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Such an asage was, however, limited to chieftains, and other persons of power and distinction. Cæsar, speaking in general terms, describes the Britons in the interior parts (the Celtæ) as being clothed “in the hides of animals;" the first and most natural resource of man, when attempting to defend himself against the inclemency, or vicissitudes of the seasons.
Such appear to be the most important points in which the Celtæ and Belgæ were dissimilar. The towns of both pos. sessed the same rude character; and we are not informed of any marked difference between their scattered habitations, whether adapted to the chieftain, the agriculturist, or the pastoral farmer.
In presenting a view of the manners and customs of the population of Britain, when the island was first invaded by the Romans, much, therefore, must be of general application. Where a peculiarity is traced to a particular people, it will be carefully noticed in the following pages.
That the Britons possessed numerous towns is shewn by our map of ancient Britain, and the explanation of its contents. These, however, were of a very rude character, and were used only as places of retreat in times of war and danger. It is said, by Cæsar, that “ what the Britons call a town, is a tract of woody conntry, surrounded by a mound and ditclı, for the security of themselves and their cattle against the incursions of their enemies.”
But the account transmitted by that writer is far from conveying a just notion of the whole of the British towns, or fortified places. Many of these retreats were constructed on the brow of a promontory, when the character of country afforded such a natural advantage. The distinguishing marks of the British town, whether placed in the lowlands, and protected by morasses and prostrate trees; or situated on a lofty elevation, and defended by rude ditches or banks; will be noticed at greater length, in the pages which treat of existing traces of British antiquities.
The The domestic buildings of the Britons demand but little of servation. We may readily suppose that some of the rudest settlers in this country, in the early stages of their residence, secured themselves from the frequent changes, and casual severity of the climate, in escavated recesses. But such savage and gloomy retreats would chiefly be used by mankind while depending for sustenance on the spoils of the chace, and contented with imitating, in a mild season, the leafy den of the beast of the thicket. Cæsar describes the country of the Belgic Britons, at the date of his invasion, as being well-provided with houses, which resembled those of Gaul. They were, therefore, of a circular shape, and composed of wood, with a high tapering roof, having an aperture at the top for the emission of smoke. From the testimony of other writers, it would appear that the habitations of the Celtic tribes were nearly of a similar description. The round, or oblong ground-form, with a conical roofing, is, indeed, the character of building almost invariable with the early stages of society; and evidently proceeds from the rude, but natural, practice of enclosing an area with tall erect limbs of timber, iuclining at the summit towards a common centre. In the pages which treat concerning vestiges of the ancient Britons, it will be shewn that some relics are still remaining, which are believed to exhibit foundations of their dwellings; and which, if admitted as such, will evince that some of their habitations, though simple, and of small dimensions, were designed for durability.
A correct idea of the comforts which the Britons were enabled to assemble round thein in their rude habitations, can be gained only from an examination of their progress in the arts, and their commercial opportunities.
That there was a period at which the inhabitants of Britain were ignorant of the art of working metals, would appear to be evident from the numerous instruments, formed of stone and flint, which have been found in many parts of the island.* 'This igno. Tance is common to every nation in the first stage of society; but the Britons speedily discovered the mineral treasures which lay plentifully embosomed in various districts of their country, and they progressively acquired the talent of refining and rendering a portion of them amenable to use. T'in, long esteemeil the most valuable production of this island, was exported by the Celtic Britous, through many ages antecedent to the encroachments of the Belgæ.
See many of these discoveries noticed in the Beauties for Wiltshire, under the article, BARROWS.
The discovery of this valuable metal, induced the visits of foreign merchants, and led to a series of commercial interchanges highly important in the annals of early Britain. The first nation which opened a trade with the inhabitants of this island, was, undoubtedly, the Phænician. That enterprising people, the foanders of navigation, and of extensive commerce, are supposed to have commenced a trade with Britain, about 500 years before the Christian era. Tin was the first great article of British exportation; and this metal the Phænicians procured in large quantities from the Scilly islands, then denominated the Cassiterides.
The Phænicians enjoyed an exclusive trade with this country, for nearly three centuries ;* when they reluctantly adınitted the Greeks to a participation in their advantageous traffic. From such a competitiou of purchasers, the Britons derived considerable benefit; and the great mart for the arrangement of exports and imports, was removed from the obscure Cassiterides, and fixed, as some believe, in the isle of Wight.t . We have not any direct authorities for ascertaining the nature of the articles given in exchange for their tin, by the Phænicians, to the first Celtic traders of Britain. A conjecture may, however, be drawn from the state of the foreign trade cultivated by
. See some notice of the connexion between the Britons and Phænicians, in the Beauties for Devonshire, p. 38; and for Cornwall, p. 338—339.
+ An examination of different opinions, as to whether the Isle of Wiglit is really the Ictis of Diodorus Siculus, and was, consequently, the great British mart fer tin, is presented in the Beauties for Hanipsbure, p. 332-33
the Britons, when the Belge shared in the population of the island, and at the time of the Roman invasion under Claudius. Tin then continued to be the chief article of exportation ; but lead, the skins of animals, both wild and tame, together with numerous other commodities, are mentioned among the exports of Britain. The human being, reduced to slavery, and estimated merely as an animal, was also an object of barter. In exchange for such articles of traffic, the Britons imported salt, eartheuware, and brass, both wrought, and in bullion.
It would thus appear that the islanders derived but few additions to their comforts from their foreign commerce. It is certain that they waited at home for opportunities of barter; and it is quite doubtful whether they possessed barks of sufficient magnitude for extensive voyages, if they had been actuated by a spirit of bold commercial enterprise. Such of their vessels as were noticed by Cæsar, were merely open boats, framed of light timbers, ribbed with hurdle-work, and lined with hides.*
Brass, or copper, was the favourite metal with the Britons, whether of Celtic or Belgic extraction, as with all ancient nations in their early ages,t and was entirely imported by them, although they understood the art of working it, and constructed from it various implements. That their military weapons, swords, battle-axes, spears, and arrow-heads, were chiefly formed of copper or brass, is manifest, from the numerous relics found in different parts of the island, and preserved in the cabinets of the curious. From these it appears that they often mixed an extraordinary quantity of lead with the primary metal.
Irun, the most useful of all metals, and that which Nature has spread through most regions in the greatest abundance, is still
* Boats similar to those described by Cæsar, are still used on the rivers of Wales, and are denominated, Corracles, in English. The Welsh term this species of boat, Cwn. See Beauties for Wales, Vol. XVII. p. 8, &c.
+ For the general use of brass, or copper, in the manufacture of offensive arms, amongst the ancients, see Goguet's Origin of Laws, Arts, &c. Vol. I. p. 157---159; and Vol. II. p. 266,
the most difficult of discovery; and is rendered forgeable by a process peculiarly complicated and tedious. Small quantities of this metal were imported from the continent, both by the Celtic and Belgic Britons, until a short time before the descent of Cæsar; when some mines were opened, and worked upon a small scale, by the latter people. It is believed that gold and silver were not known to be natural productions of the island, when it was first visited by Cæsar; but it would appear that these metals were discovered soon after that period, as Tacitus and Strabo mention both amongst the riches which Britain possessed to reward her conquerors. If not dug and worked in Britain, it is probable that these precious metals had been long imported in small quantities from Gaul, either in bullion, or wrought into various ornaments. That many ornamental particulars of pure gold formed a part of the elevated Briton's personal decorations, is evident, from the discoveries made on opening barrows, or funeral tumuli.
The art of the potter is one so necessary and so simple, that it can scarcely be supposed unknown to a nation which practised pasturage, and used as food the milk of its kine. That the Britons were acquainted with this art, is proved by vessels found in places of burial, and in other earth-works, assuredly British.* But the rude character of these specimens shews that they had made little progress in refining on the manufacture. They had, also, vessels formed of native amber; but, it would appear, froin the investigation of funeral deposits, that these were very rare, and held in great value.
From the simplicity of construction and arrangement observable in their houses, it would seem probable that the Britons had little skill in works appertaining to the carpenter and turner; but we shall find that they possessed war-chariots so well contrived and neatly executed, as to obtain the admiration of their polished invaders, the Romans. It may readily be supposed
* See some specimens of British pottery casually noticed in the Beauties for Wiltshire, p. 229, and 310,