« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
The common notion, during the middle ages, was that it came from Brut or Brutus, the son of the celebrated Trojan prince, Eneas, who was fabled to have visited this island soon after the siege of Troy.
3. Earliest Religion. The Ancient Britons were idolatrous, and worshipped the sun, the moon, the serpent, fire and water, the oak, and especially the misletoe. Their religious rites were conducted by a class of men called Druids. These were divided into three orders, viz. :—
I. The Druids Proper, who were the priests and chief civil rulers;
II. The Bards, who were the poets, musicians, and teachers of youth;
III. The Vates, who studied astronomy, physic, and divination.
The name Druid comes most probably either from a Celtic word, meaning wise-men, or from deru, the Celtic name of the oak, the oak being highly venerated in the Druidical ceremonies.
Human sacrifices were frequently offered to their gods; and, on important festivals, numbers of captives were enclosed in huge wicker-baskets, and then committed to the flames. The Britons worshipped in rude open-air temples, consisting of large blocks of stone arranged in circles, one within another.
Of these some still exist. The most noted is Stonehenge, on Salisbury Plain, the stones of which are so large that it was supposed to have been constructed by superhuman agency.
4. Manners, Customs, &c.-The dwellings of the Ancient Britons were made of interwoven boughs of trees and reeds, and were shaped like a hut or cabin. Their villages consisted of a number of these huts, surrounded by a trench and mound to protect them from their enemies. In the southern parts of the island agriculture was pursued to some extent, corn was grown, and the people were well, though rudely clothed; but in the centre and north the cultivation of the soil was neglected, the people lived chiefly on the produce of the chase, and were only partially clothed. They were engaged in continuous warfare, and, to
render their appearance the more terrible in battle, they painted and tattooed their bodies like the modern South-Sea islanders.
This tattooing was done by pricking out the outlines of various objects in the flesh, and then rubbing into the bleeding punctures a blue or green dye, obtained from a plant called woad.
They generally fought on foot, their principal arms being the javelin, the lance, a shield, and a rudely made sword. Sometimes, however, they fought on horseback and in war chariots.
These chariots had scythes and hooks attached to their axletrees, and, when driven in amongst the enemy, mowed down everything that came in their course.
The boats, which they used for fishing and travelling, were formed of osiers, woven together and covered with skins, and differed very little from the coracle which may be still seen on many Welsh rivers.
They were acquainted with the methods of smelting some of the metals; and bronze, which is a mixture of copper and tin, was extensively used by them in manufacturing their implements of war.
Many of their metal weapons, and also of their flint arrowheads have been discovered, and may be seen in our museums.
They subsisted chiefly on the flesh of the bison, the boar, and deer; their favourite beverage was mead, a drink made from honey.
II. BRITAIN UNDER THE ROMANS.
B.C. 55 to A.D. 430.
1. First Roman Invasion. Julius Cæsar, a celebrated Roman dictator and general, having conquered Gaul, determined on the subjugation of Britain. He set sail from a place near Calais with 10,000 men, and landed on the east coast of Kent, probably at Deal. Here he was so courageously opposed by the Britons, that, after the short stay of three weeks in the island, he returned to Gaul, B.c. 55,
The invading army was met by the natives on the beach, and so determined did they appear, that the Roman soldiers hesitated in landing. At length the standard-bearer of the tenth legion leaped overboard, exclaiming, "Follow me, my fellow soldiers, unless you will give up your eagle to the enemy. I, at least, will do my duty to the Republic and to our general." His bravery animated the rest of the Roman troops, and, after a well-sustained contest, they succeeded in effecting a landing.
2. Second Roman Invasion.-In the following summer, B.C. 54, Cæsar returned with 30,000 infantry and 2000 horse, and landed at the same place as before. His troops were disembarked without any opposition, and he then marched on to the neighbourhood of the modern Canterbury. Here he was met by the Britons, who were assembled under the command of a prince named Cassivellaúnus. A battle ensued in which the Romans were victorious, and the Britons were obliged to retreat across the Thames. They were followed by Cæsar, and Cassivellaunus was besieged in his own capital, an ill-defended fortress near the site of the present St. Albans. The British prince was soon obliged to submit, and Cæsar, having imposed a tribute and received hostages, returned to Gaul.
To fortify the passage of the Thames, the Britons drove sharp stakes into the bottom of its channel, sufficiently deep to be concealed by the water. The remains of them were visible as late as the last century.
Cæsar's expedition was never regarded as a conquest, and a Roman writer says, that "he did not conquer Britain, but merely showed it to the Romans."
3. AULUS PLAUTIUS.-For nearly a hundred years Britain remained undisturbed by the Romans. Claudius Cæsar then determined on its re-invasion, and sent an army to Britain of 50,000 men, under two famous generals, Aulus Plautius and Vespasian, A.D. 43. Their success was at first but trifling, and after seven years they had not advanced further north than the Thames. In the western part of the island the Britons, under a prince named Caractacus, made a brave resistance for nine years, but they were
ultimately defeated, and in A.D. 52 their leader was betrayed into the hands of the Romans.
He was then sent to Rome, and, whilst walking in chains with his wife and daughters through its streets, he is said to have exclaimed, "How is it, that a nation possessed of such magnificence at home can envy me a humble cottage in Britain ?" The emperor was so pleased with his noble and dignified bearing, that he immediately granted him his release.
Claudius himself visited Britain during this campaign, and was present at the capture of Colchester, then called Camalodúnum.
4. SUETONIUS PAULINUS.-Little advance was made by the Romans until the arrival of their celebrated general, Suetonius Paulínus, in the reign of NERO. Knowing that the Britons were encouraged in their opposition by the Druids, that politic soldier resolved on suppressing their influence and on possessing himself of Anglesea their chief seat. This he succeeded in doing, though not without meeting the most desperate resistance.
Men and women united to defend this sacred island, and priests mingled in the battle to urge on their fellow-countrymen with songs and incantations. The Romans, however, proved victorious, and the Druids were consumed in the fires of their own altars.
In the mean time the Britons of the east of England had been incited by their queen, Boadicéa, to rise once more against the Romans; the military stations had been burnt down; and the Roman garrisons put to the sword. Suetonius, on hearing of this, immediately hastened back, and obtained a victory over the Britons, in which 80,000 of them were slain. Boadicea, in desperation, poisoned herself, A.D. 61.
5. JULIUS AGRICOLA.In the reign of VESPASIAN, Julius Agricola was sent to Britain for the purpose of completing its conquest. Having first subdued North Wales, he advanced into Scotland (then called Caledonia), and succeeded in subjugating the whole country south of the Grampians.
To protect these newly acquired territories he constructed a
line of forts extending from the Firth of Forth to the mouth of the Clyde, A.D. 78.
Agricola now prevailed on the Britons to learn the useful arts and abandon their warlike pursuits. They were thus brought to adopt the Roman manners, and many of them even consented to speak the language and wear the costume of their conquerors.
Roads were made which traversed the country in every direction, and the chief cities were fortified by lofty ramparts. Roman colonists were settled in them, and temples, baths, and other noble structures were erected within their walls. The remains of these are still very frequently found in towns built on the sites of the old Roman cities, such as Colchester, Cirencester, Gloucester, &c.
6. HADRIAN. This emperor visited Britain, A.D. 121; and, to protect the southern parts of the island from the ravages of the northern barbarians, caused a wall of earth to be raised, extending from the German Ocean to the Solway Firth. This barrier proved insufficient; and, in the next reign, ANTONÍNUS PIUS caused a wall to be constructed very near the line of fortifications erected by Agricola.
7. SEVERUS.-The Caledonians still continuing to ravage the country south of the Tyne, the Emperor Severus visited Britain, and, after driving them back to their native mountains, constructed another very strong wall near that of Hadrian. Shortly after, he died at York, worn out by the fatigues of his campaign, A.D. 211.
The Roman walls were defended by castles and towers, which were placed along them at regular intervals, and always garrisoned with soldiers. These towers were so situated that an alarm-beacon lighted on the top of one would be seen from the top of the adjacent one, and warning might thus be transmitted along the whole line of fortification.
8. CARAUSIUS.-Towards the close of the third century, Britain had to encounter new enemies. The Franks and Saxons ravaged the sea-coasts, and carried on a piratical warfare with all British ships. To check these aggressions, the emperors Dioclétian and