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centuries ago. It is evident that the classical writers in describing

the climatic excellence of their country, used as a standard the

countries of the East-Greece, Asia Minor, Babylonia, Egypt. This fact

will account for the praises often bestowed upon the Italian summers as

free from excessive heats. It is clear, however, that in Modern Italy

the average temperature is considerably higher than in the days of the

Roman Republic. Horace describes Socrate and the Alban hills as covered

with snow. The Tiber is spoken of by Juvenal as having, even at the

approach of winter, a sheet of ice from bank to bank. Nor is it to be

conceived that these distinguished and critical writers, poets though

they were, would have departed in their descriptions from the

truthfulness of nature.

Another change, from ancient to modern Italy, is the introduction of

pestilential conditions into various districts of the country. In some

provinces, which formerly supported large and flourishing populations,

miasmatic influences are now so prevalent as to forbid any other than a

desultory and imperfect cultivation of the soil. This is especially true

in the Roman Campania and along the fertile coasts of Southern Italy.

The latter region, where once flourished the finest of Greek cities-

Sybaris, Crotona, Rhegium-has been depopulated by pestilential causes.

It is likely, however, that even in the days of the Republic, the Roman

states, especially the low lying provinces near the coast, were

afflicted with malaria, and were frequently wasted with violent


In the times of the Roman ascendancy, the volcanic forces were more

actively at work in and around the peninsula than at the present day.

Timaeus states that eruptions of AEnaria still occurred after Greek

colonists had settled in that neighborhood. The traditions relating to

Lake Avernus evidently point to similar convulsions of nature. Nor is

the current opinion that Vesuvius only began to be an active volcano

with the great eruption of A. D. 79, founded in fact; for the authority

of Strabo may be cited in testimony that the mountain from time

immemorial had given, at intervals, the lava of his heated caverns to

the surrounding plains. Earthquakes were alarmingly frequent, though

their violence was as a usual thing not such as to occasion great losses

to the people. The visitation was generally in the nature of the

subsidence of large tracts of land, the toppling down of rocks and

precipices, or the sudden change of a riverbed to some other part of the

valley. At intervals, however, the shocks were so great as to throw down

towns and cities and scatter dismay through the whole peninsula.

The volcanic regions of Italy are divided into two sections. The first

includes what was the larger part of the ancient Latium, or the modern

Campagna of Rome, and also the southern portion of Etruria. The other

embraces the remainder of Old Latium, the Vesuvian region, and the hills

surrounding Lake Avernus. Between these two districts extends the chain

of the Volscian mountains, being an offset from the Apennines. The

former territory is about one hundred miles in length by fifty or sixty

miles in breadth; the latter is considerably less in area.

The productions of the Italian peninsula- to which several references

have already been made-will be more fully considered under the heads of

the various provinces. For the present it is sufficient to note the fact

that a large number of the products of Modern Italy most valued by the

present population are of recent introduction, and were either unknown

or disregarded by the ancient Romans. The corn and rice, to the raising

of which the plains of Lombardy are now so largely devoted, were not

known, or at least not cultivated by the people of the Republic. The

same may be said of the oranges which abound in Liguria and in the

vicinity of Naples. In the southern provinces the aloes and cactuses,

which now so greatly adorn the seacoasts, were no part of the ancient

vegetation. The mulberry tree was well known to the Romans, and was to

some extent valued for its fruit; but its chief use began subsequently

to the introduction of the silkworm, in the thirteenth century. It only

remains to add that a considerable number of the fruits and other

products which were common in the times of Roman greatness were exotic;