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BRITAIN (Gr. Hperavuml vi7vot, Bperra...

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Originally appearing in Volume V04, Page 583 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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BRITAIN (Gr. Hperavuml vi7vot, Bperravia; Lat. Britannia, rarely Britannia), the anglicized form of the classical name of England, Wales and Scotland, sometimes extended to the British Isles as a whole (Brilannicae Insulae). The Greek and Roman forms are doubtless attempts to reproduce a Celtic original, the exact form of which is still matter of dispute. Brittany (Fr. Bretagne) in western France derived its name from Britain owing to migrations in the 5th and 6th century A.D. The personification of Britannia as a female figure may be traced back as far as the coins of Hadrian and Antoninus Pius (early 2nd century A.D.); its first appearance on modern coins is on the copper of Charles II. (see NuMIsMATIcs). In what follows, the archaeological interest of early Britain is dealt with, in connexion with the history of Britain in Pre-Roman, Roman, and Anglo-Saxon days; this account being supplementary to the articles ENGLAND; ENGLISH HISTORY; SCOTLAND, &C. PRE-ROMAN BRITAIN Geologists are not yet agreed when and by whom Britain was first peopled. Probably the island was invaded by a succession of races. The first, the Paleolithic men, may have died out or retired before successors arrived. During the Neolithic and Bronze Ages we can dimly trace further immigrations. Real knowledge begins with two Celtic invasions, that of the Goidels in the later part of the Bronze Age, and that of the Brythons and Belgae in the Iron Age. These invaders brought Celtic civilization and dialects. It is uncertain how far they were themselves Celtic in blood and how far they were numerous enough to absorb or obliterate the races which they found in Britain. But it is not unreasonable to think that they were no mere conquering caste, and that they were of the same race as the Celtic-speaking peoples of the western continent. By the age of Julius Caesar all the inhabitants of Britain, except perhaps some tribes of the far north, were Celts in speech and customs. Politically they were divided into separate and generally warring tribes, each under its own princes. They dwelt in hill forts with walls of earth or rude stone, or in villages of round huts sunk into the ground and resembling those found .in parts of northern Gaul, or in subterranean chambered houses, or in hamlets of pile-dwellings constructed among the marshes. But, at least in the south, market centres had sprung up, town life was beginning, houses of a better type were perhaps coming into use, and the southern tribes employed a gold coinage and also a currency of iron bars or ingots, attested by Caesar and by surviving examples, which weigh roughly, some two-thirds of a pound, some 23 lb, but mostly ri lb. In religion, the chief feature was the priesthood of Druids, who here, as in Gaul, practised magical arts and barbarous rites of human sacrifice, taught a secret lore, wielded great influence, but, at least as Druids, took ordinarily no part in politics. In art, these tribes possessed a native Late Celtic fashion, descended from far-off Mediterranean antecedents and more directly connected with the La-Tene culture of the continental Celts. Its characteristics were a flamboyant and fantastic treatment of plant and animal (though not of human) forms, a free use of the geometrical device called the " returning spiral," and much skill in enamelling. Its finest products were in bronze, but the artistic impulse spread to humbler work in wood and pottery. The late Celtic age was one which genuinely delighted in beauty of form and detail. In this it resembled the middle ages rather than the Roman empire or the present day, and it resembledthem all the more in that its love of beauty, like theirs, was mixed with a feeling for the fantastic and the grotesque. The Roman conquest of northern Gaul (57-50 B.C.) brought Britain into definite relation with the Mediterranean. It was already closely connected with Gaul, and when Roman civilization and its products invaded Gallia Belgica, they passed on easily to Britain. The British coinage now begins to bear Roman legends, and after Caesar's two raids (55, 54 B.c.) the southern tribes were regarded at Rome, though they do not seem to have regarded themselves, as vassals. Actual conquest was, however, delayed. Augustus planned it. But both he and his successor Tiberius realized that the greater need was to consolidate the existing empire, and absorb the vast additions recently made to it by Pompey, Caesar and Augustus.
End of Article: BRITAIN (Gr. Hperavuml vi7vot, Bperravia; Lat. Britannia, rarely Britannia)
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HENRY WILLIAM BRISTOW (1817-2889)
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