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DR. LAYARD AND THE LAST OF THE CHALDEES. THERE has been a general feeling among travellers and learned men alike, that Dr. Layard, in recording his important and interesting explorations and discoveries, has passed over the labours of his predecessors in a very supercilious manner. We do not think that so severe an expression is merited. So remarkable an omission, in a work otherwise of great ability, arises probably from two simple causes ; first of all, that, written mainly on the spot, Dr. Layard was really not acquainted with all that Dr. Hincks, Mr. John Landseer, and other Oriental scholars had done at home; and when he was intimate with the explorations and even with the persons of other travellers, he deemed them so well knownso generally accepted—that allusion to them on his part was cessary
and supererogatory. Laying aside at the present moment the questions as to the antiquity of the Assyrian monuments, in which further research tends to show that Dr. Layard has erred on the side of excess, and those questions of comparative geography which would lead to the belief that Dr. Layard's Nineveh was the Asshur or Athur of early times, the learned doctor also visited in the same lands the so-called Nestorian Christians—the only remains of the Chaldeans of old-and whom the doctor proclaims, as if for the first time, to be “as much the remains of Nineveh and Assyria as are the rude heaps and ruined palaces.” The only references made by Dr. Layard to previous travellers in the account given of this visit to the Chaldeans, are a brief notice of the school and dwelling-house built by the American missionaries, to Dr. Grant's travels and death, to Mr. Ainsworth's writing of Kasha Kana of Lizan as resembling in his manners and appearance an English clergyman, to the murder of Schultz, and, in his chapter on the Chaldean church and people generally, to the researches of Messrs. Smith and Dwight, missionaries whose travels did not extend to the mountain districts.
Now, without going back to olden days, or even to those of Tavernier, who visited the Nestorian country, the facts of the case in more modern times are as follow :-it was to the information obtained by Mr. Rich, the distinguished Resident at Baghdad, and by the expedition sent by her Majesty's government to the Euphrates and Tigris, that the revival of the interest felt in these remarkable people was in this country entirely and solely to be attributed; and it was by Messrs. Smith and Dwight's travels that the same interest was awakened in America. From the interest thus aroused in the two great Protestant nations for their brethren in the East, sprang first the missions of the Americans, and next an expedition for general exploratory purposes and friendly intercourse, sent from this country by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge and the Royal Geographical Society. The American missions in Persia, hearing of the proposed expedition from this country, to a certain extent anticipated it by at once despatching Dr. Grant, the medical man attached to the missions, into those mountainous districts, whose recesses were still at that time cast in gloom by the recent murder of the naturalist Schultz.
The results of the American expedition were the subsequent foundaNov.- VOL. LXXXVII. NO. CCCXLVII.
tion of a mission within the country of the mountaineers, and at the same time the adoption of a belief in the Jewish origin of the so-called Chaldeans—a view of the subject which was ably expounded and ingeniously supported in a work published by Dr. Grant in this country in 1841, under the title of “ The Nestorians; or, the Lost Tribes.” The results of the English expedition were the establishment of friendly intercourse, not carried out as far as might have been wished, owing to the want of means and proper support; a physical and geological section of the whole chain of the Kurdistan mountains ; the determination of many positions astronomically ; and a strong and earnest vindication of the Chaldean or Assyrian origin of the so-called Nestorians and supposed converted Jews - a view of the matter which was not at the time so favourably received by the public as that upheld by the American missionaries, but which has now been boldly adopted and clearly and distinctly announced by Dr. Layard in his preface and in the body of his work, without the slightest reference or allusion to any previous sifting of the question, or to any of the laborious researches of his predecessors in the same field of inquiry.
Such an omission-one, to say the truth, scarcely in accordance with the rules generally adopted by travellers and men of science or learning towards one another-might be put down to inadvertence—to ignorance it cannot be or to the circumstance before alluded to, that Dr. Layard deemed all that had gone before sufficiently well known in this country; but it is not a little singular, and therefore somewhat characteristic, that the same omissions occur in the case of his visit to the Sinjar country, and to the chief temple of the Yezidis, or Devilworshippers. The Sinjar, the abode of rebellious Kurds, and its skirts, ever baunted by predatory Bedouins, had baffed many a traveller in attempts to penetrate into the interior. This was effected, for the first time, by Dr. Forbes, an enterprising young traveller, who was subsequently murdered in Persia, and who published his success in the Journal of the Royal Geographical Society. This exploratory journey, made so few years before Dr. Layard's, deserved at least honourable notice. So, likewise, in regard to the Yezidis. Mr. Rich, in his time, described all that was then known of their great place of pilgrimage that it was at Sheikh Adi, three hours' distant in the mountains beyond Sheikh Khan, to which he adds details concerning the practices of these strange people, who, as devil-worshippers, had a reputation which interfered greatly with Mr. Rich's as well as other travellers' wishes to see their chief place of worship. The English expedition was not, however, deterred by this bad repute, but it visited and examined (for the first time, it is believed this mountain sanctuary of the devil-worshippers ; yet the only notice which the successful explorer of Nineveh vouchsafes to these minor successes of his countrymen—important to them as vouchers for their zeal and enterprise-is to correct a trifling mistake made in their narrative, in which it is stated that the Yezidis burnt naphtha or bitumen in the temple, whereas they burnt oil !- the error having originated in the great accumulation of residue that had undergone imperfect combustion.
To return, however, to our subject : the English expedition became painfully aware, from a number of indications, that the interest taken by the Americans and the English in these remote Christian moun
taineers, and manifested by these proceedings, had aroused the jealousy of the Mohammedan population around them, and fanned their religious and national prejudices into a flame which threatened misfortune to the Chaldean mountaineers,
This sudden interest, so explicitly and so actively shown (wrote the historian of the English expedition in 1842) on the part of other Christian nations towards a tribe of people who have almost solely prolonged their independent existence on account of their remote seclusion and comparative insignificance, has called them forth into new importance in the eyes of the Mohammedans, and will, undoubtedly, be the first step to their overthrow, unless they are assisted in such an emergency by sound advice, or the friendly interference of the representatives of brotherly Christian nations at Constantinople. It will be the most cruel thing imaginable to have excited so much attention from surrounding powers towards the condition of these able, courageous, and pious mountaineers, only to leave them to the tender mercies of Mohammedanism.
This failing to produce any results beyond a number of letters, chiefly from clergymen of the Established Church, some of whom endeavoured to move Sir Robert Inglis to bring the subject before the House of Commons, one of the members of the Kurdistan expedition published in 1843 a tract, in which he once more advocated in earnest language the claims of the Christian Aborigines of the Turkish empire, and more especially of the Chaldean mountaineers, to protection.
With regard to the Chaldeans (observed the author) there can be no hesitation in pronouncing them, both from our own researches, and those of the American missionaries, as one of the churches the least contaminated by superstitious and unscriptural doctrines of the East. They want the light of education, and of a true knowledge of the gospel: isolated from the rest of the world, living in a difficultly accessible country, knowledge has rather retrogradea than advanced; and it is much to be wondered at that more errors have not crept into their forms and discipline. No Christian nation offers so fine a field to the true philanthropist for disseminating the advantages of a Christian education; and no nation, for its simplicity of manners, its general morality and good conduct, its unfeigned piety, and its severed condition, is more deserving of the friendly communication and assistance of more favoured and more civilised countries.
This appeal met, however, with little success, but still attention was aroused to the condition of these poor mountaineers; and although persecuted and robbed of life and liberty, still it was not entirely without remonstrance. It is to be observed here, that at the time the English expedition went among the Chaldeans a Turkish army was actually encamped at Amadiyeh, on the confines of their country, in order to subject and enslave the people; but the Turkish troops were unable to do that which a Machiavelian policy employed the more hardy Kurd mountaineers to accomplish. To deny the complicity of the Turks in the inroads and massacres of the Kurds, when they were the first to enter into hostilities, is absurd. All the summer that an Englishman was with his small party, wandering amicably throughout the country of these gallant mountaineers, crossing their snow-clad mountains, or reposing in their beautifully wooded and watered valleys, the baffled Turks remained in hostile array without those tremendous ramparts that stood as if raised by Nature in defence of a long lost, and now almost extinct people. When they found that from the character of the country it was inaccessible to cannon, that it was also in every respect redoubtable to men unaccustomed to the most rugged mountains, they withdrew, leaving the work of destruction to be carried on by the more practised and equally merciless Kurds.
In 1843, a year after the above warnings were given, Beder Khan and Nur Ullah Beys, both powerful and ferocious Kurdish chieftains, the latter the instigator of the murder of Schultz, invaded the country of the Chaldeans from the north, ravaging and devastating Asheetha and Lizan and the greater portion of the Tiyari and other neighbouring districts, massacreing in cold blood nearly 10,000 of the unoffending Christians, and carrying away as slaves a large number of girls and children. Mr. Rassam, a member of the English expedition, who had been appointed vice-consul at Mosul, maintained and clothed at his own expense the Patriach of the Chaldeans, who had taken refuge in his house, besides many hundred Chaldeans who had escaped from the mountains. He also, by his own exertions, obtained the release of many slaves, and saved the honour and the faith, as well as the freedom, of many a poor Chaldean girl. Sir Stratford Canning, the energetic and enlightened representative of Great Britain at the Porte, being informed of the horrors which had attended upon this barbarous invasion of a remote unfriended people, at once threw the whole of his influence into the scale in their favour. He prevailed upon the Porte-it need not be mentioned how much against their will—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. He advanced himself a considerable sum towards their liberation; and at an after period, perceiving the lukewarmness of the Turks, he despatched an English commissioner-Colonel Rose, we believe -to interpose personally between the Kurds and the Chaldeans.
It was immediately subsequent to Beder Khan's first invasion, and before the sanguinary inroad of the Kurds into Tkhoma, a Chaldean district which escaped the first massacre, that Dr. Layard penetrated into the country of the Chaldeans. He first directed his steps to Asheetha, one of the chief places of the mountaineers :
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; the greater part of the sites, however, 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 were seen amongst the ruins. The pathways were still blocked up by the trunks of trees cut down by the Kurds. Watercourses, 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.
Yakoub Rais, who accompanied Dr. Layard, is described as being naturally of a lively and jovial disposition, yet he could not restrain his tears as he related the particulars of the massacre. Asheetha was sudden and unexpected. The greater part of the inhabitants fell victims to the fury of the Kurds, who endeavoured to destroy every trace of the town. We have previously alluded to the jealousy with which Turks and Kurds alike viewed the intercourse of the English and the Americans. Dr. Layard corroborates this by the following statement:
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 heen the cause of much jealousy and suspicion to the Kurds. They stand upon the suinnit of an isolated hill, commanding the whole valley. A position less
The descent upon
ostentatious and proportions more modest might certainly have been chosen; and it is surprising that persons, so well acquainted with the character of the tribes amongst whom they had come to reside, should have been thus indiscreet.
The position was most probably selected more with a view to health, -as also to the avoidance of those pests of the country, gnats and sandflies, which oblige even the Chaldeans to sleep on elevated platforms, than for ostentation. Dr. Layard adds, that these missionaries were most zealous and worthy men; and had their plans succeeded, they would have conferred signal benefits on the Chaldeans. After the massacre, Dr. Grant's 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, which Dr. Grant caught, and he thus fell a victim to his humanity. Mosul now holds the remains of most of those who were engaged in the American missions to the Chaldeans.
Zaweetha had luckily been spared. 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 300 persons had been murdered in cold blood; and "all our party,” says Dr. Layard,“ 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," adds the doctor, “ an old priest, blind and grey, bowed by age and grief, the solitary survivor of six or eight of his order.” Of Lizan, the chief place of the Tiyari country, one of the most beautiful and remarkable sites, perhaps, in the world, Dr. Layard says: “I need not weary or distress the reader with a description of desolation and misery, hardly concealed by the most luxuriant vegetation.” It was here that occurred one of the most horrible incidents of the massacre. An active mountaineer having offered to lead the doctor to the spot, he 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 keees; 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 rotting 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 platted tresses of the women, shreds of discoloured 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 running along the precipice that rose
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.