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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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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 26 of 31)
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curs in this chapter, (it occurs four times) it must mean the
Greek alphabet. 3. That the Greek language was Well known
to the' Vulgar in Gaul, which induced the Druids to interdict
this language in particular, and no other.

But so far from the Greek language being generally known
in Gaul, we have the very best authority to the contrary. Cae-
lai-, (lib. 1. cap. 19 ) gives us an account of an interview with
iMvitiacus, where the daily interpreters were removed, and the
conversation carried on betwixt theni by means of Cains Vale,
lius Procillus. Divitiacus was a very eminent man, and, besides,
the Archdruid of all Gaul. Had he been acquainted with the
Greek language-, no interpreter betwixt him and Caesar would
have been necessary; and it would certainly be absurd, in the
exttetae, to ascribe to the vulgar a knowledge of the Greek
language, which even their Archdruid did not possess. Ttie
Greek language was not therefore the language of the vulgar in
Gaul, and consequently the Druidic prohibition did not extend
to it. Indeed, to whatever hand we turn ourselves^ (if the
word Graecis is retained) we are involved in a Chaos of non-
sense, absurdity, ahd contradiction. Explode it, and all is
clear and consistent.

The result of the whole }s,.lliat Caesar is not here speaking of



372 NOTESi

any particular language or alphabet, but merely of the art of
writing in general. The Druidic precaution must also be inter-
preted in the same liberal and indefinite manner. Their probi-
tion to commit their tenets to writing did not point to this or
that particular language, but was ultimate and conclusive against
commiting them to writing in any language whatever. On the
testimony of Luciaii and Caesar, the Greek, language was known
in Gaul, but that knowledge appears to hate been limited to a
few illustrious individuals, otherwise he would not have needed
an interpreter, when speaking to Divitiacus. That this was the
case is clear from Caesar, {lib. 5. cap. 48) who says, Tvm cui-,
dam ex equitibus Gallis magriis praeiniis persuadet, uti ad Qicer-
onem epistolant defcrat. Hanc Graecis conscriplam Uteris mit.
tit ; ne interixptaepisiola, nostra ah hostibus consilia cognoscan.
tur. i. e, " Then he persuades one of the Gallic horsemen, by
great rewards, to carry a letter to Cicera. lie sends this letter
written in the Greek language, lest being intercepted, our de-
signs might be kown by the enemy." Tabulae covfectue Grae-
eis Uteris, and Epistola conscripta Graecis Uteris, are phrases so
much the same, that it is evident the registers of the UeUelii
mentioned by Caes«r, (lib. 1. cap. 29.) were written in the
Greek language, and not merely in the Greek characters. But
whatever knowledge the Celts in Gaul had of the Greek lan-
guage, it is evident they were much better acquainted with the
Iloman language, else Caesar would not have used the Greek
language as a preferable disguise. Had the Celts been totally
illiterate, no precaution was necessary, nor would there have
been the least risque of their reading Caesar's letter. Heace, it
is clearly established on the most unexceptionable evidence of
Caesar, who could not possibly be mistaken, that the Gauls un.
derstood both the Greek and Roman languages, and infallibly
the respective alphabets of both these languages. Can any man,
io his senses, thsn imagine, that when they were acquainted with
both these alphabets, they could not form one to themselves ?
I consider it therefore indubitable that (he Celts in Gaul, as
early as the time of Caesar were acquainted with the art of wri.



NOTES; 373

ting, and had an alphabet of their own. Having satisfactorily
(I hope) established this point, I shall next turn my attention
to the Celts in Great Britain.

To establish the antiquity of the use of letters in Britain, it
might'be deemed sufficient to point out its early commercial in.
tercourse with Greece and Phoenicia, in both which countries,,,
the art of writing was well known. Commercial nations have,
of all othel-s, been soonest acquainted with this art« The reasoa
is obvious ; for commerce can be carried to no great extent with-
out it. The inhabitants of Gaul and Britain were descended of,
the same common stock, they spoke the same language, and had
the same civil and religious institutions; their intercourse was
easy and frequent, and hence any art or science -known iii the
one country could not.be long unknown in the other. Fortu.
oately we have no occasion to rest this matter on hypothetical
or presumptive evidence. Caesar (lib. 6. cap. 13.) puts it be-
yond all doubt, when he tells as-^Disciplina in Britannia reper.
ta, atque inde in GaUiam translata esse existimatur j et nunc,
guidiligentius emh reifi cognoscere volunt, plerumque Ulo diseen-
di causa projiciscunlur — i. e. " The discipline (of the Druids)
is supposed to have been invented in Britain, and thence trans,
ferred into Gaul j and even at the present day, they who wish
to know this discipline more perfectly, for the most part resort
to Britain for the purpose of studying it." By disciplina is
clearly meant the whole learning or philosophy of the Druids.
We thus see that the Druids in Gaul, so far from being in any
respect superior to those in Britain, were in fact their pupils;
and hence it must follow, that whatever degree of learning was
known in Gaul, bad been carried to a higher pitch of perfection
in Britain. We have already seen that the use of letters was, in
Caesar's time, well known in Gaul. We have also seen thikt the
Britons were the preceptors of the Gauls; and if it were possi-
ble to imagine that the teacher was more ignorant than the scho.
lar, or that the Druids in Britain were unacquainted W'ith the;
use of letters, stiU it is certain that this noble art would have
been speedily communicated bjr one or other of the numerous

3 B



374 NOTES.

Gallic students, who resorted to Britain for tht purpose of pro-
secutibg their studies to perfection. Tacitus, in his Life of
Agricola, (cap. 7. adfinem) gives us a »ery remarkable passage
nearly to the same effect. Hortari privalim, adjuvare puMicc,
vt iempla,fora, domos exstruerent, laudando promptos, et casti.
gando segnes, ita hmoris aemulatio, pro necessitate erat. Ita
veto principumftlios liber alibus artibus erudire, et ingenia Bri-
tannorum sfudiis Gallorum anteferre, ut qui modo linguam Roma-
namabnuebant, eloquentiam concupiscerent — i. e. " He exhort-
ed them privately, he assisted them publicfy to boild temples,,
courts of justice, and houses, by praising the industrious, and
punishing the indolent, and hence necessarily arose an emala> ,
tlon for honour. He also instructed the sons of the nobility to
that degree in the liberal arts, and made them so far outstrip the
£r»uls in their studies, that they who lately despised the Roman
iTihguage, were now in raptures with its eloquence." Prior to
this period, the Druids in Britain had been persecuted with the
most relentless rigour. The inhabitants, by repeated injuries,
had been exasperated almost even to madness and desperation.
Agricola took a different course, and endeavoured to appease
them by conciliatory measures. He protected their property,
and assisted them to rebuild their houses, and teligious sutAjudi.
eial circles (Temph et fora) \fhich had been demolished. He
further instructed the sons of the nobility in the liberal arts, and
made them such adepts in the Latin language, that they highly
relished its beauties and elegance. Will even Pinkarton himself
say that these noble youths were unacquainted with the use of
letters? Will be, in the face of so direct a testimony, say that
the Celts had no temples ? Will he deny the distinction I have
made of the Druidical circles into (Templa et/ora) temples and
Courts* of justice, when he sees this distinction sanctioned by
Tacitus himself? Will he still insht that the Britons were mere
illiterate savages, when Tacitus expressly says— in^e«/a hrittm.
norum studiis GaUorum anteferre— \. e. " He made the genius
of the Britons excel the studies of the Gauls?" The efidenc*
of Tacitus is ia this inslance of pritnary weight, as he was pro.



NOTji;s. 375

curator of Gaul, and had an opportunify of knowing the studies
of the Gauls ; and Agricola, his father.in.law, had an equal op,-
portunity of Icnowing the studies of bis noble pupils in Britain.
Before Mr. Pinkarton can fix the charge of ignorance of letters
on the Celts, he must— 1 mo, Disprove the direct testimony of
Cassar; — 2do, He must prove th^t the Gauls were such fools,
from time immemorial, as to resort to Britain to perfect their
studies, under a race of men much more ignorant and illiterate
than themselves ;— Sfcio, That the noble pupils of Agricola Icarn-
-ed to read the Roman language, and admired its beauties and
elegance, ivithout knovring one single. letter of the alphabet of
that, or any other language ;-'-4to, That reading and writing are
not included in the number of the Libert Arts, and consequently
were not imparted to Agricola's pupils.

It deserves particular notice, that Agricola resided in Britain
only about seven years, and the words of Tacitus seem to imply,
that the sons of the nobility completed their education iathe se.
cond. yeari In the third year Agricola penetrated as far as the
Tay, But should we allow the vrhole seven years, the time
would hare baentotally inadequate, had Agricola had mere illi.
terate savages to contend with. On the contrary he appears to
have found a well prepared, grateful and productive soil, and
this can only be imputed to the Druids, who made the education
of the higher ranks thei r peculiar study and province. We iiave
already seen (on the testimony of Csesar), that in his time the
Gauls had made some progress in the Greek, and still more in
the Roman language. The oM Gaul mentioned by Lucian vaii
profoundly skilled in the Greek language. It is not impro.
bable, from their intercourse with the Romans, that the higher
ranks in Britain had, by this time, paid some attention to the
Raman language. Indeed the words of. Tacitus imply as much
— qui ^odo linguam Romanam abnuebant — i. e. " who lately
rejected the Romaic language," for it is well known that a man
can neither approbate nor reprobate a language of which he is
totally ignorant. When Tacitus was expressly treating on the
subject of British education, had the Britaius been ignorant of

3 B 2



876 NOTES.

letters, he would certainly have told us, as he does of the Ger-
mans (De Morib. Germ. cap. 6.) — Literarum secreta virt pari,
ter, acfoeminae ignorant— \. e. " Men and women «re equally
ignorant of the secret of lette rs . " Were we tbu s to pervaxle the
ancient classics, numerous passages io the same effect might be
found ; but I shall content myself with mentioning the Ttirdetani,
the oldest inhabitants of Spain, who, on the testimony of Strabo,
(lib. 3.) had laws written in verse, a thousand years before his
time. These Turdetani were clearly Celts, and placed in the
Celtic district on the Baetis or Guadalquiver. The very river
seems to have taken its name from the Celtic settlement on its
banks ; for Guadalquiver (in the Gaelic language Gaoidhal Cuib-
har) literally signifies the Celtic portion or territory. The Tur-
detani, and their neighbours the Tttrduli, are mentioned by
Ptolemy, lib. 2. cap. 5. The TurduU are mentioned by Varro,
lib.i. cap. 10. and by Pliny, lib. 3. cap. 1.; but the surest
proof that these Turdilani were Celts is, that Mr. Pinkarton has
not claimed them as Goths, nor 'indeed once mentioned them, ,
though he has given ns a very full account of the Celt*, or what
he calls the German Celts in Spain. Had they borne any affinity
to his favourite Goths, hfe would have traced them through every
chink and crevice from Nootka Sound to Nova Zembla.

When this gentleman has any favourite point to drive, he is a
most assiduous champion ; and there is no artifice, howevpr
Mean, to which he will not stoop. When wishing to establish
that the inhabitants of the east of England were Germans, he
quotes a passage from Tacitus (Vit. Agric. cap. 4.), but leaves
out the most material part of the whole, — See vol. I. p. 184-
Sensible that he would be detected, he has inserted part of (he
passage omitted, in his list of errata; but instead of a transla.
tion of it, gives us the following comment. He (Tacitus) is
speaking of the Belgic Gauls, and the Belga in Britain; among
the former he lived; and the latter t^ere the only Britons he could
Imow from proximity. — Intrcduc. to vol 1. p. 84. I shall here
insert the passage, and let Tacitus speak for himself. In nniver.
sum tamen aestimmti GaUos vicinum solum occtipassi- credibile est.



NOTES. 377*

JEorUm seicra deprehettdds, svperstitionum pcrsuasionc. Sermo
hand multum diversus. In deposcendis pericnlu eadem audacia,
et ubi advenere, in detreclnndis eadem formido ; plus tamenfero.
cite Britanni praeferunt, ut quos nondum lovga pax emollierit.
Nam Gattos quoque in Bellis Jioruisse accepimus, Mox segnitia
cum otto intravit, amissa eiriute ac pariter libertate, quod Britan.
norum olim victis etenit ,• ceteri manent quales Galli fuerunt —
i. e. " On the whole, to an attentive observer, it vpill appear
credible that the Gauls occupied the land (of Britain) nearest
to them. You can discover their sacred rites by the similarity
of their superstitions. Their language is nearly the same. They
have the same boldness in provoking dangers, and when they
have found them, the same cowardice in running away from
them ; but the Britons shew more courage, because long peace
has not as yet rendered them effeminate. For we have also
heard that the Gauls flourished in war. Immediately indolence
entered with ease, (peace) their bravery being lost along with
their liberty. The very same thing happened to that part of
the Britons formerly conquered ; the rest remain such as the
Gauls were."

Now I appeal to any man of common sense, and common ho-
nesty, whether Tacitus mentions the Belgae, or even so much
as alludes to them. It would, indeed, have been very inconve.
nient for Mr. Pinkarton to have treated this passage honestly.
It contains every characteristic trait of the Celts in Gaul, and
(.very part of it is corroborated by Caesar. We have, 1. Their
sacred rites and superstitions. Caesar, (lib. 6. cap. 16.) says,
Natio omnis Gallorum est admodvm dedita religionibus. i. e.
" The whole nation of the Gauls is greatly addicted to veli.
gjous rites." ' Pinkarton renders this, one third of GauL
Caesar, (lib. 6. cap. 21.) says of the Germans, Nam neque
Druides liahent, qui rebus divinis praesint, neque sacrifidis itu-
dent. i. e. " For the Germans neither have Druids who preside
in religious matters, nor do they offer sacrifices at all." Hence
it is clear that the sacred rites and superstitions found in Bri.
tain by Tacitus, will not apply to the Belgae, had they been



S78 NOTES.

Germans. 2. We have the similarity of the langvage oj the Bri.
tons to that of the Gauls. This is, of all olher marks, the most
uaeqniTocal, and is the more important because Tacitus makes it
thelanguage of the whole island. He appears to have been at great
pains to investigate every trait of distinction among the inhabi.
tants, but found no other except the red hair and large limbs of
the Caledonians (Picts^, and the curled hair and painted counte-
nances, of the Silures, (Welch). Would he have mentioned
such equivocal marks of discrimination, and omitted that of
language, when espressly treating of the language of Britain,
had any diflferenc© existed ? Impossible. 3. 77»« foncttrdness
of the Britons to provoke dangers, and their pusillanimity in re.
pelting them. This propensity of the Gauls is admirably marked
by Caesar, (lib. 3. cap. 19.) in these words. Nam ut ad Bella
suscipienda Gallorum alacer ac promptus est animus, sic mollis ac
minime resisiens ad calamitata perferendas mens eorum est. i. e.
" For as the minds of the Gauls are eager and forvrard to an.
dertake war, so they are timid, and have very little fortitude to
«ndure calamities." 4. The former braoery of the Gauls. This
is mentioned by Cassar, (lib. 6. cap. 24.) Acfuit antea tempus
quum Germanos Galli virtute siiperarent, ultra bella inferrenf,
propter homitium mullitudinem, agrique inopiam trans Rhemim
colonias mitterent, Sfc, i. e. " And there formerly was a time
when the Gauls excelled the Germans in bravery, made war on
them of their own accord, and on account of the multitude of
men, and want of land, sent colonies across the Rhine." The
only circumstance which Cassar omits, is the language of the
Britons, nor is this any matter of surprise. Having stated that
the inhabitants of the cast coast of Britain were Bclgae from
Gaul, it was unnecessary to acquaint us that they brought the
Gallic language along with them; nor is it usual, (as far as I
k now ) for a historian to siy that a nation speaks its own language,
for this very obvious reason, that it cannot rationally be supposed
to speak any other. Fortunately Tacitus', (in whose time Bri,
lain waswell known, from the isle of Anglesey to the Grampi.
ans,) puts this matter beyond a doubt, when he calls the Bri.



NOTES. 379

fish language, sermo haud multum diverstti, i. e, " a language
nearly resembling the Gcdlie. But, (says Mr. Pinkarton), he
is here speaking of the Belgic Gauls, and the Belgae in Britain,
and means the German language. Be it so. But I suppose it
will be 'admitted Tacitus is the best judge of his own meaning.
Speaking of the jEstyi, a German nation, {De Morib, Germ. cap.
16. ad initium), he says. Ergo jam dextrO Suevici inaris littore
Mstyorum gentes alluuntur ; quibua ritus habitusgue suevorum,
lingua Britannicae propior, i. e. " The tribes of the ^styi are
next washed on the right hand shore of the Suevian sea ; they
have the religious rites and dress of the Suevi, but their language
approaches nearer to the Britannic. Tacitus here certainly
means to say, that the Mstii spoke the Britannic language, and
not the German; and hence it must also follow that the Britan.
nic language was not the German. Had there been different
languages in Britain, Tacitus would not have used the general
term Britannic language, (a term commensurate to the island
itself), to express the language of the JEstyi. This uniformity
of language, throughout the whole extent of the island, clearly
established by Tacitus, and contradicted by no tloman author
whatever, settles the important point, that the Belgae were
Celts— that they spoke the Celtic language — and that the inha.
tants of Britain, in toto (in Tacitus' time), were of the same
race, and spoke the same language, Mr. Pinkarton, taking his
leave of Tacitus, has a most tragi-comic encounter with Bede,
J'ornandes, Nennius, Samuel, £fc. hugging one, and buffeting
another, as they happen to favour, or thwart his purpose; but
the whole evidence be elicits from this arduous contest, is not
worth a penny. When Tacitus had oncie dropt the hint, that
the Caledonians might perhaps be GermSins, it was easy for these
fabulous writers, to contrive a method of ferrying them over
from Germany. But here too, they commit an egregious mis.
take ii^ bringing them over in a few Roman ships of war, longis-
■navibus non multis. Every one knows that the Romans, and no
Aation else denominated their ships of war, Longne naves. This
blunder is the more unpardonable, because Tacitus, speaking of



380 NOTES.

the Suiones,(De Moilb, Germ. cap. 14 ) gives us a^descrrptloa
of ships very drflerenf. Forma naviam eo differ/, quod utnmque
prorae paratam semper appulsui fronlem agil ; nee veils minis,
trantur, nee remos in online lateribus adjungunt. Solutum, ul
inquibusdamfluminum,et mutabUe, ut resposeit, Itine velillinc re-
migium, i. e. " The form of their ships dilTer from ours in this
respect, that a prow at each end renders landing alwajs easy,
nor are they furnished with sails, nor do they fix the oars ia
rows oil their sides. The oars are loose, (not fastened to the? es-
sel), as is the case in some rivers, and can be shifted to either
side, as occasion requires." Mr. Pinkarton is here at his old
tricks. He does not insert this passage in the original, bat
gives us the following interested and uncandid translation of it.
The form of the ships differ from ours, because a prow at either
end makes landing always easy, Thei) have no sails, nor are ihe
oars ranged in order on the side. The vessel is of free comtruc.
tion, as used in some rivers, and may be steered to whatever point
is necessary, (v. 1. p. 204). By Solutum rcmtginm, is clearly
meant that the Suiones did not fasten thiir oars to the ships, but
Mr. Pinkarton says it means a. free built vessel, without consU
deriog, that Solutum, whenever applied t oa ship, means unmoor,
ed, Sohere naiem to unmoor a ship, is a phrase so well known
that it needs no comment. ReiMgium never signifies a vessel,
but the act of rowing, ipsa agitatio remorum, and in many in.
stances, (as here) the oar itself. By this artifice Mr. Piokartou
has contrived to convert Tacitus' censure of their unskilful mode
of rowing, into a panegyric ou the structure of their ships. I
hope the rea(Jer will indulge me in making a few remarks on this
famous Scandinavian navy,

1. They were double prowed, for the greater facility in land-
ing, and hence we may infer that they were not calculated for
any thing beyond their narrow creeks and rivers. Had they
been acquainted with the helm, the double prow to land the
ship, without turning, was unnecessary, and without the helm
no distant voyage could be undertaken. 2. They had no sails
another obstacle to sailing^ at any considerable distance. 3, The



NOTES. 381

oars were disposed in no regular and judicious manner, to fa.
cilitate either the celerity, or proper management of the vessel.
4to, The oars, as in boats employed on rivers, were not fastened
to the vessel, and apt, in the least storm, to be washen overboard
and lost. This was the state of the Scandinavian navy when
Tacitus wrote in the beginning of the second dentury. Four
centuries earlier, the date assigned' for the migration of the Picfs
from Scandinavia to Scotland, this navy must have been still in a
worse state. Yet these wretched boats, with a double prow,
without sails, without a regular disposition of the oars, managed
in the most unskilful manner, and in all probability without a
helm, have been magnified by the writers of the middle ages into
huge, large ships, longae naves.

But the true point of inquiry' is, bow these late writers knew
an event of which no tradition ei(ist«d in the time of Cxsar and
Tacitus, who wrote seven or eight centuries before them. Had
any ttadition of this mig.r3.tio0 existed, Tacitus woulduot have
rested the Pictish or Caledonian claim to a Germanic origin, on
their red hair. Caesar and Tacitus are the fathers of British his-
tory. It is astonishing to consider with what avidity the slight-
est hint dropt by them has been grasped at, and improved on.
Caesar mentions Vergobretus as the name of the chief magistrate
of the ^dui. The hint is instantly taken, and Casivellaunus is
dubbed Vei-gobret of the South Britoiis, Galgacus of the Caledo.
niansj and, which is still more ridiculous, Mr. Pinkarton has
put in his claim to Vergobret in behalf of his favourite Goths.
Human folly is 'always the same. But the truth is, that there is
BO evidence whatever of a Pictish migration fromScythia,'Geri
many, or Scandinavia. The conjecture of Tacitus, that the Ca.
ledonians might be Germans from the size of their limbs, and
their red hair, is the origin of the whole fable. Here it origi.
nated; and after having been twisted about and about in every
direction, from the time of Bede down to the present day, it al.
ways reverts- to the same point, and remains exactly as Tacitus
left it. The fed hair of the Caledonians, on which Pinkarton
lays so much stress j is a criterion extremely equivocal. The

3 C



382 NOTES.

Tery same criterion would prove them Egyptians. Dioderus
Skulus (libr 1. p. S9.) says, it zeas an established custom of the
Egyptians to sacrifice red haired men at the tomb of Osiris.

But though we should grant, contrary io all probability, that
the Picts or Caledonians were a colony from Gernaany or Scan,
dinavia about three centuries prior to our oera, still we are in-
volved in the same difficulty ; for the question naturally arises,
whether this colony were Celts or Germans ? That the Germans
made great encroachments on the Celts on the Continent, and



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 26 of 31)