Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 132.djvu/379

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GEOGRAPHICAL ASPECT OF THE EASTERN QUESTION.

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and forsaken over and over again — it would be passing strange if this should be the one land, and its people the one race, to keep the Latin tongue when it has been forgotten in all the neighboring countries. Add to this that the Roumans are not, and never have been, confined to the modern Roumania — that they are still found, if in some parts only as wandering shepherds, in various parts of the peninsula — that their establishment in Dacia seems to be of comparatively recent date. All this may lead us to look for some other explanation of this most singular and puzzling phenomenon. It has indeed been thought that the modern Rouman is not strictly a Romance language, but rather a language akin to Latin, a trace of primeval kindred between the tongues of the Italian and the Byzantine peninsula. This would be carrying things back very far indeed. Such a belief would indeed be the greatest strengthening of my position as to the abiding character of nations and language in south-eastern Europe. But we need not go back so far as this. It will be quite enough, if we look on the Roumans as Romanized Thracians, as the representatives of the great Thracian race which lived on in the inland parts of the peninsula while the Greeks occupied the coasts. Their lands, Mœsia, Thrace specially so called, and Dacia, were added to the empire at various times from Augustus to Trajan. That they should gradually adopt the Latin language is in no sort wonderful. Their position with regard to Rome was exactly the same as that of Gaul and Spain. Where Greek civilization had been firmly established, Latin could nowhere displace it. Wherever Greek civilization was unknown, Latin overcame the barbarian tongue. It would naturally do so in this part of the East exactly as it did in the West. But, though the question of the origin of the Roumans is of deep historical and ethnological interest, the questions which I have just been discussing are of comparatively little moment for my present purpose. In any case, the Roumans represent a people more ancient than the Slavonic settlements. If they really represent the Roman and Romanized inhabitants of Trajan's Dacia, their time of endurance would be somewhat shortened, but the difficulties of their endurance would be increased tenfold.[1]

Here then we have in the south-eastern peninsula three nations which have all lived on at least from the days of the early Roman Empire. Two of them, I am inclined to think all of them, have lived on from the very beginnings of European history. We have nothing answering to this in the West. It needs no proof that the speakers of Celtic and Basque, in Gaul and in Spain, do not hold the same position in western Europe which the Greeks, Albanians, and Roumans do in eastern Europe. In the East the most ancient inhabitants of the land are still there, not as scraps or survivors, not as fragments of nations lingering on in corners, but as nations in the strictest sense, nations whose national being forms an element in every modern and political question. They all have their memories, their grievances, and their hopes; and their memories, their grievances, and their hopes are all of a practical and political kind. Highlanders, Welshmen, Bretons, Basques, have doubtless memories, but they have hardly political grievances or hopes.[2] Ireland may have political grievances; it certainly has political hopes; but they are not exactly of the same kind as the grievances or hopes of the Greek, the Albanian, and the Rouman. Let home rule succeed to the extent of setting up an independent king and parliament of Ireland, yet the language and civilization of that king and parliament would still be English. Ireland would form an English State, politically hostile, it may be, to Great Britain, but still an English State. No Greek, Albanian, or Rouman State that can be conceived would be in the same sense a Turkish State.

On these primitive and abiding races came, as on other parts of Europe, the Roman conquest. That conquest planted Latin colonies on the Dalmatian coast, where the Latin tongue still remains in its Italian variety as the speech of literature and city life — it Romanized in any case some part of the earlier inhabitants, be they Thracians or be they Dacians — it had the great political effect of all, that of planting the Roman power in a Greek city, and thereby creating a State, and in the end a nation, which was Roman on one side, and Greek on the other. Then came the wandering of the nations, on which, as regards men of our own race, we need not dwell. The Goths marched at will through

  1. I have been set thinking on this question by the second chapter of Jireceks "Geschichte der Bulgaren," Prag, 1876. On the other side see Zeuss, "Die Deutschen und die Nachbarstämme," 263.
  2. I do not pretend to answer for the Spanish Basques, who do seem to have grievances, though their way of trying to redress them may be thought a strange one. But a purely Basque State would surely be inconceivable.