Imágenes de páginas

ment whatever. The whole country from Mardin to Karkisia, following the line of the Khabour and Hermas Rivers, has of late been overrun by the Jerbah tribe, who, attracted some years ago from Arabia by the hopes of better pasture, took possession of that part of the Jezirah. The vicinity of Bagdad is in the same manner infested by the tribe of Delaim, aided by the Jubboor.

From Semava to Hillah the country is swampy, in consequence of the Euphrates having long since broken its embankments. This tract, including what are known as the Lemlum Marshes, is held by the Khezail Arabs, who cultivate the ground, and feed large flocks of buffaloes, on which they subsist. Above Hit, the whole western bank of the river, and the country beyond it, is in the possession of numerous petty clans, who in their turn are domineered over by the Aneiza, a very powerful tribe, who range the Desert from the vicinity of Aleppo to an unknown extent inward, suffering no one to pass without their permission.

On the eastern side of the Tigris, the Chaab Arabs hold possession of the low country of Susiana from the River Kerkha to the sea; while northwest of that river, the Beni Lam exercise sovereignty until they are met by the Feilee tribes of Louristan, who feed their flocks and pillage travellers to the very neighbourhood of Mendali. From thence northward to the boundary of Assyria, between the Gordyæan Mountains and the Tigris, the country swarms with various classes of robbers, who, by their ravages, check every attempt at improvement which the inhabitants might otherwise be induced to make. Owing to these causes, as well as from the influence of a bad government, Mesopotamia and Assyria, which comprise in their extent some of the richest land in the world, are reduced almost to an unproductive desert.

The face of this extensive country, stretching nearly 800 miles from northwest to southeast, by a medium breadth of 200, exhibits great variety of soil, climate, and appearance. Thus the whole of Irak or Babylonia may be described as a rich alluvial flat, varied by marshy tracts and a few sandy stripes. Again, the lower part of Mesopotamia degenerates from a loamy deposite into a hard gravel; while the higher districts of Diarbekir, Sert, Jezirah uĺ Omar, Amadieh, and Solymaneah, consist of little else than a mass of mountains intersected by fertile valleys. These

ridges rise to a still greater height in the neighbourhood of Julamerik, and Mount Jewar is said to ascend at least 15,000 feet; on the other hand, the plains of Arbela and Nineveh, of Kirkook, Tooz Khoormattee, and Kufri, though in some places scorched, are yet occasionally very productive.

In like manner, while the low country is parched with the intense heat of summer, the eye may be regaled by the sight of a snowy ridge hanging like a cloud in the air; and when the inhabitants of Bagdad are panting in their sirdabs, or cellars under ground, whither they retire to avoid the rays of the sun, the traveller who is crossing the mountains of Kurdistan is glad to draw his cloak tightly about him, to protect his person from the cold blasts that descend from the ice-covered peaks. Thus, too, the date-tree yields its luscious fruit in perfection in the plains of Babylonia, while only the hardier fruits of northern climes can be matured in the orchards of the Kurdish highlands.

The mountain ranges of Sinjar, of Masius, and the Hamrines, are among the principal ones of Upper Mesopotamia. The exact extent and direction of the first is not well known; but it is connected, as we gather from Mr. Ainsworth, on the northeast with a series of low rounded eminences called the Babel Hills, which appear to cross the Tigris below Jezirah ibn Omar to the south of Zaco.

Mount Masius runs in a westerly direction from the Tigris to the parallel of Nisibin, when, turning towards the north at Dara, it again assumes its former line, overlooking throughout its course a very level plain. Northward from this boundary the country consists of high tablelands, intersected by ridges of rocky mountains, which are branches of Taurus, under the names of Karahjah Dag, Ali Dag, Madan, Mahrab, and Kalaat Dag. The last two are peaks of that range which divides the eastern Euphrates and the Tigris, the sources of the latter river being situated in its southern face, near the Arghana mines.

Both provinces have been by nature blessed with the means of almost unlimited fertility in the abundant streams which water them, though this benefit has been differently distributed in each. In Assyria and Upper Mesopotamia the rivers and mountain streams are numerous; and there is no want either of rain or snow to assist in bringing the crops to maturity. On the other hand, in Lower Mesopo

tamia and Babylonia, productiveness must depend on the industry and judgment with which the inhabitants dispense the ample supplies afforded by the Tigris and Euphrates, and take advantage of their periodical inundations.

From Erzingan (eight caravan days' journey from Erzeroum), Colonel Chesney remarks* that the Euphrates may be described as a river of the first order, struggling in an exceedingly tortuous course through numerous obstacles; and, though forming frequent rapids, is still so shallow that, during the autumn, loaded camels can in some places pass it. Its velocity is from two to four miles an hour, according to season and localities. It is navigable for large boats, or, rather, rafts of 120 tons, from Erzingan probably, and certainly from Malatia, downward. This was the case in the days of Herodotus; and the produce of Armenia might still be carried as far as Hillah, as it then was to Babylon.

The upper part of the river brought to the recollection of the colonel and his party the scenery of the Rhine below Schaffhausen, being enclosed between two parallel ranges of hills, and having its banks covered, for the most part thickly, with brushwood and timber of moderate size, with a succession of long narrow islands in its bed, on some of which are considerable towns. There are also numerous villages on either side, chiefly inhabited by Arabs, among whom the Weljee or Welda, and the Bohabour tribes appear to be the principal. From Bir downward to Hit, the stream is much interrupted with shallows and fords, where camels pass with ease; and between Racca and Anah, a distance of about 170 miles, the bed is particularly rocky. On the whole, the scenery is described as possessing a very picturesque character, not a little heightened by the frequent occurrence of ancient aqueducts formed of mason-work, coming boldly up to the water's edge, and which, owing to the frequent windings of the river, appear in every possible

* In his Report contained in the Parliamentary papers on the Euphrates Expedition.

†This seems doubtful, as Mr. Brant, British consul at Erzeroum, who crossed the river (there still called the Morad) on his way from Kharput to Malatia, at a place called Ezz Ogloo, considerably below the latter, affirms that from that place, for forty-five miles downward, it bursts through the great chain of Taurus, and forms such a succession of rapids, and runs in so rocky a channel, that no rafts or boats attempt to pass. Below that space, he says, it becomes and continues to be navigable. с

variety of position. These celebrated structures will hereafter be more particularly delineated.

About ten miles below Hit, the hills almost entirely cease; there is little brushwood and few trees on the banks, and the ancient aqueducts give place to the common wheel or water-skins, raised by bullocks with ropes drawn over pulleys. The river winds less, and instead of rocks and pebbles, the bed is now formed of sand or mud, while the current is duller and deeper than before. As far as Hillah, almost the only habitations to be seen are the black hairtents of the Bedouins, rising among patches of cultivation and clusters of date-trees. Approaching the latter place, canals for irrigation become more frequent; and near the remains of ancient Babylon, two streams called the Nil proceed from the river, one above and the other below the principal ruin, and form a lake which fertilizes much land.

For thirty miles below Hillah the banks are covered with mud villages imbedded in date-trees, to which succeed huts built neatly of reeds, with earthen forts or castles to protect the crops. Farther down, near Lemlum, the land, being flat, is easily irrigated; and here the river divides itself into several streams, the two lower of which encircle a considerable island, and in the season of flood overflow the country on either side to the extent of sixty miles. The moment that the waters recede, which happens in June, the whole of this tract is covered with crops of rice and other grain, and dotted with reed cottages. These last, when suffered to remain too long, are frequently surprised by the rising inundation; and it is no uncommon thing to see persons on foot or in their canoes following their floating village in order to arrest the materials. Not many years ago, the whole town was thus swept away; yet the inhabitants constantly rebuild their dwellings in the same spot.

In passing through these marshes, the river, which from Bir to Hillah preserves a breadth varying from 300 to 450 yards, is contracted occasionally to fifty, with a depth of from six to nine feet, and a very winding course. But at Saloa Castle, twenty miles below Lemlum, it again augments in size, and the lake on the right bank disappears,

But the eastern bank continues still low and marshy, and the country requires to be protected by bunds or dams, which, however, often break when the waters rise, and

much damage is occasioned. The stream, nevertheless, maintains a breadth varying from 200 to 400 yards as far as Korna, where it forms a junction with the Tigris; and from this point the united river is from 500 to 800 yards in breadth, and three to five fathoms deep.

A slight increase takes place in the Euphrates in January, but the grand flood does not commence till about the 27th of March; and it attains its height about the 20th of May, after which it falls pretty rapidly till June, when the rice and grain crops are sown in the marshes. The decrease then proceeds gradually until the middle of November, when the stream is at its lowest. The rise of the water at Anah in ordinary seasons is from ten to twelve feet; though it occasionally amounts to eighteen, entering the town, and overflowing much of the bank. At its greatest height it runs with a velocity exceeding five miles an hour, but after a decrease of twenty days there is a corresponding diminution of rapidity, insomuch that boats can track against the current.

The course of the Euphrates from Bir to Bussora has been estimated by Colonel Chesney at 1143 miles, and from Bir upward by the eastern branch to its source near Malasgird, is about 500 more, making an aggregate of fully 1600 miles.

The Tigris takes its rise in that branch of Taurus where the mines of Arghana are situated, and whence the waters flow to this river on the south, and to the Morad on the north. Bursting through the eastern part of Mount Masius, from which it receives many small tributaries, it is joined at Osmankeuy by a considerable stream, called by Kinneir the Batman Su, by the Turks Bulespena or Barema. Another large supply is afforded by the Erzen, which is said to take its rise in Susan, a district northwest of Betlis, probably in the range of Mount Niphates. It was sixty yards broad where crossed by the author now named, and reached his horse's knees. The next feeder is the Betlischai, which falls into it somewhere above Jezirah ul Omar, and was found by him to be eighty yards broad, and not fordable. He erroneously takes it for the Khabour, which, rising in the district of Amadieh, unites with the Heizel, and falls into the Tigris below Zaco.

Passing the ruins of Ctesiphon and Seleucia, the Tigris holds its course through a deep alluvial soil and marshy

« AnteriorContinuar »