Page:Historical characteristics of the Celtic race.djvu/17

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regard, and ten centuries "before history has much to say of the Anglo-Saxon portion of the Germanic race. Moreover, it is something to know among the honours of your pedigree that the Celtic language assumed a written form earlier than any non-classic speech. This we could gather from Cæsar as regards the Continental Gauls; and as regards the insular Celts, we may accept the verdict of John Hill Burton, who, though far from Philo-Celtic in his leanings, states the matter thus:—"The Irish (or Gaelic) was a language not only calculated for the public and domestic uses of civilisation, but it became a literary language earlier than any of the Teutonic tongues". So Father Innes avers that the "Letters" and "Confession" of St. Patrick are "the most ancient writings of any native of the British Isles that now remain".

The date 600 B.C. was mentioned as our earliest, but I now come to another, the most notable date in the ancient Gallic history, that of 390 B.C., marking the greatest exploit in ancient times of the Gallic race, the capture of Rome by the Gauls. Among the confusions and the suspected figments of the Roman historians, we can discern this much, that the Roman Commonwealth was never so near extinction, and that it never received so staggering a blow as in the "Dies Alliensis". The Gauls came as an avalanche, and as suddenly departed, after being masters of Rome all except the capitol, until fever and pestilence compelled them to relax their hold, and they withdrew after exacting ransom, ignominious to the Roman remembrance, an indignity which was hushed up by various falsifications. But it may be said. Was not Cannae a severer blow than Allia? Not so, for the dies Cannensis brought no invasion of the Urbs, Hannibal never had a foot within the sacred Pomoerium: neither Carthaginian, nor Greek, nor Samnite ever penetrated to the Forum, nor any other enemy, save only the Gaul with his claymore. Before that terrible weapon, even the Roman Gods had to retire; they went away for shelter to an Etruscan city. Vestals and Augurs once, and only once, had to seek a refuge: it was before the Celtic avalanche thundering downward from the Alps. For any commotion among the Gauls the Romans had a special name:—they called it a Tumultus; and we are told that the Romans felt they had always a special business on hand when they had to