307 PERSIA-THE COUNTRY.
waters is the same as that of Neyriz. A few other small lakes are found in different parts
of the country, but none contain fresh water.
In its general features the country is mountainous. The geographical peculiarity of the
ranges is the frequent gorges and chasms by which they are cleft in twain. Not only where
the mountains are divided for the passage of streams, but in many other places where
nature makes no such demand, the chains are parted, so that transit from one side to the
other is easy. In many districts roads are made through these great chasms, on either side
of which rise frightful precipices of rock, some of which are two thousand feet high.
Sometimes the abyss is closed overhead, and the road winds under a grotto.
The range already referred to as dividing the Hot from the Cold region of Persia is cleft
in no fewer than four places by these striking and picturesque mountain gorges. These
passes have in all ages furnished the inhabitants with a safe and easy route from the
inland districts to the sea, and at the same time, from their defensibility, have ever
been a safe-guard in war. A few men at the top of the chasms can easily make the passage
of an army impossible. It was in the very entrance to one of these mountain gorges that
PASARGADJE, the ancient capital of the country, was situated.
Of political divisions in Persia proper there were five: Paractacene, Mardyene, Taocene,
Ciribo, and Carmania. The first of these lay among the mountains of Bakhtiyari. The second
was adjacent to the first, and extended from Bebahan to Kazerun. Taocene lay in the Hot
district along the coast. Ciribo was the other division of the same region. The eastern
part of the Persian, upland was known as Carmania-the modern Kerman. Between these
political districts into which the country was divided there were no natural lines of
demarkation, the only distinction of that kind being the mountain range already, referred
to as dividing the coast region from the table-lands.
Nearly one-half of Persia proper was uninhabitable. The vast mountain regions
could support only a scanty population. The sandy plains, devoid of vegetation and
incrusted with salt, could sustain no animal life. It was on the bill-slopes, and by the
banks of infrequent rivers, and in the valleys that a population accumulated and
flourished. The uplands generally tended to sterility, and the landscape in such regions
had a touch of desolation, dropping away to a brown horizon of cheerlessness and solitude.
The forests of Persia were in the mountains. Between Bebahan and Shiraz there is a tract
of fine wood land sixty miles in extent, and from the latter city eastward towards
Carmania is an attractive country of low hills covered with timber and divided by
luxuriant valleys. The plains about Shiraz and Kazerun are beautiful in appearance, and
even under their scanty supply of water produce abundant crops.
Turning to the provinces and countries which were conquered by the Persian monarchs and
added to their dominions, we find many of those already described in the histories of
Chaldaea, Media, and Babylonia. But the limits of Persia reached far beyond these
countries, and embraced others of which no account has hitherto been given. Some of the
regions with which we are now brought into contact lay eastward from Persia proper, some
to the far north-west, and some to the south-west, looking to Africa.
Beginning with the eastern part of the Empire, we have first of all the Great Plateau of
IRAN, a vast region extending through twenty degrees of longitude, and raised to an
elevation of five thousand feet above the level of the sea. It has a breadth of seven
degrees, forming a kind of rectangle with an area of five hundred and fifty thousand
square miles. The grand plateau extends from the Zagros mountains to the valley of the
Indus, and embraces the great countries of Khorasan and Afghanistan.
Two-thirds bf this vast region are a desert. The plain is high and rainless. The few
streams that descend from the mountain slopes flow a short distance and are swallowed in
the sands. Of all the