Monday, December 7, 2009

The Three Kingdoms and the Welsh

For a moment it seemed as if England would be brought together under the rule of Oswiu. After Penda's death Mercia accepted Christianity, and the newly united Mercia was split up into its original parts ruled by several kings. The supremacy of Oswiu was, however, as little to be borne by the Mercians as the supremacy of Penda had been borne by the men of North-humberland. Under Wulfhere the Mercians rose in 659 against Oswiu. All hope of uniting England was for the present at an end. For about a century and a half longer there remained three larger kingdoms—North-humberland, Mercia, and Wessex, whilst four smaller ones—East Anglia, Essex, Kent, and Sussex—were usually attached either to Mercia or to Wessex. The failure of North-humberland to maintain the power was no doubt, in the first place owing to the absence of any common danger, the fear of which would bind together its populations in self-defence. The northern Kymry of Strathclyde were no longer formidable, and they grew less formidable as years passed on. The southern Kymry of Wales were too weak to threaten Mercia, and the Welsh of the south-western peninsula were too weak to threaten Wessex. It was most unlikely that any permanent union of the English states would be brought about till some enemy arose who was more terrible to them than the Welsh could any longer be.

Some preparation might, however, be made for the day of union by the steady growth of the Church. The South Saxons, secluded between the forest and the sea, were the last to be converted, but with them English heathenism came to an end as an avowed religion, though it still continued to influence the multitude in the form of a belief in fairies and witchcraft. Monasteries and nunneries sprang up on all sides. Missionaries spread over the country. In their mouths, and still more in their lives, Christianity taught what the fierce English warrior most wanted to learn, the duty of restraining his evil passions, and above all his cruelty. Nowhere in all Europe did the missionaries appeal so exclusively as they did in England to higher and purer motives. Nowhere but in England were to be found kings like Oswald and Oswini, who bowed their souls to the lesson of the Cross, and learned that they were not their own, but were placed in power that they might use their strength in helping the poor and needy.

The lesson was all the better taught because those who taught it were monks. Monasticism brought with it an extravagant view of the life of self-denial, but those who had to be instructed needed to have the lesson written plainly so that a child might read it. The rough warrior or the rough peasant was more likely to abstain from drunkenness, if he had learned to look up to men who ate and drank barely enough to enable them to live; and he was more likely to treat women with gentleness and honour, if he had learned to look up to some women who separated themselves from the joys of married life that they might give themselves to fasting and prayer. Yet, great as the influence of the clergy was, it was in danger of being lessened through internal disputes amongst themselves. A very large part of England had been converted by the Celtic missionaries, and the Celtic missionaries, though their life and teaching was in the main the same as that of the Church of Canterbury and of the Churches of the Continent, differed from them in the shape of the tonsure and in the time at which they kept their Easter. These things were themselves unimportant, but it was of great importance that the young English Church should not be separated from the Churches of more civilised countries which had preserved much of the learning and art of the old Roman Empire. One of those who felt strongly the evil which would follow on such a separation was Wilfrid. He was scornful and self-satisfied, but he had travelled to Rome, and had been impressed with the ecclesiastical memories of the great city, and with the fervour and learning of its clergy. He came back resolved to bring the customs of England into conformity with those of the churches of the Continent. On his arrival, Oswiu, in 664, gathered an assembly of the clergy of the north headed by Colman, Aidan's successor, to discuss the point. Learned arguments were poured forth on either side. Oswiu listened in a puzzled way. Wilfrid boasted that his mode of keeping Easter was derived from Peter, and that Christ had given to Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Oswiu at once decided to follow Peter, lest when he came to the gate of that kingdom Peter, who held the keys, should lock him out. Wilfrid triumphed, and the English Church was in all outward matters regulated in conformity with that of Rome.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Oswald's Greatness and Overthrow

As a king Oswald based his power on the acknowledgment of his over-lordship by all the kingdoms which were hostile to Penda. In 635 Wessex accepted Christianity, and the acceptance of Christianity brought with it the acceptance of Oswald's supremacy. Penda was thus surrounded by enemies, but his courage did not fail him, and in 642 at the battle of Maserfield he defeated Oswald. Oswald fell in the battle, begging with his last words for God's mercy on the souls of his enemies.

After Oswald's fall Bernicia was ruled by his brother Oswiu. Deira, again divided from it, was governed first by Eadwine's cousin Osric, and then by Osric's son, Oswini, who acknowledged Penda as his over-lord. Oswini was a man after Aidan's own heart. Once he gave a horse to Aidan to carry him on his mission journeys. Aidan gave it away to the first beggar he met. "Is that son of a mare," answered Aidan to the reproaches of the king, "worth more in your eyes than that son of God?" Oswini fell at the bishop's feet and entreated his pardon. Aidan wept. "I am sure," he cried, "the king will not live long. I never till now saw a king humble." Aidan was right. In 651 Oswini was slain by the order of King Oswiu of Bernicia, who had long engaged in a struggle with Penda. Penda had for some years been burning and slaughtering in Bernicia, till he had turned a quarrel between himself and Oswiu into a national strife. Oswiu rescued Bernicia from destruction, and after Oswini's murder joined once more the two kingdoms together. Oswini was the last heir of Ælla's house, and from that time there was but one North-humberland. In 655 Oswiu and Penda met to fight, as it seemed for supremacy over the whole of England, by the river Winwæd, near the present Leeds. The heathen Penda was defeated and slain.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Oswald and Aidan

In the days of Eadwine, Oswald, as the heir of the rival house of Bernicia, had passed his youth in exile, and had been converted to Christianity in the monastery of Hii, the island now known as Iona. The monastery had been founded by Columba, an Irish Scot. Christianity had been introduced into Ireland by Patrick early in the fifth century. Ireland was a land of constant and cruel war between its tribes, and all who wished to be Christians in more than name withdrew themselves into monasteries, where they lived an even stricter and more ascetic life than the monks did in other parts of Western Europe. Bishops were retained in the monasteries to ordain priests, but they were entirely powerless. Columba's monastery at Hii sent its missionaries abroad, and brought Picts as well as Scots under the influence of Christianity. Oswald now requested its abbot, the successor of Columba, to send a missionary to preach the faith to the men of North-humberland in the place of Paulinus, who had fled when Eadwine was slain. The first who was sent came back reporting that the people were too stubborn to be converted. "Was it their stubbornness or your harshness?" asked the monk Aidan. "Did you forget to give them the milk first and then the meat?" Aidan was chosen to take the place of the brother who had failed. He established himself, not in an inland town, but in Holy Island. His life was spent in wandering amongst the men of the valleys opposite, winning them over by his gentleness and his self-denying energy. Oswald, warrior as he was, had almost all the gentleness and piety of Aidan. 'By reason of his constant habit of praying or giving thanks to the Lord he was wont whenever he sat to hold his hands upturned on his knees.' On one occasion when he sat down to a feast with Aidan by his side, he sent both the dainties before him and the silver dish on which they had been served to be divided amongst the poor. "May this hand," exclaimed the delighted Aidan, "never grow old!"

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Eadwine's Conversion and Fall

In 627 Eadwine, moved by his wife's entreaties and the urgency of her chaplain, Paulinus, called upon his Witan to accept Christianity. Coifi, the priest, declared that he had long served his gods for naught, and would try a change of masters. 'The present life of man, O king,' said a thegn, 'seems to me in comparison of that time which is unknown to us like to the swift flight of a sparrow through the room wherein you sit at supper in winter, with your ealdormen and thegns, and a good fire in the midst, and storms of rain and snow without.... So this life of man appears for a short space, but of what went before or what is to follow we are utterly ignorant. If therefore this new doctrine contains something more certain, it seems justly to deserve to be followed.' On this recommendation Christianity was accepted. Paulinus was acknowledged as Bishop of York. The new See, which had been originally intended by Pope Gregory to be an archbishopric, was ultimately acknowledged as such, but as yet it was but a missionary station. Paulinus converted thousands in Deira, but the men of Bernicia were unaffected by his pleadings.

Christianity, like the extension of all better teaching, brought at first not peace but the sword. The new religion was contemptible in the eyes of warriors. The supremacy of Eadwine was shaken. The men of East Anglia slew their king, who had followed his over-lord's example by accepting Christianity. The worst blow came from Mercia. Hitherto it had been only a little state on the Welsh border. Its king, Penda, the stoutest warrior of his day, now gathered under him all the central states, and founded a new Mercia which stretched from the Severn to the Fens. He first turned on the West Saxons, defeated them at Cirencester, and in 628 brought the territory of the Hwiccas under Mercian sway. On the other hand, East Anglia accepted Eadwine's supremacy and Christianity. Penda called to his aid Cædwalla, the king of Gwynnedd, the Snowdonian region of Wales. That he should have done so shows how completely Æthelfrith's victory at Chester, by cutting the Kymric realm in two, had put an end to all fears that the Kymry could ever make head against England as a whole. The alliance was too strong for Eadwine, and in 633, at the battle of Heathfield—the modern Hatfield, in Yorkshire—the great king was slain and his army routed.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Eadwine's Later Conquests

Eadwine's over-lordship had been gained with as little difficulty as Æthelberht's had been. The ease with which each of them carried out their purpose can only be explained by the change which had taken place in the condition of the English. The small bodies of conquerors which had landed at different parts of the coast had been interested to a man in the defence of the lands which they had seized. Every freeman had been ready to come forward to defend the soil which his tribe had gained. After tribe had been joined to tribe, and still more after kingdom had been joined to kingdom, there were large numbers who ceased to have any interest in resisting the Welsh on what was, as far as they were concerned, a distant frontier. Thus, when Ceawlin was fighting to extend the West Saxon frontiers in the valley of the Severn, it mattered little to a man whose own allotted land lay on the banks of the Southampton Water whether or not his English kinsmen won lands from the Welsh near Bath or Gloucester.

The first result of this change was that the king's war-band formed a far greater proportion of his military force than it had formed originally. There was still the obligation upon the whole body of the freemen to take arms, but it was an obligation which had become more difficult to fulfil, and it must often have happened that very few freemen took part in a battle except the local levies concerned in defending their own immediate neighbourhood. A military change of this kind would account for the undoubted fact that the further the English conquest penetrated to the west the less destructive it was of British life. The thegns, or warriors personally attached to the king, did not want to plough and reap with their own hands. They would be far better pleased to spare the lives of the conquered and to compel them to labour. Every step in advance was marked by a proportionately larger Welsh element in the population.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Eadwine's Supremacy

Eadwine's immediate kingship did not reach further south than the Humber and the Dee. But before 625 he had brought the East Angles and the kingdoms of central England to submit to his over-lordship, and he hoped to make himself over-lord of the south as well, and thus to reduce all England to dependence on himself. In 625 he planned an attack upon the West Saxons, and with the object of winning Kent to his side, he married Æthelburh, a sister of the Kentish king. Kent was still the only Christian kingdom, and Eadwine was obliged to promise to his wife protection for her Christian worship. He was now free to attack the West Saxons. In 626, before he set out, ambassadors arrived from their king. As Eadwine was listening to them, one of their number rushed forward to stab him. His life was saved by the devotion of Lilla, one of his thegns, who threw his body in the way of the assassin, and was slain by the stroke intended for his lord. After this Eadwine marched against the West Saxons. He defeated them in battle and forced them to acknowledge him as their over-lord. He was now over-lord of all the English states except Kent, and Kent had become his ally in consequence of his marriage.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Greatness of Eadwine

Powerful as Æthelfrith was, he was jealous of young Eadwine, a son of his father's rival, Ælla of Deira. For some years Eadwine had been in hiding, at one time with Welsh princes, at another time with English kings. In 617 he took refuge with Rædwald, the king of the East Angles. Æthelfrith demanded the surrender of the fugitive. Rædwald hesitated, but at last refused. Æthelfrith attacked him, but was defeated and slain near the river Idle, at some point near Retford. Eadwine the Deiran then became king over the united North-humberland in the place of Æthelfrith the Bernician, whose sons fled for safety to the Picts beyond the Forth. Eadwine completed and consolidated the conquests of his predecessors. He placed a fortress, named after himself Eadwinesburh, or Edinburgh, on a rocky height near the Forth, to guard his land against a fresh irruption of Scots and Picts, such as that which had been turned back at Degsastan. He conquered from the Kymry Loidis and Elmet, and he launched a fleet at Chester which added to his dominions the Isle of Man and the greater island which was henceforth known as Anglesea, the island of the Angles. Eadwine assumed unwonted state. Wherever he went a standard was borne before him, as well as a spear decorated with a tuft of feathers, the ancient sign of Roman authority. It has been thought by some that his meaning was that he, rather than any Welshman, was the true Gwledig, the successor of the Duke of the Britains (Dux Britanniarum), and that the name of Bretwalda, or ruler of the Britons, which he is said to have borne, was only a translation of the Welsh Gwledig. It is true that the title of Bretwalda is given to other powerful kings before and after Eadwine, some of whom were in no sense rulers over Britons; but it is possible that it was taken to signify a ruler over a large part of Britain, though the men over whom he ruled were English, and not Britons.

Friday, June 26, 2009

England History: Æthelfrith's Victories

The long range of barren hills which separated Æthelfrith's kingdom from the Kymry made it difficult for either side to strike a serious blow at the other. In the extreme north, where a low valley joins the Firths of Clyde and Forth, it was easier for them to meet. Here the Kymry found an ally outside their own borders. Towards the end of the fifth century a colony of Irish Scots had driven out the Picts from the modern Argyle. In 603 their king, Aedan, bringing with him a vast army, in which Picts and the Kymry appear to have taken part, invaded the northern part of Æthelfrith's country. Æthelfrith defeated him at Degsastan, which was probably Dawstone, near Jedburgh. 'From that time no king of the Scots durst come into Britain to make war upon the English.'

Having freed himself from the Scots in the north, Æthelfrith turned upon the Kymry. After a succession of struggles of which no record remains, he forced his way in 613 to the western sea near Chester. The Kymry had brought with them the 2,000 monks of their great monastery Bangor-iscoed, to pray for victory whilst their warriors were engaged in battle. Æthelfrith bade his men to slay them all. 'Whether they bear arms or no,' he said, 'they fight against us when they cry against us to their God.' The monks were slain to a man. Their countrymen were routed, and Chester fell into the hands of the English. The capture of Chester split the Kymric kingdom in two, as the battle of Deorham thirty-five years before had split that kingdom off from the West Welsh of the south-western peninsula. The Southern Kymry, in what is now called Wales, could no longer give help to the Northern Kymry between the Clyde and the Ribble, who grouped themselves into the kingdom of Strathclyde, the capital of which was Alcluyd, the modern Dumbarton. Three weak Celtic states, unable to assist one another, would not long be able to resist their invaders.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Æthelfrith and the Kymry

In 593, four years before the landing of Augustine, Æthelric was succeeded by his son Æthelfrith. Æthelfrith began a fresh struggle with the Welsh. We know little of the internal history of the Welsh population, but what we do know shows that towards the end of the sixth century there was an improvement in their religious and political existence. The monasteries were thronged, especially the great monastery of Bangor-iscoed, in the modern Flintshire, which contained 2,000 monks. St. David and other bishops gave examples of piety. In fighting against Æthelfrith the warriors of the Britons were fighting for their last chance of independence. They still held the west from the Clyde to the Channel. Unhappily for them, the Severn, the Dee, and the Solway Firth divided their land into four portions, and if an enemy coming from the east could seize upon the heads of the inlets into which those rivers flowed he could prevent the defenders of the west from aiding one another. Already in 577, by the victory of Deorham, the West Saxons had seized on the mouth of the Severn, and had split off the West Welsh of the south-western peninsula. Æthelfrith had to do with the Kymry, whose territories stretched from the Bristol Channel to the Clyde, and who held an outlying wedge of land then known as Loidis and Elmet, which now together form the West Riding of Yorkshire.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

England History: Death of Æthelberht, 616

In 616 Æthelberht died. The over-lordship of the kings of Kent ended with him, and Augustine's church, which had largely depended upon his influence, very nearly ended as well. Essex relapsed into heathenism, and it was only by terrifying Æthelberht's son with the vengeance of St. Peter that Lawrence kept him from relapsing also. On the other hand, Rædwald, king of the East Anglians, who succeeded to much of Æthelberht's authority, so far accepted Christianity as to worship Christ amongst his other gods.

Augustine's Church was weak, because it depended on the kings, and had not had time to root itself in the affections of the people. Æthelberht's supremacy was also weak. The greater part of the small states which still existed—Sussex, Kent, Essex, East Anglia, and most of the small kingdoms of central England—were no longer bordered by a Celtic population. For them the war of conquest and defence was at an end. If any one of the kingdoms was to rise to permanent supremacy it must be one of those engaged in strenuous warfare, and as yet strenuous warfare was only carried on with the Welsh. The kingdoms which had the Welsh on their borders were three—Wessex, Mercia, and North-humberland, and neither Wessex nor Mercia was as yet very strong. Wessex was too distracted by conflicts amongst members of the kingly family, and Mercia was as yet too small to be of much account. North-humberland was therefore the first of the three to rise to the foremost place. Till the death of Ælla, the king of Deira, from whose land had been carried off the slave-boys whose faces had charmed Gregory at Rome, Deira and Bernicia had been as separate as Kent and Essex. Then in 588 Æthelric of Bernicia drove out Ælla's son and seized his kingdom of Deira, thus joining the two kingdoms of Deira and Bernicia into one, under the new name of North-humberland.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Archbishopric of Canterbury

After a short stay Augustine revisited Gaul and came back as Archbishop of the English. Æthelberht gave to him a ruined church at Canterbury, and that poor church was named Christ Church, and became the mother church of England. From that day the Archbishop's See has been fixed at Canterbury. If Augustine in his character of monk led men by example, in his character of Archbishop he had to organise the Church. With Æthelberht's help he set up a bishopric at Rochester and another in London. London was now again an important trading city, which, though not in Æthelberht's own kingdom of Kent, formed part of the kingdom of Essex, which was dependent on Kent. More than these three Sees Augustine was unable to establish. An attempt to obtain the friendly co-operation of the Welsh bishops broke down because Augustine insisted on their adoption of Roman customs; and Lawrence, who succeeded to the archbishopric after Augustine's death, could do no more than his predecessor had done.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Monastic Christianity

These missionaries were monks as well as preachers. The Christians of those days considered the monastic life to be the highest. In the early days of the Church, when the world was full of vice and cruelty, it seemed hardly possible to live in the world without being dragged down to its wickedness. Men and women, therefore, who wished to keep themselves pure, withdrew to hermitages or monasteries, where they might be removed from temptation, and might fit themselves for heaven by prayer and fasting. In the fifth century Benedict of Nursia had organised in Italy a system of life for the monastery which he governed, and the Benedictine rule, as it was called, was soon accepted in almost all the monasteries of Western Europe. The special feature of this rule was that it encouraged labour as well as prayer. It was a saying of Benedict himself that 'to labour is to pray.' He did not mean that labour was good in itself, but that monks who worked during some hours of the day would guard their minds against evil thoughts better than if they tried to pray all day long. Augustine and his companions were Benedictine monks, and their quietness and contentedness attracted the population amidst which they had settled. The religion of the heathen English was a religion which favoured bravery and endurance, counting the warrior who slaughtered most enemies as most highly favoured by the gods.

The religion of Augustine was one of peace and self-denial. Its symbol was the cross, to be borne in the heart of the believer. The message brought by Augustine was very hard to learn. If Augustine had expected the whole English population to forsake entirely its evil ways and to walk in paths of peace, he would probably have been rejected at once. It was perhaps because he was a monk that he did not expect so much. A monk was accustomed to judge laymen by a lower standard of self-denial than that by which he judged himself. He would, therefore, not ask too much of the new converts. They must forsake the heathen temples and sacrifices, and must give up some particularly evil habits. The rest must be left to time and the example of the monks.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Augustine's Mission, 597 AD.

Augustine with his companions landed at Ebbsfleet, in Thanet, where Æthelberht's forefathers had landed nearly a century and a half before. After a while Æthelberht arrived. Singing a litany, and bearing aloft a painting of the Saviour, the missionaries appeared before him. He had already learned from his Christian wife to respect Christians, but he was not prepared to forsake his own religion. He welcomed the new-comers, and told them that they were free to convert those who would willingly accept their doctrine. A place was assigned to them in Canterbury, and they were allowed to use Bertha's church. In the end Æthelberht himself, together with thousands of the Kentish men, received baptism. It was more by their example than by their teaching that Augustine's band won converts. The missionaries lived 'after the model of the primitive Church, giving themselves to frequent prayers, watchings, and fastings; preaching to all who were within their reach, disregarding all worldly things as matters with which they had nothing to do, accepting from those whom they taught just what seemed necessary for livelihood, living themselves altogether in accordance with what they taught, and with hearts prepared to suffer every adversity, or even to die, for that truth which they preached.'

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Æthelberht's Supremacy

Æthelberht's authority reached far beyond his native Kent. Within a few years after his marriage he had gained a supremacy over most of the other kings to the south of the Humber. There is no tradition of any war between Æthelberht and these kings, and he certainly did not thrust them out from the leadership of their own peoples. The exact nature of his supremacy is, however, unknown to us, though it is possible that they were bound to follow him if he went to war with peoples not acknowledging his supremacy, in which case his position towards them was something of the same kind as that of a lord to his gesiths.

Æthelberht's position as the over-lord of so many kings and as the husband of a Christian wife drew upon him the attention of Gregory, the Bishop of Rome, or Pope. Many years before, as a deacon, he had been attracted by the fair faces of some boys from Deira exposed for sale in the Roman slave-market. He was told that the children were Angles. "Not Angles, but angels," he replied. "Who," he asked, "is their (p. 039) king?" Hearing that his name was Ælla, he continued to play upon the words. "Alleluia," he said, "shall be sung in the land of Ælla." Busy years kept him from seeking to fulfil his hopes, but at last the time came when he could do something to carry out his intentions, not in the land of Ælla, but in the land of Æthelberht. He became Pope. In those days the Pope had far less authority over the Churches of Western Europe than he afterwards acquired, but he offered the only centre round which they could rally, now that the Empire had broken up into many states ruled over by different barbarian kings. The general habit of looking to Rome for authority, which had been diffused over the whole Empire whilst Rome was still the seat of the Emperors, made men look to the Roman Bishop for advice and help as they had once looked to the Roman Emperor. Gregory, who united to the tenderheartedness of the Christian the strength of will and firmness of purpose which had marked out the best of the Emperors, now sent Augustine to England as the leader of a band of missionaries.

Friday, April 10, 2009

England and the Continent

Whatever may be the exact truth about the numbers of Britons saved alive by the English conquerors, there can be no doubt that English speech and English customs prevailed wherever the English settled. In Gaul, where the German Franks made themselves masters of the country, a different state of things prevailed. Roman officials continued to govern the country under Frankish kings, Roman bishops converted the conquerors to Christianity, and Roman cities maintained, as far as they could, the old standard of civilisation. All commercial intercourse between Gaul, still comparatively rich and prosperous, and Britain was for some time cut off by the irruption of the English, who were at first too rude and too much engaged in fighting to need the products of a more advanced race. Gradually, however, as the English settled down into peaceful industry along the south-eastern shores of the island, trade again sprang up, as it had sprung up in the wild times preceding the landing of Cæsar. The Gaulish merchants who crossed the straits found themselves in Kent, and during the years in which the West Saxon Ceawlin was struggling with the Britons the communications between Kent and the Continent had become so friendly that in 584, or a little later, Æthelberht, king of Kent, took to wife Bertha, the daughter of a Frankish king, Charibert. Bertha was a Christian, and brought with her a Christian bishop. She begged of her husband a forsaken Roman church for her own use. This church, now known as St. Martin's, stood outside the walls of the deserted city of Durovernum, the buildings of which were in ruins, except where a group of rude dwellings rose in a corner of the old fortifications. In these dwellings Æthelberht and his followers lived, and to them had been given the new name of Cantwarabyrig or Canterbury (the dwelling of the men of Kent). The English were heathen, but their heathenism was not intolerant.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

England History: The Advance of the Angles

Whilst the West Saxons were enlarging their boundaries in the south, the Angles were gradually spreading in the centre and the north. The East Anglians were stopped on their way to the west by the great fen, but either a branch of the Lindiswara or some new-comers made their way up the Trent, and established themselves first at Nottingham and then at Leicester, and called themselves the Middle English. Another body, known as the Mercians, or men of the mark or border-land, seized on the upper valley of the Trent. North of the Humber the advance was still slower. In 547, five years before the West Saxons attacked Sorbiodunum, Ida, a chieftain of one of the scattered settlements on the coast, was accepted as king by all those which lay between the Tees and the Forth. His new kingdom was called Bernicia, and his principal fortress was on a rock by the sea at Bamborough. During the next fifty years he and his successors enlarged their borders till they reached that central ridge of moorland hill which is sometimes known as the Pennine range. The Angles between the Tees and the Humber called their country Deira, but though they also united under a king, their progress was as slow as that of the Bernicians. Bernicia and Deira together were known as North-humberland, the land north of the Humber, a much larger territory than that of the modern county of Northumberland.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Repulse of the West Saxons

After the defeat at Faddiley the West Saxons split up into two peoples. Those of them who settled in the lower Severn valley took the name of Hwiccan, and joined the Britons against their own kindred. This alliance could hardly have taken place if the Hwiccan, in settling in the Severn valley, had destroyed the whole, or even a considerable part, of the Celtic population, though there can be little doubt that there was still slaughter when a battle was fought or a town taken by storm; as it is known that the magnificent Roman buildings at Bath were standing in ruins and the city untenanted many years after the capture of the city. At all events, the Britons, now allied with the Hwiccan, defeated Ceawlin at Wanborough. After this disaster, though the West Saxon kingdom retained its independence, it was independent within smaller limits than those which Ceawlin had wished to give to it. If he had seized Chester he would have been on the way to gain the mastery over all England, but he had tried to do too much in a short time. His people can hardly have been numerous enough to occupy in force a territory reaching from Southampton Water to Bedford on one side and to Chester on another.

Monday, April 6, 2009

England History: The West Saxon Advance

In 552 Cynric, the West Saxon king, attacked the divided Britons, captured Sorbiodunum, and made himself master of Salisbury Plain. Step by step he fought his way to the valley of the Thames, and when he had reached it, he turned eastwards to descend the river to its mouth. Here, however, he found himself anticipated by the East Saxons, who had captured London, and had settled a branch of their people under the name of the Middle Saxons in Middlesex. The Jutes of Kent had pushed westwards through the Surrey hills, but in 568 the West Saxons defeated them and drove them back. After this battle, the first in which the conquerors strove with one another, the West Saxons turned northwards, defeated the Britons in 571 at Bedford, and occupied the valleys of the Thame and Cherwell and the upper valley of the Ouse. They are next heard of much further west, and it has been supposed that they turned in that direction because they found the lower Ouse already held by Angle tribes. However this may have been, they crossed the Cotswolds in 577 under two brothers, Ceawlin and Cutha, and at Deorham defeated and slew three kings who ruled over the cities of Glevum (Gloucester), Corinium (Cirencester), and Aquæ Sulis (Bath). They seized on the fertile valley of the Severn, and during the next few years they pressed gradually northwards. In 584 they destroyed and sacked the old Roman station of Viriconium. This was their last victory for many a year. They attempted to reach Chester, but were defeated at Faddiley by the Britons, who slew Cutha in the battle.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Legend of King Arthur

Old SarumThirty-two years passed away after the defeat of the West Saxons at Mount Badon in 520 before they made any further conquests. Welsh legends represent this period as that of the reign of Arthur. Some modern inquirers have argued that Arthur's kingdom was in the north, whilst others have argued that it was in the south. It is quite possible that the name was given by legend to more than one champion; at all events, there was a time when an Ambrosius, probably a descendant of Ambrosius Aurelianus , protected the southern Britons. This stronghold was at Sorbiodunum, the hill fort now a grassy space known as Old Sarum (see illustration), and his great church and monastery, where Christian priests encouraged the Christian Britons in their struggle against the heathen Saxons, was at the neighbouring Ambresbyrig (the fortress of Ambrosius), now modernised into Amesbury. Thirty-two years after the battle of Mount Badon the kingdom of Ambrosius had been divided amongst his successors, who were plunged in vice and were quarrelling with one another.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Kingship of a Tribe

How many folks or tribes settled in the island it is impossible to say, but there is little doubt that many of them soon combined. The resistance of the Britons was desperate, and it was only by joining together that the settlers could hope to overcome it. The causes which produced this amalgamation of the folks produced the king. It was necessary to find a man always ready to take the command of the united folks, and this man was called King, a name which signifies the man of the kinship or race at the head of which he stood. His authority was greater than the Ealdorman's, and his warriors were more numerous than those which the Ealdorman had led. He must come of a royal family—that is, of one supposed to be descended from the god Woden. As it was necessary that he should be capable of leading an army, it was impossible that a child could be king, and therefore no law of hereditary succession prevailed. On the death of a king the folk-moot chose his successor out of the kingly family. If his eldest son was a grown man of repute, the choice would almost certainly fall upon him. If he was a child or an invalid, some other kinsman of the late king would be selected.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Compurgation and Ordeal

A new difficulty was introduced when a person who was charged with crime denied his guilt. As there were no trained lawyers and there was no knowledge of the principles of evidence, the accused person was required to bring twelve men to be his compurgators—that is to say, to hear him swear to his own innocence, and then to swear in turn that his oath was true. If he could not find men willing to be his compurgators he could appeal to the judgment of the gods, which was known as the Ordeal. If he could walk blindfold over red-hot ploughshares, or plunge his arm into boiling water, and show at the end of a fixed number of days that he had received no harm, it was thought that the gods bore witness to his innocency and had as it were become his compurgators when men had failed him. It is quite possible that all or most of those who tried the ordeal failed, but as nobody would try the ordeal who could get compurgators, those who did not succeed must have been regarded as persons of bad character, so that no surprise would be expressed at their failure.

When a man had failed in the ordeal there was a choice of punishments. If his offence was a slight one, a fine was deemed sufficient. If it was a very disgraceful one, such as secret murder, he was put to death or was degraded to slavery, in most cases he was declared to be a 'wolf's-head'—that is to say, he was outlawed and driven into the woods, where, as the protection of the community was withdrawn from him, anyone might kill him without fear of punishment.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


In early days, long before the English had left their lands beyond the sea, it was not considered to be the business of the community to punish crime. If any one was murdered, it was the duty of the kinsmen of the slain man to put to death the murderer. In course of time men got tired of the continual slaughter produced by this arrangement, and there sprang up a system according to which the murderer might offer to the kinsmen a sum of money known as weregild, or the value of a man, and if this money was accepted, then peace was made and all thought of vengeance was at an end. At a later time, at all events after the arrival of the English in this country, charges of murder were brought before the hundred-moot whenever the alleged murderer and his victim lived in the same hundred. If the accused person did not dispute the fact the moot sentenced him to pay a weregild, the amount of which differed in proportion to the rank of the slain man, not in proportion to the heinousness of the offence. As there was a weregild for murder, so there was also a graduated scale of payments for lesser offences. One who struck off a hand or a foot could buy off vengeance at a fixed rate.

The Township and the Hundred Moot

The smallest political community of the new settlers was the village, or, as it is commonly called, the township, which is still represented by the parish, the parish being merely a township in which ecclesiastical institutions have been maintained whilst political institutions have ceased to exist. The freemen of the township met to settle small questions between themselves, under the presidency of their reeve or headman.

More important cases were brought before the hundred-moot, or meeting of the hundred, a district which had been inhabited, or was supposed to have been inhabited, either by a hundred kindred groups of the original settlers or by the families of a hundred warriors. This hundred-moot was held once a month, and was attended by four men and the reeve from every township, and also by the Eorls and Thegns living in the hundred. It not only settled disputes about property, but gave judgment in criminal cases as well.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

England History: English and Welsh

The bulk of the population on the eastern and southern coasts was undoubtedly English. English institutions and English language took firm root. The conquerors looked on the Britons with the utmost contempt, naming them Welsh, a name which no Briton thought of giving to himself, but which Germans had been in the habit of applying somewhat contemptuously to the Celts on the Continent. So far as British words have entered into the English language at all, they have been words such as gown or curd, which are likely to have been used by women, or words such as cart or pony, which are likely to have been used by agricultural labourers, and the evidence of language may therefore be adduced in favour of the view that many women and many agricultural labourers were spared by the conquerors.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Cultivators of the Soil

When the new-comers planted themselves on British soil, each group of families united by kinship fixed its home in a separate village or township, to which was given the name of the kindred followed by 'ham' or 'tun,' the first word meaning the home or dwelling, the second the earthen mound which formed the defence of the community. Thus Wokingham is the home of the Wokings, and Wellington the 'tun' of the Wellings. Each man had a homestead of his own, with a strip or strips of arable land in an open field. Beyond the arable land was pasture and wood, common to the whole township, every villager being entitled to drive his cattle or pigs into them according to rules laid down by the whole township.

The population was divided into Eorls and Ceorls. The Eorl was hereditarily distinguished by birth, and the Ceorl was a simple freeman without any such distinction. How the difference arose we do not know, but we do know that the Eorl had privileges which the Ceorl had not. Below the Ceorls were slaves taken in war or condemned to slavery as criminals. There were also men known as Gesiths, a word which means 'followers,' who were the followers of the chiefs or Ealdormen (Eldermen) who led the conquerors. The Gesiths formed the war-band of the chief. They were probably all of them Eorls, so that though every settler was either an Eorl or a Ceorl, some Eorls were also Gesiths. This war-band of Gesiths was composed of young men who attached themselves to the chief by a tie of personal devotion. It was the highest glory of the Gesith to die to save his chief's life. Of one Gesith it is told that, when he saw a murderer aiming a dagger at his chief, he, not having time to seize the assassin, threw his body between the blow and his chief, and perished rather than allow him to be killed. It was even held to be disgraceful for a Gesith to return from battle alive if his chief had been slain. The word by which the chief was known was Hlaford (Lord), which means a giver of bread, because the Gesiths ate his bread. They not only ate his bread, but they shared in the booty which he brought home. They slept in his hall, and were clothed in the garments woven by his wife and her maidens. A continental writer tells how a body of Gesiths once approached their lord with a petition that he should take a wife, because as long as he remained unmarried there was no one to make new clothes for them or to mend their old ones.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Nature of the Conquest

The three peoples who effected this conquest were afterwards known amongst themselves by the common name of English, a name which was originally equivalent to Angle, whilst amongst the whole of the remaining Celtic population they were only known as Saxons. The mode in which the English treated the Britons was very different from that of the Romans, who were a civilised people and aimed at governing a conquered race. The new-comers drove out the Britons in order to find homes for themselves, and they preferred to settle in the country rather than in a town. No Englishman had ever lived in a town in his German home, or was able to appreciate the advantages of the commerce and manufacture by which towns are supported. Nor were they inclined to allow the inhabitants of the Roman towns to remain unmolested in their midst. When Anderida was captured not a Briton escaped alive, and there is good reason to believe that many of the other towns fared no better, especially as the remains of some of them still show marks of the fire by which they were consumed. What took place in the country cannot be certainly known. Many of the British were no doubt killed. Many took refuge in fens or woods, or fled to those portions of the island in which their countrymen were still independent. It is difficult to decide to what extent the men who remained behind were spared, but it is impossible to doubt that a considerable number of women were preserved from slaughter. The conquerors, at their landing, must have been for the most part young men, and when they wanted wives, it would be far easier for them to seize the daughters of slain Britons than to fetch women from the banks of the Elbe.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Anglian Settlements

The coast-line to the north of the East Saxons was seized at some unascertained dates by different groups of Angles. The land between the Stour and the great fen which in those days stretched far inland from the Wash was occupied by two of these groups, known as the North folk and the South folk. They gave their names to Norfolk and Suffolk, and at some later time combined under the name of East Anglians. North of the Wash were the Lindiswara—that is to say, the settlers about the Roman Lindum, the modern Lincoln, and beyond them, stretching to the Humber, were the Gainas, from whom is derived the name of the modern Gainsborough. To the north of the Humber the coast was fringed by Angle settlements which had not yet coalesced into one.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The West Saxons and the East Saxons

Another swarm also of Saxons, called Gewissas, landed on the shore of Southampton Water. After a time they were reinforced by a body of Jutes, and though the Jutes formed settlements of their own in the Isle of Wight and on the mainland, the difference of race and language between them and the Gewissas was not enough to prevent the two tribes from coalescing. Ultimately Gewissas and Jutes became known as West Saxons, and established themselves in a district roughly corresponding with the modern Hampshire. Then, having attempted to penetrate further west, they were defeated at Mount Badon, probably Badbury Rings in Dorsetshire. Their overthrow was so complete as to check their advance for more than thirty years. Whilst the coast line from the inlet of the sea now filled by Romney Marsh to the western edge of Hampshire had thus been mastered by Saxons, others of the same stock, known as East Saxons, seized upon the low coast to the north of the Thames. From them the land was called Essex. Neither Saxons nor Jutes, however, were as yet able to penetrate far up the valley of the Thames, as the Roman settlement of London, surrounded by marshes, still blocked the way.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The South Saxons

477.—The conquests of the Jutes stopped at the inlet of the sea now filled by Romney Marsh. To the south and west was the impenetrable Andred's Wood, which covered what is now known as the Weald. At its eastern extremity stood by the sea the strong fortified town of Anderida, which gave its name to the wood, the most westerly of the fortresses of the Saxon Shore still unconquered by the Jutes. It was at last endangered by a fresh pirate band—not of Jutes but of Saxons—which landed near Selsey, and fought its way eastwards, conquering the South Downs and the flat land between the South Downs and the sea, till it reached Anderida. Anderida was starved out after a long blockade, and the Saxons, bursting in, 'slew all that dwelt therein, nor was there henceforth one Briton left.' To this day the Roman walls of Anderida stand round the site of the desolated city near the modern Pevensey. Its Saxon conquerors came to be known as the South Saxons, and their land as Sussex.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Conquest of Kent

It had been the custom of the Roman Empire to employ barbarians as soldiers in their armies, and Vortigern, the British ruler, now followed that bad example. In or about 449 a band of Jutish sea-rovers landed at Ebbsfleet, in the Isle of Thanet. According to tradition their leaders were Hengist and Horsa, names signifying the horse and the mare, which were not very likely to have been borne by real warriors. Whatever may have been the names of the chiefs, Vortigern took them into his service against the Picts, giving them the Isle of Thanet as a dwelling-place for themselves. With their help he defeated the Picts, but afterwards found himself unable to defend himself against his fierce auxiliaries. Thanet was still cut off from the mainland by an arm of the sea, and the Jutes were strong enough to hold it against all assailants. Their numbers rapidly increased as shiploads of their fellows landed, and they crossed the strait to win fresh lands from the Britons on the mainland of Kent. In several battles Vortigern was overpowered. His rival and successor, Ambrosius Aurelianus, whose name makes it probable that he was an upholder of the old Roman discipline, drove back the Jutes in turn. He did not long keep the upper hand, and in 465 he was routed utterly. The defeat of the British army was followed by an attack upon the great fortresses which had been erected along the Saxon Shore in the Roman times. The Jutes had no means of carrying them by assault, but they starved them out one by one, and some twenty-three years after their first landing, the whole of the coast of Kent was in their hands.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Britain after the Departure of the Roman

410—449?—After the departure of the Romans, the Picts from the north and the Scots from Ireland continued their ravages, but though they caused terrible misery by slaughtering or dragging into slavery the inhabitants of many parts of the country, they did not succeed in making any permanent conquests. The Britons were not without a government and an armed force; and their later history shows that they were capable of carrying on war for a long time against enemies more formidable than the Picts and Scots. Their rulers were known by the British title Gwledig, and probably held power in different parts of the island as the successors of the Roman Duke of the Britains and of the Roman Count of the Saxon Shore. Their power of resistance to the Picts and the Scots was, however, weakened by the impossibility of turning their undivided attention to these marauders, as at the same time that they had, to defend the Roman Wall and the western coast against the Picts and Scots, they were exposed on the eastern coast to the attacks of the Saxon pirates.

In their misery the thoughts of the Britons turned to those Roman legions who had defended their fathers so well. In 446 they appealed to Aëtius, the commander of the Roman armies, to deliver them from their destroyers. "The groans of the Britons" was the title which they gave to their appeal to him. "The barbarians," they wrote, "drive us to the sea; the sea drives us back to the barbarians; between them we are exposed to two sorts of death: we are either slain or drowned." Aëtius had no men to spare, and he sent no help to the Britons. Before long the whole of Western Europe was overrun by barbarian tribes, the title of Emperor being retained only by the Roman Emperor who ruled from Constantinople over the East, his authority over the barbarians of the West being no more than nominal.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Picts and Scots

The Roman Empire in the time of Constantine had the appearance rather than the reality of strength. Its taxation was very heavy, and there was no national enthusiasm to lead men to sacrifice themselves in its defence. Roman citizens became more and more unwilling to become soldiers at all, and the Roman armies were now mostly composed of barbarians. At the same time the barbarians outside the Empire were growing stronger, as the tribes often coalesced into wide confederacies for the purpose of attacking the Empire.

The assailants of Britain on the north and the west were the Picts and Scots. The Picts were the same as the Caledonians of the time of Agricola. We do not know why they had ceased to be called Caledonians. The usual derivation of their name from the Latin Pictus, said to have been given them because they painted their bodies, is inaccurate. Opinions differ whether they were Goidels with a strong Iberian strain, or Iberians with a Goidelic admixture. They were probably Iberians, and at all events they were more savage than the Britons had been before they were influenced by Roman civilisation. The Scots, who afterwards settled in what is now known as Scotland, at that time dwelt in Ireland. Whilst the Picts, therefore, assailed the Roman province by land, and strove, not always unsuccessfully, to break through the walls which defended its northern frontier, the Scots crossed the Irish Sea in light boats to plunder and slay before armed assistance could arrive.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Christianity in Britain

When the Romans put down the Druids and their bloody sacrifices, they called the old Celtic gods by Roman names, but made no further alteration in religious usages. Gradually, however, Christianity spread amongst the Romans on the Continent, and merchants or soldiers who came from the Continent introduced it into Britain. Scarcely anything is known of its progress in the island. Alban is said to have been martyred at Verulamium, and Julius and Aaron at Isca Silurum. In 314 three British bishops attended a council held at Arles in Gaul. Little more than these few facts have been handed down, but there is no doubt that there was a settled Church established in the island. The Emperor Constantine acknowledged Christianity as the religion of the whole Empire. The remains of a church of this period have recently been discovered at Silchester.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Roman Rulers of Britain

In 288 Carausius, with the help of some pirates, seized on the government of Britain and threw off the authority of the Emperor. He was succeeded by Allectus, yet neither Carausius nor Allectus thought of making himself the head of a British nation. They called themselves Emperors and ruled over Britain alone, merely because they could not get more to rule over.

Allectus was overthrown and slain by Constantius, who, however, did not rule, as Carausius and Allectus had done, by mere right of military superiority. The Emperor Diocletian (285—305) discovered that the whole Empire, stretching from the Euphrates to the Atlantic, was too extensive for one man to govern, and he therefore decreed that there should in future be four governors, two principal ones named Emperors (Augusti), and two subordinate ones named Cæsars. Constantius was first a Cæsar and afterwards an Emperor. He was set to govern Spain, Gaul, and Britain, but he afterwards became Emperor himself, and for some time established himself at Eboracum (York). Upon his death (306), his son Constantine, after much fighting, made himself sole Emperor (325), overthrowing the system of Diocletian. Yet in one respect he kept up Diocletian's arrangements. He placed Spain, Gaul, and Britain together under a great officer called a Vicar, who received orders from himself and who gave orders to the officers who governed each of the three countries. Under the new system, as under the old, Britain was not treated as an independent country. It had still to look for protection to an officer who lived on the Continent, and was therefore apt to be more interested in Gaul and Spain than he was in Britain.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Roman Province of Britain

Very little is known of the history of the Roman province of Britain, except that it made considerable progress in civilisation. The Romans were great road-makers, and though their first object was to enable their soldiers to march easily from one part of the country to another, they thereby encouraged commercial intercourse. Forests were to some extent cleared away by the sides of the new roads, and fresh ground was thrown open to tillage. Mines were worked and country houses built, the remains of which are in some places still to be seen, and bear testimony to the increased well-being of a population which, excepting in the south-eastern part of the island, had at the arrival of the Romans been little removed from savagery. Cities sprang up in great numbers. Some of them were at first garrison towns, like Eboracum, Deva, and Isca Silurum. Others, like Verulamium, near the present St. Albans, occupied the sites of the old stockades once used as places of refuge by the Celts, or, like Lindum, on the top of the hill on which Lincoln Cathedral now stands, were placed in strongly defensible positions. Aquæ Sulis, the modern Bath, owes its existence to its warm medicinal springs. The chief port of commerce was Londinium, the modern London. Attempts which have been made to explain its name by the Celtic language have failed, and it is therefore possible that an inhabited post existed there even before the Celts arrived. Its importance was, however, owing to its position, and that importance was not of a kind to tell before a settled system of commercial intercourse sprang up. London was situated on the hill on which St. Paul's now stands. There first, after the Thames narrowed into a river, the merchant found close to the stream hard ground on which he could land his goods. The valley for some distance above and below it was then filled with a wide marsh or an expanse of water. An old track raised above the marsh crossed the river by a ford at Lambeth, but, as London grew in importance, a ferry was established where London Bridge now stands, and the Romans, in course of time, superseded the ferry by a bridge. It is, therefore, no wonder that the Roman roads both from the north and from the south converged upon London. Just as Eboracum was a fitting centre for military operations directed to the defence of the northern frontier, London was the fitting centre of a trade carried on with the Continent, and the place would increase in importance in proportion to the increase of that trade.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Roman Walls

Agricola, in addition to his line of forts between the Forth and the Clyde, had erected detached forts at the mouth of the valleys which issue from the Highlands, in order to hinder the Caledonians from plundering the lower country. In 119 the Emperor Hadrian visited Britain. He was more disposed to defend the Empire than to extend it, and though he did not abandon Agricola's forts, he also built further south a continuous stone wall between the Solway and the Tyne. This wall, which, together with an earthwork of earlier date, formed a far stronger line of defence than the more northern forts, was intended to serve as a second barrier to keep out the wild Caledonians if they succeeded in breaking through the first. At a later time a lieutenant of the Emperor, Antoninus Pius, who afterwards became Emperor himself, connected Agricola's forts between the Forth and Clyde by a continuous earthwork. In 208 the Emperor Severus arrived in Britain, and after strengthening still further the earthwork between the Forth and Clyde, he attempted to carry out the plans of Agricola by conquering the land of the Caledonians. Severus, however, failed as completely as Agricola had failed before him, and he died soon after his return to Eboracum.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

King Aethelberht

Whatever may be the exact truth about the numbers of Britons saved alive by the English conquerors, there can be no doubt that English speech and English customs prevailed wherever the English settled. In Gaul, where the German Franks made themselves masters of the country, a different state of things prevailed. Roman officials continued to govern the country under Frankish kings, Roman bishops converted the conquerors to Christianity, and Roman cities maintained, as far as they could, the old standard of civilisation. All commercial intercourse between Gaul, still comparatively rich and prosperous, and Britain was for some time cut off by the irruption of the English, who were at first too rude and too much engaged in fighting to need the products of a more advanced race. Gradually, however, as the English settled down into peaceful industry along the south-eastern shores of the island, trade again sprang up, as it had sprung up in the wild times preceding the landing of Cæsar. The Gaulish merchants who crossed the straits found themselves in Kent, and during the years in which the West Saxon Ceawlin was struggling with the Britons the communications between Kent and the Continent had become so friendly that in 584, or a little later, Æthelberht, king of Kent, took to wife Bertha, the daughter of a Frankish king, Charibert. Bertha was a Christian, and brought with her a Christian bishop. She begged of her husband a forsaken Roman church for her own use. This church, now known as St. Martin's, stood outside the walls of the deserted city of Durovernum, the buildings of which were in ruins, except where a group of rude dwellings rose in a corner of the old fortifications. In these dwellings Æthelberht and his followers lived, and to them had been given the new name of Cantwarabyrig or Canterbury (the dwelling of the men of Kent). The English were heathen, but their heathenism was not intolerant.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Agricola in Britain

78—84.—Agricola, who arrived as governor in 78, took care to deal fairly with all sorts of men, and to make the natives thoroughly satisfied with his rule. He completed the conquest of the country afterwards known as Wales, and thereby pushed the western frontier of Roman Britain to the sea. Yet from the fact that he found it necessary still to leave garrisons at Deva and Isca Silurum, it may be gathered that the tribes occupying the hill country were not so thoroughly subdued as to cease to be dangerous. Although the idea entertained by Ostorius of making a frontier on land towards the west had thus been abandoned, it was still necessary to provide a frontier towards the north. Even before Agricola arrived it had been shown to be impossible to stop at the line between the Mersey and the Humber. Beyond that line was the territory of the Brigantes, who had for some time occupied the position which in the first years of the Roman conquest had been occupied by the Iceni—that is to say, they were in friendly dependence upon Rome, without being actually controlled by Roman authority. Before Agricola's coming disputes had arisen with them, and Roman soldiers had occupied their territory. Agricola finished the work of conquest. He now governed the whole of the country as far north as to the Solway and the Tyne, and he made Eboracum, the name of which changed in course of time into York, the centre of Roman power in the northern districts. A garrison was established there to watch for any danger which might come from the extreme north, as the garrisons of Deva and Isca Silurum watched for dangers which might come from the west.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Colony of Camulodunum

In 47 Aulus Plautius was succeeded by Ostorius Scapula. He disarmed the tribes dwelling to the west of the Trent, whilst he attempted to establish the Roman authority more firmly over those whose territory lay to the east of that river. Amongst these later were the Iceni, who had been hitherto allowed to preserve their native government in dependence on the Roman power. The consequence was that they rose in arms. Ostorius overpowered them, and then sought to strengthen his hold upon the south-east of Britain by founding a Roman colony at Camulodunum, which had formerly been the headquarters of Cunobelin. Roman settlers—for the most part discharged soldiers—established themselves in the new city, bringing with them all that belonged to Roman life with all its conveniences and luxuries. Roman temples, theatres, and baths quickly rose, and Ostorius might fairly expect that in Britain, as in Gaul, the native chiefs would learn to copy the easy life of the new citizens, and would settle their quarrels in Roman courts of law instead of taking arms on their own behalf.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Britain in the Roman Empire

The Roman state was now a monarchy. The Emperor was the head of the army, as well as the head of the state. Though he was often a cruel oppressor of the wealthy personages who lived in Rome itself, and whose rivalry he feared, he, for the most part, sought to establish his power by giving justice to the provinces which had once been conquered by Rome, but were now admitted to share in the advantages of good government which the Empire had to give. One consequence of the conquest of nations by Rome was that there was now an end to cruel wars between hostile tribes. An army was stationed on the frontier of the Empire to defend it against barbarian attacks. In the interior the Roman peace, as it was called, prevailed, and there was hardly any need of soldiers to keep order and to maintain obedience.

One question which each Emperor had to ask himself was whether he would attempt to enlarge the limits of the Empire or not. For a time each Emperor had resolved to be content with the frontier which Cæsar had left. There had consequently for many years been no thought of again invading Britain. At last the Emperor Claudius reversed this policy. There is reason to suppose that some of the British chiefs had made an attack upon the coasts of Gaul. However this may have been, Claudius in 43 sent Aulus Plautius against Togidumnus and Caratacus, the sons of Cunobelin, who were now ruling in their father's stead. Where one tribe has gained supremacy over others, it is always easy for a civilised power to gain allies amongst the tribes which have been subdued. Cæsar had overpowered Cassivelaunus by enlisting on his side the revolted Trinobantes, and Aulus Plautius now enlisted on his side the Regni, who dwelt in the present Sussex, and the Iceni, who dwelt in the present Norfolk and Suffolk. With their aid, Aulus Plautius, at the head of 40,000 men, defeated the sons of Cunobelin. Togidumnus was slain, and Caratacus driven into exile. The Romans then took possession of their lands, and, stepping into their place, established over the tribes chieftains who were now dependent on the Emperor instead of on Togidumnus and Caratacus. Claudius himself came for a brief visit to receive the congratulations of the army on the victory which his lieutenant had won. Aulus Plautius remained in Britain till 47. Before he left it the whole of the country to the south of a line drawn from the Wash to some point on the Severn had been subjugated. The mines of the Mendips and of the western peninsula were too tempting to be left unconquered, and it is probably their attraction which explains the extension of Roman power at so early a date over the hilly country in the west.

South-eastern Britain after Caesar's Departure

B.C. 54—A.D. 43. For nearly a century after Cæsar's departure Britain was left to itself. The Catuvellauni recovered the predominance which they had lost. Their chieftain, Cunobelin, the original of Shakspere's Cymbeline, is thought to have been a grandson of Cassivelaunus. He established his power over the Trinobantes as well as over his own people, and made Camulodunum, the modern Colchester, his headquarters. Other tribes submitted to him as they had submitted to his grandfather. The prosperity of the inhabitants of south-eastern Britain increased more rapidly than the prosperity of their ancestors had increased before Cæsar's invasion. Traders continued to flock over from Gaul, bringing with them a knowledge of the arts and refinements of civilised life, and those arts and refinements were far greater now that Gaul was under Roman rule than they had been when its Celtic tribes were still independent. Yet, in spite of the growth of trade, Britain was still a rude and barbarous country. Its exports were but cattle and hides, corn, slaves, and hunting dogs, together with a few dusky pearls.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Caesar's Second Invasion. B.C. 54

Cæsar had hitherto failed to strike terror into the Britons. In the following year he started in July, so as to have many weeks of fine weather before him, taking with him as many as 25,000 foot and 2,000 horse. After effecting a landing he pushed inland to the Kentish Stour, where he defeated the natives and captured one of their stockades. Good soldiers as the Romans were, they were never quite at home on the sea, and Cæsar was recalled to the coast by the news that the waves had dashed to pieces a large number of his ships. As soon as he had repaired the damage he resumed his march. His principal opponent was Cassivelaunus, the chief of the tribe of the Catuvellauni, who had subdued many of the neighbouring tribes, and whose stronghold was a stockade near the modern St. Albans. This chief and his followers harassed the march of the Romans with the rush of their chariots. If Cassivelaunus could have counted upon the continued support of all his warriors, he might perhaps have succeeded in forcing Cæsar to retreat, as the country was covered with wood and difficult to penetrate. Many of the tribes, however, which now served under him longed to free themselves from his rule. First, the Trinobantes and then four other tribes broke away from him and sought the protection of Cæsar. Cæsar, thus encouraged, dashed at his stockade and (p. 012) carried it by storm. Cassivelaunus abandoned the struggle, gave hostages to Cæsar, and promised to pay a yearly tribute. On this Cæsar returned to Gaul. Though the tribute was never paid, he had gained his object. He had sufficiently frightened the British tribes to make it unlikely that they would give him any annoyance in Gaul.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Caesar's First Invasion

Julius CesarAccordingly, towards the end of August, Cæsar crossed the straits with about 10,000 men. There is some uncertainty about the place of his landing, but he probably first appeared off the spot at which Dover now stands, and then, being alarmed at the number of the Britons who had crowded to defend the coast, made his way by sea to the site of the modern Deal. There, too, his landing was opposed, but he managed to reach the shore with his army. He soon found, however, that the season was too advanced to enable him to accomplish anything. A storm having damaged his shipping and driven off the transports on which was embarked his cavalry, he returned to Gaul.

The Romans in Gaul

In the year 55 B.C. the Celts of south-eastern Britain first came in contact with a Roman army. The Romans were a civilised people, and had been engaged for some centuries in conquering the peoples living round the Mediterranean. They possessed disciplined armies, and a regular government. By the beginning of the year the Roman general, Gaius Julius Cæsar, had made himself master of Gaul. Then, after driving back with enormous slaughter two German tribes which had invaded Gaul, he crossed the Rhine, not because he wished to conquer Germany, but because he wished to strike (p. 011) terror into the Germans in order to render them unwilling to renew their attack. This march into Germany seems to have suggested to Cæsar the idea of invading Britain. It is most unlikely that he thought of conquering the island, as he had quite enough to do in Gaul. What he really wanted was to prevent the Britons from coming to the help of their kindred whom he had just subdued, and he would accomplish this object best by landing on their shores and showing them how formidable a Roman army was.

Gauls and Belgians in Britain

During the time when this trade was being carried on, tribes of Gauls and Belgians landed in Britain. The Gauls were certainly, and the Belgians probably, of the same Celtic race as that which already occupied the island. The Gauls settled on the east coast as far as the Fens and the Wash, whilst the Belgians occupied the south coast, and pushed northwards towards the Somerset Avon. Nothing is known of the relations between the new-comers and the older Celtic inhabitants. Most likely those who arrived last contented themselves with mastering those whom they defeated, without attempting to exterminate them. At all events, states of some extent were formed by the conquerors. Thus the Cantii occupied the open ground to the north of the great forest which then filled the valley between the chalk ranges of the North and South Downs; the Trinobantes dwelt between the Lea and the Essex Stour; the Iceni occupied the peninsula between the Fens and the sea which was afterwards known as East Anglia (Norfolk and Suffolk); and the Catuvellauni dwelt to the west of the Trinobantes, spreading over the modern Hertfordshire and the neighbouring districts.

Goidels and Britons

StonehengeThe earliest known name given to this island was Albion. It is uncertain whether the word is of Celtic or of Iberian origin. The later name Britain is derived from a second swarm of Celts called Brythons or Britons, who after a long interval followed the first Celtic immigration. The descendants of these first immigrants are distinguished from the new-comers by the name of Goidels, and it is probable that they were at one time settled in Britain as well as in Ireland, and that they were pushed across the sea into Ireland by the stronger and more civilised Britons. At all events, when history begins Goidels were only to be found in Ireland, though at a later time they colonised a part of what is now known as Scotland, and sent some offshoots into Wales.

At present the languages derived from that of the Goidels are the Gaelic of the Highlands, the Manx of the Isle of Man, and the Erse of Ireland. The only language now spoken in the British Isles which is derived from that of the Britons is the Welsh; but the old Cornish language, which was spoken nearly up to the close of the eighteenth century, came from the same stock. It is therefore likely that the Britons pushed the Goidels northward and westward, as the Goidels had formerly pushed the Iberians in the same directions.

It was most likely that the Britons erected the huge stone circle of Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain, though it is not possible to speak with certainty. That of Avebury is of an earlier date and uncertain origin. Both were probably intended to serve as monuments of the dead, though it is sometimes supposed that they were also used as temples.

Phœnicians and Greeks

The most civilised nations of the ancient world were those which dwelt round the Mediterranean Sea. It was long supposed that the Phœnicians came to Britain from the coast of Syria, or from their colonies at Carthage and in the south of Spain, for the tin which they needed for the manufacture of bronze. The peninsula of Devon and Cornwall is the only part of the island which produces tin, and it has therefore been thought that the Cassiterides, or tin islands, which the Phœnicians visited, were to be found in that region. It has, however, been recently shown that the Cassiterides were most probably off the coast of Galicia, in Spain, and the belief that Phœnicians visited Britain for tin must therefore be considered to be very doubtful.

The first educated visitor who reached Britain was Pytheas, a Greek, who was sent by the merchants of the Greek colony of Massalia (Marseilles) about 330 B.C. to make discoveries which might lead to the opening across Gaul of a trade-route between Britain and their city. It was probably in consequence of the information which he carried to Massalia on his return that there sprang up a trade in British tin.

Another Greek, Posidonius, who came to Britain about two centuries after Pytheas, found this trade in full working order. The tin was brought by land from the present Devon or Cornwall to an island called Ictis, which was only accessible on foot after the tide had ebbed. This island was probably Thanet, which was in those days cut off from the mainland by an arm of the sea which could be crossed on foot at low water. From Thanet the tin was carried into Gaul across the straits, and was then conveyed in waggons to the Rhone to be floated down to the Mediterranean.

Celts and Iberians

The Iberians were followed by a swarm of new-comers called Celts. The Celts belong to a group of races sometimes known as the Aryan group, to which also belong Teutons, Slavonians, Italians, Greeks, and the chief ancient races of Persia and India. The Celts were the first to arrive in the West, where they seized upon lands in Spain, in Gaul, and in Britain, which the Iberians had occupied before them. They did not, however, destroy the Iberians altogether. However careful a conquering tribe maybe to preserve the purity of its blood, it rarely succeeds in doing so. The conquerors (p. 006) are sure to preserve some of the men of the conquered race as slaves, and a still larger number of young and comely women who become the mothers of their children. In time the slaves and the children learn to speak the language of their masters or fathers. Thus every European population is derived from many races.

Neolithic Man

Ages passed away during which the climate became more temperate, and the earth's surface in these regions sank to a lower level. The seas afterwards known as the North Sea and the English Channel flowed over the depression; and an island was thus formed out of land which had once been part of the continent. After this process had taken place, a third race appeared, which must have crossed the sea in rafts or canoes, and which took the place of the Palæolithic men. They are known as Neolithic, or men of the new stone age, because their stone implements were of a newer kind, being polished and more efficient than those of their predecessors. They had, therefore, the advantage of superior weapons, and perhaps of superior strength, and were able to overpower those whom they found in the island. With their stone axes they made clearings in the woods in which to place their settlements. They brought with them domestic animals, sheep and goats, dogs and pigs. They spun thread with spindle and distaff, and wove it into cloth upon a loom. They grew corn and manufactured a rude kind of pottery.

Each tribe lived in a state of war with its neighbours. A tribe when attacked in force took shelter on the hills in places of refuge, which were surrounded by lofty mounds and ditches. Many of these places of refuge are still to be seen, as, for instance, the one which bears the name of Maiden Castle, near Dorchester. On the open hills, too, are still to be found the long barrows which the Neolithic men raised over the dead. There is little doubt that these men, whose way of life was so superior to that of their Eskimo-like predecessors, were of the race now known (p. 005) as Iberian, which at one time inhabited a great part of Western Europe, but which has since mingled with other races. The Basques of the Pyrenees are the only Iberians who still preserve anything like purity of descent, though even the Basques have in them blood the origin of which is not Iberian.

Cave-dwelling Palæolithic Man

This race was succeeded by another which dwelt in caves. They, as well as their predecessors, are known as Palæolithic men, as their weapons were still very rude. As, however, they had learnt to make handles for them, they could construct arrows, harpoons, and javelins. They also made awls and needles of stone; and, what is more remarkable, they possessed a decided artistic power, which enabled them to indicate by a few vigorous scratches the forms of horses, mammoths, reindeer, and other animals. Vast heaps of rubbish still exist in various parts of Europe, which are found to consist of the bones, shells, and other refuse thrown out by these later Palæolithic men, who had no reverence for the dead, casting out the bodies of their relations to decay with as little thought as they threw away oyster-shells or reindeer-bones.

Traces of Palæolithic men of this type have been found as far north as Derbyshire. Their descendants are no longer be met with in these islands. The Eskimos of the extreme north of America, however, have the same artistic faculty and the same disregard for the dead, and it has therefore been supposed that the cave-dwelling men were of the race to which the modern Eskimos belong.

Palæolithic Man of the River-Drift

Countless ages ago, there was a period of time to which geologists have given the name of the Pleistocene Age. The part of the earth's surface afterwards called Britain was then attached to the Continent, so that animals could pass over on dry land. The climate was much colder than it is now, and it is known from the bones which have been dug up that the country was inhabited by wolves, bears, mammoths, woolly rhinoceroses, and other creatures now extinct. No human remains have been found amongst these bones, but there is no doubt that men existed contemporaneously with their deposit, because, in the river drift, or gravel washed down by rivers, there have been discovered flints sharpened by chipping, which can only have been produced by the hand of man. The men who used them are known as Palæolithic, or the men of ancient stone, because these stone implements are rougher and therefore older than others which have been discovered. These Palæolithic men of the river drift were a race of stunted savages who did not cultivate the ground, but lived on the animals which they killed, and must have had great difficulty in procuring food, as they did not know how to make handles for their sharpened flints, and must therefore have had to hold them in their hands