PROBABLY NOT WHAT YOU THOUGHT
Taken from the book
"Celt, Druid and Culdee"
Isabel Hill Elder
THE EARLY BRITONS
IT has been said that the only excuse for writing a book is that
one has something to say which has not been said before. That
this claim cannot be made on behalf of this little volume will be
very evident to the reader as he proceeds, since it is a
***compilation from a variety of sources,*** from which evidence
has been brought together, to support the belief that the
civilization of the early Britons was of a high standard, and
that they did not deserve that contempt with which they have been
treated by many historians, nor the odious names of 'savages' and
'barbarians' by the supercilious literati of Greece and Rome.
When evidence, admittedly fragmentary, of the real conditions in
these islands, from the earliest times, has been brought to light
throughout the centuries, it seems, almost invariably, to have
been rejected in favour of Roman teaching.
In his History of Scotland, the Rev. J. A. Wylie, LL.D., say:
'We have been taught to picture the earliest conditions of
our country as one of unbroken darkness. A calm
consideration of the time and circumstances of its first
peopling warrants a more cheerful view."
By examining the available evidence it may be possible to obtain
this more cheerful view, and to show that in the darkest eras of
our country the rites of public worship were publicly observed.
It is ever true to say that, 'The history of a nation is the
history of its religion, its attempts to seek after God.'
Wilford states that the **old Indians** were acquainted with the
**British Islands,** which their books described as the sacred
islands of the west, and called one them Britashtan, or the seat
or place of religious duty.
The popular idea that the ancestors of the British were painted
savages has no foundation in fact. It was a custom of the Picts
and other branches of the Celtic and Gothic nations to make
themselves look terrible in war, from whence came the Roman term
'savage'. The 'painting' was in reality tattooing, a practice
still cherished in all primitive crudities by the British sailor
or and soldier.
Far from these ancestral Britons having been mere painted
savages, roaming wild in the woods as we are imaginatively told
in most of the modern histories, they are now, on the contrary,
as disclosed by newly found historical facts given by Professor
Waddell, known to have been, from the very first grounding of
their galley keels upon these shores, over a millennium and a
half before the Christian era, a literate race, pioneers of
civilization. The universally held belief that the mixed race
has prevailed during many centuries; this belief, however, is
now fading out of the scientific mind and giving place to the
exact opposite. Britons, Celts, Gaels, Anglo-Saxons, Danes and
Normans when warring with each other were kinsmen shedding
Professor Sayce, at a later date, in one of his lectures,
observes that he misses no opportunity of uprooting the notion
that the people who form the British nation are descended from
various races, all the branches that flowed into Britain being
branches of the selfsame stock. Not a single pure Saxon is to be
found in any village, town or city of Germany. Our Saxon
ancestors rested there for a time in their wandering to these
Dr. Latham says, "Throughout the whole length and breadth of
Germany there is not one village, hamlet or family which can show
definite signs of descent from the Continental ancestors of the
Angles of England."
It was against this, race, now in possession of the whole of
Southern Britain, that Caesar led his legions. The Belgae, the
Attrebates, the Parisii and the Britanni were all British tribes,
having kinsmen on the Continent, yet moving westward, who had
fought against Caesar in the Gallic wars.
It is noteworthy that during the occupation of Britain by the
Romans the inhabitants led a life as separate as possible from
their invaders and, according to Professor Huxley, when the
Romans withdrew from Britain in A.D.410 the population was as
substantially Celtic as they found it.
Huxley in 1870, in the earlier years of the Irish agitation,
applied the results of his studies to the political situation in
Ireland in the following words in one of his lectures:
"If what I have to say in a matter of science weighs with
any man who has political power I ask him to believe that
the arguments made about the difference between Anglo
Saxons and Celts are a mere sham and delusion."
The Welsh Triads and the 'Chronicum Regum Pictorum' as well as
the 'Psalter of Cashel' give us the chief early information about
the inhabitants of Scotland, and all agree as to the racial unity
of the peoples, much, however, as they fought each other.
This unity is recognized by Thierry Nicholas, Palgrave and Bruce
The Britons were renowned for their athletic form, for the great
strength of their bodies, and for swiftness foot. Clean-shaven,
save for long moustaches, with fair skins and fair hair, they
were a fine, manly race of great height (Strabo tells us that
British youths were six inches taller than the tallest man in
Rome) and powerfully built. They excelled in running, swimming,
wrestling, climbing and in all kinds of bodily exercise, were
patient in pain, toil and suffering, accustomed to fatigue,
to bearing hunger, cold and all manner of hardships. Bravery,
fidelity to their word, manly independence, love of their
national free institutions, and hatred of every pollution and
meanness were their noble characteristics.
Tacitus (the Roman historian - Keith Hunt) tells us the northern
Britons were well trained and armed for war. In the battlefield
they formed themselves into battalions; the soldiers were armed
with huge swords and small shields called 'short targets', they
had chariots and cavalry, and carried darts which they hurled in
showers on the enemy. Magnificent as horsemen, with their
chargers gaily caparisoned, they presented a splendid spectacle
when prepared for battle. The cumulative evidence is of a people
numerous, brave and energetic. Even Agricola could say that it
would be no disgrace to him, were he to fall in battle, to do so
among so brave a people. Farther south similar conditions
prevailed; the Romans, led by Plautius and Flavius Vespasian, the
future Emperor and his brother, assailed the British, and were
met with the british 'stupidity' knows when it is beaten.
The British have been from all time a people apart,characterized
by justice and a love of religion. Boadicea, in her oration as
queen by Dion Cassius, observes that though Britain had been for
centuries open to the Continent, yet its language, philosophy and
usages continued as great a mystery as ever to the Romans
The monuments of the ancient Britons have long since vanished
(with the exception of Stonehenge and other places of Druidic
worship), yet Nennius, the British historian who was Abbot of
Bangor-on-Dee about A.D. 860, states that he drew the greater
part of his information from writings and the monuments of the
old British inhabitants. Our early historians were undoubtedly
acquainted with a book of annals written in the vernacular tongue
which was substantially the same as the Saxon Chronicle.
Nennius disclaims any special ability for the task of historian
set him by his superiors, but is filled with a keen desire to see
justice done to the memory of his countrymen, saying, 'I bore
about with me an inward wound, and I was indignant that the name
of my own people, formerly famous and distinguished, should sink
into oblivion and like smoke be dissipated....It is better to
drink a wholesome draught of truth from a humble vessel than
poison mixed with honey from a golden goblet.'
What were once considered exaggerated statements on the part of
Nennius, Geoffrey of Monmouth and other early historians, are now
discovered to be trust-worthy. In their day these writers were
regarded as historians of repute. Many of the ancient British
writers were professed genealogists, men appointed and patronized
by the princes of the country, who were prohibited from following
other professions. It was left a later age to throw doubt on
their veracity. Since it is the nature of truth to establish
itself it seems the reverse of scholarly to disregard the
evidence of ancient reports as embodied in the Welsh Triads and
the writings of early British historians.
Milton says, 'These old and inborn names of successive kings
never to have been real persons, or done in their lives at least
some part of what so long hath been remembered cannot be thought
without too strict incredulity.'
A great deal of history, so-called has come dow to us from Latin
sources, whose one object was, from the very first to make us
believe that we owe all to Rome, when, in fact, Rome owes a
great deal to us: so much error has been taught in our schools
concerning the ancient Britons that it is difficult for the
average student to realize that the British, before the arrival
of Julius Caesar, were, in all probability, among the most highly
educated people on the earth at that time and, as regards
scientific research, surpassed both the Greeks and the Romans - a
fact testified to by both Greek and Roman writers themselves.
In all the solid essentials of humanity our British ancestors
compare to great advantage with the best eras of Greece and Rome.
Lumisden has shown in his treatise on the 'Antiquities of Rome'
that many of the fine actions attributed by Roman historians to
their own ancestors are mere copies from the early history of
It is unfortunate for posterity that the histories from which
modern historians have drawn their information were written by
hostile strangers. That they have been accepted all along the
centuries as true is a striking tribute to a people who, valiant
in war and fierce in the defence of their rights, think no evil
of their enemies. Truly has it been said that an essentially
British characteristic is the swift forgetfulness of injury.
(Source facts for this chapter by Isabel Hill Elder, were taken
from the following- Keith Hunt)
1 History of Scotland, Vol.I, p.31.
2 Asiatic Researches, Vol.3
3 Origin of Britons, Scots and Anglo-Saxons, p.14.4 Hibbert
5 Ethnology of the British Islands, p.217.
6 Gilbert Stone, England, p.9.
7 Anthrop. Rev. 1870, Vol.8, p.197, Forefathers and Forerunners
of the British People.
8 Norman Conquest, p.20.
9 Pedigree of the English People.
10 Palgrave, English Commonwealth, Ch.I, p.85.
11 Hannay, European and other Race Origins, pp.365,470,371.
12 Pezron, Antiq, de la Nation et de la Langue Gaulaise.
13 Vita Agricolae, c.28.
14 Historiae Brittonum of Nennius, Harleian MS 3859 (British
15 Vide Geoffrey of Monmouth, I, 1. See Cave Hist.Lit. II,18.
16 Nennius, Hist. of the Britons, trans. J. A. Giles, Prol. p.2.
17 Gir. Camb. Cambriae Descript., Cap. XVIII. Anglica Hibernica,
ed. Camden, p.890.
18 History of England, Vol. 8, p. i 1.
19 Strabo, I,IV, p.197. Mela Pom., III, 2,18. N.H., I, 30.
20 Antiq.of Rome, pp.6,7,8.
In the next chapter by Isabel Elder we shall see what the LAWS
and ROADS were like in Early Britain....more surprises and