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the basin of the Don, it reached westward to the banks of the Dnieper, and extended into the Tauric Chersonese. In this empire were included peoples of various race-the Inner Bulgarians, the Magyars, the Burdas, and the Goths of the Crimea; while the Slavonic state of Kiev paid a tribute to the Chagan. The Caucasian range divided the Khazars from Iberia and the dependencies of the Caliphate; towards the Black Sea their neighbours were the Alans and the Abasgi; the Dnieper bounded their realm on the side of Great Bulgaria; in the north their neighbours were the Bulgarians of the Volga, and in the east the Patzinaks. All these folks came within the view of Byzantine diplomacy; some of them were to play an important part in the destinies of the Eastern Empire.
The capital of the ruling people was situated on the Caspian Sea, at the mouths of the Volga, and was generally known as Itil.' It was a double town built of wood. The western town was named Saryg-shar, or Yellow City, in which the Chagan resided during the winter; over against it was the eastern town of Chamlich or Khazaran, in which were the quarters of the Mohammadan and the Scandinavian merchants. Chamlich seems to have lain on the eastern bank of the eastern ́ branch of the river, while Saryg-shar was built on the island and on the western shore of the western mouth, the two portions being connected by a bridge of boats; so that Itil is sometimes described as consisting of three towns. The island was covered with the fields and vineyards and gardens of the Chagan.
Three other important towns or fortresses of the Khazars lay between Itil and the Caspian gates. Semender was situated at the mouth of the Terek stream at Kizliar. It was a place rich in vineyards, with a considerable Mohammadan population,
three towns are mentioned in the largest of them is the Queen's palace, in the smallest the King's ralace, beween (? around) whose walls flows the river. See Marquart, Streifzüge, xlii. Saryg-shar was called al-Baidha ("the white") by older Arabic writers (Westberg, op. cit. ii. 14). Westberg has shown that the later name of Itil was Saksin (ib. 37 sqq., and Beiträge, ii. 288 sqq.).
3 Westberg, Kanalizu, ii. 41 sqq.
who lived in wooden houses with convex roofs.'
of Belenjer, which lay on the lower course of the Sulek, on the road which leads southward from Kizliar to Petrovsk, seems to have played some part in the earlier wars between the Khazars and the Saracens.3 Further south still was the town of Tarku, on the road to Kaiakend and the Caspian gates.*
The Arabic writers to whom we owe much of our knowledge of Khazaria suggest a picture of agricultural and pastoral prosperity. The Khazars were extensive sheep-farmers; their towns were surrounded by gardens and vineyards; they were rich in honey and wax; and had abundance of fish. The richest pastures and most productive lands in their country were known as the Nine Regions, and probably lay in the modern districts of Kuban and Ter." The king and his court wintered in Itil, but in the spring they went forth and encamped in the plains.7 According to one report, the Chagan had twenty-five wives, each the daughter of a king, and sixty concubines eminent for their beauty. Each of them had a house of her own, a qubba covered with teakwood, surrounded by a large pavilion, and each was jealously guarded by a eunuch who kept her from being seen. But at a later period a Chagan boasts of his queen, her maidens, and eunuchs, and we are left to wonder whether polygamy had been renounced or was deliberately concealed."
The Chagan himself seems to have taken no direct share in the administration of the state or the conduct of war. His sacred person was almost inaccessible; when he rode abroad, all those who saw him prostrated themselves on the ground and did not rise till he had passed out of sight. On his death, a great sepulchre was built with twenty chambers, suspended
over a stream, so that neither devils nor men nor worms might be able to penetrate it. The mausoleum was called paradise, and those who deposited his body in one of its recesses were put to death, that the exact spot in which he was laid might never be revealed. A rider who passed it by dismounted, and did not remount until the tomb could be no longer seen. When a new Chagan ascended the throne, a silk cord was bound tightly round his neck and he was required to declare how long he wished to reign; when the period which he mentioned had elapsed, he was put to death. But it is uncertain how far we can believe the curious stories of the Arabic travellers, from whom these details are derived.'
We have no information at what time the active authority of the Chagan was exchanged for this divine nullity, or why he was exalted to a position, resembling that of the Emperor of Japan, in which his existence, and not his government, was considered essential to the prosperity of the State. The labours of government were fulfilled by a Beg or viceroy," who commanded the army, regulated the tribute, and presided over the administration. He appeared in the presence of the Chagan with naked feet, and lit a torch; when the torch had burnt out he was permitted to take his seat at the right hand of the monarch. When evil times befell, the people held the Chagan responsible and called upon the Beg to put him to death; the Beg sometimes complied with their demand." The commander of an army who suffered defeat was cruelly treated his wife, children, and property were sold before his eyes, and he was either executed or degraded to menial
The most remarkable fact in the civilisation of this Turkish people was the conversion of the Chagan and the upper rank of society to Judaism. The religion of the Hebrews had exercised a profound influence on the creed of Islam, and it had been a basis of Christianity; it had won scattered prose
Ibn Fadhlan, ib. 592-593. He is called by Arabic writers the ishad (Gurdizi, tr. Barthold, 120; isha, Ibn Rusta; al-shad, cp. Marquart, op. cit. 21). But he was probably also known as the bul-khan, see below, p. 406, n. 1.
"Cont. De alm, imp, 178, ở gặp
χαγάνος ἐκεῖνος καὶ ὁ πέχ Ναζαρίας (text o kal méx erroneously, which we could correct even without the right reading in Cont. Th. 122). Ibn Fadhlan, ib. 592. Cp. Masudi (Sprenger),
3 Masudi, ib. 411.
lytes; but the conversion of the Khazars to the undiluted religion of Jehovah is unique in history. The date of this event has been disputed, and the evidence variously assigns it to the first half of the eighth century or to the beginning of the ninth. There can be no question that the ruler was actuated by political motives in adopting Judaism. To embrace Mohammadanism would have made him the spiritual dependent of the Caliphs, who attempted to press their faith on the Khazars, and in Christianity lay the danger of his becoming an ecclesiastical vassal of the Roman Empire. Judaism was a reputable religion with sacred books which both Christian and Mohammadan respected; it elevated him above the heathen barbarians, and secured him against the interference of Caliph or Emperor. But he did not adopt, along with circumcision, the intolerance of the Jewish cult. He allowed the mass of his people to abide in their heathendom and worship their idols."
The circumstances of the conversion are as uncertain as the date. Joseph, the Chagan whose Hebrew letter to the Rabbi Chisdai of Cordova in the tenth century is preserved, states that the Roman Emperor and the Caliph, whom he respectively styles the King of Edom and the King of the Ishmaelites, sent embassies laden with rich gifts and accompanied by theological sages, to induce his ancestor to embrace their civilisations. The prince found a learned Israelite and set him to dispute with the foreign theologians.
For the former date, our authority is the Khazar tradition preserved in the Letter of Joseph; it, is supported by Westberg, K. anal, ii, 34.
the latter (reign of Harun), Masudi (Sprenger), 407. According to Joseph, the name of the King who was con verted was Bulan, who passed through the Gates of Dariel and reached the land of Ardebil. We know from Arabic and Armenian sources that such an expedition was conducted by Bulkhan in A.D. 781. Bulkhan was the major domo (réx), as Westberg says; and we may suspect that this was his title, not his name. Marquart (who denies the genuineness of Joseph's Letter) places the conversion to Judaism in the second half of the ninth century, after the mission of Constantine (Streifzüge, 5-17), on the ground that
When he saw that they could
in the accounts of that mission_the
not agree on a single point, he said, "Go to your tents and return on the third day." On the morrow, the Chagan sent for the Christian and asked him, "Which is the better faith, that of Israel or that of Islam?" and he replied, "There is no law in the world like that of Israel." On the second day the Chagan sent for the learned Mohammadan and said, “Tell me the truth, which law seems to you the better, that of Israel or that of the Christians?" And the Mohammadan replied, Then on the third day the Chagan
Assuredly that of Israel."
called them all together and said, "You have proved to me by your own mouths that the law of Israel is the best and purest of the three, and I have chosen it."
The truth underlying this tradition-which embodies the actual relation of Judaism to the two other religions--seems to be that endeavours were made to convert the Chagans both to Christianity and to Islam. And, as a matter of fact, in the reign of Leo III. the Caliph Marwan attempted to force the faith of Mohammad upon the Khazars, and perhaps succeeded for a moment. He invaded their land in A.D. 737, and marching by Belenjer and Semender, advanced to Itil. The Chagan was at his mercy, and obtained peace only by consenting to embrace Islam." As Irene, who married the Emperor Constantine V., must have been the daughter or sister of this Chagan, it is clear that in this period there were circumstances tending to draw the Khazars in the opposite directions of Christ and Mohammad. And this is precisely the period to which the evidence of the Letter of Joseph seems to assign the conversion to Judaism. We may indeed suspect that Judaism was first in possession-a conclusion which the traditional
1 Der chaz. Königsbrief, 74 sqq. In its main tenor this story coincides with that told by Bakri (whose source here Marquart considers to be Masudi, Streifzüge, 7). The Chagan had adopted Christianity, but found it to be a corrupt religion. He sent for a Christian bishop, who, questioned by a Jewish dialectician in the king's presence, admitted that the Law of Moses was true. He also sent for a Mohammadan sage, but the Jew contrived to have him poisoned on his journey. The Jew then succeeded in converting the king to the Mosaic religion. It is clear that the same
tradition, recorded by Joseph, has been modified, in the Arabic source, in a sense unfavourable to Christianity and favourable to Islam. In the twelfth century the Spanish poet Juda Halevi wrote a curious philosophical religious work in the form of a dialogue between a king of the Khazars and a Jewish rabbi. It has been translated into English by H. Hirschfeld (Judah Hallevi's Kitab al Khazari, 1905).
* Baladhuri, apud Marquart, Streif sige, 12. The invasion of Marwan was. a reprisal for an expedition of Khazars, who in A.D. 730 penetrated to Adarbiyan.