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The Apostle Paul in Britain #7

The Wars with Rome - the Great Boadicea

  

ST. PAUL IN BRITAIN #7

by R.W.Morgan (1860)


     In an ancient collection of British proverbs we find certain
sayings transmitted of Bran and the first Christians of Britain:

"Hast thou heard the saying of Ilid, 
The saint of the race of Israel? 
'No folly but ends in misery.'

Hast thou heard the saying of the noble Bran, 
The blessed, to all the renowned?
'There is no good but God Himself.'

Hast thou heard the saying of Caradoc, 
The exalted son of the noble Bran? 
'Oppression persisted in brings on death.'"

     We have at this stage of the inquiry two distinct cradles of
Christianity in Britain - the mission of Joseph in Avalon, and
the Cor-Eurgain at Llan-Ilid in Wales; the former protected by
Arviragus, latter fostered by the family of Caradoc, his cousin.
We can entertain no reasonable doubt that very intimate ties
bound these two Christian missions together. St.Barnabas,
Aristobulus his brother, and Joseph were members of the Jerusalem
Church--they were of the one hundred and twenty which constituted
it prior to the day of Pentecost - the same spiritual union, the
same friendship, the same one faith, one heart, one mind, one
baptism, one hope, one Lord, would joint them together in Britain
as in Jerusalem. Both establishments were out of the pale of
Rome, both among the free states of Britain. Beyond Siluria,
among the Ordovices, the protection of Bran did not avail
Aristobulus: Joseph came direct from Jerusalem, and was therefore
regarded with favour; Aristobulus came from Rome, from the
metropolis of the national enemy, and fell, perhaps, rather a
victim to this fact than a martyr to religion. In Siluria itself
the royal family were hard pressed to reconcile their subjects to
the presence of men in any way, however slightly, connected with
Rome, so unappeasable was the hatred borne to the invaders, so
easily misapprehended and confounded every embassage from their
city. Every overture of peace made by the Roman government to
this ferox provincia was sternly rejected; rigour and mildness
were alike thrown away. "The race of the Silures," observes
Tacitus, "was not to be changed by clemency or severity." 21
Even after the treaty which incorporated Britain with Rome (A.D.
118), two-thirds of the whole military force of the island
continued to be stationed on the frontiers of Wales, at Chester
and Caeleon. The same dogged opposition to the foreigner
characterised the same race in the West in the later Saxon eras.
It is certain," writes Kemble, "that neither Roman nor Saxon
produced any effect worth mentioning on the Cymric race and
language west of the Severn. We see indeed what little effect all
the centuries since then, though but a river divides, the two
races, has produced upon the British language." 22 
     Great caution, therefore, was called for in the exercise,
under these circumstances, of the royal protection. Meanwhile,
however, the cor continued to strike roots. The royal family
themselves remained firm in the profession of Christianity.
Cyllinus, who acted as regent in the absence of his father
Caradoc, had all his children baptized. Converts increased, and
more teachers arrived from

......

21 "Silurum gens non atrocitate, non clementia mutabatur" Taciti
Annal, lib. ii. c. 24.
22 History of the Anglo-Saxons, vol. i. Tacitus, in his Life of
Agricola (c.21), takes occasion to notice the stubborn attachment
of the Briton to his native tongue. And it is one of the most
remarkable facts connected with the occupation of Britain by the
Romans, that though they entirely recast the languages of the
Continent through the medium of their own, they did not leave
probably a hundred Latin words behind them in Britain: within
twenty years of their departure Latin had ceased to be spoken in
the island.

......

Greece and Rome. The following notice of St. Cyllinus is
extracted from the family records of Jestyn lap Gwrgant, Prince
of Glamorgan, in the eleventh century:--

"Cyllin ab Caradog, a wise and just king. In his days many of the
Cymry embraced the faith in Christ through the teaching of the
saints of Cor-Eurgain, and many godly men from the countries of
Greece and Rome were in Cambria. He first of the Cymry gave
infants names; for before, names were not given except to adults,
and then from something characteristic in their bodies, minds, or
manners." 23

     Nero had succeeded Claudius Sept. 28, A.D.53. He was in his
seventeenih year, and for some time remained under the influence
of Seneca, a Stoic philosopher in profession but in practice a
grinding usurer. The capital of this minister amounted to fifteen
million pounds sterling of modern money. Two millions of this he
advanced to the Iceni of Britain on the security of their public
buildings. We doubt if Rothschild or any modern capitalist would
advance half the sum on such buildings as may now be found in the
old Icenic counties. The king of the Iceni was Prasutagus, his
queen Victoria (in British, Vuddig or Boeddig - Boadicea).
Tacitus speaks of him as a sovereign whose wealth was notorious
at Rome - "longd clarus opulentid." 
     The commerce between Britain and the Continent continued to
be vigorously conducted. Tacitus informs us that the great
foreign emporium was London, a city the foundation of which the
British annals carried back 270 years before that of Rome, i.e.
B.C.1020. 1   Above 80,000 

......

23 Gwehelyth Iestyn ap Gwrgant.

1 "Londinum vetus oppidum quod Augustam posteritas appellavit." -
Ammianus Marcellinus, lib. xxvii. c. 8,9. If London was not a
prae-Roman city, Ammianus could not term it "an ancient city:"
for supposing it founded the first year of the Claudian invasion,
A.D.43, it would still, in A.D. 350, be quite a new town; and as
the Boadicean war broke out A.D.60, it would be absurd to affirm
that it rose in seventeen years to the condition described by
Tacitus: "Copia negotiatorum et commeatuum maxime
celebre."--Tacit. Annal., lib. i; Hist., lib. i., and lib. xiv.
c. 27-30.

......

Roman citizens, according to the Roman historians, perished in
the Boadicean war, of whom the greater number resided in London.
A Roman garrison stationed in the Proctorium - which extended
along the Thames from the temple of Diana, where now stands St.
Paul's, to the Bryn Gwyn, or White Mount, the site of the Tower -
protected their property and interests. It was just as easy for
an apostle to find his way into Britain as for any of these
80,000, amongst whom there must have been a fair proportion of
Christians. The Roman citizen could travel from Babylon to London
along the great military itinera of the empire, more slowly
indeed, but with fewer civil inonveniences in the shape of
passports and stoppa ges, and no less security, than an
Englishman can now. It was not in mediaeval Europe, divided
amongst a thousand independent marauding states and barons, nor
in the pathless wilds of a new world, but over the length and
breadth of an empire possessed of a system, of roads laid down
with consummate engineering skill, and remaining, until the
invention of railroads, without rivals on a great scale, that the
first preachers of the Gospel had to travel. The Roman "iter" at
Babylon would conduct them, under the protection of one law, one
government, without a frontier, to Calais. The whole empire was a
network of connected arteries, along which a traveller might take
his ease from anywhere to anywhere under the overshadowing
protection of the Eagles of the Caesars. It was not till he had
crossed the British Channel that the din and terror of war
assaulted his senses. So profound, indeed, until the brief civil
commotion that resulted in placing the Vespasian family on the
throne, was the peace which prevailed through Europe, that the
Roman annalists are driven, for lack of national events, to fill
page after page with court scandals, with the personal
debaucheries and cruelties of the emperors. These emperors were
despots created by the democracy against the oligarchy; they held
the same position as the Tudors of later times in Britain. When a
noble raised his head above his fellows, like Tarquin and the
poppies, they cut it remorselessly and unscrupulously down. A
lover of the old oligarchic times, such as Tacitus, would - and
no doubt in many cases justly stigmatize such executions as
judicial murders, and transmit their authors to the execration of
posterity. The people at large were unaffected; the lightning
passed over them; and, in return, it was the dagger of the
oligarch in the chamber, not the popular tumult, which the Caesar
dreaded. He walked the streets a simple citizen without guards,
but he went to the Senate armed. 

     Meanwhile, Ostorius Scapula in Britain suffered a defeat
from Arviragus at Caervelin, near Caerleon. Exhausted in mind and
body by the harassing vicissitudes of the war, he petitioned to
be recalled. He was succeeded by Didius Gallus, who founded
Cardiff, still called by the Welsh Caer Dydd, 'the Castle of
Didius.' After a short command Didius gave way to Veranius, under
whom the Roman armies were again driven behind the Plautian line
of fortresses, and their headquarters fixed at Verulam. Veranius
was superseded by Suetonius Paulinus, a second Fabius Cunctator,
and regarded as the ablest tactitian in the Roman service. 2 
     He had under him the ninth, fourteenth, twentieth (Vicesima
Valens Victrix), and second (Augusta) legions.
     The expression of Tacitus, that Britain had long been 

......

2 "Cunctator natura, nemo rei militaris callidior habe batur."--
Taciti Hist., lib. xiv. c. 20.

......

the field for the employment of the great generals and picked
armies of the empire, 3  may be readily understood by merely
reading over the names of the Roman commanders who were
successively entrusted with the conduct of war--Aulus Plautius,
Geta, Vespasian and Titus, Ostorius Scapula, Suetonius Paulinus,
Cerealis, Julius Frontinus, Julius Agricola, Sallustius,
Lucullus, under whom the island was lost, and the Roman armies a
second time withdrawn to the Continent, A.D.86; from which time
till A.D.118 we have but one solitary Roman name occurring in
British history, Neratius Marcellus. From A.D.43 to A.D.86 sixty
pitched battles were fought. "The series of invasions and
sanguinary conflicts," observes Smith in his "Ancient Religions,
4"  "between the Romans and Britons have no parallel in any age
or country." We are able to perceive," writes Richardson, "from
the partial story furnished by the invaders themselves, that
conquest was never more dearly attempted than in the case of
Britain by the Romans. By no people was every inch of country at
any age contested with more bravery and surrendered more
stubbornly than by the aboriginal fathers of this isle. They had
become a very populous nation, so versed in military tactics as
to meet the armies, which had been carrying the Roman banners
over the most famed and intellectual quarters of the world, on
such formidable terms, as to render victory at every encounter
little better than defeat. They had settled laws and
institutions, were distinguished for an ardent love of liberty,
in defence of which the highest degree of valour and selfdevotion
were on all occasions manifested. It is certain they reverenced
the laws by which they had been long governed, and evinced
profound homage for the memory of their forefathers: nor can we
less credit their un-

......

3 "Magni duces, egregii exercitus."--Tacitus, Annai., lib. ii. c.
24 

4 P.457

......

daunted energy against the mercenary and implacable plunderers of
the world, against whose experienced arms they had to contend. A
man must be a barbarian himself to suppose that such a nation
could be barbarous. The idea is simply ludicrous." 5

     This firm resistance to the Roman arms was mainly due to the
national religion - to Druidism, which acted then much the same
as Protestantism did on the British mind in the popish invasion
of the Armada. Druidism had been persecuted by pagan Rome on the
Continent as Protestantism - in the Tudor era was by papal Rome:
both had their headquarters and stronghold in Britain, both had
common points admirably suited to the native bent and genius of
the British race; both were religions of freedom; and both were
thoroughly identified with British independence andgrandeur. The
Druid, indeed, regarded the Roman mythologic religion with much
the same mixture of contempt and hatred that a strong Protestant
does still the image system and inquisition practices of the
Papacy. "When the Romans," observes Cleland, "effected a footing
in Britain, they found in Druidism a constant and implacable
enemy to their usurpation. They would have been glad to introduce
their religion, but to that point there was an invincible
obstacle in the horror and contempt of the natives for a religion
formed by a corruption of their own allegories; which made the
name of their heathen gods as familiar to them as Julius Caesar
states, but in a sense which excluded them from reception in a
divine one." 6

     The Briton soon perceived the fact that Christianity and
Druidism were the two religions persecuted by Rome. The gathering
prejudice against the former, because the Aristobulean mission
came from Rome, gave way to strong

......

5 Richardson's Historian, p.10.

6 Cleland's Ancient Celtic«, p.13.

......


predilections in its favour. A large class of Britons, it is
true, cared as little then, as now, for religion in itself, but
they were ardent patriots, and Druidic because patriots; they
were indifferent what the national religion was, provided it was
thoroughly anti-foreign, anti-Roman - that it was thoroughly
British. Nothing, therefore, served so much to recommend
Christianity and extend it in Britain, as its persecution by
Rome. Common oppression drove the two religions into each other's
arms, and finally united them in so indissoluble a union, that we
cannot now separate in British Christianity the Druidic from the
Christian element. 

     Two events now occurred which crowned the national hatred
towards both the arms and religion of Rome, and, in the same
degree, disposed Druidism to identify its sufferings with those
of Christianity--these were the Boadicean outrage and the Menai
massacre.

     Orders were issued from Rome to Suetonius Paulinus to
extirpate, at any cost, the chief seat of Druidism among the
Cymry, or Western Britons. Seneca, who still, in some respects,
acted as Nero's adviser, demanded repayment, at the same time, of
his loan to the Iceni, charging exorbitant interest. The Icenic
senate demurred; whereon Caius Decius, the Roman praefect at
Caistor, was instructed to take possession of all the temples,
castles, and palaces belonging to the state. These orders were
vigorously executed. Prasutagus, the king, dying in the midst of
these measures, left Nero co-heir, with his two daughters, to his
accumulated treasures. On the pretext that the whole of the royal
hoard came under the denomination of public property, Decius
proceeded to seize it. Resistance being made, the legionaries
stormed the palace, perpetrated the most inhuman outrages on the
persons of Queen Victoria and her daughters, and carried the
treasures off to the Castra. Not content with these atrocities,
Decius confiscated, in direct violation of the Claudian treaty,
the estates of many of the Icenic blaenorion, or nobility. The
Iceni sent Venusius to Arviragus, adjuring the Roman
protectorate, and placing themselves and the Coraniaid at his
disposal. Suetonius, meanwhile, by forced marches along the
Wyddelian road, had reached the banks of the Menai. On either
side extended the myvyrion, or colleges, and the cemeteries of
the ancient religion, the tumuli of which are yet traceable. Here
reposed, between the soaring ramparts of Snowdon, the sacred
mountain, the Zion of Cymru, and the blue waters of the
unexplored Atlantic, the fathers of the British Isle: chiefs
whose ashes for fifteen hundred years had never been desecrated
by the tramp of a foreign foe; arch-druids, the depositaries of
the hoary wisdom of the East; kings whose Cimbric names had
carried terror over the continents of Europe and Asia. Through
these sanctuaries of so many and such ancient memories, the
regulated march of the mailed legions of Rome now resounded.
     Anglesey was then known as Mon, and ecclesiastically, from
the number of Druidic groves which covered it, sweeping down to
the margin of the Menai, as Ynys Tywyll, the dark isle. The
massacre of the Druidic priests and priestesses which ensued is
graphically described by Tacitus. It was a complete surprise.
     Effecting the passage of the Menai, opposite the present
seat of the Marquis of Anglesey (Plas Newydd), Seutonius gave the
colleges to the flame and their inmates to the sword, the
resistance attempted by the native force on the spot being easily
overcome. The myvyrion were levelled with the soil, and for many
nights and days the waters of the Menai were illuminated with the
glare of the conflagrations of the sacred luci - the favourite
haunts of Druidic meditation and philosophy. Tacitus endeavours
to palliate this foul wholesale assassination of the ministers of
religion, by stating that the Druids were in the habit of
sacrificing the Roman prisoners of war on their altars. 
     The Romans themselves, we know, after exhibiting them in
triumph, slaughtered every captive king and chief in the Tarpeian
dungeons, whilst the privates were condemned in thousands to
butcher each other on the public altar, or the arena of the
circus, in the gladiatorial games - even the vestal virgins
smiling on the sanguinary holocausts. The immolation, on the
other hand, of Roman prisoners by the Druids, rests on the
solitary assertion of an enemy who, with a like scandalous
indifference to truth, terms almost in the same page the
Christian religion itself 'a destructive superstition' 7

     The news of the massacre was no sooner diffused through
Britain than it excited the nation to frenzy. The war from this
moment became a religious war; a crusade accompanied with all the
frightful and remorseless cruelties on either side which have, in
all ages distinguished such hostilities. 8  

     The Iceni and  Coranidae had entirely forfeited the name of
Britons, and their oppression alone might have been regarded in
the light of a just retribution, but the Menai massacre merged
all other feelings in one torrent of universal indignation and
horror. 
     Boadicea soon found herself at the head of 120,000 men in
arms. The Roman accounts impress us vividly with the profound
gloom in which their forces were plunged, by the heavy shadows
of the forthcoming disasters.

......

7 Suppose we knew nothing more of the Jewish dispensation and of
the Levitical priesthood than we find in Greek and Latin authors,
it must be confessed we should have either to remain in total
ignorance, or to embrace very absurd misconceptions. It may,
however, be added, that the Greeks were equally unjust towards
the Romans, for no Greek writer, deigns to mention the name of
any of their authors, or, indeed, to suppose that they had any
literature at all.


8 In the Boadicean war, states Tacitus, no quarter was given or
asked on either side: "Neque enim capere aut venumdare aliudve
quod belli commercium sit," &c.--Annal., lib. xiv. c. 29--39.

......

                          ......................

To be continued


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