A Popular Account of Discoveries at Nineveh. Austen Henry Layard. J. C. Derby.
New York. 1854.
We had no sooner reached the house of Yakoub Rais, than a cry of
"The bey is come," spread rapidly through the village, and I was surrounded by
a crowd of men, women, and boys. My hand was kissed by all, and I had to submit
for some time to this tedious process. As for my companion he was almost smothered
in the embraces of the girls, nearly all of whom had been liberated from slavery
after the great massacre, and had been supported in their distress by his brother
for some months in Mosul. 1 Among the men were many of my old
workmen, who were distinguished from the rest of the inhabitants of Asheetha by
their gay dresses and arms, the fruits of their industry during the
winter. They were anxious to show their gratitude, and their zeal in my service.
The priests came too; Kasha Ghioorghis, Kasha Hormuzd, and others. As they entered
the room, the hole assembly rose; and lifting their turbans and caps reverentially
from their heads, kissed the hand extended to them. In the meanwhile the girls
had disappeared; but soon returned, each bearing a platter of fruit which they
placed before me. My workmen also brought large dishes of boiled garas swimming
in butter. There were provisions enough for the whole company.
The first inquiries were after Mar Shamoun, the patriarch. I produced his letter,
which the priests first kissed and placed to their foreheads. They afterward passed
it to the principal men, who went through the same ceremony. Kasha Ghioorghis
then read the letter aloud, and at its close, those present uttered a pious ejaculation
for the welfare of their patriarch, and renewed their expressions of welcome to
These preliminaries having been concluded, we had to satisfy all present as
to the object, extent, and probable duration of our journey. The village was in
the greatest alarm at a threatened invasion from Beder Khan Bey. The district
of Tkhoma, which had escaped the former massacre, was now the object of his fanatical
vengeance. He was to march through Asheetha, and orders had already been sent
to the inhabitants to collect provisions for his men. As his expedition was not
to be undertaken before the close of Ramazan, there was full time to see the proscribed
districts before the Kurds entered them. I determined, however, to remain a day
in Asheetha, to rest our mules.
On the morning following our arrival, I went with Yakoub Rais to visit the
village. The trees and luxuriant crops had concealed the desolation of the place,
and had given to Asheetha, from without, a flourishing appearance. As I wandered,
however, through the lanes, I found little but ruins. A few houses were rising
from the charred heaps; still the greater part of the sites were without owners,
the whole family having perished. Yakoub pointed out, as we went along,
the former dwellings of wealthy inhabitants, and told me how and where they had
been murdered. A solitary church had been built since the massacre; the foundations
of others was seen among the ruins. The pathways were still blocked up by the
trunks of trees cut down by the Kurds. Water-courses, once carrying fertility
to many gardens, were now empty and dry; and the lands which they had irrigated
were left naked and unsown. I was surprised at the proofs of the industry and
activity of the few surviving families, who had returned to the village, and had
already brought a large portion of the land into cultivation.
The houses of Asheetha are not built in a group, but are scattered over the
valley like those of the Tiyari districts. 2 Each dwelling stands
in the center of the land belonging to its owner; consequently, the village occupies
a much larger space than would otherwise be required, but has a cheerful and pleasing
appearance. The houses are simple, and constructed so as to afford protection
and comfort, during winter and summer. The lower part is of stone, and contains
two or three rooms inhabited by the family and their cattle during the cold months.
Light is admitted by the door, and by small holes in the wall. There are no windows,
as in the absence of glass, a luxury as yet unknown in Kurdistan, the cold would
be very great during the winter, when the inhabitants are frequently snowed up
for many days together. The upper floor is constructed partly of stone and partly
of wood, the whole side facing the south being open. Enormous beams, resting on
wooden pillars and on the walls, support the roof. This is the summer habitation,
and here all the members of the family reside. During July and August they usually
sleep on the roof, upon which they erect stages of boughs and grass resting on
high poles. By thus raising themselves as much as possible, they avoid the vermin
which swarm in the rooms, and catch the night winds which carry away
the gnats. Sometimes they build these stages in the branches of high trees around
the houses. The winter provision of dried grass and straw for the cattle is stacked
near the dwelling, or is heaped on the roof.
As this was the first year that the surviving inhabitants of Asheetha, about
200 families, had returned to the village and had cultivated the soil, they were
almost without provisions of any kind. We were obliged to send to Zaweetha for
meat and ice; and even milk was scarce, the flocks having been carried away by
the Kurds. Garas was all we could find to eat. They had no corn and very little
barley. Their bread was made of this garas, and upon it alone they lived, except
when on holy-days they boiled the grain, and soaked it in melted butter.
The men were now busy in irrigating the land; and seemed to be rewarded by
the promise of ample crops of their favorite garas, and of wheat, barley, rice,
and tobacco. The boys kept up a continued shrill shriek or whistle
to frighten away the small birds, which had been attracted in shoals by the ripe
corn. When tired of this exercise, they busied themselves with their partridges.
Almost every youth in the country carries one of these birds at his back, in a
round wicker cage. Indeed, while the mountains and the valleys swarm with wild
partridges, the houses are as much infested by the tame. The women, too, were
not idle. The greater part of them, even the girls, were beating out the corn,
or employed in the fields. A few were at the doors of the houses working at the
loom, or spinning wool for the clothes of the men. I never saw more general or
cheerful industry; even the priests took part in the labors of their congregation.
I walked to the ruins of the school and dwelling house, built by the American
missionaries during their short sojourn in the mountains. These buildings had
been the cause of much jealousy and suspicion to the Kurds. They stand upon the
summit of an isolated hill, commanding the whole valley. A position less ostentatious
and proportions more modest might certainly have been chosen; and it is surprising
that persons, so well acquainted with the characters of the tribes among whom
they had come to reside, should have been thus indiscreet. They were, however,
most zealous and worthy men; and had their plans succeeded, I have little doubt
that they would have conferred signal benefits on the Nestorian Chaldeans. I never
heard their names mentioned by the Tiyari, and most particularly that of Dr. Grant,
without expressions of profound respect, amounting almost to veneration.
During the occupation of Asheetha by the Kurds, Zeinel Bey fortified
himself with a few men in the house constructed by the Americans; and the position
was so strong, that, holding it against all the attempts of the Tiyari to dislodge
him, he kept the whole of the valley in subjection.
Yakoub Rais, who was naturally of a lively and joyful disposition, could not
restrain his tears as he related to me the particulars of the massacre. He had
been among the first seized by Beder Khan Bey; and having been kept by that chief
as a kind of hostage, he had been continually with him, during the attack on the
Tiyari, and had witnessed all the scenes of bloodshed which is so graphically
described. The descent upon Asheetha was sudden and unexpected. The greater part
of the inhabitants fell victims to the fury of the Kurds, who endeavored to destroy
every trace of the village. We walked to the church, which had been newly constructed
by the united exertions and labor of the people. The door was so low, that a person,
on entering, had to bring his back to the level of his knees. The entrances to
Christian churches in the East are generally so constructed, that horses and beasts
of burden may not be lodged by Mohammedans within the sacred building. A few rituals,
a book of prayer, and the Scriptures, all in manuscript, were lying upon the rude
altar; but the greater part of the leaves were wanting, and those which remained
were either torn into shreds, or disfigured by damp and water. The manuscripts
of the churches were hid in the mountains, or buried in some secure place, at
the time of the massacre; and as the priests, who had concealed them, were mostly
killed, the books have not been recovered. A few English prints and handkerchiefs
from Manchester were hung about the walls; a bottle and a glass, with a tin plate
for the sacrament, stood upon the table; a curtain of coarse cloth hung before
the inner recess, the Holy of Holies; and these were all the ornaments and furniture
of the place.
I visited my former workmen, the priests, and those whom I had seen at Mosul;
and as it was expected that I should partake of the hospitality of each, and eat
of the dishes they had prepared for me - generally garas floating in
melted rancid butter, with a layer of sour milk above - by the time I reached
Yakoub's mansion, my appetite was abundantly satisfied. At the door, however,
stood Sarah, and a bevy of young damsels with baskets of fruits mingled with ice,
fetched from the glacier; nor would they leave me until I had tasted of every
We lived in a patriarchal way with the rais. My bed was made in one corner
of the room. The opposite corner was occupied by Yakoub, his wife and unmarried
daughters; a third was appropriated to his son and daughter in law, and all the
members of his son's family; the fourth was assigned to my companion; and various
individuals, whose position in our household could not be very accurately determined,
took possession of the center. We slept well nevertheless, and no one troubled
himself about his neighbor. Even Ibrahim Agha, whose paradise was Chanak Kalassi,
the Dardanelles, to which he always disadvantageously compared every thing, confessed
that the Tiyari mountains were not an unpleasant portion of the sultan's dominions.
Yakoub volunteered to accompany me during the rest of my journey through the
mountains; and as he was generally known, was well acquainted with the by-ways
and passes, and a very merry companion withal, I eagerly accepted his offer. We
left part of our baggage at his house, and it was agreed that he should occasionally
ride one of the mules. He was a very portly person, gayly dressed in an embroidered
jacket and striped trowsers, and carrying a variety of arms in his girdle.
The country through which we passed, after leaving Asheetha, could scarcely
be surpassed in the beauty and sublimity of its scenery. The patches of land on
the declivities of the mountains were cultivated with extraordinary skill and
care. I never saw greater proofs of industry. Our mules, however, were dragged
over places almost inaccessible to men on foot, but we forgot the toils and dangers
of the way in gazing upon the magnificent prospect before us. Zaweetha
is in the same valley as Asheetha. The stream formed by the eternal snows above
the latter village, forces its way to the Zab. On the mountain-sides is the most
populous and best cultivated district in Tiyari. The ravine below Asheetha is
too narrow to admit of the road being carried along the banks of the torrent;
and we were compelled to climb over a mass of rocks, rising to a considerable
height above it. Frequently the footing was so insecure that it required the united
force of several men to carry the mules along by their ears and tails. We, who
were unaccustomed to mountain paths, were obliged to have recourse to the aid
of our hands and knees.
I had been expected at Zaweetha; and before we entered the first gardens of
the village, a party of girls, bearing baskets of fruit, advanced to meet me.
Their hair, neatly plaited and adorned with flowers, fell down their backs. On
their heads they wore colored kerchiefs loosely tied, or an embroidered cap. Many
were pretty, and the prettiest was Aslani, a liberated slave, who had been for
some time under the protection of Mrs. Rassam; she led the party, and welcomed
me to Zaweetha. My hand having been kissed by all, they simultaneously threw themselves
upon my companion, and saluted him vehemently on both cheeks; such a mode of salutation,
in the case of a person of my rank and distinction, not being, unfortunately,
considered either respectful or decorous. The girls were followed by the rais
and the principal inhabitants, and I was led by them into the village.
The Rais of Zaweetha had fortunately rendered some service to Beder Khan Bey,
and on the invasion of Tiyari his village was spared. It had not even been deserted
by its inhabitants, nor had its trees and gardens been injured. It was, consequently,
at the time of my visit, one of the most flourishing villages in the mountains.
The houses, neat and clean, were still overshadowed by the wide spreading walnut-tree;
every foot of ground which could receive seed, or nourish a plant, was cultivated.
Soil had been brought from elsewhere, and built up in the terraces
on the precipitous sides of the mountains. A small pathway among the gardens led
us to the house of the rais.
We were received by Kasha Kana of Lizan, and Kasha Yusuf of Siatha; the first,
one of the very few learned priests left among the Nestorian Chaldeans. Our welcome
was as unaffected and sincere as it had been at Asheetha. Preparations had been
made for our reception, and the women of the chief's family were congregated around
huge caldrons at the door of the house, cooking an entire sheep, with rice and
garas. The liver, heart, and other portions of the entrails, were immediately
cut into pieces, roasted on ramrods, and brought on these skewers into the room.
The fruit, too, melons, pomegranates, and grapes, all of excellent quality, spread
on the floor, before us, served to allay our appetites until the breakfast was
Mar Shamoun's letter was read with the usual solemnities by Kasha Kana, and
we had to satisfy the numerous inquiries of the company. Their patriarch was regarded
as a prisoner in Mosul, and his return to the mountains was expected with deep
anxiety. Everywhere, except in Zaweetha, the churches had been destroyed to their
foundations, and the priests put to death. Some of the holy edifices had been
rudely rebuilt; but the people were unwilling to use them until they had been
consecrated by the patriarch. There were not priests enough indeed to officiate,
nor could others be ordained until Mar Shamoun himself performed the ceremony.
These wants had been the cause of great irregularities and confusion in Tiyari;
and the Nestorian Chaldeans, who are naturally a religious people, and greatly
attached to their churches and ministers, were more alive to them than to any
of their misfortunes.
Kasha Kana was making his weekly rounds among the villages which had lost their
priests. He carried under his arm a bag full of manuscripts, consisting chiefly
of rituals and copies of the Scriptures; but he had also one or two volumes on
profane subjects, which he prized highly; among them was a grammar
by Rabba Iohannan bar Zoabee, to which he was chiefly indebted for his learning.
4 He read to us - holding as usual the book upside down - a part
of the introduction, treating of the philosophy and nature of languages, and illustrated
the text by various attempts at the delineation of most marvelous alphabets. A
taste for the fine arts seemed to prevail generally in the village, and the walls
of the rais's house were covered with sketches of wild goats and snakes in every
variety of posture. The young men were eloquent on the subject of the chase, and
related their exploits with the wild animals of the mountains. A cousin of the
chief, a handsome youth, very gayly dressed, had shot a bear a few days before,
after a hazardous encounter. He brought me the skin, which measured seven feet
in length. The two great subjects of complaint I found to be the Kurds and the
bears, both equally mischievous; the latter carrying off the fruit both when on
the trees and when laid out to dry; and the former the provisions stored for the
winter. In some villages in Berwari the inhabitants pretended to be in so much
dread of the bears, that they would not venture out alone after dark.
The rais, finding that I would not accept his hospitality for the night, accompanied
us, followed by the principal inhabitants, to the outskirts of the village. His
frank and manly bearing, and simple kindness, had made a most favorable
impression upon me, and I left him with regret. Kasha Kana, too, fully merited
the praise which he received from all who knew him. His appearance was mild and
venerable; his beard, white as snow, fell low upon his breast; but his garments
were in a very advanced stage of rags. I gave him a few handkerchiefs, some of
which were at once gratefully applied to the bettering of his raiment; the remainder
being reserved for the embellishment of his parish church. The kasha is looked
up to as the physician, philosopher, and sage of Tiyari, and is treated with great
veneration by the people. As we walked through the village, the women left their
thresholds, and the boys their sports, to kiss his hand - a mark of respect, however,
which is invariably shown to the priesthood.
We had been joined by Mirza, a confidential servant of Mar Shamoun, and our
party was further increased by several men returning to villages on our road.
Yakoub Rais kept every one in good humor by his anecdotes, and the absurdity of
the gesticulations. Ionunco, too, dragging his mare over the projecting rocks,
down which he continually contrived to tumble, added to the general mirth, and
we went laughing through the valley.
From Zaweetha to the Zab, there is almost an unbroken line of cultivation on
both sides of the valley. The two villages of Miniyanish and Murghi are buried
in groves of walnut-trees, and their peaceful and flourishing appearance deceived
me until I wandered among their dwellings, and found the same scenes of misery
and desolation as at Asheetha. But nature was so beautiful that we almost forgot
the havoc of man, and envied the repose of these secluded habitations. In Miniyanish,
out of seventy houses, only twelve had risen from their ruins; the families to
which the rest belonged having been totally destroyed. Yakoub pointed out a spot
where above three hundred persons had been murdered in cold blood; and all our
party had some tale of horror to relate. Murghi was not less desolate than Miniyanish,
and eight houses alone had been resought by their owners. We found
an old priest, blind and gray, bowed down by age and grief, the solitary survivor
of six or eight of his order. He was seated under the shade of a walnut-tree,
near a small stream. Some children of the village were feeding him with grapes,
and on our approach his daughter ran into the half-ruined cottage, and brought
out a basket of fruit and a loaf of garas bread. I endeavored to glean some information
from the old man as to the state of his flock; but his mind wandered to the cruelties
of the Kurds, or dwelt upon the misfortunes of his patriarch, over whose fate
he shed many tears. None of our party being able to console the kasha, I gave
some handkerchiefs to his daughter, and we resumed our journey.
Our road lay through the gardens of the villages, and through the forest of
gall-bearing oaks which clothe the mountains above the line of cultivation. But
it was everywhere equally difficult and precipitous, and we tore our way through
the matted boughs of overhanging trees, or the thick foliage of creepers which
hung from every branch. Innumerable rills, leading the mountain springs into the
terraced fields, crossed our path and rendered our progress still more tedious.
We reached Lizan, however, early in the afternoon, descending to the village through
scenery of extraordinary beauty and grandeur.
Lizan stands on the river Zab, which is crossed near the village by a rude
bridge. I need not weary or distress the reader with a description of desolation
and misery, hardly concealed by the most luxuriant vegetation. We rode to the
grave-yard of a roofless church slowly rising from its ruins - the first edifice
in the village to be rebuilt. We spread our carpet among the tombs; for as yet
there were no habitable houses. The melek, with a few who had survived the massacre,
was living during the day under the trees, and sleeping at night on stages of
grass and boughs, raised on high poles, fixed in the very bed of the Zab. By this
latter contrivance they succeeded in catching any breeze that might be carried
down the narrow ravine of the river, and in freeing themselves from
the gnats and sandflies abounding in the valley.
It was near Lizan that occurred one of the most terrible incidents of the massacre;
and an active mountaineer offering to lead me to the spot, I followed him up the
mountain. Emerging from the gardens we found ourselves at the foot of an almost
perpendicular detritus of loose stones, terminated, about one thousand feet above
us, by a wall of lofty rocks. Up this ascent we toiled for above an hour, sometimes
clinging to small shrubs whose roots scarcely reached the scanty soil below: at
others crawling on our hands and knees; crossing the gullies to secure a footing,
or carried down by the stones which we put in motion as we advanced. We soon saw
evidences of the slaughter. At first a solitary skull rolling down with the rubbish;
then heaps of blanched bones; further up fragments of rotten garments. As we advanced,
these remains became more frequent - skeletons, almost entire, still hung to the
dwarf shrubs. I was soon compelled to renounce an attempt to count them. As we
approached the wall of rock, the declivity became covered with bones, mingled
with the long plaited tresses of the women, shreds of discolored linen, and well
worn shoes. There were skulls of all ages, from the child unborn to the toothless
old man. We could not avoid treading on the bones as we advanced, and rolling
them with the loose stones into the valley below. "This is nothing," exclaimed
my guide, who observed me gazing with wonder on these miserable heaps; "they are
but the remains of those who were thrown from above, or sought to escape the sword
by jumping from the rock. Follow me!" He sprang upon a ledge projecting from the
precipice that rose before us, and clambered along the face of the mountain overhanging
the Zab, now scarcely visible at our feet. I followed him as well as I was able
to some distance; but when the ledge became scarcely broader than my hand, and
frequently disappeared for three or four feet altogether, I could no longer advance.
The Tiyari, who had easily surmounted these difficulties, returned to assist me,
but in vain. I was still suffering severely from the kick received
in my leg four days before; and was compelled to return, after catching a glimpse
of an open recess or platform covered with human remains.
When the fugitives who had escaped from Asheetha, spread the news of the massacre
through the valley of Lizan, the inhabitants of the villages around collected
such part of their property as they could carry, and took refuge on the platform
have just described, and on the rock above; hoping thus to escape the notice of
the Kurds, or to be able to defend, against any numbers, a place almost inaccessible.
Women and young children, as well as men, concealed themselves in a spot which
the mountain goat could scarcely reach. 5 Beder Khan Bey was
not long in discovering their retreat; but being unable to force it, he surrounded
the place with his men, and waited until they should be compelled to yield. The
weather was hot and sultry, the Christians had brought but small supplies of water
and provisions; after three days the first began to fail them, and they offered
to capitulate. The terms proposed by Beder Khan Bey, and ratified by an oath on
the Koran, were their lives on the surrender of their arms and property. The Kurds
were then admitted to the platform. After they had disarmed their prisoners, they
commenced an indiscriminate slaughter; until, weary of using their weapons, they
hurled the few survivors from the rocks into the Zab below. Out of nearly one
thousand souls, who are said to have congregated here, only one escaped.
We had little difficulty in descending to the village; a moving mass of stones,
skulls, and rubbish carried us rapidly down the declivity. The melek, who had
but recently been raised to that rank, his predecessor having been
killed by the Kurds, prepared a simple meal of garas and butter - the only provisions
that could be procured. The few stragglers who had returned to their former dwellings
collected round us, and made the usual inquiries after their patriarch, or related
their misfortunes. As I expressed surprise at the extent of land already cultivated,
they told me that the Kurds of some neighboring villages had taken possession
of the deserted property, and had sown grain and tobacco in the spring, which
the Tiyari were now compelled to irrigate and look after.
The sun had scarcely set, when I was driven by swarms of insects to one of
the platforms in the river. A slight breeze came from the ravine, and I was able
to sleep undisturbed.
The bridge across the Zab at Lizan is of basket work. Stakes are firmly fastened
together with twigs, forming a long hurdle, reaching from one side of the river
to the other. The two ends are laid upon beams, resting upon piers on the opposite
bank, and kept in their places by heavy stones heaped upon them. Animals,
as well as men, are able to cross over this frail structure, which swings to and
fro, and seems ready to give way at every step. These bridges are of frequent
occurrence in the Tiyari mountains.
As some of the beams had been broken, the bridge of Lizan formed an acute angle
with the stream below, and was scarcely to be crossed by a man on foot. We had
consequently to swim the mules and horses, a labor of no slight trouble and difficulty,
as the current was rapid, and the bed of the river choked with rocks. More than
an hour was wasted in finding a spot sufficiently clear of stones, and in devising
means to induce the animals to enter the water. We resumed our journey on the
opposite side of the valley. But before leaving Lizan I must mention the heroic
devotion of ten Tiyari girls from the village of Serspeetho, who, as they were
led across the bridge by the Kurds, on their return from the great massacre, -
preferring death to captivity and conversion, threw themselves simultaneously
into the Zab, and were drowned in its waters.
We now entered a valley formed by a torrent which joins the Zab below Lizan.
On the opposite side, but far in the distance, were the Kurdish villages of the
district of Chal, surrounded by trees and gardens. We passed through the small
Chaldean village of Shoordh, now a heap of ruins, inhabited by a few wretched
families, whose priest had been recently put to death by Nur-Ullah Bey, the chief
of the Hakkiari tribes. From Shoordh we ascended into a wild and rocky ravine,
opening into the once rich and populous valley of Raola. We soon found ourselves
on the outskirts of cultivation. A few feet of soil were rescued from the bed
of the torrent, and sown with tobacco and garas. These straggling plots led us
into a series of orchards and gardens, extending to the district of Tkhoma.
We were nearly two hours in reaching the house of the melek. 6
My party having gradually increased as we rode among the scattered cottages, I
was followed by a large company. Melek Khoshaba 7
had been apprised of my intended visit; for he met us with the priests, and principal
inhabitants at some distance from his dwelling. I was much struck by his noble
carriage and handsome features. He wore, like the other chiefs, a dress of very
gay colors, and a conical cap of felt, slightly embroidered at the edges, and
ornamented with an eagle's feather. The men who accompanied him were mostly tall
and well made, and were more showily dressed than the inhabitants of other villages
through which we had passed. Their heads were shaved, as is customary among the
Tiyari tribes, a small knot of hair being left uncut on the crown, and allowed
to fall in a plait down the back. This tail, with the conical cap, gives them
the appearance of Chinese. The boys, in addition to their inseparable partridges,
carried cross-bows, with which they molested every small bird that appeared, and
almost every one had an eagle's feather in his cap.
We followed the melek to his house, which stood high above the torrent on the
declivity of the mountain. The upper, or summer room, was large enough to contain
all the party. The melek and priests sat on my carpets; the rest ranged themselves
on the bare floor against the walls. The girls brought me, as usual, baskets of
fruit, and then stood at the entrance of the room. Many of them were very pretty;
but the daughter of the chief, a girl of fourteen, excelled them all. I have seldom
seen a more lovely form. Her complexion was fair; her features regular; her eyes
and hair as black as jet; a continual smile played upon her mouth; and an expression
of mingled surprise and curiosity stole over her face, as she examined my dress,
or followed my movements. Her tresses, unconfined by the colored kerchief bound
loosely round her head, fell in disorder down her back, reaching to her waist.
Her dress was more gay, and neater, than that of the other women, who evidently
confessed her beauty and her rank. I motioned to her to sit down; but that was
an honor only reserved for the mother of the melek, who occupied a
corner of the room. At length she approached timidly to examine more closely a
pocket compass, which had excited the wonder of the men.
The threatened invasion of Tkhoma by Beder Khan Bey, was the chief subject
of conversation, and caused great excitement among the inhabitants of Raola. They
calculated the means of defense possessed by the villagers of the proscribed district;
but while wishing them success against the Kurds, they declared their inability
to afford them assistance; for they still trembled at the recollection of the
former massacre, and the very name of the Bohtan chief struck terror into the
hearts of the Tiyari. They entreated me to devise some mode of delivering them
from the danger. "It is true," said the melek, "that when Nur-Ullah Bey joined
Beder Khan Bey in the great massacre, the people of Tkhoma marched with the Kurds
against us; but could they do otherwise? - for they feared the chief of Hakkiari.
They are our brothers, and we should forgive them; for the scriptures tell us
to forgive even our enemies." This pious sentiment was re-echoed by all the company.
Several men, whose wives and daughters were still in slavery, came to me, thinking
that I could relieve them in their misfortune; and there was scarcely any one
present who had not some tale of grief to relate. Several members of the family
of Melek Khoshaba, including his cousin, to whom he had succeeded in the chiefship,
had been killed in the massacre. The villages in the valley of Raola having, however,
suffered less than those we had previously visited, were fast returning to their
The melek insisted upon accompanying us, with the priests and principal inhabitants,
to the end of the valley. As we passed through the village we saw the women bathing
at almost every door; nor did they appear at all conscious that we were near them.
This simple and primitive mode of washing is thus publicly practiced among all
the Chaldean tribes, particularly on the Saturday.
Melek Khoshaba accompanied me to a rude monument raised over the
bodies of fifty prisoners, who had been murdered at the time of the invasion,
and left me at the entrance of the village. We had to pass through a narrow and
barren ravine, and a rocky gorge, before entering the district of Tkhoma. Our
path was the bed of the torrent; and the mountains, rising precipitously on either
side, shut in a scene of extraordinary wildness and solitude. This was the only
road by which we could reach Tkhoma, without crossing the lofty ranges of rocks
surrounding it on all other sides. A resolute body of men might have held the
ravine against any numbers. This was one of the most dangerous tracts we had to
traverse during our journey. On the heights above are one or two villages, inhabited
by the Apenshai 8 Kurds, who are always engaged in hostilities
with the Tiyari, and fall upon such as are crossing the frontiers of Tkhoma. My
party was numerous and well armed, and keeping close together we traveled on without
We emerged suddenly from this wilderness, and saw a richly cultivated valley
before us. Flocks of sheep and goats were browsing on the hill-sides, and herds
of cattle wandered in the meadows below. These were the first domestic animals
we had seen in the Chaldean country, and they showed that hitherto Tkhoma had
escaped the hand of the spoiler. Two villages occupied opposite sides of the valley;
on the right, Ghissa, on the left, Birijai. We rode to the latter. The houses
are built in a cluster, and not scattered among the gardens, as in Tiyari. We
were surrounded by the inhabitants as soon as we entered the streets, and they
vied with one another in expressions of welcome and offers of hospitality. Kasha
Hormuzd, the principal priest, prevailed upon me to accompany him to a house he
had provided, and on the roof of which carpets were speedily spread. The people
were in great agitation at the report of Beder Khan Bey's projected march upon Tkhoma. They immediately flocked round us, seeking for news. The men
were better dressed than any Nestorian Chaldeans I had yet seen. The felt cap
was replaced by turbans of red and black linen, and these two favorite colors
of the Kurds were conspicuous in their ample trowsers and embroidered jackets.
As they carried pistols and daggers in their girdles, and long guns in their hands,
they could scarcely be distinguished from the Mussulman inhabitants of the mountains.
The women wore small embroidered skull-caps, from beneath which their hair fell
loose or in plaits. Their shirts were richly embroidered, and round their necks
and bosoms were hung coins and beads. They were happy in having escaped so long
the fanaticism and rapacity of the Kurds. But they foresaw their fate. All was
bustle and anxiety; the women were burying their ornaments and domestic utensils
in secure places; the men preparing their arms, or making gunpowder. I walked
to the church, where the priests were collecting their books, and the holy vessels
to be hid in the mountains. Among the manuscripts I saw many ancient rituals,
forms of prayer, and versions of the Scripture; the Acts of the Apostles, and
the Epistles on vellum, the first and last leaves wanting, and without date, but
evidently of a very early period, and a fine copy of the Gospels, Acts, and Epistles
also on vellum, entire, with numerous illuminations, written in the year of the
Seleucidae 1552 9 , in the time of "Mar Audishio, Patriarch of
the East, and of the Chaldeans."
I was much touched by the unaffected hospitality and simple manners of the
two priests, Kashas Hormuzd, and Khoshaba, who entertained me; a third was absent.
Their dress, torn and soiled, showed that they were poorer than their congregation.
They had just returned from the vineyards, where they had been toiling
during the day; yet they were treated with reverence and respect; the upper places
were given to them, they were consulted on all occasions, and no one drew nigh
without kissing the hand, scarred by the plow and the implements of the field.
Almost every house furnished something toward our evening repast; and a long
train of girls and young men brought us in masses of meat, fowls, boiled rice,
garas and fruit. The priests and the principal inhabitants feasted with us, and
there remained enough for my servants, and for the poor who were collected on
the roof of a neighboring house. After our meal, many of the women came to me,
and joined with the men in debating on their critical position, and in forming
schemes for the security of their families, and the defense of their village.
It was past midnight before the assembly separated.
The following day being Sunday, we were roused at dawn to attend the service
of the church. The two priests officiated in white surplices. The ceremonies were
short and simple; a portion of Scripture was read and then interpreted by Kasha
Hormuzd in the dialect in use in the mountains - few under standing the Chaldean
of the books. 10 His companion chanted the prayers - the congregation
kneeling or standing, and joining in the responses. There were no idle forms or
salutations; the people used the sign of the cross when entering, and bowed when
the name of Christ occurred in the prayers. The Sacrament was administered to
all present - men, women, and children partaking of the bread and wine, and my
companion receiving it among the rest. They were disposed to feel hurt
at my declining to join them, until I explained that I did not refuse from any
religious prejudice. When the service was ended the congregation embraced one
another, as a symbol of brotherly love and concord, 11 and left
the church. I could not but contrast these simple and primitive rites with the
senseless mummery, and degrading forms, adopted by the converted Chaldeans of
the plains - the unadorned and imageless walls, with the hideous pictures, and
monstrous deformities which encumber the churches of Mosul.
It may not be here out of place to remind the reader of the peculiar doctrine
which has earned for the Chaldeans the title of Nestorians, a name probably given
to them by the Roman Catholic missionaries. The Mussulmans term them simply Nasara,"
or "the Christians," while they call themselves "Caldani" and "Souraiyah," or
in the mountains by the name of the tribe to which they belong. Although they
undoubtedly profess the doctrine taught by Nestorius, who is looked upon as one
of the great fathers of their church, they deny having imbibed it from him, asserting
that such as it is they received it from the Apostles. It is certain that the
opinions preached by Nestorius had already spread widely in the East, and were
particularly inculcated in the schools of the Chaldeans. The most important point
of difference between the Chaldean and other Christian churches is the assertion
on the part of the former of the divisibility and separation of the two persons,
as well as of the two natures, in Christ. This of course involves the refusal
of the title of "Mother of God" to the Virgin, which renders them particularly
odious to the church of Rome, and is probably the cause of their being accused
of more heresies than they really admit. The profession of faith adopted by their
church, and still repeated twice a day, differs in few respects from the Nicene
creed, and it is evident, not only from it, but from the writings of Nestorius himself, and of the earliest fathers of the Eastern church, that there
is nothing to authorize the violent charge of heresy made against the Chaldeans
by their enemies. It is admitted, on the other hand, that they have retained in
all their purity many of the doctrines and forms of primitive Christianity.
Mosheim, whose impartiality can scarcely be doubted, thus speaks of them:-
"It is to the lasting honor of the Nestorian sect, that of all the Christian societies
established in the East, they have preserved themselves the most free from the
numberless superstitions which have found their way into the Greek and Latin churches."
12 A Protestant may, therefore, wish to ascertain in what respects
they differ, otherwise than in the doctrine already alluded to, from other Christian
sects, and what their belief and observances really are. The most important points
of difference may be summed up in a few words. They refuse to the Virgin those
titles, and that exaggerated veneration, which were the origin of most of the
superstitions and corruptions of the Romish and Eastern churches. They deny the
doctrine of purgatory, and are most averse, not only to the worship of images,
but even to their exhibition. The figure of the cross is found in their churches,
and they are accustomed to make the sign in common with other Christians of the
East; not, however, considering this ceremony essential, but rather as a badge
of Christianity and a sign of brotherhood among themselves, scattered as they
are amid men of a hostile faith. They agree with the reformed church in the rejection
of the doctrine of transubstantiation, and in the distribution of the bread and
wine among the communicants. There appear to be considerable doubts as to the
number and nature of their sacraments; they are generally stated to amount to
seven, and to include baptism, marriage, and ordination. The five lower grades
of the clergy, under the rank of bishop, are allowed to marry. In the early ages
of the church the same privilege was extended to the bishop and archbishop, and
even to the patriarch. The fasts of the Chaldeans are numerous and
very strictly observed, even fish not being eaten. There are 152 days in the year
on which abstinence from animal food is enjoined. On the Sabbath no Nestorian
performs a journey or does any work.
The vestibule of the church of Birijai was occupied by a misshapen and decrepit
nun. Her bed was a mat in the corner of the building, and she was cooking her
garas on a small fire near the door. She inquired, with many tears, after Mar
Shamoun, and hung round the neck of my companion when she learned that he had
been living with him. Vows of chastity are very rarely taken among the Nestorian
Chaldeans; and this woman, whose deformity might have precluded the hope of marriage,
was the sole instance we met with in the mountains. Convents for either sex are
Birijai contained, at the time of my visit, nearly one hundred houses, and
Ghissa forty. The inhabitants were comparatively rich, possessing numerous flocks,
and cultivating a large extent of land. There were priests, schools, and churches
in both villages.
One of the meleks of the tribe came early from Tkhoma Gowaia,
13 the principal village in the district, to welcome me to his mountains,
and to conduct me to his house. He explained that as it was Sunday the Chaldeans
did not travel, and consequently the other meleks and the principal inhabitants
had not been able to meet me. We took leave of the good people of Birijai, who
had treated us with great hospitality, and followed Melek Putros up the valley.
To our left was the small Kurdish hamlet of Hayshat, high up in a sheltered
ravine. An uninterrupted line of gardens brought us to the church of Tkhoma Gowaia,
standing in the midst of scattered houses, this village being built like those
of Tiyari. Here we found almost the whole tribe assembled, and in deep consultation
on the state of affairs. We sat in a loft above the church during the
greater part of the day, engaged in discussion on the course to be pursued to
meet the present difficulties, and to defend the valley against the expected attack
of Beder Khan Bey. The men, who were all well armed, declared that they were ready
to die in the defense of their villages; and that, unless they were overcome by
numbers, they would hold the passes against the forces of the Kurdish chief. The
Kurds, who inhabited two or three hamlets in Tkhoma, had also assembled. They
expressed sympathy for the Christians, and offered to arm in their behalf. After
much debate it was resolved to send at once a deputation to the pashaw of Mosul,
to beseech his protection and assistance. Two priests, two persons from the families
of the meleks, and two of the principal inhabitants, were chosen; and a letter
was written by Kasha Bodaca, one of the most learned and respectable priests in
the mountains. It was a touching appeal, setting forth that they were faithful
subjects of the sultan, had been guilty of no offense, and were ready to pay any
money, or submit to any terms that the pashaw might think fit to exact. The letter,
after having been approved by all present, and sealed with the seals of the chiefs,
was delivered to the six deputies, who started at once on foot for Mosul. At the
same time no precaution was to be omitted to place the valley in a state of defense,
and to prepare for the approach of the Kurds.
There were in Tkhoma three meleks, each chosen from a different family by the
tribe. The principal was Melek Putros, - a stout, jovial fellow, gayly dressed,
and well armed. His colleagues were of a more sober and more warlike appearance.
There were no signs of poverty among the people; most of the men had serviceable
weapons, and the women wore gold and silver ornaments. All the young men carried
cross bows, and were skillful in their use, killing the small birds as they rested
on the trees. A well-armed and formidable body of men might have been collected
from the villages; which, properly directed, could, I have little doubt, have
effectually resisted the invasion of Beder Khan Bey.
We passed the night on the roof of the church, and rose early to
continue our journey to Baz. The valley and pass, separating Tkhoma from this
district, being at this time of the year uninhabited, is considered insecure,
and we were accompanied by a party of armed men, furnished by the meleks. The
chiefs themselves walked with us to the village of Mezrai, whose gardens adjoin
those of Tkhoma Gowaia. The whole valley, indeed, up to the rocky barrier, closing
it toward the east, is an uninterrupted line of cultivation. Above the level of
the artificial water-courses, derived from the torrent near its source, and irrigating
all the lands of the district, are forests of oaks, clothing the mountains to
within a short distance of their summits. Galls are not so plentiful here as in
Tiyari; they form, however, an article of commerce with Persia, where they find
a better market than in Mosul. Rice and flax are very generally cultivated, and
We stopped for a few minutes at Gunduktha, the last village in Tkhoma, to see
Kasha Bodaka, whom we found preparing, at the request of his congregation, to
join the deputation to the Pashaw of Mosul. We took leave of him, and he started
on his journey. He was an amiable, and, for the mountains, a learned man, greatly
esteemed by the Chaldean tribes. Being one of the most skillful penmen of the
day, his manuscripts were much sought after for the churches. He was mild and
simple in his manners; and his appearance was marked by that gentleness, and unassuming
dignity, which I had found in more than one of the Nestorian priests.
The torrent enters the valley of Tkhoma by a very narrow gorge, through which
a road, partly constructed of rough stones, piled up in the bed of the stream,
is with difficulty carried. In the winter, when the rain has swollen the waters,
this entrance must be impracticable; and even at this time, we could scarcely
drag our mules and horses over the rocks, and through the deep pools
in which the torrent abounds. All signs of cultivation now ceased. Mountains rose
on all sides, barren and treeless. Huge rocks hung over the road, or towered above
us. On their pinnacles, or in their crevices, a few goats sought a scanty herbage.
The savage nature of the place was heightened by its solitude.
Soon after entering the ravine, we met a shepherd boy, dragging after him a
sheep killed by the bears; and a little beyond we found the reeking carcass of
a bullock, which had also fallen a victim to these formidable animals, of whose
depredations we heard continual complaints. I observed on the mountain sides several
flocks of ibex, and some of our party endeavored to get within gun shot; but after
sunrise their watchfulness can not be deceived, and they bounded off to the highest
peaks, long before the most wary of our marksmen could approach them.
We were steadily making our way over the loose stones and slippery rocks, when
a party of horsemen were seen coming toward us. They were Kurds, and I ordered
my party to keep close together, that we might be ready to meet them in case of
necessity. As they were picking their way over the rough ground, like ourselves,
to the evident risk of their horses' necks as well as of their own, I had time
to examine them fully as they drew near. In front, on a small, lean, and jaded
horse, rode a tall, gaunt figure, dressed in all the tawdry garments sanctioned
by Kurdish taste. A turban of wonderful capacity, and almost taking within its
dimensions horse and rider, buried his head, which seemed to escape by a miracle
being driven in between his shoulders by the enormous pressure. From the center
of this mass of many-colored rags rose a high conical cap of white felt. This
load appeared to give an unsteady, rolling gait to the thin carcass below, which
could with difficulty support it. A most capacious pair of claret colored trowsers
bulged out from the sides of the horse, and well nigh stretched from side to side
of the ravine. Every shade of red and yellow was displayed in his embroidered
jacket and cloak; and in his girdle were weapons of extraordinary size,
and most fanciful workmanship. His eyes were dark and piercing, and overshadowed
by shaggy eyebrows; his nose aquiline, his cheeks hollow, his face long, and his
beard black and bushy. Notwithstanding the ferocity of his countenance, and its
unmistakable expression of villainy, it would have been difficult to repress a
smile at the absurdity of the figure, and the disparity between it and the miserable
animal concealed beneath. This was a Kurdish dignitary of the first rank; a man
well known for deeds of oppression and blood; the mutesellim, or lieutenant-governor
under Nur-Ullah Bey, the chief of Hakkiari. He was followed by a small body of
well armed men, resembling their master in the motley character of their dress;
which, however, was somewhat reduced in the proportions, as became an inferiority
of rank. The cavalcade was brought up by an individual, differing considerably
from those who had preceded. His smooth and shining chin, and the rich glow of
raki 15 upon his cheeks, were undoubted evidences of Christianity.
He had the accumulated obesity of all his companions; and rode, as became him,
upon a diminutive donkey, which he urged over the loose stones with the point
of a claspknife. His dress did not differ much from that of the Kurds, except
that, instead of warlike weapons, he carried an ink-horn in his girdle. This was
Bircham, the "goulama d'Mira," 16 as he was commonly called,
- a half-renegade Christian, who was the steward, banker, and secretary of the
I saluted the mutesellim, as we elbowed each other in the narrow pass; but
he did not seem inclined to return my salutation, otherwise than by a curl of
the lip, and an indistinct grunt, which he left me to interpret in any way I thought
proper. It was no use quarreling with him, so I passed on. We had not proceeded
far, when one of his horsemen returned to us, and called away Yakoub Rais, Ionunco,
and one of the men of Tkhoma. Looking back, I observed them all in deep consultation with the Kurdish chief, who had dismounted to wait for them.
I rode on, and it was nearly an hour before the three Chaldeans rejoined us. Ionunco's
eyes were starting out of his head with fright, and the expression of his face
was one of amusing horror. Even Yakoub's usual grin had given way to a look of
alarm. The man of Tkhoma was less disturbed. Yakoub began by entreating me to
return at once to Tkhoma and Tiyari. The mutesellim, he said, had used violent
threats; declaring that as Nur-Ullah Bey had served one infidel, who had come
to spy out the country, and teach the Turks its mines, alluding to Schultz,
17 so he would serve me; and had sent off a man to the Hakkiari
chief to apprise him of my presence in the mountains. "We must turn back at once,"
exclaimed Yakoub, seizing the bridle of my horse, "or, Wallah! that Kurdish dog
will murder us all." I had formed a different plan; and, calming the fears of
my party as well as I was able, I continued my journey toward Baz. Ionunco, however,
racked his brain for every murder that had been attributed to Nur-Ullah Bey; and
at each new tale of horror Yakoub turned his mule, and vowed he would go back
We rode for nearly four hours through this wild, solitary valley. My people
were almost afraid to speak, and huddled together as if the Kurds were coming
down upon us. Two or three of the armed men scaled the rocks, and ran on before
us as scouts; but the solitude was only broken by an eagle soaring above our heads,
or by a wild goat which occasionally dashed across our path. In the spring, and
early summer, these now desolate tracts are covered with the tents of the people
of Tkhoma, and of the Kurds, who find on the slopes a rich pasture for their flocks.
It was mid-day before we reached the foot of the mountain dividing us from
the district of Baz. The pass we had to cross is one of the highest in the Chaldean
country, and at this season there was snow upon it. The ascent was long, steep, and toilsome. We were compelled to walk, and even without our weight,
the mules could scarcely climb the acclivity. But we were well rewarded for our labor when we gained the summit. A scene of extraordinary grandeur opened upon
us. At our feet stretched the valley of Baz, - its villages and gardens but specks
in the distance. Beyond the valley, and on all sides of us, was a sea of mountains-peaks
of every form and height, some snow-capped, others bleak and naked; the furthermost
rising in the distant regions of Persia. I counted nine distinct mountain ranges.
Two vast rocks formed a kind of gateway on the crest of the pass, and I sat between
them for some minutes, gazing upon the sublime prospect before us.
The descent was rapid and dangerous, and so precipitous that a stone might
almost have been dropped on the church of Ergub, first visible like a white spot
beneath us. We passed a rock, called the "Rock of Butter," from a custom, perhaps,
of pagan origin, existing among the Chaldean shepherds, of placing upon it, as
an offering, a piece of the first butter made in early spring. As we approached
the village, we found several of the inhabitants laboring in the fields. They
left their work, and followed us. The church stands at some distance from the
houses; and when we reached it, the villagers compelled all my servants to dismount,
including Ibrahim Agha, who muttered a curse upon the infidels, as he took his
foot out of the stirrup. The Christians raised their turbans, - a mark of reverence
always shown on these occasions.
The houses of Ergub are built in a group. We stopped in a small open place
in the center of them, and I ordered my carpet to be spread near a fountain, shaded
by a cluster of trees. We were soon surrounded by the inhabitants of the village.
The melek and the priest seated themselves with me; the rest stood round in a
circle. The men were well dressed and armed; and, like those of Tkhoma, they could
scarcely be distinguished from the Kurds. Many of the women were pretty enough
to be entitled to the front places they had taken in the crowd. They wore silver
ornaments and beads on their foreheads, and were dressed in jackets
and trowsers of gay colors.
After the letter of the patriarch had been read, and the inquiries concerning
him fully satisfied, the conversation turned upon the expected expedition of Beder
Khan Bey against Tkhoma, and the movements of Nur-Ullah Bey, events causing great
anxiety to the people of Baz. Although this district had been long under the chief
of Hakkiari, paying an annual tribute to him, and having been even subjected to
many vexatious exactions, and to acts of oppression and violence, yet it had never
been disarmed, nor exposed to a massacre such as had taken place in Tiyari. There
was now cause to fear that the fanatical fury of Beder Khan Bey might be turned
upon it as well as upon Tkhoma; and the only hope of the inhabitants was in the
friendly interference of Nur-Ullah Bey, whose subjects they now professed themselves
to be. They had, however, begun to conceal their church books and property, in
anticipation of a disaster.
Both the melek and the priest pressed me to accept their hospitality. I preferred
the house of the latter, to which we moved in the afternoon. My host was suffering
much from the ague, and was moreover old and infirm. I gave him a few medicines
to stop his fever, for which he was very grateful. He accompanied me to the church;
but the bare walls alone were standing. The books and furniture had been partly
carried away by the Kurds, and partly removed for security by the people of the
After the events of the morning, I had made up my mind to proceed at once to
Nur-Ullah Bey, whose residence was only a short day's journey distant; but on
communicating my intention to Mr. Hormuzd Rassam, he became so alarmed, and so
resolutely declared that he would return alone rather than trust himself in the
hands of the Mir of Hakkiari, that I was forced to give up my plan. In the present
state of the mountains, there were only two courses open to me: either to visit
the chief, who would probably, after learning the object of my journey, receive and assist me as he had done Dr. Grant, or to retrace my steps without
delay. I decided upon the latter with regret, as I was thus unable to visit Jelu
and Diz, the two remaining Christian districts. Without communicating my plans
to any one, I sent for two of Nur-Ullah Bey's attendants who happened to be in
the village, and induced them, by a small present, to take a note to their master.
They were led to believe that it was my intention to visit him on the following
day, and I sent a Christian to see that they took the road to Julamerik. The treachery
and daring of Nur-Ullah Bey were so well known, that I thought it most prudent
to deceive him, in case he might wish to waylay me on my return to Tkhoma. I started
therefore before daybreak without any one in the village being aware of my departure,
and took the road by which we had reached Baz the day before.
We crossed the pass as quickly as we were able, hurried through the long barren
valley, and reached Gunduktha, without meeting any one during our journey: to
the no small comfort of my companions, who could not conceal their alarm during
the whole of our morning's ride.
We stopped to breakfast at Gunduktha, and saw the meleks at Tkhoma Gowaia.
The people of this village had felt much anxiety on our account, as the mutesellim
had passed the night there, and had used violent threats against us. I learned
that he was going to Chal, to settle some differences which had arisen between
the Kurds of that district and of Hakkiari, and that Bircham had been sent to
Tkhoma by Nur-Ullah Bey to withdraw his family and friends; "for, this time,"
said the chief, "Beder Khan Bey intends to finish with the Christians, and will
not make slaves for consuls and Turks to liberate."
As I was desirous of leaving Tkhoma as soon as possible, I refused the proffered
hospitality of Melek Putros, and rode on to Birijai.
Being unwilling to return to Asheetha by Raola and the villages we had already
visited, I determined - notwithstanding the account given by the people of Tkhoma
of the great difficulty of the passes between us and the Zab - to cross
the mountain of Khouara, which rises at the back of Birijai. Their descriptions
had not been exaggerated. After dragging ourselves for two hours over loose stones,
and along narrow ledges, we reached the summit, weary and breathless. From the
crest we overlooked the whole valley of Tkhoma, with its smiling villages, bounded
to the east by the lofty range of Kareetha; to the west I recognized the peaks
of Asheetha, the valley of the Zab, Chal, and the heights inhabited by the Apenshai
The mountain of Khouara is the Zoma - or summer pasture ground - of the inhabitants
of Ghissa and Birijai. As we ascended we passed many rude sheds and caverns, half-blocked
up at the entrance with loose stones - places in which the flocks are kept during
the night, to preserve them from wild animals. There is a fountain at a short
distance from the top of the pass, and a few trees near it; but the mountain is
otherwise naked, and, at this time of the year, without verdure of any kind.
An hour's rapid descent brought us to the Tiyari village of Be-Alatha, - a
heap of ruins on the two sides of a valley. The few surviving inhabitants were
in extreme poverty, and the small-pox was raging among them. The water courses
destroyed by the Kurds had not been repaired, and the fields were mostly uncultivated.
Even the church had not yet been rebuilt; and as the trees which had been cut
down were still lying across the road, and the charred timber still encumbered
the gardens, the place had a most desolate appearance. We were hospitably received
by a shamasha, or deacon, whose children, suffering from the prevailing disease,
and covered with discolored blains, crowded into the wretched cottage. Women and
children, disfigured by the malignant fever, came to me for medicines; but it
was beyond my power to relieve them. Our host, as well as the rest of the inhabitants,
was in extreme poverty. Even a little garas, and rancid butter, could with difficulty
be collected by contributions from all the houses, and I was at a loss
to discover how the people of Be-Alatha lived. Yet the deacon was cheerful and
contented, dwelling with resignation upon the misfortunes that had befallen his
village, and the misery of his family.
On leaving the village, now containing only ten families, I was accosted by
an old priest, who had been waiting until we passed, and who entreated me to eat
bread under his roof. As his cottage was distant, I was compelled to decline his
hospitality, though much touched by his simple kindness, and mild and gentle manners.
Finding that I would not go with him, he insisted upon accompanying us to the
next village, and took with him three or four sturdy mountaineers, to assist us
on our journey; for the roads, he said, were nearly impassable.
Without the assistance of the good priest our attempt to reach Marth d'Kasra
would certainly have been hopeless. More than once we turned back in despair,
before the slippery rocks and precipitous ascents. Ibrahim Agha, embarrassed by
his capacious boots, which, made after the fashion of the Turks, could have contained
the extremities of a whole family, was more beset with difficulties than all the
party. When he attempted to ride a mule, unused to a pack-saddle, he invariably
slid over the tail of the animal, and lay sprawling on the ground, to the great
amusement of Yakoub Rais, with whom his adventures were a never-failing source
of anecdote in the village assemblies. If he walked, either his boots became wedged
into the crevices of the rocks, or filled with gravel, to his no small discomfort.
At length, in attempting to cross a bed of loose stones, he lost all presence
of mind, and remained fixed in the middle, fearful to advance or retreat. The
rubbish yielded to his grasp, and he looked down into a black abyss, toward which
he found himself gradually sinking with the avalanche he had put in motion. There
was certainly enough to frighten any Turk, and Ibrahim Agha clung to the face
of the declivity - the picture of despair. "What's the Kurd doing?" cried a Tiyari,
with whom all Mussulmans were Kurds, and who was waiting to pass on; "is there
any thing here to turn a man's face pale? This is dashta, dashta" (a
plain, a plain). Ibrahim Agha, who guessed from the words Kurd and dashta, the
meaning of which he had learned, the purport of the Christian's address, almost
forgot his danger in his rage and indignation. "Gehannem with your dashta!" cried
he, still clinging to the moving stones," and dishonor upon your wife and mother.
Oh! that I could only get one way or the other to show this infidel what it is
to laugh at the beard of an Osmanli, and to call him a Kurd in the bargain!" With
the assistance of the mountaineers he was at length rescued from his perilous
position, but not restored to good humor. By main force the mules were dragged
over this and similar places; the Tiyaris seizing them, by the halter and tail,
and throwing them on their sides.
We were two hours struggling through these difficulties before reaching Marth
d' Kasra, formerly a large village, but now containing only forty houses.
18 Its appearance, however, was more flourishing than that of
Be-Alatha; and the vineyards, and gardens surrounding it, had been carefully trimmed
and irrigated. Above Marth d' Kasra, on a lofty overhanging rock, is the village
of Lagippa, reduced to ten houses. It is not accessible to beasts of burden. I
rode to the house of a priest, and sat there while the mules were resting.
The road between Marth d' Kasra and Chonba was no less difficult and dangerous
than that we had taken in the morning. The gardens of the former village extend
to the Zab, and we might have followed the valley; but the men who were with us
preferred the shorter road over the mountain, that we might reach Chonba before
The villages in the valley of the Zab suffered more from the Kurds than any
other part of Tiyari. Chonba was almost deserted, its houses and churches a mass
of ruins, and its gardens and orchards uncultivated and neglected. There was no
roof, under which we could pass the night; and we were obliged to spread our carpets
under a cluster of walnut trees, near a clear and most abundant spring.
Beneath these trees was pitched the tent of Beder Khan Bey, after the great massacre;
and here he received Melek Ismail, when delivered a prisoner into his hands. Yakoub
Rais, who had been present at the murder of the unfortunate chief of the Tiyari,
thus described the event. After heading his people in their defense of the pass
which led into the upper districts, and performing prodigies of valor, Melek Ismail,
his thigh broken by a musket-ball, was carried by a few followers to a cavern
in a secluded ravine; where he might have escaped the search of his enemies, had
not a woman, to save her life, betrayed his retreat. He was dragged down the mountain
with savage exultation, and brought before Beder Khan Bey. Here he fell upon the
ground. "Wherefore does the infidel sit before me?" exclaimed the ferocious chief,
who had seen his broken limb, "and what dog is this that has dared to shed the
blood of true believers?" "O Mir," replied Melek Ismail, still undaunted, and
partly raising himself, "this arm has taken the lives of twenty Kurds; and, had
God spared me, as many more would have fallen by it." Beder Khan Bey rose and
walked to the Zab, making a sign to his attendants to bring the melek to him.
By his directions they held the Christian chief over the river, and, severing
his head from his body with a dagger, cast them into the stream.
All the family of the melek had distinguished themselves, at the time of the
invasion, by their courage. His sister, standing by his side, slew four men before
she fell mortally wounded.
Over the spring, where we had alighted, formerly grew a cluster of gigantic
walnut-trees, celebrated in Tiyari for their size and beauty. They had been cut
down by the Kurds, and their massive trunks were still stretched on the ground.
A few smaller trees had been left standing, and afforded us shelter. The water,
gushing from the foot of an overhanging rock, was pure and refreshing; but the
conduits, which had once carried it into the fields, having been destroyed, a
small marsh had been formed around the spring. The place consequently
abounded in mosquitoes, and we were compelled to keep up large fires during the
night, to escape their attacks.
On the following morning we ascended the valley of the Zab, for about three
miles, to cross the river. The road-led into the district of upper Tiyari, its
villages being visible from the valley, perched on the summits of isolated rocks,
or half concealed in sheltered ravines. The scenery is sublime. The river forces
itself through a deep and narrow gorge, the mountains rising one above the other
in wild confusion, naked and barren - except where the mountaineers have collected
the scanty soil, and surrounded their cottages with gardens and vineyards.
A bridge of wicker-work at this part of the river was in better repair than
that of Lizan, and we crossed our mules without difficulty. Descending along the
banks of the Zab for a short distance, we struck into the mountains; and passing
through Kona Zavvi and Bitti, two Kurdish villages buried in orchards, reached
Serspeetho about mid-day. We sat for two hours in the house of the priest, who
received us very hospitably. Out of eighty families, thirty have alone survived;
the rest had been utterly destroyed. The two churches were still in ruins, and
but a few cottages had as yet been rebuilt. In the afternoon we resumed our journey,
and crossing a high and barren mountain, descended into the valley of Asheetha.
As I was desirous of visiting some copper mines, described to me by the people
of the district, I engaged Kasha Hormuzd, and one Daoud, who had been a workman
at Nimroud, to accompany me. We left Asheetha, followed by Yakoub Rais, the priests
and principal inhabitants who took leave of us at some distance from the village.
We chose a different road from that we had followed on entering the mountain,
and thus avoided a most precipitous ascent. Descending into the valley, leading
from Berwari to Asheetha, we came upon a large party of travelers, whom we at
first took for Kurds. As they discharged their guns, and stopped in the middle
of a thicket of rushes growing in the bed of the torrent, we approached them.
They proved to be Nestorian Chaldeans returning from Mosul to the mountains.
Among them, I found Kasha Oraho, 19 a learned and worthy priest,
who had fled from Asheetha at the time of the massacre. On account of his erudition,
intimate knowledge of the political condition of the tribes, and acquaintance
with the tenets and ceremonies of the Chaldean church, he had acted as secretary
to Mar Shamoun during his exile. Nearly three years had elapsed since he had quitted
his mountains, and he pined for his native air. Against the advice of his friends
he had determined to leave the plains, and he was now on his return, with his
wife and son, to Tiyari. I sat with him for a few minutes, and we parted never
to meet again. A few days afterward, Beder Khan Bey and his hordes descended into
Asheetha. Fresh deeds of violence recalled the scenes of bloodshed to which the
poor priest had formerly been a witness; and he died of grief bewailing the miserable
condition of the Christian tribes.
Leaving the valley we had ascended on our approach to Tiyari, we entered the
mountains to the right, and, after a rapid ascent, found ourselves in a forest
of oaks. Our guides were some time in discovering the mouth of the mine, which
was only known to a few of the mountaineers. At a distance from the entrance,
copper ores were scattered in abundance among the loose stones. I descended with
some difficulty, and saw many passages running in various directions, all more
or less blocked up with rubbish and earth, much of which we had to remove before
I could explore the interior of the mine.
Leaving the district of Holamoun and Geramoun to our right, we entered a deep
valley, and rode for five hours through a thick forest of oak, beech, and other
mountain trees. We passed a few encampments of Kurds, who had chosen some lawn
in a secluded dell to pitch their black tents; but we saw no villages until we
reached Challek. By the roadside, as we descended to this place, I observed an
extensive ruin, of substantial masonry of square stones. I was unable
to learn that any tradition attached to the remains; nor could I ascertain their
name, or determine the nature of the building. It was evidently a very ancient
work, and may have been an Assyrian fort to command the entrance into the mountains.
The pass is called Kesta, from a Kurdish village of that name.
Challek is a large village, inhabited partly by Chaldeans and partly by Kurds.
There are about fifteen families of Christians, who have a church and a priest.
The gardens are very extensive, and well irrigated, and the houses are almost
concealed in a forest of fruit trees. We passed the night in the residence of
the kiayah, and were hospitably entertained.
In the morning we rode for some time along the banks of the Khabour, and about
five hours and a half from Challek forded the Supna, one of its confluents. We
stopped at the Kurdish village of Ourmeli during the middle of the day, and found
there a su-bashi - a kind of superintendent tax-gatherer - from Mosul, who received
me in a manner worthy the dignity of both. He was dressed in an extraordinary
assortment of Osmanlu and Kurdish garments, the greater part of which had been,
of course, robbed from the inhabitants of the district placed under his care.
He treated me with sumptuous hospitality, at the expense of the Kurds, to whom
he proclaimed me a particular friend of the vizier, and a person of very exalted
worth. He brought, himself, the first dish of pillau, which was followed by soups,
chicken-kibaubs, honey, yaghort, cream, fruit, and a variety of Kurdish luxuries.
He refused to be seated, and waited upon me during the repast. As it was evident
that all this respectful attention, on the part of so great a personage, was not
intended to be thrown away, when he retired I collected a few of the Kurds, and,
obtaining their confidence by paying for my breakfast, soon learned from them
that the host had dealt so hardly with the villages in his jurisdiction, that
the inhabitants, driven to despair, had sent a deputation to lay their grievances
before the pashaw. This explained the fashion of my reception, which I could scarcely
attribute to my own merits. As I anticipated, my host came to me before
I left, and commenced a discourse on the character of Kurds in general, and on
the way of governing them. "Wallah, Billah, O Bey!" said he, "these Kurds are
no Mussulmans; they are worse than unbelievers; they are nothing but thieves and
murderers; they will cut a man's throat for a para. You will know what to tell
his highness when he asks you about them. They are beasts that must be driven
by the bit and the spur; give them too much barley," continuing the simile, "and
they will get fat and vicious, and dangerous. No, no, you must take away the barley,
and leave them only the straw." "You have, no doubt," I observed, eying his many-colored
Kurdish cloak, "taken care that as little be left them to fatten upon as possible."
"I am the lowest of his highness's servants," he replied, scarcely suppressing
a broad grin; "but nevertheless, God knows that I am not the least zealous in
his service." It was at any rate satisfactory to find that, in the su-bashi's
system of government, the Kurds and Christians were placed on an equal footing,
and that the Mussulmans themselves now tasted of the miseries they had so long
inflicted with impunity upon others.
We soon crossed the valley of Amadiyah, and meeting the high road between Daoudiyah
and Mosul, entered some low hills thickly set with Kurdish villages. In Kuremi,
through which we passed, there dwells a very holy sheikh, who enjoys a great reputation
for sanctity and miracles throughout Kurdistan. He was seated in the iwan, or
open chamber, of a very neat house, built, kept in repair, and continually whitewashed
by the inhabitants of the place. A beard, white as snow, fell almost to his waist;
and he wore a turban and long gown of spotless white linen. He is almost blind,
and sat rocking himself to and fro, fingering his rosary. He keeps a perpetual
Ramazan, never eating between dawn and sunset. On a slab, near him, was a row
of water-jugs of every form, ready for use when the sun went down. Ibrahim Agha,
who was not more friendly to the Kurds than the su-bashi, treated the sheikh to a most undignified epithet as he passed; which, had it been overheard
by the people of the village, might have led to hostilities. Although I might
not have expressed myself so forcibly as the cawass, I could not but concur generally
in his opinion when reflecting that this man, and some others of the same class,
had been the chief cause of the massacres of the unfortunate Christians; and that,
at that moment, his son, Sheikh Tahar, 20 was urging Beder Khan
Bey to prove his religious zeal by shedding anew the blood of the Nestorians.
We stopped for the night in the large Catholic Chaldean village of Mungayshi,
containing above forty Christian houses, a new church, and two priests.
A pass, over a richly wooded range of hills, leads from Mungayshi into a fertile
plain, watered by several streams, and occupied by many Kurdish villages. Beyond,
the mountains are naked and most barren. We wandered for some hours among pinnacles,
through narrow ravines, and over broken rocks of sandstone, all scattered about
in the wildest confusion. Not a blade of vegetation was to be seen, the ground
was parched by the sun, and was here and there blackened by volcanic action. We
came to several hot sulphurous springs, bubbling up in the valley, and forming
large pools. In the spring the Kurds and the inhabitants of the surrounding villages
congregate near these reservoirs, and pitch their tents for nearly a month to
bathe in the waters, which have a great reputation for medicinal qualities.
A long defile brought us to the town of Dohuk, formerly a place of some importance,
but now nearly in ruins. It is built on an island formed by a small stream, and
probably occupies an ancient site. Its castle, a mud building with turrets, was
held for some time by the hereditary Kurdish chief of the place, against Injeh
Bairakdar Mohammed Pashaw; but was reduced, and has since been inhabited
by a Turkish governor. Ismail Bey, the mutesellim, received me very civilly, and
I breakfasted with him. The son of a neighboring Kurdish chief was visiting the
bey. He was dressed in most elaborately embroidered garments, had ponderous jeweled
rings in his ears, carried enormous weapons in his girdle, and had stuck in his
turban a profusion of marigolds and other flowers. He was a handsome, intelligent
boy; but, young as he might be, he was already a precocious pupil of Sheikh Tahar;
and when I put him upon a religious topic, he entered most gravely into an argument
to prove the obligation imposed upon Mussulmans to exterminate the unbelievers,
supporting his theological views by very apt quotations from the Koran.
My horses, which had been sent from Amadiyah, were waiting for me here; and
leaving our jaded mules, we proceeded to the Christian village of Malthaiyah,
about one hour beyond, and in the same valley as Dohuk. Being anxious to visit
the rock sculptures near this place, I took a peasant with me and rode to the
foot of a neighboring hill. A short walk up a very difficult ascent brought me
to the monuments.
Four tablets have been cut in the rock; each occupied by nine figures. The
subjects represented in the four bas-reliefs are similar, and appear to be an
adoration of the gods by two kings. The first god wears the square horned cap,
surmounted by a point, or fleur-de-lys; holds a ring in one hand, and a thong
or snake in the other, and stands on two animals, a bull and a kind of gryphon,
or lion with the head of an eagle, but without wings. The second divinity is beardless;
also carries a ring, and is seated on a chair, the arms and lower parts of which
are supported by human figures with tails, and by birds with human heads. The
whole rests on two animals, a lion and a bull. The third divinity resembles the
first, and stands on a winged bull. The four following have stars with six rays
on the horned cap. The first of them has a ring in one hand, and stands on a gryphon
without wings; the second also holds a ring, and is raised on a horse
caparisoned as in the sculptures of Khorsabad; the third wields an object precisely
similar to the conventional thunderbolt of the Greek Jove, and is supported by
a winged lion; the fourth is beardless, carries a ring, and stands on a lion without
The two kings who are facing the divinities, have one hand elevated, and bear
an object resembling a mace, always represented as carried by the monarch when
engaged in religious ceremonies.
All the tablets have suffered much from exposure to the atmosphere, and one
has been almost destroyed by the entrance into a tomb, which was probably cut
in the rock at a long period subsequent to the Assyrian empire.
The details in the bas-reliefs are similar in character to those on the later
Assyrian monuments, and are interesting in many respects. The thrones or arm-chairs,
supported by animals and human figures, resemble those of the ancient Egyptians,
and of the monuments of Kouyunjik, Khorsabad, and Persepolis. They also remind
us of the throne of Solomon, which had "stays (or arms) on either side on the
place of the seat, and two lions stood beside the stays. And twelve lions stood
there, on the one side and on the other upon the six steps." 21
I returned to the village after sunset. My cawass and servants had established
themselves for the night on the roof of the church; and the kiayah had prepared
a very substantial repast. The inhabitants of Malthaiyah are Catholic Chaldeans;
their conversion not dating many years. The greater part joined us in the evening.
Next morning we rode over a dreary plain to Alkosh. In a defile,
through the hills behind the village, I observed several rock tombs, - excavations
similar to those of Malthaiyah; some having rude ornaments above the entrance,
the door-ways of others being simply square holes in the rock.
Alkosh is a large Christian village. The inhabitants, who were formerly pure
Chaldeans, have been converted to Roman Catholicism. It contains, according to
a very general tradition, the tomb of Nahum, the prophet - the Alkoshite, as he
is called in the introduction to his prophecies. It is a place held in great reverence
by Mohammedans and Christians, but especially by Jews, who keep the building in
repair, and flock here in great numbers at certain seasons of the year. The tomb
is a simple plaster box, covered with green cloth, and standing at the upper end
of a large chamber. On the walls of the room are pasted slips of paper, upon which
are written, in distorted Hebrew characters, religious exhortations, and the dates
and particulars of the visits of various Jewish families. The house
containing the tomb is a modern building. There are no inscriptions, nor fragments
of any antiquity about the place; and I am not aware in what the tradition originated,
or how long it has attached to the village of Alkosh. 22
After visiting the tomb, I rode to the convent of Rabban Hormuzd, built on
the almost perpendicular sides of lofty rocks, inclosing a small recess or basin,
out of which there is only one outlet, - a narrow and precipitous ravine, leading
abruptly into the plains. The spot is well suited to solitude and devotion. Half
buried in barren crags, the building can scarcely be distinguished from the natural
pinnacles by which it is surrounded. There is scarcely a blade of vegetation to
be seen, except a few olive trees, encouraged, by the tender solicitude of the
monks, to struggle with the barren soil. Around the convent, in almost every accessible
part of the mountain, are a multitude of artificial chambers in the rock, said
to have once served as a retreat for a legion of hermits, and from which most
probably were ejected the dead, to make room for the living; for they appear to
have been, at a very remote period, places of burial. The number of these recesses
must at one time have been very considerable. They are now rapidly disappearing,
and have been so doing for centuries. Still the sides of the ravine are in some
places honey-combed by them.
The hermits, who may once have inhabited the place, have left no successors.
A lonely monk from the convent may occasionally be seen clambering over the rocks;
but otherwise the solitude is seldom disturbed by the presence of a human being.
The ascent to the convent, from the entrance of the ravine, is partly up a
flight of steps rudely constructed of loose stones, and partly by a narrow pathway
cut in the rock. We were, therefore, obliged to dismount, and to leave our horses
in a cavern at the foot of the mountain.
Rabban Hormuzd was formerly in the possession of the Nestorian Chaldeans;
but has been appropriated by the Catholics since the conversion of the inhabitants
of Alkosh, Tel Kef, and other large villages of the plain. It is said to have
been founded by one of the early Chaldean patriarchs, in the latter part of the
fourth century. The saint, after whom the convent is called, is much venerated
by the Nestorians, and was, according to some traditions, a Christian martyr,
and the son of a king of Persia. The convent is partly excavated in the rocks,
and partly constructed of well cut stone. Since it was plundered by the Kurds,
under the Bey of Rowandiz, no attempt has been made to restore the rich ornaments
which once decorated the chapel, and principal halls. The walls are now naked
and bare, except where hung with a few hideous pictures of saints and holy families,
presented or stuck up by the Italian monks who occasionally visit the place. In
the chapel are the tombs of several patriarchs of the Chaldean church, buried
here long before its division, and whose titles, carved upon the monuments, are
always "Patriarch of the Chaldeans of the East" 23 Six or eight
half-famished monks reside in the building. They depend for supplies, which are
scanty enough, upon the faithful of the surrounding country.
It was night before we reached the large Catholic village of Tel Kef. I had
sent a horseman in the morning, to apprise the people of my intended visit; and
Gouriel, the kiayah, with several of the principal inhabitants, had assembled
to receive me. As we approached they emerged from a dark recess, where they had
probably been waiting for some time. They carried a few wax lights, which served
as an illumination, and whose motion, as the bearers advanced, was so unsteady,
that there could be no doubt of the condition of the bearers.
Gouriel and his friends reeled forward toward my cawass, who chanced
to be the first of the party; and believing him to be me, they fell upon him,
kissing his hands and feet, and clinging to his dress. Ibrahim Agha struggled
hard to extricate himself, but in vain. "The Bey is behind," roared he. "Allah!
Allah! will no one deliver me from these drunken infidels?" Rejoicing in the mistake,
I concealed myself among the horsemen. Gouriel, seizing the bridle of Ibrahim
Agha's horse, and unmindful of the blows which the cawass dealt about him, led
him in triumph to his residence. It was not before the wife of the kiayah and
some women, who had assembled to cook our dinner, brought torches, that the deputation
discovered their error. I had alighted in the meanwhile unseen, and had found
my way to the roof of the house, where all the cushions that could be found in
the village were piled up in front of a small table covered with bottles of raki
and an assortment of raisins and parched peas, prepared in my honor. I hid myself
among the pillows, and it was some time before the kiayah discovered my retreat.
He hiccuped out excuses till he was breathless, and endeavoring to kiss my feet,
asked forgiveness for the unfortunate blunder. "Wallah! O Bey," exclaimed Ibrahim
Agha, who had been searching for a stable, "the whole village is drunk. It is
always thus with these unbelievers. They have now a good pashaw, who neither takes
jerums nor extra salian, 24 nor quarters hytas upon them. What
dirt do they then eat? Instead of repairing their houses, and sowing their fields,
they spend every para in raki, and sit eating and drinking, like hogs, night and
day." I was forced to agree with Ibrahim Agha in his conclusions, and would have
remonstrated with my hosts; but there was no one in a fit state to hear advice;
and I was not sorry to see them at midnight scattered over the roof, buried in
profound sleep. I ordered the horses to be loaded, and reached Mosul as the gates
opened at daybreak.
The reader may desire to learn the fate of Tkhoma. A few days after
my return to Mosul, notwithstanding the attempts of Tahyar Pashaw to avert the
calamity, Beder Khan Bey marched through the Tiyari mountains, levying contributions
on the tribes and plundering the villages, on his way to the devoted district.
The inhabitants, headed by their meleks, made some resistance, but were soon overpowered
by numbers. An indiscriminate massacre took place. The women were brought before
the chief, and murdered in cold blood. Those who attempted to escape were cut
off. Three hundred women and children, who were flying into Baz, were killed in
the pass I have described. The principal villages with their gardens were destroyed,
and the churches pulled down. Nearly half the population fell victims to the fanatical
fury of the Kurdish chief; among them were one of the meleks, and Kasha Bodaca.
With this good priest, and Kasha Auraham, perished the most learned of the Nestorian
clergy; and Kasha Kana is the last who has inherited any part of the knowledge,
and zeal, which once so eminently distinguished the Chaldean priesthood.
The Porte was prevailed upon to punish this atrocious massacre, and to crush
a rebellious subject who had long resisted its authority. An expedition was fitted
out under Osman Pashaw; and after two engagements, in which the Kurds were signally
defeated by the Turkish troops headed by Omar Pashaw, Beder Khan Bey took refuge
in a mountain-castle. The position had been nearly carried, when the chief, finding
defense hopeless, succeeded in obtaining from the Turkish commander the same terms
which had been offered to him before the commencement of hostilities. He was to
be banished from Kurdistan; but his family and attendants were to accompany him,
and he was guaranteed the enjoyment of his property. Although the Turkish ministers
more than suspected that Osman Pashaw had reasons of his own for granting these
terms, they honorably fulfilled the conditions upon which the chief, although
a rebel, had surrendered. He was brought to Constantinople, and subsequently sent
to the Island of Candia - a punishment totally inadequate to his numerous crimes.
After Beder Khan Bey had retired from Tkhoma, a few of the surviving
inhabitants returned to their ruined villages; but Nur-Ullah Bey, suspecting that
they knew of concealed property, fell suddenly upon them. Many died under the
tortures to which they were exposed; and the rest, as soon as they were released,
fled into Persia. This flourishing district was thus destroyed; and it will be
long ere its cottages again rise from their ruins, and the fruits of patient toil
again clothe the sides of its valleys.
1 It may be remembered that Beder Khan Bey, in 1843,
invaded the Tiyari districts, massacred in cold blood nearly 10,000 of their inhabitants,
and carried away as slaves a large number of women and children. But it is, perhaps,
not generally known, that the release of the greater part of the captives was
obtained through the humane interference and generosity of Sir Stratford Canning,
who prevailed upon the Porte to send a commissioner into Kurdistan, for the purpose
of inducing Beder Khan Bey and other Kurdish chiefs to give up the slaves they
had taken, and who advanced himself a considerable sum towards their liberation.
Mr. Rassam also obtained the release of many slaves, and maintained and clothed,
at his own expense and for many months, not only the Nestorian Patriarch, who
had taken refuge in Mosul, but many hundred Chaldeans who had escaped from the
mountains.2 Asheetha and Zaweetha were formerly looked upon as
half-independent districts, each having its own rais or head. They were neither
within the territories, nor under the authority of the Meleks of Tiyari.3 Dr. Grant, who published an account of his visit to
the mountains, fell a victim to his humane zeal for the Chaldeans in 1844. After
the massacre, his house in Mosul was filled with fugitives, whom he supported
and clothed. Their sufferings, and the want of common necessaries before they
reached the town, had brought on a malignant typhus fever, of which many died,
and which Dr. Grant caught while attending the sick in his house. Mosul holds
the remains of most of those who were engaged in the American missions to the
Chaldeans.4 Although few works on other subjects than those connected
with theology and the church services now exist among the Nestorians, it must
be remembered that, at the time of the Arab invasion, the learning of the East
was still chiefly to be found with the Chaldeans. We are indebted to them for
the preservation of numerous precious fragments of Greek learning, as the Greeks
were, many centuries before, to their ancestors, the Chaldees of Babylon, for
the records of astronomy and the elements of Eastern science. They had translated
at an early period the works of Greek physicians and philosophers, and, at the
request of the caliphs, who were the encouragers and patrons of learning, had
re-translated them into the Arabic language. The Caliph A1 Mamoun sent learned
Nestorians into Syria, Armenia and Egypt to collect manuscripts, and confided
for translation to his Chaldean subjects, among other treatises, those of Aristotle
and Galen. Alexander Von Humboldt (Cosmos, vol. ii. ch. 5) admits and commends
the influence of the Nestorian Chaldeans in the civilization of the East.5 When among the Bakhtiyari, I saw a curious instance
of the agility of the women of the mountains. I occupied an upper room in a tower,
forming one of the corners in the yard of the chief's harem. I was accustomed
to lock my door on the outside with a padlock. The wife of the chief advised me
to secure the window also. As I laughed at the idea of any one being able to enter
by it, she ordered one of her handmaidens to convince me, which she did at once,
dragging herself up in the most marvelous way by the mere irregularities of the
bricks. After witnessing this feat, I could believe any thing of the activity
of the Kurdish women.6 Literally, King, the title given to the chiefs of
Tiyari.7 A corruption of Khath Shaba, Sunday.8 By the Kurds they are called Pinianish.9 The era of the Seleucidae (the Greek or Alexandrian
year, or the era of contracts, as it is sometimes called) was once in general
use among the Christians, Jews and Mussulmans of the East, and is to this day
always employed by the Chaldeans. It commences in October, B. C. 312; according
to the Chaldeans one year later.10 The language of the Chaldeans is a Semitic dialect
allied to the Hebrew, Arabic, and Syriac, and still called the Chaldani or Chaldee.
In its written form, it bears a close resemblance to the Chaldee of the book of
Daniel. The dialect spoken by the mountain tribes varies slightly from that used
in the villages of the plains, and the differences arise chiefly from local circumstances.
It is an interesting fact that the Chaldean spoken in Assyria is almost identical
with the language of the Sabaeans, or Christians of St. John, as they are vulgarly
called, - a remarkable tribe who reside in the province of Khuzistan or Suisana
and in the districts near the mouth of the Euphrates, and who are probably the
descendants of the ancient inhabitants of Babylonia and Chaldea.11 This custom, it will be remembered, prevailed generally
among the primitive Christians. The Roman Catholic church has retained the remembrance
of it in the "Pax".12 Mosheim, Cent. XVI. Sect. iii. Part i.13 i. e. Middle or Center Tkhoma.14 Mr. Ainsworth, writing of Kasha Kana of Lizan, observes
that he resembled in his manners and appearance an English clergyman. Kasha Bodaka
was murdered by the chief of Chal shortly after our visit.15 Ardent spirits, extracted from raisins or dates.16 The servant of the Mir or Prince.17 It will be remembered that this traveler was murdered
by Nur-Ullah Bey.18 In the village are two churches and two priests.19 A corruption of Auraham, Abraham.20 This fanatic, who was one of Beder Khan Bey's principal
advisers, when entering Mosul, was accustomed to throw a vail over his face, that
his sight might not be polluted by Christians and other impurities in the place.
He exercises an immense influence over the Kurdish population, who look upon him
as a saint and worker of miracles.21 1 Kings 10:19, 20.22 According to St. Jerome, El Kosh or El Kosha, the
birth-place of the prophet, was a village in Galilee, and his tomb was shown at
Bethogabra near Emmaus. As his prophecies were written after the captivity of
the ten tribes, and apply exclusively to Nineveh, the tradition which points to
the village in Assyria as the place of his death, is not without weight.23 The seal used by Mar Shamoun bears the same title,
and the patriarch so styles himself in all public documents. It is only lately
that he has been induced, on some occasions, when addressing Europeans, to call
himself "Patriarch of the Nestorians," the name never having been used by the
Chaldeans themselves.24 At Mosul jerums mean fines, salian, the property
tax, or taxes levied on corporations under the old system.
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