314 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE ANCIENT WORLD.
asp is a reptile of considerable size, sometimes growing to the length of six feet. It is
an exceedingly poisonous serpent and is easily angered. It has the power of distending the
skin of its neck to a wonderful degree, and this it does when its wrath is kindled. It
feeds on mice, frogs, and other vermin, and is not considered an unmixed evil even by
those who are exposed to its often fatal presence. In the desert districts of Syria is
found the cerastes, or horned snake, whose bite is still more deadly than that of the asp.
The creature lies buried in the sand, from which it differs but little in color.
Unnoticed, it springs out like the rattlesnake, and a sudden twinge in its victim's foot
or hand is the
signal of doom. In the same countries with the cerastes and the asp is found the
chameleon-that strange creature which assimilates the color of its surroundings. It has a
most oddly shaped body, a long prehensile tail like that of an opossum, and a protruding
eye of unusual brilliancy. Its motions are contradictory and ludicrous. Its pace is that
of a snail, and the creature could never "make a living" but for the precision and
lightning-like rapidity with which its long, round tongue is darted forth to seize its
prey. Whatever is thus taken is gulped like a flash, and then the odd beast is as sober
and devout as ever. The chameleon is the bete noir of the bugs of the Orient.
CHAPTER XXVIII-PEOPLE AND CITIES.
ACCORDING to the best ethnological views of modern times the great Aryan race, now
distributed through Europe and America, had its origin within the Persian Empire. The
province of Bactria has generally been selected as the geographical source of this
widespread and aggressive family of mankind. From their native seat the primitive Aryans
seem to have moved southward. The oldest division migrated into the Punjab, and passed
thence down the various valleys to the confluence of the rivers in the Indus- and thence
to the sea. Thus was established the Indic branch of the human family. A second division
spread over the Great Plateau of Iran, constituting the Iranic stock, of which the Persian
race became the central and principal development. The Medes, of whom an account has
already been given, were a collateral branch of the same stock; and were thus allied by
blood with the people who subverted them. These two races, properly
combined in the one ethnic title of Medo-Persian, were the principal and only noteworthy
developments of the Iranian stock.
The time of the early tribal migrations here referred to is lost in prehistoric shadows.
It was not until about the eighth century B. C. that the Medo-Persians assume an important
part in the affairs of nations. But Berosus gives to the Medes an influence over
surrounding tribes as early as B. C. 2400. If such a date be allowed, it would make the
Iranians as old a people as the Chaldaeans themselves. It will be remembered that
tradition assigns to Chaldaea a "Median" dynasty among the first that ruled that country.
An inscription of Tiglath-Pileser about B. C. 1100, mentions the "country of the Medes,"
and the same reference occurs on one of the black obelisks belonging to the ninth century.
The early Iranic race, with its semi- nomadic habits, divided into many branches,
ramifying into distant provinces. People of this race mixed with the Susianians on the
south and spread westward into Armenia and to the shores of the Aegean. But, as already
said, the home and prin-