244 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE ANCIENT WORLD.
the slopes of Mount Hermon, in latitude 33 25' to latitude 31 47' N., where it loses its
existence in the brackish waters of the Dead Sea.
The region is peculiar. The valley is clearly the result of some cataclysm or volcanic
eruption, by which the surface of the earth has been rent, producing a wide gorge or
fissure, the lower or southern portion of which is greatly depressed below the surface.
The Jordan begins his course at a considerable elevation above the sea, and pursues a
somewhat precipitous course to the latitude of Merom, where the sea level is attained.
From this point onwards the Jordan is lower than. the Mediterranean, and as the descent is
rapid, the level of the river at the salt lake which engulfs it is one thousand three
hundred and twenty feet below that of the sea. On the two sides of the Jordan the land
rises in rocky ridges. The country is thus divided into two slopes set over the one
against the other. In width the fertile part of the valley is from one to ten miles, and
this narrow tract embraces about all the fertile land which Palestine possesses. A few
vales here and there, generally running at right-angles to the course of the river, have a
deposit of rich soil, from which spring beauty and fragrance, but the general aspect of
the country is forbidding and gloomy.
On the highlands rising from the right or west bank of the Jordan are found the small
states of Judaea, Galilee, and Samaria, while on the corresponding slope to the left lie
the provinces of Ituraea, Bashan, and Gilead. The whole land is hilly, undulating, rising
into a mountainous background. The southern portion is most arid and barren, cheerless and
uninviting. The northern part has a larger number of running streams. In some districts of
Samaria there are plains and valleys which invite cultivation and yield fair rewards to
toil. The most beautiful part is Galilee, in which water-brooks, sloping hills, and green
forests send back to the eye a sense of rest and quiet. Of the level portions of Palestine
the fairest to view is the plain of Esdraelon, stretching from the bay of Acre to the
valley of the Jordan and presenting many flowery landscapes.
The last of the subordinate divisions of this small but famous country is Philistia-from
which by a corruption of the spelling the name of Palestine's derived. The district lies
to the right towards Egypt, and in its general aspect is like the other provinces, though
on a lower level. Towards the sea Philistia sinks into a sandy plain, but the inland parts
are more attractive and contain a good deal of cultivable land, yielding wheat and barley
in abundance. In this region are the cities of