Italy is the central one of the three great peninsulas which project from the south of Europe into the Mediterranean Sea. It is bounded on the north by the chain of the Alps, which form a natural barrier, and it is surrounded on other sides by the sea. Its shores are washed on the west by the "Mare Inferum," or the Lower Sea, and on the east by the Adriatic, called by the Romans the "Mare Superum," or the Upper Sea. It may be divided into two parts, the northern consisting of the great plain drained by the River Padus, or _Po_, and its tributaries, and the southern being a long tongue of land, with the Apennines as a back-bone running down its whole extent from north to south. The extreme length of the peninsula from the Alps to the Straits of Messina is 700 miles. The breadth of northern Italy is 350 miles, while that of the southern portion is on an average not more than 100 miles. But, till the time of the Empire, the Romans never included the plain of the Po in Italy. To this country they gave the general name of GALLIA CISALPINA, or Gaul on this (the Roman) side of the Alps, in consequence of its being inhabited by Gauls. The western-most portion of the plain was peopled by Ligurian tribes, and was therefore called LIGURIA, while its eastern extremity formed the Roman province of VENETIA.
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