Page images

became careless and disaffected: they were consequently defeated. He therefore determined to concentrate the best of his troops, and with them harass the Romans at every favourable opportunity, which he did for some time successfully, though frequently interrupted by the schemes of his countrymen; who had, in many cases, made terms with the invader. In the midst of these difficulties Cassibelanus formed the plan of attacking the depositary of the hostile fleet, and destroying it; which seemed practicable from the slight guard left for its protection. In this he was disappointed by the destruction of the party to which the enterprise was entrusted. Thus, deserted and hopeless, he was induced to negotiate with Cæsar ; who, soon after, left England with all his army, taking with him hostages for the payment of a tribute, and some prisoners. Every circumstance attending these two distinct operations on the part of the Romans, serves to exalt the character of our ancestors; as it requires neither argument nor reasoning to prove the courage and address necessary to prevent greater success on the part of the legions of the Mistress of the rest of the world.

The terrors of invasion were experienced at several periods between the retreat of Cæsar and the reign of Claudius ; but those were excited principally to secure the payment of the tribute. In the year 43 a seditious exile from England, the


base and infamous Bericus, prevailed upon the Emperor to revenge his quarrel by a descent upon England, though not expressly stating that to be his reason for urging it. Aulus Plautius, an experienced general, and 50,000 men were sent upon this expedition, and landed without opposition. Caractacus and Togodumnus, the sons of the great British Prince Cunobelin, not long before deceased, were the only chiefs who determined to resist the enemy; which they were prevented from doing with the least effect through the interference of Bericus, who conducted the Romans where the connivance of his friends rendered them assistance, and enabled them successively to defeat the brothers. Still farther efforts made on the side of our countrymen almost turned the fortune of war in their favour, and compelled Plautius to demand the presence of the Emperor to complete his difficult task. Thus the hardy natives of our Island had the honour of contending, on their own ground, with two Romans celebrated for their victories and triumphs over other states. Having established the fact, of the early innate courage of our ancestors, , I shall not proceed to other transactions of this or subsequent wars, which belong to a different description of work from the present. But it would be unpardonable in the author, were he to omit the tribute due to the memory of the brave Caraçtacus; a chief equally skilful and courageous



with his celebrated opponents. This determined patriot, aware of the advantages arising from a favourable position of his troops, at one time entrenched himself on a steep and nearly inaccessible mountain, supposed to be Caer Carador in Shropshire, at the base of which a river deep and rapid in its progress flowed, and seemed to offer an insuperable barrier to the Romans in their approach to his camp. There he waited for the enemy; on whose appearance he arranged his army in order of battle; and, passing through the ranks, he painted to his men the horrors and shame of defeat and servitude, and the glory to be derived from a determined imitation of the bravery of their ancestors. Inspired by the valour of their General, the troops swore to conquer or perish—a resolution they maintained against the fierce assaults of the enemy till they stormed the very last lines on the summit of the mountain, when, farther resistance becoming impracticable, the brave Britons fled with great slaughter. The wife, sons, and daughter, of Caractacus were made prisoners : the Prince escaped for the moment, but was soon afterwards surrendered in chains to the conquerors by the detestable Cartismandua, Queen of the Brigantes, the mother of his wife. Nine years had elapsed in the most vigorous and spirited efforts made by Caractacus against his enemies: they therefore resolved to exhibit him in triumph at the Court of Rome, in the grand

procession procession usual on such occasions. An opportunity has been afforded us by Tacitus, to illustrate the manners of this great Prince on a trial as severe as human nature is subject to. Of all the captives who accompanied their chief, he alone preserved his fortitude, and approached the throne of Claudius with a firm and manly air of unimpeached honour. Addressing the Emperor, he observed, that had his moderation been equal to his birth and prosperity, he had then entered Rome as a visitor, and not as a captive. He con-. fessed his situation to be humiliating in proportion to the Emperor's success: said he lately possessed the resources of his subjects, and en+ quired why he should not attempt to preserve them? or what reason existed against the wish of a nation to resist his aim at universal monarchy? Had he submitted without opposition, · his own lustre would have been diminished, and that of the Romans less conspicuous. He con; cluded by saying, if Claudius decreed his death, he should soon be consigned to oblivion; but if, on the contrary, he granted him his life, that act would remain a durable monument of his cle. mency. Fascinated by the manner of the vanquished hero, Claudius commanded his chains to be removed, and pardoned him. The circumstances which immediately followed, all served to prove the importance the Romans attached to this victory, and its consequences; and those all con



tributed to exalt the character of this our admirable countryman; whose want of success was évidently caused by the custom of his people in fighting, and not by any deficiency of courage. The English began their combats with tremendous shouts and showers of darts; the Romans, knowing these to be their principal means of offence, advanced with their shields in the form of the testudo, and, having closed with their enemy, made dreadful havock with their javelins and swords on the defenceless bodies of the English, who wore no kind of armour...

A contrast to the exalted nature of Caractacus existed in the instance of the Queen already mentioned as his betrayer. This Cartismandua was a disgrace to our countrywomen; a wanton, and in every respect infamous. Unfortunately her rank and power has transmitted her name to pos terity as one who did not scruple to marry Venusius, prince of the Huicci, and, subsequently, Vellocatus, her armour-bearer.

her armour-bearer. The former, who possessed many of the excellent qualities of the unhappy Caractacus, was rejected for the favourite gallant: and she had the effrontery to deelare Vellocatus King-an act which exasperated the majority of her subjects into a determination of supporting Venusius in his rights, into whose hands she was very near falling when she invited and obtained the assistance of the Romans. Thus the licentious manners of the Queen involved the

« PreviousContinue »