UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE ANCIENT WORLD.
of the vine. The peninsula itself is supported through its whole extent,
from Genoa to Reggio, by the Apennines, which, winding from the north,
and constituting a continuance of the Maritime Alps, bend down the
center of the leg, until they divide above the Italian instep, the
western branch being deflected in an almost southerly course through
Calabria to the strait of Messina, and the other forming the back wall
of Apulia. Italy is thus divided into two great slopes-the eastern, with
the broad valley of the Po at the north, falling away to the Adriatic;
and the western, descending to the Gulf of Genoa and the Tyrrhenian Sea.
From the backbone of the Apennines, on either side, lateral ridges
branch off toward the coast, and between these the Italian rivers,
gathering their waters from the central highlands, make their way down
to the ocean.
Geographically considered, the peninsula is divided into three parts.
The first is Northern Italy, or the Valley of the Po. From the Maritime
Alps, along the northern shore of the Gulf of Genoa, the Apennines trend
to the southeast, almost reaching the Adriatic at Ariminum. From this
natural barrier to the Alps on the north stretches a vast low plain, two
hundred miles in length and about sixty miles in breadth. The whole
region is drained by the river Padus, the largest in Italy, which with
its more than twenty-five tributaries, great and small, sweeps down, in
a due easterly course, from the foothills of the Swiss Alps, in the
extreme west, to the Gulf of Venice. The broad valley is at its mouth,
measuring from the nearest approach of the Apennines to the Adriatic
northward to the Carnic Alps, about a hundred and twenty miles in
breadth. This great division of Italy includes the ancient provinces of
Cisalpine Gaul, Liguria, Venetia, and Istria, and is one of the most
fruitful regions in all Europe. On the south it was bounded, next the
Adriatic, by the Rubicon, and next the Gulf of Genoa, by the Magra.
Reaching southward from the two streams just mentioned-at which point
the Italian peninsula proper may be said to begin-extending along the
west coast from the Magra to the Silarus, and on the east from the
Rubicon to the Frento, lies the next major division of the country,
called Central Italy. Strongly discriminated is this region from the
great Padus valley of the north. Instead of the broad, open plain, with
its many streams converging into one, we have here the massive shoulders
of the Apennines heaved up in every part, filling with their central
range and lateral offsets almost the whole peninsula from east to west.
The plains and valleys are numerous, but small, and irregular in
outline. The central mass of the mountains is broken up chaotically,
especially from the main ridge towards the west; but on the east the
ridges descend with greater regularity to the sea. This complicated
structure of the mountain range becomes more noticeable towards the
south. Below the forty-fourth parallel of latitude the ridges reach
within forty miles of the sea. The greatest valleys of Central Italy are
those of the Arno and the Tiber, which rivers, the largest in the
division under con- sideration, have been properly called the "key to
the geography of this part of the peninsula."
Perhaps no other region in the world presents, within equal geographical
limits, so great a variety of climate as does Central Italy. While the
snows still lie on the uplands of Samnium the corn ripens in the plains
of Campania. All along the Tyrrhenian shore, the olive flourishes, but
within forty miles of the coast line it disappears. On the Samnian
hills, no more than a day's journey from the genial bay of Naples, the
scenery is that of highlands, and the fingers are bitten with the
piercing air. In these extremely variable conditions were laid the
foundations of that tribal diversity which characterized the early races
of Italy. The mountaineers of the Sabine hills, rude and simple in their
manners, and warlike in disposition, were strongly discriminated from
the softer and more luxurious people of Campania, Latium, and Etruria.
Central Italy comprised the countries known to the Romans as Etruria,
Umbria, Picentium; the state of the Sabini, Vestini, Marsi, Peligni,
Marrucini, and Frentani; Samnium, Latium, and Campania. Of these various