History of England from The Earliest Period to The Present (Cooper)

History of England from The Earliest Period to The Present (Cooper)

THE ancient state of Britain, under its pri­mitive inhabitants, was, as to its government, patriarchal. The island became afterwards a province, under its Roman masters. The Saxons succeeded in domination, and by de­grees established an heptarchy, or seven petty kingdoms, which were, after a short period, united under one crowned head. This power­ful sovereignty was wrested from those Saxons who were settled in Britain (properly called the ANGLO-SAXONS) by the Danes, and again from them by the Normans. At present, the form of government is that of a limited mon­archy.
The whole island was originally called AL­BION ; a name which is believed to signify a country marked by heights or eminences, or to denote the white colour of its chalk cliffs. It was at a later period denominated BRITANNIA, from the Celtic word BIRT, or BRITH, which in that language expresses any thing party-coloured, and is supposed to refer to the painted bodies of the Inhabitants ; or from the Celtic PRYDAIN, Or BRYDAIN, fair, in allusion to its beauty and fertility.
Britain appears to have been first peopled by Celtic tribes, who passed hither from Gaul. The earliest settlers, the Gaelic or Gwithelic Celts, seem to have continued their migratory course across the sea to Ireland, and were succeeded in Britain by the Cimbric Celts, or Cymri. After these followed hostile tribes of Belgic origin from the Gallic shores; who taking possession of the districts on the sea­coast, progressively encroached, with the aid of fresh parties of their countrymen, on the inland tracts of the country. The Cimbric Celts, and the more recent comers, the BRIAE, had divided the possession of the island when the Romans arrived.
The inland inhabitants were extremely nu­merous, living in cottages thatched with straw, and feeding large herds of cattle. They sub­sisted chiefly upon milk, and flesh procured by the chase. The clothes worn by them to cover any part of their bodies were usually the skins of beasts; but much of their bodies, as -the arms, legs, and thighs, were left naked, and painted blue. Their hair flowed down upon their backs and shoulders. They constantly shaved their faces, except the upper lip, where they suffered the hair to grow to an enormous length.