Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

In

a

study of the classical authors who have treated of its varied fortunes, Dr. Mommsen adds a rare mastery of the antiquities of Italy, and especially of that source of accurate knowledge--so full, and yet until recently so neglected—the inscriptions. this department of research he has at the present day scarcely a rival. He crowns these advantages with the scarcely less important requisites of a felicitous method and skill in the effective statement of events, and of a style animated and entertaining, never tame and monotonous, always forcible, and at times strikingly graphic and picturesque. “The reader may, perhaps," says Dr. Dickson in his prefatory note, “be startled by the occurrence now and then of expressions more familiar and colloquial than is usually the case in historical works. This, however, is a characteristic feature in the original to which, in fact, it owes not a little of its charm.” It is only justice to state that the translator has done his work exceedingly well, and that comparatively few places will be found in which any awkwardness of expression or foreign idiom betrays the fact that the work was written in another language. This is a commendation rarely deserved by translations, especially from a tongue so different in its genius from our own. At the same time it must be confessed that in a few instances Dr. Dickson has allowed himself to employ such strange forms as custodier for oustodian, and that he has too frequently made use of terms with which the ordinary English reader could scarcely be expected to be familiar. The fault is common to Grote and other historians, but it is none the less a fault. The words hegemony, (title of chapter vii, and elsewhere,) symmachy, (vol. i, p. 513, etc.,) and Diadochi, (vol. i, p. 497, etc.,) are among the less conspicuous instances. We confess that we are unable to see any sufficient reason why our own word leadership would not have answered sufficiently well for the first, and alliance for the second; while, if the third had been rendered by the words successurs of Alexander the Great, or simply by its exact equivalent, successors, the translation would have been quite as elegant, while more than one poor reader who could boast of no acquaintance with Donnegan, or Liddell and Scott, might have, been spared some unnecessary perplexity. And yet we repeat our great satisfaction that this important historical work should have met with a translator so thoroughly a master of the Ger

a

man original, and at the same time so ready in his command of his native tongue.

Taking a wider range for his work than the majority of his predecessors, Dr. Mommsen sets out with the intention to relate the history of Italy, not simply the history of the city of Rome. To use his own words:

Although, in the formal sense of political law, it was the civic community of Rome which gained the sovereignty first of Italy, and then of the world, such a view cannot be held to express the higher and real meaning of history. What has been called the subjugation of Italy by the Romans appears rather, when viewed in its true light, as the consolidation into an united state of the whole Italian stock—a stock of which the Romans were doubtless the most powerful branch, but still were a branch only.*

In consonance with this notion of his task, Dr. Mommsen devotes considerable space in his first volume-in a scientific point of view perhaps the most important of the four—to the origin and relationships, and the early fortunes of the primitive races. Italy, he remarks, with its physical structure giving it an "outlook” to the westward, in marked contrast to that of Greece, which is no less distinctly to the east, and so prefiguring its destiny, possesses no traces of earlier or savage inhabitants. There are no fragments of supplanted nations, no mounds disclosing human skeletons of a strange formation, nothing to warrant the supposition that mankind existed in Italy at a period anterior to the knowledge of agriculture, and of the smelting of the metals.”+ Three stocks peopled the entire peninsula : the Italian, of which the Latin was one branch, the Umbri, Marsi, Volsci, and Samnites the other, the Etruscans and the Japygians. Says Dr. Mommsen:

To establish the national individuality of these is the first aim of our inquiry. In such an inquiry, had we nothing to fall back upon but the chaotic mass of names of tribes, and the confusion of what professes to be historical tradition, the task might well be abandoned as hopeless. The conventionally-received tradition, which assumes the name of history, is composed of a few serviceable notices by civilized travelers, and a mass of mostly worthless legends, which have usually been combined with little discrimina•tion of the true character either of legend or history. But there is another source of tradition to which we may resort, and which yields informatiou fragmentary but authentic; we mean the indig* History of Rome, vol. i, p. 27.

+ Ibid., vol. 1, p. 30.

a

[ocr errors]

enous languages of the stocks settled in Italy from time immemorial. These languages, which have grown with the growth of the peoples themselves, have had the stamp of their process of growth impressed upon them too deeply to be wholly effaced by subsequent civilization. One only of the Italian languages is known to us completely; but the remains which have been preserved of several of the others are sufficient to afford a basis for historical inquiry regarding the existence, and the degrees, of family relationship among the several languages and peoples.*

Starting with the principle as established, that none of the earliest migrations took place by water, Dr. Mommsen maintains that the Italian race in both its branches reached its central position in the peninsula from the north, and not by crossing the narrow strait at Brundusium. Linguistic comparison confirming the common impression of the close relationship between the Italian and the Greek, who, to use his own expression, are brothers, while the Celt, the German, and the Slavonian are their cousins, he arrives at the following conclusion: that from the common cradle of peoples and languages there issued a stock which embraced in common the ancestors both of the Romans and the Hellenes, and that at a subsequent date, but long prior to their entry into the Mediterranean peninsulas, the Italians branched off from the common stock.

In the complete absence of such authentic records as might fix even proximately the chronology of this separation of the Greek and the Italian from the other members of the Indo-Germanic race, all that can now be done is to attempt to gain a general notion of the degree of civilization which their common progenitors had at that time attained. And here language becomes a valuable, and indeed the only, assistant. The Greek and the Latin languages, as well as the Sanscrit, have names evidently derived from the same original for the domestic animals—the ox, the sheep, the horse, the swine, the dog, and even the goose.

“Even at this remote period accordingly the stock, on which, from the days of Homer down to our own time, the intellectual development of mankind has been dependent, had already advanced beyond the lowest state of civilization, the hunting and fishing epoch, and had attained at least comparative fixity of abode.” + It is otherwise with agriculture; for the diversity of the appellations • Mommsen, vol. i. pp. 30, 31.

+ Ibid., vol. I, p. 38.

which the various kinds of grain receive, though not a conclusive proof, is yet an item of negative evidence. At least it seems probable that, if practiced at all, agriculture played a very subordinate part in the economy of that early undivided race, making but a slight impression upon the tongue it spoke. On the other hand, the Græco-Italians were acquainted with the cultivation not only of grain, but probably also of the vine. The names of the operations, as well as the implements of agriculture, are to a considerable extent the same; and if we must, as seems probable, reject as utterly inadmissible the old tradition that agriculture, as well as writing and coinage, first came to Italy by means of the Hellenes, this identity of nomenclature attests the existence of an ancient intercourse of a very close character.

It would thus appear that the transition from pastoral life to agriculture, or, to speak more correctly, the combination of agriculture with the earlier pastoral economy, must have taken place after the Indians had departed from the common cradle of the nation, but before the Hellenes and Italians dissolved their ancient communion. Moreover, at the time when agriculture originated, the Hellenes and Italians appear to have been united as one national whole not merely with each other, but with other members of the great family ; at least it is a fact that the most important of those terms of cultivation, while they are foreign to the Asiatic members of the Indo-Germanic family, are used by the Romans and Greeks in common with the Celtic, as well as the Germanic, Slavonic, and Lithuanian stocks.*

Or as the results of the investigation are elsewhere expressed :

Thus, in the language and manners of Greeks and Italians, all that relates to the material foundations of human life may be traced back to the same primary elements; the oldest problems which the world proposes to man had been jointly solved by the two peoples at a time when they still fornied one nation.t

The question whether Latium was in ancient times as un. healthy a district as at present has often been mooted, and is answered by Dr. Mommsen in the affirmative. Latium proper, the “plain,” deriving its name from lătus, (side) or Tatúc, (flat,) and in no way from låtus, (wide,) as the quantity of the first syllable indicates, was a district about as large as the canton of Zurich. The deep fissures alternating with the tufa hills give rise to lakes, full in the winter season; and the exhalations from these sheets of water, often charged with a large quantity of decaying vegetable matter, are the causes of the well-known fevers of the Campagna. Says Dr. Mommsen :

* Mommsen, vol. i, p. 43.

+ Ibid., vol. I, p. 47.

It is a mistake to suppose that these miasmata were first occasioned by the neglect of cultivation, which was the resuļt of misgovernment in the last century of the Republic and is so still. Their cause lies rather in the want of natural outlets for the water, and it operates now as it operated thousands of years ago. It is true, however, that the malaria may, to a certain extent, be banished by thoroughness of tillage-a fact which has not yet received its full explanation, but may be partly accounted for by the circumstance that the working of the surface accelerates the drying up of the stagnant waters.

The difficulty consequently remains of accounting for the fact that a large rural population at one time was able to live in a region so tainted with deadly fevers that no one can reside there with impunity. The historian seeks to meet it by suggesting that man in a lower stage of civilization has an instinctive perception of what nature demands, and a constitution more pliant and elastic.

In Sardinia agriculture is prosecuted under physical conditions precisely similar even at the present day, the pestilential atmosphere exists, but the peasant avoids its injurious effects by caution in reference to clothing, food, and the choice of his hours of labor. In fact, nothing is so certain a protection against the aria cattiva as wearing the fleece of animals and keeping a blazing fire; which explains why the Roman countryınan went constantly clothed in heavy woolen stuffs, and never allowed the fire on his hearth to be extinguished.*

That under a more equal and favorable tenure of land even so unhealthy a tract of land as the modern Campagna might become well cultivated, populous, and prosperous, may be proved beyond a doubt from the parallel instance of the district of Limagne, in the volcanic district of Auvergne, where, with sinilar physical disadvantages, under a system of extremne subdivision of the proprietorship of the soil, the dense population of twenty-five hundred souls to the square league, or over three hundred to the square mile, is sustained.In other words,

* Mommsen, vol. i, p. 61. + Dureau de la Malle, vol. ii, p. 226, apud Mommsen, vol. I, p. 62.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »