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History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empir

In the present state of Mingrelia


[Footnote

66: Besides the many occasional hints from the poets, historians &c., of antiquity, we may consult the geographical descriptions of Colchos, by Strabo (l. xi. p. 760--765) and Pliny, (Hist. Natur. vi. 5, 19, &c.)]

[Footnote 67: I shall quote, and have used, three modern descriptions of Mingrelia and the adjacent countries. 1. Of the Pere Archangeli Lamberti, (Relations de Thevenot, part i. p. 31-52, with a map,) who has all the knowledge and prejudices of a missionary. 2. Of Chardia, (Voyages en Perse, tom. i. p. 54, 68-168.) His observations are judicious and his own adventures in the country are still more instructive than his observations. 3. Of Peyssonel, (Observations sur les Peuples Barbares, p. 49, 50, 51, 58 62, 64, 65, 71, &c., and a more recent treatise, Sur le Commerce de la Mer Noire, tom. ii. p. 1--53.) He had long resided at Caffa, as consul of France; and his erudition is less valuable than his experience.]

[Footnote 68: Pliny, Hist. Natur. l. xxxiii. 15. The gold and silver mines of Colchos attracted the Argonauts, (Strab. l. i. p. 77.) The sagacious Chardin could find no gold in mines, rivers, or elsewhere. Yet a Mingrelian lost his hand and foot for showing some specimens at Constantinople of native gold]

[Footnote 69: Herodot. l. ii. c. 104, 105, p. 150, 151. Diodor. Sicul. l. i. p. 33, edit. Wesseling. Dionys. Perieget. 689, and Eustath. ad loc. Schohast

ad Apollonium Argonaut. l. iv. 282-291.]

[Footnote 70: Montesquieu, Esprit des Loix, l. xxi. c. 6. L'Isthme... couvero de villes et nations qui ne sont plus.]

[Footnote 71: Bougainville, Memoires de l'Academie des Inscriptions, tom. xxvi. p. 33, on the African voyage of Hanno and the commerce of antiquity.]

But the riches of Colchos shine only through the darkness of conjecture or tradition; and its genuine history presents a uniform scene of rudeness and poverty. If one hundred and thirty languages were spoken in the market of Dioscurias, [72] they were the imperfect idioms of so many savage tribes or families, sequestered from each other in the valleys of Mount Caucasus; and their separation, which diminished the importance, must have multiplied the number, of their rustic capitals. In the present state of Mingrelia, a village is an assemblage of huts within a wooden fence; the fortresses are seated in the depths of forests; the princely town of Cyta, or Cotatis, consists of two hundred houses, and a stone edifice appertains only to the magnificence of kings. Twelve ships from Constantinople, and about sixty barks, laden with the fruits of industry, annually cast anchor on the coast; and the list of Colchian exports is much increased, since the natives had only slaves and hides to offer in exchange for the corn and salt which they purchased from the subjects of Justinian. Not a vestige can be found of the art, the knowledge,


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