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CHAP. 6. (5.)—OF ITALY.

Next comes Italy, and we begin with the Ligures1, after whom we have Etruria, Umbria, Latium, where the mouths of the Tiber are situate, and Rome, the Capital of the world, sixteen miles distant from the sea. We then come to the coasts of the Volsci and of Campania, and the districts of Picenum, of Lucania, and of Bruttium, where Italy extends the farthest in a southerly direction, and projects into the [two] seas with the chain of the Alps2, which there forms pretty nearly the shape of a crescent. Leaving Bruttium we come to the coast of [Magna] Græcia, then the Salentini, the Pediculi, the Apuli, the Peligni, the Frentani, the Marrucini, the Vestini, the Sabini, the Picentes, the Galli, the Umbri, the Tusci, the Veneti, the Carni, the Iapydes, the Histri, and the Liburni.

I am by no means unaware that I might be justly accused of ingratitude and indolence, were I to describe thus briefly and in so cursory a manner the land which is at once the foster-child3 and the parent of all lands; chosen by the providence of the Gods to render even heaven itself more glorious4, to unite the scattered empires of the earth, to bestow a polish upon men's manners, to unite the discordant and uncouth dialects of so many different nations by the powerful ties of one common language, to confer the enjoyments of discourse and of civilization upon mankind, to become, in short, the mother-country of all nations of the Earth.

But how shall I commence this undertaking? So vast is the number of celebrated places (what man living could enumerate them all?), and so great the renown attached to each individual nation and subject, that I feel myself quite at a loss. The city of Rome alone, which forms a portion of it, a face well worthy of shoulders so beauteous, how large a work would it require for an appropriate description! And then too the coast of Campania, taken singly by itself! so blest with natural beauties and opulence, that it is evident that when nature formed it she took a delight in accumulating all her blessings in a single spot—how am I to do justice to it? And then the climate, with its eternal freshness and so replete with health and vitality, the sereneness of the weather so enchanting, the fields so fertile, the hill sides so sunny, the thickets so free from every danger, the groves so cool and shady, the forests with a vegetation so varying and so luxuriant, the breezes descending from so many a mountain, the fruitfulness of its grain, its vines, and its olives so transcendent; its flocks with fleeces so noble, its bulls with necks so sinewy, its lakes recurring in never-ending succession, its numerous rivers and springs which refresh it with their waters on every side, its seas so many in number, its havens and the bosom of its lands opening everywhere to the commerce of all the world, and as it were eagerly stretching forth into the very midst of the waves, for the purpose of aiding as it were the endeavours of mortals!

For the present I forbear to speak of its genius, its manners, its men, and the nations whom it has conquered by eloquence and force of arms. The very Greeks themselves, a race fond in the extreme of expatiating on their own praises, have amply given judgment in its favour, when they named but a small part of it 'Magna Græcia5.' But we must be content to do on this occasion as we have done in our description of the heavens; we must only touch upon some of these points, and take notice of but a few of its stars. I only beg my readers to bear in mind that I am thus hasten- ing on for the purpose of giving a general description of everything that is known to exist throughout the whole earth.

I may premise by observing that this land very much resembles in shape an oak leaf, being much longer than it is broad; towards the top it inclines to the left6, while it terminates in the form of an Amazonian buckler7, in which the spot at the central projection is the place called Cocinthos, while it sends forth two horns at the end of its crescent-shaped bays, Leucopetra on the right and Lacinium on the left. It extends in length 1020 miles, if we measure from the foot of the Alps at Prætoria Augusta, through the city of Rome and Capua to the town of Rhegium, which is situate on the shoulder of the Peninsula, just at the bend of the neck as it were. The distance would be much greater if measured to Lacinium, but in that case the line, being drawn obliquely, would incline too much to one side. Its breadth is variable; being 410 miles between the two seas, the Lower and the Upper8, and the rivers Varus and Arsia9: at about the middle, and in the vicinity of the city of Rome, from the spot where the river Aternus10 flows into the Adriatic sea, to the mouth of the Tiber, the distance is 136 miles, and a little less from Castrum-novum on the Adriatic sea to Alsium11 on the Tuscan; but in no place does it exceed 200 miles in breadth. The circuit of the whole, from the Varus to the Arsia, is 3059 miles12.

As to its distance from the countries that surround it- Istria and Liburnia are, in some places13, 100 miles from it, and Epirus and Illyricum 50; Africa is less than 200, as we are informed by M. Varro; Sardinia14 is 120, Sicily 1 1/2, Corsica less than 80, and Issa15 50. It extends into the two seas towards the southern parts of the heavens, or, to speak with more minute exactness, between the sixth16 hour and the first hour of the winter solstice.

We will now describe its extent and its different cities; in doing which, it is necessary to premise, that we shall follow the arrangement of the late Emperor Augustus, and adopt the division which he made of the whole of Italy into eleven districts; taking them, however, according to their order on the sea-line, as in so hurried a detail it would not be possible otherwise to describe each city in juxtaposition with the others in its vicinity. And for the same reason, in describing the interior, I shall follow the alphabetical order which has been adopted by that Emperor, pointing out the colonies of which he has made mention in his enumeration. Nor is it a very easy task to trace their situation and origin; for, not to speak of others, the Ingaunian Ligurians have had lands granted to them as many as thirty different times.

1 The modern names of these localities will form the subject of consideration when we proceed, in c. 7, to a more minute description of Italy.

2 This passage is somewhat confused, and may possibly be in a corrupt state. He here speaks of the Apennine Alps. By the "lunata juga" he means the two promontories or capes, which extend east and west respectively.

3 This seems to be the meaning of "alumna," and not "nurse" or "foster-mother," as Ajasson's translation has it. Pliny probably implies by this antithesis that Rome has been "twice blessed," in receiving the bounties of all nations of the world, and in being able to bestow a commensurate return. Compared with this idea, "at once the nurse and mother of the world" would be tame indeed!

4 By adding its deified emperors to the number of its divinities. After what Pliny has said in his Second Book, this looks very much like pure adulation.

5 Or "Great Greece." This is a poor and frivolous argument used by Pliny in support of his laudations of Italy, seeing that in all probability it was not the people of Greece who gave this name to certain cities founded by Greek colonists on the Tarentine Gulf, in the south of Italy; but either the Italian tribes, who in their simplicity admired their splendour and magnificence, or else the colonists themselves, who, in using the name, showed that they clung with fondness to the remembrance of their mother-country; while at the same time the epithet betrayed some vanity and ostentation in wishing thus to show their superiority to the people of their mother-country.

6 The comparison of its shape to an oak leaf seems rather fanciful; more common-place observers have compared it to a boot: by the top (cacumen) he seems to mean the southern part of Calabria about Brundisium and Tarentum; which, to a person facing the south, would incline to the coast of Epirus on the left hand.

7 The 'Parma' or shield here alluded to, would be one shaped like a crescent, with the exception that the inner or concave side would be formed of two crescents, the extremities of which join at the central projection. He says that Cocinthos (now Capo di Stilo) would in such case form the central projection, while Lacinium (now Capo delle Colonne) would form the horn at the extreme right, and Leucopetra (now Capo dell' Armi) the horn on the extreme left.

8 The Tuscan or Etrurian sea, and the Adriatic.

9 The Varus, as already mentioned, was in Gallia Narbonensis, while the Arsia, now the Arsa, is a small river of Istria, which became the boundary between Italy and Illyricum, when Istria was annexed by order of Augustus to the former country. It flows into the Flanaticus Sinus, now Golfo di Quarnero, on the eastern coast of Istria, beyond the town of Castel Nuovo, formerly Nesactium.

10 Now the Pescara.

11 Now Palo, a city on the coast of Etruria, eighteen miles from Portus Augusti, at the mouth of the Tiber.

12 This distance is overstated: the circuit is in reality about 2500 miles.

13 For instance, from Pola to Ravenna, and from Iadera to Ancona.

14 Sardinia is in no part nearer to Italy than 140 miles.

15 Issa, now Lissa, is an island of the Adriatic, off the coast of Liburnia; it is not less than eighty miles distant from the nearest part of the coast of Italy.

16 That is to say, the south, which was so called by the Romans: the meaning being that Italy extends in a south-easterly direction.

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  • Cross-references to this page (22):
    • The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites, DIANIUM INSULA (Giannutri) Etruria, Italy.
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), ALE´RIA
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), CAPRA´RIA
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), CA´PREAE
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), CO´RSICA
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), CRATER
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), CUNICULA´RIAE INSULAE
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), ETRU´RIA
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), GORGON
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), IGILIUM
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), ILVA
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), LATIUM
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), MARIANA
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), ME´GARIS
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), NEA´POLIS
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), OGLASA
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), PALMA´RIA
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), PANDATA´RIA
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), PHINTON
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), PLANA´SIA
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), PO NTIA
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), SINO´NIA
  • Cross-references in general dictionaries to this page (9):
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