Pastoral Life In Asia

Four different modes of life enumerated.--Northern and southern

climes.--Animal food in arctic regions.--Tropical regions.--Appetite

changes with climate.--First steps toward civilization.--Interior of

Asia.--Pastoral habits of the people.--Picture of pastoral life.--Large

families accumulated.--Rise of patriarchal governments.--Origin of the

towns.--Great chieftains.--Genghis Khan.

There ar
four several methods by which the various communities into

which the human race is divided obtain their subsistence from the

productions of the earth, each of which leads to its own peculiar

system of social organization, distinct in its leading characteristics

from those of all the rest. Each tends to its own peculiar form of

government, gives rise to its own manners and customs, and forms, in

a word, a distinctive and characteristic type of life.

These methods are the following:

1. By hunting wild animals in a state of nature.

2. By rearing tame animals in pasturages.

3. By gathering fruits and vegetables which grow

spontaneously in a state of nature.

4. By rearing fruits and grains and other vegetables by

artificial tillage in cultivated ground.

By the two former methods man subsists on animal food. By the two

latter on vegetable food.

As we go north, from the temperate regions toward the poles, man is

found to subsist more and more on animal food. This seems to be the

intention of Providence. In the arctic regions scarcely any vegetables

grow that are fit for human food, but animals whose flesh is

nutritious and adapted to the use of man are abundant.

As we go south, from temperate regions toward the equator, man is

found to subsist more and more on vegetable food. This, too, seems to

be the intention of nature. Within the tropics scarcely any animals

live that are fit for human food; while fruits, roots, and other

vegetable productions which are nutritious and adapted to the use of

man are abundant.

In accordance with this difference in the productions of the different

regions of the earth, there seems to be a difference in the

constitutions of the races of men formed to inhabit them. The tribes

that inhabit Greenland and Kamtschatka can not preserve their

accustomed health and vigor on any other than animal food. If put upon

a diet of vegetables they soon begin to pine away. The reverse is true

of the vegetable-eaters of the tropics. They preserve their health

and strength well on a diet of rice, or bread-fruit, or bananas, and

would undoubtedly be made sick by being fed on the flesh of walruses,

seals, and white bears.

In the temperate regions the productions of the above-mentioned

extremes are mingled. Here many animals whose flesh is fit for human

food live and thrive, and here grows, too, a vast variety of

nutritious fruits, and roots, and seeds. The physical constitution of

the various races of men that inhabit these regions is modified

accordingly. In the temperate climes men can live on vegetable food,

or on animal food, or on both. The constitution differs, too, in

different individuals, and it changes at different periods of the

year. Some persons require more of animal, and others more of

vegetable food, to preserve their bodily and mental powers in the best

condition, and each one observes a change in himself in passing from

winter to summer. In the summer the desire for a diet of fruits and

vegetables seems to come northward with the sun, and in the winter the

appetite for flesh comes southward from the arctic regions with the


When we consider the different conditions in which the different

regions of the earth are placed in respect to their capacity of

production for animal and vegetable food, we shall see that this

adjustment of the constitution of man, both to the differences of

climate and to the changes of the seasons, is a very wise and

beneficent arrangement of Divine Providence. To confine man absolutely

either to animal or vegetable food would be to depopulate a large part

of the earth.

It results from these general facts in respect to the distribution of

the supplies of animal and vegetable food for man in different

latitudes that, in all northern climes in our hemisphere, men living

in a savage state must be hunters, while those that live near the

equator must depend for their subsistence on fruits and roots growing

wild. When, moreover, any tribe or race of men in either of these

localities take the first steps toward civilization, they begin, in

the one case, by taming animals, and rearing them in flocks and herds;

and, in the other case, by saving the seeds of food-producing plants,

and cultivating them by artificial tillage in inclosed and private

fields. This last is the condition of all the half-civilized tribes of

the tropical regions of the earth, whereas the former prevails in all

the northern temperate and arctic regions, as far to the northward as

domesticated animals can live.

From time immemorial, the whole interior of the continent of Asia has

been inhabited by tribes and nations that have taken this one step in

the advance toward civilization, but have gone no farther. They live,

not, like the Indians in North America, by hunting wild beasts, but by

rearing and pasturing flocks and herds of animals that they have

tamed. These animals feed, of course, on grass and herbage; and, as

grass and herbage can only grow on open ground, the forests have

gradually disappeared, and the country has for ages consisted of great

grassy plains, or of smooth hill-sides covered with verdure. Over

these plains, or along the river valleys, wander the different tribes

of which these pastoral nations are composed, living in tents, or in

frail huts almost equally movable, and driving their flocks and herds

before them from one pasture-ground to another, according as the

condition of the grass, or that of the springs and streams of water,

may require.

We obtain a pretty distinct idea of the nature of this pastoral life,

and of the manners and customs, and the domestic constitution to which

it gives rise, in the accounts given us in the Old Testament of

Abraham and Lot, and of their wanderings with their flocks and herds

over the country lying between the Euphrates and the Mediterranean

Sea. They lived in tents, in order that they might remove their

habitations the more easily from place to place in following their

flocks and herds to different pasture-grounds. Their wealth consisted

almost wholly in these flocks and herds, the land being almost every

where common. Sometimes, when two parties traveling together came to a

fertile and well-watered district, their herdsmen and followers were

disposed to contend for the privilege of feeding their flocks upon it,

and the contention would often lead to a quarrel and combat, if it had

not been settled by an amicable agreement on the part of the


The father of a family was the legislator and ruler of it, and his

sons, with their wives, and his son's sons, remained with him,

sometimes for many years, sharing his means of subsistence, submitting

to his authority, and going with him from place to place, with all his

flocks and herds. They employed, too, so many herdsmen, and other

servants and followers, as to form, in many cases, quite an extended

community, and sometimes, in case of hostilities with any other

wandering tribe, a single patriarch could send forth from his own

domestic circle a force of several hundred armed men. Such a company

as this, when moving across the country on its way from one region

of pasturage to another, appeared like an immense caravan on its

march, and when settled at an encampment the tents formed quite a

little town.

Whenever the head of one of these wandering families died, the

tendency was not for the members of the community to separate, but to

keep together, and allow the oldest son to take the father's place as

chieftain and ruler. This was necessary for defense, as, of course,

such communities as these were in perpetual danger of coming into

collision with other communities roaming about like themselves over

the same regions. It would necessarily result, too, from the

circumstances of the case, that a strong and well-managed party, with

an able and sagacious chieftain at the head of it, would attract other

and weaker parties to join it; or, on the arising of some pretext for

a quarrel, would make war upon it and conquer it. Thus, in process of

time, small nations, as it were, would be formed, which would continue

united and strong as long as the able leadership continued; and then

they would separate into their original elements, which elements would

be formed again into other combinations.

Such, substantially, was pastoral life in the beginning. In process of

time, of course, the tribes banded together became larger and larger.

Some few towns and cities were built as places for the manufacture of

implements and arms, or as resting-places for the caravans of

merchants in conveying from place to place such articles as were

bought and sold. But these places were comparatively few and

unimportant. A pastoral and roaming life continued to be the destiny

of the great mass of the people. And this state of things, which was

commenced on the banks of the Euphrates before the time of Abraham,

spread through the whole breadth of Asia, from the Mediterranean Sea

to the Pacific Ocean, and has continued with very little change from

those early periods to the present time.

Of the various chieftains that have from time to time risen to command

among these shepherd nations but little is known, for very few and

very scanty records have been kept of the history of any of them. Some

of them have been famous as conquerors, and have acquired very

extended dominions. The most celebrated of all is perhaps Genghis

Khan, the hero of this history. He came upon the stage more than three

thousand years after the time of the great prototype of his class, the

Patriarch Abraham.