GEOFFREY OF MONMOUTH'S BRITISH HISTORY
[Extracted from Giles' Six Old English Chronicles, pp. 89-292.]
Chap. I.The epistle dedicatory to Robert earl of Gloucester.1
WHILST occupied on many and various studies, I happened to light upon the History of the Kings of Britain, and wondered that in the account which Gildas and Bede, in their elegant treatises, had given of them, I found nothing said of those kings who lived here before the Incarnation of Christ, nor of Arthur, and many others who succeeded after the Incarnation; though their actions both deserved immortal fame, and were also celebrated by many people in a pleasant manner and by heart, as if they had been written. Whilst I was intent upon these and such like thoughts, Walter, archdeacon of Oxford,2 a man of great eloquence, and learned in foreign histories, offered me a very ancient book in the British tongue, which, in a continued regular story and elegant style, related the actions of them all, from Brutus the first king of the Britons, down to Cadwallader the son of Cadwallo. At his request, therefore, though I had not made fine language my study, by collecting florid expressions from other authors, yet contented with my own homely style, I undertook the translation of that book into Latin. For if I had swelled the pages with rhetorical [p.90] flourishes, T must have tired my readers, by employing their attention more upon my words than upon the history. To you, therefore, Robert earl of Gloucester, this work humbly sues for the favour of being so corrected by your advice, that it may not be thought to be the poor offspring of Geoffrey of Monmouth, but when polished by your refined wit and judgment, the production of him who had Henry the glorious king of England for his father, and whom we see an accomplished scholar and philosopher, as well as a brave soldier and expert commander; so that Britain with joy acknowledges, that in you she possesses another Henry.
Chap. II.The first inhabitants of Britain.
Britain, the best of islands, is situated in the Western Ocean, between France and Ireland, being eight hundred miles long, and two hundred broad. It produces every tiling that is useful to man, with a plenty that never fails. It abounds with all kinds of metal, and has plains of large extent, and hills: for the finest tillage, the richness of whose soil affords variety of fruits in their proper seasons. It has also forests well stored with all kinds of wild beasts; in its lawns cattle find good change of pasture, and bees variety of flowers for honey. Under its lofty mountains lie green meadows pleasantly situated, in which the gentle murmurs of crystal springs gliding along clear channels, give those that pass an agreeable invitation to lie down on their banks and slumber. It is likewise well watered with lakes and rivers abounding with fish; and besides the narrow sea which is on the Southern coast towards France, there are three noble rivers, stretching out like three arras, namely, the Thames, the Severn, and the Humber; by which foreign commodities from all countries are brought into it. It was formerly adorned with eight and twenty cities,3 of which some are in ruins and desolate, others are still standing, beautified with lofty church-towers, wherein religious worship is performed according to the Christian institution. It is lastly inhabited by five different nations, the Britons, Romans, Saxons, Picts, and Scots; [p.91] whereof the Britons before the rest did formerly possess the whole island from sea to sea, till divine vengeance, punishing them for their pride, made them give way to the Picts and Saxons. But in what manner, and from whence, they first arrived here, remains now to be related in what follows.4
Chap. III.Brutus, being banished after the killing of his parents, goes into Greece.
After the Trojan war, Aeneas, flying with Ascanius from the
destruction of their city, sailed to Italy. There he was honourably received by
king Latinus, which raised against him the envy of Turnus, king of the Rutuli,
who thereupon made war against him. Upon their engaging in battle, Aeneas got
the victory, and having killed Turnus, obtained the kingdom of Italy, and with
it Lavinia the daughter of Latinus. After his death, Ascanius, succeeding in the
kingdom, built Alba upon the Tiber, and begat a son named Sylvius, who, in
pursuit of a private amour, took to wife a
niece of Lavinia. The damsel soon after conceived, and the father Ascanius,
coming to the knowledge of it, commanded his magicians to consult of what sex
the child should be. When they had satisfied themselves in the matter, they told
him she would give birth to a boy, who would kill his father and mother, and
after travelling over many countries in banishment, would at last arrive at the
highest pitch of glory. Nor were they mistaken in their prediction; for at the
proper time the woman brought forth a son, and died of his birth; but the child
was delivered to a nurse and called
At length, after fifteen years were expired, the youth accompanied his father in hunting, and killed him undesignedly by the shot of an arrow. For, as the servants were driving up the deer towards them, Brutus, in shooting at them, smote his father under the breast. Upon his death, he was expelled from Italy, his kinsmen being enraged at him for so heinous a deed. Thus banished he went into Greece, where he found the posterity of Helenus, son of [p.92] Priamus, kept in slavery by Pandrasus, king of the Greeks. For, after the destruction of Troy, Pyrrhus, the son of Achilles, had brought hither in chains Helenus and many others; and to revenge on them the death of his father, had given command that they should be held in captivity. Brutus, finding they were by descent his old countrymen, took up his abode among them, and began to distinguish himself by his conduct and bravery in war, so as to gain the affection of kings and commanders, and above all the young men of the country. For he was esteemed a person of great capacity both in council and war, and signalized his generosity to his soldiers, by bestowing among them all the money and spoil he got. His fame, therefore, spreading over all countries, the Trojans from all parts began to flock to him, desiring under his command to be freed from subjection to the Greeks; which they assured him might easily be done, considering how much their number was now increased in the country, being seven thousand strong, besides women and children. There was likewise then in Greece a noble youth named Assaracus, a favourer of their cause. For he was descended on his mother's side from the Trojans, and placed great confidence in them, that he might be able by their assistance to oppose the designs of the Greeks. For his brother had a quarrel with him for attempting to deprive him of three castles which his father had given him at his death, on account of his being only the son of a concubine ; but as the brother was a Greek, both by his father's and mother's side, he had prevailed with the king and the rest of the Greeks to espouse his cause. Brutus, having taken a view of the number of his men, and seen how Assaracus's castles lay open to him, complied with their request.5
Chap. IV.Brutus's letter to Pandrasus.
Being, therefore, chosen their commander, he assembled the Trojans from all parts, and fortified the towns belonging to Assaracus. But he himself, with Assaracus and the whole [p.93] body of men and women that adhered to him, retired to the woods and hills, and then sent a letter to the king in these words:
"Brutus, general of the remainder of the Trojans, to Pandrasus, king of the Greeks, sends greeting. As it was beneath the dignity of a nation descended from the illustrious race of Dardanus, to be treated in your kingdom otherwise than the nobility of their birth required, they have betaken themselves to the protection of the woods. For they have preferred living after the manner of wild beasts, upon flesh and herbs, with the enjoyment of liberty, to continuing longer in the greatest luxury under the yoke of slavery. If this gives your majesty any offence, impute it not to them, but pardon it; since it is the common sentiment of every captive, to be desirous of regaining his former dignity. Let pity therefore move you to bestow on them freely their lost liberty, and permit them to inhabit the thickest of the woods, to which they have retired to avoid slavery. But if you deny them this favour, then by your permission and assistance let them depart into some foreign country."
Chap. V.Brutus falling upon the forces of Pandrasus by surprise, routs them, and takes Antigonus, the brother of Pandrasus, with Anacletus, prisoner.
Pandrasus, perceiving the purport of the letter, was beyond measure surprised at the boldness of such a message from those whom he had kept in slavery; and having called a council of his nobles, he determined to raise an army in order to pursue them. But while he was upon his march to the deserts, where he thought they were, and to the town of Sparatinum, Brutus made a sally with three thousand men, and fell upon him unawares. For having intelligence of his coming, he had got into the town the night before, with a design to break forth upon them unexpectedly, while unarmed and marching without order. The sally being made, the Trojans briskly attack them, and endeavour to make a great slaughter. The Greeks, astonished, immediately give way on all sides, and with the king at their head, hasten to pass the river Akalon,6 which runs near the place; but in [p.94] passing are in great danger from the rapidity of the stream. Brutus galls them in their flight, and kills some of them in the stream, and some upon the banks; and running to and fro, rejoices to see them in both places exposed to ruin. But Antigonus, the brother of Pandrasus, grieved at this sight, rallied his scattered troops, and made a quick return upon the furious Trojans; for he rather chose to die making a brave resistance, than to be drowned in a muddy pool in a shameful flight. Thus attended with a close body of men, he encouraged them to stand their ground, and employed his whole force against the enemy with great vigour, but to little or no purpose; for the Trojans had arms, but the others none; and from this advantage they were more eager in the pursuit, and made a miserable slaughter; nor did they give over the assault till they had made nearly a total destruction, and taken Antigonus, and Anacletus his companion prisoners.
Chap. VI.The town of Sparatinum besieged by Pandrasus.
Brutus, after the victory, reinforced the town with six hundred men, and then retired to the woods, where the Trojan people were expecting his protection. In the meantime Pandrasus, grieving at his own flight and his brother's captivity, endeavoured that night to re-assemble his broken forces, and the next morning went with a body of his people which he had got together, to besiege the town, into which he supposed Brutus had put himself with Antigonus and the rest of the prisoners that he had taken. As soon as he wits arrived at the walls, and had viewed the situation of the castle, he divided his army into several bodies, and placed them round it in different stations. One party was charged not to suffer any of the besieged to go out; another to turn the courses of the rivers; and a third to beat down the walls with battering rams and other engines. In obedience to those commands, they laboured with their utmost force to distress the besieged; and night coming on, made choice of their bravest men to defend their camp and tents from the incursions of the enemy, while the rest, who were fatigued with labour, refreshed themselves with sleep.
Chap. VII.The besieged ask assistance of Brutus.
But the besieged, standing on the top of the walls, were no less vigorous to repel the force of the enemies' engines, and assault them with their own, and cast forth darts and fire-brands with a unanimous resolution to make a valiant defence. And when a breach was made through the wall, they compelled the enemy to retire, by throwing upon them fire and scalding water. But being distressed through scarcity of provision and daily labour, they sent an urgent message to Brutus, to hasten to their assistance, for they were afraid they might be so weakened as to be obliged to quit the town. Brutus, though desirous of relieving them, was under great perplexity, as he had not men enough to stand a pitched battle, and therefore made use of a stratagem, by which he proposed to enter the enemies' camp by night, and having deceived their watch to kill them in their sleep. But because he knew this was impracticable without the concurrence and assistance of some Greeks, he called to him Anacletus, the companion of Antigonus, and with a drawn sword in his hand, spake to him after this manner:"Noble youth! your own and Antigonus's life is now at an end, unless you will faithfully perform what I command you. This night I design to invade the camp of the Greeks, and fall upon them unawares, but am afraid of being hindered in the attempt if the watch should discover the stratagem. Since it will be necessary, therefore, to have them killed first, I desire to make use of you to deceive them, that I may have the easier access to the rest. Do you therefore manage this affair cunningly. At the second hour of the night go to the watch, and with fair speeches tell them that you have brought away Antigonus from prison, and that he is come to the bottom of the woods, where he lies hid among the shrubs, and cannot get any farther, by reason of the fetters with which you shall pretend that he is bound. Then you shall conduct them, as if it were to deliver him, to the end of the wood, where I will attend with a band of men ready to kill them."
Chap. VIII.Anacletus, in fear of death, betrays the army of the Greeks.
Anacletus, seeing the sword threatening him with immediate death while these words were being pronounced, was so terrified as to promise upon oath, that on condition he and Antigonus should have longer life granted them, he would execute his command. Accordingly, the agreement being confirmed, at the second hour of the night he directs his way towards the Grecian camp, and when he was come near to it, the watch, who were then narrowly examining all the places where any one could hide, ran out from all parts to meet him, and demanded the occasion of his coming, and whether it was not to betray the army. He, with a show of great joy, made the following answer:"I come not to betray my country, but having made my escape from the prison of the Trojans, I fly thither to desire you would go with me to Antigonus, whom I have delivered from Brutus's chains. For being not able to come with me for the weight of his fetters, I have a little while ago caused him to lie hid among the shrubs at the end of the wood, till I could meet with some one whom I might conduct to his assistance." While they were in suspense about the truth of this story, there came one who knew him, and after he had saluted him, told them who he was; so that now, without any hesitation, they quickly called their absent companions, and followed him to the wood where he had told them Antigonus lay hid. But at length, as they were going among the shrubs, Brutus with his armed bands springs forth, and falls upon them, while under the greatest astonishment, with a most cruel slaughter. From thence he marches directly to the siege, and divides his men into three bands, assigning to each of them a different part of the camp, and telling them to advance discreetly, and without noise; and when entered, not to kill any body till he with his company should be possessed of the king's tent, and should cause the trumpet to sound for a signal.
Chap. IX.The taking of Pandrasus.
When he had given them these instructions, they forthwith softly entered the camp in silence, and taking their appointed stations, awaited the promised signal, which Brutus delayed [p.97] not to give as soon as he had got before the tent of Pandrasus, to assault which was the thing he most desired. At hearing the signal, they forthwith draw their swords, enter in among the men in their sleep, make quick destruction of them, and allowing no quarter, in this manner traverse the whole camp. The rest, awaked at the groans of the dying, and seeing their assailants, were like sheep seized with a sudden fear; for they despaired of life, since they had neither time to take arms, nor to escape by flight. They run up and down without arms among the armed, whithersoever the fury of the assault hurries them, but are on all sides cut down by the enemy rushing in. Some that might have escaped, were in the eagerness of flight dashed against rocks, trees, or shrubs, and increased the misery of their death. Others, that had only a shield, or some such covering for their defence, in venturing upon the same rocks to avoid death, fell down in the hurry and darkness of the night, and broke either legs or arms. Others, that escaped both these disasters, but did not know whither to fly, were drowned in the adjacent rivers; and scarcely one got away without some unhappy accident befalling him. Besides, the garrison in the town, upon notice of the coming of their fellow soldiers, sallied forth, and redoubled the slaughter.
Chap. X.A consultation about what is to be asked of the captive king.
But Brutus, as I said before, having possessed himself of the king's tent, made it his business to keep him a safe prisoner; for he knew he could more easily attain his ends by preserving his life than by killing him; but the party that was with him, allowing no quarter, made an utter destruction in that part which they had gained. The night being spent in this manner, when the next morning discovered to their view so great an overthrow of the enemy, Brutus, in transports of joy, gave full liberty to his men to do what they pleased with the plunder, and then entered the town with the king, to stay there till they had shared it among them; which done, he again fortified the castle, gave orders for burying the slain, and retired with his forces to the woods in great joy for the victory. After the rejoicings of his people on this occasion, their renowned general sum- [p.98] moned the oldest of them and asked their advice, what he had best desire of Pandrasus, who, being now in their power, would readily grant whatever they would request of him, in order to regain his liberty. They, according to their different fancies, desired different things; some urged him to request that a certain part of the kingdom might be assigned them for their habitation; others that he would demand leave to depart, and to be supplied with necessaries for their voyage. After they had been a long time in suspense what to do, one of them, named Mempricius, rose up, and having made silence, spoke to them thus:
"What can be the occasion of your suspense, fathers, in a matter which I think so much concerns your safety? The only thing you can request, with any prospect of a firm peace and security to yourselves and your posterity, is liberty to depart. For if you make no better terms with Pandrasus for his life than only to have some part of the country assigned you to live among the Greeks, you will never enjoy a lasting peace while the brothers, sons, or grandsons of those whom you killed yesterday shall continue to be your neighbours. So long as the memory of their fathers' deaths shall remain, they will be your mortal enemies, and upon the least trifling provocation will endeavour to revenge themselves. Nor will you be sufficiently numerous to withstand so great a multitude of people. And if you shall happen to fall out among yourselves, their number will daily increase, yours diminish. I propose, therefore, that you request of him his eldest daughter, Ignoge, for a wife for our general, and with her, gold, silver, corn, and whatever else shall be necessary for our voyage. If we obtain this, we may with his leave remove to some other country."
Chap, XI.Pandrasus gives his daughter Ignoge in marriage to Brutus, who, after
his departure from Greece, falls upon a desert island,
where he is told by the oracle of Diana what place he is to inhabit.
When he had ended his speech, in words to this effect- the whole assembly acquiesced in his advice, and moved that Pandrasus might be brought in among them, and condemned to a most cruel death unless he would grant this request, He was immediately brought in, and being placed in a chair [p.99] above the rest, and informed of the tortures prepared for him unless he would do what was commanded him, he made them this answer:
"Since my ill fate has delivered me and my brother Antigonus into your hands, I can do no other than grant your request, lest a refusal may cost us our lives, which are now entirely in your power. In my opinion life is preferable to all other considerations; therefore, wonder not that I am willing to redeem it at so great a price. But though it is against my inclination that I obey your commands, yet it seems matter of comfort to me that I am to give my daughter to so noble a youth, whose descent from the illustrious race of Priamus and Anchises is clear, both from that greatness of mind which appears in him, and the certain accounts we have had of it. For who less than he could have released from their chains the banished Trojans, when reduced under slavery to so many great princes? Who else could have encouraged them to make head against the Greeks? or with so small a body of men vanquished so numerous and powerful an army, and taken their king prisoner in the engagement? And, therefore, since this noble youth has gained so much glory by the opposition which he has made to me, I give him my daughter Ignoge, and also gold, silver, ships, corn, wine, and oil, and whatever you shall find necessary for your voyage. If you shall alter your resolution, and think fit to continue among the Greeks, I will grant you the third part of my kingdom for your habitation; if not, I will faithfully perform my promise, and for your greater security will stay as a hostage among you till I have made it good."
Accordingly he held a council, and directed messengers to all the shores of Greece, to get ships together; which done, he delivered them to the Trojans, to the number of three hundred and twenty-four, laden with all kinds of provision, and married his daughter to Brutus. He made also a present of gold and silver to each man according to his quality. When everything was performed the king was set at liberty; and the Trojans, now released from his power, set sail with a fair wind. But Ignoge, standing upon the stern of the ship, swooned away several times in Brutus's arms, and with many sighs and tears lamented the leaving her parents and [p.100] country, nor ever turned her eyes from the shore while it was in sight. Brutus, meanwhile, endeavoured to assuage her grief by kind words and embraces intermixed with kisses, and ceased not from these blandishments till she grew weary of crying and fell asleep. During these and other accidents, the winds continued fair for two days and a night together, when at length they arrived at a certain island called Leogecia, which had been formerly wasted by the incursions of pirates, and was then uninhabited. Brutus, not knowing this, sent three hundred armed men ashore to see who inhabited it; but they finding nobody, killed several kinds of wild beasts which they met with in the groves and woods, and came to a desolate city, in which they found a temple of Diana, and in it a statue of that goddess which gave answers to those that came to consult her. At last, loading themselves with the prey which they had taken in hunting, they return to their ships, and give their companions an account of this country and city. Then they advised their leader to go to the city, and after offering sacrifices, to inquire of the deity of the place, what country was allotted them for their place of settlement. To this proposal all assented; so that Brutus, attended with Gerion, the augur, and twelve of the oldest men, set forward to the temple, with all things necessary for the sacrifice. Being arrived at the place, and presenting themselves before the shrine with garlands about their temples, as the ancient rites required, they made three fires to the three deities, Jupiter, Mercury, and Diana, and offered sacrifices to each of them. Brutus himself, holding before the altar of the goddess a consecrated vessel filled with wine, and the blood of a white hart, with his face looking up to the image, broke silence in these words:
"Diva potens nemonim, terror sylvestribus apris;
Cui licet amfractus ire per aethereos,
Infernasque domos; terrestria jura resolve,
Et die quas terras nos habitare velis?
Die certam sedem qua te venerabor in aevum,
Qua tibi virgineis templa dicabo choris?"
Goddess of woods, tremendous in the chase
To mountain boars, and all the savage race!
Wide o'er the ethereal walks extends its sway,
And o'er the infernal mansions void of day!
Look upon us on earth! unfold our fate,
And say what region is our destined seat?
Where shall we next thy lasting temples raise?
And choirs of virgins celebrate thy praise?
These words he repeated nine times, after which he took four turns round the altar, poured the wine into the fire, and then laid himself down upon the hart's skin, which he had spread before the altar, where he fell asleep. About the third hour of the night, the usual time for deep sleep, the goddess seemed to present herself before him, and foretell his future success as follows:
"Brute! sub occasum solis trans Gallica regna
Insula in oceano est undique clausa mari:
Insula in oceano est habitata gigantibus olim,
Nunc deserta quidem, gentibus apta tuis.
Hanc pete, namque tibi sedes erit ilia perennis:
Sic liet natis altera Troja tuis.
Sic de prole tua reges nascentur: et ipsis
Totius terrae subditus orbis erit."
Brutus! there lies beyond the Gallic bounds
An island which the western sea surrounds,
By giants once possessed; now few remain
To bar thy entrance, or obstruct thy reign.
To reach that happy shore thy sails employ;
There fate decrees to raise a second Troy,
And found an empire in thy royal line,
Which time shall ne'er destroy, nor bounds confine.
Awakened by the vision, he was for some time in doubt with himself, whether what he had seen was a dream or a real appearance of the goddess herself, foretelling to what land he should go. At last he called to his companions, and related to them in order the vision he had in his sleep, at which they very much rejoiced, and were urgent to return to their ships, and while the wind favoured them, to hasten their voyage towards the west, in pursuit of what the goddess had promised. Without delay, therefore, they returned to their company, and set sail again, and after a course of thirty days came to Africa, being ignorant as yet whither to steer. From thence they came to the Philenian altars, and to a place called Salinae, and sailed between Ruscicada and the mountains of Azara,7 where they underwent great dan- [p.102] ger from pirates, whom, notwithstanding, they vanquished, and enriched themselves with their spoils.
Chap. XII.Brutus enters Aquitaine with Corineus.
From thence, passing the river Malua, they arrived at Mauritania, where at last, for want of provisions, they were obliged to go ashore; and, dividing themselves into several bands, they laid waste the whole country. When they had well stored their ships, they steered to the Pillars of Hercules, where they saw some of those sea monsters, called Syrens, which surrounded their ships, and very nearly overturned them. However, they made a shift to escape, and came to the Tyrrhenian Sea, upon the shores of which they found four several nations descended from the banished Trojans, that had accompanied Antenor8 in his flight. The name of their commander was Corineus, a modest man in matters of council, and of great courage and boldness, who, in an encounter with any person, even of gigantic stature, would immediately overthrow him, as if he were a child. When they understood from whom he was descended, they joined company with him and those under his government, who from the name of their leader were afterwards called the Cornish people, and indeed were more serviceable to Brutus than the rest in all his engagements. From thence they came to Aquitaine, and entering the mouth of the Loire, cast anchor. There they stayed seven days and viewed the country. Goffarius Pictus, who was king of Aquitaine at that time, having an account brought him of the arrival of a foreign people with a great fleet upon his coasts, sent ambassadors to them to demand whether they brought with them peace or war. The ambassadors, on their way towards the fleet, met Corineus, who was come out with two hundred men, to hunt in the woods. They demanded of him, who gave him leave to enter the king's forests, and kill his game; (which by an ancient law nobody was allowed to do without leave from the prince.) Corineus answered, that as for that matter there was no occasion for asking leave; upon which one of them, named Imbertus, rushing forward, with a full drawn bow levelled a shot at [p.103] him. Corineus avoids the arrow and immediately runs up to him, and with his bow in his hand breaks his head. The rest narrowly escaped, and carried the news of this disaster to Goffarius. The Pictavian general was struck with sorrow for it, and immediately raised a vast army, to revenge the death of his ambassador. Brutus, on the other hand, upon hearing the rumour of his coming, sends away the women and children to the ships, which he took care to be well guarded, and commands them to stay there, while he, with the rest that were able to bear arms, should go to meet the army. At last an assault being made, a bloody fight ensued; in which after a great part of the day had been spent, Corineus was ashamed to see the Aquitanians so bravely stand their ground, and the Trojans maintaining the fight without victory. He therefore takes fresh courage, and drawing off his men to the right wing, breaks in upon the very thickest of the enemies, where he made such slaughter on every side, that at last he broke the line and put them all to flight. In this encounter he lost his sword, but by good fortune, met with a battle-axe, with which he clave down to the waist every one that stood in his way. Brutus and every body else, both friends and enemies, were amazed at his courage and strength, for he brandished about his battle-axe among the flying troops, and terrified them not a little with these insulting words, "Whither fly ye, cowards? whither fly ye, base wretches? stand your ground, that ye may encounter Corineus. What! for shame! do so many thousands of you fly one man? However, take this comfort for your flight, that you are pursued by one, before whom the Tyrrhenian giants could not stand their ground, but fell down slain in heaps together."
Chap. XIII.Goffarius routed by Brutus.
At these words one of them, named Subardus, who was a consul, returns with three hundred men to assault him; but Corineus with his shield wards off the blow, and lifting up his battle-axe gave him such a stroke upon the top of his helmet, that at once he clave him down to the waist; and then rushing upon the rest he made terrible slaughter by wheeling about his battle-axe among them, and, running to [p.104] and fro, seemed more anxious to inflict blows on the enemy than careful to avoid those which they aimed at him. Some had their hands and arms, some their very shoulders, some again their heads, and others their legs cut off by him. All fought with him only, and he alone seemed to fight with all. Brutus seeing him thus beset, out of regard to him, runs with a band of men to his assistance: at which the battle is again renewed with vigour and with loud shouts, and great numbers slain on both sides. But now the Trojans presently gain the victory, and put Goffarius with his Pictavians to flight. The king after a narrow escape went to several parts of Gaul, to procure succours among such princes as were related or known to him. At that time Gaul was subject to twelve princes, who with equal authority possessed the whole country. These receive him courteously, and promise with one consent to expel the foreigners from Aquitaine.
Chap. XIV.Brutus, after his victory with Goffarius, ravages Aquitaine with fire and sword.
Brutus, in joy for the victory, enriches his men with the spoils of the slain, and then, dividing them into several bodies, marches into the country with a design to lay it waste, and load his fleet with the spoil. With this view he sets the cities on fire, seizes the riches that were in them, destroys the fields, and makes dreadful slaughter among the citizens and common people, being unwilling to leave so much as one alive of that wretched nation. While he was making this destruction over all Aquitaine, he came to a place where the city of Tours now stands, which he afterwards built, as Homer testifies. As soon as he had looked out a place convenient for the purpose, he pitched his camp there, for a place of safe retreat, when occasion should require. For he was afraid on account of Goffarius's approach with the kings and princes of Gaul, and a very great army, which was now come near the place, ready to give him battle. Having therefore finished his camp, he expected to engage with Goffarius in two days' time, placing the utmost confidence in the conduct and courage of the young men under his command.
Chap. XV.Goffarius's fight with Brutus.
Goffarius, being informed that the Trojans were in those parts, marched day and
night, till he came within a close view of Brutus's camp; and then with a stern
look and disdainful smile, broke out into these expressions, "Oh wretched fate!
Have these base exiles made a camp also in my kingdom? Arm, arm, soldiers, and
march through their thickest ranks: we shall soon take these pitiful fellows
like sheep, and disperse them throughout our kingdom for slaves." At these words
they prepared their arms, and advanced in twelve bodies towards the enemy.
Brutus, on the other hand, with his forces drawn up in order, went forth boldly
to meet them, and gave his men directions for their conduct, where they should
assault and where they should be upon the defensive. At the beginning of the
attack, the Trojans had the advantage, and made a rapid slaughter of the enemy,
of whom there fell near two thousand, which so terrified the rest, that they
were on the point of running away. But, as the victory generally falls to that
side which has very much the superiority in numbers, so the Gauls, being three
to one in number, though overpowered at first, yet at last joining in a great
body together, broke in upon the Trojans, and forced them to retire to their
camp with much slaughter. The victory thus gained, they besieged them in their
camp, with a design not to suffer them to stir out until they should either
surrender themselves prisoners, or be cruelly starved to death with a long
In the meantime, Corineus the night following entered into consultation with Brutus, and proposed to go out that night by by-ways, and conceal himself in an adjacent wood till break of day; and while Brutus should sally forth upon the enemy in the morning twilight, he with his company would surprise them from behind and put them to slaughter. Brutus was pleased with this stratagem of Corineus, who according to his engagement got out cunningly with three thousand men, and put himself under the covert of the woods. As soon as it was day Brutus marshalled his men and opened the camp to go out to fight. The Gauls meet him and begin the engagement : many thousands fall on both sides, neither party giving quarter. There was present [p.106] a Trojan, named Turonus, the nephew of Brutus, inferior to none but Corineus in courage and strength of body. He alone with his sword killed six hundred men, but at last was unfortunately slain himself by the number of Gauls that rushed upon him. From him the city of Tours derived its name, because he was buried there. While both armies were thus warmly engaged, Corineus came upon them unawares, and fell fiercely upon the rear of the enemy, which put new courage into his friends on the other side, and made them exert themselves with increased vigour. The Gauls were astonished at the very shout of Corineus's men, and thinking their number to be much greater than it really was, they hastily quitted the field; but the Trojans pursued them, and killed them in the pursuit, nor did they desist till they had gained a complete victory. Brutus, though in joy for this great success, was yet afflicted to observe the number of his forces daily lessened, while that of the enemy increased more and more. He was in suspense for some time, whether he had better continue the war or not, but at last he determined to return to his ships while the greater part of his followers was yet safe, and hitherto victorious, and to go in quest of the island which the goddess had told him of. So without further delay, with the consent of his company, he repaired to the fleet, and loading it with the riches and spoils he had taken, set sail with a fair wind towards the promised island, and arrived on the coast of Totness.
Chap. XVI.Albion divided between Brutus and Corineus.
The island was then called Albion,9 and was inhabited by none but a few giants. Notwithstanding this, the pleasant situation of the places, the plenty of rivers abounding with fish, and the engaging prospect of its woods, made Brutus and his company very desirous to fix their habitation in it. They therefore passed through all the provinces, forced the giants to fly into the caves of the mountains, and divided the country among them according to the directions of their [p.107] commander. After this they began to till the ground and build houses, so that in a little time the country looked like a place that had been long inhabited. At last Brutus called the island after his own name Britain, and his companions Britons; for by these means he desired to perpetuate the memory of his name. From whence afterwards the language of the nation, which at first bore the name of Trojan, or rough Greek, was called British. But Corineus, in imitation of his leader, called that part of the island which fell to his share, Corinea, and his people Corineans, after his name; and though he had his choice of the provinces before all the rest, yet he preferred this country, which is now called in Latin Cornubia, either from its being in the shape of a horn (in Latin Cornu), or from the corruption of the said name.10 For it was a diversion to him to encounter the said giants, which were in greater numbers there than in all the other provinces that fell to the share of his companions. Among the rest was one detestable monster, named Goemagot, in stature twelve cubits, and of such prodigious strength that at one shake he pulled up an oak as if it had been a hazel wand. On a certain day, when Brutus was holding a solemn festival to the gods, in the port where they at first landed, this giant with twenty more of his companions came in upon the Britons, among whom he made a dreadful slaughter. But the Britons at last assembling together in a body, put them to the rout, and killed them every one but Goemagot. Brutus had given orders to have him preserved alive, out of a desire to see a combat between him and Corineus, who took a great pleasure in such encounters. Corineus, overjoyed at this, prepared himself, and throwing aside his arms, challenged him to wrestle with him. At the beginning of the encounter, Corineus and the giant, standing, front to front, held each other strongly in their arms, and panted aloud for breath; but Goemagot presently grasping Corineus with all his might, broke three of his ribs, two on his right side and one on his left. At which Corineus, highly enraged, roused up his whole strength, and snatching him upon his shoulders, ran with him, as fast as the weight would allow him, to the next shore, and there getting upon [p.108] the top of a high rock, hurled down the savage monster into the sea; where falling on the sides of craggy rocks, he was torn to pieces, and coloured the waves with his blood. The place where he fell, taking its name from the giant's fall, is called Lam Goemagot, that is, Goemagot's Leap, to this day.11
Chap. XVII.The building of new Troy by Brutus, upon the river Thames.
Brutus, having thus at last set eyes upon his kingdom, formed a design of building a city, and with this view, travelled through the land to find out a convenient situation, and coming to the river Thames, he walked along the shore, and at last pitched upon a place very fit for his purpose. Here, therefore, he built a city, which he called New Troy; under which name it continued a long time after, till at last, by the corruption of the original word, it come to be called Trinovantum. But afterwards when Lud, the brother of Cassibellaun, who made war against Julius Caesar, obtained the government of the kingdom, he surrounded it with stately walls, and towers of admirable workmanship, and ordered it to be called after his name, Kaer-Lud, that is, the City of Lud.12 But this very thing became afterwards the occasion of a great quarrel between him and his brother Nennius, who took offence at his abolishing the name of Troy in this country. Of this quarrel Gildas the historian has given a full account; for which reason I pass it over, for fear of debasing by my account of it, what so great a writer has so eloquently related.
Chap. XVIII.New Troy being built, and laws made for the government of it, it is given to the citizens that were to inhabit it.
After Brutus had finished the building of the city, he made choice of the citizens that were to inhabit it, and prescribed them laws for their peaceable government. At this time [p.109] Eli the priest governed in Judea, and the ark of the covenant was taken by the Philistines. At the same time, also, the sons of Hector, after the expulsion of the posterity of Antenor, reigned in Troy; as in Italy did Sylvius Aeneas, the son of Aeneas, the uncle of Brutus, and the third king of the Latins.13
Chap. I.After the death of Brutus, his three sons succeed Mm in the kingdom.
During these transactions, Brutus had by his wife Ignoge three famous sons, whose names were Locrin, Albanact, and Kamber. These, after their father's death, which happened in the twenty-fourth year after his arrival, buried him in the city which he had built, and then having divided the kingdom of Britain among them, retired each to his government. Locrin, the eldest, possessed the middle part of the island, called afterwards from his name, Loegria. Kamber had that part which lies beyond the river Severn, now called Wales, but which was for a long time named Kambria; and hence that people still call themselves in their British tongue Kambri. Albanact, the younger brother, possessed the country he called Albania, now Scotland. After they had a long time reigned in peace together, Humber, king of the Huns, arrived in Albania, and having killed Albanact in battle, forced his people to fly to Locrin for protection.
Chap. II.Locrin, having routed Humber, falls in love with Estrildis.
Locrin, at hearing this news, joined his brother Kamber, and went with the whole strength of the kingdom to meet the king of the Huns, near the river now called Humber, where he gave him battle, and put him to the rout. Humber made towards the river in his flight, and was drowned in it, on account of which it has since borne his name. Locrin, [p.110] after the victory, bestowed the plunder of the enemy upon his own men, reserving for himself the gold and silver which he found in the ships, together with three virgins of admirable beauty, whereof one was the daughter of a king in Germany, whom with the other two Humber had forcibly brought away with him, after he had ruined their country. Her name was Estrildis, and her beauty such as was hardly to be matched. No ivory or new-fallen snow, no lily could exceed the whiteness of her skin. Locrin, smitten with love, would have gladly married her, at which Corineus was extremely incensed, on account of the engagement which Locrin had entered into with him to marry his daughter.
Chap III.Corineus resents the affront put upon his daughter.
He went, therefore, to the king, and wielding a battle-axe in his right hand, vented Ids rage against him in these words: "Do you thus reward me, Locrin, for the many wounds which I have suffered under your father's command in his wars with strange nations, that you must slight my daughter, and debase yourself to marry a barbarian? While there is strength in this right hand, that has been destructive to so many giants upon the Tyrrhenian coasts, I will never put up with this affront." And repeating this again and again with a loud voice, he shook his battle-axe as if he was going to strike him, till the friends of both interposed, and after they had appeased Corineus, obliged Locrin to perform his agreement.
Chap. IV.Locrin at last marries Guendolcena, the daughter of Corineus.
Locrin therefore married Corineus's daughter, named Guendolocna, yet still retained his love for Estrildis, for whom he made apartments under ground, in which he entertained her, and caused her to be honourably attended. For he was resolved at least to carry on a private amour with her, since he could not live with her openly for fear of Corineus. In this manner he concealed her, and made frequent visits to her for seven years together, without the privity of any but his most intimate domestics: and under a pretence of performing some secret sacrifices to his [p.111] gods, by which he imposed on the credulity of every body. In the meantime Estrildis became with child, and was delivered of a most beautiful daughter, whom she named Sabre. Guendoloena was also with child, and brought forth a son, who was named Maddan, and put under the care of his grandfather Corineus to be educated.
Chap. V.Locrin is killed; Estrildis and Sabre are thrown into a river.
But in process of time, when Corineus was dead, Locrin divorced Guendoloena, and advanced Estrildis to be queen. Guendoloena, provoked beyond measure at this, retired into Cornwall, where she assembled together all the forces of that kingdom, and began to raise disturbances against Locrin. At last both armies joined battle near the river Sture, where Locrin was killed by the shot of an arrow. After his death, Guendoloena took upon her the government of the whole kingdom, retaining her father's furious spirit. For she commanded Estrildis and her daughter Sabre to be thrown into the river now called the Severn, and published an edict through all Britain, that the river should bear the damsel's name, hoping by this to perpetuate her memory, and by that the infamy of her husband. So that to this day the river is called in the British tongue Sabren, which by the corruption of the name is in another language Sabrina.
Chap. VI.Guendolcena delivers up the kingdom to Maddan, her son, after whom succeeds Mempricius.
Guendoloena reigned fifteen years after the death of Locrin, who had reigned ten, and then advanced her son Maddan (whom she saw now at maturity) to the throne, contenting herself with the country of Cornwall for the remainder of her life. At this time Samuel the prophet governed in Judaea, Sylvius Aeneas was yet living, and Homer was esteemed a famous orator and poet.14 Maddan, now in possession of the crown, had by his wife two sons, Mempricius and Malim, and ruled the kingdom in peace and [p.112] with care forty years. As soon as he was dead, the two brothers quarrelled for the kingdom, each being ambitious of the sovereignty of the whole island. Mempricius, impatient to attain his ends, enters into treaty with Malim, under colour of making a composition with him, and, having formed a conspiracy, murdered him in the assembly where their ambassadors were met. By these means he obtained the dominion of the whole island, over which he exercised such tyranny, that he left scarcely a nobleman alive in it, and either by violence or treachery oppressed every one that he apprehended might be likely to succeed him, pursuing his hatred to his whole race. He also deserted his own wife, by whom he had a noble youth named Ebraucus, and addicted himself to sodomy, preferring unnatural lust to the pleasures of the conjugal state. At last, in the twentieth year of his reign, while he was hunting, he retired from his company into a valley, where he was surrounded by a great multitude of ravenous wolves, and devoured by them in a horrible manner. Then did Saul reign in Judaea, and Eurystheus in Lacedaemonia.
Chap. VII.Ebraucus, the successor of Mempricius, conquers the Gauls, and builds the towns Kaerebrauc, &c.
Mempricius being dead, Ebraucus, his son, a man of great stature and wonderful strength, took upon him the government of Britain, which he held forty years. He was the first after Brutus who invaded Gaul with a fleet, and distressed its provinces by killing their men and laying waste their cities; and having by these means enriched himself with an infinite quantity of gold and silver, he returned victorious. After this he built a city on the other side of the Humber, which, from his own name, he called Kaerebrauc, that is, the city of Ebraucus,15 about the time that David reigned in Judaea, and Sylvius Latinus in Italy; and that Gad, Nathan, and Asaph prophesied in Israel. He also built the city of Alclud16 towards Albani, and the town [p.113] of mount Agned,17 called at this time the Castle of Maidens, or the Mountain of Sorrow.
Chap. VIII.Ebraucus's twenty sons go to Germany, and his thirty daughters to Sylvius Alba, in Italy.
This prince had twenty sons and thirty daughters by twenty wives, and with great valour governed the kingdom of Britain sixty years. The names of his sons were, Brutus surnamed Greenshield, Margadud, Sisillius, Regin, Morivid, Bladud, Lagon, Bodloan, Kincar, Spaden, Gaul, Darden, Eldad, Ivor, Gangu, Hector, Kerin, Rud, Assarach, Buel. The names of his daughters were, Gloigni, Ignogni, Oudas, Guenliam, Gaudid, Angarad, Guendoloe, Tangustel, Gorgon, Median, Methahel, Ourar, Malure, Kambreda, Ragan, Gael, Ecub, Nest, Cheum, Stadud, Gladud, Ebren, Blagan, Aballac, Angaes, Galaes, (the most celebrated beauty at that time in Britain or Gaul,) Edra, Anaor, Stadial, Egron. All these daughters their father sent into Italy to Sylvius Alba, who reigned after Sylvius Latinus, where they were married among the Trojan nobility, the Latin and Sabine women refusing to associate with them. But the sons, under the conduct of their brother Assaracus, departed in a fleet to Germany, and having, with the assistance of Sylvius Alba, subdued the people there, obtained that kingdom.
Chap. IX.After Ehraucus reigns Brutus his son, after him Leil, and after Leil, Hudibras.
But Brutus, surnamed Greenshield, stayed with his father, whom he succeeded in the government, and reigned twelve years. After him reigned Leil, his son, a peaceful and just prince, who, enjoying a prosperous reign, built in the north of Britain a city, called by his name, Kaerleil;18 at the same time that Solomon began to build the temple of Jerusalem, and the queen of Sheba came to hear his wisdom; at which time also Sylvius Epitus succeeded his father Alba, in Italy. Leil reigned twenty-five years, but towards the latter end of his life grew more remiss in his government, so that his neglect of affairs speedily occasioned a civil dissension in the [p.114] kingdom. After him reigned his son, Hudibras, thirty-nine years, and composed the civil dissension among his people. He built Kaerlem or Canterbury, Kaerguen or Winchester, and the town of Mount Paladur, now Shaftesbury. At this place an eagle spoke, while the wall of the town was being built; and indeed I should have transmitted the speech to posterity, had I thousht it true, as the rest of the history. At this time reigned Capys, the son of Epitus; and Haggai, Amos, Joel, and Azariah, were prophets in Israel.
Chap. X.Bladud succeeds Hudibras in the kingdom, and practises magical operations.
Next succeeded Bladud, his son, and reigned twenty years. He built Kaerbadus, now Bath, and made hot baths in it for the benefit of the public, which he dedicated to the goddess Minerva; in whose temple he kept fires that never went out nor consumed to ashes, but as soon as they began to decay were turned into balls of stone. About this time the prophet Elias prayed that it might not rain upon earth; and it did not rain for three years and six months. This prince was a very ingenious man, and taught necromancy in his kingdom, nor did he leave off pursuing his magical operations, till he attempted to fly to the upper region of the air with wings which he had prepared, and fell down upon the temple of Apollo, in the city of Trinovantum, where he was dashed to pieces.
Chap. XI.Leir the son of Bladud, having no son, divides his kingdom among his daughters.
After this unhappy fate of Bladud, Leir,19 his son was advanced to the throne,
and nobly governed his country sixty years. He built upon the river Sore a city,
called in the British tongue, Kaerleir, in the Saxon, Leircestre.20 He was
without male issue, but had three daughters, whose names were Gonorilla, Regau,
and Cordeilla, of whom he was dotingly fond, but especially of his youngest,
Cordeilla. When he began to grow old, he had thoughts of dividing his kingdom
among them, and of bestowing them on such husbands as were fit to be advanced to
the government with
them. But to make trial who was worthy to have the best [p.115] part of his kingdom, he went to each of them to ask which of them loved him
most. The question being proposed, Gonorilla, the eldest, made answer, "That she
called heaven to witness, she loved him more than her own soul." The father
replied, "Since you have preferred my declining age before your own life, I will
marry you, my dearest daughter, to whomsoever you shall make choice of, and give
with you the third part of my kingdom." Then Regau, the second daughter,
willing, after the example of her sister, to prevail upon her father's good
nature, answered with an oath, "That she could not otherwise express her
thoughts, but that she loved him above all creatures." The credulous father upon
this made her the same promise that he did to her eldest sister, that is, the
choice of a husband, with the third part of his kingdom. But Cordeilla, the
youngest, understanding how easily he was satisfied with the flattering
expressions of her sisters, was desirous to make trial of his affection after a
different manner. "My father," said she, "is there any daughter that can love
her father more than duty requires? In my opinion, whoever pretends to it, must
disguise her real sentiments under the veil of flattery. I have always loved you
as a father, nor do I yet depart from my purposed duty; and if you insist to
have something more extorted from me, hear now the greatness of my affection,
which I always bear you, and take this for a short answer to all your questions;
look how much you have, so much is your value, and so much do I love you." The
father, supposing that she
spoke this out of the abundance of her heart, was highly provoked, and
immediately replied, "Since you have so far despised my old age as not to think
me worthy the love that your sisters express for me, you shall have from me the
like regard, and shall be excluded from any share with your
sisters in my kingdom. Notwithstanding, I do not say but that since you are my
daughter, I will marry you to some foreigner, if fortune offers you any such
husband; but will never, I do assure you, make it my business to procure so
honourable a match for you as for your sisters; because, though I have hitherto
loved you more than them, you have in requital thought me less worthy of your
affection than they." And, without further delay, after consultation with his
nobility, he bestowed his two other daughters upon the [p.116]
dukes of Cornwall and Albania, with half the island at present, but after his
death, the inheritance of the whole monarchy of Britain.
It happened after this, that Aganippus, king of the Franks, having heard of the fame of Cordeilla's beauty, forthwith sent his ambassadors to the king to demand her in marriage. The father, retaining yet his anger towards her, made answer, "That he was very willing to bestow his daughter, but without either money or territories; because he had already given away his kingdom with all his treasure to his eldest daughters, Gonorilla and Regau." When this was told Aganippus, he, being very much in love with the lady, sent again to king Leir, to tell him, "That he had money and territories enough, as he possessed the third part of Gaul, and desired no more than his daughter only, that he might have heirs by her." At last the match was concluded; Cordeilla was sent to Gaul, and married to Aganippus.
Chap. XII.Leir, finding the ingratitude of his two eldest daughters, betakes himself to his youngest, Cordeilla, in Gaul.
A LONG time after this, when Leir came to be infirm through old age, the two dukes, on whom he had bestowed Britain with his two daughters, fostered an insurrection against him, and deprived him of his kingdom, and of all regal authority, which he had hitherto exercised with great power and glory. At length, by mutual agreement, Maglaunus, duke of Albania, one of his sons-in-law, was to allow him a maintenance at his own house, together with sixty soldiers, who were to be kept for state. After two years' stay with his son-in-law, his daughter Gonorilla grudged the number of his men, who began to upbraid the ministers of the court with their scanty allowance; and, having spoken to her husband about it, she gave orders that the numbers of her father's followers should be reduced to thirty, and the rest discharged. The father, resenting this treatment, left Maglaunus, and went to Henuinus, duke of Cornwall, to whom he had married his daughter Regau. Here he met with an honourable reception, but before the year was at an end, a quarrel happened between the two families, which raised Regau's indignation; so that she commanded her father to discharge all his attendants but [p.117] five, and to be contented with their service. This second affliction was insupportable to him, and made him return again to his former daughter, with hopes that the misery of his condition might move in her some sentiments of filial piety, and that he, with his family, might find a subsistence with her. But she, not forgetting her resentment, swore by the gods he should not stay with her, unless he would dismiss his retinue, and be contented with the attendance of one man; and with bitter reproaches she told him how ill his desire of vain-glorious pomp suited his age and poverty. When he found that she was by no means to be prevailed upon, he was at last forced to comply, and, dismissing the rest, to take up with one man only. But by this time he began to reflect more sensibly with himself upon the grandeur from which he had fallen, and the miserable state to which he was now reduced, and to enter upon thoughts of going beyond sea to his youngest daughter. Yet he doubted whether he should be able to move her commiseration, because (as was related above) he had treated her so unworthily. However, disdaining to bear any longer such base usage, he took ship for Gaul. In his passage he observed he had only the third place given him among the princes that were with him in the ship, at which, with deep sighs and tears, he burst forth into the following complaint:
"O irreversible decrees of the Fates, that never swerve from your stated course! why did you ever advance me to an unstable felicity, since the punishment of lost happiness is greater than the sense of present misery? The remembrance of the time when vast numbers of men obsequiously attended me in the taking the cities and wasting the enemy's countries, more deeply pierces my heart than the view of my present calamity, which has exposed me to the derision of those who were formerly prostrate at my feet. Oh! the enmity of fortune! Shall I ever again see the day when I may be able to reward those according to their deserts who have forsaken me in my distress? How true was thy answer, Cordeilla, when I asked thee concerning thy love to me, 'As much as you have, so much is your value, and so much do I love you.' While I had anything to give they valued me, being friends, not to me, but to my gifts: they loved me then, but they loved my gifts much more: when [p.118] my gifts ceased, my friends vanished. But with what office shall I presume to see you, my dearest daughter, since in my anger I married you upon worse terms than your sisters, who, after all the mighty favours they have received from me, suffer me to be in banishment and poverty?"
As he was lamenting his condition in these and the like expressions, he arrived at Karitia,21 where his daughter was, and waited before the city while he sent a messenger to in- form her of the misery he was fallen into, and to desire her relief for a father who suffered both hunger and nakedness. Cordeilla was startled at the news, and wept bitterly, and with tears asked how many men her father had with him. The messenger answered, he had none but one man, who had been his armour-bearer, and was staying with him without the town. Then she took what money she thought might be sufficient, and gave it to the messenger, with orders to carry her father to another city, and there give out that he was sick, and to provide for him bathing, clothes, and all other nourishment. She likewise gave orders that he should take into his service forty men, well clothed and accoutred, and that when all things were thus prepared he should notify his arrival to king Aganippus and his daughter. The messenger quickly returning, carried Leir to another city, and there kept him concealed, till he had done every thing that Cordeilla had commanded.
Chap. XIII.He is very honourably received by Cordeilla and the king of Gaul.
As soon as he was provided with his royal apparel, ornaments, and retinue, he sent word to Aganippus and his daughter, that he was driven out of his kingdom of Britain by his sons-in-law, and was come to them to procure their assistance for recovering his dominions. Upon which they, attended with their chief ministers of state and the nobility of the kingdom, went out to meet him, and received him honourably, and gave into his management the whole power of Gaul, till such time as he should be restored to his former dignity.
Chap. XIV.Leir, being restored to the kingdom by the help of his son-in-law and Cordeilla, dies.
In the meantime Aganippus sent officers over all Gaul to raise an army, to restore his father-in-law to his kingdom of Britain. Which done, Leir returned to Britain with his son and daughter and the forces which they had raised, where he fought with his sons-in-law and routed them. Having thus reduced the whole kingdom to his power, he died the third year after. Aganippus also died; and Cordeilla, obtaining the government of the kingdom, buried her father in a certain vault, which she ordered to be made for him under the river Sore, in Leicester, and which had been built originally under the ground to the honour of the god Janus. And here all the workmen of the city, upon the anniversary solemnity of that festival, used to begin their yearly labours.
Chap. XV.Cordeilla, being imprisoned, kills herself. Morgan, aspiring to the whole kingdom, is killed by Cunedagius.
After a peaceful possession of the government for five years, Cordeilla began to meet with disturbances from the two sons of her sisters, being both young men of great spirit, whereof one, named Margan, was born to Maglaunus, and the other, named Cunedagius, to Henuinus. These, after the death of their fathers, succeeding them in their dukedoms, were incensed to see Britain subject to a woman, and raised forces in order to raise a rebellion against the queen; nor would they desist from hostilities, till, after a general waste of her countries, and several battles fought, they at last took her and put her in prison, where for grief at the loss of her kingdom she killed herself. After this they divided the island between them; of which the part that reaches from the north side of the Humber to Caithness, fell to Margan; the other part from the same river westward was Cunedagius's share. At the end of two years, some restless spirits that took pleasure in the troubles of the nation, had access to Margan, and inspired him with vain conceits, by representing to him how mean and disgraceful it was for him not to govern the whole island, which was his due by right of birth. Stirred up with these and the like suggestions, he marched [p.120] with an army through Cunedagius's country, and began to burn all before him. The war thus breaking out, he was met by Cunedagius with all his forces, who attacked Margan, killing no small number of his men, and, putting him to flight, pursued him from one province to another, till at last he killed him in a town of Kambria, which since his death has been by the country people called Margan to this day. After the victory, Cunedagius gained the monarchy of the whole island, which he governed gloriously for three and thirty years. At this time flourished the prophets Isaiah and Hosea, and Rome was built upon the eleventh before the Kalends of May by the two brothers, Romulus and Remus.22
Chap. XVI.The successors of Cunedagius in the kingdom. Ferrex is killed by his brother Porrex, in a dispute for the government.
At last Cunedagius dying, was succeeded by his son Rivallo, a fortunate youth,
who diligently applied himself to the affairs of the government. In his time it
rained blood three days together, and there fell vast swarms of flies, followed
by a great mortality among the people. After him succeeded Gurgustius his son;
after him Sisillius; after him Jago, the nephew of Gurgustius; after him
Kinmarcus the son of Sisillius; after him Gorbogudo, who had two sons, Ferrex
When their father grew old they began to quarrel about the succession; but Porrex, who was the most ambitious of the two, forms a design of killing his brother by treachery, which the other discovering, escaped, and passed over into Gaul. There he procured aid from Suard king of the Franks, with which he returned and made war upon his brother; coming to an engagement, Ferrex was killed and all his forces cut to pieces. When their mother, whose name was Widen, came to be informed of her son's death, she fell into a great rage, and conceived a mortal hatred against the survivor. For she had a greater affection for the deceased than for him, so that nothing less would appease her indignation for his death, than her revenging it upon her surviving son. She took therefore her opportunity when he was asleep, fell upon him, and with the assistance of her wo- [p.121] men tore him to pieces. From that time a long civil war oppressed the people, and the island became divided under the power of five kings, who mutually harassed one another.
Chap. XVII.Dunwallo Molmutius gains the sceptre of Britain, from whom came the Molmutine laws.
At length arose a youth of great spirit, named Dunwallo Molmutius, who was the son of Cloten king of Cornwall, and excelled all the kings of Britain in valour and gracefulness of person. When his father was dead, he was no sooner possessed of the government of that country, than he made war against Ymner king of Loegria, and killed him in battle. Hereupon Rudaucus king of Kambria, and Staterius king of Albania, had a meeting, wherein they formed an alliance together, and marched thence with their armies into Dunwallo's country to destroy all before them. Dunwallo met them with thirty thousand men, and gave them battle; and when a great part of the day was spent in the fight, and the victory yet dubious, he drew off six hundred of his bravest men, and commanded them to put on the armour of the enemies that were slain, as he himself also did, throwing aside his own. Thus accoutred he marched up with speed to the enemy's ranks, as if he was of their party, and approaching the very place where Rudaucus and Staterius were, commanded his men to fall upon them. In this assault the two kings were killed and many others with them. But Dunwallo Molmutius, fearing lest in this disguise his own men might fall upon him, returned with his (companions to put off the enemy's armour, and take his own again; and then encouraged them to renew the assault, which they did with great vigour, and in a short time got the victory, by dispersing and putting to flight the enemy. From hence he marched into the enemy's countries, destroyed their towns and cities, and reduced the people under his obedience. When he had made an entire reduction of the whole island, he prepared for himself a crown of gold, and restored the kingdom to its ancient state. This prince established what the Britons call the Molmutine laws, which are famous among the English to this day. In these, among other things, of which St. Gildas wrote a long time after, he [p.122] enacted, that the temples of the gods, as also cities, should have the privilege of giving sanctuary and protection to any fugitive or criminal, that should flee to them from his enemy. He likewise enacted, that the ways leading to those temples and cities, as also husbandman's ploughs, should be allowed the same privilege. So that in his day, the murders and cruelties committed by robbers were prevented, and every body passed safe without any violence offered him. At last, after a reign of forty years spent in these and other acts of government, he died, and was buried in the city of Trinovantum, near the temple of Concord, which he himself built, when he first established his laws.
Chap. I.Brennius quarrels with Belinus his brother, and in order to make war against him, marries the daughter of the king of the Norwegians.
After this a violent quarrel happened between his two sons Belinus and Brennius, who were both ambitious of succeeding to the kingdom. The dispute was, which of them should have the honour of wearing the crown. After a great many sharp conflicts that passed between them, the friends of both interposed, and brought them to agree on the division of the kingdom on these terms: that Belinus should enjoy the crown of the island, with the dominions of Loegria, Kambria, and Cornwall, because, according to the Trojan constitution, the right of inheritance would come to him as the elder: and Brennius, as being the younger, should be subject to his brother, and have for his share Northumberland, which extended from the river Humber to Caithness. The covenant therefore being confirmed upon these conditions, they ruled the country for five years in peace and justice. But such a state of prosperity could not long stand against the endeavours of faction. For some lying incendiaries gained access to Brennius and addressed him in this manner:
"What sluggish spirit has possessed you, that you can bear subjection to Belinus, to whom by parentage and blood you are equal; besides your experience in military affairs, which you have gained in several engagements, when you so often repulsed Cheulphus, general of the Morini, in his invasions of our country, and drove him out of your kingdom? Be no longer bound by a treaty which is a reproach to you, but marry the daughter of Elsingius, king of the Norwegians, that with his assistance you may recover your lost dignity."
The young man, inflamed with these and the like specious suggestions, hearkened to them, and went to Norway, where he married the king's daughter, as his flatterers had advised him.
Chap. II.Brennius's sea-fight with Guichthlac, king of the Dacians. Guichthlac and Brennius's wife are driven ashore and taken by Belinus.
In the meantime his brother, informed of this, was violently incensed, that without his leave he had presumed to act thus against him. Whereupon he marched into Northumberland, and possessed himself of that country and the cities in it, which he garrisoned with his own men. Brennius, upon notice given him of what his brother had done, prepared a fleet to return to Britain with a great army of Norwegians. But while he was under sail with a fair wind, he was overtaken by Guichthlac, king of the Dacians,23 who had pursued him. This prince had been deeply in love with the young lady that Brennius had married, and out of mere grief and vexation for the loss of her, had prepared a fleet to pursue Brennius with all expedition. In the sea-fight that happened on this occasion, he had the fortune to take the very ship in which the lady was, and brought her in among his companions. But during the engagement, contrary winds arose on a sudden, which brought on a storm, and dispersed the ships upon different shores: so that the king of the Dacians, being driven up and down, after a course of five days, arrived with the lady at Northumberland, under dreadful apprehensions, as not knowing upon what country this unforeseen casualty had thrown him. When this came to be known to the country people, they took them and [p.124] carried them to Belinus, who was upon the sea-coast, expecting the arrival of his brother. There were with Guichthlac's ship three others, one of which had belonged to Brennius's fleet. As soon as they had declared to the king who they were, he was overjoyed at this happy accident, while he was endeavouring to revenge himself on his brother.
Chap. III.Belinus in a battle routs Brennius, who thereupon flees to Gaul.
A FEW days after appeared Brennius, with his fleet again got together, and arrived in Albania; and having received information of the capture of his wife and others, and that his brother had seized the kingdom of Northumberland in his absence, he sent his ambassadors to him, to demand the restitution of his wife and kingdom; and if he refused them, to declare that he would destroy the whole island from sea to sea, and kill his brother whenever he could come to an engagement with him. On the other hand, Belinus absolutely refused to comply with his demands, and assembling together the whole power of the island, went into Albania to give him battle. Brennius, upon advice that he had suffered a repulse, and that his brother was upon his march against him, advanced to meet him in a wood called Calaterium, in order to attack him. When they were arrived on the field of battle, each of them divided his men into several bodies, and approaching one another, began the fight. A great part of the day was spent in it, because on both sides the bravest men were engaged; and much blood was shed by reason of the fury with which they encountered each other. So great was the slaughter, that the wounded fell in heaps, like standing corn cut down by reapers. At last the Britons prevailing, the Norwegians fled with their shattered troops to their ships, but were pursued by Belinus, and killed without mercy. Fifteen thousand men fell in the battle, nor were there a thousand of the rest that escaped unhurt. Brennius with much difficulty securing one ship, went as fortune drove him to the coasts of Gaul; but the rest that attended him, were forced to sculk up and down wherever their misfortunes led them.
Chap. IV.The king of Daeia, with Brennius's wife, is released out of prison.
Belinus, after this victory, called a council of his nobility, to advise with them what he should do with the king of the Dacians, who had sent a message to him out of prison, that he would submit himself and the kingdom of Dacia to him, and also pay a yearly tribute, if he might have leave to depart with his mistress. He offered likewise to confirm this covenant with an oath, and the giving of hostages. When this proposal was laid before the nobility, they unanimously gave their assent that Belinus should grant Guichthlac his petition upon the terms offered. Accordingly he did grant it, and Guichthlac was released from prison, and returned with his mistress into Dacia.
Chap. V.Belinus revives and confirms the Molmutine laws, especially about the highways.
Belinus now finding no body in the kingdom of Britain able to make head against him, and being possessed of the sovereignty of the whole island from sea to sea, confirmed the laws his father had made, and gave command for a settled execution of justice through his kingdom. But above all things he ordered that cities, and the roads leading to them, should enjoy the same privilege of peace that Dunwallo had established. But there arose a controversy about the roads, because the limits determining them were unknown. The king, therefore, willing to clear the law of all ambiguities, summoned all the workmen of the island together, and commanded them to pave a causeway of stone and mortar, which should run the whole length of the island, from the sea of Cornwall, to the shores of Caithness, and lead directly to the cities that lay along that extent. He commanded another to be made over the breadth of the kingdom, leading from Menevia, that was situated upon the Demetian Sea, to Hamo's Port, and to pass through the interjacent cities. Other two he also made obliquely through the island, for a passage to the rest of the cities.24 He then confirmed to them all honours and privileges, and prescribed [p.126] a law for the punishment of any injury committed upon them. But if any one is curious to know all that he decreed concerning them, let him read the Molmutine laws, which Gildas the historian translated from British into Latin, and king Alfred into English.
Chap. VI.Brennius, being made duke of the Allobroges, returns to Britain to fight with his brother.
While Belinus was thus reigning in peace and tranquillity, his brother Brennius, who (as we said before) was driven upon the coasts of Gaul, suffered great torments of mind. For it was a great affliction to him to be banished from his country, and to have no power of returning to retrieve his loss. Being ignorant what course to take, he went among the princes of Gaul, accompanied only with twelve men; and when he had related his misfortune to every one of them, but could procure assistance from none, he went at last to Seginus, duke of the Allobroges, from whom he had an honourable reception. During his stay here, he contracted such an intimacy with the duke, that he became the greatest favourite in the court. For in all affairs, both of peace and war, it showed a great capacity, so that this prince loved him with a paternal affection. He was besides of a graceful aspect, tall and slender in stature, and expert in hunting and fowling, as became his princely birth. So great was the friendship between them, that the duke resolved to give him his only daughter in marriage; and in case he himself should have no male issue, he appointed him and his daughter to succeed him in his dukedom of the Allobroges after his death. But if he should yet have a son, then he promised his assistance to advance him to the kingdom of Britain. Neither was this the desire of the duke only, but of all the nobility of his court, with whom he had very much ingratiated himself. So then without farther delay the marriage was solemnized, and the princes of the country paid their homage to him, as the successor to the throne. Scarcely was the year at an end before the duke died; and then Brennius took his opportunity of engaging those princes of the country firmly in his interest, whom before he had obliged with his friendship. And this he did by bestowing generously upon them the [p.127] duke's treasure, which had been hoarded up from the times of his ancestors. But that which the Allobroges most esteemed him for, was his sumptuous entertainments, and keeping an open house for all.
Chap. VII.Belinus and Brennius being made friends by the mediation of their mother, propose to subdue Gaul.
When he had thus gained universal affection, he began to consult with himself how he might take revenge upon his brother Belinus. And when he had signified his intentions concerning it to his subjects, they unanimously concurred with him, and expressed their readiness to attend him to whatever kingdom he pleased to conduct them. He therefore soon raised a vast army, and having entered into a treaty with the Gauls for a free passage through their country into Britain, fitted out a fleet upon the coast of Neustria, in which he set sail, and with a fair wind arrived at the island. Upon hearing the rumour of his coming, his brother Belinus, accompanied with the whole strength of the kingdom, marched out to engage him. But when the two armies were drawn out in order of battle, and just ready to begin the attack, Conwenna, their mother, who was yet living, ran in great haste through the ranks, impatient to see her son, whom she had not seen for a long time. As soon, therefore, as she had with trembling steps reached the place where he stood, she threw her arms about his neck, and in transports kissed him; then uncovering her bosom, she addressed herself to him, in words interrupted with sighs, to this effect:
"My son, remember these breasts which gave you suck, and the womb wherein the Creator of all things formed you, and from whence he brought you forth into the world, while I endured the greatest anguish. By the pains then which I suffered for you, I entreat you to hear my request: pardon your brother, and moderate your anger. You ought not to revenge yourself upon him who has done you no injury. As for what you complain of, that you were banished your country by him,if you duly consider the result, in strictness can it be called injustice? He did not banish you to make your condition worse, but forced you to quit a meaner that you might attain a higher dignity. At first you enjoyed only a part of a kingdom, and that in subjection to your [p.128] brother. As soon as you lost that, you became his equal, by gaining the kingdom of the Allobroges. What has he then done, but raised you from a vassal to be a king? Consider farther, that the difference between you began not through him, but through yourself, who, with the assistance of the king of Norway, raised an insurrection against him."
Moved by these representations of his mother, he obeyed her with a composed mind, and putting off his helmet of his own accord, went straight with her to his brother. Belinus, seeing him approach with a peaceable countenance, threw down his arms, and ran to embrace him; so that now, without more ado, they again became friends; and disarming their forces marched with them peaceably together to Trinovantum. And here, after consultation what enterprise to undertake, they prepared to conduct their confederate army into the provinces of Gaul, and reduce that entire country to their subjection.
Chap. VIII.Belinus and Brennius, after the conquest of Gaul, march with their army to Rome.
They accordingly passed over into Gaul the year after, and began to lay waste that country. The news of which spreading through those several nations, all the petty kings of the Franks entered into a confederacy, and went out to fight against them. But the victory falling to Belinus and Brennius, the Franks fled with their broken forces; and the Britons and Allobroges, elevated with their success, ceased not to pursue them till they had taken their kings, and reduced them to their power. Then fortifying the cities which they had taken, in less than a year they brought the whole kingdom into subjection. At last, after a reduction of all the provinces, they marched with their whole army towards Rome, and destroyed the cities and villages as they passed through Italy.
Chap. IX.The Romans make a covenant with Brennius, but afterwards break it, for which reason Rome is besieged and taken by Brennius.
In those days the two consuls of Rome were Gabius and Porsena,25 to whose care the government of the country was [p.129] committed. When they saw that no nation was able to withstand the power of Belinus and Brennius, they came, with the consent of the senate to them, to desire peace and amity. They likewise offered large presents of gold and silver, and to pay a yearly tribute, on condition that they might be suffered to enjoy their own in peace. The two kings therefore, taking hostages of them, yielded to their petition, and drew back their forces into Germany. While they were employing their arms in harassing that people, the Romans repented of their agreement, and again taking courage, went to assist the Germans. This step highly enraged the kings against them, who concerted measures how to carry on a war with both nations. For the greatness of the Italian army was a terror to them. The result of their council was, that Belinus with the Britons stayed in Germany, to engage with the enemy there; while Brennius and his army marched to Rome, to revenge on the Romans their breach of treaty. As soon as the Italians perceived their design, they quitted the Germans, and hastened to get before Brennius, in his march to Rome. Belinus had intelligence of it, and speedily marched with his army the same night, and possessing himself of a valley through which the enemy was to pass, lay hid there in expectation of their coming. The next day the Italians came in full march to the place; but when they saw the valley glittering with the enemy's armour, they were struck with confusion, thinking Brennius and the Galli Senones were there. At this favourable opportunity, Belinus on a sudden rushed forth, and fell furiously upon them: the Romans on the other hand, thus taken by surprise, tied the field, since they neither were armed, nor marched in any order. But Belinus gave them no quarter, and was only prevented by night coming on, from making a total destruction of them. With this victory he went straight to Brennius, who had now besieged Rome three days. Then joining their armies, they assaulted the city on every side, and endeavoured to level the walls: and to strike a greater terror into the besieged, erected gibbets before the gates of the city, and threatened to hang up the hostages whom they had given, unless they would surrender. But the Romans, [p.130] nothing moved by the sufferings of their sons and relations, continued inflexible, and resolute to defend themselves. They therefore sometimes broke the force of the enemy's engines, by other engines of their own, sometimes repulsed them from the walls with showers of darts. This so incensed the two brothers, that they commanded four and twenty of their noblest hostages to be hanged in the sight of their parents. The Romans, however, were only more hardened at the spectacle, and having received a message from Gabius and Porsena, their consuls, that they would come the next day to their assistance, they resolved to march out of the city, and give the enemy battle. Accordingly, just as they were ranging their troops in order, the consuls appeared with their re-assembled forces, marching up to the attack, and advancing in a close body, fell on the Britons and Allobroges by surprise, and being joined by the citizens that sallied forth, killed no small number. The brothers, in great grief to see such destruction made of their fellow soldiers, began to rally their men, and breaking in upon the enemy several times, forced them to retire. In the end, after the loss of many thousands of brave men on both sides, the brothers gained the day, and took the city, not however till Gabius was killed and Porsena taken prisoner. This done, they divided among their men all the hidden treasure of the city.
Chap. X.Brennius oppresses Italy in a most tyrannical manner. Belinus returns to Britain.
After this complete victory, Brennius stayed in Italy, where he exercised unheard of tyranny over the people. But the rest of his actions and his death, seeing that they are given in the Roman histories, I shall here pass over, to avoid prolixity and meddling with what others have treated of, which is foreign to my design. But Belinus returned to Britain, which he governed during the remainder of his life in peace; he repaired the cities that were falling to ruin, and built many new ones. Among the rest he built one upon the river Leske, near the sea of the Severn, which was for a long time called Caerosc, and was the metropolis of Di-metia;26 but after the invasion of the Romans it lost its [p.131] first name, and was called the City of Legions, from the Roman legions which used to take up their winter quarters in it. He also made a gate of wonderful structure in Trinovantum, upon the bank of the Thames, which the citizens call after his name Billingsgate to this day. Over it he built a prodigiously large tower, and under it a haven or quay for ships. He was a strict observer of justice, and re-established his father's laws everywhere throughout the kingdom. In his days there was so great an abundance of riches among the people, that no age before or after is said to have shown the lilie. At last, when he had finished his days, his body was burned, and the ashes put up in a golden urn, which they placed at Trinovantum, with wonderful art, on the top of the tower abovementioned.
Chap. XI.Gurgiunt Brabtruc, succeeding his father Belinus, reduces Dacia, which was trying to shake off his yoke.
He was succeeded by Gurgiunt Brabtruc, his son, a sober prudent prince, who followed the example of his father in all his actions, and was a lover of peace and justice. When some neighbouring provinces rebelled against him, inheriting with them the bravery of his father, he repressed their insolence in several fierce battles, and reduced them to a perfect subjection. Among many other things it happened, that the king of the Dacians, who paid tribute in his father's time, refused not only tribute, but all manner of homage to him. This he seriously resented, and passed over in a fleet to Dacia, where he harassed the people with a most cruel war, slew their king, and reduced the country to its former dependence.
Chap. XII.Ireland is given to be inhabited by the Barclenses, who had been banished out of Spain.
At that time, as he was returning home from his conquest through the Orkney islands, he found thirty ships full of men and women; and upon his inquiring of them the occasion of their coming thither, their leader, named Partholoim, approached him in a respectful and submissive manner, and desired pardon and peace, telling him that he had been driven out of Spain, and was sailing round those seas in quest of [p.132] a habitation. He also desired some small part of Britain to dwell in, that they might put an end to their tedious wanderings; for it was now a year and a half since he had been driven from his country, all of which time he and his company had been out at sea. When Gurgiunt Brabtruc understood that they came from Spain, and were called Barclenses, he granted their petition, and sent men with them to Ireland, which was then wholly uninhabited, and assigned it to them. There they grew up and increased in number, and have possessed that island to this very day. Gurgiunt Brabtruc after this ended his days in peace, and was buried in the City of Legions, which, after his father's death, he ornamented with buildings and fortified with walls.
Chap. XIII.Guithelin, reigning after Gurgiunt Brabtruc, the Martian law is instituted by Martia, a noble woman.
After him Guithelin wore the crown, which he enjoyed all his life, treating his subjects with mildness and affection. He had for his wife a noble lady named Martia, accomplished in all kinds of learning. Among many other admirable productions of her wit, she was the author of what the Britons call the Martian law. This also among other things king Alfred translated, and called it in the Saxon tongue. Pa Marchitle Lage. Upon the death of Guithelin, the government of the kingdom remained in the hands of this queen and her son Sisilius, who was then but seven years old, and therefore unfit to take the government upon himself alone.
Chap. XIV.Guilhelin's successors in the kingdom.
For this reason the mother had the sole management of affairs committed to her, out of a regard to her great sense and judgment. But on her death, Sisilius took the crown and government. After him reigned Kimarus his son, to whom succeeded Danius his brother. After his death the crown came to Mervidus, whom he had by his concubine Tangustela. He would have been a prince of extraordinary worth had he not been addicted to immoderate cruelty, so far that in his anger he spared nobody, if any weapon were [p.133] at hand. He was of a graceful aspect, extremely liberal, and of such vast strength as not to have his match in the whole kingdom.
Chap. XV.Mervidus, a most cruel tyrant, after the conquest of the king of the Morini, is devoured by a monster.
In his time a certain king of the Morini27 arrived with a great force in Northumberland, and began to destroy the country. But Morvidus, with all the strength of the kingdom, marched out against him, and fought him. In this battle he alone did more than the greatest part of his army, and after the victory, suffered none of the enemy to escape alive. For he commanded them to be brought to him one after another, that he might satisfy his cruelty in seeing them killed; and when he grew tired of this, he gave orders that they should be flayed alive and burned. During these and other monstrous acts of cruelty, an accident happened which put a period to his wickedness. There came from the coasts of the Irish sea, a most cruel monster, that was continually devouring the people upon the sea-coasts. As soon as he heard of it, he ventured to go and encounter it alone; when he had in vain spent all his darts upon it, the monster rushed upon him, and with open jaws swallowed him up like a small fish.
Chap. XVI.Gorbonian, a most just king of the Britons.
He had five sons, whereof the eldest, Gorbonian, ascended the throne. There was not in his time a greater lover of justice and equity, or a more careful ruler of the people. The performance of due worship to the gods, and doing justice to the common people, were his continual employments. Through all the cities of Britain, he repaired the temples of the gods, and built many new ones. In all his days, the island abounded with riches, more than all the neighbouring countries. For he gave great encouragement to husbandmen in their tillage, by protecting them against any injury or oppression of their lords; and the soldiers he amply rewarded with money, so that no one had occasion to do wrong to an- [p.134] other. Amidst these and many other acts of his innate goodness, he paid the debt of nature, and was buried at Triuovantum.
Chap. XVII.Arthgallo is deposed by the Britons, and is succeeded by Elidure, who restores him again his kingdom.
After him Arthgallo, his brother, was dignified with the crown, and in all his actions he was the very reverse of his brother. He everywhere endeavoured to depress the nobility, and advance the baser sort of the people. He plundered the rich, and by those means amassed vast treasures. But the nobility, disdaining to bear his tyranny any longer, made an insurrection against him, and deposed him; and then advanced Elidure, his brother, who was afterwards surnamed the pious, on account of his commiseration to Arthgallo in distress. For after five years' possession of the kingdom, as he happened to be hunting in the wood Calaterium, he met his brother that had been deposed. For he had travelled over several kingdoms, to desire assistance for the recovery of his lost dominions, but had procured none. And being now no longer able to bear the poverty to which he was reduced, he returned back to Britain, attended only by ten men, with a design to repair to those who had been formerly his friends. It was at this time, as he was passing through the wood, his brother Elidure, who little expected it, got sight of him, and forgetting all injuries, ran to him, and affectionately embraced him. Now as he had long lamented his brother's affliction, he carried him with him to the city Alclud, where he hid him in his bed-chamber. After this, he feigned himself sick, and sent messengers over the whole kingdom, to signify to all his prime nobility that they should come to visit him. Accordingly, when they were all met together at the city where he lay, he gave orders that they should come into his chamber one by one, softly, and without noise: his pretence for which was, that their talk would be a disturbance to his head, should they all crowd in together. Thus, in obedience to his commands, and without the least suspicion of any design, they entered his house one after another. But Elidure had given charge to his servants, who were set ready for the purpose, to take each of them as they entered, and cut off their heads, unless they would again submit themselves to [p.135] Arthgallo his brother. Thus did he with every one of them apart, and compelled them, through fear, to be reconciled to Arthgallo. At last the agreement being ratified, Elidure conducted Arthgallo to York, where he took the crown from his own head, and put it on that of his brother. From this act of extraordinary affection to his brother, he obtained the surname of Pious. Arthgallo after this reigned ten years, and made amends for his former mal-administration, by pursuing measures of an entirely opposite tendency, in depressing the baser sort, and advancing men of good birth; in suffering every one to enjoy his own, and exercising strict justice towards all men. At last sickness seizing him, he died, and was buried in the city Kaerleir.
Chap. XVIII.Elidure is imprisoned by Feredure, after whose death he is a third time advanced to the throne.
Then Elidure was again advanced to the throne, and restored to his former dignity. But while in his government he followed the example of his eldest brother Gorbonian, in performing all acts of grace; his two remaining brothers, Yigenius and Peredure, raised an army, and made war against him, in which they proved victorious; so that they took him prisoner, and shut him up in the tower28 at Trinovantum, where they placed a guard over him. They then divided the kingdom betwixt them; that part which is from the river Humber westward falling to Vigenius's share, and the remainder with all Albania to Peredure's. After seven years Vigenius died, and so the whole kingdom came to Peredure, who from that time governed the people with generosity and mildness, so that he even excelled his other brothers who had preceded him, nor was any mention now made of Elidure. But irresistible fate at last removed him suddenly, and so made way for Elidure's release from prison, and advancement to the throne the third time; who finished the course of his life in just and virtuous actions, and after death left an example of piety to his successors.
Chap. XIX.The names of Elidure's thirty-three successors.
Elidure being dead, Gorbonian's son enjoyed the crown, and imitated his uncle's wise and prudent government. For he abhorred tyranny, and practised justice and mildness towards the people, nor did he ever swerve from the rule of equity. After him reigned Margan, the son of Arthgallo, who, being instructed by the examples of his immediate predecessors, held the government in peace. To him succeeded Enniaunus, his brother, who took a contrary course, and in the sixth year of his reign was deposed, for having preferred a tyrannical to a just and legal administration. In his room was placed his kinsman Idwallo, the son of Vigenius, who, being admonished by Enniaunus's ill success, became a strict observer of justice and equity. To him succeeded Runno, the son of Peredure, whose successor was Geruntius, the son of Elidure. After him reigned Catellus, his son; after Catellus, Coillus; after Coillus, Porrex; after Porrex, Cherin. This prince had three sons, Fulgenius, Eldadus, and Andragius, who all reigned one after another. Then succeeded Urianus, the son of Andragius; after whom reigned in order, Eliud, Cledaucus, Cletonus, Gurgintius, Merianus, Bleduno, Cap, Oenus, Sisilius, Blegabred. This last prince, in singing and playing upon musical instruments, excelled all the musicians that had been before him, so that he seemed worthy of the title of the God of Jesters. After him reigned Arthmail, his brother; after Arthmail, Eldol; to whom succeeded in order, Redion, Rederchius, Samuilpenissel, Pir, Capoir, and Cligueillus the son of Capoir, a man prudent and mild in all his actions, and who above all things made it his business to exercise true justice among his people.
Chap. XX.Heli's three sons; the first of whom, viz. Lud, gives name to the city of London.
Next to him succeeded his son Heli, who reigned forty years. He had three sons, Lud, Cassibellaun,29 and Nennius; of whom Lud, being the eldest, succeeded to the kingdom after his father's death. He became famous [p.137] for the building of cities, and for rebuilding the walls of Trinovantum, which he also surrounded with innumerable towers. He likewise commanded the citizens to build houses, and all other kinds of structures in it, so that no city in all foreign countries to a great distance round could show more beautiful palaces. He was withal a warlike man, and very magnificent in his feasts and public entertainments. And though he had many other cities, yet he loved this above them all, and resided in it the greater part of the year; for which reason it was afterwards called Kaerlud, and by the corruption of the word, Caerlondon; and again by change of languages, in process of time, London; as also by foreigners who arrived here, and reduced this country under their subjection, it was called Londres. At last, when he was dead, his body was buried by the gate which to this time is called in the British tongue after his name, Parthlud,30 and in the Saxon, Ludesgata. He had two sons. Androgens and Tenuantius, who were incapable of governing on account of their age: and therefore their uncle Cassibellaun was preferred to the kingdom in their room. As soon as he was crowned, he began to display his generosity and magnificence to such a degree, that his fame reached to distant kingdoms; which was the reason that the monarchy of the whole kingdom came to be invested in him, and not in his nephews. Notwithstanding Cassibellaun, from an impulse of piety, would not suffer them to be without their share in the kingdom, but assigned a large part of it to them. For he bestowed the city of Trinovantum, with the dukedom of Kent, on Androgeus; and the dukedom of Cornwall on Tenuantius. But he himself, as possessing the crown, had the sovereignty over them, and all the other princes of the island.
Chap. I.Julius Caesar invades Britain.
About this time it happened, (as is found in the Roman histories,) that Julius Ccesar, having subdued Gaul, came to the shore of the Ruteni. And when from thence he had got a prospect of the island of Britain, he inquired of those about him what country it was, and what people inhabited it. Then fixing his eyes upon the ocean, as soon as he was informed of the name of the kingdom and the people, he said:31 "In truth we Romans and the Britons have the same origin, since both are descended from the Trojan race. Our first father, after the destruction of Troy, was Aeneas; theirs, Brutus, whose father was Sylvius, the son of Ascanius, the son of Aeneas. But I am deceived, if they are not very much degenerated from us, and know nothing of the art of war, since they live separated by the ocean from the whole world. They may be easily forced to become our tributaries, and subjects to the Roman state. But before the Romans offer to invade or assault them, we must send them word that they pay tribute as other nations do, and submit themselves to the senate; for fear we should violate the ancient nobility of our father Priamus, by shedding the blood of our kinsmen." All which he accordingly took care to signify in writing to Cassibellaun; who in great indignation returned him an answer in the following letter.
Chap. II.Cassibellaunus's letter to Julius Caesar.
"Cassibellaun, king of the Britons, to Caius Julius Caesar. We cannot but wonder, Caesar, at the avarice of the Roman people, since their insatiable thirst for money cannot let us alone, though the dangers of the ocean have placed us in a manner out of the world; but they must have the presumption to covet our substance, which we have hitherto enjoyed [p.139] in quiet. Neither is this indeed sufficient: we must also choose subjection and slavery to them, before the enjoyment of our native liberty. Your demand, therefore, Caesar, is scandalous, since the same vein of nobility flows from Aeneas in both Britons and Romans, and one and the same chain of consanguinity unites us: which ought to be a band of firm union and friendship. It was that, which you should have demanded of us, and not slavery: we have learned to admit of the one, but never to bear the other. And so much have we been accustomed to liberty, that we are perfectly ignorant what it is to submit to slavery. And if even the gods themselves should attempt to deprive us of our liberty, we would, to the utmost of our power, resist them in defence of it. Know then, Caesar, that we are ready to fight for that and our kingdom, if, as you threaten, you shall attempt to invade Britain."
Chap. III.Caesar is routed by Cassibellaitn.
On receiving this answer, Caesar made ready his fleet, and waited for a fair wind to execute his threats against Cassibellaun. As soon as the wind stood fair, he hoisted his sails, and arrived with his army at the mouth of the river Thames. The ships were now just come close to land, when Cassibellaun with all his forces appeared on his march against them, and coming to the town of Dorobellum, he consulted with his nobility how to drive out the enemy. There was present with him Belinus, general of his army, by whose counsel the whole kingdom was governed. There were also his two nephews, Androgeus, duke of Trinovantum, and Tenuantius, duke of Cornwall, together with three inferior kings, Cridious, king of Albania, Guerthaeth of Venedotia, and Britael of Dimetia, who, as they had encouraged the rest to fight the enemy, gave their advice to march directly to Caesar's camp, and drive them out of the country before they could take any city or town. For if he should possess himself of any fortified places, they said it would be more difficult to force him out, because he would then know whither to make a retreat with his men. To this proposal they all agreed, and advanced towards the shore where Julius Caesar had pitched his camp. And now both armies drew out in order of battle, and began the fight, wherein both bows and swords were [p.140] employed. Immediately the wounded fell in heaps on each side, and the ground was drenched with the blood of the slain, as much as if it had been washed with the sudden return of the tide. While the armies were thus engaged, it happened that Nennius and Androgens, with the citizens of Canterbury and Trinovantum, whom they commanded, had the fortune to meet with the troop in which Caesar himself was present. And upon an assault made, the general's cohort was very nearly routed by the Britons falling upon them in a close body. During this action, fortune gave Nennius an opportunity of encountering Caesar. Nennius therefore boldly made up to him, and was in great joy that he could but give so much as one blow to so great a man. On the other hand, Caesar being aware of his design, stretched out his shield to receive him, and with all his might struck him upon the helmet with his drawn sword, which he lifted up again with an intention to finish his first blow, and make it mortal; but Nennius carefully prevented him with his shield, upon which Caesar's sword glancing with great force from the helmet, became so firmly fastened therein, that when by the intervention of the troops they could no longer continue the encounter, the general was not able to draw it out again. Nennius, thus becoming master of Caesar's sword, threw away his own, and pulling the other out, made haste to employ it against the enemy. Whomsoever he struck with it, he either cut off his head, or left him wounded without hopes of recovery. While he was thus exerting himself, he was met by Labienus, a tribune, whom he killed in the very beginning of the encounter. At last, after the greatest part of the day was spent, the Britons poured in so fast, and made such vigorous efforts, that by the blessing of God they obtained the victory, and Caesar, with his broken forces, retired to his camp and fleet. The very same night, as soon as he had got his men together again, he went on board his fleet, rejoicing that he had the sea for his camp. And upon his companions dissuading him from continuing the war any longer, he acquiesced in their advice, and returned back to Gaul.
Chap. IV.Nennius, the brother of Cassibellaun, being wounded in battle by Caesar, dies.
Cassibellaun, in joy for this triumph, returned solemn thanks to God; and calling the companions of his victory together, amply rewarded every one of them, according as they had distinguished themselves. On the other hand, he was very much oppressed with grief for his brother Nennius, who lay mortally wounded, and at the very point of death. For Caesar had wounded him in the encounter, and the blow which he had given him proved incurable; so that fifteen days after the battle he died, and was buried at Trinovantum, by the North Gate. His funeral obsequies were performed with regal pomp, and Caesar's sword put into the tomb with him, which he had kept possession of, when struck into his shield in the combat. The name of the sword was Crocea Mors (Yellow Death), as being mortal to every body that was wounded with it.
Chap. V.Caesar's inglorious return to Gaul.
After this flight of Caesar, and his arrival on the Gallic coast, the Gauls attempted to rebel and throw off his yoke. For they thought he was so much weakened, that his forces could be no longer a terror to them. Besides, a general report was spread among them, that Cassibellaun was now out at sea with a vast fleet to pursue him in his flight; on which account the Gauls, growing still more bold, began to think of driving him from their coasts. Caesar, aware of their designs, was not willing to engage in a doubtful war with a fierce people, but rather chose to go to all their first nobility with open treasures, and reconcile them with presents. To the common people he promised liberty, to the dispossessed the restitution of their estates, and to the slaves their freedom. Thus he that had insulted them before with the fierceness of a lion, and plundered them of all, now, with the mildness of a lamb, fawns on them with submissive abject speeches, and is glad to restore all again. To these acts of meanness he was forced to condescend till he had pacified them, and was able to regain his lost power. In the meantime not a day passed without his reflecting upon his flight, and the victory of the Britons.
Chap. VI.Cassibellaun forms a stratagem for sinking Caesar's ships.
After two years were expired, he prepared to cross the sea again, and revenge himself on Cassibellaun, who having intelligence of his design, everywhere fortified his cities, repaired the ruined walls, and placed armed men at all the ports. In the river Thames, on which Caesar intended to sail up to Trinovantum, he caused iron and leaden stakes, each as thick as a man's thigh, to be fixed under the surface of the water, that Caesar's ships might founder. He then assembled all the forces of the island, and took up his quarters with them near the sea-coasts, in expectation of the enemy's coming.
Chap. VII.Caesar a second time vanquished by the Britons.
After he had furnished himself with all necessaries, the Roman general embarked with a vast army, eager to revenge himself on a people that had defeated him; in which he undoubtedly would have succeeded, if he could but have brought his fleet safe to land; but this he was not able to do. For in sailing up the Thames to Trinovantum, the ships struck against the stakes, which so endangered them all on a sudden, that many thousands of the men were drowned, while the ships being pierced sank into the river. Caesar, upon this, employed all his force to shift his sails, and hastened to get back again to land. And so those that remained, after a narrow escape, went on shore with him. Cassibellaun, who was present upon the bank, with joy observed the disaster of the drowned, but grieved at the escape of the rest; and upon his giving a signal to his men, made an attack upon the Romans, who, notwithstanding the danger they had suffered in the river, when landed, bravely withstood the Britons; and having no other fence to trust to but their own courage, they made no small slaughter; but yet suffered a greater loss themselves, than that which they were able to give the enemy. For their number was considerably diminished by their loss in the river; whereas the Britons being hourly increased with new recruits, were three times their number, and by that advantage defeated them. Caesar, seeing he could no longer maintain his ground, fled with a small body of men to [p.143] his ships, and made the sea his safe retreat; and as the wind stood fair, he hoisted his sails, and steered to the shore of the Morini. From thence he repaired to a certain tower, which he had built at a place called Odnea, before this second expedition into Britain. For he durst not trust the fickleness of the Gauls, who he feared would fall upon him a second time, as we have said already they did before, after the first flight he was forced to make before the Britons. And on that account he had built this tower for a refuge to himself, that he might be able to maintain his ground against a rebellious people, if they should make insurrection against him.
Chap. VIII.Evelinus kills Hirelglas. Androgens desires Caesar's assistance against Cussibellaun.
Cassibellaun, elevated with joy for this second victory, published a decree, to summon all the nobility of Britain with their wives to Trinovantum, in order to perform solemn sacrifices to their tutelary gods who had given them the victory over so great a commander. Accordingly, they all appeared, and prepared a variety of sacrifices, for which there was a great slaughter of cattle. At this solemnity they offered forty thousand cows, and a hundred thousand sheep, and also fowls of several kinds without number, besides thirty thousand wild beasts of several kinds. As soon as they had performed these solemn honours to their gods, they feasted themselves on the remainder, as was usual at such sacrifices, and spent the rest of the day and night in various plays and sports. Amidst these diversions, it happened that two noble youths, whereof one was nephew to the king, the other to duke Androgens, wrestled together, and afterwards had a dispute about the victory. The name of the king's nephew was Hirelglas, the other's Evelinus. As they were reproaching each other, Evelinus snatched up his sword and cut off the head of his rival. This sudden disaster put the whole court into a consternation, upon which the king ordered Evelinus to be brought before him, that he might be ready to undergo such punishment as the nobility should determine, and that the death of Hirelglas might be revenged upon him, if he were unjustly killed. Androgeus, suspecting the king's intentions, made answer, that he had [p.144] a court of his own, and that whatever should be alleged against his own men, ought to be determined there. If, therefore, he was resolved to demand justice of Evelinus, he might have it at Trinovantum, according to ancient custom. Cassibellaun, finding he could not attain his ends, threatened Androgens to destroy his country with fire and sword, if he would not comply with his demands. But Androgens, now incensed, scorned all compliance with him. On the other hand, Cassibellaun, in a great rage, hastened to make good his threats, and ravage the country. This forced Androgeus to make use of daily solicitations to the king, by means of such as were related to him, or intimate with him, to divert his rage. But when he found these methods ineffectual, he began in earnest to consider how to oppose him. At last, when all other hopes failed, he resolved to request assistance from Cassar, and wrote a letter to him to this effect:
"Androgens, duke of Trinovantum, to Caius Julius Ccesar, instead of wishing death as formerly, now wishes health. I repent that ever I acted against you, when you made war against the king. Had I never been guilty of such exploits, you would have vanquished Cassibellaun, who is so swollen with pride since his victory, that he is endeavouring to drive me out of his coasts, who procured him that triumph. Is this a fit reward for my services? I have settled him in an inheritance; and he endeavours to disinherit me. I have a second time restored him to the kingdom: and he endeavours to destroy me. All this have I done for him in fighting against you. I call the gods to witness I have not deserved his anger, unless I can be said to deserve it for refusing to deliver up my nephew, whom he would have condemned to die unjustly. Of which, that you may be better able to judge, hear this account of the matter. It happened that for joy of the victory we performed solemn honours to our tutelary gods, in which after we had finished our sacrifices, our youth began to divert themselves with sports. Among the rest our two nephews, encouraged by the example of the others, entered the lists; and when mine had got the better, the other without any cause was incensed, and just going to strike him; but he avoided the blow, and taking him by the hand that held the sword, strove to wrest it from him. In this struggle the king's nephew happened to fall upon the [p.145] sword's point, and died upon the spot. When the king was informed of it, he commanded me to deliver up the youth, that he might be punished for murder. I refused do it; whereupon he invaded my provinces with all his forces, and has given me very great disturbance; flying, therefore, to your clemency, I desire your assistance, that by you I may be restored to my dignity, and by me you may gain possession of Britain. Let no doubts or suspicion of treachery in this matter detain you. Be influenced by the common motive of mankind; let past enmities beget a desire of friendship; and after defeat make you more eager for victory."
Chap. IX.Cassibellaun, being put to flight, and besieged by Caesar, desires peace.
CAESAR, having read the letter, was advised by his friends not to go into Britain upon a bare verbal invitation of the duke, unless he would send such hostages as might be for his security. Without delay, therefore. Androgens sent his son Scaeva with thirty young noblemen nearly related to him. Upon delivery of the hostages, Caesar, relieved from his suspicion, reassembled his forces, and with a fair wind arrived at the port of Rutupi. In the meantime Cassibellaun had begun to besiege Trinovantum and ravage the country towns; but finding that Caesar was arrived, he raised the siege and hastened to meet him. As soon as he entered a valley near Dorobernia,32 he saw the Roman army preparing their camp: for Androgens had conducted them to this place, for the convenience of making a sudden assault upon the city. The Romans, seeing the Britons advancing towards them, quickly flew to their arms, and ranged themselves in several bodies. The Britons also put on their arms, and placed themselves in their ranks. But Androgens with five thousand men lay hid in a wood hard by, to be ready to assist Caesar, and spring forth on a sudden upon Cassibellaun and his party. Both armies now approached to begin the fight, some with bows and arrows, some with swords, so that much blood was shed on both sides, and the wounded fell down like leaves in autumn. While they were thus engaged. Androgens sallied forth from the wood, and fell upon the rear of Cassibellaun's army, upon which the hopes of the [p.146] battle entirely depended. And now, what with the breach which the Romans had made through them just before, what with the furious irruption of their own countrymen, they were no longer able to stand their ground, but were obliged with their broken forces to quit the field. Near the place stood a rocky mountain, on the top of which was a thick hazel wood. Hither Cassibellaun fled with his men after he found himself worsted; and having climbed up to the top of the mountain, bravely defended himself and killed the pursuing enemy. For the Roman forces with those of Androgens pursued him to disperse his flying troops, and climbing up the mountain after them made many assaults, but all to little purpose; for the rockiness of the mountain and great height of its top was a defence to the Britons, and the advantage of higher ground gave them an opportunity of killing great numbers of the enemy. Caesar hereupon besieged the mountain that whole night, which had now overtaken them, and shut up all the avenues to it; intending to reduce the king by famine, since he could not do it by force of arms. Such was the wonderful valour of the British nation in those times, that they were able to put the conqueror of the world twice to flight; and being ready to die for the defence of their country and liberty, they, even though defeated, withstood him whom the whole world could not withstand. Hence Lucan in their praise says of Caesar,
"Territa quaesitis ostendit terga Britannis."
With pride he sought the Britons, but when found,
Dreaded their force, and fled the hostile ground.
Two days were now passed, when Cassibellaun having consumed all his provision, feared famine would oblige him to surrender himself prisoner to Caesar. For this reason he sent a message to Androgens to make his peace with Julius, lest the honour of the nation might suffer by his being taken prisoner. He likewise represented to him, that he did not deserve to be pursued to death for the annoyance which he had given him. As soon as the messengers had told this to Androgens, he made answer:"That prince deserves not to be loved, who in war is mild as a lamb, but in peace cruel as a lion. Ye gods of heaven and earth! Does my lord [p.147] then condescend to entreat me now, whom before he took upon him to command? Does he desire to be reconciled and make his submission to Caesar, of whom Caesar himself had before desired peace? He ought therefore to have considered, that he who was able to drive so great a commander out of the kingdom, was able also to bring him back again. I ought not to have been so unjustly treated, who had then done him so much service, as well as now so much injury. He must be mad who either injures or reproaches his fellow soldiers by whom he defeats the enemy. The victory is not the commander's, but theirs who lose their blood in fighting for him. However, I will procure him peace if I can, for the injury which he has done me is sufficiently revenged upon him, since he sues for mercy to me."
Chap. X.Androgens's speech to Caesar.
Androgeus after this went to Caesar, and after a respectful salutation addressed him in this manner:"You have sufficiently revenged yourself upon Cassibellaun; and now let clemency take place of vengeance. What more is there to be done than that he make his submission and pay tribute to the Roman state?" To this Caesar returned him no answer: upon which Androgeus said again; "My whole engagement with you, Caesar, was only to reduce Britain under your power, by the submission of Cassibellaun. Behold! Cassibellaun is now vanquished, and Britain by my assistance become subject to you. What further service do I owe you? God forbid that I should suffer my sovereign, who sues to me for peace, and makes me satisfaction for the injury which he has done me, to be in prison or in chains. It is no easy matter to put Cassibellaun to death while I have life; and if you do not comply with my demand, I shall not be ashamed to give him my assistance." Caesar, alarmed at these menaces of Androgeus, was forced to comply, and entered into peace with Cassibellaun, on condition that he should pay a yearly tribute of three thousand pounds of silver. So then Julius and Cassibellaun from this time became friends, and made presents to each, other. After this, Caesar wintered in Britain, and the [p.148] following spring returned into Gaul.33 At length he assembled all his forces, and marched towards Rome against Pompey.
Chap. XI.Tenuantius is made king of Britain after Cassibellaun.
After seven years had expired, Cassibellaun died and was buried at York. He was succeeded by Tenuantius, duke of Cornwall, and brother of Androgens: for Androgens was gone to Rome with Caesar. Tenuantius therefore, now wearing the crown, governed the kingdom with diligence. He was a warlike man, and a strict observer of justice. After him Kymbelinus his son was advanced to the throne, being a great soldier, and brought up by Augustus Caesar. He had contracted so great a friendship with the Romans, that he freely paid them tribute when he might have very [p.149] well refused it. In his days was born our Lord Jesus Christ, by whose precious blood mankind was redeemed from the devil, under whom they had been before enslaved.
Chap. XII.Upon Gulderius's refusing to pay tribute to the Romans; Claudius Caesar invades Britain.
Kymbelinus, when he had governed Britain ten years, begat two sons, the elder named Guiderius, the other Arviragus. After his death the government fell to Guiderius. This prince refused to pay tribute to the Romans; for which reason Claudius, who was now emperor, marched against him. He was attended in this expedition by the commander of his army, who was called in the British tongue, Leuis Hamo, by whose advice the following war was to be carried on. This man, therefore, arriving at the city of Portcestre, [Portchester,] began to block up the gates with a wall, and denied the citizens all liberty of passing out. For his design was either to reduce them to subjection by famine, or kill them without mercy.
Chap. XIII.Leuis Hamo's Roman, by wicked treachery kills Guiderius.
Guiderius, upon the news of Claudius's coming, assembled all the soldiery of the kingdom, and went to meet the Roman army. In the battle that ensued, he began the assault with great eagerness, and did more execution with his own sword than the greater part of his army. Claudius was now on the point of retreating to his ships, and the Romans very nearly routed, when the crafty Hamo, throwing aside his own armour, put on that of the Britons, and as a Briton fought against his own men. Then he exhorted the Britons to a vigorous assault, promising them a speedy victory. For he had learned their language and manners, having been educated among the British hostages at Rome. By these means he approached by little and little to the king, and seizing a favourable opportunity, stabbed him while under no apprehension of danger, and then escaped through the enemy's ranks to return to his men with the news of his detestable exploit. But Arviragus, his brother, seeing him killed, forthwith put off his own and put on his brother's habiliments, and, as if he had been Guiderius himself, encouraged the Britons to stand their ground. Accordingly, as they knew [p.150] nothing of the king's disaster, they made a vigorous resistance, fought courageously, and killed no small number of the enemy. At last the Romans gave ground, and dividing themselves into two bodies, basely quitted the field. Caesar with one part, to secure himself, retired to his ships; but Hamo fled to the woods, because he had not time to get to the ships. Arviragus, therefore, thinking that Claudius fled along with him, pursued him with all speed, and did not leave off harassing him from place to place, till he overtook him upon a part of the sea-coast, which, from the name of Hamo, is now called Southampton. There was at the same place a convenient haven for ships, and some merchant-ships at anchor. And just as Hamo was attempting to get on board them, Arviragus came upon him unawares, and forthwith killed him. And ever since that time the haven has been called Hamo's port.
Chap. XIV.Arviragus, king of Britain, makes his submission to Claudius, who with his assistance conquers the Orkney islands.
In the meantime, Claudius, with his remaining forces, assaulted the city above mentioned, which was then called Kaerperis, now Portcestre, and presently levelled the walls, and having reduced the citizens to subjection, went after Arviragus, who had entered Winchester. Afterwards he besieged that city, and employed a variety of engines against it. Arviragus, seeing himself in these straits, called his troops together, and opened the gates, to march out and give him battle. But just as he was ready to begin the attack, Claudius, who feared the boldness of the king, and the bravery of the Britons, sent a message to him with a proposal of peace; choosing rather to reduce them by wisdom and policy, than run the hazard of a battle. To this purpose he offered a reconciliation with him, and promised to give him his daughter, if he would only acknowledge the kingdom of Britain subject to the Roman state. The nobility hereupon persuaded him to lay aside thoughts of war, and be content with Claudius's promise; representing to him at the same time, that it was no disgrace to be subject to the Romans, who enjoyed the empire of the whole world. By these and many other arguments he was prevailed upon to hearken to their advice, and make his submission to Caesar. After which [p.151] Claudius sent to Rome for his daughter, and then, with the assistance of Arviragus, reduced the Orkney and the provincial islands to his power.34
Chap. XV.Claudius gives his daughter Genuissa for a wife to Arviragus, and returns to Rome.
As soon as the winter was over, those that were sent for Claudius's daughter returned with her, and presented her to her father. The damsel's name was Genuissa, and so great was her beauty, that it raised the admiration of all that saw her. After her marriage with the king, she gained so great an ascendant over his affections, that he in a manner valued nothing but her alone: insomuch that he was desirous to have the place honoured where the nuptials were solemnized, and moved Claudius to build a city upon it, for a monument [p.152] to posterity of so great and happy a marriage. Claudius consented to it, and commanded a city to be built, which after his name is called Kaerglou, that is Gloucester, to this day, and is situated on the confines of Dimetia and Loegria, upon the banks of the Severn. But some say that it derived its name from Duke Gloius, a son that was born to Claudius there, and to whom, after the death of Arviragus, fell the dukedom of Dimetia. The city being finished, and the island now enjoying peace, Claudius returned to Rome, leaving to Arviragus the government of the British islands. At the same time the apostle Peter founded the Church of Antioch; and afterwards coming to Rome, was bishop there, and sent Mark, the evangelist, into Egypt to preach the gospel which he had written.
Chap. XVI.Arviragus revolting from the Romans, Vespasian is sent into Britain.
After the departure of Claudius, Arviragus began to show his wisdom and courage, to rebuild cities and towns, and to exercise so great authority over his own people, that he became a terror to the kings of remote countries. But this so elevated him with pride that he despised the Roman power, disdained any longer subjection to the senate, and assumed to himself the sole authority in every thing. Upon this news Vespasian was sent by Claudius to procure a reconciliation with Arviragus, or to reduce him to the subjection of the Romans. When, therefore, Vespasian arrived at the haven of Rutupi,35 Arviragus met him, and prevented his entering the port. For he brought so great an army along with him, that the Romans, for fear of his falling upon them, durst not come ashore. Vespasian upon this withdrew from that port, and shifting his sails arrived at the shore of Totness. As soon as he was landed, he marched directly to besiege Kaerpenhuelgoit, now Exeter; and after lying before it seven days, was overtaken by Arviragus and his army, who gave him battle. That day great destruction was made in both armies, but neither got the victory. The next morning, by the mediation of queen Genuissa, the two leaders were made friends, and sent their men over to Ireland. As soon as winter was over, Vespasian returned to Rome, but Arvi- [p.153] ragus continued still in Britain. Afterwards, when he grew old, he began to show much respect to the senate, and to govern his kingdom in peace and tranquillity. He confirmed the old laws of his ancestors, and enacted some new ones, and made very ample presents to all persons of merit. So that his fame spread over all Europe, and he was both loved and feared by the Romans, and became the subject of their discourse more than any king in his time. Hence Juvenal relates how a certain blind man, speaking of a turbot that was taken, said:
"Regem aliquem capies, aut de temone Britanno Decidet Arviragus."36
Arviragus shall from his chariot fall,
Or thee his lord some captive king shall call.
In war none was more fierce than he, in peace none more mild, none more pleasing, or in his presents more magnificent. When he had finished his course of life, he was buried at Gloucester, in a certain temple which he had built and dedicated to the honour of Claudius.37
Chap. XVII.Rodric, leader of the Picts, is vanquished by Marius.
His son Marius, a man of admirable prudence and wisdom, succeeded him in the kingdom. In his reign a certain king of the Picts, named Rodric, came from Scythia with a great fleet, and arrived in the north part of Britain, which is called Albania, and began to ravage that country. Marius therefore raising an army went in quest of him, and killed him in battle, and gained the victory; for a monument of which he set up a stone in the province, which from his name was afterwards called Westmoreland, where there is an inscription retaining his memory to this day. He gave the conquered people that came with Rodric liberty to inhabit that pai-t of Albania which is called Caithness, that had been a long time desert and uncultivated. And as they had no wives, [p.154] they desired to have the daughters and kinswomen of the Britons. But the Britons refused, disdaining to unite with such a people. Having suffered a repulse here, they sailed over into Ireland, and married the women of that country, and by their offspring increased their number. But let thus much suffice concerning them, since I do not propose to write the history of this people, or of the Scots, who derived their original from them and the Irish. Marius, after he had settled the island in perfect peace, began to love the Roman people, paying the tribute that was demanded of him; and in imitation of his father's example practised justice, law, peace, and every thing that was honourable in his kingdom.
Chap. XVIII.Marius dying, is succeeded by Coillus.
As soon as he had ended his days, his son Coillus took upon him the government of the kingdom. He had been brought up from his infancy at Rome, and having been taught the Roman manners, had contracted a most strict amity with them. He likewise paid them tribute, and declined making them any opposition, because he saw the whole world subject to them, and that no town or country was out of the limits of their power. By paying therefore what was required of him, he enjoyed his kingdom in peace: and no king ever showed greater respect to his nobility, not only permitting them to enjoy their own with quiet, but also binding them to him by his continual bounty and munificence.
Chap. XIX.Lucius is the first British king that embraces the Christian faith, together with his people.
Coillus had but one son, named Lucius, who, obtaining the crown after his father's decease, imitated all his acts of goodness, and seemed to his people to be no other than Coillus himself revived. As he had made so good a beginning, he was willing to make a better end: for which purpose he sent letters to pope Eleutherius, desiring to be instructed by him in the Christian religion. For the miracles which Christ's disciples performed in several nations wrought a conviction in his mind; so that being inflamed with an ardent love of the true faith, he obtained the accomplishment of his pious request. For that holy pope, upon receipt of this devout [p.155] petition, sent to him two most religious doctors, Faganus and Duvanus, who, after they had preached concerning the incarnation of the Word of God, administered baptism to him, and made him a proselyte to the Christian faith. Immediately upon this, people from all countries, assembling together, followed the king's example, and being washed in the same holy laver, were made partakers of the kingdom of heaven. The holy doctors, after they had almost extinguished paganism over the whole island, dedicated the temples, that had been founded in honour of many gods, to the one only God and his saints, and tilled them with congregations of Christians. There were then in Britain eight and twenty flamens, as also three archflamens, to whose jurisdiction the other judges and enthusiasts were subject. These also, according to the apostolic command, they delivered from idolatry, and where they were flamens made them bishops, where archflamens, archbishops. The seats of the arch-flamens were at the three noblest cities, viz. London,38 York, and the City of Legions, which its old walls and buildings show to have been situated upon the river Uske in Glamorganshire. To these three, now purified from superstition, were made subject twenty-eight bishops, with their dioceses. To the metropolitan of York were subject Deira and Albania, which the great river Humber divides from Loegria. To the metropolitan of London were subject Loegria and Cornwall. These two provinces the Severn divides from Kambria or Wales, which was subject to the City of Legions.
Chap. XX.Faganus and Duvanus give an account at Borne, of what they had done in Britain.
At last, when they had made an entire reformation here, the two prelates returned to Rome, and desired the pope to confirm what they had done. As soon as they had obtained a confirmation, they returned again to Britain, accompanied with many others, by whose doctrine the British nation was in a short time strengthened in the faith. Their names and acts are recorded in a book which Gildas wrote concerning [p.156] the victory of Aurelius Ambrosius; and what is delivered in so bright a treatise, needs not to be repeated here in a meaner style.39
Chap. I.Lucius dies without issue, and is a benefactor to the churches.
In the meantime, the glorious king Lucius highly rejoiced at the great progress which the true faith and worship had made in his kingdom, and permitted the possessions and territories which formerly belonged to the temples of the gods, to be converted to a better use, and appropriated to Christian churches. And because a greater honour was due to them than to the others, he made large additions of lands and manor-houses, and all kinds of privileges to them. Amidst these and other acts of his great piety, he departed this life in the city of Gloucester, and was honourably buried in the cathedral church, in the hundred and fifty-sixth year after our Lord's incarnation. He had no issue to succeed him, so that after his decease there arose a dissension among the Britons, and the Roman power was much weakened.
Chap. II.Severus, a senator, subdues part of Britain: his war with Fulgenius.
When this news was brought to Rome, the senate despatched Severus, a senator, with two legions, to reduce the country to subjection. As soon as he was arrived, he came to a battle with the Britons, part of whom he obliged to submit to him, and the other part which he could not subdue he endeavoured to distress in several cruel engagements, and forced them to fly beyond Deira into Albania. Notwithstanding which they opposed him with all their might under the [p.157] conduct of Fulgenius, and often made great slaughter both of their own countrymen and of the Romans. For Fulgenius, brought to his assistance all the people of the islands that he could find, and so frequently gained the victory. The emperor, not being able to resist the irruptions which he made, commanded a wall to be built between Deira and Albania, to hinder his excursions upon them; they accordingly made one at the common charge from sea to sea, which for a long time hindered the approach of the enemy. But Fulgenius, when he was unable to make any longer resistance, made a voyage into Scythia, to desire the assistance of the Picts towards his restoration. And when he had got together all the forces of that country, he returned with a great fleet into Britain, and besieged York. Upon this news being spread through the country, the greatest part of the Britons deserted Severus, and went over to Fulgenius. However this did not make Severus desist from his enterprise: but calling together the Romans, and the rest of the Britons that adhered to him, he marched to the siege, and fought with Fulgenius; but the engagement proving very sharp, he was killed with many of his followers: Fulgenius also was mortally wounded. Afterwards Severus was buried at York, which city was taken by his legions.40 He left two sons, Bassianus and Geta, whereof [p.158] Geta had a Roman for his mother, but Bassianus41 a Briton. Therefore upon the death of their father the Romans made Geta king, favouring him on account of his being a Roman by both his parents: but the Britons rejected him, and advanced Bassianus, as being their countryman by his mother's side. This proved the occasion of a battle between the two brothers, in which Geta was killed; and so Bassianus obtained the sovereignty.
Chap. III.Carausius advanced to he king of Britain.
At that time there was in Britain one Carausius, a young man of mean birth, who, having given proof of his bravery [p.159] in many engagements, went to Rome, and solicited the senate for leave to defend with a fleet the maritime coasts of Britain, from the incursions of barbarians; which if they would grant him, he promised to do more for the honour and service of the commonwealth, than by delivering up to them the kingdom of Britain. The senate, deluded by his specious promises, granted him his request, and so, with his commission sealed, he returned to Britain. Then by wicked practices getting a fleet together, he enlisted into his service a body of the bravest youths, and putting out to sea, sailed round the whole kingdom, causing very great disturbance among the people. In the meantime he invaded the adjacent islands, where he destroyed all before him, countries, cities, and towns, and plundered the inhabitants of all they had. By this conduct he encouraged all manner of dissolute fellows to flock to him in hope of plunder, and in a very short time was attended by an army which no neighbouring prince was able to oppose. This made him begin to swell with pride, and to propose to the Britons, that they should make him their king; for which consideration he promised to kill and banish the Romans, and free the whole island from the invasions of barbarous nations. Accordingly obtaining his request, he fell upon Bassianus and killed him, and then took upon him the government of the kingdom. For Bassianus was betrayed by the Picts, whom Fulgenius his mother's brother had brought with him into Britain, and who being corrupted by the promises and presents of Carausius, instead of assisting Bassianus, deserted him in the very battle, and fell upon his men; so that the rest were put into a consternation, and not knowing their friends from their foes, quickly gave ground, and left the victory to Carausius. Then he, to reward the Picts for this success, gave them a habitation in Albania, where they continued afterwards mixed with the Britons.
Chap. IV.Allectus kills Carausius, but is afterwards himself slain in flight by Asclepiodotus.
When the news of these proceedings of Carausius arrived at Rome, the senate commissioned42 Allectus, with three [p.160] legions, to kill the tyrant, and restore the kingdom of Britain to the Roman power. No sooner was he arrived, than he fought with Carausius, killed him, and took upon himself the government. After which he miserably oppressed the Britons, for having deserted the commonwealth, and adhered to Carausius. But the Britons, not enduring this, advanced Asclepiodotus, duke of Cornwall, to be their king, and then unanimously marched against Allectus, and challenged him to battle. He was then at London, celebrating a feast to his tutelary gods; but being informed of the coming of Asclepiodotus, he quitted the sacrifice, and went out with all his forces to meet him, and engaged with him in a sharp fight. But Asclepiodotus had the advantage, and dispersed and put to flight Allectus's troops, and in the pursuit killed many thousands, as also king Allectus himself. After this victory, Livius Gallus, the colleague of Allectus, assembled the rest of the Romans, shut the gates of the city, and placed his men in the towers and other fortifications, thinking by these means either to make a stand against Asclepiodotus, or at least to avoid imminent death. But Asclepiodotus seeing this laid siege to the city, and sent word to all the dukes of Britain, that he had killed Allectus with a great number of his men, and was besieging Gallus and the rest of the Romans in London; and therefore earnestly entreated them to hasten to his assistance, representing to them withal, how easy it was to extirpate the whole race of the Romans out of Britain, provided they would all join their forces against the besieged. At this summons came the Dimetians, Venedotians, Deirans, Albanians, and all others of the British race. And as soon as they appeared before the duke, he commanded vast numbers of engines to be made, to beat down the walls of the city. Accordingly every one readily executed his orders with great bravery, and made a violent assault upon the city, the walls of which were in a very short time battered down, and a passage made into it. After these preparations, they began a bloody assault upon the Romans, who, seeing their fellow soldiers falling before them without intermission, persuaded Gallus to offer a surrender on the terms of having quarter granted them, and leave to depart: for they were [p.161] now all killed except one legion, which still held out. Gallus consented to the proposal, and accordingly surrendered himself and his men to Asclepiodotus, who was disposed to give them quarter; but he was prevented by a body of Venedotians, who rushed upon them, and the same day cut off all their heads upon a brook within the city, which from the name of the commander was afterwards called in the British tongue Nautgallim, and in the Saxon Gallembourne.
Chap. V.Asclepiodotus obtains the crown. Diocletian's massacre of the Christians in Britain.
The Romans being thus defeated, Asclepiodotus,43 with the consent of the people, placed the crown upon his own head, and governed the country in justice and peace ten years, and curbed the insolence and outrages committed by plunderers and robbers. In his days began the persecution of the emperor Diocletian; and Christianity, which from the time of king Lucius had continued fixed and undisturbed, was almost abolished over the whole island. This was principally owing to Maximianus Herculius, general of that tyrant's army, by whose command all the churches were pulled down, and all the copies of the Holy Scriptures that could be found, were burned in the public markets. The priests also, with the believers under their care, were put to death, and with emulation pressed in crowds together for a speedy passage to the joys of heaven, as their proper dwelling place. God therefore magnified his goodness to us, forasmuch as he did, in that time of persecution, of his mere grace, light up the bright lamps of the holy martyrs, to prevent the spreading of gross darkness over the people of Britain; whose sepulchres and places of suffering might have been a means of inflaming our minds with the greatest fervency of divine love, had not the deplorable impiety of barbarians deprived us of them. Among others of both sexes who continued firm in the army of Christ, and suffered, were Alban of Verulam, and Julius and Aaron, both of the City of Legions. Of these, Alban, out of the fervour of his charity, when his confessor, Amphi- [p.162] balus, was pursued by the persecutors, and just ready to be apprehended, first hid him in his house, and then offered himself to die for him; imitating in this Christ himself, who laid down his life for his sheep. The other two, after being torn limb from limb, in a manner unheard of, received the crown of martyrdom, and were elevated up to the gates of the heavenly Jerusalem.
Chap. VI.An insurrection against Asclepiodotus, by Coel, whose daughter Helena Constantius marries.
In the meantime Coel,44 duke of Kaercolvin or Colchester, made an insurrection against king Asclepiodotus, and in a pitched battle killed him, and took possession of his crown. The senate, hearing this, rejoiced at the king's death, who had given such disturbance to the Roman power: and reflecting on the damage which they had sustained by the loss of this kingdom, they sent Constantius the senator, a man of prudence and courage, who had reduced Spain under their subjection, and who was above all the rest industrious to promote the good of the commonwealth. Coel, having information of his coming, was afraid to engage him in battle, on account of a report, that no king was able to stand before him. Therefore, as soon as Constantius was arrived at the island, Coel sent ambassadors to him with offers of peace and submission, on condition that he should enjoy the kingdom of Britain, and pay no more than the usual tribute to the Roman state. Constantius consented to this proposal, and so, upon their giving hostages, peace was confirmed between them. The month after Coel was seized with a very great sickness, of which he died within eight days. After his decease, Constantius himself was crowned, and married the daughter of Coel, whose name was Helena. She surpassed all the ladies of the country in beauty, as she did all others of the time in her skill in music and the liberal arts. Her father had no other issue to succeed him on the throne; for which reason he was very careful about her education, that slie might be better qualified to govern the kingdom. Constantius, therefore, having made her partner of his bed, had [p.163] a son by her called Constantine.45 After eleven years were expired, he died at York, and bestowed the kingdom upon his son, who, within a few years after he was raised to this dignity, began to give proofs of heroic virtue, undaunted courage, and strict observance of justice towards his people. He put a stop to the depredations of robbers, suppressed the insolence of tyrants, and endeavoured everywhere to restore peace.
Chap. VII.The Romans desire Constantine's assistance against the cruelty of Maxentius.
At that time there was a tyrant at Rome, named Maxentius,46 who made it his endeavour to confiscate the estates of all the best of the nobility, and oppressed the commonwealth with his grievous tyranny. "Whilst he, therefore, was proceeding in his cruelty, those that were banished fled to Constantine in Britain, and were honourably entertained by him. At last, when a great many such had resorted to him, they endeavoured to raise in him an abhorrence of the tyrant, and frequently expostulated with him after this manner:"How long, Constantine, will you suffer our distress and banishment? Why do you delay to restore us to our native country? You are the only person of our nation that can restore to us what we have lost, by driving out Maxentius. For what prince is to be compared with the king of Britain, either for brave and gallant soldiers, or for large treasures? We entreat you to restore us to our estates, wives, and children, by conducting us with an army to Rome."
Chap. VIII.Constantine, having reduced Rome, obtains the empire of the world. Octavius, duke of the Wisseans, is put to flight by Trahern.
Constantine, moved with these and the like speeches, made an expedition to Rome, and reduced it under his power, and afterwards obtained the empire of the whole world. In this expedition he carried along with him three uncles of Helena, viz. Leolin, Trahern, and Marius, and advanced them to the [p.164] degree of senators. In the meantime Octavius, duke of the Wisseans, rebelled against the Roman proconsuls, to whom the government of the island had been committed, and having killed them, took possession of the throne. Constantine, upon information of this, sent Trahern, the uncle of Helena, with three legions to reduce the island. Trahern came to shore near the city, which in the British tongue is called Kaerperis, and having assailed it, took it in two days. This news spreading over the whole country, king Octavius assembled all the forces of the land, and went to meet him not far from Winchester, in a field called in the British tongue Maisuriam, where he engaged with him in battle, and routed him. Trahern, upon this loss, betook himself with his broken forces to his ships, and in them made a voyage to Albania, in the provinces of Avhich he made great destruction. When Octavius received intelligence of this, he followed him with his forces, and encountered him in Westmoreland, but fled, having lost the victory. On the other hand, Trahern, when he found the day was his own, pursued Octavius, nor ever suffered him to be at rest till he had dispossessed him both of his cities and crown. Octavius, in great grief for the loss of his kingdom, went with his fleet to Norway, to obtain assistance from king Gombert. In the meantime he had given orders to his most intimate adherents to watch carefully all opportunities of killing Trahern, which accordingly was not long after done by the magistrate of a certain privileged town, who had a more than ordinary love for him. For as Trahern was one day upon a journey from London, he lay hid with a hundred men in the vale of a wood, through which he was to pass, and there fell upon him unawares, and killed him in the midst of his men. This news being brought to Octavius, he returned back to Britain, where he dispersed the Romans, and recovered the throne. In a short time after this, he arrived to such greatness and wealth that he feared nobody, and possessed the kingdom until the reign of Gratian and Valentinian.
Chap. IX.Maximian is desired for a king of Britain.
At last, in his old age, being willing to settle the government, he asked his council which of his family they desired [p.165] to have for their king after his decease. For he had no son, and only one daughter, to whom he could leave the crown. Some, therefore, advised him to bestow his daughter with the kingdom upon some noble Roman, to the end that they might enjoy a firmer peace. Others were of opinion that Conan Meriadoc, his nephew, ought to be preferred to the throne, and the daughter married to some prince of another kingdom with a dowry in money. While these things were in agitation among them, there came Caradoc, duke of Cornwall, and gave his advice to invite over Maximian47 the senator, and to bestow the lady with the kingdom upon him, which would be a means of securing to them a lasting peace. For his father Leolin, the uncle of Constantine, whom we mentioned before, was a Briton, but by his mother and place of birth he was a Roman, and by both parents he was descended of royal blood. And there was a sure prospect of a firm and secure peace under him, on account of the right which he had to Britain by his descent from the emperors, and also from the British blood. But the duke of Cornwall, by delivering this advice, brought upon himself the displeasure of Conan, the king's nephew, who was very ambitious of succeeding to the kingdom, and put the whole court into confusion about it. However, Caradoc, being unwilling to recede from his proposal, sent his son Mauricius to Rome to acquaint Maximian with what had passed. Mauricius was a person of large and well-proportioned stature, as well as great courage and boldness, and could not bear to have his judgment contradicted without a recourse to arms and duelling. On presenting himself before Maximian, he met with a reception suitable to his quality, and had the greatest honours paid him of any that were about him. There happened to be at that time a great contest between Maximian and the two emperors, Gratian and Valentinian, on account of his being refused the third part of the empire, which he demanded. When, therefore, Mauricius saw Maximian ill-treated by the emperors, he took occasion from thence to address him in this manner: "Why need you, Maximian, stand in fear of Gratian, Avhen you have so fair an opportunity of wresting the empire from him? Come with me into Britain, and you shall take possession [p.166] of that crown. For king Octavius, being now grown old and infirm, desires nothing more than to find some such proper person, to bestow his kingdom and daughter upon. He has no male issue, and therefore has asked the advice of his nobility, to whom he should marry his daughter with the kingdom; and they to his satisfaction have past a decree, that the kingdom and lady be given to you, and have sent me to acquaint you with it. So that if you go with me, and accomplish this affair, you may with the treasure and forces of Britain be able to return back to Rome, drive out the emperors, and gain the empire to yourself. For in this manner did your kinsman Constantius, and several others of our kings who raised themselves to the empire."
Chap. X.Maximian coming into Britain, artfully declines fighting with Conan.
Maximian was pleased with the offer, and took his journey to Britain; but in his way subdued the cities of the Franks, by which he amassed a great treasure of gold and silver, and raised men for his service in all parts. Afterwards he set sail with a fair wind, and arrived at Hamo's Port; the news of which struck the king with fear and astonishment, who took this to be a hostile invasion. Whereupon he called to him his nephew Conan, and commanded him to raise all the forces of the kingdom, and go to meet the enemy. Conan, having made the necessary preparations, marched accordingly to Hamo's Port, where Maximian had pitched his tents; who, upon seeing the approach of so numerous an army, was under the greatest perplexities what course to take. For as he was attended with a smaller body of men, and had no hopes of being entertained peaceably, he dreaded both the number and courage of the enemy. Under these difficulties he called a council of the oldest men, together with Mauricius, to ask their advice what was to be done at this critical juncture. "It is not for us," said Mauricius, "to hazard a battle with such a numerous and powerful army: neither was the reduction of Britain by arms the end of our coming. Our business must be to desire peace and a hospitable treatment, till we can learn the king's mind. Let us say that we are sent by the emperors upon an embassy to Octavius, and let us with artful speeches pacify the people." When all had shown [p.167] themselves pleased with this advice, he took with him twelve aged men with grey hairs, eminent beyond the rest for their quality and wisdom, and bearing olive-branches in their right hands, and went to meet Conan. The Britons, seeing they were men of a venerable age, and that they bore olive-branches as a token of peace, rose up before them in a respectful manner, and opened a way for their free access to their commander. Then presenting themselves before Conan Meriadoc, they saluted him in the name of the emperors and the senate, and told him, that Maximian was sent to Octavius upon an embassy from Gratian and Valentinian. Conan made answer: "Why is he then attended with so great a multitude? This does not look like the appearance of ambassadors, but the invasion of enemies." To which Mauricius replied: "It did not become so great a man to appear abroad in a mean figure, or without soldiers for his guard; especially considering, that by reason of the Roman power, and the actions of his ancestors, he is become obnoxious to many kings. If he had but a small retinue, he might have been killed by the enemies of the commonwealth. He is come in peace, and it is peace which he desires. For, from the time of our arrival, our behaviour has been such as to give no offence to any body. We have bought necessaries at our own expenses, as peaceable people do, and have taken nothing from any by violence." While Conan was in suspense, whether to give them peace, or begin the battle, Caradoc, duke of Cornwall, with others of the nobility, came to him, and dissuaded him from proceeding in the war after this representation; whereupon, though much against his will, he laid down his arms, and granted them peace. Then he conducted Maximian to London, where he gave the king an account of the whole proceeding.
Chap. XI.The kingdom of Britain is bestowed on Maximian.
Caradoc, after this, taking along with him his son Mauricius, commanded everybody to withdraw from the king's presence, and then addressed him in these words: "Behold, that which your more faithful and loyal subjects have long wished for, is now by the good providence of God brought about. You commanded your nobility to give their advice, [p.168] how to dispose of your daughter and kingdom, as being willing to hold the government no longer on account of your great age. Some, therefore, were for having the kingdom delivered up to Conan your nephew, and a suitable match procured for your daughter elsewhere; as fearing the ruin of our people, if any prince that is a stranger to our language should be set over us. Others were for granting the kingdom to your daughter and some nobleman of our own country, who should succeed you after your death. But the greater number recommended some person descended of the family of the emperors, on whom you should bestow your daughter and crown. For they promised themselves a firm and lasting peace, as the consequence of such a marriage, since they would be under the protection of the Roman state. See then! God has vouchsafed to bring to you a young man, who is both a Roman, and also of the royal family of Britain; and to whom, if you follow my advice, you will not delay to marry your daughter. And indeed, should you refuse him, what right could you plead to the crown of Britain against him? For he is the cousin of Constantine, and the nephew of king Coel, whose daughter Helena possessed the crown by an undeniable hereditary right." When Caradoc had represented these things to him, Octavius acquiesced, and with the general consent of his people bestowed the kingdom and his daughter upon him. Conan Meriadoc, finding how things went, was beyond expression incensed, and, retiring into Albania, used all his interest to raise an army, that he might give disturbance to Maximian. And when he had got a great body of men together, he passed the Humber, and wasted the provinces on each side of it. At the news whereof, Maximian hastened to assemble his forces against him, and then gave him battle, and returned with victory. But this proved no decisive blow to Conan, who with his re-assembled troops still continued to ravage the provinces, and provoked Maximian to return again and renew the war, in which he had various success, being sometimes victorious, sometimes defeated. At last, after great damages done on both sides, they were brought by the mediation of friends to a recon ciliation.
Chap. XII.Maximian overthrow's the Armoricans: his speech to Conan.
Five years after this, Maximian, proud of the vast treasures that daily flowed in upon him, fitted out a great fleet, and assembled together all the forces in Britain. For this kingdom was now not sufficient for him; he was ambitious of adding Gaul also to it. With this view he set sail, and arrived first at the kingdom of Armorica, now called Bretagne, and began hostilities upon the Gallic people that inhabited it. But the Gauls, under the command of Imbaltus, met him, and engaged him in battle, in which the greater part being in danger, they were forced to fly, and leave Imbaltus with fifteen thousand men killed, all of them Armoricans. This severe overthrow was matter of the greatest joy to Maximian, who knew the reduction of that country would be very easy, after the loss of so many men. Upon this occasion he called Conan aside from the army, and smiling said:"See, we have already conquered one of the best kingdoms in Gaul: we may now have hopes of gaining all the rest. Let us make haste to take the cities and towns, before the rumour of their danger spread to the remoter parts of Gaul, and raise all the people up in arms. For if we can but get possession of this kingdom, I make no doubt of reducing all Gaul under our power. Be not therefore concerned that you have yielded up the island of Britain to me, notwithstanding the hopes you once had of succeeding to it; because whatever you have lost in it, I will restore to you in this country. For my design is to advance you to the throne of this kingdom; and this shall be another Britain, which we will people with our own countrymen, and drive out the old inhabitants. The land is fruitful in corn, the rivers abound with fish, the woods afford a beautiful prospect, and the forests are everywhere pleasant; nor is there in my opinion anywhere a more delightful country." Upon this, Conan, with a submissive bow, gave him his thanks, and promised to continue loyal to him as long as he lived.
Chap. XIII.Redonum taken by Maximian.
After this they marched with their forces to Redonum,48 and took it the same day. For the citizens, hearing of the bravery of the Britons, and what slaughter they had made, fled away with haste, leaving their wives and children behind them. And the rest of the cities and towns soon followed their example; so that there was an easy entrance into them for the Britons, who wherever they entered killed all they found left of the male sex, and spared only the women. At last, when they had wholly extirpated the inhabitants of all those provinces, they garrisoned the cities and towns with British soldiers, and made fortifications in several places. The fame of Maximian's exploits spreading over the rest of the provinces of Gaul, all their dukes and princes were in a dreadful consternation, and had no other hopes left but in their prayers to their gods. Maximian, finding that he had struck terror into them, began to think of still bolder attempts, and by profusely distributing presents, augmented his army. For all persons that he knew to be eager for plunder, he enlisted into his service, and by plentifully bestowing his money and other valuable things among them, kept them firm to his interest.
Chap. XIV.Maximian, after the conquest of Gaul and Germany, makes Triers the seat of his empire.
By these means he raised such a numerous army, as he thought would be sufficient for the conquest of all Gaul. Notwithstanding which he suspended his arms for a time, till he had settled the kingdom which he had taken, and peopled it with Britons. To this end he published a decree, for the assembling together of a hundred thousand of the common people of Britain, who were to come over to settle in the country; besides thirty thousand soldiers, to defend them from hostile attack. As soon as the people were arrived according to his orders, he distributed them through all the countries of Armorica, and made another Britain of it, and then bestowed it on Conan Meriadoc. But he himself, with the rest of his fellow soldiers, marched into the [p.171] further part of Gaul, which, after many bloody battles, he subdued, as he did also all Germany, being everywhere victorious. But the seat of his empire he made at Triers, and fell so furiously upon the two emperors, Gratian and Valentinian, that he killed the one, and forced the other to flee from Rome.
Chap. XV.A fight between the Aquitanians and Conan.
In the meantime, the Gauls and Aquitanians gave disturbance to Conan and the Armorican Britons, and harassed them with their frequent incursions; but he as often defeated them, and bravely defended the country committed to him. After he had entirely vanquished them, he had a mind to bestow wives on his fellow soldiers, by whom they might have issue to keep perpetual possession of the country; and to avoid all mixture with the Gauls, he sent over to the island of Britain for wives for them. In order to accomplish this, messengers were sent to recommend the management of this affair to Dianotus, king of Cornwall, who had succeeded his brother Caradoc in that kingdom. He was a very noble and powerful prince, and to him Maximian had committed the government, while he was employed in affairs abroad. He had also a daughter of wonderful beauty, named Ursula, with whom Conan was most passionately in love.
Chap. XVI.Guanius and Melga murder eleven thousand virgins. Maximian is killed at Rome.
Dianotus, upon this message sent him by Conan, was very ready to execute his orders, and summoned together the daughters of the nobility from all provinces, to the number of eleven thousand; but of the meaner sort, sixty thousand; and commanded them all to appear together in the city of London. He likewise ordered ships to be brought from all shores, for their transportation to their future husbands. And though in so great a multitude many were pleased with this order, yet it was displeasing to the greater part, who had a greater affection for their relations and native country. Nor, perhaps, were there wanting some who, preferring virginity to the married state, would have rather lost their [p.172] lives in any country, than enjoyed the greatest plenty in wedlock. In short, most of them had views and wishes different from one another, had they been left to their own liberty. But now the ships being ready, they went on board, and sailing down the Thames, made towards the sea. At last, as they were steering towards the Armorican coast, contrary winds arose and dispersed the whole fleet. In this storm the greater part of the ships foundered; but the women that escaped the danger of the sea, were driven upon strange islands, and by a barbarous people either murdered or made slaves. For they happened to fall into the hands of the cruel army of Guanius and Melga, who, by the command of Gratian,49 were making terrible destruction in Germany, and the nations on the sea-coast. Guanius was king of the Huns, and Melga of the Picts, whom Gratian had engaged in his party, and had sent him into Germany to harass those of Maximian's party along the sea-coasts. While they were thus exercising their barbarous rage, they happened to light upon these virgins, who had been driven on those parts, and were so inflamed with their beauty, that they courted them to their brutish embraces; which, when the women would not submit to, the Ambrons fell upon them, and without remorse murdered the greatest part of them. This done, the two wicked leaders of the Picts and Huns, Guanius and Melga, being the partizans of Gratian and Valentinian, when they had learned that the island of Britain was drained of all its soldiers, made a speedy voyage towards it; and, taking into their assistance the people of the adjacent islands, arrived in Albania. Then joining in a body, they invaded the kingdom, which was left without either government or defence, and made miserable destruction among the common people. For Maximian, as we have already related, had carried away with him all the warlike youth that could be found, and had left behind him only the husbandmen, who had neither sense nor arms, for the defence of their country. Guanius and Melga, finding that they were not able to make the least opposition, began to domineer most insolently, and to lay waste their cities and countries, as if they had only been pens of sheep. The news of this [p.173] grievous Calamity, coming to Maximian, he sent away Gratian Municeps,50 with two legions, to their assistance; who, as soon as they arrived, fought with the enemy, and after a most bloody victory over them, forced them to fly over into Ireland. In the meantime, Maximian was killed at Rome by Gratian's friends;51 and the Britons whom he had carried with him were also slain or dispersed. Those of them that could escape, went to their countrymen in Armorica, which was now called the other Britain.
Chap. I.Gratian, being advanced to the throne, is killed by the common people. The Britons desire the Romans to defend them against Guanius and Melga.
But Gratian Municeps,52 hearing of the death of Maximian, seized the crown, and made himself king. After this he exercised such tyranny that the common people fell upon him in a tumultuous manner, and murdered him. When this news reached other countries, their former enemies returned back from Ireland, and bringing with them the Scots, Norwegians, and Dacians, made dreadful devastations with fire and sword over the whole kingdom, from sea to sea. Upon this most grievous calamity and oppression, ambassadors are despatched with letters to Rome, to beseech, with tears and vows of perpetual subjection, that a body of men might be sent to revenge their injuries, and drive out the enemy from them. The ambassadors in a short time prevailed so far, that, unmindful of past injuries, the Romans granted them one legion, which was transported in a fleet to their country, and there speedily encountered the enemy.
At last, after the slaughter of a vast multitude of them, they drove them entirely out of the country, and rescued the miserable people from their outrageous cruelty. Then they gave orders for a wall to be built between Albania and Deira, from one sea to the other, for a terror to the enemy, and safeguard to the country. At that time Albania was wholly laid waste, by the frequent invasions of barbarous nations; and whatever enemies made an attempt upon the country, met with a convenient landing-place there. So that the inhabitants were diligent in working upon the wall,53 which they finished partly at the public, partly upon private charge.
Chap. II.Guethelin's speech to the Britons when the Romans left them.
The Romans, after this, declared to the Britons, that they should not be able for the future to undergo the fatigue of such laborious expeditions; and that it was beneath the dignity of the Roman state to harass so great and brave an army, both by land and sea, against base and vagabond robbers; but that they ought to apply themselves to the use of arms, and to fight bravely in defending to the utmost of their power, their country, riches, wives, children, and, what is dearer than all these, their liberty and lives. As soon as they had given them this exhortation, they commanded all the men of the island that were fit for war, to appear together at London, because the Romans were about to return home. When, therefore, they were all assembled, Guethelin, the metropolitan of London, had orders to make a speech to them, which he did in these words:
"Though I am appointed by the princes here present to speak to you, I find myself rather ready to burst into tears, than to make an eloquent oration. It is a most sensible affliction to me to observe the weak and destitute state into which you are fallen since Maximian drew away with him all the forces and youth of this kingdom. You that were left were people wholly inexperienced in war, and occupied with other employments, as tilling the ground, and several kinds of mechanical trades. So that when your enemies [p.175] from foreign countries came upon you, as sheep wandering without a shepherd, they forced you to quit your folds, till the Roman power restored you to them again. Must your hopes, therefore, always depend upon foreign assistance? And will you never use yourselves to handle arms against a band of robbers, that are by no means stronger than yourselves, if you are not dispirited by sloth and cowardice? The Romans are now tired with the continual voyages wherewith they are harassed to defend you against your enemies: they rather choose to remit to you the tribute you pay them, than undergo any longer this fatigue by land and sea. Because you were only the common people at the time when we had soldiers of our own, do you therefore think that manhood has quite forsaken you? Are not men in the course of human generation often the reverse of one another? Is not a ploughman often the father of a soldier, and a soldier of a ploughman? Does not the same diversity happen in a mechanic and a soldier? Since then, in this manner, one produces another, I cannot think it possible for manhood to be lost among them. As then you are men, behave yourselves like men: call upon the name of Christ, that he may inspire you with courage to defend your liberties."
No sooner had he concluded his speech, than the people raised such a shout, that one would have thought them on a sudden inspired with courage from heaven.
Chap. III.The Britons are again, cruelly harassed by Guanius and Melya.
AFTER this the Romans encouraged the timorous people as much as they could, and left them patterns of their arms. They likewise commanded towers, having a prospect towards the sea, to be placed at proper distances along all the south coast, where their ships were, and from whence they feared the invasions of the barbarians. But, according to the proverb, "It is easier to make a hawk of a kite, than a scholar of a ploughman ;" all learning to him is but as a pearl thrown before swine. Thus, no sooner had the Romans taken their farewell of them, than the two leaders, Guanius and Helga, issued forth from their ships, in which they had fled over into Ireland, and with their bands of Scots, Picts, Norwe- [p.176] gians, Dacians, and others, whom they had brought along with them, seized upon all Albania as far as the very wall. Understanding, likewise, that the Romans were gone, never to return any more, they now, in a more insolent manner than before, began their devastations in the island. Hereupon the country fellows upon the battlements of the walls sat night and day with quaking hearts, not daring to stir from their seats, and readier for flight than making the least resistance. In the meantime the enemies ceased not with their hooks to pull them down headlong, and dash the wretched herd to pieces upon the ground; who gained at least this advantage by their speedy death, that they avoided the sight of that most deplorable calamity, which forthwith threatened their relations and dearest children. Such was the terrible vengeance of God for that most wicked madness of Maximian, in draining the kingdom of all its forces, who, had they been present, would have repulsed any nation that invaded them; an evident proof of which they gave, by the vast conquests they made abroad, even in remote countries; and also by maintaining their own country in peace, while they continued here. But thus it happens when a country is left to the defence of country clowns. In short, quitting their high wall and their cities, the country people were forced again to fly, and to suffer a more fatal dispersion, a more furious pursuit of the enemy, a more cruel and more general slaughter than before; and like lambs before wolves, so was that miserable people torn to pieces by the merciless barbarians. Again, therefore, the wretched remainder send letters to Agitius, a man of great power among the Romans, to this effect. "To Agitius,54 thrice consul, the groans of the Britons." And after some few other complaints they add: "The sea drives us to the barbarians, and the barbarians drive us back to the sea: thus are we tossed to and fro between two kinds of death, being either drowned or put to the sword." Notwithstanding this most moving address, they procured no relief, and the ambassadors returning back in great heaviness, declared to their countrymen the repulse which they had suffered.
Chap. IV.Guethelin desires succours of Aldroen.
Hereupon, after a consultation together, Guethelin, archbishop of London, passed over into Lesser Britain, called then Armorica, or Letavia, to desire assistance of their brethren. At that time Aldroen reigned there, being the fourth king from Conan, to whom, as has been already related, Maximian had given that kingdom. This prince, seeing a prelate of so great dignity arrive, received him with honour, and inquired after the occasion of his coming. To whom Guethelin:
"Your majesty can be no stranger to the misery which we, your Britons, have suffered (which may even demand your tears), since the time that Maximian drained our island of its soldiers, to people the kingdom which you enjoy, and which God grant you may long enjoy in peace. For against us the poor remains of the British race, all the people of the adjacent islands, have risen up, and made an utter devastation in our country, which then abounded until all kinds of riches; so that the people now are wholly destitute of all manner of sustenance, but what they can get in hunting. Nor had we any power or knowledge of military affairs left among us to encounter the enemy. For the Romans are tired of us, and have absolutely refused their assistance. So that now, deprived of all other hope, we come to implore your clemency, that you would furnish us with forces, and protect a kingdom, which is of right your own, from the incursions of barbarians. For who but yourself, ought, without your consent, to wear the crown of Constantine and Maximian, since the right your ancestors had to it is now devolved upon you? Prepare then your fleet, and go with me. Behold! I deliver the kingdom of Britain into your hands."
To this Aldroen made answer: "There was a time formerly when I would not have refused to accept of the island of Britain, if it had been offered me; for I do not think there was anywhere a more fruitful country while it enjoyed peace and tranquillity. But now, since the calamities that have befallen it, it is become of less value, and odious both to me and all other princes. But above all things the power of the Romans was so destructive to it that nobody could enjoy any settled state or authority in it, without loss of liberty, [p.178] and bearing the yoke of slavery under them. And who would not prefer the possession of a lesser country with liberty, to all the riches of that island in servitude? The kingdom that is now under my subjection I enjoy with honour, and without paying homage to any superior; so that I prefer it to all other countries, since I can govern it without being controlled. Nevertheless, out of respect to the right that my ancestors for many generations have had to your island, I deliver to you my brother Constantine with two thousand men, that with the good providence of God, he may free your country from the inroads of barbarians, and obtain the crown for himself. For I have a brother called by that name, who is an expert soldier, and in all other respects an accomplished man. If you please to accept of him, I will not refuse to send him with you, together with the said number of men; for indeed a larger number I do not mention to you, because I am daily threatened with disturbance from the Gauls." He had scarcely done speaking before the archbishop returned him thanks, and when Constantine was called in, broke out into these expressions of joy: "Christ conquers; Christ commands; Christ reigns: behold the king of desolate Britain! Be Christ only present, and behold our defence, our hope and joy." In short, the ships being got ready, the men who were chosen out from all parts of the kingdom, were delivered to Guethelin.
Chap. V.Constantine, being made king of Britain, leaves three sons.
When they had made all necessary preparations, they embarked, and arrived at the port of Totness; and then without delay assembled together the youth that was left in the island, and encountered the enemy; over whom, by the merit of the holy prelate, they obtained the victory. After this the Britons, before dispersed, flocked together from all parts, and in a council held at Silchester, promoted Constantine to the throne, and there performed the ceremony of his coronation. They also married him to a lady, descended from a noble Roman family, whom archbishop Guethelin had educated, and by whom the king had afterwards three sons, Constans, Aurelius Ambrosius, and Uther Pendragon. Constans, who was the eldest, he delivered to the church of Araphibalus in Winchester, that he might there take upon him [p.179] the monastic order. But the other two, viz. Aurelins and Uther, he committed to the care of Guethelin for their education. At last, after ten years were expired, there came a certain Pict, who had entered in his service, and under pretence of holding some private discourse with him, in a nursery of young trees where nobody was present, stabbed him with a dagger.
Chap. VI.Constans is by Vortigern crowned king of Britain.
Upon the death of Constantine, a dissension arose among the nobility, about a successor to the throne. Some were for setting up Aurelius Ambrosius; others Uther Pendragon; others again some other persons of the royal family. At last, when they could come to no conclusion, Vortigern, consul of the Gewisseans, who was himself very ambitious of the crown, went to Constans the monk,55 and thus addressed himself to him: "You see your father is dead, and your brothers on account of their age are incapable of the government; neither do I see any of your family besides yourself, whom the people ought to promote to the kingdom. If you will therefore follow my advice, I will, on condition of your increasing my private estate, dispose the people to favour your advancement, and free you from that habit, notwithstanding that it is against the rule of your order." Constans, overjoyed at the proposal, promised, with an oath, that upon these terms he would grant him whatever he would desire. Then Vortigern took him, and investing him in his regal habiliments, conducted him to London, and made him king, though not with the free consent of the people. Archbishop Guethelin was then dead, nor was there any other that durst perform the ceremony of his unction, on account of his having quitted the monastic order. However, this proved no hindrance to his coronation, for Vortigern himself performed the ceremony instead of a bishop.
Chap. VII.Vortigern treacherously contrives to get king Constans assassinated.
Constans, being thus advanced, committed the whole government of the kingdom to Vortigern, and surrendered himself up so entirely to his counsels, that he did nothing without his order. His own incapacity for government obliged him to do this, for he had learned any thing else rather than state affairs within his cloister. Vortigern became sensible of this, and therefore began to deliberate with himself what course to take to obtain the crown, of which he had been before extremely ambitious. He saw that now was his proper time to gain his end easily, when the kingdom was wholly intrusted to his management; and Constans, who bore the title of king, was no more than the shadow of one; for he was of a soft temper, a bad judge in matters of right, and not in the least feared, either by his own people, or by the neighbouring states. And as for his two brothers, Uther Pendragon and Aurelius Ambrosius, they were only children in their cradles, and therefore incapable of the government. There was likewise this farther misfortune, that all the older persons of the nobility were dead, so that Vortigern seemed to be the only man surviving, that had craft, policy, and experience in matters of state; and all the rest in a manner children, or raw youths, who only inherited the honours of their parents and relations that had been killed in the former wars. Vortigern, finding a concurrence of so many favourable circumstances, contrived how he might easily and cunningly depose Constans the monk, and immediately establish himself in his place. But in order to do this, he waited until he had first well established his power and interest in several countries. He therefore petitioned to have the king's treasures, and his fortified cities, in his own custody; pretending there was a rumour, that the neighbouring islanders designed an invasion of the kingdom. This being granted him, he placed his own creatures in those cities, to secure them for himself. Then having formed a scheme how to execute his treasonable designs, he went to the king, and represented to him the necessity of augmenting the number of his domestics, that [p.181] he might more safely oppose the invasion of the enemy. "Have not I left all things to your disposal?" said Constans: "Do what you will as to that, so that they be but faithful to me." Vortigern replied, "I am informed that the Picts are going to bring the Dacians and Norwegians in upon us, with a design to give us very great annoyance. I would therefore advise you, and in my opinion it is the best course you can take, that you maintain some Picts in your court, who may do you good service among those of that nation. For if it is true that they are preparing to begin a rebellion, you may employ them as spies upon their countrymen in their plots and stratagems, so as easily to escape them." This was the dark treason of a secret enemy; for he did not recommend this out of regard to the safety of Constans, but because he knew the Picts to be a giddy people, and ready for all manner of wickedness; so that, in a fit of drunkenness or passion, they might easily be incensed against the king, and make no scruple to assassinate him. And such an accident, when it should happen, would make an open way for his accession to the throne, which he so often had in view. Hereupon he despatched messengers into Scotland, with an invitation to a hundred Pictish soldiers, whom accordingly he received into the king's household; and when admitted, he showed them more respect than all the rest of the domestics, by making them several presents, and allowing them a luxurious table, insomuch that they looked upon him as the king. So great was the regard they had for him, that they made songs of him about the streets, the subject of which was, that Vortigern deserved the government, deserved the sceptre of Britain; but that Constans was unworthy of it. This encouraged Vortigern to show them still more favour, in order the more firmly to engage them in his interest; and when by these practices he had made them entirely his creatures, he took an opportunity, when they were drunk, to tell them, that he was going to retire out of Britain, to see if he could get a better estate; for the small revenue he had then, he said, would not so much as enable him to maintain a retinue of fifty men. Then putting on a look of sadness, he withdrew to Ids own apartment, and left them drinking in the hall. The Picts at this sight were in inexpressible sorrow, as thinking what he had said was true, and murmuring said [p.182] one to another, "Why do we suffer this monk to live? Why do not we kill him, that Vortigern may enjoy his crown? Who is so fit to succeed as he? A man so generous to us is worthy to rule, and deserves all the honour and dignity that we can bestow upon him."
Chap. VIII.Aurelius Ambrosius and Uther Pendragon flee from Vortigern, and go to Lesser Britain.
After this, breaking into Constan's bed-chamber, they fell upon him and killed him, and carried his head to Vortigern. At the sight of it, he put on a mournful countenance, and burst forth into tears, though at the same time he was almost transported with joy. However, he summoned together the citizens of London, (for there the fact was committed,) and commanded all the assassins to be bound, and their heads to be cut off for this abominable parricide. In the meantime there were some who had a suspicion, that this piece of villainy was wholly the contrivance of Vortigern, and that the Picts were only his instruments to execute it. Others again as positively asserted his innocence. At last the matter being left in doubt, those who had the care of the two brothers, Aurelius Ambrosius, and Uther Pendragon, fled over with them into Lesser Britain, for fear of being killed by Vortigern. There they were kindly received by king Budes, who took care to give them an education suitable to their royal birth.
Chap. IX.Vortigern makes himself king of Britain.
Now Vortigern, seeing nobody to rival him in the kingdom, placed the crown on his own head, and thus gained the pre-eminence over all the rest of the princes. At last his treason being discovered, the people of the adjacent islands, whom the Picts had brought into Albania, made insurrection against him. For the Picts were enraged on account of the death of their fellow soldiers, who had been slain for the murder of Constans, and endeavoured to revenge that injury upon him. Vortigern therefore was daily in great distress, and lost a considerable part of his army in a war with them. He had likewise no less trouble from another quarter, for fear of Aurelius Ambrosius, and his brother Uther Pendra- [p.183] gon, who, as we said before, had fled, on his account, into Lesser Britain. For he heard it rumoured, day after day, that they had now arrived at man's estate, and had built a vast fleet, with a design to return back to the kingdom, which was their undoubted right.
Chap. X.Vortigern takes the Saxons that were new-comers, to his assistance.
In the meantime there arrived in Kent three brigandines, or long galleys, full of armed men, under the command of two brothers, Horsa and Hengist.56 Vortigern was then at Dorobernia, now Canterbury, which city he used often to visit; and being informed of the arrival of some tall strangers in large ships, he ordered that they should be received peaceably, and conducted into his presence. As soon as they were brought before him, he cast his eyes upon the two brothers, who excelled all the rest both in nobility and gracefulness of person; and having taken a view of the whole company, asked them of what country they were, and what was the occasion of their coming into his kingdom. To whom Hengist (whose years and wisdom entitled him to a precedence), in the name of the rest, made the following answer:
"Most noble king. Saxony, which is one of the countries of Germany, was the place of our birth; and the occasion of our coming was to offer our service to you or some other prince. For we were driven out of our native country, for no other reason, but that the laws of the kingdom required it. It is customary among us, that when we come to be overstocked with people, our princes from all the provinces meet together, and command all the youths of the kingdom to assemble before them; then casting lots, they make choice of the strongest and ablest of them, to go into foreign nations, to procure themselves a subsistence, and free their native country from a superfluous multitude of people. Our country, therefore, being of late overstocked, our princes met, and after having cast lots, made choice of the youth which you see in your presence, and have obliged us to obey [p.184] the custom which has been established of old. And us two brothers, Hengist and Horsa, they made generals over them, out of respect to our ancestors, who enjoyed the same honour. In obedience, therefore, to the laws so long established, we put out to sea, and under the good guidance of Mercury have arrived in your kingdom."
The king, at the name of Mercury, looking earnestly upon them, asked them what religion they professed. "We worship," replied Hengist, "our country's gods, Saturn and Jupiter, and the other deities that govern the world, but especially Mercury, whom in our language we call Woden, and to whom our ancestors consecrated the fourth day of the week, still called after his name Wodensday. Next to him we worship the powerful goddess, Frea, to whom they also dedicated the sixth day, which after her name we call Friday." Vortigern replied, "For your credulity, or rather incredulity, I am much grieved, but I rejoice at your arrival, which, whether by God's providence or some other agency, happens very seasonably for me in my present difficulties. For I am oppressed by my enemies on every side, and if you will engage with me in my wars, I will entertain you honourably in my kingdom, and bestow upon you lands and other possessions." The barbarians readily accepted his offer, and the agreement between them being ratified, they resided at his court. Soon after this, the Picts, issuing forth from Albania, with a very great army, began to lay waste the northern parts of the island. When Vortigern had information of it, he assembled his forces, and went to meet them beyond the Humber. Upon their engaging, the battle proved very fierce on both sides, though there was but little occasion for the Britons to exert themselves, for the Saxons fought so bravely, that the enemy, formerly so victorious, were speedily put to flight.
Chap. XI.Hengist brings over great numbers of Saxons into Britain, his crafty petition to Vortigern.
Vortigern, therefore, as he owed the victory to them, increased his bounty to them, and gave their general, Hengist, large possessions of land in Lindesia,57 for the subsistence of [p.185] himself and his fellow soldiers. Hereupon Hengist, who was a man of experience and subtilty, finding how much interest he had with the king, addressed him in this manner:"Sir, your enemies give you disturbance from all quarters, and few of your subjects love you. They all threaten you, and say, they are going to bring over Aurelius Ambrosius from Armorica, to depose you, and make him king. If you please, let us send to our country to invite over some more soldiers, that with our forces increased we may be better able to oppose them. But there is one thing which I would desire of your clemency, if I did not fear a refusal." Vortigern made answer, "Send your messengers to Germany, and invite over whom you please, and you shall have no refusal from me in whatever you shall desire." Hengist, with a low bow, returned him thanks, and said, "The possessions which you have given me in land and houses are very large, but you have not yet done me that honour which becomes my station and birth, because, among other things, I should have had some town or city granted me, that I might be entitled to greater esteem among the nobility of your kingdom. I ought to have been made a consul or prince, since my ancestors enjoyed both those dignities." "It is not in my power," replied Vortigern, "to do you so much honour, because you are strangers and pagans; neither am I yet so far acquainted with your manners and customs, as to set you upon a level with my natural born subjects. And, indeed, if I did esteem you as my subjects, I should not be forward to do so, because the nobility of my kingdom would strongly dissuade me from it." "Give your servant," said Hengist, "only so much ground in the place you have assigned me, as I can encompass with a leathern thong, for to build a fortress upon, as a place of retreat if occasion should require. For I will always be faithful to you, as I have been hitherto, and pursue no other design in the request which I have made." With these words the king was prevailed upon to grant him his petition; and ordered him to despatch messengers into Germany, to invite more men over speedily to his assistance. Hengist immediately executed his orders, and taking a bull's hide, made one thong out of the whole, with which he encompassed a rocky place that he had carefully made choice of, and within that circuit began to build a [p.186] castle, which, when finished, took its name from the thong wherewith it had been measured; for it was afterwards called, in the British tongue, Kaercorrei; in Saxon, Thancastre, that is, Thong Castle.58
Chap. XII.Vortigern marries Rowen,59 the daughter of Hengist.
In the meantime, the messengers returned from Germany, with eighteen ships full of the best soldiers they could get. They also brought along with them Rowen, the daughter of Hengist, one of the most accomplished beauties of that age. After their arrival, Hengist invited the king to his house, to view his new buildings, and the new soldiers that were come over. The king readily accepted of his invitation, but privately, and having highly commended the magnificence of the structure, enlisted the men into his service. Here he was entertained at a royal banquet; and when that was over, the young lady came out of her chamber bearing a golden cup full of wine, with which she approached the king, and making a low courtesy, said to him, "Lauerd60 king wacht heil!" The king, at the sight of the lady's face, was on a sudden both surprised and inflamed with her beauty; and calling to his interpreter, asked him what she said, and what answer he should make her. "She called you, 'Lord king,'" said the interpreter, ''and offered to drink your health. Your answer to her must be, 'Drinc heil!'" Vortigern accordingly answered, "Drinc heil!" and bade her drink; after which he took the cup from her hand, kissed her, and drank himself. From that time to this, it has been the custom in Britain, tliat he who drinks to any one says, "Wacht heil!" and he that pledges him, answers "Drinc heil!" Vortigern being now drunk with the variety of liquors, the devil took this opportunity to enter into his heart, and to make him in love with the damsel, so that he became suitor to her father for her. It was, I say, by the devil's entering into his heart, that he, who was a Christian, should fall in love with a pagan. By this example, Hengist, [p.187] being a prudent man, discovered the king's levity, and consulted with his brother Horsa and the other ancient men present, what to do in relation to the king's request. They unanimously advised him to give him his daughter, and in consideration of her to demand the province of Kent. Accordingly the daughter was without delay delivered to Vortigern, and the province of Kent to Hengist, without the knowledge of Gorangan, who had the government of it. The king the same night married the pagan lady, and became extremely delighted with her; by which he quickly brought upon himself the hatred of the nobility, and of his own sons. For he had already three sons, whose names were Vortimer, Catigern, and Pascentius.
Chap. XIII.The bishops, Germanvs and Lupus, restore the Christian faith that had been corrupted in Britain. Octa and Ebissa are four times routed by Vortimer.
At that time came St. Germanus, bishop of Auxerre, and Lupus, bishop of Troyes, to preach the gospel to the Britons. For the Christian faith had been corrupted among them, partly by the pagans whom the king had brought into society with them, partly by the Pelagian heresy, with the poison whereof they had been a long time infected. But by the preaching of these holy men, the true faith and worship was again restored, the many miracles they wrought giving success to their labours. Gildas has in his elegant treatise given an account of the many miracles God wrought by them. The king being now, as we have said, possessed of the lady, Hengist said to him: "As I am your father, I claim the right of being your counsellor: do not therefore slight my advice, since it is to my countrymen you must owe the conquest of all your enemies. Let us invite over my son Octa and his brother Ebissa, who are brave soldiers, ane give them the countries that are in the northern parts of Britain, by the wall, between Deira and Albania. For they will hinder the inroads of the barbarians, and so you shall enjoy peace on the other side of the Humber." Vortigern complied with his request, and ordered them to invite over whomsoever they knew able to assist him. Immediately upon the receipt of this message, came Octa, Ebissa, and Cherdich, with three hundred ships filled with soldiers, who [p.188] were all kindly received by Vortigern, and had ample presents made them. For by their assistance he vanquished his enemies, and in every engagement proved victorious. Hengist in the meantime continued to invite over more and more ships, and to augment his numbers daily. Which when the Britons observed, they were afraid of being betrayed by them, and moved the king to banish them out of his coasts. For it was contrary to the rule of the gospel that Christians should hold fellowship, or have any intercourse, with pagans. Besides which, the number of those that were come over was now so great, that they were a terror to his subjects; and nobody could now know who was a pagan, or who a Christian, since pagans married the daughters and kinswomen of Christians. These things they represented to the king, and endeavoured to dissuade him from entertaining them, lest they might, by some treacherous conspiracy, prove an overmatch for the native inhabitants. But Vortigern, who loved them above all other nations on account of his wife, was deaf to their advice. For this reason the Britons quickly desert him, and unanimously set up Vortimer his son for their king; who at their instigation began to drive out the barbarians, and to make dreadful incursions upon them. Four battles he fought with them, and was victorious in all: the first upon the river Dereuent;61 the second upon the ford of Epsford, where Horsa and Catigern, another son of Vortigern, met and, after a sharp encounter, killed each other;62 the third upon the sea-shore, where the enemies fled shamefully to their ships, and betook themselves for refuge to the Isle of Thanet. But Vortimer besieged them there, and daily distressed them with his fleet. And when they were no longer able to bear the assaults of the Britons, they sent king Vortigern, who was present with them in all those wars, to his son Vortimer, to desire leave to depart, and return back safe to Germany. And while a conference upon this subject was being held, they in the meantime went on board their long galleys, and, leaving their wives and children behind them, returned back to Germany.
Chap. XIV.Vortimer's kindness to his soldiers at his death.
VORTIMER, after this great success, began to restore his subjects to their possessions which had been taken from them, and to show them all marks of his affection and esteem, and at the instance of St. Germanus to rebuild their churches. But his goodness quickly stirred up the enmity of the devil against him, who entering into the heart of his stepmother Rowen, excited her to contrive his death. For this purpose she consulted with the poisoners, and procured one who was intimate with him, whom she corrupted with large and numerous presents, to give him a poisonous draught; so that this brave soldier, as soon as he had taken it, was seized with a sudden illness, that deprived him of all hopes of life. Hereupon he forthwith ordered all his men to come to him, and having shown them how near he was to his end, distributed among them all the treasure his predecessors had heaped up, and endeavoured to comfort them in their sorrow and lamentation for him, telling them, he was only going the way of all flesh. But he exhorted those brave and warlike young men, who had attended him in all his victories, to persist courageously in the defence of their country against all hostile invasion; and with wonderful greatness of mind, commanded a brazen pyramid to be placed in the port where the Saxons used to land, and his body when dead to be buried on the top of it, that the sight of his tomb might frighten back the barbarians to Germany. For he said none of them would dare approach the country, that should but get a sight of his tomb. Such was the admirable bravery of this great man, who, as he had been a terror to them while living, endeavoured to be no less so when dead. Notwithstanding which, he was no sooner dead, than the Britons had no regard to his orders, but buried him at London.
Chap. XV.Hengist, having wickedly murdered the princes of Britain, keeps Vortigern prisoner.
VORTIGERN, after the death of his son, was again restored to the kingdom, and at the request of his wife sent messengers into Germany to Hengist, with an invitation to return into Britain, but privately, and with a small retinue, to prevent a quarrel between the barbarians and his subjects. But Hen- [p.190] gist, hearing that Vortimer was dead, raised an army of no less than three hundred thousand men, and fitting out a fleet returned with them to Britain. When Vortigern and the nobility heard of the arrival of so vast a multitude, they were immoderately incensed, and, after consultation together, resolved to fight them, and drive them from their coasts. Hengist, being informed of their design by messengers sent from his daughter, immediately entered into deliberation what course to pursue against them. After several stratagems had been considered, he judged it most feasible, to impose upon the nation by making show of peace. With this view he sent ambassadors to the king, to declare to him, that he had not brought so great a number of men for the purpose either of staying with him, or offering any violence to the country. But the reason why he brought them, was because he thought Vortimer was yet living, and that he should have occasion for them against him, in case of an assault. But now since he no longer doubted of his being dead, he submitted himself and his people to the disposal of Vortigern; so that he might retain as many of them as he should think fit, and whomsoever he rejected Hengist would allow to return back without delay to Germany. And if these terms pleased Vortigern, he desired him to appoint a time and place for their meeting, and adjusting matters according to his pleasure. When these things were represented to the king, he was mightily pleased, as being very unwilling to part with Hengist; and at last ordered his subjects and the Saxons to meet upon the kalends of May, which were now very near, at the monastery of Ambrius,63 for the settling of the matters above mentioned. The appointment being agreed to on both sides, Hengist, with a new design of villainy in his head, ordered his soldiers to carry every one of them a long dagger under their garments; and while the conference should be held with the Britons, who would have no suspicion of them, he would give them this word of command, "Nemet oure Saxas;" at which moment they were all to be ready to seize boldly every one his next man, and with his drawn dagger stab him. Accordingly they all met at the time and place appointed, and began to treat of peace; and when a fit opportunity offered for executing his villainy, [p.191] Hengist cried out, "Nemet oure Saxas," and the same instant seized Vortigern, and held him by his cloak. The Saxons, upon the signal given, drew their daggers, and falling upon the princes, who little suspected any such design, assassinated them to the number of four hundred and sixty barons and consuls; to whose bodies St. Eldad afterwards gave Christian burial, not far from Kaercaradauc, now Salisbury, in a burying-place near the monastery of Ambrius, the abbat, who was the founder of it. For they all came without arms, having no thoughts of anything but treating of peace; which gave the others a fairer opportunity of exercising their villainous design against them. But the pagans did not escape unpunished while they acted this wickedness; a great number of them being killed during this massacre of their enemies. For the Britons, taking up clubs and stones from the ground, resolutely defended themselves, and did good execution upon the traitors.
Chap. XVI.Eldol's valiant exploit. Hengist forces Vortigern to yield up the strongest fortifications in Britain, in consideration of his release.
There was present one Eldol, consul64 of Gloucester, who, at the sight of this treachery, took up a stake which he happened to find, and with that made his defence. Every blow he gave carried death along with it; and by breaking either the head, arms, shoulders, or legs of a great many, he struck no small terror into the traitors, nor did he move from the spot before he had killed with that weapon seventy men. But being no longer able to stand his ground against such numbers, he made his escape from them, and retired to his own city. Many fell on both sides, but the Saxons got the victory; because the Britons, having no suspicion of treachery, came unarmed, and therefore made a weaker defence. After the commission of this detestable villainy, the Saxons would not kill Vortigern; but having threatened him with death and bound him, demanded his cities and fortified places in consideration of their granting him his life. He, to secure himself, denied them nothing; and when they had made him confirm his grants with an oath, they released him from his chains, and then marched first to London, which they took, as they did afterwards York, Lincoln, and Winchester; [p.192] wasting the countries through which they passed, and destroying the people, as wolves do sheep when left by their shepherds. When Vortigern saw the desolation which they made, he retired into the parts of Cambria, not knowing what to do against so barbarous a people.
Chap. XVII.Vortigern, after consultation with magicians, orders a youth to be brought that never had a father.
At last he had recourse to magicians for their advice, and commanded them to tell him what course to take. They advised him to build a very strong tower for his own safety, since he had lost all his other fortified places. Accordingly he made a progress about the country, to find out a convenient situation, and came at last to Mount Erir, where he assembled workmen from several countries, and ordered them to build the tower. The builders, therefore, began to lay the foundation; but whatever they did one day the earth swallowed up the next, so as to leave no appearance of their work. Vortigern being informed of this again consulted with his magicians concerning the cause of it, who told him that he must find out a youth that never had a father, and kill him, and then sprinkle the stones and cement with his blood; for by those means, they said, he would have a firm foundation. Hereupon messengers were despatched away over all the provinces, to inquire out such a man. In their travels they came to a city, called afterwards Kaermerdin, where they saw some young men, playing before the gate, and went up to them; but being weary with their journey, they sat down in the ring, to see if they could meet with what they were in quest of. Towards evening, there happened on a sudden a quarrel between two of the young men, whose names were Merlin and Dabutius. In the dispute, Dabutius said to Merlin: "You fool, do you presume to quarrel with me? Is there any equality in our birth? I am descended of royal race, both by my father and mother's side. As for you, nobody knows what you are, for you never had a father." At that word the messengers looked earnestly upon Merlin, and asked the by-standers who he was. They told him, it was not known who was his father; but that his mother was daughter to the king of Dimetia, and that she lived in St. Peter's church among the nuns of that city.
Chap. XVIII.Vortigern inquires of Merlin's mother concerning her conception of him.
Upon this the messengers hastened to the governor of the city, and ordered him, in the king's name, to send Merlin and his mother to the king. As soon as the governor understood the occasion of their message, he readily obeyed the order, and sent them to Vortigern to complete his design. When they were introduced into the king's presence, he received the mother in a very respectful manner, on account of her noble birth; and began to inquire of her by what man she had conceived. "My sovereign lord," said she, "by the life of your soul and mine, I know nobody that begot him of me. Only this I know, that as I was once with my companions in our chambers, there appeared to me a person in the shape of a most beautiful young man, who often embraced me eagerly in his arms, and kissed me; and when he had stayed a little time, he suddenly vanished out of my sight. But many times after this he would talk with me when I sat alone, without making any visible appearance. When he had a long time haunted me in this manner, he at last lay with me several times in the shape of a man, and left me with child. And I do affirm to you, my sovereign lord, that excepting that young man, I know no body that begot him of me." The king full of admiration at this account, ordered Maugantius to be called, that he might satisfy him as to the possibility of what the woman had related. Maugantius, being introduced, and having the whole matter repeated to him, said to Vortigern: "In the books of our philosophers, and in a great many histories, I have found that several men have had the like original. For, as Apuleius informs us in his book concerning the Demon of Socrates, between the moon and the earth inhabit those spirits, which we will call incubuses. These are of the nature partly of men, and partly of angels, and whenever they please assume human shapes, and lie with women. Perhaps one of them appeared to this woman, and begot that young man of her."
Chap. XIX.Merlin's speech to the king's magicians, and advice about the building of the tower.
Merlin in the meantime was attentive to all that had passed, and then approached the king, and said to him, "For [p.194] what reason am I and my mother introduced into your presence?""My magicians," answered Vortigern, "advised me to seek out a man that had no father, with whose blood my building is to be sprinkled, in order to make it stand.""Order your magicians," said Merlin, "to come before me, and I will convict them of a lie." The king was surprised at his words, and presently ordered the magicians to come, and sit down before Merlin, who spoke to them after this manner: "Because you are ignorant what it is that hinders the foundation of the tower, you have recommended the shedding of my blood for cement to it, as if that would presently make it stand. But tell me now, what is there under the foundation? For something there is that will not suffer it to stand." The magicians at this began to be afraid, and made him no answer. Then said Merlin, who was also called Ambrose, "I entreat your majesty would command your workmen to dig into the ground, and you will find a pond which causes the foundation to sink." This accordingly was done, and then presently they found a pond deep under ground, which had made it give way. Merlin after this went again to the magicians, and said, "Tell me ye false sycophants, what is there under the pond." But they were silent. Then said he again to the king, " Command the pond to be drained, and at the bottom you will see two hollow stones, and in them two dragons asleep." The king made no scruple of believing him, since he had found true what he said of the pond, and therefore ordered it to be drained: which done, he found as Merlin had said; and now was possessed with the greatest admiration of him. Nor were the rest that were present less amazed at his wisdom, thinking it to be no less than divine inspiration.
CONCERNING THE PROPHECIES OF MERLIN.
Chap. I.Geoffrey of Monmouth's preface to Merlin's prophecy.
I HAD not got thus far in my history, when the subject of public discourse happening to be concerning Merlin, I was obliged to publish his prophecies at the request of my [p.195] acquaintance, but especially of Alexander, bishop of Lincoln, a prelate of the greatest piety and wisdom. There was not any person, either among the clergy or laity, that was attended with such a train of knights and noblemen, whom his settled piety and great munificence engaged in his service. Out of a desire, therefore, to gratify him, I translated these prophecies, and sent them to him with the following letter.
Chap. II.Geoffrey's letter to Alexander, bishop of Lincoln.
"The regard which I owe to your great worth, most noble prelate, has obliged me to undertake the translation of Merlin's prophecies out of British into Latin, before I had made an end of the history which I had begun concerning the acts of the British kings. For my design was to have finished that first, and afterwards to have taken this work in hand ; lest by being engaged on both at once, I should be less capable of attending with any exactness to either. Notwithstanding, since the deference which is paid to your penetrating judgment will screen me from censure, I have employed my rude pen, and in a coarse style present you with a translation out of a language with which you are unacquainted. At the same time, I cannot but wonder at your recommending this matter to one of my low genius, when you might have caused so many men of greater learning, and a richer vein of intellect, to undertake it; who, with their sublime strains, would much more agreeably have entertained you. Besides, without any disparagement to all the philosophers in Britain, I must take the liberty to say, that you yourself, if the business of your high station would give you leisure, are capable of furnishing us with loftier productions of this kind than any man living. However, since it was your pleasure that Geoffrey of Monmouth should be employed in this prophecy, he hopes you will favourably accept of his performance, and vouchsafe to give a finer turn to whatever you shall find unpolished, or otherwise faulty in it.
Chap. III.The prophecy of Merlin.
As Vortigern, king of the Britons, was sitting upon the bank of the drained pond, the two dragons, one of which [p.196] was white, the other red, came forth, and, approaching one another, began a terrible fight, and cast forth fire with their breath. But the white dragon had the advantage, and made the other fly to the end of the lake. And he, for grief at his flight, renewed the assault upon his pursuer, and forced him to retire. After this battle of the dragons, the king commanded Ambrose Merlin to tell him what it portended. Upon which he, bursting into tears, delivered what his prophetical spirit suggested to him, as follows:65
"Woe to the red dragon, for his banishment hasteneth on. His lurking holes shall be seized by the white dragon, which signifies the Saxons whom you invited over; but the red denotes the British nation, which shall be oppressed by the white. Therefore shall its mountains be levelled as the valleys, and the rivers of the valleys shall run with blood. The exercise of religion shall be destroyed, and churches be laid open to ruin. At last the oppressed shall prevail, and oppose the cruelty of foreigners. For a boar of Cornwall shall give his assistance, and trample their necks under his feet. The islands of the ocean shall be subject to his power, and he shall possess the forests of Gaul. The house of Romulus shall dread his courage, and his end shall be doubtful. He shall be celebrated in the mouths of the people; and his exploits shall be food to those that relate them. Six of his posterity shall sway the sceptre, but after them shall arise a German worm. He shall be advanced by a sea-wolf, whom the woods of Africa shall accompany. Religion shall be again abolished, and there shall be a translation of the metropolitan sees. The dignity of London shall adorn Dorobernia, and the seventh pastor of York shall be resorted to in the kingdom of Armorica. Menevia shall put on the pall of the City of Legions, and a preacher of Leland shall be dumb on account of an infant growing in the womb. It shall rain a shower of blood, and a raging famine shall afflict mankind. When these things happen, the red one shall be [p.197] grieved; but when his fatigue is over, shall grow strong. Then shall misfortunes hasten upon the white one, and the buildings of his gardens shall be pulled down. Seven that sway the sceptre shall be killed, one of whom shall become a saint. The wombs of mothers shall be ripped up, and infants be abortive. There shall be a most grievous punishment of men, that the natives may be restored. He that shall do these things shall put on the brazen man, and upon a brazen horse shall for a long time guard the gates of London. After this, shall the red dragon return to his proper manners, and turn his rage upon himself. Therefore shall the revenge of the Thunderer show itself, for every field shall disappoint the husbandmen. Mortality shall snatch away the people, and make a desolation over all countries. The remainder shall quit their native soil, and make foreign plantations. A blessed king shall prepare a fleet, and shall be reckoned the twelfth in the court among the saints. There shall be a miserable desolation of the kingdom, and the floors of the harvests shall return to the fruitful forests. The white dragon shall rise again, and invite over a daughter of Germany. Our gardens shall be again replenished with foreign seed, and the red one shall pine away at the end of the pond. After that, shall the German worm be crowned, and the brazen prince buried. He has his bounds assigned him, which he shall not be able to pass. For a hundred and fifty years he shall continue in trouble and subjection, but shall bear sway three hundred. Then shall the north wind rise against him, and shall snatch away the flowers which the west wind produced. There shall be gilding in the temples, nor shall the edge of the sword cease. The German dragon shall hardly get to his holes, because the revenge of his treason shall overtake him. At last he shall flourish for a little time, but the decimation of Neustria shall hurt him. For a people in wood and in iron coats shall come, and revenge upon him his wickedness. They shall restore the ancient inhabitants to their dwellings, and there shall be an open destruction of foreigners. The seed of the white dragon shall be swept out of our gardens, and the remainder of his generation shall be decimated. They shall bear the yoke of slavery, and wound their mother with spades and ploughs. After this shall succeed two dragons, [p.198] whereof one shall be killed with the sting of envy, but the other shall return under the shadow of a name. Then shall succeed a lion of justice, at whose roar the Gallican towers and the island dragons shall tremble. In those days gold shall be squeezed from the lily and the nettle, and silver shall flow from the hoofs of bellowing cattle. The frizzled shall put on various fleeces, and the outward habit denote the inward parts. The feet of barkers shall be cut off; wild beasts shall enjoy peace; mankind shall be grieved at their punishment; the form of commerce shall be divided; the half shall be round. The ravenousness of kites shall be destroyed, and the teeth of wolves blunted. The lion's whelps shall be transformed into sea-fishes; and an eagle shall build her nest upon Mount Aravius. Venedotia shall grow red with the blood of mothers, and the house of Corineus kill six brethren. The island shall be wet with night tears; so that all shall be provoked to all things. Woe to thee, Neustria, because the lion's brain shall be poured upon thee; and he shall be banished with shattered limbs from his native soil. Posterity shall endeavour to fly above the highest places; but the favour of new comers shall be exalted. Piety shall hurt the possessor of things got by impiety, till he shall have put on his Father: therefore, being armed with the teeth of a boar, he shall ascend above the tops of mountains, and the shadow of him that wears a helmet. Albania shall be enraged, and, assembling her neighbours, shall be employed in shedding blood. There shall be put into her jaws a bridle that shall be made on the coast of Armorica. The eagle of the broken covenant shall gild it over, and rejoice in her third nest. The roaring whelps shall watch, and, leaving the woods, shall hunt within the walls of cities. They shall make no small slaughter of those that oppose them, and shall cut off the tongues of bulls. They shall load the necks of roaring lions with chains, and restore the times of their ancestors. Then from the first to the fourth, from the fourth to the third, from the third to the second, the thumb shall roll in oil. The sixth shall overturn the walls of Ireland, and change the woods into a plain. He shall reduce several parts to one, and be crowned with the head of a lion. His beginning shall lay open to wandering affection, but his end shall carry him up to the blessed, who [p.199] are above. For he shall restore the seats of saints in their countries, and settle pastors in convenient places. Two cities he shall invest with two palls, and shall bestow virgin-presents upon virgins. He shall merit by this the favour of the Thunderer, and shall be placed among the saints. From him shall proceed a lynx penetrating all things, who shall be bent upon the ruin of his own nation; for, through him, Neustria shall lose both islands, and be deprived of its ancient dignity. Then shall the natives return back to the island; for there shall arise a dissension among foreigners. Also a hoary old man, sitting upon a snow-white horse, shall turn the course of the river Periron, and shall measure out a mill upon it with a white rod. Cadwallader shall call upon Conan, and take Albania into alliance. Then shall there be a slaughter of foreigners; then shall the rivers run with blood. Then shall break forth the fountains of Armorica, and they shall be crowned with the diadem of Brutus. Cambria shall be filled with joy; and the oaks of Cornwall shall flourish. The island shall be called by the name of Brutus: and the name given it by foreigners shall be abolished. From Conan shall proceed a warlike boar, that shall exercise the sharpness of his tusks within the Gallic woods. For he shall cut down all the larger oaks, and shall be a defence to the smaller. The Arabians and Africans shall dread him; for he shall pursue his furious course to the farther part of Spain. There shall succeed the goat of the Venereal castle, having golden horns and a silver beard, who shall breathe such a cloud out of his nostrils, as shall darken the whole surface of the island. There shall be peace in his time; and corn shall abound by reason of the fruitfulness of the soil. Women shall become serpents in their gait, and all their motions shall be full of pride. The camp of Venus shall be restored; nor shall the arrows of Cupid cease to wound. The fountain of a river shall be turned into blood; and two kings shall fight a duel at Stafford for a lioness. Luxury shall overspread the whole ground; and fornication not cease to debauch mankind. All these things shall three ages see; till the buried kings shall be exposed to public view in the city of London. Famine shall again return; mortality shall return; and the inhabitants shall grieve for the destruction of their cities. Then shall [p.200] come the board of commerce, who shall recall the scattered flocks to the pasture they had lost. His breast shall be food to the hungry, and his tongue drink to the thirsty. Out of his mouth shall flow rivers, that shall water the parched jaws of men. After this shall be produced a tree upon the Tower of London, which, having no more than three branches, shall overshadow the surface of the whole island with the breadth of its leaves. Its adversary, the north wind, shall come upon it, and with its noxious blast shall snatch away the third branch; but the two remaining ones shall possess its place, till they shall destroy one another by the multitude of their leaves; and then shall it obtain the place of those two, and shall give sustenance to birds of foreign nations. It shall be esteemed hurtful to native fowls; for they shall not be able to fly freely for fear of its shadow. There shall succeed the ass of wickedness, swift against the goldsmiths, but slow against the ravenousness of wolves. In those days the oaks of the forests shall burn, and acorns grow upon the branches of tall trees. The Severn sea shall discharge itself through seven mouths, and the river Uske burn seven months. Fishes shall die with the heat thereof; and of them shall be engendered serpents. The baths of Badon shall grow cold, and their salubrious waters engender death. London shall mourn for the death of twenty thousand; and the river Thames shall be turned into blood. The monks in their cowls shall be forced to marry, and their cry shall be heard upon the mountains of the Alps."
Chap. IV.The continuation of the prophecy.
"Three springs shall break forth in the city of Winchester, whose rivulets shall divide the island into three parts. Whoever shall drink of the first, shall enjoy long life, and shall never be afflicted with sickness. He that shall drink of the second, shall die of hunger, and paleness and horror shall sit in his countenance. He that shall drink of the third, shall be surprised with sudden death, neither shall his body be capable of burial. Those that are willing to escape so great a surfeit, will endeavour to hide it with several coverings . but whatever bulk shall be laid upon it, shall [p.201] receive the form of another body. For earth shall be turned into stones; stones into water; wood into ashes; ashes into water, if cast over it. Also a damsel shall be sent from the city of the forest of Canute to administer a cure, who, after she shall have practised all her arts, shall dry up the noxious fountains only with her breath. Afterwards, as soon as she shall have refreshed herself with the wholesome liquor, she shall bear in her right hand the wood of Caledon, and in her left the forts of the walls of London. Wherever she shall go, she shall make sulphureous steps, which will smoke with a double flame. That smoke shall rouse up the city of Ruteni, and shall make food for the inhabitants of the deep. She shall overflow with rueful tears, and shall fill the island with her dreadful cry. She shall be killed by a hart with ten branches, four of which shall bear golden diadems; but the other six shall be turned into buffalo's horns, whose hideous sound shall astonish the three islands of Britain. The Daneian wood shall be stirred up, and breaking forth into a human voice, shall cry: Come, O Cambria, and join Cornwall to thy side, and say to Winchester, the earth shall swallow thee up. Translate the seat of thy pastor to the place where ships come to harbour, and the rest of the members will follow the head. For the day hasteneth, in which thy citizens shall perish on account of the guilt of perjury. The whiteness of wool has been hurtful to thee, and the variety of its tinctures. Woe to the perjured nation, for whose sake the renowned city shall come to ruin. The ships shall rejoice at so great an augmentation, and one shall be made out of two. It shall be rebuilt by Eric, leaden with apples, to the smell whereof the birds of several woods shall flock together. He shall add to it a vast palace, and wall it round with six hundred towers. Therefore shall London envy it, and triply increase her walls. The river Thames shall encompass it round, and the fame of the work shall pass beyond the Alps. Eric shall hide his apples within it, and shall make subterraneous passages. At that time shall the stones speak, and the sea towards the Gallic coast be contracted into a narrow space. On each bank shall one man hear another, and the soil of the island shall be enlarged. The secrets of the deep shall be revealed, and Gaul shall tremble for fear. After these things shall come forth a hern [p.202] from the forest of Calaterium, which shall fly round the island for two years together. With her nocturnal cry she shall call together the winged kind, and assemble to her all sorts of fowls. They shall invade the tillage of husbandmen, and devour all the grain of the harvests. Then shall follow a famine upon the people, and a grievous mortality upon the famine. But when this calamity shall be over, a detestable bird shall go to the valley of Galabes, and shall raise it to be a high mountain. Upon the top thereof it shall also plant an oak, and build its nest in its branches. Three eggs shall be produced in the nest, from whence shall come forth a fox, a wolf, and a bear. The fox shall devour her mother, and bear the head of an ass. In this monstrous form shall she frighten her brothers, and make them fly into Neustria. But they shall stir up the tusky boar, and returning in a fleet shall encounter with the fox; who at the beginning of the fight shall feign herself dead, and move the boar to compassion. Then shall the boar approach her carcass, and standing over her, shall breathe upon her face and eyes. But she, not forgetting her cunning, shall bite his left foot, and pluck it off from his body. Then shall she leap upon him, and snatch away his right ear and tail, and hide herself in the caverns of the mountains. Therefore shall the deluded boar require the wolf and bear to restore him his members; who, as soon as they shall enter into the cause, shall promise two feet of the fox, together with the ear and tail, and of these they shall make up the members of a hog. With this he shall be satisfied, and expect the promised restitution. In the meantime shall the fox descend from the mountains, and change herself into a wolf, and under pretence of holding a conference with the boar, she shall go to him, and craftily devour him. After that she shall transform herself into a boar, and feigning a loss of some members, shall wait for her brothers; but as soon as they are come, she shall suddenly kill them with her tusks, and shall be crowned with the head of a lion. In her days shall a serpent be brought forth, which shall be a destroyer of mankind. With its length it shall encompass London, and devour all that pass by it. The mountain ox shall take the head of a wolf, and whiten his teeth in the Severn. He shall gather to him the flocks of Albania and Cambria, which shall drink the river Thames dry.
The ass shall call the goat with the long beard, and shall borrow his shape. Therefore shall the mountain ox be incensed, and having called the wolf, shall become a horned bull against them. In the exercise of his cruelty he shall devour their flesh and bones, but shall be burned upon the top of Urian. The ashes of his funeral-pile shall be turned into swans, that shall swim on dry ground as on a river. They shall devour fishes in fishes, and swallow up men in men. But when old age shall come upon them, they shall become sea-wolves, and practise their frauds in the deep. They shall drown ships, and collect no small quantity of silver. The Thames shall again flow, and assembling together the rivers, shall pass beyond the bounds of its channel. It shall cover the adjacent cities, and overturn the mountains that oppose its course. Being full of deceit and wickedness, it shall make use of the fountain Galabes. Hence shall arise factions provoking the Venedotians to war. The oaks of the forest shall meet together, and encounter the rocks of the Gewisseans. A raven shall attend with the kites, and devour the carcasses of the slain. An owl shall build her nest upon the walls of Gloucester, and in her nest shall be brought forth an ass. The serpent of Malvernia shall bring him up, and put him upon many fraudulent practices. Having taken the crown, he shall ascend on high, and frighten the people of the country with his hideous braying. In his days shall the Pachaian mountains tremble, and the provinces be deprived of their woods. For there shall come a worm with a fiery breath, and with the vapour it sends forth shall burn up the trees. Out of it shall proceed seven lions deformed with the heads of goats. With the stench of their nostrils they shall corrupt women, and make wives turn common prostitutes. The father shall not know his own son, because they shall grow wanton like brute beasts. Then shall come the giant of wickedness, and terrify all with the sharpness of his eyes. Against him shall arise the dragon of Worcester, and shall endeavour to banish him. But in the engagement the dragon shall be worsted, and oppressed by the wickedness of the conqueror. For he shall mount upon the dragon, and putting off his garment shall sit upon him naked. The dragon shall bear him up on high, and beat his naked rider with his tail erected. Upon this [p.204] the giant rousing up his whole strength, shall break his jaws with his sword. At last the dragon shall fold itself up under its tail, and die of poison. After him shall succeed the boar of Totness, and oppress the people with grievous tyranny. Gloucester shall send forth a lion, and shall disturb him in his cruelty, in several battles. He shall trample him under his feet, and terrify him with open jaws. At last the lion shall quarrel with the kingdom, and get upon the backs of the nobility. A bull shall come into the quarrel, and strike the lion with his right foot. He shall drive him through all the inns in the kingdom, but shall break his horns against the walls of Oxford. The fox of Kaerdubalem shall take revenge on the lion, and destroy him entirely with her teeth. She shall be encompassed by the adder of Lincoln, who with a horrible hiss shall give notice of his presence to a multitude of dragons. Then shall the dragons encounter, and tear one another to pieces. The winged shall oppress that which wants wings, and fasten its claws into the poisonous cheeks. Others shall come into the quarrel, and kill one another. A fifth shall succeed those that are slain, and by various stratagems shall destroy the rest. He shall get upon the back of one with his sword, and sever his head from his body. Then throwing off his garment, he shall get upon another, and put his right and left hand upon his tail. Thus being naked shall he overcome him, whom when clothed he was not able to deal with. The rest he shall gall in their flight, and drive them round the kingdom. Upon this shall come a roaring lion dreadful for his monstrous cruelty. Fifteen parts shall he reduce to one, and shall alone possess the people. The giant of the snow-white colour shall shine, and cause the white people to flourish. Pleasures shall effeminate the princes, and they shall suddenly be changed into beasts. Among them shall arise a lion swelled with human gore. Under him shall a reaper be placed in the standing corn, who, while he is reaping, shall be oppressed by him. A charioteer of York shall appease them, and having banished his lord, shall mount upon the chariot which he shall drive. With his sword unsheathed shall he threaten the East, and fill the tracks of his wheels with blood. Afterwards he shall become a sea-fish, who, being roused up with the hissing [p.205] of a serpent, shall engender with him. From hence shall be produced three thundering bulls, who having eaten up their pastures shall be turned into trees. The first shall carry a whip of vipers, and turn his back upon the next. He shall endeavour to snatch away the whip, but shall be taken by the last. They shall turn away their faces from one another, till they have thrown away the poisoned cup. To him shall succeed a husbandman of Albania, at whose back shall be a serpent. He shall be employed in ploughing the ground, that the country may become white with corn. The serpent shall endeavour to diffuse his poison, in order to blast the harvest. A grievous mortality shall sweep away the people, and the walls of cities shall be made desolate. There shall be given for a remedy the city of Claudius, which shall interpose the nurse of the scourger. For she shall bear a dose of medicine, and in a short time the island shall be restored. Then shall two successively sway the sceptre, whom a horned dragon shall serve. One shall come in armour, and shall ride upon a flying serpent. He shall sit upon his back with his naked body, and cast his right hand upon his tail. With his cry shall the seas be moved, and he shall strike terror into the second. The second therefore shall enter into confederacy with the lion ; but a quarrel happening, they shall encounter one another. They shall distress one another, but the courage of the boast shall gain the advantage. Then shall come one with a drum, and appease the rage of the lion. Therefore shall the people of the kingdom be at peace, and provoke the lion to a dose of physic. In his established seat he shall adjust the weights, bur. snail stretch out his hands into Albania. For which reason the northern provinces shall be grieved, and open the gates of the temples. The sign-bearing wolf shall lead his troops, and surround Cornwall with his tail. He shall be opposed by a soldier in a chariot, who shall transform that people into a boar. The boar therefore shall ravage the provinces, but shall hide his head in the depth of Severn. A man shall embrace a lion in wine, and the dazzling brightness as gold shall blind the eyes of beholders. Silver shall whiten in the circumference. and torment several wine presses. Men shall be drunk with wine, and, regardless of heaven, shall be intent upon the [p.206] earth. From them shall the stars turn away their faces, and confound their usual course. Corn will wither at their malign aspects; and there shall fall no dew from heaven. The roots and branches will change their places, and the novelty of the thing shall pass for a miracle. The brightness of the sun shall fade at the amber of Mercury, and horror shall seize the beholders. Stilbon of Arcadia shall change his shield; the helmet of Mars shall call Venus. The helmet of Mars shall make a shadow; and the rage of Mercury pass his bounds. Iron Orion shall unsheath his sword: the marine Phoebus shall torment the clouds; Jupiter shall go out of his lawful paths; and Venus forsake her stated lines. The malignity of the star Saturn shall fall down in rain, and slay mankind with a crooked sickle. The twelve houses of the star shall lament the irregular excursions of their guests; and Gemini omit their usual embraces, and call the urn to the fountains. The scales of Libra shall hang obliquely, till Aries puts his crooked horns under them. The tail of Scorpio shall produce lightning, and Cancer quarrel with the Sun. Virgo shall mount upon the back of Sagittarius, and darken her virgin flowers. The chariot of the Moon shall disorder the zodiac, and the Pleiades break forth into weeping. No offices of Janus shall hereafter return, but his gate being shut shall lie hid in the chinks of Ariadne. The seas shall rise up in the twinkling of an eye, and the dust of the ancients shall be restored. The winds shall fight together with a dreadful blast, and their sound shall reach the stars.
Chap. I.Vortigern asks Merlin concerning his own death.
Merlin, by delivering these and many other prophecies, caused in all that were present an admiration at the ambiguity of his expressions. But Vortigern above all the rest both admired and applauded the wisdom, and prophetical spirit of [p.207] the young man: for that age had produced none that ever talked in such a manner before him. Being therefore curious to learn his own fate, he desired the young man to tell him what he knew concerning that particular. Merlin answered:"Fly the fire of the sons of Constantine, if you are able to do it: already are they fitting out their ships: already are they leaving the Armorican shore: already are they spreading out their sails to the wind. They will steer towards Britain: they will invade the Saxon nation: they will subdue that wicked people; but they will first burn you being shut up in a tower. To your own ruin did you prove a traitor to their father, and invite the Saxons into the island. You invited them for your safeguard; but they came for a punishment to you. Two deaths instantly threaten you; nor is it easy to determine, which you can best avoid. For on the one hand the Saxons shall lay waste your country, and endeavour to kill you: on the other shall arrive the two brothers, Aurelius Ambrosius and Uther Pendragon, whose business will be to revenge their father's murder upon you. Seek out some refuge if you can: to-morrow they will be on the shore of Totness. The faces of the Saxons shall look red with blood, Hengist shall be killed, and Aurelius Ambrosius shall be crowned. He shall bring peace to the nation; he shall restore the churches; but shall die of poison. His brother Uther Pendragon shall succeed him, whose days also shall be cut short by poison. There shall be present at the commission of this treason your own issue, whom the boar of Cornwall shall devour." Accordingly the next day early, arrived Aurelius Ambrosius after his brother, with ten thousand men.
Chap. II.Aurelius Ambrosius, being anointed king of Britain, burns Vortigern besieged in a tower.
As soon as the news of his coming was divulged, the Britons,
who had been dispersed by their great calamities, met together from all parts,
and gaining this new accession of strength from their countrymen, displayed
unusual vigour. Having assembled together the clergy, they anointed Aurelius
king, and paid him the customary homage. And when the people were urgent to fall
upon the Saxons, he dissuaded them from it, because his desire was to pursue
Vortigern first. For the treason committed against his father so very much
affected [p.208] him, that he thought nothing done
till that was first avenged. In pursuance therefore of this design, he marched
with his army into Cambria, to the town of Genoreu, whither Vortigern had fled
for refuge. That town was in the country of Hergin, upon the river Gania, in the
mountain called Cloarius. As soon as Ambrosius was arrived there, bearing in his
mind the murder of his father and brother, he spake thus to Eldol, duke of
"See, most noble duke, whether the walls of this city are able to protect Vortigern against my sheathing this sword in his bowels. He deserves to die, and you cannot, I suppose, be ignorant of his desert. Oh most villainous of men, whose crimes deserve inexpressible tortures! First he betrayed my father Constantine, who had delivered him and his country from the inroads of the Picts; afterwards my brother Constans whom he made king on purpose to destroy him. Again, when by his craft he had usurped the crown, he introduced pagans among the natives, in order to abuse those who continued stedfast in their loyalty to me: but by the good providence of God, he unwarily fell into the snare, which he had laid for my faithful subjects. For the Saxons, when they found him out in his wickedness, drove him from the kingdom; for which nobody ought to be concerned. But this I think matter of just grief, that this odious people, whom that detestable traitor invited over, has expelled the nobility, laid waste a fruitful country, destroyed the holy churches, and almost extinguished Christianity over the whole kingdom. Now, therefore, my countrymen, show yourselves men; first revenge yourselves upon him that was the occasion of all these disasters; then let us turn our arms against our enemies, and free our country from their brutish tyranny."
Immediately, therefore, they set their engines to work, and laboured to beat down the walls. But at last, when all other attempts failed, they had recourse to fire, which meeting with proper fuel, ceased not to rage, till it had burned down the tower and Vortigern in it.
Chap. III.The praise of Aurelius's valour. The levity of the Scots exposed. Forces raised against Hengist.
Hengist, with his Saxons, was struck with terror at this news, for he dreaded the valour of Aurelius. Such was the bravery and courage this prince was master of, that while he was in Gaul, there was none that durst encounter with him. For in all encounters he either dismounted his adversary, or broke his spear. Besides, he was magnificent in his presents, constant at his devotions, temperate in all respects, and above all things hated a lie. A brave soldier on foot, a better on horseback, and expert in the discipline of an army. Reports of these his noble accomplishments, while he yet continued in Armorican Britain, were daily brought over into the island. Therefore, the Saxons, for fear of him, retired beyond the Humber, and in those parts fortified the cities and towns; for that country always was a place of refuge to them; their safety lying in the neighbourhood of Scotland, which used to watch all opportunities of distressing the nation; for that country being in itself a frightful place to live in, and wholly uninhabited, had been a safe retreat for strangers. By its situation it lay open to the Picts, Scots, Dacians, Norwegians, and others, that came to plunder the island. Being, therefore, secure of a safe reception in this country, they fled towards it, that, if there should be occasion, they might retreat into it as into their own camp. This was good news to Aurelius, and made him conceive greater hopes of victory. So assembling his people quickly together, he augmented his army, and made an expeditious march towards the north. In his passage through the countries, he was grieved to see the desolation made in them, but especially that the churches were levelled with the ground; and he promised to rebuild them, if he gained the victory.
Chap. IV.Hengist marches with his army against Aurelius, into the field of Maisbeli.
But Hengist, upon his approach, took courage again, and chose out the bravest of his men, whom he exhorted to make a gallant defence, and not be daunted at Aurelius, who, he told them, had but few Armorican Britons with him, since their number did not exceed ten thousand. And as for the [p.210] native Britons, lie made no account of them, since they had been so often defeated by him. He therefore promised them the victory, and that they should come off safely, considering the superiority of their number, which amounted to two hundred thousand men in arms. After he had in this manner animated his men, he advanced with them towards Aurelius, into a field called Maisbeli, through which Aurelius was to pass. For his intention was to make a sudden assault by a surprise, and fall upon the Britons before they were prepared. But Aurelius perceived the design, and yet did not, on that account, delay going to the field, but rather pursued his march with more expedition. When he was come within sight of the enemy, he put his troops in order, commanding three thousand Armoricans to attend the cavalry, and drew out the rest together with the islanders into line of battle. The Dimetians he placed upon the hills, and the Venedotians in the adjacent woods. His reason for which was, that they might be there ready to fall upon the Saxons, in case they should flee in that direction.
Chap. V.A battle between Aurelius and Hengist.
In the meantime, Eldol, duke of Gloucester, went to the king, and said, "This one day should suffice for all the days of my life, if by good providence I could but get an opportunity to engage with Hengist; for one of us should die before we parted. I still retain deeply fixed in my memory the day appointed for our peaceably treating together, but which he villainously made use of to assassinate all that were present at the treaty, except myself only, who stood upon my defence with a stake which I accidentally found, until I made my escape. That very day proved fatal, through his treachery, to no less than four hundred and sixty barons and consuls, who all went unarmed. From that conspiracy God was pleased to deliver me, by throwing a stake in my way, wherewith I defended myself and escaped." Thus spoke Eldol. Then Aurelius exhorted his companions to place all their hope ill the Son of God, and to make a brave assault with one consent upon the enemy, in defence of their country. Nor was Hengist less busy on the other hand in forming his troops, and giving them directions how to believe themselves in the battle; and he walked himself through their several [p.211] ranks, the more to spirit them up. At last, both armies, being drawn out in order of battle, began the attack, which they maintained with great bravery, and no small loss of blood, both to the Britons and Saxons. Aurelius animated the Christians, Hengist the pagans; and all the time of the engagement, Eldol's chief endeavour was to encounter Hengist, but he had no opportunity for it. For Hengist, when he found that his own men were routed, and that the Christians, by the especial favour of God, had the advantage, fled to the town called Kaerconan, now Cunungeburg. Aurelius pursued him, and either killed or made slaves of all he found in the way. When Hengist saw that he was pursued by Aurelius, he would not enter the town, but assembled his troops, and prepared them to stand another engagement. For he knew the town would not hold out against Aurelius, and that his whole security now lay in his sword. At last Aurelius overtook him, and after marshalling his forces, began another most furious fight. And here the Saxons steadily maintained their ground, notwithstanding the numbers that fell. On both sides there was a great slaughter, the groans of the dying causing a greater rage in those that survived. In short, the Saxons would have gained the day, had not a detachment of horse from the Armorican Britons come in upon them. For Aurelius had appointed them the same station which they had in the former battle; so that, upon their advancing, the Saxons gave ground, and when once a little dispersed, were not able to rally again. The Britons, encouraged by this advantage, exerted themselves, and laboured with all their might to distress the enemy. All the time Aurelius was fully employed, not only in giving commands, but encouraging his men by his own example; for with his own hand he killed all that stood in his way, and pursued those that fled. Nor was Eldol less active in all parts of the field, running to and fro to assault his adversaries; but still his main endeavour was to find opportunity of encountering Hengist.
Chap. VI.Hengist, in a duel with Eldol, is taken by him. The Saxons are slain by the Britons without mercy.
As there were therefore several movements made by the parties engaged on each side, an opportunity occurred for their [p.212] meeting, and briskly engaging each other. In this encounter of the two greatest champions in the field, the fire sparkled with the clashing of their arms, and every stroke in a manner produced both thunder and lightning. For a long time was the victory in suspense, as it seemed sometimes to favour the one, sometimes the other. While they were thus hotly engaged, Gorlois, duke of Cornwall, came up to them with the party he commanded, and did great execution upon the enemies' troops. At the sight of him, Eldol, assured of victory, seized on the helmet of Hengist, and by main force dragged him in among the Britons, and then in transports of joy cried out with a loud voice, "God has fulfilled my desire! My brave soldiers, down, down, with your enemies the Ambrons.66 The victory is now in your hands: Hengist is defeated, and the day is your own." In the meantime the Britons failed not to perform every one his part against the pagans, upon whom they made many vigorous assaults; and though they were obliged sometimes to give ground, yet their courage did not fail them in making a good resistance; so that they gave the enemy no respite till they had vanquished them. The Saxons therefore fled whithersoever their consternation hurried them, some to the cities, some to the woods upon the hills, and others to their ships. But Octa, the son of Hengist, made his retreat with a great body of men to York: and Eosa, his kinsman, to the city of Alclud, where he had a very large army for his guard.
Chap. VII.Hengist is beheaded by Eldol.
AURELIUS, after this victory, took the city of Conan above- mentioned, and stayed there three days. During this time he gave orders for the burial of the slain, for curing the wounded, and for the ease and refreshment of his forces that were fatigued. Then he called a council of his principal officers, to deliberate what was to be done with Hengist. There was present at the assembly Eldad, bishop of Gloucester, and brother of Eldol, a prelate of very great wisdom and piety. As soon as he beheld Hengist standing in the king's presence, he demanded silence, and said, "Though all should be unanimous for setting him at liberty, yet would [p.213] cut him to pieces. The prophet Samuel is my warrant, who, when he had Agag, king of Amalek, in his power, hewed him in pieces, saying, As thy sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women. Do therefore the same to Hengist, who is a second Agag." Accordingly Eldol took his sword, and drew him out of the city, and then cut off his head. But Aurelius, who showed moderation in all his conduct, commanded him to be buried, and a heap of earth to be raised over his body, according to the custom of the pagans.
Chap. VIII.Octa, being besieged in York, surrenders himself to the mercy of Aurelius.
From hence Aurelius conducted his army to York, to besiege Octa, Hengist's son. When the city was invested, Octa was doubtful whether he should give him any opposition, and stand a siege against such a powerful army. After consultation upon it, he went out with his principal nobility that were present, carrying a chain in his hand, and sand upon his head, and presented himself to the king with this address: "My gods are vanquished, and I doubt not that the sovereign power is in your God, who has compelled so many noble persons to come before you in this suppliant manner. Be pleased therefore to accept of us, and of this chain. If you do not think us fit objects of your clemency, we here present ourselves ready to be fettered, and to undergo whatever punishment you shall adjudge us to." Aurelius was moved with pity at the spectacle, and demanded the advice of his council what should be done with them. After various proposals upon this subject, Eldad the bishop rose up, and delivered his opinion in these words: "The Gibeonites came voluntarily to the children of Israel to desire mercy, and they obtained it. And shall we Christians be worse than the Jews, in refusing them mercy? It is mercy which they beg, and let them have it. The island of Britain is large, and in many places uninhabited. Let us make a covenant with them, and suffer them at least to inhabit the desert places, that they may be our vassals for ever." The king acquiesced in Eldad's advice, and suffered them to partake of his clemency. After this Eosa and the rest that fled, being encouraged by Uctas success, came also, and were admitted to the same [p.214] favour. The king therefore granted them the country bordering upon Scotland, and made a firm covenant with them.
Chap. IX.Aurelius, having entirely routed the enemies, restores all things in Britain, especially ecclesiastical affairs, to their ancient state.
The enemies being now entirely reduced,67 the king summoned the consuls and princes of the kingdom together at York, where he gave orders for the restoration of the churches, which the Saxons had destroyed. He himself undertook the rebuilding of the metropolitan church of that city, as also the other cathedral churches in that province. After fifteen days, when he had settled workmen in several places, he went to London, which city had not escaped the fury of the enemy. He beheld with great sorrow the destruction made in it, and recalled the remainder of the citizens from all parts, and began the restoration of it. Here he settled the affairs of the whole kingdom, revived the laws, restored the right heirs to the possessions of their ancestors; and those estates, whereof the heirs had been lost in the late grievous calamity, he distributed among his fellow soldiers. In these important concerns, of restoring the nation to its ancient state, repairing the churches, re-establishing peace and law, and settling the administration of justice, was his time wholly employed. From hence he went to Winchester, to repair the ruins of it, as he did of other cities; and when the work was finished there, he went, at the instance of bishop Eldad, to the monastery near Kaercaradoc, now Salisbury, where the consuls and princes, whom the wicked Hengist had treacherously murdered, lay buried. At this place was a convent that maintained three hundred friars, situated on the mountain of Ambrius, who, as is reported, had been the founder of it. The sight of the place where the dead lay, made the king, who was of a compassionate temper, shed tears, and at last enter upon thoughts, what kind of monument to erect upon it. For he thought something ought to be done to perpetuate the [p.215] memory of that piece of ground, which was honoured with the bodies of so many noble patriots, that died for their country.
Chap. X.Aurelius is advised by Merlin to remove the Giants Dance from the mountain Killaraus.
For this purpose he summoned together several carpenters and masons, and commanded them to employ the utmost of their art, in contriving some new structure, for a lasting monument to those great men. But they, in diffidence of their own skill, refusing to undertake it, Tremounus, archbishop of the City of Legions, went to the king, and said, "If any one living is able to execute your commands, Merlin, the prophet of Vortigern, is the man. In my opinion there is not in all your kingdom a person of a brighter genius, either in predicting future events, or in mechanical contrivances. Order him to come to you, and exercise his skill in the work which you design." Whereupon Aurelius, after he had asked a great many questions concerning him, despatched several messengers into the country to find him out, and bring him to him. After passing through several provinces, they found him in the country of the Gewisseans, at the fountain of Galabes, which he frequently resorted to. As soon as they had delivered their message to him, they conducted him to the king, who received him with joy, and, being curious to hear some of his wonderful speeches, commanded him to prophesy. Merlin made answer: "Mysteries of this kind are not to be revealed but when there is the greatest necessity for it. If I should pretend to utter them for ostentation or diversion, the spirit that instructs me would be silent, and would leave me when I should have occasion for it." When he had made the same refusal to all the rest present, the king would not urge him any longer about his predictions, but spoke to him concerning the monument which he designed. "If you are desirous," said Merlin, " to honour the burying-place of these men with an ever-lasting monument, send for the Giant's Dance, which is in Killaraus, a mountain in Ireland. For there is a structure of stones there, which none of this age could raise, without a profound knowledge of the mechanical arts. They are [p.216] stones of a vast magnitude and wonderful quality; and if they can be placed here, as they are there, round this spot of ground, they will stand for ever."
Chap. XI.Uther Pendragon is appointed with Merlin to bring over the Giants Dance.
At these words of Merlin, Aurelius burst into laughter, and said, "How is it possible to remove such vast stones from so distant a country, as if Britain was not furnished with stones fit for the work?" Merlin replied, "I entreat your majesty to forbear vain laughter; for what I say is without vanity. They are mystical stones, and of a medicinal virtue. The giants of old brought them from the farthest coast of Africa, and placed them in Ireland, while they inhabited that country. Their design in this was to make baths in them, when they should be taken with any illness. For their method was to wash the stones, and put their sick into the water, which infallibly cured them. With the like success they cured wounds also, adding only the application of some herbs. There is not a stone there which has not some healing virtue." When the Britons heard this, they resolved to send for the stones, and to make war upon the people of Ireland if they should offer to detain them. And to accomplish this business, they made choice of Uther Pendragon, who was to be attended with fifteen thousand men. They chose also Merlin himself, by whose direction the whole affair was to be managed. A fleet being therefore got ready, they set sail, and with a fair wind arrived in Ireland.
Chap. XII.Gillomanius being routed by Uther, the Britons bring over the Giant's dance into Britain.
At that time Gillomanius, a youth of wonderful valour, reigned in Ireland; who, upon the news of the arrival of the Britons in his kingdom, levied a vast army, and marched out against them. And when he had learned the occasion of their coming, he smiled, and said to those about him, "No wonder a cowardly race of people were able to make so great a devastation in the island of Britain, when the Britons are such brutes and fools. Was ever the like folly [p.217] heard of? What are the stones of Ireland better than those of Britain, that our kingdom must be put to this disturbance for them? To arms, soldiers, and defend your country; while I have life they shall not take from us the least stone of the Giant's Dance." Uther, seeing them prepared for a battle, attacked them; nor was it long ere the Britons had the advantage, who, having dispersed and killed the Irish, forced Gillomanius to flee. After the victory they went to the mountain Killaraus, and arrived at the structure of stones, the sight of which filled them both with joy and admiration. And while they were all standing round them, Merlin came up to them and said, "Now try your forces, young men, and see whether strength or art can do the most towards taking down these stones." At this word they all set to their engines with one accord, and attempted the removing of the Giant's Dance. Some prepared cables, others small ropes, others ladders for the work, but all to no purpose. Merlin laughed at their vain efforts, and then began his own contrivances. When he had placed in order the engines that were necessary, he took down the stones with an incredible facility, and gave directions for carrying them to the ships, and placing them therein. This done, they with joy set sail again, to return to Britain; where they arrived with a fair gale, and repaired to the burying-place with the stones. When Aurelius had notice of it, he sent messengers to all parts of Britain, to summon the clergy and people together to the mount of Ambrius, in order to celebrate with joy and honour the erection of the monument. Upon this summons appeared the bishops, abbats, and people of all other orders and qualities; and upon the day and place appointed for their general meeting, Aurelius placed the crown upon his head, and with royal pomp celebrated the feast of Pentecost, the solemnity whereof he continued the three following days. In the meantime, all places of honour that were vacant, he bestowed upon his domestics as rewards for their good services. At that time the two metropolitan sees of York and Legions were vacant; and with the general consent of the people, whom he was willing to please in this choice, he granted York to Sanxo, a man of great quality, and much celebrated for his piety; and the City of Legions to Dubricius, whom divine providence had pointed out as a most use- [p.218] ful pastor in that place. As soon as he had settled these and other affairs in the kingdom, he ordered Merlin to set up the stones brought over from Ireland, about the sepulchre; which he accordingly did, and placed them in the same manner as they had been in the mountain Killaraus, and thereby gave a manifest proof of the prevalence of art above strength.68
Chap. XIII.Pascentius brings in the Saxons against the Britons.
At the same time Pascentius, the son of Vortigern, who had fled over into Germany, was levying all the forces of that kingdom against Aurelius Ambrosius, with a design to revenge his father's death; and promised his men an immense treasure of gold and silver, if with their assistance he could succeed in reducing Britain under his power. When he had at last corrupted all the youth of the country with his large promises, he prepared a vast fleet, and arrived in the northern parts of the island, upon which he began to make great devastations. The king, on the other hand, hearing this news, assembled his army, and marching against them challenged the enraged enemy to a battle; the challenge was accepted, and by the blessing of God the enemy was defeated and put to flight.
Chap. XIV.Pascentius, assisted by the king of Ireland, again invades Britain. Aurelius dies by the treachery of Eopa, a Saxon.
Pascentius, after this flight, durst not return to Germany, but shifting his sails, went over to Gillomanius, in Ireland, by whom he was well received. And when he had given him an account of his misfortune, Gillomanius, in pity to him, promised him his assistance, and at the same time vented his complaint of the injuries done him by Uther, the brother of Aurelius, when he came for the Giant's Dance. At last, entering into confederacy together, they made ready their fleet, in which they embarked, and arrived at the city of Menevia. This news caused Uther Pendragon to levy his [p.219] forces, and march into Cambria to fight them. For his brother Aurelius then lay sick at Winchester, and was not able to go himself. When Pascentius, Gillomanius, and the Saxons heard of it, they highly rejoiced, flattering themselves, that his sickness would facilitate to them the conquest of Britain. While this occurrence was the subject of the people's discourse, one of the Saxons, named Eopa, came to Pascentius, and said, "What reward will you give the man that shall kill Aurelius Ambrosius for you?" To whom Pascentius answered, "O that I could find a man of such resolution! I would give him a thousand pounds of silver, and my friendship for life; and if by good fortune I can but gain the crown, I promise upon oath to make him a centurion." To this Eopa replied, "I have learned the British language, and know the manners of the people, and have skill in physic. If, therefore, you will perform this promise, I will pretend to be a Christian and a Briton, and when, as a physician, I shall be admitted into the king's presence, I will make him a potion that shall despatch him. And to gain the readier access to him, I will put on the appearance of a devout and learned monk." Upon this offer, Pascentius entered into covenant with him, and confirmed what he had promised with an oath. Eopa, therefore, shaved his beard and head, and in the habit of a monk hastened to Winchester, loaded with vessels full of medical preparations. As soon as he arrived there, he offered his service to those that attended about the king, and was graciously received by them; for to them nobody was now more acceptable than a physician. Being introduced into the king's presence, he promised to restore him to his health, if he would but take his potions. Upon which he had his orders forthwith to prepare one of them, into which when he had secretly conveyed a poisonous mixture, he gave it the king. As soon as Aurelius had drunk it up, the wicked Ambron ordered him presently to cover himself close up, and fall asleep, that the detestable potion might the better operate. The king readily obeyed his prescriptions, and in hopes of his speedy recovery fell asleep. But the poison quickly diffused itself through all the pores and veins of his body, so that the sleep ended in death. In the meantime the wicked traitor, having cunningly withdrawn himself first from one and then from another, was no [p.220] longer to be found in the court. During these transactions at Winchester, there appeared a star of wonderful magnitude and brightness, darting forth a ray, at the end of which was a globe of fire in form of a dragon, out of whose mouth issued forth two rays; one of which seemed to stretch out itself beyond the extent of Gaul, the other towards the Irish Sea, and ended in seven lesser rays.
Chap. XV.A comet presignifies the reign of Uther.
At the appearance of this star, a general fear and amazement seized the people; and even Uther, the king's brother, who was then upon his march with his army into Cambria, being not a little terrified at it, was very curious to know of the learned men, what it portended. Among others, he ordered Merlin to be called, who also attended in this expedition to give his advice in the management of the war; and who, being now presented before him, was commanded to discover to him the signification of the star. At this he burst out into tears, and with a loud voice cried out, "O irreparable loss! O distressed people of Britain! Alas! the illustrious prince is departed! The renowned king of the Britons, Aurelius Ambrosius, is dead! whose death will prove fatal to us all, unless God be our helper. Make haste, therefore, most noble Uther, make haste to engage the enemy: the victory will be yours, and you shall be king of all Britain. For the star, and the fiery dragon under it, signifies yourself, and the ray extending towards the Gallic coast, portends that you shall have a most potent son, to whose power all those kingdoms shall be subject over which the ray reaches. But the other ray signifies a daughter, whose sons and grandsons shall successively enjoy the kingdom of Britain."
Chap. XVI.Pascentius and Gillomanms are killed in battle.
Uther, though he doubted of the truth of what Merlin had declared, pursued his march against the enemy, for he was now come within half a day's march of Menevia. When Gillomanius, Pascentius, and the Saxons were informed of his approach, they went out to give him battle. As soon as they were come within sight of each other, both armies began to form themselves into several bodies, and then advanced to [p.221] a close attack, in which both sides suffered a loss of men, as usually happens in such engagements. At last, towards the close of the day, the advantage was on Uther's side, and the death of Gillomanius and Pascentius made a way for complete victory. So that the barbarians, being put to flight, hastened to their ships, but were slain by their pursuers. Thus, by the favour of Christ, the general had triumphant success, and then with all possible expedition, after so great a fatigue, returned back to Winchester: for he had now been informed, by messengers that arrived, of the king's sad fate, and of his burial by the bishops of the country, near the convent of Ambrius, within the Giant's Dance, which in his lifetime he had commanded to be made. For upon hearing the news of his death, the bishops, abbats, and all the clergy of that province, had met together at Winchester, to solemnize his funeral. And because in his lifetime he had given orders for his being buried in the sepulchre which he had prepared, they therefore carried his corpse thither, and performed his exsequies with royal magnificence.
Chap. XVII.Uther Pendragon is made king of Britain.
But Uther his brother, having assembled the clergy of the kingdom, took the crown, and by universal consent was advanced to the kingdom. And remembering the explanation which Merlin had made of the star above-mentioned, he commanded two dragons to be made of gold, in likeness of the dragon which he had seen at the ray of the star. As soon as they were finished, which was done with wonderful nicety of workmanship, he made a present of one to the cathedral church of Winchester, but reserved the other for himself, to be carried along with him to his wars. From this time, therefore, he was called Uther Pendragon, which in the British tongue signifies the dragon's head: the occasion of this appellation being Merlin's predicting, from the appearance of a dragon, that he should be king.
Chap. XVIII.Octa and Eosa are taken in battle.
In the meantime Octa the son of Hengist, and his kinsman Eosa, seeing they were no longer bound by the treaty which they had made with Aurelius Ambrosius, began to raise dis- [p.222] turbances against the king, and infest his countries. For they were now joining with the Saxons whom Pascentius had brought over, and sending messengers into Germany for the rest. Being therefore attended with a vast army, he invaded the northern provinces, and in an outrageous manner destroyed all the cities and fortified places, from Albania to York. At last, as he was beginning the siege of that city, Uther Pendragon came upon him with the whole power of the kingdom, and gave him battle. The Saxons behaved with great gallantry, and, having sustained the assaults of the Britons, forced them to fly; and upon this advantage pursued them with slaughter to the mountain Damen, which was as long as they could do it with day-light. The mountain was high, and had a hazel-wood upon the top of it, and about the middle broken and cavernous rocks, which were a harbour to wild beasts. The Britons made up to it, and stayed there all night among the rocks and hazel-bushes. But as it began to draw towards day, Uther commanded the consuls and princes to be called together, that he might consult with them in what manner to assault the enemy. Whereupon they forthwith appeared before the king, who commanded them to give their advice; and Gorlois, duke of Cornwall, had orders to deliver his opinion first, out of regard to his years and great experience. "There is no occasion," said he, "for ceremonies or speeches, while we see that it is still night: but there is for boldness and courage, if you desire any longer enjoyment of your life and liberty. The pagans are very numerous, and eager to fight, and we much inferior to them in number; so that if we stay till daybreak, we cannot, in my opinion, attack them to advantage. Come on, therefore, while we have the favour of the night, let us go down in a close body, and surprise them in their camp with a sudden assault. There can be no doubt of success, if with one consent we fall upon them boldly, while they think themselves secure, and have no expectation of our coming in such a manner." The king and all that were present, were pleased with his advice, and pursued it. For as soon as they were armed and placed in their ranks, they made towards the enemies' camp, designing a general assault. But upon approaching to it, they were discovered by the watch, who with sound of trumpet awaked their companions.
The enemies being hereupon put into confusion and astonishment, part of them hastened towards the sea, and part ran up and down whithersoever their fear or precipitation drove them. The Britons, finding their coming discovered, hastened their march, and keeping still close together in their ranks, assailed the camp; into which when they had found an entrance, they ran with their drawn swords upon the enemy; who in this sudden surprise made but a faint defence against their vigorous and regular attack; and pursuing this blow with great eagerness they destroyed some thousands of the pagans, took Octa and Eosa prisoners, and entirely dispersed the Saxons.
Chap. XIX.Uther, falling in love with Igerna, enjoys her by the assistance of Merlin's magical operations.
After this victory Uther repaired to the city of Alclud, where he settled the affairs of that province, and restored peace everywhere. He also made a progress round all the countries of the Scots, and tamed the fierceness of that rebellious people, by such a strict administration of justice, as none of his predecessors had exercised before: so that in his time offenders were everywhere under great terror, since they were sure of being punished without mercy. At last, when he had established peace in the northern provinces, he went to London, and commanded Octa and Eosa to be kept in prison there. The Easter following he ordered all the nobility of the kingdom to meet at that city, in order to celebrate that great festival; in honour of which he designed to wear his crown. The summons was everywhere obeyed, and there was a great concourse from all cities to celebrate the day. So the king observed the festival with great solemnity, as he had designed, and very joyfully entertained his nobility, of whom there was a very great muster, with their wives and daughters, suitably to the magnificence of the banquet prepared for them. And having been received with joy by the king, they also expressed the same in their deportment before him. Among the rest was present Gorlois, duke of Cornwall, with his wife Igerna, the greatest beauty in all Britain. No sooner had the king cast his eyes upon her among the rest of the ladies, than he fell passionately in love with her, and little regarding the rest, [p.224] made her the subject of all his thoughts. She was the only lady that he continually served with fresh dishes, and to whom he sent golden cups by his confidants; on her he bestowed all his smiles, and to her addressed all his discourse. The husband, discovering this, fell into a great rage, and retired from the court without taking leave: nor was there any body that could stop him, while he was under fear of losing the chief object of his delight. Uther, therefore, in great wrath commanded him to return back to court, to make him satisfaction for this affront. But Gorlois refused to obey; upon which the king was highly incensed, and swore he would destroy his country, if he did not speedily compound for his offence. Accordingly, without delay, while their anger was hot against each other, the king got together a great army, and marched into Cornwall, the cities and towns whereof he set on fire. But Gorlois durst not engage with him, on account of the inferiority of his numbers; and thought it a wiser course to fortify his towns, till he could get succour from Ireland. And as he was under more concern for his wife than himself, he put her into the town of Tintagel,69 upon the sea-shore, which he looked upon as a place of great safety. But he himself entered the castle of Dimilioc, to prevent their being both at once involved in the same danger, if any should happen. The king, informed of this, went to the town where Gorlois was, which he besieged, and shut up all the avenues to it. A whole week was now past, when, retaining in mind his love to Igerna, he said to one of his confidants, named Ulfin de Ricaradoch: "My passion for Igerna is such, that I can neither have ease of mind, nor health of body, till I obtain her: and if you cannot assist me with your advice how to accomplish my desire, the inward torments I endure will kill me.""Who can advise you in this matter," said Ulfin, "when no force will enable us to have access to her in the town of Tintagel? For it is situated upon the sea, and on every side surrounded by it; and there is but one entrance into it, and that through a straight rock, which three men shall be able to defend against the whole power of the kingdom. Notwithstanding, if the prophet Merlin would in [p.225] earnest set about this attempt, I am of opinion, you might with his advice obtain your wishes." The king readily believed what he was so well inclined to, and ordered Merlin, who was also come to the siege, to be called. Merhn, therefore, being introduced into the king's presence, was commanded to give his advice, how the king might accomplish his desire with respect to Igerna. And he, finding the great anguish of the king, was moved by such excessive love, and said, "To accomplish your desire, you must make use of such arts as have not been heard of in your time. I know how, by the force of my medicines, to give you the exact likeness of Gorlois, so that in all respects you shall seem to be no other than himself. If you will therefore obey my prescriptions, I will metamorphose you into the true semblance of Gorlois and Ultin into Jordan of Tintagel, his familiar friend; and I myself, being transformed into another shape, will make the third in the adventure; and in this disguise you may go safely to the town where Igerna is, and have admittance to her." The king complied with the proposal, and acted with great caution in this affair; and when he had committed the care of the siege to his intimate friends, underwent the medical applications of Merlin, by whom he was transformed into the likeness of Gorlois; as was Ulfin also into Jordan, and Merlin himself into Bricel; so that nobody could see any remains now of their former likeness. They then set forward on their way to Tintagel, at which they arrived in the evening twilight, and forthwith signified to the porter, that the consul was come; upon which the gates were opened, and the men let in. For what room could there be for suspicion, when Gorlois himself seemed to be there present? The king therefore stayed that night with Igerna, and had the full enjoyment of her, for she was deceived with the false disguise which he had put on, and the artful and amorous discourses wherewith he entertained her. He told her he had left his own place besieged, purely to provide for the safety of her dear self, and the town she was in; so that believing all that he said, she refused him nothing which he desired. The same night therefore she conceived of the most renowned Arthur, whose heroic and wonderful actions have justly rendered his name famous to posterity.
Chap. XX.Gorlois being killed, Uther marries Igema.
In the meantime, as soon as the king's absence was discovered at the siege, his army unadvisedly made an assault upon the walls, and provoked the besieged count to a battle; who himself also, acting as inconsiderately as they, sallied forth with his men, thinking with such a small handful to oppose a powerful army; but happened to be killed in the very first brunt of the fight, and had all his men routed. The town also was taken; but all the riches of it were not shared equally among the besiegers, but every one greedily took what he could get, according as fortune or his own strength favoured him. After this bold attempt, came messengers to Igerna, with the news both of the duke's death, and of the event of the siege. But when they saw the king in the likeness of the consul, sitting close by her, they were struck with shame and astonishment at his safe arrival there, whom they had left dead at the siege; for they were wholly ignorant of the miracles which Merlin had wrought with his medicines. The king therefore smiled at the news, and embracing the countess, said to her: "Your own eyes may convince you that I am not dead, but alive. But notwithstanding, the destruction of the town, and the slaughter of my men, is what very much grieves me; so that there is reason to fear the king's coming upon us, and taking us in this place. To prevent which, I will go out to meet him, and make my peace with him, for fear of a worse disaster." Accordingly, as soon as he was out of the town, he went to his army, and having put off the disguise of Gorlois, was now Uther Pendragon again. When he had a full relation made to him how matters had succeeded, he was sorry for the death of Gorlois, but rejoiced that Igerna was now at liberty to marry again. Then he returned to the town of Tintagel, which he took, and in it, what he impatiently wished for, Igerna herself After this they continued to live together with much affection for each other, and had a son and daughter, whose names were Arthur and Anne.
Chap. XXI.Ocla and Eosa renew the war. Lot, a consul, marries the king's daughter.
In process of time the king was taken ill of a lingering distemper; and meanwhile the keepers of the prison, [p.227] wherein Octa and Eosa (as we related before) led a weary life, had fled over with them into Germany, and occasioned great fear over the kingdom. For there was a report of their great levies in Germany, and the vast fleet which they had prepared for their return to destroy the island; which the event verified. For they returned in a great fleet, and with a prodigious number of men, and invaded the parts of Albania, where they destroyed both cities and inhabitants with fire and sword. Wherefore, in order to repulse the enemies, the command of the British army was committed to Lot of Londonesia, who was a consul, and a most valiant knight, and grown up to maturity both of years and wisdom. Out of respect to his eminent merits, the king had given him his daughter Anne, and entrusted him with the care of the kingdom, during his illness. In his expedition against the enemies he had various success, being often repulsed by them, and forced to retreat to the cities; but he oftener routed and dispersed them, and compelled them to flee sometimes into the woods, sometimes to their ships. So that in a war attended with so many turns of fortune, it was hard to know which side had the better. The greatest injury to the Britons was their own pride, in disdaining to obey the consul's commands; for which reason all their efforts against the enemy were less vigorous and successful.
Chap. XXII.Uther, being ill, is carried in a horse-litter against the enemy.
The island being by this conduct now almost laid waste, the king, having information of the matter, fell into a greater rage than his weakness could bear, and commanded all his nobility to come before him, that he might reprove them severely for their pride and cowardice. And as soon as they were all entered into his presence, he sharply rebuked them in menacing language, and swore he himself would lead them against the enemy. For this purpose he ordered a horse-litter to be made, in which he designed to be carried, for his infirmity would not suffer him to use any other sort of vehicle; and he charged them to be all ready to march against the enemy on the first opportunity. So, without [p.228] delay, the horse-litter and all his attendants were got ready, and the day arrived which had been appointed for their march.
Chap. XXIII.Octa and Eosa, with a great number of their men, are killed.
The king, therefore, being put into his vehicle, they marched directly to Verulam, where the Saxons were grievously oppressing the people. When Octa and Eosa had intelligence that the Britons were come, and that the king was brought in a horse-litter, they disdained to fight with him, saying, it would be a shame for such brave men to fight with one that was half dead. For which reason they retired into the city, and, as it were in contempt of any danger from the enemy, left their gates wide open. But Uther, upon information of this, instantly commanded his men to lay siege to the city, and assault the walls on all sides; which orders they strictly executed; and were just entering the breaches which they had made in the walls, and ready to begin a general assault, when the Saxons, seeing the advantages which the Britons had gained, and being forced to abate somewhat of their haughty pride, condescended so far as to put themselves into a posture of defence. They therefore mounted the walls, from whence they poured down showers of arrows, and repulsed the Britons. On both sides the contest continued till night released them from the fatigue of their arms, which was what many of the Britons desired, though the greater part of them were for having the matter quickly decided with the enemy. The Saxons, on the other hand, finding how prejudicial their own pride had been to them, and that the advantage was on the side of the Britons, resolved to make a sally at break of day, and try their fortune with the enemy in the open field; which accordingly was done. For no sooner was it daylight, than they marched out with this design, all in their proper ranks. The Britons, seeing them, divided their men into several bodies, and advancing towards them, began the attack first, their part being to assault, while the others were only upon the defensive. However, much blood was shed on both sides, and the greatest part of the day spent in the fight, when at last, Octa and Eosa being killed, the Saxons turned their backs, and left the Britons a [p.229] complete victory. The king at this was in such an ecstasy of joy, that whereas before he could hardly raise up himself without the help of others, he now without any difficulty sat upright in his horse-litter of himself, as if he was on a sudden restored to health; and said with a laughing and merry countenance, "These Ambrons called me the half-dead king, because my sickness obliged me to lie on a horse-litter; and indeed so I was. Yet victory to me half dead, is better than to be safe and sound and vanquished. For to die with honour, is preferable to living with disgrace."
Chap. XXIV.Uther, upon drinking spring water that was treacherously poisoned by the Saxons, dies.
The Saxons, notwithstanding this defeat, persisted still in their malice, and entering the northern provinces, without respite infested the people there. Uther's purpose was to have pursued them; but his princes dissuaded him from it, because his illness had increased since the victory. This gave new courage to the enemy, who left nothing unattempted to make conquest of the kingdom. And now they have recourse to their former treacherous practices, and contrive how to compass the king's death by secret villainy. And because they could have no access to him otherwise, they resolved to take him off by poison; in which they succeeded. For while he was lying ill at Verulam, they sent away some spies in a poor habit, to learn the state of the court; and when they had thoroughly informed themselves of the posture of affairs, they found out an expedient by which they might best accomplish their villainy. For there was near the court a spring of very clear water, which the king used to drink of, when his distemper had made all other liquors nauseous to him. This the detestable conspirators made use of to destroy him, by so poisoning the whole mass of water which sprang up, that the next time the king drank of it, he was seized with sudden death, as were also a hundred other persons after him, till the villainy was discovered, and a heap of earth thrown over the well. As soon as the king's death was divulged, the bishops and clergy of the kingdom assembled, and carried his body to the convent of Ambrius, where they buried it with regal solemnity, close by Aurelius Ambrosius, within the Giant's Dance.
Chap. I.Arthur succeeds Uther his father in the kingdom of Britain, and hedeges Colgrin.
Uther Pendragon being dead, the nobility from several provinces assembled together at Silchester, and proposed to Dubricius, archbishop of Legions, that he should consecrate Arthur, Uther's son, to be their king. For they were now in great straits, because, upon hearing of the king's death, the Saxons had invited over their countrymen from Germany, and, under the command of Colgrin, were attempting to exterminate the whole British race. They had also entirely subdued all that part of the island which extends from the Humber to the sea of Caithness. Dubricius, therefore, grieving for the calamities of his country, in conjunction with the other bishops, set the crown upon Arthur's head. Arthur was then fifteen years old, but a youth of such unparalleled courage and generosity, joined with that sweetness of temper and innate goodness, as gained him universal love. When his coronation was over, he, according to usual custom, showed his bounty and munificence to the people. And such a number of soldiers flocked to him upon it, that his treasury was not able to answer that vast expense. But such a spirit of generosity, joined with valour, can never long want means to support itself. Arthur, therefore, the better to keep up his munificence, resolved to make use of his courage, and to fall upon the Saxons, that he might enrich his followers with their wealth. To this he was also moved by the justice of the cause, since the entire monarchy of Britain belonged to him by hereditary right. Hereupon assembling the youth under his command, he marched to York, of which, when Colgrin had intelligence, he met him with a very great army, composed of Saxons, Scots, and Picts, by the river Duglas; where a battle happened, with the loss of the greater part of both armies. Notwithstanding, the victory fell to Arthur, who pursued Colgrin to York, and there besieged him. Baldulph, upon the news of his brother's flight, went towards the siege with a body of six thousand men, to his relief; for at the time of the battle he was upon [p.231] the sea-coast, waiting the arrival of duke Cheklric with succours from Germany. And being now no more than ten miles distant from the city, his purpose was to make a speedy march in the night-time, and fall upon the enemy by wav of surprise. But Arthur, having intelligence of his design, sent a detachment of six hundred horse, and three thousand foot, under the command of Cador, duke of Cornwall, to meet him the same night. Cador, therefore, falling into the same road along which the enemy was passing, made a sudden assault upon them, and entirely defeated the Saxons, and put them to flight. Baldulph was excessively grieved at this disappointment in the relief which he intended for his brother, and began to think of some other stratagem to gain access to him; in which if he could but succeed, he thought they might concert measures together for their safety. And since he had no other way for it, he shaved his head and beard, and put on the habit of a jester with a harp, and in this disguise walked up and down in the camp, playing upon his instrument as if he had been a harper. He thus passed unsuspected, and by a little and little went up to the walls of the city, where he was at last discovered by the besieged, who thereupon drew him up with cords, and conducted him to his brother. At this unexpected, though much desired meeting, they spent some time in joyfully embracing each other, and then began to consider various stratagems for their delivery. At last, just as they were considering their case desperate, the ambassadors returned from Germany, and brought with them to Albania a fleet of six hundred sail, laden with brave soldiers, under the command of Cheklric. Upon this news, Arthur was dissuaded by his council from continuing: the siege any longer for fear of hazarding a battle with so powerful and numerous an army.
Chap. II.Hoel sends fifteen thousand men to Arthur's assistance.
Arthur complied with their advice, and made his retreat to London, where he called an assembly of all the clergy and nobility of the kingdom, to ask their advice, what course to take against the formidable power of the pagans. After some deliberation, it was agreed that ambassadors should be despatched into Armorica, to king Hoel, to represent to him [p.232] the calamitous state of Britain. Hoel was the son of Arthur's sister by Dubricius, king of the Armorican Britons; so that, upon advice of the disturbances his uncle was threatened with, lie ordered his fleet to be got ready, and, having assembled fifteen thousand men, he arrived with the first fair wind at Hamo's Port,70 and was received with all suitable honour by Arthur, and most affectionately embraced by him.
Chap. III.Arthur makes the Saxons his tributaries.
After a few days they went to relieve the city Kaerliudcoit, that was besieged by the pagans; which being situated upon a mountain, between two rivers in the province of Lindisia, is called by another name Lindocolinum.71 As soon as they arrived there with all their forces, they fought with the Saxons, and made a grievous slaughter of them, to the number of six thousand; part of whom were drowned in the rivers, part fell by the hands of the Britons. The rest in a great consternation quitted the siege and fled, but were closely pursued by Arthur, till they came to the wood of Celidon, where they endeavoured to form themselves into a body again, and make a stand. And here they again joined battle with the Britons, and made a brave defence, whilst the trees that were in the place secured them against the enemies' arrows. Arthur, seeing this, commanded the trees that were in that part of the wood to be cut down, and the trunks to be placed quite round them, so as to hinder their getting out; resolving to keep them pent up here till he could reduce them by famine. He then commanded his troops to besiege the wood, and continued three days in that place. The Saxons, having now no provisions to sustain them, and being just ready to starve with hunger, begged for leave to go out; in consideration whereof they offered to leave all their gold and silver behind them, and return back to Germany with nothing but their empty ships. They promised also that they would pay him tribute from Germany, and leave hostages with him. Arthur, after consultation, about it, granted their petition; allowing them only leave to depart, and retaining all their treasures, as also hostages for [p.233] payment of the tribute. But as they were under sail on their return home, they repented of their bargain, and tacked about again towards Britain, and went on shore at Totness. No sooner were they landed, than they made an utter devastation of the country as far as the Severn sea, and put all the peasants to the sword. From thence they pursued their furious march to the town of Bath, and laid siege to it. When the king had intelligence of it, he was beyond measure surprised at their proceedings, and immediately gave orders for the execution of the hostages. And desisting from an attempt which he had entered upon to reduce the Scots and Picts, he marched with the utmost expedition to raise the siege; but laboured under very great difficulties, because he had left his nephew Hoel sick at Alclud. At length, having entered the province of Somerset, and beheld how the siege was carried on, he addressed himself to his followers in these words: "Since these impious and detestable Saxons have disdained to keep faith with me, I, to keep faith with God, will endeavour to revenge the blood of my countrymen this day upon them. To arms, soldiers, to arms, and courageously fall upon the perfidious wretches, over whom we shall, with Christ assisting us, undoubtedly obtain the victory."
Chap. IV.Dubricius's speech against the treacherous
Saxons. Arthur with his own hand kills four hundred and seventy Saxons in one
Colgrin and Baldulph are killed in the same.
When he had done speaking, St. Dubricius, archbishop of Legions, going to the top of a hill, cried out with a loud voice, "You that have the honour to profess the Christian faith, keep fixed in your minds the love which you owe to your country and fellow subjects, whose sufferings by the treachery of the pagans will be an everlasting reproach to you, if you do not courageously defend them. It is your country which you fight for, and for which you should, when required, voluntarily suffer death; for that itself is victory and the cure of the soul. For he that shall die for his brethren, offers himself a living sacrifice to God, and has Christ for his example, who condescended to lay down his life for his brethren. It therefore any of you shall be killed to this war, that death itself, which is suffered in so glorious a [p.234] cause, shall be to him for penance and absolution of all his sins." At these words, all of them, encouraged with the benediction of the holy prelate, instantly armed themselves, and prepared to obey his orders. Also Arthur himself, having put on a coat of mail suitable to the grandeur of so powerful a king, placed a golden helmet upon his head, on which was engraven the figure of a dragon; and on his shoulders his shield called Priwen; upon which the picture of the blessed Mary, mother of God, was painted, in order to put him frequently in mind of her. Then girding on his Caliburn, which was an excellent sword made in the isle of Avallon, he graced his right hand with his lance, named Ron, which was hard, broad, and fit for slaughter. After this, having placed his men in order, he boldly attacked the Saxons, who were drawn out in the shape of a wedge, as their manner was. And they, notwithstanding that the Britons fought with great eagerness, made a noble defence all that day; but at length, towards sunsetting, climbed up the next mountain, which served them for a camp: for they desired no larger extent of ground, since they confided very much in their numbers. The next morning Arthur, with his army, went up the mountain, but lost many of his men in the ascent, by the advantage which the Saxons had in their station on the top, from whence they could pour down upon him with much greater speed, than he was able to advance against them. Notwithstanding, after a very hard struggle, the Britons gained the summit of the hill, and quickly came to a close engagement with the enemy, who again gave them a warm reception, and made a vigorous defence. In this manner was a great part of that day also spent; whereupon Arthur, provoked to see the little advantage he had yet gained, and that victory still continued in suspense, drew out his Caliburn, and, calling upon the name of the blessed Virgin, rushed forward with great fury into the thickest of the enemy's ranks; of whom (such was the merit of his prayers) not one escaped alive that felt the fury of his sword; neither did he give over the fury of his assault until he had, with his Caliburn alone, killed four hundred and seventy men. The Britons, seeing this, followed their leader in great multitudes, and made slaughter on all sides; so that Colgrin, and Baldulph his brother, and [p.235] many thousands more, fell before them. But Cheldric, in this imminent danger of his men, betook himself to flight.
Chap. V.The Saxons, after their leader Cheldric was killed, are all compelled by Cador to surrender.
The victory being thus gained, the king commanded Cador, duke of Cornwall, to pursue them, while he himself should hasten his march into Albania: from whence he had advice that the Scots and Picts were besieging Alclud, in which, as we said before, Hoel lay sick. Therefore he hastened to his assistance, for fear he might fall into the hands of the barbarians. In the meantime the duke of Cornwall, who had the command of ten thousand men, would not as yet pursue the Saxons in their flight, but speedily made himself master of their ships, to hinder their getting on board, and manned them with his best soldiers, who were to beat back the pagans in case they should flee thither: after this he hastily pursued the enemy, according to Arthur's command, and allowed no quarter to those he could overtake. So that they whose behaviour before was so cruel and insolent, now with timorous hearts fled for shelter, sometimes to the coverts of the woods, sometimes to mountains and caves, to prolong a wretched life. At last, when none of these places could afford them a safe retreat, they entered the Isle of Thanet with their broken forces; but neither did they there get free from the duke of Cornwall's pursuit, for he still continued slaughtering them, and gave them no respite till he had killed Cheldric, and taken hostages for the surrender of the rest.
Chap. VI.Arthur grants a pardon to the Scots and Picts, besieged at the Lake Lumond.
Having therefore settled peace here, he directed his march to Alclud, which Arthur had relieved from the oppression of barbarians, and from thence conducted his army to Mureif, where the Scots and Picts were besieged; after three several battles with the king and his nephew, they had fled as far as this province, and entering upon the lake Lumond, sought for refuge in the islands that are upon it. This lake contains sixty islands, and receives sixty rivers into it, which [p.236] empty themselves into the sea by no more than one mouth. There is also an equal number of rocks in these islands, as also of eagles' nests in those rocks, which flocked together there every year, and, by the loud and general noise which they now made, foreboded some remarkable event that should happen to the kingdom. To these islands, therefore, had the enemy fled, thinking the lake would serve them instead of a fortification; but it proved of little advantage to them. For Arthur, having got together a fleet, sailed round the rivers, and besieged the enemy fifteen days together, by which they were so straitened with hunger, that they died by thousands. While he was harassing them in this manner Guillamurius, king of Ireland, came up in a fleet with a very great army of barbarians, in order to relieve the besieged. This obliged Arthur to raise the siege, and turn his arms against the Irish, whom he slew without mercy, and compelled the rest to return back to their country. After this victory, he proceeded in his first attempt, which was to extirpate the whole race of the Scots and Picts, and treated them with an unparalleled severity. And as he allowed quarter to none, the bishops of that miserable country, with all the inferior clergy, met together, and bearing the reliques of the saints and other consecrated things of the church before them, barefooted, came to implore the king's mercy for their people. As soon as they were admitted into his presence, they fell down upon their knees, and humbly besought him to have pity on their distressed country, since the sufferings which he had already made it undergo, were sufficient; nor was there any necessity to cut off the small remainder to a man; and that he would allow them the enjoyment of a small part of the country, since they were willing to bear the. yoke which he should impose upon them. The king was moved at the manner of their delivering this petition, and could not forbear expressing his clemency to them with tears; and at the request of those holy men, granted them pardon.
Chap. VII.Arthur relates the wonderful nature of some ponds.
This affair being concluded, Hoel had the curiosity to view the situation of the lake, and wondered to find the number of the rivers, islands, rocks, and eagles' nests, so exactly [p.237] correspond: and while he was reflecting upon it as something that appeared miraculous, Arthur came to him, and told him of another pond in the same province, which was yet more wonderful. For not far from thence was one whose length and breadth were each twenty feet, and depth five feet. But whether its square figure was natural or artificial, the wonder of it was, there were four different sorts of fishes in the four several corners of it, none of which were ever found in any other part of the pond but their own. He told him likewise of another pond in Wales, near the Severn, called by the country people Linligwan, into which when the sea flows, it receives it in the manner of a gulf, but so as to swallow up the tide, and never be filled, or have its banks covered by it. But at the ebbing of the sea, it throws out the waters which it had swallowed, as high as a mountain, and at last dashes and covers the banks with them. In the meantime, if all the people of that country should stand near with their faces towards it, and happened to have their clothes sprinkled with the dashing of the waves, they would hardly, if at all, escape being swallowed up by the pond. But with their backs towards it, they need not fear being dashed, though they stood upon the very banks.
Chap. VIII.Arthur restores York to its ancient beauty, especially as to its churches.
The king, after his general pardon granted to the Scots, went to York to celebrate the feast of Christ's nativity, which was now at hand. On entering the city, he beheld with grief the desolation of the churches; for upon the expulsion of the holy Archbishop Sanxo, and of all the clergy there, the temples which were half burned down, had no longer divine service performed in them: so much had the impious rage of the pagans prevailed. After this, in an assembly of the clergy and people, he appointed Pyramus his chaplain metropolitan of that see. The churches that lay level with the ground, he rebuilt, and (which was their chief ornament) saw them filled with assemblies of devout persons of both sexes. Also the nobility that were driven out by the disturbances of the Saxons, he restored to their country.
Chap. IX.Arthur honours Augusel with the sceptre of the Scots; Uriar, with that of Mureif; and Lot with the consulship of Londonesia.
There were there three brothers of royal blood, viz. Lot, Urian, and Augusel, who, before the Saxons had prevailed, held the government of those parts. Being willing therefore to bestow on these, as he did on others, the rights of their ancestors, he restored to Augusel the sovereignty over the Scots; his brother Urian he honoured with the sceptre of Mureif; and Lot, who in time of Aurelius Ambrosius had married his sister, by whom he had two sons, Walgan and Modred, he re-established in the consulship of Londonesia, and the other provinces belonging to him. At length, when the whole country was reduced by him to its ancient state, he took to wife Guanhumara, descended from a noble family of Romans, who was educated under duke Cador, and in beauty surpassed all the women of the island.
Chap. X.Arthur adds to his government Ireland, Iceland, Gothland, and the Orkneys.
The next summer he fitted out a fleet, and made an expedition into Leland, which he was desirous to reduce. Upon landing there, he was met by king Guillamurius before mentioned, with a vast number of men, who came with a design to fight him; but at the very beginning of the battle, those naked and unarmed people were miserably routed, and fled to such places as lay open to them for shelter. Guillamurius also in a short time was taken prisoner, and forced to submit; as were also all the other princes of the country after the king's example, being under great consternation at what had happened. After an entire conquest of Ireland, he made a voyage with his fleet to Iceland, which he also subdued. And now a rumour spreading over the rest of the islands, that no country was able to withstand him, Doldavius, king of Gothland, and Gunfasius, king of the Orkneys, came voluntarily, and made their submission, on a promise of paying tribute. Then, as soon as winter was over, he returned back to Britain, where having established the kingdom, he resided in it for twelve years together in peace.
Chap. XI.Arthur subdues Norway, Dacia, Aquitaine, and Gaul.
After this, having invited over to him all persons whatsoever that were famous for valour in foreign nations, he began to augment the number of his domestics, and introduced such politeness into his court, as people of the remotest countries thought worthy of their imitation. So that there was not a nobleman who thought himself of any consideration, unless his clothes and arms were made in the same fashion as those of Arthur's knights. At length the fame of his munificence and valour spreading over the whole world, he became a terror to the kings of other countries, who grievously feared the loss of their dominions, if he should make any attempt upon them. Being much perplexed with these anxious cares, they repaired their cities and towers, and built towns in convenient places, the better to fortify themselves against any enterprise of Arthur, when occasion should require. Arthur, being informed of what they were doing, was delighted to find how much they stood in awe of him, and formed a design for the conquest of all Europe. Then having prepared his fleet, he first attempted Norway, that he might procure the crown of it for Lot, his sister's husband. This Lot was the nephew of Sichehn, king of the Norwegians, who being then dead, had appointed him his successor in the kingdom. But the Norwegians, disdaining to receive him, had advanced one Riculf to the sovereignty, and having fortified their cities, thought they were able to oppose Arthur. Walgan, the son of Lot, was then a youth twelve years old, and was recommended by his uncle to the service of pope Supplicius, from whom he received arms. But to return to the history: as soon as Arthur arrived on the coast of Norway, king Riculf, attended with the whole power of that kingdom, met him, and gave him battle, in which, after a great loss of blood on both sides, the Britons at length had the advantage, and making a vigorous charge, killed Riculf and many others with him. Having thus defeated them, they set the cities on fire, dispersed the country people, and pursued the victory till they had reduced all Norway, as also Dacia, under the dominion of Arthur. After the conquest of these countries, and establishment of Lot upon the throne of Norway, Arthur made a voyage to Gaul, and dividing his [p.240] army into several bodies, began to lay waste that country on all sides. The province of Gaul was then committed to Flollo, a Roman tribune, who held the government of it under the emperor Leo. Upon intelligence of Arthur's coming, he raised all the forces that were under his command, and made war against him, but without success. For Arthur was attended with the youth of all the islands that he had subdued; for which reason he was reported to have such an army as was thought invincible. And even the greater part of the Gallic army, encouraged by his bounty, came over lo his service. Therefore Flollo, seeing the disadvantages he lay under, left his camp, and fled with a small number to Paris. There having recruited his army, he fortified the city, and resolved to stand another engagement with Arthur. But while he was thinking of strengthening himself with auxiliary forces in the neighbouring countries, Arthur came upon him unawares, and besieged him in the city. When a month had passed, Flollo, with grief observing his people perish with hunger, sent a message to Arthur, that they two alone should decide the conquest for the kingdom in a duel: for being a person of great stature, boldness and courage, he gave this challenge in confidence of success. Arthur was extremely pleased at Flollo's proposal, and sent him word back again, that he would give him the meeting which he desired. A treaty, therefore, being on both sides agreed to, they met together in the island without the city, where the people waited to see the event. They were both gracefully armed, and mounted on admirably swift horses; and it was hard to tell which gave greater hopes of victory. When they had presented themselves against each other with their lances aloft, they put spurs to their horses, and began a fierce encounter. But Arthur, who handled his lance more warily, struck it into the upper part of Flollo's breast, and avoiding his enemy's weapon, laid him prostrate upon the ground, and was just going to despatch him with his drawn sword, when Flollo, starting up on a sudden, met him with his lance couched, wherewith he mortally stabbed the breast of Arthur's horse, and caused both him and his rider to fall. The Britons, when they saw their king lying on the ground, fearing he was killed, could hardly be restrained from breach of covenant, and falling with one consent upon the Gauls.
But just as they were upon rushing into the lists, Arthur hastily got up, and guarding himself with his shield, advanced with speed against Flollo. And now they renewed the assault with great rage, eagerly bent upon one another's destruction. At length Flollo, watching his advantage, gave Arthur a blow upon the forehead, which might have proved mortal, had he not blunted the edge of his weapon against the helmet. "When Arthur saw his coat of mail and shield red with blood, he was inflamed with still greater rage, and lifting up his Caliburn with his utmost strength struck it through the helmet into Flollo's head, and made a terrible gash. With this wound Flollo fell down, tearing the ground with his spurs, and expired. As soon as this news was spread through the army, the citizens ran together, and opening the gates, surrendered the city to Arthur. After the victory, he divided his army into two parts; one of which he committed to the conduct of Hoel, whom he ordered to march against Guitard, commander of the Pictavians; while he with the other part should endeavour to reduce the other provinces. Hoel upon this entered Aquitaine, possessed himself of the cities of that country, and after distressing Guitard in several battles, forced him to surrender. He also destroyed Gascony with fire and sword, and subdued the princes of it. At the end of nine years, in which time all the parts of Gaul were entirely reduced, Arthur returned back to Paris, where he kept his court, and calling an assembly of the clergy and people, established peace and the just administration of the laws in that kingdom. Then he bestowed Neustria, now called Normandy, upon Bedver, his butler; the province of Andegavia upon Caius, his sewer; and several other provinces upon his great men that attended him. Thus having settled the peace of the cities and countries there, he returned back in the beginning of spring to Britain.72
Chap. XII.Arthur summons a great many kings, princes, archbishops, &c. to a solemn assembly at the City of Legions.
Upon the approach of the feast of Pentecost, Arthur, the better to demonstrate his joy after such triumphant success, and for the more solemn observation of that festival, and reconciling the minds of the princes that were now subject to him, resolved, during that season, to hold a magnificent court, to place the crown upon his head, and to invite all the kings and dukes under his subjection, to the solemnity. And when he had communicated his design to his familiar friends, he pitched upon the City of Legions as a proper place for his purpose. For besides its great wealth above the other cities, its situation, which was in Glamorganshire upon the river Uske, near the Severn sea, was most pleasant, and fit for so great a solemnity. For on one side it was washed by that noble river, so that the kings and princes from the countries beyond the seas might have the convenience of sailing up to it. On the other side, the beauty of the meadows and groves, and magnificence of the royal palaces with lofty gilded roofs that adorned it, made it even rival the grandeur of Rome. It was also famous for two churches; whereof one was built in honour of the martyr Julius, and adorned with a choir of virgins, who had devoted themselves wholly to the service of God; but the other, which was founded in memory of St. Aaron, his companion, and maintained a convent of canons, was the third metropolitan church of Britain. Besides, there was a college of two hundred philosophers, who, being learned in astronomy and the other arts, were diligent in observing the courses of the stars, and gave Arthur true predictions of the events that would happen at that time. In this place, therefore, which afforded such delights, were preparations made for the ensuing festival. Ambassadors were then sent into several kingdoms, to invite to court the princes both of Gaul and all the adjacent islands. Accordingly there came Augusel, king of Albania, now Scotland; Urian, king of Mureif; Cadwallo Lewirh, king of the Venedotians, now called the North Wales men; Sater, king of the Demetians, or South Wales men; Cador, king of Cornwall; also the archbishops of the three metropolitan sees, London, York, and Dubricius of the City of [p.243] Legions. This prelate, who was primate of Britain, and legate of the apostolical see, was so eminent for his piety, that he could cure any sick person by his prayers. There came also the consuls of the principal cities, viz. Morvid, consul of Gloucester; Mauron, of Worcester; Anaraut, of Salisbury; Arthgal, of Cargueit or Warguit; Jugein, of Legecester; Cursalen, of Kaicester; Kinmare, duke of Dorobernia; Galluc, of Salisbury; Urgennius, of Bath; Jonathal, of Dorchester; Boso, of Ridoc, that is, Oxford. Besides the consuls, came the following worthies of no less dignity: Danaut, Map papo; Cheneus, Map coil; Peredur, Mab eridur; Guiful, Map Nogoit; Regin, Map claut; Eddelein, Map cledauc; Kincar, Mab bagan; Kimmare; Gorboroniam, Map goit; Clofaut, Rupmaneton; Kimbelim, Map trunat; Cathleus, Map catel; Kinlich, Map neton; and many others too tedious to enumerate. From the adjacent islands came Guillamurius, king of Ireland; Malvasius, king of Iceland; Doldavius, king of Gothland; Gunfasius, king of the Orkneys; Lot, king of Norway; Aschillius, king of the Dacians. From the parts beyond the seas, came Holdin, king of Ruteni; Leodegarius, consul of Bolonia; Bedver, the butler, duke of Normandy; Borellus, of Cenomania; Caius, the sewer, duke of Andegavia; Guitard, of Pictavia; also the twelve peers of Gaul, whom Guerinus Carnotensis brought along with him: Hoel, duke of the Armorican Britons, and his nobility, who came with such a train of mules, horses, and rich furniture, as it is difficult to describe. Besides these, there remained no prince of any consideration on this side of Spain, who came not upon this invitation. And no wonder, when Arthur's munificence, which was celebrated over the whole world, made him beloved by all people.
Chap. XIII.A description of the royal pomp at the coronation of Arthur.
When all were assembled together in the city, upon the day of the solemnity, the archbishops were conducted to the palace, in order to place the crown upon the king's head. Therefore Dubricius, inasmuch as the court was kept in his diocese, made himself ready to celebrate the office, and [p.244] undertook the ordering of whatever related to it. As soon as the king was invested with his royal habiliments, he was conducted in great pomp to the metropolitan church, supported on each side by two archbishops, and having four kings, viz. of Albania, Cornwall, Demetia, and Venedotia, whose right it was, bearing four golden swords before him. He was also attended with a concert of all sorts of music, which made most excellent harmony. On another part was the queen, dressed out in her richest ornaments, conducted by the archbishops and bishops to the Temple of Virgins: the four queens also of the kings last mentioned, bearing before her four white doves according to ancient custom; and after her there followed a retinue of women, making all imaginable demonstrations of joy. When the whole procession was ended, so transporting was the harmony of the musical instruments and voices, whereof there was a vast variety in both churches, that the knights who attended were in doubt which to prefer, and therefore crowded from the one to the other by turns, and were far from being tired with the solemnity, though the whole day had been spent in it. At last, when divine service was over at both churches, the king and queen put off their crowns, and putting on their lighter ornaments, went to the banquet; he to one palace with the men, and she to another with the women. For the Britons still observed the ancient custom of Troy, by which the men and women used to celebrate their festivals apart. When they had all taken their seats according to precedence, Caius the sewer, in rich robes of ermine, with a thousand young noblemen, all in like manner clothed with ermine, served up the dishes. From another part, Bedver the butler was followed with the same number of attendants, in various habits, who waited with all kinds of cups and drinking vessels. In the queen's palace were innumerable waiters, dressed with variety of ornaments, all performing their respective offices; which if I should describe particularly, I should draw out the history to a tedious length. For at that time Britain had arrived at such a pitch of grandeur, that in abundance of riches, luxury of ornaments, and politeness of inhabitants, it far surpassed all other kingdoms. The knights in it that were famous for feats of chivalry, wore their clothes and arms all of the same colour and fashion: [p.245] and the women also no less celebrated for their wit, wore all the same kind of apparel; and esteemed none worthy of their love, but such as had given a proof of their valour in three several battles. Thus was the valour of the men an encouragement for the women's chastity, and the love of the women a spur to the soldier's bravery.
Chap. XIV.After a variety of sports at the coronation, Arthur amply rewards his servants.
As soon as the banquets were over, they went into the fields without the city, to divert themselves with various sports. The military men composed a kind of diversion in imitation of a fight on horseback; and the ladies, placed on the top of the walls as spectators, in a sportive manner darted their amorous glances at the courtiers, the more to encourage them. Others spent the remainder of the day in other diversions, such as shooting with bows and arrows, tossing the pike, casting of heavy stones and rocks, playing at dice and the like, and all these inoffensively and without quarrelling. Whoever gained the victory in any of these sports, was rewarded with a rich prize by Arthur. In this manner were the first three days spent; and on the fourth, all who, upon account of their titles, bore any kind of office at this solemnity, were called together to receive honours and preferments in reward of their services, and to fill up the vacancies in the governments of cities and castles, archbishoprics, bishoprics, abbeys, and other posts of honour.
Chap. XV.A letter from Lucius Tiberius, general of the Romans, to Arthur being read, they consult about an answer to it.
But St. Dubricius, from a pious desire of leading a hermit's life, made a voluntary resignation of his archiepiscopal dignity; and in his room was consecrated David, the king's uncle, whose life was a perfect example of that goodness which by his doctrine he taught. In place of St. Samson, archbishop of Dole, was appointed, with the consent of Hoel, king of the Armorican Britons, Chelianus, [Kilian] a priest of Llandaff, a person highly recommended for his good life and character. The bishopric of Silchester was conferred [p.246] upon Mauganius, that of Winchester upon Diwanius, and that of Alclud upon Eledanius. While he was disposing of these preferments upon them, it happened that twelve men of an advanced age, and venerable aspect, and bearing olive branches in their right hands, for a token that they were come upon an embassy, appeared before the king, moving towards him with a slow pace, and speaking with a soft voice; and after their compliments paid, presented him with a letter from Lucius Tiberius, in these words:
"Lucius, procurator of the commonwealth, to Arthur, king of Britain, according to his desert. The insolence of your tyranny is what fills me with the highest admiration, and the injuries you have done to Rome still increase my wonder. But it is provoking to reflect, that you are grown so much above yourself, as wilfully to avoid seeing this: nor do you consider what it is to have offended by unjust deeds a senate, to whom you cannot be ignorant the whole world owes vassalage. For the tribute of Britain, which the senate had enjoined you to pay, and which used to be paid to the Roman emperors successively from the time of Julius Caesar, you have had the presumption to withhold, in contempt of their imperial authority. You have seized upon the province of the Allobroges, and all the islands of the ocean, whose kings, while the Roman power prevailed in those parts, paid tribute to our ancestors. And because the senate have decreed to demand justice of you for such repeated injuries, I command you to appear at Rome before the middle of August the next year, there to make satisfaction to your masters, and undergo such sentence as they shall in justice pass upon you. Which if you refuse to do, I shall come to you, and endeavour to recover with my sword, what you in your madness have robbed us of."
As soon as the letter was read in the presence of the kings and consuls, Arthur withdrew with them into the Giant's Tower, which was at the entrance of the palace, to think what answer was fit to be returned to such an insolent message. As they were going up the stairs, Cador, duke of Cornwall, who was a man of a merry disposition, said to the king in a jocose manner: "I have been till now under fear, lest the easy life which the Britons lead, by enjoying a long peace, might make them cowards, and extinguish the fame of [p.247] their gallantry, by which they have raised their name above all other nations. For where the exercise of arms is wanting, and the pleasures of women, dice, and other diversions take place, no doubt, what remains of virtue, honour, courage, and thirst of praise, will be tainted with the rust of idleness. For now almost five years have passed, since we have been abandoned to these delights, and have had no exercise of war. Therefore, to deliver us from sloth, God has stirred up this spirit of the Romans, to restore our military virtues to their ancient state." In this manner did he entertain them with discourse, till they were come to their seats, on which when they were all placed, Arthur spoke to them after this manner.
Chap. XVI.Arthur, holding a council with the kings, desires every one of them to deliver their opinions.
"My companions both in good and bad fortune, whose abilities both in counsel and war I have hitherto experienced; the present exigence of affairs, after the message which we have received, requires your careful deliberation and prudent resolutions; for whatever is wisely concerted, is easily executed. Therefore we shall be the better able to bear the annoyance which Lucius threatens to give us, if we unanimously apply ourselves to consider how to overcome it. In my opinion we have no great reason to fear him, when we reflect upon the unjust pretence on which he demands tribute of us. He says he has a right to it, because it was paid to Julius Caesar, and his successors, who invaded Britain with an army at the invitation of the ancient Britons, when they were quarrelling among themselves, and by force reduced the country under their power, when weakened by civil dissension. And because they gained it in this manner, they had the injustice to take tribute of it. For that can never be possessed justly, which is gained by force and violence. So that he has no reasonable grounds to pretend we are of right his tributaries. But since he has the presumption to make an unjust demand of us, we have certainly as good reason to demand of him tribute from Rome; let the longer sword therefore determine the right between us. For if Rome has decreed that tribute ought to be paid to it [p.248] from Britain, on account of its having been formerly under the yoke of Julius Caesar, and other Roman emperors; I for the same reason now decree, that Rome ought to pay tribute to me, because my predecessors formerly held the government of it. For Belinus, that glorious king of the Britons, with the assistance of his brother Brennus, duke of the Allobroges, after they had hanged up twenty noble Romans in the middle of the market-place, took their city, and kept possession of it a long time. Likewise Constantine, the son of Helena, and Maximian [Maximus], who were both my kinsmen, and both wore the crown of Britain, gained the imperial throne of Rome. Do not you, therefore, think that we ought to demand tribute of the Romans? As for Gaul and the adjacent islands of the ocean, we have no occasion to return them any answer, since they did not defend them, when we attempted to free them from their power." As soon as he had done speaking to this effect, Hoel, king of the Armorican Britons, who had the precedence of the rest, made answer in these words.
Chap. XVII.The opinion of Hoel, king of Armorica, concerning a war with the Romans.
"After the most profound deliberation that any of us shall be able to make, I think better advice cannot be given, than what your majesty in your great wisdom and policy now offers. Your speech, which is no less wise than eloquent, has superseded all consultation on our part; and nothing remains for us to do, but to admire and gratefully acknowledge your majesty's firmness of mind, and depth of policy, to which we owe such excellent advice. For if upon this motive you are pleased to make an expedition to Rome, I doubt not but it will be crowned with glorious success; since it will be undertaken for the defence of our liberties, and to demand justly of our enemies, what they have unjustly demanded of us. For that person who would rob another, deserves to lose his own by him against whom the attempt is made. And, therefore, since the Romans threatened us with this injury, it will undoubtedly turn to their own loss, if we can have but an opportunity of engaging with them. This is what the Britons universally desire; this is what we have promised us in the Sibylline prophecies, which expressly declare, that the Roman empire shall be [p.249] obtained by three persons, natives of Britain. The oracle is fulfilled in two of them, since it is manifest (as your majesty observed) that those two celebrated princes, Belinus and Constantine, governed the Roman empire: and now you are the third to whom this supreme dignity is promised. Make haste, therefore, to receive what God makes no delay to give you; to subdue those who are ready to receive your yoke; and to advance us all, who for your advancement will spare neither limbs nor life. And that you may accomplish this, I myself will attend you in person with ten thousand men."
Chap. XVIII.The opinion of Augusel.
When Hoel concluded his speech, Augusel, king of Albania, declared his good affection to the cause after this manner. "I am not able to express the joy that has transported me, since my lord has declared to us his designs. For we seem to have done nothing by all our past wars with so many and potent princes, if the Romans and Germans be suffered to enjoy peace, and we do not severely revenge on them the grievous oppressions which they formerly brought upon this country. But now, since we are at liberty to encounter them, I am overwhelmed with joy and eagerness of desire, to see a battle with them, when the blood of those cruel oppressors will be no less acceptable to me than a spring of water is to one who is parched with thirst. If I shall but live to see that day, how sweet will be the wounds which I shall then either receive or give? Nay, how sweet will be even death itself, when suffered in revenging the injuries done to our ancestors, in defending our liberties, and in promoting the glory of our king! Let us then begin with these poltroons, and spoil them of all their trophies, by making an entire conquest of them. And I for my share will add to the army two thousand horse, besides foot."
Chap. XIX.They unanimously agree upon a war with the Romans.
To the same effect spoke all the rest, and promised each of them their full quota of forces; so that besides those promised by the duke of Armorica, the number of men from the island of Britain alone was sixty thousand, all completely armed. But the kings of the other islands, as they [p.250] had not been accustomed to any cavalry, promised their quota of infantry; and, from the six provincial islands, viz. Ireland, Iceland, Gothland, the Orkneys, Norway, and Dacia, were reckoned a hundred and twenty thousand. From the duchies of Gaul, that is, of the Ruteni, the Portunians, the Estrusians, the Cenomanni, the Andegavians, and Pictavians, were eighty thousand. From the twelve consulships of those who came along with Guerinus Carnotensis, twelve hundred. All together made up a hundred and eighty-three thousand two hundred, besides foot which did not easily fall under number.
Chap. XX.Arthur prepares for a war, and refuses to pay tribute tc the Romans.
King Arthur, seeing all unanimously ready for his service, ordered them to return back to their countries with speed, and get ready the forces which they had promised, and to hasten to the general rendezvous upon the kalends of August, at the mouth of the river Barba, that from thence they might advance with them to the borders of the Allobroges, to meet the Romans. Then he sent word to the emperors by their ambassadors; that as to paying them tribute, he would in no wise obey their commands; and that the journey he was about to make to Rome, was not to stand the award of their sentence, but to demand of them what they had judicially decreed to demand of him. With this answer the ambassadors departed; and at the same time also departed all the kings and noblemen, to perform with all expedition the orders that had been given them.
Chap. I.Lucius Tiberius calls together the eastern kings against the Britons.
Lucius Tiberius, on receiving this answer, by order of the senate published a decree, for the eastern kings to come with their forces, and assist in the conquest of Britain. In obe- [p.251] dience to which there came in a very short time, Epistrophius, king of the Grecians; Mustensar, king of the Africans; Alifantinam, king of Spain; Hirtacius, king of the Parthians; Boccus, of the Medes; Sertorius, of Libya; Teucer, king of Phrygia; Serses, king of the Itureans; Pandrasus, king of Egypt; Micipsa, king of Babylon; Polytetes, duke of Bithynia; Teucer, duke of Phrygia; Evander, of Syria; Aethion, of Boeotia; Hippolytus, of Crete, with the generals and nobility under them. Of the senatorian order also came, Lucius Catellus, Marius Lepidus, Caius Metellus Cotta, Quintus Milvius Catulus, Quintus Carutius, and as many others as made up the number of forty thousand one hundred and sixty.73
Chap. II.Arthur commits to his nephew Modred the government of Britain. His dream at Hamo's Port.
After the necessary dispositions were made, upon the kalends of August, they began their march towards Britain, which when Arthur had intelligence of, he committed the government of the kingdom to his nephew Modred, and queen Guanhumara, and marched with his army to Hamo's Port, where the wind stood fair for him. But while he, surrounded with all his numerous fleet, was sailing joyfully with a brisk gale, it happened that about midnight he fell into a very sound sleep, and in a dream saw a bear flying in the air, at the noise of which all the shores trembled; also a terrible dragon flying from the west, which enlightened the country with the brightness of its eyes. When these two met, they began a dreadful fight; but the dragon with its fiery breath burned the bear which often assaulted him, and threw him down scorched to the ground. Arthur upon this awaking, related his dream to those that stood about him, who took upon them to interpret it, and told him that the dragon signified himself, but the bear, some giant that should encounter with him; and that the fight portended the duel that would be between them, and the dragon's victory the same that would happen to himself. But Arthur conjec- [p.252] tured it portended something else, and that the vision was applicable to himself and the emperor. As soon as the morning after this night's sail appeared, they found themselves arrived at the mouth of the river Barba. And there they pitched their tents, to wait the arrival of the kings of the islands and the generals of the other provinces.
Chap. III.Arthur kills a Spanish giant who had stolen away Helena, the niece of Hoel.
In the meantime Arthur had news brought him, that a giant of monstrous size was come from the shores of Spain, and had forcibly taken away Helena, the niece of duke Hoel, from her guard, and fled with her to the top of that which is now called Michael's Mount;74 and that the soldiers of the country who pursued him were able to do nothing against him. For whether they attacked him by sea or land, he either overturned their ships with vast rocks, or killed them with several sorts of darts, besides many of them that he took and devoured half alive. The next night, therefore, at the second hour, Arthur, taking along with him Caius the sewer, and Bedver the butler, went out privately from the camp, and hastened towards the mountain. For being a man of undaunted courage, he did not care to lead his army against such monsters; both because he could in this manner animate his men by his own example, and also because he was alone sufficient to deal with them. As soon as they came near the mountain, they saw a fire burning upon the top of it, and another on a lesser mountain, that was not far from it. And being in doubt upon which of them the giant dwelt, they sent away Bedver to know the certainty of the matter. So he, finding a boat, sailed over in it first to the lesser mountain, to which he could in no other way have access, because it was situated in the sea. When he had begun to climb up to the top of it, he was at first frightened with a dismal howling cry of a woman from above, and imagined the monster to be there: but quickly rousing up his courage, he drew his sword, and having reached the top, [p.253] found nothing but the fire which he had before seen at a distance. He discovered also a grave newly made, and an old woman weeping and howling by it, who at the sight of him instantly cried out in words interrupted with sighs, "O, unhappy man, what misfortune brings you to this, place? O the inexpressible tortures of death that you must suffer! I pity you, I pity you, because the detestable monster will this night destroy the flower of your youth. For that most wicked and odious giant, who brought the duke's niece, whom I have just now buried here, and me, her nurse, along with her into this mountain, will come and immediately murder you in a most cruel manner. O deplorable fate! This most illustrious princess, sinking under the fear her tender heart conceived, while the foul monster would have embraced her, fainted away and expired. And when he could not satiate his brutish lust upon her, who was the very soul, joy, and happiness of my life, being enraged at the disappointment of his bestial desire, he forcibly committed a rape upon me, who (let God and my old age witness) abhorred his embraces. Fly, dear sir, fly, for fear he may come, as he usually does, to lie with me, and finding you here most barbarously butcher you." Bedver, moved at what she said, as much as it is possible for human nature to be, endeavoured with kind words to assuage her grief, and to comfort her with the promise of speedy help: and then returned back to Arthur, and gave him an account of what he had met with. Arthur very much lamented the damsel's sad fate, and ordered his companions to leave him to deal with him alone; unless there was an absolute necessity, and then they were to come in boldly to his assistance. From hence they went directly to the next mountain, leaving their horses with their armour-bearers, and ascended to the top, Arthur leading the way. The deformed savage was then by the fire, with his face besmeared with the clotted blood of swine, part of which he already devoured, and was roasting the remainder upon spits by the fire. But at the sight of them, whose appearance was a surprise to him, he hastened to his club, which two strong men could hardly lift from the ground. Upon this the king drew his sword, and guarding himself with his shield, ran with all his speed to prevent his getting it. But the other, who was not ignorant of his design, had by this [p.254] time snatched it up, and gave the king such a terrible blow upon his shield, that he made the shores ring with the noise, and perfectly stunned the king's ears with it. Arthur, fired with rage at this, lifted up his sword, and gave him a wound in the forehead, which was not indeed mortal, but yet such as made the blood gush out over his face and eyes, and so blinded him; for he had partly warded off the stroke from his forehead with his club, and prevented its being fatal. However, his loss of sight, by reason of the blood flowing over his eyes, made him exert himself with greater fury, and like an enraged boar against a hunting-spear, so did he rush in against Arthur's sword, and grasping him about the waist, forced him down upon his knees. But Arthur, nothing daunted, slipped out of his hands, and so exerted himself with his sword, that he gave the giant no respite till he had struck it up to the very back through his skull. At this the hideous monster raised a dreadful roar, and like an oak torn up from the roots by the winds, so did he make the ground resound with his fall. Arthur, bursting out into a fit of laughter at the sight, commanded Bedver to cut off his head, and give it to one of the armour-bearers, who was to carry it to the camp, and there expose it to public view, but with orders for the spectators of this combat to keep silence. He told them he had found none of so great strength, since he killed the giant Ritho, who had challenged him to fight, upon the mountain Aravius. This giant had made himself furs of the beards of kings he had killed, and had sent word to Arthur carefully to cut off his beard and send it to him; and then, out of respect to his pre-eminence over other kings, his beard should have the honour of the principal place. But if he refused to do it, he challenged him to a duel, with this offer, that the conqueror should have the furs, and also the beard of the vanquished for a trophy of his victory. In his conflict, therefore, Arthur proved victorious, and took the beard and spoils of the giant: and, as he said before, had met with none that could be compared to him for strength, till his last engagement. After this victory, they returned at the second watch of the night to the camp with the head; to see which there was a great concourse of people, all extolling this wonderful exploit of Arthur, by which he had freed the country from a most destructive and [p.255] voracious monster. But Hoel, in great grief for the loss of his niece, commanded a mausoleum to be built over her body in the mountain where she was buried, which, taking the damsel's name, is called Helena's Tomb to this day.
Chap. IV.Arthur's ambassadors to Lucius Tiberius deliver Petreius Cotta, whom they took prisoner to Arthur.
As soon as all the forces were arrived which Arthur expected, he marched from thence to Augustodunum, where he supposed the general was. But when he came to the river Alba, he had intelligence brought him of his having encamped not far off, and that he was come with so vast an army, that he would not be able to withstand it. However, this did not deter him from pursuing his enterprise; but he pitched his camp upon the bank of the river, to facilitate the bringing up of his forces, and to secure his retreat, if there should be occasion; and sent Boso the consul of Oxford, and Guerinus Carnotensis, with his nephew Walgan, to Lucius Tiberius, requiring him either to retire from the coasts of Gaul, or come the next day, that they might try their right to that country with their swords. The retinue of young courtiers that attended Walgan, highly rejoicing at this opportunity, were urgent with him to find some occasion for a quarrel in the commander's camp, that so they might engage the Romans. Accordingly they went to Lucius, and commanded him to retire out of Gaul, or hazard a battle the next day. But while he was answering them, that he was not come to retire, but to govern the country, there was present Caius Quintilianus, his nephew, who said, "That the Britons were better at boasting and threatening, than they were at fighting." Walgan immediately took fire at this, and ran upon him with his drawn sword, wherewith he cut off his head, and then retreated speedily with his companions to their horses. The Romans, both horse and foot, pursued to revenge the loss of their countryman upon the ambassadors, who fled with great precipitation. But Guerinus Carnotensis, just as one of them was come up to him, rallied on a sudden, and with his lance struck at once through his armour and the very middle of his body, and laid him prostrate on the ground. The sight of this noble exploit raised the emulation of Boso of Oxford, who, wheeling about his horse, struck his lance into [p.256] the throat of the first man he met with, and dismounted him mortally wounded. In the meantime, Marcellus Mutius, with great eagerness to revenge Quintilian's death, was just upon the back of Walgan, and laid hold of him; which the other quickly obliged him to quit, by cleaving both his helmet and head to the breast with his sword. He also bade him, when he arrived at the infernal regions, tell the man he had killed in the camp, "That in this manner the Britons showed their boasting and threatening." Then having re-assembled his men, he encouraged them to despatch every one his pursuer in the same manner as he had done; which accordingly they did not fail to accomplish. Notwithstanding, the Romans continued their pursuit with lances and swords, wherewith they annoyed the others, though without slaughter or taking any prisoners. But as they came near a certain wood, a party of six thousand Britons, who seeing the flight of the consuls, had hid themselves, to be in readiness for their assistance, sallied forth, and putting spurs to their horses, rent the air with their loud shouts, and being well fenced with their shields, assaulted the Romans suddenly, and forced them to fly. And now it was the Britons' turn to pursue, which they did with better success, for they dismounted, killed, or took several of the enemy. Petreius, the senator, upon this news, hastened to the assistance of his countrymen with ten thousand men, and compelled the Britons to retreat to the wood from whence they had sallied forth; though not without loss of his own men. For the Britons, being well acquainted with the ground, in their flight killed a great number of their pursuers. The Britons thus giving ground, Hider, with another reinforcement of five thousand men, advanced with speed to sustain them; so that they again faced those, upon whom they had turned their backs, and renewed the assault with great vigour. The Romans also stood their ground, and continued the fight with various success. The great fault of the Britons was, that though they had been very eager to begin the fight, yet when begun they were less careful of the hazard they ran. Whereas the Romans were under better discipline, and had the advantage of a prudent commander, Petreius Cotta, to tell them where to advance, and where to give ground, and by these means did great injury to the enemy. When Boso observed this, [p.257] he drew off from the rest a large party of those whom he knew to be the stoutest men, and spoke to them after this manner: "Since we have begun this fight without Arthur's knowledge, we must take care that we be not defeated in the enterprise. For, if we should, we shall both very much endanger our men, and incur the king's high displeasure. Rouse up your courage, and follow me through the Roman squadrons, that with the favour of good fortune we may either kill or take Petreius prisoner." With this they put spurs to their horses, and piercing through the enemies' thickest ranks, reached the place where Petreius was giving his commands. Boso hastily ran in upon him, and grasping him about the neck, fell with him to the ground, as he had intended. The Romans hereupon ran to his delivery, as did the Britons to Boso's assistance; which occasioned on both sides great slaughter, noise, and confusion, while one party strove to rescue their leader, and the other to keep him prisoner. So that this proved the sharpest part of the whole fight, and wherein their spears, swords, and arrows had the fullest employment. At length, the Britons, joining in a close body, and sustaining patiently the assaults of the Romans, retired to the main body of their army with Petreius: which they had no sooner done, than they again attacked them, being now deprived of their leader, very much weakened, dispirited, and just beginning to flee. They, therefore, eagerly pursued, beat down, and killed several of them, and as soon as they had plundered them, pursued the rest: but they took the greatest number of them prisoners, being desirous to present them to the king. When they had at last sufficiently harassed them, they returned with their plunder and prisoners to the camp; where they gave an account of what had happened, and presented Petreius Cotta with the other prisoners before Arthur, with great joy for the victory. Arthur congratulated them upon it, and promised them advancement to greater honours, for behaving themselves so gallantly when he was absent from them. Then he gave his command to some of his men, to conduct the prisoners the next day to Paris, and deliver them to be kept in custody there till further orders. The party that were to undertake this charge, he ordered to be conducted by Cador, Bedver, and the two consuls, Borellus and Rich- [p.258] erius, with their servants, till they should be out of all fear of disturbance from the Romans.
Chap. V.The Romans attack the Britons with a very great force, but are put to flight by them.
But the Romans, happening to get intelligence of their design, at the command of their general chose out fifteen thousand men, who that night were to get before the others in their march, and rescue their fellow soldiers out of their hands. They were to be commanded by Vulteius Catellus and Quintus Carutius, senators, as also Evander, king of Syria, and Sertorius, king of Libya. Accordingly they began their march that very night, and possessed themselves of a place convenient for lying in ambuscade, through which they supposed the others would pass. In the morning the Britons set forward along the same road with their prisoners, and were now approaching the place in perfect ignorance of the cunning stratagem of the enemy. No sooner had they entered it, than the Romans, to their great surprise, sprang forth and fell furiously upon them. Notwithstanding, the Britons, at length recovering from their consternation, assembled together, and prepared for a bold opposition, by appointing a party to guard the prisoners, and drawing out the rest in order of battle against the enemy. Richerius and Bedver had the command of the party that were set over the prisoners; but Cador, duke of Cornwall, and Borellus headed the others. But all the Romans had made their sally without being placed in any order, and cared not to form themselves, that they might lose no time in the slaughter of the Britons, whom they saw busied in marshalling their troops, and preparing only for their defence. By this conduct the Britons were extremely weakened, and would have shamefully lost their prisoners, had not good fortune rendered them assistance. For Guitard, commander of the Pictavians, happened to get information of the designed stratagem, and was come up with three thousand men, by the help of which they at last got the advantage, and paid back the slaughter upon their insolent assailants. Nevertheless, the loss which they sustained at the beginning of this action was very considerable. For they [p.259] lost Borellus, the famous consul of the Cenomanni, in an encounter with Evander, king of Syria, who stuck his lance into his throat; besides four noblemen, viz. Hirelgas Deperirus, Mauricius Cadorcanensis, Aliduc of Tintagel, and Hider his son, than whom braver men were hardly to be found. But yet neither did this loss dispirit the Britons, but rather made them more resolute to keep the prisoners, and kill the enemy. The Romans, now finding themselves unable to maintain the fight any longer, suddenly quitted the field, and made towards their camp; but were pursued with slaughter by the Britons, who also took many of them, and allowed them no respite till they had killed Vulteius Catellus and Evander, king of Syria, and wholly dispersed the rest. After which they sent away their former prisoners to Paris, whither they were to conduct them, and returned back with those newly taken to the king; to whom they gave great hopes of a complete conquest of their enemies, since very few of the great number that came against them had met with any success.
Chap. VI.Lucius Tiberius goes to Lengriae. Arthur, designing to vanquish him, by a stratagem possesses himself of the valley of Suesia.
These repeated disasters wrought no small disturbance in the mind of Lucius Tiberius, and made him hesitate whether to bring it to a general battle with Arthur, or to retire into Augustodunum, and stay till the emperor Leo with his forces could come to his assistance. At length, giving way to his fears, he entered Lengriae with his army, intending to reach the other city the night following. Arthur, finding this, and being desirous to get before him in his march, left the city on the left hand, and the same night entered a certain valley called Suesia, through which Lucius was to pass. There he divided his men into several bodies, commanding one legion, over which Morvid, consul of Gloucester, was appointed general, to wait close by, that he might retreat to them if there should be occasion, and from thence rally his broken forces for a second battle. The rest he divided into seven parts, in each of which he placed five thousand five hundred and fifty-five men, all completely armed. He also appointed different stations to his horse and foot, and gave command [p.260] that just as the foot should advance to the attack, the horse, keeping close together in their ranks, should at the same moment march up obliquely, and endeavour to put the enemy into disorder. The companies of foot were, after the British manner, drawn out into a square, with a right and left wing, under the command of Augusel, king of Albania, and Cador, duke of Cornwall; the one presiding over the right wing, the other over the left. Over another party were placed the two famous consuls, Guerinus of Chartres and Boso of Richiden, called in the Saxon tongue Oxineford; over a third were Aschillius, king of the Dacians, and Lot, king of the Norwegians; the fourth being commanded by Hoel, duke of the Armoricans, and Walgan, the king's nephew. After these were four other parties placed in the rear; the first commanded by Caius the sewer, and Bedver the butler; the second by Holdin, duke of the Ruteni, and Guitard of the Pictavians; the third by Vigenis of Legttcester, Jonathal of Dorchester, and Cursalem of Caicester; the fourth by Urbgennius of Bath. Behind all these, Arthur, for himself and the legion that was to attend near him, made choice of a place, where he set up a golden dragon for a standard, whither the wounded or fatigued might in case of necessity retreat, as into their camp. The legion that was with him consisted of six thousand six hundred and sixty-six men.
Chap. VII.Arthur's exhortation to his soldiers.
After he had thus placed them all in their stations, he made the following speech to his soldiers:"My brave countrymen, who have made Britain the mistress of thirty kingdoms, I congratulate you upon your late noble exploit, which to me is a proof that your valour is so far from being impaired, that it is rather increased. Though you have been five years without exercise, wherein the softening pleasures of an easy life had a greater share of your time than the use of arms; yet all this has not made you degenerate from your natural bravery, which you have shown in forcing the Romans to flee. The pride of their leaders has animated them to attempt the invasion of your liberties. They have tried you in battle, with numbers superior to [p.261] yours, and have not been able to stand before you; but have basely withdrawn themselves into that city, from which they are now ready to march out, and to pass through this valley in their way to Augustodunum; so that you may have an opportunity of falling upon them unawares like a flock of sheep. Certainly they expected to find in you the cowardice of the Eastern nations, when they thought to make your country tributary, and you their slaves. What, have they never heard of your wars, with the Dacians, Norwegians, and princes of the Gauls, whom you reduced under my power, and freed from their shameful yoke? We, then, that have had success in a greater war, need not doubt of it in a less, if we do but endeavour with the same spirit to vanquish these poltroons. You shall want no rewards of honour, if as faithful soldiers you do but strictly obey my commands. For as soon as we have routed them, we will march straight to Rome, and take it; and then all the gold, silver, palaces, towers, towns, cities, and other riches of the vanquished shall be yours." He had hardly done speaking before they all with one voice declared, that they were ready to suffer death, rather than quit the field while he had life.
Chap. VIII.Lucius Tiberius, discovering Arthur's design, in a speech animates his followers tonight.
But Lucius Tiberius, discovering the designs that were formed against him, would not flee, as he had at first intended, but taking new courage, resolved to march to the same valley against them; and calling together his principal commanders, spoke to them in these words:"Venerable fathers, to whose empire both the Eastern and Western kingdoms owe obedience, remember the virtues of your ancestors, who were not afraid to shed their blood, when the vanquishing of the enemies of the commonwealth required it; but to leave an example of their courage and military virtues to their posterity, behaved themselves in all battles with that contempt of death, as if God had given them some security against it. By this conduct they often triumphed, and by triumphing escaped death. Such was the reward of their virtue from Divine Providence, which overrules all events. The increase of the commonwealth, and of their [p.262] own valour was owing to this; and all those virtues that usually adorn the great, as integrity, honour, and munificence, flourishing a long time in them, raised them and their posterity to the empire of the whole world. Let their noble examples animate you: rouse up the spirit of the ancient Romans, and be not afraid to march out against our enemies that are lying in ambush before us in the valley, but boldly with your swords demand of them your just rights. Do not think that I retired into this city for fear of engaging with them; but I thought that, as their pursuit of us was rash and foolish, so we might hence on a sudden intercept them in it, and by dividing their main body make a great slaughter of them. But now, since they have altered the measures which we supposed they had taken, let us also alter ours. Let us go in quest of them and bravely fall upon them; or if they shall happen to have the advantage in the beginning of the battle, let us only stand our ground during the fury of their first assault, and the victory will undoubtedly be ours; for in many battles this manner of conduct has been attended with victory." As soon as he had made an end of speaking these and other things, they all declared their assent, promised with an oath to stand by him, and hastened to arm themselves. Which when they had done, they marched out of Lengriae to the valley where Arthur had drawn out his forces in order of battle. Then they also began to marshal their army, which they divided into twelve companies, and according to the Roman manner of battle, drew out each company into the form of a wedge, consisting of six thou- sand six hundred and sixty-six men. Each company also had its respective leaders, who were to give direction when to advance, or when to be upon the defensive. One of them was headed by Lucius Catellus the senator, and Alifantinam, king of Spain; another by Hirtacius, king of the Parthians, and Marius Lepidus, a senator; a third by Boccus, king of the Medes, and Caius Metellus, a senator; a fourth by Sertorius, king of Libya, and Quintus Milvius, a senator. These four companies were placed in the front of the army. In the rear of these were four others, whereof one was commanded by Serses, king of the Itureans; another by Pandrasus, king of Egypt; a third by Polytetes, duke of Bithynia; a fourth by Teucer, duke of [p.263] Phrygia. And again behind all these four others, whereof the commanders were Quintus Carucius, a senator, Laelius Ostiensis, Sulpitius Subuculus, and Mauricius Sylvanus. As for the general himself, he was sometimes in one place, sometimes another, to encourage and direct as there should be occasion. For a standard he ordered a golden eagle to be firmly set up in the centre, for his men to repair to whenever they should happen to be separated from their company.
Chap. IX.A battle between Arthur and Lucius Tiberius.
And now the Britons and Romans stood presenting their arms at one another; when forthwith at the sound of the trumpets, the company that was headed by the king of Spain and Lucius Catellus, boldly rushed forward against that which the king of Scotland and duke of Cornwall led, but were not able to make the least breach in their firm ranks. So that while these stood their ground, up came Guerinus and Boso with a body of horse upon their full speed, broke through the party that began the assault, and met with another which the king of the Parthians was leading up against Aschillius, king of Dacia. After this first onset, there followed a general engagement of both armies with great violence, and several breaches were made on each side. The shouts, the slaughter, the quantity of blood spilled, and the agonies of the dying, made a dreadful scene of horror. At first, the Britons sustained a great loss, by having Bedver the butler killed, and Caius the sewer mortally wounded. For, as Bedver met Boccus, king of the Medes, he fell dead by a stab of his lance amidst the enemies' troops. And Caius, in endeavouring to revenge his death, was surrounded by the Median troops, and there received a mortal wound, yet as a brave soldier he opened himself a way with the wing which he led, killed and dispersed the Medes, and would have made a safe retreat with all his men, had he not met the king of Libya with the forces under him, who put his whole company into disorder; yet not so great, but that he was still able to get off with a few, and flee with Bedver's corps to the golden dragon. The Neustrians grievously lamented at the sight of their leader's mangled body; and so [p.264] did the Andegavians, when they beheld their consul wounded. But there was now no room for complaints, for the furious and bloody shocks of both armies made it necessary to provide for their own defence. Therefore Hirelgas, the nephew of Bedver, being extremely enraged at his death, called up to him three hundred men, and like a wild boar amongst a pack of dogs, broke through the enemies' ranks with his horse, making towards the place where he had seen the standard of the king of the Medes; little regarding what might befall him, if he could but revenge the loss of his uncle. At length he reached the place, killed the king, brought off his body to his companions, and laid it by that of his uncle, where he mangled it in the same manner. Then calling with a loud voice to his countrymen, he animated their troops, and vehemently pressed them to exert themselves to the utmost, now that their spirits were raised, and the enemy disheartened; and especially as they had the advantage of them in being placed in better order, and so might the more grievously annoy them. Encouraged with this exhortation, they began a general assault upon the enemy, which was attended with a terrible slaughter on both sides. For on the part of the Romans, besides many others, fell Alifantinam, king of Spain, Micipsa of Babylon, as also Quintus Milvius and Marius Lepidus, senators. On the part of the Britons, Holdin, king of the Ruteni, Leodegarius of Bolonia, and three consuls of Britain, Cursalem of Caicester, Galluc of Salisbury, and Urbgennius of Bath. So that the troops which they commanded, being extremely weakened, retreated till they came to the army of the Armorican Britons, commanded by Hoel and Walgan. But these, being inflamed at the retreat of their friends, encouraged them to stand their ground, and caused them with the help of their own forces to put their pursuers to flight. While they continued this pursuit, they beat down and killed several of them, and gave them no respite, till they came to the general's troop; who, seeing the distress of his companions, hastened to their assistance.
Chap. X.Hoel and Walgan signalize their valour in the fight.
And now in this latter encounter the Britons were worsted, with the loss of Kimarcoc, consul of Trigeria, and two thou- [p.265] sand with him; besides three famous noblemen, Richomarcus, Bloccovius, and Jagivius of Bodloan, who, had they but enjoyed the dignity of princes, would have been celebrated for their valour through all succeeding ages. For, during this assault which they made in conjunction with Hoel and Walgan, there was not an enemy within their reach that could escape the fury of their sword or lance. But upon their falling in among Lucius's party, they were surrounded by them, and suffered the same fate with the consul and the other men. The loss of these men made those matchless heroes, Hoel and Walgan, much more eager to assault the general's ranks, and to try on all sides where to make the greatest impression. But Walgan, whose valour was never to be foiled, endeavoured to gain access to Lucius himself, that he might encounter him, and with this view beat down and killed all that stood in his way. And Hoel, not inferior to him, did no less service in another part, by spiriting up his men, and giving and receiving blows among the enemy with the same undaunted courage. It was hard to determine, which of them was the stoutest soldier.
Chap. XI.Lucius Tiberuts being killed, the Britons obtain the victory.
But Walgan, by forcing his way through the enemy's troops, as we said before, found at last (what he had wished for) access to the general, and immediately encountered him. Lucius, being then in the flower of his youth, and a person of great courage and vigour, desired nothing more than to engage with such a one as might put his strength to its full trial. Putting himself, therefore, into a posture of defence, he received Walgan with joy, and was not a little proud to try his courage with one of whom he had heard such great things. The fight continued between them a long time, with great force of blows, and no less dexterity in warding them off, each being resolved upon the other's destruction. During this sharp conflict between them, the Romans, on a sudden, recovering their courage, made an assault upon the Armoricans, and having relieved their general, repulsed Hoel and Walgan, with their troops, till they found themselves unawares met by Arthur and the forces under him. For he, hearing of the slaughter that was a little before made [p.266] of his men, had speedily advanced with his legion, and drawing out his Caliburn, spoke to them, with a loud voice, after this manner: "What are you doing, soldiers? Will you suffer these effeminate wretches to escape? Let not one of them get off alive. Remember the force of your arms, that have reduced thirty kingdoms under my subjection. Remember your ancestors, whom the Romans, when at the height of their power, made tributary. Remember your liberties, which these pitiful fellows, that are much your inferiors, attempt to deprive you of. Let none of them escape alive. What are you doing?" With these expostulations, he rushed upon the enemy, made terrible havoc among them, and not a man did he meet but at one blow he laid either him or his horse dead upon the ground. They, therefore, in astonishment fled from him, as a flock of sheep from a fierce lion, whom raging hunger provokes to devour whatever happens to come near him. Their arms were no manner of protection to them against the force with which this valiant prince wielded his Caliburn. Two kings, Sertorius of Libya, and Polytetes of Bithynia, unfortunately felt its fury, and had their heads cut off by it. The Britons, when they saw the king performing such wonders, took courage again. With one consent they assaulted the Romans, kept close together in their ranks, and while they assailed the foot in one part, endeavoured to beat down and pierce through the horse in another. Notwithstanding, the Romans made a brave defence, and at the instigation of Lucius laboured to pay back their slaughter upon the Britons. The eagerness and force that were now shown on both sides were as great as if it was the beginning of the battle. Arthur continued to do great execution with his own hand, and encouraged the Britons to maintain the fight; as Lucius Tiberius did the Romans, and made them perform many memorable exploits. He himself, in the meantime, was very active in going from place to place, and suffered none to escape with life that happened to come within the reach of his sword or lance. The slaughter that was now made on both sides was very dreadful, and the turns of fortune various, sometimes the Britons prevailing, sometimes the Romans. At last, while this sharp dispute continued Morvid, consul of Gloucester with his legion, [p.267] which, as we said before, was placed between the hills, came up with speed upon the rear of the enemy, and to their great surprise assaulted, broke through, and dispersed them with great slaughter. This last and decisive blow proved fatal to many thousands of Romans, and even to the general Lucius himself, who was killed among the crowds with a lance by an unknown hand. But the Britons, by long maintaining the fight, at last with great difficulty gained the victory.
Chap. XII.Part of the Romans flee; the rest, of their own accord, surrender themselves for slaves.
The Romans, being now, therefore, dispersed, betook themselves through fear, some to the by-ways and woods, some to the cities and towns, and all other places, where they could be most safe; but were either killed or taken and plundered by the Britons who pursued: so that great part of them voluntarily and shamefully held forth their hands, to receive their chains, in order to prolong for a while a wretched life. In all which the justice of Divine Providence was very visible; considering how unjustly the ancestors of the Britons were formerly invaded and harassed by those of the Romans; and that these stood only in defence of that liberty, which the others would have deprived them of; and refused the tribute, which the others had no right to demand.
Chap. XIII.The bodies of the slain are decently buried, each in their respective countries.
Arthur, after he had completed his victory, gave orders for separating the bodies of his nobility from those of the enemy, and preparing a pompous funeral for them; and that, when ready, they should be carried to the abbeys of their respective countries, there to be honourably buried. But Bedver the butler was, with great lamentation of the Neustrians, carried to his own city Bajocse, which Bedver the first, his great grandfather, had built. There he was, with great solemnity, laid close by the wall, in a burying-place on the south side of the city. But Cheudo was carried, grievously wounded to Camus, a town which he had himself built, where in a short time he died of his wounds, and was buried, as became a duke of Andegavia, in a convent of hermits, which was in a wood not far from the town. Also Holdin, duke of Ruteni, [p.268] was carried to Flanders, and buried in his own city Terivana. The other consuls and noblemen were conveyed to the neighbouring abbeys, according to Arthur's orders. Out of his great clemency, also, he ordered the country people to take care of the burial of the enemy, and to carry the body of Lucius to the senate, and tell them, that was the only tribute which Britain ought to pay them. After this he stayed in those parts till the next winter was over, and employed his time in reducing the cities of the Allobroges. But at the beginning of the following summer, as he was on his march towards Rome, and was beginning to pass the Alps, he had news brought him that his nephew Modred, to whose care he had entrusted Britain, had by tyrannical and treasonable practices set the crown upon his own head; and that queen Guanhumara, in violation of her first marriage, had wickedly married him.
Chap. I.Modred makes a great slaughter of Arthur's men, but is beaten, and flees to Winchester.
Of the matter now to be treated of, most noble consul, Geoffrey of Monmouth shall be silent; but will, nevertheless, though in a mean style, briefly relate what he found in the British book above mentioned, and heard from that most learned historian, Walter, archdeacon of Oxford, concerning the wars which this renowned king, upon his return to Britain after this victory, waged against his nephew. As soon, therefore, as the report, of this flagrant wickedness reached him, he immediately desisted from his enterprise against Leo, king of the Romans; and having sent away Hoel, duke of the Armoricans, with the army of Gaul, to restore peace in those parts, returned back with speed to Britain, attended only by the kings of the islands, and their armies. But the wicked traitor, Modred, had sent Cheldric, the Saxon leader, into Germany, there to raise all the forces he could find, and return with all speed: and in consideration of this service, had promised him all that part of the island, which reaches [p.269] from the Humber to Scotland, and whatever Hengist and Horsa had possessed of Kent in the time of Vortigern. So that he, in obedience to his commands, had arrived with eight hundred ships filled with pagan soldiers, and had entered into covenant to obey the traitor as his sovereign; who had also drawn to his assistance the Scots, Picts, Irish, and all others whom he knew to be enemies to his uncle. His whole army, taking pagans and Christians together, amounted to eighty thousand men; with the help of whom he met Arthur just after his landing at the port of Rutupi, and joining battle with him, made a very great slaughter of his men. For the same day fell Augusel, king of Albania, and Walgan, the king's nephew, with innumerable others. Augusel was succeeded in his kingdom by Eventus, his brother Urian's son, who afterwards performed many famous exploits in those wars. After they had at last, with much difficulty, got ashore, they paid back the slaughter, and put Modred and his army to flight. For, by long practice in war, they had learned an excellent way of ordering their forces; which was so managed, that while their foot were employed either in an assault or upon the defensive, the horse would come in at full speed obliquely, break through the enemy's ranks, and so force them to flee. Nevertheless, his perjured usurper got his forces together again, and the night following entered Winchester. As soon as queen Guanhumara heard this, she immediately, despairing of success, fled from York to the City of Legions, where she resolved to lead a chaste life among the nuns in the church of Julius the Martyr, and entered herself one of their order.
Chap. II.Modred, offer being twice besieged and routed, is killed. Arthur, being wounded, gives up the kingdom to Constantine.
But Arthur, whose anger was now much more inflamed, upon the loss of so many hundreds of his fellow soldiers, after he had buried his slain, went on the third day to the city, and there besieged the traitor, who, notwithstanding, was unwilling to desist from his enterprise, but used all methods to encourage his adherents, and marching out with his troops prepared to fight his uncle. In the battle that followed hereupon, great numbers lost their lives on both sides; but at last Modred's army suffered most, so that he [p.270] was forced to quit the field shamefully. From hence he made a precipitate flight, and, without taking any care for the burial of his slain, marched in haste towards Cornwall. Arthur, being inwardly grieved that he should so often escape, forthwith pursued him into that country as far as the river Cambula, where the other was expecting his coming. And Modred, as he was the boldest of men, and always the quickest at making an attack, immediately placed his troops in order, resolving either to conquer or to die, rather than continue his flight any longer. He had yet remaining with him sixty thousand men, out of whom he composed three bodies, which contained each of them six thousand six hundred and sixty-six men: but all the rest he joined in one body; and having assigned to each of the other parties their leaders, he took the command of this upon himself. After he had made this disposition of his forces, he endeavoured to animate them, and promised them the estates of their enemies if they came off with victory. Arthur, on the other side, also marshalled his army, which he divided into nine square companies, with a right and left wing; and having appointed to each of them their commanders, exhorted them to make a total rout of those robbers and perjured villains, who, being brought over into the island from foreign countries at the instance of the arch-traitor, were attempting to rob them of all their honours. He likewise told them that a mixed army composed of barbarous people of so many different countries, and who were all raw soldiers and inexperienced in war, would never be able to stand against such brave veteran troops as they were, provided they did their duty. After this encouragement given by each general to his fellow soldiers, the battle on a sudden began with great fury; wherein it would be both grievous and tedious to relate the slaughter, the cruel havoc, and the excess of fury that was to be seen on both sides. In this manner they spent a good part of the day, till Arthur at last made a push with his company, consisting of six thousand six hundred and sixty-six men, against that in which he knew Modred was; and having opened a way with their swords, they pierced quite through it, and made a grievous slaughter. For in this assault fell the wicked traitor himself, and many thousands with him. But notwithstanding the loss of him, the rest did not flee [p.271] but running together from all parts of the field maintained their ground with undaunted courage. The fight now grew more furious than ever, and proved fatal to almost all the commanders and their forces. For on Nodred's side fell Cheldric, Elasius, Egbrict, and Bunignus, Saxons; Gillapatric, Gillamor, Gistafel, and Gillarius, Irish; also the Scots and Picts, with almost all their leaders: on Arthur's side, Olbrict, king of Norway; Aschillius, king of Dacia; Cador Limenic Cassibellaun, with many thousands of others, as well Britons as foreigners, that he had brought with him. And even the renowned king Arthur himself was mortally wounded; and being carried thence to the isle of Avallon to be cured of his wounds, he gave up the crown of Britain to his kinsman Constantine, the son of Cador, duke of Conwall, in the five hundred and forty-second year of our Lord's incarnation.75
Chap. III.Constantine meets with disturbances from the Saxons and Afodred's sons.
Upon Constantine's advancement to the throne, the Saxons, with the two sons of Modred, made insurrection against him, though without success; for after many battles they fled, one to London, the other to Winchester, and possessed themselves of those places. Then died Saint Daniel, the pious prelate of the church of Bangor; and Theon, bishop of Gloucester, was elected archbishop of London. At the same time also died David, the pious archbishop of Legions, at the city of Menevia, in his own abbey; which he loved above all the other monasteries of his diocese, because Saint Patrick, who had prophetically foretold his birth, was the founder of it. For during his residence there among: his friars, he was taken with a sudden illness, of which he died, and, at the command of Malgo, king of the Venedotians, was buried in that church. He was succeeded in the metropolitan see by Cynoc, bishop of the church of Llan-Patern, who was thus promoted to a higher dignity.
Chap. IV.Constantine, having murdered the two sons of Modred, is himself killed by Conan.
But Constantine pursued the Saxons, and reduced them under his yoke. He also took the two sons of Modred; and one of them, who had fled for sanctuary to the church of St. Amphibalus, in Winchester, he murdered before the war. The other had hidden himself in a convent of friars at London, but at last was found out by him, brought before the altar, and there put to death. Three years after this, he himself, by the vengeance of God pursuing him, was killed by Conan, and buried close by Uther Pendragon within the structure of stones, which was set up with wonderful art not far from Salisbury, and called in the English tongue, Stonehenge.
Chap. V.Aurelius Conan reigns after Constantine.
After him succeeded Aurelius Conan, his nephew, a youth of wonderful valour; who, as he gained the monarchy of the whole island, would have been worthy the crown of it, had he not delighted in civil war. He raised disturbances against his uncle, who ought to have reigned after Constantine, and cast him into prison; and then killing his two sons, obtained the kingdom, but died in the second year of his reign.
Chap. VI.Wortiporius, being declared king, conquers the Saxons.
After Conan succeeded Wortiporius, against whom the Saxons made insurrection, and brought over their countrymen from Germany in a very great fleet. But he gave them battle and came off with victory, so that he obtained the monarchy of the whole kingdom, and governed the people carefully and peacefully four years.
Chap. VII.Malgo, king of Britain, and a most graceful person, addicts himself to sodomy.
After him succeeded Malgo, one of the handsomest of men in Britain, a great scourge of tyrants, and a man of great strength, extraordinary munificence, and matchless valour, but addicted very much to the detestable vice of sodomy, by which he made himself abominable to God. He [p.273] also possessed the whole island, to which, after a cruel war, he added the six provincial islands, viz. Leland, Iceland, Gotliland, the Orkneys, Norway, and Dacia.
Chap. VIII.Britain, in the middle of a civil war under king Careticus, is miserably wasted by the Saxons and Africans.
After Malgo succeeded Careticus, a lover of civil war, and hateful to God and to the Britons. The Saxons, discovering his fickle disposition, went to Ireland for Gormund, king of the Africans, who had arrived there with a very great fleet, and had subdued that country. From thence, at their traitorous instigation, he sailed over into Britain, which the perfidious Saxons in one part, in another the Britons by their continual wars among themselves were wholly laying waste. Entering therefore into alliance with the Saxons, he made war upon king Careticus, and after several battles fought, drove him from city to city, till at length he forced him to Cirecester, and there besieged him. Here Isembard, the nephew of Lewis, king of the Franks, came and made a league of amity with him, and out of respect to him renounced the Christian faith, on condition that he would assist him to gain the kingdom of Gaul from his uncle, by whom, he said, he was forcibly and unjustly expelled out of it. At last, after taking and burning the city, he had another fight with Careticus, and made him flee beyond the Severn into Wales. He then made an utter devastation of the country, set fire to the adjacent cities, and continued these outrages until he had almost burned up the whole surface of the island from the one sea to the other; so that the tillage was everywhere destroyed, and a general destruction made of the husbandmen and clergy, with fire and sword. This terrible calamity caused the rest to flee whithersoever they had any hopes of safety.
Chap. IX.The author upbraids the Britons.
"Why foolish nation! oppressed with the weight of your abominable wickedness, why did you, in your insatiable thirst after civil wars, so weaken yourself by domestic confusions, that whereas formerly you brought distant kingdoms under your yoke, now, like a good vineyard degenerated and [p.274] turned to bitterness, you cannot defend your country, your wives, and children, against your enemies? Go on, go on in your civil dissensions, little understanding the saying in the Gospel, 'Every kingdom divided against itself shall be brought to desolation, and a house divided against itself shall fall.' Since then your kingdom was divided against itself; since the rage of civil discord, and the fumes of envy, have darkened your minds, since your pride would not suffer you to pay obedience to one king; you see, therefore, your country made desolate by impious pagans, and your houses falling one upon another; which shall be the cause of lasting sorrow to your posterity. For the barbarous lionesses shall see their whelps enjoying the towns, cities, and other possessions of your children; from which they shall be miserably expelled, and hardly if ever recover their former flourishing state."
Chap, X.Loegria is again inhabited by the Saxons. The Britons, with their bishops, retire into Cornwall and Wales.
But to return to the history; when the inhuman tyrant, with many thousands of his Africans, had made a devastation almost over the whole island, he yielded up the greater part of it, called Loegria, to the Saxons, whose villainy had been the occasion of his arrival. Therefore the remainder of the Britons retired into the western parts of the kingdom, that is, Cornwall and Wales; from whence they continually made frequent and fierce irruptions upon the enemy. The three archbishops, viz. the archbishop of Legions, Theon of London, and Thadiocus of York, when they beheld all the churches in their jurisdiction lying level with the ground, fled with all the clergy that remained after so great a destruction, to the coverts of the woods in Wales, carrying with them the relics of the saints, for fear the sacred bones of so many holy men of old might be destroyed by the barbarians, if they should leave them in that imminent danger, and themselves instantly suffer martyrdom. Many more went over in a great fleet into Armorican Britain; so that the whole church of the two provinces, Loegria and Northumberland, had its convents destroyed. But these things I shall relate elsewhere, when I translate the book concerning their banishment.
Chap. XI.The Britons lose their kingdom.
For a long time after this the Britons were dispossessed of the crown of the kingdom, and the monarchy of the island, and made no endeavours to recover their ancient dignity; but even that part of the country which yet remained to them, being subject not to one king, but three tyrants, was often wasted by civil wars. But neither did the Saxons yet obtain the crown, but were also subject to three kings, who harassed sometimes one another, sometimes; the Britons.
Chap. XII.Augustine, being sent by pope Gregory into Britain, preaches the gospel to the Angles.
In the meantime Augustine was sent by pope Saint Gregory into Britain, to preach the word of God to the Angles, who, being blinded with pagan superstition, had entirely extinguished Christianity in that part of the island which they possessed. But among the Britons, the Christian faith still flourished, and never failed among them from the time of pope Eleutherius, when it was first planted here. But when Augustine came, he found in their province seven bishoprics and an archbishopric, all filled with most devout prelates, and a great number of abbeys; by which the flock of Christ was still kept in good order. Among the rest, there was in the city of Bangor a most noble church, in which it is reported there was so great a number of monks, that when the monastery was divided into seven parts, having each their priors over them, not one of them had less than three hundred monks, who all lived by the labour of their own hands. The name of their abbat was Dinooth, a man admirably skilled in the liberal arts; who, when Augustine required the subjection of the British bishops, and would have persuaded them to undertake the work of the gospel with him among the Angles, answered him with several arguments, that they owed no subjection to him, neither would they preach to their enemies; since they had their own archbishop, and because the Saxon nation persisted in depriving them of their country. For this reason they esteemed them their mortal enemies, reckoned their faith [p.276] and religion as nothing, and would no more communicate with the Angles than with dogs.
Chap. XIII.Ethelfrid kills a great number of the British monks, but is at last routed by the Britons.
Therefore Ethelbert, king of Kent, when he saw that the Britons disdained subjection to Augustine, and despised his preaching, was highly provoked, and stirred up Ethelfrid, king of the Northumbrians, and the other petty kings of the Saxons, to raise a great army, and march to the city of Bangor, to destroy the abbat Dinooth, and the rest of the clergy who held them in contempt. At his instigation, therefore, they assembled a prodigious army, and in their march to the province of the Britons, came to Legecester, where Brocmail, consul of the city, was awaiting their coming. To the same city were come innumerable monks and hermits from several provinces of the Britons, but especially from the city of Bangor, to pray for the safety of their people. Whereupon Ethelfrid, king of the Northumbrians, collecting all his forces, joined battle with Brocmail, who, having a less army to withstand him, at last quitted the city and fled, though not without having made a great slaughter of the enemy. But Ethelfrid, when he had taken the city, and understood upon what occasion the monks were come thither, commanded his men to turn their arms first against them; and so two hundred of them were honoured with the crown of martyrdom, and admitted into the kingdom of heaven that same day. From thence this Saxon tyrant proceeded on his march to Bangor; but upon the news of his outrageous madness, the leaders of the Britons, viz. Blederic, duke of Cornwall, Margaduc, king of the Demetians, and Cadwan, of the Venedotians, came from all parts to meet him, and joining battle with him, wounded him, and forced him to flee; and killed of his army to the number of ten thousand and sixty-six men. On the Britons' side fell Blederic, duke of Cornwall, who was their commander in those wars.
Chap. I.Cadwan acquires by treaty all Britain on this side of the Humber, and Ethelfrid the rest.
After this all the princes of the Britons met together at the city of Legecester, and consented to make Cadwan their king, that under his command they might pursue Ethelfrid beyond the Humber. Accordingly, as soon as he was crowned, they flocked together from all parts, and passed the Humber; of which when Ethelfrid received intelligence, he entered into a confederacy with all the Saxon kings, and went to meet Cadwan. At last, as they were forming their troops for a battle, their friends came, and made peace between them on these terms: that Cadwan should enjoy that part of Britain which lies on this side of the Humber, and Ethelfrid that which is beyond it. As soon as they had confirmed this agreement with an oath made to their hostages, there commenced such a friendship between them, that they had all things common. In the meantime it happened, that Ethelfrid banished his own wife and married another, and bore so great a hatred to her that was banished, that he would not suffer her to live in the kingdom of Northumberland. Whereupon she, being with child, went to king Cadwan, that by his mediation she might be restored to her husband. But when Ethelfrid could by no means be brought to consent to it, she continued to live with Cadwan, till she was delivered of the son which she had conceived. A short time after her delivery, Cadwan also had a son born to him by the queen, his wife. Then were the two boys brought up together in a manner suitable to their royal birth, one of which was called Cadwalla, the other Edwin. When they were nearly arrived at men's estate, their parents sent them to Salomon, king of the Armorican Britons, that in his court they might learn the discipline of war, and other princely qualifications. This prince, therefore, received them graciously, and admitted them to an intimacy with him; so that there was none of their age in the whole court, that had a free access, or more familiarly discoursed with the king than they. At last he himself was an eye-witness of their [p.278] exploits against the enemy, in which they very much signalized their valour.
Chap. II.Cadwalla breaks the covenant he had made with Edwin.
In process of time, when their parents were dead, they returned to Britain, where they took upon them the government of the kingdom, and began to form the same friendship as their fathers. Two years after this, Edwin asked leave of Cadwalla to wear a crown, and to celebrate the same solemnities, as had been used of old in Northumberland. And when they had begun a treaty upon this subject by the river Duglas, that the matter might be adjusted according to the advice of their wise counsellors; it happened that Cadwalla was lying on the other side of the river in the lap of a certain nephew of his, whose name was Brian. While ambassadors were negotiating between them, Brian wept, and shed tears so plentifully, that the king's face and beard were wet with them. The king, imagining that it rained, lifted up his face, and seeing the young man in tears, asked him the occasion of such sudden grief. "Good reason," said he, "have I to weep continually, as well as the whole British nation, which has groaned under the oppression of barbarians ever since the time of Malgo, and has not yet got a prince, to restore it to its ancient flourishing state. And even the little honour that it had left, is lessened by your indulgence; since the Saxons, who are only strangers, and always traitors to our country, must now be permitted to wear the same crown as you do. For when once they shall attain to regal dignity, it will be a great addition to their glory in the country from whence they came; and they will the sooner invite over their countrymen, for the utter extirpation of our race. For they have been always accustomed to treachery, and never to keep faith with any; which I think should be a reason for our keeping them under, and not for exalting them. When king Vortigern first retained them in his service, they made a show of living peaceably, and fighting for our country, till they had an opportunity of practising their wickedness; and then they returned evil for good, betrayed him, and made a cruel massacre of the people of the kingdom. Afterwards they betrayed Aurelius Am- [p.279] brosius, to whom, even after the most tremendous oaths of fidelity, at a banquet with him they gave a draught of poison. They also betrayed Arthur, when, setting aside the covenant by which they were bound, they joined with his nephew Modred, and fought against him. Lastly, they broke faith with king Careticus, and brought upon him Gormund, king of the Africans, by whose disturbances our people were robbed of their country, and the king disgracefully driven out.
Chap. III.A quarrel between Cadwalla and Edwin.
At the mention of these things, Cadwalla repented of entering into this treaty, and sent word to Edwin that he could by no means induce his counsellors to consent to his petition. For they alleged that it was contrary to law and the ancient establishment, that an island, which has always had no more than one crown, should be now under subjection to two crowned heads. This message incensed Edwin, and made him break off the conference, and retire into Northumberland, saying, he would be crowned without Cadwalla's leave. When Cadwalla was told this, he declared to him by his ambassadors that he would cut off his crowned head, if he presumed to wear a crown within the kingdom of Britain.
Chap. IV.Cadwalla is vanquished by Edwin, and driven out of the kingdom.
This proved the occasion of a war between them, in which, after several engagements between their men, they at last met together themselves beyond the Humber, and had a battle, wherein Cadwalla lost many thousands of his followers, and was put to flight.76 From hence he marched with precipitation through Albania, and went over to Ireland. But Edwin, after this victory, led his army through the provinces of the Britons, and burning the cities before him, grievously afflicted the citizens and country people. During this exercise of his cruelty, Cadwalla never ceased endeavouring to return back to his country in a fleet, but without success ;because to whatever port he steered, Edwin met him with his forces, and hindered his landing. For there was come to [p.280] him from Spain a very skilful soothsayer, named Pellitus, who, by the flight of birds and the courses of the stars, foretold all the disasters that would happen. By these means Edwin, getting knowledge of Cadwalla's return, prepared to meet him, and shattered his ships so that he drowned his men, and beat him off from all his ports. Cadwalla, not knowing what course to take, was almost in despair of ever returning. At last it came into his head to go to Salomon, king of the Armorican Britons, and desire his assistance and advice, to enable him to return to his kingdom. And so, as he was steering towards Armorica, a strong tempest rose on a sudden, which dispersed the ships of his companions, and in a short time left no two of them together. The pilot of the king's ship was seized immediately with so great a fear, that quitting the stern, he left the vessel to the disposal of fortune; so that all that night it was tossed up and down in great danger by the raging waves. The next morning they arrived at a certain island called Garnareia, where with great difficulty they got ashore. Cadwalla was forthwith seized with such grief for the loss of his companions, that for three days and nights together he refused to eat, but lay sick upon his bed. The fourth day he was taken with a very great longing for some venison, and causing Brian to be called, made him acquainted with it. Whereupon Brian took his bow and quiver, and went through the island, that if he could light on any wild beast, he might make booty of it. And when he had walked over the whole island without finding what he was in quest of, he was extremely concerned that he could not gratify his master's desire; and was afraid his sickness would prove mortal if his longing were not satisfied. He, therefore, fell upon a new device, and cut a piece of flesh out of his own thigh, which he roasted upon a spit, and carried to the king for venison. The king, thinking it to be real venison, began to eat of it to his great refreshment, admiring the sweetness of it, which he fancied exceeded any flesh he ever had tasted before. At last, when he had fully satisfied his appetite, he became more cheerful, and in three days was perfectly well again. Then the wind standing fair, he got ready his ship, and hoisting sails they pursued their voyage, and arrived at the city Kidaleta. From thence they went to king Salomon, by [p.281] whom they were received kindly and with all suitable respect; and as soon as he had learned the occasion of their coming, he made them a promise of assistance, and spoke to them as follows.
Chap. V.The speech of Salomon, king of Armorica, to Cadwalla.
"It is a grief to us, noble youths, that the country of your ancestors is oppressed by a barbarous nation, and that you are ignominiously driven out of it. But since other men are able to defend their kingdoms, it is a wonder your people should lose so fruitful an island, and not be able to withstand the nation of the Angles, whom our countrymen hold in contempt. While the people of this country lived together with yours in Britain, they bore sway over all the provincial kingdoms, and never could be subdued by any nation but the Romans. Neither did the Romans do this by their own power, as I have been lately informed, but by a dissension among the nobility of the island. And even the Romans, though they held it under their subjection for a time, yet upon the loss and slaughter of their rulers, were driven out with disgrace. But after the Britons came into this province under the conduct of Maximian and Conan, those that remained never had the happiness afterwards of holding an uninterrupted possession of the crown. For though many of their princes maintained the ancient dignity of their ancestors, yet their weak heirs that succeeded, though more in number, entirely lost it, upon the invasion of their enemies. Therefore I am grieved for the weakness of your people, since we are of the same race with you, and the name of Britons is common to you, and to the nation that bravely defends their country, which you see at war with all its neighbours."
Chap. VI.Cadwalla's answer to Salomon.
When he had concluded his speech, Cadwalla, who was a little put to the blush, answered him after this manner: "Royal sir, whose descent is from a race of kings, I give you many thanks for your promise of assisting me to recover my kingdom. But what you say is a wonder, that my people have not maintained the dignity of their ancestors, since the [p.282] time that the Britons came to these provinces, I am far from thinking to be such. For the noblest men of the whole kingdom followed those leaders, and there remained only the baser sort to enjoy their honours; who being raised to a high quality, on a sudden were puffed up above their station; and growing wanton with riches gave themselves up to commit such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles; and (as Gildas the historian testifies) were not only guilty of this vice, but of all the enormities that are incident to human nature. And what chiefly prevailed, to the entire overthrow of all goodness, was the hatred of truth with its assertors, the love of a lie with the inventors of it, the embracing of evil for good, the veneration of wickedness for grace, the receiving of Satan for an angel of light. Kings were anointed, not for the sake of God, but such as were more cruel than the rest; and were soon after murdered by their anointers, without examination, having chosen others yet more cruel in their room. But if any of them showed any mildness, or seemed a favourer of truth, against him, as the subverter of Britain, were all their malice and their weapons bent. In short, things pleasing to God or displeasing, with them had the same weight, even if the worse were not the weightier. Therefore were all affairs managed contrary to public safety, as if the true physician of all had left them destitute of cure. And thus was every thing done without discretion, and that not only by secular men, but by the Lord's flock and its pastors. Therefore it is not to be wondered, that such a degenerate race, so odious to God for their vices, lost a country which they had so heinously corrupted. For God was willing to execute his vengeance upon them, by suffering a foreign people to come upon them, and drive them out of their possessions. Notwithstanding it would be a worthy act, if God would permit it, to restore our subjects to their ancient dignity, to prevent the reproach that may be thrown upon our race, that we were weak rulers, who did not exert ourselves in our own defence. And I do the more freely ask your assistance, as you are of the same blood with us. For the great Malgo, who was the fourth king of Britain after Arthur, had two sons, named Ennianus and Runo. Ennianus begot Belin; Belin, Jago; Jago, Cadwan, who was my father. Runo, who, after his [p.283] brother's death, was driven out by the Saxons, came to this province and bestowed his daughter on duke Hoel, the son of that great Hoel who shared with Arthur in his conquests. Of her was born Alan; of Alan, Hoel your father, who while he lived was a terror to all Gaul."
Chap. VII.Brian kills Edwin's magician.
In the meantime, while he was spending the winter with Salomon, they entered into a resolution, that Brian should pass over into Britain, and take some method to kill Edwin's magician, lest he might by his usual art inform him of Cadwalla's coming. And when with this design he had arrived at Hamo's Port, he took upon him the habit of a poor man, and made himself a staff of iron sharp at the end, with which he might kill the magician if he should happen to meet with him. From thence he went to York, where Edwin then resided; and having entered that city joined himself to the poor people that waited for alms before the king's gate. But as he was going to and fro, it happened that his sister came out of the hall, with a basin in her hand, to fetch water for the queen. She had been taken by Edwin at the city of Worcester, when after Cadwalla's flight he was acting his hostilities upon the provinces of the Britons. As she was therefore passing by Brian, he immediately knew her, and, breaking forth into tears, called to her with a low voice; at which the damsel turning her face, was in doubt at first who it could be, but upon a nearer approach discovered it to be her brother, and was near falling into a swoon, for fear that he might by some unlucky accident be known and taken by the enemy. She therefore refrained from saluting him, or entering into familiar discourse with him, but told him, as if she was talking upon some other subject, the state of the court, and showed him the magician, that he was inquiring for, who was at that very time walking among the poor people, while the alms were being distributed among them. Brian, as soon as he had taken knowledge of the man, ordered his sister to steal out privately from her apartment the night following, and come to him near an old church without the city, where he would conceal himself in expectation of her. Then dismissing her, he thrust himself in among the crowd of poor people, in that part where Pel- [p.284] litus was placing them. And the same moment he got access to him, he lifted up his staff, and at once gave him a stab under the breast which killed him. This done, he threw away his staff, and passed among the rest undistinguished and unsuspected by any of the by-standers, and by good providence got to the place of concealment which he had appointed. His sister, when night came on, endeavoured all she could to get out, but was not able; because Edwin, being terrified at the killing of Pellitus, had set a strict watch about the court, who, making a narrow search, refused to let her go out. When Brian found this, he retired from that place, and went to Exeter, where he called together the Britons, and told them what he had done. Afterwards having despatched away messengers to Cadwalla, he fortified that city, and sent word to all the British nobility, that they should bravely defend their cities and towns, and joyfully expect Cadwalla's coming to their relief in a short time with auxiliary forces from Salomon. Upon the spreading of this news over the whole island, Penda, king of the Mercians, with a very great army of Saxons, came to Exeter, and besieged Brian.
Chap. VIII.Cadwalla takes Penda, and routs his army.
In the meantime Cadwalla arrived with ten thousand men, whom king Salomon had delivered to him; and with them he marched straight to the siege against king Penda. But, as he was going, he divided his forces into four parts, and then made no delay to advance and join battle with the enemy, wherein Penda was forthwith taken, and his army routed. For, finding no other way for his own safety, he surrendered himself to Cadwalla, and gave hostages, with a promise that he would assist him against the Saxons. Cadwalla, after this success against him, summoned together his nobility, that had been a long time in a decaying state, and marched to Northumberland against Edwin, and made continual devastations in that country. When Edwin was informed of it, he assembled all the petty kings of the Angles, and meeting the Britons in a field called Heathfield,77 presently gave them battle, but was killed, and almost all the people [p.285] with him, together with Osfrid, his son, and Godbold, king of the Orkneys, who had come to their assistance.
Chap. IX.Cadwalla kills Osric and Aidan in fight.
Having thus obtained the victory, Cadwalla marched through the provinces of the Angles, and committed such outrages upon the Saxons, that he neither spared age nor sex ; for his resolution being to extirpate the whole race out of Britain, all that he found he put to extreme tortures. After this he had a battle with Osric, Edwin's successor, and killed him together with his two nephews, who ought to have reigned after him. He also killed Aidan, king of the Scots, who came to their assistance.
Chap. X.Oswald routs Penda in fight, but is killed by Cadwalla coming in upon him.
Their deaths made room for Oswald to succeed to the kingdom of Northumberland; but Cadwalla drove him, with the rest that had given him disturbance, to the very wall which the emperor Severus had formerly built between Britain and Scotland. Afterwards he sent Penda, king of the Mercians, and the greatest part of his army, to the same place, to give him battle. But Oswald, as he was besieged one night by Penda, in the place called Heavenfield, that is, the Heavenly Field,78 set up there our Lord's cross, and commanded his men to speak with a very loud voice these words: "Let us all kneel down, and pray the Almighty, living and true God, to defend us from the proud army of the king of Britain, and his wicked leader Penda. For he knows how justly we wage this war for the safety of our people." They all therefore did as he commanded them, and advanced at break of day against the enemy, and by their faith gained the victory. Cadwalla, upon hearing this news, being inflamed with rage, assembled his army, and went in pursuit of the holy king Oswald; and in a battle which he had with him at a place called Burne, Penda broke in upon him and killed him.
Chap. XI.Oswy submits to Cadwalla. Penda desires leave of Cadwalla to make war against him.
Oswald, with many thousands of his men, being killed, his brother Oswy succeeded him in the kingdom of Northumber- [p.286] land,79 and by making large presents of gold and silver to Cadwalla, who was now possessed of the government of all Britain, made his peace and submission to him. Upon this Alfrid, his brother, and Ethelwald,80 his brother's son, began an insurrection; but, not being able to hold out against him, they fled to Penda, king of the Mercians, desiring him to assemble his army and pass the Humber with them, that he might deprive Oswy of his kingdom. But Penda, fearing to break the peace, which Cadwalla had settled through the kingdom of Britain, deferred beginning any disturbance with- out his leave, till he could some way work him up, either to make war himself upon Oswy, or allow him the liberty of doing it. At a certain Pentecost therefore, when Cadwalla was celebrating that festival at London, and for the greater solemnity wore the crown of Britain, all the kings of the Angles, excepting only Oswy, being present, as also all the dukes of the Britons; Penda went to the king, and inquired of him the reason, why Oswy alone was wanting, when all the princes of the Saxons were present. Cadwalla answered, that his sickness was the cause of it; to which the other replied, that he had sent over to Germany for more Saxons, to revenge the death of his brother Oswald upon them both. He told him further, that he had broken the peace of the kingdom, as being the sole author of the war and dissension among them; since Ethelfrid, king of Northumberland, and Ethelwald, his brother's son, had been by him harassed with a war, and driven out of their own country. Pie also desired leave, either to kill him, or banish him the kingdom.
Chap. XII.Cadwalla is advised to suffer Penda to make an insurrection against Oswy.
This matter caused the king to enter upon much deliberation, and hold a private consultation with his intimate friends, what course to take. Among the rest that offered their proposals, Margadud, king of the Dimetians, spoke as follows:"Royal sir, since you have proposed to expel the race of the Angles from the coasts of Britain, why do you alter your resolution, and suffer them to continue in peace among us? At least you should permit them to fall out among them- [p.287] selves, and let our country owe its deliverance to their own civil broils. No faith is to be kept with one that is treacherous, and is continually laying snares for him to whom he owes fidelity. Such have the Saxons always been to our nation, from the very first time of their coming among us. What faith ought we to keep with them? Let Penda immediately have leave to go against Oswy, that by this civil dissension and destruction of one another, our island may get rid of them.
Chap. XIII.Penda is killed by Oswy, Cadwalla dies.
By these and other words to the same effect, Cadwalla was prevailed upon to grant the permission desired. And Penda, having assembled a vast army, went to the Humber, and laying waste that country, began a fierce war upon the king. Oswy was at last reduced to such extremity, that he was forced to promise him innumerable royal ornaments, and other presents more than one would believe, if he would desist from ruining his country, and return home without committing any more hostilities. But when the other could by no entreaties be prevailed upon to do it, the king, in hopes of divine assistance, though he had a less army, however, gave him battle near the River Winwid, and having killed Penda and thirty other commanders, gained the victory. Penda's son Wulfred, by a grant from Cadwalla, succeeded to the kingdom, and joining with Eafa and Eadbert, two leaders of the Mercians, rebelled against Oswy; but at last, by Cadwalla's command, made peace with him. At length, after forty-eight years were expired, that most noble and potent king of the Britons, Cadwalla, being grown infirm with age and sickness, departed this life upon the fifteenth before the kalends of December. The Britons embalmed his body, and placed it with wonderful art in a brazen statue, which was cast according to the measure of his stature. This statue they set up with complete armour, on an admirable and beautiful brazen horse, over the western gate of London, for a monument of the above-mentioned victory, and for a terror to the Saxons. They also built under it a church in honour of St. Martin, in which divine ceremonies are celebrated for him and the others who departed in the faith.
Chap. XIV.Cadwallader succeeds Cadwalla.
He was succeeded in the kingdom by Cadwallader,81 his son, whom Bede calls the youth Elidwalda. At first he maintained the government with peace and honour; but after twelve years' enjoyment of the crown, he fell into a fit of sickness, and a civil war broke out among the Britons. His mother was Penda's sister, by the same father but a different mother, descended from the noble race of the Gewisseans. For Cadwalla, after his reconciliation with her brother, made her the partner of his bed, and had Cadwallader by her.
Chap. XV.The Britons are compelled, by pestilence and famine, to leave Britain. Cadwallader's lamentation.
During his sickness, the Britons, (as we said before,) quarrelling among themselves, made a wicked destruction of a rich country; and this again was attended with another misfortune. For this besotted people was punished with a grievous and memorable famine; so that every province was destitute of all sustenance, except what could be taken in hunting. After the famine followed a terrible pestilence, which in a short time destroyed such multitudes of people, that the living were not sufficient to bury the dead. Those of them that remained, flying their country in whole troops together, went to the countries beyond the sea, and while they were under sail, they with a mournful howling voice sang, "Thou hast given us, O God, like sheep appointed for meat, and hast scattered us among the heathen." Also Cadwallader himself, in his voyage, with his miserable fleet to Armorica, made this addition to the lamentation, "Woe to us sinners, for our grievous impieties, wherewith we have not ceased to provoke God, while we had space for repentance. Therefore the revenge of his power lies heavy upon us, and drives us out of our native soil, which neither the Romans of old, nor the Scots or Picts afterwards, nor yet the treacherous Saxons with all their craft, were able to do. But in vain have we recovered our country so often from them; since it was not the will of God that we should per- [p.289] petually hold the government of it. He who is the true Judge, when he saw we were by no means to be reclaimed from our wickedness, and that no human power could expel our race, was willing to chastise our folly himself; and has turned his anger against us, by which we are driven out in crowds from our native country. Return, therefore, ye Romans; return, Scots and Picts; return, Ambrons and Saxons: behold, Britain lies open to you, being by the wrath of God made desolate, which you were never able to do. It is not your valour that expels us; but the power of the supreme King, whom we have never ceased to provoke."
Chap. XVI.Cadwallader with his people goes to Alan. The Saxons seize all Britain.
With these dolorous complaints he arrived at the Armorican coast, and went with his whole company to king Alan, the nephew of Salomon by whom he was honourably received. So that Britain, being now destitute of its ancient inhabitants, excepting a few in Wales that escaped the general mortality, became a frightful place even to the Britons themselves for eleven years after. Neither was it at the same time more favourable to the Saxons, who died in it without intermission. Notwithstanding the remainder of them, after this raging plague was ceased, according to their old custom sent word over to their countrymen, that the island of Britain was now freed of its native inhabitants, and lay open to them, if they would come over and inhabit it. As soon as they had received this information, that odious people, gathering together an innumerable multitude of men and women, arrived in Northumberland, and inhabited the provinces that lay desolate from Albania to Cornwall. For there was now nobody to hinder them, excepting the poor remains of the Britons, who continued together in the thickets of the woods in Wales. From that time the power of the Britons ceased in the island, and the Angles began their reign.
Chap. XVII.Cadwallader is by the voice of an angel deterred from returning to Britain.
After some time, when the people had recovered strength, Cadwallader, being mindful of his kingdom, which was now free from the contagion of the pestilence, desired assistance [p.290] of Alan towards the recovery of his dominions. The king granted his request; but as he was getting ready a fleet, he was commanded by the loud voice of an angel to desist from his enterprise. For God was not willing that the Britons should reign any longer in the island, before the time came of which Merlin prophetically foretold Arthur. It also commanded him to go to Rome to pope Sergius, where, after doing penance, he should be enrolled among the saints. It told him withal, that the Britons, by the merit of their faith, should again recover the island, when the time decreed for it was come. But this would not be accomplished before they should be possessed of his reliques, and transport them from Rome into Britain. At the same time also the reliques of the other saints should be found, which had been hidden on account of the invasion of pagans; and then at last would they recover their lost kingdom. When the holy prince had received the heavenly message, he went straight to king Alan, and gave him an account of what had been told him.
Chap, XVIII.Cadwallader goes to Rome and dies.
Then Alan had recourse to several books, as the prophecies of the eagle that prophesied at Shaftesbury, and the verses of Sibyl and Merlin; and made diligent search in them, to see whether the revelation made to Cadwallader agreed with those written oracles. And when hi could find nothing contradictory to it, he admonished Cadwallader to submit to the divine dispensation, and laying aside the thoughts of Britain, perform what the angelical voice had commanded him. But he urged him to send his son Ivor and his nephew Ini over into the island, to govern the remainder of the Britons; lest a nation, descended of so ancient a race, should lose their liberty by the incursions of barbarians. Then Cadwallader, renouncing worldly cares for the sake of God and his everlasting kingdom, went to Rome, and was confirmed by pope Sergius: and being seized with a sudden illness, was, upon the twelfth before the kalends of May, in the six hundred and eighty-ninth year of our Lord's incarnation freed from the corruption of the flesh, and admitted into the glories of the heavenly kingdom.
Chap. XIX.The two Britons, Ivor and Ini, in vain attack the nation of the Angles. Athelstan the first king of the Angles.
As soon as Ivor and Ini had got together their ships, they with all the forces they could raise, arrived in the island, and for forty-nine years together fiercely attacked the nation of the Angles, but to little purpose. For the above-mentioned mortality and famine, together with the inveterate spirit of faction that was among them, had made this proud people so much degenerate, that they were not able to gain any advantage of the enemy. And being now also overrun with barbarism, they were no longer called Britons, but Gualenses, Welshmen; a word derived either from Gualo their leader, or Guales their queen, or from their barbarism. But the Saxons managed affairs with more prudence, maintained peace and concord among themselves, tilled their grounds, rebuilt their cities and towns, and so throwing off the dominion of the Britons, bore sway over all Loegria, under their leader Athelstan, who first wore a crown amongst them. But the Welshmen, being very much degenerated from the nobility of the Britons, never after recovered the monarchy of the island; on the contrary, by quarrels among themselves, and wars with the Saxons, their country was a perpetual scene of misery and slaughter.
Chap. XX.Geoffrey of Monmouth's conclusion.
But as for the kings that have succeeded among them in Wales, since that time, I leave the history of them to Caradoc of Lancarvan, my contemporary; as I do also the kings of the Saxons to William of Malmesbury, and Henry of Huntingdon. But I advise them to be silent concerning the kings of the Britons,82 since they have not that book written [p.292] in the British tongue, which Walter, archdeacon of Oxford, brought out of Brittany, and which being a true history, published in honour of those princes, I have thus taken care to translate.
1 Robert, earl of Gloucester was the natural son of king Henry I. by whose command he swore fealty to the empress Matilda, daughter of that monarch. To prove his fidelity, he rebelled against king Stephen, and mainly contributed to the success of Henry son of the empress, afterwards Henry II.
2 Thought to be Walter Mapes the poet, author of several ludicrous and satirical compositions.
3 The names of thirty-three cities will be found in Nennius's History of the Britons, § 7.
4 This brief description of Britain is taken almost word for word from the more authentic historians, Bede, Orosius, &c.
5 It is unnecessary to remind the classical reader that the historians of Greece and Italy make no mention of Brutus and his adventures. The minuteness of detail, so remarkable in the whole story, as related by Geoffrey, is an obvious objection to its authenticity.
6 The Achelous, or perhaps the Acheron.
7 It is probably impossible to discover whether these names describe existing places, or are purely the invention of the author.
8 See Virgil's Ζneid i, 241.
9 The earliest real notice of Albion occurs in a work attributed to Aristotle [De Mundo, sec. 3], who wrote, before Christ 340, "Beyond the Pillars of Hercules is the ocean which flows round the earth. In it are two very large islands, called Britannic, these are Albion and leme," &c.
10 The etymology of the word Cornwall, as if Comu-Galliae or Walliae, is equally imaginary.
11 It is now called the Haw, and is near Plymouth.
12 This is the city now called London, and it is evident that the writer wishes it to be supposed that the modern name is derived from the ancient, as if it were Lud-ton or Lud-don. The first notice of London found in authentic history occurs in Tacitus, Annal. lib. xiv. c. 33, the second notice in Ptolemy, a.d. 120, lib. i. 15.
13 From this statement it would follow that the arrival of Brutus in Britain is to be placed about the year 1100 before Christ.
14 It is only necessary to compare such passages as these with the Grecian or Roman Histories, and we cannot avoid perceiving the legendary character of Geoffrey of Monmouth's History.
15 York seems to be a corruption of Ebrauc. It is first mentioned by Ptolemy (ii. 3.) a.d. 120.
16 Alclud or Alcluith is unknown to the classic writers: it is first mentioned by Gildas, and is thought to be the modern Dumbarton.
18 Now Carlisle.
19 King Lear, the hero of Shakespeare's drama.
22 About the year before Christ, 753.
23 The Danes.
24 This seems to be a false account of the Roman roads in Britain.
25 The absurdity of describing Porsena king of Etruria, as one of the Roman consuls, must be apparent to every reader. No less evident is it that the whole of this fictitious account is founded upon the known fact that Rome was taken by the Gauls commanded by one Brennus.
26 Newport, the principal town of South Wales.
27 The people who lived near Boulogne.
28 The tower of London was built or at least repaired and enlarged by William Rufus. The story of its having been originally constructed by Julius Caesar is an absurd fiction irreconcilable with the Commentaries of that general. See William of Malmesbury, p. 341.
29 The British name of this prince is probably Caswallon.
30 In Latin Porta Lud.
31 It is ridiculous to suppose that Caesar said any thing of the kind, for he knew well the slender historical evidence on which the Trojan story depended.
33 "Caesar's expedition against the Britons was of singular boldness; for he was the first who proceeded with a fleet to the Western Ocean, and sailed over the Atlantic Sea, conducting an army to war; and being desirous of possessing an island, for its size hardly believed in, and giving occasion for much controversy to various writers, as if a name and a tale had been invented of a place which never had been nor was yet in existence, he advanced the dominion of the Romans beyond the limits of the known world; and having twice sailed over to the island from the opposite coast of Gaul, and having rather worsted his enemies in many battles, than advantaged his own soldiers, for there was nothing worth taking from men who had a bare subsistence and were poor, he terminated the war not in the way he wished; but taking hostages from the king, and appointing tributes, he departed from the island."Plutarch. This is the language of a writer favourable to the reputation of Caesar, and may teach us how worthless are the old British or rather Welsh legends in comparison with the classic historians.
But the classic historians deal sometimes in fables. Witness the following quotation from Polyaenus:
"Caesar attempting to pass a large river in Britain, Cassoiaulus, king of the Britons, obstructed him with many horsemen and chariots. Caesar had in his train a very large elephant, an animal hitherto unseen by the Britons. Having armed him with scales of iron, and put a large tower upon him, and placed therein archers and slingers, he ordered them to enter the stream. The Britons were amazed at beholding a beast till then unseen, and of an extraordinary nature. As to the horses, what need to write of them? since even among the Greeks, horses fly on seeing elephants even without harness, but thus towered and armed, and casting darts and slinging, they could not endure even to look upon the sight. The Britons therefore fled with their horses and chariots. Thus the Romans passed the river without molestation, having terrified the enemy by a single animal."
34 Claudius never was in Orkney; he spent only sixteen days altogether in Britain. Of certain sacred isles in the neighbourhood of Britain, Plutarch gives the following account, showing how little the Greeks knew of Britain eighty years after the reign of Claudius:
"A short time before Callistratus celebrated the Pythian games, two holy men from the opposite parts of the habitable earth came to us at Delphos, Demetrius the grammarian from Britain, returning home to Tarsus, and Cleombrotus the Lacedaemonian. But Demetrius said, that there are many desert islands scattered around Britain, some of which have the name of being the islands of genii and heroes: that he had been sent by the emperor, for the sake of describing and viewing them, to that which lay nearest to the desert isles, and which had but few inhabitants ; all of whom were esteemed by the Britons sacred and inviolable. Very soon after his arrival there was great turbulence in the air, and many portentous storms; the winds became tempestuous, and fiery whirlwinds rushed forth. When these ceased, the islanders said that the departure of some one of the superior genii had taken place. For as a light when burning, say they, has nothing disagreeable, but when extinguished is offensive to many; so likewise lofty spirits afford an illumination benignant and mild, but their extinction and destruction frequently, as at the present moment, excite winds and storms, and often infect the atmosphere with pestilential evils. Moreover, that there was one island there, wherein Saturn was confined by Briareus in sleep: for that sleep had been devised for his bonds; and that around him were many genii as his companions and attendants.
"Asclepiades asserts, that after their thirtieth year the Ethiopians, being scorched by the sun, quickly grow old, in consequence of their bodies being overheated; whereas in Britain they advance to an hundred and twenty years, in consequence of the coldness of the place and their retaining within themselves the vital heat: for the bodies of the Ethiopians are more slender from their being relaxed by the sun, whereas the inhabitants of the north are thick set in their persons, and on this account longer lived."
36 Juven. Sat. iv. 26.
37 Although this narrative of the reign of Arviragus is purely imaginative, yet it is not impossible that Gloucester may have been a station founded by Claudius, and hence called Claudii Castrum, or Caer Glau.
38 This fabulous story of the flamens and archflamens, and of the substitution of bishops and archbishops in their places, led, in later years, to serious disputes between the bishops of Canterbury, York, and London.
39 This treatise has not been preserved, and most probably never was written. The only information which has come down to us about king Lucius, at all likely to be of an authentic character, is a brief notice of him in Bede's Ecclesiastical History, p. 10.
40 The following is an extract from the true account of the expedition of Severus into Britain taken from Herodian:
"[Severus] received letters from the prζfect of Britain relating that the barbarians there were in a state of insurrection, overrunning the country, driving off booty, and laying every thing waste; so that for the defence of the island there was need either of greater force, or of the presence of the emperor himself. Severus heard this with pleasure, by nature a lover of glory, and anxious, after his victories in the east and north and his consequent titles, to obtain a trophy from the Britons: moreover, willing to withdraw his sons from Rome, that they might grow up in the discipline and sobriety of a military life, far removed from the blandishments and luxury prevalent in Rome, he orders an expedition against Britain, although now old and labouring under an arthritic affection; but as to his mind, he was vigorous beyond any youth. For the most part he performed the march carried in a litter, nor did he ever continue long in one place. Having completed the journey with his sons, and crossed over the sea more quickly than could be described or expected, he advanced against the Britons, and having drawn together his soldiers from all sides, and concentrated a vast force, he prepared for the war.
"The Britons, much struck with the sudden arrival of the emperor, and learning that such a mighty force was collected against them, sent ambassadors, sued for peace, and were willing to excuse their past transgressions. But Severus, purposely seeking delay that he might not again return to Rome without his object, and, moreover, desirous to obtain from Britain a victory and a title, sent away their ambassadors without effecting their purpose, and prepared all things for the contest. He more especially endeavoured to render the marshy places stable by means of causeways, that his soldiers, treading with safety, might easily pass them, and, having firm footing, fight to advantage. For many parts of the British country, being constantly flooded by the tides of the ocean, become marshy. In these the natives are accustomed to swim and traverse about being immersed as high as their waists: for going naked as to the greater part of their bodies, they contemn the mud. Indeed they know not the use of clothing, but encircle their loins and necks with iron; deeming this an ornament and an evidence of opulence, in like manner as other barbarians esteem gold. But they puncture their bodies with pictured forms of every sort of animals; on which account they wear no clothing, lest they should hide the figures on their body. They are a most warlike and sanguinary race, carrying only a small shield and a spear, and a sword girded to their naked bodies. Of a breast-plate or an helmet they know not the use, esteeming them an impediment to their progress through the marshes; from the vapours and exhalations of which the atmosphere in that country always appears dense.
"Against such things, therefore, Severus prepared whatever could be serviceable to the Roman army, but hurtful and detrimental to the designs of the barbarians. And when every thing appeared to him sufficiently arranged for the war, leaving his younger son, named Geta, in that part of the island which was subjugated to the Romans, for the purpose of administering justice and directing other civil matters of the government, giving him as assessors the more aged of his friends; and taking Antoninus with himself, he led the way against the barbarians. His army having passed beyond the rivers and fortresses which defended the Roman territory, there were frequent attacks and skirmishes and retreats on the side of the barbarians. To these, indeed, flight was an easy matter, and they lay hidden in the thickets and marshes through their local knowledge; all which things being adverse to the Romans, served to protract the war."
41 Otherwise called Caracalla.
42 Roman history must have been very little known in England, when such a statement as this could be put forth as true. Eutropius [x. 22] says "Carausius, after seven years, was murdered by his companion Alleotus, who after him held tlie government three years longer."
43 Asclepiodotus is hardly mentioned in the authentic history of this period. He was prζfectus prζtorio under Constantius Chlorus, who was the general that really recovered Britain from Allectus.
44 This king seems to be the same as the hero of the old popular ditty,
"Old king Coel was a merry old soul," &c.
45 Constantine was born long before Constantius Chlorus went to Britain. See the Roman Historians.
46 Maxentius was son of Maximian who abdicated. The skeleton of this part of the history is taken from the authentic writers: but the details are entirely fictitious.
47 Maximus is the correct name of this usurper.
49 That is, Gratian the emperor, and brother of Valentinian, not Gratian Municeps.
50 This Gratian was called Municeps, because he was a citizen of Britain.
51 Maximus was besieged in Aquileia, and slain by Theodosius, emperor of the East, a.d. 388.
52 There was also one Marcus at this time, whom the soldiers in Britain advanced to the sovereignty; but he was soon got rid of.
53 It was unnecessary for the Britons to build a wall, because there was one built for them by Severus 200 years before.
54 Aetius is the name of this general in the classic writers.
55 It is true that Constans, the son of Constantine, entered into the sacerdotal profession, but both he and his father Constantine were slain in Gaul, which they had made the seat of their empire, to the entire neglect of Britain.
56 It is the generally received opinion that Hengist and Horsa landed is Britain a.d. 449.
57 Or Lindsey. See Bede's Eccles. Hist. p. 29, note.
58 Now called Caistor, twenty-three miles N.N.E. from Lincoln.
59 More commonly and elegantly called Rowena; Ronwen and Ronwenna occur in some of the MSS.
60 That is, Lord.
61 The Dereuent seems to be the Darent, a stream which gives its name to Dartford.
62 The very remarkable monument, called Kit Cotty's house, is traditionally supposed to mark the grave of Catigern.
64 This term must be considered as equivalent to comes, count, or earl.
65 The prophecy which follows has been commented on by various writers, who have taken the trouble to point out the events in English history which answer to the various predictions which it contains. Such labour seems to be altogether superfluous in the present day: the prophecy may be allowed to remain as an illustration of the absurd credulity of former times.
66 The meaning of this word is doubtful; it is applied to the Saxons, and probably is descriptive of their fierce and savage character.
67 The conquest of England was achieved slowly by the Saxons, yet it was sure and permanent: the assertion in the text is untrue. There was no expulsion or subjugation of the invaders when they were once landed.
68 This is the venerable monument of antiquity, now called Stonehenge, of the origin of which we know no more than we know of the solid framework of the globe itself. It was certainly erected by a people who lived long before the beginning of authentic history.
69 The ruins of this castle denote that it must have been a place of great strength.
72 It is wonderful that the contents of this book should ever have passed for authentic history; our ancestors of the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries must have been singularly ignorant of every thing concerning the Matter ages of the Roman empire, and the formation of the modem kingdoms of France and Germany, &c., if they could believe that king Arthur held his court in Paris.
73 It is almost unnecessary to inform the reader that not one of these kings ever existed; and yet this caution may be of use, so prone are men to indulge the bias of the imagination at the expense of historic truth.
74 This most romantic and interesting rock is crowned by a singularly quaint structure, half monastic and half castellated. It must have been a place of great strength before the invention of powder, and contains some curious rooms, a dungeon and other remains of feudality.
75 The mention of Constantine brings Geoffrey's work into connection with that of Gildas: the reader may perhaps from this point detect a slight degree of verisimilitude in this otherwise fictitious narrative.
76 See Malmesbury's Hist. of the Kings, p. 46.
77 See Bede's Eccles. Hist. p. 106.
78 See Bede's Eccles. Hist. p. 110.
79 Or Bemicia, see Bede, p. 131.
80 Who reigned over the Deiris.
81 Probably the same as Caedwalla, king of Wessex, noticed by Bede and the Saxon Chronicle, although the British and Saxon authorities differ in their genealogical statements.
82 This advice might be thought judicious, if we could be persuaded of the authenticity of Geoffrey's cherished discovery, but there are lamentable defects, of a grave character, attending upon this British volume.
1. It was first made known six hundred years after the events which it relates.
2. No MS. copy is now in existence, nor any record of its ever having been multiplied by transcription.
3. It relates stories utterly at variance with acknowledged history.
4. It abounds in miraculous stories, which, like leaven, ferment and corrupt the whole mass.
5. It labours under great suspicion from the mendacious character of the people, whose credit it was written to support.