Ancient Celtic History

(This Paper may be considered a “preface” to that headed “Kings of England,” No. 85, in Appendix I., p. 656, ante.)

The Celts of Britain were ruder and far less civilized than their brethren of Gaul, who were themselves far behind the Irish Celts. They (the British Celts) had an inordinate pride of ancestry, and a fertile imagination; like the Irish, they had their Druids and Bards, who were not hereditary, but recruited from the people at large.

Meschish, brother of Magog, and son of Japhet, was the great ancestor of the Celts of Gaul and Britain. In scripture he is mentioned with Tubal (Ezek. xxvii. 13; xxxviii. 2, 3; xxxix. 1.), and seems to represent two kindred races of the Tibareni and Moschi, who dwelt in close proximity to each other on the northern coast of Asia Minor, in the days of Herodotus and Xenophon, and who at an early period were the most powerful of the races inhabiting the interior. The Assyrian monarchs were for several centuries (from b.c. 1100 to b.c. 700) engaged in frequent wars with the Muskai and Tuplai, who then held the more eastern portion of the Taurus range, and the tract beyond it, known as Cappodocia. Here was the great Moschian capital, which the Romans knew as Cæsarea Mazaca.

The colonization of Gaul by the Celts is stated to have been about 1799, Anno Mundi. Meschish ruled Gaul for 109 years, when he conquered Britain, a.m. 1908, and reigned over both countries for 47 years. He was succeeded by six sovereigns of his race, but on the accession of the seventh, Lucius, a.m. 2211, Britain was wrested from his rule by Albion, a descendant of Cham or Ham. He and his successors reigned over Britain until a.m. 2896, when the line of Japhet recovered the island, in the person of Brute, the great-grandson of Æneas, of Troy. Brute built Troynouant, afterwards called Lud’s town or London. Among his descendants may be mentioned Bladud, founder of Bath; Leir, b.c. 841–791; Ferrex and Borrex, b.c. 496–491, with whom his life expired. Britain was for a time divided into five kingdoms, but was finally reunited under Malmucius Dunwall, son of Cloten, King of Cornwall, b.c. 441–401, whose son Brennus left Britain to sack Rome, assault Delphi, and found the kingdom of Galatia. Brennus killed himself after the repulse from Delphi; his army settled at Galatia.

It appears when the Celts first invaded Britain they found in it two races, a small dark haired race, probably of Iberian stock, and a large light-haired race of Scandinavian origin. These Celts who first invaded Britain were of the Gaelic stock. Those Gaels conquered without exterminating the previous inhabitants, and held the land for many centuries, until a new invasion of continental Celts occurred. This time it was the Brythonic or Cymbric Celts who crossed the Channel. These dispossessed their kinsmen of the southern and eastern part of the island. Cantii, the most civilized; Attrebati, Belgæ, Damnonii, Silures, Trinobantes, Iceni, Brigantes, etc., are the names given by the Romans to the principal tribes whom they subdued.

Some scholars do not believe that the Phœnicians ever visited Britain; they say that the Phœnicians obtained their tin either from the rivers of Gaul, or from the Gallic tribes, who imported it from Britain.

Caractacus or Carahoc, son of Cymbeline or Cynobelin, was prince of South Wales, and the bravest of the Britons. He fought a great battle against the Romans, but was defeated, and his wife and family taken prisoners; he himself fled to the Brigantes, to the court of his step-mother, queen Cartismandua, whom he had formerly befriended, but she basely surrendered him to the Romans (a.d. 51), who took him to Rome. His body was partly unclothed, and painted with various figures of animals; a chain of iron was about his neck, another about his waist; his thick hair hung down in long curled locks, covering his neck and shoulders; and the hair had been left to grow on his upper lip until it reached his breast in two long curled locks. His bearing was full of dignity, his countenance undaunted; and when he stood before Claudius he spoke so admirably, and displayed such greatness of soul, that he was at once set free.

Boadicea, a widow, who was queen of the Iceni, raised an army to revenge her country’s and her own wrongs on the Roman invaders, who defiled her two daughters, and caused herself to be stripped and publicly scourged before the Roman camp. She appeared with her two daughters in her war-chariot before her people, addressed them in fiery eloquence, and led them to battle. This battle was lost (a.d. 62); 80,000 Britons were slain; the queen, sooner than fall into the hands of the invaders, took poison, fell asleep, and so died.

Cadwallader was the last British King, he reigned victoriously for twelve years, but famine and pestilence in the land led him to visit his cousin, Alan, Earl of Bretagne; whilst there he heard of the growing power of the Saxons in his dominions, and obtained assistance from Alan to expel them. The host was prepared to embark, the sails hoisted, the banners of Cadwallader were spread, bearing his device of the Red Dragon, and the night before his departure was spent in prayer for the blessing of God upon the enterprise; but, either in a vision or a dream, Cadwallader saw an angel, who forbade him to undertake the voyage, saying it was not God’s will, for that the Britons should cease, for a time, to rule the land. Cadwallader told this to Alan, and they together searched the prophetic books of Merlin, in which the Britons placed great faith, and there, and in another more ancient prophecy, they found it recorded that the Britons must for a time lose their kingdom; that it would be ruled by Britons again; and that eventually the Sacred Sept of Ireland would rule Britain.

These intimations were received by Cadwallader as the voice of heaven, he abandoned his country to its fate, and went to Rome, where he took the habit of a Monk, and died. With him were buried the last hopes of the Britons, their royal lineage, government, and, for many ages, the very name of Britain.