A Manual of Italian Literature

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Whoever examines a map of Europe, and sees the position occupied by Italy, must, even without knowledge of history, come to the conclusion that a country situated in so central a position and favoured in so many respects by Nature, cannot have failed to command an exalted rank in the hierarchy of nations. But the most daring conjectures would probably fall short of the brilliant reality. The rise and the dominion of Rome would be regarded in a romance as too improbable for the credulity of the simplest reader, but as a well-established fact in the annals of mankind, it becomes a phenomenon of the most striking importance and interest. That a solitary city should produce brave and distinguished men, and even, aided by wealth and courage, establish settlements in remote countries, is not wonderful; Carthage and Tyre did so at an earlier period, Venice and Genoa did so in times nearer the present; but that a solitary city should play a part reserved apparently only for a great nation, should draw to itself, as in a magic circle, all Italy, should conquer Gaul, Greece, Africa, Spain, Britain, Asia Minor, and even threaten Persia and India, is indeed marvellous.

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