Chapter 2, Pre 55 BC – The Early Britons – Continued
Antiquaries are agreed that among the earliest, if not absolutely the first known inhabitants of the island, were the Celtae, a part of the great Asiatic family who emigrated at various times into Europe and to whom the Romans gave the general name of Gauls. Aristotle speaks of the Celtae as neither dreading earthquakes nor inundations, as rushing armed into the waves and as plunging their newborn infants in cold water, and clothing them in scanty garments, to render them hardy. Strabo says that they commonly slept on the bare ground, that they were addicted to human sacrifices, and that they were accustomed to bring home the heads of their enemies and fix them on the gates of their towns. This great and prolific nomadic tribe spread over the south western parts of Europe, and from France and Spain it was easy for bands of them occasionally to pass over the sea into Britain. In the course of time there was another irruption of northern barbarians, a Gothic rage, who swept like a wave over Europe, and a branch of these, the Belgae, crossed over and seized the south eastern parts of Britain, driving the old Celtic inhabitants northward and westward. The early Welsh traditions are confirmatory of this. Thus there were two distinct races, the issue of two irruptions, and there may have been others, not so large or important, so that it may be concluded that the island was occupied by independent or conflicting clans or tribes, of which the names and localities of forty five are known to us.
The Roman district, subsequently called Britannia Prima, and which extended from Kent to Cornwall, included the Cantii, Regni, Bibroces, Segontiaci, &c. In the Peninsula of Wales were the Silures, Ordovices, and Dimetae, whose country formed the Britannia Secunda of the Romans. Between the Thames, the Severn, the Mersey, the Humber, and the ocean, the district afterwards named Flavia Caesariensis, were the Trinobantes, Iceni, Cassii, &c. In the Maxima Caesariensis of the Romans, which included Lancashire, Westmoreland, Cumberland, Yorkshire, and Durham, were the Volantii, Brigantes, &c. In North Britain and in Scotland were nearly twenty other tribes or clans. Thus the country had been peopled, at different periods, from several shoots of the barbaric or nomadic stocks, with occasional grafts from more civilized nations. From their prolonged intercourse with the Phoenicians and Carthaginians, the inhabitants of Cornwall appear to have been considerably more advanced than those of the other districts, and the Cantii, or people of Kent, seem nearly to have equalled in civilization the people of Gaul.
Chapter 2, The Early Britons
First Inhabitants the Celtae and the Belgae
Categories: Book 1