« ForrigeFortsett »
extreme territories of Gaul and Britain, were less adapted to agriculture than to pasturage: the wealth of the Britons consisted in their flocks and herds; milk and flesh were their ordinary food; and bread was sometimes esteemed or rejected as a foreign luxury. Liberty had peopled the mountains of Wales and the morasses of Armorica; but their populousness has been maliciously ascribed to the loose practice of polygamy; and the houses of these licentious barbarians have been supposed to contain ten wives and perhaps fifty children.* Their disposition was rash and choleric: they were bold in action and in speech ;f and as they were ignorant of the arts of peace, they alternately indulged their passions in foreign and domestic war. The cavalry of Armorica, the spearmen of Gwent, and the archers of Merioneth, were equally formidable; but their poverty could seldom procure either shields or helmets; and the inconvenient weight would have retarded the speed and agility of their desultory operations. One of the greatest of the English monarchs was requested to satisfy the curiosity of a Greek emperor concerning the state of Britain: and Henry II. could assert, from his personal experience, that Wales was inhabited by a race of naked warriors, who encountered, without fear, the defensive armour of their enemies. J
By the revolution of Britain, the limits of science as well as of empire were contracted. The dark cloud, which had been cleared by the Phoenician discoveries, and finally dispelled by the arms of Caesar, again settled on the shores of
a curious and interesting account of the Welsh bards. In the year 1568, a session was held at Caerwys by the special command of queen Elizabeth, and regular degrees in vocal and instrumental music were conferred on fifty-five minstrels. The prize (a silver harp) was adjudged by the Mostyn family.
* Regio ionge lateque diffusa, milite, magis quam credibile sit, referta. Partibus equidem in illis miles unus quinquaginta generat, sortitus more barbaro denas aut amplius uxores. This reproach of William of Poitiers (in the Historians of France, tom, xi, p. 88) is disclaimed by the Benedictine editors. + Giraldus Cam
brensis confines this gift of bold and ready eloquence to the Romans, the French, and the Britons. The malicious Welshman insinuates that the English taciturnity might possibly be the effect of their servitude under the Normans. J The picture of Welsh and Armorican
manners is drawn from Giraldus (Descript. Cambrise, c. 6—15, inter Script. Camden. p. 886—891), and the authors quoted by the Abbo" de Vertot. (Hist. Critique, tom. ii. p. 259—266.)
lABULOUS STATE OF BRITAIN. [CH. XXXYIII,
the Atlantic, and a Roman province was again lost among the labulous islands of the ocean. One hundred and fifty years after the reign of Honorius, the gravest historian of the times * describes the wonders of a remote isle, whose eastern and western parts are divided by an antique wall, the boundary of life and death, or more properly of truth and fiction. The east is a fair country, inhabited by a civilized people: the air is healthy, the waters are pure and plentiful, and the earth yields her regular and fruitful increase. In the west, beyond the wall, the air is infectious and mortal; the ground is"covered with serpents; and this dreary solitude is the region of departed spirits, who are transported from the opposite shores in substantial boats, and by living rowers. Some families of fishermen, the subjects of the Franks, are excused from tribute in consideration of the mysterious office which is performed by these Charons of the ocean. Each in his turn is summoned, at the hour of midnight, to hear the voices, and even the names, of the ghosts; he is sensible of their weight, and he feels himself impelled by an unknown but irresistible power. After this dream of fancy, we read with astonishment that the name of this island is Brittia; that it lies in the ocean, against the mouth of the Rhine, and less than thirty miles from the continent; that it is possessed by three nations, the Frisians, the Angles, and the Britons; and that some Angles had appeared at Constantinople in the train of the French ambassadors. From these ambassadors Procopius might be informed of a singular, though an improbable, adventure, which announces the spirit, rather than the delicacy, of an English heroine. She had been betrothed to Radiger, king of the Varni, a tribe of Germans who touched the ocean and the Bhine; but the perfidious lover was tempted, by motives of policy, to prefer his father's widow, the sister of Theodebert, king of the Franks.f The forsaken princess of the Angles, instead of bewailing, revenged her disgrace. Her warlike subjects are said to have been ignorant of the use, and even of the
* See Procopius de Bell. Gothic. 1 . i, c . 20, p. 620—625. The Greek historian is himself so confounded by the wonders which he relates, that he weakly attempts to distinguish the islands of Brittia and Britain, which he has identified by so many inseparable circumstances.
+ Theodebert, grandson of Clovis, and king of Austrasia, was the most powerful and warlike prince of the age; and this remarkable adveuture may be placed between the years 534 and 547, the extreme X.D. 455-582.] FALL O1" THE WESTEEN EilPIEE. 231
form, of a horse; but she boldly sailed from Britain to the mouth of the Shine, with a fleet of four hundred Bhips, and an army of one hundred thousand men. After the loss of a battle, the captive Eadiger implored the mercy of hig victorious bride, who generously pardoned his offence, dismissed her rival, and compelled the king of the Varni to" discharge with honour and fidelity the duties of a husband.* This gallant exploit app?ars to be the last naval enterprise of the Anglo-Saxons. The arts of navigation, by which they had acquired the empire of Britain and of the sea, were soon neglected by the indolent barbarians, who supinely renounced all the commercial advantages of their insular situation. Seven independent kingdoms were agitated by perpetual discord; and the British world was seldom connected, either in peace or war, with the nations of the continent.!
I have now accomplished the laborious narrative of the decline and fall of the Roman empire, from the fortunate age of Trajan and the Antonines, to its total extinction in the West, about five centuries after the Christian era. At that unhappy period, the Saxons fiercely struggled with the natives for the possession of Britain; Gaul and Spain were divided between the powerful monarchies of the Franks and Visigoths, and the dependent kingdoms of the Suevi and Burgundians: Africa was exposed to the cruel persecutions of the Vandals, and the savage insults of the
terms of his reign. His sister Theudechildis retired to Sens, where she founded monasteries, and distributed alms (see the notes of the Benedictine editors, in tom. ii, p. 216). If we may credit the praises of Fortunatus (1. 6, carm. 5, in tom. ii, p. 507) Kadiger was deprived of a most valuable wife. * Perhaps she was the sister of ono
ol the princes or chiefs of the ADgles, who landed in 527, and the following years, between the Humber and the Thames, and gradually founded the kingdoms ot East Anglia and Mercia. The English writers are ignorant of her name and existence : but Procopius may have suggested to Mr. Uowe the character and situation of Itodugune in the tragedy of the Royal Convert. [In the days of Procopius there were no Angles in Britain to furnish either a princess, a fleet, or an army, such as he describes. The fable confirms what has been said (p. 181) of the ignorance of the Greek writers, respecting the Western nations.—Ed.] + In the copious history of Gregory
of Tours, we cannot find any traces ot hostile or friendly intercourse between France and England, except in the marriage of the daughter of Caribert, king of Paris, quam regis cujusdam in Cuntia Alius matrimonio copulavit (1. 9, o. 26, in tom, ii, p. 848.) The bishop of Tours ended his history and his life almost immediately 232
OBSERVATIONS ON THE TALL OF
Moors: Rome and Italy, as far as the banks of the Danube, .were afflicted by an army of barbarian mercenaries, whose lawless tyranny was succeeded by the reign of Theodorie the Ostrogoth. All the subjects of the empire, who, by the use of the Latin language, more particularly deserved the name and privileges of Romans, were oppressed by the disgrace and calamities of foreign conquest; and the victorious nations of Germany established a new system of manners and government in the western countries of Europe. The majesty of Rome was faintly represented by the princes of Constantinople, the feeble and imaginary successors of Augustus. Yet they continued to reign over the East from the Danube to the Nile and Tigris; the Gothic and Vandal kingdoms of Italy aud Africa were subverted by the arms of Justinian; and the history of the Greek emperors may still afford a long series of instructive lessons and interesting revolutions.
General Observations on the Fall of the Roman Empire in the West.
The Greeks, after their country had been reduced into a province, imputed the triumphs of Rome, not to the merit, but to the Fortune of the republic. The inconstant goddess, who so blindly distributes and resumes her favours, had now consented (such was the language of envious flattery) to resign her wings, to descend from her globe, and to fix her firm and immutable throne on the banks of the Tiber.* A wiser Greek, who has composed, with a philosophic spirit, the memorable history of his own times, deprived his countrymen of this vain and delusive comfort, by opening to their view the deep foundations of the great
before the conversion of Kent. [This daughter of Caribert was Ethelbert's queen, Bertha. Bede, Hist. Ece. p. 37. edit. Bohn.—Ed.]
* Such are the figurative expressions of Plutarch, (Opera, tom. ii, p. 318, edit. Wechel) to whom, on the faith of his son Lamprias (Fabricius, Bibliot. Grsec. tom. iii, p. 341), I shall boldly impute the malicious declamation 7rtpi rrjs PwjuniW Tvxvc. The same opinions had prevailed among the Greeks two hundred and fifty years befor« Plutarch: and to confute them, is the professed intention of Polybius. (Hist. l . 1, p. 90, edit . Gronov. Amstel. 1670.)
ness of Rome.* The fidelity of the citizens to each other, and to the state, was confirmed by the habits of education, and the prejudices of religion. Honour, as well as virtue, was the principle of the republic; the ambitious citizens laboured to deserve the solemn glories of a triumph: and the ardour of the Roman youth was kindled into active emulation as often as they beheld the domestic images of their ancestors.f The temperate struggles of the patricians and plebeians had finally established the firm and equal balance of the constitution; which united the freedom of popular assemblies with the authority and wisdom of a senate, and the executive powers of a regal magistrate. "When the consul displayed the standard of the republic, each citizen bound himself, by the obligation of an oath, to draw his sword in the cause of his country, till he had discharged the sacred duty by a military service of ten years. This wise institution continually poured into the field the rising generations of freemen and soldiers; and their numbers were reinforced by the warlike and populous states of Italy, who, after a brave resistance, had yielded to the valour, and embraced the alliance of the Romans. The sage historian, who excited the virtue of the younger Scipio, and beheld the ruin of Carthage,J has accurately described their military system; their levies, arms, exercises, subordination, marches, encampments; and the invincible legion, superior in active strength to the Macedonian phalanx of Philip and Alexander. From these institutions of peace and war Polybius has deduced the spirit and success of a people, incapable of fear and impatient of repose. The ambitious design of conquest, which might have been defeated by the seasonable conspiracy of mankind, was
* See the inestimable remains of the sixth book of Polybius, and many other parts of his general history, particularly a digression in the seventeenth book, in which he compares the phalanx and the legion. + Sallust, de Bell. Jugurthin. c. 4. Such were the
generous professions of P. Scipio and Q. Maxiinus. The Latin historian had read, and most probably transcribed, Polybius, their contemporary and friend. $ While Carthage was in flames, Scipio repeated
two lines of the Iliad, which express the destruction of Troy, acknowledging to Polybius, his friend and preceptor, (Polyb. in Excerpt. de Virtut. et Vit. tom ii, p. 1455—1465) that while he recollected the vicissitudes of human affairs, he inwardly applied them to the futuro calamities of Rome. (Appian, in Libycis, p. 136, edit. Toll.)