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History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empir

The Derbend the Caspian Gates


Between

the Euxine and the Caspian, the countries of Colchos, Iberia, and Albania, are intersected in every direction by the branches of Mount Caucasus; and the two principal gates, or passes, from north to south, have been frequently confounded in the geography both of the ancients and moderns. The name of Caspian or Albanian gates is properly applied to Derbend, [138] which occupies a short declivity between the mountains and the sea: the city, if we give credit to local tradition, had been founded by the Greeks; and this dangerous entrance was fortified by the kings of Persia with a mole, double walls, and doors of iron. The Iberian gates [139] [1391] are formed by a narrow passage of six miles in Mount Caucasus, which opens from the northern side of Iberia, or Georgia, into the plain that reaches to the Tanais and the Volga. A fortress, designed by Alexander perhaps, or one of his successors, to command that important pass, had descended by right of conquest or inheritance to a prince of the Huns, who offered it for a moderate price to the emperor; but while Anastasius paused, while he timorously computed the cost and the distance, a more vigilant rival interposed, and Cabades forcibly occupied the Straits of Caucasus. The Albanian and Iberian gates excluded the horsemen of Scythia from the shortest and most practicable roads, and the whole front of the mountains was covered by the rampart of Gog and Magog, the long wall which has excited the curiosity of an Arabian caliph [140] and
a Russian conqueror. [141] According to a recent description, huge stones, seven feet thick, and twenty-one feet in length or height, are artificially joined without iron or cement, to compose a wall, which runs above three hundred miles from the shores of Derbend, over the hills, and through the valleys of Daghestan and Georgia.

Without a vision, such a work might be undertaken by the policy of Cabades; without a miracle, it might be accomplished by his son, so formidable to the Romans, under the name of Chosroes; so dear to the Orientals, under the appellation of Nushirwan. The Persian monarch held in his hand the keys both of peace and war; but he stipulated, in every treaty, that Justinian should contribute to the expense of a common barrier, which equally protected the two empires from the inroads of the Scythians. [142]

[Footnote 138: For the city and pass of Derbend, see D'Herbelot, (Bibliot. Orient. p. 157, 291, 807,) Petit de la Croix. (Hist. de Gengiscan, l. iv. c. 9,) Histoire Genealogique des Tatars, (tom. i. p. 120,) Olearius, (Voyage en Perse, p. 1039--1041,) and Corneille le Bruyn, (Voyages, tom. i. p. 146, 147:) his view may be compared with the plan of Olearius, who judges the wall to be of shells and gravel hardened by time.]

[Footnote 139: Procopius, though with some confusion, always denominates them Caspian, (Persic. l. i. c. 10.) The pass is now styled Tatar-topa, the Tartar-gates, (D'Anville, Geographie Ancienne, tom. ii. p. 119, 120.)]

[Footnote 1391: Malte-Brun. tom. viii. p. 12, makes three passes: 1. The central, which leads from Mosdok to Teflis. 2. The Albanian, more inland than the Derbend Pass. 3. The Derbend--the Caspian Gates. But the narrative of Col. Monteith, in the Journal of the Geographical Society of London. vol. iii. p. i. p. 39, clearly shows that there are but two passes between the Black Sea and the Caspian; the central, the Caucasian, or, as Col. Monteith calls it, the Caspian Gates, and the pass of Derbend, though it is practicable to turn this position (of Derbend) by a road a few miles distant through the mountains, p. 40.--M.]

[Footnote 140: The imaginary rampart of Gog and Magog, which was seriously explored and believed by a caliph of the ninth century, appears to be derived from the gates of Mount Caucasus, and a vague report of the wall of China, (Geograph. Nubiensis, p. 267-270. Memoires de l'Academie, tom. xxxi. p. 210--219.)]


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