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Characteristics of the lnhabitants of the General Climes
Characteristics of the lnhabitants of the General Climes - from Tetrabiblos by Claudius Ptolemy
The demarcation of national characteristics is established in part by entire parallels and angles, through their position relative to the ecliptic and the sun. For while the region which we inhabit is in One of the northern quarters; the people who live under the more southern parallels, that is, those from the equator to the summer tropic, since they have the sun over their heads and are burned by it, have black skins and thick, woolly hair, are contracted in form and shrunken in stature, are sanguine of nature, and in habits are for the most part savage because their homes are continually oppressed by heat; we call them by the general name Ethiopians. Not only do we see them in this condition, but we likewise observe that their climate and the animals and plants of their region plainly give evidence of this baking by the sun.
Those who live under the more northern parallels, those, I mean, who have the Bears over their heads, since they are far removed from the zodiac and the heat of the sun, are therefore cooled; but because they have a richer share of moisture, which is most nourishing and is not there exhausted by heat, they are white in complexion, straight-haired, tall and well-nourished, and somewhat cold by nature; these too are savage in their habits, because their dwellingplaces are continually cold. The wintry character of their climate, the size of their plants, and the wildness of their animals are in accord with these qualities. We call these men, too, by a general name, Scythians.
The inhabitants of the region between the summer tropic and the Bears, however, since the sun is neither directly over their heads nor far distant at its noon-day transits, share in the equable temperature of the air, which varies, to be sure, but has no violent changes from heat to cold. They are therefore medium in colouring, of moderate stature, in nature equable, live close together, and are civilized in their habits. The southernmost of them are in general more shrewd and inventive, and better versed in the knowledge of things divine because their zenith is close to the zodiac and to the planets revolving about it. Through this affinity the men themselves are characterized by an activity of the soul which is sagacious, investigative, and fitted for pursuing the sciences specifically called mathematical. Of them, again, the eastern group are more masculine, vigorous of soul, and frank in all things, because One would reasonably assume that the orient partakes of the nature of the sun. This region therefore is diurnal, masculine, and right-handed, even as we - observe that among the animals too their right-hand parts are better fitted for strength and vigour. Those to the west are more feminine, softer of soul, and secretive, because this region, again, is lunar, for it is always in the west that the moon emerges and makes its appearance after conjunction. For this reason it appears to be a nocturnal clime, feminine, and, in contrast with the orient, lefthanded.
And now in each of these general regions certain special conditions of character and customs naturally ensue. For as likewise, in the case of the climate, even within the regions that in general are reckoned as hot, cold, or temperate, certain localities and countries have special peculiarities of excess or defieiency by reason of their situation, height, lowness, or adjacency; and again, as some peoples are more inclined to horsemanship because theirs is a plain country, or to seamanship because they live close to the sea, or to civilization because of the richness of their soil, so also would one discover special traits in each arising from the natural familiarity of their particular climes with the stars in the signs of the zodiac. These traits, too, would be found generally present, but not in every individual. We must, then, deal with the subject summarily, in so far as it might be of use for the purpose of particular investigations.