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

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at the base, 39 ; diameter of each fluting at the base, 2 feet.


Grecian buildings, except the temple of Agrigentum,
the ruins of which indeed are far less imposing.*

On the western end of the island few points possess
much antiquarian importance. Marsala, on the site of
Lilyhaeum, the great fastness of the Carthaginians, retains
some antiquities. Trapani covers the ancient Drepanum,
where Virgil places the tomb of Anchises ; and the abrupt
Mount San Giuliano, a little to the eastward, is the
classical Eryx. On its summit stood the celebrated
temple of Venus Erycina, surrounded by the fortifica-
tions of the citadel belonging to the to^vn, which lay on
the steep ascent. Among the ruins of a Moorish fort,
polygonal walls and a few granite pillars belong to the
primitive, Grecian, and Roman periods.

The coast about Mount Eryx is poetic ground, as
being the scene of the fifth book of the ^neid ; in
which the poet attributes to the Trojans the foundation
both of the magnificent temple on the height, and of the
town of -(Egeste, called by the Romans Segesta, which
is the first remarkable spot on the northern shore of the

-^geste is best known for the invitation it gave Athens
to interpose in the dissensions of Sicily, and for the
mean artifice by which its rulers imposed upon the Athe-
nian envoys an exaggerated idea of its wealth. Its sins
were punished by Agathocles of Syracuse ; and only
one fine temple- and the traces of a theatre remain to
attest either its Grecian splendour, or its short-lived pro-
sperity as a Roman colony. The ruins stand near the
gulf of Castellamare, about eight miles from Alcamu,
in a lonely and sterile plain, v/hose only shade is a soli-
tary fig-tree overhanging a well, while noble mountains
rise behind. The temple is placed on a craggy hill,

* Dimensions of the temple of Jupiter at Selinus : length, 331
English feet ; breadth, 161 ; diameter cf columns at the base, lOi
feet ; height of columns, with the capitals, 48^ feet. — Wilkins
Magna Graecia, pp. 46, 47.


and its peristyle is almost entire, though the walls of
the cell are wanting. The columns are not fluted, the
structure has evidently heen left uncompleted, and its
architectural merit is not of a high order.* The beau-
tiful city of Palermo, the modein capital of the island,
stands on the site of Panormus, which, though a naval
station of the Carthaginians, acted no leading part in
the ancient history of Sicily, and has left no remarkable
relics. Termini, Avhich enjoys a romantic situation on
the rocky coast, eastward from the metropolis, occupies
nearly the place of Himera, a Greek city of note, but
early destroyed. Its Thermas have left some vestiges ;
and it is not unworthy of notice, that these buildings
gave name successively to a new Grecian settlement, to
a Roman colony, and to the modern town. In the
beautiful gulf of Patti, at the summit of a striking moun-
tain-pass, are the ruins of T^Tidaris, often mentioned
in Cicero's attacks on Verres.


The antiquities of these islands have been quite over-
looked by most students of Italian topography ; but
neither is believed to contain any remarkable monu-
ments of the classical architecture, and their history
makes few spots interesting for their own sake. Both
are mountainous, Corsica wholly so, except a district
running along its eastern coast.

In Corsica, called by the Greeks Cyrnos, the modern
capital of Ajaccio is on the site of the old Uranium;
and at Bastia, the other chief town of the island, was
the ancient Mantinorum Oppidum. The two principal
Roman colonies were that of Marius, called Mariana,
an inland settlement north-west from Bastia, and that
of Sylla, called Aleria or Alalia, a seaport on the eastern
coast, whose ruins now, by encroachments of the land,
are half a lea^rue from the water.

* Dimensions of the temple of JE^esfe : length, English feet
lyO: breadth, feet 7ti-8. — Wilkins' Magna Graecia.


In Sardinia, which the Greeks called Sardo, Sanda-
liotis, or Ichnusa, the modem capital Cagliari occupies
the site of the ancient Caralis ; and the ruins of the port
Olbia exist near Terranuova. Around Porto Torres,
which was the Roman Turris, are more numerous ves-
tiges of antiquity than in any other part of the country.
But this island has a class of monuments of its own,
probably belonging to its earliest mhabited periods, in
the Round Towers, called Nuraggi, which rise, to the
number of several hundreds, on hills all over its surface.
They are conical buildings, vaulted like the Grecian
treasure-houses, and composed of uncemented blocks of
stone, generally disposed in horizontal layers. A wind-
ing staircase, carried up in the inside of the structure, be-
tween two concentric walls, usually conducts from an
arched chamber below to an upper one precisely similar.
The largest of these towers, which stands in the district
of Busachi, eastward from Oristano, is called " Lu
Nuraggi lungu," and is nearly sixty feet in height.*

The rocky but valuable isle of Elba, which belongs
to the group of Corsica and Sardinia, was known to the
Carthaginians and Romans by the name of Ilva or

The preceding classification of the Italian territories,
in which the occupation of districts by the ancient tribes
is taken as the basis, has been generally adopted by
modern Avriters, and connects itself far better than any
other with the facts of the Roman histor3^ But the
student, especially if his attention is likely to be direct-
ed either to the writings of the Lower Empire, or to
the vicissitudes of Italy itself after the irruption of the
barbarians, should be acquainted with certain other
arrangements introduced by successive emperors for the
purposes of administration.

We have seen, that at the fall of the republic the penin-

* Cluverii Sardinia et Corsica Antiquae ; in Grfflvii Thesaur.
Siciliae, torn. xv. — Smvth's Sardinia.



sula was governed as one undivided province, while Sicily
composed a second, and Sardinia with Corsica a third.
This simple plan was abandoned by Augustus, who divided
the whole of Italy, from the Var to the Arsia, and from
the heights of the Alps to the southern seas, into Eleven
provinces. No new nomenclature seems to have been
introduced, each province being merely called a Region,
and distinguished by its number, from the first to the
eleventh. Each was placed under a governor of con-
sular dignity, and therefore all of them ranked as Roman
provinces of the highest class. The following were the
Augustan Regions, in the order in which they were
named, as they are described by Pliny.

1. Campania, to which, as we are told, Latium was
added. We must recollect, however, that the authority
of the prefect of Rome extended not only over the whole
of Latium, but northward into Etruria, and southward
a short way across the older Campanian border ; so that,
even under the early imperial system, this extensive
district was, in regard to jurisdiction and civil govern-
ment, cut off from the provmces on both sides of it.
2. Apulia, with the Hirpinian district taken from Sam-
nium. 8. Lucania and Bruttium. 4. The remainder
of Samnium, and the region of the Central Apennines.
5. Picenum. 6. Umbria. 7. Etruria. 8. The Cis-
padane part of Cisalpine Gaul, separated from Umbria
by the river Rubicon, and bounded on its other sides by
the Apennine, the Po, and the Adriatic. The name of
Flaminia, which some modern geographers give to this
province, seems to rest on no early authority, and is
objectionable, if invented, from its tendency to create
mistakes between this region and one which really bore
the same name afterwards. 9. Liguria. 10. The region
which Cellarius aptly calls the Transpadana Maritima.
It was chiefly composed of Venetia and Istria ; but to
these was added that district of Cisalpine Gaul which
had been occupied b^'- the Cenomanni, so that it included
Brixia, Cremona, and Mantua. 11. The Transpadana
Subalpina of Cellarius, which, with the exception just


specified, embraced the whole portion of Cisalpine Gaul
that lay between the Po and the Alps.

The administrative an-angement which next followed,
possesses much interest as to the subsequent history of
Italy ; since it was, directly or indirectly, the groundwork
of all the most important political divisions established
in the middle ages, and of some that have survived till
the present day. Several of its details, however, are
but imperfectly known, and, as some authorities refer
it to Hadrian, even its origin is disputed. We may here
be contented with learning, that the plan was completely
developed by Constantino, that it formed a part of that
great system of his which has been explained in another
place,* and that it remained unchanged at the fall of
the Western Empire.

Constantine, adding to the former Italian territories
some regions beyond the old Alpine frontier, divided
Italy and its islands into seventeen provinces. The new
districts were three : — 1. The Alpes Cottiae, or region of
Mount Cenis, having for its chief town Segusio or Susa ;
2. and 8. Rhetia, chiefly contained in the Grisons and
Tyrol, and divided into two provinces.

The provinces embraced in Italy itself were Eleven,
to which the Notitia Utriusque Imperii, a treatise be-
longing to the Theodosian age, gives the following names.
— 1. " Venetia and Istria." This province seems to have
substantially coincided with the tenth region of Augus-
tus ; and part of it continued united in the dark ages,
forming the duchy or march of Friuli. 2. " Liguria."
Under this name was included not only Liguria Proper,
but the whole, or nearly the whole, of Transpadane Gaul.
The seat of the local government was at Milan ; and
in the sixth century of our era the province became the
kernel of the Lombardic kingdom in Italy. 3. " jEmilia."
This province, which retained its new title for several
centuries, contained the modern duchies of Parma and
Modena, with the extensive territory that once belonged

* See Chapter II. of this part, p. 108 of the vohime.


to the city of Bolog-ra. 4. " Flaminia and Picenum
Annonarium." The former of these two regions, and
that which precedes it in the list, derived their names
from the great Roman highways which traversed them
respectively. Flaminia became, as one portion of the
Exarchate of Ravenna, the last stronghold of the Grecian
emperors in the West ; and afterwards, passing to the
Popedom, it was called Romagna from its previous occu-
pants.'^ The second region of the same province cannot
be identified with perfect certainty, but there is not
much reason to doubt that, without including any part
of the Picenum of classical times, it consisted of that por-
tion of the ancient Umbria which lay on the eastern side
of the Apennine, and is chiefly covered by the duchy of
Urbino. 5. " Picenum Suburbicarium." In tills pro-
vince was included a part, oi more probably the whole,
of the Roman Picenum, which in the dark ages was
called the Pentapolis, and afterwards the march or mar-
quisate of Ancona. The difficulties which occur in fix-
ing the boundaries of this and the preceding province
arise chiefly from the fact that, after the fall of the
empire, the whole tract which is composed of them was
never for any considerable period placed under separate
masters. 6. " Tuscia and Umbria." Both of the two
beautiful districts here classed together have always con-
tinued to feel the effects of their new^ arrangement. The
latter comprehended not by any means the whole of the
ancient Umbria, but merely that portion of it which Lay
on the western side of the Apennine. The duchy of
Spoleto, formed in the dark ages, corresponded almost
exactly to the boundaries thus indicated. Tuscia was
the name for Etruria ; but this old province was dismem-
bered like the other, for the new one included only that

• Some writers state Romagna to be identical with Emilia,
which is manifestly wrong ; although the territory of the Exarchate
did, at more than one point of time, extend into iEmilia ; and
although, likewise, the popes asserted that Bologna and other
parts of Emilia were included in the deed by which Pepin granted
to them the Exarchate.

VOL. 1. U


northern part of it Avhich makes up the modern Tuscany.
The reason for the separation is easily found ; for the dis-
trict of the City-prefect embraced the southern parts of
Etruria, and this imperial office accordingly forms one
step in the progress of events which gave half of that pro-
vince to the Papal See. 7. " Valeria." An obscure town,
now altogether lost, gave rise to this appellation, which
comprised all those districts so often mentioned already
as embracing the Central Apennine. 8. " Samnium."
This region, contained substantially within its ancient
limits, became in later times the duchy of Beneventum,
which, however, speedily extended itself on all sides
far beyond the Samnite borders. 9. " Campania ;"
10. "Apulia;" 31. " Lucania and Bruttium." These
three provinces retained their ancient limits as well as
names ; and the second of them, receiving the title of
Puglia, formed in the dark ages the earliest seat of the
kingdom of Naples.

The three islands of Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica,
making one province each, complete the number stated
at the commencement.

These provinces were of different classes, according to
their relative size and consequence. Those which are
numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 9, together with Sicily, stood
in the first rank, having Consular governors ; the pro-
vinces 10 and 11 were in the second order, and governed
by Correctors ; and 7 and 8, with the three Alpine dis-
tricts, as well as Corsica and Sardinia, were administered
by Praesides, and belonged to the lowest class.



Illustrations of the Character, Habits, Commerce, and
Productive Industry of the Ancient Italians.

FIRST PERIOD: Latino-Etkuscan : Religion— Education-
Agriculture — Mechanical Arts — Trade — Magna Graecia and the
Islands — Illustrative Examples — Money-making — Morality —
MisceUaneous Habits. SECOND PERIOD: Italo-Gre-
ciAN : Religion — State of Belief — Superstitions — Ghosts —
Witches — Morality — Mixed Character of the Republican States-
men—Crimes of the Imperial Court — Meanness of the Imperial
Senators — Morality of the People — Ancient Brigands — Illustra-
tions of Imperial Epicureanism and Reverses — Intellectual Cul-
tivation — Course of Education — Endowed Schools — Libraries —
Booksellers — Newspapers and their Contents — Classes of
Society — ^Haughtinessof the Nobles — No Middle Class — Markets
for Slaves — Their Occupations and Treatment — Their Rebelhons
— Freedmen — Amusements — TheTheatre and Improvised Drama
— The Circus — Gladiators — "Wild Beasts — Marine Theatres —
Fondness for Spectacles — Aristocratic Amusements — Readings
— Improvvisatori — 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.

The preceding chapters exhibit an outline, which we
must fill up for ourselves by the study of ancient writ-
ings and monuments. Such research will at every step


unfold truths with which it is essential to store the
mind, if we would rightly apprehend the position of the
Romans as political legislators and votaries of literature
and science, or if we would appreciate those works of
art which in the classical ages received birth or shelter
in Italy. Of those numberless illustrations, some have
been indicated incidentally as we proceeded ; but, before
we quit the heathen times, we must combine these with
additional elucidations in one view, and suggest a few
facts which throw light on secondary though important
sections of the Roman annals.*

Proceeding to traverse this ground, we may regard the
character, manners, and industry of the nation, as having
passed through three successive stages.

The earliest, which may be carried down through the
first five centuries of the city, will be found to end soon
after the triumph of the democracy ; and its aspect will
be substantially described if we style it the Latino-
Etruscan period. It developed much of the evil that was
in the national character ; but it also created and put in
action all the elements of its primitive gi-andeur. By
the native influences of this age, and probably in that
part of it when the Latins and Sabines alone constituted
the state, was formed the husbandman-soldier of Rome,
with his rude and stem patriotism, his inaptitude for
receiving new impressions, his love of agriculture and of
war, his thirst for freedom, and his pride. The charac-
teristics afterwards derived from the Etruscans were at
first ingrafted on the ruling class only ; but both the

• The references made in this chapter, whether to classical or
secondary authorities, are mainly intended for leading the student
to a few of the most useful sources of information. An acknow-
ledgment of all the obligations which the present sketch owes, both
to general treatises on Roman Antiquities and to such as illustrate
special sections, would be equally cumbrous and unnecessary. But
a recent work of high continental celebrity, Schlosser's Geschichte
der alten Welt und ihrer Cultur (9 vols. 1826-1834), must be
named as having, both here and elsewhere, suggested many views
and indicated many materials.


guperstition of Etruria and its useful arts spread in time
through the whole nation ; and when its character had
received these new features, it was ready to fulfil its
destiny of conquering the world.

The second period, which may be called the Italo-
Grecian, continued till about the extinction of the An-
tonines. Although, throughout the whole duration of
ancient history, the political relations and institutions of
Rome preserved an aspect strictly Italian and independ-
ent, yet this was far from being true as to the structure of
private life and manners, which, from the commence-
ment of this second era down to the fall of the empire,
underwent a strong, constant, and increasing amalgama-
tion with foreign elements. In the age now spoken of,
the Greek admixture was evidently the most powerful.
Most things, also, that were changed in the national
character between the time of Cato and that of Marcus
Aurclius, were altered for the worse : the nation became
not only weaker but more immoral ; the age was one of
wealth and voluptuousness. The wealth was ill divided ;
but yet it flowed far around, oftenest as the price of sin,
paid for by the rich and committed by the poor : the
voluptuousness diffused itself still more widely, and, in
an incalculable degree, more ruinously ; for the state
suffered infinitely less from the expensive luxury of the
great, than from that appetite for debasing amusements
and that unprincipled idleness, which infected the whole
mass of the beggared populace. But even in this age
the ancient martial spirit still survived ; and no other
nation has ever continued to be vigorous so long after
having become sensual and utterly corrupted.

The third period, extending between the Antonines
and Odoacer, saw the last spark of Roman greatness
quenched in darkness. The evident tendency of this
age entitles us to describe it as the Greco- Oriental ; for
there was much less of Italian in it than of Greek, and
less of Greek than of the effeminacy, the cowardice, and
the superstitions of the Asiatics. A debasing weakness
had long been flowing in as an under-current ; but


about the time of Septimius Severus it floated up, and
thenceforth constituted the body of the stream. The re-
mainder of the Roman annals composes as melancholy
a page as any in the book of human history. Virtue,
learning, and freedom had perished together ; and the
feeblest nation of the east never crouched lower beneath
the scourge of despotism, than did those who trod daily
on the graves of Manlius and the Gracchi.


ENDING A.u. 500, or B.C. 254.

The Latin and Sabine legends, and the ritual of the
Etruscans, united in forming the primitive religion of
Rome. These three tribes took as much from the
Grecian religion as might satisfy us, though there were
no other proof, that, in one sense or another, they and
the Greeks had a comm^on origin. But the Italian
mythology possessed a peculiar nomenclature, as well as
many other distinctive features.

The Sabines and Latins worshipped the powers of
external nature in a less disguised form than the Hel-
lenic race, and with much of a very beautiful symbolic
ceremonial. For many centuries the Roman, who by
night crossed the Forum, was reminded of the elemental
worship of his ancestors by the gleam of the many
lamps which illuminated the open temple of the Moon
on the Palatine Hill. "' The Sun, too, and the Earth by
the name of Ops, had each a shrine ; and to the same
system belonged the adoration of Vesta, with that of
Volcanus the god of the central fires. The divinities
of the fields, the woods, the springs, and the mountains,
had their worship made at once local and useful by
ceremonies which identified themselves with the history
of the people. Such were, for the gods of the forest-
pasttires, the sacrifices of the Lupercal priests ; and

• Varro De Lingua Latina, lib. iv. ; edit. Bipont. 1788, p. 20.
Taciti Annal. lib. xv. cap. 41.


for the deities of agriculture, the hymns of the Arval
Brethren. The evil spirits were likewise propitiated.
Among these may be instanced Robigus, the god of
mildew ; and the gods of the dead, who, under the name
of Lares, were made the guardians of life and of the
'household-hearth. The elemental faith and the hero-
worship were mixed up yet more intimately in such
legends as those of the prophetic Latian king Picus, of
king Faunus and the nymph Marica, of Juturna, Fero-
nia, with other Latian and Sabine goddesses, and of the
wise and fair Egeria, who rose nightly from her fountain
to speak with Numa. The Sabine religion had likewise
a strong allegorical turn, which was instanced in the
worship of Salus, of Fortis Fortuna, and of the three
gods of good faith, Semo, Fidius, and Sancus, who had
a joint temple on the Quirinal.

From the Etruscans came the few mystical cere-
monies of the Roman religion, all its gloomiest supersti-
tions, and the whole of that most important section of it
which sought to predict future events in the moral world
by the observation of their types in physical nature.
Tills last branch fonned the system of the Auspices and
Auguries. Rome, too, like the Etnirian tov/ns, had a
mysterious name, Avhich could not be pronounced with-
out sacrilege ; and it w-as also under the especial protec-
tion of one guardian spirit ; but his name likewise was
concealed, from a fear, as it was alleged, lest the enemies
of the state should practise against it a ceremony used by
the early Romans themselves, of evoking the gods of a
besieged town and inviting them to migrate to the home
of the invaders.""'" The Etruscans also taught their neigh-
bours to appease the angry divinities by human sacrifices.
Prisoners of war were, during the first six centuries of
the city, repeatedly buried alive in compliance with this
cruel superstition ; and for ages afterwards the primi-
tive rite of casting living victims into the Tiber was
commemorated annually in May by the Vestal Virgins,

• Plinii Histor. Natur. lib. iii. cap. 5; lib. xxviii. cap. 2.


who threw wicker figures into the water from the Sub-

Online LibraryWilliam SpaldingItaly and the Italian islands, from the earliest ages to the present time (Volume 1) → online text (page 28 of 35)