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Beginning of the Historical period. — Theories of British Ethnology.–Fair and dark
races. - Iberian theory.-Aquitanians.—Diversity of Iberian customs.—Basques.Origin of Milesian legends. -Mr. Skene's view as to the Silures. - Ethnological table. — Survivals of the pre-Celtic stocks. — Evidence from language and manners. - Comparison of Aryan customs. — Local names.— Personal names.Abnormal words and constructions.-Classical notices—Vitruvius, Tacitus, Herodian, Dion Cassius.-Caledonians and Picts.-Rock.carvings and sculptured stones. -Customs of succession.- Coronation-rites.-Relics of barbarism in mediæval Connaught and Wales.
T has been claimed for the Bronze-Age men that their
civilizing influence was as important in the north of Europe as that of the Celts in the west.? We have seen, indeed, that before the beginning of history they had learned something of the arts of agriculture, and had introduced the knowledge of the useful metals. Coasting about the narrow seas they had occupied long stretches of land between the forest and the shore, and tracking the rivers backwards from their estuaries had built their camps on the open downs and wolds, or in the glades and clearings in the woods. We have seen that in our own country they were forced into contact with the people of a more primitive age, dark slight-limbed Silurians, and the dusky tribes who were called the children of the night. Some, according to their fortune in the wars, were driven by the new invaders into the western woods and deserts; others
i See Worsaae. Prim. Inhab. Denmark (Thoms's edition), 135, 136.
were able to hold their own until in course of time the two races became fused and intermixed.
It is the object of this chapter to collect what is known about their descendants within the historical period. We shall endeavour to distinguish between the traces of the tall Finnish race and those of the more primitive settlers. It must remain impossible in many cases to separate the old forms of language and traces of primeval customs which are due to one or another of the prehistoric societies; but it will still be useful to deal collectively with the various traces of their presence, and to estimate what allowance is to be made for the continuance in an Aryan nation of foreign and primitive elements.
We have chosen the simplest of the theories propounded in a long debate. We have seen traces of at least two nations established in these islands before the era of the Celtic settlements. Some prefer to include in one wide description all the fair tribes of high stature with red or golden hair and blue or grey-blue eyes; and they count as true Celts all of that kind who were neither Danes nor Germans. Some class together in the same way all the short peoples with black hair and eyes, whether paleskinned or ruddy in complexion, calling them Iberians on account of their supposed affinity with the dark races remaining in the south of Europe. All the tall, roundheaded and broad-headed men are described together as comprising “the van of the Aryan army,” with whom became intermingled tall dark and red-haired men from Scandinavia, and fair people of Low-German descent. All the short and dark races, whether long-headed or roundskulled, are treated as descendants of a primitive nonAryan stock, including “the broad-headed dark Welshman and the broad-headed dark Frenchman,” and connected by blood not only with the modern Basque, but with the ancient and little-known Ligurian and Etruscan
It has sometimes been stated, that the resemblance of the dark British type to the ancient Aquitanians is one of “the fixed points in British ethnology.” But when we examine the grounds for the assertion, we find that there is hardly any affirmative evidence in its favour. To learn anything of the Aquitanians we must go to Strabo's account of their country. We find a meagre notice of a score of little tribes living near the coast between the Garonne and the Pyrenees. They differ," said the geographer, “from the Gaulish nation both in physical appearance and in language, and they rather resemble the Iberians :” and, from Agricola's remark about the Silures, we must suppose that Strabo referred to their swarthy complexion and dark and curly hair. But when we turn to his more minute description of the various Iberian tribes, we find nothing to help us to a clearer notion of what Aquitanians or Silures were like.
The nations of the Peninsula differed from each other on such important points as language, religion, and government. Each province had a grammar and alphabet to itself. Some had no gods at all : others sacrificed hecatombs of goats, horses, and men to a god of war; the Celtiberians and their neighbours to the north danced all night at the full moon in honour of “a nameless god"; some would cut off their captives' right hands, and offer them as oblations at the altar. In some tribes men danced singly to the sound of the flute and trumpet; others preferred the fashion of dancing in a huge ring, men and women together. Some wore “mitres” in battle, others caps of sinews knotted together, and others used the helmet with a triple plume. According to Strabo, “they married like the Greeks.” We should rather say that they lived under the “Mutter-recht,” which some have thought to be a relic from an Amazonian stage of society. For among the Iberians, as among the ancient Lycians, the women were exalted above the men. The wife governed the family; the daughters inherited the property, subject to dowries for the sons on marriage; the name and pedigree were traced from the mother's side ; the inferiority of the father was marked by the curious symbolism of the Couvade, the mother going to work in the fields, while the husband and child were carefully nursed at home. All these abnormal circumstances should be taken into account by those who assert the identity of the Iberians with the Britons of the Silurian type. Several of the customs above described have left distinct traces in the usages which still prevail in the region of the Pyrenees. But at present there seems to be no point of connection between them and anything which was ever observed in this country.
The test of language has been applied, but with equally little success. On the assumption that the modern Basque has a connection with one or another of the Iberian dialects, some have sought to correlate the British local names with similar words in Basque.
Britannia" has been derived from a locative “ Etan," and “Siluria” from “Ur," a word for water. The roots “I” and “Ur” occur in old Spanish appellatives, and have been seen in some of the names of rivers and islands in Scotland. But it seems now to be settled that nothing can be made of the matter. The Basque language is ancient in structure, but modern in its vocabulary, which is borrowed for the most part from Celtic Latin and Spanish. The language itself is only known in a modern form, and the leading philologists have agreed that it is a hopeless task to compare its root-words · with the “non-Aryan residuum" which may be found on a close examination of the Celtic vocabulary.
Before leaving this part of the subject, it will be proper to mention with more detail the ethnological theory which has been based upon the Irish legends. The punning fancies of monks and bards have been dignified with the name of a tradition ; but they should rather be regarded as the inferences of ignorant men puzzled to account for the form of an unknown name or a fragment coming down from some lost mythology.
Let us take as an example the story of the Milesian invasion of Ireland. We have already noticed 'the grotesque incidents recounted in the “Book of Invasions." The nomenclature of the legend is modern. One of the heroes is buried at St. Michael's Rock, and the wife of another in a churchyard near Tralee; the harbour of “ Inbher Slainge,” where the ships were wrapped in a Druidical mist, retained its ancient name of “Moda," or “ Modonus,” from the time of Ptolemy till after the death of St. Adamnan, six centuries afterwards. The whole story is mediæval in every point; yet we are asked to give weight to the fact that "every peasant in the barony can relate the landing of the Milesians,” or to the Irish habit of fixing some story of a Fenian or a fairy battle as having happened near a stone-circle or the ruins of a megalithic tomb.
Any one who has read Keating's “ History of Ireland" will perceive how the bards played on the words “ bolg,”