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

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is the Aufidus, on whose banks was fought the battle
of Cannae. The precise scene of this murderous conflict
cannot be fixed without some hesitation ; but ruined
tombs and other edifices not far from the right bank of
the river, about eight miles from Barletta, are supposed
to belong to the village of Cannas, and thus to indicate
the neighbourhood of the battle ; and Canosa, twelve
miles from the river-mouth, is Canusium, which appears
in the same page of the Roman history. Between Ve-
nosa (Venusia) and the river, the town of Melfi occupies
the summit of a fine, conical, isolated mountain, which,
with the woody ravines formed by it, is poetical ground,
being the Mons Vultur, which sheltered Horace's in-
fant slumbers. Southward from Barletta stands Bari,
the ancient Barium ; and Brindisi is Brundusium, the
most celebrated port of ancient Italy, and the scene of
Virgil's death. Its situation is marshy, its excellent
harbour is nearly choked up with sand, and its strong
castle is a prison for convicts. Otranto partially pre-
serves the name of Hydrus or Hydruntum ; and Gallipoli,
a stirrmg port, that of Callipolis, on the Gulf of Taren-


The eastern side of this grand basin is terminated by
the lapygian or Sallentine promontory, called by the
Italians the Capo di Leuca ; and at this point commences
that line of coast to which most of the ancient geo-
graphers restrict, somewhat capriciously, the name of
Magna Grscia. In its strict application, the term com-
prehends only that part of the eastern shore which ex-
tends southward from the lapygian promontory to the
Zephyrian (the Capo di Bruzzano), or, at farthest, to
the promontory of Hercules (Capo Spartivento), or to
Leucopetra (the Capo dell' Armi), the two southern
extremities of the peninsula.* It would be more con-
venient to use the name as a collective one, embracing
all the Greek settlements in Italy.

But within the limits thus laid down were certainly
founded the most powerful of the Italo-Grecian states.
It will be sufficient to notice particularly Taras or
Tarentum, Metapontum, Heraclea, Sybaris, Thurii,
Croton, and Locri Epizephyrii. The first six of these
splendid cities stood on the Gulf of Tarentum, bounded
between the Lacinian and lapygian promontories, on
the rocks of the former of which still stands the last
column of the temple of the Lacinian Juno, giving to
the headland its modern name of Capo delle Colonne.
The town of Taranto, occupying the site of Tarentum,
but possessing few of its remains, is situated very de-
lightfully, on a neck of land which nearly divides the
main gulf from a small inner bay that forms its
head. Around a solitary house, called Torre di Mare,
near the right bank of the Bradano, the old Bradanus,
an uncultivated plain, covered with tamarisks and other
coppice-wood, extends to the sea ; and on an eminence in
this flat are the sole vestiges of Metapontum, being the
ruins of a Doric temple, of which fifteen columns with
their architrave are still erect. Heraclea lay to the south
of Metapontum, but not a fragment of it remains ; though
inscriptions, medals, and the celebrated Heraclean tablets

• Cluverii Italia Antiqua, p. 1321.


of bronze, dug up in 1753, have fixed its site at Policoro,
a mansion near the shore, in the plain of the river Sinno,
which is the ancient Siris. At the south-western angle
of the Gulf of Tarentum, commencing at the sea on the
frontier between Lucania and Bruttium, and extending
southwards into the latter province upwards of fifty
miles, is a valley watered by several streams, and in many
spots singularly fertile and beautiful. In the neigh-
bourhood of the coast rich corn-fields and fine pastures
are scattered among woody hills, while jagged moun^
tains, closing the distance, descend at several points in
steep precipices to the water's edge. Two of the rivers
of this vale are classical. The Crati, its main stream, is
the Crathis, whose waters were fabled to turn the hair
to the colour of gold ; and the Coscile is the Sybaris.
These two rivers, whose beds appear to have undergone
violent changes, now unite about six miles from their
mouth ; and in the district which they embellish stood
the two cities of Sybaris and Thurii, the former famous
for its luxurious prosperity, the latter both for its public
annals, and for the share which the historian Herodotus
is said to have taken in its foundation. Of the first, no
remains need be sought ; for its destruction was as re-
markable as its existence. The people of Croton anni-
hilated it by turning the waters of the Crathis into a new
channel, from which they flowed over and covered it.
Even of Thurii, which was founded in its stead, no certain
trace lias been discovered. The magnificent Croton, the
residence of Pythagoras, stood either on the exact site of
the present Cotrone, or between it and the extremity of
the Lacinian promontory, where there lately were con-
siderable ruins." The classical banks of the Neacthus,
now called Neto, have lost the verdant beauty which dis-
tinguished them in the days of Theocritus.

The inlet which opened between the Lacinian pro-
montory and that of Cocynthum (Capo di Stilo), was
termed the Scylletic Gulf from the colony of Scylle-

• Riedesel's Travels, Forster's Translation, 1773, p. 163.


tium, on whose site stands Squillace, a decayed town,
which however furnishes the modern name of the bay.
On the remaining part of the coast of Magna Graecia was
the famous city of Locri, whose lawgiver was Zaleucus,
and its poet Pindar. Its Grecian ruins have entirely
disappeared. Roman remains, however, are visible on
a plain of five miles, which intervenes between the sea
and the commanding height (an offshoot from a mag-
nificent labyrinth of precipices and forests), on which
stands the Saracenic town of Gerace.

On the western coast only four Grecian settlements
demand especial notice. The town of Reggio, prettily
situated on the Strait of Messina, amidst orange groves or
vineyards, and embosomed among winding hills, occupies
the site of Rhegium, creditably distinguished in the his-
tory of Magna Graecia for its institutions and the spirit of
its public policy. At the northern end of the strait, the
well-built town of Scylla covers picturesquely a little
headland, terminating in a cliff which dips sheer into
the water, and is crowned by a considerable fort. Be-
yond the point, at the foot of the perpendicular precipice,
a fantastically shaped crag of no great elevation faces
the sea, and is the classical Scylla. Charybdis is an
eddy called the Galofaro, on the opposite Sicilian coast,
near the citadel of Messina, at the distance of three miles
and three and a half furlongs.* A town called Scyllaeum
stood on the isthmus. Proceeding along the coast into
Lucania, and passing the promontory of Palinurus, we
find near the shore the ruins of Elea or Velia, a city
which has many claims to remembrance ; more especi-
ally for having had its early history told by Herodotus ;
for having founded, in the persons of Zeno andParmenides,
the Eleatic school of philosophy ; and for having been the
resort of Cicero and of Horace.

Inland from Elea rises the lofty range of Mount Al-
burnus, between which and the sea, a few miles farther

* From Scylla Rock to the Lighthouse Tower of Messina, 6047
English yards. — Smyth's Sicily, p. 107.


north, extends the low, marshy, pestilential level, on
whose deserted surface rise the magnificent remains of
the Greek town of Posidonia, now best known by its
Roman name of Paestum. The impressive majesty of
these noble ruins is unequalled in Italy, perhaps un-
surpassed in Europe. Every thing combines to increase
their solemnity and grandeur : their position on the un-
inhabited plain, " between the mountains and the sea ;"
their dimensions, much greater than those of any other
standing ruin in the peninsula ; the patriarchal simplicity
of their architecture ; and even the warm hues of the
yellow calcareous stone of which they are built, harmo-
nizing with the brightness of the Italian sky. Portions
of the walls and gates, of an amphitheatre and tombs, are
still visible ; the circuit of the city can be traced, but
its mass of buildings has crumbled into furzy hillocks ;
and three temples alone stand erect. That which is be-
tween the two others, and which has been by conjecture
designated the Temple of Neptune, the tutelary divinity
of the place, is by far the finest of the three, and is one
of the most characteristic of Grecian ruins. It consists
of an external colonnade, supporting a massive entab-
lature, within which was a wall enclosing the cell ;
while in the inside of the cell is a second colonnade,
formed by two stories of smaller columns, divided by an
architrave. The building is almost entire, excepting the
walls of the cell, of which little remains ; and the co-
lumns are unusually short for their thickness, and
crowded very closely together. The edifice which, by a
manifest error, has been called a Basilica, is nearly in
as good preservation, but presents a style of architecture
much inferior, and probably later ; and its plan is re-
markable for having a row of columns running longi-
tu dinally through the middle of the interior. The colon-
nade of the smallest ruin, called the Temple of Ceres,
is not dissimilar to that of the great temple, either in
proportions, or in general effect.*

• Dimensions in English feet :— I. The Temple of Neptune :
length of platform, 195-4; breadth of platform, 78 10 ; diameter


No Roman structures rose to contrast with the severe
simplicity of the Dorian shrines ; for, on the colonization
of Posidonia by the Romans (b. c. 272), it sunk at once
into decay : the inhabitants, lingering awhile among
its dwellings, held an annual day of lamentation for
their lost freedom ; and tlie conquerors soon knew the
name of the city only as belonging to the spot, where
grew the roses which flowered twice a-year. It was,
however, an inhabited town in the ninth century, when
the Saracens plundered it ; Robert Guiscard the Norman
repeated the spoliation in 1080 ; and Paestum has ever
smce been a heap of ruins.

The interior of the district, of which the circuit has
just been made, presents even fewer points of interest
in ancient than in modem history. Consentia, the
capital of the Bruttii, is now Cosenza ; and to the south-
ward of this town the mountainous centre of the penin-
sula is occupied by a wild and thick wood, which,
extending continuously in the old times southward to
Rhegium, received the name of the Brettian Forest or
Forest of Sila.


This extensive island, equally remarkable for beauty
of landscape and for the value of its natural productions,
is likewise unusually interesting from its classical recol-
lections and its magnihcent remains of antiquity.

Its ancient history resembles that of Lucania and
Bruttium, in presenting to our notice a chain of foreign
colonies which occupied its shores, and maintained pos-
session alternately against new mvaders from without,
and against the native inhabitants of the mountainous

of columns, 6-10 ; height of columns (with capitals), 28- 1 1 ; height
of entablature, 12-2 ; diameter of internal columns, 4-8 ; height of
internal columns, 19 9. — II. The Pseudodipteral Temple or Basi-
lica: length, lt)7-9; breadth, 80; diameter of columns, 4-9;
height of columns, 2 1 . — III. The Temple of Ceres : length, 107-9 ;
breadth, 47-7 ; diameter of columns, 4-2 ; height of columns, 20-4.
— Wilkins' Antiquities of Magna Graecia, — A fourth temple, which
has been called that of Juno, was discovered in 1830, but is an
utter wreck.


districts in the interior. Here, therefore, as in the
south of the peninsula, it is on the coasts (and chiefly
on the east and south) that we have to look for classi-
cal ruins.

The shores of the island are rugged, and in most
places highly picturesque, owing as well to their fine
outlines as to the richness and oriental aspect of the
vegetation. The central regions are chiefly mountainous,
but open oiit into numerous beautiful valleys, and into
some extensive plains ; forests, though less widely than
of old, spread themselves over the hills ; and the hol-
lows present a delightful variety of meadow and arable
land, of which the greater part is cultivated, however
imperfectly. Etna is the loftiest mountain in Sicily ;
and the others form two great ranges. The Madonia
chain, the ancient Montes Nebrodes, faces the northern
coast, and retires thence into the middle of the country ;
and the range anciently called Pelorus, or Mons Nep-
tunius, forms the north-eastern shore from Messina in a
southerly direction. Towards the south-western side the
i; eights gradually shelve downwards.

In the interior one spot only requires to be traced, —
a spot whose fabled beauty has suggested to Milton an
emblem of the garden of Paradise.* Enna appears in
history as an impregnable fastness, and as the seat of
a magnificent temple of Ceres, plundered by the infa-
mous Verres ; and its site is satisfactorily identified with
that of Castro Giovanni, a hill-town of 11,000 inhabi-
tants, in the very heart of the island. The ancient
historians and geographers vie with the poets in their
enthusiastic descriptions of this enchanted region, whose
natural outlines were even more beautiful than the
luxuriant woods and flowery turf which clothed it.

* That fair field

Of Enna, where Proserpine gathering flowers,
Herself a fairer flower, by gloomy Dis
Was gathered, which cost Ceres all that pain
To seek her through the world.


The sacred meadow occupied a ridge, round which
sank deep precipices, and the odour of its flowers,
especially its violets, was believed to throw dogs off the
scent ; groves, pasturages, and parks, encompassed the
rock ; and in the midst of these was the Lake Pergusa,
with a cave through which Pluto was fabled to have va-
nished with his prey. The description which travellers
give of the modern aspect of the spot is humiliating : the
mountains, though still grand, possess neither trees nor
verdure ; and the lake is a marsh four miles in circuit,
filled with reeds, sku-ted by naked banks, and rendered
pestilential by the flax which is steeped m it. The tem-
ple has disappeared ; and a Saracenic castle in ruins covers
one of the two heights, and a broken cross the other.'''

On the eastern coast the first ancient town is Mcs-
sana or Zancle, which gave occasion to the second Punic
war. Messina, situated on the beautiful strait to which
it gives its name, and backed by magnificent mountains,
covers the site o£ Zancle, and conceals its few remains.
Taurominium, to the south, is less celebrated for its clas-
sical history than for the splendid ruins which it has left
at Taormina, in one of the most romantic landscapes
conceivable. Its principal relic is its theatre, placed on
a rocky hiH, whence from amidst broken arches and tall
palms we look out on one of the finest views of Etna.
Under the foundations of Catania, near the foot of the
great volcano, lie the buried wrecks of Catana, whose
little stream the Amenas, and its name of Etna, tempo-
rarily conferred on it by Hiero, have been immortalized
in the odes of Pindar. Still farther to the south, Len-
tini represents Leontium.

In a noble bay, forming its harbour, stands the forti-
fied town of Syracuse, less interesting from its modern
history or state, than from the classic recollections its

* Livii, lib. xxiv. cap. 37-39. Cicer. Orat. iv. in Verrem.
Claudianus, De Raptu Proserpina?, lib. ii. Diodor. Sicul., lib. v.
sub init. Cluverii Sicilia Antiqua, lib. ii. cap, 7. Saint Non,
Voyage Pittoresque, 1781, torn. iv. p. 120-125.


name awakens, of science and poetry, of heroism and
oppression, of Plato, Hiero, Pindar, Theocritus, and
Archimedes, of Dionysius, Dion, and Timoleon. Mar-
cellus, on his conquest of it, though he wept over its
fall, removed to Rome its treasures of art ; and its an-
cient greatness ends with that event, unless the robberies
of Verres be worthy of a place in its story. The five
regions of this most splendid and famous of Sicilian
cities were comprehended in a triangle more than twelve
miles in compass ; and their sites, with vestiges of their
buildings, can still be traced. The modern town, occu-
pying the peninsula of the quarter called Ortygia, be-
tween the smaller and greater harbours, contains the
poetic fountain of Arethusa. Acradina, the largest and
most populous quarter, lay on the shore, and retains
only fragments of rubbish ; while Tyche, situated behind
it, Las left still less. An avenue of tombs cut in the preci-
pice leads to the elevated site of Neapolis, where remain
an amphitheatre, and a well constructed theatre, through
which passes the stream of an ancient aqueduct, turning
a mill-wheel, amidst shrubs and trees. The fifth quarter,
called Epipolae, was formed by the commanding heights
behind Tyche and Neapolis, now covered by a village
named Belvedere. This position was fortified by Nicias,
in his unsuccessful siege of the city ; and some huge
fragments of uncemented blocks are supposed to be-
long to a wall erected by Dionysius. Either in this
quarter, or in the portion of Neapolis nearest to it, were
the celebrated Latomiae, stupendous excavations origin-
ally made as quarries, and afterwards, from at least as
early a date as the defeat of the Athenians, used as
prisons. The ground is now covered with vineyards and
olive-groves ; the picturesque garden of a Capuchin con-
vent occupies the largest of the hollows ; and another,
called the Paradiso, contains the singular excavated
passage, in the form of a Roman S, which has been
called the Ear of Dionysius, and supposed, without much
reason, to have been constructed as a listening place.
The temple of Minerva has become the cathedral, and


that of the Olympian Jupiter has left some fallen co-
lumns ; but we have lost once more the tomb of Archi-
medes, which Cicero was so proud of finding.

The southern coast commences with Cape Passaro,
the ancient Promontorium Pachynum, to the west of
which, near Modica, in the deep rocky valley of Ispica,
are cliffs cut out into numerous habitations, consist-
ing, in several instances, of two or three stories, with
doors and windows.* This curious Troglodytic city,
still occupied by a few peasants, must have been form-
ed by the earliest inliabitants of the island. It has
no historical name, and was probably abandoned when
the foreign colonists first gained possession of the coast.
In the neighbourhood, excavations on a rocky hill, sur-
mounted by a Moorish tower, have disclosed antiquities
supposed to belong to the Greek town of Camarina ;
and similar buried remains, near Terra Nuova, are the
sole vestiges of Gela, whose immense piles Virgil
represents as having been seen by -lEueas in his voyage
towards Carthage, and in whose plains, the Geloi Campi,
the poet ^schylus died.

Acragas, a colony of Gela, called by the Romans Agri-
gentum, has been more fortunate ; for its ruins, beside the
modern Girgenti, are among the most splendid and in-
teresting of all classical monuments. The river Gir-
genti, the Greek Acragas, bathes the foot of a beautiful
slope, now clothed with gardens and orchards, and marked
by the temples and tombs of the ancient city. The
summit of the mountain, once covered by the citadel,
now by the modern town, and approached by a hoUow
way, is 1240 feet above the level of the sea, and the
picturesque richness of the scene is described as superb.
The two elevated ledges, on which stood Agrigentum, are
surrounded by abrupt precipices ; the river divides itself
into two branches, forming wooded ravines ; and the vine-

* Travels of Kephalides, vol. i. letter 57 ; Houel, Voyage Pit-
toresque, tomes 3, 4.


yards, and groves of olive and almond trees, separate:!
by hedges of the aloe and Indian fig, stretch to the sea,
mantling a beautiful declivity of more than four miles
square. The principal ruins stand on the ridge of one of the
precipitous heights, perhaps the Athenian Rock (Rupes
Athenaea) of Acragas. On this platform are remnants of a
theatre, — of a little temple, now a convent-church, —
columns of a beautifully proportioned Temple, called that
of Juno, built of the common brown stone, and placed
among carob and olive trees near the edge of the cliff, —
and two other less distinct fragments of temples. The
same rock presents another temple, named that of Concord,
the best preserved monument in Sicily, whose columns
(tliirteen in depth, and six in width) are entire, while the
walls of the cella, and the entablature and pediments of
both fronts, are nearly so. The building is exceedingly
beautiful, though connoisseurs pronounce its architecture
inferior to that of the temple of Juno.* Farther down the
slope lie the huge piles of ruins called the Temple of the
Giants (Tempio de' Gigauti), vouching for the correctness
of the description which Diodorus gives of the shrine of
Jupiter Olympius, but which was totally disbelieved till
these remains were discovered. This structure is now one
vast mass of fallen fragments, composed of the coarse-
grained brown stone which is found in all the Sicilian
edifices. Its half-columns have been built up in regular
courses of masonry, eight blocks in each course. The
foundations of two immense piers remain, dividing the
interior into three naves ; pieces of shafts, capitals, and
entablatures, are scattered about, with some of the sculp-
tures which the historian commends so highly ; and the
enormous substructions, of which he also speaks, have
been partially exposed by excavations. This colossal
Doric temple was the largest which the Greeks erected ;
and its remaining wrecks, applied to the known rules of
their arcliitecture, have enabled an eminent antiquary to

* Dimensions ; entire length, 128i English feet ; breadth, 64^;
length of cell, 48^ ; breadth of cell, 24.^ ; height of columns, 22 ;
their base-diameter, 4 feet 7 inches. — Smyth's Sicily, p. 210.


offer a restoration, from which we learn its dimensions
with an exactness almost complete. Of all the Grecian
buildings, the nearest to it in size was the great Sicilian
temple of Selinus, which was only ten feet shorter ;
the Parthenon had exactly two-thirds of its extent ;
the temple of Neptune at Psestum was little more than
half as large. Dionysius says, that a man could hide
himself in one of the flutings of its columns ; and the
modem measurements prove this assertion to be strictly
true.* On a separate rock, apparently the ancient Ne-
cropolis, are innumerable tombs ; and the spring of
naphtha, mentioned by Pliny, still flows. As to the
aqueducts and reservoir, with the remains of the forum,
circus, and camps, a simple allusion is enough.

The only other to^\^l requiring notice on this shore is
Selinus, — Virgil's " city of the palms." Its palm-trees
have died out, and its site, on a lonely plain mantled with
brushwood, between the rivers Belici and Madiuni, the
Grecian Hypsa and Selinus, is covered by a wilderness
of immense prostrate walls, columns, and entablatures.
This place and Segestc, which have left some of the
most striking ruins that exist in the island, are chiefly
remarkable in ancient history for their desperate ani-
mosity to each other. Selinus was taken and rased
by the Carthaginians ; but the singularly regular posi-
tion in which most of its fallen ruins lie, appears to
indicate that earthquakes have aided in its destruction.
The remains occupy two parallel ridges, separated by
a sandy valley; and the most important of them are
fragments of six temples, three on each ridge, of which
one is, as has been just stated, the largest of all the

* Quatremere de Quincy, in the M moires de I'lnstitut Royal
de France ; classe d' Histoireetde Litterature Ancienne, torn. ii.
1815. The dimensions calculated in the restoration proposed in
the Memoir are the following, in English feet and withovit frac-
tions : length of the temple externally, 351 ; breadth externally,
191 ; height of the columns, 62; height of the entablature and
pediment, 52 ; total height, 121 ; circumference of the columns

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