The war in Khorasan.

NADER KULI was born on Sunday, the eleventh day of November in the year 1688, in a castle named Destegerd, about sixty miles to the north of Meshed, Capital of Khorasan. His birth was neither eminently high, nor contemptibly low; for his Ancestors seem to have been the principal men of a Tartarian tribe, called Afshars, who had formerly removed from the Transoxan provinces to avoid the oppression of the Moguls: their life was divided between war, and pastoral amusements, and, like the Arabs, they continued to change their quarters according to the mildness or severity of the season. We may suppose, however, that his family was not very considerable, as the Persian author makes A.D.1703. Nad. 15. a long apology for the obscurity of his extraction, and, in the manner of the Oriental writers, throws out several poetical illustrations of what he had asserted, “that the cimeter acquires its merit from the natural excellence of its temper, and not from the mine, where it was formed; and that the diamond owes not its superiority over all other jewels to the rock where it grew, but to its native bright­ness.” Let that be as it may, it is certain that he was born with admirable parts, and soon discovered a peculiar genius for military exercises: even at the early age of fifteen years, he gave many signal proofs of his valour, in every expedition that he was engaged in; but the first circumstance which promoted and dis­tinguished him, was his alliance with the Chief of a neighbouring tribe, a man of great power and dignity, who had signalized himself in several wars with the nations of the adjacent districts, and who then possessed a strong hold near the city of Abiúrd: this chief was so pleased with the dawning merit of the young Nader­kuli, that he gave him his daughter in marriage, in preference to a croud of competitors.

He A.D.1718. Nad. 31. was thirty-one years old, when his son Rizakuli was born, whose mother died five years after; and Nader married the daughter of another Chief, by whom he had two sons Imámkuli, and Nasralla. We must not omit, that he had a brother named Zoheireddoula, who had also two sons Ibrahim and Ali: as these are the princi­pal actors in the following History, the reader must keep them constantly in his memory, for if he once lose the chain of events in this nar­rative, we are not answerable for any obscurity or A.D.1723. Nad. 36. confusion, that he may find in it; nor is it less necessary for him, to hold perpetually in his mind the situation of the provinces in Persia, and the state of those provinces, when Naderkuli began his career*.

It was in the thirty-sixth year of his age, that he formed the design of delivering his Country from the tyrants, who infested every part of it; and, knowing that he must proceed gradually in the execution of this great project, he began it, by collecting under his banners a number of the tribes contiguous to his own, and persecuted or destroyed all those, who refused to support him in his enterprise. In a short time he had assembled a body of resolute and warlike youths, who were strongly attached to his interests, and attended him faithfully through all the changes of his fortune: with their assistance he took possession of Kelat, a Castle very advantageously situated, and made yet stronger by the help of art.

The first dangerous enemy that he determined to crush, was Melek, who had usurped the large and beautiful province of Khorasan, or the Region of the Sun: he was not yet strong enough to repel this usurper by force of arms; and was obliged to have recourse to a base dissimulation, far below the natural greatness of his mind. He accepted the terms of amity, which Melek had proposed to him with a design equally treach­erous; and they passed some time together with every outward mark of friendship, whilst each was seeking an opportunity to circumvent and ruin A.D.1723. Nad. 36. the other: at length Naderkuli, perceiving his danger in the court of the tyrant, determined to strike the first blow, and formed a con­spiracy against him, in which he failed by a want of agility that seems incredible; for he had agreed with his associates, that, while he and Melek were engaged in the Asiatick exercise of throwing the Gerid, or javelin, they should attack his guards, and leave him to hazard a single combat with the Usurper, but that they should not stir, till they saw him seize the reins of Melek’s horse; at a proper time he was going to give the signal, but in the hurry of the exercise, he missed his aim, and Melek rode by without perceiving his attempt, so that he re­solved to defer his vengeance till another day: but his great mind was not formed for the low arts of deceit; and he was reserved for a nobler victory over this tyrant. He soon discovered his errour, and, having retired from the court of Melek to his own castle, began to take measures for an open and vigorous war.

Since his troops were as yet very little used to fire-arms, and had only fought with lances or sabres, he was obliged to act with great caution against the artillery of Melek: he con­stantly avoided a decisive battle, but seized with incredible vigilance every advantage that pre­sented itself. He had, however, several engage­ments with his enemies, in which he was generally victorious; and he soon received a great accession to his power, by the concurrent forces of all the neighbouring tribes, and by the num­ber of strong holds in the district of Abiurd, which he had taken either by composition, or by storm.

While A.D.1724. Nad. 37. this young Adventurer was training his new army to a kind of war, of which they had no idea before his time, the Sultan Tahmasp was regaining a little strength, and making a feeble effort towards the recovery of Khorasan; with which view, he sent a detachment into that province, under the command of Riza, a weak and imprudent officer. This General was extremely surprised to hear on every side the fame of Nader’s exploits, and to find that he had forced Melek to remain inactive within the walls of Meshed, against which he had actually led his forces: he considered, that the success of this young man would entirely efface his own glory, and render his expedition ineffectual; accord­ingly he sent him orders to desist from his enter­prise, and to avoid an engagement with the rebels. Naderkuli obeyed; and, retiring to Abiurd, left the field open for the General, not doubting but that his service would soon be necessary, and that Riza would repent of having refused it: he was not deceived; for Melek, being informed of Nader’s retreat, and knowing the incapacity of Riza, sallied eagerly from his intrenchments, defeated the Imperial army, and com­pelled the General to fly with a few of his guards.

Nader, upon this, prepared again for action, and led his troops towards the city of Nishapor, which Melek had invested; but a mutiny, that was raised in his army, gave the rebels time to push the siege with vigour, and the garrison sur­rendered the city to the tyrant. When Nader had calmed the dissension of his tribes, he re­solved to hazard a battle, and met the enemy in a plain near Meshed; but his soldiers were so harrassed by the musketry of the rebels, that they A.D.1724. Nad. 37. soon fled in confusion, and Nader himself, attended only by two of his officers, retired to Kelát, with indignation in his heart. It was not long, before he reinforced his army in the districts of Abiurd, and, marching at their head towards Meshed, incamped within a few miles of the city. Melek, elated with his former suc­cess, advanced boldly against him; but Nader was so animated by the sense of his late disgrace, and the ardent desire of revenge, that he re­solved to exert his utmost powers, and rushed with a wild fury upon the rebels. The engage­ment was obstinate, and lasted with equal vio­lence on both sides, from noon till sunset; at which time, Melek, finding the greater part of his army slain, fled precipitately to an adjacent fortress, leaving his ammunition and artillery in the hands of the Conquerors. Nader was prevented, by some troubles in his little territory, from pursuing his conquest at that time, and Melek returned to Meshed, full of madness and despair.

In A.D.1725. Nad. 38. the mean while, the Emperor was wander­ing like an exile in the province of Mazenderan, the ancient Margiana: he heard every quarter ring with the name of Nader, and, being assured that this young warriour had no other intent than to extirpate the oppressors of his country, he sent one of his ministers named Hassan Ali, to compliment him upon his late victory, and to desire the continuance of his help. Nader received this minister with great dignity, declared that his intention was, to omit no step towards restoring the Sultan to his former power, and accompanied Hassan Ali in his return through part of Khorasan, in order to defend him from any A.D.1726. Nad. 39. danger or insult. After this he resumed his arms, and took several strong places by assault, among which was the ancient city of Meru: he enlisted the young captives into his army, and distributed the spoils among his own Afshars.

The Sultan in the mean time was advancing to Khorasan, with his small army commanded by a General named Fetah Ali, and sent a second message to Nader, intreating him to join him with his forces: Nader set out instantly, and met the Emperor, with whom he had a long conference; and on the seventh of September 1727, both armies marched towards Meshed.

During A.D.1727. Nad. 40. these transactions Melek had not been idle: he had taken all the forts in the adjacent districts, and laid waste the habitations of all the tribes that opposed him; but, hearing that Nader and the Sultan had joined their forces, he was seized with such fear, that he returned in haste to the Capital of his province, and made preparations for sustaining the tempest, which he saw impending over him.

About this time Fetah Ali, the commander in chief, was accused of disaffection, and put to death by the Emperor’s order: though the Persian writer seems to acquit his Hero of any concern in this accusation, yet we cannot help suspecting that He was the contriver of it; it is certain at least, that he was immediately invested with the supreme command of the imperial army, which he exercised upon every occasion with great authority, dis­posing of places and governments according to A.D.1727. Nad. 40. his pleasure. He soon began to draw his lines round the city, while Melek, being almost driven to despair, made several bold attempts to impede his progress, and often sallied from the gates, but was, as often, repulsed with great loss, and was at length obliged to act merely a defensive part. When the siege had lasted near two months, the officers of Melek deserted from him every day; and one of them, named Pîr Mohammed, offered to deliver the city to the besiegers, if the Sultan would grant him a full pardon; accordingly, he opened the gates at midnight on the twenty-ninth of November, and Nader entered them at the head of twelve thousand men: most of the garrison laid down their arms; the rest were put to the sword, and Melek, with a few of his chiefs, fled to the citadel, where they made a short resistance, but at last surrendered at discretion. The rebels were treated with lenity, and Melek, at his own request, was permitted to wear the habit of a Dervise, and to retire into a cell belonging to the mosque of Riza, the son of Musa, a Maho­medan saint, who was buried in the city of Meshed. The officer, who betrayed him, was recompensed for his service by a considerable government.

The Sultan entered his city in a kind of triumph, and a short interval of rest succeeded to all his misery.

Nader had made a vow that, if he took Meshed, he would cause the dome of the sacred mosque to be gilt; he, therefore, employed the few days of repose after his success, in giving orders for adding this ornament to the city, and at the same A.D.1727. Nad. 40. time the ablest architects were engaged, by his command, in raising another dome equally splendid.

By these acts of affected piety, but of true magnificence, he won the hearts of the populace, and of his army; but raised in the courtiers and ministers of the Sultan, that envy and malevo­lence, which ever accompany a consciousnefs of inferiour merit: they were perpetually insinuating to the credulous prince, that his General was daring and ambitious, that his power was already out of all reason, and that no authority whatever would be able to controll him, if he were allowed to pursue his present course. These sug­gestions had such an effect on the Emperor, that, when Nader had begun to march into an adjacent territory, in order to reinforce his troops, the imperial mandate was issued to recall him. Upon his disobedience the Sultan left Meshed, and, retiring in disguise to a neighbouring castle, sent circular letters to all the northern provinces, in which he accused his General of high treason, and declared him a rebel. These letters were brought to Nader together with the news of the Sultan’s retreat: he was moved with a just indignation at this ingratitude, but knowing that gentle measures would be ineffectual, he led his troops against the castle, where Tahmasp and his courtiers were concealed, and, upon their disobeying his summons, he laid siege to it in form. Soon after, a large supply of money and military stores, which a Persian officer was bringing to the Sultan, was inter­cepted by one of Nader’s commanders, and brought to his camp: this loss so reduced Tahmasp, that he was obliged to propose ami­cable terms A.D.1727. Nad. 40. to his General, and to promise that, if he would desist from hostilities, himself and his court would return to Meshed, and rely for the future on the prudence of his conduct. He accepted these terms; and reconducted the Monarch to his capital, with every outward mark of respect, but, in reality, with the highest contempt both of his power and understanding.

It is probable, that Nader conceived at this time a design of taking the government into his own hands, and of extending his conquests even beyond the limits of the Persian empire; for on the morning after his return to Meshed, he told his officers a dream, which he had, no doubt, invented, and which they did not fail to interpret according to his wishes: “he dreamed, as he said, that he saw a lake, in which were a large water-fowl, and a white fish with four horns; that his attendants strove in vain to catch them, but that, when He stretched out his hand, he took them with great ease.” His adherents immediately declared, according to an old proverb current in Persia, that, to dream of birds and fish denoted a certainty of arriving at sovereign power; but the circumstance of the four horns could not then be explained by them, though they were afterwards supposed to portend the four kingdoms of Persia, India, Tartary, and Kharezm. Nothing should be omitted in an History, which may tend to place in a clear light, the characters of the principal persons in it: we see by this little fact, that the smallest arts of policy were united in this singular man, with all the fierceness of heroism; and we shall have occasion, in the course of our narrative, to men­tion the A.D.1727. Nad. 40. great influence, which he gained over his army by the same artifice of forging a dream. This has been a common deceit of great officers; as, in the siege of Tyre, we are told, that Alex­ander encouraged his soldiers, by assuring them that Hercules had appeared to him in a dream, and, taking him by the hand, had led him into the City*.

Nader A.D.1728. Nad. 41. was not suffered to remain a long time inactive: the inconstant and mutinous nation of the Curds, privately supported by the ministers of the Sultan, had taken arms, and driven his brother Zoheireddoula into a castle, where they kept him under a close blockade. He found no great difficulty in reducing these rebels: he was able to encounter any open force whatever; but he was at the same time attacked by more secret and more dangerous enemies. Melek, who, as it has been said above, had retired into the cell of a dervise, was employing all his art to incite the Tartars, that inhabited the city of Meru, to rebel against Nader; and the Court assisted him in these intrigues; while the Emperor, either through folly or malignity, but, certainly, with an excess of ingratitude, rejoiced at the storm, which he thought ready to break over the head of his Deliverer: but the designs of Melek were discovered; and Nader, finding him no less dangerous in a cell than in the field, determined to put him to death, and dispatched one A.D.1728. Nad. 41. of his attendants for that purpose, who gladly undertook the office, since a brother, whom he tenderly loved, had been unjustly slain by Melek during his government of Khorasan. This Usurper was a base, perfidious, artful tyrant; he had been governor of Segestan, but removed into Khorasan, when the Afgans invaded Persia, and was delighted with the ruin of his country, as it gave him an opportunity of raising himself to absolute power.

Nader had now recovered a great part of the finest province in the Persian Empire; and he resolved to bring the whole of it to subjection, before he carried his arms into the West. As to the Sultan, he neither feared nor regarded him: he showed him, indeed, a great deal of out­ward respect, but acted in all his affairs with a sovereign authority; for he well knew that nothing could injure him, while he was at the head of thirty thousand hardy soldiers, who were firmly attached to his interest, as well from the veneration, which his amazing courage extorted from them, as from the hope of sharing the fruits of his victories.

On the twenty-seventh of July, he set out upon an expedition against the Afgans, who had by this time penetrated into the heart of Khorasan: those banditti fled precipitately from his army, which advanced, as the poet says, like a flame that consumes all before it. He came in a few days to one of those vast deserts of sand, that are so frequent in Asia; where, mounted on a camel, with a lance in his hand, he led his soldiers without intermission, and held in common with them the toil and danger of A.D.1728. Nad. 41. these fatiguing marches. He arrived on the ninth of September at a fortress called Behadin, which he took by storm, together with many other strong holds: but the castle of Sencán gave him more trouble; the governor made an obstinate resistance, and would not surrender till the twenty-second, after having sustained a vigorous fire from the Persian artillery. One day he was standing by a canon of an enormous size, and giving directions to his engineers; some accident called him away, and he had scarce stepped three paces from the canon, before it burst, and the splinters of it killed several soldiers, and one officer of distinction, who stood near it in the place, which Nader had just left.

On the day after the taking of Sencán, he had notice, that seven or eight thousand Afgans were marching from Herat to the relief of the Governor: Nader immediately advanced to meet them, and encamped towards evening in a plain called Abadcáf. It was not, how­ever, his intention, to come to a decisive battle with these dauntless savages, who had been trained to war by a long course of rapine and havock; he meaned only to harrass them by slight skirmishes, and to enure the Persians by degrees to confront a nation, which they had been used to consider as something more than human. Agreeably to this design, he placed his forces behind strong intrenchments, and never acted offensively till he discovered some favorable opening, but on the moment that he perceived any weakness in the enemy, he sallied out at the head of a light-armed troop, which constantly gained some advantage, and returned to their companions, A.D.1728. Nad. 41. wondering at their own success. In this manner he contrived to exercise his whole army by turns, and, having kept the Afgans in play for four days, he made a general attack: the shock was violent; and they, who were too much exhausted to resist it, fled in confusion to Herat, whence they came. Nader reserved the reduction of that City for some future occasion, and, thinking it imprudent to pursue the Afgans too far, returned to Meshed, where the battle of Abadcáf greatly increased his glory.

His domestick foes were more obstinate, more insidious, and more dangerous: in the field he opposed valour to valour; in the palace he was obliged to contend with envy, folly, and malevolence. The Sultan and his ministers were perpetually soliciting him to undertake the recovery of Ispahán, and to march directly against that city: it was vain for him to alledge, that there were still many desperate enemies in the midst of Khorasan, that the inhabitants of Herat were still very refractory, and that it was too early for so distant an expedition. They affected to consider these prudent remonstrances as a refusal to comply with the Emperor’s request; they even intimated, that his unwilling­ness to invest Ispahan proceeded from some disloyal intention, and spread a report through the province, that Nader was stripped of all his honors, and had no longer a share in the government. This dissension went so far, that a civil war seemed ready to break out: the Sultan left Meshed a second time, together with his courtiers, and, taking the road of Mazenderan, assaulted and seized a castle belonging to a tribe of Nader’s firmest A.D.1728. Nad. 41. adherents. The General was soon informed of their motions and advanced in haste to the castle, where he desired an explanation of this proceeding; but they ordered the gates to be shut and refused to admit him. He made immediate preparations for a siege, and his artillery had actually begun to play, when the Emperor came in person to Nader, and, in an abject manner, made an apology for the behaviour of his ministers; Nader affected to be con­vinced of his sincerity, and returned with him to Meshed, but prevented his having any fur­ther intercourse with the confederates, who were obliged to lie concealed, till the storm was in some measure abated.

It may be thought strange, that Nader, who had a powerful army at his disposal, and had been so ill rewarded for his service, did not at this time assume the name of Emperor, or at least of Protector, to which last he was justly entitled: he could not be weak enough to respect an obstinate idiot, because the accident of a royal birth had placed him upon a throne, which he disgraced: but he despised his weak­ness; and he knew how little the vain name of King could add to his power, which was already as great as he could desire. He acted, indeed, as Sovereign upon every occasion, and about this time sent an ambassador in his own name to the court of Russia, demanding in high terms the restitution of Ghilan, a province famed for its rich silk, which Peter I, who was desirous of engrossing the dominion of the Caspian lake, had wrested from Tahmasp in the year 1723; when he penetrated into Persia, on a pretence of supporting the Sultan Hussein against Mah­mùd, who A.D.1728. Nad. 41. had just made himself master of Ispahan.

On A.D.1729. Nad. 42. the tenth of March was celebrated the festival called Nurúz, in which the ancient Persians used to solemnize the Sun’s entrance into the Ram, and the return of the vernal season. The General entertained the populace with sumptuous shows, gave splendid feasts to the Nobles, and chief men of his army, and dis­tributed among his soldiers the prizes, that he had won in his late expeditions: in these lar­gesses he wisely proportioned the value of his gifts to the degree of courage, which he had observed in his men; a noble example of attention in a General, which should be followed by all great commanders, as, by exciting a warm emulation in an army, it might raise their troops to the glory of the old Spartan and Roman legions.

Nader now prepared for his expedition against Herat, and, leaving Meshed on the twenty-fourth of April, encamped in the plains of Jám, a small town, famous for being the birth-place of Nour­eddin, thence called Jámi, a most spirited and lively poet, who flourished, in the middle of the fifteenth century, with a great reputation for wit and genius.

Herat, the Aria of Ptolemy, is a city of Khorasan, frequently mentioned in the histories of the East: it is pleasantly situated, and was remarkable for the delightfulness of the gar­dens which surrounded it, before it was laid waste by the violence of war; it had been plundered by the two greatest warriors of Asia, A.D.1729. Nad. 42. Genghiz and Timúr, and was now reserved for the arms of as desperate a soldier: the his­torians of Herát mention this circumstance, as some alleviation to the miseries which they have suffered, as if the splendid name of an oppressor could give any ease to the oppressed. In the year 1722, so fatal to the Sultan Hussein, there was a violent insurrection in this city; the inhabitants persisted for five years in opposing the power of the Emperor, and had elected an Afgan governor named Allayar. In a few days Nader reached the city, but had been forced to open his way to it, by making a passage through the numerous forces of the rebels; he con­stantly defeated them in all his engagements, in which he behaved with a personal valour, that struck an awe into his whole army, who began to look upon him as something above a mortal: he usually charged at the head of his cavalry, and carried a general terrour wherever he moved; yet in all his battles, he received only a slight wound in his foot from the point of a javelin.

Allayár, who expected a speedy supply from the governor of Ferah, contrived to gain time by proposing terms of agreement on one day, and retracting them on the next; in the mean while Nader had invested the City, and was making preparations for a regular siege: the commander of Ferah had, indeed, sent a body of men with ammunition and artillery to Allayar; but they were intercepted by the Per­sians, their military stores taken, and themselves forced to fly with precipitation; which when Allayár discovered, he came with his chiefs and all the magistrates of the city, to the tent of the General, making the most solemn vows of subjection A.D.1729. Nad. 42. and obedience: Nader accepted his offers, and suffered him, rather imprudently, to continue in his government; after which he returned towards Meshed, and entered it in triumph on the twenty-second of June. On his return he found the same weakness in the Sultan, and the same malignity in his courtiers; but he appeased them in some measure by a promise, which he made, of advancing in a few months against Ispahan; where Ashraf, a cousin of the tyrant Mahmúd, then reigned with all the insolence of an Usurper.