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HE Saxon Chronicle, following the Venerable Bede, the earliest English writer who deserves the name of historian, commences its narrative with a brief description of Britain, and a legend of its first peopling.
The island of Britain is eight hundred miles long, and two hundred miles broad: and here in this island are five tongues, English, British, Scottish, Pictish, and Latin. The first inhabitants of this land were Britons ; they came from Armenia (Armorica, now Britanny), and first settled in the south of Britain. Then befel it that Picts came from the south, from Scythia, with long ships, not many, and first landed in North Hibernia, and they entreated the Scots that they might there abide. But they would not permit them, for they said that they could not all abide there together. And then the Scots
said, 'We may nevertheless give you counsel. We know another island eastward of this, where ye may dwell, if ye will, and if any one withstand you, we will assist you, so that you may subdue it.' Then went the Picts, and subdued this land northwards; the southern part the Britons had, as we before have said. And the Picts obtained wives for themselves of the Scots, on this condition, that they should always choose their royal lineage on the woman's side; which they have held ever since. And then befel it in the course of years, that some part of the Scots departed from Hibernia into Britain, and conquered some portion of the land. And their leader was called Reoda, from whom they are named Dalreodi a."
The research of modern writers has failed to carry the authentic history of Britain beyond the year 57 before the Christian era, when, as we are informed by Cæsar, Divitiacus, a Gaulish king, exercised a kind of feudal superiority not only over the north-eastern part of modern France, but also over at least a portion of Britain. Thus connected with the affairs of the Gauls, and, as we learn from Tacitus, in part of kindred race, the islanders were easily led to afford succour to them when assailed by the Romans; and this succour, added to the report of pearls and other riches to be acquired, sufficed to attract to Britain the legions of the conqueror.
In narrating his two campaigns, Cæsar asserts that he was the first to carry the arms of Rome into an unknown world; yet, four centuries before his time, Herodotus had made mention of the Cassiterides (now the
• From this, probably the modern district of Lorn, in Argyllshire.
Scilly isles) and their tin mines; Aristotle also alludes to them, and Polybius says that in his day (260 B.C.) writers discoursed largely on the subject. Diodorus Siculus and Strabo, shortly after Caesar's invasion, speak of the triangular form of the island, and give some vague idea of its size; and Ptolemy, early in the second century, furnishes a table of the position of many of its promontories and rivers, and of its tribes and cities; to which Marcianus Heracleota, in the third, adds further particulars of the "Pretannic islands," Ibernia (Ireland) and Albion. He describes the first as containing "sixteen nations, eleven celebrated towns, fifteen principal rivers, five remarkable promontories, six distinguished islands;" and the latter,-which he says is by far the greater, not contracted like other islands, but drawn out and extended over a great part of the northern ocean, with two particularly extensive isthmuses, one greater than the other, in the form of feet, of which the lesser stretches out towards Aquitania, has "thirty-three nations, fifty-nine celebrated towns, forty noble rivers, fourteen lofty promontories, one notable chersonesus, five spacious bays, three commodious harbours. The whole circumnavigation of the island of Albion is not more than 28,604, nor less than 20,526 stadia b.” At a later, but uncertain date, the Itinerary of Antoninus supplies detailed information as to the topography of Britain, to which some addition may be made from the Peutingerian Table, a document probably belonging to the fourth century, though only known to us from a transcript of much later date.
b Equal to 3,178 and 2,280 English miles.
The generally received ideas of the state of Britain at the time of its invasion by the Romans, are almost exclusively derived from the statements of Julius Cæsar, but it should excite no surprise that many of them are erroneous, when it is remembered that Cæsar's stay here was but brief, and that but a very small part of the country fell under his own observation. His account is shortly, that the people on the coast where he landed much resembled the Gauls, though they had no coinage, but used instead brass or iron rings as money; and that the rest of the natives, who were reputed aborigines, were mere savages, clad in skins, and dyeing their bodies with woad, which gave them a terrible appearance; they had
vast herds of cattle and lived on milk and flesh, not cultivating corn; they wore long hair, but no beards; and they dwelt together in parties of ten or twelve, who had wives in common. Some of these statements are confirmed by Xiphilined and Herodian, when speaking of the unsubdued tribes in the time of Severus; but others are quite contrary to fact, as a great number of British coins exist, some of which are of gold, and bear an ear
• Diodorus makes no mention of this custom, which is perhaps to be regarded as a pure invention.
d Xiphiline was a Greek monk of the eleventh century, who has left an epitome of several of the lost books of the Roman History of Dio Cassius.
• Herodian lived about A.D. 250, and wrote a valuable History of his own times.
The opinion of the learned Editors of the Monumenta on this point is thus stated (p. cli.): "The French numismatists have claimed as Gallic the coins which are called British, though they have not made out any title to their appropriation. It has been broadly stated that the Britons were too barbarous to need a coinage; but if that were the case, surely the Gauls could have had just as little need of a metallic currency, as they were at that time little, if at all, more advanced in civilization than their British
of corn on the reverse, thus testifying both knowledge and esteem of agriculture, (see coins of Tasciovanus and Cunobelin, p. 19,) and Diodorus Siculus says, "They who dwell near the promontory of Britain which is called Belerium (now the Land's end,) are singularly fond of strangers, and from their intercourse with foreign merchants, civilized in their habits." Strabo too says, "The Cassiterides are inhabited by men in black cloaks, clad in tunics reaching to the feet, and girt about the breast, walking with staves, and bearded like goats." Cæsar describes the inland regions as producing tin, and the maritime, iron; but other writers more accurately tell us that tin was produced near the sea shore, that it was skilfully worked and fused by the natives, and by them conveyed in waggons in great abundance, to "a certain island named Ictis, lying off Britain; for a singular circumstance happens with respect to the neighbouring islands lying between Europe and Britain; for at the high tides, the intervening passage being flooded, neighbours. It is absurd to suppose that one only of two nations, so nearly allied to each other in religion and manners as were the Gauls and Britons, and carrying on together an extensive commerce, should have known the use of money. It may therefore be assumed, that if the Gauls had a metallic currency before the time of Julius Cæsar's invasion of this island, which to a certainty they had, so also had the Britons..... .It must be remembered that there are extant coins peculiar to this island; or rather, coins have been discovered here unlike any which are found in any other country, such as those, for instance, which have inscriptions on tablets. There is undoubtedly a great resemblance between some of the British and Gallic coins; both are thick and dished, and appear to have been rudely formed after the model of the Grecian coins........ Camden was the first who claimed and established a coinage for the inhabitants of his country; he has assigned about eighteen different types to Cunobelin, Boadicea, Caractacus, &c.; but there are as many as seventy-two other types still extant.'
This term probably here includes the coasts of Devon and Cornwall, and is not, as in other cases, confined to the Scilly isles.