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Ancient Population of Britain, Roman Britain-- Cassibelaunus-Caractarus

Boadicea – Vortigern— Britain abandoned by the Romans- Anglo-Saxons, Heme gist and Horsa— Ella-Cerdic, Natanleod - Arthur-Cymric The Heptarchy

-Saxon Bretwaldas-Offa-Cenulph—Egbert-Bernulph-Ethelwulf - Ethel. bald-Ethelbert-Ethelred.

All the traces of the past which we can still read in the present, as well as all traditional and recorded history, point to a spot situated somewhere in Central Asia as the cradle of our species, the fountain

ead from which all the nations of the earth have descended. At what time the great primitive wave of population, generally designated the Gaelic, first set in upon the western regions of the world, we have no means of conjecturing even with an approach to certainty. There are reasons, however, for concluding that it had overflowed a great part of the continent of Europe, as well as the half-separated peninsulas of Greece and Italy—in both of which it had by that time been partially displaced by a succeeding wave-fully a thousand years before the Christian era. It is the opinion of some of those who have most elaborately examined this question,—of M. Gosselin, for instance, the learned French geographer,—and of our own acute and ingenious Whitaker, the historian of Manchester,—that it could not have been long after this date before the first emigrants began to pass over from Gaul to Britain. There can be no doubt, at all events, that it was from Gaul that Britain actually derived its first inhabitants. The position of the two countries,--the testimony of ancient authorities,-the resemblance of manners and customs,--the identity of religious doctrines and practices,-and, above all, the clear and strong testimony of language,-all prove the one people to have sprung from the other. The original name of our island is that by which it still continues to be designated in the language of our Scottish Gael, the unmixed descendants of its primitive inhabitants. They call it Albinn, as we find Aristotle, the most ancient of the classic authors by whom it is inen. tioned, calling it Albion. Inn is the Gaelic term for a large island; ulb, though not now used by the Scottish Gael, is sufficiently ascer. tained to have anciently signified white. It is preserved both in the Latin albus, and in the geographical terms Alps and Apennines, (that is, Alp-pennin, or white mountain,) these ridges being so called from the perpetual snow seen on their summits. Albinn, therefore, means the white island, and the name was probably given to Great Britain from the chalk cliffs which it presented to the view of the people on the opposite coast. As for the word Britain, numerous interpretations have been given of it; but perhaps the most probable is that advanced by Mr Whitaker, in his history of Manchester, and afterwards more filly developed in his “Genuine Origin of the Britons asserted,” in answer to Mr Macpherson. It appears pretty clearly that Britin, the barbaric term from which the Greeks and Romans formed:heir smoother Britannia, was really the name not of the island but of its inhabitants. The termination in, in fact, which has so much perplexed Camden and other able antiquaries, is nothing more than the sign of the plural, according to the usual mode of declension in the Gaelic tongue. And Brit, Mr Whitaker maintains, signifies merely the divided or separated. It is in fact the same word with brik or brechan, a garment distinguished by divided or variegated colours, and still the common appellation of the Highland plaid. The Britin, therefore, were the separated people—or the emigrants, as we should say—those who had removed from the rest of their countrymen in Gaul, and settled in Albinn.

The whole of the southern coast of England, from Kent to the Land's End, appears to have been peopled in this way before either the more northern or the midland districts of the island had been penetrated. As the descendants of the original settlers, however, increased in number, and new bands of emigrants successively arrived from the mother-country, the back woods were gradually cleared, till, at last, the whole island had become inhabited. There is abundant evidence that this result had taken place long before the commencement of the Christian era. During this interval, also, a great part of Ireland had been taken possession of, and peopled, no doubt, from the neighbouring coasts of the west of England.

It seems to have been to one of the bands of foreign invaders, who thus overran Ireland, that the epithet Scots was first applied. The word-of which, however, different interpretations have been given-is most probably the same with the modern Gaelic term scuit or scaoit, signifying a wandering horde,--the origin, also, in all likelihood, of the name Scythians, so famous in all the records of these remote ages. From Ireland a branch of the Scots, several ages afterwards, passed over into Scotland, and eventually gave their name to the country: Scotland, however, had long before this been peopled both along its coasts, and in part, at least, of the interior, by the gradual movenient northwards of the time of population from South Britain. The general name given to the inhabitants of the northern part of the island before, and for som centuries after the era of Christianity, was not Scots, lut Caledonians, that is, Cuoilldaoin, men of the woods. They are spoken of by the Roman writers as divided into the Deucaledones and the Vecturiones. The former of these designations is the Gaelic Duchaoilldnnin, literally the true or real inhabitants of the woods ; and it was applied to the mountaineers in the north-western part of the country, or what we now call the Highlands, as distinguished from the inhahi.

tants of the plains. These latter were denominated Vecturiones-pronounced by the Romans Wecturiones a word smoothed down from the Gaelic Uachtarich, that is, the people of the part of the country called Uachtar, the name given to the Lowlands, and still preserved in the appellation of the mountainous ridge Druinuachtar, from which the descent of the country towards the east commences. Some antiquaries have held the Roman term Picti to be merely a corruption of Vachtarich, and therefore to be in point of fact the same with Vecturiones. Others conceive it to be the common Latin word signifying painted, applied by the South Britons-after they had themselves fallen under the yoke and acquired the language of the Romans—to their unconquered brethren of the north, who, with their liberty, still preserved their ancient savage customs, and that one among others, of adorning their bodies with figures formed of colours daubed upon or impressed into the skin,—the tattooing of the modern South Sea islanders. However this may be, nothing can be more certain, notwithstanding the special pleading by which another theory has been attempted to be supported, than that the people called by our historians Picts, and who inhabited the level country along the east coast of Scotland, were a Gaelic or British race, and spoke a dialect of the common Gaelic tongue of the rest of their countrymen. We incline, for our own part, to consider the term Pictsor rather Pechts, for so it is still generaily pronounced in Scotland—as not a Latin but a Gaelic word, whether the same with Uachtarich, or not. But in this brief sketch we can only attempt to state the leading results to which those have arrived who have, in our opinion, most successfully investigated this extensive, dark, and intricate subject. The reader has now before him as complete a view as our limits will permit us to give, of the manner in which the British islands were originally peopled, and the import of the several names by which both the country and its earliest inhabitants were distinguished. The sum of the whole is, that the primitive colonists and possessors both of Great Britain and Ireland, the Britons, the Caledonians, the Scots, and the Picts, were all equally Gaelic tribes. We prefer the terın Gael, or Gauls, to that of Celts, or Kelts, who in fact were only a particular division of the Gauls. The Celts were the Caoiltich, or the inhabitants of the woody country, so called from caoill, a wood, the same element which enters into the composition of the epithet Caledonii, as already noticed.

With the exception of these general facts, the whole of British his. tory is nearly an impenetrable night, till we come down almost to within half a century of the birth of Christ. In the year 55 before that event, the troops of the Mistress of the world first landed upon this remote isle, led by the invincible Cæsar. This memorable invasion is calculated to ha taken place about five o'clock in the afternoon of the 26th of August. Cæsar's pretence for thus attacking the Britons was, that they had been in the habit of sending over assistance to their kindred, the inhabitants of Gaul, with whom he was then at war. It is likely enough that there may have been some truth in this accusation; but there can be no doubt that the real motive which impelled the great Roman leader to carry his arms to Britain, was merely the same ambition of conquest which mainly led him on in every part of his brilliant but destructive career. The Britons, however, opposeil a bold resistance to the enemy; and although they did not succeed in preventing the landing of the Roman legions, they speedily convinced the commander that their subjugation was not likely to be effected quite so easily as he had probably anticipated. After having remained in the country for three or four weeks, and granted a peace to the natives, on receiving from them a number of hostages, he again set out for Gaul, without even leaving any portion of his troops behind him to maintain the nominal conquest which he had made. In the following spring, however, he again landed with a much more powerful armament than before. The Britons, also, were this time better prepared to meet their formidable invaders. Having wisely and patriotically made up, or at least agreed to forget for the present, the differences that had hitherto divided them into so many hostile tribes, they united their forces under the command of the most celebrated warrior of their nation, Cassibelaunus, king of the Trinobantes, who inhabited the territory immediately to the north of the Thames. But all their bravery was vain against the experience and consummate discipline of the Roman soldiers. After a war of a few months, in the course of which several pitched battles were fought, almost uniformly terminating in the defeat of the Britons, Cassibelaunus and several of the other chiefs found themselves compelled to sue for peace on the hard condition or acknowledging the sovereignty of Rome, and thus surrendering the liberties of their country. The conqueror was satisfied with this measure of submission, and after the imposition of a tribute, again withdrew with all his troops to Gaul. His stay in the country on this second occasion, is supposed to have been about four months in all, or from the middle of May to that of September.

Cæsar, as Tacitus remarks, rather showed the Romans the way to Britain, than actually put them in possession of it. For twenty years after his time, no tribute was derived from the nominally vanquished barbarians. Augustus then threatened to punish them for their disobedience; but although he advanced as far as Gaul for that purpose, he returned without actually visiting the country, upon the Britons sending ambassadors to meet him with a renewed offer of their allegiance. For many years after this they remained undisturbed. It was not till the 43d year of our era, in the reign of the emperor Claudius, that any thing like an attempt was made to effect a real conquest of the island. In that year the Roman general, Plautius, landed from Gaul at the head of a considerable force. Several engagements ensued; but although the Britons fought courageously, the advantage was generally on the side of their assailants. The cominander-in-chief of the British forces in this war, was the famous Caractacus, one of the successors of Cassibelaunus in the sovereignty of the Trinobantes. The following year, the emperor himself joined his lieutenant; and, after his arrival, the war was prosecuted with so much vigour, that in the course of a few weeks all resistance on the part of the natives was almost at an end. Claudius then returned to Rome, leaving Plautius to maintain and extend the conquests of the imperial

That general is said to have fought thirty pitched battles with the Britons before he was recalled in the year 50. Only a very small part of the country, however, had yet been subjugated, or even entered, ty the Roman troops Plantius was succeeded by Ostorius Scapula.


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