stone, with an inscription, and frequently an emblematical designation of the trade or profession of the deceased sculptured upon them. Thus, if a carpenter, a saw and hammer are designed; if a tailor, his shears and measure; and if a learned man, a book and reading-board.

The persons of the present Armenians of Persia, whether male or female, possess nothing of the dignity or sweetness which mark their Persian neighbours. So lamentably has neglect quenched their spirit, and their consequent self-abasement degraded their forms and features, that they could not be known for the same race whose ancestors sat at the same board with Shah Abbas.

The costume of the men nearly resembles that generally worn by the Persians: but the women differ considerably in theirs from the fashions of the Mahometan ladies. The Armenians bind their heads with silk handkerchiefs of various colours, the ends falling loose down the back; and under this sort of head-mantle they wear another kerchief of white linen, which passes behind the ears over the chin and hangs down on the breast. When