William Spalding.

Italy and the Italian islands, from the earliest ages to the present time (Volume 1) online

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tivation — Course of Education — Endowed Schools — Libraries —
Booksellers — Newspapers and their Contents — Classes of
Society — ^Haughtinessof the Nobles — No Middle Class — INIai'kets
for Slaves — Their Occupations and Treatment — Their Rebellions
— Freedmen — Amusements — TheTheatre and Improvised Drama
— The Circus — Gladiators— Wild Beasts — Marine Theatres —
Fondness for Spectacles — Aristocratic Amusements — Readings
— Iraprovvisatori — Court Pageants — Industry and Commerce —
Rural Economy — The Roman Corn-laws — Vicissitudes of Agri-
culture — Grazing — Tillage — Labourers and Leases — Crops —
Gardens— Orchards — Mechanical Arts and Trade — Stages of
Luxury— Native Manufactures — Obstacles to Commerce — Italian
Exports — Imports from Europe — From Asia — From Africa.
THIRD PERIOD : Greco-Oriental : Pagan Religion-
Education — The College of Rome and its Statutes — Spectacles
—Illustrations of Character — Foreign Trade — Guilds and Manu-
factures — Agricultural Serfs — Misery and Depopulation of Italy
— Universal Hopelessness, Page 323


Map of a Part of the Carapagna of Rome,... To /ace the Vignette.

Vignette — S. Peter's, and Castle and Bridge of S. Angelo.

An Ancient Dwelling-house and JModern Convent, To face page 187

Plan of Ancient Rome, To face page 221

Plan of the Roman Forum and its Vicinity, To face page 231




Introductory Chapter.

The Italians — In Ancient Times — In the Middle Ages — In
Modern Times — The Three Illustrious Periods of their History
— The Four Secondary Periods — Inquiry as to their Present
Condition and National Character — Prejudices to be overcome —
Italy — Political Geography — The Ancient Provinces — The
Modern Sovereignties — Coincidences and Discrepancies of the
TvFo Divisions — The Italian Islands — Scenery — Outlines and
Vegetation — Buildings — Living Gtom^s— Prominent Physical
Features — The Alpine Chain — The Apennines — The Volcanic
Mountains — The Rivers and Lakes of Upper Italy — The Rivers
of Middle and Lower Italy — The Rivers in the Islands — Phy-
sical Advantages and Deficiencies-^The Fate of Italy.

It has been the destiny of the Italians, and of no other
European people, to be illustrious in each of the tliree
periods of human history. Ancient Italy, Italy in the
Middle Ages, and the Italy of Modem Times, have suc-
cessively, each in its own sphere, outshone the glory of
all contemporary nations.

Ancient Italy has bequeathed to us magnificent me-
morials of literature and art. Its true fame, however,
lies in the events of its political annals. Art, so far as it
was in any sense national, was introduced by the Greeks,
a race of settlers sprung from foreign blood, and unlike
the older inhabitants both in maimers and intellect. In
literature, and even in some departments of philosophy,



the ancient Italians were more active ; but there also
they were pupils of the Greeks ; and few, even of their
best writers, did more than repeat eloquently the les-
sons which they had learned. The political history
presents a picture quite dissimilar. In its scenes, the
most imposing which have ever been displayed, we see
the nation obeymg its own impulses, and drawing from
its own character and deeds both its rise and its decay.
The Romans, at first the burghers of a single town,
and afterwards no more than one brave tribe among
others equally brave, gradually conquered all the petty
states of the peninsula, and stamped on the whole
country their strong character and their name. Their
power then crossed the Alps and the sea ; and the
whole known world was proud to serve Rome, and to
be called Roman. But their republican period, extend-
ing to nearly five centuries, witnessed the infancy, the
bloom, and the decline, of their genuine political great-
ness. For two centuries more, we linger over the history
of Italy, to watch the farther development of literature
and art, which grew under the empire like exotic plants
beneath an artificial shelter. The ancient period of Ro-
man greatness begins with the republic, and ends about
the year of our Lord 180.

The Dark and Middle Ages, which together make up
the second great chronological stage in the history of
mankind, embrace for Italy ten centuries, commencing in
the year of grace 476, and ending about the year 1600.
Their last five hundred years, from 1000 to 1500, may
be described as the Middle Ages of Italy, a period of acti-
vity and transition, very unlike the five dark centuries
which had preceded. For the Italians, the Middle Ages
were an era of such grandeur as even their ancient
history had not paralleled. The vicissitudes of those
wild times, and the events which have followed them,
resemble one of those gigantic processes, by which
nature, the instrument of the Maker, formed in the
beginning vast tracts of land in the peninsula itself.
Amidst earthquakes, darkness, and lurid bursts of fire.


an island rises from the sea. The seasons decompose its
cliffs ; the winds and the birds clothe its volcanic soil
with vegetation ; and the mariner, whose father saw the
rock emerging from the waters, wanders through its vine-
yards, and over its grassy hills. From the cunvnlsions
which followed the dark ages, modem Europe has derived
the elements of political freedom, of literature, and of
art ; and those convulsions had in Italy their earliest and
most powerful focus. The passions of the people were
then nearly as undisciplined, their vices were almost as
revolting, as in the palmy days of heathen Rome ; but
heroism and virtue were seen in frequent glimpses, and
Christianity, ill understood and ill practised, sometimes
lifted its voice like music through the storm. The
main political event of the middle ages was the forma-
tion of the Italian republics, which, successively flourish-
ing and withering, transmitted the inheritance of liberty
during more than four hundred years, and did not, till
late in the fifteenth century, allow it to be entirely lost.
Nominally indeed it survived yet longer. Those were
the earliest free states of Christendom ; and they teach
us inestunable truths by their defects and crimes, as
well as by their glory. In literature and art, the
Italians were infinitely stronger in that period than
they had been in the classical times. They no longer
copied foreign cultivation, or plundered its monuments.
They were inventors ; and their inventions became the
models of all Europe. Their literature, which at the
end of the thirteenth century was only in its infancy, in
the fourteenth stood forth more vigorous and original than
in any age preceding or following. Their art struggled
against obstructions for four hundred years ; but before
the end of the fifteenth century, it had completely
imfolded its principles, and nobly exemplified them.

Modem Italy is a name which awakens regrets, but
also inspires, in the mind of the nation, a well-founded
pride. The period to which the term refers, commencing
in the year 1500, has now endured nearly three cen-
turies and a half, a period during which the country,


sunk in unredeemed political servitude, has been por-
tioned out by foreign sovereigns like a slave plantation.
But in the sixteenth century, the first of the modern cycle,
Italy was intellectually groat. Her literature attained its
highest point of cultivation, and produced its third series of
splendid works. Her art stood higher still ; for in sculp-
ture, in architecture, and yet more decidedly in painting,
her names at that period were the most illustrious of
Christian Europe. Even the seventeenth century was
not altogether dark ; but its brightness was the reflected
light of evening. Indeed, in the sixteenth century itself,
no new path was opened ; for the spirit of its literature
and art was directly prompted by that which had ruled
in the later middle ages. In this want of essential origi-
nality, and yet more strikingly in the harvest of fame
which it gathered on the ruins of liberty and national
character, it formed a close parallel to the Augustan age.

The points of eminence, intellectual and political,
which have been now marked out, constitute the true
greatness of Italy ; and on them our attention must
be steadily fixed. They are all contained in what we
may call The Three Illustrious Periods of Italian
history. These comprehend one section in each of
the three great chronological divisions which are re-
cognised in the history of the world. The Illustrious
Period in Ancient Times (b. c. 510 — a. d. 180) em-
braces seven centuries : that which extends over the
Middle Ages (a. d. 1000— a. d. 1500) includes five
centuries: and that of Modern Times (a. d. 1500 —
A. D. 1600), endured for one century, and no more. If
all records but those which belong to these three periods,
and all other monuments, should cease to exist, Italy
would still be reverenced as the birthplace of political
wisdom, and the cradle of literature and art.

But, like other countries, Italy has periods of history
which must be carefully studied, although they reflect
little honour either on her political character, on her
morals, or on her intellect. The poet may content


himself with looking up at the star when it culminates ;
but the astronomer must calculate its rising and setting.
It is our duty, and the performance of the duty will
bring its reward, to trace the greatness of the nation
back to its sources, and to accompany it hastily through
its phases of decay.

These subordinate stages are included in Four Periods,
which may be called The Secondary Periods of Italian
history. The first two of the Secondary Periods belong
to Ancient Italy. The First, the primeval age, precedes
tlie Ancient Illustrious Period, and ends at the establish-
ment of the Roman republic (b. c. 510). The Second
(a. d. 180 — A. D. 476) succeeds the Ancient Illustrious
Period, and ends, after an endurance of three centuries,
with the fall of the Roman empire in the West, Avhich
closes the history of the ancient world. The Third
Secondary Period (a. d. 476 — a. d. 1000) belongs to the
second great division of liistory. It comprehends the
Dark Ages, which intervene between the close of the
Ancient History and the Illustrious Period embracing
the Middle Ages. The Fourth Secondary Period belongs
to Modern Italy. It succeeds the Modern Illustrious
Period, and extends from 1600 to the present day.

The Fu'st Secondary Period is fruitful beyond mea-
sure in matters of curious antiquarian speculation, but,
being barren in facts and lessons, it may be passed over
very rapidly. — In the Second Secondary Period the
political annals embrace the decline and fall of the
Western empire. During that time the Christian faith
silently diffused itself, like a healing odour, through the
pestilential atmosphere, and was at length established as
the religion of the state. A history of early Christianity
in Italy would be an undertaking quite foreign to the
purpose of these pages ; but the subject might be fully
illustrated, from the apostolic times down to the corrupt-
ed age of the Lower Empire, by monuments and scenes
which can be still identified. To these, and to the infant
Christian literature of the country, our attention will be
willingly accorded. — The Third Secondary Period, that


of the dark ages, was a time of almost unmixed misery
and ignorance ; but it has left in Italy numerous records
and monuments, which strikingly illustrate the religion,
politics, and arts, of the ages which succeeded. It is
especially memorable as having witnessed the foundation
of the papal sovereignty, temporal and ecclesiastical. —
The Fourth Secondary Period would extend, if historical
events were to be its measure, from the year 1500 to
the present time. "We have already, however, upon
other grounds, excepted from it the sixteenth century ;
and therefore it will include only the seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries, with the portion which has already
elapsed of the nineteenth. This period is not barren
either in art or literature ; but it derives its chief im-
portance from the facts in it which illustrate the pre-
sent political state of the country, and the character of its
society. Its latest public events, commencing with the
French revolution in 1789, will claim minute attention.*

* In the subjoined chronological table of the periods of Italian
history, the divisions anticipate some points which will call for sub-
sequent explanation ; but the table may not be without its use
as an introductory clue.

I. Fiii;t Secondary Period — Ancient— Ending in the year b. c.

II. First Illustrious Period — Ancient — From e. c. 510 to
A, D. 180 — Seven centuries.

Pohtical greatness — The Roman republic — b. c. 510 to B c.

32 — Five centuries.
Greatness in art — b. o. 460 to a. d. 180 — Six centuries.
Greatness in literature— b.c. 204 to a.d. 180 — Four centuries.

III. Second Secondary Period — Ancient — From a. d. 180 to
A. n. 476 — Three centuries.

IV. Third Secondary Period — The Dark Ages — From a. d.
476 to A.n. 1000— F/i-e centuries.

V. Second Illustrious Period — The Middle Ages— From
A. d, 1000 to A.D. 1500— -F/re centuries.

Political greatness — The republics — A. d. 1000 to a. d. 1500 —

Five centuries.
Greatness in literature — a.d. 1300 to a.d. 1400 — One century.
Greatness in art— a. d. 1400 to a. d. IoOO — One century.

VI. Third Illustrious Period — Modern — From a. v. 1500
to A.D. 1600 — One century.

Greatness in literature and art— One century.

VII. Fourth Secondary Period — Modern — From a. d. 1600—
Two centuries and a half.


We cannot but feel a lively sympathy in the fate of a
nation which has done and suffered so much. We must
therefore attempt to analyze, so far as our materials
will allow us, the political institutions, the state of
the church, and of education, religion, and morality,
the prevailing habits and character, and every other
element which may enable us to form an accurate no-
tion of the present condition of the Italians, or to
speculate on their future prospects. Many causes con-
cur in obstructing the progress of such an inquiry ; but
its interest rewards all exertions ; and even imperfect
results will be excused, where complete knowledge is so
difficult of acquisition. Nothing should be considered as
unworthy of notice, which promises to throw even a
transitory ray of light on the subject. The lowest of
the people will be the class among Avhom our investiga-
tion will be most successful ; and, from their deepest
superstitions to their gayest diversions, — from the kindest
effusions of their warm-heartedness to their crimes and
the punishment of them, — from the legends and jests
of their leisure to their labours in the cottage or the
field, — every new feature of which we can catch a
glimpse will aid in filling up the picture. Even dry
statistical details will here possess importance ; and it
will be desirable to trace as minutely as possible
the results of productive industry, their effects on the
condition of the various States mto which the peninsula
is divided, and the commercial relations which connect
the various sections of Italy with the transalpine
nations. This last subject of inquiry is particularly
interesting to us, from the close relations in trade
which subsist between our own country and that which
we are examining.

It is the more necessary to attempt doing justice to
the character of the modern Italians, because no people
in Europe are so little understood among us. If we hear
the subject mentioned, it is for the purpose of contrast-
ing modem degeneracy with ancient greatness. There
is truth even in our mistake. The melancholy song


which the shepherds chant m the plams of Rome, tells us
that the Eternal City is not what she was.* It is no less
true, that the national character is sadly changed, clianged
as much by the long absence of freedom, as by the mis-
government of despotic rulers. Even if it be decreed
that Italy shall not again rise from the dust, the guilt of
her degradation will not on that account lie the less heavy
on the heads of those who have been the instruments of
Heaven's displeasure. But in our floating notions of
Italian character, we grievously exaggerate the extent of
its deterioration. Our ignorance can alone account for the
inaccuracy of our judgment, but several causes unite in
creating the wrong impression. One of these is oui*
Protestantism, and our consequent want of experience
in the practical effects which are produced by the form
of religion in Italy. Another cause is our dislike of
absolutism in government, which tempts us to over-
charge all its evils. We are still farther misled by
our o^vn deeply marked character and customs, which
spring partly from our political condition, partly from our
climate, and partly from our Teutonic blood ; and which,
unless strong correctives are administered, disqualify
us for fully comprehending the temper and habits of a
nation deprived of freedom, descended from a southern
race, and inhabiting a Mediterranean country. According
to the feeling which happens to rule at the moment, we
charge the Italians in the mass, with superstition, igno-
rance, indolence, voluptuousness, revengefulness, or dis-
honesty ; or, if our knowledge be very small and our fancy
very active, we combine all these features of different
classes, times, and provinces, into one monstrous carica-
ture. The special heads of our accusation, like the general
charge, have a little truth amidst much error. This is
not the place for details ; but it is impossible to refrain
from protesting at the outset against all unjust pre-
judices. The upper ranks of the community, the few
who can be said to belong to the middle order, the work-

* Roma ! Roina ! Roma !
Roma non e piu come era prima I


ing-people in the towns, and the inliabitants of the rural
districts, form four distinct classes, each of which has
its own characteristics. Even the first three classes,
though very flir indeed from being stainless, are more
like the same orders among ourselves than we are apt to
believe ; and the peasantry, a very noble race, have been
grossly slandered.

The study of the country itself is not much less valu-
able, and not at all less inviting, than that of its inha-
bitants. It abounds with spots which are consecrated by
historical recollections, with buildings which are the
models of architecture, with collections of statues which
are the masterpieces of ancient art, and with paintings
which are the finest works of modern genius. Its land-
scapes are at once lovely and peculiar ; its botany, its
zoology, the phenomena of its climate, and its singular
mineralogical structure, open a rich field for the specu-
lations of the man of science ; and its natural productions
possess both interest and importance for those who in-
quire into the history of the nation. A short description
of its political divisions, the aspect of its scenery, and its
most prominent physical features, will be useful here as
an introduction to the details of the following chapters.

The names of the leading political divisions of Italy
and its dependencies will furnish us with a vocabulary
for describing the scenery and physical geography. The
most common of the ancient systems of classification,
and the divisions which at present prevail, will answer
that purpose. The geography of the middle ages is both
too complex and too fluctuating, to be of any use for
such an end.

After the Romans had completed the conquest of the
peninsula, the northern frontier of Italy wound along
the southern brow of the Alps ; and the differences be-
tween that line and the one at present adopted, are not
of such consequence as to call for notice. The ancient
boundary was terminated on the east by the river Arsia,


near the modem Fiume ; and it thus included as Italian
provinces Carnia and Istria. These now constitute part
of the Austrian kingdom of Illyria ; and the present
Italian border on the east just shuts out the town of
Aquileia. At the western extremity, the maritime Alps
at first terminated the Roman frontier of Italy ; but the
country was afterwards considered as extending to the
river Var, which now separates the Italian district of
Nice from Provence. In all quarters except those which
have been just named, Italy is surrounded by the sea,
forming a long and irregular peninsula.

The ancient geographical classification usually adopted,
takes as its basis the territories of the primitive nations,
and may be considered as dividing Italy into the fol-
lowing thirteen provinces : — 1. Venetia (with Carnia
and Istria) ; 2. Cisalpine Gaul ; 3. Liguria ; 4. Etruria ;
6. Umbria, with Picenum ; 6. The region of the central
Apennines, including the lands of the Sabini, JEqui,
Marsi, Peligni, Vestini, and Marrucini ; 7. The City of
Rome ; 8. Latium ; 9. Campania ; 10. Samnium, and
the territory of the Frentani ; 11. Apulia; 12. Luca-
nia ; 18. The territory of the Bruttii.

Italy is at present formed into eight sovereignties : —
1. The Lombardo- Venetian Kingdom, of which the Em-
peror of Austria is kmg ; 2. The states of the King of
Sardinia (except Savoy, which is not Italian) ; 3. The
Duchy of Parma ; 4. The Duchy of Modena ; 5. The
Duchy of Lucca (soon to be suppressed) ; 6. The Grand-
duchy of Tuscany ; 7. The Papal States ; 8, The King-
dom of the Two Sicilies, including the Neapolitan pro-
vinces and Sicily. Two other petty states are nominally
independent ; the Principality of Monaco, in the Sar-
dinian county of Nice ; and the Republic of San Marino,
in the eastern division of the Papal States.

The first three of the ancient provinces include (with
immaterial deviations) the Lombardo- Venetian Kingdom,
the continental Italian possessions of the Sardinian mo-
narchy, the duchies of Parma and Modena, and the north-
eastern comer of the Papal States, ending at Rimini.


This region lies wholly between the Alps and the northern
side of the Apennines, excepting that part of the Sar-
dinian territories composed of the county of Nice and
duchy of Genoa, which form a long narrow strip between
the southern side of the mountains and the sea. In the
dark ages, a small portion of this district, extending from
Rimini northward to beyond Ravenna, and westward
to the ridge of the Apennines, received the name of
Romagna, from its occupation by the exarchs of the
titular Roman empu*e. The remainder of the great valley
between the Alps and Apennines, derived from its con-
querors in the sixth century the name of Lombardy ;
and the term is generally used in this sense by writers on
the history of the middle ages. But after the sovereignty
of Piedmont had reached its utmost limit tovrards the
east, and the Venetian provinces had been stopped in
their growth westward, the intervening space, compos-
ing the duchy of Milan and the marquisate of Mantua,
fell first into the hands of the Spaniards, and afterwards
into those of the Austrians ; and to this intermediate
territory the name of Lombardy is now most usually con-
fined. The Austrians, by their latest arrangements, ex-
tend the designation to the eastward, so as to take in
Bergamo and Brescia, which were formerly Venetian
provinces. The whole region described in this paragraph
may be considered as Northern or Upper Italy.

A second historical region, called Middle Italy, may be
regarded as stretching from the borders of Upper Italy to
the southern slopes of the central Apennines. In this
section, the greater part of the ancient Etruria is found
under the name of the modern Tuscany ; but the an-
cient province, as its frontier on the south-east and south
was formed by the Tiber from its source, comprehends
also the north-western portion of the Papal States.
Umbria and Picenum, on the eastern side of the Apen-
nines, are almost entirely in the Domains of the Church ;
a small portion only lying within the Neapolitan frontier.
The land of the Sabines, included in the sixth ancient

Online LibraryWilliam SpaldingItaly and the Italian islands, from the earliest ages to the present time (Volume 1) → online text (page 2 of 35)