Page:Frederic Shoberl - Persia.djvu/21

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emblance to that of Noah, who divided the earth between his three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japbet.

Whatever hand the imagination or the national vanity of the Persians may have had in this etymology, so much at least is certain, that the term Iran is of very high antiquity: it occurs in the Sassanian inscriptions on the monuments of Nakshee Roustam, in the sacred books of the Parsees, where it is sometimes written Earaneh, and is probably the Eilam of the Bible, a name which seems to designate Persia.

We have no authentic information at what period the communication between Persia and Hindoostan alluded to above was broken off, no doubt in consequence of one of those revolutions so frequent in this country. The last, occasioned by the fall of the Sofys, (a dynasty thus named because it was established by Ismael, a monk of the order of the Sofys) was protracted from the commencement of the eighteenth century to 1799: in that year Baba-Khan was acknowledged king by the name of Feth-Ali Shah, at Teheran, the present capital of Persia, situated in the province of Mazanderan, about forty miles from the Caspian Sea. He seated himself on a throne raised by his uncle Aga Mohammed, who, however, was unable to extend Iran to its ancient limits: for the present dynasty of the Cadjars, a wandering tribe which roves with its numerous herds in the vast uncultivated plains of Persia, does not possess the whole of the countries subject to the unfortunate dynasty of the Sofys, which became extinct in 1739, in the person of Abbas III. whom Nadir Shah put to death after making a tool of him to promote his own ambitious views. Three extensive provinces, each of which would form a kingdom, Khorasan, Candahar, and Georgia, have been rent from the empire. It must, however, be admitted that the sovereigns of Iran never were in peaceable possession of the two out of these three provinces, which now seem to be irrecoverably lost to their sceptre. It is well known with what obstinacy the Grand Moguls contested the possession of Candahar with the Persians, who were not always successful enough to repulse the Indian armies. An officer of the too renowned Nadir Shah, restored harmony between the competitors. Ahmed Shah, having made himself master of that mountains province and the adjacent countries, there founded the kingdom of the Afghans, which is daily becoming more enlarged and consolidated. In the west, Georgia, situated between Turkey and Persia, had been ever since the loss of its independence, a bone of contention with those two powers. Weary of their incursions and their endless quarrels, the nominal prince of that ill-fated country threw himself into the arms of Russia. Heraclius in 1783 declared Paul I. his heir, and according to this dis-