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Persia and the Persian Question, volume I

by George N. Curzon

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Chapter 11

TEHERAN

Over the utmost hill at length I sped,

A snowy steep — the moon was hanging low

Over the Asian mountain — and outspread

The plain, the city, and the camp below.

SHELLEY, The Revolt of Islam, Canto V

TEHERAN,[285] the modern capital of Persia, has frequently been spoken of by travellers, with some suspicion of contempt, as a new city. In the sense in which they use the word — i.e. in the historical sense — it is by no means a new, but, on the contrary, an ancient city. In another sense — viz. structurally — it was made a new city by Agha Mohammed Shah, a century ago, and still more by his nephew and successor, Fath Ali Shah; and has become a yet newer city — so new that the visitors in the first half of this century would barely recognise it — during the last twenty years. Before I trace the incidents of this twofold renaissance, I propose to say something of the antique, forgotten, but withal not uninteresting Teheran of the past. Research can never be quite wasted upon the origin and youth of a great capital.

It has been conjectured that the name Teheran is identical with the Tazora that appears in the Theodosian tables as near to Rhages (Rhey). In the tables, however, it is not the Median Rhages, but a place of the same name near Yezd, that is spoken of; and the identity cannot therefore be sustained.


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Whatever its origin, Teheran must have been for long a small and insignificant place, for neither of those indefatigable geographers, El Istakhri and Masudi, whose travels illumine the tenth century, allude thereto, although they have much to say of the adjacent Rhey. The earliest irrefragable mention is in the pages of Abu Abdullah Yakut in A.D. 1179-80. His account, which is borne out by several native historians,[286] represents the primitive Teheranis as troglodytes, living underground in a semi-savage state, at war with their neighbours, and in revolt against the sovereign. However this may be, the locality soon became quite famous for its rivulets and gardens, and a more normal and respectable city sprang into existence. Hamdallah, in the fourteenth century, described it as a town of some magnitude and importance, and as preferable, both for climate and water-supply, to Rhey. Don Ruy di Clavijo, the Spanish ambassador to Timur, halting here on July 6, 1404, delivered himself of a somewhat balancing opinion: — [287]

The city of Teheran was very large, but it had no walls; and it was a very delightful place, well supplied with everything; but it was an unhealthy place, according to the natives, and fevers were very prevalent.

Shah Tahmasp, the second of the Sefavi dynasty, seems to have been the first to favour it with a royal patronage; but Shah Abbas the Great, having fallen ill there from a surfeit of fruit, vowed he would never enter the place again. By him the province and city were placed under the government of a Khan.

At this time Teheran was visited by more than one European; and the descriptions of the Italian, Pietro della Valle (1618), and of the Englishman, Sir Thomas Herbert (1627), are so curious as to be worthy of reproduction. I quote from a translation of the former that appears in 'Pinkerton's Travels: —

Teheran is a large city, more spacious than Cashan, but not well peopled, nor containing many houses, the gardens being extremely large, and producing abundance of fruit of various descriptions, of such excellent quality that it is sought for by all the circumjacent


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country. The Khan ordinarily resides here. All the streets are watered by a number of considerable streamlets, which, serpentining in the gardens, contribute not a little to their fertility. The streets, moreover, are shaded by beautiful, lofty plane-trees, called in Persia chinar; some of them are so extremely thick that it would take from two to three men to clasp them round. Excepting these, Teheran possesses nothing, not even a single building, worthy of notice.

More humorously the English traveller, whose tender susceptibilities appear to have been inflamed by the Teheran ladies: —

Seated is Tyroan in the midst of a large level or plain. The Houses are of white bricks hardened by the Sun. The City has about 3,000 Houses, of which the Duke's and the Buzzar are the fairest; yet neither to be admired. The Market is divided into two; some part thereof is open and other part arched. A Rivolet in two branches streams through the Town, serving withal both Grove and Gardens, who for such a favour, return a thankful tribute to the Gardiner. The inhabitants are pretty stately, the Women lovely, and both curious in novelties; but the jealousies of the men confine the temper of the weaker sex; yet by that little they adventured at, one might see vetitis rebus gliscit voluntas.[288]

Under the later Sefavi kings Teheran sometimes became the temporary residence of the Court; a palace was built here by Shah Suleiman; and here Shah Sultan Husein received the Turkish Ambassador. Tavernier incidentally notices, but did not apparently see, the town; Chardin calls it a petite ville du pays. It was taken and pillaged in the Afghan invasion, but is mentioned by Hanway (as Toehiran) in the catalogue of Von Mierop's stages to Meshed in 1744.[289] It was here that Nadir, on his return from India, convoked a meeting of all the priests of religion, with a view to promulgating a new national faith. Here he blinded his son, Reza Kuli Khan, and here that helpless individual was afterwards murdered.[290] Kerim Khan Zend added to and altered the existing Ark or citadel, but did not often occupy it. Ali Murad Khan stayed there while marching against Mazanderan. With the rise of the Kajar dynasty, at the close


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of the same century, the first epoch of the city's political ascendency began. The seat and cradle of the Kajar family was at Astrabad; but this was too remote and too far situated to the East to suit the expanding ambitions of the eunuch candidate for the throne. For some time, while his fortunes were yet insecure, and while his sovereignty was practically limited to Mazanderan, Agha Mohammed fixed his residence at Sari; but, as he turned his eyes and aspirations southwards, and the dream of a Pan-Iranian kingdom became capable of realisation, a more accessible capital was required. Accordingly, he selected Teheran, and its elevation to metropolitan rank is commonly dated from 1788. It was not till seven years later that his rivals were all removed, and that he found himself firmly seated upon the throne; but what had been perhaps in the first place a choice of necessity remained the selection of prudence. Rebellion had been effectively stamped out of life in the south. The Afghans had ceased for awhile to be hostile or formidable. On the other hand, at Teheran, the successful usurper was within easy reach of his own patrimony and tribesmen; and he was in a better position to watch the only enemy of whom he had real apprehension — Russia. The same considerations, aggravated rather than diminished by the events of the present century, have compelled his successors to endorse his judgment; and, whatever may be said against the site, there is very small likelihood, as long as Persia escapes dismemberment, of Teheran being dethroned from its position.

Agha Mohammed, though he elevated Teheran to the rank of his capital, either had not the taste or did not reign long enough to confer upon it any of the external distinction with which his predecessors on the throne had always striven to adorn their seats of government. Olivier, who was there, in 1797, the year of the king's death, reported the city as being little more than two miles in circuit, and as containing a population of only 105,000, 3,000 of whom belonged to the court, or army of the Shah. Fath Ali Shah, however, had more regal ideas. Under his rule the city increased in size, importance, and display. In 1807 General Gardanne, the French Envoy, found it containing a population of over 50,000 in winter, though all but deserted in summer, when the Court was away, and the inhabitants had retired to their yeilaks, or summer quarters, on the mountains. A very


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nearly identical estimate was made by the English travellers Morier and Ouseley, who were at Teheran within the next few years. The former said it contained 12,000 houses, the latter a population of from 40,000 to 60,000, figures which practically coincide. As such, or, at any rate, not very much larger, it remained during the first seventy years of this century, before it experienced the entire renovation at the hands of Nasr-ed-Din Shah, which I shall presently describe.

What, however, was the appearance of the city in this first epoch of modified rejuvenescence? The narratives and the illustrations of a long series of minute and accomplished writers enable us to ascertain with absolute certainty. Planted in the hollow of the plain, and surrounded only by the stark desert, with few or no suburbs, and with clearly-defined outline, stood the city — a fortified polygon, between four and five miles in exterior circuit, surrounded by an embattled mud wall twenty feet high, flanked with circular towers, and defended by a moat forty feet in width and from twenty to thirty feet in depth. The wall was mean and in parts ruinous, the ditch was clumsy and broken down — in both respects, that is to say, profoundly Persian. Six gates of somewhat gaudy construction, adorned with glazed tiles, admitted to the interior, where 'the streets were narrow and filthy, with uncovered drains in the middle,' and where the only building of any pretentiousness was the citadel, or ark, in the northern part of the town. This contained the Diwan-khaneh-i-Shah, or Dar-i-khaneh (i.e. the Royal Palace). Beyond the city walls the country palace of Kasr-i-Kajar, built by Fath Ali Shah, upon an eminence to the north, was the sole object that relieved the brown monotony of the surrounding plain. Demavend soared loftily over all — the one noble feature in the landscape. Such was the Teheran that met the eyes of Malcolm and Harford Jones and Ouseley, and the long train of soldiers, diplomatists, and writers, who, escorted by brilliant cavalcades and equipped with costly presents, marched up hither from the Gulf in the first decade of the present century, to court the superb graces of Fath Ali Shah.

Up till the year 1870 this, with few alterations, remained the Teheran with which a wealth of writers has made us familiar. In this circumscribed city the British Legation, or Mission, as it was called, was situated in the southern part. The grounds originally belonged to one Mohammed Khan, the Zam-


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burakchi Bashi, or Commander of the Camel Battery, which was one of the favourite military toys of Fath Ali. Upon this individual his sovereign bestowed that especial mark of confidence for which Persian monarchs have always been famous, by inviting him, spoute suâ, to part with his property, which was forthwith transferred to the English Elchi. Sir Gore Ouseley built upon it a commodious house, whose Italian portico and pillars were a perpetual record of Europe in the heart of Asia. The Russians originally occupied a Legation in another part of the town, but, after the assassination of their Minister, Grebayadoff, in 1828, they moved for greater security into the precincts of the Ark. Until its disappearance, or rather expansion, in the years 1870-2, this transitional Teheran was in every respect an Oriental city — contracted, filthy, shabby, and what the French so well denominate as morne.

Nasr-ed-Din Shah, among other titles to distinction, may claim to have made his city a capital in something more than the name. After being twenty years upon the throne, it appears to have occurred to him that the 'Point of Adoration (Kibleh) of the Universe' was framed in a somewhat inadequate setting. Accordingly, Teheran was suddenly bidden to burst its bonds and enlarge its quarters. The old walls and towers were for the most part pulled down,[291] the ditch was filled up, a large slice of surrounding plain was taken in, and, at the distance of a full mile from the old enclosure, a new rampart was constructed upon Vauban's system, copied from the fortifications of Paris before the German war. A good deal of the money sent out from England by the Persian Famine Relief Fund in 1871 was spent in the hire of labour for the excavation of the new ditch, which has a very steep outer profile, and for the erection of the lofty sloping rampart beyond. There is no masonry work upon these new fortifications; they are not defended by a single gun; they describe an octagonal figure about eleven miles in circuit; and, I imagine, from the point of view of the military engineer, are wholly useless for defence. Their main practical service consists in facilitating the collection of the town octroi. Nevertheless, Teheran can now boast that it is eleven miles round, that it has European fortifications, and twelve gates; while its interior features have developed in a corresponding ratio.


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That the city has yet much to do before it realises the full aspirations of its royal Haussmann is evident as soon as we enter the gates. These consist of lofty archways, adorned with pinnacles and towers, and presenting from a distance a showy appearance, which has caused to some incoming travellers paroxysms of delight. A closer inspection shows that they are faced with modern glazed tiles, in glittering and frequently vulgar patterns, depicting the phenomenal combats of Rustam, or the less heroic features and uniform of the modern Persian soldier. After entering the gates, where a guard is stationed, we are again in the open country, for on most sides the city has not yet grown up to its new borders, which embrace a large extent of bare, unoccupied desert. This passed, a ride through squalid suburbs brings us to the more central and pretentious quarters of the town. At every turn we meet in juxtaposition, sometimes in audacious harmony, at others in comical contrast, the influence and features of the East and West. A sign-board with Usine à Gaz inscribed upon it will suddenly obtrude itself in a row of mud hovels, ostentatiously Asiatic. Tram-lines are observed running down some of the principal thoroughfares. Mingled with the turbans and kolahs of the Oriental crowd are the wide-awakes and helmets of Europeans. Through the jostling throng of cavaliers and pedestrians, camels, donkeys, and mules, comes rolling the two-horsed brougham of some Minister or grandee. Shops are seen with glass windows and European titles. Street lamp-posts built for gas, but accommodating dubious oil-lamps, reflect an air of questioning civilisation. Avenues, bordered with footpaths and planted with trees, recall faint memories of Europe. A metalled and watered roadway comes almost as a shock after weeks of mule track and rutty lane. Strange to say, it does not appear to be mistaken by the inhabitants for the town sewer. We ride along broad, straight streets that conduct into immense squares and are fringed by the porticoes of considerable mansions. In a word, we are in a city which was born and nurtured in the East, but is beginning to clothe itself at a West-End tailor's. European Teheran has certainly become, or is becoming; but yet, if the distinction can be made intelligible, it is being Europeanised upon Asiatic lines. No one could possibly mistake it for anything but an Eastern capital. Not even in the European quarter has it taken on the insufferable and debauched disguise with which we are familiar in the hideous streets of Galata and

 

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Pera. Its most distinctive features retain an individuality of their own, differing from what I have noticed anywhere else in Central Asia. Jeypore is sometimes extolled as the finest specimen of a native city, European in design, but Oriental in structure and form, that is to be seen in the East. The 'rose-red city' over which Sir Edwin Arnold has poured the copious cataract of a truly Telegraphese vocabulary struck me, when I was in India, as a pretentious plaster fraud. No such impression is produced by the Persian capital. Though often showy, it is something more than gilt gingerbread; and, while surrendering to an influence which the most stolid cannot resist, it has not bartered away an originality, of which the most modern would not wish to deprive it.

In the northern part of the new town, but outside the line of the old walls, is situated the principal square or public place of Teheran. This is known as the Tup Meidan or Meidan-i-Tup-Khaneh — i.e. Gun Square or Artillery Square, from the fact that it is surrounded by the artillery barracks, and that it contains a park of rusty cannon, dating from an obsolete past. The length of this fine meidan, which is cobble-paved, is 270 yards, its width 120. On the longest, i.e. the northern and southern, sides, it is surrounded by low one-storeyed buildings, where the guns are housed and the men quartered; on the western side is the Arsenal, in front of which some twenty-five venerable smooth-bores, 24-pounders, and wholly useless, rest upon their ancient carriages. The eastern face is entirely occupied by a fine building with an ornamental plaster facade, which is now tenanted by the Imperial Bank of Persia. In the middle of the square is a great tank, fenced round by an iron railing, with some cast-iron statuettes, and with four big guns planted at the corners and covered with tarpaulins. Its most distinctive features, however, are the gateways by which it is entered or left, and which are regarded by the Persians as triumphs of modern architectural skill. They are certainly, as the accompanying illustration will show, very imposing and original structures, and, with their light arcades and fantastic fronts, present a handsome appearance from a distance, though a closer scrutiny of the coarse tile-work with which they are faced is apt to destroy the illusion. Of these gates the two principal and most striking are those which lead from the two southern angles of the square, opening on to streets which skirt the outer wall of the Ark, or citadel, on either side, the entire intervening


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space being occupied by its courts and buildings. From the southeast corner the Nasirieh Gate leads down to the eastern entrance to the palace and to the bazaars. From the south-west corner the Dowlet Gate conducts to the Khiaban-i-Almasieh (or Avenue of Diamonds), from which the western or public entrance to the Ark and palace is gained. Upon this gate, when the Shah is in Teheran, floats the royal standard.

Two other meidans are worthy of notice. One is the Meidan-i-Mashk, a vast open space, over a quarter of a mile in length, which is used as a Champ de Mars, or parade-ground, for the garrison, and where I witnessed a military display which I shall afterwards describe. This meidan is a little to the northwest of the Tup Meidan, and is reached by a gateway opening out of the so-called Street of Ambassadors, which leads from the northwest angle of the Gun Square. The remaining square, called the Meidan-i-Shah, is outside the gardens of the Ministry of War, and the more southerly portion of the palace enclosure. It contains a large tank in the centre, and a colossal brass gun, known as the Tup-i-Murvarid, or Cannon of Pearls, which has always been an especially sacred bast, or sanctuary, for the fugitive criminal, a veritable 'horns of the altar,' in Teheran. Successive chroniclers of the capital have given different and inconsistent accounts of this monster cannon, some alleging that it was brought by Nadir Shah from Delhi, where it was originally decorated with a string of pearls near the muzzle, others that it was cast by him in Persia. Sir R. K. Porter says that it was the same gun that Chardin saw in the meidan at Isfahan; but, as I cannot find that Chardin saw or described any particularly big gun there, I am loth to accept this explanation. Elsewhere I have read that the gun was cast by Kerim Khan Zend at Shiraz, and that, having been kept for some time under cover in an imamzadeh there, it acquired a sacred character, which it has retained since its removal to the Kajar capital. Jehangir Khan, the late Minister of Fine Arts, informed me, however, that, according to Persian historians, this cannon is one of the Portuguese ordnance captured by the allied Persians and British at Ormuz in 1622.[292] Whatever be the truth, its


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semi-sacred character is unimpeachable. An artillery guard is stationed hard by, and barren women make a pilgrimage hither, and pass beneath the gun, in order to promote the object of their desire.

The most distinctive feature, however, of this smaller meidan is the great arched gateway leading from it, and used as the Nakkara-Khaneh (or Drum Tower), whence, every evening, at sundown, is discoursed, from prodigious horns, kettledrums, cornets, and fifes, the appalling music which is an inalienable appurtenance of royalty in Persia, and is always sounded at sunset from some elevated gallery or tower in any city blessed with a royal or princely governor. Over two hundred years ago it used to disturb the slumbers of Tavernier and Chardin at Isfahan, where it was sounded at sunset and at midnight; the truth being, as the former writer sagaciously observed, that 'the musick would never charm a curious ear.' It is commonly supposed that this practice is a relic of the old fire or sun worship, that luminary being saluted both at its rising and setting by respectful strains. Whether this be so or not I cannot say. What is certain is that it has for long


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been an Oriental attribute of royalty; and, in a letter from the French traveller, Bernier, written in 1663 from the Court of the Great Mogul at Delhi, where there neither was, nor, so far as we know, ever had been, fire-worship, I have come across the following passage, describing the practice as it prevailed there and then, in terms which exactly fit the sonorous and portentous discord which is evoked every evening by the band of brazen-lunged youths to whom I used to listen with a sort of horrified fascination at Teheran: —

Over the great gate there is a large raised place which is called Nagar Kanay, because that is the place where the Trumpets are, or rather the Hoboys and Timbals that play together in consort at certain hours of the day and night. But this is a very odd consort in the ears of an European that is a new comer, not yet accustomed to it; for sometimes there are ten or twelve of these Hoboys, and as many Timbals that sound all at once together; and there is a Hoboy which is called Karna, a fathom and a half long, and of half a foot aperture below; as there are Timbals of brass or iron that have no less than a fathom in diameter, whence it is easie to judge what a noise they must needs make.

Bernier goes on to say that at first he found this royal music quite insufferable; but that afterwards it was very pleasing in the night time, when it seemed 'to carry with it something that is grave, majestical, and very melodious.' Verily de gustibus non est disputandum. The same practice is still kept up by some of the native princes in India.

From the Tup Meidan, as I have indicated, two streets run in a northerly direction towards the outer walls. These streets or avenues — for they are planted with poplars — are regarded as the crowning glory of modern being, in fact, the nucleus of European Teheran. The more westerly of the two, known to the Persians as Khiaban-i-Dowlet, has been sometimes described as the Boulevard des Ambassadeurs, from the fact that the representatives of several foreign Powers have acquired residences upon it. Of these, by far the most spacious and imposing is the Legation which shelters the representative of Her Britannic Majesty. At the distance of nearly half a mile from the great square, a fine gateway, upon which Her Majesty's initials are carved in stone, conducts on the left hand into a large wooded enclosure, where nothing at first is visible but a dense growth of trees, interspersed with winding pathways and


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runnels of water. This delightful grove, which, as the result of only twenty years' growth, shows of what the Persian soil under irrigation is capable, conceals the main building of the Legation, as well as four other substantial detached houses, accommodating the various secretaries. The principal structure is a low building occupying three sides of a court, and terminating at one end in a campanile, or clock-tower, of Byzantine design, in which a large clock tells the time after the English fashion and according to the hours of the English day. On one side is the Chancellery; in the centre are the reception-rooms and Minister's quarters; on the other side are the spare rooms. The building opens by a verandah at the back on to a lovely garden, where swans float on brimming tanks of water and peacocks flash amid the flower-beds. The design was the work of Major Pierson, R.E., of the Indo-European Telegraph Department, who may be credited with a very successful result. The coolness and seclusion of the entire enclosure is one of the most agreeable and uncommon features in Teheran. The Turkish Embassy and the Legations of several others of the Great Powers are in the same street, or near at hand. Russia, however, is elsewhere accommodated; the residence of her Minister being, as I have pointed out, in the older portion of the town, near the bazaars. In the same quarter as the British Legation are situated the establishment and chapel of the American missionaries. The Armenian church, where British subjects used to be interred, and which contains the tomb of a son of Sir Walter Scott, was near the former British Mission in the old city.

To a stranger, possibly also to a native, the most interesting portion of Teheran is the great quadrilateral, containing the Ark or Citadel, and occupying a space of probably nearly a quarter of a mile square on the southern side of the Tup Meidan. Since the demolition of the old town there is nothing in the appearance of this enclosure to identify it with a citadel in the ordinary acceptation of the term; for, although it is surrounded by mud walls, it is in no sense fortified, and is now merely a vast collection of courts, gardens, and buildings, the greater part of which appertain to the Royal Palace. Let me, therefore, attempt to give some description of the latter, so far as its somewhat haphazard and unmethodical interior arrangements will admit. Parts of the building remain in exactly the same state as they were, when viewed in the opening years of the century


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by the successive envoys of the British and Indian Governments. But the major part of the enclosure does not now answer to their description and has been so much altered by the reigning Shah in the reconstruction of the past twenty years, as to need a fresh historian.

Upon entering by a modest and wholly undistinguished gateway from the Khiaban-i-Almasieh, the visitor finds himself in a small irregular courtyard, planted with trees. From this he is conducted into another and larger paved court, in the centre of which is a long raised hauz or tank, the water lapping noiselessly, in the Persian style, over the level brim. On either side of this is a paved causeway, beyond which are flower-beds and rows of poplars, planes, and pines. The entire upper end of this court is occupied by a handsome building, the centre of which, when the heavy curtains that shield it are raised, is open to the public gaze, disclosing the Talar or throne room, and the famous white marble throne, standing upon a dais in the centre. Upon this throne on certain public occasions, and particularly at the festival of No Ruz or New Year (March 21), the Shah displays himself to the people in a fashion not essentially different from that in which Darius and Xerxes appeared in royal state before their subjects in the talars of Persepolis 2,300 years ago.[293]

On either side of the throne room, and opening into it, are apartments sumptuously decorated in the Persian style with mural ornamentation and oil paintings. In these the ministers and honoured guests are entertained with coffee and kalians before and during the royal levées. The Talar itself is a spacious chamber, whose flat ceiling is set with mirror panels, and whose walls are embellished with the aineh-kari or mirror work, small facets ingeniously and artistically fixed in plaster, so as to produce a thousand angles and coruscations, in which the Persians are so undeniably clever; and with oil paintings of the various princes of the Kajar family. Round the lower part is a dado or wainscoting of alabaster carved in relief, and adorned with painted flowers and birds. In the centre of the room stands the Takht-i-


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Marmor, or white marble throne of Kerim Khan Zend, wrought of marble of Yezd, and brought from Shiraz.[294] This great structure, which does not in the least degree resemble a throne according to Western ideas, but might rather be compared to an elevated platform surrounded by a pierced marble balustrade, rests upon low twisted pillars and upon the shoulders of grotesque figures representing jins or divs. Two steps supported by recumbent lions lead up to it, and the throne itself consists of a two-fold terrace, upon the back part of which, supported by a pearl-embroidered cushion, sits, or rather kneels (this being the Persian substitute for sitting), upon State occasions the King of Kings. In front of the throne is a place for a fountain, running water being another of the appurtenances of Eastern royalty.[295] The roof of the front part of the throne room, where it is open to the garden, is sustained by two immense columns with deep spiral flutings, also of Yezd marble, and constructed by order of Kerim Khan for his palace at Shiraz.

A passage from the court of the Talar leads into another and larger court, where is the main and State entrance into the palace. It was under a threshold, opening out of the arcade between the two, that were deposited by Agha Mohammed Shah the bones of Nadir Shah and Kerim Khan,[296] that he might have the exquisite luxury, as he passed in and out, of trampling upon the dust of his hereditary foes. Here are a large doorway, and a broad flight of carpeted steps, leading up between great bronzes and porcelain vases to the State apartments. As I mounted them three times during my stay at Teheran, and became familiar with the rooms to which they conduct, I may here describe the latter. At the top of the staircase is the Shah's library, a small room which has been neatly fitted, after the


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European manner, with bookcases behind glass doors, and in which I saw several well-bound European books. It is reported to contain many Arabic MSS. of inestimable value. Upon the left hand at the top is the entrance to the new Museum, a great hall or gallery, constructed after the return of the Shah from his first visit to Europe in 1873, to contain not only the Royal Regalia, but also the vast collection of objets d'art and curiosities, which the generosity of foreign crowned heads, or his own whims, have enabled him to amass during a reign of over forty years. This extraordinary chamber, which with its contents alternately resembles an Aladdin's palace, an old curiosity shop, a prince's wardrobe, and a municipal museum, consists of a long parallelogram, crowned by a series of low domes, with plaster decorations in white, blue, and gold, there being a number of deep recesses, terminating in windows along one side; while the partition between these recesses, and the remaining walls of the room, are fitted with glass cases, in which are displayed, side by side, treasures of priceless value and the most unutterable rubbish. The central part of the chamber, which is, in part, tile-paved, contains a number of immense porcelain vases, mostly from Europe, candelabra, lustres, armchairs covered with a thin plating of real gold, etc., whilst upon tables or under glass cases are disposed with some slight effort at arrangement, but in ludicrous juxtaposition, Swiss musical boxes, Persian antiquities and specimens, meteorolites, European purchases or presents, and heads of game shot by His Majesty.

Perhaps the objects in this bizarre collection that most attract the stranger are the infinity of gems, cut, uncut, or set in every variety of fashion, that are seen behind the glass panels. Here are the enamelled and bejewelled arms of the great Sefavi kings, here the swords of Timur, Shah Ismail and Agha Mohammed Shah, here the magnificent Abbas' coat of mail. A square glass case contains a vast heap of pearls, four or five inches deep, into which one can plunge the hand and spill them in cascades and handfuls. Upon a separate stand appears the globe of jewels which was constructed out of his loose stones by the reigning Shah, at a cost (exclusive of the gems, provided by himself) of 320,000l., and which is looked upon as the artistic chef d'oeuvre of his reign, Its alleged value, with the stones (75 lbs of pure gold, and 51,366 gems, weighing 3656.4 grammes) is 947,000l.


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It is a little difficult to determine the respective countries amid the flash of the various stones; nor does the artist appear to have been as good a cartographer as he was a craftsman. However, as well as I could discern, the sea is composed of emeralds, England and France of diamonds, Africa of rubies, India of amethysts, and Persia herself of the national stone — turquoises.[297] I can imagine the day when some future and less economical sovereign, or possibly even some conqueror from the north, shall handle this glittering plaything in a more practical spirit, and shall perhaps desire to ascertain by personal experience the worth of the constituent elements into which his curiosity may suggest that it should be again resolved. At the upper end of the room, beneath glass cases, are a number of royal crowns, dating from the Sefavean days to modern times, prominent among them being the mighty head piece, pearl-bedecked, and with flashing jika or aigrette of diamonds in front, which is worn by the King at No Ruz, and was so familiar an object upon the head of Fath Ali Shah, as depicted in the illustrations, English and Persian, of the early part of the century. Here, too, is a superb tiara, manufactured by order of the present Shah, in Paris. The number of jewelled swords, scabbards, epaulettes, and cups, vases, boxes and kalians, is enormous, while in separate glasses repose huge, solitary, uncut gems. At the upper end of the chamber stands a throne of modern shape, if not of modern construction, viz., a lofty chair exquisitely enamelled and completely covered with rubies and emeralds. I shall have something to say presently about the history of this beautiful work of art. I was informed that the Shah, when he uses this hall, as he not infrequently does, as an audience chamber to the Ministers and Foreign Representatives at No Ruz, prefers to stand near the lower end of the hall to occupying the throne itself. Upon the walls on the right hand side of the room are displayed a heterogeneous collection of the treasures or trifles which the august traveller has brought back from Europe. Here are suspended the ribbons and stars of a multitude of orders, including the Garter, and an imposing array of Russian decorations. Elsewhere are arrayed gorgeous sets of silver-gilt plate, enamelled snuff-boxes, gold and silver


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vases, a case containing photographs of the English Royal Family, dating from the Shah's first visit in 1873, specimens of filagree work, and a number of objects in ivory and bone, ranging from the most delicate Chinese workmanship to a collection of six-penny toothbrushes (classification, with a vengeance!). From the walls depend a number of mediocre or execrable oil paintings, and large panels of glazed tile-work, representing different scenes in the life of the present sovereign. The three finest jewels possessed by the Shah are said to be a huge uncut ruby, once the property of Aurungzebe, which shimmers at the top of what is called the Kaianian crown; a large diamond, set in a ring, which was sent by George IV. as a present to Fath Ali Shah, and was said by the gossips to have opened at once the gates of the capital and the heart of the monarch; and beyond all the Daria-i-Nur, or Sea of Light, the sister diamond to the Kuh-i-Nur (Kohinoor), or Mountain of Light, which is the property of the British Crown. Both jewels are said to have descended from Timur to Mohammed Shah, the puppet whom Nadir spared at Delhi, but whom he considerately relieved of all his chief valuables, including these diamonds and the Peacock Throne. Upon Nadir's death, the Kuh-i-Nur went with Ahmed Shah Durani into Afghanistan, and descended to Shah Shuja, from whom it was taken by Runjit Singh, the Lion of the Punjab, whence it passed by conquest into the possession of the English Crown. The Daria-i-Nur remained in Persia, and has been worn by its successive sovereigns. Fath Ali Shah immortalised his own vanity at the same time that he considerably lowered the value of the stone, by causing to be scratched upon it his own name.[298] He was in the habit of wearing it in one of the bazubands or armlets which he bore upon State occasions, between the shoulder and elbow; but it is also sometimes worn in a belt, and in other settings. I asked to see this jewel, but it was shut up in an iron box that lay upon the seat of the elevated throne: and it appeared that in the absence either of the key or of the Grand Vizier, I think the latter, it could not be shown.

Such, as well as I can remember them with the assistance of


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my notes, were the chief contents of the Royal Museum.[299] In a country that is always bewailing its lack of money, and which cries aloud for the regeneration that might so easily spring from the construction or repair of roads, bridges, caravanserais, and other elementary public works, it can excite but one feeling. to see all this impotent wealth piled up, secreting beneath a glass case that which should serve to populate entire districts and to enrich great communities. How much worse is it when we know that the treasures here displayed do not stand alone, but are supplemented by hoards of specie and bullion stored in the vaults below, which the lowest estimate values at three millions sterling and the highest I will not say at what figure. Patriotism need not be so very difficult an attribute in royalty, when it is able to stop short of the treasure-house and the money-bags.

Below the Museum are a number of vaults, known as the Chinee Khaneh, or Porcelain Room, where vast quantities of Sèvres, Dresden, old Worcester, and other porcelain are stored, the gifts of European sovereigns to the present and preceding kings. There is also an Aslaheh-Khaneh, or Armoury, containing curious arms, and the Shah's rifles and fowling-pieces; and a gallery wherein is hung a large collection of the paintings of the late esteemed artist, Abul Hasan Khan Ghaffari, styled the Sani-el-Mulk. These last-named apartments I did not see.

On the other side of the top of the staircase is a room, sometimes called the Council Chamber, in which I was admitted to a private audience by the Shah. It was empty on all the occasions when I saw it, save for an object standing in the corner by the window. This was the Takht-i-Taous or celebrated so-called Peacock Throne, said to have been brought, by Nadir Shah from India in 1739-40, and identified by a long consensus of writers (I know of no divergent opinion) with the famous Peacock Throne that stood in the Diwan-i-Khas at Delhi (where its site is still shown) and that was the main ornament of the glittering court of the Great Mogul. From a study of all the extant authorities bearing upon the question, I had come to the conclusion that this claim could not be substantiated, and that the throne at Teheran, exquisite work of art though it be,


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was a fraudulent pretender to the honour of having supported the majesty of the Great Mogul. Let me deploy the chain of reasoning by which I had arrived at this conclusion. The standard reference to the original Peacock Throne at Delhi is contained in the well-known description of the French jeweller Tavernier, who visited that capital in the year 1665 in the splendid reign of Aurungzebe. He wrote as follows: —

The largest throne, which is set up in the hall of the first court, is in form like one of our field beds, six feet long and four broad. The cushion at the base is round like a bolster; the cushions on the sides are flat. The under part of the canopy is all embroidered with pearls and diamonds, with a fringe of pearls round about. Upon the top of the canopy, which is made like an arch with four panes, stands a peacock with his tail spread, consisting all of saphirs and other proper coloured stones. The body is of beaten gold enchas'd with several jewels, and a great ruby upon his breast, at which hangs a pearl that weighs fifty carats. On each side of the peacock stand two nosegays as high as the bird, consisting of several sorts of flowers, all of beaten gold enamelled. When the king seats himself upon the throne there is a transparent jewel with a diamond appendant of eighty or ninety carats, encompass'd with rubies and emeralds, so hung that it is always in his eye. The twelve pillars also that uphold the canopy are set with rows of fair pearl, round, and of an excellent water, that weigh from six to ten carats apiece. This is the famous throne which Tamerlane began and Cha Jeban finish'd, which is really reported to have cost 160 million and 500,000 livres of our money.[300]

Now contrast this with the Persian claimant to the title. I have purposely caused to be reproduced an engraving of the Takht-i-Taous at Teheran, in order to accompany and elucidate my argument. It is certainly a platform, or, as Tavernier calls it, a Field-bed Throne; as were the majority of those employed by the sovereigns of the East. It is further a sumptuous and a beautiful work of art. The entire fabric is overlaid with a plating of gold, which is exquisitely chiselled and enamelled, and is absolutely encrusted with precious stones, among which rubies and emeralds are the most prominent. Seven bejewelled legs sustain the plat-


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form, access to which is gained by two steps, decorated with salamanders. An elegant balustrade containing inscriptions in panels runs round, and the lofty back, which is one mass of gems, rises to a point in the centre whereupon is fixed a circular star of diamonds, with scintillating rays, made to revolve by a piece of mechanism at the back. On either side of the star are two bejewelled birds, perched on the edges of the back-frame, and facing each other. Now there is in the fabric thus delineated and reproduced above very little except general shape that tallies with Tavernier's detailed description. There is no trace or sign of a canopy, or of the means by which a vanished canopy could


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have been added to the existing throne. Above all there is no peacock.[301]

At this stage, however, I felt compelled to remember that Tavernier, while particularly describing the Peacock Throne, had also left on record that 'The Great Mogul has seven thrones, some set all over with diamonds, others with rubies, emeralds, and pearls;' and that Hanway had reported Nadir as carrying off nine other thrones in addition; and it might be therefore that the Teheran throne, though not the Peacock Throne, was one of the rifled thrones of the Emperors of Hindustan. Such a theory seemed to find a momentary corroboration in the description given by another Frenchman, Bernier, in the same century, of a throne (clearly not the Peacock Throne of Tavernier) at Delhi. The throne that he saw was supported by six high pillars or feet of massive gold, set with rubies, emeralds, and diamonds. Its value was estimated at forty millions of rupees (a rupee at that time was equivalent to half a crown) or to sixty millions of French livres. And yet, to maintain the confusion, this too was a Peacock Throne, for he added: —

The art and workmanship of this throne is not answerable to the matter; that which I find upon it best devised are two peacocks covered with precious stones and pearls, which are the work of a Frenchman called ____ that was an admirable workman.

Nevertheless, this could not be the Teheran throne; for the latter has seven legs; nor was an acute observer like Bernier likely to have committed the error that Morier did, and mistaken its winged supporters for peacocks.

In this dilemma, but with the growing conviction that the modern Takht-i-Taous had a very shadowy connection, if any at with the plundered treasures of Delhi, I turned to contemporaneous records. I found in Malcolm[302] that Nadir Shah was so fond of the real Peacock Throne of the Great Mogul that he had an exact duplicate of it made in other


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jewels. This left two Peacock Thrones to be demolished between his death and the end of the last century, a catastrophe which in the anarchy and violence of those times would have been in itself no unlikely occurrence; but it left the Takht-i-Taous unexplained, as under no circumstances could the latter be described as a duplicate of Tavernier's original. Now, however, I came across a passage in Fraser's 'Khorasan' in which he mentions that an old Kurd told him in 1822, that 'when Nadir Shah was murdered and his camp plundered, the Peacock Throne and the Tent of Pearls fell into our hands, and were torn in pieces and divided on the spot.' Any Kurd might certainly have been trusted to handle such an object as the Peacock Throne in the unceremonious manner here described, and, assuming the veracity of this particular Kurd, I witnessed with some delight the disappearance of the real Peacock Throne, or one of the two, from the scene.

A phrase in Morier's account had now set me thinking that the Takht-i-Taous at Teheran must be a modern structure after all. In the same passage which I have quoted in a footnote, he adds: 'It (i.e. the throne) is said to have cost 100,000 tomans' (equivalent at the beginning of the century to about 100,000l.);[303] herein clearly implying that an account or a tradition of its cost prevailed at Teheran, which was far more likely to be the case with a new than with an old fabric, and which was extremely unlikely to have been the case with an object carried off in plunder from a remote country seventy years before. At this stage, accordingly, I referred my doubts for solution to Teheran itself, and after an interval of some weeks was interested and (I may confess) rejoiced to hear, on the authority of the Grand Vizier and the former Minister for Foreign Affairs,[304] that, as I suspected, the Takht-i-Taous is not an Indian throne at all. It was constructed by Mohammed Husein Khan, Sadr (or High Priest) of Isfahan, for Fath Ali Shah when the latter married an Isfahani young lady, whose popular sobriquet, for some unexplained reason, was Taous Khanum or the Peacock Lady. The King is further said to have been so much delighted with the throne, that it was made a remarkably prominent feature in the


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ceremonies that commonly ensue upon marriage. Here, therefore, at one fell swoop, toppled down the whole of the brilliant hypothesis, which has sustained scores of writers, and provided material for pages of glowing rhetoric. From the same authorities I learned that the original Peacock Throne of Nadir Shah (i.e. the survivor of the two facsimiles) was discovered in a broken-down and piecemeal condition by Agha Mohammed Shah, who extracted it along with many other of the conqueror's jewels by brutal torture from his blind grandson Shah Rukh at Meshed, and then had the recovered portions of it made up into the throne of modern shape and style, which now stands at the end of the new Museum in the palace at Teheran, and to which I have alluded in my description of that apartment. In this chair, therefore, are to be found the sole surviving remnants of the Great Mogul's Peacock Throne, and the wedding present of Fath Ali Shah must descend from the position which it has usurped in the narrative of every writer in this century, without exception, who has alluded to it.

Beyond the room in the palace containing this beautiful impostor, which, with a respectful iconoclasm, permissible, I hope, to the student of history, I have endeavoured to depose from its false pinnacle, extend a series of chambers of some size, but no merit, exhibiting an extravagant and often farcical contrast of the Oriental and European. Illustrations, snipped from the English illustrated newspapers appear side by side upon the walls with photographs of the Shah and his little boy favourite, the Aziz-es-Sultan, and with inferior copies of Italian oil-paintings. Here is a picture of the Paris Exhibition and the Eiffel Tower; there a deplorable oleograph of an Alpine village, both hung in a room adorned with Persian plaster-work and spread with Persian carpets. I noticed here, what I observed in the other palaces that I visited, that the Oriental intellect seems to derive a peculiar gratification from the display of duplicates. Thus, the King's son, the Zil-es-Sultan, has, in his town residence, a long row of facsimile portraits of himself hanging upon a single wall. Similarly, in the royal abode, I noticed in one place two large copies of a semi-nude Venus or Magdalen of the later Italian school, absolutely identical, hanging on either side of a doorway; and the same phenomenon was constantly repeated. The impression left upon me by all inspection of many modern Persian residences of


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size and magnificence, was this: that whereas the Persian taste, if restricted to its native art or to the employment of native styles, seldom errs, the moment it is turned adrift into a new world, all sense of perspective, proportion, or beauty, all aesthetic perception, in fact, appears to vanish; and in proportion as its choice will have been correct and refined amid native materials, so does it become vulgar and degraded abroad. I am sometimes not sure that our own countrymen can escape the same impeachment, particularly when I observe rich Englishmen triumphantly carrying away from Japan the gaudy embroideries that are made for them alone, and which no civilised Japanese gentleman would admit into his house.

The rooms of which I have been speaking look out on to a vast garden court, which is entirely surrounded by the various buildings of the palace, and which I consider to be by far the prettiest and most effective portion of the entire enclosure. This great garden is divided by paved avenues and gravel paths into flower beds, tanks, and extensive lakes. Magnificent pines and cypresses, as well as the more familiar plane and poplar, line its alleys and create a pleasant shade. It is called the Gulistan or Rose Garden. Little iron bridges cross the numerous channels, often lined with blue tiles, down which the water runs in perpetua motion; the pools are alive with fish and decked with swans and waterfowl; elegant kiosques are seen amid the trees. It was in this lovely garden, and under an entrancing sun and sky, that I witnessed a royal Salaam, or Levée of the Shah, to which I may devote a few words in passing. It was the replica, on a smaller scale, of the great ceremonial that takes place at No Ruz.

The theory of the Court Levée in Persia is not that the subjects attend upon, or are introduced to, the sovereign, but that the sovereign displays himself to his awestruck and admiring subjects. Accordingly, the two central and essential attributes of the scene are the monarch being gazed at on the one side, and the audience gazing on the other. Very little else transpires, and not more than half-a-dozen persons play any other part than that of statues during the ceremony. I will describe, however, exactly what takes place. Upon entering the palace I was conducted to a chamber where the regulation coffee and kalians were served. Soldiers and officials were pouring pell-mell into the palace on every side. Bands were aimlessly tuning up or playing


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in different corners. Officers in every variety of uniform were marshalling troops in every variety of disorder. Mirzas (i.e. government clerks) and accountants were hurrying to the scene of action. The royal executioner, clothed in red, was stalking about, while some attendants carried the fellek, a red pole about eight feet in length with a double loop or noose of cord attached to the middle, into which are fixed the upturned soles of the culprit condemned to the bastinado. He was the Persian counterpart of the roman lictor with his axe and rods. The members of the Royal or Kajar tribe were all congregated together, and wore the old court costume, which was obligatory on all alike at the beginning of the century, and which consists of a lofty and voluminous Kashmir (more, probably Kerman) turban, big, flowing Kashmir cloaks, and the well-known red leggings, or chakshurs, which the English ministers and plenipotentiaries were obliged to pull on over their breeches when attending the audiences of Fath Ali Shah, but of wearing which they were ultimately relieved by treaty. Here I was met by the Lord Chamberlain, or master of the ceremonies, known as the Zahir-ed-Dowleh (Supporter of the Government), a young man of magnificent stature and singularly handsome countenance, who belongs to the Kajar House, and is married to a favourite daughter of the Shah. This gorgeous individual was clothed in a resplendent white frock coat and trousers beneath his Kashmir robe of state; a jewelled sword hung at his side; a portrait of the Shah set in diamonds depended from his neck; and he carried a silver wand or staff of office. I was conducted to a room next to that in which the Shah was about to appear, the uplifted sashes of both apartments opening on to the garden, where, on the broad, paved pathway running in front and down the central alleys between the tanks and flower beds, were disposed in order the various participators in the ceremonial. A little to the right of the middle spot stood the Naib-es-Sultaneh, the third son of the Shah and Commander-in-Chief of the army, standing at the head of a long line of field-marshals and generals. His bosom blazed with decorations, and was crowned by a light-blue ribbon that might have been mistaken for that of St. Patrick. Next to him, also in field-marshal's uniform and with a tiny sword, stood the diminutive favourite of the Shah, whose features had become so familiar in Europe during the royal journey of the preceding summer. Next in order, and accentuating the ludicrous contrast, came a tottering


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veteran, the oldest field-marshal in the Persian army; then a row of full-blown generals; finally, the officers of the so-called Cossack regiments, including two Russians. In front and in the middle stood alone the former Ilkhani of the Kajar tribe, a white-bearded elder, once out of favour with his sovereign but long since reconciled.[305] Behind stood the solid and forbidding figure of the Kawam-ed-Dowleh, Minister of Foreign Affairs; and beyond again the various functionaries, each in his due rank and position. The whole of the assemblage was now arranged, every man stood shoulder to shoulder with eyes fixed in front, and absolute silence prevailed.

Suddenly a cry was raised. The Shah appeared in the room adjoining that in which I was placed and took his seat upon a gilded chair in the window. His principal ministers accompanied him and stood in the background. As the King appeared every head was bowed low, the hands outspread and resting upon the knees. Bands struck up the royal air in different parts of the garden, and guns banged away at a slight distance. The Ilkhani of the Kajars now, acting as spokesman of the entire assembly, exchanged formal compliments with the King, who spoke in short, brusque sentences in reply. Then a mullah, standing behind, recited in a loud voice, the Khutbah, or prayer for the sovereign. This done the Poet Laureate advanced, and, pulling out a sheet of paper, read a complimentary ode. Meanwhile the bands went on playing different tunes in different parts, and the guns boomed noisily outside. When the ode was at an end, the Shah rose from his chair, and slowly stalked from the chamber; the troops, with very little attempt at precision, slouched past the windows; and a waving mass of helmets, plumes, and turbans was seen disappearing through the garden entrance. Such is a Levée as held by H.I.M. Nasr-ed-Din Shah at Teheran.

Upon another occasion I was conducted over the rest of the palace (with the exception, it is needless to add, of the anderun,


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or private apartments). Among the many apartments which I saw, and to which my previous general description will apply, I will only here notice the Naranj-khaneh or Orangery; a particularly pretty building, with water flowing down a blue-tiled channel in the middle between double rows of orange trees. It was from here that a passage led into the old anderun; the new ladies' quarter being on the other side of the palace enclosure.[306] At the further end of the Gulistan, on the eastern side, rises the great twin-towered pavilion called the Shems-el-Imaret, or Sun of the Palace, which is such a conspicuous object from the exterior of the palace, on the side of the bazaars. This remarkable structure, which is, in my opinion, a triumph of fanciful architecture, is built in the form of two towers, sloping inwards towards the top, and terminating in two elegant kiosques. A slender clock-tower, with a European clock, rises from the roof between the two. On the outer or street side — for it is built upon the exterior wall of the Ark — its surface, which is entirely covered with brilliantly painted tiles, is unrelieved by a single window, lattices of pierced brickwork answering that purpose. On the inner or garden side it possesses a number of balconies and stained-glass windows, while a large Italian portico in the centre opens on to a flight of steps leading down to the edge of an extensive lake. This beautiful pavilion was begun by the Shah twenty-five years ago, and is certainly a very creditable specimen of the fanciful ingenuity that still lingers in modern Persian art. I had thought from the blank outer walls and from the air of mystery that surrounds this building that it must at least contain the royal harem; but this was not the case. Strangers are sometimes admitted to the interior, in some of the chambers of which are to be seen yet other among the many costly presents that have been sent to the Shah and his predecessors by European sovereigns. Here, for instance, are the Gobelin tapestries, representing the Crowning of the Faun and the Triumph of Venus, that were given by Louis Philippe to Mohammed Shah; and here is the great mechanical clock, with moving figures and peacocks, that was intended as a present from the Queen to the Emperor of China, fifty years ago: but, either having been rejected by him or never having got as far, was bestowed upon the Persian monarch.


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At the further extremity of the Gulistan rises the extraordinary circular structure, the arched ribs and girders of whose open roof I had seen from a distance as I approached Teheran, rising above the low level of the housetops. This is the Takieh, or Theatre, built for the annual performance of the Tazieh, or Passion Play of Persia.[307] I entered and looked around. The building was entirely empty, save for some chained beasts, a curious use to which to put so consecrated a structure. It consists of a great rotunda, in the centre of which is a circular stone platform, mounted by steps and ramps (for the animals employed in the play). This is the stage. An open passage runs round, succeeded by five tiers of stone seats, which, on the occasion of the performances, are packed with veiled women. Between these, numerous gangways lead to arched passages, through which the actors come in. On one side is a lofty marble mimbar, or pulpit, i.e. a small platform at the head of a steep flight of steps, whereon stands the mullah, who directs or interprets the ceremonies. Above the stone tiers rise three stories of loggias, or boxes, with fanciful brickwork and light arcades.[308] Some of these, which conceal the ladies of the Royal harem, are shielded with green lattice screens. From the upper rim of the building rise the great arched and iron-bound traverses of the roof. It was originally intended to


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cover the whole with a dome, the Shah, it is said, having been so much impressed with the Albert Hall in London, as to long for a reproduction in Teheran; but the substructure was found to be inadequate to the burden. Accordingly, these spans were thrown across and awnings are stretched over them when the play is acted in the heat of the day; the precise counterpart of the velarium of the Roman amphitheatre. As the drama is prolonged into the evening, light is gained from thousands of candles fixed in lustres against the walls. The electric light was introduced for a time, but is said to have been abandoned or to have proved a failure.

Such are the main features of the Royal Palace at Teheran.[309] I have described them at some length, as they are eloquently typical of the life of mingled splendour and frippery, and of the taste, half cultured and half debased, of the Persian monarch and, it may be said, of the Persian aristocracy in general. It is shocking, for instance, to our eye, but not to a Persian's, to see this beautiful garden, which Nature has co-operated with ingenious art to render pleasing, surrounded by hideous daubs of Persian soldiers painted upon the plaster walls, with the exaggerated disregard of all verisimilitude or proportion that might be expected of a street urchin who had stolen a brush and a pot of paint. In different parts of this building must be stored away an infinity of presents and works of art in addition to those which I saw. For in this century alone the various embassies who competed so gallantly, and it must also be said so extravagantly, for the favour of Fath Ali Shah, brought with them a mass of European objects and curiosities, from panelled coaches down to mechanical toys, not one tithe of which are exposed to view in the State apartments. Many, no doubt, have never been looked at since the day on which they were presented; or, having been playthings for a week, have been relegated to lumber rooms for a lifetime.

For a great capital Teheran is singularly destitute of those immense religious edifices, whether mosques or madressehs, which tower, too often in a state of utter ruin, above the housetops of most Oriental towns. The reason is that, only having become a capital, so to speak, in later life, the city has found no patron to endow it with the great structures that have immortalised the seats of government of earlier kings. Fath Ali


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Shah, it is true, built the Musjid-i-Shah, a mosque crowned by a small gilt dome; and other edifices of some importance, but no distinction are to be found in the Musjid-i-Madr-i-Shah, or Mosque of the King's mother, and the Madresseh-i-Khan-i-Mervi. It has been reserved, however, for the present reign, for the wealth of a subject, and for the decade not yet complete, to raise a fabric which, however far it may fall below the exquisite artistic beauty of earlier monuments of the Mohammedan style, is yet calculated, by its ambitious design and vast extent, to confer a lustre upon the epoch and the men that produced it. This is the yet unfinished Musjid-i-Sipah Salar, or mosque of the Commander-in-Chief, whose four lofty and glittering minarets, entirely covered with bright tiles and terminating in florid capitals, looked to me at a distance like immense organ pipes protruding through the trees. This building, or rather range of buildings, for it includes both a mosque and a madresseh, or college, was commenced by the late Mirza Husein Khan, the statesman who negotiated the Reuter Concession of 1872, and who, after being successively Sadr Azem (Grand Vizier), Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Sipah Salar, died in comparative exile as Governor-General at Meshed. With the endowments which he bequeathed for the purpose, the incomplete works have been resumed by one of his surviving brothers, Yahia Khan, the Mushir-ed-Dowleh, of whom I shall have something to say later on, and are now slowly approaching completion. I went over the buildings, which are on a very grandiose scale. A lofty archway leads into a quadrangle, in whose centre is a large tank. On the right is the principal facade with the four minarets; an immense dome was being constructed over the prayer-place in its interior. Opposite the entrance is a smaller recess, now used for purposes of devotion, but opening into a long, vaulted prayer-chamber, with four rows of stone pillars, fifty in all, and a broad, shallow mihrab, or prayer-niche, tile-adorned, at the end. In a corner of the building a library was being fitted with wooden shelves, elegantly carved; and outside was a tank for purposes of drinking or ablution, with an iron railing and taps all round. The effect of the entire range of buildings is spacious and handsome, and the gaudy enamelled tiles give it a brave appearance. It does not require much discrimination, however, to realise how ineffably inferior are these modern specimens of the ceramic art of Persia to the exquisite productions of an earlier age; or how, neither in


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design, execution, nor glaze, do they deserve to be considered works of art at all.

The bazaars of Teheran occupy a very considerable space in the old city; although, in common with the rest of the capital, they have experienced a much-needed renovation in the reign of the present king. The main entrance is from the street opposite the Shems-el-Imaret, and conducts, through an open courtyard containing a pool of water, and known as the Meidan-i-Sebz, into the dim, vaulted arcades which are so familiar to the wanderer in Eastern lands. The Teheran bazaars are vaulted throughout with a succession of low brick domes, and open frequently upon small courts or squares. They contain a number of spacious and well-built caravanserais; and there are few objects of Eastern use or consumption — from a saddle-horse to a tea-tray, — which cannot be there procured. European merchandise is exhibited on every other stall, and one of the first and most obvious discoveries is, that Persia clothes itself from Europe. Another of the most widely-spread but unintelligible of modern Persian tastes is abundantly illustrated, and can be inexpensively gratified, in the Teheran bazaars. This is the fondness, which seems to permeate all classes, from the Shah downwards, for lustres, candelabra, candle and lamp shades, and glass vases or ornaments of every conceivable description. I never entered a Persian prince's or nobleman's house without encountering a shop's window full of these articles, as a rule proudly stacked, as though they were rare treasures, upon a table; and I imagine that a Persian would have no hesitation in pronouncing the Crystal Palace to be the maximum opus of the world's architecture. I shall say nothing about the manner of shops or mode of selling, about the division of trades or scenes of barter, in the Teheran bazaars; for the reason that they are the same as in every other town in the East, and have been so frequently described as to be familiar even to those who have not seen them. I will merely say that, in arrangement, width of passage, size of shops, and general structural convenience, they are in advance of almost any Oriental bazaar that I have elsewhere seen, though inferior to those which I afterwards saw at Isfahan and Shiraz, and which may also be seen at Tabriz; but that, as a field of exploration for the curio-hunter or stranger, they are the most disappointing in the East. The vendors ask the most impossible


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prices, and exhibit a stolid indifference to the offers of the would-be purchaser. The sale of curiosities, carpets, and stuffs is almost wholly conducted by dellals, or itinerant dealers, who bring their stores on donkey-back to the residences in the European quarter. From them must be procured the silks, brocades, or velvets, the metal work or enamel work, the embroideries or carpets, the painted mirrors or pen-cases, which the collector may wish to take back to Europe. The foremost among these dellals, alike for the quality of their wares and the scale of their prices, appear to be the Jews. But the passing traveller will find it difficult to procure anything of much value, the rarities being commonly bespoken in advance by resident customers, and some weeks being required before a fresh stock can be collected by the dealers among their private clients. Such a place as a shop whither, after European fashion, one can go and see a large variety of articles spread out, before making one's choice, is unknown in Persia.

The street scenes in Teheran are not to be compared, from the artistic point of view, with those that may be witnessed either in the great Indian cities or in the old capitals of Central Asia. With the Kajar Dynasty, a hundred years ago, came in a new and soberer fashion in dress as well as a change of rulers. The turban has gradually disappeared and is worn only by merchants, hajis, seyids, and mullahs. The flowing robes and daring colours of the East, such as one may see alike in Benares and Bokhara, have been exchanged for tight-fitting garments of European or semi-European cut, and for neutral tints such as dark blues, browns, greens and greys, with a very plentiful admixture of uncompromising black. There is manifold jostling in the streets and bazaars, and everywhere are the contrast and variety so inseparable from Asiatic life, and from a crowd where three out of four men are mounted; but there are not the kaleidoscopic change and glitter that bespeak the true and unredeemed Orient. A good deal of colour, however, as well as of noise, is lent to the street life of the capital by the number of soldiers, in every variety of uniform, who are seen lounging about the streets, and by the military bands, which play in the public squares,[310] their favourite tune being the


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so-called 'Royal Air,' which has considerable merits, and was, I believe, composed by the French bandmaster, M. Lemaire. Soldiers in Prussian helmets, soldiers in sheepskin shakoes, soldiers in cloth busbies, soldiers with sartorial reminiscences of nearly every army in Europe, are encountered on all sides. Very apparent too are the city police, about 300 strong, organised and commanded by an Italian, Count Monteforte, who, after being an officer in Bomba's army at Naples, retired to Austria, and was passed on either by the Emperor of that country, or, more probably, by himself, to the service of the Shah. They are constantly to be seen hanging about the guardhouses which are scattered through the town, and their black uniform, with violet velvet facings, is decidedly smart and picturesque. Queerest, however, and most parti-coloured of the street figures of Teheran are the shatirs, or royal runners, who precede the Shah whenever he goes out, running in front of his horse or carriage. They strike a stranger, unacquainted with the Court history of Persia, with amused astonishment, their costume being an apparent cross between that of a liveried servant and a harlequin at a pantomime. They wear white stockings, green knee-breeches, a red coat with large skirts and green breast-facings, and a tall erection upon the head, surmounted by a sort of coloured crest like a cock's comb. In their hand they carry a staff or wand. Some writers have too hastily attributed this amazing uniform to the fanciful taste of His reigning Majesty: therein at once exaggerating the fancy and ignoring the conservative instincts of that monarch. As a matter of fact, this dress is a faithful reproduction of that which was worn by the shatirs of the Sefavi kings in the halcyon days at Isfahan, two and three centuries ago; and what is apt to look ridiculous in a semi-modernised court and capital was, no doubt, in thorough keeping with an age and a ceremonial of almost barbaric splendour.[311]


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Estimates of the population of Teheran vary between poles as remote as is the case with every statistical calculation in Persia. I was informed, however, that the most reliable computation, determined upon a joint reckoning of the births and deaths in the city and of the amount of food brought for consumption into its bazaars, fixed the present total at from 200,000 to 220,000; though, on the other hand, some old residents would not admit a larger figure than 175,000. Twenty years ago, before the structural changes of which I have spoken were commenced, the most generous estimate of the total was 120,000. — a fact which is in itself the best justification of the policy of the royal aedile. The capital is said to contain about 4,000 Jews, possessing ten synagogues and several schools, and engaged for the most part in trade, as dealers, vintners, and physicians. Here, as elsewhere in Persia, the Jews are obliged to walk circumspectly; but they are not subject to the outbreaks of religious fanaticism which sometimes occur farther south, in the more bigoted atmosphere of Isfahan and Shiraz, and of which I shall require to speak when writing about those cities. There is also a large colony of Armenians (1,000) in Teheran, with two churches of their own, to which I have before alluded; but the Persian Armenian will also more appropriately come up for discussion when I treat of the settlements in Azerbaijan and at Julfa. There are further said to be several hundred Parsis, or Guebres, in the capital, mostly engaged in correspondence with their mercantile head-quarters at Yezd and Kerman.


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The gardeners of the British Legation were once almost wholly recruited from this class.[312]

But by far the most startling consequence of the new order of things is the increase in the number of Europeans now resident in the capital. As late as 1851 Mr. Binning reported that the only European foreigners were the staffs of the various Legations, a few officers in the army (the majority having left because they could not get their pay), two or three French and Italian shopkeepers, and an Englishman employed by the Shah to translate the foreign journals to him and to edit his own pet newspaper. In 1865 Mr. Mounsey found this total swollen to fifty. But at the time of my visit, in the autumn and winter of 1889, it was estimated to have risen to nearly 500 persons. The increase is not in the official element. They — i.e. the diplomats, the officers of the Telegraph Department, a few Austrian and Russian officers in the army, and one or two other employés of the Persian Government — remain at about the same figure. So, it may be said, do the missionaries, the merchants, and the few globe-trotters who may be annually driven by a vagabond fancy to Teheran. It is in the large number of speculators, small traders, would-be concessionaries, wandering chevaliers d'industrie, et hoc genus omne — all the goodly crew, in fact, who live to illustrate the phrase that 'where the carcase is, there will the eagles [surely a mistranslation for vultures!] be gathered together' — it is in these that the main increase has taken place; and in time we may expect the streets of Teheran to present as many models of the sartorial degradation of Europe as do those of Cairo or Constantinople. The elements of this polyglot, but, unfortunately, monochrome, society are necessarily thrown somewhat together; and in their idiosyncrasies, foibles, combinations, rivalries, and projects is to be found an inexhaustible fund of local gossip, as well as almost the sole source of non-political interest.

There is but one Embassy at Teheran — that which is occupied by the representative of the Sultan: a compliment which could hardly fail to be exchanged between the two great Mohammedan Powers. Europe is, however, represented by


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six Legations — those of Great Britain, Russia, France, Germany, Austria, and Italy. A Belgian Minister Resident was also expected at the time of my visit, and a Dutch Chargé-d'Affaires had been appointed by his Government. America sent a Minister Resident for the first time in 1883. Most of these diplomats possess comfortable residences situated in large and well-shaded compounds, similar, though inferior, to that belonging to the British Minister. I could not ascertain that, with the exception of the British and Russian Ministers and the Turkish Ambassador, they have much, if anything at all, to do; and, to the majority of their number I should imagine that the post offers itself either as an honourable exile or as an interesting repose.

Teheran has been much abused as a capital. It has been attacked for having no river — which is true, although of such Persian cities as are better endowed in that respect it must be said that, during four-fifths of the year, the river is seldom more than a streamlet. Lady Sheil went so far as to declare that, as a capital, it had nothing whatever in its favour. I do not agree with these opinions. Looking at the question mainly from a political point of view, I am disposed to think that Teheran is about the best capital that Persia could produce, and that Agha Mohammed Shah showed to the full his statesmanlike foresight in selecting it as his seat of government. The objections to the present site are mainly advanced on sanitary grounds. The water supply is indubitably meagre and costly, an attempt to divert the River Karij to the city having been abandoned,[313] and the entire needs of the population being dependent upon kanats dug from the Elburz. Situated, moreover, in the hollow of the plain, it is said that the infiltration of the surrounding moisture causes malarial fevers, which have already produced an increase in the recorded cases of typhoid. It is further said that the drainage is atrocious, which is probably true of all Persian towns. At Teheran the system adopted has one advantage, which, if not conducive to health, is, at any rate, less obnoxious to the senses than the paraded abomination of other Eastern cities. Each house is


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provided with a shaft, sunk into the ground to a depth of thirty or forty feet, from the bottom of which four lateral shafts run into the soil. When all these are filled, the whole is closed and sealed up. This certainly does not sound very nice: but between Oriental systems of sewerage it would be difficult to discriminate.

On the other hand, the city is situated at all altitude of 3,800 feet above the sea; during the greater part of the autumn, winter, and spring months the climate is delightful; and, when the scorching heats of summer begin to prevail, there is an easy and rapid retreat to the mountain slopes, where life under tents and the trees, though not exhilarating, is endurable. But the grounds upon which I should prefer to rest my defence of the site are political. Here, too, adverse critics have declared that the city lies exposed to Russian attack and invites aggression. I do not agree. Teheran is nearly 500 miles by road from the Russian frontier at Julfa, on the Araxes, whence, as conducting to the north-west capital, Tabriz, an invasion would doubtless begin; and, if Persia did not stop Russia before those 500 miles were passed, she would never stop her anywhere. The sole remaining alternative on the north is the Resht-Kazvin route, crossing the main range of the Elburz, than which an army posted for purposes of defence could not solicit a better position. If, on the other hand, as I have argued in my chapter upon Khorasan, invasion were to come from the north-east quarter, how much better would the Shah be able to meet it from Teheran, than from Isfahan. The choice of a capital must, however, in the main, be determined, not by its exposure, or the reverse to a single possible enemy, but by its central or centralising position, and by its ready command of the routes leading to the most valuable provinces of the kingdom. It is in this respect that Teheran is so admirably placed. Situated but little more than midway between the eastern and western capitals, Meshed and Tabriz, it commands the important provinces of which they are the governing centres. At the same time, it is in close proximity to, and in easy yet defensible communication with, the northern maritime provinces, for which it may hereafter require to strike a blow. Lastly, it stands as a sort of advanced outpost to the elder capitals of Isfahan and Shiraz, upon which, in the event of disaster in the north, it would always be possible to fall back. So far, therefore, from thinking that Persia would be the better or the stronger for a change of capital to a more southerly site, I


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should regard such a movement as the voluntary abandonment of a strategical position of no mean advantage, and as an encouragement to Muscovite cupidity.

Among other semi-European attractions of Teheran at the time of my visit was the possession of a racecourse and an annual race-meeting. It is true that in neither respect were European standards rigorously maintained. For instance there was no turf; but, as a Persian horse seldom, if ever, treads upon turf in the course of a life-time, it would clearly have been superfluous to humour him on this solitary occasion. The gravelly plain outside the city, which is flat enough and big enough to race upon for a whole day without stopping, accordingly answered the purpose very well. Nor was there a 'ring' at Teheran, betting being an imprudent venture when the winner was so uniformly apt to be drawn from the stable of the sovereign. The jockeys were small boys, clad in loose trousers and coloured tunics. The races were of various lengths, the most important being the longest, which completed the circuit of the wall no fewer than six times. Eastwick, who has left the most minute account of the Teheran race-meeting that I know,[314] measured the course, and found it to be two miles minus thirty and a half yards in circumference; so that eleven and three-quarter miles was the length of what I might call the 'Cup course' at Teheran. This distance he saw covered in what seems to me the very respectable time of twenty-six minutes twenty-nine seconds. It must be remembered that in a country where all movement is on horseback, and where very long distances require to be covered by that means, endurance is of greater average value than speed. Nor do the Persians, so far as I know, advance the ludicrous defence of short-distance speed-tests with which we are familiar in countries nearer home — that they are indispensable to improve the breed of the native animal.

In no respect are Teheran and its environs more peculiar, and in no fashion can the nature and circumstance of Eastern royalty be better typified, than in the number of royal palaces and country seats which may almost be said to crowd the suburbs of the capital. It is as though all the present and past royal residences in the neighbourhood of London — Kew, Hampton Court, Chiswick, and Greenwich Hospital, were kept for the sole use of the sovereign, and in his or her absence were allowed to fall


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into unarrested decay. Of these Persian palaces the one that is best known in history is the Negaristan (or Picture-gallery) built by Fath Ali Shah,[315] and the favourite country resort of himself and his colossal seraglio. In those days the Negaristan was more than half a mile outside the walls of the contracted Teheran, whose history and disappearance I have chronicled; but the more ambitious projection of Nasr-ed-Din Shah has brought it well within the limits of the modern city; whilst his mercantile instincts have lately induced him to sell the grounds in plots for building sites. In the early part of the century it was described as a lovely retreat, with umbrageous gardens, interspersed with imarets (Pavilions), kolah Feringhis (octagonal kiosques, so called because their shape was supposed to resemble a Feringhi's, or European's, hat), cascades, and tanks. Sir R. K. Porter, who visited and described it in 1818, went into positive raptures over its beauty. It was a 'Hortus Adonidis,' a 'bower of fairy-land,' 'the very garden of "Beauty and the Beast," ' whilst the palace itself was 'an earthly imitation of the houris' abodes.' And when the susceptible baronet came to the bath-room, his poetical transports could scarcely find words in which to depict the image of the sporting naiads and the uxorious monarch looking on. The place is never occupied by the present Shah, and is now fast falling to ruin. The name was given to it in consequence of the contemporary oil-paintings by which it was, and still is, adorned. Fath Ali Shah never built or occupied a palace anywhere without immortalising himself, and his regiment of sons, and his crown and jewels and throne, and, above all, his wasp-like waist and ambrosial beard, in canvas, upon the walls. There are two such paintings in the Negaristan. One is a somewhat undistinguished picture of the Shah and some of his sons, but the more widely known is an illustration of the monarch surrounded by his sons and chief ministers of State, seated upon the Takht-i-Taous, and receiving in solemn audience the plenipotentiaries of European Powers. The Shah and his sons occupy the end of the apartment, and upon either wall advance to his presence two long lines of life-size figures — fifty in all; those in the place of honour, nearest the sovereign, being the rival representatives of Great Britain and France. An historical anachronism appears to have been perpe-


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trated here, with a view of representing, not so much a single incident, as the events of an entire period. Accordingly, Sir John Malcolm, Sir Harford Jones, Sir Gore Ouseley, and the French General Gardanne, all figure in the pictures, being recognisable both by their uniforms and their features. The Englishmen's dress consists of a three-cornered cocked hat, laced red coat with huge skirts, white breeches, and the then obligatory Persian red stockings pulled up above the knee. These paintings, which possess the very highest historical importance, and which in so dry a climate have been admirably preserved, were the work of Mohammed Hasan Khan, one of the most eminent artists of the period. As works of art, whilst violating all laws of perspective and all requirements of light and shade, they are yet admirable also, and, in their stiff angularity of pose, suggest no unfair idea of what was then the most rigid and ceremonious Court of the East.

In an upper chamber of the same pavilion, Mirza Abul Kasim, the Kaimakam,[316] or Grand Vizier, of Mohammed Shah (the father of the present monarch), was strangled in 1835, by order of his royal master, who therein followed an example set him by his predecessor, and set one himself that was duly followed by his son. It must be rare in history to find three successive sovereigns who have put to death, from jealous motives only, the three ministers who have either raised them to the throne or were at the time of their fall filling the highest office in the State. Such is the triple distinction of Fath Ali, Mohammed, and Nasr-ed-Din Shahs.

An adjoining pavilion was devoted to the anderun, or ladies' quarter; and here the visitor is conducted to a subterranean bath-room, in the centre of which is a circular pool, lined with blue tiles, whilst at the extremity of the chamber is an inclined plane of polished marble,[317] down which it is understood that the shiftless naiads, over whom Sir R. K. Porter waxed poetical, used to slide into the arms of their royal adorer, and were by him pitched into the pool — a feat of no common exertion, con-


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sidering that it is at some distance. I will refrain from reflections about the 'vanished peals of laughter and the songs once warbled by ruby lips,' leaving such flights of the fancy to the late American Minister in Persia, who was well qualified to bear the vacant mantle of Sir R. K. Porter.[318]

Outside the walls the most conspicuous eminences and the most advantageous sites have likewise been monopolised by the palace-building craze of the Kajar dynasty. Of these edifices the most prominent in any view of Teheran is that known as the Kasr-i-Kajar (Castle of the Kajars, irreverently transliterated by the English sergeants who came to Persia in the first quarter of the century to instruct the native army, as 'Castle Cadger'), or Takht-i-Kajar — i.e. Throne of the Kajars. It is situated upon an elevation about two miles to the north of the modern walls. From a distance this building has a most imposing appearance, for it rises from a base of foliage in a number of white tiers, one above the other, culminating in a sort of castle at the top.[319] The Persians entertain the most grotesque notions of its architectural importance, and have been known to assert its superiority to Windsor Castle or Versailles. A nearer approach dissipates the fond but foolish illusion. It is then seen to merit comparison with a European palace, whether of sovereign or of subject, about as appositely as might a harbour bumboat with a man-of-war; the successive tiers consisting only of earthen terraces faced with brick, and once adorned with lakes and fountains, which, like most such things in Persia, have gone to ruin. The palace at the top contains a variety of pictures of scenes and persons dating from the time of Fath Ali Shah, and in one of the pavilions in the grounds is, or was, a portrait of the English 'Beau Brummel' of Persia, Istarji, or Strachey, who accompanied Sir John Malcolm's Mission, and created such an impression as an Adonis that Fath Ali Shah composed an ode in his honour and had his picture painted for most of his palaces here and at Isfahan. In the Kasr-i-Kajar he was framed between the mythic heroes, Zal and Afrasiab — an apotheosis which I am not aware that any other Englishman has ever attained. When the King moved with the


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pick of his harem in the summer months to Sultanieh, the rest of the ladies were left behind in this castle. He is said to have contented himself with the modest total of one hundred upon these occasions, but Persian tradition fixes the number of the disconsolates as seven hundred.

Other palaces, or summer villas, or shooting-boxes of the Shah, on the northern side of the capital, are Sultanetabad, 600 feet above Gulahek on the hill-slope, a building constructed by the present Shah, and adorned with Persian frescoes of European, and particularly of English, scenes, among which may be noticed the Lobby of the House of Commons, the interior of a fine London restaurant, and the nave of a cathedral; showing that His Majesty has most accurately discerned the three leading influences


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in the lives of Englishmen;[320] Eshretabad, a very pretty place, of which I give an illustration, where the main pavilion is occupied by the Shah, and seventeen smaller pavilions, situated round a lake, by the ladies who accompany him (a creditable reduction from the standards of his great grandfather), and where also is to be seen a painting of Fath Ali seated in durbar with the foreign ambassadors before him; Niaveran, or Nioberan; Agdasieh, near Niaveran; Nejefabad; and Suleimanieh, of which I have spoken in Chapter II. These are all in the immediate neighbourhood of Teheran, and the majority of them are situated on the hill-slope known as Shimran,[321] a cultivated belt extending for a length of about twenty miles along the base of the great scarp of the Elburz, that towers like a prodigious natural rampart above the plain of Teheran on the north. Fath Ali Shah set the example of retreat to this cooler, because more elevated, site; and the large number of trees and gardens which have been planted in consequence of its since universal adoption is said to have had a very appreciable effect in lowering the temperature and increasing the rainfall of the capital.

One result of the royal partiality for suburban residences has been the construction or the improvement of the roads that lead thereto from the city. A very passable road, planted for the most part with trees, leads to Gulahek on the north; and another such road, affording the solitary carriage-drive of Teheran, conducts between stiff rows of poplars in a straight line north-east, towards yet another villa, known, from the rocky eminence on which it is placed, as Doshan-Tepe (or the Rabbit Hill). The rock is an ugly excrescence from the plain at the distance of three miles from the city; and the palace is from the outside a yet uglier excrescence upon the rock. It is, however, a favourite hunting-lodge of the Shah's when he goes shooting in the neighbouring mountains, which are kept as a royal preserve. At the foot of the rock is a large and shady garden, where, in a long row of cages or dens, are kept the wild beasts of the Shah's menagerie. The animals themselves struck me as fine specimens, but they were badly housed, and their number was small. The popularity of the place, however, as


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a sort of Iranian Jardin des Plantes, or Zoo, is evidenced by the rent of 500 krans per annum exacted by the crown from the lessee of a small coffee-house at the entrance of the garden. In the neighbourhood of Doshan-Tepe are two other royal shooting-boxes, Kasr Firuz to the south, and Surkheh Hissar to the north. Further to the east is a more considerable hunting-lodge on the banks of the Jajrud.

The Shah, as I have indicated, is not the sole patron of the slopes of Shimran. His sons and the nobility in general have followed the royal example, and there are many tasteful and beautiful residences perched on the hill-sides or hidden in the valleys. Of these, by no means the least agreeable is the summer residence of the British Legation in the village of Gulahek, about six miles from the northern gate of the capital, and said to be 700 feet higher in elevation. The seignorial rights of this village — the lordship of the manor, in fact — were presented by Mohammed Shah to Sir John Campbell in 1835; the grounds and garden, in which stand the Minister's residence, were the gift of the reigning sovereign. Under the terms of these concessions the villagers of Gulahek, which consists of about 100 houses, enjoy quite peculiar privileges, being exempt from the obligations both of conscription and of the billeting of troops. Their assessment is payable to the British Government, and is levied by the Legation. Petty jurisdiction is exercised among them by a village kedkhoda (or headman), who is nominated by the British Minister, and is responsible to the member of the Legation invested with Consular functions. As at Teheran, there are more than one edifice in the enclosure belonging to the Mission; but the main building alone is of any size. This is supplemented by a great Indian durbar-tent, which is pitched outside and serves as a dining and drawing room during the summer months. The surrounding garden is a dense thicket of trees, and, though not comparable with what we style a garden here, is yet far better adapted to the torrid climate, from which its shade in the summer affords an invaluable protection. The recent purchase of a neighbouring garden, with its water-supply (every gallon of the precious fluid having a well ascertained and costly market value), has added to the attractions of a residence without which it would be impossible for the staff of a European Legation to remain at the capital during the hot months. Russia is similarly favoured in the possession of the


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village of Zargandeh, a little to the north-west of Gulahek, for which they claim analogous privileges. The French lease a residence at Tejrish, a mile higher up the mountain, where, in the court of an imamzadeh, is what claims to be the largest chenar in Persia. The Turks own grounds in the same neighbourhood. The Germans were till recently tenants of the English in Gulahek, and now live at Dizashub. The Austrians are leaseholders at Rustamabad.

Before I quit the northern outskirts of Teheran I must pay the tribute of one more parting paragraph to the mighty mountain-sentinel Demavend. The shapely white cone, cutting so keenly and so high into the air, becomes so familiar and cherished a figure in the daily landscape, that on leaving Teheran and losing sight thereof (which, if he be journeying in a southerly direction, he does not do for 160 miles), the traveller is conscious of a very perceptible void. Demavend is a volcano, not, as some have said, wholly extinct, but rather in a state of suspended animation. There is no record of eruption during the historic period, but columns of smoke are sometimes seen to ascend from the fissures, particularly from the Dud-i-Kuh (or Smoky Peak) on the southern side. It is very strange that no mention is made of the mountain by Chardin, whose keen vision overlooked but little; or by Pietro della Valle, who passed almost at its base. Hanway, in 1744, speaks of it as 'the great mountain Demoan on which the Persians say that the Ark rested.' The first to accomplish the ascent — the Persians having always believed and declared, like the Armenians in the case of Ararat, that it was not to be climbed by mortal man — was Mr., afterwards Sir, W. T. Thomson, in 1836. The French naturalist, Aucher Eloy, met Thomson coming down from the top, and himself ascended a few days later. Since that date Demavend has been frequently ascended by members of the various Legations in Teheran, the climb being neither difficult nor dangerous, but intensely fatiguing. For long an irreconcilable divergence between the trigonometrical and other calculations of its height, arrived at by different travellers or men of science, prevailed, the estimates ranging from 14,500 to 21,500 feet. General Schindler, as the result of a combined trigonometrical and barometrical measurement, gives the true altitude as 19,400 feet.[322] From the summit, which


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consists of a crater filled with snow and ice, a horizon of 50,000 square miles is unrolled in clear weather. This is what Mr. Stack, in 1881, had to say of the view: —

The crater is some 200 yards in diameter, girt with a ring of yellow rocks of nearly pure sulphur, exhaling a pestiferous smell. The hollow is entirely filled up with snow. From the rocks Teheran can be seen, and the Kohrud Mountains 160 miles south of it; the Great Kavir can be dimly perceived through its haze of heat to the south-east; while to the north — a faint blue field under the horizon — stretches the Caspian behind the cloudy forests of Mazanderan. On the right hand and on the left were mountains of from 10,000 to 12,000 feet in height; we over-looked them all with their thinly-scattered snows. But what a lifeless prospect! Teheran so many miles away, and all the rest mere desert and crag and desolation, with here and there a village lost on the bare mountain-side.

I now pass to the environs of Teheran on the south, and shall conclude this chapter with some brief notes about the sole localities that there invite attention — viz. the shrine of Shah Abdul Azim, the remains of Rhey, or Rhages, and the ruins of Veramin. A Persian city — much more a Persian capital — is ill off that cannot boast of some noted imamzadeh, or saint's tomb (literally, descendant of an Imam), to serve as an object of pilgrimage and magnet of attraction. Teheran is thus endowed in respect of the mausoleum and sanctuary of Shah Abdul Azim. Reposing beneath a golden-plated dome, whose scintillations I had seen from afar while riding towards the city, the remains of this holy individual are said to attract an annual visitation of 300,000 persons. I find that most writers discreetly veil their ignorance of the identity of the saint by describing him as 'a holy Mussulman, whose shrine is much frequented by the pious Teheranis.' It appears, however, that long before the advent of Islam this had been a sacred spot, as the sepulchre of a lady of great sanctity, in which connection it may be noted that the shrine is still largely patronised by women. Here, after the Mussulman


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conquest, was interred Imamzadeh Hamza, the son of the seventh Imam, Musa el Kazim; and here, flying from the Khalif Mutawakkel, came a holy personage named Abul Kassem Abdul Azim, who lived in concealment at Rhey till his death in about 861. A.D.[323] Subsequently his fame obscured that of his more illustrious pre-


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decessor. Successive sovereigns, particularly those of the reigning dynasty, have extended and beautified the cluster of buildings raised above his grave, the ever-swelling popularity of which has caused a considerable village to spring up around the hallowed site. The mosque is situated in the plain, about six miles to the south-south-east of the capital, just beyond the ruins of Rhey, and at the extremity of the mountain-spur that encloses the Teheran plain on the south-east. A narrow-gauge line of rails — the only railroad in working order in Persia — runs from a station near the southern gate of the city to the shrine, which is also approached by a tolerable cart-road. Of the railway I shall have occasion to speak hereafter. At a short distance from the terminus — for the line goes no farther — we come to the portal of a covered and crowded bazaar, leading down to the main gateway of the mosque. But the warning of a chain stretched across the entrance teaches us that this bazaar is bast, or sanctuary; and, where the Mohammedan criminal of the deepest dye can enter and abide with impunity, the Christian visitor must pass aside. By skirting the bazaar it is possible, however, to arrive at a side court of the mosque, adjoining the main quadrangle with the minarets and the golden dome, and into this no one seemed to object to our entering. To any but a Mussulman visitor there is nothing to be seen except the crowd.

Far more interesting than the sanctuary or the worshippers of the saint are the famous, but fast-disappearing, ruins to which it stands in such close proximity. I shall not here discuss the question whether the remains still visible at Rhey are those of the famous Rhages or not. That they are those of the Arabian Rhey there can be very little doubt, but whether the latter occupied precisely the same site as the Parthian and the Achaemenian Rhages is perhaps more open to question. Sir H. Rawlinson is, I believe, inclined to identify the latter with certain of the ruins in the neighbourhood of Veramin; nor is it out of keeping with the traditions of most Oriental cities of any great size that they should at different epochs of their lifetime have occupied different sites. Leaving the vexed question, however, to the savants, I shall here, in narrating the history of Rhages, or Rhey, assume the identity of the two names.

First comes the mythical period, starting from a legendary foundation by the patriarch Seth, and illumined by other great


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traditional names. This we may dismiss. In the Vendidad, however, occur the names of Ragha and Varena among the stations in the wanderings of the Aryans, which have an undeniable resemblance to Rhages and Veramin. Next comes what may be termed the nebulous period, of which little definite is known, but echoes of which, loud though uncertain, have echoed down the galleries of time. The Rhages of this period was contemporary with Babylon and Nineveh, and was reported to be a great city containing over a million souls. This was the Rages to which the Tobias of the Apocrypha set forth from Nineveh, guided by an angel in disguise, to recover the ten talents deposited with Gabael by his father.[324] This, too, is supposed to have been the Ragan of Judith,[325] where Nabuchodonosor smote Arphaxad in the mountains. It is mentioned in the Behistun inscription as the place where the troops of Darius son of Hystaspes captured the rebel Mede Phraortes. Hither too came Alexander, in pursuit of Darius, on the eleventh day of his march from Ecbatana (Hamadan). The city is said to have been rebuilt by Seleucus Nicator, and in the succeeding century to have been made his capital by Ashk, or Arsaces, the founder of the Parthian empire, about B.C. 250. Finally comes the third, or historical, period, dating from the Arab conquest, when, if we are to believe one tithe of what Arab and Persian histories have related, it was a most phenomenal place. One such chronicler, a native of Rhey himself, fired by a patriotism which exulted in the lordly manipulation of figures, has left on record that the city contained 96 quarters, each with 46 wards, each with 40,000 dwelling-houses and 1,000 mosques, and in each mosque 1,000 lamps of gold and silver, the total population amounting to 8,000,396 persons. By other writers it was termed the First of Cities, the Spouse of the World, the Market of the Universe. Of more certain knowledge are the facts that it was the birthplace and one of the favourite residences of the renowned Harun-er-Rashid; that it was captured by Mahmud of Ghuzni from the Buyah dynasty in A.D. 1027; that it became one of the two great cities of the Seljuk sovereigns, the residence and the sepulchre of Togrul


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Beg, and one of the capitals of Alp Arslan, the Great Lion.[326] In the tenth century El Istakhri had declared it to be the most flourishing city in the East after Baghdad, and had eulogised the hospitality and politeness of its people;[327] but in his discriminating praise we may find a sufficient corrective of the arrogant boastings to which I have previously referred. Now fell the twofold catastrophe which, throughout the East, wherever of population, of pride, or of opulence great examples were to be found, is associated with the names of Jenghiz Khan and Timur. The troops of the former took the city by storm in A.D. 1221, on which awful day, says a local historian, '700,000 respectable persons' were slain. In the next century the Great Tartar completed the work of destruction; and Don Ruy di Clavijo, passing in 1404, found it 'a great city, all in ruins; but there appeared towers and mosques; and the name of the place was Xaharihrey (i.e. Shahr-i-Rhey).[328] The town, however, revived sufficiently to become one of the seats of government of Timur's younger son Shah Rukh; and here his grandson, the nerveless Khalil Sultan, who bartered an empire for the love of the fascinating Shad-el-Mulk (Delight of the Kingdom), lived a fitful career of romance, and died. From the death of Shah Rukh the final decline of Rhey may be traced; and succeeding centuries have witnessed the steady decay and obliteration of its remains, until they have reached the sorrowful condition in which they may now be observed.

The fullest and most accurate account of the existing ruins of Rhey is to be found in the pages of Ker Porter,[329] accompanied by a careful plan. Some of the walls and towers traced by him cannot now be so clearly defined, the lapse of time, the advent of the railway, and the unexhausted inclination of the Teheranis, when they are in want of bricks to build a house, to get them from Rhey for nothing, having combined to still further reduce the great heaps of débris which mark the site. Porter traced the remains of a strong citadel on a projecting rocky ridge above the


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plain. This was, no doubt, the arx, or acropolis, and its outline can still be satisfactorily determined. Below this was a lower fortified enceinte, or citadel; and encircling this, upon the plain, was a vast space surrounded by fortified walls, with its entrances masked by three great square towers, the whole forming a triangle with the arx as its apex. Such, briefly stated, appears to have been the form of the fortified part of ancient Rhey. At present the line of walls has resolved itself into prodigious mounds of broken brick and clay, from which coins have, constantly been recovered, and to which visitors to Teheran are in the habit of going out with a spade or shovel for an afternoon's private excavation. They seldom return without some fragment of exquisite tile-work, still gleaming with that flame-like iridescence which is a perished secret of the past, but which is indescribably beautiful even upon the minute chips and splinters that are, as a rule, the sole reward of the spade. I am not aware that any scientific or systematic excavation has ever taken place in the mounds of Rhey, and it is one of the tasks which I should consequently recommend to the labours of archaeologists.

There are, however, other and more substantial relics of the ancient city. The most conspicuous of these is a great circular tower, locally known as the Nakkara-Khaneh (or Drum tower) of Yezid, which too ardent writers, with no apparent justification, have identified with the sepulchre of Togrul Beg, and with the mausoleum of the lovers Khalil Sultan and Shad-el-Mulk. It is a great fabric, built of brick, entirely hollow inside, and roofless, from sixty to seventy feet in height and one hundred and twenty feet in exterior circumference, the outer surface being broken into a series of projecting angles, similar to the towers which I have previously noticed at Jorjan and Bostam. Around the summit is, or, rather, was, a cornice decorated with a Kufic inscription. This structure has unfortunately been subjected in the last few years to a restoration so complete that it now presents the appearance of a brand-new fabric. The surrounding ground has been converted into a garden, with tanks and trees, and a stairway, constructed in the wall, leads to the summit. From this point some idea may be gained of the outline of the ancient city. At a little distance to the east, and at the foot of the mountain, stands a second ruined tower with Kufic cincture, of which, as it has not been restored, I present a photograph. Above this are the remains of a stone citadel, on the rock.


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One relic there used to be at Rhey of the famous period of the Sassanian kings. This was a semi-obliterated bas-relief of a figure mounted on horseback and armed with a spear, which was sculped on a smoothed surface of rock, above what I have called the arx. The globe-crowned headdress and the style left no doubt as to the period of the sculpture, though insufficient to warrant an identification with any individual among the monarchs,


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whose likenesses at Naksh-i-Rustam and Shapur I shall describe later on. In the latter part of Fath Ali Shah's reign, however, this bas-relief, in the true spirit of Persian restoration, was effaced to make way for a sculpture representing the long-bearded monarch spearing a lion; and no one now seems to be aware of the history of this wanton palimpsest.[330] At some distance lower down, another smoothed surface of rock, rising above a pretty pool known as the Chashmeh-i-Ali (or Fountain of Ali), exhibits Fath Ali Shah seated in high relief, with his Court — a nineteenth-century imitation of the Sassanian model, which has also been copied by Nasr-ed-Din Shah on the road through the Elburz into Mazanderan, and of which it is difficult to say whether it is more pompous or absurd. An adjoining panel exhibits the same sovereign under a parasol, holding a falcon upon his wrist. This is the sum total of what is to be seen at Rhey. In a desolate valley of the mountain-range at whose feet it lies is situated, at a considerable elevation, the circular 'Tower of Silence,' or place of exposure of the Parsis of Teheran. Like its well-known namesakes at Bombay, it consists of a hollow tower, in which the bodies of the dead are exposed upon ledges, to be devoured by birds of prey; but, unlike the structures of Bombay, its interior can be seen by climbing to a higher point of the mountain.

Between thirty and forty miles in a south-easterly direction from Teheran are the remains of yet another dead capital, Veramin. The present town is dominated by the walls of a great mud fort, flanked with bastions and sloping inwards from the base. It was this great structure (of which there is an excellent likeness in Mme. Dieulafoy's book) which I had seen upon the summit of its mound while riding towards Teheran across the northern skirts of the plain of Veramin, and which the fickle light had transformed into huge detached pillars of mud. The village also contains the ruins of what was once a most noble mosque, attributed to Sultan Abu Said, the son of Sultan Mohammed Khodabundeh (i.e. Slave of God), whose tomb I have mentioned at Sultanieh. Scattered about the plain are other great kalehs, or similar earthen fortresses, with towering walls of unbaked bricks


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fused into a mass as solid as cement and as imperishable as stone. Among these Eastwick characterises as the most remarkable a great artificial mound at Asiabad, 200 feet high, 350 feet long, and 300 feet broad, on whose summit are the remains of what is said to be an old fire-temple, built with unbaked bricks with alternate layers of stone, and rising to a maximum height of nearly forty feet. A third kaleh, known as Kaleh-i-Iraj (Rhages?), near the village of Jafirabad, encloses with a thick mud wall, fifty feet high, a space, according to Eastwick, of 1,800 yards by 1,500, or nearly a square mile.[331] The date and era of these prodigious structures are unknown and disputed; there is no hazard in referring them to a remote antiquity; but, whatever their age, they recall a past when Persia was more powerful and more populous, even if less pacific or secure, than now; and their silent witness accentuates the pathos of the country's ruin.


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