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The Plain Invading Tribes

europe, africa, communities, times, history, land and sea

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THE PLAIN: INVADING TRIBES course of history traced so far, has in its main fea tures been due to the control and stimulus exerted on man by two geographical factors, the desert and the sea, each acting as a protection to communities so simply organized as not at first to be bound together by any strong ties. Other controls have been alluded to, but they have only modified the action of these greater controls. To the facts that surrounded by the desert there happened to be areas of fertile land and that surrounded by the sea there happened to be islands, were due the earlier civiliza tions. Because of their connection with those early communities other communities arose which owed their existence more or less directly to the same geographical conditions, and because they were near the original communities they were of necessity near the desert and the sea.

These communities were neither in the equatorial zones, where there is little stimulus to advance, nor in the colder north, where the difficulties of climate were too hard for primitive men singly to overcome them with any degree of success. They were for the most part along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, on such parts as could be occupied by man. But there were early communities eastward of the Mediterranean Sea, and later the Roman Empire brought the west of Europe into direct touch with such civilization as then existed. Thus Europe, and for the most part south Europe, had come almost inevitably to be the land the history of whose peoples was of most account in the world, because here and here only was a belt of desert and a belt of sea studded with islands and divided by peninsulas.

We have assumed that the distributions of land and water, of heat and cold, of rain and drought, have been all through historic times just as they are now. This is probably true, if we mean by historic times those times whose history we know, but there is good reason to suppose that, while man has been on the earth, things have not always been as they are now, and if, as we have seen in the case of Carthaginians and Romans, past con ditions do influence later history, it is obvious that the prehistoric geographical conditions must also have acted as controls even in historic times, and even if the effects of these have been obliterated' by the action of others more recent, it is useful to notice how areas with which we are familiar have been affected by conditions different from those we know.

Now as things stand at present, it counts for a great deal that Europe is in far more direct relation with both Asia and Africa than is either with the other. A globe shows that Europe, Asia and Africa form a great paral lelogram, that Europe lies between a great part of Asia and a great part of Africa, and that in particular the lands whose history we have considered lie in a band diagonally across the great land mass of Euro-Asia Africa.

Thus Europe, the land of early civilization, by reason of its position with reference to the distributions of land, is open to influences from two directions : from the south from Africa, and from the east from Asia.

At present and during all historic times, between Europe and Africa there has intervened not only the Mediterranean but also the Sahara : it is not the Mediter ranean but the Sahara that separates the white man from the black. Even now, under most favourable circum stances, it takes three months to cross it, and the measure of its efficiency as a protection may be realized by noting the fact that, while south of it migrating tribes have wandered through the length and breadth of the con tinent, while in Euro-Asia there is scarcely a square mile that has not resounded to the tread of alien hosts, conquering as they went or seeking new homes, yet across the Sahara, though individuals have come in peace, no body of men of any account has ever come in war or peace.

Thus through historic times Africa has had com paratively little effect on the history of Europe. The peoples to the south, in a naturally low state of civiliza tion because of the want of stimulus, were unable to cross this great barrier and have the only effect they could have : they could not destroy such civilizations as had grown up to the north of it. The desert acted as a pro tection against attacks not only on Egypt but on all the lands in which the Mediterranean civilization had grown up—on Phoenicia, Greece, Carthage and Rome.

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