Copyright
Robert Ellis Thompson.

Social science and national economy online

. (page 10 of 38)
Online LibraryRobert Ellis ThompsonSocial science and national economy → online text (page 10 of 38)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


to have been coveted prizes. Chinese met Egyptian here ; a
hundred varieties of Tartars were mingled ; the Iron or Ossetian
people represented the Aryan race. In the market-place of
Colchis a hundred and thirty languages were spoken and inter-
preted. The part played by this mountain region in the history
of commerce has been but imperfectly appreciated ; it was the
market of exchange between East and West, the channel of the
silk trade with China. It has an historical significance that the
Argonauts seek in Colchis the golden fleece. As late as the six-
teenth century the place had not lost its importance, and Queen
Elizabeth sent an envoy thither to arrange a commercial treaty.
Nor was the region without importance agriculturally ; many of
its people, especially the Chinese settlement from Assam, were
devoted purely to tillage and carried on extensive irrigations.

Haxthausen's Tribes of the Caucasus.

§ 108. The Aryans who passed iuto Europe, divide naturally
into two great currents, each consisting of several successive
waves. The first current plays the chief part in ancient history;
the second in modern.

Of the southern or classic current, the first, and therefore the
most western wave, is the Latin race that found a home in Italy.



THE SETTLEMENT OF ITALY. 105

This term does not include " the flat country in the north between
the Alps and the Apennines," "which does not belong geogra-
phically, nor until a very late period even historically, to the
southern land of mountain and hill, the Italy of [ancient] his-
tory. . . This mountain system nowhere rises abruptly into a
precipitous chain, but spreading broadly over the land and
enclosing many valleys and table-lands connected by easy
passes, presents conditions which well adapt it to become the
settlement of man." When we begin to hear of Italy we find
its people perched among the Apennine mountains and their spurs
— the Latin, the Umbrian, the Samnite and the Euganean hills,
and "the highlands of Etruria." The most ancient, the Iapy-
gian stock, is found in the far south where " the sea all but washes
the bases of the mountains." "The southward advance of the
Umbro-Sabellian stock along the central mountain ridges, can
still be clearly traced ; indeed its last phases belong to purely
historic times Less is known regarding the route which the
Latin migration followed." We find them settled below the
Tiber, first on " the narrow plateau between Alban lake and the
Alban mount," the site of Alba Longa, " the primitive seat of the
Latin stock and the mother-city of Rome, as well as of all the
other Old Latin communities; here, too, on the slopes lay (he
very ancient Latin canton-centres of Lanuvium, Alicia and Tus-
culum. Here are found some of those primitive works of
masonry, which usually mark the beginnings of civilization."
This site, in " the isolated Alban range, that natural stronghold
of Latium," was chosen because it " offered to settlers the most
wholesome air, the freshest springs and the most secure posi-
tion." Below them lay a volcanic soil of exceptional richness,
which afterwards sustained an immense population in a territory
no larger than Zurich ; yet it was worth their while to cut a
tunnel through 6000 feet of lava rock to partially drain the
lake, and thus secure additional soil on the mountain itself. It
marks a more advanced stage in man's power over nature when
a few of these tribes occupy the cluster of hills by the Tiber's
bank, a site occupied by bushmen (Ramnes, Roma), on the



106 SOCIAL SCIENCE AND NATIONAL ECONOMY.

borders of Etruria and within sight of the Sabine hills. Yet
if the surrounding region itself was fertile, the immediate site
was by no means so. It was exposed to freshets, and the water
was neither plenty nor good. " In antiquity itself an opinion
was expressed that the first body of immigrant cultivators could
scarce have spontaneously resorted in search of a suitable settle-
ment to that unhealthy and unfruitful spot in a region other-
wise so highly favored." But the other hills of Latium were
already covered with towns, and the exceptional position of
Rome as a stronghold on the banks of the Tiber and near the con-
fluence of three nations, led to its rapid growth as a commercial
city. Across the Tiber, and stretching northward to the Apen-
nines, lies Etruria, the country of that mysterious kinless people
the Rasenna, who in prehistoric times spread their wares over
all Northern Europe. They came from the north, clinging to
the spurs and slopes of the Apennines, fighting with the moun-
tain tribes for every upland valley, and driving the Umbrians far-
ther down the central chain. " The oldest and most important
Etruscan towns lay far inland ; in fact we find not a single Etrus-
can town immediately on the coast except Populonia, which we
know for certain was not one of the old twelve cities." The ad-
vance of population from the valleys and spurs of the Apennines
to the plains and the seacoast, and the rise of such towns as
Pisa, belong to a later period. The primitive seat of this stock
is to be found in the Rhetian Alps, among the mountains of the
Tyrol and the Grisons. The complete occupation of the rich
'plains drained by the Po and of Venetia belongs to a period well
on in the Christian era, when the weight of influence and popu-
lation was transferred across the Po to the cities of Lombardy.
In the earliest period we find the Gauls gathered on the slopes
below the Alps, and the Ligurians among the mountains that
connect the Alps with the Apennines.

So much for the part played by the mountains of Italy in her
earliest history. As for the lowlands, the Greeks found the
rich plains of Campania comparatively unoccupied. They had
no difficulty in absorbing and Hellenizing its scanty Ausonian
population and making the country a new Greece.



THE ITALIAN ISLANDS. — GREECE. 107

The quotations and most of the facts are taken from Mommsen's
History of Rome. These statements have all the more force because of
Mommsen's being utterly at fault as to the rationale of the facts. He
says : " The stream only overflows the heights when the lower grounds
are already occupied; and only through the supposition that there were
Latin stocks already settled on the coast are we able to explain why the
Sabellians should have contented themselves with the rough mountain
districts, from which they afterwards issued and intruded wherever it was
possible, between the Latin tribes." It is uoteworthy that we know of no
such " Latin stocks settled on the coast ;" their existence is an hypothesis.

The islands about Italy have the same history in this respect.
In Corsica and Sardinia the population is still scattered in
mountain villages, although the lands that lie below them are
capable of all the richest growths of the tropics. Sicily is still
notable — as when the Greeks settled it — for " the extraordinary
fertility of the soil, especially near the sea — its capacity for
corn, wine, oil . . . its abundant fisheries near the coast."
Yet the Sikuls and Sikaris who had occupied it for ages "seem
to have been of rude pastoral habits, dispersed either among
petty hill-villages, or in caverns hewn out of the rock, like the
primitive inhabitants of the Balearic Islands and Sardinia "
(Grote).

§ 109. European history begins in Greece, which " is among
the most mountainous territories in Europe." Besides the
leading ranges that form the skeleton of the land " there are so
many ramifications and dispersed peaks — so vast a number of
hills and crags of different magnitude and elevation, — that a
comparatively small proportion of the surface is left for level
ground. Not only few continuous plains, but even few con-
tinuous valleys exist throughout all Greece. The largest spaces
of level ground are seen in Thessaly, in yEtolia, in the western
portions of the Peloponnesus, and in Boeotia ; but irregular
mountains, valleys and frequent but isolated land-locked basins
and declivities, which often occur but seldom last long, form the
character of the country " (Grote). The strong northward
currents of the Mediterranean have scooped away and washed
out the valleys that lay between the mountain ranges, and made
them arms of the sea, giving Greece a poor soil, but making it



108 SOCIAL SCIENCE AND NATIONAL ECONOMY.

on almost every side open to commerce. With a territory no
larger than Portugal, it has a coast line as long as that of Spain
and Portugal. As might be expected, Hellas furnishes no great
wealth of sustenance. " The barley cake seems to have been
more commonly eaten than the wheaten loaf, but one or the
other, together with vegetables and fish (sometimes fresh, but
more frequently salt), was the common food. ... By the Greeks
generally flesh-meat seems to have been but little eaten, except
at festivals and sacrifices. The Athenians, though their light,
dry and comparatively poor soil produced excellent barley,
nevertheless did not grow enough corn for their own consump-
tion " (G-rote).

But even within Greece the true law of settlement, the pass-
age from poor to richer soils, is illustrated. When her history
begins we find the principal branches of the Hellenic stock still
a cluster of mountain tribes gathered around Thermopylae in the
cluster of mountain ranges that branch out from (Eta. Here is
formed the Amphictyonic League, in which the Dorians and
the Ionians have but two votes out of twelve. Here was Delphi,
the most ancient holy place within Hellas proper. Here the
capital of the Minyi, the mountain fastness of Orchomenos,
takes rank as the oldest royal city of the Hellenes. Only this
branch of the race is strong and numerous enough to undertake
the artificial drainage necessary to fit a part of Bceotia for occu-
pation — -the Copaic plain, which is now again a malarious marsh.
The other extremity of the plain was occupied by the Cadmean
city of Thebes; the rich middle district lay idle until a band
of Thessalian Greeks settled it and brought its wet, marshy
soil under tillage. Larissa, the fortress of the Achaeans in
Phthiotis, hung like a bird's nest to the rocks that overlooked
the rich lowlands of the Spercheus. The Ionians of the rocky
triangle of Attica prided themselves on being autochthones —
on ranking all the others in priority of settlement. The Dorians
— whom the Iliad never names — were crowded into the petty
mountain district of Doris, until (passing by the rich valleys of
Boeotia) they set out to conquer and occupy " the cluster of



GREECE AND ITS ISLANDS. — GAUL. 109

mountains," " the mountain bulwark of Greece," called Pelopon-
nesus. They found it occupied by Arcadians — most probably
aboriginal Pelasgians — in the central mountain ranges, and by
the Achaians ou the comparatively barren northern coast, where
the mountains of Arcadia slope rapidly down to the sea. The
steep, rocky promontory of the north-west was the site of the
ancient kingdoms of Argos and Mycenae, the latter of which
under Agamemnon enjoyed the leadership of all Greece in the
traditions of the Trojan war. The sites of the first cities of the
district are still marked by the vast Cyclopean remains upon the
short, steep eastern slope, the halls of Tiryns and the royal
palace of Agamemnon, whose huge stones keep their place by
their own sheer weight. The older towns were first eclipsed and
then destroyed by Argos, which changed its site from the hill
fortress or " Larissa " chosen by the Pelasgians to one near the
head of the Argolic gulf, on ground too marshy to be accessible
at the earlier date. The Dorian conquerors spread around the
border of the olive leaf, leaving the Arcadians in the centre un-
harmed, and yielding the upland plain of Elis to their allies the
jEtolians.

Such a country could not contain such a people. Greek
colonies were carried to every neighboring shore. The rocky
islands of the iEgean, where the natural drainage is perfect,
were first occupied, and played in early Greek history a part out
of all proportion to their value and importance. The Greeks
passed to the opposite shores of Asia, the rich countries whose
beauties Herodotus so fondly vaunts, where the arable lands that
lie around its four great rivers are nearly as accessible by sea as
Greece itself.

§ 110. Of the northern wave of Aryans that came into
Europe, the first was the Celtic, which under pressure of other
comers, finally formed a habitat in the west.

In Gaul Caesar found the most powerful tribes settled on the
spurs of the Alpine rauges, where the great centres of popula-
tion — Bibracte, Vienne and Novioduuum, — lay iu a regiou that
is now far more sparsely occupied. Ou the border he eucouu-



110 SOCIAL SCIENCE AND NATIONAL ECONOMY.

tered a dangerous enemy in the Helvetians, who poured down
from the mountains of Switzerland with a vast army. Farther
north lay numerous tribes and cities along the rocky promon-
tories of Brittany. Hardly a place that he names can be
located in the richer portions of France. The antiquarian still
finds his spoil in the high and poor lands, and there only. Brit-
tany is especially full of the remains of prehistoric antiquity,
such as the massive stone erections at Carnac.

The places named in the early history of the Christian king-
dom of France, under the Capetian kings, are to be found
chiefly towards the heads of the streams or on some other upland
site, where the soil furnished natural drainage and was there-
fore accessible to the very imperfect agriculture of that period.
Auvergue, Dijon and Limousin were places of note in Feudal
France, and the exceptional prominence of Troyes as a commer-
cial city is perpetuated in the standard called " troy weight."
Both in France and Germany the monks of the Benedictine and
other early orders received a free gift of many of the best sites
in those kingdoms — places worthless in the opinion of the
donors but (as the result showed) capable, under an efficient and
combined effort to master nature, of being made very gardens
in fertility. These were often heavily-wooded lands, malarious
valleys, morasses and the like.

§ 111. In Spain the northern and north-western districts, a
vast cluster of mountain ranges, play a part of especial promi-
nence in early history. Here are the Basques or Escaldunais,
the descendants of the Celtiberian aborigines. In Spain's best
days the southern and fertile provinces were carefully cultivated.
Under misrule they were the first to suffer, and great cities have
gradually sunk to the level of villages and provincial towns,
while the area of culture has greatly diminished. As it is. the
northern or mountain provinces are actually the best tilled in
the peninsula, and " the almost inaccessible mountains of the As-
turias, Galicia and Catalonia," and the arid ravines of Guipus-
coa, Biscay and Navarre, are well peopled, while every corner of
Andalusia suffers for lack of workmen. Hence the growth of



THE SETTLEMENT OF ENGLAND. Ill

the former io political importance and their persistent attempts
to again control the policy of the whole nation.

§ 112. The theory that we are discussing was devised to ex-
plain the coudition of Great Britain,. but no English antiqua-
rian would have given such an account of the settlement of the
country. When the Romans invaded England, it was at most
about half as populous as at the date of the Norman conquest.
" The woods must have been larger, the fens had not been par-
tially reclaimed and made accessible by causeways ; some of the
tribes were unacquainted with tillage ; the beech tree, which
doubled our food for swine, had not been introduced ; half the
roots, vegetables and fruits, which now supplement our corn-
crops, had not passed the Channel, and the great roads were not
yet made on which the plenty of a fortunate district could be
transported to parts where the crops had failed. The stunted
British cattle, whose remains we constantly disinter, are proof
that even if tillage was known, a large portion of the population
lived upon milk. The best peopled parts of England were pro-
bably those which were most open and easy to cultivate ; the
home counties, Norfolk and Suffolk, and the south-western coun-
ties." A " mighty sum of toil has transformed the country
throughout England. The fens and forests are a mere memory
and a name; foreign trees grow in our hedge-rows; it is difficult
to find a point within half a mile of which a road does not run ;
the climate has been modified as woods have been felled and
marshes drained ; our rivers are smaller than in the old days.
Thanks to these labors, and to those marvellous changes in agri-
cultural science, which may bear comparison with any triumphs
of mechanics, England, left to her own resources, can now
support four times the population that the country contained
under Edward TIL, eight times our number at the period of the
Norman conquest, and perhaps sixteen men for one whom Csesar
found in the island."

In this ami the following paragraphs quotations not otherwise credited,
and much besides, are from Mr. C. H. Pearson's Historical Maps of
England, with Explanatory Essays (2d edition, London, 1870). Mr.



112 SOCIAL SCIENCE AND NATIONAL ECONOMY.

Pearson tries to account for many of the facts by military and political
reasons, having no knowledge of the true law of the occupation of the
land.

§ 113. The Celtic tribes whom the Romans found in the
island do not seem to have been either numerous or powerful, as
the invading army that added the island to the Roman Empire
numbered but 30,000 men. The home of the several tribes is
in every case but one uncertain, but they seem to have been con-
fined to the hills of the north and to the hill system of the south
and west coasts, which opposes its cliffs to the currents from the
Atlantic, and is divided from the rest of the island by the old
Roman military road from London through Chester, that the
Saxons called Watling Street.

The monumental remains of the ante-Roman epoch indicate
this. " The earliest grave mounds are mostly found in the
mountainous districts of the land, — among the hills and fast-
nesses ; the later [Roman and Saxon] overspreading hill, valley
and plain alike. Thus in Cornwall, in Yorkshire, in Derbyshire
and in Dorsetshire, in Wiltshire and many other districts, the
earliest interments are or have been abundant; while the later
ones, besides being mixed up with them in the districts named,
are spread over every other county. In the counties just
named Celtic remains more abound than those of any other
period. In Dorsetshire, for instance, ' that county,' as the
venerable Stukeley declares, 'for sight of barrows not to be
equalled in the whole world,' the early mounds abound on the
downs and the lofty Ridgeway, an immense range of hills of
some forty miles in extent. — while those of a later period lie in
other parts of the county. In Yorkshire again they abound
chiefly in the wolds ; and in Cornwall on the highlands. The
same again of Derbyshire, where they lie for the most part
scattered over the wild mountainous region of the Peak, — a
district occupying nearly one-half of the county, and containing
within its limits many towns, villages and other places of
extreme interest. In this it resembles Dorsetshire, for in the
district occupied by the Ridgeway and the downs are very many



CELTIC OCCUPATION OF ENQLAND. 113

highly interesting aud important places. It is true that here
and there in Derbyshire, as in other counties, an early grave
mound exists in the southern or lowland portion of the county.
. . . There are districts where there is scarcely a hill even in
that land [of hills] where a barrow does not exist or is not
known to have existed."

See Grave Mounds and their Contents, by Llellwyn Jewett. London,
1870.

§ 114. West of Watling Street lay (1) the ancient kingdom
of Cornwall, which must have been densely peopled, "as we learn
from the Roman lists of towns, the traces of ancient agriculture
and the abundance of ancient remains. Here is the seat of
the events now clothed in poetry in the Arthur-Sagas. The land
is now mostly abandoned by the farmer to the fisherman and the
miner. (2) Wales, whose mountains were fought for as a prize
by the two great branches of the Celtic race. (3) The Welsh
kingdom of Strathclyde, which includes the Galwegian district
of Scotlaud and the lake district of England. When the
Roman occupation ceased, we find the Celts confined to this dis-
trict and the south coast. Their literature "shows no acquaint-
ance with the country east — let us say — of the second degree of
longitude, beyond what a half-educated yeoman now might have
of America. . . . Except perhaps in one case there is no
authentic tradition of war with the Saxons or Angles in that
region, or of British sovereignty there. The single exception is
that of Kent." And yet the race is remarkably tenacious of
traditions. It carried the Cornish Arthur-Sagas into Brittany ;
the Irish Fintral-Sasras into Scotlaud. It knew little or nothing
of the east, of the rich lands containing nearly all the wheat-
fields of England, while the west is devoted to grazing. What
tribes were fouud in it by the Romans were few and scattered.
It was therefore open to Roman colonization, and a mixed multi-
tude of Roman citizens aud continental peoples was transplanted
thither. Seventy thousand Roman citizens are said to have
been killed in the massacres by which Boadicea began her revolt.
This was the region that fell so easily into the hands of the
8



114 SOCIAL SCIENCE AND NATIONAL ECONOMY.

German tribes, and after a few struggles became the site of
Saxon kingdoms. As the Saxons pressed westward they en-
countered a fiercer resistance, and repaid it by enslaving the
conquered people. At Domesday the percentage of slaves in
the north and east was but 3£ per ceut. ; in the five south-
western counties 16 to 17 per cent. ; and the intermediate
degrees of serfage hold the same proportion. The west was the
land desired by Saxon as well as Celt ; its ranges of hills, that
rise to mountains as they approach the sea, were the subject of
protracted conflict, and it was the kingdom of Wessex that rose
to such eminence that its king became Bretwalda or sovereign
of England. " All the energy and enterprise of the Saxon
name flowed naturally towards the west, and from the district of
the West Saxons, at first only embracing Hampshire and a part
of Wiltshire, went out all the conquering expeditions that
wrested not only the south-west and the* valley of the Severn,
but the more southern of the Midland counties from the
Britons."

§ 115. The early isolation of the Saxon kingdoms as of the
Celtic tribes was largely due to the great lines of forest that ran
across the country, and to the fens that covered much of its
surface. To the former (as greatly increasing the annual rain-
fall) the existence of the latter was largely due. " The clouds
which at present pass over our heads and break in another
country or over the sea, were arrested by the simplest natural
agencies ; and the water that now flows down in a thousand
drains to the river, was preserved in marshes and lakes, which
in turn sent back what they had received in dank exhalations."
The deflections of the Roman roads show that these were among
their chief difficulties of engineering, while they show readiness
to run over a hill instead of round it. In Saxon times these
obstacles isolated closely related tribes, and forced them to
advance from east to west, and to occupy the poorer soils on the
high moorlands and the mountain-sides, where traces of the
most ancient occupants are visible. We find the Saxon Saint
Cuthbert praised because in his missionary tours "he was wont



THE SAXONS IN ENGLAND. 115

chiefly to go through those places and to preach iu those ham-
lets which were high up on rugged mountains, frightful to others
to visit, and whose people hy their poverty and ignorance hin-
dered the approach of teachers. He went out from the monas-
tery often a whole week, sometimes two or three, and often also
for a whole month would not return home, but abode in the wild
places" and gave them lessons in husbandry and in finding and
saving water (Hughes's Alfred the Great, pp. 28-9).

§ 116. Throughout early English history the lands beyond
the Humber are slightly or not at all connected with the southern
shires. Of the midland shires, now the most fertile grain-lands iu
the island, we hear next to nothing. " The map of Saxon-Eng-



Online LibraryRobert Ellis ThompsonSocial science and national economy → online text (page 10 of 38)