311 PERSIA.-CLIMATE AND PRODUCTS.
CHAPTER XXVII-CLIMATE AND PRODUCTS.
IT is impossible to sketch in general terms the climatic peculiarities of a country
extending through twenty degrees of latitude. The difficulty is heightened if the country
extends for three thousand miles from east to west, and varies in its level from sunken
gorges one thousand three hundred feet below the sea to mountains whose summits are twenty
thousand feet in height. Only specific observations on different parts of the vast tract
can give any adequate idea of the inner moods and outward aspects of nature.
In Persia proper-both ancient and modern-there are two kinds of climate. The narrow strip
along the coast is a region of torrid heats. No snow is ever seen. Through the larger part
of the year rain seldom falls. The one redeeming feature, so far as moisture is concerned,
is the heavy dew, which saturates whatever Is exposed to it at night. The early mornings
are from this cause cool and refreshing. But as midday approaches, the scorching rays of
the sun drive away every particle of vapor and burn the earth to a crisp. The thermometer
marks as high as 125 F. Nature lies weltering or is blistered with heated sands blown in
clouds before some sudden gust or sirocco. Only certain types of animal and vegetable life
can survive the fierce heats of the worse than tropical summers. Men retreat from the
coast and find refuge in the foot-hills, or even ascend the mountains, till the torrid
season is past.
With the approach of autumn, when the reign of the sun is abbreviated and occasional
showers are blown up from the sea, the situation again becomes tolerable, and such life as
can be supported in the region finds a respite from the excesses of the climate. Along the
whole coast, as far east as the excessive limit of the Empire, the same extreme heats are
about the estuaries of occasional rivers into the damp suffocations of water-vapor and
Passing into the uplands of Persia, a great change is encountered. The winters are cold.
The thermometer marks fifteen degrees below the freezing point. Snow falls abundantly.
Severe storms drive across the face of the country. Then, with the opening of spring,
comes a heavy fall of rain. In summer the showers are few and scanty, and the autumns are
very dry. The temperature of midsummer is not enervating, being nearly always modified by
cool breezes. The fluctuation, however, between the noonday heat and the chill of night is
so considerable as to put the constitution to the test of endurance.
Turning to the mountainous countries of the Elburz, the Zagros, and Armenia, a still more
rigorous climate is experienced. With the return of the sun in summer the weather is
bright and genial, but the winter blasts are furious, and the snow heaps up to a great
depth in the gorges of the hills. The climate of Asia Minor was, on the whole, the best of
any in the confines of the Empire. The meteorological character of Syria has been
sufficiently noted in connection with the history of Babylonia; and that of Egypt, in Book
First. Cyrenaica had a delightful climate. Except in winter there was no rain at all, but
the summer vapors of the Mediterranean, heavy to saturation, drooping over the cool
uplands of this peculiar region, came down in dews so copious as to leave all nature
dripping: it was sufficient. In the winter time violent storms rolled along the coast,
bellowing with thunder and pouring out floods of rain.
On the extreme east of the dominions of the Achaemenians lay the valley of the Indus, with
such climatic, conditions as are not, perhaps, encountered anywhere else in the world. The
heats are so oppressive, the atmosphere so sultry, as to quench