Графични страници
PDF файл

streams, by which the tribes of the present race have been borne down." *

We proceed to the Latins. The legends enumerale three kings of the Aborigines, between the time of Saturn and the Trojan settlements in Latium. They were in lineal descent, and bore the names of Picus, Faunus and Latinus. The last either gave his own appellation to the people over whom he ruled, or receiv :d it from them. At an early period, either the whole of the Latin nation, or a portion of it, was known as the Prisci-Latini, or the united tribes of the Prisci (Priores or Primi Osci ?) and the Latini. Niebuhr thinks that the Latin name should properly be appropriated to the Siculians of Latium, which would be, in his opinion, to render them Pelasgians. The Prisci, who are also termed Sacrani in the legends, may have been Sabellians from Monte Velino and the Lago di Celano, or Sabines, as Mrs. Hamilton Gray calls them after Sir William Gellot The Latins must then be considered to have been a branch of the widely extended aboriginal population, formed by the union of two principal tribes, the Sabellians and the Siculians, whether the latter were Pelasgians, or totally distinct from them as Opicans. There is every evidence of the admixture of both Pelasgian and Etruscan eleinents in the Latin people, and perbaps the historical introduction of the latter might be traced with some accuracy, but we would be chary of hazarding the opinions indulged by Mrs. Gray, who discovers only Etruscan institutions throughout Latium, and imagines an Etruscan origin for all its principal towns.

The Latins were undoubtedly a great and powerful penple,-they appear such even in historic times,—having been a strong federated republic as late as the reign of Tarquinius Superbus, and probably later. Their first metropolis was Lavinium, which is the same as Latinium, and was the common capital of the Latin tribes, in the same way that the Panionium was of the Ionian colonies of Asia Minor. Here the delegates of the thirty towns of Latium were wont to assemble, for the business of the common weal, in the Tem

• Niebuhr, Hist. Rome, vol. I, p. 100.

+ Niebuhr, Hist. Rome, vol. 1, p 59. Mrs. Hamilton Gray, Hist. Etruria, vol. 1, c. 16, p. 372.

Mrs. Hamilton Gray, Hist. Etruria, vol. 1, c. 16, pp. 372–82. Lavin. ium was Etruscan, because it contained paintings "similar in style to those of Cære."

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

ple of Jupiter Latiatis. The seat of power was afterwards transferred to Alba, with the names of ten of whose suffragan cities we are acquainted,-Mugilla, Politorium, Præneste, Tibur, Gabri, Nomentum, Bovilla, Crustumerium, Fidenæ, and Rome, the youngest and greatest of them all.* But the history of Latium is so fully absorbed into the early history of Rome, that it is sufficient for our purpose to have indicated their origin.

The Ligurians, Liburnians, and Venetians, were, in all probability, cognate tribes. The Ligurians were brave and poor, the Venetians effeminate and rich, and they transmitted to their descendants, the modern Venetians, that commercial spirit and enterprize for which they were themselves distinguished. “The Ligurians," says Niebuhr, "are one of those nations that the short span of our history embraces only in their decline.” They were at one time widely extended, for "it seems extremely probable, that this people were dwelling of yore from the Pyrenees to the Tiber, with the Cevennes and the Helvetian Alps for its northern boundary. Of their place in the family of nations we are ignorant. We only know that they were neither Iberians nor Celts.” The majority of ancient writers "speak highly of the industry, the indefatigable patience, and the contentedness of the Ligurians, no less than of their boldness and dexterity.”+

There are only two more races remaining of sufficient note to attract our particular attention,-the Pelasgians and the Etruscans,—but they are the most important of all. The earliest traditions of Asia Minor, of Greece, and of Italy, and the earliest monuments, preserved or spoken of, attest the existence, at a very remote period, of a widely disfused race, whose power had passed away long before men in those regions began to take note of passing events for the information of posterity. “It is not as a mere hypothesis,” says Niebuhr, “but with a full historical conviction, that I assert, there was a time, when the Pelasgians, then perhaps more widely spread than any other people in Europe, extended from the Po and the Arno almost to the Bosphorus."! In the Isles of the Ægean and Sicilian Seas, in Crete and in Cyprus, they may likewise be traced, but when we attempt to inquire, who they were, whence they came, what were * Mrs. Hamilton Gray, Hist. Etruria, vol. 1, c. 16, p. 377. + Niebuhr, Hist. Rome, vol. 1, pp. 96, 97. • Niebuhr, Hist. Rome, vol. 1, p. 48.

[ocr errors]

their institutions, and what progress they had made in the arts of civilization, history is silent, tradition is confused, and their mighty edifices of stone are dumb. A deep mystery shrouds their fate, and with a melancholy feeling we contemplate their fortunes. There are a few other instances on record of nations having vanished from the earth, the Celts, the Mexicans of the earlier dynasty, and the Peruvians. All conjecture is feeble and unsatisfactory, which attempts to account for or exhibit their history and origin, but they are not so intimately connected with ihe brighter portions of the human career, as to render the obscurity in which they are involved a subject of the deepest and most painful regret. But such is the feeling with which we always regard the scanty and vague traditions relative to the Pelasgians. We have at least some authentic accounts, and a portion of the history of those Indians of our own time and our own continent, who are now withering away before our eyes like a shrivelled leaf, which, as it loses its sap and its substance, is dissolved into the bosom of the all-receiving earth. But the legends of the Pelasgians are obscure, uncertain and contra. dictory: they baffle and mislead the curiosity which they excite. The very name arrests us in the first steps of inquiry. Was it a national name? or a generic one ? or merely a loose attribute derived from some habit or peculiarity ? Niebuhr thinks it was the first ;* Thirlwall denies itt and affirms the last, but conceives it to have been a general appellation bestowed upon many kindred races, who had their peculiar and appropriate names besides. Mrs. Grayi thinks that it agrees in significance and application with the Egyptian Hyksos, and that it is itself of Syro-Egyptian derivation ; and a hundred other fanciful hypotheses have been started.

Their origin is uncertain as their name. Michelet, Muller and others conceive them to have been Phænicians or Philistines, who wandered over Asia Minor and the shores of the Mediterranean, and finally descended upon the rich valleys of Greece, and the pleasant regious of Italy. Niebuhr wisely refrains from speculation, on a point where no successful conclusions can be anticipated. Mrs. Gray boldly assumes them to have been Phænicians and Egyptians in

* Niebuhr, Hist. Rome, vol. 1, p. 37.
+ Thirlwall's Hist. Greece, c. iii.
1 Mrs. Hamilton Gray, Hist. Etruria, vol. 1, c. 5, p. 98.

[ocr errors]

Greece, and Greeks in Italy,* _and introduces them into both countries by sea. We leave the Gordian Knot as we find it; it cannot be untied; if severed it must be cut, but Mrs. Gray's name is not Alexander.

It is not less difficult to determine whether the Pelasgians were originally one united nation, or were composed of distinct tribes. Some circumstances would lead us to affirm the latter, more perhaps would induce us to refer their dissemination by regularly appointed colonies. It may be that the truth lies between these opinions, and that several cognate and closely related tribes entered the countries occupied by the Pelasgians, by different ways,-that those which were the most prosperous and civilized sent out colonies, sometimes into the territories of their brethren, and that thus the distinction of the tribes was obscured, and the various legends intermingled. We are disposed to consider, with Bishop Thirlwall,t the Hellens to have been Pelasgians, notwithstanding the strongly expressed opinion of Niebuhr to the contrary. And it may be, that the Pelasgians of Italy embraced the Sicelians and Oscans, as well as the Enotrians, though we are very far from being satisfied of the identity of the Oscan and Pelasgian race ourselves. But much of the confusion which this theory apparently introduces, may, indeed, be sufficiently accounted for, by remembering that half civilized races easily divide themselves into tribes, which make war upon each other, expel each other from their seats, subdivide themselves, and again become differently amalgamated together, in such a manner as to defy any critical acumen from threading the mazes of the labyrinth, especially in the present scantiness of our information. We have already cited the Indian tribes of North-America, as illustrative of the changes that probably took place in the bosom of the Oscan races. It is equally applicable here, and perhaps might suggest a possibility that the Pelasgian nanie was a generic term, imposed by their conquerors; but we will avoid the dangerous path of temptation thus opened to our imagination.

By some authors, the Pelasgians are represented as a wild. and savage people, living by the chase, and wandering from settlement to settlement, in the manner of the ancient Germans. By others they are described as mild and peaceable,

• Mrs. Hamilton Gray, Hist. Etruria, vol. 1, c. 5, p. 110.
+ Thirlwall's History of Greece, c. iii.

[ocr errors]

pursuing in quiet laborious occupations, tending herds, and cultivating the mechanic arts. Long before Troy fell, they possessed, numerous towns, always walled, and the walls piled 'up in layers of huge and massive stone; which style, if style it can be called, received from them the name of Pelasgian or Cyclopean.* The peaceful pursuits of agriculture were diligently pursued by them. Their favorite abodes were in the fertile plains, or by the marge of glassy rivers, – in the rich alluvial bottoms lying along the lakes of Italy, or in the sweet pastoral valleys of Arcadia. The traditions, which relate the introduction of bread, and a more various and unbestial diet than mast and acorns, into the different regions where the Pelasgians appeared, will be found, for the most part, to attribute such improvements in the manner of living to them. They are also reputed to have been the inventors or promulgators of much which tended to civilize or humanize society. The mechanical arts were undoubt. edly in high estimation among them. The ingenious workmanship of the Cyclopes, and their manufactures of quaint device, are well known to all of us from Homer, and the pictured pages of the ancient poets. But Vulcan was peculiarly a Pelasgic divinity, and, when ejected from heaven, he was received and cherished in that isle, which was in an especial manner sacred in the eyes of the Pelasgians : nor can we refrain altogether from considering the Cyclopes to have been of Pelasgian origin, on the strength of some passages in Pausanias. But their advancement in the arts of Jise is more surely indicated by those massive walls around their towns, existing to this day to excite the astonishment of the traveller, and the admiration of the antiquary. But industry and art were no defence against the violence and aggression of the more warlike and less cultivated races of Italy and Greece. The Hellens, the Sabellians, and the Ra. sena, all conquered thein, or forced them into an unequal alliance of intercommunion, which obliterated the nationality and the distinct existence of the race. The Hellens were certainly a kindred people with themselves ;t the Sabellians, as Oscans, may possibly have been so too: but dif

Bulwer, in his Athens, denies that the Cyclopean architecture was Pe. lasgic. Thirlwall evidently supposes it. There is reason to believe that the Cyclopes were a branch from the Pelasgic stock, perhaps even a name for the whole people.

+ Niebubr denies this strenuously, Connop Thirlwall as strenuously as serts it, and we think the Bishop is decidedly in the right.

« ПредишнаНапред »