Imágenes de páginas

found himself reduced to a necessity either to meet the enemy with his handful of men, or to stay and defend himself in some town. At first he resolved upon the latter, and accordingly shut himself up in London : but he soon changed his mind, and foreseeing that by endeavouring to save that colony, he must hazard the loss of the whole province, he marched out, nothwithstanding the cries and entreaties of the inhabitants not to abandon them to the fury of the Britons.

He plainly saw, as the case stood, that he must either conquer or die; and therefore, so far was he from retiring from the Britons, who were marching towards him, that he resolved to go and attack them. He had occasion here for all his experience and conduct, to counterpoise by some means or other the great advantage which the enemy had over him by their numbers. To this end he pitched upon a narrow piece of ground for the field of battle, with a forest behind him, that secured him from ambuscades in the rear, and a large plain before him, where the Britons were encamped. He drew up the legions close together in the centre, the light-armed were placed round about them, and the horse made the two wings. The enemy swarmed about the plain in battalions and squadrons, exulting at their numbers, and secure of victory. They had brought their wives and children into the field to be witnesses of their actions, and sharers in the booty.

Boadicea, with her daughters by her side in a chariot, addressed herself to the several nations, declaring, ' It was not the first time that Britons had been victorious under the conduct of their queens. That for her part she came not there as one descended from royal progenitors, to fight for empire or riches, but as one of the common people, to avenge the loss of their liberty, the wrongs done to her own person, and the violation of her daughters' chastity. That the Romans' lust was grown to that height, that neither old nor young escaped its pollutions; but that the Gods had already begun to punish them according to their deserts; for one legion that durst hazard a battle, was cut in pieces, and the rest skulked in their camp, or fled for their lives ; so that they would be so far from being able to stand the attack of a victorious army, that the very shouts of so many thousands would put them to flight. That if the Britons would but consider the number of their forces, and the motives of their war, they would resolve to vanquish or dic. That it was much better to fall honourably in defence of their liberty, than to be exposed again to the outrages of the Romans. This was her resolution; but for the men, they might if they pleased live and be slaves.'

Suetonius also was not silent at the prospect of so great danger. Though he was assured of the valour of his troops, yet he eshorted them to despise the clamours and threats of the Barbarians. He represented to them that among


enemy “ There were more women than soldiers, and that the greatest part of them having neither arms nor courage, would immediately take to their heels when they came to feel the force of their victorious arms. That in the most numerous armies, the decision of the battle depended upon a few, and that their glory would be so much the greater as it was the less divided. That they should take care only to keep their ranks close, and to fight sword in hand, after they had thrown their darts. And lastly, that they should not lose time about the spoil, which would be the certain reward of their victory.” These words were followed with such loud acclamations, and the resolution of the soldiers appeared so great, that the general not doubting success gave the signal for battle.

The Romans darted their javelins without quitting their advantageous post; and, after the enemy's darts were spent, advanced sword in hand, seconded by the auxiliary troops, who fought with equal bravery, persuaded as they were, there was no safety but in victory. Whilst they fought at a distance with their darts, the Britons were in hopes that the Romans, terrified at their great numbers, would have fled before them. But when they saw the legions advancing with short steps, without the least signs of fear in their countenances, they fell into disorder, which increased more and more, there being no officers or leaders to put a stop to it.

The Romans, seeing them in this condition, fell upon them with great fury, and put the whole army into the utmost confusion, and the Britons thought of nothing now but saving themselves by flight. At the same time the Roman cavalry having broke through the British horse, a terrible rout ensued. The Romans spared neither age nor sex, but sacrificed to their revenge, the women, children, and even the very horses. This victory equalled their most famous ones, if it be true, as Tacitus assures us, that 80,000 Britons were slain, with the loss only of 400 Romans, and as many wounded.

Boadicea escaped falling into the hands of the conquerors; but was touched with so deep a sense of disappointment that she ended her days with poison.

The Britons, after this, in the utmost consternation, without a general or army, fed before their enemies, without offering to make the least resistance. Their misery was still increased by famine, which they had brought upon themselves, by neglecting to till the ground. All their hopes were, that the number of the enemy being so inconsiderable, they would be obliged to keep together, and by that means, give them an opportunity of forming an army again. But these hopes vanished by the Romans being reinforced by powerful supplies from Germany.

Seventeen years after the revolt of Boadicea, Agricola was appointed to command the Roman forces in Britain ; and by him the conquest of the island was completed. The pen and affection of Tacitus have amply, and interestingly, detailed his political and military conduct; and has made Galgacus or Gallawg, on the Grampian Hills, as interesting as Caractacus. It is pleasing to contemplate the wisdom of his liberal mind, which directed its powers to civilise and improve the fierce natives. He assisted them to

build temples, forums, and more convenient habitations. He inspired them with a love of education; he applauded their talents ; flattered them as possessing a genius superior to the Gauls; and he persuaded the sons of the chiefs to study letters. The Roman dress, language, and literature, gradually spread among the natives. All this was improvement; but human advantages are mingled with imperfections. The civilisation of Rome also introduced its luxury; and baths, porticoes, and sensual banquets became as palatable to the new subjects as to their corrupted masters. Four legions were kept in the island. Their labours pervaded it with four great military roads, that became the chief Saxon highways; and in the military stations, upon and near them, laid the foundation of our principal towns and cities. The Roman laws and magistracies were every where established, and the British lawyers, as well as the British ladies, have obtained the panegyrics of the Roman classics.

We cannot here but reflect on the profound policy of the conquerors of the world, and such great masters in the art of government. Having subdued a country, they iminediately sent thither numerous colonies, who by degrees mixing and intermarrying with the ancient inhabitants, secured to them their conquests.

Of this Britain is a remarkable instance, where, though the island had been conquered but 18 years before by Claudius, yet it seems above 80,000 Romans were already settled, besides the army of Suetonius, and doubtless some garrisons that had escaped the fury of the Britons.

Britain, nearly half a century after Agricola, was visited by the Emperor Hadrian, who ordered the construction of a military work, from the mouth of the Tyne to the Solway Firth, as the boundary of the Roman provinces in Britain. In the next reign, of Antoninus Pius, the Romans penetrated again to the isthmus, between the firths of Forth and Clyde ; and built another military rampart, for the farthest boundary of their empire in Britain,

[ocr errors]
[merged small][graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

Tais renowned and chivalrous King of the Britons was born about the year 500, and brought up amid the wars which his countrymen were then waging against the hordes of Saxon adventurers, who, under Hengest, Ella, and Cendrick, were invading and desolating the country.

He is said to have been the son of Uther Pendragon, King of the Britons, by Igerna, the widow of Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall. Uther Pendragon had also by the same lady a daughter called Anne, and dying in the year 516, Arthur ascended the throne in his place, though he was then but fifteen or eighteen years old.

At this time the Saxons committed horrid devastations in Britain, under the command of Colgrin their Duke; wherefore Dubricius, Archbishop of Caerleon, in Monmouthshire, solemnly crowned Arthur, at the request of the nobles and the people, and he immediately afterwards prepared to take the field against the Saxons. His generosity, personal bravery, and great zeal for the glory of the Britons, procured him quickly a competent army, with which he routed Colgrin and all his forces, consisting of Saxons, Scots, and Picts, on the banks of the river Duglas.

Upon this, Colgrin retired with the remains of his army into York, where Arthur besieged him, and while he lay before the place, Cador, Duke of Cornwall, defeated Baldulph, the brother of Colgrin, who with six thousand men came to his relief. The King, however, could not take York; for Cerdic, King of the West Saxons, ļanding in Scotland, with a prodigious number of men from on board a fleet of six hundred sail, marched towards the Britons; upon which, by the advice of his council, Arthur raised the siege of York, and marched to London.

On his arrival in that city, he called a general assembly, wherein the state of affairs having been thoroughly debated, it was agreed to send ambassadors to Hoel, King of Armorica, i. e. Britanny, who was Arthur's near relation, to intreat his assistance; which being accordingly done, Hoel himself embarked with fifteen thousand men, and landing at Southampton, then called the Port of Hamo, quickly found his uncle. Immediately after this junction, Arthur and his kinsman marched to oblige the Saxons to raise the siege of Kaerlind coit, now called Lincoln. The battle was bloody and obstinate; but at last the Saxons were overthrown with the loss of six thousand men, part killed, and part drowned in the rivers. The remains of the army retired to Celidon woods, in Lincolnshire, where each made a brave stand; but being surrounded by the Britons, were at last obliged to surrender upon articles, viz. That they should leave behind them all their booty, retire peaceably to their ships, and transport themselves into Germany. For the performance of these articles they gave hostages, and were then suffered to retire in order to embark quietly. But in their voyage, repenting of what they had done, they landed at Totness, burnt all the country as far as the Severn, slaughtered the peasants, ruined the villages, and at length laid siege to Badon, i. e. Bath. When this news was brought to King Arthur, who was marching against the Scots and Picts, he instantly marched to the relief of the besieged city, when he attacked the Saxons, who were drawn up in the form of a wedge. The battle lasted from morning till evening, when the Saxons withdrew to the top of a high hill, and there encamped. The next day Arthur attacked them again; but they made a gallant defence, till the greater part of the day was worn out, which so enraged Arthur, that he threw himself among the foremost ranks, and with great hazard of his person, performed incredible feats of valour, for he slew with his own hand four hundred and seventy men. The Britons, encouraged by the example of their Prince, forced the Saxon camp on all hands, and put many thousands of them to the sword, among whom fell Colgrin and Baldulph. But Cerdie carried off the remains of his army, and endeavoured to recover his ships.

After this important victory at Badon, Arthur received advice that the Scots and Picts had besieged the city of Aclud, which is thought to be Dumbarton in Scotland, where he left his nephew Hoel sick, at the time he marched against the Saxons. To his assistance, therefore, the British Prince marched with all the elacrity imaginable, leaving Cador, Duke of

« AnteriorContinuar »