310 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE ANCIENT WORLD.
the larger part of the timber and stone demanded by the architects of Ecbatana and
West of Armenia lay Asia Minor, a country of vast resources. The general elevation is not
great. A single mountain, Argaeus, rises to the height of thirteen thousand feet. The
country is one of broad plains well-watered and fertile, rich in timber and minerals.
Nearly every important product of the north temperate zone was found in this delightful
region. The principal rivers were the Meander and the Hermus. Outside of the mountainous
borders of Armenia and Asia Minor, on the north and north-east, were various lowland
districts which were overrun by the armies of the Empire, but were not of much historical
importance. South of the Taurus lay Lydia, Pamphylia, and Cilicia, provinces the names of
which frequently occur in the annals of the times.
It must not be supposed that the limit of Persian ambition on the west was marked by the
shore-line of the Aegean. Many of the littoral islands and the more remote Cyclades were
both claimed and conquered by the successors of Cyrus. Of these may be mentioned Rhodes,
Cos, Samos, Chios, Lesbos, Tenedos, Lemnos, Imbros, Samothrace, and Thasos. Further on,
the countries of Thrace and Paeonia were subjugated and held for twenty years by Darius.
More important than any* other island conquest was that of Cyprus. Here were fine forests.
Here grew the vine and the olive. Here the cornfields flourished, and here the copper
mines poured out their wealth. The island is one hundred and forty miles in length and
thirty-five miles broad, somewhat mountainous in the interior, but in all respects a
beautiful and valuable country.
Of the African districts brought under dominion of the Persians, the principal was Egypt,
of which an ample geographical description has already been given in Book First. Beyond
Egypt was Libya, a desert country dotted with oases. The tract lay along the
Mediterranean, and varied considerably in breadth from a narrow strip to districts several
miles in width. The chief products were dates and the hides of wild animals. From this
region, moreover, a large proportion of the African slaves of antiquity were gathered by
traders and pirates.
Further west along the coast was Cyrenaica, lying between the meridians of 20 and 23 15'
E. The country is a highland, and is for that reason well-watered and fruitful. Rich
pastures and fields of grain might be seen even from times most ancient. The people were
much more civilized than were the Libyan savages, and the province-which was the
westernmost of the Persian dominions-was always regarded as among the best in Africa.
It will be remembered that in addition to vast districts and countries-Eastern,
Northwestern, South-western-here described as parts of the Empire of the Achaemenians, all
of the countries of Media, Babylonia, Assyria, and Egypt were likewise embraced in their
almost world-wide dominion. The great bulk of the territory lay to the east; but outside
of the valleys of the Indus and the Oxus the lands stretching out beyond Persepolis were
of little value. Civilization has never been able, in those vast and arid regions, to
maintain more than a precarious footing. The greater part was a riverless, shrubless
waste, better adapted to the cultivation of jackals and bustards than to the development
of highways and the growth of cities.
In the western half of the Empire nature was more generous. Here were the rich and
powerful countries of Susiana, Media, Babylonia, Assyria, to say nothing of the fertile
and productive countries of Syria, Armenia, and Asia Minor. Egypt herself, the harvest-
field of the whole earth, was for a while included among the territorial treasures of the
descendants of Cambyses. Within their dominions six great rivers throbbed like tremendous
arteries, sending life from the mountains to the seas. The Jaxartes, the Oxug, the Indus,
the Tigris, the Euphrates, and the Nile-such were the mighty currents on whose banks were
gathered the subjects of Darius, and on whose bosoms floated fleets of boats bearing his