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THE Medo-Persian languages form a branch or family of that great class of languages which has been variously denominated by ethnographers Indo-European, Japhetic, and Iranian or Arian. The first of these appellations indicates the geographical distribution of this class, one of its branches (the Sanscritic) being vernacular in India, while other branches, though connected in origin and in structure with Sanscrit, are predominant in Europe. The term Japhetic is sometimes applied to the languages of this class, because the nations by whom they are spoken are supposed to be descendants of Japheth; and the designation Iranian, or Arian, refers to their connection with the land of Iran, or Persia, the Ariyana-Vaềja of the Zend-Avesta, and the Ariāvarta of Sanscrit writers, the Ariana of Greek geographers.
The area of the Medo-Persian languages includes about one-tenth part of the entire surface of Asia: the countries now comprehended within this area are Persia, Khorassan, Turcomania, the greater part of Turkestan, Affghanistan, Beloochistan, and Luristan; also Kurdistan, Armenia, and a district among the Caucasus Mountains. The origin of the Medo-Persian nations has never been ascertained : they advanced at one step from obscurity to empire. Their very existence was scarcely known beyond the elevated plateau which from time immemorial they appear to have occupied, until their future greatness was depicted in the prophecies of Daniel and Ezekiel. Suddenly they emerged from their mountainous abodes, captured the “Great Babylon,” and founded an empire which, in point of extent, exceeded even that of Rome itself.
The physical conformation of the Medo-Persian nations, which is decidedly of the European type, corroborates the testimony afforded by their languages as to their affinity with the principal nations of Europe. A Shemitic language, the Pehlvi, is supposed to have been predominant at some very remote period in Persia, but it originated in the provinces bordering on Assyria ; and under what circumstances it became the general language of Media is still matter of conjecture. A yet more ancient language is the Persepolitan, a true Medo-Persian idiom, vestiges of which are preserved in arrow-headed, or cuneiform characters, like those of Assyria, on the monumental inscriptions which have of late years been discovered among the ruins of ancient Persian cities. The Zend, another Medo-Persian language, now extinct, and therefore not represented on our Map, is preserved in the sacerdotal books of the Guebres and the Parsees. The earliest religion of the Medo-Persian race appears to have been that of fire-worship. They are now, with few exceptions, followers of Mohammed, the Armenians being the only nation of this stock by whom Christianity has been received.
nations of Turkish, Arabic, and Mongolian origin. Some of these wandering tribes, however, as the Hazarehs and Eymauks on the north of Affghanistan, speak dialects of the Persian language.
PERSIAN, although marked in the Map as predominant
in Persia and part of Turkestan, is only one of the many languages spoken in that wide territory. It is remarkable that all the countries properly belonging to the Medo-Persian race are likewise inhabited by tribes of foreign origin, who dwell side by side with the original inhabitants. Even the throne of the great Cyrus is occupied by a monarch of the Turkish race, and the whole country is overrun by nomadic
PUSHTOO is the language of Affghanistan, a moun
tainous tract of country lying between Persia and Hindustan. The Hindkees, an Indian people speaking a Sanscritic dialect, form part of the population. after to be mentioned, occupy the central portion of the chain of the Caucasus Mountains.
BELOOCHEE is one of the languages of Beloochistan,
a country situated between Affghanistan and the Indian Ocean. Many Tajiks, or Persians, reside in Beloochistan, and hence Persian prevails in some of the districts, especially at Kelat. The Brahooes, and other nations speaking Sanscritic dialects, also occupy part of this country.
KURDISH is the language of the Kurds, wild nomadic
tribes, known in history as the Carduchi and the Parthians. They are chiefly located in Kurdistan, a mountainous tract of country between Armenia and Persia. They likewise form the bulk of the population of Luristan, in the east of Persia.
ARMENIAN is spoken by about one-seventh part of
the population of Armenia, a country chiefly composed of mountainous chains, of which Mount Ararat forms, as it were, the nucleus. The language of the Armenians, and their traditions respecting their mythical heroes and ancestors, which are almost identical with those of the Persians, prove them to be of the Medo-Persian stock; and it has even been thought that they were once one people with the Persians. Like the Jews, however, whom they resemble in other respects, the Armenians are scattered as traders and merchants among all the nations of the world; so that the language of Armenia, in one or other of its dialects, is heard in all the trading cities of the East.
OSSITINIAN is spoken by the Ossetes, a Median
colony, who, in concert with Caucasian tribes here