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 30 of 31)
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counted for, vrhich hare hitherto appeared totally inexplicable.
What an immeDse treasure miist that man possess, who is blessed
with a Gothic pair of heels, and a Gothic understituding ! ! !

Whilst the Irish manuscripts remain unpublished, it is impos.
sible to pronounce decisively, either on their authenticity or an.
tiquity. The only aids we have in this case are the opinions of
the Irish themselves, or their history. The last I consider as the
most equitable and impartial rule, because it is much easier to
xiistake the date of a manuscript^ than to forge a history altoge-
ther without materials. Pinkarton himself is obliged to ackno w.
ledge, that Ireland is the most ancient of all the modem nations
of Eutope. But what could place it on this proud pinnacle of
pre-eminence ? It certainly was not Roman intercourse or civi.
lization. The early literature of Ireland is a phaenomenoti for
which it is impossible to assign even a probable reason, if we
give up this single point, that it was the ne plus ultra of Celtic
migration — that it was the last refuge of the Druids, and that
the whole Celtic literature and records fonnd here their last

In examining th^ most prominent features of the Iri^h history,
the first thing which deserves our attention is its chronology, be.
cause it is here that all profane histories chiefly err. The Irish
historians fix the first population of Ireland about 2,000 years
before the Christian sera, which is nearly three centuries and a
half after the deluge. Pinkarton himself is obliged to admit
(vol. 2. p. 25.) that Ireland may have been peopled 2000 years
before our sera, though he adds (in his usual polite and elegant
language), that it is a matter of supreme indifference at what time
the savages of a Continent peopled a neighbouring island. I am
far from contending that the above is the exact date of the first
population of Ireland. 'All I intend it, to shew that it is not


416 NOTES.

greatly exaggetatea, otherwise Pinkartofi would have anfrrau.
Tsrted on it with his usual severity. The Chaldeans and Chines*
carry their chronology as high as 200,000 years. The JEgJl-
tians pretfend to authentic records for more than 20,000 years.
The Athenians superseded all chronology whatever, by pretend,
ing that they were Autochthones — i. e. Earth-born, ct sprung
from the soil which they inhabited. Nay Pinkarton himself (as
formerly noticed} assigns to his beloved Goths or Scythians a
probable endurance of many millions of years. The date, there-
fore, assigned by the Irish Cor the first population of Ireland,
though perhaps over.rated a few centuries, is such an instance of
chronological modesty as has no parallel in any of the nations of
remote antiquity. Chronology is the very soul of history. In.
deed, what is commonly denominated fable or tradition, is gene.
rally nothing else than historical facts, divested of chronologi-
cal ariAngement and accuracy.

The Irish historians are pretty uniform in fixing the instita.
tion of a grand seminary of learning at Tarah, about eight centu.
Ties prior to the Christian>xra. That there were similar estn.
blishments in Gaul and Britain sixty years prior to our xra, is
clearly proved by C»sar. Nay, what is still more extraordinary,
he assigns the decided' pre.emiuence and superiority to the Bri.
tish schools. Is it then in the slightest degree incredible that
the Irish, descended from the same Celtic stock as the Gauls
and Brhotrs, should have the same literary institutions? The li.
tcrary attainments ascribed to the Druids by Cxsaii^ and other
Roman historians, could not have been the result of less than a
thousand years study. It is impossible to fix the exact »ra of
the first establishment of literary seminaries in Gaul and Britain.
But from the circumstances stated by Caesar, that the British
schools grpatly excsUed those of Gaul, andthat the discipline of
the Druids was supposed to have been invented in Britain and
thence transferred into Gaul, we are clearly authorized to infer,
tliat-these establishments were of remote antiquity. That Bri-
tain was peopled from Gaul," and derived Druidisra from the
same source, can admit of no doubt. Mpiiy centuries most

NOTES. 417

therefore have intervened", before Britain, in literary attainments,
could excell the parent country, and so completely obscure and
pervert the history of Gaul, as to induce a belief, even amongst
the Gauls themselves, that they derived Drnidism from B»taia.
At any rate, it is certain that in Ciesar's time there were senflna.
lies of education both in Gaul and Britain | that these semina.
lies were well attended; that the branches of education taught
were so numerous and complicated, as to require twenty years
Etudy ; and that the British schools had so far gained the ascend,
ancy, that the Gallic students resorted to Britain for the purpose
of perfecting their studies. The intercourse with Ireland was
equally easy; and it would be contrary to analogy and common
sense to suppose that it was destitute of similar institutions. The
records of the Irish have, in some measure, been preserved, whilst
those of the other Celtic nations have been lost/ and when their
historians fix the first literary establishment in Ireland 800 years
before our sra, we are well warranted, from the testimony of
Csesar, and all other collateral and concomitant circumstances,
to reckon the date not greatly over,rated.i

The Irish historians mark the first century of our sera as a
Tery remarkable one. Thelrish laws, which had been preserved
only in traditionary poems, were, by the command of King Con.
covar, who died about the year 48,. committed to writing. The
reason assigned, for this measure is,, that the Druids and Bards:
had, from time immemorial, interpreted these traditionary laws
as they pleased. This is said to have pcodufced an insurrectioa
of the people, by which the Druids and Bards were in danger, of
being exterminated^ They fled to Caiicovar, who, gave them
protection ; and,.in ordf r to quiet hia subjects, appointed a num..
ber of the:ni05t eminent Druids to compile an intelligible and
distinct, body of laws, and con^mit them to writing, that they
might be clearly understood, and no longer be submitted to the
arbitrary interpretation of the Druids. But what could have in-
duced the Irish, at' this particular crisis, to rise against a body,
of men whom they had always venerated, and to whose decisions
they had, from time immemorial, implicitly submitted ? The Irish

418 NOTES.

historians have here atted very uncaudidly, in vrithholdiog the
true cause, and only stating its effects. But the truth is, the
reign of Concovar coincides with that of the Emperor Claudius,
who completed the expulsion of the Druids from Gaul and Bri.
tain. Caesar, instead of conquering Britain, only pointed it out
to his successors. His immediate successors, Augustus, Tiberius,
and Caligula, made no attempt on Britain. Claudius succeeded
to the empire io 41, and in 43 made a conquest of the greater
part of the i«laod. The cruel edicts of Tiberius probably reach,
ed only the Druids in Gaul, and drove them over to Britain ; but
Claudius completed their extirpation, and compelled them to
take refuge in Ireland. The influx of the Druids of Gaul and
Britain must have produced a strong sensation in Ireland. The
traditionary laws j suited to the local peculiarities of the differ^t
districts of Gaul and Britain, perhaps ill accorded with those of
Ireland ; and as this little island must now have been greatly over,
stocked with Druids, every one of whom would persist in inter,
prnting the traditionary laws, according to the meaning which
they bore in that peculiar district, from which he had emigrated,
the confusion was irretrievable; and the Irish, who had without
):eluctance submitted to the interpretation of their own Druids:
spurned that of foreigners as novel, and by no means suited to
their peculiar circumstances. The selection of the most emi.
Dent Druids to compile, and commit to writing, a new code of
laws, was a measure dictated no less by sound policy than bf
imperious necessity* The di£fereat laws made by T\iathal, Cor.
mac, &c. to restrain the licence of the Bards, and preserve the
history of Ireland pure and incorrupted, owed their origin to the
same cause. The historical records of Gaul and Britain were
unquestionably more ancient than those of Ireland ; and haTiag
been conveyed thither by the Druids, expelled from Gaul and
Britain, the Irish history run the risk of being completely super,
seded, or at least greatly intermixed. Concovar carried his
measures no farther than to compile a new body of laws but
Tuathal appointed the compilation of a new history, andin all

NOTES. 419

time coming a triennial revision of the books of the antiqaaries,
by three Kings, three Druids, and three Antiquaries.

Bnt what will place the number, as well as the antiquity, of
the Irish manuscripts on an incontrovertible basis is, that St,
Patrick, on his arrival, burnt 300 of them. This fact is as well
attested as the existence of the saint himself. We have, how.
ever, no reason to conclude that these were the wholeof the Irish
manuscripts, ibut only such as contained the mysteries and reli.
gious rites of the Druids. Their historical manuscripts did not
come within this description. Indeed it is evident, from To.
land's quotations from these manuscripts, that even all those of
the former description were not burnt, but that many of the for^
mularies of the Druids, and much of their mythology, is extant
in manuscript. He has given us.a list of a dozen Druids, whilst
Dr. Smith has not been able to condescend on one. Another
circumstance, and that not the least important, is, that the onlj'
specimen of the Celtic alphabet which has survived the wreck of
time, has been preserved by the Irish.

I have already remarked, that it is impossible to treat the Irish
manuscripts, with any degree of critical accuracy, so long as they
remain unpublished. In this case all that I could do is to state
the jarring opinions of thpse who have written on the subject,
which, to the inferior class of my readers, could be of little ser.
vice, and to those of a superior description, could convey no in.
formation of which they are not already possessed. As these
notes have already extended to more than double the size origi.
pally intended, I shall conclude with a few remarks on tho
Duan Albmach, and the much agitated question whether Ireland
was Scotland, or vice versa. The reader will find a copy of this
Irish poem in O'Connor's Dissertation, O' Flaherty's Ogygia,
or the Appendix to Pinkarton's History of Scotland.

The Duan Albanach — i. e. the Scottish song, or rather, the
historical song of the Scots, is an Irish poem of great antiquity,
and was certainly begun prior to the xra of St. Patrick. It is
i!0t like the Chronicon Pictorum, and other more modern pro=
dactionsj debased by monkish etymological oonsense.

.420 NOTES.

The Duan Alhanach gives us t!ie \erY n^we of Cje Scols High.
landers, which they retain to this day; and considering the avi.
dify of the Irish to esfablish that Ireland was Scotland, and fbe
Irish the original Scots, I (hiok it amounts todemoDStration that
this poem was begun, and had received its title, before this fool.
ish whim liad entered the heads of the Irish, and before the name
Scot was in existence. Had it been otherwise, they would cer.
tainly have named it the Duan Scaothach. The truth is, that in
the Irish, as well as the Gaelic language, Scotland is uniformly
named Alha, and the inhabitants Alhanach. The Chronicon
Pictorum, a monkish production of the 13(h century (as is gene.
rally supposed), and composed in Latin, gravely tells us — Gen.
fes Scitia (Scoties^ albo crine nascuntur ah assiduis viv'dni s ; el
fpsius rapilli color genti nomen dedil, el inde dicuntur Albani —
i. e, " The nations of Scotland are born with white hair, on ac-
count of the continual snows; and the colour of their hair gave
name to the nation, and hence they are called Albani." I have
aUeady shewn that the Damnii were the most numerous and the
most widely extended of the Scottish tribes. These were, from
their local situation, denominated Meatach. and Alhanach, which
the Romans and monkish writers latinized Meaia and Albani —
i. e. Lozclanders and Highlanders. In the Celtic language Alb,
or Alp, always signifies a height ; and its adjective Alhanach, or
Alpanach, always signifies high. Alb (generally pronounced
Alp) is the radix of the Latin Alpes, Alhus, &c. This name is
of great antiquity. Alha is the name of a town in Latium, and
of another in P»nnonia. We have Alba, a river in Spain ; Al.
bania, a town of Arabia Fells; Albania, a region rcichiug from
the Caspian Sea to the Palus Maeotis; Albanns, the name of a
hill in Latium, and of two towns, the one in Macedonia, and
the other in Armenia Jviajor; AlLia, a hilly district borderintr
on the Carni; Albti, tlie ancient name of the Alps; Albiona, a
town of thp L:2;ures; All-is, the ancient name of the Elbe, &p.
>n Great Britain I need only mention Allmn, Breadalba:ic,
X)niiiialharj, Gkn.mor.nn WAlahiii, Alin, Alharach. &r. The
gihnity of t]ioi* name?, n'ul mmiy moir which could be addcc J

NOTES. 421-

clearly establish the prevalence of [email protected] Celtic language,' and the
wide extent of their ancient possessionsv But it was certainly a
most egregious blunder in the v/Txter of the hronicon Piciorum,
to render the CeUic AlHanach, white, which,- in fact, signifies
hilly or mountainous. The Roman and Celtic meaning of the
word can easily be reconciled. Hills, from beiOg freijuently co.
vered with snow, or from their hoary cliffs, convey the idea of
whiteness, as well as of elevation. • The Celt» have, therefore,
retained the primary^ and the Romans the secondary, or advea~
tUious signification. That Albus, among the Latians, signified
high, is evident from Livy, (lib. 1.) who tells us that Alba
honga was so named from its being built on a long Dorsum, or
eminence. ^Iha Longa literally signifies the long Dorsum, or
But to return to the Duan Albanach, it is worthy of remark
/that it has been. greatly mutilated. There is no point in ancient
history better established, than the arrival of an Irish colony ia
Argyleshire, xxnder Riada, about the middle of the third century*
About the middle of the fifth, this colony was defeated by tha
Ficts, took refuge in Ireland, and did not return till the year
603. Ip 'the. above poem, the first colony is omitted altogether,
and it commences with Laarn, the leader of the second colony
in 503. The Irish historians have, by this means, contrived to
date.'the arrival of this colony posterior to the departure of the
Roms^ns, that it might be believed there were no Scots in Scot,
land during the Roman period, and that such as are mentioned
by the Roman writers, were auxiliaries sent from Ireland to as.
sist in repelling the Romans. Had the Irish claim been well
founded, there .was no occasion for resorting to£o mean and def.
perate an expedient.' ,

Claudian, the panegyrist^ has given rise to the whole fable in
the following lines:

— — : • Maduerunt Saxone fuso

• Orca4es ;■ incaluit Pictornm sanguine Thule ;
Scotorum cumulos flevit glacialis lerne —

i. e. " .The Orkneys were wet with the blood of the routed Sax.


422 NOTES.

OBs; Thule was warm with the blood of IhePicts; and icy lernc
mourned the slaughtered heaps of Scots." Unfortunately we
have maay places bearing the name of lerne. It is the most an-
cient Greek name of Ireland. It is the name of a lake (Erne)
id that kingdom. It is the name of a mountain and river of the
Artabri, in Spain. It is the name of a lake and river in Perth,
shire, and of a river in Murrayshire, &c. Amidst this ambigni.
ly and confusion, the real scene of the Roman actions with the
Scots, iftnst determine which is the lerne in question. We know
that the Romans did not fight with the Scots in Ireland or in
Spain. Stfath.Erne, in Scotland, is undoubtedly the lerne here
meant; and the term glaciaUs (icy) is certainly more applicable
to the river Erne, than to the .kingdom of Ireland* Id Strath.
Erne we have many superb Roman monuments, particularly a
Homan camp, (see Gordon's Itiner. Septent. plate 5.) still re-
taining the name of Galgachan, where the battle between Agri.
cola and Galgacus is supposed to have been fought. But were
^e even to grant that lerne was Ireland, and that (as Claudian
says) it lamented the defeat of the Scots, still it does not follow
that Ireland was the native country of the Scots, otherwise it
TDust also follow, that Iceland (the real Thule) was the native
country of the Picts, and Orkney of the Sasons. Ireland might
lament the defeat of the Scots, who were endeavouring to set
bounds to an enfmy formidable to all the world, because the dis.
comfiture of any intervening army brought the'danger still near.
er to themselves.

I have already remarked, that the ambiguity of Tacitus mis-
led his editor so far as to make Ireland (Hibernia) the ckief
scene of Agricola's actions during the third, fourth, and fifth
years of his residence in Britain. The before cited passage of
Claudian is equally ambiguous, and has given fall scope to
Monkish fable and conjecture. What is still more to be rrgret.
ted is, the affinity of Hibernia to the Roman adjective Hibemus,
■which signifes wintry or cold, and has led superficial writers
into many errours. Calepine, in the word Hibernia, tells us,
that it k supposed t« be derired from HHienMS, propter hiemi$

NOTES. 423

longitwdinem, on account of tli« length of the -winter. From
the time of Columba till the twelfth century, the Irish were
almost the only clergy ia Scotland, and modelled the history
of the Scots to suit their own Vanity. The adventitious
circumstance of an Irlsji colony having settled in Argyleshira
about the middle of the third century, gave an air »f plausihility
to the imposture, and, like the Germanic origin of the Caledo.
niaos, hinted at by Tacitus, it has been twisted about and about
in every direction, and is as keenly contested at the present day,
as the first moineat the discussion begao. ' On the evidence of
Calepinfe, the Romans reclioned Ireland a cold country, and that
it derived' its name from this very circumstance. Pei^haps this
mistake induced Ptolemy to place Ireland due north of Scotland,
(iistead of west, the former being the colder position of the two ;
and this very error of Ptolemy has tended not a little to per-
plex the point, in question.

There is not a passage in any Roman author whatever, which
can in the remotest degree imply that Ireland was Scotland,
whilst every one of them clearly Implies that Scotland was
Ireland. Had the Scots, so formidable to the Romans, been
Irish auxiliaries, it could not have escaped the Rornan historians
to a man. The Romans, on the contrary, had a most contemp-
tible opinion of Ireland. Tacitus tells us (Vit. Agric. cap. 8.)
that Agi'icola placed garrisons on the coast of Britain, opposite
to Ireland, in spem magis quam ob formidinem — i. e. ^^ from the
hope of advantageous intercourse, rather than from any dread of
their arms j" and in the same chapter adds, " that Ireland might
be conquered and kept by one legion and" a few auxiliaries —
Legione una et modicis auxilus debellari Hiberniam,< obtineriqne
passe. It is well known that the Roman pristentures, from Sol.
way Firth to the river Tyne, and from Clyde to Forth, were
Constructed to resist the invasions of the Scets and Picts. But
had these incursions been from Ireland, the Romans would cer-
tainly have fortified (he coast opposite to it, and opposed these
barriers to the greatest danger. We are well warranted to in-
fer, that tke most formidable defence would bo opposed to the

3 H 2

424 JfOTES.

most formidable danger; but against Ireland they were no de-
fence at all, because the whole west coast of Britain lay open to
the Irish, and they could have landed to the south of either pra;.
tenture. Indeed, the silly fiction that the Scots were Irish auxi-
liaries, never obtained, till the influence of tke Irish ecclesias-
tics had gained the ascendancy in Scotland, and on the decline
of this influence, the fable was exploded. The venerable Bedej
a writer of the eighth century, under the year 324, mentions the
Scots and Picts as invading the Roman province in the time of
Honorius, and calls both of them transmarine nations; wo<(says
he) that they were a people settled out of Britain, but they may
he called transmarine, by being, as it zeere, separated from the
conquered province (Valentia) to the southzsard, by the two Firths
of Clyde and Forth. — See Gordon's Itin. p. 141. Tacitus, speak-
ing of the same people, and of the same part of the country,
says, Sumtiiotis velut in aliam insulam hostibus — i. e. " the ene,
my being removed, as if into another island." In another place,
speaking of that part of the island south of the Firths of Forth
and Clyde, he calls it Britanniam ipsam — " Britain proper,"
and that part north of these Friths, qua^i alicm insulam, as if
another island. Is it then any wonder that men, totally isno.
rant of the geographical situation of the north of Scotland, should
mistake it frfr an island totally distinct from Britain, and con-
found it with Ireland, the largest of the British island?. Bede
and Gildas call the Picts, as well as the Scots, transmarine ca-
tions, on account of their Peninsular situation ; and if the Scots
were Irish, the Picts must also have been Irish — a point which
their strenuous friend Pinkarton has resisted /o.';.^ -. inlu.i. Thry
•who argue that the Scots were Irish auxiliaries, r.iay, with equal
propriety, argue that the Roman prcetentures, cauips, Arc. and
even Valentia itself, were in Ireland.

Whoever chnses to select the blemishes, the ambiguities, and
the mistakes of ancient writer?, may by th^ foundation of anv
system he pleases. Mr. Pinkarton has, iti this respect, shewn
Jjimself a great adept. His Gothic system rests on the basis of
all that is absurd and ejfceptiouable in ancient or n;»(lern mi it.

NqTES. 425

ers. The man who sacrifices his judgir.pnt at the shrine of a
favourite hypothesis, may, with a little ingpnuity, do wonder".
Strabo makes the Caspian Sea a gulf of the northern ocean. In
order to establish this point, it is only necessary to suppose,
that that part M'hich is now terrafirma, has been filled up since
Strabo's time by the action and re.action of the tide. Many
similar instances of repletion might be adduced. Propertius
calls the Geta; (a nation of Thrace) Hiberni Getce, which may be
rendered (according' to the modern Monkish acceptation) the
Irish Getce. Gildas, speaking of the Scots and Picts, says — ■
Romanis ad suos remeantibus emergunt.cerlatim de curucis, qui.
bus sunt trans Seythicam Vallem evicti — i. e. " The Romans
having left Britain, they (the Scots and Picts) eagerly land from
their curroughs (skin boats), In which they passed over the Scyi
thian' valley." This Scythica (Scotica) vallis •wa.s the Frith of
Forth; but were we to take the natural import of the words,
they might be rendered a valley of ancient Scythia. Tbe Cale.
doniaas included all the inhabitants of the north of Scotland;
and Tacitus mentions their red hair as a peculiar characteristic.
Gildas, on the contrary, calls them ietri Scotorum Pictorumque
Gre'ges — i. e. " The black herds of Scots and Picts. Here, we
have a red and a black theory; and every one may adopt the
one or the other, as best suits'his purpose. Ten thousand in-
stances of the same kind might be adduced.

- The passages on which Pinkarton founds his theory that Scot.
land was Ireland, are exactly of the same description; and I
shall notice a few of them. Bede, speaking of Ireland, says —
Mae S color urn patria est — i. e. " This is the native country of
the Scots. That the Dalriadic colony migrated from Ireland to
Argyleshire, is not disputed; and that the name Scot originated
with this colony, is equally allowed; but it is this very circum-
stance which has obscured the point in q^uestion. There is no
impropriety in calling Ireland the native country of this colony,
any more than in calling Britain the native country of the colony
settled at Botany Bay ; but certainly no one woulcl thence infer
that Britain and New HoUaad are one and the same identical

426 KOTES.

spot of ground. Bede has most probably mistaken Argylcshire

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 30 of 31)