COMMERCE., HisTentir OF. The inter *curse between different nations for purposes If commerce, doubtless took place soon after the dispersion of mankind, for we find it re ;ended in holy writ that the Ishmaelites, who were settled in higher parts of Arabia, carried on a trade with Egypt in spices, balm, and myrrh, and that in one of their journey's Joseph was sold to them by his brethren. As the commodities in which they dealt, as gums and sweet scented woods, which were to be procured only from the East Indies, there is no doubt that these people and the Egyptians were among the first who made distant-voy ages and travels in the way of trade. They were succeeded by the Phcenicians, an adven turous people, who were the first that raised any naval power that makes any figure in history. By their enterprise and industry they became a wealthy and luxurious people, and their two cities, Tyre and Sidon, became the emporiums of the universe. In the time of David and Solomon we find the Jewish na tion availed themselves of the assistance of this people in equipping their fleets. After the de struction of old Tyre, a new city arose out of the ruins, which rivalled the other in wealth, industry, and commerce; and while in her glory she planted the colony of Carthage, on the coast of Africa, which from the conve nience of her situation and the industry of her inhabitants, rose to an extraordinay pitch of prosperity. The Carthaginians made them selves masters of Spain, and of the islands of Sicily and Sardinia, discovered the greatest part of the coast of Africa and the Canary Is lands, traded with Britain by the route of the Scilly Islands, and are supposed to have made their way even to America. In the mean time Egypt, under the Ptolemies, also attained a of grandeur and affluence. Ptole my Phileclelphus in particular, by encourag ing trade, made his people rich and himself powerfuL Such was the greatness of Alexan dria alone, that the produce of the customs fell little short of two millions annually. Under the Romans commerce was encouraged in every part of the world where they had any influence. as may be not only from historians, but also from various medals and inscriptions, showing that every considerable city had several colleges or trading companies.
On the decline of the empire, commerce was, owing to the unsettled state of all Europe, and the constant irruption of the barbarous tribes, almost at a stand. About this period it hap pened that some straggling people, either for ced by necessity or led by inclination, took their abode in a few scattered islands that lay near the coast of Italy, and as these islands were separated from each other by narrow channels, full of shallows, that prevented strangers from navigating, the inhabitants found themselves protected from all hostile inroads, and in the midst of this security they followed their pur suits with so much industry and success, that these once insignificant islands rose in the space of two centuries, that is, from the sixth to the eighth century, into a great city and a powerful republic. Such was the humble ori gin of the once potent state of Venice, which by degrees acquired an extent of commerce and a naval power that had not for a length of time any rival. She drew to herself the profits of the Indian trade, and by availing herself of every favourable conjuncture, she not only mo nopolized the trade of all Italy, but of all the countries in subjection to the 'Mahometans ; but as other countries in Europe began to en large their commerce, Venice lost the monopo ly, and this combining with her own immode rate ambition, caused the decay of her trade and the decline of her power. From the league of Cambray, which was formed against her by the powers of Europe, Venice may be said to have ceased to hold the first rank as a commercial state.
The origin of the proud city of Genoa, as it was called, was very similar to that of Venice. Like Venice, she rose from an assemblage of fugitives and adventurers on the rocky, barren, and inhospitable shores of Liguria ; and like ,her she gained, by the industry and perseve. ranee of her inhabitants, a prodigious extent of commerce. Her merchants traded with all countries, and throve by becoming the carriers from one country to another. Her fleets were formidable and her conquests numerous ; but after perpetual wars with her rival, Venice, she was at length compelled to yield the dominion of the sea, and finally lost all her consequence.