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Cisalpine Gaul

This war itself I shall treat only summarily, to avoid breaking the thread of my history; but I must go back somewhat in point of time, and refer to the period at which these tribes originally occupied their districts in Italy. For the story I think is worth knowing for its own sake, and must absolutely be kept in mind, if we wish to understand what tribes and districts they were on which Hannibal relied to assist him in his bold design of destroying the Roman dominion. I will first describe the country in which they live, its nature, and its relation to the rest of Italy; for if we clearly understand its peculiarities, geographical and natural, we shall be better able to grasp the salient points in the history of the war.

Italy, taken as a whole, is a triangle, of which the eastern

The Geography of Italy.
side is bounded by the Ionian Sea and the Adriatic Gulf, its southern and western sides by the Sicilian and Tyrrhenian seas; these two sides converge to form the apex of the triangle, which is represented by the southern promontory of Italy called Cocinthus, and which separates the Ionian from the Sicilian Sea.1 The third side, or base of this triangle, is on the north, and is formed by the chain of the Alps stretching right across the country, beginning at Marseilles and the coast of the Sardinian Sea, and with no break in its continuity until within a short distance of the head of the Adriatic. To the south of this range, which I said we must regard as the base of the triangle, are the most northerly plains of Italy, the largest and most fertile of any with which I am acquainted in all Europe. This is the district with which we are at present concerned.
Col di Tenda.
Taken as a whole, it too forms a triangle, the apex of which is the point where the Apennines and Alps converge, above Marseilles, and not far from the coast of the Sardinian Sea. The northern side of this triangle is formed by the Alps, extending for 2200 stades; the southern by the Apennines, extending 3600; and the base is the seaboard of the Adriatic, from the town of Sena to the head of the gulf, a distance of more than 2500 Stades. The total length of the three sides will thus be nearly 10,000 stades.

1 The southernmost point of Italy is Leucopetra (Capo dell'Armi). Cocinthus (Punta di Stilo) is much too far to the north; yet it may have been regarded as the conventional point of separation between the two seas, Sicilian and Ionian, which have no natural line of demarcation.

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hide References (4 total)
  • Cross-references to this page (4):
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), EXE´RCITUS
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), ALPES
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), COCINTHUS
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), GA´LLIA CISALPI´NA
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