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Title: The Earth and its inhabitants, Volume 1: Europe. - Greece, Turkey in Europe, Rumania, Servia, Montenegro, - Italy, Spain, and Portugal.
Author: Reclus, Elisée
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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 VOL. I.













 V. CLIMATE . . . 16



 I. HYDROLOGY . . . 23

















 VI. BULGARIA . . . 131




 RUMANIA . . . 155


 I. SERVIA . . . 172

 II. MONTENEGRO . . . 179



 . . . 189


 IV. TUSCANY . . . 239

 ABRUZZOS . . . 257


 VII. SICILY . . . 309

 The Æolian or Liparic Islands . . . 331

 The Ægadian Islands . . . 334

 Malta and Gozzo . . . 335

 VIII. SARDINIA . . . 338



 CORSICA . . . 363




 III. ANDALUSIA . . . 394










 . . . 473





 INDEX . . . 501





 1. Ethnographical Map of Europe . . . 18

 2. Turkey-in-Europe and Greece . . . 85

 3. The Bosphorus and Constantinople . . . 98

 4. Ethnographical Map of Turkey . . . 148

 5. Italy . . . 183

 6. The Delta of the Po . . . 210

 7. The Bay of Naples . . . 288

 8. Spain and Portugal . . . 365


 Peasants from the Environs of Athens . . . _To face page_ . . . 53

 Constantinople and the Golden Horn, from the Heights of Eyub . . . 99

 Albanians . . . 118

 Wealthy Arnauts . . . 124

 Turkish Muleteers in the Herzegovina . . . 127

 Tirnova . . . 133

 Bulgarians . . . 138

 Mussulman of Adrianople, and Mussulman Lady of Prisrend . . . 147

 Wallachians (Valakhs) . . . 162

 Belgrade . . . 174

 The Pennine Alps, as seen from the Becca di Nona (Pic Carrel), 10,380
 feet . . . 195

 Venice . . . 207

 The Palace at Ferrara . . . 228

 Verona . . . 229

 Peasants of the Abruzzos . . . 258

 Naples . . . 300

 Capri, seen from Massa Lubrense . . . 302

 Amalfi . . . 304

 La Valetta, Malta . . . 337

 Peasants of Toledo, Castile . . . 390

 Roman Bridge at Alcántara . . . 391

 Gorge de los Gaitanes, Defile of Guadalhorce . . . 399

 Peasants of Córdova, Andalusia . . . 406

 Gibraltar, as seen from the “Lines” . . . 414

 Peasants of La Huerta, and Cigarrera of Valencia . . . 419

 Women of Ibiza, Balearic Isles . . . 425

 Monserrat, Catalonia . . . 431

 Barcelona, seen from the Castle of Monjuich . . . 437

 Gorges of Pancorbo . . . 440

 Los Pasages . . . 447

 Oporto . . . 478

 Lisbon . . . 484



 1. The Natural Boundary of Europe . . . 7

 2. The Relief of Europe . . . 8

 3. Development of Coast-lines relatively to Area . . . 14

 4. The Isothermal Zone of Europe . . . 17


 5. The Depth of the Mediterranean . . . 24

 6. The Strait of Gibraltar . . . 26

 7. Principal Fisheries of the Mediterranean . . . 30

 8. Steamer Routes and Telegraphs . . . 34



 10. Foreign Elements in the Population of Greece . . . 44


 12. Lower Acarnania . . . 49

 13. Thermopylæ . . . 50

 14. Lake Copais . . . 52


 16. Athens and its Long Walls . . . 55

 17. Ancient Athens . . . 56

 18. MOUNT TAYGETUS . . . 58

 19. Lakes Phenea and Stymphalus . . . 60

 20. The Plateau of Mantinea . . . 62

 21. Bifurcation of the Gastuni . . . 63

 22. The Valley of the Eurotas . . . 67

 23. Euripus and Chalcis . . . 70

 24. Nea Kaimeni . . . 72

 25. CORFU . . . 76

 26. The Channel of Santa Maura . . . 77

 27. Argostoli . . . 79



 29. Crete, or Candia . . . 93

 30. The Ægean Sea . . . 95

 31. Geological Map of the Peninsula of Constantinople . . . 99

 32. The Hellespont, or Dardanelles . . . 105

 33. Mount Athos . . . 108

 34. MOUNT OLYMPUS . . . 110

 35. Mount Olympus and the Valley of Tempe . . . 111

 36. Southern Epirus . . . 117

 37. Subterranean Beds of the Affluents of the Narenta . . . 128

 38. Mount Vitosh . . . 132

 39. Delta of the Danube . . . 137

 40. Comparative Discharge of the Mouths of the Danube . . . 138

 41. Commercial Highways converging upon Constantinople . . . 150

 42. The Turkish Empire . . . 151


 43. The Rumanians . . . 156

 44. The Rivers Shil and Olto . . . 158

 45. The Danube and Yalomitza . . . 161

 46. Ethnological Map of Moldavian Bessarabia . . . 164

 47. BUCHAREST . . . 169


 48. Confluence of the Danube and Save . . . 174

 49. Montenegro and the Lake of Skodra . . . 180


 50. Rome and the Roman Empire . . . 186

 51. MONTE VISO . . . 189

 52. Grand Paradis . . . 191

 53. Plain of Débris between the Alps and Apennines . . . 192

 54. Slope of the Valley of the Po . . . 193

 55. Mud Volcanoes of the Northern Apennines . . . 194

 56. Ancient Glaciers of the Alps . . . 195

 57. Serra of Ivrea and Ancient Glacier Lakes of the Dora . . . 196

 58. Ancient Lakes of Verbano . . . 197

 59. Lake Como . . . 198

 60–62. Sections of Lake Como . . . 199

 63. VILLA SERBELLONI . . . 201

 64. Beech and Pine Woods of Ravenna . . . 203

 65. Shingle Beds of the Tagliamento, &c. . . . 205

 66. Old Bed of the Piave . . . 206

 67. Lagoons of Venice . . . 207

 68. Colonies of the Roman Veterans . . . 209

 69. The Po between Piacenza and Cremona . . . 211

 70. German Communes of Northern Italy . . . 216

 71. MONTE ROSA . . . 217

 72. The Lagoons of Comacchio . . . 220

 73. The Fisheries of Comacchio . . . 221

 74. Mouth of the Adige Valley . . . 223

 75. The Passages over the Alps . . . 224

 76. The Lakes and Canals of Mantua . . . 227

 77. Palmanova . . . 229

 78. Junction of the Alps and Apennines . . . 231

 79. Genoa and its Suburbs . . . 234

 80. GENOA . . . 235

 81. The Gulf of Spezia . . . 237


 83. Defiles of the Arno . . . 241

 84. Monte Argentaro . . . 243

 85. Val di Chiana . . . 244

 86. The Lake of Bientina . . . 245

 87. The Malarial Regions . . . 247

 88. FLORENCE . . . 252

 89. The Harbour of Leghorn . . . 255

 90. The Lake of Bolsena . . . 260

 91. La Montagna d’Albano . . . 261

 92. Ancient Lake of Fucino . . . 263

 93. Lake of Trasimeno . . . 264

 94. CAMPAGNA OF ROME . . . 265

 95. Pontine Marshes . . . 267

 96. Ancient Lakes of the Tiber and Topino . . . 269

 97. CASCADES OF TERNI . . . 270

 98. The Delta of the Tiber . . . 271


 100. ROME . . . 276

 101. The Hills of Rome . . . 278

 102. Civita Vecchia . . . 281

 103. Valleys of Erosion on the Western Slope of the Apennines . . . 283

 104. Rimini and San Marino . . . 285

 105. Monte Gargano . . . 287

 106. Ashes of the Campania . . . 289


 108. Educational Map of Italy . . . 297

 109. Pompeii . . . 301

 110. The Marshes of Salpi . . . 305

 111. Harbour of Brindisi in 1871 . . . 307

 112. Harbour of Taranto . . . 308

 113. Strait of Messina . . . 310

 114. Profile of Mount Etna . . . 311

 115. Lava Stream of Catania . . . 313

 116. Subsidiary Cones of Mount Etna . . . 314

 117. The Maccalubas and Girgenti . . . 317


 119. Trapani and Marsala . . . 326

 120. Syracuse . . . 328


 122. The Central Portion of the Æolian Islands . . . 332

 123. The Mediterranean to the South of Sicily . . . 334

 124. The Port of Malta . . . 336

 125. The Sea to the South of Sardinia . . . 339

 126. Strait of Bonifacio . . . 340

 127. La Giara . . . 345

 128. District of Iglesias . . . 348

 129. CAGLIARI . . . 350

 130. Port of Terranova . . . 351

 131. Navigation of Italy . . . 355

 132. Commercial Routes of Italy . . . 356

 133. Submarine Plateau between Corsica and Tuscany . . . 364

 134. Profile of the Road from Ajaccio to Bastia . . . 365

 135. BASTIA . . . 368


 136. Table-lands of Iberian Peninsula . . . 371

 137. Dehesas near Madrid . . . 375

 138. Density of Population . . . 376

 139. Profile of Railway from Bayonne to Cádiz . . . 379

 140. Sierras de Grédos and de Gata . . . 380

 141. DEFILE OF THE TAJO . . . 382

 142. Steppes of New Castile . . . 384

 143. Salamanca . . . 388

 144. THE ALCAZAR OF SEGOVIA . . . 389

 145. TOLEDO . . . 390

 146. Madrid and its Environs . . . 392

 147. Aranjuez . . . 394

 148. Basins of the Guadiana and Guadalquivir . . . 395


 150. THE SIERRA NEVADA . . . 397

 151. The Mouth of the Guadalquivir . . . 399

 152. The Steppes of Ecija . . . 402

 153. Zones of Vegetation on the Coast of Andalusia . . . 403

 154. The Mines of Huelva . . . 406

 155. THE ALHAMBRA . . . 408

 156. Cádiz and its Roadstead . . . 411

 157. Gibraltar . . . 413

 158. Steppes of Múrcia . . . 416

 159. THE PALM GROVE OF ELCHE . . . 418

 160. The Palm Grove of Elche and the Huertas of Orihuela . . . 419


 162. PEASANTS OF MURCIA . . . 421

 163. The Harbour of Cartagena . . . 423

 164. The Gráo de Valencia . . . 424

 165. The Balearic Islands . . . 426

 166. VIEW OF IBIZA . . . 427

 167. The Pytiuses . . . 428

 168. Port Mahon . . . 430

 169. The Delta of the Ebro . . . 435

 170. The Steppes of Aragon . . . 436

 171. The Environs of Barcelona . . . 440

 172. The Sand-banks of Mataró . . . 441

 173. Andorra . . . 443

 174. Jaizquibel . . . 445

 175. Azcoitia and Azpeitia . . . 447

 176. The Environs of Bilbao . . . 449

 177. St. Sebastian . . . 450

 178. ST. SEBASTIAN . . . 451

 179. Guetaria . . . 452

 180. Guernica . . . 453

 181. Pass of Reinosa . . . 454

 182. Peñas de Europa . . . 456

 183. Rias of La Coruña and Ferrol . . . 458

 184. Santoña and Santander . . . 460

 185. Oviedo and Gijon . . . 462

 186. TOWER OF HERCULES . . . 463

 187. Ria de Vigo . . . 464

 188. Railroads of the Iberian Peninsula . . . 465

 189. Foreign Commerce of the Iberian Peninsula . . . 466

 190. Diagram exhibiting the Extent of the Castilian Language . . . 467


 191. Rainfall of the Iberian Peninsula . . . 470

 192. PORTUGUESE TYPES (Peasants) . . . 472

 193. The Valley of the Limia, or Lima . . . 475

 194. Dunes of Avéiro . . . 476

 195. Oporto and the Paiz do Vinho . . . 478

 196. São João da Foz and the Mouth of the Dóuro . . . 480

 197. COIMBRA . . . 482

 198. The Estuary of the Tejo (Tagus) . . . 483

 199. Peniche and the Berlingas . . . 485

 200. Mouth of the Tejo . . . 486

 201. Zones of Vegetation in Portugal . . . 488



 204. Estuary of the Sado . . . 492

 205. Serra de Monchique and Promontory of Sagres . . . 493

 206. Geology of Algarve . . . 494

 207. Faro and Tavira . . . 496

 208. Geographical Extent of the Portuguese Language . . . 497

 209. Telegraph from Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro . . . 498






Our earth is but as an atom in space, a star amongst stars. Yet, to us
who inhabit it, it is still without bounds, as it was in the time of
our barbarian ancestors. Nor can we foresee the period when the whole
of its surface will be known to us. We have been taught by astronomers
and geodesists that our planet is a sphere flattened at the poles, and
physical geographers and meteorologists have applied their powers of
inductive reasoning to establish theories on the direction of the winds
and ocean currents within the polar regions. But hitherto no explorer
has succeeded in reaching the extremities of our earth, and no one can
tell whether land or sea extends beyond those icy barriers which have
frustrated our most determined efforts. Thanks to the struggles of
indomitable seamen, the pride of our race, the area of the mysterious
regions around the north pole has been reduced to something like the
hundredth part of the earth’s surface, but in the south there still
remains an unknown region of such vast extent, that the moon, were she
to drop upon our planet, might disappear within it without coming into
contact with any part of the earth’s surface already known to us.

And the polar regions, which present so many natural obstacles to
our explorers, are not the only portions of the earth not yet known
to men of science. It may be humiliating to our pride as men, but we
feel constrained to admit that among the countries not yet known to
us there are some, accessible enough as far as natural obstacles are
concerned, but closed against us by our fellow-men ! There are peoples
in this world, dwelling in towns, obeying laws, and having customs
comparatively polished, but who choose to live in seclusion, and are
as little known to us as if they were the inhabitants of some other
planet. Their frontiers are closed by war and its horrors, by the
practice of slavery, by religious {2} fanaticism, and even commercial
jealousy. We have heard of some of these peoples by vague report,
but there are others concerning whom we absolutely know nothing. And
thus it happens that in this age of steam, of the printing press, of
incessant and feverish activity, we still know nothing, or very little,
of the centre of Africa, of a portion of Australia, of the interior of
that fine and no doubt most fertile island of New Guinea, and of vast
table-lands in the centre of Asia. Nay, even the country which most men
of learning love to look upon as the cradle of our Aryan ancestors is
known to us but very imperfectly.

As regards most countries which have been visited by travellers, and
figure more or less correctly upon our maps, a great amount of further
research is required before our knowledge of their geography can be
called complete. Years will pass ere the erroneous and contradictory
statements of our explorers concerning them have been set right. A
prodigious amount of labour must be performed before their climate,
their hydrography, their plants and animals, can be thoroughly known
to us. Minute and systematic researches have to be conducted to
elucidate the slow changes in the aspects and physical phenomena
of many countries. The greatest caution will have to be exercised
in distinguishing between changes due to the spontaneous action of
natural causes and those brought about by the hand of man. And all this
knowledge we must acquire before we can boast that we know the earth,
and all about it !

Nor is this all. By a natural bent of our mind, all our studies are
carried on with reference to Man as the centre of all things. A
knowledge of our planet is, therefore, imperfect as long as it is not
joined to a knowledge of the various races of man which inhabit it. The
earth which man treads is but imperfectly known, man himself even less
so. The first origin of races is shrouded in absolute darkness, and the
most learned disagree with reference to the descent, the amalgamation,
the original seats, and migratory stages of most peoples and tribes.
What do men owe to their surroundings? What to the original seats of
their ancestors, to inborn instincts of race, to a blending with alien
races, or to influences and traditions brought to bear upon them from
beyond? We hardly know, and as yet only a few rays of light begin to
penetrate this darkness. Unfortunately our erroneous views on many of
these questions are not due solely to ignorance. Contending passions
and instinctive national hatreds too frequently obscure our judgment,
and we see man as he is not. The far-off savages assume the shape
of dim phantoms, and our near neighbours and rivals in the arts of
civilisation appear repulsive and deformed of feature. If we would see
them as they really are, we must get rid of all our prejudices, and of
those feelings of contempt, hatred, and passion which still set nation
against nation. Our forefathers, in their wisdom, said that the most
difficult thing of all was to know one’s self. Surely a comprehensive
study of mankind is more difficult still.

We are thus not in a position at present to furnish a complete account
of the earth and its inhabitants. The accomplishment of this task
we must leave to the future, when fellow-workers from all quarters
of the globe will meet to write the grand book embodying the sum of
human knowledge. For the present an {3} individual author must rest
content with giving a succinct account of the Earth, in which the space
occupied by each country shall be proportionate to its importance, and
to the knowledge we possess with respect to it.

It is natural, perhaps, that each nation should imagine that in such a
description it ought to be accorded the foremost place. Every barbarous
tribe, however small, imagines itself to occupy the very centre of the
earth, and to be the most perfect representative of the human race.
Its language never fails to bear witness to this naïve illusion, born
of the very narrowness of its horizon. The river which irrigates its
fields is called the “Father of Waters,” the mountain which shelters
its camp the “Navel,” or “Centre of the Earth;” and the names by which
primitive races designate their neighbours are terms of contempt,
for they look down upon them as their inferiors. To them they are
“mute,” “deaf,” “unclean,” “imbecile,” “monstrous,” or “demoniac.”
The Chinese, one of the most remarkable peoples in some respects, and
certainly the most important of all as far as mere numbers go, are not
content with having bestowed upon their country the epithet of “Flower
of the Centre,” but are so fully convinced of its superiority as to
have fallen into the mistake (very excusable under the circumstances)
of deeming themselves to be the “Sons of Heaven.” As to the nations
thinly scattered around the borders of their “Celestial Empire,” they
know them merely as “dogs,” “swine,” “demons,” and “savages.” Or, more
disdainful still, they designate them by the four cardinal points of
the compass, and speak of the “unclean” tribes of the west, the north,
the east, and the south.

If in our description of the Earth we accord the first place to
civilised Europe, it is not because of a prejudice similar to that of
the Chinese. No ! this place belongs to Europe as a matter of right.
Europe as yet is the only continent the whole of whose surface has been
scientifically explored. It possesses a map approximately correct, and
its material resources are almost fully known to us. Its population
is not as dense as that of India or of China, but it nevertheless
contains about one-fourth of the total population of the globe; and
its inhabitants, whatever their failings and vices, or their state of
barbarism in some respects, still impel the rest of mankind as regards
material and mental progress. Europe, for twenty-five centuries,
has been the focus whence radiated Arts, Sciences, and Thought. Nor
have those hardy colonists who carried their European languages and
customs beyond the sea succeeded hitherto in giving to the New World
an importance equal to that of “little” Europe, in spite of the virgin
soil and vast area which gave them scope for unlimited expansion.

Our American rivals may be more active and enterprising than we
are—they certainly are not cumbered to the same extent by the
traditions and inheritances of feudal times—but they are as yet not
sufficiently numerous to compete with us as regards the totality of
work done. They have scarcely been able hitherto to ascertain the
material resources of the country in which they have made their home.
“Old Europe,” where every clod of earth has its history, where every
man is the heir of a hundred successive generations, therefore still
maintains the first place, and a comparative study of nations justifies
us in the belief that its moral {4} ascendancy and industrial
preponderance will remain with it for many years to come. At the same
time, we must not shut our eyes to the fact that equality will obtain
in the end, not only between America and Europe, but also between
these two and the other quarters of the world. The intermingling of
nations, migrations which have assumed prodigious proportions, and
the increasing facilities of intercourse must in the end lead to an
equilibrium of population being established throughout the world.
Then will each country add its proper share to the wealth of mankind,
and what we call civilisation will have “its centre everywhere, its
periphery nowhere.”

The central geographical position of Europe has undoubtedly exercised
a most favourable influence upon the progress of the nations
inhabiting it. The superiority of the Europeans is certainly not
due to the inherent virtues of the races from which they sprang, as
is vainly imagined by some, for in other parts of the ancient world
these same races have exhibited far less creative genius. To the
happy conditions of soil, climate, configuration, and geographical
position the inhabitants of Europe owe the honour of having been the
first to obtain a knowledge of the earth in its entirety, and to have
remained for so long a period at the head of mankind. Historical
geographers are, therefore, right when they insist upon the influence
which the configuration of a country exercises upon the nations
who inhabit it. The extent of table-lands, the heights of mountain
ranges, the direction and volume of rivers, the vicinity of the ocean,
the indentation of the coast-line, the temperature of the air, the
abundance or rarity of rain, and the correlations between soil, air,
and water—all these are pregnant with effects, and explain much of
the character and mode of life of primitive nations. They account for
most of the contrasts existing between nations subject to different
conditions, and point out the natural highways of the globe which
nations are constrained to follow in their migrations or warlike

At the same time, we must bear in mind that the influence exercised
upon the history of mankind by the general configuration of land and
sea, or any special features of the former, is subject to change, and
depends essentially upon the stage of culture at which nations have
arrived. Geography, strictly speaking, confines itself to a description
of the earth’s surface, and exhibits the various nations in a passive
attitude as it were, whilst Historical Geography and statistics show
man engaged in the struggle for existence, and striving to obtain the
mastery over his surroundings. A river, which to an uncultured tribe
would constitute an insurmountable barrier, becomes a commercial
high-road to a tribe further advanced in culture, and in process of
time it may be converted into a mere canal of irrigation, the course
of which is regulated by man. A mountain range frequented by shepherds
and huntsmen, and forming a barrier between nations, may attract, in a
more civilised epoch, the miner and the manufacturer, and in course of
time will even cease to be an obstacle, as roads will traverse it in
all directions. Many a creek of the sea, which afforded shelter of yore
to the small vessels of our ancestors, is deserted now, whilst the open
bays, which vessels dreaded formerly, have been protected by enormous
breakwaters, and have become the resort of our largest ships. {5}

Innumerable changes such as these have been effected by man in all
parts of the world, and they have revolutionised the correlations
existing between man and the land he lives in. The configuration and
height of mountains and table-lands, the indentation of the coasts,
the disposition of islands and archipelagos, and the extent of the
ocean—these all lose their relative influence upon the history of
nations in proportion as the latter emancipate themselves and become
free agents. Though subject to the condition of his dwelling-place, man
may modify it to suit his own purpose; he may overcome nature as it
were, and convert the energies of the earth into domesticated forces.
As an instance we may point to the elevated table-lands of Central
Asia, which now separate the countries and peninsulas surrounding them,
but which, when they shall have become the seats of human industry,
will convert Asia into a real geographical unit, which at present
it is only in appearance. Massy and ponderous Africa, monotonous
Australia, and Southern America with its forests and waterfalls, will
be put on something like an equality with Europe, whenever roads of
commerce shall cross them in all directions, bridging their rivers,
and traversing their deserts and mountain ranges. The advantages, on
the other hand, which Europe derives from its backbone of mountains,
its radiating rivers, the contours of its coasts, and its generally
well-balanced outline are not as great now as they were when man was
dependent exclusively upon the resources furnished by nature.

This gradual change in the historical importance of the configuration
of the land is a fact of capital importance which must be borne in mind
if we would understand the general geography of Europe. In studying
SPACE we must take account of another element of equal value—TIME.






In the geography of the world the first place is claimed for Europe,
not because of a prejudice like that of the Chinese, but as a matter of
right. Europe as yet is the only continent the whole of whose surface
has been scientifically explored. It possesses a map approximately
correct, and its material resources are almost fully known to us.
Its population is not as dense as that of India or of China, but it
nevertheless contains about one-fourth of the total population of the
globe; and its inhabitants, whatever their failings and vices, or their
state of barbarism in some respects, still impel the rest of mankind
as regards material and mental progress. Europe, for twenty-five
centuries, has been the focus whence radiated Arts, Sciences, and
Thought. Nor have those hardy colonists who carried their European
languages and customs beyond the sea succeeded hitherto in giving to
the New World an importance equal to that of “little” Europe, in spite
of the virgin soil and vast area which gave them scope for unlimited

“Old Europe,” where every clod of earth has its history, where every
man is the heir of a hundred successive generations, therefore still
maintains the first place, and a comparative study of nations justifies
us in the belief that its moral ascendancy and industrial preponderance
will remain with it for many years to come. At the same time, we must
not shut our eyes to the fact that equality will obtain in the end, not
only between America and Europe, but also between these two and the
other quarters of the world. The intermingling of nations, migrations
which have assumed prodigious proportions, and the increasing
facilities of intercourse, must in the end lead to an equilibrium of
population throughout the world. Then will each country add its proper
share to the wealth of mankind, and what we call civilisation will have
“its centre everywhere, its periphery nowhere.”

The central geographical position of Europe has undoubtedly exercised a
most favourable influence upon the progress of the nations inhabiting
it. The superiority of the Europeans is certainly not due to the
inherent virtues of the races from which they sprang, as is vainly
imagined by some, for in other parts of {6} the ancient world
these same races have exhibited far less creative genius. To the
happy conditions of soil, climate, configuration, and geographical
position, the inhabitants of Europe owe the honour of having been
the first to obtain a knowledge of the earth in its entirety, and to
have remained for so long a period at the head of mankind. Historical
geographers are, therefore, right when they insist upon the influence
which the configuration of a country exercises upon the nations
who inhabit it. The extent of table-lands, the heights of mountain
ranges, the direction and volume of rivers, the vicinity of the ocean,
the indentation of the coast-line, the temperature of the air, the
abundance or rarity of rain, and the correlations between soil, air,
and water—all these are pregnant with effects, and explain much of
the character and mode of life of primitive nations. They account for
most of the contrasts existing between nations subject to different
conditions, and point out the natural highways of the globe which
nations are constrained to follow in their migrations or warlike


The dwellers on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea must
have learnt, in the course of their first warlike and commercial
expeditions, to distinguish between the great continents; for within
the nucleus of the ancient world Africa is attached to Asia by a narrow
band of arid sand, and Europe separated from Asia Minor by seas and
channels difficult to navigate on account of dangerous currents. The
division of the known world into three distinct parts could not fail
to impress itself upon the minds of those infant nations; and when
the Greeks had attained a state of maturity, and historical records
took the place of myths and oral traditions, the name of Europe had
probably been transmitted through a long series of generations.
Herodotus naïvely admits that no mortal could ever hope to find out
the true meaning of this name, bequeathed to us by our forefathers;
but this has not deterred our modern men of learning from attempting
to explain it. Some amongst them consider that it was applied at first
to Thrace with its “large plains,” and subsequently extended to the
whole of Europe; others derive it from one of the surnames of Zeus
with the “large eyes,” the ancient god of the Sun, specially charged
with the protection of the continent. Some etymologists believe that
Europe was designated thus by the Phœnicians, as being the country of
“white men.” We consider it, however, to be far more probable that its
name originally meant simply “the West,” as contrasted with Asia, “the
East,” or “country of the rising sun.” It is thus that Italy first, and
then Spain, bore the name of Hesperia; that Western Africa received
the name of El Maghreb from the Mohammedans, and the plains beyond the
Mississippi became known in our own times as the “Far West.”

But, whatever may be the original meaning of its name, Europe, in all
the myths of the ancients, is described as a Daughter of Asia. The
Phœnicians were the first to explore the shores of Europe, and to bring
its inhabitants into contact with those of the East. When the Daughter
had become the superior of her {7} Mother in civilisation, and Greek
voyagers were following up the explorations begun by the mariners
of Tyre, all the known countries to the north of the Mediterranean
were looked upon as dependencies of Europe, and that name, which was
originally confined to the Thraco-Hellenic peninsula, was made to
include, in course of time, Italy, Spain, the countries of the Gauls,
and the hyperborean regions beyond the Alps and the Danube. Strabo,
to whom were known already the most varied and fruitful portions
of Europe, extends it eastward as far as the Palus Mæotis and the


Scale 1 : 21,800,000.


The zone of depression extending from the Black Sea to the Gulf of Obi
is shaded. The darker shading to the north of the Caspian shows the
area depressed below the level of the Mediterranean.]


Since that epoch the limits between Europe and Asia have been shifted
by geographers still further to the east. They are, however, more or
less conventional, for Europe, though bounded on three sides by the
ocean, is in reality but a peninsula of Asia. At the same time, the
contrasts between these two parts of the world fully justify scientific
men in dividing them into two continental masses. But where is the
true line of separation between them? Map-makers generally adopt the
political boundaries which it has pleased the Russian Government to
draw between its vast European and Asiatic territories, and others
adopt the summits of the Ural Mountains and of the Caucasus as the
boundary between the two continents; and although, at the first glance,
this delineation appears more reasonable than the former, it is in
reality no less absurd. The two slopes of a mountain chain can never be
assigned to different formations, and they are generally inhabited by
men of the same race. The true line of separation between Europe and
Asia does not consist of mountains at all, but, on the contrary, of a
series of depressions, in former times covered by a channel of the sea
which united the Mediterranean with the Arctic Ocean. The steppes of
the Manych, between the Black Sea and the Caspian, and to the north of
the Caucasus, are still covered in part with salt swamps. The Caspian
itself, as well as Lake Aral and the other lakes which we meet with
in the direction of the Gulf of Obi, are the remains of this ancient
arm of the sea, and the intermediate regions still bear the traces of
having been an ancient sea-bed.

[Illustration: Fig. 2.—THE RELIEF OF EUROPE.

According to Houzeau, Berghaus, Kiepert, Olsen, and others. Scale
1 : 60,000,000.]

There can be no doubt that vast changes have taken place in the
configuration {9} of Europe, not only during more ancient geological
periods, but also within comparatively recent times. We have already
seen that a vast arm of the sea formerly separated Europe from Asia; it
is equally certain that there was a time when it was joined to Anatolia
by an isthmus, which has since been converted into the Bosphorus of
Constantinople; Spain was joined to Africa until the waters of the
Atlantic invaded the Mediterranean; Sicily was probably connected
with Mauritania; and the British Islands once formed a portion of the
mainland. The erosion of the sea, as well as upheavals and subsidences
of land, has effected, and still effect, changes in the contours of
our coasts. Numerous soundings in the seas washing Western Europe have
revealed the existence of a submarine plateau, which, from a geological
point of view, must be looked upon as forming an integral portion of
our continent. Bounded by abyssal depths of thousands of fathoms, and
submerged one hundred fathoms at most below the waters of the ocean,
this pedestal of France and the British Islands must be looked upon
as the foundation of an ancient continent, destroyed by the incessant
action of the waves. If the shallow portions of the ocean, as well as
those of the Mediterranean Sea, were to be added to Europe, its area
would be increased to the extent of one-fourth, but it would lose, at
the same time, that wealth in peninsulas which has secured to Europe
its historical superiority over the other continents.

If we supposed Europe to subside to the extent of one hundred fathoms,
its area would be reduced to the compass of one-half. The ocean would
again cover her low plains, most of which are ancient sea-beds, and
there would remain above the waters merely a skeleton of plateaux and
mountain ranges, far more extensively indented by bays and fringed by
peninsulas than are the coasts existing at the present time. The whole
of Western and Southern Europe would be converted into a huge island,
separated by a wide arm of the sea from the plains of interior Russia.
From an historical as well as a geological point of view, this huge
island is the true Europe. Russia is not only half Asiatic on account
of its extremes of temperature, and the aspect of its monotonous
plains and interminable steppes, but is likewise intimately linked
with Asia as regards its inhabitants and its historical development.
Russia can hardly be said to have belonged to Europe for more than a
hundred years. It was in maritime and mountainous Europe, with its
islands, peninsulas, and valleys, its varied features and unexpected
contrasts, that modern civilisation arose, the result of innumerable
local civilisations, happily united into a single current. And, as the
rivers descending from the mountains cover the plains at their foot
with fertile soil, so has the progress accomplished in this centre of
enlightenment gradually spread over the other continents to the very
extremities of the earth.


The Europe alluded to includes France, Germany, England, and the three
Mediterranean peninsulas, and constitutes several natural divisions.
The British Islands form one of these. The Iberian peninsula is
separated scarcely less {10} distinctly from the remainder of Europe,
for between it and France rises a most formidable range of mountains,
the most difficult to cross in all Europe; and immediately to the north
of it a depression, nowhere exceeding a height of 650 feet, extends
from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic Ocean. The geographical unity
of Europe is represented to the full extent only in the system of the
Alps, and in the mountains of France, Germany, Italy, and the Balkan
peninsula which are connected with it. It is there we must seek the
framework of continental Europe.

The Alps, whose ancient Celtic name probably refers to the whiteness
of their snowy summits, stretch in an immense curve, more than 600
miles in length, from the shores of the Mediterranean to the plains
of the Danube. They consist in reality of more than thirty mountain
masses, representing as many geological groups, and joined to each
other by elevated passes; but their rocks, whether they be granite,
slate, sandstone, or limestone, form one continuous rampart rising
above the plains. In former ages the Alps were higher than they are
now. This is proved by an examination of their detritus and of the
strata disintegrated by natural agencies. But, whatever the extent of
detrition, they still rise in hundreds of summits beyond the line of
perennial snow, and vast rivers of ice descend from them into every
upland valley. Looked at from the plains of Piedmont and Lombardy,
these glaciers and snow-fields present the appearance of sparkling
diadems encircling the mountain summits.

In the eastern portion of the Alpine system—that is to say, between
the Mediterranean and Mont Blanc, the culminating point of Europe—the
average height of the mountain groups gradually increases from 6,500
to more than 13,000 feet. To the east of Mont Blanc the Alps change
in direction, and, beyond the vast citadels represented by Monte Rosa
and the Bernese Oberland, they gradually decrease in height. To the
east of Switzerland no summit exceeds a height of 13,000 feet, but
this loss in elevation is fully made up by increase of breadth. And
whilst the general direction of the principal axis of the Alps remains
north-easterly, very considerable mountain chains, far exceeding the
central mass in breadth, are thrown off towards the north, the east,
and the south-east. A line drawn across the true Alps from Vienna has a
length of no less than 250 miles.

In thus spreading out, the Alps lose their character and aspect. We
no longer meet with grand mountain masses, glaciers, and snow-fields.
Towards the north they gradually sink down into the valley of the
Danube; towards the south they branch out into secondary chains,
resting upon the arched plateau of Turkey. But, in spite of the vast
contrasts offered by the true Alps and the mountains of Montenegro,
the Hæmus, the Rhodope, and the Pindus, all these mountain chains
nevertheless belong to the same orographical system. The whole of the
Balkan peninsula must be looked upon as a natural dependency of the
Alps; and the same applies to Italy, for the chain of the Apennines is
nothing but a continuation of the Maritime Alps, and we hardly know
where to draw the line of separation between them. The Carpathians,
too, must be included among the {11} mountain chains forming part of
the system of the Alps. They have been gradually separated from them
through the continuous action of water, but there can be no doubt
that, in former times, the semicircle of mountains known as the Little
Carpathians, the Beskids, the Tatra, the Great Carpathians, and the
Transylvanian Alps was joined, on the one hand, to the Austrian Alps,
and on the other to spurs descending from the Balkan. The Danube has
forced its way through these mountain ramparts, but the passages, or
“gates,” are narrow; they are strewn with rocks, and commanded by what
remains of the ancient partition ranges.

The configuration of the Alps, and of the labyrinthine mountain ranges
branching off from them towards the east, could not fail to exercise a
most powerful influence upon the history of Europe and of the entire
world. The only high-roads known to barbarians are those traced out
by nature herself, and they were consequently able to penetrate into
Europe only by sea, or through the vast plains of the north. Having
penetrated to the westward of the Black Sea, their progress was first
stopped by the lakes and difficult swamps of the Danubian valley; and,
when they had surmounted these obstacles, they found themselves face to
face with a barrier of high mountains, whose intricate wooded valleys
and declivities led up to the inaccessible regions of eternal snow.
The Alps, the Balkan, and all the other advanced chains of the Alpine
system constituted an advanced defensive barrier for Western Europe,
and the conquering nomad tribes who threw themselves against it did so
at the risk of destruction. Accustomed to the boundless horizon of the
steppes, they did not venture to climb these steep hills—they turned
to the northward, where the vast plains of Germania enabled successive
swarms of immigrants to spread over the country with greater ease. And
as to the invaders, whom blind rage of conquest impelled to engage in
the defiles of these mountains, they found themselves caught as in a
trap; and this accounts for the variety of nations, and of fragments of
nations, whose presence has converted the countries of the Danube into
a sort of ethnological chaos. And as the débris carried along by the
current is deposited in the eddy of a river, so were these fragments of
nearly every nation of the East accumulated in motley disorder in this
corner of the Continent.

To the south of this great mountain barrier the migrations between
Europe and Asia could take place only by sea—a high-road open to
those nations alone who were sufficiently advanced in civilisation to
have acquired the art of building ships. Whether pirates, merchants,
or warriors, they had raised themselves long ago above a state of
primitive barbarism, and even their voyages of conquest added something
to the stock of human knowledge. Moreover, owing to the difficulties
of navigation, they migrated only in small bodies. At whatever point
they settled they came into contact with populations of a different
race from their own, and this intercourse gave birth to a number of
local civilisations, each bearing its own stamp, and nowhere did their
influence preponderate. Every island of the Archipelago, and every
valley of ancient Hellas, differed from its neighbours as regards
social condition, dialect, and customs, but they all remained Greek,
in spite of the Phœnician and other influences to which they had been
subjected. It is thus owing to the {12} configuration of the mountain
chains and coast-lines that the civilisation which developed itself
gradually in the Mediterranean countries to the south of the Alps
was, upon the whole, more spontaneous in its nature, and offered more
variety and greater contrasts, than the civilisation of the far less
advanced nations of the north, who were moving from place to place on
vast plains.

The wide range of the Alps and of their advanced chains thus separated
two distinct worlds, in which historical development went on at a
different rate. At the same time, the separation between the two
slopes of the Alpine system was by no means complete. Nowhere in the
Alps do we meet with cold and uninhabited plateaux, as in the Andes
and in Tibet, whose enormous extent forms almost insurmountable
barriers. The Alpine masses are cut up everywhere into mountains and
valleys, and the climate of the latter is sufficiently mild to enable
man to exist in them. The mountaineers, who easily maintained their
independence, owing to the protection extended to them by nature,
first served as intermediaries between the peoples inhabiting the
opposite lowlands. It was they who effected the rare exchanges of
produce which took place between the North and South, and who opened
the first commercial high-roads between the summits of the mountains.
The direction of the valleys and the deeply cut mountain passes even
then indicated the grand routes by which the Alps would be crossed, at
a future period, for the purposes of commerce or of war. That portion
of the Alps which lies between the mountain masses of Savoy and of
the Mediterranean would naturally cease first to form an obstacle to
military expeditions. The Alps there are of great height, it is true,
but they are narrower than anywhere else; besides which, the climate on
the two opposite slopes is similar, and assimilates the mode of life
and the customs of the people dwelling there. Far more formidable, as a
natural barrier, are the Alps to the north-east of Mont Blanc, for they
constitute a climatic boundary.

The other mountain ranges play but a secondary or local part in the
history of Europe, when we compare them with the Alps. Still, the
influence which they have exercised upon the destiny of nations is
no less evident. The table-lands and snow-fields of the Scandinavian
Alps form a wall of separation between Norwegians and Swedes. The
quadrangular mountain fort of Bohemia, in the centre of Europe, which
shelters the Chechians, is almost entirely enclosed by Germans, and
resembles an island fretted by the waves of the ocean. The hills of
Wales and of Scotland have afforded a shelter to the Celtic race
against the encroachments of Anglo-Saxons, Danes, and Normans. The
Bretons, in France, are indebted to their rocks and _landes_ for
the fact of their not having yet become wholly French; whilst the
table-land of Limousin, the hills of Auvergne and the Cevennes
constitute the principal cause of the striking contrast which still
exists between the inhabitants of Northern and of Southern France. The
Pyrenees, next to the Alps, constitute the most formidable obstacle
to the march of nations in Europe; they would have remained an
insurmountable rampart down to our own time, were it not easy to pass
round them by their extremities abutting upon the sea. {13}


The valleys which radiate in all directions from the great central
masses of the Alps are admirably adapted for imparting to almost the
whole of Europe a remarkable unity, whilst they offer, at the same
time, an extreme variety of aspects and of physical conditions. The
Po, the Rhone, the Rhine, and the Danube traverse countries having
the most diverse climates, and yet they have their sources in the
same mountain region, and the fertilising alluvium which they deposit
in their valleys results from the disintegration of the same rocks.
Minor valleys cut up the slopes of the Alps and of their dependent
chains, and carry towards the sea the waters of the mountains and
the triturated fragments of their rocks. Running waters are visible,
wherever we cast our eyes. There are neither deserts, nor sterile
plateaux, nor inland lakes and river basins such as we meet with in
Africa and Asia. The rivers of Europe are not flooded as are those of
certain portions of South America, which deluge half the country with
water. On the contrary, in the scheme of her rivers Europe exhibits
a certain degree of moderation which has favoured the work of the
settler, and facilitated the rise of a local civilisation in each river
basin. Moreover, although most rivers are sufficiently large to have
retarded migration, they are not sufficiently so to have arrested it
for any length of time. Even when roads and bridges did not exist,
barbarian immigrants easily made their way from the shores of the Black
Sea to those of the Atlantic.

But Europe, in addition to the advantages due to its framework of
mountains and the disposition of its river basins, enjoys the still
greater advantage of possessing an indented coast-line. It is mainly
the contours of its coasts which impart to Europe its double character
of unity and diversity, which distinguish it amongst continents. It
is “one” because of its great central mass, and “diversified” because
of its numerous peninsulas and dependent islands. It is an organism,
if we may say so, resembling a huge body furnished with limbs. Strabo
compared Europe to a dragon. The geographers of the period of the
revival of letters compared it to a crowned virgin, Spain being the
head, France the heart, and England and Italy the hands, holding the
sceptre and the orb. Russia, at that time hardly known, is made to do
duty for the ample folds of the robe.

The area of Europe is only half that of South America, and one-third
of that of Africa, and yet the development of its coast-lines is
superior to that of the two continents taken together. In proportion
to its area the coasts of Europe have twice the extent of those of
South America, Australia, and Africa; and although they are to a small
extent inferior to those of North America, it must be borne in mind
that the arctic coasts of the latter are ice-bound during the greater
portion of the year. A glance at the subjoined diagrams will show that
Europe, as compared with the two other continents washed by the Arctic
Ocean, enjoys the immense advantage of possessing a coast-line almost
wholly available for purposes of navigation, whilst a large portion
of the coasts of Asia and America is altogether useless to man. And
not only does the sea penetrate into the very heart of {14} temperate
Europe, cutting it up into elongated peninsulas, but these peninsulas,
too, are fringed with gulfs and miniature inland seas. The coasts
of Greece, of Thessaly, and of Thrace are thus indented by bays and
gulfs, penetrating far into the land; Italy and Spain likewise possess
numerous bays and gulfs; and the peninsulas of Northern Europe, Jutland
and Scandinavia, are cut up by the waters of the ocean into numerous
secondary peninsulas.


                                Europe.     Asia.      Africa.   N. America.  S. America. Australia.
 Total area, square miles     4,005,100  17,308,400  11,542,400    9,376,850   6,803,570   3,450,130
 Mainland area, square miles  3,758,300  15,966,000  11,293,930    7,973,700   6,731,470   2,934,500
 Development of coast-line,      18,600      34,110      16,480       30,890      16,390      10,570
 Accessible coasts               17,610      28,200      16,480       26,510      16,390      14,400
 Ratio of the geometrical to    1 : 2·5     1 : 2·5     1 : 1·4      1 : 3·1     1 : 1·8     1 : 1·7
   the actual contour

 The shaded circles represent the various continents; the outer circle
 represents the actual extent of coast-line. The blank space between
 the two concentric circles represents graphically the difference
 between the smallest possible or geometrical contour of a country
 having the area of the respective continents, and the actual contour
 as exhibited in the existing coast-lines. Europe, being in reality
 only a peninsula of Asia, hardly admits of this comparison.]

The islands of Europe must be looked upon as dependencies of that
continent, for most of them are separated from it only by shallow seas.
Candia and the islands scattered broadcast over the Ægean Sea, the
Archipelagos of the Ionian Sea, and of Dalmatia, Sicily, Corsica and
Sardinia, Elba, and the Baleares, are in reality but prolongations,
or maritime out-stations, of neighbouring peninsulas. To the islands
of Sealand and Fyen, at the entrance to the Baltic, Denmark owes {15}
most of her commercial and political importance. Great Britain and
Ireland, which actually formed a portion of the European continent in a
past age, cannot be looked upon otherwise than as dependencies of it,
although the isthmus which once joined them has been destroyed by the
waters of the ocean. England has actually become the grand commercial
emporium of Europe, and plays now the same part in the world’s commerce
that Greece once played in that of the more restricted world of the

It is a remarkable fact that each of the European peninsulas should
have enjoyed in turn a period of commercial preponderance. Greece, the
“most noble individuality of the world of the ancients,” came first,
and when at the height of her power governed the Mediterranean, which
at that time meant nearly the whole universe. During the Middle Ages
Amalfi, Genoa, and Venice became the commercial agents between Europe
and the Indies. The discovery of a passage round the Cape and of
America diverted the world’s commerce to Cadiz, Seville, and Lisbon, on
the Iberian peninsula. Subsequently the merchants of the small Dutch
Republic seized a portion of the heritage of Spain and Portugal, and
the wealth of the entire world was floated into the harbours of their
sea-bound islands and peninsulas. In our own days Great Britain, thanks
to its favourable geographical position, in the very centre of great
continental masses, and the energy of its people, has become the great
mart of the world. London, the most populous city of the world, is
also the great centre of attraction for the treasures of mankind; but
there can be no doubt that sooner or later it will be supplanted, in
consequence of the opening of new commercial high-roads, and changes in
the political preponderance of nations. Perhaps some city of the United
States will take the place of London in a future age, and thus the
American belief in the westward march of civilisation will be verified;
or we may possibly return to the East, and convert Constantinople or
Cairo into the world’s emporium and centre of intercourse.

But, whatever may happen in the future, the great changes which have
taken place in the relative importance of the peninsulas and islands
of Europe in the short span of twenty centuries, sufficiently prove
that geographical features exercise a varying influence at different
epochs. That which at one time was looked upon as a great natural
advantage may become, in course of time, a serious disadvantage. Thus
the numerous inlets and gulfs enclosed by mountain chains, which
favoured the rise of the cities of Greece, and gave to Athens the
dominion of the Mediterranean, now constitute as many obstacles to
their connection with the existing system of European communications.
That which in former times constituted the strength of the country
has become its weakness. In primitive times, before man ventured upon
the seas, these bays and gulfs formed insurmountable obstacles to the
migration of nations; at a later date, when the art of navigation had
been acquired, they became commercial high-roads, and were favourable
to the development of civilisation; and at the present time they are
again obstacles in the way of our road-builders and railway engineers.


The influence exercised by the relief of the land and the configuration
of the coasts varies in different ages, but that of climate is
permanent. In this respect Europe is the most favoured region of the
earth, for during a cycle of unknown length it has enjoyed a climate at
once the most temperate, the most equable, and the most healthy of all

Owing to the inland seas which penetrate far into the land, the whole
of Europe is exposed to the modifying influence of the ocean. With
the exception of Central Russia, no part of Europe is more than 400
miles from the sea, and, as most of the mountains slope from the
centre of the continent towards its circumference, the influence of
the sea breezes is felt throughout. And thus continental Europe, in
spite of its great extent, enjoys the advantages of an insular climate
throughout, the winds passing over the ocean moderating the heat of
summer and tempering the cold of winter.

The continuous north-easterly movement of the waters of the Atlantic
likewise has a favourable effect upon the climate of Europe. After
having been heated by a tropical sun in the Gulf of Mexico, the
gulf-stream issues through the Strait of Florida, and, spreading over
the Atlantic, takes its course towards the coasts of Europe. This
enormous mass of warm water, equal in volume to twenty million rivers
as large as the Rhone, brings the warmth of southern latitudes to the
western and northern shores of Europe. Its influence is felt not only
in the maritime countries of Western Europe, but to some extent as far
as the Caspian and the Ural Mountains.

The currents of the air exercise as favourable an influence upon the
climate of Europe as do those of the ocean. The south-westerly winds
predominating on the coasts pass over the warm gulf-stream, and, on
reaching Europe, they part with the heat stored up by them between
the tropics. The north-westerly, northerly, and even north-easterly
winds, which blow during a portion of the year, are less cold than
might be expected, for they, too, have to cross the warm waters of
the gulf-stream. And lastly, there is the Sahara, which elevates the
temperature of a portion of Europe.

The increase in temperature due to the combined influence of winds
and ocean currents amounts to 40° 50°, and even 60°, if we compare
Europe with other parts of the world lying under the same latitudes.
Nowhere else, not even on the western coast of North America, do the
isothermals, or lines of equal annual temperature, ascend so high
towards the arctic regions. The inhabitants of Europe, though they
may live 900 to 1,200 miles farther away from the equator, enjoy as
mild a climate as do those of America, and the decrease of temperature
on going northward is far less rapid than in any other part of the
globe. This uniformity of temperature constitutes one of the most
characteristic features of Europe. The whole of it lies within the
temperate region bounded by the isothermal lines of 32° F. and 68° F.,
whilst in America and Asia that privileged zone has only half this
extent. {17}


Scale 1 : 60,000,000.


This remarkable uniformity in the climate of Europe is exhibited not
only in its temperature, but likewise in the distribution of its
rains. The seas washing the shores of Europe supply all parts of it
with the necessary amount of moisture. There is no rainless district,
nor, with the exception of a portion of the maritime region of the
Caspian and a small corner of Spain, any district where droughts
occasionally entail the entire loss of the harvest. Rains fall not
only regularly every year, but in most countries they occur in every
season, the only exception being the countries of the Mediterranean,
where autumn and winter are the real rainy seasons. Moreover, in spite
of the great diversity in the physical features of Europe, the amount
of rain is scarcely anywhere excessive, whether it descends as a fine
drizzle, as in Ireland, or in heavy showers, as in Provence and on
the southern slope of the Alps. The annual rainfall scarcely ever
exceeds thirty-nine inches, except on the flanks of certain mountain
ranges which arrest the passage of currents charged with moisture.
This uniformity and moderation in the rainfall exercise a regulating
influence upon the course of the rivers, for even the smallest amongst
them, at all events those to the north of the Pyrenees, the Alps, and
the Balkan, flow throughout the year. They rise and fall generally
within narrow limits, and inundations on a vast scale are as rare as
is want of water for purposes of irrigation. In consequence of this
regularity, Europe is able to derive a greater advantage from its
waters than other continents where the amount of precipitation is more
considerable. The Alps contribute much towards {18} maintaining a
regular flow of the rivers; the excess of humidity which falls to their
share is stored up in the shape of snow and ice, which descend slowly
into the valleys, and melt during the heat of summer. This happens
just at a time when the rivers gain least from rain, and lose most
by evaporation, and some amongst them would dry up if the ice of the
mountains did not come to the aid of the waters descending from the
sky. It is thus that a sort of balance is established in the economy of
European rivers.

The climate of Europe is thus characterized by uniformity as a whole,
and by a compensatory action in its contrasts. Regularity and freedom
from excess, such as are not known in other continents, mark its ocean
currents, its winds, its temperature and rains, and the course of
its rivers. These great advantages have benefited its inhabitants in
the past, and will not cease to do so in the future. Though small in
extent, Europe possesses by far the largest area of acclimation. Man
may migrate from Russia to Spain, or from Ireland to Greece, without
exposing himself to any great risk of life. The inhabitants of the
Caucasus and the Ural Mountains were thus able to cross the plains and
mountains of Europe, and to establish themselves on the shores of the
Atlantic. Soil and climate are equally propitious to man, and enable
him to preserve his physical and intellectual powers wherever he goes.
A migratory people might found new homesteads in any part of Europe.
Their companions of travel—the dog, the horse, and the ox—would not
desert them on the road, and the seed-corn which they carry with them
would yield a harvest wherever confided to the earth.


A study of the soil and a patient observation of climatic phenomena
enable us to appreciate the general influence exercised by the nature
of the country upon the development of its inhabitants; but it is
more difficult to assign to each race or nation its due share in
the progress of European civilisation. No doubt, in their struggles
for existence, different groups of naked and ignorant savages must
have been acted upon differently, according to their numbers and
physical strength, their inborn intelligence, their tastes and mental
tendencies. But who were those primitive men who first turned to
account the natural resources of the country in which they dwelt? We
know not; for, if we go back for a few thousand years, every fact
is shrouded in darkness. We know nothing even as regards the origin
of the leading nations of Europe. Are we the “sons of the soil,”
and the “shoots of oak-trees,” as told in the poetical language of
ancient tradition, or are we to look upon the inhabitants of Asia as
the ancestors to whom we are indebted for our languages, and for the
rudiments of our arts and sciences? Or did those immigrants from a
neighbouring continent settle down amongst an indigenous population?
Not many years ago the Asiatic origin of European nations was accepted
as an established fact, and the original seats of our forefathers
were pointed out upon the map of Asia. But now most men of science
are agreed to {19} seek our ancestors upon the very soil which we,
their descendants, still occupy. Caverns, the shores of oceans and
lakes, and the alluvial beds of our rivers have yielded the remains
of human industry, and even human skeletons, which clearly prove that
long before these supposed immigrations from Asia there existed in
Europe tribes who had already made some progress in human industry.
Even in the childhood of history there existed tribes who were looked
upon as aborigines, and some of their descendants—as, for instance, the
Basks—have nothing in common with the invaders from the neighbouring
continent. Nor is it universally admitted that the Aryans—that is, the
ancestors of the Pelasgians, the Greeks, the Latins, Celts, Germans,
and Slavs—are of Asiatic origin. Similarity of language may justify
our belief in the common origin of the Aryans of Europe, the Persians,
and the Hindoos, but it does not prove that their ancestral home
should be looked for somewhere near the sources of the Oxus. Many
men of learning[3] look upon the Aryans as aborigines of Europe, but
certainty on this point does not exist. No doubt, in prehistoric times,
intermigrations between the two continents were frequent; but we hardly
know what directions they took, and can speak with certainty only of
those migrations of peoples which are related by history. We thus know
that Europe sent forth to other continents Galatians, Macedonians, and
Greeks, and more recently innumerable emigrants of all nationalities,
and received in turn Huns, Avares, Turks, Mongols, Circassians, Jews,
Armenians, Moors, Berbers, and members of many other nations.


Leaving out of consideration the smaller families of nations, as well
as the members of races who have not attained a national existence,
Europe may be described as consisting of three great ethnological
divisions, the principal boundary between which is formed by the Alps,
the Carpathians, and the Balkan.

The first of these great families of European nations, the members of
which speak Greco-Latin languages, occupies the southern slopes of the
Balkan and of the Alps, the Iberian peninsula, France, and a portion of
Belgium, as well as a few detached territories within the limits of the
ancient Roman empire, altogether surrounded by alien nations. Such are
the plains of the Lower Danube and a portion of Transylvania, which are
inhabited by the Rumanians, and a few secluded Alpine valleys inhabited
by “Romans.” On the other hand, fragments of two ancient nations have
maintained their ground in the midst of Latinised populations, viz.
the Celtic inhabitants of Brittany, and the Basks of the Pyrenees.
Generally speaking, however, all the inhabitants of South-western
Europe, whether of Celtic, Iberian, or Ligurian race, speak languages
derived from the Latin, and whatever differences existed originally
between these various populations, this community of language has more
or less obliterated them.

The Teutonic nations form the second great group. They occupy nearly
the whole of Central Europe to the north of the Alps, and extend
through Holland and Flanders to within a short distance of the
Straits of Dover. Denmark and the great Scandinavian peninsula, as
well as Iceland, belong to the same group, and {20} the bulk of the
inhabitants of the British Islands are likewise generally included in
it. The latter, however, should rather be described as a mixed race,
for the aboriginal Celtic population of these islands, which now exists
pure only in a few remote districts, has amalgamated with Anglo-Saxon
and Danish invaders, and the language of the latter has become mixed
with mediæval French, the resulting idiom being almost as much Latin as
Saxon. The development of national characteristics has been favoured
by the isolation in which the inhabitants of the British Islands found
themselves, and they differ essentially from continental neighbours—the
Scandinavians, Germans, and Celto-Latins—in language and customs.

The Slavs, or Slavonians, form the third group of European nations.
They are less numerous than the Greco-Latins, but the territories they
occupy are far more extensive, for they spread over nearly the whole
of Russia, over Poland, a large portion of the Balkan peninsula, and
about one-half of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. All the great plains
to the east of the Carpathians are inhabited by Slavs, either pure or
mixed with Tartars and Mongols. To the west and south of the mountains
the race is split up into numerous small nations, and in the valley
of the Danube these come into contact with Rumanians, as well as with
Turks and Magyars, the two latter being of Asiatic origin, and these
separate the Slavonians of the north from the Slavonians of the south.
In the north, Finns, Livonians, and Lithuanians interpose between the
Slavonians and the Germanic nations.[4]

Race and language, however, are not always identical. Members of one
race frequently speak the language of another, and race and linguistic
boundaries, therefore, differ frequently. As for the political
boundaries, they scarcely ever follow those natural features which
would have been selected had their settlement been intrusted to the
spontaneous action of the different nations. They hardly ever coincide
with the boundaries of races or of languages, except in the case of a
few high mountain ranges or of arms of the sea. On many occasions the
countries of Europe were arbitrarily split up in consequence of wars or
diplomatic arrangements. A few peoples only, protected by the nature
of their country as well as {21} by their valour, have maintained
their independence since the age of great migrations, but many more
have been swept away by successive invasions. Many others, again, have
alternately seen their frontiers expand and contract more than once
even during a generation.

The so-called “balance of European powers,” founded as it is upon the
rights of war and ambitious rivalries between nations, is necessarily
unstable. Nations eminently fit to lead a common political existence
are torn asunder on the one side, whilst the most heterogeneous
elements are thrown together on the other. In these political
arrangements the nations themselves are never consulted, but their
wishes and inclinations must nevertheless prevail in the end, and
the artificial edifice raised by warriors and statesmen will come to
the ground. A true “balance of power” will only be established when
every nation of the continent shall have become the arbiter of its
own destinies, when every pretended right of conquest shall have been
surrendered, and neighbouring nations shall be at liberty to combine
for the management of the affairs they have in common. Our arbitrary
political divisions, therefore, possess but a transitory value. They
cannot altogether be ignored; but in the following descriptions we
shall, as far as possible, adhere to the great natural divisions as
defined by mountains and valleys, and by the distribution of nations
having the same origin and speaking the same language. But even these
natural boundaries lose their importance in countries like Switzerland,
inhabited by nations speaking different languages, but held together by
the strongest of all ties—the common enjoyment of freedom.

From an historical point of view a description of Europe should
commence with the maritime countries of the Mediterranean. It was
Greece which gave birth to our European civilisation, and which at one
time occupied the centre of the known world. Her poets first sang the
praises of venturesome navigators, and her historians and philosophers
collected and classified the information received with respect to
foreign countries. In a subsequent age, Italy, in the very centre of
the Mediterranean, took the place of Greece, and for fifteen centuries
maintained herself therein: Genoa, Venice, and Florence succeeded
Rome as the leaders of the civilised world. During that period the
surrounding nations gravitated towards the Mediterranean and Italy;
and it was only when the Italians themselves enlarged the terrestrial
sphere by the discovery of a new world beyond the ocean that this
preponderance passed away from them, to remain for a short time with
the Iberian peninsula. Greece had been the mediator between Europe
and the ancient civilisations of Asia and Africa; Spain and Portugal
became the representatives of Europe in America and the extreme Orient;
historical development in its progress had followed the axis of the
Mediterranean from east to west.

It will be found natural, under these circumstances, when we describe
the three Mediterranean peninsulas in the same volume, particularly
as they are peopled almost exclusively by Greco-Latin nations.
France, though likewise Latinised, nevertheless occupies a distinct
position. It is a Mediterranean country only as respects Provence and
Languedoc, the rest of its territory sloping towards the Atlantic.
Its geographical position and history have made France the great {22}
European thoroughfare upon which the nations of the Mediterranean and
of the Atlantic meet to exchange their products and to fight their
battles. Ideas are imported into France from all parts of Europe,
and she is called upon to act the part of an interpreter between the
nations of the North and of the South. Next to France we shall describe
the Germanic countries of Europe, the British Islands, and Scandinavia;
and lastly, the immense empire of Russia.






Greece and its insular satellites prove sufficiently that the unstable
floods of the Mediterranean have exercised a greater influence upon the
march of history than did the solid land upon which man trod. Western
civilisation would never have seen the light had not the waters of the
Mediterranean washed the shores of Egypt, Phœnicia, Asia Minor, Hellas,
Italy, Spain, and Carthage. The western nations would have remained in
their primitive barbarism if it had not been for the Mediterranean,
which joined Europe, Asia, and Africa; facilitated the intercourse
between Aryans, Semites, and Berbers; and rendered more equable the
climate of the surrounding countries, thus facilitating access to
them. For ages it appeared almost as if mankind could prosper only
in the neighbourhood of this central sea, for beyond its basin only
decayed nations were to be met with, or tribes not yet awakened to
mental activity. “Like frogs around a swamp, so have we settled down
on the shores of this sea,” said Plato; and the sea he refers to is
the Mediterranean. It is therefore deserving of description quite as
much as the inhabited countries which surround it. Unfortunately many
mysteries still remain hidden beneath its waves.[5]


From a Chart by M. Delesse.]

From an examination of the coasts, as well as from the traditions of
the people inhabiting them, we learn that the Mediterranean has varied
frequently in its contours and extent. The straits which connect
its waters with those of the ocean have frequently changed their
position. At a time when peninsulas like Greece, and even islands
like Malta, formed part of continental masses—and that they did so
in a comparatively recent geological epoch is proved by their fossil
fauna—the waters of the Mediterranean covered large portions of Africa,
of Southern Russia, and even of Asia. The researches of Spratt, Fuchs,
and others have satisfactorily proved that towards the close of the
miocene age a vast {24} fresh-water lake stretched from the banks of
the Aral, across Russia, the plains of the Danube and the Archipelago,
as far as Syracuse in Sicily. Then came the briny waters of the ocean.
There was a time when the Black Sea and the Caspian connected the
Archipelago with the Gulf of the Obi. At another epoch the gulfs of
the Syrtes penetrated far inland, and a large portion of what is now
the Libyan and Saharan desert was then covered with water. The Strait
of Gibraltar, which was torn asunder by Hercules according to the
traditions of the ancients, is in reality but of recent origin, and has
taken the place of a more ancient strait which joined the Mediterranean
to the Red Sea and Indian Ocean: this strait has been restored by human
hands, and is known now as the Suez Canal. The coast-lines of the
Mediterranean are undergoing perpetual change, owing to the upheaval
or subsidence of the countries surrounding it. The Nile, the Po, the
Rhone, and other rivers incessantly enlarge the alluvial plains at
their mouths, and still further encroach upon the sea. Actually the
Mediterranean, with its subordinate seas from the Strait of Gibraltar
to the Sea of Azof, covers an area about thirty times that of the
British Islands. This area is small if we compare it with the immense
development of the coasts and the wealth in peninsulas, which impart an
aspect of life and independence to at least one-third of the ancient
world. The Mediterranean, though it takes precedence of all the oceans,
in consequence of the part it has played in history, nevertheless only
covers an area one-seventieth that of the Pacific.[6] It is broken up,
moreover, into several separate seas, some of them so small in extent
that the navigator hardly ever loses sight of the land. In the {25}
east we have the Black Sea, with its two dependencies, the Seas of
Azof and of Marmara. The Ægean Sea, or Archipelago, with its numerous
islands, extends between the deeply indented coasts of Greece, Asia
Minor, and Crete. The Adriatic stretches towards the north-west,
between the Balkan peninsula and Italy; and the Mediterranean proper
is divided into two separate basins, which might appropriately be
called the Phœnician and Carthaginian Seas, or the Greek and Roman
Mediterraneans. Each of these basins is again subdivided, the one by
Crete, the other by the two islands of Sardinia and Corsica. These
various subdivisions of the Mediterranean differ in area, and still
more in depth. The Sea of Azof almost deserves the name of “Swamp,”
which was bestowed upon it by the ancients, for if a ship sinks in it
the masts remain visible above the water. The Black Sea has a maximum
depth of over 1,000 fathoms, but the narrow strait which joins it to
the Sea of Marmara is shallower than many a European river. The cavity
filled by the Sea of Marmara is far inferior to that of many an inland
lake; and the Dardanelles, like the Bosphorus, are hardly wider than a
river. In the Archipelago and the eastern basin of the Mediterranean
proper the depth corresponds with the protuberance of the land. Abyssal
depths and “pits” of 260 and even of 540 fathoms are to be found in
close proximity to the scarped mountain islands of the Cyclades, whilst
on the low coasts of Egypt the water deepens only gradually, until in
the centre of the Levantine Sea it attains a depth of 1,750 fathoms.
The maximum depth—2,170 fathoms—is attained between Crete and Malta. If
the whole of the waters of the Mediterranean were to be collected into
an aqueous sphere, the latter would have a diameter of 90 miles; if it
fell down upon the earth, it would not even wholly cover a country like

The Ionian Sea is separated from the Adriatic by a submarine ridge
rising in the Strait of Otranto, and bounded on the west by a shoal or
submarine isthmus, already referred to by Strabo, which joins Sicily
to Tunis. This isthmus forms the true geological boundary between the
western and eastern basins of the Mediterranean, which are connected
here by a narrow breach only, the depth of which hardly exceeds 100
fathoms. The western of these basins is the smaller and shallower of
the two, but nevertheless it attains a depth of 1,100 fathoms in the
Tyrrhenian, and of 1,360 fathoms and even 1,640 in the Balearic Sea,
and is separated from the waters of the Atlantic by a submarine ridge
lying outside the Strait of Gibraltar, and joining Europe to Africa.[7]

This subdivision of the Mediterranean into separate basins, divided
from each other by shoals or submarine ridges, by islands and
promontories, sufficiently explains the contrasts between the phenomena
of the open ocean and those observed here. In the Mediterranean, it is
well known, the tides are almost everywhere irregular and uncertain.
To the east of the Narrows of Gibraltar, in the sea extending between
Andalusia and Morocco, the tides are hardly felt at all, and {26}
they are, moreover, interfered with to such an extent by currents
that it is exceedingly difficult to determine their amplitude, or the
establishment of the various ports. Nevertheless the rise and fall of
the tidal wave are sufficiently marked to have attracted the attention
of Greek and Italian navigators. On the coasts of Catalonia, France,
Liguria, Naples, Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt the oscillation is hardly
perceptible, but on those of Eastern Sicily and of the Adriatic the
tide sometimes rises three feet, and, if accompanied by storms, may
even attain a height of ten feet in certain localities. The Straits of
Messina and of Euripo (Eubœa) have their regular tides, and in the Gulf
of Gabes the waters rise and fall with the same regularity as in the
open ocean. In the Black Sea, however, no tidal movements whatever have
been discovered hitherto. It is nevertheless probable that more careful
observations will lead to the discovery of a feeble tide, for it is
believed that this phenomenon exists even on Lake Michigan, which has
only one-fifth the area of the Black Sea.

[Illustration: Fig. 6.—THE STRAIT OF GIBRALTAR.

According to Robiquet, Randegger, and others. Scale 1 : 750,000.


The Mediterranean differs not only from the open ocean with respect
to the feebleness and irregularity of its tides, but it is likewise
without a great stream-current keeping in constant circulation the
whole body of its waters. The currents which have been observed in
various divisions of the Mediterranean can be ascribed only to local
causes. An Italian geographer of the last century, Montanari, has {27}
advanced an hypothesis of a great circuit current which entered the
Mediterranean through the Strait of Gibraltar, and, after having washed
the shores of Africa as far as Egypt, returned to the west along those
of Asia and Europe; but careful observers have vainly endeavoured
to discover its existence. They have met only with local currents,
produced by an indraught of the waters of the Atlantic, by winds, by
the floods of rivers, or by an excess of evaporation. One of these
currents sets along the coasts of Morocco and Algeria from west to
east; another flows along the Italian coast of the Adriatic from north
to south; and a third from the mouth of the Rhone in the direction of
Cette and Port Vendres. In fact, the configuration of the sea-bottom,
and particularly the shoal between Sicily and Tunis, precludes the
existence of any but surface currents in the Mediterranean.

Amongst the local currents the existence of which has been most clearly
established are those which convey the waters of the Sea of Azof into
the Black Sea, and those of the latter into the Archipelago. The Don
more than makes up for the loss by evaporation in the Sea of Azof, and
its surplus waters find an exit through the Strait of Kerch into the
Black Sea. Similarly the waters of the Dniester, the Dnieper, the Rion,
and of the rivers of Asia Minor, and, above all, of the Danube, which
by itself conveys a larger volume of water into the Black Sea than
all the others combined, are discharged through the Bosphorus and the
Dardanelles into the Archipelago. On the other hand, the Archipelago
returns to the Black Sea, by means of a submarine counter-current and
of lateral surface currents, a certain quantity of salt water for the
fresh water which it receives in excess. This exchange accounts for the
salineness of the waters of the Black Sea. The volume of fresh water
discharged into it by the Danube and other rivers is so large that
in the course of a thousand years its waters would become perfectly
fresh, if there did not exist these compensatory highly saline

Analogous phenomena take place at the other extremity of the
Mediterranean. Evaporation there is excessive, owing to the
neighbourhood of the burning sands of the deserts, the winds from which
blow freely over the sea, absorbing the vapours and dispersing the
clouds. The loss by evaporation amounts to at least seven feet in the
course of a year, and as the annual rainfall is estimated to amount to
twenty inches only, and the volume of water discharged annually by all
the tributary rivers of the Mediterranean, if uniformly spread over
its surface, would hardly exceed ten inches in depth, there exists
thus an excess of evaporation amounting annually to more than four
feet; and this excess has to be made good by an inflow of the waters
of the Atlantic, which takes place through the Strait of Gibraltar,
whose volume far exceeds that of the Amazon in a state of flood. This
inflow of the waters of the Atlantic is felt, as a current, as far as
the coasts of Sicily, and, like all other currents, it is bounded by
lateral currents flowing in a direction contrary to that of the main
current. During ebb the insetting Atlantic current takes up the whole
of the strait, but when the tide rises the Mediterranean resists more
successfully the pressure of the ocean, and this struggle gives birth
to {28} two counter-currents, one of which skirts the coast of Europe,
the other that of Africa between Ceuta and Cape Spartel; the latter is
the larger and more powerful of the two. In addition to these, there
exists a submarine current, which conveys the highly saline and heavier
waters of the Mediterranean out into the Atlantic.

The quantity of salt held in solution in various parts of the
Mediterranean differs widely, as the submarine ridges and shoals which
divide it into separate basins do not permit its waters to mingle as
freely as in the open ocean. Owing to the excess of evaporation, the
quantity of salt is greater on the whole than in the Atlantic, and this
is the case more particularly on the coast of Africa. But in the Black
Sea it is far less, and near the mouths of some of the large rivers
which enter that sea the water is almost fresh.[8]

The temperature of the Mediterranean is affected by the same causes
which produce its varying salineness, viz. the existence of shoals
and banks, which separate it into distinct sub-basins. In the open
ocean the currents convey to all latitudes large bodies of water,
some of them heated by a tropical sun, others cooled by contact with
the ice of the polar regions. But these layers of unequal density are
regularly superimposed one upon the other, owing to the differences in
their temperature: the warm water remains on the surface, whilst the
cold water descends to the bottom. In the Mediterranean an analogous
superimposition exists only to a depth of 110 fathoms, which is the
depth of the Atlantic current, flowing into it through the Strait of
Gibraltar. If a thermometer be lowered to a greater depth it will
indicate no further decrease of temperature, and the immense body of
water, remaining almost still at the bottom of the Mediterranean, has
an equable temperature of about 56° F. Observations made at depths
varying between 110 and 1,640 fathoms have always exhibited the same
result. Professor Carpenter believes, however, that the abyssal waters
of some of the volcanic regions have a somewhat higher temperature,
which may be due to the presence of lava in a state of fusion.


Another remarkable feature of the abyssal waters of the Mediterranean
consists in their poverty of animal life. No doubt there is some life;
the dredgings of the _Porcupine_ and the telegraph cables, which, on
being brought to the surface, were found to be covered with shells
and polypes, prove this. But, compared with those of the ocean, the
depths of the Mediterranean are veritable deserts. Edward Forbes, who
explored the waters of the Archipelago, arrived at the conclusion that
their abyssal depths were entirely devoid of life, but he was wrong
when he assumed an exceptional case like this to represent a universal
law. Carpenter thinks that this absence of life in the depths of the
Mediterranean is due to the great quantity of organic remains which
is carried into it by the rivers. These remains absorb the oxygen of
the water, and part with their carbonic acid, which is detrimental to
{29} animal life. In numerous instances the water of the Mediterranean
contains only one-fourth the normal quantity of the former gas, but
fifty per cent. in excess of the latter. To the presence of these
organic remains the Mediterranean is probably indebted for its
beautiful azure colour, so different from the black waters of most
oceans. This blue, then, which is justly celebrated by poets, would
thus be caused by the impurity of the water. M. Delesse has shown that
the bottom of nearly the whole of the Mediterranean is covered with

The regions of the Mediterranean immediately below the surface abound
in animal life, particularly on the coasts of Sicily and Southern
Italy; but nearly all species, whether fish, testacea, or others, are
of Atlantic origin. The Mediterranean, in spite of its vast extent, as
far as its fauna is concerned, is nothing but a gulf of the Lusitanian
Ocean. Its longitudinal extension and the similarity of climate in its
various portions have favoured the migration of animals through the
Strait of Gibraltar as far as the coasts of Syria. At the same time,
animal life is most varied near this point of entry, and the species
met with in the western basin are generally of greater size than those
which exist in the eastern. A very small proportion of non-Atlantic
species recalls the fact that the Mediterranean formerly communicated
with the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. But amongst a total of more than
eight hundred molluscs there are only about thirty which have reached
the seas of Greece and Sicily through the ancient straits separating
Africa from Asia, instead of through the Strait of Gibraltar.[9] The
diminution in the number of species in an easterly direction becomes
most striking when we reach the narrow channel of the Dardanelles and
the Bosphorus. The Black Sea, in fact, differs essentially from the
Mediterranean proper as regards temperature. It is refrigerated by
north-easterly winds sweeping over its surface, to the extent even of
portions of it becoming now and then covered with a thin coating of
ice, adhering to the coast. The Sea of Azof has frequently disappeared
beneath a thick crust of ice, and even the whole of the Black Sea has
been frozen over in winters of exceptional severity. The cold surface
waters, together with those conveyed into the Black Sea by large
rivers, descend to the bottom, and prove most detrimental to animal
life. Echinodermata and zoophytes are not met with at all in the Black
Sea; certain classes of molluscs, already rare in the Levantine Sea and
the Archipelago, are likewise absent; and the total number of species
of molluscs is only one-tenth of what it is in the Mediterranean. Fish
are numerous as far as individuals go, but their species are few.
In fact, the fauna of the Black Sea appears to resemble that of the
Caspian, from which it is cut off, rather than that of the Greek seas,
with which the Sea of Marmara connects it.

In addition to the species which have found a second home in the
Mediterranean, there are some that must still be looked upon as
visitors. Such are the sharks, which extend their incursions to the
seas of Sicily, to the Adriatic, and even to the coasts of Egypt and
Syria. Such, also, are the larger cetacea—whales, rorquals, and sperm
whales—whose visits, however, are confined now to the Tyrrhenian
{30} basin, and become less frequent from century to century. The
tunny-fish of the Mediterranean are also visitors from the coasts
of Lusitania. First-rate swimmers, they enter through the Strait of
Gibraltar in spring, ascend the whole of the Mediterranean, make the
tour of the Black Sea, and return in autumn to the Atlantic, after
having accomplished a journey of some 5,600 miles. In the opinion
of the fishermen the tunnies go upon their travels in three immense
divisions or shoals, and it is the central shoal which visits the
coasts of the Tyrrhenian Sea, and consists of the largest and strongest
fish. Each of the three divisions appears to be composed of individuals
about the same age. For mutual protection they swim in troops, for they
are preyed upon by enemies innumerable. Dolphins and other fish of prey
follow their track, but their great destroyer is man. In the summer the
tunny fishery, or _tonnaro_, is carried on in numerous bays of Sicily,
Sardinia, Naples, and of Provence. Enormous structures consisting of
nets enclose these bays, and they are ingeniously arranged so as to
close gradually around the captured fish, which, passing from net to
net, find themselves at last in the “chamber of death,” where they are
massacred. Millions of pounds of flesh are annually obtained from these
floating “slaughter-houses,” yet the tunny appears year after year
in multitudes, and on the same coasts. There may have been a slight
decrease in the number, but their closely packed masses still invade
the “Golden Horn” of Byzance and other bays, as they did when first
they attracted the attention of Greek naturalists.


Scale 1 : 38,300,000.


Next to the tunny fisheries those of the sardines and anchovies are
most important. Sea-urchins and other products of the sea are eaten
by the inhabitants of the coasts, particularly in Italy, but there is
no part of the Mediterranean where animal life is so abundant and so
prodigious in quantity as on the celebrated banks of Newfoundland, or
on the coasts of Portugal or of the Canaries.

A large number of fishing-boats are engaged, not in the capture of
fish, but in {31} the collection of articles of dress or of the
toilet. The purple-shell fisheries on the coasts of Phœnicia, the
Peloponnesus, and Greece are no longer carried on, but hundreds of
boats are employed annually during the fine season in fishing for coral
or sponges.

Coral is found most abundantly in the western portion of the
Mediterranean, and the Italian fishermen do not confine themselves to
their own shores—to Sicily, Naples, and Sardinia—but also visit the
Strait of Bonifacio, the sea off St. Tropez, the vicinity of Cape Creus
in Spain, and the waters of Barbary. Ordinary sponges are collected in
the Gulf of Gabes, and at the other extremity of the Mediterranean, on
the coasts of Syria and Asia Minor, and in the straits winding between
the Cyclades and Sporades. Sponges are usually found at a depth of from
12 to 150 feet, and can be gathered by divers; whilst coral occurs at
far greater depths, and has to be wrenched off with an iron instrument,
which brings up its fragments, mixed with ooze, seaweeds, and the
remains of marine animalculæ. This industry is still in a state of
barbarism: those devoted to it are not as yet sufficiently acquainted
with the sea and its inhabitants to enable them to carry on the sponge
and coral fisheries in a rational manner. Yet this they must aim at:
they must learn how to deprive Proteus, the ever-changing deity, of his
dominion over the inhabitants of the deep.

Next to the fisheries, the preparation of sea salt constitutes one
of the leading industries of the Mediterranean coast-lands. But this
industry, too, is frequently carried on in a primitive way, and only
in the course of the present century have scientific methods been
introduced in connection with it. The Mediterranean is admirably suited
for the production of salt, for its waters have a high temperature,
they hold a very large quantity of salt in solution, the rise and fall
of the tides are inconsiderable, and flat seashores alternate with
steep coasts and promontories. The most productive salt marshes of the
Mediterranean are probably those on the Lagoon, or Étang de Thau, near
Cette, and on the littoral of Hyères; but considerable ones may also be
met with on the coasts of Spain, in Italy, in Sardinia, Sicily, Istria,
and even on the “limans” of Bessarabia, bordering upon the Black Sea.
The annual production of salt is estimated at more than a million tons,
and exceeds, therefore, the entire tonnage of the commercial marine of
France.[10] But this quantity, large as it is, is infinitesimal if we
compare it with the saline contents of the sea, and science will enable
us one day to raise a far more abundant treasure from its sterile


Whatever advantages may be yielded by fisheries and salt-works,
they shrink into insignificance if we compare them with the great
gain—material, intellectual, {32} and moral—which mankind has derived
from the navigation of this inland sea. It has repeatedly been pointed
out by historians that the disposition of the coasts, islands, and
peninsulas of the Mediterranean of the Phœnicians and Greeks admirably
favoured the first essays in maritime commerce. Many causes have
contributed to make this sea the cradle of European commerce: the faint
summits of distant lands visible even before the port has been quitted;
numerous nooks along the coasts where a safe refuge may be found in
case of storms; regular land and sea breezes; an equability of climate
which makes the sailor feel at home wherever business takes him; and,
moreover, a great variety of productions resulting from the diverse
configuration of the Mediterranean coast-lands. And this commerce,
does it not lead to a peaceful intercourse between peoples on neutral
ground, and to mutual enlightenment, brought about by an interchange
of ideas? Every coast-line which facilitates the intercourse between
nations is, therefore, of immense value as a means of developing

Civilisation for many centuries marched from the south-east towards the
north-west, and Phœnicia, Greece, Italy, and France have successively
become great centres of human intelligence. This historical phenomenon
is due to the configuration of the sea, which has been the vehicle
of migratory nations. In fact, the axis of civilisation, if this
expression be allowed, has become confounded with that axis of the
Mediterranean which extends from the coast of Syria to the Gulf of
Lions, on the coast of France. But the Mediterranean has ceased to be
the only centre of gravitation of Europe, which sends its merchantmen
now to the two Americas and the farthest East; and civilisation no
longer marches in that general line from east to west, but rather
radiates in all directions. Civilising streams depart from England and
Germany towards Northern America, and from the Latinised countries of
Europe towards Southern America. Their direction is still westerly,
but they have been deflected towards the south, to meet the conditions
imposed by climate and the geographical configuration of land and sea.

It is interesting to trace the changes which have occurred in the
historical importance of the Mediterranean. As long as that sea
remained the great highway between nations, the commercial republics
were content to extend this highway towards the east, by establishing
caravan routes to the Gulf of Persia, to India, and to China. In the
Middle Ages Genoese factories dotted the coasts of the Black Sea, and
extended thence through Trans-Caucasia as far as the Caspian. European
travellers, and particularly Italians, at that time crossed Western
Asia in all directions; and many a route hardly known in our days
was then frequented almost daily. But for several centuries direct
commercial intercourse with Central Asia has dwindled down to small

The Mediterranean had ceased to be a great ocean highway. Our
navigators, no longer dreading a boundless sea, took their ships into
every part of the ocean. The difficult and perilous land routes were
abandoned, the once busy markets of Central Asia became solitudes,
and the Mediterranean itself a veritable blind alley, as far as the
world’s commerce was concerned. This condition of affairs lasted for
many years, but since the middle of this century our relations with
the East have {33} been renewed, and the lost ground is rapidly
being recovered. Within the last year a great commercial revolution
has been effected through the opening of one of the ancient gates of
the Mediterranean, and the Suez Canal has become the great highway of
steamers between Western Europe, the Indies, and Australia. Possibly,
at no distant future, a similar canal will enable our merchantmen to
proceed from the Black Sea to the Caspian, and perhaps even to the Amu
and the Syr, in the very heart of the ancient continent.

It is thus that the great centres of intercommunication, or vital
points of our planet, as we should like to call them, become shifted in
the course of time. Port Said, an improvised town on a desert shore,
has thus become a centre of attraction for travellers and merchandise,
whilst the neighbouring cities of Tyre and Sidon have dwindled down
into miserable villages, with nothing to indicate the proud position
they held in the past. Carthage, too, has perished, and Venice decayed.
Many a thriving place on the shores of the Mediterranean has been
reduced to insignificance through the silting up of its harbour, the
employment of larger vessels, the loss of independence, or through
political changes of all kinds. But in nearly every instance some
neighbouring town has taken the place of these decayed harbours, and
most of the great routes of commerce have maintained their original
directions, and their terminal points, as well as intermediate
stations, have remained in the same localities.

There are, moreover, certain places which ships are almost obliged
to frequent, and where towns of importance arise as a matter of
course. Such are the Straits of Gibraltar and of Messina; such,
also, are places like Genoa, Trieste, and Saloniki, which occupy
the bottom of gulfs or bays penetrating far into the land. Ports
offering the greatest facilities for embarking merchandise intended
for foreign countries, such as Marseilles and Alexandria, are likewise
natural centres of attraction to merchants. One town there is in the
Mediterranean which enjoys at one and the same time every one of the
geographical advantages which we have pointed out, for it is situated
on a strait connecting two seas and separating two continents. This
town is Constantinople, and despite the deplorable maladministration
under which it suffers, its position alone has enabled it to maintain
its place amongst the great cities of the world.

The ports of the Mediterranean no longer enjoy a monopoly of commerce
as they did for thousands of years, but the number of ships to be met
with in that inland sea is, nevertheless, proportionately far greater
than what we meet with on the open oceans. The commercial marine of
the Mediterranean numbers thirty-seven thousand vessels, of a capacity
of two million seven hundred and ninety-six thousand tons, without
counting fishing-boats. This is more than one-fourth of the entire
commercial marine of the world, as respects the number of ships, and
one-sixth of it as regards tonnage. This inferiority of tonnage is due
to the small vessels of ancient types which still maintain their ground
in Greece and Italy, and which possess certain advantages for the
coasting trade.

To this marine of the Mediterranean should be added the vessels
belonging to foreign ports, which visit it for purposes of trade, and
amongst which those of {34} England take the most prominent rank.
The Government of Great Britain has even taken care to secure itself
a place amongst the Mediterranean powers. It has occupied Gibraltar,
at the eastern entrance to this basin, and taken possession of Malta,
which commands its centre; and although the western entrance, formed by
the Suez Canal, is not in its possession, its garrisons on Perim and
the rock of Aden are able at any moment to close up the only approach
to it which leads from the Indian Ocean through the Red Sea.


Scale 1 : 45,000,000.]

The share which England takes in the commerce of the Mediterranean is
considerable, but it is surpassed by far by that of France and Italy.
A sovereign who aspired to the dominion of the world once spoke of the
inland sea extending from the Strait of Gibraltar to Egypt as a “French
lake;” but with equal justice might it be called a Greek, a Dalmatian,
or Spanish lake, and with still greater an Italian lake. The pirates
of Barbary were, in reality, the last “masters” of the Mediterranean:
their swift vessels presented themselves unexpectedly before the coast
towns, and carried off their inhabitants. But since their predatory
fleets have been destroyed, the Mediterranean has become the common
property of the world, and the meshes of an international network of
maritime highways become closer from year to year. The merchantmen no
longer pursue their voyages in company as they did in former times,
discharging their cargo from port to port, for a single vessel may
venture now into any portion of the Mediterranean in safety. Still
there remain the dangers of reefs and of storms. The art of navigation
has made vast progress; most of the capes, at least on the coasts
of Europe, are lit up by lighthouses; the approaches to the ports
are rendered easy by lightships, buoys, and beacons; but shipwrecks
are nevertheless of frequent occurrence. Even large vessels founder
sometimes, without leaving a stray plank behind to indicate the place
of their disappearance.

Steamers travelling along prescribed routes are now gradually taking
the place of sailing vessels, and where they cross at frequent
intervals they may be {35} likened to ferry-boats crossing a river.
The regularity and speed of these steam ferries; the facilities which
they afford for the conveyance of merchandise; the increasing number of
railways which convey the produce of the interior to the seaports; and
lastly, the submarine telegraphs, which have established instantaneous
means of communication between the principal ports, all contribute
towards the growth of Mediterranean commerce. This commerce, including
imports and exports, and the transit through the Suez Canal, actually
amounts to about £353,000,000, a year.[12] This may not be much for a
maritime population of a hundred millions, but a perceptible increase
is taking place from year to year. We should also bear in mind that,
face to face with the busy peninsulas of Europe, there lies torrid
Africa, an inert mass, avoided by the sailors of our own age as much as
it was by those of ancient Greece. Its coasts are hardly ever visited,
with the exception of those portions which extend from Oran to Tunis,
and from Alexandria to Port Said. It is matter of surprise, too, that
certain localities which formerly attracted crowds of vessels, such as
Cyrenaica, Cyprus, and beautiful Crete, at the very entrance to the
Archipelago, should still remain outside the ordinary track of our





Greece, within its confined political boundaries, to the south of
the Gulfs of Arta and Volo, is a country of about nineteen thousand
square miles, or at most equal to the ten-millionth part of the earth’s
surface. Within the vast empire of Russia there are many districts
more extensive than the whole of Greece, but there is nothing which
distinguishes these from other districts which surround them, and
their names call forth no idea in our mind. The little country of the
Hellenes, however, so insignificant upon our maps—how many memories
does it not awaken ! In no other part of the world had man attained
a degree of civilisation equally harmonious in all respects, or more
favourable to individual development. Even now, though carried along
within an historical cycle far more vast than that of the Greeks,
we should do well to look back frequently in order to contemplate
those small nations, who are still our masters in the arts, and
first initiated us into science. The city which was the “school of
Greece” still remains the school of the entire world; and after twenty
centuries of decay, like some of those extinct stars whose luminous
rays yet reach the earth, still continues to enlighten us.

The considerable part played by the people of Greece during many
ages must undoubtedly be ascribed to the geographical position of
their country. Other tribes having the same origin, but inhabiting
countries less happily situated—such, for instance, as the Pelasgians
of Illyria, who are believed to be the ancestors of the Albanians—have
never risen above a state of barbarism, whilst the Hellenes placed
themselves at the head of civilised nations, and opened fresh paths to
their enterprise. If Greece had remained for ever what it was during
the tertiary geological epoch—a vast plain attached to the deserts
of Libya, and run over by lions and the rhinoceros—would it have
become the native country of a Phidias, an Æschylos, or a Demosthenes?
Certainly not. It would have shared the fate of Africa, and, far from
taking the initiative in civilisation, would have waited for an impulse
to be given to it from beyond. {37}

Greece, a sub-peninsula of the peninsula of the Balkans, was even more
completely protected by transverse mountain barriers in the north than
was Thracia or Macedonia. Greek culture was thus able to develop itself
without fear of being stifled at its birth by successive invasions of
barbarians. Mounts Olympus, Pelion, and Ossa, towards the north and
east of Thessaly, constituted the first line of formidable obstacles
towards Macedonia. A second barrier, the steep range of the Othrys,
runs along what is the present political boundary of Greece. To the
south of the Gulf of Lamia a fresh obstacle awaits us, for the range
of the Œta closes the passage, and there is but the narrow pass of the
Thermopylæ between it and the sea. Having crossed the mountains of
the Locri and descended into the basin of Thebæ, there still remain
to be crossed the Parnes or the spurs of the Cithæron before we reach
the plains of Attica. The “isthmus” beyond these is again defended by
transverse barriers, outlying ramparts, as it were, of the mountain
citadel of the Peloponnesus, that acropolis of all Greece. Hellas has
frequently been compared to a series of chambers, the doors of which
were strongly bolted; it was difficult to get in, but more difficult to
get out again, owing to their stout defenders. Michelet likens Greece
to a trap having three compartments. You entered, and found yourself
taken first in Macedonia, then in Thessaly, then between the Thermopylæ
and the isthmus. But the difficulties increase beyond the isthmus, and
Lacedæmonia remained impregnable for a long time.

At an epoch when the navigation even of a land-locked sea like the
Ægean was attended with danger, Greece found herself sufficiently
protected against the invasions of oriental nations; but, at the
same time, no other country held out such inducements to the pacific
expeditions of merchants. Gulfs and harbours facilitated access to
her Ægean coasts, and the numerous outlying islands were available as
stations or as places of refuge. Greece, therefore, was favourably
placed for entering into commercial intercourse with the more highly
civilised peoples who dwelt on the opposite coasts of Asia Minor. The
colonists and voyagers of Eastern Ionia not only supplied their Achæan
and Pelasgian kinsmen with foreign commodities and merchandise, but
they also imparted to them the myths, the poetry, the sciences, and the
arts of their native country. Indeed, the geographical configuration
of Greece points towards the east, whence she has received her first
enlightenment. Her peninsulas and outlying islands extend in that
direction; the harbours on her eastern coasts are most commodious,
and afford the best shelter; and the mountain-surrounded plains there
offer the best sites for populous cities. Greece, at the same time,
does not share the disadvantage of Turkey, which is almost cut off from
the western world by a mountain region difficult to cross. The Ionian
Sea, to the west of the Peloponnesus, it is true, is, comparatively
speaking, a desert; but farther north the Gulf of Corinth almost cuts
in two the Greek peninsula, and the sight of the distant mountains of
Italy, which are visible from the Ionian Islands, must have incited
to an exploration of the western seas. The Acarnanians, who knew how
to build vaults long before the Romans, were thus brought early into
contact with the Italians, to whom they imparted their {38} knowledge,
and at a subsequent period the Greeks became the civilisers of the
whole western world of the Mediterranean.

The most distinctive feature of Hellas, as far as concerns the relief
of the ground, consists in the large number of small basins, separated
one from the other by rocks or mountain ramparts. The features of the
ground thus favoured the division of the Greek people into a multitude
of independent republics. Every town had its river, its amphitheatre of
hills or mountains, its acropolis, its fields, pastures, and forests,
and nearly all of them had, likewise, access to the sea. All the
elements required by a free community were thus to be found within each
of these small districts, and the neighbourhood of other towns, equally
favoured, kept alive perpetual emulation, too frequently degenerating
into strife and battle. The islands of the Ægean Sea, likewise, had
constituted themselves into miniature republics. Local institutions
thus developed themselves freely, and even the smallest island of the
Archipelago has its great representatives in history.

But whilst there thus exists the greatest diversity, owing to the
configuration of the ground and the multitude of islands, the sea acts
as a binding element, washes every coast, and penetrates far inland.
These gulfs and numerous harbours have made the maritime inhabitants
of Greece a nation of sailors—amphibiæ, as Strabo called them. From
the most remote times the passion for travel has always been strong
amongst them. When the inhabitants of a town grew too numerous to
support themselves upon the produce of their land, they swarmed out
like bees, explored the coasts of the Mediterranean, and, when they had
found a site which recalled their native home, they built themselves a
new city. It was thus Greek cities arose in hundreds of places, from
the Mæotis Palus to beyond the columns of Hercules—from Tanais and
Panticapæum to Gades and Tingis, the modern Tangier. Thanks to those
numerous colonies, some of them more powerful and renowned than the
mother towns which gave birth to them, the veritable Greece, the Greece
of science and art and republican independence, in the end overflowed
its ancient cradle, and sporadically occupied the whole circumference
of the Mediterranean. The Greeks held the same position relatively to
the world of the ancients which is occupied at the present time by
the Anglo-Saxons with reference to the entire earth. There exists,
indeed, a remarkable analogy between Greece, with its archipelago, and
the British Islands, at the other extremity of the continent. Similar
geographical advantages have brought about similar results, as far as
commerce is concerned, and between the Ægean and the British seas time
and space have effected a sort of harmony.

       *       *       *       *       *

The admiration with which travellers behold Greece is due, above all,
to the memories attaching to every one of its ruins, to the smallest
amongst its rivulets, and the most insignificant rock in its seas.
Scenery in Provence or Spain, though it may surpass in grace or
boldness of outline anything to be seen in Greece, is appreciated only
by a few. The mass go past it without emotion, for names like Marathon,
Leuctra, or Platææ are not connected with it, and the rustle of bygone
ages is not heard. But even if glorious memories were not associated
with the {39} coasts of Greece, their beauty would nevertheless
entitle them to our admiration. In the gulfs of Athens or of Argos
the artist is charmed not only with the azure blue of the waters,
the transparency of the sky, the ever-changing perspective along the
shores, and the boldness of the promontories, but also with the pure
and graceful profile of the mountains, which consist of layers of
limestone or of marble. We almost fancy we look upon architectural
piles; and the temples with which many a summit is adorned appear to
epitomize them.

It is verdure and the sparkling water of rivulets which we miss most
on the shores of Greece. Nearly all the mountains near the coast
have been despoiled of their large trees. There remain only bushes,
mastic, strawberry, and juniper trees, and evergreen oaks; even the
carpet of odoriferous herbs which clothes the declivities, and upon
which the goat browses, has in many instances been reduced to a few
miserable patches. Torrents of rain have carried away the mould,
and the naked rock appears on the surface. From a distance we only
see greyish declivities, dotted here and there with a few wretched
shrubs. Even in the days of Strabo most mountains along the coasts
had been robbed of their forests, and one of our modern authors says
that “Greece is a skeleton only of what it used to be !” By a sort of
irony, geographical names derived from trees abound throughout Hellas
and Turkey: Caryæ is the “town of walnut-trees,” Valanidia that of the
Valonia oaks, Kyparissi that of cypresses, Platanos or Plataniki that
of plane-trees. Everywhere we meet with localities whose appellation is
justified by nothing. Forests at the present day are confined almost
entirely to the interior and to the Ionian coast. The Œta Mountains,
some of the mountains of Ætolia, the hills of Acarnania, and Arcadia,
Elis, Triphylia, and the slopes of the Taygetus, in the Peloponnesus,
still retain their forests. And it is only in these forest districts,
visited solely by herdsmen, that savage animals, such as the wolf, the
fox, and the jackal, are now met with. The chamois, it is said, still
haunts the recesses of the Pindus and Œta Mountains; but the wild boar
of the Erymanthus, which must have been a distinct species if we are to
judge by antique sculptures, exists no more in Greece, and the lion,
still mentioned by Aristotle, has not been seen for two thousand years.
Amongst the smaller animals there is a turtle, common in some parts of
the Peloponnesus, which the natives look upon with the same aversion as
do many western nations upon the toad and the salamander.

Greece is a small country, but the variety of its climate is
nevertheless great. Striking differences in the climate of different
localities are produced by the contrasts between mountains and plains,
woodlands and sterile valleys, coasts having a northern or southern
aspect. But even leaving out of sight these local differences, it
may safely be asserted that the varieties of climate which we meet
with in traversing Greece from north to south are scarcely exceeded
in any other region. The mountains of Ætolia, in the north, whose
slopes are covered with beech-trees, remind us of the temperate zone
of Europe, whilst the peninsulas and islands towards the east and
south, with their thickets of fig and olive trees, their plantations
of oranges and lemons, their aloe hedges and rare palm-trees, belong
to the sub-tropical zone. But even neighbouring districts occasionally
{40} differ strikingly as regards climate. In the ancient lake basin
of Bœotia the winters are cold, the summers scorching, whilst the
temperature of the eastern shore of Eubœa is equable, owing to the
moderating influence of sea breezes. Within a narrow compass Greece
presents us with the climates of a large portion of the earth, and
there can be no doubt that this diversity of climate, and the contrasts
of every kind springing from it, must have favourably influenced the
intellectual development of the Hellenes. A spirit of inquiry was
called forth amongst them which reacted upon their commercial tastes
and industrial proclivities.

The diversity of the climate of the land, however, is compensated for,
in Greece, by a uniformity in the climate of the maritime districts. As
in a mountain valley, the winds of the Ægean Sea blow alternately in
contrary directions. During nearly the whole of summer the atmospheric
currents of Eastern Europe are attracted towards the African deserts.
The winds from the north of the Archipelago and Macedonia then speed
the navigator on his voyage to the south, and on many occasions the
conquering tribes of the northern shores of that sea have availed
themselves of them in their improvised attacks upon the inhabitants
of the more southern districts of Asia Minor and of Greece. These
regular northerly currents, known as etesian or annual winds, cease
on the termination of the hot season, when the sun stands above the
southern tropic. They are, moreover, interrupted every night, when
the cool sea air is attracted by the heated surface of the land.
When the sun has set the wind gradually subsides; there is a calm,
lasting a few moments; and then the air begins to move in an inverse
direction—“the land begins to blow,” as the sailors say. Nor is this
regular wind without its counter-current, known as the _embates_, or
propitious south-easterly breeze of which the poets sing. General winds
and breezes, moreover, are deflected from their original directions
in consequence of the configuration of the coast and the direction
of mountain chains. The Gulf of Corinth, for instance, is shut in by
high mountains on the north and the south, and the winds alternately
enter it from the east or west—a phenomenon likened by Strabo to the
breathing of an animal.

The rains, like the winds, deviate in many places from the average,
and whilst the water pours down into some mountain valleys as into a
funnel, elsewhere the clouds drift past without parting with a drop of
their humid burden. Contrasts in the amount of precipitation are thus
added to those resulting from differences of configuration and variety
of climate. As a rule, rain is more abundant on the western shores of
Greece than on the eastern, and this fact accounts for the smiling
aspect of the hills of Elis, as compared with the barren declivities
of Argolis and Attica. Thunder-storms, driven before the winds of the
Mediterranean, likewise recur with greater regularity in the western
portion of the peninsula. In Elis and Acarnania the roll of thunder may
be heard in spring daily, for whole weeks, in the afternoon. No sites
more apposite could have been found for temples dedicated to Jupiter,
the god of lightning.

       *       *       *       *       *

The ancient inhabitants of the Cyclades, and probably, also, those
of the coasts {41} of Hellas and Asia Minor, had already attained a
considerable amount of culture long before the commencement of our
historical records. This has been proved by excavations made in the
volcanic ashes of Santorin and Therasia. At the time their houses were
buried beneath the ashes, the Santoriniotes had begun to pass from the
age of stone into that of copper. They knew how to build arches of
stone and mortar, they manufactured lime, used weights made of blocks
of lava, wove cloth, made pottery, dyed their stuffs, and ornamented
their houses with frescoes; they cultivated barley, peas, and lentils,
and had begun to trade with distant countries.

We do not know whether these men were of the same race as the Hellenes;
but thus much is certain—that at the earliest dawn of history the
islands and coasts of the Ægean Sea were peopled by various families of
Greeks, whilst the interior of the country and the western shores of
the peninsula were inhabited by Pelasgians. These Pelasgians, moreover,
were of the same stock as the Greeks, and they spoke a language derived
from the same source as the dialects of the Hellenes. Both were Aryans,
and, unless natives of the soil, they must have immigrated into Greece
from Asia Minor by crossing the Hellespont, or by way of the islands
of the Archipelago. The Pelasgians, according to tradition, sprang
from Mount Lycæus, in the centre of the Peloponnesus; they boasted of
being “autochthons,” “men of the black soil,” “children of oaks,” or
“men born before the moon.” All around them lived tribes of kindred
origin, such as the Æolians and the Leleges, and these were afterwards
joined by Ionians and Achæans. The Ionians, who, in a subsequent age,
exercised so great an influence over the destinies of the world, only
occupied the peninsula of Attica and the neighbouring Eubœa. The
Achæans for a long time enjoyed a preponderance, and in the end the
Greek clans collectively became known by that name. Later on, when
the Dorians had crossed the Gulf of Corinth where it is narrowest,
and established themselves as conquerors in the Peloponnesus, the
Amphictyons, or national councils, sitting alternately at Thermopylæ
and Delphi, conferred the name of Hellenes, which was that of a small
tribe in Thessaly and Phthiotis, upon all the inhabitants of the
peninsula and the islands. The name of Greek, which signifies, perhaps,
“mountaineer,” “ancient,” or “son of the soil,” gradually spread
amongst the nation, and in the end became general. The Ionians of Asia
Minor, and the Carians of the Sporades, emulated the Phœnicians by
trading from port to port amongst these half-savage tribes, and, like
bees which convey the fecundating pollen from flower to flower, they
carried the civilisation of Egypt and the East from tribe to tribe.

[Illustration: Fig. 9.—MAINOTE AND SPARTAN.]

Phœnician merchants and Roman conquerors scarcely modified the elements
composing the population of Hellas, but during the age of migrations
barbarians in large numbers penetrated into Greece. For more than two
centuries did the Avares maintain themselves in the Peloponnesus. Then
came the Slavs, aided, on more than one occasion, by the plague in
depopulating the country. Greece became a Slavonia, and a Slavonian
language, probably Servian, was universally spoken, as is proved by
the majority of geographical names. The superstitions and legends {42}
of the modern Greeks, as has been remarked by many authors, are not
simply a heritage derived from the ancient Hellenes, but have become
enriched by phantoms and vampires of Slav invention. The dress of the
Greeks, too, is a legacy of their northern conquerors. But, in spite
of this, the polished language of the Hellenes {43} has regained by
degrees its ancient preponderance, and the race has so thoroughly
amalgamated these foreign immigrants, that it is impossible now to
trace any Servian elements in the population. But hardly had Hellas
escaped the danger of becoming Slav when it was threatened with
becoming Albanian. This occurred during the dominion of Venice. As
recently as the commencement of the present century Albanian was the
dominant language of Elis, Argos, Bœotia, and Attica, and even at the
present day a hundred thousand supposed Hellenes still speak it. The
actual population of Greece is, therefore, a very mixed one, but it is
difficult to say in what proportions these Hellenic, Slav, and Albanian
elements have combined. The Mainotes, or Maniotes, of the peninsula
terminating in Cape Matapan, are generally supposed to be the Greeks of
the purest blood. They themselves claim to be the descendants of the
ancient Spartans, and amongst their strongholds they still point out
one which belonged to “Signor Lycurgus.” Their Councils of Elders have
preserved from immemorial times, and down to the war of independence,
the title of Senate of Lacedæmonia. Every Mainote professes to love
unto death “Liberty, the highest of all goods, inherited from our
Spartan ancestors.” Nevertheless, a good many localities in Maina bear
names derived from the Servian, and these prove, at all events, that
the Slavs resided in the country for a considerable time. The Mainotes
practise the _vendetta_, as if they were Montenegrins. But is not this
a common custom amongst all uncivilised nations?

However this may be, in spite of invasions and intermixture with other
races, the Greeks of to-day agree in most points with the Greeks of
the past. Above all things, they have preserved their language, and
it is truly matter for surprise that the vulgar Greek, though derived
from a rural dialect, should differ so slightly only from the literary
language. The differences, analogous to what may be observed with
respect to the languages derived from the Latin, are restricted almost
to two points, viz. the contraction of non-accentuated syllables and
the use of auxiliary verbs. It was, therefore, easy for the modern
Greeks to purify their language from barbarisms and foreign terms,
and to restore it gradually to what it was in the time of Thucydides.
Nor has the race changed much in its physical features, for in most
districts of modern Greece the ancient types may yet be recognised.
The Bœotian is still distinguished by that heavy gait which made him
an object of ridicule amongst the other Greeks; the Athenian youth
possesses the suppleness, grace of movement and bearing which we admire
so much in the horsemen sculptured on the friezes of the Parthenon; the
Spartan women have preserved that haughty and vigorous beauty which
constituted the charm of the virgins of Doris. As regards morals,
the descent of the modern Hellenes is equally evident. Like their
ancestors, they are fond of change, and inquisitive; as the descendants
of free citizens, they have preserved a feeling of equality; and,
still infatuated with dialectics, they hold forth at all times as
if they were in the ancient market-place, or Agora. They frequently
stoop to flattery: like the ancient Greeks, too, they are apt to rate
intellectual merit above purity of morals. {44} Like sage Ulysses of
the Homeric poem, they well know how to lie and cheat with grace; and
the truthful Acarnanian and the Mainote, who are “slow to promise,
but sure to keep,” are looked upon as rural oddities. Another trait
in the character of the modern and ancient Greeks, and one which
distinguishes them from all other Europeans, is this—that they do not
allow themselves to be carried away by passion, except in the cause of
patriotism. The Greek is a stranger to melancholy: he loves life, and
is determined to enjoy it. In battle he may throw it away, but suicide
is a species of death unknown amongst the modern Greeks, and the more
unhappy they are, the more they cling to existence. They are very
seldom afflicted with insanity.


In spite of the diverse elements which compose it, the Greek
nationality is one of the most homogeneous in Europe. The Albanians,
of Pelasgian descent like the Greeks, do not cede to the latter in
patriotism; and it was they—the Suliotes, Hydriotes, Spezziotes—who
fought most valiantly for national independence. The eight hundred
families of Rumanian or Kutzo-Wallachian Zinzares who pasture
their herds in the hills of Acarnania and Ætolia, and are known as
Kara-Gunis, or “black cloaks,” speak the two languages, and sometimes
marry Greek girls, though they never give their own daughters in
marriage to the Greeks. Haughty and free, they are not sufficiently
numerous to be of any great importance. To foreigners the Greeks are
rather intolerant, and they take no pains to render their stay amongst
them agreeable. The Turks—who were numerous formerly in certain parts
of the Peloponnesus, in Bœotia, and in the {45} island of Eubœa, and
whose presence recalled an unhappy period of servitude—have fled to
a man, and only the fez, the narghile, and the slippers remind us of
their former presence. The Jews, though met with in every town of the
East, whether Slav or Mussulman, dare hardly enter the presence of the
Greeks, who are, moreover, their most redoubtable rivals in matters
of finance: they are to be found only in the Ionian Islands, where
they managed to get a footing during the British Protectorate. In this
same Archipelago we likewise meet with the descendants of the ancient
Venetian colonists, and with emigrants from all parts of Italy. French
and Italian families still form a distinct element of the population
of Naxos, Santorin, and Syra. As to the Maltese porters and gardeners
at Athens and Corfu, they continue for the most part in subordinate
positions, and never associate with the Greeks.

       *       *       *       *       *

The homogeneous character of the population of Greece does not admit
of that country being divided into ethnological provinces, like
Turkey or Austro-Hungary, but it consists geographically of four
distinct portions. These are (1), continental Hellas, known since the
Turkish invasion as Rumelia, in remembrance of the “Roman” empire of
Byzantium; (2), the ancient Peloponnesus, now called the Morea, perhaps
a transposition of the word “Romea,” or from a Slav word signifying
“sea coast,” and applied formerly to Elis; (3), the islands of the
Ægean Sea; (4), the Ionian Islands. In describing the various portions
of Greece we shall make use, in preference, of the ancient names of
mountains, rivers, and towns; for the Hellenes of our own day, proud of
the glories of the past, are endeavouring gradually to get rid of names
of Slav or Italian origin, which still figure upon the maps of their


The Pindus, which forms the central chain of Southern Turkey, passes
over into Greece, and imparts to it an analogous orographical
character. On both sides of this conventional boundary we meet with the
same rocks, the same vegetation, the same landscape features, and the
same races of people. By dividing the Epirus and handing over Thessaly
to the Turks, European diplomacy has paid no attention to natural
features. The eastern portion of the boundary is made to follow the
line of water parting over the range of the lofty Othrys, commanding
the plain of the Sperchius. Westward of the Pindus the boundary {46}
crosses transversely the valley of the Achelous, and the hills which
separate it from the Gulf of Arta.

[Illustration: Fig. 11.—MOUNT PARNASSUS AND DELPHI.]

The isolated summit of Mount Tymphrestus, or Velukhi, which rises where
the grand chain of the Othrys branches off from the Pindus, is not the
culminating point of continental Greece, but it is a centre from which
the principal mountain spurs and rivers radiate. Within its spurs lies
hidden the charming valley of Karpenisi, and an elevated ridge joins
them, towards the south-east, to the most important mountain mass of
modern Greece, viz. the group surmounted by the snow-clad pyramids of
the Vardusia and Khiona, whose slopes are covered with dark firs, and
to the superb Katavothra, the Œta of the ancients, on which Hercules
built his funeral pile. The mountains of Vardusia and Khiona are face
to face with the fine mountain masses of Northern Morea, likewise
wooded and covered with snow during the greater part of the year.

The mountains of Ætolia, to the west of the Velukhi and the Vardusia,
are far less elevated, but they are rugged, and form a veritable chaos
of rocks, savage defiles, and thickets, into which only Wallachian
herdsmen venture. In Southern Ætolia, on the shores of the lakes and
along the rivers, the country is more accessible, but mountains rise
there likewise, and by tortuous ridges they are brought into connection
with the system of the Pindus. Those on the coast of Acarnania,
opposite to the Ionian Islands, are steep, covered with trees and
shrubs; they are the mountains of the “Black Continent” mentioned by
Ulysses. {47} To the east of the Achelous there is another coast
chain, well known to mariners: this is the Zygos, the southern slopes
of which, arid and austere, are seen from off Missolonghi. Still
further to the east another range comes down to the seashore, and,
together with the promontories on the opposite coast of the Morea,
forms the narrow entrance to the Gulf of Corinth. Close to this
entrance, on the Ætolian side, there rises bold Mount Varassova, a huge
block of rock. Local tradition tells us that the Titans endeavoured to
throw this rock into the sea, so that it might form a bridge between
the two coasts; but the rock proved too heavy, and it was dropped where
we now see it.

Towards the Ægean Sea the mountain mass of the Katavothra is continued
by a coast range running in a direction parallel to the mountains of
the island of Eubœa. This range should be described rather as a series
of mountain-groups separated from each other by deep hollows, extensive
depressions, and even by river valleys. These mountains, though low
and intersected by numerous roads, are nevertheless difficult of
access, for their slopes are steep, their promontories abrupt, and
their precipices sudden, and in the times of the ancient Greeks a small
number of men repeatedly defended them against large armies. At one
extremity of this range is the passage of Thermopylæ; at the other, on
the eastern foot of the Pentelicus, the famous plain of Marathon.

The mountain groups on the northern shore of the Gulf of Corinth, and
to the south of Bœotia, may be looked upon as a range running parallel
with that following the channel of Eubœa, but far more beautiful and
picturesque. Every one of its summits recalls the sweet memories of
poetry, or conjures up the image of some ancient deity. To the west we
find ourselves in the presence of “double-headed” Parnassus, to which
fled Deucalion and Pyrrha, the ancestors of the Greeks, and where the
Athenians celebrated their torchlight dances in honour of Bacchus.
From the summits of the Parnassus, which rival in height those of the
Khiona, raising its pyramidal head towards the north-west, nearly the
whole of Greece, with its gulfs, islands, and mountains, lies spread
out below us, from the Thessalian Olympus to the Taygetus, at the
extremity of the Peloponnesus; and close by, at our feet, lies the
admirable basin of Delphi, the place of Peace and Concord, where Greeks
forgot their animosities. The mountain group towards the east next to
Parnassus is quite equal to it. The valleys of the Helicon, the seat of
Apollo and the Muses, are still the most verdant and the most smiling
in all Greece. The eastern slope of the Helicon is more especially
distinguished for its charming beauty, its woods, its verdant pastures,
gardens, and murmuring springs, which contrast most favourably with the
bare and arid plains of Bœotia. If Mount Parnassus may boast of the
Castalian spring, Mount Helicon possesses that of Hippocrene, which
burst forth from the ground when struck by the hoof of Pegasus. The
elongated summit of the Cithæron, the birthplace of Bacchus, joins
the mountains of Southern Bœotia to those of Attica, whose marble has
become famous through the neighbourhood of the city which they shelter.
Mount Parnes rises to the north of Athens; to the east of it, like the
pediment of a temple, rises the Pentelicus, in which are {48} the
quarries of Pikermi, rendered famous through their fossil bones; on the
south appears Mount Hymettus, celebrated for its flowers and its bees.
Farther away, the Laurium, with its rich argentiferous slags, stretches
towards the south-east, and terminates in Cape Sunium, consecrated in
other days to Minerva and Neptune, and still surmounted by fifteen
columns of an ancient temple.

Another isolated mountain group to the south of Attica, and occupying
the entire width of the Isthmus of Megara, served the Athenians as a
rampart of defence against their neighbours of the Peloponnesus. This
is the mountain group of Gerania, the modern Pera Khora.[14] Having
passed beyond it, we find ourselves upon the Isthmus of Corinth,
properly so called, confined between the Gulfs of Athens and of
Corinth. It is a narrow neck of land, scarcely five miles across,
whose arid limestone rocks hardly rise two hundred feet above the sea.
This neutral bit of territory, lying between two distinct geographical
regions, naturally became a place for meetings, festivals, and markets.
The remains of a wall built by the Peloponnesians across the isthmus
may still be traced, as may also the canal commenced by order of Nero.

       *       *       *       *       *

The limestone mountains of Greece, as well as those of the Epirus and
of Thessaly, abound in lakes, but all the rivers are swallowed up in
“sinks,” or _katavothras_, leaving the land dry and arid. Southern
Acarnania, a portion of which is known as Xeromeros, or the “arid
country,” on account of the absence of running water, abounds in
lake basins of this kind. To the south of the Gulf of Arta, which
may not inaptly be described as a sort of lake communicating with
the sea through a narrow opening, there are several sheets of water,
the remains of an inland sea, silted up by the alluvial deposits of
the Achelous. The largest of these lakes is known to the natives as
Pelagos, or “big sea,” because of its extent and the agitated state of
its waters, which break against its coasts. This is the Trichonius of
the ancient Ætolians. Reputed unfathomable, it is, in truth, very deep,
and its waters are perfectly pure; but they are discharged sluggishly
into another basin far less extensive, and surrounded by pestilential
marshes, and through a turgid stream they even find their way into
the Achelous. The hills surrounding Lake Trichonis are covered with
villages and fields, whilst the locality around the lower lake has
been depopulated by fever. The country, nevertheless, is exceedingly
beautiful to look upon. Hardly have we passed through a narrow gorge,
or _klisura_, of Mount Zygos before we enter upon a bridge over a
mile in length, which a Turkish governor caused to be thrown across
the swamps separating the two lakes. This viaduct has sunk down more
than half its {49} height into the mud, but it is still sufficiently
elevated to enable the eye freely to sweep over the surface of the
waters, and to trace the coasts which bound them. Oaks, planes, and
wild olive-trees intermingle beneath us, their branches hung with
festoons of wild vine, and these, with the blue waters of the lake and
the mountains rising beyond it, form a picture of great beauty.

[Illustration: Fig. 12.—LOWER ACARNANIA.

Scale 1 : 800,000.]

Another lake basin lies to the south of the Zygos, between the alluvial
lands of the Achelous and the Fidari. It is occupied by a swamp
filled with fresh, brackish, or salt water; and since the days of
ancient Greece, this swamp, owing to the apathy of the inhabitants,
has continued to increase in extent at the expense of the cultivated
land. Missolonghi the heroic is indebted for its name to its position
near these marshes, for the meaning of it is “centre of marshes.” A
barrier, or _ramma_, here and there broken through by the floods,
separates the basin of Missolonghi from the Ionian Sea. During the
war of independence every opening in this barrier was protected by
redoubts or stockades, but at present the only obstruction consists
of the reed barriers of the fishermen, which are opened in spring to
admit the fish from the sea, and closed in summer to prevent their
escape. Missolonghi, though surrounded by brackish water, is a healthy
place, thanks to the breezes from the sea; whilst a heavy atmosphere
charged with miasmata hangs perpetually over the bustling little town
of Ætoliko (Anatolikon), which lies farther to the north-west in the
midst of the swamps, and is joined to the dry land by two bridges.
Between Ætoliko and the river Achelous may be observed a large number
of rocky eminences, rising like pyramids above the plain. These are
no doubt ancient islands, such as still exist between the mainland
and the island of St. Mauro. The mud brought down by the Achelous has
gradually converted the intervals between these {50} rocks into dry
land. In former times the commercial city of Œniadæ occupied one of
these islets. The geological changes already noticed by Herodotus are
thus still going on under our eyes, and the muds of the Achelous, to
which it owes its modern name of Aspro, or “white,” incessantly extend
the land at the expense of the sea.

[Illustration: Fig. 13.—THERMOPYLÆ.

From the French Staff Map (1852). Scale 1 : 330,000.]

The Achelous, which the ancients likened to a savage bull, owing to
its rapid current and great volume, is by far the most important river
of Greece. One of the great feats ascribed to Hercules consisted
in breaking off one of the horns of this bull; that is to say, he
embanked the river, and thus protected the lands which it used to
inundate. The neighbours of the Achelous, the rapid Fidari (Evenus, on
the banks of which Hercules killed the centaur Nessus, for offering
violence to Dejanira) and the Mornos, which rises in the snows of the
Œta, cannot compare with it. Still less is it equalled by the Oropus,
the Cephissus, and the Ilissus, “wet only when it rains,” which flow
eastward into the Ægean Sea. The principal river of Eastern Greece, the
Sperchius, is inferior to the Achelous, but, like it, has extensively
changed the aspect of the plain near its mouth. When Leonidas and his
three hundred heroes guarded the defiles of Thermopylæ against the
Persians, the Gulf of Lamia extended much farther into the land than
it does now. But the alluvial deposits of the river have extended its
delta, and several rivulets which formerly flowed {51} directly into
the sea have now to be numbered amongst its tributaries; the sea has
retired from the foot of the Callidromus for a distance of several
miles; and the narrow pass of Thermopylæ has been converted into a
plain sufficiently wide to enable an entire army to manœuvre upon it.
The hot springs which gush from the rocks, by forming deposits of
calcareous tufa, may likewise have contributed towards this change
of coast-line; nor are more violent convulsions of nature precluded
in a volcanic region like this, subject to frequent earthquakes.
Sailors still point out a small island in this neighbourhood, formed
of scoriæ, from which the incensed Hercules hurled his companion,
Lichas, into the ocean. Hot springs abound on the opposite coast of
Eubœa, and the incrustations formed by them are so considerable as to
assume the appearance of glaciers when seen from a distance. A bathing
establishment exists now near the hot sulphur springs of Thermopylæ,
and strangers are thus enabled to explore this region, so rich in
memories of a great past. The pedestal, however, upon which reposed
the figure of a marble lion, placed there in honour of Leonidas, has
been destroyed by ruthless hands, and utilised in the construction of a
mill !

The basin of the Cephissus, enclosed by the chains of the Œta and
Parnassus, is one of the most remarkable from an hydrological point
of view. The river first flows through a bottom-land formerly a
lake, and then, forcing for itself a passage through a narrow defile
commanded by the spurs of Mount Parnassus, it winds round the rock upon
which stood the ancient city of Orchomenus, and enters upon a vast
plain, where swamps and lakes are embedded amidst cultivated fields
and reed-banks. These swamps are fed, likewise, by numerous torrents
descending from the Helicon and other mountains in its vicinity. One
of these is the torrent of Livadia, into which the bounteous springs
of Memory and Oblivion—Mnemosyne and Lethe—discharge themselves. In
summer a large portion of the plain is dry, and it yields a bountiful
harvest of maize, the stalks of which are sweet like sugar-cane. But
after the heavy rains of autumn and winter the waters rise twenty,
and even twenty-five feet, and the plain is converted into a vast
lake, ninety-six square miles in extent. The myth of the deluge of
Ogyges almost leads us to believe that the rising floods occasionally
invaded every valley which debouches into this basin. To the ancients
the shallower part of this lake was known as Cephissus, and its deep
eastern portion as Copais, from Copæ, a town occupying a promontory on
its northern shore, and now called Topolias.

[Illustration: Fig. 14.—LAKE COPAIS

From the French Staff Map. Scale 1 : 500,000.

K. Katavothras.]

The importance of regulating the floods just referred to, and of
preventing the sudden overflow of the waters to the destruction of the
cultivated fields, may readily be imagined. The ancient Greeks made
an effort to accomplish this task. To the east of the large Lake of
Copais there is another lake basin, about one hundred and thirty feet
lower, and encompassed by precipitous rocks, incapable of cultivation.
This basin, the Hylice of the Bœotians, appears to be made by nature
for receiving the superabundant waters of the Copais. The remains of a
canal may still be traced in the plain, which was evidently intended to
convey into {52} it the floods of the Copais, but it appears never to
have been completed. No doubt care was taken to keep open the various
_katavothras_, or subterranean channels, through which the waters of
the Copaic lake discharge themselves into the sea. One of these, on the
north-western shore of the lake, and close to the rock of Orchomenus,
swallowed up the river Melas, and conveyed its waters to the Gulf of
Atalanta. Farther to the east other subterranean channels flow towards
Lakes Hylice and Paralimni, but the most important of these channels
are towards the north-east, in the Gulf of Kokkino. In that extreme
angle of the lake, the veritable Copais, the waters of the Cephissus
rush against the foot of Mount Skroponeri, and are swallowed up by
the ground so as to form a subterranean delta. To the south there is
a cavernous opening in the rock, but this is merely a sort of tunnel
passing underneath a promontory, and, except during the rainy season,
it may be traversed dry-shod. Beyond this, another opening swallows
up one of the most important branches of the Cephissus, which makes
its reappearance in the shape of bounteous springs pouring their
waters into the sea. Two other branches of the river disappear in
the rocks about a mile farther north. They join soon afterwards, and
flow northwards beneath the bottom of a sinuous valley. The old Greek
engineers dug pits in this valley, which enabled them to descend to
the subterranean waters, and to clear away obstructions interfering
with their flow. Sixteen of these pits have been discovered between
the opening of the katavothra and the place where the waters reappear.
Some of these are still thirty to one hundred feet in depth; but most
of them have become choked up with stones and earth. These ancient
engineering works, which Crates vainly endeavoured to restore in the
time of Alexander, may possibly date {53} from the mythical age of
King Minyas of Orchomenus,[15] and the successful draining of these
marshes may account for the well-filled treasury of that king spoken
of by Homer. Thus the ingenuity of the Homeric age had succeeded in
accomplishing a work of the engineering art which baffles our modern
men of science !


       *       *       *       *       *

The whole of Western Greece, filled as it is by the mountains of
Acarnania, Ætolia, and Phocis, is condemned by nature to play a very
subordinate part to the eastern provinces. In the time of the ancient
Greeks these provinces were looked upon almost as a portion of the
world of the barbarians, and even in our own days the Ætolians are the
least cultivated of all the Greeks. There is no commerce except at a
few privileged places close to the sea, such as Missolonghi, Ætoliko,
Salona, and Galaxidi. The latter, which is situated on a bay, into
which flows the Pleistus, a river at one time consecrated to Neptune,
although quite dry during the greater part of the year, was, up to
the war of independence, the busiest seaport on the Gulf of Corinth.
As for Naupactus, or Epakto, (called Lepanto by the Italians), it
was important merely from a strategical point of view, on account
of its position at the entrance of the Gulf of Corinth, which is
sometimes named after it. Many naval engagements were fought to force
the entrance into the gulf, defended by the castles of Rumelia and
Morea—the ancient Rhium and Antirrhium. A curious phenomenon has been
observed in connection with the channel which forms the entrance to the
Gulf of Corinth. Nowhere more than 36 fathoms in depth, it is subject
to perpetual changes in its width, owing to the formation of alluvial
deposits by maritime currents. What one current deposits is carried
away by the other. At the epoch of the Peloponnesian war this channel
was 7 stadia, or about 1,200 yards, wide; at the time of Strabo its
width was only 5 stadia; whilst in our own days it is no less than
2,200 yards from promontory to promontory. The entrance of the Gulf of
Arta, between the Turkish Epirus and Greek Acarnania, does not present
the same phenomena, and its present width is about equal to that
assigned to it by every ancient author; that is to say, about 1,000

The valleys and lake basins of Eastern Greece, and more especially its
position between the Gulf of Corinth, the Ægean Sea, and the channel of
Eubœa, which almost convert it into a peninsula, sufficiently account
for the prosperity of that country. With its cities of Thebes, Athens,
and Megara, it is essentially a land of historical reminiscences. The
contrast between the two most important districts of this region—Bœotia
and Attica—is very striking. The first of these is an inland basin, the
waters of which are collected into lakes, where mists accumulate, and
a rich vegetation springs forth from a fat alluvial soil. Attica, on
the other hand, is arid. A thin layer of mould covers the terraces of
its rocky slopes; its valleys open out into the sea; the summits of its
mountains rise into an azure sky; and the blue waters of the Ægean wash
their base. Had the Greeks been fearful of the sea; had they confined
themselves, as in the earliest {54} ages, to the cultivation of the
soil, Bœotia, no doubt, would have retained the preponderance which
it enjoyed in the time of the Minyæ of wealthy Orchomenus. But the
progress of navigation and the allurements of commerce, which proved
irresistible to the Greeks, were bound by degrees to transfer the lead
to the men of Attica. The city of Athens, which arose in the midst of
the largest plain of this peninsula, therefore occupied a position
which assured to it a grand future.

[Illustration: Fig. 15.—THE ACROPOLIS OF ATHENS.]

The choice of Athens as the modern capital of Greece has been much
criticized. Times have changed, no doubt, and the natural centres
of commerce have become shifted, in consequence of the migrations
of nations. Corinth, on the isthmus joining continental Greece to
the Peloponnesus, and commanding two seas, undoubtedly deserved the
preference. Its facilities for communicating with Constantinople and
the Greek maritime districts still under the rule of the Osmanli, on
the one hand, and with the western world, from which now proceed all
civilising impulses, on the other, are certainly greater than those
of Athens. If Greece, instead of a small centralised kingdom, had
become a federal republic, which would have been more in accordance
with her genius and traditions, there is no doubt that other towns of
Greece, more favourably situated than Athens for establishing rapid
communications with the rest of Europe, would soon have surpassed that
town in population and commercial wealth. Athens, however, has grown
upon its plain, and, by the construction of a railway, it has become
even {55} a maritime city, as in ancient days, when its triple walls
joined it to the ports of the Piræus and Phalerum.

[Illustration: Fig. 16.—ATHENS AND ITS LONG WALLS.

According to Kiepert and Schmidt. Scale 1 : 114,000.]

But how great the difference between the monuments of the ancient
city and of the modern ! The Parthenon, though gutted by the shells
of the Venetian Morosini, and robbed since of its finest sculptures,
still retains its pure and simple beauty, which agrees so well with
the sobriety of the surrounding landscape—still remains the finest
architectural work of the world. By the side of this majestic ruin, on
the same plateau of the Acropolis, where the mariner in the Gulf of
Ægina saw the gilt spear-head of Athene Promachos glitter in the sun,
there rise other monuments, the Erechtheum and the Propylæa, hardly
inferior to it, and dating likewise from the great period of art.
Outside the city, on a promontory, rises the temple of Theseus, the
best-preserved monument of Greek antiquity. Elsewhere, on the banks
of the Ilissus, a group of columns marks the site of the magnificent
temple of Olympian Jupiter, which it took the Athenians seven hundred
years to build, and which their degenerate descendants made use of as
a quarry. Remarkable remains have been discovered in many other parts
of the ancient city, and the least of them are of interest, for they
recall the memory of illustrious men. On such a rock sat the Areopagus
which condemned Socrates; from this stone tribune Demosthenes addressed
the multitude; and here walked Plato with his disciples !

A similar historical interest attaches to nearly every part of Attica,
whether we visit the city of Eleusis, where the mysteries of Ceres were
celebrated, or the {56} city of Megara, with its double Acropolis,
or whether we explore the field of Marathon and the shores of the
island of Salamis. Even beyond Attica the memories of the past attract
the traveller to Platæa, to Leuctra, Chæronea, Thebes of Œdipus, and
Orchomenus of Minyas, though, in comparison with what these districts
were in other times, they are now deserts. In addition to Athens and
Thebes, there are now only two cities in eastern continental Greece
which are of any importance. These are Lamia, in the midst of the low
plains of the Sperchius, and Livadia, in Bœotia, at one time celebrated
for the cavern of Trophonius, which archæologists have not yet
succeeded in identifying. The island of Ægina, which belongs to Attica,
offers the same spectacle of decay and depopulation as the mainland.
Anciently it supported more than two hundred thousand inhabitants; at
present it hardly numbers six thousand. But the island still retains
the picturesque ruin of its temple of Minerva, and the prospect which
it affords of the amphitheatre of hills in Argolis and Attica is as
magnificent as ever.

[Illustration: Fig. 17.—ANCIENT ATHENS.

According to Kiepert and Schmidt. Scale 1 : 30,000.]


Geographically the Peloponnesus well deserves the name of island,
which was bestowed upon it by the ancients. The low Isthmus of Corinth
completely severs it from the mountainous peninsula of Greece. It is
a world in itself, small enough as far as the mere space is concerned
which it occupies upon the map, but great on account of the part it has
played in the history of humanity. {57}

On entering the Peloponnesus from the Isthmus of Corinth, we see rising
in front of us the mountain rampart of Oneium, which defended the
entrance of the peninsula, and upon one of whose promontories was built
the nearly impregnable citadel of Corinth. These mountains form part
of the general mountain system of the whole island, and, sheltered by
them, its inhabitants could live in security. The principal mountain
mass, whence all other chains radiate towards the entrances of the
peninsula, is situated in the interior of the country, about forty
miles to the west of Corinth. There Mount Cyllene of the ancient
Greeks, or Zyria, rises into the air, its flanks covered with dark
pines; and farther away still, the Khelmos, or Aroanian Mountain,
attains even a more considerable height, its snows descending into a
valley on its northern slope, where they give rise to the river Styx,
the cold waters of which prove fatal to perjurers, and disappear in
a narrow chasm, one of the entrances to Hades. A range of wooded
peaks, to the west of the Khelmos, connects that mountain with the
Olonos (Mount Erymanthus), celebrated as the haunt of the savage boar
destroyed by Hercules. All those mountains, from Corinth as far as
Patras, form a rampart running parallel with the southern shore of
the gulf, in the direction of which they throw off spurs enclosing
steep valleys. In one of these—that of Buraikos—we meet with the grand
caverns of Mega-Spileon, which are used as a monastery, and where the
most curious structures may be seen built up on every vantage-ground
offered by the rocks, suggesting a resemblance to the cells of a vast
nest of hornets.

The table-land of the Peloponnesus is thus bounded towards the north by
an elevated coast range. Another chain of the same kind bounds it on
the east. It likewise starts from Mount Cyllene, and extends southward,
its various portions being known as Gaurias, Malevo (Mount Artemisium),
and Parthenion. It is then broken through by a vast depression, but
again rises farther south as the range of Hagios Petros, or Parnon,
to the east of Sparta. Getting lower by degrees, it terminates in the
promontory of Malea, opposite to the island of Cerigo. It was this
cape, tradition tells us, which formed the last refuge of the Centaurs;
that is to say, of the barbarian ancestors of the modern Tsakonians. No
promontory was more dreaded by Greek navigators than this Cape Malea,
owing to sudden gusts of wind, and an ancient proverb says, “When thou
hast doubled the cape forget the name of thy native land.”

The mountains of Western Morea do not present the regularity of the
eastern chain. They are cut through by rivers, and to the south of the
Aroanian Mountains and the Erymanthus they ramify into a multitude
of minor chains, which now and then combine into mountain groups,
and impart the most varied aspect to that portion of the plateau.
Everywhere in the valleys we come unexpectedly upon landscapes to which
an indescribable charm is imparted by a group of trees, a spring, a
flock of sheep, or a shepherd sitting upon a heap of ruins. We are in
beautiful Arcadia, sung by the poets. Though in great part deprived of
its woods, it is still a beautiful country; but more charming still
are the eastern slopes of the plateau, which descend towards the
Ionian Sea. There luxuriant forests and {58} sparkling rivulets add
an element of beauty to blue waves, distant islands, and a transparent
sky, which is wanting in nearly every other part of maritime Greece.

[Illustration: Fig. 18.—MOUNT TAYGETUS.]

The table-land of Arcadia is commanded on the west by pine-clad
Mænalus, and bounded on the south by several mountain groups which give
birth to separate mountain chains. One of these mountain masses—the
Kotylion, or Palæocastro—thus gives rise to the mountains of Messenia,
amongst which rises the famous Ithome, and to those of Ægaleus,
which spread over the peninsula to the west of the Gulf of Coron,
and reappear in the sea as the rocky islets of Sapienza, Cabrera,
and Venetikon. Another mountain mass, the Lycæus, or Diaforti—the
Arcadian Olympus, which the Pelasgians claim for their cradle—and
which rises almost in the centre of the Peloponnesus, is continued
westward of Laconia by an extended mountain chain, the most elevated
and most characteristic of all the Morea. The highest crest of these
mountains is the famous Taygetus, known also as Pentedactylum (five
fingers), because of the five peaks which surmount it; or as St. Elias,
in honour, no doubt, of Helios, the Dorian sun-god. A portion of the
lower slopes of this mountain is clothed with forests of chestnuts and
walnuts. {59} interspersed with cypresses and oaks; but its crest is
bare, and snow remains upon it during three-fourths of the year. The
snows of Taygetus direct the distant mariner to the shores of Greece.
On approaching the coast, he sees rising above the blue waters the
spurs and outlying ridges of the Kakavuni, or “bad mountain.” Soon
afterwards he comes in sight of the promontory of Tainaron, with its
two capes of Matapan and Grasso—immense blocks of white marble more
than six hundred feet in height, upon which the quails settle in
millions after their fatiguing journey across the sea. Into the caverns
at its foot the waters rush with a dull noise which the ancients
mistook for the barking of Cerberus. Cape Matapan, like Malea, is
dreaded amongst mariners as a great “destroyer of men.”

The three southern extremities of the Peloponnesus are thus occupied
by high mountains and rocky declivities. The peninsula of Argolis, in
the east, is likewise traversed by mountain ranges, which start from
Mount Cyllene, similarly to the Gaurias and the mountains of Arcadia.
The whole of the Peloponnesus is thus a country of table-lands and
mountain ranges. If we except the plains of Elis, which have been
formed by the alluvial deposits carried down by the rivers of Arcadia,
and the lake basins of the interior, which have been filled up in the
course of ages, we meet with nothing but mountains.[16] The principal
mountain masses—the Cyllene, the Taygetus, and Parnon—are composed
of crystalline schists and metamorphic marbles, as in continental
Greece. Strata of the Jurassic age and beds of cretaceous limestone
are here and there met with at the foot of these more ancient rocks.
Near the coast, in Argolis, and on the flanks of the Taygetus,
eruptions of serpentines and porphyries have taken place, whilst
on the north-eastern coast of Argolis, and especially on the small
peninsula of Methone, there exist recent volcanoes—amongst others,
the Kaimenipetra, which M. Fouqué identifies with the fire-vomiting
mouths of Strabo, and which had its last eruption twenty-one centuries
ago. These volcanoes are, no doubt, the vents of a submarine area of
disturbance which extends through Milos, Santorin, and Nisyros, to the
south of the Ægean Sea.

The sulphur springs which abound on the western coast of the
Peloponnesus are, perhaps, likewise evidences of a reaction of the
interior of the earth.

It is the opinion of several geologists that the coasts of Western
Greece are being insensibly upheaved. In many places, and particularly
at Corinth, we meet with ancient caverns and sea beaches at an
elevation of several feet above the sea-level. It is this upheaval, and
not merely the alluvial deposits brought down by rivers, which explains
the encroachment of the land upon the sea at the mouth of the Achelous
and on the coast of Elis, where four rocky islets have been joined to
the land. Elsewhere a subsidence of the land has been noticed, as in
the Gulf of {60} Marathonisi and on the eastern coast of Greece, where
the ancient peninsula of Elaphonisi has been converted into an island.
But even there the fluvial deposits have encroached upon the sea. The
city of Calamata is twice as distant from the seashore now as in the
days of Strabo, and the traces of the ancient haven of Helos, on the
coast of Laconia, are now far inland.

       *       *       *       *       *

The limestone rocks of the interior of the Peloponnesus abound as much
in chasms, which swallow up the rivers, as do Bœotia and the western
portion of the whole of the Balkan peninsula. Some of these katavothras
are mere sieves, hidden beneath herbage and pebbles, but others are
wide chasms and caverns, through which the course of the underground
waters may be readily traced. In winter wild birds post themselves
at the entrances of these caverns, in expectation of the prey which
the river is certain to carry towards them; in summer, after the
waters have retired, foxes and jackals again take possession of their
accustomed dens. The water swallowed up by these chasms on the plateau
reappears on the other side of the mountains in the shape of springs,
or _kephalaria_ (_kephalovrysis_). The water of these springs has been
purified by its passage through the earth, and its temperature is that
of the soil. It bursts forth sometimes from a crevice in the rocks,
sometimes in an alluvial plain, and sometimes even from the bottom of
the sea. The subterranean geography of Greece is not yet sufficiently
known to enable us to trace each of these kephalaria to the katavothras
which feed them.

[Illustration: Fig. 19.—LAKES PHENEA AND STYMPHALUS.

From the French Staff Map. Scale 1 : 500,000.]

The ancients were most careful in keeping open these natural funnels,
for, by facilitating the passage of the water, they prevented the
formation of swamps. These precautions, however, were neglected during
the centuries of barbarism which overcame Greece, and the waters were
permitted to accumulate in many places at the expense of the salubrity
of the country. The plain of Pheneus, or Phonia, a vast chasm between
the Aroanian Mountains and the Cyllene, has thus repeatedly been
converted into a lake. In the middle of last century the whole of this
basin {61} was filled with water to a depth of more than 300 feet.
In 1828, when this sheet of water had already become considerably
reduced, it was still 6 miles long and 150 feet in depth. At length,
a few years afterwards, the subterranean sluices opened, the waters
disappeared, and there remained only two small marshes near the places
of exit. But in 1850 the lake was again 200 feet in depth. Hercules, we
are told, constructed a canal to drain this valley and to cleanse its
subterranean outlets, but the inhabitants content themselves now with
placing a grating above the “sink-holes,” to prevent the admission of
trunks of trees and of other large objects carried along by the floods.

To the east of the valley of Pheneus, and on the southern foot of Mount
Cyllene, there is another lake basin, celebrated in antiquity because
of the man-eating birds which infested it, until they were exterminated
by Hercules. This is the Stymphalus, alternately lake and cultivated
land. During winter the waters cover about one-third of the basin; but
it happens occasionally, after heavy rains, that the lake resumes its
ancient dimensions. There is only one katavothra through which the
waters can escape, and this, instead of being near the shore, as usual,
is at the bottom of the lake. It swallows up not only the water of
the lake, but likewise the vegetable remains carried into it, and the
mud formed at its bottom; and this detritus is conveyed through it to
some subterranean cavity, where it putrefies slowly, as may be judged
from the fetid exhalations proceeding from the katavothra. The water,
however, is purified, and when it reappears on the surface, close to
the seashore, it is as clear as crystal.

There are many other lake basins of the same kind between the mountains
of Arcadia and the chain of the Gaurias. They all have their swamps
or temporary lakes, but the katavothras, in every instance, are
sufficiently numerous to prevent an inundation of the entire valley.
The most important of these lake basins is formed by the famous plain
of Mantinea, upon which many a battle was fought. From an hydrological
point of view this is one of the most curious places in the world;
for the waters which collect there are discharged into two opposite
seas—the Gulf of Nauplia on the east, and in the direction of the
Alpheus and the Ionian Sea towards the west. There may exist even some
subterranean rivulet which discharges itself, towards the south, into
the Eurotas and the Gulf of Laconia.

The disappearance of the waters underground has condemned to sterility
several parts of the Peloponnesus, which a little water would convert
into the most fertile regions of the globe. The surface waters quickly
suck up and form subterranean rivers, hidden from sight, which only
see the light again, in most instances, near the seashore, when it is
impossible to utilise them. The plain of Argos, though surrounded by a
majestic amphitheatre of well-watered hills, is more sterile and arid
even than are Megara and Attica. Its soil is always dry, and soaks
up water like a sieve, which may have given rise to the fable of the
Danaids. But to the south of that plain, where there is but a narrow
cultivable strip of land between the mountains and the seashore, a
great river bursts forth from the rocks. This is the Erasinus.

Other springs burst forth at the southern extremity of the plain,
close to the defile {62} of Lerna, which, like that of the Erasinus,
are supposed to be fed from Lake Stymphalus. Close to them is a chasm
filled with water, said to be unfathomable. It abounds in tortoises,
and venomous serpents inhabit the adjoining marsh. These are the
_kephalaria_, or “heads,” of the ancient hydra of Lerna, which Hercules
found it so difficult to seize hold of. Still farther south there is
another spring which rises from the bottom of the sea, more than three
hundred yards from the shore. This spring—the Doinæ of the ancients,
and Anavula of modern Greek mariners—is, in reality, but the mouth of
one of the rivers swallowed up by the katavothras of Mantinea. When the
sea is still it throws up a jet rising to a height of fifty feet.

[Illustration: Fig. 20.—THE PLATEAU OF MANTINEA.

From the French Staff Map. Scale 1 : 400,000.

K. Katavothras.]

Analogous phenomena may be witnessed in the two southern valleys of
the peninsula, those of Sparta and Messenia. The Iri, or Eurotas, is,
in reality, but a large rivulet, which discharges itself into the
Gulf of Marathonisi, at the end of a gorge, {63} through which the
waters of the Lake of Sparta forced themselves a passage during some
ancient deluge; but it is only on rare occasions that its volume of
water is sufficient to remove the bar which obstructs its mouth. The
Vasili-Potamo (“royal river”), on the other hand, which bursts forth at
the foot of a rock a short distance from the Eurotas, though its whole
course does not exceed five miles, discharges a considerable volume of
water throughout the year, and its mouth is at all times open. As to
the river of Messenia, the ancient Pamisus, now called Pirnatza, it is
the only river of Greece, besides the Alpheus, which forms a harbour
at its mouth, and it can be ascended by small vessels for a distance
of eight miles; but this advantage it owes exclusively to the powerful
springs of Hagios Floros, which are fed by the mountains on the east.
These springs, which form a large swamp where they rise to the surface,
are the real river, if volume of water is to be decisive, and the
country watered and fertilised by them was called the “Happy” by the
ancients, on account of its fertility.

[Illustration: Fig. 21.—BIFURCATION OF THE GASTUNI.

From the French Staff Map. Scale 1 : 400,000.]

The western regions of the Peloponnesus receive more rain, and they are
likewise in the possession of the most considerable river, the Alpheus,
now called Ruphia, from one of its tributaries. The latter, the ancient
Ladon, conveys a larger volume of water towards the sea than the
Alpheus. It was as celebrated amongst the Greeks as was the Peneus
of Thessaly, on account of the transparency of its waters, and the
smiling scenery along its banks. It is partly fed by the snows of Mount
Erymanthus, and, like most rivers of the Morea, derives a portion of
its waters from subterranean tributaries rising on the central plateau.
The Ladon thus receives the waters of Lake Phenea, whilst the Alpheus
proper {64} is fed in its upper course from katavothras on the shores
of the ancient lakes of Orchomenus and Mantinea. Having traversed the
basin of Megalopolis, anciently a lake, it passes through a series of
picturesque gorges, and reaches its lower valley. A charming tradition,
illustrative of the ties of amity which existed between Elis and
Syracuse, makes this river plunge beneath the sea and reappear in
Sicily, close to the fountain of his beloved Arethusa. The ancient
Greeks, who witnessed the disappearance of so many rivers, would hardly
have looked upon this submarine course of the Alpheus as a thing to
wonder at.

The Alpheus and all other rivers of Elis carry down towards the sea
immense masses of detritus, which they spread over the plains extending
from the foot of the mountains to the seashore. The ruins of Olympia
disappeared in this manner beneath alluvial deposits. They have all
frequently changed their beds, and not one amongst them has done
so more frequently than the Peneus, or river of Gastuni. Anciently
it discharged its waters to the north of the rocky promontory of
Chelonatas, whilst in the present day it turns abruptly to the south,
and enters the sea at a distance of fifteen miles from its ancient
mouth. Works of irrigation may partly account for this change, but
there can be no doubt that nature unaided has by degrees much modified
the aspect of this portion of Greece. Islands originally far in the
sea have been joined to the land; numerous open bays have gradually
been cut off from the sea by natural embankments, and transformed into
swamps or lagoons. One of the latter extends for several leagues to the
south of the Alpheus, and is divided from the sea by a fine forest of
pines. These majestic forests, in which the Triphylians paid honour to
their dead, the surrounding hills dotted over with clumps of trees, and
Mount Lycæus, from whose flanks are precipitated the cascades dedicated
to Neda, the nurse of Jupiter, render this the most attractive district
of all the Morea to a lover of nature.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Peloponnesus presents us with one of the most striking instances
of the influence exercised by the nature of the country upon the
historical development of its inhabitants. Held to Greece by a mere
thread, and defended at its entrance by a double bulwark of mountains,
this “isle of Pelops” naturally became the seat of independent tribes
at a time when armies still recoiled from natural obstacles. The
isthmus was open as a commercial high-road, but it was closed against

The relief of the peninsula satisfactorily explains the distribution
of the tribes inhabiting it, and the part they played in history. The
whole of the interior basin, which has no visible outlets towards the
sea, naturally became the home of a tribe who, like the Arcadians,
held no intercourse with their neighbours, and hardly any amongst
themselves. Corinth, Sicyon, and Achaia occupied the seashore on
the northern slopes of the mountains, but were separated by high
transversal chains. The inhabitants of these isolated valleys long
remained strangers to each other, and when at length they combined to
resist the invader, it was too late. Elis, in the west, with its wide
valleys and its insalubrious plains extending along a coast having no
havens, naturally played but a secondary part {65} in the history of
the peninsula. Its inhabitants, exposed to invasions, owing to their
country being without natural defences, would soon have been enslaved,
had they not placed themselves under the protection of all the rest of
Greece by converting their plain of Olympia into a place of meeting,
where the Hellenes of Europe and of Asia, from the continent and from
the islands, met for a few days’ festival to forget their rivalries and
animosities. The basin of Argos and the mountain peninsula of Argolis,
on the eastern side of the Peloponnesus, on the other hand, are
districts having natural boundaries, and are easily defended. Hence the
Argolians were able to maintain their autonomy for centuries, and even
in the Homeric age they exercised a sort of hegemony over the remainder
of Greece. The Spartans were their successors. The country in which
they established themselves possessed the double advantage of being
secure against every attack, and of furnishing all they stood in need
of. Having firmly established themselves in the beautiful valley of
the Eurotas, they found no difficulty in extending their power to the
seashore, and to the unfortunate Helos. At a later date they crossed
the heights of the Taygetus, and descended into the plains of Messenia.
That portion of Greece likewise formed a natural basin, protected by
elevated mountain ramparts; and the Messenians, who were kinsmen of
the Spartans and their equals in bravery, were thus able to resist
for a century. At length they fell, and all the Southern Peloponnesus
acknowledged the supremacy of Sparta, which was now in a position to
assert its authority over the whole of Greece. Then it was that the
mountain-girt plateau on the road from Lacedæmonia to Corinth, upon
which stood the cities of Tegea and Mantinea, and which was made by
nature for a field of Mars, became the scene of strife.

The Peloponnesus, with its sinuous shores, forms a remarkable contrast
to Attica. Its characteristics are essentially those of a continent,
and anciently the Peloponnesians were mountaineers rather than
mariners. Except in Corinth, where the two seas nearly join, and a few
towns of Argolis, which is another Attica, there were no inducements
for the inhabitants to engage in maritime commerce; and in their
mountain valleys and upland plains they were entirely dependent upon
the rearing of cattle and husbandry. Arcadia, in the centre of the
peninsula, was inhabited only by herdsmen and labourers; and its name,
which originally meant “country of bears,” has become the general
designation for an eminently pastoral country. The Laconians also,
separated from the sea by rocky mountains which hem in the valley
of the Eurotas at its point of issue, preserved for a long time the
customs of warriors and of cultivators of the soil, and took to the sea
only with reluctance. “When the Spartans placed Eurotas and Taygetus
at the head of their heroes,” says Edgar Quinet, “they distinctly
connected the features of the valley with the destinies of the people
by whom it was occupied.”

In the very earliest ages the Phœnicians already occupied important
factories on the coasts of the Peloponnesus. They had established
themselves at Nauplia, in the Gulf of Argos; and at Cranaæ, the modern
Marathonisi or Gythion, in Laconia, they purchased the shells which
they required to dye their purple {66} cloths. The Greeks themselves
were in possession of a few busy ports, amongst which was “sandy
Pylos,” the capital of Nestor, whose position is now held by Navarino,
on the other side of the gulf. At a subsequent date, when Greece had
become the centre of Mediterranean commerce, Corinth, so favourably
situated between the two seas, rose into importance, not because of its
political influence, its cultivation of the arts, or love of liberty,
but through the number and wealth of its inhabitants. It is said that
it had a population of three hundred thousand souls within its walls.
Even after it had been razed by the Romans it again recovered its
ancient pre-eminence. But the exposed position of the town has caused
it to be ravaged so many times that all commerce has fled from it. In
1858, when an earthquake destroyed Corinth, that once famous city had
dwindled down into a poor village. The city has been rebuilt about five
miles from its ancient site, on the shore of the gulf named after it,
but we doubt whether it will ever resume its ancient importance unless
a canal be dug to connect the two seas. The high-roads from Marseilles
and Trieste to Smyrna and Constantinople would then lead across the
Isthmus of Corinth, and this canal might attract an amount of shipping
equal to that which frequents other ocean channels or canals similarly
situated. But for the present the isthmus is almost deserted, and only
the passengers who are conveyed by Greek steamers to the small ports
on its opposite shores cross it. The ancients, who had failed in the
construction of a canal, and who made no further effort after the time
of Nero, because they imagined one of the two seas to be at a higher
level than the other, had provided, at all events, a kind of tramway,
by means of which their small vessels could be conveyed from the Gulf
of Corinth to the Ægean Sea.[17]

After the Crusades, when the powerful Republic of Venice had gained
a footing upon the coasts of Morea, flourishing commercial colonies
arose along them, in Arcadia, on the island of Prodano (Prote), at
Navarino, Modon, Coron, Calamata, Malvoisie, and Nauplia in Argolis.
At the call of these Venetian merchants the Peloponnesus again became
a seat of trade, and resumed, to some extent, that part in maritime
enterprise which it had enjoyed in the time of the Phœnicians. But
the advent of the Turk, the impoverishment of the soil, and the civil
wars which resulted therefrom, again forced the inhabitants to break
off all intercourse with the outer world, and to shut themselves up
in their island as in a prison. Tripolis, or Tripolitza, in the very
centre of the peninsula, and called thus, it is said, because it
is the representative of three ancient cities—Mantinea, Tegea, and
Pallantium—then became the most populous place. Since the Greeks have
regained their independence life again fluctuates towards the seashore
as by a sort of natural sequence. Patras, close to the entrance of the
Gulf of Corinth, and near the most fertile and best-cultivated plains
on the eastern shore, is by far the most important city at present,
and, in anticipation of its future extension, the streets of a new town
have been laid out, in the firm belief that it will some day rival
Smyrna and Trieste in extent. {67}

[Illustration: Fig. 22.—THE VALLEY OF THE EUROTAS.

From the French Staff Map. Scale 1 : 370,000.]

The other towns of the peninsula, even those which exhibited the
greatest activity during the dominion of the Venetians, are but of very
secondary importance, if we compare them with this emporium of the
Peloponnesus. Ægium, or Vostitza, on the Gulf of Corinth, is a poor
port, less celebrated on account of its commerce than in consequence
of a magnificent plane-tree, more than fifty feet in girth, the hollow
trunk of which was formerly used as a prison. Pyrgos, close to the
Alpheus, has no port at all. The fine roadstead of Navarino, defended
against winds and waves by the rocky islet of Sphacteria, is but
little frequented, and the merchantmen riding at anchor there never
outnumber the Turkish men-of-war at the bottom, where they have lain
since the battle fought in 1828. Modon and Coron have likewise fallen
off. Calamata, at the mouth of the fertile valleys of Messenia, has an
open roadstead only, and vessels cannot always ride in safety upon it.
The celebrated Malvoisie, now called Monemvasia, is hardly more than a
heap of ruins, and the vineyards in its neighbourhood, which furnished
the exquisite wine named after the town, have long ceased to exist.
Nauplia, which was the capital of the modern kingdom of Greece during
the first few years of its existence, possesses the advantage of a {68}
well-sheltered port; but its walls, its bastions, and its forts give
it the character of a military town rather than of a commercial one.

The towns in the interior of the country, whatever glories may attach
to them, are hardly more now than large villages. The most celebrated
of all, Sparta, thanks to the fertility of its environs, promises
to become one of the most prosperous cities of the interior of the
Peloponnesus. Sparta—that is, the “scattered city,”—was named thus
because its houses were scattered over the plain, defended only by
the valour of their inhabitants, and not by walls. In the Middle Ages
Sparta was supplanted by the neighbouring Mistra, whose decayed Gothic
buildings and castles occupy a steep hill on the western side of the
Eurotas; but it has now recovered its supremacy amongst the towns of
Laconia. Argos, which is more ancient even than the city of Lacedæmon,
has likewise risen anew from its ruins; for the plain in which it lies,
though occasionally dried up, is of great natural fertility.

Strangers, however, who explore the countries of the Peloponnesus,
do not go in search of these newly risen cities, where a few stones
only remind them of the glories of the past, but are attracted by the
ancient monuments of art. In that respect Argolis is one of the richest
provinces of Greece. Near to Argos the seats of an amphitheatre are cut
into the steep flanks of the hill of Larissa. Between Argos and Nauplia
a small rock rises in the middle of the plain, which is surmounted
by the ancient Acropolis of Tiryns, the Cyclopean walls of which are
more than fifty feet in thickness. A few miles to the north of Argos
are the ruins of Mycenæ, the city of Agamemnon, where the celebrated
“Gate of Lions,” coarsely sculptured when Greek art first dawned,
and the vast vaults known as the Treasury of the Atrides, mainly
attract the attention of visitors. These vaults are amongst the oldest
and best-preserved antiquities of Greece. They exhibit most solid
workmanship, and one of the stones, which does duty as a lintel over
the entrance-gate, weighs no less than one hundred and sixty-nine tons.
At Epidaurus, in Argolis, on the shores of the Gulf of Ægina, and close
to the most famous temple of Æsculapius, we still meet with a theatre
which has suffered less from time than any other throughout Greece.
Shrubs, interspersed with small trees, surround it; but we can still
trace its fifty-four rows of white marble seats, capable of affording
accommodation to twelve thousand spectators. Amongst other famous ruins
of Argolis are the beautiful remains of a temple of Jupiter at Nemea,
and the seven Doric columns of Corinth, said to be the oldest in all
Greece. But the most beautiful edifice of the peninsula must be sought
for near Arcadian Phigalia, in the charming valley of the Neda. This is
the temple of Bassæ, erected by Ictinus in honour of Apollo Epicurius,
and its beauty is enhanced by the oaks and rocks which surround it.

Citadels, however, are the buildings we most frequently meet with;
and many a fortified place, with its walls and acropolis, yet
exists as in the days of ancient Greece. The walls of Phigalia and
Messenia still have their ancient towers, gates, and redoubts. Other
fortifications were utilised by the Crusaders, Venetians, or Turks,
and by them furnished with crenellated walls and keeps, which add
another picturesque feature to the landscape. One of these ancient {69}
fortresses, transformed during the Middle Ages, rises at the very
gates of the Peloponnesus—namely, the citadel of Corinth, the strongest
and most commanding of all.

       *       *       *       *       *

Several of the islands of the Ægean Sea must be looked upon as natural
dependencies of the Peloponnesus, to which submarine ledges or shoals
attach them.

The islands along the coast of Argolis, which are inhabited by Albanian
seamen, who were amongst the foremost to fight the Turk during the
struggle for Hellenic independence, have lost much of their former
commercial importance. Poros, a small Albanian town on a volcanic
island of the same name, which the revolted people chose for their
capital, is, however, still a bustling place, for it has an excellent
harbour, and the Greek Government has made it the principal naval
station of the kingdom. Hydra, on the other hand, and the small
island of Spezzia, next to it, have lost their former importance.
They are both rocky islands, without arable soil, trees, or water,
and yet they formerly supported a population of fifty thousand souls.
About 1730 a colony of Albanians, weary of the exactions of some
Turkish pasha on the mainland, fled to the island of Hydra. They
were left in peace there, for they agreed to pay a trifling tribute.
Their commerce—leavened, to be sure, with a little piracy—assumed
large dimensions, and immediately before the war of independence the
Albanians of Hydra owned nearly 400 vessels of 100 to 200 tons each,
and they were able to send over 200 vessels, armed with 200 guns,
against the Turks. By engaging so enthusiastically in this struggle
for liberty, the Hydriotes, without suspecting it, wrought their own
ruin. No sooner was the cause of Greece triumphant than the commerce of
Hydra was transferred to Syra and the Piræus, which are more favourably

Cythera of Laconia, a far larger island than either of those mentioned,
and better known by the Italian name of Cerigo, formed a member of
the Septinsular Republic, although not situated in the Ionian Sea,
and clearly a dependency of the Peloponnesus. Cythera is no longer
the island of Venus, and its voluptuous groves have disappeared. Seen
from the north, it resembles a pile of sterile rocks. It nevertheless
yields abundant harvests, possesses fine plantations of olive-trees,
and populous villages. Cerigo, in former times, enjoyed considerable
importance, owing to its position between the Ionian Sea and the
Archipelago; but Cape Malea has lost its terrors now, and the harbour
of refuge on the island is no longer sought after. Heaps of shells,
left there by Phœnician manufacturers of purple, have been found on the
island; and it was the Phœnicians who introduced the worship of Venus


Islands and islets are scattered in seeming disorder over the Ægean
Sea, the name of which may probably mean “sea of goats,” because these
islands appeared at a distance like goats. By a singular misapplication
the modern term {70} Archipelago, instead of sea, is now used to
designate these groups of islands. The Sporades, in the north, form
a long range of islands stretching in the direction of Mount Athos.
The island of Scyros, farther south, the birthplace of Achilles and
place of exile of King Theseus, occupies an isolated position; the
large island of Eubœa extends along the coast of the continent; and in
the distance rise the white mountains of the Cyclades, likened by the
ancient Greeks to a circle of Oceanides dancing around a deity.

[Illustration: Fig. 23.—EURIPUS AND CHALCIS.

Scale 1 : 220,000.]

All these islands are so many fragments of the mainland. This is
proved by their geological structure, or by shoals which attach them
to the nearest coast. The Northern Sporades are a branch of Mount
Pelion. Eubœa is traversed by limestone mountains of considerable
height, running parallel to the chains of Attica, Argolis, Mount
Olympus, and Mount Athos. Scyros is a rocky mountain mass, whose axis
runs in the same direction as that of the central chain of Eubœa.
The summits of the Cyclades continue the ranges of Eubœa and Attica
towards the south-east, and the same micaceous and argillaceous
schists, limestones, and crystalline marbles are found in them. They
are, indeed, “mountains of Greece {71} scattered over the sea.” If
Athens may boast of the quarries of Mount Pentelicus, the Cyclades
produce the glittering marbles of Naxos, and the still more beautiful
ones of Paros, from which were chiselled the statues of heroes and of
gods. Curious caverns are met with in the limestone of the islands,
especially that of Antiparos, the existence of which was not known to
the ancients, and the Cave of Sillaka, on the island of Cythnos, or
Thermia, celebrated for its hot springs. Granite is found on some of
the islands, and particularly in the small island of Delos, dedicated
to the worship of Apollo and Diana. In the south, finally, the Cyclades
are traversed by a chain of volcanic islands, extending from the
peninsula of Methana, in Argolis, to Cos and the shores of Asia Minor.

Eubœa may be looked upon almost as a portion of the continent, for
the strait which separates it from the mainland resembles a submerged
longitudinal valley, and is nowhere of great depth or width. At its
narrowest part it is no more than two hundred and fourteen feet across,
and from the most remote times, Chalcis, the capital of the island, has
been joined to the mainland by a bridge. The irregular tidal currents
flowing through this strait were looked upon as marvellous by the
Greeks, and Aristotle is said to have flung himself into it because
he was unable to explain this phenomenon. The Italian name of the
island, Negroponte, is formed by a series of corruptions from Euripus,
by which name the ancients knew the strait between the island and the
mainland. Eubœa has at all times shared in the vicissitudes of the
neighbouring provinces of Attica and Bœotia. When the cities of Greece
were at the height of their glory, those of Eubœa—Chalcis, Eretria,
and Cerinthus—enjoyed likewise a high degree of prosperity, and
dispatched colonies to all parts of the Mediterranean. Later on, when
invaders ravaged Attica, Eubœa shared the same fate, and at present it
participates in every political and social movement of the neighbouring

In Northern Eubœa there are forests of oaks, pines, elms, and
plane-trees; the villages are embedded in orchards; and the surrounding
country resembles what we have seen in Elis and Arcadia. But in the
Cyclades we look in vain for charming landscapes. Foliage and running
water abound only in a very few spots. Arid rocks, more arid even than
those on the coast of Greece, predominate, and only in a few favoured
spots do we meet with a few olive-trees, valonia oaks, pines, and
fig-trees. Everywhere else the hills are naked. And yet these islands
arouse feelings of devotion in us, for their names are great in
history. The highest summits of most of them have been named after the
prophet Elias, the biblical successor of Apollo, the god of the sun;
and justly so, for the sun reigns supreme upon these austere rocks, and
his scorching rays destroy every vestige of vegetation.

Antimilos, one of the uninhabited islands of this group, still affords
an asylum to the wild goat (_Capra Caucasica_), which has disappeared
from the remainder of Europe, and is met with only in Crete, and
perhaps Rhodes. Wild pigs likewise haunt the rocks of Antimilos.
Rabbits were introduced from the West, and abound in the caverns
of some of the Cyclades, and especially on Myconus and Delos. The
ancient authors never mention these animals. It is a curious fact that
{72} hares and rabbits never inhabit the same island, with the sole
exception of Andros, where the hares occupy the extreme north, whilst
the rabbits have their burrows in the southern portion of the island.
As a curiosity, we may also mention that a large species of lizard,
called crocodile by the inhabitants, is found on the islands, but not
on the neighbouring continent, and we may conclude from this that the
Cyclades were separated from the Balkan peninsula at a very remote

       *       *       *       *       *

A chain of volcanic islands bounds the Cyclades towards the south,
where they are separated from Crete by an ocean trough of great depth.
Milos is the most important of these islands. It has an irregularly
shaped crater, which has been invaded by the sea, and forms there
one of the safest and most capacious harbours of refuge in the
Mediterranean. Milos has had no eruption within historic times, but the
existence of solfataras and of hot springs proves that its volcanic
forces are not yet quite extinct.

[Illustration: Fig. 24.—NEA KAMMENI.

According to Danfalik.]

The actual centre of volcanic activity has to be looked for in a small
group of islands known as Santorin, and lying midway between Europe and
Asia. These islands consist of marbles and schists, similar to those
of the other Cyclades, and they surround a vast crater no less than
twelve hundred and eighty feet in depth. The crescent-shaped island
of Thera, on the east, presents bold cliffs towards the crater, while
its gentle outer slopes are covered with vineyards producing exquisite
wine. Therasia, on the west, rises like an immense wall; and the islet
of {73} Aspronisi, between the two, indicates the existence of a
submarine partition wall which separates the crater from the open sea.
The submarine volcano occupies the centre of this basin. It remains
quiescent for long periods, and then suddenly arousing itself, it
ejects immense masses of scoriæ. Nearly twenty-one centuries ago the
first island rose to the surface in the centre of this basin. This
island is known now as Palæa Kammeni, or the “old volcano.” Three years
of eruptions in the sixteenth century gave birth to the smallest of
the three islands, Mikra Kammeni. A third cone of lava, Nea Kammeni,
rose in the eighteenth century; and quite recently, between 1866 and
1870, this new island has more than doubled its size, overwhelming
the small village of Volkario and its port, and extending to within a
very short distance of Mikra Kammeni. No less than half a million of
partial eruptions occurred during those five years, and the ashes were
sometimes thrown to a height of four thousand feet. Even from Crete
clouds of ashes could be seen suspended in the air, black during the
day, and lit up by night.

Thousands of spectators hastened to Santorin from all quarters of the
world to witness these eruptions, and amongst them were several men of
science—Fouqué, Gorceix, Reiss, Stübel, and Schmidt—whose observations
have proved of great service. The crater of Santorin appears to have
been produced by a violent explosion which shattered the centre of the
ancient island, and covered its slopes with enormous masses of tufa.[18]

Southern Eubœa and the vicinity of Port Gavrion, on the island of
Andros, are inhabited by Albanians, but the population in the remainder
of the Archipelago is Greek. The families of Italian or French descent
on Scyros, Syra, Naxos, and Santorin are not sufficiently numerous
to constitute an element of importance. They claim to be of French
descent, and are known in the Archipelago as Franks, and during the war
of independence they claimed the protection of the French Government.
In former times nearly the whole of the land was held by these Franks,
who had taken possession of it during the Middle Ages, and these large
estates are made to account for the sparse population of Naxos, which
supported a hundred thousand inhabitants formerly, but is now hardly
able to support one-seventh that number.

The Cyclades are farther removed from the coast of Greece than Eubœa,
and they have not always shared in the historical dramas enacted
upon the neighbouring continent. Their position in the centre of the
Archipelago naturally caused them to be visited by all the nations
navigating the Mediterranean, and their inhabitants were thus subjected
to the most diverse influences. In ancient times the mariners of
Asia Minor and of Phœnicia called at the Cyclades on their voyages
to Greece; during the Middle Ages the Byzantines, the Crusaders, the
Venetians, the Genoese, the Knights of Rhodes, and the Osmanli were
masters {74} there in turn; and in our own days the nations of Western
Europe, with the Greeks themselves, hold the preponderance in the

These historical vicissitudes have caused the centre of gravity of
the Cyclades to be shifted from island to island. In the time of the
ancient Greeks, Delos, the island of Apollo, was looked upon as the
“holy land,” where merchants congregated from all quarters, carried
on business in the shadow of sanctuaries, and held slave markets at
the side of the temples. The sale of human flesh became in the end the
main feature of the commerce of Delos, and in the time of the Roman
emperors as many as ten thousand slaves were bartered away there in a
single day. But the markets, the temples, and monuments of Delos have
vanished, and its stony soil supports now only a few sheep. During the
Middle Ages Naxos enjoyed the predominance; and at present, Tinos, with
its venerated church of the Panagia and its thousands of pilgrims, is
the “holy land” of the Archipelago; whilst Hermopolis, on Syra, though
without trees or water, holds the position of commercial metropolis of
the Cyclades. The latter was a town of no importance before the war of
independence; but it remained neutral during that struggle, and thus
attracted numerous refugees from other islands, and, thanks to its
central position, it has since become the principal mart, dockyard, and
naval station of the Ægean Sea. Whether travellers proceed to Saloniki,
Smyrna, Constantinople, or the Black Sea, they must stop at Hermopolis.
The town formerly occupied the heights only, for fear of pirates,
but it has descended now to the foot of the hill, and its quays and
warehouses extend along the seashore.

Commerce has peopled the naked rocks of Syra, but it has not yet
succeeded in developing the resources of the Archipelago as in ancient
times. Eubœa is no longer “rich in cattle,” as its name implies, and
only exports corn, wine, fruit, and the lignite extracted from the
mines near Kumi. The gardens of Naxos yield oranges, lemons, and
citrons; Scopelos, Andros, and Tinos, the latter one of the best
cultivated amongst the islands, export wines, which are excelled,
however, by those of Santorin, the Calliste of the earliest Greeks.
The volcanic and other islands of the Cyclades export millstones,
china clay, lavas, and cimolite, this being used in bleaching. Naxos
exports emery, and that is all. The marbles of Paros even remain
untouched, and the excellent harbour of that island only rarely sees
a vessel. The inhabitants of the Cyclades confine themselves to the
cultivation of the soil, and to the breeding of a few silkworms, the
surplus population of Tinos, Siphnos, and others emigrating annually
to Constantinople, Smyrna, or Greece, to work as labourers, cooks,
potters, masons, or sculptors. But whilst some of the islands can
boast of a surplus population, there are others which are the abode
of a few herdsmen only. Most of the islands between Naxos and Amorgos
are hardly more than barren rocks. Antimilos, like Delos, is merely
a pasture-ground sown over with rocks. Seriphos and Giura are still
dreary solitudes, as in the time of the Roman emperors, when they
were set aside as places of exile. Seriphos, however, possesses iron
of excellent quality, and may, in consequence, again become of some
importance. On Antiparos there are lead mines. {75}


The island of Corfu, on the coast of Epirus, and the whole of the
Archipelago to the west of continental and peninsular Greece, down to
the island of Cythera, which divides the waters of the Ionian Sea from
those of the Ægean, have passed through the most singular political
vicissitudes in the course of the last century. Corfu, thanks to
the protection extended to it by the Venetian Republic, is the only
dependency of the Balkan peninsula which successfully resisted the
assaults of the Turk. When Venice was handed over to the Austrians
by Bonaparte in 1797, Corfu and the Ionian Islands were occupied by
the French. A few years afterwards the Russians became the virtual
masters in these islands, which they formed into a sort of aristocratic
republic under the suzerainty of the Porte. In 1807 the French once
more took possession of them; but the English captured one after the
other until there remained to them only Corfu, and this, too, had to
be given up in 1814. The Ionian Islands were then converted into a
“Septinsular Republic,” governed by the landed aristocracy, supported
by British bayonets. Twice did England alter the constitution of this
republic in a democratic sense, but the patriotism of the islanders
refused to submit to British suzerainty; and, when Great Britain parted
with her conquest, the Ionian Islands annexed themselves to Greece,
and they now form the best educated, the wealthiest, and the most
industrious portion of that kingdom. England, no doubt, consulted her
own interests when she set free her Ionian subjects; but her action is
nevertheless deserving of approbation. England exhibited her faith in
the axiom that moral influence is superior to brute force, and yielded
with perfect good grace, not only the commercial ports of the islands,
but likewise the citadel of Corfu, which gave her the command of the
Adriatic. This magnanimous policy has not hitherto met with imitators
in other countries, but England herself has still many opportunities of
applying it in other parts of the world.

Corfu, the ancient Corcyra, has always held the foremost place amongst
the Ionian Islands. It owes this position to the vicinity of Italy,
and to the commercial advantages derived from an excellent port and
a vast roadstead almost resembling an inland lake. The inhabitants
are fond of appealing to Thucydides in order to prove that Corfu
is the island of the Phæaces of Ulysses. They even pretend to have
discovered the rivulet in which beauteous Nausicaa washed the linen
of her father, and the shaded walks near the city are known by them
as the gardens of Alcinous. Corfu is the only one of the islands
which can boast of a small perennial stream, the Messongi, which is
navigable for a short distance in barges. The hills, which are placed
like a screen in front of the plains of the Epirus, are exposed to
the full force of the south-westerly winds, which bring much rain;
the vegetation, consequently, is rich: orange and lemon trees form
fragrant groves around the city, vines and olive-trees hide the barren
ground of the hills, and waving fields of corn cover the plains.
Corfu, unfortunately, is exposed to the hot sirocco, blowing from the
south-east, and this very much curtails its advantages as a winter
station for invalids. {76}

The city occupies a triangular peninsula opposite the coast of the
Epirus, and is the largest, and commercially the most important, of
the former republic. It is strongly fortified, and its successive
possessors—Venetians, French, Russians, and English—have sought to
render it impregnable. A beautiful prospect may be enjoyed from its
bastions; but far superior is that from Mount Pantokratoros, the
“commandant,” for it extends across the Strait of Otranto to Italy.
The commercial relations with the latter, as well as the traditions
of Venetian dominion, have converted Corfu into a city almost half
Italian, and numerous families residing in it belong to both nations,
the Greek and the Italian, by descent as well as language. Italian
remained the official language of the island until 1830. Maltese
porters and gardeners constitute a prominent element amongst the
cosmopolitan population of the city.

[Illustration: Fig. 25.—CORFU.]

Corfu formerly owned the town of Butrinto and a few villages on the
mainland; but an English governor thought fit to surrender them to the
terrible Ali Pasha, {77} and the only dependencies of Corfu at present
are the small islets near it, viz. Othonus (Fano), Salmastraci, and
Ericusa, in the north; Paxos, with its caverns, and Antipaxos, the
rocks of which exude asphalt, on the south. Paxos is said to produce
the best oil in Western Greece.

Leucadia, Cephalonia, Ithaca, Zante, and a few smaller islands, form
a crescent-shaped archipelago off the entrance to the Gulf of Patras.
They are the summits of a half-submerged chain of calcareous mountains,
alternately flooded by the rains or scorched by the sun. Their valleys,
like those of Corfu, produce oranges, lemons, currants (“Corinthians”),
wine, and oil, which form the objects of a brisk commerce. The
inhabitants very much resemble those of Corfu, the Italian element
being strongly represented, except on Ithaca.

[Illustration: Fig. 26.—THE CHANNEL OF SANTA MAURA.

From the French Staff Map.

Scale 1 : 200,000.]

Leucadia, or the “white island,” thus called because of its glittering
chalk cliffs, is evidently a dependency of the continent. The ancients
looked upon it as a peninsula converted into an island by Corinthian
colonists, who cut a canal through the isthmus which joined it to the
mainland; but this legend is not borne out by an examination of the
locality. These Corinthians probably merely dug a navigable channel
through the shallow lagoon which separates the island from the coast,
and does not exceed eighteen inches in depth. In fact, if there were
any tides in the Ionian Sea, the island of Leucadia would be converted
twice daily into a peninsula. A bridge, of which there still exist
considerable remains, formerly joined the island to the mainland near
the southern extremity of the lagoon, whilst an island occupied by the
citadel of Santa Maura—a name sometimes applied to the whole of the
island—defended its entrance to the north. {78} Until recently this
was the only spot in Western Greece where a grove of date-trees might
be seen. A magnificent aqueduct of two hundred and sixty arches, which
was also used as a viaduct, joined the citadel to Amaxiki, the chief
town and harbour of Leucadia. This monument of Turkish enterprise—it
was constructed in the reign of Bajazet—has sustained much injury from
earthquakes. Amaxiki might be supposed to be haunted by fever, owing
to the salt swamps and lagoons which surround it; but such is not the
case: on the contrary, it is a comparatively healthy town, and its
women are noted for freshness of complexion and beauty. To the south
of it rise the wooded mountains which terminate in the promontory
of Leucate (Dukato), opposite to Cephalonia. On the summit of this
promontory stood a temple of Apollo, whence, at the annual festival of
the god, a condemned criminal was hurled as an expiatory victim. It was
celebrated, also, as the lover’s leap, whence lovers leaped into the
sea to drown their passion.

Cephalonia, or rather Cephallenia, is the largest of the Ionian
Islands, and its highest summit—Mount Ænus, or Elato—is the culminating
point of the entire Archipelago. Mariners from the centre of the Ionian
Sea can see at one and the same time Mount Ætna in Sicily and this
mountain of Cephalonia. The forests of conifers, to which the latter
is indebted for its Italian name of Montenero, have for the greater
part been destroyed by fire, but there still remain a few clumps of
magnificent firs. On its summit may be seen the remains of a temple of
Jupiter. The island is fertile and populous, but suffers much from want
of water. All its rivers dry up in summer, the calcareous soil sucking
up the rain, and most of the springs rise from the bottom of the sea,
far away from the fields thirsting after water. On the other hand, two
considerable streams of sea-water find their way into the bowels of the

This curious phenomenon occurs a short distance to the north of
Argostoli, a bustling town, having a safe but shallow harbour. The
two oceanic rivers are sufficiently powerful to set in motion the
huge wheels of two mills, one of which has been regularly at work
since 1835, and the other since 1859. Their combined discharge amounts
to 35,000,000 gallons daily, and naturalists have not yet decided
whether they form a vast subterranean lake, in which beds of salt are
constantly being deposited, or whether they find their way through
numerous threads, and, by hydrostatic aspiration, into the subterranean
rivers of the island, rendering their water brackish. The latter is
the opinion of Wiebel, the geologist, and thus much we may assume for
certain—that these subterranean waters and caverns are one of the
principal causes of the severe earthquakes which visit Cephalonia so
frequently. The island of Asteris, between Cephalonia and Ithaca, upon
which stood the city of Alalkomenæ, exists no longer, and was probably
destroyed by one of those earthquakes.

Ithaca of “divine Ulysses,” the modern Theaki, is separated from
Cephalonia by the narrow channel of Viscardo, thus named after Robert
Guiscard. The island is small, and all the sites referred to in the
Odyssey are still pointed out there, from the spring of Arethusa to the
acropolis of Ulysses; but the black forests which clothed the slopes of
Mount Neritus have disappeared. The inhabitants are {79} excessively
proud of their little island, rendered so famous by the poetry of
Homer, and in every family we meet with a Penelope, a Ulysses, and a
Telemachus. But the present inhabitants have no claim whatever to be
the descendants of the crafty son of Laertes, for during the Middle
Ages their ancestors were exterminated by invaders, and in 1504 the
deserted fields were given, by the Senate of Venice, to colonists drawn
from the mainland. Most of those immigrants came from the Epirus, and
the dialect spoken by the islanders is much mixed with Albanian words.
At the present time the island is well cultivated, and Vathy, its chief
port, carries on a brisk commerce in raisins, currants, oil, and wine.
Ithaca, as in the days of Homer, is the “nurse of valiant men.” The
inhabitants are tall and strong, and Dr. Schliemann is enthusiastic
about the high standard of virtue and morality prevailing amongst them.
There are neither rich nor poor, but they are great travellers, and
natives of Ithaca are met with in every populous city of the East.

[Illustration: Fig. 27.—ARGOSTOLI.

According to Wiebel.

Scale 1 : 78,000.]

“Zante, fior del Levante,” say the Italians. And, indeed, this
ancient island, Zacynthus, is richer in orchards, fields, and villas
than any other of this Archipelago. An extensive plain, bounded by
ranges of hills, occupies the centre of this “golden isle”—a vast
garden, abounding in vines, yielding currants of superior quality.
The inhabitants are industrious, and not content with cultivating
their own fields, they assist also in the cultivation of those of
Acarnania, receiving wages or a share of the produce in return. The
city of Zante, on the eastern coast of the island, facing Elis, is the
wealthiest and cleanest town in the Archipelago. {80} Unfortunately
it suffers frequently from earthquakes, to which a volcanic origin is
ascribed. Nor is this improbable, for bituminous springs rise near the
south-eastern cape of the island, and though worked since the days of
Herodotus, they still yield about a hundred barrels of pitch annually.
Oil springs discharge themselves close to the shore, and even at the
bottom of the sea; and near Cape Skinari, in the north, a kind of rank
grease floats on the surface of the waters.

The only islets dependent upon Zante are the Strivali, or the
Strophades, to which flew the hideous harpies of ancient mythology.[19]


The Greeks, although they have not altogether fulfilled the
expectations of Philhellenes, have nevertheless made great strides in
advance since they have thrown off the yoke of the Turks. The deeds
of valour performed during the war of independence recalled the days
of Marathon and Platæa; but it was wrong to expect that a short time
would suffice to raise modern Greece to the intellectual and artistic
level of the generation which gave birth to an Aristotle and a
Phidias. Nor can we expect that a nation should throw off, in a single
generation, the evil habits engendered during an age of servitude,
and digest at once the scientific conquests made in the course of
twenty centuries. We should likewise bear in mind that the population
of Greece is small, and that it is thinly scattered over a barren
mountain region. The numerous ports, no doubt, offer great facilities
for commerce, nor have their inhabitants failed to avail themselves
of them; but there is hardly a country in Europe which offers equal
obstacles to a development of its agricultural and industrial
resources. The construction of roads, owing to the mountains, meets
with difficulties everywhere, whilst the blue sea invites its beholders
to distant climes and commercial expeditions. No immigration from the
neighbouring Turkish provinces has consequently taken place, whilst
many Hellenes, and more especially natives of the Ionian Islands and
the Cyclades, annually seek their fortune in Constantinople, Cairo,
and even distant India. Men of enterprise leave the country, and there
remains behind only a horde of intriguers, who look upon politics as
a lucrative business, and an army of government officials, who depend
upon the favour of a minister for future promotion. This state of
affairs explains the singular fact that the most prosperous Greek
communities exist beyond the borders of the kingdom of Greece. These
foreign communities are better and more liberally governed than those
at home. In spite of the Pasha, who enjoys the right of supervision,
the administration of the smallest Greek {81} community in Thracia or
Macedonia might serve as a pattern to the independent and sovereign
kingdom of Greece. Every one there takes an interest in the prosperity
of the commonwealth; but in Greece a rapacious bureaucracy takes care
only of its own advancement, the electors are bribed, and the expenses
thus illegally incurred are recovered by illegal exactions and robbery,
such as have prevailed for many years.

The actual population of Greece may amount to 1,500,000 souls; that
is to say, it includes about two-fifths of all the Greeks residing
in Europe and Asia. The population is less dense than in any other
country of Europe, including Turkey. Greece, at the epoch of its
greatest prosperity, is said to have supported 6,000,000 or 7,000,000
inhabitants. Attica was ten times more populous at that time, and many
islands which now support only a few herdsmen could then boast of
populous towns. Sites of ancient cities abound on the barren plateaux,
on the banks of the smallest rivulet, and crown every promontory
throughout the ancient countries of the Hellenes, from Cyprus to Corfu,
and from Thasos to Crete.

The country, however, is being gradually repeopled. Before the war
of independence, the population, including the Ionian Islands,
amounted, perhaps, to 1,000,000; but battles and massacres diminished
it considerably, and in 1832 the number of inhabitants was 950,000
at most. Since that epoch there has been an annual increase varying
between 9,000 and 14,000 souls. This increase, however, is spread
very unequally over the country. The towns increase rapidly, but
several islands, and more especially Andros, Santorin, Hydra, Zante,
and Leucadia, lose more inhabitants by emigration than they gain
by an excess of births over deaths. The swamp fevers prevailing in
continental Greece much retard the increase of population. Naturally
the climate is exceedingly salubrious, but the water, in many
localities, has been permitted to collect into pestilential swamps,
and the draining of these and their cultivation would not only add
to the wealth of the country, but would likewise free it from a dire

Unfortunately agriculture progresses but slowly in Greece, and its
produce is not even sufficient to support the population, still less
to supply articles for export. And yet the cultivable soil of Greece
is admirably suited to the growth of vines, fruits, cotton, tobacco,
and madder. Figs and oranges are delicious; the wines of Santorin and
the Cyclades are amongst the finest produced in the Mediterranean; the
oil of Attica is as superior now as when Athene planted the sacred
olive-tree; {82} but, excepting a little cotton grown in Phthiotis,
and the raisins known as currants or Corinthians, which are exported
from the Ionian Islands and Patras to the annual value of about
£1,500,000, agriculture contributes but little towards the exports. One
of the principal articles is the valonia, a species of acorn picked up
in the forests, and used by tanners.

In a country so far behindhand in agriculture manufactures cannot be
expected to flourish. All manufactured articles have consequently to
be imported from abroad, and especially from England. Greece does not
even possess tools to work its famous marble quarries, though they
are richer than those of Carrara. There is only one metallurgical
establishment in the whole of the kingdom—that of Laurion. The ancients
had been working argentiferous lead mines in that part of the country
for centuries, and vast masses of unexhausted slag had accumulated
near them. This waste is now being scientifically treated in the
smelting-works of Ergastiria, and nearly ten thousand tons of lead, and
a considerable quantity of silver, are produced there annually. Quite a
brisk little town has arisen near the works, and its harbour is one of
the busiest in all Greece. But the founders of this flourishing concern
had to struggle against jealousies, and the “Laurion question” nearly
embroiled the Governments of France and Italy with Greece.[21]

The Greeks do not support themselves by agriculture, nor can they boast
of manufactories, and they would be doomed to starvation if they did
not maintain six thousand vessels acting in the lucrative business of
ocean carriers throughout the Mediterranean. This Greek mercantile
marine is superior to that of Russia, almost equal to that of Austria,
and six times larger than that of Belgium, and we should bear in mind
that many vessels sailing under Turkish colours are actually owned by
Greeks. The ancient instinct of the race comes out strongly in this
coast navigation. The large fleets of swift ocean steamers belong to
the powerful companies of the West, and the Greeks are content to sail
in small vessels suited to the requirements of the coasting trade,
which hardly ever extend their voyages beyond the limits of the ancient
Greek world. None can compete with them as regards low freight, for
every sailor has an interest in the cargo, and all of them are anxious
to increase the profits. One may have furnished the wood, another the
rigging, a third a portion of the cargo, whilst their fellow-citizens
have advanced money for the purchase of merchandise, without requiring
any bond except their word of honour. On many of these vessels all are
partners, all work alike, and share in the proceeds of the venture.

But, whatever the sobriety and intelligence of these Greek mariners,
they cannot escape the fate which has overtaken the small trader and
the handicraftsman throughout the world. The cheap vessels of the
Greeks may be able to contend for a long time against the steamers of
powerful companies, but in the end they must succumb. The country will
lose its place amongst the commercial nations of the world unless its
agricultural and industrial resources are quickly developed, {83} and
railways are constructed to convey the products of the interior to the
sea-coast. Greece, even now, has only a few carriage roads, not so
much because the mountains offer insurmountable obstacles, but because
its heedless inhabitants are content with the facilities for transport
offered by the sea. It would be impossible in our day to travel from
the Pylos to Lacedæmon in a chariot, as was done by Telemachus; for the
road connecting these places leads along precipices and over dangerous
goat paths. Greece and Servia are the European states which remained
longest without a railway, and even now the former is content with a
short line connecting Athens with its harbour. It has certainly been
proposed to construct several lines of the utmost importance, but,
owing to the bankrupt condition of the Greek exchequer, these works
have not yet been begun. The public income is not sufficient to meet
the expenditure, the debt exceeds £15,000,000, and the interest on the
loans remains unpaid.[22]

The poverty of the majority of the inhabitants of Greece is equal to
that of the State. The peasants are impoverished by the payment of
tithes, and of a Government impost double or even treble their amount.
Though naturally very temperate, they are hardly able to sustain life;
they dwell in unwholesome dens, and are frequently unable to put by
sufficient means for the purchase of clothing and other necessaries.
The young men of the poorest districts of Greece thus find themselves
forced to emigrate in large numbers, either for a season or for an
indefinite period. Arcadia may be likened in this respect to Auvergne,
to Savoy, and to other mountain countries of Central Europe. The
Ætolians, however, exchange their fine savage valleys for foreign
cities only very reluctantly, though they, too, suffer intensely from
the weight of taxation. In ancient times, before their spirit was
broken by servitude, they would have resisted the tax-gatherer with
arms in their hands. They now content themselves with sallying forth
from their villages, in order to pile up a heap of stones by the side
of the high-road, as a testimony of the injustice with which they have
been treated. This heap of stones is _anathema_. Every peasant passing
it religiously adds a stone to this mute monument of execration, and
the earth, the common mother of all, is thus charged with the task of

Ignorance, the usual attendant of poverty, is great in the rural
districts of Greece, and especially in those difficult of access.
In Greece, as in Albania and Montenegro, they believe in perfidious
nymphs, who secure the affections of young men, and then drag them
down below the water; they believe in vampyres, in the evil eye
and witchcraft. But the Greeks are an inquiring race, anxious to
learn, in spite of their poverty. The peasant of Ithaca will stop
a traveller of education on the road, in order that he may read to
him the poetry of Homer. Elementary schools have been established in
nearly every village, in spite of the poverty of the Government. If
no school buildings can be secured, the classes meet in the open air.
The scholars, far from playing truant, hardly raise their eyes from
the books to notice a passing stranger or the flight of a bird. The
scholars in the superior schools and at the University of Athens are
equally {84} conscientious and assiduous. It may be that some of them
merely aspire to become orators, but they certainly do not resort to a
city on the pretence of study, whilst in reality they yield themselves
up to debauchery. Amongst the students of the University of Athens
there are many who work half the night at some handicraft, others who
hire themselves out as servants or coachmen, to enable them to pursue
their studies as lawyers or physicians.

This love of study cannot fail to secure to the Greek nation an
intellectual influence far greater than could be looked for from the
smallness of its numbers. The Greeks of the East, moreover, look upon
Athens as their intellectual centre, whither they send their sons in
pursuit of knowledge. They found scholarships in connection with the
schools of Athens, and largely contribute towards their support. And
it is not only the rich Greek merchants of Trieste, Saloniki, Smyrna,
Marseilles, and London who are thus mindful of the true interests of
their native country, but peasants of Thracia and Macedonia, too,
devote their savings to the promotion of public education. The people
themselves support their schools and museums, and pay their professors.
The Academy of Athens, the Polytechnic School, the University, and
the Arsakeion, an excellent ladies’ college—these all owe their
existence to the zeal of Greek citizens, and not to the Government. It
may readily be understood from this how carefully these institutions
are being watched by the entire nation, and how salutary must be the
influence of young men and women returning to their native provinces
after they have been educated at them.

It is thus a common language, common traditions, and a common hope
for the future that have made a nation of the Greeks in spite of
treaties. Greek patriotism is not confined to the narrow limits laid
down by diplomacy. Whether they reside in Greece proper, in European or
Asiatic Turkey, the Greeks feel as one people, and they lead a common
national life independently of the Governments of Constantinople and
Athens. Nay, amongst the Greeks dwelling in foreign lands this feeling
of nationality is, perhaps, most intense, for they are not exposed to
the corrupting influence of a bureaucracy. They have more carefully
guarded the traditions and practices of municipal government, and
are practically in the enjoyment of greater individual liberty. The
Greek nation, in its entirety, numbers close upon 4,000,000 souls. Its
power, already considerable, is growing from day to day, and is sure to
exercise a potent influence upon the destinies of Mediterranean Europe.

We are told sometimes that community of religion might induce the
Greeks to favour Russian ambition, and to open to that power the road
to Constantinople. Nothing can be further from the truth. The Hellenes
will never sacrifice their own interests to those of the foreigner. Nor
do there exist between Greece and Russia those natural ties which alone
give birth to true alliances. Climate, geographical position, history,
commerce, and, above all, a common civilisation, attach Greece to that
group of European nations known as Greco-Latin. In tripartite Europe
the Greeks will never range themselves by the side of the Slav, but
will be found amongst the Latin nations of Italy, France, and Spain.

[Illustration: TURKEY IN EUROPE and GREECE

By E. G. Ravenstein, F.R.G.S.

Scale 1 : 5,000,000.]



The protecting powers have bestowed upon Greece a parliamentary and
constitutional Government, modelled upon West European patterns.
Theoretically the King of the Greeks reigns, but does not govern, and
his ministers are responsible to the Chambers, whose majority changes
with the fluctuations of public opinion. In reality, however, the
power of the King is limited only by diplomacy. Nor do those Western
institutions respond to the traditions and the genius of the Greeks,
and although the charter has been modified three times since the
declaration of independence, it has never been strictly adhered to.

In accordance with the constitution of 1864, every Greek citizen
possessing any property whatever, or exercising a profession, has a
right to vote on attaining his twenty-fifth year, and becomes eligible
as a deputy at thirty. The deputies, one hundred and eighty-seven in
number, are elected for four years, and are paid for their services.
The civil list of the King, inclusive of a subvention granted by the
protecting powers, amounts to £46,000 a year.

The orthodox Greek Church of Hellas is independent of the Patriarch
of Constantinople. It is governed by a Holy Synod, sitting in the
capital, and presided over by an archbishop as metropolitan. A royal
commissioner is present at the meetings of the Synod, and countersigns
every proposition that is carried. Decisions not bearing this official
signature are void. The King, on the other hand, is permitted to
dethrone or remove a bishop only by consent of the Synod, and in
accordance with the canon law. The constitution guarantees religious
liberty, but this official Church nevertheless exercises considerable
powers, and frequently calls upon the civil authorities to give force
to its decrees. The Synod carefully watches over the observance of
religious dogmas; it points out to the authorities heretical or
heterodox preachers and writers, and demands their suppression;
exercises a censorship over books and religious pictures; and calls
upon the civil tribunals to punish offenders.

There are no longer any Mohammedans in Greece, except sailors or
travellers, and the last Turk has quitted Eubœa. The only Church
besides the established one which can boast a considerable number of
adherents is the Roman Catholic. It prevails amongst the middle classes
on Naxos, and on several others of the Cyclades, and is governed by two
archbishops and four bishops.

Greece is divided into thirteen nomes, or nomarchies, and these, again,
into fifty-nine eparchies. Each eparchy is subdivided into districts,
or dimes (dimarchies), and the latter into parishes, governed by
paredres, or assistant dimarchs. These officials are appointed by the
King, and are in receipt of small emoluments. The number of officials
is proportionately greater in Greece than in any other part of Europe.
They form the sixtieth part, or, including their families, the twelfth
part of the population, and although their pay is small, they swallow
up between them more than half the public income. {86}

The thirteen nomes and fifty-nine eparchies of Greece, with their
population in 1870:―

 Eparchies.                           Population.

 Mantinea                               46,174
 Kynuria                                26,733
 Gartynia                               41,408
 Megalopolis                            17,425
         Arkadia                       131,740

 Lakedæmon                              46,423
 Gythion                                13,957
 Itylos (Œtylos)                        26,540
 Epidauros Limera                       18,931
         Lakonia                       105,851

 Kalamæ                                 25,029
 Messini                                29,529
 Pylia                                  20,946
 Triphylia                              29,041
 Olympia                                25,872
         Messenia                      130,417

 Nauplia                                15,022
 Argos                                  22,138
 Korinthia                              42,803
 Spetsæ and Hermionis                   19,919
 Hydra and Trizinia                     17,301
 Kythyra                                10,637
         Argolis and Korinthia         127,820

 Syros                                  30,643
 Koa                                     8,687
 Andros                                 19,674
 Tinos                                  11,022
 Naxos                                  20,582
 Thira (Thera, Santorin)                21,901
 Milos                                  10,784
         Kyklades                      123,293

 Attiki                                 76,919
 Ægina                                   6,103
 Megaris                                14,949
 Thiva (Thebæ)                          20,711
 Livadia                                18,122
         Attiki and Viotia (Bœotia)  136,804

 Khalkis                                 29,013
 Xerochorion                             11,215
 Karystia                                33,936
 Skopelos                                 8,377
         Euvia (Eubœa)                82,541

 Phthiotis                               26,747
 Parnasis                                20,368
 Lokris                                  20,187
 Doris                                   49,119
         Phthiotis and Phokis           106,421

 Mesolongion (Missolonghi)               18,997
 Valtos                                  14,027
 Trichonia                               14,453
 Evrytania                               33,018
 Navpaktia                               22,219
 Vonitza and Xeromeros                   18,979
         Akarnania and Ætolia           121,693

 Patras                                  46,527
 Ægialia                                 12,764
 Kalavryta                               39,204
 Ilia (Elis)                             51,066
         Achaia and Ilis (Elis)         149,561

 Kerkyra (Corfu)                         25,729
 Mesi                                    21,754
 Oros                                    24,983
 Paxi (Paxos)                             3,582
 Leucas (Santa Maura)                    20,892
         Kerkyra (Corfu)                 96,940

 Kranæa                                  33,358
 Pali                                    17,377
 Sami                                    16,774
 Itaki                                    9,873
         Kephallinia                     77,382

 Zakynthos (Zante)                       44,557

The modern nomenclature has been adopted in the above table.






The Balkan peninsula is, perhaps, that amongst the three great
peninsulas of Southern Europe which enjoys the greatest natural
advantages, and occupies the most favourable geographical position.
In its outline it is far less unwieldy than Spain, and even surpasses
Italy in variety of contour. Its coasts are washed by four seas; they
abound in gulfs, harbours, and peninsulas, and are fringed by numerous
islands. Several of its valleys and plains vie in fertility with the
banks of the Guadalquivir and the plains of Lombardy. The floras
of two climes intermingle on its soil, and add their charms to the
landscape. The mountains of Turkey do not yield to those of the two
other peninsulas in graceful outline or grandeur, and most of them are
still covered with virgin forests. If they are less accessible than the
Apennines of Italy or the _sierras_ of Spain, that is owing simply to
the want of roads; for they are, as a rule, of moderate elevation, and
the plateaux from which they rise are narrower and more extensively
intersected by valleys than is the table-land of Castile. Both Spain
and Italy are closed in the north by mountain barriers difficult to
cross, whilst the Balkan peninsula joins the continental trunk by
almost imperceptible transitions, and nowhere is it separated from it
by well-defined natural boundaries. The Austrian Alps extend without
a break into Bosnia, and the Carpathians cross the Danube in order to
effect a junction with the system of the Balkan. To the east of the
“Iron Gate” there are no mountains at all, and Turkey is bounded there
by the broad valley of the Danube. {88}

The proximity and parallelism of the coasts of two continents confer
upon the Balkan peninsula an advantage unrivalled, perhaps, throughout
the world. It is separated from Asia only by the narrow channel which
joins the Black Sea to the Ægean Sea: this channel is an ocean highway,
and yet forms no serious obstacle to the migration of nations from
continent to continent. If the Black Sea were larger than it is at
present; if it still formed _one_ sea with the Caspian, and extended
far into Asia, as it did in a past age, then Constantinople would
necessarily become the great centre of the ancient world. That proud
position was actually held by it a thousand years ago, and even if it
should never recover it, its geographical position alone insures to
it an importance for all time to come. If the city were to be razed
to day, it would arise again to-morrow at some other spot in the
neighbourhood. In the dawn of history powerful Ilion kept watch at the
entrance of the Dardanelles: it survives in the city on the Bosphorus;
and had there been no Byzantium, its mantle would have descended upon
some other town in the same locality.

We know the part played by ancient Greece in the history of human
culture. Macedonia and Thracia, the two other countries bordering upon
the Ægean, have played their part too. It was those provinces which,
after the invasion of the Persians, gave birth to the movement of
reaction which led the armies of Alexander to the Euphrates and Indus.
The power of the Romans survived there for a thousand years after Rome
itself had fallen, and the precious germs of civilisation, which at
a later period regenerated Western Europe, were nurtured there. It
is true, alas ! that the Turk has put a stop to every enterprise of
a civilising nature. These conquerors of Turanian race were carried
into the Balkan peninsula in the course of a general migration of
nations towards the west, which went on for three thousand years, and
was attended by perpetual broils. It is now five hundred years since
the Turks obtained a footing in the peninsula, and for more than four
hundred years they have been its masters, and during that long period
the old Roman empire of the East has been severed, as it were, from
the rest of Europe. The normal progress of these highly favoured
countries has been interrupted by incessant wars between Christians
and Mohammedans, by the decay of the nations conquered or enslaved by
the Turks, and by the heedless fatalism of the masters of the country.
But the time is approaching when that important portion of Europe will
resume the position due to it amongst the countries of the earth.

Vast tracts of the Balkan peninsula are hardly better known to us than
the wilds of Africa. Kanitz found rivers, hills, and mountains figuring
upon our maps which have no existence. Another traveller, Lejean,
found that a pretended low pass through the Balkans existed only in
the imagination. Russian geodesists engaged upon the measurement of an
arc of a meridian found that Sofia, one of the largest and best-known
cities of Turkey, had been inserted upon the best maps at a distance
of nearly a day’s journey from its true position. The entire chain of
the Balkans had to be shifted considerably to the south, in consequence
of explorations carried on within the last few years. Men of science
have hardly ventured yet to explore the plateaux of Albania or Mount
Pindus, and much remains yet to {89} be done before our knowledge of
the topography of the Balkan peninsula can be called even moderately
complete. The voyages and explorations of a host of travellers[24]
have, however, made known to us its general features and its geological
formations. Their task was by no means an easy one, for the mountain
masses and mountain chains of the peninsula do not constitute a
regular, well-defined system. There is no central range, with spurs
running out on both sides, and gradually decreasing in height as they
approach the plains. Nor is the centre of the peninsula its most
elevated portion, for the culminating summits are dispersed over the
country apparently without order. The mountain ranges run in all the
directions of the compass, and we can only say, in a general way, that
those of Western Turkey run parallel with the Adriatic and Ionian
coasts, whilst those in the east meet the coasts of the Black Sea and
the Ægean at right angles. The relief of the soil and the water-sheds
make it appear almost as if Turkey turned her back upon continental
Europe. Its highest mountains, its most extensive table-lands, and its
most inaccessible forests lie towards the west and north-west, as if
they were intended to cut it off from the shores of the Adriatic and
the plains of Hungary, whilst all its rivers, whether they run to the
north, east, or south, finally find their way into the Black Sea or the
Ægean, whose shores face those of Asia.

This irregularity in the distribution of the mountains has its
analogue in the distribution of the various races which inhabit the
peninsula. The invaders or peaceful colonists, whether they came
across the straits from Asia Minor, or along the valley of the Danube
from Scythia, soon found themselves scattered in numerous valleys, or
stopped by amphitheatres having no outlet. They failed to find their
way in this labyrinth of mountains, and members of the most diverse
races settled down in proximity to each other, and frequently came into
conflict. The most numerous, the most warlike, or the most industrious
races gradually extended their power at the expense of their
neighbours; and the latter, defeated in the struggle for existence,
have been scattered into innumerable fragments, between which there is
no longer any cohesion. Hungary has a homogeneous population, if we
compare it with that of Turkey; for in the latter country there are
districts where eight or ten different nationalities live side by side
within a radius of a few miles.

Time, however, has brought some order into this chaos, and commercial
intercourse has done much to assimilate these various races. Speaking
broadly, Turkey in Europe may now be said to be divided into four
great ethnological zones. The Greeks occupy Crete, the islands of
the Archipelago, the shores of the Ægean Sea, and the eastern slopes
of Mounts Pindus and Olympus; the Albanians hold the country between
the Adriatic and Mount Pindus; the Slavs, including Servians, Croats,
Bosnians, Herzegovinians, and Tsernagorans (Montenegrins), occupy
the Illyrian Alps, towards the north-west; whilst the slopes of the
Balkan, the Despoto Dagh, and the plains of Eastern Turkey belong to
the Bulgarians, who, as far as language goes, are Slavs likewise. As
to the Turks, the lords of the land, {90} they are to be met with in
most places, and particularly in the large towns and fortresses; but
the only portion of the country which they occupy to the exclusion of
other races is the north-eastern corner of the peninsula, bounded by
the Balkans, the Danube, and the Black Sea.


Crete, next to Cyprus, is the largest island inhabited by Greeks. It is
a natural dependency of Greece, but treaties made without consulting
the wishes of the people have handed it over to the Turks. It is Greek
in spite of this, not only because the majority of its inhabitants
consider it to be so, but also because of its soil, its climate, and
its geographical position. On all sides it is surrounded by deep seas,
except towards the north-west, where a submarine plateau joins it to
Cythera and the Peloponnesus.

There are few countries in the world more favoured by nature. Its
climate is mild, though sometimes too dry in summer; its soil fertile
in spite of the waters being swallowed up by the limestone rocks;
its harbours spacious and well sheltered; and its scenery exhibits
both grandeur and quiet beauty. The position of Crete, at the mouth
of the Archipelago, between Europe, Asia, and Africa, seems to have
destined that island to become the great commercial emporium of that
part of the world. Aristotle already observed this, and, if tradition
can be trusted, Crete actually held that position for more than three
thousand years. During that time it “ruled the waves;” the Cyclades
acknowledged the sway of Minos, its king; Cretan colonists established
themselves in Sicily; and Cretan vessels found their way to every part
of the Mediterranean. But the island unfortunately became divided into
innumerable small republics jealous of each other, and was therefore
unable to maintain this commercial supremacy in the face of Dorian and
other Greeks. At a subsequent period the Romans subjected the island,
and it never recovered its independence. Byzantines, Arabs, Venetians,
and Turks have held it in turn, and by each of them it has been laid
waste and impoverished.

The elongated shape of the island, and the range of mountains which
runs through it from one extremity to the other, enable us to
understand how it was that at a time when most Greeks looked upon
the walls of their cities as synonymous with the limits of their
fatherland, Crete became divided into a multitude of small republics,
and how every attempt at federation (“syncretism”) miserably failed.
The inhabitants, in fact, were more effectually separated from each
other than if they had inhabited a number of small islands forming an
archipelago. Most of the coast valleys are enclosed by high mountains,
the only easy access to them being from the sea, and communications
between the towns occupying their centres are possible only by crossing
difficult mountain paths easily defended. In all Crete there exists
but one plain deserving the name, viz. that of Messara, to the south
of the central mass of mountains. It is the granary of the island, and
the Ieropotamo, or “holy river,” which traverses it, has a little water
even in the middle of summer. {91}

The contour of Crete corresponds in a remarkable manner with the height
of its mountains. Where these are high, the island is broad; where
they sink down, it is narrow. In the centre of the island rises Mount
Ida (Psiloriti), where Jupiter was educated by the Corybantes, and
where his tomb was shown. Its lofty summit, covered with snow almost
throughout the year, its gigantic buttresses, and the verdant valleys
at its base render it one of the most imposing mountains in the world;
but it was still more magnificent in the time of the ancient Greeks,
when forests covered its slopes, and justified its being called Mount
Ida, or “the wooded.” On the summit of this mountain the whole island
lies spread out beneath our feet; the horizon towards the north, from
Mount Taygetus to the shores of Asia, is dotted with islands and
peninsulas; and in the south a wide expanse of water extends beyond the
barren and inhospitable island of Gaudo.

[Illustration: Fig. 28.—THE GORGE OF HAGIO RUMELI.]

The Leuca-Ori, or “White Mountains,” in the western extremity of the
island, are thus called on account of the snow which covers their
summits, or because {92} of their white limestone cliffs. They are
exceedingly steep, and perfectly bare, hardly any verdure being met
with even in the valleys at their foot. They are known, also, as the
Mountains of the Sphakiotes, the descendants of the ancient Dorians,
who have retired into their fastnesses, where they are protected by
nature against every attack. Some of their villages are accessible
only by following the stony bed of mountain torrents leaping down from
the heights in small cascades. During the rains the water rushes down
these ravines in mighty torrents. The “gates are closed” then, as it
is said. One of these gates, or _pharynghi_, is that of Hagio Rumeli,
on the southern slope of the Leuca-Ori. When rain threatens it is
dangerous to enter these gorges, for the waters rush down and carry
everything before them. During the war of independence the Turks vainly
endeavoured to force this “gate” of the strong mountain citadel. The
level pieces of ground on these heights are sufficiently extensive to
support a considerable population, if it were not for the cold. The
villages of Askyfo occupy one of these plains, which is surrounded on
all sides by an amphitheatre of mountains. In former times this cavity
was occupied by a lake. This is proved by ancient beaches and by other
evidence. But the waters of the lake found an outlet through some
katavothras (_khonos_, “sinks”) and discharged themselves into the sea.

The remaining mountains of the island are less elevated and far less
sterile than the White Mountains. The most remarkable amongst them
are the Lasithi, and, still farther west, those of Dicte, or Sitia, a
sort of pendant to the Mountains of the Sphakiotes. Raised sea-beaches
have been traced along their northern slopes, covered with shells of
living species, and they prove that that portion of the island has been
upheaved more than sixty feet during a recent geological epoch. The
northern coast, between the White Mountains and Mount Dicte, offers a
greater variety of contour than does the south coast. Its capes, or
_acroteria_, project far into the sea, and thence are gulfs, bays, and
secure anchorages. For these reasons most commercial cities have been
built upon that side of the island, which faces the Archipelago and
presents a picture of life, whilst the south coast, facing Africa, is
comparatively deserted. All the modern cities on the northern coasts
have been built upon the sites of ancient ones. Megalokastron, better
known by its Italian name of Candia, is the Heracleum of the ancients,
the famous haven of Cnossus. Retimo, on the western front of Mount
Ida, is easily identified with the ancient Rithymna; whilst Khanea
(Canea), whose white houses are almost confounded with the arid slopes
of the White Mountains, represents the Cydonia of the Greeks, famous
for its forests of quince-trees. Canea is the actual capital, and
although not the most populous, it is nevertheless the most important
and the busiest city of the island. It has a second haven to the
east, Azizirge, on Suda Bay, one of the best sheltered on the island,
and promises to become one of the principal maritime stations on the
Mediterranean.[25] {93}

Crete has certainly lost much in population and wealth, and the
epithet of the “isle of a hundred cities,” which it received from
the ancient Greeks, no longer applies to it. Miserable villages
occupy the sites of the ancient cities, their houses built from the
materials of a single ruined wall, whilst immense quarries had to be
opened in order to supply the building materials required in former
times. The famous “labyrinth” is one of the most considerable of these
ancient quarries. Crete, in spite of its great fertility, exports
merely a few agricultural products, and nothing now reminds us of the
fruitful island upon which Ceres gave birth to Plutus. The peasants
are the reputed owners of the land, but they take little heed of its
cultivation. Their olives yield only an inferior oil, and though
the wine they make is good in spite of them, it is no longer the
Malvoisie so highly prized by the Venetians. The cultivation of cotton,
tobacco, and of fruit of all sorts is neglected. The only progress in
agriculture which can be recorded during the present century consists
in the introduction of orange-trees, whose delicious fruit is highly
appreciated throughout the East. M. Georges Perrot has drawn attention
to the singular fact that, with the exception of the olive-trees
and the vine, the cultivated trees of the island are confined to
particular localities. Thus chestnuts are met with only at the western
extremity of the island; vigorous oaks and cypresses are confined to
the elevated valleys of the Sphakiotes; the valonia oaks are met with
only in the province of Retimo; Mount Dicte alone supports stone-pines
and carob-trees; and a promontory in South-eastern Crete, jutting out
towards Africa, is surmounted by a grove of date-trees—the finest
throughout the Archipelago.

[Illustration: Fig. 29.—CRETE, OR CANDIA.

Scale 1 : 2 470,000.

The district inhabited by Mohammedans is shaded vertically.]

The inhabitants of Crete and the neighbouring islets are still Greek,
in spite of successive invasions, and they still speak a Greek dialect,
recognised as a corrupted Dorian. The Slavs, who invaded the island
during the Middle Ages, have left no trace except the names of a few
villages. The Arabs and Venetians, too, have been assimilated by the
aboriginal Cretans; but there still exist a considerable {94} number
of Albanians, the descendants of soldiers, who have retained their
language and their customs. As to the Mohammedans or pretended Turks,
who constitute about one-fifth of the total population, they are, for
the most part, the descendants of Cretans who embraced Islamism in
order to escape persecution. They are the only Hellenes throughout the
East who have embraced, in a body, the religion of their conquerors;
but since religious persecution has subsided several of those
Mohammedan Greeks have returned to the religion of their ancestors. The
Greeks of Crete are thus not only vastly in the majority, but they hold
the first place also in industry, commerce, and wealth; it is they who
buy up the land, and the Mohammedan gradually retires before them. All
Cretans, with the exception of the Albanians, speak Greek, and only in
the capital and in a portion of Messara, where the Mohammedans live in
compact masses, has the Turkish language made any progress.

We need not be surprised, therefore, if the Greeks lay claim to a
country in which their preponderance is so marked. But, in spite of
their valour, they were no match against the Turkish and Egyptian
armies which were brought against them.

The Cretans are said to resemble their ancestors in the eagerness
with which they do business, and in their disregard of truth. They
may possibly be “Greeks amongst Greeks—liars amongst liars;” but
they certainly cannot be reproached with being bad patriots. On the
contrary, they have suffered much for the sake of their fatherland, and
during the war of independence their blood was shed in torrents on many
a battle-field. The vast cavern of Melidhoni, on the western slope of
Mount Ida, was the scene of one of the terrible events of this war. In
1822 more than three hundred Hellenes, most of them women, children,
and old men, had sought refuge in this cavern. The Turks lit a fire
at its mouth, and the smoke, penetrating to its farthest extremity,
suffocated the unfortunate beings who had hoped to find shelter there.

       *       *       *       *       *

The profound “Sea of Minos,” to the north of Crete, separates that
island from the Archipelago. All the islands of the latter have been
assigned to the kingdom of Greece—Astypalæa, vulgarly called Astropalæa
or Stampalia, alone excepted, which still belongs to the Turks. The
ancients called this island the “Table of the Gods,” although it is
only a barren rock. It clearly belongs to the eastern chain of the
Cyclades, as far as geological formation and the configuration of
the sea-bottom go; but the diplomats allowed its fifteen hundred
inhabitants to remain under the dominion of Turkey.

Amongst the other islands inhabited by Greeks, but belonging to
Turkey, Thasos is that which lies nearest to the coast of Europe.
The strait which separates it from Macedonia is hardly four miles
across, and in its centre there is an island (Thasopulo), as well as
several sand-banks, which interfere much with navigation. Though a
natural dependency of Macedonia, this island is governed by a mudir
of the Viceroy of Egypt, to whom the Porte made a present of it. When
Mohammed II. put an end to the Byzantine empire, Thasos and the {95}
neighbouring islands formed a principality, the property of the
Italian family of the Gateluzzi.

[Illustration: Fig. 30.—THE ÆGEAN SEA.

According to Robiquet. Scale, 1 : 5,170,000.

The map is shaded to express the depth of the sea. The palest tint
indicates a depth of less than 55 fathoms; the next tint a depth of 55
to 275 fathoms; the next a depth of 275 to 550 fathoms; and the darkest
tint a depth of over 550 fathoms.]

Thasos is one of those countries of the ancient world the present
condition of which contrasts most unfavourably with former times.
Thasos, an ancient Phœnician colony, was once the rival, and
subsequently the wealthy and powerful ally, of Athens: its hundred
thousand inhabitants worked the gold and iron mines of {96} the island;
they quarried its beautiful white marble; cultivated vineyards yielding
a famous wine; and extended their commercial expeditions to every part
of the Ægean Sea. But now there are neither mines nor quarries, the
vines yield only an inferior product, the agricultural produce hardly
suffices for the six thousand inhabitants of the island, and the
ancient haven of Thasos is frequented only by the tiniest of vessels.
The island has recovered very slowly from the blow inflicted upon it
by Mohammed II., who carried nearly the whole of its inhabitants to
Constantinople. Thasos after this became a haunt of pirates, and its
inhabitants sought shelter within the mountains of the interior. They
are Hellenes, but their dialect is very much mixed with Turkish words.
Unlike other Hellenes, they are not anxious to improve their minds.
They are degenerate Greeks, and they know it. “We are sheep and beasts
of burden,” they’ repeatedly told the French traveller, Perrot.

Thasos, however, is the only island of the Archipelago where wooded
mountains and verdant landscapes survive. Rains are abundant, and
its vegetation luxuriant. Running streams of water murmur in every
valley; large trees throw their shade over the hill-sides; the villages
near the foot of the mountain are hidden by cypresses, walnut, and
olive-trees; the valleys which radiate in all directions from the
centre of the island abound in planes, laurels, yoke-elms, and vigorous
oaks; and dark pine forests cover the higher slopes of the hills,
the glittering barren summits of Mount St. Elias and of other high
mountains alone rising above them.

Samothrace, though smaller than Thasos, is much more elevated. Its
mountains are composed of granite, schists, limestones, and trachyte,
and form a sort of pendant to Mount Athos, on the other side of the
Ægean Sea. If we approach Samothrace from the north or the south, it
presents the appearance of a huge coffin floating upon the waters;
from the east or west its profile resembles a pyramid rising from the
waves. From its summit Neptune watched the fight of the Greeks before
Troy. In the dark oak forests of the Black Mountains were carried on
the mysteries of Cybele and her Corybantes, as well as the Cabiric
worship, which was intimately connected with them, and Samothrace was
to the ancient Greeks what Mount Athos is to the moderns—a sacred land.
Numerous ruins and inscriptions remain to bear witness to the zeal of
devout travellers from all parts of the world. But with the downfall of
the heathen temples the pilgrims disappeared. There is only one village
on the island now. Its inhabitants lead a secluded life, and the only
strange faces they see are those of the sponge-fishers who frequent the
island during summer. The entire absence of harbours, and the dangerous
current which separates Samothrace from Imbro, keep off the mariner,
and though the valleys are extremely fertile, they have not hitherto
attracted a single immigrant from the neighbouring continent.

Imbro and Lemnos are separated from Samothrace by a deep sea, and
appear to continue the range of the Thracian Chersonesus. Imbro, which
is nearest to the continent, is the more elevated of the two islands,
but its St. Elias does not attain half the height of the mountains
of Samothrace. There are no forests {97} upon the slopes of this
mountain, the valleys are covered with stones, and hardly an eighth
of the surface of the island is capable of cultivation. Still, the
position of Imbro, close to the mouth of the Dardanelles and upon an
international ocean highway, will always secure to it a certain degree
of importance. The majority of the inhabitants live in a small valley
in the north-eastern portion of the island, and though the rivulet
which flows through this valley regularly dries up in summer, it is
nevertheless called emphatically the Megalos Potamos, or “big river.”

Lemnos, or Limni, is the largest island of Thracia, and at the same
time the least elevated and the most barren. You may walk for hours
there without seeing a tree. Even olive-trees are not met with in the
fields, and the village gardens can boast but of few fruit trees.
Timber has to be procured from Thasos or the continent. Lemnos, in
spite of all this, is exceedingly fertile; it produces barley and
other cereals in plenty, and the pastures amongst its hills sustain
40,000 sheep. The island consists of several distinct mountain groups
of volcanic origin, 1,200 to 1,500 feet in height, and separated by
low plains covered with scoriæ, or by gulfs penetrating far inland.
In the time of the ancient Greeks the volcanoes of Lemnos had not yet
quenched their fires, for it was in one of them that Vulcan, when
hurled from heaven, established his smithy, and, with the assistance of
the Cyclops, forged his thunderbolts for Jupiter. About the beginning
of our era Mount Mosychlos and the promontory of Chryse were swallowed
up by the sea, and the vast shoals which extend from the eastern part
of the island in the direction of Imbro probably mark their site.
Since the disappearance of Mount Mosychlos, Lemnos has not again
suffered from volcanic eruptions or earthquakes. The majority of the
inhabitants are Greeks, and the Turks who have settled amongst them
are being evicted by the conquered race, which is superior to them
in intelligence and industry. Commerce is entirely in the hands of
the Greeks. Its principal seat is at Kastro—the ancient Myrhina—which
occupies a headland between two roadsteads. Sealed earth is one of the
articles exported, and is found in the mountains. In ancient times it
was much prized as an astringent, and is so still throughout the East.
It is not considered to possess its healing qualities unless it has
been collected before sunrise on Corpus Christi day.

The small island of Stratio (Hagios Eustrathios) depends politically
and commercially upon Lemnos. It, too, is inhabited by Greeks. As to
the islands along the coast of Asia Minor, they form a portion of
Turkey in Europe as far as their political administration is concerned,
but geographically they belong to Asia.[26] {98}


The whole of the Ægean seaboard of European Turkey is occupied
by Greeks, and this proves the great influence which the sea has
exercised upon the migrations of the Mediterranean nations. Thessaly,
Macedonia, Chalcis, and Thrace are more or less Greek countries, and
even Constantinople lies within Greece, as defined by ethnological
boundaries. The geographical distribution of race there does not, in
fact, coincide with the physical features of the country—its mountains,
rivers, and climate. The Turkey of the Greeks is, in reality, no
geographical unit, and the only tie which unites it are the waters of
the Archipelago, which wash all its shores.

Nowhere else does the Balkan peninsula exhibit such varied features
as on the shores of the Ægean Sea, and of the adjoining basin of the
Sea of Marmara. Bluffs, hills, and mountain masses rise abruptly from
the plain; arms of the sea extend far inland; and ramified peninsulas
project into the deep waters of the ocean. It appears almost as if
nature were making an effort to create an archipelago similar to that
in the south.

The tongue of land upon which Constantinople has been built offers a
remarkable example of the features which characterize the coast lands
of this portion of Europe. Geologically the whole of this peninsula
belongs to Asia. Its hollow hills are separated from the granitic
mountains of Europe by a wide plain covered with recent formations,
and the wall of Athanasius, now in ruins, which was built as a defence
to the city, approximately marks the true boundary between Europe and
Asia. The rocks on both sides of the Bosphorus belong to the Devonian
formation. They contain the same fossils, exhibit the same outward
aspects, and date from the same epoch. A patch of volcanic rocks at
the northern entrance to the Bosphorus likewise exhibits the same
characteristics on both sides of the strait, and there cannot be the
least doubt that this European peninsula at a former epoch constituted
a portion of Asia Minor, but was severed from it by an irruption of the



Apollo himself, it is said, pointed out the site where to build the
city which is now known as Constantinople, and no better could have
been found. In fact, the city occupies the most favoured spot on the
Bosphorus. It stands on a peninsula of gently undulating hills, bounded
by the Sea of Marmara and by the curved inlet called, from its shape,
its beauty, and the valuable cargoes floating upon its waters, the
“Golden Horn.” The swift current of the Bosphorus penetrates into
this inlet, and sweeps it clean of all the refuse of the city. It
then passes into the open sea at the extreme angle of the peninsula,
and sailing vessels are thus able to reach their anchorage without
having to struggle against a contrary current. This haven not only
affords a secure anchorage to a multitude of vessels, but it likewise
abounds in fish; for, in spite of the constant agitation of its waters
by the oars of caiques and the paddles or screws of steamers, it is
visited annually by shoals of tunnies and other fish. The haven of
Constantinople, though easy of access to peaceable merchantmen, can
readily be {99} closed in case of war. The surrounding heights
command every approach to it, and a chain has more than once been drawn
across the narrow entrance to its roadstead when the city was besieged.
The latter, too, can be defended easily, for it is built upon hills,
bounded on the land side by an extensive plain. An assailant, to insure
success, must dispose not only of an army, but also of a powerful navy.
In addition to all these natural advantages of its site, Constantinople
is in the enjoyment of a climate far superior to that of the cities of
the Black Sea, for it is screened by hills from cold northerly winds.


According to F. von Hochstetter. Scale 1 : 1,370,000.]

In the dawn of history, when migration and commerce marched only at a
slow pace, a site as favoured as that of Byzantium was capable only
of attracting the dwellers in its immediate neighbourhood. But after
commerce had become developed, the blind alone—so said the oracle of
Apollo—could fail to appreciate the great advantages held out by the
Golden Horn. Indeed, Constantinople lies not only on the ocean highway
which connects the world of the Mediterranean with the Black Sea, but
also on the high-road which leads from Asia into Europe. Geographically
it may be described as occupying a position at {100} the mouths of the
Danube, Dniester, Dnieper, Don, Rion, and Kizil Irmak, whose common
outlet is the Bosphorus. When Constantine the Great constituted it
the metropolis of the Roman empire, it grew rapidly in population and
wealth; it soon became the city of cities; and its Turkish appellation,
Stamboul, is nothing but a corruption of the expression _es tam polin_,
used by the inhabitants to denote their going _into the city_. Amongst
the distant tribes of Asia it represents Rome. They know it by no other
name than that of “Rum,” and the country of which it is the capital
they call “Rumelia.”

Constantinople is one of the most beautiful cities in the world: it
is the “paradisiacal city” of Eastern nations. It may compare with
Naples or Rio de Janeiro, and many travellers accord it the palm. As
we approach the entrance of the Golden Horn, seated in a caique more
graceful than the gondolas of Venice, the vast and varied panorama
around us changes with every stroke of the oars. Beyond the white walls
of the Seraglio and its masses of verdure rise here, amphitheatrically
on the seven hills of the peninsula, the houses of Stamboul—its towers,
the vast domes of its mosques, with their circlets of smaller domes,
and its elegant minarets, with their balconies. On the other side of
the haven, which is crossed by bridges of boats, there are more mosques
and towers, seen through a forest of masts and rigging, and covering
the slope of a hill whose summit is crowned by regularly built houses
and the palatial residences of Pera. On the north vast villa-cities
extend along both shores of the Bosphorus. Towards the east, on a
promontory of Asia, there is still another city, cradled amidst gardens
and trees. This is Scutari, the Asiatic suburb of Constantinople, with
its pink houses and vast cemetery shaded by beautiful cypress groves.
Farther in the distance we perceive Kadi-koei, the ancient Chalcedon,
and the small town of Prinkipo, on one of the Princes’ Islands, whose
yellow rocks and verdant groves are reflected in the blue waters of the
Sea of Marmara. The sheet of water connecting these various portions of
the huge city is alive with vessels and boats, whose movements impart
animation to the magnificent picture. The prospect from the heights
above the town is still more magnificent. The coasts of Europe and
Asia are beneath our feet, the eye can trace the sinuosities of the
Bosphorus, and far away in the distance looms the snow-capped pyramidal
summit of Mount Olympus, in Bithynia.

But this enchantment vanishes as soon as we penetrate into the streets
of Constantinople. There are many parts of the town with narrow and
filthy streets, which a stranger hesitates to enter. It is, perhaps,
a blessing, from a sanitary point of view, that conflagrations so
frequently lay waste and scour large portions of the city. Scarcely a
night passes without the watchman on the tower of the Seraskieriate
giving the alarm of fire, and thousands of houses are devoured by that
element every year. The city thus renews itself by degrees. It rises
from its ashes purified by the flames. But formerly, before the Turks
had built their city of stone on the heights of Pera, the quarters
destroyed by fire were rebuilt as wretchedly as they were before. It
is different now. The use of stone has become more general; wooden
structures are being replaced by houses built {101} of a fossiliferous
white limestone, which is quarried at the very gates of the city; and
free use is made of the blue and grey marbles of Marmara, and of the
flesh-coloured ones of the Gulf of Cyzica, in Asia Minor, in decorating
the palaces of the great.

Nearly every vestige of the monuments of ancient Byzantium has been
swept away by fires or sieges. There only exists now the precious
tripod of bronze, with its three serpents, which the Platæans had
placed in the temple of Delphi in commemoration of their victory over
the Persians. The relics of the epoch of the Byzantine emperors are
limited to columns, obelisks, arches of aqueducts, the breached walls
of the city, the remains of the palace of Justinian, only discovered
recently, and the two churches of Santa Sophia, which have been
converted into mosques. The grand church of Santa Sophia, close to the
Seraglio, is no longer the most magnificent edifice in the universe,
as it was in the time of Justinian, for even the neighbouring mosque
of Sultan Ahmed far exceeds it in beauty and elegance. It is a clumsy
building, supported by buttresses added at various times to keep it
from falling. The character of the interior has been changed by the
Turks, who have introduced additional pillars, and the once bright
mosaics have been covered over; but the dome never fails to strike the
beholder: it is a marvel of strength and lightness.

The Seraglio, or Serai, near Garden Point, may boast of fine pavilions
and shady walks, but the dark memories of crime will always cling to
it. The spot from which sacks containing the bodies of living sultanas
or odalisks were hurled into the dark waters of the Bosphorus is still
pointed out to the traveller. Far more attractive than this ancient
residence of the sultans are the marvellous structures in the Arab or
Persian style which line the shores of the Bosphorus, and which impart
to the suburbs of Constantinople an aspect of oriental splendour.

The bazaars are amongst the most curious places in the city, not so
much because of the rich merchandise which is displayed in them, but
because they are frequented by a variety of nations such as cannot be
met with in any other city of the world. The capital of the Ottoman
empire is a centre of attraction not only to the inhabitants of the
Balkan peninsula, but also to those of Anatolia, Syria, Arabia, Egypt,
Tunis, and even of the oases. There are “Franks” from every country
of Europe, drawn thither by a desire to share in the profits of the
ever-increasing commerce of the Bosphorus. This mixture of races is
rendered still greater by the surreptitious importation of slaves;
for, whatever diplomatists may assert, there can be no doubt that the
“honourable guild of slave-dealers” still does an excellent business in
negresses, Circassians, and white and black eunuchs. Nor is anything
else to be expected amongst a people who look upon a well-stocked
harem as a sign of respectability. Dr. Millingen estimates the number
of slaves at Constantinople at 30,000 souls, most of whom have been
imported from Africa. From an anthropological point of view it is
certainly very remarkable that the negro should not have taken root in
Constantinople. In the course of the last four centuries a million of
negroes at least have been imported, and yet, owing to difficulties
of acclimation, ill-usage, and want, they would die out but for fresh
importations. {102}

Our statistics do not enable us to classify the 600,000 inhabitants
of Constantinople and its suburbs according to race.[27] One of the
principal sources of error in estimates of this kind consists in our
confounding Mussulmans with Turks. In the provinces it is generally
possible to avoid this error, for Bosnians, Bulgarians, and Albanians
recognise each other as members of the same race, whatever religious
differences may exist between them. But in the turmoil of a great
city this distinction is no longer made, and, in the end, all those
who frequent the mosques are lumped together as if they were members
of the same race. Of the supposed Osmanli of Constantinople a third,
perhaps, consists of Turks, whilst the remaining two-thirds are made
up of Arnauts, Bulgarians, Asiatics, and Africans of various races.
Amongst the boatmen there are many Lesghians from the Caucasus. The
Mohammedans, if not in the minority already, will be so very soon,
for they lose ground almost visibly. In old Stamboul, in which a
Frank hardly dared to enter some twenty years ago, they still enjoy a
numerical preponderance, but in the “agglomeration of cities” known
as Constantinople, and extending from Prinkipo to Therapia, they are
outnumbered by Greeks, Armenians, and Franks, and certain quarters of
the town have been given up to the Christians altogether.

The Greeks are the most influential, and perhaps most numerous, element
amongst the rayas. Their head-quarters, like those of the Turks, are
at Stamboul, where they occupy a quarter of the town called Phanar,
from an old lighthouse. The Greek patriarch and the wealthiest Greek
families reside there. These Phanariotes, in former times, almost
monopolized the government of the Christian provinces of Turkey,
but they fell into disfavour after the Greek war of liberation. The
religious influence, too, which they exercised until quite recently,
has been destroyed in consequence of the separation of the Servian,
Rumanian, and Bulgarian Churches from the orthodox Greek Church—a
separation brought about almost entirely through the rapacity of the
Greek patriarch and his satellites. If the Greeks would continue to
preserve their pre-eminence amongst the races of Constantinople, they
must trust, in the future, to their superior intelligence, their
commercial habits, education, patriotism, and unanimity. To the Turks
the members of the orthodox Church are known as the “Roman nation,” and
they enjoy a certain amount of self-government, exercised through their
bishops, which extends to marriages, schools, hospitals, and a few
other matters.

The “nation” of the Armenians is likewise very strong at
Constantinople, and, like that of the “Romans,” it governs itself
through an elective Executive Council. Much of the commerce of
Constantinople passes through the hands of Armenians, who, though they
came to that city almost simultaneously with the Turks, have down to
the present day preserved their peculiar manners. They are cold and
reserved, and full of self-respect, differing widely from their rivals
in trade, the Jews, who slink furtively to their poor suburb of Balata,
at the upper {103} extremity of the Golden Horn. The Armenians are
clannish in the extreme, they readily assist each other, and, like
the Parsees of Bombay, delight in acts of munificence. But, unlike
the Greeks, they are not sustained in their undertakings by an ardent
belief in the destinies of their race. Most of them are not even able
to speak their native language freely, and prefer to converse in
Turkish or Greek.

The Franks are much inferior in number to either of the races named,
but their influence is nevertheless far more decisive. It is through
them that Constantinople is attached to the civilisation of Western
Europe, and their institutions are by degrees getting the better of the
fatalism of the East. It is they who built the manufacturing suburbs
to the west of Constantinople and near Scutari, and who introduced
railways. Every civilised nation of the world is represented amongst
them—Italians and French most numerously; and to the Americans is due
the credit of having established the first geological museum in Turkey,
in connection with Robert Colleg.

Constantinople, owing to the influx of strangers, is steadily
increasing in population, and one by one the villages in its vicinity
are being swallowed up by the city. The whole of the Golden Horn is
surrounded by houses now, and they extend far up the valleys of the
Cydaris and Barbyzes, which fall into it. Industrial establishments
extend along the shores of the Sea of Marmara, from the ancient fort of
the Seven Towers far to the west, and from Chalcedon to the south-east,
in the direction of the Gulf of Nicomedia. Both banks of the Bosphorus
are lined with villas, palaces, kiosks, cafés, and hotels. This
remarkable channel extends for nineteen miles between the shores of
Europe and of Asia.[28] Like a huge mountain valley it winds between
steep promontories, now contracting and then expanding, until it
finally opens out into the vast expanse of the Black Sea. When northern
winds hurl the agitated waters of the latter against the sombre cliffs
which guard the entrance to the Bosphorus, the contrast between this
savage sea and the placid waters of the strait and its charming scenery
is striking indeed. At every turn we are arrested by unexpected charms.
Rocks, palaces, woods, vessels of every description, and the curious
scaffoldings of Bulgarian fishermen succeed each other in infinite

Amongst the innumerable country residences which nestle on the shores
of the Bosphorus, those of Balta-Liman, Therapia, and Buyukdere are the
best known, for they have been the scenes of historical events; but
there is no spot throughout this marine valley which does not excite
admiration. These marvels of nature will, before long, have added to
them a marvel of human ingenuity. The width of the channel between the
castles of Rumili and Anadoli is only 600 yards. It was here Mandroclus
of Samos constructed the bridge of boats across which Darius marched
his army of 700,000 men when he made war upon the Scythians, and on
this identical spot it is proposed now to construct a railway bridge
which will join the railways of Europe to those of Asia. A current
runs through the Bosphorus, from the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara,
at a rate of from two to six miles an hour; and although several
geographers conclude from this that the level {104} of the former is
higher than that of the latter, this must by no means be looked upon as
an established fact. We have already noticed the exchange between the
waters of the Mediterranean and of the open Atlantic, which takes place
through the Strait of Gibraltar. A similar exchange is going on here,
and the outflowing surface current is compensated for by an inflowing

The outlying houses and villas of Constantinople extend northwards
along the Bosphorus as far as the two Genoese castles of Rumili-kavak
and Anadoli-kavak. This extension coincides with the geological
features of the ground, for no sooner have we turned our backs upon the
houses than we find ourselves shut in between cliffs of dolerite and
porphyry, which extend as far as the Black Sea, where they terminate in
the precipices of the Cyaneæ, or Symplegades, the famous rocks which
opened and shut, crushing the vessels that ventured to pass through the
strait, until Minerva fixed them for ever. These volcanic rocks are
barren, but the Devonian strata to the south of them are beautifully
wooded. The Turks, unlike the Spaniards and other Southern nations,
love and respect nature; plane-trees, cypresses, and pines still shade
the shores of the Bosphorus; and the vast forest of Belgrade covers
the hills to the east of Constantinople, from which the city draws
its supply of water. Birds, too, are better protected than in many a
Christian land. The plaintive cooing of doves is heard wherever we
turn, flights of swallows and aquatic birds skim over the surface of
the Bosphorus, and now and then we encounter a grave stork perched upon
the top of a tree or of a minaret.

The whole aspect of the place is southerly, yet the climate of
Constantinople has its rigour. The cold winds of the steppes of Russia
freely penetrate through the strait, and the thermometer has been known
to fall four degrees below zero in the winter. The neighbouring sea
renders the climate more equable than it would otherwise be; but as
the winds, from whatever direction they blow, meet with no obstacle,
sudden changes of temperature are frequent. The average temperature
varies very considerably in different years. Sometimes it sinks to the
level of that of Pekin or Baltimore, at others it is as high as that
of Toulon or of Nice. In exceptional cases the Bosphorus has become
covered with ice, but thaws always set in rapidly, and then may be
witnessed the magnificent spectacle of masses of ice striking against
the walls of the Seraglio, and floating away across the Sea of Marmara.
In A.D. 762 these masses of ice were so stupendous that they became
wedged in the Dardanelles, and the tepid waters of the Ægean Sea then
assumed the aspect of a bay of the Arctic Ocean.

       *       *       *       *       *

The geological features of the coast region of the Sea of Marmara
differ essentially from those of the rest of Turkey. Low ranges of
hills rise close to the coast, increasing in height towards the west,
until they attain an elevation of 2,930 feet in the Tekir Dagh, or
“holy mountains,” the grey slopes of which, covered here and there with
patches of shrubs or pasturage, are visible from afar.

A narrow neck of land joins the peninsula of Gallipoli—the Thracian
{105} Chersonesus of the ancients—to this coast range. This peninsula
is composed of quaternary rocks, which differ in no respect from
those met with on the shore of Asia opposite. Anciently a huge
fresh-water lake covered a portion of Thracia and more than half
the area now occupied by the Ægean Sea. When the land first emerged
above the waters, the Chersonesus formed an integral portion of Asia.
Subsequently the waters of the Black Sea, which had forced themselves
a passage through the Bosphorus, likewise found their way through the
Hellespont into the Ægean Sea. The geological formation of the country
and the configuration of the sea-bottom prove this to have been the
case, and this irruption of the waters was attended, probably, by
volcanic eruptions, traces of which still exist on the islands of the
Sea of Marmara and near the mouth of the Maritza, the former to the
east, the latter to the west of the peninsula.


Scale 1 : 1,220,000.

The dark shading expresses a depth exceeding 55 fathoms.]

If the statements of Pliny and Strabo may be relied upon, the
Hellespont must have been much narrower in former times than it is
now. At Abydos—the modern Naghara—the width is said to have amounted
to seven stadia, or less than a mile, anciently, whilst at the present
time it is 6,500 feet. It was here Xerxes constructed his double bridge
of boats. The strait is deep at that spot, and its current strong, but
no wooden ship could hope to force a passage if covered by the guns
in the batteries on both coasts. The Hellespont, like the Bosphorus,
has two {106} currents flowing through it. In winter, when the rivers
which flow into the Black Sea are frozen up, and the Sea of Marmara
is no longer fed by the waters of the Bosphorus, a highly saline
under-current penetrates from the Ægean Sea into the Dardanelles,
whilst a feebler current of comparatively fresh water flows in a
contrary direction on the surface.[29]

Gallipoli, the Constantinople of the Hellespont, stands near the
western extremity of the Sea of Marmara. It is the first city which the
Turks captured upon the soil of Europe; but though they settled down
there nearly a hundred years earlier than they did at Constantinople,
they are no more in the majority here than they are in the capital.
Gallipoli, like Rodosto and other towns on the Sea of Marmara, is
inhabited by Mohammedans of various races, by Greeks, Armenians, and
Jews, forming separate communities dwelling within the walls of the
same town. The country population consists almost exclusively of
Greeks, who are the proprietors and cultivators of the land; and in
sight of the coasts of Asia, and within that portion of the Balkan
peninsula which has been longest under the rule of the Turk, the Greek
is stronger numerically than anywhere else to the north of Mount
Pindus. He does not there confine himself to the coast, and, if we
except a few Bulgarian villages and the larger towns, the whole of
Eastern Thracia belongs to him.

The lowlands of this region form a vast triangular plain, bounded by
the Tekir Dagh and the coast range on the south, by offshoots from the
Rhodope on the west, and by the granitic mountains of Stranja on the
east. This is one of the dreariest districts of all Turkey. Swampy
depressions and untilled land recall the steppes of Russia; and in
summer, when the wind raises clouds of dust, we can imagine ourselves
in the midst of a desert. The dreary monotony of this plain is relieved
only by the pale contours of distant mountains, and by innumerable
artificial mounds of unknown origin. So numerous are these tumuli that
they form an essential feature of the landscape, and no artist could
convey a just idea of it without introducing into his picture one or
more of them.

Near the northern extremity of this unattractive plain, at the
confluence of Maritza and Tunja, lies the city of Adrianople, enveloped
in trees, whose sight delights the eye of the weary traveller.
Adrianople, in reality, consists of a number of villages, separated
from each other by orchards, poplars, and cypresses, above which peep
out the minarets of some hundred and fifty mosques. The sparkling
waters of the Maritza and Tunja, of rivulets and of aqueducts, lend
animation to the picture, and render Adrianople one of the most
delightful places. But it is more than this. It is the great centre of
population in the interior of Turkey, and its favourable geographical
position has always secured to the city a certain amount of importance.
The ancient city of Orestis, the capital of the Kings of Thracia,
stood on this site, and was succeeded by the Hadrianopolis of the
Romans, which the Turks changed into Edirneh, and made their capital
until Constantinople fell into their power. The old palace of the
Sultan, built in the {107} Persian style towards the close of the
fourteenth century, still remains, though in a dilapidated condition.
But here, likewise, the Osmanli are in the minority. The Greeks are
their equals in numbers, and far surpass them in intelligence, whilst
the Bulgarians, too, muster strongly, and, as in other towns of the
East, we meet with a strange mixture of races, from Persian merchants
down to gipsy musicians. The Jews are proportionately more numerous in
Adrianople than in any other town of Turkey, and, strange to relate,
they differ from their co-religionists in every other part of the world
by a lack of smartness in business transactions. A local proverb says
that “it requires _ten_ Jews to hold their own against _one_ Greek;”
and not Greeks alone, for Wallachians, and even Bulgarians, are able to
impose upon the poor Israelite at Adrianople.

The communications between Adrianople and Midea, the ancient Greek
colony, famous for its subterranean temples, and with other cities
on the Black Sea, are difficult. Its natural outlets are towards the
south—on the one hand to Rodosto, on the Sea of Marmara; on the other,
down the Maritza valley to the Gulf of Saros. The railway follows the
latter, and the Rumelian Railway Company has constructed an artificial
harbour at Dede Aghach, enabling merchantmen to lie alongside a pier.
The allurements of commerce, however, have not hitherto induced the
inhabitants of Enos to exchange their walled and turreted acropolis for
the marshy tract on the Lower Maritza, with its deadly atmosphere.

The zone occupied by the Greeks grows narrower as we go west of the
Maritza, where the Rhodope Mountains form a kind of international
barrier. Only the coast is occupied there by Greek mariners and
fishermen, whilst the hills in sight of it are held almost exclusively
by Turkish and Bulgarian peasants and herdsmen. The marshy littoral
districts, the small valleys on the southern slopes of the mountains,
and a few isolated hills of volcanic or crystalline formation
constitute a narrow band which connects the Greeks of Thracia
with their compatriots of Chalcidice and Thessaly. The Yuruks, or
“Wanderers,” a Turkish tribe which has retained its nomadic habits
down to the present day, sometimes even extend their excursions to the
sea-coast. Their principal seat is in the Pilav Tepe, a mountain mass
to the north-west of Thasos, famous in the time of the Macedonian kings
for its mines of gold and silver. A wide plain extends immediately to
the west of these mountains, watered by the Strymon, or Karasu, and
is of marvellous fertility. Seres, a considerable city, occupies its
centre, and hundreds of villages, surrounded by orchards, rice, and
cotton fields are scattered over it. Looked at from the heights of
the Rhodope, this plain assumes the appearance of a huge garden-city.
Unfortunately many parts of it are very insalubrious.

The triple peninsula of Chalcidice has no connection whatever with
the Rhodope, and is attached to the mainland by an isthmus covered
with lakes, swamps, and alluvial plains. It extends far into the sea
like a huge hand spread out upon the waters. Chalcidice is a Greece
in miniature, with coasts of fantastic contours, deep bays, bold
promontories, and mountains rising in the midst of plains, like islands
in an archipelago. One of these mountain masses rises in the trunk of
the peninsula, and culminates in Mount Kortach, whilst each of its
three {108} ramifications possesses its own system of scarped hills.
Greek in aspect, this curious appendage to the continent is Greek, too,
in its population; and, a rare thing in Turkey, all its inhabitants are
of the same race, if we except the Turks in the town of Nisvoro and the
Slav monks of Mount Athos.

[Illustration: Fig. 33.—THE PENINSULA OF MOUNT ATHOS.

Scale 1 : 1,020,000.]

The easternmost of the three tongues of land of Chalcidice, which jut
out far into the waters of the Ægean, is almost entirely detached. Only
a low and narrow neck of land connects it with the mainland, and it
was across this isthmus that Xerxes dug a canal, 3,950 feet in length,
either to enable his fleet to avoid the dangerous promontory of Mount
Athos, or to give the awe-struck inhabitants a proof of his power. This
is the peninsula of Hagion Oros, the Monte Santo of the Italians. At
its extremity rises a limestone mountain, one of the most beautiful
in the Eastern Mediterranean. This is the famous Mount Athos, which
an ancient sculptor proposed to convert into a statue of Alexander,
holding a city in one hand and a spring in the other, and which Eastern
legends point out as the “exceeding high mountain” to which the devil
took Jesus, to show him “all the kingdoms of the world.” But whatever
old legends may say, the panorama is not as vast as this, though the
shores of Chalcidice, Macedonia, and Thracia lie spread out beneath our
feet, and the eye can range across the blue waters of the Ægean Sea
from Mount Olympus, in Thessaly, to Mount Ida, in Asia Minor. The bold
outlines of the fortified monasteries which appear here and there, in
the midst of chestnuts, oaks, or pines, on the slope of the mountain,
contrast most happily with the faint outline of the coasts on the
distant horizon.[30]

This peninsula, which a traveller has compared to a sphinx crouching
upon the bosom of the sea, is the property of a republic of monks,
who govern {109} themselves according to their own fancy. In return
for a tribute, which they pay to the Porte, they alone have the right
to live there, and strangers require their permission before they are
allowed to enter. A company of Christian soldiers is stationed at the
neck of the peninsula to prevent the sacred soil being desecrated
by the footsteps of a woman. Even the Turkish governor cannot gain
admittance without leaving his harem behind him. For fourteen hundred
years, we are told in the chronicles of Mount Athos, no female has
set foot upon this sacred soil, and this prohibition extends to
animals as well as to human beings. Even the presence of poultry would
profane the monasteries, and the eggs eaten by the monks are imported
from Lemnos. With the exception of a few purveyors, who reside at
the village of Karyes, the 6,000 inhabitants of the peninsula are
monks, or their servants, and they live in the monasteries, or in the
hermitages attached to the 935 churches and chapels. Nearly all the
monks are Greeks, but amongst the twenty large monasteries there are
two which were built by the ancient sovereigns of Servia, and one which
was founded by Russia. Most of these edifices occupy promontories,
and, with their high walls and strong towers, they are exceedingly
picturesque. One amongst them, that of Simopetra, appears to be almost
inaccessible. It is in these retreats the good fathers of the order of
St. Basil spend their lives in contemplative inaction. They are bound
to pray eight hours in the day and two in the night, and during the
whole of that time they are not allowed to sit. They have, therefore,
neither time nor strength for study or manual labour. The books in
their libraries are incomprehensible mysteries to them, and, in spite
of their sobriety, they might die of starvation if there were not
lay-brothers to work for them, and numerous farms on the mainland which
are their property. A few shiploads of hazel nuts is all this fertile
peninsula produces.

The ancient cities of Olynthus and Potidæa, on the neck of the western
peninsula of Chalcidice, have dwindled down into insignificant
villages; but the city of Therma, called afterwards Thessalonica, and
now known as Saloniki, still exists, for its geographical position is
most favourable, and after every siege and every conflagration it again
rose from its ashes. Vestiges of every epoch of history may still be
seen there: Cyclopean and Hellenic walls, triumphal arches, and remains
of Roman temples, Byzantine structures, and Venetian castles. Its
harbour is excellent, its roadstead well sheltered; and the high-roads
into Upper Macedonia and Epirus lead from it along the valleys of
the Vardar and Inje Karasu. These favourable circumstances have not
been without their influence, and Saloniki, next to Constantinople
and Adrianople, is the most important city of European Turkey. Its
population is mixed, like that of other cities in the East, and Jews
are exceptionally numerous. Most of them are the descendants of Spanish
Jews, expelled by the Inquisition, and they still talk Spanish. Many
have outwardly embraced Mohammedanism to escape persecution, but the
true Mussulman spurns these converts with disdain. They are generally
known as “Mamins.”

The commerce of Saloniki is important even now, but greater things
are {110} expected of the future. Like Marseilles, Trieste, and
Brindisi, Saloniki aspires to become a connecting link in the trade
between England and the East. It actually lies on the most direct
road between the Channel and the Suez Canal, and once connected by
railways with the rest of Europe, it is sure to take a large share
in the world’s commerce. This emporium of Macedonia is interesting,
too, from an ethnological point of view, for, with the exception of
Burgaz, on the Black Sea, it is the only place where the Bulgarians,
the most numerous race of European Turkey, have reached the sea-coast.
Everywhere else they are cut off from it by alien races, but Saloniki
brings them into direct contact with the remainder of Europe. Saloniki,
however, not only suffers from bad government, but also from the
marshes which surround it, and in summer many of its inhabitants flock
to the healthier town of Kalameria, to the west. Miasmatic swamps
unfortunately occupy a large portion of the northern coast of the
Ægean, and they separate the interior of Macedonia more effectively
from the coast than do its mountains. There is hardly any commerce
except at Saloniki.

[Illustration: Fig. 34.—MOUNT OLYMPUS.]

       *       *       *       *       *

On the western shores of the Gulf of Saloniki, beyond the ever-changing
mouths of the Vardar and the briny waters of the Inje Karasu, or
Haliacmon, the land gradually rises. Hills are succeeded by mountains,
until bold precipices {111} approach close to the coast, and summit
rises beyond summit, up to the triple peak of Mount Olympus. Amongst
the many mountains which have borne this name, this is the highest and
the most beautiful, and the Greeks placed upon it the court of Jupiter
and the residence of the gods. It was in the plains of Thessaly, in the
shadow of this famous mountain, that the Greeks lived in the springtide
of their history, and their most cherished traditions attach themselves
to this beautiful country. The mountains which had sheltered the cradle
of their race remained to them for ever afterwards the seat of their
protecting deities. But Jupiter, Bacchus, and the other great gods of
antiquity have disappeared now, and monasteries have been built in the
woods which witnessed the revels of the Bacchantes.


Until recently the upper valleys of Mount Olympus were inhabited only
by monks, and by klephtes, or bandits, who sought shelter there from
the Arnaut soldiers sent in their pursuit. The mountain, in fact,
constitutes a world apart, surrounded on all sides by formidable
declivities. Forty-two peaks form the battlements of this mountain
citadel, fifty-two springs rise within it, and the bold klepht is
secure within its fastnesses from the abhorred Turk. Magnificent
forests of laurel-trees, planes, and oaks cover its lower maritime
slopes, and in times of trouble they have served as a refuge to entire
populations. But Italian {112} speculators have purchased these
forests, and the time is not, perhaps, very distant when Mount Olympus,
deprived of its verdure, will be reduced to a barren mass of rock,
like most of the mountains of the Archipelago. Wild cats abound on the
lower slopes of Olympus, chamois still climb its rugged pinnacles, but
bears are no longer met with: St. Denys, who dwelt upon the mountain,
required beasts to ride upon, and changed them into horses !

Xenagoras, an ancient geometrician, was the first to measure the height
of Mount Olympus, but his result, 6,200 feet, is far from the truth,
for the highest summit attains an elevation of 9,750 feet.[31] It
may possibly be the culminating point of the Balkan peninsula. Snow
remains in some of its crevices throughout the year, and no human
being hitherto appears to have succeeded in ascending its highest
pinnacle. According to the Greek legend, even Pelion heaped upon Ossa
did not enable the Titans to reach the abode of the gods, and, in
reality, the combined height of these two mountains hardly exceeds
that of Olympus. But, in spite of this inferior height, “pointed”
Ossa and “long-stretched” Pelion, known to us moderns as Kisovo and
Zagora, impress the beholder, because of their savage valleys, their
precipitous walls of rock, and cliffy promontories.

These mountains continue southward through the hook-shaped peninsula
of Magnesia, and terminate opposite the island of Eubœa. They formed
a strong bulwark of defence in the time of ancient Greece. The hordes
of the barbarians stopped in front of this insurmountable barrier.
They were compelled to seek a practicable road to the west of it,
through the valley of the Peneus, which is rightly looked upon as the
natural frontier of Hellas. Hence the great strategical importance
of Pharsalus, in Southern Thessaly, which protects the gorges of the
Othrys and the only access to the plains of the Sperchius. The pass of
Petra, at the northern extremity of Olympus, was carefully guarded for
similar reasons.

A large portion of the area bounded by the crystalline rocks of
Olympus and Ossa, and by the cretaceous range of the Pindus, running
parallel with the former, consists of plains originally covered by
vast lakes. The Gulf of Volo approaches close to the shrunken remains
of one of these lakes—that of Karla, or Bœbeis—into which the waters
of the swampy plain of Larissa discharge themselves. The dwellers on
the shores of this lake say that a dull rumbling noise may now and
then be heard at its bottom, which they ascribe to the bellowing of
some invisible animal, but which is more probably the gurgling sound
of the water penetrating into a sink-hole. Other lake basins are met
with at the foot of Olympus towards the west and north-west, and some
of the valleys of the upper tributaries of the Peneus are covered with
alluvium left behind by the receding waters. Hercules, according to
some—Neptune, according to others—drained all these lakes of Thessaly
into the Ægean, by opening the narrow gorge between Olympus and Ossa,
known to the ancients as the Valley of Tempe. This narrow valley is
due, no doubt, to the slow erosive action of water. To the Hellenes it
realised their ideals of refreshing coolness and beauty, and once every
nine years an embassy arrived from Delphi to pluck the laurel-leaves
destined for the victors in the Pythian games. The {113} Valley of
Tempe is indeed most beautiful; the transparent and rapid waters of the
Peneus, the foliage of the planes, the shrubberies of laurel-roses, and
the red-hued cliffs—these combine frequently, and form pictures which
delight the senses and impress the mind. But, taken as a whole, this
narrow and sombre valley fairly deserves its modern name of Lykostomo,
or “wolf’s gorge.” Even in Thessaly, and, above all, in the Pindus,
there are localities more smiling and more beautiful than this famous
Valley of Tempe.

The upper valleys of the Peneus, or Salembria, abound in natural
curiosities, such as defiles, sinks, and caverns. To the north-west of
Mount Olympus, the turbid Titaresius flows through the narrow gorge of
Saranta Poros, or of the Four Fords, which was looked upon in former
times as one of the gates of hell.

To the west, on the Upper Peneus, are the limestone hills of Khassia,
rising to a height of 5,000 feet, and the elevated spurs of Mount
Pindus, which have become celebrated through the “works of the gods,”
or _theoktista_, which surmount them. These “works” consist of isolated
towers, crags, and pillars, the most famous amongst them being those
on the banks of the Peneus, not far from Trikala. Zealous followers of
Simeon the Stylite conceived the idea of building their monasteries on
the tops of some of the larger of these natural columns or pedestals.
Perched on these heights, and condemned never to leave them, they
receive their provisions and visitors in a basket attached to the end
of a long rope, and hoisted aloft by means of a windlass. An aërial
voyage of no less than 220 feet has to be performed in order to reach
in this manner the monastery of Barlaam, and visitors are at liberty
to effect this ascent by means of ladders fastened against the rocky
precipices. The religious zeal, however, which led monks to select
these eyries for their habitations is gradually dying out. Out of
twenty monasteries which existed formerly, there remain now but seven,
and only one of these, that of Meteora, is inhabited by as many as
twenty monks.

Of all the Greek countries which still remain under the dominion of
the Turks, there is none which has so frequently sought to regain its
independence, none which is claimed by the Hellenes with equal ardour
as a portion of their common fatherland and the cradle of their race.
Thessaly is, in truth, a portion of Greece, as far as the traditions
of the past, a common language, and the general aspects of the country
can make it so. But it is a more fertile country, its vegetation is
more luxuriant, its landscapes are more smiling and delightful. We
may not frequently meet with the deep blue sky which calls forth our
admiration in Southern Greece, for the vapours rising from the Ægean
Sea are attracted by Olympus and other mountains; but this moisture
imparts a charm to distant views, and, by protecting the earth against
the scorching rays of the sun in summer, it contributes largely towards
the fertility of the soil.

The Greek population of Thessaly is strongly mixed with foreign
elements, which it has gradually assimilated. Neither Serbs nor
Bulgarians remain now in the country, although the Upper Titaresius
is known as Vurgari, or “river of the Bulgarians.” The Zinzares, or
Macedo-Walakhs, who were so numerous in the Middle Ages, now only
occupy a few villages. Though proud of their Roman {114} descent, they
gradually become Hellenized. Most of the words by which they designate
objects of civilised life are Greek, their priests and schoolmasters
preach or teach in Greek, and they themselves speak Greek in addition
to their native language. They lose ground, moreover, through an
excessive emigration. Even the cultivators of the soil amongst them
have not quite given up their nomadic habits, and the roving life of
a herdsman or of a pedlar exercises an irresistible attraction upon
them. The Turks inhabit in compact masses the lowlands around Larissa,
and that town itself is Mussulman to a large extent. The hilly tracts
to the north, between the Inje Karasu and the Lakes of Kastoria and
Ostrovo, are likewise inhabited by Turks, who differ from the Osmanli
of the rest of the empire, and are known as Koniarides. Turks also
occupy a portion of Mount Ossa. It is easy to tell from a distance
whether a village is inhabited by Turks or by Greeks. M. Mézières
has observed that “the Turks plant trees for the sake of shade, the
Greeks for the sake of profit.” Near the villages of the former we
find cypresses and plane-trees, near those of the latter orchards
and vineyards. The Koniarides are believed by some authors to have
come to Thessaly and Macedonia as colonists in the eleventh century,
by invitation of the Eastern emperor. They govern themselves through
democratic representative bodies, and are respected by all, because of
their probity, their hospitality, and their rustic virtues.

The Greeks are morally inferior to the Turkish peasantry, but they
surpass them in intelligence and industry. In the seventeenth century
there took place amongst them even a sort of revival similar to the
Renaissance of Western Europe, and the love of art was developed
sufficiently far to give rise to a school of painters in the villages
of Olympus. Faithful to their national traditions and the instincts
of their race, the Greeks of Thessaly have sought to organize
themselves into self-governing commonwealths. In their free towns,
or _kephalokhori_, they are permitted to elect their town councils,
establish schools, and appoint what teachers they like. They know how
to get the Turkish pasha not to meddle in their local affairs. They pay
the taxes demanded by the Turks, as their ancestors paid them to Athens
or some other Greek city, but in every other respect they are free
citizens governing themselves. The contrast between these independent
commonwealths and the _chifliks_ of Mussulman proprietors cultivated by
Greek farmers is most striking. The land of the free proprietors is, as
a rule, far less fertile than that included within these chifliks; yet
it produces more, and its cultivators live in comparative ease.

The Greeks of Thessaly bestow much care upon the education of growing
generations. Even the most miserable Greek village in the Pindus can
boast of a school, which is visited by the young people up to the age
of fifteen. As an instance of the commercial spirit of the Thessalians
we may mention the Weavers’ Co-operative Association, formed in the
last century in the town of Ambelakia, delightfully situated amongst
orchards and vineyards on the southern slopes of the Valley of Tempe.
This powerful association wisely limited its dividends to six per
cent., and expended the surplus profits upon an extension of its
business. For {115} many years it enjoyed the greatest prosperity, but
the wars of the empire, which closed the markets of Germany against
it, brought about its ruin. Co-operation likewise partly accounts for
the flourishing cloth manufacture of the twenty-four wealthy Greek
villages on the peninsula of Magnesia, to the north of the Gulf of
Volo. This district, together with that of Verria, to the north of the
Inje Karasu, is probably the most prosperous in all the Greek provinces
of Turkey, and it is at least partly indebted for this prosperity to
its happy geographical position, being far away from great strategical


The name of SHKIPERI, which the Albanians give to the country they
inhabit, is supposed to mean “land of rocks,” and no designation
could be more appropriate. Stony mountains occupy the whole of the
country, from the frontiers of Montenegro to those of Greece. The only
plain of any extent is that of Scutari (Shkodra), to the south of
the Montenegrin plateau, which forms the natural frontier of Albania
towards the north. The bottom of this depression is occupied by the
Lake of Scutari; and the Drin, the only river of the Balkan peninsula
which is navigable for a considerable distance from the sea, debouches
upon it. The Drin is formed by the junction of the White and the Black
Drin, and in former times it only discharged a portion of its waters
temporarily into the Boyana River, which drains the Lake of Scutari.
But in 1858 it opened itself a new channel opposite to the village
of Miet, about twenty miles above its mouth, and since that time
the greater volume of its waters flows in the direction of Scutari,
frequently inundating the lower quarters of that town. The marshy
tracts on the Lower Drin are dangerous to cross during the heat of
summer, and the fevers of the Boyana are the most dreaded along the
whole of that coast.

Most of the southern ramifications of the Bosnian Alps are inhabited
by Albanians, but they are separated from their kinsmen in Albania
proper by the deep valley of the Drin, a kind of _cañon_ similar to
those of the Rocky Mountains, enclosed between precipitous walls
several thousand feet in height, and hardly ever trodden by the foot
of a wanderer. The mountain systems of Bosnia and Albania are only
indirectly connected by a series of ranges and plateaux stretching
from the mountain of Glieb in a south-easterly direction as far as
the Skhar, or Scardus of the ancients. The crest of this latter runs
at right angles to most of the ranges of Western Turkey, and although
its culminating point is inferior in height to those of Slav Turkey,
it is the point of junction between the Balkan and the {116} mountain
systems of Bosnia and Albania. The Skhar is of great importance, too,
in the hydrography of Turkey; for two great rivers, the Bulgarian
Morava and the Vardar, descend from its flanks, one flowing to the
Danube, the other to the Gulf of Saloniki. Chamois and wild goats are
still met with in the Skhar, as in the Pindus and Rhodope, and M. Wiet
mentions an animal known to the Mirdits as a _lucerbal_, which appears
to be a species of leopard.

A mountain region, hardly 3,000 feet in elevation, but exceedingly
difficult of access, rises to the west of the Skhar, on the other
side of the Black Drin: this is the citadel of Upper Albania, the
country of the Mirdits and Dukajins. Enormous masses of serpentine have
erupted there through the chalk, the valleys are hemmed in by bold
precipices, and the torrents rapidly run down the hollowed-out beds on
the exterior slopes. As a rule, the direction of the tortuous ranges
of this mountain country is the same as that of the southern spurs of
the Skhar. They gradually decrease in height, enclosing fine upland
valleys, where the waters are able to accumulate. The Lake of Okhrida,
the largest sheet of water in Upper Albania, has not inaptly been
likened to the Lake of Geneva. Its waters are bluer even than those of
its Swiss rival, and more transparent, and fish may be seen chasing
each other at a depth of sixty feet beneath its surface: hence its
ancient Greek name of Lychnidos. The delightful little town of Okhrida
and Mount Pieria, with its old Roman castle, guard its shores, and the
white houses of numerous villages peep out amongst the chestnut forests
which cover the slopes of the surrounding hills. This lake is drained
towards the north through the narrow valley of the Black Drin. If the
statements of the inhabitants may be credited, the waters of the double
basin of Lake Presba reach Lake Okhrida through subterranean channels.

The isolated peak of Tomor commands this lake region on the west. To
the south of it commences the chain of the Pindus, locally known as
Grammos. At first of moderate height, and crossed by numerous mountain
roads affording easy communication between Albania and Macedonia, these
mountains gradually increase in height as we proceed south, and exactly
to the east of Yanina they form the mountain mass of Metzovo, with
which the Pindus, properly so called, takes its rise. This mountain
mass is inferior in altitude to the peaks of Bosnia or Northern
Albania, but it is far more picturesque than either, its slopes being
covered with forests of conifers and beech-trees, and the plains
extending along its foot having a more southern aspect. Mount Zygos,
or Lachmon, which rises in the centre of this mountain mass, does not
afford a very extended panorama, but if we climb the craggy peaks of
the Peristera-Vuna, or Smolika, near it, we are able to look at the
same time upon the waters of the Ægean and Ionian Seas, and even the
shore of Greece may be descried beyond the Gulf of Arta.

A famous lake occupies the bottom of the limestone basin at the western
foot of the mountain mass of Metzovo. This is the Lake of Yanina,
and nowhere else throughout Epirus do we meet with an equal number
of natural curiosities as on the shores of this lake. Its depth is
inconsiderable, nowhere exceeding forty feet, and it is fed only by
numerous springs rising at the foot of the rocks. There is no {117}
visible outlet; but Colonel Leake assures us that each of the two
basins into which it is divided is drained by a subterranean channel.
The northern lake pours its waters into a sink, or _voinikova_, and
reappears towards the south-west as a considerable river, which flows
into the Ionian Sea. This is the Thyamis of the ancients, our modern
Kalamas. Farther to the south the ancient Acheron bursts from the
rocks, and having received the nauseous waters of the equally famous
Cocytus, throws itself into the “bay of sweet waters,” thus called on
account of the large volume of water discharged into it by rivers.

[Illustration: Fig. 36.—SOUTHERN EPIRUS.

According to Kiepert. Scale 1 : 1,400,000.

K. Katavothra.]

When the waters of the southern and larger basin of Lake Yanina are
low, there is but a single effluent, which plunges down into an abyss,
and in doing so turns the wheels of a mill. The Cyclopean ruins of
the Pelasgic city of Hellas command this huge chasm with its roaring
waters. The subterranean river reappears far to the south, and flows
into the Gulf of Arta. But when the level of the lake is high, four
other sinks swallow up its superabundant waters, and convey them into
the main channel, the direction of which is indicated by a few small
lakes. The important part played in the mythology of ancient Greece by
these subterranean effluents, and particularly by the infernal Acheron
and the Cocytus, amply proves the influence exercised by the Pelasgians
upon the civilisation of the Hellenes. The myths of the Hellopians
became the common property of all Greece, and {118} there was no
temple in all Hellas more venerated than their sanctuary at Dodona,
where the future might be foretold by listening to the rustling of the
leaves of sacred oaks. This sacred grove existed, probably, near one of
the Cyclopean towns so numerous in the country, if not on the shore of
the lake itself. Some, erroneously no doubt, have looked for it near
the castle inhabited in the beginning of this century by Ali Tepeleni,
the terrible Pasha of Epirus, who boasted of being a “lighted torch,
devouring man.”

The mountains of Suli, to the west of the basin of Yanina, attain an
altitude of 3,500 feet, but the neighbouring hills are of moderate
height, though abrupt and difficult of access, and near the coast they
sink down into small rocky promontories, scantily clothed with shrubs
and overrun by jackals. Swamps abound near the shore, and during summer
their miasmatic air spreads over the neighbouring villages. To the
north of the swamps of Butrinto and of the channel of Corfu, and to the
west of the isolated peak of Kundusi, however, the coast rises again,
and the austere chain of the Chimæra Mala, or Acroceraunii, extends
along it. It was dreaded by the ancients on account of its tempests,
and the torrents which poured down its sides. Squalls and changes of
wind are frequent near the “Tongue (Linguetta) of Rocks,” the most
advanced promontory of this coast, at the entrance to the Adriatic Sea.
These are the “infamous rocks” referred to by the Roman poet, upon
which many a vessel suffered shipwreck. The channel which separates
Turkey at that place from Italy has a width of only 45 miles; it is
less than 100 fathoms in depth, and at some former period an isthmus
may have united the two countries.[33]

The Shkipetars, or Albanians, are subdivided into two leading tribes or
nations, the Tosks and the Gheges, both of whom are no doubt descended
from the ancient Pelasgians, but have in many places become mixed with
Slavs, Bulgarians, and Rumanians, and perhaps even with other nations;
for whilst in some tribes we meet with the purest Hellenic types,
there are others the members of which are repulsively ugly. The Gheges
are the purest of their race, and they occupy, under various tribal
names, the whole of Northern Albania as far as the river Shkumbi.
The territory of the Tosks extends from that river southward. The
dialects of these two nations differ much, and it is not easy for an
Acroceraunian to understand a Mirdit or other Albanian from the north.
Gheges and Tosks detest each other. In the Turkish army they are kept
separated for fear of their coming to blows, and, when an insurrection
has to be suppressed amongst them, the Turkish Government always avails
itself of these tribal jealousies, and is certain of being served with
the zeal and fury which hatred inspires.

[Illustration: ALBANIANS.]

Up to the period of the migration of the barbarians, the whole of
Western Turkey, as far as the Danube, was held by Albanians. But they
were then pushed back, and Albania was entirely occupied by Servians
and Bulgarians. {119} The names of numerous localities throughout
the country recall that period of obscuration, during which the name
of an indigenous race was not even mentioned by the historian. But
when the Osmanli had broken the power of the Serb, the Albanians again
raised their heads, and ever since they have kept encroaching upon
their Slav neighbours. In the north they have gradually descended into
the valley of the Bulgarian Morava, and one of their colonies has
even penetrated into independent Servia. Like the waters of a rising
ocean, they overwhelm the detached tracts of territory still occupied
by Servians. This progress of the Albanians is explained, to a great
extent, by the voluntary expatriation of the Servians. Thousands of
them, headed by their patriarchs, fled to Hungary, in order to escape
the dominion of the Turks, and the Albanians occupied the wastes they
left behind. The Servians still hold their ground near Acroceraunia,
on the shores of Lake Okhrida, and in the hills looking down upon the
fatal plain of Kosovo, where their ancestors were massacred; but they
gradually become Albanians in language, religion, and customs. They
speak of themselves as Turks, as do the Arnauts, and apply the name of
Servian only to the Christians dwelling beyond the frontier. On the
other hand, many of the customs of the Gheges agree in a remarkable
manner with those of their Slav neighbours, and this proves that there
has taken place a thorough blending of the two races.

But whilst the Albanians are gaining ground in the north, they are
losing it in the south. A large portion of the inhabitants of Southern
Albania, though undoubtedly of Pelasgic origin, are Greek by language.
Arta, Yanina, and Prevesa are Hellenized towns, and only a few
Mohammedan families there still speak Albanian. Nearly the whole of the
tract between the Pindus and the Adriatic coast ranges has become Greek
as far as language goes, and throughout the mountain region extending
westward to the sea the inhabitants are “bilingual;” that is to say,
they speak two languages. The famous Suliotes, for instance, who talk
Tosk within the bosom of their family, make use of Greek in their
intercourse with strangers. Wherever the two races come into contact,
it is always the Albanian who takes the trouble to learn Greek.

This influence of the Hellenes is all the more powerful as it meets
with support amongst the Zinzares, known also as Macedo-Walakhs,
“Limping” Walakhs, or Southern Rumanians, who are met with throughout
the country. These Zinzares are the kinsmen of the Rumanians of
Wallachia and Moldavia, and live in a compact body only on the two
slopes of the Pindus, to the south and east of the Lake of Yanina. Like
the Rumanians of the Danube, they are most probably Latinised Dacians.
They resemble the Walakhs in features, character, and disposition,
and speak a neo-Latin tongue much mixed with Greek. The Zinzares
in the valleys of the Pindus are, for the most part, herdsmen, and
wander away from their villages sometimes for months. Others carry on
trades, exhibiting much manual skill and intelligence. Nearly all the
bricklayers of Turkey, those of the large towns excepted, are Zinzares;
and the same individual sometimes erects an entire house, doing in turn
the work of architect, carpenter, joiner, {120} and locksmith. The
Rumanians of the Pindus are likewise esteemed as clever goldsmiths.

Their capacity for business is great, and the commerce of the interior
of Turkey is almost entirely in their hands, as is that of the maritime
districts in those of the Greeks. The Walakhs of Metzovo are said to
have stood formerly under the direct protection of the Porte, and
every traveller, whether Mussulman or Christian, was bound to unshoe
his horses before he left their territory, for fear “of his carrying
away a clod of earth which did not belong to him.” Commercial houses
conducted by Walakhs of the Pindus are met with in every town of the
Orient, and even at Vienna one of the most influential banks has been
founded by one of them. Abroad they are generally taken for Greeks,
and the wealthier amongst them send their children to Athens to be
educated. Surrounded by Mussulmans, the Zinzares of the Pindus feel the
necessity of attaching themselves to some country through which they
might obtain their freedom, and they hope for a union with Greece. It
is only quite recently that they have learnt to look upon the Rumanians
of the North and the Italians as their kinsmen. They do not, however,
set much store upon their nationality, and have no aspirations as a
distinct race. There can be no doubt that in the course of ages many
of these Macedo-Walakhs have become Hellenized. Nearly all Thessaly
was inhabited by Zinzares in the Middle Ages, and Byzantine authors
speak of that country as “Great Wallachia.” Whether these Zinzares have
emigrated to Rumania, as some think, or have become assimilated with
the Greeks, the fact remains that at the present day they are not very
numerous on the eastern slopes of the Pindus. Thousands of Rumanian
families have settled in the coast towns, at Avlona, Berat, and Tirana,
embracing Mohammedanism, but still retaining their native idiom.

If we exclude these Zinzares, the Greeks of Epirus, the Servians, and
the few Osmanli dwelling in the large towns, there remain only the
semi-barbarous Gheges and Tosks, whose social condition has hardly
undergone any change in the course of three thousand years. In their
manners and modes of thought these modern Albanians are the true
successors of the ancient Pelasgians, and many a scene that a traveller
may witness amongst them carries him back to the days of the Odyssey.
G. von Hahn, who has most thoroughly studied the Shkipetars, looks upon
them as veritable Dorians, whose ancestors, led by the Heraclidæ, burst
forth from the forests of Epirus to conquer the Peloponnesus. They
are as courageous, as warlike, as fond of dominion, and as clannish
as were their ancestors. Their dress, likewise, is nearly the same,
and the white tunic (_fustanelle_) neatly fastened round the waist
fairly represents the ancient _chlamys_. The Gheges, like the Dorians
of old, are addicted to that mysterious passion which the historians
of antiquity have confounded, unfortunately, with a nameless vice, and
which links men to children by a pure and ideal love, in which the
senses have no part.

There is no modern people respecting whom more astounding acts of
bravery are recorded than of the Albanians. In the fifteenth century
they had their Scanderbeg, who, though the theatre of his glory
was more circumscribed than that of his namesake of Macedonia, was
hardly inferior to him in genius, and {121} certainly surpassed him
in justness and goodness of heart. Or what nation has ever exceeded
in courage the Suliote mountaineers, amongst whom not an aged man,
a woman, or a child was found to beg for mercy from Ali Pasha’s
executioners? The heroism of these Suliote women, who set fire to the
ammunition waggons, and then hand in hand precipitated themselves from
the rocks, or sought death in the mountain torrents, chanting their own
funeral song, will at all times stand forth in history as an astounding

This valour, unfortunately, is associated amongst many tribes with a
fearful amount of savageness. Human life is held cheap amongst these
warlike populations; blood calls for blood, and victim for victim.
They believe in vampires and phantoms, and occasionally an old man has
been burnt alive, on suspicion of his being able to kill by the breath
of his mouth. Slavery does not exist, but woman is held in a state of
servitude; she is looked upon as an inferior being, having no rights
or mind of her own. Custom raises a more formidable barrier between
the sexes than do walls and locked doors elsewhere. A young girl is
not permitted to speak to a young man; such an act is looked upon as a
crime, which her father or brother may feel called upon to punish by a
deed of blood. The parents sometimes consult the wishes of their son
when about to marry him, but never those of their daughter. The latter
is frequently affianced in her cradle, and, when twelve years of age,
she is handed over to a young man on his presenting a wedding outfit
and a sum of money fixed by custom, and averaging twenty shillings.
From that moment he becomes the absolute master of his bride, though
not without first going through the farce of an abduction, as is
customary amongst nearly all ancient nations. The poor woman, thus sold
like a slave, is bound to work for her husband. She is his housekeeper
as well as his labourer, and the national poets compare her to the
“ever-active shuttle,” whilst the father of the family is likened
to the “majestic ram marching at the head of the flock.” Yet woman,
scorned though she be, and brutalised by heavy work, may traverse
the whole country without fear of being insulted, and the life of an
unfortunate who places himself under her protection is held sacred.

Family ties are very powerful amongst the Albanians. The father retains
the rights of sovereign lord up to an advanced age, and as long as
he lives the earnings of his children and grandchildren are his own.
Frequently this communism continues after his death, the eldest son
taking his place. The loss of a member of the family, and particularly
of a young man, gives rise to fearful lamentations amongst the women,
who frequently swoon away, and even lose their senses. But the death
of persons who have reached the natural limits of human life is hardly
mourned at all. The descendants of the same ancestor never lose sight
of their parentage. They form clans, called _phis_ or _pharas_, which
are bound firmly together for purposes of defence or attack, or in
the pursuit of their common interests. Brotherhood by election is
known amongst the Albanians, as well as amongst the Servians and other
ancient nations, and its ties are as strong as those of blood. Young
men desirous of becoming brothers bind themselves by solemn vows in
the presence of their families, and, having opened a vein, they {122}
drink each other’s blood. The need of these family bonds is felt so
strongly in Albania, that young people brought up together frequently
remain united during the remainder of their lives, forming a regular
community, having its days of meetings, its festivals, and a common

But in spite of these family associations and clans, in spite of the
enthusiastic love which the Albanian bears his native land, there
exists no political cohesion amongst the various tribes. The physical
conditions of the country, no less than an unhappy passion for war,
have scattered their forces, and rendered them unable, consequently,
to maintain their independence. The religious animosities between
Mussulman and Christian, Greek and Roman Catholic, have contributed to
the like result.

It is generally supposed that the majority of the Albanians are
Mohammedans. When the Turks became masters of the country the most
valiant amongst them fled to Italy, and the greater part of the tribes
that remained behind were compelled to embrace Islamism. Many of the
chiefs, moreover, turned Mussulmans, in order that they might continue
their life of brigandage, on pretence of carrying on a holy war. This
accounts for the fact of the aristocracy of the country being for the
most part Mohammedan, and in possession of the land. The Christian
peasant who tills it is nominally a free man, but in reality he is
at the mercy of his lord, who keeps him at the point of starvation.
These Albanian Mussulmans, however, are fanatic warriors rather than
religious zealots, and many of their ceremonies, particularly those
connected with their native land, differ in nothing from those of their
Christian compatriots. They have been converted, but not convinced, and
cynically they say of themselves that their “sword is wherever their
faith is.”

In many districts the conversion has been nominal only, and zealous
Christians have continued to conduct their worship in secret. Many
Mohammedans of this class returned to the faith of their fathers as
soon as the tolerance of Government permitted them to do so. As to the
warlike mountain clans, the Mirdits, Suliotes, and Acroceraunians,
they had no need to bend to the will of the Turks, and remained Greek
or Roman Christians. The boundary between Gheges and Tosks coincides
approximately with the boundary between these two denominations, the
Roman Catholics living to the north of the Shkumbi, the orthodox Greeks
to the south of the river. The Hellenes and Zinzares in Southern
Albania are orthodox Greeks. The hatred between these two denominations
of Christians is intense, and this is the principal reason why the
Albanians have not succeeded in regaining their independence, as have
the Servians.

Southern Albania and Epirus had feudal institutions up to the close
of last century. The chiefs of the clans and the semi-independent
Turkish pashas lived in strong castles perched upon the rocks, from
which they descended from time to time, followed by bands of servitors.
War existed in permanence, and property changed hands continuously,
according to the fortunes of the sword. Ali the Terrible, of Yanina,
put a stop to this state of affairs. He reduced high and low to the
same level of servitude, and the central Government now wields the
power formerly exercised by lords and heads of families. {123}

If we would become acquainted with a social condition recalling the
Middle Ages, we must go amongst the independent tribes of Northern
Albania. On crossing the Matis we at once perceive a change. Every one
goes armed; shepherds and labourers carry a carbine on the shoulder;
and even women and children place a pistol in their belts. Families,
clans, and tribes have a military organization, and at a moment’s
notice are ready to take the field. A sheep missing in a flock, an
insult offered in the heat of passion, may lead to war. Not long since
the Montenegrin was the most frequent disturber of the peace, for, shut
up in his sterile mountains, he was often obliged to turn brigand in
order to sustain life, and laid under contribution the fields of his
neighbours. The Turks have at all times nourished this hatred between
Albanians and Montenegrins. They recompense the warlike services of
the tribes of the border clans by exempting them from taxation, and
allowing them to govern themselves according to their own laws. Let
these immunities be touched, and they will make common cause with their
hereditary foes of the Black Mountains.

The Mirdits are typical of the independent tribes of Northern Albania.
They inhabit the high valleys to the south of the gorge of the
Drin, and, though hardly numbering 12,000 souls, they exercise, in
consequence of their warlike valour, a most important influence in
all Western Turkey. Their country is accessible only through three
difficult defiles, and they hold command of the roads which the Turkish
troops must follow when operating against the Montenegrins. The Sublime
Porte, well aware how difficult it would be to subdue these redoubtable
mountaineers, has endeavoured to attach them, showering honours upon
them, and granting them the most complete self-government. The Mirdits,
on their side, though Christians, have at all times fought most
valiantly in the ranks of the Turkish army, in Greece and the Morea, as
well as against their fellow-Christians of Montenegro. They are formed
into three “banners” of the mountains and two of the plains, and in
time of war are joined by the five banners of Lesh, or Alessio. The
banner of the renowned clan of Orosh takes precedence of all others.

The country of the Mirdits is governed by an oligarchy, of which the
Prince or Pasha of Orosh is the hereditary head. His power, however,
is merely nominal, for in reality the country is governed by a council
consisting of the elders (_vecchiardi_) of the villages, the delegates
of the banners, and the heads of clans. The proceedings of this
council are regulated by ancient traditions. Wives are taken by force
from the enemy, for the members of the five banners look upon each
other as relatives, and the Mohammedan girls in the lowland villages
look forward with little fear to their being carried off by Mirdit
warriors. The _vendetta_ is exercised in an inexorable manner, and
blood cries for blood. A violation of hospitality is punished with
death. The adulteress is buried beneath a heap of stones, and her
nearest relative is bound to deliver the head of her accomplice to the
injured husband. It need hardly be said that education is at a very low
ebb amongst these savages. There are no schools, and in 1860 hardly
fifty Christians of the Mirdit country and of the district of Lesh were
able to {124} read. Agriculture, nevertheless, is in a relatively
advanced state. The valleys of the sterile mountains are cultivated
with a certain amount of care, and they produce finer crops than do the
fertile plains, inhabited by an indolent population.

By a strange contrast, these direct descendants of the ancient
Pelasgians, to whom we are indebted for the beginning of civilisation
in Europe, still number amongst the most savage populations of our
continent. But they, too, must yield in time to the influence of their
surroundings. Until recently the Epirotes and southern Shkipetars left
their country only in order to lead the easy but degrading life of
mercenaries. In the last century the young men of Acroceraunia sold
themselves to the King of Naples, to be embodied in his regiment of
“Royal Macedonians;” and even in our own days not only Mohammedans,
but also Christian Tosks, enter the service of pashas and beys. These
men, known as Arnauts, may be met with in the most remote parts of
the empire—in Armenia, at Bagdad, and in Arabia. On the expiration of
their term of service, the majority of these veterans retire to estates
granted them by Government, and this accounts for the large number of
Arnaut villages met with in all parts of the empire.

But wars are less frequent now, the life of a mercenary offers fewer
advantages, and increasing numbers of Albanians leave their country
annually in order to gain a living abroad by honest labour. Like the
Swiss of the canton of Grisons, many Shkipetars descend from their
mountains at the commencement of winter in order to work for wages in
the plains. Most of these return to their mountain homes in spring,
enriched by their earnings; but there are others who remain abroad for
years, or who never return. The advantages of a division of labour
appear to be well understood by these mountaineers of Epirus and
Southern Albania, and each mountain valley is noted for the exercise of
some special craft. One valley sends forth butchers, another bakers, a
third gardeners. A village near Argyrokastro supplies Constantinople
with most of its well-sinkers. The district of Zagori, perhaps the home
of the ancient Asclepiads, sends its doctors, or rather “bone-setters,”
into every town of Turkey. Many of these emigrants, when they become
wealthy, return to their native land, where they build themselves fine
houses in the midst of sterile mountains, and these take the places of
the old seigneurial towers, which were erected only for purposes of

[Illustration: WEALTHY ARNAUTS.]

The Albanians are thus being carried along by a general movement of
progress, and if once they enter into the common life of Europe, we may
expect them to play a prominent part, for they possess a penetrating
mind and much strength of character. The Albanians enjoy the advantage
of having ready access to the sea, but hitherto they have derived only
small benefit from it, not only owing to the disturbed state of the
country and the absence of roads, but also because of the alluvial
deposits formed by the rivers and the malaria of the marshes. Still,
making every allowance for these disadvantages, they hardly account
for the almost entire absence of maritime enterprise. One would
scarcely fancy these Epirotes and Gheges to be of the same race as
those Hydriote corsairs who launched whole fleets upon the waters of
the Archipelago at the time of the war for Hellenic independence, and
who still maintain the foremost place amongst the mariners of {125}
Greece. The ports of Albania—Antivari, Porto Medua (one of the
safest on the Adriatic), Durazzo, Avlona, Parga (lost in a forest of
citron-trees), and even strong Prevesa, surrounded by more than a
hundred thousand olive-trees—can boast but of a trifling commerce, and
two-thirds of that are carried on in Austrian vessels from Trieste.
With the exception of the Acroceraunians and the inhabitants of
Dulcigno, which is the port of Scutari, no Mohammedan Albanian ventures
upon the sea, not even as a fisherman. In spite of the fertility of the
soil, there are hardly any articles to export. The mines of the country
are unexplored, agriculture is in a most backward state, and in Epirus
hardly any industry is known except the rearing of sheep and goats.

At the time of the Romans these countries were equally forsaken. There
was one magnificent city, Nicopolis, built by Augustus on a promontory
to the north of the modern Prevesa to commemorate his victory at
Actium. The only other town of importance was Dyrrhachium, called
Durazzo by the Italians. It formed the terminus of the Via Egnatia,
which traversed the whole of the Balkan peninsula from west to east,
and constituted the great highway between Italy and the Orient. Avlona
may aspire one day to take the place of ancient Dyrrhachium. Its
geographical position is superior to that of Durazzo, for it is nearer
to Italy, and its deep and secure harbour enjoys the shelter of the
island of Suseno and of the Linguetta of Acroceraunia.

In the meantime all the commerce of the country is concentrated in
Scutari and Yanina, and in some other towns of the interior. The most
considerable amongst the latter are Prisrend, at the foot of the Skhar,
whose nobles boast of their magnificent dresses and fine weapons; Ipek
(Pech), Prishtina, Jakovitza (Yakova), in the north-eastern portion
of the country, and on roads which lead from Macedonia into Bosnia.
Nearer the coast are Tirana, Berat, and Elbasan, the ancient Albanon,
whose name recalls that of the entire country. Gyorcha (Koritza), to
the south of the Lake of Okhrida, is likewise a place of much trade,
thanks to its position on a road joining the Adriatic to the Ægean Sea.
Scutari and Yanina occupy sites at the foot of the mountains, whose
natural advantages could not fail to attract a numerous population.
Yanina, the capital of Epirus, is the more picturesque of these two
cities. It is situated on the shore of a fine lake, opposite the
somewhat heavy masses of the Pindus, but in sight of the mountains
of Greece, which are of a “luminous grey, glittering like a tissue
of silk.” At the time of Ali Pasha, Yanina became the capital of an
empire, and its population then exceeded that of Scutari. But the
latter has now regained its pre-eminence. It is admirably situated, and
the roads from the Danube and the Ægean, from the Lower Drin and the
Adriatic, converge upon it. Scutari, or Shkodra, is the first oriental
city which a traveller coming from Italy meets with, and the first
impression made by its numerous gardens enclosed by high walls, its
deserted streets and irregular buildings, is sufficiently curious. Long
after he has entered the town, the traveller will remain uncertain as
to its whereabouts. But let him climb to the summit of the limestone
rock surmounted by the old Venetian castle of Rosapha, and the most
magnificent panorama will {126} unfold itself before his eyes. The
domes of Scutari, its twenty minarets, the emerald verdure of the
plain, the surrounding amphitheatre of fantastically shaped mountains,
the winding waters of the Boyana and Drin, and the placid surface of
the lake glittering in the sun—these all combine to produce a spectacle
of rare magnificence. The sea alone is wanting to render this picture
perfect, but, though near, it is not within sight.[34]


Bosnia, in the north-western corner of Turkey, is the Switzerland of
the European Orient, but it is a Switzerland whose mountains do not
reach the zone of perennial snow and ice. In many respects the mountain
ranges of Bosnia, and of its southern province, the Herzegovina,
resemble those of the Jura. They, too, are composed principally of
limestone, and rise in parallel ridges, surmounted here and there
by sharp crests. Like the successive ridges of the Jura, they are
of unequal height, and, taken as a whole, assume the appearance of
a plateau traversed by parallel furrows, and gently sloping in one
direction. The most elevated chain of Northern Bosnia is that which
separates it from the coast of Dalmatia, and the less elevated ridges
running parallel with it gradually decrease in height towards the
north-east, in the direction of the plains of the Save.

Rocks not belonging to the Jurassic system, such as crystalline slates,
dolomites, tertiary deposits, and serpentine, are met with in various
localities, and impart some variety to the orographical features of
Bosnia. Several crater-shaped depressions in the east and south-east
separate the mountains of Bosnia from the mountain masses of Servia.
The most remarkable amongst these plains is that of Novibazar, into
which numerous torrents discharge themselves, and which commands roads
diverging in various directions. This is the strategical key of the
country, and is destined on this account to become an important railway


Nearly all the mountain ranges which pass from Carniola and Austrian
Croatia into Bosnia increase in height as we advance towards the
centre of the peninsula. The bleached pyramid of the Durmitor, close
to the northern frontier of Montenegro, attains an elevation of nearly
8,000 feet, and the plateau surrounding it is cut up by deep cavities,
some of which, like the troughs of the Herzegovina, open out in one
direction, whilst others are completely shut in by declivities. The
Prokletya, or “cursed” mountain, still farther to the south-east, rises
to a height even more considerable, and constitutes one of the most
formidable mountain masses of all Turkey. A huge depression occupies
its centre, the bottom of which is covered by the Lake of Plava. Even
in summer patches of snow may be seen on some of the mountains which
surround this abyss. But Mount Kom, the {127} highest of all, never
retains its cap of snow during the whole of the year, for it melts away
before the hot African winds to which it is exposed. Mount Kom may
possibly turn out to be the culminating point of the Balkan peninsula.
It is certainly one of the highest summits, and its double peak, rising
above the plateau of Montenegro, is descried from afar by the mariner
navigating the Adriatic. It has been ascended by several travellers,
for its slopes are gentle.[35]

The rivers of Bosnia, like those of the Jura, flow between parallel
mountain ranges towards the north-east, along the furrows traced out
for them by nature. But these calcareous mountain ramparts of Bosnia,
like those of the Jura, are broken up by narrow gorges, or _cluses_,
through which the pent up waters find a way from furrow to furrow.
Instead of taking a serpentine course, as do most rivers flowing
through a plain, these rivers of Bosnia change from valley to valley
by abrupt bends. Gentle and furious in turns, they gradually reach
the lower regions, and are finally swallowed up by the Save. Only one
river, the Narenta, finds its way into the Adriatic; all others, in
accordance with the general slope of the country, flow in the direction
of the Danube. These river valleys, with their sudden turnings, would
be available as natural roads for reaching the plateau, if most of the
gorges were not exceedingly difficult of access; and until regular
roads have been constructed, as in the cluses of the Jura, travellers
are obliged to scale steep heights in order to pass from valley to
valley. It is this want of practicable roads which renders military
operations in Bosnia so difficult and perilous.

Great armies have at all times remained to the east of the mountain
masses referred to, passing from the valley of the Vardar into that
of the Morava, whose springs almost intermingle their waters. In that
locality we meet with the bed of an ancient lake, through which flows
the Sitnitza, one of the upper tributaries of the Servian Morava: this
is the plain of Kosovo, the “field of black birds,” which reminds
all southern Slavs of painful events. It was there the power of the
Servians succumbed in 1389, and, if we may credit ancient heroic songs,
more than 100,000 men perished in a single day. Five hundred years have
passed away since this great disaster, but the Slavs have never ceased
to hope for a day of vengeance, and they look forward to the time when
on this very field they may reconquer the independence they have lost.

The similarity between the mountains of Bosnia and of the Jura is
rendered complete by the existence of grottoes, sink-holes, and
subterranean rivers. Sink-holes from 60 to 100 feet in diameter, and
shaped like funnels, are met with in many localities. Several rivers
appear suddenly at the foot of a hill, and, after flowing on for a few
miles, disappear again beneath some portal in the rocks. The table-land
of the Herzegovina especially abounds in phenomena of this kind. The
ground there is pierced by “sinks,” or _ponors_, which swallow up the
water derived from precipitation. “Blind valleys” and “troughs” present
everywhere the traces of currents of water and of temporary lakes,
and after heavy rains the subterranean basins sometimes rise to the
surface, and a river then flows for a time along the valley. As a rule,
however, the inhabitants are compelled to {128} collect the water they
require in cisterns, or to fetch it from long distances. Elsewhere the
hydrography of the country is subject to annual changes. Lakes which
still figure upon our maps are drained through subterranean passages
only recently opened; other lakes are formed in consequence of some
passage, which formerly carried off the surface water, having become
choked with alluvium. No more curious river probably exists in the
world than the Trebinishtitza, in the Western Herzegovina. It appears
and disappears many times. One of its branches, flowing at one time
on the surface, at others underground, crosses the plains of Kotesi,
in turns a parched champaign country or a lake abounding in fish, and
enters the Narenta. Other branches pass beneath the mountains, and
gush out near the shores of the Adriatic. One of the most famous of
these springs is that of Ombra, which pours its waters into the Bay of
Gravosa, to the north of Ragusa.


Scale 1 : 1,925,000.]

“Where the rocks finish and the trees appear, there begins Bosnia.”
So said the Dalmatians formerly. But many parts of Bosnia have now
lost their clothing of verdure. The table-lands of the Herzegovina
and Montenegro, no less than Dalmatia, have been despoiled of their
forests, but Bosnia proper still remains a country of woods. Nearly
one-half its area is covered with forests. In the valleys trees have
almost disappeared, for the peasant is allowed to wield his axe {129}
without hindrance, but in the virgin forests of the mountains trees
still abound. The principal trees of Europe are met with in these
magnificent woods: walnut-trees, chestnut-trees, limes, maples, oaks,
beeches, ash-trees, birches, pines, firs, and larches. Austrian
speculators, unfortunately, avail themselves of the roads which begin
to open up the interior of the country to devastate these forests,
which ought to be preserved with the greatest care. The song of birds
is but rarely heard in these sombre woods, but wild animals abound
in them. They shelter bears, wild boars, and deer, and the number of
wolves is so large that their skins form one of the most important
articles of Bosnian commerce. Taken as a whole, Bosnia ranks among
the most fertile countries of Europe, and few regions surpass it in
the beauty of its rural scenery. In some parts of the country, and
particularly near the Save, large herds of hogs, almost wild, roam
through the oak forests. Hence the epithet of “country of hogs” which
the Turks have derisively given to Bosnia.

With the exception of the Jews, the gipsies, and the few Osmanli
officials, soldiers, and merchants in the principal towns, the entire
population of the country is of Slav race. The inhabitants of Kraina,
near the Austrian frontier, call themselves Croats, but they scarcely
differ from the Bosnian Servians and Raitzes of ancient Rascia, now
known as the sandjak of Novibazar. On the classical soil of Rascia
originated most of those cherished _piesmas_, or popular songs, in
which the Southern Slavs have deposited their national traditions. The
Herzegovinians, in some respects, differ from their Bosnian kinsmen.
They are the descendants of immigrants who came from the banks of the
Vistula in the seventh century. Like their neighbours the Montenegrins,
they are more voluble in their speech than the Servians proper, and
make use of numerous peculiar turns of expression and a few words of
Italian which have glided into their language.

Although most of the Bosnians are of the same race, they are divided by
religious animosities, and these account for their state of political
servitude. At the first glance it may cause surprise that the Slavs
of Bosnia should not have succeeded in throwing off the Turkish yoke,
like their kinsmen of Servia. Their country is more remote from the
capital, and far less accessible than Servia. A conquering army coming
from the south has not only to force numerous defiles, but has to
contend, too, with the climate, which is far more severe than that of
the remainder of the Balkan peninsula. But, in spite of these great
natural advantages from a defensive point of view, every revolt has
hitherto failed lamentably. We need not seek far for the cause of this:
Christian and Mohammedan Bosnians are at enmity, and the Christians
themselves are split up into Greeks, who are led by their _popes_, and
Romans, who follow blindly their Franciscan priests. In their divided
state they fall an easy prey to their oppressors, and servitude has
degraded their character.

The Mussulmans of Bosnia call themselves Turks, but they are Slavs
nevertheless, like their Christian compatriots, and, like them,
speak Servian with a large admixture of Turkish words. They are the
descendants of the nobles who, in {130} the fifteenth and sixteenth
centuries, embraced Islamism in order to save their feudal privileges.
They also number amongst their ranks the descendants of brigands, who
changed their religion in order to be able to continue their trade
without fear of punishment. This apostacy gave to the lords even
greater power over their wretched dependants than they had formerly
possessed. The hatred of caste was augmented by religious animosity,
and they soon surpassed in fanaticism the Mohammedan Turks, and reduced
the Christian peasantry to a condition of veritable slavery. A wild
pear-tree is still pointed out near one of the gates of Sarayevo, upon
which the notables occasionally suspended some unfortunate raya for
their amusement. Whether beys or spahis, these Mohammedan Bosnians are
the most retrograde element of old Turkey, and on several occasions,
as in 1851, they even rose up in rebellion in order to maintain intact
their ancient feudal privileges. Sarayevo, as a Mussulman city, stood
under the special protection of the Sultan’s mother, and possessed most
extravagant privileges, which converted it into a state in the state
more hostile to Christianity than the Sublime Porte itself.

Even in our own days the Bosnian Mussulmans possess far more than their
proper share of the land. The country is divided into _spahiliks_,
or Mussulman fiefs, which are transmitted, in accordance with the
custom of the Slavs, indivisibly to all the members of the family.
The latter choose the most aged or most valorous of their members as
their head. The Christian peasants are compelled to work for these
Mussulman communities; and, although no longer serfs, they are called
upon to bear the chief burden of taxation and of other expenses. It
is natural, under these circumstances, that the Christians of Bosnia
should shun agriculture in order to devote themselves to trade, and
nearly the whole of the commerce is in the hands of the Christians of
the Herzegovina and of their co-religionists from Slavonian Austria.
The Spanish Jews form communities in the principal towns, where they
carry on their usual commercial pursuits and money-lending on tangible
securities. They still talk Spanish amongst themselves, and never
mention without emotion the name of the country which sent them into

The number of Mussulmans hardly exceeds one-third of the total
population of Bosnia, and they are said to remain stationary, or even
to diminish, whilst the more fecund Christians increase in numbers.[36]

For the rest, the Bosnians, in spite of the differences in their
religious belief, possess the same natural gifts as their Servian
kinsmen, and, whatever destinies may be in store for them, they will
in the end rise to the same level of intelligence. They are frank and
hospitable, brave in battle, industrious, thrifty, of a poetical turn,
fast as friends, and true as lovers. The marital ties are respected,
{131} and even the Mussulmans reject the polygamy permitted by the
Koran. In the Herzegovina the women enjoy much liberty, and in many
villages there are even back doors to the houses, in order that they
may be able to gossip with their neighbours without going into the
street. In Northern Bosnia, however, the Mussulman women are wrapped
up closely in white linen sheets, and are hardly able to see a few
steps before them. But, in spite of these good qualities, there exists
an amount of barbarity, ignorance, superstition, and fanaticism,
amongst Christians and Mohammedans alike, which is truly astounding.
Incessant wars, tyranny on the one side, and servitude on the other,
have brutalised their manners. The want of roads, the extensive
forests, and the precipitous mountains have placed them beyond the
reach of civilising influences. There are hardly any schools, and the
few monasteries which supply their places are of little use, for the
monks themselves are steeped in ignorance, and their pupils at most
learn to chant a few hymns. Besides this, the immense consumption
of _slibovitza_ undermines the health of the people and demoralises
them, and it has been estimated that every Bosnian—man, woman, or
child—drinks annually no less than thirty-four pints of this detestable

It may be matter for surprise that bustling towns should exist in
so rude a country, but the natural resources of Bosnia are so great
that a certain amount of local trade was sure to spring up. Isolated
as they are, the Bosnians are thrown upon their own resources. They
grind their own flour, manufacture their arms, stuffs, and iron
implements, and the exchange of these commodities has given rise to
commerce in the cities most favourably situated as entrepôts, the
principal amongst which are Sarayevo, or Bosna Serai, and Travnik, the
ancient capital of the country, picturesquely situated at the foot
of an ancient castle. Banyaluka, which is connected with Austria by
a railway, has some trade with Croatia; Tuzla extracts salt from its
abundant brine springs; Zvornik, which guards the frontier of Servia,
also carries on some trade with that country; Novibazar has commercial
relations with Albania; Mostar and Trebinye import a few articles from
Dalmatia. The populations of these towns have not, however, been solely
attracted by trade and industry, for the insecurity of the country
has also contributed to that result. There is no part of Europe, the
neighbouring Albania and the polar regions of Scandinavia and Russia
excepted, which is so rarely visited by strangers, and this isolation
will only cease when the proposed international railway shall have
joined it to Saloniki and Constantinople.[37]


The centre plateau of Turkey is still amongst the least-known countries
of the Balkan peninsula, although it is intersected by the great
highways which connect Thracia with Bosnia, and Macedonia with the
Danube. This plateau, {132} known to the ancients as Upper Mœsia,
consists of a vast granitic table-land, rising to an average height
of 2,000 feet. Its surface is diversified by several _planinas_, or
mountain chains, of small relative height, and by domes of trachyte,
the remains of ancient volcanoes. Its numerous depressions were
formerly filled with water, and the contours of the ancient lakes can
still be traced. They have been gradually filled up by alluvium, or
drained by rivers. The most remarkable amongst these ancient lacustrine
basins are now represented by the fertile plains of Nish, Sofia, and

[Illustration: Fig. 38.—MOUNT VITOSH AND ITS ENVIRONS.

According to F. von Hochstetter. Scale 1 : 1,058,000]

The superb syenitic and porphyritic mountain group of Vitosh forms the
eastern bastion of the Mœsian plateau. Immediately to the east of it
the deep valley of the Isker pierces the whole of the Balkan Mountains,
and, crossing the plain of Sofia, takes its course in the direction of
the Danube. The upper valley of this river and the plain mentioned form
the true geographical centre of European Turkey. From Sofia diverge
some of the most important roads of the peninsula, one leading through
the valley of the Isker to the Lower Danube, another along the Morava
valley into Servia, a third by way of the Maritza into Thracia, and
a fourth down the Struma into Macedonia. It is said that Constantine
the Great, struck by these important natural advantages of Sofia, then
called Sardica, thought of making it the capital of his empire. {133}

[Illustration: TIRNOVA.]

The Turks apply the name of Balkans to all the mountain ranges of
the peninsula, but geographers restrict that term to the Hæmus of
the ancients. This mountain rampart begins to the east of the basin
of Sofia. It does not form a regular chain, but rather an elevated
terrace sloping down gently in the direction of the Danube, whilst
towards the south it presents an abrupt slope, it appearing almost
as if the plateau on that side had suddenly sunk to a lower level.
The Balkan consequently presents the appearance of a chain only when
looked at from the south. But its contours even there are only slightly
undulating; there are neither abrupt projections nor rocky pyramids,
and the prevailing character is that of long-stretched mountain ridges.
The porphyritic mountain group of Chatal, which rises to the south of
the principal chain, constitutes the only exception to this gentleness
of contour. Though inferior in height to the summits of the Balkan, its
steep precipices, slashed crests, and chaotic rock masses strike the
beholder, and the contrast between this mass of erupted rock and the
gentle slopes of the calcareous hills which surround it is very great.

The uniformity of the northern slopes of the Balkan is such that, in
many places, a traveller is able to reach the crest without having come
in sight of mountains. When the woods have disappeared from the Balkan,
these undulating slopes will be deprived of their greatest charm; but,
as long as the forests ornament them as now, the country will remain
one of the most delightful in Turkey. Running streams flow through each
valley, bordered by pastures as brilliantly green as are those of the
Alps; the villages are built in the shade of beech-trees and oaks; and
nature everywhere wears a smiling aspect. But the plains which extend
to the Danube are barren, and sometimes not a single tree is visible.
The inhabitants, deprived of wood, are dependent upon cow-dung dried
in the sun for their fuel, and they dig for themselves holes in the
ground, where they seek protection from the cold of winter.

The core of the Balkan, between the basin of Sofia and that of Slivno,
consists of granite, but the terraces which descend towards the Danube
present every geological formation, from the metamorphic to the most
recent rocks. The cretaceous formation occupies the largest area in
Bulgaria, and the rivers rising in the mountains, in traversing it,
form picturesque valleys and defiles. Ancient fortresses defend each
of these valleys, and the towns have been built where they debouch
upon the plain. Tirnova, the ancient capital of the tsars of Bulgaria,
is the most remarkable of these old bulwarks of defence. The Yantra,
on debouching there from the mountains, winds about curiously;
steep cliffs form an amphitheatre, in the centre of which rise two
precipitous isolated rocks, crowned formerly by walls and towers. The
houses of the town are built on the slopes, and its suburbs extend
along the foot of the cliffs.

A singular parallelism has been noticed on the northern slopes of
Balkan. The elevated mountain saddles, crests of secondary chains,
geological formations, the faults which give rise to the meandering
of the rivers, and even the Danube itself, all follow the same
direction, from west to east. As a consequence, each of the parallel
valleys descending from the Balkans offers similar features; the {134}
population is distributed in the same manner; and the towns occupy
analogous positions. The valley of the Lom offers the only exception
to the rule, for its direction is towards the north-west. It debouches
upon the Danube at Rustchuk, and its green orchards and gardens are
hemmed in by dazzling white cliffs of chalk rising to a height of about
100 feet.

The symmetry would be almost complete in Northern Turkey if it were
not for the detached arid hills of the Dobruja, which force the Danube
to make a wide détour to the north. Rising in the low and swampy delta
of the Danube, these hills appear to be much higher than they are. In
reality they do not exceed 1,650 feet in height. It is possible that
during some very remote geological epoch the Danube took its course
to the south of these hills, through the depression which has been
utilised for the construction of the first Turkish railway. Trajan,
who feared that the Goths might obtain a footing in this remote corner
of the Roman empire, constructed one of those lines of fortifications
here which are known throughout the countries of the Lower Danube as
Trajan’s Walls. Remains of walls, ditches, and forts may still be
traced along the banks of the marshes, and on the heights commanding
them. This country of the Dobruja is the “savage hyperborean region”
where Ovid, exiled from Rome, wept for the splendours of the capital.
The port of Tomi, the place of his banishment, is the modern Kustenje.

To the north of the Gulf of Burgas, which is the westernmost extremity
of the Black Sea, rise the fine porphyry mountains which terminate in
the superb Cape of Emineh. They are sometimes described as an eastern
prolongation of the Balkan, but erroneously, for the ancient lacustrine
basin of Karnabat, now traversed by a railway, separates them from the
system of the Hæmus. The granitic plateaux and mountains of Tunja and
Stranja, which command the wide plain of Thracia on the north, are
likewise separate mountain ranges. The Southern Balkan is, in reality,
without ramifications or spurs, except in the west, where the mountains
of Ikhtiman and of Samakov, so rich in iron ore and thermal springs,
and other transverse chains, connect it with the mountain mass of
the Rhodope. The upper basin of the Maritza River, enclosed between
the Balkan and the Rhodope, has the shape of an elongated triangle,
whose apex, directed towards the plain of Sofia, indicates the point
of junction between the two systems. The whole of this triangular
depression, with its lateral ramifications, was formerly occupied by
lakes, now converted into bottom-lands of marvellous fertility. The
passes near the apex of this triangle are naturally points of the
highest strategical and commercial importance. Through one of them,
still marked by ancient fortifications, and known as Trajan’s Gate,
passed the old Roman highway, and there, too, the railway now in course
of construction will cross the summit between the two slopes of the
peninsula. This is the true “gateway of Constantinople,” and from the
most remote times nations have fought for its possession. The numerous
tumuli scattered over the neighbouring plains bear witness to many a
bloody struggle.

The spurs of the Rhodope intermingle with those of the Balkan, and
the lowest {135} pass which separates the two still exceeds 3,000
feet in elevation. The Rilo Dagh, the most elevated mountain mass
of the Rhodope, boldly rises at its northern extremity, and, to use
the expression of Barth, forms the shoulder-blade of junction. Its
height is 9,580 feet. It rises far beyond the region of forests, and
its jagged summits, pyramids, and platforms contrast strikingly with
the rounded outlines of the Balkan. But the lower heights, surrounded
by this imposing amphitheatre of grand summits, are covered with
vegetation. Forests of pines, larches, and beech-trees, the haunts
of bears and chamois, alternate with clumps of trees and cultivated
fields, and the villages in the valleys are surrounded by meadows,
vineyards, and oaks. Picturesque cupolas of numerous monasteries
peep out amongst the verdure: to their existence the mountain owes
its Turkish name of Despoto Dagh, _i.e._ “mountain of the parsons.”
The Rilo Dagh, likewise famous on account of its monasteries, has
altogether the aspect of the Swiss Alps. The moist winds of the
Mediterranean convey to it much snow in winter and spring, but in
summer the clouds discharge only torrents of rain, and the snow rapidly
disappears from the flanks of the mountains. These sudden rain-storms
are amongst the most remarkable spectacles to be witnessed. In the
forenoon the mist which hides the tops of the mountains grows dense by
degrees, and heavy copper-coloured clouds collect on the slopes. About
three in the afternoon the rain begins to pour down, the clouds grow
visibly smaller, first one, then another summit is seen through a rent
in the watery vapours, until at last the air has become purified, and
the mountains are lit up in the sunset.

To the south of the Rilo Dagh rises the mountain mass of Perim, hardly
inferior to it in height. This is the Orbelos of the ancient Greeks,
and the rings to which Noah made fast his ark when the waters subsided
after the deluge are still shown there, and even Mussulman pilgrims pay
their devotions at this venerated spot. It is the last high summit of
the Rhodope. The mountains to the south rapidly decrease in elevation,
though the granitic formation to which they belong is spread over a
vast extent of country from the plains of Thracia to Albania. The
extent of the hilly region connected with the Rhodope is still further
increased by numerous groups of extinct volcanoes, which have poured
forth vast sheets of trachytic lava. The rivers which flow from the
central plateau of Turkey into the Ægean Sea have cut for themselves
deep passages through these granites and lavas, the most famous amongst
which is the “Iron Gate” of the Vardar, or Demir Kapu, which formerly
figured on our maps of Turkey as a large town.

The aspect of the crystalline mountain masses to the west of the Vardar
is altogether of an Alpine character, for the peaks not only attain a
high elevation, but snow remains upon them during the greater portion
of the year. The Gornichova, or Nije, to the north of Thessaly, rises
to a height of 6,560 feet; and the Peristeri, whose triple summit
and snow-clad shoulders have been likened to the spread-out wings of
a bird, and which rises close to the city of Bitolia, or Monastir,
is more elevated still. The mountains of ancient Dardania enclose
extensive circular or elliptical plains, and the most remarkable
amongst these, {136} namely, that of Monastir, has been compared by
Grisebach, the geologist, to one of those huge crater lakes which the
telescope has revealed to us on the surface of the moon. In most of
these plains we meet with swamps or small lakes, the only remains of
the sheets of water which at one time covered them. The most extensive
of these lakes is that of Ostrovo. The Lake of Kastoria resembles the
filled-up crater of a volcano. In its centre rises a limestone hill
joined to the shore by an isthmus, upon which is built a picturesque
Greek town.

According to Viquesnel and Hochstetter, traces of glaciers do not
exist in any of these ancient lacustrine basins, or on the flanks
of the mountains. It is certainly remarkable that whilst other
European mountains—as, for instance, the Vosges and the mountains of
Auvergne—have passed through a glacial epoch, the far more elevated
Peristeri, Rilo Dagh, and Balkan, under about the same latitude as the
Pyrenees, should never have had their valleys filled by moving rivers
of ice.[38]

All the large rivers of European Turkey belong to the Bulgarian regions
of the Balkan or Hæmus. In Bosnia there are merely small parallel
rivers flowing to the Save; Albania has only turbulent torrents forcing
their way through wild gorges, like the Drin; but the Maritza, the
Strymon or Karasu, the Vardar, and the Inje Karasu, which descend from
the southern flanks of the Balkans, or originate in the crystalline
mountain masses of the Rhodope, are large rivers, which bear comparison
with the tranquil streams of Western Europe. As yet we know but little
about their mode of action. The volume of water discharged by them has
never been measured, and they are hardly made use of for purposes of
navigation or irrigation. They all traverse ancient lake basins, which
they have filled up gradually with alluvium, and converted into fertile
plains. This work of filling up still goes on in the lower portions
of these fluvial valleys, where extensive marshes, and even gradually
shrinking lakes, abound. One of these lakes, the Takhino, through which
the Strymon flows before it enters the Ægean Sea, is said to be the
Prasias of Herodotus, and its aquatic villages were no doubt similar to
the pile dwellings discovered in nearly all the lakes of Central Europe.

The Danube, to the north of the Dobruja, performs an amount of
geological work, in comparison with which that of the Maritza, the
Strymon, and Vardar sinks into insignificance. That mighty river
annually conveys to the Black Sea a volume of water far in excess of
that which is carried down the rivers of all France, and the solids
which it holds in suspension are sufficient to cover an area of ten
square miles to a depth of nine feet. This enormous mass of sand and
clay is annually deposited in the swamps and on the banks of the delta,
and the slow but steady growth of the latter is thus sufficiently
explained. Even the ancients {137} anticipated a time when the Black
Sea would be converted into a shallow pond abounding in sand-banks, and
it must, therefore, afford some consolation to our mariners to be told
that six million years must pass before the alluvium carried down the
river will fill the whole of the Black Sea.

[Illustration: Fig. 39.—THE DELTA OF THE DANUBE.

Scale 1 : 1,500,000.]

The large triangular plain which the Danube has conquered from the
sea has not yet fully emerged from the waters. Lakes, and the remains
of ancient bays, half-obliterated branches of the Danube, and the
ever-changing beds of rivulets, have converted this delta into a
domain, half land, half sea. More elevated tracts, consolidated by the
attack of the waves, rise here and there above the melancholy mire
and reeds, and bear a dense vegetation of oaks, olives, and beeches.
Willows fringe most of the branches of the river which take their
winding course through the delta. Twenty years ago the Danube had six
mouths; it has now only three.

After the Crimean war the Western powers determined that the Kilia
branch, which conveys to the Black Sea more than half the volume of
the Danube, should thenceforth form the boundary between Rumania and
Turkey. The Sultan thus possesses not only the whole of the delta,
which has an area of about 4,000 square miles, but also the only mouth
of the river which makes the possession of that territory of any value
to him. The mouth of the Kilia is closed by a bar of sand, which does
not even permit small vessels to enter it. {138}

The southern mouth, that of Khidrillis, or St. George, is likewise
inaccessible. The centre branch, that of the Sulina, which has served
the purposes of commerce from time immemorial, can alone be entered by
vessels. But even this channel would not be practicable, in the case
of large vessels, if our engineers had not improved its facilities of
access. Formerly the depth of water on the bar hardly exceeded a fathom
during April, June, and July; and even at times of flood was at most
two or three fathoms. But by building convergent jetties, which guide
the waters of the river into the deep sea, the depth of water has been
increased to the extent of ten feet, and vessels drawing twenty feet
can enter. Sulina is now one of the most important commercial ports
of Europe, and a highly prized harbour of refuge on the Black Sea,
which is so much dreaded by mariners on account of its squalls. We are
indebted for this great public work to an international commission,
which enjoys almost sovereign rights over the Danube as high up as


 Kilia Mouth.      Sulina Mouth.      St. George’s Mouth.]

The Bulgarians inhabit the country to the south of the Danube as far as
the slopes of Mount Pindus, excepting only certain detached territories
in the occupation of Turks, Wallachians, Zinzares, or Greeks. In the
Middle Ages their kingdom was even more extensive, for it included the
whole of Albania, and had Okhrida for its capital.

The origin of the Bulgarians has been a theme of frequent discussion.
The Bulgarians of the Byzantines, who laid waste the plains of Thracia
about the close of the fifth century, and whose name became a term
of opprobrium, probably were a Ugrian race, like the Huns, and spoke
a language akin to that of the Samoyeds. The name of these savage
conquerors is sometimes derived from the Volga, on the banks of which
they formerly dwelt; but their manners and appearance have undergone
a singular change, and nothing now indicates their origin. Originally
Turanians, they have been converted into Slavs, like their neighbours
the Servians and Russians.

[Illustration: BULGARIANS.

 Christian from      Christian Ladies      Mohammedans      A native of
   Viddin.             from Skodra.        from Viddin.      Koyutepe.]

This rapid conversion of the Bulgarians into Slavs is one of the most
remarkable ethnological phenomena of the Middle Ages. Even in the
ninth century the Bulgarians had adopted the Servian language, and
soon afterwards they ceased to speak their own. Their idiom is less
polished than that of the Servians, and, possessing no literature,
has not become fixed. The purest Bulgarian, it is said, may be heard
in the district of Kalofer, to the south of the Balkan. The gradual
transformation of the Bulgarians into Slavs is ascribed by some authors
to the {139} prodigious facility for imitation possessed by that
people; but it is simpler to assume that, in course of time, the
conquering Bulgarians and the conquered Servians became amalgamated,
and that, whilst the former gave a name to the new nation, the latter
contributed their language, their manners, and physical features. Thus
much is certain, that the inhabitants of Bulgaria must now be looked
upon as members of the Slavonian family of nations. Together with the
Servians, Croats, and Herzegovinians, they are the most numerous people
of European Turkey; and, if the succession to the dominion of the Turks
is to be decided by numbers alone, it belongs to the Servo-Bulgarians,
and not to the Greeks.

The Bulgarians, as a rule, are not so tall as their neighbours the
Servians; they are squat, strongly built, with a large head on broad
shoulders. Lejean, himself a Breton, and others, consider that they
bear a striking resemblance to the peasants of Brittany. In several
districts, and notably in the environs of Philippopoli, they shave
the head, a tuft of hair alone excepted, which they cultivate and
dress into a tail as carefully as the Chinese. Greeks and Wallachians
ridicule them, and many proverbial expressions refer to their want of
intelligence and polish. This ridicule, however, they hardly deserve.
Less vivacious than the Wallachian, or less supple than the Greek, the
Bulgarian is certainly not deficient in intelligence. But bondage has
borne heavily upon him; and in the south, where he is oppressed by the
Turk and fleeced by the Greek, he looks unhappy and sad; but in the
plains of the north and the secluded mountain villages, where he has
been exposed to less suffering, he is jovial, fond of pleasure, fluent
of speech, and quick at repartee. The inhabitants of the northern
slopes of the Balkan, perhaps owing to a greater infusion of Servian
blood, are better-looking, too, than other Bulgarians, and dress in
better taste. A still finer race of men are the Pomakis, in the high
valleys of the Rhodope, to the south of Philippopoli. Their speech is
Bulgarian, but in no other respect do they resemble their compatriots.
They are a fine race of men, with auburn hair, full of energy, and of a
poetical temperament. We almost feel tempted to look upon them as the
lineal descendants of the ancient Thracians, especially if it should
turn out to be true that in their songs they celebrate Orpheus, the
divine musician.

The Bulgarians, and especially those of the plains, are a peaceable
people, recalling in no respect the fierce hordes who devastated the
Byzantine empire. They are not warlike, like their neighbours the
Servians, and do not keep alive in their national poetry the memory of
former struggles. Their songs relate to the events of every-day life,
or to the sufferings of the oppressed; and the “gentle _zaptieh_,”
as the representative of authority, is one of the characters most
frequently represented in them. The average Bulgarian is a quiet,
hard-working peasant, a good husband and father; he is fond of
home comforts, and practises every domestic virtue. Nearly all the
agricultural produce exported from Turkey results from the labour of
Bulgarian husbandmen. It is they who have converted certain portions of
the plain to the south of the Danube into huge fields of {140} maize
and corn, rivalling those of Rumania. It is they, likewise, who, at
Eski-Za’ara, at the south of the Balkan, produce the best silk and
the best wheat in all Turkey, from which latter alone the bread and
cakes placed upon the Sultan’s table are prepared. Other Bulgarians
have converted the noble plain of Kezanlik, at the foot of the Balkan,
into the finest agricultural district of Turkey, the town itself being
surrounded by magnificent walnut-trees and by rosaries, which furnish
the famous attar of roses, constituting so important an article of
commerce throughout the East. Amongst the Bulgarians between Pirot and
Turnov (Tirnova), on the northern slope of the Balkan, there exist
flourishing manufactures. Each village there is noted for a particular
branch of industry. Knives are made at one, metal ornaments at another,
earthenware at a third, stuffs or carpets elsewhere; and even common
workmen exhibit much manual dexterity and purity of taste. An equally
remarkable spirit of enterprise is manifested amongst the Bulgarians
and Zinzares of the district of Bitolia, or Monastir. The town
itself, as well as Kurshova, Florina, and others in its vicinity, are
manufacturing centres.

The Bulgarians, peaceable, patient, and industrious as they are, are
beginning to grow tired of the subjection in which they are held.
They certainly do not as yet dream of a national rising, for the
isolated revolts which have taken place amongst them were confined to
a few mountaineers, or brought about by young men whom a residence
in Servia or Rumania had imbued with an enthusiasm for liberty. But
though docile subjects still, the Bulgarians begin to raise their
heads. They have learnt to look upon each other as members of the
same nation, and are organizing themselves for the defence of their
nationality. The first step in this direction was taken on a question
of religion. When the Turks conquered the country a certain number
amongst them turned Mohammedan to escape oppression; but though they
visit the mosques, they nevertheless still cling to the faith of their
forefathers, venerate the same springs, and put their trust in the same
talismans. A few joined the Roman Church, but a great majority remained
Greek Catholics. Greek monks and priests, not long since, enjoyed
the greatest influence, for during centuries of oppression they had
upheld the ancient faith. Their presence vaguely recalled the times of
independence, and their churches were the only sanctuaries open to the
persecuted peasant. But the Bulgarians, in the end, grew discontented
with a priesthood who did not even take the trouble to acquire the
language of its congregations, and openly sought to subject them to an
alien nation like the Greeks. Nothing was further from their thoughts
than a religious schism. They merely desired to withdraw from the
authority of the Patriarch of Constantinople, and to found a National
Church of their own, as had been done by the Servians, and even by
the Greeks of the new Hellenic kingdom. The Vatican of Constantinople
protested, the Turkish Government proved anything but favourable to
this movement of emancipation, but in the end the Greek priests were
forced to retire—precipitately in some instances—and the new National
Church was established. {141}

This pacific revolution, though directed against the Greeks, cannot
fail to influence the relations between Bulgarians and Turks. The
former have combined, for the first time since many centuries, for the
accomplishment of a common national object, and this reawakening of a
feeling of nationality cannot but prove detrimental to the rule of the
Osmanli. The latter are not very numerous in the country districts of
Western Bulgaria, where they are met with chiefly in the towns, and
particularly in those which are of strategical importance. Eastern
Bulgaria, however, is for the most part peopled by Turks, or at all
events by Bulgarians who have adopted the language, dress, manners, and
modes of thought of their conquerors. No Christian monastery exists in
this stronghold of Turkish power, though there are several Mohammedan
places of pilgrimage held in high repute for their sanctity.

The Greeks, next to the Turks, are the most important element of the
population of Bulgaria. They are not very numerous to the north of
the Balkan, where their influence hardly exceeds that of the Germans
and Armenians established in the towns. To the south of the Balkan,
though not numerous relatively, they are much more widely distributed.
One or two Greeks are met with in every village, carrying on trade
or exercising some handicraft. They make themselves indispensable
to the locality, their advice is sought for by all, and they impart
their own spirit to the whole of the population. Where two or three
of these Greeks meet they at once constitute themselves into a sort
of community, and throughout the country they form a kind of masonic
brotherhood. Their influence is thus far greater than could be expected
from their numbers. There are a few important Greek colonies amongst
the Bulgarians, as at Philippopoli and Bazarjik, and in a valley of the
Rhodope they occupy the populous town of Stanimako, to the exclusion of
Turks and Bulgarians. The ruins of ancient buildings, as well as the
dialect of the inhabitants, which contains over two hundred Greek words
not known to modern Greek, prove that Stanimako has existed as a Greek
town for upwards of twenty centuries, and M. Dumont thinks that it is
one of the old colonies of Eubœa.

The initiatory part played by the Greeks in Southern Bulgaria is
played in the north by the Rumanians. The right bank of the Danube,
from Chernavoda to the Black Sea, is for the most part inhabited by
Wallachians, who are gradually gaining upon the Turks. Other colonists
are attracted by the fertility of the plains at the northern foot
of the Balkan. The Bulgarians are careful cultivators of the soil
themselves, but the Rumanians nevertheless gain a footing amongst them,
as they do with the Servians, the Magyars, and the Germans. They are
more active and intelligent than the Bulgarians, their families are
more numerous, and in the course of a generation they generally succeed
in “Rumanising” a village in which they have settled.

Bulgarians and Turks, Greeks and Wallachians, isolated colonies of
Servians and Albanians, communities of Armenians and of Spanish Jews,
colonies of Zinzares and wandering tribes of Mohammedan Tsigani,
have converted the {142} countries of the Balkan into a veritable
ethnological chaos; but the confusion is greater still in the small
district of Dobruja, between the Lower Danube and the Black Sea. In
addition to the races enumerated, we there meet with Nogai Tartars,
who are of purer blood than their kinsmen the Osmanli, and exhibit the
Asiatic type in greater purity. Although they cultivate the soil, they
have not altogether abandoned their nomad habits, for they wander with
their herds over hill and dale. They are governed by an hereditary
khan, as at the time when they dwelt in tents.

After the Crimean war several thousand Nogai Tartars, compromised by
the aid which they had rendered the Allies, joined their compatriots
in the Dobruja. On the other hand, about 10,000 Bulgarians, terrified
at the approach of these much-maligned immigrants, fled the Dobruja,
and sought an asylum in Russia, where they were assigned the lands
abandoned by the Crimean Tartars. This exchange proved disastrous to
both nations, for sickness and grief carried off many victims. More
deplorable still was the lot of the Circassians and other Caucasian
tribes, who, to the number of 400,000, sought a refuge in Turkey in
1864. It was by no means easy to provide accommodation for so large a
host. The pasha intrusted with the installation of these immigrants
sent many of them to Western Bulgaria, in the vain hope that they
would cut off all contact between Servians and Bulgarians. The rayas
were compelled to surrender to them their best lands, to build
houses for them, and to supply them with cattle and seed-corn. This
hospitable reception, compulsory though it was, would have enabled
these immigrants to start in their adopted country with a fair chance
of success, had they but deigned to work. This, however, they declined.
Hunger, sickness, and a climate very different from that of their
mountains, caused them to perish in thousands, and in less than a
year about one-third of these refugees had perished. Young girls and
children were sold to procure bread, and this infamous traffic became
a source of wealth to certain pashas. The harems became filled with
young Circassians, who were a drug in the market at that time, and the
human merchandise not saleable at Constantinople was exported to Syria
and Egypt. These Circassians, after thus suffering from sickness and
their own improvident laziness, have now accommodated themselves to
the conditions of their new homes. Though of the same religion as the
Osmanli, they readily assimilate with the Bulgarians amongst whom they
dwell, and adopt their language.

Other refugees, more kindly treated by fate, have found an asylum in
the Dobruja. They are Russian Cossacks, Ruthenians, and Muscovites
of the “Old Faith,” who left their steppes towards the close of last
century in order to escape persecution. The Padisha, more tolerant than
the Christian Empress of Russia, generously received them, and granted
them land in various parts of his dominions. The Russian colonies in
the Dobruja and in the delta of the Danube have prospered, and one of
their settlements on the St. George’s branch of the river is known
as the “Cossacks’ Paradise.” Most of these Russians are engaged in
the sturgeon fishery and the preparation of caviare. They have {143}
proved grateful for the hospitality extended to them, and have always
fought valiantly in defence of their adopted country. They retain their
national dress, their language, and their religion, and do not mix with
the surrounding populations.

In addition to the above, we meet in the Dobruja with colonies of
Germans, Arabs, and Poles, and, in the new port of the Sulina, with
representatives of many nations of Europe and Asia.

       *       *       *       *       *

There are few countries where the great international high-roads are
as plainly traced by nature as in Bulgaria. The first of these roads
is formed by the Danube. The Turkish towns along its banks—Viddin,
Shishtova, Rustchuk, and Silistria—are taking an increasing share
in European commerce. This highway is continued along the shores of
the Black Sea, where there are several commercial harbours, the most
important being Burgas, a great grain port. This natural highway,
however, has become too circuitous for purposes of commerce. A railway
has therefore been built across the isthmus of the Dobruja, from
Chernavoda to Kustenje, and a second line connects Rustchuk, on the
Danube, with Varna, on the Black Sea, the latter line crossing the
whole of Eastern Bulgaria, and touching the towns of Razgrad and
Shumna. A third line, now in course of construction, will cross the
Balkans by a depression to the south of Shumna, and traversing the
plain in which the towns of Yamboly and Adrianople are built, will
connect the Lower Danube with the Ægean Sea. A third route, still
farther to the west, passes Turnov, or Tirnova—the ancient capital of
the tsars of Bulgaria—Kezanlik, and Eski-Za’ara.

These railways, already opened for traffic or approaching
completion, certainly shorten the journey between Western Europe
and Constantinople; but it is proposed now to avoid the circuitous
navigation of the Lower Danube altogether, by joining the railway
system of Europe to that of Turkey. One of these proposed railways will
pass through Bosnia, and down the valley of the Vardar to Saloniki;
another will follow the ancient Roman road, which connected Pannonia
with Byzantium, and which was paved in the sixteenth century as far as
Belgrad. The principal cities along this great highway are Nish, on a
tributary of the Morava, close to the frontier of Servia; Sofia, the
ancient Sardica, on the Isker, a tributary of the Danube; Bazarjik,
or “the market;” and the fine town of Philippopoli, with its triple
mountain commanding the passage of the Maritza. These towns, on the
completion of the railway, cannot fail to become of great commercial
importance. A hideous monument near Nish will, perhaps, be pointed out
to tourists attracted thither on the opening of the railway. It was
erected to remind future generations of a deed of “glory.” This trophy
of Kele-kalesi consists of a tower built of the skulls of Servians,
who, rather than fall alive into the hands of their enemies, blew
themselves up together with the redoubt which they defended. A governor
of Nish, more humane than his predecessors, desired to remove this
abominable piece of masonry, which no raya passes without a shudder,
but Mussulman fanaticism forbade it. {144}

The influence of commerce cannot fail to modify largely the manners
and customs of a nation as supple and pliable as are the Bulgarians.
War has brutalised the Albanians, and slavery degraded the Bulgarians.
In the towns, more particularly, they have sunk very low. The insults
heaped upon them by Mussulmans, and the contemptuous manner in which
they were treated, rendered them abject and despicable in their own
eyes. Demoralised by servitude and misery, given up to the mercy of
their rich compatriots, the _chorbajis_, or “givers of soup,” they
became shameless and low-minded helots. The Bulgarian women, in the
towns more particularly, presented a spectacle of the most shameful
corruption, and their want of modesty, their coarseness, and ignorance
fully justified the contempt in which they were held by their
Mohammedan sisters. Even as regards education the Turks were in advance
of them: not long ago their schools relatively were more numerous,
and the instruction given in them was of a superior order. Christian
villages, moreover, were never so clean or pleasant as those of the

But, whatever may have been the case in the past, things have already
begun to mend. The Turks, as a body, may still be the superiors of
the Bulgarians, as regards probity and a respect for truth, but they
work less, and become impoverished by degrees. In the country the land
gradually passes into the hands of the rayas, in the towns the latter
monopolize nearly all the trade. The Bulgarians, moreover, have learnt
to appreciate the importance of education; they have founded schools
and colleges, have set up printing presses, and send their young men to
be educated at the universities of Europe. The young Bulgarians in the
mixed colleges of Constantinople invariably make the most satisfactory
progress in their studies. This revival of learning is a most hopeful
sign of vitality. If persevered in, the Bulgarian race, which has been
dead, as it were, for so many centuries, may again play its part in the
world’s history. The atrocities of which Bulgaria has recently been
the scene may retard this regeneration, but they certainly cannot stop
it.[40] {145}


The prophecies respecting the “sick man” have not yet been fulfilled,
and his heritage divided amongst the surrounding powers. To a great
extent he is indebted for this continued existence to the jealousies
of the European powers, and to the fact of Russia having her hands
full in Central Asia. Still, Turkey has recently exhibited a wonderful
amount of vitality. Fresh provinces have been incorporated with the
empire in Arabia, at a distance of 1,800 miles from the capital; and a
rebellion in the north-western portion of European Turkey, originating
in the misgovernment of the country, but aided and abetted by Russia,
has been suppressed with a strong hand. The Turkish empire remains not
only intact, but will actually be found to have considerably increased
in extent, if we include within it the territories of the Khedive of
Egypt, whose arms have been carried to the Upper Nile and into Dar Fur.

We must guard ourselves, at the same time, against the assumption that
Turkey has entered upon a path of normal progress. On the contrary,
Turkey is a mediæval country still, and will have to pass through many
intestine revolutions before it can rank with the civilised states of
Europe or America. The country is in the occupation of hostile races,
who would fall upon each other were they not restrained by force.
The Servian would take up arms against the Albanian, the Bulgarian
against the Greek, and all the subject races would combine against
the Turk. National jealousies are augmented by religious animosities.
The Catholic Bosnians hate other Slavs, and the Tosks detest the
Gheges, although they speak the same language. The Osmanli oppress
these various populations without compunction, their art of government
consisting in playing them off against each other.

Nor can better things be expected in an empire in which caprice
reigns supreme. The Padishah is lord of the souls and bodies of his
subjects; he is commander-in-chief of the army, supreme judge, and
sovereign pontiff. In former times his power was practically limited
by semi-independent feudatories, but since the fall of Ali Pasha and
the massacre of the janissaries he is restrained only by customs,
traditions, and the demands of the Governments of Europe. He is the
most despotic sovereign of Europe, and his civil list the heaviest in
proportion to the revenues of the country. The household of the late
Sultan and of the members of his family was exceedingly numerous. There
lived in the Seraglio an army of 6,000 servants and slaves of both
sexes, of whom 600 were cooks. These servants, in turn, were surrounded
by an army of hangers-on, who were fed from the imperial kitchens, to
which no less than 1,200 sheep were supplied daily by the contractors.

Current expenses were sufficiently heavy, but more considerable
still was the extraordinary expenditure incurred in the construction
of palaces and kiosks, the purchase of articles _de luxe_ and of
curiosities, and for all kinds of prodigalities. The present Sultan,
driven thereto by the precarious position of his empire, has limited
his expenditure. But will this last? {146}

Ministers, valis, and other high officials of the empire faithfully
follow in the footsteps of their sovereign, and their expenditure
always exceeds their salary, though the latter is fixed on a most
liberal scale. As to the lower officials, their salaries are small and
irregularly paid; but it is understood that they may recoup themselves
at the expense of the ratepayers. Everything can be purchased in
Turkey, and, above all, justice. The state of the finances is most
lamentable; loans are raised at usurious interest; and so badly is the
country governed that it has been seriously proposed to intrust the
management of its finances to a syndicate of the European powers ! [41]

Agriculture and industry progress but slowly under such misgovernment.
Vast tracts of the most fertile land are allowed to lie fallow; they
appear to be no one’s property, and any one may settle upon and
cultivate them. But woe to him if he conducts his operations with
profit to himself; for no sooner is he observed to become wealthy
than his land is laid claim to on behalf of the clergy or of some
pasha, and he may consider himself lucky if he escapes a bastinado.
The peasants, in many districts, are careful not to produce more than
they absolutely require to live upon, for an abundant harvest would
impoverish them—would merely lead to a permanent increase of taxation.
The tradesmen in the smaller towns are equally careful to conceal their
wealth, if they possess any.

Many Mussulman families have ceded to the mosques their proprietary
rights. They thus enjoy merely the usufruct of their lands, but are
freed, on the other hand, from the payment of taxes, and the land
remains in the possession of their families until they become extinct.
These lands are known as _vakufs_, and they form about one-third of
the area of the whole empire. They contribute actually nothing towards
the revenues of the State. In the end they aggrandise the vast estates
of the Mohammedan clergy. Taxation weighs almost exclusively upon the
lands cultivated by the unfortunate Christians; and in proportion as
the vakufs increase, so does the produce of taxation diminish. This
must in the end necessarily lead to a secularisation of the estates of
the clergy; and even now, to the great horror of the old Turks, the
Ottoman Government is timidly extending its hands towards the estates
belonging to the mosques of Constantinople.


The Servian, Albanian, and Bulgarian peasants actually cultivate
their land in spite of their masters. A single fact will show this.
Certain collectors of tithes, in order to prevent fraud, insist upon
the peasants leaving the whole of the harvest upon the fields until
they have withdrawn their tenth part. Maize, rice, and corn are
exposed there to the inclemencies of the weather and other destructive
agencies; and it frequently happens that the harvest has deteriorated
to the extent of one-half in value before the Government impost is
levied. Sometimes the peasants allow their grapes or fruit to rot
rather than pay the tithes. But it is not the tax-gatherer alone of
whose conduct the peasant may complain; for he is exposed likewise to
exactions by the middlemen with whom he comes into contact when selling
his produce. “The Bulgarian works, but the Greek holds the plough.” So
says an ancient proverb; and this is still true at least of the {147}
countries to the south of the Balkan, where the Bulgarian peasant is
not always the proprietor of the land he tills. But where he does not
directly work for a Greek or Mussulman proprietor, his harvest, even
before it is cut, is frequently the property of a usurer; but he works
on from day to day, a wretched slave, in the vain hope of becoming one
day a free man.

The fertility of the soil on both slopes of the Balkans, in Macedonia,
and in Thessaly is, however, such that in spite of mosques and
tax-collectors, in spite of usurers and thieves, agriculture supplies
commerce with a large quantity of produce. Maize, or “Turkish corn,”
and all cereals are grown in abundance. The valleys of the Karasu and
Vardar produce cotton, tobacco, and dye stuffs; the coast districts
and islands yield wine and oil, whose quality would leave nought to be
desired, were a little more care bestowed upon their cultivation; and
forests of mulberry-trees are met with in certain parts of Thracia and
Rumelia, and the export of cocoons to Italy and France is increasing
from year to year. Turkey, with its fertile soil, is sure to take
a prominent part amongst the European states for the variety and
superiority of its products. As to its manufactures, they will no doubt
be gradually displaced on the opening of new roads of commerce. The
manufacturers of arms, stuffs, carpets, and jewellery in the cities
of the interior will suffer considerably from foreign competition,
and many amongst them will succumb to it, unless they pass into the
hands of foreigners. The great fairs, too, which are now held annually
at Slivno and other places, and at which merchants from the whole of
the empire meet to transact business—as many as a hundred thousand
strangers being attracted occasionally to a single spot—will gradually
give place to a regular commercial intercourse.

It is certain that the commerce of Turkey has increased of late years,
thanks to the efforts of Greeks, Armenians, and Franks of all nations.
The annual value of the exports and imports of the whole of the Ottoman
empire in Europe and Asia is estimated at £40,000,000—a very small
sum, if we bear in mind the resources of these countries, their many
excellent harbours, and their favourable geographical position.

The Turks themselves perform but a very small share of the work that is
done in their empire. Various causes combine to render them less active
than the other races. They are the governing class, and their ambition
naturally aspires to the honours and the luxury of _kief_; that is
to say, of sweet idleness. Despising everything not Mohammedan, and
being, besides, heedless and of a sluggish mind, they but rarely learn
foreign languages, and are thus in a certain measure at the mercy of
the other races, most of whom speak two or more idioms. Moreover, the
fatalism taught in the Koran has deprived the Turk of all enterprise,
and once thrown out of his ordinary routine, he is helpless. Polygamy
and slavery are likewise two causes of demoralisation. It is true that
the rich alone can permit themselves the luxury of a harem, but the
poor learn from their superiors to despise women, they become debased,
and take a share in that traffic in human flesh which is a necessary
sequence of polygamy. Yet, in spite of the innumerable slaves imported
in the course of four centuries from all the regions bordering upon
{148} the Turkish empire; in spite of the millions of Circassian,
Greek, and other girls transplanted into the harems, the Osmanli
are numerically inferior to the other races of the peninsula. This
dominant race—if the term race be applicable to the product of so many
crossings—hardly numbers ten per cent. of the population of European
Turkey. And this numerical inferiority is on the increase, for, owing
to polygamy, the number of children surviving in Mohammedan families is
less than in Christian families. We are not in possession of precise
figures, but there can be no doubt that the Turks are on the decrease.
The conscription, to which they alone are subject, has contributed
towards this result, and becomes more difficult from year to year.

It has often been repeated since Chateaubriand that the Turks have
but camped in Europe, and expect to return to the steppes whence they
came. It would thus be a feeling of presentiment which induces the
Turks of Stambul to seek burial in the cemetery of Scutari, hoping
thus to save their bones from the profanation of the Giaour’s tread on
his return, as master, to Constantinople. In many places the living
follow the examples of the dead, and a feeble current of emigration
sets from the Archipelago and the coast districts of Thracia in the
direction of Asia, carrying along many an old Turk discontented with
the stir of European life. This migration, however, is but of very
small importance, and does not affect the Osmanli of the interior.
Nothing is further from the minds of the Turks of Bulgaria, the Yuruks
of Macedonia, or the Koniarides, who have inhabited the mountains of
Rumelia since the eleventh century, than to quit the land which has
become their second home. The Turkish element in the Balkan peninsula
can be got rid of only by exterminating it; that is, by treating the
Turks more ferociously than they treated the native populations at
the time of the conquest. We ought not to forget, at the same time,
that the Turks, though far inferior in numbers to the other races, are
nevertheless able to reckon upon the support of millions of Mohammedan
Albanians, Bosnians, Bulgarians, Circassians, and Nogai Tartars. The
Mussulmans constitute more than a third of the population of European
Turkey, and, in spite of differences of race, they hold firmly
together. Nor must it be forgotten that they are backed up by a hundred
and fifty millions of co-religionists in other parts of the world.[42]


By E.G. Ravenstein F.R.G.S.]


Let us hope that the future may not give birth to a struggle of
extermination between the races of the peninsula, but rather to
institutions enabling these diverse and partially hostile elements to
develop themselves in peace and liberty. The Turks themselves begin
to see the necessity of such institutions, and, in theory at least,
have abandoned their policy of violence and oppression. All the
nationalities of the empire, without reference to race or religion, are
supposed to be equal before the law, and Christians are admitted to
Government offices on the same terms as Mussulmans. No doubt these fine
laws have for the most part hitherto remained a dead letter, but it
would nevertheless be unjust if we denied that much progress towards an
equalisation of the various races has been made.

Fortunately the despotism of the Turks is not the despotism of
learning, based upon a knowledge of human nature, and directed to its
debasement. The Osmanli ignore the art of “oppressing wisely,” which
the Dutch governors of the Sunda Islands were required to practise
in former times, and which is not quite unknown in other countries.
The pashas allow things to take their course as long as they are
able to enrich themselves and their favourites, to sell justice and
their favours at a fair price, and to bastinade now and then some
unlucky wight. They do not inquire into the private concerns of their
subjects, and do not call for confidential reports on families and
individuals. Their Government, no doubt, is frequently violent and
oppressive; but all this only touches externals. Such a government may
not be favourable to the development of public spirit, but it does not
interfere with individuals, and powerful national institutions, such
as the Greek commune, the Mirdit tribe, and the Slav community, have
been able to survive under it. Self-government is, in fact, more widely
practised in Turkey than in the most advanced countries of Western
Europe. It would have been difficult to force these various national
elements under a uniform discipline, and the lazy Turkish functionaries
generally leave things alone. The Frankish officials in the pay of
the Turkish Government, in fact, more frequently interfere with the
prejudices and privileges of the governed than do the Mussulman pashas
of the old school.

It cannot be doubted for a moment that, in a time not very far distant,
the non-Mohammedan races of Turkey will take the lead in politics, as
they do already in commerce, industry, and education. The Osmanli of
the olden school, who still wear the green turban of their ancestors,
look forward towards this inevitable result with despair. They struggle
against every measure calculated to accelerate the emancipation of the
despised raya, and European inventions, in their eyes, are working a
great social transformation to their injury; and, indeed, it is the
raya who profits most from roads, railways, harbours, agricultural and
other machines. Bosnians, Bulgarians, and Servians have learnt to look
upon each other as brothers; Albanians and Rumanians are drawn towards
the Greeks; all alike feel themselves as Europeans; and thus the way is
being paved for the Danubian Confederation of the future.

The approaching completion of the railway from Vienna to Constantinople
cannot fail to work a commercial revolution as far as the trade of
a considerable portion of Eastern Europe is concerned. It will form
a link in the direct line {150} between England and India, and to
travellers and merchandise will afford the shortest route from the
centre of Europe to the Bosporus. On its opening, Constantinople will
be enabled to avail itself to the fullest extent of the highways of
commerce which converge upon it. Still greater must be the political
consequences of opening this line, for it will bring the populations of
the Balkan peninsula into more direct and active contact with those of
Austro-Hungary and the rest of Europe.


Scale 1 : 17,100,000.]


The Turkish empire occupies a vast area, the greater portion of which
is governed by vassals, almost independent of the Sultan at Stambul.
The vast territories of Egypt and Tunis are in that position. The
interior of Arabia is in possession of the Wahabites; the coast of
Hadramaut is inhabited partly by tribes acknowledging the suzerainty
of England; and even between Syria and the Euphrates there {151} are
numerous districts only nominally under the government of Turkish
pashas, but in reality in the possession of predatory Bedwins. The
Ottoman empire, properly so called, includes the European provinces,
Asia Minor, Syria, Palestine, the basins of Tigris and Euphrates,
Hejaz and Yemen in Arabia, and Tripoli, with Fezzan, in Africa. These
territories, with their dependent islands, cover an area of no less
than 210,156 square miles; but their population, being far less dense
than that of Western Europe, hardly numbers 47,000,000 souls.

[Illustration: Fig. 42.—THE TURKISH EMPIRE.

Scale 1 : 55,000,000.]

The area of Turkey in Europe, exclusive of Rumania, Servia,
and Montenegro, is about equal to that of the British Islands.
Constantinople, with the surrounding country, forms a district under
the immediate supervision of the Ministry of Police. The remainder
of the country is divided into eight _vilayets_, or provinces; the
vilayets are subdivided into _mutesarifliks_, or _sanjaks_; these
latter into _kazas_, or cantons; and the kazas into _rahiés_, or
parishes. Lemnos, Imbros, Samothrace, and Astypalæa, with Rhodes
and the islands along the coast of Anatolia, form a {152} separate
vilayet. These political divisions, however, are subject to frequent

The Sultan, or _Padishah_, concentrates all powers within his person.
He is _Emir el mumenin_, or head of the faithful, and his conduct is
guided solely by the prescriptions of the Koran and the traditions of
his ancestors. The two most influential persons in the empire, next
to him, are the _Sheik-el-Islam_, or Great Mufti, who superintends
public worship and the administration of justice, and the _Sadrazam_,
or Grand Vizier, who is at the head of the general administration,
and is assisted by a council of ten ministers, or _mushirs_. The
_Kislar Agasi_, or chief of the black eunuchs, to whom is confided
the management of the imperial harem, is likewise one of the great
dignitaries of the empire, and frequently enjoys the very highest
influence. The legal advisers of the various ministries are known as
_mufti_. _Efendi_, _bey_, and _aga_ are honorary titles bestowed upon
certain Government officials and persons of consideration. The title of
_pasha_, which signifies “grand chief,” is given to certain high civil
or military functionaries. This title is symbolized by one, two, or
three horse-tails attached to the top of a lance, a usage recalling the
time when the nomad Turks roamed over the steppes of Central Asia.

The work of the various ministries is done by councils, and there thus
exist a council of state, or _shuraï devlet_, councils of accounts, of
war, of the navy, of public education, of police, &c. These various
councils, in their totality, constitute the _divan_, or government
chancery. There is also a supreme court of justice, with sections
for civil and criminal cases. The members of these various official
bodies are appointed by Government. Each of the subject “nations” is
represented on the Council of State by two members, carefully selected
by the _Sadrazam_.

The vilayet is governed by a _vali_, the sanjak by a _mutesarif_, the
kaza by a {153} _kaimakan_, the parish by a _mudir_. Each of these
is supposed to act by advice of a council composed of the leading
religious and civilian functionaries, Mohammedan and non-Mohammedan. In
reality, however, the vali appoints all these councils, and they are
popularly known as the “Councils of the Ayes.”

The rules laid down by the supreme Government for its own guidance are
embodied in the _hatti-sherif_ of Gulhane, promulgated in 1839, and
in the _hatti-humayum_ of 1856. These hatts promise equal rights to
all the inhabitants of the empire, but have been carried out hitherto
only very partially. A “constitution” was promulgated in December,
1876, on the assembling of the European Conference at Constantinople.
It provides representative institutions, local self-government, and
various improvements, but is likely to remain a dead letter.

The religious and judicial organization of the country is jealously
watched over by the Sheik-el-Islam and the priests, and cannot possibly
be changed. The _imans_ are specially charged with the conduct of
public worship. They include _sheiks_, or preachers; _khatibs_, who
recite the official prayers; and the _imans_ properly so called, who
celebrate marriages and conduct interments. Judges and imans form a
body known as _ulemas_, at whose head is placed a _kazi-asker_, or
chief judge, and who are divided hierarchically into _mollahs_, _kazis_
(kadis), and _naibs_.

The Greek Patriarch of Constantinople, as head of the Church in Turkey
and civil director of the Greek communities, wields a considerable
influence. He is elected by a synod of eighteen members, which
administers the religious budget, and whose decisions in matters
of faith are final. The heads of the Latin rite are a patriarch at
Constantinople and the two Archbishops of Antivari and Durazzo. The two
Armenian Churches have each a patriarch at Constantinople.


It will be noticed that the preceding description of Turkey in Europe,
and the succeeding accounts of Rumania, Servia, and Montenegro, present
the conditions existing immediately prior to the late war with Russia,
in which the Turks were completely overpowered in a few months. The
Congress of European powers sitting at Berlin in the summer of 1878, to
consider the preliminary treaty of San Stefano (March 2) between Russia
and Turkey, materially modified its provisions in the joint treaty
signed July 13, disposing of European Turkey in the following manner:
1. The tributary principality of Bulgaria is created (with less than
half the dimensions assigned to it by the treaty of San Stefano), to be
governed by a prince (who shall not be a member of any ruling dynasty)
chosen by the people within nine months, and confirmed by the Porte
and the other powers, and in the mean time by Russian commissioners
assisted by delegated European consuls. 2. South of the Balkans is
formed the autonomous province of Eastern Roumelia, under a Christian
governor-general, appointed for five years by the Porte with the
assent of the powers, which are to determine within three months the
administrative requirements of the province. 3. Bosnia and Herzegovina
to be occupied and {154} administered by Austria-Hungary, excepting
Novi-Bazar and a small surrounding district. This provision, unlimited
as to time, practically annexes those provinces to the Austro-Hungarian
Empire, and has already (October, 1878) been executed, after serious
armed resistance by their Moslem inhabitants. 4. Rumania, Servia, and
Montenegro are made independent, with the enlarged boundaries shown by
the annexed map. Rumania receives the Dobruja from Russia, to which it
was ceded by the treaty of San Stefano, with the understanding that it
was to be exchanged for the strip of Bessarabia transferred from Russia
to Rumania by the treaty of Paris of 1856, which has accordingly been
restored. The additions to Montenegro include the port of Antivari,
which is closed to war-ships of all nations; and Montenegro is to have
no national flag nor ships of war, its merchant flag to be protected
by Austrian consuls. 5. Austrian Dalmatia receives from Albania the
small port of Spitza. 6. The services of the powers are offered for the
rectification of the northern frontier of Greece. 7. Entire religious
liberty and political equality are provided for in all the territories
affected by the treaty.





The Rumanians are certainly one of the most curious amongst European
nations. The descendants of the conquerors of the ancient world, they
live detached from, and far to the north-east of, the other nations
of the Greco-Latin family, and not many years ago they were hardly
known by name. The grave events of which the Lower Danube has been the
scene since the middle of this century have brought these Rumanians
prominently to the fore, and we know now that they differ essentially
from their neighbours, be they Slav, Turk, or Magyar. They constitute,
in fact, one of the most important elements amongst the populations of
Eastern Europe, and numerically they are the strongest nation on the
Lower Danube, the Bulgarians alone excepted.

The ethnological boundaries of Rumania are far wider than are the
political ones, for they embrace not only Wallachia and Moldavia
beyond the Carpathians, but also Russian Bessarabia, a portion of the
Bukovina, the greater portion of Transylvania, as well as extensive
tracts in the Banat and Eastern Hungary. The Rumanians have likewise
crossed the Danube, and established themselves in portions of Servia
and Bulgaria; and the settlements of their kinsmen, the Zinzares,
sporadically extend far south to the hills of Thessaly and Greece.
Rumania proper has an area of only 46,709 square miles, but the
countries of the Rumanians occupy at least twice that extent, and their
numbers exceed 8,000,000, most of whom dwell in a compact mass on the
Lower Danube and the adjoining portions of Hungary and Russia.[45]

The Roman territories on the Lower Danube almost encircle the mountain
{156} masses of the Eastern Carpathians, as will be seen by a glance
at our map, but only about one-half of this territory has been formed
into an autonomous state, the remainder belonging to Hungary and
Russia. If the national ambition of the Rumanians were to be realised,
the natural centre of their country would not lie within the actual
limits of the territory, but at Hermannstadt (called Sibiu by the
Wallachians), or elsewhere on the northern slope of the Carpathians.
Thrust beyond the Carpathians, and extending from the Iron Gate to
the upper affluents of the Pruth, the independent Rumanians occupy
a country of most irregular shape, and separated into two distinct
portions by the river Sereth and one of its tributaries, which join
the most advanced spur of the Eastern Carpathians to the great bend of
the Lower Danube. To the north of this boundary lies Moldavia, thus
named after a tributary of the Sereth; to the south-west and west is
Wallachia, or the “Plain of the Welsh,” _i.e._ of the Latins. This
plain, the _tzara Rumaneasca_, or Roman-land proper, is intersected by
numerous parallel water-courses, forming as many secondary boundaries,
and the river Olto separates it into Great Wallachia to the east, and
Little Wallachia to the west. The Danube forms the political boundary
down to its mouth. It is a wide and sinuous river; below the Iron
Gate, lakes, forests, and swamps render access to its banks almost
impossible in many places; and migratory nations and conquerors,
instead of crossing it, as they could easily have done in Austria and
Bavaria, rather sought to avoid it by seeking for a passage through the
mountains to the north. The abrupt bend of the Lower Danube and its
extensive swampy delta still further shielded the plains of Wallachia,
and invaders not provided with vessels were thus turned to the north,
in the direction of the Carpathians. The lowlands of Moldavia were
protected, though in a less degree, by the rivers Dnieper, Bug,
Dniester, and Pruth running parallel with each other. {157}

[Illustration: Fig. 43.—THE RUMANIANS.]

But, in spite of these natural bulwarks, it remains matter for
surprise, and proves the singular tenacity of the Rumanians, that
they preserved their traditions, their language, and nationality, in
spite of the numerous onslaughts from invaders of every race to which
they were exposed. Ever since the retreat of the Roman legions, the
peaceable cultivators of these plains were preyed upon so frequently
by Goths, Huns, and Pecheneges, by Slavs, Bulgars, and Turks, that
their extinction as a race appeared to be inevitable. But they have
emerged from every deluge which threatened to destroy them, thanks,
no doubt, to the superior culture for which they were indebted to
their ancestors, and again claim a place amongst independent nations.
They have fully justified their old proverb, which says, _Romun no
pere !_—“the Roman perishes not.”

The Transylvanian Alps lie within the territory of the Rumanians,
who occupy both slopes. Their upper valleys, however, are but
thinly inhabited, and we may travel for days without meeting with
any habitations excepting the rude huts of shepherds. The political
boundary traced along the crest of the mountains is merely an imaginary
line, passing through the forest solitudes of vast extent. Excepting
near the only high-road, and the paths which join Transylvania to the
plains of Wallachia, these mountains remain in a state of nature. The
chamois is still hunted there, and not long since even bisons were met
with. The Tsigani penetrates these mountains in search of the brown or
black bears which he exhibits in the villages. He places a jar filled
with brandy and honey near the beast’s haunt, and, as soon as the bear
and his family have become helplessly intoxicated, they are seized and
placed in chains.

The physical configuration of Rumania is extremely simple. In Moldavia
low ridges running parallel with the high mountain chain extend from
the north-west to the south-east, being separated from each other by
the valleys of the Bistritza, Moldava, and Sereth, and sinking down
gradually into the plains of the Danube. In Wallachia the southern
spurs of the Transylvanian Alps ramify with remarkable regularity, and
the torrents which descend from them all run in the same direction.
The rivers, whether they rise at the foot of the hills or traverse the
entire width of the mountains, such as the Sil, Shil, or Jiul, the Olto
or Aluta, and the Buseo, turn towards the east before their waters
mingle with those of the Danube.

The slope of the hills is pretty uniform from the crest of the
mountains to the plain of the Danube, and the zones of temperature
and vegetation succeed each other with singular regularity. Summits
covered with forests of conifers and birch, and clad with snow during
winter, rise near the frontiers of Transylvania. These are succeeded by
mountains of inferior height, where beeches and chestnuts predominate,
and all the picturesque beauties of European forest scenery are met
with. Lower still we come upon gentle hills, with groves of oaks and
maples, and their sunny sides covered with vines. Finally, we enter
the wide plains of the Danube, with their fruit trees, poplars, and
willows. The zone lying between the high mountains and the plain
abounds in localities rendered delightful by picturesque rocks,
luxuriant and varied verdure, and limpid streams. In this “happy
{158} Arcadia” we meet with most of the large monasteries, magnificent
castles with domes and towers, standing in the midst of parks and
gardens. As to the plains, they are no doubt barren and monotonous
in many places, but the villagers, though their habitations are half
buried in the ground, enjoy the magnificent prospect of the blue
mountains which bound the horizon. The most characteristic objects in
these lowlands are the huge hay-ricks already figured upon Trajan’s
column at Rome.

[Illustration: Fig. 44.—THE RIVERS SHIL AND OLTO.

Scale 1 : 1,400,000.]


The Rumanian campagna is a second Lombardy, not because of the high
state of its agriculture, but because of the fertility of its soil,
the beauty of the sky, and of the distant views. Unfortunately there
are no mountain barriers to protect it against the cold north-easterly
winds which predominate throughout the year. Extremes of cold and heat
have to be encountered.[46] The vines have to be covered with earth
to protect them against the colds of winter; and in South-eastern
Wallachia, which is most exposed to the violence of the winds, it
happens sometimes that herds of cattle and horses, flying before a
snow-storm, precipitate themselves into the floods of the Danube.
Several districts suffer from want of rain, and are veritable steppes.
Amongst these are the plains of the Baragan, between the Danube and
Yalomitza, where bustards abound, and a tree is not met with for miles.

Geologically we meet with a regular succession of formations, from the
granite on the mountain summits to the alluvial deposits along the
banks of the Danube. The rocks encountered on these southern slopes of
the Carpathians are of the same kind as those found in Galicia on their
northern slopes, and they yield the same mineral products, such as
rock-salt, gypsum, lithographic stones, and petroleum. Tertiary strata
predominate in the plains, but to the east of Ploiesti and Bucharest
only quaternary deposits of clay and pebbles are met with, in which are
found the bones of mammoths, elephants, and mastodons. The muddy rivers
which traverse these plains have excavated themselves sinuous beds, and
resemble large ditches.

The plain of Rumania, like that of Lombardy, is an ancient gulf of
the sea filled up by the débris washed down from the mountain sides.
But though the sea has retired, the Danube remains, pouring out vast
volumes of water, and offering great advantages to navigation. At the
famous defile of the Iron Gate, where this river enters the plain,
its bed has a depth of 155 feet, its surface lies 66 feet above the
level of the Black Sea, and its volume exceeds that of the combined
rivers of Western Europe, from the Rhone to the Rhine. The Romans, in
spite of this, had thrown a bridge across the river, immediately below
the Iron Gate, which was justly looked upon as one of the wonders of
the world. This work of architecture, which Apollodorus of Damas had
erected in honour of Trajan, was pulled down by order of the Emperor
Hadrian, who was anxious to save the expenses of the garrison required
for its protection. There only remain now the two abutments, and when
the waters are low the foundations of sixteen out of the twenty piers
which supported the bridge may still be seen. A Roman tower, which has
given name to the little town of Turnu Severin, marks the spot where
the Romans first placed their foot upon the soil of Dacia. The passage
from Servia to Rumania is as important as it was of yore, but modern
industry has not yet replaced Trajan’s bridge.

The Danube, like most rivers of our northern hemisphere, presses upon
its right bank, and this accounts for the difference between its
Wallachian and Bulgarian banks. The latter, gnawed by the floods, rises
steeply into little hills and {160} terraces, whilst the former rises
gently, and merges almost imperceptibly in the plains of Wallachia.
Swamps, lakes, creeks, and the remains of ancient river beds form a
riverine network, enclosing numerous islands and sand-banks. These
channels are subject to continual change, and to the south of the
Yalomitza may still be seen a line of swamps and lagoons, which marks
the course of an ancient river no longer existing. The lowlands on the
Wallachian side of the Danube are constantly increasing in extent,
whilst Bulgaria continuously suffers losses of territory. The latter,
however, is amply compensated for this by the salubrity of its soil and
the fine sites for commercial emporiums which it offers. It is said
that the beaver, which has been exterminated almost in every other part
of Europe, is still common in these half-drowned lands of Wallachia.

At a distance of thirty-eight miles from the sea, in a straight line,
the Danube strikes against the granitic heights of the Dobruja, and
abruptly turns to the north, subsequently to spread out into a delta.
In the course of this détour it receives its last tributaries of
importance, viz. the Moldavian Sereth and the Pruth. Thirty miles below
the mouth of the latter the Danube bifurcates. Its main branch, known
as that of Kilia, conveys about two-thirds of the entire volume of
its waters to the Black Sea, and forms the frontier between Rumania
and Turkish Bulgaria. The southern branch, or that of Tulcha, flows
entirely through Turkish territory. It separates into two branches, of
which that of Sulina is the main artery of navigation.

The main branch of the river is of the utmost importance when
considering the changes wrought upon the surface of the earth through
aqueous agencies. Below Ismail it ramifies into a multitude of
channels, which change continuously, new channels being excavated,
whilst others become choked with alluvial deposits carried down by
the floods. Twice the waters of the river are reunited into a single
channel before they finally spread out into a secondary delta jutting
into the Black Sea. The exterior development of this new land amounts
to about twelve miles, and supposing the sea to be of a uniform depth
of thirty-three feet, it would advance annually at the rate of 660
feet. Yet, in spite of this rapid increase, the coast, at the Kilia
mouth, juts out far less to the east than it does in the southern
portion of the delta, and we may conclude from this that the ancient
gulf of the sea, now filled up by the alluvial deposits brought down
by the Kilia branch, was far larger and deeper than those to the
south.[47] On examining a map of the Danubian delta, it will be found
that, by prolonging the coast-line of Bessarabia towards the south,
it crosses the delta. This is the ancient coast. It rises above the
half-drowned plains like an embankment, through which the branches of
the river forced themselves a passage to the sea. The alluvium brought
down by the Sulina and St. George’s mouths has been spread over a vast
plain lying outside this embankment, whilst that carried down through
what is at present the main branch forms only a small archipelago of
ill-defined islands {161} beyond it. We may conclude from this that
the latter is of more recent origin than the other arms.

In the course of its gradual encroachment upon the sea, the river has
cut off several lakes of considerable extent. On the coast between the
mouth of the Dniester and the delta of the Danube there are several
lagoons, or _limans_, of inconsiderable depth, the water of which
evaporates during the heat of summer, depositing a thin crust of salt.
In their general configuration, the nature of the surrounding land, and
parallelism of the rivers which flow into them, these sheets of water
are very much like the lakes met with more to the west, as far as the
mouth of the Pruth. These latter, however, are filled with fresh water,
and the sandy barriers at their lower ends separate them not from the
Black Sea, but from the Danube. There can be no doubt that these lakes
were anciently gulfs of the sea, similar in all respects to the lagoons
still existing along the coast. The Danube, by converting its ancient
gulf into a delta, separated them from the sea, and their saline water
was replaced by fresh water carried down by the rivers. The existing
saline lagoons will undergo the same metamorphosis, in proportion as
the delta of the Danube gains upon the sea.

[Illustration: Fig. 45.—THE DANUBE AND YALOMITZA.

Scale 1 : 1,443,000.]

The plains of Wallachia were defended formerly by an ancient line
of fortifications passing to the north of these Danubian lakes and
lagoons, and known as “Trajan’s Wall,” like the ditches, walls, and
entrenched camps in the Southern Dobruja. The inhabitants ascribe
their construction to Cæsar, although they are of {162} much later
date, having been erected by Trajan as a protection against the
Visigoths. This ancient barrier of defence coincided pretty nearly
with the political boundary between Russian and Rumanian Bessarabia,
and extended probably to the west of the Pruth, across the whole of
Moldavia and Wallachia. Vestiges of it still met with there are known
as the “Road of the Avares.” A second wall, still traceable between
Leova and Bender, defended the approaches to the valley of the Danube.

       *       *       *       *       *

In spite of the diverse races which have overrun, conquered, or
devastated their territory, the inhabitants of Rumania, more fortunate
than their neighbours, have preserved their unity of race and language.
Wallachians and Moldavians form one people, and not only have they kept
intact their national territory, but they have actually encroached
upon the territories of their neighbours. Throughout Rumania, with the
exception of that portion of Bessarabia ceded by the Western powers
after the Crimean war, the inhabitants belonging to alien races are in
the minority.

The origin of this Latin-speaking nation is still shrouded in mystery.
Are they the descendants of Getæ and Latinised Dacians, or does the
blood of Italian colonists brought thither by Trajan, of legionaries
and Roman soldiers, predominate amongst them? To what extent have they
become amalgamated with their neighbours, the Slavs and Illyrians? What
share had the Celts in the formation of their nationality? Are the
“Little” Wallachians, the “men with the eighty teeth,”—so called on
account of their bravery,—the descendants of Celts? We cannot say with
certainty, for men of learning like Shafarik and Miklosich differ on
all these points. The vast plains at present inhabited by the Rumanians
became a wilderness in the third century, when the Emperor Aurelian
compelled their inhabitants to migrate to the right bank of the Danube.
If it is true that the descendants of these emigrants ever returned
to the seats of their ancestors, in the meantime occupied by Slavs,
Magyars, and Pecheneges, when did they do so? Miklosich presumes that
they did so towards the close of the fifth century; Roesler thinks in
the fourteenth, although ancient chroniclers of the eleventh century
mention Rumanians as dwelling in the Carpathians. Other authorities
deny that there was any re-immigration; they maintain that the
residue of the Latinised population sufficed for reconstituting the
nationality. Thus much is certain, that this small people has increased
wonderfully, and has become now the preponderating race on the Lower
Danube and in Transylvania.

[Illustration: WALLACHIANS (VALAKHS).]

Even in the seventeenth century the language spoken by the Rumanians
was treated as a rural dialect, and Slavonian was used in churches
and courts of justice. At the present day, on the contrary, Rumanian
patriots are anxious to purge their language of all Servian words,
and of Greek and Turkish expressions introduced during the dominion
of the Osmanli. The “Romans” of the Danube are endeavouring to polish
their tongue, so that it may rank with Italian and French. They have
abandoned the Russian characters, and their vocabulary is being
continually enriched by new words derived from the Latin. The idiom
spoken in the towns, which was the most impure {163} formerly, in
consequence of the influx of strangers, has now become more Latin than
that spoken in the country. There are, however, about two hundred
words not traceable to any known tongue, and these are supposed to
be a remnant of the ancient Dacian spoken at the period of the Roman
invasion. The Wallachian differs, moreover, from the Latin tongues of
Western Europe by always placing the article and the demonstrative
pronoun after the noun. The same rule obtains in Albanian and
Bulgarian, and Miklosich is probably right when he looks upon this as a
feature of the ancient language of the aborigines.

These niceties, however, are altogether unnoticed by the mass of the
people. The Rumanian peasant is proud of the ancient conquerors of his
country, and looks upon himself as the descendant of the patricians of
Rome. Several of his customs, at the birth of children, betrothals,
or burials, recall those observed by the Romans, and the dance of the
_Calushares_, it is said, may be traced back to the earliest Italian
settlers. The Wallachian is fond of talking about Father Trajan,
to whom he attributes all those feats which in other countries are
associated with Hercules, Fingal, or Ossian. Many a mountain valley
has been rent asunder by Trajan’s powerful hand; and the avalanches
descending from the hills are spoken of as Trajan’s thunder. The
Rumanian completely ignores Getæ, Dacians, or Goths, though in the
hills we still meet with tall men having blue eyes and long flaxen
hair, who are probably descended from the aboriginal inhabitants of the

The Rumanians have generally fine sunburnt features, fair hair,
expressive eyes, a mouth finely shaped, and beautiful teeth. They
allow their hair to grow long, and sometimes even prefer to expatriate
themselves to sacrificing it to the exigencies of military service.
They exhibit grace in all their movements, are indefatigable on the
march, and support the heaviest labour without complaining. Even the
Wallachian herdsman, with his sheepskin cap, or _cashula_, his wide
leather belt used as a pocket, a sheepskin thrown over his shoulders,
and drawers which recall those of the Dacians sculptured on Trajan’s
Column, is noble in his bearing. In the large towns, where much
intermixture has taken place with Greeks, Southern Russians, and
Magyars, the brown complexion predominates. The Rumanian women are
grace itself. They always charm us by taste and neatness, whether
they have adopted a modern dress or still patronise the national
costume, consisting of an embroidered chemisette, a floating vest, a
party-coloured apron, a golden net, and golden sequins placed in the
hair. These external advantages are combined in the Rumanian with
quickness of apprehension, a gay spirit, and the gift of repartee,
which entitle them to be called the Parisians of the Orient.

In the midst of this homogeneous Rumanian population we meet
with Bulgarian colonists, whose number has increased recently in
consequence of the persecutions of Turks and Greeks. The character
of the Bulgarians born in the country has undergone considerable
modifications. They are at present the most industrious tillers of
the soil, and in the vicinity of large towns they occupy themselves
principally with horticulture. Many of these Bulgarians live in that
{164} portion of Bessarabia which was ceded by Russia in 1855. They
settled there in 1829, more particularly in the _Budzak_, or southern
“corner” of Bessarabia, and their fields are better tilled, their roads
in better condition, than those of their Moldavian neighbours. Their
villages still bear Tartar names, from the time when their country
was occupied by Nogai Tartars, and they contrast favourably with the
villages of the surrounding peoples. Bolgrad, the capital of this
colony, is a small bustling town, the schools of which enjoy a high
reputation. These Bulgarians, so distinguished for industry, sobriety,
and thrift, have more or less amalgamated with Russians, Greeks, and
gipsies, and they talk almost every language of the East.


The Russians of Moldavian Bessarabia have their settlements on the
banks of the Danube, to the east of these Bulgarian colonies. They,
too, are good agriculturists. The Russians met with in the towns
are generally engaged in commerce, and enjoy a high reputation for
honesty. Most of them belong to the old sect of the _Lipovani_, and
fled from Russia about a century ago to escape religious persecution.
They nearly all speak Rumanian. Vilkof, a village near the mouth of
the Danube, is almost exclusively occupied by these Lipovani, who are
expert fishermen, and share the produce of their labour in common.
Others amongst the Russians belong to the sect of the _Skoptzi_, or
“mutilated,” which is said to recruit itself by stealing children.
These Skoptzi are recognised by their portliness and smooth faces, and
at Bucharest they are reputed to be excellent coachmen.

Magyar Szeklers from Transylvania, known in the country as _Changhei_,
are the only other foreign element of the population occupying distinct
settlements. These Changhei, who first came into the country when
the Kings of Hungary were masters of the valley of the Sereth, are
gradually becoming Rumanians {165} in dress and language, and would
have become so long ago were they not Roman Catholics, whilst the
people among whom they live are Greeks. They are joined annually by
a few compatriots from Transylvania, attracted by the mild climate
and the fertility of the soil. In spring and autumn large bands of
Hungarian reapers and labourers descend into the plains of Moldavia.

The Hellenic element was strongly represented last century, when
the government of the country was farmed out by the Sultan to Greek
merchants of Constantinople. At the present time the Greeks are not
numerous—not exceeding, perhaps, 10,000 souls, even if we include
amongst them Hellenized Zinzares—but they occupy influential positions
as managers of estates or merchants, and the export of corn is almost
exclusively in their hands. Traces of the ancient government of
these Phanariotes still exist in the language of the country, and in
the relationships resulting from intermarriages between seignorial
families. Far more numerous than these Greeks, and of greater
importance, are the members of those homeless nations—the Jews and
Tsigani (or gipsies). A few Spanish Jews are met with in the large
towns, but the majority are “German” Jews, who have come hither from
Poland, Little Russia, Galicia, and Hungary. As publicans and middlemen
they come into close contact with the poor people, and they are
universally detested, not on account of their religion, but because of
the wonderful skill with which they manage to secure the savings of the
people. Imaginary crimes of all kinds are attributed to them, and they
have repeatedly been exposed to maltreatment on the frivolous charge
of having eaten little children at their Passover. The Rumanians,
however, can hardly manage without these detested Jews, and their laws,
by preventing the Jews from acquiring land, fortify their commercial
monopoly. The Jews, if certain estimates may be credited, constitute
one-fifth of the total population of Moldavia. The Armenians, the
other great commercial people of the Orient, are represented by a few
flourishing colonies, more especially in Moldavia. These Haikanes are
the descendants of immigrants who settled in the country at various
epochs between the eleventh and seventeenth centuries. They live
amongst themselves, and, though not exactly liked by the people, they
have known how to avoid becoming objects of hatred. A few Armenians
from Constantinople, and speaking Turkish, are met with on the Lower

The Tsigani, or gipsies, so despised formerly, become merged by degrees
in the rest of the population. Not long ago they were slaves, the
property of the State, of boyards, or monasteries. They led a wandering
life—working, trafficking, or stealing for the benefit of their
masters. They were divided into castes, the principal of which were the
_lingurari_, or spoon-makers; _ursari_, or bear-leaders; _ferrari_,
or smiths; _aurari_, or collectors of gold dust; and _lautari_, or
musicians. These latter were the most polished of all, and were
employed to celebrate the glory and the virtues of the boyards. They
are now the minstrels of the country and the musicians of the town.
Very few in number are the _Netotzi_, a degraded caste who live in
woods or tents, subsist upon the foulest food, and do not bury their
dead. The Tsigani were assimilated in 1837 with the peasantry, and
since {166} their emancipation nearly all of them lead a settled life,
cultivating the soil with great care, or exercising some handicraft.
The fusion between Tsigani and Rumanians is making rapid progress,
for both races have the same religion and speak the same language.
Intermarriages between the two are frequent, and in a time not far off
the Tsigani of Rumania will be a thing of the past. They are supposed
still to number between 100,000 and 300,000 souls.[48]

The Rumanian nation is still in a state of transition from a feudal to
a modern epoch. The revolution of 1848 shook the ancient system to its
foundation, but did not destroy it. As recently as 1856 the peasants
were attached to the soil. They had no rights, but were at the mercy of
the boyards and monasteries whose soil they were doomed to till, and
lived in miserable hovels. The whole of the country and its inhabitants
belonged to five or six thousand boyards, who were either the
descendants of the ancient “braves,” or had purchased their patents of
nobility. Most of these boyards were only small proprietors, and nearly
the whole of the land belonged to seventy feudatories in Wallachia, and
three hundred in Moldavia.

This state of affairs led to the most frightful demoralisation amongst
masters and serfs, and even the good qualities of the Rumanian—his
energy, his generosity, and friendliness—were turned into evil. The
nobles lived far away from their estates, spending the income forwarded
by their Greek bailiffs in debauchery and gambling. The peasants
worked but little, for they had no share in the produce of the soil;
they were mistrustful and full of deceit, as are all slaves; they were
ignorant and superstitious, for they depended for their education upon
illiterate and fanatical priests. Their _popes_ were magicians, and
cured maladies by incantations and holy philtres. As to the monks, some
of them were rich proprietors, as rapacious as the temporal lords;
others lived on alms, having exchanged a life of slavery for mendicity.

Not long ago the Rumanians, deprived of all education except that
supplied by their _doinas_, or ancient songs, were lost almost in
mediæval darkness. Even now some of the ancient customs of their
ancestors survive in the rural districts. Funerals are attended by
hired weeping women, whose shrieks accompany the farewell of relatives.
Into the coffin they place a stick upon which to rest when crossing the
Jordan, a piece of cloth to serve as a garment, and a coin as a bribe
to St. Peter for opening the gate of heaven. Nor are wine and bread
forgotten for the journey. Red-haired people are suspected of returning
to earth in the guise of a dog, a frog, or a flea, and to penetrate
into houses in order to suck the blood of good-looking young girls. In
their case it is as well to close the coffin-lid tightly, or, still
better, to pierce the throat of the defunct with a stick.

The peasantry will doubtless no longer be haunted by these
hallucinations, for the {167} moral and intellectual progress of the
nation has kept pace with its material prosperity since the peasant
has cultivated his own land. Officially made a freeman in 1856, but
held for several years afterwards in a kind of limited bondage, the
peasant now owns at least a portion of the land. By a law passed in
1862, each head of a family is entitled to a plot of land from seven to
sixty-seven acres in extent, and ever since that time the peasants have
gained immensely in self-respect. His land, though still cultivated
with the ancient Roman plough, and deprived of manure, produces immense
quantities of cereals, the sale of which brings wealth into the country
and encourages progress. Rumania is now one of the great corn-exporting
countries of Europe, and in favourable years, when the crops are
neither eaten up by locusts nor destroyed by frosts, its exports exceed
those of Hungary. In less than ten years the export of wheat, maize,
barley, and oats has doubled, and the sum annually realised varies
between £4,000,000 and £8,000,000 sterling.

Unfortunately the peasants eat but little of the corn they grow. They
are content with the maize, from which they prepare their _mamaligo_
and the detestable spirits which cheer their hearts on a hundred and
ninety-four annual fête days. The cultivation of the vine, which was
altogether neglected formerly, is likewise making progress, and the
produce of the foot-hills of the Carpathians is justly esteemed.
The time is past now when “Wallachian” and “herdsman” were synonyms
throughout the East. Still, nearly one-fourth of the area of the
country remains uncultivated, and the soil is allowed to lie fallow
every third year. Moldavia is better cultivated, upon the whole, than
Wallachia, and this is principally owing to the fact of the Moldavian
boyards residing upon their estates, and taking a pride in their
management. Progress, however, is apparent throughout the country, and
there is hardly a large estate without its steam threshing-machine.
Even the small proprietors are gradually introducing improved methods
of cultivation, and in many villages they have formed co-operative
associations for the cultivation of extensive tracts of country.[49]

Rumania is essentially an agricultural country. The ores of the
Carpathians are not utilised, for there are no roads which give access
to them. The petroleum wells only supplied 3,810,000 gallons in 1873.
Four of the principal salt-works are carried on by Government, partly
with the aid of convict labour, and yield annually 80,000 tons of salt.
The fisheries are of some importance. The inhabitants on the Lower
Danube salt the fish which abound in the river and the neighbouring
lakes, and prepare caviare from sturgeons. There are no manufactories
excepting near the large towns, and the country is noted only for its
carpets, embroidered cloth and leather, and pottery. The housewives are
famed for their confectionery.

Commerce is annually on the increase.[50] Its only outlet in former
times was {168} the Danube. Nearly the whole produce of the country
was carried to Galatz, at the bend of the river, upon which the
principal routes of the country converge. For many years to come the
Danube will remain the great commercial highway of the country; the
Pruth, too, is navigable for small steamers as far as Sculeni, to
the north of Yassy; whilst the numerous rivers descending from the
Carpathians will always prove useful for the conveyance of timber. New
outlets have been created by the construction of railways. Rumania
is now joined to the railway systems of Austria and Hungary, and the
proposed bridge across the Danube will place it in direct communication
with Varna, on the Black Sea. The level nature of the country
facilitates the construction of railways, but its inhabitants look upon
their extension with a feeling of apprehension, for they fancy that a
commercial invasion may bring in its train a military one.[51]

The Rumanians complain much about the left bank of the Sulina branch
of the Danube not having been ceded to them by the treaty of Paris. In
former times the whole of the delta of the Danube belonged to Moldavia,
as is proved by the ruins of a town built by the Rumanians on the
southern bank of the river, opposite to Kilia. Up to the close of last
century the jurisdiction of the Moldavian governor of Ismail extended
to the port of Sulina, and he was charged with keeping the mouth of the
river free from obstructions. The Western powers, in spite of this,
allowed Turkey to occupy the whole of the delta, whilst they confined
the Rumanians to the left bank of the Kilia branch. The country,
consequently, has no direct access to the Black Sea, except by means
of small vessels, for the mouth of the Kilia branch is obstructed by a
bar. M. Desjardins and other engineers who have devoted some attention
to the subject propose to construct a ship canal, about eight miles
in length, which will connect the Danube with the Bay of Sibriani. In
the meantime Rumania is at liberty to make use of the Sulina mouth,
which is kept open at the expense of the Western powers, and a canal,
therefore, hardly appears to be called for.

Bucharest (or Bucuresci, pron. Bukureshti), the capital of Wallachia
and of the whole of Rumania, already numbers amongst the great cities
of Europe. Next to Constantinople and Buda-Pest, it is the most
populous town of South-eastern Europe, and its inhabitants fondly
speak of it as the “Paris of the Orient.” The town not very long
since was hardly more than a collection of villages, very picturesque
from a distance on account of numerous towers and glittering domes
rising above the surrounding verdure, but very unpleasant within. But
Bucharest has been transformed rapidly with the increasing wealth of
its inhabitants. It may boast now of wide and clean streets, bounded
by fine houses, of public squares full of animation, and of well-kept
parks, and fully deserves now its sobriquet of the “joyful city.”

Yassy (Jasi, or Yashi), which became the capital of Moldavia when
Suchova was annexed by Austria, occupies a position far less central
than does Bucharest, but the fertility of the surrounding country, the
proximity of the navigable {169} Pruth and of Russia, with which it
maintains a brisk commerce, and its position on the high-road joining
the Baltic to the Black Sea, have caused it to increase rapidly
in population. It is a flourishing town now, though no longer the
seat of an independent government. Built upon the foot-hills of the
Carpathians, the city presents itself magnificently from afar, and
its exterior is not belied by its finer quarters. Jews, Armenians,
Russians, Tsigani, Tartars, and Magyars are numerously represented
amongst its population, which is semi-Oriental in type. We may almost
fancy ourselves standing upon the threshold of Asia. The church of the
Three Saints is distinguished for its originality, and is a masterpiece
of ornamentation in the Moorish style.

[Illustration: Fig. 47.—VIEW OF BUCHAREST.]

All the other towns of Rumania are indebted for their importance
to their position on commercial high-roads. Botosani, in Northern
Moldavia, lies on the road to Galicia and Poland, and the same may be
said of Falticeni, whose international fairs are always well attended.
Commerce causes the towns on the Danube to flourish. Vilkof is a
great mart for fish and caviare; Kilia, the ancient Achillea, or city
of Achilles; Ismail, where the Russian Lipovani are numerous; Reni;
Galatz, said to be an ancient colony of the Galatians, now the {170}
most important commercial emporium on the Lower Danube, and seat of
the European commissioners for its regulation; Braila, a poor village
as long as the Turks held it, but now important on account of its grain
trade, and the literary centre of the Bulgarians. All these towns,
though situated on the banks of the Danube, may be looked upon almost
as ports of the Black Sea, through which the produce of the country,
and especially its grain, finds an outlet to foreign markets. Giurgiu
(Jurjevo) is the port of Bucharest on the Danube; Turnu-Severinu is the
gateway of Wallachia, below the great narrows of the river; Craiova,
Pitesci, Ploiesti, Buzeu, and Focsani form the terminal points of the
roads descending from the high valleys of Transylvania. Alecsandria,
a town recently built in the centre of the plain which extends from
Bucharest to the Olto, has become a depôt for agricultural produce.

Formerly, when incessant wars rendered a strong strategical position
of greater importance than commercial advantages, the capital of the
country was established in the very heart of the Carpathians. In
the thirteenth century it was at Campu-Lungu, in the midst of the
mountains, and subsequently it was transferred to Curtea d’Argesia,
founded by Prince Negoze Bessaraba in the beginning of the sixteenth
century. Of this ancient capital there remain now only a monastery and
a wonderful church: the walls, cornices, and towers are covered with
sculptures, like the work of a jeweller. Targu-Vestea, or Tirgovist,
on the Yalomitza, was the third capital, but of the fine palace built
there by the _domni_ there remain now only blackened walls.[52]

Rumania includes the two ancient principalities of Wallachia and
Moldavia, and forms a semi-independent state under the protection
of the great powers, and paying an annual tribute of about £40,000
to the Porte. The country has placed a member of the Hohenzollern
family at the head of the State. The constitution of 1866 confers upon
this prince the right of appointing all public functionaries and the
officers of the army, of coining money, and of pardoning. All laws
require his signature before they can be enforced. He enjoys a civil
list of £48,000.

The legislative powers are vested in two chambers, the members of which
are elected by a process designed to favour the interests of the rich.
All Rumanians above twenty-one years of age, except servants in receipt
of wages, are inscribed in the electoral lists. They are divided into
four “colleges,” or classes, having widely different privileges.
The first college includes all those electors of a district whose
income from landed property amounts to £132 a year; electors having
an income of between £44 and £132 form a second college; merchants
and {171} tradesmen of the towns paying a tax of 23_s._ annually,
Government pensioners, half-pay officers, professors and graduates
of universities, form the third college; and the remainder of the
electors belong to the fourth college. The first two colleges elect a
deputy each for their district; the third college elects from one to
six deputies for each town, according to its size; the fourth college
elects delegates by whom the representatives are chosen.

The Senate represents more especially the large landed proprietors.
Senators must have an income of £352, and are elected by the landed
proprietors whose income amounts to at least £132 a year. The
universities of Bucharest and Yassy are represented by a senator each,
elected by the professors, and the crown prince, the metropolitan, and
the diocesan bishops are _ex-officio_ members of the Senate. Senators
are elected for eight, and deputies for four years.

The Rumanian constitution grants all those rights and privileges
usually set forth in documents of that kind. The right of meeting is
guaranteed; there is liberty of the press; the municipal officers and
mayors are elected, but the Prince may intervene in the case of towns
inhabited by more than a thousand families; the punishment of death is
abolished, except in time of war; and education is free and compulsory
“wherever there are schools.” There is liberty of religion, though
there is a State Church, and Christians alone can be naturalised. No
marriage is legal unless it has been consecrated by a priest. The
Rumanian Church, as far as dogmas are concerned, is that of the Greeks,
but it is altogether independent of the Greek patriarch residing
at Constantinople, and is governed by its own Synod. Most of the
monasteries have been secularised.

The country is divided into four judicial districts, each having a
court of appeal, whilst a supreme court sits at Bucharest. The French
codes, slightly modified, were introduced in 1865.

The army is partly modelled upon that of Prussia. All citizens are
called upon to serve sixteen years, eight of which are passed in the
standing army or its reserve, and eight in the militia. The National
Guard includes all men up to fifty not belonging to either of the other
categories. By calling out all its men, Rumania can easily send an army
of 100,000 men into the field. There are likewise a few gunboats on the

The finances of Rumania are in a more satisfactory condition than those
of most other states of Europe. The Government has certainly been
living upon loans, for which eight per cent. has to be paid, and nearly
the whole of the annual income is spent upon the payment of interest,
the army, and the revenue services. The credit of Rumania is, however,
good, for the loans are secured upon vast domains, the property of the
secularised monasteries, several thousand acres of which are sold every
year. The sale of salt and the manufacture of tobacco are Government

Rumania is divided for administrative purposes into 33 departments and
164 districts, or _plasi_. There are 62 towns and 3,020 rural communes.





Servia, like Rumania, was until recently a semi-independent state,
paying a tribute of £25,000 a year to the Porte, and submitting to
the presence of a Turkish garrison at Mali-Zvornik, on the Bosnian
frontier. But even these vestiges of ancient oppression irritated the
national pride to an inconceivable degree, and the moment when a blow
might be struck on behalf of Servia and the neighbouring countries
inhabited by Slavs still groaning under the Turkish yoke was looked
forward to with impatience. The blow has been struck, and were it not
for the support extended to it by the great powers, Servia would ere
this have ceased to exist as a semi-independent state.

Servia, within its actual limits, includes only a small portion of the
northern slope of the mountains rising in the centre of the Balkan
peninsula. It is separated from Austro-Hungary by the Save and the
Danube, but no natural boundary divides it from Turkey; and the valleys
of the Morava, the Drina, and the Timok, the former in the centre, the
others on the eastern and western frontiers of the country, afford
easy access to a foreign invader. The difficulties to be surmounted by
the latter would begin only after he had entered the vast forests, the
narrow valleys, and unfathomable _klisuras_ amongst the mountains.

The only plains of any extent are on the banks of the Save. Everywhere
else the country is hilly, rocky, or mountainous. The most prominent
mountain range is that which extends from the “Iron Gate” and the
defile of Kasan, on the Danube, through Eastern Servia, and forms a
marked continuation of the Transylvanian Alps, with which it agrees
in geological structure. In the northern portion of these Servian
Carpathians, in the angle formed by the confluence of the Danube and
Morava, where masses of porphyry have burst through limestones and
schists, we find ourselves in the great mineral region of Servia.
Copper, {173} iron, and lead ores are being worked here, especially
at Maidanpek and Kuchaina, but the old zinc and silver mines have
been abandoned. The valley of the Timok, in the southern portion of
this mountain range, is likewise rich in minerals, and gold dust is
collected from the sand of the river. There are few valleys which
can rival that of the Timok in beauty and fertility, and the basin
of Knyashevatz, where the head-streams of the river unite, is more
especially distinguished by its rural beauty, sparkling rivulets
flowing through the meadows, vines covering the hills, and forests the
surrounding mountains. A narrow defile immediately below this basin
leads into the valley of Zaichar, near which, at Gamzigrad, there still
exist ruins of a Roman fortress, its walls and towers of porphyry in a
capital state of preservation. Looking northward from this position we
perceive the Stol (3,638 feet), whilst in the south-west there rises a
huge pyramid of chalk, which might almost be mistaken for the work of
human hands. This is the Rtan (4,943 feet), at whose foot burst forth
the hot springs of Banya, the most frequented and efficacious of all

The valleys of the Morava and of its main tributary, the Bulgarian
Morava, divide Servia into two parts of unequal extent. The valley of
the Morava forms a natural highway between the Danube and the interior
of Turkey, passing through the frontier town of Alexinatz. A Roman road
formerly led along it. Krushevatz, the ancient capital of the Servian
empire, occupies the centre of a plain in the valley of the Servian
Morava, not far above the defile of Stalaj, where the two Moravas
unite at the foot of a promontory crowned with ruins. The remains of
the palace of the Servian tsar are still shown there, and it is stated
that Krushevatz, at the height of Servian power, had a circumference of
three leagues. It is only a poor village now.

The wildest mountain masses of Servia rise between the two Moravas,
their culminating point being the Kopaonik (6,710 feet), which attains
a greater height than any other summit between the Save and the
Balkans. A wide prospect of incomparable beauty opens from its base and
rocky summit, extending southwards over plains and mountains to the
pinnacles of the Skhar and the pyramidal Dormitor. In itself, however,
the Kopaonik is quite devoid of beauty, and where its slopes have been
deprived of the forests which once covered them, the bare rocks of
serpentine present a picture of utter desolation. Its valleys are far
from fertile, their inhabitants are sulky and poor, and many amongst
them suffer from goître.

The mountains which extend to the north of the Kopaonik, along both
banks of the Ibar, are for the most part still clothed with oaks,
beeches, and conifers. The broad valley of the Servian Morava,
rivalling in fertility the plains of Lombardy, penetrates into these
mountain masses. But they rise again to the north of that river,
attaining a height of 3,622 feet in the mountain mass of Rudnik.
Cretaceous rocks predominate, frequently surmounted by granitic peaks.
The valleys are narrow and tortuous. This is the famous Sumadia, or
“forest region” of Servia, which during the rule of the Turks offered
a safe asylum to the persecuted rayas, and in the war of independence
became the {174} citadel of Servian liberty. The little town of
Kraguyevatz, in one of its narrow valleys, was chosen to be the seat of
government, and it still retains a gun foundry, supplied with coal from
the basin of Chupriya. A secluded capital like this may have suited
a people constantly engaged in war, but when Servia entered upon a
career of progress the seat of government was removed to Belgrad. This
city—the Beográd, or “white town,” of the Servians, the _Singidunum_
of the Romans, and the _Alba Græca_ of the Middle Ages—is delightfully
situated upon a hill near the confluence of the Danube and Save, and
overlooks the swampy plains of Syrmia. Belgrad, from its favourable
geographical situation, has become a place of much trade, and is
likewise an important strategical position.


Scale 1 : 1,420,000.]

To the west of Belgrad we merely meet with hills, and with the fertile
plains watered by the Kolubara. It is only towards the south-west,
on nearing the Drina, that we again find ourselves in the midst of
calcareous mountains, attaining a height of 3,630 feet, and connected
with spurs of the Kopaonik in the south. This is one of the most
picturesque portions of the country. Ruins of houses and fortresses
abound, amongst which those of Ushitza are the most extensive. These
fortresses have, however, failed to protect the country, and no portion
of Servia has more frequently been laid waste by ruthless invaders.

[Illustration: BELGRADE.]

In former times Servia could boast of some of the most extensive
oak forest in Europe. “To kill a tree is to kill a Servian,” says
an ancient proverb, dating probably from the time when the forests
afforded shelter to the oppressed rayas. This proverb, unfortunately,
is no longer acted upon. In many parts of the country the forests have
disappeared, and the naked rock obtrudes itself as in {175} Dalmatia
and Carniola. A peasant in need of a branch cuts down an entire tree,
and the herdsmen are not content to feed their bivouac fires with
dry sticks, but must needs have an oak. The greatest enemies of the
forests, next to herdsmen, are goats and hogs, the former browsing upon
small trees and leaves, the latter laying bare the roots. An old tree,
thrown down by a tempest or sacrificed to the woodman’s axe, is not
replaced. Laws for the protection of the forests have certainly been
passed, but they are not enforced, and the wood required for fuel has
to be imported, in many instances, from Bosnia. The destruction of the
forests has naturally been attended by a deterioration of the climate.
Mr. Edward Brown, who travelled in Servia in the seventeenth century,
tells us that the Morava was then navigable for the greater part of its
course; but at the present time, owing to its irregularities, it is no
longer available as a navigable channel.

Servia, by despoiling the mountains of great forests, has got rid of
the wild animals which formerly infested them. Wolves, bears, wild
boars, previously so numerous, have almost disappeared, and those still
met with occasionally are supposed to come from the forests of Syrmia,
crossing the frozen Save in winter. The fauna and flora of Servia are
gradually losing their original features. The introduction of the
domesticated animals and cultivated plants from Austria has given to
Servia a South German aspect. Nor does the climate much differ from
some parts of Southern Germany. Servia, though under the same latitude
as Tuscany, rejoices by no means in an Italian climate. The Dalmatian
or Bosnian mountain ramparts shut out the vivifying south-westerly
winds, whilst the dry and cold winds from the steppes of Russia have
free access over the plains of Wallachia. Strangers do not readily
acclimatise themselves, owing to abrupt changes of temperature.[55]

Servia includes within its limits but a small proportion of all the
Servians of Eastern Europe, but its inhabitants are probably not far
wrong when they look upon themselves as the purest representatives of
their race. They are, as a rule, tall, vigorous, with broad shoulders
and an erect head. Their features are marked, the nose straight and
often aquiline, and the cheek-bones a trifle prominent; the hair
is abundant and rarely black, the eyes are piercing and cold, and
a well-cultivated moustache imparts a military air to the men. The
women, without being good-looking, have a noble presence, and their
semi-oriental costume is distinguished by an admirable harmony of
colours. Even in the towns, where French fashions carry the day,
Servian ladies occasionally wear the national dress, consisting of a
red vest, a belt and chemisette embroidered with pearls, strings of
sequins, and a little fez stuck jauntily upon the head.

Unfortunately the custom of the country requires that a Servian woman
should have an abundance of black hair and a dazzling white complexion.
Paint, dyes, and false tresses are universal in town and country.
Even in the most remote villages the peasant women dye their hair
and paint their cheeks, lips, {176} and eyebrows, frequently making
use of poisonous substances injurious to health. Rich country-people
are, moreover, in the habit of making an exhibition of their wealth
by means of their clothes, which they overload with gold and silver
ornaments and gewgaws of every kind. In some districts brides and
young women wear a most extraordinary head-dress, consisting of an
enormous crescent of cardboard, to which are attached nosegays, leaves,
peacock feathers, and artificial roses with silver petals. This heavy
head-dress may symbolize the “burdens of matrimony;” it certainly
exposes the wearer to great inconvenience.

The Servians are honourably distinguished amongst the people of the
East by the nobility of their character, their dignified bearing, and,
in spite of recent events, incontestable bravery. For centuries they
resisted oppression, and, notwithstanding their isolation and poverty,
they conquered their independence in the beginning of this century.
They are said to be idle and suspicious—qualities which their former
servitude accounts for—but at the same time honest and truthful. It is
difficult to cheat them, but they themselves never cheat. Equals when
under the dominion of the Turks, they are equals still. “There are no
nobles amongst us,” they say, “for we are all nobles.” In their clear
and sonorous language, so well suited to oratory, they fraternally
address each other in the second person singular. Even prisoners are
looked upon as brothers, and it is customary to permit a condemned
criminal to visit his family on his giving his word of honour to return
to prison.

The ties of family and friendship are a great power in Servia. It
frequently happens that young men who have learnt to like each other
take an oath of fraternal friendship, in the manner of the brothers
in arms of Scythia, and this fraternity of heart is more sacred to
them than that of blood. It is a remarkable fact, and one which speaks
favourably for the high moral tone of the Servians, that their deep
family affections and friendships do not lead to incessant acts of
retaliation and vengeance, as amongst their neighbours the Albanians.
The Servian is brave; he is always armed, but he is also peaceable,
and does not demand blood for blood. Still, like other men, he is not
perfect. As an agriculturist he follows the more obsolete routine. He
is ignorant and superstitious. The peasants firmly believe in vampires,
sorcerers, and magicians, and, in order to guard against their evil
influences, they rub themselves with garlic on Christmas-eve.

Land is held by families in common, as amongst the other Slavs of the
South. The ancient _zadruga_, such as it existed in the Middle Ages, is
still preserved, and has never been interfered with by Roman or German
laws, as in Dalmatia or Slavonia. On the contrary, the law of Servia
protects this ancient form of tenure, and, in cases of a disputed
will, relatives by adoption take precedence of those by blood. Servian
patriots are desirous to see these ancient customs respected, and
the members of the _Skupshtina_, or parliament, have never attacked
this common proprietorship in the soil, for they look upon it as one
of the surest safeguards against pauperism. Servia offers the best
opportunity for studying agricultural {177} communities of this kind.
Nowhere else are the features of family life equally delightful. The
heavy day’s work is followed by an evening devoted to pleasure. The
children gather round their parents to listen to the warlike legends of
old, or the young men sing, accompanying themselves upon the _guzla_.
All those belonging to the association are looked upon as members of
the family. The _staryeshina_, or head of the community, has charge
of the education of the children, whom he is required to bring up as
“good and honest citizens, useful to their fatherland.” Yet, in spite
of all these advantages, the _zadrugas_ decrease from year to year.
The demands of commerce and industry interfere with their accustomed
routine, and they will hardly survive much longer in their present form.

A great portion of Eastern Servia has been occupied by Wallachians, who
were invited to the country after the war of independence, when vast
districts had been depopulated. These new settlers, being more prolific
than their neighbours, gradually gain upon the Servians, and already
some of their colonies are met with on the western bank of the Morava.
Many Servian villages have become Wallachian as far as language can
make them so. It is a strange fact that these Rumanian colonists should
prosper in Servia, whilst Servian colonists from Hungary and Slavonia
do not.

Zinzares, or Southern Wallachians, are met with in most towns, where
they work as masons, carpenters, and bricklayers.

Bulgarians have settled in the valleys of the Timok and Morava, in the
south-east. They are highly esteemed for their industry, and quickly
assimilate with the Servians. Near Alexinatz there is a small colony
of Albanians, whilst Tsigani, or gipsies, are met with in all parts of
the country. They profess to be Christians, and one of their principal
occupations is the manufacture of bricks. The Spanish Jews, so numerous
formerly at Belgrad, have most of them retired to Semlin, their places
being filled by German and Hungarian Jews.[56]

Taken as a whole, Servia was a prosperous country before the recent
war. The population has increased rapidly since the declaration of
independence, but is not nearly as dense yet as in the neighbouring
plains of Hungary or Wallachia. Scarcely one-eighth of the area is
under cultivation, and agricultural operations are for the most
part carried on in the rudest manner. Excepting in the most fertile
valleys, such as that of the Lower Timok, the fields are allowed to lie
fallow every second year. The exports of Servia clearly exhibit the
rudimentary condition of its agriculture, for they consist principally
of lean pigs, which find their way in thousands to the markets of
Germany, and of cattle. The peasant of Servia derives most of his
revenue from the sale of these animals. Within the last few years he
has also exported some wheat to the markets of Western Europe. If it
were not for the Bulgarian labourers who annually flock to the country
in search of field-work, Servia would not produce sufficient corn for
its own consumption.[57] {178}

Industry throughout the country is still in its infancy. The Servian
despises all manual labour excepting agriculture, and it is for this
reason he looks down upon the German mechanics in the towns. Young
men of the least education aspire to government employment, and the
bureaucratic plague, which has wrought such injury in the neighbouring
Austro-Hungarian empire, is thus being developed. There are, however,
others who have studied at foreign universities, and who devote their
energies to the spread of education at home. The progress made in
this respect within the last few years has been enormous. In 1839 the
sovereign of the country could neither read nor write, whilst, at
the present time, Servia, with its numerous schools and colleges, is
becoming the intellectual centre of the Balkan peninsula.[58]

The Servians have used their best efforts to remove from their country
everything reminding them of the ancient dominion of the Mussulman,
and they have nearly accomplished this. The Belgrad of the Turks has
been converted by them into a Western city, like Vienna or Buda-Pest;
palaces in European style have arisen in the place of mosques and
minarets; magnificent boulevards intersect the old quarters of the
town; and the esplanade, where the Turks exposed the heads of their
victims stuck on poles, has been converted into a park. Shabatz, on
the Save, has become a “little Paris;” Semendria (Smederevo), on the
Danube, which gave the signal of rebellion in 1806, has arisen like a
phœnix from its ashes; whilst Posharevatz, known as Passarovitz in the
history of treaties, has likewise been transformed. Progress is slower
in the interior, but good roads now extend to the most remote corners
of the country.

Servia is an hereditary constitutional monarchy. The Prince, or
_Kniaz_, governs with the aid of responsible ministers and of a senate;
he promulgates the laws, appoints all public functionaries, commands
the army, and signs the treaties. He rejoices in a civil list of
£20,000. His successor, in the case of there being no male heir, is
to be elected by universal suffrage. The _Skupshtina_, or national
parliament, traces back its origin to the earliest times of a Servian
monarchy. It numbers 134 members, of whom one-fourth are nominated
by the Prince, and the remainder elected by all male taxpayers. This
parliament exercises legislative functions conjointly with the Prince.
In addition to it there exist rural parliaments in each of the 1,063
_obshtinas_, or parishes, and these enjoy extended rights of local
self-government. The constitution provides for the election of a
_Skupshtina_ of 536 members by universal suffrage, should extraordinary
events make such a meeting desirable. The affairs of the country have
hitherto been managed satisfactorily. A revenue of £554,000 sufficed
for the requirements of the State, and up to the outbreak of the war
there existed no public debt.

Religious liberty exists, but the Greek Church is declared to be
that of the State. It has been independent of the Patriarch of
Constantinople since 1376, and {179} is governed by a synod consisting
of the Archbishop of Belgrad and the Bishops of Ushitza, Negotin, and
Shabatz. The former is appointed by the Prince. The high dignitaries
of the Church are in receipt of salaries, but ordinary priests are
dependent upon fees and gifts. The monasteries have been suppressed by
a recent decision of the _Skupshtina_, and their revenues are to be
devoted to educational purposes.

The military forces of the country consist of a standing army of about
4,000 men, and of a militia including all men capable of bearing arms
up to fifty years of age. The first ban of this militia is called out
annually for training, the second ban only in case of war. Servia
is thus able to place an army of 150,000 men in the field, but the
efficiency of these badly trained troops leaves much to be desired, as
has been shown by recent events.

The country is divided into seventeen _okrushias_, or districts, viz.
Alexinatz, Belgrad, Chachak, Chupriya, Knyashevatz, Kraguyevatz, Kraina
(capital, Negotin), Krushevatz, Podrinye (Loznitza), Posharevatz,
Rudnik (Milanovitz), Shabatz, Smederevo, Tserna-Reka (Zaichar),
Ushitza, Valyevo, and Yagodina. The only towns of importance are
Belgrad (27,000 inhabitants), Posharevatz (7,000 inhabitants), Shabatz
(6,700 inhabitants), and Kraguyevatz (6,000 inhabitants).


The name Montenegro is a translation of the Servian Tsrnagora, or
“black mountains.” It is a curious designation for a country of
white or greyish calcareous mountains, whose colour even strikes the
voyager on the Adriatic. The name, according to some, is to be taken
figuratively, and is to be understood as designating a country of “bad”
or “black” men; others are of opinion that it refers to ancient pine
forests which have now disappeared.

The Turks have never succeeded in subjugating the Montenegrins,
who found safety in their mountain fastnesses. Occasionally the
Montenegrins placed themselves under the protection of a foreign
power, such as that of Venice, but they never acknowledged the Sultan
as their sovereign. The mountains, however, to which they owe their
independence, are at the same time their weakness, for they isolate
them from the rest of the world. A high range of mountains, as well
as a strip of Turkish territory, separates them from their Servian
kinsmen; another range, held by the Austrians, cuts them off from
the Gulf of Cattaro and the Adriatic Sea. The small Lake of Scutari
(Skodra) is their sea; the Zeta and Moracha, which feed it, are their
national rivers. If the Montenegrins were permitted to descend into the
plains without sacrificing their independence, the arid plateaux now
inhabited by them would soon be deserted by all but shepherds.

The eastern portion of Montenegro, which is known as the Berda, and
drained by the Moracha and its tributaries, is comparatively of easy
access. The mighty dolomitic pyramids of the Dormitor (8,550 feet)
command its valleys in the {180} north, whilst the rounded heights
of Kom (9,000 feet) bound it on the east. The Berda differs in no
respect from most other mountain countries. It is only in the western
portion of the country, in Montenegro proper, that we meet with
features altogether distinct. We there find ourselves in a labyrinth
of cavities, valleys, and depressions, separated by craggy calcareous
ridges, abounding in narrow fissures, the hiding-places of adders.
Only the mountaineers are able to find their way in this inextricable
labyrinth. “When God created the world,” they tell you laughing, “he
held in his hand a sack full of mountains. Right above Montenegro the
sack burst, and hence the fearful chaos of rocks which you see before


Scale 1 : 1,590,000.]

Seen from an immense height, Montenegro resembles a vast honeycomb with
thousands of cells, and this appearance is due to aqueous agencies.
The water at one spot has scooped out wide valleys, whilst elsewhere
its long-continued action has merely succeeded in producing narrow
_rudinas_, or sink-holes. After heavy rains the waters accumulate
into lakes, covering fields and pastures, but ordinarily they run off
rapidly through sink-holes concealed by brambles, only to reappear
again near the seashore as abundant springs of bluish water. The
Zeta, the principal river of Montenegro, is fed by rivulets which are
swallowed up in the valley of {181} Niksich to the north, and find
their way to it through subterranean channels. Similar phenomena have
already been noticed in connection with Bosnia (p. 127). The capital
of Montenegro, Tsetinye (Cetinje), lies in the very midst of the
mountains, in the centre of an ancient lake basin. Formerly it was
accessible only by a most difficult mountain path, for the Montenegrins
took care not to construct roads, which would open their country to
the guns of their enemies. The requirements of commerce, however, have
recently induced them to connect it with Cattaro by means of a carriage

The Montenegrins are the kinsmen of the Servians of the Danube, but
their life of almost incessant warfare, the elevation and sterility of
their country, as well as the vicinity of the Albanians, have developed
special features amongst them. The quiet life of the plains is unknown
to the Montenegrin; he is violent, and ready at all times to take up
arms; in his belt he carries a whole arsenal of pistols and knives, and
even when working in the fields he has a carbine by his side. Until
recently the price of blood was still enacted, and a scratch even had
to be paid for. This blood vengeance was transmitted from generation to
generation, until the number of victims was equal on both sides, or a
monetary compensation, usually fixed at ten sequins, had been accepted.
Cases of hereditary vengeance are rare now, but the ancient “custom”
could be suppressed only by a law of terrible severity, which punishes
murderers, traitors, rebels, thieves twice convicted, incendiaries, and
scoffers at religion alike with death. Compared with the Servian of the
Danube, the Montenegrin is a barbarian. Nor is his personal appearance
equally prepossessing. The women, however, have regular features,
and, though less dignified in their carriage than their kinswomen of
Servia, they possess, as a rule, more grace and elasticity of movement.
They are very prolific, and if a family increases too rapidly it is
customary for a friend to adopt one or more of the children.

Up to the invasion of the Osmanli the upper valleys of Montenegro
were the home merely of herdsmen and brigands. But the inhabitants
of the lower valleys were forced to retire to these austere heights
in order to escape slavery. They cultivated the soil, bred cattle
and sheep, and sometimes robbed their neighbours. But the sterile
soil yielded only a scanty harvest, and famines were by no means
unfrequent. Bosnian Uskoches, who fled to the mountains in order to
escape Mussulman oppression, only added to the misery by reducing to
a minimum the share of cultivable soil which fell to the lot of each
family. The pastures are still held in common, in accordance with
the ancient customs of the Servians. According to a recent census,
Montenegro is said to have a population of nearly 200,000 souls. This
may be an exaggeration, but the country is not even able to support
120,000 inhabitants without drawing supplies from beyond, and the armed
incursions into neighbouring districts might thus be excused as an
“economical necessity.” Death from hunger or on the field of battle was
often the only alternative. The Montenegrin always prefers the latter,
for he does not fear death, and “May you never die in bed !” is a wish
universally expressed at the cradle of a new-born infant. If a man
is unfortunate enough to die of disease, {182} or from old age, his
friends excuse him euphemistically by charging the “Old Murderer” with
his death.

The warlike incursions of former days have ceased now, for the
boundaries of Montenegro have been defined by an international
commission, and the mountaineers have established friendly relations
with their neighbours, from whom they are able now to purchase what
they require. In summer they permit the inhabitants of the coast to
take their cattle into the hills, whilst in winter they themselves
descend to the seaboard, where they are sure now of a friendly

The Montenegrins have always been anxious to possess a port on the
Adriatic, which would enable them to import freely, and without the
intervention of the merchants of Cattaro, the powder, salt, and other
articles they require, and to export their own produce. Their commerce,
even now, is of some importance. They export smoked mutton, sheep and
goats, skins, tallow, salt fish, cheese, honey, sumach, insect powder,
&c., of an estimated value of £40,000 annually.

The Montenegrins, like their neighbours the Albanians, frequently leave
their country for a time in order to seek work in the great cities of
the East. Thousands of them are to be met in Constantinople, where they
manage to live on friendly terms with the Turks, their “hereditary
enemies.” They are even to be found in Egypt.

The Tsigani are the only strangers met with in the country. They
resemble the Servians in language, dress, religion, and customs, and
only differ from them by working at a useful trade, that of smiths.
Their industry, however, causes them to be objects of disdain, and they
are not permitted to intermarry with Servians.

The government of Montenegro is a curious mixture of democratic,
feudal, and despotic institutions. The citizens fancy that they are
equals, but they are not, for certain families exercise a powerful
influence. The sovereign, who appropriates about half the revenue
of the country, and receives 8,000 ducats annually from Russia in
addition, appoints the members of the Senate, or _Sovyet_. The
_Skupshtina_ includes the _glavars_, or chiefs, of the thirty-nine
tribes (_plemena_), but has hitherto limited itself to applauding the
“speech from the throne.” There is a body-guard of a hundred men, and
the whole of the male population is bound to take the field under the
leadership of Serdars. The country is divided into eight _nahiés_,
or districts, of which four (Bielopavlichka, Uskochka, Morachka, and
Vasoyevichka, with the country of the Kuchi), constitute the Berda,
and four (Katunska, Liesanska, Riechka, and Tsermnichka) belong to
Montenegro proper. Each of these districts is placed under a _kniaz_.
The families and associations of families (_brastvos_) are governed
by _hospodars_ and _starshinas_, dependent upon the tribal chiefs, or

[Illustration: ITALY]





The limits of the Italian peninsula have been most distinctly traced by
nature. The Alps, which bound it in the north, from the promontories of
Liguria to the mountainous peninsula of Istria, present themselves like
a huge wall, the only breaches in which are formed by passes situated
high up in the zones of pines, pastures, or eternal snows. Italy, like
its two sister peninsulas of Southern Europe, thus constitutes a world
of its own, destined by nature to become the theatre of a special
evolution of humanity. Its delightful climate, beauteous skies, and
fertile fields distinguish it in a marked manner from the countries
lying beyond the Alps; and an inhabitant of the latter who descends the
sunny southern slope of this dividing range cannot fail to perceive
that everything around him has changed, and that he has entered a “new

The protecting barrier of the Alps and the sea which bounds it have
imparted to Italy a distinct individuality. All its countries, from
the plains of Lombardy to the shores of Sicily, resemble each other in
certain respects. There is a sort of family likeness about them; but
still what delightful contrasts, what {184} picturesque variety, do we
not meet with ! Most of these contrasts are due to the Apennines, which
branch off from the southern extremity of the French Alps. At first
they run close to the seashore, like a huge wall supported at intervals
by powerful buttresses; subsequently they traverse the whole of the
peninsula. At times they are reduced to a narrow ridge, at others they
spread out into vast masses, rising in plateaux or ramifying into
chains and promontories. River valleys and plains intersect them in
all directions; lakes and filled-up lake basins are spread out at the
foot of their cliffs; and numerous volcanoes, rising above the general
level, contrast, by their regular form, with the rugged declivities of
the Apennines. The sea, following these sinuosities in the relief of
the ground, forms a series of bays, arranged with a certain degree of
symmetry. In the north these bays do not much encroach upon the land,
but in the south they penetrate deeply, and almost form veritable
gulfs. There once existed an Italy of granitic rocks, but it exists no
longer, for the rocks of the Apennines and of the plains teach us that
the Italy of the present is of recent origin, and that the many islands
of which it consisted formerly were united into a single peninsula as
recently as the Eocene epoch.

Italy, compared with Greece, exhibits much sobriety in its
configuration. Its mountains are arranged in more regular ridges, its
coasts are less indented, its small archipelagos bear no comparison
with the Cyclades, and its three great dependent islands, Sicily,
Sardinia, and Corsica, are regular in their contours. Indeed, its
contours mark its intermediate position between joyous Greece and
severe Iberia. Thus there exists a correspondence between geographical
position and contours.

Italy, as a whole, contrasts in a remarkable manner with the Balkan
peninsula. The former faces the Ægean, and looks towards the east,
whilst in the truly peninsular portion of Italy, to the south of
the plains of Lombardy, the westerly slopes offer most life. Secure
harbours are most numerous on the shores of the Tyrrhenian, and the
largest and most fertile plains slope down towards that sea. It results
from this that the western slopes of the Apennines have given birth to
the most enterprising and intelligent populations, who have taken the
lead in the political history of their country. The west represents the
light, whilst the east, bounded as it is by the Adriatic, an inland
sea almost, a simple gulf, represents the night. True, the plains of
Apulia, though on the east, are wealthier and more populous than the
mountain regions of Calabria, but the vicinity of Sicily, nevertheless,
even there insures the preponderance of the western littoral. Whilst
Greece was in the height of her glory, whilst every initiative went
forth from Athens, the cities of Asia Minor, and the islands of the
Ægean, those republics which looked towards the east, such as Tarentum,
Locri, Sybaris, Syracuse, and Catania, enjoyed a pre-eminence over the
cities on the western littoral. The physical configuration of Italy
thus facilitated the march of civilisation from the south-east to the
north-west, from Ionia to Gaul. The Gulf of Taranto and the eastern
coasts of Greater Greece and Sicily were freely exposed to Hellenic
influences, whilst further north the peninsula faces about to {185}
the west as it were. There can be no doubt that these features greatly
facilitated the expansion of ideas in the direction of Western Europe,
and that if it had been otherwise civilisation would have taken another

For nearly two thousand years, from the fall of Carthage to the
discovery of America, Italy remained the centre of the civilised world.
It maintained its hegemony either by conquest and organization, as in
the case of the “Eternal City,” or by the power of its genius, the
relative liberty of its institutions, its sciences, arts, and commerce,
as in the times of Florence, Genoa, and Venice. Two of the greatest
events in history, the political unification of the Mediterranean world
under the laws of Rome, and at a later epoch the regeneration of the
human mind, so appropriately termed “Renaissance,” originated in Italy.
It behoves us, therefore, to inquire into the geographical conditions
which may account for this preponderance during these two ages in the
life of mankind.

Mommsen and others have pointed out the favourable position of Rome as
an emporium. From the very first that city became the commercial centre
of the neighbouring populations. Built in the centre of a circus of
hills, and on the banks of a navigable river, not far from the sea, it
likewise possessed the advantage of lying on the frontiers of three
nations—Latins, Sabines, and Etruscans. When Rome had conquered the
neighbouring territories it undoubtedly rose into importance as a place
of commerce. This local traffic, however, would never have converted
Rome into a great city. Its position is not to be compared with that
of places like Alexandria, Constantinople, or Bombay, upon which the
world’s commerce converges as a matter of course. On the contrary,
its situation hardly favours commerce. The Apennines, which environ
the territory of Rome in a huge semicircle, constituted a formidable
obstacle until quite recently, and were avoided by merchants; the sea
near Rome is treacherous, and even the small galleys of the ancients
could not enter the inefficient harbour at Ostia without risk.

The power of Rome, therefore, depended but in a small measure upon
commercial advantages resulting from geographical position. It is
its central position to which that city is mainly indebted for its
greatness, and which enabled it to weld the whole of the ancient world
into a political whole. Three concentric circles drawn around the city
correspond with as many phases in its development. During their first
struggles for existence the Romans enjoyed the advantage of occupying
a basin of limited extent, shielded on all sides by mountains. When
Rome had exterminated the inhabitants of these mountains the remainder
of Italy naturally gravitated towards her. The plains of Cis-and
Transpadana in the north presented no obstacles, whilst the resistance
of the uncivilised tribes of the mountain regions of the south was soon
broken, for they found no support amongst the Greek colonies scattered
along an extensive coast. Nor were the populations of Sicily, Sardinia,
and Corsica sufficiently united to offer an effective resistance to
the organized forces of the Romans, who were thus able to extend their
power over all the countries comprehended within the second concentric
circle referred to. {186}

It happened that the plains of Northern Italy and Sicily were both rich
granaries, which enabled the Romans to push forward their conquests.
The whole world of the Mediterranean gravitated towards Rome and Italy:
Illyria, Greece, and Egypt in the east, Libya and Mauritania in the
south, Iberia in the west, Gaul in the north-west, and the transalpine
countries in the north.

[Illustration: Fig. 50.—ROME AND THE ROMAN EMPIRE.]

Rome maintained her power and influence as long as the Mediterranean
constituted the world; but, in proportion as the borders of the
known world were enlarged, so did Rome lose the advantages which
a central position had conferred upon her. Even during the latter
days of the Roman empire Milan and Ravenna usurped the position once
held by Rome, and the latter became the capital of the Ostrogothic
kingdom, and subsequently the seat of the Byzantine exarchs. Rome,
the city of the Cæsars, had fallen for evermore ! True, the emperors
were succeeded by the popes, but the real masters of the “Holy Roman
Empire” resided beyond the Alps, and only came to Italy to have their
power consecrated. Even in Italy itself Rome ceased to be the leading
town, its place being taken by Pavia, Florence, Genoa, Milan, Venice,
Bologna, and even Turin.

The unity of Italy has been realised in the course of this century,
and, excepting a few Alpine valleys, its political boundaries coincide
with its natural ones. It may surprise us that this unity should not
have been established long ago, but the geographical configuration of
Italy readily lends itself to the {187} establishment of small states.
Its islands, its mountain-bound plains, and coast districts, shut off
from the interior of the country by abrupt mountains, formed as many
centres where populations of diverse origin were able to lead a life
independently of their neighbours. Now and then the whole of Italy
acknowledged a single master, but it only did so on compulsion. That
spirit of nationality which has given birth to a united Italy only
animated very few citizens of the mediæval republics. They might unite
to resist a common danger, but no sooner was it past than they went
their separate ways, or, still worse, fought amongst themselves about
some trifle.

Cola di Rienzi, the tribune of Rome, appealed to the cities of Italy
in the middle of the fourteenth century; he adjured them to “throw
off the yoke of the tyrant, and to form a holy national brotherhood,
whose object should be the liberation of Rome and the whole of Italy.”
His messengers, carrying a silver wand, went to every city with
greetings of amity, and asked that deputies should be sent to the
future parliament of the Eternal City. Rienzi, full of the memories
of the past, declared that Rome had not ceased to be the “mistress of
the world,” and had a natural right to govern all nations. It was his
aim to resuscitate the past, not to evoke a new life, and his work
disappeared like a dream. Florence and Venice, the most active cities
of that period, looked upon him as a visionary. “Siamo Veneziani, poi
Cristiani,” said the proud citizens of Venice in the fifteenth century.
They, whose sons fought so valiantly for Italian independence, never
thought of calling themselves Italians. At the same time we must bear
in mind that the impulse which has made Italy one did not originate
with the masses, for there are still millions of Sicilians, Sardinians,
Calabrians, and even Lombards who do not appreciate the vast changes
which have taken place.

If Italy no longer remains a “geographical expression,” it is owing in
a large measure to frequent foreign invasions. Spaniards, French, and
Germans in turn have seized the fertile plains of Italy, and their hard
oppression has taught the Italians to look upon each other as brothers.
The Alps might be supposed to offer an effective protection against
such invasions, but they do not. They are steepest on the Italian side,
whilst their exterior slopes, towards France, Switzerland, and German
Austria, are comparatively gentle. Invaders, tempted by the delightful
climate and the wealth of Italy, were able to reach easily the Alpine
passes, whence they rushed down upon the plains; and thus the “barrier
of the Alps” is a barrier only to the Italians, and has always been
respected by them, excepting during the Roman empire. Nor is there any
reason why they should cross it, for there is no country beyond equal
to their own. French, Swiss, and Germans, on the other hand, have
always looked upon Italy as a sort of paradise. It was the country of
their dreams; they yielded frequently to their desire to possess it,
and dyed its coveted plains with blood.

Italy, exposed as it is to attacks from beyond, and no longer situated
in the centre of the known world, has definitively lost its _primato_,
or foremost place amongst nations, which some of its sons, carried away
by an exclusive patriotism, {188} would restore to it. But though no
longer the most powerful nation, and eclipsed in industry, commerce,
and even literature and science, it still remains unrivalled in its
treasures of art. There is no other country in the world which can
boast of an equal number of cities remarkable on account of their
buildings, statues, paintings, and decorations of every kind. There are
provinces where every village, every group of houses even, delights the
eye either by a fresco painting or a work of the sculptor’s chisel, a
bold staircase or picturesque balcony. The instinct for art has passed
into the blood of the people, and we need not wonder if an Italian
peasant builds his house and plants his trees so as to bring them into
harmony with the surrounding landscape. This constitutes the greatest
charm of Italy; everywhere art goes hand in hand with nature. How many
artists are there not in Lombardy, Venetia, or Tuscany who would have
become famous in any other country, but whose names will never be
remembered, in consequence of their overwhelming numbers, or because
their lot was cast in some remote village !

Italy owes the rank it has held for more than two thousand years not
merely to its monuments and works of art, which attract students from
the extremities of the earth, but also to its historical associations.
In a country which has been inhabited for centuries by a civilised
people there cannot be a town the origin of which is not lost in the
darkness of tradition. The modern cities have replaced the Roman towns,
and these latter rose upon the ruins of some Greek, Etruscan, or Gallic
settlement. Every fortress, every country house, marks the site of
some ancient citadel, or of the villa of a Roman patrician; churches
have replaced the ancient temples, and though the religious rites
have changed, the altars of gods and saints arise anew in the spots
consecrated of old. An examination of these relics of all ages is full
of interest, and only the most obtuse can resist the influence of the
historical reminiscences which surround him.

Italy, after a long period of decay and foreign domination, has again
taken its place amongst the foremost modern nations. The aspect of
the peninsula has undergone many changes since it received the name
of Vitalia, or Italia, from the herds of cattle which roamed over
it. Its well-cultivated plains, carefully tended gardens, and busy
cities entitle it now to some other appellation. The passes of the
Alps and its central position give Italy the command of all the routes
which converge from France, Germany, and Austria upon the Gulfs of
Genoa and Venice. Its quarries, sulphur and iron mines, its wines and
agricultural produce of every description, and its industry afford
ever-growing resources. Its men of learning and inventors may fairly
claim to be on a level with those of other countries. The population
increases rapidly. It is not only more dense than in France, but also
sends a considerable contingent of emigrants to the solitudes of
Southern America.[60] {189}




The valley of the Po is frequently spoken of as Upper Italy, because
it occupies the northern portion of the peninsula, but might more
appropriately be termed the Italian Netherlands, for its elevation is
less than that of any other group of provinces. It is a river valley
now, but during the Pliocene epoch it still formed a gulf of the sea.
This gulf was gradually filled up by the alluvium brought down by the
rivers, and upheaved by subterranean forces above the surface of the
waters, the erosive action of the mountain torrents continuing all the
while; and thus, in the course of ages, the basin of the Po assumed
its gentle and regular slope towards the sea. As long as the waters of
the Adriatic penetrated the valleys between Monte Rosa and Monte Viso,
Italy was attached to the Alps {190} of continental Europe only by a
narrow neck of land formed by the Ligurian Apennines.

No other region of Europe can rival the valley of the Po as regards
the magnificence of its distant prospects. The Apennines in the south
raise their heads above the region of forests, their rocks, woods,
and pasturages contrasting with the uniform plain spread out along
their foot; whilst the snow-clad Alps rise in all their sublimity from
the Col di Tenda in the west to the passes of Istria in the east.
The isolated pyramid of Monte Viso (thus called from the beautiful
prospect which may be obtained from its summit) looks down upon the
fields of Saluzzo, and the small lakes in its pasturing region feed a
roaring rivulet which subsequently assumes the name of Po. Enormous
buttresses to the north-west of Turin support the ice-clad Grand
Paradis, near which peeps out the Grivola, perhaps the most charming,
the most gracefully chiselled of all Alpine peaks. Right in the bend
of the Alpine chain rises the dome of Mont Blanc, like an island above
a sea of mountains. Monte Rosa, crowned with a seven-pointed diadem,
pushes its spurs far into Italy. Then come the Splügen, the Ortler, the
Adamello, the Marmolade, and many another summit distinguished for some
special beauty. When from the top of the dome of Milan we behold spread
out around us this magnificent amphitheatre of mountains rising above
the verdant plain, we may well rejoice that we should have lived to
contemplate so grand a scene.

Geographically the Alps belong to the countries which surround Italy.
From the south we seize at a glance the entire slope of the mountains,
from the vineyards and plantations of mulberry-trees to the forests of
beech and larch, the pastures, the naked rocks, and the dazzling fields
of ice. But the cultivator only ventured into this difficult region
when forced by poverty. The features of the northern slope are quite
different. There the land rises gradually, and the valleys are less
fertile, but the inhabitants can easily reach the heads of the passes,
whence they look down upon the inviting plains of Italy. It is this
structure of the Alps which explains the preponderance of the Germanic
and Gallic elements throughout their extent, and whilst Italian is
spoken only in a few isolated localities beyond this mountain barrier,
the French and German elements are largely represented on their inner

Italy can only claim a few Alpine mountain masses within the basin
of the Po, the Adige, and the rivers of Venetia. The most important
of these, alike on account of its height, its glaciers, and springs,
is the Grand Paradis, which rears its head to the south of the Dora
Baltea, between the masses of Mont Blanc and the plains of Piemont.
An Englishman, Mr. Mathews, may claim to be the first discoverer of
this mountain giant, which even on the Sardinian staff map, published
only recently, is confounded with Mont Iseran, a far less noble summit
twenty-five miles to the west of it.

None of the other Alpine summits on Italian territory can compare in
height with the Grand Paradis, for though the Italian language extends
in numerous instances to the central chain of the Alps, the political
boundaries of Italy do not. {191} Switzerland holds possession of
the valley of the Upper Ticino, whilst Austria still possesses the
Upper Adige. The only rivers rising on the southern slope of the Alps,
and belonging in their entirety, or nearly so, to Italy, are the
Tagliamento and the Piave. In consequence of this violation of the
natural frontiers there are many snow-clad Alpine summits which, though
geographically belonging to Italy, are situated on the frontiers of the
present kingdom, or even within Swiss or Austrian territory. Amongst
these are the giant summits of the Ortler, the Marmolade, and the
precipitous Cimon della Pala. The Monte della Disgrazia, however, to
the south of the Bernina, is an Italian mountain; such is also, for the
greater part, the mountain mass of the Camonica, bounded on the north
by the Pass of Tonale, which plays so prominent a part in legendary
history, and is commanded by the Adamo, or Adamello, whose glacier
streams creep down to the Upper Adige. Farther to the east, in the
valley of the Piave, the obelisk surmounting the huge pyramid of the
Antelao pierces the line of perennial snow, and there are other peaks
scarcely inferior to it in height.

[Illustration: Fig. 52.—GRAND PARADIS.

From the Map of the French Alpine Club. Scale 1 : 228,000.]

Most of the Alpine groups lying within Italy and between the main
chain and {192} the plains do not exceed the Apennines in height,
and only a few amongst them are covered with perennial snow. But the
prospects which may be enjoyed from them are all the more charming for
this reason, for we find ourselves between two zones, with cultivated
valleys, towns, and villages at our feet, and a panorama of bare
and snowy summits bounding the view to the north. Several of these
mountains deservedly attract large numbers of tourists. Favourites
amongst them are the hills rising above the blue lakes of Lombardy,
such as the Motterone on Lago Maggiore, the pyramidal Generoso rising
in the midst of verdant fields on the Lake of Lugano, the superb hills
between the two arms of the Lake of Como and the fertile plains of the
Brianza, and Monte Baldo, advancing its buttresses like lions’ claws
into the waters of the Lake of Garda. The mountains of the Val Tellina,
or the Orobia range, to the south of the valley of the Upper Adda,
being remote from towns and customary highways, are less frequently
visited than they deserve. Standing at their foot, we may almost fancy
being in the Pyrenees. As to the dolomites, on the frontiers of Venetia
and the Tyrol, they are unique. Their fantastically shaped rocks,
delicately tinted with pink and other colours, contrast marvellously
with the green of beeches and firs, or the blue waters of the lakes.
Richthofen and others look upon these isolated mountain masses as
ancient coral islands, or _atolls_, upheaved to a height varying
between 6,500 and 10,400 feet; and, whatever their geological origin
may be, they certainly contribute much towards the beauty of the Alpine


According to Zollikofer.]

If we descend the Italian slope of the Alps, we pass gradually from the
more ancient to the most recent geological formation, until we finally
reach the alluvial plain. Metamorphic rocks, _verrucano_, dolomites,
and other rocks overlie the granites, the gneiss, and the schists of
the more elevated mountain masses. These are succeeded by beds of
Triassic and Jurassic age. Lower still we meet with {193} terraces
and hills composed of tertiary marls, clays, and conglomerates. Monte
Bolca, so famous amongst geologists on account of its fossils, belongs
to this formation.[62] The whole of the plain of Lombardy and Piemont,
with the exception of the isolated hillocks rising in it, and a few
marine deposits near its margin, consists of débris brought down by the
rivers. The depth of this accumulation is not yet known, for hitherto
no borings have pierced it; but if we suppose the slopes of the Alps
and the Apennines to continue uniformly, it would amount to no less
than 4,130 feet. The two diagrams (Fig. 53) are intended to illustrate
this feature. In the upper of these the heights are exaggerated
tenfold; in the lower both the horizontal and the vertical scales are
the same. A glance at this diagram reveals the astounding fact that
the volume of this débris almost equals that of the existing mountain

[Illustration: Fig. 54.—SLOPE OF THE VALLEY OF THE PO.

The vertical scale is ten times larger than the horizontal.]

The vast plain stretching from the Adriatic to the foot of the Monte
Rosa and the Viso may boast of its peninsulas, its islands, and even
its archipelagos, as if it were a sea. The tertiary hills of Northern
Monferrato, to the east of Turin, attain a height of 1,600 to 2,000
feet, and the valley of the Tanaro completely separates them from the
Ligurian Alps and the Apennines. Even at the very foot of the Alps, as
at Cavour and elsewhere, isolated granitic or porphyritic pyramids and
domes rise in the midst of the plain sloping down towards the Po.[63]
The hump-backed Bosco Montello, to the south of the Piave, is another
isolated hill; and on the banks of the Po may be seen a hillock of
pebbles and marine sands, abounding in fossils, which bears the village
of San Colombano and its vineyards. Several volcanic peaks, surrounded
by cretaceous formations, rise in the midst of the plains to the east
of the Lake of Garda. The craters of the Berici, near Vicenza, and of
the Euganean Hills, near Padua, have not vomited {194} flames within
the historical epoch, but the hot and the gas springs which issue
from clefts in the trachytic and basaltic rocks prove sufficiently
that volcanic forces are not yet quite extinct in that part of Italy.
Earthquakes occur frequently in the neighbouring Alps, and particularly
near Belluno and Bassano.


Scale 1 : 1,160,000.]

A similar volcanic zone extends along the northern slope of the
Apennines, which bound the valley of the Po on the south. Hydrogen gas
escapes from fissures in the rocks to the south of Modena and Bologna,
and is utilised in several instances in the manufacture of lime,
and for other purposes. These gas springs of Pietra Mala, Porretta,
and Barigazzo were known by the ancients and during the Middle Ages
as “fiery springs,” and they illuminated the path of the traveller
overtaken by the night. Lower down the slope, almost on the verge of
the plains, we meet with a line of mud volcanoes, or _bombi_, the most
famous of which are those of Sassuolo, near Modena. The largest of
these, that of Mirano, has no less than forty craters. The ancient gulf
of the sea, now converted into a plain, is thus skirted by volcanic
cones, mud volcanoes, hot springs, and deposits of sulphur. As high up
as Piemont, and notably at Acqui, we meet with hot springs, attesting
that volcanic activity is not yet altogether extinct.

[Illustration: La Dent blanche, 14,319 ft.; Château des Dames, 11,998
ft.; Mt. Cervin, 14,705 ft.; Mischabel Hōrner, 14,942 ft.; Breithorn,
13,680 ft.; Monte Rosa (Dufour Spitze, 15,217 ft.).


The valleys of the Alps and the plains extending along their foot were
filled, in a former geological epoch, with huge glaciers, descending
from what was anciently the immense glacial region of Central Europe.
There is not a valley between that of the Tanaro in the west, and that
of the Isonzo descending from the mountains of Carinthia, but contains
accumulations of débris carried down by the {195} glaciers, and now
covered with vegetation. Most of these ancient glaciers exceeded those
of the Monte Rosa and the Finsteraarhorn in extent, and several of them
rivalled the existing glaciers of the Himalaya. If we would gain a
notion of what the Alps were like during this glacial epoch, we must go
to Greenland or to the Antarctic regions.


Scale 1 : 4,800,000.]

One of the smallest of these ice streams, that which descended from the
mountains of Tenda in the direction of Cuneo, had a length of thirty
miles. That which brought down the ice of Mont Genèvre, Mont Tabor, and
Mont Cenis had twice that length, and its moraines formed a veritable
amphitheatre of hills, locally known as _regione alla pietre_, or stony
region. Farther north the streams of ice descending from the Pennine
Alps between the Grand Paradis and Mont Blanc united in a single stream
eighty miles in length, and spread over the plain far beyond Ivrea.
The alluvial accumulation of this ancient glacier rises 1,100 and even
2,130 feet above the valley through which the Dora Baltea now flows.
One of its lateral moraines, known as the _Serra d’Ivrea_, forms a
regular rampart to the east of the river, eighteen miles in extent.
Its slopes are now covered with chestnuts. The western ravine (Colle
di Brossa) is less prominent, because it is inferior in height; but
the frontal ravine, forming a complete demicircle, can still be traced
readily. In the débris accumulated at the foot of this ancient glacier,
rocks derived from Mont Blanc are mixed with others brought down
from Mont Cervin. And yet it was but a dwarf when compared with the
ancient twin glacier of the Ticino and the Adda, which extended from
the Simplon to the Stelvio, filled up the cavities now occupied by the
Lago Maggiore {196} and the Lake of Como, sent a lateral branch to the
tortuous bed of the Lake of Lugano, and finally, after a course of from
100 to 120 miles, debouched upon the plain of Lombardy. The glacier of
the Oglio was small in comparison with it, but it was exceeded by that
of the Adige, the most considerable of all on the southern slope of
the Alps. This river of ice, from the mountains of the Oetzthal, where
it originated, to its terminal moraine to the north of Mantua, had a
length of 175 miles. One of its branches descended towards the east,
down the valley of the Drave, as far as where the town of Klagenfurt
now stands. Its main stream filled up the cavity of the Lake of Garda,
pushing along a formidable rampart of elevated moraines.


From the Sardinian Staff Map. Scale 1 : 250,000]

The hand of man is scarcely able to make an impression upon the vast
accumulations heaped up by the action of the glaciers. The hills
of Solferino, of Cavriana, and Somma Campagna, so often named in
connection with battles, are nothing but débris brought down from the
flanks of the Alps, and they were much higher formerly than they are
now. {197}

Some of the erratic blocks were as large as houses, but, being used as
quarries, they are fast disappearing. One of them at Pianezza, at the
mouth of the Susa valley, is 80 feet long, 40 feet broad, and 46 feet
high, and a chapel has been built upon it. The huge erratic blocks
in the hills between the two arms of the Lake of Como have supplied
materials for the monolithic columns of the churches and palaces in the
environs. The slopes of the hills of Turin facing the Alps are likewise
covered with erratic blocks.

       *       *       *       *       *

When the glaciers retired into the upper valleys of the Alps, the soil
which they covered was left bare, and the depressions now occupied by
the beautiful lakes of Lombardy were revealed. These depressions, whose
bottom even now sinks down below the level of the ocean, were formerly
arms of the sea, in character very much like the fiords of Norway.
That such was the case is proved by the presence, in every one of the
Lombard lakes, of a sardine (the _agone_), which naturalists consider
to be a sea fish. In Garda Lake, moreover, there still dwell two marine
fishes which have adapted themselves to their new condition of life, as
well as a small marine shell-fish.

[Illustration: Fig. 58.—ANCIENT LAKES OF VERBANO.]

The number of these Alpine lakes was much larger formerly, and those
which still exist shrink from year to year. In Upper Piemont alluvial
deposits have long ago filled up the lakes, and there now only remain
a few pools of {198} water to indicate their site. The first sheets
of water to which the term “lake” may fairly be applied are met with
on both banks of the Dora Baltea (see Fig. 57). The little basin of
Candia and the shallow Lake of Azeglio, to the west and east of the
river, are the only remains of _Lacus Clisius_, which covered an area
of several hundred square miles until its waters broke through the
semicircular terminal moraine which bounded it on the south. The Dora
Baltea formerly escaped from this lake in the south-east, its present
course only dating from the fourteenth century.


Scale 1 : 148,000.]

Since this reservoir has been drained, the first lake of importance in
the west is that of Verbano, very inappropriately called Lago Maggiore,
or the “principal lake,” as that of Garda exceeds it in extent. Ancient
beaches, at an elevation of 1,300 feet above the sea, prove that the
waters of the lake have considerably subsided, and that its area was
much larger formerly; and it curiously ramified with neighbouring lake
basins, now merely connected with it by rivers. The ancient moraine
at the foot of this lake, and through which the Ticino has excavated
itself a passage, still rises to a height of 980 feet. {199}

Centuries elapsed before the changes which we now perceive were
accomplished. Still they proceeded at a sufficiently rapid rate. Even
now the alluvium carried down by the Ticino and the Maggia continually
encroaches upon the Lago Maggiore. Seven hundred years ago the village
of Gordola stood on the shore of the lake: it is now nearly a mile away
from it. The landing-places of Magadino, at the mouth of the Ticino,
have to be continually shifted, for the lake retires steadily. Only
sixty years ago barges were able to receive their cargoes at a wharf
nearly half a mile higher up than the present one. The Gulf of Locarno
is gradually being separated from the main sheet of water by alluvial
deposits brought down by the Maggia.


Scale 1 : 25,000.]


Scale 1 : 25,000.]


Horizontal scale 1 : 50,000. Vertical scale 1 : 500,000.]

The Lario, or Lake of Como, which rivals the Maggiore by its beauty,
is likewise being gradually silted up. In the time of the Romans the
navigation extended as far as Summolacus (lake-head), the modern
Samolaco. But the torrent of Mera gradually converted most of the upper
extremity of the lake into an alluvial plain, whilst the alluvial
deposits carried down by the Adda cut off the remainder from the main
body of water. There now remains only the _Lacus_ {200} _Dimidiatus_,
or Lake of Mezzola, which is shrinking from year to year, and will
finally disappear altogether. The miasmata rising from the swamps
at the mouth of the Adda have frequently depopulated the environs,
and the ruined fort of Fuentes, at the mouth of the river, built to
defend the Val Tellina, was hardly ever more than a hospital for its
fever-stricken garrison.

The south-eastern arm of the lake, that of Lecco, through which the
Adda makes its escape to the south, has likewise been divided into a
series of separate basins. Nature, which would convert these lakes into
bottom-lands at no distant date, is being aided here by the works of
man. The barrier which obstructed the free egress of the Adda has been
cleared away, the structures of fishermen have been removed, and, in
consequence of these and other engineering measures, the once-dreaded
rises of the lake have been reduced to a minimum, and the southernmost
of the lake basins, that of Brivio, has been converted into dry
land. The large Lake of Brianza, which extended formerly far to the
south-west, has likewise been partially drained, and there now remain
only a few lakelets of small extent.

We know sufficient of the bottom of the Lake of Como to enable us to
judge of the manner in which it is becoming gradually filled up with
alluvium. The mud deposited in its northern portion has filled up all
the original inequalities of the soil, and even in the centre of the
lake, and in its south-eastern arm, the bottom is almost a perfect
level. In the Como arm, however, which receives no tributary river
of any importance, the bottom is still full of inequalities. These
differences amply prove to us the geological agency of the rivers,
which must terminate in the lake being converted into a bottom-land,
with a river flowing through its centre. The third of our diagrams
(Fig. 62) shows that the greatest depth now hardly exceeds 1,300 feet,
whilst, if we may judge from the slopes of the hills which bound it,
the depth in former times cannot have been less than 2,300 feet.

The Sebino, or Lake of Iseo, and the lakelet of Idro, which are fed
by the glacier streams of the Adamello, exhibit the same features as
the lakes farther to the west. The Benaco, or Lake of Garda, however,
the most extensive of these Alpine lakes, is very stable as regards
its outline and the configuration of its bottom, a fact sufficiently
explained by the small size of its tributary streams as compared
with its vast area. The old Alpine lakes of the Venetian Alps have
disappeared long ago, and there remain only a few ponds, filling
cavities in the dolomitic rocks and peat bogs, to indicate their
ancient sites.[64] {201}


These lacustrine basins, like all other reservoirs of the same kind,
regulate the outflow of the torrents which empty into them. During the
freshets they store up the superabundant waters, and only part with
them in the dry season, and upon their difference of level in different
seasons depend the oscillations of the emissary rivers which issue from
them. In the case of the Lake of Garda, which drains but a small area
in proportion to its size, this difference is small, and throughout
the year the pellucid waters of the Mincio flow tranquilly beneath
the blackened ramparts of Peschiera. Such is not the case as regards
either the Lago Maggiore or the Lake of Como, for the volume of water
discharged into them is so considerable that their level in summer
and winter varies to the extent of several yards, and corresponding
differences may be observed in the rivers issuing from them. Lake Como
rises no less than 12 feet, and increases 70 square miles in area,
whilst the Lago Maggiore sometimes rises 22 feet, and {202} increases
to the extent of one-fifth. The volume of the Ticino, when at its
highest, almost equals the average volume of the Nile, and if it were
not for the regulating influence of the lake from which it issues, it
would alternately convert the plains of Lombardy into a sheet of water
and leave them an arid tract of land.[65]

The Alpine lakes of Italy thus play an important part in the economy of
the country. They render the climate more equable, serve as high-roads
of commerce, and, being the centres of animal life, attract a dense
population. But it is not this which has rendered these lakes famous,
which has attracted thousands of wanderers ever since the time of the
Romans, and caused villas and palaces to rise on their shores: it is
their incomparable beauty. And, indeed, there are few spots in Europe
which bear comparison with the delightful Gulf of Pallanza, over which
are scattered the Borromean Islands, or with the peninsula of Bellagio,
which may be likened to a hanging garden suspended within sight of
the snow-clad Alps, and affording a prospect of the rock-bound shores
of the Como Lake, cultivated fields, and numerous villas. Perhaps
even more delightful is the peninsula of Sermione, jutting out into
the azure waters of the Garda Lake, like the tender stalk of a flower
developing into a many-coloured petal.

Most of the lakes in the plain have been drained into the neighbouring
rivers. The Lake of Gerondo, mentioned in mediæval records, has
dwindled down into a small swamp, or _mosi_, now, and its populous
island of Fulcheria has become merged in the plain of Lombardy. The
lakes on the southern bank of the Po, above Guastalla, have likewise
been drained; and if the two shallow lakes of Mantua still exist, this
is entirely due to the embankments raised in the twelfth century. It
would have been much better, and would have saved the city the horrors
of many a siege, if these lakes had been allowed to disappear likewise.

       *       *       *       *       *

The lagoons along the Adriatic have decreased in extent in the course
of centuries, and whilst new lagoons are being formed, the old ones
are gradually being converted into dry land. The old maps of the
Venetian littoral differ essentially from our modern ones, and yet
all the vast changes they indicate have been wrought in the course
of a few centuries. The swamps of Caorle, between the Piave and the
Gulf of Trieste, have changed to an extent which prevents us from
restoring the ancient topography of the country; and if the lagoons
of Venice and Chioggia exhibit a certain permanence of contour, this
is only on account of the incessant interference of man. The ancient
lagoon of Brondolo has been dry land since the middle of the sixteenth
century. The large lagoon of Comacchio, to the south of the Po, has
been cut up into separate portions by alluvial embankments formed by
the agency of rivers and torrents. For the most part it consists now of
_valli_, or alluvial deposits, but there still remain a few profound
cavities, or _chiari_, which the rivers have not yet succeeded in
filling up. Formerly these {203} lagoons extended far to the south in
the direction of Ravenna, and, according to Strabo and other ancient
writers, that ancient city once occupied a site very much like that of
Venice or Chioggia in our own days.

[Illustration: Fig. 64.—BEECH AND PINE WOODS OF RAVENNA.

Scale 1 : 2,470,000.]

There can be no doubt that these lagoons were anciently separated from
the Adriatic by a narrow strip of land over 120 miles in length, and
similar to what we still meet with on the coasts of Carolina and of
the Brazils. This ancient barrier still exists in the _lidi_ of Venice
and Comacchio, which are pierced at intervals, admitting the vivifying
floods of the open sea. Elsewhere the traces of this ancient beach must
be looked for on the mainland. The low delta of the Po is traversed
from north to south by a range of dunes constituting the continuation
of the lidi of Venice, and extending into the swamps of Comacchio,
where they form a natural embankment running parallel with the coast.
These dunes, between the Adige and Cervia, are covered with sombre pine
woods, replaced here and there by oaks. The underwood mainly consists
of hawthorns and juniper-trees, and wild boars still haunt it.

No sooner have the lagoons protected by these barriers been converted
into dry land than the sea seizes upon the sand, and forms it into new
curvilinear barriers similar to the former ones. The principal range of
dunes to the east of Ravenna, which is about 20 miles in length, and
varies in width between 50 and 3,300 yards, has thus two other ranges
of dunes running parallel with it, one of them being still in course of
formation. Signor {204} Pareto has estimated the annual advance of the
land at 7½ feet, and at much more near the mouths of rivers.

The sea thus marks by a series of barriers its successive recoils.
Sometimes, however, the sea gains upon the land in consequence of a
gradual subsidence of the Venetian shore, the cause of which has not
yet been elucidated. Thus the gravel bank of Cortellazzo, opposite
the swamps of Caorle, appears to have anciently been a _lido_ which
has sunk nearly 70 feet below the level of the sea. The islands which
fringed the littoral of Aquileja during the Middle Ages have almost
wholly disappeared. In the time of the Romans these islands were
populous; there were forests and fields upon them, and the inhabitants
built ships. The chronicles of the Middle Ages tell us that the Doge
of Venice and the Patriarch of Aquileja hunted stags and wild boars
upon them, much to the scandal of the inhabitants. At the present day
the dunes which of yore protected these islands have almost wholly
disappeared, the forests have been supplanted by reeds, and Grado is
the only place on the littoral which may still boast of a certain
number of inhabitants. Piers, walls, mosaic pavements, and even stones
bearing inscriptions, which are found occasionally at the bottom of the
sea or of swamps, prove that the mainland was formerly more extensive
there. Farther to the west the littoral of Venice bears evidence of
a similar subsidence. Artesian wells sunk in the city of the lagoons
have led to the discovery of four beds of turf, the deepest no less
than 420 feet below the level of the sea. The subterranean church of
St. Mark has within historical times been converted into a submarine
church, and streets and buildings are gradually sinking beneath the
waters of the lagoons. If it were not for the alluvium brought down by
the rivers, the sea would continually encroach upon the land. Ravenna,
too, participates in this subsidence, which Signor Pareto estimates to
amount to 0·60 inch in the course of a century.

       *       *       *       *       *

Amongst the geological agents constantly at work to modify the surface
of the earth, the rivers and torrents irrigating the plain lying at the
foot of the Alps are the most active, and no other country of Europe,
Holland alone excepted, can compare in this respect with Northern Italy.

The torrent of Isonzo offers one of the most striking instances of
these geological revolutions. It is said to have formerly communicated
through subterranean channels with the Istrian Timavo, and that its
existence as a separate river does not date very far back. Ancient
writers do not enumerate the Isonzo amongst the rivers flowing into
the Adriatic. It is first mentioned in a document of the sixth century
as a river irrigating some inland valley. On Peutinger’s Table we
meet with a station, Ponte Sonti, far to the east of Aquileja, and
near the sources of the Timavo. The chronicles are silent with
respect to the peripatetics of this river, but a careful examination
of the surrounding hills justifies the assumption that the valley of
Tolmein, on the Upper Isonzo, was formerly a lake which overflowed
towards the north-west through the narrows of Caporetto, and that its
pent-up waters found their way through the Natisone into the Adriatic.
Subsequently they opened themselves a passage to the south, and another
lake was {205} formed at the confluence of Isonzo and Wippach. This
lake communicated by subterranean channels with the Timavo, but it has
now disappeared, and the Isonzo flows directly into the sea, its bed
wandering continuously towards the east. The alluvium carried down by
this river has formed the peninsula of Sdobba, and joined several old
islands to the mainland.


From the Austrian Staff Map. Scale 1 : 290,000]

The Tagliamento is even a more active geological agent than its
neighbour just beyond the frontier. The débris deposited at the mouth
of the narrow gorge in which it rises covers many square miles of
a once fertile plain. In summer its waters trickle through these
accumulations of shingle, but after heavy rain the river is converted
into a powerful torrent several miles in width, and all the more
formidable as its bed lies higher than many parts of the surrounding
country. The Meduna and Zelline, to the west of the Tagliamento, are
equally destructive, and an extensive tract at their confluence is
covered with shingles. Lower down, in the lagoons, these torrents have
thrown up huge embankments of sand on either side of their ancient
beds. The alluvium brought down by these torrents to the sea is in
every instance deposited to the west, a circumstance accounted for by
the direction of the coast current.

The Piave, the most considerable river to the east of the Adige, is
likewise a most active geological agent, converting fertile fields
into sterile shingle tracts, filling up swamps, and carrying large
quantities of matter into the sea. At its {206} mouth the land
gains rapidly upon the sea, and Heraclea of the Veneti, now known as
Cittanova, which was a seaport once, at the present time lies far

The Piave was formerly supposed to have changed its bed in the same
manner as the Isonzo. Below the Capo di Ponte, a wild defile in the
Dolomite Alps, the Piave flows towards the south-west, past Belluno,
and lower down is joined by the Cordevole. It was, however, supposed
that the river originally flowed through the valley of Rai, immediately
to the south of the Capo di Ponte, and that the Meschio and Livenzo
constituted its lower course. Earthquakes or landslips were supposed to
have created a barrier across that valley, and the small lakes still
seen there were looked upon as remains of the ancient river bed. But
M. de Mortillet has shown that this hypothesis is untenable, for the
barrier referred to is merely the moraine of an ancient glacier, and
there exist no traces whatever of landslips.

[Illustration: Fig. 66.—THE SUPPOSED OLD BED OF THE PIAVE.

From the Austrian Staff Map. Scale 1 : 550,000.]

At the same time it cannot be doubted that extensive changes have
taken place in the basin of the Piave. Thus in 1771 the course of the
Cordevole, its most important tributary, was obstructed for a time by
a landslip which carried the verdant terraces of Pezza down into the
valley. Two villages were destroyed, and two others overwhelmed by the
rising floods of the river.

[Illustration: VENICE.]

[Illustration: Fig. 67.—THE LAGOONS OF VENICE.

Scale 1 : 394,000.]

The Brenta, which rises in the beautiful Sugana valley of the Tyrol,
has at all times been a source of anxiety to the Venetians on account
of its irregularities. Formerly it entered the lagoons at Fusina, and
its alluvium filled up the canals {207} and infected the air. The
Paduans and other inhabitants of the lowlands were anxious to divert it
by the most direct course into the lagoons, so as to avoid inundations,
whilst the Venetians were solicitous to get rid of a river which
threatened to fill up their lagoons and render them insalubrious. These
conflicting interests gave rise to numerous wars. The possession of the
coast became a question of existence to the Venetians, and no sooner
had they obtained it than they set about “regulating” the Lower Brenta.
Hy means of two canals, the Brenta Nuova, or Brentone, and the Brenta
Nuovissima, the river was conducted right round the lagoons to the port
of Brondolo, a few miles to the north of the Adige. But the river,
whose course had thus been considerably lengthened, gradually filled
up the bed in its upper course, and it was found impossible to {208}
confine it within its lateral embankments. They were broken through
by the floods no less than twenty times between 1811 and 1859, and, as
the channel of the river became more and more choked, a more frequent
recurrence of such disasters was naturally expected. It was then
resolved to shorten the course of the river to the extent of ten miles,
by diverting it into a portion of the lagoon of Chioggia. The danger
of irruptions has thus been averted for a time, but the fisheries
of Chioggia have been completely destroyed, and fever is a frequent
visitor in the towns of the littoral.

There can be no doubt that but for the efforts of the Venetian
engineers the lagoons of the Lido, Malamocco, and Chioggia would long
ago have been converted into dry land. Venice has at all times been
alive to the necessity of preserving its precious inland sea. The
Venetian engineers were not content with turning aside the torrents
which formerly poured their waters into the lagoons; they have also, by
means of canals, moved the mouths of the Sile and Piave to the east,
thus securing the ports of the Lido from the dreaded alluvium of the
rivers. They even conceived the gigantic project of a huge encircling
canal for the interception of all the Alpine torrents between the
Brenta and Isonzo. This project, however, has never been carried
out. The débris carried southward by the coast current has silted up
the port of the Lido, which was abandoned towards the close of the
fifteenth century, when a new military port was constructed eight miles
farther south, at the canal of Malamocco, and it is now protected by a
pier extending 7,200 feet into the sea.

The torrents which descend from the slopes of the Apennines to the
south of the delta of the Adige and Po are as erratic in their course
as those of Venetia. The Trebbia, the Taro, and other rivers irrigating
the districts of Piacenza and Parma only cross a narrow plain between
the mountains and the Po, and do not much modify the topography of the
country. But this cannot be said of the rivers flowing through the vast
plains of Modena, Bologna, Ferrara, and Imola. They are constantly
changing their beds, and the remains of embankments met with all over
the country prove that all efforts to confine them permanently have
proved abortive. Modena itself was once destroyed by the floods of the
Secchia. The Tanaro, the Reno, and other rivers flowing towards the
north-west, either into the canal encircling the lagoons of Comacchio
or direct into the sea, all have a history attached to them; they are
blessed for their fertilising alluvium, cursed on account of their
destructive floods. One of them, probably the Fiumicino, is the famous
Rubicon which bounded the Italy of the Romans, and which was crossed by
Cæsar when he pronounced the fatal words, “Alea jacta est.”

The Reno is the most erratic, the most dangerous of all these Apennine
rivers. The bed of débris deposited by it in the plain measures 20
miles across from east to west. Its volume varies between 35 and 49,500
cubic feet a second, according to the season, and its bed is in places
no less than 30 feet above the adjoining country. The destruction of
the forests has augmented the danger of its inundations. The engineers,
puzzled by its irregular floods, have proposed the most {209} opposite
plans for subduing this terrible scourge. The river has been turned
into the Po; then eastward, direct into the sea. Recently it has been
proposed to divert it to the lagoons of Comacchio. But all these
diversions are attended with disadvantages, and whilst the inhabitants
of one district congratulate themselves upon having got rid of so
troublesome a neighbour, those of another complain of its inundations,
see their fisheries destroyed, and their navigation interfered with.


Scale 1 : 356,000.]

Lombardini, the famous hydraulic engineer, has shown how we may
discover the places to which the soil of the lowlands of Emilia has
been conveyed by the torrents, and trace the ancient shores of the
lagoon of Padua, now converted into dry land. A traveller following
the Emilian causeway from Cesena to Bologna can hardly help noticing
the quadrangular fields on his right, all of them of the same size.
Looked at from the spurs of the Apennines, the plain resembles a huge
draught-board, the squares of which are covered alternately with
verdure and ripening crops. We learn from the topographical maps that
these fields are exactly of the same size, and there can be no doubt
that we have here before us the fields which, according to Livy, were
taken from the Gauls and distributed amongst Roman military settlers. A
sinuous line marks, in the direction of the Po, the shore of an ancient
lake. The rectangular fields, laid out by the cadastral surveyors of
ancient Rome, cease there, and we find ourselves again amidst the usual
labyrinth of ditches and tortuous roads. This lake has been filled up
long ago by the débris brought down by the torrents. {210}

The Po, proportionately to the area it drains and its length, has
undergone fewer changes than either the Piave or the Reno, but looking
to the populous cities which line its banks, and to the fertility of
its fields, the least of these is of some importance.

The torrent fed by the snows of Monte Viso is usually looked upon
as the head stream of Father Po, as the ancient Romans called the
river; but the Mastra, Varaita, and Clusone are quite equal to it in
volume, and feed as many canals of irrigation. Indeed, these canals
would quickly drain the Po if it were not for a bountiful supply of
snow-water brought down by the Dora Riparia, the Stura, the Orca, and
the Dora Baltea from the glaciers of the Alps. Lower down, the Po
receives the Sesia from the north, and the Tanaro, which is fed by
streams rising in the Apennines and the Alps. Then comes the Ticino,
by far the most important tributary of the Po, “without which,” as the
river fishermen say, “il Po non sarebbe Po.”

The Po, after its junction with the Ticino, exhibits no longer the
features of a mountain torrent; the pebbles have been triturated into
the finest dust, and no piled-up masses of débris are met with along
its banks. If it were not for its dykes, or _argini_, it might spread
itself freely over the plain. These artificial embankments rival those
of the Netherlands, and date back to the most remote ages. Lucian
refers to them as if they had existed from time immemorial. During the
great migration of peoples they were allowed to decay, and only in the
course of the ninth century were measures taken to restore them. In
1480 the great work had been achieved. Its importance may be judged
from the fact that these embankments protect 3,000,000 acres of the
most fertile land, yielding annually more than £8,000,000 sterling’s
worth of agricultural produce. Most of the towns have been built upon
artificial platforms or terraces, and up to the beginning of this
century they have never been known to suffer from floods; but whether
owing to the devastation of the forests or to the closing up of all
breaches in the dykes, the floods rise higher now than they did of
yore, and it has been found necessary to throw up embankments around
Revere, Sermide, Ostiglia, Governolo, Borgoforte, and other places.

[Illustration: DELTA OF THE PO]

Continuous embankments begin at Cremona, and they extend not only
along both banks of the Po, but also along the lower course of its
tributaries. The main dykes have a length of nearly 650 miles. In
addition to these there are smaller dykes traversing the space between
these _froldi_, or main dykes, in all directions, and enclosing willow
plantations, fields, and even vineyards. In fact, the river extends to
the foot of the main dykes only in a few localities. It is ordinarily
only 650 to 1,600 feet wide, whilst the dykes are several miles apart,
to allow the river to spread during the inundations. The land thus
lying within the dykes has been divided by the villagers into _golene_,
and is protected by smaller dykes against ordinary floods. The rules
laid down for the construction of embankments have been drawn up in the
general interest, and are sufficiently precise, but they are not always
observed. The old system, embodied in the dreadful proverb, “Vita mia,
morte tua,” is not yet quite extinct. Formerly the peasants were in the
habit of {211} crossing over to the other bank, and deliberately
cutting through the embankments there, thus saving their own crops by
ruining their neighbours’.


From the Austrian Staff Map. Scale 1 : 325,000.]

The width of the bed of inundation enclosed between these embankments
grows less in proportion as we descend the river, and in the case
of the arms of the delta does not exceed 900 to 1,600 feet. This is
not sufficient to enable the waters to escape during extraordinary
floods, when they sometimes rise 25 and even 30 feet. Besides, it
frequently happens that the villagers fail to keep the embankments in
thorough repair, and sometimes entire districts are ruined because the
mole-tracks were not stopped up. A breach in the embankment, unless
quickly filled up, produces untold misery. The crops are destroyed, the
villages levelled with the ground, the soil is torn up and carried off,
and the inhabitants are swept away by famine and its fearful attendant,
typhus fever. These great floods of the Po and the earthquakes of
Calabria are the two plagues of Italy. In 1872 1,200 square miles
between the Secchia and the sea were converted into a lake. Two years
afterwards there still remained pools of water.

In these great disasters the inhabitants are afforded an opportunity
of exhibiting their valour, and it is always the most energetic who
succeed in protecting their property from being washed away by the
floods. During the flood just referred {212} to, the inhabitants of
the little town of Ostiglia fought successfully with the rising waters,
whilst many of their neighbours succumbed. The town stands close to the
_froldo_, and there is no second line of dykes to protect it. The dyke
threatened to give way. The inhabitants at once set about throwing up a
second barrier. All the able-bodied men of the place, 4,000 in number,
turned out to work, headed by their mayor. They worked day and night,
and, as the floods carried away the old dyke, the new one rose in its
rear. The victory was won; the floods retired, and their houses were

Some of those breaches in the dykes have led to permanent changes
in the course of the river, and these divagations have been most
considerable in the delta. During the time of the Romans, and up to
the thirteenth century, the Po di Volano was the principal branch of
the river, whilst now it has dwindled down to an insignificant ditch
which can hardly be traced through the swamps of Comacchio. Two other
branches, farther to the south, are used now as carriage roads. In the
eighth century the Po di Primaro, which enters the sea to the north
of Ravenna, took the place of these old channels. Another bifurcation
ensued in 1152, when the embankment at Ficcarolo was destroyed, it is
said, by the people living above that town, and the main channel of
the river, the Maestra, deserted the walls of Ferrara in the midst of
its swamps, and united itself with the channels of the Adige. Breaches
in the embankments usually take place in October or November, and
generally at the same places. The danger is always greatest at Corbola,
where the Po di Maestra bifurcates.

The Adige is quite as great a wanderer as the Po. Scarcely has that
river left its defile, or _chiusa_, of calcareous mountains and the
fortifications of Verona than it begins its erratic course over the
plain. In the time of the Romans the Adige flowed much farther to the
north, along the foot of the Euganean Hills, and entered the sea at
Brondolo. In 587 the river broke through its embankments, and its main
branch took the direction which it maintains up to the present day,
entering the sea at Fossone. But new channels opened repeatedly towards
the south, until the Adige and Po conjointly formed but one delta. The
Polesina of Rovigo, between the two rivers, and that of Ferrara, are
low tracts of alluvial land. The courtyard of the Castle of Ferrara,
which occupies one of the most elevated sites in these plains, is nine
feet lower than the highest level of the Po when flooded.

The frequent inundations caused by the Po and the numerous changes of
its bed, by spreading the alluvium all over the country, have raised
the whole of the plains to about the same level. But now, when all the
arms of the Po are confined within embankments, most of the alluvium
brought down by the floods is deposited on the coast of the Adriatic.
The land, therefore, gains much more rapidly upon the sea than it
did formerly. The series of dunes marking the ancient shore now lies
fifteen miles inland, and the new land formed annually is estimated at
280 acres. In exceptional years the quantity of solid matter carried
by the river into the sea amounts to 3,531,000,000 cubic feet; on an
average it is 1,623,000,000 cubic feet, sufficient to form an island
ten square miles in area in ten feet of water. The Po, next to the
Danube, is the most active geological agent amongst all the rivers
{213} entering the Mediterranean.[66] The Rhone is inferior to it, and
so is the Nile. At the present rate of progress, the Po, in the course
of a thousand years, will throw a tongue of land six miles wide across
the Adriatic, converting the Gulf of Trieste into an inland sea.

Northern Italy, in addition to these numerous rivers, possesses one of
the most extensive systems of canals in the world, which has served as
a pattern to all the rest of Europe. Lombardy, portions of Piemont,
the Campagna of Turin, the Lomellina on the Ticino, and the Polesinas
of Ferrara and Rovigo possess a wonderful ramification of irrigation,
which carries fertile alluvium to the exhausted fields. In the Middle
Ages, when the remainder of Europe was still shrouded in darkness,
the Lombard republics already practised the art of irrigation on the
vastest scale, and drained their low-lying plains. Milan, after she
had thrown off the yoke of her German oppressors, towards the close
of the twelfth century, constructed the _Naviglio Grande_, a ship
canal derived from the Ticino, thirty miles distant—probably the first
great engineering work of the kind in Europe. In the beginning of the
thirteenth century the superabundant waters of the Adda were utilised
in filling the Muzza Canal. The same river, at a subsequent period,
was made to feed another canal, the Martesana, which was constructed
by the great Leonardo da Vinci. The art of surmounting elevations of
the ground by means of locks had been discovered by Milanese engineers
about a century before that time, and was applied to the construction
of secondary canals. Amongst works of more recent date are the
_naviglio_ from Milan to Pavia; the Cavour Canal, fed by the Po, below
Turin; and the Canal of Verona, derived from the Adige.[67]

Not only the rivers of Northern Italy, but also the springs, or
_fontanelle_, however small, which burst forth at the foot of the
Alps, are utilised for purposes of irrigation. Virgil alludes to these
springs in his Bucolics, where he says, “Children, stop the water; the
meadows have drunk enough.” Lombardy is indebted to these springs for
her fine prairies, or _marcite_, which sometimes yield eight crops
a year. The great Adriatic plain has indeed undergone vast changes
through the work of man. Originally it was a swamp surrounded by
forests and heaths, but is now one of the best-cultivated countries
of Europe. One of its great features consists in plantations of
mulberries, the uniformity of which is relieved in many districts—and
especially in the Brianza of Como, that {214} garden of Italy—by
groups of tall trees, little lakes, and sinuous valleys. There still
remain extensive heaths covering the moraines of ancient glaciers,
which become more and more sterile from year to year; but the engineers
are considering schemes for irrigating them by means of the fertilising
waters of the Alpine lakes.

The irrigated area in the valley of the Po nearly amounts to 5,000
square miles, and the water it absorbs every second is estimated at
35,000,000 cubic feet, equal to about one-third of the volume of the
Po. If the proposed works of irrigation are carried out, the Po, which
now plays so important a part in the economy of the country by its
floods and alluvial deposits, will be reduced to the dimensions of a
small river.

The evaporation from the numerous rivers and canals of the country
fills the air with moisture. Rains are less frequent than on the
Atlantic coasts of England and France, but the clouds, driven by
southerly winds against the cool slopes of the Alps, discharge
themselves in torrents. The quantity of rain that falls in the upper
Alpine valleys equals that of the most humid districts of Portugal,
the Hebrides, and Norway, and the rainfall in the plains of Lombardy
is equal to that of Ireland. The annual rainfall in the basin of the
Piave is estimated at five feet, exclusive of what may evaporate or be
absorbed by plants. These rains are not confined to certain seasons,
though it has been observed that they are most abundant in May and
October, and least so in February and July.[68]

As regards the direction of the winds, the great plain bounded by the
Apennines and the Alps resembles an Alpine valley, the winds either
blowing up it from east to west, or in an inverse direction. The winds
descending from the Alps rarely bring rain, for they have deposited
their moisture on the western slopes, but those coming from the
Adriatic are generally charged with moisture. Nevertheless, owing to
the great extent of the plains and the numerous breaks in the mountain
chains, this rule is frequently interfered with. In the Alpine valleys
the ascending and descending currents are far more regular, and the
navigators on the lakes fully avail themselves of this circumstance.

The forty-fifth degree of north latitude intersects the valley of the
Po, but the climate, nevertheless, is not as mild as might be expected
from this circumstance, and the range of temperature is great. In the
Val Tellina the temperature sometimes rises above 90°, and frequently
fails below freezing point. In the plain the climate is less austere,
but it is notwithstanding continental in its character; and Turin,
Milan, and Bologna are for this reason the least pleasant cities of
Italy to live in. A few favoured spots on the Alpine lakes, such as
the Borromean Islands, are an exception to this rule, and enjoy an
equable climate, thanks to the moderating influences of a vast expanse
of water. In the Gulf of Pallanza the thermometer never falls below 40°
F., and we must go as far as Naples if we would meet with a climate
equally favourable to vegetation. Venice, too, is a privileged spot,
thanks to the vicinity of the Adriatic, and is healthy, too, in spite
of the lagoons {215} which surround it. It is remarkable that these
brackish lakes and swamps of Northern Italy do not give rise to the
dreaded malarial fevers. Venice undoubtedly owes its healthiness to
the tides, which are higher there than in the Tyrrhenian Sea, and
perhaps, also, to the cold winds descending from the Alps. Comacchio,
too, is a healthy place, and young natives of the Polesina suffering
from consumption are sent there to recover their health. Wherever the
engineers have cut up the connection between the lagoons and the open
sea, marsh fever has made its appearance. The swamps of Ravenna and
Cervia breed malignant fevers, especially where avaricious landowners
have cut down the protecting rows of pines and oaks. A heavy miasmal
air hangs likewise over the environs of Ferrara and Malalbergo, at the
head of the Paduan delta.

The Alpine valleys are the most unhealthy spots of Northern Italy, for
they are deprived of sunlight. Goître and idiotcy are frequent there,
and in the valley of Aosta nearly all the women are afflicted with the
former, owing, perhaps, to the water which flows over magnesian rocks.
The inhabitants of districts traversed by numerous canals suffer from
diseases traceable to miasmal effluvia. The food of the peasantry is
not sufficiently nourishing or varied to counteract these deleterious
influences, and many die of _pellagre_, an incurable skin disease, only
known in countries where the flour of maize, in the diluted form of
_polenta_, constitutes the principal article of food. In the province
of Cremona one in every twenty-four inhabitants is afflicted with this
malady. The sanitary condition of the people is even worse in the
rice-fields of Milan and the Polesina. The women there frequently stand
for hours in tepid putrefying water, and are obliged from time to time
to pick off the leeches which creep up their legs.[69]

But in spite of maladies, misery, and famines, always following in the
train of the inundations, the fertile plain of the Po is one of the
most densely peopled portions of Europe. Every plot of ground there
has been utilised. The forests, very much reduced in size, harbour no
game, except, perhaps, on the Alpine slopes, and even small birds are
rare. Not only snipes, quails, and thrushes are shot or trapped, but
also nightingales and swallows. Tschudi estimates the number of singing
birds annually killed on the shores of the Lago Maggiore at 60,000; and
at Bergamo, Verona, Chiavenna, and Brescia they are slain by millions,
the nets being spread in the hedges of every hill.

       *       *       *       *       *

The population of the valley of the Po is composed of the most diverse
elements. Amongst its ancestors were Ligurians, probably the kinsmen
of our Basks; Etruscans, famous for their works of irrigation; Gallic
tribes, whose peculiar intonation is still traceable in the rural Latin
spoken in Northern Italy; and Celtic Ombrians, the most remote of all,
and looked upon by historians as the aboriginal inhabitants of the

The German invasions during the first centuries of our era have left
a {216} permanent mark upon the population of Northern Italy. The
many tall men met with in the valley of the Po are proofs of this
Transalpine influence. The Goths and Vandals, Herulians and Longobards,
or Lombards, soon became merged in the Latinised masses, but their
position as conquerors and feudal lords gave them an influence which
their mere numbers would not have insured them. The ancient history
of Lombardy is a continual struggle between the towns and these
feudal lords, and as soon as the latter had been defeated—that is to
say, about the beginning of the tenth century—German was superseded
everywhere by Italian.


Scale 1 : 650,000.]

Family and topographical names of Lombard origin are very common on the
left bank of the Po, and as far as the foot of the Apeninnes. Marengo,
for instance, is a corruption of the German Mehring.

This German influence upon manners and language has been most enduring
in the Friuil, or Furlanei, a district bounded by the Adriatic, the
Carniolan Alps, and the plateau of the Karst, or Carso. The Friulians
were even looked upon as a distinct race, though their ancestors, like
those of most Italians of the north, were Latinised Celts. Frequent
intermarriages with their Slovenian neighbours {217} contributed in
some measure to produce a type distinct from that of Venice or Treviso.
The number of these Friulians still speaking their own dialect does not
now exceed 50,000 souls.

[Illustration: Fig. 71.—MONTE ROSA, AS SEEN FROM GALCORO.]

Amongst the numerous German colonies of which traces have been found
in the plains of Northern Italy and on the southern slopes of the
Alps, the “Thirteen Communes” to the north of Verona, and the “Seven
Communes” in the deep valleys to the north-west of Bassano, are the
most considerable. The _homines Teutonici_ of these two districts are
supposed to be the descendants of the Cimbrians defeated by Marius, and
blue eyes and fair hair still prevail amongst them, but in all other
respects they resemble the Italians of the plains, and only a few old
women amongst them still talk the language of their ancestors, which
is said to resemble the dialect spoken on the Tegern Lake, in Bavaria.
Nor were they the champions of German authority on Italian soil. On the
contrary, they were charged by the Republic of Venice with the defence
of the northern frontier, and {218} have always valiantly acquitted
themselves of this duty. In return, they were granted self-government
and exemption from military service. But neither the Republic of
Venice nor Austria was able to protect these German colonies against
an invasion of the “Welsh” or Italian element, and there do not now
exist any non-Italian communities to the east of the great lakes. To
the north of Piemont, however, in the valleys descending from Monte
Rosa and in the valley of Pommat, where the Toce forms one of the most
beautiful waterfalls, German colonies still maintain their ground.
They, too, would long ago have lost their language were it not for the
support they receive from the Germans occupying the Swiss valleys on
the northern slopes of the Alps. Alagna, or Olen, one of these German
villages, preserved its ancient customs until quite recently. For
centuries there had been no lawsuit there; contracts, testaments, and
other legal documents were unknown; and everything was regulated by
“custom;” that is, by the absolute authority of the heads of families.

The French element is far more numerous on the Italian slope of the
Alps than the German. The inhabitants of the valley of Aosta, between
the Grand Paradis and the Monte Rosa, of the upper valleys of the
Dora Riparia, Cluson, Pelice, and Varaita, speak French, and are of
the same origin as the Savoyards and Dauphinois on the western slope
of the Alps. The configuration of the ground has facilitated this
pacific invasion of the western Celts, numbering about 120,000 souls.
They descended from the passes, and occupied the whole of the forest
and pastoral region down to the foot of the hills, the last mountain
defile, in many instances, forming their boundary. But the French
language is steadily losing ground, for the official language is
Italian, and every village has already two names, of which the modern
Italian one is used by preference. The Vaudois, or Waldenses, in the
valleys of Pelice (Pellis) and Cluson, above Pinerolo (Pignerol),
alone resist this Italianisation with a certain amount of success, for
they have a literature and history, and are held together by strong
religious ties. Their sect was persecuted as early as the thirteenth
century, long before the Reformation, and ever since, until their final
emancipation in 1848, they have struggled against adversity. Many times
it was thought they had been exterminated, but they always rose again,
and in history they occupy a rank far out of proportion to their small

The bulk of the population are engaged in agriculture, which need
not be wondered at if we bear in mind the fertility of the soil, the
abundant supply of water, and the improvements effected in bygone ages.
The labour invested in every kind of agricultural improvement, such
as canals, embankments, terraces, or _ronchi_, built up like steps on
the slope of every hill, has been immense, and defies computation. The
mode of cultivation, moreover, entails a vast amount of labour, for
the peasant knows not the iron plough, but tills his field with the
spade: he is a gardener rather than an agriculturist. The agricultural
produce is immense; its annual value is estimated at £80,000,000
sterling, and it furnishes large quantities for exportation. Cereals,
forage, mulberry leaves and cocoons, vegetables and fruit, and cheese,
including the famous Parmesan, are the principal products. {219}
Lombardy and Piemont occupy the first rank in the world for certain
kinds of agricultural produce, and they are almost the only countries
in Europe in which rice, introduced in the beginning of the sixteenth
century, is extensively grown. The vineyards, on the other hand, are
not as carefully tended as they might be, and the wines, with the
exception of those of Asti, Monferrato, San Colombano, and Udine (the
_picolito_), are of small repute.

The valley of the Po divides itself into several well-marked
agricultural provinces. In the Alpine valleys, between Col di Tenda and
Monte Tricorno, the greater portion of the forests and pastures is held
in common, but nearly every mountaineer is likewise the free proprietor
of a bit of meadow or land, which his labour has converted into a
garden. The social condition of these mountaineers thus resembles that
of the French peasantry; for they, likewise, enjoy the advantages of
a minute division of the land amongst freehold proprietors. The hilly
tracts along the foot of the mountains are divided into farms of
moderate size. The peasant no longer owns the land, but, in accordance
with old feudal customs, he shares in its produce. In the plain, where
it is necessary to keep up a complicated system of canals, nearly all
the land belongs to rich capitalists, who cut it up into numerous small
farms, and for the most part reside in the towns. These small farmers
have no resources of their own, and are hardly above the rank of
agricultural labourers. Though they cultivate the most fertile region
of Northern Italy, they are miserably fed, frequently decimated by
disease, and least alive to the advantages of education. The contrast
between these miserable peasants and the mountaineers of Vaudois and
the Val Tellina is great indeed.

Periodically many of the mountaineers migrate to the towns and
neighbouring countries in search of work, and a proverb tells us that
there is no country in the world “without sparrows or Bergamosks.”
But though the natives of the hills of Bergamo furnish a numerous
contingent of these migrants, they are outnumbered by Friulians,
inhabitants of the shores of the Lago Maggiore, and Piemontese. The
latter cross the passes of the Western Alps in large numbers in search
of work at Marseilles and other towns of Southern France, and, small
wages sufficing for their frugal wants, they are not particularly liked
by their French fellow-workmen.

The metallic wealth of Northern Italy is but small. The only mines of
note are those which formerly supplied the famous armourers of Brescia
with iron, and the gold diggings of Anzasca, at the foot of Monte Rosa,
where 5,000 slaves were kept at work by the Romans, and which are
not yet quite exhausted. Marble, gneiss, granite, potters’ clay, and
kaolin are, however, found abundantly. In former times silks, velvets,
carpets, glass, porcelain, metal-work, and other art productions of the
workmen of Venice and Lombardy enjoyed a very high reputation. These
ancient industries decayed with the downfall of the old republics, but
there are signs now of their revival. The want of coal or other fuel
for setting in motion the machinery of modern factories is compensated
for, to some extent, by an abundant water power, and this explains why
nearly all the important manufactories are met with at the debouchures
of the Alpine valleys. {220}

[Illustration: Fig. 72.—THE LAGOONS OF COMACCHIO.

Scale 1 : 290,000.]

Amongst the ancient industries of the country not yet extinct, the
fisheries of the lagoons of Comacchio occupy a foremost place. The
Canal of Magnavacca, now hardly navigable, admits the waters of the sea
into the Canal Palotta, which may be described as the great artery of
these lagoons. It was constructed in 1631–34, and, by an ingeniously
designed system of ramifying canals, carries the vivifying floods to
the most remote parts of the lagoons. The various basins, or _valli_,
of the lagoons are thus filled with sea-water, and constitute as many
breeding beds, where the fish come from the sea multiply abundantly. A
labyrinth of canals provided with flood-gates cuts off their retreat to
the sea, and they are caught in immense numbers when the fishing season
arrives. Spallanzani has seen 60,000 pounds of fish taken in a single
bed, or _valle_, within an hour; but sometimes the draught is even more
considerable, and the fish are actually used as manure. The fishing
population of Comacchio numbers about 5,000 individuals, most of them
distinguished by tall stature, great strength, and suppleness. Coste,
the fish-breeder, mentions it as a curious fact that this secluded
colony of fishermen {221} should have retained these characteristic
features for centuries, though sustained exclusively by fishing, and
living upon mullets, eels, and _acquadelle_. Unfortunately these
fishermen are not the proprietors of the ponds, for they belong to
the State or to rich private individuals. The workmen live in large
barracks away from the town, to which they return only at stated
intervals, and even their wives and relatives are not permitted to
visit them in their places of exile.

[Illustration: Fig. 73.—THE FISHERIES OF COMACCHIO.

Scale 1 : 78,000.]

The enormous population of the valley of the Po, which almost equals
that of the remainder of continental Italy, is very unequally
distributed; but, except in the high and cold Alpine valleys, the
inhabitants live in towns, dozens of which may be seen peeping out
amidst the verdure if we ascend a high tower. There are scarcely any
villages or hamlets. The farmers alone live in the country, completely
isolated from each other, whilst the numerous landed proprietors throng
the towns, and impart to them an aspect of wealth which similar places
in other {222} parts of Europe cannot boast of. No other country in
the world is as densely populated, and in Lombardy the number of towns
is relatively larger than anywhere else.[70]

Large towns, too, are numerous, and many of them enjoy a deserved
reputation amongst the cities of the world on account of their
monuments, art treasures, and historical associations. Their number
is partly accounted for by the density of the population, and by the
facility with which the inhabitants were able to shift their abodes,
according to the hazards of war or the vicissitudes of events. And this
accounts, too, for the large number of towns which became famous as the
capitals of republics, or as royal and ducal residences.

Several of the towns at the base of the Alps occupy sites marked out
for them by nature. Such are the towns at the mouth of the valleys or
defiles, which were places of defence as well as staples of commerce.
Ariminum, the modern Rimini, at the southern extremity of the great
plain of the Po, was one of these, for during the reign of the Roman
it defended the narrow littoral passage between the Adriatic and the
Apennines. The Flaminian Road there reached the sea, the Emilian Road
thence departed for the north-west, as did also the littoral road of
Ravenna. When Rome had ceased to be the capital of the world, and
Italy was divided into small hostile states, the towns in the southern
part of the plain, or near the passes over the Po, such as Ferrara and
Bologna, retained their strategical importance. Piacenza, which defends
the passage of the Po between Piemont and Emilia, remains a first-rate
fortress to the present day; Alessandria, near the confluence of Tanaro
and Bormida, and in a plain famous for many a bloody battle, was
likewise destined to become a formidable fortress, though derisively
called a “city of straw.” Every valley debouching from France or
Austria was locked at its mouth by a strong fort; but most of these
places, such as Vinadio, Pinerolo, Fenestrella, and Susa, have become
untenable, owing to the range of modern artillery.

The defences of the road over the Brenner, ever since the downfall of
the Roman empire, had to be looked to most carefully, for the plain
between the Mincio and the Adige, to the south of the Lake of Garda,
is the least-protected part of Italy from a military point of view.
History has proved this. Well might the peaceable inhabitants of the
plain consecrate this Alpine road to the gods, and intrust its defence
to the neighbouring tribes. But the northern barbarians were not to
be stopped by altars; and many a time they swept down it like an
avalanche, pillaging the towns and massacring the inhabitants. No spot
on the earth’s surface has been so frequently saturated with human
blood. Most of the battles for the possession of Italy, down to our
own days, were fought near the mouth of the upper valley of the Adige.
Hardly a town or a village of this small district but {223} has gained
a mournful notoriety in the dark pages of human history. It is there
we must seek for the battle-fields of Castiglione, Lonato, Rivoli,
Solferino, and Custozza. When the Austrians held Lombardy and Venice,
they took care to protect this district by the four fortresses known as
the Quadrilateral (Verona, Peschiera, Mantua, and Legnago) and other
works. These constituted the “key of the house,” of which Italy has now
repossessed herself.

[Illustration: Fig. 74.—MOUTH OF THE ADIGE VALLEY.

From the Austrian Staff Map. Scale 1 : 397,000.]

The configuration of the country which rendered these defiles of the
Alps of importance strategically, likewise insured their commercial
importance. The fortresses were placed there to defend the passes, the
commercial entrepôts to intercept the trade. The rank of these places
of commerce depends essentially upon the number and the importance of
the roads which converge upon them. Turin, upon which converge all the
Alpine roads from Mont Blanc to the Apennines, naturally became one of
the vital points of European commerce. Milan, to which lead the seven
great Alpine routes of the Simplon, the Gotthard, the Bernardino, the
Splügen, the Julier, the Maloya, and the Stelvio, was marked out by
nature as a commercial emporium. Bologna, too, which was separated by
the swamps of the Po from the Alpine passes, has risen into importance
since railways have joined it to Vienna, Paris, Marseilles, and Naples.

The valley of the Po would never have attained its importance in the
history of Europe unless roads had been constructed for traversing the
obstructive mountains which surround it on all sides except towards
the east, where it opens out upon the Adriatic. No other district of
Europe is so completely hemmed in by natural obstacles as is this, but
the construction of carriage roads and railways has converted Northern
Italy into one of the great centres of European commerce. Venice
gives it the command of the Adriatic, the Apennine railways connect
it with Genoa, Savona, the Gulf of Spezia, and the Tyrrhenian, and
it thus commands the two seas which wash the shores of Italy. Other
railways cross the Alps, and put it into communication with France and
Germany. This central position, joined to the natural fertility of the
country, has converted Northern Italy into one of the most flourishing
portions of Europe. Human hands have conquered original geographical
disadvantages, and the true centre of Italy is in the ancient Cisalpine
Gaul, and not at Rome. Had the Italians been guided in the choice of
their capital by actual importance, and not by historical tradition,
they would have chosen one of the great cities of their northern plain.

[Illustration: Fig. 75.—THE PASSAGES OVER THE ALPS.

Scale 1 : 6,000,000.]

Turin, though an old town, seeing that it was burnt by Hannibal, is
nevertheless a modern city, if we compare it with other towns of Italy.
Its straight and broad streets almost give it the appearance of a town
of the New World. Until made a ducal residence, Turin was but a small
provincial town. During the time of the Romans, and even during the
Middle Ages, the great high-road between Italy and Gaul led along the
coast of the Gulf of Genoa. The passage of the Alps was looked upon
with dread by travellers. Still some traffic went on even in these
{225} early days, and small towns sprang into existence at the foot of
each Alpine pass. Amongst these were Mondovi, the triple town built on
three hills; Cuneo, favourably placed upon a terrace between Stura and
Gesso, in which rise the hot sulphur springs of Valdiera; Saluzzo, on
the gentle slope of the foot-hills of Monte Viso; Pinerolo, with its
ancient castle, so often converted into a prison of state; Susa, the
Italian key of Mont Cenis; Aosta, still abounding in Roman antiquities;
Ivrea, built on a site formerly occupied by a glacier descending from
Monte Rosa; and Riella, with its flourishing woollen industry. The
towns lower down in the plain, upon which several of these Alpine roads
converged, likewise attained some local importance. In Upper Piemont
there are Fossano, on a heap of shingle at the junction of the roads
of Mondovi and Cuneo; Savigliano, lower down, where the roads of the
Po and Maira valleys join; and Carmagnola, which commands one of the
principal roads over the Apennines. Novara, the commercial outlet of
the Lago Maggiore, and in the midst of one of the most productive
agricultural districts, is the most populous town of Eastern Piemont.
Vercelli, on the Sesia, and below the confluence of the rivulets
descending from Monte Rosa, enjoys natural advantages similar to those
of Novara. Casale, the ancient capital of Monferrato, defends one of
the principal passages of the Po.

But Turin, owing to its favourable position, has become the great
emporium of the valley of the Upper Po. Its commerce has grown
immensely, since the town no longer enjoys the perilous honour of being
the capital of a kingdom, and the places vacated by the court and
Government officials have been filled up quickly by immigrants carried
thither by the railways. Its libraries, a fine museum, and various
learned societies entitle it to rank as one of the intellectual centres
of the peninsula, whilst its manufactures of silks and woollens, of
paper and other articles, are of great importance. The environs of
Turin are delightful. From the hill of the Superga, a few miles to the
east of the city, and crowned by a sumptuous church, may be enjoyed one
of the finest panoramas of the Italian Alps. The numerous small towns
in its vicinity, such as Moncalieri, Chieri, and Carignano, abound in
villas and participate in the prosperity of the capital. As to the
towns in the valley of the Tanaro, in the south, they form a group
apart, and are the natural intermediaries between the valley of the
Po and the port of Genoa. Alessandria, a strong fortress of hideous
regularity, which has superseded the old fortresses of Tortona and
Novi, is the terminus of eight railways, and one of the busiest places
of Italy. The neighbouring cities of Asti, famous for its sparkling
wines, and Acqui, celebrated from the time of the Romans for its hot
springs, are likewise important for their commerce.[71]

Milan, the capital of Lombardy, is in every respect one of the leading
cities of Italy. In population it is inferior to Naples, in commerce
it is outstripped only {226} by Genoa, but in industry it is the equal
of both. Its scientific and literary life entitles it, probably, to
the first rank amongst the cities between the Alps and Sicily. In the
most remote times Milan was an important town of the Celts, and since
then the advantages of its position have given it the preponderance
amongst all other cities of Northern Italy. Its power during the Middle
Ages gained it the epithet of the “Second Rome.” At the close of the
thirteenth century it had 200,000 inhabitants, whilst London had not
then a sixth of that number. Milan stood in want of water, for it
was dependent upon the feeble stream of the Olona, and its citizens
created the Naviglio Grande and the Martesana, veritable rivers, which
furnish a quantity of water double that of the Seine at Paris during
summer. They likewise erected magnificent monuments, but most of these
have perished during innumerable wars, and the aspect of Milan is now
that of a modern town of Western Europe. Its most famous building, the
“Duomo,” with its prodigious crowd of statues, its finely chiselled
marbles and granites, must be looked upon as a marvel of architecture,
though from an artistic point of view it is hardly more than an
elaborately carved trinket out of all proportion. The stones for this
edifice were quarried on the Lago Maggiore, near the mouth of the Toce.

The capital of Lombardy, proud of the past and confident of the future,
boasts of never yielding servilely to impulses given from beyond. It
has its own opinions, manners, and fashions, and anything accepted
from abroad is moulded in accordance with local traditions. The other
towns of Lombardy likewise maintain their local character, are proud
of their traditions, and glory in the annals of the past. Como, on the
beautiful lake named after it, the ancient rival of Milan, gains wealth
by spinning silk and exporting the agricultural produce of the Brianza.
Monza, surrounded by parks and villas, is the coronation city. Pavia,
with its 525 towers, now in ruins, remembers the time when it was the
residence of the Lombard kings, and proudly points to the university,
one of the oldest in Europe, and to the Certosa (Chartreuse), one of
the most sumptuous monasteries of Italy. Vigevano, on the other side of
the Ticino, rejoices in a fine castle. Lodi, in the eleventh century,
was the most powerful city of Italy next to Milan, and carried on a war
of extermination with the latter; it is still a busy place. Cremona, an
old republic, boasts of its _torrazzo_, or tower, 393 feet in height,
the loftiest in Europe until Gothic cathedrals were built. Bergamo,
on a hill commanding the rich plains of Brembo and Serio, produced a
larger number of great men than any other town except Florence; and
Brescia, the armourers’ town, more haughty still, proclaims herself to
be the mother of heroes.

Mantua, on the Mincio, is one of the fortresses of the Quadrilateral,
and can hardly be said to belong to Lombardy, though included within
its political boundaries. It is essentially a military town. It has
lost much of its old commerce, though Jews are more plentiful there
than in any other inland city of Italy. Its swamps, woods, rice-fields,
ditches, and fortified canals are productive of a degree of humidity
exceptional even in Lombardy, and the inhabitants consequently eschew
this ancient birthplace of Virgil. Strikingly different is the
character of the towns situated in the heart of the mountains, such as
Sondrio, the capital of the {227} Val Tellina, or delightful Salo, on
the Lake of Garda, with its group of villas scattered amongst groves of

[Illustration: Fig. 76.—THE LAKES AND CANALS OF MANTUA.

From the Austrian Staff Map. Scale 1 : 198,000.]

The physiognomy of the large towns of Emilia, beyond the Po, offers
far fewer peculiarities, for, as most of them are situated along the
great Emilian highway, they have been exposed for ages to the levelling
influences of travelling merchants and soldiers. Piacenza, a sorry
place as a fortress, carries on an important commerce. Parma, an old
ducal residence, has a rich library, a museum, and wonderful frescoes
by Correggio in its churches. Reggio, another important {228} station
on the Emilian highway, is famous as the birthplace of Ariosto. Modena
has its museum, and the precious collection of books and manuscripts
known as the _Biblioteca Estense_. Bologna the “Learned,” which has
taken the word “Libertas” for its motto, still remains one of the
most interesting of Italian cities. There are its Etruscan cemetery,
its palaces and mediæval buildings, and its two leaning towers, which
will most certainly come down in the end. Bologna is one of the great
railway centres, carries on much commerce, and increases rapidly in
population. It would have made a far better capital than Rome. Of late
years the environs of the city have been frequently flooded by the
Reno, and these disasters have cost Bologna its ancient epithet of “the

Near this bustling place there are others, now stagnant, which can
point only to buildings in proof that they, too, were once flourishing.
Ferrara, the ancient capital of the Estes, has fallen from its high
estate since the Po has deserted it, but still remains a place of some
importance. Ravenna has not been deserted by the Po, but by the sea,
with which it communicates now by a canal seven miles in length, and
navigable for ships drawing thirteen feet of water. The town became
the capital of Honorius and Theoderic the Goth, on account of the
protection offered by the surrounding marshes. To the exarchs it is
indebted for its curious Byzantine edifices, so rich in mosaics. As to
the ancient Etruscan city of Adria, on Venetian soil, to the north of
the Po, it could hardly have claimed at any period during the last two
thousand years to give a name to the neighbouring sea. It lies now at a
distance of fourteen miles from it, and even in the time of the Romans
it must have been surrounded by lagoons or swamps, for how else can we
explain its epithet of “Town of the Seven Seas?” Porto, at the foot of
the Euganean Hills, may owe its name to an ancient lake or river.

Towns famous on account of their history, and still populous, are
most crowded together in the southern angle of the plain, usually
known as the Romagna. The towers and crenellated walls of Imola rise
there on the banks of the Santerno. Lugo, the “town of the beautiful
Romagnese,” occupies the centre of the district of Ravenna, and has
much trade. Faenza, on the Emilian Road, is a large village rather
than a town, though it has given its name to a particular kind of
porcelain (faience). Forli is, next to Bologna, the most populous city
of Romagna. Cesena is known for the excellence of the hemp grown in the
neighbourhood. Rimini, where the Emilian Road reaches the sea, still
has a few Roman ruins, including a triumphal arch. The inhabitants
of the Romagna are distinguished by great energy. Their passions
are violent, and as frequently lead them into crime as to deeds of

[Illustration: THE PALACE AT FERRARA.]

[Illustration: VERONA.]

In Venetia there are several provincial towns of importance. Padua
abounds in monuments of art, possesses a university, and was formerly
the rival of Venice. Vicenza is embellished by the palaces erected by
Palladio. Treviso and Belluno are towns of some importance, the one
on the Sile, the other in the upper valley {229} of the Piave.
At Udine is pointed out a mound of earth said to have been thrown up
by Attila, from which he contemplated the conflagration of Aquileja.
Palmanova, on the Austrian frontier, is a regularly built fortress.
Verona, at the other extremity of Venetia, has played an important part
in the history of Italy, but its commerce and industry have fallen into
decay. It hardly fills up the space enclosed by walls and bastions, and
its present population is quite out of proportion to the multitude of
its public buildings dating from the Middle Ages, and the dimensions of
its Roman amphitheatre, capable of seating 50,000 spectators. Amongst
all the cities of Venetia it is Venice itself, the “Queen of the
Adriatic,” which has suffered least in the course of ages.

[Illustration: Fig. 77.—PALMANOVA.

Scale 1 : 86,400.]

Venice is a very ancient city. The remains of Roman buildings
discovered on the island of San Giorgia, far below the present level
of the sea, and therefore referred to in proof of the slow subsidence
of the Venetian coast, prove to us that the mud islands of the gulf
supported a population long before the invasion of the Barbarians.
These half-drowned lands may have attracted the coast population at
an early age, for they afforded security against attack, and offered
great advantages for carrying on commerce. Nevertheless, the Venice
of our time only dates from the commencement of the ninth century,
when the government of this maritime republic was established upon the
islands separated from the sea by the _lidi_, and from the mainland
by estuaries and swamps. This unique position rendered Venice almost
impregnable; and whilst the rest of Europe was being desolated by war,
Venice sent forth its commercial and warlike expeditions to every part
of the Mediterranean, established factories, and built fortresses. Not
without arduous struggles, it became the most powerful and wealthiest
of the commercial republics of Italy. It was largely indebted for
this success to its favourable geographical position, almost in the
centre of the mediæval world. Its commerce brought the Venetians into
contact with nearly every nation, and they had no prejudices against
foreigners. The Armenians were admitted to their city, and an alliance
was made even with the Turks. At the time of the Crusades the Venetian
Republic occupied the foremost position amongst the states of Europe,
and its ambassadors enjoyed a vast amount of influence. This influence
was sustained by enormous material forces. Venice had a navy of 300
vessels, manned by 36,000 sailors, and the riches of the world, whether
obtained by legitimate commerce or by violence, were accumulated in its
2,000 palaces and 200 churches. Even _one_ of the islets upon which the
city is built would have purchased a kingdom of Asia or Africa. One
of the most sumptuous cities of the West had {230} arisen upon banks
of mud, inhabited formerly only by poor fishermen. The larch forests
of Dalmatia had been cut down, and converted into piles upon which
to build palaces. More than 400 bridges of marble joined island to
island, and superb embankments of granite defended this marvellous city
against the encroachments of the sea. Great achievements in the arts
contributed their share in making _Venezia la Bella_ a city without its

But geographical discoveries, in which Venice itself took a leading
share, undermined the power of the Italian Republic. When Africa had
been circumnavigated and the New World discovered, the Mediterranean
ceased to be the great commercial sea of the world. Venice was doomed
to die. It no longer monopolized the road to India, and the increasing
power of the Turks crippled its Eastern trade. Still, so great were
its resources, that it maintained its independence for more than three
hundred years after it had lost its factories, and only fell when
shamefully deserted by General Bonaparte, its supposed ally.

The decadence of Venice was most remarkable during the dominion of
Austria. In 1840 the city had less than 100,000 inhabitants, hundreds
of its palaces were in ruins, the grass grew in its squares, and
seaweeds encumbered its landing-places. Since that time it has been
gradually recovering. A bridge of 222 arches and 2,000 feet in length
connects it with the mainland, and its commerce, though not equal to
that of Trieste, is nevertheless of considerable importance.[74] The
manufacture of looking-glasses, lace, and other articles has imparted
fresh life to Venice, and there, as well as in other towns of the
lagoons (Malamocco, Burano, Murano, and Chioggia), thousands of workmen
are busy in the production of those gay-looking glass beads which find
their way into every part of the world, and which in certain countries
of the East and in Central Africa take the place of coin. But Venice,
though less populous and active than of yore, still rejoices in its
delightful climate and its bright skies. Its gaiety and fêtes are not
yet things of the past, and its palaces, built in a style half Italian,
half Moorish, still contain the priceless masterpieces of Titian,
Tintoretto, and Paul Veronese.[75]


Liguria is but a narrow slip of land if we compare it with the broad
plain of the Po, but it is one of the most clearly defined districts
of Europe, and its inhabitants have retained many original traits.
The contrast between the Podane plains and the littoral region beyond
the barren Apennines is striking, but if we travel in the direction
of Provence or of Tuscany the landscape changes only by degrees. The
rampart of the Apennines surrounds the whole of the Gulf of {231}
Genoa, and there is not a single break in it. These mountains are
very different in character from the Alps, though joined to them as
the branch of a tree is united to its trunk. It is not possible to
tell where one chain ends and the other begins. If the main direction
of the mountain is to be the criterion, the Ligurian Apennines may
be said to begin at the frontier of France, near the sources of the
Tinea and Vesubio; but if great height, pastures, and perennial snow
are considered sufficient to constitute an Alpine region, then the
Apennines only begin to the east of the Col di Tenda, for the fine
summits of the Clapier, Fenêtre, and Gordalesque, to the west of that
pass, attain a height of 10,000 feet. They are quite Alpine in their
character, and may boast even of small glaciers, the most southerly
in the mountains of Central Europe. Geologists usually draw the line
where cretaceous and tertiary rocks take the place of the crystalline
rocks of the Alps. But this, too, is only a conventional division,
for these crystalline rocks, which constitute the crest of the Alps
in the west, extend far to the east, and occasionally they break
through the sedimentary formations which overlie them, and rise into
summits similar to those of the Alps. Thus the granitic summits of the
mountains of Spezia remind us of the mountain mass near the Col di


Scale 1 : 1,500,000]

The chain of the Ligurian Apennines is by no means of uniform height,
but, like that of the Alps, it consists of mountain masses separated by
passes. The lowest of these passes is that to the west of Savona, named
indifferently after one of the neighbouring villages, Altare, Carcara,
or Cadibona. This pass is hardly more than 1,600 feet in height, and
is popularly looked upon as constituting the boundary between the Alps
and Apennines. The possession of this pass during war has {232} always
been considered of great importance, for it commands the approaches to
Genoa and the upper valleys of Piemont, and the Tanaro and Bormido,
which rise near it, have often run with blood.

The Apennines to the east of this pass have an average height of 3,300
feet, and beyond the Pass of Giovi (1,538 feet), through which the road
leads from Genoa to the northern plains, many summits attain a height
of 4,500 feet. Several spurs, abounding in ravines, extend here to the
north. The main chain, at the same time, retires from the coast, and
the Pass of Pontremoli, which separates the Ligurian from the Tuscan
Apennines, and through which leads the road from Parma to Spezia, is
no less than thirty miles from the sea. In this eastern portion of
the Genoese Apennines a spur detaches itself from the main chain, and
terminates in the fine promontory of Porto Venere, a magnificent rock
of black marble, surmounted formerly by a temple of Venus. This spur,
which protects the Gulf of Spezia against westerly winds, has at all
times constituted an obstacle to the intercourse between neighbouring
peoples, not so much on account of its height, but because of its
steepness. In some places the crest of the Apennines is hardly more
than four miles from the sea. The slope, in such places, is exceedingly
steep, and roads can ascend it only in numerous windings.[77]

The small width of the maritime slope of the Ligurian Apennines
accounts for the absence of perennial rivers. The most considerable
streams to the east of the Roya, which runs for the greater part
through French territory, such as the Taggia or the Centa, only assume
the appearance of rivers when the snows melt, or after heavy rains.
Ordinarily they are but small streams, closed at the mouth by bars of
pebbles. Between Albenga and Spezia, for a distance of 160 miles, there
are only torrents, and in order to meet again with a real river we must
go beyond the Gulf of Spezia. This river is the Magra, which separates
Liguria from Etruria, and which, up to the epoch of Augustus, formed
the boundary of Italy. Its alluvium has converted an ancient bay of the
sea into a lake, and formed a beach, 1,300 yards in width, in front
of the ancient Tyrrhenian city of Luni, which formerly stood on the

The want of great rivers in Liguria is compensated for to some extent
by subterranean water-courses. Several springs rise from the bottom of
the sea, at some distance from the shore. The springs of La Polla, in
the Gulf of Spezia, are amongst the most bountiful amongst them. They
have been isolated by the Italian Government from the surrounding salt
water, and their water is supplied to ships.

Owing to the absence of rivers, the sterility of the soil, and the
steep escarpments, this portion of the Mediterranean coast region
contrasts strikingly with other parts of temperate Europe. Having
reached the summit of the mountains beyond the magnificent chestnut
forests at the head-streams of the Ellero, the Tanaro, and the Bormida,
we look down upon a scene almost African in its character. Scarcely
a blade of grass is to be seen between Nice and Spezia, and only
the grass-plots, kept up at great expense in some pleasure-gardens,
remind us that Piemont and {233} Lombardy are near at hand. Pines and
brambles would have remained the only verdure in these Ligurian valleys
and ravines if it were not for the transformation wrought by gardeners
and agriculturists. Strange to say, trees do not ascend to the same
height on the slopes of the Apennines as in the Alps, though the mean
temperature is far higher, and at an altitude at which the beech still
attains noble proportions in Switzerland we find it here stunted in
growth. Larches are hardly ever seen.

The sea is as sterile as the land. There are neither shallows,
islands, nor seaweeds affording shelter to fish. The cliffs descend
precipitously into the sea, and the narrow strips of beach, extending
from promontory to promontory, consist only of sand without the
admixture of a single shell. The Genoese fishermen, therefore, resort
to distant coasts, those of the “Ponente,” or west, going to Sicily,
whilst those of Camogli, on the Riviera di Levanto, visit the coasts of
Tuscany. This sterility of land and sea accounts for the large number
of Genoese met with in other parts of the world.

But though an unfruitful country, Liguria is exceedingly picturesque. A
traveller availing himself of the railway between Nice and Genoa, which
follows the sinuosities of the coast and pierces the promontories in
numerous tunnels, is brought within reach of the most varied scenery.
At one time the line runs close to the beach, with the foam of the sea
almost touching the track on the one side, while tamarisks bearing
pink blossoms overshadow it from the other. Elsewhere we creep up the
steep slope, and obtain a view of the cultivated terraces raised at
immense labour by the peasantry, whilst the bluish sea is seen afar
to the right, almost hidden by a grove of olive-trees, and stretching
away until lost in the direction of Corsica. Towns, villages, old
towers, villas, ship-yards, and other industrial establishments impart
an almost infinite variety to the scenery. One town occupies the top
of a hill, and, seen from below, its old walls and towers stand out
boldly against the sky; another is built amphitheatrically, close to
the strand upon which the fishermen have drawn their boats; a third is
hidden in a hollow, and surrounded by vines, olive, orange, and lemon
trees. A date-tree here and there imparts an oriental aspect to the
landscape. Bordighera, a small place close to the French frontier, is
quite surrounded by palm-trees, whose fruit, however, but rarely ripens.

The climate of Albenga, Loana, and some other places on the Genoese
coast is far from salubrious, on account of the miasmata exhaled by
sheets of stagnant water left behind by freshets. Even Genoa cannot
boast of an agreeable climate, not because there are marshes near
it, but because the southerly winds charged with moisture are caught
there by the semicircle of mountains, and are made to discharge their
superabundant humidity. The number of rainy days at Genoa averages 121
a year. There are, however, several towns along this coast protected
by the mountains against the north, and yet out of the usual track of
the moisture-laden southerly winds, whose climate is exceptionally
delightful.[78] Bordighera {234} and San Remo, near the French
frontier, are the rivals of Mentone as regards climate; and Nervi, to
the east of Genoa, is likewise a favourite place of resort, on account
of its clear sky and pure atmosphere. Villas and castles rise on every
promontory and in every valley of these favoured districts. For a
dozen miles on either side of Genoa the coast is lined by villas. The
population of the city has overflowed the walls which once confined it,
and is establishing itself in populous suburbs. The long street which
winds between factories and gardens, scales promontories, and descends
into valleys, will continue to grow in length until it extends along
the whole coast of Liguria, for the charms of the country attract men
of leisure from every quarter of Europe.

[Illustration: Fig. 79.—GENOA AND ITS SUBURBS.

From the Sardinian Staff Map. Scale 1 : 100,000.]

The historical development of the ancient Ligurians, who were probably
of Iberian race, was largely influenced by the nature of the country
they inhabited. The cultivable land being only of small extent,
the superabundant population was forced to look to the sea for a
livelihood, and engaged in navigation and commerce. Antium, the modern
Genoa, was an “emporium” of the Ligurians ever since the time of the
Romans, and its vessels frequented every corner of the Tyrrhenian Sea.
In the Middle Ages the Genoese flag was carried into every part of the
known world, and it was Genoa that gave birth to Christopher Columbus,
whose name is inscribed upon the first page of modern history as the
discoverer of America. It was a Genoese, too, Giovanni Gabotto, or
Cabot, who afresh discovered the coast of North America five centuries
after its original discovery by the {235} Normans. The hardy mariners
of Genoa have thus navigated the seas from the most remote times. Even
now they almost monopolize the navigation of the great rivers of the
Argentine Republic. The Genoese likewise enjoy a high reputation as
gardeners, and are met with in every large town of the Mediterranean.

[Illustration: Fig. 80.—VIEW OF GENOA.]

As long as the Apennines were not crossed by practicable carriage
roads, Genoa possessed no advantages whatever over the other ports of
Liguria, but ever since it has been placed in easy communication with
the fertile plains of Lombardy and Piemont, the great advantages of
its geographical position have told upon its development. Pisa was
the only republic on the western coast of Italy which contested this
superiority of Genoa, but was defeated after a sanguinary struggle.
The Genoese possessed themselves of Corsica, the inhabitants of which
were treated most cruelly; they took Minorca from the Moors, and
even captured several towns in Spain, which they restored only after
important commercial privileges had been granted them. In the Ægean Sea
the nobles of Genoa became the proprietors of Chios, Lesbos, Lemnos,
and other islands. At Constantinople the Genoese merchants were as
powerful almost as the Emperor. Kaffa, in {236} the Crimea, was one
of their wealthy colonies. Their factories and towers were met along
every commercial high-road in Asia Minor, and even in the recesses of
the Caucasus. The possession of the Black Sea gave them the command of
the trade with Central Asia. These distant colonies explain the use of
a few Arab, Turkish, and Greek terms by the Genoese, and though the
dialect spoken by them is decidedly Italian, the intonation is French.

Nevertheless Genoa, though more powerful than Pisa, failed in wresting
the command of the sea from the Venetians, who enjoyed immense
advantages through their connection with Germany. Her political
influence has never equalled that of Venice, nor has she produced as
many men eminent in literature and art as has her Adriatic rival.
The Genoese had the reputation in former times of being violent and
false, fond of luxury and power, and indifferent to everything which
did not enrich them. “A sea without fish, mountains without forests,
men without faith, women without modesty—thus is Genoa,” was a proverb
ever in the mouth of the enemies of the Ligurian city. The dissensions
amongst the noble families of Genoa were incessant, but the Bank of St.
George never allowed civil strife to interfere with business. Wealth
flowed into the city without any cessation, and enabled its citizens
to construct those palaces, marble arcades, and hanging gardens which
have won for it the epithet of _la Superba_. In the end, however, ruin
overtook the Bank, and that justly, for it had supplied princes with
money to enable them to wage war, and its bankruptcy in the middle of
the eighteenth century rendered Genoa politically impotent.

The capital of Liguria, in spite of its small extent, its sinuous
streets, its ramparts, stairs, and dirty narrow quays, may justly boast
of palaces equally remarkable for the splendour and originality of
their architecture. Many of these magnificent buildings appeared to
be doomed to ruin during the decay of the town, but, on the return of
more prosperous times, the citizens again devoted themselves to the
embellishment of their city. Genoa is the busiest port of Italy.[79]
Its shipowners possess nearly half the Italian mercantile marine, and
three-fourths of the vessels annually built in Italy are furnished
from its ship-yards. The harbour, though 320 acres in extent, no
longer suffices for the hundreds of sailing vessels and steamers which
crowd into it. Nor is it sufficiently sheltered against the winds,
and it has therefore been proposed to construct a vast breakwater far
beyond its present limits. Genoa fancies that its interests are not
sufficiently attended to by the Central Government. A second railway
across the Apennines is urgently demanded, in order to manage the
traffic that will be created by the opening of the direct railway
through Switzerland, which will place Genoa in direct communication
with Western Germany.

[Illustration: Fig. 81.—THE GULF OF SPEZIA.

From the Sardinian Staff Map. Scale 1 : 80,000.]

In the meantime Genoa is expanding in all directions. Its factories of
macaroni, paper, silks and velvets, soap, oil, jewellery, metal-work,
pottery, ornamental flowers, and other objects are ever increasing; and
_ovrar del Genoes_—Genoese {237} industry—is a marvel now, as it was
in the Middle Ages. San Pier d’Arena (Sampierdarena), to the west, has
become a veritable manufacturing town. Cornigliano, Rivarolo, Sestri
di Ponente with its large ship-yards, Pegli, and Voltri are populous
towns, having spinning-mills and foundries. Savona, whose port was
{238} filled up by the jealous Genoese, occupies the bottom of a vast
bay. It has glass-works and potteries, and is connected by a railway
with Turin. Elsewhere on the Riviera di Ponente the towns are crowded
closely together. Such is the case with the twin cities of Oneglia
and Porto Maurizio, the one built on the beach, the other on a steep
hill close by, and known as the “Fountains of Oil,” because of their
extensive plantations of olives. At San Remo, however, olives are more
plentiful still.[80]

On the Riviera di Levante town joins town like pearls in a necklace.
Albaro, with its charming mansion, Quarto, whence departed the
expedition which took Sicily from the Bourbons, and Nervi, a health
resort for persons suffering from pulmonary diseases, constitute a
long-stretching suburb of Genoa, extending in the direction of Recco
and Camogli, two towns abounding in shipping. The rocky promontory of
Porto Fino, thus named after the dolphins which formerly frequented
it, imposes an insurmountable obstacle to the further extension of
Genoa in this direction. Having traversed the tunnel leading through
this promontory, we reach another group of towns, viz. Rapallo, the
industrious; Chiavari, a great place of trade; Lavagna, with its famous
quarries of grey slates; and Sestri di Levante, a town of fishermen.

The coast beyond Sestri is but sparsely inhabited, for there bold
cliffs approach the sea; but having doubled the superb cape of Porto
Venere, we enter the fine Gulf of Spezia,[81] with its numerous forts,
ship-yards, arsenals, and other buildings. The Italian Government has
been busy ever since 1861 in converting this gulf into a first-rate
naval arsenal, but no sooner has a portion of the work been completed
than the progress made in the arts of destruction compels the engineers
to remodel it—a very costly task. Whatever future may be in store for
Spezia as a military port, it has none as a commercial one, for though
it affords excellent shelter to vessels, no railway connects it with
the fertile countries beyond the Apennines, and its exports are limited
to the produce of the valleys in its immediate vicinity. Spezia is
indebted for its high rank amongst the cities of Italy to its beautiful
gulf, the rival of the Bay of Naples and the roadstead of Palermo. From
the summit of the marble hill above the decayed town of Porto Venere we
look down upon a marvellous succession of bays and promontories, and
far in the distance the mountains of Corsica rise indistinctly above
the blue waters. Looking to the east, we behold the picturesque towns
on the opposite side of the gulf embedded in groves of olive-trees and
cypresses, the Apuanic Alps and the Apennines bounding the horizon.
Right opposite is the charming town of Lerici, and to the south of it
the shore upon which Byron reduced to ashes the body of his friend
Shelley: no spot more appropriate for this mournful holocaust. {239}


Tuscany, like Liguria, lies on the southern slope of the Apennines, but
is of far greater width, for that back-bone of Italy retreats there
from the Gulf of Genoa, and stretches right across the broadest part of
the peninsula to the Adriatic. Besides this there are several detached
plateaux and mountain ranges to the south of the valley of the Arno.[82]

The Apennines of Tuscany are of very unequal height, and they are
traversed by numerous low passes, which could easily be converted
into carriage roads. Speaking generally, they consist of a series of
elongated and parallel mountain masses, separated from each other by
valleys, through which flow the head-streams of the Serchio and the
Arno. The first important mountain mass of the main chain near the
frontiers of Liguria, which is commanded by the Orsajo and Succiso,
is thus separated by the valley of the Magra from the parallel range
of Lumigiana. The chain of Garfognana, to the north of the plains of
Lucca, has for its pendant the Alps of Apuana. Monte Cimone, farther
east, and the other summits of the _Alpe Apennina_ to the north of
Pistoja and Prato, are attended by the parallel ridges of the Monti
Catini and Monte Albano, on whose slope is the famous grotto of
Monsummano, with a thermal spring. A fourth mountain mass, that which
the direct road from Florence to Bologna crosses in the Pass of Futa,
has likewise its lateral chains, viz. the Monte Mugello, to the south
of the Sieve; the Prato Magno, encircled by the Upper Arno; and the
Alps of Catenaja, between the Arno and the Tiber.[83]

The Apennines of Tuscany in many places attain a height of 5,000 feet,
and are quite Alpine in their aspect, the upper slopes remaining
covered with snow for more than half the year. They owe much of their
grandeur to the precipitous slopes and fantastic profiles of the
calcareous rocks which enter so largely into their composition. The
forests of chestnuts, firs, and beeches which formerly clothed the
whole of the range have not yet been entirely destroyed. The beautiful
woods which cover the slopes of Prato Magno have impressed the mind of
many a poet; and, since Milton sang the delights of Vallombrosa, the
“shaded vale” has become a proverbial name for everything sweet and
touching in the poetry of nature. Farther to the west the monastery of
the Campo di Maldulo (Camaldoli) occupies one of the most beauteous
spots in all Italy, the woods and meadows of which have been celebrated
by Ariosto. From the summit above the convent both the “Tuscan and the
Slavonian Sea” can be seen, as that poet tells us.

The barren escarpments and forests of the Apennines form a charming
contrast to the valleys and rounded hills of Lower Tuscany, where
nearly every height is {240} surmounted by the ruins of a mediæval
castle; graceful villas are scattered over the verdant slopes,
farmhouses stand in the midst of vineyards and pointed cypresses, and
every cultivable spot is made to yield a rich harvest. Historical
associations, the taste of its inhabitants, the fertility of the soil,
an abundance of running water, and the sweetness of the climate all
combine in making Central Tuscany one of the most privileged regions of
Italy. Protected by the rampart of the Apennines against cold northerly
winds, this region faces the Tyrrhenian Sea, whence blow warm and humid
winds of tropical origin. The rains they bring are not excessive,
thanks to the screen formed by the mountains of Corsica and Sardinia,
and the happy disposition of the detached hills near the coast. The
climate of Tuscany is essentially temperate, and to its equability, no
less than to the natural beauty of their abode, the Tuscans owe, no
doubt, much of their gaiety, their good-nature, fine taste, poetical
feeling, and facile imagination.


The valley of the Arno completely separates the hills of Southern
Tuscany, usually known as the “Sub-Apennines,” from the principal
chain of the mountains. This valley, with its defiles and ancient
lake basins, may be likened to a moat {241} bounding the wall of the
Apennines. The vale of Chiana, originally an arm of the sea, and then
a lake, forms the uppermost portion of the zone which separates the
Apennines from the hills of Southern Tuscany. Then follows the Campagna
of Florence, an ancient lake basin, which it would be easy to flood
again by building a dam across the defile of the Golfolina, through
which the river makes its escape, and which was rent asunder by the
“Egyptian Hercules.” Castruccio, the famous commander of the Luccans,
actually proposed to flood the plains of Florence in the fourteenth
century by constructing a dam across this defile; but happily his
engineers pronounced the scheme to be impracticable, for they supposed
the difference of level to amount to 288 feet, whilst in reality it is
only fifty.

[Illustration: Fig. 83.—DEFILES OF THE ARNO.

From the Austrian Staff Map. Scale 1 : 285,000.]

The Sub-Apennine hills to the south of the Arno are of rounded
contours, of a gloomy grey colour, and devoid of all verdure. Whilst
the Apennines consist exclusively of Jurassic and cretaceous rocks,
the Sub-Apennines are of tertiary formation, their sandstones, clays,
marls, and pudding-stones being pierced here and there by serpentine.
Well-defined ranges can hardly be said to exist. Southern Tuscany,
indeed, may be described as a table-land intersected by rivers in
all directions, surmounted by irregular groups of hills, and pierced
by “sinks,” which swallow up some of the rivers. The cavities of
the Ingolla form one of these sinks, in which several rivulets lose
themselves, to reappear lower down as the source of the Elsa Viva,
one of the principal tributaries of the Arno. The most elevated
hills of this Sub-Apennine region form the water-parting between the
Arno, the Cecina, and the Ombrone, and in the Poggio di Montieri, a
mountain abounding in copper, they attain an elevation of 3,323 feet.
The Labbro (3,815 feet), Cetona (3,650 feet), and Monte Amiata (5,450
feet), to the south of the Ombrone valley, rise to a greater height,
but geologically they belong already to Central Italy. The Cetona is
a Jurassic outlier surrounded by recent formations. Monte Amiata, a
trachytic cone, is the most elevated volcano of continental Italy. It
no longer vomits lava, but numerous hot springs and solfataras prove
that the volcanic forces are not yet quite extinct. The Radicofani
(2,950 feet) is likewise an extinct volcano, whose lava resembles
petrified froth, and can be cut with a hatchet.

Subterranean agencies must indeed be very active in Tuscany, for
metalliferous {242} veins ramify in all directions, and the number
of mineral springs of every description is larger than in any other
part of Italy. Amongst these springs there are several of world-wide
reputation, as, for instance, those of Monte Catini, of San Giuliano,
and of the Bagni di Lucca. The brine springs of Tuscany are very
productive; but the most curious, and at the same time most useful,
springs of all are the famous _lagoni_, in a side valley of the Cecina,
and at the northern foot of the Poggio di Montieri. From a distance
dense clouds of white vapour are seen rolling over the plain, and the
bubbling noise made by gases escaping through the ponds, or _lagoni_,
is heard. These ponds contain various salts, silica, and boracic acid,
which is of great value in the manufacture of china and glass, and
yields a considerable revenue to Tuscany. Nowhere else in Europe,
except, perhaps, in the crater of the Eolian Vulcano, is boracic acid
met with in sufficient quantities to repay the labour of extracting it.
In Tuscany, however, there are several other localities where it might
be won with advantage, as, for instance, near Massa Maritima, to the
south of the Montieri.

The subterranean fermentation of which Tuscany is the scene is no
doubt due in a large measure to the changes which have taken place in
the relative proportions of land and sea. Several isolated hills rise
near the coast like islands from the sea, and these have evidently
been joined to the mainland by the alluvial deposits brought down by
the rivers. The Monti Serra (3,000 feet), to the east of Pisa, between
the Arno and the Serchio, are almost insulated even now, for they are
surrounded by swamps, and the level of the Lake of Bientina, at their
eastern foot, is scarcely thirty feet above that of the Mediterranean.
The heights along the coast to the south of Leghorn are not quite so
isolated, but the lowland which connects them with the table-land of
the interior is only of small elevation. The promontory, however,
whose extremities are occupied by the towns of Populonia and Piombino
(653 feet), is joined to the mainland only by a low plain of sand.
The most perfect type of these ancient islands is presented to us in
the superb Monte Argentaro, at the southern extremity of the Tuscan
littoral, which rises boldly from the sea to a height of 2,085 feet,
and is attached to the mainland by two narrow strips of land covered
with pine-trees, enclosing a lake of regular shape: in the midst of it,
on a fragment of the ancient beach, is built the town of Orbetello.
This lake, which looks almost as if it were the work of a generation
of giants, has been converted into an eel-pond, and millions of fish
are caught in it every year. Towards the west of this mountain, in the
direction of Corsica, lie the islands of Giglio and Monte Cristo (2,062
feet) and the rock of Formica. The island of Elba, farther north, forms
a small world of its own.

The rivers of Tuscany have wrought great changes in the plains through
which they flow, and along the sea-coast. Their labour has been
facilitated by the nature of the soil which they traverse. The least
rain converts the barren hill-slopes into a semi-fluid paste, which is
carried by the rivers down to the sea. The mouth of the Arno has thus
been pushed forward to the extent of seven miles in the course of a
few centuries. In former times the Serchio and the Arno united before
they flowed into the sea, but the Pisans diverted the former river to
the {243} north, in order to rid themselves of its unwelcome deposits.
Pisa, in the time of Strabo, stood at a distance of only twenty
Olympian stadia from the Tyrrhenian Sea, and when the _cascina_ of San
Rossore was built, towards the close of the eleventh century, its walls
were close to the beach, which is now at a distance of three miles.
Extensive plains intersected by dunes, or _tomboli_, and partly covered
with forests of pines, have been added to the land in the course of
centuries. These sandy wastes have become the home of large herds of
horses and half-wild cattle, and the camel has been acclimatised there,
it is said, since the Crusades. These changes in the coast-line may
not, however, be due exclusively to the agency of the rivers, for there
exists evidence of an upheaval of the land. The building stone known at
Leghorn as _panchina_ is clearly of marine origin, and the shells which
enter into its composition are still met with in the Tyrrhenian Sea.

[Illustration: Fig. 84.—MONTE ARGENTARO.

From the French Chart. Scale 1 : 168,000.]

[Illustration: Fig. 85.—VAL DI CHIANA.

From the Austrian Staff Map. Scale 1 : 218,000.]

Amongst the changes effected by human agency in the basin of the Arno
those referring to the Val di Chiana are, perhaps, the most important.
This depression connects the basins of the Arno and Tiber, and may
possibly have served as an outlet to the former river before it had
opened itself a way through the {244} gorge below Florence. Formerly
the water-parting between the two rivers was close to the Arno. A small
portion of its drainage was carried to the Tuscan river, but by far the
greater portion of the vale was occupied by stagnant pools, extending
to the south as far as the latitude of Montepulciano, a distance of
twenty miles. The whole of this region was a breeding-place of fever.
Dante and other Italian writers speak of it as an accursed place. The
inhabitants made vain attempts at drainage. The illustrious Galileo,
when consulted on the subject, {245} declared that nothing could be
done to mend this evil; and though Torricelli conceived that it would
be possible to drain the valley, he took no steps to put his theories
into practice.

[Illustration: Fig. 86.—THE LAKE OF BIENTINA.

From the Austrian Staff Map. Scale 1 : 328,000.]

About the middle of the eighteenth century the work of drainage was at
length seriously taken in hand, directed by Fossombroni, the celebrated
engineer. “Warps,” or _colmate_, were thrown up at the outlet of each
lateral ravine between which the débris carried down from the flanks
of the mountains was deposited. The swamps gradually filled up, and
the soil became firm. By constructing a dam (_argine_) across the vale
at the point chosen for the new water-parting, an outfall was created,
and a line of stagnant swamps was thus converted into a pure rivulet.
The valley, at one time a hotbed of fever, has now become one of the
most salubrious districts of Italy. The newly won lands were at once
taken possession of by agriculturists, and 500 square miles were thus
added to the productive area of Tuscany. Villages, formerly inhabited
by fever-stricken wretches, have become wealthy towns, and the success
of this _bonification_, or reclamation, has been thorough. The torrents
are under control now, and have already deposited 17,650 million
cubic feet of alluvium over an area of 50,000 acres, as if they were
intelligent workmen. The same system of drainage has been successfully
applied in other parts of Italy, and particularly near Grosseto, on the
right bank of the Ombrone.

Amongst the great drainage works which will evermore contribute to
the glory of Tuscan engineers, the innumerable canals draining the
plains of Fucecchio, {246} Pontedera, Pisa, Lucca, Leghorn, and
Viareggio, each of which was formerly occupied by its lake, deserve
to be noticed. One of the most difficult of these lakes is that of
Bientina, or Sesto, to the east of the Pisan hills, which is supposed
to have been formed by an overflow of the Serchio. In former times this
lake had two effluents, one running north to the Serchio, the other
south to the Arno. The outfall left nothing to be desired in ordinary
times, but after heavy rains the two effluents were converted into
inflowing rivers, and if the sluices had not been closed, the Arno and
the Serchio would have rejoined each other in this inland sea. The
Bientina, during such freshets, covered six times its ordinary area,
and in order to save the fertile fields of Tuscany it became absolutely
necessary to create a third effluent. The engineers conceived the happy
idea of conveying this new effluent through a tunnel, passing beneath
the Arno, three feet in width, into an ancient bed of that river, now
supplanted by the Colombrone.

In most of these enterprises it was necessary to struggle on in spite
of the miasmatic atmosphere, which hung more particularly over the
littoral zone, where the fresh inland water mingles with the salt
water of the Mediterranean. The blending of the two waters destroyed
the fresh-water plants and animals, and the deleterious gases arising
from their decomposition poisoned the atmosphere. About the middle
of last century an engineer, Zendrini, proposed to construct sluices
separating the fresh from the salt water. This was done, and the fevers
at once disappeared. In 1768, the sluices having been allowed to fall
out of repair, the miasmatic scourge immediately reappeared, and it
was not until they had been repaired that the sanitary condition of
the villages along the coast was improved. Twice since neglect to keep
the sluices in a proper condition has been punished with the same
results; but from 1821 they have been maintained in thorough order,
and the sanitary condition of the country has ever since been most
satisfactory. Viareggio, in the centre of this malarial district,
was up to 1740 hardly more than a hamlet, avoided on account of its
insalubrity, but is now a seaside town, the favourite resort of numbers
of visitors.

Much has been done, no doubt, in draining the land, but there is still
room for many improvements. The Maremma, a track between Piombino and
Orbetello, remains one of the most insalubrious regions of Europe, in
spite of what has been done by sanitary engineers. The inhabitants
never reach a high age, and though they descend to the plain only when
it is absolutely required for cultivating their fields, they frequently
carry away with them the germs of disease. In the two summers of 1840
and 1841 no less than 36,000 persons suffered from fever amongst a
total population of 80,000 souls, most of whom reside in villages built
on hills, and only rarely visit the pestilential plain. In order to
escape the pernicious influence of the poisonous air, it is necessary
to reside constantly at an elevation of 325 feet above the sea, and
even that does not always suffice, for the episcopal city of Sovana
is notoriously unhealthy, though built at that height. Fevers occur
frequently at a distance from the swamps, and Salvagnoli Marchetti is
of opinion that they are due to the nature of the soil. The malaria is
said to creep up clayey hills permeated by empyreumatic substances;
it likewise {247} poisons the air of districts abounding in saline
springs, and still more that near deposits of alum. Southerly winds are
likewise most pernicious, and fevers rise highest in the valleys which
are exposed to them. Places, on the other hand, which are fully open to
the sea breeze are quite free from malaria, even if swamps are near, as
at Orbetello and Piombino.

[Illustration: Fig. 87.—THE MALARIAL REGIONS.

From the Austrian Staff Map. Scale 1 : 2,700,00.]

It is generally admitted that the coasts of Etruria did not suffer
from malaria whilst the ancient Tyrrhenian cities were prosperous. The
excavations made recently in connection with the railways have revealed
a complete system of subterranean canals, which formerly drained the
whole of the Maremmas. Populonia and other large cities, of which only
a few ruins are found now, could certainly not have existed if the
climate had been as unhealthy as at present. The ancient Etruscans were
famous as hydraulic engineers. They embanked torrents, drained swamps,
and rendered the country cultivable, but their engineering works were
allowed to decay soon after they had been subjected, and the country
returned to its primitive savageness. On the other hand, there are many
towns {248} which were considered healthy during the Middle Ages, but
are now desolated by fever. Massa Maritima, to the south-west of the
Moutieri mountain, was rich and populous as long as it maintained its
republican liberties; but no sooner had it been enslaved by Pisans and
Sienese than its drainage works were allowed to fall into decay, and
in the end it found itself reduced to the “shadow of a town.” Sanitary
works carried out recently have brought back some of its ancient

Amongst the causes which have contributed most materially towards a
deterioration of the climate may be mentioned the destruction of the
mountain forests and the rapid increase of alluvial lands resulting
from it. The monasteries of Tuscany, which until quite recently were
the owners of the fish-ponds in the Maremmas, energetically protested
against the construction of embankments or other drainage works,
which they conceived would interfere with their cherished Lenten
food. Several of the inland towns rejoiced in the possession of some
unhealthy swampy tract, to which obnoxious persons might be banished
with a certainty of their dying. Even the Kings of Spain established a
penal establishment at one of the most deadly spots on this coast, and
banishment to Talamone, at one time a flourishing port of the Republic
of Siena, was tantamount to a sentence of death.

Many attempts were made to reclaim these lands. Macchiavelli and other
statesmen of Tuscany thought that the former salubrity of the climate
could be restored by merely repeopling the country. Colonists were
sent for from other parts of Italy, and even from Greece and Germany,
but they soon succumbed to the climate. Since that time considerable
progress has been made in rendering these marshy districts more
salubrious. Trees have been planted, and, in combination with proper
drainage, they have rendered many districts habitable which were not
so formerly. Populonia is a case in point. Follonica, where there
are furnaces in which the iron ores of Elba are smelted, is likewise
looking up, though its inhabitants still fly the place on the approach
of the fever season.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Etruscans, or Tyrrhenians, were the ancestors of the Tuscans, and
long before the dominion of the Romans they were the preponderating
race of all Italy. They occupied not only the whole of the southern
slope of the Apennines as far as the Tiber, but had also founded a
confederation of twelve towns in the Campagna, of which Capua was
the head, and as traders and pirates they held possession of the
Tyrrhenian Sea, still named after them. The island of Capri was one
of their most advanced outposts towards the south. The Adriatic was
likewise their own, for Adria, Bologna (called Felsina by them),
Ravenna, and Mantua were Etruscan colonies, and the Rhætians in the
Alpine valleys were their allies, and perhaps kinsmen. But who were the
Etruscans? They have been classed with Aryans, Ugrians, and Semites;
with Greeks, Germans, Scythians, Egyptians, and Turks. The Etruscan
inscriptions on ancient monuments, though very legible, have not
hitherto been deciphered satisfactorily. If Corssen’s interpretation is
accepted, their language resembled the Latin tongues; but this {249}
philologist, after all, may not be entitled to be called the “Œdipus
of the Etruscan sphinx.”

The most common type of the Etruscans, as transmitted to us on cinerary
vases, is that of squat men, often inclining to obesity, with broad
shoulders, prominent face, curved noses, broad retreating forehead,
dark complexion, dolichocephalous skull, and curly hair. This type is
neither Hellenic nor Italian. Amongst their monuments there are none
of those curious structures known as _nuraghi_, which abound in Malta,
Sardinia, and Pantellaria, but dolmens are numerous. The sepulchral
monuments, of which many thousands have already been brought to
light, prove that the arts had attained a high degree of development
in ancient Etruria. The paintings in the interior of the vaults,
the bas-reliefs on the sarcophagi, the vases, candelabra, pottery,
and bronzes, resemble similar work produced by the genius of Greek
artists. The arrangement of their dwelling-houses, though not devoid
of originality, proves the intimate connection existing between the
civilisations of the Etruscans and early Greeks. It was the Etruscans
who initiated Rome into the arts. The _Cloaca Maxima_, the most ancient
monument of the Eternal City, the wall named after Servius Tullius,
the Mamertine prison, and, in fact, all the remains of the Rome of the
kings, were their work. It was they who erected the temples, supplied
the statues to deities, built the dwelling-houses, and furnished them
with articles of ornament. Even the she-wolf of bronze, now in the
Capitoline Museum, and a symbol of the Roman people, appears to be of
Etruscan workmanship.

The Tuscans of our day differ, however, in many respects from their
Etruscan ancestors. These latter, to judge from the paintings in their
sepulchral cities, were an austere race. They appear, likewise, to have
been a nation of cooks and gluttons. Neither of these qualities can be
laid to the charge of their descendants. The modern Tuscan is of an
amiable and kindly disposition, he is possessed of wit and artistic
tastes, easy to move, and altogether perhaps a trifle too pliant of
character. The Tuscans of the plain, but not those of the Maremmas,
are the most gentle of Italians; they “live and let live,” and are
exceedingly good-natured. A singular trait distinguishes them from the
rest of the Italians: though brave when carried away by passion, they
turn with horror from a dead body. In this we may trace the persistence
of ancient superstitions, for though the Tyrrhenians concealed their
tombs, the worship of the dead was the most prominent of their
religious observances.

The modern Tuscans, like their ancestors, have known a time when they
took the lead amongst the people of Italy, and even now they stand at
the head of the nation in certain respects. After the decadence of
Rome, when civilisation gravitated towards the north, the valley of the
Arno became one of the great centres of the world’s activity. At that
time the passage of the Alps was still difficult, but communications
by sea were established between Tuscany, France, and Spain. The
Apennines not only sheltered the fertile valleys opening upon the
Tyrrhenian against cold northerly winds, but also against the hordes
of barbarian invaders. Tuscany was, indeed, a favoured region, and its
intelligent {250} inhabitants made the most of the natural advantages
they possessed. “Work” was the great law of the Florentines, and all,
without exception, were expected to engage in it. Whilst Pisa disputed
the dominion of the sea with Genoa and Venice, Florence became the
head-quarters of commerce, and its bankers extended their operations to
every part of Europe.

But Tuscany was more than a commercial and industrial country. What
Athens had been to the world two thousand years ago, republican
Florence became during its period of prosperity, and for the second
time in the history of mankind there arose one of those centres of
light the reflected rays from which still illuminate our own times.
Arts, letters, sciences, and political economy—everything, in fact,
that is noble in this world was cultivated with an energy to which
nations had been strangers for a long time. The pliant genius of the
Tuscans revelled in every species of work, and amongst the names great
in history Florence may fairly claim some of the greatest. Where are
the men that have exercised a greater influence in the world of art
and intellect than Giotto, Orgagna, Masaccio, Michael Angelo, Leonardo
da Vinci, Andrea del Sarto, Brunelleschi, Savonarola, Galileo, or
Macchiavelli? It was a Florentine, too, Amerigo Vespucci, who gave his
name to the New World, and justly so, for it was Vespucci through whom
the discoveries made by the Spaniards first became known, and who, in
1501, bestowed the name of _Novus Mundus_ upon the newly discovered
countries, whilst Columbus died in the belief that he had reached the
eastern coast of Asia.

The dialect of Florence has become the polished language of the whole
of Italy, and it is curious that this honour should not have been
carried off by Rome. But whilst Florence cultivated the arts and
sciences, and through her great writers exercised an immense influence,
the city of the popes yielded herself up to the worship of the past,
and its literature was written in a dead language, more or less
successfully imitated from that of Cicero. The dialect of Rome never
became a language like that of Florence, but Italian is nevertheless
indebted to Rome for its musical pronunciation, that of the Tuscans
being harsh and guttural. Hence the old proverb, “Lingua Toscana in
bocca Romana.” The delicate, pure poetry breathed in the _ritornelli_
which Tuscan peasants chant in the evening is highly appreciated by
all admirers of Italian, and the influence which the fine dialect of
the Florentines exercised upon the unification of Italy can hardly be
overestimated. The worshippers of Dante are almost justified in saying
that Italian unity dates from the day on which the great poet first
expressed himself in the firm and sonorous language which he had forged
out of the various dialects spoken throughout the peninsula.

       *       *       *       *       *

The geographical position of Tuscany accounts for the influence it has
exercised upon Italy and the rest of the world, whilst its topography
gives us the key to the local history of the country. The Apennines
and the mountains to the south of the Arno divide it into a number of
separate basins, each of which gave birth to a small state or republic.
At the time of the Tyrrhenians Etruria formed {251} a confederation
of cities, whilst during the Middle Ages it was divided into numerous
small republics, frequently at war with each other. Since that time
many changes have taken place in the relative importance of the various
towns, but even now most of the free cities of the Middle Ages, and
even some founded by the ancient Etruscans, occupy a high rank amongst
the provincial towns of Italy.

Florence (Firenze) is not one of these ancient cities of the
Tyrrhenians; it is merely a Roman colony of comparatively modern
origin. In the time of the Empire it was of small importance, for
Fiesole, on a hill to the north, remained the leading town of the
country until destroyed by the Florentines, who carried its columns
and statues to their own town. The rapid growth of Florence during
the Middle Ages is due to its position on the highway which connects
Germany, Lombardy, and even Bologna with Southern Italy. As long as
Rome was the capital of Italy travellers starting from the valley
of the Tiber crossed the Apennines in the direction of Ancona and
Ariminum. But after the fall of Rome, when barbarian hordes inundated
the country from the north, the high-roads connecting the plains
of Lombardy with the valley of the Arno rose into importance. This
great military highway became simultaneously a high-road of commerce,
and it was only natural that a great emporium should spring up on
the site occupied by Florence. The “city of flowers” prospered, and
became the marvel which we still admire. But the wealth of the growing
commonwealth proved its destruction. The rich bankers grasped at
political power, the Medici assumed the title of princes, and though
the arts continued to flourish for awhile, public virtues decayed, the
citizens became subjects, and intellectual life ceased.

Florence, as in the days of republican liberty, owes much of its wealth
to the industry of its inhabitants. There are manufactories of silks
and woollen goods, of straw hats, mosaics, china, cut stones (_pierra
dura_), and other objects, all of them requiring workmen possessed
of taste and manual dexterity. But neither these industries nor the
commerce carried on by the town would have raised Florence above the
level of other populous Italian cities. The prominent position it holds
is due entirely to the beauty of its monuments, which attract to it
the lovers of art from every quarter of the world. Not even Venice is
equally rich in architectural masterpieces of the Middle Ages and the
Renaissance. The museums of Florence “la Bella”—such as the Uffizi, the
Pitti Galleries, and the Academy of Arts—are amongst the richest in
Europe, and contain some of the most highly prized treasures of art;
its libraries abound in curious manuscripts and rare old books. Nay,
the very streets and piazzas of the town, with their palaces, towers,
churches, and statues, may be likened to a huge museum. Brunelleschi’s
Duomo; Giotto’s Campanilla, which was to “surpass in beauty all
imagination can conceive;” the Baptistery, with its incomparable doors
of brass; the Piazza della Signoria; the monastery of San Marco, now a
museum; the gloomy palace of the Strozzi; and numerous other buildings
of superior merit make Florence the delightful place it is. Its charms
are enhanced by the beauty of the surrounding {252} country, and the
traveller will always recall with pleasure the walks along the Arno,
the hills of San Miniato and Belle Sguardo, and the picturesque spur
upon which lie the villas and ruins of Etruscan Fiesole. Unfortunately
the climate of Florence leaves much to be desired; the wind changes
abruptly, and the heat in summer is overpowering. _Il caldo di Firenze_
has become proverbial throughout Italy. Narrow streets, and to some
extent the disregard of the laws of hygiene, cause the mortality to
exceed that of nearly every other town on the Continent. During the
Middle Ages pestilence was a frequent visitor, and Boccaccio tells us
that in an single season nearly 100,000 inhabitants, or two-thirds
of the entire population, were swept away by it. Targioni Tozetti
contrasts the site of Empoli, a small town to the west, with that of
Florence, and regrets that a project for removing Florence thither
should not have been carried out, as proposed in 1260.


The only town of any importance in the upper valley of the Arno
is Arezzo, an ancient city of the Etruscans, and at one time the
capital of one of the most prosperous republics of the Middle Ages.
The inhabitants ascribe to the “subtile {253} air they breathe
the subtility of their spirits,” and indeed the list of famous men
connected with the town is very long. The present Arezzo, however, is
a decayed place, and lives upon the memories and the monuments of a
past age. Cortona, farther south, near the Lake of Trasimeno, claims
to be the most ancient city of Italy; but all traces of its former
greatness have disappeared. Siena, which formerly governed the whole
of the hilly tract between the Arno and Ombrone, has fallen from her
high estate, not without the fault of its own citizens, who were
continually quarrelling amongst themselves. Siena no longer rivals
Florence in population, power, or industry, but may still compare with
the city on the Arno as regards its public buildings—many of them in
the Gothic style—its works of art, its quaint streets and piazzas, and
its magnificent position on the slopes of three hills. Chiusa, one of
the most powerful towns of ancient Etruria, is of no importance now,
and only attracts antiquarians in search of its ancient tombs. The
vineyards of Montepulciano, on the same side of the vale of Chiani,
produce the “king of wines.” Volterra is only a small town now,
interesting, however, on account of its cyclopean walls and a museum
abounding in Etruscan antiquities. The environs are dreary in the
extreme. Salt-works, yielding from 7,000 to 8,000 tons a year, quarries
of alabaster, copper mines at Monte Catini, sulphur springs, and the
famous _lagoni di Monti Cerboli_ (see p. 242), are in the neighbourhood.

The cities at the foot of the Apennines, on the other side of the
Arno, have retained their importance, for they are favourably situated
for commerce. Prato, where the valley of the Arno is widest, is the
centre of a rich agricultural district. The quarries of serpentine
in the neighbourhood have furnished building stones for many of
the most beautiful edifices of Tuscany, including the cathedral of
Prato, celebrated on account of Donatello’s marvellously sculptured
pulpit. Pistoja, where the railway descends from the Apennines, is a
busy manufacturing town. Other towns of some importance are Pescia,
Capannori, in the “garden of Italy,” and Lucca the industrious, with
its celebrated pictures by Fra Bartolommeo.

The basin of the Serchio is of incomparable productiveness since its
marsh lands have been brought under cultivation. From the ramparts
of Lucca one of the most charming views may be enjoyed. On the one
hand we have the towers and cupolas of the town, on the other fertile
fields and orchards, with white houses peeping through the verdure, and
distant hills surmounted by old towers. The impression made by this
view is one of perfect peace. In a country so fertile and beautiful,
it would seem, the people ought to be happy, and, if enthusiastic
writers can be believed, such is really the case, and the peasants of
Lucca and of Lower Tuscany in general enjoy advantages denied to their
class elsewhere in Italy. They are farmers for the most part, but hold
their land by long leases, and their share of its produce is regulated
by ancient custom. The land, however, does not suffice for their
wants, and they emigrate in thousands in search of work. Many of these
emigrants work as grinders.

The inhabitants of the Upper Serchio valley, known as the Garfagnana,
are as industrious as those near Lucca, which is the natural outlet for
its produce. The slopes and spurs descending from the Apennines and
Apuanic Alps are cultivated {254} in terraces. Castelnuovo, the chief
town of this valley, occupies one of the most delightful spots of this
picturesque district. The common people near it are said to speak the
best Italian, superior even to that of the Sienese.

The valley of the Magra is far more frequented than that of Garfagnana,
for the high-road from Parma to the Gulf of Spezia leads through it.
In its upper portion, in the heart of the Apennines, stands the small
town of Pontremoli. Its inferior portion, known as the Lunigiana,
from the ancient city of Luni, is as beautiful as the parallel valley
of the Serchio. At Sazana it opens upon the sea, and to the south of
that charming town, where the Apuanic Alps approach close to the sea,
leaving only a narrow passage of some note in history, are situated
the towns of Carrara and Massa. Carrara, the “Quarry,” has replaced
Luni as the place from whence the white marbles so highly esteemed by
sculptors are exported, and choice blocks of which sometimes fetch £80
a cubic yard. No less than 720 quarries perforate the neighbouring
hills, and about 300 of these are being worked now. The town may be
likened to an agglomeration of sculptors’ studios, and its Academy has
trained artists of high reputation. Massa enjoys a better climate than
Carrara, but its marbles are less highly esteemed. As to the marbles
of Serravezza, which are quarried in the Altissimo and other mountains
of the Apuanic Alps near the town of Pietra Santa, they are in many
instances as beautiful as those of Carrara. Michael Angelo highly
appreciated them, and had a road constructed to facilitate access to
them. The quarries and mines in the neighbourhood also yield slates,
iron, lead, and silver.[84]

These towns at the foot of the Apuanic Alps were bound to prosper in
proportion as the country increased in wealth, whilst Pisa, the great
commercial republic of mediæval Tuscany, was doomed to decay, owing to
the silting up of its harbour. This Porto Pisano was situated about ten
miles to the south of what was then the mouth of the Arno. In 1442 its
depth had been reduced to five feet, a century later only rowing boats
could enter it, and soon after it was abandoned definitely. There are
no traces of it now, and its very site is disputed. But though Pisa is
dead—Pisa _morta_—the city still possesses admirable monuments of its
past grandeur. It has a wonderful cathedral; an elegant baptistery;
its Campo Santa, with the famous frescoes of Orgagna and Gozzoli; and
a leaning tower commanding a view of the Pisan hills and the alluvial
plains of the Arno and Serchio. Its commerce has dwindled away, but
it is still the capital of a rich agricultural district, and its
university is one of the best in Italy. It possesses, moreover, that
which no change in the commercial highways can deprive it of, a mild
climate, and during winter attracts numerous visitors from the north.

Leghorn, or Livorno, has inherited the commerce of Pisa. It is the
natural outlet of the fertile districts of Tuscany, and its commerce
is far more important than might be supposed from the unfavourable
configuration of the coast, and is surpassed only by that of Genoa and
Naples.[85] Thousands of Spanish and {255} Portuguese Jews who found a
refuge here have contributed in no small measure to the development of
the resources of the town. From an architectural point of view, Leghorn
is one of the least interesting cities of Italy, but as the outcome of
human labour it is one of the most curious. Before the city could be
built, the swamps which occupied its site had to be drained, and an
artificial harbour had to be excavated for the protection of vessels.
Numerous canals intersect the north-western portion of the town, which
is known as New Venice. A huge breakwater marks the entrance to the
harbour, and on a sand-bank in the offing rises the tower of Meloria,
which recalls the naval engagement in which the fleet of the Pisans was
destroyed by the Genoese.

[Illustration: Fig. 89.—THE HARBOUR OF LEGHORN.

Scale 1 : 112,000]

Insular Tuscany consists of Elba and several smaller islands, which
mark the site of an isthmus that formerly joined the mainland to
Corsica, and contribute greatly towards the beauty of the Tuscan

Elba, once the miniature kingdom of Napoleon, is larger than all the
other islands together.[86] An ancient dependency of the Etruscan city
of Populonia, Elba rises above the blue waters of the Tyrrhenian a
picturesque group of mountains. A narrow and dangerous strait separates
its steep coasts from the promontory of Piombino, where passing vessels
were formerly obliged to pay toll.

The granitic heights of Monte Capanne, the eastern extremity of the
island, {256} attain an elevation of 3,303 feet; the dome-shaped hills
of serpentine at the other extremity are 1,600 feet in height, and
the centre of the island is occupied by hills of various formations,
covered with brushwood. The variety of rocks is very great, taking into
account the small extent of the island. Associated with the granites
and serpentine, we meet with beds of kaolin, and with marble similar to
that of Carrara. Remarkable crystals and precious stones abound to such
an extent, that Elba has been likened to a “mineralogical cabinet” on a
vast scale.

Formerly, when the sea was infested by pirates, the inhabitants
retreated to the recesses of the interior, or to the summits of steep
promontories, where the picturesque ruins of ancient fortifications
may still be seen. Several of the old inland villages continue to
be inhabited; amongst others, that of Capoliberi, the “Mountain of
the Free,” which is looked upon as a sort of acropolis. After the
suppression of piracy the islanders came down to the _marina_, or
coast, and established themselves in the towns of Porto Ferrajo,
Porto Longone, Marciana, and Rio. The resources of the island
are considerable, and afford plenty of occupation to fishermen,
salt-makers, wine-growers, and gardeners. The inhabitants are
hospitable, and, though neighbours of the fierce Corsicans, they
possess all the gentleness of Tuscans.

Elba is not, however, so much noted on account of its fisheries,
vineyards, salt-works, or commerce, as because of its rich deposits of
iron ore. The russet-coloured cliffs of ironstone are visible from the
mainland. The huge excavations made by the miners, many of whom are
convicts, resemble the craters of extinct volcanoes, and the reddish
brown, violet, or blackish colour of the rocks helps the illusion. Of
the quantity of ore carried away from here in the course of twenty-five
or thirty centuries we can hardly form a conception. The ironstone is
bedded in layers, differing in colour according to the nature of the
earthy ingredients, and rising into hills 600 and more feet in height,
the slopes of which are covered with brushwood (_macchie_). Shovels
and spades are the only mining tools required in clearing away these
heaps of ore, of which at least 100,000,000 tons remain. By regular
mining operations 500,000 tons might be obtained annually during
twenty centuries. The annual produce at present hardly exceeds 100,000
tons. The ore is more particularly suited to the manufacture of steel.
Loadstones abound near Capo Calamita. The mariners of the Mediterranean
formerly made use of them in the construction of a primitive ship’s
compass, by placing them in a piece of cork, which they allowed to
float in a basin of water.

The smaller islands of the Tuscan archipelago are—Giglio, with quarries
of granite; Monte Cristo, a pyramidal rock rising 2,130 feet above the
sea-level; Pianosa, with an agricultural penal settlement; Capraja,
with a small town built within an amphitheatre of pink-coloured
granite; and Gorgona (987 feet).[87] {257}


That portion of the Italian peninsula which has Rome for its centre
may be likened to the trunk of the body, for it is there the Apennines
attain their greatest height, and nowhere else to the south of the Po
are rivers of equal magnitude met with.[88]

The main rampart of the Apennines runs parallel to the coast of
the Adriatic. To the mariner, who sees these mountains rise above
the verdure of the littoral region, they have an appearance of the
greatest regularity. Summit rises beyond summit, one lateral chain
succeeds to the other, and every one of the numerous valleys descends
perpendicularly to the coast. The slope throughout is steep, and the
geological strata, whether of Jurassic, cretaceous, or tertiary age,
succeed each other regularly from the snow-clad summits down to the
promontories of the coast. The only irregularity consists in a detached
group of hills (1,880 feet) to the south of Ancona, above which the
axis of the Apennines changes its direction. This region of Italy is
the natural counterpart of Liguria. The position of Ancona corresponds
with that of Genoa, and the coast, which extends on the one hand to
Emilia, and on the other towards the peninsula of Monte Gargano, may
fairly be likened to the “Rivieras” of Genoa, with this exception, that
its direction is inverse. The territory between the mountains and the
coast is narrow, the littoral road frequently winds round promontories,
and the towns extend up the hill-sides. Still this portion of Italy
is not as strongly protected by nature as Liguria. Towards the north
it expands upon the plain of the Po, whilst the terraces at the
foot of the main range of the Apennines afford easy access from the
west. During the whole of the Middle Ages and down to our own days
neighbouring states have fought for the possession of this territory,
which has become known, from this circumstance, as the “Marches;” that
is, the disputed frontier districts, where every town is a fortress
perched on the top of a hill.

The Apennines forming the boundary between the Marches and Latium, or
Rome, like those of Etruria, are grouped in separate mountain masses.
The first of these commands the valley of the Tiber in the east; it
extends in the north to Monte Comero (3,828 feet) and the Fumajolo,
or head-stream of the Tiber, and in the south to Monte Verone (5,006
feet). Though inferior in height to other parts of the Apennines, these
mountains are known as the _Alpe della Luna_. A gap, {258} through
which passes the road from Perugia to Fano, separates them from Monte
Catria (5,585 feet). At that point the Apennines bifurcate, and two
parallel ranges can be traced thence for a distance of 120 miles, as
far as the transverse range of the Majella (9,158 feet), which reunites
them, and from which radiate the mountains of Southern Italy. These
parallel chains belong to the Jurassic and cretaceous formations, and
neither of them forms a water-parting, for whilst the Nera and other
rivers tributary to the Tiber force themselves a passage through the
western one, that on the east is broken by numerous gorges, through
which rivers and torrents find their way into the Adriatic. The most
considerable of these rivers is the Pescara, which rises on the plateau
of the Abruzzos, where it is known as the Aterno, and traverses the
eastern range where it is highest. The gorge excavated by this river is
sufficiently wide to afford space for a railway joining the Adriatic to
the basin of the Tiber.

The plateau of the Abruzzos, enclosed by these parallel ranges,
may be looked upon as the natural citadel of Central Italy. On its
western side rise the double pyramids of Monte Velino (8,157 feet);
in the north Monte Vettore (8,131 feet) forms the termination of the
range of the Sibillini; in the east rises the culminating point of
the Apennines, a mountain covered with snow the greater part of the
year, and appropriately called the “Great Rock of Italy”—“Gran Sasso
d’Italia” (9,518 feet). The fact that this magnificent mountain is the
highest in all Italy has been known from times immemorial. The Romans
conceived they had discovered the “umbilic of Italy” in a small lake
near it, upon which floated an island formed of rank vegetation. The
Marsi and their allies, when they took up arms against their Roman
oppressors, chose Corfinium, in its neighbourhood, for the seat of
their empire, and surnamed it Italica; and there, too, the first
movements which led to the resurrection of modern Italy took place. The
Gran Sasso, as seen from the Adriatic, affords a magnificent spectacle.
Its calcareous masses cannot boast of much beauty of profile, but this
is compensated for by the fine Alpine region extending beneath its
summit, which remains the haunt of bears and chamois, and where rare
plants in the meadows remind us of Switzerland. Forests of beeches
and pines are still met with in a few places, and are all the more
appreciated as forests no longer exist in the lowland regions. This
universal destruction of the forests is one of the great misfortunes
of Italy. In many parts of the Roman Apennines even the soil has been
washed away, and only in a few crevasses do we meet with brooms and

The valleys on the western slope of the Apennines are enclosed between
calcareous spurs of the main range, some of which attain a considerable
elevation. The Tiber itself thus passes between two lofty mountains,
rising at the lower extremity of two of these Sub-Apennine spurs, and
forming a kind of triumphal gateway. These are the Soracte (2,270
feet) and Gennaro (4,162 feet). These fine mountains, with the Sabine
Hills and the volcanic groups near them, form the horizon of the Roman
Campagna, and their natural beauties are enhanced by the memories of
art and history which attach to them.


Several ranges of hills and detached mountain groups of calcareous
formation, {259} like the Sub-Apennines, border upon the shore of
the Tyrrhenian Sea and the marshes which extend along it. Such are the
hills, rich in alum, which are grouped around the ancient trachytic
cone of the Tolfa. Such, too, are the Monte Lepini (4,845 feet),
the naked crest of which has been likened to an ass’s back—_schiena
d’asino_—and which bound the Pontine Marshes on the east. In some of
the recesses of these hills there still exist forests of chestnut-trees
and beeches, where the descendants of the ancient Volsci may pasture
their hogs; but almost everywhere else the hill-sides are bare of
vegetation, and the scorching rays of the sun have split the rocks
into innumerable angular fragments. To the east of the marshes rises a
summit with ten pinnacles, covered with dense shrub on the land side,
but barren towards the sea, a few stunted palms excepted, which grow
in the fissures of the rock. This isolated hill, a counterpart of the
Argentaro of Tuscany, is the Circello (1,729 feet), famous as the
residence of the enchantress Circe. The grotto where she changed human
beings into animals is still pointed out there to the curious, and the
remains of cyclopean walls recall the mythical age of the Odyssey. The
ancient Greeks, who were but imperfectly acquainted with Italy, looked
upon this dreaded promontory of Circe as one of the most important
islands of the Western Cyclades.

During the glacial period the sea, in which have been deposited the
chalk and other rocks composing the Sub-Apennines, was the scene of
volcanic action on a grand scale. The matter ejected was heaped up in a
line of volcanic cones, running in a direction nearly parallel with the
Apennines and the coast of the Mediterranean. These cones are joined
to each other by thick layers of tufa, which cover the whole of the
plain as far as the foot of the calcareous mountains, and extend for
a distance of nearly 120 miles, from Monte Amiata, in Tuscany, to the
mountains of Albano, being interrupted only by the alluvial valley of
the Tiber. Ponzi and other geologists are of opinion that this tufa was
ejected from submarine volcanoes, carried away by the currents, and
equally distributed over the depressions of the sea-bottom. No fossils
have been discovered in it hitherto, which is accounted for by the
presence of icebergs, which prevented a development of animal life.

This volcanic region is remarkable on account of its numerous lakes.
The largest of these, that of Bolsena, was formerly looked upon
as an ancient crater. This crater would have exceeded by far the
largest volcanic vents met with in the Andes or in Java, for it has a
circumference of twenty-five miles, and covers an area of forty-four
square miles. Modern geologists, however, look upon this crateriform
lake as a basin of erosion, and though it occupies the centre of a
plateau formed of ashes, scoriæ, and lava, these do not form a steep
edge towards the lake, as in the case of veritable craters in the
same district. One of the most remarkable of these latter is that of
Latera, to the west of the lake, in the centre of which rises a cone of
eruption, the Monte Spignano, which has a diameter of nearly five miles.

The district of the Bolsena is likewise remarkable on account of
its vertical precipices of tufa and lava. Its picturesque towns and
villages are perched upon {260} bold promontories looking down on
the valleys. The old town of Bagnorea occupies the extremity of an
immense mole, and is joined to the new town by a giddy path, bounded by
steep precipices, which timid travellers do not care to venture upon.
Orvieto stands on an isolated rock resembling a fortress. Pittigliano
is surrounded by precipices: by cutting away a few yards of the narrow
isthmus which joins it to the rest of the plateau, access to it would
be impossible to all but birds. In the Middle Ages, when nobles and
towns were continually at war, the capture of one of these eyries was
looked upon as a grand achievement.

[Illustration: Fig. 90.—THE LAKE OF BOLSENA.

Scale 1 : 457,000.]

Lake Bolsena discharges its surplus waters through the Marta into
the Mediterranean. The fine Lake of Bracciano, to the south of it,
gives rise to the Arrone. It, too, appears to be a basin formed by a
subsidence of the ground or erosion, and not a crater. The Lake of
Vico, on the other hand, clearly occupies an ancient volcano, though
its rampart has been gutted towards the east. Close to the lake, and
within the encircling rampart, rises Monte Venere, a perfect cone,
the gentle slopes of which are luxuriantly wooded. Formerly the lake
surrounded this cone, but the breach through which its emissary escapes
to the Tiber having gradually been deepened, the waters of the lake
subsided. Tradition says that an ancient city lies at its bottom.

On crossing the Tiber we reach the beautiful volcanic group of Albano,
within the great crater of which may still be traced the remains
of several secondary craters, some of them occupied by lakes. The
principal one of these, Monte Cavo (2,790 feet), rises in the very
centre of the exterior rampart. Tradition points it out as one of
Hannibal’s camps. The exterior slopes of the mountain consist of
pozzuolana, small stones, and ashes, through which the torrents have
dug out furrows in divergent directions. The diversity of these {261}
volcanic products enables us to trace the phases of activity of this
Roman Vesuvius, which was active at a much more recent epoch than the
volcanoes farther north, and sent its streams of lava to the very gates
of Rome.

[Illustration: Fig. 91.—VOLCANOES OF LATIUM.

From the Austrian Staff Map. Scale 1 : 294,000.]

The Lake of Albano discharges its surplus waters through a tunnel
7,665 feet in length, which has been in existence for more than
twenty-two centuries. The lake is famous on account of a small crab,
large numbers of which are forwarded to Rome during Lent. It is the
only species of this animal hitherto discovered in fresh water, and
zoologists conclude from this that the crater now occupied by the lake
formerly communicated with the sea, but was separated from it by slow
upheavals and the ejection of volcanic products. Flint implements
and vases of baked clay, discovered in the thick layers of volcanic
peperino, prove that at the {262} period of the earliest eruptions
the country was already inhabited by a civilised population. Some of
the vases referred to are doubly precious, for they present us with
delineations of the houses of that prehistoric epoch. Roman coins and
clasps of bronze, discovered in the upper layers of lava, prove that
these are comparatively recent. In fact, the most diverse developments
of civilisation have left their traces in these ancient craters. Alba
Longa and other towns of the Latins have been replaced by Roman cities;
then came the castles of the popes, and of other high dignitaries of
the Church; and at present these hills are one of the chief resorts of
the crowds of strangers who flock to Rome from every quarter of the
world. On the culminating point of Monte Cavo stood the famous temple
of Jupiter Latialis, where the Latins celebrated their federal Feriæ.
The last remains of this temple were swept away in 1783, to be used in
the construction of a church. From its site the eye embraces a view
extending to the hills of Sardinia.

The Lake of Nemi no longer reflects in its bluish waters the foliage
of luxuriant trees, or the walls of that dreaded temple of Diana whose
priest was only allowed to assume office after he had killed his
predecessor in a duel. It, too, has its subterranean emissary, like
the Lake of Albano. As to the Regillus, famed for the defeat of the
Latins by the Romans, it has dried up, whilst the incrustating Lake of
Tartari and that of the Solfatara, with its floating islands, are more
shallow ponds, which owe their fame almost exclusively to the vicinity
of Tivoli.

All these volcanic lakes are of considerable depths, whilst the lakes
in the calcareous regions are shallow.[89] One amongst them, that of
Fucino, has been drained recently, and the same fate is in store for
that of Trasimeno. Lake Fucino originally occupied an area of 104
square miles, and its surplus waters discharged themselves towards
the north-west into the Salto, a tributary of the Tiber. At an epoch
not known to us the dimensions of the lake became less. It no longer
discharged an effluent, but its waters rose and fell according to
whether the seasons were wet or dry. Occasionally they rose as much as
50 feet, and two cities, Marruvium and Pinna, are said to have been
swallowed up during one of these floods. At other times it was reduced
to a swamp. The ancient Romans, desirous of suppressing a hotbed of
fever, and of gaining fertile soil for agriculture, attempted to drain
this lake. Claudius employed 30,000 slaves for eleven years in cutting
a passage through the mountains from it to the Liri. This great work
was carried on under the direction of the greedy Narcissus, but it
turned out a failure, for after a short time the tunnel became choked.
In the thirteenth century an attempt was made to reopen this tunnel,
but the drainage of the lake has only been achieved quite recently,
in accordance with plans designed by M. de Montricher, and carried
out at the expense of Prince Torlonia. Between {263} 1855 and 1869 a
new tunnel was excavated on the site of the ancient one, and nearly
150,000,000 cubic yards of water were conveyed through it into the
Liri, and thence to the sea. The whole of the ancient lake bed has been
converted into smiling fields, traversed in all directions by carriage
roads; houses have been erected on spots formerly covered with water;
fruit and ornamental trees have been planted; and the salubrity of the
country leaves nothing to be desired now. Some idea of the progress
made in the art of engineering since the time of the Romans may be
formed by comparing this new tunnel with the old one. The latter was
18,500 feet in length, had an average section of 12 square yards, and
cost (according to M. Rotrou) £9,840,000. The new tunnel has a length
of 20,680 feet, a section of 24 square yards, and cost £1,200,000.

[Illustration: Fig. 92.—THE ANCIENT LAKE OF FUCINO.

Scale 1 : 412,000.]

The Lake of Perugia, better known as the Lake of Trasimeno, on account
of the terrible memories which attach to it, still retains nearly the
dimensions which it had at the dawn of history. If this lake were to
rise only a few feet, its surplus waters would find their way into
the Tresa, a tributary of the Tiber; but its basin is shallow, and
evaporation suffices for carrying off the water conveyed into it by its
tributary rivulets. Amongst these is the famous Sanguinetto, on the
banks of which the armies of Hannibal and Flaminius were engaged in
battle, when,

                 “beneath the fray,
 An earthquake reeled unheededly away.”

The lake, with its islands and charming contours, is beautiful to
look upon, but the low hills surrounding it are sterile, the climate
is insalubrious, its waters harbour but few fish, and the inhabitants
on its shores look impatiently forward {264} to the time when the
engineers will fulfil their promise of winning for agriculture 30,000
acres of fertile land now covered by the waters of the lake.

[Illustration: Fig. 93.—LAKE OF TRASIMENO.

From the Austrian Staff Map. Scale 1 : 250,000.]

But far more urgent, on sanitary and economical grounds, are the claims
of the Roman Campagna; that is, of the region lying between the Tolfa
of Cività Vecchia, Monte Soracte, the Sabine Hills, and the volcanoes
of Latium. Slavery and maladministration have converted a fertile
region into a desert extending to the very gates of Rome. Painters are
enraptured with this Roman Campagna; they admire its melancholy aspect,
its picturesque ruins hidden beneath brambles, its solitary pines, its
pools reflecting the purple clouds, and visited by thirsty buffaloes.
True, this region, bounded by hills of bold contours, is full of
grandeur and sadness; but the air that hangs over it is deadly, the
soil and climate of this _Agro Romano_ have deteriorated, and fever now
reigns there supreme.

Two thousand years ago the Roman Campagna, which covers an area of
600,000 acres to the north of the Tiber, and extends from the sea to
the mountains, was a fertile and carefully cultivated country. Then
its inhabitants were reduced to the condition of serfs, the Roman
patricians appropriated the land, and {265} covered it with villas
and parks. When these magnificent residences were given up to pillage
and to flames, the cultivators of the soil dispersed, and the country
immediately became a desert. Since that epoch most of the Agro is held
in mortmain by ecclesiastical corporations or princely families, and
whilst all the rest of Europe has been making progress, the Campagna
has become even more sterile and insalubrious. Swamps continually
invade the lowlands, and an atmosphere charged with miasmata hangs even
above the hills. Malaria has already knocked at the gates of Rome, and
the fevers produced by it decimate the population of its suburbs.

[Illustration: Fig. 94.—THE ROMAN CAMPAGNA.]

Not a village, not even a hamlet, is met with throughout this afflicted
region. The only buildings are the wretched storehouses of the
proprietors, whose wide domains are roamed over by herds of half-wild
grey cattle, said to have been introduced into Italy by the Huns, and
distinguished by immense horns, frequently suspended in the huts of
the peasantry, who fancy that they keep off the “evil eye.” The soil
of these neglected pastures consists of alluvium mixed with volcanic
débris and marls, but only a few patches are cultivated. The farmers
and labourers who engage in this labour carry their lives in their
hands, and are frequently struck down by fever before they are able
to regain their villages in {266} the hills. What can be done to
restore to this region its fertility, salubrity, and population? No
doubt it will be necessary to drain the marshes, and to plant trees
capable, like the Eucalyptus, of absorbing the poisonous miasmata; and
this has been done, with a considerable amount of success, since 1870,
near the abbey of Tre Fontane. But, above all, it will be necessary
to interest the cultivator of the soil in its productiveness. Even
in the most salubrious districts of the ancient Papal dominions the
population is being decimated by misery and the maladies following in
its train. In the valley of Sacco, to the south-east of Rome, which
abounds in cereals, vines, and fruit trees, the cultivator of the soil
is restricted to a diet of maize, for proprietors and money-lenders eat
up the rest of his produce.

An uncultivated and insalubrious region extends, likewise, along
the sea to the south of the Tiber. Poisonous vapours arise from the
stagnant waters separated by dunes from the sea, and in order to escape
them it is necessary to seek a refuge in the hills of the interior,
or even on jetties built out into the sea, as at Porto d’Anzio. The
palaces which formerly lined the shore from Ostia to Nettuno, and from
the ruins of which have been recovered some of our most highly valued
art treasures, such as the Gladiator and Apollo Belvedere, have been
buried long ago beneath the dunes or in the swamps. The most dreaded
of these malarial districts lies at the foot of the Monti Lepini, and
extends from Porto d’Anzio to Terracina. It is known as the Pontine
Marshes, from Pometia, a city said to have perished before historical
times. No less than twenty-three cities formerly flourished in what is
now a deserted and deadly country, but which was the most prosperous
of the districts held by the confederation of the Volsci. The Roman
conquerors created “peace and solitude” at the same time. Four hundred
and forty years after the building of Rome, when Appius constructed
his famous road to Terracina, the country was only a swamp. Various
attempts have been made since to reclaim this region, but it still
remains the haunt of boars, deer, and semi-savage buffaloes, whose
ancestors were imported from Africa in the seventh century. The canals
dug during the reign of Augustus appear to have been of little use;
the works undertaken by Theodoric the Goth were more efficacious;
but stagnant waters and malaria in the end regained the mastery. The
engineers employed by Pius VI. towards the close of the eighteenth
century failed likewise, and this district of 290 square miles remains
a wilderness to the present day. If a brigand seeks refuge in it,
pursuit is stopped, and he is allowed to die in peace.

[Illustration: Fig. 95.—THE PONTINE MARSHES.

Scale 1 : 280,000.]

In order to drain these marshes an accumulation of difficulties will
have to be surmounted. A range of wooded dunes bounds the marshes on
the west. Having crossed these, we enter a second zone of marshes,
which are separated from the sea by a second range of dunes, extending
northward from the Monte Circello, and likewise densely wooded. These
two formidable barriers would have to be surmounted in order to drain
the marshes towards the west. Nor are the prospects more promising in
the direction of Terracina, for there, too, every outlet is stopped
by dunes. The streams and canals crossing the marshes are, moreover,
choked up with a dense {267} growth of aquatic plants, which impedes
the circulation of the water, feeble though it be. Herds of buffaloes
are sometimes driven into these streams to trample down the vegetation,
but neither this barbarous procedure nor the more regular process
of mowing has availed against its rapid and luxuriant growth, and
the water remains stagnant. Rains are not only heavy in this portion
of Italy, but the superabundant waters of neighbouring river basins
actually find their way through subterranean channels into the
depression occupied by the Pontine Marshes. This happens after heavy
rains in the case of the Sacco, a tributary of the Garigliano, and of
the Teverone, a tributary of the Tiber, and to this circumstance {268}
must be ascribed the curious fact first ascertained by M. de Prony,
viz. that the volume of water annually discharged by the Badino, which
drains the marshes, exceeds by one-half the whole of the rain which
annually descends upon them. When this happens the whole of the country
is under water. Another danger arises during dry weather. It happens
then occasionally that the parched vegetation is ignited through the
carelessness of herdsmen; the fire communicates itself to the turfy
soil, and the latter smoulders until the subsoil water is reached. In
this manner tracts of land which were looked upon as secure against
every inundation are converted into marsh. During the greater portion
of the year the Pontine Marshes present the appearance of a plain
covered with herbage and flowers, and it is matter for surprise that a
country so fertile should be without inhabitants. The town of Ninfa,
which was built in the eleventh century, near the northern extremity
of the plain, has since been abandoned, its walls, houses, and palaces
still remaining, covered with ivy and other creeping plants.

There can be no doubt that our engineers would be able to reclaim this
desolate region. The system adopted in the case of the valley of the
Chiana may not be practicable, but other, if more costly, means may be
devised. Whatever the outlay, it is sure to be productive, for even now
the marshes yield rich harvests of wheat and maize.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Tiber, or Tevere, the great river of the Romans, has defied all
attempts at correction down to our own days, and its sudden floods are
said to be even more formidable now than they were in the days of the
Republic. Ever since the time of Ancus Martius there has been going on
a struggle against the alluvium brought down by the river, and it will
need all the skill of the Italian engineers to master this difficult

The Tiber is by far the most important river of the peninsular portion
of Italy, and its basin is the most extensive.[90] It is, too, the only
river that is navigable in its lower course, from Ostia to Fidenæ.
The Tiber rises on the western slope of the Alpe della Luna, in the
latitude of Florence. The valley through which it flows, whilst in
the heart of the Apennines, is of surpassing beauty; at one time it
expands into broad and fertile basins, at others it is hemmed in by
precipitous rocks. Below the charming basin of Perugia the Tiber
receives the Topino, formed by the confluence of several streams in the
old lacustrine basin of Foligno, one of the most delightful districts
of all Italy, situated at the foot of the Great Apennines and of the
Col Fiorito, which leads across them. The Clituno (Clitumnus) debouches
upon this plain, famous on account of its pellucid waters:―

           “The most living crystal that was e’er
 The haunt of the river nymph, to gaze and lave
 Her limbs.”

The ruins of a beautiful temple still remain near the source of this
river, but the miraculous power of the latter of changing into a
brilliant white the wool of the sheep grazing upon its sacred banks has
gone for ever. {269}


Scale 1 : 294,000.]

[Illustration: Fig. 97.—THE CASCADES OF TERNI.]

[Illustration: Fig. 98.—THE DELTA OF THE TIBER.

According to Darondeau (1861) and Desjardins.]

The Nera is the most important tributary of the Tiber; “it gives it to
drink,” as the Italian proverb says, and rivals it in volume. It is
formed by the junction of several streams descending from the Sibylline
Mountains, Monte Velino, and the Sabine Hills. About two thousand years
ago, it is said, most of these rivulets did not reach the Tiber; they
were intercepted in the plain of Rieti, where they formed the Lacus
Velinus, represented at the present day by a few ponds and marshes
scattered over the fertile fields of the “Garden of Roses.” A breach
effected in the calcareous rocks, and several times enlarged since,
allowed the pent-up waters of the Velino to escape to the Nera, and in
doing so they formed those beautiful cascades of Marmora, above Terni,
whose charms have been celebrated by poets and painters. The river
falls down a perpendicular height of {270} 542 feet in a single sheet,
and then rushes down, over heaped-up blocks of rock, until it joins the
more placid waters of the Nera. Far less grand, but perhaps {271} more
charming, are the numerous cascatellas of the Anio, or Teverone, the
last affluent of any importance which the Tiber receives above Rome.
Standing on the verdant hill upon which is built the picturesque town
of Tivoli, silvery cascades may be seen to escape in every direction.
Some of them glide down the polished rocks; others shoot forth from
gloomy arches, remain suspended an instant in the air, and then
disappear again beneath the foliage; but every one of them, whether a
powerful jet or a mere thread of water, possesses some charm of its
own, and, as a whole, they form one of the most delightful spectacles
to be witnessed in Italy. It is these cascades which have rendered
Tivoli famous throughout the world; and in spite of the popular rhyme—

 “Tivoli di mal conforto,
  O piove, o tira vento, o suona a morto !”— {272}

modern residences have taken the place of the villas of the ancient
Romans, amongst which that of Hadrian was the most sumptuous. Its
ruins, to the west of Tivoli, cover an area of three square miles.
Recently it has been proposed to {273} utilise the great water
power of the Anio far more extensively than has been done hitherto.
The ancients contented themselves with quarrying the concretionary
limestone, or travertin, deposited by the calcareous waters of the
river, sometimes to the depth of a hundred feet. They made use of this
stone for the construction of their public buildings. Travertin, when
first quarried, is white; after a certain time it turns yellow, and
subsequently assumes a beautiful roseate hue, which imparts a character
of majesty to the edifices constructed of it.

[Illustration: Fig. 99.—PEASANTS OF THE ROMAN CAMPAGNA.]

Below their confluence with the Anio, the yellow waters of the Tiber,
discoloured by the clay brought down from the plains of Umbria, rush
beneath the bridges of Rome. Soon afterwards the river winds round
the last hills, which formerly bounded an ancient gulf of the sea,
now silted up. The influence of the tides makes itself felt. At the
head of the Sacred Island, formerly dedicated to Venus, and famous for
its roses, but now a dreary swamp, covered with reeds and asphodels,
it bifurcates. The principal branch, the old Tiber, passes to the
south of this island. Ostia, which was the port of the river during
the early days of Rome, is buried now beneath fields of cereals and
thistles, at a distance of five miles from the sea. Excavations made
there since 1855 have laid bare several temples, tombs, and warehouses.
The merchants of Rome were compelled to abandon that city two thousand
years ago, on account of a bar formed at the mouth of the river.

The Roman emperors, anxious to have an outlet into the sea, ordered
a ship canal to be excavated to the north of Ostia. This is the
Fiumicino, which the erosive action of the Tiber has converted into a
small river. Claudius had huge docks excavated to the north of this
canal, and a new Ostia arose near them. Trajan opened another port to
the south-east of it, which remained for several centuries the port
of Rome. But it, too, has been silted up for about a thousand years,
and the alluvium brought down by the Tiber is continually encroaching
upon the sea, the rate of progress being about three feet annually at
the mouth of the Fiumicino, and ten feet at that of the old Tiber.
Extensive ruins of palaces, baths, and storehouses exist near the
ancient port of Trajan, and several works of art have recently been
excavated there.

The mouth of the Tiber is thus closed by a bar, like that of all other
rivers which flow into the Mediterranean; and the Romans, instead
of being able to make use of their river for communicating with the
sea, are obliged to have recourse to more distant harbours. In former
times they kept up this communication with Sicily, Greece, and the
Orient through Antium, Anxur (Terracina), and even Puteoli; but since
the countries of the North have risen into political and commercial
importance, Cività Vecchia has become the great maritime entrepôt of
the valley of the Tiber. It is well known that Garibaldi has conceived
the stupendous project of converting Rome into a great maritime city.
The stagnant waters of the Campagna are to be carried off by means of
a huge sanitary canal, the bed of the Tiber is to be deepened, and an
artificial harbour capable of receiving the largest vessels is to be
constructed far out in the Mediterranean. {274}

The execution of this vast scheme is no doubt attended with immense
difficulties, not the least amongst which are the annual floods of the
Tiber. Ancient writers tell us that these inundations were dreaded
not only because of the damage done directly, but also because of the
great quantities of animal and vegetable deposits which remained in the
fields after the subsidence of the waters. The nature of these floods
has continued the same down to the present time. At Rome, though its
distance from the sea is only twenty-two miles, the river frequently
rises forty or fifty feet, and in December, 1598, it rose sixty-five
feet ! How is this huge volume of water to be disposed of after it has
passed beneath the bridges of Rome? If the destruction of the forests
in the Apennines is one of the principal causes of these floods, will
it be sufficient to replant them? Or would it be preferable to restore
some of those ancient lakes into which numerous rivers discharged
themselves, which now take their course to the sea? The difficulties
are great indeed, for the western slope of the Apennines is exposed
to the rain-bearing westerly and south-westerly winds, and the floods
of every one of the numerous tributaries of the Tiber take place
simultaneously, and combine to form one vast inundation.

It is by no means difficult to account for the great floods of the
Tiber which take place in winter, but the condition of the river
during summer has for a long time baffled inquiry. The level of the
river during the dry season is far higher than could possibly be
accounted for by the small quantity of rain which falls within its
basin. Its volume in summer is never less than half its average volume,
a phenomenon not hitherto observed in the case of any other river.
The Seine has a basin five times larger than that of the Tiber, and
its average volume is almost double; yet, after a continuance of dry
weather, its volume is only a third or fourth of the Italian river.
This perennity of the Tiber can only be accounted for by assuming
that it is fed, during the dry season, from subterranean reservoirs,
in which the water is stored up during winter. These reservoirs must
be very numerous, if we are to judge by the numerous “sinks,” or
“swallows,” met with on the calcareous plateaux of the Apennines. One
of these sinks, known as the “Fountain of Italy,” near Alatri, close
to the Neapolitan frontier, has the appearance of a huge pit, 160 feet
in depth and 300 feet across. Its bottom is occupied by a forest, and
numerous springs give rise to luxuriant herbage, upon which sheep
lowered by means of ropes feed with avidity. It is from sinks like
this that the rivers of the country, the Tiber and the Sacco, are fed.
It has been computed by Venturoli and Lombardini, the engineers, that
about three-fourths of the liquid mass of the Tiber during winter are
derived from subterranean lakes hidden in the depths of the Apennines.
The volume of water annually supplied from this source to the Tiber
would fill a basin having an area of 100 square miles to a depth of 80
feet ! [91]

Primitive Rome is to a large extent indebted for her power to the
Tiber, not {275} because that river is navigable, but because it
traverses the centre of a vast basin, of which Rome is the natural
capital. Rome, moreover, occupied a central position with regard to the
whole of Italy and the world of the ancients; but, as has already been
pointed out, Rome no longer lies upon any of the great high-roads of
nations. That city certainly occupies not only the centre of Italy, but
of all the countries surrounding the Tyrrhenian Sea; and its climate
would leave little to be desired, if it were not for the insalubrity
of the Campagna. Still Rome, though the residence of two sovereigns,
the King of Italy and the Pope, is not even the principal city of the
peninsula, and still less the capital of the Latin race. It is said
that during the Middle Ages, when the popes resided at Avignon, the
population of Rome was reduced to 17,000 souls. Gregorovius, than whom
no one is better acquainted with that epoch in the history of Rome,
doubts this; but there can be no doubt that after the sack ordered by
the Constable of Bourbon its population was reduced to 30,000 souls.
More recently Rome has increased rapidly, but it is still very inferior
to Naples, and even to Milan.

From the very first the Romans were a mixed race. The myth of Romulus
and Remus, the rape of the Sabine women, and incessant internal
conflicts bear evidence to this fact. The remains of ancient cities,
cyclopean walls, burial-grounds, urns, vases, and ornaments prove
that on the right bank of the Tiber the Etrurians were at least as
strong as the Italians. Elsewhere the Gauls predominated, and from an
intermixture of all these various peoples sprang the primitive Roman.

When Rome had reached the zenith of her power things wore a different
aspect, and thousands of foreigners became amalgamated with the Latins,
Gauls, Iberians, Mauritanians, Greeks, Syrians, and Orientals of every
race and climate; slaves, freemen, and citizens flocked towards the
capital of the world, and modified the character of its inhabitants.
Towards the close of the Empire there were more strangers within the
walls of Rome than Romans, and when the empire of the West broke to
pieces, and the empress-city was pillaged repeatedly by barbarian
hordes, the Italians had already become mixed with the most diverse
elements. This endless mixture between different races, victors and
vanquished, masters and slaves, accounts, perhaps, more satisfactorily
for the great changes which have taken place in the course of two
thousand years in the character and spirit of the Romans. Still the
Romans on the right bank of the Tiber, the so called Trasteverini, have
preserved the old Roman type, as transmitted to us in statues and on

[Illustration: Fig. 100.—ROME.]

Rome is great because of its past, and its ruins are more attractive
than its modern buildings; it is a tomb rather than a living
city. These monuments, raised by the former masters of the world,
strongly impress the imagination. The sight of the Coliseum arouses
an admiration akin to terror, unless we look upon this formidable
edifice as a mere heap of stones. The thought that this vast arena
was crowded with men who sought to kill each other, that the steps
surrounding it were occupied by 80,000 human beings who delighted
in this butchery and {276} encouraged it by their shouts, calls up
an amount of baseness, ferocity, and frenzy, whose existence could
not fail to sap the foundations of Roman civilisation, and make it
an easy prey to the barbarian. The Forum awakens memories of quite
a different nature. Abominations were practised there, too, but its
history as a whole exhibits it as the true centre of the Roman world.
It was from this spot that the first impetus was given to the nations
of the West; it was here that the ideas imported from every quarter
of the world bore fruit. The walls, columns, temples, and churches
which surround the Forum relate in mute language the principal events
in the history of Rome; and if we search beneath existing edifices
we meet with structures more ancient, which take us back to a period
still more remote, for edifice has succeeded edifice on this spot,
where pulsated the life of the Roman people. And thus it is throughout
Rome. Every ancient monument, arcade, or broken column, every stone,
bears witness to some {277} historical event, and though it may be
difficult sometimes to interpret these witnesses of the past, the truth
is elicited by degrees.

In spite of pillage and wholesale destruction, there still exist
numerous ancient monuments, of which the Pantheon of Agrippa is one
of the most marvellous. The Vandals, who are usually charged with the
work of destruction, pillaged the city, it is true, but they demolished
nothing. The systematical destruction had begun long before their
time, when the materials for building the first church of St. Peter
were taken from the Circus of Caligula, and from other monuments near
it. The same plan was pursued in the construction of innumerable other
churches and buildings of every kind. Statues were broken to pieces and
used for making lime, and in the beginning of the fifteenth century
there only remained six of them in all Rome, five of marble and one
of bronze. The invasion of the Normans in 1084, and the numerous wars
of the Middle Ages, which were frequently attended by pillage and
conflagrations, wrought further havoc, but so large had been the number
of public buildings and monuments, that on the revival of art in the
sixteenth century many still remained for study and imitation. Since
that time the architectural collection enclosed by the walls of Rome
has been guarded with the utmost care, and still further enriched by
the masterpieces of Michael Angelo, Bramante, and others.

On the Palatine Hill the most curious remains of ancient Rome,
including the foundations of the palaces of the Cæsars and of the walls
of _Roma Quadrata_, have recently been laid open. It was on this hill,
so rich in precious relics, that the first Romans built their city,
in order to afford it the protection of steep escarpments, and of the
marshes on the Tiber and Velabro. When Rome grew more populous it
became necessary to descend from this hill. The town spread over the
valley of the Velabro, which had been drained by Tarquin the Etruscan,
and then climbed up the surrounding hills. A small island in the Tiber
occupied its centre. This the Romans looked upon as a sacred spot. They
enclosed it by a masonry embankment, shaped like a ship, erected an
obelisk in its centre to represent a mast, and a temple of Æsculapius
upon the poop. This island was likened to a vessel bearing the fortunes
of Rome.

There is still another Rome, the subterranean one, which is well worth
study, for we learn more from it about early Christianity than from
all the books that have been written. The crypts of the Christian
burying-places occupy a zone around the city a couple of miles in
width, and embrace about fifty distinct catacombs. Signor Rossi
estimates the length of the subterranean passages at 360 miles. They
are excavated in the tufa, and are, on an average, a yard in width, but
they include chambers which served as oratories, and numerous tiers of
niches for the bodies. The inscriptions, bas-reliefs, and paintings of
these cities of the dead were at all times respected by the pagans,
and fortunately the entrances to them were closed up at the time the
Barbarians invaded Rome. This saved their contents from destruction,
and everything was found intact when they were first reopened towards
the close of the sixteenth century. These tombs prove that the popular
belief of the Christians of that time was very different from what it
is {278} represented to have been by contemporaneous writers, who
belonged to a different class of society from that of the majority of
the faithful. A serene gaiety reigns throughout, and lugubrious emblems
find no place there. We neither meet with representations of martyrdoms
nor with skeletons or images of Death; even the cross, which at a later
epoch became the great symbol of Christianity, is not seen there. The
most common symbols met with are those of the Good Shepherd carrying
a lamb upon his shoulders, and the vine decked with leaves. In the
oldest catacombs, which date back to the second and third centuries,
the figures are Greek in character, and abound in heathen subjects.
One represents the Good Shepherd surrounded by the Three Graces. There
are two Jewish catacombs, likewise excavated in the tufa, and they
enable us to compare the religious notions which prevailed at that time
amongst the followers of the two religions.

[Illustration: Fig. 101.—THE HILLS OF ROME.]

By an absurd predilection for mystical numbers, Rome is even now spoken
of as the “City of the Seven Hills,” although it lost all claim to such
a designation {279} after it had outgrown the walls built by Servius
Tullius. Independently of Monte Testaccio, which is merely a heap of
potsherds, there are at least nine hills within the walls of actual
Rome, viz. the Aventino, to which the plebeians retired during their
feeble struggles for independence; the Palatino, the ancient seat of
the Cæsars; the Capitolino, surmounted by the temple of Jupiter; Monte
Celio (Cælius); the Esquilino; Viminale; Quirinale; Citorio; and the
Pincio, with its public gardens. Besides these, there are two hills on
the opposite bank of the Tiber, viz. Monte Gianicolo (Janiculum), the
highest of all, and the Vatican, which derives its name from the Latin
word _vates_, a soothsayer, it having once been the seat of Etruscan

Faithful to its traditions, the last hill has ever since remained the
place of vaticinations. When the Christian priests left the obscurity
of the catacombs they established themselves upon it, and thence they
governed Rome and the Western world. The Papal palace, abounding
in treasures of art, was built upon it, and close to it stands the
resplendent basilica of St. Peter, the centre of Catholic Christendom.
A long arcade connects the palace with the Castle of Sant’ Angelo,
the ancient mausoleum of Hadrian. The guns of this fortress no longer
defend the Vatican, for the temporal power of the pontiffs is a thing
of the past; but their sumptuous church of St. Peter, with its dome
rising high into the air, and visible even from the sea, its statues,
marbles, and mosaics, bears witness to the fact that the riches of all
Christendom formerly found their way to Rome. St. Peter’s alone cost
nearly £20,000,000 sterling, and is only one out of the 365 churches
of the city of the popes. At the same time, the admiration which their
sumptuous edifice arouses is not without its alloy. A multiplicity of
ornaments dwarfs the proportions of this colossal building, and, more
serious still, instead of its being the embodiment of an entire epoch
of its faith and ideas, it is representative only of a transitory phase
in the local history of Catholicism, of an age of contradictions,
when the paganism of the Renaissance and the Christianity of the
Middle Ages allied themselves in order to give birth to a pompous and
sensuous neo-Catholicism suited to the tastes and caprices of the
century. How different is the impression we derive from this building
from that which the sombre nave of a Gothic cathedral makes upon us !
It is a remarkable fact that the quarter of Rome in which the church
of St. Peter is built is the only portion of the city which was laid
waste by the Mussulmans in 846, who are thus able to boast of having
sacked Papal Rome and taken possession of Jerusalem, whilst the tomb
of Mohammed has ever remained in the hands of the faithful. As to
the Jews, they did not come to Rome as conquerors. Shut up in their
filthy Ghetto near the swampy banks of the Tiber, and not far from
that arch of Titus which reminded them of the destruction of their
temple, they have been the objects of hatred and persecution during
nineteen centuries. They have survived, thanks to the power of their
gold, and since their liberation from bondage they contribute even more
to the embellishment of the Italian capital than do their Christian

Our nineteenth century is not favourable to the creation of edifices
fit to rival {280} the Coliseum or St. Peter’s, but there are works of
another nature, not less deserving of attention, which may distinguish
this third era in the history of Rome. Above all, it will be necessary
to protect the city against the floods of the Tiber, and to improve
its sanitary condition. The bed of the river will have to be deepened,
embankments constructed, and a system of drainage established.

It is well known that the quantity of water supplied to the Rome of the
ancients was prodigious. In the time of Trajan nine grand aqueducts,
having a total length of 262 miles, supplied about 4,400 gallons of
water per second, and this quantity was augmented to the extent of
one-fourth by canals subsequently constructed. Even now, although
most of these ancient aqueducts are in ruins, the water supply of the
capital of Italy is superior to that of most other cities.[92] But if
the time should ever come when Rome will occupy the whole of the space
enclosed within its walls, if ever the Forum should again become the
centre of the city, then the want of water will be felt there as much
as in most of the other great towns of Europe.

Irrespective of the insalubrity of the environs, there is another
reason why modern Rome cannot compare with the ancient city. Its
streets no longer radiate from a centre towards all the points of the
compass, as they did of yore. The Appian Road, which on first leaving
the city passes through a curious avenue of tombs, is typical of the
old roads, constructed in straight lines, and shortening distances. It
is true that these ancient highways have been superseded by railways,
but they are still few in number, and Rome is not situated on a trunk
line. Elsewhere railways were built from the capital of the country
towards its periphery; in Italy, on the contrary, it was Florence,
Bologna, and Naples which constructed lines converging upon Rome.

       *       *       *       *       *

Rome is one of those large cities which are least able to exist upon
their own resources, and having no port, and its immediate vicinity
being rendered uninhabitable by miasmata, it has attached to it
outlying places, and occupies a position similar to that of a spider
in the centre of its web. Its gardens, rural retreats, and industrial
establishments are all in the hill towns of Tivoli, Frascati (near
which on a ridge are the ruins of Tusculum), Marino (near which the
confederated nations of Latium held their meetings), Albano (joined
by a magnificent viaduct to Ariccia), Velletri (the old city of the
Volsci), and Palestrina (more ancient than either Alba Longa or Rome,
and occupying the site of a famous temple of Fortune, the pride of
ancient Præneste). Its watering-places are Palo, Fiumicino, and Porto
d’Anzio, which adjoins the little town of Nettuno, so famous because
of the {281} haughty beauty of its women. Its only seaport is Cività
Vecchia, a dreary town on the Tyrrhenian Sea, with a magnificent
harbour.[93] The ancient harbours to the south of the Tiber are very
little resorted to in our day. Terracina, hidden amidst verdure at the
foot of white cliffs, is only used by Rome-bound travellers coming by
the coast road from the south.[94] Nearly every other town of Latium
is built on one or other of the two great roads, of which one leads
northward to Florence, whilst the other penetrates the valley of the
Sacco towards the south-east, and finally issues upon the campagna of
Naples. Viterbo, the “city of nice fountains and pretty girls,” is the
principal town in the north. Alatri, on the slope of the Garigliano,
and commanded by a superb necropolis enclosed by cyclopean walls,
occupies a similar position in the south. In the east, in one of the
most charming valleys of Sabina, traversed by the ever-cool waters of
the Anio, lies Subiaco, the ancient Sublaqueum, thus named after the
three reservoirs constructed by Nero, who used to fish trout in them
with a golden net. It was in a holy cave (_sacro specu_) near Subiaco
that St. Benedict established his famous monastery, which preceded the
still more famous monastery of Monte Casino, and conjointly with that
of Lérins, in Provence, became the cradle of monachism in the West.[95]

[Illustration: Fig. 102.—CIVITÀ VECCHIA.

Scale 1 : 8,888.]


Perugia, the capital of Umbria, on the road from Rome to Ancona, is
one of the ancient cities of the Etruscans, and excavations carried
on in its vicinity have revealed tombs of the highest interest. After
every war and disaster this city has arisen from its ruins, for its
position in the midst of a fertile plain, and at the point of junction
of several natural high-roads, is most favourable. It is both a Roman
and a Tuscan city, and at the period of the Renaissance it gave birth
to one of the great schools of painting. There still remain numerous
monuments at Perugia which date back to that famous epoch, and although
no longer one of the artistic head-quarters of Italy, it is still the
seat of a university; its trade, especially in raw silk, is active;
and its clean houses and streets, its pure atmosphere, and charming
inhabitants annually attract to it a large number of the foreigners who
spend the winter at Rome. Perugia has by far outstripped its rival,
Foligno, which was formerly the great commercial mart of Central Italy,
and still carries on a few branches of industry; amongst others, the
tanning of leather. As to Assisi, it is justly famous because of its
temple of Minerva, and its gorgeous monasteries decorated with the
frescoes of Cimabue and his successor, Giotto, the last of the Greek
and the first of the Italian painters. Assisi is only a small place
now, but its environs are fertile and densely inhabited. It gave birth
to Francesco d’Assisi, the founder of the order of St. Francis.

Other towns of Umbria, though not now of much importance, may boast of
having once played a great part in history, or of possessing beautiful
monuments. Spoleto, the gates of which Hannibal sought in vain to
force, has a superb basilica, a Roman viaduct carried across a deep
ravine, and mountains clad with pines and chestnuts. Terni is proud of
its famous cascade (see p. 270). Orvieto, to the north of the Tiber,
near the frontier of Tuscany, is haughty and dirty, but justly famous
on account of its marvellous cathedral, one of the most costly and
tasteful buildings in the world. Città di Castello, on the Upper Tiber,
and Gubbio, in the very heart of the mountains, are the two principal
towns in the Umbrian Apennines. Both are delightfully situated, and
possess efficacious mineral springs. At Gubbio are shown the famous
“Eugubian Tables,” seven plates of bronze covered with Umbrian
characters, and the only relics of that kind known to exist. The little
town of Fratta, now known as Umbertide, half-way between Perugia and
Città di Castello, is only of local importance.[96]

Ancona is the Adriatic port of the Roman countries. It is an ancient
city of the Dorians, which still retains the name given it by its
founders, on account of its being situated at the “angle” formed by
the coast between the Gulf of Venice and the Southern Adriatic. A
fine triumphal arch near the mole attests the importance which Trajan
attached to the possession of this port. Thanks to its favourable
position and the labour bestowed upon the improvement of its harbour,
Ancona is one of the three great places of commerce on the Adriatic;
it ranks next to Venice, and is almost the equal of Brindisi, though
not one of the stages on the road to India. Its commerce is fed by
Rome, the Marches, and Lombardy; and {283} amongst its exports are
fruits, oil, asphalt from the Abruzzos, sulphur from the Apennines,
and silk, “the very best in the world,” if the native estimate of its
quality can be accepted.[97] The other ports along this coast offer but
little shelter, and their commerce is small. Pesaro, the native town
of Rossini, is only visited by vessels of twenty or thirty tons. Fano
merely admits barges. The small river port of Sinigaglia (Senigallia)
was formerly much frequented during the fair, at which commodities
valued at £1,000,000 sterling used to change hands, but since its
abolition in 1870 it has been deserted.


Scale 1 : 403,000.]

With the exception of Fabbriano, which occupies a smiling valley of the
Apennines, and of Ascoli-Piceno, on the river Tronto, the inland towns
of the Marches are built upon the summit of hills, but extend through
their suburbs to the cultivable plains. The principal amongst them are
Urbino, whose greatest glory consists in having been the birthplace
of Raphael, and which, like its neighbour Pesaro, formerly produced a
kind of faience much valued by connoisseurs; Jesi; Osimo; Maxerata;
Recanati, the native place of Leopardi; and Fermo. One of the most
famous of these hill towns is Loreto, formerly the most-frequented
place of pilgrimage in the Christian world. Before the Reformation, and
at a time when {284} travelling was far more difficult than now, as
many as 200,000 devotees visited the shrines of Loreto every year. They
were shown there the veritable house in which the Virgin Mary was born,
and which was carried by angels to the spot it now occupies, where it
is sheltered by a magnificently decorated dome. At Castelfidardo, close
by, was fought the battle which cost the Pope the greater part of the
“patrimony of St. Peter.”

There are only a few towns in the uplands of the Abruzzos. The
principal of these is Aquila, founded in the thirteenth century by the
Emperor Frederick II. The other towns are difficult of access, and,
far from attracting inhabitants from beyond, they send their vigorous
sons to the lowlands, where they are known as _Aquilani_, and highly
appreciated as terrace gardeners. The most populous places are met with
in the lower valley of the Aterno, or command the road leading to the
coast and the fertile fields of the Adriatic slope. Solmona is embedded
in a huge garden, anciently a lake, and overlooked in the south by the
steep scarps of Monte Majella. Popoli, at the mouth of a defile, where
the Aterno assumes the name of Pescara, is one of the busiest places
between the sea and the uplands. Chieti, lower down on the same river,
is said to have been the first town in the old Neapolitan province to
introduce steam into its spinning-mills and other factories. Teramo and
Lanciano are likewise places of some importance, but the only ports
along the coast, Ortona and Vasto, are merely frequented by small
coasting vessels.[98]

A small district in the Marches, joined to the coast by a single
road, has maintained its independence through ages. Monte Titano,
which rises in one of the most beautiful parts of the Apennines, and
the base of which has been used as a quarry since time immemorial,
bears upon its summit the old and famous city of San Marino. From its
turreted walls the citizens can see the sun rise above the Illyrian
Alps. San Marino, with some neighbouring hamlets, constitutes a “most
illustrious” republic, and is now the only independent municipality
of Italy. Named after a Dalmatian mason who lived as a hermit on
Monte Titano, San Marino has existed as a sovereign state from the
fourth century, its citizens having at all times known how to turn
to advantage the jealousies of their neighbours. The constitution of
this republic, however, is anything but democratic. The citizens, even
though they be landed proprietors, have no votes, and are at most
permitted to remonstrate. The supreme power is vested in a Council
of sixty members, composed of nobles, citizens, and landowners. The
title of councillor is hereditary in the family, and when a family
becomes extinct the remaining fifty-nine choose another. The Council
appoints the various officials, including a captain for the town and
one for the country. San Marino has its little army, its budget, and
its monopolies. A portion of its income is derived from the sale of
titles and of decorations, and on the payment of £1,400 it has even
created dukes, who take rank with the highest nobility of the kingdom.
Taxation is voluntary. When the public chest is empty a drummer is
sent round the town to invite {285} contributions. Though perfectly
independent, this republic accepts a subsidy from Italy, and claims
the special protection of the King. Its criminals are shut up in an
Italian prison, its public documents are printed in Italy, and an
Italian judge occupies the bench of the republican prætorium. There is
no printing-office in the little state, for the Council is afraid that
books objectionable to the surrounding kingdom might be issued from

[Illustration: Fig. 104.—RIMINI AND SAN MARINO.

Scale 1 : 250,000.]



Amongst the various states which have been welded into the modern
kingdom of Italy, Naples, though second to others in population and
industry, occupies the largest area.[100] It embraces the whole
southern half of the peninsula, and its coast has a development of 995
miles. Formerly the country was better known than any other portion of
Italy as Magna Græcia, but now many parts of it are scarcely known at

The Apennines of Naples can hardly be described as a mountain chain.
They consist rather of distinct mountain groups joined by transverse
ranges, or by elevated saddles. In the first of these groups the
serrated crest of the Meta (7,364 feet) rises above the zone of trees,
and is separated from the Abruzzos by the deep valley of the Sangro,
which flows to the Adriatic. Farther to the south, beyond the valley
of Isernia, which gives birth to the Volturno, rise the mountains of
the Matese, culminating in the Miletto (6,717 feet), the last bulwark
of the Samnites. Other summits, less elevated, but equally steep and
imposing, rise near Benevento and Avellino. They abound in savage
defiles, in which many a bloody battle has been fought. The valley of
the “Furcæ Caudinæ,” where the Romans humbled themselves before the
Samnites, and made promises which they never meant to keep, may still
be recognised on the road from Naples to Benevento. The memory of this
event lives in the Caudarola Road, and the village of Forchia d’Arpaia.
This mountain region, which might fitly be called after its ancient
inhabitants, is connected in the south with a transversal chain,
running east and west, and terminating in Cape Campanello, to the south
of the Bay of Naples. The beautiful island of Capri, with its white
cliffs and caverns flooded by the azure waters of the Mediterranean,
lies off this cape.

The eastern slope of the cretaceous mountains of Naples is gentle,
and gradually merges in argillaceous _tavolieri_, or table-lands,
deposited during the Pliocene epoch. The _tavoliere de la Puglia_ is,
perhaps, the most sterile and dreary portion of Italy. It is cut up
into terraces by deep ravines, through which insignificant streams find
their way to the Adriatic, and the centres of population must be looked
for at the mouths of valleys or along the high-roads. The country
itself is a vast solitude, deserted by all except nomad herdsmen. There
are no shrubs, and a kind of fennel, which forms the hedges separating
the pasturing grounds, is the largest plant to be seen. Hovels,
resembling tombs or heaps of stone, rise here and there in the midst of
these plains. Fortunately the old feudal customs which prevented the
cultivation of these plains, and compelled the mountaineers to keep
open wide paths, or _tratturi_, through their fields for the passage of
sheep, have been abolished, and the aspect of the tavoliere improves
from year to year.

These tavolieri completely separate the mountains of the peninsula
of Gargano—the “spur” of the Italian “boot”—from the system of the
Apennines. The northern slopes of these rugged mountains are still
clad with forests of beeches {287} and pines, which supply the best
pitch of Italy, and by thickets of carob-trees and other plants, whose
flowers are transformed by the bees into delicious honey; but the very
name of the most elevated summit—Monte Calvo (5,150 feet), or “bald
mountain”—proves that the deplorable destruction of forests has been
going on here as in the rest of the peninsula. In former times the
recesses of Monte Gargano were held by Saracen pirates, and they defied
the Christians there for a long time, in spite of the many sanctuaries
which had been substituted for the ancient heathen temples. The most
famous of these was the church on Monte Sant’ Angelo, at the back of
Manfredonia, which was frequently resorted to by the navigator about to
leave the shelter of the bay for the dangerous coasts of Dalmatia or
the open sea.

[Illustration: Fig. 105.—MONTE GARGANO.

Scale 1 : 950,000.]

The Neapolitan Apennines terminate in the south with the ancient
volcano of Monte Vultur (4,356 feet). Farther south the country
gradually sinks down into a table-land intersected by deep ravines,
which discharge their waters in three directions—towards the Bay of
Salerno, the Bay of Taranto, and the Adriatic. The Apennines, far from
bifurcating, as shown on old maps, are cut in two by the low saddle
of Potenza, and on the peninsula forming the “heel” of Italy only low
ridges and terraces are met with.

The peninsula of Calabria, however, is rugged and mountainous. The
Apennines, near Lagonegro, again rise above the zone of forests.
Monte Polino (7,656 feet) is the highest summit in Naples. The group
of which it forms the {288} centre occupies the entire width of the
peninsula, and along its western coast it forms a wall of cliffs even
less accessible than those of Liguria. Towards the south it opens out
into wooded valleys, where the inhabitants collect manna, an esteemed
medicinal drug. The deep valley of the Crati separates these mountains
from the Sila (5,863 feet), which is composed of granites and schists,
and still retains its ancient forests, haunted by brigands. The
shepherds who pasture their flocks in the clearings of these woods are
said to be the descendants of the Saracens, who formerly occupied this
“Country of Rosin,” by which name it was known to the Greeks.

To the south of the isolated Sila the peninsula narrows to a neck of
small elevation, where raised beaches attest the successive retreats
of the sea. A third mountain mass, of crystalline formation, rises to
the south of this depression, its furrowed slopes clad in forests.
This is the Aspromonte (6,263 feet), or “rugged mountain.” One of its
spurs forms the palm-clad promontory of Spartivento, or “parting of the

Naples, like Latium, has its volcanic mountains, which form two
irregular ranges, one on the continent, the other in the Tyrrhenian
Sea, and are, perhaps, connected beneath the sea with the volcanic
mountains of the Liparic Islands and Mount Etna. One of these is Mount
Vesuvius, the most famous volcano of the world, not because of its
height or the terror of its eruptions, but because its history is that
of an entire population who have made its lavas their home.

Scarcely have we left the defile of Gaeta and entered upon the
paradisiacal Terra di Lavoro than we come upon the first volcano,
the Rocca Monfina (3,300 feet), which rises between two calcareous
mountains, one of which is the Massico, whose wines have been sung by
Horace. No eruption of this volcano is on record, and a village now
occupies its shattered crater. To judge from the streams of lava which
surround its trachytic cone, its eruptions must have been formidable.
The entire Campania is covered to an unascertained depth with ashes
ejected from it, and the marine shells found in them prove that the
whole of this region must have been upheaved at a comparatively recent

[Illustration: THE BAY OF NAPLES]

The hills which rise to the south of the Campania cannot boast of the
grandeur of the Rocca Monfina, but they have been looked upon from
the most remote times as one of the great curiosities of our earth.
Standing upon the commanding height of the Camaldoli (518 feet), the
Phlegræan Fields lie at our feet. Acquainted as we now are with the far
more formidable volcanoes of Java and the Andes, this verdant sea-bound
country may not strike us as a region of horrors. But our Græco-Roman
predecessors looked upon it with very different eyes, and being unable
to account for the phenomena they witnessed, they ascribed them to the
gods. The quaking soil, the flames bursting forth from hidden furnaces,
the gaping funnels communicating with unexplored caverns, lakes
which disappeared at irregular intervals, and others exhaling deadly
gases—all these things left their impress upon ancient mythology and
poetry. At the time of Strabo the shores of the Bay of Baiæ had become
the favourite resort of {289} voluptuaries, and sumptuous villas
rose upon every promontory; but the terrors inspired by hidden flames
and mysterious caverns had not yet departed. A dreaded oracle was
said to have its seat there, guarded by Cimmerians, to whom strangers
desirous of consulting the gods had to apply. These troglodytæ were
doomed never to behold the sun, and only quitted their caverns during
the night. The Phlegræan Fields were likewise supposed to have been the
battle-ground of giants struggling for the possession of the fertile
plains of the Campania. During the Middle Ages Pozzuoli was looked upon
as the spot from which Christ descended into hell.

[Illustration: Fig. 106.—THE ASHES OF THE CAMPANIA.

According to Carl Vogt. Scale 1 : 835,400.]

The number of craters still distinguishable is twenty. If we were
to suppose {290} the country to be deprived of its vegetation, its
aspect would resemble that of the surface of the moon. Even the city of
Naples occupies an ancient crater, the contours of which have become
almost obliterated. To the west of it several old craters can still
be traced, one of them occupying a promontory of tufa, surmounted by
what is called the tomb of Virgil. Passing through the famous grotto of
Posilippo, we find ourselves in the Phlegræan Fields. On our left rises
the small conical island of Nisita, its ancient crater invaded by the
sea. Farther on we reach the crater known as the Solfatara, the Forum
Vulcani of the ancients. Its last eruption took place in 1198, but it
still exhales sulphuretted hydrogen. The Park of Astroni lies to the
north. The interior slope of its enclosing wall is exceedingly steep,
so as to render impossible the escape of the deer and boars which are
kept within. The only access is through an artificial breach. Another
crater, less regular in shape, is now filled with the bubbling waters
of the Lake of Agnano. Near it is the famous Grotto of Dogs, with its
spring of carbonic acid. Other springs of gas and sulphurous water
rise in the neighbourhood, and to them Pozzuoli is indebted for its
name, which is said to mean the “town of stinks.” The town, in turn,
has given its name to the earth known as pozzuolana, which supplies an
excellent material for the manufacture of cement.

The coast of the bay of Pozzuoli has undergone repeated changes of
level, in proof of which the three columns of the temple of Serapis
are usually referred to. At a time anterior to the Romans this temple,
together with the beach upon which it stands, sank beneath the waters
of the sea, and its columns must have been exposed to their action
for many years, perhaps centuries, for up to a height of twenty feet
they are covered with tubes of serpulæ, and perforated by innumerable
holes bored by pholadidæ. In the course of time it rose again slowly
above the waters. This happened, perhaps, in 1538, when the Monte
Nuovo sprang into existence. In the short period of four days this new
volcano, 490 feet in height, rose above the surrounding plain, and
buried the village of Tripergola beneath its ashes. A beach now known
as La Starza was formed at the foot of the cliffs, and two sheets
of water to the west of Monte Nuovo were cut off from the sea. One
of these, the Lago Lucrino, is famous for its oysters; the other is
the Lago d’Averno, which Virgil, in conformity with antique legends,
described as the entrance to the infernal regions. It occupies an
ancient crater, and its pellucid waters abound in fish. There are no
exhalations of poisonous gases now, and birds fly over the lake with
impunity. Still its vicinity is haunted by the memories of the old
pagan mythology. Lake Fusaro is referred to by the ciceroni as the
Acheron; close to it they point out the den of Cerberus; the sluggish
stream of Acqua Morta has been identified with the Cocytus; Lake
Lucrino, or rather a spring near it, with the Styx; and the remains
of a subterranean passage which connected the Averno with the sea are
pointed out as the whilom grotto of the Sibyl. The inhabitants of
Cumæ, which was founded by a colony from Chalcis, and the ruins of
which still exist on the Mediterranean coast, to the east of Pozzuoli,
brought with them the myths of Hellas, and Grecian poetry, which took
possession of them, has kept their memory alive.

It is quite proper that this region of Tartarus should have its
contrast in Elysian {291} Fields, and this name has actually been
bestowed upon a portion of the peninsula of Baiæ, which formed the
chief attraction of the voluptuous Romans, and where Marius, Pompey,
Cæsar, Augustus, Tiberius, Claudius, Agrippina, Nero, and others
had their palaces. Many a fearful tragedy has been enacted in these
sumptuous buildings. But hardly a trace of them exists now; nature has
resumed possession of the country, and the hills of tufa and volcanoes
are the only curiosities of the peninsula. Cape Miseno is one of these
old volcanoes, and from its summit may be enjoyed one of the most
delightful prospects in the world. The whole of the Bay of Naples—“a
bit of heaven fallen upon our earth”—lies spread out beneath us, and
Ischia the joyous, formidable Capri, the promontory of Sorrento, Mount
Vesuvius, and the houses and villas of Naples fill up the space bounded
by the sea and the distant Apennines.

The island of Procida joins the Phlegræan Fields to the chain of island
volcanoes lying off the Bay of Gaeta. Ischia is the most important of
these, and its volcano, the Epomeo (2,520 feet), almost rivals Mount
Vesuvius in height. One of its most formidable eruptions occurred in
1302, at a time when Mount Vesuvius was quiescent, but after the latter
resumed its activity Ischia remained in repose. Similarly, when the
Monte Nuovo was ejected from the earth, the huge volcano went to sleep
for no less a period than one hundred and thirty years. Ischia has
known no eruption for five centuries and a half, and the gases escaping
from its thirty or forty hot springs are now the only signs of volcanic

Ischia has certainly been upheaved during a comparatively recent epoch,
for its trachytic lavas rest in many places upon clays and marls
containing marine shells of living Mediterranean species. Some of these
have been found at a height of nearly 2,000 feet. At the present time
the tufa rocks of Ischia, and of the other volcanic islands to the
west of it, are being washed away by the sea. Ventotene, the ancient
Pandataria, to which the Roman princesses were exiled, is hardly more
now than a heap of scoriæ. Ponza, likewise a place of exile of the
Romans, has been separated by the erosive action of the sea into a
number of smaller islands. Its lavas overlie Jurassic rocks, similar in
all respects to those of Monte Circello on the coast nearest to it.

Mount Vesuvius (4,100 feet), the pride and dread of the Neapolitans,
was likewise an island during prehistoric times. The marine shells
found in the tufa of Monte Somma prove this, and on the east the
volcano is still surrounded by plains but little elevated above the
sea. Formerly the mountain was covered with verdure to its very summit,
but the explosion of A.D. 79 shattered its cone, and the ashes thrown
up into the air shrouded the whole of the country in darkness. Even at
Rome the sun was hidden, and an age of darkness was believed to have
set in. When at length the light reappeared, the face of the country
was found to have undergone a marvellous change. The mountain had lost
its shape, the fertile fields were hidden by masses of débris, and
entire towns had been buried beneath ashes.

Since that terrible event Mount Vesuvius has vomited lavas and ashes on
many occasions. No periodicity has been traced in these outbursts, and
the intervals {292} of repose were generally of sufficient duration to
enable vegetation to resume its sway. But these eruptions have become
more frequent since the seventeenth century, and hardly a decade passes
by without one or more of them. Each of them modifies the contours of
the mountain, whose great central vent has undergone many changes. The
crescent-shaped mass of débris which surrounds the old crater, known
as the Atrio del Cavallo, was undoubtedly of loftier height previously
to the great outburst of 79 than it is now. The vicinity of Naples has
facilitated a study of the phenomena attending volcanic eruptions, and
an observatory, permanently occupied, has been built close to the cone
of eruption.

[Illustration: Fig. 107.—ERUPTION OF MOUNT VESUVIUS, APRIL 26TH, 1872.]

The neighbourhood of Mount Vesuvius, like that of all other volcanoes,
abounds in hot and gas springs, but there are no subsidiary craters.
The nearest volcano is Monte Vultur (4,356 feet), a regular cone on the
eastern slope of the peninsula. Its dimensions are larger than those
of Vesuvius, but no eruptions are on record, though a slight escape of
carbonic acid is still going on from the two lakes which occupy the
bottom of its vast crater. On a line connecting Ischia, Vesuvius, and
Monte Vultur, and about half-way between the two latter, we meet with
the most abundant carbonic acid spring of Italy. The gas escapes with
a hissing noise from the pond of Ansanto, and the ground around the
spring is covered with the remains of insects, killed in myriads on
coming within the influence of the poisonous air. Near it the Romans
erected a temple in honour of Juno the Mephitic.

The disasters resulting from volcanic eruptions are great, no doubt,
but they {293} are exceeded by those caused by earthquakes. Some of
these are unquestionably caused by a subterranean displacement of lava,
and thus, when Vesuvius begins to stir, Torre del Greco and other
towns at its foot incur the risk of being buried beneath ashes or
destroyed by earthquakes. But the Basilicata and Calabria—that is to
say, the two provinces lying between the volcanic foci of Vesuvius and
Etna—have many times been shaken by earthquakes whose origin cannot be
traced to volcanic agencies. Out of a thousand earthquakes recorded in
Southern Italy during the last three centuries, nearly all occurred in
the provinces named, and they were occasionally attended by the most
disastrous results. The earthquake of 1857 cost the lives of 10,000
persons at Potenza and its vicinity, but the most disastrous of these
events happened in 1785 in Southern Calabria. The first shock, which
proceeded from a focus beneath the town of Oppido, in the Aspromonte
Mountains, only lasted a hundred seconds, but within that short space
of time 109 towns and villages were overthrown, and 32,000 of their
inhabitants buried beneath their ruins. Crevasses opened in the ground;
rivers were swallowed up, to reappear again lower down as lakes;
liquid clay flowed down the hill-slopes like lava, converting fertile
fields into unproductive wastes. The commotion of the sea added to
these horrors. Many of the inhabitants of Scilla, afraid to remain on
the quaking land, fled to their boats, when an enormous mass of rock
detached itself from a neighbouring mountain, and, tumbling into the
sea, produced a wave which upset the boats and cast their fragments
upon the shore. Want of food brought on famine, and typhus, as usual,
came in its train.

We are not yet able to predict earthquakes, and can only provide
against them by a suitable construction of our dwellings. There exists,
however, another cause of misery and depopulation which the Neapolitans
might successfully combat, as was done by their ancestors. In the time
of the Greeks the swamps along the coast were certainly less extensive
than they are now. War, and a return towards barbarism, have caused the
rivers to be neglected, and to produce a deterioration in the climate.
Baia, a place once famous on account of its healthiness, has become the
home of malaria. Sybaris, the town of luxury and pleasure, has been
supplanted by a fever-plain “which eats more men than it is able to
nourish.” These paludial miasmata, poverty, and ignorance decimate the
population of La Puglia, Basilicata, and Calabria. Even certain Asiatic
diseases, such as elephantiasis and leprosy, ravage the country, which,
from its rare fertility and fine climate, ought to be in the enjoyment
of the greatest prosperity.

Continental Sicily is indeed a favoured region, and its eastern slopes
more especially might be converted into one huge garden, for the
rainfall there is abundant. Naples enjoys a semi-tropical climate, and
its winter temperature is hardly inferior to the annual mean of London.
Snow very rarely falls, and only remains on the tops of the hills
for a few weeks.[101] The vegetation along the coast is of tropical
luxuriance. Oranges and lemons bear excellent fruit; date-palms uplift
their fan-shaped leaves, and sometimes bear fruit; the American agave
{294} stretches forth its candelabra-like branches; sugar-cane,
cotton, and other industrial plants, which elsewhere in Europe are
scarcely ever met with outside hothouses, grow in the fields. In the
forests of Calabria the olive-tree affords as much shade as does the
beech with us. Even the bare rocks on the coast yield excellent grapes
and garden fruits. Naples, Sicily, Andalusia, and certain districts of
Greece and Asia Minor realise our beau idéal of the sub-tropical zone,
and only the heaths on the Adriatic slope and the upper valleys of the
Apennines remind us that we are still in Central Europe.

This delightful country is inhabited by a people having the most
diverse origin. It is now 2,300 years since the Samnites occupied the
whole of it from sea to sea. They were more numerous than the Romans,
and might have conquered the whole of Italy had there been more
cohesion amongst them, and some of that talent for organization which
constituted the strength of their adversaries. But they were split into
five tribes, each speaking a different dialect; and whilst the Samnites
of the hills quarrelled with their kinsmen in the plains, the latter
were at enmity with the Hellenized Samnites who lived near the Greek
towns on the coast.

The whole of the coast of Southern Italy, from Cumæ—founded more than
a thousand years before our era—to Sipuntum, of which some ruins
remain near the modern Manfredonia, was dotted with Greek colonies.
In these districts of Southern Italy the bulk of the population is
of very different origin from that of other parts of the peninsula.
To the north of Monte Gargano, Celtic, Etruscan, and Latin elements
preponderate, whilst Hellenes, Pelasgians, and kindred races dominate
in the south. Not only did civilised Greeks found their colonies there,
but the aboriginal population, the Iapygians, spoke a dialect akin to
the Hellenic, and Mommsen may be right when he conjectures that these
Iapygians were of the same origin as the modern Albanians.

At a subsequent date these southern Italians had to bow down before
the Romans, who founded military colonies amongst them, but never
succeeded in completely Latinising them. When the Roman Empire fell to
pieces the Cæsars of Byzantium still maintained themselves for a long
time in Southern Italy, and the Greek language again preponderated,
but gradually Romance dialects gained the upper hand. The inhabitants
returned to a state of barbarism, but they retained to a great extent
their language and customs, and even now there are districts in the
south which are Italian in appearance rather than in reality, and in
eight villages of the Terra d’Otranto the Hellenic dialect of the
Peloponnesus is still spoken. Towns like Naples, Nicastro, Taranto,
Gallipoli, Monopoli, and others, whilst preserving their sonorous Greek
names, have also retained many features which recall the times of Magna

Reggio—that is, the “city of the strait”—appears to have retained the
use of Greek much longer than any other town, and its patricians,
who boasted of being pure Ionians, still spoke the language of their
ancestors towards the close of the thirteenth century. In several
remote towns of the interior Greek was formerly in common use. The old
popular songs of Bova, a small town near the southern {295} extremity
of Italy, are in an Ionian dialect more like the language of Xenophon
than is modern Greek. Down to a very recent date the peasants near
Roccaforte del Greco, Condofuri, and Cardeto spoke Greek, and when
they appeared before a magistrate they required an interpreter. At the
present day all young people speak Italian; the old language has been
forgotten, but the Greek type remains. The men and women of Cardeto
are famous for their beauty, more especially the latter. “They are
Minervas,” we are told by a local historian. Their principal livelihood
consists in acting as wet nurses to the children of the citizens of
Reggio. The women of Bagnara, between Scilla and Palmi, are likewise of
wondrous beauty, but their features are stern, betraying Arab blood,
and they are destitute of the noble placidity of the Greek.

It is said that the women of the Hellenic villages of Calabria are
still in the habit of executing a sacred dance, which lasts for hours,
and resembles the representations we meet with on ancient vases,
only they dance before the church instead of the temple, and their
ceremonies are blessed by Christian priests. Funerals are accompanied
by weeping women, who collect their tears in lachrymatories. Elsewhere,
as in the environs of Tarento, the children consecrate the hair of
their head to the manes of their ancestors. Old morals, no less than
old customs, have been preserved. Woman is still looked upon as an
inferior being, and even at Reggio the wives of citizens or noblemen
who respect ancient tradition confine themselves to the gynæceum. They
do not visit the theatre, go out but rarely, and when they walk abroad
are attended by barefooted servants, and not by their husbands.

In addition to Samnites, Iapygians, and Greeks, who form the bulk
of the population of Southern Italy, we meet with Etruscans in the
Campania; Saracens in the peninsula of Gargano, in the Campania,
the marina of Reggio, Bagnara, and other coast towns; Lombards in
Benevento, who retained their language down to the eleventh century;
Normans, from whom the shepherds on the hills are supposed to be
descended; and Spaniards in several coast towns, especially at
Barletta, in Apulia. The Albanians have probably furnished the largest
contingent of all the strangers now domiciled in Southern Italy. They
are numerous on the whole of the eastern slope of the peninsula, from
the promontory of Gargano to the southernmost point of Calabria.
One of their clans came to Italy in 1440, but the bulk of them only
arrived during the second half of the fifteenth century, after the
heroic resistance made by Scanderbeg had been overcome by the Turks.
The conquered Skipetars were then compelled to expatriate themselves
in order to escape the yoke of the Turks, and they were received with
open arms by the Kings of Naples, who granted them several deserted
villages, which are now amongst the most flourishing of Southern Italy.
The descendants of these Skipetars, who are principally domiciled in
the Basilicata and Calabria, rank among the most useful citizens of
the country. They take the lead in the intellectual regeneration of
the old kingdom of Naples, and were the first to join the liberating
army of Garibaldi. Many have become Italianised, but there are still
over 80,000 who have neither forgotten their origin nor their language.

The Neapolitans are undoubtedly one of the finest races of Europe.
The Calabrians, the mountaineers of Molise, and the peasants of the
Basilicata are so well proportioned, erect, supple of limb, and agile,
that their low stature, as compared with the races of the North, can
hardly be a subject of reproach; and the nobility and expression of
the faces of Neapolitan women fully compensate for the irregularity we
frequently meet with. The faces of the children, with their large black
eyes and well-formed lips, beam with intelligence, but the wretched
existence to which too many of them are condemned soon degrades their
physiognomy. Supremely ignorant, the Neapolitan is, nevertheless,
most admirably gifted by nature. The country which has produced so
many great men since the days of Pythagoras is in nowise inferior to
any other; its philosophers, historians, and lawyers have exercised a
powerful influence upon the march of human thought; and the number of
great musicians which it has produced is proportionately large.

Still, in many respects, the inhabitants of Southern Italy hold the
lowest rank amongst the nations of Europe. Ever since the annihilation
of the Greek republican cities the country has been subjected to
foreign masters, who have either devastated it or systematically
oppressed its inhabitants. With the exception of Amalfi, no other town
was granted the privilege of governing itself for any length of time.
The very position of the country exposed it to dangers. Placed in the
centre of the Mediterranean, it was on the high-road of every pirate
or invader, whether Saracen or Norman, Spaniard or Frenchman, and the
absence of any natural cohesion between its various districts prevented
its population from organizing a united resistance against the attacks
of foreign invaders. Southern Italy has not the river basins of
Lombardy, Tuscany, Umbria, or Rome; there exists no centre of gravity,
so to say, and the country is split up into separate sections having
nothing in common.

The government under which the Neapolitans lived until quite recently
was most humiliating. “I do not require my people to think,” said King
Ferdinand II. of Naples. Ideas which did not commend themselves to
the authorities were punished as crimes, and only mendicity and moral
depravity were allowed to flourish. Science was compelled to live in
retirement; history to seek a refuge in the catacombs of archæology;
and literature was corrupt or frivolous. Of the Neapolitans who did
not expatriate themselves only a very small number became eminent.
Schools were hardly known outside the large towns, and where they
did exist they were placed under the supervision of the police. Men
able to read and write were looked at askance, and, to escape being
accused of belonging to some secret society, they were compelled to
turn hypocrites. Old superstitions exist in full force, and the heathen
hallucinations of Greeks and Iapygians still survive. The idolatrous
Neapolitan casts himself down before the statue of St. Januarius, but
heaps imprecations upon the head of his saint if his miraculous blood
does not quickly liquefy. Similar superstitions exist in nearly every
town of Naples. Every one of them has its patron saint or deity, who,
if he should fail to protect his people, is treated as a common enemy.
As recently as 1858 the villagers of Calabria, irritated by a drought,
put their venerated saints into prison; and Barletta, {297} about the
same period, had the melancholy honour of being the last town in Europe
in which Protestants were burned alive. Such is the fanaticism still
met with in the second half of the nineteenth century ! [102]

[Illustration: Fig. 108.—EDUCATIONAL MAP OF ITALY.]


One of the great superstitions of the Neapolitans refers to the
“evil eye.” The unfortunate being who happens to have a nose like a
battle-axe and large round eyes is looked upon as _jettatore_, and is
avoided as a fatal being. If by any evil chance his glance happens
to fall upon any unfortunate person, it is considered necessary to
counteract it by the influence of an amulet resembling the _fascinum_
of the ancients, or by some other means no less potent. Coral amulets
are looked upon as most efficient, and many who pretend not to believe
in their virtues are the first to make use of them. The peasants of
Calabria wear an image of their patron saint upon the chest, and shield
their cattle and houses by means of the images of saints or household
gods. At Reggio a cactus may be seen near the door or on the balcony of
every house, which has been placed there to keep off evil influences,
and is universally known as _l’albero del mal’ occhio_ (the tree of the
evil eye).

Next to superstition, the great scourge of Southern Italy is
brigandage. The very name of Calabria conjures up in our imagination
picturesque brigands armed with carbines. Unfortunately this Calabrian
brigand is no myth, invented to serve the purposes of the stage. He
really exists, and neither the severity of the laws put in motion
against him nor political changes have brought about his extermination.
On many occasions, after a successful hunt for brigands had been
carried on, the authorities felicitated themselves upon having rid the
country of this scourge, but it regularly revived.

In Sardinia and Corsica the peasant takes up arms from a desire for
vengeance, but in Calabria from poverty. Feudalism, though abolished in
name, still flourishes in that country. Nearly the whole of the soil
belongs to a few great landowners, and the peasant, or _cafore_, is
condemned to a life of ill-remunerated toil. In years of plenty, when
the rye, chestnuts, and wine suffice for the wants of his family, he
works without grumbling, but in years of dearth brigandage flourishes.
The brigand, or _gualano_, looks upon the feudal lord as the common
enemy, steals his cattle, sets fire to his house, and even takes him
prisoner, releasing him only on payment of a heavy ransom. Some of
these bandits become veritable wild beasts, thirsting after blood;
but, as long as they confine themselves to avenging wrongs, they
may count upon the complicity of all other peasants. The herdsmen
of the mountains supply them with milk and food, furnish them with
information, and mislead the carabiniers sent in pursuit of them.
All the poor are leagued in their favour, and refuse to bear witness
against them. Moreover, most of these Neapolitan bandits, conscientious
in their own way, are extremely pious. They swear by the Virgin or
some patron saint, to whom they promise a portion of their booty, and
religiously place the share promised upon the altar. Not content with
wearing amulets all over the body to turn aside bullets, they are
said sometimes to place a consecrated wafer in an incision they make
in their hand, in the belief that this will render deadly their own

The fearful poverty of the South Italian peasantry has led to another
practice, even worse than brigandage. Foreign speculators, Christians
as well as Jews, travel the country, and particularly the Basilicata,
in order to purchase children, whom {299} their poverty-stricken
parents are ready to part with for a trifle. The more intelligent and
prettier the child, the greater the likelihood of its passing into the
hands of these dealers in human flesh. The latter are threatened with
the penalties of the law, but custom and ignoble accomplices enable
them to evade them, and to carry their living merchandise to France,
England, Germany, and even America, where the children are converted
into acrobats, street musicians, or simple mendicants. The chances of
this shameful commerce have been carefully calculated, and the losses
arising from deaths and the cost of travelling are more than covered by
the earnings of the children. Viggiano, a small town of the Basilicata,
is more especially haunted by these traffickers, for its inhabitants
possess a natural gift for music.

Voluntary emigration is on the increase, and if it were not for the
obstructions placed in the way of young men liable to the conscription,
certain districts would become rapidly depopulated in favour of South
America. Only the poorest peasants remain behind. This emigration
influences in a large measure the customs of the country, and,
conjointly with railways and factories, will no doubt bring about
an assimilation of Southern Italy to the rest of the peninsula.
Brigandage and the traffic in children will doubtless disappear, but
the proletarianism of manufacturing towns is likely to be substituted
for them.

For the present Naples is almost exclusively an agricultural country.
The tavolieri of Puglia, and the hills which command them, remain
for the most part a pastoral country, but the greater portion of the
productive area of Naples is under cultivation. As in the time of the
Romans, cereals, with oil and wine, form the principal produce; but, in
addition to these, tobacco, cotton, madder, and several other plants
used in manufactures, are grown. With some care these products might
attain a rare degree of excellence. Even now the oil of the Puglia
competes successfully with that of Nice, and the wines grown on the
scoriæ of Mount Vesuvius enjoy their ancient celebrity, the Falernian
of Horace, grown in the Phlegræan Fields, disputing the pre-eminence
with the Lachrymæ Christi of Vesuvius and the white wine of Capri.

The agricultural products of Naples are almost exclusively derived from
the coast region, and commerce is principally carried on in coasting
vessels. The interior is sterile to a great extent, and there are no
metalliferous veins to attract population.

Southern Italy has no natural centre, and, as its life has at all times
been eccentric and maritime, it is but natural that all the large
towns should have sprung up on the coast. Two thousand years ago, when
Greece was a civilised country and Western Europe sunk in barbarism,
the most important towns lay on the Ionian Sea facing the east. But,
when Rome became the mistress of the world, Magna Græcia was forced to
face about, and Naples became the successor of Sybaris and Tarentum.
This position of vantage it has retained even to the present day,
when Western Europe has become the focus of civilisation. The wave of
history has passed over Tarentum and Sybaris, and whilst the fine port
of the former is now deserted, the latter, at one time the largest city
of all Italy, has entirely disappeared. {300}

Naples, the “new town” of the Cumæans, has for centuries been the most
populous town of Italy, and even now the number of its inhabitants is
double that of Rome. In the days of Strabo Naples was a large town.
Greeks who had made money by teaching or otherwise, and who desired to
end their days in peaceful repose, used to retire to that beautiful
town, where Greek manners predominated, and the climate resembled
that of their native country. Many Romans followed their example, and
Naples, together with the numerous smaller towns dotting the shores
of its magnificent bay, thus became a place of repose and pleasure.
At the present day it attracts men of leisure from every part of the
world, who revel in its beauties and enjoy the noisy gaiety of its
inhabitants—“masters in the art of shouting,” as Alfieri called them.
The prospect from the heights of Capodimonte and the other hills
surrounding the immense city is full of beauty: promontories jut out
into the blue waters, islands of the most varied colours are scattered
over the bay, shining towns stretch along the foot of verdant hills,
and vessels ride upon the waves. Looking inland, we behold the grey
summit of Vesuvius, which, lurid at night, and always threatening,
imparts a modicum of danger to the voluptuous picture.

The Neapolitans are indeed a happy people, if such a term may be
applied to any fraction of mankind. They know how to enjoy the gifts
of nature, and are content, if need be, with very little. Naturally
intelligent, they are equal to any enterprise; but, as they hate work,
they soon give up what they have begun, and make short of their want
of success. Travellers were formerly fond of describing that curious
type, the _lazzarone_, the idle man of pleasure, who, enveloped in a
rag, slept on the beach or in the porch of a church, and disdained
to work after he had earned the pittance sufficing for his simple
wants. There still remain a few representatives of this type, but the
material exigencies of our time have absorbed the majority of these
idle tatterdemalions, and converted them into labourers. Others have
succumbed to disease, for they knew nothing of sanitary laws, and
dwelt in damp cellars, or _bassi_, beneath the palaces of the wealthy.
Naples contributes her fair share towards the industrial products of
the peninsula. The principal articles manufactured are macaroni and
other farinaceous pastes, cloth, silks known as _gros de Naples_,
glass, china, musical instruments, artificial flowers, ornaments,
and everything entering into the daily consumption of a large city.
Its workers in coral are famous for their skill; and Sorrento, near
Naples, supplies the much-prized workboxes, jewel cases, and other
articles carved in palm-wood. The ship-yards of Castellamare di Stabia
are more busy than any others in Italy, those of Genoa and Spezia
alone excepted. The sailors of the bay are equal to the Ligurians
in seamanship, and surpass them as fishermen. The inhabitants of
Torre del Greco, who engage in coral-fishing, are well acquainted
with the submarine topography of the coasts of Sardinia, Sicily, and
Barbary, and the least movement of the air or water reveals phenomena
to them which remain hidden to all other eyes. They own about 400
fishing-boats, which depart in a body, and their return after a
successful season presents a spectacle which even Italy but rarely

[Illustration: NAPLES.]


Naples, with its magnificent bay, and the fertile tracts of the
Campania and the Terra di Lavoro near it, could hardly fail to become
a great commercial city, and if it holds an inferior rank in that
respect to Genoa, this is owing to its not being placed upon a great
high-road of international commerce. The country depending upon it is
of comparatively small extent; only a single line of rails crosses
the Apennines; and travellers who follow the mountain road to Taranto
are not, even now, quite safe from brigands. The foreign commerce of
the city is carried on principally with England and France, and the
coasting trade is comparatively of great importance.[104]

[Illustration: Fig. 109.—POMPEII.

From the Neapolitan Staff Map. Scale 1 : 35,000.]

The university is one of the glories of Naples. Founded in the first
half of {302} the thirteenth century, it is one of the oldest of
Italy, but has had its periods of disgraceful decay. Up to a recent
period, when archæology and numismatics were the only sciences not
suspected of revolutionary tendencies, it was a place of intellectual
corruption, but its regeneration has been brought about with marvellous
rapidity. The young Neapolitans now study science with a zest sharpened
by abstinence; and, if the rather gushing eloquence of the South could
be trusted, Naples has become the greatest seat of learning in the
world. Thus much is certain, that the 2,000 students of the university
will give a great impulse to the “march of ideas.”

Naples possesses an admirable museum of antiquities, open to all the
world, and, more precious still, the ruins of Pozzuoli, Baiæ, and Cumæ,
and catacombs no less interesting than are those of Rome; and, above
everything else, the Roman city of Pompeii, which has been excavated
from the ashes of Mount Vesuvius, beneath which it lay buried for
seventeen centuries. It is not merely a City of the Dead, with its
streets and tombs, temples, markets, and amphitheatres, which these
excavations have restored to us, but they have likewise given us an
insight into the life of a provincial Roman city. When we gaze upon
inscriptions on walls and waxed tablets, at work interrupted, at
mummified corpses in the attitude of flight, we almost feel as if we
had been present at the catastrophe which overwhelmed the town. No
other buried city ever presented us with so striking a contrast between
the tumult of life and the stillness of death. In spite of a hundred
years of excavation, only one-half of the city has yet been revealed
to us. Herculaneum is buried beneath a layer of lava sixty feet in
thickness, upon which the houses of Resina, Portici, and other suburbs
of Naples have been built, and but very few of its mysteries have
been revealed to us. Of Stabiæ, which lies hidden beneath the town of
Castellamare, close to the beach, we know hardly anything.


Numerous populous towns cluster around Naples, rivalling it in beauty.
To the south, on the shores of the bay, are Portici, Resina, Torre del
Greco, Torre dell’ Annunziata, Castellamare, and sweet Sorrento, with
its delicious climate, its delightful villas and olive groves. Off Cape
Campanella, facing the volcanic islands of Ischia and Procida, at the
other extremity of the bay, rise the bold cliffs of Capri, full of the
memories of hideous Tiberius, the _Timberio_ of the natives. Another
bay opens to the south of that barren mass of limestone, its entrance
guarded by the islets of the Sirens, who sought in vain to cast their
spell over sage Ulysses. This bay is hardly inferior in beauty to that
of Naples; its shores are equally fertile, but neither of the three
cities, Pæstum, Amalfi, and Salerno, which successively gave a name
to it, has retained its importance for any length of time. Amalfi,
the powerful commercial republic of the Middle Ages, whose code was
accepted by all maritime nations, is almost deserted now, and only
shelters a few fishing-smacks within its rocky creek. In a delightful
valley near it stands the old Moorish city of Ravello, almost as rich
as Palermo in architectural monuments. Salerno is much more favourably
situated than Amalfi, for the road of the Campania debouches upon it.
The town is said to have been founded by a son of Noah, and when the
Normans occupied the country in the eleventh century {303} they made
it their capital. But its ancient splendours have gone. Its university,
at one time the representative of Arab science, and the most famous
in Europe for its medical faculty, has made no sign for ages, and
Salerno has now no claim whatever to the title of “Hippocratic town.”
It aspires, however, to rise into importance through commerce and
industry, and a breakwater and piers might convert it into a formidable
rival of Naples. The inhabitants are fond of repeating a local proverb―

 “When Salerno a port doth obtain
  That of Naples will be inane.”

Pæstum, or Posidonia, the ancient mistress of the bay, stood to the
south-east of Salerno. It was founded by the Sybarites on the ruins
of a more ancient town of the Tyrrhenians. The Roman poets sang this
“city of roses” on account of its cool springs, shady walks, and mild
climate. It was destroyed by the Saracens in 915, and its ruins, though
amongst the most interesting of all Italy, dating as they do from a
period anterior to that of Rome, were known only to shepherds and
brigands up to the middle of last century. Its three temples, the most
important of which was dedicated to Neptune, or Poseidon, are amongst
the most imposing of continental Italy, their effect being heightened
by the solitude which surrounds them and the waves which wash their
foundations. The traveller, however, cannot afford to remain for any
length of time within their vicinity, for the site of the ruins is
surrounded by marshes, the exhalations from which sadly interfere with
the excavations going on.

Numerous towns and villages are dotted over the champaign country
separating Mount Vesuvius from the foot-hills of the Apennines.
Starting from Vietri, a suburb of Salerno on the banks of a narrow
ravine, we ascend to Cara, a favourite summer retreat, abounding in
shade-trees. Near it is a monastery famous amongst antiquaries on
account of its ancient parchments and diplomas. On descending to the
plain of the Sarno we pass Nocera, a country residence of the ancient
Romans; Pagani, still situated within the region of woods; Angri, which
manufactures yarns from cotton grown in its environs; and Scafati, more
industrious still. Near it may be seen the ruins of Pompeii, the town
of Torre dell’ Annunziata, and, on the southern slope of Vesuvius, the
houses of Bosco Tre Case and Bosco Reale. There are savants who believe
they can trace in the veins of the inhabitants of Nocera and the
neighbourhood the Arab and Berber blood of the 20,000 Saracens who were
settled here by the Emperor Frederick II.

The valley of the Sarno, above Nocera, is densely peopled as far as the
foot of the Apennines, and another chain of villages extends northwards
to the town of Avellino, the fields of which are enclosed by hedges
of filbert-trees (_avellana_ in Italian), and which is important on
account of its intermediary position between the mountains and the
plain. The population, however, is densest in that portion of the
Campania known as the “Happy” (Felice), which extends between Vesuvius
and Monte Vergine. Sarno, named after the river, though far away from
it, abounds in cereals, vines, fruit, and vegetables, and manufactures
cotton stuffs and raw silk. Palma stands in the midst of fertile
fields; Ottajano, the {304} town of Octavius, on the lower slope of
the Somma of Vesuvius, is famous for its wines; Nola, where Augustus
died, and which gave birth to Giordano Bruno, has fertile fields, but
is better known through the fine Greek vases found in its ruins, and
on account of the remains of an amphitheatre built of marble, and of
greater size than that of Capua.

Famous Capua, the ancient metropolis of the Campania, at one time the
rival of Rome, with half a million inhabitants dwelling within its
walls, has been completely stripped of its former splendours. Its name
is applied now to a sullen fortress on the Volturno, the _Casilinum_
of the Romans; and Santa Maria, which is the representative of the
veritable Capua, offers no “delights” other than those of a large
village. In its environs, however, may still be seen the ruins of a
fine amphitheatre, a triumphal arch, and other remains of a vast city.
Caserta, the “town of pleasure” of the modern Campania, lies farther to
the south. It boasts of a large palace, shady parks, and vast gardens
ornamented with statues and fountains, and was the Versailles of the
Neapolitan Bourbons. An aqueduct supplies it with water from a distance
of twenty-five miles, and crosses the valley near Maddaloni by means
of a magnificent bridge, built about the middle of last century by
Vanvitelli, and one of the masterpieces of modern architecture.

The great Roman highway bifurcates to the north of Capua and the
Volturno. One branch turns towards the coast; the other, along which a
railway has been built, skirts the volcano of Rocca Monfina, follows
the valley of the Garigliano and of its tributary the Sacco as far
as the eastern foot of the volcano of Latium, and then descends into
the Campagna of Rome. Historically the coast road is the more famous
of the two. It first passes close to Sessa, the ancient city of the
Aurunci, whose acropolis stood in the crater of the Rocca Monfina. It
then turns towards the coast, and having crossed the Garigliano near
its mouth, where it is bounded by insalubrious marshes, it penetrates
the defile of Mola di Gaeta, officially called Formia, in memory of
ancient Formiæ, where Cicero lived and died. Travellers coming from
Rome first look down from this spot upon the beauties of the Campania,
and see stretched out before them the Bay of Gaeta, with the volcanic
islands of Ponza, Ventotene, and Ischia in the distance. Gaeta, a
fortress which guards this gateway to the Neapolitan paradise, is built
on the summit of Monte Orlando, occupying a small peninsula attached to
the mainland by an isthmus only 300 yards in width. The port of Gaeta
is well sheltered against westerly and northerly winds, and is much
frequented by coasting vessels and fishing-smacks; but Gaeta itself is
better known as a fortress. It was here the kingdom of the Two Sicilies
was put an end to by the surrender of Francis II. in 1861.

[Illustration: AMALFI.]

Towns of some importance are likewise met with on following the eastern
road from Naples to Rome. The most considerable amongst them is San
Germano, the name of which has recently been changed into Casino,
in honour of the famous monastery of that name occupying a terrace
to the west of the town, and affording a glorious prospect of hills
and valleys. This monastery was founded in the sixth century by St.
Benedict, or Bennet, and its rules have been accepted throughout {305}
the Eastern Church. No body of men has ever exercised a greater
influence upon the history of Catholicism than these Benedictine
monks of Monte Casino. At the height of its power the order held vast
estates throughout Italy, and many popes and thousands of Church
dignitaries have been furnished from its ranks. The library of Monte
Casino is one of the most valuable in Europe, and the services formerly
rendered to science by the Benedictines have saved this monastery from
disestablishment, a favour likewise extended to the monastery of La
Cava and the Certosa of Pavia.

[Illustration: Fig. 110.—THE MARSHES OF SALPI.

Scale 1 : 225,000.]

There are but few towns of importance in the mountain region of Naples.
Arpino, the ancient Arpinum, the birthplace of Cicero and Marius, with
cyclopean walls built by Saturn, is the most populous place in the
upper valley of the Liri, to the south of the mountains of Mantese.
Benevento occupies a central position on the Calore, the principal
tributary of the Volturno, and several roads diverge from it. The
ancient name of this place was _Maleventum_, but in spite of its change
of name the town has frequently suffered from sieges and earthquakes,
and of all the great edifices of its past there now remains only a fine
triumphal arch erected in honour of Trajan. The city walls, nearly four
miles in circumference, have for the most part been constructed from
the fragments of ancient monuments.

Ariano, to the east of Benevento, and also in the basin of the
Volturno, is built upon three hills commanding a magnificent prospect,
extending from the {306} often snow-clad Matese Mountains to the cone
of the Vultur. It lies on the railroad connecting Naples with Foggia
and the Adriatic, and carries on a considerable trade. Campobasso, the
capital of Molise, is likewise an important commercial intermediary,
though still without a railway.

The commercial towns on the Adriatic slope of the Apennines are of
greater importance than those to the east. Foggia, on the Tavoglieri
di Puglia, upon which converge four railways and several high-roads,
is a great mart for provisions, and in importance and wealth, though
not in population, is the second city of Naples. Several smaller
towns surround it like satellites, such as San Severo, Cerignola,
and Lucera, which became wealthy in the thirteenth century, when the
Saracens, exiled from Sicily by Frederick II., settled here. Foggia,
however, and its sister cities, in spite of the proximity of the Bay
of Manfredonia, have no direct outlet to the sea, for the coast for a
distance of thirty miles, from Manfredonia to the mouth of the Otranto,
is fringed by insalubrious lagoons and marshes. The reclamation of
these is absolutely necessary to enable Southern Italy to develop its
great natural resources. The largest of these lagoons or marshes, that
of Salpi, has been reduced to the extent of one-half by the alluvium
conveyed into it by the rivers Carapella and Ofanto, but as long as the
new land remains uncultivated deadly miasmata will not cease. At the
eastern extremity of this marsh stood the ancient city of Salapia.

At the extremity of the peninsula of Gargano, to the north of these
marshes, are the harbours of Manfredonia and Vieste, very favourably
situated for sailing vessels compelled by stress of weather to put into
port. The first harbour to the south of the marshes is Barletta, near
which is the “Field of Blood,” recalling the battle of Cannæ. Barletta
exports cereals, wines, oil, and fruit, partly grown on the old feudal
estates near the inland towns of Andria, Corata, and Ruyo. The latter,
the ancient _Rubi_, has yielded a rich harvest of antiquities of every
kind. The other coast towns to the south-east of Barletta are—Trani,
which carried on a considerable Levant trade towards the close of
the Middle Ages; Bisceglia; Molfetta; Bari, the most populous town
on the Adriatic slope of Naples; and Monopoli, all of which are much
frequented by coasting vessels. Tasano, near Monopoli, occupies the
site of the ancient port of Gnatia, and, like Rubi, has well repaid the
search for archæological remains.

Brindisi, at the northern extremity of the peninsula of Otranto, in
the time of the Romans and during the Crusades, was one of the great
stations on the route from Western Europe to the East, and is likely
again to occupy that position. It lies at the very entrance to the
Adriatic. Its roadstead is excellent, and its harbour one of the best
on the Mediterranean. The entrance is narrow, and was formerly choked
up with the remains of wrecks and mud, but is now practicable for
steamers of the largest size. The two arms of the harbour bear some
resemblance to the antlers of a stag, and to this circumstance the
town is indebted for its name, which is of Messapian origin, and means
“antler-shaped.” Brindisi has recently become the European terminus
of the overland route to India, and many new buildings have risen
in honour of this event, which it {307} was expected would convert
the town into an emporium of Eastern trade. These expectations have
not been realised. Several thousand hurried travellers pass that way
every year, but Marseilles, Genoa, and Trieste have lost none of their
importance as commercial ports in consequence. Moreover, when the
Turkish railways are completed, the position now held by Brindisi will
most likely be transferred to Saloniki or Constantinople.[105]

[Illustration: Fig. 111.—THE HARBOUR OF BRINDISI IN 1871.

Scale 1 : 86,000.]

Taranto, on the gulf of the same name, is making an effort, like its
neighbour Brindisi, to revive its ancient commercial activity. Its
harbour, the _Piccolo Mare_, or “little sea,” is deep and perfectly
sheltered, and its roadstead, or _Mare Grande_, is fairly protected by
two outlying islands against the surge. As at Spezia, springs of fresh
water, known as Citro and Citrello, rise from the bottom of the harbour
as well as in the roadstead. The geographical position of Taranto
enables it successfully to compete with Bari and the other ports of the
Adriatic for the commerce of inland towns like Matera, Gravina, and
Altamura, and it appears to be destined to become the great emporium
for the Ionian trade. No other town of Italy offers equal facilities
for the construction of a port, but the two channels, one natural and
the other artificial, which join the two “seas” have become choked,
and only small craft are now able to reach the harbour. Modern Taranto
is a small town, with narrow streets, built to the east of the Greek
city of Tarentum, on the {308} limestone rock bounded by the two
channels. Its commerce has been slowly increasing since the opening of
the railway, its industry being limited to fishing, oyster-dredging,
and the manufacture of bay-salt; and the Tarantese enjoy the reputation
of being the most indolent people in Italy. The heaps of shells on
the beach no longer supply the purple for which the town was formerly
famous; but the inhabitants still make use of the byssus of a bivalve
in the manufacture of very strong gloves.

The only towns of any importance in the peninsula stretching
southwards from Brindisi and Taranto are Lecco and Gallipoli, the
former surrounded by cotton plantations, the latter—the Kallipolis,
or “beautiful city,” of the Greeks—picturesquely perched on an islet
attached by a bridge to the mainland. The surrounding country, owing to
the want of moisture, is comparatively barren.

[Illustration: Fig. 112.—THE HARBOUR OF TARANTO.

Scale 1 : 208,000.]

The western peninsula of Naples is far better irrigated than that of
Otranto, but this advantage is counterbalanced to a large extent by the
mountainous nature of the country, and by its frequent earthquakes.
Potenza, a town at the very neck of this peninsula, half-way between
the Gulf of Taranto and the Bay of Salerno, most happily situated as a
place of commerce, has repeatedly been destroyed by earthquakes, and
its inhabitants have only ventured to rebuild it in a temporary manner.

The famous old cities of Calabria, such as Metapontum and Heraclea,
have ceased to exist. Sybaris the powerful, with walls six miles in
circumference, and suburbs extending for eight miles along the Crati,
is now covered with alluvium and shrubs—“its very ruins have perished.”
The city of the Locri, to the south of Gerace, which existed until the
tenth century, when it was destroyed by the Saracens, has at least
retained ruins of its walls, temples, and other buildings. {309} The
only one of these old cities still in existence is Cotrone, the ancient
Crotona, the “gateway to the granary of Calabria.” In travelling along
the coasts of Greater Greece we feel astonished at the few ruins of
a past which exercised so powerful an influence upon the history of

The existing towns of Calabria cannot compare in importance with
those of a past age. Rossano, near the site of Sybaris, is the small
capital of a district, and is visited only by coasters. Cosenza, in the
beautiful valley of the Crati, at the foot of the wooded Sila, keeps
up its communications with Naples and Messina through the harbour of
Paola. Catanzaro exports its oil, silk, and fruit either by way of the
Bay of Squillace, on the shores of which Hannibal once pitched his
camp, or through Pizzo, a small port at the southern extremity of the
Bay of Santa Eufemia. Reggio, nestling in groves of lemon and orange
trees at the foot of the Aspromonte, is the most important town of
Calabria. It stands on the narrow strait separating the mainland from
the island of Sicily, and could not fail to absorb some of the commerce
passing through that central gateway of the Mediterranean. Messina and
Reggio mutually complement each other, and the prosperity of the one
must result in that of the sister city.[106]


The Trinacria of the ancients, the island with the “three
promontories,” is clearly a dependency of the Italian peninsula,
from which it is separated by a narrow arm of the sea. The Strait of
Messina, where narrowest, is not quite two miles in width. It can be
easily crossed in barges, and, with the resources at our command, a
bridge might easily be thrown across it, similar enterprises having
succeeded elsewhere. It can hardly be doubted that before the close
of this century either a tunnel or a bridge will join Sicily to the
mainland, and human industry will thus restore in some way the isthmus
which formerly joined the Cape of Faro to the Italian Aspromonte. We
know nothing about the period when this rupture took place, but to
judge from the ancient name of the strait—Heptastadion—it must have
been much narrower in former times.[107] {310}

[Illustration: Fig. 113.—THE STRAIT OF MESSINA.

Scale 1 : 156,000.]

From an historical point of view Sicily may still be looked upon as a
portion of the mainland, for the strait can be crossed almost as easily
as a wide river. On the other hand, it enjoys all the advantages of a
maritime position. Situate in the very centre of the Mediterranean,
between the Tyrrhenian and the eastern basin, it commands all the
commercial high-roads which lead from the Atlantic to the East. Its
excellent harbours invite navigators to stay on its coasts; its soil is
{311} exceedingly fertile; the most varied natural resources insure
the existence of its inhabitants; and a genial climate promotes the
development of life. Hardly a district of Europe appears to be in a
more favourable position for supporting a dense population in comfort.
Sicily, indeed, is more densely populated and wealthier than the
neighbouring island of Sardinia or either of the Neapolitan provinces,
the Campania alone excepted, and rivals in importance the provinces of
Northern Italy.[108]

Sicily, whenever it has been allowed to rejoice in the possession of
peace and freedom, has always recovered with wonderful rapidity; and it
would certainly now be one of the most prosperous countries if wars had
not so frequently devastated it, and the yoke of foreign oppressors had
not weighed so heavily upon it.

The triangular island of Sicily would possess great regularity of
structure if it were not for the bold mass of Mount Etna, which
rises above the shores of the Ionian Sea at the entrance of the
Strait of Messina. From its base to the summit of its crater, that
huge protuberance forms a region apart, differing from the rest of
Sicily not only geologically, but also with respect to its products,
cultivation, and inhabitants.

[Illustration: Fig. 114.—PROFILE OF MOUNT ETNA.]

Ancient mariners mostly looked upon the Sicilian volcano as the highest
mountain in the world; nor did they err much as respects the world
known to them, for only at the two extremities of the Mediterranean,
in Spain and Syria, do we meet with mountains exceeding this one
in height; and Mount Etna is not only remarkable from its isolated
position, but likewise by the beauty of its contours, the lurid sheen
of its incandescent lavas, and the column of smoke rising from its
summit. From whatever side we approach Sicily, its snowy head is seen
rising high above all the surrounding mountains. Its position in the
very centre of the Mediterranean contributed in no small measure to
secure to it a pre-eminence amongst mountains. It was looked upon as
the “pillar of the heavens,” and at a later epoch the Arabs only spoke
of it as _el Jebel_, “_the_ mountain,” which has been corrupted by the
people dwelling near it into “Mongibello.”

The mean slopes of Mount Etna, prolonged as they are by streams of lava
extending in every direction, are very gentle, and on looking at a
profile of this mountain it will hardly be believed that its aspect is
so majestic. It occupies, in fact, an area of no less than 460 square
miles, and its base has a development of about 80 miles. The whole of
this space is bounded by the sea, and by the valleys of the Alcantara
and Simeto. A saddle, only 2,820 feet in height, connects it in the
north-west with the mountain system of the remainder of Italy. Small
cones of eruption are met with beyond the mass of the volcano to the
north {312} of the Alcantara, and streams of lava having filled up the
ancient valley of the Simeto, that river was forced to excavate itself
another bed through rocks of basalt, and now descends to the sea in
rapids and cascades.

An enormous hollow, covering an area of ten square miles, and more than
3,000 feet in depth, occupies a portion of the western slope of the
volcano. This is the Val di Bove, a vast amphitheatre of explosion,
the bottom of which is dotted over with subsidiary craters, and which
rises in gigantic steps, over which, when the mountain is in a state of
eruption, pour fiery cascades of lava. Lyell has shown that this Val
di Bove is the ancient crater of Mount Etna, but that, at some period
not known to us, the existing terminal vent opened a couple of miles
farther west. The steep sides of the Val di Bove enable us to gain a
considerable insight into the history of the volcano, for the various
layers of lava may be studied there at leisure. The cliffs upon which
stands the town of Aci Reale afford a similar opportunity for embracing
at one glance a long period of its history. These cliffs, over 300
feet in height, consist of seven distinct layers of lava, successively
poured forth from the bowels of Mount Etna. Each layer consists nearly
throughout of a compact mass, affording no hold for the roots of
plants, but their surfaces have invariably been converted into tufa, or
even mould, owing to atmospheric agencies which operated for centuries
after each eruption. It has likewise been proved not only that these
cliffs increased in height in consequence of successive eruptions, but
that they were also repeatedly upheaved from below. Lines of erosion
resulting from the action of the waves can be distinctly traced at
various elevations above the present level of the Mediterranean. The
lavas, too, have undergone a change of structure since they were poured
forth, as is proved by beautiful caverns enclosed by prismatic columns
of basalt, and by the islet of the Cyclops, near Aci Trezza.

During the last two thousand years Mount Etna has had more than a
hundred eruptions, some of them continuing for a number of years.
Hitherto it has not been possible to trace any regularity in these
eruptions. They appear to occur at irregular intervals, and the
quantity of lava poured forth from the principal or any subsidiary
cone varies exceedingly. The most considerable stream of lava of which
we have any record was that which overwhelmed the city of Catania in
1669. It first converted the fields of Nicolosi into a fiery lake,
then enveloped a portion of the hill of Monpilieri, which for a time
arrested its progress, and finally divided into three separate streams,
the principal of which descended upon Catania. It swept away a part of
that town, filled up its port, and formed a promontory in its stead.
The quantity of lava poured forth on that occasion has been estimated
at 3,532 millions of cubic feet; and nearly 40 square miles of fertile
land, supporting a population of 20,000 souls, were converted into a
stony waste. The double cone of Monti Rossi, with its beautiful crater
now grown over with golden-flowered broom, was formed by the ashes
ejected during that great eruption. More than 700 subsidiary cones,
similar to the Monti Rossi, are scattered over the exterior slopes of
Mount Etna, and bear witness to as many eruptions. The most ancient
amongst them have been nearly obliterated in the {313} course of ages,
or buried beneath streams of lava, but the others still retain their
conical shape, and rise to a height of many hundred feet. Several
amongst them are now covered with forests, and the craters of others
have been converted into gardens—delightful cup-shaped hollows, where
villas shine like gems set in verdure.

[Illustration: Fig. 115.—THE LAVA STREAM OF CATANIA.

Scale 1 : 200,000.]

Most of these subsidiary cones lie at an elevation of between 3,300
and 6,500 feet above the sea, and it is there the internal forces make
themselves most strongly felt. As a rule the subterranean activity
is less violent near the summit, and during most of the eruptions
the great terminal crater merely serves as a vent, through which the
aqueous vapours and gases make their escape. Fumaroles surrounding it
convert the soil into a kind of pap, and the substances which escape
from them streak the scoriæ with brilliant colours—scarlet, yellow,
and emerald green. The internal heat makes itself felt on many parts
of the exterior slopes. It converts loose rocks into a compact mass,
far less difficult to climb than are the loose cinders of Mount
Vesuvius. Travellers ascending the mountain need fear nothing from
volcanic bombs. Showers of stone are occasionally ejected from the
principal vent, but this is quite an exceptional occurrence. If it were
not so, the small structure above the precipices of the Val di Bove,
which dates from the {314} time of the Romans, and is known as the
“Philosopher’s Tower,” would long ago have been buried beneath débris.
A meteorological observatory might therefore be established with safety
on the summit of this mountain, and no better station could be found
for giving warning of approaching storms.

[Illustration: Fig. 116.—SUBSIDIARY CONES OF MOUNT ETNA.]

The summit of Mount Etna, 10,866 feet in height, does not penetrate
the zone of perennial snow, and the heat emitted from the subterranean
focus soon melts the incipient glaciers which accumulate in hollows.
Nevertheless the upper half of the mountain is covered with a shroud of
white during a great part of the year. It might be imagined that the
snow and copious rains would give birth to numerous rivulets descending
from the slopes of the volcano; but the small stones and cinders which
cover the solid beds of lava promptly absorb all moisture, and springs
are met with only in a few favoured spots. They are abundant on the
lower slopes, or in the immediate vicinity of the sea. One of these
is the fountain of Acis, which issues from the chaos of rocks which
Polyphemus is said to have hurled at the ships of sage Ulysses. Another
gives birth to the river Amenano, which rises in the town of Catania,
and hastens in silvery cascades towards its port. When we look at these
clear springs in the midst of black sands and burnt rocks we are able
to comprehend the fancy of the ancient Greeks, who regarded them as
divine beings, in whose honour they struck medals and raised statues.

Though running streams are scarcely met with on the slopes of Mount
Etna, its cinders retain a sufficient quantity of moisture to support
a luxuriant vegetation. The mountain is clad with verdure except where
the surface of the lava is too compact to be penetrated by the roots of
plants. Only the highest regions, which are covered with snow during
the greater part of the year, are barren. It is {315} a remarkable
fact that the flora of the Alps should not be met with on Mount Etna,
although the temperature suits it exactly.

Formerly the volcano was surrounded by a belt of forests occupying the
zone between the cultivated lands and the region of snow and cinders.
Such is the case no longer. On the southern slope, which is that
usually ascended by tourists, there are no forests at all, and only
the trunk of some ancient oak is occasionally met with. On the other
slopes groves of trees are more frequent, particularly in the north,
where there remain a few lofty trees, which impart quite an alpine
character to the scenery. But the wood-cutters prosecute their work of
extermination without mercy, and it is to be feared that the time is
not very distant when even the last vestiges of the ancient forests
will have disappeared. The magnificent chestnuts on the western slopes,
amongst which could be admired until recently the “tree of the hundred
horses,” bear witness to the astonishing fertility of the lava. If the
cultivators of the soil only desired it, a few years would suffice to
restore to Mount Etna its ancient covering of foliage.

The cultivated zone occupying the lower slopes of the mountains
presents in many places the appearance of a beautiful garden. There are
groves of olive, orange, lemon, and other fruit trees, in the midst
of which rise clumps of palms, and villas, churches, and monasteries
peep out from this mass of verdure. The fertility of the soil is so
great that it supports a population three or four times more numerous
than that in any other part of Italy. More than 300,000 inhabitants
dwell on the slopes of a mountain which might be supposed to inspire
terror, and which actually bursts at intervals, burying fertile fields
beneath a fiery deluge. Town succeeds town along its base like pearls
in a necklace, and when a stream of lava effects a breach in this
chain of human habitations it is closed up again as soon as the lava
has had time to cool. From the rim of the crater the mountain climber
looks down with astonishment upon these human ant-hills. The concentric
zones of houses and verdure contrast curiously with the snows and ashes
occupying the centre of the picture, and with the barren limestone
rocks beyond the Simeto. And this is only a small portion of the vast
and marvellous prospect, embracing a radius of 124 miles. Well may the
beholder be enchanted by the unrivalled spectacle of three seas, of a
deeper blue than the skies, washing the shores of Sicily, of Calabria,
and of the Æolian Islands.

Mount Pelorus, which forms a continuation of the chain of the
Aspromonte of Calabria, is of very inferior height to Mount Etna, but
it had existed for ages when the space now occupied by the volcano was
only a bay of the sea. It was formerly believed that a crater existed
on the highest summit of Pelorus dedicated to Neptune, and now to the
“Mother of God,” or _Dinna Mare_ (3,600 feet), but such is not the
case. These mountains consist of primitive and transition rocks, with
beds of limestone and marble on their flanks. They first follow the
coast of the Ionian Sea, where they form numerous steep promontories,
and then, turning abruptly towards the west, run parallel with that of
the Æolian Sea. Their culminating point, near the centre, is known as
Madonia (6,336 feet), and the magnificent forests which still clothe
it impart to that part of the island {316} quite a northern aspect,
and we might almost fancy ourselves in the Apennines or Maritime Alps.
Limestone promontories of the most varied profile advance into the blue
waters of the sea, and render this coast one of the most beautiful of
the Mediterranean. We are seized with admiration when we behold the
enormous quadrangular block of Cefalù, the more undulating hill of
Termini, the vertical masses of Coltafano, and above all, near Palermo,
the natural fortress of Monte Pellegrino (1,970 feet), an almost
inaccessible rock, upon which Hamilcar Barca resisted for three years
the efforts of a Roman army to dislodge him. Monte San Giuliano (2,300
feet), an almost isolated limestone summit, terminates this chain in
the west. It is the Eryx of the ancients, who dedicated it to Venus.

The mountains which branch off from this main chain towards the south
gradually decrease in height as they approach the sea. The principal
slopes of the island descend towards the Ionian and Sicilian Seas,
and all its perennial rivers—the Platani, Salso, and Simeto—flow in
these directions. The rivers on the northern slope are mere _fiumare_,
formidable after heavy rains, but lost in beds of shingle during the
dry season. The lakes and swamps of the island are likewise confined to
the southern slope of the mountains. Amongst them are the _pantani_,
and the Lake, or _biviere_, of Lentini, which is the most extensive
sheet of water in Sicily; the Lake of Pergusa, or Enna, formerly
surrounded by flowery meadows in which Proserpine was seized by Pluto;
the _biviere_ of Terranova; and several marshy tracts, the remains of
ancient bays of the sea. This southern coast of the island contrasts
most unfavourably with the northern, for, in the place of picturesque
promontories of the most varied outline, we meet with a monotonous
sandy shore, devoid of all shade. Natural harbours are scarce there,
and during the winter storms vessels frequenting it are exposed to much

The southern slope of Sicily, to the south of the Madonia, consists
of tertiary and more recent rocks, abounding in fossil shells mostly
belonging to species still living in the neighbouring sea. In the hills
to the south of Catania these tertiary rocks alternate with strata of
volcanic origin, which are evidently derived from submarine eruptions.
This process is still going on between Girgenti and the island of
Pantellaria, where the submarine volcano of Giulia or Ferdinandea
occasionally rises above the surface of the sea. It was seen in 1801,
and thirty years later it had another eruption, resulting in the
formation of an island four miles in circumference, which was examined
by Jussieu and Constant Prévost. In 1863 it appeared for the third
time. But the waves of the sea have always washed away the ashes and
cinders ejected on these occasions, spreading them in regular layers
over the bottom of the sea, and thus producing an alternation of
strata similar to that observed at Catania. In 1840 the summit of this
submarine volcano was covered with only six feet of water, but recently
no soundings were obtained at a depth of fifty fathoms.

[Illustration: Fig. 117.—THE MACCALUBAS AND GIRGENTI.

Scale 1 : 100,000.]

This submarine volcano is not the only witness to the activity of
subterranean forces in Southern Italy. We meet there with mineral
springs discharging carbonic acid and other gases, which prove fatal
to the smaller animals venturing within their influence, and with
a naphtha lake near Palagonia, from which escape, {317} likewise,
irrespirable gases. A similar phenomenon may be witnessed in connection
with the Lake of Pergusa, which occupies an ancient crater about
four miles in circumference, and usually abounds in tench and eels.
From time to time, however, an escape of poisonous gases appears to
take place from the bottom of the lake, which kills the fish, whose
carcasses rise to the surface. Another of these _salses_ has made its
appearance farther west, near the Palazzo Adriano, {318} and, indeed,
the whole of underground Sicily appears to be in a state of chemical

Next to Mount Etna the great centre of volcanic activity in Sicily
appears to be near Girgenti, at a place known as the _Maccalubas_.
The aspect of this spot changes with the seasons. In summer bubbles
of gas escape from small craters filled with liquid mud, which
occasionally overflows, and runs down the exterior slopes. The rains
of winter almost obliterate these miniature volcanoes, and the plain
is then converted into one mass of mud, from which the gases escape.
At the beginning of this century the soil was occasionally shaken by
earthquakes, and on these occasions jets of mud and stones were ejected
to a height of ten or twenty yards. The Maccalubas appear now to be in
a state of quiescence, for these mud volcanoes also seem to have their
regular periods of rest and activity.

The deposits of sulphur, which constitute one of the riches of Sicily,
undoubtedly owe their existence to these subterranean lakes of seething
lava. These sulphur beds are met with in the tertiary strata extending
from Centorbi to Cattolica, in the province of Girgenti. They date from
the epoch of the Upper Miocene, and are deposited upon layers of fossil
infusoria exhaling a bituminous odour. Geologists are not yet agreed on
the origin of these sulphur beds, but it is most likely that they are
derived from sulphate of lime carried to the surface by hot springs. In
the same formation beds of gypsum and of rock-salt are met with, and
the latter may frequently be traced from a saline effervescence known
as _occhi di sale_ (“eyes of salt”).

Sicily, like Greece, enjoys one of the happiest climates. The heat
of summer is tempered by sea breezes which blow regularly during the
hottest part of each day. The cold of winter would not be felt at all
if it were not for the total absence of every comfort in the houses,
for ice is not known, and snow exceedingly rare. The autumn rains
are abundant, but there are many fine days even during that season.
The prevailing winds from the north and west are salubrious, but the
_sirocco_, which usually blows towards the south-east, is deadly,
especially when it reaches the northern coast. It generally blows for
three or four days, and during that time no one thinks of clarifying
wine, salting meat, or painting houses or furniture. This wind is the
great drawback to the climate. In some parts of Sicily the exhalations
from the swamps are dangerous, but this is entirely the fault of man.
It is owing to his neglect that Agosta and Syracuse suffer from fevers,
and that death forbids the stranger to approach the ruins of ancient

Temperature and moisture impart to the vegetation of the plains and
lower valleys a semi-tropical aspect. Many plants of Asia and Africa
have become acclimatized in Sicily. Groups of date-palms are seen in
the gardens, and the plains around Sciacca, almost African in their
appearance, abound in groves of dwarf palms, or _giummare_, to which
ancient Selinus was indebted for its epithet of _Palmosa_. Cotton
grows on the slopes of the hills up to a height of 600 feet above the
sea; bananas, sugar-cane, and bamboos do not require the shelter of
{319} greenhouses; the _Victoria regia_ covers the ponds with its
huge leaves and flowers; the papyrus of the Nile, which is not known
anywhere else in Europe, chokes up the bed of the Anapo, near Syracuse:
formerly it grew also in the Oreto, near Palermo, but it does so no
longer. The cactus of Barbary (_Cactus opuntia_) has become the most
characteristic plant of the coast districts of Sicily, and is rapidly
covering the most unpromising beds of lava. These and other plants
flourish most luxuriantly on the southern slopes of Mount Etna, where
the orange-tree bears fruit at a height of 1,700 feet, and the larch
ascends even to 7,400 feet. These slopes facing the African sun are the
hottest spots in Europe, for the volcano shelters them from the winds
of the north, whilst its dark-coloured scoriæ and cinders absorb the
rays of the mid-day sun.

Those portions of Sicily which are clothed with trees or shrubs are
always green, for orange-trees, olive-trees, carob-trees, laurels,
mastic-trees, tamarisks, cypresses, and pines retain their verdure even
in winter, when nature wears a desolate aspect in our own latitudes.
There is no “season,” so to say, for with a little care all kinds
of vegetables can be had throughout the year. The gardens around
Syracuse are famous above all others, because of the striking manner
in which they contrast with the naked rocks surrounding them. The most
delightful amongst them is the _Intagliatella_, or _Latomia de’ Greci_,
which occupies an old quarry where Greek slaves dressed the stones
used in erecting the palaces of Syracuse. The vegetation there is most
luxuriant; the trunks of the trees rise above masses of shrubs, their
branches are covered with creeping plants, flowers and ripening fruit
cover the paths, and birds without number sing in the foliage. This
earthly paradise is surrounded by precipitous walls of rock covered
with ivy, or bare and white as on the day when Athenian slaves were at
work there.

       *       *       *       *       *

Sicily lies on the high-road of all the nations who ever disputed the
command of the Mediterranean, and its population consequently consists
of a mixture of the most heterogeneous elements. Irrespectively of
Sicani, Siculi, and other aboriginal nations, whose position amongst
the European family is uncertain, but who probably spoke a language
akin to that of the Latins, we know that Phœnicians and Carthaginians
successively settled on its shores, and that the Greeks were almost
as numerous there as in their native country. Twenty-five centuries
have passed since the Greeks founded their first colony, Naxos, at
the foot of Mount Etna. Soon afterwards Syracuse, Leontini, Catania,
Megara Hyblæa, Messina, and other colonies sprang into existence, until
the whole of the littoral region was in the hands of the Greeks, the
native populations being pushed back into the interior. In Sicily the
Greek met with the same climate, and with rocks and mountains similar
in aspect to those of his native home. The “Marmorean” port and the
wide bay of Syracuse, the acropolis and Mount Hybla, do they not recall
Attica or the Peloponnesus? The fountain of Arethusa, on the island of
Ortygia, which is supplied through underground channels, reminds us
of the fountain of Erasinos and of many others in Hellas, which find
their way through fissures in the limestone rocks to the seashore. The
Syracusans said that the river Alpheus, enamoured of {320} the nymph
Arethusa, did not mingle its waters with those of the Ionian, but found
its way through subterranean channels to the coast of Sicily, where
it rose again at the side of the fountain dedicated to the object of
his adoration, bringing the flowers and fruits of beloved Greece. This
legend bears testimony to the great love which the Greek bore his
native land, whose very fountains and plants were supposed to follow
him into his new home.

If we may judge from the number of inhabitants with which the principal
towns were credited at that time, Sicily must have had a population of
several millions of Greeks. The Carthaginian merchants and soldiers, on
the other hand, though they were the masters of portions of the island
for two or three centuries, never settled upon it, and only a few
walls, coins, and inscriptions bear witness now of their ever having
been present. It has been very judiciously remarked by M. Dennis that
the most striking evidence of their reign is presented in the desolate
sites of the cities of Himera and Selinus. At the same time we must
not forget that the Carthaginians, by intermingling with the existing
population, materially affected the ulterior destinies of the island.
The Romans, who held Sicily for nearly seven centuries, did so in a
still higher degree. Vandals and Goths likewise left traces behind
them. The Saracens, themselves a mixed race, imparted their Southern
impetuosity to the Sicilians, whilst their conquerors, the Normans,
endowed them with the daring and indomitable courage which at that
period animated these sons of the North. In 1071, when the Normans
laid siege to Palermo, no less than five languages were spoken on the
island, viz. Arabic, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and vulgar Sicilian. But
Arabic was the tongue of the civilised inhabitants, and even during the
dominion of the Normans inscriptions upon palaces and churches were
written in it. It was at the court of King Roger that Edrisi wrote his
“Geography,” one of the great monuments of science. In 1223 the last
Arabs were made to emigrate to Naples, but by that time much Arab blood
already flowed through the veins of the inhabitants.

Later on, the character of the population was still further modified
by French, Germans, Spaniards, and Aragonese, and all this helped
to make them a people differing in appearance, manners, habits, and
feelings from their Italian neighbours. These islanders look upon every
inhabitant of the mainland as a foreigner. The absence of roads on the
island enabled the different groups of its population to maintain their
distinct idioms and character during a very long period. The Lombards
whom the Romans transplanted to Benevento and Palermo spoke their
native dialect long after it had become extinct in Lombardy. Even now
there are about 50,000 Sicilians who speak this ancient Lombard tongue.
At San Fratello, on a steep hill on the northern coast, this idiom is
spoken with the greatest purity. Nor has the Italian wholly supplanted
the vulgar Sicilian in the interior of the island. We meet with many
Greek and Arab words. One of the most curious words is that of _val_,
which is applied to various districts of Sicily, and is supposed to
have been derived from _vali_, the Arab term for “governor.” The
Sicilian idiom is less sonorous than the Italian. Vowels standing
between consonants are frequently suppressed, and the _o_, and even
the _a_ and _i_ (_ee_), are {321} changed into _oo_, which renders
the speech hard and indistinct. The language lends itself, however,
admirably to poetry, and the Sicilian popular songs are quite equal in
natural grace and delicacy to the much-admired _rispetti_ of Tuscany.

Of all the emigrants who have settled on the island the Albanians
alone have not become merged in the general population. Locally known
as Greci, they still form separate communities, speaking their own
language and observing special religious rites, in several of the towns
of the interior, and more especially at Piana de’ Greci, which occupies
a commanding hill to the south of Palermo. Nor is the fusion amongst
the other races as complete as it appears to be at the first glance.
The population around Mount Etna, who are, perhaps, more purely Greek
in blood than the Greeks themselves, are noted for their grace, gaiety,
and sweetness of disposition. They are the most intelligent portion
of the population of Sicily. Those of Trapani and San Giuliani are
said to be the best-looking, and their women delight the stranger by
the regularity and beauty of their features. The Palermitans, on the
other hand, in whose veins flows much Arab blood, are for the most part
unprepossessing in their appearance. They open their house but rarely
to strangers, and jealously shut up their women in its most retired

The most ferocious usages of war, piracy, and brigandage have kept
their ground longer at Palermo and its environs than anywhere else.
The laws of the _omerta_, or “men of heart,” make vengeance a duty.
_A chi ti toglie il pane, e tu toglili la vita !_ (“Take the life of
him who has taken your bread !”) is its fundamental principle; but in
practice Palermitan vengeance is far from possessing the simplicity
of the Corsican vendetta, for it is complicated by the most atrocious
cruelties. No less than four or five thousand Palermitans are said
to be affiliated to the secret league of the _maffia_, whose members
subsist upon every kind of roguery. Up to 1865 the brigands were
masters in the environs of that town. They virtually laid siege to
the town, separating it from its more distant suburbs. Strangers were
afraid to leave lest they should be murdered or captured by bandits;
and no farmer could harvest his corn or olives, or shear his sheep,
without paying toll to these highwaymen. More than ten years have
passed since then, but in spite of measures of exceptional severity the
maffia still exists.

The history of this association, which dates its origin back to the
time of the Norman kings, remains yet to be written. It has always
flourished most in time of political troubles, and consequent misery.
No doubt things have grown worse in the course of the last twenty
years; taxes have been increased, the conscription established, and
many abrupt changes, such as are inseparable from a new political
regimen, have been introduced. The people, accustomed to put up with
ancient abuses, have not yet learnt to bear the burdens imposed in
connection with the annexation of the island to the kingdom of Italy.
Nevertheless the Sicilians grow more Italian from day to day. Community
of language and of interests attaches the island to the peninsula, and
the time is not far distant when both countries will gravitate in the
same orbit. Italy is most highly interested in establishing feelings of
friendship with the inhabitants of the island, and in developing its
resources. The rapid increase of the population, which is said to have
{322} tripled since 1734, bears witness to the great natural riches of
the country; and what might not be achieved if the barbarous processes
now in force there were superseded by the scientific methods of our own

Sicily was the favourite haunt of Ceres, and in the plain of Catania
this beneficent goddess taught man the art of cultivating the soil.
The Sicilians have not forgotten this teaching, for nearly half the
area is covered with corn-fields; but they have not improved their
system of cultivation since those fabulous times, and improvements can
hardly be effected as long as the restrictions imposed by the feudal
tenure introduced by the Normans are allowed to exist. The agricultural
implements are of a primitive kind, manure is hardly known, and the
fate of the crops depends entirely upon nature. When travelling through
the country districts of Sicily, we are struck by not meeting with
isolated houses. There are no villages, for all the cultivators of the
soil live in towns, and are content to travel daily to their fields,
which are occasionally at a distance of six miles. Sometimes they pass
the night there, in a cavern or a ditch covered with boughs, and at
harvest-time the labourers sleep in improvised sheds. This absence of
human habitations imparts an air of solemn sadness to vast corn-fields
covering valleys and slopes, and we almost fancy we are wandering
through a deserted country, and wonder for whose benefit the crops are

Corn-fields cover a greater area than that devoted to the cultivation
of all other objects put together; nevertheless the latter articles
represent a higher pecuniary value. The orchards, vineyards, and
gardens near the towns are a far greater source of wealth than the
distant corn-fields. In former times wheat was the principal article
of export; now Sicily is no longer a granary, but promises to become
a vast emporium of fruit. Even now the crop of oranges grown there,
which consists of seven kinds, subdivided into four hundred varieties,
represents a value of £2,000,000 a year. The marvellous gardens which
surround Palermo are steadily increasing at the expense of the ancient
plantations of ash, and ascend the hills to a height of 1,150 feet.
Hundreds of millions of oranges are exported annually to Continental
Europe, England, and America, and the inferior sorts are converted into
essential oils, citric acid, or citrate of lime. The last is used in
printing stuffs, and Sicily enjoys a monopoly in its manufacture.

Sicily likewise occupies a foremost place as a vine-growing country,
and supplies more than a fourth of the wine produced throughout Italy.
The cultivation of the vine, which is carried on to a large extent by
foreigners, is much better understood there than on the neighbouring
peninsula, and the wines exported from Marsala, Syracuse, Alcamo, and
Milazzo are justly held in high estimation. Excellent wine is also
grown on the southern and western slopes of Mount Etna, to which the
heat of the sun imparts much fire. England and non-Italian Europe are
the great consumers of the wines of Sicily, as they are of its oils,
almonds, cotton, saffron, sumach, and manna, extracted, like that of
the Calabrias, from a kind of ash. Raw silk, which Sicily was the first
to produce in Europe, is likewise exported in considerable quantities.

Sulphur is the great mineral product of the island. The beds vary much
in {323} richness, but even where they contain only five or six per
cent. a light brought to the walls of the mine will cause the sulphur
to boil like pitch. The blocks extracted from the mine are piled up in
the open air, where they remain exposed to the destructive action of
the atmosphere. The fragments are then heaped up over the flame of a
furnace, which causes the stones to split, the melted sulphur flowing
into moulds placed beneath. By this primitive process only two-thirds
of the sulphur contained in the rock are extracted, but it proves
nevertheless most remunerative. About 200,000 tons of sulphur, or more
than two-thirds of the sulphur required for manufacturing purposes
throughout Europe, are annually exported from Sicily, and the known
deposits of the island have been computed to contain from 40,000,000 to
50,000,000 tons. To the north of Girgenti and in other parts of Sicily
sulphureous plaster has been used in the construction of the houses,
and the atmosphere there is at all times impregnated with an odour of

Rock-salt is met with in the same formations as the sulphur, and in
quantities almost inexhaustible, but salt is not a rare article, and
even the Sicilians prefer to gather it from the salt swamps extending
along the coast, the most productive of which are near Trapani, at the
western extremity of the island. At the same spot the sea yields the
best coral of Sicily. The tunny fishery is carried on mostly in the
great bays between Trapani and Palermo, while most of the swordfish
are captured in the Strait of Messina. The seas of Sicily abound in
fish, and the islanders boast of being the most expert fishermen of the
Western Mediterranean.

Until recently communications in Sicily were kept up almost exclusively
by sea. In 1866 the only carriage road of the island, which connects
Messina with Palermo, was hardly made use of by travellers, and even
now the most important mines of sulphur and salt communicate with
the seashore only by mule-paths; and the inhabitants are actually
opposed to the construction of roads, from fear of their interfering
with the existing modes of transport. The road which connects the
harbour of Terranova with Caltanissetta has been under construction
for twenty years, although it is the only one which joins the interior
of the country to the sea-coast. Railways to some extent supply this
deficiency of roads, but are being built very slowly, hardly more than
250 miles being at present open for traffic.

Palermo the “happy,” the capital of Sicily, is one of the great towns
of Italy. At the time of the Arabs it surpassed all towns of the
peninsula in population, but at present, though increasing rapidly, it
yields to Naples, Milan, and Rome. No other town of Europe can boast
of an equally delicious climate, nor is any fairer to look upon from a
distance. Bold barren mountains enclose a marvellous garden, the famous
“shell of gold” (_conca d’oro_), from the midst of which rise towers
and domes, palms with fan-shaped leaves, and pines, commanded in the
south by the huge ecclesiastical edifices of Monreale. Termini is the
only city of Sicily which rivals Palmero in the beauty of its site, and
it truly merits its epithet of _splendissime_. {324}

[Illustration: Fig. 118.—PALERMO AND MONTE PELLEGRINO.]

But the beauty of the country contrasts most painfully with the misery
and filth reigning in most of the quarters of the capital. Palermo has
its sumptuous edifices. It boasts of a cathedral lavishly decorated;
its royal palace and palatine chapel, covered with mosaics, and
harmoniously combining the beauties of Byzantine, Moorish, and Roman
art, are unique of their kind; the church of Monreale, in one of its
suburbs, may challenge Ravenna by the number of its mosaics. There are
Moorish palaces, a few modern monuments, and two broad streets, which a
Spanish governor had made in the shape of a cross. But, besides these,
we only meet with dark and narrow streets and wretched tenements, the
windows of which are stuffed with rags. Down to a recent period Palermo
was undeserving its Greek name of “Port of all Nations.” Enclosed
within mountains, and having no communications with the interior, its
commerce was merely local, and its exports were limited to the produce
of its fisheries and of its gardens. Though {325} far more populous
than Genoa, its commerce is only half that of the Ligurian city, but it
is rapidly on the increase.

Trapani, a colony of the Carthaginians like Palermo, and Marsala, so
famous for its wines, at the western extremity of the island, are
proportionately far busier than the capital. Trapani, built on a
sickle-shaped promontory, carries on a lively trade. The salt marshes
near it are amongst the most productive in all Italy;[110] tunny,
coral, and sponge fishing is carried on; and the artisans of the town
are skilled as weavers, masons, and jewellers. The harbour is one of
the best in Italy; the roadstead is well sheltered by the outlying
Ægadian Islands; and the ambition of the inhabitants, who look forward
to a time when Trapani will be the principal emporium for the trade
with Tunis, is likely to be realized on the completion of a railway
to Messina. The harbour of Mazzara, the outlet for the produce of the
inland towns of Castelvetrano and Salemi, lies closer to Tunis, but its
shelter is indifferent. As to Marsala—the “Mars ed Allah,” or God’s
haven, of the Arabs—its port was filled up by Charles V., and has only
recently been reconstructed. It is, however, not of sufficient depth
for large vessels, and only salt and wine are exported from it to
France and England. Marsala occupies the site of the ancient city of
Lilybæum, which had a population of 900,000 souls when Diodorus Siculus
wrote his Geography. It has recently become famous in consequence of
the landing there of Garibaldi and his thousand followers in 1860, and
its being the spot from which they entered upon the triumphant march
which ended in the battle of the Volturno and the capture of Gaeta.

Messina the “noble” is the great commercial centre of Sicily, and the
only port of that island where vessels of all nations meet. Messina is
a stage on the ocean high-roads which join or connect Western Europe
and the Levant. Its roadstead is one of the safest, and vessels in
distress are certain to find protection there. Moreover, vessels coming
from the Tyrrhenian, and fearful of encountering the dangerous currents
of the strait during a storm, may easily find shelter at Milazzo, to
the north of it. The port of Messina is formed by a sickle-shaped
tongue of land, making a natural breakwater.[111] There are few
cities in Europe which are more exposed to the destructive action of
earthquakes than Messina, and the traces of the great shock of 1783,
which swamped the vessels in the harbour, undermined the palaces along
the seashore, and caused the death of more than a thousand persons,
have not yet entirely disappeared.

Catania, the sub-Etnean, as its Greek name implies, is menaced not
only by earthquakes, but also by volcanic eruptions. It, too, enjoys
a high amount of commercial prosperity, and exports the surplus
produce of the towns situated at the foot of the volcano, among
which are Acireale, with its orange groves; Giarre, with its dusty
streets; Paterno, abounding in thermal springs; Aderno, on the {326}
summit of a rock of lava; Bronte, at the junction of two streams of
scoriæ; and Randazza, commanded by an ancient Norman castle. Catania
also monopolizes the export of the produce of the inland districts
of Eastern Sicily; it is the great railway centre of the island, and
several carriage roads converge upon it. Its port has grown too small
for the business carried on there, and it is proposed to enlarge it by
means of piers and breakwaters.

[Illustration: Fig. 119.—TRAPANI AND MARSALA.

Scale 1 : 270,000.]

It is quite natural that on an island, no locality of which is more
than forty miles from the sea, all great towns should be met with on
the coast, where there are greater facilities for commerce. Still a few
centres of population sprang up in the interior, either in the midst of
the most fertile districts or at the crossings of the most-frequented
lines of communication. Nicosia, the Lombard city, is thus a natural
place of passage between Catania and the northern coast of the island.
Corleone occupies a similar position with respect to Palermo and the
African slope {327} of the island. Castro Giovanni, the ancient Enna,
likewise occupies a privileged position, for it stands on an elevated
plateau in the very centre of the island: a large stone near it is said
by the inhabitants to be an ancient altar of Ceres. Piazza Armerina
_l’opulentissime_, and Caltagirone, surnamed _la gratissima_ on account
of the fertility of its fields, are both populous towns, which carry on
a considerable commerce through Terranova, in the building of which the
stones of the old temples of Gela have been utilised. Caltanissetta,
farther to the west, and its neighbour Canicatti, export their produce
through the port of Licata.

In the south-eastern corner of Sicily there are likewise several inland
towns of some importance, amongst which Ragusa and Modica are the most
considerable. Comiso, an industrious place, lies farther to the west,
and is surrounded by cotton plantations. The valley of the Hipparis,
sung by Pindar, separates it from Vittoria, the saline plains of which
furnish much of the soda exported to Marseilles. Noto, like most towns
in that part of Sicily, is at some distance from the coast, but its
twin city, Avola, stands upon the shore of the Ionian Sea. Noto and
Avola were both overthrown by the earthquake of 1693, and have been
rebuilt with geometrical regularity near their former sites. The fields
of Avola, though not very fertile by nature, are amongst the best
cultivated of the island, and it is there only that the production of
the sugar-cane has attained to any importance.

On the northern slope of the hills forming the back-bone of the island
there are several other towns inhabited by the agricultural population.
Lentini, the ancient Leontini, which boasts of being the oldest city in
the island, is at present only a poor place, having been wholly rebuilt
since the earthquake of 1693. Militello has been restored since the
same epoch, and Grammicheli was founded in the eighteenth century to
afford a shelter for the inhabitants of Occhiala, which was destroyed
by an earthquake. Vizzini and Licodia di Vizzini are remarkable on
account of the beds of lava near them, which alternate with layers of
marine fossils, and Mineo stands near a small crater of the swamp of
Palici. The popular songs of Mineo are famous throughout Sicily. The
marvellous “stone of poetry” is shown near it, and all those who kiss
it are said to become poets.

[Illustration: Fig. 120.—SYRACUSE.

Scale 1 : 100,000.]

Southern Sicily is poor in natural ports, and formerly, along the whole
of that part of the coast which faces Africa, there were only open
roadsteads and beaches. On the Ionian coast, however, two excellent
harbours are met with, viz. those of Agosta and Syracuse, which are
very much like each other in outline and general features. Agosta,
or Augusta, the successor of the Greek city of Megara Hyblæa, is now
nothing more than a fortress besieged by fever. Syracuse, the ancient
city of the Dorians, and at one time the most populous and wealthy city
of the Mediterranean, has been reduced to a simple provincial capital.
That city, whose inhabitants even during the last century celebrated
their great victory over the Athenians, is now hardly more than a
heap of ruins. Its “marble port,” formerly surrounded by statues,
is now frequented only by small boats, and its great harbour, large
enough for contending squadrons, lies deserted. All that remains of
it is contained in the small island of Ortygia, {328} separated from
the mainland by fortifications, a ditch, and the swamps of Syraca.
The vast peninsula of limestone formerly occupied by the city is at
present inhabited only by a few farmers, whose houses stand near the
canals of irrigation. The grand edifices erected by the inhabitants
of ancient Syracuse are now represented by the ruins of columns on
the banks of the Anapo rising from the “azure” fountain of Cyane; by
the fortifications of the Epipolæ and Euryelum erected by Archimedes,
and now known as Belvedere; by the remains of baths, an enormous
altar large enough for hecatombs of sacrifices, an amphitheatre, and
an admirable theatre for 25,000 spectators, who were able to see at
a glance from their {329} seats the whole of the ancient city, with
its temples and fleets of merchantmen. Nothing, however, is better
calculated to convey an idea of the ancient grandeur of the city than
the vast quarries or _lautumiæ_ and the subterranean catacombs, more
extensive than those of Naples, and not yet wholly explored. In former
times the summit of the island of Ortygia was occupied by an acropolis,
in which stood a temple of Minerva, a rival of the Parthenon of Athens.
Sailors, on leaving the port, were bound to look towards this temple,
holding in their hands a vase of burning charcoal taken from the altar
of Juno, which they flung into the sea when they lost sight of it.
Portions of the temple still exist, but its beautiful columns have been
covered with plaster and incorporated in an ugly church.

[Illustration: Fig. 121.—TEMPLE OF CONCORD AT GIRGENTI.]

There are other Hellenic ruins in Sicily, which, in the eyes of
artists, make that island a worthy rival of Greece itself. Girgenti,
the ancient Acragas, or {330} Agrigentum, which numbered its
inhabitants by hundreds of thousands, but is now a poor place like
Syracuse, possesses ruins of at least ten temples or religious
edifices, of which that dedicated to Olympian Jupiter was the largest
in all Italy, and has been made use of in the construction of the
present mole. Another, that dedicated to Concord, is in a better
state of preservation than any other Greek temple outside the limits
of Hellas. The modern city occupies merely the site of the ancient
acropolis, and is built upon a layer of shelly sandstone, which
descends in steps towards the sea. The cathedral has been built from
materials taken from a temple of Jupiter Atabyrios, and its baptismal
font is an ancient sarcophagus upon which are represented the loves of
Phædra and Hippolytus. In former times Agrigentum reached to within a
couple of miles from the sea. The modern port, named in honour of one
of the most famous sons of the city, lies to the west of the ancient
Hellenic _Emporium_, at a distance of four miles from the city. It is
the busiest harbour on the southern coast, and large quantities of
sulphur are exported from it (see Fig. 117, p. 317).

Sciacca, another seaside town farther to the west, in one of those
localities of the island most exposed to earthquakes, boasts of
being the modern representative of Selinus, though that Greek city
was situated about fourteen miles farther west, to the south of
Castelvetrano. Its seven temples have been overthrown by earthquakes,
but they still present us with remains of the purest Doric style. The
metopes of three of them have been conveyed to Palermo, where they form
the most precious ornaments of the museum.

Segesta, on the north coast, no longer exists, but there still remain
the ruins of a magnificent temple. Other remains of Greek art abound in
all parts of the island, and there are also monuments erected by the
Romans. If we contrast these ancient edifices with those raised since
by Byzantines, Moors, Normans, Spaniards, and Neapolitans, we are bound
to admit that the latter exhibit no progress, but decadence. Alas ! how
very much inferior are the inhabitants of modern Syracuse in comparison
with the fellow-citizens of an Archimedes !

Sicily offers most striking examples of towns changing their positions
in consequence of political disturbances. When the ancient Greek cities
were at the height of their power they boldly descended to the very
coast; but when war and rapine got the upper hand—when Moorish pirates
scoured the sea, and brigandage reigned in the interior—then it was
that most of the cities of Sicily took refuge on the summits of the
hills, abandoning their low-lying suburbs to decay, and allowing them
finally to disappear. Girgenti is a case in point. Some of the towns
occupy sites of much natural strength, and are almost inaccessible.
Such are Centuripe, or Centorbi, which stretches along the edge of a
rock to the west of the Simeto, and San Giuliano, the town of Astarte,
which stands on the summit of a pyramidal rock 1,200 feet in height
above Trapani. But, on the return of peace, the inhabitants abandoned
their eyries and came back to the plain or coast. All along the
northern coast, from Palermo to Messina, the towns on the _marina_,
or beach, kept increasing at the expense of the _borgos_ occupying
the summits of the mountains, and in many instances the latter were
deserted altogether. Cefalù {331} affords a striking illustration of
this change. The modern city nestles at the foot of a bold promontory,
upon the summit of which may still be seen the crenellated walls of the
old town, within which nothing now remains excepting a small cyclopean
temple, the most venerable ruin of all Sicily, which has resisted the
ravages of thirty centuries.[112]


The Æolian or Liparic Islands, though separated from Sicily by a strait
more than 300 fathoms in depth, may nevertheless be looked upon as a
dependency of the larger island. Some of these volcanic islands, “born
in the shadow of Mount Etna,” lie on a line connecting that volcano
with Mount Vesuvius, and they originated probably during the same
convulsion of nature. They all consist of lavas, cinders, or pumice,
ejected from volcanoes. Two amongst them, Vulcano and Stromboli,
are still active volcanoes, and the flames and undulating columns
of smoke rising from them enable mariners and fishermen to foretell
changes of temperature or wind. It is probable that this intelligent
interpretation of volcanic phenomena was the reason why these islands
were dedicated to Æolus, the god of the winds, who there revealed
himself to mariners.

Lipari, the largest and most central of these islands, is at the
same time the most populous. A considerable town, commanded by an
ancient castle, rises like an amphitheatre on its northern shore. A
well-cultivated plain, abounding in olive-trees, orange-trees, and
vines, surrounds the town, and the slopes of the hills are cultivated
almost to their very summits. The population, as in Sicily, has been
recruited from the most diverse elements since the time that Greek
colonists from Rhodes, Cnidus, and Selinus entered into an alliance
with the aboriginal inhabitants. This intermixture of races is
proceeding now as much as ever, for commerce continually introduces
fresh blood, and many Calabrian brigands have been conveyed to the
island, where they have become peaceable citizens. The population is
now permitted to multiply in peace, for the volcanoes of Lipari have
been quiescent for centuries. The Lipariotes have a legend according
to which St. Calogero chased the devils from the islands, and shut
them up in the furnaces of Vulcano, and we may infer from this that
the last volcanic eruption took place soon after the introduction of
Christianity; that is to say, about the sixth century. The existence
of subterranean forces manifests itself now only in thermal springs
and {332} steam jets, which have been visited from the most ancient
times for the cure of diseases. Earthquakes, however, are of frequent
occurrence, and that of 1780 so much frightened the inhabitants that
with one accord they dedicated themselves to the Virgin Mary. Dolomieu,
who visited Lipari in the year following, found them wearing a small
chain on the arm, by means of which they desired to show that they had
become the slaves of the “Liberating Virgin.”


Lipari is a land of promise to the geologist, on account of the great
variety of its lavas. Monte della Castagna is wholly composed of
obsidian. Another hill, Monte Bianco, consists of pumice, and, when
seen from a distance, has the appearance of being covered with snow.
The streams of pumice which fill every ravine extend down to the
sea, and the water is covered with this buoyant stone, which drifts
sometimes as far as Corsica. Lipari supplies nearly the whole of Europe
with pumice.[113]

Vulcano, to the south of Lipari, from which it is separated by a
strait less than a mile across, contrasts strangely with its smiling
neighbour. Vulcano, with the exception of a few olives and vines
growing on the southern slopes, consists wholly of naked scoriæ, and
this circumstance probably led to its being dedicated to Vulcan. Most
of its rocks are black or of a reddish hue like iron, but there are
{333} others which are scarlet, yellow, or white. At the northern
extremity of the island rises the Vulcanello, a small cone which
appeared above the surface of the sea nobody knows when, and which an
isthmus of reddish cinders united about the middle of the thirteenth
century to the principal volcano of the island. This central mountain
of the island has a crater about 1,800 yards in circumference, from
which steam continually escapes. The atmosphere is charged with
sulphurous vapours difficult to breathe. From hundreds of small
orifices jets of steam make their escape with a throbbing and hissing
noise. Some of these fumaroles have a temperature of 610° F. Jets of
a lower temperature are met with in other parts of the island, and
even at the bottom of the bay. Violent eruptions are rare, and in the
eighteenth century only three occurred. The last eruption took place
in 1873, after a repose of a hundred years. Until recently the only
inhabitants of Vulcano were a few convicts, who collected sulphur and
boracic acid, and manufactured a little alum. But an enterprising
Scotchman has now taken possession of this grand chemical laboratory.
He has built a large manufactory near the port, and a few trees planted
around his Moorish residence have somewhat improved the repulsive
aspect of the country.

Stromboli, though smaller than either Lipari or Vulcano, is
nevertheless more celebrated, on account of its frequent eruptions. For
ages back scarcely any mariners have passed this island without seeing
its summit in a state of illumination. At intervals of five minutes,
or less, the seething lava filling its caldron bubbles up, explosions
occur, and steam and stones are ejected. These rhythmical eruptions
form a most agreeable sight, for there is no danger about them, and the
olive groves of the Stromboliotes have never been injured by a stream
of lava. The volcano, however, has its moments of exasperation, and its
ashes have frequently been carried to the coast of Calabria, which is
more than thirty miles off.

Panaria and the surrounding group of islands between Stromboli and
Lipari have undergone many changes, if Dolomieu and Spallanzani are
correct in saying that they originally formed only a single island,
which was blown into fragments by an eruption having its centre near
the present island of Dattilo. A hot spring and an occasional bubbling
up of the sea-water prove that the volcanic forces are not yet quite

As regards the small eastern islands of the archipelago, Salina,
Felicudi, and Alicudi, the last of which resembles a tent pitched upon
the surface of the water, history furnishes no records of their ever
having been in any other than a quiescent state. The island of Ustica,
about thirty miles to the north of Palermo, is likewise of volcanic
origin, but is not known ever to have had an eruption. It is one of
the most dreaded places of exile in Italy. Near it is the uninhabited
island of Medico, the ancient Osteodes, where the mercenaries deserted
by the Carthaginians were left to die of starvation. {334}


Off the western extremity of Sicily lie shallows, sand-banks, and
calcareous islands of the same composition as the adjoining mainland.
These are the Ægades, or Goat Islands, named after the animals which
climb their steep escarpments. Favignana, near which the Romans won
the naval victory which terminated the first Punic war, is the largest
of these islands. Its steep cliffs abound in caverns, in which heaps
of shells, gnawed bones, and stone implements have been found, dating
back to the contemporaries of the mammoth and the antediluvian bear.
Conflicts between contrary winds are frequent in this labyrinth of
rocks and shoals, and the power of the waves is much dreaded. The tides
are most irregular, and give rise to dangerous eddies. The sudden ebb,
locally known as _marubia_, or “tipsy sea” (_mare ubbriaco?_), has been
the cause of many shipwrecks.


Scale 1 : 4,000,000.]


Pantellaria rises in the very centre of the strait which unites the
Western Mediterranean with the Eastern. The island is of volcanic
origin, abounds in thermal springs, and, above all, in steam jets.
Placed on a great line of navigation, Pantellaria might have become
of importance if it had possessed a good harbour like Malta. To
judge from certain ruins, the population was more considerable {335}
formerly than it is now. There exist about a thousand odd edifices,
called _sesi_ by the inhabitants, which are supposed to be ancient
dwellings. Like the _nuraghi_ of Sardinia, they have the shape of
hives, and are built of huge blocks of rock without mortar. Some of
them are twenty-five feet high and forty-five feet wide; and Rossi, the
archæologist, thinks that they date back to the stone age, for pieces
of worked obsidian have been found in them.

From the top of Pantellaria we are able to distinguish the promontories
on the Tunisian coast, but, though it is nearer to Africa than to
Europe, the island nevertheless belongs to the latter continent, as is
proved by the configuration of the sea-bottom. This cannot be said of
Linosa, an island with four volcanic peaks to the west of Malta, and
still less of the Pelagian Islands. The latter, consisting of Lampedusa
and a satellite rock called Lampion, owe their name (Lamp-bearer and
Lamp) to the light which, legend tells us, was kept burning by a hermit
or angel for the benefit of mariners. In our own days this legendary
lamp has been superseded by a small lighthouse marking the entrance to
the port of Lampedusa, where vessels of three or four hundred tons find
a safe shelter.

About the close of the eighteenth century the Russians proposed to
establish a military station on Lampedusa to rival that of Malta, but
this project was never carried out, and has not been taken up by the
Italian Government. The population consists of soldiers, political
exiles, criminals, and a few settlers, who speak Maltese.[114]


Malta, though a political dependency of Great Britain, belongs
geographically to Italy, for it rises from the same submarine plateau
as Sicily. About fifty miles to the east of the island the depth of
the sea exceeds 1,500 fathoms, but in the north, in the direction of
Sicily, it hardly amounts to eighty, and there can be no doubt that an
isthmus formerly united Malta to continental Europe. Geologists are
agreed that the land of which Malta and Gozzo are now the only remains
must formerly have been of great extent, for amongst the fossils of
its most recent limestone rocks have been found the bones of elephants
and other animals which only inhabit continents. Even now the island
is slowly wasting away, and its steep cliffs, pierced by numerous
grottoes, locally known as _ghar_, are gradually crumbling into dust.

Placed in the very centre of the Mediterranean, and possessed of an
excellent port, Malta has at all times been a commercial station
of much importance. It has been occupied by all the nations who
succeeded each other in the possession of the Mediterranean—Phœnicians,
Carthaginians, Romans, and Greeks. But long before that time the island
must have been inhabited, for we meet with grottoes excavated in the
rocks, and with curious edifices resembling the _nuraghi_ of Sardinia,
and it is just possible that the descendants of these aborigines still
{336} constitute the principal element of the existing population,
which, at all events, is very mixed, and during the domination of the
Saracens almost became Arab. The language spoken is a very corrupt
Italian, containing many Arabic words.

[Illustration: Fig. 124.—THE PORT OF MALTA.

Scale 1 : 49,000.]

[Illustration: LA VALETTA, MALTA.]

The great military part played by Malta began when the Knights of
St. John, after their expulsion from Rhodes in 1522, installed
themselves upon the island, and converted it into the bulwark of
the Christian world. In the beginning of this century Malta passed
into the possession of the English, who may survey thence, as from a
watch-tower, the whole of the Mediterranean, from Gibraltar to Smyrna
{337} and Port Said. The excellent port of La Valetta singularly
facilitates the military and commercial part which Malta is called
upon to play in the world of the Mediterranean. It is sufficiently
spacious to shelter two entire fleets, and its approaches are defended
by fortifications rendered impregnable by the successive work of
three centuries. There are, besides, all the facilities required by
merchantmen, including a careening dock larger than any other in the
world. The commerce of the island is rapidly increasing; it is one of
the great centres of steamboat navigation, and submarine telegraphs
connect it with all parts of the world.[115]

The city of La Valetta has retained all its ancient picturesqueness,
in spite of its straight streets and the walls which surround it.
Its high white houses, ornamented with balconies and conservatories,
rise amphitheatre-like on the slope of a hill; stairs lead from
landing-place to landing-place to the summit of this hill; and from
every street we behold the blue sea, with its large merchantmen and
crowds of smaller vessels. Gondolas, having two huge eyes painted upon
the prow, glide noiselessly over the waters, and curious vehicles roll
heavily along the quays. Maltese, English soldiers, and sailors of
every nation crowd the streets. Now and then a woman glides rapidly
along the walls. Like all Christian women of the East, she wears the
_faldetta_, a sort of black silk domino, which hides her sumptuous
dress, and coquettishly conceals her features.

Malta beyond the walls of the town is but a dreary place of abode.
The country rises gently towards the south, in the direction of Città
Vecchia and the hills of Ben Gemma. Grey rocks abound, a fine dust
covers the vegetation, and the white walls of the village glisten
in the sun. There are no trees, except in a few solitary gardens,
where the famous mandarin oranges grow. Nor are there any rivers. The
soil is scorched, and it is matter for astonishment that it should
yield such abundant harvests of cereals, and clover (_sulla_) growing
to the height of a man. Carnation tints delight the eye during the
season of flowers. The Maltese peasants, small, wiry, and muscular,
are wonderfully industrious. They have brought the whole island under
cultivation, the cliffs alone excepted, and, where vegetable soil
is wanting, they produce it artificially by triturating the rocks.
In former times vessels coming from Sicily were bound to bring a
certain quantity of soil as ballast. But in spite of their careful
cultivation, the inhabitants of Malta, Gozzo, and Comino (thus
named from cumin, which, with cotton, is the principal crop of the
island), the produce hardly suffices for six months’ consumption,
and the islanders are largely dependent upon Sicily for their food.
Navigation and the fisheries contribute likewise towards the means of
subsistence, but the Maltese would nevertheless perish on their island
if the surplus population did not emigrate to all the coast lands of
the Mediterranean, and especially to Algeria, where the Maltese, as
everywhere else, are distinguished for thrift and industry. {338}

In winter this exodus is in some measure compensated for by the
arrival of many English families, who visit the island for the sake of
its dry and mild climate. February is the finest month, and the island
is then resplendent with verdure, but the scorching heat of summer soon
dries up the vegetation.

A governor appointed by the Crown exercises executive functions, and
enjoys the privilege of mercy. He is assisted by a Council of seven
members, by whom all laws are discussed and voted. The lord-lieutenant
of each district is chosen amongst the Maltese nobles, and deputies
appointed by the governor manage the affairs of the villages. Italian
is the language used in the courts, with the exception of the Supreme
Court, into which English was introduced in 1823.

The revenues of the island, about £170,000 annually, are not sufficient
to cover the military expenses, and the deficiency is made up by the
imperial treasury.

Most of the inhabitants are Roman Catholics. The bishop is appointed by
the Pope, and enjoys an income of £4,000.[116]


It is a curious fact that an island so fertile as Sardinia, so rich
in metals, and so favourably situated in the centre of the Tyrrhenian
Sea, should have lagged behind in the race of progress as it has. When
the Carthaginians held that island its population was certainly more
numerous than it is now, and the fearful massacres placed on record by
the historians of Rome testify to this fact. Its decadence was sudden
and thorough. In part it may be accounted for by the configuration of
the island, which presents steep cliffs towards Italy, whence emigrants
might have arrived, whilst its western coast is bounded by marshes
and insalubrious swamps. But the principal cause of this torpor,
which endured for centuries, is traceable to the actions of man. The
conquerors who succeeded the Romans and Byzantines in the possession
of the island, whether Saracens, Pisans, Genoese, or Aragonese,
monopolized its produce solely with a view to their own profit, and
further mischief was wrought by the pirates of Barbary, who frequently
descended upon its coasts. As recently as 1815 the Tunisians landed
upon Sant’ Antioco, massacring the inhabitants, or carrying them into
slavery. The coast districts became depopulated, and the inhabitants
retired to the interior, where, oppressed by their feudal lords,
they led a life of isolation from the rest of Europe. It is hardly a
generation since Sardinia began to participate in the general progress
made throughout Italy.

[Illustration: Fig. 125.—THE SEA TO THE SOUTH OF SARDINIA.

Scale 1 : 2,000,000.]

Sardinia is nearly as large as Sicily, but has only a fourth of its
population.[117] Geographically it is more independent of Italy than
the southern island, and a profound sea, more than 1,000 fathoms in
depth, divides it from the African continent. Sardinia with Corsica
forms a group of twin islands, which is separated from the Tuscan
archipelago by a narrow strait only 170 fathoms in depth. {339} The
geological structure of the two islands is identical, and there can
be no doubt that the islands and rocks in the Strait of Bonifacio are
the remains of an isthmus destroyed by the sea. On the other hand, we
learn from a study of the geology of Sardinia that at a period not very
remote that island must have consisted of several separate islands.
The principal island formed a southerly continuation {340} of the
mountains of Corsica, whilst the smaller ones lay to the west. Alluvial
deposits, volcanic eruptions, and perhaps, also, an upheaval of the
soil, have converted the shallow straits which separated them into dry

The mountains of Sardinia may be said to begin with the islands of
Maddalena and Caprera, in the Strait of Bonifacio, and in the mountain
mass of the Gallura they attain already a considerable height. A
depression separates these from the southern portion of the great
back-bone of the island, which stretches along the whole of the eastern
coast, and terminates abruptly at Cape Carbonaro. These mountains,
like those of Corsica, consist of crystalline rocks and schists; but
whilst the slope on the latter island is steepest towards the west, the
reverse is the case on Sardinia, and that island may almost be said to
turn its back upon Italy. The general slope of the island is towards
the west, and its occupation by Spain could therefore be justified by
purely geographical arguments.

[Illustration: Fig. 126.—THE STRAIT OF BONIFACIO.

Scale 1 : 300,000.]

The highest summits of the island are found in the central portion of
this crystalline chain, where the Gennargentu, or “silver mountain,”
rises to a height of 6,116 feet. A little snow remains in the crevices
of this mountain throughout the summer. The inhabitants of Northern
Sardinia formerly imagined that their own Gigantinu, or “giant,” in the
mountains of Limbarra, constituted the culminating point of the island,
but careful measurements have shown that that superb peak only attains
an elevation of 4,297 feet.

The secondary mountain groups in the western portion of the island are
separated from the main chain by recent geological formations. The
granitic {341} region of La Nurra, to the west of Sassari, almost
uninhabited in spite of its fertile valleys, and the island of Asinara
adjoining it, which abounds in turtles, are amongst these insulated
mountain regions. Another, intersected by the beautiful valley of Domus
Novas, occupies the south-western extremity of the island. Geologists
look upon it as the most ancient portion of the island, and the plain
of Campidano, which now occupies the site of an ancient arm of the
sea, is of quaternary formation. The transversal range of Marghine
occupies the centre of the island, and there, too, we meet with vast
limestone plateaux pierced by volcanic rocks. The ancient craters,
however, no longer emit lava, nor even gases, and the villagers have
tranquilly built their huts within them. Thermal springs alone indicate
the existence of subterranean forces. Volcanic cones of recent age are
met with in the north-western portion of the island, as well as in
the valley of the Orosei, on the east coast. The trachytic rocks of
the islands of San Pietro and Sant’ Antioco are of greater age. They
sometimes present the appearance of architectural piles, especially
at the Cape of Columns, which is, however, rapidly disappearing, as
the stone is being quarried to be converted into pavement. On Sant’
Antioco, which a bridge joins to the mainland, there are deep caverns,
the haunts of thousands of pigeons, which are caught by spreading a net
before their entrance.

In addition to the changes wrought by volcanic agencies, Sardinia
exhibits traces of a slow upheaval or subsidence due to the expansion
or contraction of the upper strata of the earth. Raised beaches have
been discovered by La Marmora near Cagliari, at an elevation of 243 and
322 feet above the sea-level, where shells of living species are found
together with potsherds and other articles, proving that when this
upheaval took place the island was already inhabited. Elsewhere there
exist traces of a subsidence, and the old Phœnician cities of Nora, to
the south-west of Cagliari, and Tharros, on the northern peninsula of
the Gulf of Oristano, have become partly submerged.

Amongst the rivers of the island there is only one which deserves that
name. This is the Tirso, or Fiume d’Oristano, which is fed by the
snows of the Gennargentu and the rains which descend on the western
mountain slopes. Other rivers of equal length are hardly more than
torrents, which at one time invade the fields adjoining them, and at
another shrink to a thin thread of water meandering between thickets of
laurel-trees. Most of the river beds are dry during eight months of the
year, and even after rain the water does not find its way into the sea,
but is absorbed by the littoral swamps.

All these swamps have brackish water. The largest amongst them
communicate freely with the sea, at least during the rainy season, but
others are separated from it by a strip of sand. But these, too, are
brackish, for the sea-water percolates through the soil, and keeps them
at the same level. The water of the inland swamps is likewise saturated
with saline substances derived from the surrounding soil. They
generally dry up in summer, but the coating of salt which then appears
is hardly dry enough to repay the labour of collection and refinement.
The only salt marshes actually exploited are those of Cagliari and of
Carlo-Forte, on San {342} Pietro. They have been leased to a French
company, and yield annually nearly 120,000 tons of salt.

Swamps and marshes envelop nearly the whole of the island in a
zone of miasmata, which are carried by the wind into the interior,
producing fever even in the more elevated mountain districts. There are
localities on the island the air of which no stranger can breathe with
impunity. The coast districts of Sardinia, with their stagnant waters,
are, in truth, the most unhealthy in Italy, and quite one-fourth of
the area of the island is exposed to the scourge of malaria, which
sufficiently accounts for the small population of the island and the
little progress made.

Even when Sardinia was at the height of its prosperity, and supplied
Rome with an abundance of corn, cheese, pork, lead, copper, iron, and
textile fabrics, it was noted for its unhealthiness, and the emperors
exiled to it those whom they desired to get rid of. Then, as now, the
landed proprietors, about the middle of June, retired to the towns, the
walls of which offered some protection against the poisonous air. The
Italian Government officials are sent to the island as a punishment,
and for the most part look upon themselves as condemned to death. Even
the native villagers are bound to observe the greatest precautions, and
wear garments of skin or leather which are impenetrable to rain, mist,
and dew. They are dressed most warmly during the hottest part of the
year as a protection against the climate, and in their long _mastrucas_
of sheepskin they almost look like Wallachian herdsmen.

Ancient geographers, as well as the Sardinians themselves, ascribe the
unhealthiness of the climate to the rarity of north-easterly winds.
The mountains of Limbarra, in the north of the island, are popularly
supposed to act as a sort of screen, which diverts this health-bringing
wind, to the great detriment of Lower Sardinia; and there appears
to be much truth in this popular notion. South-westerly winds, or
_libeccios_, are almost equally rare, and when they blow they do so
with tempestuous violence.

The regular winds of Sardinia blow from the north-west or south-east.
The former is known as the _maestrale_, the latter as the _levante_ or
_sirocco_, called _maledetto levante_ by the inhabitants of Southern
Sardinia. It becomes charged with moisture during its passage across
the Mediterranean, and its temperature is in reality much less than
might be supposed from the lassitude produced by it. The maestrale, on
the other hand, is hailed with joy, for it is an invigorating wind. On
reaching the coast it generally parts with its moisture, and when it
arrives at Cagliari it is perfectly dry. The capital of Sardinia is
indebted to this wind and to sea breezes for its low temperature (62·4°
F.), which is far lower than that of Genoa.

Hurricanes are comparatively rare, and hailstorms, which work such
damage elsewhere, are hardly known. Most of the rain falls in autumn;
it ceases in December, when the pleasantest season sets in. These are
the “halcyon days” of ancient poets, when the sea calms down in order
that the sacred bird may build his nest. But these pleasant days are
succeeded by a wretched spring. February, the “double-faced month” of
Sardinian mariners, brings capricious frosts, to which {343} succeed,
in March and April, abrupt changes of temperature, winds, and rain.
Vegetation in consequence is far more backward than might be supposed
from the latitude.

The vegetation of Sardinia resembles that of the other islands of the
Mediterranean. The forest in the highland valleys of the interior
and on the trackless mountain slopes consists of pines, oaks, and
holm-oaks, mixed here and there with yoke-elms and maples. The
villages are surrounded by chestnut-trees and groves of magnificent
walnut-trees. The hill-tops, robbed of their forests, are covered
with odoriferous plants and thickets of myrtles, strawberry-trees,
and heather. It is there the bees collect the bitter honey so much
despised by Horace. Vast tracts of uncultivated land near the seashore
are covered with wild olive-trees, which only need grafting to
yield excellent fruit. All the fruit trees and useful plants of the
Mediterranean flourish in Sardinia. Almond and orange trees, introduced
by the Moors at the close of the eleventh century, flourish vigorously.
The orange groves of Millis, which are protected by the extinct volcano
of Monte Ferru, are, perhaps, the most productive on the shores of
the Mediterranean, and in good seasons yield 60,000,000 oranges.
The gardens of Domus Novas, Ozieri, and Sassari are of surprising
fertility. In the southern part of the island, wherever the cultivated
fields gain upon the lands covered with rock-roses, fennel, and lilies,
they are fenced in with fig-trees. The fan-shaped foliage of the
date-palm is seen near every town, and more especially in the environs
of Cagliari. By a curious contrast the dwarf palm is not met with in
the southern lowlands of the island, though their climate is almost
African, but forms dense thickets in the solitudes of Alghero, in the
north of the islands. The inhabitants eat the roots of this tree, as do
also the Moors.

Although all the plants of neighbouring countries become easily
acclimatized in Sardinia, that island is naturally poorer in species
than are continental regions lying under the same latitude. There
is nothing special about its flora, for the island is probably only
a remnant of a larger tract of land which formerly joined Europe to
Africa. As to the famous plant mentioned by ancient writers, which,
eaten by mistake, produced fits of “sardonic laughter,” or even death,
it does not appear to be peculiar to the island. Mimaut thinks,
from the descriptions of Pliny and Pausanias, that the large-leafed
water-parsley (_Sium latifolium_) is referred to.

The number of species of animals, like that of plants, is smaller in
Sardinia than on the neighbouring continent. There are neither bears,
badgers, polecats, nor moles. Vipers or venomous serpents of any
description do not exist, and the only animal to be dreaded is the
tarentula (_arza_, or _argia_), a sting from which can be cured only
by dancing until completely exhausted, or by immersion in dung. The
ordinary frog, though common in Corsica, does not exist, but European
butterflies are numerous. The _moufflon_, which is, perhaps, the
ancestor of our domestic sheep, and has been exterminated in nearly
all the islands of the Mediterranean, still lives in the mountains of
Corsica and Sardinia. Wild horses roamed over Sant’ Antioco as recently
as the beginning of this century; myriads {344} of rabbits burrow in
the small islands lining the coast; and wild goats with long horns and
yellow teeth inhabit the limestone island of Tavolara, in the Gulf of
Terranova. These goats are descended from domestic animals abandoned
at some former period. Caprera, the residence of Garibaldi, is named
after the goats which formerly inhabited it, and animals of that kind
recently introduced there quickly returned to a state of nature.

Naturalists have observed that the mammals of Sardinia are smaller
than the same species living on the continent. The goat is the only
exception to the rule. The stag, deer, wild boar, fox, wild cat, hare,
rabbit, marten, and weasel are all of them smaller than the continental
varieties. The same rule applies to domesticated animals, with the
exception of the pig, which grows to a great size, especially where
it is allowed to roam through oak forests. There is a variety of this
animal whose hoofs are not cloven, and which ought, therefore, to be
classed amongst solipeds. The horses and asses of Sardinia are dwarfs.
But the horse is distinguished by great sobriety, sureness of foot,
vigour, and endurance. If in addition to these advantages it possessed
a more attractive exterior, it would rank among the most highly
appreciated horses of Europe. As to the donkeys, though hardly larger
than a mastiff, they are brave little animals, and frequently share
with their masters the only room of their abode. The old-fashioned
mills, resembling in every respect the Roman bas-reliefs which may
be seen in the Vatican, are propelled by these donkeys, which thus
materially contribute towards the support of their proprietors.

Sardinia abounds more than any other country of Western Europe in
prehistoric remains. There are megaliths, known as “giants’ stones,”
“altars,” or “long-stones,” as in Brittany, scarcely any of them
showing traces of the chisel. Dolmens, however, are rare, and the
genuineness of all is doubted. Amongst these monuments there are,
perhaps, some which were connected with the worship of some Eastern
deity, for Phœnicians and Carthaginians stayed for a considerable
time upon the island, where they founded Caralis, Nora, Tharros, and
other towns; and even during the time of the Romans it was customary
to place Punic inscriptions upon the tombstones. The ruins of Tharros
have yielded golden idols and other articles in large numbers, most
of them being of Egyptian origin. But the principal witnesses to the
civilisation of the ancient Sards are the curious structures known
as _nuraghi_. They generally occupy the hill-tops, and, seen from a
distance, resemble pyramids. The limestone plateau of Giara, near the
centre of the island, is surrounded by masonry structures of this
description, which abound also in other portions of the island, the
number still existing being nearly 4,000. They are most numerous in the
basaltic region to the south of Macomer, and are met with for the most
part in fertile districts, far away from the arid steppes.

The origin and uses of these nuraghi have been a subject of much
discussion, but archæologists now almost universally adopt the views
of Signor Spano, the indefatigable explorer of Sardinian antiquities.
According to him these nuraghi were dwellings, and their Phœnician name
simply means “round house.” The rudest {345} among them, dating back
probably for forty centuries, contain but a single chamber. They were
erected during the age of stone, when man first gave up his cavern
dwellings. The more recent constructions date back to the age of
bronze, and even of iron. More skill is exhibited in their structure,
though no mortar has been used, and they contain two or more chambers,
forming as many floors, and accessible by means of stone stairs.
The ground floor of some is large enough for the accommodation of
forty or fifty persons, and is furnished with antechambers and small
semicircular recesses. The nuraghi of Su Domu or S’Orcu, near Domus
Novas, which has recently been demolished, contained ten chambers and
four courtyards; it was a fortress as well as a dwelling-place, capable
of accommodating a hundred persons and standing a siege. The dwellings
of the modern Albanians and of the Swaneti in the Caucasus still
resemble these ancient abodes.

[Illustration: Fig. 127—LA GIARA.

Scale 1 : 308,640.]

The rubbish which accumulated in these nuraghi has yielded a multitude
of objects which throw light upon the daily life of the inhabitants,
and bear witness to their relative civilisation. The lower strata only
contain hand-made utensils, stone arms, and pottery, but in the upper
and more recent layers many articles of bronze have been found. Other
monuments of cyclopean structure stand near these ancient dwellings.
They are popularly known as “giants’ tombs,” and Signor {346} Sapi,
who has examined a large number of them, has discovered in every
instance the ashes of human beings.

Though very superstitious, the Sardinians have no legends respecting
these dwellings of the aborigines, and at most attribute them to the
devil. This absence of traditions is no doubt traceable to the almost
total annihilation of the inhabitants by successive conquerors. The
Carthaginians showed no mercy to the aborigines, and during the first
centuries of Roman rule massacres and forcible emigration were the
order of the day, and the gaps thus created were filled up by Italian
colonists and exiles.

The ancient Sards were most likely Iberians. They are of low stature,
and the climate, which has stunted the growth of wild and domesticated
animals, appears to have influenced man likewise; but they are well
proportioned and muscular, have an abundance of black hair and strong
beards, and scarcely ever grow bald. There are minor differences in
the Sards of the two provinces. Those of the north have generally oval
features and an aquiline nose, whilst those near Cagliari, who are
probably more mixed, have irregular features and prominent cheek-bones.

The inhabitants of the interior of the island are, perhaps, of purer
race than any other Europeans. Their ancestors, no doubt, were of
the most diverse origin, but most invasions which took place after
the Roman era stopped short at the coast. The Vandals paid a visit
to Sardinia, but all the other Germanic tribes, who ravaged nearly
every other country of Western Europe, spared that island, and its
inhabitants were thus able to preserve their manners and language. The
Moors, Pisans, Genoese, Catalonians, and Spaniards, who successively
invaded the island, never penetrated beyond the coast. There is only
one exception to this rule, viz. that of the Barbaricini, who inhabit
the mountain district of Barbagia, in the very centre of the island,
and who are supposed to be the descendants of Berbers expelled from
Africa by the Vandals. When they came to the island they were still
pagans, and they intermarried with their neighbours, the Ilienses,
an aboriginal tribe, pagans like themselves. They were converted to
Christianity in the seventh century, and the sombre dress worn by their
women reminds us of Barbary.

Of all the idioms derived from the Latin, that spoken in Sardinia has
most resemblance to the language of the ancient Romans. More than five
hundred words are absolutely identical. There are likewise a few Greek
words not met with in any other Latin idiom, as well as two or three
words which have no affinity with any other European tongue, and which
are, perhaps, derived from the language spoken by the aborigines. The
two leading dialects, those of Logoduro, in the north, and of Cagliari,
are directly derived from the Latin, and are, perhaps, most nearly
related to Spanish. At Sassari, and in some of the neighbouring coast
districts, an Italian dialect is spoken which is very much like that
of Corsica or Genoa. At Alghero the descendants of the Catalonian
immigrants who settled there about the middle of the fourteenth century
still speak their old Provençal. The _Maurelli_, or _Maureddus_, in
the environs of Iglesias, who are probably Berbers, {347} and can be
recognised by their narrow skulls, make use of a few African words.
Maltzan looks upon the inhabitants of the fertile district of Millis as
the purest representatives of African immigrants, and it was they who
introduced the cultivation of the orange into Sardinia.

The Sardinians of the interior not only retain their ancient language,
but likewise many of their ancient customs. Their dances are still the
same as in the time of Greece. In the north the steps are regulated by
the human voice, the chanters occupying the centre of the ring. In the
south a musical instrument, the _launedda_, is used, which is nothing
but an ancient flute, made of two or three reeds. The customs observed
at christenings, weddings, and funerals are likewise of remote date.
Marriage, as amongst nearly all the ancient inhabitants of Europe, is
preceded by a feigned abduction of the bride. The latter, after she has
entered the house of her husband, must not stir from her place during
that day, nor speak a single word. Mute as a statue, she is no longer a
sentient being, but a “thing,” the property of her husband. She is not
permitted to see her relatives during three days, and in the south many
women partly conceal their features.

The mountaineers likewise observe the lugubrious ceremony of a wake,
called _titio_ or _attito_. Women, who are either the friends of
the deceased or are engaged for the purpose, penetrate the mortuary
chamber, tear their hair, howl, and improvise hymns of mourning. These
old pagan ceremonies become truly terrific when the deceased has been
the victim of assassination, for in that case the mourners swear to
take the life of the murderer. Up to the beginning of this century
the practice of the vendetta annually cost the lives of hundreds of
young men. At the present day it is confined to the most secluded
parts of the island, and in the mountain districts of Nuoro and La
Gallura it is customary at christenings to place a few bullets in the
swaddling-clothes of the infants, these consecrated bullets being
supposed never to miss their mark. Another custom still more barbarous
has ceased to be observed since the beginning of the last century.
Women, called “finishers” (_accabadure_), were employed to hasten the
end of dying persons, a practice which often led to the most atrocious

The peasant of Sardinia, though not the proprietor of the soil, is
nevertheless permitted to enjoy the result of his labour. The feudal
system existed up to 1840, and many traces of it still survive. The
great barons, most of them of Spanish extraction, were almost the
absolute masters of the country, and up to 1836 they administered the
law, had their prisons, and erected gallows as a symbol of their power.
The peasants, however, were not tied to the land, but could migrate at
pleasure, and custom granted them a fair share of the produce of the
soil. By virtue of an _ademprivio_ they were permitted to cut wood in
the forests, to pasture their sheep on the hills, and to bring into
cultivation the waste lands of the plains. Agriculture was carried
on in the most primitive fashion, for the great lords of the land
usually resided abroad, and the management of their estates was left
to bailiffs. Government has now become the proprietor of most of the
unenclosed {348} land, 80,000 acres of which have been ceded to the
Anglo-Italian Company, which has undertaken to provide the island with
a network of railways.

[Illustration: Fig. 128.—DISTRICT OF IGLESIAS.

Scale 1 : 420,800.]

In the more densely populated districts the division of the land is
exceedingly minute, and this subdivision is still progressing at a
most disastrous rate. The nomad herdsmen, on the other hand, possess
no land of their own, though, if inclined, they are at liberty to
enclose a plot. But vague proprietary rights like these render the
careful cultivation of the soil impossible. It has been seriously
proposed to expropriate the whole of the land, and to sell it to a few
enterprising capitalists, but this would simply amount to a restoration
of the old feudal times, and poverty, which is great even now, would
become greater. There are villages in the district of Ogliastra where
the peasants eat bread made of the acorns of _Quercus ilex_, the dough
being kneaded with water containing a fatty clay. This is, perhaps, the
only instance of earth-eating in Europe. The Spaniards, too, eat acorn
bread, but they use the fruit of _Quercus ballota_, which is really
edible, and are careful not to mix its flour with earth.

The Sardinians, even when they are the owners of pasture-grounds or
of fields, never live in the country. Like the Sicilians, they are
concentrated in towns or large villages, and neither hamlets nor
isolated farmhouses are met with. Even {349} the shepherds in the
mountains build their huts in groups called _stazzi_, and combine for
mutual protection into _cussorgie_. Members of these associations, when
they lose their cattle from disease or any other cause, may claim one
or more beasts from every one of their comrades living within the same
district or canton. In other parts of the island—as, for instance,
near Iglesias—the produce of the orchards is looked upon as common
property. The mountaineers, though poor, practise the ancient virtue
of hospitality, and though the dwellings are rude, they find means of
making a stranger staying amongst them comfortable.

The products of Sardinia form but a small proportion of those of all
Italy. Most of the peasants only work by fits and starts, and hardly
more than a fourth of the area of the island has been brought under
cultivation. It sometimes happens that the crops are destroyed by
the scorching heat of the sun, or eaten up by locusts, which come in
swarms from Africa. Except near Sassari no attempt is made to improve
the produce. The olive-tree alone is cultivated with some care, for
the grower of a certain number of these trees may claim political
privileges, and even the title of “Count,” and thousands of proprietors
have converted their sterile steppes into productive olive groves. The
millions of oranges grown in the gardens of Millis and elsewhere are
taken entirely for home consumption. Commercially these oranges are of
less importance than the saline plants collected in the marshes of the
coast districts, and the ashes of which are exported to Marseilles to
be converted into soda.

The working of granite and marble quarries yields some profit, but the
mines, which were of such importance in the time of the Romans, are
hardly touched now. There is only one iron mine, that of San Leone,
where work has been carried on seriously by a French company since
1822. It yields about 50,000 tons of ore annually, and the oldest
railway of the island connects that mine with Cagliari. The district
of Iglesias, where the Romans founded Plumbea and Metalla, and the
Pisans searched for silver, has recently regained some of its ancient
importance on account of its lead and zinc mines. The waste of the old
mines is likewise being scientifically treated by French, English,
and Italian companies, to whom mining claims have been ceded, and a
curious stalactite cavern which traverses the hill near Domus Novas
has been utilised in gaining access to the scoriæ. Iglesias is rapidly
growing into a city of modern aspect, the village of Gonessa is already
a respectable town, and the little harbour of Porto Scuso, until
recently almost deserted, is now crowded with small craft employed in
carrying annually 900,000 tons of lead and zinc ore to the roadstead of
Carlo-Forte. Unfortunately the miners, especially those from abroad,
frequently succumb to the climate.

The fisheries, being for the most part carried on in the bays exposed
to the sea breezes, are not attended by the same dangers. Certain
portions of the coast abound in fish, such as the Bay of Cagliari, and
the narrow arms of the sea in the archipelago of the Maddalena, which
the ancients searched for purple shells. Anchovies and “sardines”
periodically visit the coasts, and as many as 50,000 tunny-fish are
sometimes caught in a single season. The swamps or lagoons likewise
yield fish, which are caught in nets spread at the openings of the
channels {350} communicating with the sea. The swamp of Cagliari
abounds in shad, that of Oristano in mullets and eels, and that
of Alghero in pike and gold fish. The fisheries of Sardinia are
consequently of much importance, but most of their profits are reaped
by strangers. Corsicans fish near La Maddalena, Genoese around San
Pietro, and Italians monopolize the coral fisheries. These latter, too,
collect the _Pinna nobilis_, a shell, the silky byssus of which is
converted into stuff for garments. Nor do the Sardinians take to the
sea as sailors, and the commerce of the island is carried on almost
exclusively in Genoese and other Italian vessels. Out of 2,400 proverbs
collected by Spano, only three refer to the sea ! [118]


The inhabitants of the northern “Cape” of Sassari, or _di Sopra_,
claim to be more intelligent and civilised than those of the southern
“Cape” of Cagliari, or _di Sotto_. The former do not call themselves
Sardinians at all, but apply that name, which to them is synonymous
with barbarians, to the inhabitants of the {351} interior and of the
south. In former times these two sections of the population hated
each other, and the spirit of the vendetta, which set family against
family, village against village, made its influence felt all over the
island. This old animosity has not yet completely died out; but the
people of Sassari can no longer claim to be the superiors of their
southern neighbours. They certainly are better agriculturists and more
industrious, but the southerners possess the richest mines, their
portion of the island is most productive, and it is the seat of the

[Illustration: Fig. 130.—THE PORT OF TERRANOVA.

Scale 1 : 250,000.]

Cagliari, the ancient _Caralis_, has remained the great emporium of
the island since the days of Carthage. Only a few idols, sepulchral
chambers, the ruins of an aqueduct, and an amphitheatre excavated
in the rock, recall the dominion of Carthaginians and Romans, but
it could not be deprived of its excellent harbour and magnificent
roadstead. The town was only a short time under the rule of the Moors,
but its physiognomy is almost more oriental than that of any city in
Europe, many of its houses being provided with cupolas and balconies
overhanging the streets. Its position as a place of commerce is most
favourable, for it lies on the ocean highway connecting Sicily with
the Balearic Islands, and the coast of Africa is within a day’s sail.
It is sure to prosper, especially if a serious effort is made to
drain the marshes and to transform the plain of the Campidano into a
fertile garden. The latter, an ancient arm of the sea, extends to the
south-east towards Oristano, the “town of potters.” During the Middle
Ages {352} the latter was the seat of the most powerful lords of the
island, and it was thence Eleonora promulgated her famous _Carta de
logu_, which became the public law of the whole island. Oristano has
an excellent harbour, sheltered by the peninsula of Tharros, upon
which the Phœnicians had founded one of their settlements; its fields
are fertile, and, to bring about a return of its ancient prosperity,
it is only necessary to drain the marshes which now hem it in. In
former times fires were lighted upon the walls of the town during the
season of malaria, to purify the atmosphere; but the vast forests from
which the fuel for these fires was procured have disappeared, and this
portion of Sardinia is no longer entitled to its ancient epithet of
“Arborea.” It is said that in the marshes of Nurachi, to the north-east
of Oristano, may be heard now and then a noise resembling the bellowing
of a bull. This noise is probably produced by the passage of air
through some subterranean cavern, and similar phenomena have been
observed on the coast of Dalmatia.

Sassari the delightful, the rival of Cagliari, is embosomed amidst
olive-trees, gardens, and country houses. It alone, of all the towns of
the island, could boast of a republican government during the Middle
Ages, and the public spirit of its present inhabitants is, perhaps,
traceable to this circumstance. Its geographical position, however,
is far less favourable than that of Cagliari, for a zone of swamps
separates it from the sea. It might export its produce through the
port of Alghero or the excellent harbour of Porto Conto, to the south
of the mountains of La Nurra; but facility of access has dictated
its choice of Porto Torres, a miserable village on the swampy shore
of the Gulf of Asinara. Porto Torres occupies the site of a Roman
city, and the arches of a huge aqueduct and the columns of a Temple
of Fortune still rise above the reeds. This old port certainly offers
great facility for the export of the olive oil of Sassari and the
wines of Tempio, as respects France and Genoa; but the intricate
navigation of the Strait of Bonifacio separates it from the nearest
Italian coast. Italy has therefore determined to create an additional
port on the east coast of the island, and the Bay of Terranova has
been selected for that purpose. _Olbia_, which at the time of the
Romans had no less than 150,000 inhabitants, occupied the site of the
present town, which the Italians fondly imagine may become the great
emporium of the island. Its port is certainly well sheltered, and the
roadsteads of the archipelago of La Maddalena near it afford additional
accommodation; but seriously to improve the condition of Sardinia it
will be necessary, above all things, to drain its dreary swamps, and to
“transform their poisonous exhalations into bread.”[119]


No impartial spectator can deny that Italy, since it has again taken
its place among the nations of Europe, promises great things for the
future. Even its {353} political regeneration has brought to the
surface men of the highest intellect, courage, zeal, and public spirit.
There are some amongst them whom posterity will look upon as a credit
to all mankind. Possibly this period of excitement and nervous activity
may be succeeded by a sort of moral collapse, such as generally takes
place after every great crisis in the life of a nation. But this need
not render us anxious for the future, for generations exhausted by the
efforts they have made will be succeeded by others eager to continue
the work their predecessors have begun.

In sciences and arts the native country of Volta, Cialdi, Secchi,
Rossini, Verdi, and Vela occupies even now a position of equality
with the most advanced nations of Europe. The Italian of the present
day is able to refer without shame to the two great centuries of the
Renaissance, for he has entered upon a second period of regeneration,
and the names of contemporaries can be mentioned by the side of the
great names of the past. Italy has its skilful painters and sculptors,
its celebrated architects and unrivalled musicians. The great works
achieved by its engineers are deserving the study of foreigners.
Amongst its physicists, geologists, astronomers, and mathematicians
there are some of the brightest ornaments of the age, and the assiduity
with which universities are frequented insures their having worthy
successors. A geographical society only recently established has
successfully taken up the work of exploration so gloriously carried
on by the Genoese and Venetians. It is not just, therefore, to say
ironically that “Italy has been made, but not Italians.” Individually
the Italians are inferior to no other race of Europe, and the
reorganization of the country would have been impossible had there been
any deficiency in men of mark.

Italy is more densely inhabited than any other of the great states
of Europe, in spite of vast extents of almost uninhabitable mountain
tracts and swamps. The population, however, increases less rapidly
than in Russia, England, or Germany. It doubles in about a century,
whilst that of Russia doubles in fifty and that of France in two
hundred years. Italy thus occupies an intermediate position. In Apulia
and Calabria, which are amongst the poorest provinces, the birth rate
is highest, whilst in the wealthy Marches and Umbria it is lowest.
On an average the Italian dies when he is thirty-two, and his life
is consequently much shorter than that of the average Frenchman or

Agriculture and the development of the natural resources of the soil
and the sea engage much more attention than industry properly so
called. Nearly fifty per cent. of the total area is under cultivation.
The cereals raised do not suffice for the wants of the inhabitants,
but other products are exported in considerable quantities. In its
production of oil Italy holds a foremost rank as regards quantity, but
not always with respect to quality. The amount of fruit grown, such
as figs, grapes, almonds, and oranges, is greater than in any other
country of Europe. The chestnut forests in the Apennines and Alps yield
rich harvests. Its mulberry plantations are four times more extensive
than those of France, and the raw silk produced in favourable years
exceeds in quantity that exported from China. The peninsula is still
entitled to its ancient epithet of {354} Œnotria (wine land), but,
apart from certain districts of continental Italy and Sicily, the
quality of wine produced, owing to carelessness on the part of the
growers, is inferior to what it is in France. The cultivation of cotton
is comparatively of small importance. The breeding of animals yields
large profits, and Italy is noted throughout Europe for the quality of
some kinds of cheese.[120]

The working of the iron mines of Elba, the quarrying of marble and
granite in the Alps and Apuanic Alps, the extraction of borax and
boracic acid in the Tuscan Sub-Apennines, the mining for lead and zinc
in Sardinia, and for sulphur in Sicily,[121] lead up to industrial
pursuits properly so called. These latter extend nearly to everything,
from the manufacture of pins to the construction of steam-engines and
ships. Italy, however, is eminent only in the production of certain
_articles de luxe_, such as straw bonnets, cameos, coral jewellery,
glass, and in the preparation of macaroni and other farinaceous pastes.
The manufacture of silk, however, has taken a rapid development in
recent years, and Milan has become a dangerous rival of Lyons. In the
province of Novara, and more especially at Biella, there are hundreds
of woollen factories. The cotton manufacture is not of much importance,
and linen-weaving is for the most part carried on as a domestic
industry. Italy, in fact, cannot yet be called a manufacturing country.
The number of workmen is large, but they mostly labour at home or in
small workshops,[122] and a division of labour, such as exists in
England, France, or Germany, is hardly known. Manufactories, however,
are rapidly increasing, and economical conditions are gradually
becoming what they are already in most other countries of Europe.

Italy possesses a powerful mercantile marine, manned by 150,000 seamen;
but its foreign commerce is far less than might have been expected
from its tonnage.[123] Most of the vessels are engaged in the coasting
trade. The first Italian vessel was seen in the Pacific in 1847, and
even now the Italian flag is very inadequately represented in the
navigation of the great oceans. Italian patriots are anxious to see
the commerce of the country extended to the most distant regions. For
the present Italy enjoys a sort of monopoly in the Mediterranean, and
any increase of {355} population or wealth in Northern Africa must
prove of immediate advantage to it. But there can be no doubt that the
proposed railway from Antwerp or Calais to Saloniki or Constantinople
will seriously affect the transit trade of Italian ports. Nor are
Italian shipowners able to compete with their rivals of Marseilles
or Trieste when it is a question of speed, for the number of their
steamers is very small.

[Illustration: Fig. 131.—NAVIGATION OF ITALY.]

The facilities for carrying on coasting trade have, in some measure,
interfered with the development of the inland trade of the country.
The construction of railways, however, is gradually bringing about a
change. Already five lines of {356} rails cross the Apennines, others
are projected, and one of the Italian railways, namely, that which
pierces the Alps in the tunnel of Mont Cenis, and finally follows the
eastern coast to Rimini, has become a portion of the great European
highway to India. Nor must the political importance of these railways
be underrated, for they knit together the most distant provinces of
Italy, and make the country really one.[124]

[Illustration: Fig. 132.—ROUTES OF COMMERCE OF ITALY.

Scale 1 : 6,000,000.]


The commerce of Italy has increased rapidly of late, but it is still
inferior not only to that of England, France, Germany, Austria,
and Russia, but likewise to that of much smaller countries, like
Belgium and the Netherlands. In 1875 the imports, including transit,
were estimated at £48,614,280, the exports at £42,301,800. France
participates in this commerce to the extent of 31 per cent., England
is represented by 23, Austria by 20, and all the other countries of
the world share in the remainder. Recently the commerce with North and
South America has assumed considerable proportions, and efforts are
being made to obtain a footing in Eastern Asia.

The great scourge of Italy consists in the poverty of its peasantry
even in the most fertile provinces, as in Lombardy and the Basilicata.
These peasants live in foul hovels, and the united earnings of a
whole family are hardly sufficient to procure bread. Chestnuts, and a
polenta of maize and paste made of damaged flour, are the principal
articles of food, and nothing is left for luxuries, or even comfortable
clothing. Rickets and other diseases brought about by an insufficiency
of food are common, and, in fact, mortality is very great. Emigration
is under these circumstances of immense advantage to the country, for
the thousands of Italians who seek work or found new homes in South
America, the United States, France, Turkey, Egypt, and elsewhere,
not only earn their bread, but also render some assistance to those
of their relatives who remain behind. It is said that out of 500,000
Italians living abroad, no less than 100,000 are engaged in art, either
as painters, sculptors, or musicians, the latter being frequently mere
street-singers or organ-grinders.

Ignorance, the usual companion of poverty, is still very great
throughout the peninsula. We might err in condemning the Italians
because of their ignorance of the arts of reading and writing, for, as
the heirs of an ancient civilisation, they are more polished in their
manners than the educated peasants of the North. Still this ignorance
is most deplorable, for it precludes all progress. Nearly two-thirds of
the population over ten years of age are unable to read, and fifty-nine
men and seventy-eight women out of every hundred are unable to sign
the marriage registers. There are several thousand parishes without
elementary schools, and the number of pupils, instead of amounting
to the normal proportion of one to every six or seven inhabitants,
is only one to about eleven.[125] Education, however, is making fair
progress, but its influence upon the diminution of crimes of violence
has hitherto been small. In 1874 Signor Cantelli, the Home Secretary,
stated that there occurred annually 3,000 homicides, 4,000 cases of
highway robbery, and 30,000 violent assaults.

The permanent confusion of the finances of Italy, attended as it is by
heavy and vexatious taxes, must be looked upon as one of the principal
causes which retard the development of the country. The national
debt may appear a small matter if we compare it with that of France,
but it has been raised in the course {358} of a single generation,
and is augmenting from year to year. The revenue increases but the
expenditure does so likewise, and the additional income resulting
from an increase of taxation and the sales of Church property is not
sufficient to cover the deficiency. The heavy cost of the army, an
absence of sustained efforts in carrying on public works, waste and
fraud by public servants, have hitherto prevented the establishment of
a balance between income and expenditure, and the paper money issued by
Government is nowhere accepted at its nominal value.

This disorganization of the finances places Italy at the mercy of
foreigners, and the arrangements which have to be made from time to
time with foreign capitalists are not always of a purely financial
nature. The inefficiency of her military and naval organization,
moreover, compels her to cultivate foreign alliances as expediency may
direct, and to these alliances Italy is, in a large measure, indebted
for her political unity.[126]

Nor is this unity even now as perfect as could be desired. The Pope
has been deprived of his temporal power; he resides at the Vatican
as a guest; and the money offered him by the Italian Government,
but which has never been accepted, is not tribute, but a gratuity.
But, in spite of this, the Pope is still a real power, and his very
presence interferes substantially with the permanent establishment of
the state. The Catholics of the world have not yet acquiesced in his
disestablishment, and they allow no opportunity for attacking the new
order of things to escape them. Political Europe is consequently much
interested in the home affairs of Italy, and feels tempted frequently
to intervene. The most expert diplomacy may not be able to avert this
danger, and if there is a struggle it will certainly not be confined to
the peninsula.

In the end Italy will no doubt escape from the anomalous position
of having for her capital a city which is the seat of a theocratic
government claiming the allegiance of the Roman Catholics of the
entire world. The geographical conditions of no other country are
equally favourable to the development of national sentiments and
the maintenance of a national individuality. At the same time the
well-defined boundaries of the country deprive it of all force of
expansion. Italy will never play a great part beyond the bounds of the
Mediterranean, and though Italian may obtain a certain preponderance
in Tunis, Egypt, and the Levant, the noble language of Dante has no
chance, as regards universality, when opposed to English, French,
Spanish, German, or Russian.


The charter promulgated in March, 1848, declares the old kingdom of
Sardinia to be an hereditary constitutional monarchy. It has gradually
been {359} extended to the other portions of the peninsula. Like most
similar documents, it guarantees equality before the law, personal
liberty, and inviolability of the domicile. The press is free, “subject
to a law repressing its abuses;” the right of meeting is recognised,
“but not in the case of places open to the general public;” and all
citizens are promised the enjoyment of equal civil and political
rights, “except in those cases which shall be determined by law.”

The executive is intrusted to the King, but no law or act of government
is valid unless countersigned by a minister. The King, as such, is
commander of the naval and military forces, he concludes all treaties,
and the assent of the Chambers is only required if they concern
cessions of territory, or entail an expenditure of public money.
All Government officials are appointed by the King, he may dissolve
the Chamber of Deputies, justice is administered in his name, and
he possesses the right of pardon. He enjoys the fruits of the Crown
lands, and may dispose of his private property without reference to the
general laws of the country. The civil list of the King and the members
of his family annually exceeds £800,000 !

Senators are appointed by the King from amongst ecclesiastical,
military, and civil functionaries, persons of wealth, and men who
have deserved well of the country. Their number is not limited, and
they must be forty years of age. Deputies are elected for five years.
They must be thirty years of age. Neither senators nor deputies are
in receipt of emoluments, and this may explain the little zeal they
exhibit in the performance of their public duties. A quorum, consisting
of one-half the members of each house _plus_ one, is frequently
unattainable for weeks.

The franchise is enjoyed by professors of universities and colleges,
civil servants, knights of orders of chivalry, members of the liberal
professions, merchants, persons who have an income of £24 from money
invested in Government securities, and all others twenty-five years of
age, able to read and write, and paying 32s. in taxes. The number of
electors is about 400,000, but hardly one-half of them ever go to the

Each province occupies the position of a “corporation,” which may
hold property, and enjoys a certain amount of self-government. The
“Provincial Councils” consist of from twenty to sixty members, who
are chosen by the municipal electors for five years. These Councils
usually occupy themselves with the material interests of the province,
and, when not sitting, are represented by a “Deputation” charged with
controlling the acts of the prefect.

The municipal organization is very similar to that of the provinces.
The Councils are elected for five years: all males of twenty-one years
of age paying from 4s. to 20s. in taxes (according to the importance
of the municipality), professors, civil servants, members of liberal
professions, and soldiers who have been decorated are in the enjoyment
of the franchise. The Council meets twice a year, and its sittings
are held in public if a majority demands it. It appoints a municipal
_giunta_ of from two to twelve members, charged with the conduct of
current affairs. The mayors, like the provincial prefects, are {360}
appointed by Government, but must be chosen from the members of the
Municipal Council.

The great territorial divisions of the kingdom (see p. 362) consist
of 69 provinces and 284 circles (_circondarii_), or districts.
These latter again are subdivided into 1,779 judicial districts
(_mandamenti_) and 8,360 communes. The central Government is
represented in the provinces by a prefect, in the districts by a
sub-prefect, and in the communes by a mayor, or _sindaco_. This system
of administration is very much like that existing in modern France.

The administration of justice was organized in 1865. In each commune
there is a “Conciliator,” appointed for three years by Government,
on the presentation of the Municipal Council. A “Pretor” administers
justice at the capital of each of the judicial districts: he is
assisted by one or more Vice-pretors. Next follow 161 civil and
correctional courts, 92 assize courts, 24 courts of appeal, 25
commercial tribunals, and 4 courts of cassation; the latter at
Florence, Naples, Palermo, and Turin. The Code of Laws is an adaptation
of the Code Napoléon, and breathes the same spirit.

In military matters Prussia has served as a model. Every Italian,
on attaining his twenty-first year, becomes liable to serve in the
army or navy. Men embodied in the first category of the standing army
(_esercito permanente_) remain from three to five years under the
colours, according to the arm to which they belong, and six to seven
years on furlough. The men of the second category, or reserve of the
standing army, drill fifty days, and are then dismissed to their homes.
The “mobilised militia” includes all men up to forty not belonging
to the standing army. A “levy en masse,” or _Milizia stanziole_, is
provided for by law, but nothing has been done hitherto to render it
a reality. The standing army includes 90 regiments of infantry, 20
regiments of cavalry, 14 of artillery, and 1 of engineers, and numbers
410,000 men; the reserve amounts to 180,000 men; the mobilised militia
(247 battalions, 24 Alpine companies, 60 batteries, and 10 companies
of engineers), 277,000, and 234,000 officers and men are stated to be
under the colours. The four great fortresses of the north are Verona,
Mantua, Peschiera, and Legnago. These form the famous “Quadrilateral.”
Venice is likewise a place of great strength, and made an heroic
defence in 1849. Palmanova defends the frontier between the Julian
Alps and the Gulf of Trieste. Rocca d’Anfo, on an isolated rock to the
north of Lake Garda, commands the defiles of the Adige and Chiese.
Pizzighettone, on the Adda, is no longer of much importance, now that
Italy has acquired possession of the Quadrilateral; but Alessandria, at
the confluence of the Tanaro and Bormida, will always retain its rank
as the great strategical centre of Piemont, and one of the strongest
places of Europe. Casale may be looked upon as one of its outworks, and
together with Genoa defends the passages of the Apennines. Piacenza and
Ferrara command important passages of the Po. The other fortresses of
Italy are Ancona in the centre; Porto Ferrajo in Elba; Gaeta, Capua,
and Taranto in the south; and Messina in Sicily.

The navy consists of 21 ironclads (179 guns, engines of 11,310
horse-power, 76,842 tons) and 51 wooden steamers, manned by 20,000
seamen. The great {361} naval arsenals and stations are at Spezia,
Genoa, Naples, Castellamare di Stabbia, Venice, Ancona, and Taranto.

The Roman Catholic Church alone is acknowledged by the State, but
all other religions are tolerated. The conflict between Church and
State is favourable to the spread of Protestantism; but, apart from
the Waldenses and a few foreigners in the larger towns, there are
no Protestants in Italy. Many of those, however, who are nominally
Catholics have ranged themselves amongst the enemies of their Church,
or are perfectly indifferent.

Italy occupies quite a special position in the world, owing to its
being the seat of the Papacy. Rome is the seat of two governments,
viz. that of the King and of the Sovereign Pontiff. The latter, though
shorn of his temporal power, is in principle one of the most absolute
monarchs. Once elected Vicar of Jesus Christ by the cardinals met in
conclave, he is responsible to no one for his actions, though it is
customary for him to listen to the advice of the Sacred College of
Cardinals before deciding questions of importance. The Pope alone, of
all men, is infallible; he can efface the crimes of others, “bind and
unbind,” and holds the keys of heaven and hell, his power extending
thus beyond the span of man’s natural life.

The cardinals are the great dignitaries of this spiritual government.
They are created by the Pope. Their number is limited to 70, viz. 6
Cardinal Bishops (who reside at Rome), 50 Cardinal Priests, and 14
Cardinal Deacons. The Cardinal _Camerlengo_ represents the temporal
authority of the Holy See, and on the death of a pope he takes charge
of the Vatican and of the Fisherman’s Key, which is the symbol of the
power bestowed upon St. Peter and his successors. In special cases the
cardinals of the three orders may be convoked to an Œcumenical Council.
On the death of a pope the cardinals elect his successor, who must
be fifty-five years of age, and obtain two-thirds of the votes. His
investment with the pallium and tiara, however, only takes place after
the assent of the Governments of France, Spain, Austria, and Naples
(now represented by Italy) has been secured.

In virtue of the formula of “A free Church in a free State,” so
frequently repeated since Cavour, the Pope is permitted to enjoy
sovereign rights. He convokes councils and chapters, appoints all
ecclesiastical officers, has his own post-office and telegraph, his
guard of nobles and of Swiss, pays no taxes, and enjoys in perpetuity
the palaces of the Vatican and Lateran, as well as the villa of
Castel-Gandolfo, on the Lake of Albano. In addition to this, he has
been voted by the Italian Parliament an annual “dotation” of £129,000.
This grant, however, he has not touched hitherto, but the “Peter’s
pence,” collected by the faithful in all parts of the world, amount to
more than double that sum.

Italy is divided into 47 archiepiscopal and 206 episcopal sees.
There are more than 100,000 secular priests, and in 1866, when the
monasteries and convents were suppressed, their inmates receiving
pensions from Government, there were 32,000 monks and 44,000 nuns. The
ecclesiastical army consequently numbers 176,000 souls, and is nearly
as numerous as the military force on a peace footing. {362}

The following table exhibits the area and population (estimated for
1875) of the great territorial divisions of Italy:―

                   Square miles.      Population.
 Piemont              11,301           2,995,213
 Liguria               2,056             865,254
 Lombardy              9,084           3,553,913
 Venetia (Venezia)     9,060           2,733,406
 Emilia                7,921           2,153,381
 Umbria                3,720             563,582
 Marches               3,748             930,712
 Tuscany               9,287           2,172,832
 Rome (Latium)         4,601             839,074
 Abruzzos—Molise      6,676           1,302,966
 Campania              6,941           2,807,450
 Apulia (Puglie)       8,539           1,464,604
 Basilicata            4,122             517,069
 Calabria              6,663           1,229,614
 Sicily               11,290           2,698,672
 Sardinia              9,398             654,432
                     ───────          ──────────
     Total           114,407          27,482,174
                     ═══════          ══════════





Corsica, with Sardinia, forms a world apart. At a remote epoch these
two islands were but one, and it is curious to find that Corsica, which
politically now forms part of France, is geographically as well as
historically much more Italian than its sister island. A glance at a
map is sufficient to convince us that Corsica is a dependency of Italy,
for while abyssal depths of more than 500 fathoms separate it from
Provence, it is joined to the coast of Tuscany by a submarine plateau,
the mountains of which rise above the surface of the waters as islands.
The climate and natural productions of the island are those of Italy,
and the language of its inhabitants is Italian. Purchased from the
Genoese, then conquered by main force, Corsica in the end voluntarily
united its destinies with those of France. It has now been connected
for more than three generations with the latter, and there can be no
doubt that most of its citizens look upon themselves as Frenchmen.

Though only half the size of Sardinia, Corsica is nevertheless larger
than an average French department. The fourth island in size of the
Mediterranean, it follows next to Cyprus, but is far more important
than that island, and only yields to Sicily and Sardinia in wealth
and population.[128] It is a country of great natural beauty. Its
mountains, attaining an altitude of over 8,000 feet, remain covered
with snow during half the year, and the view from the summits embraces
nearly the whole of the island, its barren rocks, forests, and
cultivated fields. Most of the valleys abound in running water, and
cascades glitter in all directions. Old Genoese towers, standing upon
promontories, formerly defended the entrance to every bay exposed to
incursions of the Saracens, but they are hardly more nowadays than
embellishments of the landscape.

Monte Cinto, the culminating point of the island, does not pierce the
region of {364} persistent snows. A huge citadel of granite, whose
fastnesses afforded a shelter to the Corsicans during their wars of
independence, it rises in the north-western portion of the island. From
its summit we can trace the whole of the coast from the French Alps
to the Apennines of Tuscany. There are other peaks to the north and
south of it which almost rival it in height.[129] This main chain of
the island consists throughout of crystalline rock. Transverse ridges
connect it with a parallel range of limestone mountains on the east,
which extend northward through the whole of the peninsula of Bastia,
and shut in, farther south, the old lake basin of Corte, now drained
by the Golo, Tavignano, and other rivers. The whole of the interior
of Corsica may be described as a labyrinth of mountains, and in order
to pass from village to village it is necessary to climb up steep
steps, or _scale_, and to ascend from the region of olives to that of
pasturage. The high-road which joins Ajaccio to Bastia has to climb a
pass 3,793 feet in height (Fig. 134), and even the road following the
populous western coast ascends and descends continuously, in order to
avoid the promontories descending steeply into the sea. These physical
obstacles sufficiently explain why railways have not yet been built.


Scale 1 : 1,850,000.]

[Illustration: SPAIN AND PORTUGAL]

The western coast of the island is indented by numerous gulfs and bays,
which resemble ancient fiords partly filled up by alluvial sediment.
On the eastern coast, {365} which faces Italy, the slopes are more
gentle; the rivers are larger and more tranquil, though not one of them
is navigable; and the ground is more level. This portion of the island
is known as _Banda di Dentro_, or “inner zone,” in distinction from
the _Banda di Fuori_, or “exterior (western) zone.” The eastern coast
appears to have been upheaved during a comparatively recent epoch, and
ancient gulfs of the sea have been converted into lagoons and swamps,
quite as dangerous from their miasmatic exhalations as those of the
sister island. If we add that the mountains in the west obstruct the
passage of the vivifying mistral, that the heat in summer is great, and
droughts frequent, we have said enough to account for the insalubrity
of the climate.[130] The maritime basin between Corsica and Italy is
almost shut in by mountains, and purifying breezes are rare there.
Between Bastia and Porto-Vecchio not a single town or village is met
with on the coast, and in the beginning of July the peasantry retire
to the hills in order to escape the fever. Only a few guards and the
unfortunate convicts shut up in the penitentiary of Casabianca remain
behind. Nothing more melancholy can be imagined than these fertile
fields deserted by their inhabitants. Plantations of eucalyptus have
been made recently with a view to the amelioration of the climate.


Owing to the great height of the mountains we are able to trace in
Corsica distinct zones of vegetation. Up to a moderate height the
character of the vegetation is sub-tropical, and resembles that of
Sicily or Southern Spain. There are districts which can be numbered
amongst the most fertile of the Mediterranean. One of these is the
_Campo dell’Oro_, or “field of gold,” around Ajaccio, where hedges of
tree-like cacti separate the gardens and orchards; such, also, is the
country to the north of Bastia, with its aromatic flowers and luscious
fruits. Olive forests generally cover the lower hills, their silvery
foliage contrasting with the sombre verdure of the chestnut woods
above. Balagna, near Calvi, on the north-western coast of the island,
is famous for its olives, whilst another valley, on the opposite
side of the island, near Bastia, can boast of the most magnificent
chestnut-trees. Chestnuts, in some parts, constitute the principal
article of food, {366} and enable the inhabitants, who are by no means
distinguished for their industry, to dispense with the cultivation of
cereals. Some political economists have actually proposed to fell these
trees, in order that the inhabitants may be forced to work.

Chestnut-trees grow up to a height of 6,250 feet. The virgin forests
which formerly extended beyond them to the zone of pasturage have for
the most part disappeared. In the upper Balagna valley, Valdoniello,
and Aitone, however, magnificent forests may still be seen, and a larch
(_Pinus altissimus_), the finest conifer of all Europe, attains there
a height of 160 feet. These splendid trees, unfortunately, are rapidly
disappearing. They are being converted into masts, or sawn into staves
and planks.

The pasturing grounds above these forests are frequented during summer
by herdsmen with their flocks of sheep and goats. The agile moufflon
is still met with there in a few rocky recesses, and the shepherds
assert that wild boars, though very numerous on the island, carefully
avoid its haunts. The wolf is unknown in the island, and the bear has
disappeared for more than a century. Foxes of large size and small deer
complete the fauna of the forest region of Corsica. The _malmignata_
spider, whose bite is sometimes mortal, is probably of the same species
as that of Sardinia and Tuscany; the _tarentula_ is the same as that
of Naples, but the venomous ant known as _innafantato_ appears to be
peculiar to the island.

       *       *       *       *       *

We know nothing about the origin of the aboriginal inhabitants
of Corsica. There are neither nuraghi, as in Sardinia, nor other
antiquities enabling us to form an opinion with respect to their
manners. But there exist near Sartène and elsewhere several dolmens, or
_stazzone_, menhirs, or _stantare_, and even avenues of stones, which
are similar in all respects to those of Brittany and England. We may
assume, therefore, that these countries were formerly inhabited by the
same race.

The inhabitants of Corte, in the interior of the island, and the
mountaineers of Bastelica, boast of being Corsicans of the purest
blood. At Bastia the type is altogether Italian, but as we travel
into the interior we meet men with large fleshy faces, small noses
devoid of character, clear complexion, and eyes of a chestnut colour
rather than black. Phocæans, Romans, and Saracens, who maintained
themselves here until the eleventh century, were succeeded by Italians
and French. Calvi and Bonifacio were Genoese settlements, and at
Carghese, near Ajaccio, we even meet with a colony of Greek Mainotes,
who settled there in the seventeenth century, and whose descendants
now speak Greek, Italian, and French. But, in spite of these foreign
immigrations, the Corsicans have in a large measure retained their
homogeneity. Paoli was rather proud of a Genoese proverb, which said
that the “Corsicans deserved to be hanged, but knew how to bear it.”
History bears, indeed, witness to their patriotism, fearlessness,
and respect for truth; but it also tells us of foolish ambitions,
jealousies, and a furious spirit of revenge. Even in the middle of
last century the practice of the vendetta cost a thousand lives
{367} annually. Entire villages were depopulated, and in many parts
every peasant’s house was converted into a fortress, where the men
were constantly on the alert, the women, protected by custom against
outrage, sallying forth alone to cultivate the fields. The ceremonies
observed when a victim of the vendetta was brought home were terrible.
The women gathered round the corpse, and one amongst them, in most
cases a sister of the deceased, furiously called down vengeance upon
the head of the murderer. The _voceri_ of death are amongst the finest
national songs. Foreign domination is to blame, no doubt, for the
frequency of these assassinations. The judges sent to the country did
not enjoy the confidence of the inhabitants, and these latter returned
to the primitive law of retaliation.

Though Corsica gave a master to France, the spirit of the people is
essentially republican. The Romans barely succeeded in enslaving it,
and even in the tenth century the greater portion of the island formed
a confederation of independent communities known as _Terra del Comune_.
The inhabitants of each valley formed a _pieve_ (_plebs_), by whom were
elected a _podesta_ and the “fathers of the commune.” These latter
appointed a “corporal,” who was charged with the defence of popular
rights. The podestas in turn elected a Council of twelve, who stood
at the head of the confederation. This constitution survived conquest
and invasion. In the eighteenth century, when fighting heroically
against Genoa and France, Corsica declared all citizens equal. It was
institutions like these which made Rousseau say that “that little
island would one day astonish Europe.” Since that time the Napoleonic
era has whetted the ambition of the Corsicans, and they appear to have
forgotten their traditions of freedom.

Corsica is one of the least-populated departments of France.[131] The
eastern slope of the island, though more fertile and extensive than
the western, and formerly densely peopled, is now almost a desert. The
Roman colony of Mariana no longer exists, and the Phocæan emporium of
Aleria has dwindled down since the thirteenth century into an isolated
homestead standing close to a pestiferous swamp. At the present time
the great centres of population are on the western coast, which faces
France, enjoys a salubrious climate, and possesses magnificent ports.

The Corsicans certainly appear to deserve the charge of idleness which
is brought against them, for they have done but little to develop the
great resources of their island. Fishing and cattle-breeding they
understand best. In many parts agricultural operations are carried
on almost exclusively with the help of Italian labourers, known as
Lucchesi, because most of them formerly came from Lucca. Thanks,
however, to the impulse given by France, a commencement has been made
in the cultivation of the soil, and olive oil, equal to the best of
Provence, wine, and dried fruits already constitute important articles
of export.[132]

Corsica abounds in ores, but they do not appear to be as rich as those
of Sardinia. Formerly iron mines alone were worked, the ore being
conveyed to the {368} furnaces near Bastia and Porto Vecchio; but of
late years copper mines have been opened at Castifao, near Corte, and
argentiferous lead is being procured from a mine near Argentella,
not far from Ile Rousse. Red and blue granite, porphyry, alabaster,
serpentine, and marble are being quarried. There are many mineral
springs, but the only one enjoying a European reputation is that of
Orezzo, which rises in the picturesque district of Castagniccia. Its
ferruginous water contains a considerable quantity of carbonic acid,
and is recommended as efficacious in a host of diseases.

[Illustration: Fig. 135.—VIEW OF BASTIA.]

The most important town of Corsica, though not its capital, is Bastia,
thus named from a Genoese castle built towards the close of the
fourteenth century on the beach of the hill village of Cardo. Bastia
stands about a mile to the north of the two former capitals of the
island, viz. Mariana and Biguglia, of which the former has left no
trace, whilst the latter has dwindled down to a miserable village. The
geographical position of Bastia is excellent, for it is within easy
reach of Italy, and frequent communications with that country have
exercised a most happy influence upon its inhabitants, who are the
most civilised and industrious of the whole island. Its harbour is
small, and far from safe, but it is much frequented. The city rises
amphitheatrically upon hills, and is surrounded by delightful gardens
and numerous villas. {369}

St. Florent, only six miles from Bastia, but on the western coast
of the island, has an excellent harbour, but the atmosphere hanging
over its marshes is deadly. Ile Rousse, farther to the west, is the
principal port of the fertile district of Balagna. It was founded by
Paoli in 1758, in order to ruin Calvi, which had remained faithful to
the Genoese. This object has been attained. Ile Rousse exports large
quantities of oil and fruit, whilst the old town of Calvi, on its
whitish rock, is a place without life, frequently visited by malaria.
The coast to the south of Calvi, as far as the Gulf of Sagone, though
exceedingly fertile, is almost a desert, and many parts of it suffer
from malaria. Ajaccio, however, at one time merely a maritime suburb of
Castelvecchio, standing a short distance inland, has risen into great
importance. It is the pleasantest and best-built town of the island,
and Napoleon, the most famous of its sons, showered favours upon it.
The inhabitants fish and cultivate their fertile orchards. They also
derive great advantages from a multitude of visitors, who go thither to
enjoy a delicious climate and picturesque scenery.

The other towns of Corsica are of no importance whatever. Sartène,
though the capital of an arrondissement, is merely a village, and the
activity of the district centres in the little port of Propriano,
on the Gulf of Valinco, one of the trysting-places of Neapolitan
fishermen. Corte is famous in the history of the island as the
birthplace of the heroes of the wars of independence. Porto Vecchio,
though in possession of the best harbour of the island, is frequented
only by a few coasting vessels, whilst Bonifacio, an ancient ally of
the Genoese, is important only because of its fortifications. The
prospect from the isolated limestone rock upon which it is built is
exceedingly picturesque. The mountains of Limbara stand out clearly
against the sky, and in front we look down upon the granitic islets
dotting the Strait of Bonifacio, so dangerous to navigators. It was
here the frigate _La Sémillante_ foundered in 1855, with nearly a
thousand souls on board.[133]






The Iberian peninsula, Spain and Portugal, must be looked upon
geographically as one. Differences of soil, climate, and language
may have justified its division into two states, but in the organism
of Europe these two constitute but a single member, having the
same geological history, and exhibiting unity in their physical

Compared with the other peninsulas of Southern Europe, viz. Italy and
that of the Balkans, Iberia is most insular in its character. The
isthmus which attaches it to the trunk of Europe is comparatively
narrow, and it is defined most distinctly by the barrier of the
Pyrenees. The contour of the peninsula is distinguished by its
massiveness. There are curving bays, but no inlets of the sea
penetrating far inland, as in the case of Greece.[136]

It was said long ago, and with justice, that Africa begins at the
Pyrenees. Iberia, indeed, bears some resemblance to Africa. Its outline
is heavy, there are hardly any islands along its coasts, and few
plains open out upon the sea. But it is an Africa in miniature, only
one-fiftieth the size of the continent upon which it appears to have
been modelled. Moreover, the oceanic slope of the peninsula is quite
European as to climate, vegetation, and abundance of running water; and
{371} certain features of its flora even justify a belief that at some
remote epoch it was joined to the British Islands. African Hispania
only begins in reality with the treeless plateaux of the interior,
and more especially with the Mediterranean coasts. There we meet the
zone of transition between the two continents. Its general aspect,
flora, fauna, and even population, mark out that portion of Spain as an
integral part of Barbary; the Sierra Nevada and the Atlas, facing each
other, are sister mountains; and the strait which separates them is a
mere accident in the surface relief of our planet.


Scale 1 : 10,300,000.]

Spain, though nearly surrounded by the sea, is nevertheless essentially
continental in its character. Nearly the whole of it consists of
table-lands, and only the plains of the Tajo (Tagus) and of Andalusia
open out broadly upon the ocean. The coast, for the most part, rises
steeply, and the harbours are consequently difficult of access to the
inhabitants of the interior, a circumstance most detrimental to the
development of a large sea-borne commerce.

Ever since the discovery of the ocean high-roads to America and the
Indies, the Atlantic coast of the Iberian peninsula has taken the
lead in commercial matters, {372} a fact easily accounted for by
the physical features of the country. Spain, like peninsular Italy,
turns her back upon the east. The plateaux slope down gently towards
the west; the principal rivers, the Ebro alone excepted, flow in that
direction; and the water-shed lies close to the Mediterranean shores.

       *       *       *       *       *

Spain must either have given birth to an aboriginal people, or was
peopled by way of the Pyrenees and by emigrants crossing the narrow
strait at the columns of Hercules. The Iberian race actually forms
the foundation of the populations of Spain. The Basks, or Basques,
now confined to a few mountain valleys, formerly occupied the
greater portion of the peninsula, as is proved by its geographical
nomenclature. Celtic tribes subsequently crossed the Pyrenees, and
established themselves in various parts of the country, mixing in many
instances with the Iberians, and forming the so-called Celtiberians.
This mixed race is met with principally in the two Castiles, whilst
Galicia and the larger portion of Portugal appear to be inhabited
by pure Celts. The Iberians had their original seat of civilisation
in the south; they thence moved northward along the coast of the
Mediterranean, penetrating as far as the Alps and the Apennines.

These original elements of the population were joined by colonists
from the great commercial peoples of the Mediterranean. Cádiz and
Málaga were founded by the Phœnicians, Cartagena by the Carthaginians,
Saguntum by immigrants from Zacynthus, Rosas is a Rhodian colony, and
the ruins of Ampurias recall the Emporiæ of the Massilians. But it
was the Romans who modified the character of the Iberian and Celtic
inhabitants of the peninsula, whom they subjected after a hundred
years’ war. Italian culture gradually penetrated into every part of the
country, and the use of Latin became universal, except in the remote
valleys inhabited by the Basques.

After the downfall of the Roman empire Spain was successively invaded
by Suevi, Alani, Vandals, and Visigoths, but only the latter have
exercised an abiding influence upon the language and manners of the
Spaniards, and the pompous gravity of the Castilian appears to be a
portion of their heritage.

To these northern invasions succeeded an invasion from the neighbouring
continent of Africa. The Arabs and Berbers of Mauritania gained a
footing upon the rock of Gibraltar early in the eighth century, and
very soon afterwards nearly the whole of Spain had fallen a prey to the
Mussulman, who maintained himself here for more than seven centuries.
Moors immigrated in large numbers, and they substantially affected
the character of the population, more especially in the south. The
Inquisition expelled, or reduced to a condition of bondage, hundreds
of thousands of these Moors, but its operations only extended to
Mussulmans or doubtful converts, whilst Arab and Berber blood had
already found its way into the veins of the bulk of the population.
Castilian bears witness to the great influence of the Saracens, for it
contains many more words of Arabic than of Visigothic origin, and these
words designate objects and ideas evidencing a state of progressive
civilisation, such as existed when the Arabs of Córdova and Granada
inaugurated the modern era of science and industry in Europe. {373}

During the dominion of the Moors the Jews prospered singularly on the
soil of Spain, and their number at the time of the first persecution
is said to have been 800,000. Supple, like most of their faith, they
managed to get a footing in both camps, the Christian and Mohammedan,
and enriched themselves at the expense of each. They supplied both
sides with money to carry on the war, and, as farmers of taxes, they
oppressed the inhabitants. The Christian faith triumphed in the end;
the kings, to pay the cost of their wars, proclaimed a crusade against
the Jews; and the people threw themselves with fury upon their hated
oppressors, sparing neither iron, fire, tortures, nor the stake. A few
Jewish families may have escaped destruction by embracing Catholicism,
but the bulk of that people perished or were driven into exile.

Far happier has been the lot of the Gipsies, or _Gitanos_, who are
sufficiently numerous in Spain to give a special physiognomy to several
large towns. These Gipsies have always conformed outwardly to the
national religion, and the Inquisition, which has sent to the stake so
many Jews, Moors, and heretics, has never interfered with them. The
Gipsies, in many instances, have settled down in the towns, but they
all have traditions of a wandering life, and most highly respect those
of their kinsmen who still range the woods and plains. These latter are
proud of their title of _viandantes_, or wayfarers, and despise the
dwellers in towns. These Spanish Gitanos appear to be the descendants
of tribes who sojourned for several generations in the Balkans, for
their lingo contains several hundred words of Slav and Greek origin.

M. de Bourgoing has drawn attention to the great diversity existing
amongst the population of Spain. A Galician, for instance, is more
like an Auvergnat than a Catalonian, and an Andalusian reminds us
of a Gascon. Most of the inhabitants, however, have certain general
features, derived from a common national history and ancestry.

The average Spaniard is of small stature, but strong, muscular, of
surprising agility, an indefatigable walker, and proof against every
hardship. The sobriety of Iberia is proverbial. “Olives, salad, and
radishes are fit food for a nobleman.” The physical stamina of the
Spaniard is extraordinary, and amply explains the ease with which the
_conquistadores_ surmounted the fatigues which they were exposed to in
the dreaded climate of the New World. These qualities make the Spaniard
the best soldier of Europe, for he possesses the fiery temperament
of the South joined to the physical strength of the North, without
standing in need of abundant nourishment.

The moral qualities of the Spaniard are equally remarkable. Though
careless as to every-day matters, he is very resolute, sternly
courageous, and of great tenacity. Any cause he takes up he defends to
his last breath. The sons always embrace the cause of their fathers,
and fight for it with the same resolution. Hence this long series of
foreign and civil wars. The recovery of Spain from the Moors took
nearly seven centuries; the conquest of Mexico, Peru, and South America
was one continued fight lasting throughout a century. The war of
independence which freed Spain from the yoke of Napoleon was an almost
unexampled {374} effort of patriotism, and the Spaniards may justly
boast that the French did not find a single spy amongst them. The two
Carlist wars, too, would have been possible nowhere else but in Spain.

Who need wonder, after this, if even the lowliest Spaniard speaks of
himself with a certain haughtiness, which in any one else would be
pronounced presumptuous? “The Spaniard is a Gascon of a tragic type;”
so says a French traveller. With him deeds always follow words. He is
a boaster, but not without reason. He unites qualities which usually
preclude each other, for, though haughty, he is kindly in his manners;
he thinks very highly of himself, but is considerate of the feelings
of others; quick to perceive the shortcomings of his neighbours, he
rarely makes them a subject of reproach. Trifles give rise to a torrent
of sonorous language, but in matters of importance a word or a gesture
suffices. The Spaniard combines a solemn bearing and steadfastness
with a considerable amount of cheerfulness. Nothing disquiets him;
he philosophically takes things as they are; poverty has no terrors
for him; and he even ingeniously contrives to extract pleasure and
advantage from it. The life of Gil Blas, in whom the Spaniards
recognise their own likeness, was more chequered than that of any other
hero of romance, and yet he was always full of gaiety, which even the
dark shadow of the Inquisition, then resting upon the country, failed
to deprive him of. “To live on the banks of the Manzanares,” says a
Spanish proverb, “is perfect bliss; to be in paradise is the second
degree of happiness, but only on condition of being able to look down
upon Madrid through a skylight in the heavens.”

These opposites in the character of the Spaniards give rise to an
appearance of fickleness which foreigners are unable to comprehend,
and they themselves complacently describe them as _cosas de España_.
How, indeed, are we to explain so much weakness associated with so many
noble qualities, so many superstitions in spite of common sense and a
keen perception of irony, such ferocity of conduct in men naturally
generous and magnanimous? A Spaniard, in spite of his passions, will
resign himself philosophically to what he looks upon as inevitable.
_Lo que ha de ser no puede faltar_, “What is to be will be,” he says,
and, wrapped up in his cloak, he allows events to take their course.
The great Lord Bacon observed, three hundred years ago, that the
“Spaniards looked wiser than they were;” and, indeed, most of them are
passionately fond of gambling, and their apathetic fatalism accounts
for many of the ills their country suffers. The rapid decay which has
taken place in the course of three centuries has led certain historians
to number the Spaniards amongst fallen nations. The edifices met with
in many towns and villages speak of a grandeur now past, and the
_despoblados_ and _dehesas_, which we encounter even in the vicinity of
the capital, tell of once fertile fields returned to a state of nature.

Buckle, in his “History of Civilisation,” traces this decay to the
physical nature of Spain and to a long succession of religious wars.
The Visigoths defended Arianism against the Franks, and when the
Spaniards had become good Catholics their country was invaded by Moors,
and for more than twenty generations they struggled against them. It
thus happened that patriotism became identical with {375} absolute
obedience to the behests of the Church, for every one, from the King
down to the meanest archer, was a defender of the faith rather than of
his native soil. The result might have been foretold. The Church not
only took possession of most of the land won from the infidels, but it
also exercised a baneful influence upon the Government, and, through
its dreaded tribunals of the Inquisition, over the whole of society.


Scale 1 : 450,000.]

But whilst these long religious struggles tended to the moral and
intellectual abasement of the Spaniards, there were other causes which
operated in an inverse sense, and these Buckle does not appear to have
properly appreciated. The kings, in order to secure the support of the
people in their wars against the Mussulmans, found themselves compelled
to grant a large measure of liberty. The towns governed themselves,
and their delegates, as early as the eleventh century, sat with the
nobility and clergy in the Cortes, and voted the supplies. Local
government conferred advantages upon Spain then enjoyed only in few
parts of Europe. Industry and the arts flourished in these prosperous
cities, and a stop was even put to the encroachments of the clergy long
before Luther raised his powerful voice in Germany.

A struggle between the supporters of local government and of a
centralized monarchy at length became imminent, and no sooner had the
infidels been expelled than civil war began. It terminated in favour of
King and Church, for the _comuneros_ of the Castiles met with little
support in the other provinces, and their towns were ravaged by the
bloodthirsty generals of Charles V.

The discovery of the New World, which happened about this period,
proved a disaster to Spain, for young men of enterprise and daring
crossed the Atlantic, and thus weakened the mother country, which was
too small to feed such huge colonies. The immense amount of treasure
(more than £2,000,000,000 between 1500 and 1702) sent home from the
colonies contributed still further to the rapid decay of Spain, for
it corrupted the entire nation. Money being obtainable without {376}
work, all honest labour ceased, and when the colonies no longer
yielded their metallic treasures the country saw itself impoverished,
for the gold and silver had found their way to foreign lands, whence
Spain had procured her supplies.


History affords no other example of so rapid a decadence brought
about without foreign aggression. The workshops were closed, the arts
of peace forgotten, the fields but indifferently cultivated. Young
men flocked to the 9,000 monasteries to enjoy a life of indolence,
and “science was a crime, ignorance and stupidity were the first of
virtues.” Population decreased, and the Spaniard even lost his ancient
renown for bravery. If the Bourbon kings placed foreigners in all
high positions of state, they did so because the Spaniards had become
incapable of conducting public business.

But if we compare the Spain of our own days with the Spain of the
Inquisition, we cannot fail to be struck with the vast progress made.
Spain is no longer a “happy people without a history,” for ever since
the beginning of the century it has been engaged in struggles, and
during this period of tumultuous life it has done more for arts,
science, and industry than in the two centuries of peace which
succeeded the dark reign of Philip II. No doubt Spain might have done
{377} even more if the strength of the country had not been wasted
in internal struggles. Unfortunately the geographical configuration
of the peninsula is unfavourable to the consolidation of the nation.
The littoral regions combine every advantage of climate, soil, and
accessibility, whilst the resources of the inland plateaux are
comparatively few. The former naturally attract population; they abound
in large and bustling cities, and are more densely populated than the
interior of the country. Madrid, which occupies a commanding position
almost in the geometrical centre of the country, has become a focus of
life, but its environs are very thinly inhabited.

This unequal distribution of the population could not fail to
exercise a powerful influence upon the history of the country.
Each of the maritime provinces felt sufficiently strong to lead
a separate existence. During the struggles with the Moors common
interests induced the independent kingdoms of Iberia to co-operate,
and facilitated the establishment of a central monarchy; but, to
maintain this unity afterwards, it became necessary to have recourse
to a system of terrorism and oppression. Portugal, being situated on
the open Atlantic, shook off the detested yoke of Castile after less
than a century’s submission. In the rest of the peninsula political
consolidation is making progress, thanks to the facilities of
intercommunication and the substitution of Castilian for the provincial
dialects; but it would be an error to suppose that Andalusians and
Galicians, Basques and Catalans, Aragonese and Madrileños, have been
welded into one nation. Indeed, the federal constitution advocated
by Spanish republicans appears to be best suited to the geographical
configuration of the country and the genius of its population. The
desire to establish provincial autonomy has led to most of the civil
wars of Spain, whether raised by _Carlists_ or _Intransigentes_. It is
therefore meet that, in our description of Spain, we should respect the
limits traced by nature, bearing in mind the fact that the political
boundaries of the province do not always coincide with water-sheds or
linguistic boundaries.


The great central plateau of the peninsula is bounded on the north,
east, and south by ranges of mountains extending from the Cantabrian
Pyrenees to the Sierra Morena, and slopes down in the west towards
Portugal and the Atlantic. The uplands through which the Upper Duero,
the Tajo (Tagus), and the Guadiana take their course are thus a region
apart, and if the waters of the ocean were to rise 2,000 feet, they
would be converted into a peninsula attached by the narrow isthmus
of the Basque provinces to the French Pyrenees. The vast extent of
these plateaux—they constitute nearly half the area of the whole
country—accounts for the part they played in history, and their
commanding position enabled the Castilians to gain possession of the
adjacent territories. {378}

The Castiles can hardly be called beautiful, or rather their solemn
beauty does not commend them to the majority of travellers. Vast
districts, such as the Tierra de Campos, to the north of Valladolid,
are ancient lake beds of great fertility, but exceedingly monotonous,
owing to the absence of forests. Others are covered with small
stony hillocks; others, again, may be described as mountainous.
Mountain ranges covered with meagre herbage bound the horizon, and
sombre gorges, enclosed between precipitous walls of rock, lead into
them. Elsewhere, as in the Lower Estremadura, we meet with vast
pasture-lands, stretching as far as the eye can reach to the foot of
the mountains, and, as in certain parts of the American prairies, not a
tree arrests the attention. Looking to the fearful nakedness of these
plains, one would hardly imagine that a law was promulgated in the
middle of last century which enjoins each inhabitant to plant at least
five trees. Trees, indeed, have been cut down more rapidly than they
were planted. The peasants have a prejudice against them; their leaves,
they say, give shelter to birds, which prey upon the corn-fields.
Small birds, nightingales alone excepted, are pursued without mercy,
and a proverb says that “swallows crossing the Castiles must carry
provisions with them.” Trees are met with only in the most remote
localities. The hovels of the peasantry, built of mud or pebbles, are
of the same colour as the soil, the walled towns are easily confounded
with the rock near them, and even in the midst of cultivated fields
we may imagine ourselves in a desert. Many districts suffer from want
of water, and villages which rejoice in the possession of a spring
proclaim the fact aloud as one of their attributes. Huge bridges span
the ravines, though for more than half the year not a drop of water
passes over their pebbly beds.

The Sierra de Guadarrama and its western continuation, the Sierra de
Gredos, separate this central plateau of Spain into two portions, lying
at different elevations. Old Castile and Leon, which lie to the north,
in the basin of the Duero, slope down from east to west from 5,600 to
2,300 feet; whilst New Castile and La Mancha, in the twin basins of
the Tajo and the Guadiana, have an average elevation of only 2,000
feet. In the tertiary age these two plateaux were covered with huge
lakes. One of them, the contours of which are indicated by the débris
carried down from the surrounding hills, originally discharged its
waters in the direction of the valley of the Ebro, but subsequently
opened itself a passage through the crystalline mountains of Portugal,
now represented by the gorges of the Lower Duero. At another epoch
this Lake Superior communicated with the lake which overspread what
are now the plains of New Castile and La Mancha. The area covered by
these two lakes amounted to 30,000 square miles, and Spain was then a
mere skeleton of crystalline mountains, joined together by saddles of
triassic, Jurassic, and cretaceous age, enclosing these two fresh-water
lakes, and bounded exteriorly by the ocean. This geological period
must have been of very long duration, for the lacustrine deposits are
sometimes nearly a thousand feet in thickness. The miocene strata which
form the superficial deposits of these two lake basins of the Castiles
are geologically of the same age, for fossil bones of the same great
animals—megatheria, mammoths, and hipparions—are found in both. {379}

The Cantabrian Mountains bound Leon and Old Castile towards the
north-west and north, but broad mountain ranges run out from these
immediately to the east of the Peña Labra, and form the water-shed
between the basin of the Duero and the head-stream of the Ebro. These
ranges are known by various names. They form first the _Páramos_ of
Lora (3,542 feet), which slope gently towards the south, but sink
down abruptly to the Ebro, which flows here in a gorge many hundred
feet in depth. The water-shed to the east of these continues to the
mountain pass of the Brujula, across which leads the road (3,215 feet)
connecting Burgos with the sea. Beyond this pass the so-called _Montes_
of Oca gradually increase in height, and join the crystalline Sierra de
Demanda, culminating in the Pico de San Lorenzo (7,554 feet). Another
mountain mass lies farther to the south-east. It rises in the Pico de
Urbion to a height of 7,367 feet, and gives birth to the river Duero.
The water-shed farther on is formed by the Sierra Cebollera (7,039
feet), which subsides by degrees, its ramifications extending into the
basins of the Ebro and Duero. The Sierra de la Moncayo (7,905 feet),
a crystalline mountain mass similar to the San Lorenzo, but exceeding
it in height, terminates this portion of the enceinte of the central
plateau. The broad ranges beyond offer no obstacles to the construction
of roads, but there are several rugged ridges to the south of the
Cebollera and Moncayo, which force the Duero to take a devious course
through the defile of Soria. Numantia, the heroic defence of which has
since been imitated by many other towns of the peninsula, stood near
that gorge.


(Altitudes in feet.)]

The average height of the mountains separating the basin of the Duero
from that of the Tajo is more than that of those in the north-east of
Old Castile. The mountains gradually increase in height towards the
west and south-west, until they form the famous Sierra de Guadarrama,
the granitic rocks of which bound the horizon of Madrid in the north.
It constitutes a veritable wall between the two {380} Castiles, and
the construction of the roads which lead in zigzag over its passes
of Somosierra (4,680 feet), Navacerrada (5,834 feet), and Guadarrama
(5,030 feet) was attended with difficulties so considerable that
Ferdinand VI., proud of the achievement, placed the statue of a lion
upon one of the highest summits, and thus recorded that the “King
had conquered the mountains.” This sierra forms a natural rampart to
the north of the plains of Madrid, and many sanguinary battles have
been fought to secure a passage through them. The railway to Madrid
avoids them, but the depression of Ávila, through which it passes, is
nevertheless more elevated than the summit of the Mont Cenis Railway.

[Illustration: Fig. 140.—SIERRAS DE GREDOS AND DE GATA.

Scale 1 : 800,000.]

The mountains to the south-west of the Peak of Peñalara (7,870 feet),
which is the culminating point of the sierra, sink down rapidly, and at
the Alto de la Cierva (6,027 feet) the chain divides into two branches,
of which the northern forms the water-shed between the Duero and the
Tajo, whilst the more elevated southern chain joins the Sierra de
Guadarrama to the Sierra de Gredos, but is cut in two by the defile
excavated by the river Alberche, which rises to the north of it.

The Sierra de Gredos is, next to the Pyrenees and the Sierra Nevada of
Granada, the most elevated mountain chain of Spain, for in the Plaza
del Moro Almanzor it attains a height of 8,680 feet, and thus reaches
far beyond the zone of trees. Its naked summits of crystalline rocks
remain covered with snow during more than half the year. The country
extending along the southern slope {381} of these mountains is one of
the most delightful districts of all Spain. It abounds in streams of
sparkling water; groups of trees are dotted over the hill-slopes and
shield the villages; and Charles V., when he selected the monastery of
St. Yuste as the spot where he proposed to pass the remainder of his
days, exhibited no mean taste. In former times the foot of the sierra
was much more frequented, for the Roman road known as _Via Lata_ (now
called _Camino de la Plata_) crossed immediately to the west of it, by
the Puerto de Baños, and thus joined the valley of the Duero to that of
the Tajo.

The Sierra de Gata, which lies beyond this old road, has a course
parallel with that of the Sierra de Gredos, and this parallelism is
observable likewise with respect to the minor chains and the principal
river beds of that portion of Spain. The Sierra de Gata rises to a
height of 5,690 feet in the Peña de Francia, thus named after a chapel
built by a Frankish knight. Within its recesses are the secluded
valleys of Las Batuecas and Las Hurdes.

In the eastern portion of New Castile the country is for the most part
undulating rather than mountainous, and, if the deep gorges excavated
by the rivers were to be filled up, would present almost the appearance
of plains. The most elevated point of this portion of the country is
the Muela de San Juan (5,900 feet), in the Montes Universales, thus
called, perhaps, because the Tajo, the Júcar, the Guadalaviar, and
other rivers flowing in opposite directions take their rise there.

The Sierra del Tremendal, in the district of Albarracin, farther north,
is said to be frequently shaken by earthquakes, and sulphurous gases
escape there where oolitic rocks are in contact with black porphyry and
basalt. Several triassic hills in the vicinity of Cuenca are remarkable
on account of their rock-salt, the principal mines of which are those
of Minglanilla.

Farther south the height of land which separates the rivers flowing
to the Mediterranean from those tributary to the Tajo and Guadiana
is undulating, but not mountainous. We only again meet with real
mountains on reaching the head-waters of the Guadiana, Segura, and
Guadalimar, where the Sierra Morena, forming for 250 miles the natural
boundary between La Mancha and Andalusia, takes its rise. Seen from the
plateau, this sierra has the appearance of hills of moderate height,
but travellers facing it from the south see before them a veritable
mountain range of bold profile, and abounding in valleys and wild
gorges. Geographically this sierra belongs to Andalusia rather than to
the plateau of the Castiles.

In the west, judging from the courses of the Tajo and the Guadiana, the
country would appear to subside by degrees into the plains of Portugal;
but such is not the case. The greater portion of Estremadura is
occupied by a mountain mass consisting of granite and other crystalline
rocks. The sedimentary strata of the region bounded in the north by the
Sierras of Gredos and Gata, and in the south by the Sierra de Aroche,
are but of small thickness. In former times these granitic mountains of
Estremadura retained pent-up waters of the lakes which then covered the
interior plateaux, until the incessant action of water forced a passage
through them. Their highest summits form a range between the rivers
Guadiana and Tajo known as the Sierra of Toledo, and attain a height
of 5,115 feet in {382} the Sierra de Guadalupe, famous in other days
on account of the image of a miracle-working Virgin Mary, an object of
veneration to Estremeños and Christianized American Indians.


Geologically the series of volcanic hills known as Campo de Calatrava
(2,270 feet) constitute a distinct group. They occupy both banks of the
Guadiana, and the ancient inland lake now converted into the plain of
La Mancha washed their foot. From their craters were ejected trachytic
and basaltic lavas, as well as ashes, or _negrizales_, but acidulous
thermal springs are at present the only evidence of subterranean

       *       *       *       *       *

The rivers of the Castiles are of less importance than might be
supposed from a look at a map, for, owing to a paucity of rain, they
are not navigable. The moisture carried eastward by the winds is for
the most part precipitated upon the {383} exterior slopes of the
mountains, only a small proportion reaching the Castilian plateaux.
Evaporation, moreover, proceeds there very rapidly, and if it were not
for springs supplied by the rains of winter there would not be a single
perennial river.[138]

Of the three parallel rivers, the Duero, the Tajo, and the Guadiana,
the latter two are the most feeble, for the supplementary ranges
of the Sierras of Gredos and Guadarrama shut off their basins from
the moisture-laden winds of the Atlantic. Yet, in spite of their
small volume, the geological work performed by them in past ages was
stupendous. Both find their way through tortuous gorges of immense
depth from the edge of the plateaux down to the plains of Lusitania.
The gorge of the Duero forms an appropriate natural boundary between
Spain and Portugal, for it offers almost insurmountable obstacles to
intercommunication. The more considerable tributaries of the Duero—such
as the Tormes, fed by the snows of the Sierra de Gredos; the Yéltes;
and the Agueda—likewise take their course through wild defiles, which
may be likened to the _cañons_ of the New World. The Tajo presents
similar features, and below its confluence with the Alberche it enters
a deep defile, hemmed in by precipitous walls of granite.

The Guadiana passes through a similar gorge, but only after it has
reached the soil of Portugal. The hydrography of its head-streams,
the Giguela and Záncara, which rise in the Serranio of Cuenca, offers
curious features; but, as they are for the most part dry during
summer, the bountiful springs known as the _ojos_, or “eyes,” of the
Guadiana are looked upon by the inhabitants as the true source of the
river. They are three in number, and yield about four cubic yards of
water a second. These springs are popularly believed to be fed by the
Ruidera, which, after having traversed a chain of picturesque lakelets,
disappears beneath a bed of pebbles; but Coello has shown that after
heavy rains this head-stream of the Guadiana actually reaches the

The climate of the Castilian plateaux is quite continental in its
character. The prevailing winds of Spain are the same as in the rest
of Western Europe, but the seasons and sudden changes of temperature
in the upper basins of the Duero, the Tajo, and the Guadiana recall
the deserts of Africa and Asia. The cold in winter is most severe, the
heat of summer scorching, and the predominating winds aggravate these
features. In winter, the _norte_, which passes across the snow-covered
Pyrenees and other mountain ranges, sweeps the plains and penetrates
through every crevice in the wretched hovels of the peasants. In summer
a contrary wind, the _solano_, penetrates through breaks in the Sierra
Nevada and Sierra Morena, scorches the vegetation, and irritates man
and animals. The climate of Madrid[139] is typical of that of most of
the towns of Castile. The air, though pure, is exceedingly dry and
penetrating, and persons affected with diseases of the throat run
considerable risk during their period of acclimation. “The air of
Madrid does not put out a candle, but kills a man,” says a proverb, and
the climate of that city is described as “three months of winter and
nine of hell.” True, in the {384} time of Charles V., Madrid enjoyed
the reputation of having an excellent climate, and it is just possible
that its deterioration may be ascribable to the destruction of the

[Illustration: Fig. 142.—THE STEPPES OF NEW CASTILE.

According to Willkomm. Scale 1 : 1,500,000.]

The greatest variety of plants is met with if we ascend from the
plains to the summits of the mountains, but taken as a whole the
vegetation is singularly monotonous, for the number of plants capable
of supporting such extremes of temperature is naturally limited. Herbs
and shrubs predominate. The thickets in the upper basin of the Duero
and on the plateaux to the east of the Tajo and the Guadiana consist
of thyme, lavender, rosemary, hyssop, and other aromatic plants; on
the southern slopes of the Cantabrian Mountains heaths with small
pink flowers predominate; vast areas in the mountains of Cuenca are
covered with Spanish broom, or esparto; and saline plants abound in
the environs of Albacete. These regions are generally described as
the “Steppes of Castile,” though “deserts” {385} would, perhaps, be
a more appropriate term. For miles around the village of San Clemente
not a rivulet, a spring, or a tree is met with, and the aspect of the
country throughout is exceedingly dreary. The interminable plains of La
Mancha—the “dried-up country” of the Arabs—adjoin these steppes in the
west, and there corn-fields, vineyards, and pasture-grounds alternate
with stretches of thistles, and the monotony is partly relieved by
the windmills, with their huge sweeps slowly revolving overhead.
Estremadura and the slopes of the Sierra Morena are principally
covered with rock-roses, and from the summit of some hills a carpet of
_jarales_, bluish green or brown, according to the season, extends as
far as the eye reaches, and in spring is covered with an abundance of
white flowers resembling newly fallen snow.

Woods are met with only on the slopes of the mountains. Oaks of various
species and chestnut-trees occupy the lower zone, and conifers extend
beyond them to the extreme limit of trees. These latter likewise cover
the vast tracts of shifting sands which extend along the northern
foot of the Sierra de Guadarrama, and are the analogue of the French

The remains of the ancient forests still shelter wild animals. In the
beginning of this century bears were numerous on the southern slopes of
the Cantabrian Mountains; the thickets of Guadarrama, Gredos, and Gata
still harbour wolves, lynxes, wild cats, foxes, and even wild goats.
Deer, hares, and other game abound. The oak forests are haunted by wild
boars of immense size and strength. Before the downfall of Islam it was
thought meritorious to keep large herds of pigs, and a traveller who
visits the remote villages of Leon, Valladolid, and Upper Estremadura
will find that this ancient custom still survives. The black hogs of
Trujillo and Montanchez are famous throughout Spain for their excellent

The country offers great facilities for the breeding of sheep and
cattle; there are, however, several districts which are admirably
suited to the production of cereals. The Tierra de Campos, in the basin
of the Duero, is one of them. It owes its fertility to a subterranean
reservoir of water, as do also the _mesa_ of Ocaña and other districts
in the upper basins of the Tajo and the Guadiana, which are arid only
in appearance. The vine flourishes on stony soil, and yields excellent
wine, and the same may be said of the olive-tree, which constitutes
the wealth of the Campo de Calatrava. Agricultural pursuits would thus
appear to offer great advantages; and if thousands of acres are still
allowed to lie fallow, if nomad habits still predominate, this is
owing to sloth, force of habit, the existence of feudal customs, and
sometimes, perhaps, to discouragement produced by seasons of drought.

Most of the herds of _merinos_ are obliged to traverse nearly half
Spain in search of the food they require. Each herd of about 10,000
sheep is placed in charge of a _mayoral_, assisted by _rabadanes_ in
charge of detachments of from 1,000 to 1,200 animals. The shepherds and
sheep of Balia, in Leon, are reputed to be the best. In the beginning
of April the merinos leave their pasture-grounds in Andalusia, La
Mancha, and Estremadura for the north, where they pass the summer,
returning in September to the south. It may readily be imagined that
{386} these wandering herds do much damage to the fields through
which they pass, even though the privileges of the sheep-breeders were
abrogated in a large measure in 1836. Spain, however, in spite of every
advantage offered by nature, is obliged now to import sheep from abroad
to improve its flocks. Mules, too, which are almost indispensable in
so stony a country, are imported from France. Camels, llamas, and
kangaroos have been introduced, but their number has never been large,
and the fauna as well as the flora of the Castiles bears the stamp of

       *       *       *       *       *

As is the land, so are its inhabitants. The men of Leon and the
Castiles are grave, curt of speech, majestic in their gait, and of even
temper. Even in their amusements they carry themselves with dignity,
and those amongst them who respect the traditions of the good old time
regulate every movement in accordance with a most irksome etiquette.
The Castilian is haughty in the extreme, and _Yo soy Castellano !_ cuts
short every further explanation. He recognises no superiors, but treats
his fellows on a footing of perfect equality. A foreigner who mixes for
the first time in a crowd at Madrid or elsewhere in the Castiles cannot
fail of being struck by the natural freedom with which rich and poor
converse with each other.

The Castilian, thanks to his tenacious courage and the central position
he occupies, has become the master of Spain, but he can hardly be said
to be the master in his own capital. Madrid is the great centre of
attraction of the entire peninsula, and its streets are crowded with
provincials from every part of Spain. This invasion of the capital,
and of the Castiles generally, is explained by the sparseness of the
population of the plateaux, a sparseness not so much due to the natural
sterility of the country as to political and social causes. There
can be no doubt that the Castiles formerly supported a much denser
population than they do now, but the towns of the valleys of the Tajo
and the Guadiana have shrunk into villages, and the river, which was
formerly navigable as far as Toledo, is so no longer, either because
its volume is less now than it used to be, or because its floods
are no longer regulated. Estremadura, at present one of the poorest
provinces of Spain, supported a dense population in the time of the
Romans, who founded there the Colonia Augusta Emerita (Mérida), which
became the largest town of Iberia. During the dominion of the Moors,
too, Estremadura yielded bounteous harvests, but the old cities have
disappeared, and the fields are now covered with furze, broom, and

The expulsion of the Moors no doubt contributed towards the decay of
these once fertile regions, but the principal cause must be looked for
in the growth of feudal, military and ecclesiastical institutions,
which robbed the cultivator of the fruits of his labours. Subsequently,
when Cortes, Pizarro, and other _conquistadores_ performed their
prodigious exploits in the New World, they attracted the enterprising
youth of the province. The peaceable cultivation of the soil was held
in contempt, fields remained untilled, and 40,000 nomadic shepherds
took possession of the country. It is thus the _Estremeños_ became what
they are, the “Indians” of the nation. {387}

This decrease of population was unfortunately attended by a return
towards barbarism. Three hundred years ago the region on the southern
slopes of the Sierra de Guadarrama was famous for its industry. The
linen and cloth of Ávila, Medina del Campo, and Segovia were known
throughout Europe; Burgos and Aranda del Duero were the seats of
commerce and industry; and Medina de Rio Seco was known as “Little
India,” on account of the wealth displayed at its fairs. But
misgovernment led to the downfall of these industries, the country
became depopulated, and its ancient culture dwindled to a thing of the
past. At the famous university of Salamanca the great discoveries of
Newton and Harvey were still ignored at the close of last century as
being “contrary to revealed religion,” and the lower classes grovelled
in the most beastly superstitions.

In this very province of Salamanca, close to the Peña de Francia,
exist the “barbarous” Batuecas, who are charged with not being able
to distinguish the seasons. Nor are the inhabitants of other remote
mountain districts of the Castiles what we should call civilised.
Amongst these may be noticed the _charros_ of Salamanca and the famous
_maragatos_ of Astorga, most of them muleteers. They only intermarry
amongst themselves, and are looked upon as the lineal descendants of
some ancient tribe of Iberia. The suggestion that they are a mixed race
of Visigoths and Moors is not deserving of attention, for neither in
their dress nor in their manners do they remind us of Mussulmans. They
wear loose trousers, cloth gaiters fastened below the knee, a short
and close-fitting coat, a leather belt, a frill round the neck, and
a felt hat with a broad brim. They are tall and strong, but wiry and
angular. Their taciturnity is extreme, and they neither laugh nor sing
when driving before them their beasts of burden. It is difficult to
excite their passion, but, once roused, they become ferocious. Their
honesty is above suspicion, and they may be safely trusted with the
most valuable goods, which they will defend against every attack, for
they are brave, and skilled in the use of arms. Whilst the men traverse
the whole of Spain as carriers of merchandise, the women till the soil,
which, being arid and rocky, yields but a poor harvest.

       *       *       *       *       *

The vicissitudes of history explain the existence of numerous towns in
the Castiles which can boast of having been the capital of the country
at one time or other. Numantia, the most ancient of all those cities,
exists no longer, and the learned are not yet agreed whether the ruins
discovered near the decayed town of Soria are the remains of the walls
demolished by Scipio Æmilianus. But there are several cities of great
antiquity which possess some importance even at the present day. Leon
is one of these. It was the head-quarters of a Roman legion (_septima
gemina_), and its name, in reality a corruption of _legio_, is supposed
to be symbolized by the lions placed in its coat of arms. Leon was one
of the first places of importance taken from the Moors. Its old walls
are in ruins now, and the beautiful cathedral has been transformed into
a clumsy cube. Astorga, the “magnificent city” of Asturica Augusta, has
fallen even lower than Leon, whilst Palencia (the ancient Pallantia)
still enjoys a certain measure of prosperity, owing {388} to its
favourable geographical position at the Pisuerga, which has caused it
to be selected as one of the great railway centres of the peninsula.

Burgos, the former capital of Old Castile, points proudly to its
graceful cathedral and other ancient buildings, but its streets are
nearly deserted, and the crowds which congregate occasionally in the
churches, hotels, or at the railway station are composed, for the most
part, of beggars. In the cathedral are preserved numerous relics, and
the Cid, whose legendary birthplace, Bivar, is near, lies buried in it.


Scale 1 : 200,000.]

Valladolid, the Belad Walid of the Moors, at one time the capital
of all Spain, enjoys a more favourable geographical position than
Burgos. It lies on the Lower Pisuerga, where that river enters the
broad plain of the Duero, at an elevation of less than 600 feet above
the sea. There are numerous factories, conducted by Catalans, and the
city boasts, like Burgos, of many curious buildings and historical
reminiscences. The houses in which Columbus died and Cervantes was born
are still shown, as is the beautiful monastery of San Pablo, in which
resided Torquemada, the monk, who condemned 8,000 heretics to die at
the stake. The castle of Simancas, where the precious archives of Spain
are kept, is near this city.

Descending the Duero, we pass Toro, and then reach Zamora, the “goodly
walls” of which proved such an obstacle to the Moors. Zamora, though
on the direct line between Oporto and continental Europe, is an
out-of-the-way place at {389} present, and the same may be said of the
famous city of Salamanca, on the Tormes, to the south of it.

[Illustration: Fig. 144.—THE ALCÁZAR OF SEGOVIA.]

Salamanca, the Salmantica of the Romans, succeeded to Palencia as the
seat of a university, and during the epoch of the Renaissance was
described as the “mother of virtues, sciences, and arts,” and the
“Rome of the Castiles.” It still deserves the latter epithet, because
of its magnificent bridge built by Trajan, and the beautiful edifices
dating back to the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Its intellectual
superiority, however, is a thing of the past.

Arevalo, and the famous town of Medina del Campo, to the north-east of
Salamanca, carry on a considerable trade with corn. Ávila occupies an
isolated hillock on the banks of the Adaja, to the north of the Sierra
de Gredos. Ávila still preserves its turreted walls of the fifteenth
century, and its fortress-like cathedral is a marvel of architecture.
There are also curious sculptures of animals, which are ascribed
{390} to the aboriginal inhabitants of the country. Similar works of
rude art in the vicinity are known as the “bulls of Guisando,” from a
village in the Sierra de Gredos.

[Illustration: Fig. 145.—TOLEDO.]

Segovia the “circumspect” is situated on an affluent of the Duero, like
Ávila, and in the immediate vicinity of the Sierra de Guadarrama. Its
turreted walls rise on a scarped rock, supposed to resemble a ship.
On the poop of this fancied ship, high above the confluence of the
Clamores and Eresma, rise the ruins of the Moorish Alcázar, whilst the
cathedral, in the centre of the city, is supposed to represent the
mainmast. A beautiful aqueduct supplies Segovia with the clear waters
of the Guadarrama. It is the finest Roman work of this class in Iberia,
and far superior to the royal palace of San Ildefonso or of La Granja,
in the neighbourhood of the city.



Toledo is the most famous city to the south of the great rampart formed
by the {391} Sierras of Guadarrama, Gredos, and Gata. This is the
_Ciudad Imperial_, the “mother of cities,” the coronet of Spain and
the light of the world, as it was called by Juan de Padilla, the most
famous of its sons. Tradition tells us that it existed long before
Hercules founded Segovia, and, like Rome, it stands upon seven hills.
Toledo, with its gates, towers, Moorish and mediæval buildings, is
indeed a beautiful city, and its cathedral is of dazzling richness.
But, for all this, Toledo is a decayed place, and its famous armourers’
shops have been swamped by a Government manufactory.

Talavera de la Reyna, below Toledo, on the Tajo, still possesses some
of its ancient manufactures of silk and faience. Puente del Arzobispo
and the other towns on the Tajo are hardly more now than large
villages. The bridge of Almaraz crosses the river far away from any
populous town, and the old Roman bridge of Alconétar exists no longer.
Alcántara,—that is, _the_ bridge,—near the Portuguese frontier, still
remains a monument of the architectural skill of the Romans. It was
completed in the year 105, in the reign of Trajan, and its architect,
Lacer, appears to have been a Spaniard. Its centre is at an elevation
of 160 feet above the mean level of the Tajo, the floods of which rise
occasionally to the extent of a hundred feet.

All the great towns of Estremadura lie at some distance from the Tajo,
and its great volume of water has hitherto hardly been utilised for
purposes of irrigation or navigation. On a fertile hill nearly twenty
miles to the north of this river, the old town of Plasencia may be seen
bounded in the distance by mountains frequently covered with snow.
Cáceres is about the same distance to the south, as is also Trujillo,
which received such vast wealth from the conquerors of Peru, but is now
dependent upon its pigs and herds of cattle.

The position of those towns of Estremadura which lie on the banks
of the Guadiuna is more favourable. Badajoz, close to the Spanish
frontier, has lost its ancient importance as a fortress since it became
a place of commerce on the only railway which as yet joins Spain to
Portugal. Mérida, on the same railway, is richer in Roman monuments
than any other town of Spain, for there are a triumphal arch, the
remains of an aqueduct, an amphitheatre, a naumachy, baths, and an
admirable bridge of eighty granite arches, 2,600 feet in length; but in
population it is far inferior to Don Benito, a town hardly mentioned
in history, higher up the Guadiana, at the edge of the vast plain of
La Serena. It was founded in the beginning of the sixteenth century,
and together with its neighbour, Villanueva de la Serena, derives its
wealth from the fertility of the surrounding country. Its fruits,
and particularly its water-melons, are much esteemed. The plains on
the right bank of the Guadiana abound in phosphate of lime, which is
exported to France and England.

The towns of La Mancha are of no historical note, and the province
owes its celebrity almost exclusively to Cervantes’ creation, the
incomparable “Don Quixote.” Ciudad Real, an industrious place formerly;
Almagro, known for its point-lace; Daimiel, near which stood the
principal castle of the military order of Calatrava; Manzanares; and
other towns are important principally because of their {392} trade
in corn and wine. Almaden,—that is, “the mine,”—in a valley on the
northern slope of the Sierra Morena, has become famous through its
cinnabar mines, which for more than three centuries supplied the New
World with mercury, and still yield about 1,200 tons annually.

[Illustration: Fig. 146.—MADRID AND ITS ENVIRONS.

Scale 1 : 200,000.]

Eastern Castile, being at a considerable elevation above the sea-level,
and having a rugged surface, cannot support a population more dense
than either La Mancha or Estremadura. There are but few towns of
note, and even the capital, Cuenca, is hardly more than a third-rate
provincial city. Picturesquely perched {393} upon a steep rock
overhanging the deep gorges of the Huecar and Júcar, it merely lives
in the past. The only other towns of note in that part of the country
are Guadalajara, with a Roman acqueduct, and Alcalá, the native place
of Cervantes and seat of an ancient university, which at one time saw
10,000 students within its walls. Both these towns are situated on the
Henares, a tributary of the Tajo, and either would have been fit to
become the capital of the kingdom.

Indeed, at the first glance, it almost appears as if Madrid owed its
existence to the caprice of a king. It has no river, for the Manzanares
is merely a torrent, its climate is abominable, and its environs
present fewer advantages than those of Toledo, the ancient capital of
the Romans and Visigoths. But once having been selected as the capital,
Madrid could not fail to rise in importance, for it occupies a central
position with respect to all other towns outside the basin of the Upper
Tajo. Pinto (_Punctum_), a short distance to the south of Madrid, is
popularly supposed to be the mathematical centre of the peninsula;
and thus much is certain, that the plain bounded in the north by the
Sierra de Guadarrama forms the natural nucleus of the country, and is
traversed by its great natural highways.

Toledo occupies a position almost equally central. It was the capital
of the country during the reign of the Romans, and subsequently became
the capital of the ecclesiastical authorities and of the kings of the
Visigoths, and retained that position until it fell into the power of
the Moors. During the struggles between Moors and Christians the latter
shifted their capital from place to place, according to the varying
fortunes of the war, but no sooner had the former been expelled from
Córdova than the Christian kings again established themselves in the
plain to the south of the Sierra de Guadarrama. They had then to choose
between Toledo and Madrid. Toledo no doubt offered superior advantages,
but its citizens having joined the insurrection of the _comuneros_
against Charles V., the Emperor-king decided in favour of Madrid.
Philip III. endeavoured to remove the capital to Valladolid, but the
natural attractions of Madrid proved too strong for him, and the
schools, museums, public buildings, and manufactories which have arisen
in the latter since then must for ever insure it a preponderating
position. The railways, which now join Madrid to the extremities
of the peninsula, countervail the disadvantages of its immediate
neighbourhood; and although the purest Castilian is spoken at Toledo,
it is Madrid which, through its press, has insured the preponderance
of that idiom throughout Spain. Madrid has long been in advance of all
other cities of the peninsula as regards political activity, industry,
and commerce, but its growth having taken place during a period devoid
of art, it is inferior to other towns with respect to the character of
its public buildings. The museums, however, are amongst the richest in
Europe, and make it a second Florence. Immediately outside the public
promenades of the Prado and Buen Retiro we find ourselves in a desolate
country covered with flints, and this must be crossed by a traveller
desirous of visiting the delightful gardens of Aranjuez, the huge
Escorial built by Philip II., or the villas in the wooded valleys of
the Sierra de Guadarrama. These latter supply Madrid with water, as the
neighbouring mountains do with ice. Formerly one of the most secluded
of these valleys became {394} the seat of a mock-kingdom, nominally
independent of the Kings of Castile. During the Moorish invasion
the inhabitants of the plain of Jarama had sought shelter in the
mountains, and the rest of the world forgot all about them. They called
themselves Patones, and elected an hereditary king. About the middle
of the seventeenth century the last of the line, by trade a carrier,
surrendered his wand of authority into the hands of a royal officer,
and the valley was placed under the jurisdiction of the authorities at


[Illustration: Fig. 147.—ARANJUEZ.

Scale 1 : 75,000.]

Andalusia embraces the whole of the basin of the Guadalquivir, together
with some adjoining districts. It is bounded in the north by the Sierra
Morena, which in the direction of Portugal becomes a rugged mountain
district of crystalline formation intersected by tortuous ravines, and
rising in the Sierra de Aracena, north of the mining region of the
Rio Tinto, to a height of 5,500 feet. Farther east the Sierra Morena
ascends in terraces above the valley of the Guadalquivir, and on its
reverse slope we meet with districts, such as that of Los Pedroches
(1,650 feet), hardly less monotonous of aspect than the plains of La
Mancha. The {395} Punta de Almenara (5,920 feet), in the Sierra de
Alcaraz, in the extreme east, may be looked upon as the culminating
point of this sierra, which is indebted for its name of “Black
Mountain” to the sombre pines which clothe its slopes.

The line of water-parting does not pass through the highest summits
of this range. Most of the rivers rise on the plateau, and take
their course, by picturesque gorges, right through the heart of the
mountains. The most famous of these gorges is that of Despeñaperros
(2,444 feet), leading from the dreary plains of La Mancha to the
smiling valley of Andalusia. This pass has played a great part in every
war. At its foot was fought in 1212 the fearful battle of Navas de
Tolosa, in which more than 200,000 Mussulmans are said to have been


Scale 1 : 3,000,000.]

The mountains which shut in the basin of Andalusia on the east are cut
up by deep river gorges into several distinct masses or chains, of
which the Calar del Mundo (5,437 feet), Yelmo de Segura (5,925 feet),
and Sierra Sagra (7,675 feet) are the principal. The southern mountain
ranges uniformly extend from east to west. From north to south we cross
in succession the Sierras de María (6,690 feet), de las Estancias, and
de los Filabres (6,283 feet), so famous for its marbles. In the west
the latter two ranges join the Sierra de Baza (6,236 feet), itself
attached to the great culminating range of Iberia, the Sierra Nevada,
by a saddle of inconsiderable height (2,950 feet). {396}

The Sierra Nevada consists mainly of schists, through which eruptions
of serpentine and porphyry have taken place. The area it occupies is
small, but from whatever side we approach it rises precipitously,
and the eye can trace the succeeding zones of vegetation up to that
of perennial snows pierced by the peaks of Mulahacen (11,661 feet),
Picacho de la Veleta (11,386 feet), and Alcazaba (7,590 feet). Vines
and olive-trees clothe the foot-hills; to these succeed walnut-trees,
then oaks, and finally a pale carpet of turf hidden beneath snow for
six months. Masses of snow accumulate in sheltered hollows, and these
_ventisqueros_, _ventiscas_, or snow-drifts, supply Granada with ice.
In the _Corral de la Veleta_ there even exists a true glacier, which
gives birth to the river Genil, and is the most southerly in all
Europe. The more extensive glaciers of a former age have disappeared
long ago. To the purling streams fed by the snows of the sierra the
Vega of Granada owes its rich verdure, its flowers, and its excellent
fruits, and the delightful valley of Lecrin its epithet of “Paradise of
the Alpujarras.”

[Illustration: Fig. 149.—THE PASS OF DESPEÑAPERROS.]


No other district of Spain so forcibly reminds us of the dominion of
the Moors. The principal summit is named after a Moorish prince. On
the Picacho they lit a beacon on the approach of a Christian army, and
in the Alpujarras, on the southern slope, they pastured their sheep.
The Galician and Asturian peasants, who now occupy this district, are
superior in no respect to the converted Moors who were permitted to
remain at Ujijar, the capital of Alpujarras, when their compatriots
were driven forth. The natural riches of the mountains remain
undeveloped, and they are surrounded by a belt of _despoblados_.

[Illustration: Fig. 150.—THE SIERRA NEVADA AS SEEN FROM BAZA.]

From the Pass of Alhedin (3,300 feet), between Granada and Alpujarra,
we look down upon one of the most charming panoramas of the world. It
was here that Boabdil, the fugitive Moorish king, beheld for the last
time the smiling plains of his kingdom, and hence the spot is known as
the “Last Sigh of the Moor,” or the “Hill of Tears.” From the highest
summits of the sierra, however, the prospect is exceedingly grand.
Standing upon the Picacho de la Veleta, we see Southern {398} Spain
spread out beneath our feet, with its fertile valleys, rugged rocks,
and russet-coloured wilds. Looking south, across the blue waters of the
Mediterranean, the mountains of Barbary loom out in the distance, and
sometimes we are even able to hear the murmuring of the waves as they
beat against the coast.

The mountains around these giants of Granada are very inferior to them
in height. The country in the north, which is bounded by the valleys of
the Genil, Guadiana Menor, and Guadalquivir, is occupied by an upland
intersected by deep ravines, and rising now and then into distinct
mountain chains, such as the Sierra Magina (7,047 feet) and Sierra de
Jabalcuz, near Jaen (1,800 feet); the chain Alta Coloma, farther south,
with its wild pass, Puerto de Arenas, between Jaen and Granada; and the
Sierra Susana, close to Granada, which extends westward to the mountain
mass of the Parapanda, the great prophet of the husbandmen of the Vega:―

                “Cuando Parapanda se pone la montera,
                 Llueve, aunque Dios no lo quisiera.”

 (“When Parapanda puts on his cap it rains, though God may not wish it.”)

The mountains extending along the coast are cut up by transverse
valleys into several distinct masses. The Sierra de Gata, in the
south-east, is a detached mountain mass, pierced by several extinct
volcanoes. Farther west rises the Sierra Alhamilla, the torrents of
which are so rich in garnets that the huntsmen use them instead of
shot. Crossing a rivulet, we reach the superb Sierra de Gádor (7,620
feet), consisting of schists.

The Contraviesa (6,218 feet), which separates the Alpujarras from the
Mediterranean, rises so steeply from the coast that even sheep can
hardly climb it. The Sierra de Almijara, beyond the narrow valley of
the Guadalfeo, and its western continuation, the Sierra de Alhama
(7,003 feet), present similar features. The mountains on the other side
of the Pass of Alfarnate or de los Alazores (2,723 feet) constitute
the exterior rampart of an ancient lake bed, bounded in the north by
an irregular swelling of ground known as Sierra de Yeguas. The road
from Málaga to Antequera crosses that rampart in the famous Pass of
El Torcal (4,213 feet), the fantastically shaped rocks of which bear
some resemblance to the ruins of an extensive city. Archæologists have
discovered there some of the most curious prehistoric remains of Iberia.

To the west of the basin of Málaga, drained by the Guadalhorce, the
emissary of the ancient lake referred to above, the mountains again
increase in height, and in the Sierra de Tolox attain an elevation of
6,430 feet. Snows remain here throughout the winter. From the Tolox
mountain chains ramify in all directions. The Sierra Bermeja (4,756
feet) extends to the south-west, its steep promontories being washed by
the waves of the sea; the wild “Serrania” de Ronda (5,085 feet) extends
westward, and is continued in the mountain mass of San Cristóbal (5,627
feet), which sends branches southward as far as the Capes of Trafalgar
and Tarifa. The rock of Gibraltar (1,408 feet), which rises so proudly
at the entrance of the Mediterranean, is a geological outlier attached
to the mainland by a strip of sand thrown up by the waves of the ocean.


[Illustration: Fig. 151.—THE MOUTH OF THE GUADALQUIVIR.

Scale 1 : 200,000.]


Erosion has powerfully affected the mountains occupying the country
between the basin of the Guadalquivir and the coast. Amongst the
numerous river gorges, that of the Gaytanos, through which the
Guadalhorce flows from the plateau of Antequera to the orange groves of
Alora, is one of the wildest and most magnificent in all Spain. Only
torrents enter the Mediterranean, and even of the rivers discharging
their waters into the Atlantic there is but one which is of some
importance, on account of its great volume and the facilities it offers
for navigation. This is the Guadalquivir, which rises in the Sierra
Sagra, at an elevation of 5,900 feet above the sea-level. Having
received the Guadalimar, its current becomes gentle, and it flows
through a wide and open valley, thus differing essentially from the
rivers of the Castiles, which, on their way to the sea, traverse narrow
gorges. Its volume fairly entitles it to its Arab name of Wad-el-Kebir,
or “large river.” The geological work performed by this river and its
tributaries has been enormous. Mountain ramparts have been broken
through, lakes drained, and immense quantities of soil spread over the
valley. Nowhere can this work be traced more advantageously than in the
valley of the Genil of Granada, for the fertile district of La Vega
was covered by a lake, the pent-up waters of which opened themselves a
passage near Loja. {400}

The estuary of the river has been gradually filled up by sediment. The
tide ascends nearly as far as Seville, where the river is about 250
yards wide. Below that city it passes through an alluvial tract known
as the _marismas_, ordinarily a dusty plain roamed over by half-wild
cattle, but converted by the least rain into a quagmire. Neither
villages nor homesteads are met with here, but the sands farther back
are covered with dwarf palms, and lower down a few hills of tertiary
formation approach close to the river, their vine-clad slopes affording
a pleasing contrast to the surrounding solitude.

A contraction of the alluvial valley marks the exterior limit of the
ancient estuary silted up by the Guadalquivir. Sanlúcar de Barrameda,
a town of oriental aspect, stands on the left bank, whilst a range of
dunes intervenes between the sea and the flat country on the right
bank. The mouth of the river is closed by a bar, so that only vessels
of small draught can enter it. These _Arenas Gordas_, or “great sands,”
are for the most part covered with pines, and, except on their exterior
face, they have remained stable since the historical epoch.

The Guadalquivir is the only river of Spain which is navigable for a
considerable distance above its mouth. Vessels of 200 tons ascend it as
far as Seville, a distance of sixty miles. Sanlúcar was formerly the
great port of Spain, and its coasting trade is still considerable. None
of the other rivers of Andalusia are navigable. The Guadalete, which
enters the Bay of Cádiz, is a shallow, sluggish stream; the Odiel and
the Rio Tinto are rapid torrents, and their estuary, below Huelva, has
been choked up by the sediment brought down by them; while Palos, so
famous as the port from which Columbus started upon his grea