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FOR JANUARY, 1823.
1. Histoire des Republiques Italiennes du Moyen Age. The History of the Italian Republics of the Middle Ages. By J. C. L. Simonde de' Sismondi. 16 vols. 8vo. pp. 7740. Paris. 1809,
1815, 1818. 2. Illustrations, Historical and Critical, of the Life of Lorenzo de'
Medici, called the Magnificent ; with an Appendix of Original and other Documents. By William Roscoe. 8vo. pp. 400. Price
10s. 6d. London. 1822. THERE are some striking coincidences, both in facts and in
romantic interest, between the earlier and the later periods of Italian History. We find, in the most ancient as well as in more modern times, the same division into small states, generally constituted on principles more or less popular ; the same tendency to mutual dissension; and the same consequent liability to invasion and subjugation, by powers less refined and, though not more martial in their habits, more successful in their enterprises, from the single, concentrated, and persevering direction of their plans and movements. The Etruscan Lucumonies, like the Italian Republics of the Middle Ages, were eminent in arts and arms. The massive materials and gigantic proportions of their mural structures, may be deemed slender evidence of their architectural skill; but the beautiful relics of their pottery, and the various indications to be collected from history, from inscriptions, and from other monumental remains, furnish unquestionable proof of the industry, refinement, and high spirit of this remote but brilliant people. The federation in which they were united, although it was, no doubt, effectual and beneficial to a certain extent, seems, on many important occasions, to have given way before the suggestions of selfish policy, or the terror of an approaching enemy; and it ultimately dissolved under the systematic encroachment and steady aggrandVol. XIX. N.S.
izement of Rome. But it may be inferred, even from the partial narratives of their native historians, that the Romans gained their object slowly and doubtfully; and that they were indebted for success, as much to the disunion of the League of Etruria, as to their own courage or to the skill of their officers. The valour and conduct of Lar Porsenna brought Rome to the verge of ruin: his noble courtesy and liberality entitled him to the lasting honours due to its second founder. Nor were the Romans always victorious even over single states. The Veientes made a noble, and sometimes a triumphant stand for their independence; and we suspect that, if the evidence were sifted, the generals of the Consular armies might be found not to have at all times acted on the elevated principles which signalised the warfare of Camillus and Fabricius. At length, when the Etruscan Federation sank under the pressure of Roman discipline and power, it bequeathed to its illustrious rival, its Jura Fecialia, its sacerdotal rites, and its eminence in the Arts.
We should find it an interesting occupation, were this the proper place for so lengthened a discussion, to enter somewhat largely into an investigation of the incidental circumstances connected with the history of this remote and, in many respects, mysterious people. Their cities and villages, flourishing with commerce and agriculture, covered with their dense population the rich tracts of the Maremma, now nearly deserted, and steaming with exhalations fatal to human life. The colossal walls of Volterra, with other remains of similar proportion, are by no means unequivocal evidences of their dexterity in architecture ; since massiveness is a common character of the erections of ruder ages, while science and skill usually exhibit themselves in the diminution of labour, the economical use of materials, and the felicitous adjustment of parts to the harmonious effect and useful purpose of the whole. But the few remains of their ornamental productions which have reached us, and especially their fictile vases, shew them to have made great advances in the higher qualities of Art; and if, as is affirmed, they were in possession of the ability to direct and avert the effects of lightning, this fact would seem to prove that they were expert in some of the branches of practical philosophy; unless we are to consider it as one of those chance discoveries which are sometimes so unaccountably made by semi-barbarous nations.
The history of the Sabines, the Samnites, the Latins, and other republics of Italy, most of which appear to have adopted somewhat of the federal system, is yet more obscure than that of the Etruscan League; and perhaps there are few subjects more worthy of regret, in a literary view, than the almost entire
absence of all distinct records relating to the remote annals of the Italian states. M. Micali, a Florentine savant, is said to have taken up the inquiry; but we have not yet heard of the actual publication of his work, and we cannot say that we feel any urgent anxiety for its appearance. The facts of the investigation are few and insulated; and we have had so much of speculation and hypothesis in these departments of historical labour, that we rather prefer the ignorance which is simple and easy, to that which is complicated and fatiguing.
The institutions of Rome were nearly all of a military character; and the exclusive direction of her tremendous energies was in the track of conquest. Much of this arose from the policy of the Patrician order, always anxious, by providing an external object for the excitement of the passions of the people, to divert their attention from the detects and oppressions, of their domestic government. A nation whose political system has so much of the warlike cast, will seldom be in durable, possession of civil liberty. When its own safety is endangered by the superiority of its enemies, it will feel the necessity of entrusting its fortunes to some supreme command ; and when its victorious arms have pushed its frontiers beyond the reach of constant inspection and ready management, the result is, invariably, the contention of rival chiefs, and the assumption of uncontroled dominion by. the successful competitor. It would not be difficult to shew, that the vicissitudes of the Roman history bad been gradually preparing that combination of circumstances which brought on the civil wars, the triumvirate, and ultimately the complete prostration of the freedom of Rome under the sceptre of Octavius. The vaunted honours of the Augustan reign, were but the ripe and plenteousgleanings of centuries of republican glory and genius ; and a long ins terval of subsequent suffering and degradation terminated in the entire extinction of intellectual light. Ages of barbarism passed away before the withering effects of despotism could be effaced, and the mind of Italy be restored to its native elasticity and energy, Lux demum adfulsit— Freedom, Science, Art, again visited those majestic regions ; again to be crushed by the iron mace of violence and lawless power. Not that we are quite so enthusiastic as M. de Sismondi seems to be, in our admiration of the scheme of policy and administration which regur lated the republics of Italy. There appears to us to have been more of treachery, ferocity, und intolerance, both in their interior regulation, and in their conduct towards each other, than he is willing to acknowledge. Still, they were noble exçeptions to the general system of European government; they brought into intense activity “mind's unwearied spring ;' they