Melik Mahmôd Khan usurps the seat of sovereignty in Khorâ­sân.— The Emperor of the Russians conquers Gilan.— The Afghans settle themselves in Isphahan, and subdue the country around them.

AT this time, also, the kingdom, or province of Khorâsân, notwithstanding its being remote from the two great disturbances which I have been describing, was thrown into confusion by the turbu­lence of some thirty thousand Abdâli Afghans, who laid claim to sovereign power in the seat of government, Herât; and the revolt of Melik Mah­môd Khan, governor of Nimrôz, or Sistân, in Meshed Tôs; whereby the inhabitants of that province were beset with tumults, and strife and murder were made common.

In the provinces of Tabaristan and Gilan the plague had spread its ravages, and prolonging them to the space of ten years it caused an immense population to perish. At the same time the generals who were sent with a swarm of troops by the Emperor of the Russians, landing from the sea, made themselves masters of most of the consider­able towns of Gilan. At this period no less than eighteen persons, possessing troops and retinue, were reckoned up, who in the different provinces of Irân had raised their pretensions to royalty and principality. There were many besides who exercised robbery and plunder. The Safavean monarch, still undaunted, moved hand and foot amidst these horrible distresses, and against each of his powerful enemies sent such an army as his means enabled him, to cut off at least the oppor­tunity of further transgression on the part of his adversaries. He himself was engaged in Azer­bâïjân with the Turkish forces, who had con­quered a great portion of that province.

During this occasion so favorable for them, the body of Afghans who had gained possession of the imperial residence, Isphahan, found it easy to subdue some of the districts around them in Irâk, and a part of the province of Fârs; and thus gave a considerable extension to their empire. A troop of ru??ed Persians, partly of their own accord, partly by force, united themselves to these Afghans, who were a rude people and accustomed only to uncivilized life in the country, and having instructed them in the rules of government and of worldly possession, and in the ways and customs of life and propriety, they led them to the method of administration and investiture peculiar to the habits of the Kizil Bâsh. But from their meanness and inferiority every little thing shewed in the sight of the Afghans to be vast and valuable; and in consequence of their narrow circumstances and of at the same time the smallness of their num­bers, if any assemblage, even inconsiderable, took place in any city, they yielded to their fears, and suddenly began a general slaughter. This hap­pened several times in Isphahan; where, out of covetousness, they left nothing in the possession of the inhabitants; and acquired to themselves such a quantity of wealth, and treasures, and costly rarities, that thought and calculation must fall short of their value. The people had no kind of rest from the tyranny of these wretches; and the peasantry, driven to despair, more than once girt their loins to massacre them.

In the court of power, Cazvin, which the Afghans had gained to their possession, the populace having united one day with the market-people, put the Afghans to the edge of the sword, and killed about four thousand of them; bringing the city by this means under their own government. When, shortly afterwards, another body of Afghan troops approached their walls, they surren­dered the town, but on a certain compact and agreement.

In like manner, at Khonsâr, a place of inferior note, the populace revolted, and surrounding in the midst of the town a body of Afghans with their governor and commander who had arrived there on their march to another station, they killed in one day three thousand of them.

One of the wonders to be recorded is this, that some contemptible villages, which had been put to every shift to store themselves with provisions, guarded and maintained against the Afghans for the whole time of their seven years' dominion, the weak fortifications they were surrounded with; and nothing of theirs came within the reach of the Afghans, but the whistling of their musket-balls; so that however much these invaders exerted themselves to subdue them during that long period, their labour was in vain.

The Afghans indeed were constantly riding about; and though in possession of victory and superiority, they obtained no rest; sometimes in consequence of their fears and alarms, at other times from the actual attacks of the peasantry and the Persian army. But however often the troops of the Kizil Bâsh attacked them, by the decree of fate their business was nothing furthered.