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In ancient times Italy had several other names: it was called Saturnia, in honour of Saturn; Œnotria, wine-producing land; Ausonia, land of the Ausonians; Hesperia, land to the west (of Greece); Tyrrhenia, etc. The name Italy (Gr. Italia ), which seems to have been taken from vitulus, to signify a land abounding in cattle, was applied at first to a very limited territory. According to Nissen and to others, it served to designate the southernmost portion of the peninsula of Calabria; but some authorities, as Cocchia and Gentile, hold that the name was given originally to that country between the Sele and the Lao which later was called Lucania. We find the name Italy in use, however, among Greek writers of the fifth and the fourth centuries B. C. (Herodotus, Thucydides, Aristotle, Plato); and in 241 B. C., in the treaty of peace that ended the First Punic War, it served to designate peninsular Italy; while in 202 B. C., at the close of the Second Punic War, the name of Italy was extended as far as the Alps.


Italy has an area of 110,646 square miles, of which 91,393 are on the Continent of Europe, and 19,253 on the islands. The area of Italy, therefore, is little more than half that of France.

Under the Romans and in the Middle Ages, under the powerful republics of Amalfi and of Pisa, of Genoa and of Venice, Italy ruled the Mediterranean Sea, which, however, after the discovery of America, ceased to be the centre of European maritime activity. The centre of European interests was carried towards the west: the Italian republics fell into decay, and sea power went to the countries on the Atlantic Ocean. But the opening of the Suez Canal (1869) and the tunnelling of the Alps (Fréjus, 1871; St. Gothard, 1884; Simplon, 1906), which brought Central and North-western Europe into easy communication with Italian ports, and especially with Genoa, have restored to the Mediterranean much of its former importance and made of Italy a mighty bridge between Europe and the Levant. Of the three great peninsulas of Southern Europe, Italy is that whose adjoining seas penetrate deepest into the European Continent, while its frontiers border on the greatest number of other states (France, Switzerland, Austria) and are in contact with a greater number of races: French, German, Slav.

Before Italy took its present form it was part of a great body of land called by geologists Tyrrhenses, now covered by the waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea, which was united to Africa In fact, a great part of the Tuscan Archipelago and of the other islands of the Tyrrhenian Sea, the masses of the Peloritan Mountains in Sicily, of Aspromonte and of Sila in Calabria, the Roian Alps, formed of archaic rocks, all are fragments of an ancient land now for the most part submerged. Another fact that gave to the configuration of Italy its present characteristic lines was the recession of the sea from that great gulf which became the fertile plain of the Po. Glaciers that at one time occupied the greater portion of Northern Italy gave rise to many moraine ranges. When the promontory of Gargano was an island, the Adriatic Sea, which separated that elevation from the Apennines and which occupied all the table-land of Apulia, projected an arm towards the south through the Sella di Spinazzola and the valley of the rivers Basentiello and Bradano, until it met the Ionian Sea. Therefore Italy is a recent formation, and consequently is subject to telluric phenomena that are unknown, or are less frequent, in the neighbouring countries. It is due to these causes that Sicily was separated from the Continent and became an island. Within historical times, the coast of Pozzuoli, near Naples, has undergone a slow depression that caused the columns of the temple of Serapis to sink into the sea, from which they emerged later through a rising movement of the ground. In consequence of the earthquake that destroyed Messina and Reggio (28 December, 1908), the ground has undergone alteration, and telluric movements show no tendency to cease. Italy has the characteristic shape of a riding boot, of which the top is represented by the Alps, the seam by the Apennines, and the toe, the heel, and the spur, respectively, by the peninsulas of Calabria, Salento, and Gargano. The country consists of a continental portion that terminates at almost the forty-fourth parallel, between Spezia and Rimini, of peninsular, and of insular portions. It is customary to divide the peninsular portions into two parts: Central Italy and Southern Italy, of which the former is contained between the forty-fourth parallel and a straight line that connects the mouth of the Trigno River with that of the Garigliano, marking the narrowest part of the peninsula between the Adriatic and the Tyrrhenian Seas. Southern Italy is the part of the peninsula which lies south of this line. Northern Italy includes Piedmont, Lombardy, Venice, Emilia, and Liguria; Central Italy includes Tuscany, Umbria, and Lazio; Southern Italy includes Campania, the Basilicata, and Calabria.

Insular Italy will be found treated of under the articles SICILY; SARDINIA. Piedmont, Lombardy, Tuscany, Venice, and the historic towns within those regions will also be found the subject of separate articles. Concerning the temporal power of the popes and events culminating in the seizure of Rome in 1870 see the article PAPAL STATES.

Coast-line and Seas

The coast-line of the Italian Peninsula measures 2100 miles. Its principal harbours are the Gulf of Genoa, the first commercial port in Italy; the Gulf of Spezia, an important naval station; Civitavecchia, an artificial harbour; the harbours of Gaeta, Naples, and the Gulf of Taranto; Brindisi, a natural port; the Gulf of Manfredonia, and the lagoons of Venice. The principal seas are:

(1) the Sea of Italy

Also known as the Tyrrhenian Sea, which lies between the islands of Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica and the mainland. It slopes from its shores to its centre, where it attains a depth of more than two and one-quarter miles, and scattered over it are the Tuscan Archipelago, the Ponza and Parthenopian Island groups, the Ægadian Islands, the volcanic Island Ustica, and the Lipari or Æolian Islands, the latter being all extinct volcanoes with the exception of Stromboli. The tides of this sea vary by only eight or twelve inches; it abounds in coral banks, and anchovy, sardine, and tunny fishing is remunerative along the coasts of Sicily and Sardinia.

(2) Ligurian Sea

The Gulf of Genoa is the most inland and also the most northerly part of this open sea, which extends to the south as far as the Channels of Corsica and of Piombino, through which it communicates with the Tyrrhenian Sea. It is open towards the Mediterranean, while its south-western limit is a line drawn from Cape Lardier, in Provence, to Cape Revellata in Corsica. The tides of this sea vary from six to eight inches. On account of its depth and of the absence of tributary rivers, it contains few fish.

(3) Sea of Sicily; Sea of Malta

That branch of the Mediterranean that lies between Tunis and Sicily is called the Channel of Tunis or of Sicily, and has a minimum breadth of 90 miles. The branch that separates the Maltese Islands from Sicily is called the Malta Channel and has a minimum breadth of 51 miles. In the former, at an average depth of 100 fathoms, there is a submarine bank that unites Africa and Sicily ; it has extensive shoals, known for their volcanic phenomena. Sponge and coral fisheries in this sea are lucrative. The tides are higher than those of other Italian waters, and a singular phenomenon, called marrobbio, is observed here, being a violent and dangerous boiling of the sea, having, possibly, a volcanic origin.

(4) Ionian Sea

This is an open sea between Sicily and the Calabrian and the Salentine peninsulas, and the western coasts of the Balkan Peninsula; it communicates with the Tyrrhenian Sea by the Strait of Messina, which was formed by the catastrophe that violently detached Sicily from the Continent. This strait, which is one of the most frequented waterways of Europe, is funnel-shaped, having a breadth of 20 miles at its southern, and of 2 miles at its northern, opening. On the line between the islands of Sicily and Crete, the Ionian Sea reaches a depth of 2¾ miles, the greatest that has been found so far in the Mediterranean Sea. While the tides on the African coast rise over six feet, those on the coast of Italy are very slight; they are all the stronger, however, in the Strait of Messina, where the currents that pass between the Tyrrhenian and the Ionian Seas, especially when the wind blows, form vortices and surges that beat violently against the coast of Calabria. The fantasy of the ancients personified these two phenomena, in the monster Scylla, for the Calabrian coast, and Charybdis on the Sicilian side (Homer, "Odyss.", I, xii; Virgil, "Æneid", III, 420-425).

(5) Adriatic Sea

This sea lies between the Italian and the Balkan Peninsulas, with an area of 51,000 sq. miles. It abounds in fish of exceptionally good quality.


Italy is a country of mountains and hills, with few high table-lands; while, of the latter, the two most important, those of Tuscany and of the Murgie, are broken and surmounted by hills and mountainous groups. Lowland plains are, on the contrary, the dominant characteristic of Northern Italy; plains, in fact, occupy about one-third of the surface of the country. The principal mountains of Italy are:

(1) The Alps

They form a system of parallel ranges, at the north of Italy, forming an arc that presents its convex side to the west; they extend from the pass of Cadibona to the masses of Mt. Blanc, which is the highest point of the Alpine range (15,780 feet), and from that point, following a north-easterly direction, they extend to Vienna on the Danube. One of the greater eastern branches of this system, the Carnic and the Julian Alps, diverges in a south-easterly direction and terminates in the Fianona Point on the Gulf of Quarnero. Their length, from the pass of Cadibona to Cape Fianona, is nearly 735 miles. Their mean height is 6500 feet. The Italian watershed of the Alps is steep, with short spurs and deep valleys, while the opposite side is a gentle slope. Hence the facility of crossing over the Alps from without (France, Germany ), and the corresponding difficulty of the passage from the Italian side, as history has shown by foreign invasions. The Alps are of climatic benefit to Italy, for they are a screen against the cold winds from the north, while the vapours of warm winds from the Mediterranean and the Adriatic Seas are condensed on the Alpine heights, producing the copious rains and snows that result in those numerous glaciers which are reservoirs for the rivers. The inhabitants of the Alps are a strong and robust people, sober, and attached to their native valleys. Temporary emigration, due to the nature of the land, is very great, but permanent emigration is rare. With the Alps is connected the typical Italian figure of the chimney-sweep evoked by the fancy of artists and of poets.

(2) The Apennines

They form parallel trunk chains, arranged in echelon, like the tiers of a theatre; they extend from the Pass of Cadibona to the Strait of Messina and are continued in the northern mountains of Sicily as far as Cape Boeo. The range is of much less elevation than the Alps, its mean height being 3900 feet, nor has it the imposing, wild, and varied aspect of the Alps. Its summits are bare and rounded, the valleys deep, and cultivation goes on well up the heights. The sides were once covered with forests, but that wealth of vegetation has been improvidently destroyed everywhere along this range, and, consequently, iron grey, the ashy colour of calcareous rocks, and the red brown of clay and sand-beds are the predominant tints of the country. The highest summit is that of Mt. Corno (9585 feet) in the group of the Gran Sasso. On account of their latitude and of their proximity to the sea, the Apennines have neither snow-clad peaks nor glaciers, and, while the Pre-Alpine hills are of moraine origin the Pre-Apennine hills were formed of sands, clay, flint and other substances disintegrated and transformed by the waters. Rains are frequent on the Apennines in autumn and winter.

The configuration of the Apennine system is simple at its two extremities, but it becomes complex towards the centre, where it consists of a group of parallel chains, arranged in steps, those curving towards the east constituting the Sub-Apennine range; while those groups that extend along the Tyrrhenian and the Adriatic coasts constitute the Anti-Apennine system. Geographers do not agree on the determining lines of these three divisions. We will adopt the line from Cadibona Pass (1620 feet) to Bocca Serriola (2400 feet) between the Tiber and the Metauro Rivers, for the northern division; from Bocca Serriola to the Pass of Rionero between the Rivers Sangro and Volturno, for the Central Apennines, and from this point to Cape Armi, for the southern division. The Northern Apennines encircle the southern basin of the Po, in a north-west to south-east direction, and the Pass of Cisa (3410 feet) divides them into two sections, the Ligurian and the Emilio-Tuscan.

(a) The Ligurian Apennines

They form an arc around the Gulf of Genoa and have their crest near and parallel to the coast; but, to the north of Genoa, they deviate towards the east. Their southern spurs are short and steep; those towards the Po are longer and more ramified, the two principal ones among them being those of Mt. Antola and of Mt. Penna, the former of which fans out between the Scrivia and Trebbia Rivers and contains Mt. Ebro (5570 feet) and Mt. Lesima (5760 feet), and it terminates near the Po, forming the Pass of Stradella; that of Mt. Penna, with numerous branches between the Trebbia and the Taro Rivers, contains Mt. Misurasca, or Bue (5930 feet), which is the highest point of this section. The Langhe and the hills of Monferrato, which last are called also Hills of the Po, famous for their sparkling wines, form a species of promontory of the Ligurian Apennines, enclosed between the Po, the Tanaro, and the western part of the Bormida. All this hilly region consists, superficially, of greenish and of yellowish sands, and below the surface, of clay and of bluish marl, alternating with veins of gypsum, of gravel, and at times of lignite. During the Miocene period, this region was a continuation of the Gulf of the Po and communicated with the Mediterranean Sea by the channel, or possibly the archipelago, of Cadibona. Four railroads cross this section:

  • (i) the Savona-Torino, with a branch to Alessandria through the Cadibona Pass;
  • (ii) the Genova-Ovada-Asti near the summit of the Turchino;
  • (iii) the Genova-Novi, with two tunnels near the summit of the Giovi Pass;
  • (iv) the Spezia-Parma, with the Borgallo tunnel.
(b) The Emilio-Tuscan-Apennines

There are characteristic differences between the two slopes of this section of the Apennines. The branches towards the north-east, that is towards the Adriatic Sea, are parallel, and perpendicular to the crest that separates the watersheds; they terminate at a short distance from the Emilian Way. The most important branch, on account of its length and ramifications, and also because it separates Northern Italy from Central Italy, is the one which is called Alps of Luna, beginning in the dorsal spur of Mt. Maggiore (4400 feet), between the Marecchia and the Metauro Rivers and divided into three branches, the last of which closes the great valley of the Po near the Pass of Cattolica. On the south-western watershed the spurs are almost parallel to the mother chain and are separated from it by broad longitudinal valleys, forming the Sub-Apennines of Tuscany.

(c) The Tuscan or Metalliferous Anti-Apennines

They consist of a group of parallel chains, directed from north-west to south-east on the Tuscan uplands, ploughed by the Ombrone of Pistoia. The eastern chain, towards the Arno River and the valley of Chiana, is formed by the wine-producing mountains of Chianti, Montepulciano, and Cetona. The interior chains consist of the mountains of Siena, abounding in marbles, the mountains of Volterra, that yield alabaster, and those of Montalcino, and they terminate in the volcanic mass of Mt. Amiata, the highest point of the Anti-Apennines (5640 feet). The coast range, abounding in metals, includes the mountains of Leghorn, the Cornate di Gerfalco, and the Poggio Montieri. They contain mines of copper, lead, zinc, salt, and are rich in borax and lignite coal. The highest point of the Emilio-Tuscan Apennines is Mt. Cimone (7190 feet). Other summits are the Alps of Succiso (6610 feet) and Mt. Cusna (6960 feet). Two railroads cross this section: the Bologna-Firenze and the Faenza-Firenze. Wherefore northern and central Italy are connected by five railroads which, together with the common roads, constitute the unifying system between these two divisions of the country.

The Central Apennines are divided into two sections, the Umbro-Marchesan, from Bocca Serriola to the Torrita Pass, between the Velino and the Tronto Rivers, and the Apennines of the Abruzzi, from the Torrita Pass (3280 feet) to that of Rionero.

(d) The Umbro-Marchesan Apennines

This range is not formed of a single, well-defined chain, as is the case in the Northern Apennines, but, of three parallel ranges, in echelon, that gradually approach the Adriatic Sea towards the south. The first chain, that is the western one, is merely the prolongation of the Northern Apennines, and extends from Bocca Serriola to the highland plain of Gubbio, to terminate on the low plain of Foligno. The second, or middle, range, called also Chain of Mt. Catria, contains many peaks over 4900 feet, Mt. Catria being 5570 feet high. These two ranges are connected by a highland plain which terminates at the defile of Scheggia (1930 feet) and over which passed the ancient Flaminian Way. The eastern or Mt. San Vicino range begins to the right of the Metauro River and follows a north-easterly direction. It is cut by many openings through which flow the rivers that rise in the central chain and empty into the Adriatic Sea. From Mt. San Vicino this range takes a southerly direction and forms the Sibilline Mountains, of which the chief summits are Mt. Regina (7650 feet) and Mt. Vettore (8100 feet). Towards the Adriatic Sea the Sub-Apennine range consisted of chains parallel to the Apennines, but it was worn away by the waters and only the mountains of Ascensione, Cingoli, and Conero remain to mark the position that it occupied. The Umbrian or Tyrrhenian Sub-Apennines are divided into two principal groups. The first of these is between the Tiber and the Valley of Chiana, and beyond the Scopettone Pass (920 feet), it receives the names of Alta di S. Egidio (3400 feet), Perugia Mountains, Poggio Montereale and others. The second group stands between the Tiber, the Topino, and the Maroggia Rivers, containing the Deruta Mountains, Mt. Martano (3500 feet), and Mt. Torre Maggiore (3560 feet). There is but one railroad that crosses this section of the Central Apennines; it is the one between Ancona and Foligno that passes near Fossato, through a tunnel about a mile and a quarter long.

(e) The Abruzzan Apennines

This section consists of three high ranges that form a kind of ellipse of which the major axis is in a south-easterly direction. They enclose the lofty plain of the Abruzzi that is divided into the Conca Aquilana, to the east, through which flows the River Aterno, and the Conca di Avezzano or of the Fucino, to the west. The eastern range extends from the defile of Arquata to the Sangro River and is divided into three stretches, namely, the group of Pizzo di Sevo (7850 feet), from the Tronto River to the Vomano; the Gran Sasso d'Italia, between the Vomano and the Pescara Rivers, the highest group of the peninsula, its greatest elevation being that of Mt. Corno (9560 feet); and third, the group of the Majella, which is preceded by the Morone chain and the highest point of which is Mt. Amaro (9170 feet). Bears are still to be found in these mountains. The middle range of the Abruzzan Apennines parts from the Velino River near Mt. Terminillo and divides into the groups of Mt. Velino and of Mt. Sirente, from which the range is continued to the south-east, by the Scanno Mountains, which are separated from those of Majella by the plains of Solmona and of Cinquemiglia.

(f) The Roman Sub-Apennines

The Sabine Mountains rise between the Aniene, the Tiber, the Nera, the Velino, and the Turano Rivers, containing Mt. Pellecchia (4487 feet); they are a continuation of the mountains of Spoleto and develop a most picturesque region that is rich in historic memories. The Simbruini Mountains stand between the Turano and the Aniene Rivers, following the direction of the Sabine Mountains. Between the Sacco and the Aniene Rivers are the Ernici Mountains, which are of volcanic nature. They are followed in a north-westerly direction by the Palestrina Mountains, which contain Mt. Guadagnolo (3990 feet) and which are separated from the saddle of Palestrina (1130 feet) and from the Alban Mountains, which belong to the Anti-Apennines.

(g) The Roman Anti-Apennines

This range extends from the Fiora to the Garigliano rivers and is divided into two parts. Between the Rivers Fiora and Tiber there is a predominance of volcanic groups like that of the Volsini Mountains (2270 feet) that form a chain of volcanic stone around Lake Bolsena, which was formed, possibly, by the reunion of several extinct craters. This group is followed by the Cimini Mountains around Lake Vico; the Sabatini Mountains around Lake Bracciano: Mt. Soracte (2270 feet), standing solitary on the Tiber, and the Tolfa Mountains (2000 feet) on the sea; these are rich in alum. The Alban Mountains, also of volcanic character, rise between the Rivers Tiber, Garigliano, Sacco or Tolero, and the sea, with their highest elevation in Mt. Cavo (3100 feet) near Rome. Beyond the gap of Velletri rise the Volscian Mountains, which are of a calcareous nature and which extend to the Garigliano. They are divided into three groups: the Lepini Mountains, containing Mt. Semprevisa (5000 feet), the Ausonian Mountains, and the Aurunci Mountains, which contain Mt. Petrella (5000 feet.) and which form the promontory of Gaeta. There are three railroads that cross this section of the Apennines: the Chieti-Aquila-Terni-Roma, the Chieti-Solmona-Avezzano-Roma, and the Aquila-Isernia-Naples.

The Southern Apennines are divided into three parts: the branch that is formed by the Neapolitan and Lucan Apennines, the true continuation of the Central Apennines, of which they preserve both the nature and the direction; the Apennines of Calabria, which are different in direction, aspect, and nature from the Apennines, having an Alpine character; the Murgie range, also differing in origin and characteristics from the Apennines.

(h) The Neapolitan Apennines

This range extends from the Pass of Rionero to the saddle of Conza. Beginning at the north, there is first the highland plain of Carovilli, and then the mountains of Frentani or of Campobasso. These are followed by the vast highland plain of the Sannio and by that of Irpino which forms the eastern border of the Beneventana basin and terminates at the saddle of Conza. This series of elevations, although of medium height, marks the principal axis of the Apennine range.

(i) The Neapolitan Tyrrhenian Sub-Apennines

They are formed of the groups of the Matese and of the Terminio, and of the Avellino Mountains. The Matese group, which is totally isolated, has its highest elevation in Mt. Miletto (6700 feet) and consists of two parallel trunks that are very close together, having between them a narrow height that contains a small lake. The group of the Terminio (about 6000 feet high), which contains Mt. Accellica and Mt. Cervialto, constitutes one of the most important oro-hydrographic points of Southern Italy. They abound in springs, and from them come the fresh waters of the Serino with which Naples is supplied through an aqueduct. Between the two above groups rise the Avellino Mountains that close the Beneventana basin. These are groups that are isolated by deep clefts, chief among them being Mt. Vergine (4800 feet) which has upon it a celebrated sanctuary.

(j) The Neapolitan Tyrrhenian Apennines

This Anti-Apennine range extends in the direction of the Roman Anti-Apennines, through the volcanic group of Roccamonfina and of Mt. Maggione, to the Volturno River. On the coast is the region of Campi Flegrei, formed of small, extinct volcanoes; then the active volcano Mt. Vesuvius (4070 feet), and after that the Lattari or Sorrento chain which forms the peninsula of Sorrento and terminates at Campanella Point.

(k) The Neapolitan Adriatic Anti-Apennines

They consist of the Gargano group which is entirely isolated and which differs from the Apennines in origin and in nature. It projects into the Adriatic Sea (the Gargano Head) for 30 miles and the River Candelaro now takes the place of the branch of the sea that formerly separated this group from the peninsula. The elevation rises steep above that river and the Gulf of Manfredonia, forming a series of forest-covered terraces upon which stand dome-shaped summits, as Mt. Calvo (3460 feet), and sloping down towards the north upon Lake Varano. From this side of Mt. Cornacchia (3800 feet) the Capitanata Mountains branch towards the north and pass around the plain of Apulia on the west.

(l and 2) Lucan Apennines

This is a chain that extends from the Sella di Conza to the Scalone Pass and is bounded by the Sele River, the Ofanto with its affluent the Locone, the Bradano and its affluent the Basentiello, the coast of the Gulf of Taranto, the Isthmus of Calabria, and the Tyrrhenian Sea. The range is divided into two parts by the plain of San Loja, which is crossed by a highway and by the Napoli-Potenza railroad. The northern part is grouped around Mt. Santa Croce (4670 feet) that gives out several ramifications, one of which extends to the group of Mt. Volture, an extinct volcano on the right of the Ofanto River. The second, southern division contains the Maddalena Mountains (Mt. Papa, 6560 feet), a short and rugged chain that runs from north to east, and the nearly isolated group of the Pollino which bars the entrance of the peninsula of Calabria and contains the highest summits of the Southern Apennines, Mt. Pollino and Serra Dolcedormi. The group of the Cilento which projects into the sea at Capes Licosa and Palinuro may be considered as the Lucan Sub-Apennines. It is separated from the Apennines by the longitudinal valley of Diano and constitutes one of the wildest and most broken borders of Italy. Its principal summits are Mt. Cervati (6000 feet), Mt. Sacro (5600 feet), and Mt. Alburno.

(3) Murgie

The Apulian group of the Murgie constitutes a system of its own, different from the Apennines in shape, origin, and nature. Its boundaries are the Ofanto River and its affluent the Locone, the Sella di Spinazzola, the Basentiello River, the Bradano, and the coasts of the Ionian and the Adriatic Seas. The Murgie are hills that are surmounted here and there by rounded elevations. Their height, which at the north is nearly 2000 feet, decreases more and more towards the southeast. There are no rivers or streams among these hills, for they absorb the rain-waters into deep clefts that are called lame or gravine. When the sea occupied the plain of Apulia and extended towards the south as far as the Ionian Sea, the Murgie were separated from Italy and were divided into islands and submarine banks.

(4) The Calabrian Apennines

The mountains of Calabria, by their crystalline and granite nature, by their alpine appearance and by difference of direction, form a system that is independent of the Apennines. Their boundaries are a line drawn from the mouth of the Crati River to the Scalone Pass and the coasts of the Tyrrhenian and of the Ionian Seas. They constitute a straitened territory of mountain groups that are separated by deep depressions, or united by sharp crests, in which communication becomes very difficult. The highlands are covered with forests, and the lowlands with orange groves, vineyards, olive trees, and kindred plantations. These mountains are divided into four groups: first, the Catena Costiera, between the sea and the Crati River, extending from the Pass of Scalone to the River Amato; it contains Mt. Cocuzzo (5000 feet). As its name implies, this chain is always very near the sea, rising steeply to a mean height of 3700 feet, while at its southern extremity it is united with the highland plain of Sila. The second group is a vast highland plain of a mean height of 3900 feet, with gaps, here and there, through which flow the streams that rise on the plain. The highest summit is Botte Donato (6300 feet). The name of Sila is connected with the Latin silva and with the Greek hyle (forest) and refers to the rich growth of tall trees that covered the plain in ancient times, and even then were utilized in naval construction. To the south of Sila, between the Gulfs of Squillace and Santa Eufemia, there is the Pass of Marcellinara (800 feet), which was possibly a sea canal before the Strait of Messina existed. This pass separates the Sila from the third group, called the Sierre, which contains Mt. Pecoraro and which extends to Mercante Pass, terminating in the sea, at Cape Vaticano on the promontory of Monteleone (1600 feet). The fourth group rises between Mercante Pass and the Strait of Messina; it is Aspromonte, a vast conical mass of granite that rises by wooded grades and terraces. It contains Mt. Alto (6500 feet).

Plains (1) Plain of the Po

The spurs of the Alps and of the Apennines that are directed towards the valley of the Po never reach the shores of that river; on the contrary, there stretches between the base lines of those two mountain systems the vast plain of the Po (17,500 sq. miles), which may be compared to a great amphitheatre, open towards the east, the Alpine and the Apennine watersheds forming its tiers and the plain its arena. Its uniformity is broken by the hills of Monferrato and by those of the Langhe, by the Euganean hills, and by the Berici Mountains. If the sea should rise 300 feet, it would reach the base of the Monferrato hills and would enter the Apennine valleys; and if it should rise 1300 feet more it would enter the valleys of Piedmont. This plain of the Po, which is divided into plains of Piedmont, Lombardy, and Venice, on the left of the river, and into plains of Marengo and of Emilia on its right, was formerly a gulf of the Adriatic Sea that was filled in by the alluvial deposits of the rivers and was levelled by inundations. This process of filling in the Adriatic Sea is continuous, as is shown by the fact that the delta of the Po is carried forward by nearly twenty-six feet each year, while Ravenna, which in the time of the Romans was a naval station, is now five miles from the sea. The Alps contributed a greater portion of alluvial materials than did the Apennines, and therefore the course of the Po was thrown towards the lower range, so that the plain on the left of the river is greater than that on the right. The low plain of the Po has two light slopes that meet in the thalwegg of that river; one of them descends gradually from west to east (Cuneo, 1700 feet). While this plain covers only a third of the surface of the valley of the Po, it is nevertheless the historical and political centre of that valley.

(2) Plains of Central Italy

Between the mouth of the Magra River and Terracina there is a lengthy extent of low plains that vary considerably in breadth. These plains are monotonous and sad, in contrast with those of the river valleys, as that of the Ombrone, those of the Arno and of other rivers, which are fertile and beautiful. First there is the plain of Tuscany divided into the low plains of the basin of the Arno and the Maremma, of which the former were once marshy and unhealthy, especially that of the valley of Chiana; but, through the great hydraulic works of the Medicis of the sixteenth century, they are now most fertile and are model expositions of agriculture.

(3) The Tuscan Maremma

This is a low expanse of level land where the rain-waters become stagnant and where the streams are sluggish on account of the too gentle slope of the land, and therefore they accumulate their refuse; this disadvantage, however, is now turned to profit in the fertilization of the ground by what is known as the filling-in system.

(4) The Roman Campagna

The lightly undulating Roman Campagna lies on either side of the lower Tiber, and, although it has the monotony and sadness of all plains, it has a grandeur in itself, in its beautiful sunsets and in the gigantic and glorious ruins that witness how great a life there was in these now deserted places, abandoned to herds of cattle and to wild boars. The remains of the consular roads that traverse this plain in every direction, reminding one of the victorious armies that marched over them, are now scarcely to be discerned under the brush; the waters, no longer checked, have left their channels and formed extensive marshes, where malaria reigns; and houses and tillage are not to be found on the Campagna at many miles from Rome.

(5) The Pontine Marshes

From Cisterna to Terracina and from Porto d'Anzio to Mt. Circeo there lies a swampy expanse, 25 miles in length and from 10 to 11 miles in breadth, called in ancient times Agro Pomenzio, and now Pontine Marshes. Formerly this tract was cultivated and healthy, only a little swamp existing near Terracina ; and in the fifth century of the Roman Era the Censor Appius constructed over it the magnificent way that bears his name. But the provinces having been depopulated by wars, and the cultivation of the soil having been interrupted, the stagnant waters overlaid all. The Consul Cethegus, however, by new drainage, made these lands healthy again, but the civil wars reduced them to a worse condition than the one from which they were redeemed; and in the time of Augustus, as Horace tells us, the Appian Way ran solitary through that vast swamp. Augustus and his successors attempted to drain the tract once more; but the barbarians destroyed every vestige of their work, Popes Leo I, Sixtus II, Clement XIII, and especially Pius VI, resumed the undertaking, and by means of large canals restored it to agriculture; but once more the region is unhealthy, and almost without inhabitants.

(6) Plains of Southern Italy

The plains of Southern Italy cover nearly four-tenths of its surface, the regions which contain more of them being Campania and Apulia. There are none in the Basilicata, and few in Calabria. On the Tyrrhenian Sea, there are;

(a) the Campania Plain

This plain extends along the coast between the Garigliano and the Sarno Rivers. Over it rise the volcanoes of the Campi Flegrei and that of Vesuvius. This is the Campania Felix of antiquity, a region of extraordinary beauty and of exceptional fertility due to the volcanic soil and to the maritime climate.

(b) The Plain of Pesto, or of the Sele

The second is much smaller than the first. It is situated at the mouth of the Sele River, not far from where stood Posidonia, or Pæstum, the city of roses, famous for its life of delights and delicacy, but already in ruins at the beginning of the Roman Empire. Now these places are marshy and unhealthy.

(c) The Plain of Santa Eufemia

It is situated at the end of the gulf of the same name and traversed by the Amato River, and the Plain of Gioja, traversed by the River Mesima. They are small, marshy, and unhealthy plains in the shape of amphitheatres, formed by the alluvial deposits of those two rivers. Looking towards the Ionian Sea is the plain of Sibari, where once stood, at the mouth of the Crati River, the Greek city for which the plain is named. It is of alluvial origin and nature, as are the preceding two. Towards the Adriatic Sea the plains of the coast of Apulia have their northern terminal in the famous Tavoliere delle Puglie which is almost a steppe, treeless, monotonous, and sad, exposed to the winds and traversed by a few streams that change their channels. Formerly this plain was used for winter pasturage, but, the soil being fertile, corn is now grown. It is bounded by the Candellaro River, the Apennines, the Ofanto River, and the Gulf of Manfredonia. On the Salentine peninsula there is a species of Tavoliere, contained between the Brindisi-Oria railroad and a line drawn from Torre dell' Orso, on the Adriatic Sea, to Nardò on the Ionian.

Volcanoes and Earthquakes

As Italy is one of the most recently developed parts of the mainland and of the crust that has risen above the waters, it is subject to the phenomena that are due to that internal energy of the earth called volcanism, which is manifested in the various forms of volcanic activity, in earthquakes and in microseisms. The valley of the Po contains no active volcano, but the Berici Mountains and the Euganean Hills that are rich in thermal springs (as at Abano) were, in remote times, two very active centres, as is shown by the great quantity of volcanic matter around them. In the peninsula of Italy and on the islands, volcanic activity is still very great, especially towards the Tyrrhenian coast. The Apennine zone that extends from the group of Mt. Amiata to Mt. Roccamonfina is almost entirely covered by extinct volcanoes: the San Vincenzo hills, to the north of Campiglia, and the Sassofondino hills, to the west of Roccastrada, are of volcanic nature, as is also the great cone of Mt. Amiata, which is the highest volcanic elevation of the peninsula; to the east of the Amiata rises the picturesque basaltic mass of Radicofani, and the Lakes of Bolsena (Vulsinio), Vico (Cimino), Bracciano (Sabatino), and Albano (Latino) are merely the principal craters of the many volcanoes that form the Roman group. A great number of these volcanoes began their activity under the sea which they filled in with their products, creating in this way the broken Campagna that consists chiefly of volcanic materials. In the valley of the Tolero or Sacco, near Frosinone, rise the Ernici volcanoes, of which the chief summits are those of Posi, Ticchiena, Callano, and of San Giuliano; and to the south of the plain through which the Volturno River flows stands the group of extinct craters that constitute Mt. Roccamonfina. The volcanic group of Naples is the most important one of them all, and the most famous, because it contains the oldest active volcano in Europe, namely Mt. Vesuvius (4000 feet). That ancient volcano rises between the destroyed cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, at about six miles from Naples. Diodorus Siculus, Vitruvius, Plutarch, and Strabo speak of it as a volcano that had been extinct for centuries in their day. In the year 79 of the Christian Era it suddenly became active again, burying in molten stone, sand, and ashes the cities of Stabia, Herculaneum, and Pompeii, and by its noxious vapours terminating the life of Pliny the Elder. Between the years 79 and 1631 Vesuvius had a few eruptions: those of 203, 472, 512, 689, 913, 1036, 1139, 1500; but, on 16 December, 1631, the diameter of the crater was increased nearly two miles, and nearly 72,000,000 cubic metres of lava were ejected from it in a few hours, while there descended from the summit devastating torrents of boiling mud. Thereafter eruptions became more frequent, the principal ones having occurred in 1737, 1794, 1822, 1858, 1861, 1862, 1868, 1872, and the last in 1906; but flickering flames and smoke are almost always emerging from the crater. The Campi Flegrei to the west of Naples occupy a surface of nearly 60 sq. miles and consist of low craters that have been partly filled in by the waters. Notable among these are Mt. Montenuovo, which was developed in a single night in September, 1530; and Mt. Solfatara, from the fissures of which, called chimneys, there constantly emanate smoke and vapours of sulphuretted hydrogen. The Vulture volcanic region to the east of the Apennines is not allied to the Tyrrhenian volcanic region. The Vulture consists of two concentric craters of which the interior one is more recent; this contains the two small lakes of Monticchio (2050 feet).

Thermal springs are very abundant in Italy, especially those containing sulphur and carbonic acid. Of gaseous springs, there are in Italy the so-called fumaiole that emit aqueous vapour with carbonic acid, the boraciferous blowers of Tuscany, and the sulphur-producing spring of Pozzuoli which burst into an eruption in 1198. Near Rome there are the Albula Springs. Lastly there are the mephitic springs that produce carbonic acid, the most famous of them being the so-called Grotta del Cane, near the Lake of Aguano, which is an ancient, extinct crater, near Naples.

Besides her volcanic characteristics, Italy, like Japan, is the classic land of earthquakes. The regions that are most subject to them are;

  • (a) the southern parts of the Alps,
  • (b) the coast region of the basin of the Po, from Venice to Pesaro,
  • (c) the Apennines of the Marches and of the Abruzzi,
  • (d) the neighbourhood of Mt. Vesuvius, that of Mt. Vulture, and that of Mt. Etna,
  • (e) the Luco-Calabrian district,
  • (f) the islands of volcanic origin.

Of the famous catastrophes due to earthquakes, the best known are those of 1783, in Calabria, when there were destroyed 109 cities and villages, under the ruins of which 32,000 people were buried; the one of 1857 in the Basilicata that cost 10,000 victims to Potenza and its neighbourhood. The earthquake that shook the western Ligurian Riviera in 1887, although the most terrible catastrophe of its kind that has befallen continental Italy, was, withal, much less severe than those that have visited the southern portion of the peninsula. Calabria may be said to have been for ten years on the brink of the earthquake that culminated fatally on the morning of 28 December, 1908, when, in a few moments, the city of Messina, with 150,000 inhabitants, the city of Reggio, with 45,000 inhabitants, the town of Sille, and other smaller ones, were razed to the ground, burying more than 100,000 people under their ruins. Italy was comforted by all the civilized nations, and especially the United States, which built a town in the beautiful district of Santa Cecilia, in the neighbourhood of Messina, with nearly 1500 frame houses, after the fashion of Swiss chalets, prettily finished, and painted in white. The United States Avenue, parallel with the sea, and Theodore Roosevelt Avenue, parallel with the torrent of Zaera, divide the town into four quarters that are intersected by streets having the names of those generous Americans who helped in the work: Commander Belknap of the Navy, who was the head of the relief Commission; Lieutenants Buchanan and Spofford; Engineer Elliot, director of construction; Dr. Donelson, and others.

Hydrography (1) Rivers

The rivers of Continental Italy empty into the Adriatic and the Ligurian Seas. The water-courses of the Ligunian slope are rapid torrents, dry in summer, while in autumn and in winter they carry enormous volumes of water. Chief among them are the Roja, the longest and most important water course of Liguria, on the banks of which are Tenda and Ventimiglia ; the Taggia; the Centa, which is formed of the Arroscia and the Neva; the Bisagno and the Polcevera, between the mouths of which is the city of Genoa ; and the Entella. The Adriatic watershed being bounded by the Alps and by the Apennines, it follows that the rivers flowing from the latter mountains are shorter than those coming from the Alps, and as they do not receive the drainage of the glaciers, but only that of the snow and of the rains, they have the nature of torrents, rather than that of rivers. This is a providential condition because it minimizes the danger of inundations in the valley of the Po; for the rivers of the Apennines come down charged with alluvial matter and enter the Po almost at right angles, engaging its channel; but the Alpine rivers that flow into the Po, farther down its stream, with less turbulence, yet with a strong flood, spread the alluvial deposits of the other rivers over the entire bed. Notwithstanding this, the bed of the Po tends continually to rise, and the waters of that river, contained by embankments, are seven, ten, and even seventeen feet above the level of the lands through which they flow.

The rivers of Continental Italy that empty into the Adriatic Sea are divided into four groups: (a) the Po and its tributaries; (b) the Venetian rivers; (c) the rivers of the Romagna, and (d) the rivers of Istria, grouped on account of their special characteristics.

(a) The Po

The Po, which is the principal river of Italy, rises on the Piano del Re, on Mt. Viso, at a height of 6500 feet above the sea. It makes a first descent of 500 feet in a distance of only 10 miles, after which it opens into the plain near Saluzzo, and from there follows a northerly direction as far as Chivasso, where the Cavour Canal begins. Throughout the remainder of its course it flows from west to east, winding along the 45th parallel, and empties into the sea through a vast delta, the chief branch of which is Po della Maestra, which is unnavigable, while the other branch, the Po delle Tolle, has two navigable entrances. The surface of its basin is 27 square miles and its mean flood is 53,000 cubic feet per second, but when at its height, more than 70,000 cubic feet. In the middle of its course, at Cremona, its greatest breadth is three fifths of a mile, hut at its greatest height, farther down the valley, it attains a breadth of two and one-half miles. Notwithstanding the volume of its waters, the Po is not well suited to navigation, on account of the instability of its bed, for which no artificial remedy has heen found. Available navigation begins at Casale for boats of about 9 tons, and from Pavia to the sea the river is navigable for boats of 120 to 130 tons. The River Po, unlike the Rhine, the Danube, and the Elbe, was never a politically unifying element, having always divided the inhabitants of its valley into two parts.

(b) Among the Venetian rivers

The principal Venetian river is the Adige, which is the second river of Italy; after that are the Brenta, the Piave, the Tagliamento, the Isonzo, and others. The Alpine basin of the Adige has the shape of a triangle, with its summit at Verona, and its base on the Alps, between the Reschen hill, where are the sources, and the base of Tolbach, where are the sources of the Rienz. It enters the Italian region at Salurno and receives the Noce River, on the right, and the Avisio on the left, and it passes the boundary between the Kingdom of Italy and the Austrian Empire to the south of Ala. At Verona it enters the plain and flows parallel to the Po, flanked by massive embankments. Between the two rivers is a territory, portions of which have yet to be redeemed, as are the valleys of Verona, while the remaining portion is drained already by a labyrinth of canals, as for example, the Polesine. The Adige empties into the Adriatic Sea, after a course of 248 miles, having an average breadth of 330 feet between Trent and Verona, and of 220 feet between Verona and the sea. The Venetian rivers enter the plain charged with alluvial materials that would make them overflow, if they were not held in their beds by artificial embankments. Although the sources of some of these rivers are known, it is difficult to say where and how they empty into the sea; the Bacchiglione is a type of them.

(c) The Rivers of Romagna

The Po di Volano, once a branch of the Po, with which river, however, it is no longer connected, rises in the springs of the plain near Cento; at Ferrara it divides into two branches, one of which is navigable and, flowing towards the east, empties into the sea at Porto Volano; the other branch, which is not available for navigation, turns towards the south-east, terminating against the embankment of the Reno, a river that rises near Prunetta, passes to the east of Bologna, flows by Pieve di Cento, and, turning towards the east, enters the old channel of the Po di Primaro and empties into the sea at Porto Primaro, after a course of 124 miles. The Idice, Santerno, and the Senio are its affluents.

(d) The rivers of Istria

They are very short, with little water, and flow in channels from which they disappear into the ground, to appear again in other channels or near the sea. The Recca-Timavo is the most important one of them; after a course of 28 miles in a narrow channel, it disappears into a cave, and it is probable that its waters go through the Carso and that they are the same that emerge from great springs, near Monfalcone, and empty into the Monfalcone Gulf under the name of Timavo. The other rivers, the Dragogna, the Quieto, the Lerne, which rises under the name of Foiba, all develop fords at their mouths, and the Foiba disappears and reappears several times; the Arsa empties into the Gulf of Quarnero.

On account of the bow shape of the Central Apennines the rivers that empty into the Adriatic Sea are very short and almost straight, while those that empty into the Tyrrhenian Sea are longer, and have a sinuous course in the longitudinal valleys through which they flow. They cut narrow channels through the mountain ranges or at times form cataracts like those of Marmore, near Terni (530 feet), those of Tivoli, and those of the Fibreno. Many of the long valleys between the Anti-Apennine and the Sub-Apennine ranges were occupied by lakes that were either filled in naturally by the alluvial deposits of the rivers or were artificially drained, as were the valley of Chiana, the valley of the Tiber, the plain of Foligno, the lands of Reati, of Fucino, and others. The Arno River, which has an average breadth of from 330 to 500 feet, rises on Mt. Falterona (5400 feet) and flows towards the southeast between the Apennines and the Pratomagno, through a beautiful spacious valley that is the continuation of the Val di Chiana and is called Casentino. It appears that formerly the Arno flowed into the lake that occupied the valley of Chiana and was a tributary of the Tiber through the Paglia. Now the Arno, abreast of Arezzo, arches round the Pratomagno and flows through a series of narrow passes between that chain and the mountains of Chianti. At Pontassieve it receives the Sieve which flows through the valley of Mugello, and then, turning directly to the west, it enters upon the second straight course; it flows through Florence, receives the Bisenzio and the Ombrone of Pistoia and flows through the plain of Prato which was once the bottom of a lake; it enters the Pass of Golfolina, 7 miles in length, between Mt. Albano and the mountains of Chianti; thereafter it receives the Pesa, the Elsa, and the Era, on the left, and the Pescia on the right — and in all this second course it flows over a low plain, between powerful artificial embankments. It empties into the sea at 6 miles from Pisa through a delta that is carried forward 16 feet each year.

The Tiber ( Tiberis ). — This is the most famous of all rivers, because there stands on its banks the city which of all has exercised the greatest influence upon the world, in ancient, as well as in modern, times. Geographically, the Tiber is the second river of Italy, in relation to its basin, and the third, in relation to its length, the first and the second being the Po and the Adige respectively. It flows from north to south, winding along the tenth meridian East of Greenwich, with an average breadth of about 500 feet, while the volume of its flood is 9500 cubic feet per second. It has a very sinuous course which is divided into four parts; the first of them is through a longitudinal valley, between the Apennines and the Sub-Apennines, called the Valley of the Tiber, the river passing by the town of Santo Sepolcro and the Città di Castello. It leaves Perugia on the right and receives the Chiascio, a river that has for affluents the Topino, which comes from the plain of Gubbio, and the Maroggia which itself receives the abundant waters of the Clitunno. At its juncture with the Chiascio, the Tiber begins its second tract: flowing in a south-easterly direction through a narrow valley of the Sub-Apennines of Umbria, it leaves Todi on its right and flows through the pass of the Forello, to receive the Paglia near Orvieto. The third division is in a south-easterly direction from the juncture of the Paglia to Passo Corese, where the Tiber receives the Nera, its largest tributary. The Nera, near Terni, receives the waters of the Velino through the falls of Marmore which are 530 feet high, the second waterfall of Italy, the first being that of Toce. The fourth division of the Tiber is through the Roman Agro, from Passo Corese to its mouth. The river divides Rome into two parts, and a little beyond the city it receives the Aniene, or Teverone, which forms the waterfall of Tivoli (347 feet) at the town of that name. The Tiber always carries a great amount of alluvial material, and consequently its mouth has always made encroachment upon the sea, and does so now by about 13 feet each year. The Isola Sacra divides the river into two branches; the southern one which washes Ostia is not navigable; the other, to the north, known as the Fiumicino Channel, is navigable and is formed by the so-called Trajan ditch. The Garigliano River in the first part of its course is called the Lin ( Liris ), but, after receiving the Rapido, it takes the name of Garigliano, because the Rapido in its lower part preserves its ancient name of Gari. Changing its direction, the Garigliano River flows around the Aurunci Mountains into the Gulf of Gaeta. In its higher course the River Liri, near Capistrello, receives the waters of the basin of Fucino through a subterranean passage nearly four miles long, the volume of the waters of the Liri being increased by 10,600 cubic feet per second.

The rivers of Southern Italy empty into three different seas, the Tyrrhenian, the Ionian, and the Adriatic. With the exception of the Volturno, the Sele, the Bradano, the Basento, and the Sinni, none of the streams of Southern Italy deserve the name of river; they have the nature rather of torrents, especially those of Calabria which, when running full, are very destructive. The rivers of the Adriatic watershed flow perpendicularly to the coasts, with the exception of the Candellaro, which flows in a south-easterly direction; those on the Tyrrhenian in their upper courses form longitudinal valleys. The alluvial plain of Sibari, which is the largest plain of Calabria, was developed by the Crati and its affluents.

The principal rivers of Southern Italy are: the Volturno (115 miles) which rises at Capo d'Acqua, on Mt. Rocchetta, with a considerable volume of water, receives the Vandra that flows from the plain of Carovilli, increased by the waters of the Cavaliere, on the banks of which stands Isernia. The Volturno thereafter flows through a broad valley, the bottom of which consists of the alluvial deposits of that river which, at the height of Presenzano, turns into a direction parallel to the Matese Mountains; in former times it probably maintained a southerly direction through the Teano depression and flowed along the present bed of the Saccione River. It receives the Calore River which flows into the Volturno at almost right angles, while the latter, turning to the west, flows through the Caiazzo Pass and opens onto the plain at Capua, with a breadth of about 500 feet, and from there on it is navigable as far as the sea (17½ miles). It flows into the sea through swampy lowlands that have been developed by its own alluvial deposits. The Sele takes its rise from numerous copious springs. Its principal affluent is the Tanagro, which disappears into the ground at Polla and appears again about one-third of a mile farther down the valley. The most important river of the Ionian versant is the Crati, that rises on the highland plain of Sila, passes through Cosenza, and flows through the depression between the Sila and the coast chains of the Apennines, which constitutes the valley of Cosenza. Near its mouth it receives the Coscile or Sibari, flowing from the Campotenese Pass, after having been engrossed by the waters of the Pollino. The Basento passes by Potenza and flows into the sea near the ruins of the ancient Metaponto. The Salerno-Potenza-Taranto railroad lies along the whole course of this river. The only stream of any importance on the Southern Adriatic watershed is the Ofanto River which beyond Conza describes an arc around the Vulture mass, the waters from which flow into the Ofanto through the Rendina River; the Locone is another of its affluents. Between the latter and the sea, the Volturno River supplies the waters of the artificial canal by which it is connected with Lake Salpi.

(2) Lakes

The Italian region has more lakes than rivers, especially on the plain of the Po, at the foot of the Alps. They are usually divided into (a) pre-Alpine lakes, (b) volcanic lakes, and (c) coast lakes.

(a) Pre-Alpine Lakes

These lakes that temper the climate of the Continental portion of the pre-Alpine region are one of the principal causes of the fertility of the soil, making possible the cultivation of the southern plains. The zone that contains them extends from Lake Orta to Lake Garda and is north of the moraine hills that close the entrance of the valleys of the Central Alps. Lake Orta or Cusio, north-west of Arona, is 950 feet above the leve

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