March 10. Taking a Chaldean guide from Khosrova, we made an excursion this morning to Old Salmas, now generally called simply Shehir, or the city. The plain continued of the same character as was noticed at the first village on entering the district. Level almost as the floor of a house, with a soil of rich light loam, and irrigated throughout with canals, it presented a landscape truly charming. Cotton and rice do not flourish here, and only grain is cultivated ; but with that almost every spot was green. Our guide assured us that it produces from eight to twelve, and in some places fifteen fold. .Numerous villages appeared, and all were surrounded, like Khcsrova, .with forests of fruit trees, which seem to flourish here with almost unequalled exuberance.’ The apple, pear, quince, peach, apricot, walnut, and sinjid, were the principal. Through gardens thickly set with these, we worked our way into Saoora, a village on the road. Our guide assured us that five or six hundred families of Armenians had emigrated from it to Georgia, and that only a few of that nation with a few moslems were left. We found the Chaldean church in the keeping of a solitary family of that sect. Its door was a mere eliptical hole cut through a single stone, and so small as to admit one’s body with difficulty. Within were three small chapels under the same roof, dark and dirty, and without furniture, except a few old shawls and Romish pictures suspended upon the walls. No books even were to be found, and the keeper (aid the clergy brought them from Khosrova, when they came to say mass on the great festivals.
Salmas is mentioned by ancient writers, as a town in the Armenian province of Persarmenia.* The modern village is scattered over a considerable space, on the site of the old one. Its houses are poor, and it has an aspect of decay. The only remains of antiquity we saw, were two or three cylindrical monuments, or towers, of an order similar to that at Shamkor, but much inferior in height. They were constructed of brick, and marked with inscriptions in the Arabic character, betraying a moslem origin. The plain extends hardly more than a mile southwestward from the town, and then commence the semi-independent mountains of the Kurds. Though so near that lawless people, however, the district is never disturbed by them, except when the Persian government is in a weak and disorganized state.—The entrance to the Chaldean church
was like that just mentioned at Saoora, and its interior was in a similar state, except that it contained three or four old books, one of which was written in the Estrangelo character upon parchment. There being no Chaldean or Nes- torian in town, the key was kept by an old Armenian. Still, the clergy come from Khosrova to say mass in it, upon the great festivals. Among other ancient inscriptions upon the stones in the external face of its walls, we noticed one in a character entirely unknown to us.—We found the Jewish synagogue neater and better carpeted than the churches; and the Jews better dressed than the Christians. Their copies of the law were beautiful, and we tried to purchase one, but in vain. They reckon 30 or 35 families here; in Oormiah they amount to 300 families; and in Khoy, I believe, there are a few; but elsewhere in Aderbaijan we heard of none. In Teheran, Kashan, and Isfahan, they are more numerous. The priest at Khosrova said that these of Salmas are doubtless much oppressed, but less so than his own townsmen; for not being cultivators of the soil, their property is not so tangible. Their appearance seemed to justify his opinion. The ‘Jews of Persia generally are the most ignorant, demoralized and oppressed part of the community. They are said to have neither tradition, nor history, to inform them when their ancestors came into the country. We naturally look among them for the remains of the ten tribes; but if such were their origin, all traces of it have been effaced. They now resemble their brethren elsewhere, except that their reverence for the Talmud is perhaps somewhat less,’and there is some doubt whether they have all the books of the Old Testament. This resemblance may have been produced by long intercourse with Jerusalem Rabbies, who often pass by them on their way to the north. We found one at Salmas, at the time of our visit. They speak the languages of the country; but respecting the common use of a vulgar Hebrew among them, we received contradictory statements.