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the most elevated parts must have been the soonest inhabited, came the more universal opinion, that such high places were the most favoured by the Divinity, and consequently, that they were the fittest for temples, and other sacred edifices : and hence the reason why most part of the sanctuaries of the ancients were upon hills and inountains, and that those hills and mountains were held in such peculiar veneration. *
It is a fact, that the nearer we approach those countries, which were once inhabited by the immediate children of Noah, the greater we find the degree of perfection in the state of the sciences and arts : and on the contrary, that the remoter we draw from them, the greater the mental incapacity, and the more unequivocal the disability, and the ignorance of mankind. The Scythians had not only historical and traditionary evidence to build their fabric of seniority upon, but they had also strong physically local circumstances, which belonged to them, and to them alone. For instance, if all parts of the globe were originally conjoined, and formed one complete whole ; if water resided for any length of time upon it, and at length ran off; or if fire
• D. Hankerville.
was its spring or formator ; in either case the Scythians had the plea of superior antiquity,. and that from the elevation of their country. For supposing the waters to have covered the earth, Scythia must have been the soonest freed from them : supposing the operations of fire, it must have been the soonest cooled, and of course the soonest fitted for life and vegetation.
Scythia was situated on the northern parts of Europe and Asia. The most northern were uninhabited, on account of the extreme coldness of the climate. The more southern in Asia that were inhabited, were distinguished by the name of Scythia intra et extra 'Imaum. The boundaries of Scythia were unknown to the ancients, as no travellers had penetrated beyond the vast tracts of land which lay at the north, the east, and the west. Scythia, however, comprehended the modern kingdoms of Tartary, Russia in Asia, Siberia, Muscovy, the Crimea, Poland, Hungary, Lithuania, the northern parts of Germany, Sweden, Norway, &c. How far it stretched to the eastward, we shall have presently occasion to enquire.
Scythia proper is the most elevated country of the world, or at least of what is called the 24
Old Continent. It proudly raises itself above the rest of the earth. It is a country more than three miles above the level of the sea, and is rested, as it were, on the summit of mountains, The other parts of the globe decline from it in regular gradation. It is the great reservoir of water for the most considerable part of Asia. To the south, you have, among other rivers, the Indus, the Ganges, the Burampooter, the Ghoango or Yellow River; to the north, the Oby and the Irtiz, the Jeninea and the Lena. These all stream from this elevated country. Here, however, as every where else, there are inscparable contrasts. Some parts are arid, comfortless, desert, and barren ; others the richest and most luxuriant that imagination can conceive. Soine are denied the blessing of running water, others have it in abundance, Where is there a more fertile country, than the valley which is bounded by China, and by the mountains of Thibet, a valley six hundred leagues in length, and four hundred leagues in breadth ? Where is there a finer climate, or a more productive soil, than the vast regions of the Mongols and Calmucks? *
Hist, des Voyages.
But it would be endless to range over this immense Scythiac dominion. One thing, however, is necessary to be remarked. If these vast solitudes, at this hour, possess an extraordinary degree of fruitfulness, what must they not have possessed, when they were cultivated and enriched by the labours of millions. When they were called the nursery of irresistible legions, the foundary of the human race? Cashmir, Bootan, Nassal, Thibet, even China itself, would lose its celebrated fertility, were it to be abandoned by its inhabitants. The southernınost ridge of the Bootan Mountains rises near a mile and a half perpendicular above the plains of Bengal, in an horizontal distance of only fifteen miles; and from the summit, the astonished traveller looks back on the plains, as on an extensive ocean beneath him. Further on is a chain of mountains still higher than the other. It is a continuation of the mountains Emodus and Paropamisus of the ancients; sometimes by the moderns, erroneously called Caucasus.
In short, the country of Thibet is altogether one of the highest in Asia, it being a part of that elevated tract, which gives rise not only to the rivers of India and China, which I have mentioned, but also to those of Siberia and Tartary : for, if we examine the map of Asia, we shall find that most of those capital rivers rise between the thirtyfirst and forty-seventh degrees of latitude, and between the seventieth and ninety-seventh degrees of longitude ; whence they run in every direction to the sea, as the Rhine, Rhone, Danube, and Po, do from the Alps.
The ancient oriental Scythians are not indeed accurately to be traced, either in regard to locality, knowledge, or science. The Greeks and Latins, though they were much nearer to this powerful people than we are, yet confessed the impracticability of the research, and the ignorance in which they were involved concerning them.. To the northward, however, in tlie neighbourhood of the Caspian, I must remark to you, there are still existing monuments, which clearly prove those regions formerly to have been inhabited by a polished and a lettered people, who traded with the Hindoos, and the Chinese, even considerably before the Christian æra. Pallas tells us of the remains of an ancient people he discovered on the banks of the Jenisca, in the neighbourhood of Krasnojarsk, latitude fifty-five degrees. In the mountain of Schlangenberg or Serpents, he found mines, with copper tools and other instruments, wrought with extraordinary
+ Table Chronol, lib. I.