The Garden Guide

Book: Journey and Embassy to Samarkand
Chapter: Azerbijan

Iron Gates

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THE lord Timur Beg, as soon as he had gained the government of Samarkand, desired to pass over this great river, to conquer the land of Khorassan (Iran/Afganistan) . He therefore caused a great bridge of timber to be made, supported by boats; and when his army had crossed, the bridge was destroyed; but, on his return to Samarkand, he ordered it to be made again, for the passage of himself and his host; and the ambassadors crossed over on this bridge; and they said that the lord had given an order to destroy the bridge, as soon as all his host had passed over. Near this great river Alexander fought a battle with Porus, king of India, and defeated him {The good knight's informant must have been a bad geographer}. On the Thursday that the ambassadors reached this great river, they crossed to the other side, and, in the afternoon, they arrived at a great city called Termez, which once belonged to India the Less, but is now in the territory of Samarkand, having been conquered by Timur Beg, and from this place the empire of Samarkand begins. The territory of this empire of Samarkand is called Mongolia, and the language of the people is Mongol, so that those on the other side of the river do not know it, as they speak Persian: and the handwriting which they use on the Samarkand side of the river, is not understood by those on the other side. The lord has certain scribes who read and write this Mongol writing. The land of Samarkand is very populous, and very rich and fertile. The custom which the lord causes to be observed at this great river is, that when he has passed from one side to the other, the people have to break the bridge, and afterwards no one can cross over; but there are boats in this river, which convey people from one side to the other, and no one is permitted to pass over in these boats, without showing a letter stating whence he comes, and whither he goes, even when he is a native of the land. When, however, anyone wishes to enter the land of Samarkand, this letter is not required. The lord has a great guard placed at these boats, who take heavy tolls from those who use them. This guard is also placed, because the lord has brought many captives into Samarkand, from the countries which he has conquered, to people the land, and enrich and ennoble it; so as to prevent them from escaping, and returning to their own land. Though, when the ambassadors passed, they found orphans, and women without support, in the land of Persia and Khorassan (Iran/Afganistan) ; yet the men had been taken by force, to people the land of Samarkand. One brought a cow, another an ass, another a sheep or goat; and they were fed, by the officers of the lord, on the road; and in this way the lord conveyed above one hundred thousand persons to the land of Samarkand. This city of Termez, which the ambassadors had reached, was very large and populous, and it was without any wall. The city was surrounded by many gardens and streams of water. I cannot tell you more of this city, because we were very tired when we reached our lodging, except that we passed through populous streets and squares, where they sold many things. The ambassadors were received with much honour, and supplied with all that they required, and were presented with a silken robe. In this city a messenger arrived from the lord, who came to the ambassadors, and said that the lord saluted them, and desired to know how they had borne the journey, and how they had been treated, and whether they would soon arrive. When this messenger departed, they gave him a robe, and they also gave a Florentine robe to the knight who had been sent first, and who had come with them, the ambassador from the Sultan of Babylon doing the same. They also gave a horse to the second knight, whom the lord had sent; for such is the custom of all who come to the lord, to give something, and thus respect the custom of giving and taking presents. Their greatness is considered according to the number of presents they give, in honour of the lord, and such is the measure of the praise they receive. On Friday, the 22nd of August, after dinner, the ambassadors departed, and slept on the plain, near some large houses. On Saturday, they travelled over extensive plains, amongst many well peopled villages, and reached a village where they were supplied with all that they required. On Sunday, they dined at some large buildings, where the lord is accustomed to stop, when he passes this way, and they were given much fruit and meat, wine and melons, and the melons were very good, and large, and abundant. The custom is to place the fruit before the ambassadors, on the ground.