John Chetwode Eustace.

A classical tour through Italy, an. MDCCCII (Volume 1) online

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accordingly embarked on the Brenta about ten
o'clock in the morning, February the twenty-
first, in a convenient barge drawn by horses,
and glided rather slowly down the river. The
country through which it flows is a dead flat,
but highly cultivated, well wooded, and ex-
tremely populous. The banks are lined with
villages, or rather little towns, and decorated
with several handsome palaces and gardens.
Among these, that of Giovanelle at Noventa,
two miles from Padua; that of Pisa?ii at Stra ;
of Trona at Dob ; that of Bembo at Mir a ; and
about ten miles farther, that of Foscari of the


architecture of Palladio, merit particular attention.
These celebrated banks have, without doubt, a
rich, a lively, and sometimes a magnificent ap-
pearance ; but their splendor and beauty have
been much exaggerated, or are much faded ; and
an Englishman accustomed to the Thames, and to
the villas which grace its banks, will discover little
to excite his admiration, as he descends the canal
of the Brenta.

About five o'clock we arrived at Fusi?ia, on
the shore of the Lagum *, opposite Venice. This
city instantly fixed all our attention. It was
faintly illuminated by the rays of the setting
sun, and rising from the waters with its number-
less domes and towers, attended, if I may be

* The Lagune are the shallows that border the whele
coast, and extend round Venice ; their depth, between the
city'and the main land, is from three to six feet in general.
These shallows are occasioned by the vast quantities of sand
carried down by the many rivers that descend from the Alps
and fall into the Adriatic, all along its western shores.
Ravenna, which lies much lower down, anciently stood like
Venice in the midst of waters ; it is now surrounded with
sand, as Venice will probably be ere long, if it should con-
tinue subject to the Austrian government. The republic ex-
pended considerable sums in cleansing the canals that inter-
sect and surround the city, in removing obstacles, and keep-
ing up the depth of waters so necessary for the security of the
Capital. The interest of a foreign sovereign is to lay it open
to attack.



allowed the expression, by several lesser islands,
each crowned with spires and pinnacles, it pre-
sented the appearance of a vast city floating on
the bosom of the ocean. We embarked, and
gliding over the Lagune, whose surface unruf-
fled by the slightest breeze, was as smooth as
the most polished glass, we touched at the island
of S. Georgia half way, that is two miles from
the main land on one side, and from Venice on
the other; and then entering the city, passed
under the Rialto, and rowed up the grand* ca-
nal, admiring as we advanced, the various ar-
chitecture and the vast edifices that line its

Venice cannot boast of a very ancient origin,
nor has it any direct connexion with Roman
story and with classical recollections; yet I
doubt much, whether any city in Italy, not even
excepting Rome itself, contains so much genuine
Roman blood ; as none has, certainly, preserved
so long the spirit of the ancient Romans. Founded
by the inhabitants of Aquileia, of Padua, and
other Roman colonies bordering on the Adriatic,
joined probably by several from the interior

* Canal grande (so called because the widest of the ca-
nals of Venice) is more than three hundred feet wide, and
intersects the city nearly in the middle. The Rialto crosses
it, and forms one of its most conspicuous ornaments.


provinces, it escaped the all-wasting sword of
Alaric and of Attila ; first eluded, then defied
the power of succeeding invaders, and never saw a
barbarian army within its walls till the fatal epoch
of 1797. Its foundation dates from the year 421 ;
the succession of Doges or Dukes from the year
697. Its name is derived from the Veneti, a peo-
ple that inhabited all the neighboring coasts, and
appropriated, as it has been, from a very early pe-
riod to^it, is a sufficient monument of the origin
and of the numbers of its founders. Its govern-
ment was at first popular ; as the power and riches
of the State increased, the influence of the nobles
augmented ; at intervals the Doges acquired and
abused the sovereignty ; till at length, after six cen-^
turies of struggle, the aristocratic party prevailed,
limited the power of the Doge, excluded the peo-
ple, and confided to their own body all the autho-
rity and exercise of government.

As Venice may justly be considered a Roman
colony, so it bore for many centuries a striking
resemblance to the great parent Republic. The
same spirit of liberty, the same patriot passion,
the same firmness, and the same wisdom that
characterized and ennobled the ancient Romans,
seemed to revive in the Venetians, and to pervade
every member of the rising State. That profound
respect for religion also, which formed so distin-


guished a feature in the character of the former*,
was equally conspicuous in the latter, but more
permanent and effectual, because directed to a
better object, and regulated by superior informa-
tion. The same success in a just proportion ac-
companied the same virtues ; and we behold
Venice, from dirt and sea-weed, rise into magnifi-
cence and fame, extend its sway over the neighbor-
ing coasts, wrest towns, islands, and whole pro-
vinces from mighty potentates, carry its arms into
Asia and Africa, and cope successfully, with the
collected force of vast empires. As its greatness
rested on sohd foundations, so was it permanent ;
and Venice may boast of a duration seldom al-
lowed to human associations, whether kingdoms,
or common- wealths, thirteen complete centuries
of fame, of prosperity, and of independence.
It is not wonderful therefore that this Republic
should have been honored with the appellation
of another Rome, considered as the bulwark and

* Et si conferre volumus nostra cum externis, cceteris
rebus aut pares aut etiam inferiores reperiemur ; Religione,
id est, cultu Deorum, multo superiores. — De Nat. Deor.
ii. 3.

" And if we wish to compare our advantages with those
of foreigners, in other respects we shall be found only equal,
or even inferior : but in Religion, that is, in the honors paid
to the Gods, much superior."


pride of Italy, and celebrated by orators and
poets as tbe second fated seat of independence and

Una Italum regina, altae pulcherrima Romx
^mula, quae terris, quae dominaris aquis !

Tu tibi vel reges cives facis ; O decus ! O lux
Ausoniae, per quam libera turba sumus ;

Per quam barbaries nobis non imperat, et Sol
Exoriens nostro clarius orbe micat * !

Act. Syn. Sannaz. lib. iii. Eleg. 1, 95.

The literary f^me of Venice was unequal, it
must be confessed, to its military renown : per-
haps because the government, as is usually the
case in free countries, left talents and genius to
their own activity and intrinsic powers ; yet the
ardor of individuals who either did not, or could
not take a share in public administration, led
many to seek distinction in th^ new, career which
the revival of letters opened to their ambition.
Many eminent scholars had visited, and some
had settled in the Republic, and to their labors
we owe many an interesting publication on some
or other branch of classic erudition. But it

* Italia's empress ! queen of land and sea !
Rival of Rome, and Roman majesty !
Thy citizens are kings ; to thee we owe
Freedom, the choicest gift of Heav'n below.
By thee barbaric gloom was chas'd away,
And dawn'd on all our lands a brighter day.


would be difficult to say whether the exertions
of any individual however splendid his talents,
or even the labors of any particular association,
or academy, however celebrated, ever shed so
much lustre on the place of their residence as
that which Venice derives from the reputation
of a stranger, who voluntarily selected it for
bis abode. I allude to Aldus Manutius. This
extraordinary person combined the lights of the
scholar, with the industry of the mechanic : and
to his labors carried on without interruption till
the conclusion of a long life, the world owes the
first or principes editiones, of twenty-eight Greek
Classids. Among these we find Pindar, ^schy-
lus, Sophocles, Euripides, Herodotus, Thucy-
dides, Demosthenes, Plato and Aristotle. Be-
sides these, there are few ancient authors of any
note, of whom this indefatigable editor has not
published editions of acknowledged accuracy, and
as far as the means of the Art then in its infancy
permitted, of great beauty. In order to appre-
ciate the merit of Aldus, we must consider the
difficulties under which he must have labored
at a time when there were few public libraries ;
when there was no regular communication be-
tween distant cities ; when the price of manu-
scripts put them out of the reach of persons of
ordinary incomes ; and when the existence of
many since discovered, was utterly unknown.



The man who could surmount these obstacles,
and publish so ma^y authors till then inedited;
who could find means and time to giv€ new and
more accurate editions of so many others already
published, and accompany them all with pre-
faces mostly of his own composition ; who could
extend his attention still farther and by his labors
secure the fame, by immortalizing the compo-
sitions of the most distinguished scholars of his
own age and country *, must have been endowed
in a very high degree, not only with industry
and perseverance, but with judgment, learning,
and discrimination. One virtue more, Aldus
possessed in common with many of the great
literary characters of that period, I nM3an, a
sincere and manly piety; a virtue which gives
consistency, vigor, and permanency to every
good quality, and never fails to communicate a
certain grace and dignity to the whole cha-

The appearance of Venice is not unworthy
of its glorious destinies. Its churches, palaces,
and public buildings of every description, and
sometimes even its private edifices, have in their
size, materials and decorations, a certain air of
magnificence truly Roman. The style of archi-

Araorig these is Politianus.


tecture, is not always either pure or pleasing,
but conformable to the taste that prevailed in
the different ages when each edifice was erected.
HencCj the attentive observer may discover the
history of architecture in the streets of Venice,
and may trace its gradation from the solid masses
and the round arches, the only remains of the
ancient grand style in the sixth, seventh, eighth,
and ninth centuries, through the fanciful forms
and grotesque embellishments of the middle ages,
to its revival and re-establishment in these latter

The church of St. Mark, with its ac

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Online LibraryJohn Chetwode EustaceA classical tour through Italy, an. MDCCCII (Volume 1) → online text (page 12 of 27)