Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

early Historians; even Leland, a learned writer, adopts part of the account as genuine history. But when we consider that at his time, the citizens of Bath gloried in their imaginary descent, we shall not wonder to find, that although his judgement may have discovered the tale devoid of veracity, he would still think it right to preserve some fragments of a legend that they held in the highest veneration for antecedent ages. Deriving their birth from a city that made so respectable a figure in antient British history, they looked upon it as stamping them with a dignity superior to the rest of their countrymen.

Near the close of the seventeenth century, the Earl of Rochester having visited Bath, his penetrating genius enabled him to shew the tradition of Bladud in its true colours, and convinced the citizens of its improbability; made them blush at their credulity, and induced them to remove a public memorial of it in a long inscription, that had hitherto been attached to a wall of one their Baths.

About thirty years afterwards, Mr. Powell gave a mortal blow to the legend, by associating the British Prince and his pigs, with Punch and his family, exhibited the whole party in very risible situations on the Theatre at Bath.

The fall of Bladud's story into contempt, does not prevent many from attributing the discovery of the Waters to the inhabitants of these parts, and who also allows that a town was built on the site of the present city, long before the time of the Romans in Britain. The observations following, will point out the uncertainty of the latter. We shall make our remarks in respect to the probability of the former; at the same time it will evidently shew they were not brought into repute, nor resorted to until the invasion of the conquerors of the old world.

When Cæsar arrived in Britain, he found the inhabitants of the interior parts of the kingdom rude and uncultivated; strangers to agriculture, and those simple arts which seemed necessary to their existence. Their sole care was to provide pasturage for their flocks and cattle, which were their principal riches. Britain then being over-run with wood and morasses, spots clothed with verdure, proper for the use of their stock, were rare and separated from each other by considerable intervening tracts of country. This obliged these pastoral tribes, to pursue a wandering course of life; as long as fodder for their

cattle presented itself, so long they considered themselves tenants of the tract they occupied; when this failed, with one consent they struck their tents, and marched to spots where a mantle of deep verdure invited them to construct their temporary towns, which were miserable cabins clustered together in the dark recesses of a forest.

In this condition, Cæsar on his arrival in Britain, found the Gaelic inhabitants, who possesed the interior and northern parts of the country.

A tribe of the Belge, who about five centuries before the Christian æra, migrated from their own country Galia Belgica, and sought a settlement along the southern coasts of this kingdom, displayed more civilized modes of life and manners; they brought with them proper ideas of civilization which they acquired from an intercourse with other nations at home. The building of towns, the establisment of a kind of civil government, the cultivation of many of the useful arts, and a considerable commerce carried on with distant nations marked the superiority of their information over the aboriginal Britons.

The people who inhabited the country about Bath, were descended from a tribe of Gauls, who in the first migration that was made from that continent, seized on Somersetshire, the south-western parts of Glocestershire, and the north-western corner of Wiltshire. They retained the original name of Heedui, and continued unmolested for some centuries, pur. suing that wandering course of life their progenitors were accustomed to follow in their own country, driving their flocks from pasture to pasture, through this extensive district, as occassion required. The unrestrained enjoyment of their wilds, rendered them very different in their manners from the Belge above mentioned. These people were not interrupted in the tranquil possession of their retreats, until within half a century of Cæsar's arrival in Britain; when the proper Belgæ made a conquest of their territory, which they united to their own. Still we find that an intercourse with the Belge did not induce the Hædui to alter their manner of living; as we learn that, during the interval which elapsed between their subjugation and the settlement of the Romans in Somersetshire, they pursued the pastoral life which they hitherto

had led.

These circumstances induce us to conclude, that no town

was erected on the site of the present city, before the time of the Romans.

The medicinal virtues of the Waters may probably have been discovered by some swineherd, prior to the arrival of the Romans in Britain, who had pitched his tent in these vales, and whose swine had been infected with some cutaneous disorder. It is well known, that these animals are averse to cold or heat in the extreme; that in the winter season, on their rambles through these morasses, experiencing the warmth of the bubbling springs, would wallow in the glowing marsh, pay successive visits to a place where they found such comfortable, oozy beds, and the healing quality of the tepid waters, might have effected a cure. The swineherd perceiving this, must have imputed it to a miracle; reported the wonderful discovery to the rest of his tribe, and they to other tribes.

Mankind from the day that Adam was banished from his earthly paradise, have been subject to different maladies; some person afflicted with the leprosy, or a similar disease, might have been induced to try the waters, in hopes they would have the same effect on him as they had on the swine, and the baths might have restored him to his former vigour.

The Druids, in a subsequent century, in order to give the miracle greater celebrity, may have dignified him with the title of prince, and learned philosopher; made him a magician, with powers to confer eternal heat on the waters, and make them boil in their several fountains. Admitting the probability of these conjectures, still it is evident, they were not much resorted to until the Romans arrived in this country. These, habituated to luxurious living, and accustomed to the use of tepid baths at home, were able to discern their salutary and efficacious tendency, to remove the bad consequences of voluptuous indulgence; whilst simple regimen, and incessant toil, made our robust ancestors, subject but to few distempers: of course, would scorn the effeminate practice of tepid baths.

CHAP. II.

The Real Account of the Origin of Bath; and of its Historic Facts, from the year of our Lord 44.

THEN we examine with attention and impartiality,

the conduct of the Romans towards the nations they conquered, we see the Arts and Sciences they introduced, more than counterbalanced the loss of liberty to an uncultivated people. Wherever the Roman Eagle rested her wings, ignorance and barbarity gave place to knowledge and civilization; but we must allow these blessings flowed not from real generosity, they were the bribes of an enlightened and subtle policy, diffused to make the people subdued; insensible of the shackles of restraint, and unmindful of their former freedom.

In respect to the part of Britain that engages our attention at present, we find, that a superb city raised by the Romans, displaying the elegance of architectural grandeur, supplied with every luxury that the world could afford, induced the artless Britons to crowd to its delights, and sacrifice their independence and liberty, at the shrines of pleasure and sensuality. Thus they had certainly acted; and that Bath, (under its various Roman names,) was a vortex of voluptuousness, that assisted to enervate the natives of this part of Britain, will evidently appear from the peaceable condition in which they slumbered, in uncomplaining servitude, for upwards of four centuries. Such were the allurements held out to the unsuspicious Britons, who bartered their genuine love of freedom. and independence, for those refinements that were only preparitives for their irreversible bondage.

The Roman army that fate had appointed to subdue and colonize Somersetshire, landed on the British coast in the year of our Lord 43, in the reign of the Emperor Claudius, comman ded by Aulus Plautus, seconded by Vespasian. The brave Caractacus was the first who opposed the invading forces; but having been defeated in a pitched battle, was obliged to retire towards Wales; his disaster compelled the Dobuni, or Boduni, a people inhabiting the counties of Oxford and Glocester, to submit and pay homage to the conquering Romans. Still many tribes of Britons continued to support their independence and to prepare for a strenuous opposition to the further pros

gress of the bold invaders; Plautus perceiving the strength and determined resolution of his opponents, thought it necessary to invite the Emperor to assume the command of the army in Britain.

Claudius in respect to his general's invitation arrives, puts himself at the head of the troops, and directs his march to the western parts of this country. In less than six months he reduced a considerable part of south Britain under his dominion, by fair promises and conciliating terms, without a single battle, or the least effusion of blood.

The origin of Bath, may with confidence be looked forduring the period of Claudius's command, since many incontrovertible testimonies shew that his troops were a part of the time in this neighbourhood. Whilst they continued here, they may probably be informed of the virtues of these springs; or have observed themselves the singular phænomenon, extremly curious with respect to natural appearances; an immediate investigation would take place; the causes of these phænomena discovered, and at length these mineral springs cleared and collected together.

This discovery must have been considered by the Romans as a very important one, and would immediately tempt them to form a permanent residence on the spot where it occurred. Their propensity to the use of the tepid bath, would induce them to forego their usual principles in the choice of situations for camps, and (instead of choosing any of the surrounding hills) to build a town in the morassy hollow of the vale.

Claudius before his departure for Italy from which he was absent only six months, gave the springs the name of rdara Jegua Therma Sudate, warm waters, in allusion to their natural qualities. Admitting the probability of the above suppositions, we may fix the building of the first town on the spot, about the year of our Lord 44, 1764 years ago.

Fortunately for the admirers of antiquity, some of the walls built by the Romans at that period, were discovered about ten years ago, in digging an excavation for certain intended buildings on the site of the Borough Walls, opposite to the Hospital, and from what was then laid open, it evidently appeared that the whole work had been finished in a stile of incomparable masonry. At the depth of eleven feet the workmen reached the foundations of the old Roman walls, forming the basis of those of later date. They appeared to be fifteen feet in thickness,

« VorigeDoorgaan »