Early Britain—Roman Britain eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 242 pages of information about Early Britain—Roman Britain.


Celtic types—­“Roy” and “Dhu”—­Gael—­Silurians—­Loegrians—­Basque peoples—­Shifting of clans—­Constitutional disturbances—­Monarchy —­Oligarchy—­Demagogues—­First inscribed coins.

F. 1.—­Our earliest records point to the existence among the Celtic tribes in Britain of the two physical types still to be found amongst them; the tall, fair, red-haired, blue-eyed Gael, whom his clansmen denominate “Roy” (the Red), and the dark complexion, hair and eyes, usually associated with shorter stature, which go with the designation “Dhu” (the Black).  Rob Roy and Roderick Dhu are familiar illustrations of this nomenclature.  In classical times these types were much less intermingled than now, and were characteristic of separate races.  The former prevailed almost exclusively amongst the true Britons of the south and east, and the Gaelic septs of the north, while the latter was found throughout the west, in Devon, Cornwall, and Wales.  The Silurians, of Glamorgan, are specially noted as examples of this “black” physique, and a connection has been imagined between them and the Basques of Iberia, an idea originating with Strabo.

F. 2.—­That a good deal of non-Aryan blood was, and is, to be found in both regions is fairly certain; but any closer correlation must be held at any rate not proven.  For though Strabo asserts that the Silurians differ not only in looks but in language from the Britons, while in both resembling the Iberians, it is probable that he derives his information from Pytheas four centuries earlier.  At that date non-Aryan speech may very possibly still have lingered on in the West, but there is no trace whatever to be found of anything of the sort in the nomenclature of the district during or since the Roman occupation.  All is unmitigated Celtic.  We may, however, possibly find a confirmation of Strabo’s view in the word Logris applied to Southern Britain by the Celtic bards of the Arturian cycle.  The word is said to be akin to Liger (Loire), and tradition traced the origin of the Loegrians to the southern banks of that river, which were undoubtedly held by Iberian (Basque) peoples at least to the date when Pytheas visited those parts.  The name, indeed, seems to be connected with that of the Ligurians, a kindred non-Aryan community, surviving, in historical times, only amongst the Maritime Alps.

F. 3.—­It is probable that the status of each clan was continually shifting; and what little we know of their names and locations, their rise and their fall, presents an even more kaleidoscopic phantasmagoria than the mediaeval history of the Scotch Highlands, or the principalities of Wales, or the ever-changing septs of ancient Ireland.  Tribes absorbed or destroyed by conquering tribes, tribes confederating with others under a fresh name, this or that chief becoming a new eponymous hero,—­such is the ceaseless spectacle of unrest of which the history of ancient Britain gives us glimpses.

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Early Britain—Roman Britain from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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