Balkh (anc. Bactria), a district of Afghan Turkestan, the most northerly province of Afghanistan. Offsets of the Hindu-Kush traverse it in a NW. direction, and slope down to the low steppes of Bokhara. Its length is 250 miles; its breadth, 120. The natives are Uzbegs. - Balkh, long the chief town, is surrounded by a mud wall; but though bearing the imposing title of 'mother of cities,' it has not in recent times had any of the grandeur of ancient Bactra, on the site of which it is built. It was twice destroyed by Genghis Khan and Timur. A terrible outbreak of cholera in 1877 caused the capital of Afghan Turkestan to be transferred to Mazar, west of Balkh; since which Balkh has been an insignificant village.
Balkhash' (Kirghiz Tengis; Chinese Sihai), a great inland lake near the eastern borders of Russian Central Asia, between 44° and 47° N. lat., and 73° and 79° E. long. Lying 780 feet above sea-level, it extends 323 miles WSW.; its breadth at the west end is 50 miles, at the east from 9 to 4 miles; the area is 8400 sq. m. The water is clear, but intensely salt. Its principal feeder is the river Hi. It has no outlet.
Ballaarat, or Ballarat, a thriving town of Victoria, 100 miles WNW. of Melbourne, and 58 NW. of Geelong by rail. It is next in importance to Melbourne, and owes its rise to the discovery of the gold-fields there in June 1851, being the oldest of the considerable gold-fields of Victoria, and in fact the oldest but one of all the gold-fields of the colony. Ballaarat is the see of Protestant and Roman Catholic bishops. Amongst the industries are iron-founding, brewing, distilling, with flour and woollen mills. When the surface diggings became exhausted after the first rush in 1851, deposits of gold were found at greater depths, and now there are mines as deep as some English coal-pits, with steam pumping and all the requisite machinery. The 'Welcome Nugget,' the largest ever found, was discovered in 1858 at Bakery Hill. It weighed 2217 oz. 16 dwt., and was sold for £10,500. Pop. (1891) 40,849; (1901) 49,414.
Ballachu'lish, a village of Argyllshire, on the south shore of salt-water Loch Leven, 16 1/2 miles S. of Fort-William. Its quarries of blue rooting clay-slate, commenced about 17C0, produce in a busy year 17,000,000 roofing-slates, weighing 30,000 tons. Pop. 1045.
Bal'later, a village of Aberdeenshire, on the Dee, 44 miles WSW. of Aberdeen by rail. Near it are the medicinal springs of Pannanich, Balmoral Castle (q.v.), and Ballatrich Farm, connected with Byron's boyhood. Pop. 1250.