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A.D. 452.] EEPUBLIC OP VENICE. 29
the ancient dignity of Padua was supported bv agriculture and manufactures; and the property of five hundred citizens, who were entitled to the equestrian rank, must have amounted, at the strictest computation, to one million seven hundred thousand pounds. Many families of Aquileia, Padua, and the adjacent towns, who fled from the sword of the Huns, found a safe though obscure refuge in the neighbouring islands.* At the extremity of the gulf, where the Hadriatic feebly imitates the tides of the ocean, near a hundred small islands are separated by shallow water from the continent, and protected from the waves by several loDg slips of land, which admit the entrance of vessels through some secret and narrow channels.f Till the middle of the fifth century, these remote and sequestered spots remained without cultivation, with few inhabitants, and almost without a name. But the manners of the Venetian fugitives, their arts and their government, were gradually formed by their new situation; and one of the epistles of Cassiodorus,J
as here, gave the form of Veneti.—Ed.] * This emigration is
not attested by any contemporary evidence: but the fact is proved by the event, and the circumstances might be preserved by tradition. The citizens of Aquileia retired to the isle of Gradus, those of Padua to Rivus Altus, or Eialto, where the city of Venice was afterwards built, &c. [These islands most probably did not exist at the period here referred to. From data collected by Malte Brun (7. 598), he calculates, that the sea has receded at this point more than 233 feet every year since the sixteenth century; and says that "the deposits brought down by the Brenta, render it not improbable, that Venice may share the fate of Hadria," which is now eight leagues inland, though once washed by the waves of the gulph. In this process of accretion, the outer islands must have been among the more recent alluvial deposits, and cannot have been habitable in the fifth century, even if they had then risen above the waters. No ancient geographer mentions them. Those in which the people of Aquileia took refuge, were holms, formed by the Numerous channels into which the rivers divided, as they approached the sea. The Padus (Po) and Medoacus (Brenta) with the streams between them, were thus united in Pliny's time. H. N. 3, 21.—Ed.] + The topography and
antiquities of the Venetian islands, from Gradus to Clodia, or Chioggia, are accurately stated in the Dissertatio Chorographica da Italic Medii -iEvi, p. 151—155. J Cassiodor, Variar. 1 . 12, epist. 24.
Maffei (Verona lllustrata, part 1, p. 240—254) has translated and explained this curious letter, in the spirit of a learned antiquarian and a faithful subject, who considered Venice as the only legitimate offspring of the Roman republic. He fixes the date of the epistle, and consequently the prefecture, of Cassiodorus, A.d. 523, and the marquis's authority has the more weight, as he had prepared an edition of 30
EAELT HISTOET OF VENICE. [CH. XXXV.
which describes their condition about seventy years afterwards, may be considered as the primitive monument of the republic. The minister of Theodoric compares them, in his quaint declamatory style, to water-fowl, who had fixed theii nests on the bosom of the waves; and, though he allows that the Venetian provinces had formerly contained many noble families, he insinuates, that they were now reduced by misfortune to the same level of humble poverty. Fish was the common, and almost the universal, food of every rank: their only treasure consisted in the plenty of salt, which they extracted from the sea; and the exchange of that commodity, so essential to human life, was substituted in the neighbouring markets to the currency of gold and silver. A people whose habitations might be doubtfully assigned to the earth or water, soon became alike familiar with the two elements ; and the demands of avarice succeeded to those of necessity. The islanders, who, from Grado to Chiozza, were intimately connected with each other, penetrated into the heart of Italy, by the secure, though laborious navigation of the rivers and inland canals. Their vessels, which were continually increasing in size and number, visited all the harbours of the gulf; and the marriage, which Venice annually celebrates with the Hadriatic, was contracted in her early infancy. The epistle of Cassiodorus, the prsetorian prefect, is addressed to the maritime tribunes; and he exhorts them, in a mild tone of authority, to animate
his works, and actually published a dissertation on the true orthography of his name. See Osservazioni Letterarie, tom. ii, p. 290—339. [M. Guizot has here quoted from Sismondi (Repub. Ital. du Moyen Age, tom. i, p. 203,) an account of Venice given by Count Figliasi (Memorie de' Veneti Primi e Secondi, tom. vi.), but it adds nothing material to what Gibbon has stated. The islands, there said to have constituted the Venetia Seconda, were the river-holms, nor is anything more proved by the letter of Cassiodorus, whose office of prsetorian prefect, during which it was written, extended from A.D. 534 to 538. (Clinton, F. R. i, 761.) As the inhabitants of these quiet retreats multiplied, they ascended the banks of the rivers, cultivated the fertile plains, and built towns. Of these Patavium (now Padua) was the capital, which in the time of Strabo (1. 5,) was the emporium of foreign commerce in northern Italy. About the seventh century the navigation of the Brenta was impeded, and the outer sand-banks had become permanent islands, which offered more accessible landing-places to fishermen, sailors, and merchants. To these the commerce.of Padua was transferred and thus Venice arose. But till the beginning of the ninth century, the chief settlement was on the island of. MalomoccO. See Hallam,
the zeal of their countrymen for the public service, which required their assistance to transport the magazines of wine and oil from the province of Istria to the royal city of Ravenna. The ambiguous office of these magistrates is explained by the tradition, that, in the twelve principal islands, twelve tribunes, or judges, were created by an annual and popular election. The existence of the Venetian republic, under the Gothic kingdom of Italy, is attested by the same authentic record, which annihilates their lofty claim of original and perpetual independence.*
The Italians, who had long since renounced the exercise of arms, were surprised, after forty years' peace, by the approach of a formidable barbarian, whom they abhorred as the enemy of their religion as well as of their republic. Amidst the general consternation, iEtius alone was incapable of fear; but it was impossible that he should achieve, alone and unassisted, any military exploits worthy of his former renown. The barbarians, who had defended Gaul, refused to march to the relief of Italy; and the succours promised by the eastern emperor were distant and doubtful. Since JEtius, at the head of his domestic troops, still maintained the field, and harassed or retarded the march of Attila, he never shewed himself more truly great, than at the time when his conduct was blamed by an ignorant and ungrateful people.f If the mind of Valentinian had been susceptible of any generous sentiments, he would have chosen such a general for his example and his guide. But the timid grandson of Theodosius, instead of sharing the dangers, escaped from the sound of war; and his hasty retreat from llavenna to Rome, from an impregnable fortress to an open capital, betrayed his secret intention of
1. 470.—Ed.] * See, in the second volume of Amelot de la
Houssaie, Histoire du Gouvernement de Venise, a translation of the famous Squittinio. This book, which has been exalted far above its merits, is stained in every line with the disingenuous malevolence of party : but the principal evidence, genuine and apocryphal, is brought together, and the reader will easily choose the fair medium.
+ Sirmond (Not. ad Sidon. Apollin. p. 19) has published a curious passage from the Chronicle of Prosper. Attila, redintegratis viribus, <Iuas in Gallia amiserat, Italiam ingredi per Pannonias intendit; nihil duce nostro iEtio secundum prioris belli opera prospiciente, &c. He reproaches iEtius with neglecting to guard the Alps, and with a design to abandon Italy; but this rash censure may at least be counterbalanced by the favourable testimonies of Idatius and Isidore.
abandoning Italy, as soon as the danger should approach his imperial person. This shameful abdication was suspended, however, by the spirit of doubt and delay, which commonly adheres to pusillanimous counsels, and sometimes corrects their pernicious tendency. The Western emperor, with the senate and people of Home, embraced the more salutary resolution of deprecating, by a solemn and suppliant embassy, the wrath of Attila. This important commission was accepted by Avienus, who, from his birth and riches, his consular dignity, the numerous train of his clients, and his personal abilities, held the first rank in the Roman senate. The specious and artful character of Avienus* was admirably qualified to conduct a negotiation either of public or private interest: his colleague Trigetius had exercised the prsetorian prefecture of Italy; and Leo, bishop of Rome, consented to expose his life for the safety of his flock. The genius of Leot was exercised and displayed in the public misfortunes; and he has deserved the appellation of great, by the successful zeal with which he laboured to establish his opinions and his authority, under the venerable names of orthodox faith and ecclesiastical discipline. The Roman ambassadors were introduced to the tent of Attila, as he lay encamped at the place where the slow-winding Mincius is lost in the foaming waves of the lake Benacus,J and trampled, with the Scythian cavalry, the
i* See the original portraits of Avienus, and his rival Basilius, delineated and contrasted in the epistles (1. 9, p. 22) of Sidonius. He had studied the characters of the two chiefs of the senate; but he attached himself to Basilius, as the more solid and disinterested friend.
+ The character and principles of Leo may be traced in one hundred and forty-one original epistles, which illustrate the ecclesiastical history of his long and busy pontificate, from A.d. 440 to 461. See Dupin, Bibliotheque Eeclesiastique, tom. iii, part 2, p. 120—165. [Leo is painted in his true colours by Hallam (2. 228,) and Neander (3, 246. 4, 218). For fifteen years he ruled with unbounded sway the weak mind of Valentinian III., yet never checked in him a vice, implanted a virtue nor stimulated one effort for the redemption of a sinking empire. He used his influence only to establish the supremacy of his church, and for this he obtained imperial edicts, which are not less justly than severely condemned by the above-named writers. Leo ranks foremost among the destroyers of the Roman empire and the enslavers of Europe.—Ed.]
J tardis ingens ubi flexibus errat
Mincius, et tenera prsetexit arundine ripaa
farms of Catullus and Virgil.* The barbarian monarch ["stened with favourable, and even respectful, attention; and the deliverance of Italy was purchased by the immense ransom, or dowry, of the princess Honoria. The state of his army might facilitate the treaty and hasten his retreat. Their martial spirit was relaxed by the wealth and indolence of a warm climate. The shepherds of the north, whoso ordinary food consisted of milk and raw flesh, indulged themselves too freely in the use of bread, of wine, and of meat prepared and seasoned by the arts of cookery; and the progress of disease revenged in some measure the injuries of the Italians.f When Attila declared his resolution of carrying his victorious arms to the gates of Rome, he was admonished by his friends as well as by his enemies, that Alaric had not long survived the conquest of the eternal city. His mind, superior to real danger, was assaulted by imaginary terrors; nor could he escape the influence of superstition, which had so often been subservient to his designs.J The
Anne lacua tantos, te Lari maxime, teque Fluotibus et fremitu assurgens Benact marino. * The Marquis Maffei (Verona Mustrata, part 1, p. 95. 129. 221; part 2, p. 2. 6,) has illustrated with taste and learning this interesting topograph}'. He places the interview of Attila and St. Leo near Ariolica, or Ardelioa, now Peschiera, at the conflux of the lake and river; ascertains the villa of Catullus in the delightful peninsula of Sarmio, and discovers the Andes of Virgil in the village of Bandes, precisely situate qua " se subducere colles incipiunt," where the Veronese hills imperceptibly slope down into the plain of Mantua. [" A singular mistake" is here laid to Gibbon's charge by Dean Milman, who says, "the Slineius flows out of the Benaous at Peschiera, not into it." Gibbon's words do not refer to the direction of the current; but simply mean, that to a traveller advancing from Mantua, the view of tho Mincius -is lost in the Benacus; the expression does not imply that it fines into it, nor is any river lost in a lake, which it merely traverses. The llbine is not lest in the Lake of Constance, nor the Rhone in that of Geneva. M. Guizot's incorrect translation may perhaps have suggested the censure, here misapplied to the original.—Ed.] f Si "itatim infesto agmine urbem petiissent, grande diserimen esset: sed in Venetia quo fere traetu Italia mollissima est, ipsa soli ccclique dementia- robur elanguit. Ad hoe panis usu carnisque coctsc, et dulcedine vini mitigates, &c. This passage of Pforus (3, 3) is still more applicable to the Huns than to the Cimbri,-and it may serve as a commentary on the celestial plague, with which Idatius and Isidore have afflicted the troops of Attila. X The historian Priseus had positively mentioned the effect which this example produced on the Blind of Attila. Jomandes, c. 42, p. 673. [Schmidt (i, 176) seems to VOIi. IT. B