John Toland.

A new edition of Toland's History of the druids : with an Abstract of his life and writings; and a copious appendix, containing notes critical, philological, and explanatory online

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your lordship's consideration, upon such eviden-
ces and proofs as I am going to produce; whether
the Hyperborean iland, so much celebrated by an-
tiquitj-, be not some one or more of the remotest
ilands : and particularly the great iland of Lewis
and Harries, with its appendages, and the adja-
cent iland of Sky; which in every circumstance
agree to the description that Diodorus Siculus
gives of the iland of the Hyperboreans. Let's
mention some of those circumstances. He says *
that the harp was there in great repute, as indeed
it is still; every gentleman having one in his
house, besides a multitude of harpers by profes-
sion, intertain'd gratis wherever they come. He
tells us, that above all other Godsf they worshipt
Apollo; which, in my first letter, I evidently show
they did under the name of Belenusij;; He says
further, that besides a magnificent sacred grove,
Apollo's remarkable temple § there was round,
whereof I have given a particular description and

* Tan it xaTomowToJv a.vny nil! w^eifouf imi KiSapirt;, Lib, 2. pag, 130.
t Tov AttoXXu fAA'^KO' Twv tt.'Khm dE«v TTfCp* avTOK; Tfjuettrdat. Ihid,

X lo the Celtic language Beal and Bealan.

yoi, muOrj/tari ttoMou iuiu>a-iiK/A,tvot, r^flifoti Ju t« f}(«f*ar!. Ibid.



plan in my second letter*, it subsisting in great
part still. He affirms that they had a peculiar
dialect, which in reality continues the same to
this day; it being Earse, or the sixth among the
Celtic dialects I enumerated in my first letter:
and approaching so near to that of the Irish, that
these and the ilanders discourse together without
any difficulty. But, omitting several other mat-
ters no less concordant, he adds, that the iland
was frequented of old by the Greecs-}-, and in
friendship with them; which will be easily ad-
mitted, after perusing the fourth and fifth section*
of this present letter, where I manifestly prove
this intercourse. I very well know, that others,
Avho are far from agreeing among themselves, do
place the Hyberboreans elsewhere: nor am I ig-
norant that diverse, after the example of Antonius
Diogenes' s Thulian Romance"^, have indeavor'd to
divert their readers, no less tha« themselves, with
Hyperborean fictions; and so made such variations
of site or circumstances, as best suited their se-
veral plans, to spealc^ nothing of such as were
grossly ignorant in geography. Allowances ought
to be made for all these things. And the Hyper-
borean continent (which was questionless the most
northern part of Scytkia, or of Tartary and Mus-
covy, stretching quite to Scandinavia, or Sweden

* Section XI.

,t np«{ T«uj 'EXXivat oiKtiiTUTa Ji«exsi5-9ai, S^c, Ibiif,

t See the lait section.


and Norway) this Hyperborean continent, I say,
must be carefully distinguish'd from the Hyper-
borean iland; whose soil was more temperate and
fertile, as its inhabitants more civiliz'd, harmless,
and happy. But, to prevent all cavils, I declare
before-hand, that as by Thule I mean onely that
of Phytheas, or Iceland, and not the conjectures
or mistakes of people that liv'd long after him;
some making it to be Ireland, others Schetland
(which I believe to be the Thule of Tacitus*)
others the northermost part of Great Britain, and
others other places I : so by the iland of the Hy-
perboreans, I mean that describ'd by Diodorus
Siculus after Hecateus and others, as being an
iland "in the ocean beyond Gaule to the north |,"
or under the Bear, where people liv'd with no less
simplicity than indolence and contentment; and
which Orpheus, or, if you please, Onomacritus,
very rightly places near the Cronian§ or Dead
sea. 'Tis by this situation, as hereafter more
particularly mark'd, that I am willing to be

* Insulas, quas Orcadas vocani, inrenit domuitque. Despecta
est et Thule, quam hacteous nix et hiems abdebat. In vita
Agric. cap. 10,

f See the Essay concerning the Thule of ike antientSy by Sir
Bobert Sibbald.

- E» tut afTHWpan th; KiXrMvq rsiruf, xara Tof nueatn, tmi »a«v, ax

£?.aiT?W TI3J 2ltl1i^lAS ; T«yT«V WTTapp^EiV fxiy MATO. TOUf dpJtTOOf. Uh, 2. pUg. 130.

§ — — ■ K^arioi'TE firnxXno-xeuiTt

Argonaut, ver. 107?.


judg'd: showing it also to bean iland near the
Scots, whether Hibernian or Albanian; who are,
by Claudian*, made borderers on the Hyper-
borean sea. From this iland the Argonauts,
after touching there coining out of the Cronian
ocean, according to Orpheus, saii'd tof Ireland in
the Atlantic ocean; and so to the pillars ;]; of Her-
cules, where they enter'd again into the Mediter-
ranean §. No marks can be plainer, so there is no
other iland (those of Faroe and Iceland excepted)
but the northwest Brittish Hands, between the
Cronian and the Atlantic ocean, as every one
knows that has once look'd into a map; which
expres situation of the Hyperborean iland, toge-
ther with its being said by Diodorus to ly beyond
the Gallic regions towards the north, or the Bear,
the frequent use of the harp there, and the %vor-
ship of Apollo in a round temple, amounts I think
to as full a proof as any thing of this nature re-
quires. Diodorus adds, in the place where I last
quoted him, that the Hyperborean city and temple

* Scotumque yago mucrone secutus,

Fref^it Hyperboreas remis audacibus undas.

ZJe 3 Cons. Honor, ver. 55.

+ AyKAloq J'olttKttf l7rir*,WSV»ff ETiTttlyS,

Hap ^'MpA ncoy OfxitQiv lEpvi Ja

Jbid. ver, lirs.

Hid. ver. 1S40.
§ Now the Straits of Gibraltar.


"were always govern'd by the family of the* Bo-
" reads f who with no more probability were the de-
scendants of Boreas, an imaginary person or deity,
than the Hyperboreans were so caXVd, from being
situated more rtortherly than the north-ivindl:
but in reality they were then, as they are still, go-
vern'd by their chiefs or heads of tribes, whom
they call'd in their own language Boireadhach;
that is to say, the great ones, or powerful and va-
liant men, from Borr, antiently signifying gran-
deur and majesty §. The Greecs have in a thou-
sand instances ap.ply'd foren words to the very
different sense of other words approaching to the
same sound in their own language. Their first
sailors into those parts gave the ilanders the name
of Hypethoreans, from their lying so far towards
the north with respect to the straights of Hercu-

Vofeaiat, avoyonov; omai; SOfeov, xai narayenoi oi« haie}(a^9ai to; apx^f* •'^'''•
i.pag. ISO,

+ Boreadea.

J Ave ra jrpoo-s'aiTejw Kf ia-3a>1i{ Sofeiou enons. Lib. 2. pag, 130.

§ As for these words Borr and Buireadhach or Bbinadhach
(the Towels u and o being with us most frequently put for each
other) I might appeal to several authentic manuscripts, but, be.
cause such are not obrious to many, I chuse rather to refer my
readers to the Seanasan nuadh, or printed vocabulary of obsolete
words by O'Clery, and to Lhudy's printed Irish.English Die.
tionary: so that these words are no children of fancy, as but too
frequently happens in etymologies. From the same root are
Borrogach couragious, and Borrthoradk awe or worship, witk
the like.



les% for which I have indisputable authorities;
and after having once thus stil'd them, they gree-
dily catch'd at the allusive sound of their leaders
or magistrates, Grecizing those grandees, or Boir-
eadhach, into Boreades : which was literally un-
derstood in Greece of the fabulous descendants of
Boreas, very consonantly to their mythology, or,
if you will, to their theology. But I noted beforef,
that Plato, in his Cratylus, was of opinion J the
Greecs had borrow'd many words from the bar-
barians ; " especially," adds he, " such of the
Greecs as liv'd in the barbarian territories:"
which may be fairly suppos'd to include those
who navigated, or that drove any traffic among
them. And hence the divine philosopher him-
self draws this accurat§ inference, " that if
any man wou'd indeavor to aidjust the etymolo-
gies of those words with the Greec language, and
not rather seek for them in that to which they
originally belong, he must needs be at a loss."
'Tis farther most deserving observation, that Era-
tosthenes, an antient chronologer and geographer of
vast reputation for learning, speaking of Apollo's
famous arrow, with which he slew the Cyclopes,
and in honor of which one of the constellations is

» Now of Gibraltar. + Letter II. Section V.

% Evvow yap, bte 7^o^^a oi E?*,X*JV6f evo,UttTA, aNXw; t8 xat oi utto TOif |3a()€a:oic «iJ*;i-
>7Ec, ircLfx ToJi- /3ap££tp«v ti\r,<^aa-i. Inter Opemy Edit, Paris* Vol. 1, pag, 4i.9.

$ E( T(c ^nTO( TrtuTtt x.ava ttjv ^EWnviH/iV (Jiwvflv tuf EotKOTWf XEiT<x(. uXXa **n JteiT*
^jtiiv^iy f| n; TO evo/^A rvy^uyu ov^ qut&a Qjt ttTTQ^n nr. Ibid*


SO call'il, says that* "he hid it among the Hyper-
bor^ns, where there is his temjple made of wings,
or a wii;iged temple," the words being capable of
both senses. If the latter was the meaning of
Eratosthenes, we have already given the descrip-
tion of such a winged temple, yet standing there:
and if the former, no place under heaven cou'd
furnish more feathers, nor of more various kinds,
to adorn men or buildings, than those same ilands ;
where many of the inhabitants pay their rent with
t|iem, aud make a considerable profit besides.
For this reason perhaps, and not from its pro-
mqntoqes, the lie of ,Skie is in the language of the
natives call'd Scianach'f, or the winged iland,
whereof the English name Skie is an abbreviation
or corruption. Now, if the Hebrides were the
hyperboreans of Diodorus (as I fancy it can
scarce hereafter be doubted) then the most cele-
brated Abaris was both of that country, and like-
wise a Druid, having been the:{; priest of Apollo,
Suidas, who :knew not the distinction of insular
Hyperboreans, makes him a Scythian; as do some
others misled by the same vulgar error, tho' Dio-
dorus has truly fix'd his country in the iland, not

* EKpvl'S Js auTt [t» toJixo»] £» virifPtfiiut, nu x«i t y«m s WTtfiwc. Jk Cataste-
rimtis, inter Opuscula Mythologica et.Physica, Edit. Amst. fag. 124.
.+ Oiiean Sciathanach.

X To ^Ev yap flTt roy juupov ^fvfouv «we5'£t^6v AlJapt J* Tw ^TffBp^opew, iinac-avrt avTOt
A7ro^^wa £'»«> TO* £» 'TWEp3«psOi{, ovircf m isfws A0api;, BeZaiotra ai{ rouro aXuSef
viSfvM.tmi. Forpkyrius in vita Pythagor<e, Eadem, et iisdem eqiiidem verbit
habet Jamiliehits, Lib, 1. cap. S8.



on the continent. And indeed their fictions or
blunders are infinite concerning our Aharis. This
is certain however among 'em all, that he travell'd
quite over Greece*, and from thence into Italy,
where he familiarly convers'd with Pythagoras;
Avho favor'd him beyond all his disciples, by im-
partinghis doctrines to him (especiallyhis thoughts
of nature) in a more compendious and plainer me-
thod, than to any others. This distinction cou'd
not but highly redound to the advantage of Aba-
ris. For, the reasons of Pythagoras's backward-
ness and retention in communicating his doctrines,
being, in the first place, that he might eradicate (if
possible) out of the minds of his disciples all viti-
oiis and turbulent passions, forming them by de-
grees to a habit of virtue, which is the best prepa-
rative for receiving truth ; as, next, to fit them, "by
a competent knowlege of the mathematical sci-
ences, for reasoning with exactness about those
higher contemplations of nature, into which they
were to be initiated; and, lastly, to have repeated
proofs of their discretion in concealing such im-
portant discoveries from the ignorant and the
icicked, the latter being unworthy, and the former
incapable of true philosophy: it follows, therefore,
thathejudg'd Abaris already sufliciently prepared
in all these respects, and so he obliged him with an
immediate communication of his most inward sen-

Ice. Vlii supra.


tijnents; conceal'd from others under the vail of
numbers, or of some other enigmatical symbols'
The Hyperborean in return presented the Samian,
as if he had equall'd Apollo himself in wisdom,
with the sacred arrow ; riding astride which he's
fabulously reported by the Greec writers, to have
flown in the air over rivers and lakes, forests and
mountains: as our vulgar still believe, and noi
where more than in the Hebrides, that wizards
and witches waft whither they please upon broom-
sticks. But what was hid under this romantic
expedition, with the true meaning of the arrow
itself, the nature of the predictions that Abaris
spread in Greece, and the doctrines that he learnt
at Crotona; with the conceit of these Hyperbo-
reans that Latona the mother of Apollo, vvas born
among them, nay that he was so too, and their
most exact astronomical cycle of nineteen years:
these particulars, I say, you'll read at large in my
History of the Druids, stript of all fable and dis-
guise; as well as a full discussion of the question
(about w^hich antient writers are divided) " whe-
ther the Druids learnt their* symbolical and enig-
matical method of teaching, together with the
doctrine of transmigration from Pythagoras, or
that this philosopher had borrow'd these parti-
culars from the Druids?" The communication
between them was easy enough, not only by means

f >i«-ai. biogen, Laert. in prooem. Sect. e.


of such travellers as Pythagoras and Abaris, but
also by the nearness of Gaul to Italy: tho' there
will still j-emain another question, viz. whether
the Egyptians had not these things before either
of them; and therefore whether they did not both
receive them from the Egyptians?

VIII. Yet before all things we must here ex-
amine what can be ofFer'd, with any color, against
our account of the Hyperborean iland ; after that
so many circumstances, and particularly the situ-
ation, seem to point demonstratively to the true
place: nor certainly, when things are duely cpn-
fsider'd, will the objections that have been .started
in private conver,sation (as I know of no other that
can be ,publickly made) be found to have the least
di^culty. fThule or Iceland, rightly plac'd by
Claudian in the Hyperborean* climate, besides
the incongruities of |the soil and the intern pqrate-
ness of the air, isdistinguish'd by Diodorus him-
self frppa the iliE|.nd in question: and the ilgs pf
JFaroe, being onely a parcel of barren rocks pf
very small extent, without any monument of anti-
quity, deserve not so much as, to be mentipn'd on
this pccasion. Neitlier indeed has any, of my ac-
quaintance insisted on either pf the^e. But J)io-
dorus (says one of 'em) tho' exactly agreeing to

* Te, qu6 libet, ire, sequemur :

T.e vel Hyperboreo damnatam sidere Thulen,
Tq vel ad incensas Dbyae comitabor arenas.

In Ru/in. lib. 2.


your situation or that of Orpheiis, and that your
other circumstances do perfectly tally to this des-
cription : yet is different in this, that he speaks
onely of one iland, not less than Sicily* 5 where
as you understand this of several ilands, which al-
together have scarce that extent. I answer, that
the marks of the right place which I have men-
tioned already, and such others as I shall present-
ly alledge, will more than counterbalance any mis-
take (if there be any) about the bigness of the
iland. Travellers and mariners, who either have
not been ashore or not staid long enough in any
place to survey it, are known to speak onely by
guess, and frequently very much at random. Has
not Great Britain itself (so much celebrated, as
Pliny justly writesf, by the Greec and Bioman
authors) been taken to be of vast extent, and not
certainly knov^^n by the Roinans to be an iland,
till the time of Vespa^an;!:? Endless examples
of this kind might easily be prodiic'd. And as
for the multitude of those ilands, which are sepa-
rated onely by narrow chanhels, it makes nothing
at all BigainSt me. For, besides that such an ag-
gregation of ilands is often taken in common
speech for onely one; as not to go out of our own
dominions, such is Schetlaud, in name one cotm-
try, but in effect consisting of more than 30 ilands :
so there are several indications, join'd to the tra-

t Sea Section III, t See Sectioa V.


dition of the inhabitants (of which see Dr. Martin
in his Account of Saint Kilda and elsewhere) that
some of those western ilands have been formerly
imited, and many of them nearer each other than at
present. However, taking them as they now are,
Lewis, otherwise call'd the longiland, being at least
a hundred miles in length*, Skie forty, "^ . veral of
the rest above four and twenty each, and all ap-
pearing as one iland (having many winding bays
or inlets) to one who sails without them, or that
touches onely at some of the greatest; considering
this, I say, the mistake will not be reckon'd so
enormous in a sailor or stranger, if he compares
them in the lump to Sicily for extent. Another
person granting all this, objects that Diodorus re-
presents the Hyperborean iland a very temperate -|-
region; which, according to ray friend, cannot be
said of any place in the northern latitude of 58,
and partly of 59. But whoever has travell'd far
himself, or read the relations of such as have,
will be convinc'd that the seasons in every region
of the world, do not always answer to their posi-
tion: of which the causes are various, as huge

* I reckon as Dr. Martin and the natives do, from the most
northerly point of Lewis to Bernera south of Barra, this string of
islands being onely divided by channels mostly fordable; and if
it be consider'd that I make use of Scottish miles, every place is at
least a third part more, according to the English or Italian mea.

tOwa»5" a<jlm t,iyt.M% m, va/^'pofav, sli h «uH{«(rl« J»atf{Oayi(y,
tloc- en^eieit na^iroua-,. UH supra.


litlges of mountains, the neighbourhood of vast
lakes or marches, winds blowing from places co-
ver'd with snow, or the like. Thus Britain and
Ireland are known, not onely to be much more
temperate than the places on the continent of the
same position with them, but even than some of
such as are more southerly; by reason of the salt
vapors and continual agitations of the suyround-
ing ocean, which dissolve, allay, and mitigate the
frosts and winds blowing from the continent.
This holds as true with regard to the Hebrides,
which by experience are allow'd to be, yet more
temperate; the snow not lying near so long as in
Britain, and a tepid vapor being very sensible
there in the midst of winter. This was enough
to fill the Greec sailors with admiration, which to
us ought to be none ; since their learned men often
spoke of many places, not as they actually were
in themselves, but as in their speculations they
imagin'd they ought to be: without considering
whether there might not occur some of the diver-
sifying circumstances we have just now hinted, or
any others begetting the like influences. But that
most sagacious interpreter of nature, Hippocrates,
knew better things, when he taught what he learnt
by experience (having been an ilander himself)
that Hands situated far* in the sea, are kindly

#t>6iV0Tepai Tov YitfAMVA ; JioTi at p^toyef Kat wayot sv /msv tri^iv n'i^Bifoiriv £^ovo-t rairiv,
5-«»-i» 11 j(;Mf««yi. Be Diceta, lib. 2. cap. 3.

E e


warm, and that no snow can lie on them in win-
ter; while such as are near the shore become
scarce habitable for cold, by reason of the sjiow
and ice remaining on the continent, \\ hich from
thencee transmit bleak winds into those iland^-.
The antients, who judg'd of places^ where they
never were by their bare positions, did conge-
quently enough from thence conclude the torrid
zone to be inhabitable: but since this zone has
not onely been frequently visited, but is daily pe-
netrated to the temperate and cold zones beyond
it, 'tis not onely found every where inhabited ; but
those breezes and showers, with other causes, that
make living there very comfortable, are the common
themes of philosophers. This brings me to the
last, and seemuigly the strongest objection, viz.
that the Hyperborean ilaud of Diodoi-us, or rather
of Hecateus and others long before him, ^\ as no
plentiful as to have two crops a year*. Yet this
expression, upon a fair construction, will be so
far from embarayning, that it will highly illustrate
my explication. It onely signifies great plenty
and abundance, which I cou'd instance by many
passages of the antients; but shall chuse the
nearest home I can, and that is what Virgil f says
of Italy :

* Read the Note immediately preceding, bateing one.
+ Hie ver assiduum, atque alienis mensibus ajstas ;
Bis grarida pecudes, bis pomis utilis arbos.

Georgic, lib. 2.

or THE DRUIDS. 215

Perpctnal spring our happy climate sees, -j

Twice breed the cattle, and twice bear the trees ; >

And summer suns recede by slow degrees. *

Dryden's Translation.

3!5ut who is ignorant, that this is not literally true?
and as to the plenty meant by it in general, 'tis
certain that no country abounds more with the
necessaries of life, and at less labor or charge, than
the Hebrides. I shall dwell so much the longer
on this head, as my history may possibly reach
further than the Celtic nations. Wherefore, in
the first place, there is known to be in those ilands
a prodigious plenty of flesh and fish. Their
cattle of all sorts (as cows, sheep, goats, and
hogs) are exceeding numerous and prolific : small
indeed of size, as are likewise their horses, but of
a sweet and delicious taste. So are their deer,
which freely range in herds on the mountains.
No place can compare with this for tame and
wild fowl, there being of the latter no where in the
world a greater diversity, many sorts of 'em ex-
tremely beautiful or rare, and utterly unknown
elsewhere. The like may be said of their various
amiDhibious animals. Numberless are their foun-
tains and springs, rivulets, rivers, and lakes, very
wholesom in their waters, and every where super-
abounding with fish, especially the most delicate,
as trout and salmon : nor is it by herrings alone
that all Europe knows no seas to be better stor'd,
nor with more kinds, from the shrimp to the

E. e2


whale; as no harbors or bays are superior, whe-
ther regard be had to number or commodiousness.
Add to this their variety of excellent roots and
plants, particularly those of marine growth, every
one of them serving for food or physic. Their
pastures are so kindly, that they might live ou
milk alone, with that inconceivable quantity of
eugs they yearly gather of the desart rocks and
ilets. But flesh and fish, milk-meats, eggs, and sal-
lads in the greatest abundance (some will be apt
to say) are slender and comfortless food without
the staff of bread. On this assertion, tho' I might
fairly dispute it from the practice of whole na-
tions, and the experience of particular persons no
strangers to me, I will not however insist; bread,
among their other productions, being plentiful
enough in the Hebrides, which sometimes cannot
be said of the neighbouring ilands. The ground
is generally allow'd to be much richer than on the
Scottish continent, some parts whereof are not
f-eldom supply'd hence with corn*: and I have
also fiudi ])iOofs of it from Dr. IMartin (who, when
he wrote his Description of those Hands, wa^ far
from dreaming of the Hyperboreans) as will suffi-
ciently justify the expression of Diodorus about
their crops or harvests. Lewis is very fruitful:
and tho' barley, oats, and rye, be the cyily grain
sown there at present: vrt the ground both in
that, and in most of the other ilaiuisf is lit to bear

*SeeDr. Martin's Descrijiitionjpnje 140. +PageS3,337 .tc.


wheat, and consequently legumes of all sorts. 'Tis
truely amazing they have any crop at all, consi-
dering how unskilful they are in agriculture, how
destitute of the properest instruments to till the
ground, and that they scarce vise any other manure
but sea-wrack or tangles. From the ignorance of
the inhabitants in these respects, as also in plant-
ing, inclosing, and draining, many fruitful spots
ly uncultivated: but the abundance of choice eat-
ables (and namely the most nourishing shell-fish
of various. kinds) with which they are richly sup-
ply'd by bountiful nature, contributes more than
any thing to that indolence, which the antient
Greecs esteem'd their happiness. The goodness
of the soil appears by nothing more evidently,

Online LibraryJohn TolandA new edition of Toland's History of the druids : with an Abstract of his life and writings; and a copious appendix, containing notes critical, philological, and explanatory → online text (page 13 of 31)