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Imperial Academy of Sciences of St. Petersburg, says: "Les tribus des Courdes iraniens peuvent également donner matière à des recherches très intéressantes, qui serviraient à jeter quelque lumiere sur l'histoire de l'Assyrie, de la Babylonie, et de l'Asie Mineure.” This opinion, that the Kurds were inti : mately connected with the old Chaldeans, seems to be regarded with favor also, if we may credit the testimony of Lerch, by B. von Dorn and others, of the Imperial Academy of Sciences at St. Petersburg.
Mannert (v. 2, p. 63) says: “the great mass of the Kurds are descended from the Medes, though some are the successors of the Mantieni, Kadusii, and Kassæi or Sace.” Armenian writers invariably speak of them as the descendants of the ancient Medes, and regard those found in Armenia as having been introduced into the country, some at a very early period, and others more recently. In the sixth century before Christ, when the Armenian king Tigranes invaded Media and subdued Astyages, it is said that a large number of captives were brought into the country, and colonized upon the banks of the Araxes. From these captives various tribes, now occupying what was the ancient kingdom of Armenia, are said to have descended. At other times, and from other causes, the Medes have come into Armenia even down to the fourteenth century. Chamich, the Armenian historian, says that, about 1375, “ Armenia was taken possession of by the Medes, who were also known by the name of Kurds or Keurds. These became numerous, swelled by hordes of Scythians and Turks, who mingled with the Medes, forming one nation with them.” From extensive observation and inquiry, we also find it to be the universal opinion among the Armenians at the present day, that they are the relics of the ancient Medes. The country of
. Kurdistan, on account of its Kurdish population, is by Armenian historians frequently called Gordjaikh, or Kortaikh, i. e. Kurdish Armenia. It is said that the Kurds, in some parts of Asia Minor, pretend to be the issue of the Moguls, but this cannot be true of the genuine Kurds: the size and beauty of their eyes, their aquiline nose, their fairness of complexion, height of form, and language, all contradict this.
There are also many Kurds who, from their traditions and characteristics, are thought to be of Parthian origin.
It is doubtless true that the elements of other nations have been more or less introduced among the Kurds, yet we incline to the opinion that they are principally the existing remnant of the ancient Medes.
Many interesting notices of this people are to be found in history under another name. The ancient Mardi are supposed to have been intimately connected with the Kurds, if not the same people. Hammer has evidently spoken of the latter under the former name, regarding them as one and the same. He also thus speaks of the Kurds : “ Among the various tribes, the one most worthy of attention is that of the Yezidis, who, it appears, descended from the Mardi."
The Meronanides, who ruled over the sovereignty of Diarbekir, Mesopotamia, and the country in the vicinity of Van, in the tenth and eleventh centuries, were of Kurdish origin. When the Seljuk Turks took possession of Armenia in the eleventh century, they gave the government of it to some Turkish and Kurdish Emirs. These rulers are frequently noticed in Armenian history.
The dynasty of the Ayoubites of Mesopotamia, from A. D. 1185 to 1259, was also Kurdish.
The renowned Salah-ud-deen or Saladin, was a Kurd. Having acquired great power as ruler in Egypt, he extended his conquests over Arabia, and even a large part of Armenia. There are still many mementos of this remarkable man pointed out at Cairo, among which is a well, said to have been excavated by him. It is described as having been cut through a solid rock to the depth of two hundred and seventy-six feet, the upper part being an oblong pit of twenty-four feet by eighteen, to a depth of one hundred and forty-six feet, and the lower part fifteen by nine, to the depth of one hundred and thirty feet. He was one of the most powerful champions with whom the Crusaders had to contend. With his army of eighty thousand, he overcame Lusignan, king of Jerusalem, at the battle of Tiberias, taking him prisoner, slaughtering his twelve hundred knights, and his army of twenty thousand.
Saladin, as a ruler of his own people, was mild and equitable, and his conduct was often magnanimous and generous toward his enemies. As it has been said, “he is perhaps the brightest example of an Asiatic hero in history, and his virtues, like the dark traits which obscured them, exhibit the genuine lineaments of his clime and race."
At the present time there are princes in the extensive country of Ardilan, south of Oroomiah, maintaining almost regal state, who boast their descent from the celebrated Saladin. This province has continued in the same noble family for more than four hundred years. The patriarchal character of their rule, and the cheerful obedience of their subjects, are calculated to make the inhabitants of the rich plains of Persia envy the lot of those of the rugged mountains of Kurdistan.
The Kurds, in past times, have frequently had connections with Persian, Turkish, Arab, and Armenian rulers. Behram, the Persian king between IIarmouz and Chosroës, was a Kurd. Fatakh Ali-Shal, the reigning monarch in Chardin's time, was of Kurdish origin. The celebrated Mortaza Pasha of Babylon, who sought in 1661 to overthrow Sultan Mahmoud IV., married the daughter of a Kurdish prince, and received, as a dowry, one of the strongest forts of the mountains, and in this fort he took refuge when opposed by the armies of the Sultan.
Although the historical relation between the Kurdish and other Iranian dialects has not as yet been successfully traced out, yet, from efforts that are being made by the Imperial Academy of Sciences at St. Petersburg, and by Oriental scholars in other parts of Europe, we cannot but hope that the work may yet be accomplished. Something has already been done toward it. The work published by Lerch at St. Petersburg, in 1857 and 1858, entitled “Forschungen über die Kurden und die Iranischen Nordchaldäer," indicates a growing interest in this subject.
It is said by Prichard that the language of the Kurds, both in respect to its grammatical structure and its constituent vocabulary, is allied to the Persian family of languages, having a near affinity to the modern Persian, though more corrupted and less cultivated and developed; and this because it has never been a written language, but only used for popular and oral communication.
With reference to the affinity of the Kurdish and Persian, Peter Lerch says: “The differences of the Kurdish from the Persian took root, in great part, in the very early separation of the Kurds from the Iranian main trunk." Hörnle says, an acquaintance with the Persian is indispensable for a right understanding of the Kurdish language. Rödiger, lowever, remarks that Garzoni has done well in having no regard to the Persian, since this would have obscured that experimental and impartial view he took of the material of the language. He who enters upon the study of the Kurdish with the knowledge of the Persian overcomes, it is true, the first difficulties, but, at the same time, he runs the risk of disturbing his objective stand-point, since the comprehension of a language depends upon philological accuracy; in this case, he would not be at pains to expound or explain the language out of itself. Cognate and other similar languages, out of which much can be borrowed, should be used only as secondary helps.
Michaelis, after having given the Kurdish language much attention, draws the following conclusion with respect to the Kurds themselves, that "they belong to the great Medo-Persian family, and if they are the descendants of the old Chaldeans, who formerly inhabited these mountains, they are also related to the Medes and Persians, and are altogether a different people, in language and descent, from the Assyrians, Syrians, and Babylonians.” The Kurdish language, therefore, confirms the tradition of Oriental historians upon the affinity of these races. It is also said that many explanations of the Zend writings may be met with in the Kurdish. According to all accounts of scholars and travelers, the Kurdish language is split up, as few others are, into a multitude of dialects, yet many of these are not essentially different, the people of dif ferent provinces being able to understand one another.
In the study of the Iranian antiquities, which at present is employing the various energies of many European scholars, we cannot but think that a knowledge of the Kurdish language and people will be regarded as of essential importance.
Neither Arabic nor Turkish words, nor grammatical forms, constitute any part of the real Kurdish. Many words from these languages, as well as from the Syriac, have been introduced, but they are all foreign.
The Kurds, scattered through the East, numbering at the present time perhaps one million and a half, or two millions, are divided into various tribes, some of which acknowledge no allegiance to the Turkish or Persian governments. They are generally warlike, and many tribes are addicted to pillage and robbery. They are especially hostile to the Turks, and this in consequence of the oppressive and cruel policy of the government towards them. In many instances they have desired to abandon their mountain life and settle upon the plains, giving themselves to agriculture and trade; but the extortions of the government upon such villagers have been so unjust, and such atrocities have been committed upon them, that they have generally been driven back again into their mountain fastnesses. These extortions provoke attacks upon the Turkish caravans as they pass through the mountains; they are often plundered and the Turks massacred. Then the irritated government will send a strong force into some of the Kurdish villages that are perhaps innocent, the Turkish soldiers committing every kind of atrocity, burning the village, and putting all to the sword, men, women, and children.
It is such a policy which has placed the Kurd in a fixed attitude of hostility to the Turk, and has produced the conviction in his mind, that he may rightfully plunder and oppose the government.
The life of a Kurdish chief is therefore usually full of adventure, excitement, and peril. IIe is the head of his tribe, or army, which assembles, as by enchantment, at his least signal, and which disappears as suddenly after a successful attack. IIe has, as a body-guard, a few daring warriors who never leave his side. With these he fears not to go upon the highways in quest of booty, nor to enter even into large cities. Frequently a chief with his imposing body-guard comes into the courts of justice, where are present the governor, it may be, the judge, counselor, and others in authority. They enter, at such times, bold and fearless, giving the usual salutation, then