Page:A short history of social life in England.djvu/36

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16
ROMAN CONQUEST

Arrayed in short tunics of cloth or linen, with bare heads and legs, armed with broadswords and lances, standing in war-chariots drawn by well-trained ponies accustomed to the roughest country, each tribe under its own chief—these ancient Britons gallantly defended their land against the foreign foe. But very different were the organised legions against which they had to fight Each Roman soldier was armed with a well-tempered blade of steel, each head was protected by a lofty-crested helmet, while mail breastplates, greaves, and shields embossed with plates of iron, completed the equipment. Commanded by men chosen for their military skill, it is small wonder that they conquered the British tribes, even as those very British tribes—the Celts—had triumphed over the Iberians of old by means of a superior metal weapon.

The Britons fought with true courage, and for the first time in this land's social history we get glimpses of individual heroes rejoicing in elaborate names, few of which are less than four syllables. Stronger than his fellow's, Cassivelaunus, King of the Catuvelauni, keeps a large tract of country* free from the Roman, while his descendant Cunobelinus—the Cymbeline of Shakspere—