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known to the Greek navigators. The Hellespont was reputed to be
so named from the legend, that Helle, the daughter of Plirixus, was
drowned in attempting to cross * its waters : and the Bosporus, from
the legend of lo having crossed it in the form of a heifer. The Pro-
pontis owes its name to its relative position, as the ''sea before the

(4.) The Palus IfodtiJi,* Sea of Azov, is a considerable sheet of
water to the N.E. of the Euxine, connected with it by the
BospdroB^ Cimmerinft Straits of Yeni-KaU ; it is described by the
ancients as of greater extent than it at present has.

(5.) The Mare Caipinm or Hyrcfinnm, Caspian Sea, was but
jmrtially known to the ancients, no vessels beinj^ built on its shores,
and the im})ervious character of the country which surrounded it,
preventing exploration by land. "We have already had occasion to
notice the erroneous views entertained by them in regard to this
sea : it was, after all, but natural to suppose that so large a body
of water was connected with the ocean. The Caspian is consider-

3 cjrl vKani 'EWnvwotnrf.—Il. vU. 86.
> " Frigrida me oohibent Euxlni littora Ponti.
Dictus ab antiquis Axenus ille fait :
Nam neqae Jactantur moderatia SDqnora rcntls,

Nee placidos portus hoepita navis adit."— Or. Tritt. iv. 4, 65.
< Hence it is termed 'EAAi}f wop^^uw.— jEsch. Pers, 746.
' Compare Ovid's expression :

" Quaque tenent Ponti Byzantia littora /aiKV*." — THst. i. 10, 31.
• It was regarded by .^schylus as at the very extremity of the world :

'E<rx«TOv Tonor ofu^l
MoiMTii' ixovax KCixvav.—Prom. 416.
' The name was referred to in the legend of lo's wanderings by ^Eschylus :
*laBlihv 6* in avrotf irT€vow6pots Ayun^ irvAot?

Aiwov<raif auXdiv' iianpaif MauartKoV
EoToc Si tfnfTotf curoei Aoyof fUyas
Tij^ «nyf iropcta«, B6<nropoi S" iwtaw/JMf
KtHX^fToi'-Prom. 731-736.


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ably more shallow now than formerly, the sea being constantly
reduced by the alluvial deposit of the rivers. Its level is some
eighty feet below that of the Euxine, so that its waters could
never have been drained off into the latter, as some of the ancients
imagined. The steppe E. of the Caspian had altered considerably
within histoiical times, inasmuch as the Oxus at one time dis-
charged itself into the Caspian.

(6.) Whether the Oziina Pains of the ancients represents the
Sea o/Aralf is doubtful : Ptolemy describes the former as a small sea,
and not as the recipient of the Oxus and Jazartes : the first undoubted
reference to the latter occurs in Ammianus Marcellinus in the 4th
century a.d. Its waters are also continually decreasing ; its level is
about 110 feet higher than the Caspian Sea.

§ 3. The mountain-sj'stem of Asia is regular and clearly defined.
(1.) A series of mountain-ranges traverses the whole length of the
continent, from the shores of the ^gaean Sea to those of the Eastern
ocean, dividing the amtinent into two uneqUbl portions — the
northern, which is by far the most extensive, including the vast
regions N. of the Euxine and Caspian Seas; and the southern
embracing the peninsulas and plateaus that lie adjacent to the
Indian Ocean. The main links in this great central chain consist of
the ranges of Taurus, Abus, Ararat^ Caspius Mons, Paropamlsus,
Hindu Kitsh, Emodi Montes, JJimalaya, and Semanthini
Montes. (2.) From this central range depend subordinate,
though still important systems, some of which exhibit great regu-
larity. Tlius in Central Asia there are three parallel ranges, now
named Kuen-luny Thian-shan, and Altai j which are connected
with the more southerly range of Himalaya by a series of transverse
ranges, of which Bolm' is the most important. The regularity of
the mountains in this region is so strongly marked, that Humboldt*
has divided them into two classes, viz. those which coincide with
parallels of latitude, and those which coincide with meridians of
longitude. A similar, though not an equal degree of regularity
pervades the mountains of Western Asia, as viewed from the
central highlands of Armenia. (3.) Another marked feature in
the Asiatic mountains, resulting in part from this regularity, is the
tendency to paraUelism, This feature did not escape the observa-
tion of the ancients, and is expressed in the names Taurus and
-^7*^itaurus, Lebanon and AntCicba^uon : it may be noticed on a
larger scale in the ranges of Zagrus which bound the plain of
MeS(;potamia on the E., and in the ranges which cross Armenia ;
and on a still larger scale in the lines which form the natural
boundaries of the countries of Western Asia, communicating to

• A»pect9 of Natwrty i. 94.


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them their peculiarly regular, we might almost say yeometrical^

llie mountain-system of Western Asia may best be regarded
from Armenia as a central point. Turning towards the N., the
lofty* rango of Oano&iiu forms a strong line of demarcation, striking
across the neck of land that divides the Euxine and Caspian
Seas in a south-easterly direction. Turning westward, three ranges
may be traced entering the peninsula of Asia Minor— one skirting
the northern coast and connecting with the £uropa?an system at
the Thracian Bos{K)rus, the most important links being Paryadrot
in Poutus, and the Bithynian and Mysian Olympui — ^another, under
the name of Antitavrns, striking across the plateau of Cappadocia
towards the S.W. — and a tljird, Tavm, yet more to the S., skirting
the Mediterranean Sea to the very western angle of the jxininsula :
the second of these forms a connecting link between the first and
third, being united with Taurus on the Wdeis of Cilicia, and with
Paryadres by an Intermediate range named 8eydXwt» on the borders
of Pontus and Armenia : the range may be traced even beyond the
point of its junction with Paryadres, in the Moichiei Xoiites on
the shores of the Euxine, and the chains which connect these with
Caucasus. Turning southward, it will be observed, that, near the
N.E. angle of the Mediterranean, Taurus sends out an important
offshoot, which skiits the eastern shore of that sea, and is carried
down through Syria and Palestine to the peninsula of Sinai, and
along the shores of the Red sea to the Straits of Bah-d-Mandeh :
the most important links in this chain were named, Aminus on the
borders of Cilicia, Bargj^lm in Syria, Lebaaon on the borders of
Phoenicia, the mountains of Palestine, the HigriMontot, or (as
they are more usually called) the 8ixud group, and the Arabioi
XoatM. Lastly, turning eastward, two chains may be traced —
one of which, under the name of Catpiu Mobs, skirts the
southern coast of the sea of the same name, and after culminating
in the lofty height of CktrOxras, proceeds in an easterly direction,
under the names of LabfltM on the borders of Hyrcania and Suiphi
Xoatw in Aria, to form a junction with ParoparnXsof, and so
with the mountains of Central Asia — the other strikes off towards
the S.E. towards the Persian Gulf, and was named Zagmf between
Media and Assyria, and ParachoAtliru in Susiana and Persis. We
must lastly notice the mountain chains of Armenia itself, which
form the connecting links between the various ranges already

• JEsobylus refers to its great height in the lines,
JUptjf 9M wpHns ovrbr Kovxaow itJ&k-g%^ hpmv

Kepv^ ^np^aUAowor.^FroM. 721, 723.


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described. Two imi«ortant chains traverse it in nearly parallel
lines from W. to E. ; one a continuation of Antitaurus, the other of
Taurus. The former was named Abus, and culminates in the
magnificent heights of the Greater and Less Ararat, overlooking the
valley of the A raxes : the latter assumed the names of Kiph&tee
in the W., and Catpiiii Mobs in the E., and under the latter
designation connected with the mountains to the S. of the Caspian
Sea : an offset from this range, named Madus, skirts the head of the
Mesopotamian plain, and returns in a northerly direction, under the
name of Gordysi montee, to the E. of the Tigris.

The ranges of Northern, Central, and Eastern Asia were but little
known ty the ancients. In the former direction, the Hyperborei
montM represent the Ural chain ; the Bhynmlci montes, the mountains
between the rivers Wolga and ZJroZ, and Horossns, the chain in which
the latter river has its sources. In Central Asia, the chain of J?o?or,
which strikes northwards from the junction of Paropamisus and Emodi
montes, was named Im&iis, though this was alBO applied to the
Himalayan range : the yet more northerly range of Muztag seems to
have been named Oomed&mm montes: from this, pandlel ranges are
emitted towards the E. and W. — in the former direction, the parallel
ranges previously referred to, and which may be identified in the
following manner, Serid montes with Kuen-lun^ Aecatapcai with
Thian-Shan, and Anxadi and AnnXbi montes with the Greater and
Legs AUai—ia the latter direction, the Sogdii and Oxii montes,
between the Oxus and laxartes, representing the present Kara and Ah
Tagh ; the Aspidi montes more to the N., in the Kirghiz steppe ;
and the Anand montes, the Tchingis range, yet more to the N.
In Extern Asia, the continuations of Himalaya were known to a
certain extent, and were named — ^Bepyrms, about the sources of the
Doanaa ; Damasd montes, about the 8oiu*ces of the Dorias ; and
Semaathini montee, in the direction of the Gvlf of Tonquin. The
range which supports the desert of Gobi on the E. may be referred to
imder the name Asmind montes, Khaigan.

§ 4. The plateaus and plains of Asia next demand our attention.
The amount of high table-land in this continent is one of its most
striking features : while Europe possesses but one plateau of any
extent, viz. Spain, the greater portion of Western and a large
portion of Central Asia stands at a very high elevation. Not to
speak of the immense plateau of Qobi^ N. of India, with which
the ancients were but slightly acquainted, we may notice the
plateau of Ivan, or Persia, which stands at an average elevation of
about 4000 feet ; that of Armenia, about 7000 feet ; and that of
Asia Minor, at a less elevation. Central Arabia, again, is a plateau ;
so also is the peninsula of Jlindostan, Indeed it may almost be
said, that, with the exception of the strip of low land that skirts the
shore, and the depression between the plateaus of Iran and Arabia
which is occupied by the plain of Mesopotamia, the whole of
Western Asia is elevated ground ; even the plain of Syria partakes


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of the same character to a certain extent ; for there is a perceptible
tiifference in its elevation, when compared with Mesopotamia. It
must not be supposed that these plateaus are throughout level :
extensive districts of unbroken plain are indeed one of their
characteristics, but not un frequently lofty ranges rise out of them
as from a new base, as may be marked particularly in Armenia and
Persia. The plains or lowlands of Asia, though not so extensive,
were important from their position and physical character: they
were the seats of commerce, not unfrequently of empire, and from
peculiarities of soil and climate, were eminently fertile : t^e well-
watered plain of Mesopotamia was the key-stone of the successive
empires of Nineveh, Babylon, Persia, and Syria : the plains of
Northern India, about the valleys of the Indus and Ganges, have in
all ages held a position of similar importance.

§ 5. The rivers of Asia are comparatively few. It is a necessary
consequence of the structure of plateaus, that few outlets should
exist for the waters of the interior. No river of any imi^rtance
attains the sea from the plateaus of Arabia and Persia : the Medi-
rerranean coast is unbroken by the embouchure of any considerable
stream ; the mountain wall that skirts the sea-coest forbids access.
Many of the rivers gather in(o lakes, or are absorbed in the sands ;
and hence w^e may institute a classification of them into oceanic and
continental, the former including those which reach the sea, the
latter those which are confined to the interior.

(1.) The rivers of the first class are found, as might be expected,
in the plains. There were but four with which the ancients were
well acquainted, and these retain their classical names to the present
day, viz., the Euphrates, 1'igris, Indus, and Ganges.

The Xaphxatee rioee in the highlands of Armenia, and consists in its
upper course of a double stream, of which the northern is now named
Kara-Bu, and the southern Murad-^^haT, the latter being the most
important. These unite, after a westerly coiu'se, on the bordera of
Asia Minor, and thence pursue a southerly course imtil the plain of
Mesopotamia is gained. The river then flowA towards the S.£., con-
verging to and ultimately uniting with the Tigris Its lower course
has evidently changed much even in historical times. The Euphrates and
Tigris had originally sepcunte outlets into the Persian Oulf, 9» also had the
Eulttus : these three unite in a single stream, now named SluU-el-Arab.
The Euphrates is navigable as high as Samosata, above which it assumes
the character of a mountain -stream, though its width and depth are
very considerable. It was fordable in sever^ places in its mid-course —
at Samosata, Commagene, Birtha, and Thapsacus. As it iraues from
a snowy country, it is liable to periodical floods, which commence in
March, and attain their greatest height towards the end of May. The
Tigris also rises in Armenia, but at a lower point than the Euphrates,
its source being a lake not far from the junction of the Karoriu and
Mw[(tdrdui(. Its direction in its upper course is towards the E. ; and
in this part it drains the extensive district enclosed by Taurus and

E 2


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Niphates on the N., Masius on the W. and S., and Gordyed montes
on the E. The latter range ^vee the Tigris a southerly direction, and
after escaping from the deep gorge by which it passes through the
lateral ridges of that chain, it enters upon the Mesopotamlan plain.
Preserving its southerly bearing, it comrerges to the Euphrates, and
above Babylon comes within twenty miles of it, but, agam receding,
ultimately unites with it in the SluU-d-Arab, The Tigris is shorter
than the Euphrates, their respective lengths being 1146 and 1780
miles : it is narrower and swifter, whence its name Hiddekel, "arrow."
The Tigris ' receives numerous tributaries, one of which, rising in
Niphates not hi from Lake Arsissa, lays claim to the name of Tigris.
The Indm (or Sinthus, as som« writers call it with a more exact con-
version of the native name SindJiu) was comparatively little known te
the ancients until the time of Alexander's expedition. Its sources were
erroneously placed in Paropamisus, whereas they really are te be
foimd to the north of Himalaya in about 83^ long, and 31^ lat. Pursu-
ing in this part of its course a westerly direction, until arrested by the
transverse chain of Bclofj it bursts through the ranges of Himalaya in
a south-westerly direction, and, receiving on its right bank the Cophei
or Oophen, Kdbul^ with its affluent the Ghoaipei or Choas, Kam^ik,
enters the plain of the Tunjah^ and receives on its left bank the united
waters of the four rivers which water that district, the AcesXnM,
Chenabj the Hydaipei or Bidupes, Jdumf the Hydradtee, BavU and
Uie Hyp&nis or Hyph&iii, Sudedge or Gitarra: it thence pursues an
unbroken course te the Indian Ocean, inte which it discharges itself by
several channds, two of which, named the Buggaur and Saia, are the
principal : these channels have been in a constant state of change, but
lb is probable that the same general features have'been preserved in all
ages, and that the statement of Strabo and others, that there were
two prmcipal outlets, is not really inconsistent with that of Nearchiis
and Ptelemy, that there were several, according to the latter aeven,
outlets. The Ganges was not known until a comparatively late period;
subsequently te the age of Alexander the Great* it was frequently
visited, and excited considerable interest among geographers. It rises
in the western ranges of Himalaya^ and pursues a south-easterly course
te the Gangeticus Sinus. Ancient writers vary in their reports of its size,
which was, generally speaking, much exaggerated, and of the number of
channels tlm>ugh which it reaches the sea. Fifteen of its tributaries
are enumerated by Arrian, the names in several cases agreeing with
the modem appellations, as in the case of the Jom&neB, Jumna, Sonm,
8one, and others. The Dyard&nei, Brahmaputra, was regarded as an
affluent of the Ganges. The Ganges forms an important feature in
the map of Ptelemy, as the intermediate boundary of Eastern and
Western India. The names of other important rivers more to the E.
were known te the ancients, but cannot be identified with certainty :
the Doftnas, Iraxoaddy, the Dorias, Salven, which discharge their waters
into Sabaricus Sinus ; the Serof, Meinam, flowing into the Magnus
Sinus: the Ambastiu, the Camboja; the Cottiixis, 8i Kiang; and
the BMitibiif, Hoang-ho,

> Ovid refers to the Ganget as a very distant river, in the lines,
** Nee patria est habitata tibi, sed ad usque nivosum
Strymona venisti, Marticolamque Geten :
Persidaquc, et lato spatiantem flumine Gangem,
£t qnasoonque libris decolor Indus aquas." — JV^t. v. 8, 21.


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(2.) The chief continental streams are the Jaxartes, the Oxtis,
the Rha, the Gyrus, and Daix, which were regarded as all flowing
into the Caspian, though the two first now join the Sea of Aral.

The Jazartet, 8ir-deria, rises in the central range of Asia, the
Comedarum montes, and purBues a north-westerly course, in length
about 900 miles, to the Sea of Aral. The Ozu, Amou or JyhAn,
rises more to the S. in Imaus, and pursues a generally parallel course.
The upper courses of these rivers were well known, as they watered the
fertile districts of Baotriana and Sogdiana : their lower courses crossed
a sandy desert. The Oyrns, Kur, and its tributary the Arazei, Aras,
drain a large portion of the district between the Caspian and Euxine
Seas. The former rises in the ranges of Scosdises, the latter in Abus,
and after a lengthened course through the highlands of Armenia, they
converge and imite at a distance of 110 miles from the Caspian. As
they are fed by the snows of the high country, their stre^uns are at
certain periods very impetuous, and hence the difficultv experienced
by the Romans in maintaining bridges.* The Blia, Wolga, is first noticed
by Ptolemy, who describes it as rising in the country of the Hyper-
borean Sarmatians, and as being divided in its upper course into two
arms, one of which is now named the KamOj the other the Wolga.
The Daix, Ural, rises in the Ural chain, and flows southwards to the
Caspian, with a course of about 9.00 miles.

§ 6. The climate and temperature of Asia is of the most diver-
sified character. While the northern district falls within the arctic
circle, the southern extremity very nearly reaches the equator, and
in these parts the extremes of cold and heat are experienced. But
with the exception of the peninsulas that protrude towards the S.,
the southern iX)rtion of the continent enjoys a fine temi^erate
climate, adapted to the growth of almost every production requi-
site for the sustenance and comfort of man. The elevation of the
plateaus of Western Asia contributes to moderate the heat which
would otherwise be excessive, and offers a most agreeable alter-
nation to the inhabitants of the adjacent lowlands. The climate
of the central steppes is more severe, from the openness of the
country, the absence of foliage, and the small amount of rain that
falls there. But even here it is suflBciently warm to mature every
species of vegetation, wherever shelter and irrigation exist.

§ 7. The productions of Asia are too numerous to be specified
with any degree of minuteness. We shall therefore briefly notice
such as enter^ largely into the commercial arrangements of the
continent, and these we shall class tmder the following heads^ —
I. Metals, Precious Stones, &c. II. Materials of Clothing. III.
Spices and Aromatic Drugs.

I. Gk)ld was evidently very abundant in ancient times. The eastern
monarohs not only employed it largely in personal decorations, but

» "Pontem Indignatus Araxes."— Virg. JBn. vlil. 728.


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even in furniture and the equipment of their equipages. Qold was
procured in some quantities from Mount Tmolus in Asia Minor, whence
it was carried down by the rivers Pactolus and Macander : it was from
this source that the Lydian monarchs enriched themselves. But the
chief supply was undoubtedly obtained from the mountains of the
north. Herodotus (iii. 102) tells us that the Indians collected it for
the Persian monarch on a sandy desert : he refers probably to the
district of Gobi, the mountains that separate it from Bdkliara being to
this day auriferous. Yet even this district would hardly supply the
amount of gold which appears to have been current. There is good
reason for believing that the mines of the Altaic range— the main
source at present to the Russian Empire — were worked in ancient
times, and that from these arose the report which was current in
Herodotus's time (iii. 100), that gold was obtained in large quantities
from the extreme east. If this were the case, the gold was in part
supplied from the neighbourhood of Laht Baikal and the sources of
the OnOf about which are the chief mines at the present time. It was
also believed that Arabia yielded gold : this is not the case in the
present day, and it is therefore possible that it was one of the articles
of commerce introduced through that country ; still the veiy general
unanimity of ancient writers on this subject may have had a more
substantial ground even than this. Silver is not found in equal abun-
dance in Asia ; the main supply is in the Caucasian range, to which
Homer* perhaps refers in his notice of the Halizonians ; there were
also silver mines in Bactriana. The amount of silver appears, however,
to have exceeded these sources of supply, and it is therefore pi-obable
that large quantities were imported by the Phoenicians from Spain.
Iron and copper were derived from the mines of Pontus in Asia Minor
from the days of Ezekiel (xxvii. 13-14): the latter was also found in
Carmania, and was possessed by the Massageta), who may have
obtained it from the Kirghiz steppes. Precious stones formed another
of the valuable productions of Asia. Whether the ancients were ac-
quainted with the diamond mines of Gohrondaf on the eastern coast of
India, is uncertain ; but it appears probable, from a passage in Ctesins
(/luita, cap. 5), that they were aware of the productiveness of the
mountainous districts of Central Asia, particularly of the range E. of
Bactriana, where the jaaper, lapis lazuli, and onyx, still abound.
Pearls were found in the Persian Gulf, and along the shores of India
and Ceylon.

II. In the second class of productions, we have first to notice cotton,
described by Herodotus (iii. 10»5) as "tree-wool" (exactly answering
to the German term haumwoHe). It was found, according to that
author, in India ; it also grew on the island Tylus in the Persian Gulf.
Silk was not introduced into Western Asia until a comparatively late
period. The earliest notice of the silkworm occurs in Aristotle (H. N.,
V. 19), the term translated "silk" in the Bible being really applicable
to a different texture ; it was manufactured into rol^ at Cos, whence
the Latin expression Coa vestit. As soon, however, as the Romans
became acquainted with the habitat of the silkworm, they named it
Sericum after the Seres of China. Flax grew in India and" elsewhere.
The finest kind of linen was named by the Greeks hysgus, after a
Hebrew word of the same meaning. Wool of fine quality was produced

' Avrap 'AAi^wvwi' 'OAioc leal 'Eir^crrpo^oc ^PX^*'
TiiK6$fy ii 'AAi^/h^, oBey ipyvftw ivr\ ytv^kti.—Jl. il. 850.


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Chap. VI. COMMEECE. 79

in many districts, particularly in the neighbourhood of Miletus, in
Syria (according to Ezekiel xxvii. 18), and in Northern India or
Cashmere, the flocks of which country are noticed by Ctesias (Ind.,

Online LibrarySir William Smith William Latham BevanThe student's manual of ancient geography → online text (page 10 of 82)