Commerce, at times des­troyed by conque­rors and at other times obs­truc­ted by monarchs, sur­veys the earth, flees from where it is oppres­sed, pau­ses where it is allo­wed to brea­the ; it rei­gns today where once there was nothing but deserts, seas and boul­ders ; and where it once rei­gned there are only deserts.

To see Colchis today, which now is just a vast forest where the peo­ple, decli­ning by the day, defend their liberty only to sell them­sel­ves one by one to the Turks and Persians, one would never say that this region had in Roman times been full of cities to which trade cal­led every nation on earth. Nothing is left of them in the area ; tra­ces are found only in Pliny1 and Strabo.2

The his­tory of trade is the his­tory of the com­mu­ni­ca­tion of peo­ples. Their various des­truc­tions, and cer­tain ebbs and flows of popu­la­tions and devas­ta­tions, cons­ti­tute its grea­test events.

Book VI.

Book II.