Page:Frederic Shoberl - Persia.djvu/26

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.

(19)

CHAPTER III.

POPULATION—NAMES, MANNERS AND CUSTOMS OF SOME OF THE TRIBES OF PERSIA.

Persia has been overrun alternately by the Gaznevides, the Karizmians, Togrul's Seljuks, Jenghis Khan's Moguls, Tamerlane's Tartars, the Turcomans, the Usbecks, the Afghans, the Courds, &c. These successive invasions could not fail to produce such a mixture in the population, that it would now be difficult to find the Persian blood in its original purity.

Chardin estimated the population of Persia at forty millions of souls: Kinnier considers this number as overrate and doubts whether the space between the Euphrates and Indus could furnish more than eighteen or twenty millions. This population, be its number what it will, may be divided into two classes: the stationary inhabitants, or those resident in towns and villages, and the migratory or wandering tribes.

The native Persians, who style themselves That or Tadjik, are a medley of all nations, Arabs, Guebres, and Jews, who have voluntarily or by compulsion embraced the religion of Mahomet.

The Eelauts, or wandering tribes, constitute the military force and the most considerable part of the population of the empire: their chiefs; to whom they are blindly devoted, form its hereditary nobility. They are mostly of Turkish origin, speak the Turkish language, and retain the custom of their ancestors, the Scythians. The tribes of the southern provinces, such as the Bakhtiarees, the Faceelees, and the Mamassounees, date their origin from the most remote antiquity; and they may be considered as the descendants of those savage hordes which dwelt in the same parts in the time of Alexander. It appears that when they first settled in the kingdom, certain tracts were allotted to them for a limited time, and at a certain rent: long possession has given them a right of property, and their chiefs are regarded as the owners of the districts in which they reside.

Almost all these tribes lead a pastoral life. Some of them have fixed habitations, but they are mostly rovers. The latter, however, have districts to which they confine themselves. They live in tents surrounded with mats, and covered with coarse black cloth. In winter they reside in the plains; but in summer they move about in quest of pasturage, retiring during the intense heats to the summits and slopes of mountains. In winter some of these tribes, such as the Karaguzloo and the Afshars, dwell in villages. In Daghistan, at Asterabad, and in the