The Ethnology of the British Islands
by Robert Gordon Latham
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Transcriber's Note:

Archaic, dialect and variant spellings (including quoted proper nouns) remain as printed, except where noted. Minor typographical errors have been corrected without note; significant amendments have been listed at the end of the text.

Greek text has been transliterated and appears between {braces}.

The oe ligature has been transcribed as [oe], e.g., Ph[oe]nician.









CHAPTER I. PAGE Preliminary Remarks.—Present Populations of the British Isles.— Romans, &c.—Pre-historic Period.—The Irish Elk.—How far Contemporaneous with Man.—Stone Period.—Modes of Sepulture.— The Physical Condition of the Soil.—Its Fauna.—Skulls of the Stone Period.—The Bronze Period.—Gold Ornaments.—Alloys and Castings.—How far Native or Foreign.—Effect of the Introduction of Metals.—Dwellings. 1


Authorities for the Earliest Historical Period.—Herodotus.— Aristotle.—Polybius.—Onomacritus.—Diodorus Siculus.—Strabo.— Festus Avienus.—Ultimate sources.—Damnonii.—Ph[oe]nician Trade.—The Orgies.—South-Eastern Britons of Caesar.—The Details of his Attacks.—The Caledonians of Galgacus. 38


Origin of the Britons.—Kelts of Gaul.—The Belgae.—Whether Keltic or German.—Evidence of Caesar.—Attrebates, Belgae, Remi, Durotriges and Morini, Chauci and Menapii. 58


The Picts.—List of Kings.—Penn Fahel.—Aber and Inver.—The Picts probably, but not certainly, Britons. 76


Origin of the Gaels.—Difficulties of its Investigation.—Not Elucidated by any Records, nor yet by Traditions.—Arguments from the Difference between the British and Gaelic Languages.—The British Language spoken in Gaul.—The Gaelic not known to be spoken in any part of the Continent.—Lhuyd's Doctrine.—The Hibernian Hypothesis.—The Caledonian Hypothesis.—Postulates. 83


Roman Influences.—Agricola.—The Walls and Ramparts of Adrian, Antoninus, and Severus.—Bonosus.—Carausius.—The Constantian Family.—Franks and Alemanni in Britain.—Foreign Elements in the Roman Legions. 90


Value of the Early British Records.—True and Genuine Traditions Rare.—Gildas.—Beda.—Nennius.—Annales Cambrenses.—Difference between Chronicles and Registers.—Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.—Irish Annals.—Value of the Accounts of the Fifth and Sixth Centuries.—Questions to which they apply. 104


The Angles of Germany: their comparative obscurity.—Notice of Tacitus.—Extract from Ptolemy.—Conditions of the Angle Area.— The Varini.—The Reudigni and other Populations of Tacitus.—The Sabalingii, &c., of Ptolemy.—The Suevi Angili.—Engle and Ongle.—Original Angle Area. 142


The Saxons—of Upper Saxony—of Lower, or Old Saxony.— Nordalbingians.—Saxons of Ptolemy.—Present and Ancient Populations of Sleswick-Holstein.—North-Frisians.—Probable Origin of the name Saxon.—The Littus Saxonicum.—Saxones Bajocassini. 165


The Angles of Germany—Imperfect Reconstruction of their History—Their Heroic Age.—Beowulf.—Conquest of Anglen.— Anecdote from Procopius.—Their Reduction under the Carlovingian Dynasty.—The Angles of Thuringia. 200


Recapitulations and Illustrations.—Propositions respecting the Keltic Character of the Original Occupants of Britain, &c.—The Relations between the Ancient Britons and the Ancient Gauls, &c.—The Scotch Gaels.—The Picts.—The Date of the Germanic Invasions.—The names Angle and Saxon. 219


Analysis of the Germanic Populations of England.—The Jute Element Questionable.—Frisian Elements Probable.—Other German Elements, how far Probable.—Forms in -ing. 232


The Scandinavians.—Forms in -by: their Import and Distribution.—Danes of Lincolnshire, &c.; of East Anglia; of Scotland; of the Isle of Man; of Lancashire and Cheshire; of Pembrokeshire.—Norwegians of Northumberland, Scotland, and Ireland, and Isle of Man.—Frisian forms in Yorkshire.—Bogy.— Old Scratch.—The Picts possibly Scandinavian.—The Normans. 244




The ethnologist, who passes from the history of the varieties of the human species of the world at large, to the details of some special family, tribe, or nation, is in the position of the naturalist who rises from such a work as the Systema Naturae, or the Regne Animal, to concentrate his attention on some special section or subsection of the sciences of Zoology and Botany. If having done this he should betake himself to some ponderous folio, bulkier than the one which he read last, but devoted to a subject so specific and limited as to have scarcely found a place in the general history of organized beings, the comparison is all the closer. The subject, in its main characteristics, is the same in both cases; but the difference of the details is considerable. A topographical map on the scale of a chart of the world, a manipulation for the microscope as compared with the preparation of a wax model, are but types and illustrations of the contrast. A small field requires working after a fashion impossible for a wide farm; often with different implements, and often with different objects. A dissertation upon the Negroes of Africa, and a dissertation upon the Britons of the Welsh Principality, though both ethnological, have but few questions in common, at least in the present state of our knowledge; and out of a hundred pages devoted to each, scarcely ten would embody the same sort of facts. With the Negro, we should search amongst old travellers and modern missionaries for such exact statements as we might be fortunate enough to find respecting his geographical position, the texture of his hair, the shade of his skin, the peculiarities of his creed, the structure of his language; and well satisfied should we be if anything at once new and true fell in our way. But in the case of the Briton all this is already known to the inquirer, and can be conveyed in a few sentences to the reader. What then remains? A fresh series of researches, which our very superiority of knowledge has developed; inquiries which, with an imperfectly known population, would be impossible. Who speculates to any extent upon such questions as the degrees of intermixture between the Moors and the true Negroes of Nubia? Who grapples with such a problem as the date of the occupation of New Guinea? Such and such-like points are avoided; simply because the data for working them are wanting. Yet with an area like the British Isles, they are both possible and pertinent. More than this. In such countries there must either be no ethnology at all, or it must be of the minute kind, since the primary and fundamental questions, which constitute nine-tenths of our inquiries elsewhere, are already answered.

Minute ethnology must be more or less speculative—the less the better. It must be so, however, to some extent, because it attempts new problems. Critical too it must be—the more the better. It often works with unfamiliar instruments, whose manipulation must be explained, and whose power tested. Again, although the field in which it works be wide, the tract in which it moves may be beaten. An outlying question may have been treated by many investigators, and the results may be extremely different. In British ethnology, the history of opinions only, if given with the due amount of criticism, would fill more than one volume larger than the present.

The above has been written to shew that any work upon such a subject as the present must partake, to a great degree, of the nature of a disquisition: perhaps indeed, the term controversy would not be too strong. The undeniable and recognized results of previous investigators are truisms. That the Britons and Gaels are Kelts, and that the English are Germans is known wherever Welsh dissent, Irish poverty, or English misgovernment are the subjects of notice. What such Kelticism or Germanism may have to do with these same characteristics is neither so well ascertained, nor yet so easy to discover. On the contrary, there is much upon these points which may be well un-learnt. Kelts, perchance, may not be so very Keltic, or Germans so very German as is believed; for it may be that a very slight preponderance of the Keltic elements over the German, or of the German over the Keltic may have determined the use of the terms. Such a point as this is surely worth raising; yet it cannot be answered off-hand. At present, however, it is mentioned as a sample of minute ethnology, and as a warning of the disquisitional character which the forthcoming pages, in strict pursuance to the nature of the subject, must be expected to exhibit.

The extent, then, to which the two stocks that occupy the British Isles are pure or mixed; the characteristics of each stock in its purest form; and the effects of intermixture where it has taken place, are some of our problems; and if they could each and all be satisfactorily answered, we should have a Natural History of our Civilization. But the answers are not satisfactory; at any rate they are not conclusive. Nevertheless, a partial solution can be obtained; a partial solution which is certainly worth some efforts on the part of both the reader and the writer. Other questions, too, curious rather than of practical value, constitute the department of minute ethnology; especially when the area under notice is an island. The date of its occupancy, although impossible as an absolute epoch, can still be brought within certain limits. Whether, however, such limits would not be too wide for any one but a geologist, is another question.

Now, if I have succeeded in shewing that criticism and disquisition must necessarily form a large part of such an ethnology as the one before us, I have given a reason for what may, perhaps, seem an apparent irregularity in the arrangement of the different parts of the subject. With the civil historian, the earliest events come first; for, in following causes to their consequences, he begins with the oldest. The ethnologist, on the other hand, whenever—as is rarely the case—he can lay before the reader the whole process and all the steps of his investigations, reverses this method, and begins with the times in which he lives; so that by a long series of inferences from effect to cause, he concludes—so to say—at the beginning; inasmuch as it is his special business to argue backwards or upwards. Yet the facts of the present volume will follow neither of these arrangements exactly; though, of course, the order of them will be, in the main, chronological. They will be taken, in many cases, as they are wanted for the purposes of the argument; so that if a fact of the tenth century be necessary for the full understanding of one of the fifth, it will be taken out of its due order. Occasional transpositions of this kind are to be found in all works wherein the investigation of doubtful points preponderates over the illustration of admitted facts, or in all works where discussion outweighs exposition.

The period when the British Isles were occupied by Kelts only (or, at least, supposed to have been so) will form the subject of the earlier chapters. The facts will, of course, be given as I have been able to find them; but it may be not unnecessary to state beforehand the nature of the principal questions upon which they will bear.

The date of the first occupancy of the British Isles by man is one of them. It can (as already stated) only be brought within certain wide—very wide—limits; and that hypothetically, or subject to the accuracy of several preliminary facts.

The division of mankind to which the earliest occupants belonged is the next; and it is closely connected with the first. If the Kelts were the earliest occupants of Britain, we can tell within a few thousand years when they arrived. But what if there were an occupation of Britain anterior to theirs?

The civilization of the earliest occupants is a question inextricably interwoven with the other two; since the rate at which it advanced—if it advanced at all—must depend upon the duration of the occupancy, and the extent to which it was the occupancy of one, or more than one, section of mankind. But foreign intercourse may have accelerated this rate, or a foreign civilization may have altogether replaced that of the indigenae. The evidence of this is a fourth question.

So interwoven with each other are all these questions, that, although the facts of the first three chapters will be arranged with the special view to their elucidation, no statement of the results will be given until the invasion of the Anglo-Saxons, or the introduction of the great Germanic elements of the British nation, leads us from the field of early Keltic to that of early Teutonic research; and that will not be until the details of the Britons as opposed to the Gaels, of the Gaels as opposed to the Britons, and of the Picts (as far as they can be made out) have been disposed of.

One of the populations of the British Isles, at the present moment, speaks a language belonging to the Keltic, the other one belonging to the Teutonic class of tongues. However, it is by no means certain that the blood, pedigree, race, descent, or extraction coincides with the form of speech: indeed it is certain that it does so but partially. Though few individuals of Teutonic extraction speak any of the Keltic dialects as their mother-tongue, the converse is exceedingly common; and numerous Kelts know no other language but the English. Speech, then, is only prima facie evidence of descent; nevertheless, it is the most convenient criterion we have.

The Keltic class falls into divisions and subdivisions. The oldest and purest portion of the Gaelic Kelts is to be found in Ireland, especially on the western coast. Situated as Connaught is on the Atlantic, it lies beyond the influx of any new blood, except from the east and north; yet from the east and north the introduction of fresh populations has been but slight. Here, then, we find the Irish Gael in his most typical form.

Scotland, like Ireland, is Gaelic in respect to its Keltic population, but the stock is less pure. However slight may be the admixture of English blood in the Highlands and the Western Isles, the infusion of Scandinavian is very considerable. Caithness has numerous geographical terms whose meaning is to be found in the Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, and Icelandic. Sutherland shews its political relations by its name. It is the Southern Land; an impossible name if the county be considered English (for it lies in the very north of the island), but a natural name if we refer it to Norway, of which Sutherland was, at one time, a southern dependency, or (if not a dependency), a robbing-ground. Orkney and Shetland were once as thoroughly Norse as the Faroe Isles or Iceland.

The third variety of the present British population is in the Isle of Man, where a language sufficiently like the Gaelic of Ireland and Scotland to be placed in the same division, is still spoken. Yet the blood is mixed. The Norsemen preponderated in Man; and the constitution of the island is in many parts Scandinavian, though the language be Keltic.

In Wales the language and population are still Keltic, though sufficiently different from the Scotch, Irish, and Manx, to be considered as a separate branch of that stock. It is conveniently called British, Cambrian, and Cambro-Briton. It is quite unintelligible to any Gael. Neither can any Gael, talking Gaelic, make himself understood by a Briton. On the other hand, however, a Scotch and an Irish Gael understand each other; whilst, with some effort, they understand a Manxman, and vice versa. So that the number of mutually unintelligible languages of the Keltic stock is two; in other words, the Keltic dialects of the British Isles are referable to two branches—the British for the Welsh, and the Gaelic for the Scotch, Irish, and Manx. The other language of the British Isles is the English, one upon which it is unnecessary to enlarge; but which makes the third tongue in actual existence at the present moment, if we count the Irish, Scotch, and Manx as dialects of the same language, and the fifth if we separate them.

By raising the Lowland Scotch to the rank of a separate language, we may increase our varieties; but, as it is only a general view which we are taking at present, it is as well not to multiply distinctions. I believe that, notwithstanding some strong assertions to the contrary, there are no two dialects of the English tongue—whether spoken east or west—in North Britain or to the South of the Tweed—that are not mutually intelligible, when used as it is the usual practice to use them. That strange sentences may be made by picking out strange provincialisms, and stringing them together in a manner that never occurs in common parlance, is likely enough; but that any two men speaking English shall be in the same position to each other as an Englishman is to a Dutchman or Dane, so that one shall not know what the other says, is what I am wholly unprepared to believe, both from what I have observed in the practice of provincial speech, and what I have read in the way of provincial glossaries.

The populations, however, just enumerated, represent but a fraction of our ethnological varieties. They only give us those of the nineteenth century. Other sections have become extinct, or, if not, have lost their distinctive characteristics, which is much the same as dying out altogether. The ethnology of these populations is a matter of history. Beginning with those that have most recently been assimilated to the great body of Englishmen, we have—

1. The Cornishmen of Cornwall.—They are Britons in blood, and until the seventeenth century, were Britons in language also. When the Cornish language ceased to be spoken it was still intelligible to a Welshman; yet in the reign of Henry II., although intelligible, it was still different. Giraldus Cambrensis especially states that the "Cornubians and Armoricans used a language almost identical; a language which the Welsh, from origin and intercourse, understood in many things, and almost in all."

2. The Cumbrians, of Cumberland, retained the British language till after the Conquest. This was, probably, spoken as far north as the Clyde. Earlier, however, than either of these were—

3. The Picts.—The Cumbrian and Cornish Britons were simply members of the same division with the Welshmen, Welshmen, so to say, when the Welsh area extended south of the Bristol Channel and north of the Mersey. The Picts were, probably, in a different category. They may indeed have been Gaels. They have formed a separate substantive division of Kelts. They may have been no Kelts at all, but Germans or Scandinavians.

But populations neither Keltic nor Teutonic have, at different times, settled in England; populations which (like several branches of the Keltic stock) have either lost their distinctive characteristics, or become mixed in blood, but which (unlike such Kelts) were not indigenous to any of the islands. Like the Germans or Teutons, on the other hand, they were foreigners; but, unlike the Germans or Teutons, they have not preserved their separate substantive character. Still, some of their blood runs in both English and Keltic veins; some of their language has mixed itself with both tongues; and some of their customs have either corrupted or improved our national character. Thus—

1. The battle of Hastings filled England with Normans, French in language, French and Scandinavian in blood, but (eventually) English in the majority of their matrimonial alliances. And before the Normans came—

2. The Danes—and before the Danes—

3. The Romans.—Such is the general view of the chief populations, past and present, of England; of which, however, the Keltic and the Angle are the chief.

The English-and-Scotch, the Normans, the Danes, and the Romans have all been introduced upon the island within the Historical period—some earlier than others, but all within the last 2,000 years, so that we have a fair amount of information as to their history; not so much, perhaps, as is generally believed, but still a fair amount. We know within a few degrees of latitude and longitude where they came from; and we know their ethnological relations to the occupants of the parts around them.

With the Kelts this is not the case. Of Gael or Manxman, Briton or Pict, we know next to nothing during their early history. We can guess where they came from, and we can infer their ethnological relations; but history, in the strict sense of the term, we have none; for the Keltic period differs from that of all the others in being pre-historic. This is but another way of saying that the Keltic populations, and those only, are the aborigines of the island; or, if not aboriginal, the earliest known. Yet it is possible that these same Keltic populations, whose numerous tribes and clans and nations covered both the British and the Hibernian Isles for generations and generations before the discovery of the art of writing, or the existence of a historical record, may be as well understood as their invaders; since ethnology infers where history is silent, and history, even when speaking, may be indistinct. At any rate, the previous notice of the ethnology of the British Isles during the Historical period, prepares us with a little light for the dark walk in the field of its earliest antiquity.

Nothing, as has just been stated, in the earliest historical records of Britain, throws any light upon the original occupation of the British Islands by man; indeed, nothing tells us that Britain, when so occupied, was an island at all. The Straits of Dover may have existed when the first human being set foot upon what is now the soil of Kent, or an isthmus may have existed instead. Whether then it was by land, or whether it was by water, that the population of Europe propagated itself into England, is far beyond the evidence of any historical memorial—far beyond the evidence of tradition. Nothing at present indicates the nature of the primary migration of our earliest ancestors. Neither does any historical record tell us what manner of men first established themselves along the valleys of the Thames and Trent, or cleared the forests along their watersheds. They may have been as much ruder than the rudest of the tribes seen by Paulinus and Agricola, as those tribes were ruder than ourselves. They may, on the other hand, have enjoyed a higher civilization, a civilization which Caesar saw in its later stages only; one which Gallic wars, and other evil influences, may have impaired.

For the consideration of such questions as these it matters but little whether we begin with the information which the ambition of Caesar gave the Romans the opportunity of acquiring, or such accounts of the Ph[oe]nician traders as found their way into the writings of the Greeks; Polybius (for instance), Aristotle, or Herodotus. A few centuries, more or less, are of trifling importance. The social condition in both cases is the same. There was tin in Cornwall, and iron swords in Kent; in other words, there was the civilization of men who knew the use of metals, both on the side of the soldiers who followed Cassibelaunus to fight against Caesar, and amongst the miners and traders of the Land's-end. In both cases, too, there was foreign intercourse; with Gaul, where there was a tincture of Roman, and with Spain, where there was a tincture of Ph[oe]nician, civilization. This is not the infancy of our species, nor yet that of any of its divisions. For this we must go backwards, and farther back still, from the domain of testimony to that of inference, admitting a pre-historic period, with its own proper and peculiar methods of investigation—methods that the ethnologist shares with the geologist and naturalist, rather than with the civil historian. In respect to their results, they may be barren or they may be fertile; but, whether barren or whether fertile, the practice and application of them is a healthy intellectual exercise.

It must not be thought that the use of metals, and the contact with the Continent, which have just been noticed, invalidate the statement as to the insufficiency of our earliest historical notices. It must not be thought that they tell us more than they really do. It is only at the first view that the knowledge of certain metallurgic processes, and the trade and power that such knowledge developes, are presumptions in favour of a certain degree of antiquity in the occupancy of our island on the parts of its islanders; and it is only by forgetting the insular character of Great Britain that we can allow ourselves to suppose that, though our early arts tell us nothing about our first introduction, they at any rate prove that it was no recent event. "Time," we may fairly say, "must be allowed for such habits as are implied by the use of metals to have developed themselves, and, consequently, generations, centuries, and possibly even millenniums must have elapsed between the landing of the first vessel of the first Britons, and the beginning of the trade with the Kassiterides." As a general rule, such reasoning is valid; yet the earliest known phenomena of British civilization are compatible with a comparatively modern introduction of its population. For Great Britain may have been peopled like Iceland or Madeira, i.e., not a generation or two after the peopling of the nearest parts of the opposite Continent, but many ages later; in which case both the population and its civilization may be but things of yesterday. In the twelfth century, Iceland had an alphabet and the art of writing. Had these grown up within the island itself, the inference would be that its population was of great antiquity; since time must be allowed for their evolution—even as time must be allowed for the growth of acorns on an oak. But the art may be newer than the population, or the population and the art may be alike recent. Hence, as the civilization of the earliest Britons may be newer than the stock to which it belonged, the testimony of ancient writers to its existence is anything but conclusive against the late origin of the stock itself. It is best to admit an absolutely pre-historic period, and that without reservation; and as a corollary, to allow that it may have differed in kind as well as degree from the historic.

There is another fact that should be noticed. The languages of Great Britain are reducible to two divisions, both of which agree in many essential points with certain languages or dialects of Continental Europe. The British was closely, the Gaelic more distantly, allied to the ancient tongue of the Gauls. From this affinity we get an argument against any extreme antiquity of the Britons of the British Isles. The date of their separation from the tribes of the Continent was not so remote as to obliterate and annihilate all traces of the original mother-tongue. It was not long enough for the usual processes by which languages are changed, to eject from even the Irish Gaelic (the most unlike of the two) every word and inflection which the progenitors of the present Irish brought from Gaul, and to replace them by others. So that, at the first view, we have a limit in this direction; yet unless we have settled certain preliminaries, the limit is unreal. All that it gives us is the comparatively recent introduction of the Keltic stock. Varieties of the human species, other than Keltic, may have existed at an indefinitely early period, and subsequently have been superseded by the Kelts. Philology, then, tells us little more than history; and it may not be superfluous to add, that the occupancy of Great Britain by a stock of the kind in question, earlier than the Keltic, and different from it, is no imaginary case of the author's, but a doctrine which has taken the definite form of a recognized hypothesis, and characterizes one of the best ethnological schools of the Continent—the Scandinavian.

For the ambitious attempt at a reconstruction of the earliest state of the human kind in Britain, we may prepare ourselves by a double series of processes. Having taken society as it exists at the present moment, we eject those elements of civilization which have brought it to its present condition, beginning with the latest first. We then take up a smaller question, and consider what arts and what forms of knowledge—what conditions of society—existing amongst the earlier populations have been lost or superseded with ourselves. The result is an approximation to the state of things in the infancy of our species. We subtract (for instance) from the sum of our present means and appliances such elements as the knowledge of the power of steam, the art of printing, and gunpowder; all which we can do under the full light of history. Stripped of these, society takes a ruder shape. But it is still not rude enough to be primitive. There are parts of the earth's surface, at the present moment, where the metals are unknown. There was, probably, a time when they were known nowhere. Hence, the influences of such a knowledge as this must be subtracted. And then come weaving and pottery, the ruder forms of domestic architecture, and boat-building, lime-burning, dyeing, tanning, and the fermentation of liquors. When and where were such arts as these wanting to communities? No man can answer this; yet our methods of investigation require that the question should be raised.

Other questions, too, which cannot be answered must be suggested, since they serve to exhibit the trains of reasoning that depend upon them. Was Britain (a question already indicated) cut off from Gaul by the Straits of Dover when it was first peopled? If it were, the civilization required for the building of a boat must have been one of the attributes of the first aborigines; so that, whatever else in the way of civilization may have been evolved on British ground, the art of hollowing a tree, and launching it on the waves was foreign.

Now it is safe to say that the writers who are most willing to assign a high antiquity to the first occupation of the British Isles by Man, have never carried their epoch so high as the time when Britain and Gaul were joined by an isthmus. On the contrary, they all argue as if the islands were as insular as they are at present, and attribute to the first settlers the construction and management of some frail craft—rude, of course, but still a seaworthy piece of mechanism—after the fashion of the boats of Gaul or Germany; and this is the reasonable view of the subject.

In Mr. Daniel Wilson's "Pre-historic Annals of Scotland," we have the best data for the next portion of the question, viz., the extent to which geological changes have occurred since the first occupancy of our islands. In the valley of the Forth,[1] alterations in the relations of the land and sea to the amount of twenty-five feet have occurred since the art of making deers' horns into harpoons was known in Scotland. Such at least is the inference from the discovery, in the Carse lands about Blair Drummond Moss, of the skeleton of a whale, with a harpoon beside it, twenty-five feet above the present tides of the Forth. As much as can be told by any single fact is told by this; its valuation being wholly in the hands of the geologists.

Then, the bone of an Irish elk, according to one view (but not according to another), gives us a second fact. A rib, with an oval opening, where oval openings should not be, and with an irregular effusion of callus around it, is found under eleven feet of peat. Dr. Hart attributes this to a sharp-pointed instrument, wielded by a human hand, which without penetrating deep enough to cause death, effected a breach on the continuity of the bone, and caused inflammation to be set up. But Professor Owen thinks that a weapon of the kind in question, if left in, to be worked out by the vix medicatrix of Nature, would be fatal, and consequently he prefers the notion of the wound having been inflicted by a weapon which was quickly withdrawn, e.g., the horn of some combative rival of its own kind, rather than the human. Now if it be a difficult matter to say what will, and what will not kill a man in the year '52, much more so is it to speak chirurgically about Irish elks of the Pleiocene period. Hence the evidence of man having been cotemporary with the Megaceros Hibernicus is unsatisfactory.

That a certain amount, then, of change of level between the land and sea, in a certain part of Scotland, has taken place since Scotchmen first hunted whales is the chief fact, relative to the date of our introduction, that we get from geology. From archaeology we learn something more. Those sepulchral monuments which have the clearest and most satisfactory signs of antiquity, contain numerous implements of stone and bone, but none of metal. When metal is found, the concomitant characters of the tomb in which it occurs, indicate a later period. If so, it is a fair inference for the ethnological archaeologist to conclude, that although the earliest colonists reached Britain late enough to avail themselves of boats, their migration was earlier than the diffusion of the arts of metallurgy. And this has induced the best investigators to designate the earliest stage in British ethnology by the name of the STONE PERIOD, a technical and convenient term.

It is the general opinion, that during this period the practice of inhumation, or simple burial, was commoner than that of cremation or burning, though each method was adopted. Over the remains disposed of by the former process, were erected mounds of earth (tumuli or barrows), heaps of stone (cairns), or cromlechs. There are strong suspicions that the practice of Sutti was recognized. Around a skeleton, more or less entire, are often found, at regular distances, the ashes of bodies that were burnt; just as if the chief was interred in the flesh, but his subordinates given over to the flames. The posture is, frequently, one which, on the other side of the Atlantic, has called forth numerous remarks. Throughout America, it was observed by Dr. Morton, that one of the most usual forms of burial was to place the corpse in a half upright position, or a sitting attitude, with the knees and hams bent, and the arms folded on the legs. Now this is a common posture in Britain—a clear proof of the extent to which similar practices are independent of imitation. If any ornaments be found with the corpse, they are chiefly of cannel coal. The implements are all of stone, or bone—the celt, the arrow, the spear-head, the adze, and the mallet.

What was the physical aspect of the country at this time? The present, minus the clearings—wood and fen, fen and wood, in interminable succession; woods of oak in the clay soils; of beech on the chalk; of birch, pine, and fir in the northern parts of the island. The boats were essentially monoxyla, i.e., single trees hollowed out, sometimes by stone adzes, oftener by fire. The chief dresses were the skins of beasts.

Such is what archaeology tells us. The other questions belong to the naturalist. What was the ancient Fauna? Whether the earliest men were cotemporaneous with the latest of the extinct quadrupeds, has been already asked—the answer being doubtful. How far the earliest beasts of chase and domestication were the same as the present, is a fresh question. The sheep may reasonably be considered as a recent introduction; but with all the other domestic animals there are, perhaps, as good reasons for deriving them from native species as for considering them to be of foreign origin. The hog of the present breed, may indeed be of continental origin; so may the present cat, horse, and ass. Nevertheless, the hog, cat, horse, and ass, whose bones are found in the alluvial deposits, may have been domesticated. The Devonshire, Hereford, and similar breeds of oxen may be new; but the bos longifrons may have originated some native breeds, which the inhabitants of even the earliest period—the period of stone and bone implements—may have domesticated. The opinion of Professor Owen is in favour of this view; and certainly, though it cannot be enforced by mere authority, it is recommended by its simplicity,—avoiding, as it does, the unnecessary multiplication of causes. The goat was certainly indigenous, but no more certainly domesticated than the equally indigenous deer. This indigenous rein-deer may or may not have been trained. The miserable aliments of the beach, shell-fish and crustacea, constituted no small part of the earliest human food; and so (for the northern part of the isle at least) did eggs, seals, and whales. Surely in these primitive portions of the Stone period our habits must have approached those of the Lap, the Samoeeid, and the Eskimo, however different they may be now.

But metals, in the course of time, were introduced; first bronze, and then iron; gold and lead being, perhaps, earlier than either, earlier too than silver. Of gold we take but little notice. It was not a useful metal; but subservient only to the purposes of barbaric ornament. The next fact is of great importance.

In those tombs where the implements are most exclusively of stone, and where the other signs of antiquity correspond, the skulls are of unusually small capacity. In the next period they are larger. There are also some notable points of difference in the shape. Such at least is the current opinion; although the proofs that such difference is not referable to difference of age or sex, is by no means irrefragable. Still we may take the fact as it is supposed and reported to be.

If we do this, we are prepared for another question. How far is the introduction of metal implements and of new arts, a sign of the introduction of a fresh stock or variety of the human species? How far, too, is the difference in the capacity of the skulls? How far the fact of the two changes coinciding? The answer has generally been in the affirmative. The men who used implements of bronze were Kelts; the men who eked out their existence with nothing better than adzes and arrow-heads of stone, were other than Keltic. They were ante-Keltic aborigines, whom a Keltic migration annihilated and superseded. Such is the widely-spread doctrine. Yet it is doubtful whether the premises bear out the inference—far as it has been recognized. I doubt it myself; because, admitting (for the sake of argument) that there is a difference in the size and the shape of the skulls, it by no means follows that a difference of stock is the only way of accounting for it. Improved implements, taken by themselves, merely denote either a progress in the useful arts, or, what is more likely, some new commercial relations. The same improved implements, if considered as means to an end, denote an improvement in the nutrition of the individuals who used them. The bones of a man who hunts stags and oxen with bronze weapons will carry more flesh, and consequently be more fuller developed than those of a man who, for want of better instruments than flint and bone arrow-heads, feeds chiefly upon whale blubber and shell-fish. Now, what applies to the bones in general, applies—though perhaps in a less degree—to the skull. In the difference, then, between the crania of the Stone and Bronze periods I see no introduction of a new variety of our species, but merely the effects of a better diet, arising from an improvement in the instruments for obtaining it. If the assumption, then, of a pre-Keltic stock be gratuitous, the question as to the date of our population is considerably narrowed. Its introduction (as already indicated) must have been sufficiently late to allow the original affinities between the Keltic dialects of the British Isles, and the Keltic dialects of the European Continent, to remain visible. But as many millenniums would be required for the opposite effect of obliterating the original similarity, this is saying but little. All that it is safe to assert is—

1. That the primitive Britons occupied the islands sufficiently early to allow of the relative levels of the land and sea on the valley of the Forth to alter to the amount of twenty-five feet—there or thereabouts.

2. That they occupied it sufficiently late to allow the common origin of the Gaelic and British tongues to remain visible in the nineteenth century.

This latter position rests upon the supposition that the early inhabitants in question were of the same stock as the present Welsh and Gaels—the contrary doctrine being held to be, not erroneous, but gratuitous and unnecessary.

We are now prepared to find that in certain monuments, less ancient than those of the Stone period, the enclosed relics are of metal, and that this metal is an alloy of copper and tin—bronze—not brass, which is an alloy of copper and zinc. Not only are such relics more elaborate in respect to their workmanship, but the kinds of them are more varied. They are referable indeed to the three classes of warlike instruments, industrial implements, and personal ornaments, but the varieties of each sort are comparatively numerous. Swords and shields, which would be well-nigh impossible accoutrements during the Stone period, now come into use; so do moulds for casting, as well as bracelets and necklaces. In short, the signs of a higher civilization and fresh means for the conquest of either Man or Nature appear.

The evidence that the Bronze period succeeded the Stone, is on the whole satisfactory; indeed its a priori likelihood is so great, as to make a little go a long way. At the same time, it must not be supposed that in each individual case the newest monuments wherein we find bone and stone are older than the oldest wherein we find bronze. No line of demarcation thus trenchant can be drawn; and no proofs of absolute succession thus conclusive can be discovered. Upon the whole, however, there was a time when the early Britons were in the position of the South Sea Islanders when first discovered, i.e., ignorant of the use of metals. As long as the arts of metallurgy are unknown, the notice of the physical conditions of the country is confined to its Flora, its Fauna, and its stone quarries. What was there to cultivate? What was there to hunt or to domesticate? What was there to build with? Now, however, the questions change. What were the mineral resources of the soil? It is not necessary to enlarge on these. The use of coal as a fuel is wholly recent. On the other hand, certain varieties of it were used as ornaments—the cannel coal, and the bituminous shale of Dorsetshire (Kimmeridge clay). So was jet.

The metal first worked was gold; and its use dates as far back as the Stone period; indeed it may belong to the very earliest age of our island; since the localities where it has been found in Great Britain are by no means few; and in early times each was richer than at present. In England, from Alston Moor; in Scotland, from the head-waters of the Clyde; and in Ireland, from the Avonmore, gold for the adornment of even the hunters of the bone spear-head, and the woodsmen of the stone-hatchet might have been procured; and the simple art of working it, although it may possibly have been Gallic in origin, may quite as easily have been native. The chief gold ornaments, torcs, armillae, and fibulae have been found in association with bronze articles, but not exclusively.

With those archaeologists and ethnologists who believe that the introduction of bronze implements coincided with the advent of a new variety of mankind, the question whether the art of alloying and casting metals was of native or foreign origin, is a verbal one; since it was native or foreign just as we define the term—native to the stock which introduced it on the British soil, foreign to the soil itself. But as soon as we demur to the notion that the earliest Britons were a separate and peculiar stock, and commit ourselves to the belief that they were simply Kelts in a ruder condition, the problem presents itself in a different and more important form. Was the art of making an alloy of tin and copper self-evolved, or was it an art which foreign commerce introduced? Was the art of casting such alloys British? It is well to keep the two questions separate. The preliminary facts in respect to the history of the bronze metallurgy are as follows:—

1. The peculiar geographical distribution of tin, which of all the metals of any wide practical utility is found in the fewest localities, those localities being far apart, e.g., Britain and Malacca—

2. The wide extent of country over which bronze implements are found. Except in Norway and Sweden, where the use of iron seems to have immediately followed that of stone and bone, they have been found all over Europe—

3. The narrow limits to the proportions of alloy—nine-tenths copper, and one-tenth tin—there or thereabouts—in the majority of cases.

4. The considerable amount of uniformity in the shape of even those implements wherein a considerable variety of form is admissible. Thus the bronze sword—a point hereafter to be noticed—is almost always long, leaf-shaped, pointed, and without a handle.

The last three of these facts suggest the notion that bronze metallurgy originated with a single population; the first, that that population was British. Yet neither of these inferences is unimpeachable.

The notion that the bronze implements themselves were made in any single country, and thence diffused elsewhere, has but few upholders; since, in most of the countries where they have been found, the moulds for making them have been found also. Hence the doctrine that the raw material—the mixed metal only—was brought from some single source is the more important one. Yet chemical investigations have modified even this.[2] The proportions in question are the best, and they are easily discovered to be so. Seven parts copper to one of tin has been shewn by experiment to be too brittle, and fifteen parts copper to one of tin too soft, for use. Within these proportions the chief analyses of the ancient bronze implements range. The exact proportion of ten copper to one of tin, Mr. Wilson has shewn to be an overstatement. All then that we are warranted to infer is, that Britain was the chief source of the tin.

This is a great fact in the annals of our early commerce, but not necessarily of much importance in the natural history of our inventions; since it by no means follows that because Cornwall supplied tin to such adventurous merchants as sought to buy it, it therefore discovered the art of working it.

The chief reason for believing that the art of working in any metal except gold was as foreign to Britain as the alphabet was to Greece, rests on a negative fact, of which too little notice has been taken. Copper is a metal of which England produces plenty. It is a metal, too, which is the easiest worked of all, except gold and lead. It is the metal which savage nations, such as some of the American Indians, work when they work no other; and, lastly, it is a metal of which, in its unalloyed state, no relics have been found in England. Stone and bone first; then bronze or copper and tin combined; but no copper alone. I cannot get over this hiatus—cannot imagine a metallurgic industry beginning with the use of alloys. Such a phenomenon is a plant without the seed; and, as such, indicates transplantation rather than growth.

This view assists us in our chronology. If the art of working in bronze be a native and independent development, its antiquity may be of any amount—going back to 3000 B.C. as easily as to 2000 B.C., and to 2000 B.C. as easily as to 1000 B.C. It may be of any age whatever, provided only that it be later than the Stone period. But if it be an exotic art, it must be subsequent to the rise of the Ph[oe]nician commerce. Such I believe to have been the case. That the Britons were apt learners, and that they soon made the art their own, is likely. The existence of bronze and stone moulds for adzes and celts proves this.

The effects of the introduction of metal implements would be two-fold. It would act on the social state of the occupants of the British Isles, and act on the physical condition of the soil. The opportunities of getting stones and bones for the purposes of warfare, would be pretty equally distributed over the islands, so that the means of attack and defence would be pretty equal throughout; but the use of bronze would give a vast preponderance of power to certain districts, Cornwall, Wales, and the copper countries. The vast forests, too, upon which stone hatchets would have but little effect, would be more easily cleared, and their denizens would be more successfully hunted.

Amber ornaments are found along with the implements of bronze. Do these imply foreign commerce—commerce with the tribes of Courland and Prussia—the pre-eminent amber localities? Not necessarily. Amber, in smaller quantities, is found in Britain.

Glass beads, too, are found. This, I think, does imply commerce. At any rate, I am slow to believe that the art of fusing glass was of indigenous growth. The use of it was, most probably, a concomitant of the tin trade.

Undoubted specimens of weaving and undoubted specimens of pottery, occur during the Bronze period. Lead, too, is found in some of the bronze alloys; the word itself being, apparently, of Keltic origin. Whether the same could not be referred to the Stone period is uncertain. It is probable, however, that whilst the implements were of stone and bone, the dress was of skin.

Nothing has yet been said about the dwellings of the early islanders. This is because it is difficult to assign a date to their remains. They may belong to the Bronze—they may belong to the Stone period. They may be more recent than either. At any rate, however, relics of ancient domestic architecture exist. A foundation sunk in the earth, with stone walls of loose masonry, and covered, most probably, with reeds and branches, suggests the idea of a subterranean granary, for which the old houses of the earliest Britons have been mistaken; but, nevertheless, it belonged to a house. On the floor of this we find charred bones, and enormous heaps of oyster and mussel shells. Stone handmills, too, denote the use of corn; though from the character of the ancient Flora, vegetable forms of food must have been rarer than animal.

Iron was known in Caesar's time. How much earlier is doubtful. So was silver. Both were of later date than gold and bronze; and more than this it is not safe to say. Of the great monolithic buildings, it is reasonable to suppose that they are later than the Stone, and earlier than the Historical, period. Druidism, however, in its germs may be of any antiquity; not, however, if we suppose that the first introduction of bronze coincided with the first introduction of the Kelts.

An Iron period succeeds the Bronze; but it will not be the subject of our immediate consideration, inasmuch as it coincides pretty closely with the historic epoch. The sequence, however, requires further notice. That there should be a period in the history of mankind when the use of metals, and the arts of metallurgy were wholly unknown, and that during such a period, imperfect implements of bone and stone should minister to the wants of an underfed and defenceless generation, is not so much a particular fact in British ethnology as a general doctrine founded upon our a priori views, and applicable to the history of man at large. For if each of the useful arts have its own proper origin, referrible to some particular place, time, and community, there must have been an era when it was wanting to mankind. Hence, an ante-metallic age is as much the conception of the speculator, as the discovery of the investigator.

The order in which the metals are discovered, the leading problem in what may be called the natural history of metallurgy, is far more dependant upon induction. Induction, however, has given the priority to copper, just as is expected from the comparative reducibility of its ores—lead and gold being put out of the question. So that it is not so much the general fact of the order of succession in respect to the Stone, Copper, and Iron periods that the laudable investigations of British archaeologists have established as the nature of the concomitant details, the modifications of the periods themselves, and the exact character of their sequence. Under each of these heads there is much worth notice. The difference between the shape and size of the skulls of the Stone and Bronze periods has been broadly asserted—perhaps it has been exaggerated, at any rate it has formed the basis of an hypothesis. The substitution of a Bronze for a Copper period in Britain is an important modification, mainly attributable to the existence of tin. The comparative completeness of the sequence is interesting. It by no means follows that it should be regular. In Norway there is no Bronze period at all; but Bone and Stone in the first instance, and Iron immediately afterwards.


[1] See Wilson's "Pre-historic Annals of Scotland."

[2] This is well worked out by Mr. Wilson, in his "Pre-historic Annals of Scotland."—Pp. 238 &c.



The extant writers anterior to the time of Julius Caesar, in whose works notice of the British islands are to be found, are, at most, but four in number. They are all, of course, Greek.

Herodotus is the earliest. He writes "of the extremities of Europe towards the west, I cannot speak with certainty ... nor am I acquainted with the islands Cassiterides, from which tin is brought to us."[3]—iii. 115.

Aristotle is the second. "Beyond the Pillars of Hercules," he tells us, "the ocean flows round the earth; in this ocean, however, are two islands, and those very large, called Britannic, Albion and Ierne, which are larger than those beforementioned, and lie beyond the Celti; and other two not less than these, Taprobane, beyond the Indians, lying obliquely in respect of the main land, and that called Phebol, situate over against the Arabic Gulf; moreover not a few small islands, around the Britannic Isles and Iberia, encircle as with a diadem this earth; which we have already said to be an island."—De Mundo, Sec.. 3.

Polybius comes next. "Perhaps, indeed, some will inquire why, having made so long a discourse concerning places in Libya and Iberia, we have not spoken more fully of the outlet at the Pillars of Hercules, nor of the interior sea, and of the peculiarities which occur therein, nor yet indeed of the Britannic Isles, and the working of tin; nor again, of the gold and silver mines of Iberia; concerning which writers, controverting each other, have discoursed very largely."—iii. 57.

Lastly come half-a-dozen lines of doubtful antiquity, which the editors of the "Monumenta Britannica" have excluded from their series of extracts, on the score of their being taken from a non-existent or impossible author—a bard of no less importance than Orpheus. The ship Argo is supposed to speak, and say—

"For now by sad and painful trouble Shall I be encompassed, if I go too near the Iernian Islands. For unless, by bending within the holy headland, I sail within the bays of the land, and the barren sea, I shall go outward into the Atlantic Ocean."

An important sentence occurs a few lines lower. The British Isles are spoken of—

——"where (are) the wide houses of Demeter."

This will be noticed in the sequel.

No reason for excluding these lines lies in the fact of their being forgeries. Provided that they were composed before the time of Caesar, the authorship matters but little. If, as is the common practice, we attribute them to Onomacritus, a cotemporary of Mardonius and Miltiades, they are older than the notice of Herodotus.

It cannot be denied that these data for the times anterior to Caesar are scanty. A little consideration will shew that they can be augmented. Between the time of Julius Caesar and Claudius—a period of nearly a hundred years—no new information concerning Britain beyond that which was given by Caesar himself, found its way to Rome; since neither Augustus nor Tiberius followed up the aggressions of the Great Dictator. Consequently, the notices in the "Bellum Gallicum" exhaust the subject as far as it was illustrated by any Roman observers. Now if we find in any writer of the time of Augustus or Tiberius, notices of our island which can not be traced to Caesar, they must be referred to other and earlier sources; and may be added to the list of the Greek authorities.

If we limit these overmuch, we confine ourselves unnecessarily. Inquiry began as early as the days of Herodotus; and opportunities increased as time advanced. The Baltic seems to have been visited when Aristotle wrote; and between his era and that of Polybius the intellectual activity of the Alexandrian Greeks had begun to work upon many branches of science—upon none more keenly than physical geography.

From the beginning of the Historical period, the first-hand information—for it is almost superfluous to remark that none of the Greek authors speak from personal observation—flows from two sources; from the inhabitants of western and southern Gaul, and from the Ph[oe]nicians. The text of Herodotus suggests this. In the passage which has been quoted, he speaks of the Kassiterides; and Kassiterides is a term which a Ph[oe]nician only would have used. No Gaul would have understood the meaning of the word. It was the Asiatic name for either tin itself, or for some tin-like alloy; and the passage wherein it occurs is one which follows a notice of Africa.

In two other passages, however, the consideration of the populations and geography of Western Europe is approached from another quarter. The course of the Danube is under notice, and this is what is said:—

"The river Ister, beginning with the Kelts, and the city of Pyrene, flows so as to cut Europe in half. But the Kelts are beyond the Pillars of Hercules; and they join the Kynesii, who are the furthest inhabitants of Europe towards the setting-sun."—ii. 33.

"The Ister flows through the whole of Europe, beginning with the Kelts who, next to the Kynetae, dwell furthest west in Europe."—iv. 49.

The Kynetae have reasonably been identified with the Veneti of Caesar, whose native name is Gwynedd, and whose locality, in Western Brittany, exactly coincides with the notice of Herodotus. If so, the name is Gallic, and (as such) in all probability transmitted to Herodotus from Gallic informants. So that there were two routes for the earliest information about Britain—the overland line (so to say), whereon the intelligence was of Gallic origin; and the way of the Mediterranean, wherein the facts were due to the merchants of Tyre, Carthage, or Gades. Direct information, too, may have been derived from the Greeks of Marseilles, though the evidence for this is wanting.

The two foremost writers to whose texts the preceding observations have been preliminary, are Diodorus Siculus and Strabo, both of whom lived during the reign of Augustus, too early for any information over and above that which was to be found in the pages of Caesar. Yet as each contains much that Caesar never told, and, perhaps, never knew, the immediate authorities must be supposed to be geographical writers of Alexandria, one of whom, Eratosthenes, is quoted by Caesar himself; the remoter ones being the Ph[oe]nician and Gallic traders. The thoroughly Ph[oe]nician origin of the statement of these two authors is well collected from the following extracts, which we must consider to be as little descriptive of the Britannia of Caesar and the Romans, as they are of the Britannia of the year 51 B.C. Caesar's Britain is Kent, in the last half-century before the Christian era. Diodorus' Britain is Cornwall, some 300 years earlier. "They who dwell near the promontory of Britain, which is called Belerium, are singularly fond of strangers; and, from their intercourse with foreign merchants, civilized in their habits. These people obtain the tin by skilfully working the soil which produces it; this being rocky, has earthy interstices, in which, working the ore and then fusing, they reduce it to metal; and when they have formed it into cubical shapes they convey it to certain islands lying off Britain, named Ictis; for at the low tides, the intervening space being laid dry, they carry thither in waggons the tin in great abundance. 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, they seem islands; but at the low tides, the sea retreating and leaving much space dry, they appear peninsulas. From hence the merchants purchase the tin from the natives, and carry it across into Gaul; and finally journeying by land through Gaul for about thirty days, they convey their burdens on horses to the outlet of the river Rhone."—v. 21, 22.

So is Strabo's.—"The Cassiterides are ten in number, and lie near each other in the ocean, towards the north from the haven of the Artabri. One of them is a desert, but the others 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; they subsist by their cattle, leading for the most part a wandering life. And having metals of tin and lead, these and skins they barter with the merchants for earthenware, and salt, and brazen vessels. Formerly the Ph[oe]nicians alone carried on this traffic from Gadeira, concealing the passage from every one; and when the Romans followed a certain ship-master, that they also might find the mart, the ship-master, out of jealousy, purposely ran his vessel upon a shoal, and leading on those who followed him into the same destructive disaster, he himself escaped by means of a fragment of the ship, and received from the State the value of the cargo he had lost. But the Romans, nevertheless, making frequent efforts, discovered the passage; and as soon as Publius Crassus, passing over to them, perceived that the metals were dug out at a little depth, and that the men being at peace were already beginning, in consequence of their leisure, to busy themselves about the sea, he pointed out this passage to such as were willing to attempt it, although it was longer than that to Britain."—Lib. iii. p. 239.

Pliny is, to a great degree, in the same predicament with Strabo and Diodorus. Some of the statements which are not common to him and Caesar, are undoubtedly referrible to the information which the conquest of Britain under Claudius supplied. Yet the greater part of them is old material—Greek in origin, and, as such, referrible to Western rather than Eastern Britain, and to the era of the Carthaginians rather than the Romans. Solinus' account is of this character; his Britain being Western Britain and Ireland almost exclusively.

A poem of Festus Avienus, itself no earlier than the end of the fourth century, concludes the list of those authors who represent the predecessors of Caesar in the description of Britain. Recent as it is, it is important; since some of the details are taken from the voyage of Himilco, a Carthaginian. He supplies us with a commentary upon the word Demeter, in the so-called Orphic poem—a commentary which will soon be exhibited.

The points then of contact between the British Isles and the Continent of Europe, were two in number. They were far apart, and the nations that visited them were different. Both, indeed, were in the south; but one was due east, the other due west. The first, or Kentish Britain, was described late, described by Caesar, commercially and politically connected with Gaul, and known to a great extent from Gallic accounts. The second, or Cornish Britain, was in political and commercial relation with the Ph[oe]nician portions of Spain and Africa, or with Ph[oe]nicia itself; was known to the cotemporaries of Herodotus, and was associated with Ireland in more than one notice. Both were British. But who shall answer for the uniformity of manners throughout? It is better to be on our guard against the influence of general terms, and to limit rather than extend certain accounts of early writers. A practice may be called British, and yet be foreign to nine-tenths of the British Islands. There were war-chariots in Kent and in Aberdeenshire, and so far war-chariots were part of the British armoury; but what authority allows us to attribute to the old Cornishmen and Devonians? Better keep to particulars where we can.

As the ancient name for the populations of Cornwall and Devonshire was Damnonii, the Damnonii will be dealt with separately. It will be time enough to call them Britons when a more general term becomes necessary. Two-thirds of the notice of them have been given already in the extracts from Strabo and Diodorus, in which the long beards and black dress must be noticed for the sake of contrast. No such description would suit the Britons of the eastern coast.

The so-called Orphic poem places the wide houses of the goddess Demeter in Britain. Standing by itself, this is a mysterious passage. But it has been said that an extract from Avienus will help to explain it—

——"Hic chorus ingens Faminei c[oe]tus pulchri colit orgia Bacchi. Producit noctem ludus sacer; aera pulsant Vocibus, et crebris late sola calcibus urgent. Non sic Absynthi prope flumina Thracis alumnae Bistonides, non qua celeri ruit agmine Ganges, Indorum populi stata curant festa Lyaeo."

There were maddening orgies amongst the sacred rites of the Britons—orgies, that whilst they reminded one writer of the Bacchic dances, reminded another of the worship of Demeter. That these belonged to the western Britons is an inference from the fact of their being mentioned by the Greek writers, i.e., from those who drew most from Ph[oe]nician authorities. Avienus, as we have seen, thinks of the Bacchae as a parallel. So does Pausanius—

"Nec spatii distant Nesidum litora longe; In quibus uxores Amnitum Bacchica sacra Concelebrant, hederae foliis tectaeque corymbis."

So does Dionysius Periegetes; indeed the three accounts seem all referrible to one source. But not so Strabo. That writer, or rather his authority Artemidorus, finds his parallel in Ceres. "Artemidorus states, with regard to Ceres and Proserpine, what is more worthy of credit. For he says, that there is an island near Britain wherein are celebrated sacred rites, similar to such as are celebrated in Samothrace to these goddesses."

Strabo's—or rather Artemidorus'—parallel is the same as that of the Orphic poem, and, probably, is referrible to the same source. Damnonian Britain, then, or the tin-country, had its orgies—orgies which may as easily have been Ph[oe]nician as indigenous, and as easily indigenous as Ph[oe]nician: orgies, too, may have been wholly independent of Druidism, and representative of another superstition.

[Sidenote: B.C. 57.]

Between the Damnonian Britons of the Land's-end and the Britons of Kent, as described by Caesar, there may or there may not have been strong points of contrast. That there were several minor points of difference is nearly certain. The a priori probabilities arising from the peculiarities of their industrial occupations and commercial relations suggest the view; the historical notices confirm rather than invalidate it. Fragments, however, of this history is all that can be collected. We have followed the Alexandrian critics in the west; let us now follow a personal observer in the east, Caesar—himself a great part of the events that he describes. The Britons of Kent first appear as either tributaries or subjects to one of the Gallic chiefs, Divitiacus, king of the Suessiones, or people of Soissons in Champagne; so that they are the members of a considerable empire, or at least of an important political confederation, before a single Roman plants his foot on their island. But the vassalage is either partial or nominal, nor is it limited to the members of the Belgic branch of the Gauls; for the Veneti were a people of Brittany, whose name is still preserved under the form Vannes, the name of a Breton district, and who were true Galli. Yet, in the next year, they call upon the Britons for assistance, which is afforded them, in the shape of ships and sailors; the Veneti being amongst the most maritime of the Gallic populations.

[Sidenote: B.C. 56.]

In looking at these two alliances it may, perhaps, be allowed us to suppose that the parts most under the control of Divitiacus were the districts that lay nearest to him, Kent and Herts; whereas it was the southern coast that was in so intimate a relation with the Veneti. This is what I meant when I said that the sovereignty of Divitiacus might have been partial.

[Sidenote: B.C. 55.]

Caesar prepares to punish the islanders for their assistance to his continental enemies; partly tempted by the report of the value of the British pearls, a fact which indicates commerce and trade between the two populations. The Britons send ambassadors, whom Caesar sends back, and along with them Commius the Attrebatian, a man of the parts about Artois. Commius the Crooked, as, possibly, he was named, from the Keltic Cam, and a namesake of the valiant Welshman David Gam, who fought so valiantly more than 1300 years afterwards at Agincourt. He was a king of Caesar's own making, and had had dealings with the Britons before; with whom he had, also, considerable authority. From him Caesar seems to have obtained his chief preliminary information. But he applied to traders as well; telling us, however, that it was only the coast of Britain that was at all well known. He is resisted and cut off from supplies at landing, and unexpectedly attacked after he has succeeded in doing so. So that he finds reason to respect both the valour and the prudence of his opponents; and, eventually leaves the country for Gaul, having demanded hostages from the different States. Two, only, send them.

[Sidenote: B.C. 54.]

The following year the invasion is repeated. In the first we had a few details, but no names of either the clans, or their chief. The second is more fruitful in both. It gives us the campaign of Cassibelaunus. The most formidable part of the British armoury was the war-chariots. These were driven up and down, before and into, the hostile ranks, by charioteers sufficiently skilful to keep steady in rough places and declivities, to take up their master when pressed, to wheel round and return to the charge with dangerous dexterity. Meanwhile the master, himself, either hurled his javelins on the enemy from a short distance, or jumping from the chariot—from the body or yoke indifferently—descended on the ground, and fought single-handed. When pressed by the cavalry they retreated to the woods; which, in many cases, were artificially strengthened by stockades.

About eighty miles from the sea, Caesar reached the boundaries of the kingdom of Cassibelaunus, now the head of the whole Britannic Confederacy; but until the discordant populations became united by a sense of their common danger, an aggressive and ambitious warrior, involved in continuous hostilities with the populations around. His name is evidently compound. The termination, -belaunus, or -belinus, we shall meet with again. The Cass- is not unreasonably supposed to exist at the present moment in the name of the Hundred of Cassio, in Herts (whence Cassio-bury).

This is the first British proper name. The next is that of the Trinobantes—beginning with the common Keltic prefix (tre-) meaning place. Imanuentius, the king, had been slain in some previous act of aggression by Cassibelaunus, and his son Mandubratius had fled to Caesar whilst in Gaul. He is now restored upon giving hostages.

In the list which follows of the population who sent hostages to Caesar, we find the name of the Cassi; which suggests the notion of Cassibelaunus' own subjects have become unfaithful to him. The others are Cenimagni, the Segontiaci, the Ancalites, and the Bibroci.

Caesar seems now to be in Hertfordshire, west of London, i.e., about Cassio-bury, the stockaded village, or head-quarters, of Cassibelaunus—Cassibelaunus himself being in Kent. Here he succeeds in exciting four chiefs, Cingetorix (observe the Keltic termination, -orix), Carvilius, Taximagulus, and Segonax, to attack the ships; in which attempt they are repulsed with the loss of one of their principal men, Lugot-orix.

The campaign ends in Caesar coming to terms with Cassibelaunus, forbidding any attacks during his absence on Mandubratius and the Trinobantes, and returning to Gaul with hostages.

From an incidental notice of the British boats in a different part of Caesar's books, we learn that those on the Thames, like those on the Severn, were made of wicker-work and hides—coracles in short; and from a passage of Avienus we learn that the Severn boats were like those of the Thames—

Non hi carinas quippe pinu texere Acereve norunt, non abiete, ut usus est, Curvant faselos; sed rei ad miraculum Navigia juncta semper aptant pellibus, Corioque vastum saepe percurrunt salum.

Caesar's conquest was to all intents and purposes no conquest at all. Nevertheless, Augustus received British ambassadors, and, perhaps, a nominal tribute. Probably, this was on the strength of the dependence of the Eastern Britons on some portion of Gaul. At any rate, there was no invasion.

[Sidenote: A.D. 20 to 43.]

The latter part of the reign of Tiberius, and the short one of Caligula, give us the palmy period for native Britain—the reign of Cynobelin, the father of Caractacus, the last of her independent kings.

Coins have been found in many places; but as it is not always certain that they were not Gallic, the proofs of a very early coinage in Britain is inconclusive. Indeed, the notion that the tin trade—to which may be added that in fur and salt—was carried on by barter is the more probable. But the coins of Cynobelin are numerous. They have been well illustrated;[4] are of gold and silver; and whether stamped in Gaul or Britain, indicate civilization of commerce and industry. The measure of the progress of Britain from the Stone period upwards, partly referrible to indigenous development, partly to Gallic, and partly to Ph[oe]nician, intercourse, is to be found in these coins. It is the civilization of a brave people endowed with the arts of agriculture and metallurgy, capable of considerable political organization, and with more than one point of contact with the continent—their war-chariots, their language, and their Druidism being their chief distinctive characters. Iron was in use at this time—though, perhaps, it was rare.

The conquests under Claudius carry us over new localities; and they are related by a great historian, with more than ordinary means of information. In Tacitus we read the accounts of Agricola. Yet the information, with the exception of a few interesting details, is confirmatory of what we have been told before, rather than suggestive of any essential differences between the Britons of the interior and the Britons of the southern coast. The war-chariot was limited to certain districts. The rule of a woman was tolerated. The wives and mothers looked-on upon the battles of the husbands and daughters. They may be said, indeed, to have shared in them. Their cries, and shrieks, and reproaches, their dishevelled hair, all helped to stimulate the warriors, who opposed Suetonius Paulinus in the fastnesses of the Isle of Anglesey. The Druids added fuel to the fiery energy thus excited. There was the political organization that consolidates kingdoms. There was the spirit of faction which disintegrates them. As were the Brigantes, so were the Iceni; as were the Iceni, so were the Silures and Ordovices. The same family likeness runs throughout; likeness in essentials, difference in detail. In Caledonia the hair was flaxen; in South Wales curled and black. The complexion too was florid, from which Tacitus has drawn certain inferences.

The conquests under Vespasian carry us further still into Scotland, and to the Grampians, against the Caledonians under Galgacus. The extent to which they differed from the Britons is not to be collected from the account of Tacitus. We expect that they will be as brave; but ruder. Still, the details which we get from the life of Agricola are few. They fought from chariots, and their swords were broad and blunt. As the swords of the Bronze period were thin and pointed, this is an argument in favour of iron having become the usual material for warlike weapons as far north as the Grampians. The historical testimony to the inferior civilization of the North Britons, or Caledonians, is to be found in a later writer, Dio Cassius, in his history of the campaigns of Severus. "Amongst the Britons the two greatest tribes are the Caledonians and the Maeatae; for even the names of the others, as may be said, have merged in these. The Maeatae dwell close to the wall which divides the island into two parts; the Caledonians beyond them. Each of these people inhabit mountains wild and waterless, and plains desert and marshy, having neither walls nor cities, nor tilth, but living by pasturage, by the chase, and on certain berries; for of their fish, though abundant and inexhaustible, they never taste. They live in tents, naked and barefooted, having wives in common, and rearing the whole of their progeny. Their state is chiefly democratical, and they are above all things delighted by pillage; they fight from chariots, having small swift horses; they fight also on foot, are very fleet when running, and most resolute when compelled to stand; their arms consist of a shield and a short spear, having a brazen knob at the extremity of a shaft, that when shaken it may terrify the enemy by its noise; they use daggers also; and are capable of enduring hunger, thirst, and hardships of every description; for when plunged in the marshes they abide there many days, with their heads only out of water; and in the woods they subsist on bark and roots; they prepare, for all emergencies, a certain kind of food, of which, if they eat only so much as the size of a bean, they neither hunger nor thirst. Such, then, is the Island Britannia, and such the inhabitants of that part of it which is hostile to us."

Of Ireland, we have no definite accounts till much later, so that, with the exception of a few details, the characteristics of the social condition of that island must be inferred from the analogy of Great Britain, and from the subsequent history of the Irish. Now a rough view of even the British characteristics is all that has been attempted in the present chapter. No historic events have been narrated, except so far as they elucidate some national or local habit; and no such habits and customs have been noted unless they could be referred to some particular branch of our populations; for the object has been specification rather than generalization, the indication of certain Cornubian, Kentish, or Caledonian peculiarities rather than of British ones. At the same time, the fact that all the occupants of the British Islands are referrible to the great Keltic stock, implies the likelihood of these differences lying within a comparatively small compass.

The step that comes next is the history of the stock itself.


[3] The translations of this and all the following Greek extracts are from the "Monumenta Historica Britannica."

[4] See the papers of Mr. Beale Post in the "Archaeological Journal."



Of the two branches of the Keltic stock the British will be considered first, and that in respect to its origin.

It is rare that the population of an island is without clear, definite, and not very distant affinities with that of the nearest part of the nearest continent. The Cingalese of Ceylon can be traced to India; the Sumatrans to the Malayan Peninsula; the Kurile Islanders to the Peninsula of Sagalin; the Guanches of Teneriffe to the coast of Barbary. The nearest approach to isolation is in the island of Madagascar, where the affinities are with Sumatra, the Moluccas and the Malay stock rather than with the opposite parts of Africa, the coasts of Mozambique and Zanguibar. But Madagascar has long been the great ethnological mystery. Iceland, too, was peopled from Scandinavia and not from Greenland.

It is in Gaul, then, that we must look for the mother-country of Kelts; at least in the first instance, for Gaul is the nearest point—the white cliffs of Folkstone being within sight of the opposite shore. Yet (as an example of the extent to which one ethnological question depends upon another) the Gallic origin of the earliest Britons has been objected to. For a Keltic population, indeed, it has been admitted to be the natural area; but we have seen that a population other and earlier than the Keltic has been inferred from the shape of the skulls, and other phenomena of the Stone period. Now for such a population as this, Jutland or Sleswick has been considered the more likely locality, since the skulls in question have been compared to those of the Laplanders and Finns; and, if this be true, the further north we carry the home of the British aborigines, the less we find it necessary to bring the Finn or Lap families southward. This reasoning is valid if the original fact of any pre-Keltic population be true. Those, however, who doubt the premises, have no need to refine upon the current notion of Gaul being the original home of the Britons. Gaul, then, is the ground from which we take our view of the great Keltic division of the human species in its integrity; for, hitherto, we have seen but the western offsets of it.

That the country between the Seine and Garonne, corresponding with the provinces of Normandy, Brittany, Maine, Anjou, Poitiers, the Isle of France, and the Orleannois, was Keltic, has never been doubted. The evidence of Caesar is express; and there is neither objection nor cavil to set against it. There it is, where, at the present moment, the Keltic Breton of Brittany continues to be the language of the common people.

The central and south-eastern parts of France—the Nivernois, Burgundy, the Bourbonnois, the Lionnois, Auvergne, Dauphiny, Languedoc, Savoy, and Provence—were chiefly Keltic. Perhaps they were wholly so; but as the Ligurians of Italy, and Iberians of Spain are expressly stated to have met on the lower Rhone, it is best to qualify this assertion. At the same time, good reasons can be given for considering that the Ligurians were but little different from the other Gauls.

South of the Garonne the ancient population was Iberic.

Switzerland, or the ancient Helvetia, was Keltic, and beyond Switzerland, along the banks of the Danube, and in the fertile plains of Northern Italy, intrusive and conquering Kelts were extended as far east as Styria, and as far south as Etruria; but these were offsets from the main body of the stock, whose true area was Gaul and the British isles.

The parts between the Seine and Rhine, the valleys of the Marne, the Oise, the Somme, the Sambre, the Meuse, and the Moselle were Belgic. Treves was Belgian; Luxembourg, Belgian; the Netherlands, Belgian. Above all, French Flanders, Artois, and Picardy—the parts nearest Britain—the parts within sight of Kent—the parts from whence Britain was most likely to be peopled—were Belgian.

Now, as Britain was originally Keltic, unless Belgium be Keltic also, we shall meet with a difficulty.

In my own mind Belgium was originally Keltic; and, perhaps, nine ethnologists out of ten hold the same opinion. At the same time, fair reasons can be given for an opposite doctrine, fair reasons for believing the Belgae to have been German—as German as the Angles of old, as German as the present Germans of Germany, as German as the Dutch of Holland, and, what is more to the purpose, as German as the present Flemings of Flanders, possibly occupants of the ancient, and certainly occupants of the modern, Belgium.

Upon the latter fact we must lay considerable weight. Modern Belgium is as truly the country of two languages and of a double population as Wales, Ireland, or Scotland. There is the French, which has extended itself from the south, and the Flemish, which belongs to Holland and the parts northwards; a form of speech which differs from the true Dutch less than the Lowland Scotch does from the English, and far less than the Dutch itself does from the German. More than this. South of the line which separates the French and Flemish, traces of the previous use of the latter language are both definite and numerous, occurring chiefly in the names of places such as Dunkirk, Wissant, &c.

Now, as the French language has encroached upon the Flemish, and the Flemish has receded before the French, nothing is more legitimate than the conclusion than that, at some earlier period, the dialects of the great Germanic stock extended as far south as the Straits of Dover; and, if so, Germans might have found their way into the south-eastern counties of England 2000 years ago, or even sooner. Hence, instead of the Angles and Saxons having been the first conquerors of the Britons, and the earlier introducers of the English tongue, Belgae of Kent, Belgae of Surrey, Belgae of Sussex, and Belgae of Hampshire, may have played an important, though unrecorded, part in that long and obscure process which converted Keltic Britain into German England, the land of the Welsh and Gaels into the land of the Angles and Danes, the clansmen of Cassibelaunus, Boadicea, Caractacus and Galgacus into the subjects of Egbert, Athelstan, and Alfred.

Such views have not only been maintained, but they have been supported by important testimonies and legitimate arguments. Foremost amongst the former come two texts of Caesar, one applying to the well-known Belgae of the continent, the others to certain obscurer Belgae of Great Britain. When Caesar inquired of the legates of Remi, the ancient occupants, under their ancient name, of the parts about Rheims, what States constituted the power of the Belgae, and what was their military power, he found things to be as follows—"The majority of the Belgae were derived from the Germans (plerosque Belgas ortos esse ab Germanus). Having in the olden time crossed the Rhine, they settled in their present countries, on account of the fruitfulness of the soil, and expelled the Gauls, who inhabited the parts before them. They alone, with the memory of our fathers, when all Gaul was harassed by the Teutones and Cimbri, forbid those enemies to pass their frontier. On the strength of this they assumed a vast authority in the affairs of war, and manifested a high spirit. Their numbers were known, because, united by relationships and affinities (propinquitatibus ad finitatibusque conjuncti), it could be ascertained what numbers each chief could bring with him to the common gathering for the war. The first in numbers, valour, and influence were the Bellovaci. These could make up as many as 100,000 fighting men. Of these they promised 40,000; for which they were to have the whole management of the war. Their neighbours were the Suessiones, the owners of a vast and fertile territory. Their king Divitiacus was yet remembered as the greatest potentate of all Gaul, whose rule embraced a part of Britain as well. Their present king was Gallus. Such was his justice and prudence, that the whole conduct of the war was voluntarily made over to him. Their cities were twelve in number; their contingent 50,000 soldiers. The Nervii, the fiercest and most distant of the confederacy, would send as many; the Attrebates 15,000, the Ambiani 10,000, the Morini 22,000, the Menapii 9,000, the Caleti 10,000, the Velocasses and Veromandui 10,000, the Aduatici 29,000; the Condrusi, Eburones, Caerasi, and Paemani, who were collectively called Germans (qui uno nomine Germani appellantur) might be laid at 40,000."—Bell. Gall., ii. 4.

Let us consider this as evidence (to a certain extent) of the north of Gaul having been German, without, at present, asking how far it is conclusive. If we look to Caesar's description of Britain we shall find the elements of a second proposition, viz., that "what is true of the northern coast of Gaul, is true of the southern coast of Britain."[5] So that if the Belgae were Germans in the time of Caesar, the populations of Kent, Surrey, and Sussex were German also.

Caesar's statement is, "that the interior of Britain is inhabited by those who are recorded to have been born in the island itself; whereas the sea-coast is the occupancy of immigrants from the country of the Belgae, brought over for the sake of either war or plunder. All these are called by names nearly the same as those of the States they came from, names which they have retained in the country upon which they made war, and in the land whereon they settled."—B. G., v. 12.

I submit that these two statements would give us unexceptionable evidence in favour of the Belgae being Germans, and the south-eastern Britons being Belgae, in case they stood with no conflicting assertions to set against them, and no presumptions in favour of an opposite doctrine; in which case the inference that Kent was German would be irrefragable, and would stand thus—

The Belgae were Germans—

The south-eastern Britons were the same class with the Belgae—

Therefore they were Germans.

Such a syllogism, I repeat, would be in proper form, and the inference satisfactory.

But there is a great deal to set against both: so much as to make it extremely probable that the utmost that can be got from the first statement is, that a part of the Belgae, and more especially the Condrusi, Eburones, Caerasi, and Paemani were Germans only in the way that the people of Guernsey and Jersey are English, i.e., politically but not ethnologically; and that the second only proves that certain national names occurred on both sides of the channel.

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