Зображення сторінки

that the chief efforts of a people continually exposed to internal warfare, would be directed towards the construction of military vehicles and implements; but, where many tools were possessed, and an efficient mode of using them was well known, it is urlikely that the exercise of opportunity and talent should be confined to one branch of such essential arts. Accordingly, we find on several of the coins of Cunobeline, minted between the first and second great Roman invasions, the representation of seats, or chairs, provided with backs, and mounted on four supporters. This circumstance is trivial, and is mentioned only to counteract a notion conveyed by some historical writers, under the inftuence of which it might be supposed that the inhabitants of ancient Britain, collectively, were in the first stage of savage life, and quite unacquainted with the means of domestic accommodation. In addition to articles forined of wood, their tables were furnished with numerous utensils made of osiers, delicately intertwined. In this species of basket work they so greatly excelled, that articles manufactured by them, were afterwards exported to Rome, where they were much admired, and admitted to the boards of the elevated and fashionable. · Having thus collected such scanty materials as credible bistory affords, for a descriptiou of the Briton's residence, and for an estimate of its probable contents, it is desirable to examine into the state of his personal appearance and habiliments.

The most acceptable of the Roman and Greek writers, concur in describing it as a custom of Britain for the inhabitants to paint their bodies, although they offer somewhat dissimilar accounts concerning the mode in which this species of decoration was practised. Cæsar and Pliny mention the Britons as staining their skins with one uniform colour, the dye of Glastum, or Woad; and they notice this custom as common to both sexes. Other ancient authors describe the painting as being of a more artificial character, and as consisting of various figures and devices, punctured on the skin; the blue stain of the Woad forining the ground-tint of this strange tissue of imagery. It is probable


that both accounts may be reconciled with correctness, and that the great bulk of the population used the cheaper uniform colour, while the upper orders indulged in the ostentation of figured punctures, either more or less elaborate and varied as miglit suit their temper and finances.

The existence of this practice evidently implies an original necessity, or custom, of exposing the person free from attire. But it has been already shewn that such an exposure was no longer compulsory, when the island was first visited by the Romans, although it appears to have been still practised in time of battle.* Both the Celtic aud Belgic tribes were then clothed; the former chiefly in skins, and the latter wholly in garments of woollen cloth. As cloth is not mentioned amongst the articles imported by the Britons, there is confident reason for believing that the art of manufacturing it was iutroduced by the Belge. The cloths at that time manufactured in Gaul, and probably in Britain, were of a coarse and homely texture; but that most in request was composed of wool, dyed in several different colours, which being spun into yarn, was woven chequer-wise. Thus falling into parti-coloured squares, the fabric bore a close resemblance to the cloth still partially used in the highlands of Scotland, and known by the name of Tartan plaid. .

It has been observed, in a previous page, that the comparative luxury of woollen garments was not entirely confined to the Belgic tribes, when the island first became known to the Romans. The chieftains, and other distinguished persons among the Celtæ, appear to have relinquished the rude garbs of their ancestors, and to have adopted a more comfortable and more ornamental species of attire. Their improved mode of dress is thus described by the lively pen of Mr. Whitaker ; t. and as the description is, in many


• It is observed by Mr. Whitaker, that the highlanders have “ retained this practice, in part, to the present times; as late as the battle of Killie cranky, throwing off their plaids and short coats, and fighting in their shirts." Hist. of Manchester, Vol. I. p. 300.

* Hist. of Manchester, Vol. I. p. 300-302.

leading particulars, supported by the testimony of ancient writers, it may be perused as a curious delineation of ancient costume, founded on credible hints of intelligence, but enlarged with a considerable license of comparison and probable conjecture.

The trunk of the body was covered with a jacket, which the Britons called a Cota, and we denominate a waistcoat. It was plaided, and open before; had long sleeves extending to the hands; and reached itself to the middle. And below this began the trowsers, which were called Braccæ, Brages, or Breeches, by the Britons, wrapped loosely round the thighs and legs, and terminated at the ancles. These also were plaided, as their name intimates; Brac signifying a parti-coloured object, and the upper garment of the highlanders being therefore denominated Breac, and Breacan, to this day.

“ Over these was a looser garinent, denominated, formerly, by the Gauls a sack, and by the Irish, lately, a mantle.

This was equally plaided, and was of a thick strong contexture. And it was fastened

upon the body with buttons, and bound round the waist with a girdle. The former appear to have been placed one upon either shoulder, where the highlanders use a sort of pins at present; and are seen distinctly on the coins of several British monarchs. The latter, which is frequently used to this day by the highlanders, also appears upon British coins, and seems to have been particularly ornamented, as in the Roman triumph over Caractacus his plaleræ made a part of the splendid shew.

“ Round the neck was a large chain, which hung down upon the breast; and on the middle, or second finger of both hands was a ring. The ornamental chains of Caractacus were exhibited with his phaleræ in the procession at Rome. And both were made of gold among the chiefs, and of iron among their followers. They had shoes upon their feet, which were the same, assuredly, with the buskins that were used within these five centuries in Wales, and with the light flat brogues, that are worn to this day by some of the Irish and highlanders; and, like them, were made of-a raw cow-hide, that had the hair turned outwards.

And they


wore round bonnets on their heads. This remarkable dress of our British ancestors, seems to have been equally the attire of the men and women among the nobles of Britain."*

It is difficult to form a just estimate of the moral qualities and familiar manners of a people so remote, from the pages of those who have noticed them but briefly; who visited them as enemies or conquerors; and who pertinaciously affected to consider them, whether of Celtic or Belgic origin, as mere barbarians. They are described by the Greek and Roman writers, as being proud and vain-glorious; rash in resolve, and prone to passionate bursts of anger. In alleviation of such censure, it may be remarked that their pride was blended with patriotism, and that their warmth of temper was sustained and rendered respectable by an ardent courage, ever ready for action, in support of their princes, and in defence of their country,

The most important circumstance connected with the economy of civil life, is a due regulation of the commerce between the sexes. Many writers have presented rather minute descriptions of the marriage ceremonials of the Britons, and of the engage. ments entered into by the parties concerned. Bat their accounts rest entirely on a presumed analogy of manners between the ancient Germans and the Britons; on the poems of Ossian; and on the laws of Howel Dha. It is obvious, that conjecture is here allowed too large a scope for the purposes of legitimate history. Julius Cæsar affords the first acceptable authority on the subject, and he writes to the following effect: “ Ten or twelve persons, who are commonly near relations, as fathers, sons, and brothers, all have their wives in common. But the children are presumed to belong to the man to whom the mother was mar


• The dress of the British Princess, Boadicia, is described by Dio, as "a tunick of various colours, long and plaited, over which she had a large and thick mantle. This was ber commun dress, which she wore at all times.”Many articles of personal ornament amongst the Britons are noticed in future pages, under the subject of Barrows, Cairns, and Funeral Reliques.

ried."* This assertion is corroborated by the testimony of Dio, and other ancient writers.

A statement so unfavourable to the morals of our ancestors, has naturally been treated with scepticism by many authors. Dr. Henry, one of the most respectable of those who hesitate in receiving as correct the accounts transmitted by the ancients, ob. serves “that it is very probable Cæsar, Dio, and others, were deceived loy appearances, and were led to entertain this opinion of the promiscuous intercourse of the sexes among the Britons, by noticing the promiscuous manner in which they lived, and particularly in which they slept. The houses of the Britons were not, like ours at present, or those of the Romans in those times, divided into several distinct apartments; but consisted of one large circular room, or hall, with a fire in the middle, around which the whole family and visitants, men, women, and chil. dren, slept on the floor, in one continued bed of straw or rushes. This excited unfavourable suspicions in the minds of strangers, accustomed to a more decent manner of living; but these suspicions were probably without foundation. For the ancient Germans, who were in many respects extremely like the ancient Britons, and lived in the same crowded and promiscuous manner, were remarkable for their chastity and conjugal fidelity.”+

An argument in favour of the connubial good morals of the Britons, has, likewise, been drawn from the poems of Ossian; but the examiner will, perhaps, look with more consideration on the instance of Queen Cartismandua, who incurred the universal indignation of the Brigantes, for her inconstancy to her husband, and preference of hier, armour-bearer. But, still, these arguments are far from conclusive, when opposed by the positive assertion of so judicious an investigator as Cæsar. In regard to Cartismandua, it may be readily supposed that an unusual re


Cæsar, de Bel. Gal. 1. 5. c. 14. + Henry's Hist, of England. Vol. II. p. 304-305.

Vide Tacit. Hist. 1. 3. C. 45.

« НазадПродовжити »