Early Britain eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 175 pages of information about Early Britain.

G.A.

ANGLO-SAXON BRITAIN.

CHAPTER I.

THE ORIGIN OF THE ENGLISH.

At a period earlier than the dawn of written history there lived somewhere among the great table-lands and plains of Central Asia a race known to us only by the uncertain name of Aryans.  These Aryans were a fair-skinned and well-built people, long past the stage of aboriginal savagery, and possessed of a considerable degree of primitive culture.  Though mainly pastoral in habit, they were acquainted with tillage, and they grew for themselves at least one kind of cereal grain.  They spoke a language whose existence and nature we infer from the remnants of it which survive in the tongues of their descendants, and from these remnants we are able to judge, in some measure, of their civilisation and their modes of thought.  The indications thus preserved for us show the Aryans to have been a simple and fierce community of early warriors, farmers, and shepherds, still in a partially nomad condition, living under a patriarchal rule, originally ignorant of all metals save gold, but possessing weapons and implements of stone,[1] and worshipping as their chief god the open heaven.  We must not regard them as an idyllic and peaceable people:  on the contrary, they were the fiercest and most conquering tribe ever known.  In mental power and in plasticity of manners, however, they probably rose far superior to any race then living, except only the Semitic nations of the Mediterranean coast.

 [1] Professor Boyd Dawkins has shown that the Continental
     Celts were still in their stone age when they invaded
     Europe; whence we must conclude that the original Aryans
     were unacquainted with the use of bronze.

From the common Central Asian home, colonies of warlike Aryans gradually dispersed themselves, still in the pre-historic period, under pressure of population or hostile invasion, over many districts of Europe and Asia.  Some of them moved southward, across the passes of Afghanistan, and occupied the fertile plains of the Indus and the Ganges, where they became the ancestors of the Brahmans and other modern high-caste Hindoos.  The language which they took with them to their new settlements beyond the Himalayas was the Sanskrit, which still remains to this day the nearest of all dialects that we now possess to the primitive Aryan speech.  From it are derived the chief modern tongues of northern India, from the Vindhyas to the Hindu Kush.  Other Aryan tribes settled in the mountain districts west of Hindustan; and yet others found themselves a home in the hills of Iran or Persia, where they still preserve an allied dialect of the ancient mother tongue.

Copyrights
Project Gutenberg
Early Britain from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
Follow Us on Facebook