- Project Runeberg -  Through the Caucasus to the Volga /
190

(1931) [MARC] Author: Fridtjof Nansen Translator: Gerald C. Wheeler - Tema: Russia
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THROUGH THE CAUCASUS TO THE VOLGA
190
between the flat land and steppes north of the
Caucasus and the eastern lands to the south was
over this plain along the Caspian; and at Derbent
the steep mountains shut the plain in so that it is
at its narrowest. This has been called the Caspian
Gate. It was this road that was followed by the
wandering peoples from the north, and it was here
that the Scythians and others forced their way
through in the 7th century b.c. and overcame the
Medes (Herodotus, I, 103-106; IV, I).
At Derbent a wall was built 60 to 70 kilometres
long, running from the shore over the plain to the
foot of the mountains about 600 metres above the
Caspian. Like all that is great in this part of the
East the wall was attributed to Iskander Bcg
(that is, Alexander the Great). According to the
Arab Yakut-el-Hamavi (about a.d. 1230), the Sas
sanid king Kobad built a brick wall at Derbent
(in Arabian, Bab-el-Abvab = the Gate of Gates)
against the Khazars to the north, while his son
Anushirvan (a.d. 531-579) built the wall of stone.
It still stands in great part. Derbent is the Persian
nåme and means Gate-lock; the Tatar nåme
Temir-kapu means Iron Gate.
Around this town and its wall there has been
much fighting through the ages, and many are the
legends linked with it. For the Russians in their
efforts to push their dominion towards the south
east it was naturally of great moment to have this
gateway in their power. As early as 1722 Peter the
Great occupied the town during his Persian cam
paign. It had afterwards to be handed back to

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