Слике страница

our thanks were the more sincere as, during this excursion, their care, their attention and civilities had never for a moment been relaxed.

• In the tranquillity of the country we had traversed, the kindness of the inhabitants, and the security we had enjoyed, it was difficult to recognise Colchos as described by Chardin.” Vol. i. p. 230.

The second expedition of M. Gamba was to the east, in the direction of Georgia, to visit the district of Kotaïs and that of Schorapana. He was acompanied by Major Vassilitch, who, for eighteen years had commanded the district of Kotaïs. This officer, though a gentleman by birth, had commenced his military career as a private soldier. He was constantly lamenting the change which, in forty years, had occurred in the physical and moral constitution of the Russians.

“In my youth, (said the old veteran) I have often received two hundred lashes without uttering a cry, and yet I could have avoided this punishment by declaring myself a noble, but I dreaded the ennui of a prison. Now, if a soldier receives fifty lashes, he squeals as if they were skinning him." Vol. i. p. 235.

“ About four miles from Kotaïs, we halted to visit an enclosure belonging to the crown. It contained about fifty acres, of which, fortyfive were in pasture, the remainder in wild vines, which surrounded and ascended to the summits of alder trees about thirty feet high, closely trimmed. We may easily conceive the difficulty of the vintage in such a vineyard. Nevertheless, an excessive price, when compared with the value of the forests, was asked for this spot. In this country, without industry, or rather population, land has no value until cleared.” Vol. i.

p. 237.

In another place our traveller remarks, that the small cleared spots, gardens they are called in the country, are valued so highly as to render it surprising that more labour is not devoted to the business of clearing up and improving portions of the forest.

The vallies of the Quirila and of the Ghenis-kalè, its principal branch, are sheltered and secluded districts. On the Gheniskale, which, descending from the southern mountains, approaches the Turkish frontier, the forests are very extensive. That of Adjamet, which contains about 24,000 acres, abounds in wild boars, the roe-buck, and particularly in herds of the fallow-deer, and is the winter retreat of multitudes of pheasants and partridges, of different species, which descend from the more elevated mountains. On passing through this forest, they came to Bagdad, a small town on the Gheniskalè, now garrisoned by about an hundred men. VOL. II.-NO. 3.


Bagdad was formerly a small town dependent on Turkey, and a station for a detachment of Janissaries. It had then a moderately extensive commerce, as it was an entrepot for the Turkish provinces and the inhabitants of Imerithia. Since it has fallen into the possession of the Russians, there is seen no longer a market nor a merchant. The establishment of a quarantine beyond the Gheniskale, has sufficed to keep off the Mahometans, and annihilate the commerce.

The bad condition of this fortress, and of almost all those on the frontiers of Turkey and Persia, proves that the Government of Russia feels its superiority over those two nations." Vol. i. p. 243.

In crossing the country from the Gheniskale to the Quirila, they met, apparently for the first time, a house which, although of wood, had the luxury of two bed-chambers, a covered gallery or piazza, glazed windows, and a brick chimney. The wine in this part of the country was generally good. On reaching the Quirila, they found the country entirely changed and much improved, the land on the northern bank, in particular, was either cultivated or in fine pastures.

M. Gamba remarks that the Imerithians, though barbarous, might, in the location of their houses and villages, give instruction to civilized nations. He supposes that their intelligence in this respect, has been derived from the ancient Greek settlers along the Euxine, who were always scrupulously careful in the position of their cities. The Russians, who disregard the cautions of other people, have established most of their garrisons in the rich plains along the rivers. It is calculated that they lose about one fifth of their troops in three years in this climate-we have heard the estimate carried as high as onefifth every year. The military service in Georgia and Colchos is generally executed by Cossacs. The young men of these tribes are enrolled and bound to perform military service for a certain number of years in the Russian armies. A term of three years which they are called upon to pass in the government of the Caucasus, is made equivalent to so much duty performed in the field.

Our travellers ascended the Quirila to the ruins of the ancient Schorapana, a city supposed to have been founded in the age of Alexander of Macedon, to have been destroyed many ages ago, and to have been once the great mart of the Asiatic trade. The traces of its walls can still be discovered, though neither temples nor palaces remain. The Quirila was considered by the ancients as the main stream of the Phasis, and bore that


In the manuscript map of King Solomon, to which we have already alluded, boats were said to ascend to Schorapana as

late as 1737. At present, the navigation terminates at the junction of the Tskeniskal and the Phasis, about half way between Schorapana and the sea. From the beight and rapid declivity of their mountains, neither Colchos nor Georgia can derive much benefit from their numerous streams. It is to good roads they must look for the improvement of their country. Even in a military point of view, roads should be considered by Russia as essential to the welfare and even to the tranquil possession of these provinces. Schorapana is occupied as a military position--a detachment of the regiment of Mingrelia is stationed at this place.

The beautiful vallies of the Quirila and the Gheniskale, are said to be exempt from the ravages of the locust, which almost every year injure, if they do not devastate the crops of Georgia and the Crimea.

On their return from Schorapana, they called to look at the ruins of a palace lately inhabited by the sovereign princes of this country. The last claimant to the throne having engaged in a conspiracy against the Russians, was carried to Tiftis in Georgia. From this place he escaped into Turkey, where he was hospitably received and where he died. Not only the building, but even the trees had been destroyed by the Russians. A stone chapel alone testified, that within twelve or fifteen years this spot had been crowded with habitations.

They went a little out of their way to visit some iron works, the first they had heard of in this country. They found every thing very rude, the ore itself poor, probably a hydrate of iron, from which not more than ten or twelve per cent of iron was extracted. Losing the road, on their journey through a mountainous country, to examine this establishment, they took shelter at the house of a poor nobleman, who received them very hospitably, and where, for the first time, having offered a compensation for their entertainment, it was received.

As they approached Kotaïs, they met at the residence of the Princes Ahichat-Chivili, some of the splendour of civilized life. One of three brothers who composed the family, had been educated at St. Petersburgh, and had endeavoured to introduce, though not yet with complete success, the usages of that metropolis. He found he was only one out of six married persons. On being introduced into the females of the family, they found them generally handsome. “The Princesses were dressed in satin and brocade of gold and silver. Their heads, necks and arms were covered with jewellery, enriched with some diamonds and rubies, and, particularly, with an abundance of pearls, large, but generally badly shaped and yellow. The people of Asia,

generally, pay less attention to the perfection of pearls and precious stones than to their size."

At two leagues from Kotaïs is situated the monastery of Gaelaeth. It contains two churches of some antiquity, well built, and possessing some Mosaic works which belonged to the declining age of the Greek empire. The walls which surrounded the houses of the monks, were well provided with battlements and port-holes—against one of the walls was leaning a singularly large fold of a gate, seven feet wide and fourteen high, composed of twenty upright bars of iron, connected by seven transverse bars, against which were applied thin plates of iron. This gate has all the characters of a high antiquity. There were formerly two, but one was carried off by the Turks in one of their incursions into Imerithia. If we can give any faith to the traditions of the country, these two gates were formerly placed at the Pylæ Caspianæ, or Caspian Gates. They were brought away as a trophy by one of the former kings of this country, who, in an incursion into Daghestan, took by assault, the city of Derbent.

“ We were assured that the monks of this convent possess a collection of Georgian and Armenian manuscripts. These would deserve to be examined, if it is true, that a king of Georgia, a predecessor of Thamar, sent thirty young persons to Greece to collect the best works. It may not be impossible, that in these manuscripts may be found some part of the ancient historians, whose writings have been lost.” Vol. i.

p. 274.

The third excursion to the north into the district of Radscha, was not made by M. Gamba personally, but by his brother. The party with whom he travelled, ascended along the main stream of the Phasis itself, or the Rion, as it is called by the natives, and soon found themselves in a mountainous country. The roads consequently steep and difficult, and sometimes almost impassable. The Phasis has its sources near the lofty peaks of Elbourous, and runs for more than half its course in a southern direction, when joining the Quirila, and meeting the mountains of Akhaltzikbe, it turns to the west, and continues in that course very directly to the Euxine. In this journey, they met forests of pine, which, like all the trees in this fertile country, grow to an enormous size. Some, which they measured, were eighty feet in the shaft, by fifteen or eighteen in circumference.

“ In the canton of Kotevi, there exists a remarkable custom worthy of notice. When an inhabitant marries, or when by accident a house is burnt or destroyed, all the inhabitants of the village join in preparing

timber and building a new dwelling for their unprovided neighbours. Thus, long before civilized Europe had conceived the project of coma panies of mutual assurance, the inhabitants of this canton of Colchos, had found in the sentiments of reciprocal affection, a relief against the evil of tempests and fire.” Vol. i. p. 282.

The country exhibits in its vallies some cultivation. The inhabitants are brave, and the ruins of many fortresses throughout the district of Radscha, manifest that it has often been the theatre of war. It was the principal seat of the insurrection of 1820, and many of its villages were burned. They are considered as the most industrious of all the Imerithians; they cultivate wheat and barley, and viewing themselves as superior to the inhabitants of the other districts, call them contemptuously, gomiphages, (homony eaters) reproaching them for living on so mean a diet in the midst of such rich and productive lands.

The family of “good fellows,” is pretty fairly distributed we believe around the world. In the head of the village of Ghretie, it may clain a worthy associate. This noble Imerithian wishing at supper to give some proof of his hospitable attention, drank off, twenty-seven times in succession, to the health of as many guests who happened to be at table, "un grand gobelet" of wine. Between each cup he swallowed a small piece of bread. He continued afterwards to drink as if he had just commenced his meal, and appeared to suffer no inconvenience from his politeness.

In the canton of Radscha are found the most beautiful sites in Imerithia. The air is pure and the climate extremely salubrious. Many persons are found whose age exceeds one hundred years.

One act of forbearance on the part of the Russian Government is mentioned, which appears somewhat extraordinary.

During the residence of my brother at Baragone, he could obtain but little information respecting the Souanes, who border on the most elevated part of the district of Radscha. These people avoid all communication with their neighbours. They have renounced all commercial intercourse, although their mountains furnish them lead and sulphur, and fine furs, rather than put their independence in jeopardy. They are very poor and wretched, and can scarcely be otherwise, as they occupy the highest habitable mountains of the Caucasus, and in their vallies, they scarcely find earth enough for the culture of grain sufficient to support them, or for the pasturage of their flocks.

Among a people so poor and savage, that they are often compelled to sell their children to the Kabardians to obtain food, one would not expect to hear of troubles created by ambition. Nevertheless, very lately the

« ПретходнаНастави »