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"Friday is the market day at Koni, as at Kotais, and in all this country; it is the Sabbath eve of the Jews, and their usages are found throughout all Asia. On approaching Koni, we met many peasants returning from market, who were bringing back in merchandise or in cattle, the profits of their wax, honey, or cotton. Very different from what they were when I saw them three years ago, at a time when a part of the country was in insurrection, their humble salutations were accompanied with an affectionate air, and an expression of kindness which manifested the happy change which had taken place in the character of the inhabitants. They begin to perceive that their repose and their safety, date from the day when they became members of the Empire of Alexander." Vol. i. pp. 194–196.
We know not if M. Gamba is a faithful interpreter of the feelings of these people, or had accurate means of ascertaining their real opinions. Of what he saw, we may consider him a fairer reporter, and we give his account of one of the entertainments prepared for him. We should, perhaps, mention, that in these excursions he was attended by an escort of Cossacs; that he carried recommendations to most of the chieftains or princes-and these chiefs, with the cordial hospitality of ancient times, not only treated him with great kindness when at their own estates, but frequently accompanied his party to the next domain or town, and sometimes continued with him for days together.
"At Chichachi, the Prince, who is a major in the imperial service, politely paid us the honours of his estate. He ordered carpets and cushions in the fine meadow before his door. We breakfasted under enormous walnut trees, whose thick foliage sheltered us from the rays of the
"The Russians have introduced into this country the use of tea-this beverage now makes a part of the luxury of the Imerithian lords, and consequently has given them an ardent desire for fine porcelain, silver tea-urns, and gilded spoons.
"The use of tables has not yet penetrated into Imerithia. Benches supply their place, and even in the houses of the princes, cakes of corn flour are used as plates. At dinner, we were attended by many domestics, who marched in procession, some brought soup, mingled with meat and eggs, others ragouts of mutton, afterwards fricassees of chickens, hard eggs, fish, roast wild-fowl, cakes, and a large vessel of gomi; finally, four enormous copper jugs of wine.
"Each servant had his department. One with a silver trowel (ladle?) took up a large quantity of gomi, which he placed before cach guest; two others carved the meats. The butlers, holding each one of these large jugs, filled, continually, the glasses or vessels, of different forms, which were used to drink.
"During dinner, the guests presented, continually, to those who surrounded them, some portions of meat, gomi, or cakes; these presents were considered as marks of particular favour; fragments were thrown
to those at a distance, which were caught with much dexterity. Towards the close of the repast, they brought in many of the large tails of the Shamtouck sheep, salted and peppered, and broiled on the coals.
"After we had finished, the benches were removed to some distance, and those who had been spectators took their meal. Some, whose rags denoted abject poverty, received portions of meat and gomi from the guests of the second table.The custom of including, in great repasts, the whole population of a village, is common in all Colchos, and is of great antiquity."-Vol. i. p. 201.
"In all the villages of ancient Colchos, the inhabitants were compelled to treat the sovereigns and lords who visited them, and they were accustomed to apportion the expense of these repasts among the different householders, who, on their part, had the privilege of consuming the remnant of each meal."-Vol. i. P. 207.
The travellers remarked in the southern part of the district, a custom very common of staining the beard, nails, and soles of the feet, sometimes even the hair of the children red, with the hennè, a plant that is used in Egypt for nearly the same purposes; the fondness for this colour is carried so far that the manes and tails of white and grey horses are sometimes thus dyed. M. Gamba supposes that this caprice has been derived from the Persians, with whom the practice is common.
"At Duableby, on the southern frontiers, we found the houses placed on masses of rock. The entrance into the one where we halted to dine, was by a ladder, which was removed at night. The house was provided with port-holes, the only windows which it possessed. The walls were hung with guns, sabres, pistols and quindjals, (a species of dagger) suspended on the antlers of deer, an animal abounding in the forests. The construction of one of these houses, and the arms with which they are furnished, sufficiently indicate that the inhabitants were obliged to guard and defend themselves against Turkish marauders, who made occasional incursions into their territory, and carried off their wives, children and cattle. Very probably, they sometimes made reprisals. Since Imerithia has submitted to the Emperor Alexander, the incursions of the borderers of the Pachalic of Akhaltzikhe, have almost entirely ceased." Vol. i. p. 227.
If the Turks could be heard on this subject, they would probably say, that as soon as there existed in Colchos, a power capable of restraining the lawless tribes on its frontier, this predatory warfare naturally ceased.
On their return from this village, their ride of about fifteen miles to the Phasis, was an almost continued descent; so lofty are even the southern barriers of this fertile country.
Having arrived at the banks of the Phasis with the numerous cortège of Imerithian princes, nobles and peasants, who had successively joined our caravan, we took with them a farewell repast. And
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 Gheniskalè, 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 Gheniskalè, 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 Gheniskalè 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 height 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 Gheniskalè, 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 Tiflis 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,