From Classical Geography, by H. F. Tozer, from the series of Literature Primers edited by John Richard Green; New York : American Book Company; pp. 106-120.
TOPOGRAPHY OF ROME. SOUTHERN ITALY AND SICILY.
1. Rome; its position. — The position of Rome was suitable for a city which was to become the capital of Italy. It occupied a central position in that country, adapted for a seat of government; and thus also, as its power extended, it was brought into contact with, and subdued, one after another of the various races of the peninsula. It was near the sea (fifteen miles distant), and therefore well situated for commerce and maritime supremacy; but at the same time sufficiently distant from it to be safe from attacks from that quarter. It was built on a number of hills which formed a natural fortress, but its site admitted of unlimited extension over the neighbouring country. Finally, it was provided with means of sustenance in the neighbouring plain of Latium, and with a highway of traffic in the river that flows beneath its walls. 107 From this river we will commence in describing its topography. Where the Tiber, after receiving the waters of the Anio, approaches Rome, it makes two sharp bends, first to the west and then to the east. On the western, or Etruscan bank, opposite the first of these bends, stood the Vatican Hill; opposite the second the Janiculan. These hills were higher than those of Rome, which rose on the eastern side, and were on an average 150 feet above the sea. The famous seven hills on which the city was built have been compared to an open hand, the palm of which is formed by the three that lie close to the river, the Capitoline, Palatine, and Aventine; the fingers by the four that radiate from these, the Quirinal, Viminal, Esquiline, and Cælian. To the north of these again lay the Pincian Hill, which was not included in Rome. Between the foot of the Pincian, Quirinal, and Capitoline Hills on the one side, and the river on the other, lay a considerable level, the Campus Martius, on which at the present day stands a large part of the city of Rome. The hills of Rome were separated from one another by well-marked valleys, and in these at an early period a number of ponds and marshes existed, which were afterwards drained, but in some instances left their traces in the names attached to the spots, such as the Lacus Curtius in the Forum. Rome has always been subject to inundations, and is so to the present day, owing to the rapid swelling of the Tiber. At the commencement of the second bend of the river, nearly opposite the Capitoline Hill, its stream was divided by an island, which contained a temple of Æsculapius, and was joined by bridges to the two shores.
2. The Capitoline, Palatine, and Aventine Hills. — Of the three hills of Rome that lie nearest to the Tiber, the Capitoline, which rises to the north, and the Aventine to the south, approach the bank of the stream; but the Palatine, which stands further to the east, is removed some distance from it, leaving an interval of level ground, which was enclosed between 108 the slopes of the three hills and the river. This low-lying district was called the Velābrum, and was originally a marsh until it was drained by the Cloaca Maxima, an arched passage of Etruscan construction, built of massive masonry, and reaching to the Tiber. The southern portion of the area towards the Aventine was called the Forum Boarium, and contained the cattle-market, or Smithfield, of Rome; while the Forum Olitorium, the vegetable market, or Covent Garden, lay between the Capitoline and the river. The valley above the Forum Boarium, between the Palatine and Aventine, was drained by a stream called the Aqua Crabra, and was almost filled by the Circus Maximus; while the valley which reached from the Velābrum to the Forum Romanum was traversed by two of the most frequented streets of Rome — the Vicus Jugarius, leading from the Forum Olitorium and skirting the Capitoline Hill, and the Vicus Tuscus towards the Palatine, where the principal shops of all kinds were situated. The Capitoline was divided into two peaks, towards the north-east and south-west, in the depression between which was the Lucus Asyli; one of these summits was called the Arx, the other, on which stood the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, the Capitolium; but the respective position of these is still a matter of doubt, though perhaps it is more probable that the Capitolium occupied the southern, the Arx the northern summit, and this view will be adopted here. It was ascended by three approaches — a flight of steps, called the Centum Gradus, on the side towards the river, where also was the precipice of the Tarpeian Rock; a passage which led from the Forum to the Lucus Asyli; and, on the same side, the most important of all, the Clivus Capitolinus, which formed a continuation of the Via Sacra, and by which triumphal processions ascended to the temple of Jupiter. This last was a carriage-road, and each of the seven hills was provided with a similar Clivus. The Palatine was the most central, and in some 109 respects the most important of the hills. On it stood the earliest city, which from its shape was called Roma Quadrata, and in the time of the emperors it was the site of the imperial residence. Here also stood the temple of Apollo, built by Augustus to commemorate his victory at Actium; in connection with it was a portico which contained the famous Palatine library. From the north-east side of the Palatine a low spur, the Velia, projected across the valley to the Esquiline; this will have to be noticed hereafter in connection with the Via Sacra. The Aventine was associated with the earliest Roman legends; at its foot was an altar of Evander, in the neighbourhood of which the cave of Cacus was shown; and on the summit was a spot called Remuria, in memory of the Auspices taken by Remus. During the period of the Republic it was principally inhabited by plebeians.
3. The Quirinal, Viminal, Esquiline, and Cælian Hills. — Of the four remaining hills of Rome, the Mons Cælius stood apart by itself towards the south, while the others formed a separate group, being connected together on the outer side. The Cælian, though the largest of the hills, was not occupied by any building of first-rate importance; but at its foot, in the interval between it and the Palatine and Esquiline hills, the Flavian amphitheatre, better known as the Colossēum, was erected by Vespasian. The three other heights were in reality four, according to the configuration of the ground, and had originally four distinct names; for the area, which was afterwards known as the Esquiline, was previously called the Cespian and Oppian hills, the Oppian being the larger and lying towards the south. The three valleys that separate these four hills — the Quirīnal, Viminal, Cespian, and Oppian — from one another, radiate from a point to the northward of the Forum, where the Quirinal and Oppian approach one another somewhat closely. The depression, which is formed at the place where they all converge, was 110 occupied by the Subūra, the lowest and most crowded district in the city; and, just as we frequently find in modern cities that the poorest and the wealthiest quarters lie close together, so here, in close proximity to the Subura, on the extremity of the Esquiline, stood the Carinæ, the most fashionable locality in Rome. On the Esquiline was the house of Mæcenas, where Horace was a frequent visitor, and Virgil and Propertius lived in the same neighbourhood; and on the eastern slope of the hills, outside the Agger of Servius Tullius, were the gardens which Mæcenas laid out as a place of recreation for the Roman people. The site of these was previously a burying-place for paupers, to which Horace describes Canidia as resorting to perform her incantations. The Viminal was a hill of inconsiderable size, and was principally inhabited by the poorer classes; in the valley between it and the Cespian Hill ran a street called the Vicus Patritius. Lastly, the Quirinal Hill, which faced the Capitoline, possessed an ancient temple of Quirinus, from which it took its name. The Mons Pincius, which lay without the city, was known for its gardens, the most famous of which were those of Lucullus. The Horti Sallustiani lay in the valley between the Quirinal and the Pincian.
4. The Forum Romanum and Via Sacra. — We have now to speak of the Roman Forum, the chief centre of the business and political life of the city. This was situated in the valley to the north of the Palatine, and extended from the foot of the Capitol to the point where the Velia begins to rise (p. 109). It was an oblong area, though wider at the western than the eastern end, about 700 feet long by (on an average) 250 broad, and was paved with stone throughout. Along the southern side ran a row of shops and booths, the Tabernæ Veteres, and on the opposite side a similar row, the Tabernæ Novæ; the shops stood side by side in porticoes, with balconies above, from which spectacles in the inner area could be watched. At first the shops were devoted to common trades, such as 111 butchers, and thus in the story of Virginia we hear of the father snatching up a butcher’s knife from one of them to kill his daughter; but later on these were replaced by silversmiths’ shops. These features of the Forum must have remained unchanged on the whole throughout its history, and the narrowness of its limits must have testified in later times to the small beginnings of Rome; but the outer area gradually assumed a very different aspect, as it was adorned with numerous temples and extensive law-courts, called basilicas. In the inner space the most important portion was the Comitium, or meeting-place of the patricians, an uncovered and slightly elevated enclosure in the north-west corner, between which and the rest of the Forum at one point stood the famous Rostra or platform for speaking, adorned with the beaks of ships taken from the people of Antium. This platform faced both ways, and consequently it was a sign of a change in the tendency of politics when the speaker, from having been accustomed to face the Patres in the Comitium, turned to address the Plebs in the Forum. In the middle of the Forum was the site of the Lacus Curtius, which was afterwards drained and filled up. At the eastern end was the Puteal Libonis, a spot which had been consecrated after being struck by lightning, and then covered over so as to resemble a well, whence the name. This erection was repaired by the tribune Scribonius Libo, who transferred thither the Tribunal of the Prætor, whence it became a much-frequented place. To turn now to the outer area — under the Capitol, besides several temples, stood the Miliarium Aureum, a tall milestone of bronze gilt, erected by Augustus as a starting-point for the roads throughout Italy; and further to the north, at the angle of the hill, was the Mamertine prison, or Robur Tullianum, a subterranean dungeon, which may still be seen. In the neighbourhood of this also was the Gemoniæ, a set of steps on the hill-side, where the 112 bodies of malefactors were thrown down. On the north side of the Forum, beyond the Via Sacra, stood the Basilica Portia, the first building of its kind, erected by Cato the Censor; the Curia Hostilia, which formed the meeting-place of the Senate; and the Basilica Paulli. In front of the last were three statues of Janus, and as this neighbourhood was the resort of the money-lenders, the name Janus was used to describe their quarter. On the south side we need only notice the circular temple of Vesta, which was the resort and burial-place of the Vestal Virgins. The Via Sacra, the highway of sacred and triumphal processions, started from the Carinæ on the Esquiline, and crossing the valley, ascended the slope of the Velia, on the highest point of which the arch of Titus was erected to commemorate the capture of Jerusalem. Descending again to the Forum, it seems to have divided into two roads, one on the northern and one on the southern side, behind the row of shops, after which it ascended diagonally to the Capitol by the Clivus Capitolinus.
5. Walls and Gates of Rome. — The seven hills of Rome were surrounded by a rampart, which was called the Walls of Servius Tullius. By the time of the Empire these had fallen into decay, but the wall that now exists, embracing a considerably larger area, was not built till the reign of Aurelian. The walls of Servius Tullius were extended beyond the Tiber, so as to include the summit of the Janiculan; and the bridge of which we most frequently hear as connecting the two regions, was a wooden bridge built on piles, and called the Sublician; the position of this seems to have been somewhere at the foot of the Aventine. Of the gates of Rome, three deserve especial notice as the most important, the Collīna, Cap&275;na, and Carmentālis. The Porta Collina was the northern gate, through which the Via Salaria issued (p. 99); to the east of it, outside the walls, lay the Prætorian camp, which was built for the Guard in the reign of Tiberius. To the south of the city was the Porta Capena at the 113 foot of the Cælian, to which Juvenal applies the epithet “madida,” because of an aqueduct that passed over it. From it issued the Latin and Appian Ways, and just outside it lay the Vallis Egeriæ. The Carmental gate lay between the foot of the Capitol and the river, and was the starting-point of the Vicus Jugarius. The Via Flaminia issued from the Porta Ratumena on the north side of the Capitol, and passing through the Campus Martius, where it was called Via Lata, proceeded due north, until it crossed the Tiber by the Milvian bridge, two miles from Rome.
6. Southern Italy. — Southern Italy included the districts of Apulia, Calabria, Lucania, and the country of the Bruttii. Its characteristics were its warmer climate, its more indented coast, and the position of the level ground on the eastern instead of the western side, as it is in Central Italy. At the meeting point of Samnium, Apulia, and Calabria, where rises the lofty volcanic cone of the Mons Vultur, the chain of the Apennines divides, the main line pursuing its course towards the toe of Italy, while an inferior branch descends towards the heel. The coast was known to the Greeks as Magna Græcia, on account of the number and early prosperity of the Greek colonies that were established there. Of these, the Achæan cities of Sybăris and Croton, the Spartan colony of Tarentum, and the Locrian town of Locri, were founded about 700 B.C. The establishment of these was facilitated by the shortness of the passage from the neighbouring shores of Greece, the distance between Corcyra and the Iapygian promontory being not much more than sixty miles.
7. Apulia and Calabria. — The portion of southern Italy that lay between the Apennines and the Adriatic, and reached from the confines of the Frentani to the beginning of the heel of Italy, was called Apulia. The southern portion of this had a stony soil, almost devoid of streams; but the northern was an extensive and extremely fertile plain, excellently adapted for the growth of corn; 114 and for this reason Hannibal, during his campaign in Italy, made it his granary and the winter quarters of his army. This was watered by numerous rivers, the largest and southernmost of which was the impetuous stream of the Aufidus. Near the head-waters of this stood Venusia, the birthplace of Horace, with the fountain of Bandusia in its neighbourhood, and the Mons Vultur rising above it; all these objects are celebrated in the poet’s writings. He describes Venusia as situated on the frontier of Apulia and Lucania, saying of himself that he was
“Lucanus an Apulus anceps,
Nam Venusinus arat finem sub utrumque colonus.”
Further down the stream were Canusium and the disastrous battle-field of Cannæ; and at no great distance to the north of Venusia lay Ascŭlum, the scene of another great defeat of the Romans by Pyrrhus. Further to the north was the important town of Luceria. The Appian Way, which we have already traced through Latium, Campania, and Samnium, passed through this country on its way to Tarentum and Brundusium. This was the inland route, but it was possible also to skirt the coast from Barium onwards, has Horace did in his “Iter ad Brundusium.” The spur of Italy, which was formed by the promontory of Gargānus, was an isolated mountain district clothed with dense forests, and from its position exposed to the winds from both sides. The Mantīnum Litus on its southern coast was famous for its honey. The heel-piece of Italy was inhabited by two tribes, the Calabri on the northern, the Salentini on the southern coast; but by the Romans the whole district was known as Calabria, by the Greeks as Messapia or Iapygia. It was a low-lying country, with slight undulations, for the spur of the Apennines which descends in this direction does not penetrate to the Iapygian promontory. Within it were situated two towns of great importance — Brundusium on the 115 side facing Greece, which was the place of embarkation for Dyrrhachium and the Via Egnatia; and Tarentum, at the head of the bay of the same name, which at one time was the most powerful town of Magna Græcia, and was always a great commercial city from its admirable port, and the excellence of its products in wine, oil, wool, and the purple dye.
8. Lucania and the Brutii. — Lucania occupied the angle formed by the Tarentinus Sinus and the Mare Inferum, and was bounded on the north by Campania, Samnium, and Apulia. It was traversed throughout its whole extent by the Apennines, though on the eastern side a considerable space is left between these and the sea. Its chief towns lay on the sea-coast, and these were all of Greek origin. On the west side lay Posidonia or Pæstum, in the next bay after that of Naples, which was famed in ancient times for its roses, and is now known for the remains of its three fine temples; Elĕa or Velia, the home of the Eleatic school of philosophy; and Laus : on the eastern, Sybăris on the Crathis, the luxury of which has passed into a by-word; after the destruction of which city by the people of Croton, the neighbouring Thurii was founded by Athenian colonists, among whom was the historian Herodotus; Heracleia, where the Romans received their first defeat from Pyrrhus; and Metapontum. The district which formed the toe of Italy was inhabited by the Brutii. This commences at the point where the Bay of Tarentum and the Mare Inferum approach most closely to one another, being about thirty miles apart. Lower down again, below the promontory of Lacinium, which projects considerably towards the east, near the town of Croton, a still narrower isthmus, seventeen miles wide, is formed between the gulfs of Terīna and Scylletium; and here the Apennines, which elsewhere almost fill up the country, are broken through, so that the ground is low between the two seas. The mountain district to the south of this was called Sila, and was famed for its extensive 116 forests. Here on the east coast were Caulon and Locri Epizephyrii, which received its distinctive appellation from the promontory of Zephyrium, further to the south, on which the original city was built. The entire peninsula terminated in the headland of Leucopetra, and was separated from Sicily by the Fretum Siculum (Straits of Messina), on which stood the town of Rhegium. Between this place and Messāna on the Sicilian shore was the famous whirlpool of Charybdis, a strong eddy in the strait, formed by the meeting of different currents. At the northern entrance of the strait the rock of Scylla rose on the Italian coast.
9. Sicily. — The Island of Sicily, from its triangular shape, is one of the completest countries of Europe, and its position between the Carthaginian territory and Italy, and between the eastern and western bays of the Mediterranean, has caused it, both in ancient and modern times, to be a great meeting-place of different races. The course of ancient history was greatly determined by events that happened there : had the Carthaginians not been defeated by Gelo at Himĕra (p. 48), they might have conquered Italy, and changed the face of Europe; had the Athenians won at Syracuse, a conflict must have ensued between them and Carthage, which might seriously have modified Roman history. Similarly in modern times, a history of Sicily would introduce on the stage in turn all the nations that inhabit the shores of the Mediterranean. The three angles of this triangle are formed by the promontories of Pelōrum in the north-east, Pachynus in the south, and Libybæum in the west; the last of these is only eighty miles distant from Cape Bon. The mountains of Sicily are a continuation of those of Italy, and, starting from the straits of Messina, run westwards through the island at no great distance from the northern coast; about the middle of their course another chain runs off from them at right angles, and descends towards the southern promontory. But the peculiarity which we have so 117 often noticed in the western countries of Italy, that the mountain ranges are interfered with by a system of volcanoes, is here still more prominent; for by far the most important mountain in Sicily is Ætna, the height of which is nearly 11,000 feet, and its circumference ninety miles at its base. The connecting link between it and the Italian volcanoes was formed by the Æliæ Insulæ (Lipari Islands), where Æolus, the king of the winds, was supposed to hold his court. The northernmost of these, Strongyle (Stromboli), was and is in a permanent state of eruption. The rivers, as might be expected in an island of moderate size, are of no great magnitude, the largest being the Symæthus, which drains the region west of Ætna, and flows towards the east, and the Himĕra and Halycus, which rise in the centre of the country, and enter the western sea. But those of most fame are at the same time amongst the smallest in size, viz., the Acis, which flows through the lava of Ætna, and is associated with the story of Polyphemus and Galatea; the Anāpus near Syracuse, which is inseparably connected with the pastoral poetry of Theocritus; and the Asinărus towards the south, the scene of the final catastrophe of the disastrous Athenian expedition. The soil of Sicily was remarkably fertile, so that, like Ægypt and the province of Africa, it was considered one of the granaries of Rome.
10. Cities of Sicily. — The original inhabitants of Sicily were two tribes, the Sicanians in the west, and the Sicels in the east, both of whom belonged to the same Græco-Italian stock as the Greeks themselves. The consequence of this was, that when that people settled among them, the native and imported races easily intermingled (see General remarks, p. 17); and this explains the extreme populousness of the Greek towns, which cannot be accounted for by the natural increase of the colonists alone. The Greeks of Sicily were called Siceliōtes by way of distinction. They were not, however, the earliest settlers, for there 118 were already Phœnician stations established in the west of the island, of which Panormus (Palermo), in a fine bay on the northern coast, was the most important. The great Carthaginian settlement of Lilybæum, on the promontory of the same name, which played so prominent a part in the first Punic War, was not founded until after 400 B.C.. Off the coast between that place and Drepănum, also a Carthhaginian stronghold, lay the Ægātes Islands, where Lutatius Catalus gained his great naval victory over that power (B.C. 241). Behind Drepanum rose Mount Eryx, on the summit of which was a famous temple of Venus. To turn now to the Greek cities : all the earliest of these, as we might expect, were settled on the east coast, which was nearest to Greece, and it was only gradually that they felt their way round the western shores of the island. On the Fretum Siculum lay Zancle, afterwards called Messāna, and further to the south, Naxos, the earliest of all the colonies, Catăna, and Leontīni : all these were Chalcidic cities, and the rivalry between these and the other colonies, which were mostly of Doric origin, materially affected their subsequent history. Then came Megara Hyblæa, the hills in the neighbourhood of which were famed for their honey, and Syracuse; and on the western coast Camarīna, Gela, Agrigentum, and Selīnus. Towards the north there was only one considerable Greek city, Himĕra; for Segesta, which lay to the west of Panormus, though subsequently Hellenized, had originally a barbarian population. Exactly in the centre of the island, on a table-mountain with precipitous sides, stood Henna, the valleys in the neighbourhood of which were famous for their flowers, and were the scene of the rape of Proserpine.
11. Syracuse. — It remains to describe the topography of Syracuse, by far the most important place in Sicily. In the neighbourhood of that city three promontories project eastwards into the sea — the northernmost Thapsus, a low-lying peninsula — “Thapsum jacentem” 119 Virgil calls it — joined to the mainland by a spit of sand; the next Achradīna, a broad rocky mass of no great elevation; the southernmost Plemmyrium, a somewhat similar piece of land. Between the two latter lay a beautiful oval piece of water, the Great Harbour, in front of which the island of Ortygia projected from the northern side. This island was about a mile in length, separated from the land by a narrow strait, and containing a remarkable fountain, which spread out into a basin — that of Arethusa. Between Ortygia and Achradina a small inlet, running in from the open sea, formed the Lesser Harbour. Into the innermost part of the Great Harbour the clear stream of the Anapus flowed from the interior through a broad marshy valley. On the northern side of the valley was a broad table of land, bordered both on the north and south by low precipices; this started from Achradina as its base, though separated from that piece of ground by a slight depression, and as it projected towards the interior became higher and narrower, until about three-and-a-half miles from the sea the two sides met at an acute angle. The table of land was called Epipŏlæ, or “The Heights,” while the elevated spot which formed the apex of the triangle was named Euryēlus. The original city of Syracuse, like the modern one, occupied only the island of Ortygia; but by the time of the Athenian expedition it had spread over part of Achradina, and there was a suburb also on the nearer part of Epipŏlæ, named Temenītis. This last was afterwards included, together with the sloping ground towards the harbour, in the quarter called Neapolis; and a certain portion of the northern side of Epipŏlæ was built over, and called Tycha. Ultimately the whole of Epipŏlæ was enclosed by a wall.
12. Corsica and Sardinia. — Of the two large islands which lie to the west of Italy little need be said, for they had but little influence on ancient history. The northernmost of these, Corsica, was smaller and more mountainous than Sardinia, which possessed 120 considerable plains and afforded abundance of corn. In Corsica the place of chief importance was Aleria, or Alalia, on the middle of the east coast, originally a Greek settlement, but afterwards increased by Sulla with a colony of Roman citizens. Sardinia was for a long time occupied by the Carthaginians, who, however, were forced to retire from thence in the interval between the First and Second Punic Wars. Its capital Carălis (Cagliari), was situated in the south of the island.
CHAPTER XI. The Outlying Countries of Europe.