The first condition necessary to a real settling down of Neolithic men, as distinguished from a mere temporary settlement among abundant food, was of course a trustworthy all-the-year-round supply of water, fodder for the animals, food for themselves, and building material for their homes. There had to be everything they could need at any season, and no want that would tempt them to wander further. This was a possible state of affairs, no doubt, in many European and Asiatic valleys; and in many such valleys, as in the case of the Swiss lake-dwellings, men settled from a very early date indeed; but nowhere, of any countries now known to us, were these favourable conditions found upon such a scale, and nowhere did they hold good so surely year in and year out as in Egypt and in the country between the upper waters of the Euphrates and Tigris and the Persian Gulf. Here was a constant water supply under enduring sunlight; trustworthy harvests year by year; in Mesopotamia wheat yielded, says Herodotus, two hundredfold to the sower; Pliny says that it was cut twice and afterwards yielded good fodder for sheep; there were abundant palms and many sorts of fruits; and as for building material, in Egypt there was clay and easily worked stone, and in Mesopotamia a clay that becomes a brick in the sunshine. In such countries men would cease to wander and settle down almost unawares; they would multiply and discover themselves numerous and by their numbers safe from any casual assailant. They multiplied, producing a denser human population than the earth had ever known before; their houses became more substantial, wild beasts were exterminated over great areas, the security of life increased so that ordinary men went about in the towns and fields without encumbering themselves with weapons, and, among themselves at least, they became peaceful peoples. Men took root as man had never taken root before.
But in the less fertile and more seasonal lands outside these favoured areas, there developed on the other hand a thinner, more
- We shall use "Mesopotamia" here loosely for the Euphrates-Tigris country generally. Strictly, of course, as its name indicates, Mesopotamia (mid rivers) means only the country between those two great rivers. That country in the fork was probably very marshy and unhealthy in early times (Sayce), until it was drained by man, and the early cities grew up west of the Euphrates and east of the Tigris. Probably these rivers then flowed separately into the Persian Gulf.