Early Britain—Roman Britain eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 242 pages of information about Early Britain—Roman Britain.
Dorchester, being at once the largest and the most untouched by later ages.  Here three huge concentric ramparts, nearly three miles in circuit, gird in a space of about fifty acres on a gentle swell of the chalk ridge above the modern town by the river.  A single tortuous entrance, defended by an outwork, gives access to the levelled interior.  All, save the oaken palisades which once topped each round of the barrier, remains as it was when first constructed, looking down, now as then, on the spot where the population for whose benefit it was made dwelt in time of peace.  For English Dorchester is the British town whose name the Romans, when they raised the square ramparts which still encircle it, transliterated into Durnovaria.  Durnovaria in turn became, on Anglo-Saxon lips, Dornwara-ceaster, Dorn-ceaster, and finally Dorchester.

G. 10.—­We have already, on physical grounds, assigned these Durotriges to the Damnonian Name.  There were certainly fewer natural obstacles between them and the men of Devon to the west than between them and the Belgae to the northward.  Caesar, however, distinctly states that the Belgic power extended to the coast line, so the Britons of the Frome valley may have been conquered by them.  Or the Durotriges may be a Belgic tribe after all.  For, as we have pointed out, our evidence is of the scantiest, and there is every reason to suppose that the era of the Roman invasion was one of incessant political confusion in the land.


Religious state of Britain—­Illustrated by
Deities—­Mistletoe—­Sacred herbs—­“Ovum Anguinum”—­Suppression of
Druidism—­Druidism and Christianity.

H. 1.—­The religious state of the country seems to have been in no less confusion than its political condition.  The surviving “Ugrian” inhabitants appear to have sunk into mere totemists and fetish worshippers, like the aboriginal races of India; while the Celtic tribes were at a loose and early stage of polytheism, with a Pantheon filled by every possible device, by the adoration of every kind of natural phenomenon, the sky, the sun, the moon, the stars, the winds and clouds, the earth and sea, rivers, wells, sacred trees, by the creation of tribal divinities, gods and goddesses of war, commerce, healing, and all the congeries of mutually tolerant devotions which we see in the Brahmanism of to-day.  And, as in Brahmanism, all these devotions were under the shadow of a sacerdotal and prophetic caste, wielding vast influence, and teaching, esoterically at least, a far more spiritual religion.

H. 2.—­These were the Druids, whose practices and tenets fortunately excited such attention at Rome that we know more about them by far than we could collect concerning either Jews or Christians from classical authors.  And though most of our authorities refer to Druidism as practised in Gaul, yet we have the authority of Caesar for Britain being the special home and sanctuary of the faith, to which the Gallic Druids referred as the standard for their practices.[52] We may safely, therefore, take the pictures given us by him and others, as supplying a representation of what took place in our land ere the Romans entered it.

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