페이지 이미지

national life is a dire revelation of the ways of our wise and virtuous ancestors. It is a sad blow to the dreamers of chivalry as an institution without shame and without reproach. Viewed in the light of human experience nothing could be fouler, for it started in shame and could not fail to end in reproach. Such lives as the ill-assorted couples who furnished its personnel must perforce lead could only result in a social degradation that could not be described as black by any contemporary writer, because there was no chance of comparing it with white. Men are now surprised how, at the moment of its dissolution, chivalry came to be described as abominable. Remembering snatches of its love-songs and the claims of its accepted maxims, they said it must have been divine. So they clung to it as to a divinity, for the knowledge had been lost that it was probably the most filthy of human charnel-houses. The only modern parallel to the morals of chivalry was the morals of the American slave plantations in the days before the emancipation of the negro; and what they were has been described beyond description.





F the five great highways of South Britain—Watling Street,

Ermine Street, the Fosseway, Ikening Street, and Ryckneld Street-most people have heard ; but few, I think, have any very clear idea whence they come, whither they go, or what was their origin. That they were the work of the Romans is certain, in spite of the Saxon names they bear ; and that they existed as beaten tracks across forest, heath, and marsh, at a date anterior to the Roman conquest, is highly probable. In the following pages I have set myself the task of tracing the routes of these five streets, so far as it is possible to recover them at the present day, and in so doing have selected as landmarks those towns and villages whose names recall the existence of a great highway, or of a Roman camp established to protect the same. To the former class of names belong Stratton (Stræt tun) and Stamford or Stan-ford (stone road); to the latter, Caistor and Chesterfield. Many who have tried to study the course of Roman roads as laid down in the county histories have been absolutely cowed, and for ever deterred from pursuing their research, by constant references made to a dreadfully obscure and corrupt document called the “ Antonine Itinerary,” containing Latin names of stations and summaries of Roman miles. I have endeavoured to steer clear of that rock, and I hope that, with the help of the localities I have given below, and the assistance of a county atlas, the reader may find the task of following these roads not a dull one, but, on the contrary, a fascinating occupation.

There are grounds for believing that in very ancient times minerals. and other merchandise passed by these same routes from hand to hand, and from one tribe to another, until they eventually reached the sea-coast. Mr. Alfred Tylor, in a most interesting paper contained in the forty-eighth volume of Archæologia, ably supports his contention that the main object of the Roman occupation was to develop an ancient and indigenous mineral industry, and especially


the art of lead-working, rather than to promote mere agricultural colonisation. The Romans substituted straight and sometimes paved highways for the devious native tracks, preserving their old direction and purpose, for it is evident that the five streets were not originally planned as means of communication between important military stations. The great garrison towns of Chester, York, and Silchester, for instance, lay off the line of these main arteries of traffic, and were evidently constructed at a subsequent date, with the object of protecting districts which are to this day centres of mineral industry, and of commanding and keeping open the routes that lead to these districts. An examination of the course of the streets, as hereafter indicated, has led me to the conclusion that the two great inland entrepôts of British trade during the Roman occupation were Lincoln and Cirencester. To the former the Ermine Street may have brought Cleveland iron and Cumberland lead from the north, and the merchandise of Kentish ports from the south, while the Ryckneld and Fosseway conveyed to it the mineral wealth of Wales, tin from Cornwall, and copper from the Mendip Hills. Cirencester must have been a still greater centre of exchange. Iron from South Wales and the Forest of Dean could travel to it by a well-defined Roman road leading through Gloucester, the wares of the eastern merchants by the Ikening, the traffic of Gaul by the Ryckneld, and the commerce of North Wales and Kent by the Watling Street. Finally, these great highways were so interlaced and connected by transverse routes that they formed a complete network of communication, both for civil and military purposes, between all parts of the island.

But what extrinsic evidence have we of the existence in early times of this alleged traffic in British minerals? We know that Britain was one of the few countries known to the ancients as producing tin, and vast quantities of that metal must have been annually consumed by the continent of Europe in the manufacture of bronze armour, weapons, and other utensils.

Herodotus, writing four centuries and a half before the invasion of Britain by Julius Cæsar, mentions rumours of a river called Eridanus (perhaps the Rhine) emptying itself into the Northern Sea, whence amber was procured ; and of tin islands, from which came the metal used by the Greeks ; and he hints that tin came “from the very ends of the earth” by the same road as did the amber (Book iii. 115).

Now Pliny tells us explicitly how amber reached the Mediterranean, viz. :--“ Overland from the shores of Northern Germany to Pannonia. The people of that province passed it on to the Veneti, who lived at the head of the Adriatic Gulf, and they, in turn, conveyed it southward into Italy” (Book xxxvii. 11). Strabo, a writer of the Augustan age, describes the commerce between Britain and the Continent at a period, be it observed, anterior to the Roman occupation. The usual sea passages from the Continent to Britain, he tells us, were those from the mouths of the Rhine, Seine, Loire, and Garonne, besides that from Wissant, which Julius Cæsar had used. The exports were corn, cattle, gold, silver, iron, skins, slaves, and trained hounds (which the Gauls used for purposes of war); while the imports were ivory bracelets and necklaces, amber, glass vessels, and small wares (Book iv. 5). Diodorus, the Sicilian, a contemporary of the last writer, informs us that great quantities of tin were exported from Britain (which, by the way, he carefully distinguishes from the Cassiterides), and that the people of Cornwall made the tin into pigs of a knucklebone shape, and carried them on waggons to an island called Ictis, which Mr. Tylor identifies with Bembridge, in the Isle of Wight, and Mr. Elton with Thanet. At Ictis merchants bought the tin, and carried it to the opposite coast of Gaul, whence it was transported overland on pack-horses, a thirty days' journey, to Marseilles, Narbonne, and the mouth of the Rhone (Book v. 22 and 38).

The Museum in Jermyn Street contains a model of an ancient block of tin, measuring 2 feet 11 inches long and 11 inches broad. It roughly answers the description of a knucklebone, although it bears a much stronger resemblance to one of those common objects of the sea-shore called “sailors purses,” the four projecting arms serving as a means of carrying it, or lashing it to a pack-saddle. The overland route through Gaul, which is believed to have been established three centuries previously, by the enterprise of Pytheas, a Greek of Marseilles, had, so far as Rome was concerned, superseded the more ancient and circuitous passage from the eastern parts of Britain to the mouths of the Elbe and the Vistula, and the caravan journey across Germany. Besides sundry references by Greek and Latin authors to early British trade, there is a great body of circumstantial evidence, based upon the discoveries of antiquaries, which all tends to prove the acquaintance of the Britons with commerce. Lastly, it may be asked, who undertook the transit of minerals by sea, from Britain to the coast of Germany, for the Britons, so far as we know, had no great skill in seamanship? It is a remarkable fact that, towards the end of the fourth century, all the coast of Britain, from the Wash to the Isle of Wight, was known to the Romans as “The Saxon Shore,”and it may be reasonably inferred that it was so called because it included those ports from which Saxon

ships had long been in the habit of conveying cargoes to the Baltic and German coasts.

And now we will examine more particularly the five great channels by which the natural productions of our island reached the Saxon shore. The first in order is the Watling Street. Roger de Hoveden, a chronicler of the twelfth century, tells us that it was made by the Watlings, or sons of King Wætla, and treats it as a sort of equatorial line, dividing north from south, for he distinguishes the Northumbrians and others, who lived on that side of it, from the “Southerners," who dwelt on the other. A treaty of King Alfred's reign also recognised it as the boundary between the Saxons and Danes. The true etymology of its name is to be sought in that of the Gwyddelins, or “men of the woods,” a Celtic people who inhabited Wales and Ireland, and the Saxons called the road “Gwatling Street," because it led towards those countries. Chaucer has a curious application of the epithet in his “House of Fame" :

See yonder, lo! the Galaxy
The which men clepe the milky way,
For it is white and some parfay

Y.callen it han Watling Street. It has been somewhat fancifully suggested that Watling Street has been constructed on lines parallel to the direction of the Galaxy, and that in the dim ages of the past, long before our Watling Street was dreamed of, the primitive Gael steered his course over sea and land to Wales and Ireland by that of the Milky Way in the heavens above him. In order to trace the course of Watling Street, we must leave Dover by the high road to Canterbury, entering that city by a street which still bears the ancient name. Several roads converged on Canterbury from Roman ports in Kent: that on the right leading from Richborough, famous for its oysters ; that on the left, “Stone Street,” from Lympne, near Hythe; while a third communicated with Reculver and Thanet. Canterbury was thus the key to all the south-eastern ports. Continuing our journey towards London, we cross the Medway at Rochester, Blackheath, behind Greenwich Park, and following the Old Kent Road, near which the remains of a Roman villa have been discovered, arrive at London Bridge. In the early days of the Roman occupation all the low-lying ground on the Surrey side of the river was a great tract of marsh, covered at every high tide with shallow water, so that the street must here have been carried on a high causeway, while a ferry gave access to the ancient Londinium, which at that date is supposed to have occupied a site to the east of Gracechurch Street. The road we are endeavouring

« 이전계속 »