Italy - The Roman Apennines, The Valley Of The Tiber, The Marches, And The Abruzzos
( Originally Published 1920 )
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'
The main rampart of the Apennines runs parallel to the coast cf 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 perche I 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 know n as the Alpe della Luna. A gap, 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 Abrazzos, 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 (8,1.57 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 at 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 briers.
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, like the Sub-Apennines, border upon the shore of tile Tyrrhenian Sea and the marshes which extend along it. Such are the hills, rich in alum, which are grouped around the ancient track) tic cone of the Tolfa. Such, too, are the Monte Lepini (4,845 feeet), the naked crest of which has been likened to an ass's back-ehiena 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 bogs ; 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 cut 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 a( count 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, scoriae, and lava, these do not form a steep edge towards the lake, as in the case of veritable craters in the saine district. One of the most remarkable of these latter is that of Lutera, 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 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.
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 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.
The Lake of Albano discharges its surplus waters through a tunnel 7,665 feet in length, which has been in exitense 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 di-covered in fresh water, and zoologists conclude from this that the crater now occupied by the lake formerly communicated with the sea, hut 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 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 Feriae. 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 mere 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.. 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 Uri. 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 1855 and 1869 a new tunnel was excavated on the site of the ancient one, an nearly 1.500,000 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 base been planted; and the salubrity of the country leases 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) 19,840,000. The new tunnel has a length of 21,680 feet, a section of 24 square yards, and cost 11,200,000.
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, 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.
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 Civita 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 bidden 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 ferti!e and carefully cultivated country. Then its inhabitant. were reduced to the condition of serfs, the Roman patricians appropriated the laud, and 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 ins insilubrious. 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.
Not a village, not even a hamlet, is met with throughout this afflicted region. The only buildings are the wreched 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 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 Pins 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.
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. Haying 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 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 must be ascribed the curious fact first ascertained by M. de Prony, viz. that tin 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 communieates 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 silice 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 problem.
The Tiber is by far the most important river of the peninsular portion of Italy, and its basin is the most extensive.* It is, too, the only river that is navigable in its lower course, from Ostia to Fidenae. The Tiber rises on the western slope of the Alpe della Luna, in the latitude of Florence. The valley through which it flows, whilst iii 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, Due 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 water.
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.
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 until it joins the more placid waters of the Nera. Far less grand, but perhaps more charming, are the numerous cascatcllas 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—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 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 riser, 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.
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 1853 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 prowess being about three feet annually at the mouth of the Fiumicino, and ten feet at that of the old Tiber. Ext. -ns iv a 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, Civita 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 he 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.
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, 158, 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 munerous rivers discharged themselves, which now take their course to the sea ? The difficulties are great indeed, fur the western slope of the Apennines is exposed to the rain-hearing 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 pereunity of the Tiber can only he 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 !
Primitive Rome is to a large extent indebted for her power to the Tiber, not because that river is navigable, but because it traverses the centre of a last 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 Tyrrheniun Sea ; and its climate would lease 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 Con-stable 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 w ails, 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 w ere 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 slat es, 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 ns in statues and on medals.
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 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 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 w ork 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 h-td 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 Casa', 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 AEsculapius upon the poop. This island w as 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 300 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 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 hark 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 religious.
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 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 malls of actual Rome, viz. the Aventino, to which the plebeians retired during their feeble struggles for independence ; the Palatino, the ancient seat of the Caesars ; the Capitolino, surmounted by the temple of Jupiter: Monte Celio (Caelius); 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 rates, a soothsayer, it has ing once been the seat of Etruscan divination.
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 Christen-dom. A long arcade connects the palace with the Castle of Stint' 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 sanie 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 Mussuhmans 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 fellow-citizens.
Our nineteenth century is not favourable to the creation of edifices fit to rival 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. Aboie 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 Rouie 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. 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 Ariceia), Velletri (the old city of the Volsci), and Palestrina (more ancient than either Alba Longa or Rome, and occupying the site of a fatuous temple of For-tune, the pride of ancient Praeneste). Its watering-places are Palo, Fiumicino, and Porto d'Anzio, which adjoins the little town of Nettuno, so famous because of the haughty beauty of its women. Its only seaport is Civita Vecchia, a dreary town on the Tyrrhenian Sea, with a magnificent harbour.* 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. 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 tow n 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 (sacra veer() 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.
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. Citta 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 Umnbertide, half-way between Perugia and Citta di Castello, is only of local importance.
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 t .e 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 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. 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 L1,000,00 sterling used to change hands, but since its abolition in 1870 it has been deserted.
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 hat in, 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 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. Popish, 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 Vaste, are merely frequented by small coasting vessels.
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, hears 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 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 praetorium. 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 it.