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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Accordingly, 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.
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.
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.
The 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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