Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/208

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Europe, or Greece, and Asia, and accounting for the differences he has determined, he says: "You will find as a rule that the form of the body and the disposition of the mind correspond to the nature of the country. . . . All that the earth produces is conformed to the earth itself," understanding the term earth in its most comprehensive sense, and regarding in its definition less the configuration and qualities of the surface than those of the climates that prevail and modify the fauna and flora. "If Asiatics," he affirms, "are of a more gentle and less warlike nature than Europeans, the cause lies chiefly in the equability of their seasons." And further, "A perpetual uniformity fosters indolence; a variable climate gives activity to the body and the soul."

We shall therefore only be following the counsel and the example of the great minds of Greece if we seek, in studying its history, to ascertain how and how far the character of its people has been affected by the action of "the air, the water, and the place." In our inquiry into the character of the medium in which the tribes called Hellenes in the eighth century before the Christian era were developed, we have enjoyed the advantage of a long residence in Greece, during which we have observed the people in their struggles with a Nature which gives nothing without being paid down, in labor of mind and muscle.

The peoples who figured in history before the Greeks, occupied territories clearly defined by Nature. Egypt was the lower part of the valley of the Nile, and did not extend materially beyond it. Chaldeo-Assyrian civilization was developed in the spacious basin of the Euphrates and Tigris; a much larger field, but still one that had definite boundaries—in the Taurus Mountains on the north, the rampart of the Zagros on the east, the Persian Gulf on the south, and the Arabian and Syrian Deserts on the west. The Phœnicians, indeed, had more than one capital, and carried their trade through all the then known world, but their capitals succeeding one another, each received its knowledge and art from the one that preceded it, and gave them to the one that followed it, and their intercourse with the world was animated by the commercial spirit only. Their industry never drew its inspiration from an intense and vigorous living art; and all that was essential in them was the product of the narrow strip of land between the sea and Mount Lebanon. All Hebrew art was restricted to a still narrower area in the circuit of Jerusalem and the little kingdom that depended upon it. There were other peoples in western Asia and Asia Minor who made their influence felt abroad: but within themselves each formed a compact mass, inhabiting a concrete portion of the continent, and it is within that limited territory that we have to look for evidences of their genius and work.