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east, till the province of Histria was included by Augustus within the limits of Italy, which were then removed in that direction to the little river Arsia, l'Arsa.
The sea that bounded the western coast of Italy bore the several names of Mare Inferum, Tyrrhenum, and Etruscum; while those of Mare Superum, Hadriaticum, or Hadriacum, were attached to the eastern or Adriatic sea.
Gens inimica mihi Tyrrhenum navigat æquor.
EN. I. 67.
An mare quod supra memorem, quodque alluit infra.
GEORG. II. 158.
Amnis et Hadriacas retro fugit Aufidus undas.
EN. XI. 405.
The latter was known to the Greeks by the name of 'Adpías, (Herod. I. 163.) or 'lóvios kóλwos, (Thuc. I. 24.) but they seem to have understood by the name of Ionicum mare, that portion of it which lies between the south of Italy, taken from the Iapygian promontory, and Peloponnesus. The narrow strait, which separates the extremity of Italy from Sicily, received its appellation from that island; but it was not confined to this arm alone, since we find the name of Mare Siculum applied to the waters which washed the south western coast of Greece. (Strab. II. 123. Plin. IV. 5.)
Ancient geographers appear to have entertained different ideas of the figure of Italy. Polybius considered it in its general form as being like a triangle, of which the two seas meeting at the promontory of Cocynthus, Capo di Stilo, as the vertex, formed the sides, and the Alps the base. (Polyb. II. 14.) But Strabo is more exact in his delineation,
and observes, that its shape bears more resemblance to a quadrilateral than a triangular figure, with its outline rather irregular than rectilineal. (Strab. V. 210.) Pliny describes it in shape as similar to an elongated oak leaf, and terminating in a crescent, the horns of which would be the promontories of Leucopetra, Capo dell' Armi, and Lacinium, Capo delle Colonne. (Plin. III. 5.) The same idea is thus expressed by the poet Rutilius in his Itinerary, II. 17.
Italiam rerum dominam, qui cingere visu
According to Pliny, the length of Italy from Augusta Prætoria, Aosta, at the foot of the Alps to Rhegium, the other extremity, was 1020 miles; but this distance was to be estimated not in a direct line, but by the great road which passed through Rome and Capua. (Plin. III. 5.) The real geographical distance, according to the best maps, would scarcely furnish 600 modern Italian miles, of sixty to the degree; which are equal to about 700 ancient Roman miles. The same writer estimates its breadth from the Varus to the Arsia at 410 miles; between the mouths of the Tiber and Aternus at 136 miles : in the narrowest part between the Sinus Scylacius, Golfo di Squillace, and Sinus Terinæus, Golfo di S. Eufemia, at 20 miles. The little lake of Cutiliæ, near Reate, Rieti, in the Sabine country, was considered as the umbilicus or centre of Italy. (Plin. III. 12.)
In speaking of the general features of Italy, ancient writers have not failed to notice the length and direction of the Apennines. They have remarked, that this chain branching off from the Maritime Alps, in the neighbourhood of Genoa, runs diagonally from the Ligurian sea to the Adriatic, in the vicinity of Ancona; from thence continuing nearly parallel with the latter sea as far as the promontory of Garganus, Gargano, it again inclines to the Mare Inferum, till it finally terminates in the promontory of Leucopetra near Rhegium. (Polyb. II. 16. Strab. V. 211.) The following are the most remarkable poetical passages which relate to this celebrated chain.
Umbrosis mediam qua collibus Apenninus
Altius intumuit, propiusque accessit Olympo.
LUCAN. II. 396.
Diversas medius mons obliquatur in undas
RUTIL. ITIN. II. 27.
ad montes reliquo cum robore cessi,
CLAUD. PANEG. VI. CONS. HON. 285.
Horrebat glacie saxa inter lubrica, summo
Condiderat nix alta trabes, et vertice celso
SIL. ITAL. IV. 743.
Quantus Athos, aut quantus Eryx, aut ipse coruscis
EN. XII. 703.
Hæc ut Cocyti tenebras et Tartara liquit,
PET. ARB. CARM. DE BELL. CIV. 277.
It has already been stated, that the great Alpine chain was considered as extending from the neighbourhood of Marseilles to the head of the Adriatic. It might be said to form a vast semicircle, of which the convex side was turned towards Gaul, the concave towards Italy. The Salassi, who occupied the present duchy of Aosta, were supposed to stand at the middle point of the circumference. The whole length of the chain was computed at 1000 miles, its breadth varying from 70 to 100. (Pol. II. 14. Strab. V. 211. Plin. III. 19.) It was not till the reign of Augustus that the Alps became well known. That emperor finally subdued the numerous and savage clans which inhabited the Alpine valleys, and cleared the passes of the banditti which infested them. He improved the old roads and constructed new ones; and finally succeeded in establishing a free and easy communication through these mountains. (Strab. IV. 204.) The whole of this great chain was then divided into seven portions, to each of which a separate name was assigned. These were, 1. The Maritime Alps, beginning from the environs of Nice to the
Mons Vesulus, Monte Viso. 2. The Cottian Alps, reaching from the last mentioned point to Mont Cenis. 3. The Graian Alps, lying between Mont Iseran and the Little St. Bernard, inclusively. 4. The Pennine Alps, extending from the Great St. Bernard to the sources of the Rhone and Rhine. 5. The Rhætic or Tridentine Alps, from the St. Gothard, whose numerous peaks bore the name of Adula, to Mount Brenner in the Tyrol. 6. The Noric Alps, from the latter point to the head of the river Plavis, la Piave. 7. The Carnic or Julian Alps, terminating in the Mons Albius on the confines of Illyricum. As each division will be more fully discussed in its respective place, I shall conclude this general notice of the Alps by bringing together, from the Roman poets, those passages which are most descriptive of their character and scenery.
Sed jam præteritos ultra meminisse labores
Obtutus saxis, abeuntque in nubila montes.
SIL. ITAL. III. 478.