- Project Runeberg -  Through the Caucasus to the Volga /
83

(1931) [MARC] Author: Fridtjof Nansen Translator: Gerald C. Wheeler - Tema: Russia
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OVER THE CAUCASUS
83
been done to make things easier at the worst
placeSj where the rock walls fall straight down into
the swirling stream. It is quite possible that when
at certain seasons the stream was low, there was
some kind of passable road along the bed of the
stream. But when it is swollen, as it was now, the
rushing waters fill the whole bottom of the gorge,
and there is no way through it to be seen for men
or wingless cattle along the perpendicular sides. It
must have always been easy for a small force to shut
this gateway against the strongest army.
Wc came down again to the stream, and a bridge
led over to the right side. But the gap grew still
narrower ; it was as if wc were squeezed into the
very floor of this rent in the mountains, between
the mighty, lofty masses of rock. It is only nigh to
Hell that there can be such a road. Farther on the
way was quite shut to us ; there could not be any
passage. But the way down must be here. And
when wc came nearer, a narrow cleft opened where
the stream raced through.
This was evidently the gate itself, and before it
on the left side of the river was a little Russian fort
with round, strong towers at the corners, flat on
top, with breastwork sand embrasures for guns,
and loopholes in the walls.
According to old Georgian writers, King Mirvan
of Mzkhetha in the 3rd century b.c. shut this gap
with a wall and strong iron gates, and there are
said to be remains of the wall. Strabo (about the
beginning of our era) says that "a fortress wall
difficult to take guards the end of the road". Pliny

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