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however, (for our great poet could have known nothing of Pinto)-
But to return. From the moment that the descendants of Gengis Khan had exchanged their woollen tents for stone houses, their skin clothing for silks and satins, and their horse flesh and mare's milk for the rich viands and luxuries of the polished nations of Asia; their power began to decline, and soon ceased to be formidable to Europe. Towards the close however of the fourteenth century, Timur Beg, better known as Tamerlane, the descendant of one of the petty chiefs whose numerous herds graze on the extensive plains of Upper Asia, watered by the Oxus and the Jaxartes, suddenly appeared at the head of an immense army of Tartars. The mighty empires of India and Persia were overrun by this barbarian. From the Irtish and Volga,' says Gibbon, to the Persian Gulph, and from the Ganges to Damascus and the Archipelago, Asia was in the hand of Timour; his armies were invincible, his ambition was boundless, and his zeal might aspire to conquer and convert the Christian kingdoms of the west, which already trembled at his name.' His invasion of Asia Minor, and his triumphant Bajazet, brought him into communication with the Christian world. Henry the Third of Castile, though of a feeble and infirm body, was a politic prince, and maintained, by means of his ambassadors, an extensive intercourse with foreign nations. Taking advantage of the present occasion, he dispatched Pelazo de Sotomayor and Fernando de Palazuelos, to Tamerlane, who treated them with
much distinction, and after the defeat of Bajazet (at which they were present) sent them back to Henry, accompanied by an ambassador from himself. On the return of this person, the king dispatched Alonzo Paez, Gomez de Salazar, and Ruy Gonçalez de Clavijo to salute the Tartar chief. They departed from Spain, in 1403, and were still residing at the imperial court in 1405, the year in which Tamerlane died. A curious account of their long and perilous journey, and of the many extraordinary things which they saw, was given by Clavijo, one of the number; and it appears somewhat singular that it should never have been published in English, nor even found its way into any of our collections.*
CLAVIJO, though frequently inaccurate, and somewhat superstitious, has, on the whole, less of the marvellous than might have been expected from the age in which he lived. He saw, however, in Constantinople, the spear with which our Saviour was pierced, with the blood still fresh on it; some hairs of his beard, together with the reed, the spunge, and the garment for which they cast lots': he saw also a bone of the arm of Mary Magdalen, three heads of the eleven thousand virgins, and several other relics, which he appears to have contemplated with unspeakable comfort and delight. From Constantinople, he proceeded by the usual route of Armenia and Persia. On the confines of the latter he met an ambassador from the Sultan of Babylon, proceeding with presents to Timur; among these was a beast whose appearance struck them all with wonder and admiration; it was named jornufa, and from the description was evidently the giraffe or camelopardalis. This animal was frequently brought from Africa, as a valuable present for the sovereigns of the east; for Marco Polo was acquainted with it, and Barbaro, the Venetian, towards the close of the fifteenth century, saw what he calls a zirnapha at the court of Persia. Clavijo appears to have traversed a great part of Persia, to have crossed the mountains into Tartary, and proceeded to the neighbourhood of Samarcand, where he and his party were lodged in a handsome palace situated in the midst of a large garden. In this place they remained shut up for eight days, under the assurance that Timur always proportioned his respect for ambassadors to the length of time he delayed seeing them. At last they were brought into the presence of Timur, who received them very courteously, and feasted them with horse-flesh and mare's milk. Clavijo seems to have been absolutely dazzled with the splendour of the gold and
It is entitled Historia del Gran Tamerlan, Itinerario y Relacion de la Embagado, &c. and was first published at Seville, in 1582. Mr. Murray is not correctly informed when His lordship purchased an he states that a translation was made by Lord Valencia. English translation in MS. at the sale of Mr. Dalrymple's books, supposed to have been nade by a relation of his.
silver and precious stones, the rich silks and elegant embroidery, displayed at the court of this powerful monarch.
Samarcand is described as a city somewhat larger than Seville within the walls, situated in the midst of a vast plain, which, for two leagues on every side, was so covered with gardens, and country houses, the residences of the Tartar chiefs, that the population without was supposed to exceed that within the walls: the gardens, embellished with all manner of trees, appeared to a stranger approaching the city, like a vast forest enclosing it on every side. The population, Clavijo says, estimated at 150,000 souls, was made up of people from all parts of Asia; the policy of Timur being that of attracting persons to his capital from every country famed for any particular art or science.
We are not sure that this is not the last account we have of the visit of any traveller to the once celebrated city of Samarcand, at least during its splendour; of its present state, we know no more than we do of the capital of the grand Lama; but the Russians, who, in the time of Clavijo, came there wrapt in skins with the hair outwards, and with hats so small that with difficulty they could be forced on their heads,' and whose whole appearance suggested the idea of smiths just come fresh from the workshop,' will, ere long, in all probability, make us better acquainted with those vast regions, extending from the Caspian to the Beloor Tag.
On this subject we have ourselves recently received some interesting information from an intelligent correspondent at Petersburgh. From him we learn that, in the year 1812, the Khan of Kokan, or Koukan, a powerful prince of Tartary, who had recently subjected to his dominions the provinces of Turkistan and Tashkent, sent two ambassadors to St. Petersburgh. On their return to Tartary one of them was taken ill and died; the other was killed on the frontier by a Russian soldier, in a petty squabble. To make the Khan acquainted with the unfortunate fate of his two ambassadors, his Imperial Majesty dispatched a Mr. Nasaroff to Kokan, with letters and presents. The Khan, distrusting the story, detained the Russian officer, and sent him to the town of Mariaglant, about twelve werst from that part of the frontier of Persia where the fort of Alay is situated.* This town is said to be thirty werst in circumference, and to be garrisoned by 20,000 men. Here the Russian was closely confined for several months, then conducted back to Kokan, (a town not much less than Khojund,) by a different route, and at length permitted to return to Russia. It
Our maps have Murghelan on the route from Koukan to Kashgar, but the distance of Mariaglant from Koukan is much greater according to Nasaroff than they
that, in the year 1814, a bloody war broke out between the Bucharians and the Kokans. The former had invaded the country of the latter, but one of the neighbouring khans, taking advantage of the absence of the Bucharian force, had entered that territory, and obliged them to return and defend themselves. The name of this Khan was said to be Amir Valliami, who was then about twentyfive years of age. Count Romanzoff is printing the history of this embassy at his own expense: it is expected to throw much light on this part of central Asia, which, ravaged as it has always been by destructive feuds, still seems to swarm with population.
Among the early Venetian travellers into the distant regions of the East, Ramusio has preserved the narrative of one from a Portugueze translation which had been made at Lisbon by order of King Emanuel: it is that of NICOLO CONTI. This person, in 1449, applied to Eugene IV. to absolve him from the sin of having denied the Christian religion in order to secure his personal safety, which the Pope consented to do, on condition of his giving, by way of penance, a faithful narrative of all his peregrinations to his secretary Poggio; who carefully took it down in Latin.
Nicolo took his departure from Damascus, crossed the desert to Bagdat, sailed down the Euphrates to Ormuz, and from thence to Cambaia, where he observed widows burning themselves with the dead bodies of their husbands.
"They place (he says) the man on his own bed, richly adorned, and drest in his best clothes, and around him and above him they place odoriferous woods, and kindle the fire; then comes the wife, well adorned and drest in the finest clothes, in the midst of flutes, timbrels, and other musical instruments, with a great company; she, too, singing, with a gay aspect, walks around the fire, where stands one of those priests called Banian, on a chair, who comforts her with good words, persuading her that she should despise the present life, which is short and vain, and promises, that in the other life she shall acquire with her husband many pleasures, infinite riches, with precious garments, and innumerable other things. When she has gone many times round the fire, she washes her body, according to their custom, covers herself with a very thin and white cloth, and throws herself into the fire:" He adds, that if their courage fails, as sometimes happens, they are assisted, or even pushed in by the bystanders.'-vol. ii. pp. 13, 14.
He also notices the idol cars, and the infatuated devotees who are crushed beneath the wheels; the ordeal of licking the red-hot bar of iron with the tongue, and dipping the fingers in boiling oil, and several other customs, which prove him to have been an attentive and accurate observer. At Bisnagar, he tells us, the king maintained 12,000 wives, 4000 of whom followed him constantly on foot, and 2000 (being his peculiar favourites) were entitled to the
honour of burning themselves on his funeral pile. He notices the pearls and cinnamon of Ceylon; and tells us that Sumatra is famous for its pepper and its camphor: he heard (he says) of a nation of cannibals in a district of this island called Bateeb, probably the Battas, who, as we are informed by Marsden, labour at this day under the same imputation.
Conti's account of Arracan and Ava is the more curious, as no visitors that we know of had been there before him, and very few since. Though he had seen the finest cities of India, that of Ava,' he says, " was more noble and rich than all the others.' He describes the inhabitants as a good humoured race, very gay and frolicsome, spending much of their time in taverns, where they enjoy the company of the ladies, whose conduct gives us no exalted notions of female delicacy. After Conti's return, the Venetians kept up an official intercourse with Persia by means of Contarini, Barbara, Alessandri, and others entrusted with the functions of ambassadors: geographical science, however, derived little benefit from the information of any of these agents, whose chief object was the advancement of commerce.
A Genoese merchant, of the name of JERONIME DE SANTO STEFANO, set out, towards the end of the fifteenth century, for Cairo and the Red Sea, on a commercial speculation for India. He visited Calicut, Ceylon, and the coast of Coromandel: from the latter place he proceeded for Pegu, the sovereign of which, he says, maintained ten thousand elephants. To this powerful monarch he was compelled to sell his merchandize at an under rate, and after a tedious and hazardous solicitation of about sixteen months, 'amid cold, heat and fatigue,' he received his money and departed.
The attention of the Portugueze, who were, by this time, established in the Moluccas, was attracted by the reports of the wealth and splendour of Pegu; and ANTONIO CORREA, a distinguished naval officer, was dispatched to that court. He was well received, and obtained permission for the residence of a minister; but the King of the Brammas (Birmans) shortly after made war on Pegu, and in the sack of the city, the Portugueze agent was killed.
We know little of the revolutions which it would seem are constantly occurring in that part of the Asiatic world lying between the River Ganges and the western frontier of China. The kingdoms, as they are called, of Arracan, Ava, Laos, Pegu, Cambodia and Tsiompa, seem, each in its turn, to claim the ascendant; by the latest account, however, (that of Colonel Symes,) several of them appear to be swallowed up in what he terms the Birman Empire.
Pegu, having towards the middle of the sixteenth century once