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Pages of On Airs, Waters, And Places



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On Airs, Waters, And Places   


16. And with regard to the pusillanimity and cowardice of the
inhabitants, the principal reason the Asiatics are more unwarlike
and of gentler disposition than the Europeans is, the nature of the
seasons, which do not undergo any great changes either to heat or
cold, or the like; for there is neither excitement of the
understanding nor any strong change of the body whereby the temper
might be ruffled and they be roused to inconsiderate emotion and
passion, rather than living as they do always in the state. It is
changes of all kinds which arouse understanding of mankind, and do not
allow them to get into a torpid condition. For these reasons, it
appears to me, the Asiatic race is feeble, and further, owing to their
laws; for monarchy prevails in the greater part of Asia, and where men
are not their own masters nor independent, but are the slaves of
others, it is not a matter of consideration with them how they may
acquire military discipline, but how they may seem not to be
warlike, for the dangers are not equally shared, since they must serve
as soldiers, perhaps endure fatigue, and die for their masters, far
from their children, their wives, and other friends; and whatever
noble and manly actions they may perform lead only to the
aggrandizement of their masters, whilst the fruits which they reap are
dangers and death; and, in addition to all this, the lands of such
persons must be laid waste by the enemy and want of culture. Thus,
then, if any one be naturally warlike and courageous, his
disposition will be changed by the institutions. As a strong proof
of all this, such Greeks or barbarians in Asia as are not under a
despotic form of government, but are independent, and enjoy the fruits
of their own labors, are of all others the most warlike; for these
encounter dangers on their own account, bear the prizes of their own
valor, and in like manner endure the punishment of their own
cowardice. And you will find the Asiatics differing from one
another, for some are better and others more dastardly; of these
differences, as I stated before, the changes of the seasons are the
cause. Thus it is with Asia.
17. In Europe there is a Scythian race, called Sauromatae, which
inhabits the confines of the Palus Maeotis, and is different from
all other races. Their women mount on horseback, use the bow, and
throw the javelin from their horses, and fight with their enemies as
long as they are virgins; and they do not lay aside their virginity
until they kill three of their enemies, nor have any connection with
men until they perform the sacrifices according to law. Whoever
takes to herself a husband, gives up riding on horseback unless the
necessity of a general expedition obliges her. They have no right
breast; for while still of a tender age their mothers heat strongly
a copper instrument constructed for this very purpose, and apply it to
the right breast, which is burnt up, and its development being
arrested, all the strength and fullness are determined to the right
shoulder and arm.
18. As the other Scythians have a peculiarity of shape, and do not
resemble any other, the same observation applies to the Egyptians,
only that the latter are oppressed by heat and the former by cold.
What is called the Scythian desert is a prairie, rich in meadows,
high-lying, and well watered; for the rivers which carry off the water
from the plains are large. There live those Scythians which are called
Nomades, because they have no houses, but live in wagons. The smallest
of these wagons have four wheels, but some have six; they are
covered in with felt, and they are constructed in the manner of
houses, some having but a single apartment, and some three; they are
proof against rain, snow, and winds. The wagons are drawn by yokes
of oxen, some of two and others of three, and all without horns, for
they have no horns, owing to the cold. In these wagons the women live,
but the men are carried about on horses, and the sheep, oxen, and
horses accompany them; and they remain on any spot as long as there is
provender for their cattle, and when that fails they migrate to some
other place. They eat boiled meat, and drink the milk of mares, and

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