« VorigeDoorgaan »
and were accustomed to visit Britain and Ireland, all of which countries were peopled at that early period.
In the days of Julius Cæsar, fifty years before Christ, not only the portions of Europe which lay along the Mediterranean Sea, but the central and northern sections, were thickly inhabited. Gaul was in the possession of a great and powerful nation, consisting of Celts, who presented a most formidable opposition to the great Roman leader. For nine campaigns they resisted his legions, and it was not till more than a million of men had fallen, that they yielded to the conqueror. At this period, it appears that the whole of Europe was peopled, and many portions of it seem to have been swarming with population.
From this hasty view; we are able to trace the general current of events, in relation to the first settlement of Europe. '. It would appear, that, at least two thousand years before Christ, portions of emigrants began to set off from the thickly settled coasts of Asia Minor and Africa, to seek their fortunes in the yet unexplored regions which lay along the northern border of the Mediterranean Sea. These parties went by water, and, at first, in small boats or vessels, and consisted, doubtless, of the restless, dissatisfied, and daring portion of the community. In all its essential features, it is probable that the emigration of this period resembled that of our own time, in which the hardy and resolute adventurers plunge into the wilderness to contend with difficulties and conquer a subsistence from the savage inhabitants and equally inhospitable nature, in a new country. As these parties started from different points, and consisted of different
races, they laid the foundation of so many different tribes, which, as they extended and began to approach each other, fell into frequent acts of hostility ; for it seems that man, in the early stages of society, is the most pugnacious of animals.
Thus it would appear that the southern maritime parts of Europe were settled by emigration from the civilized portions of Asia and Africa, lying at the eastern extremity of the Mediterranean Sea ; that these emigrants went chiefly by water, and carried with them the arts known to the countries from which they sprang ; and that this movement had begun at least so early as 1850 years before Christ.
But, while this process was going on, another stream of emigration was setting in from Asia upon Europe, farther to the north. This consisted of various tribes, who either passed between the Caspian and Black seas, and crossed the Don, or, taking a more northerly route, crossed the Volga. The general direction of this movement was to the northwest. The countries from which these people came were probably Tartary, Persia, and the regions around the Caucasian mountains.
The southern nations of Europe, such as the Greeks and Romans, settled down in cities and cultivated the arts ; they had a knowledge of letters, and had thus the means of recording events. Of these we have, therefore, some accounts, and are able to trace the main current of history far back, till it blends in the distance with the mists of fable. With the northern nations it is otherwise. These were entirely in a savage or barbarous state ; for centuries they had no permanent
abodes. They flowed onward like an inundation, wave following wave, but leaving no record behind. After the lapse of centuries, we find the whole country occupied, even to the remotest limit of Britain ; we see that the great valley of the North is insufficient for the flood of population, and that it even bursts over the Alps, and flows over, like lava, upon the plains of northern Italy. From these facts we can deduce inferences, and, in the absence of precise records, the imagination can aid us to fill up the mighty picture. We can see that for ages there was a constant outpouring of nations from Asia upon Europe ; we can see that there were restless, roving tribes, half herdsmen and half robbers ; living partly by plunder and partly by the pasturage of cattle, till at last, one by one, they fixed upon some favored spot, and became a settled people. So much we know; and, though we cannot give name and place to particular events, it requires no stretch of fancy to conclude that this is the history of the first settlement of middle and northern Europe. When Cæsar, about fifty years before Christ, crossed the Alps, and began his campaigns in Gaul, he kept a record of what he saw. From that period, we have a continuous history of leading events; but for the 2000 years preceding, during which these portions of Europe were becoming settled, we have hardly any other guide than inference or conjecture.
The emigration into middle and northern Europe appears to have continued for a series of ages, and it is probable that, in some instances, whole nations, amounting to many thousands, broke from their foundations, and moved in one overwhelming torrent
to the north and .west, in search of a new abode. Among these emigrant people, the Celts appear to have been one of the most ancient and numerous. At the earliest periods of history, they already occupied a great part of central and western Europe. Prior to the Christian era, these people, under the name of Gauls, had possessed northern Italy, and in the year 382, B. C., a host of them burst over the Alps, and, directing their way to Rome, laid that city in ashes. About 280, B. C., a vast multitude of these people invaded Macedonia and Greece, where they obtained immense booty.
It would appear that the power of the Gauls in Europe was on the decline, even before the time of Cæsar's conquest. They were pressed by enemies on all sides, and, though still numerous and formidable, had evidently lost that ascendency which they had maintained for many centuries before. At this period, they occupied the northern part of Italy, Spain, France, Britain, and Ireland ; and the present inhabitants of these several countries have a large mixture of Celtic blood in their veins. Their language is still preserved with considerable purity among the Irish, who are, in fact, a Celtic nation. Ireland had the singular fortune never to be conquered by Rome, nor, indeed, by any of the tribes that overran the northern portions of Europe. The Irish, therefore, are the oldest nation in Europe, and present to us not only the language of their Celtic ancestors, but, perhaps, an example of their physical and moral characteristics.
The Celts, or Gauls, as described by Cæsar, were men of large size, fair complexion, reddish hair, and
fierce aspect. They could bear cold and rain, but neither heat nor thirst ; they were vain and boastful, clamorous, and impatient of control, and quarrelsome among themselves. Their first onset was formidable, but, if once repulsed, they easily gave way and dispersed. Their swords were long and unwieldy, and, being made of copper, bent before the steel armor of the Romans. They fought naked down to the loins ;
. their shields were large and oblong, but slight, and illcontrived for protection.
Druids. Their government was aristocratic. The nobles formed the senate, or supreme council. The common people appear to have had no political rights, and were in a state of vassalage. The Druids were the priests, and formed a powerful hierarchy. They were inter