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Contrast Between Sea and Land Highland and Lowland Rome

italy, south, history, conditions, north, geographical, apennines and peoples

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CONTRAST BETWEEN SEA AND LAND : HIGHLAND AND LOWLAND: ROME next stage in the history of the world is one which [s far more complex in its causes than any we have yet considered. It is not a single group of geographical conditions which we must now notice, but a series of groups, each of which in succession had more effect than the others. In addition, the cumulative effect of all the history that had gone before must always be remem bered. The lessons might not be consciously known by those we call the Romans, but they were acted on, and the great discoveries of the peoples who had previously made history were so combined in the Roman Empire, that, perhaps more than any other, Rome has influenced the later course of history. Without those previous em pires, however, Rome could scarcely have been what she became. Thus we have geographical controls act ing at second hand, for the original existence of these empires was largely due to geographical conditions.

The possibility of combining the lessons taught by these empires was equally due to geographical controls. So far we have seen three empires—Egypt, Chaldea, Assyria—entirely based on land. Two of them were protected by the natural conditions, and the latest of them learned to protect itself. Then we saw a succession of three peoples powerful on sea—the Phoenicians, Greeks and Carthaginians—who respectively did without protection, were protected, and protected themselves. For a brief moment a man arose who understood the value of both land and sea, and by virtue of his insight, and the genius which gave him this insight, he con quered " the world." It is not wonderful, then, that the next development should take place in a land which projected far into the sea, and in a land, too, which was exposed to the action of forces which had made history.

It is natural, from the very shape and position of Italy, in touch with, but separated from, the older civilizations, that here should arise a new great centre; but a consideration of the details of its structure will show more plainly how natural it was. If we compare Italy with Greece the difference is apparent. In Greece there is a whole network of mountain ranges rising to a central spine and descending steeply to the sea, breaking up the land into many small peninsulas, islands and coast-plains at the heads of bays. In Italy there is one great highland curving round concavely to the south west and rising to the east. The outer rim faces a shallow sea shoaling to the north-west and filled with the rock waste from the mountains, so that the level is raised to form a plain, the plain of Lombardy. Except

where this highland breaks down to the sea on the south, there are few peninsulas and islands, and, though there are hills within the curve, there is no barrier either greatly hindering communication or serving as a defence. On the south there are, moreover, many harbours ; on the north there are few. Thus there is every reason why men from overseas should find a foothold on the south, and why men from the continental land mass should come south ward, and it is to be expected that at some point in the region where they met there should arise a civilization stimulated by both. As a matter of fact, this is precisely what has happened. In the north of Italy the descen dants of peoples who were there before history began are even now on the coast, squeezed into that position by the advance of peoples from the land; while on the south the conditions are reversed, the older populations are inland.

Nor is it an accident that these foices should meet in Rome, and that Rome, rather than one of the other small towns or states, should be the focus of the new civilization. A look at a map will show that what are called the Etruscan Apennines are much lower than either the Ligurian Apennines to the north-west or the broad mass of highlands between Rome and the Adriatic on the east. This southern highland mass descends so abruptly to the sea that progress along the coast lands on the east is beset with difficulties, which are increased by the existence of many streams that have to be crossed by anyone passing from north to south. Landmen enter ing the peninsula from the north almost certainly cross over these Etruscan Apennines by one of the river valleys between Bologna and the Metaurus. When they have done this, they are as surely guided down the valley of the Tiber along the western edge of the mid-Italian Apennines. Even if they cross over considerably north of the Tiber, the advance is most probably made up the valley of the upper Arno, and along the valley between that river and the Tiber. In any case, between the sea and the highland, landmen will almost certainly come to Rome, but here they are as certainly in touch with the influences from overseas based on the peninsulas and harbours of southern Italy. There is thus every reason why, owing to geographical conditions, civilizations based on sea and forces based on the land should meet in Italy, somewhere in the midst of Italy and at or near the position of Rome.

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