Legend and faith, laws and manners, among the Italians as among the Hellenes are throughout associated with agriculture.(7)

Cultivation of the soil cannot be conceived without some measurement of it, however rude. Accordingly, the measures of surface and the mode of setting off boundaries rest, like agriculture itself, on a like basis among both peoples. The Oscan and Umbrian -vorsus- of one hundred square feet corresponds exactly with the Greek --plethron--. The principle of marking off boundaries was also the same. The land-measurer adjusted his position with reference to one of the cardinal points, and proceeded to draw in the first place two lines, one from north to south, and another from east to west, his station being at their point of intersection (-templum-, --temenos-- from --temno--); then he drew at certain fixed distances lines parallel to these, and by this process produced a series of rectangular pieces of ground, the corners of which were marked by boundary posts (-termini-, in Sicilian inscriptions -termones-, usually --oroi--). This mode of defining boundaries, which is probably also Etruscan but is hardly of Etruscan origin, we find among the Romans, Umbrians, Samnites, and also in very ancient records of the Tarentine Heracleots, who are as little likely to have borrowed it from the Italians as the Italians from the Tarentines: it is an ancient possession common to all. A peculiar characteristic of the Romans, on the other hand, was their rigid carrying out of the principle of the square; even where the sea or a river formed a natural boundary, they did not accept it, but wound up their allocation of the land with the last complete square.

Other Features Of Their Economy

It is not solely in agriculture, however, that the especially close relationship of the Greeks and Italians appears; it is unmistakably manifest also in the other provinces of man's earliest activity. The Greek house, as described by Homer, differs little from the model which was always adhered to in Italy. The essential portion, which originally formed the whole interior accommodation of the Latin house, was the -atrium-, that is, the "blackened" chamber, with the household altar, the marriage bed, the table for meals, and the hearth; and precisely similar is the Homeric --megaron--, with its household altar and hearth and smoke-begrimed roof. We cannot say the same of ship-building. The boat with oars was an old common possession of the Indo-Germans; but the advance to the use of sailing vessels can scarcely be considered to have taken place during the Graeco-Italian period, for we find no nautical terms originally common to the Greeks and Italians except such as are also general among the Indo-Germanic family. On the other hand the primitive Italian custom of the husbandmen having common midday meals, the origin of which the myth connects with the introduction of agriculture, is compared by Aristotle with the Cretan Syssitia; and the earliest Romans further agreed with the Cretans and Laconians in taking their meals not, as was afterwards the custom among both peoples, in a reclining, but in a sitting posture. The mode of kindling fire by the friction of two pieces of wood of different kinds is common to all peoples; but it is certainly no mere accident that the Greeks and Italians agree in the appellations which they give to the two portions of the touch-wood, "the rubber" (--trypanon--, -terebra-), and the "under-layer" (--storeus--, --eschara--, -tabula-, probably from -tendere-, --tetamai--). In like manner the dress of the two peoples is essentially identical, for the -tunica- quite corresponds with the --chiton--, and the -toga- is nothing but a fuller --himation--. Even as regards weapons of war, liable as they are to frequent change, the two peoples have this much at least in common, that their two principal weapons of attack were the javelin and the bow,--a fact which is clearly expressed, as far as Rome is concerned, in the earliest names for warriors (-pilumni--arquites-),(8) and is in keeping with the oldest mode of fighting which was not properly adapted to a close struggle. Thus, in the language and manners of Greeks and Italians, all that relates to the material foundations of human existence may be traced back to the same primary elements; the oldest problems which the world proposes to man had been jointly solved by the two peoples at a time when they still formed one nation.

Difference Of The Italian And The Greek Character

It was otherwise in the mental domain. The great problem of man--how to live in conscious harmony with himself, with his neighbour, and with the whole to which he belongs--admits of as many solutions as there are provinces in our Father's kingdom; and it is in this, and not in the material sphere, that individuals and nations display their divergences of character. The exciting causes which gave rise to this intrinsic contrast must have been in the Graeco-Italian period as yet wanting; it was not until the Hellenes and Italians had separated that that deep-seated diversity of mental character became manifest, the effects of which continue to the present day. The family and the state, religion and art, received in Italy and in Greece respectively a development so peculiar and so thoroughly national, that the common basis, on which in these respects also the two peoples rested, has been so overgrown as to be almost concealed from our view. That Hellenic character, which sacrificed the whole to its individual elements, the nation to the township, and the township to the citizen; which sought its ideal of life in the beautiful and the good, and, but too often, in the enjoyment of idleness; which attained its political development by intensifying the original individuality of the several cantons, and at length produced the internal dissolution of even local authority; which in its view of religion first invested the gods with human attributes, and then denied their existence; which allowed full play to the limbs in the sports of the naked youth, and gave free scope to thought in all its grandeur and in all its awfulness;--and that Roman character, which solemnly bound the son to reverence the father, the citizen to reverence the ruler, and all to reverence the gods; which required nothing and honoured nothing but the useful act, and compelled every citizen to fill up every moment of his brief life with unceasing work; which made it a duty even in the boy modestly to cover the body; which deemed every one a bad citizen who wished to be different from his fellows; which regarded the state as all in all, and a desire for the state's extension as the only aspiration not liable to censure,--who can in thought trace back these sharply-marked contrasts to that original unity which embraced them both, prepared the way for their development, and at length produced them? It would be foolish presumption to desire to lift this veil; we shall only endeavour to indicate in brief outline the beginnings of Italian nationality and its connections with an earlier period--to direct the guesses of the discerning reader rather than to express them.

The Period Anterior to the Abolition of the Monarchy Page 11

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