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Ruins of ancient cities : with general and particular accounts of their rise, fall, and present condition (Volume 1) online

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* Pliny the younger ;Encycl. Rees, Metrop. ; Brewster ; Dupaty ; Eustace.



THIS was a town in Syria, near the Kuj>hrati .-.
deriving its name from the number of its trmj
It abounded in not springs; and those gave origin tn
the following fable : " The shepherd port ivhitrs,
after mentioning a case in Phrygia, sacred to tin-
nymphs, that near these springs Luna had once de-
scended from the sky to Endymion, while he was
sleeping by the herds; that marks of their bed wriv
then extant under the oaks; and in the thick<-t>
around it the milk of cows had been spilt, whieh
man still beheld with admiration (for such was the
appearance if you saw it afar off) ; but that from
thence flowed clear and warm water, which in a little
time concreted round the channel, and formed a stone

The deity most worshipped in ancient times in
this city, and indeed throughout all Phoenicia, was
the goddess Astarte, called in Scripture the Queen of
Heaven and the goddess of the Sidonians.

Dr. Chandler and his friend Mr. Revett ascended
to the ruins, which are in a flat, passing by sepulchres
with inscriptions, and entering from the east. They
had soon the theatre on the right hand ; and opposite
to it, near the margin of the cliff, are the remains of an
ancient structure, once perhaps baths, or as was con-
jectured, a gymnasium ; the huge vaults of the roof
striking horror as they rode underneath. Beyond is
the mean ruin of a modern fortress ; and farther on
are massive walls of edifices, several of them leaning
from their perpendicular, the stones disjointed, ana
seeming every moment ready to fall the effects and
evidences of repeated earthquakes.

In a recess of the mountain, on the right side, is
the area of a stadium. Then again sepulchres suc-
ceed ; gome nearly buried in the mountain side, and

* Plin. v. c. 26. Ptolcm. v. c. 15.


one, a square building, with an inscription with largo

The theatre appears to have been a very large and
sumptuous structure : part of the front is still stand-
ing. In the heap, which lies in confusion, are many
sculptures, well executed in basso-relievo, with pieces
of architecture inscribed, but disjoined, or so incum-
bered with massive marbles, that no information
could be gathered from them. The character is large
and bold, with ligatures. The marble seats are still
unremoved. The numerous ranges are divided by a
low semicircular wall, near the midway, with in-
scriptions, on one of which Apollo Archegetes (or
the Leader) is requested to be propitious. In another
compartment, mention is made of the city by its
name ; and a third is an encomium, in verse. " Hail,
golden city, Hierapolis, the spot to be preferred be-
fore any in wide Asia ; revered for the rills of the
nymphs ; adorned with splendour." In some of the
inscriptions the people are styled " the most splen-
did," and the senate "the most powerful."

Hierapolis was not so magnificent as Laodiceft ; but
still it was a splendid place ; and, like its neighbour
city, is now almost " an utter desolation*."


" In the territory of Istakhar is a great building,
with statues carved in stone ; and there, also, are in-
scriptions and paintings. It teas said that this was a
temple of /Solomon, to whom be peace ! and that it was
built by the Dives, or Demons : similar edifices
are in /Syria, and Baalbeck, and in Egypt" EBN

THE origin of Isfahan is not to be traced with any
certainty. It is, however, for the most part, supposed

* Ptolemy ; Pliuy ; Pococke; Chandler.


to have arisen from the ruins of Ilecatompylos,* the
capital of r.irthi;i. This city was the royal n -Mem
of Arsaces, and it was situated at the springs of tin-
Araxes. Whatever may have been the origin of tlii
city, it is universally admitted that the situation of
it, topographically, and centrically with n^ard tu the
empire, is admirably adapted fora royal residence ami
capitalt. 'It stands on the river Zeinderood; and
has been celebrated as a city of consequence from the
time in which it was first noted in history*; and that
is, we believe, at the period in which it was taken
possession of by Ardisheer, who, soon after, was pro -
claimed king of Persia ; and was considered by his
countrymen as the restorer of that great empire,
which had been created by Cyrus and lost by Darius.

This prince was so great a sovereign, that it gives
pleasure to note some of his sayings: "When
a king is just, his subjects must love him, and continue
obedient : but the worst of all sovereigns is he whom
the wealthy, and not the wicked, fear." "There
can be no power without an army ; no army without
money ; no money without agriculture ; no agricul-
ture without justice." " A furious lion is better than
an unjust king : but an unjust king is not so bad as

* Thi was an epithet given to Crete, from the 100 cities which
it once contained : alto to Thebes in Egypt, on account of its 100
gates. The territory of Laconia had the same epithet for the same
rea*ou that Thebes had ; and it was the custom of these 100 cities
to sacrifice a hecatomb every year.

f- Sir John Malcolm.

* The boundaries of Iran, which Etiropenns call Persia, have
undergone many changes. The limits of the kingdom in its most
prosperous periods may, however, be easily described. The Persian
Gulf, or Indian Ocean, to the south ; the Indies and the Oxus to
the cast and north-east ; the Caspian Sea and Mount Caucasus to
the north ; and the river Euphrates to the west. The most
striking features of this extensive country, are numerous chains of
mountains, and large tracts of desert ; amid which are interspersed
bcautif:il valleys and rich pastnrc lands. SIR JOHN Mu


a long and unjust war." Never forget," said he, on
his death-bed, to his son, " that, as a king, you are
at once the protector of religion and of your country.
Consider the altar and throne as inseparable ; they
must always sustain each other. A sovereign without
religion is a tyrant ; and a people who have none
may be deemed the most monstrous of all societies.
Religion may exist without a state; but a state
cannot exist without religion ; and it is by holy laws
that a political association can alone be bound. You
should be to your people an example of piety and of
virtue, but without pride or ostentation." After a
few similar lessons, he concluded in the following
manner : " Remember, my son, that it is the pros-
perity or adversity of the ruler, which forms the
happiness or misery of his subjects ; and that the
fate of the nation depends upon the conduct of the
individual who fills the throne. The world is exposed
to constant vicissitudes : learn, therefore, to meet the
frowns of Fortune with courage and fortitude, and
to receive her smiles with moderation and wisdom.
To sum up all : May your administration be such as
to bring, at a future day, the blessings of those whom
God has confided to our paternal care, upon both your
memory and mine."

A. D. 1387, Isfahan surrendered to Timour. The
moment he pitched his camp before it, it yielded.
Satisfied with this ready submission, Timour com-
manded that the town should be spared, but that
a heavy contribution should be levied on the inhabit-
ants. This had been almost entirely collected, when
a young blacksmith, one under age, beat a small drum
for his amusement. A number of citizens, mistaking
this for an alarm, assembled, and became so irritated
from a communication to each other of the distress
they suffered, that they began an attack upon those
whom they considered the immediate cause of their
A A 2


misery; and, before nioniin^, nearly 8000 of tho

Tartars, who had boon quartered in tin- city,
slain. The rage of Timnur, when he heard of this,
exceeded all bounds. !! would therefore listen to
no terms of capitulation. He doomed Isfahan to be
an example to all other cities. The unfortunate
inhabitants knew what they had to expect, and made
all the resistance they could ; but in vain. The walls
were carried by storm ; and the cruel victor did not
merely permit pillage and slauphter, but commanded
that every soldier should bring him a certain number
of heads. Some of those, more humane than their
master, purchased the number allotted, rather than
become the executioners of unresisting men. It was
found impossible to compute all the slain ; but an
account was taken of 70,000 heads, which were
heaped in pyramids that were raised in monuments
of this horrid revenge.*

Isfahan attained its highest pitch and magnitude
in the time of Shah Abbas. It became the great
emporium of the Asiatic world ; and during his reign
nearly a million of people animated its streets, and
the equally flourishing peasantry of more than 1400
villages in its neighbourhood, supplied by their labour
the markets of this abundant population. t Industry,
diligence, activity, and negotiations, were seen and
heard everywhere. The caravans even were crowded
with merchants, and the shops with the merchandise
of Europe and Asia ; while the court of the great
Shah was the resort of ambassadors from the proudest
kingdoms, not only of the East but of the West.

I conquered the city of Isfahan, and I trusted in the people of
Isfahan, and I delivered the castle in their hands. And they
rebelled ; and the darogmh whom I had placed over them they slew,
with 3000 of the soldiers. And I alsu commanded that a general
slaughter should be made of the people of Isfahan. TIMOUR'S In-
stitutes, p. 119. MALCOLM'S Hist. Persia, vol. i. 461.

t Porter.


Travellers thronged thither from every part, not only
on affairs of business, but to behold the splendour of
the place.

In fact, it owes most of the glory it now possesses
to Shah Abbas, who, after the conquest of Lar and
Ormus. charmed with its situation, made it the
capital of his empire between 1620 and 1628 ; fer
the fertility of the soil, the mildness of the seasons,
and the fine temperature of the air, conspire, it is
said, to make Isfahan one of the most delightful cities
in the world. The waters of its two rivers, also,
are so sweet, pleasant, and wholesome, as to be almost
beyond comparison.

The splendours of Isfahan are described by Pietro
Delia Velle* and Chardin.t What they were would
occupy too large a space ; but we may judge of the
extent and nature of the public works by the cause-
way J this prince formed across the whole of Mazen-
deren, so as to render that difficult country passable
for armies and travellers at all seasons of the year.
He threw bridges over almost all the rivers of Persia.
He studied, we are told, beyond all former sovereigns,
the general welfare and improvement of his kingdom.
He fixed on the city of Ispahan as the capital of his
dominions; and its population was more than doubled
during his reign. Its principal mosque, the noble
palace of Chehel-Setoon, the beautiful avenues and
porticoes called Char Bagh, and several of the finest
palaces in the city and suburbs, were all built by this

In 1721 there was a great rebellion. A celebrated
traveller, who was on the spot, assures us, that the
inhabitants of one of the suburbs (Julfa, an Arme-

* Lett. ii. 1. 3. t vii. 273,486. viii. 2, 144.

J Sir John Kinncir says of this causeway : " It is in length about
300 miles. The pavement is now nearly in the same condition a
it was in the time of Hanway ; being perfect hi many places,
although it has hardly ever been repaired."


nian colony), not many years Ix-foiv, amounted t<>
thirty thousand souls. Be says, that some of the
streets were broad and handsome, and planted \\itli
trees, with canals, and fountains in the middle ;
others narrow and crooked, and arched at top; others
again, though extremely narrow, as well as turning
and winding many ways, were of an incredihle
length, and resembled so' many labyrinths ; that at
a small distance from the town there were public
walks adorned with plane-trees on either hand, and
ways paved with stones, fountains and cisterns : that
there were one hundred caravanserais for the use of
merchants and travellers, many of which were built
by the kings and prime nobility of Persia. He goes
on to state, that there was a castle in the eastern
part of the town, which the citizens looked upon as
impregnable, in which the public money and most of
the military stores were kept : but that, notwith-
standing the number of baths and caravanserais were
almost innumerable, there was not one public hos-
pital. All this was in the suburb of Julfa only. In
what condition is that suburb now ?

A. D. 1722, Mahmoud, chief of the Afghans, in-
vaded Persia, and laid siege to Isfahan. He was at
first repulsed and compelled to fall back ; in con-
sequence of which he made overtures. These the
citizens unfortunately rejected. Mahmoud, in con-
sequence, determined on laying waste the whole of
the neighbouring country. Wow the districts sur-
rounding Ispahan were, perhaps, the most fruitful in
the world, and art had done her utmost to assist
nature in adorning this delightful country. This
fairest of regions was doomed by Mahmoud to com-
plete ruin ! The task occupied his army more than
a month ; but the lapse of nearly a century has not
repaired what their barbarity effected in that period ;
and the fragments of broken canals, sterile fields, and


mounds of ruins, still mark the road with which
they laboured in the work of destruction.

A famine ensued in consequence of this, and the
inhabitants of Isfahan were reduced to despair. The
flesh of horses, camels, and mules, became so dear *,
that none but the king, some of the nobles, and the
wealthiest citizens, could afford to purchase. Though
the Persians abhor dogs as unclean, they ate gree-
dily of them, as well as of other forbidden ani-
mals. When these supplies were exhausted, they
fed not only upon the leaves and bark of trees,
but on leather, which they softened by boiling;
and when this was exhausted too, they began to
devour human flesh. Men, we are told, with their
eyes sunk, their countenances livid, and their bodies
feeble and emaciated with hunger, were seen in
crowds, endeavouring to protract a wretched ex-
istence by cutting pieces from the bodies of those
who had just expired. In many instances the
citizens slew each other, and parents murdered their
children to furnish the horrid meal. Some, more
virtuous, poisoned themselves and families, that they
might escape the guilt of preserving life by such
means. The streets, the squares, and even the royal
gardens, were covered with carcases ; and the river
Zainderand, which flowed through the city, became
so corrupted by dead bodies t, that it was hardly
possible to drink of its waters J. Overpowered with
his misfortunes, Shah Husseyn abdicated his throne
in favour of his persecutor.

* At one time a horse's carcase sold for one thousand crowns.

f Malcolm, Hist. Persia ; from Murza Mahdy.

J The horrors of this siege, equal to any recorded in ancient
history, have been described by the PolUh Jesuit Krurinski, who
personally witnessed them (see his History of the Revolution of
Persia, published by Pere du Cerceau) ; and they are noticed in the
" Histoire de Perse depuis le commencement de ce sicle" of M.
la Marnya Clairac, on authorities that cannot be disputed.


These events are related in Hneki '- Harmonies of
Nature, thus: During tin- rei-n i.f Sliali Ilus-
I-l':ilian was l>e-ie;je<l by .Malinmuil. ehief of
the Afghans ; when tin- '.having eoiiMimed

their horses, mules, camels, the leaves and hark of
trees, and even cloth and leather, finished, so great
was the famine, with not only eating tlieir neigh-
bours and fellow-citizens, but their very l>al ><-:.
During this siege more human beings were devoured
than was ever known in a siege before. Mahmoud
having at length listened to terms of eapitnlation,
Husseyn clad himself in mourning; and with the
AVali of Arabia, and other officers of his court, pro-
ceeded to the camp of his adversary, and resigned the
empire. The Afghan chief, in receiving his resig-
nation, exclaimed, " Such is the instability of all
human grandeur ! God disposes of empires, ns h<-
pleases, and takes them from one to give to another!"
This occurred in the year 1716.

Mahmoud was now king of Persia. Rut, some
time after, fearing a revolt of the people of Isfahan,
he invited all the nobles of the city to a feast, and
the moment they arrived, a signal was given, and
they were all massacred. Their amount was three
thousand ! not so many as one escaped. Their bodies
were exposed in the streets, that the inhabitants
might behold and tremble. But an equal tragedy
was yet to be performed. lie had taken three
thousand of the late king's guards into his pay.
These men he directed to be ]>eculiarly well treatod ;
and, as a mark of favour, he commanded that a
dinner should be dressed for them in one of the
squares of the palace. The men came ; sat down ;
and the moment they had done so, a party of the
tyrant's troops fell upon them, and not a single soul
was allowed to escape !

This, however, was not the close of things, but the


beginning. A general order was now issued, to put
every Persian to death, who had in any way served
the former government. The massacre lasted 15 days !
Those who survived were made to leave the city,
with the sole exception of a small number of male
youths, whom the tyrant proposed to train in the
habits and usages of his own nation.

Nor does this terminate the history of his atrocities.
He soon after massacred all the males of the royal
family. These victims he caused to be assembled in
one of the courts of the palace ; when attended by
two or three favourites, he commenced, with his own
sabre, the horrid massacre. Thirty-nine princes of
the blood were murdered on this dreadful occasion.
The day of punishment, however, was at hand. He
soon after died in a state of horrific insanity ! His
body was buried in a royal sepulchre ; but when
Nadir Shah afterwards took Isfahan, he caused it to
be taken from the sepulchre and abandoned to the
fury of the populace ; and the place where he had
been interred was converted into a common sewer to
receive the filth of the city. This was in the year

Isfahan never recovered these dreadful events.
Mr. Hanway tells us, that in the time he visited it, a
Persian merchant assured him, that in all Isfahan
there were not more than five thousand inhabited
houses. It has been, since, several times taken and
retaken by tyrants and revolters. It was last taken
by Aga Mohamed Khan (A. D. 1785) ; who dis-
mantled the walls.

Its present condition is thus described by Sir
Robert Ker Porter : " The streets are everywhere in
ruin ; the bazaars silent and abandoned ; the cara-
vanserais are equally forsaken ; its thousand villages
hardly now counting two hundred ; its palaces solitary
and forlorn ; and the nocturnal laugh and song, which


U8ed to echo from every part of

by the yells of jackals and shouts of famishing


Sir Robert afterwards gives an account of the ruins.
From one end of the city to the other, under avenues
old and new, through the gardens, and rouml their
delightful " paradises," of shade and fountain, ho
hardly saw a single creature moving. If, says he,
" Isfahan continues fifty years so totally abandoned of
its sovereign's notice as it is now, Isfahan will become
a total ruin, amidst the saddest of wildcrne-

The name of this city is said to have been Sepahnn,
which it received from the Persian kings, in conse-
quence of its having been the general place of ren-
dezvous for their armies. " This famous city," says
Mr. Kinneir*, "has been so minutely describe! 1. e\ni
when at the height of its glory, by many travellers,
and particularly by Chardin, that it will only be
necessary to state the changes that have taken place
since the period in which he wrote. The wall, which
then surrounded the city, was entirely destroyed by
the Afghans, who have left many striking marks of
their savage and barbarous habits in every part of
the kingdom. The suburb of Julfa has been re-
duced from twelve thousand to six hundred families ;
most of the others have shared the same fate ; and a
person may ride ten miles amidst the ruins of this
immense capital. The spacious houses and palaces,
which opened to the Royal Avenue, are almost all
destroyed. The first view, however," continues Mr.
Kinneir, " which the traveller has, on coming from
Shirauz, of this great metropolis, is from an emi-
nence, about five miles from the city, when it bursts
at once upon his sight, and is, perhaps, one of the
grandest prospects in the universe. Its ruinous con-
dition is not observable at a distance ; all defects being
* Geog. Mem. of Perm.


hid by high trees and lofty buildings ; and palaces,
colleges, mosques, minarets, and shady groves, are the
only objects that meet the eye."

The bazaars, constructed by Shah Abbas, which
were covered in with vaults, and lighted by numerous
domes, are of prodigious extent, and proclaim the
former magnificence of the city. They extend con-
siderably more than a mile.

The palaces of the king are enclosed in a fort of
lofty walls, which have a circumference of three miles.
The palace of the Chehel Sitoon, or " forty pillars,"
is situated in the middle of an immense square, which
is intersected by various canals, and planted in dif-
ferent directions with the beautiful chenar tree. The
palace was built by Shah Abbas. Under the great
room are summer apartments, excavated in the
ground, which, in their season, must be delightful
retreats. They are also wainscoted, and paved with
marble slabs ; and water is introduced by cascades,
which fall from the ground floor, and refresh the whole
range. The Ali Capi gate forms the entrance. This
gate, once the scene of the magnificence of the Sefli
family, the threshold of w r hich was ever revered as
sacred, is now deserted, and only now and then a
solitary individual is seen to pass negligently through.
The remains of that splendour, so minutely and
exactly described by Chardin, are still to be traced ;
the fine marble remains, and the grandeur and eleva-
tion of the dome, are still undemolished.* At the Ala
Capi gate of the old palaces, which is described as
one of the most perfect pieces of brick-work to be
found in Persia, used to sit Shah Abbas, and thence
review his cavalry, galloping and skirmishing, or
witnessed the combats of wild animalst. In former
times this view from the spot was undoubtedly splen-
did ; but, at present, with the exception of the palaces
Morier. "t Malte-Brun.


in the gardens, the whole mass below is one mouldering
succession of ruinous houses, mosques, ami >hap
structures, which had formerly been the mansions of
the nobility, broken by groups or lines of various t ill
trees, which once made part of the gardens of the
houses now in ruins. The freshness of all the build-
ings is said to be particularly striking to an F.umpean,
or the inhabitants of any comparatively humid coun-
try, in which the atmosphere cherishes a vegetation
of mosses, lichens, and other cryptogainous plants,
which we particularly associate in our minds with
the spectacle of decay.

Online LibraryCharles BuckeRuins of ancient cities : with general and particular accounts of their rise, fall, and present condition (Volume 1) → online text (page 28 of 36)