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be computed as a voyage of nine days, and a mea- CH A P. stre of seven hundred miles. From the Iberian Caucasus, the most lofty and craggy mountains of
Lazica, or Asia, that river descends with such oblique vehe- Mingrelia. mence, that in a short space it is traversed by one hundred and twenty bridges. Nor does the stream become placid and navigable, tillit reaches the town of Sarapana, five days' journey from the Cyrus, which flows from the same hills, but in a contrary direction, to the Caspian lake. The proximity of these rivers has suggested the practice, or at least the idea, of wafting the precious merchandise of India down the Oxus, over the Caspian, up the Cyrus, and with the current of the Phasis into the Euxine and Mediterranean seas. As it successively collects the streams of the plain of Colchos, the Phasis moves with diminished speed, though accumulated weight. At the mouth it is sixty fathom deep, and half a league broad, but a small woody island is interposed in the midst of the channel : the water, so soon as it has deposited an earthy or metallic sediment, floats on the surface of the waves, and is no longer susceptible of corruption. In a course of one hundred miles, forty of which are navigable for large vessels, the Phasis divides the
the Roman historian. His description of the Euxine is ingeniously formed of all the fragments of the original, and of all the Greeks and Latins whom Sallust might copy, or by whom he might be copied ; and the merit of the execution atones for the whimsical design. 2. The Periplus of Arian is addressed to the emperor Adrian (in Geograph. Minor. Hudson, tom. i.), and contains whatever the governor of Pontus had seen,.from Trebizond to Dioscurias ; whatever he had heard from Dios. curius to the Danube ; and whatever he knew from the Da. rube to Trebizond.
CH A P. celebrated region of Colchos *, or Mingrelia ti XLII. which, on three sides, is fortified by the Iberian
and Armenian mountains, and whose maritime coast extends, about two hundred miles, from the neighbourhood of Trebizond to Dioscurias, and the confines of Circassia. Both the soil and climate are relaxed by excessive moisture : twenty-eight riyers, besides the Phasis and his dependent streams convey their waters to the sea ; and the hollowness of the ground appears to indicate the subterraneous channels between the Euxine and the Caspian. In the fields where wheat or barley is sown, the earth is too soft to sustain the action of the plough; but the gom, a small grain, not unlike the millet or coriander seed, supplies the ordinary food of the people; and the use of bread is confined to the prince and his pobles. Yet the vintage is more plentiful than the harvest; and the bulk of the stems, as well as the quality of the wine, display the unassisted powers of nature.
The same powers continually tend to overshadow the face of the
Besides the many occasional hints from the poets, historians, &c. of antiquity, we may consult the geographical de. scriptions of Colchos, by St abo (1. xi. p. 760-765. and Pliny (Hist. Natur. vi. 5. 19, &c.).
+ I shall quote, and have used, three modern descriptions of Mingrelia and the adjacent countries. 1. Of the Pére Archangeli Lamberti (Relations, de Thevenot, part i. p. 31-32. with a map), who has all the knowledge and prejudices of 2 missionary. 2. Of Chardin (Voyages en Perse, tom. i. p. 54. 68–168.): his observations are judicious; and his own adventures in the country are still more instructive than his obseryations. 3. Of Peyssonnel (Observations sur les Peuples Barbares, p. 49, 50, 51. 58. 62. 64, 65.71, &c and a more recent treatise, Sur le Commerce de la Mer Noire, tom. ii. p. I -53.): he had long resided at Caffa, as consul of France ; and his erudition is less valuable than his experience.
country with thick forests ; the timber of the hills, CHA P. and the flax of the plains, contribute to the abundance of naval stores; the wild and tame animals, the horse, the ox, and the hog, are remarkably prolific, and the name of the pheasant is expressive of his native habitation on the banks of the Phasis. The gold mines to the south of Trebiżond, which are still worked with sufficient profit, were a subject of national dispute between Justinian and Chosroes; and it is not unreasonable to believe, that a vein of precious metal may be equally diffused through the circle of the hills, although these secret treasures are neglected by the laziness, or concealed by the prudence, of the Mingrelians. The waters, impregnated with particles of gold, are carefully strained through sheep-skins or fleeces; but this expedient, the ground.work perhaps of a marvellous fable, affords a faint image of the wealth extracted from a virgin earth by the power and industry of ancient kings. Their silver palaces and golden chambers surpass our belief; but the fame of their riches is said to have excited the en. terprising avarice of the Argonauts * Tradition has affirmed, with some colour of reason, that Egypt planted on the Phasis, a learned and polite colony ti which manufactured linen, built navies, and inVOL. VII.
* Pliny, Hist Natur. 1. xxxiñ. 15. The gold and silver mines of Colchos attracted the Argonauts (Strab. l. i. p. 77.). The sagacious Chardin could find no gold in mines, rivers, or elsewhere. Yet a Mingrelian lost his hand and foot for shewing šome specimens at Constantinople of native gold.
+ Herodot. 1. ii. c. 104, 105. p. 150, 151. Diodor. Sicul. 1. i. p. 33. edit. Wesseling. Dionys. Perieget. 689, and Eu. stath. ad loc. Scholiast. ad Apollonium Argonaut. l. iv. 282
CHA P. vented geographical maps. The ingenuity of the
moderns has peopled, with flourishing cities and nations, the isthmus between the Euxine and the Caspian *; and a lively writer, observing the res semblance of climate, and, in his apprehension, of trade, has not hesitated to pronounce Colchos the
Holland of antiquity t. Manners of But the riches of Colchos shine only through the the natiyes. darkness of conjecture of tradition ; and its genuine
history presents an uniform scene of rudeness and poverty. If one hundred and thirty languages were spoken in the market of Dioscurius f, they were the imperfect idioms of so many savage tribes or families, sequestered from each other in the vallies of mount Caucasus; and their separation, which diminished the importance, must have multiplied the number, of their rustic capitals. In the present state of Mingrelia, a village is an assemblage of huts within a wooden fence; the fortresses are
; - seated in the depths of forests; the princely town of Cyta, or Cotatis, consists of two hundred houses, and a stone edifice appertains only to the magnificence of kings. Twelve ships from Constantinople, and about sixty barks, laden with the fruits of in
• Montesquieu, Esprit des Loix, 1. xxi. c. 6. L'Isthme .... couvert de villes et nations qui ne font plus.
+ Bougainville, Memoires de l'Academie des Inscriptions, tom. xxvi. p. 33. on the African voyage of Hanno and the commerce of antiquity.
| A Greek historian, Timosthenes, had affirmed, in eam ccc nationes dissimilibus linguis descendere ; and the modest Pliny is content to add, et a postea a nostris cxxx interpretibus negotia ibi gesta (vi. 5.) ; but the words nunc deserta coves a multitude of past fictions.
dustry annually cast anchor on the coast ; and the CHA P. list of Colchian exports is much increased, since the natives had only slaves and hides to offer in ex. change for the corn and salt which they purchased from the subjects of Justinian. Not a vestige can be found of the art, the knowledge, or the navi.. gation of the ancient Colchians : few Greeks desired or dared to pursue the footsteps of the As. gonauts; and even the marks of an Egyptian colony are lost on a nearer approach. The right of cir. cumcision is practised only by the Mahometans of the Euxine; and the curled hair and swarthy complexiou of Africa no longer disfigure the most perfect of the human race. It is in the adjacent climates of Georgia, Mingrelia, and Circassia, that nature has placed, at least to our eyes, the model of beauty in the shape of the limbs, the colour of the skin, the symmetry of the features, and the expression of the countenance *. According to the destination of the two sexes, the men seem formed for action, the women for love; and the perpetual supply of females from mount Caucasus has purified the blood, and improved the breed, of the southern nations of Asia. The proper district of Mingrelia, a portion only of the ancient Colchos, has long sustained an exportation of twelve thousand slaves. The number of prisoners or criminals would be inadequate to the annual demand;
• Buffon (Hist. Nat. tom. ii. p. 433-437.) collects the unanimous suffrage of naturalists and travellers. If in the time of Herodotus, they were in trutb paranxenes and store xus
8 (and he had observed them with care), invious fait is an example of the influence of climate on a foreign colony.