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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

The Keltic tribes took part as allies of the Punic race


style="text-align: justify;"> CHAPTER I.

THE BRITONS, ROMANS, AND ANGLO-SAXONS.

The history of Western Europe in general opens with the struggle between Kelts, Romans, and Germans, which determined out of what elements modern nations should be formed.

Just as it is supposed that Albion in early times was connected with the Continent, and only separated from it by the raging sea-flood which buried the intermediate lands in the abyss, so in ethnographic relations it would seem as if the aboriginal Keltic tribes of the island had been only separated by some accident from those which occupied Gaul and the Netherlands. The Channel is no national boundary. We find Belgians in Britain, Britons in Eastern Gaul, and very many names of peoples common to both coasts; there were tribes which, though separated by the sea, yet acknowledged the same prince. Without being able to prove how far natives of the island took part in the expeditions of conquest, which pouring forth from Gaul inundated the countries on the Danube and Italy, Greece and Western Asia, we yet can trace the affinity of names and tribes as far as these expeditions extend. This island was the home of the religion that gave a certain unity to the populations, which, though closely akin, nevertheless contended with each other in ceaseless discord. It was that Druidic discipline which combined a priestly constitution with

civil privileges, and with a very peculiar doctrine of a political and even moral purport. We might be tempted to suppose that the atrocity of human sacrifice was first introduced among them by the Punic race. For they were from primeval times connected with the Carthaginians and Phoenicians, who were the first to traverse the outer sea, and sought in the island a metal which was very valuable for the wants of the ancient world. Distant clans might retain in the mountains their original wildness, but the southern coasts ranked in the earliest times as rich and civilised. They stood within the circle of the relations that had been created by the expeditions of the Keltic tribes, by the mixture of peoples thence arising, by the war and commerce of the earliest age.

In the great war between Rome and Carthage, which decided the destiny of the ancient world, the Keltic tribes took part as allies of the Punic race. If Carthage had conquered, they would have maintained in most, if not all, the lands they had occupied, and especially in their own homes, their old manners and customs, and their religion in its existing form. It was not merely the supremacy of the one city or the other, but the future of Western Europe that was at stake when Hannibal attacked the Romans in Italy. Rome, which had already grown strong in warring against the Gauls, won the victory over the Carthaginians. Thenceforth one after another of the Keltic nations succumbed to the superiority of the Roman arms, which at last invaded Transalpine Gaul, and struck its military power to the ground.

From this point the reaction against the Keltic enterprises necessarily extended itself also to Britain.

The great general who conquered Gaul did not feel sure of being able to accomplish his task unless he also obtained influence over the British tribes, from which those of the Continent constantly received help and encouragement, unless he established among them the authority of the Roman name.

It was an important moment in the world's history, well worthy of remembrance, when Caesar first trod the soil of Albion. Already repulsed from the steep chalk cliffs of the island, he found the flat shore on which he hoped to disembark occupied by the enemy, some in their war-chariots, others on horseback and on foot; his ships could not reach the shore; the soldiers hesitated, encumbered with their armour as they were, to throw themselves into a sea with which they were not familiar, in presence of an enemy acquainted with the ground, active, brave, and superior in numbers; the general's order had no effect on them; when however an eagle-bearer, calling on the gods of Rome, threw himself into the flood, the men would have thought themselves traitors had they allowed the war-standard, to which an almost divine worship was paid, to fall into the hands of the enemy; fired by the danger that threatened their honour, and by the religion of arms, from one ship after another they followed him to the fight; in the hand-to-hand combat in the water which ensued they gained the superiority, supported most skilfully by their general wherever it was necessary; the moment they reached the land, the victory was won.[2]


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