312 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE ANCIENT WORLD.
the energy of the strongest race if long exposed to their debilitating influence. For a
while, in a rainless season, the valley will be filled with intolerable clouds of dust,
driven into the eyes and nostrils of everything alive, and then a tornado will roll up
from the horizon and pour out a flood, whirled into sheets by furious winds. Then will
come a lull; the stifling air becomes laden with hot vapors, under the influence of which
human nature collapses. The delta of the great river is a locality so hot and dank, so
infected with miasmatic vapors and flooded with poisonous waters, as to be unendurable
except for a small portion of the year.
Turning to the vegetable growths of the Empire, and beginning with the woodland, we find
in Persia proper a valuable, but not very extensive, forest. The prevailing trees are
oaks) sycamores, poplars, planes, willows, cypresses, acacias, and junipers. The principal
shrubs are the wild fig, the wild almond, the tamarisk, the myrtle, the box, the
rhododendron, the tragacanth bush, the blackberry, and the licorice- plant. Perhaps no
country in the world is richer in native fruits than Persia. The date-palm flourishes.
Lemons, oranges, and pomegranates abound. Grapes, apricots, and plums are found in all
parts. Peaches, quinces, and apples are indigenous to the country. Pears, figs, and
mulberries are gathered in abundance. The "royal" walnuts, sold in all the markets of the
world, are from Persia. The almonds and pistachio-nuts served in the great hotels of
Europe and America are in many cases a Persian product. In short, almost every variety of
fruit produced in the north temperate zone either grows wild in this land, or else yields
abundantly under transplantation.
In the matter of grain the products are almost equally various. Besides the usual small
crops of the field many products peculiar to the country are added to her resources. Of
this sort are madder, and indigo, and henna. Opium and tobacco are also produced in large
quantities, though it is quite certain that some of these were unknown in ancient times.
Cotton has been from time immemorial a product of Persia, but Indian corn is of recent
The wild animals are almost identical with those of Mesopotamia.1 The ichneumon, however,
is not found west of the. Zagros. It inhabits the strip of hot country next to the Indian
Ocean. The birds of Persia are the same as those of Assyria and Babylonia. To these must
be added the oyster-catcher, the hooded crow, and the cuckoo. In the matter of song birds
the Persian woods and hedges can boast of a greater variety than almost any other country,
thrushes and nightingales being of the number. Swallows, sparrows, and blackbirds also add
their less artistic music.
The supply of fish was, so far as the coast countries were concerned, quite inexhaustible.
In the Hot district of Southern Persia this article of food gave a name to the
inhabitants, who were known to the ancient writers as Ichthyophagi. The sea also gave an
unusual contribution in its whales, which were often cast ashore. The bones were a great
treasure to the natives, who used them for building huts. The waters along the coast
abounded in oyster- beds, from which the inhabitants scooped up with little exertion a
large proportion of their food.
The rivers of the Empire were, as a general thing, well supplied with fish; but the same
could not be said for the lakes, whose brackish waters were rarely capable of supporting
life. The reptiles of the country were of the same species as those inhabiting
Mesopotamia. Snakes have always prevailed in the Persian plateau, but they are not
especially venomous. The insects, however, are peculiarly troublesome, many of the species
being of a sort to endanger life by their bite or sting. Scorpions are everywhere,
creeping into houses and furniture. In some districts there are poisonous spiders or
tarantulas. There are also centipedes, whose bite is sometimes fatal. Among the lesser
pests may be mentioned mosquitoes, which swarm and buzz and bite with the ferocity of
those infesting the banks of the Lower Mississippi. I See Book Fifth, pp. 2S2-2S4.