Being condemned to live on cereals and beans was not altogether a disaster for the peasants of the hydraulic societies. In the long run, a different consequence of the absence of herds was to prove a far heavier penalty for the hydraulic societies as a whole.
In some at least of the hydraulic societies, the state did maintain some livestock, and a few of the peasants were split off from the rest to keep them. At Ur, around 2000 b.c., the state was able to profit from a considerable textile industry, based on the wool of sheep. But as the two forms of food production drew further and further apart, separate herding societies of outcasts or adventurers began to form beyond the borders of the hydraulic states. The peasants had taken first pick of the river valleys, and the herders had to be content with grasslands on the outskirts of the desert. These "pastures of the wilderness," as the prophet Joel called them, are pastures in the wet season only. When the dry season comes, the grass is withered by heat and drought, and there is no water for the animals to drink. So the way of life of the herders, like that of the peasants, was forced into a special pattern by the seasonal shortage of water. They evolved a system called trans-humance. In the wet season, they grazed their herds on the "pastures of the wilderness"; in the dry season, they moved into the wetter hills or the river valleys where grass still grew. The herders of Syria to this day move their flocks in summer to the Antilebanon mountains or to the upper valleys of the Euphrates or the Orontes. This yearly pattern of transhumance meant that the herders could not settle in permanent homes; their way of life diverged more and more from that of the settled peasant. But their dry-season need for the hills and river valleys drove them into head-on collision with the expanding hydraulic societies, which needed just these regions all year round. The borders of the hydraulic states became the scene of repeated conflict. The restless herders could never develop the elaborate paraphernalia of hydraulic civilization. But their way of life, which often included some hunting and gathering to supplement their food supplies, taught them mobility, resourcefulness, knowledge of large tracts of country, and efficient, flexible combined action. These qualities made them formidable in war. They became robbers and raiders. Sometimes, a herder chief and his henchmen actually conquered a hydraulic state. Their descendants were absorbed by the more complex society they now governed, and became typical kings and nobles of hydraulic societies. In this curious interaction, the ruling dynasties of the great kingdoms and empires were repeatedly supplied from the outcast groups beyond their borders. In the second and first millennia b.c., lower Iraq (for instance) was successively ruled by Amorite, Kassite, and Chaldean dynasties, all typical kings of civilized states, but all originating from herding communities outside the valley. Throughout history, the kings and nobles of civilization have betrayed their ultimate pastoral origin in two ways. They practised hunting as a sport, monopolizing extensive game preserves; and, as we have seen, they ate quantities of meat.