Page:Frederic Shoberl - Persia.djvu/65

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year. In this respect, the dignity must be of very high antiquity, as its origin must date a,t least so far back as the time of Ahasuerus



This post we place among the highest dignitaries, not so much on account of its rank as its importance. The reader may recollect what has already been said concerning the extreme dryness of the soil in Persia. There the least rill is a blessing of heaven; the smallest reservoir for collecting rain-water, a treasure which each would strive to appropriate to himself exclusively, did not government regulate the distribution of its contents. The meer-aub is the agent appointed by the supreme power to superintend this distribution of the water of the rivers or springs, which made monthly, in the following manner.

On the canal which conducts the water into the field, is put a circular bowl of very thin copper, with a small hole in the middle: at this hole, the water slowly enters. When the bowl sinks to the bottom, the measure is complete. This operation is repeated till the necessary quantity is furnished. The proprietor pays in proportion to the number of bowls thus filled. The price of the water varies according to the nature and situation. River water is dearer than spring water.

Each province has its meer-aub, under whom there are numerous agents for conducting streams from district to district, and from field to field. His income is immense, for his extortion has no other bounds than his avarice. His favour is of greater importance to the cultivator of the soil than that of the prime minister. His patronage is therefore purchased, and his probity is assailed in a thousand ways by those who are solicitous to obtain a little more water than their neighbours, or to induce him to change the direction of a canal.



The kingdom of Persia is at present divided into several extensive departments, over which are placed princes of the blood, who have under them officers with the title of Beylerbey, or Bey of Beys. They are also styled Arkan-ad-dowlah, or pillars of the empire.

The Beylerbey hold the first rank in the empire, after the Itimad and the Ameen-ad-dowlah; nay, they are more powerful than those ministers, for they are absolute in their governments,' frequently resist the royal authority, and in some provinces actu-