The war against the Afgans.

NADER A.D.1729. Nad. 42. was forming a plan of operations against the Afgans, and doubt­ing what course to pursue, when the impru­dence of Ashraf, who had succeeded to Mah­mud in the absolute government of Ispahan, brought his designs at once to maturity; for the usurper, hearing of Nader’s expedition against Herát, imagined that he had a fair opportunity in his absence to plunder Khorasan; on the borders of which he arrived on the thirtieth of July. The Persian general, having notice of his arrival, ordered all his forces to be in readi­ness, and his best artillery to be brought into the field; but he was not able to leave Meshed till the beginning of September, at which time he advanced with great rapidity, and reached a fortress, which an officer of Ashraf was besieg­ing. The Afgan raised the siege at his approach, and retreated precipitately to a plain called Mehmandost*, whither he was followed by Ashraf, who encamped on the banks of a small river.

On the twentieth, Nader appeared before them in order of battle; he drew the flower of his A.D.1729. Nad. 42. army into a compact phalanx, ordering them to keep their ground in a most profound silence, that they might hear his orders to a moment: his voice, as a man, who heard it at the siege of Bagdad, informed one of my friends, was uncommonly clear and strong. The Afgans were marching towards him with great haste, but with more spirit than regularity; they then unfolded their front to right and left, and formed three divisions, in hopes of enclosing his troops, and attacking them in flank. Nader perceived their design, and, in order to frustrate it, covered the sides of his phalanx with his artillery. Ashraf rushed onward, hoping to strike a panick into the Persians, and mistaking, perhaps, their wonderful composure and solemn silence for a want of resolution to attack him; his army were just within musket-shot of the enemy, when Nader gave the word, and the Persians sired with great steadiness, marching at the same time with incredible order. Ashraf, little expecting to meet with such a check, was alarmed and disconcerted; his troops were thrown into disorder; his standard-bearer was killed by his side; the Persian phalanx still advanced like a column of fire, striking down whole lines at every discharge; and at length the usurper fled with the few Afgans that remained, and took the road of Ispahan. The General would not suffer his men to pursue the Afgans, but promised to indulge their eagerness on the first occasion, and returned to his camp in the same order, without any unmeaning clamours or marks of inconsiderate joy.

After this victory, Nader sent an ambassador to the Turkish court, insisting upon the restitu­tion of A.D.1729. Nad. 42. Azarbigian or Media, and giving plain hints, that the should soon be able to seize it by force, is they paid no attention to his just demand.

A violent enmity had ever subsisted between the Persians and Turks, which, indeed, could hardly be avoided between two nations, who were always disputing, either about their fron­tiers, or on some point of religion; and each of whom, as it generally happens, was jealous of the other’s glory. Othman, from whom the Turkish Emperors take their name, was very formidable to the princes of Persia at the close of the thirteenth century, and Alaeddín, sovereign of Lycaonia, was forced to secure his alliance, by giving him the rank of his com­mander in chief, and inciting him against the Greeks: his descendants enlarged their Empire; and their hatred to the Persians was increased, when a party, who asserted the right of Ali to the Califate, opposed them in every part of Asia, and thwarted all their designs. When the sect of the Alides was intro­duced among the Persians by the family of Sefi, the Turks affected to treat them as a detestable faction, which the name of Shiahs implies, and the Mufti never failed, when the Porte was inclined to declare war against them, to assert, that it would be a merit in the army of the Faithful, to shed the blood of such impious Hereticks: but they rejoiced at the schism which they pretended to detest: while the Per­sians continued to acknowledge the succession of Omar, they had a right, and were bound, indeed, by their religion, to make a yearly visit to Mecca; so that, under the pretence of a A.D.1729. Nad. 42. pilgrimage, they might lead a numerous army through the heart of the Turkish empire; but Ismaïl imagined, that, by transferring the scene of this religious ceremony from Ara­bia, to the tomb of Ali in his own dominions, he should cause a considerable sum of money to be circulated every year in his kingdom, instead of being carried to that of his natural enemy.

Selim I. an active and enterprising monarch, made this heresy of Ismaïl, a pretext for invading Persia, and pushed his conquest with great rapidity: his son, the warlike but unfor­tunate Soliman II. was equally successful in his expeditions against the Sultan Tahmasp I. who had first protected, and afterwards betrayed, the Prince Bayazid, Son of Soliman by the Russian captive, Roxolana: His successors engaged in many bloody wars with the race of Sefi, and the city of Bagdad had been a subject of perpetual contention between them, from the sixteenth century to the middle of the present.

In the year 1703 Ahmed III.*, the twenty-third Emperor of the Turks, was placed on the throne in the room of his brother Mustafa, who lost his diadem by preferring the decisions of the Mufti to the good will of his generals: he was deposed with the Alcoran in his hand, and confined till his death in the seraglio. His brother, sensibly reflecting that the authors of one revolution would have the power to cause another, gave private orders for the chief officers of A.D.1729. Nad. 42. the Janissaries to be seized one by one, and thrown by night into the sea; but he left his work unfinished: if, like Peter I. he had entirely broken that formidable militia, he might have avoided the terrible event which happened twenty-seven years afterwards, in consequence of Nader’s victories.

When Persia was torn in pieces by the ravages of Mahmud, and the Czar was securing to himself three of its finest provinces, Ahmed, eager to share the ruins of his rival’s empire, seized the rich province of Azarbigian; and, as he had an immoderate love of riches, divided it into districts, and sold them, as military fiefs, to his janissaries, who were determined to keep them, and heard with disdain the demand of the new Persian General.

Nader in the mean time was pursuing Ashraf, and observing all his motions: in one of his excursions he discovered a body of Afgans, who were encamped in a very advantageous situation. It was a narrow pass, called Serdekhar, between two mountains, upon which the Afgans had planted their artillery: in a place like this, before the invention of fire-arms, a small number of resolute men might have stopped an whole army: but the Persians attacked the enemy with such vigour, that they left their post, and fled to Ashraf; who, grown more cautious since his defeat, retreated with all his forces to Ispahan, where he massacred most of the inhabitants in cold blood, and, among them, a number of learned men, who had retired from the world, and hoped to close their days in a studious tranquillity.

He A.D.1729. Nad. 42. soon, however, recovered his spirits, and, having raised a numerous army, advanced to a plain called Morche khort*. It was late in the evening, on the twelfth of November, when Nader came in sight of the enemy, and, resolv­ing to lose no time, while the Afgans retained an impression of his valour, he ordered a body of Curds to attack their advanced guard: they fought with great resolution; slew about four hundred of the rebels, and returned at night with several prisoners, who gave notice that a Turkish general, governor of Hamadan, had joined Ashraf with a formidable army. This piece of intelligence was very unexpected, and the Turks seem to have violated the law of nations, in taking the field without a formal declaration of war; or without giving any answer to the Per­sian ambassador: the circumstance was the more alarming to Nader at this juncture, as he was by no means prepared to engage with so powerful an enemy; he retired, therefore, to his tent, and passed the night without sleep in a great agitation of mind. At break of day he advanced towards the Afgans, who, together with the Turks, were encamped on an eminence: when he had almost reached the foot of the hill, he turned aside, and pretended to bend his course towards Ispahan, hoping by this motion to draw Ashraf from his intrenchments; but the usurper, hav­ing acquired some degree of prudence from the battle of Mehmandóst, remained firm in his sta­tion. Nader continued his feigned march, and retiring at a proper distance, discovered a part of the enemy’s camp which seemed to be very A.D.1729. Nad. 42. ill defended: he instantly sent a resolute officer with the artillery to attack it, while him­self, at the head of his cavalry, prepared to receive the Afgans, if they should be forced, as he expected, to give him battle. His project succeeded; his officer made a vigorous assault, drove the enemy into the plain, and, having seized their cannon, continued to harrass them in the rear, while Nader met them in front with equal alacrity. A general action ensued, which lasted for several hours; and this, indeed, was the first decisive battle, in which Nader had been engaged: he was fighting against two great armies, and must either, by gaining the field, recover Ispahan from the rebels, or, by losing it, must abandon all his projects, and be reduced to nothing:

——— no vulgar prize they play,
No vulgar victim must reward the day,
Such as in races crown the speedy strife;
The prize contended was great Hector’s life*.

At noon the Turks began to give way; which Nader, who lost no advantage that offered itself, immediately observed, and pushed his troops against them so vigorously, that they had recourse to flight, and were soon followed by their allies: a great number of Afgans and Turks were made prisoners; the former of whom, as rebels, were reserved for a publick execution at Ispahan, but the latter were treated with lenity, and sent back to their quarters at Hamadan.

Ashraf, A.D.1729. Nad. 42. breathing nothing but fury and revenge, returned to Ispahan with bitterness in his heart: he there called together his few adherents, and fled in the evening towards Shiraz. The Persians, who dwelled in the districts near Ispahan, crouded into the city, which was stripped of inhabitants, but full of treasures, the collected plunder of many years, which the rebels had not time to carry with them: these oppressed natives had now a kind of new life infused into them, by the departure of their oppressors, and immediately sent intelligence to Nader of Ashraf’s flight; upon which he advanced to Ispahan, and entered it in triumph. He soon after sent the Sultan an account of his victory, and invited him to sit on the throne of his ancestors in the metropolis of their Empire.

Tahmasp came with all possible haste, and reached the city on the twentieth of December. Ispahan soon recovered its ancient splendour: it was decorated on all sides with a profusion of ornaments, and forty days were spent in plea­sures and entertainments; but the person, who seemed the least pleased in the whole metropolis, and who had reason to be the most so, was the Sultan himself: he often heard Nader talking of his design to return into Khorasan, and, con­scious of his own weakness, he foresaw that he should be exposed to his enemies without the continued support of his deliverer. In a full council, therefore, of the Nobles and Generals, he renewed his instances, and entreated Nader to stay at Ispahan till he was firmly seated on the throne. All the officers declared, that his Majesty ought to be contented with the great advantages, which A.D.1729. Nad. 42. Nader had already procured him, without opposing his reasonable designs; they added, that his Majesty ought to raise an army of Persians, and dismiss the Khorasanians, who had served him so faithfully; for that, if his ministers were resolved to thwart their General Nader in all his projects, they could not be responsible for any calamity that might ensue. The Sultan was so provoked with these remonstrances, that he tore from his head a little coronet, which he usually wore, and threw it upon the ground. Nader, in order to pacify him, was obliged to promise, that he would be at hand to assist him at any warning, and that “he would not return to Meshed, till he had wholly extirpated the race of the Afgans, and driven the Turks from the western borders of Persia.”

It would, indeed, have been dangerous for the Sultan, to have been left at this juncture. Ashraf was collecting strength in Shiraz, and had assembled a number of barbarous tribes, resolving to make a last and desperate attempt. Nader was soon apprised of his motions, and met him at a place, called Zercan, where he cut most of his troops to pieces, and forced him, with his general Seidal, to fly towards Candahar. His approach was soon learned by Hussein, Prince of that country, whose brother Mahmud had been murdered by Ashraf: the Prince, therefore, put him to death, justifying his act by the law of retaliation, but received Seidal into his City, and gave him the command of his troops. Ashraf seems to have been a perfect barbarian, furious, bloody, and implacable; his life had been a a constant series of assassinations and massacres, and, in his last moments, he ordered his women to A.D.1729. Nad. 42. be strangled, lest they should fall into the hands of his enemies.

After the battle of Zercan, Nader gave a remarkable proof of his penetration, and showed his skill in seeing through the hearts of men. Among the Afgan prisoners, whom he intended to put to death at Ispahan, he observed one Melazafrán, on whose countenance he saw the marks of fury and despair so strongly imprinted, that he pri­vately told his officers to keep a watchful eye upon him, if they hoped to carry him alive: but they were negligent of this order; and, as they were passing over a bridge, their captive Melazafran leaped suddenly into the river, and was drowned.

As A.D.1730. Nad. 43. soon as Nader heard the fate of Ashraf, he advanced to Shiraz, where he distributed the vast riches of the Afgans among his officers and soldiers, proportioning his rewards to the dif­ferent degrees of valour, which he had observed in them.

SHIRAZ is a city of Persia properly so called: it was the birth-place of many illustrious men, among whom were the poets Hafez and Sadi, of whose works there are many fine copies in our publick libraries. There is a beautiful ode of Hafez in honour of his native city, which begins with these lines: “Hail, Shiraz, delight­fully situated! May heaven preserve her from ruin! May the Almighty defend our stream of* Rocnabád! for its waters supply us with length A.D.1730. Nad. 43. of days*. The gale, scented with ambergris, breathes between Jáferabád and Mosella. Come to Shiraz, and ask a profusion of the sacred spirit from its inhabitants, who are perfectly virtuous. How should the sugar of Egypt be brought to Shiraz, without being surpassed by the sweetness of our fair dam­sels?”

The Persians have so high a veneration for the memory of this poet, that they give him the title of Divine; and have a custom of open­ing his book of Odes, upon every remarkable occasion, as our old scholars used to open Virgil, in order to gather some omen from the first lines, which present themselves.

When Nader and his officers were passing by the tomb of Hafez, near Shiraz, one of the company opened a collection of his poems, and, either by accident or by design, first cast their eyes upon the following Ode, which they applied with one voice to the Conqueror: “It is but just that thou shouldst receive a tribute from all fair youths, since thou art the Sovereign of all the Beauties in the universe: thy two piercing eyes have thrown Khata and Khoten into confusion; India and China pay homage to thy curled ??ocks. thy graceful mouth A.D.1730. Nad. 43. gave the streams of life to Khezr; thy sugared lip renders the sweet reeds of Egypt contemptible*.”

At the festival of Nurúz, a nobleman of high rank was sent by the Sultan to Nader, with a congratulatory letter upon his fresh victories, in which he made him a grant of four provinces, Khorasan, Mazenderan, Carman, and Seistan, requesting him to accept the title of Sultan, and to wear a diadem set with jewels, which he received at the same time. The same nobleman brought a number of rich mantles, which he presented, in the Asiatick manner, to Nader’s officers; and he was attended by Abu’l Cassem, a man of the Law, who had orders to propose a marriage between Rizakuli, Nader’s son, and a younger daughter of the late Shah Hussein. The General accepted most of these honours, but declined bearing any title, which might only raise envy, without bringing any solid advan­tage: however, A.D.1730. Nad. 43. that he might pay his troops with a princely liberality, he ordered money to coined in his name in the province of Khorasan; by which act he virtually assumed the govern­ment of the whole Empire. It was at this time, if ever, that he took the name Tahmasp Kuli, or, Servant of Tahmasp, together with the title of Khan or lord; though it is by no means certain, that he was at all known by that name, which is not once given to him by his Persian historian: his favourite general, indeed, was named Tah­masp Kuli Khan, and our merchants in Asia, who were, perhaps, unacquainted with the true state of affairs, might easily confound the titles of these illustrious friends.

When all these ceremonies were ended, Nader led his army to Shuster, the ancient Susa, Capital of a Province to which it gives its name. Here an officer, whom Ashraf had sent to Constanti­nople, and who was returning with an answer from the Porte, threw himself before the feet of Nader, and gave him the letter of Sultan Ahmed to the usurper, by which he clearly discovered, that a war with the Turks could not possibly be avoided. His own ambassador also sent word, that he could not procure a direct answer from the Turkish ministers, with regard to the restitution of Azarbigian, and that the Turks had committed many open acts of hostility. He soon found this account to be true; and received intelligence, that a numerous army, under the command of Osmán Pasha, was encamped near the city of Hamadan: upon which he advanced, and offered them battle; but, after a few discharges of their artillery, Osman retreated towards the city, where being joined by Timúr Pasha, Governor of A.D.1730. Nad. 43. Van, he returned at the head of their united forces, and met the Persians in a plain, called Meláir. There is nothing so tedious in general as the descriptions of battles, unless they display some striking instance of sagacity, or are diversified with some interesting events; but, where a victory is gained merely by superiour force or courage, which is usually the case in unpolished nations, it is difficult to render such descriptions either instructive or entertaining. In this place it will be sufficient to say, that Nader entirely defeated the two Basha’s, seized their artillery, together with an immense booty, and entered the city of Hamadan without obstruction. The inhabitants received him with a tumultuous joy, and ten thousand Persian captives, whom the Turks had kept in chains, regarded him as a beneficent power, sent for their delivery.

Hamadan is a city of Parthia, first built, if we believe the Eastern writers, by Darius, who made it the seat of his Empire. Its situation is greatly celebrated by the Persians, who fre­quently enlarge upon the beauty of its walks and gardens, and the clearness of the rivulets, by which they are watered. There is a valley near the city, called Mawashán, which is described by an Arabian poet, as one of the most delightful spots in Asia.

In this agreeable place Nader reposed for several days; and afterwards marched to Tabriz, the capital of Azarbigian, which he entered without any considerable opposition, as the two generals, Osman and Timur, had not yet recovered the shock of their late defeat. He treated the Turkish officers, who were taken prisoners, with A.D.1730. Nad. 43. great respect and politeness; but employed the captives of a lower rank in repairing the walls of the city, and sent the largest cannons and mor­tars, which the Turks had left behind them, to his fortress of Kelat, the destined place of his retirement.

A number of smaller cities were recovered by this victory; and the report of Nader’s success spread a general consternation in the very Capi­tal of the Turkish Empire. It must seem strange at the first view, that, although the Turks bring into the field more numerous armies, than most other nations, yet they seldom have gained any considerable advantage by the superiority of their numbers. The truth of it is, an army, like an human body, may be less active in pro­portion to its bulk; and there is no more reason, why the Turk should defeat the Persian moun­taineer, because he outnumbers his enemies ten to one, than, why an elephant should over­power a tiger by its superiour strength and size. We may add to this, that the Turkish horses are in general too large and inactive, and that their cavalry bears no kind of proportion to their infantry.

While Nader was pursuing this noble course in Asia, a dreadful revolution happened in the metropolis of the Othman empire. When he first demanded the restitution of Azarbigian or Media to the Persians, Ahmed and his Vizir were very willing to restore it; but were pre­vented by an insurrection of the Janissaries, who were justly enraged at losing their estates, and insisted upon defending them with the best of their blood. After the defeat of Ashraf, and the taking A.D.1730. Nad. 43. of Hamadan, the Vizir was again on the point of concluding a peace with the Persian General; but the Turkish feudatories, incensed at his proceeding, compelled the Sultan to give him up, and put him to a cruel death: after which they deposed Ahmed, who survived his disgrace but a short time, and raised his nephew Mahmúd to the throne of Constantinople.

Nader was now meditating the siege of Erivan, capital of Armenia, when he received a very alarming piece of news from the province of Khorasan.

Hussein, prince of Candahár, very justly fearing, that it would be his own turn to feel the weight of Nader’s arm, had taken advantage of his distant expedition against the Turks, and had sent an army into Khorasan, under the command of his new General Seidal. The whole province was soon thrown into confusion: the inhabitants of Herat and Ferah openly revolted; and the Afgans advanced even to the walls of Meshed. On receiving this intelligence, he left Armenia, and sent notice to his brother Zoheireddoula of his intended return to Khorasan, strictly enjoining him to avoid a battle with the Afgans: but that rash and obstinate prince neglected the order, and, sallying from the city on the twenty-seventh of July, engaged the besiegers, who drove him back after a sharp conflict.

In the mean time Nader was marching towards Khorasan, and reached Cazvin on the seventeenth of August: his very name spread terrour before him, and compensated the ill success of his brother’s arms, by delivering Meshed from a A.D.1730. Nad. 43. desperate siege. The Afgans, ever haughty and insolent, retired from the city with a mix­ture of fear and indignation; whence they re­treated slowly to Herat, pillaging all the districts, through which they passed.

Nader could not reach Meshed till October; where he spent the remainder of the year in regulating the affairs of his metropolis, and in reviewing his troops. His army was encamped in a plain called Cheharbág, or, the four gardens, famous for containing the tomb of Ali, son of Musa, the tutelar saint of the province: All the soldiers panted with impatience for the opening of the campaign; and his presence gave a new life to the citizens, who began to resume in peace their usual occupations, and looked up to him with veneration, as their sovereign and deliverer.

At A.D.1731. Nad. 44. the beginning of the new year, were solemnized the nuptials of Fathima, sister of the Shah, and the prince Rizakuli, a hopeful youth, about fourteen years old. On this occasion, near two months were spent, either in rejoicing and feasts, or in hunting in the forests of Abiurd. There is something very martial in the Asiatick manner of hunting: a large tract of woodland is enclosed with toils; which are gradually con­tracted, till a great number of wild beasts are collected in a small circle, where the hunters kill them with spears, to the sound of trumpets and other instruments of warlike musick.

On the fourteenth of March, Nader left Meshed, and encamped on the second of April, upon the banks of a river, before the walls of Herat. At A.D.1731. Nad. 44. midnight a body of Afgans, with Seidal at their head, passed the river, and, secured from detection by the darkness of the night, appeared suddenly before a castle, where Nader, attended only by eight guards, was giving orders to his engineers. As soon as he was apprised of his danger, he drew his sabre, and rushed into the midst of the enemies, where he sustained a very unequal fight, till his other guards came to his relief, who compelled Seidal to retreat, with the loss of his best men, and to save him­self by swimming over the river.

On the next morning Nader invested the city: he was greatly impeded in his works by the frequent sallies of the Afgans, but they were so often repulsed, that they determined at last to remain within the walls, and to act only upon the defensive. Nader however, finding the city admirably fortified, and having intelligence from a prisoner, that the inhabitants were distressed for provisions, preferred the slow, but certain, effect of a blockade to the danger of a siege, and enclosed the city on every side. In the mean while, Zoheireddoula made some attone­ment for his late disgrace, by the vigour with which he pushed the siege of Feráh: he soon took it, and put the Afgans, who had defended it, to the sword.

The blockade of Herat lasted till the close of the year; at which time, Allayar, whose pro­visions were exhausted, began to think of capitulating; though his principal officer, Zúlficár, a fierce and desperate barbarian, had made the garrison take a solemn oath on the Alcoran, that they would rather die than open the gates. It happened, A.D.1731. Nad. 44. that, Allayar, in the confusion occasioned by Nader’s approach, had left his women and children in a neighbouring fortress, where they had been taken by the Persians; and, as an Asiatick cannot support the idea of a dishonour offered to his seraglio, he sent some of his ministers, to propose terms of accommodation, and promised to surrender the city, if his women were restored. Nader accepted the proposal; and invited the messengers to a feast in his tent, which they were surprised to see adorned with the heads of three hundred Afgan chiefs, fixed upon lances. In the morning he sent the women to Allayar, who, shocked at the reception of his ministers, and having obtained his principal end by the return of his family, resolved to perish by famine, rather than submit to the besiegers, and having ordered his women to be strangled, that they might not survive their lord, he prepared to sustain the siege. The Persian General, irritated by the perfidy of the governor, began to bombard the city, and, perceiving a practicable breach, was on the point of giving orders for an assault, when the garrison opened the gates, and sur­rendered at discretion. Nader, who was no less mild after a victory, than violent before it, treated the perfidious Governor with great humanity, and gave him a settlement in the province of Multán, whither he soon retired with his dependents, and the miserable remains of his family. The other Afgans were transplanted to those parts of Khorasan, which required most cultivation; and the city of Herat was filled with a Persian garrison.

The savage race of Afgans, who had ruined the kingdom of Persia, were now either destroyed, or A.D.1731. Nad. 44. dispersed in various parts of the Empire, without a possibility of regaining their strength: those only remained, who had taken refuge in the city of Candahar, and the northern parts of Indostan, which kingdom was then ruled by Mohammed Shah, an indolent and luxurious prince, who was wholly immersed in voluptuous­ness, and at that time little thought, how soon a victorious invader would dispose of his immense treasures, and fill the streets of DEHLI with the blood of his subjects.