to be the Isle of Wight, solely because its name is somewhat like Vectis, the latin name for that island. To make this argument possible requires a capacious imagination indeed. The sea—a deep sea—from the mainland of Hampshire, must be made to dry up-in imagination ; the necessary accommodation must be found on the island side-by imagination ; and then the tin must be dragged to it overland—a further piece of imagination ; and all this without a tittle of evidence to suggest the thought, and with the fine port and depôt of Clausentum (Bittern, our Southampton), actually in use close at hand. If history can be satisfied with such work, it must be a waste of time to seek for facts.

Archæology and geography have been so ruthlessly violated on this subject that, so far, the attempts to determine the question have resulted in failure, and this chiefly from the continued, persistent endeavour of writers to accept or adopt old theories and statements. To substitute for the chaotic confusion and traditional fallacy which have hitherto prevailed, a genuine, precise, and critical examination of the story must be fairly acceptable, and also hopeful for the truth. The first step towards accuracy will be gained when all legends or guesses are cast aside.

The old writers, as authorities, quoted singly and without context, have been used too often, not for what they could teach, but rather to be forced into agreement with preconceived or predetermined intention. They must necessarily be quoted again, but now in chronological close order, only to show the origin of, and to explain, the existing arguments.

Herodotus, the Greek author, about B.C. 450, did not know of Britain certainly as an island. It was thought then to be either joined to Spain and Gaul, or only separated from these by a narrow channel.' This, the first author to be quoted, is also the first to mention tin. “Concerning the western extremity of Europe,” he writes, “I am unable to speak with certainty, nor am I acquainted with the Cassiterides, from whence our tin comes.” Thus tin, for him and generally, did not come from Britain.

I Bk. ii, 115,

Passing on, in order of time, about B.C. 265, one Timæus gave a rather uncertain account of Britain ; but he gives us the foundation of what follows on this tin question. To his mention of Britain he adds, an island called Mictis, lying inwards, in which bright lead (candidum plumbum) is found, is within six days' sail, and the Britons sail over to it in coracles of osier covered with hides."1

Two little starts in our confusion have here been made : one by the introduction of bright lead, translated tin, and the other by the mention of the island of Mictis, which produced it. For it must be at once noticed that it was Mictis which produced the tin, not Britain ; and further, the island was six days' sail from Britain, not attached to or part of it; and there is no intimation that the Britons in their coracles, if we can suppose they sailed six days at sea in such craft, brought anything with them or did anything more than sail over.

Pytheas, another writer of a little later date (about B.C. 260), implies that he came over to Kent, and that he travelled in Britain ; but he gives no hint about tin, or that there was any communication with any tin district or with the Continent. He only tells us that Kent is some days' sail from Gaul, and that the extreme points of the two countries lie opposite to each other : the eastern extremity of Britain opposite the eastern extremity of Gaul, and the western extremity opposite the western.

No notice is met with now for two centuries, when (about B.C. 50) one Posidonius is said to have crossed to Britain, and to have given the name Altiventeum, otherwise Bolerium, to some part of it. The name suggests experience of a south-wester. There certainly was a current idea that the winds were so strong that neither man nor horse could stand against them. With this new name comes another start in our confusion.

Posidonius does not mention British tin; but, writing of Iberia (Spain), he tells us that beyond the Lusitanians

Pliny, Nat. Hist., Bk. iv, c. 30. 2 Strabo, Bk., iv, c. iv, 2.

(Portugal), in the Cassiterides, tin was found and obtained by digging.

The ancients of these days, as seen here and from Herodotus, believed that all tin came from this district of Iberia or from these islands, the Cassiterides, supposed little islands and unvisited, but imagined to be situated off the coast of Spain. They got the name fron the Greek word kavoitepos, tin. Pliny speaks of but one island called Cassiteros, because tin was first brought from it. Strabo makes the number ten, and near each other. Of metals, he says, they had tin and lead. The traffic, he adds, is carried on from Gades. Those“ who journey northward towards the Artabri (Galicia) have Lusitania on the right; and opposite the Artabri are the islands denominated the Cassiterides, situated in the high seas, but under nearly the same latitude as Britain. There is one thing peculiar to these islands : at a full sea they look like islands, but in low water they look like peninsulas."

Here, again, it must be noticed, it was the Cassiterides, within sight of and presumably connected with the Spanish coast, but in no way connected with Britain, which produced the tin, and the trade, it is distinctly stated, was from Gades. Britain is mentioned only because its western end was believed to be immediately opposite, in nearly the same latitude.

One Publius Cassius is said to have visited the works about B.C. 50, and found the metals were dug out at but little depth. He told what he had learnt to those who wished to traffic, though the passage, he says, was longer than from Britain. Yet we have been told that these islands could be seen from the Artabri coast, and at low water were peninsulas. As Publius neither went to nor saw Britain, he could know nothing of it, either as to distance or anything else. Like other writers, he was only repeating and relying on the then belief that Britain was somewhere opposite in the ocean.

Also, he gives neither starting point nor time occupied in the transit. His little story is imperfect, and his informa

1 Vol. ii, p. 225.

2 Strabo, Bk. II, c. v, 16.

tion leaves us unsatisfied. May be, he learned somewhat of the works, but that he visited them is not in evidence.

Strabo, who repeats Pytheas, helps us to understand more fully the position and belief when he describes Britain as having its longest side parallel to Gaul, its length being about the same. The length, he tells us, - beginning at Kent, its most eastern point, opposite the mouths of the Rhine-extends to the western extremity, which lies over against (i.e., opposite) Aquitaine and the Pyrenées. In another passage he says : “The Pyrenées terminate at the ocean ; opposite this are the western coasts of Britain." Britain, he adds, produces corn, , cattle, gold, silver and iron. Again, there is no mention of either tin or lead.

The plain assertion here of the extension of the western extremity of Britain downwards to opposite the Pyrenées accounts for the idea that the Cassiterides—as being off the Spanish coast-must also, as a matter of course, be between that coast and the coast of Britain. This shows the same belief as in the time of Herodotus and Pytheas. It shows, too, that the coast of Britain was still unknown.

We now come to another time-an historic time—the time of the Romans. Cæsar, having determined to go to Britain, on arriving in the neighbourhood of Boulogne, made special inquiries of travelling traders, to learn all he could of the country, the people, the localities, harbours, and landing-places; “all which,” he says, unknown even to the Gauls, as none except merchants generally go thither unadvisedly; nor even to them was any portion known except the sea-coasts and those parts opposite Gaul.” 1

As might be expected, then, after calling these merchants from all parts, he gained from them little or nothing, either of the size of the island, the inhabitants, the system of war, or the harbours. He learned, like other writers, and describes Britain as triangular, one side being opposite Gaul, with Kent looking towards the east, and another side towards Spain and the west. “The most civilized people,” he adds, are they who inhabit Kent, which is a maritime district;

1 Cæsar : De Bello Gallico, Bk. iv, c. 20.


they do not differ much from Gallic customs.” He heard that plumbum album-translated tin-was produced inland, and in the maritime district there was iron but the quantity was small. To him and his narrators, the indefinite “inland” would be any place, or somewhere unknown. His narrative generally and his last words show the unimportance of his information, and at once contradict all idea, any knowledge of any known trade or export. Moreover, it happens that on his march through Gaul he came by the road supposed to be the route mentioned for the horse traffic going from Britain. Had there been any such trade, he must have met it. But he did not meet it.

Cæsar's stay in Britain was short, and must have been for him a busy time. He came, he saw somewhat of Kent and the people of the coast, and he went away. His position, not quite that of a conqueror, was more than that of an explorer or discoverer. His

His report made the country known, and, it is always supposed, brought it more into contact with the Roman power. Much knowledge, it would be imagined, must have been gained before the conquest actually occurred; yet Eutropius tells us that when Claudius made war on Britain, no Roman since Julius Cæsar had been there.

If we examine and consider Cæsar's account, there is really nothing new-nothing more than the oft-repeated story. The side towards Spain is still there. The question of tin-produce is still a question of hearsay. The tin trade is nowhere met with. Moreover, he tells us that the natives used bronze, “ which is imported,” so that they had no knowledge of tin and copper.

The next writer gives an extended text, and thus at the same time enlarges and adds to the confusion. He has been, in fact, the cause of the greater trouble associated with this subject.

Diodorus, writing far away in Sicily - say about B.C. 30—repeats or copies the old description of Britain as being triangular. Then he says : “the promontory nearest the Continent or mainland is called Cantium, and is distant, they say, about a hundred furlongs. The other point is called Bolerium, and is distant four days’

« ForrigeFortsett »