Early Britain–Roman Britain by Edward Conybeare

Distributed Proofreaders EARLY BRITAIN–ROMAN BRITAIN BY EDWARD CONYBEARE WITH MAP 1903 ERRATA. p. vii. _for_ Caesar 55 A.D. _read_ Caesar 55 B.C. ” 56 ” 11th century ” 12th century. ” 58 ” Damnonian Name ” Damnonian name. ” 66 ” ” ” 108 ” sunrise ” sunset. ” 133 ” some lost authority ”
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[Illustration: A MAP OF BRITAIN to illustrate THE ROMAN OCCUPATION.

London: Published by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.]


p. vii. _for_ Caesar 55 A.D. _read_ Caesar 55 B.C.

” 56 ” 11th century ” 12th century.

” 58 ” Damnonian Name ” Damnonian name.

” 66 ” [Greek: ediken] ” [Greek: aethikaen]

” 108 ” sunrise ” sunset.

” 133 ” some lost authority ” Suetonius.


” 150 ” Venta Silurum ” Isca Silurum.

” 185 ” is flanked ” was flanked.

” 209 ” iambic ” trochaic.

” ” ” Exquis ” Ex quis.

” 213 ” one priceless ” once priceless.

” 232 ” in pieces ” to pieces.

” 238 ” constrigit ” constringit.

” ” ” Sparas ” Sparsas.


A little book on a great subject, especially when that book is one of a “series,” is notoriously an object of literary distrust. For the limitations thus imposed upon the writer are such as few men can satisfactorily cope with, and he must needs ask the indulgence of his readers for his painfully-felt shortcomings in dealing with the mass of material which he has to manipulate. And more especially is this the case when the volume which immediately precedes his in the series is such a mine of erudition as the ‘Celtic Britain’ of Professor Rhys.

In the present work my object has been to give a readable sketch of the historical growth and decay of Roman influence in Britain, illustrated by the archaeology of the period, rather than a mainly archaeological treatise with a bare outline of the history. The chief authorities of which I have made use are thus those original classical sources for the early history of our island, so carefully and ably collected in the ‘Monumenta Historica Britannica’;[1] which, along with Huebner’s ‘Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum[2],’ must always be the foundation of every work on Roman Britain. Amongst the many other authorities consulted I must acknowledge my special debt to Mr. Elton’s ‘Origins of English History’; and yet more to Mr. Haverfield’s invaluable publications in the ‘Antiquary’ and elsewhere, without which to keep abreast of the incessant development of my subject by the antiquarian spade-work now going on all over the land would be an almost hopeless task.



A complete Bibliography of Roman Britain would be wholly beyond the scope of the present work. Much of the most valuable material, indeed, has never been published in book form, and must be sought out in the articles of the ‘Antiquary,’ ‘Hermes,’ etc., and the reports of the many local Archaeological Societies. All that is here attempted is to indicate some of the more valuable of the many scores of sources to which my pages are indebted.

To begin with the ancient authorities. These range through upwards of a thousand years; from Herodotus in the 5th century before Christ, to Gildas in the 6th century after. From about 100 A.D. onwards we find that almost every known classical authority makes more or less mention of Britain. A list of over a hundred such authors is given in the ‘Monumenta Historica Britannica’; and upwards of fifty are quoted in this present work. Historians, poets, geographers, naturalists, statesmen, ecclesiastics, all give touches which help out our delineation of Roman Britain.

Amongst the historians the most important are–Caesar, who tells his own tale; Tacitus, to whom we owe our main knowledge of the Conquest, with the later stages of which he was contemporary; Dion Cassius, who wrote his history in the next century, the 2nd A.D.;[3] the various Imperial biographers of the 3rd century; the Imperial panegyrists of the 4th, along with Ammianus Marcellinus, who towards the close of that century connects and supplements their stories; Claudian, the poet-historian of the 5th century, whose verses throw a lurid gleam on his own disastrous age, when Roman authority in Britain was at its last gasp; and finally the British writers, Nennius and Gildas, whose “monotonous plaint” shows that authority dead and gone, with the first stirring of our new national life already quickening amid the decay.

Of geographical and general information we gain most from Strabo, in the Augustan age, who tells what earlier and greater geographers than himself had already discovered about our island; Pliny the Elder, who, in the next century, found the ethnology and botany of Britain so valuable for his ‘Natural History’; Ptolemy, a generation later yet, who includes an elaborate survey of our island in his stupendous Atlas (as it would now be called) of the world;[4] and the unknown compilers of the ‘Itinerary,’ the ‘Notitia,’ and the ‘Ravenna Geography.’ To these must be added the epigrammatist Martial, who lived at the time of the Conquest, and whose references to British matters throw a precious light on the social connection between Britain and Rome which aids us to trace something of the earliest dawn of Christianity in our land.[5]



Aelian III. A. 6 A.D. 220. Naturalist. Appian IV. D. 1 A.D. 140. Historian. Aristides V.E. 4 A.D. 160. Orator. Aristotle I.C. 1 B.C. 333. Philosopher. St. Athanasius V.B. 1, etc. A.D. 333. Theologian. Ausonius V.B. 7 A.D. 380. Poet. Caesar V. etc. B.C. 55. Historian. Capitolinus IV. E. 3 A.D. 290. Imperial Biographer. Catullus V.E. 4 B.C. 33. Poet. St. Chrysostom V.E. 15, etc. A.D. 380. Theologian. Cicero I.D. 3, etc. B.C. 55. Orator, etc. Claudian vi. etc. A.D. 400. Poet-Historian. St. Clement V.E. 4 A.D. 80. Theologian. Constantius V.F. 4 A.D. 480. Ecclesiastical Biographer.
Diodorus Siculus I.E. 11, etc. B.C. 44. Geographer. Dion Cassius v. etc. A.D. 150. Historian. Dioscorides I.E. 4 A.D. 80. Physician. Eumenius V.A. 1 A.D. 310. Imperial Panegyrist. Eutropius V.A. 1 A.D. 300. Imperial Panegyrist. Firmicus V.B. 2 A.D. 350. Controversialist. Frontinus III. A. 1 A.D. 80. Wrote on Tactics. Fronto IV. D. 2 A.D. 100. Historian. Gildas vi. etc. A.D. 500. Theologian. Hegesippus II. F. 3 A.D. 150. Historian. Herodian IV. E. 3 A.D. 220. Historian. Herodotus I.C. 3 B.C. 444. Historian, etc. St. Hilary V.B. 3 A.D. 350. Theologian. Horace III. A. 7 B.C. 25. Poet. Itinerary IV. A. 7 A.D. 200.
St. Jerome V.C. 12 A.D. 400. Theologian. Josephus III. F. 1 A.D. 70. Historian. Juvenal III. F. 5 A.D. 75. Satirist. Lampridius IV. E. 1 A.D. 290. Imperial Biographer. Lucan II. E. 1 A.D. 60. Historical Poet. Mamertinus V.A. 5 A.D. 280. Panegyrist. Marcellinus vi. etc. A.D. 380. Historian. Martial vi. etc. A.D. 70. Epigrammatist. Maximus II. C. 13 A.D. 30. Wrote Memorabilia. Mela I.H. 7 A.D. 50. Geographer, etc. Menologia Graeca V.E. 5 A.D. 550.
Minucius Felix I.E. 2 A.D. 210. Geographer. Nemesianus IV. C. 15 A.D. 280. Wrote on Hunting. Nennius vi. etc. A.D. 500. Historian. Notitia vi. etc. A.D. 406.
Olympiodorus V.C. 10 A.D. 425. Historian. Onomacritus I.C. 1 B.C. 333. Poet. Oppian IV. C. 15 A.D. 140. Wrote on Hunting Origen V.E. 13 A.D. 220. Theologian. Pliny vi. etc. A.D. 70. Naturalist. Plutarch I.C. 1 A.D. 80. Historian, etc. Polyaenus II. E. 8 A.D. 180. Wrote on Tactics. Procopius V.D. 5 A.D. 555. Wrote on Geography, etc.
Propertius III. 1. 7 B.C. 10. Poet. Prosper V.F. 4 A.D. 450. Ecclesiastical Historian.
Prudentius IV. C. 15 A.D. 370. Ecclesiastical Poet. Ptolemy v. etc. A.D. 120. Geographer. Ravenna Geography vi. etc. A.D. 450. Seneca III. C. 7 A.D. 60. Philosopher. Sidonius Apollinaris V.F. 3 A.D. 475. Letters. Solinus I.E. 4, etc. A.D. 80. Geographer. Spartianus IV. D. 2 A.D. 303. Historian. Strabo vi. etc. B.C. 20. Geographer. Suetonius I.H. 10 A.D. 110. Imperial Biographer. Symmachus IV. C. 15 A.D. 390. Statesman, etc. Tacitus v. etc. A.D. 80. Historian. Tertullian V.E. 11 A.D. 180. Theologian. Theodoret V.E. 4 A.D. 420. Wrote Commentaries. Tibullus III. A. 7 B.C. 20. Poet. Timaeus I.D. 2 B.C. 300. Geographer. Vegetius V.B. 5 A.D. 380. Historian. Venantius V.E. 4 A.D. 580. Wrote Ecclesiastical Poems.
Victor V.A. 9 A.D. 380. Historian. Virgil III. 1. 7 B.C. 30. Poet. Vitruvius. I.G. 5 A.D. Wrote on Geography, etc.
Vobiscus. IV. C. 17 A.D. 290. Historian. Xiphilinus vi. etc. A.D. 1200. Abridged Dio Cassius. Zosimus V.C. 11 A.D. 400. Historian.


The constant accession of new material, especially from the unceasing spade-work always going on in every quarter of the island, makes modern books on Roman Britain tend to become obsolete, sometimes with startling rapidity. But even when not quite up to date, a well-written book is almost always very far from worthless, and much may be learnt from any in the following list:–

BABCOCK ‘The Two Last Centuries of Roman Britain’ (1891). BARNES ‘Ancient Britain’ (1858).
BROWNE, BISHOP ‘The Church before Augustine’ (1895). BRUCE ‘Handbook to the Roman Wall’ (1895). CAMDEN ‘Britannia’ (1587).
COOTE ‘Romans in Britain’ (1878). DAWKINS ‘Early Man in Britain’ (1880). ‘The Place of the Welsh in English History’ (1889). DILL ‘Roman Society’ (1899).
ELTON ‘Origins of English History’ (1890). EVANS, SIR J. ‘British Coins’ (1869).
‘Bronze Implements’ (1881). ‘Stone Implements’ (1897).
FREEMAN ‘Historical Essays’ (1879). ‘English Towns’ (1883).
‘Tyrants of Britain’ (1886). FROUDE ‘Julius Caesar’ (1879).
GUEST ‘Origines Celticae’ (1883). HADDAN AND STUBBS ‘Concilia’ (1869).
‘Remains’ (1876).
HARDY ‘Monumenta Historica Britannica’ (1848). HAVERFIELD ‘Roman World’ (1899), etc. HODGKIN ‘Italy and her Invaders’ (1892), etc. HOGARTH (ed.) ‘Authority and Archaeology’ (1899). HORSLEY ‘Britannia Romana’ (1732).
HUEBNER ‘Inscriptiones Britannicae Romanae’ (1873). ‘Inscriptiones Britannicae
Christianae’ (1876), etc. KEMBLE ‘Saxons in England’ (1876). KENRICK ‘Phoenicia’ (1855).
‘Papers on History’ (1864). LEWIN ‘Invasion of Britain’ (1862). LUBBOCK, SIR J. ‘Origin of Civilization’ (1889). LYALL ‘Natural Religion’ (1891).
LYELL ‘Antiquity of Man’ (1873). MAINE, SIR H. ‘Early History of Institutions’ (1876). MAITLAND ‘Domesday Studies’ (1897). MARQUARDT ‘Roemische Staatsverwaltung’ (1873). MOMMSEN ‘Provinces of the Roman Empire’ (1865). NEILSON ‘Per Lineam Valli’ (1892).
PEARSON ‘Historical Atlas of Britain’ (1870). RHYS ‘Celtic Britain’ (1882).
‘Celtic Heathendom’ (1888). ‘Welsh People’ (1900).
ROLLESTON ‘British Barrows’ (1877). ‘Prehistoric Fauna’ (1880).
SCARTH ‘Roman Britain’ (1885). SMITH, C.R. ‘Collectanea’ (1848), etc. TOZER ‘History of Ancient Geography’ (1897). TRAILL AND MANN ‘Social England’ (1901). USHER, BP. ‘British Ecclesiastical Antiquity’ (1639). VINE ‘Caesar in Kent’ (1899).
WRIGHT ‘Celt, Roman and Saxon’ (1875).



350 (?) Pytheas discovers Britain [I.D. 1] 100 (?) Divitiacus Overlord of Britain (?) [II. B. 4]
Gauls settle on Thames and Humber (?) [I.F. 4]
Posidonius visits Britain [I.D. 3] Birth of Julius Caesar [II. A. 6]
58 Caesar conquers Gaul [II. A. 9] 56 Sea-fight with Veneti and Britons [II. B. 3]
55 First invasion of Britain [II. C., D.]
Cassivellaunus Overlord of Britain (?) [II. F. 3]
Mandubratius, exiled Prince of Trinobantes, appeals to Caesar (?) [II. E. 10]
54 Second Invasion of Britain [II. E., F., G.]
52 Revolt of Gaul. Commius, Prince of Arras, flies to Britain and
reigns in South-east [III. A. 1] 44 Caesar slain [II. G. 9]
32 Battle of Actium [III. A. 6] Augustus. About this time the sons of Commius reign in Kent, etc., Addeomarus
over Iceni, and Tasciovan
at Verulam [III. A. 1]
A.D. About this time the Commian
princes are overthrown [III.
A. 2]
Cymbeline, son of Tasciovan, becomes Overlord of Britain [III.
A. 4]. Commians appeal to
Augustus [III. A. 5]
14 Death of Augustus Tiberius. 29 Consulship of the Gemini. The
Crucifixion (?)
37 Death of Tiberius Caligula. 40 (?) Cymbeline banishes Adminius,
who appeals to Rome [III. A. 5] Caligula threatens invasion [III.
A. 6]
41 Caligula poisoned [III. A. 9] Claudius. Death of Cymbeline (?). His son
Caradoc succeeds
43 Antedrigus and Vericus contend for Icenian throne: Vericus appeals to Rome [III. A. 9]
44 Claudius subdues Britain [III. B.] Cogidubnus, King in South-east,
made Roman Legate [III. C. 8] 45 Triumph of Claudius [III. C.
1, 2]
47 Ovation of Aulus Plautius, conqueror of Britain. [III. C. 2]
48 Vespasian and Titus crush British guerrillas [III. C. 3]
50 Britain made “Imperial” Province. Ostorius Pro-praetor
[III. C. 9]
Icenian revolt crushed [III. D. 1-6].
Camelodune a colony [III. D. 8] 51 Silurian revolt under Caradoc
[III. D. 7, 8]
52 Caradoc captive [III. D. 9]
53 Uriconium and Caerleon founded [III. D. 12]
54 Death of Ostorius [III. D. 11] 55 Didius Gallus Pro-praetor. Last
Silurian effort [III. D. 13]
Death of Claudius [III. D. 13] Nero. 56 (?) Aulus Plautius marries Pomponia Graecina [V.E. 10]
61 Suetonius Paulinus Pro-praetor [III. E. 7]

Massacre of Druids in Mona [III. E. 8, 9]
Boadicean revolt [III. E. 2-13]. St. Peter in Britain (?) [V.E. 5]
62 Turpiliannus Pro-praetor. “Peace” in Britain [III. E. 13]
63 (?) Claudia Rufina Marries Pudens [V.E. 9]
64 Burning of Rome. First Persecution. St. Paul in Britain (?)
[V.E. 4]
65 Aristobulus Bishop in Britain (?) [V.E. 5]
68 Death of Nero (June 10) Galba. Galba slain (Dec. 16) Civil War between 69 Otho slain (April 20) Otho and Vitellius. Vitellius slain (Dec. 20)
British army under Agricola Vespasian. pronounces for Vespasian
[III. F. 1]
70 Cerealis Pro-praetor. Brigantes subdued by Agricola [III. F. 1]
Destruction of Jerusalem [IV.
C. 5]
75 Frontinus Pro-praetor. Silurians subdued by Agricola [III. F. 2]
78 Agricola Pro-praetor. Ordovices and Mona subdued [III. F. 3]
79 Agricola Latinizes Britain [III. Titus. F. 4]. Vespasian dies
80 Agricola’s first Caledonian campaign [III. F. 5].
81 Agricola’s rampart from Forth to Domitian. Clyde [III. F. 7]. Titus dies
82 Agricola invades Ireland (?) [III. F. 5]
83 Agricola advances into Northern Caledonia [III. F. 5]
First circumnavigation of Britain [III. F. 7]
84 Agricola defeats Galgacus [III. F. 6], resigns and dies [III. F. 7]

95 Second persecution. Flavia Domitilla [V.E. 11]
96 Domitian slain Nerva. 98 Nerva dies Trajan. 117 Trajan dies Hadrian. 120 Hadrian visits Britain and builds Wall [IV. D. 1]
Britain divided into “Upper” and “Lower” [IV. D. 3]
First “Britannia” coinage [IV. D. 4] 138 Hadrian dies Antoninus Pius. 139 Lollius Urbicus, Legate in Britain, replaces Agricola’s rampart by turf wall from Forth to Clyde [IV. D. 5] 140 Britain made Pro-consular [IV. E. 5] 161 Antoninus dies Marcus Aurelius. 180 British Church organized by Pope
Eleutherius (?) [V.E. 12]
Marcus Aurelius dies Commodus. 181 Caledonian invasion driven back by Ulpius Marcellus [IV. E. 1]
184 Commodus “Britannicus” [IV. E. 1] 185 British army mutinies against reforms of Perennis [IV. E. 1]
187 Pertinax quells mutineers [IV. E. 3] 192 Pertinax superseded by Junius Severus [IV. E. 3]
Death of Commodus Interregnum. 193 Pertinax slain by Julianus and Albinus. Pertinax; Julianus; Julianus slain Albinus; Severus. Severus proclaimed. Albinus Emperor in Britain [IV. E. 3]
197 British army defeated at Lyons. Severus. Albinus slain [IV. E. 3]
201 Vinius Lupus, Pro-praetor, buys off Caledonians [IV. E. 4]
208 Caledonian invasion. Severus comes to Britain [IV. E. 5]
209 Severus overruns Caledonia [IV. E. 5]
210 Severus completes Hadrian’s Wall [IV. E. 6]
211 Severus dies at York [IV. G. 2] {Caracalla. {Geta.
212 Geta murdered [IV. G. 2] Caracalla. 215 (?) Roman citizenship extended to
British provincials [IV. G. 2] (?) Itinerary of Antonius [IV. A. 7]
217 Caracalla slain Macrinus. 218 Macrinus slain Helagabalus. 222 Helagabalus slain Alexander Severus. 235 Alexander Severus slain Maximin. 238 Maximin slain Gordian. 244 Gordian slain Philip. 249 Philip slain Decius. 251 Decius slain Gallus. 254 Gallus slain {Valerian. {Gallienus.
258 Postumus proclaimed Emperor in Britain [V.A. 1]
260 Valerian slain Gallienus. 265 Victorinus associated with
Postumus [V.A. 1]
268 Gallienus slain Tetricus. 269 Tetricus slain Claudius Gothicus. 270 Claudius Gothicus dies Aurelian. 273 (?) Constantius Chlorus marries
Helen, a British lady [V.A. 6] 274 Constantine the Great born at
York [V.A. 6]
275 Aurelian slain Tacitus. 276 Tacitus slain Florianus. Florianus slain Probus. 277 Vandal prisoners deported to
Britain [V.A. 1]
282 Probus slain Carus. 283 Carus dies Numerian. 284 Numerian dies Carinus. 285 Carinus dies {Diocletian. {Maximian.
286 Carausius, first “Count of the Saxon Shore,” becomes Emperor
in Britain [V.A. 3]
292 Constantine and Galerius “Caesars” [V.A. 5]
294 Carausius murdered by Allectus [V.A. 4]
296 Constantius slays Allectus and recovers Britain [V.A. 7, 8]
Britain divided into four “Diocletian” Provinces [V.A. 9]
303 Tenth Persecution. Martyrdom of St. Alban [V.A. 11]
305 Diocletian and Maximian abdicate {Constantius. [V.A. 12] {Galerius. 306 Constantius dies at York [V.A.
13]. Constantine, Galerius,
Maxentius, Licinius, etc., contend Interregnum. for Empire [V.A. 14]
312 Constantine with British Army wins at Milvian Bridge, and
embraces Christianity [V.A. 14] Constantine. 314 Council of Arles [V.E. 14]
325 Council of Nicaea [V.B. 1]
{Constantine II. 337 Constantine dies {Constantius II. {Constans.
340 Constantine II. dies
343 Constans and Constantius II. visit Britain [V.B. 1]
350 Constans slain. Usurpation of Constantius II. Magnentius in Britain [V.B. 3]
353 Magnentius dies [V.B. 3]
358 Britain under Julian. Exportation of corn [V.B. 4]
360 Council of Ariminum [V.E. 14] 361 Death of Constantius [V.B. 6] Julian. 362 Lupicinus, Legate in Britain, repels first attacks of Picts
and Scots [V.B. 5]
363 Julian dies {Valentinian. {Valens.
365 Saxons, Picts, and Scots ravage shores of Britain [V.B. 7]
{Valentinian. 366 Gratian associated in Empire {Valens. {Gratian.
367 Great barbarian raid on Britain Roman commanders slain [V.
B. 7]
368 Theodosius, Governor of Britain, expels Picts and Scots [V.
B. 7]
369 Theodosius recovers Valentia [V. B. 7]
374 Saxons invade Britain [V.B. 8] {Valens.
375 Valentinian dies {Gratian. {Valentinian II.

378 Valens slain. Theodosius associated {Valentinian II. in Empire {Theodosius.

383 Gratian slain. British Army proclaims {Valentinian II. Maximus and conquer {Theodosius. Gaul [V.C. 1]
387 British Army under Maximus take Rome [V.C. 1]
388 Maximus slain. First British settlement in Armorica (?) [V.
C. 1]
392 Valentinian II. slain. Penal laws Theodosius. against Heathenism
394 Ninias made Bishop of Picts by Pope Siricius (?) [V.F. 1]
395 Death of Theodosius {Arcadius. {Honorius.
396 Stilicho sends a Legion to protect Britain (?) [V.C. 1]
{Arcadius. 402 Theodosius II. associated in Empire {Honorius. {Theodosius II. 406 Stilicho recalls Legion to meet
Radagaisus [V.C. 2]
‘Notitia’ composed (?) [V.C. 3-9] German tribes flood Gaul [V.C. 2]

407 British Army proclaim Constantine III. and reconquer Gaul [V.C.

408 Arcadius dies. Constantine III. {Honorius. recognized as “Augustus” {Theodosius II. {Constantine III. 410 Visigoths under Alaric take Rome
[V.C. 11]

411 Constantine III. slain {Honorius. {Theodosius II. 413 (?) Pelagian heresy arises in Britain [V.F. 3]

415 (?) Rescript of Honorius to the Cities of Britain [V.C. 11]

423 Death of Honorius Theodosius II.

425 Valentinian III., son of Galla {Theodosius II. Placidia, Emperor of West [V.D. 3] {Valentinian III.

429 (?) SS. Germanus and Lupus sent to Britain by Pope Celestine (?)
[V.F. 4]

432 (?) St. Patrick sent to Ireland by Pope Celestine [V.F. 2]

435 (?) Roman Legion sent to aid Britons (?)

436 (?) Roman forces finally withdrawn (?)

446 Vain appeal of Britons to Actius (?) [V.D. 2]

447 (?) The Alleluia Battle [V.F. 4]

449 (?) Hengist and Horsa settle in
Thanet (?) [V.D. 3]

450 (?) English defeat Picts at Stamford (?) [V.B. 2]
Theodosius II. dies Valentinian III.

455 (?) Battle of Aylesford begins English conquest of Britain (?) [V.D. 2]




Sec. A.–Palaeolithic Age–Extinct fauna–River-bed men–Flint implements–Burnt stones–Worked bones–Glacial climate … _p_. 25

Sec. B.–Neolithic Age–“Ugrians”–Polished flints–Jadite–Gold ornaments–Cromlechs–Forts–Bronze Age–Copper and tin–Stonehenge … _p_. 28

Sec. C.–Aryan immigrants–Gael and Briton–Earliest classical nomenclature–British Isles–Albion–Ierne–Cassiterides–Phoenician tin trade _via_ Cadiz … _p_. 31

Sec. D.–Discoveries of Pytheas–Greek tin trade _via_ Marseilles–Trade routes–Ingots–Coracles–Earliest British coins–Lead-mining … _p_. 34

Sec. E.–Pytheas trustworthy–His notes on Britain–Agricultural tribes–Barns–Manures–Dene Holes–Mead–Beer–Parched corn–Pottery–Mill-stones–Villages–Cattle–Pastoral tribes–Savage tribes–Cannibalism–Polyandry–Beasts of chase–Forest trees–British clothing and arms–Sussex iron … _p_. 39

Sec. F.–Celtic types–“Roy” and “Dhu”–Gael–Silurians–Loegrians– Basque peoples–Shifting of clans–Constitutional disturbances–Monarchy –Oligarchy–Demagogues–First inscribed coins … _p_. 50

Sec. G.–Clans at Julian invasion–Permanent natural boundaries–Population Celtic settlements–“Duns”–Maiden Castle … _p_. 54

Sec. H.–Religious state of Britain–Illustrated by Hindooism–Totemists–Polytheists–Druids–Bards–Seers–Druidic Deities–Mistletoe–Sacred herbs–“Ovum Anguinum”–Suppression of Druidism–Druidism and Christianity _p_. 62



B.C. 55, 54

Sec. A.–Caesar and Britain–Breakdown of Roman Republican institutions–Corruption abroad and at home–Rise of Caesar–Conquest of Gaul … _p_. 73

Sec. B.–Sea-fight with Veneti and Britons–Pretexts for invading Britain–British dominion of Divitiacus–Gallic tribes in Britain–Atrebates–Commius … _p_. 79

Sec. C.–Defeat of Germans–Bridge over Rhine–Caesar’s army–Dread of ocean–Fleet at Boulogne–Commius sent to Britain–Channel crossed–Attempt on Dover–Landing at Deal–Legionary sentiment–British army dispersed … _p_. 83

Sec. D.–Wreck of fleet–Fresh British levy–Fight in corn-field–British chariots–Attack on camp–Romans driven into sea … _p_. 94

Sec. E.–Caesar worsted–New fleet built–Caesar at Rome–Cicero–Expedition of 54 B.C.–Unopposed landing–Pro-Roman Britons–Trinobantes–Mandubratius–British army surprised–“Old England’s Hole” … _p_. 102

Sec. F.–Fleet again wrecked–Britons rally under Caswallon–Battle of Barham Down–Britons fly to London–Origin of London–Patriot army dispersed … _p_. 112

Sec. G.–Passage of Thames–Submission of clans–Storm of Verulam–Last patriot effort in Kent–Submission of Caswallon–Romans leave Britain–“Caesar Divus” … _p_. 118



B.C. 54-A.D. 85

Sec. A.–Britain after Julius Caesar–House of Commius–Inscribed coins–House of Cymbeline–Tasciovan–Commians overthrown–Vain appeal to Augustus–Ancyran Tablet–Romano-British trade–Lead-mining–British fashions in Rome–Adminius banished by Cymbeline–Appeal to Caligula–Futile demonstration–Icenian civil war–Vericus banished–Appeal to Claudius–Invasion prepared … _p_. 124

Sec. B.–Aulus Plautius–Reluctance to embark–Narcissus–Passage of Channel–Landing at Portchester–Strength of expedition–Vespasian’s legion–British defeats–Line of Thames held–Arrival of Claudius–Camelodune taken–General submission of island _p_. 131

Sec. C.–Claudius triumphs–Gladiatorial shows–Last stand of Britons–Gallantry of Titus–Ovation of Plautius–Distinctions bestowed–Triumphal arch–Commemorative coinage–Conciliatory policy–British worship of Claudius–Cogidubnus–Attitude of clans–Britain made Imperial province … _p_. 135

Sec. D.–Ostorius Pro-praetor–Pacification of Midlands–Icenian revolt–The Fleam Dyke–Iceni crushed–Cangi–Brigantes–Silurian war–Storm of Caer Caradoc–Treachery of Cartismandua–Caradoc at Rome–Death of Ostorius–Uriconium and Caerleon–Britain quieted–Death of Claudius … _p_. 142

Sec. E.–Neronian misgovernment–Seneca–Prasutagus–Boadicean revolt–Sack of Camelodune–Suetonius in Mona–Druidesses–Sack of London and Verulam–Boadicea crushed at Battle Bridge–Peace of Petronius … _p_. 151

Sec. F.–Otho and Vitellius–Civil war–Army of Britain–Priscus–Agricola–Vespasian Emperor–Cerealis–Brigantes put down–Silurians put down–Agricola Pro-praetor–Ordovices put down–Frontinus–Pacification of South Britain–Roman civilization introduced–Caledonian campaign–Galgacus–Agricola’s rampart–Domitian–Resignation and death of Agricola … _p_. 159



A.D. 85-211

Sec. A.–Pacification of Britain–Roman roads–London their centre–Authority for names–Watling Street–Ermine Street–Icknield Way … _p_. 165

Sec. B.–Romano-British towns–Ancient lists–Method of identification–Dense rural population–Remains in Cam valley–Coins–Thimbles–Horseshoes … _p_. 171

Sec. C.–Fortification of towns late–Chief Roman centres–London–York–Chester–Bath–Silchester–Remains there found–Romano-British handicrafts–Pottery–Basket-work–Mining–Rural life–Villas–Forests–Hunting-dogs–Husbandry–Britain under _Pax Romana … p_. 178

Sec. D.–The unconquered North–Hadrian’s Wall–Upper and Lower Britain–Romano-British coinage–Wall of Antoninus–Britain Pro-consular … _p_. 193

Sec. E.–Commodus Britannicus–Ulpius Marcellus–Murder of Perennis–Era of military turbulence–Pertinax–Albinus–British army defeated at Lyons–Severus Emperor–Caledonian war–Severus overruns Highlands … _p_. 198

Sec. F.–Severus completes Hadrian’s Wall–“Mile Castles”–“Stations”–Garrison–The Vallum–Rival theories–Evidence–Remains–Coins–Altars–Mithraism–Inscription to Julia Domna–“Written Rock” on Gelt–Cilurnum aqueduct … _p_. 203

Sec. G.–Death of Severus–Caracalla and Geta–Roman citizenship–Extension to veterans–_Tabulae honestae missionis_–Bestowed on all British provincials … _p_. 212



A.D. 211-455

Sec. A.–Era of Pretenders–Probus–Vandlebury–First notice of Saxons–Origin of name–Count of the Saxon Shore–Carausius –Allectus–Last Romano-British coinage–Britain Mistress of the Sea–Reforms of Diocletian–Constantius Chlorus–Re-conquest of Britain–Diocletian provinces–Diocletian persecution–The last “Divus”–General scramble for Empire–British army wins for Constantine–Christianity established … _p_. 218

Sec. B.–Spread of Gospel–Arianism–Britain orthodox–Last Imperial visit–Heathen temples stripped–British Emperors–Magnentius–Gratian–Julian–British corn-trade–First inroad of Picts and Scots–Valentinian–Saxon raids–Campaign of Theodosius–Re-conquest of Valentia–Wall restored and cities fortified … _p_. 229

Sec. C.–Roman evacuation of Britain begun–Maximus–Settlement of Brittany–Radagaisus invades Italy–Twentieth Legion leaves Britain–Britain in the ‘Notitia’–Final effort of British army–The last Constantine–Last Imperial Rescript to Britain–Sack of Rome by Alaric–Final collapse of Roman rule in Britain … _p_. 235

Sec. D.–Beginning of English Conquest–Vortigern–Jutes in Thanet–Battle of Stamford–Massacre of Britons–Valentinian III.–Latest Roman coin found in Britain–Progress of Conquest–The Cymry–Survival of Romano-British titles–Arturian Romances–Procopius–Belisarius–Roman claims revived by Charlemagne–The British Empire … _p_. 244

Sec. E.–Survivals of Romano-British civilization–Romano-British Church–Legends of its origin–St. Paul–St. Peter–Joseph of Arimathaea–Glastonbury–Historical notices–Claudia and Pudens–Pomponia–Church of St. Pudentiana–Patristic references to Britain–Tertullian–Origen–Legend of Lucius–Native Christianity–British Bishops at Councils–Testimony of Chrysostom and Jerome … _p_. 249

Sec. F.–British missionaries–Ninias–Patrick–Beatus–British heresiarchs–Pelagius–Fastidius–Pelagianism stamped out by Germanus–The Alleluia Battle–Romano-British churches–Why so seldom found–Conclusion … _p_. 261





Palaeolithic Age–Extinct fauna–River-bed men–Flint implements–Burnt stones–Worked bones–Glacial climate.

A. 1.–All history, as Professor Freeman so well points out, centres round the great name of Rome. For, of all the great divisions of the human race, it is the Aryan family which has come to the front. Assimilating, developing, and giving vastly wider scope to the highest forms of thought and religion originated by other families, notably the Semitic, the various Aryan nationalities form, and have formed for ages, the vanguard of civilization. These nationalities are now practically co-extensive with Christendom; and on them has been laid by Divine Providence “the white man’s burden”–the task of raising the rest of mankind along with themselves to an ever higher level–social, material, intellectual, and spiritual.

A. 2.–Aryan history is thus, for all practical purposes, the history of mankind. And a mere glance at Aryan history shows how entirely its great central feature is the period during which all the leading forces of Aryanism were grouped and fused together under the world-wide Empire of Rome. In that Empire all the streams of our Ancient History find their end, and from that Empire all those of Modern History take their beginning. “All roads,” says the proverb, “lead to Rome;” and this is emphatically true of the lines of historical research; for as we tread them we are conscious at every step of the _Romani Nominis umbra_, the all-pervading influence of “the mighty name of Rome.”

A. 3.–And above all is this true of the history of Western Europe in general and of our own island in particular. For Britain, History (meaning thereby the more or less trustworthy record of political and social development) does not even begin till its destinies were drawn within the sphere of Roman influence. It is with Julius Caesar, that great writer (and yet greater maker) of History, that, for us, this record commences.

A. 4.–But before dealing with “Britain’s tale” as connected with “Caesar’s fate,” it will be well to note briefly what earlier information ancient documents and remains can afford us with regard to our island and its inhabitants. With the earliest dwellers upon its soil of whom traces remain we are, indeed, scarcely concerned. For in the far-off days of the “River-bed” men (five thousand or five hundred thousand years ago, according as we accept the physicist’s or the geologist’s estimate of the age of our planet) Britain was not yet an island. Neither the Channel nor the North Sea as yet cut it off from the Continent when those primaeval savages herded beside the banks of its streams, along with elephant and hippopotamus, bison and elk, bear and hyaena; amid whose remains we find their roughly-chipped flint axes and arrow-heads, the fire-marked stones which they used in boiling their water, and the sawn or broken bases of the antlers which for some unknown purpose[6] they were in the habit of cutting up–perhaps, like the Lapps of to-day, to anchor their sledges withal in the snow. For the great Glacial Epoch, which had covered half the Northern Hemisphere with its mighty ice-sheet, was still, in their day, lingering on, and their environment was probably that of Northern Siberia to-day. Some archaeologists, indeed, hold that they are to this day represented by the Esquimaux races; but this theory cannot be considered in any way proved.

A. 5.–Whether, indeed, they were “men” at all, in any real sense of the word, may well be questioned. For of the many attempts which philosophers in all ages have made to define the word “man,” the only one which is truly defensible is that which differentiates him from other animals, not by his physical or intellectual, but by his spiritual superiority. Many other creatures are as well adapted in bodily conformation for their environment, and the lowest savages are intellectually at a far lower level of development than the highest insects; but none stand in the same relation to the Unseen. “Man,” as has been well said, “is the one animal that can pray.” And there is nothing amongst the remains of these “river-bed men” to show us that they either did pray, or could. Intelligence, such as is now found only in human beings, they undoubtedly had. But whether they had the capacity for Religion must be left an unsolved problem. In this connection, however, it may be noted that Tacitus, in describing the lowest savages of his Germania [c. 46], “with no horses, no homes, no weapons, skin-clad, nesting on the bare ground, men and women alike, barely kept alive by herbs and such flesh as their bone-tipped arrows can win them,” makes it his climax that they are “beneath the need of prayer;”–adding that this spiritual condition is, “beyond all others, that least attainable by man.”


Neolithic Age–“Ugrians”–Polished flints–Jadite–Gold ornaments–Cromlechs–Forts–Bronze Age–Copper and tin–Stonehenge.

B. 1.–Whatever they were, they vanish from our ken utterly, these Palaeolithic savages, and are followed, after what lapse of time we know not, by the users of polished flint weapons, the tribes of the Neolithic period. And with them we find ourselves in touch with the existing development of our island. For an island it already was, and with substantially the same area and shores and physical features as we have them still. Our rivers ran in the same valleys, our hills rose with the same contour, in those far-off days as now. And while the place of flint in the armoury of Britain was taken first by bronze and then by iron, these changes were made by no sudden breaks, but so gradually that it is impossible to say when one period ended and the next began.

B.2.–It is almost certain, however, that the Neolithic men were not of Aryan blood. They are commonly spoken of by the name of _Ugrians_,[7] the “ogres”[8] of our folk-lore; which has also handed down, in the spiteful Brownie of the wood and the crafty Pixie of the cavern, dimly-remembered traditions of their physical and mental characteristics. Indeed it is not impossible that their blood may still be found in the remoter corners of our land, whither they were pushed back by the higher civilization of the Aryan invaders, before whom they disappeared by a process in which “miscegenation” may well have played no small part. But disappear they did, leaving behind them no more traces than their flint arrow-heads and axes (a few of these being of jadite, which must have come from China or thereabouts), together with their oblong sepulchral barrows, from some of which the earth has weathered away, so that the massive stones imbedded in it as the last home of the deceased stand exposed as a “dolmen” or “cromlech.” But an appreciable number of the earthworks which stud our hill-tops, and are popularly called “Roman” or “British” camps, really belong to this older race. Such are “Cony Castle” in Dorset, and the fortifications along the Axe in Devon.

B. 3.–During the neolithic stage of their development the Ugrians were acquainted with but one metal, gold, and some of their stone weapons and implements are thus ornamented. For gold, being at once the most beautiful, the most incorruptible, the most easily recognizable, and the most easily worked of metals, is everywhere found as used by man long before any other. But before the Ugrian races vanish they had learnt to use bronze, which shows them to have discovered the properties not only of gold, but of both tin and copper. All three metals were doubtless obtained from the streams of the West. They had also become proficients, as their sepulchral urns show, in the manufacture of pottery. They could weave, moreover, both linen and woollen being known, and had passed far beyond the mere savage.

B. 4.–The race, indeed, which could erect Avebury and Stonehenge, as we may safely say was done by this people,[9] must have possessed engineering skill of a very high order, and no little accuracy of astronomical observation. For the mighty “Sarsen” stones have all been brought from a distance,[10] and the whole vast circles are built on a definite astronomical plan; while so careful is the orientation that, at the summer solstice, the disc of the rising sun, as seen from the “altar” of Stonehenge, appears to be poised exactly on the summit of one of the chief megaliths (now known as “The Friar’s Heel”). From this it would seem that the builders were Sun-worshippers; and amongst the earliest reports of Britain current in the Greek world we find the fame of the “great round temple” dedicated to Apollo. But no Latin author mentions it; so that it is doubtful whether it was ever used by the Aryan, or at least by the Brythonic, immigrants. These brought their own worship and their own civilization with them, and all that was highest in Ugrian civilization and worship faded before them, such Ugrians as remained having degenerated to a far lower level when first we meet with them in history.


Aryan immigrants–Gael and Briton–Earliest classical nomenclature–British Isles–Albion–Ierne–Cassiterides–Phoenician tin trade _via_ Cadiz.

C. 1.–How or when the first swarms of the Aryan migration reached Britain is quite unknown.[11] But they undoubtedly belonged to the Celtic branch of that family, and to the Gaelic (Gadhelic or Goidelic) section of the branch, which still holds the Highlands of Scotland and forms the bulk of the population of Ireland. By the 4th century B.C. this section was already beginning to be pressed northwards and westwards by the kindred Britons (or Brythons) who followed on their heels; for Aristotle (or a disciple of his) knows our islands as “the Britannic[12] Isles.” That the Britons were in his day but new comers may be argued from the fact that he speaks of Great Britain by the name of _Albion_, a Gaelic designation subsequently driven northwards along with those who used it. In its later form _Albyn_ it long remained as loosely equivalent to North Britain, and as _Albany_ it still survives in a like connection. Ireland Aristotle calls _Ierne_, the later Ivernia or Hibernia; a word also found in the Argonautic poems ascribed to the mythical Orpheus, and composed probably by Onomacritus about 350 B.C., wherein the Argo is warned against approaching “the Iernian islands, the home of dark and noisome mischief.” This is the passage familiar to the readers of Kingsley’s ‘Heroes.'[13]

C. 2.–Aristotle’s work does no more than mention our islands, as being, like Ceylon, not pelagic, but oceanic. To early classical antiquity, it must be remembered, the Ocean was no mere sea, but a vast and mysterious river encircling the whole land surface of the earth. Its mighty waves, its tides, its furious currents, all made it an object of superstitious horror. To embark upon it was the height of presumption; and even so late as the time of Claudius we shall find the Roman soldiers feeling that to do so, even for the passage of the Channel, was “to leave the habitable world.”

C. 3.–But while the ancients dreaded the Ocean, they knew also that its islands alone were the source of one of the most precious and rarest of their metals. Before iron came into general use (and the difficulty of smelting it has everywhere made it the last metal to do so), tin had a value all its own. It was the only known substance capable of making, along with copper, an alloy hard enough for cutting purposes–the “bronze” which has given its name to one entire Age of human development. It was thus all but a necessary of life, and was eagerly sought for as amongst the choicest objects of traffic.

C. 4.–The Phoenicians, the merchant princes of the dawn of history, succeeded, with true mercantile instinct, in securing a monopoly of this trade, by being the first to make their way to the only spots in the world where tin is found native, the Malay region in the East, Northern Spain and Cornwall in the West. That tin was known amongst the Greeks by its Sanscrit name _Kastira_[14] ([Greek: kassiteros]) shows that the Eastern source was the earliest to be tapped. But the Western was that whence the supply flowed throughout the whole of the classical ages; and, as the stream-tin of the Asturian mountains seems to have been early exhausted, the name _Cassiterides_, the Tin Lands, came to signify exclusively the western peninsula of Britain. Herodotus, in the 5th century B.C., knew this name, but, as he frankly confesses, nothing but the name.[15] For the whereabouts of this El Dorado, and the way to it, was a trade secret most carefully kept by the Phoenician merchants of Cadiz, who alone held the clue. So jealous were they of it that long afterwards, when the alternative route through Gaul had already drawn away much of its profitableness, we read of a Phoenician captain purposely wrecking his ship lest a Roman vessel in sight should follow to the port, and being indemnified by the state for his loss.


Discoveries of Pytheas–Greek tin trade _via_ Marseilles–Trade routes–Ingots–Coracles–Earliest British coins–Lead-mining.

D. 1.–But contemporary with Aristotle lived the great geographer Pytheas; whose works, unfortunately, we know only by the fragmentary references to them in later, and frequently hostile, authors, such as Strabo, who dwell largely on his mistakes, and charge him with misrepresentation. In fact, however, he seems to have been both an accurate and truthful observer, and a discoverer of the very first order. Starting from his native city Massilia (Marseilles), he passed through the Straits of Gibraltar and traced the coast-line of Europe to Denmark (visiting Britain on his way), and perhaps even on into the Baltic.[16] The shore of Norway (which he called, as the natives still call it, Norge) he followed till within the Arctic Circle, as his mention of the midnight sun shows, and then struck across to Scotland; returning, apparently by the Irish Sea, to Bordeaux and so home overland. This truly wonderful voyage he made at the public charge, with a view to opening new trade routes, and it seems to have thoroughly answered its purpose. Henceforward the Phoenician monopoly was broken, and a constant stream of traffic in the precious tin passed between Britain and Marseilles.[17]

D. 2.–The route was kept as secret as possible; Polybius tells us that the Massiliots, when interrogated by one of the Scipios, professed entire ignorance of Britain; but Pytheas (as quoted by his contemporary Timaeus, as well as by later writers) states that the metal was brought by coasters to a tidal island, _Ictis_, whence it was shipped for Gaul. This island was six days’ sail from the tin diggings, and can scarcely be any but Thanet. St. Michael’s Mount, now the only tidal island on the south coast, was anciently part of the mainland; a fact testified to by the forest remains still seen around it. Nor could it be six days’ sail from the tin mines. The Isle of Wight, again, to which the name Ictis or Vectis would seem to point, can never have been tidal at this date. But Thanet undoubtedly was so in mediaeval times, and may well have been so for ages, while its nearness to the Continent would recommend it to the Gallic merchants. Indeed Pytheas himself probably selected it on this account for his new emporium.

D. 3.–In his day, as we have seen, the tin reached this destination by sea; but in the time of the later traveller Posidonius[18] it came in wagons, probably by that track along the North Downs now known as the “Pilgrims’ Way.” The chalk furnished a dry and open road, much easier than the swamps and forests of the lower ground. Further west the route seems to have been _via_ Launceston, Exeter, Honiton, Ilchester, Salisbury, Winchester, and Alton; an ancient track often traceable, and to be seen almost in its original condition near “Alfred’s Tower,” in Somerset, where it is known as “The Hardway.” And this long land transit argues a considerable degree of political solidarity throughout the south of the island. The tale of Posidonius is confirmed by Caesar’s statement that tin reached Kent “from the interior,” _i.e._ by land. It was obtained at first from the streams of Dartmoor and Cornwall, where abundant traces of ancient washings are visible, and afterwards by mining, as now. And when smelted it was made up into those peculiar ingots which still meet the eye in Cornwall, and whose shape seems never to have varied from the earliest times. Posidonius, who visited Cornwall, compares them to knuckle-bones[19] [Greek: astrhagaloi]

D. 4.–The vessels which thus coasted from the Land’s End to the South Foreland are described as on the pattern of coracles, a very light frame-work covered with hides. It seems almost incredible that sea-going craft could have been thus constructed; yet not only is there overwhelming testimony to the fact throughout the whole history of Roman Britain, but such boats are still in use on the wild rollers which beat upon the west coast of Ireland, and are found able to live in seas which would be fatal to anything more rigidly built. For the surf boats in use at Madras a similar principle is adopted, not a nail entering into their construction. They can thus face breakers which would crush an ordinary boat to pieces. This method of ship-building was common all along the northern coast of Europe for ages.[20] Nor were these coracles only used for coasting. As time went on, the Britons boldly struck straight across from Cornwall to the Continent, and both the Seine and the Loire became inlets for tin into Gaul, thus lessening the long land journey–not less than thirty days–which was required, as Polybius tells us, to convey it from the Straits of Dover to the Rhone. (This journey, it may be noted, was made not in wagons, as through Britain, but on pack-horses.)

D. 5.–Thus it reached Marseilles; and that the trade was founded by the Massiliot Pytheas is borne testimony to by the early British coins, which are all modelled on the classical currency of his age. The medium in universal circulation then, current everywhere, like the English sovereign now, was the Macedonian stater, newly introduced by Philip, a gold coin weighing 133 grains, bearing on the one side the laureated head of Apollo, on the other a figure of Victory in a chariot. Of this all known Gallic and British coins (before the Roman era) are more or less accurate copies. The earliest as yet found in Britain do not date, according to Sir John Evans, our great authority on this subject,[21] from before the 2nd century B.C. They are all dished coins, rudely struck, and rapidly growing ruder as time goes on. The head early becomes a mere congeries of dots and lines, but one horse of the chariot team remains recognizable to quite the end of the series.

D. 6.–These coins have been found in very large numbers, and of various types, according to the locality in which they were struck. They occur as far north as Edinburgh; but all seem to have been issued by one or other of the tribes in the south and east of the island, who learnt the idea of minting from the Gauls. Whence the gold of which the coins are made came from is a question not yet wholly solved: surface gold was very probably still obtainable at that date from the streams of Wales and Cornwall. But it was long before any other metal was used in the British mints. Not till after the invasion of Julius Caesar do we find any coins of silver or bronze issued, though he testifies to their existence. The use of silver shows a marked advance in metallurgy, and is probably connected with the simultaneous development of the lead-mining in the Mendip Hills, of which about this time we first begin to find traces.


Pytheas trustworthy–His notes on Britain–Agricultural tribes–Barns–Manures–Dene Holes–Mead–Beer–Parched corn–Pottery–Mill-stones–Villages–Cattle–Pastoral tribes–Savage tribes–Cannibalism–Polyandry–Beasts of chase–Forest trees–British clothing and arms–Sussex iron.

E. 1.–The trustworthiness of Pytheas is further confirmed by the astronomical observations which he records. He notices, for example, that the longest day in Britain contains “nineteen equinoctial hours.” Amongst the ancients, it must be remembered, an “hour,” in common parlance, signified merely the twelfth part, on any given day, of the time between sunrise and sunset, and thus varied according to the season. But the standard hour for astronomical purposes was the twelfth part of the equinoctial day, when the sun rises 6 a.m. and sets 6 p.m., and therefore corresponded with our own. Now the longest day at Greenwich is actually not quite seventeen hours, but in the north of Britain it comes near enough to the assertion of Pytheas to bear out his tale. We are therefore justified in giving credence to his account of what he saw in our country, the earliest that we possess. He tells us that, in some parts at least, the inhabitants were far from being mere savages. They were corn-growers (wheat, barley, and millet being amongst their crops), and also cultivated “roots,” fruit trees, and other vegetables. What specially struck him was that, “for lack of clear sunshine[22],” they threshed out their corn, not in open threshing-floors, as in Mediterranean lands, but in barns.

E. 2.–From other sources we know that these old British farmers were sufficiently scientific agriculturalists to have invented _wheeled_ ploughs,[23] and to use a variety of manures; various kinds of mast, loam, and chalk in particular. This treatment of the soil was, according to Pliny, a British invention[24] (though the Greeks of Megara had also tried it), and he thinks it worth his while to give a long description of the different clays in use and the methods of their application. That most generally employed was chalk dug out from pits some hundred feet in depth, narrow at the mouth, but widening towards the bottom. [_Petitur ex alto, in centenos pedes actis plerumque puteis, ore angustatis; intus spatiante vena_.]

E. 3.–Here we have an exact picture of those mysterious excavations some of which still survive to puzzle antiquaries under the name of _Dene Holes_. They are found in various localities; Kent, Surrey, and Essex being the richest. In Hangman’s Wood, near Grays, in Essex, a small copse some four acres in extent, there are no fewer than seventy-two Dene Holes, as close together as possible, their entrance shafts being not above twenty yards apart. These shafts run vertically downwards, till the floor of the pit is from eighty to a hundred feet below the surface of the ground. At the bottom the shaft widens out into a vaulted chamber some thirty feet across, from which radiate four, five, or even six lateral crypts, whose dimensions are usually about thirty feet in length, by twelve in width and height. When the shafts are closely clustered, the lateral crypts of one will extend to within a few feet of those belonging to its neighbours, but in no case do they communicate with them (though the recent excavations of archaeologists have thus connected whole groups of Dene Holes). Many theories have been elaborated to account for their existence, but the data are conclusive against their having been either habitations, tombs, store-rooms, or hiding-places; and, in 1898, Mr. Charles Dawson, F.S.A., pointed out that, in Sussex, chalk and limestone are still quarried by means of identically such pits. The chalk so procured is found a far more efficacious dressing for the soil than that which occurs on the surface, and moreover is more cheaply got than by carting from even a mile’s distance. At the present day, as soon as a pit is exhausted (that is as soon as the diggers dare make their chambers no larger for fear of a downfall), another is sunk hard by, and the first filled up with the _debris_ from the second. In the case of the Dene Holes, this _debris_ must have been required for some other purpose; and to this fact alone we owe their preservation. It is probable that the celebrated cave at Royston in Hertfordshire was originally dug for this purpose, though afterwards used as a hermitage.

E. 4.–Pytheas is also our authority for saying that bee-keeping was known to the Britons of his day;[25] a drink made of wheat and honey being one of their intoxicants. This method of preparing mead (or metheglin) is current to this day among our peasantry. Another drink was made from barley, and this, he tells us, they called [Greek: koyrmi], the word still used in Erse for beer, under the form _cuirm_. Dioscorides the physician, who records this (and who may perhaps have tried our national beverage, as he lived shortly after the Claudian conquest of Britain), pronounces it “head-achy, unwholesome, and injurious to the nerves”: [[Greek: kephalalges esti kai kakhochymon, kai tou neurou blaptikon]].

E. 5.–Not all the tribes of Britain, however, were at this level of civilization. Threshing in barns was only practised by those highest in development, the true Britons of the south and east. The Gaelic tribes beyond them, so far as they were agricultural at all, stored the newly-plucked ears of corn in their underground dwellings, day by day taking out and dressing [[Greek: katergazomenous]] what was needed for each meal. The method here referred to is doubtless that described as still in use at the end of the 17th century in the Hebrides.[26] “A woman, sitting down, takes a handful of corn, holding it by the stalks in her left hand, and then sets fire to the ears, which are presently in a flame. She has a stick in her right hand, which she manages very dexterously, beating off the grains at the very instant when the husk is quite burnt…. The corn may be thus dressed, winnowed, ground, and baked, within an hour of reaping.”

When kept, it may usually have been stored, like that of Robinson Crusoe, in baskets;[27] for basket-making was a peculiarly British industry, and Posidonius found “British baskets” in use on the Continent. But probably it was also hoarded–again in Crusoe fashion–in the large jars of coarse pottery which are occasionally found on British sites. These, and the smaller British vessels, are sometimes elaborately ornamented with devices of no small artistic merit. But all are hand-made, the potter’s wheel being unknown in pre-Roman days.

E. 6.–Nor does the grinding of corn, even in hand-mills, seem to have been universal till the Roman era, the earlier British method being to bruise the grain in a mortar.[28] Without the resources of civilization it is not easy to deal with stones hard enough for satisfactory millstones. We find that the Romans, when they came, mostly selected for this use the Hertfordshire “pudding-stone,” a conglomerate of the Eocene period crammed with rolled flint pebbles, sometimes also bringing over Niederendig lava from the Rhine valley, and burr-stone from the Paris basin for their querns.

E. 7.–These tribes are described as living in cheap [[Greek: euteleis]] dwellings, constructed of reeds or logs, yet spoken of as subterranean.[29] Light has been thrown on this apparent contradiction by the excavation in 1889 of the site of a British village at Barrington in Cambridgeshire. Within a space of about sixty yards each way, bounded by a fosse some six feet wide and four deep, were a collection of roughly circular pits, distributed in no recognizable system, from twelve to twenty feet in diameter and from two to four in depth. They were excavated in the chalky soil, and from each a small drainage channel ran for a yard or two down the gentle slope on which the settlement stood. Obviously a superstructure of thatch and wattle would convert these pits into quite passable wigwams, corresponding to the description of Pytheas. This whole village was covered by several feet of top-soil in which were found numerous interments of Anglo-Saxon date. It had seemingly perished by fire, a layer of incinerated matter lying at the bottom of each pit.

E. 8.–The domestic cattle of the Britons were a diminutive breed, smaller than the existing Alderney, with abnormally developed foreheads (whence their scientific name _Bos Longifrons_). Their remains, the skulls especially, are found in every part of the land, with no trace, in pre-Roman times, of any other breed. The gigantic wild ox of the British forests (_Bos Primigenius_) seems never to have been tamed by the Celtic tribes, who, very possibly, like the Romans after them, may have brought their own cattle with them into the island. According to Professor Rolleston the small size of the breed is due to the large consumption of milk by the breeders. (He notes that the cattle of Burmah and Hindostan are identically the same stock, and that in Burmah, where comparatively little milk is used, they are of large size. In Hindostan, on the contrary, where milk forms the staple food of the population, the whole breed is stunted, no calf having, for ages, been allowed its due supply of nutriment.) The Professor also holds that these small oxen, together with the goat, sheep, horse, dog, and swine (of the Asiatic breed), were introduced into Britain by the Ugrian races in the Neolithic Age; and that the pre-Roman Britons had no domestic fowls except geese.[30]

E. 9.–If these considerations are of weight they would point to an excessive dependence on milk even amongst the agricultural tribes of Britain. And there were others, as we know, who had not got beyond the pastoral stage of human development. These, as Strabo declares, had no idea of husbandry, “nor even sense enough to make cheese, though milk they have in plenty.”[31] And some of the non-Aryan hordes seem to have been mere brutal savages, practising cannibalism and having wives in common. Both practices are mentioned by the latest as well as the earliest of our classical authorities. Jerome says that in Gaul he himself saw Attacotti (the primitive inhabitants of Galloway) devouring human flesh, and refers to their sexual relations, which more probably imply some system of polyandry, such as still prevails in Thibet, than mere promiscuous intercourse. Traces of this system long remained in the rule of “Mutter-recht,” which amongst several of the more remote septs traced inheritance invariably through the mother and not the father.

E. 10.–These savages knew neither corn nor cattle. Like the “Children of the Mist” in the pages of Walter Scott,[32] their boast was “to own no lord, receive no land, take no hire, give no stipend, build no hut, enclose no pasture, sow no grain; to take the deer of the forest for their flocks and herds,” and to eke out this source of supply by preying upon their less barbarous neighbours “who value flocks and herds above honour and freedom.” Lack of game, however, can seldom have driven them to this; for the forests of ancient Britain seem to have swarmed with animal life. Red deer, roebuck, wild oxen, and wild swine were in every brake, beaver and waterfowl in every stream; while wolf, bear, and wild-cat shared with man in taking toll of their lives. The trees of these forests, it may be mentioned, were (as in some portions of Epping Forest now) almost wholly oak, ash, holly, and yew; the beech, chestnut, elm, and even the fir, being probably introduced in later ages.

E. 11.–Of the British tribes, however, almost none, even amongst these wild woodlanders, were the naked savages, clothed only in blue paint, that they are commonly imagined to have been. On the contrary, they could both weave and spin; and the tartan, with its variegated colours, is described by Caesar’s contemporary, Diodorus Siculus, as their distinctive dress, just as one might speak of Highlanders at the present day.[33] Pliny mentions that all the colours used were obtained from native herbs and lichens,[34] as is still the case in the Hebrides, where sea-weed dyes are mostly used. Woad was used for tattooing the flesh with blue patterns, and a decoction of beechen ashes for dyeing the hair red if necessary, whenever that colour was fashionable.[35] The upper classes wore collars and bracelets of gold, and necklaces of glass and amber beads.

E. 12.–This last item suggests an interesting question as to whence came the vast quantities of amber thus used. None is now found upon our shores, except a very occasional fragment on the East Anglian beaches. But the British barrows bear abundant testimony to its having been in prehistoric times the commonest of all materials for ornamental purposes–far commoner than in any other country. Beads are found by the myriad–a single Wiltshire grave furnished a thousand–mostly of a discoid shape, and about an inch in diameter. Larger plates occasionally appear, and in one case (in Sussex) a cup formed from a solid block of exceptional size. If all this came from the Baltic, the main existing source of our amber,[36] it argues a considerable trade, of which we find no mention in any extant authority. Pytheas witnesses to the amber of the Baltic, and says nothing, so far as we know, of British amber. But, according to Pliny,[37] his contemporary Solinus speaks of it as a British product; and at the Christian era it was apparently a British export.[38] The supply of amber as a jetsom is easily exhausted in any given district; miles of Baltic coast rich in it within mediaeval times are now quite barren; and the same thing has probably taken place in Britain. The rapid wearing away of our amber-bearing Norfolk shore is not unlikely to have been the cause of this change; the submarine fir-groves of the ancient littoral, with their resinous exudations, having become silted over far out at sea.[39] The old British amber sometimes contained flies. Dioscorides[40] applies to it the epithet [Greek: pterugophoron] [“fly-bearing”].

E. 13.–The chiefs were armed with large brightly-painted shields,[41] plumed (and sometimes crested) helmets, and cuirasses of leather, bronze, or chain-mail. The national weapons of offence were darts, pikes (sometimes with prongs–the origin of Britannia’s trident), and broadswords; bows and arrows being more rarely used. Both Diodorus Siculus [v. 30] and Strabo [iv. 197] describe this equipment, and specimens of all the articles have, at one place or another, been found in British interments.[42] The arms are often richly worked and ornamented, sometimes inlaid with enamel, sometimes decorated with studs of red coral from the Mediterranean.[43] The shields, being of wood, have perished, but their circular bosses of iron still remain. The chariots, which formed so special a feature of British militarism, were also of wood, painted, like the shields, and occasionally ironclad.[44] The iron may have been from the Sussex fields. We know that in Caesar’s day rings of this metal were one of the forms of British currency, so that before his time the Britons must have attained to the smelting of this most intractable of metals.


Celtic types–“Roy” and “Dhu”–Gael–Silurians–Loegrians–Basque peoples–Shifting of clans–Constitutional disturbances–Monarchy –Oligarchy–Demagogues–First inscribed coins.

F. 1.–Our earliest records point to the existence among the Celtic tribes in Britain of the two physical types still to be found amongst them; the tall, fair, red-haired, blue-eyed Gael, whom his clansmen denominate “Roy” (the Red), and the dark complexion, hair and eyes, usually associated with shorter stature, which go with the designation “Dhu” (the Black). Rob Roy and Roderick Dhu are familiar illustrations of this nomenclature. In classical times these types were much less intermingled than now, and were characteristic of separate races. The former prevailed almost exclusively amongst the true Britons of the south and east, and the Gaelic septs of the north, while the latter was found throughout the west, in Devon, Cornwall, and Wales. The Silurians, of Glamorgan, are specially noted as examples of this “black” physique, and a connection has been imagined between them and the Basques of Iberia, an idea originating with Strabo.

F. 2.–That a good deal of non-Aryan blood was, and is, to be found in both regions is fairly certain; but any closer correlation must be held at any rate not proven. For though Strabo asserts that the Silurians differ not only in looks but in language from the Britons, while in both resembling the Iberians, it is probable that he derives his information from Pytheas four centuries earlier. At that date non-Aryan speech may very possibly still have lingered on in the West, but there is no trace whatever to be found of anything of the sort in the nomenclature of the district during or since the Roman occupation. All is unmitigated Celtic. We may, however, possibly find a confirmation of Strabo’s view in the word _Logris_ applied to Southern Britain by the Celtic bards of the Arturian cycle. The word is said to be akin to _Liger_ (Loire), and tradition traced the origin of the Loegrians to the southern banks of that river, which were undoubtedly held by Iberian (Basque) peoples at least to the date when Pytheas visited those parts. The name, indeed, seems to be connected with that of the Ligurians, a kindred non-Aryan community, surviving, in historical times, only amongst the Maritime Alps.

F. 3.–It is probable that the status of each clan was continually shifting; and what little we know of their names and locations, their rise and their fall, presents an even more kaleidoscopic phantasmagoria than the mediaeval history of the Scotch Highlands, or the principalities of Wales, or the ever-changing septs of ancient Ireland. Tribes absorbed or destroyed by conquering tribes, tribes confederating with others under a fresh name, this or that chief becoming a new eponymous hero,–such is the ceaseless spectacle of unrest of which the history of ancient Britain gives us glimpses.

F. 4.–By the time that these glimpses become anything like continuous, things were further complicated by two additional elements of disturbance. One of these was the continuous influx of new settlers from Gaul, which was going on throughout the 1st century B.C. Caesar tells us that the tribes of Kent, Sussex, and Essex were all of the Belgic stock, and we shall see that the higher politics of his day were much influenced by the fact that one and the same tribal chief claimed territorial rights in Gaul and Britain at once; just like so many of our mediaeval barons. The other was the coincidence that just at this period the British tribes began to be affected by the turbulent stage of constitutional development connected, in Greece and Rome, with the abolition of royalty.

F. 5.–The primitive Aryan community (so far, at least, as the western branch of the race is concerned) everywhere presents to us the threefold element of King, Lords, and Commons. The King is supreme, he reigns by right of birth (though not according to strict primogeniture), and he not only reigns but governs. Theoretically he is absolute, but practically can do little without taking counsel with his Lords, the aristocracy of the tribe, originally an aristocracy of birth, but constantly tending to become one of wealth. The Commons gather to ratify the decrees of their betters, with a theoretical right to dissent (though not to discuss), a right which they seldom or never at once care and dare to exercise.

F. 6.–In course of time we see that everywhere the supremacy of the Kings became more and more distasteful to the Aristocracy, and was everywhere set aside, sometimes by a process of quiet depletion of the Royal prerogative, sometimes by a revolution; the change being, in the former case, often informal, with the name, and sometimes even the succession, of the eviscerated office still lingering on. The executive then passed to the Lords, and the state became an oligarchical Republic, such as we see in Rome after the expulsion of the Tarquins. Next came the rise of the Lower Orders, who insisted with ever-increasing urgency on claiming a share in the direction of politics, and in every case with ultimate success. Almost invariably the leaders who headed this uprising of the masses grasped for themselves in the end the supreme power, and as irresponsible “Dictators,” “Tyrants,” or “Emperors” took the place of the old constitutional Kings.

F. 7.–Such was the cycle of events both in Rome and in the Greek commonwealths; though in the latter it ran its course within a few generations, whilst amongst the law-abiding Romans it was a matter of centuries. And the pages of Caesar bear abundant testimony to the fact that in his day the Gallic tribes were all in the state of turmoil which mostly attended the “_Regifugium_” period of development. Some were still under their old Kings; some, like the Nervii, had developed a Senatorial government; in some the Commons had set up “Tyrants” of their own. It was this general unrest which contributed in no small degree to the Roman conquest of Gaul. And the same state of things seems to have been begun in Britain also. The earliest inscribed British coins bear, some of them the names of Kings and Princes, others those of peoples, others again designations which seem to point to Tyrants. To the first class belong those of Commius, Tincommius, Tasciovan, Cunobelin, etc.; to the second those of the Iceni and the Cassi; to the last the northern mintage of Volisius, a potentate of the Parisii, who calls himself Domnoverus, which, according to Professor Rhys,[45] literally signifies “Demagogue.”


Clans at Julian invasion–Permanent natural boundaries–Population–Celtic settlements–“Duns”–Maiden Castle.

G. 1.–The earliest of these inscribed coins, however, take us no further back than the Julian invasion; and it is to Caesar’s Commentaries that we are indebted for the first recorded names of any British tribes. It is no part of his design to give any regular list of the clans or their territories; he merely makes incidental mention of such as he had to do with. Thus we learn of the four nameless clans who occupied Kent (a region which has kept its territorial name unchanged from the days of Pytheas), and also of the Atrebates, Cateuchlani, Trinobantes, Cenimagni, Segontiaci, Ancalites, Bibroci, and Cassi.

G. 2.–To the localities held by these tribes Caesar bears no direct evidence; but from his narrative, as well as from local remains and later references, we know that the Trinobantes possessed Essex, and the Cenimagni (i.e. “the Great Iceni” as they were still called,[46] though their power was on the wane), East Anglia; while the Cateuchlani, already beginning to be known as the Cassivellauni (or Cattivellauni), presumably from their heroic chieftain Caswallon (or Cadwallon),[47] corresponded roughly to the later South Mercians, between the Thames and the Nene. The Segontiaci, Ancalites, Bibroci, and Cassi were less considerable, and must evidently have been situated on the marches between their larger neighbours. The name of the Cassi may still, perhaps, cling to their old home, in the _Cashio_ Hundred and _Cassiobury_, near Watford; while conjecture finds traces of the Ancalites in _Henley_, and of the Bibroci in _Bray_, on either side of the Thames.

G. 3.–The Atrebates, who play a not unimportant part (as will be seen in the next chapter) in Caesar’s connection with Britain, were apparently in possession of the whole southern bank of the Thames, from its source right down to London–the river then, as in Anglo-Saxon times, being a tribal boundary throughout its entire length. This would make the Bibroci a sub-tribe of the Atrebatian Name, and also the Segontiaci, if Henry of Huntingdon (writing in the 12th century with access to various sources of information now lost) is right in identifying Silchester, the Roman _Calleva_, with their local stronghold Caer Segent.

G. 4.–But the whole attempt to locate accurately any but the chiefest tribes found by the Romans in Britain is too conjectural to be worth the infinite labour that has been expended upon the subject by antiquaries. All we can say with certainty is that forest and fen must have cut up the land into a limited number of fairly recognizable districts, each so far naturally separated from the rest as to have been probably a separate or quasi-separate political entity also. Thus, not only was the Thames a line of demarcation, only passable at a few points, from its estuary nearly to the Severn Sea, but the southern regions cut off by it were parted by Nature into five main districts. Sussex was hemmed in by the great forest of Anderida, and that of Selwood continued the line from Southampton to Bristol. Kent was isolated by the Romney marshes and the wild country about Tunbridge, while the western peninsula was a peninsula indeed when the sea ran up to beyond Glastonbury. In this region, then, the later Wessex, we find five main tribes; the men of Kent, the Regni south of the Weald, the Atrebates along the Thames, the Belgae on the Wiltshire Avon, and the Damnonii of Devon and Cornwall, with (perhaps) a sub-tribe of their Name, the Durotriges, in Dorsetshire.

G. 5.–Like the south, the eastern, western, and northern districts of England were cut off from the centre by natural barriers. The Fens of Cambridgeshire and the marshes of the Lea valley, together with the dense forest along the “East Anglian” range, enclosed the east in a ring fence; within which yet another belt of woodland divided the Trinobantes of Essex from the Iceni of Norfolk and Suffolk. The Severn and the Dee isolated what is now Wales, a region falling naturally into two sub-divisions; South Wales being held by the Silurians and their Demetian subjects, North Wales by the Ordovices. The lands north of the Humber, again, were barred off from the south by barriers stretching from sea to sea; the Humber itself on the one hand, the Mersey estuary on the other, thrusting up marshes to the very foot of the wild Pennine moorlands between. And the whole of this vast region seems to have been under the Brigantes, who held the great plain of York, and exercised more or less of a hegemony over the Parisians of the East Riding, the Segontii of Lancashire, and the Otadini, Damnonii, and Selgovae between the Tyne and the Forth. Finally, the Midlands, parcelled up by the forests of Sherwood, Needwood, Charnwood, and Arden, into quarters, found space for the Dobuni in the Severn valley (to the west of the Cateuchlani), for the Coritani east of the Trent, and for their westward neighbours the Cornavii.[48]

G. 6.–All these tribes are given in Ptolemy’s geography, but only a few, such as the Iceni, the Silurians, and the Brigantes, meet us in actual history; whilst, of them all, the Damnonian name alone reappears after the fall of the Roman dominion. Thus the accepted allotment of tribal territory is largely conjectural. North of the Forth all is conjecture pure and simple, so far as the location of the various Caledonian sub-clans is concerned. We only know that there were about a dozen of them; the Cornavii, Carini, Carnonacae, Cerones, Decantae, Epidii, Horestae, Lugi, Novantae, Smertae, Taexali, Vacomagi, and Vernicomes. Some of these may be alternative names.

G. 7.–The practical importance of the above-mentioned natural divisions of the island is testified to by the abiding character of the corresponding political divisions. The resemblance which at once strikes the eye between the map of Roman and Saxon Britain is no mere coincidence. Physical considerations brought about the boundaries between the Roman “provinces” and the Anglo-Saxon principalities alike. Thus a glance will show that Britannia Prima, Britannia Secunda, Maxima Caesariensis, and Flavia Caesariensis correspond to the later Wessex, Wales, Northumbria, and Mercia (with its dependency East Anglia).[49] And even the sub-divisions remained approximately the same. In Anglo-Saxon times, for example, the Midlands were still divided into the same four tribal territories; the North Mercians holding that of the British Cornavii, the South Mercians that of the Dobuni, the Middle Angles that of the Coritani, and the South Angles that of the Cateuchlani. So also the Icenian kingdom, with its old boundaries, became that of the East Angles, and the Trinobantian that of the East Saxons.

G. 8.–What the entire population of Britain may have numbered at the Roman Conquest is, again, purely a matter of guess-work. But it may well have been not very different in amount from what it was at the Norman Conquest, when the entries in Domesday roughly show that the whole of England (south of the Humber) was inhabited about as thickly as the Lake District at the present day, and contained some two million souls. The primary hills, and the secondary plateaux, where now we find the richest corn lands of the whole country, were in pre-Roman times covered with virgin forest. But in the river valleys above the level of the floods were to be found stretches of good open plough land, and the chalk downs supplied excellent grazing. Where both were combined, as in the valleys of the Avon and Wily near Salisbury, and that of the Frome near Dorchester, we have the ideal site for a Celtic settlement. In such places we accordingly find the most conspicuous traces of the prehistoric Briton; the round barrows which mark the burial-places of his chiefs, and the vast earthworks with which he crowned the most defensible _dun_, or height, in his territory.

G. 9.–These fortified British _duns_ are to be seen all over England. Sometimes they have become Roman or mediaeval towns, as at Old Sarum; sometimes they are still centres of population, as at London, Lincoln, and Exeter; and sometimes, as at Bath and Dorchester, they remain still as left by their original constructors. For they were designed to be usually untenanted; not places to dwell in, but camps of refuge, whither the neighbouring farmers and their cattle might flee when in danger from a hostile raid. The lack of water in many of them shows that they could never have been permanently occupied either in war or peace.[50] Perhaps the best remaining example is Maiden[51] Castle, which dominates Dorchester, being at once the largest and the most untouched by later ages. Here three huge concentric ramparts, nearly three miles in circuit, gird in a space of about fifty acres on a gentle swell of the chalk ridge above the modern town by the river. A single tortuous entrance, defended by an outwork, gives access to the levelled interior. All, save the oaken palisades which once topped each round of the barrier, remains as it was when first constructed, looking down, now as then, on the spot where the population for whose benefit it was made dwelt in time of peace. For English Dorchester is the British town whose name the Romans, when they raised the square ramparts which still encircle it, transliterated into Durnovaria. Durnovaria in turn became, on Anglo-Saxon lips, Dornwara-ceaster, Dorn-ceaster, and finally Dorchester.

G. 10.–We have already, on physical grounds, assigned these Durotriges to the Damnonian Name. There were certainly fewer natural obstacles between them and the men of Devon to the west than between them and the Belgae to the northward. Caesar, however, distinctly states that the Belgic power extended to the coast line, so the Britons of the Frome valley may have been conquered by them. Or the Durotriges may be a Belgic tribe after all. For, as we have pointed out, our evidence is of the scantiest, and there is every reason to suppose that the era of the Roman invasion was one of incessant political confusion in the land.


Religious state of Britain–Illustrated by Hindooism–Totemists–Polytheists–Druids–Bards–Seers–Druidic Deities–Mistletoe–Sacred herbs–“Ovum Anguinum”–Suppression of Druidism–Druidism and Christianity.

H. 1.–The religious state of the country seems to have been in no less confusion than its political condition. The surviving “Ugrian” inhabitants appear to have sunk into mere totemists and fetish worshippers, like the aboriginal races of India; while the Celtic tribes were at a loose and early stage of polytheism, with a Pantheon filled by every possible device, by the adoration of every kind of natural phenomenon, the sky, the sun, the moon, the stars, the winds and clouds, the earth and sea, rivers, wells, sacred trees, by the creation of tribal divinities, gods and goddesses of war, commerce, healing, and all the congeries of mutually tolerant devotions which we see in the Brahmanism of to-day. And, as in Brahmanism, all these devotions were under the shadow of a sacerdotal and prophetic caste, wielding vast influence, and teaching, esoterically at least, a far more spiritual religion.

H. 2.–These were the Druids, whose practices and tenets fortunately excited such attention at Rome that we know more about them by far than we could collect concerning either Jews or Christians from classical authors. And though most of our authorities refer to Druidism as practised in Gaul, yet we have the authority of Caesar for Britain being the special home and sanctuary of the faith, to which the Gallic Druids referred as the standard for their practices.[52] We may safely, therefore, take the pictures given us by him and others, as supplying a representation of what took place in our land ere the Romans entered it.

H. 3.–The earliest testimony is that of Julius Caesar himself, in his well-known sketch of contemporary Druidism (‘De Bello Gallico,’ vi. 14-20). He tells us that the Druids were the ministers of religion, the sacrificial priesthood of the nation, the authorized expounders of the Divine will. All education and jurisprudence was in their hands, and their sentences of excommunication were universally enforced. The Gallic Druids were under the dominion of a Primate, who presided at the annual Chapter of the Order, and was chosen by it; a disputed election occasionally ending in an appeal to arms. As a rule, however, Druids were supposed not to shed blood, they were free from all obligation to military service, and from all taxation of every kind. These privileges enabled them to recruit their ranks–for they were not an hereditary caste–from the pick of the national youth, in spite of the severe discipline of the Druidical novitiate. So great was the mass of sacred literature required to be committed to memory that a training of twenty years was sometimes needed. All had to be learnt orally, for the matter was too sacred to be written down, though the Druids were well acquainted with writing, and used the Greek alphabet,[53] if not the Greek language,[54] for secular purposes. Caesar’s own view is that this refusal to allow the inditing of their sacred books was due to two causes: first, the fear lest the secrets of the Order should thus leak out, and, secondly, the dread lest reading should weaken memory, “as, in fact, it generally does.” Even so, amongst the Brahmans there are, to this day, many who can not only repeat from end to end the gigantic mass of Vedic literature, but who know by heart also with absolute accuracy the huge and complicated works of the Sanscrit grammarians.

H. 4.–Caesar further tells us that the Druids taught the doctrine of transmigration of souls, and that their course of education included astronomy, geography, physics, and theology. The attributes of their chief God corresponded, in his view, with those of the Roman Mercury. Of the minor divinities, one, like Apollo, was the patron of healing; a second, like Minerva, presided over craft-work; a third, like Jupiter, was King of Heaven, and a fourth, like Mars, was the War-god.[55] Their calendar was constructed on the principle that each night belongs to the day before it (not to that after it, as was the theory amongst the Mediterranean nations), and they reckoned all periods of time by nights, not days, as we still do in the word “fortnight.” For this practice they gave the mystical reason that the Celtic races were the Children of Darkness. At periods of national or private distress, human sacrifices were in vogue amongst them, sometimes on a vast scale. “They have images [_simulacra_] of huge size, whose limbs when enclosed [_contexta_] with wattles, they fill with living men. The wattles are fired and the men perish amid the hedge of flame [_circumventi flamma exanimantur homines_].” It is usually supposed that these _simulacra_ were hollow idols of basket-work. But such would require to be constructed on an incredible scale for their limbs to be filled with men; and it is much more probable that they were spaces traced out upon the ground (like the Giant on the hill above Cerne Abbas in Dorset), and hedged in with the wattles to be fired.

H. 5.–From the historian Diodorus Siculus, whose life overlapped Caesar’s, we learn that Druid was a native British name. “There are certain philosophers and theologians held in great honour whom they call Druids.”[56] Whether this designation is actually of Celtic derivation is, however, uncertain. Pliny thought it was from the Greek affected by the Druids and connected with their oak-tree worship. Professor Rhys mentions that the earliest use of the word in extant Welsh literature is in the Book of Taliesin, under the form _Derwyddon_,[57] and that in Irish is to be found the cognate form _Drui_. But these are as likely to be derived from the Greek [Greek: _drouides_] as this from them. Diodorus adds that they have mighty influence, and preside at all sacred rites, “as possessing special knowledge of the Gods, yea, and being of one speech [[Greek: homophonon]] with them.” This points to some archaic or foreign language, possibly Greek, being used in the Druidical ritual. Their influence, he goes on to say, always makes for peace: “Oft-times, when hosts be arrayed, and either side charging the one against the other, yea, when swords are out and spears couched for the onset, will these men rush between and stay the warriors, charming them to rest [[Greek: katepasantes]] like so many wild beasts.”

H. 6.–With the Druids Diodorus associates two other religiously influential classes amongst the Britons, the Bards [[Greek: bardos]] and the Seers [[Greek: manteis]]. The former present the familiar features of the cosmopolitan minstrel. They sing to harps [[Greek: organon tais lurais homoion]], both fame and disfame. The latter seem to have corresponded with the witch-doctors of the Kaffir tribes, deriving auguries from the dying struggles of their victims (frequently human), just as the Basuto medicine-men tortured oxen to death to prognosticate the issue of the war between Great Britain and the Boers in South Africa. Strabo, in the next generation, also mentions together these three classes, Bards, Seers [[Greek: Ouateis] = Vates] and Druids. The latter study natural science and ethics [[Greek: pros te phusiologia kai ten ethiken philosophian askousin]]. They teach the immortality of the soul, and believe the Universe to be eternal, “yet, at the last, fire and water shall prevail.”

H. 7.–Pomponius Mela, who wrote shortly before the Claudian conquest of Britain, says that the Druids profess to know the shape and size of the world, the movements of the stars, and the will of the Gods. They teach many secrets in caves and woods, but only to the nobles of the land. Of this esoteric instruction one doctrine alone has been permitted to leak out to the common people–that of the immortality of the soul–and this only because that doctrine was calculated to make them the braver in battle. In accordance with it, food and the like was buried with the dead, for the use of the soul. Even a man’s debts were supposed to pass with him to the shades.

H. 8.–Our picture of the Druids is completed by Pliny,[58] writing shortly after the Claudian conquest. Approaching the subject as a naturalist he does not mention their psychological tenets, but gives various highly interesting pieces of information as to their superstitions with regard to natural objects, especially plants. “The Druids,” he says, “(so they call their Magi) hold nothing so sacred as the mistletoe and that tree whereon it groweth, if only this be an oak. Oak-groves, indeed, they choose for their own sake, neither do they celebrate any sacred rite without oak-leaves, so that they appear to be called Druids from the Greek word for this tree. Whatsoever mistletoe, then, groweth on such a tree they hold it for a heaven-sent sign, and count that tree as chosen by their God himself. Yet but very rarely is it so found, and, when found, is sought with no small observance; above all on the sixth day of the moon (which to this folk is the beginning of months and years alike),[59] and after the thirtieth year of its age, because it is by then in full vigour of strength, nor has its half-tide yet come. Hailing it, in their own tongue, as ‘Heal-all,’ they make ready beneath the tree, with all due rites, feast and sacrifice. Then are brought up two bulls of spotless white, whose horns have never ere this known the yoke. The priest, in white vestments, climbeth the tree, and with a golden sickle reapeth the sacred bough, which is caught as it falls in a white robe [_sagum_]. Then, and not till then, slay they the victims, praying that their God will prosper this his gift to those on whom he hath bestowed the same.”

H. 9.–A drink made from mistletoe, or possibly the mere insertion of the branch into drinking water, was held by the Druids, Pliny adds, as an antidote to every kind of poison. Other herbs had like remedial properties in their eyes. The fumes of burning “_selago_”[60] were thus held good for affections of the eyesight, only, however, when the plant was plucked with due ceremonies. The gatherer must be all in white, with bare and washen feet, and must hallow himself, ere starting on his quest, with a devotional partaking of bread and wine [_sacro facto … pane vinoque_]. He must by no means cut the sacred stem with a knife, but pluck it, and that not with bare fingers, but through the folds of his tunic, his right hand being protruded for this purpose beneath his left, “in thievish wise” [_velut a furante_]. Another herb, “_samolum_,” which grew in marshy places, was of avail in all diseases both of man and beast. It had to be gathered with the left hand, and fasting, nor might the gatherer on any account look back till he reached some runlet [_canali_] in which he crushed his prize and drank.

H. 10.–Pliny’s picture has the interest of having been drawn almost at the final disappearance of Druidism from the Roman world. For some reason it was supposed to be, like Christianity, peculiarly opposed to the genius of Roman civilization, and never came to be numbered amongst the _religiones licitae_ of the Empire. Augustus forbade the practice of it to Roman citizens,[61] Tiberius wholly suppressed it in Gaul,[62] and, in conquering Britain, Claudius crushed it with a hand of iron. Few pictures in the early history of Britain are more familiar than the final extirpation of the last of the Druids, when their sacred island of Mona (Anglesey) was stormed by the Roman legionaries, and priests and priestesses perished _en masse_ in the flames of their own altars.[63] Their desperate resistance was doubtless due to the fact that Rome was the declared and mortal enemy of their faith. So baneful, indeed, did Druidism come to be considered, that to hold even with the least of its superstitions was treated at Rome as a capital offence. Pliny tells us of a Roman knight, of Gallic birth, who was put to death by Claudius for no other reason than that of being in possession of a certain stone called by the Druids a “snake’s egg,” and supposed to bring good luck in law-suits.[64]

H. 11.–This stone Pliny himself had seen, and describes it (in his chapter on the use of eggs) as being like a medium-sized apple, having a cartilaginous shell covered with small processes like the discs on the arms of an octopus. This can scarcely have been, as most commentators suppose, the shell of an echinus (with which Pliny was well acquainted), even if fossil. His description rather seems to point to some fossil covered with _ostrea sigillina_, such as are common in British green-sands. He adds an account of the Druidical view of its production, how it is the solidified poison of a number of serpents who put their heads together to eject it, and how, even when set in gold, it will float, and that against a stream. This “egg,” it will be seen, was from Gaul. The British variant of the superstition was that the snakes thus formed a ring of poison matter, larger or smaller according to the number engaged, which solidified into a gem known as _Glain naidr_, “Adder’s glass.”[65] The small rings of green or blue glass, too thick for wear, which are not uncommonly found in British burial-places, are supposed to represent this gem. So also, possibly, are the much larger rings of roughly-baked clay which occur throughout the Roman period. For superstitions die hard, and Gough assures us that even in 1789 such “adder-beads” or “snake-stones” were considered “lucky” in Wales and Cornwall, and were still ascribed to the same source as by the Druids of old.

H. 12.–After its suppression by Claudius, Druidism still lingered on in Britain beyond the Roman pale, and amid the outlaws of the Armorican forests in Gaul, but in a much lower form. The least worthy representatives of the Brahmanic caste in India are those found in the least civilized regions, whose tendency is to become little better than sorcerers.[66] And in like manner it is as sorcerers that the later Druids of Scotland and Ireland meet us in their legendary encounters with St. Patrick and St. Columba. They are called “The School of Simon the Druid” (_i.e._ Simon Magus), and a 9th-century commentary designates Jannes and Jambres as “Druids.” But the word did not wholly lose its higher associations. It is applied to the Wise Men in an early Welsh hymn on the Epiphany; and in another, ascribed to Columba himself, the saint goes so far as to say, “Christ, the Son of God, is my _Druid_.”[67]




Caesar and Britain–Breakdown of Roman Republican institutions–Corruption abroad and at home–Rise of Caesar–Conquest of Gaul.

A. 1.–If the connection of Britain with Rome is the pivot on which the whole history of our island turns, it is no less true that the first connection of Rome with Britain is the pivot whereon all Roman