Account of the Romansh Language eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 24 pages of information about Account of the Romansh Language.

Ambigatus, the first king of the Celtic Gaul upon record, who[D] about 400[E] years before Christ, governed all the country situated between the Alps and the Pyrenaean mountains, sent out two formidable armies under the command of one of his nephews; one of whom, named Segovisius, forced his way into the heart of Germany:  and the other, Bellovisius, having passed the Alps, penetrated into Italy as far as the settlements of the Tuscans, which at that time extended over the greatest part of the country now called Lombardy.  These, and several other swarms of invaders whom the successes of the former soon after attracted, having totally subdued that country, built Milan, Verona, Brescia, and several other considerable towns, and governed with such tyrannic sway, especially over the nobility, whose riches they coveted and sought by every means to extort from them, that most of the principal families, joining under the conduct of Rhaetus[F], one of the most distinguished personages among them, retired with the best part of their effects and attendants among the steepest mountains of the Alps, near the sources of the Rhine, into the district which is now called the Grey League.

The motive of their flight, their civil deportment, and perhaps more so, the wealth they brought with them, procured them a favourable reception from the original inhabitants of that inhospitable region, who are mentioned by authors[G] as being a Celtic nation, fabulously conjectured from their name [Greek:  leipontio][H] to have been left there by Hercules in his expedition into Spain.

The new adventurers had no sooner climbed over the highest precipices, but thinking themselves secure from the pursuits of their rapacious enemies, they fixed in a valley which, from its great fertility in comparison of the country they had just passed, they called Domestica[I].  They intermixed with the old inhabitants, and built some towns and many castles, whose present names manifestly bespeak their origin.[J] They soon after spread all over the country, which took the name of Rhaetia from that of their leader; and introduced a form of government similar to their own, of which there are evident traces at this day, especially in the administration of justice; in which a Laertes or president, now called landamman or ministral, together with twelve Lucumones[K] or jurors, determine all causes, both civil and criminal:[L] and Livy,[M] although he erroneously pretends that they retained none of their ancient customs, yet allows that they continued the use of their language, though somewhat adulterated by a mixture with that of the Aborigines.

I must here interrupt the thread of this narration by observing, that the only way to account for the present use of a different language in the centre and most craggy parts of the Grey League, is by allowing that the Tuscans, who, from the delicacy of their constitutions and habits, were little able, and less inclined, to encounter the hardships of so severe a climate and so barren a soil, never attempted to mix with the original and more sturdy inhabitants of that unfavoured spot; but left them and their language, which could only be a Celtic idiom, in the primitive state in which they found them.[N]

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Account of the Romansh Language from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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