Toil mastered everything…notes on historical examples of prosperity through industry

…So Rome flourished as a center of commerce and trade by the end of the sixth century, though she was to have a long struggle to win control of the Tiber Valley from her rival, the Etruscan city of Veii.

This urban life could only be supported on a basis of agriculture.  The extent of the first farmlands of the Roman people can be judged by the Ambarvalia, a sacred procession conducted by the priestly college of the Arval Brethren to bless the crops of each year.  Four of the stopping places of the procession are known, set five or six miles from the city on the roads radiating south and east. A territory, then, on the east bank of the river, some twelve miles long and about six in depth, with a bridgehead west of the river including the Janiculum and Vatican hills, this was the first countryside (rus) which fed the city of Rome.  Later it was extended to cover most of the plain of Latium.

It was not an easy land to farm.  Only after the construction of an elaborate drainage system could the soil be made dry for crops and healthy for man and animals.  At the end of the nineteenth century, archaeologists explored the amazing system of channels (cuniculi) cut in the tufa which extend over practically the whole of the Roman Campagna.  They are about five feet deep and two or three feet wide, and represent a major piece of engineering carried out under central direction and maintained by successive generations.  As the Dutch won their land from the sea by patience and toil, so did the Roman people win theirs from the marsh.

from pg. 19-20 of “The Civilization of Rome” by Donald R. Dudley, A Mentor Book published by The New American Library, New York and Toronto, Copyright 1960, 1962.

Related to that last comment on the Dutch reclaiming their land from the sea, there are some interesting web sites that talk about a ridiculous reversal of that centuries long engineering, all in the name of environmentalism.  Environmentalism in this sense is an organization of those against human management of natural resources, an organization against human industry alltogether, an organization that would have us return to a caveman like existence.  Here is an article about the Dutch being pressured to surrender their hardwon lands back to the sea in order to comply with the European Union’s environmentalist groups’ powers:

Dutch Told To Return Land They Won From The Sea (230 Years Ago)

Technology also played its part in the unification of Italy.  In 312 B.C., the censor Appius Claudius Caecus began the building of the great highway from Rome to Capua (132 miles) that still bears his name – the Via Appia. It was the first of the great Roman roads that have meant so much for the civilization of Europe.  Constructed in four layers, flags, rubble, cement, and top dressing, carefully graded, crossing rivers by bridges or paved fords, and the Pontine marshes by a viaduct, it provided an all-weather artery for the movement of men and goods between Rome and Campania.  After the war with Pyrrhus it was extended to Brundisium (234 miles).  At the same time a great northern highway, the Via Flaminia, was built from Rome to Ariminum (Rimini, 230 miles) on the Adriatic coast.  In the next century an extension from here to Placentia (176 miles) was called the Via Aemilia, and played the same part in the opening up of Cisalpine Gaul that the Canadian Pacific Railway did in that of Canada.  Other trunk roads connected Rome with the principle towns of Etruria on the northwest and Samnium to the southeast.  The modern reader may perhaps think more readily in terms of motorways than of railways.   It is a useful comparison; in particular, these roads may well be compared to the autobahn and autostrada of Germany and Italy in the 1930’s.  For, like theirs, the prime purpose of the great Roman roads in Italy was strategic – the safe and rapid movement of troops and supplies.  Later, their economic importance became dominant, though for the movement of heavy freight they could never play the same part as a modern highway.  In the ancient world, where only draft animals and pack mules were available for land haulage, heavy goods went, where possible, by sea.

from pg 40 of  “The Civilization of Rome” by Donald R. Dudley, A Mentor Book published by The New American Library, New York and Toronto, Copyright 1960, 1962.


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