Imatges de pàgina


(A.) Contemporary Writers.-Among these the first place must be assigned to CAESAR (de Bell. Gall.) and The Classi- TACITUS (Agricolae Vita and Annales, lib. xiv). Traditions respecting the British Isles, and occasional allusions to their history, are to be found scattered in many of the ancient writers, among whom Diodorus Siculus, Strabo, the younger Pliny, Ptolemy the geographer, Dion Cassius, Antoninus, Ammianus Marcellinus, Claudian, the compiler of the Notitia Utriusque Imperii, and certain of the Byzantine writers are the principal. A complete list of these authorities, with references to the different passages in each, will be found in Sir T. D. Hardy's Descriptive Catalogue (i. cxvi-cxxxi). In the Monumenta Historica Britannica, the passages are printed in full. On these sources of information, much auxiliary light has been thrown by the discovery of coins and inscriptions belonging to the period, and of these also the Monumenta supply a good account.

Next to Caesar and Tacitus, the Itinerarium of ANTONINUS must be considered as of the most direct value. This work was originally compiled by the order of Julius Caesar, and completed in the reign of Augustus,

CHAP. 1.


Itinerarium of Antoninus.

Itinerarium Antonini Augusti et Hierosolymitanum. Ed. G. Par. they and M. Pinder. Berlin, 1848.

but in the following century the additions and corrections made under M. Aurelius Antoninus, the philosopher, were so considerable that the compilation has generally passed under his name. It forms a fairly complete Itinerary of the whole Empire, in which the principal towns and cross-roads are described by an enumeration of the towns and stations by which they pass, the intermediate distances being given in Roman miles.

The Notitia Dignitatum, or official list of the Empire Notitia Dignita under the Romans, is the original source from whence tum. we derive our knowledge of the organisation of Britain during the Roman occupation, and the division of the country into five provinces, each ruled by a consul. It was probably compiled about the time of Honorius.'

(B.) Non-contemporary Writers.-The first native his- Gildas. torian is a British ecclesiastic of the name of GILDAS, who lived in the sixth century and wrote in Armorica (circ. 550-560) his treatise, de Excidio Britanniae,2which Gale, its editor in the seventeenth century, somewhat arbitrarily divided into two works, the History and the Epistle. The treatise, however, may fairly be regarded as composed of two distinct portions: (1), from the invasion of Britain by the Romans to the revolt of Maximin at the close of the fourth century; (2), from the close of the fourth century to the writer's own time. Very different views have been taken of the value of ControGildas as an author. Dr. Guest, whose opinion must specting carry the greatest weight, says, 'I am not aware that its this Writer. genuineness has been questioned by any one whose scholarship or whose judgment is likely to give weight

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' Notitia Dignitatum et Administrationum omnium tam Civilium quam Militarium in Partious Orientis et Occidentis. Ed. Edwardus Böcking. 2 vols. Bonn, 1839-53. Ed. Otto Seeck, Berlin, 1876.

2 De Excidio Britanniae Liber Querulus. Migne, P. L. lxix. 330. Printed also in Gale's Scriptores XV. (see supra, p. 217); and edited by Mr. Stevenson in 1838 for E, H. S.





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to his opinion. The two treatises may be considered the safest guides now left us, and he that would write the history of this early period will do well to abandon any speculation which cannot be reconciled with the facts handed down to us by Gildas.' Mr. Thomas Wright, in the Biographia Britannica Litteraria, has expressed a doubt whether the work could have been written by a Briton, inasmuch as Gildas dwells with particular severity on the vices of his countrymen and the degeneracy of the British Church. To this Dr. Guest replies, "Gildas looked upon himself less as a native Briton than as a Roman provincial; not indeed a subject of the Roman Empire, but a participator in Roman civilisation, an upholder of the Romania' and opponent of the 'Barbaria' of his country? He refers very pertinently to the denunciations of Salvian as a parallel instance.1 Sir T. D. Hardy is of opinion that Gildas's veracity must rest entirely on his own authority, as none of the contemporary Greek or Roman writers afford it any support, but rather the reverse.' The style of the work is singularly verbose and unintelligible, and much of the earlier part is derived from a Latin version of the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius and from the Epistles of St. Jerome. It is to be noted, however, that, notwithstanding undeniable defects, the latter portion of Gildas was unhesitatingly adopted by Bede, and must be regarded as forming the basis of early English history.

BEDE, who comes next to Gildas, offers in many respects a strong contrast to his predecessor. Educated in the Benedictine monastery of Jarrow, on the banks of the Tyne, he early acquired that deference for the traditions and authority of the Latin Church which is to be

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1 On the Early English Settlements in South Britain. By Edwin Guest, Esq. (Printed in Proceedings of the Archaeological Institute at Salisbury in 1849.)

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recognised throughout his writings. In the composition of his History, we learn, from his own statement, that his chief advisers in the work were Albinus, a disciple of Theodorus, archbishop of Canterbury, and abbat of the monastery in that city, and Northelm, afterwards archbishop. The latter, when on a visit to Rome, collected materials which Bede afterwards incorporated in his narrative. Facts such as these are sufficient to shew that the History was conceived and written in harmony with the views of the Latin Church, and that we must not expect to find in its pages an altogether impartial account either of the Saxon Conquest or of the older British Christianity. The Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis His HisAnglorum, extends from the date of Cæsar's invasion of clesiastica. Britain to the year 731. It is divided into five books. Of these the first reaches from the invasion of Julius Caesar to the mission of Augustine in 596. The earlier portion is of little value, being compiled chiefly from Orosius, Eutropius, Gildas, and a life of St. Germanus, by Constantius, a priest of the Gallican Church. Orosius was a disciple of St. Augustine of Hippo, and his History (the accepted text-book of the Middle Ages), is constructed on the theory embodied in the great work of his master, the de Civitate Dei. Germanus, bishop of Auxerre, lived in the fifth century, and was especially distinguished as an opponent of Pelagianism, a form of doctrine adopted by the British Church, but opposed to the teaching of St. Augustine. The second book gives a narrative of events from the mission of Augustine to the arrival of Paulinus in 633. The remaining books constitute the most valuable portion of the work, as containing facts which rest either on Bede's personal knowledge, or on the statements of others equally well informed. With respect to the title of his work, it is to be remembered that the term 'ecclesiastical' involved





no such limitations in Bede's time as it would now imply. It was the customary definition of similar historical compositions by Christian writers, from Eusebius downwards. The Church in those times comprised nearly all the higher intelligence and all the learning of the land, and civil functions were frequently discharged by ecclesiastics; hence Bede's History, so far from being confined to Church matters, contains a large proportion of those secular events which it is most interesting and important for us to know, while the natural candour and honesty of the writer inspire a confidence in his statements, very much beyond what we find ourselves able to accord to the great majority of medieval writers. Every student should endeavour to make himself acquainted with Bede's History, as such a knowledge will not only be found most useful in itself, but in relation to later writers. The facts related by Bede are frequently copied from him, without acknowledgment by subsequent annalists, and it is consequently of considerable importance to know that their authority was Bede, and, in most instances, Bede alone. It was owing to a want of a due perception of this fact, that Hume fell into the capital error of adducing in support of Bede's statements the authority of Matthew of Westminster and Henry of Huntingdon; a misconception similar to that which should lead a writer of the present day to quote, in confirmation of a statement by Whitelock or Narcissus Luttrell respecting an event in the seventeenth century, the authority of lord Macaulay. It is no exaggeration to say, that with respect to the period of English history treated by Bede in the latter portion of his work, threefourths of our knowledge are derived from him, and that most of what we find on the same subject in later historians is merely a reflection or amplification of what they themselves found in his pages. An excellent edition of

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