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HISTORY OF ENGLAND.
THE ANCIENT BRITONS. OF BRITAIN', FROM THE INVASION OF JULIUS CÆSAR ?, B.C. 54, TO THE
ABDICATION OF THE ROMANS.
British Warrior of the time of the Roman
After a picture of Blakey
To A.D. 447.
From B.C. 84.
To shape the lance or decorate the shield;
To give new horrors to the lented field.”-SHENSTONE. Abdica'tion, s. the act of quitting by inclina- Dedu'ced, part. drawn from, laid down in tion.
regular succession. 1. Mar'itime (mar-re-tim), a. bordering on
6. Devasta'tion, s. destruction, waste.
8 Supersti'tion, (sui-per-stish-un), s. mistaken 2. Agʻriculture, s. the art of tilling and im
devotion. proving the land, so as to make it Transmigra'tion, s. the passing of the fruitful.
soul, after death, from one body to 5. Principal'ities, s. pl. the country, or that another.
portion of land, which gives title to a 12. Allegiance, s. obedience, duty. prince.
14. Sti'pulated, part. agreed upon. 1. BRITAIN was but very little known to the rest of the world before the time of the Romans. The coasts opposite Gaul 3 were
Britain, the name given to England, Scotland, and Wales, united.
Julius Cæsar was the first Roman emperor. He was assassinated in the Senate-house, in the 56th year of his age.
Gaul was the ancient name of France.
frequented by merchants, who traded thither for such commodities as the natives were able to produce, and who, it is thought, after a time, possessed themselves of all the maritime places where they had at first been permitted to reside. 2. Finding the country fertile, and commodiously situated for trade, they settled upon the sea-side, and introduced the practice of agriculture; but it was very different with the inland inhabitants of the country, who considered themselves as the lawful possessors of the soil, and avoided all correspondence with the new comers, whom they viewed as intruders upon their property; and therefore harassed by repeated
3. The inland inhabitants are represented as extremely numerous, living in cottages thatched with straw“, and feeding large herds of cattle. They lived mostly upon milk, or flesh produced by the chase 5. What clothes they wore, to cover any part of their bodies, were usually the skins of beasts; but the arms, legs, and thighs, were left naked, and were usually painted blue. 4. Their hair, which was long, flowed down upon their backs and shoulders; while their beards were kept close shaven, except upon the upper lip, where it was suffered to grow. The dress of savage nations is every where pretty much the same, being calculated rather to inspire terror than to excite love or respect.
5. As to their government, it consisted of several small principalities, each under its respective leader; and this seems to be the earliest mode of dominion with which mankind are acquainted, and is deduced from the natural privileges of paternal authority. Upon great and imminent dangers, a commander-in-chief was chosen by common consent, in a general assembly; and to him was committed the conduct of the general interest, the power of making peace, or leading to war, and the administration of justice.
6. Their forces consisted chiefly of foot, and yet they could bring a considerable number of horse into the field upon great occasions. They likewise used chariots in battle, which, with short scythes fastened
to the ends of the axletrees, inflicted terrible wounds, spreading horror and devastation
* See the engraving at page 18.
5 The ancient Britons were so habitually regular and temperate, that they only began to grow old at a hundred and twenty years.-PLUTARCH, De Piacilis Philosophiæ.
wheresoever they drove 6. 7. Nor while the chariots were thus destroying, were the warriors who conducted them unemployed; they darted their javelins against the eneiny, ran along the beam, leaped on the ground, resumed their seat, stopped or turned their horses at full speed, and sometimes cunningly retreated to draw the enemy into confusion.
8. The religion of the Britons was one of the most considerable parts of their government; and the Druids ?, who were the guardians of it, possessed great authority among them. No species of superstition was ever more terrible than theirs : besides the severe penalties which they were permitted to inflict in this world, they inculcated the eternal transmigration of souls, and thus extended their authority as far as the fears of their votaries 8. 9. They sacri
Cæsar gives a most animated description of the dexterity of the Britons in managing their war chariots, which he ascribes to constant use and incessant exercise; thereby intimating that the Britons were continually engaged in intestine wars.-Cæsar's Com. lib. iv.
The Druids were divided into three different classes; the Bards, who were the heroic historians and genealogical poels : the Vates, who were the sacred musicians, the religious poels, and the pretended prophets; the third class, wbich was by far the most numerous, and who performed all the other offices of religion, were called by the general name of Druids, which appellation was commonly given to the whole fraternity. Their supreme chief was styled the Arch-Druid. To the priesthood were also attached a number of females, called Druidesses, who were likewise divided into three classes; those of the fir:t, vowed perpetual virginity, and lived together, sequestcred from the rest of the world ; these were great pretenders to divination, prophecy, and miracles, and were highly venerated by the people. The second class consisted of cerlain devotees, who though married, spent the grealer part of their time with the Druids in assisting in the offices of religion, occasionally returning to their husbands. The third and lowest class waited on the Druids, and performed the most servile offices about the temples, elc. The priesthood, in the most ancient times, was hereditary in all countries, and was particularly so in the Celtic nalions; where the order of Druids did not only descend to their posterity, but the office of priestwas likewise bereditary in families.
* Among a people so credulous as the ancient Britons, it is no wonder that
ficed human victims, which they burnt in large wicker idols, made so capacious as to contain a multitude of persons at once, who were thus consumed together. To these rites, tending to impress ignorance with awe, they added the austerity of their manners, and the simplicity of their lives. They lived in woods, caves, and in hollow trees; their food was acorns and berries, and their drink water. By these arts, they were not only respected, but almost adored by the people ". The most remarkable Druidical monument in England is the circle of stones on Salisbury plain, called Stonehenge; it appears to have been the great national temple.
10. It may be easily supposed, that the manners of the people look a tincture from the discipline of their teachers. Their lives were simple, but they were marked with cruelty and fierceness; their courage was great, but neither dignified by mercy nor perse
11. The Britons had long remained in this rude but independent state, when Cæsar, having overrun Gaul with his victories, and
those who possessed such high authority among them as the Druids, practised the greatest impositions; accordingly we read, that the Druids were in the habit of borrowing large sums of the people, which they promised to repay in the other world—“ Druidæ pecuniam muluo accipiebant in posteriore vita reddituri.”—Patricius.
· Cæsar informs us, that the Druids also taught "many things concerning the stars and their motions, the magnitude of the earth, and the nature of things ;” but it is impossible to say how far their knowledge of astronomy or natural philosophy extended. Their doctrines were never committed to writing, but comprised in verscs, which were learned verbatim by frequent rehearsals, and carefully committed to memory. It is supposed that the religion of the Druids originated in Britain; for such of the Gallıc youth as were desirous of being instructed in its mysteries, repaired to this country in order to obtain a complete education.