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Early Britain—Roman Britain eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 195 pages of information about Early BritainRoman Britain.

H. 12.—­After its suppression by Claudius, Druidism still lingered on in Britain beyond the Roman pale, and amid the outlaws of the Armorican forests in Gaul, but in a much lower form.  The least worthy representatives of the Brahmanic caste in India are those found in the least civilized regions, whose tendency is to become little better than sorcerers.[66] And in like manner it is as sorcerers that the later Druids of Scotland and Ireland meet us in their legendary encounters with St. Patrick and St. Columba.  They are called “The School of Simon the Druid” (i.e. Simon Magus), and a 9th-century commentary designates Jannes and Jambres as “Druids.”  But the word did not wholly lose its higher associations.  It is applied to the Wise Men in an early Welsh hymn on the Epiphany; and in another, ascribed to Columba himself, the saint goes so far as to say, “Christ, the Son of God, is my Druid."[67]

CHAPTER II

THE JULIAN INVASION, B.C. 55, 54

SECTION A.

Caesar and Britain—­Breakdown of Roman Republican institutions—­Corruption abroad and at home—­Rise of Caesar—­Conquest of Gaul.

A. 1.—­If the connection of Britain with Rome is the pivot on which the whole history of our island turns, it is no less true that the first connection of Rome with Britain is the pivot whereon all Roman history depends.  For its commencement marks the furthest point reached in his career of conquest by the man without whom Roman history must needs have come to a shameful and disastrous end—­Julius Caesar.

A. 2.—­The old Roman constitution and the old Roman character had alike proved wholly unequal to meet the strain thrown upon them by the acquisition of the world-wide empire which they had gained for their city.  Under the stress of the long feud between its Patrician and Plebeian elements that constitution had developed into an instrument for the regulation of public affairs, admirably adapted for a City-state, where each magistrate performs his office under his neighbour’s eye and over his own constituents; constantly amenable both to public opinion and to the checks provided by law.  But it never contemplated Pro-consuls bearing sway over the unenfranchised populations of distant Provinces, whence news filtered through to Rome but slowly, and where such legal checks as a man had to reckon with were in the hands of a Court far more ready to sympathize with the oppression of non-voters than to resent it.

A. 3.—­And these officials had deteriorated from the old Roman rectitude, as the Spartan harmosts deteriorated under conditions exactly similar in the days of the Lacedaemonian supremacy over Hellas.  And, in both cases, the whole national character was dragged down by the degradation of what we may call the Colonial executive.  Like the Spartan, the Roman of “the brave days of old” was often

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