Tth Life and Adventures of Joseph Emin




I. 1530-1744.

[Genealogy - Death of old champion, his great-great-grandfather at 110, fighting five Janizaries - Author born at Hamadan, 1726 - To Bagdad in 1731-33 - Besieged by Nadir Shah - His defeat - A second siege - Nadir retires - Grandfather Michael - Mr. Dorrel, resident of Basra - Ahmad Pasha’s levée - "A European army could take Bagdad in five days" - Author’s father goes to Bengal - Emin to Ispahan, 1742 - A kind Turk - Michael unjustly imprisoned - Freed through Emin - To Basra, thence to India. ]

When a handful of people exerting themselves to be called a nation are in an infant state, and destitute of perfect wisdom, they appear like an innocent hopeful boy in the eyes of the Omnipotent. A new state resembles an elegant lamp, the light of which, if the ministers are wise, they will always be watchful in preserving, and will continue from time to time to pour into it a proper quantity of pure oil, so as to keep it burning all the night long; and this is the case with the excellent Europeans, whose Christian sovereignty, as the writer observes with peculiar satisfaction, had its rise from that very cause, with the favour of the most merciful God; and he wishes from the bottom of his heart that they may preserve it as long as the frame of the universe shall endure.

In regard to the Asiatics or Africans, they, when in prosperity, are generally intoxicated with their success, and rolling in all manner of vices (he excepts his own harmless country), and continue stumbling in their soft beds, the light is extinguished, and the house remains in total darkness, then the enemy comes with sword in hand cutting them off, and taking possession of their whole territory. When he thus turned his wandering thoughts on his nation, from their beginning to the time of his troublesome undertaking, he observed their simplicity and weakness of mind, as yet resembling children imposed on by the holy divines of their church; he resolved therefore to lay the foundation of his hope, and go over to England to see the admirable European system of wise laws and useful regulations.

Before he begins to exhibit his imperfect memoirs, it is necessary to say something concerning the origin of his family, and the names of his ancestors; since in the East, he that denies or forgets his progenitors, is reckoned harámzádah, or base-born.

Emin, the head of the family, was called the First, for a reason well known, but not necessary to be mentioned here. The name of his son was Abraham, who had several sons; the name of one was Astuatsatur, or Theodorus, who with other Armenians emigrated from Armenia (after being reduced by the art of Shah Abbas, commonly called the Great), and settled in the town of Hamadan, situated at the foot of Mount Alwend, where his great-grandfather, Emin the Second, was born. When a proper age, he followed the profession of his forefathers, enlisting himself in the military service of that barbarous prince, and by dint of courage distinguished himself in two extraordinary actions. He was the first in the whole army to scale the wall of Handchár and Bagdad, knocking down the centries; the rest of dovetababs, or resolute selected soldiers, seconding the onset, so that both cities were taken (this he had heard from his own father Hovsep): he was consequently promoted to the honourable post of minbafhy, or colonel of one thousand men: but his singular conduct caused his ruin, through the jealousy of that ungrateful Persian nation, who took from him all his estate, and reduced him to the lowest poverty, and made him as miserable as his great-great-grandson was in England, who judges the condition of his venerable ancestor worse than his own, since he had only to take care of himself, while his ancestor had four sons and a daughter to maintain. He went therefore as a choush or guard to the caravans, and after that became a leader or conductor for some years; till having raised a small capital, he settled and married his children, bought land, planted a garden, thus working and amusing himself till he was an hundred and ten years of age.

In the time of Shah Sultan Hussain, in the year 1722, Ahmad Pasha, governor of Bagdad, marched with an immense army and attacked the town of Hamadan, and after a siege of three months, took the place by storm, destroyed 60. 000 Mahometan Persians in three days and three nights, and killed, in cool blood, 800 Armenians in their church. Emin’s family hiding themselves in a kahriz, that is to say, subterranean cavity, in the house made for that very purpose, this brave veteran (his great-grandfather) would by no means be persuaded to conceal himself with his family, saying these very words: "My dear children, I dreamed last night that a great fall of snow was so very deep as to cover the crown of my head. This is the last day of my life, wherein I am to be sacrificed. You will all be made captives, but not defiled with the foul hands of infidels; my grandson Michael will deliver you. Behold it is beneath me to be afraid of the Turks! that in my youthful days I have driven an hundred of them before my horse. Whenever the two armies, Persians and Turks, came to an engagement, I was always the first that challenged the Turkish army in single combat; I have cut off the heads of my antagonists, which I carried and presented to the cruel Shah Abbas, (the old way of making war remains to this day unaltered, when two armies face each other, hostility begins by single combatants, ) and with my corps of cavalry I used to make a way by breaking the enemy’s columns. Depart and be blessed; - let me now make my last will. " Then, taking his great-grandson Hovsep in his affectionate arms, and giving him more blessings than the rest, he spoke the following words: "This is my beloved boy, whom Providence will favour; his male child shall be baptised Emin, after my name, who, by God’s assistance, will lift up the sword of defence to revenge the cause of his country and the blood of his ancestors, that was shed for the truth, and in the most sacred path of Christianity. Never despair, Mahometanism shall fail, and will be subdued under as true believers in God, through our Saviour Jesus, and your posterity shall see the golden age first when the sheep and wolf shall graze together, seeing them all very well secured. " He took his Herculean club, and sat himself down on a brick bench behind the fastened gate of the house, when, on a sudden, five blood-thirsty Janizaries broke open the door with pole axes. The bold veteran seeing it, stood his ground to receive the assailants armed with guns, pistols, and swords. He knocked one of them down on the ground almost speechless, and struck out the eye of another; (whom we have seen at Bagdad several years after, named Abbas, by trade a horse-dealer; ) two of them being disabled, the other three not daring to cope with him sword in hand, retired to a little distance, fired their pieces together, and killed Emin; after which they took possession of the house full of European goods, to the amount of 5, 000 tumans.

When the Turks had sufficiently exercised their cruelties on the Persians for three days, a proclamation was issued from Ahmed Basha, to abstain from destroying any more; and this encouraged the concealed people to come out from their holes: presently after, came fresh orders from head quarters, to enslave them. Fortunately a Turkish Aga, or great officer in the army, was acquainted with the author’s grandfather Michael, and with Ahmed Bassas Ferman in his hand, came just at that critical time when the diabolical Turks were going to lay violent hands on them. He thus preserved the honour, and made a bargain with them both for males and females, amounting to sixty-five souls, at twelve tuman per head, the whole sum amounting to 780 tumans, which, at twenty rupees to each tuman, makes 15, 600 rupees, paid by Michael before-named, who arriving from Bagdad a few days after the slaughter, took the mangled body of the old champion from among the dead victims of his religion, and buried it in the church with great solemnity.

Hamadan being then settled under the Turkish government, Emin’s youngest son, Aratun, at the distance of two days journey from that town, with 400 tumans sewed up in his quilted waistcoat, was murdered by some Persians while he was sleeping.

In the year 1726, Emin, the writer of these memoirs, was born at Hamadan, and in 1731 or 1733, he went with his family to Bagdad. Presently after, the Turks had evacuated Hamadan.

In that very year (if he is not mistaken), his father Hovsep was gone to Basra, and before that, his grandfather to Bengal, to buy articles of commerce. In the meanwhile the town of Bagdad was surrounded by Thahmaz Kulykhan, afterwards Nadir Shah, the deliverer of Persia.

During a siege of full nine months, his mother and his next youngest brother died of common disorders, but not for want, although the Mahometans were reduced to eat the flesh of horses, asses, dogs, cats, and mice; but his grandfather’s father took care, three months before, to lay up wheat, barley, corn, grain of all sort, which saved the family from starving with the rest of the inhabitants. In the end, Nadir Shah was defeated by Thopall Osman Basha; and Emin’s grandfather came soon after from India, exactly forty days after Thopall Osman’s army was routed by Nadir, who laid siege again to Bagdad, and continued his operations about three months, the garrison being almost exhausted for want of provision, men, ammunition, etc.

When Ahmad Basha was very near reaching, with reluctance, the brink of capitulation, news arrived that Khorasan was in danger from the Osbeg Tartars, and the whole kingdom was not far from revolt; which circumstance obliged Nadir to make peace with Ahmad; so that he marched back, and left Bagdad in quiet. Here his great-grandfather, a man of great faith and extraordinary natural talents, instilled many notions into his head concerning the origin of his ancestor; which need not here be mentioned, as it might be taken for a romance. This venerable man died at Bagdad, aged eighty-two years.

Emin’s grandfather, Michael, was almost ruined by an Armenian treacherous informer, named Kardash, but for the protection of one Mr. Dorrel, resident at Basra, who happened to be then at Bagdad, and was much taken notice of by its governor Ahmad, who grew so very fond of him, that he used to call him My Balioz Beg.

It may not be unpleasant to insert here what passed one day at Ahmad’s levee: after he had shown the English gentleman the fortifications of Bagdad, the pashé said, it was so strong, that Nadir Shah could not take it; and still continued pressing to know his opinion of it, Mr. Dorrel answered the question in these words: "May it please your highness, if an European army besieged it instead of Nadir, they would have taken the place in five days time. " Which expression made the Basha turn pale, and he said, "Gavoor, if I had not sworn, I would cut off your head. " A similar sarcasm was made by an English groom, who attended the late King of Prussia: - His majesty one day, before he mounted his horse, began to reflect on the late Duke of Cumberland, and his defeat by field-marshal Saxe: the English groom could not swallow the bitter pill; and, while he was stroking the horse’s mane, he said, loud enough to be well heard, "O poor horse, I wish you could speak, you would ask his Prussian Majesty, who ran away first at such a battle, for you are the very English horse he then mounted. "

Michael, being much reduced through that wicked Armenian, and hearing of Nadir Shah’s conquest of the Afghans, the Osbeg Tartars, and Indostan, while Persia enjoyed abundance and peace, thought it necessary to send his wife, with four sons (Moses, David, Melchisedech, Malachi) and a daughter, back to Hamadan, together with his grandson Emin, who was then about eleven years of age. At that time, a horse-load of fine flour was sold for a single rupee, grapes of the same quantity for five abbasis, or two rupees; in a word, every thing was cheap in proportion.

A year after, his father Hovsep returned from Basra, with a dreadful illness, so that it appeared impossible for him to recover; but with care, helped by the extraordinary excellence of the climate, superior to any other in Orahstan Persia, he recovered his health, and married a second time. Not long after, came his grandfather from Bagdad, with as much indisposition.

But this tranquillity did not last long; Nadir’s zeal, compassion, and humanity, were changed into cruelty. The villanous and wicked Persians began to oppress, and exact money; presently famine ensued. On one hand, the subjects were obliged to pay the king’s tax: and, on the other, with inexpressible difficulty to provide bread for their families. To withstand the shock of this enormous oppression, the author’s family were forced to sell their houses and goods for a tenth part of their value.

Before this calamity began, his three uncles went to Khorasan, and his father to Bengal, for the purpose of trade. Some years after, he, being then sixteen years of age, heard that one of his uncles was gone to Gilan; and his grandfather, observing his military disposition, lest he should enlist himself in Nadir’s service, thought it prudent to let him go to Gilan, there to amuse himself with his uncle for some time, so as to be prevented at least from his supposed resolution. His grandfather was obliged to leave behind him his wife, with their youngest son and a daughter, together with the author’s mother-in-law, and fled; whence he sent for Emin, who set out with his uncle in a caravan as far as Casbin; his uncle went to Hamadan, to relieve his mother, brother, sister and other relations: Emin, with another caravan, set out for Ispahan. He had a fever, or was much indisposed, when he set out for that place. No sooner were they parted than he being alone, and having no other Christian to help him, the Mahomedan Persians began their usual barbarity; every hour in the day inviting him to their false religion, then using him ill with abusive language, all the way to the town of Kom, where he was obliged to change the charvadar (or the man that hires his ass to travellers). And when he reached the city of Cashan, the caravan pitched in the middle of the court of a caravansarai, exposed to the heat of the sun in July; the other travellers had their tents, but Emin had none to rest under. Luckily for him, the people of the caravan halted there a week, and his charvadar was a Turk, otherwise he might have been destroyed at Cashan.

On the first day of their arrival there, he having scarce eaten anything for several days before, went to a cook’s shop, with a voracious appetite, and made a very hearty dinner upon strong broth of sheep’s head and feet, in which was mixed a great quantity of vinegar with garlic, to make it more palatable for him, whose ague and fever used to attack him every other day. No sooner was he out of the place, than he found himself as thirsty as Mahomedans are for the blood of Christians; and he went three times down sixty steps or more, to the evambar, or reservoir of water, built at Cashan by the late Shah Abbas. The place was so very cold that his thirst was instantly quenched, and, when he came up again, he was as dry as ever, and grew quite senseless. Not knowing what to do with himself, seeing a boy about ten years of age with a large gurglet of water on his shoulder, Emin ran, at the hazard of his life, forced it from him, struck off the neck of the vessel, and drank the whole, which was almost four bottles of English measure. While the poor boy went to acquaint his Mahomedan parents of the rash behaviour of a Christian, sick as he was, yet through fear of being stoned to death, he took to the hills and made his escape; but going all in a flutter, he threw himself on his bed under the intense heat of the sun, where he lay delirious all the time from Wednesday noon till nine o’clock on Saturday evening: he then awoke all of a sudden, when, opening his eyes, he found himself lying on his quilt, a part of it being rolled under his breast, and discovered a black mark on the white ground, five feet in length and as much in breadth, when he perceived it to be the mark of blood from his nose: it immediately occurred to him, that his poor mother died at Bagdad of a bleeding at the nose; he was a little alarmed at this circumstance, but more at its continuation: in the meantime he saw his honest charvadar, with a drawn scimitar in his hand, standing over his head. He took it for granted the Turk was going to make an end of him, and crying out boldly to the man, "Why are you waiting, friend? make your blow good, strike home, let me die in the truth of my faith, " and stretched out his neck to receive the stroke which he expected. To his great surprise, the honest Turk said to him with a mild voice in these very words: "Be easy, Armenian lad, poor in body, bold in mind, you have been almost dead for these three days; the Persians wanted to take you by the legs and throw you into that deep hole; I drew my sword, and watched all the time; I saw there was life in you, your pulse beating slowly. This morning, when your nose began to bleed, I lifted you up with my own hands, and laid you on your bed, so as not to stain your clothes. By degrees I observed as the blood ran, you began to draw breath better and better; let it run, do not be afraid; I think it is the work of God, who sees the heart of us all, saw you true to your own faith, and saved you from perishing by the hands of these diabolical Persians. It is through their own wickedness that God has delivered them into the hands of us Turkomans, and has sent Nadir Shah to plague them. Take courage, put thy trust in God, he will preserve thee from all evil doers; I am your real friend as you have pronounced me, and that also is by the will of God. " These consolatory expressions from that brave man, with a continuation of the discharge of blood, made the author almost well; but his mind was uneasy, in not having it in his power to show his gratitude, since his miserable uncle had given him but twelve rupees at Casbin, though he had with him sixteen bales of raw silk of Gilan.

Next day the caravan set out, and the author. When he arrived at Julpha (the suburbs of Ispahan), he found his grandfather both sick and poor, for want of the money which he had before desired his son Melchisedech, at Gilan, to remit to him, when he wanted Emin to come to him. The old gentleman in a few days recovered his health, and Emin fell again into a very dangerous illness for five months, without being able to leave his bed, without a servant to attend him, or money to procure medical assistance, he drunk water all the while, but scarce eat anything. Six rupees the remainder part out of his twelve, lasted till they received 200 rupees from his father in Calcutta; who desired his own father, Michael, to send or bring Emin along with him thither. His illness saved him from being starved, which would probably have been the case if he had been in perfect health. As for his grandfather he made a shift to live, being entertained by a rich Armenian merchant, named Evanes of Noofnoos, a village in Nakhchovan Armenia, who had been formerly a servant of Emin’s grandfather. This gentleman had a dislike to the author, because his father, in his youthful days, had beaten him for some misdemeanor.

When winter approached, Emin began to open his eyes from his illness, getting strength every day, when a Persian Beg of Hamadan, an officer in the king’s army, without cause or reason, took Michael up, and made him a prisoner in his own house, in one of the streets of Ispahan, called Shamsabad (or the Dwelling of the Sun), under a false pretence that he was a fugitive from Hamadan. He was kept three days, with a view of exacting a sum of money: the Beg, considering the meekness of the grand-father, and not having experienced the spirit of the grandson, who made it his business from Julpha, twice every day, to call on both the old gentleman and the officer; and, finding the unmanly intention of the Beg, he threatened him, and went immediately to complain to Nadir Shah, then at Ispahan. When he came to the gate of the palace, he found there an officer, or one of the Arza Beg’s deputies, who said to him, "What do you want, young Armenian?" He answered, that he came, first, to be enlisted; and then, to complain to his majesty of a man, who, without justice or the king’s order, had made his grandfather a prisoner on purpose to extort a sum of money from him. He said, "Stay a little, I will conduct you to the king; but, tell me the truth, are not you afraid of Nadir Shah?" pointing to the Persians brought out in the arms of the servants, some strangled, some with their brains knocked out, others with their ears and noses cut off. He answered without emotion, "They deserved it, and are well paid in their own coin": and added, that he would serve the magnanimous king truly and faithfully, like the rest of the Armenians, who fought bravely, and are well indulged by his majesty, like his own children: for Nadir, in all his reign, never hurt an Armenian, except two of the chief merchants of Julpha, who had sworn falsely by his head, and were burnt alive in the grand square of Ispahan in the year 1746.

The officer, hearing Emin’s sentiments, consented with all possible cheerfulness and affability; and was going to enter the gate, in order to present him when his grandfather and the fellow who had confined him, were come down on their knees, laying hold both of the king’s officer’s and Emin’s feet, begging them not to proceed further, and, with much difficulty, prevented them at last; which pacified Emin. The good-natured officer, in a great passion menaced the villain, and said to him, "It was lucky for you, this Armenian lad’s grandfather came with you, otherwise not only yourself would suffer, but all your followers would have shared the same fate; you would have been hanged as so many dogs, like the rest of your wicked countrymen; you see they are dragged away from his presence. " The fellow looked as pale as death, and sneaked away, frightened out of his senses. The officer then said to Emin, "Go, my brave boy, serve your old grandfather, and obtain his blessing; I see in your countenance, that one day you will become a great man; then remember what I have told you. " The Armenians thanked him with their best respects, and went back to Julpha. But, though his grandfather was pleased with the daring action of Emin, he still was in fear lest he should one day take the same resolution.

A month after, Nadir marched with his invincible army from that place towards Mashhed; and Michael thought proper to set out with the author in a caravan, over the Gilan mountains, to Basrah. He was then eighteen years of age. Nothing extraordinary happened during the journey; and, when they reached that place, they did not stay there more than a week, but embarked in a hurry on board of an Armenian heavy-sailing vessel. In fifty days, with great difficulty, at last they made the island of Cashin, in the gulf of Persia. Thence they sailed to Cannanor, where they, with several Armenian passengers, were put on shore by the captain, whose name was Marut, a man of an indifferent character. He used them all very ill; and his vessel was taken, on the same coast of Coromandel, by a Portuguese man of war. They went to Cochin, where they stayed five months; and thence back to Surat, where Emin found his uncle David, who took great care of him. They refreshed, after ten months’ fatigue and hardship; he cared little for himself, but greatly for his venerable old grandfather, who had all the trouble of bringing him up in a pious way, and was more fond of him than of all his six sons and two daughters. As the author’s mother died young, and left him young, he was also taught the Armenian language by his grandfather, and lived with him from the age of six years to nineteen or twenty; hence he knew more of the old gentleman than all his own children: he scarce ever saw him angry in all that whole period; he prayed first for his enemies, then for his family.

When the unwelcome news was brought of his second son Moses, who was killed by the Akhwans at Tabriz, he shed but few tears, raised up his head and hands to heaven, thanked and glorified God, pronouncing at the same time the words of Job, "God has given, and God has taken away. " The author saw this with his own eyes in Calcutta; and, when absent, was informed by others, that when his other three sons, and a daughter died at different times, all grown up, some twenty-five, some thirty, some forty-five, some forty-two years old, he behaved with the same fortitude and Christian patience: in a word, his great piety was equal to the known bravery of his grandfather Emin the Second.


[Page 2. SHAH ABBAS of Persia reigned from 1587 to 1629. In 1603 he seized Old Nakhichevan and Erivan. To prevent the Turks (Osmanlis), who were preparing to re-conquer the country, from obtaining supplies or assistance from the inhabitants, he forcibly, with indescribable cruelties, deported the Armenians into Persia. Thousands perished by the way, but those who reached their journey’s end were given land to settle on, for the Shah desired that his indolent Persians should improve by learning the trades and handicrafts practised by the Armenians.

Page 3. Shah Suleiman was succeeded in 1694 by his son SHAH SULTAN HUSSEIN, who was defeated, deposed and confined in the fortress of Ispahan by the Afghans under Mahmoud Shah in 1722. His son Thamasp fled to Khorassan and Mahmoud reigned until 1725, when his favourite general Ashraf in disgust, or pretended disgust, at his sovereign’s tyrannies, strangled him and became Shah himself. In the second year of Ashraf’s reign, the chief, Mahmoud of Khorassan, wishing to ingratiate himself with the Shah, sent his favourite camel-keeper, the robber chief Nadir, to him with presents, offering him his allegiance. While in Ispahan Nadir plotted against Ashraf, assuring the Persian princes that he could easily be got rid of. Returning to Khorassan, he offered his services to Thamasp (the rightful heir) at the head of 500 war-hardened Afshars and Kurds, and with Thamasp went back to Ispahan in 1728, and brought about the downfall of Ashraf. But before Ashraf fled for his life to Shiraz, he killed Sultan Hossein, father of Thamasp, and in turn was himself killed by a band of Baluchis before reaching Shiraz. Thamasp ascended the throne and Nadir became his commander-in-chief, with the title of Thamasp’s Kuli Khan (kuli = slave). He defeated the Afghans at Mehmand and at Murebakar in 1729, later on incited the Persians against Thamasp, seized him and sent him prisoner to Khorassan. A campaign against Bagdad followed, and a victory at Bhagwand in 1735. He became Shah in 1736. He drove the Afghans out of Persia, invaded India, and defeated Mohamed Shah at Karnal in 1738. Then came his triumphal entry into Delhi, whence he carried away the famous peacock throne. The last great Asiatic conqueror, Nadir’s career ended with his assassination in 1747. He was born in Khorassan about the year 1688. ]