There is no country, however abject its inhabitants may appear, where the most daring and ambitious can venture to usurp the supreme power without first obtaining a hold on public opinion.
Continuing Nadir Shah Captures Delhi,
our selection from History of Persia by Sir John Malcolm published in 1815. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages. The selection is presented in eleven easy 5 minute installments.
Previously in Nadir Shah Captures Delhi.
The armies of the Turks occupied some of the finest parts of the province of Iraq and all Azerbaijan. Nadir marched against them as soon as his troops were refreshed from the fatigues they had endured in the pursuit of the Afghans. He encountered the united force of two Turkish pachas on the plains of Hamadan, overthrew them, and made himself master, not only of the city, but of all the country in its vicinity. He hastened to Azerbaijan, where the same success attended him. Tabriz, Ardabil, and all the principal cities of that quarter had surrendered; and the conqueror was preparing to besiege Erivan, the capital of Armenia, when he received from his brother, whom he had left in the government of Khorasan, an account of an alarming rebellion of the Afghans of that province. He hastened to its relief; and his success against the rebels was completed by the reduction of the fortresses of Furrah and Herat. An event occurred, during the siege of the latter city, which marked the barbarous character of this war. Nadir had obtained a victory over a large division of the Afghan force, and resolved to celebrate it with a splendid feast. Among other guests were several prisoners of high rank. During the festivities the heads of three hundred Afghans, who had been slain in the action, were held up on the tops of spears. “At this sight,” says the flattering historian of Nadir, “the chiefs of our enemies fixed their eyes upon the ground, and never dared to raise them again, notwithstanding the extraordinary kindness with which they were treated by their great and generous conqueror!”
While Nadir was employed at the siege of Herat the Persian nobles at Ispahan persuaded the weak Tamasp to place himself at the head of an army and march against the Turks, who were again assembling on the frontier. The reverses which the arms of that nation had sustained in Persia had caused a revolution at Constantinople, where the janizaries had first murdered the vizier, and afterward dethroned Achmet, and placed his nephew, Mahmud, upon the throne. To this Prince Nadir had sent an envoy, demanding that the Turks should evacuate the province of Azerbaijan; and Shah Tamasp had sent another with what a Persian historian indignantly terms “a sweet-scented letter of congratulation” upon his elevation to the throne. Before the result of the mission sent by Nadir could be known, Tamasp had marched to besiege Erivan, had retreated from before that fortress, been defeated by a Turkish army, and had lost in one month all that the genius and valor of his general had gained during the preceding season. To render the effects of his weakness complete, the alarmed monarch had agreed to a peace, by which he abandoned the whole of the country beyond the Araxes to the Turks, and ceded five districts of the province of Kirmanshahan to Achmet, the reigning pacha of Bagdad, by whom this treaty was negotiated. The disgrace of this engagement was aggravated by its containing no stipulation for the release of the Persians who had been made prisoners during the war.
The moment that Nadir received accounts of the peace it seems to have occurred to his mind that it afforded an excellent pretext for the consummation of those projects he had so long cherished: but, although bold and impatient, he was compelled to proceed with caution to the extinction of a race of kings to whom obedience had become a habit, and who were at that moment represented by a prince who, though weak and despicable, was endeared to many of his subjects by his misfortunes. His first step was to issue a proclamation, in which he inveighed with bitterness against a treaty which bounded the great empire of Persia by the river Araxes, and left many of the inhabitants of that kingdom prisoners in the hands of cruel enemies. “Such a treaty,” he said, “is contrary to the will of Heaven: and the angels who guard the tomb of the holy Ali call aloud for the deliverance of his followers from the bondage in which they are now held by vile heretics.”
There is no country, however abject its inhabitants may appear, where the most daring and ambitious can venture to usurp the supreme power without first obtaining a hold on public opinion; we cannot have a stronger proof of this fact, as applicable to Persia, than what we find in the conduct of Nadir upon this memorable occasion. Though that chief had revived the military spirit of his country, and roused a nation sunk in sloth and luxury to great and successful exertion, yet neither this success, the imbecility of Shah Tamasp, nor a reliance upon his own fame and strength could induce him to take the last step of usurpation, until he had, by his arts, excited in the minds of his countrymen that complete contempt for the reigning sovereign, and that pride in his glory, which were likely to make his elevation appear more the accomplishment of their wishes than of his ambition.
At the same time that Nadir published the proclamation which has been mentioned, he addressed letters to all the military chiefs of the country. In that to the Governor of Fars, which has been preserved, he informs him of the great success he has had against the Afghans and of the conquest of Herat. He then proceeds to state the astonishment and indignation with which he has learnt the particulars of the treaty concluded with Turkey.
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