Page:Frederic Shoberl - Persia.djvu/29

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22
PERSIA.

dred inhabitants. A darogah, appointed by the beylerbey or governor of Ispahan, is charged with the office of fleecing these wretched people for the benefit of his master; and it is natural to suppose that he does not neglect his own interest. The tribute which they pay amounts to 15,000 toomauns, (a toomaun is equal to about eighteen shillings) and as much more is squeezed out of them by extortions. Some Armenians are likewise to be met with in Adherbijan, and in the districts of Meragah, Ourmiah, Sahnas, Tabriz, Carabagh, and Erivan. Their total number is computed at 60,000 souls, which perhaps exceeds the truth.

The Catholic churches of Nakshivan, and other places in Persian Armenia, no longer exist: the Catholics who live in the kingdom are in very small number, and are natives of India or Turkey.

It is the lot of the Jews in Persia, as in all the rest of the East, to live in degradation, poverty, and contempt. There are Jews at Ispahan, at Shiraz, and at Kashan, in Adherbijan: their number in these different places is estimated at about 35,000. Poverty depresses them more and more, and familiarizes them with vice and infamy. Some of them are artisans brokers, and usurers; the rest live by selling wines, procuring women, and all sorts of intrigues. Many addict themselves to medicine and magic; and as the populace of all countries have a great deal of credulity, and the Persians, high and low, are subject to that disease of the mind, they derive a great profit from their impostures. The Jewesses gain admittance into the seraglios of which they are the oracles. From them beauty purchases the art and the means of withstanding the ravages of time; the coquette, the gift of pleasing and of exciting love in her tyrant; the female solicitous to become a mother, the speedy accomplishment of her wishes. They also foretell future events, and sell potions possessing virtues of all kinds, to produce love and hatred, to ruin a rival, and so forth.

These Jews are the most ignorant in the world. Travellers distinguish two classes of them: the one descended from the wretched Samaritan captives, whom the Assyrians carried from Judea during the reign of Hosea, king of Israel, and who were dispersed over Media and Parthia; the other from the Jews who were led into captivity to Babylon. Both wear external marks by which they may be known: these are caps of a particular colour, or square patches of cloth of a different hue from their garments. At Ispahan the Jews are not permitted to wear cloth stockings.