Page:Frontiers.djvu/51

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49
Frontiers

But there has been a much greater and more beneficent advance in the machinery and implements employed than in the nature or diversity of the Frontiers chosen. In the first place the idea of a demarcated Frontier is itself an essentially modern conception, and finds little or no place in the ancient world. In Asia, the oldest inhabited continent, there has always been a strong instinctive aversion to the acceptance of fixed boundaries, arising partly from the nomadic habits of the people, partly from the dislike of precise arrangements that is typical of the oriental mind, but more still from the idea that in the vicissitudes of fortune more is to be expected from an unsettled than from a settled Frontier. An eloquent commentary on these propensities is furnished by the present position of the Turco-Persian Frontier, which was provided for by the mediation of Great Britain and Russia in the Treaty of Erzerum exactly sixty years ago, and was even defined, after local surveys, by Commissioners of the two Powers as existing somewhere in a belt of land from 20 to 40 miles in width stretching from Mount Ararat to the Persian Gulf. There, unmaterialized and unknown, it has lurked ever since, both Persia and still more Turkey finding in these unsettled conditions an opportunity for improving their position at the expense of their rival that was too good to be surrendered or curtailed. In Asiatic countries it would be true to say that demarcation has never taken place except under European pressure and by the intervention of European agents.

But even in Europe, where fixed boundaries are of much older standing, it is surprising to note the absence or inadequacy till recent times of proper arrangements