Britannia, by William Camden



Small I IT seems most adviseable, before we go to the other parts of England, to take a round into Cambria, or Wales, which is still possess’d by the Posterity of the old Britains: though I cannot look upon this as a Digression, but a pursuing of the most natural course. For this tract is spread out along the sides of the Cornavii, and seems to have a right to be consider’d here, as in its proper place. Especially, seeing the British or Welsh, the Inhabitants of these parts, enjoy the same laws and privileges with us, and have been for a long time as it were engrafted into our Government.

WalesWales. therefore (which formerly comprehended all beyond the Severn, but has now narrower bounds) was formerly inhabited by three People, the Silures,Silures, Dimetæ, Ordovices. the Dimetæ, and the Ordovices. Dimetae To these belong’d not only the twelve Counties of Wales, but also the two others lying beyond the Severn, Herefordshire and Monmouthshire, now reckon’d among the Counties of England. To take them then as they lie: the Silures (as we gather from Ptolemy’s description of them) inhabited those Countries which the Welsh call by one general name Deheubarth, i.e. the Southern part; branched at this day into the new names of Herefordshire, Radnorshire, Brecknockshire, Monmouthshire, and Glamorganshire; within which compass, there are still some remains of the name Silures. As to the derivation of the word, I can think of none that will answer the nature of the Country; but as to the original of the People, Tacitus.Tacitus imagines them to have come from Iberia, upon account of their * * Colorati vultus.ruddy complexion, their curl’d hair, and their situation over-against Spain. But Florianus del Campo, a Spaniard, is very positive in that matter, and takes a great deal of pains to find the Silures in Spain, and would obtrude upon us I know not what stories about Soloria and Siloria among the Astures. However, the Territories of this People were very large (for it seems probable from Pliny and Tacitus, that they were possess’d of all South-Wales, and the Inhabitants were hardy, stout, warlike, utterly averse to servitude, of great boldness and resolution (that sort of it which the Romans term Pervicacia, i.e. obstinacy and stubbornness,) not to be wrought upon either by threats or kindnesses: and their Posterity have not degenerated, in any of these particulars. When the Romans, out of a desire to enlarge their Empire, made attempts upon them, they (partly reposing a confidence in the courage and valour of King Caratacus, and partly incens’d by a saying of Claudius the Emperor, That they were to be as entirely extinguished, as the Sugambri had been) engaged the Romans in a very troublesome and difficult war. For having intercepted the Auxiliary Troops, and cut off the Legion under Marius Valens, and wasted the territories of their Allies; P. Ostorius, Proprætor in Britain, was quite worn-out with these crosses, and so dy’d. Propraetor Veranius too, who govern’d Britain under Nero, was baffled in his enterprize against them. For where Tacitus says,Tacit. Annal. LXIV. Illum modicis excursibus Sylvas populatum esse, that he destroy’d and wasted the woods with slight excursions; instead of Sylvas, with the Learned Lipsius only read Siluras, and all is right. Nor could an end be put to this war, before the reign of Vespasian. For then Julius Frontinus subdued them, and kept them in quiet, † Legionario garrisons of the Legions. A certain Countryman of ours has wrested that Verse of Juvenal upon Crispinus, to these Silures:

—magnâ qui voce solebat
Vendere municipes fractâ de merce Siluros.

Who with hideous cry
Bawl’d out his broken
Sturgeon in the Streets.

as if some of our Silures had been taken prisoners, and expos’d to sale at Rome. But depend upon it, he mistook the sense of the Poet. For any one that reads that passage with attention, will quickly perceive, that by Siluros he designs to express a sort of Fish, and not a People.

South Wales map, left South Wales map, right

South Wales

Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:06