Page images

brother of Athelstan, as an accomplice in the rebellion. Edwin, by himself and his friends, implored the confidence of the king, and denied the charge by his oath. But Athelstan ordered Edwin, with one attendant, to be put to sea in a shattered boat without oars. For some time the prince continued in sight of land, but the winds at last rose, and he was carried over the ocean out of hope. In despair he sprung upon the waves, and was their immediate victim. His body was brought to shore between Dover and Whitsand. For seven years, Athelstan mourned his death with a penitence (1) which proved that he gained nothing by the crime, but self-reproach and infelicity-the most usual consequence of guilt!

(1) Malmsb. 48. 53. 251.; Sim. Dun. 134. 154.; Hoveden, 422.; Hunt. 354.; Matt. West. 362.; and Bromton, 836.





As the authentic history of Bretagne is almost unknown, it may be gratifying to the curious reader, if I add some particulars concerning it, which I collected with some labour and research, and printed in my first edition, but afterwards expunged as an episode. As they may save future students some trouble, I will reprint them here.

[ocr errors]

Sketch of the ancient History of Bretagne, and Athelstan's Reception of its Chiefs.


The event which connects the reign of Athelstan with the history of Bretagne was the appearance in England of the descendants of the expatriated Britons, who had retreated from the Saxon conquest into Armorica, now flying from the Northmen's swords to seek an asylum, and a country, from the descendants of their most hated foes the Anglo-Saxons, who had driven their ancestors from their native soil.

This incident may be allowed to interest us so far with the history of these emigrants, as to admit an episode to be devoted to their memory. It is the more necessary, because the first British colonists of Armorica have hitherto been almost excluded from European history. Wherever they have at all appeared, fable has wrapped the narration with her clouds (1), and conceals or disfigures that mild illumination with which

(1) See the Histoire de Bretagne par Bertrand d'Argentre, 1618. He begins with the fabulous Conan, the ally of Maximus. He mentions seriously about Hercules falling in love with Celtina, daughter of Britannus, a king of Gaul, and that their issue was Celtes, the father of the Celtic nation, p. 4. He asserts it to be true history that the inhabitants of Britain came from Armorica! p. 19.

their forgotten tombs ought in justice to be accompanied. The Armorican exiles were the countrymen of Arthur; they were of the race of the Aborigines of the island, and they lost their country, because they spurned a foreign yoke. Though powerful and ambitious governments surrounded and oppressed them, they preserved themselves a distinct nation under their own chieftains till the close of the fifteenth century. Such actions deserve a recording memorial in the temples of history. Their more recent transactions have been interwoven with our annals. It is their earliest fortunes that will here be traced (1).

The provinces of Gaul on the sea-coast, between the Seine and the Loire, were called Armorica by the Celtic natives, in the days of Cæsar (2). He enumerates seven states which were included in that name, of which the modern Quimper, Rennes, and Vannes are part (5). Excepting the single incident of the conquest of the Venetian territory by the people of Vannes, 164, U. C., they are not mentioned in existing history before the expeditions of the conqueror of Gaul (4).

Of the Armorican districts, Vannes was at that period the most distinguished. It excelled the others in the science and use of navigation. It possessed many ships, by which it carried on an intercourse with Britain, a region then as unknown to Rome as Otaheite was to England in the reign of George the First. The few ports which on this coast afforded a shelter from an impetuous sea were in the command of the people of Vannes, and their importance enabled them to exact a tribute from all who frequented the adjoining occan (5).

The inhabitants of Vannes detained two Roman envoys, and excited a confederacy of their neighbours against Cæsar. The issue was disastrous to the defenders of their country. Part was destroyed; the rest submitted the conqueror, unpitying, ordered their senate and the inhabiBut refer tants to be rigorously punished (6). The natives of Britain aided them in their struggle (7); and this assistance, and some similar act of friend-.124. ship, became the pretext for Cæsar's aggression upon our island (8).

The subsequent revolts of Armorica were easily suppressed by Cæsar, and it withstood the Romans no more. Augustus, in his distribution of the provinces of Gaul, comprehended Armorica under the Lyonnoise. Adrian divided this region into two districts, and put Armorica into the


(1) Though the ancient Britons have appeared little in history, one work of considerable merit has been devoted to their nation, which alludes to their early state, with more judgment and knowledge than I have elsewhere seen. I mean, Lobineau's Histoire de Bretagne, 2 vols. fol. He states the great researches which the literary patronage of a bishop of Quimper caused to be made through Bretagne, for ancient documents of its history. The valuable work of Lobineau was one of the consequences. Vertot's book is rather the performance of a political controversialist than of an impartial historian.

(2) L. 7. c. 69. He mentions them again, 1. 5. c. 44., and Hirtius, his continuator, in 1. 8. c. 25. Cellarius places the Armorican tract inter Ligerim et Sequanam. Vid. Geog. ant. v. i. p. 125.

[ocr errors]

(3) See Cæsar's names, l. 7. c. 69. Pliny, 1. 4. c. 31. is alone in extending Armorica to the Pyrenees. He and Rutilius, l. 1. v. 213. and Sidonius Paneg. Avit. v. 369, spell the word Aremorica. This exactly suits the meaning of the original British, ar y mor uch, on the sea-cliffs.

(4) Lobineau, Hist. v. i. p. 2.

(5) Cæsar, 1. 3. c. 8.

(6) Cæsar, 1. 3. c. 16. His reason for the severity was, that the barbarians might in future respect the jus legatorum.

(7) L. 8. c. 8. Auxilia ex Britannia - accorsunt,

(8) I., 4, p. 18.

second. This second province experienced another subdivision, of which Tours was the capital; and the commander of Tours superintended Bretagne as well as other districts (1).

Armorica remained in subjection to the Romans until its revolt and temporary independence in 410 (2), when Britain also seceded from the empire; but this freedom was of short duration. Rutilius, in his poetical itinerary, in the year 416, informs us that Exuperantius was teaching the Armoricans to love the returning wanderer, peace (3); that he had restored the laws, and brought back liberty-expressions which imply that they had re-admitted the Roman government. About the year 435, they aided the revolt of Sibation, and the faction of the Bagaude. We find that Etius, offended at what the author who has preserved the incident calls the insolence of the proud region, had commissioned Eocharich, the ferocious king of the Almanni, to attack them for their rebellion. The interposition of St. Germain appeased the storm (4). Three or four years afterwards they revolted again, and Eocharich then fulfilled his mission with all the cruelty of barbarian avarice (5). The same author describes the Armoricans as an excitable and undisciplined people; and another, after marking their locality as confined between two rivers, characterises them as fierce, stern, light, petulant, rebellious, and inconstant; perpetually inconsistent, from their love of novelty; prodigal of words, but sparing of deeds (6).

In 452, they assisted in the defeat of Attila. In 477 we read of this province being again subdued by Littorius, who led his forces against the Visigoths (7). From all these circumstances, though we cannot accredit the system of Du Bos, who erects an unshaken republic in Armorica, from the period of its revolt to the successes of Clovis (8), yet we may perceive that its subjection to Rome was not constant, nor were its liberties destroyed with impunity.

About the year 500, the Armoricans were fighting for the empire against the Francs. This rising nation was then conducted by Clovis, the founder of the French monarchy, who reproached the Armoricans for deserting the liberty of their ancestors. They maintained their struggle with successful bravery against the Salian king, who at last proposed to them an alliance and a connubial connection. On the conversion of Clovis, the proposed incorporation took place (9).

These sketches of history relate to the Armorican Celta. In the commencement of the sixth century they received a new colony of British Celta and it is this event which gives us peculiar interest in the history of the fortunes of Armorica.


(1) Lobineau, p. 2.

(2) See the first volume of this history, p. 108, 109.; and Zosimus, 1. 6. p. 376.

(3) His expression is, postliminium pacis, v. 213.

(4) Lobineau, p. 3.

(5) Constantius, vita S. Germani, cited by Mascou in his history, v. i. p. 476. This author wrote in 488, 3 Gibbon, 274.

(6) Erricus Mon. Vit. Germ. I. 5. cited by Gibbon, p. 274.

(7) 1 Mascou, 477.

(8) Du Bos, 1. p. 224. Montesquieu, in attacking Du Bos's opinion that the Francs did not hold Gaul by right of conquest but by invitation, takes occasion to intimate a disbelief that the Armoricans, during this period, formed a particular republic. Esprit des Lois, 1. 30. c. 24.

(9) Procopius de bell. Got. l. 1. c. 12. The consent, almost unanimous, of the learned has approved of the substitution of Apμopuxu for Apopuxo in the passage of Procopius.

That Armorica, and the opposite district of Britain, had very anciently a friendly intercourse, is declared by Cæsar, and this may have continued during their Roman subjection.

The actual emigration of Britons has been dated from the year 383, when Conan Meriadoc and his followers are reported to have left Britain with Maximus (1). But this fable must be rejected from true history. It has been discarded by the best historian of Bretagne, whose reasons are decisive (2).

While the Anglo-Saxons were prevailing in Britain, several assemblages of the natives quitted their paternal soil, and established themselves in Armorica (3). Their new settlements were in general named Llydaw (4); but each particular district received its appellation from the insular principality or residence of the general of the colony.

The few cities which, in the authors of this period, are mentioned on this coast, warrant the belief, that a large part of Llydaw was uninhabited (5). This supposition accounts for the selection of the spot, and for the ease with which the Britons effected their establishments.

The regions which the Britons colonized were literally Llydaw, or on the sea-shore. Dol, St. Malo, St. Brieux, Tréguier, St. Pol de Léon, Brest, Quimper, and Vannes, which now appear along the peninsula of Bretagne, mark the districts on which the Britons first disembarked. As their population and power increased, they stretched into the interior of the country to Rennes, and southward to Nantz (6). It is not known with what degree of violence they effected their occupation of the country.

(1) There is a curious traditional account of Meriadoc in an old Latin parchment MS. in the British Museum, Faustina, B. 6. It is intituled, "Vita Meriadoci Regis Cambriæ." This life is in direct contradiction to the Jeffry Chronology of Conan's accompanying Maximus. According to this MS. Meriadoc was the son of Caradoc, a king in Wales, whose seat was penes nivalem montem qui Kambrice Snaudone resonat. Caradoc was assassinated by his brother. Meriadoc and his sister were sent away to the wood Arglud to be killed. The king's huntsman found them alive, and brought them up secretly. Urien, the northern king, travelling with Kaius, one of Arthur's household, saw the children. They were afterwards brought up with Arthur and Urien. Arthur punishes the assassination of Caradoc. The MS. ends with an account of Meriadoc's expedition to the continent. I mention these particulars, merely to remark, that this MS., which is full of fables, yet places Meriadoc not in the fourth, but in the sixth century, his true era; for it makes him a boy when Arthur and Urien were men.

(2) Lobineau declines the insertion of it because it is incompatible with the real expedition of Maximus, which disembarked at the mouth of the Rhine, and not in Armorica; with the state of Gaul and Armorica, under Theodosius and his children, after the defeat of Maximus and Eugenius; with the Notitia of the empire, which places Roman garrisons not only in Rennes, and Vannes, but even about Brest; with the Armorican revolt in 406, and the punishment inflicted by Etius in 436, and 439; with the aid given by the Armoricans against Attila in 452; with the government of this district given to Exuperantius, before 419; with what Gildas and Bede state of the true passage of the Britons; and with the existence of Judichael, king of the Britons in 630, and of all his ancestors up to Ruval; whose lives are authenticated by all the French authors of the seventh century, and by every thing that can be collected from the British legends.

(3) I have mentioned the authorities for adopting the year 513, as the year when the Britons arrived in Armorica, in the first volume. I cannot assent to Lobineau's date in 458. It is much too early.

(4) Llydaw implying, as it is said, the sea-coast, is little else than a synonyme to Armorica. The author of the life of Gildas says, "In Armoricam quondam Galliæ regionem tunc autem a Britannis a quibus possidebatur Letavia dicebatur." Bouquet 3. 449. The MS. Vita Cadoci says, "Provincia quondam Armorica, deinde Littau, nunc Britannia minor vocatur." Cotton Library, Vesp. A. 14. p. 32.

(5) Lobineau, p. 6.

(6) Lobineau, p. 1. and 7.; and Adelmus Benedictus, in the Corp. Franc. Hist. p. 396.

As soon as the first colonies had settled, new adventurers were incessantly arriving. The names of Devonshire and Cornwall, which some of the emigrants imposed on the districts they seized, are evidences that a large portion of the colonists were from these counties in Britain (1).

The leader placed at the head of the earliest emigrants is Ruval, who settled himself in all the north part of the province, from Leon to Dol (2). In the time of Gildas, we also find Conomer, a British king, in the upper regions of Bretagne (3); and Weroc, who governed at Vannes (4). When Gildas followed his countrymen to Llydaw, he passed a solitary life in the island of Houath. Grallon, a British prince, is then mentioned, who built a monastery for Gildas (5).

The pestilence denominated the yellow plague, from the colour of its victims (6), raged in the British island at the era of the Anglo-Saxon successes, and accelerated the Armorican emigrations (7). The British chieftains were the most conspicuous among the crowding exiles. Fracanus, of noble descent, the cousin of Cato, a British king, went at this period with his family to Armorica (8), the region where safety and tranquillity seemed then to reside (9). He found unoccupied a tract surrounded with wood and bushes, which had been fertilised by an inundation of the adjoining river. In this spot he fixed his habitation (10).

Grallon is mentioned with the epithet of the Great (11). He governed in that part of Bretagne called Cornwall (12). This was the district near Brest (13). Quimper was its metropolis (14). Grallon is also characterised for his ferocious mind (15). During his government, the city of Ys, near Quimper, is said to have fallen a prey to the invading waters (16).

(1) Lobineau, p. 6.

(2) Lob. 6, 7.

(3) Vita Gildæ, p. 456. Gregory of Tours calls him Chonobri, 1. 4. c. 20.

(4) Vita Gild. ib. After 530, Eusebius is mentioned as a king of Vannes, Vita S. Melanii. Acta Sanct. Boll. Jan. 331.

(5) Acta Sanct. 2. Jan. p. 954. The writers of these lives who lived near the times they speak of, though no authority for the facts of their legends, yet often preserve some curious historical traits.

(6) Pestis autem illa flava vocabatur eo quod flavos et exangues universos quos invasit efficiebat sæviente enim in hominibus et jumentis illa peste. Vita S. Teliavi, Ap. Bolland. 1 Feb. 308. It was to escape this plague that Teliau went to Armorica.

(7) Tandem ob pestis late grassantis luem atque etiam irrumpentem hostium vim coacti incolæ ac precipice quidem nobiles alienas petivere terras. Life of S. Winwaloc, and Armorican MS. printed in Boll. Act. Sanct. 1 Martii, 256.

(8) This emigration is worth noticing in its particulars, as a probable specimen of many others: "Vir in prædicta insula perillustris Fracanus, Catonis regis Britannici consobrinus- - per id tempus quo grassaretur pestis exuit de terra et de cognatione sua cum geminis suis natis Guethenoco et Jacobe, cum uxore sua quæ Alba dicebatur; conscensa itaque rate contendit in Armoricam." Vit. Winwaloc, 256.

(9) Ubi tunc temporis alta quies vigere putabatur. Ib.

(10) Fundum ibi quendam sylvis dumisque alte circumseptum reperit qui ex inundatione fluvii cui nomen Sanguis locuples est. Hunc habitare cœpit securus a morbis. Ib. (11) Gradlonus appellatus magnus. Vit. Winwal. 259.

(12) Regem occiduorum Cornubiensium. lb. 259.

(13) Solum Cornubiense non procul a Brestiensi tractu. Vit. S. David. MS. of Utrecht, Ap. Bol. 1 Mart. 139.

(14) The editors of the Acta Sanctorum (1 Feb. 305.) remark that part of Armorica was called Cornwallia; they state (1 Mart. 246.) that the bishop of the district is still intituled, "Episcopus Cornugalliæ vulgo de Cornoaille." In Feb. 1. 602, they express that some call Grallon, "Regem Cornubiæ cujus ditionis metropolis est Quimper Corentin."

(15) So the life of S. Winwal. 254. Gradlon.

(16) Argentre, Hist. 114, He adds, "Et encore aujourd'hui les habitans montrent les ruines et le reste des murailles si bien elmentées que la mer n'a pu les emporter," My authority must be responsible for the circumstance,

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
« EelmineJätka »