- Project Runeberg -  Through the Caucasus to the Volga /
84

(1931) [MARC] Author: Fridtjof Nansen Translator: Gerald C. Wheeler - Tema: Russia
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THROUGH THE CAUCASUS TO THE VOLGA
84
(ist century a.d.) says of "the Caucasian Pass,
which many wrongly call the Caspian Pass," that
"here there are gates with iron-studded beams;
under them runs an evil-smelling stream, and up
on the mountain on this side of the pass Hes a
strong fortress called Cumania, which has barred
the way for countless peoples. At this spot, which
Hes right opposite the Iberic town of Harmastes,
the land is thus shut off with gates." Possibly there
is here a confusion with the fortifications at Derbent,
east of the Caucasus on the Caspian. The evil
smelling stream may, on one supposition, have
reference to the naphtha springs and gas rising out
of the ground there. The Arab geographer Yakut
el-Hamavi (about a.d. 1230) tells us that "in the
Caucasian Pass, whereby the Alans are reached,
Hes the stronghold of Bab-Allan (the Alans’ Gate),
a most remarkable place ; there a very few men can
bar the way over the mountain. It Hes impregnable
on a steep rock and has a spring. Before the
stronghold there is a deep valley, across which a
bridge leads that is right under the castle wall, and
is fully commanded by it."
But however that may have been, it seems almost
an impossibility for even a great anny, without the
artillery of today, to have got through here, so long
as the place was held by a handful of brave and stout
warriors ofthe kind reared by these mountain tribes.
On a high hill behind the Russian fort were
the ruins of an old Ossete stronghold. This was
Tamara’s. So, as wc took leave of this land of
wonders, this magic nåme rang in our ears as a last

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