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Full text of "Journeys In Persia And Kurdistan ( Vol.Ii)."

LETTER xxvn   THE SYRIANS OR " ASSYEIANS "           237

in the way of fines and bribes, and consequently he foments
quarrels and encourages needless litigation on all hands,
the Syrians being by all accounts one of the most litigi-
ous of peoples.

I write of the Christians of Urmi and its plain as
Syrians because that is the name by which they call
themselves. "We know them at home as Nestorians, but
this is a nickname given to them by outsiders, and I
know of no reason why we should use a nomenclature
which attaches to a nation the stigma of an ancient
"heresy." They are sometimes called Chaldseans,1 and
the present Archbishop of Canterbury has brought into
currency the term " Assyrians," which, however, is never
used by themselves, or by any Orientals in speaking of
them. The Moslems apply the name Nasara (Nazarenes)
solely to the Syrian Christians. They claim that Chris-
tianity was introduced among them by the Magi on their
return from Bethlehem. The highest estimate of their
numbers is 120,000, and of these more than 80,000 are
in Turkey. The Persian Syrians inhabit the flat country,
chiefly the plains of Urmi and Salmas, where the fertile
lands are most carefully cultivated by their industry.

In my last letter I remarked upon the prosperity and
garden-like appearance of the Urmi Plain. Its 20,000
Syrian inhabitants usually live in separate villages from
the Kurds, Persians, and Armenians, and are surrounded
on all sides by Moslems of the Shiah sect. The landlords
or Aghas of their villages are generally Moslems, who govern
their tenants in something of feudal style. Land is a
favourite investment in Persia, and owing to the indus-
trious habits of the Syrians, the " Agha-ship" of their
villages commands a high price. The Aghas often oppress
the peasants, but the tenure of houses is fairly secure, and
according to Canon Maclean, to whom I am indebted for

1 A name usually applied to the Roman Uniats at Mosul.