Istria And Dalmatia
( Originally Published 1910 )
In these days of Italia Irredenta, when Italy is seething with the repressed desire to annex Southern Tyrol and Istria, it is quite in point to note that Augustus pushed the Italian border forward so as to include Istria. He rebuilt and beautified Aquileia, which then occupied as important a commercial position as Venice did later. The Via Popillia had been run through to it in 132 B.C. The Via Postumia had already been brought across northern Italy to it in 148, so that Aquileia was equipped to become the focus for the land traffic of Italy with the north. From it roads led by various routes, especially through Noricum, toward the vast regions of the Danube as well as the east shores of the Adriatic. The city of Julia Concordia, between Aquileia and Altinum, has been excavated and its plan made out, as that of an early Augustan colony.
Ever since her destruction by Attila in 452 Aquileia has served as a quarry and in the rise of mediaeval cities her ancient monuments have quite disappeared. To see really monumental evidence of the activity of Augustus in connection with the opening up of northeast Europe, we must go, then, to Istria and Dalmatia. It is a trip that is always fascinating and is now be-coming fashionable. The two lines of steamers, the Austrian Lloyd and the Hungarian line, with both fast and slow steamers, give one the choice of going through the outer islands to a few important points and of coming back on the coasting steamers and stopping at every small port. There is no more fairy-like scene than sunrise and sunset as one winds, on the slow-moving boats, through the maze of islands. They are peculiarly elongated and low lying; bare of everything on the side swept by the bora winds.
Ever since Jackson's book appeared a small coterie of English and American travelers have appreciated the unusually rich medieval art of several of these cities, especially Ragusa, Zara and Parenzo, but the wonderful Roman ruins, so admired by travelers of a century or two ago, are now almost ignored.
The Italian architects of the Renaissance, the French and English travelers and architects of the eighteenth century, were enthusiastic about the ruins along this coast. Such men as Stuart and Revett, Thomas Allason, Cassas and Robert Adam have left us detailed descriptions and, better still, large lithographic and engraved plates, some of them of the sort that contemporary architects sometimes prefer to photographs. As they date from the days before the commercial revival under the French and Austrians, they are peculiarly precious.