Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

the Indus, it appeared to them a prodigy, by which the gods teftified the displeasure of Hea, ven against their enterprise t). During their whole course, they seem never to have lost fight of land, but followed the bearings of the coast so servively, that they could not much avail them, selves of those periodical winds, which facilitate navigation in the Indian ocean. Accordingly, they spent no less than ten months in u) performing this voyage, which, from the mouth of the Indus to that of the Persian Gulf, does not exceed twenty degrees. · It is probable, that amidst the violent convulsions, and frequent revolutions in the East, occasioned by the contests among the successors of Alexander, the navigation to India, by the course which Nearchus had opened, was discontinued. The Indian trade carried on at Alexandria, not only subfifted, but was so much extended under the Grecian monarchs of Egypt, that it proved a great source of the wealth which diftinguished their kingdom,

of the Romans,

The progress which the Romans made in navigation and discovery, was still more inconsiderable than that of the Greeks. The genius of the Roman people, their militairy education, and the spirit of their laws, concurred in estranging them from commerce and naval affairs. It was

t) See NOTE v. u) Plin. Hift. Nat. lib. vi. 6. 23.

the necessity of opposing a formidable rival, not the desire of extending trade, which first prom, - pted them to aim at maritime power. Though they soon perceived that, in order to acquire universal dominion after which they aspired, it was necessary to render themselves masters of the fea, they still considered the naval service as a subordinate station, and reserved for it such citizens as were not of a rank to be admitted into the legions x). In the history of the Roc man republic, hardly one event occurs, that marks attention to navigation any farther than as it was inftrumental towards conquest. When the Roman valour and discipline had fubdued all the maritime states known in the ancient world : when Carthage, Greece', and Egypt, had submitted to their power, the Romans did not imbibe the commercial fpirit of the conquered nam tions. Among that people of soldiers, to have applied to trade would have been deemed a degradation of a Roman citizen. They abandoned the mechanical arts, commerce and navigation, to slaves, to freedmen, to provincials, and to citizens of the lowest class. Even after the subversion of liberty, when the severity and, haughtiness of ancient manners began to abate, commerce did not rise into high estimation among the Romans. The trade of Greece, Egypt, and the other conquered countries, continued

x) Polyb. lib. y. .

to be carried on in its usual channels, after they . were reduced into the form of Roman provinces. As Rome was the capital of the world, and the seat of government, all the wealth and valuable productions of the provinces flowed naturally thither. The Romans , fatisfied with this, seem to have suffered commerce to remain almost entirely in the hands of the natives of the respective countries. The extent, howewer, of the Roman power, which reached over the greatest part of the known world, the vigilant inspection of the Roman magiftrates , and the spirit of the Roman government, no less intelligent than active, gave such additional security to commerce , as animated it with new vigour. The union among nations was never fo entire, nor the intercourse fo perfect, as within the bounds of this vaft empire. Commerce under the Roman dominion , was not obstructed by the jealoufie of rival ftatés, interrupted by frequent hoftilities, or limited by partial restrictions. One snperintending power moved and regulated the induftry of mankind , and enjoyed the fruits of their joint efforts.

Navigation felt this influence, and im• proved under it. As soon as the Romans

acquired a taste for the luxuries of the East, the trade with India through Egypt was pushed with new vigour , and carried on to greater extent. By frequenting the Indian continent, navigators became acquainted with the periodical course of the winds, which,

in the ocean that separates Africa from India, blow with little variation during one half of the year from the east, and during the other half

fix with equal fteadiness from the west. Enid couraged by observing this, they abandonned

their ancient slow and dangerous course along

the coast, and as foon as the western monsoon i fet in, took their departure from Ocelis, at the

mouth of the Arabian Gulf, and stretched boldly across the ocean y). The uniform direction of the wind , supplying the place of the compass, and rendering the guidance of the stars less neceffary, conducted them to the port of Mufiris, on the western shore of the India continent. There they took on board their cargo , and returning with the eastern monsoon, finished their voyage to the Arabian Gulf within the year. This part of India , now known by the name of the Malabar coast, seenas to have been the utmost limit of ancient navigation in that quarter of the glo. be. What imperfect knowledge the ancients had of the immense countries which stretch beyond this towards the east they received from a few adventurers, who had vifited them by land. Such excursions were neither frequent nor extenfive, and it is probable, that while the Roman intercourse with India fubfifted, no traveller ever penetrated further than to the banks of the Ganges z). The fleets from Egypt which traded

[ocr errors]

y) Plin. Hist. Nat. lib. vi. cap. 23.
z) Strab. Geogr. lib. xv. p. 1006. 1010. See NOT

VI.

[merged small][ocr errors]

at Musiris, were loaded, it is true, with the fpi. ces and other rich commodities of the continent and islands of the farther India; but these were brought on that port, which became the ftable of this commerce, by the Indians themselves, in canoes hollowed out of one tree a). The Egyptian and Roman merchants, satisfied with acquiring those commodities in this manner, did not think it necessary to explore unknown feas, and venture upon a dangerous navigation, in quest of the countries which produced them. But though the discoveries of the Romans in India were so limited, their commerce there was such as will appear considerable, even to the present age, in which the Indian trade has been extended far beyond the practice of conception of any preceding period. We are informed by one author of credit b), that the commerce with India drained the Roman empire every year of more than four hundred thousand pounds; and by an other, that one hunderd and twenty ships failed annually from the Arabian Gulf to that country c).

Discoveries of the ancients by land.

The discovery of this new method of failing to India , is the most considerable improvement in navigation made during the continuance of the Roman power. But in ancient times, the knowledge of countries

a) Plin. Nat. Hift. 1b. vi. c. 26. b) Plin. Nat. Hist. lib. vi. c. 26. ®) Strab. Geogr. lib. i. 179.

« ElőzőTovább »