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in the northern seas. Nothing was known certainly about Britain.
But in the year 55 B.C., Julius Cæsar, a Roman general, who had spent several years in subduing Gaul, the modern France, determined to invade Britain, thinking that the conquest of this island, which the Romans thought was beyond the limits of the world, would greatly advance his glory and influence, and would make it easier for him to obtain the chief power at Rome. So he alleged that the Britons had aided his enemies, the Gauls, and he came over at the head of a small but well-disciplined army, to punish the Britons for the help they had given to their neighbours. He managed to defeat the Britons, after a hard fight on the beach; and, after staying a few days in the country, he went back to Gaul. Next year, he came again, defeated the Britons once more, and crossed the Thames. But his stay was short. He soon after went to Rome, defeated all his enemies in different parts of the world, and was at last assassinated by some of his intimate friends, when he was on the point of being crowned as
Julius Cæsar was not only a great warrior, he was also a clever historian. He wrote in Latin, the language of the Romans, and his books remain to this day, and are commonly read by Latin scholars. It is to Cæsar that we owe the best account of the Ancient Britons, and if you should ever learn Latin, you can read for yourselves what he says about them. It would take too long to write out Cæsar's full account, but I will translate some parts of it for you.
He says “the island is well-peopled, there are plenty of houses like those in Gaul, and a great many cattle. They use brass money or iron rings of a certain weight. There is timber of every sort, as in Gaul, except the beech and fir. The people think it wrong to eat the hare, and hen, and
goose. “ Those who inhabit Kent are by far the most civilized
of them all. Those who dwell inland do not sow corn, but live on milk and flesh, and are clothed with skins. But all the Britons paint themselves with woad, which gives a blue colour, and on this account they are the more dreadful in appearance in battle. They have long hair, and shave all parts of the body except the head and upper lip.”
“This is their method of fighting from chariots. At first they drive them in all directions, and throw their darts, and often break the ranks of their enemies by the very terror of their horses and noise of the wheels; and when they have introduced themselves between the ranks of the cavalry, they leap from their chariots, and fight on foot. Meanwhile the chariot-drivers retire a little from the combat, and so place themselves, that if their warriors are overpowered by the number of the enemy, they may rapidly retreat to their own men. So they have the rapidity of cavalry and the stability of infantry in engagements, and are so skilful from daily use and exercise, that they are accustomed to stop their horses at full speed on sloping and precipitous ground, and rein them in and turn them in brief space, and to run along the pole, and stand on the yoke, and again betake themselves into the chariot with the greatest quickness.”.
The chariots that Cæsar speaks of had sharp scythes fastened to the axles of the wheels, which would do much damage among the ranks of their enemies.
It appears that the country was possessed by as many as forty different tribes, and that there were frequent wars among them. This made it easier for the Romans afterwards to conquer the whole country.
The houses that Cæsar mentions seem to have been round buildings of wood; and a number of the houses placed together, and sometimes surrounded with a ditch and a wooden palisade, made a town.
The people in the south of the country cultivated the ground, and used the corn that they grew for food; but agriculture was not practised elsewhere.
The religion of the Ancient Britons was a form of idolatry called Druidism, and the priests were Druids. The Druids were a privileged class, and were the religious teachers, lawgivers, and judges of the people. They celebrated their worship in the open air; sometimes under the oak, which was a sacred tree to them, and sometimes in open temples, made of circles of huge stones, like those at Stonehenge, in Wiltshire. They taught that after death men's souls passed into other bodies, sometimes into the bodies of animals. They also offered human sacrifices; and it is said, that at certain periods, great numbers of human beings were enclosed in a huge image of wicker-work, and then burned in honour of their numerous gods.
When we put these facts together, we can form a pretty correct opinion about these ancestors of ours. We must admit they were rude and uncultivated, but we may say they were eminently brave, and superior in many ways to the generality of uncivilised nations. If they were savages, they were certainly savages of a
LESSON 2.-THE ROMANS IN BRITAIN.
55, 54 B.C. Cæsar invaded Britain.
Aulus Plautius in Britain. 61
Suetonius captures Anglesea-defeat of Boadicea. 78
Agricola in Britain. 304
The martydom of St. Alban. 410-420 Romans leave Britain.
Heroic-brave as a hero.
Superstitious terror-terror arising from Inspired-filled with spirit (Lat. in, in; false notions of religion. spiro, I breathe).
Localities-places (Lat. locus, a place). Historian-one who writes an account Massive-huge, of vast bulk.
AFTER Julius Cæsar left Britain, the Romans made no attempt to conquer the country for nearly a hundred years. It was not till 43 A.D. that the Roman general, Aulus Plautius, landed in Britain, and after some years' hard fighting managed to subdue all the country south of the Thames. Another general succeeded him, and subdued Wales, after a gallant resistance on the part of Caractacus, a British chieftain. This heroic Briton was at length taken prisoner, and carried to Rome, where he would probably have been put to death, but for his noble bearing and conduct, which so influenced the Roman emperor that his life was spared.
The Druids had made the island of Mona (Anglesea), the chief seat of their worship, and as they inspired the Britons to resist the Romans, Suetonius, a Roman general and historian, determined to attack Mona, and destroy the Druids. With this idea, he drew an army together to the opposite coast of what is now Caernarvonshire, and made preparations for crossing the narrow strait. The Druids, on their part, had collected a number of warriors, and had made large fires on the beach, in which to burn their enemies. They devoted the Romans to their gods, and women ran about among the warriors with their hair in disorder and with loud cries. The Romans were at first seized with superstitious terror, and were afraid to commence the attack, but at length, incited by their general, they crossed the strait, and obtained an easy victory. The Druids were burnt in the fires they had kindled for the destruction of their enemies, their sacred groves were cut down, and their religion never recovered the blow it then received.
But while Suetonius was busy in Mona, a new danger threatened the Romans in the East of the country. There the Britons, enraged at the cruel wrongs their queen Boadicea had received from the Romans, had gathered in a vast army, had attacked and burnt the Roman towns, and had killed every Roman they could catch. Suetonius hurried to meet them, and a great battle ensued, in which the Britons were defeated with immense slaughter, and poor Boadicea poisoned herself when she saw her army cut to pieces, and all her hopes destroyed. In this way was the country made quiet by Suetonius. They “made a desolation and called it peace.
Still the Britons continued to trouble the Romans. And it was not till Julius Agricola became the Roman general in Britain, about 80 A.D., that they quietly submitted. Agricola marched quite into Scotland, and defeated Galgacus, a Scottish chieftain, near the Grampian mountains. He also sent his fleet round the coast, and first found out that Britain was an island.
When he had subdued the Britons, he endeavoured to make them friendly towards their conquerors, by treating them with justice, and by introducing the manners and customs of the civilized Romans. Noble roads were made quite across the country in different directions. It thus became easy to send bodies of troops to any part where they were wanted, and intercourse between different parts of the country sprung up and was maintained. The people were encouraged to adopt the Roman dress, and to learn the Latin language. The chief men would probably do this, though it does not appear that Latin was ever used by the mass of the people. Towns were built after the Roman fashion, containing baths, theatres, and fine buildings. Bodies of Roman soldiers were placed in various localities, either in fortified camps, or in towns. These troops could crush out any attempt at insurrection if it were made, and in this way the Britons were kept quiet.
, It is to Agricola that we attribute the commencement of happier times for the Britons, and those who became governors after him, seem to have carried on the work he begun. So that under the Roman government, our country became civilized and peaceful. A number of Roman soldiers were always kept in Britain, and the Romans used to carry off many of the young men of the country to serve as soldiers in other parts of their vast empire. If we recollect this, it will enable us to understand how a single state could keep all the known world in subjection, as Rome did. It was done by using the men of one country to overawe those of another. Britons were sent into Spain and Africa, and