Page:Frederic Shoberl - Persia.djvu/75

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It was to its cavalry that Persia in ancient times owed its military glory, and it still constitutes the chief force of the kingdom. The Persian is less ostentatious in the harness of his horse than the Turk. Luxury has given place to utility and convenience. Nadir Shah substituted to the Arabian stirrups and bit, a very simple bridle and iron stirrups. The Persian saddle, though lighter than that of the Turks and Mamelukes, is not broad enough in the seat: it requires great practice to keep upon it, especially as the stirrups also are very narrow.

All the troops are in the immediate service of the king. They are commonly divided into regiments of one thousand men, commanded by a Membashee, then into hundreds over whom is a Yoozbashee, and then into tens under an Oonbashee which literally signify, chief of a thousand, of one hundred, and of ten. The Khan of the tribe commands the whole. Each regiment has its standard. These standards are of every colour, and of every sort of rich stuff, and cut to a point. They bear for a motto, either the Mahometan profession of faith, or a passage of the Koran; and many of them display a lion with a rising sun, or the dzou'lfecar, or two-edged sword of Ali. It is a point of honour with them, as with our troops, to preserve the standard from falling into the hands of an enemy. The bearer of it is styled Alemdar. The Alemdar-bashee, or chief standard-bearer, is an important personage in the military hierarchy of the Persians.

It is inconceivable, says Mr. Scott Waring, with what ease an army in Persia is collected. In times of anarchy and confusion, every man who can purchase arms is a soldier. They flock to the nearest standard of rebellion, and retire on the approach of an enemy to their homes. They assemble to plunder, not to fight, and feel no compunction in deserting a chieftain who can no longer countenance their depredations. Many persons are reduced to the necessity of becoming soldiers; they have been plundered of their all, and therefore join the army in the hope of retrieving their losses. An army in Persia is nothing but an immense baud of robbers, who are only held together by the expectation of plunder: success commands their services; they support no particular cause, but join the chief, whose affairs appear the most prosperous. The only tie upon their fidelity is the possession of their wives and families, or the influence which their commanders may have among them. The first is probably very inconsiderable, and the later even more so, for the interest of the commander and his troops will be the same, and they are both actuated by the same principles. The danger of a military life in Persia does not deserve mention; and as the ad-