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COMMERCE


desirable to offer; but the action of trading is reciprocal, and requires multitudes of producers and merchants, as free agents, on both sides, searching out by patient experiment wants more advantageously supplied by exchange than by direct production, before it can attain either permanence or magnitude, or can become a vital element of national life. The ancient polities offered much resistance to this development, and in their absolute power over the liberty, industry and property of the masses of their subjects raised barriers to the extension of commerce scarcely less formidable than the want of means of communication itself. The conditions of security under which foreign trade can alone flourish equally exceeded the resources of ancient civilization. Such roads as exist must be protected from robbers, the rivers and seas from pirates; goods must have safe passage and safe storage, must be held in a manner sacred in the territories through which they pass, be insured against accidents, be respected even in the madness of hostilities; the laws of nations must give a guarantee on which traders can proceed in their operations with reasonable confidence; and the governments, while protecting the commerce of their subjects with foreigners as if it were their own enterprise, must in their fiscal policy, and in all their acts, be endued with the highest spirit of commercial honour. Every great breach of this security stops the continuous circulation, which is the life of traffic and of the industries to which it ministers. But in the ancient records we see commerce exposed to great risks, subject to constant pillage, hunted down in peace and utterly extinguished in war. Hence it became necessary that foreign trade should itself be an armed force in the world; and though the states of purely commercial origin soon fell into the same arts and wiles as the powers to which they were opposed, yet their history exhibits clearly enough the necessity out of which they arose. Once organized, it was inevitable that they should meet intrigue with intrigue, and force with force. The political empires, while but imperfectly developing industry and traffic within their own territories, had little sympathy with any means of prosperity from without. Their sole policy was either to absorb under their own spirit and conditions of rule, or to destroy, whatever was rich or great beyond their borders. Nothing is more marked in the past history of the world than this struggle of commerce to establish conditions of security and means of communication with distant parts. When almost driven from the land, it often found both on the sea; and often, when its success had become brilliant and renowned, it perished under the assault of stronger powers, only to rise again in new centres and to find new channels of intercourse.

While Rome was giving laws and order to the half-civilized tribes of Italy, Carthage, operating on a different base, and by other methods, was opening trade with less accessible parts of Europe. The strength of Rome was in her Carthage. legions, that of Carthage in her ships; and her ships could cover ground where the legions were powerless. Her mariners had passed the mythical straits into the Atlantic, and established the port of Cadiz. Within the Mediterranean itself they founded Carthagena and Barcelona on the same Iberian peninsula, and ahead of the Roman legions had depots and traders on the shores of Gaul. After the destruction of Tyre, Carthage became the greatest power in the Mediterranean, and inherited the trade of her Phoenician ancestors with Egypt, Greece and Asia Minor, as well as her own settlements in Sicily and on the European coasts. An antagonism between the great naval and the great military power, whose interests crossed each other at so many points, was sure to occur; and in the three Punic wars Carthage measured her strength with that of Rome both on sea and on land with no unequal success. But a commercial state impelled into a series of great wars has departed from its own proper base; and in the year 146 B.C. Carthage was so totally destroyed by the Roman conquests.Romans that of the great city, more than 20 m. in circumference, and containing at one period near a million of inhabitants, only a few thousands were found within its ruined walls. In the same year Corinth, one of the greatest of the Greek capitals and seaports, was captured, plundered of vast wealth and given to the flames by a Roman consul. Athens and her magnificent harbour of the Piraeus fell into the same hands 60 years later. It may be presumed that trade went on under the Roman conquests in some degree as before; but these were grave events to occur within a brief period, and the spirit of the seat of trade in every case having been broken, and its means and resources more or less plundered and dissipated—in some cases, as in that of Carthage, irreparably—the most necessary commerce could only proceed with feeble and languid interest under the military, consular and proconsular licence of Rome at that period. Tyre, the great seaport of Palestine, having been destroyed by Alexander the Great, Palmyra, the great inland centre of Syrian trade, was visited with a still more complete annihilation by the Roman Emperor Aurelian within little more than half a century after the capture and spoliation of Athens. The walls were razed to their foundations; the population—men, women, children and the rustics round the city—were all either massacred or dispersed; and the queen Zenobia was carried captive to Rome. Palmyra had for centuries, as a centre of commercial intercourse and transit, been of great service to her neighbours, east and west. In the wars of the Romans and Parthians she was respected by both as an asylum of common interests which it would have been simple barbarity to invade or injure; and when the Parthians were subdued, and Palmyra became a Roman annexe, she continued to flourish as before. Her relations with Rome were more than friendly; they became enthusiastic and heroic; and her citizens having inflicted signal chastisement on the king of Persia for the imprisonment of the emperor Valerian, the admiration of this conduct at Rome was so great that their spirited leader Odaenathus, the husband of Zenobia, was proclaimed Augustus, and became co-emperor with Gallienus. It is obvious that the destruction of Palmyra must not only have doomed Palmyra. Palestine, already bereft of her seaports, to greater poverty and commercial isolation than had been known in long preceding ages, but have also rendered it more difficult to Rome herself to hold or turn to any profitable account her conquests in Asia; and, being an example of the policy of Rome to the seats of trade over nearly the whole ancient world, it may be said to contain in graphic characters a presage of what came to be the actual event—the collapse and fall of the Roman empire itself.

The repeated invasions of Italy by the Goths and Huns gave rise to a seat of trade in the Adriatic, which was to sustain during more than a thousand years a history of unusual splendour. The Veneti cultivated fertile lands on the Venice. Po, and built several towns, of which Padua was the chief. They appear from the earliest note of them in history to have been both an agricultural and trading people; and they offered a rich prey to the barbarian hordes when these broke through every barrier into the plains of Italy. Thirty years before Attila razed the neighbouring city of Aquileia, the consuls and senate of Padua, oppressed and terrified by the prior ravages of Alaric, passed a decree for erecting Rialto, the largest of the numerous islets at the mouth of the Po, into a chief town and port, not more as a convenience to the islanders than as a security for themselves and their goods. But every fresh incursion, every new act of spoliation by the dreaded enemies, increased the flight of the rich and the industrious to the islands, and thus gradually arose the second Venice, whose glory was so greatly to exceed that of the first. Approachable from the mainland only by boats, through river passes easily defended by practised sailors against barbarians who had never plied an oar, the Venetian refugees could look in peace on the desolation which swept over Italy; their warehouses, their markets, their treasures were safe from plunder; and stretching their hands over the sea, they found in it fish and salt, and in the rich possessions of trade and territory which it opened to them more than compensation for the fat lands and inland towns which had long been their home. The Venetians traded with Constantinople, Greece, Syria and Egypt. They became lords of the Morea, and of Candia, Cyprus and other islands of the Levant. The trade of Venice with India, though spoken of, was probably never great. But the crusades of the 12th and 13th centuries against the Saracens in Palestine