Travels in America and Italy (Volumes I & II)

Travels in America and Italy (Volumes I & II) – Francois-René Chateaubriand

Chateaubriand was born in Brittany, Sept. 14, 1768. At the time of the French Revolution he took part at first with the exiled royalists, but, returning to France, was employed in a diplomatic service by Napoleon. On the murder of the Duc d’Enghein, he threw up his office as ambassador to the Republic of Valais. He supported the restoration monarchy, becoming a minister of state, and was appointed ambassador-extraordinary to England. He visited America when a young man, and afterwards traveled in the east. Chateaubriand’s books abound in passages of brilliant description, and there is no French author before him whose prose writings can compare with his in the power of conveying the beauty and mystery of nature. He is called the father of the French romantic school of writers and died at Paris, July 4, 1848. This historical travelogue recounts his travels in America and, later, in Italy.

Travels in America and Italy (Volumes I & II)

Travels in America and Italy (Volumes I & II).

Format: eBook.

Travels in America and Italy (Volumes I & II)

ISBN: 9783849663544.


Excerpt from the text:






Travels are one of the sources of history: by the narratives of travellers the history of foreign nations is placed beside the particular history of each country.

Travels date as far back as the infancy of society: the books of Moses represent to us the first migrations of men. In those books we see the Patriarch driving his herds to the plains of Canaan, the Arab wandering in the sandy deserts, and the Phoenician exploring the seas.

Moses represents the second family of men issuing from the mountains of Armenia: this point is central with respect to the three great races, tawny, black, and white-the Indians, the Negroes, and the Celts, or other nations of the north.

The pastoral nations find their progenitor in Shem, the commercial in Ham, and the military in Japhet. The Greeks and Romans designate Japetus as the father of mankind.

Homer-whether there ever existed a poet of that name, or whether the works attributed to him are but a collection of the traditions of Greece-Homer has left us in the Odyssey the narrative of a voyage. He also transmits to us the notions entertained in this remote antiquity respecting the figure of the earth. According to these notions the earth represented a disk surrounded by the river Ocean. Hesiod has the same cosmography.

Herodotus, the father of history, as Homer is the father of poetry, was, like Homer, a traveller. He traversed the whole known world of his time. How charmingly he has described the manners of nations? In those days they had but a few coasting charts of the Phoenician navigators, and Anaximander’s map of the world corrected by Hecatæus: Strabo mentions an itinerary of the world by the latter.

Herodotus distinguishes only two divisions of the earth, Europe and Asia: Libya, or Africa, would seem from his accounts to be but a vast peninsula of Asia. He gives the routes of some caravans in the interior of Libya, and the concise narrative of a voyage round Africa. An Egyptian king, Necos, sent out Phoenicians from the gulph of Arabia; these Phoenicians returned to Egypt by way of the Pillars of Hercules; they were three years in performing their voyage, and related that they had seen the sun on their right. Such is the statement of Herodotus.

The ancients had therefore, like ourselves, two sorts of travellers: the one traversed the land, the other the sea. Nearly about the time that Herodotus wrote, Hanno, the Carthaginian, accomplished his Periplus. Something is yet extant of the collection made by Scylax of the maritime excursions of his time.

Plato has left us the romance of that Atlantis which some have conjectured to be America. Eudoxus, the fellow-traveller of the philosopher, composed a universal itinerary, in which he combined geography with astronomical observations.

Hippocrates visited the tribes of Scythia: he applied the results of his experience to the alleviation of human suffering.

Xenophon holds a conspicuous place among those armed travellers who have contributed to make us acquainted with the world which we inhabit.

Aristotle, who outstripped the progress of knowledge, considered the earth as being spherical: he computed its circumference at four hundred thousand stadia; he believed, as Christopher Columbus afterwards did, that the coasts of Hesperia were opposite to those of India. He had a vague idea of England and Ireland, which he calls Albion and Ierne; the Alps were not unknown to him, but he confounded them with the Pyrenees.

Dicearchus, one of his disciples, wrote a charming description of Greece, some fragments of which are still extant, while another of Aristotle’s disciples, Alexander the Great, carried the name of that same Greece to the banks of the Indus. The conquests of Alexander effected a revolution in the sciences as well as among nations.

Androsthenes, Nearchus, and Onesicritus, visited the southern coasts of Asia. After the death of the son of Philip, Seleucus Nicanor penetrated to the Ganges; Patroclus, one of his admirals, navigated the Indian Ocean. The Greek kings of Egypt opened a direct commerce with India and Taprobane; Ptolemy Philadelphus sent geographers and fleets to India; Timosthenes published a description of all the known ports, and Eratosthenes furnished mathematical bases for a complete system of geography. The caravans also penetrated into India by two routes; the one, descending the Ganges, terminated at Palibothra; the other turned Mount Imaus.

Hypparchus, the astronomer, announced an extensive land as connecting India with Africa: this you may consider if you please as the world discovered by Columbus.

The rivalry of Rome and Carthage made Polybius a traveller and caused him to visit the coast of Africa as far as Mount Atlas, that he might make himself better acquainted with the people whose history he purposed to write. Eudoxus of Cyzicus endeavoured, during the reigns of Ptolemy Physcon and Ptolemy Lathures, to make the tour of Africa by the west; he also sought a more direct route from the ports of the Arabian Gulph to those of India.

Meanwhile the Romans removed other veils by extending their conquests toward the north. Pythias of Marseilles had already reached those shores whence the destroyers of the empire of the Cæsars were to issue. Pythias sailed as far as the seas of Scandinavia, fixed the position of the Sacred Cape and of Cape Calbium (Finisterre) in Spain, visited the island of Uxisama (Ushant), that of Albion, one of the Cassiterides of the Carthaginians, and pushed on to the famous Thule, which some will have to be Iceland, but which, according to all appearance, is the coast of Jutland.

Julius Cæsar elucidated the geography of the Gauls and commenced the discovery of Germany and the coast of the isle of the Britons: Germanicus carried the Roman eagles to the banks of the Elbe.

During the reign of Augustus, Strabo combined together in one work the information left by preceding travellers and that which he had himself acquired. But, if his geography throws new light upon some part of the globe, on other points he makes the science retrograde. Strabo distinguishes the Cassiterides from Great Britain, and he appears to believe that the former, (which, in his hypothesis, can be no other than the Scilly islands) produced tin; now, the tin was extracted from the mines of Cornwall; and long before the Greek geographer wrote, the tin of Albion had been imported by way of Gaul into the Roman world.

In Gaul or Celtica, Strabo nearly suppresses the Armorican peninsula; he knows nothing of the Baltic, though it was already regarded as a large salt lake, along which was the coast of Yellow Amber, the modern Prussia.

At the period in which Strabo flourished, Hyppalus fixed the navigation of India by the Gulph of Arabia, by trying the regular winds which we call monsoons; one of these winds, the south-west, that which wafted him to India, assumed the name of Hyppalian. Roman fleets sailed regularly from the port of Berenice about the middle of summer, arrived in thirty days at the port of Ocelis, or at that of Cané in Arabia, and thence in forty days at Muziris, the first mart of India. The return in winter was accomplished in the same space of time; so that the ancients were less than five months in going to India and returning from it. Pliny and the Periplus of the Eythrean Sea (in the minor geographers) furnish these curious details.

After Strabo, Dionysius Periegetes, Pomponius Mela, Isidorus of Charax, and Pliny, add to the knowledge previously acquired concerning foreign nations. Pliny, in particular, is valuable for the number of voyages and relations which he quotes. In reading his work, we see that we have lost a complete description of the Roman empire, compiled by command of Agrippa, son-in-law of Augustus; that we have likewise lost commentaries on Africa by king Juba, extracted from Carthaginian books; that we have lost an account of the Fortunate Islands by Statius Sebosus, Memoirs on India by Seneca, and a Periplus of Polybius, the historian; losses that must ever be regretted. Pliny knows something of Tibet; he fixes the easternmost part of the world at the mouth of the Ganges; towards the north he has a glimpse of the Orkneys; he is acquainted with Scandinavia and gives to the Baltic Sea the name of the Codan Gulph.

The ancients had both maps of routes and a sort of books of posts; Veges distinguishes the former by the epithet of picta, and the latter by that of annotata. Three of these itineraries are still extant: the Itinerary of Antoninus, the Itinerary from Bordeaux to Jerusalem, and the Table of Peutinger. The top of this table, which began at the west, has been torn; the Spanish peninsula is wanting, as well as western Africa; but the table extends eastward to the mouth of the Ganges, and exhibits the routes in the interior of India. This map is twenty-one feet long, and about a foot wide; it is a zone, or a high road of the ancient world.

Such was the extent of the labours and knowledge of travellers and geographers before the appearance of Ptolemy’s work. Homer’s world was a perfectly circular island, surrounded, as we have said, by the river Ocean. Herodotus makes this world a plain without any precise limits. Eudoxus of Gnidus transformed it into a globe about thirteen thousand stadia in diameter; Hipparchus and Strabo gave to it a circumference of two hundred and fifty-two thousand stadia, of eight hundred and thirty-three stadia to a degree. On this globe was marked a parallelogram, the longer side of which ran from west to east; this parallelogram was divided by two lines, which intersected each other at right angles: the one, called the diaphragm, marked the length or longitude of the earth from west to east; it was seventy-seven thousand eight hundred stadia long; and the other, shorter by one half, indicated the width or latitude of this earth from north to south. The calculations are made from the meridian of Alexandria. From this geography, which represented the earth as being much longer than broad, we see how we came by those improper terms longitude and latitude.

In this map of the inhabited world were placed Europe, Asia, and Africa; Africa and Asia were joined to the austral regions or were separated by a sea which very much shortened the former. In the north, the continents terminated at the mouth of the Elbe; in the south, about the banks of the Niger; in the west, at the Sacred Cape, in Spain; and in the east, at the mouths of the Ganges; under the equator a torrid zone, under the poles a frigid zone, were reputed uninhabitable.

It is curious to remark, that almost all the nations called Barbarians, who conquered the Roman empire, and from whom the modern nations are descended, dwelt beyond the limits of the world known to Pliny and Strabo; in countries the very existence of which was not suspected.

Ptolemy, though he fell into important errors, nevertheless gave mathematical bases to the position of places. In his work a considerable number of Sarmatian nations made their appearance. He clearly indicates the Volga, and again descends to the Vistula.

In Africa he confirms the existence of the Niger, and perhaps his Tucabath may also mean Timbuctoo; he also mentions a large river which he calls Gyr.

In Asia, his country of the Sines is not China, but probably the kingdom of Siam. Ptolemy supposes that the continent of Asia stretches southward till it joins an unknown land, which land is united towards the west with Africa. In the Serica of this geographer, we cannot but recognize Tibet, which furnished Rome with the first raw silk.

With Ptolemy ends the history of the travels of the ancients, and Pausanias is the last who exhibits to us that antique Greece, the spirit of which has nobly roused itself in our days at the call of a new civilization. The barbarous nations appear; the Roman empire crumbles to pieces; and from the race of the Goths, Franks, Huns, and Slavonians, issue another world and other travellers.



Dieser Beitrag wurde unter American History (English), Historical Travelogues veröffentlicht. Setze ein Lesezeichen auf den Permalink.

Schreibe einen Kommentar

Deine E-Mail-Adresse wird nicht veröffentlicht.