Saturday, December 1, 2012

Olympia: Plains and Mountains

1. Plains. Northern Olympia contains an impressively long, broad, fertile plain. It begins at the foot of the Pyrenees next to the Atlantic Ocean, continues north to the English Channel, then stretches a long way northeast along the seacoast through and beyond Germania. An equally impressive plain lies between the Baltic and Black seas. Two smaller but still vitally important plains lie in the river valleys of the Danube (south of the Carpathian Mountains) and the Tigris and Euphrates.

While agriculture thrives in long, broad, fertile plains, so does warfare. By offering no significant natural barriers to raiders or invaders, plains invite trouble. Consequently, societies living on them had to develop adequate military skills to defend themselves. They often did this so well that they went on the offensive and conquered many other societies.

2. Mountains. Mountains are not simply rocks and ice. Behind their natural barriers they often contain fertile valleys, fresh water, large forests, and ample sunshine.

Olympia boasts many impressive ranges of mountains. The Atlas Mountains intrude between the Mediterranean Sea and the Sahara. They dominate Africa west of the Gulf of Sidra for 1,600 miles (2,500 km).

The Pyrenees form the almost 300-mile (500-kilometer) boundary separating Iberia. Their highest point, midway between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, is Mount Aneto at 11,168 feet (3,404 m).

The Alps, Olympia’s most impressive range of mountains, run parallel to the Mediterranean for 500 miles (800 km). Their highest peak is Mont Blanc at 15,782 feet (4,810 m). Another famous peak is the Matterhorn (14,692 feet; 4,478 m).

For centuries, people have used three passes to cross the Alps. The Brenner, lowest of the three at 4,495 feet (1,370 m), links the Norican cities of Innsbruck and Trent. St. Gotthard, much higher at 6,900 feet (2,100 m) links Zurich and Milan and is close to both the Rhine and Rhône rivers. The Great Saint Bernard Pass, the highest at 8,100 feet (2,469 m), runs close to Mont Blanc and connects Geneva in Gallia with Turin in Noricum.

The Carpathians are separated from the Alps by the Danube River. Their highest peak, Gerlach (8,709 feet; 2,654 m), is about 93 miles (150 km) southeast of Kraków.

Both the Alps and the Carpathians have permanent ice at elevations above 8,200 feet (2,500 m) on their northern sides and 10,500 feet (3,200 m) on their southern. Aletsch, Olympia’s biggest glacier, is 15 miles (24 km) in length and about 3,300 feet (1 km) thick. It lies near Lake Geneva, the headwaters of the Rhone River, and the Matterhorn.

Olympia has three historically significant volcanoes. Thera was once a volcanic island about 68 miles (110 km) north of Crete. Its eruption in 1628 BC was the most explosive in Olympian history. The more famous eruption of Mount Vesuvius near Naples occurred in AD 79 and killed 16,000 people in nearby Pompeii and Herculaneum. Mount Etna (10,991 feet; 3,350 m) on the island of Sicily remains quite active.

Olympian religious tradition believed that its six favorite gods made their home in Hellas on Mount Olympus (9,570 feet; 2,917 m). Apollo’s Oracle of Delphi was located on the slope of Mount Parnassus (8,061 feet; 2,457 m) which stands near the Gulf of Corinth.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven Farsaci.
All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.