Now the Po; the chief river of Italy, identified by the Roman poets with the fabulous Eridănus
, from which amber was obtained.
This notion appears to have arisen from the Phœnician vessels receiving at the
mouths of the Padus the amber which had been transported by land from the coasts of the Baltic
to those of the Adriatic.
The name is said to be derived from the Keltic padi
“pine-tree” (Pliny , Pliny H. N.
). By the Ligurians it was called Bodencus. The
Padus rises on Mount Vesula (Monte Viso), in the Alps, and flows in an easterly direction
through the great plain of Cisalpine Gaul, which it divides into two parts, Gallia Cispadana
and Gallia Transpadana. It receives numerous affluents, which drain the whole of this vast
plain, descending from the Alps on the north and the Apennines on the south. These affluents,
increased in the summer by the melting of the snow on the mountains, frequently bring down
such a large body of water as to cause the Padus to overflow its banks. The whole course of
the river, including its windings, is about 450 miles. About twenty miles from the sea the
river divides itself into two main branches, and falls into the Adriatic Sea by several mouths
(the ancients enumerated seven), between Ravenna and Altinum. Strabo believed the Padus to be
the largest river in Europe after the Danube, and Vergil calls it fluviorum rex
Georg. i. 482