Page images
PDF
EPUB
[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

EDINBURGH:

PRINTED BY W. AND R. CHAMBERS.

[graphic][merged small][merged small]
[graphic]

LASSIC mythology, and the incidental notices of Greek and Roman historians, have, from the earliest times, invested the Caucasian mountain-range with a certain degree of mystery and interest; but since 1829, when the Russian emperor, arrested in his victorious inarch upon Constantinople by the menacing tone and attitude of the Western powers, stipulated, by a clause in the treaty of Adrianople, that the Sublime Porte should cede to Russia the whole of the Caucasian territory, over which the sultan still claimed or exercised a doubtful sovereignty, and the czar commenced the perilous and gigantic task of converting the almost nominal authority thus transferred into a real and solid despotism, those picturesque and romantic regions have assumed a high degree of importance in the domain of European politics; and the possible results of the desperate conflict so long maintained there, have been made the theme of conjectures, visions,

No. 9.

1

[ocr errors]

theories, fears, scarcely less wild and fantastical than the dreams of the old paganism. According to ancient myths, the loftiest of the snow and cloud-crowned mountains of the Caucasuswhich, reaching to Olympus, connected earth with heavenwas that whereon Prometheus, for stealing fire from the chariot of the sun, lay bound and tortured, till released by Hercules: from without their cavernous and frightful depths that Jason, with the help of the Colchian enchantress, bore off the Golden Fleece. These classical localities, moreover, Herodotus asserts, were peopled by motley races of barbarians, numbering, Strabo adds, from 70 to 300 nations-a latitude of enumeration, by the way, which scarcely impresses one with a very high respect in this particular instance for the authority of that eminent traveller and geographer. The same writer assures us, that gold was so plentiful in the torrents of the Caucasus that it was intercepted and collected by means of extended sheep-skins —an intelligible, if somewhat common-place version of the story of Jason and his Golden Fleece. Emerging into clearer day, we find that it was through the great Caucasian Pass of Dariel (Porta Caucasia) that Cimmerians and Scythians marched to desolate Asia Minor; by the Eastern or Caspian Way (Via Caspia), the tumultuous hosts of Huns swept to their attacks upon the Persian and Roman Empires. This variegated mass of fact and fiction has, it is quite evident, influenced the imagination and coloured the dreams of modern prophets and alarmists. For Prometheus writhing beneath the pitiless decree of Jupiter, we have civilisation (Circassian) fiercely, but vainly, struggling in the stifling embrace of the Russian Colossus, and calling piteously for help upon the English Hercules. Should that help be accorded, the fable of the Golden Fleece will be converted into a magnificent fact, by the rich commerce that must immediately spring up between the wealthy mountaineers of Caucasia and the teeming industries of Great Britain. But if the sea-Hercules, lulled in the vain dreams of a false security, refuses to perform, or too long neglects the solemn duty to which he is thus imperatively summoned then, indeed, the desolating onrush of the Cimmerian, Scythian, and Hunnish hosts will be echoed in our own day by the tramp of the countless battalions of the czar. In one respect only, the travelled soothsayers of the present day entirely differ from the ancients: the inhabitants of the Caucasus are not barbarians. So far from being so, they are, on the contrary, a highly-civilised people; and, in the higher and nobler attributes of humanity-notwithstanding certain peculiarities which, at first view, may appear a little startling to unaccustomed eyes-present examples worthy of respectful imitation by the boasted nations of the West!

That we may obtain a sufficiently distinct view of the picturesque and majestic theatre in which the bold deeds we are about to narrate have been performed, let us for a few moments fancy ourselves standing with our faces towards the north, upon the

« PreviousContinue »