1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Albania (Caucasus)

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

ALBANIA, the ancient name of a district in the eastern Caucasus, consisting, according to Strabo (xi. 4. 1-8), of the valley of the Cyrus (Kur) and the land lying between it and the Caucasus range from Iberia to the Caspian Sea, i. e. the modern Shirvan. In reality the Albani inhabited also the mountain valleys and the land to the north towards Sarmatia, the modern Daghestan (Pliny vi. 39). Dionysius of Halicarnassus quotes a tradition that the name arose from the alleged fact that the people were the descendants of emigrants from Alba in Italy, but it would seem that the race was of Lesghian (not Georgian) descent. Strabo describes them as tall, well made, and in character simple and honest; he says that payment was in kind and that the people could not count beyond a hundred. They worshipped the sun, and more particularly the moon, the latter being perhaps identical with the great Nature Goddess of Asia Minor(see Great Mother of the Gods), and believed in soothsaying and the virtue of human sacrifice. Old age was held in high honour, but it was sacrilege to speak, or even to think, of the dead. The race was nomadic, and lived on the abundant natural fruits of the land. In Strabo’s time they appear to have been ruled by a single king, though previously there were twenty-six, each one ruling over a community distinct only in point of language. The Albani became known to the Romans during Pompey’s pursuit of Mithradates the Great (65 B.C.), against which they are said to have opposed a force of 60,000 foot and 20,000 cavalry. Pompey exacted from them a nominal submission, but their independence was not seriously affected by the Romans. In the reign of Hadrian their territory was invaded by the Alani (Th. Mommsen, Provinces of the Roman Empire, Eng. trans., 1886), and later they fell under the Sassanid rule. They were driven finally into Armenia by the Khazars, and ceased to exist as a separate people. The district subsequently suffered under the successive invasions of Huns, Varangians (who captured the chief town Barda in the 10th century) and Mongols. (See Caucasia, History; Armenia.)