II. The Descent of the Turks

Lecture 3. The Tartar and the Turk

{48} YOU may think, Gentlemen, I have been very long in coming to the Turks, and indeed I have been longer than I could have wished; but I have thought it necessary, in order to your taking a just view of them, that you should survey them first of all in their original condition. When they first appear in history they are Huns or Tartars, and nothing else; they are indeed in no unimportant respects Tartars even now; but, had they never been made something more than Tartars, they never would have had much to do with the history of the world. In that case, they would have had only the fortunes of Attila and Zingis; they might have swept over the face of the earth, and scourged the human race, powerful to destroy, helpless to construct, and in consequence ephemeral; but this would have been all. But this has not been all, as regards the Turks; for, in spite of their intimate resemblance or relationship to the Tartar tribes, in spite of their essential barbarism to this day, still they, or at least great portions of the race, have been put under education; they have been submitted to a slow course of change, with a long history and a profitable discipline and fortunes of a peculiar kind; and thus {49} they have gained those qualities of mind, which alone enable a nation to wield and to consolidate imperial power.


I have said that, when first they distinctly appear on the scene of history, they are indistinguishable from Tartars. Mount Altai, the high metropolis of Tartary, is surrounded by a hilly district, rich not only in the useful, but in the precious metals. Gold is said to abound there; but it is still more fertile in veins of iron, which indeed is said to be the most plentiful in the world. There have been iron works there from time immemorial, and at the time that the Huns descended on the Roman Empire (in the fifth century of the Christian era), we find the Turks nothing more than a family of slaves, employed as workers of the ore and as blacksmiths by the dominant tribe. Suddenly in the course of fifty years, soon after the fall of the Hunnish power in Europe, with the sudden development peculiar to Tartars, we find these Turks spread from East to West, and lords of a territory so extensive, that they were connected, by relations of peace or war, at once with the Chinese, the Persians, and the Romans. They had reached Kamtchatka on the North, the Caspian on the West, and perhaps even the mouth of the Indus on the South. Here then we have an intermediate empire of Tartars, placed between the eras of Attila and Zingis; but in this sketch it has no place, except as belonging to Turkish history, because it was contained within the limits of Asia, and, though it lasted for 200 years, it only faintly affected the political transactions of Europe. However, it was not without some sort of influence on Christendom, for the Romans interchanged embassies with its sovereign in the reign of {50} the then Greek Emperor Justin the younger (A.D. 570), with the view of engaging him in a warlike alliance against Persia. The account of one of these embassies remains, and the picture it presents of the Turks is important, because it seems clearly to identify them with the Tartar race.

For instance, in the mission to the Tartars from the Pope, which I have already spoken of, the friars were led between two fires, when they approached the Khan, and they at first refused to follow, thinking they might be countenancing some magical rite. Now we find it recorded of this Roman embassy, that, on its arrival, it was purified by the Turks with fire and incense. As to incense, which seems out of place among such barbarians, it is remarkable that it is used in the ceremonial of the Turkish court to this day. At least Sir Charles Fellows, in his work on the Antiquities of Asia Minor, in 1838, speaks of the Sultan as going to the festival of Bairam with incense-bearers before him. Again, when the Romans were presented to the great Khan, they found him in his tent, seated on a throne, to which wheels were attached and horses attachable, in other words, a Tartar waggon. Moreover, they were entertained at a banquet which lasted the greater part of the day; and an intoxicating liquor, not wine, which was sweet and pleasant, was freely presented to them; evidently the Tartar koumiss [Note 1]. The next day they had a second entertainment in a still more splendid tent; the hangings were of embroidered silk, and the throne, the cups, and the vases were of gold. On the third day, the pavilion, in which they were received, was supported on gilt columns; a couch of massive gold was raised on four gold peacocks; and before the entrance to the tent was what {51} might be called a sideboard, only that it was a sort of barricade of waggons, laden with dishes, basins, and statues of solid silver. All these points in the description,—the silk hangings, the gold vessels, the successively increasing splendour of the entertainments,—remind us of the courts of Zingis and Timour, 700 and 900 years afterwards.

This empire, then, of the Turks was of a Tartar character; yet it was the first step of their passing from barbarism to that degree of civilization which is their historical badge. And it was their first step in civilization, not so much by what it did in its day, as (unless it be a paradox to say so), by its coming to an end. Indeed it so happens, that those Turkish tribes which have changed their original character and have a place in the history of the world, have obtained their status and their qualifications for it, by a process very different from that which took place in the nations most familiar to us. What this process has been I will say presently; first, however, let us observe that, fortunately for our purpose, we have still specimens existing of those other Turkish tribes, which were never submitted to this process of education and change, and, in looking at them as they now exist, we see at this very day the Turkish nationality in something very like its original form, and are able to decide for ourselves on its close approximation to the Tartar. You may recollect I pointed out to you, Gentlemen, in the opening of these lectures, the course which the pastoral tribes, or nomads as they are often called, must necessarily take in their emigrations. They were forced along in one direction till they emerged from their mountain valleys, and descended their high plateau at the end of Tartary, and then they had the opportunity of turning south. If they did not avail themselves of {52} this opening, but went on still westward, their next southern pass would be the defiles of the Caucasus and Circassia, to the west of the Caspian. If they did not use this, they would skirt the top of the Black Sea, and so reach Europe. Thus in the emigration of the Huns from China, you may recollect a tribe of them turned to the South as soon as they could, and settled themselves between the high Tartar land and the sea of Aral, while the main body went on to the furthest West by the north of the Black Sea. Now with this last passage into Europe we are not here concerned, for the Turks have never introduced themselves to Europe by means of it [Note 2]; but with those two southward passages which are Asiatic, viz., that to the east of the Aral, and that to the west of the Caspian. The Turkish tribes have all descended upon the civilized world by one or other of these two roads; and I observe, that those which have descended along the east of the Aral have changed their social habits and gained political power, while those which descended to the west of the Caspian remain pretty much what they ever were. The former of these go among us by the general name of Turks; the latter are the Turcomans or Turkmans.


Now, first, I shall briefly mention the Turcomans, and dismiss them, because, when they have once illustrated the original state of their race, they have no place in this sketch. I have said, then, that the ancient Turco-Tartar empire, to which the Romans sent their embassy in the sixth century, extended to the Caspian and towards the Indus. It was in the beginning of the {53} next century that the Romans, that is, the Greco-Romans of Constantinople, found them in the former of these neighbourhoods; and they made the same use of them in the defence of their territory, to which they had put the Goths before the overthrow of the Western Empire. It was a most eventful era at which they addressed themselves to these Turks of the Caspian. It was almost the very year of the Hegira, which marks the rise of the Mahometan imposture and rule. As yet, however, the Persians were in power, and formidable enemies to the Romans, and at this very time in possession of the Holy Cross, which Chosroes, their powerful king, had carried away from Jerusalem twelve years before. But the successful Emperor Heraclius was already in the full tide of those brilliant victories, which in the course of a few years recovered it; and, to recall him from their own soil, the Persians had allied themselves with the barbarous tribes of Europe, (the Russians, Sclavonians, Bulgarians, and others,) which, then as now, were pressing down close upon Constantinople from the north. This alliance suggested to Heraclius the counterstroke of allying himself with the Turkish freebooters, who in like manner, as stationed above the Caspian, were impending over Persia. Accordingly the horde of Chozars, as this Turkish tribe was called, at the Emperor's invitation, transported their tents from the plains of the Volga through the defiles of the Caucasus into Georgia. Heraclius showed them extraordinary attention; he put his own diadem on the head of the barbarian prince, and distributed gold, jewels, and silk to his officers; and, on the other hand, he obtained from them an immediate succour of 40,000 horse, and the promise of an irruption of their brethren into Persia from the far East, from the quarter of the {54} Sea of Aral, which I have pointed out as the first of the passages by which the shepherds of Tartary came down upon the South. Such were the allies, with which Heraclius succeeded in utterly overthrowing and breaking up the Persian power; and thus, strange to say, the greatest of all the enemies of the Church among the nations of the earth, the Turk, began his career in Christian history by cooperating with a Christian Emperor in the recovery of the Holy Cross, of which a pagan, the ally of Russia, had got possession. The religious aspect, however, of this first era of their history, seems to have passed away without improvement; what they gained was a temporal advantage, a settlement in Georgia and its neighbourhood, which they have held from that day to this.

This horde of Turks, the Chozars, was nomad and pagan; it consisted of mounted shepherds, surrounded with their flocks, living in tents and waggons. In the course of the following centuries, under the shadow of their more civilized brethren, other similar hordes were introduced, nomad and pagan still; they might indeed happen sometimes to pass down from the east of the Caspian as well as from the west, hastening to the south straight from Turkistan along the coast of the Aral;—either road would lead them down to the position which the Chozars were the first to occupy in Georgia and Armenia,—but still there would be but one step in their journey between their old native sheep-walk and horse-path and the fair region into which they came. It was a sudden Tartar descent, accompanied with no national change of habits, and promising no permanent stability. Nor would they have remained there, I suppose, as they did remain, were it not that they have been protected, as they were originally introduced, by {55} neighbouring states which have made use of them. There, however, in matter of fact, they remain to this day, the successors of the Chozars, in Armenia, in Syria, in Asia Minor, even as far west as the coast of the Archipelago and its maritime cities and ports, being pretty much what they were a thousand years ago, except that they have taken up the loose profession of Mahometanism, and have given up some of the extreme peculiarities of their Tartar state, such as their attachment to horse-flesh and mares' milk. These are the Turcomans.


The writer in the universal History divides them into eastern and western. Of the Eastern, with which we are not concerned, he tells us that [Note 3] "they are tall and robust, with square flat faces, as well as the western; only they are more swarthy, and have a greater resemblance to the Tartars. Some of them have betaken themselves to husbandry. They are all Mohammedans; they are very turbulent, very brave, and good horsemen." And of the Western, that they once had two dynasties in the neighbourhood of Armenia, and were for a time very powerful, but that they are now subjects of the Turks, who never have been able to subdue their roving habits; that they dwell in tents of thick felt, without fixed habitation; that they profess Mahomedanism, but perform its duties no better than their brethren in the East; that they are governed by their own chiefs according to their own laws; that they pay tribute to the Ottoman Porte, and are bound to furnish it with horsemen; that they are great robbers, and are in perpetual warfare with their neighbours the Kurds; that they {56} march sometimes two or three hundred families together, and with their droves cover sometimes a space of two leagues, and that they prefer the use of the bow to that of fire-arms.

This account is drawn up from writers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Precisely the same report of their habits is made by Dr. Chandler in his travels in Asia Minor in the middle of the last century; he fell in with them in his journey between Smyrna and Ephesus. "We were told here," he says, "that the road farther on was beset with Turcomans, a people supposed to be descended from the Nomades Scythę or Shepherd Scythians; busied, as of old, in breeding and nurturing cattle, and leading, as then, an unsettled life; not forming villages and towns with stable habitations, but flitting from place to place, as the season and their convenience directs; choosing their stations, and over-spreading without control the vast neglected pastures of this desert empire ... We set out, and ... soon after came to a wild country covered with thickets, and with the black booths of the Turcomans, spreading on every side, innumerable, with flocks and herds and horses and poultry feeding round them." [Note 4]

I may seem to be making unnecessary extracts, but I have two reasons for multiplying them; in order, first, to show the identity in character of the various tribes of the Tartar and the Turkish stock, and next, in order to impress upon your imagination what that character is; for it is not easy to admit into the mind the very idea of a people of this kind, dwelling too, and that for ages, in some of the most celebrated and beautiful regions of the world, such as Syria and Asia Minor. With this view I will read what Volney says of them, as he found {57} them in Syria towards the close of the last century. "The Turkmans," he says [Note 5], "are of the number of those Tartar hordes, who, in the great revolutions of the Empire of the Caliphs, emigrated from the eastward of the Caspian Sea, and spread themselves over the vast plains of Armenia and Asia Minor. Their language is the same as that of the Turks, and their mode of life nearly resembles that of the Bedouin Arabs. Like them, they are shepherds, and consequently obliged to travel over immense tracts of land to procure subsistence for their numerous herds ... Their whole occupation consists in smoking and looking after their flocks. Perpetually on horseback, with their lances on their shoulders, their crooked sabres by their sides, and their pistols in their belts, they are expert horsemen and indefatigable soldiers ... A great number of these tribes pass in the summer into Armenia and Caramania, where they find grass in great abundance, and return to their former quarters in the winter. The Turkmans are reputed to be Moslem ... but they trouble themselves little about religion."

While I was collecting these passages, a notice of these tribes appeared in the columns of the Times newspaper, sent home by its Constantinople correspondent, apropos of the present concentration of troops in that capital in expectation of a Russian war. His statement enables us to carry down our specimens of the Tartar type of the Turkish race to the present day. "From the coast of the Black Sea," he writes home, "to the Taurus chain of mountains, a great part of the population is nomad, and besides the Turks or Osmanlis," that is, the Ottoman or Imperial Turks, "consists of two distinct races;—the Turcomans, who possessed themselves {58} of the land before the advent of the Osmanlis, and who wander with their black tents up to the shores of the Bosphorus; and the Curds." With the Curds we are not here concerned. He proceeds: "The Turcomans, who are spread over the whole of Asia Minor, are a most warlike people. Clans, numbering many thousand, acknowledge the Sultan as the representative of the Caliphs and the Sovereign Lord of Islam, from whom all the Frank kings receive their crowns; but they are practically independent of him, and pay no taxes but to their own chiefs. In the neighbourhood of Cęsarea, Kusan Oghlou, a Turcoman chief, numbers 20,000 armed horsemen, rules despotically over a large district, and has often successfully resisted the Sultan's arms. These people lead a nomad life, are always engaged in petty warfare, are well mounted, and armed with pistol, scimitar, spear, or gun, and would always be useful as irregular troops."


And now I have said enough, and more than enough, of the original state of the Turkish race, as exhibited in the Chozars and Turcomans:—it is time to pursue the history of that more important portion of it with which we are properly engaged, which received some sort of education, and has proved itself capable of social and political union. I observed just now, that that education was very different in its mode and circumstances from that which has been the lot of the nations with which we are best acquainted. Other nations have been civilized in their own homes, and, by their social progress, have immortalized a country as well as a race. They have been educated by their conquests, or by subjugation, or by the intercourse with foreigners which commerce or {59} colonization has opened; but in every case they have been true to their father-land, and are children of the soil. The Greeks sent out their colonies to Asia Minor and Italy, and those colonies reacted upon the mother country. Magna Gręcia and Ionia showed their mother country the way to her intellectual supremacy. The Romans spread gradually from one central city, and when their conquests reached as far as Greece, "the captive," in the poet's words, "captivated her wild conqueror, and introduced arts into unmannered Latium." [Note 6] England was converted by the Roman See and conquered by the Normans, and was gradually civilized by the joint influences of religion and of chivalry. Religion indeed, though a depraved religion, has had something to do, as we shall see, with the civilization of the Turks; but the circumstances have been altogether different from those which we trace in the history of England, Rome, or Greece. The Turks present the spectacle of a race poured out, as it were, upon a foreign material, interpenetrating all its parts, yet preserving its individuality, and at length making its way through it, and reappearing, in substance the same as before, but charged with the qualities of the material through which it has been passed, and modified by them. They have been invaded by no conqueror, they have brought no captive arts or literature home, they have undergone no conversion in mass, they have been taught by no commerce, by no international relationship; but they have in the course of centuries slowly soaked or trickled, if I may use the words, through the Saracenic populations with which they came in contact, and after being nationally lost to the world, as far as history goes, for long periods and through different countries, eventually they have come {60} to the face of day with that degree of civilization which they at present possess, and at length have usurped a place within the limits of the great European family. And this is why the path southwards to the east of the Aral was, in matter of fact, the path of civilization, and that by the Caucasus the path of barbarism; this is why the Turks who took the former course could found an empire, and those who took the latter have remained Tartars or Turcomans, as they were originally; because the way of the Caucasus was a sheer descent from Turkistan into the country which they occupy, but the way of the Aral was a circuitous course, leading them through many countries—through Sogdiana, Khorasan, Zabulistan, and Persia,—with many fortunes, under many masters, for many hundred years, before they came round to the region to which their Turcoman brethren attained so easily, but with so little eventual advantage. My meaning will be clearer, as I proceed.


1. First of all, we may say that the very region into which they came, tended to their civilization. Of course the peculiarities of soil, climate, and country are not by themselves sufficient for a social change, else the Turcomans would have the best right to civilization; yet, when other influences are present too, climate and country are far from being unimportant. You may recollect that I have spoken more than once of the separation of a portion of the Huns from the main body, when they were emigrating from Tartary into Europe, in the time of the Goths [Note 7]. These turned off sharp to the South immediately on descending the high table-land; and, crossing the Jaxartes, found themselves in a fertile {61} and attractive country, between the Aral and their old country, where they settled. It is a peculiarity of Asia that its regions are either very hot or very cold. It has the highest mountains in the world, bleak table-lands, vast spaces of burning desert, tracts stretched out beneath the tropical sun. Siberia goes for a proverb for cold: India is a proverb for heat. It is not adequately supplied with rivers, and it has little of inland sea. In these respects it stands in singular contrast with Europe. If then the tribes which inhabit a cold country have, generally speaking, more energy than those which are relaxed by the heat, it follows that you will have in Asia two descriptions of people brought together in extreme, sometimes in sudden, contrariety with each other, the strong and the weak. Here then, as some philosophers have argued [Note 8], you have the secret of the despotisms and the vast empires of which Asia has been the seat; for it always possesses those who are naturally fitted to the tyrants, and those also whose nature it is to tremble and obey. But we may take another, perhaps a broader, view of the phenomenon. The sacred writer says: "Give me neither riches nor beggary:" and, as the extremes of abundance and of want are prejudicial to our moral well-being, so they seem to be prejudicial to our intellectual nature also. Mental cultivation is best carried on in temperate regions. In the north men are commonly too cold, in the south too hot, to think, read, write, and act. Science, literature, and art refuse to germinate in the frost, and are burnt up by the sun.

Now it so happened that the region in which this party of Huns settled themselves was one of the fairest and most fruitful in Asia. It is bounded by deserts, it {62} is in parts encroached on by deserts; but viewed in its length and breadth, in its produce and its position, it seems a country equal, or superior, to any which that vast continent, as at present known, can show. Its lower portion is the extensive territory of Khorasan, the ancient Bactriana; going northwards across the Oxus, we come into a spacious tract, stretching to the Aral and to the Jaxartes, and measuring a square of 600 miles. It was called in ancient times Sogdiana; in the history of the middle ages Transoxiana, or "beyond the Oxus;" by the Eastern writers Maver-ul-nere, or Mawer-al-nahar, which is said to have the same meaning; and it is now known by the name Bukharia. To these may be added a third province, at the bottom of the Aral, between the mouth of the Oxus and the Caspian, called Kharasm. These, then, were the regions in which the Huns in question took up their abode.

The two large countries I first mentioned are celebrated in all ages for those characteristics which render a spot desirable for human habitation. As to Sogdiana, or Maver-ul-nere, the region with which we are specially concerned, the Orientals, especially the Persians, of the medieval period do not know how to express in fit terms their admiration of its climate and soil. They do not scruple to call it the Paradise of Asia. "It may be considered," says a modern writer [Note 9], "as almost the only example of the finest temperate climate occurring in that continent, which presents generally an abrupt transition from burning tropical heat to the extreme cold of the north." According to an Arabian author, there are just three spots in the globe which surpass all the rest in beauty and fertility; one of them is near Damascus, another seems to be the valley of a river on the Persian {63} Gulf, and the third is the plain of Sogdiana. Another writer says: "I have cast my eyes around Bokhara, and never have I seen a verdure more fresh or of wider extent. The green carpet mingles in the horizon with the azure of the sky." [Note 10] Abulfeda in like manner calls it "the most delightful of all places God has created." Some recent writer, I think, speaks in disparagement of it [Note 11]. And I can quite understand, that the deserts which must be passed to reach it from the south or the north may betray the weary traveller into an exaggerated praise, which is the expression both of his recruited spirits and of his gratitude. But all things are good only by comparison; and I do not see why an Asiatic, having experience of the sands which elsewhere overspread the face of his continent, should for that reason be ill qualified to pronounce that Sogdiana affords a contrast to them. Moreover, we have the experience of other lands, as Asia Minor, which have presented a very different aspect in different ages. A river overflows and turns a fruitful plain into a marsh; or it fails, and turns it into a sandy desert. Sogdiana is watered by a number of great rivers, which make their way across it from the high land on its east to the Aral or Caspian. Now we read in history of several instances of changes, accidental or artificial, in the direction or the supply of these great water-courses. I think I have read somewhere, but cannot recover my authority, of some emigration of the inhabitants of those countries, caused by a failure of the stream on which they depended. And we know for certain that the Oxus has been changed in its course, accidentally or artificially, more than once. Disputes have arisen before now between the Russian Government and the Tartars, on the subject of one of these diversions of the bed of {64} a river [Note 12]. One province of Khorasan, which once was very fertile, is in consequence now a desert. It may be questioned, too, whether the sands of the adjacent deserts, which are subject to violent agitation from the action of the wind, may not have encroached upon Sogdiana. Nor should it be overlooked that this rich country has been subjected to the same calamities which have been the desolation of Asia Minor; for, as the Turcomans have devastated the latter, so, as I have already had occasion to mention, Zingis swept round the sea of Aral, and destroyed the fruits of a long civilization.

Even after the ravages of that conqueror, however, Timour and the Emperor Baber, who had a right to judge of the comparative excellence of the countries of the East, bear witness to the beauty of Sogdiana. Timour, who had fixed his imperial seat in Samarcand, boasted he had a garden 120 miles in extent. Baber expatiates on the grain and fruit and game of its northern parts; of the tulips, violets, and roses of another portion of it; of the streams and gardens of another. Its plains are said by travellers to abound in wood, its rivers in fish, its valleys in fruit-trees, in wheat and barley, and in cotton [Note 13]. The quince, pomegranate, fig, apricot, and almond all flourish in it. Its melons are the finest in the world. Mulberries abound, and provide for a considerable manufacture of silk. No wine, says Baber, is equal to the wine of Bokhara. Its atmosphere is so clear and serene, that the stars are visible even to the verge of the horizon. A recent Russian traveller says he came to a country so smiling, well cultivated, and thickly peopled, with fields, canals, avenues of trees, villages, and gardens, that he thought {65} himself in an enchanted country. He speaks in raptures of its melons, pomegranates, and grapes [Note 14]. Its breed of horses is celebrated; so much so that a late British traveller [Note 15] visited the country with the special object of substituting it for the Arab in our Indian armies. Its mountains abound in useful and precious produce. Coal is found there; gold is collected from its rivers; silver and iron are yielded by its hills; we hear too of its mines of turquoise, and of its cliffs of lapis lazuli [Note 16], and its mines of rubies, which to this day are the object of the traveller's curiosity [Note 17]. I might extend my remarks to the country south of the Oxus and of its mountain range, the modern Affghanistan. Though Cabul is 6,000 feet above the level of the sea, it abounds in pomegranates, mulberries, apples, and fruit of every kind. Grapes are so plentiful, that for three months of the year they are given to the cattle.


This region, favoured in soil and climate, is favoured also in position. Lying at the mouth of the two great roads of emigration from the far East, the valleys of the Jaxartes and the Oxus, it is the natural mart between High Asia and Europe, receiving the merchandize of East and North, and transporting it by its rivers, by the Caspian, the Kur, and the Phasis, to the Black Sea. Thus it received in former days the silk of China, the musk of Thibet, and the furs of Siberia, and shipped them for the cities of the Roman Empire. To Samarcand, its metropolis, we owe the art of transforming linen into paper, which the Sogdian merchants are said to have gained from China, and thence diffused by means of their own manufacturers over the western {66} world. A people so circumstanced could not be without civilization; but that civilization was of a much earlier date. It must not be forgotten that the celebrated sage, Zoroaster, before the times of history, was a native, and, as some say, king of Bactriana. Cyrus has established a city in the same region, which he called after his name. Alexander conquered both Bactriana and Sogdiana, and planted Grecian cities there. There is a long line of Greco-Bactrian kings; and their coins and paterę have been brought to light within the last few years. Alexander's name is still famous in the country; not only does Marco Polo in the middle ages speak of his descendants as still found there, but even within the last fifteen years Sir Alexander Burns found a man professing that descent in the valley of the Oxus, and Lieutenant Wood another in the same neighbourhood.

Nor was Greek occupation the only source of the civilization of Sogdiana. Centuries rolled on, and at length the Saracens renewed, on their own peculiar basis, the mental cultivation which Sogdiana had received from Alexander. The cities of Bokhara and Samarcand have been famous for science and literature. Bokhara was long celebrated as the most eminent seat of Mahometan learning in central Asia; its colleges were, and are, numerous, accommodating from 60 to 600 students each. One of them gained the notice and the pecuniary aid of the Russian Empress Catharine [Note 18]. Samarcand rivals Bokhara in fame; its university even in the last century was frequented by Mahometan youth from foreign countries. There were more than 300 colleges for students, and there was an observatory, celebrated in the middle ages, the ruins of which remain. Here lies the body of Timour, {67} under a lofty dome, the sides of which are enriched with agate. "Since the time of the Holy Prophet," that is, Mahomet, says the Emperor Baber, "no country has produced so many Imaums and eminent divines as Mawar-al-nahar," that is, Sogdiana. It was celebrated for its populousness. At one time it boasted of being able to send out 300,000 foot, and as many horse, without missing them. Bridges and caravansaries abounded; the latter, in the single province attached to its capital, amounted to 2,000. In Bactriana, the very ruins of Balkh extend for a circuit of 20 miles, and Sir A. Burns wound through three miles of them continuously.

Such is the country, seated at present between the British and the Russian Empires, and such as regards its previous and later state, which the savage Huns, in their emigration from Tartary, had necessarily encountered; and it cannot surprise us that one of their many tribes had been persuaded to settle there, instead of seeking their fortunes farther west. The effect upon these settlers in course of time was marvellous. Though it was not of course the mere climate of Sogdiana that changed them, still we cannot undervalue the influence which is necessarily exerted on the mind by the idea of property, when once recognised and accepted, by the desire of possession and by the love of home, and by the sentiment of patriotism which arises in the mind, especially with the occupation of a rich and beautiful country. Moreover, they became the guests or masters of a people, who, however rude, at least had far higher claims to be called civilized than they themselves, and possessed among them the remains of a more civilized era. They found a race, too, not Tartar, more capable of civilization, more gifted with intellect, and more comely in person. Settling down among the inhabitants, and intermarrying with {68} them, in the course of generations their Tartar characteristics were sensibly softened. For a thousand years this restless people remained there, as if chained to the soil. They still had the staple of barbarism in them, but so polished were they for children of a Tartar stock, that they are called in history the White Huns of Sogdiana. They took to commerce, they took to literature; and when, at the end of a few centuries, the Turks, as I have already described, spread abroad from the iron works and forges of Mount Altai to Kamtchatka, the Volga, and the Indus, and overran these White Huns in the course of their victories, they could find no parties more fitted than them to act as their diplomatists and correspondents in their negotiations with the Romans.

Such was the influence of Sogdiana on the Huns; is it wonderful that it exerted some influence on the Turks, when they in turn got possession of it? History justifies the anticipation; as the Huns of the second or third centuries settled around the Aral, so the Turks in the course of the sixth or seventh centuries overran them, and descended down to the modern Affghanistan and the Indus; and as the fair region and its inhabitants, which they crossed and occupied, had begun at the former era the civilization of the first race of Tartars, so did it at the latter era begin the education of the second.


2. But a more direct and effective instrument of social education was accorded to the Turks on their occupation of Sogdiana. You may recollect I spoke of their first empire as lasting for only 200 years [Note 19], about 90 of which measures the period of that occupation. Their {69} power then came to an end; what was the consequence of their fall? were they driven out of Sogdiana again? were they massacred? did they take refuge in the mountains or deserts? were they reduced to slavery? Thus we are introduced to a famous passage of history: the case was as follows:—At the very date at which Heraclius called the Turcomans into Georgia, at the very date when their Eastern brethren crossed the northern border of Sogdiana, an event of most momentous import had occurred in the South. A new religion had arisen in Arabia. The impostor Mahomet, announcing himself the Prophet of God, was writing the pages of that book, and moulding the faith of that people, which was to subdue half the known world. The Turks passed the Jaxartes southward in A.D. 626; just four years before Mahomet had assumed the royal dignity, and just six years after, on his death, his followers began the conquest of the Persian Empire. In the course of 20 years they effected it; Sogdiana was at its very extremity, or its borderland; there the last king of Persia took refuge from the south, while the Turks were pouring into it from the north. There was little to choose for the unfortunate prince between the Turk and the Saracen; the Turks were his hereditary foe; they had been the giants and monsters of the popular poetry; but he threw himself into their arms. They engaged in his service, betrayed him, murdered him, and measured themselves with the Saracens in his stead. Thus the military strength of the north and south of Asia, the Saracenic and the Turkish, came into memorable conflict in the regions of which I have said so much. The struggle was a fierce one, and lasted many years; the Turks striving to force their way down to the ocean, the Saracens to drive them back into their Scythian deserts. They first fought this issue in Bactriana {70} or Khorasan; the Turks got the worst of the fight, and then it was thrown back upon Sogdiana itself, and there it ended again in favour of the Saracens. At the end of 90 years from the time of the first Turkish descent on this fair region, they relinquished it to their Mahometan opponents. The conquerors found it rich, populous, and powerful; its cities, Carisme, Bokhara, and Samarcand, were surrounded beyond their fortifications by a suburb of fields and gardens, which was in turn protected by exterior works; its plains were well cultivated, and its commerce extended from China to Europe. Its riches were proportionally great; the Saracens were able to extort a tribute of two million gold pieces from the inhabitants; we read, moreover, of the crown jewels of one of the Turkish princesses; and of the buskin of another, which she dropt in her flight from Bokhara, as being worth two thousand pieces of gold [Note 20]. Such had been the prosperity of the barbarian invaders, such was its end; but not their end, for adversity did them service, as well as prosperity, as we shall see.

It is usual for historians to say, that the triumph of the South threw the Turks back again upon their northern solitudes; and this might easily be the case with some of the many hordes, which were ever passing the boundary and flocking down; but it is no just account of the historical fact, viewed as a whole. Not often indeed do the Oriental nations present us with an example of versatility of character; the Turks, for instance, of this day are substantially what they were four centuries ago. We cannot conceive, were Turkey overrun by the Russians at the present moment, that the fanatical tribes, which are pouring into Constantinople from Asia Minor, would submit to the foreign yoke, {71} take service under their conquerors, become soldiers, custom-officers, police, men of business, attachés, statesmen, working their way up from the ranks and from the masses into influence and power; but, whether from skill in the Saracens, or from far-reaching sagacity in the Turks (and it is difficult to assign it to either cause), so it was, that a process of this nature followed close upon the Mahometan conquest of Sogdiana. It is to be traced in detail to a variety of accidents. Many of the Turks probably were made slaves, and the service to which they were subjected was no matter of choice. Numbers had got attached to the soil; and inheriting the blood of Persians, White Huns, or aboriginal inhabitants for three generations, had simply unlearned the wildness of the Tartar shepherd. Others fell victims to the religion of their conquerors, which ultimately, as we know, exercised a most remarkable influence upon them. Not all at once, but as tribe descended after tribe, and generation followed generation, they succumbed to the creed of Mahomet; and they embraced it with the ardour and enthusiasm which Franks and Saxons so gloriously and meritoriously manifested in their conversion to Christianity.


3. Here again was a very powerful instrument in modification of their national character. Let me illustrate it in one particular. If there is one peculiarity above another, proper to the savage and to the Tartar, it is that of excitability and impetuosity on ordinary occasions; the Turks, on the other hand, are nationally remarkable for gravity and almost apathy of demeanour. Now there are evidently elements in the Mahometan creed, which would tend to change them from the one {72} temperament to the other. Its sternness, its coldness, its doctrine of fatalism; even the truths which it borrowed from Revelation, when separated from the truths it rejected, its monotheism untempered by mediation, its severe view of the divine attributes, of the law, and of a sure retribution to come, wrought both a gloom and also an improvement in the barbarian, not very unlike the effect which some forms of Protestantism produce among ourselves. But whatever was the mode of operation, certainly it is to their religion that this peculiarity of the Turks is ascribed by competent judges. Lieutenant Wood in his journal gives us a lively account of a peculiarity of theirs, which he unhesitatingly attributes to Islamism. "Nowhere," he says, "is the difference between European and Mahomedan society more strongly marked than in the lower walks of life … A Kasid, or messenger, for example, will come into a public department, deliver his letters in full durbar, and demean himself throughout the interview with so much composure and self-possession, that an European can hardly believe that his grade in society is so low. After he has delivered his letters, he takes his seat among the crowd, and answers, calmly and without hesitation, all the questions which may be addressed to him, or communicates the verbal instructions with which he has been entrusted by his employer, and which are often of more importance than the letters themselves. Indeed, all the inferior classes possess an innate self-respect, and a natural gravity of deportment, which differs as far from the suppleness of a Hindustani as from the awkward rusticity of an English clown." ... "Even children," he continues, "in Mahomedan countries have an unusual degree of gravity in their deportment. The boy, who can but lisp his 'Peace be with you,' has {73} imbibed this portion of the national character. In passing through a village, these little men will place their hands upon their breasts, and give the usual greeting. Frequently have I seen the children of chiefs approach their father's durbar, and stopping short at the threshold of the door, utter the shout of 'Salam Ali-Kum,' so as to draw all eyes upon them; but nothing daunted, they marched boldly into the room, and sliding down upon their knees, folded their arms and took their seat upon the musnad with all the gravity of grown-up persons."

As Islamism has changed the demeanour of the Turks, so doubtless it has in other ways materially innovated on their Tartar nature. It has given an aim to their military efforts, a political principle, and a social bond. It has laid them under a sense of responsibility, has moulded them into consistency, and taught them a course of policy and perseverance in it. But to treat this part of the subject adequately to its importance would require, Gentlemen, a research and a fulness of discussion unsuitable to the historical sketch which I have undertaken. I have said enough for my purpose upon this topic; and indeed on the general question of the modification of national character to which the Turks were at this period subjected.

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1. Univ. Hist. Modern, vol. iii. p. 346.
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2. I am here assuming that the Magyars are not of the Turkish stock; vid. Gibbon and Pritchard.
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3. Vol. v. p. 248.
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4. P. 127, ed. 1817.
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5. Travels in Syria, vol. i. p. 369, ed. 1787.
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6. Hor. Epist. ii. 1, 155.
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7. Supr. p. 26.
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8. Montesquieu.
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9. Murray.
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10. Caldecott's Baber.
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11. Vid. Quarterly Review, vol. lii. p. 396-7.
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12. Univ. Hist. mod. vol. v. p. 262, etc.
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13. Ibid. vol. iv. p. 353.
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14. Meyendorff.
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15. Moorcroft.
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16. Vid. Elphinstone.
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17. Wood's Oxus.
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18. Elphinstone's Cabul.
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19. Supr. p. 59.
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20. Gibbon.
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