250 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE ANCIENT WORLD.
CHAPTER XX-CLIMATE AND PRODUCTS.
TAKEN all in all, the countries included with in the Babylonian Empire were dry and hot.
On the south the desert was in close proximity. The seas which washed the borders of the
dominions of Nebuchadnezzar were small, and their influence was little felt at a distance
from the shore. Nor did the mountain ranges included within the Empire reach to such
length and rise to such height as to insure large quantities of rain or diffuse
everlasting freshness. The country was included between the thirtieth and thirty-seventh
parallels of latitude, and was through the larger part of its extent level and sandy.
From all of these circumstances heat predominated. The summers were long and scorching;
the winters, brief and mild. Of course, the high temperatures of Chaldaea, of Idumaea and
Palmyrene were more excessive in degree than in Mesopotamia and the northern provinces. In
all those parts approximate to the Persian Gulf, even in the hilly regions of Susiana, the
heat of midsummer is fearful. Frequently the thermometer at midday reaches 1.07 of
Fahrenheit, and even in the underground apartments, 'which the people construct to protect
themselves, the temperature hardly falls below 100. At night the heat is assuaged, and
the people find rest on the roofs of their houses. In all the low countries and southern
districts winter brings no snow. In December the rainy season sets in, and continues until
March. Sometimes the clouds pour down abundantly, and at intervals there are violent
storms of hail. Such is the general character of the eastern parts of what was the
In the western provinces, next to the Mediterranean, there was a moister and cooler
climate. In the mountainous districts of Libanus and Antilibanus the winter is
sufficiently rigorous. In the valleys, however, the climate is more mild than in the
corresponding districts of Europe. In some parts, indeed, as in Palestine and along the
Phoenician coast, the winters are scarcely more severe than in Babylonia proper. At the
Dead Sea the thermometer never falls to the freezing point of water, and in the summer
season the heats are intense and oppressive. In general, the temperature of Syria is about
as here described, but in the higher regions tile air has a freer movement, and the
effects of the heat are thereby assuaged.
The one great climatic drawback, however, in the countries once ruled by (he kings of
Babylon, is the fierce 'Sirocco, or hot wind of the desert. This burning blast is always
blown from the heated sands of Arabia. It is, the terror alike of man and beast. Mixed
with a cloud of fine hot sand the blast sweeps Up over the Syrian or Babylonian plains and
blisters what living thing soever it Smites. The sky grows lurid and the air is darkened.
The animals and birds fly to their covert, and man seeks a shelter for protection.
It is not likely that any great changes have occurred in the climatic conditions of the
Babylonian dominions during the twenty-four hundred years that have elapsed since the days
of the great Empire. Perhaps the soil in many parts has suffered some deterioration, but
the same products are undoubtedly yielded to-day as when they were gathered by the
husbandmen for Nebuchadnezzar's army. In one respect the country has suffered much. Many
regions have been stripped of their forests, and by this fatal procedure the natural
tendencies to drought have been aggravated. 'Especially is this true In Syria, the climate
of which has certainly under- gone some change from the denudation of the woodlands; but
the essential identity of products, ancient and modern, precludes