תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

able for ship-building, has of late years been brought into very general use. Elephants, horses, cattle with a bunch. on the shoulder, camels, the antelope known by the name of the nilgau, the royal tyger, such are a few of the quadrupeds of India.

The British possessions in India are chiefly the following: Pengal, Bahar, and Benares, on the Ganges, occupying a space of above 500 miles by 300, containing a native population of between ten and eleven millions. The capital of these tracts, and of the whole British dominions, is Calcutta, a large and populous town, containing about half a million of inbabitants, on the east bauk of the western branch of the Ganges, about 100 miles from the sea ; but the river is navigable up to the town for the largest vessels requisite in that country. Twenty-six miles above Calcutta, is Hoogly, an antient place which gives its name to that branch of the river. Patna, the chief town of Bahar lies, 400 miles higher up than Calcutta, and is the principal mart for salıpetre. Benares, 46 miles above Patna, is celebrated as the seat of the ancient learning of the Brahmins.

In the southern parts of the peninsula, the British possess Madras, or Fort St. George, containing, with the adjoining territory, about $0,000 natives, besides from 400 to 500 Europeans. On the western coast is Bombay, (so called by corruption from the Portuguese term signifying a good bay) situated on a small island containing the town and fortress, with a large dock and arsenal, and forming an exccllent harbour. In the interior of the peninsula, lies Seringapatam, inclosed by two arins of the river Cavery, the former capital of the dominions of Tippoo.

Between the Ganges and China are a succession of separate states, viz. the Birmanempire, separated by the Ganges, from the British possessions, comprehending Aracan and Pegu. The projecting peninsula of Malacca is the native country of the Malays, a singular race, whose language is so widely disseminated over the eastern seas, and who by their activity, desperate valour, and peculiar arms, have long been the terror of the Indian seas. Farther to the eastward, lie the territories of the Siamese, the Cochin-Chinese, and the Tunquinese; these last in manners, and in the productions of their country, approaching their neighbours of China.

Persia.—This antient and celebrated portion of Asia is bounded on the east by the river Indus, on the south by the Indian Ocean, and that inlet of it called the Persian Gulf, on the west by an imaginary line separating it from the Turkish dominions, and on the north by the Caspian Sea, and the independent central states of Asia. Its extent from west to east is about 1200 miles, and from north to south about 1000 miles. The population has been estimated at ten millions, that of the capital, Ispahan, being reckoned at 600,000. This extensive city stands on a small river, in a plain enclosed by mountains, in the heart of the country. Other considerable towns are Shiraz, ncarer the scacoast, Derbent on the Caspian, Gombroon or Bender Abassi on the Persian Gulf, Cabul and Candahar in the north eastern quarter of the empire.

Persia is in general a very mountainous region: but there are various extensive plains, usually barren, sandy deserts; for the rivers being few, and of no great importance, even the vallies between the mountains require the hand of the husbandmen to refresh them with artificial streams for the purposes of agriculture. This is peculiarly necessary in the southern and central provinces: those bordering on the Caspian Sea are naturally more productive.

The Persian horses, although less swift, are taller and more graceful in their figure and motions than those of Arabia. The camels differ from the Arabian in having only one bunch, and are supposed to be the true dromedaries of the antients. In the northern provinces are found

a peculiar a peculiar race of sheep, with broad massy tails weighing from twenty to thirty pounds : and in the western borders of the empire the formidable lion is found, who, with the tiger, the leopard, the panther, is frequently trained up and employed in hunting other animals.

The minerals of Persia are but little known: some silver, iron and copper, are, however, discovered. The Persian Gulf has long been famous for its pearl fishery, situated chiefly along the Arabic shore. Persia presents also springs of Naphtha, or pure rock-oil, on the western shores of the Caspian Sea. The earth about these springs has the property, that by taking up two or three inches of the surface, and applying a live coal, the part uncovered immediately takes fire, the flame however only heating but not consuming the soil. When the weather is thick and hazy the Tiaphtha boi's up to a greater height than when it is clear; and the oil often takes fire on the surface, renning in a flame a considerable way to the sea. In the vicinity of these inflammatory springs are still found a few Parsees, or worshippers of fire, vestiges of a religious sect in antient times very numerous in the east.

The prevailing religion of Persia is a branch of Mahometism, differing in some respects from that professed in Turkey, which is one of the causes of the rooled enmity between those nations.

The Persian language is one of the most celebrated of the Asiatic, for strength, beauty and melody, and the literature of the country approaches nearer, in respect of solid sense and clearness of expression, to that of Europe, than any other of the east.

Of the monuments of antiquity still to be traced in Persia, the most remarkable are the magnificent remains of Persepolis, situated at the foot of a mountain, about forty miles north from Shiraz. The ruined columns, porticoes, halls,

sculptures,

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

sculptures, inscriptions in a character hitherto unknown, cover a space of 600 paces by 300,

ARABIA.—This portion of Asia, much more celebrated than known, is a great peninsula washed on the east by the Persian Gulf, on the south by the Indian Ocean, on the west by the Red Sea, and connected with the Turkish dominions on the north by boundless tracts of barren desert. The extent may be taken at 1800 miles in length on a breadth of 800.

The greater part of Arabia consists of vast sandy tracts destitute of water, and consequently inhabited only by a few wandering tribes: along the coasts, however, where the vicinity of the sea produces rain, cultivation and population are carried to some extent. The ouly rivers deserving attention are the Euphrates and the Tigris (if these can be counted as Arabian rivers), wbich refresh the northern borders of this parched land; and of the mountains, which in various ranges traverse the country, the only one of celebrity is Mount Sinai, whence Moses promulgated ihe religious and political system of the Israelites, rearing its double summit to a considerable height, between the two horns of the Red Sea.

Arabia produces many valuable medicinal and aromatic plants and trees; and the coffee of this country, commonly called Mocca coffee, from the port where Europeans procure it, is esteemed the best in the world: at the same time it must be recollected that many precious gums and other productions of India and other eastern parts of Asia, having been brought to Europe through Arabia, they were erroneously believed to be the natural growth of that country.

The horses of Arabia have long been highly celebrajed, and in the country their spirit, docility, speed, and power of enduring fatigue, are much more prized than any external qualification of size or beauty. The camel, or, as it is

termed,

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

termed, by the Arabians, the ship of the desert, is of pecu. liar utility in traversing the dry and tractless wilds which cover the greater part of the country.

The principal towns of Arabia are Mecca and Medina : the former the birth-place of Mahomet, situated in a valley surrounded with hills, about thirty iniles from the Red-sea; the latter, 900 miles to the north-west, is the place where his body is preserved; and from his flight to this city, about the year 622, the Mahometans reckon their time, calling that period the Hegira, an Arabic term signifying the flight. On the Red-sea are the towns of Jedda and Mocca, or Mocha, the former the port of Mecca, and the latter, with Maskat, the stations resorted to by European vessels.

TARTARY.—By this name it has been customary to distinguish the widely extended region occupying the central parts of Asia: the vulgar name is, however, improper, and ought to be written Tatary, and that of the people Tatars.

The portion of this region, which remains in a great measure independent on any foreign power, extends along the eastern shores of the Caspian sea, about 1500 miles from north to south, and 850 from west 10 east, comprehending wide tracts of barren desert.

The heats even of the southern parts are less violent than might be expected from their position in latitude, being tempered by the lofty snowy ridges forming the southern frontier. The country is in general mountainous, some ranges rising to a great height, the chief being that of Belur, covered with perpetual snow. To the eastward of this range stretches an immense elevated plain, or tract of table-land, the highest above the sea of any on the face of the globe, giving rise to many rivers of the first magni. tude, which pervade the broad plains of Siberia, China, and India. Within this country are several considerable lakes,

particularly

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« הקודםהמשך »