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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

found, modified

about the estuaries of occasional rivers into the damp suffocations of water-vapor and

malaria.

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