History of the English/Book 1
|←Preface||History of the English by , translated by Thomas Forrester
|Translation by Thomas Forrester, 1853|
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BRITAIN is truly an island of the utmost fertility, abounding in corn and fruit trees, which are nourished by perennial streams. It is diversified by woods, sheltering birds and beasts of chase, affording merry sport to the hunter. Wild fowl of all sorts are exceedingly plentiful, both those which are peculiar to the land and those which frequent the water, whether the rivers or the sea. Moreover, the island is remarkably adapted for feeding cattle and beasts of burthen; insomuch that Solinus remarks that "in some parts of Britain the herbage of the meadows is so luxuriant that unless the cattle are shifted to poorer pasture there is risk of their suffering from surfeit." The never-failing springs feed rivers abounding in fish. Salmon and eels, especially, are very plentiful. Herrings are taken on the coasts, as well as oysters and other kinds of shell-fish. Among these are the muscles, which produce beautiful pearls, of a great variety of colours, red purple, violet, and emerald; principally, however, white. Nor are the cockles wanting from which a scarlet dye is made, whose exquisite tint does not fade by exposure either to the sun or rain; the older it is the brighter the colour becomes. Dolphins and whales are also caught, as Juvenal says:—
- "Far as the giant whales of Britain's sea
Exceed the dolphin."
Britain is also rich in metallic veins of iron, tin, and lead. Some of these contain silver also, though not so commonly; silver, however, is received from the neighbouring parts of Germany, with which an extensive commerce is carried on by the Rhine in the abundant produce of fish and meat, as well as of fine wool and fat cattle which Britain supplies, so that money appears to be more plentiful there than in Germany itself, and all the coins introduced into Britain by this traffic are of pure silver. Britain, also, furnishes large quantities of excellent jet, of a black and brilliant hue. Rendered sparkling by fire, it drives away serpents; when it becomes heated by friction substances adhere to it, as they do to amber. The island contains both salt-springs and hot-springs, the streams from which supply baths accommodated to the separate use of persons of every age and of both sexes. "For water," as St. Basil observes, "acquires the quality of heat by running over certain metals, so that not only it becomes warm, but even scalding hot."
This celebrated island, formerly called Albion, afterwards Britain, and now England, extends between the north and the west 800 miles in length and 200 in breadth, except where the jutting out of some of its bolder promontories expands its breadth. Including these, its complete circuit reaches 4875 miles. Britain has Germany and Denmark on the east, Ireland on the west, and Belgic-Gaul on the south. The first place which presents itself to those who cross the sea from the coast of Gaul is called Rutubi-portus, a city whose name the English have corrupted into Reptacester. The distance across the sea from Gessoriacum, a town belonging to the tribe of the Morini, and the nearest point from which the passage can be made is 50 miles, or, according to some writers, 450 furlongs. Belgic-Gaul derived its name from Beluaci, formerly a flourishing city of that part of Gaul. It appears that the province is now divided into two parts, one of which is called Ponthicu, and the other, where the Normans, a powerful and foreign race, are settled, Normandy. To the north of Britain, where it is exposed to the open and boundless ocean, lie the Orkney Islands, the fathest of which is called Thule, as it is said:—
- "Ev'n utmost Thule shall thy pow'r obey."
Britain is, indeed, surrounded by a number of islands, three of which are greater than the rest. First, we have the Orkneys, already mentioned; next, the Isle of Man, which lies in the middle of the sea, between Britain and Ireland; and third, the Isle of Wicht, which is situated to the south, over against the Normans and the Armoricans, who are now called Bretons. Thus it was said in ancient discourse, where it treated of judges and rulers, "He shall judge Britain with her three islands."
Britain was formerly famous for 28 cities, which, as well as innumerable castles, were well fortified with walls and towers, and with gates secured by strong locks. The names of these cities in the British language were Kair-Ebrauc, York; Kair-Chent, Canterbury; Kair-Gorangon, Worcester; Kair-Lundene, London; Kair-Legion, Leicester; Kair-Collon, Colchester; Kair-Glou, Gloucester; Kair-Cei, Chichester; Kair-Bristou, [Bristol;] Kair-Ceri, Cirencester; Kair-Guent, Winchester; Kair-Grant, Grantchester, now called Cambridge; and Kair-Lion, which we call Carlisle. Kair-Dauri is Dorchester; Kair-Dorm, Dormchester, a town on the river Nen, in Huntingdonshire, which is entirely destroyed; Kair-Loitchoit is Lincoln; Kair-Merdin still retains its former name [Carmarthen]. There were also Kair-Guorcon, Kair-Cucerat, Kair-Guortigern, Kair-Urnac, Kair-Celemion, Kair-Meguaid, Kair-Licelid; Kair-Peris, that is, Porchester; and Kair-Legion, which was the seat of an archbishop in the time of the Britons, but now there are only the remains of its walls on the bank of the river Usk, not far from its confluence with the Severn. Besides these there were Kair-Draiton, Kair-Mercipit, and Kair-Segent, on the Thames, not far from Reading, and which the Saxons called Silchester. These were the names of the cities in the times of the Romans and Britons.
Since the beginning of history there have been five inflictions of the Divine wrath on the people of Britain; the visitations of Providence falling on the faithful, as well as its judgments on unbelievers. The first was by the Romans, who conquered Britain, but after a time withdrew from the island. The second was by the Scots and Picts, who grievously harassed it by hostile inroads, but never suceeded in gaining permanent possession. The third was by the Angles, who completely subjugated and occupied the country. The fourth was by the Danes, who established themselves on the soil by successful wars, but afterwards disappeared and were lost. The fifth was by the Normans, who conquered all Britain, and still hold the English in subjection. When the Saxons had subjugated the country they divided it into seven kingdoms, to which they gave names of their own selection. Their first kingdom was called Kent; 2, Sussex, in which Chichester is situated; 3, Wessex, of which the capital was Wilton, now given to the monks: Winchester, Salisbury, and several other cities were in this kingdom; 4, Essex, which did not long remain independent, but became subject to other kingdoms; 5, East Anglia, which contained the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk; 6, Mercia, in which was Lincoln and several other cities; 7, Northumbria, of which the capital was York. Afterwards, when the kings of Wessex acquired the ascendency over the rest, and established a monarchy throughout the island, they divided it into 37 counties, which, though their situations and names are well-known to those who inhabit them, it may be worth the trouble to describe. For it may chance, perhaps, that as the names of the cities we have just enumerated, famous as they once were, are now considered barbarous and turned into derision, so also, in the lapse of time, those which are now well-known may pass out of memory and become the subject of doubt.
Kent, then, is the first county, in which are the sees of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Rochester. The second is Sussex, in which is the bishopric of Chichester. The third is Surry. The fourth is Hampshire, in which is the see of Winchester. The fifth is Berkshire. The sixth is Wiltshire, in which is the bishopric of Salisbury. The seventh is Dorset. The eighth is Somerset, in which is the bishopric of Bath, or Acemancester. The ninth is Devonshire, in which is the see of Exeter. The tenth, Cornwall; the eleventh, Essex; the twelfth, Middlesex, in which is the see of London. The thirteenth, Suffolk; the fourteenth, Norfolk, in which is the see of Norwich. The fifteenth is Cambridgeshire, in which is the see of Ely. The sixteenth is Lincolnshire, of which the capital city is Lincoln, and to which are subject seven other counties, viz., Leicester, Hampton, Huntingdon, [..}rtford, Bedford, Buckingham, and Oxford; for the great bishopric of Lincoln extends from the Humber to the Thames. The twenty-fourth is Gloucestershire; the twenty-fifth is Worcestershire, in which is the see of Worcester. The twenty-sixth is Herefordshire, in which is the see of Hereford. The twenty-seventh is Salop; the twenty-eighth, Cheshire, in which is the bishopric of Chester; the twenty-ninth is Warwick; the thirtieth, Stafford. After the thirtieth, the first is Derby; the second, Nottingham; the third, Yorkshire, in which is the archbishopric of York. The fourth is Northumberland, over which presides the Bishop of Durham. The fifth is that district in which the new bishopric of Carlisle is established. Counties are called, in English, shires. At the present time, therefore, England can boast of having seventeen bishoprics; but it contains many more cities than such as are bishops' sees, such as Gloucester, Leicester, Oxford, and many others, which have no bishops. In the western part of the island, which is called Wales, there are three bishoprics: one at St. David's, another at Bangor, and the third at Glamorgan; but these are sees without cities, by reason of the desolation of Wales, the only part of the island retained by the Britons after the Saxon conquest. In our times the Bishop of St. David's receives from the Pope the pallium, which formerly belonged to Carleon, but which it has now lost.
The cities which have been enumerated have for their sites the pleasant and fertile banks of rivers. Two of these rivers are more celebrated than the rest, the Thames and the Severn; the two arms, as it were, of Britain, by which it draws to itself the produce of other countries, and exports its own. But it is peculiar to the English that, being much addicted to foreign travel, they are remarkable for their superior style of dress and living, by which they are easily distinguished from other nations. Since, then, Britain abounds in so may things (even vineyards flourish in it, though they are not common), those who covet its wealth must bring their own in exchange for what they receive. [...] whose praise some one thus wrote:—
- "Corn, milk, and honest, fuller shed their stores
On Britain's plains, than over all the isles
Where foaming ocean washes sea-girt shores."
And a little afterwards:—
- "London for ships, and Winchester for wine,
Hereford for herds, and Worcester for corn renown'd;
Bath for its waters, Salisbury for thge chase;
For fishes, Canterbury; York for its woods;
Exeter boasts its rich metallic ores.
Narrow the sea 'tween Chichester and France,
While northern Durham fronts the surging waves
On which old Norway launch'd her conq'ring sons.
In grace proud Lincoln's children foremost stand,
Ely's high tow'rs the wide champaign command,
Rochester rises bright on Medway's winding strand."
Nor must it be omitted that the climate of Britain is very temperate, and healthy to its inhabitants; for since it lies between the north and the west, the cold of the north is tempered by the influence of the sun in its course westward. The malady called St. Anthony's Fire never afflicts the natives, while diseased persons brought over from Gaul obtain a cure. The island lies so near the North Pole, the nights are so light in summer that at midnight it is often doubtful to beholders whether the evening twilight still remains, or daybreak has already commenced, so short is the period before the sun's return from having passed underneath the northern regions to appear again in the east. For this reason the days are of great length in summer, as, on the contracry, the nights are in winter, the days and nights during the alternate seasons being each only six hours long; while in Armenia, Macedonia, and Italy, the longest day or night is of fifteen hours, the shortest of nine.
There are four things in England which are very remarkable. One is that winds issue with such great violence from certain caverns in a mountain called the Peak, that it ejects matter thrown into them, and whirling them about in the air carries them to a great distance. The second is at Stonehenge, where stones of extraordinary dimensions are raised as columns, and others are fixed above, like lintels of immense portals; and no one has been able to discover by what mechanism such vast masses of stone were elevated, nor for what purpose they were designed. The third is at Cheddar-hole, where there is a cavern which many persons have entered, and have traversed a great distance under ground, crossing subterraneous streams, without finding any end of the cavern. The fourth wonder is this, that in some parts of the country the rain is seen to gather about the tops of the hills, and forthwith to fall upon the plain.
So important was the safety of Britain to its loyal people that, under royal authority, they constructed four great highways from one end of the island to the other, as military roads, by which they might meet any hostile invasion. The first runs from west to east, and is called Ichenild. The second runs from south to north, and is called Erninge Strate. The third crosses the island from Dover to Chester, in a direction from south-east to north-west, and is called Watling Street. The fourth, which is longer than the others, commences in Caithness, and terminates in Totness, extending from the borders of Cornwall to the extremity of Scotland; this road runs diagonally from south-west to north-east, passing by Lincoln, and is called the Foss-way. These are the four principal highways of Britain, which are noble and useful works, founded by the edicts of kings, and maintained by venerated laws.
Five languages are spoken in Britain; those of the Britons, the Angles, the Scots, the Picts, and the Romans. Of these the Latin has, by the study of the Holy Scriptures, become common to all. The Picts, however, have entirely disappeared, and their language is extinct, so that the accounts given of this people by ancient writers seem almost fabulous. Who will not mark the difference between the devotion to heavenly and the pursuit of earthy things, when he reflects that not only the kings and chiefs, but the whole race of this heathen people have utterly perished; and that all memory of them, and, what is more wonderful, their very language, the gift of God in the origin of their nation, is quite lost.
Let what we have thus far written, though many things we have treated briefly, suffice with regard to the site and general characteristics of Britain. We come now to speak of the people by whom, and the time at which, the island was first inhabited. What we do not find in Bede we borrow from other authors. They tell us that the British nation was founded by Dardanus, who was the father of Troius. Troius was the father of Priamus and Anchises. Anchises was the father of Aeneas, Aeneas of Ascanius, Ascanius of Silvius. When the wife of Silvius was pregnant, a soothsayer predicted that the son she should bring forth would slay his father. The soothsayer was put to death for this prophesy; but the son that was born, and who was called Brute, after a time, while he was playing with boys of his own age, struck his father with an arrow and killed him. It was not done purposely, but by chance-medley; whereupon Brute, being banished from Italy, came into Gaul. There he founded the city of Tours, and having afterwards invaded the district of the Armoricans, he passed from thence into this island, subjugated its southern regions, and called it, after his own name, Britain. Some writers, however, affirm that when Brute reigned in Britain, Eli, the high-priest, was judge of Israel, and Posthumus or Silvius, son of Aeneas, reigned among the Latins. Brute was his grandson. After an interval of 80 years, it happened that the Picts, a Scythian race, having embarked upon the ocean, were driven by the winds round the coast of Britain, till at length they reached the north of Ireland, where, finding the nation of the Scots already in possession, they begged to able to settle also, but failed in obtaining their request. For the Scots said, "This island would not contain us both, but we know that there is another island not far from ours, which we can see at a distance when the days are clearer than ordinary. If you will go there you will be able to establish yourselves; and if you meet with opposition we will come to your assistance."
The Picts, therefore, crossing over to Britain, began to colonize the northern parts of the island; for the Britons had already settled in the south. The Picts having no wives asked them of the Scots, who consented to grant them upon the sole condition that when any uncertainty arose in state affairs they should elect a king from the royal race in the female line rather than in the male; which custom, it appears, is maintained among the Picts to the present day. Such, then, are the traditions which we find in old writers concerning the arrival of the Britons in that part of the world which is called Britain, as well as the arrival of the Picts in the same island. And though it is an island, being very extensive, its excellence is not diminished on that account; when, in truth, the whole earth is itself an island. But as it is a common saying, "rain is mingled with wind, and laughter with sighs," the pre-eminent wealth and advantages of England have excited the envy and cupidity of neighbouring nations. It has, therefore, been very frequently invaded, and often subdued. Thus, in process of time, the Scots also migrated from Ireland into Britain, under their chief Reuda, and either by fair means, or by force of arms, obtained possession of that part of the country belonging to the Picts which these new settlers still occupy. They are called the Dal-reudins, from the name of their chief; Dal, in their language, signifying a portion or district. This leads me to say something with regard to Ireland, for though, properly, it is not my subject, it is nearly connected with it. May what I shall add be to the honour of Almighty God!
Next to Britain, Ireland is the finest island in the world; and, indeed, though it is inferior to Britain in wealth, it greatly surpasses it in the salubrity and serenity of its climate, arising from the nature of its position. For while it is less extended towards the north, it stretches much farther than Britain towards the northern coast of Spain, from which, however, a wide sea divides it. In Ireland snow seldom or never lies on the ground more than three days; no man there, on account of winter, either makes hay in the summer, or erects buildings to shelter his cattle. No reptiles are seen there: no serpent can exist; for though serpents have been often carried there from Britain, when the ship approaches the shore, as soon as they breathe the air wafted from the land they instantly die. On the other hand, almost all the products of the island are antidotes to poison. In short, we have known persons bitten by serpents, to whom the scrapings of the leaves of books brought from Ireland, immersed in water, having been given to drink, the potion immediately absorbed the venom, which was spreading throughout the body, and allayed the swelling. God hath therefore endowed the island with this wonderful gift, and has appointed a multitude of the saints for its protection. Moreover, He has enriched it with milk and honey; vineyards are not wanting, and it abounds with fish and fowl, deer and goats. This is truly the country of the Scots; but if any one is desirous of knowing the time it was first inhabited, though I find nothing about it in Venerable Bede, the following is the account given by another writer. At the time the Egyptians were drowned in the Red Sea, the survivors banished from among them a certain nobleman named Scyticus, that he might not acquire the dominion over them. The banished man having wandered for some time in Africa, and last came with his family to the dwellings of the Philistines, and by the Salt Lake they journeyed between Russicada and the mountains of Syria, and came by the River Malva, and traversed Mauretania, navigating the Tuscan Sea to the Pillars of Hercules. Thus they arrived in Spain, where they dwelt many years, and their posterity multiplied greatly. Thence they came into Ireland, 1200 years after the passage of Israel through the Red Sea. The Britons, however, inhabited Britain before. For the Britons occupied Britain in the third age of the world; the Scots, Ireland, in the fourth. These accounts are not much to be depended on; but it is certain that the Scots came from Spain to Ireland, and that part of them, migrating from thence to Britain, added a third nation there to the Britons and the Picts; for the part which remained still speak the same language, and are called Navarrese. There is a broad gulf of the sea which formerly divided the nation of the Picts from the Britons. It runs from the west deep into the country, where stands, to the present day, a strongly-fortified city called Alcluith, on the north side of which the Scots, of whom we have already spoken, fixed their settlement.
Julius Caesar was the first of the Romans who invaded Britain, sixty years before the incarnation of our Lord, and in the year 693 after the building of Rome. He was joined in his consulship with Lucius Bibulus, and, having subjugated the Germans and Gauls, who were then parted by the river Rhine, he came into the country of the Morini, from which is the shortest passage to Britain. Here he caused eighty ships of burthen and light galleys to be equipped, and transported his legions into Britain. Things did not at first turn out according to his expectation; for, when disembarking, he had to encounter an attack from the Britions much severer than he had expected, and, finding his force outnumbered by a foe whom he had greatly underrated, he was compelled to re-embark his troops. On his return to Gaul he was met with a violent storm, in which he lost a considerable part of his fleet, great numbers of his soldiers, and almost all his horses. Exasperated at his ill success, having established his legions in winter quarters, he caused six hundred ships of both sorts to be fitted out [B.C. 54], and early in the spring sailed again for Britain with his whole force. But, while he marched his army against the enemy, his fleet lying at anchor was assailed by a furious tempest, which either dashed the ships against each other, or drove them on shore as wrecks. Forty of the ships were lost; the rest were after some time, and with great difficulty, repaired. The consummate general, therefore, seeing all hopes of retreat cut off, the more urgently roused the spirit of his troops, and, while he was in the act of exhorting them, battle was joined with the enemy. It was fought on both sides with the greatest ardour, the Romans having no hope of a retreat, the Britons an assured hope of conquering as they had done before. Labienus, the tribune, who led the van of the Roman army against the division of Dolobellus, who was the lieutenant of the British king, charged it with such vigour that it was routed, put to flight, and pursued. But the main body of the royal army was stationed between the columns of Caesar and Labienus. It was commanded by Belinus, the brother of the king Cassibelaun, and the son of Lud, a very brave king, who had gained possession of many islands of the sea by the success of his arms. The royal army was therefore able to surround the cavalry of Labienus, who was slain with all his troops. And now Julius perceiving his ill-fortune and being sensible that to avoid greater disaster he must have recourse to manoevring, instead of direct attacks, he feigned a retreat. The Britons pursued the retiring army and slew great numbers, but were checked by a wood into which the Romans threw themselves. Preparing there for a third attack, Caesar thus exhorted his troops:—
"Invincible fellow soldiers, who have braved the perils of the sea and the toils of marches and battles by land, and have been daunted neither by the fierce onset of the Gauls, nor the resolute courage of the German nations, think not that I suppose any words of mine can add to that disciplined courage which is already perfect, and which, tried in so many fields, can neither be added to nor diminished: that valour, I say, which has always shone brightest when danger was greatest, and, while others have despiared, has led you exultingly onward to certain victory. I need not recall to your minds what is fixed in your own memories, and in those of all nations, how often, seemingly conquered, we have conquered our conquerors; and, not disheartened by our disasters, have become braver than the brave by whom we have been repulsed. Courage, when provoked, becomes desperate. Now then, if you have any regard for the glory of the Roman name, now is the time to exhibit that military discipline in which you have been perfectly trained, and which you have always perfectly maintained, in its hightes perfection in this time of our utmost need. For myself, two issues I have irrevocably chosen, either to conquer, which is glorious, or to die for our country, which is in the power of every man. Flight is only the refuge of cowards. Let those then among you who are of the same mind with myself hold up their invincible right hands, and let our enemies be astonished to find us reanimated by our repulses, and recruited by our losses."
Having thus spoken he extended his right hand, and the whole army with loud shouts raised their hands to heaven, and thus cheering began the battle. Then it was that, the legions being skilfully disposed, the persevering obstinacy with which they fought displayed the superiority of the Roman discipline. Content to stand on their defence, while the Britons exhausted themselves by repeated attacks, the troops of Caesar were fresh when the islanders had lost their vigour. Victory was on the side of the Romans, though not without severe loss. From thence Caesar marched to the river Thames. A large body of the enemy had posted themselves on the further side of the river under the command of Cassibelaun, who had planted sharp stakes in the river bank and in the water where it was crossed by a ford. The remains of these stakes are to be seen at the present day; they appear to be about the thickness of a man's thigh, and, being shod with lead, remain immovably fixed in the bed of the river. This being discovered, and avoided by the Romans, they attacked the barbarians, who, not being able to stand the shock of the legions, retired into the woods, from the shelter of which they grievously galled the Romans by repeated sallies. The strogly-fortified city of Trinovantum surrendered to Caesar, under its governor Androgeus, delivering to him seventy hostages. In like manner several other towns entered into treaties with the Romans, and supplied guides by whose aid Caesar penetrated to the capital city of Cassibelaun, covered on both sides by morasses and further protected by thick woods, while it was stored with abundant supplies. The city was taken after an obstinate defence.
Eventually, Caesar returning to Gaul, and being distracted by the cares of wars which beset him on every side, withdrew from Britain the legions which he had placed in winter quarters, in order that they might accompany him to Rome: a fact to which Lucan refers:—
- "The free-born Britons toss their yellow hair,
No longer curb'd by stationary camps."
Returning with regret to Rome, he ordered the fifth month to be called July in honour of his own name. He was afterwards treacherously assassinated in the senate-house on the Ides of March. As we have to speak of Caesar and his successors who ruled Britain to the time of Martian, who was the forty-fourth in succession from Julius Caesar, we have no wish to diminish their renown. We should hesitate to compare them in point of morals to our own Christian princes, while it would be a shame that the latter should be inferior.
The panegyrick of Solinus on Julius Caesar is just: "As much as Sergius and Sisinnius, the bravest of soldiers, outshone all other soldiers, so much did Caesar excel all other generals, nay, other men of all times. In the wars carried on under his command, 1,192,000 of the enemy were slain. How many were slain the civil wars he was reluctant to record. He fought fifty-two pitched battles; being the only general who exceeded Marcus Marcellinus, who fought thirty-nine. No one wrote more rapidly, no one read with greater facility; he was able to dictate four letters at one and the same time. So great was his excellence that those whom he conquered by his arms, he conquered yet more by his clemency."
Augustus, succeeding Julius Caesar, obtained the empire of the whole world: and received tribute from Britain as well as from his other dominions, as Virgil remarks:—
- "Embroidered Britons lift the purple screen."
This he did in the forty-second year of his reign, when the true Light shone upon the world, and all kingdoms and islands, before over-shadowed with darkness, were taught that there is One only God, and saw the image of Him that created them. When Augustus had reigned fifty-five years and a half, he paid the debt of nature. Eutropius thus panegyrizes him: "Besides the civil wars, in which he was always victorius, Augustus subdued Armenia, Egypt, Galatia, Cantabria, Dalmatia, Pannonia, Aquitania, Illyricum, Rhetium, the Vindelici, the Salassi, Pontus, and Cappadocia. He so completely reduced the Dacians and Germans, that he transported 400,000 captives of their race into Gaul, where he settled them on the further bank of the Rhine. The Persians gave him hostages, which they had never done before, restoring the standards taken from Crassus. He was mild and gracious, affable in spirit, and handsome in person; his eyes, particularly, were beautiful. Clement to his subjects, he so treated his friends that he almost raised them to a level with himself. He engaged in war with no nation but upon just grounds, esteeming triumphs founded upon unfounded pretences, worthless. He was so loved by foreign and even barbarous peoples, that in some instances their kings spontaneously came to Rome to do him homage; others, as Juba and Herod, founded cities to his honour. He devoted some part of every day to reading, writing, and elocution. He was sparing in his diet, patient of rebuke, and placable to conspirators. He found rome built of bricks, he left it of marble."
Tiberius, the step-son of Augustus, succeeded him in the empire, which extended over Britain was well as the other kingdoms of the world. He reigned twenty-three years. He was prudent and fortunate in war, and thus became worthy to be the successor of Augustus. In literature he was highly accomplished, but still more remarkable for eloquence, being happier in unpremeditated replies than in set speeches. He was charged with dissembling, inasmuch as he assumed indifference to those he really loved and courtesy to persons he disliked.
Caius, surnamed Caligula, ruled the empire of the world about five years.
Claudius, who succeeded him A.D. 62, and U.C. 798, visited Britain in the fourth year of his reign, and received the submission of some revolted tribes without recourse to arms. He added the Orkney Islands, already mentioned, to the empire, and, returning to Rome after an absence of six months, assumed for himself and his son the surname of Britannicus, which is given him by Juvenal;:—
- "And show'd, Britannicus, to all that cause,
The womb that bore thee."
In this year that grievous famine prevailed in Syria, which is recorded by St. Luke in the Acts of the Apostles to have been predicted by Agabus. In the time of Claudius, Peter, the chief founder of our faith, became bishop of Rome, which see he filled for twenty-five years, i.e. to the last year of Nero. Vespasian, commissioned by Claudius, went into Gaul, and afterwards to Britain, where he had thirty-two engagements with the enemy, reduced two very powerful tribes, took twenty towns, and added the Isle of Wight to the empire. When Claudius had reigned thirteen years, he went the way of his fathers. His character is thus summed up: "The administration of Claudius was generally moderate, though in some affairs he acted incautiously. Successful in war, he enlarged the empire; while in peace he was so gracious to his friends, that when Paulinus, a general of great eminence who had distinguished himself in Britain, celebrated his triumph, the emperor marched on his left hand as he ascended to the capitol."
Nero, who reigned thirteen years and rather more than half, though he had been an active soldier in his youth, lapsed into sloth after he had obtained the empire. Hence, besides other injuries to the empire, he nearly lost Britain; for during his government two of the greatest cities in the island were sacked and ruined. Nero perished miserably the same year in which he slew Peter and Paul.
Vespasian, who destroyed Jerusalem, reined nearly ten years. It was he who under Claudius was sent into Britain and reduced the Isle of Wight to the power of the Romans. This island extends from east to west about 30,000 paces; from north to south, twelve; and is distant in its eastern part six, and its western twelve, miles from the southern coast of Britain. This great man erected a column of the height of 107 feet. The eulogium of Vespasian is thus faithfully given: "He conducted his government with great moderation, but was inclined to avarice: not, indeed, that he raised money by unjust methods, and what he carefully collected he spent freely, being especially bountiful to those who were in need; so that it would be diffiult to name any prince whose liberality was at once so great and so [...]. His clemency was such that he was not disposed to inflict severer punishment than exile even on those who were guilty of treason. He was conqueror of Judaea, Ac[...], Lycia, Rhodes, Byzantium, Samos, Thrace, Cilicia, Commagene. Injuries and enmities he buried in oblivion; he bore patiently the invectives of lawyers and philosophers and was courteous and affable to the senate, the people, and all the world."
Titus, his son, reigned two years and two months [...] prince endowed with every virtue, so that he was called the idol and the darling of the human race. He built the amphitheatre of Rome, at the dedication of which [...] thousand wild animals were slain. His panegyric is of the highest order: "Eloquent as well as brave, of great moderation, he transacted the business of the law courts in Latin and wrote poems and tragedies in Greek. At the siege of Jerusalem, serving under his father, he struck down twelve of the foremost of the garrison, each with a single arrow. At Rome his government was so humane, that he scarcely inflicted punishment an any, pardoning those who were convicted of conspiracy against his person, and admitted them to the same familiarity as before; so great was his kindness and liberality, that when some of his friends blamed him for never denying any request, he replied, 'no one should depart sad from the presence of the emperor.' He was so much beloved for this singular graciousness, and so sever was the public grief for his death, that all lamented him as if each had lost a private friend. He expired at a distance from Rome, and the senate receiving the intelligence late in the evening thronged into the senate-house and paid such a tribute of praise and acknowledgement to the memory of the deceased emperor, as they had never offered to him when he was alive and among them."
Domitian, the brother of Titus, reigned fifteen years and five months. Next to Nero, he was the most cruel persecutor of the Christians. Hateful to all, particularly to the senate, he brought about his own destruction.
Nerva held the empire of the world little more than a year.
Trajan reigned nineteen years and a half; governing Britain, as well as the other provinces, with singular vigour, and extending the empire, which since the time of Augustus had rather been defended than enlarged. He is the prince who for justice's sake plucked out one of his own eyes and one of his son's; and whom St. Gregory does not leave in hell. Those who read him will understand how perfect was the character of the man whom, though a heathen, he would not consign to condemnation. Suetonius thus eulogizes him: "Trajan, a prince highly accomplished and of exemplary courage, conquered Dacia and the country about the Danube, together with Armenia, which the Partians had seized. He gave a king to the Albanians, and admitted to his alliance the kings of the Iberi, the Sauromati and the Bosphorans, the Arabs, the Osroenians, and the Colchians. He subdued and took possession of the countries of the Cordueni and the Marchamedians, with Antemusium, a great province of Persis, Seleucia and Ctesiphon, Baylon and the Messeni. He extended his frontier to the borders of India and the Red Sea, forming three provinces, Amernia, Assyria, and Mesopotamia, with the nations who border on Madena. Afterwards he reduced Arabia to the condition of a province, and fitted out a fleet on the Red Sea by means of which he ravaged the coasts of India. But his military glory was excelled by his humanity and moderation; bringing himself to the level of all, both at Rome and in the provinces, and visiting familiarly his friends and the sick. He mingled with them on festive occasions, and sat with them in the same chariots. No senator received injury from him, and though he was liberal to all, his revenue was augmented by no injustice. He conferred rihes and honours on those with whom he was but slightly acquainted. He embellished the whole empire with public buildings, conceding many priveleges to the municipalities; doing nothing that was not gentle and kind, insomuch that during his whole reign only a single senator was condemned, and that one by the senate himself, without the knowledge of Trajan. Thus throughout the whole world he was the representative of the Deity; and there was no homage which he did not merit, whether alive or dead. Among other sayings which are attributed to him, the following is remarkable. When his friends objected to him, that he carried his complaisance to his subjects too far, he replied, that 'he wished so to treat private individuals, as emperor, as he himself, in a private station, would wish emperors to treat him.' He was the only one who was buried within the city walls, his bones being collected in a golden urn, which was deposited in the forum he built, under a column 140 feet in height. His memory is still cherished, so that even in our age the phrase of the acclamations with which the emperors are hailed in the senate is, that they be 'fortunate as Augustus, worthy as Trajan!'"
Hadrian ruled the world twenty-one years. He reduced a fresh rebellion of the Jews, and having rebuilt Jerusalem, withheld from them permission to visit it. This is his character: "He was a prince of great moderation, and maintained peace during his entire reign. Once only he engaged in war, and then by one of his generals. He made a progress through the whole circuit of the Roman world. The edifices he built were numerous. He was very eloquent in Latin, and learned in Greek."
Antoninus Pius held the empire of the world twenty-three years and a half: "An upright and exemplary prince, he may be compared to Numa Pompilius, as Trajan likened to Romulus. Severe to none, gracious to all, he wielded his military power with moderation, defending raher than extending the provinces. He sought out men of the greatest rectitude for the administration of affairs, holding the good in honour, recoiling without any bitterness from the evil. He was so respected by kings in his alliance, that they submitted their quarrels to him, and accepted his arbitration. Munificent to his friends, he yet left the treasury rich. His clemency gained him the surname of Pius."
Marcus Antoninus Verus, with his brother Aurelius Lucius Commodus, reigned jointly nineteen years and two months. The empire had been hitherto governed by a single monarch. A Parthian war was conducted with admirable valour and good fortune. During their reign, Eleutherius being the pontiff who governed the Roman Church, Lucius the British king implored him by letter to take measures for his conversion to Christianity. His embassy was successful, and the Britons retained the faith they received, inviolate and undisturbed, until the time of Diocletian. A panegyric of Antoninus Verus from the Roman history: "After the death of Antoninus his consort from apoplexy, he remained sole emperor, with high renown. He never changed countenance either from joy or sorrow. Embued with the Stoic philosophy, of the purest morals, and the highest erudition, he was profoundly versed both in Greek and Latin literature: never elated, he was courteous to all; his liberality was prompt, and his administration of the provinces mild and benignant. He fought successfully against the Germans; and waged the Marcomannic war against the Iquades, the Vandals, the Sarmatians, the Suetes, and the whole barbarism: no other such fourth war, to equal the Punic, is recorded. The hero of this great conflict triumphed as conqueror, with his son Commodus. The treasury being exhausted, he was compelled to sell the imperial regalia, which he afterwards redeemed from those who were willing to restore, taking no umbrage at those who chose to retain, what they had purchased. He allowed illustrious men to exhibit the like splendour, and to be served with similar ceremony in their entertainments, as himself. The magnificence of the games he celebrated in honour of his victories was such that a hundred lions are said to have been exhibited at one time."
Commodus, son of the last-named Commodus, was emperor during thirteen years. He was fortunate in war against the Germans; and having caused the head of the Colossus to be removed, he replaced it by one taken from his own statue.
Aelius Pertinax having reigned six months, was assassinated in his own palace by Julian a lawyer.
Severus Pertinax having put to death Julian the lawyer, reigned seventeen years. An African by birth from Lepti, a town of Tripoli, he was of a savage disposition and provoked by continual wars, but he ruled the state by vigorous efforts fortunately. Victorious in the civil wars, which were very harassing, and Didius Albinus, who had proclaimed himself Caesar at Lyons, in Gaul, being slain, he passed into the British Islands. There, after many fierce battles, he resolved on dividing the part of the island he had recovered from that held by the unconquered tribes, not, as some consider, by a wall, but by a rampart. For a wall is built with stone, but a rampart for defence of a fortified camp is constructed of turfs, which, being cut from the soil, are built up like a wall; having in front a trench from which the turfs are raised, and in which stakes of stout wood are planted. Severus thus made a deep trench with a very strong rampart, fortified besides with frequent towers, from one sea to the other. He afterwards fell sick and died at York. He left two sons, Bassianus and Geta, of whom Geta was adjudged a public enemy, and died. Bassianus becoming emperor assumed the surname of Antoninus. Eutropius thus eulogizes Severus: "He was engaged in various and successful wars; conquering the Parthians, the Arabs, and the Azabenians, whence he was surnamed Parthicus, Arabicus, Azabenicus. He restored the honour of the Roman name throughout the world; but he was illustrious also for civil pursuits, and was called Divus from his learning and cultivation of philosophy."
Antoninus Caracalla, the son of Severus, held the empire seven years. Macrinus, having reigned one year at Archelais, was slain, with his son, in a military tumult. Marcus Aurelius Antoninus was emperor four years; Aurelius Alexander thirteen. The latter was uniformly dutiful to his mother Mammea, and on that account was universally esteemed. "In the war which he carried on against the Persians, he conquered with glory their king Xerxes. He severely regulated the military discipline, cashiering entire legions which were insubordinate. At Rome he was very popular. He was slain in a military tumult in Gaul."
Maximin the First reigned three years, and gained a victory over the Germans; Gordian, who conquered the Persians, reigned five. At this time Origen flourished, who wrote five thousand books, as Jerom relates. Philip, and his son Philip, reigned seven years. He was the first Christian emperor. In the third year of his reign, a thousand years from the building of Rome were completed, and this most august of all proceding eras was celebrated by the Christian emperor with magnificent games. "The temper of Philip the younger was so severe, that he was never provoked to merriment, and he turned his face away from his own father when he indulged in laughter. He continually resisted vice, and struggled in the upward path of virtue."
Decius reigned one year and three months. He persecuted the Christians from hatred to the two Philips, father and son, whom he had slain. Gallus, with Volucianus his son, reigned two years and four months. Valerian, with his son Gallienus, reigned fifteen years. Having raised a persecution against the Christians, he was soon afterwards taken prisoner by the Persian king, and, being deprived of sight, wore out the rest of his days a wretched captive.
Claudius the Second reigned one year and nine months. He subjugated the Goths who had devastated Illyrium and Macedonia for fifteen years; for which a shield of gold was dedicated to him in the senate-house, and a golden statue in the capitol.
Aurelian reigned five years and six months. He being a persecutor of the Christians, a thunderbolt fell near him, to the great horror of the bystanders, and shortly afterwards he was slain by the soldiers. The eulogy of Aurelian from the Acts of Remarkable Men: "As the world was subdued by Alexander in thirteen, by Caesar in fourteen years, Aurelian restored peace to the universe by thirteen battles. He first of the Romans assumed the diadem and robes adorned with gold and jewels. Firm in correcting military licence and dissoluteness of manners, his temper was somewhat morose and haughty, and he was habitually cruel." Tacitus reigned six months, and, being killed at Pontus, was succeeded by Florian, who three months afterwards was slain at Tarsus. Probus, who was emperor six years and four months, completely liberated Gaul from the hostile barbarians who infested it. "He was a prince illustrious for his activity, vigour, and justice; scarcely equal to Aurelian in glory, but excelling him in civil virtues. Having laid the foundations of peace by innumerable wars, he said that shortly there would be no need of soldiers." Carus, who reigned two years, having been victorious over the Persians, fell near the river Tigris.
Diocletian was joint emperor with Herculius Maximian for twenty years. In their time a certain Carausius, a man of low origin, but bold in counsel and action, had the superintendence of the shores of the ocean which were infested by the Franks and Saxons. But his administration was more to the loss than the advantage of the state; for he applied the plunder taken from the pirates to his won private use, instead of restoring it to the owners, and he was suspected of making incursions by designed negligence. His execution for these delinquencies having been ordered by Maximian, Carausius seized Britain, assuming the purple, and maintained his power for seven years with great determination and courage. At length, he was slain by Allectus, one of his followers, who, usurping the government, retained it for three years, until the prefect Asclepiodotus vanquished him in his palace, and recovered Britain after a revolt of ten years. In consequence of the wars, the emperors associated with themselves Constantius in the West, and Galerius Maximus in the East. In theur time a most cruel persecution of the Christians raged throughout the world. In the course of it St. Alban devoted himself a sacrifice to God; of whom Fortunatus, in his poem in praise of virginity, thus speaks:—
- "The sainted Alban fruitful Britain bears."
He was a citizen of Verulam, and gave shelter to a priest escaping from the Pagans, and having been converted by him while he lay concealed, offered himself in his stead when the persecutors came to search the house. Having been subjected to torture, Alban was led out to be beheaded. Then the river was dried up, at the prayer of the saint, because the concourse was too great for the people to cross the bridge. When the executioner, among others, witnessed this, he threw himself at his feet, believing, and was martyred with him. A fountain also burst forth at his martyrdom, which was afterwards dried up. Moreover, the eyes of the headsman rolled on the ground with the head of the saint. St. Alban was martyred near Verulam, i.e. Wirlamcester or Wadlingcester, where afterwards a magnificent church, with a noble abbey, were erected; and to this day the sick are cured and miracles wrought. There suffered during the same persecution two citizens of Caerleon, Aaron and Julius, with a multitude of both sexes who bore witness to Almighty God when torn limb from limb, and exposed to unheard-of tortures. So violent was the persecution, that in the course of one month, 17,000 martyrs suffered for Christ's sake. But when Diocletian had laid aside the purple at Nicomedia, and Maximian at Milan, in the twentieth year of their reign, the persecution was abated for a time. Arrius thus writes of Diocletian:
"He was shrewd, but crafty, and of a sagacious, though subtle spirit; disposed, withal, to vent his own ill humours in malice towards other people. Still he was a most industrious and politic prince, though, contrary to the free habits of the Romans, he required them to adore him, whereas his predecessors had only been saluted. He wore jewels on his robes and sandals, and yet with unprecedented self-denial, he abdicated his lofty rank for a private station. There occurred in his case, what had never before been known since the existence of man, that a private individual received divine honours. His coadjutor, Maximian, was a prince of a most criel disposition and a most forbidding aspect."
Constantius, who, under the later emperors, ruled Gaul, Britain, and Spain, for fifteen years, continued his reign for one year afterwards over the whole empire in the West, Maximin being emperor in the East. He founded Constances in that part of Gaul which is now called Normandy, and received in marriage the daughter of the British king of Colchester, whose name was Hoel or Helen, our Saint Helena, by whom he had Constantine the Great. Constantius, a great and accomplished prince, died at York. "He was studious to advance the prosperity of the provinces and of private individuals; he was unwilling to avail himself of the power of taxing them severely, saying that the public wealth was better in individual hands than locked up in a single coffer. His own expenses were moderate, his temper gentle. He was not only beloved, but venerated, by the Gauls."
Constantine, who reigned thirty years and ten months, was the flower of Britain; for he was British both by birth and country; and Britain never produced his equal, before or afterwards. He led an army from Britain and Gaul into Italy, for Maximian had ploclaimed Maximin his son Augustus at Rome. When marching against him, being yet a heathen, he beheld an angel of God exhibiting to him the sign of the cross, and calling upon him to have faith in the Crucified, and he believed instantly, and God overwhelmed Maxentius in the river's flood. Constantine then, having twice overcome Maximian in battle, became sole emperor of the world, and having been, as we find it written, cleansed from his leprosy by St. Sylvester in the water of baptism, he founded at Rome, on the spot where he was baptized, the Basilica of John the Baptist, which is called the Constantine church. He also founded the basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul, on the site of the temple of Apollo, surrounding their bodies with a tomb of brass five feet in breadth. He also founded a basilica in the Sosorian Palace, which is named Jerusalem, where he deposited a piece of the wood of the cross. He also dedicated a basilica to St. Laurence, on the land of Veranus, near the Tiburtine Road; and another, on the Lavican Way, to Peter and Marcellus, martyrs; where he fixed the mausoleum of his mother, with a sarcophagus of red marble. He also founded a church at Ostia, near the Roman gate; with one at Albano, dedicated to St. John Baptist; and another in the city of Naples. Constantine founded a city, called after his own name, in Thrace, which he made the seat of the imnperial power and the capital of the East. Rebuilding the city of Deprana in Bithynia, in honour of the martyr Lucian, who was there buried, he changed its name to Helenopolis, in memory of his mother. Tradition says that Helen, the illustrous daughter of Britain, surrounded London with the wall which is still standing, and fortified Colchester also with walls. But more especially she rebuilt Jerusalem, adorning it with may basilica purified from idols. The praises of Constantine:
"Constantine may be compared to the best princes of the first age of the empire; to the ordinary ones of the last. His natural endowments both of mind and body were brilliant. Raised to the highest pitch of military glory and fortune, he devoted himself assiduously to the arts of peace and liberal studies. He was distinguished for cultivating a sincere regard for his friends; but the pride of his great prosperity tended in some degree to diminish that amiable disposition."
Constantius, with whom were associated his brothers Constantine and Constans, reigned twenty-four years and five months. The Arian heresy, patronized by Constantius, caused many and great troubles to the Catholics.
Julian, the Apostate, who reigned two years and eight months, justly perished, as the enemy of God, in fighting with the barbarians. His eulogy by Paulus: "He resembled Marcus Antoninus, who was the object of his emulation. His learning was profound and extensive, his memory powerful and comprehensive, his eloquence prompt and fertile, such as become a philosopher. Couteous to all, he was covetous of glory to a degree that frequently overpowered his natural equanimity."
Jovian, an excellent and pious emperor, reigned only eight months; a premature death cutting short his early promise. Valentinian, with his brother Valens, possessed the imperial authority only two years. His character is thus described in the history of Paulus: "Resembling Aurelian, his aspect was comely, his wit shrewd, his judgment sound; he was austere, impetuous, a great enemy to vice, especially to avarice. He was skilful in painting beautifully, in designing new implements of art, and in modelling statues both in wax and in plaster. His discourse was polished, sagacious, and astute."
Valens, with his brothers Gratian and Valentinian, sons of his brother just named, reigned four years. Having been baptized by the Arians, he persecuted the Christians, and issued a decree that monks should serve as soldiers, and those who refused should be scourged to death. In this reign the nation of the Huns issued suddenly from their mountain fastnesses, and threw themselves on the Goths, routing and expelling them from their ancient seats. The Goths, who fled across the Danube, were received by Valens, without being disarmed; but afterwards a famine, occasioned by the avarice of Maximus, the governor, having driven them to rebellion, they defeated the army of Valens, and overran all Thrace with slaughter, fire, and rapine.
Gratian continued for six years, from A.D. 377, the reign which he had commenced jointly with his uncle Valens. Driven by necessity in the troubled and well-nigh ruined state of the republic, he invested with the purple, at Sermia, Theodosius, a Spaniard, alloting to him Tharce and the East for his share of the empire. Theodosius, in several campaigns, reduced the great Scythian nations, the Alani, the Huns, and the Goths. Meanwhile, Maximus, who was of British origin, an active and meritorious officer, except that he broke his oath of allegiance and declared himself emperor in Britain, passed into Gaul, and by a sudden attack destroyed Gratian, the Augustus, and then expelled from Italy his brother Valentinian, also Augustus, who took refuge with Theodosius in the East. The eulogy of Gratian: "He was not wanting in erudition, wrote verses, and discoursed elegantly, devoting his days and nights to apply the keen edge of rhetorical disquisition and questions of the deepest interest. Sparing of food and sleep, he controlled his passions."
Theodosius, after the death of Gratian, reigned eleven years jointly with Valentinian, whom he reinstated, having shut up within the walls of Aquileia, and slain the tyrant Maximus. The Britons who followed Maximus remain to this day in Armorican Gaul, to the great loss of Britain: so that the Armoricans are now called Bretons. The praise of Theodosius: "His defence and extension of the empre rendered him illustrious. He resembled Trajan, from whom he was descended, both in disposition and person, as we learn both from ancient writings and portraits. He was like him in being tall in stature, in the shape of his limbs, and the colour of his hair; but his eyes were not so full, but perhaps there was not so much grace and gaiety in his countenance, nor so much dignity in his motions. But in disposition so great was the resemblance, that there is nothing which the old writers say of Trajan which does not apply to Theodosius. Declaring that he only differed from other men in the accidents of his rank, he was pitiful to the unfortunate, respectful to all, having the highest regard for the good. He loved men of ingenuous dispositions, and admired men of learning, being liberal in his bounty to those most worthy of it. The faults which stained the character of Trajan, excessive conviviality and lust of victory, he so detested, that he never engaged in war unless compelled, and made an edict prohibiting lascivious exhibitions and female dancers at entertainments. He was but moderately learned, but had a large share of common sense, and delighted in becoming acquainted with the acts of his predecessors, execrating the perfidy and the heartlessness of those who were haughty tyrants; for he was easily moved to anger by unworthy actions, though quickly appeased. He had the rare merit of making restitution in many instances from his own fortune of the wealth which in the course of years tyrannical emperors had wrung from private individuals. He regarded his uncle in the light of a father; his nephews and cousins as sons. He invited to his table men of worth and eminence, engaging them in familiar conversation, in which sense was seasoned with an agreeable hilarity. A kind father and a loving husband, he preserved his health by an abstemious diet and moderate exercise. Thus kind and gentle to man, his devotion to God was still more exemplary."
Arcadius, the son of Theodosius, reigned thirteen years jointly with his brother Honorius. During their reign, the Goths invaded Italy, the Vandals and Alaric Gaul. Then also Pelagius in Britain, and Julian in Campania, planted widely the seeds of that heresy which Saint Augustine and many other orthodox fathers attacked with innumerable authorities from Catholic writers, without succeeding in correcting their folly. Indeed their assurance seemed rather to be augmented by the controversy, than to be abated by listening to the truth. Whence the rhetorician Prosper poetically says:—
"Insidious, with the serpent's hellish spite,
A scribbler 'gainst Augustine dared to write;
Sure he was fed on Britain's sea-girt plains,
Or else Campanian plenty swell'd his veins."
Honorius reigned fifteen years with Theodosius the younger, son of his brother Arcadius. In whose times, when the Alani, the Suevi, and the Vandals desolated all Gaul, Gratian was elevated to the provincial sovereignty of Britain, but was speedily killed. In his stead was elected Constantine, a man taken from the lowest ranks of the army, and having no other merit than the promise of his name. Passing into Gaul to invade the empire, he did great mischief to the affairs of the state by suffering himself to be deluded by the Gauls into pretended treaties, till at last, under the orders of Honorius, the Count Constantine shut him up in the city of Arles, seized and put him to death. His son also, Constans, whom, from having been a monk, he had proclaimed Caesar, was by the Count Gerontius dispatched at Vienne. In these times also, A.U.C. 1164, Alaric, King of the Goths, besieged and took Rome, and having plundered the city and burned part of it, evacuated it after six days. This happened about 470 years after Julius Caesar subdued Britain. The Romans had settled its southern region within the wall built by Severus, as the remains of their cities, bridges, watch-towers, and roads, testify to this day. They also claimed the dominion of the parts of Britain beyond the wall, and the neighbouring islands. The Roman forces being thus withdrawn from Britain, with the flower of her youth, who principally followed the tyrant Maximus, the rest being exhausted by the expedition of Constantine just before named, the province lay open to the incursion of those barbarous tribes the Scots and Picts. It was separated from them by two friths, or arms of the sea, one entering from the east, the other from the west, which approach each other very nearly without forming a junction. About the middle of the eastern frith lies this city of Guidi; the western frith has on its further, i.e. its right shore, the city called Alcluith, which in their language signifies the rock Cluith, and near it is a river of the same name. Terrified by the inroads of these fierce tribes, the Britons sent messengers to Rome bearing letters imploring assistance. One legion was marched to their aid, which, after slaughtering vast numbers of the enemy, drove the rest beyond the border, and retired in great triumph. It was recommended to the Britons to build a wall of stone on the rampart of Severus, so that they might be defended by it where the protection of the friths failed. But as they constructed it with turf instead of stone, it answered no good purpose. The remains of this wall, which was of great height and well as breadth, may be seen at the present time. It commences about two miles from a place called Peneltune, and terminates westwards near the city of Alcluith. As soon as the enemy heard that the Romans were withdrawn, they embarked in boats and made a still more fierce irruption. Again the Romans returned at the prayer of the Britons, and drove the barbarians with great slaughter over the frith. They also aided the Britons in constructing the wall of stone, not as before of turf, and carrying it from one sea to the other. They also built at intervals on the southern shore watch-towers, from which the apprach of the enemy might be discerned. Then they bod farewell to their allies, giving them to understand that they should return no more, for they could not exhaust themselves in such distant expeditions. When the Roman forces were thus withdrawn, the enemy again flew to arms, and possessed themselves of all the island as far as the wall. Nor was it long before they laid that in ruins, as well as the neighbouring towns. They soon began to devastate the country within the wall, so that the Britons themselves, were driven by famine to resort to thieving and plunder, and nothing was left in the whole country for the sustenance of life, but what was procured by hunting. The eulogy of Honorius: "In his moral and religious character he greatly resembled his father Theodosius, and, although in his times there were many wars, both foreign and civil, they occasioned a very small effusion of blood."
Theodosius II, also called the Younger, lost the dominion of Britain. He held, however, the empire of the Romans 28 years. In the twenty-third year of his reign, Aetius, an illustrious man, was Consul together with Symmachus. To him the remnant for the Britons transmitted an epistle; in the sequel of which (addressed "to Aetius, Consul for the third time") they thus unfold their lamentable story: "The barbarians drive us to the sea, the sea throws us back to the barbarians; between both we have the choice of death in two shapes, either to be massacred or drowned." But their prayers were of no avail; Aetius could afford them no relief, as he was at this time embarrassed by serious wars with Bledda and Attila, kings of the Huns. And although the year afterwards Bledda, the brother of Attila, fell into an ambush and was slain, Attila was himself so formidable an enemy to the republic that he laid waste nearly the whole of Europe, overthrowing everywhere cities and castles. At the same time a severe famine prevailed at Constantinople, followed by a pestilence, and great part of the city walls, with 56 towers, fell down. So also in many of the ruined cities famine and a prestiferous atmosphere destroyed thousands both of men and of beasts. The famine affected Britain, as well as the rest of the provinces, so that the Britons, preceiving that all human aid failed, invoked the divine. Then the Almighty, having tried them, had compassion on them, giving strength to their arms and point to their swords. They burst, therefore, from their fastnesses in the mountains and the woods, and, rushing on the Scots and Picts, routed and slew them in every quarter; while the enemy's assaults were no longer what they had been, and their arms were feeble, opposed to those of the Britons. Thus their heart failed them, their strength was broken, and they fled in their terror, great numbers being slaughtered. The Scots, with shame, returned to Ireland; the Picts, seeking refuge in the remotest parts of the island, then first and forever discontinued their inroads. Thus the Lord gave victory to his people, and confounded their enemies. About this time, i.e. in the eighth year of Theodosius, Palladius was sent by Pope Celestine to the Scots, as their first bishop. Theodosius also lost the dominion of Gaul, Spain, and Africa, which the Vandals, the Alans, and the Goths laid waste all lands with fire and sword. In the third year of the siege of Hippo by the fiece Genseric, Augustine, its bishop, departing in the Lord, was spared the grief of witnessing its fall.
After the victory of the Britons had restored peace, they were blessed with an harvest of such extraordinary abundance as was in the memory of no prior times, so that as their triumph had restored order, this plenty relieved the famine; the Almighty making trial whether, when adversity had failed to correct them, prosperity would render them thankful. But excess was followed by every kind of wickedness, without respect of God; and so much did barbarism and malice and falsehood prevail, that whoever manifested a more gentle and truthful diposition was considered the enemy of Britain, and became the common mark for hatred and persecution. Not only secular men, but the pastors of the Lord's flock, asting off his light and easy yoke, became the slaves of drunkenness, revenge, litigious contention, animosities, and every kind of wickedness. The the anger of the Lord was moved, and He visted the corrupt race with a terrible plague, which in a short time carried off such great multitudes that those who survived scarcely sufficed to bury the dead. But not even the sight of death, nor the fear of death, were sufficient to recall the survivors from the more fatal death of the soul into which their sins had plunged them. The righteous judgment of God was therefore openly shown in his determination to destroy the sinful nation; and He stirred up against them the Scots and Picts, who were ready to avenge their former losses by still fiercer attacks. They rushed on the Britons, like wolves against lambs, driving them again into the fastnesses of the woods in which it was their custom to take refuge. There they took counsel what was to be done, and in what quarter protection was to be sought against these repeated irruptions of the northern tribes. It was agreed, therefore, by common consent, with the concurrence of their king Vortigern, that the nation of the Saxons should be invited to come to their aid from over the sea; a counsel disposed by divine Providence to the end that punishment should follow the wicked, as the issue of events sufficiently proved.
- Henry of Huntingdon, in the First Book, after giving a general description of Britain, and some slight account, mostly fabulous, of its early history, embraces the period from the invasion of Julius Caesar to the final abandonment of the province by the Romans in the time of Theodosius II. But this Book is rather an epitome of the lives and characters of the Roman emperors, than a narrative of events in British, or Roman-British history. His principal authorities for the former are Eutropius, and the Epitome of Aurelius Victor; but Bede's Ecclesiastical History furnishes the staple of his narrative; and he also draws largely from the History of the Britons attributed to Nennius—by some to Gildas; and he has also interwoven in his history information derived from other sources which cannot now be traced.
- Sat. x. v. 14.
- Bede, from whose history this description of Britain is partially borrowed, makes the circuit of the island 3675 miles. See vol. i. of this series, p. 4.
- Richborough, in Kent.
- The ancients appear to have had no certain idea of the situation of what they called Thule. The name seems to have been variously attributed to the farthest island in the North Sea, unknown with any certainty from the imperfect geographical knowledge of those regions. Some modern writers have discovered Thule in Thelle-marken, one of the western districts of Norway.
- Georg. 1. 30.
- There are still considerable remains of the walls of Carleon, probably much in the same state as they were in the time of our Archdeacon of Huntingdon. The discovery of some tesselated pavements have authenticated its claims to having been a Roman station—the Isca Silurum of the second Augustan legion; whence its Roman-British name—the city of the legion.
- Henry of Huntingdon has taken this catalogue of ancient British cities, for the most part, from Nennius, omitting three—Kair-Manch-guid, Kair-Pensavelcoyt, and Kair-Guentwig; but adding to the list of Nennius, Kair-Glou, Kair-Ceri, Kair-Merdin, Kair-Dorm, and Kair-Cei. The three first of these are found also in Mark the Anchorite.
- The seat of this bishopric, which Peter tranferred to Chester, about A.D.[...]5, was afterwards restored to Litchfield.
- The see of Carlisle, which was founded by Henry I. in 1133, in Henry of Huntingdon's own time, included Cumberland, Westmorland, and part of Northumberland.
- Llandaff, in Glamorganshire, was the seat of this bishopric from the earliest times.
- In Derbyshire.
- Wookey Hole, in Cheddar Cliffs, under the Mendip Hills, in Somersetshire.
- Or Ermininge Street.
- On the origin of the Picts see vol. i. of this series, p. 5. It is to be observed, that Henry of Huntingdon does not notice the Norsk or Danish among the languages commonly spoken in Britain, though at least one-third of England was colonized by Norwegians and Danes, and their language, a cognate dialect, indeed, of the Anglo-Saxon, has left traces of its distinct character, in some districts, even to the present day, which must have been still more rife in the times of the Archdeacon. See Worsaae's "Danes in England," and an Essay on the same subject in the Jubilee Edition of King Alfred's works. Henry of Huntingdon implicitly copies Bede, without any reference to the further element which was added to the languages spoken in Britain after the time of his author.
- This fabulous account of the origin of the Britons is taken from Nennius, iii. v.
- This date, borrowed from Bede, is incorrect, like many others of both authors. It is now generally agreed that Caesar's second and successful invasion of Britain was effected in B.C. 54, U.C. 700. The abortive expedition here mentioned took place the summer before.
- According to Geoffrey of Monmouth, Lud was brother of Cassibelaun.
- Being unable to discover where the Archdeacon found the record of this stirring address, we may attribute it to his own invention, in imitation of the speeches which both poets and historians have put into the mouths of their heroes on similar occasions.
- This ford of the Thames is supposed to have been near Richmond.
- Supposed to be London.
- There seems to be little doubt that Verulam, or St. Albans, was the capital of Cassibelaun.
- Lucan's Pharsalia, Book i. l. 402. Henry of Huntingdon has substituted Britanni for Ruteni, without any authority, which I have been able to discover. Some have read Suëvi, considering the reading justified by the descriptive appellation, flavi; but the epithet "yellow-haired" was applied, not only to the Germans, but to all the northern nations. Lucan himself thus designates the Britons: "celsos ut Gallia currus/Nobilis, et flavis sequerentus mista Britannis." Phars. iii. 78. In the passage quoted by the Archdeacon, Ruteni is evidently the true reading, for the context names various Gaulish tribes; those of the Vosges, the Lingones, about Langes, and the Isarae, on the Isere. Then the Ruteni, a people of Narbonese Gaul, afterwards le Rovergue, are mentioned; followed by reference to the tribes on the Atar, now L'Aube, in Languedoc, and the Var in Provence.
- Geor. iii. 25. The sense is not very clear, and I have therefore rendered the words literally, in preference to offering any gloss upon it. Dryen thus paraphrases it:
- "When the proud theatres disclose the scene
- Which interwoven Britons seem to raise,
- And show the triumphs which their shame displays."
Heyne conjectures that allusion is made to the curtain of the theatre on which were pictured, embroidered, or interwoven, the tall and gaunt forms of British captives, represented in the act of rising from the ground and lifting the curtain. However this may be, the quotation from the Georgics, which Henry of Huntingdon borrows from Nennius, fails of proving the subjection of the Britons in the time of Augustus. We find no authority for the statement, that this emperor received tribute from Britain, except a passage in the De Rebus Gestis of Jornandes, the Goth, a work of the sixth century, in which he made use of the now lost Ecclesiastical History of Cassiodorus, who was governor of Sicily in the same century—no authorities whatever against the silence of contemporary classical authors. Dion Cassius tells us, that Augustus came to Gaul with the intention of invading Britain, as the Britons refused to enter into a treaty with him, but was prevented by the revolt of some recently-subdued tribes of Gaul.
- There is no authority for the statement that Britain formed part of the Roman empire during the reigns of Augustus and Tiberius. It would be a bootless task to correct all of Henry of Huntingdon's errors and misstatements, in some of which he copies Bede. [See notes to the Eccles. Hist., cc. iii. iv. in the present series.] We should not have noticed the present misstatement, but on account of a popular error which attributes the conquest of Britain to Julius Caesar, and supposes that from his time the island, or some part of it, remained in subjection to the Romans. The facts are, that in his second and most successful expedition, Caesar was not able, after much opposition and one signal defeat, to penetrate farther into the country than about eighty miles from the place of his landing, near Walmer, to Verulam, or St. Albans, following for the most part the valley of the Thames, which river he crossed near Richmond. London and St. Albans were the only towns he reduced, and these he abandoned after a few months' occupation, withdrawing his whole army from the island, to which he never returned. The Britons recovered their independence, and continued unmolested under the government of their native kings and chiefs during the reigns of Augustus, Tiberius, and Caligula, tough the latter menaced them with a fresh invasion, which ended in an idle and ridiculous parade. A period, therefore, of nearly a century elapsed before the more successful invasion under the Emperor Claudius, from which the establishment of the Roman dominion in Britain dates.
- Aurel. Victor.
- The real date of the expedition of Plautius, under Claudius, as A.D. 44, U.C. 796. The same year upon his general's success, the Emperor himself crossed over to Britain, but only remained in the island sixteen days. This happened ninety-seven years after Caesar's abandonment of his enterprise. Bede says that "he was the only one either before or after Julius Caesar, who had dared to land in the island," so that Henry of Huntingdon's store of the "revolted tribes" seems to be pure invention.
- This also is incorrect. The Orkneys were not reduced till the conquests of Agricola under Vespasian, and his successors reduced the northern parts of Britain to subjection.
- Juv. Sat. vi. 124.
- For Paulinus, who did not command in Britain till the time of Nero, read Plautius. By the victories of this general over Cunobeline, the southern regions of Britain were reduced to a Roman province. He was succeeded by Ostorius, the conqueror of Caradauc, or Caractacus as he was called by the Romans.
- Eutrop. vii. 8.
- The successes of Boadicea, Queen of the Iceni, a British tribe, who were natives of Derbyshire, are here alluded to. She is said to have reduced to ashes London, Colchester, and Verulam, and to have massacred 70,000 of the Romans and their allies. We do not wonder at Henry of Huntingdon's imperfect acquaintance with the history of the Roman emperors; but it uis surprising that he gives so confused an account, and collected such few incidents of their transactions in Britain. Now it was that Suetonius Paulinus commanded in Britain. He reduced Mona, and exterminated the Druids, and was ultimately successful in recovering the province after the losses in the time of Boadicea.
- The short reigns of Galba, Otho, and Vitellius, are not noticed.
- Eutrop. vii. 13.
- Ibid. vii. 14.
- Our author does not notice the affairs of Britain during the reigns of Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian, in which the complete subjugation was effected under Julius Agricola, the greatest and best of the Roman generals in Britain, and who may be considered the founder of British civilization.
- Eutrop. viii. 3.
- Ibid. viii. 4.
- There is some confusion in the names of these emperors, which Henry of Huntingdon borrows from Bede. Antoninus the philosopher was also called Marcys Aurelius. His associate in the empire was named Lucius Verus.
- Hist. Miscell. x.
- Eutrop. viii. 9.
- Known as Elagabalus.
- Alexander Severus.
- Eutrop. viii. 13.
- Aurel. Victor.
- Eutrop. ix. 11.
- Eutrop. ix. 16.
- Eutrop. x. i.
- Constantinople, the ancient Byzantium.
- Eutrop. x. i.
- Hist. Miscell.
- Hist. Miscell.
- Hist. Miscell.
- Pelagius was of British extraction, being a native of Wales. His patronymic names seems to have been Morgan, in Welsh sea-born, Pelagius (Πεμάγιος) signifying the same in Greek.
- Henry of Huntingdon, who is following Bede, changes the expression of his author, which runs, "after Julius Caesar entered the island." Bede adds, "from this time the Romans ceased to rule in Britain."
- Alcluith is now Dumbarton. The situation of Guidi is not exactly known; but from the description it must be somewhere about Leith or Queenferry.
- The Clyde.
- Near Abercorn (Abercurnig), a village on the south bank of the Frith of Forth, where formerly was a monastery.