THE PROVINCIAL HISTORY 'OF ENGLAND. - X.--THE WEST DOWNSAND THE VALLEY
OF THE• SEVERN :- ERRI:T LTISTORY DOWN TO THE 'ROMAN' COR4bitsr. yr, have already 'spoken in a general manlier of 'the evidence as to the early inhabitants and history of Britain, and we need not therefore recapitulate the argiinients from 'which we came to the conclusion that the first *inhabitants were of Keltic race, and that though there may have been more than one stream of colonization before the time of Caadar, there Was no essential difference of race among the inhabitants when-he landed in the island. Since our former remarks on the siibject we have had the Opportunity of examining the reedit :remarkable' Volumes (printed for subscribers only) by Dr. JoSeph Barnard `Davis and Dr. John Thurnam, entitled Crania lItitanniea : Delineations and Descriptions of the Skulls of the 'Aboriginal andEarly Inhabit- ants of the British Islands, with Notices' of their Other Remains. The conclusions arrived at by these two learned invdatigators do not 'differ materially from those which We have alreddy veetined to lay before our' readers. They, however, assume the British Kelts as in the strictest 'sense indigenous to the island, which as far as actual evidence is concerned may be" emieeded, but the pro- bability of original colonization from the Continent of Europe still remains an open question, and we think that 'our authors are too positive on this 'point. On the Very- interesting question on which their authority is of more value,' as te 'the 'general character of the skulls of the earliest inhabitants 'of 'Britain, their in- ferences are so cautiously drawn as to warrant consider- able reliance on their conclusions. They state that there are no differences in the character of 'the earliest skulls of Britain sufficient to constitute a difference of race, or any great difference of intellectual development. On the whole, it may be said that the ancient British skulls are 'bradyeephatems, or short-headed, - though there is a not inconsiderable ,element of the dolichocephalous, or long-headed type, which Cannot be proved to be either prior or posterior to the former in point-of time. There seems, however, to be, on 'the whole, a predominance of the long-heads in the long barrows, as compared with the(cdr- altar barrows. The short head is, they consider, the predominant characteristic of the earliest skulls of the Continent of Etilidpo generally, and certainly of Scandinavia. As to their intellectital capacity, the conclusions of our authors are very satisfactory. " The lower races " of the world " have under-sized and ill developed brains, narrow and low anterior lobes, manifested in crania of small capacity, of little elevation, contracted end recedent in the frontal region; with generally a 'large amount of osseous matter in their composition, deposited in comparatively irregular nodular masses, so as to occasion heavi- ness, and thickness, and rudeness. In this e.ategory may be platted the skulls of Australians, almost universally. At the other end of the scale is situated a large, fully expanded cranium,' well deve- loped in every part; lofty and graceful in its Vault, wide, capacious, elevated in the frontal region, with all its outlines gently moulded and carved, so' as to produce the impression of beauty The skulls of the ancient Britons must be allowed to occupy an intermediate position between the two extretnes,-a place almost equally removed from both. They are more than 'tolerably capa- cious, they are moderately elevated, and not ill developed in the anterior regions ; but at the same time they are somewhat bony in their aspect, perhaps disproportionately large in their poa- tenor and inferior regions, sometimes harsh ; • with that ridgy ruggedness of form and of face -which indicates their having belonged to a race not highly 'developed in mental and moral manifestations, though far removed 'in /these respects from the lowest and least cultivable tribes of people." These results, as they remark, fully agree with the earliest accounts we possess of the inhabitants of Britain,. ass "vigorous, bold, and ingenious 'race, equally removed 'from the condition of abject savages, and from that of the highly civilizable people who have succeeded them 'en the soil." " The ' ancient 'Britons had dwelt very long in the islands, following the free -lives 'of hunters, and to a limited extent' cultivating the' toil;' they lived in small settlements, were warlike, and quite able to defend their hales ;
they had ingeniously accepted the resources nature offered to their hands, wrought them with unlimited diligence, and risen from the use of stone to that of metallic implements; and they were ready to avail themselves, by imitation, of the improvement in arts and arms resulting from a contact with the superior races who surrounded them. It would not be difficult to compare them with the Australians, the North American Indians, with the tribes of Africa or Oceania ; with many of these common features might be pointed out ; but certainly among none of them would it be possible to ;ndicate any one people very closely resembling the ancient Britons. . . . . If we went to the size of the brain as a test of the mental capacity of a race, which, we have remarked, is valid evidence, we shall find that the results embodied in the Tables' fully support the high position claimed for the ancient Britons. The Roman skulls examined by our authors according to the same principles present " a character of massiveness, squareness, and broadness of outline, which might be taken as an index to their vigour, their intellectual power, and their avidity for conquest." "The series of Anglo-Saxon skulls, in their great resemblance to those of modern Englishmen, vindicate the true derivation of the essential characteristics of our race from a Teutonic origin. The form and proportions of the crania probably evince more power than refinement." The authors consider that as they have probably risen rather above the general average of the race in their selections of skulls of the preceding races, so they have fallen much below the average in the few specimens they have been able to obtain of the ancient Scandinavian skull, which fall far below the vigorous type which we associate with the Northmen and Danes, and they believe that a more extensive collection would to a great extent remedy this anomaly.
We have already spoken of the general character of British archaeology, and we need therefore only refer to Stonehenge and Avebury, in Wiltshire, as the most striking examples of what used to be called Druidic remains. Wiltshire is emphatically the land of " barrows," but these belong to almost every period of our early national history. The territory included within the " West Downs and the Valley of the Severn" is described by Ptolemy in A D. 120 as inhabited by four different tribes. The Durotriges, (a name pro- bably signifying " dwellers by the water ") peopled Dorsetshire ; South Wiltshire, and East Somerset (perhaps), belonged to the Belga3 ; in North Wiltshire and Gloucestershire dwelt the Dobuni, while Worcestershire formed part of the land of the great tribe of the Cornabii, whose territory stretched northward as far as Chester. It must be remembered that these de- marcations of tribes are only approximately correct, and must not be considered as indicating more than their general position relatively to each other and to certain topographical landmarks. We have no information respecting these Western tribes during the expeditions of Julius Caesar. If we may draw any deduction from the state of things in the time of the Emperor Claudius, it would seem probable that they lent assi stance to Cassibelaunus, the leader of the Trinobantine league against the great Roman General, but it is not till the reign of Claudius that these Western tribes appear expressly by name in the annals of history. The ascendancy evidently exercised during both these epochs by the chiefs of the Trinobantes over the greater part of the Southern British tribes, was probably very analogous in its character to the bretwaldaship of the Saxons at a later period—a temporary com- mand in time of war, and a preponderating influence in time of peace, very much affected, of course, in its extent, by the personal qualities of the particular chief, or the talents of rival chiefs in the other tribes. This leadership of the Trinobantes seems to have had two rivals in the east, the Rhegni, in Sussex, and the Iceni, in Norfolk and Suffolk, both of which tribes exercised probably considerable influence over the tribes to the westward. All, how- ever, probably bowed before the ascendancy of the great Cuno- belinus, the Trinobantine prince whose coins still remain as an attestation to the historical existence of Shakespeare's King Cym- beline, in the time of whose sons, Caractacus and Togodumnus, the Romans made their second and more permanent invasion of Britain. According to the historian Dion, the Roman General, Plautius, in his first campaign, after defeating the Trinobantine Princes, pushed forward into the country of the Boduni, who submitted to him, and placing a garrison there, thence marched onward to the banks of a broad river which the Britons deemed impassable. But a squadron of Batavian cavalry accustomed to swim the Rhine dashed boldly across, and dislodged the Britons by striking at the horses which drew their chariots. "A force under Flavius Vespasians pene- trated into the unknown regions beyond, and obtained, not with- out great hazards, some further successes. Such was the command in which this brave and strenuous captain was first," as Tacitue. says, "shown to the Fates, which from henceforth destined him for empire." The Boduni have been generally identified with the Dobuni of Gloucestershire, and the broad river with the Severn near its mouth. But Dion goes on to say that " the defeated. Britons retired to the Thames, and placed that river between them- selves and the Romans in the lowest portion of its course, where it swells to a great breadth with the tidal waters of the ocean. The invaders, he continues, attempting to follow them, fell in their ignorance of the ground into great danger ; but again the Batavians swam their horses across the river, and the barbarians were routed once more with great slaughter, Togodumnus falling in the en- gagement." As Dr. Merivale (who draws attention to this point) justly observes, "it is impossible to suppose that if Plautius had once reached the Severn, he would have again fallen back behind a barrier which he must have already crossed or doubled. Nor is there time allowed for such distant operations," when we consider the time within which the whole campaign of Plautius before the Emperor's arrival was comprised. Dr. Merivale, therefore, conjectures, that the broad river crossed by the Batavians was the Medway. Perhaps. a more probable conjecture is that Dion has transferred by mistake to this earlier campaign the events of the subsequent campaign of the Romans in Gloucestershire. The campaign to which they ought to be referred probably followed the return of Claudius to Rome after his reduction of the Trinobantes, when the second legion, under Vespasian, is expressly said to have pushed forward to the conquest of the west of Southern Britain. This march westward must have been greatly facilitated by the friendly aid of the Prince of the Rhegni, and the friendly neutrality at least of the Prince of the Iceni. The contest seems to have been maintained under the leadership of the Trinobantine Caractacus, but we have no positive evidence of its issue until we find Ostorius Scapula, the successor of Plautins, in the year 47 making a fresh campaign, and securing his conquests or reconquests by a double line of forts along the course of the Severn and the Avon into the heart of the island. The second legion, as we have seen reason to believe, gradually pushed in a more southerly direction as far as Exeter.
We may conclude that the tide of aggression and resist- ance continued to flow forwards and ebb backwards in turn for many years over the whole tract of country included in a triangle, the base of which extended along the valley of the Thames, and another side stretched diagonally across South Britain from the banks of the Colne, in Essex, to the Dee and the Mersey. The Cornabii, whose southern dominions were menaced by the line of Roman forts on the Severn and Avon, would be necessarily drawn into this con- test, and would naturally seek aid from their neighbours on the north, the Brigantes. The British hero whose name is inseparably bound up with this memorable struggle is CARAC- TACIIS - probably the Trinobantine prince of that name—and not, as the Welsh would have us believe, another chief of the- same name who ruled over the Silures. The rapid sequence of events renders the introduction of a second Caractacus unneces- sary and unlikely, and the éclat evidently attached in the eyes of the Romans to his subsequent capture seems to belong to the hero. of a resistance more widely national in its character than the struggles of a petty chief of a remote tribe ; while the co-operation between the east and west of South Britain (evinced in the sudden attack of the Iceni) tends to corroborate the opinion that it was the son of Cunobelin who stood at the head of the entire- struggle from the landing of Plautius. " For nine years Caractacus, at the head of the independent Britons, had maintained the contest with the invader. The genius," continues Dr. Merivale, " of this patriot chief, the first of our national heroes, may be estimated, not from victories of which the envious foe has left us no account, but from the length of his gallant resistance and the magnitude of the operations which it was necessary to direct against him. How often he may have burst from the mountains of Wales and swept with his avenging squadrons the fields of the Roman set- tlers on the Severn and the Avon ; how often he may have plunged again into his fastnesses, and led the pursuers into snares prepared for them beyond the Wye and the Usk, remains for ever buried in the oblivion which has descended on the heroic deeds of the enemies of Rome. Worn out, or starved out, or circumvented, perchance, by the toils ever closing around him, he made a last effort to remove the seat of war from the country of the Silures So that of the Ordovices, of North Wales, the common boundary ot the two lying probably between the Wye and the. Teme." Opus, " to attack the Silures, would descend probably from his northern stations along the course of the Severn ; the Britons, hovering on the eastern flanks of the Welsh mountains, would draw him up one of their lateral valleys to the westward ; but whether he forced his pa.ssage by the gorges of the Vermiew or the Upper Severn, by the Clan, the Teme, or the Wye, seems impossible to determine. Each of these routes has had its advocates, and to this day the surviving descendants of the Britons contend with generous emula- tion for the honour of the discovery. All along the frontier of the Principality, every hill crowned with an old entrenchment and fronted by a stream has been claimed as the scene of the last struggle of British independence." Dr. Merivale seems to think, on the whole, that Coxall Knoll, on the Teme, near Leinswardine, suits the description of the battle very well. The victory of the Romans was complete, though the struggle had been a desperate one, even according to the accounts of the conquerors themselves. The wife and daughter of Caractacus were taken, he himself fled into the territory of the Brigantes, and, as is well known, was surrendered to the Romans by the Queen of the tribe or federate tribes that went under that name. He was led in triumph through the streets of Rome, exciting the admiration of the Romans as much by his undaunted bearing in adversity as by his long resist- ance to their arms, was spared from the usual fate of captives by the mercy or pride of the Emperor, and probably remained in Rome for the rest of ilia life. With his final defeat and captivity ended the hopes of the people of the West Downs and the Severn Valley of recovering their independence. Whether they took any part in the subsequent risings and wars of independence of the Britons we do not know. At the close of the reign of Claudius, however, " the southern part of the island, from the Stour to the Exe and Severn, formed a compact and organized province, from which only the realm of Cogodunnus (in Sussex), retaining still the character of a dependent sovereignty, is to be subtracted." "The Roman towns and villages, which have been discovered in great numbers along the course of the Severn and Avon, grew probably out of their system of defences against the long untamed brigandage of the western mountaineers. The Caesars had their Welsh marches as well as the Plantagenets, and possibly the name subsequently identified with the western independent Bri- tons—Cvmny—(robbers)—arose in this Roman period from the predatory habits of these men of the marches. Ism Silurium (Caer Leon) must have been an important post for the protection of the Roman iron works in the Forest of Dean." Here, for a time at least, was posted the celebrated second legion, which after- wards had its head-quarters at Exeter.