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A History of Rome to 565 A. D. by Boak

The climate of Italy as a whole


*The

**coast-line**.* In comparison with Greece, Italy presents a striking regularity of coast-line. Throughout its length of over 2000 miles it has remarkably few deep bays or good harbors, and these few are almost all on the southern and western shores. Thus the character of the Mediterranean coast of Italy, with its fertile lowlands, its rivers, its harbors, and its general southerly aspect, rendered it more inviting and accessible to approach from the sea than the eastern coast, and determined its leadership in the cultural and material advancement of the peninsula.

*Climate.* The climate of Italy as a whole, like that of other Mediterranean lands, is characterized by a high average temperature, and an absence of extremes of heat or cold. Nevertheless, it varies greatly in different localities, according to their northern or southern situation, their elevation, and their proximity to the sea. In the Po valley there is a close approach to the continental climate of central Europe, with a marked difference between summer and winter temperatures and clearly marked transitional periods of spring and autumn. On the other hand, in the south of the peninsula the climate becomes more tropical, with its periods of winter rain and summer drought, and a rapid transition between the moist and the dry seasons.

*Malaria.* Both in antiquity and in modern times the disease from which Italy has suffered most has been the dreaded

malaria. The explanation is to be found in the presence of extensive marshy areas in the river valleys and along the coast. The ravages of this disease have varied according as the progress of civilization has brought about the cultivation and drainage of the affected areas or its decline has wrought the undoing of this beneficial work.

*Forests.* In striking contrast to their present baldness, the slopes of the Apennines were once heavily wooded, and the well-tilled fields of the Po valley were also covered with tall forests. Timber for houses and ships was to be had in abundance, and as late as the time of Augustus Italy was held to be a well-forested country.

*Minerals.* The mineral wealth of Italy has never been very great at any time. In antiquity the most important deposits were the iron ores of the island of Elba, and the copper mines of Etruria and Liguria. For a time, the gold washings in the valleys of the Graian Alps were worked with profit.

*Agriculture.* The true wealth of Italy lay in the richness of her soil, which generously repaid the labor of agriculturist or horticulturist. The lowland areas yielded large crops of grain of all sorts--millet, maize, wheat, oats and barley--while legumes were raised in abundance everywhere. Campania was especially fertile and is reported to have yielded three successive crops annually. The vine and the olive flourished, and their cultivation eventually became even more profitable than the raising of grain.

The valleys and mountain sides afforded excellent pasturage at all seasons, and the raising of cattle and sheep ranked next in importance to agricultural pursuits among the country's industries.


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