IXXVill PRELIMINARY ESSAY.
tury of our era. At this time, according to Hamza of Ispahan and Masudi, the Euphrates was navigable as high as Hira, a city
lying south-west of ancient Babylon, near Kufa, (now at a long distance from the actual channel of the river), and the ships of India and China were constantly to be seen moored before the houses of the town.' Hira was then abounding in wealth, and the country round, now a howling wilderness, was full of that life and prosperity which water bestows in such a climate. A gradual recession took place in the position of the headquarters of Indian and Chinese trade. From Hira it descended to Obolla, the ancient Apologos, from Obolla it was transferred to the neighbouring city of Basra, built by the Khalif Omar on the first conquest of Irak (636), from Basra to Siraf on the northern shore of the gulf, and from Siraf successively to Kish and Hormuz.
57. Chinese Annals of the Thang dynasty of the seventh and eighth centuries, describe the course followed by their junks in voyaging to the Euphrates from Kwangcheu (Canton). After indicating the route and the times occupied as far as Ceylon,2 we are told that they passed in front of MoLAI (Malé of Cosmas, Malabar), after which they coasted ten small kingdoms towards the north-west, and after two days' sail to the north-west acros
I Remand, Relations, etc., 1, xxxv; Tennent's Ceylon, i, 541; Masudi in Prairies d'Or, i, 216 segq. The passage in Masudi, as translated by Messrs. Barbier de Meynard and Pavet de Courtille, is not so precise in
its evidence as I should have gathered from Reinaud and Tennent. I have not access to Hamza.
Hira was the seat of a race of kings who had embraced the Christian
religion, and reigned above six hundred years under the shadow of Persia" (Gibbon, ch. li).
2 All which, strange to say, is omitted by Deguignes, from who this is quoted (Mem. de l'A cad. des Insc., xxxii, 367). The passage does not seem to have been reproduced by later Chinese scholars. It also speaks, as may be gathered from Deguignes in another essay, of the different places in Asia whither the goods taken to' the Gulf were carried for sale,
and indicates places of commerce on the coast of Africa (Mon., as above, xlvi, 547),