[Lewis and Reinhold section 1]



Pliny, Natural History iii. v. 38-40, 43-45; From LCL

After this comes Italy, its first people being the Ligurians, after whom come Etruria, Umbria, and Latium, where are the mouths of the Tiber and Rome, the capital of the world, sixteen miles from the sea. Afterwards comes the coast of the Volsci and of Campania, then of Picenum and Lucania and the Bruttii, the southernmost point to which Italy juts out into the sea from the almost crescent-shaped chain of the Alps. After the Bruttii comes the coast of Magna Graecia (1), followed by the Sallentini, Paediculi, Apuli, Paeligni, Frentani, Marrucini, Vestini, Sabini, Picentes, Gauls, Umbrians, Tuscans, Venetians, Carni, Iapudes, Histri, and Liburni (2). I am well aware that I may with justice be considered ungrateful and lazy if I describe in this casual and cursory manner a land which is at once the nursling and the mother of all other lands, chosen by the providence of the gods to make heaven itself more glorious, to unite scattered empires, to make manners gentle, to draw together in converse by community of language the jarring and uncouth tongues of so many nations, to give mankind civilization, and in a word to become throughout the world the single fatherland of all the races. But what am I to do? The great fame of all its places - who could touch upon them all? - and the great renown of the various things and peoples in it give me pause. In that list even the city of Rome alone . . . what elaborate description it merits! . . .

In shape, then, Italy much resembles an oak leaf, being far longer than it is broad, bending towards the left at its top and ending in the shape of an Amazon's shield, the projection in the center being called Cocynthos [now Punta di Stilo] while it sends out two horns along bays of crescent shape, Leucopetra [now Capo delle Colonne] on the right and Lacinium [now Capo dell'Armi] on the left. Its length extends for 1020 miles, beginning from Aosta at the foot of the Alps and passing through Rome and Capua in a winding course to the town of Reggio situated on its shoulder, where begins the curve, as it were, of the neck . . . . The breadth varies, being 410 miles between the rivers Var and Arsa where they flow into the Tuscan Sea and the Adriatic, but at about the middle, in the neighborhood of the city of Rome, from the mouth of the River Pescara, which flows into the Adriatic Sea, to the mouths of the Tiber, its breadth is 136 miles, and a little less from Castrum Novum on the Adriatic to Palo on the Tuscan Sea, in no place exceeding a width of 200 miles. The circuit of the entire coast from the Var round to the Arsa is 2049 miles. Its distances from the countries that surround it are as follows: from Istria and Liburnia in certain places, ioo miles; from Epirus and Illyricum, 50 miles; from Africa, according to Marcus Varro, less than 200; from Sardinia, 120; from Sicily, 1 1/2; from Corcyra, less than 80; from Issa (3), 50.


Pliny, Natural History xxxvii. xiii. 77

Having now treated all the works of nature, I think it would be appropriate to conclude with a judgment, as it were, on her bounties and on the countries which produce them. My conclusion is that on the whole earth, wherever the vault of heaven extends, the country which is the most beautiful and which deservedly holds first place in all the products of nature is Italy, the ruler and second parent of the world; recom-mended as she is by her men and women, her generals and soldiers, her slaves, her preeminence in the arts, and the renown of her brilliant men, by her situation, too, her healthful and temperate climate, the easy access which she offers to all peoples, her many-harbored coasts and favorable winds; advantages, all of them, due to her situation, lying as she does midway between the east and the west, and extended in the most favorable of all positions. Add to this the abundant supply of her waters, the healthfulness of her wooded groves, the repeated intersections of her mountain ranges, the mildness of her wild animals, the fertility of her soil, the richness of her pastures. She is surpassed by no land in any of those products which human life ought not to feel in want of: cereals, wine, olive oil, wool, flax, clothing, cattle. As for horses, none are preferred to the native breed for training for three-horse races; while for mines of gold, silver, copper, and iron, so long as it was legal to work them, Italy was second to no land. At the present day, teeming as she is with these treasures, she lavishes upon us, as the whole of her bounties, her various liquids and the flavors of her cereals and fruits [see further 166 on agriculture in Italy].

(1) The southern coastal region of Italy, dotted with Greek colonies established there c. 750-500 B.C.

(2) Pliny proceeds counterclockwise around Italy. Distances are given in Roman miles (see Glossary).

(3) Island in the Adriatic, now Vis, Yugoslavia; its Italian name is Lissa.