National Geographic : 1918 Jul
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE THE VARIED RESOURCES All of the varied resources that con tributed to make the nations of antiquity materially great are still available for the future enrichment of the people dwelling in those same lands. Herodotus, writing of Lower Mesopo tamia in the noontide of its prosperity, declared: "It is far the best corn land of all the countries I know. It is so superb that the average yield is two hundred *fold, and three hundred fold in the best years. But I will not state the dimen sions (of the plants) I have ascertained, because I know that for any one who has not visited Babylonia and witnessed these facts about the crops for himself they would be altogether beyond belief." In the days of the early Caliphate an inventory showed some 12,500,000 acres of land under cultivation; and Sir Wil liam Wilcox in his report, "The Irriga tion of Mesopotamia," published in 1911, states that the Tigris-Euphrates delta is an arid region of some 12,500,000 acres, but capable of easy leveling and reclama tion. The Arabic name for this region is Sawad, which means the black land. And northern Mesopotamia is equally rich in possibilities. In ancient days this was a district "so populous and full of riches that Rome and the rulers of Iran fought seven centuries for its possession, till the Arabs conquered it from both," writes A. J. Toynbee. The same author points out that "in the ninth century A. D. northern Meso potamia paid Harun-al-Rashid as great a revenue as Egypt, and its cotton com manded the market of the world." It is well known that our word muslin is de rived from the name of the city Mosul, in Upper Mesopotamia. SPLENDID POSSIBILITIES; NEGLECTED RESOURCES And why shculd this land not be pro ducing as well as ten centuries ago? The soil and the climate have not changed. The rainfall and the water for irrigation are just as abundant as in the days of old. The people are the same that lived then in the land, equally industrious and thrifty. Why have the past four cen turies laid a blight over the fairest corn land of the east? But it is not Mesopotamia alone that offers agricultural returns in the Empire of Turkey. There are the fertile sea coast plains of ancient Philistia, the up lands of Moab and Ammon, the wheat fields of the Hauran south of Damascus, and the great valley between the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon, in Syria; the whole elevated plateau of central Asia Minor, with Konia (ancient Iconium) as its center. There are the fertile river val leys and hillsides of Armenia and Kur distan, together with the famous Cilician plain and the regions about Smyrna and Broussa. Not only grain of every kind rewards the industry of the peasant, but also fruits of every variety, semi-tropical and temperate, are easily produced. Who has not eaten of the figs of Smyrna and the dates of Bossrah or heard of the grapes of Eschol? PRIMITIVE METHODS OF AGRICULTURE The first interest of the Turkish Em pire is agricultural. From north to south and from east to west it offers splendid opportunities to the farmer. And these lands in great part lie uncultivated. Res ervoirs for the storage of water and other irrigation works that might change desert acres to producing fields are not con structed. The most primitive modes of cultiva tion are still in use-the ox-drawn plow of Bible days, the cutting of great fields of grain with the sickle, the threshing floor, where wheat is trodden out by the hoofs of animals; the slow and painful hand labor, with clumsy instruments, that yields but a minimum of return for the effort expended. It is all a tale of splendid possibilities, but of neglected and undeveloped re sources. Yet it is a promise to the future generation of boundless productivity and of untold wealth in store for progressive industry and a benevolent government. The marvelous resources of this Em pire are not comprised in its agricultural possibilities alone. The story of Croesus gathering gold from the river sands is not an idle tale. Just this year an Amer ican missionary writes: "Grains of gold are frequently found in the gravel left after the torrential floods."