Page images
PDF
EPUB

*

Cimmerian inhabitants. Panticapæum, a Greek city afterwards founded by the Milesians on the Cimmerian Bosphorus, became in a later age the capital of a flourishing state, which retained its independence till the age of Mithridates, when, being unable longer to defend itself against its barbarous Scythian neighbours, it submitted. It was very populous, and abounded in corn. The names of many kings of the Bosporiani are on record; they are partly Greek and in part barbaric, and often identical with the names of the kings of Thrace. Hence an argument has been drawn to prove that the Cimmerians were of the same race with the people of Thrace; and this argument would have considerable weight if the people of the Bosphorian state were more clearly identified with the Cimmerians; but it is very possible that they may have been later inhabitants, and perhaps coeval in their settlement of that country with the Greeks.

It remains altogether uncertain to what race of people the Cimmerians belonged. The argument above mentioned, and the fact that there was a Thracian tribe termed Treres, which also was a name given, according to Strabo, to a part of the Cimmerians, induced Adelung to connect this ancient people with the Thracians, who are supposed to have been related to the Pelasgi and to the Greeks. On the other hand, it appears probable, from the account handed down by Herodotus, that the chain of Caucasus was within the region of the Cimmerians. If such were the fact, it may be inferred that the aborigines of that mountain chain, whose descendants yet retain their languages and barbarous habits, are the descendants and representatives of the old Cimmerii, and we may set them down as a people equally distinct from the Thracians and from the German or other Indo-European inhabitants of the north. The supposed affinity between the Cimmerii aud the

The history of the Bosphorian kingdom is briefly given by Strabo, book vii. p. 308. ed. Casaub. The names of the kings and many further particulars have been industriously collected by Casaubon. (Annot. ad loc. Strabonis.) Adelung has cited on the same subject a work by Cary, entitled "Histoire des Rois de Thrace." Among the names of the Bosphorian kings and those of Thrace are Cotys, Seleucus, Rhescaporis, Rhometalces, and several terminating in sades, as Masades, Berisades, Medosades. (Adelung, Mithrid. B. ii. s. 353.)

Cimbri rests assuredly, as we have already observed, on no other foundation than the resemblance, perhaps accidental, of the two gentile names.*

Though the conjecture of Posidonius that this northern people had descended from the Cimmerii received credit among the ancient writers, it was the prevalent opinion that the Cimbri were a German tribe. We have observed that several writers mention them as such. Pliny enumerates the Cimbri in that class of German tribes to which he appropriates the term of Ingævones, or maritime tribes. Plutarch likewise says that the Cimbri were supposed to be a German nation. The reasons on which he represents that opinion to have been founded are such, however, as plainly to evince that it was not the result of information but a mere conjecture. They were believed to be Germans, he says, on account of their tall stature and the blue colour of the eyes, and from the fact that the Germans in their language term robbersKipßpove-Cimbri. As the Romans communicated little with Κίμβρους—Cimbri. the Cimbri,-who, however, sent ambassadors to Augustus,—and knew them only as living in a corner of Germany, they would naturally be led to suppose them Germans. Such an opinion has therefore little or no weight, especially as it is generally expressed with doubt as to the fact. The accounts left of the customs of the Cimbri certainly resemble what we know of the Celtic nations rather than the description of German manners. Tacitus describes them as, in his time, the feeble remnant of a nation, living in decay, and about to become extinct. He says, " In the same quarter of Germany, adjacent to the ocean, dwell the Cimbri, a small state at present, but great in renown. Of their past grandeur extensive vestiges still remain, as encampments and lines on either shore of the Cimbric Chersonesus, from the compass of which the strength and numbers of the nation may still be computed, and credit obtained to the account of so great an army."+ The sacred rites of the Cimbri as described by Strabo resemble in their more

The history of the Cimmerii is contained in the passages of Herodotus, lib. i. c. 7. c. 16. ; lib. iv. c. 11. c. 12. c. 14. c. 99. Strabo, lib. i. p. 12.; lib. iii. p. 149. ed. Casaub. item lib. vii. p. 308. p. 494.

Tacitus, Germ. c. 87.

sanguinary character the customs of the Celts. Their warlike expeditions were accompanied by hoary prophetesses, who wearing white robes fastened by zones of brass, ascended a throne or elevated seat, with drawn swords in their hands, and raising the captives by their hair, cut their throats, and received streams of blood in large brazen goblets, while others dissected the bodies of slaughtered victims, and from the appearance of the entrails predicted victory to the Cimbrian arms. In battles they fought, like the Britons, in chariots: to them were fastened drums, which when beaten produced a formidable sound.*

All these considerations afford some probable evidence of the Celtic origin or relations of the Cimbri; but a stronger argument arises from a very few names and words preserved from their language. Pliny assures us that the Cimbri termed the Baltic Sea Moremarusa, which expression in their language signified the Dead Sea. Môr-marw, nearly the same words, have in Welsh precisely this meaning, which does not belong to similar vocables, as I believe, in any German dialect. Again, Boiorix was the king of the Cimbric army which invaded Italy, a compound name of which both the elements are Celtic. Boii is a gentile name, as we have seen, and belonged particularly to the Celta of Germany: orix is a frequent Celtic termination, and represents a word yet extant in the Welsh dialect. To this we must add the name of Cimbri, corresponding and nearly identical with that of the Cymru or Cumri of Britain. We must likewise take into the account the probability of migration from the Cimbric Chersonesus to the country of the Ottadini in the northern part of this island, and the fact that the Picts, probably one people with the Caledonians, derived their descent, according to Bede, from the shores of Scythia, that is from the coasts of the Baltic Sea.

I know not whether any conclusive argument can be founded on the circumstance that Holstein and Denmark abound in those rude erections termed Druidical remains; but the fact is remarkable, especially as we find similar remains in countries known to have been inhabited long by Celts, as in the departments of Morbihan in Britanny.

Strab. Ger. lib. vii. p. 294.

On the whole it appears to be the result of this comparison of facts relative to the history of the Cimbri, that they were a Celtic people allied to the inhabitants of Britain; and it is by no means improbable that they were the people who first colonized North Britain.

SECTION IX. Of the Population of the British Isles.

On entering into an inquiry respecting the tribes who formed the population of the British Isles, I approach the subject of a controversy agitated among Celtic antiquarians; but I shall endeavour to avoid disputed questions at present, and postpone the discussion of them till I can enter upon it with greater advantage, after having surveyed the whole field within which it has been carried on.

It is generally considered as certain that the whole population of Britain was derived from Gaul. Ancient writers, however, have afforded us no direct testimony that may be looked upon as conclusive upon this subject, and such an inference can only be collected from topographical names, from the history of languages, and from the remains of ancient dialects. Cæsar says, "It has been handed down to memory-a most improbable subject for tradition—that the people who inhabit the interior part of Britain were produced in the island itself; the maritime part is possessed by those who passed over from the Belgæ, for the sake of plunder and of hostile invasion, and these are mostly distinguished by the names of those states from which they originally came to fix their abode in and to cultivate the newly conquered lands. There is an infinite number of people; their houses are very numerous, and nearly resemble those of the Gauls, and their cattle are in great numbers."*

Cæsar was informed that the sea-coast of Britain was inhabited by Belgæ from the continent. No other writer has given the same statement, but it is confirmed by our finding, from Ptolemy and others, that there were British tribes or states which, as Cæsar has hinted in the passage above cited,

Bell. Gall. v. c. 12.

had the same names with communities in Belgic Gaul. On the south coast we find a tribe named merely Belgæ, whose capital was Venta Belgarum, or Winchester. To the eastward of the Belga was another tribe, named Regni, also Rhemi, and to the northward of both of these were the Atrebatii. These are tribes nearly synonymous with Belgic tribes in Gaul. There was no other British tribe known to us by name to which the above observation of Cæsar can be supposed with probability to refer. A corner of land to the northward of the Humber is said to have been inhabited by a tribe termed Parisi, or Parisii; and Parisii was the name of a tribe in Gaul to whom belonged the banks and the islands of the Seine. But the British Parisii were apparently but a subdivision of the great nation of Brigantes, who, near the centre of the island, occupied the whole breadth of Britain: they were, perhaps, too far to the northward to have come within the sphere of Cæsar's information. The Parisii of the Seine were never reckoned among the Belgæ, although near the Belgic frontier. They were said, as we have already observed, to have been a Celtic tribe; besides, their inland situation excluded them from the number of maritime invaders of Britain. Cæsar appears therefore to have made a statement in more general terms than later accounts fully support. But although there are but two or three British tribes synonymous with tribes in Belgic Gaul, there may have been some other tribes chiefly or even wholly of Belgic origin; and it is very probable that we shall be correct in reckoning all the parts to the southward of the Atrebatii, or of a line drawn in continuation of the northern boundary of that tribe, as belonging to Belgic Britain. This line, which prolonged towards the east and the west would join the Severn and the Thames, would cut off to the southward the Cantii and the Trinobantes, as well as some other tribes connected by political relations with Belgic states on the continent, and therefore to be included with the greater probability among the tribes of Belgic origin. This last consideration renders it probable that the Iceni, who were among the most civilized of the Britons, were also Belgæ. On the other hand it may be doubted whether we ought to include among the Belgæ either the Damnonii of Devonshire

« PreviousContinue »