By the Ionian Sea
George Gissing

Part 2 out of 3

And over all lay a glory of sunshine, an indescribable brilliancy
which puts light and warmth into my mind whenever I try to recall
it. The delight of these phantasms was well worth the ten days'
illness which paid for them. After this night they never returned; I
hoped for their renewal, but in vain. When I spoke of the experience
to Dr. Sculco, he was much amused, and afterwards he often asked me
whether I had had any more _visioni_. That gate of dreams was
closed, but I shall always feel that, for an hour, it was granted to
me to see the vanished life so dear to my imagination. If the
picture corresponded to nothing real, tell me who can, by what power
I reconstructed, to the last perfection of intimacy, a world known
to me only in ruined fragments.

Daylight again, but no gleam of sun. I longed for the sunshine; it
seemed to me a miserable chance that I should lie ill by the Ionian
Sea and behold no better sky than the far north might have shown me.
That grey obstruction of heaven's light always weighs upon my
spirit; on a summer's day, there has but to pass a floating cloud,
which for a moment veils the sun, and I am touched with chill
discouragement; heart and hope fail me, until the golden radiance is

About noon, when I had just laid down the newspaper bought the night
before--the Roman _Tribuna_, which was full of dreary politics--
a sudden clamour in the street drew my attention. I heard the angry
shouting of many voices, not in the piazza before the hotel, but at
some little distance; it was impossible to distinguish any meaning
in the tumultuous cries. This went on for a long time, swelling at
moments into a roar of frenzied rage, then sinking to an uneven
growl, broken by spasmodic yells. On asking what it meant, I was
told that a crowd of poor folk had gathered before the Municipio to
demonstrate against an oppressive tax called the _fuocatico_. This
is simply hearth-money, an impost on each fireplace where food is
cooked; the same tax which made trouble in old England, and was
happily got rid of long ago. But the hungry plebs of Cotrone lacked
vigour for any effective self-assertion; they merely exhausted
themselves with shouting "_Abbass' 'o sindaco_!" and dispersed to
the hearths which paid for an all but imaginary service. I wondered
whether the Sindaco and his portly friend sat in their comfortable
room whilst the roaring went on; whether they smoked their cigars as
usual, and continued to chat at their ease. Very likely. The
privileged classes in Italy are slow to move, and may well believe
in the boundless endurance of those below them. Some day, no doubt,
they will have a disagreeable surprise. When Lombardy begins in
earnest to shout "_Abbasso_!" it will be an uneasy moment for the
heavy syndics of Calabria.



Any northern person who passed a day or two at the _Concordia_ as an
ordinary traveller would carry away a strong impression. The people
of the house would seem to him little short of savages, filthy in
person and in habits, utterly uncouth in their demeanour, perpetual
wranglers and railers, lacking every qualification for the duties
they pretended to discharge. In England their mere appearance would
revolt decent folk. With my better opportunity of judging them, I
overcame the first natural antipathy; I saw their good side, and
learnt to forgive the faults natural to a state of frank barbarism.
It took two or three days before their rough and ready behaviour
softened to a really human friendliness, but this came about at
last, and when it was known that I should not give much more
trouble, that I needed only a little care in the matter of diet,
goodwill did its best to aid hopeless incapacity.

Whilst my fever was high, little groups of people often came into
the room, to stand and stare at me, exchanging, in a low voice,
remarks which they supposed I did not hear, or, hearing, could not
understand; as a matter of fact, their dialect was now intelligible
enough to me, and I knew that they discussed my chances of
surviving. Their natures were not sanguine. A result, doubtless, of
the unhealthy climate, every one at Cotrone seemed in a more or less
gloomy state of mind. The hostess went about uttering ceaseless
moans and groans; when she was in my room I heard her constantly
sighing, "Ah, Signore! Ah, Cristo!"--exclamations which, perhaps,
had some reference to my illness, but which did not cease when I
recovered. Whether she had any private reason for depression I could
not learn; I fancy not; it was only the whimpering and querulous
habit due to low health. A female servant, who occasionally brought
me food (I found that she also cooked it), bore herself in much the
same way. This domestic was the most primitive figure of the
household. Picture a woman of middle age, wrapped at all times in
dirty rags (not to be called clothing), obese, grimy, with
dishevelled black hair, and hands so scarred, so deformed by labour
and neglect, as to be scarcely human. She had the darkest and
fiercest eyes I ever saw. Between her and her mistress went on an
unceasing quarrel: they quarrelled in my room, in the corridor, and,
as I knew by their shrill voices, in places remote; yet I am sure
they did not dislike each other, and probably neither of them ever
thought of parting. Unexpectedly, one evening, this woman entered,
stood by the bedside, and began to talk with such fierce energy,
with such flashing of her black eyes, and such distortion of her
features, that I could only suppose that she was attacking me for
the trouble I caused her. A minute or two passed before I could even
hit the drift of her furious speech; she was always the most
difficult of the natives to understand, and in rage she became quite
unintelligible. Little by little, by dint of questioning, I got at
what she meant. There had been _guai_, worse than usual; the
mistress had reviled her unendurably for some fault or other, and
was it not hard that she should be used like this after having
_tanto, tanto lavorato_! In fact, she was appealing for my sympathy,
not abusing me at all. When she went on to say that she was alone in
the world, that all her kith and kin were _freddi morti_ (stone
dead), a pathos in her aspect and her words took hold upon me; it
was much as if some heavy-laden beast of burden had suddenly found
tongue, and protested in the rude beginnings of articulate utterance
against its hard lot. If only one could have learnt, in intimate
detail, the life of this domestic serf! How interesting, and how
sordidly picturesque against the background of romantic landscape,
of scenic history! I looked long into her sallow, wrinkled face,
trying to imagine the thoughts that ruled its expression. In some
measure my efforts at kindly speech succeeded, and her "Ah, Cristo!"
as she turned to go away, was not without a touch of solace.

Another time my hostess fell foul of the waiter, because he had
brought me goat's milk which was very sour. There ensued the most
comical scene. In an access of fury the stout woman raged and
stormed; the waiter, a lank young fellow, with a simple,
good-natured face, after trying to explain that he had committed the
fault by inadvertence, suddenly raised his hand, like one about to
exhort a congregation, and exclaimed in a tone of injured
remonstrance, "_Un po' di calma! Un po' di calma!_" My explosion of
laughter at this inimitable utterance put an end to the strife. The
youth laughed with me; his mistress bustled him out of the room, and
then began to inform me that he was weak in his head. Ah! she
exclaimed, her life with these people! what it cost her to keep them
in anything like order! When she retired, I heard her expectorating
violently in the corridor; a habit with every inmate of this genial

When the worst of my fever had subsided, the difficulty was to
obtain any nourishment suitable to my state. The good doctor, who
had suggested beefsteak and Marsala when I was incapable of taking
anything at all, ruled me severely in the matter of diet now that I
really began to feel hungry. I hope I may never again be obliged to
drink goat's milk; in these days it became so unutterably loathsome
to me that I had, at length, to give it up altogether, and I cannot
think of it now without a qualm. The broth offered me was infamous,
mere coloured water beneath half an inch of floating grease. Once
there was a promise of a fowl, and I looked forward to it eagerly;
but, alas! this miserable bird had undergone a process of seething
for the extraction of soup. I would have defied anyone to
distinguish between the substance remaining and two or three old kid
gloves boiled into a lump. With a pleased air, the hostess one day
suggested a pigeon, a roasted pigeon, and I welcomed the idea
joyously. Indeed, the appearance of the dish, when it was borne in,
had nothing to discourage my appetite--the odour was savoury; I
prepared myself for a treat. Out of pure kindness, for she saw me
tremble in my weakness, the good woman offered her aid in the
carving; she took hold of the bird by the two legs, rent it asunder,
tore off the wings in the same way, and then, with a smile of
satisfaction, wiped her hands upon her skirt. If her hands had known
water (to say nothing of soap) during the past twelve months I am
much mistaken. It was a pity, for I found that my teeth could just
masticate a portion of the flesh which hunger compelled me to

Of course I suffered much from thirst, and Dr. Sculco startled me
one day by asking if I liked _tea_. Tea? Was it really procurable?
The Doctor assured me that it could be supplied by the chemist;
though, considering how rarely the exotic was demanded, it might
have lost something of its finer flavour whilst stored at the
pharmacy. An order was despatched. Presently the waiter brought me a
very small paper packet, such as might have contained a couple of
Seidlitz powders; on opening it I discovered something black and
triturated, a crumbling substance rather like ground charcoal. I
smelt it, but there was no perceptible odour; I put a little of it
to my tongue, but the effect was merely that of dust. Proceeding to
treat it as if it were veritable tea, I succeeded in imparting a
yellowish tinge to the hot water, and, so thirsty was I, this
beverage tempted me to a long draught. There followed no ill result
that I know of, but the paper packet lay thenceforth untouched, and,
on leaving, I made a present of it to my landlady.

To complete the domestic group, I must make mention of the
"chambermaid." This was a lively little fellow of about twelve years
old, son of the landlady, who gave me much amusement. I don't know
whether he performed chambermaid duty in all the rooms; probably the
fierce-eyed cook did the heavier work elsewhere, but upon me his
attendance was constant. At an uncertain hour of the evening he
entered (of course, without knocking), doffed his cap in salutation,
and began by asking how I found myself. The question could not have
been more deliberately and thoughtfully put by the Doctor himself.
When I replied that I was better, the little man expressed his
satisfaction, and went on to make a few remarks about the pessimo
_tempo_. Finally, with a gesture of politeness, he inquired whether
I would permit him "_di fare un po' di pulizia_"--to clean up a
little, and this he proceeded to do with much briskness. Excepting
the good Sculco, my chambermaid was altogether the most civilized
person I met at Cotrone. He had a singular amiability of nature, and
his boyish spirits were not yet subdued by the pestilent climate. If
I thanked him for anything, he took off his cap, bowed with comical
dignity, and answered "_Grazie a voi, Signore_." Of course these
people never used the third person feminine of polite Italian. Dr.
Sculco did so, for I had begun by addressing him in that manner, but
plainly it was not familiar to his lips. At the same time there
prevailed certain forms of civility, which seemed a trifle
excessive. For instance, when the Doctor entered my room, and I gave
him "_Buon giorno_," he was wont to reply, "_Troppo gentile_!"--
too kind of you!

My newspaper boy came regularly for a few days, always complaining
of feverish symptoms, then ceased to appear. I made inquiry: he was
down with illness, and as no one took his place I suppose the
regular distribution of newspapers in Cotrone was suspended. When
the poor fellow again showed himself, he had a sorry visage; he sat
down by my bedside (rain dripping from his hat, and mud, very thick,
upon his boots) to give an account of his sufferings. I pictured the
sort of retreat in which he had lain during those miserable hours.
My own chamber contained merely the barest necessaries, and, as the
gentleman of Cosenza would have said, "left something to be desired"
in point of cleanliness. Conceive the places into which Cotrone's
poorest have to crawl when they are stricken with disease. I admit,
however, that the thought was worse to me at that moment than it is
now. After all, the native of Cotrone has advantages over the native
of a city slum; and it is better to die in a hovel by the Ionian Sea
than in a cellar at Shoreditch.

The position of my room, which looked upon the piazza, enabled me to
hear a great deal of what went on in the town. The life of Cotrone
began about three in the morning; at that hour I heard the first
voices, upon which there soon followed the bleating of goats and the
tinkling of ox-bells. No doubt the greater part of the poor people
were in bed by eight o'clock every evening; only those who had
dealings in the outer world were stirring when the _diligenza_
arrived about ten, and I suspect that some of these snatched a nap
before that late hour. Throughout the day there sounded from the
piazza a ceaseless clamour of voices, such a noise as in England
would only rise from some excited crowd on a rare occasion; it was
increased by reverberations from the colonnade which runs all round
in front of the shops. When the north-east gale had passed over,
there ensued a few days of sullen calm, permitting the people to
lead their ordinary life in open air. I grew to recognize certain
voices, those of men who seemingly had nothing to do but to talk all
day long. Only the sound reached me; I wish I could have gathered
the sense of these interminable harangues and dialogues. In every
country and every age those talk most who have least to say that is
worth saying. These tonguesters of Cotrone had their predecessors in
the public place of Croton, who began to gossip before dawn, and
gabbled unceasingly till after nightfall; with their voices must
often have mingled the bleating of goats or the lowing of oxen, just
as I heard the sounds to-day.

One day came a street organ, accompanied by singing, and how glad I
was! The first note of music, this, that I had heard at Cotrone. The
instrument played only two or three airs, and one of them became a
great favourite with the populace; very soon, numerous voices joined
with that of the singer, and all this and the following day the
melody sounded, near or far. It had the true characteristics of
southern song; rising tremolos, and cadences that swept upon a wail
of passion; high falsetto notes, and deep tum-tum of infinite
melancholy. Scorned by the musician, yet how expressive of a
people's temper, how suggestive of its history! At the moment when
this strain broke upon my ear, I was thinking ill of Cotrone and its
inhabitants; in the first pause of the music I reproached myself
bitterly for narrowness and ingratitude. All the faults of the
Italian people are whelmed in forgiveness as soon as their music
sounds under the Italian sky. One remembers all they have suffered,
all they have achieved in spite of wrong. Brute races have flung
themselves, one after another, upon this sweet and glorious land;
conquest and slavery, from age to age, have been the people's lot.
Tread where one will, the soil has been drenched with blood. An
immemorial woe sounds even through the lilting notes of Italian
gaiety. It is a country wearied and regretful, looking ever backward
to the things of old; trivial in its latter life, and unable to hope
sincerely for the future. Moved by these voices singing over the
dust of Croton, I asked pardon for all my foolish irritation, my
impertinent fault-finding. Why had I come hither, if it was not that
I loved land and people? And had I not richly known the recompense
of my love?

Legitimately enough one may condemn the rulers of Italy, those who
take upon themselves to shape her political life, and recklessly
load her with burdens insupportable. But among the simple on Italian
soil a wandering stranger has no right to nurse national
superiorities, to indulge a contemptuous impatience. It is the touch
of tourist vulgarity. Listen to a Calabrian peasant singing as he
follows his oxen along the furrow, or as he shakes the branches of
his olive tree. That wailing voice amid the ancient silence, that
long lament solacing ill-rewarded toil, comes from the heart of
Italy herself, and wakes the memory of mankind.



My thoughts turned continually to Catanzaro. It is a city set upon a
hill, overlooking the Gulf of Squillace, and I felt that if I could
but escape thither, I should regain health and strength. Here at
Cotrone the air oppressed and enfeebled me; the neighbourhood of the
sea brought no freshness. From time to time the fever seemed to be
overcome, but it lingered still in my blood and made my nights
restless. I must away to Catanzaro.

When first I spoke of this purpose to Dr. Sculco, he indulged my
fancy, saying "Presently, presently!" A few days later, when I
seriously asked him how soon I might with safety travel, his face
expressed misgiving. Why go to Catanzaro? It was on the top of a
mountain, and had a most severe climate; the winds at this season
were terrible. In conscience he could not advise me to take such a
step: the results might be very grave after my lung trouble. Far
better wait at Cotrone for a week or two longer, and then go on to
Reggio, crossing perhaps to Sicily to complete my cure. The more Dr.
Sculco talked of windy altitudes, the stronger grew my desire for
such a change of climate, and the more intolerable seemed my state
of languishment. The weather was again stormy, but this time blew
sirocco; I felt its evil breath waste my muscles, clog my veins, set
all my nerves a-tremble. If I stayed here much longer, I should
never get away at all. A superstitious fear crept upon me; I
remembered that my last visit had been to the cemetery.

One thing was certain: I should never see the column of Hera's
temple. I made my lament on this subject to Dr. Sculco, and he did
his best to describe to me the scenery of the Cape. Certain white
spots which I had discovered at the end of the promontory were
little villas, occupied in summer by the well-to-do citizens of
Cotrone; the Doctor himself owned one, which had belonged to his
father before him. Some of the earliest memories of his boyhood were
connected with the Cape: when he had lessons to learn by heart, he
often used to recite them walking round and round the great column.
In the garden of his villa he at times amused himself with digging,
and a very few turns of the spade sufficed to throw out some relic
of antiquity. Certain Americans, he said, obtained permission not
long ago from the proprietor of the ground on which the temple stood
to make serious excavations, but as soon as the Italians heard of
it, they claimed the site as a national monument; the work was
forbidden, and the soil had to be returned to its former state. Hard
by the ancient sanctuary is a chapel, consecrated to the Madonna del
Capo; thither the people of Cotrone make pilgrimages, and hold upon
the Cape a rude festival, which often ends in orgiastic riot.

All the surface of the promontory is bare; not a tree, not a bush,
save for a little wooded hollow called Fossa del Lupo--the wolf's
den. There, says legend, armed folk of Cotrone used to lie in wait
to attack the corsairs who occasionally landed for water.

When I led him to talk of Cotrone and its people, the Doctor could
but confirm my observations. He contrasted the present with the
past; this fever-stricken and waterless village with the great city
which was called the healthiest in the world. In his opinion the
physical change had resulted from the destruction of forests, which
brought with it a diminution of the rainfall. "At Cotrone," he said,
"we have practically no rain. A shower now and then, but never a
wholesome downpour." He had no doubt that, in ancient times, all the
hills of the coast were wooded, as Sila still is, and all the rivers
abundantly supplied with water. To-day there was scarce a healthy
man in Cotrone: no one had strength to resist a serious illness.
This state of things he took very philosophically; I noticed once
more the frankly mediaeval spirit in which he regarded the populace.
Talking on, he interested me by enlarging upon the difference
between southern Italians and those of the north. Beyond Rome a
Calabrian never cared to go; he found himself in a foreign country,
where his tongue betrayed him, and where his manners were too
noticeably at variance with those prevailing. Italian unity, I am
sure, meant little to the good Doctor, and appealed but coldly to
his imagination.

I declared to him at length that I could endure no longer this
dreary life of the sick-room; I must get into the open air, and, if
no harm came of the experiment, I should leave for Catanzaro. "I
cannot prevent you," was the Doctor's reply, "but I am obliged to
point out that you act on your own responsibility. It is
_pericoloso_, it is _pericolosissimo_! The terrible climate of the
mountains!" However, I won his permission to leave the house, and
acted upon it that same afternoon. Shaking and palpitating, I slowly
descended the stairs to the colonnade; then, with a step like that
of an old, old man, tottered across the piazza, my object being to
reach the chemist's shop, where I wished to pay for the drugs that I
had had and for the tea. When I entered, sweat was streaming from my
forehead; I dropped into a chair, and for a minute or two could do
nothing but recover nerve and breath. Never in my life had I
suffered such a wretched sense of feebleness. The pharmacist looked
at me with gravely compassionate eyes; when I told him I was the
Englishman who had been ill, and that I wanted to leave to-morrow
for Catanzaro, his compassion indulged itself more freely, and I
could see quite well that he thought my plan of travel visionary.
True, he said, the climate of Cotrone was trying to a stranger. He
understood my desire to get away; but--Catanzaro! Was I aware that
at Catanzaro I should suddenly find myself in a season of most
rigorous winter? And the winds! One needed to be very strong even to
stand on one's feet at Catanzaro. For all this I returned thanks,
and, having paid my bill, tottered back to the _Concordia_. It
seemed to me more than doubtful whether I should start on the

That evening I tried to dine. Don Ferdinando entered as usual, and
sat mute through his unchanging meal; the grumbler grumbled and ate,
as perchance he does to this day. I forced myself to believe that
the food had a savour for me, and that the wine did not taste of
drugs. As I sat over my pretended meal, I heard the sirocco moaning
without, and at times a splash of rain against the window. Near me,
two military men were exchanging severe comments on Calabria and its
people. "_Che paese_!"--"What a country!" exclaimed one of them
finally in disgust. Of course they came from the north, and I
thought that their conversation was not likely to knit closer the
bond between the extremes of Italy.

To my delight I looked forth next morning on a sunny and calm sky,
such as I had not seen during all my stay at Cotrone. I felt better,
and decided to leave for Catanzaro by train in the early afternoon.
Shaking still, but heartened by the sunshine, I took a short walk,
and looked for the last time at the Lacinian promontory. On my way
back I passed a little building from which sounded an astonishing
noise, a confused babble of shrill voices, blending now and then
with a deep stentorian shout. It was the communal school--not
during playtime, or in a state of revolt, but evidently engaged as
usual upon its studies. The school-house was small, but the volume
of clamour that issued from it would have done credit to two or
three hundred children in unrestrained uproariousness. Curiosity
held me listening for ten minutes; the tumult underwent no change of
character, nor suffered the least abatement; the mature voice
occasionally heard above it struck a cheery note, by no means one of
impatience or stern command. Had I been physically capable of any
effort, I should have tried to view that educational scene. The
incident did me good, and I went on in a happier humour.

Which was not perturbed by something that fell under my eye soon
afterwards. At a shop door hung certain printed cards, bearing a
notice that "wood hay-makers," "wood binders," and "wood mowers"
were "sold here." Not in Italian this, but in plain, blunt English;
and to each announcement was added the name of an English
manufacturing firm, with an agency at Naples. I have often heard the
remark that Englishmen of business are at a disadvantage in their
export trade because they pay no heed to the special requirements of
foreign countries; but such a delightful illustration of their
ineptitude had never come under my notice. Doubtless these alluring
advertisements are widely scattered through agricultural Calabria.
Who knows? they my serve as an introduction to the study of the
English tongue.

Not without cordiality was my leave-taking. The hostess confided to
me that, in the first day of my illness, she had felt sure I should
die. Everybody had thought so, she added gaily; even Dr. Sculco had
shaken his head and shrugged his shoulders; much better, was it not,
to be paying my bill? Bill more moderate, under the circumstances,
no man ever discharged; Calabrian honesty came well out of the
transaction. So I tumbled once more into the dirty, ramshackle
_diligenza_, passed along the dusty road between the barred and
padlocked warehouses, and arrived in good time at the station. No
sooner had I set foot on the platform than I felt an immense relief.
Even here, it seemed to me, the air was fresher. I lifted my eyes to
the hills and seemed to feel the breezes of Catanzaro.

The train was made up at Cotrone, and no undue haste appeared in our
departure. When we were already twenty minutes late, there stepped
into the carriage where I was sitting a good-humoured railway
official, who smiled and greeted me. I supposed he wanted my ticket,
but nothing of the kind. After looking all round the compartment
with an air of disinterested curiosity, he heaved a sigh and
remarked pleasantly to me, "_Non manca niente_"--"Nothing is
amiss." Five minutes more and we steamed away.

The railway ascended a long valley, that of the Esaro, where along
the deep watercourse trickled a scarce perceptible stream. On either
hand were hills of pleasant outline, tilled on the lower slopes, and
often set with olives. Here and there came a grassy slope, where
shepherds or goatherds idled amid their flocks. Above the ascent a
long tunnel, after which the line falls again towards the sea. The
landscape took a nobler beauty; mountains spread before us, tenderly
coloured by the autumn sun. We crossed two or three rivers--rivers
of flowing water, their banks overhung with dense green jungle. The
sea was azure, and looked very calm, but white waves broke loudly
upon the strand, last murmur of the storm which had raged and
renewed itself for nearly a fortnight.

At one of the wayside stations entered a traveller whom I could not
but regard with astonishment. He was a man at once plump and
muscular, his sturdy limbs well exhibited in a shooting costume. On
his face glowed the richest hue of health; his eyes glistened
merrily. With him he carried a basket, which, as soon as he was
settled, gave forth an abundant meal. The gusto of his eating, the
satisfaction with which he eyed his glasses of red wine, excited my
appetite. But who _was_ he? Not, I could see, a tourist; yet how
account for this health and vigour in a native of the district? I
had not seen such a man since I set out upon my travels; the
contrast he made with the figures of late familiar to me was so
startling that I had much ado to avoid continuously gazing at him.
His proximity did me good; the man radiated health.

When next the train stopped he exchanged words with some one on the
platform, and I heard that he was going to Catanzaro. At once I
understood. This jovial, ruddy-cheeked personage was a man of the
hills. At Catanzaro I should see others like him; perhaps he fairly
represented its inhabitants. If so, I had reason for my suspicion
that poor fever-stricken Cotrone regarded with a sort of jealousy
the breezy health of Catanzaro, which at the same time is a much
more prosperous place. Later, I found that there did exist some
acerbity of mutual criticism between the two towns, reminding one of
civic rivalry among the Greeks. Catanzaro spoke with contempt of
Cotrone. Happily I made no medical acquaintance in the hill town;
but I should have liked to discuss with one of these gentlemen the
view of their climate held by Dr. Sculco.

In the ages that followed upon the fall of Rome, perpetual danger
drove the sea-coast population of Calabria inland and to the
heights. Our own day beholds a counter movement; the shore line of
railway will create new towns on the old deserted sites. Such a
settlement is the Marina of Catanzaro, a little port at the mouth of
a wide valley, along which runs a line to Catanzaro itself, or
rather to the foot of the great hill on which the town is situated.
The sun was setting when I alighted at the Marina, and as I waited
for the branch train my eyes feasted upon a glory of colour which
made me forget aching weariness. All around lay orchards of orange
trees, the finest I had ever seen, and over their solid masses of
dark foliage, thick hung with ripening fruit, poured the splendour
of the western sky. It was a picture unsurpassable in richness of
tone; the dense leafage of deepest, warmest green glowed and
flashed, its magnificence heightened by the blaze of the countless
golden spheres adorning it. Beyond, the magic sea, purple and
crimson as the sun descended upon the vanishing horizon. Eastward,
above the slopes of Sila, stood a moon almost at its full, the
yellow of an autumn leaf, on a sky soft-flushed with rose.

In my geography it is written that between Catanzaro and the sea lie
the gardens of the Hesperides.



For half an hour the train slowly ascends. The carriages are of
special construction, light and many-windowed, so that one has good
views of the landscape. Very beautiful was this long, broad,
climbing valley, everywhere richly wooded; oranges and olives, carob
and lentisk and myrtle, interspersed with cactus (its fruit, the
prickly fig, all gathered) and with the sword-like agave. Glow of
sunset lingered upon the hills: in the green hollow a golden
twilight faded to dusk. The valley narrowed; it became a gorge
between dark slopes which closed together and seemed to bar advance.
Here the train stopped, and all the passengers (some half-dozen)

The sky was still clear enough to show the broad features of the
scene before me. I looked up to a mountain side, so steep that
towards the summit it appeared precipitous, and there upon the
height, dimly illumined with a last reflex of after-glow, my eyes
distinguished something which might be the outline of walls and
houses. This, I knew, was the situation of Catanzaro, but one could
not easily imagine by what sort of approach the city would be
gained; in the thickening twilight, no trace of a road was
discernible, and the flanks of the mountain, a ravine yawning on
either hand, looked even more abrupt than the ascent immediately
before me.

There, however, stood the _diligenza_ which was somehow to convey me
to Catanzaro; I watched its loading with luggage-merchandise and
mail-bags--whilst the exquisite evening melted into night. When I
had thus been occupied for a few minutes, my look once more turned
to the mountain, where a surprise awaited me: the summit was now
encircled with little points of radiance, as though a starry diadem
had fallen upon it from the sky. "_Pronti_!" cried our driver. I
climbed to my seat, and we began our journey towards the crowning

By help of long loops the road ascended at a tolerably easy angle;
the horse-bells tinkled, the driver shouted encouragement to his
beasts, and within the vehicle went on a lively gossiping, with much
laughter. Meanwhile the great moon had risen high enough to illumine
the valley below us; silvery grey and green, the lovely hollow
seemed of immeasurable length, and beyond it one imagined, rather
than discerned, a glimmer of the sea. By the wayside I now and then
caught sight of a huge cactus, trailing its heavy knotted length
upon the face of a rock; and at times we brushed beneath overhanging
branches of some tree that could not be distinguished. All the way
up we seemed to skirt a sheer precipice, which at moments was
alarming in its gloomy depth. Deeper and deeper below shone the
lights of the railway station and of the few houses about it; it
seemed as though a false step would drop us down into their midst.

The fatigue of the day's journey passed away during this ascent,
which lasted nearly an hour; when, after a drive through dark but
wide streets, I was set down before the hotel, I felt that I had
shaken off the last traces of my illness. A keen appetite sent me as
soon as possible in search of the dining-room, where I ate with
extreme gusto; everything seemed excellent after the sorry table of
the _Concordia_. I poured my wine with a free hand, rejoicing to
find it was wine once more, and not (at all events to my palate) a
concoction of drugs. The albergo was decent and well found; a
cheerful prosperity declared itself in all I had yet seen. After
dinner I stepped out on to the balcony of my room to view the city's
main street; but there was very scant illumination, and the
moonlight only showed me high houses of modern build. Few people
passed, and never a vehicle; the shops were all closed. I needed no
invitation to sleep, but this shadowed stillness, and the fresh
mountain air, happily lulled my thoughts. Even the subject of
earthquakes proved soporific.

Impossible to find oneself at Catanzaro without thinking of
earthquakes; I wonder that the good people of Coltrone did not
include this among deterrents whereby they sought to prejudice me
against the mountain town. Over and over again Catanzaro has been
shaken to its foundations. The worst calamity recorded was towards
the end of the eighteenth century, when scarce a house remained
standing, and many thousands of the people perished. This explains a
peculiarity in the aspect of the place, noticeable as soon as one
begins to walk about; it is like a town either half built or half
destroyed, one knows not which; everywhere one comes upon ragged
walls, tottering houses, yet there is no appearance of antiquity.
One ancient building, a castle built by Robert Guiscard when he
captured Catanzaro in the eleventh century, remained until of late
years, its Norman solidity defying earthquakes; but this has been
pulled down, deliberately got rid of for the sake of widening a
road. Lament over such a proceeding would be idle enough; Catanzaro
is the one progressive town of Calabria, and has learnt too
thoroughly the spirit of the time to suffer a blocking of its
highway by middle-age obstructions.

If a Hellenic or Roman city occupied this breezy summit, it has left
no name, and no relics of the old civilization have been discovered
here. Catanzaro was founded in the tenth century, at the same time
that Taranto was rebuilt after the Saracen destruction; an epoch of
revival for Southern Italy under the vigorous Byzantine rule of
Nicephorus Phocas. From my point of view, the interest of the place
suffered because I could attach to it no classic memory. Robert
Guiscard, to be sure, is a figure picturesque enough, and might give
play to the imagination, but I care little for him after all; he
does not belong to my world. I had to see Catanzaro merely as an
Italian town amid wonderful surroundings. The natural beauty of the
spot amply sufficed to me during the days I spent there, and
gratitude for health recovered gave me a kindly feeling to all its

Daylight brought no disillusion as regards natural features. I made
the circuit of the little town, and found that it everywhere
overlooks a steep, often a sheer, descent, save at one point, where
an isthmus unites it to the mountains that rise behind. In places
the bounding wall runs on the very edge of a precipice, and many a
crazy house, overhanging, seems ready to topple into the abyss. The
views are magnificent, whether one looks down the valley to the
leafy shore, or, in an opposite direction, up to the grand heights
which, at this narrowest point of Calabria, separate the Ionian from
the Tyrrhene Sea. I could now survey the ravines which, in twilight,
had dimly shown themselves on either side of the mountain; they are
deep and narrow, craggy, wild, bare. Each, when the snows are
melting, becomes the bed of a furious torrent; the watercourses
uniting below to form the river of the valley. At this season there
was a mere trickling of water over a dry brown waste. Where the
abruptness of the descent does not render it impossible, olives have
been planted on the mountain sides; the cactus clings everywhere,
making picturesque many a wall and hovel, luxuriating on the hard,
dry soil; fig trees and vines occupy more favoured spots, and the
gardens of the better houses are often graced by a noble palm.

After my morning's walk I sought the residence of Signor Pasquale
Cricelli, to whom I carried a note of introduction. This gentleman
holds the position of English Vice-Consul at Catanzaro, but it is
seldom that he has the opportunity of conversing with English
travellers; the courtesy and kindness with which he received me have
a great part in my pleasant memory of the mountain town. Signor
Cricelli took me to see many interesting things, and brought me into
touch with the every-day life of Catanzaro. I knew from Lenormant's
book that the town had a singular reputation for hospitality. The
French archaeologist tells amusing stories in illustration of this
characteristic. Once, when he had taken casual refreshment at a
restaurant, a gentleman sitting at another table came forward and,
with grave politeness, begged permission to pay for what Lenormant
had consumed. This was a trifle in comparison with what happened
when the traveller, desirous of making some return for much
kindness, entertained certain of his acquaintances at dinner, the
meal, naturally, as good a one as his hotel could provide. The
festival went off joyously, but, to Lenormant's surprise, nothing
was charged for it in his bill. On making inquiry he learnt that the
cost of the entertainment had already been discharged by one of his
guests! Well, that took place years ago, long before a railway had
been thought of in the valley of the Corace; such heroic virtues ill
consist with the life of to-day. Nevertheless, Don Pasquale (Signor
Cricelli's name when greeted by his fellow-citizens) several times
reminded me, without knowing it, of what I had read. For instance,
we entered a shop which he thought might interest me; the salesman
during our talk unobtrusively made up a little parcel of goods, and
asked, at length, whether I would take this with me or have it sent
to the hotel. That point I easily decided, but by no persistence
could I succeed in paying for the things. Smiling behind his
counter, the shopkeeper declined to name a price; Don Pasquale
declared that a payment under such circumstances was a thing unknown
in Catanzaro, and I saw that to say anything more would be to run
the risk of offending him. The same day he invited me to dinner, and
explained that we must needs dine at the hotel where I was staying,
this being the best place of entertainment in the town. I found that
my friend had a second reason for the choice; he wished to ascertain
whether I was comfortably lodged, and as a result of his friendly
offices, various little changes came about. Once more I make my
grateful acknowledgements to the excellent Don Pasquale.

Speaking of shops, I must describe in detail the wonderful pharmacy.
Signor Cricelli held it among the sights of Catanzaro; this
chemist's in the main street was one of the first places to which he
guided me. And, indeed, the interior came as a surprise. Imagine a
spacious shop, well proportioned, perfectly contrived, and
throughout fitted with woodwork copies from the best examples of old
Italian carving. Seeking pill or potion, one finds oneself in a
museum of art, where it would be easy to spend an hour in studying
the counter, the shelves, the ceiling. The chemists (two brothers,
if I remember rightly) pointed out to me with legitimate pride all
that they had done for the beautifying of their place of business; I
shall not easily forget the glowing countenance, the moved voice,
which betrayed their feelings as they led me hither and thither; for
them and their enterprise I felt a hearty respect. When we had
surveyed everything within doors I was asked to look at the _mostra_
--the sign that hung over the entrance; a sort of griffin in
wrought iron, this, too, copied from an old masterpiece, and
reminding one of the fine ironwork which adorns the streets of
Siena. Don Pasquale could not be satisfied until I had privately
assured him of my genuine admiration. Was it, he asked, at all like
a chemist's shop in London? My reply certainly gratified him, but I
am afraid it did not increase his desire to visit England.

Whilst I was at the chemist's, there entered a number of peasants,
whose appearance was so striking that I sought information about
them. Don Pasquale called them "_Greci_"; they came from a mountain
village where the dialect of the people is still a corrupt Greek.
One would like to imagine that their origin dates back to the early
Hellenic days, but it is assuredly much later. These villages may be
a relic of the Byzantine conquest in the sixth century, when
Southern Italy was, to a great extent, re peopled from the Eastern
Empire, though another theory suggests that they were formed by
immigrants from Greece at the time of the Turkish invasion. Each of
the women had a baby hanging at her back, together with
miscellaneous goods which she had purchased in the town: though so
heavily burdened, they walked erect, and with the free step of

I could not have had a better opportunity than was afforded me on
this day of observing the peasantry of the Catanzaro district. It
was the feast of the Immaculate Conception, and from all around the
country-folk thronged in pilgrimage to the church of the Immaculate;
since earliest morning I had heard the note of bagpipes, which
continued to sound before the street shrines all day long. Don
Pasquale assured me that the festival had an importance in this
region scarcely less than that of Christmas. At the hour of high
mass I entered the sanctuary whither all were turning their steps;
it was not easy to make a way beyond the portico, but when I had
slowly pressed forward through the dense crowd, I found that the
musical part of the service was being performed by a lively
string-band, up in a gallery. For seats there was no room; a
standing multitude filled the whole church before the altar, and the
sound of gossiping voices at moments all but overcame that of the
music. I know not at what point of the worship I chanced to be
present; heat and intolerable odours soon drove me forth again, but
I retained an impression of jollity, rather than of reverence. Those
screaming and twanging instruments sounded much like an invitation
to the dance, and all the faces about me were radiant with
cheerfulness. Just such a throng, of course, attended upon the
festival of god or goddess ere the old religion was transformed.
Most of the Christian anniversaries have their origin in heathendom;
the names have changed, but amid the unlettered worshippers there is
little change of spirit; a tradition older than they can conceive
rules their piety, and gives it whatever significance it may have in
their simple lives.

Many came from a great distance; at the entrance to the town were
tethered innumerable mules and asses, awaiting the hour of return.
Modern Catanzaro, which long ago lost its proper costume, was
enlivened with brilliant colours; the country women, of course,
adorned themselves, and their garb was that which had so much
interested me when I first saw it in the public garden at Cosenza.
Brilliant blue and scarlet were the prevailing tones; a good deal of
fine embroidery caught the eye. In a few instances I noticed men
wearing the true Calabrian hat--peaked, brigandesque--which is
rapidly falling out of use. These people were, in general,
good-looking; frequently I observed a very handsome face, and
occasionally a countenance, male or female, of really heroic beauty.
Though crowds wandered through the streets, there sounded no tumult;
voices never rose above an ordinary pitch of conversation; the
general bearing was dignified, and tended to gravity. One woman in
particular held my attention, not because of any exceptional beauty,
for, indeed, she had a hard, stern face, but owing to her demeanour.
Unlike most of the peasant folk, she was bent on business; carrying
upon her head a heavy pile of some ornamented fabric--shawls or
something of the kind--she entered shops, and paused at house
doors, in the endeavour to find purchasers. I watched her for a long
time, hoping she might make a sale, but ever she was unsuccessful;
for all that she bore herself with a dignity not easily surpassed.
Each offer of her wares was made as if she conferred a graceful
favour, and after each rejection she withdrew unabashed, outwardly
unperturbed, seeming to take stately leave. Only her persistence
showed how anxious she was to earn money; neither on her features
nor in her voice appeared the least sign of peddling solicitude. I
shall always remember that tall, hard-visaged woman, as she passed
with firm step and nobly balanced figure about the streets of
Catanzaro. To pity her would have been an insult. The glimpse I
caught of her laborious life revealed to me something worthy of
admiration; never had I seen a harassing form of discouragement so
silently and strongly borne.



Catanzaro must be one of the healthiest spots in Southern Italy;
perhaps it has no rival in this respect among the towns south of
Rome. The furious winds, with which my acquaintances threatened me,
did not blow during my stay, but there was always more or less
breeze, and the kind of breeze that refreshes. I should like to
visit Catanzaro in the summer; probably one would have all the joy
of glorious sunshine without oppressive heat, and in the landscape
in those glowing days would be indescribably beautiful.

I remember with delight the public garden at Cosenza, its noble view
over the valley of the Crati to the heights of Sila; that of
Catanzaro is in itself more striking, and the prospect it affords
has a sterner, grander note. Here you wander amid groups of
magnificent trees, an astonishingly rich and varied vegetation; and
from a skirting terrace you look down upon the precipitous gorge,
burnt into barenness save where a cactus clings to some jutting
rock. Here in summer-time would be freshness amid noontide heat,
with wondrous avenues of golden light breaking the dusk beneath the
boughs. I shall never see it; but the desire often comes to me under
northern skies, when I am weary of labour and seek in fancy a
paradise of idleness.

In the public gardens is a little museum, noticeable mostly for a
fine collection of ancient coins. There are Greek pots, too, and
weapons, found at Tiriolo, a village high up on the mountain above
Catanzaro. As at Taranto, a stranger who cares for this kind of
thing can be sure of having the museum all to himself. On my first
visit Don Pasquale accompanied me, and through him I made the
acquaintance of the custodian. But I was not in the museum mood;
reviving health inclined me to the open air, and the life of to-day;
I saw these musty relics with only a vague eye.

After living amid a malaria-stricken population, I rejoiced in the
healthy aspect of the mountain folk. Even a deformed beggar, who
dragged himself painfully along the pavement, had so ruddy a face
that it was hard to feel compassion for him. And the wayside
children--it was a pleasure to watch them at their games. Such
children in Italy do not, as a rule, seem happy; too often they look
ill, cheerless, burdened before their time; at Catanzaro they are as
robust and lively as heart could wish, and their voices ring
delightfully upon the ear. It is not only, I imagine, a result of
the fine air they breathe; no doubt they are exceptional among the
poor children of the south in getting enough to eat. The town has
certain industries, especially the manufacture of silk; one feels an
atmosphere of well-being; mendicancy is a rare thing.

Fruits abounded, and were very cheap; if one purchased from a stall
the difficulty was to carry away the abundance offered for one's
smallest coin. Excellent oranges cost about a penny the half-dozen.
Any one who is fond of the prickly fig should go to Catanzaro. I
asked a man sitting with a basket of them at a street corner to give
me the worth of a soldo (a half-penny); he began to fill my pocket,
and when I cried that it was enough, that I could carry no more, he
held up one particularly fine fruit, smiled as only an Italian can,
and said, with admirable politeness, "_Questo per complimento_!" I
ought to have shaken hands with him.

Even when I had grown accustomed to the place, its singular
appearance of incompleteness kept exciting my attention. I had never
seen a town so ragged at the edges. If there had recently been a
great conflagration and almost all the whole city were being
rebuilt, it would have looked much as it did at the time of my
visit. To enter the post-office one had to clamber over heaps of
stone and plaster, to stride over tumbled beams and jump across
great puddles, entering at last by shaky stairs a place which looked
like the waiting-room of an unfinished railway station. The style of
building is peculiar, and looks so temporary as to keep one
constantly in mind of the threatening earthquake. Most of the
edifices, large and small, public and private, are constructed of
rubble set in cement, with an occasional big, rough-squared stone to
give an appearance of solidity, and perhaps a few courses of bricks
in the old Roman style. If the building is of importance, this work
is hidden beneath stucco; otherwise it remains like the mere shell
of a house, and is disfigured over all its surface with great holes
left by the scaffolding. Religion supplies something of adornment;
above many portals is a rudely painted Virgin and Child, often,
plainly enough, the effort of a hand accustomed to any tool rather
than that of the artist. On the dwellings of the very poor a great
Cross is scrawled in whitewash. These rickety houses often exhibit
another feature more picturesque and, to the earthly imagination,
more consoling; on the balcony one sees a great gourd, some three
feet long, so placed that its yellow plumpness may ripen in sun and
air. It is a sign of plenty: the warm spot of colour against the
rough masonry does good to eye and heart.

My hotel afforded me little amusement after the _Concordia_ at
Cotrone, yet it did not lack its characteristic features. I found,
for instance, in my bedroom a printed notice, making appeal in
remarkable terms to all who occupied the chamber. The proprietor--
thus it ran--had learnt with extreme regret that certain
travellers who slept under his roof were in the habit of taking
their meals at other places of entertainment. This practice, he
desired it to be known, not only hurt his personal feelings--
_tocca il suo morale_--but did harm to the reputation of his
establishment. Assuring all and sundry that he would do his utmost
to maintain a high standard of culinary excellence, the proprietor
ended by begging his honourable clients that they would bestow their
kind favours on the restaurant of the house--_signora pregare i
suoi respettabili clienti perche vogliano benignarsi il ristorante_;
and therewith signed himself--Coriolano Paparazzo.

For my own part I was not tempted to such a breach of decorum; the
fare provided by Signor Paparazzo suited me well enough, and the
wine of the country was so good that it would have covered many
defects of cookery. Of my fellow-guests in the spacious dining-room
I can recall only two. They were military men of a certain age,
grizzled officers, who walked rather stiffly and seated themselves
with circumspection. Evidently old friends, they always dined at the
same time, entering one a few minutes after the other; but by some
freak of habit they took places at different tables, so that the
conversation which they kept up all through the meal had to be
carried on by an exchange of shouts. Nothing whatever prevented them
from being near each other; the room never contained more than half
a dozen persons; yet thus they sat, evening after evening, many
yards apart, straining their voices to be mutually audible. Me they
delighted; to the other guests, more familiar with them and their
talk, they must have been a serious nuisance. But I should have
liked to see the civilian who dared to manifest his disapproval of
these fine old warriors.

They sat interminably, evidently having no idea how otherwise to
pass the evening. In the matter of public amusements Catanzaro is
not progressive; I only once saw an announcement of a theatrical
performance, and it did not smack of modern enterprise. On the
dining-room table one evening lay a little printed bill, which made
known that a dramatic company was then in the town. Their
entertainment consisted of two parts, the first entitled: "The Death
of Agolante and the Madness of Count Orlando"; the second: "A
Delightful Comedy, the Devil's Castle with Pulcinella as the
Timorous Soldier." In addition were promised "new duets and
Neapolitan songs." The theatre would comfortably seat three hundred
persons, and the performance would be given twice, at half-past
eighteen and half-past twenty-one o'clock. It was unpardonable in me
that I did not seek out the Teatro delle Varieta; I might easily
have been in my seat (with thirty, more likely than three hundred,
other spectators) by half-past twenty-one. But the night was
forbidding; a cold rain fell heavily. Moreover, just as I had
thought that it was perhaps worth while to run the risk of another
illness--one cannot see the Madness of Count Orlando every day--
there came into the room a peddler laden with some fifty volumes of
fiction and a fine assortment of combs and shirt-studs. The books
tempted me; I looked them through. Most, of course, were
translations from the vulgarest French _feuilletonistes_; the
Italian reader of novels, whether in newspaper or volume, knows, as
a rule, nothing but this imported rubbish. However, a real Italian
work was discoverable, and, together with the unfriendly sky, it
kept me at home. I am sorry now, as for many another omission on my
wanderings, when lack of energy or a passing mood of dullness has
caused me to miss what would be so pleasant in the retrospect.

I spent an hour one evening at the principal cafe, where a pianist
of great pretensions and small achievement made rather painful
music. Watching and listening to the company (all men, of course,
though the Oriental system regarding women is not so strict at
Catanzaro as elsewhere in the south), I could not but fall into a
comparison of this scene with any similar gathering of middle-class
English folk. The contrast was very greatly in favour of the
Italians. One has had the same thought a hundred times in the same
circumstances, but it is worth dwelling upon. Among these
representative men, young and old, of Catanzaro, the tone of
conversation was incomparably better than that which would rule in a
cluster of English provincials met to enjoy their evening leisure.
They did, in fact, converse--a word rarely applicable to English
talk under such conditions; mere personal gossip was the exception;
they exchanged genuine thoughts, reasoned lucidly on the surface of
abstract subjects. I say on the surface; no remark that I heard
could be called original or striking; but the choice of topics and
the mode of viewing them was distinctly intellectual. Phrases often
occurred such as have no equivalent on the lips of everyday people
in our own country. For instance, a young fellow in no way
distinguished from his companions, fell to talking about a leading
townsman, and praised him for his _ingenio simpatico, his bella
intelligenza_, with exclamations of approval from those who
listened. No, it is not merely the difference between homely
Anglo-Saxon and a language of classic origin; there is a radical
distinction of thought. These people have an innate respect for
things of the mind, which is wholly lacking to a typical Englishman.
One need not dwell upon the point that their animation was supported
by a tiny cup of coffee or a glass of lemonade; this is a matter of
climate and racial constitution; but I noticed the entire absence of
a certain kind of jocoseness which is so naturally associated with
spirituous liquors; no talk could have been less offensive. From
many a bar-parlour in English country towns I have gone away heavy
with tedium and disgust; the cafe at Catanzaro seemed, in
comparison, a place of assembly for wits and philosophers.

Meanwhile a season of rain had begun; heavy skies warned me that I
must not hope for a renewal of sunny idleness on this mountain top;
it would be well if intervals of cheerful weather lighted my further
course by the Ionian Sea. Reluctantly, I made ready to depart.



In meditating my southern ramble I had lingered on the thought that
I should see Squillace. For Squillace (Virgil's "ship-wrecking
Scylaceum") was the ancestral home of Cassiodorus, and his retreat
when he became a monk; Cassiodorus, the delightful pedant, the
liberal statesman and patriot, who stands upon the far limit of his
old Roman world and bids a sad farewell to its glories. He had
niched himself in my imagination. Once when I was spending a silent
winter upon the shore of Devon, I had with me the two folio volumes
of his works, and patiently read the better part of them; it was
more fruitful than a study of all the modern historians who have
written about his time. I saw the man; caught many a glimpse of his
mind and heart, and names which had been to me but symbols in a
period of obscure history became things living and recognizable.

I could have travelled from Catanzaro by railway to the sea-coast
station called Squillace, but the town itself is perched upon a
mountain some miles inland, and it was simpler to perform the whole
journey by road, a drive of four hours, which, if the weather
favoured me, would be thoroughly enjoyable. On my last evening Don
Pasquale gave a good account of the sky; he thought I might
hopefully set forth on the morrow, and, though I was to leave at
eight o'clock, promised to come and see me off. Very early I looked
forth, and the prospect seemed doubtful; I had half a mind to
postpone departure. But about seven came Don Pasquale's servant,
sent by his master to inquire whether I should start or not, and,
after asking the man's opinion, I decided to take courage. The sun
rose; I saw the streets of Catanzaro brighten in its pale gleams,
and the rack above interspaced with blue.

Luckily my carriage-owner was a man of prudence; at the appointed
hour he sent a covered vehicle--not the open _carozzella_ in which
I should have cheerfully set forth had it depended upon myself. Don
Pasquale, too, though unwilling to perturb me, could not altogether
disguise his misgivings. At my last sight of him, he stood on the
pavement before the hotel gazing anxiously upwards. But the sun
still shone, and as we began the descent of the mountain-side I felt
annoyed at having to view the landscape through loopholes.

Of a sudden--we were near the little station down in the valley--
there arose a mighty roaring, and all the trees of the wayside bent
as if they would break. The sky blackened, the wind howled, and
presently, as I peered through the window for some hope that this
would only be a passing storm, rain beat violently upon my face.
Then the carriage stopped, and my driver, a lad of about seventeen,
jumped down to put something right in the horses' harness.

"Is this going to last?" I shouted to him.

"No, no, signore" he answered gaily. "It will be over in a minute or
two. _Ecco il sole_!"

I beheld no sun, either then or at any moment during the rest of the
day, but the voice was so reassuring that I gladly gave ear to it.
On we drove, down the lovely vale of the Corace, through
orange-groves and pine-woods, laurels and myrtles, carobs and olive
trees, with the rain beating fiercely upon us, the wind swaying all
the leafage like billows on a stormy sea. At the Marina of Catanzaro
we turned southward on the coast road, pursued it for two or three
miles, then branched upon our inland way. The storm showed no sign
of coming to an end. Several times the carriage stopped, and the lad
got down to examine his horses--perhaps to sympathize with them;
he was such a drenched, battered, pitiable object that I reproached
myself for allowing him to pursue the journey.

"_Brutto tempo_!" he screamed above the uproar, when I again spoke
to him; but in such a cheery tone that I did not think it worth
while to make any further remark.

Through the driving rain, I studied as well as I could the features
of the country. On my left hand stretched a long fiat-topped
mountain, forming the southern slope of the valley we ascended;
steep, dark, and furrowed with innumerable torrent-beds, it frowned
upon a river that rushed along the ravine at its foot to pour into
the sea where the mountain broke as a rugged cliff. This was the
Mons Moscius of old time, which sheltered the monastery built by
Cassiodorus. The headlong, swollen flood, coloured like yellow clay,
held little resemblance to the picture I had made of that river
Pellena which murmurs so musically in the old writer's pages. Its
valley was heaped with great blocks of granite--a feature which
has interest for the geologist; it marks an abrupt change of system,
from the soft stone of Catanzaro (which ends the Apennine) to the
granitic mass of Aspromonte (the toe of Italy) which must have risen
above the waters long before the Apennines came into existence. The
wild weather emphasized a natural difference between this valley of
Squillace and that which rises towards Catanzaro; here is but scanty
vegetation, little more than thin orchards of olive, and the
landscape has a bare, harsh character. Is it changed so greatly
since the sixth century of our era? Or did its beauty lie in the
eyes of Cassiodorus, who throughout his long life of statesmanship
in the north never forgot this Bruttian home, and who sought peace
at last amid the scenes of his childhood?

At windings of the way I frequently caught sight of Squillace
itself, high and far, its white houses dull-gleaming against the
lurid sky. The crag on which it stands is higher than that of
Catanzaro, but of softer ascent. As we approached I sought for signs
of a road that would lead us upward, but nothing of the sort could
be discerned; presently I became aware that we were turning into a
side valley, and, to all appearances, going quite away from the
town. The explanation was that the ascent lay on the further slope;
we began at length to climb the back of the mountain, and here I
noticed with a revival of hope that there was a lull in the tempest;
rain no longer fell so heavily; the clouds seemed to be breaking
apart. A beam of sunshine would have set me singing with joy. When
half-way up, my driver rested his horses and came to speak a word;
we conversed merrily. He was to make straight for the hotel, where
shelter and food awaited us--a bottle of wine, ha! ha! He knew the
hotel, of course? Oh yes, he knew the hotel; it stood just at the
entrance to the town; we should arrive in half an hour.

Looking upwards I saw nothing but a mass of ancient ruins, high
fragments of shattered wall, a crumbling tower, and great windows
through which the clouds were visible. Inhabited Squillace lay, no
doubt, behind. I knew that it was a very small place, without any
present importance; but at all events there was an albergo, and the
mere name of albergo had a delightful sound of welcome after such a
journey. Here I would stay for the night, at all events; if the
weather cleared, I might be glad to remain for two or three days.
Certainly the rain was stopping; the wind no longer howled. Up we
went towards those ragged walls and great, vacant windows. We
reached the summit; for two minutes the horses trotted; then a
sudden halt, and my lad's face at the carriage door.

"_Ecco l'albergo, Signore_!"

I jumped out. We were at the entrance to an unpaved street of
squalid hovels, a street which the rain had converted into a muddy
river, so that, on quitting the vehicle, I stepped into running
water up to my ankles. Before me was a long low cabin, with a row of
four or five windows and no upper storey; a miserable hut of rubble
and plaster, stained with ancient dirt and, at this moment, looking
soaked with moisture. Above the doorway I read "Osteria Centrale";
on the bare end of the house was the prouder inscription, "Albergo
Nazionale"--the National Hotel. I am sorry to say that at the time
this touch of humour made no appeal to me; my position was no
laughing matter. Faint with hunger, I saw at once that I should have
to browse on fearsome food. I saw, too, that there was scarce a
possibility of passing the night in this place; I must drive down to
the sea-shore, and take my chance of a train which would bring me at
some time to Reggio. While I thus reflected--the water rushing
over my boots--a very ill-looking man came forth and began to
stare curiously at me. I met his eye, but he offered no greeting. A
woman joined him, and the two, quite passive, waited to discover my

Eat I must, so I stepped forward and asked if I could have a meal.
Without stirring, the man gave a sullen assent. Could I have food at
once? Yes, in a few minutes. Would they show me--the dining room?
Man and woman turned upon their heels, and I followed. The entrance
led into a filthy kitchen; out of this I turned to the right, went
along a passage upon which opened certain chamber doors, and was
conducted into a room at the end--for the nonce, a dining-room,
but at ordinary times a bedroom. Evidently the kitchen served for
native guests; as a foreigner I was treated with more ceremony. Left
alone till my meal should be ready, I examined the surroundings. The
floor was of worn stone, which looked to me like the natural
foundation of the house; the walls were rudely plastered, cracked,
grimed, and with many a deep chink; as for the window, it admitted
light, but, owing to the aged dirt which had gathered upon it,
refused any view of things without save in two or three places where
the glass was broken; by these apertures, and at every point of the
framework, entered a sharp wind. In one corner stood an iron
bedstead, with mattress and bedding in a great roll upon it; a shaky
deal table and primitive chair completed the furniture. Ornament did
not wholly lack; round the walls hung a number of those coloured
political caricatures (several indecent) which are published by some
Italian newspapers, and a large advertisement of a line of emigrant
ships between Naples and New York. Moreover, there was suspended in
a corner a large wooden crucifix, very quaint, very hideous, and
black with grime.

Spite of all this, I still debated with myself whether to engage the
room for the night. I should have liked to stay; the thought of a
sunny morning here on the height strongly allured me, and it seemed
a shame to confess myself beaten by an Italian inn. On the other
hand, the look of the people did not please me; they had surly,
forbidding faces. I glanced at the door--no lock. Fears, no doubt,
were ridiculous; yet I felt ill at ease. I would decide after seeing
the sort of fare that was set before me.

The meal came with no delay. First, a dish of great _peperoni_ cut
up in oil. This gorgeous fruit is never much to my taste, but I had
as yet eaten no such _peperoni_ as those of Squillace; an hour or
two afterwards my mouth was still burning from the heat of a few
morsels to which I was constrained by hunger. Next appeared a dish
for which I had covenanted--the only food, indeed, which the
people had been able to offer at short notice--a stew of pork and
potatoes. Pork (_maiale_) is the staple meat of all this region;
viewing it as Homeric diet, I had often battened upon such flesh
with moderate satisfaction. But the pork of Squillace defeated me;
it smelt abominably, and it was tough as leather. No eggs were to be
had no macaroni; cheese, yes--the familiar _cacci cavallo_ Bread
appeared in the form of a fiat circular cake, a foot in diameter,
with a hole through the middle; its consistency resembled that of
cold pancake. And the drink! At least I might hope to solace myself
with an honest draught of red wine. I poured from the thick decanter
(dirtier vessel was never seen on table) and tasted. The stuff was
poison. Assuredly I am far from fastidious; this, I believe, was the
only occasion when wine has been offered me in Italy which I could
not drink. After desperately trying to persuade myself that the
liquor was merely "rough," that its nauseating flavour meant only a
certain coarse quality of the local grape, I began to suspect that
it was largely mixed with water--the water of Squillace!
Notwithstanding a severe thirst, I could not and durst not drink.

Very soon I made my way to the kitchen, where my driver, who had
stabled his horses, sat feeding heartily; he looked up with his
merry smile, surprised at the rapidity with which I had finished.
How I envied his sturdy stomach! With the remark that I was going to
have a stroll round the town and should be back to settle things in
half an hour, I hastened into the open.



"What do people do here?" I once asked at a little town between Rome
and Naples; and the man with whom I talked, shrugging his shoulders,
answered curtly, "_C'e miseria_"--there's nothing but poverty. The
same reply would be given in towns and villages without number
throughout the length of Italy. I had seen poverty enough, and
squalid conditions of life, but the most ugly and repulsive
collection of houses I ever came upon was the town of Squillace. I
admit the depressing effect of rain and cloud, and of hunger worse
than unsatisfied; these things count emphatically in my case; but
under no conditions could inhabited Squillace be other than an
offence to eye and nostril. The houses are, with one or two
exceptions, ground-floor hovels; scarce a weather-tight dwelling is
discoverable; the general impression is that of dilapidated squalor.
Streets, in the ordinary sense of the word, do not exist; irregular
alleys climb above the rugged heights, often so steep as to be
difficult of ascent; here and there a few boulders have been thrown
together to afford a footing, and in some places the native rock
lies bare; but for the most part one walks on the accumulated filth
of ages. At the moment of my visit there was in progress the only
kind of cleaning which Squillace knows; down every trodden way and
every intermural gully poured a flush of rain-water, with
occasionally a leaping torrent or small cascade, which all but
barred progress. Open doors everywhere allowed me a glimpse of the
domestic arrangements, and I saw that my albergo had some reason to
pride itself on superiority; life in a country called civilized
cannot easily be more primitive than under these crazy roofs. As for
the people, they had a dull, heavy aspect; rare as must be the
apparition of a foreigner among them, no one showed the slightest
curiosity as I passed, and (an honourable feature of their district)
no one begged. Women went about in the rain protected by a
shawl-like garment of very picturesque colouring; it had broad
yellow stripes on a red ground, the tones subdued to a warm

The animal population was not without its importance. Turn where I
would I encountered lean, black pigs, snorting, frisking,
scampering, and squealing as if the bad weather were a delight to
them. Gaunt, low-spirited dogs prowled about in search of food, and
always ran away at my approach. In one precipitous by-way, where the
air was insupportably foul, I came upon an odd little scene: a pig
and a cat, quite alone, were playing together, and enjoying
themselves with remarkable spirit. The pig lay down in the running
mud, and pussy, having leapt on to him, began to scratch his back,
bite his ears, stroke his sides. Suddenly, porker was uppermost and
the cat, pretending to struggle for life, under his forefeet. It was
the only amusing incident I met with at Squillace, and the sole
instance of anything like cheerful vitality.

Above the habitations stand those prominent ruins which had held my
eye during our long ascent. These are the rugged walls and windows
of a monastery, not old enough to possess much interest, and, on the
crowning height, the heavy remnants of a Norman castle, with one
fine doorway still intact. Bitterly I deplored the gloomy sky which
spoiled what would else have been a magnificent view from this point
of vantage--a view wide-spreading in all directions, with Sila
northwards, Aspromonte to the south, and between them a long horizon
of the sea. Looking down upon Squillace, one sees its houses niched
among huge masses of granite, which protrude from the scanty soil,
or clinging to the rocky surface like limpet shells. Was this the
site of Scylaceum, or is it, as some hold, merely a mediaeval refuge
which took the name of the old city nearer to the coast? The
Scylaceum of the sixth century is described by Cassiodorus--a
picture glowing with admiration and tenderness. It lay, he says,
upon the side of a hill; nay, it hung there "like a cluster of
grapes," in such glorious light and warmth that, to his mind, it
deserved to be called the native region of the sun. The fertility of
the Country around was unexampled; nowhere did earth yield to
mortals a more luxurious life. Quoting this description, Lenormant
holds that, with due regard to time's changes, it exactly fits the
site of Squillace. Yet Cassiodorus says that the hill by which you
approached the town was not high enough to weary a traveller, a
consideration making for the later view that Scylaceum stood very
near to the Marina of Catanzaro, at a spot called Roccella, where
not only is the nature of the ground suitable, but there exist
considerable traces of ancient building, such as are not
discoverable here on the mountain top. Lenormant thought that
Roccella was merely the sea-port of the inland town. I wish he were
right. No archaeologist, whose work I have studied, affects me with
such a personal charm, with such a sense of intellectual sympathy,
as Francois Lenormant--dead, alas, before he could complete his
delightful book. But one fears that, in this instance, he judged too

There is no doubt, fortunately, as to the position of the religious
house founded by Cassiodorus; it was in the shadow of Mons Moscius,
and quite near to the sea. I had marked the spot during my drive up
the valley, and now saw it again from this far height, but I could
not be satisfied with distant views. Weather and evil quarters
making it impossible to remain at Squillace, I decided to drive
forthwith to the railway station, see how much time remained to me
before the arrival of the train for Reggio, and, if it could be
managed, visit in that interval the place that attracted me.

It is my desire to be at peace with all men, and in Italy I have
rarely failed to part with casual acquaintances--even innkeepers
and cocchieri--on friendly terms; but my host of the _Albergo
Nazionale_ made it difficult to preserve good humour. Not only did
he charge thrice the reasonable sum for the meal I could not eat,
but his bill for my driver's _colazione_ contained such astonishing
items that I had to question the lad as to what he had really
consumed. It proved to be a very ugly case of extortion, and the
tone of sullen menace with which my arguments were met did not help
to smooth things. Presently the man hit upon a pleasant sort of
compromise. Why, he asked, did I not pay the bill as it stood, and
then, on dismissing my carriage--he had learnt that I was not
returning to Catanzaro--deduct as much as I chose from the payment
of the driver? A pretty piece of rascality, this, which he would
certainly not have suggested but that the driver was a mere boy,
helpless himself and bound to render an account to his master. I had
to be content with resolutely striking off half the sum charged for
the lad's wine (he was supposed to have drunk four litres), and
sending the receipted bill to Don Pasquale at Catanzaro, that he
might be ready with information if any future traveller consulted
him about the accommodation to be had at Squillace. No one is likely
to do so for a long time to come, but I have no doubt Don Pasquale
had a chuckle of amused indignation over the interesting and very
dirty bit of paper. We drove quickly down the winding road, and from
below I again admired the picturesqueness of Squillace. Both my
guide-books, by the way, the orthodox English and German
authorities, assert that from the railway station by the sea-shore
Squillace is invisible. Which of the two borrowed this information
from the other? As a matter of fact, the view of mountain and town
from the station platform is admirable, though, of course, at so
great a distance, only a whitish patch represents the hovels and
ruins upon their royal height.

I found that I had a good couple of hours at my disposal, and that
to the foot of Mons Moscius (now called Coscia di Stalletti) was
only a short walk. It rained drearily, but by this time I had ceased
to think of the weather. After watching the carriage for a moment,
as it rolled away on the long road back to Catanzaro (sorry not to
be going with it), I followed the advice of the stationmaster, and
set out to walk along the line of rails towards the black, furrowed
mountain side.



The iron way crosses the mouth of the valley river. As I had already
noticed, it was a turbid torrent, of dull yellow; where it poured
into the sea, it made a vast, clean-edged patch of its own hue upon
the darker surface of the waves. This peculiarity resulted, no
doubt, from much rain upon the hills; it may be that in calmer
seasons the Fiume di Squillace bears more resemblance to the Pellena
as one pictures it, a delightful stream flowing through the gardens
of the old monastery. Cassiodorus tells us that it abounded in fish.
One of his happy labours was to make fish-ponds, filled and peopled
from the river itself. In the cliff-side where Mons Moscius breaks
above the shore are certain rocky caves, and by some it is thought
that, in speaking of his fish-preserves, Cassiodorus refers to
these. Whatever the local details, it was from this feature that the
house took its name, Monasterium Vivariense.

Here, then, I stood in full view of the spot which I had so often
visioned in my mind's eye. Much of the land hereabout--probably an
immense tract of hill and valley--was the old monk's patrimonial
estate. We can trace his family back through three generations, to a
Cassiodorus, an Illustris of the falling Western Empire, who about
the middle of them fifth century defended his native Bruttii against
an invasion of the Vandals. The grandson of this noble was a
distinguished man all through the troubled time which saw Italy pass
under the dominion of Odovacar, and under the conquest of Theodoric;
the Gothic king raised him to the supreme office of Praetorian
Prefect. We learn that he had great herds of horses, bred in the
Bruttian forests, and that Theodoric was indebted to him for the
mounting of troops of cavalry. He and his ancestry would signify
little now-a-days but for the life-work of his greater son--Magnus
Aurelius Cassiodorus Senator, statesman, historian, monk. _Senator_
was not a title, but a personal name; the name our Cassiodorus
always used when speaking of himself. But history calls him
otherwise, and for us he must be Cassiodorus still.

The year of his birth was 480. In the same year were born two other
men, glories of their age, whose fame is more generally remembered:
Boethius the poet and philosopher, and Benedict called Saint.

From Quaestorship (old name with no longer the old significance) to
Praetorian Prefecture, Cassiodorus held all offices of state, and
seems under every proof to have shown the nobler qualities of
statesmanship. During his ripe years he stood by the side of
Theodoric, minister in prime trust, doubtless helping to shape that
wise and benevolent policy which made the reign of the Ostrogoth a
time of rest and hope for the Italian people--Roman no longer; the
word had lost its meaning, though not its magic. The Empire of the
West had perished; Theodoric and his minister, clearly understanding
this, and resolute against the Byzantine claim which was but in half
abeyance, aimed at the creation of an independent Italy, where Goth
and Latin should blend into a new race. The hope proved vain.
Theodoric's successors, no longer kings, but mere Gothic chieftains,
strove obscurely against inevitable doom, until the generals of
Juistinian trod Italy into barren servitude. Only when the purpose
of his life was shattered, when--Theodoric long dead--his still
faithful service to the Gothic rule became an idle form, when
Belisarius was compassing the royal city of Ravenna, and voice of
council could no longer make itself heard amid tumult and ruin, did
Cassiodorus retire from useless office, and turn his back upon the

He was aged about sixty. Long before, he had written a history of
the Goths (known to us only in a compendium by another hand), of
which the purpose seems to have been to reconcile the Romans to the
Gothic monarchy; it began by endeavouring to prove that Goths had
fought against the Greeks at Troy. Now that his public life was
over, he published a collection of the state papers composed by him
under the Gothic rulers from Theodoric to Vitigis: for the most part
royal rescripts addressed to foreign powers and to officials of the
kingdom. Invaluable for their light upon men and things fourteen
hundred years ago, these _Variae_ of Cassiodorus; and for their own
sake, as literary productions, most characteristic, most
entertaining. Not quite easy to read, for the Latin is by no means
Augustan, but after labour well spent, a delightful revelation of
the man and the age. Great is the variety of subjects dealt with or
touched upon; from the diplomatic relations between Ravenna and
Constantinople, or the alliances of the Amal line with barbaric
royalties in Gaul and Africa, to the pensioning of an aged
charioteer and the domestic troubles of a small landowner. We form a
good general idea of the condition of Italy at that time, and, on
many points political and social, gather a fund of most curious
detail. The world shown to us is in some respects highly civilized,
its civilization still that of Rome, whose laws, whose manners, have
in great part survived the Teutonic conquest; from another point of
view it is a mere world of ruin, possessed by triumphant barbarism,
and sinking to intellectual darkness. We note the decay of central
power, and the growth of political anarchy; we observe the process
by which Roman nobles, the Senatorial Order when a Senate lingers
only in name, are becoming the turbulent lords of the Middle Ages,
each a power in his own territory, levying private war, scornful of
public interests. The city of Rome has little part in this turbid
history, yet her name is never mentioned without reverence, and in
theory she is still the centre of the world. Glimpses are granted us
of her fallen majesty; we learn that Theodoric exerted himself to
preserve her noble buildings, to restore her monuments; at the same
time we hear of marble stolen from palaces in decay, and of temples
which, as private property, are converted to ignoble use. Moreover,
at Rome sits an ecclesiastical dignitary, known as _Papa_, to whose
doings already attaches considerable importance. One of the last
acts of the Senate which had any real meaning was to make a decree
with regard to the election of this Bishop, forbidding his advance
by the way of Simony. Theodoric, an Arian, interferes only with the
Church of Rome in so far as public peace demands it. In one of his
letters occurs a most remarkable dictum on the subject of
toleration. "_Religionem imperare non possumus, quia nemo cogitur ut
credat invitus_--we cannot impose a religious faith, for no one
can be compelled to believe against his conscience." This must, of
course, have been the king's own sentiment, but Cassiodorus worded
it, and doubtless with approval.

Indeed, we are at no loss to discern the mind of the secretary in
these official papers. Cassiodorus speaks as often for himself as
for the king; he delights to expatiate, from an obviously personal
point of view, on any subject that interests him. One of these is
natural history; give him but the occasion, and he gossips of
beasts, birds, and fishes, in a flow of the most genial
impertinence. Certain bronze elephants on the Via Sacra are falling
to pieces and must be repaired: in giving the order, Theodoric's
minister pens a little treatise on the habits and characteristics of
the elephant. His erudition is often displayed: having to convey
some direction about the Circus at Rome, he begins with a pleasant
sketch of the history of chariot racing. One marvels at the man who,
in such a period, preserved this mood of liberal leisure. His style
is perfectly suited to the matter; diffuse, ornate, amusingly
affected; altogether a _precious_ mode of writing, characteristic of
literary decadence. When the moment demands it, he is pompously
grandiloquent; in dealing with a delicate situation, he becomes
involved and obscure. We perceive in him a born courtier, a proud
noble, a statesman of high purpose and no little sagacity;
therewith, many gracious and attractive qualities, coloured by
weaknesses, such as agreeable pedantry and amiable self-esteem,
which are in part personal, partly the note of his time.

One's picture of the man is, of course, completed from a knowledge
of the latter years of his life, of the works produced during his
monastic retirement. Christianity rarely finds expression in the
_Variae_, a point sufficiently explained by the Gothic heresy, which
imposed discretion in public utterances; on the other hand, pagan
mythology abounds; we observe the hold it still had upon educated
minds--education, indeed, meaning much the same thing in the sixth
century after Christ as in the early times of the Empire.
Cassiodorus can never have been a fanatical devotee of any creed. Of
his sincere piety there is no doubt; it appears in a vast commentary
on the Psalms, and more clearly in the book he wrote for the
guidance and edification of his brother monks--brothers
(_carissimi fratres_), for in his humility he declined to become the
Abbot of Vivariense; enough that his worldly dignity, his spiritual
and mental graces, assured to him the influence he desired. The
notable characteristic of his rule was a sanctifying of intellectual
labour. In abandoning the world, he by no means renounced his
interest in its civilization. Statesmanship having failed to stem
the tide of Oriental tyranny and northern barbarism, he set himself
to save as much as possible of the nobler part, to secure for
happier ages the record of human attainment. Great was the
importance he attached to the work of his Antiquarii--copyists who
laboured to preserve the manuscript literature which was in danger
of utterly perishing. With special reference to their work upon the
Scriptures, he tells them that they "fight against the wiles of
Satan with pen and ink." And again: "Writing with three fingers,
they thus symbolize the virtues of the Holy Trinity; using a reed,
they thus attack the craft of the Devil with that very instrument
which smote the Lord's head in his Passion." But all literature was
his care. That the copyists might write correctly, he digested the
works of half a dozen grammarians into a treatise on orthography.
Further, that the books of the monastery might wear "a wedding
garment" (his own phrase), he designed a great variety of bindings,
which were kept as patterns.

There, at the foot of Moscius, did these brethren and their founder
live and work. But on the top of the mountain was another retreat,
known as Castellense, for those monks who--_divina gratia
suffragante_--desired a severer discipline, and left the
coenobitic house to become anchorites. Did these virtuous brothers
continue their literary labours? One hopes so, and one is glad that
Cassiodorus himself seems to have ended his life down in the valley
by the Pellena.

A third class of monks finds mention, those in whom "_Frigidus
obstiterit circum praecordia sanguis_," quotes the founder. In other
words, the hopelessly stupid. For these there was labour in the
garden, and to console them Cassiodorus recites from a Psalm: "Thou
shalt eat the labour of thy hands; happy shalt thou be, and it shall
be well with thee." A smile is on the countenance of the humane
brother. He did his utmost, indeed, for the comfort, as well as the
spiritual welfare, of his community. Baths were built "for the sick"
(heathendom had been cleaner, but we must not repine); for the
suffering, too, and for pilgrims, exceptional food was provided--
young pigeons, delicate fish, fruit, honey; a new kind of lamp was
invented, to burn for long hours without attention; dials and
clepsydras marked the progress of day and night.

Among the monastic duties is that of giving instruction to the
peasantry round about. They are not to be oppressed, these humble
tillers of the soil, for is it not written that "My yoke is easy,
and my burden light"? But one must insist that they come frequently
to religious service, and that they do not _lucos colere_--worship
in groves--which shows that a heathen mind still lingered among
the people, and that they reverenced the old deities. Benedict, the
contemporary of Cassiodorus (we have no authority for supposing that
they knew each other), when he first ascended the mount above
Casinum, found a temple of Apollo, with the statue of the god
receiving daily homage. Archaeologists have tried to determine at
what date the old religion became extinct in Italy. Their research
leads them well into the Middle Ages, but, undoubtedly, even then
they pause too soon.

Legend says that Cassiodorus attained the age of nearly a hundred
years. We may be sure that to the end he lived busily, for of
idleness he speaks with abhorrence as the root of evil. Doubtless he
was always a copious talker, and to many a pilgrim he must have
gossiped delightfully, alternating mundane memories with counsel
good for the soul. Only one of his monastic brethren is known to us
as a man of any distinction: this was Dionysius Exiguus, or the
Little, by birth a Scythian, a man of much learning. He compiled the
first history of the Councils, and, a matter more important,
originated the computation of the Christian Era; for up to this time
men had dated in the old way, by shadowy consulships and confusing
Indictions. There is happy probability that Cassiodorus lived out
his life in peace; but the monastery did not long exist; like that
of Benedict on Monte Cassino, it seems to have been destroyed by the
Lombards, savages and Arians. No trace of it remains. But high up on
the mountain is a church known as S. Maria de Vetere, a name
indicating an ancient foundation, which perhaps was no other than
the anchorite house of Castellense.



About a mile beyond Squillace the line passes by a tunnel through
the promontory of Mons Moscius. At this point on the face of the
sea-cliff I was told that I should discover a _grotta_, one of the
caverns which some think are indicated by Cassiodorus when he speaks
of his fish-preserves. Arrived near the mouth of the tunnel I found
a signal-box, where several railway men were grouped in talk; to
them I addressed myself, and all immediately turned to offer me
guidance. We had to clamber down a rocky descent, and skirt the
waves for a few yards; when my cluster of companions had
sufficiently shown their good-will, all turned back but one, who
made a point of giving me safe conduct into the cave itself. He was
a bronzed, bright-eyed, happy-looking fellow of middle age, his
humorous intelligence appearing in a flow of gossip about things
local. We entered a narrow opening, some twelve feet high, which ran
perhaps twenty yards into the cliff. Lenormant supposes that this
was a quarry made by the original Greek colonists. If Cassiodorus
used it for the purpose mentioned, the cave must have been in direct
communication either with the sea or the river; at present, many
yards of sloping shingle divide it from the line of surf, and the
river flows far away. Movement of the shore there has of course
been, and the Pellena may have considerably changed the direction of
its outflow; our author's description being but vague, one can only
muse on probabilities and likelihoods.

Whilst we talked, the entrance to the cave was shadowed, and there
entered one of the men who had turned back half-way; his face
betrayed the curiosity which had after all prevailed to bring him
hither. Shouting merrily, my companion hailed him as "Brigadiere."
The two friends contrasted very amusingly; for the brigadiere was a
mild, timid, simple creature, who spoke with diffidence; he kept his
foolishly good-natured eyes fixed upon me, a gaze of wonder. After
listening to all that my guide had to say--it was nothing to the
point, dealing chiefly with questions of railway engineering--I
had just begun to explain my interest in the locality, and I
mentioned the name of Cassiodorus. As it passed my lips the jovial
fellow burst into a roar of laughter. "Cassiodorio! Ha, ha!
Cassiodorio! Ha, ha, ha!" I asked him what he meant, and found that
he was merely delighted to hear a stranger unexpectedly utter a name
in familiar local use. He ran out from the cave, and pointed up the
valley; yonder was a fountain which bore the name "Fontana di
Cassiodorio." (From my authors I knew of this; it may or may not
have genuine historic interest.) Thereupon, I tried to discover
whether any traditions hung to the name, but these informants had
only a vague idea that Cassiodorus was a man of times long gone by.
How, they questioned in turn, did _I_ know anything about him? Why,
from books, I replied; among them books which the ancient himself
had written more than a thousand years ago. This was too much for
the brigadiere; it moved him to stammered astonishment. Did I mean
to say that books written more than a thousand years ago still
existed? The jovial friend, good-naturedly scornful, cried out that
of course they did, and added with triumphant air that they were not
in the language of to-day but in _latino, latino_! All this came as
a revelation to the other, who stared and marvelled, never taking
his eyes from my face. At length he burst out with an emphatic
question; these same books, were they large? Why yes, I answered,
some of them. Were they--were they _as large as a missal_? A shout
of jolly laughter interrupted us. It seemed to me that my erudite
companion was in the habit of getting fun of out his friend the
brigadiere, but so kindly did he look and speak, that it must have
been difficult for the simpleton ever to take offence.

Meanwhile the sullen sky had grown blacker, and rain was descending
heavily. In any case, I should barely have had time to go further,
and had to be content with a description from my companions of a
larger cave some distance beyond this, which is known as the Grotta
of San Gregorio--with reference, no doubt, to S. Gregory the
Thaumaturgist; to him was dedicated a Greek monastery, built on the
ruined site of Vivariense. After the Byzantine conquest of the sixth
century, Magna Graecia once more justified its ancient name; the
civilization of this region became purely Greek; but for the
Lombards and ecclesiastical Rome, perhaps no Latin Italy would have
survived. Greek monks, who through the darkest age were skilful
copyists, continued in Calabria the memorable work of Cassiodorus.
The ninth century saw Saracen invasion, and then it was, no doubt,
that the second religious house under Mons Moscius perished from its

Thinking over this, I walked away from the cave and climbed again to
the railway; my friends also were silent and ruminative. Not
unnaturally, I suspected that a desire for substantial thanks had
some part in their Silence, and at a convenient spot I made suitable
offering. It was done, I trust, with all decency, for I knew that I
had the better kind of Calabrian to deal with; but neither the
jovially intelligent man nor the pleasant simpleton would for a
moment entertain this suggestion. They refused with entire dignity
--grave, courteous, firm-and as soon as I had apologized, which I
did not without emphasis, we were on the same terms as before; with
handshaking, we took kindly leave of each other. Such self-respect
is the rarest thing in Italy south of Rome, but in Calabria I found
it more than once.

By when I had walked back to the station, hunger exhausted me. There
was no buffet, and seemingly no place in the neighbourhood where
food could be purchased, but on my appealing to the porter I learnt
that he was accustomed to entertain stray travellers in his house
hard by, whither he at once led me. To describe the room where my
meal was provided would be sheer ingratitude: in my recollection it
compares favourably with the _Albergo Nazionale_ of Squillace. I had
bread, salame, cheese, and, heaven be thanked, wine that I could
swallow--nay, for here sounds the note of thanklessness, it was
honest wine, of which I drank freely. Honest, too, the charge that
was made; I should have felt cheap at ten times the price that
sudden accession of bodily and mental vigour. Luck be with him,
serviceable _facchino_ of Squillace! I remember his human face, and
his smile of pleasure when I declared all he modestly set before me
good and good again. His hospitality sent me on my way rejoicing--
glad that I had seen the unspeakable little mountain town, thrice
glad that I had looked upon Mons Moscius and trodden by the river
Pellena. Rain fell in torrents, but I no longer cared. When
presently the train arrived, I found a comfortable corner, and
looked forward with a restful sigh to the seven hours' travel which
would bring me into view of Sicily.

In the carriage sat a school-boy, a book open upon his knee. When
our eyes had met twice or thrice, and an ingenuous smile rose to his
handsome face, I opened conversation, and he told me that he came
every day to school from a little place called San Sostene to
Catanzaro, there being no nearer instruction above the elementary; a
journey of some sixteen miles each way, and not to be reckoned by
English standards, for it meant changing at the Marina for the
valley train, and finally going up the mountain side by _diligenza_.
The lad flushed with delight in his adventure--a real adventure
for him to meet with some one from far-off England. Just before we
stopped at San Sostene, he presented me with his card--why had he
a card?--which bore the name, De Luca Fedele. A bright and
spirited lad, who seemed to have the best qualities of his nation; I
wish I might live to hear him spoken of as a man doing honour to

At this station another travelling companion took the school-boy's
place; a priest, who soon addressed me in courteous talk. He
journeyed only for a short way, and, when alighting, pointed skyward
through the dark (night had fallen) to indicate his mountain parish
miles inland. He, too, offered me his card, adding a genial
invitation; I found he was Parroco (parish priest) of San Nicola at
Badolato. I would ask nothing better than to visit him, some
autumn-tide, when grapes are ripening above the Ionian Sea.

It was a wild night. When the rain at length ceased, lightning
flashed ceaselessly about the dark heights of Aspromonte; later, the
moon rose, and, sailing amid grandly illumined clouds, showed white
waves rolling in upon the beach. Wherever the train stopped, that
sea-music was in my ears--now seeming to echo a verse of Homer,
now the softer rhythm of Theocritus. Think of what one may in
day-time on this far southern shore, its nights are sacred to the
poets of Hellas. In rounding Cape Spartivento, I strained my eyes
through the moonlight--unhappily a waning moon, which had shone
with full orb the evening I ascended to Catanzaro--to see the
Sicilian mountains; at length they stood up darkly against the paler
night. There came back to my memory a voyage at glorious sunrise,
years ago, when I passed through the Straits of Messina, and all day
long gazed at Etna, until its cone, solitary upon the horizon, shone
faint and far in the glow of evening--the morrow to bring me a
first sight of Greece.



By its natural situation Reggio is marked for an unquiet history. It
was a gateway of Magna Graecia; it lay straight in the track of
conquering Rome when she moved towards Sicily; it offered points of
strategic importance to every invader or defender of the peninsula
throughout the mediaeval wars. Goth and Saracen, Norman, Teuton and
Turk, seized, pillaged, and abandoned, each in turn, this stronghold
overlooking the narrow sea. Then the earthquakes, ever menacing
between Vesuvius and Etna; that of 1783, which wrought destruction
throughout Calabria, laid Reggio in ruins, so that to-day it has the
aspect of a newly-built city, curving its regular streets,
amphitheatre-wise, upon the slope that rises between shore and
mountain. Of Rhegium little is discernible above ground; of the ages
that followed scarce anything remains but the Norman fortress, so
shaken by that century-old disaster that huge gaps show where its
rent wall sank to a lower level upon the hillside.

At first, one has eyes and thoughts for nothing but the landscape.
From the terrace road along the shore, Via Plutino, beauties and
glories indescribable lie before one at every turn of the head.
Aspromonte, with its forests and crags; the shining straits,
sail-dotted, opening to a sea-horizon north and south; and, on the
other side, the mountain-island, crowned with snow. Hours long I
stood and walked here, marvelling delightedly at all I saw, but in
the end ever fixing my gaze on Sicily. Clouds passed across the blue
sky, and their shadows upon the Sicilian panorama made ceaseless
change of hue and outline. At early morning I saw the crest of Etna
glistening as the first sun-ray smote upon its white ridges; at fall
of day, the summit hidden by heavy clouds, and western beams darting
from behind the mountain, those far, cold heights glimmered with a
hue of palest emerald, seeming but a vision of the sunset heaven,
translucent, ever about to vanish. Night transformed but did not all
conceal. Yonder, a few miles away, shone the harbour and the streets
of Messina, and many a gleaming point along the island coast,
strand-touching or high above, signalled the homes of men. Calm,
warm, and clear, this first night at Reggio; I could not turn away
from the siren-voice of the waves; hearing scarce a footstep but my
own, I paced hither and thither by the sea-wall, alone with

The rebuilding of Reggio has made it clean and sweet; its air is
blended from that of mountain and sea, ever renewed, delicate and
inspiriting. But, apart from the harbour, one notes few signs of
activity; the one long street, Corso Garibaldi, has little traffic;
most of the shops close shortly after nightfall, and then there is
no sound of wheels; all would be perfectly still but for the
occasional cry of lads who sell newspapers. Indeed, the town is
strangely quiet, considering its size and aspect of importance; one
has to search for a restaurant, and I doubt if more than one cafe
exists. At my hotel the dining-room was a public _trattoria_,
opening upon the street, but only two or three military men--the
eternal officers--made use of it, and I felt a less cheery social
atmosphere than at Taranto or at Catanzaro. One recurring incident
did not tend to exhilarate. Sitting in view of a closed door, I saw
children's faces pressed against the glass, peering little faces,
which sought a favourable moment; suddenly the door would open, and
there sounded a thin voice, begging for _un pezzo di pane_--a bit
of bread. Whenever the waiter caught sight of these little
mendicants, he rushed out with simulated fury, and pursued them
along the pavement. I have no happy recollection of my Reggian

An interesting feature of the streets is the frequency of carved
inscriptions, commemorating citizens who died in their struggle for
liberty. Amid quiet by-ways, for instance, I discovered a tablet
with the name of a young soldier who fell at that spot, fighting
against the Bourbon, in 1860: "_offerse per l'unita della patria sua
vita quadrilustre_." The very insignificance of this young life
makes the fact more touching; one thinks of the unnumbered lives
sacrificed upon this soil, age after age, to the wild-beast instinct
of mankind, and how pathetic the attempt to preserve the memory of
one boy, so soon to become a meaningless name! His own voice seems
to plead with us for a regretful thought, to speak from the stone in
sad arraignment of tyranny and bloodshed. A voice which has no
accent of hope. In the days to come, as through all time that is
past, man will lord it over his fellow, and earth will be stained
red from veins of young and old. That sweet and sounding name of
_patria_ becomes an illusion and a curse; linked with the
pretentious modernism, _civilization_, it serves as plea to the
latter-day barbarian, ravening and reckless under his civil garb.
How can one greatly wish for the consolidation and prosperity of
Italy, knowing that national vigour tends more and more to
international fear and hatred? They who perished that Italy might be
born again, dreamt of other things than old savagery clanging in new
weapons. In our day there is but one Italian patriot; he who tills
the soil, and sows, and reaps, ignorant or careless of all beyond
his furrowed field.

Whilst I was still thinking of that memorial tablet, I found myself
in front of the Cathedral. As a structure it makes small appeal,
dating only from the seventeenth century, and heavily restored in
times more recent; but the first sight of the facade is strangely
stirring. For across the whole front, in great letters which one who
runs may read, is carved a line from the Acts of the Apostles:--

"Circumlegentes devenimus Rhegium."

Save only those sonorous words which circle the dome of S. Peter's,
I have seen no inscription on Christian temple which seemed to me so
impressive. "We fetched a compass, and came to Rhegium." Paul was on
his voyage from Caesarea to Rome, and here his ship touched, here at
the haven beneath Aspromonte. The fact is familiar enough, but,
occupied as I was with other thoughts, it had not yet occurred to
me; the most pious pilgrim of an earlier day could not have felt
himself more strongly arrested than I when I caught sight of these
words. Were I to inhabit Reggio, I should never pass the Cathedral
without stopping to read and think; the carving would never lose its
power over my imagination. It unites for me two elements of moving
interest: a vivid fact from the ancient world, recorded in the music
of the ancient tongue. All day the words rang in my head, even as at
Rome I have gone about murmuring to myself: "_Aedificabo ecclesiam
meam_." What a noble solemnity in this Latin speech! And how vast
the historic significance of such monumental words! Moralize who
will; enough for me to hear with delight that deep-toned harmony,
and to thrill with the strangeness of old things made new.

It was Sunday, which at Reggio is a day or market. Crowds of
country-folk had come into the town with the produce of field and
garden; all the open spaces were occupied with temporary stalls; at
hand stood innumerable donkeys, tethered till business should be
over. The produce exhibited was of very fine quality, especially the
vegetables; I noticed cauliflowers measuring more than a foot across
the white. Of costume there was little to be observed--though the
long soft cap worn by most of the men, hanging bag-like over one ear
almost to the shoulder, is picturesque. The female water-carriers, a
long slim cask resting lengthwise upon their padded heads, hold
attention as they go to and from the fountains. Good-looking people,
grave of manner, and doing their business without noise. It was my
last sight of the Calabrian hillsmen; to the end they held my
interest and my respect. When towns have sucked dry their population
of strength and virtue, it is such folk as these, hardy from the
free breath of heaven and the scent of earth, who will renew a
flaccid race.

Walking beyond the town in the southern direction, where the shape
of Etna shows more clearly amid the lower mountains, I found myself
approaching what looked like a handsome public edifice, a museum or
gallery of art. It was a long building, graced with a portico, and
coloured effectively in dull red; all about it stood lemon trees,
and behind, overtopping the roof, several fine palms. Moved by
curiosity I quickened my steps, and as I drew nearer I felt sure
that this must be some interesting institution of which I had not
heard. Presently I observed along the facade a row of heads of oxen
carved in stone--an ornament decidedly puzzling. Last of all my
eyes perceived, over the stately entrance, the word "Macello," and
with astonishment I became aware that this fine structure, so
agreeably situated, was nothing else than the town slaughter-house.
Does the like exist elsewhere? It was a singular bit of advanced
civilization, curiously out of keeping with the thoughts which had
occupied me on my walk. Why, I wonder, has Reggio paid such
exceptional attention to this department of its daily life? One did
not quite know whether to approve this frank exhibition of
carnivorous zeal; obviously something can be said in its favour,
yet, on the other hand, a man who troubles himself with finer
scruples would perhaps choose not to be reminded of pole-axe and
butcher's knife, preferring that such things should shun the light
of day. It gave me, for the moment, an odd sense of having strayed
into the world of those romancers who forecast the future; a
slaughter-house of tasteful architecture, set in a grove of lemon
trees and date palms, suggested the dreamy ideal of some reformer
whose palate shrinks from vegetarianism. To my mind this had no
place amid the landscape which spread about me. It checked my
progress; I turned abruptly, to lose the impression as soon as

No such trouble has been taken to provide comely housing for the
collection of antiquities which the town possesses. The curator who
led me through the museum (of course I was the sole visitor)
lamented that it was only communal, the Italian Government not
having yet cared to take it under control; he was an enthusiast, and
spoke with feeling of the time and care he had spent upon these
precious relics--_sedici anni di vita_--sixteen years of life,
and, after all, who cared for them? There was a little library of
archaeological works, which contained two volumes only of the
_Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum_; who, asked the curator sadly,
would supply money to purchase the rest? Place had been found on the
walls for certain modern pictures of local interest. One represented
a pasture on the heights of Aspromonte, shepherds and their cattle
amid rich herbage, under a summer sky, with purple summits enclosing
them on every side; the other, also a Calabrian mountain scene, but
sternly grand in the light of storm; a dark tarn, a rushing torrent,
the lonely wilderness. Naming the painter, my despondent companion
shook his head, and sighed "_Morto! Morto!_"

Ere I left, the visitors' book was opened for my signature. Some
twenty pages only had been covered since the founding of the museum,
and most of the names were German. Fortunately, I glanced at the
beginning, and there, on the first page, was written "Francois
Lenormant, Membre de l'Institut de France"--the date, 1882. The
small, delicate character was very suggestive of the man as I
conceived him; to come upon his name thus unexpectedly gave me a
thrill of pleasure; it was like being brought of a sudden into the
very presence of him whose spirit had guided, instructed, borne me


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