Britannia, by William Camden


Gildas. Big I IN these miserable and woful times, the remains of the poor Britains, who were found in the mountains, were butcher’d in great numbers; and others, almost kill’d with famine, surrendered themselves to the enemy as their slaves for ever, provided they might not presently be put to death, which was to be taken for a very great favour. Some retired beyond sea, singing under sail after a howling manner († Celeusmatis vice.instead of the Mariner’s Cry,) Thou hast given us, O Lord, as sheep to the slaughter, and scatter’d us among the heathen. Others remain’d in their native country, but with great fears; trusting their lives to vast mountains, dreadful precipices, intrenchments, thick woods, and rocks in the sea. Part of those who pass’d over the sea, were they (without question) who to secure themselves went in great numbers to Armorica in France, where they were received very kindly by the Armoricans. Which (not to mention a community of (a) language, that of Armorica being almost the same with our British or Welch, nor other Writers who agree in this point) is prov’d from an Author of the next age to it, and born in Armorica, who wrote the life of S. Wingualof the Confessor. A race of Britains (says he,) imbark’d in little vessels, were transported over the British sea to this land; the barbarous nation of the Saxons, all of the same terrible and warlike spirit, having possess’d themselves of their native Country. Then that dear race shut themselves within this corner; where, being before almost worn out with fatigues, they are settled in a quiet country. Yet our Historians tell us, that the Britains were seated on that coast long before this. Malmsbury says, That Constantine the Great was saluted Emperor by his army; and, having order’d an expedition for the * * Superiores terras.upper-parts, brought away with him many British Soldiers: by whose means, having obtain’d the Empire by several successful Engagements, he planted such of them as were past service, in a certain part of Gaul towards the west upon the shore; where to this day their posterity remain, incorporated with the Natives, and somewhat alter’d in modes and language from our Britains. This was an Order of Constantine the Emperor: Let the Veterans enter upon the vacant lands, and hold them freely forever. Likewise Ninius,Cod. Theod. lib.7. Tit.20. Maximus the Emperor, who slew Gratian, would not send home the soldiers that had followed him out of Britain, but gave them several countrys, from the Lake above Mons Jovis, to the city called Cantguic, and to the westernCumulus.
heap, Cruc-occhidient. He who writes notes upon Ninius, adds, without ground, That the Armorican Britons beyond sea, went from hence in an expedition with Maximus the Tyrant; and when they could not return, destroy’d the western parts of France; and taking their wives and daughters to marriage, cut out all their tongues, lest the children should speak their language. And upon this account, we call them in our language Lhet Vydion, i.e. half silent, because they speak confusedly. I cannot dispute the authority of these Writers; nay, I am of opinion, that the children of these Veterans, were they who receiv’d the Britains that fled afterwards out of their own Country. However, the name of Britains does not appear by the Writers of that age to have been in these parts before the Saxons came into our Britain; except those whom Pliny seems to place in Picardy, and who are called Brinani in some Copies. For if any conclude with Volaterranus, from the fourth book of Strabo, that Britannia was a city of Gaul; let him but look upon the Greek Text, and he will quickly see that Strabo speaks there of the Island of Britain, and not of a City. As for that verse of Dionysius Afer, which I have already cited; some are inclin’d rather to understand it (as Stephanus does) of our Britains, than (with Eustathius) of the Britains in Armorica; especially seeing Festus Avienus, an ancient Writer, has thus render’d it,

Cauris nimiùm vicina * * Britannia.Britannis:
Flavaque cæsariem Germania porrigit ora

Cold Britain, plac’d too near the Northern winds,
And yellow hair’d Germany her coast extends.

Nor let any one think, that the BritannicianiBritanniciani. mention’d in the Notitia, came originally from hence; who were only those Troops that were rais’d in our Britain.

(a) See Cornwall; as also Isacius Pontanus, in his Letter to Mr. Camden, published among his Epistles, p.90.

Before the arrival of our Britains, this Country was called ArmoricaArmorica., i.e. by the sea-side;Lexovii parhaps in Pliny. after that, to the same sense, it was call’d in our British tongue, Llydaw, that is, upon the shore; and, by our Latin writers of the middle age, Letavia. And therefore I suppose these to be the LætiLaeti that ZosimusZonaras. speaks of in Gaul, where he takes notice that Magnentius the Tyrant was born among the Læti there, and that his father was a Britain. These * * Called by Procopius, Arborici; and by another, the Country it self Cornu Galliæ, the horn of France.Armorici (during the reign of that Constantine, who was chosen for the sake of his name; and at the time when the Barbarians, over-running France, turned out the Roman Garrisons) made themselves a distinct Common-wealth. But Valentinian the Younger, by the assistance of ÆtiusAEtius , and the mediation of St. German, reduced them. At that time, Exuperantius seems to have govern’d them; of whom Claudius Rutilius writes thus:Galliae

Cujus Aremoricas pater Exuperantius oras
Nunc post liminium pacis amore docet:
Leges restituit, libertatemque reducit,
Et servos famulis non sinit esse suis.

Where great Exuperantius gently sways,
And makes the Natives love return in peace;
Restores their laws, and grateful freedom gives,
Nor basely lets them be his servant’s slaves.

From these verses, it is possible, ÆgidiusAEgidius Maserius might conclude, that the Britains were servants to the Armorici, and regained their freedom by force.

The first mention of the Britains in * * Stillingfl. Orig. Britan. p.187.Armorica that I know of, was in the year 461, about thirty years after the Saxons were call’d into Britain; for then, Mansuetus a British Bishop (among others of that Order in France and Armorica) subscrib’d first in the Council of Tours. The ninth year after, these new inhabitants of France, seeing the Visigoths possess themselves of the fertile countrys of Anjou and Poictou, fell upon them, and were the only people that hinder’d them from conquering all France. For they sided with Anthemius the Roman Emperor, against the Goths; so that ArvandusSid. Apollinar. was condemn’d of high treason, for writing letters to the King of the Goths, advising him to conquer the Britains who lived above the Loire, and to divide France between the Goths and Burgundians. TheseAn. 470. Britains were a cunning sort of people, war-like, seditious, and stubborn, upon the account of their valour, numbers, and allies, says Sidonius Apollinaris in his complaint of them to his friend Riothimus, as he himself calls him (but Jornandes stiles him King of the Britains,) who being afterwards sent for by Anthemius, went with a supply of 12000 men to the aid of the Romans; but before he could joyn them, was defeated in a set Battle by the Goths, and so fled to the Burgundians, who were then Confederate with the Romans. From that time (the Armorici being subdu’d by little and little) the name of Britains prevail’d so much in this their new country, that the whole body of the Inhabitants began to fall under it, and the tract it self to be call’d Britannia Armorica, and to be stil’d by the Franks Britannia Cismarina. Hence J. Scaliger;

Vicit Aremoricas animosa Britannia gentes,
Et dedit imposito nomina prisca jugo

Armorica stout Britain overcame,
And with her yoke impos’d her ancient name.

For, that they fell upon their friends who had entertained them, is manifest (among other Authorities) from the words of Regalis Bishop of * * Venetensis. Gregor. Turon. lib.10. c.g.Vennes, concerning himself and his friends. We are enslav’d to the Britains, and undergo a heavy yoke. In after-times, they courageously defended their lives and liberties against the Franks; at first under the conduct of petty Kings, and afterwards under Counts and Dukes; though (as Glaber Rodolphus has it,) their whole wealth consisted inLibertas fisci publici.freedom from tribute, and in plenty of milk. And hence William of Malmsbury, who wrote * * Five, C.six hundred years ago, says thus of them; They are a generation of men very needy at home; and therefore they earn foreign pay in other places by very toilsom work. If they be but well paid, they stick not (out of any regard to Right, or Kindred) at engaging in civil wars; but are mercenary, and for the side that bids most.

Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 13:06