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EURO´PA (Εὐρώπη, Herod. et alii; Εὐρώπεια, Εὐρωπία (), Soph. ap. Steph. B. sub voce: Eth. Εὐρωπαῖος, fem. Εὐρωπίς.) Europe is that portion of the globe which constitutes the NW. division of the Old or Great Continent. Its proper boundaries are, to the N. and W., the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans; to the S., the Mediterranean sea; while to the E. an imaginary line drawn through the Archipelago, the Straits of the Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmora, and the Black sea, as far as the western extremity of Mount Caucasus, is its conventional limit on the side of Asia. From thence the supposed line runs along the Caucasian. chain, in an ESE. direction, crosses the Caspian sea, and follows the course of the river Ural and the Uralian Mountains until it terminates at the mouth of the river Kara. The most northern point of the mainland of Europe is in lat. 71° 6′ N., its most southern in 36° N.; or, respectively, C. Nord Kyn, and the Punta de Tarifa in Spain. Its most western point is in long. 9° W., and its most eastern in 60° 20′ E.; or, respectively, C. St. Vincent, and a spot in the Uralian Mountains W. of Ekatarinberg. The surface of Europe is calculated at about 3,900,000 square miles: and a line drawn from C. St. Vincent to the mouth of the river Kara on the Frozen Ocean would measure a little above 3000 miles. These limits, however, apply to Europe at the present day; and include a space far exceeding any dimensions ascribed to it even by the best informed of ancient writers. In one respect, indeed, as regards this portion of the Great Continent, modern science and the imperfect knowledge of the early cosmographers singularly coincide. Herodotus and his contemporaries considered, and perhaps rightly, the whole of the earth then known as one single continent, representing Europe, Asia, and Africa as so many divisions of it. Science, on the other hand, looking to the geological continuity of the globe, considers the parts of the old continent as merely forming one organic whole, separable indeed for political purposes, but really connected with each other by common structural and ethnological properties.

The tripartite division of the old continent, with which we are so familiar, was, as regarded the ancients, an arrangement of comparatively recent date. The earliest cosmographers believed that the terraqueous globe consisted of two nearly elliptical hemispheres, surrounded by the great river Oceanus. The Hebrews, even in the 1st century B.C., maintained Palestine to be the centre of the world: and the Greeks ascribed a similar position to their oracles at Delphi or Dodona. By the former the regions west and north of the Great Sea--the Mediterranean--were denominated the Land of Javan and the Islands: and the poet of the Iliad and Odyssey does not include in his catalogue of countries the name of either Asia or Europe. (Steph. B. sub voce s. v. Asia.) Asia, indeed, in Homer, signifies merely an alluvial district near the Lydian river Cayster (Il. 2.461); and Libya is confined to a small portion of the NE. [p. 1.878]corner of Africa (Od. 4.351). The geography of the ancients, like their physical science, was founded less upon observation, than upon fanciful cosmogonical correspondences. They imagined that the earth was divided into certain similar parts, of which those of the northern hemisphere answered generally to those of the southern: that, for example, as the Nile flowed in a northerly direction, so the Ister flowed south; and that the globe was encompassed by certain zones or belts of which two were uninhabitable from cold, and one from heat. Nor were these theories the only obstructions to more accurate acquaintance with the extent and configuration of the earth. The most adventurous navigators, the Phoenicians, both of Tyre and Carthage, jealously concealed the course of their voyages as commercial secrets: the Greeks who settled on the coasts of the Mediterranean and Black seas rarely penetrated far into the interior: the conquests of Alexander, which disclosed so much of Asia, scarcely affected Europe: and the best informed of the ancient writers on geography--those of Alexandria--had few, if any, means of ascertaining what regions extended beyond the Carpathian mountains, on the one hand, or the Persian gulf, on the other. The Romans were properly the first surveyors of Europe: yet their knowledge did not extend beyond Jutland, or the western bank of the Vistula. But within those limits, public roads issuing from the forum traversed every province of the empire; colonial towns superseded the rude hamlets of the Gauls and Iberians; and Italian merchants pervaded every district from Teviotdale to the Lilybaean promontory, and from the Atlantic Ocean to the mouths of the Danube. Yet even the Romans were timid navigators: they were content to import amber from the coasts of the Baltic, but never explored the gulfs and bays of that sea itself. They but imperfectly surveyed the shores of Spain and Gaul, preferred long journeys by land to compendious sea-voyages, and to the last regarded the western ocean with a kind of superstitious awe. (Flor. 2.17.192.)

Europe, then, as it was known to the ancients, does not correspond with the modern continent either as respects its boundaries, its divisions, its physical aspect, or its population. We shall examine these points in succession, but must inquire first into the origin of the name itself.

I. Name.

The earliest mention of Europe by Greek writers, as a division of the globe, occurs in the Homeric Hymn to Apollo (vv. 250, 251. and 290, 291), where it is distinguished from Peloponnesus and the Greek islands. Aeschylus (Fragm. 177) alludes to a threefold partition of the earth, and mentions the river Phasis, in the region of Mount Caucasus, as the boundary between Asia and Europe, and the Columns of Hercules, at the opposite extremity of the continent, as its boundary on the side of Libya. Libya and Europe,indeed,are sometimes represented as one continent. (Agathem. Geograph. 2.2; Sall. B. Jug. 17; Lucan 9.411). Respecting the origin of the name Europa various hypotheses have been started. (1). The vulgar opinion, sanctioned by the mythologers, was, that our continent derived its appellation from Europa, “the broad-browed” daughter of the Phoenician king Agenor. But such an etymology satisfied neither geographers generally, nor Herodotus in particular, who indeed wonders (4.45) how it should have come to pass that the three main divisions of the earth took their names from three females respectively--Asia, Libya, and Europa. The connection of Europe with Phoenicia is obvious: Tyrian and Sidonian mariners were the earliest explorers of the bays and coast of the Mediterranean, and among the first colonisers of its principal islands and its western shores. They were the first also who passed through the Columns of Hercules, surveyed the coasts of Spain and Gaul, and entered the German Ocean and perhaps the Baltic sea. And the name Europa bears a close resemblance to the Semitic word Oreb --the land of sunset. (Bochart, Phaleg. 34.) Such an appellation the Phoenicians of Asia might justly give to the regions westward of the Aegean, even as the Italian navigators, in the middle ages, looking from the opposite quarter, denominated the eastern extremity of the Mediterranean the Levant, or the region of sunrise. (2). Agathemerus (Geograph. 1.1. p. 3) says that Eurus, the SE. wind, is the root of Europa: and Heyd (Etymol. Versuch. p. 33) derives the name from εὐρύς, and ἀπία, a Scythian word denoting, as he says, the earth or land generally. Perhaps, however, the most satisfactory explanation of the term is that of Hermann (ad Hone. Hymn. l.c.); at least, it is less vague than any of the foregoing. The poet is speaking of the inhabitants of Peloponnesus and the islands, and Europe; of the latter, as distinct apparently from the former two. The Homerid bard was most probably a Greek of Asia Minor. Now, within a few hours' sail from the Asiatic mainland, and within sight of the islands of Thasus and Samothracia, stretched the long and deeply embayed line of the Thracian shore--an extent of coast far exceeding that of any of the Greek islands, or even of Peloponnesus itself. Europe, then, as Hermann suggests, is the Broad Land (εὐρύς ὤψ), as distinguished from the Aegean islands and the peninsula of Pelops. It is remarkable too that, under the Byzantine empire, one among the six dioceses of Thrace was called Europa, as if a vestige of the original designation still lingered on the spot. It may here be noticed that in mythical genealogy Europa is the wife of Zeus, while Asia is the sister or wife of Prometheus: and thus apparently the line of Zeus and the Olympian divinities is connected with our continent; and the line of Prometheus, Epimetheus, Atlas, &c., or the Titanic powers, with Asia and Libya.

II. Boundaries.

These have varied considerably at different epochs. We have already seen that Europe and Libya were at one time regarded as the same continent. The gradual discovery and distinction of Europe on charts, and in the language of the learned or the vulgar, arose from two opposite impulses of mankind--commerce and conquest. In the former the Phoenicians took the lead, in the latter the Greeks; but both of these nations yield to the Romans as discoverers of Europe, inasmuch as they explored the inland regions, while the Greeks and Phoenicians, unless attracted, as in the case of Iberia, by the mineral wealth of the interior, planted their colonies and emporia on the verge only of the Mediterranean and Atlantic.

We shall perhaps best understand the progress of discovery by a reference to the accounts of the earliest cosmographers, among whom must be included Homer. (Strab. Proleg. 1. p. 2.)

  • 1. About 800 B.C., then, the earth seems to have been generally regarded as an irregular ellipse, of which the northern and upper segment comprised [p. 1.879]the islands of the Aegean sea, Peloponnesus, Hellas, Thracia, Thrinacria, or the three-cornered island Sicily, and a small portion of the boot of Italy, south of a line drawn between the Sinus Scylaceus and the Sinus Hipponiatis. Near the western verge of the Great Sea were the isles of the Sirens and Elysium, and far to the NE. the land of Ogygia. The ellipse was encompassed by the river Oceanus. This was the primitive Europe, as it was known to the contemporaries of Homer. The author of the Homeric poems was indeed acquainted with the countries around the Aegean, and in some degree also with the southern coast of the Euxine. But when, as in the Odyssey, he mentions more westerly regions, he deals at best in vague rumours, which, if derived through investigation at all, were probably the legends of Phoenician and Etruscan mariners, partly credulous themselves, partly desirous to exclude the Greeks from their trade and settlements in the west of Sicily.
  • 2. Three hundred years afterwards the historian Hecataeus described the globe as an irregular circle, of which the northern hemisphere contained Europa, with a very uncertain frontier on the side of Asia. Some advance, however, in knowledge had been made in the meanwhile. The Iberians, Celts, and Scythians occupied respectively Spain, Southern Gaul, the districts between the sources of the Rhine and the Ister, and the S. Danubian plateau. The northern limit of Thrace--was supposed to be conterminous with an unexplored and uninhabitable Arctic region. Italy was not as yet known by any single name, but was designated, according to its races, as the land of the Tyrrhenians, Ausonians, and Oenotrians. On the other hand, although the Mediterranean was still denominated the Great Sea,--by which name is implied ignorance of the Atlantic Ocean,--the Euxine, the Ionian, and Adriatic seas had attained their permanent titles. Northern Greece, Peloponnesus, and the Mediterranean islands were intimately known. The Cyclopes and Laestrygonians had vanished from the shores of the latter, and even, in the NE., the coasts of the Palus Maeotis were defined with tolerable accuracy.
  • 3. Herodotus, who had both travelled extensively himself, and possessed the advantage of consulting the descriptions of his predecessors, Hellanicus, Hecataeus, &c., surpassed them all in his knowledge of particular regions. Yet he was much better acquainted with Western Asia and Aegypt than with Europe generally, to which indeed, if he does not confound it with Asia, he assigns a breadth greatly disproportioned to its true dimensions. He places the region of frost far below the Baltic sea, and represents the river Oceanus as the general boundary of the land. He seems also to have given the Danube a southerly inclination, in order that it may correspond with the northerly course of the Nile. The globe itself he conceived as elliptical rather than spheroidal.
  • 4. Even Eratosthenes, who composed his great work about B.C. 200, and Strabo, who probably had before him the recent surveys of the Roman provinces, made by order of Augustus after B.C. 29, entertained very imperfect notions of the extent of Europe to the north. Of Russia and the Baltic regions generally they knew nothing. The Roman negotiatores, who next to the legions made their way into the heart of every conquered land, did not, until another generation had passed, venture beyond the Elbe or the Weser. The campaigns of Drusus Nero in B.C. 12--9, and of his son Germanicus in 14--16 A. D., first contributed to a more exact acquaintance with central Europe. Pliny the elder was attached to one of the legions of Drusus, and both himself gives a lively account of the Regio Batavorum, and probably imparted to Tacitus many details which the historian inserted in his Treatise on the Germans. It is worthy of remark that, in the interval between the composition of his Germania and the Annals, Tacitus extended and improved his knowledge of the localities and manners of the Teutonic races. His names of tribes and their weapons are amended frequently in the later of these works. Ptolemy the geographer, who wrote about A.D. 135 and in the reign of Hadrian, mentions a considerable number of tribes and places N. of the Roman province of Dacia, as far N. apparently as Novogorod, which were unknown to former cosmographers. But his notices of these regions scarcely extend beyond mere names, which, both as respects their orthography and their relative situations, cannot possibly be identified with any known districts or tribes. The work of Ptolemy itself is indeed both fragmentary and corrupt in its text: yet even if we possessed the whole of it, and more correct manuscripts, we should probably gain little more accurate information. His statements were in the main, as regards those obscure tracts, derived from the vague and contradictory reports of Roman traders, who would naturally magnify the ferocity of the races they visited, and the dangers and privations they had undergone. During the progress of migration southward, as the barriers of the Roman empire successively receded, the population of the lands north of the Tanais, the Volga, and the Caspian sea, both in Europe and Asia, was constantly fluctuating, and its undulations stretched from China to the Atlantic. As race pressed upon race, with a general inclination towards the line of the Pyrenees, the Alps, and the Balkan, the landmarks of geography were effaced, and tribes which Pliny and Tacitus had correctly seated between the Elbe and the Vistula were pushed onward, if they continued to exist independently, into the Alpine regions, or as far westward as the Loire and Garonne. The barbarians indeed, who seized upon Gaul and Iberia after the 4th century A. D., brought with them some knowledge of the regions which they had quitted. But this knowledge was scarcely available for geographical purposes, even when it was not altogether vague and traditionary. It was needful that the great flood of migration should subside in fixed localities before certainty could be obtained. After the fall of the empire, two very different classes of men helped to complete the details of European geography: (1) the Scandinavian pirates, whose voyages extended from the German Ocean to the Black sea; and (2) the missionaries of the Greek church, the first real explorers of the tracts vaguely designated by the ancients as Scythia and Sarmatia. About the 9th century A.D. these pious men had penetrated into the interior of Russia, and brought the Sarmatian tribes into correspondence with the church of Constantinople. Civilisation, and with it a more regular survey of these regions, followed in their track. The preachers of the gospel were stimulated by their zeal to fresh discoveries; and their converts were attracted by the luxuries of the capital. In the same century Charlemagne extended the knowledge of Northern Europe by his crusade against the Saxon heathens; Alfred the [p. 1.880]Great contributed to the same end by his expedition into the Baltic sea, and compiled from the journals of Other a succinct account of those countries, as well as of the sea-coast of Prussia. In the 13th century that region was annexed to Christendom by the victories of the knights of St. John. From that epoch dates the complete discovery of the European continent from Lapland to the Straits of Gibraltar.

To trace the course of geographical knowledge in Europe southward of its principal mountain-chains, we must revert to the series of Roman conquests in their chronological order. The Romans were, as we have remarked already, the first accurate surveyors of the continent. In the interval between the first and second Punic wars, Illyricum was humbled (B.C. 219) and the eastern shore of the Adriatic laid open to European intercourse. Their advance north of the Rubicon and the Magra was more gradual, yet colonies had been established as outposts among the Boian and Insubrian Gauls before the commencement of the Second Punic War. Epirus and Macedonia were reduced to the form of provinces in B.C. 167, and Illyricum finally broken up into three cantons in the year following. Even in the most flourishing period of the Macedonian empire, Illyricum and Epirus had been very imperfectly explored, and were regarded by the Greek republics as but one degree removed from barbarism. Before B.C. 149 the Romans had begun to attack the Gauls in the Alps, and gradually made themselves masters of the coasts of Dalmatia, of Liguria as far as Spain, and the entire island of Corsica. The Iberian peninsula was first completely subjugated by the Cantabrian wars of Augustus, B.C. 19, although Baetica and Tarraconensis, with the greater portion of Lusitania, had long before received Roman praetors for their governors. By far, however, the most important contributions to geographical knowledge ensued from Caesar's campaigns in Gaul, B.C. 58--50. These opened Europe from the maritime Alps to the Atlantic Ocean, and from the Massilian gulf to the Straits of Dover. Thenceforward the Rhine became one of the boundaries of the empire, and the German races were brought into direct collision with Rome. Beyond that river, indeed. the Romans made little or no progress, since it was the policy of the emperors, bequeathed to them by Augustus, and acted upon for nearly a century by the prudence or indolence of his successors, not to extend further the limits of their dominions. Noricum, Pannonia, Rhaetia, and Vindelicia were, however, humbled or reduced by the lieutenants of Augustus, and the arts of Rome were carried into the Tyrol, Styria, and the territories of modern Austria. In the reigns of Claudius and Vespasian the British islands were annexed to the circle of Roman provinces, and for nearly three centuries recruited its legions and paid tribute to its exchequer. The last important acquisition on the European mainland was Trajan's conquest of Dacia (A.D. 81), by which the frontiers of the empire were carried beyond the Danube, and the yoke of Italy was so firmly impressed upon the vanquished, that to this day the Wallachians entitle themselves in their own language the Romúni. From the friths of Forth and Clyde, a line drawn across the modern Netheriands to the Crimea will pretty accurately represent the north-eastern verge of the Roman empire in Transalpine Europe. Beyond it the conquerors possessed little, if any, knowledge of the various Teutonic, Celtic, and Sclavonian races who then roved over the great central plateau between the N. bank of the Seine and the Carpathian hills; but within, that line their dominion was firmly secured by fortified camps, and flourishing colonies, and above all by the roads and bridges which connected the most distant provinces with Italy and the capital. These acquisitions were indeed the fruits of six centuries of nearly uninterrupted war, and could have been made only by a people who preferred arms to commerce, and who, by fresh encroachments upon their neighbours, were perpetually imposing upon themselves the necessity of securing new military frontiers for their dominions. The aspect of Europe, as known to the Greeks, was widely different. Of Gaul and Iberia they knew little more than the tracts contiguous to Massilia and Emporia in the north, and to Gades and Tartessus in the south. With the Alpine tribes they were wholly unacquainted, and never snore than temporarily subjugated the barbarians on their own frontiers--the mountain-races who from Illyricum to the Euxine were constantly at war with the kings of Epirus and Macedon. At its utmost extent, therefore, the Europe of the Greeks was bounded by the mountain-chain which runs north of Thrace, Italy, and Iberia, and constituted scarcely a third part of the modern continent.

The boundaries of this segment were on the eastern side long undefined. The Mediterranean and the Atlantic were indeed definite barriers; and the regions beyond the great mountain-chain were presumed to be trackless wilds, uninhabitable from cold. Even Polybius (3.37, 34.7, 8, seq.), in this respect, was not more enlightened than Herodotus; and Strabo and his contemporaries in the Augustan age conceived the German Ocean and the southern curve of the Baltic to be the proper limits of the continent. In Pliny (4.13. s. 17, 16. s. 30) and in Ptolemy (2.11.33, 4.6.4) we meet with the earliest hints of the Scandinavian regions, which, however, those geographers regarded as groups of islands, rather than continuations of the mainland. The boundary between Asia and Europe shifted, with the increase of knowledge, slowly to the west, thereby contracting the supposed breadth of the latter continent. It was originally placed on the right bank of the Caucasian Phasis or Hypanis, next at the Cimmerian Bosporus, and finally determined by an imaginary line drawn along the river Tanais, and across the Euxine, the Hellespont, and the Aegean sea. The Tanais and Hellespont, says Dionysius (Dionys. Perieg. 14, 15), divide Asia from Europe. Procopius, indeed (B. Goth. 5.6), recurs to the earlier opinion, that the Phasis was the proper eastern limit.

The dimensions of Europe were, consequently, much misunderstood by the ancient geographers. Herodotus imagined it to be of greater length than Asia and Libya combined. Even Strabo, with far superior means of ascertaining the fact at his disposal, represents Africa as smaller than Europe, and Africa and Europe together as of less extent than Asia alone. Agathemerus (Geogr. 1.7) was the first to assign more correct relative proportions to the subdivisions of the old continent. These erroneous computations indeed. arose, in some measure, from the exclusion of nearly the whole of modern Russia and Scandinavia from the calculation. We now know that Africa is more than thrice the size of Europe, and Asia more than four times as large.

Herodotus (4.45) complains that no one had discovered whether Europe were an island or not, inasmuch as its northern and eastern portions were unexplored. Some rumours, indeed, of islands NW. of [p. 1.881]the mainland had in his time reached the civilised portions of the world, through the voyages of the Carthaginians to the Cassiterides, Cornwall, and the Scilly islands. But these enterprising navigators, who could have given the Greeks so much information respecting the western shores of the continent, jealously guarded the secrets of their voyages, and contributed but little to the science of geography. That Punic manuals of navigation existed is rendered probable by the facts that the Carthaginians possessed a literature. and that their treatises on agriculture were deemed of sufficient importance by the Romans to be translated into the Latin language: and it is not likely that they should have entrusted their fleets to the mere traditionary and empirical skill of successive generations of pilots. But their knowledge perished with them; and the Greeks, excellent as they have been in all ages as navigators of the narrow seas, were rarely explorers of the main ocean. For shore-traffic, indeed, Europe is the best calculated of continents, since it presents by far the greatest extent of coast-line, and hence is described by Strabo (2.126) as πολυσχημονεστάτη, or the most variously figured of the earth's divisions. To a Greek, Europe, bounded on the north by a curve of mountains, and springing forth by three main projections into the seas southward of its mountain-bases, presented the aspect of three pyramidal peninsulas of land,--Iberia, Italia, Hellas (to which Polybius adds a fourth in Thrace and a fifth in the Crimea),--respectively resting upon the Pyrenees, the Alps, and the Balkan range. This supposed configuration was the theme of frequent comment among the ancient cosmographers, and the source of many ingenious theories regarding the agencies of fire or water in producing them. But it is intelligible only when we remember the limits in which Europe, as known to the Greeks, was confined. To an ancient navigator, however, sailing from a port in Asia Minor to the Columns of Hercules, this configuration would necessarily be a subject of remark, since he would pass alternate projections of land and the deeply embayed gulfs of the Aegean, Ionian, and Tuscan seas, and witness, as it seemed to him, successive confirmations of his preconceived notions of the form of the continent. In these respects, as well as in the more undulating character of its shore, Europe presented a marked contrast to both Asia and Africa. Yet the Greeks, ever on the alert for physical analogies, discovered a similar distribution of land and water in the Arabian peninsula and the seas which bound it, as well as in the long valley of the Nile; and they thus arrived at the conclusion, not only that this phenomenon was repeated in every zone, but also that the earth was constructed on a system of parallelisms, so that the northern and southern hemispheres were nearly counterparts of each other.

III. The Climate and Products of Europe.

The climate of central Europe affected the progress of discovery northward. The mean temperature of Spain, Italy, and Greece was lower than at the present day; while Gaul and Germany experienced almost the rigours of an Arctic winter. In their wars with Rome we find Gaulish clans, accustomed to a colder and more bracing atmosphere, exhausted by the heat of modern Lombardy, although that region is not now sensibly warmer than the south of France. But central Europe was, for many centuries, as regards its climate, what Canada is at the present day. The vast. forests and morasses of Gaul and, Germany were, until nearly the 9th century of our era, unfelled and undrained, and aggravated the cold and humidity of the. northern sides of the Alps and Pyrenees. Nor was the southern flank of these mountains unaffected by the same causes. The Romans, even in their Italian wars, rarely took the field before the month of April, since they dreaded encountering the snow-storms of the Apennines, and the floods which at the melting of the ice converted the feeders of the Tiber into rapid torrents. The snow lay then periodically on Mt. Soracte, and the Sabellian herdsmen found fresh pastures as late as July in the upper valleys of the Abruzzi. Ovid, in the epistles which he wrote in exile, describes the cold of the Euxine and its adjacent coasts as a modern traveller would describe the temperature of Stockholm and the Baltic, and in the latitude of Saxony the legions cf Drusus and Germanicus endured many of the hardships of a Russian winter. (Tac. Ann. 1.60, 2.24.) We may indeed suspect that the legionaries owed some of their ill-success in the German wars less to the inclemency of the elements, than to the skill or valour with which they were opposed. Yet the horns of the moose-deer which are occasionally dug up in the fens of Southern Germany attest the presence of Arctic animals in those regions, and the tribute of furs imposed by the Romans upon their Rhenish provincials imply a temperature far below the ordinary climate of the same regions at the present time.

Upon the climate and productions, however, of those portions of Europe with which they were better acquainted, of Europe south of the Alps and Pyrenees, the ancients expatiated with pride and admiration. They ascribed to its soil and temperature generally, that golden mean which is most conducive to the increase, the health, and the physicaland moral development of the human species. Europe, they alleged, was happily seated between the zones of insufferable heat and cold. It was exempt from the fiercer animals and the more noxious reptiles of the neighbouring continents. Asia and Africa were more abundantly endowed with the luxuries with which man can dispense--with gems, silks, aromatics, and ivory; but Europe produced more uniformly than either of them the necessaries which are indispensable to his health, strength, and safety--corn, wine, and oil, timber and stone, iron and copper, and even the more precious metals, gold and silver. (Strab. ii. pp. 126, 127.) The Scythians and Germans, indeed, were but scantily provided with these adjuncts of life and civilisation; nature had reserved her boons for the more refined and intelligent natives of the south. Greece was in these respects highly favoured: the horses of Thessaly, the corn of Boeotia, the figs and olives of Athens, the vineyards of Chios and Samos, were celebrated throughout the world. But Italy, in the estimation of its children at least, was the garden, as well as the mistress, of the world. (Varro, R. R. 1.2; Columell. R. R. 3.7; Plin. Nat. 3.1, seq.; Verg. G. 1.136, seq.) Its several provinces were distinguished each by its peculiar gifts--Campania by its wines, Tarentum by its fleeces, Etruria by its rich pastures, and Cisalpine Gaul by its cerealia. By its central position in the Mediterranean, Italy was enabled to impart to less favoured regions its own products, and to attract to itself the gifts of other lands--the minerals of Iberia, the hides, the timber, the herds, and horses of Gaul, the marbles and the fruits of Greece, and the beauty and strength [p. 1.882]of the British Celts. In Europe, also, it was easy to acclimatise the fruits and animals of other regions. The almond, oleander, the cherry, the acacia, and syringa were imported from Asia Minor; the vine and apricot, from Armenia; from Persia, many species of the numerous genus Pomum,--the orange, peach, citron, &c.; while the fig, olive, and date-palm, the damask rose and the mulberry, had been transplanted from Libya and Syria. The European shores of the Mediterranean exhibit also many families of African plants, and the flora of Sicily and Baetica combine the productions of the temperate and tropical zones. Of these additions to the food or luxury of man, not a few were imported into Europe by the Greek or Roman conquerors of the East. Nor were these accessions confined to the districts which at first received them. To its Roman masters Gaul and the Rhenish provinces owed the vine, a finer breed of sheep, and several kinds of domestic poultry. The olive was carried from Greece to Spain, and the race of Gaulish horses improved by intermixture with the swifter and more delicately limbed varieties of Numidia and Arabia. Finally, the silkworm, whose productions scandalised the economists and philosophers of Rome by draining Italy of its gold and by adding new incentives to extravagance, was naturalised in Greece and Italy in the 6th century of our era, and by its introduction gave a new impulse to European manufactures.

IV. Population of Europe.

The history of the population of Europe belongs in part to the description of the several portions of it; and, as a whole, is both too speculative and too extensive an inquiry for a sketch like the present. Neither are our, materials for such an investigation either abundant or satisfactory. Our only guides on this point, beyond some doubtful resemblances of manners and customs, and some data founded upon the structure of language, are Greek and Roman writers. But the prejudice which led the Greeks to regard all unhellenic races as barbarous was very unfavourable to ethnological science; and even when they treat of pre-historic races, they throw a mythological veil over the records of early colonisation. The movements of mankind from the east were, in their conceptions, either regulated by a god, like Dionysus, or by the son of a god, like Heracles. The Romans, again, were satisfied with incorporating races among their provincials, and incurious about their origin or physical characteristics. The Greeks also, inhabiting the SE. corner of Europe, and watching the movements of their own colonies alone, or at most gleaning the reports of Phoenician and Etruscan mariners, often purposely involved in fable, always, it is probable, exaggerated, imagined that the main stream of European population had flowed generally across the Aegean sea from the coasts of Asia Minor, with occasional interruptions or admixtures from Phoenicia and Aegypt. They were unaware of the fact which modern ethnology has brought to light, that the course of immigration was rather from central Asia to central Europe, by a route lying north of the Euxine sea and intersecting the great rivers which flow eastward and southward from the Alps and Russia. They traced the origin of music and song to Thrace, but they did not know, or would not admit, that the population of Hellas itself was derived quite as much from Thrace as from the Lesser Asia. Three main streams of population intermingling with each other in certain localities, yet sufficiently distinct for definition, may be discerned: (1). The Celts and Cimmerians, who entered our continent from the steppes of the Caucasus, and, passing round the head of the Black sea, spread themselves over the whole of Europe, and permanently settled in the west. (2). The Sclavonians, or, as the ancients denominated them, Scythians and Sarmatians, who occupied the east of Europe, where they are found beside the earliest Celtic colonies. The river Oder, however, seems to have been the western limit of the Sclavonians. Thence, without establishing themselves in the Alps, they turned in a southerly direction, since they contributed largely to the population of both Greece and Italy. (3). The Teutons--who arrived at different epochs: (1). as Low Germans, from the regions between the Oxus and Jaxartes, and established themselves in the NW. of Europe, and (2) as High Germans, who, displacing the Celts and Sclavonians, occupied the middle-highlands of Germany, and in the historic period are found east of the Rhine and north of the Danube. The whole plateau of central Europe, however, was perpetually undergoing a change in its population from the flux and reflux of these principal elements; and when towards the close of the 1st century B.C. the Roman legions passed the Rhine and entered the Hercynian forest, they found both Celts and High and Low Germans arrayed against them from the Helvetian pagi to the frontiers of Bohemia. The Iberian peninsula alone may serve for an example of the admixture of races in the European continent. In it we can trace no less than six waves of immigration. (1). The Celtic, pushed to its western barrier by the encroachments of the Sclavonians and Teutons; (2). the Iberian, whose language, as it appears in the modern Basque dialect, indicates a Celto-Finnish origin, and consequently a derivation of the Iberian people itself from the remote eastern steppes of Asia: the Celtiberi, as their name imports, were a hybrid race formed by the fusion of the two; (3). the Liby-Phoenicians of the south, who were introduced by the Carthaginians; and (4) an Italian element brought in by the Romans. A fifth variety was occasioned by the irruption of the northern tribes--Vandals, Visigoths, and Suevi--in the 5th century A.D., by which movement a High and Low German element was added to the original population. Lastly, in the 8th century A.D., with the Arabian conquest came an infusion of Semitic blood. The Greek colonies--Saguntum and Emporium,--founded by Zacynthians and Massilians respectively, were scarcely so permanent or so important as to affect materially the population of Spain.

V. Languages of Europe.

Of the dialects spoken in ancient Europe we know even less than of its ethnography. The educated Romans used two languages familiarly, their own and the Greek; the Greeks, one only: and both alike, in general, contemned all other idioms as unworthy the attention of civilised men. Their communication with foreigners was carried on through the medium of interpreters, and a few instances only are recorded of a Greek (Corn. Nep. Themist. 100.10) or a Roman (Ovid, Ep. ex Pont. iv., Ep. 13) undergoing the drudgery of learning a foreign tongue. On the other hand, the dialects of the other races of Europe, being neither refined nor preserved by a native literature, gradually vanished. The Celtic gave place in the Gaulish and Spanish provinces of Rome to the general employment of Latin: and even the Germans beyond the Rhine acquired the speech of their enemies [p. 1.883]Tac. Ann. 1.58, 2.10). The confusion, or indeed the obliteration, of tongues was further accelerated by the collection within the Roman empire of soldiers or slaves from nearly every region of the world. It was easier for these aliens to forego their own vernacular dialects and to acquire the common language of their masters, than to communicate with each other in a lingua franca compounded of the most opposite varieties of speech. How easily a common language might supersede a native idiom appears from two remarkable cases in ancient history. (1). The Jews, after the foundation of Alexandria, generally adopted the Greek tongue in all their “cities of dispersion” west of Palestine. Their sacred books were translated into Hellenic, and that idiom was employed even in the service of their synagogues. (2). The Etruscans, for at least six centuries after the foundation of Rome, regulated the more solemn ceremonies and expounded the more startling prodigies of the Roman people. Yet the Romans themselves rarely acquired the language of their sacerdotal instructors, and Latin was the organ of communication for all the tribes between the Tiber and the Magra. This prevailing influence of two languages in the more civilised portions of ancient Europe, combined with the circumstance that nearly all our knowledge of its various races is derived from Roman or Greek writers, who, when they touched upon philology at all, either perverted it or made themselves ridiculous, throws an almost impenetrable cloud over the subject of the original dialects of Europe. A few broad lines and a few probable analogies are all that modern linguistic science is able to contribute towards elucidating a subject which, if clearly understood, would explain also, in a great degree, the movements, the interweaving, and the final position of the European races. The Sclavonian race, at one time, extended from the Adriatic to the Arctic sea, comprising the Sarmatae, Roxolani, from whom the Russians derive their name, the Illyrians, Pannonians, and Veneti, &c. Westward of Modern Saxony their progress was arrested by the Celts: in prehistoric times, indeed, the Celts may be described generally as the occupiers of the western half of the continent north of the Alps and Pyrenees, and the Sclavonians of the eastern. Both were respectively either interpenetrated or pushed onward by the third great stream of immigrants from Asia--the Teutonic family of nations. The Sclavonians indeed maintained themselves east of the Vistula, although even here they were encroached upon by Low German and even Mongol races, which the ancients described under the general appellation of Scythians. The Celts were more effectually displaced by the Teutons, and in historic ages were found in large masses in Gaul and the British islands alone. Yet even in these, their ultimate retreats, they yielded to the stronger and better organised races which followed their steps--to the Franks, a High German people, in Gaul; and to the Saxons, a Low German people, in Britain. There was indeed a perpetual shifting, interweaving, advance, and even, in some cases, retrocession of the central population of the continent. Among the Germans, as described by Tacitus, are to be found Celtic tribes: in Celtic Britain long strips of territory, as well in the interior as on the coast, were occupied by Teutons: the Sclavonians regained Bohemia from the High Germans; and the Gauls,who in the 4th century B.C. sacked Rome and Delphi, in the same generation established themselves between the Magna, the Rubicon, and the Alps, from which region they expelled Germans and Sclavonians. The basis of the original population of Greece and Italy was Pelasgian; at least, Pelasgians were the first national element which history acknowledges, or to which concurrent traditions point. So much of the population of Hellas as did not enter Europe from the sea-bord was derived from Thrace, and Thrace was peopled by Sclavonians, The most archaic forms of the Hellenic and Latin languages indicate such an original, and the traditions of the Greeks and the Latins equally confirm this supposition; for the former point to the Hyperborean regions--i. e. to the north of the range of Ossa and Olympus--as the cradle of their race (Diod. 2.47. p. 198, Dindorf.; Clem. Al. Strom. 1. p. 225), and the latter derive the royal line of Alba and Rome from Mysia and the Troad. Arcadians, too,--i. e. Pelasgians,--were settled on Mount Palatine before the arrival of colonists from Asia: and the subject population of Etruria bears numerous traces of a Pelasgian origin. The races of Western Asia and Eastern Europe were long identical, and we have already seen that no actual boundary for many ages was known between these divisions of the Great Continent. As the earliest stream from central Asia, the Sclavonian, occupied both sides of the Aegean sea, and spread over Pontus and Colchis, and round the head of the Euxine as far as Mount Haemus, we are probably justified in recognising a Sclavonian population throughout the region that intervened between the Taurian chain and the western coast of Italy, and in ascribing the Pelasgian inhabitants of the Hellenic and Ausonian peninsulas to the Sclavonian stem. In both instances, indeed, it was early and materially affected by Celtic and Teutonic admixtures. Finally, the Hellenes, a High German race, predominated in Greece; and Low German tribes, to which the Sabellian stock belonged, in Italy. The southern coasts of the Mediterranean were more nearly affected by Semitic immigrations from Phoenicia and Carthage than the interior of the continent, but not so much as to affect materially the stronger germs of population--whether Sclavonian, Celtic, or Teutonic.

The principal mountains and rivers of Europe are described under their respective heads, or in the general account of the countries to which they belong. We must, however, before closing our sketch of the NW. division of the Great Continent, briefly advert to some features of its geological system.

VI. Geological Features.

Since we are treating more especially of Europe as it was known to the ancients, it will be expedient to restrict our survey of its river and mountain-system to the boundaries assigned to the continent by geographers unacquainted with nearly two-thirds of it,--the whole of Scandinavia, and the greater portion of Russia. In fact, the Europe of the ancients, if we require definite accounts of it, is nearly conterminous with the European provinces of Rome. Nor by such exclusion do we omit, as respects Europe generally, any material feature or element of its configuration; for the Scandinavian Alps are separated from the body of the European mountains by the great NE. plains, and the Grampian Highlands, with their English and Welsh branches, are also an insulated group; whereas all the mountains of central and Southern Europe, from Calpe to the Bosporus, and from Aetna to the northern flank of the Carpathians, constitute in reality but one system, which custom has divided into certain principal masses or [p. 1.884]families. The great mountain-zone which forms the base of the three or five southern peninsulas of Europe, and from which its principal northern rivers descend, commences with the promontory of Artabrum (C. Finisterre), and is terminated by the Hellespont and Propontis. Of this rocky girdle the highest points are the Pic du Midi in the Pyrenees, rising 11,271 feet above the level of the sea; Mont Blanc, 16,800 feet; and the summits of Mt. Haemus or the Great Balkan. All the other groups or chains, whether, like the Carpathians, running up the centre of the continent, or, like the Apennines and the Spanish and Greek mountains, descending to its southern extremities, are to be regarded, whatever their relative dimensions may be, as secondaries only of the principal zone,--its spurs or buttresses. To the southward these protuberances run for the most part in parallel ridges, such as the sierras of Spain, and the elliptical hollows of the Apennines; or, like Mount Haemus, they are split into narrow but profound fissures, into which the light of day scarcely penetrates. In Spain and Italy the mountains in general decline gradually as they approach the Mediterranean, whereas the Grecian ranges project strongly into the sea, and re-appear in the numerous rocky islands which stud the Aegean. The general geological features of this zone are, in the Iberian mountains, granite, crystalline strata, and primary fossiliferous rocks. On each side of the central chain of the Alps calcareous rocks form two great mountain-zones, and rise occasionally to an altitude of ten or twelve thousand feet. Crystalline schists of various kinds generally constitute the pinnacles of the Alpine crest and its offsets. The Apennines and the Sicilian mountains are mostly calcareous rocks. Secondary limestones occupy a great portion of the high land of Eastern Europe. Beginning from the western extremity of this zone, we find that the northern or Gaulish side of the Pyrenees is the more precipitous and abrupt, and its summits so notched and ragged that from the plains below they appear like the teeth of a saw, whence the term Sierra (Mons Serratus) has been appropriated to the Iberian mountains, where this conformation especially prevails. On the Spanish side, the Pyrenees descend towards the Ebro in gigantic terraces separated by deep precipitous valleys. The greatest breadth of the Pyrenean range is about 60 miles, and its length 270.

On the northern flank, the most. conspicuous offsets of the zone are the volcanic mountains of Auvergne and the Cevennes. These, indeed, are the link between the more elevated masses of Western and Eastern Europe. The projections of the Cevennes extend to the right bank of the Rhone, and the Jura mountains of the Alpine range. The northern provinces of France form a portion of that immense plain, which, without taking into account smaller eminences and undulations, extends from the Seine to the shores of the Baltic and the Black seas, through Belgium, Prussia, Poland, and Russia.

The European mountain-zone attains a greater altitude as it proceeds eastward. About the 52nd parallel of north latitude, it begins to ascend by terraces, groups, and concentric or parallel chains, until it reaches its highest elevation in the range of the Alps and the Balkan. The immediate projections of the Alps, on the side of Cisalpine Gaul or Lombardy, are comparatively short, but rapid and abrupt. The spine of the Italian peninsula, however, the chain of the Apennines, as well as the Sicilian mountains, are really continuations of the Alps, even as the Grecian mountains through Northern Hellas as far as the Laconian highlands are continuations of Mount Haemus. The Carnic or more properly the Julian Alps connect, under the 18th meridian, the Balkan with the centre of the range of the Helvetian and Italian Alps. The river-system of Italy has no features in common with those of Spain. In the latter peninsula the valleys inclosed by the sierras were, in some remote era, the basins of lakes, of which the Spanish rivers are the residuaries: whereas the watershed of the Apennines is generally brief and rapid; and the Arno, the Tiber, the Liris, &c. have in all ages been subject to sudden overflow of their waters, and to as sudden subsidence. In Cisalpine Gaul, indeed, a network of streams, combining into central reservoirs,--the Po, the Athesis, &c.,--furnishes, with little aid from man, a natural irrigation to the rich alluvial plains. The whole region was probably at one period a vast lake, of which the banks were the Alpine projections and the windings of the Apennines, and which gradually rose with the constant deposition of soil from those mountains. The rivers S. of the Po which flow into the Adriatic sea are generally inconsiderable in their length or volume of water; but those which discharge themselves into the Lower Sea, the Mare Etruscum, descend more gradually, and in the centre of the peninsula at least more equally subserve the purposes of tillage and inland navigation. Calcareous rocks constitute the principal range of the Apennines, and fill the greater part of Sicily. But at least half of that island is covered with the newer Pleiocene strata; while zones of the older Pleiocene period, filled with organic remains, cover each flank of the Apennines.

The principal projections of the zone north of Italy are the Hyrcanian mountains, the Sudetes, and the Carpathian mountains. The former stretch in three parallel ridges from the right bank of the Rhine, about lat. 51° or 52° N., to the centre of Germany. Eastward of this group the Sudetes begin, and terminate at the plain of the Upper Oder. At this point they are connected with the Carpathians, which, however, differ in configuration from the other limbs of the range. For they are not a single chain, but groups, connected by elevated plains, and attaining at certain points--as at Mount Tatra, under the 20th meridian--a considerable altitude. The breadth of the Alpine chain is greatest between the 15th and 16th meridians, and least at its junction with the Balkan, under the 18th, where it does not exceed 80 miles.

The Balkan, in respect of its elevated table-lands, is a connecting link between the mountain-systems of Europe and Asia. With the exception of the Jura, this tabular form does not occur in the central Alps. On the other hand, the great lakes which are so frequently met with in European mountains, are rarely found, except in the Altaian range, in those of Asia. Mount Haemus, the third of the mountain-bases of ancient Europe, begins near the town of Sophia, whence it runs along an elevated terrace for 600 miles to the Black sea. Longitudinal valleys of great fertility separate its parallel ridges; but its chains are rent and torn in all directions by profound and precipitous chasms, by which alone the range is permeable. Granite forms the bases of the mountain-system of Eastern Europe; but it rarely pierces the crust of crystalline schist and secondary limestones. Calcareous rocks, indeed, [p. 1.885]compose principally the highlands of Bosnia, Macedonia, and Albania. Transverse fractures, like those of the Balkan, occur generally in the Greek mountains. The intervening valleys are mostly caldronshaped hollows, both in Northern Greece and in Peloponnesus. Volcanic convulsions in some districts, and in Boeotia especially, have broken down the mural barriers of these hollows, and allowed their waters to escape: but in the Morea, where there have been no such outlets, they percolate through the soil. The rivers of Southern Greece are, for the most part, fordable in summer and torrents in winter and spring.

A glance at the map of Europe will suffice to show that, from its general configuration, the NW. division of the old continent is much more favourable to uniform civilisation and the physical well-being and development of its inhabitants, than that of either Africa or Asia. On the one hand, the extent of its coast-line, its numerous promontories and bays, act as causes of severance between the members of its family, and, by preventing their accumulation in masses like those of the Asiatic empires, preserve and stimulate the separate activity of the whole: on the other, the obstacles to national and federal union are not, as in many regions of the African continent, insurmountable, but, on the contrary, the central position of its sea,--the Mediterranean and its branches,--and the course of its rivers, running deep into the interior, afford natural paths of communication for all its races. No barren deserts divide its cities from one another: its table-lands are not, as in Asia, lifted into the region of snow, nor its plains condemned to sterility by the hot pestilential blasts, such as sweep over the great Sahara. Europe, indeed, is not the cradle of civilisation,--that had attained at least a high formal maturity on the banks of the Tigris, the Euphrates, and the Nile, ages before Agamemnon ruled in Mycenae, or Theseus drew the demi of Attica within the precincts of a common wall. Neither to Europe do we owe the fontal precepts of religion and ethics, nor the germs of the arts which civilise life. In every one of these elements of social progression Asia and Aegypt took the lead. But, although neither the original parent nor the earliest nurse of civilisation, Europe has been for nearly 3000 years that portion of the world which has most actively, assiduously, and successfully cherished, advanced, and perfected these rudiments of moral, intellectual, and political cultivation. Of civil freedom it was the birthplace: neither of the sister continents, however mature may have been its peculiar civilisation, has ever possessed, without the aid of European contact and example, a community of free men, who distinguished the obedience which is due to law from the subservience which is paid to a master. And, possessing civil freedom, at least among its nobler and its governing races, Europe has carried to a higher stage of development every lesson and every art which it derived from other regions, and elevated the type and standard of humanity itself. Asia and Africa have generically receded from, and, in the majority of their races, lost sight of entirely, the paths and the conditions of progressive civilisation. In these regions man is a weed. He is ruled in masses; he thinks in masses. His institutions, histories, and modes of faith are unchanged through almost immemorial tracts of time. The opposite aspect presented by European civilisation may be ascribed, in the first place, to the physical advantages, which we have enumerated, and which render our continent the most uniformly habitable portion of the globe; (2) to the fact that our civilisation received its original impulse from the SE. corner of Europe, where the Hellenic race, in the small compass of a few degrees of latitude, rehearsed, as it were, the forms of government, federalism, and negotiation, which were destined afterwards to be the principles or postulates of European policy; (3) to the circumstance that the Roman Empire, by its conquests and colonies, stamped a general impress of resemblance upon the families of Europe; and (4) that, as the ancient civilisation declined, two new elements of life were infused into Europe,--a young and vigorous population from the North, and a purer and more comprehensive religion from the East. By the combination of these several elements our continent alone has been advancing, while the sister divisions of the globe have receded; and it is a consequence of such advance and of such recession, that Europe has repaid with large interest its original debt of civilisation to both Asia and Africa, and has become, in all the arts which elevate or refine our race, the instructor in place of the pupil. (See Ritter, Die Vorhalle Europäischer Volkergeschichten, &100.1820; Ukert, Geographie der Griechen und Rörmer; Rennell, Geography of Herodotus, 2nd ed., 2 vols. 8vo.; Donaldson, New Cratylus, 2nd ed., Varronianus, 2nd ed.; Mrs. Somerville, Physical Geography, 2 vols. 12mo. 2nd ed.; Ersch and Grüber's Encyclopädie, art. Europa.) [W.B.D]

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  • Cross-references from this page (18):
    • Herodotus, Histories, 4.45
    • Homer, Iliad, 2.461
    • Homer, Odyssey, 4.351
    • Polybius, Histories, 34.7
    • Polybius, Histories, 34.8
    • Polybius, Histories, 3.37
    • Vergil, Georgics, 1.136
    • Tacitus, Annales, 1.60
    • Tacitus, Annales, 2.10
    • Tacitus, Annales, 2.24
    • Tacitus, Annales, 1.58
    • Lucan, Civil War, 9.411
    • Cornelius Nepos, Themistocles, 10
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 4.13
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 3.1
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 2.47
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 2.11
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 4.6
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