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MERU MERV

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Originally appearing in Volume V18, Page 176 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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MERU MERV or MAUR, an oasis and town of Asia, in the Transcaspian province of Russia. The oasis is situated on the S. edge of theKara-kum desert, in 370 30' N. and 62°E. It is about 230 M. N. from Herat, and 28o S.S.E. from Khiva. Its area is about 'goo sq. m. The great chain of mountains which, under the names of Paropamisus and Hindu-Kush, extends from the Caspian to the Pamirs is interrupted some 18o m. south of Merv. Through or near this gap flow northwards in parallel courses the rivers Heri-rud (Tejend) and Murghab, until they lose themselves in the desert of Kara-kum. Thus they make Mery a sort of watch tower over the entrance into Afghanistan on the north-west and at the same time create a stepping-stone or Nape between north-east Persia and the states of Bokhara and Samarkand. The present inhabitants of the oasis are Turkomans of the Tekke tribe. In 1897 they numbered approximately 240,000. The oasis is irrigated by an elaborate system of canals cut from the Murghab. The country has at all times been renowned throughout the East for its fertility. Every kind of cereal and many fruits grow in great abundance, e.g. wheat, millet, barley and melons, also rice and cotton. Silkworms are bred. The Turkomans possess a famous breed of horses and keep camels sheep, cattle, asses and mules. They are excellent workers in silver and noted as armourers, and their carpets are superior to the Persian. They also make felts and a rough cloth of sheep's wool. The heat of summer is most oppressive. The least wind raises clouds of fine dust, which fill the air, render it so opaque as to obscure the noonday sun, and make respiration difficult. In winter the climate is very fine. Snow falls rarely, and when it does, it melts at once. The annual rainfall rarely exceeds 5 in., and there is often no rain from June till October. While in summer the thermometer goes up' to 970 F., in winter it descends to 19.5°. The average yearly temperature is 6o°. Here is a Russian imperial domain of 436 sq. m., artificially irrigated by works completed in 1895. History.—In Hindu (the Puranas), Parsi and Arab tradition, Mery is looked upon as the ancient Paradise, the cradle of the Aryan families of mankind, and so of the human race. Under,,, the name of Mourn this place is mentioned with Bakhdi (Balkh) in the geography of the Zend-Avesta (Vendidad, ed. Spiegel, 1852-1863), which dates probably from at least 1200 B.C. Under the name of Margu it occurs in the cuneiform (Behistun) inscriptions of the Persian monarch Darius Hystaspis, where it is referred to as forming part of one of the satrapies of the ancient Persian Empire. It afterwards became a province (Margiana) of the Graeco-Syrian, Parthian and Persian kingdoms. On the Margus—the Epardus of Arrian and now the Murghab—stood the capital of the district, Antiochia Margiana, so called after Antiochus Soter, who rebuilt the city founded by Alexander the Great. They were closed down in 1882, but the collieries belonging to them continue to be worked on a large scale, yielding over 2000 tons of coal a day. The fourth great ironworks were those of Pen-y-darran which were carried on from 1782 to 1859. It was at Dowlais (in 1856) that Bessemer steel was first rolled into rails, but the use of puddled iron was not wholly abandoned at the works till 1882. It has now eighteen blast furnaces, and extensive collieries are also worked by the company, and large branch works were opened on the sea-board at Cardiff in 1891. Cyfarthfa was converted into steel works in 1883. The iron ore used is mainly imported from Spain. Merthyr Vale is almost entirely dependent on coal-mining and has one of the largest collieries in south Wales (Nixon's Navigation). The population of this district more than quintupled between 1881 and 1901. From 185o the government of the town was vested in a local board of health which in 1894 became an urban district council; by charter granted on the 5th of June 1905, it was vested in a corporation consisting of a mayor, 8 aldermen and 24 councillors. It was made a county borough from the 1st of April 1908. It comprises about 17,759. acres, is divided into eight wards and besides the older town, it includes Penydanan (1 m. N.E.), Dowlais (2 M. N.E.), Plymouth (1 m. S.) and Merthyr Vale (5 m. S.). It has a separate commission of the peace, and in conjunction with Aberdare and Mountain Ash, has had a stipendiary magistrate since 1829. The parliamentary borough which was created and given one member in 1832 and a second in 1867, includes the parish of Aberdare and parts of the parishes of Llanwonno, Merthyr Tydfil and Vainor (Brecon). There is an electric tramway (completed in 1901) from the town to Cefn and Dowlais. In 1901 about 5o%of the population above three years of age spoke both Welsh and English, 71% spoke Welsh only, and the remainder English only. The ancient parish of Merthyr Tydfil has been divided into five ecclesiastical parishes (Merthyr, Cyfarthfa, Dowlais, Pentrebach, and Penydarran) and part of another parish (Treharris). These six parishes form the rural deanery of Merthyr in the archdeaconry and diocese of Llandaff, and in 1906 had nine churches and fifteen mission rooms. An inscribed stone (Artbeu) has been built into the east wall of the parish church; and two other inscribed stones removed from Abercar Farm in the greater Taff valley now lie in the parish churchyard. The old structure of the parish church has been entirely removed except the base of the tower. There is a Roman Catholic church in Penydarran Park and 'another at Dowlais. The Nonconformists, of which the chief denominations are the Baptists, Congregationalists and Methodists—Wesleyan and Calvinistic—had in 1906 82 chapels, 49 of which were used for Welsh services and 33 for English. The public buildings include, besides the churches, a town hall and law courts (1898), drill hall (1866), library, market house, a county intermediate school, general hospital built in 1887 and enlarged in 1897, and an isolation fever hospital, a theatre (1894) and a fountain presented by Sir W. T. Lewis as a memorial to the pioneers of the town's industry. At Dowlais there are public baths (1900) and a free library which have been provided by the owners of the Dowlais Works, Oddfellows' hall (187.8), and a fever hospital (1869). At Thomas Town there is a recreation ground of 16 acres, formed in 1902. In 19o8 the corporation purchased Cyfarthfa Castle (formerly the residence of the Crawshay family) with a park of 62 acres including a lake of 6 acres. The Roman road from Cardiff and Gelligaer to Brecon passed through Merthyr and the remains of a supposed fort were discovered in Penydarran park in 19o2. Three miles to the north of Merthyr, on a limestone rock about 47o ft. above the lesser (eastern) Taff are the ruins of Morlais Castle, built about 1286 by Gilbert de Clare About the 5th century, during the rule of the Persian Sassanian dynasty, Mery was the seat of a Christian archbishopric of the Nestorian Church. The town was occupied (A.D. 646) by the lieutenants of the caliph Othman, and was constituted the capital of Khorasan. From this city as their base the Arabs, under Kotaiba (Qotaiba) ibn Moslim, early in the 8th century brought under subjection Balkh, Bokhara, Ferghana and Kashgaria, and penetrated into China as far as the province of Kan-suh. In the latter part of the 8th century Mery became obnoxious to Islam as the centre of heretical propaganda preached by Mokanna (q.v.). In 874 Arab rule in Central Asia came to an end. During their dominion Merv, like Samarkand and Bokhara, was one of the great schools of learning, and the celebrated historian Yaqut studied in its libraries. In 1040 the Seljuk Turks crossed the Oxus from the north, and having defeated Masud, sultan of Ghazni, raised Toghrul Beg, grandson of Seljuk, to the throne of Persia, founding the Seljukian dynasty, with its capital at Nishapur. A younger brother of Toghrul, Daud, took possession of Mery and Herat. Toghrul was succeeded by his nephew Alp Arslan (the Great Lion), who was buried at Merv. It was about this time that Mery reached the zenith of her glory. During the reign of Sultan Sanjar or Sinjar of the same house, in the middle of the 11th century, Mery was overrun by the Turkish tribes of the Ghuzz from beyond the Oxus. It eventually passed under the sway of the rulers of Khwarizm (Khiva). In 1221 Mery opened its gates to Tule, son of Jenghiz Khan, chief of the Mongols, on which occasion most of the inhabitants are said to have been butchered. From this time forward the city began to decay. In the early part of the 14th century the town was made the seat of a Christian archbishopric of the Eastern Church. On the death of the grandson of Jenghiz Khan Mery was included (1380) in the possessions of Timur-i-Leng (Tamerlane), Mongol prince of Samarkand. In 1505 the city was occupied by the Uzbegs, who five years later were expelled by Ismail Khan, the founder of the Safawid dynasty of Persia. Mery remained in the hands of Persia until r 787, when it was captured by the emir of Bokhara. Seven years later the Bokharians razed the city to the ground, broke down the dams, and converted the district into a waste. When Sir Alexander Burnes traversed the country in 1832, the Khivans were the rulers of Merv. About this time the Tekke Turkomans, then living on the Heri-rud, were forced by the Persians to migrate northward. The Khivans contested the advance of the Tekkes, but ultimately, about 1856, the latter became the sovereign power in the country, and remained so until the Russians occupied the oasis in 1883. The ruins of Old Mery cover an area of over 15 sq. m. They consist of a square citadel (Bairam All Khan kalah), 1 m. in circuit, built by a son of Tamerlane and destroyed by the Bokharians, and another kalah or walled inclosure known as Abdullah Khan. North from these lies the old capital of the Seljuks, known as Sultan Kalah, and destroyed by the Mongols in 1219. Its most conspicuous feature is the burial mosque of Sultan Sanjar, reputedly dating from the 12th century. East of the old Seljuk capital is Giaur Kalah, the Mery of the Nestorian era and the capital of the Arab princes. North of the old Seljuk capital are the ruins of Iskender Kalah, probably to be identified with the ancient Mery of the Seleucid dynasty.
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