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estuary of the Thames to seem like peninsulas at the ebb,
while they were true islands at the flood. But as the
peculiar circumstances of the case became forgotten, it

• ^ Twine, " De Reb. Albion." i. 2^. The old map of Thanet in the
Appendix was first published by Dugdale in the " Monasticon."

Origins of English History. yj

became usual to look for " Ictis " in another direction •
and it is now very frequently supposed to be identical
with St. Michael's Mount in Mount's Bay, the only place
on the southern coast which, in the present dav
corresponds to the details of the original description.
But it should be remembered, that from the existence
of the submarine forest in Mount's Bay, and the Cornish
tradition that in ancient times the neck between the
mount and the mainland was never reached by the tide,
it is very possible that in the age of Pytheas the
present island or peninsula would not have corresponded
with the description of the island of Ictis. And this
theory is borne out by an old Cornish name for the
Mount, which Leland and Carew have preserved, and
which they interpret as meaning " the Hoar Rock in the

Here we may leave the subject of the visit of Pytheas
to South Britain, and will pass in the next chapter to
what is known of his travels in Germany and the Baltic,
and of his celebrated journey into the Arctic Circle.

^ Carew, Survey of Cornwall, 154. For the arguments in favour of the
identity of Ictis and St. Michael's Mount, see Kenrick, Phoenicia, 220 ;
Hawkins, Tin Trade of the Ancients j Smith's " Cassiterides," and De la
Beche, Geology of Cornwall, 524. Professor Rhys considers that "the
people of the south-west conveyed their tin eastwards to some point on the
coast, to be there sold to foreign merchants," that place being perhaps
the Isle of Thanet. " This view," he says, " would explain Caesar's singular
statement, that British tin came from the inland parts of the country;
but the question of the transit is too difficult for us to settle." He does
not think that the Veneti of Caesar's time traded directly with Devon and
Cornwall: " if there were any direct trade in tin between the tin-districts of
Britain and the Loire, it must have been utterly unknown to Caesar, which
is not likely to have been the case, had it existed." Celtic Britain, 46, 47,
207, 299.

38 Origins of English History.


Visit of Pytheas to Germany and the Baltic. — Criticism by Strabo. — Summary of route.
— Pliny's northern geography. — Description of Germany by Tacitus. — The
Gothones and Suiones. — The Northern Ocean . — The yEstyi of the Amber Coast. —
Obligations of Tacitus to Greek writers. — Route of Pytheas. — Passage to Celtica.
— The Ostians or Ostiones — Their mode of living. — The Cimbri. — TheChauci. —
North Germany. — The Hercynian Forest. — Its Fauna in the time of Pytheas. —
The reindeer.— The elk. — The urus. — The aurochs. — The country of the Cimbri.
— The Guttones. — The Amber Islands. — Extent of commerce in amber — Voyage
to Thule. — Discoveries in the Arctic Circle. — Return to Britain. — Passage to
Marseilles. — Character of Pytheas.

THE visit of Pytheas to Germany must always be
interesting to those who regard the North Sea coasts
as the true fatherland of the English people. It is besides
of great historical importance, as being the source of all
Greek knowledge of the countries beyond the Rhine, with
the single exception of the travels of Posidonius, of which
some fragments relating to Germany are extant. Even late
in the first century after Christ the Romans were forced to
rely mainly on the old geographers for information about
the regions east of the Elbe, or, in other words, upon the
works of Pytheas and his commentators.

Strabo indeed denied boldly that any Greek had pene-
trated east of the Elbe, and gave the reason for his belief.
If they had sailed there, he said, the ships must have come
out near the mouth of the " Caspian Sea," which certainly
had never happened. He concluded, therefore, that nothing
was actually known of those parts of the world, and pro-
fessed a complete ignorance of the nations who inhabited
those northern lands, if, indeed, any people could inhabit
a region of such terrible cold.

The general notions of Pvtheas about the countries

Origins of English History. 39

beyond the Rhine may be briefly summarized as follows,
the details of his diary being reserved for closer examination
after a notice of certain general statements in the works of
Pliny and Tacitus.

A Celtic country, called "Germara,"^ or by some such
name, stretched east from the Rhine to Scythia, and north-
wards from the " Orcvnian forest " to the sea. The coast as
far as the Elbe was occupied by the "Ostions," or "Ostiaei":
next to them the Cimbri filled their famous Chersonesus:
south and east of them dwelt their allies the Teutones.
The Cimbric peninsula ran up to the mouth of an immense
estuary or gulf, called " Mentonomon," of which the
southern shores were occupied by tribes called ''Gothones"
or " Guttones," as far as the Vistula, which seemed as if
it were a branch of the great River Tanais, dividing Asia
and Europe, while another river seemed to be not unlike
the " Borysthenes." There were several islands near the
"Scythian shore," and further out in the gulf, and also
beyond its mouth, an immense archipelago stretched from
"Scania" to Cape Rubeae, the northern point of the world.
By passing northwards from island to island a traveller
would come to Thule, which might itself be an island, or
might be part of the unknown Scythian continent. In the
neighbourhood of Thule was the Dead or Sluggish Sea,
and further still to the north a frozen or encrusted ocean.

^ The word " Germara " was applied to " a tribe in Celtica, who could
not see in the day-time," by Eudoxus of Cnidos, who lived about the time of
Pytheas. See De Mirab. Auscult. 24, and Stephan. Byzant. suh voce
"Germara." Pytheas made a river called the 'Tanais' the limit of his
northern discoveries, but he seems to have known that it was not really
the same as the Don. His journey was, however, frequently described
as having extended "from Gades to the Tanais." See Strabo, ii. 104.
Lelewel considered that the ' Tanais ' of Pytheas was the Elbe.

40 Origins of English History.

If we compare this sketch with Pliny's account of the
Baltic, or with the more elaborate account of Germany by
Tacitus, we shall find that a good deal of knowledge on
the subject had been acquired in the first century of our
era, which cannot fairly be said to have been borrowed
from Pvtheas.

Pliny seems to have been acquainted with the great
range of mountains which separates Sweden from Norway.
" Mount Sevo " (the classical name for the mountains in
question), and the promontory of Jutland formed in his
notion the horns which encircled a gigantic gulf, the " Sinus
Codanus," in which were scattered the Scandinavian
islands.^ " Scandia," he said, " is the most famous of these:
one part of it alone contains five hundred settlements, and
it seems like another world: then there is 'Eningia,'^
which is said to be about as large. People say, that from
this point round to the Vistula the whole country is
inhabited by Sarmatians and Wends : that there is a bay-
called Cylipenus, with an island at its mouth. Going west,
one comes to the Bay of Lagnum, quite close to the
Cimbric peninsula: the promontory in which the peninsula
ends is called Cartris ; it runs a long: wav into the sea, and
is nearly cut off by the waters.'^ On the other side of the
promontory the islands begin, of which twenty-three have
been reached in the Roman wars, the best known being

' Pliny, Hist. Nat. iv. c. 37.

^ " Eningia " is taken by Bessell (PytheaSj 132), to be Zealand. It is
called " Epigia " by the Irish monk Dicuil. It is identified with Finland
by Olaus Magnus, Hist. Septent. i. 2 3 and this seems to be most in accord-
ance with Pliny's description. The map of the northern countries in the
Appendix is taken from an early edition of Olaus Magnus.

^ The Liim Fjord. The Bay of Cylipenus may be the Frische Haf at

Origins of English History. 41

' Burchana,'^ which the soldiers called the Isle of Beans,
from a vegetable which they found growing wild : another
is Glessaria, or Amber Island, which the natives called
Austrania f but the later Greeks have called all the islands
from Jutland to the Rhine ' Electrides,' or Amber Islands ;
and some say that there are others called Scandia, Dumni,
and Bergi, and Nerigo, the largest of all, from which the
voyage to Thule is made."

The description of the same countries by Tacitus is not
so accurate in its details, but is perhaps more interesting.
His account of northern Germany is interspersed with
several anecdotes of travellers and fragments of old Greek
tradition. It is remarkable indeed that, though he was an
intimate friend of the vouno^er Plinv, Tacitus does not
seem to have drawn upon the stores of information about
Germany, which Pliny the Elder had collected for a
history of the German wars : and it is extremely doubtful
whether the great naturalist would have agreed with the
details of the account which Tacitus received or compiled
*' concerning the origin and manners of the whole German
nation." He includes in Germany all the countries lying
north of the Danube and west of the line of the Vistula,
as far as the Arctic Regions : taking in Bohemia, Silesia,
Poland, Pomerania, and a vast number of Slavonian
districts besides, over an area about three times as large
as that which is now allowed to the Teutonic stock. The
case, indeed, is very much as if one should take the
modern German Empire, adding Poland and Bohemia and
several neighbouring countries, and were then to proceed

^ The small portion which the sea has not swept away is called the Isle
of Borkum.

^ The island of Ameland, off the coast of West Friesland.

42 Origins of English History.

to describe the whole population as having exactly the
same laws, customs, and physical appearance.

Tacitus wrote in much the same way of his "Germania,"
with its heterogeneous crowd of nations.

c. 1. "The German nations," he said, "are divided from
Gaul and the Alpine and Illyrian provinces by the Rhine
and the Danube, and from the Sarmatian and Dacian
tribes either by ranges of mountains or mutual fears of
war. Their own boundarv is the encircling ocean, which
sweeps through broad gulfs and around islands of immense

c. 4. "For myself I agree with those who hold that
the peoples of Germany were never crossed with another
race in marriage, and that they belong to no one but
themselves, and are a pure stock unlike any other in the
world. This is the reason that in such a vast multitude of
men all have the same bodily character, fierce blue eyes
and red hair, and stout bodies, good only for a charge : in
fatigue and hard work they have not a corresponding
endurance, and they are but little able to bear thirst or
heat, though accustomed to cold and hunger by their
climate or the nature of the soil."

c. 44. " Beyond the Lygians are the Gothones, who are
ruled by kings a little more strictly than the other German
nations, but yet not more than is consistent with freedom.
Then, close on the ocean, we come to the Rugians and
Lemovians. And all these nations may be known by their

^ The key to the confused geography of the " Germania," as regards
Northern Germany, ^\'ill be found in a comparison of the passages in which
he mentions the " Oceanus," or ocean-current, as distinguished from the
seas which were crossed or divided by its stream. The Islands of the
Suiones, or the Danish Isles and Southern Scandinavia, are described as
being actually encircled by "Oceanus."

Origins of English History. 43

round shields and short swords, and their loyalty towards
their kings. At this point, in the actual stream of the
ocean, are the states of the Suiones, whose strength lies in
ships as well as in arms and men. Their ships are of an
unusual build, being double-prowed, and so always able to
run to shore. They are not worked by sails, and have no
banks of oars fixed to their sides ; but the oars are loose, as
in some river-boats, and can be changed about from one
side to the other, as occasion requires. They have a great
respect for riches, and are therefore under the sway of a
single king, to whose rule in this case there are no
exceptions of liberty, and whose power rests not on any
consent of theirs."

c. 45. " To the north of the Suiones is another sea,
sluggish and nigh unrippled, which men believe to be
the girdle and frontier of the world, because there the
brightness of the setting sun lasts until his rising, so as to
pale the starlight : and they are further persuaded that
strange sounds are heard by night, and that forms of
divine beings and a head crowned with rays are seen.
At this point, it is said with truth, the world comes to an
end. Here, therefore, on the right-hand shore of the
Suevic Sea, we find the ^styans dwelling by the waves. ^
Their religion and dress are Suevic, their language rather
like the British. They worship the Mother of the Gods, and
wear the images of wild boars as the symbol of their belief.
This serves instead of weapons or any other defence, and

^ The right-hand shore would according to the usual rule be the eastern
end of the sea in question : but in this instance it must be renieniljered that
the reader is supposed to have come to the M'orld's end, and then to turn
back toward the inhabited lands. The iEstyi in this view would bo the
ancestors of the English, living near the mouth of the Elbe, along the coast
of Schleswig-Holstein.

44 Origins of English History.

gives safety to the servant of the goddess even in the
midst of the foe. Thev rarelv use iron, but mostlv have
wooden clubs. They cultivate corn and other fruits of the
earth with more patience than usually belongs to the idle
Germans. Nav, thev even search the recesses of the sea,
and are the only people who pick up the amber (which
thev call glesum) in the shallows and along the shore.
But, like true savages, they have never inquired or found
out what it is, or how produced. And for a very long
time it used to lie unnoticed among the other scum cast
up by the sea, until our luxury gave it a name among them.
Among themselves it is of no use : it is gathered in rough
pieces and carried across Europe in shapeless lumps, until
at last they receive a price which amazes them. One may
suppose, however, that it is the resin of some tree, because
in so many pieces are glittering forms of creeping and
even winged things, which must be caught when the gum
is liquid, and afterwards shut in as the mass becomes
solid." Plinv's account is verv similar. He considered
that the ^^ glesitm^' was a resin, produced in Germany.
He says that it was picked up on the shore of " Glessaria,"
which the natives called " Austrania," and was carried
thence for a distance of 600 miles to Carnuntum in
Pannonia (not far from the modern city of Vienna).^ These
calculations enable us to fix the site of the "^styi " of
Tacitus, who have been so strangelv transferred, on the
strength of a similarity of names, to the furthest recesses
of the distant Gulf of Riga."^

^ Pliny, xxxvii. c. 2.3. Carnuntum was the frontier-town of the Empire.
Its site is said to be at Petronell, near Vienna.

^ The " Easte," or Esthonians, sent an embassy to Theodoric the
Ostro-goth, thus described by Gibbon, who was amused at the idea of

Origins of English History. 45

We may omit for the present his description of the
population between the Rhine and the Elbe. It will be
sufficient for our present purpose to deal with the account
of the Baltic tribes, starting from the Vistula and passing
westwards along the shore. In his picture of the "vast
gulf," and of the nations which fringed its southern coast,
Tacitus certainly seems to have copied passages from
the older Greeks. It has even been suggested that the
whole account of "Suevia," or, at least, of the northern
portions, including the countries of the ^styi and the
Anglii, with which Englishmen are most concerned, was
taken direct from the " Geographica " of Eratosthenes,
which, as far as the north is concerned, was founded on the
observations of Pytheas : and much might be said in
favour of the opinion ; but the fact must remain doubtful
for want of explicit evidence.

We will now examine somewhat more closelv the
fragments of the diary of Pytheas which relate to the
people of those coasts. From some place near " Caution,"
probably the port near the mouth of the Thames or about
the neighbourhood of Sandwich, to which the Gallic mer-
chants resorted from the "Itian Port" Pvtheas crossed

Cassiodorus quoting Tacitus to the rude natives of the Baltic : — " From
the shores of the Baltic the 'iEstians,' or Livonians, laid their offerings of
native amber at the feet of a prince whose fame had excited them to
undertake an unknown and dangerous journey of 1,500 miles " (Decl.
and Fall, c. 39). The learned niinister of Theodoric returned a most
friendly letter, inviting the " dwellers by the ocean " to keep up their
acquaintance with the Court of Ravenna, and giving them an account of
the amber "from the writings of one Cornelius," with suggestions for a
renewal of the traffic. (Cassiodorus, Varia. v. 2.) The historian has not
observed that the wild Esthonians would be far outside any possible
boundaries of the " Germania " of Tacitus.

^6 Origins of English History.

over to " Celtica." to a point near the mouth of the Rhine
which cannot now be identified. The changes \vhich have
taken place in the courses of the Rhine and ^laas have
completelv idtered the general conformation of the coast
of the Netherlands. According to the diarv, the passage
took two davs and a half : and the statement was probably
accurate. Strabo scofted at it. on the ground that, accord-
ino- to his ^^eoj^raphv. the mouth of the Rhine and the
eastern point of Kent were within sight of each other. It
will be remembered that the distinction between Gaul and
Germanv was at that time unknown: the whole country
between Brittanv and Jutland was treated as part of
" Celtica" : and " the Gauls " were in like manner thought
to include all the races "who lived along the shores of the
Ocean as far to the east as Scythia."'^

The people who then occupied the coast about the
mouth of the Elbe were called " Ostiones " bv Pvtheas. or
"Ostitei"" according to the reading adopted bv his follower
Timceus. Another name for the same people, or perhaps
for a neighbouring tribe, is found in the following passage
from Stephanus of Bvzantium : — " The Ostiones. a nation
on the coast of the western ocean, whom Artemidonis
called Cossini, and Pvtheas called OstiL^i." The name of
this nation appears in that of the Estian Alarsh.- and

^ Diod. Sic. V. 25. Prof. Kawlinson, "Ethnology of the Cimbri," Proc.
Anthrop. Inst. vi. 151 (1S76), points out, that the later writers divided
Germany from Gaul by a sharp line at the course of the Rhine, and
coimted all the tribes east of the river as Germans, using tlie temi in a
creographical rather tlian an etlmological sense.

^ See the account of "Estia Palus" in Mela. iii. c. 2. "Mare quod
oremio littoriun accipitur nusquam late patet, nee usquam man simile,
vervun aquis passim interfluentibus ac scepe transgressis vagmn atque
diftusum facie amnium spargitur.'

Origins of English History. 47

probably in that of the " ^styi " of Tacitus. Dr. Latham,
however, considered the last-named tribes to have been
the occupants of the present coast of Prussia and Cour-
land : the reference to the amber trade, in his opinion,
"fixes the locality as definitely as Etna would fix Sicilv,
or Vesuvius Campania," But it will be presentlv shown
that the true story of the amber trade fixes this people
in a locality different from either Prussia or Courland ;
and that they must be transferred to the fens and islands
near the mouth of the Elbe, of which mention has already
been made.

There is not very much known about the habits of these
''Ostians." They occupied the territories of the Frisians
and Chauci, and of the other tribes who afterwards took part
in the settlement of England ; so that we may regard them
as having probably been among our ancestors. Their
language seems to have been an old form of German, as far
as we can judge from the few words which remain. The
name of the people is believed to mean "the East-men,"
and there seems to be suflScient reason for attributino; the
word " Thule " to their idiom: the celebrated name is
said to have Gothic affinities (signifving an "end" or
"extremity"), so that we should not attribute it to the
Cimbri who guided travellers on the northward journev,
though some of the local names mentioned in the vovage
to Thule appear to be of Cimbric origin, and to have
formed part of a vocabulary akin to the Welsh.

Our traveller, and the writers of the succeeding age
who borrowed his picturesque descriptions, gave a
pitiable account of the life among the Ostians and the
Cimbri. Their time seems to have been consumed in a
perpetual struggle with the sea, which they had not yet

48 Origins of English History.

learned to confine with dykes and embankments. With a
high tide and an inshore wind their homes and Hves were
always in danger of destruction, A mounted horseman
could barely escape bv galloping from the rush and force
of the tide. The angrv Cimbri, it is said, would take
their weapons and threaten the gods of the sea : they
lost more men in a year by water than by all their wars.
Others said that "the Celts practised, fearlessness in letting
their homes be overwhelmed in the flood, and building
them on the same spots as soon as the waves retired";
and " the Celts, who did not fear earthquake or flood,"
passed into a proverb as early as the time of Aristotle.^
It is now, of course, well known that the sea has from
ancient times been attacking and encroaching upon all
the shores between Friesland and Ditmarsh ; on one
occasion in historical times the devouring force of the
German Ocean is said to have drowned all Friesland
and destroyed a hundred thousand men. Most of the
great inundations of the North Sea have broken into the
area of Friesland." Yet Strabo could not believe the fact.
Accustomed to a soft and gradual motion of the tide in an
inland sea, he thought that the violence of the Northern
Ocean must be a fiction. " The regular action of the
tides and the limits of the foreshore which thev covered
must have been too well known to allow of such absurdities.
How can it possibly be believed (he wrote) that, where

^ Ethic, iii. 7 \ Eudem. Ethic, iii. i 5 yElian, Var. xii. 23. For the
passages from Pytheas, Ephorus, and Clitarchus, see Strabo, vii. 293. As
to the miserable condition of the Cimbri and Teutones in Ditmarsh and its
neighbourhood, see Mela, iii. c. 2.

'^ The most important floods in this quarter of Europe are described in
Turner's "Anglo-Saxons," ch. i. Lelewel, in his Essay on Pytheas,
mentions those of a.d. 1200, 1218, 1221, 1277, 1287, and 1362,

Origins of English History. 49

the tide flows in twice a dav, the natives should not at once
have perceived that the thing was natural and harmless ;
they would see that it was not peculiar to themselves, but
common to all who live by the shores of the ocean." And
he put down the story as another proof of the falsehood of
the pretended discoverer of Thule/

The account of the Chauci aff"ords the best confirmation
of the accuracy of Pytheas. " Twice a day in that country
the tide rolls in and covers the land. The miserable
natives get upon hillocks or on artificial banks which they
have made after finding out how high the water will go.
In their huts upon these banks they look like sailors
aboard ship w^hen the tide is in, and like shipwrecked men
at the ebb ; and they hunt the fish round their hovels as
they try to escape with the tide. They have no cattle,
and so they cannot live on milk like their neighbours, nor
can they even fight with wild beasts when every stick is
carried out to sea. They weave fishing-nets out of sea-
tangle and rushes ; and they pick up handfuls of mud,
which they dry in the wind, — for they have not much
sunshine, and so they make a fire to scorch their food, and
their bodies too all stiffened by the cold of the north." ^
This picturesque description of the German fen-levels

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