Page images

generally, pay less attention to the perfection of pearls and precious stones than to their size."

At two leagues from Kotaïs is situated the monastery of Gaelaeth. It contains two churches of some antiquity, well built, and possessing some Mosaic works which belonged to the declining age of the Greek empire. The walls which surrounded the houses of the monks, were well provided with battlements and port-holes-against one of the walls was leaning a singularly large fold of a gate, seven feet wide and fourteen high, composed of twenty upright bars of iron, connected by seven transverse bars, against which were applied thin plates of iron. This gate has all the characters of a high antiquity. There were formerly two, but one was carried off by the Turks in one of their incursions into Innerithia. If we can give any faith to the traditions of the country, these two gates were formerly placed at the Pyle Caspianæ, or Caspian Gates. They were brought away as a trophy by one of the former kings of this country, who, in an incursion into Daghestan, took by assault, the city of Derbent.

"We were assured that the monks of this convent possess a collection of Georgian and Armenian manuscripts. These would deserve to be examined, if it is true, that a king of Georgia, a predecessor of Thamar, sent thirty young persons to Greece to collect the best works. It may not be impossible, that in these manuscripts may be found some part of the ancient historians, whose writings have been lost." Vol. i. p. 274.

The third excursion to the north into the district of Radscha, was not made by M. Gamba personally, but by his brother. The party with whom he travelled, ascended along the main stream of the Phasis itself, or the Rion, as it is called by the natives, and soon found themselves in a mountainous country. The roads consequently steep and difficult, and sometimes almost impassable. The Phasis has its sources near the lofty peaks of Elbourous, and runs for more than half its course in a southern direction, when joining the Quirila, and meeting the mountains of Akhaltzikhe, it turns to the west, and continues in - that course very directly to the Euxine. In this journey, they met forests of pine, which, like all the trees in this fertile country, grow to an enormous size. Some, which they measured, were eighty feet in the shaft, by fifteen or eighteen in circumference.

"In the canton of Kotevi, there exists a remarkable custom worthy of notice. When an inhabitant marries, or when by accident a house is burnt or destroyed, all the inhabitants of the village join in preparing

timber and building a new dwelling for their unprovided neighbours. Thus, long before civilized Europe had conceived the project of companies of mutual assurance, the inhabitants of this canton of Colchos, had found in the sentiments of reciprocal affection, a relief against the evil of tempests and fire." Vol. i. p. 282.

The country exhibits in its vallies some cultivation. The inhabitants are brave, and the ruins of many fortresses throughout the district of Radscha, manifest that it has often been the theatre of war. It was the principal seat of the insurrection of 1820, and many of its villages were burned. They are considered as the most industrious of all the Imerithians; they cultivate wheat and barley, and viewing themselves as superior to the inhabitants of the other districts, call them contemptuously, gomiphages, (homony eaters) reproaching them for living on so mean a diet in the midst of such rich and productive lands.

The family of "good fellows," is pretty fairly distributed we believe around the world. In the head of the village of Ghretie, it may claim a worthy associate. This noble Imerithian wishing at supper to give some proof of his hospitable attention, drank off, twenty-seven times in succession, to the health of as many guests who happened to be at table, "un grand gobelet❞ of wine. Between each cup he swallowed a small piece of bread. He continued afterwards to drink as if he had just commenced his meal, and appeared to suffer no inconvenience from his politeness.

In the canton of Radscha are found the most beautiful sites in Imerithia. The air is pure and the climate extremely salubrious. Many persons are found whose age exceeds one hundred years.

One act of forbearance on the part of the Russian Government is mentioned, which appears somewhat extraordinary.

"During the residence of my brother at Baragone, he could obtain but little information respecting the Souanes, who border on the most elevated part of the district of Radscha. These people avoid all communication with their neighbours. They have renounced all commercial intercourse, although their mountains furnish them lead and sulphur, and fine furs, rather than put their independence in jeopardy. They are very poor and wretched, and can scarcely be otherwise, as they occupy the highest habitable mountains of the Caucasus, and in their vallies, they scarcely find earth enough for the culture of grain sufficient to support them, or for the pasturage of their flocks.

Among a people so poor and savage, that they are often compelled to sell their children to the Kabardians to obtain food, one would not expect to hear of troubles created by ambition. Nevertheless, very lately the

Queeen of the Souanes, dethroned by her brother-in-law, came, it is said, to demand assistance against the usurper, and to engage the Russian Government in her views of power and revenge, she offered the sovereignty of her state as the price of its interposition. But Russia has no interest in the possession of these barbarous countries, and she would not interfere in their domestic disputes." Vol. 1. p. 293.

It is remarkable that a people of the same name inhabited these very elevated vallics of the Caucasus in the days of Strabo.* It is seldom that history records of any nation or tribe so unchanged a residence.

To the notices we have given of the state of society in this country, we will annex a few general observations.

The supreme command is now exercised by a Governor, who unites in one person the military and a part of the civil power. Prince Gortschakoff, who for several years had retained this rank, is said to have been indefatigable in his efforts to improve the condition of the country.

There were formerly no written laws in Colchos.-Tradition governed their jurisprudence. Towards the middle of the last century, the Kings of Mingrelia and Imerithia adopted the code given to Georgia by Vagtang. But although this code was published in 1727, it bears all the indications of a barbarous and ignorant age. In the trial of high offences, the ancient practises of wager of battle, of boiling water, of red hot iron, were appealed to, or expurgators were permitted to swear away the crime.

The punishments were generally severe and sanguinary, and the religious creed of the offender influenced the punishment. If a christian committed a robbery, he was sold as a slave, and his property was confiscated; but his wife and children continued free. If a Mussulman committed a robbery, he lost one eye, his right hand was cut off, his property was confiscated, and his wife and children, as well as himself, were sold as slaves. A disobedient child was first admonished by the priest, but on the second complaint he was stoned to death. There is at present a supreme tribunal established at Kotais, which exercises both civil and criminal jurisdiction; of this, the President and two of the Judges are Russians, two are Imerithians. Political offences, or those which concern the Russian army, are referred to a council of war.

The Imerithians profess the Greek religion, and follow the rites of the Greek church. The Russian archbishop of Tifflis,

* Πλησίον δὲ καὶ οἱ Σόανες οὐδὲν βελτίους τούτων τῶ πίνῳ, δυνάμει δε βελτίους, σχεδὸν δέ τοι καὶ κράτιστοι κατὰ ἀλκτην καὶ δυναμιν δυναςεύουσι γονῦ τῶν κύκλῳ τὰ ἄκρα τοῦ Καυκάσου κατέχονίες, τὰ ὑπὲρ τῆς Διοσκουρίαδος.— Strab. 1.

xi. p. 763.

may be considered as their metropolitan. There are many Armenian Christians in the country, and as it becomes tranquil, their number is increasing by emigration from the Turkish provinces.

The money revenue of this country has always been very inconsiderable. The wealth of its former sovereigns consisted in those contributions of the produce of the soil, which enabled them to feed and support their numerous retainers.

The climate of Colchos is very damp; it generally rains in each year, from one hundred and twenty to one hundred and fifty days, while in Georgia, it scarcely rains more than thirty or forty. It is consequently very subject to fevers, and to the Russian troops who are singularly careless about their health, it has proven very fatal. M. Gamba supposes that as the forests are cleared, these evils will abate. This, however, does not accord with the experience of North-America.

The population of this country has always been a subject of vague conjecture. Gibbon remarks, (vol. vii. p. 325) that some faith is requisite to believe that the population of Mingrelia now amounts to four millions of inhabitants. Yet, he adds in a note, we must avoid the contrary extreme of Chardin, who allows no more than twenty thousand. These are wide differences, even if we should suppose that Gibbon referred to the whole country of Colchos, and Chardin alluded to the modern kingdom or district of Mingrelia.

The present population of these districts, according to the inquiries made by the Russians in 1821, may be estimated as follows:






scattered over this extensive and productive country. Abazie is still more depopulated-but the power of the Russians in that district is too unsettled to enable them to make any accurate estimates of its population.

In the war which is likely to occur between Russia and the Porte, it is not improbable that the borders of Colchos may become the theatre of active hostilities. If Russia should be restrained by foreign interference from extending her frontiers in Europe, besides securing the fortresses along the north-eastern coast of the Euxine, she will, probably, make exertions to acquire the province of Akhaltzikhè, which formerly belonged to Georgia, and advancing her banners to the ridges of Mount

Ararat and the banks of the Thorouk, she will gain, besides a fertile and populous district, the port of Batoum, the most secure along the eastern shore of the Euxine, she will have the sources of the Euphrates under her feet, and Western Asia will be controlled by her influence, or governed by her power.

We may take some future occasion to review the excursions of M. Gamba into Georgia and the provinces bordering on the Caspian sea.

ART. V.-Malaria: An Essay on the production and propagation of this Poison, and on the nature and localities of the places by which it is produced, &c. By JOHN MACCULLOUGH, M.D. F.R.S. London.

WE make no apology for offering to our southern readers, an article upon the subject of Malaria. Indeed, we know not where we could have selected a topic of more general interest. The discussions relating to it, comprise matter of the highest importance to the well-being of every community. To ascertain the sources of disease, to point out the hidden springs from whence emanate the various modes of suffering and death, to determine the nature and influence of the several agents which shorten life or render it wretched and imperfect-these are surely objects worthy the most careful attention of the philosopher, the philanthropist and the statesman. If, as our author has stated, and as we unhesitatingly believe, the one half, and more than one half of our race are prematurely cut off by diseases, the product of Malaria, then this should claim of right, upon the gloomy catalogue of human maladies, the most conspicuous station. To us, especially, whose birth-place is in the midst of a region notoriously subjected to the influence of this evil agent, every point in its history is of serious import, and demands to be closely investigated and thoroughly understood.

Dr. MacCullough is already known advantageously to the public as the author of a work on the Highlands of Scotland. In the Essay before us, he has endeavoured, with a degree of success beyond that of any of his predecessors, to embody the principal facts recorded concerning the locality, production, pro

« PreviousContinue »