Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 33.djvu/49

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39
THE MORAL INFLUENCE OF CLIMATE.

Islamized highlands of Central Asia. The most obstinate dissenters of the Greek Church have their strongholds in northern Russia, while the heresies of the Cossacks are limited to ultraconvivial celebrations of ecclesiastic holy-days. Even in ancient Greece the South-Hellenic Spartans seem to have been much less heterodox than their North-Hellenic rivals.

The supposed concomitance of low latitudes and low morals—in Origen's sense of the word—is a theory considerably modified by the reports of our latter-day north-pole explorers. Chamisso, Pallas, Adams, Gabriel Sarytchew, and Kane agree that certain tribes of the polar regions are sensual to a degree that would have scandalized the natives of ancient Lesbia, and certainly suffices to amaze the modern Cossacks, who, in their turn, astonish the not over-scrupulous moralists of the Danubian principalities. Among the Yakoots of northern Siberia mesalliances of an unmentionable kind are condoned as readily as a still more unprecedented degree of sexual precocity which Chamisso ascribes to the "almost exclusively animal diet of the wretched pygmies." Our equally carnivorous Indians are, however, characterized by a sexual apathy which an able American ethnologist seems inclined to consider a principal cause of their gradual extinction; and Chamisso's hypothesis must probably be supplemented by other explanations—for instance, the enforced idleness of his pygmies during the snow-bound season of short days and overlong nights. Idleness may likewise account for the erotic excesses of islanders enjoying the benefits of a fertile soil and a genial climate, like the notorious natives of various parts of the Grecian Archipelago and the Lesser Antilles, not to mention the ne plus ultras described in the reports of the first South Sea explorers. As a rule, the prevalence of incontinence bears an inverse ratio to the predominance of active modes of life; in any sense of the word, the continence of hunters and nomads being almost rivaled by that of intensely industrial communities.

Cæteris paribus, however, precocity increases with the distance from the isotherm of Stockholm, about the sixtieth degree of northern latitude in Europe and the forty-fifth degree in the western hemisphere. North of that parallel the stunted and short-lived hyperboreans marry as early as the premature children of the tropics, tropical highland regions generally excepted. The copper-colored natives of the Peruvian alturas marry late, while under the same parallel the Creoles of the Brazilian lowlands do not hesitate to encourage the matrimonial propensities of children in their earliest teens, boys of fourteen and girls of thirteen and twelve, or, if we shall believe Dr. Burmeister, even of ten and nine. The courtships of Sicily, too, are expeditious,