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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

The Druids on Mona trusted in their gods


cannot reckon it a slight matter, that Caesar, though not at the first, yet at the second and better prepared expedition, succeeded in carrying away with him hostages from the chief tribes. For this very form was the one customary in that century and among those tribes, by which he bound them and their princes to himself.

It was the first step towards the Roman supremacy. But Gaul and West Germany had first to be subdued, and the Empire securely concentrated in one hand, before--a century later--the conquest of the island could be really attempted.

Even then the Britons still fought without helmet or shield, as did the Gauls of old before Rome. In Britain, just as on the Lombard plains, the war-chariot was their best arm; their defective mode of defence necessarily yielded to the organised tactics of the legion. How easily did the Romans, pushing forward under cover of their mantelets, clear away the rude entrenchments by which the Britons used formerly to secure themselves against attack. The Druids on Mona trusted in their gods, whose will they thought to ascertain from the quivering fibres of human sacrifices; and for a moment the sight of the crowd of fanatics collected around them checked the attack, but only for a moment: as soon as they came to blows they were instantly scattered, and their holy places perished with them. For this is the greatest result of the Roman wars, that they destroyed the rites

which contradicted the idea of Humanity. Yet once more an injured princess--Boadicea--united all the sympathies which the old constitution and religion could awaken. Dio has depicted her, doubtless according to the reports which reached Rome. A tall form, with the national decoration of the golden necklace and the chequered mantle, over which her rich yellow hair flowed down below her waist. She called on her peoples to defend themselves at any risk, since what could befall those to whom each root gave nourishment, each tree supplied shelter: and on her gods, not to let the land pass into the possession of that insatiable, unjust foe of foreign race. So truly does she represent the innate characteristics of the British race, when oppressed and engaged in a desperate defence. She is earnest, rugged, and terrible; the men who gathered round her were reckoned by hundreds of thousands. But the Britons had not yet learnt the art of war. A single onslaught of the Romans sufficed to scatter their disorderly masses with a fearful butchery. It was the last day of the old British independence. Boadicea would not, any more than Cleopatra, adorn a Roman triumph; she fell by her own hand.

Within a few dozen years the Roman eagles were masters of Britain as far as the Highlands: the Keltic clan-life and the religion of the Druids withdrew into the Caledonian mountains, and the large islands off that coast; in the conquered territory the religion of the arms that had won the victory, and the might of the Great Empire, were supreme. The work which was begun by superiority in war was completed by pre-eminence in civilisation. It seemed an advantage and an improvement to the sons of the British princes, to adopt the Roman language, and knowledge, and mode of life; they delighted in the luxury of colonnades, baths, feasts, and city life. Men like Agricola used these modes of Romanising Britain by preference. Just as the Britons exchanged their rude shipbuilding and their leathern sails for the discoveries of a more advanced art of navigation, so they learnt to carry on their agriculture in Roman fashion; in later times Britain was considered as the granary of the legions in Germany. Most of the cities in the land betray by their very names their Roman origin; London, though it existed earlier, owes its importance to this connexion. It was the emporium destined as it were by nature for the peaceful commerce that now arose between the Western provinces of the Empire. Once in the third century an attempt was made to make the island independent, but it failed the moment the marts on the opposite coast fell into the hands of the Emperor who was universally recognised. Britain seemed an integral part of the Roman Empire. It was from York that Constantine marched forth to unite its Eastern and Western halves once more under one government.

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