Copyright
Charles Isaac Elton.

Origins of English history online

. (page 2 of 38)
Online LibraryCharles Isaac EltonOrigins of English history → online text (page 2 of 38)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


INDEX LOCORUM



431



GENERAL INDEX.



439-50



LIST OF MAPS.

1. Spain (from the edition of Ptolemy printed at Rome in 1478).

2. The World of the Ancients (from the Ptolemy of 1478).

3. Eastern Europe (from the edition of Ptolemy printed at

Strasburg in 1525).

4. Northern Europe (from the Historia de Gentibus Septen-

trionalibus of Olaus Magnus, printed at Basle in 1567

5. Gaul (from the Ptolemy of 1478).

6. The British Isles (from the Ptolemy of 1478).

7. South-Eastern Britain (from the Tabula Peutingeriana).

8. Germany (from the Ptolemy of 1478).

g. The Isle of Thanet (from Dugdale's Monasticon, edition

of 1655-73)-
10. The British Isles (from the Ptolemy of 1525).



ORIGINS OF ENGLISH HISTORY.



CHAPTER I.

Object of the work. — Prehistoric inhabitants of Britain. — The Welsh bards on the
first settlement. — The ancient Fauna of the island. — Commencement of authentic
history. — The Hyperborean legends. — The travels of Pytheas in Britain. —
Marseilles in the age of Alexander the Great. — Her commerce. — Rivalry with
Carthage. — Mineral riches of Spain. — Extensive deposits of tin. — The Phoenician
commerce. — Plans for interfering with trade of Carthage. — Voyage of discovery
proposed. — The scientific discoveries of Pytheas. — He is chosen as leader of an
expedition. — His writings. — Course of the expedition. — Gadeira. — The Tagus. —
Erroneous notions of Spanish geography. —Havens of the Artabri. — Situation of
the Cassiterides. — Description of the inhabitants. — Visit of Publius Crassus. —
— Theory that the Cassiterides were the Scilly Islands discussed. — Carthaginian
discoveries. — The voyages of Hanno and Himilco. — Course of Himilco's voyage.
— The tin districts. — The Sargasso Sea. — Teneriffe. — Pytheas at Finisterre. — -
Religious rites of natives. — The Pyrenees. — The Loire and Island of Amnis. —
Barbarous ritual. — The Morbihan and Celtic Islands. — The College of Druidesses.
— Voyage to Britain. — Pytheas travels in Britain. — His observations. — Erroneous
measurements. — Ancient ideas of the extent of the world. — State of Kent and
Southern Britain.— Wheat cultivation. — Metheglin and beer. — Agriculture. —
Mode of dressing corn. — Pytheas did not visit Ireland, or the West of Britain. —
Traditions of Stonehenge. — British trade in tin. — British coins from Greek
models. — Districts where tin is found. — The Island of Ictis — Its situation —
Probably to be identified with Thanet. — Visit of Posidonius. — Description of tin-
works. — Portus Itius. — Thanet formerly an island. — St. Michael's Mount.

THE following chapters are the result of an attempt
to rearrange in a convenient form what is known
of the history of this country from those obscure ages
which preceded the Roman invasions to the time when the
English accepted the Christian religion and the civilising
influences of the Church. The subject must always be
interesting to those who care to trace the development of
society from its remote and savage beginnings. The
compiler's task is lightened by the labours of a multitude
of scholars, from the Greek travellers who first explored
the wonders of the northern world to the Welsh scribe
who might have seen King Arthur : and from them to the



Origins of English History.



masters of comparative history vA\o have lately traced the
origin and growth of most of our modern institutions. The
compilation may still be useful or convenient, though the
field has been well-laboured for centuries, and "hardly a
gleaning-grape or ear of corn is left when the vintage and
harvest are done."

The really prehistoric times are the province of the
archaeologist, and must be explored by his technical
methods, though every one who approaches the subject of
English history must feel a desire to know something of all
kinds of men who have colonised or traversed our islands.
Our principal ancestors, no doubt, came late from the shores
and flats between the Rhine and the Gulf of Bothnia. But
the English nation is compounded of the blood of many
different races ; and we might claim a personal interest not
only in the Gaelic and Belgic tribes who struggled with the
Roman legions, but even in the first cave-men who sought
their prey by the slowly-receding ice-fields, and the many
forgotten peoples, whose relics are explored in the sites of
lake-villages or seaside refuse-heaps or in the funeral
mounds, or whose memory is barely preserved in the names
of mountains and rivers. For it is hardly possible that a
race should ever be quite exterminated or extinguished:
the blood of the conquerors must in time become mixed
with that of the conquered ; and the preservation of men
for slaves and of women for wives will always insure the
continued existence of the inferior race, however much it
may lose of its original appearance, manners, or language.

The Welsh bards indulged their fancy in describing
the state of Britain before the arrival of man. According to
the authors of the earliest Triads, the swarms of wild bees
in the woods gave its first name to the " Isle of Honey :"



Origins of English History.



and the first settlers were supposed to marvel at the bears
and wolves, the humped cattle of the forest, and the colonies
of beavers in the streams. We need not follow the poet
in his prehistoric flight, but we may be sure that down to
the dawn of history a great part of the island must have
been given over to wild beasts : even in the historical
period, the Caledonian bears were known in the Roman
circus, the beavers' colonies were long remembered in
Wales and Scotland, the wild boar survived into the 17th
century, and the w^olf remained for some generations later
in the more remote recesses of the island.^

^ The Scottish bear is mentioned by Martial: ''Nuda Caledonio sic
pectora preebuit urso." (Epig. vii. 3, 4.) The city of Norwich gave a
bear every year to Edward the Confessor, "and six dogs for the bear 5" but
the native bears were probably extinct before the loth century. (Boyd
Dawkins, Cave-hunting, 75 ; Harting, Extinct British Animals, 24.) The
manor of Henwick, in Northamptonshire, \^'as held by the family of Lovett,
or Luvet, by the service of chasing the wolf, " fugacionem lupi quam dictus
Johannes mihi pro terra de Henwyht debebat." (Nichol. Collect. Topogr.
vi. 300.) The Luvets bore for their arms "Argent, three wolves passant."
The service of the Luvets is recognised in a fine between Engaine and
Luvet, in the loth year of King John. The "Testa de Nevil " refers to
the grant by William the Conqueror to Robert de L^mfreville, of the valley
and forest of Riddesdale, by the service of defending that part of the
country from enemies and wolves with the sword which the King wore,
when he first came to Northumberland. The family of Engaine held
Pytchley, in Northamptonshire, by the service of hunting the wolf across
the county wherever he pleased. (Pleas of the Crown, 3 Edw. I., r. 20.)
The account-rolls of Whitby Abbey show that wolves must have been
common in Yorkshire during the reign of Richard the 2nd. Professor
Newton states that they were probably not extinct in England till the end
of the 15th century. (Zoology Anc. Eur., 24; Harting, Ext. Brit, Anim.
151.) There is some evidence that the wolf survived in Scotland till i743>
and in Ireland till 1766, or a few years later {ibid. 204). As to the survival
of the wild boar, see ibid. loi. Stow's " Survey of London " contains a
well-known description of the forest of Middlesex in the reign of Henry H.,
where the citizens were wont to hunt the wild bull and the boar on the

T *



Origins of English History.



The authentic history of Britain begins in the age of
Alexander the Great, in the fourth century before Christ,
when the Greeks acquired an extensive knowledge of the
western and northern countries from Gibraltar to the mouth
of the Vistula, and as far north as the Arctic Circle. We
shall show how the knowledge was acquired, and afterwards
obscured by the inability of later writers to distinguish
between the facts of travel and the incidents of popular
romances. When these parts of the northern tracts were
rediscovered many generations afterwards by the Romans,
it had become impossible for them to separate history
from fable, and they took credit for finding a new world
as if it had not all been described in their ancient books.
So America and the regions of Central Africa were
discovered and lost, and rediscovered and lost again,
probably many times in succession : and so the colony of
Old Greenland flourished for centuries, till it decayed from
the ravages of plague and barbarian invasion and for nearly
300 years its very situation and direction were forgotten.

The earliest literature of Greece shows the existence of
a rumour or tradition that somewhere to the north of the



hills of Hampstead. The wild cattle still remain at Chillingham, and in
several other parks in England and Scotland. The beaver Mas mentioned
by Giraldus Cambrensis as existing in this country in the reign of Henry
the 2nd. "The Teivy (in Cardiganshire) has another singularity, being the
only river in Wales, or even in England, which has beavers. In Scotland
they are said to be found in one river, but they are very scarce." (Itin.
Wall. ii. c. 3.) He adds that they were at that time abundant in Germany
and the north of Europe. (Topogr. Hibern. i. c. 21.) Elector Boece, writing
in 1526, said that beavers were still to be found in Loch Ness, but they are
not mentioned in an Act dealing with the fur-trade, which was passed in
J 424. (See Harting's Extinct British Animals, and Boyd Dawkins, Cave-
hunting, 76.)



Origins of English History.



Eiixine and behind the Gulf of Adria, the resort of the
amber merchants, the Hyperborean people lived " at the
back of the north wind," and worshipped the Delian Apollo
with hecatombs of wild asses in a land of perpetual sunshine,
where the swans sung like nightingales, and life w^as an
unending banquet. We need not pause very long over
the consideration of the origin of these fancies, which
acquired a fresh popularity when later poets and novelists
incorporated the Boread legends with travellers' descrip-
tions of the ritual of a solar worship and the brightness of
an arctic summer •} but we will pass at once to a detailed
examination of the discoveries of Pytheas, "the Humboldt
of antiquity," whose writings for several centuries were the



^ There are two distinct sets of Hyperborean legends, which appear to be
generally confused together in the books which deal with Stonehenge and
the supposed relations of the ancient Britons with the Levant. The first is
almost as old as Greek literature: it refers to the nations north of the
Euxine, the countrymen of the Scythians Abaris and Anacharsis and of the
virgins who came to Delos. For these Hecataeus of Miletus was the chief
authority : see the full details in Herodotus iv. 32-36. For the uviov Ua.TOjj.l3oi,
see Pindar's loth Pythian Ode. Humboldt considered that the six gold-
bearing districts of Altai, the regions of the Arimaspi and the Griffins, were
the sites of "the meteorological mythus " of these Hyperboreans. Cosmos
(Sabine), ii. 141. For a collection of information as to passages bearing
on the locality of these Scythians, see Herbert's " Cyclops Christianus."
Niebuhr was inclined to place the Hyperboreans of Herodotus to the north
of Italy. Herodotus himself offered no opinion, and " smiled to think that
people were already writing circumnavigations of the world without knowing
anything about geography." (Herod, iv. c. 36.) The earliest trace of
acquaintance with the brief nights of the Northern summer is perhaps to be
found in the " eyyvg yap pvktoc te i:ai i'lfxaTOQ ticrX KiXtvdoi" of Odyss. x. 86.

The other legend comes from Hecataeus of Abdera, who lived soon after
Alexander the Great, and who wove the stories about Britain and Northern
Europe into connection with the more ancient legends. See Scholia ad
Apollon. Rhod. ii. 6jr^, and ad Pindar. Ol. iii. 28. ^lian. H. A. xi. i. Diod.
ii. c. 47^ and Hecataeus in Muller's collection. Hist. Graec. Fragm. ii. 283.



Origins of English History.



only source of knowledge respecting the north of Europe.
His diary may have been extant in a connected form as late
as the 5th century, since a copy of his works seems to have
been quoted by Stephanus of Byzantium, not long before
the time of the Emperor Justinian. It has now to be
sought in the fragments, extracts, and references, preserved
by geographers and historians, who used his book as
an inexhaustible source of information ; and the most
important writers of antiquity were content with his autho-
rity. It has suffered chiefly from the violent attacks of
Strabo, whose own system of geography was, as we may
safely admit, inconsistent in several points with the ideas
of the old explorer.

This chapter will be concerned with an attempt to
reconstruct the narrative of his travels from Marseilles
round the Spanish coast, and as far as the south of
Britain, leaving for the next chapter the consideration
of his visit to Germany and the Baltic, and his famous
voyage to Thule. In connection with the earlier part
of his vovas^e we shall deal incidentallv with some other
traditions relating to the subject, of which some have
generally been believed without proof, and others rejected
w^ithout reason. We shall deal with a kind of historical
matter which is found in the course of every attempt to
explore the history of an ancient nation. Between the
region of fancy and the province of authenticated history
lies a border-land of tradition, full of difficulties, which can
neither be passed without notice, nor ever perhaps very
clearly or finally explained. The half-lost annals of a
debateable time, worn out by age and obscured by neglect,
and preserved piece-meal in imperfect extracts from books
which have perished, in the notes of a scholiast or epitomist,



Origins of English History.



or in the language of ancient criticisms which have chanced
to survive the objects of their attack.

The travels of Pytheas opened the commerce in tin and
amber to the Greek merchants of Marseilles about the
middle of the 4th century before Christ. The exact date
cannot be ascertained, but is found approximately by the
facts that the astronomical discoveries of Pytheas were
not mentioned by Aristotle, but were controverted on
some points by Dicasarchus, the pupil of Aristotle, whose
writings were published not long after the famous
philosopher's death.

The merchants of Marseilles and the other Greek colonists
of the Ligurian coast seem to have been anxious to strike
a blow at their Carthaginian rivals, who had almost a
complete command of the mineral wealth of Spain.
Colasus of Samos had long before discovered the wealth of
Tarshish along the Andalusian shore, and had brought home
glowing accounts of the riches of the West, and of the
simple barbarians who allowed their visitors to load their
ships with precious ore for ballast. But the Phoenicians
had soon secured a monopoly of the mineral trade : the
men of Tarshish were their merchants ; "with silver, iron,
tin, and lead, they traded in the fairs of Tyre."^ The

^ These words are taken from the description of the commerce of Tyre
in Ezek. xxvii. For the earher mentions of Tarshish, or the coast of
Andalusia, see Gen. x. 4, and Exod. xxviii. 20, where the beryl or chrysolite
of the high-priest's breastplate is called tar sis in the original ; for the prevalent
east winds which impeded the trade, see Ps. xlviii. 7, and compare Strabo iii.
144. See also Isaiah ii. 16, and the " burden of Tyre," c. xxiii. For mentions
of Chittim or the region of the Pyrenees, see the chapter last cited, and Ezek.
xxvii. There appears to have been no city of Tarshish, but the name properly
applies to the whole of the Andalusian coast between Guadiana and Cape
Trafalgar. The Baetis or Guadalquivir and the Anas or Guadiana River



8 Origins of English History.

town of Ampurias, in the Gulf of Lyons, preserves the
name of the emporium where the Greeks attempted to
engross some part of the Spanish commerce ; but south
of that point the whole country was at first under the in-
fluence of the Phoenicians, and afterwards under the power
of Carthage.i It must always be remembered that Spain

were formerly noted for their gold-bearing gravels, though neither was as
rich as the Tagus in this respect.

"The region Tartessus corresponded in extent with the country of
the Turduli and Turdetani, whose name appears to be derived from the
same root. On the west it was bounded by the mouth of the Anas 5 on
the east by the prolongation of the hills, which border the valley of the
Baetis on the S.E. and terminate in a low sandy point at Cape Trafalgar.
In the Romish times, however, the name was more widely extended, and
included the coast eastward of Gibraltar. Beyond the Anas was the
country of the Cynetes (Herod, ii. 2)?))> extending to the Sacred Promontory
or Cape St. Vincent, the most westerly point of Europe." Kenrick.
Phoenicia, c. 3.

^ The Greek name for tin, KCKrcrirepoc, (cassiteros,) appears to be connected
with kastira, the Sanskrit name for the metal. The island Cassitira must
have been somewhere near the Straits of Malacca, the chief source of our
modern supplies. Stephanus of Byzantium is the authority for a description
of Cassitira as " an island in the ocean near India, as Dionysius says in his
Bassarici, from which the tin comes." For details of the modern tin trade,
see Sir Henry De la Beche, Geology of Cornwall. For the ancient trade,
see Heeren"s Essays on the Commerce of the Ancients. Humboldt pointed
out that the Romans were acquainted with the existence of tin in the
country of the Artabri and Callaici, in the north-western parts of Iberia.
Humboldt, Cosmos. (Sabine) ii. 128. "When I was in Galicia, in 1799 " (he
adds), "before embarking for the Canaries, mining operations were still
carried on, on a very poor scale, in the granitic mountains. The occurrence
of tin in this locality is of some geological importance, on account of the
former connection of Galicia, the peninsula of Brittany and Cornwall."
Kenrick gives us the following useful summary : — " There can be no doubt
that tin was anciently found in Spain and in its southern regions. The
Guadalquivir brought down stream-tin (Eustathius ad Dionys. Perieg. 3.37),
and, according to Festus Avienus, the mountain in which this river rose Avas
called Cassius from Cassiteros, and Argentarius from the brilliancy of the
tin which it produced. The mines of the south of Spain have been neglected



Origins of English History,



was the Mexico of the ancient world. The Tagus rolled
gold, and the Guadiana silver ; the Phoenician sailors were
said to have replaced their anchors with masses of silver
for which they had no room on board, and the Iberians to
have used gold for mangers and silver for their vats of beer.
The western and northern coasts were equally rich : a
mountain of iron ore stood near Bilbao, and the whole
coast from the Tagus to the Pyrenees was said to be
"stuffed with mines of gold and silver, lead and tin;"
the moor-lands were full of tin-pebbles, the river-gravels
mixed with broken strings and branches of tin, which the
Iberian girls were able to win by light ''stream-work,"
washing the ore from the soil in wicker cradles ; and, as in
Cornwall, the tin was often mixed with gold, and the lead
with silver. We learn the ancient wealth of the country

since the discovery of America, with the exception of the quicksilver mines
of Almaden, and therefore it would be unreasonable to call these precise
statements in question, because tin is not now known to be found there.
With regard to the north-western provinces of the peninsula, there can be
no doubt that tin anciently abounded in them. Posidonius, quoted by Strabo,
says that in the land of the Artabri, the most remote in the north-west, the
soil glitters with silver, tin, and white gold (Strabo. iii. 147)." The tin was
the black stream-tin, and no lodes appear to have been worked. The account
given by Pliny is much the same : " Tin, it is now well ascertained, is
produced in Lusitania and Galicia, sometimes of a black colour on the
surface of the sandy soil, and distinguishable only by weight (peroxide of
tin), sometimes in minute pebbles in the bed of dried torrents (stream-tin)
which are collected, washed, and fused in furnaces. It is also sometimes
found in gold mines, and separated by washing in baskets, and subsequent
melting" (Hist. Nat. xxxiv. c. 16). The geological structure of Galicia and
the adjacent part of Portugal is very similar to that of the metalliferous
districts of Cornwall j and as many as seven different localities, in which
tin has been procured, are enumerated in a recent work on the geology of
the former country (Schulz, '' Descripcion Geognostica di Galicia," pp. 45,
47). The name of a village in the neighbourhood of Viseu, in Portugal,
indicates the remains of old tin-works. Kenrick. PhcEnicia. 214.



lo Origins of English History.

from the reports of Greek travellers, and from the Romans
who inherited the riches of Spain, when the power of
Tyre and the careless magnificence of Carthage had
passed away, and before the mineral deposits had been
very sensibly diminished.

At the time which we are now considering, the jealousy
of the Carthaginians had hindered the Greeks and Romans
from learning the secrets of the seas west of the Pillars of
Melkarth. There were, doubtless, vague reports of the
temple of Moloch which crowned the last point of Europe,
of a beetling cliff lashed by perpetual surf, a river that rolled
sands of gold, and islands where the ground gleamed with
silver and tin. Herodotus,^ a century before, had heard
the name of the Cassiterides, though he confessed a doubt
as to their existence, in the absence of eve-witnesses from
the west of Europe. The knowledge of the tin-deposits
was the most valuable secret of Tyre and Carthage. The
difficult manufacture of bronze was the most important art

^ The passage in which Herodotus confessed his ignorance of Western
Europe relates both to the tin-trade and the commerce in amber. " Of that
part of Europe which is nearest to the West I cannot speak with decision.
I by no means beheve that the barbarians give the name of Eridanus to a
river emptying itself into the Northern Sea, whence (as it is said,) our
amber comes j nor am I better acquainted with the Islands called the
Cassiterides, from which we are said to get our tin," Herod, iii. 115.
Polybius considered that all the reports about Northern and AVestern Europe
up to his time were " mere fable and invention, and not the fruit of any real
search or genuine information." The early travellers, according to him,
were not content with plain and simple truth, but "invented strange and
incredible fictions and prodigies and monsters, reporting many things which
they never saw, and others which had no existence." Polybius. Hist. iii. 4, 5.
It should, however, be observed, that the criticisms of Polybius dealt with
statements of Pytheas which had been accepted by Eratosthenes and
Hipparchus 5 and that, in fact, from the time of Alexander the Great, the
ancients had a very fair notion of the geography of Britain.



Origins of English History. 1 1

of the ancient world, before the Celts discovered the
method of making the hard Noric steel. Weapons and
implements of all kinds were made of a compound of tin
and copper, the zinc-brass made with the calamine-stone
being little used in comparison with the use of bronze.
The Phoenician sailors busied themselves in all known
regions of the world in seeking for the precious ore.
" Who are these," said the sacred poet, " that fly as a
cloud, and as the doves to their windows?"^ The seas
were covered with their sails, and the harbours full of their
ships, which they loaded with metal smelted from the tin-
bearing gravels of the Eastern Cassitira.

Such were the rivals with whom the Greeks were about
to compete. Tin had been found in Gaul, perhaps in
several districts,^ and it is possible that the Celts had some
knowledge of British tin before the Greek discoveries.
The Greeks hoped to find tin-countries in the unexplored
north, and might expect to light on the source of the
amber trade, which for ages had come by '' a sacred road "
from some Scythian region to the head of the Gulf of



Online LibraryCharles Isaac EltonOrigins of English history → online text (page 2 of 38)