Page:EB1911 - Volume 01.djvu/104

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ABSALOM—ABSALON

W. by Perugia, S.W. by Rome and Caserta, S. by Benevento, E. by Foggia and N.E. by the Adriatic Sea. It comprises the provinces of Teramo (population in 1901, 307,444), Aquila (396,629), Chieti (370,907) and Campobasso (366,571), which, under the kingdom of Naples, respectively bore the names Abruzzo Ulteriore I., Abruzzo Ulteriore II., Abruzzo Citeriore (the reference being to their distance from the capital) and Molise. The total area is 6567 sq. m. and the population (1901) 1,441,551. The district is mainly mountainous in the interior, including as it does the central portion of the whole system of the Apennines and their culminating point, the Gran Sasso d’Italia. Towards the sea the elevation is less considerable, the hills consisting mainly of somewhat unstable clay and sand, but the zone of level ground along the coast is quite inconsiderable. The coast line itself, though over 100 miles in length, has not a single harbour of importance. The climate varies considerably with the altitude, the highest peaks being covered with snow for the greater part of the year, while the valleys running N.E. towards the sea are fertile and well watered by several small rivers, the chief of which are the Tronto, Vomano, Pescara, Sangro, Trigno and Biferno. These are fed by less important streams, such as the Aterno and Gizio, which water the valleys between the main chains of the Apennines. They are liable to be suddenly swollen by rains, and floods and land-slips often cause considerable damage. This danger has been increased, as elsewhere in Italy, by indiscriminate timber-felling on the higher mountains without provision for re-afforestation, though considerable oak, beech, elm and pine forests still exist and are the home of wolves, wild boars and even bears. They also afford feeding-ground for large herds of swine, and the hams and sausages of the Abruzzi enjoy a high reputation. The rearing of cattle and sheep was at one time the chief occupation of the inhabitants, and many of them still drive their flocks down to the Campagna di Roma for the winter months and back again in the summer, but more attention is now devoted to cultivation. This flourishes especially in the valleys and in the now drained bed of the Lago Fucino. The industries are various, but none of them is of great importance. Arms and cutlery are produced at Campobasso and Agnone. At the exhibition of Abruzzese art, held at Chieti in 1905, fine specimens of goldsmiths’ work of the 15th and 16th centuries, of majolica of the 17th and 18th centuries, and of tapestries and laces were brought together; and the reproduction of some of these is still carried on, the small town of Castelli being the centre of the manufacture. The river Pescara and its tributary the Tirino form an important source of power for generating electricity. The chief towns are (1) Teramo, Atri, Campli, Penne, Castellammare Adriatico; (2) Aquila, Avezzano, Celano, Tagliacozzo, Sulmona; (3) Chieti, Lanciano, Ortona, Vasto; (4) Campobasso, Agnone, Isernia. Owing to the nature of the country, communications are not easy. Railways are (1) the coast railway (a part of the Bologna-Gallipoli line), with branches from Giulianova to Teramo and from Termoli to Campobasso; (2) a line diverging S.E. from this at Pescara and running via Sulmona (whence there are branches via Aquila and Rieti to Terni, and via Carpinone to (a) Isernia and Caianello, on the line from Rome to Naples, and (b) Campobasso and Benevento), and Avezzano (whence there is a branch to Roccasecca) to Rome.

The name Abruzzi is conjectured to be a medieval corruption of Praetuttii. The district was, in Lombard times, part of the duchy of Spoleto, and, under the Normans, a part of that of Apulia; it was first formed into a single province in 1240 by Frederick II., who placed the Justiciarius Aprutii at Solmona and founded the city of Aquila. After the Hohenstauffen lost their Italian dominions, the Abruzzi became a province of the Angevin kingdom of Naples, to which it was of great strategic importance. The division into three parts was not made until the 17th century. The Molise, on the other hand, formed part of the Lombard duchy of Benevento, and was placed under the Justiciarius of Terra di Lavoro by Frederick II.: after various changes it became part of the Capitanata, and was only formed into an independent province in 1811. The people are remarkably conservative in beliefs, superstitions and traditions.

See V. Bindi, Monumenti storici ed artistici degli Abruzzi (Naples, 1889); A. de Nino, Usi e costumi Abruzzesi (Florence, 1879–1883).


ABSALOM (Hebrew for “father of [or is] peace”), in the Bible, the third son of David, king of Israel. He was deemed the handsomest man in the kingdom. His sister Tamar having been violated by David’s eldest son Amnon, Absalom, after waiting two years, caused his servants to murder Amnon at a feast to which he had invited all the king’s sons (2 Sam. xiii.). After this deed he fled to Talmai, “king” of Geshur (see Josh. xii. 5 or xiii. 2), his maternal grandfather, and it was not until five years later that he was fully reinstated in his father’s favour (see Joab.) Four years after this he raised a revolt at Hebron, the former capital. Absalom was now the eldest surviving son of David, and the present position of the narratives (xv.-xx.)—after the birth of Solomon and before the struggle between Solomon and Adonijah—may represent the view that the suspicion that he was not the destined heir of his father’s throne excited the impulsive youth to rebellion. All Israel and Judah flocked to his side, and David, attended only by the Cherethites and Pelethites and some recent recruits from Gath, found it expedient to flee. The priests remained behind in Jerusalem, and their sons Jonathan and Ahimaaz served as his spies. Absalom reached the capital and took counsel with the renowned Ahithophel. The pursuit was continued and David took refuge beyond the Jordan. A battle was fought in the “wood of Ephraim” (the name suggests a locality west of the Jordan) and Absalom’s army was completely routed. He himself was caught in the boughs of an oak-tree, and as David had strictly charged his men to deal gently with the young man, Joab was informed. What a common soldier refused to do even for a thousand shekels of silver, the king’s general at once undertook. Joab thrust three spears through the heart of Absalom as he struggled in the branches, and as though this were not enough, his ten armour-bearers came around and slew him. The king’s overwhelming grief is well known. A great heap of stones was erected where he fell, whilst another monument near Jerusalem (not the modern “Absalom’s Tomb,” which is of later origin) he himself had erected in his lifetime to perpetuate his name (2 Sam. xviii. 17 seq.). But the latter notice does not seem to agree with xiv. 27 (cf. 1 Kings xv. 2). On the narratives in 2 Sam. xiii.-xix., see further David; Samuel, Books of.


ABSALON (c. 1128–1201), Danish archbishop and statesman, was born about 1128, the son of Asser Rig of Fjenneslev, at whose castle he and his brother Esbjörn were brought up along with the young prince Valdemar, afterwards Valdemar I. The Rigs were as pious and enlightened as they were rich. They founded the monastery of Sorö as a civilizing centre, and after giving Absalon the rudiments of a sound education at home, which included not only book-lore but every manly and martial exercise, they sent him to the university of Paris. Absalon first appears in Saxo’s Chronicle as a fellow-guest at Roskilde, at the banquet given, in 1157, by King Sweyn to his rivals Canute and Valdemar. Both Absalon and Valdemar narrowly escaped assassination at the hands of their treacherous host on this occasion, but at length escaped to Jutland, whither Sweyn followed them, but was defeated and slain at the battle of Grathe Heath. The same year (1158) which saw Valdemar ascend the Danish throne saw Absalon elected bishop of Roskilde. Henceforth Absalon was the chief counsellor of Valdemar, and the promoter of that imperial policy which, for three generations, was to give Denmark the dominion of the Baltic. Briefly, it was Absalon’s intention to clear the northern sea of the Wendish pirates, who inhabited that portion of the Baltic littoral which we now call Pomerania, and ravaged the Danish coasts so unmercifully that at the accession of Valdemar one-third of the realm of Denmark lay wasted and depopulated. The very existence of Denmark demanded the suppression and conversion of these stiff-necked pagan freebooters, and to this double task Absalon devoted the best part of his life. The first expedition against the Wends, conducted by Absalon in person, set out in 1160, but it was not