Page:Frederic Shoberl - Persia.djvu/31

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24
PERSIA.

in a short time found his ranks swelled with innumerable Turcomans and Usbecks, whom success drew to his standard. In 1752, he was master not only of Mazanderan, but also of Tabaristan and Ghilan. The same year he defeated Kerim Khan, and established his authority over the provinces contiguous to the Caspian Sea. A second victory, in 1756, put him in possession of Ispahan, where he found young Ismail, of the family of the Sofis, who had been invested with the title of Shah, and declared himself his protector. From that period it was apparently not self-interest by which he was actuated: he was influenced by a nobler sentiment, which prompted him to restore the crown to the family of the Sofis. About this time, Asad, another rebel, who had made himself master of several towns of Irak, retired to Georgia, and his flight put Mohammed Khan in possession of Adherbijan and Irak Adjemi. The Cadjar prince even found himself strong enough to march against Shiraz, the seat of Kerim Khan's power. His army amounted to 80,000 men, though he had left 10,000 at Ispahan, and 10,000 more were distributed in the provinces. Never since Nadir's time had any chieftain been able to collect so formidable a force; but Mohammed Khan's successes had so inflated him with pride, as to render him intolerably arrogant. He was detested by the officers; and the people, bowed down by his tyrannical yoke, and daily subjected to fresh oppressions, loaded him with execrations. Kerim Khan availed himself of this disposition to bribe his troops to desert. In a short time Mohammed had about him but a hand-full of Cadjars, with whom he fled with the utmost precipitation to Asterabad. This happened in 1758. In consequence of this reverse, Mohammed lost Ispahan and all the towns of Irak and Adherbijan, so that his possessions were reduced to the single province of Mazanderan, which is naturally defended by lofty mountains and by defiles, where a small number of men may keep in check a whole army. Treachery smoothed these obstacles to Kerim's general. Sheik Ali, a brave man and able negotiator, contrived, by means of promises, money, and dignities, to bribe the officer to whom Mohammed had committed the defence of the passes. Mohammed, surprised in the very heart of his country, resisted in vain: all he could do, was to maintain the military reputation which he had acquired, by selling his life at a dear rate; he was nevertheless defeated and slain, and his head was carried to Kerim. His death checked for some time the prosperity of the Cadjars; for Sheik Ali not only possessed himself of the treasures of the vanquished chieftain, but carried away his six sons as hostages to Ispahan. A circumstance which would appear unaccountable to a person unacquainted with Persian politics, is, that sixteen years after this