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The encroachments of Belgic tribes on the Cellæ, and their share in the ancient possession of the island, will be noticed in a future page.
The compulsory brevity of a writer who treats on the first popu. lation of Britain, a subject naturally obscure, will create no surprise, and perhaps little regret.* It may be lamented that an oppressive paucity of legitimate information prevails concerning the history of the early inhabitants of the island, and the state of
which relate to the early history of Britain, I present an extract from ajudi. cious modern liistorian : “ It may not be improper to state, in one view, all that the Welsh traditions deliver of the ancient inbabitants of the island. How far individuals inay chuse to accredit then, is a matter for their own discretion to determine. But in the mean time, they ought to be preserved from absolute oblivion.
“ According to the Welsh Triads, while the island was uninhabited by human colonies, and was full of bears, wolves, beavers, and a peculiar kind of wild caule, it had the name of Clas Merdihin. In this state, Hy Cadarn led ihe first colony of Cymry to it, of whom some went to B'elaune. It then acquired the name of Y ved Ynys, the Honey Island. In the course of uine Prydain, the son of Aedd the Great, reigned in it, and from him it was called Yn18 Prydain, the isle of Prydain, wbiel is its present denomination in Welsh, and wbich the Greeks and Romans seem to have extended into Britannia. It was afterwards visited by iwo foreign tribes, of Kimme. rian origin, the Lloegrwys, from Gwasgwyn, or Gascony; and the Brython, from Liydaw, or Bretagne. Both of these were peaceable colonists. The Lloegrwys impressed their name upon a large portion of the island At subsequent periods other people have come with anore or less violence. The Romans; the Gwyddyl Ficti (the Picts) 10 Alban, or Scotland, on the part which lies nearest to the Baltic; the Celyddon (Caledonians) to the north parls of the island ; the Gwyddyl to other parts of Scotland ; the Curraniaid from Pwyll (perhaps Pulaud) to the Humber; the nen of Galedin, or Flanders, to Wyth; the Saxons; and the Llychlynians, or Northmen.”Turner's Hist, of the Anglo-saxons. Vol. I. pp. 14, 15.
•The reader who is desirous of investigating more deeply a subject so recondite, is referred to some ingenious speculations in Turner's introduc. tion to the history of the Anglo-Saxons; and to three leviers from the Rev. Samuel Greatheed, respecting the origin of the inhabitants of the Britisha islands : Archeologia, Vol. XII.
their moral attaininents, manners, arts, and manufactures, before these took a new bias from the victories of the Roman arms. But the manners of all nations in an infantile state of society, have so near an approximation, with an allowance for the slight dif. ference of colouring imparted by external circumstances, that probably neither philosophy nor mere curiosity sustains any serious deprivation by this sterility of intelligence.
A narration of the wars carried on by rival Clans, affords but little interest when the very names of the parties are preserved with difficulty by antiquarian care; and in the tangible remains of the carly British tribes we have still emphatical monuments of their warlike spirit, mingled with indications of such rudeness in works of art as might be expected froin a people little conversant with commerce, and not united under that salutary result of mature congregation, one consolidated head of government.
Our knowledge of the internal polity, of the customs, and even of the geograpbical circumstances, of the early Britons, commences with the Roman invasion of the island. The Druids, who, in their various classes, engrossed of the learning of those ages first known in British history, and who were the chroniclers of events, uscd no other than an oral method of record. Thus we rest for solid information, concerning the first periods of our national story, on Roman and Greck writers; and chiefly on Julius Cæsar and Tacitus. Fortunately for literature, those authors were possessed of minds equally comprehensive and acute. Although vanity, and motives of personal interest, may have induced the ambitious Cæsar to have partially misrepresented some circumstances connected with the dubious success of his own arms, his statements in other respects are un loubtedly veracious. The elegant and judicious Tacitus cither personally visited Britain in the first century, or obtained intelligence from his father-in-law, Agricola.
To these great writers of antiquity, assisted chiefly by some Greck authors, whose assertions must often be regarded as of a questionable character, because seldom founded on actual investigation, all moderu historians are indebted for the foundation on
which they build, when treating of the manners of the early Britons.
In aid of the sober methodical writer, who presents as credible only that which he finds stated in specific terms, there have occurred in recent years, some authors of a bold and inquisitive disposition, who have endeavoured to bestow illumination on the gloom of our early annals, and to supply the deficiencies of the scanty pages, by intans of probable deduction. Like Goguet, they insist on national arts and manners undergoing a logical process; and while, by an acceptable inference, they aver that the people who used chariots must have been acquaint: d with various branches of mechanical knowledge, they advert to the practices of art connected with such an usage, and contend that the country could not, at its interior, have been in the first state of rudeness, since there must have been roads, probably improved by the labour of the hand, to render the carriage a vehicle capa. ble of easy transit.- Foremost amongst these writers stands Mr. Whitaker, whose history of Manchester is au Essay on the early History of Britain at large. If received with caution, his ingenious work is eminently useful, as he not only elicits, by a rational pursuit of argoment, many novelties of intelligence, but has judiciously corrected numerous mistakes in preceding writers.
In the following remarks on the probable condition of the early Britous, I first notice circumstances generally connected with the geographical positions and relations of the different tribes; and afterwards present, in a very succinct form, such observations on their religion, customs, polity, and progress in arts and manufactures, as appear to be necessary for an illustration of their vestiges, both moral and tangible.
It has been observed that the patriarchal form of government, in its simple state, has never been of long duration in any country; for as independent families increased in number, they gradually approached nearer to each other; and disputes respecting boundaries, as naturally united several into one tribe or clan, as the tribes, by alliances and intermarriages, were afterwards con
solidated solidated into peity states, under one head or leader. At what precise period such changes took place in Britain, or in what other modes originated its forms of government, it would be futile to enquire; but the existence of many different tribes, or clans, was evidently the state of society at the date of the Roman invasiou.
The primary guide in endeavours towards ascertaining the geography of Britain at the earliest recorded period, is Ptolemy of Alexandria, the great Geographer, Mathematician, and Astronomer, who flourished towards the middle of the second century, under the Emperors, Trajan, Hadrian, and Antoninus Pius. His description of this island is concise and merely geographical, but is of high interest as being composed at so early a period of the Roman ascendancy, and while the British nations, even in the conquered districts, still retained their ancient names and marks of distinction. It will, however, be observed that the writings of l'tolemy contain many important errors, and he has fallen into some mistakes which affect the whole of his British geography. But these inaccuracies are obvious to correction; and it is asserted by Horsley that “the order in which he disposes the towns, rivers, and other places, particularly those on the coast, alunost equals for usefulness, the distances in the Itinerary, and the order in the Notitia."* In appropriating particular districts, by means of the distavces in this Geographer, it is further observed by Horsley "that when the coast is once settled it will be proper to consider the relative situation of the towns, with respect to it, in order to fix them likewise. And when we are sure
' • Horsley's Britannia Romania, p. 356.—This opinion appears to be ex
pressed in terms too strongly favourable. A modern writer, of considerable experience and judgment, observes that “ Ptolemy's niethod of settling the positions of his towns by longitude and latitude, promises information nearly equal to the Itinerary ; but a very little acquaintance with liis Geography, will soon convince any one that it is of 110 use. The position of no town can be determined with certainty, on the authority of this learned Ægyptian alone.” Reynolds, on the Itinerary of Antoninus, p. 35.
of any one or lwo counties which belong to a people, from the towns mentioned as being among them, we may guess what other neighbouring counties have probably belonged to the same people, either by observing what were most likely to be the boundaries, or by other collateral evidences.”*
On the foundation of this venerable writer alone, aided by the calculations of ingenuity, were formed the most acceptable plans respecting the locality of the various British tribes which existed in his time, until the discovery of the work of Richard of Ciren. cester, a monk of Westminster, who flourislied in the latter part of the 14th century.T But the geographical information conveyed by this industrious monk's “ Descriplion of Britain," and by his illustrative inap, is considered more valuable than the crude outline of Ptolemy, by some of the most intelligent antiquaries of the present day, and such as have directed a particular attention to the antiquities of the early Britons. In the preface to Mr. Hatcher's edition of Richard of Cirencester, it is said, that “ the most superficial view of the map will suffice to convince us of its superior accuracy, not only to the early draughts fabricated from the observations recorded by Ptolemy, but even to those of his best commentators. In the geographieal description of the different tribes, our author has taken his groundwork from Ptolemy, or those from whom Ptolemy derived his information. But if hie drew his groundwork from the Ægyptian geographer, he has made such additions and changes as show a later, more correct, and more particular knowledge of the country. He has amended a glaring error which Ptolemy committed, in throwing the Northern part of the island to the East, and another in placing Ireland at too great a distance from Brilaiu. He has also drawn up bis account of the different states in a more distinct and regular form, las mentioned a few additional tribes, omitted others,
• Britannia Romana, p. 356. + A more particular account of the work of Richard of Cirencester, is given in tlie - List of Books," appended to this Introduction,