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PLEADING BEFORE THE EMPEROR CLAUDIUS. Previous to the invasion of Cæsar, the Greeks and Romans had the most imperfect notions of the British islands. It is agreed by the British antiquaries, that the most ancient inhabitants of our island were called Cymry (pronounced Kumri): they are so named in all that remains of the ancient British literature. The Welsh, who are their descendants, have always called themselves Cymri ; and have given the same appellation to the earliest colonists of our island.
The historical accounts of the Welsh connect themselves with these suppositions in a very striking manner; they state that the Cymry were the first inhabitants of Britain, before whose arrival it was occupied by bears,
wolves, beavers, and oxen with large protuberances. They add, that Hu Cadarn, or Hu the Strong, or Mighty, led the nation of the Cymry through the Hazy, or German Ocean, into Britain, and to Llydaw, or Armorica, in France; and that the Cymry came from the eastern parts of Europe, or the regions where Constantinople now stands.
The accounts are as follow : “Three names have been given to the isle of Britain since the beginning. Before it was inhabited it was called Clas Merddin (literally the country with sea cliffs), and afterwards Fel Ynis (the island of honey). When the government had been imposed upon it by Prydain, the son of Aedd the Great, it was called Yyns Prydain (the island of Prydain); and there was no tribute to any but to the race of the Cymry, because they first obtained it; and before them there were no more men alive in it, nor any thing else but bears, wolves, beavers, and the oxen with the high prominence."
Cæsar mentions, that one of the Celtic kings in Gaul, Divitiacus, who governed there the Suessiones, and was the most powerful prince in that country, had subjected also part of Britain to his power. From him also we learn, that the Celts of Armorica called upon some of the British tribes to aid them against his hostilities; and one of his reasons for attacking Britain was, that it had assisted the Celtic Gauls to resist him. He speaks also of its being visited by the Celtic merchants ; and before his invasion of Britain, he sent one of the Celtic princes of Gaul, whom he had made a king, into our island, to persuade the Britons to be friendly to the Roman state, because the authority of this chieftain was great in Britain.
That colonies of Celtic race entered the British islands from Gaul, has always appeared to our antiquaries so probable, that there is scarcely any circumstance on which they have so cordially agreed, The Welsh tradition may be therefore read without incredulity, which deduces two colonies from Gaul, not Cymry, or Cimmerians, but of Cimmerian origin; the one from Armorica, and the other from Gascony,
The fifth account is this : " The three peaceful people of the isle of Britain, The first were the nation of Cymry, who came with Hu Cadarn to the island of Britain. He obtained not the country, nor the lands, by slaughter or contest, but with justice and peace. The other was the race of the Lloegrwys, who came from the land of Gwasgwyn ; and they were of the first race of the Cymry. The third were the Brython, and from the land of Llydaw they came; and they were of the first race of the Cymry. And these were called the three peaceful nations, because they came one to the other with peace and tranquillity; and these three nations were of the first race of the Cymry, and they were of the same language."
NAMES OE ENGLAND,
According to the Welsh accounts, while this island was uninhabited by human colonies, and was full of bears, wolves, beavers, and a peculiar kind
of wild cattle, it had the name of Clas Merddhin. In this state, Hy Cadarn led the first colony of the Cymry to it, of whom some went to Bretagne. It then acquired the name of the Honey Island. In the course of time, Prydain, the son of Aedd the Great, reigned in it, and from him it was called Ynys Prydain, the Isle of Prydain ; which is its present denomination in Welsh, and which the Greeks and Romans seem to have extended into Britannia.
It was afterwards visited by two foreign tribes of Cimmerian origin, the Lloegrwys, from Gwasgwyn, or Gascony; and the Brython, from Llydaw, or Bretagne. Both of these were peaceable colonists. The Lloegrwys impressed their name upon a large portion of the island.
At subsequent periods, other people came with more or less violence. The Romans; the Gwyddyl Fficti (the Picts) to Alban or Scotland, on the part which lies nearest to the Baltic; the Celyddon (Caledonians) to the north parts of the island; the Gwyddyl to other parts of Scotland ; the Corraniaid from Pwyll (perhaps Poland) to the Humber ; the men of Galedin, or Flanders, to Wyth ; the Saxons; and the Llychlynians, or Northmen.
The Belgæ whom Cæsar particularises to have passed over from Belgic Gaul, and to have established themselves in the island by their victories, occupied part of the coast of the British Channel. He distinguishes the Cantii, or people of Kent, as more advanced than the rest in the habit of civilised life, and as not differing much from the people of Gaul. The Belgæ practised agriculture. But most of the interior tribes lived on milk and flesh, or in that state which has been called the pastoral, and clothed themselves with skins.
All the Britains stained themselves of a blue colour with woad, which gave them a more horrible appearance in battle. They wore long hair on their heads, but shaved it from other parts of the body excepting the upper lip. Their population appeared numerous to the Romans.
The aspect of the country, as it first struck their view, presented a succession of forests, lakes, and great rivers ; and Mela remarks of it, what must have been true of most parts of Europe, where agriculture was little practised, that it was more adapted to the kindly nourishment of cattle than of men.
He also represents the people in general as not only uncivilised, but as much behind the nations on the continent in their social culture. Their cattle and fields were their general wealth, and they seem to have been acquainted with no other.
Their houses, chiefly formed of reeds or wood, were very numerous, like those of the Gauls, and were usually seated in the midst of woods, perhaps for better defence, as those of the New Zealanders are, for the same reason, placed on fortified hills. The wars of fierce and rude men, unacquainted with military discipline, or disdaining to submit to it, usually consist of attempts to surprise and ravage ; and therefore precautions against sudden aggressions are the most essential parts of their defensive skill. The Britons seem to have cleared a space in the wood, on which they built their huts
and folded their cattle; and they fenced the avenues by ditches and barriers of trees. Such a collection of houses formed one of their towns.
They had numerous herds of cattle. Some of the British tribes are said not to have had the art of making cheese, though they had abundance of milk; others knew nothing of either agriculture or gardening. They housed their corn in the ear, in subterraneous places, and threshed out no more than served them for the day. The little money which they had, was either copper or iron rings, of a definite weight.
The Druidical system began in Britain, and from thence was introduced into Gaul. In Cæsar's time, they who wished to know it more diligently, for the most part visited Britain for the sake of learning it. The Druids were present at all religious rites; they administered at public and private sacrifices; and they interpreted divinations. They were so honoured, that they decided almost all public and private controversies, and all causes, whether of homicide, inheritance, or boundaries. They appointed the remunerations and the punishments. Whoever disobeyed their decree, was interdicted from their sacrifices, which with them was the severest punishment.
Such were the Britons whom Cæsar, after his conquest in Gaul, and an expedition into Germany, resolved to invade, in the year 54, before the birth of Christ.
His first expedition into Britain was to reconnoitre ; not to subdue He was compelled to fight upon his landing, in the vicinity of Dover, because the Kentish Britons immediately opposed him-conflicting even amidst the waves, with signal courage ; and although Cæsar, observing his troops to be dispirited by the British attacks, ordered up the vessels with his artillery, and poured from their side, stones, arrows, and other missiles, yet the natives stood the unusual discharges with intrepidity, and he made no impression. It was the rushing forward, alone, of the bearer of the eagle of the tenth legion, exclaiming, “ Follow me, unless you mean to betray your standard to your enemies," that roused the Roman legions to that desperate and closer battle, which at length forced back the Britons, and secured a landing. The Britons retired ; and Cæsar did not pursue. The natives of the locality sent a message of peace; but four days afterwards, a tempest dispersing his feet, they assaulted the Romans with new attacks. Cæsar repulsed them; but after this success he thought it expedient, without advancing, to quit the island suddenly at midnight. He ascribes his departure to the approach of the autumnal equinox ; but lie knew of this event before his landing.
His next invasion, in the ensuing summer, was more formidable. It was made with five well-appointed legions, and two thousand cavalry-a force of thirty thousand of the best disciplined troops then known, under the ablest commander. As the Britons did not contest the landing, it was easily effected. On this visit he quitted the coasts, and marched twelve miles