Слике страница



various articles of food and clothing; and, not less important, wood for boat-building. The security in which they pursued these humble occupations was, however, envied by Italians who were groaning under the tyranny and rapine of the barbarians, and the island-colony received accessions of population.

The Venetians, who could scarcely stir from one spot to another except by water, became the most expert of seamen. Their vessels not only threaded the tortuous courses of the rivers and canals into the heart of the peninsula, but visited all the harbours of the Adriatic; and, gaining confidence, pushed out into the Mediterranean, and opened up a trade with Greece and Constantinople. Thus Venice became the port of Italy and Germany, and the means of communication between them and the seat of the Roman Empire in the East. Every year the ships of the republic grew larger and more numer

In the fourteenth century it had afloat a fleet of three thousand merchantmen; but of these some were only of ten tons burden, while few exceeded a hundred tons. Fishing-boats were probably included in the estimate. In addition there were about forty wargalleys, carrying eleven thousand men; which were kept cruising in different directions, for the protection of Venetian commerce. The largest of the galleys was the famous Bucentaur; which, with its exterior of scarlet and gold, its long bank of burnished oars, its deck and seats inlaid with precious woods, its gorgeous canopy and throne, rivalled the magnificence of Cleopatra's barge. It was in this splendid vessel that the Doge went annually in state to celebrate the marriage of Venice with the Adriatic, by dropping a ring into its waters; thus symbolizing the fact that a people whose habitations might be assigned either to earth or to water, were equally at home on both.

With an extensive commerce the Venetians combined several manufactures. They not only prepared immense quantities of salt, and cured fish, but found in their sands the material of that exquisite glass, so pure, and yet so rich in hue, with which their name is still associated. The furnaces from which this beautiful product emanated were congregated, as they are still, in the island of Murano. There were also brass and iron foundries; and the armourers of Venice were widely celebrated for the strength and beauty of their weapons, breastplates, helmets, and bucklers. The weaving of cloth-of-gold was another important industry. This costly and gorgeous material was in great demand in the Courts of France and Germany. Charlemagne himself was rarely seen without a robe of Venetian pattern and texture.

It was thus that Venice grew rich. The mud huts gradually gave place to palaces, and the peasants were transformed into haughty nobles. “The Venetians are grown so proud,” says an old traveller in the fifteenth century, “that when one has a son, the saying goes, “A lord is born into the world !'” In the beginning of the same century it was reckoned that there were at least a thousand nobles in the city, whose incomes ranged from 4,000 to 70,000 ducats, and that at a time when 3,000 ducats bought a palace.

In the end of the twelfth century the population was 70,000, exclusive of persons in holy orders. Two hundred years later it had increased nearly fourfold.

Venice was then, as now, a city intersected by innumerable water highways, bordered by marble mansions mingled with tenements of wood-studded with churches—and having public squares confined on three sides by houses, while on the remaining side a quay overlooked the sea. The streets bustled with traffic. Gondolas skimmed rapidly along the canals. The merchants assembled on the Rialto, and the money-changers spread their tables under the shadow of the Campanile. The Bank of Venice—the first institution of the kind ever established the credit of which was guaranteed by the state, attested at once the wisdom and the commercial enterprise of the City of the Waters. In the shops every article of use, luxury, or ornament, could be obtained. Contractors of all kinds and of different nations resorted thither, and the ships of every flag loaded and unloaded at the quays.

The rivalry of Genoa forms a large element in the history of Venice. The two republics were deadly and relentless enemies. Whenever their ships met there was a fight, and in a narrow sea

like the Mediterranean, where in some cases they frequented the same ports, they met very often.

In 1261 a rupture with the Byzantine government at Constantinople led to the exclusion of the Venetians from the trade of the Black Sea. Genoa for a time was in the ascendant. A desperate war ensued, which at the end of four years terminated in the triumph of the Venetians, whose maritime and commercial supremacy was thus indicated.

The object of the struggle—the trade of the Black Sea—was, however, lost to the victors as well as to the vanquished, for the Turks intervened and imposed their paralyzing influence on the commerce and industry of those parts. Within the Mediterranean, Venice remained without a rival. The blow which proved fatal to her influence came from without, and was as unexpected as it was inevitable. It was the discovery of a sea passage to India, which set aside the old caravan routes, of which Venice formed, as it were, the European centre.


Around me are the stars and waters— | Which point in Egypt's plains to times Worlds mirrored in the ocean, goodlier that have sight

No other record. All is gentle : nought Than torches glared back by a gaudy glass; Stirs rudely; but, congenial with the night, And the great element, which is to space Whatever walks is gliding like a spirit. What ocean is to earth, spreads its blue The tinklings of some soft guitars; the depths,

dash Softened with the first breathings of the Phosphoric of the oar, or rapid twinkle spring;

Of the far lights of skimming gondolas, The high moon sails upon her beauteous And the responsive voices of the choir way,

Of boatmen answering back with verse for Serenely smoothing o'er the lofty walls

verse; Of those tall piles and sea-girt palaces, Some dusky shadow chequering the Rialto; Whose porphyry pillars, and whose costly Some glimmering palace-roof, or tapering fronts,

spire, Seem each a trophy of some mighty deed Are all the sights and sounds which here Reared up from out the waters, scarce less pervade strangely

The ocean-born and earth-commanding Than those more massy and mysterious citygiants

How sweet and soothing is this hour of Of architecture, those Titanian fabrics,

calm !




To pass

ONE other condition remains yet to be observed. You well know that the nations inhabiting the shores of the Mediterranean were originally distinct in government, dissimilar in origin, diverse in laws, habits, and usages, and almost perpetually at war. from one to the other without incurring the risk of injury, nay, even of being sold into slavery, was almost impossible. A stranger and an enemy were designated by the same word. Beginning with Spain, and passing through Gaul, Germany, Italy, Greece, Asia Minor, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and Carthage, until you arrive again at the Pillars of Hercules, every state was most commonly the enemy


every other. It was necessary that these various peoples should all be moulded by the same pressure into one common form; that one system of laws should bind them all in harmony; and that, under one common protection, a citizen might be able to pass through all of them in security. This seems to have been needful in order that the new religion might be rapidly and extensively promulgated.

In order to accomplish this purpose, as I suppose, was the Roman Empire raised up, and intrusted with the sceptre of universal dominion. Commencing with a feeble colony on the banks of the Tiber, she gradually, by conquest and conciliation, incorporated with herself the many warlike tribes of ancient Italy. In her very youth, after a death-struggle of more than a century, she laid Carthage, the former mistress of the Mediterranean, lifeless at her feet. From this era she paused not a moment in her career of universal conquest. Nation after nation submitted to her sway. Army after army was scattered before her legions, like the dust of the summer threshing-floor. Her proconsuls sat enthroned in regal state in every city of the civilized world; and the barbarian mother, clasping her infant to her bosom, fled to the remotest fastnesses of the wilderness when she saw, far off in the distance, the sunbeams glittering upon the eagles of the Republic.

Far different, however, were the victories of Rome from those of Alexander. The Macedonian soldier thought mainly of battles and sieges, the clash of onset, the flight of satraps, and the subjugation of kings. He overran; the Romans always conquered. Every vanquished nation became, in turn, a part of the Román empire. A large portion of every conquered people was admitted to the rights of citizenship. The laws of the Republic threw over the conquered the shield of her protection. Rome may, it is true, have oppressed them; but then she delivered them from the capricious and more intolerable oppression of their native rulers. Hence her conquests really marked the progress of civilization, and extended in all directions the limits of universal brotherhood.

The Roman citizen was free of the civilized world; everywhere he might appeal to her laws, and repose in security under the shadow of her universal power. Thus the declaration, “Ye have beaten us openly, and uncondemned, being Romans,” brought the magistrates of Philippi suppliants at the feet of the apostle Paul; his question, “Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned ?" palsied the hands of the lictors at Jerusalem; and the simple words, “ I appeal unto Cæsar,” removed his cause from the jurisdiction even of the proconsul at Cæsarea, and carried it at once into the presence of the Emperor. You cannot but perceive that this universal domination of a single civilized

power must have presented great facilities for the promulgation of the gospel. In many respects, it resembled the dominion of Great Britain at the present day in Asia. Wherever her red cross floats, there the liberty of man is, to a great extent, protected by the constitution of the realm. Whatever be the complexion or the language of the nations that take refuge beneath its folds, they look up to it everywhere, and bid defiance to every other despotism.


« ПретходнаНастави »