In Campania the Greeks and Italians dwelt peacefully side by side, and in Latium, and still more in Etruria, an extensive and regular exchange of commodities took place. What were the earliest articles of import, may be inferred partly from the objects found in the primitive tombs, particularly those at Caere, partly from indications preserved in the language and institutions of the Romans, partly and chiefly from the stimulus given to Italian industry; for of course they bought foreign manufactures for a considerable time before they began to imitate them. We cannot determine how far the development of handicrafts had advanced before the separation of the stocks, or what progress it thereafter made while Italy remained left to its own resources; it is uncertain how far the Italian fullers, dyers, tanners, and potters received their impulse from Greece or Phoenicia or had their own independent development But certainly the trade of the goldsmiths, which existed in Rome from time immemorial, can only have arisen after transmarine commerce had begun and ornaments of gold had to some extent found sale among the inhabitants of the peninsula. We find, accordingly, in the oldest sepulchral chambers of Caere and Vulci in Etruria and of Praeneste in Latium, plates of gold with winged lions stamped upon them, and similar ornaments of Babylonian manufacture. It may be a question in reference to the particular object found, whether it has been introduced from abroad or is a native imitation; but on the whole it admits of no doubt that all the west coast of Italy in early times imported metallic wares from the East. It will be shown still more clearly in the sequel, when we come to speak of the exercise of art, that architecture and modelling in clay and metal received a powerful stimulus in very early times through Greek influence, or, in other words, that the oldest tools and the oldest models came from Greece. In the sepulchral chambers just mentioned, besides the gold ornaments, there were deposited vessels of bluish enamel or greenish clay, which, judging from the materials and style as well as from the hieroglyphics impressed upon them, were of Egyptian origin;(18) perfume-vases of Oriental alabaster, several of them in the form of Isis; ostrich-eggs with painted or carved sphinxes and griffins; beads of glass and amber. These last may have come by the land-route from the north; but the other objects prove the import of perfumes and articles of ornament of all sorts from the East. Thence came linen and purple, ivory and frankincense, as is proved by the early use of linen fillets, of the purple dress and ivory sceptre for the king, and of frankincense in sacrifice, as well as by the very ancient borrowed names for them (--linon--, -linum-; --porphura--, -purpura-; --skeiptron--, --skipon--, -scipio-; perhaps also --elephas--, -ebur-; --thuos--, -thus-). Of similar significance is the derivation of a number of words relating to articles used in eating and drinking, particularly the names of oil,(19) of jugs (--amphoreus--, -amp(h)ora-, -ampulla-, --krateir--, -cratera-), of feasting (--komazo--, -comissari-), of a dainty dish (--opsonion--, -opsonium-) of dough (--maza--, -massa-), and various names of cakes (--glukons--, -lucuns-; --plakons--, -placenta-; --turons--, -turunda-); while conversely the Latin names for dishes (-patina-, --patanei--) and for lard (-arvina-, --arbinei--) have found admission into Sicilian Greek. The later custom of placing in the tomb beside the dead Attic, Corcyrean, and Campanian vases proves, what these testimonies from language likewise show, the early market for Greek pottery in Italy. That Greek leather-work made its way into Latium at least in the shape of armour is apparent from the application of the Greek word for leather --skutos-- to signify among the Latins a shield (-scutum-; like -lorica-, from -lorum-). Finally, we deduce a similar inference from the numerous nautical terms borrowed from the Greek (although it is remarkable that the chief technical expressions in navigation--the terms for the sail, mast, and yard--are pure Latin forms);(20) and from the recurrence in Latin of the Greek designations for a letter (--epistolei--, -epistula-), a token (-tessera-, from --tessara--(21)), a balance (--stateir--, -statera-), and earnest-money (--arrabon--, -arrabo-, -arra-); and conversely from the adoption of Italian law-terms in Sicilian Greek,(22) as well as from the exchange of the proportions and names of coins, weights, and measures, which we shall notice in the sequel. The character of barbarism which all these borrowed terms obviously present, and especially the characteristic formation of the nominative from the accusative (-placenta- = --plakounta--; -ampora- = --amphorea--; -statera-= --stateira--), constitute the clearest evidence of their great antiquity. The worship of the god of traffic (-Mercurius-) also appears to have been from the first influenced by Greek conceptions; and his annual festival seems even to have been fixed on the ides of May, because the Hellenic poets celebrated him as the son of the beautiful Maia.

Commerce, In Latium Passive, In Etruria Active

It thus appears that Italy in very ancient times derived its articles of luxury, just as imperial Rome did, from the East, before it attempted to manufacture for itself after the models which it imported. In exchange it had nothing to offer except its raw produce, consisting especially of its copper, silver, and iron, but including also slaves and timber for shipbuilding, amber from the Baltic, and, in the event of bad harvests occurring abroad, its grain. From this state of things as to the commodities in demand and the equivalents to be offered in return, we have already explained why Italian traffic assumed in Latium a form so differing from that which it presented in Etruria. The Latins, who were deficient in all the chief articles of export, could carry on only a passive traffic, and were obliged even in the earliest times to procure the copper of which they had need from the Etruscans in exchange for cattle or slaves--we have already mentioned the very ancient practice of selling the latter on the right bank of the Tiber.(23) On the other hand the Tuscan balance of trade must have been necessarily favourable in Caere as in Populonia, in Capua as in Spina.

Italian Books
Theodor Mommsen
Classic Literature Library

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