II. Ancient and Classical Periods, 3500 B.C.E.–500 C.E. > E. Rome > 2. The Republic, 264–70 B.C.E.
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  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
 
 
2. The Republic, 264–70 B.C.E.
a. Geography and Climate
 
During this period Rome acquired a Mediterranean empire that comprised the following areas:  1
(1) Sicily's eastern end is mountainous and dominated by Etna. Farther west, a central plateau recedes into a coastal plain toward the south. There were fine harbors at Syracuse on the east, at Panormus on the north, and at Drepana on the west. Sicily's major rivers were navigable in antiquity, and its mountains were heavily forested. Excellent volcanic soil produced an extraordinary yield and a variety of crops; by the mid-third century, Sicily was the major exporter of grain in the Mediterranean. The hills of the interior contained good summer grazing land and made Sicily a major exporter of wool, as well as the home of outstanding horses and livestock. Sicily's climate follows the Mediterranean pattern and, except for a longer summer's drought lasting four months, is like that of peninsular Italy. Before the Romans, eastern Sicily was held by the Greeks; Phoenicians inhabited the west; and Sicels lived in isolated communities in the interior.  2
(2) Located in the Po Valley, Cisalpine Gaul had a continental climate with summers that were cooler, and winters that were harsher, but not as wet as those of peninsular Italy. Although rainfall was well distributed over the seasons, melting snow caused frequent flooding and permanent swamps, especially in the east. The region was covered with dense forests that provided timber as well as a home to large herds of pigs. Forest clearing and drainage made Cisalpine Gaul into an enormously fertile land, producing prodigious yields of grain and, in the southern regions, abundant wine harvests. Good grazing land provided a wide variety of fine wools. Once drained, the flat plain facilitated road building and overland trade, while navigation on the Po River was possible as far as Turin. The Po Valley was inhabited by three principal Celtic tribes: the Boii in the south, the Cenomani in the center, and the Insubres in the north. To the east in Venetia lived the Veneti, and to the west in the Apennines lived the Ligurians, both non-Celtic peoples.  3
(3) The Spanish peninsula comprises an elevated central plateau whose climate is continental and whose sparse rainfall makes it suitable for pasturage rather than agriculture. On the north and south are high mountains, forested in antiquity—the Pyrenees and Sierra Nevada, respectively. Lower interior mountains border fertile river valleys—Baetis (Guadalquivir) and Ebro—that lead down to fertile coastal plains. Spanish agriculture was noted for its cereals, wines, and especially olive oil, while flax was a specialty of the Ebro Valley. Spain's mountains were particularly abundant in minerals—copper, iron, and, in the Sierra Morena, prodigious amounts of silver. There were good harbors on the southern coast at Gades and Carthago Nova. Celtiberians inhabited the north-central plateau, to the west were Lusitanians, and throughout the rest of the peninsula lived some 20 other independent peoples. (For the other area of the empire—the Balkan Peninsula, Asia Minor, Syria, and North Africa (See Foreign Invasion and Internal Disarray))  4
 
 
 
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

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