My intention in writing this book has been to demonstrate the unique importance of Ravenna in the history of Italy and of Europe, especially during the Dark Age from the time of Alaric's first descent into the Cisalpine plain to the coming of Charlemagne. That importance, as it seems to me, has been wholly or almost wholly misunderstood, and certainly, as I understand it, has never been explained. In this book, which is offered to the public not without a keen sense of its inadequacy, I have tried to show in as clear a manner as was at my command, what Ravenna really was in the political geography of the empire, and to explain the part that position allowed her to play in the great tragedy of the decline and fall of the Roman administration. If I have succeeded in this I am amply repaid for all the labour the book has cost me.
in his account of Ravenna, which I have quoted above, emphasises the fact rather of its situation among the marshes than of its position with regard to the sea. This is perhaps natural. The society to which he belonged (though indeed he was of Greek descent) loathed and feared the sea with an unappeasable horror. No journey was too long to make if thereby the sea passage might be avoided, no road too rough and rude if to take it was to escape the unstable winds and waters. That too was a part of Ravenna's strength. She was as much a city of the sea as Venice is; but of what a sea?
The Adriatic, upon whose western shore she stood at the gate of Italy and Cisalpine Gaul, was--and this partly because of the Roman horror of the sea--the fault between Greek and Latin, East and West. To this great fact she owes much of her later splendour, much of her unique importance in those centuries we call the Dark Age.
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