But the mass of the emigrants from the Central Asian fatherland moved further westward in successive waves, and occupied, one after another, the midland plains and mountainous peninsulas of Europe. First of all, apparently, came the Celts, who spread slowly across the South of Russia and Germany, and who are found at the dawn of authentic history extending over the entire western coasts and islands of the continent, from Spain to Scotland. Mingled in many places with the still earlier non-Aryan aborigines—perhaps Iberians and Euskarians, a short and swarthy race, armed only with weapons of polished stone, and represented at the present day by the Basques of the Pyrenees and the Asturias—the Celts held rule in Spain, Gaul, and Britain, up to the date of the several Roman conquests. A second great wave of Aryan immigration, that of the Hellenic and Italian races, broke over the shores of the AEgean and the Adriatic, where their cognate languages have become familiar to us in the two extreme and typical forms of the classical Greek and Latin. A third wave was that of the Teutonic or German people, who followed and drove out the Celts over a large part of central and western Europe; while a fourth and final swarm was that of the Slavonic tribes, which still inhabit only the extreme eastern portion of the continent.
With the Slavonians we shall have nothing to do in this enquiry; and with the Greek and Italian races we need only deal very incidentally. But the Celts, whom the English invaders found in possession of all Britain when they began their settlements in the island, form the subject of another volume in this series, and will necessarily call for some small portion of our attention here also; while it is to the Germanic race that the English stock itself actually belongs, so that we must examine somewhat more closely the course of Germanic immigration through Europe, and the nature of the primitive Teutonic civilisation.
The Germanic family of peoples consisted of a race which early split up into two great hordes or stocks, speaking dialects which differed slightly from one another through the action of the various circumstances to which they were each exposed. These two stocks are the High German and the Low German (with which last may be included the Gothic and the Scandinavian). Moving across Europe from east to west, they slowly drove out the Celts from Germany and the central plains, and took possession of the whole district between the Alps, the Rhine, and the Baltic, which formed their limits at the period when they first came into contact with the Roman power. The Goths, living in closest proximity to the empire, fell upon it during the decline and decay of Rome, settled in Italy, Gaul, and Spain, and becoming absorbed in the mass of the native population, disappear altogether from history as a distinguishable nationality. But the High and Low Germans retain to the present day their distinctive language and features; and the latter branch, to which the English people belong, still lives for the most part in the same lands which it has held ever since the date of the early Germanic immigration.