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AFTER the decay of Greek and Roman literature, the spirit of enquiry which animated these renowned nations, was gradually diffused over regions that had long been regarded as barbarous. Of intellectual improvement however the progress is generally slow. The local circumstances of some countries retarded their advancement in liberal knowledge : their situation towards the northern extremities of Europe, or the inauspicious influence of national poverty, precluded them from an early participation of such benefits or pleasures as science and literature are capable of affording. Their distance from the
seat of the Roman government, while it secured them from invasion, tended at the same time to prolong their barbarity. The conquests of that ambitious and warlike, people were sometimes productive of such happy consequences, that it may be proposed as a difficult question, whether in certain instances the progress of their arms was more fatal to political independence, or more conducive to the dissemination of useful knowledge. Scotland, it is well known, was never completely subjugated: nor did our ancestors derive any immediate advantages from Roman colonies. From a fortunate concurrence of circumstances, learning was introduced at an earlier period into England, and there nurtured with a superior degree of affection. 'About eighty years after the birth of Christ, a slight tincture of Roman refinement seems to have been imparted to the Britonsa. Dr Stillingfleet supposes, that the edict of Gratian, addrest to the Prefectus Prætorio Galliarum, and enjoining the principal cities of that department to establish professors of the Greek and Latin languages, was understood as extending to the British province. This circumstance however seems dubious: and it would at least be somewhat difficult to prove, that in Britain the injunctions of the edict were ever fulfilled. But to the establishment of Roman colonies, the natives of the southern division of the island were certainly indebted for the rudiments of liberal knowledge. And another circumstance which materially contributed to their improvement was the early propagation of the Christian religion.
a Taciti Vita Agricolæ, $ 21. b Stillingfleet's Antiq. of the British Churches, p. 215.
While the island continued sunk in Paganism, the south of Britain could boast of a class of men comparatively enlightened. The Druids, says Diogenes Laertius, are reported to deliver their philosophical precepts in eniginatical terms; and to inculcate the adoration of the gods, abstinence from evil actions, and the exercise of fortitude. The original seat of Druidism appears to have been the south of Britaind. That Druids also existed in Scotland and Ireland', has generally been
«« Και φασί τους μεν Γυμνοσοφισας και Δρυίδας αινιγματωδώς αποφθεγγομένους φιλοσοφήσαι, σέξιν θεούς, και μηδέν κακόν δρεν, και ανδρείαν ασκειν.”
Laertius de Vitis Philosophorum, p. 4. d“ Disciplina in Britannia reperta, atque inde in Galliam translata esse existimatur : et nunc, qui diligentius eam rem cognoscere volunt, plerumque illò discendi causâ proficiscuntur
Cæsar de Bello Gallico, p. 130. edit. 8vo. Clarke. e “ It is more than probable,” says Dr Campbell, “ that Druidism was the religion of Ireland before Christianity, as tradition says it was.' Strictures on the Ecclesiastical and Literary History of Ireland, p. 69. Dublin, 1789, 8vo.) It is by vague assertions of this kind, that the Irish writers have in general attempted to establish the hypothesis.
The German writers have contended with equal zeal, that the Druidic system was anciently established in Germany; and have endeavoured to evade the force of Cæsar's explicit testimony, by opposing it with that of Tacitus. Schedius understands the words of Cæsar,“ neque sacrificiis student,” as implying, that sacrifices were totally unknown among the Germans. (De Diis Germanis, sive Veteri Germanorum, Gallorum, Britanno
treated as a self-evident proposition: and, instead of endeavouring to establish the fact, various writers have proceeded to trace its consequences'. For Druidic antiquities it would be in vain to search; instead of temples and other edifices, they consecrated the misletoe, and the oak on which it grews. Nor can it be evinced by the testimony of early writers, that this system ever extended to either of these countries. Dr Usher indeed informs us, that a certain Irish book mentions a
rum, Vandalorum Religione, p. 254. Amột. 1648, 8vo.) But their genuine interpretation undoubtedly is, that among this people sacrifices were not frequent, or were not much regarded. These authors are therefore easily reconciled with each other.
Pithæus, with a degree of good sense which writers on this subject do not often display, has contented himself with remarking, that it is sufficiently evident from Cæsar, that the Germans had no Druids;
and equally evident from Tacitus, that they had an order of men not very dissimilar. (P. Pithei Adversaria, f. 7. b. Paris. 1565, 8vo.) It is moreover certain that when Tacitus wrote his tract De Moribus Germanorum, the order of Druids was totally extinct. Those who expect to meet with any evidence of their existence at so late a period, will therefore find themselves disappointed.
f See a fanciful dissertation written by General Vallancey, and entitled, “ The Oriental Emigration of the Hibernian Druids proved from their knowledge in Astronomy, collated with that of the Indians and Chaldeans.” (Ouseley's Oriental Collections, vol. ii.) - General Vallancey's subsequent observations on the Hibernian Druids I do not completely comprehend : “ Dairi, a common name in Ireland; Draoi signifies a wise man, a conjurer, a necromancer, but has nothing to say to the Gaulic and Celtic Druid. The Draoi were never in holy orders in Ireland, which marks the difference between the Magogians and the Gomerites." (Prospectus of a Dictionary of tbe Language of the Aire Coti, or Ancient Irish. p. 32. Dublin, 1802, 4to.)
8 “ Nihil habent Druidæ, ita enim appellant suos Magos, visco et arbore in qua gignatur, si modo sit robur, sacratius.”
Plinii Naturalis Historia, lib. xvi. S. 95.
certain order of men by the name of Druids”. This however is no incontestable evidence : for the word druid originally denoted a wise mani; and in this instance as well as in many others, might still be applied with a reference to its primitive signification. Adomnan relates, that St Columba and his followers were, on some occasion, disturbed at their devotions by the intrusion of the Pictish Magii. The term Magus is of very extensive application. In various instances it may undoubtedly be found employed as a translation of the word Druid: but there is no necessity for concluding, that in the present instance it could not possibly have been used in any other sense,
Mr Ledwich, a writer of no ordinary acuteness or learning, has lately revived the notion, that “ Druidism was professed by all the Celtic tribes, how widely soever dispersed.” In support of this conjecture, no competent evidence has ever been produced, From the observations which occur in Cæsar, it appears highly probable that the system was confined to the south of Britain, and to the opposite districts of Gaul. But, in order to establish his hypothesis, Mr Ledwich finds it expedient to explode the testimony of this authentic writer. “ The order and superstition of the
h “Druidas liber Hibernicus vocat, et viri sancti adventum ante triennium prædixisse narrat.”
Usserii Britannic. Eccles. Antiq. p. 852. i Pinkerton's Dissertation on the Scythians, p. 68. | Adomnani Vita Columbæ, lib. i. cap. xxxviii. apud Pinkerton.