Page:Frederic Shoberl - Persia.djvu/28

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PERSIA.

them offices at his court, that he may hold some pledge for the fidelity of their tribes: and as they are in general extremely jealous, and of a martial disposition, he consults his own security, and that of the empire, by habitually fomenting quarrels among them, and keeping their power nicely balanced. The son commonly succeeds his father in his dignity; but if he proves himself unworthy of it, it is transferred to the younger brother.

It has been just observed, that the military force of Persia resides in these tribes: their fondness for war, and their intrepidity, form the safeguard of the kingdom, when it is not convulsed by the spirit of rebellion, which too often seizes them. They all pay tribute, and are bound to furnish the king with succours in the wars in which he is engaged: each tribe being obliged to assemble at the first summons, and to bring into the field a quota proportionate to its number. To establish some order in regard to this point, a register, containing the number and names of the persons belonging to each tribe, is kept at court. Towards the festival of the No-rooz, the chiefs come to take the king's orders; if he requires their services for the year which is then about to commence, they remain in the royal camp: if he has no occasion for them, each contingent returns to its district, and receives its stipulated pay. This practice has existed from time immemorial.

Let us now proceed to the nations not of the Mahometan religion, dwelling in Persia. The Guebres are a remnant of the ancient Persians, who have retained the fire-worship and the doctrine of Zoroaster, amid all the revolutions which have so frequently changed the face of their country. In Chardin's time, but a small number of them remained: the late wars have nearly completed their extermination: the villages which they inhabited to the south of Ispahan are swept away, and a few families, which escaped death, have sought refuge at Yezd, and in Kerman. Kinnier informs us, that there are still at Yezd four hundred Guebre families, who groan under the tyranny of Persian agents. Each family pays a capitation-tax of twenty piastres, and is nevertheless liable to all sorts of extortions.

The Christians settled in Persia, are mostly Armenian schismatics, and chiefly dwell in the northern provinces. Their patriarch resides at the convent of Etschamiazin, near Erivan. These Armenians, so opulent under the Sofys, and especially under Abbas the Great, who planted a colony of them at Julfa, a suburb of Ispahan—the same people who had at one time nearly monopolized the commerce of all Persia and part of its manufactures—now lead most of them a vagrant life, bowed down by oppression and indigence. Julfa, formerly so populous, is now but a heap of ruins, and contains no more than five hun-