Astrabad, Or Asterabad
ASTRABAD, or ASTERABAD, a small province of Persia, bounded on the N. by the Caspian Sea and the desert, on the S. by the Elburz Mountains, W. by Mazanderan, and E. by the river Gourgan. The country, although mountainous, and interspersed with dense forests, in which it is scarcely possible to travel, possesses beautiful and fertile valleys, producing rice, wheat, and other grains in abundance, or spread out in a boundless expanse of verdure, the pasturage of numerous flocks and herds. Fraser, who travelled through Persia in 1822, extols in the most lavish terms the appearance of the country. The soil, with little culture, is exceedingly productive, owing to the abundance of water which irrigates and fertilises it. But while the province in many parts presents a landscape of luxuriant beauty, it is a prey to the ravages of disease, and the frequent incursions of the surrounding tribes. The heavy torrents which fall in the rainy season stagnate in the forests, forming morasses, which, in the heats of summer and autumn, exhale a pestilential vapour, from the decomposition of the vegetable matter they contain. From these seats of noxious effluvia the wandering tribes of shepherds fly beyond the Gourgan or the Atrek, and live on the verge of the burning sand, although they have to carry water for each day's consumption from the distant river. The better classes retire from the intense heats of summer into the mountains ; but the settled inhabitants of the villages, who cannot so easily remove, and who generally remain, suffer severely from sickness. The inhabitants, notwithstanding the unhealthiness of their climate, are a stout and athletic race. The province is famous for furnishing a supply of matchlocks for the king's body-guard. It is the ancient Hyrcania, and the native country of the Kajers, a Turkish tribe, of whom the king is the head, and on whom he considers he can rely in times of danger.