National Geographic : 1916 Oct
VOL. XXX, No. 4 WASHINGTON OCTOBER, 1916 THE MAGAZ^IIJF INEXHAUSTIBLE ITALY BY ARTHUR STANLEY RIGGS AUTHOR OF "THE BEAUTIES OF FRANCE," IN THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE OME parts of the world are re nowned for their beauty. We visit them to satisfy our inherent love for the picturesque. Some, again, are famous as the scenes of great and stir ring events which have made history; them we visit to stand enthralled in the presence of the great spirits of old. Still other parts attract us strongly because of the vivid kaleidoscope of their modern life and customs. But what shall we say of Italy, at once exquisitely beautiful, glowing with life and contemporaneous interest; and, above all, quick with the memory of her glori ous past? One writes of her in despair of giving more than a bald sketch of the character and attributes that endear her to all mankind. Richly-lavishly !-she returns love for love, and they who most tax her find her the most inexhaustible, ever giving, ever repaying, with bound less interest, the affection of her children of the entire world. WE ARE ALL HER CHILDREN The compulsion of Italy is based upon the deep, pervasive humanity of soul she shares with no other in degree and with but few in kind. That humanity, with its essential heights and depths of spirit uality and grossness, glows in the grand est art the world has ever seen and been inspired by; it pulsates lustily in litera ture that to this day is the envy and de spair of mankind; it dominates us who still live in the closing era of the Renais sance that only the splendid individualism and genius of the lustrous Florentines could make possible. Italy is not of the Italians; she is of the world. We are all her children, and some of the most sublime lessons life has to teach us have been learned of her wis dom and accumulated experience. THE GEOGRAPHICAL POSITION OF ITALY Indeed, in considering the great epochs of civilization, we often overlook the fact that more than half of them developed in Italy. Classifying history, we find five periods: the Culture of the Ancient East; Hellenic Civilization; the vast Roman Organism; the Domination of the Roman Catholic Church; and, last of all, the "emancipation of Europe from medieval influences" in what we usually speak of as the Renaissance. In a word, there fore, we owe to Italy three of the five periods-the three which have exercised the world most potently in both practical things and the things of the spirit. Geographical position is not sufficiently recognized, except by the special student, in its influence upon the character and achievements of a nation. This is pecu liarly true in the case of Italy. A single glance at the map (see page 360) discloses its position as one of the chief sources of the country's individuality. From the beginning Nature set Italy apart. Every boundary is perfectly clear.