Page:Discovery and Decipherment of the Trilingual Cuneiform Inscriptions.djvu/41

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Symon de Morales became its prior and applied himself to the acquisition of the Persian language. Soon after the union of the Portuguese and Spanish thrones, Philip II. instructed the Viceroy of the Indies to send an envoy to the King of Persia in order to settle the details of the commercial intercourse which had arisen between the two countries, and no one was better qualified to undertake the task than Morales, upon whom the selection fell (1583). The route from Ormuz to Ispahan, then the capital of Persia, passed within a short distance of Persepolis; and it is to the long succession of envoys who travelled that way that we are in great measure indebted for our knowledge of these ruins and the mysterious characters engraven upon their walls.

The missions took place chiefly in the reign of Shah Abbas (1587-1628), a monarch whose alliance against the Turk was eagerly sought for by the European powers. He had not only distinguished himself in the early part of his reign by considerable military capacity, but had evinced a strong desire to develop the commercial resources of his country. Indeed, he was as much of a merchant as a soldier. He was the chief, if not the sole, owner of the silk industry, and he sought to attract the merchants of all nations by permitting the freest competition among them. He did everything in his power to render the country agreeable to strangers. He erected sumptuous caravansaries for their accommodation upon the road. He made travelling even in remote districts absolutely safe, by the slaughter, it was said, of twenty thousand robbers. He received men of all nationalities and of the most diverse creeds with equal hospitality. He even sought to attract skilled artisans from Europe to instruct his subjects, and he caused his palaces to be decorated by foreign artists. The period of his reign was peculiarly favourable for the execution