Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

BOOK bitants. Thus this extravagant theory not only 1.

proves that the ancients were unacquainted with the true state of the globe, but it tended to render their ignorance perpetual, by representing all attempts towards opening a communication with the remote regions of the earth, as utterly impracticable'.

But, however imperfect or inaccurate the geographical knowledge which the Greeks and Romans had acquired may appear, in respect of the present improved state of that science, their progress in discovery will seem considerable, and the extent to which they carried navigation and commerce must be reckoned great, when compared with the ignorance of early times. As long as the Roman empire retained such vigour as to preserve its authority over the conquered nations, and to keep them united, it was an object of public police, as well as of private curiosity, to examine and describe the countries which composed this great body. Even when the other sciences began to decline, geography, enriched with new observations, and receiving fome, accession from the experience of every age, and the reports of every traveller, continued to improve. It attained .

See NOTE VIII.

to the highest point of perfection and accuracy BOOK to which it ever arrived in the ancient world, by the industry and genius of Ptolemy the phi- more losopher. He flourished in the second century ments in

y geography of the Christian æra, and published a descrip- by Ptolemy. tion of the terrestrial globe, more ample and exact than that of any of his predecessors.

mprove

pire by bar

tions.

But, soon after, violent convulsions began The inva

fion of the to shake the Roman state ; the fatal ambition Roman em. or caprice of Constantine, by changing the seat barous adof government, divided and weakened its force; the barbarous nations, which Providence prepared as instruments to overturn the mighty fabric of the Roman power, began to assemble and to muster their armies on its frontier : the empire tottered to its fall. During this decline and old age of the Roman state, it was impofsible that the sciences should go on improving. The efforts of genius were, at that period, as lànguid and feeble as those of government. From the time of Ptolemy, no considerable addition seems to have been made to geographical knowledge, nor did any important revolution happen in trade, excepting that Constantinople, by its advantageous situation, and the encouragement of the eastern emperors, became a commercial city of the first notë.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors]

BOOK At length, the clouds which had been fo 1.

long gathering round the Roman empire, burst Effects o

ets of into a storm. Barbarous nations rushed in from their con quests on several quarters with irresistible impetuosity, and, Commercial intercourse. in the generał wreck, occasioned by the inun.

dation which overwhelmed Europe, the arts, sciences, inventions, and discoveries of the Romans, perished in a great measure, and disappeared $. All the various tribes, which settled in the different provinces of the Roman empire, were uncivilized, strangers to letters, destitute of arts, unacquainted with regular government, subordination, or laws. The manners and in. stitutions of some of them were so rude, as to be hardly compatible with a state of social union Europe, when occupied by such inha. bitants, may be said to have returned to a second infancy, and had to begin anew its career in improvement, science, and civility. The first effect of the fettlement of those barbarous invaders was to dissolve the union by which the Roman power had cemented mankind together, They parcelled out Europe into many small and independent states, differing from each other in language and customs. No intercourse subsisted between the members of those divided and hostile communities. Accustomed to a simple • Hift. of Charles V. vol. i. p. 18.72.

mode

[ocr errors]

mode of life, and averse to industry, they had BOOK few wants to supply, and few fuperfluities to dispose of. The names of stranger and of enemy became once more words of the same import. Customs every where prevailed, and even laws were established, which rendered it disagreeable and dangerous to visit any foreign country h. Cities, in which alone an extensive commerce can be carried on, were few, inconsiderable, and destitute of those immunities which produce security or excite enterprise. The sciences, on which geography and navigation are founded, were little cultivated. The accounts of ancient. improvements and discoveries, contained in the Greek and Roman authors, were neglected or misunderstood. The knowledge of remote rea gions was lost, their situation, their commodities, and almost their names, were unknown.

ftill pre

ONE circumstance prevented commercial in. Commerce tercourse with distant nations from ceafing alto. ferved in

the Eastern gether. Constantinople, though often threat

empire, ened by the fierce invaders, who spread deso. lation over the rest of Europe, was so fortunate as to escape their destructive rage. In that city, the knowledge of ancient arts and discoveries was preserved; a taste for fplendour and ele.

* Hift. of Charles V. vol. i. p. 77.327.

D3

gance

[ocr errors]

BOOK gance subsisted; the productions and luxuries

of foreign countries were in request ; and commerce continued to flourish there when it was almost extinct in every other part of Europe, The citizens of Constantinople did not confine their trade to the islands of the Archipelago, or to the adjacent coasts of Asia; they took a wider range, and following the course which the ancients had marked out, imported the commodities of the East Indies from 'Alexandria. When Egypt was torn from the Roman empire by the Arabians, the industry of the Greeks discovered a new channel, by which the productions of India might be conveyed to Constantinople. They were carried up the Indus, as far as that great river is navigable ; thence they were transported by land to the banks of the river Oxus, and proceeded down its stream to the Caspian sea. There they entered the Volga, and failing up it, were carried by land to the Tanais, which conducted them into the Euxine fea, where vessels from Constantinople waited their arrival. This extraordinary and tedious mode of conveyance merits attention, not only as a proof of the violent paflion which the inhabitants of Constantinople had conceived for the luxuries of the East, and as a specimen

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »