« AnteriorContinuar »
flood, to a single water-course. At this its junction with the sea, the historian states, the Thames by its own overflow spread itself out into marshes, which, he adds, the natives, who were familiar with the places that were firm and fordable, easily made their way across. It is manifest that the fording of the Thames at what we now call its mouth must at all times have been still more out of the question than even the throwing of a bridge over it near that point.
But the elevation on which London is built offered a site at once raised above the water, and at the same time close upon the navigable portion of it-conditions which did not meet in any other locality on either side of the river, or estuary, from the sea upwards. It was the first spot on which a town could be set down, so as to take advantage of the facilities of communication between the coast and the interior presented by this great natural highway. To this peculiarity of position London probably owed both its existence and its name. Many conjectures have been offered as to the meaning of the name London. Like all our oldest British names of places, it is most probably Celtic, and there can be little doubt that the latter part of it is merely the dun or thun—the same word with the Saxon town—which is found in the names of many more of our most ancient towns both in England and Scotland. It seems to signify, what a town uniformly was in early times, a place of strength-a place either naturally strong or fortified by art, usually both the one and the other; and it may be recognised in its Welsh form din in the Latin Londinum and Londinium. The Lon has been conceived by some etymologists to be Llhun, a wood; by others, Llawn, full, populous; by others, Lon, a plain; but no one of these derivations seems to furnish a name for this settlement by the river-side so appropriate and distinctive as that from Lhong, the ancient British word for ships. London would thus mean the town of ships-a description which must have been applicable to it from its first foundation, if it originated in the way we have supposed. Or, at any rate, the comparative eminence of London as a resort for ships may be as ancient as the name—which is answer enough to Maitland's objection to this etymology, even if his assumption were to be conceded, that the town could not have deserved this name at the time of its foundation. But the probability is, that the spot was first resorted to as a landing-place by the craft ascending the river, and that in course of time the town grew up around the port. The etymology from Lhong receives some corroboration from one of the Latin forms of the name, Longidinium, which is that given in the Itinerary of Antoninus; while the Lundinum of Ammianus Marcellinus seems to show that the first syllable had very early come to be pronounced much in the way it still is--a natural effect of the nasal consonant by which the vowel is followed in what we have supposed to be the original word. Camden states that London is actually called Lhong-porth, that is, a harbour for ships, by an ancient British or Welsh bard.
The silence of Cæsar has been taken as a proof that London did not exist when he visited the country; and certainly it is a proof, if any such were wanted, that Geoffrey of Monmouth's great city of Troynovant, with its strong wall adorned with numerous towers, and its splendid public edifices of all kinds, making it cxcel every other city in the world, had not yet been built. But, although the place was doubtless neither famous, nor in any respect considerable, at this early
* Πλημμύροντός τι αυτά λιμνάζει, και ραδιως αυτόν διαβάντων (των Βρεττανών), άτι και τα στίριφα τα τι εύτορα το xopie iexpoßæs sidórwy.— Hist. Rom. 1x. 20.
date, any more than the best of the other stations which the Britons called towns, the name, which, whatever it may be, is certainly not Roman, gives ground for a presumption that London did not owe its beginning to the Romans. Cæsar particularizes no British town whatever, with the exception only of the capital of Cassivellaunus, supposed to be Verulam, which was perhaps the only one that came in his way during his short and hasty inroad. Yet it would be too much to conclude that the country contained no others, merely because he does not name them, and possibly saw no more. No doubt, many other settlements of the same kind had been long ere this founded by the numerous population which was found to be in possession of the island; and London may very well have been one of them, although as yet, perhaps, undistinguished from the rest, so that, not lying in his route, it did not attract Cæsar's attention, if he may be supposed even to have heard its name. We may infer, however, that it was not yet recognised as the capital of the country; nor in all likelihood was there any particular town that held that rank.
The London of the Britons could only have been what Cæsar, and Strabo after him, have described every British town as being, a collection of huts set down on a dry spot in the midst of the marshes, or in a cleared space within a wood, and encompassed, in addition to these natural protections, by the artificial defences of a mound and a ditch. Within these inclosures, Strabo tells us, the inhabitants were accustomed to stall as many cattle as sufficed for a few months' consumption; and Cæsar relates that, when the town or fastness of Cassivellaunus fell into his hands, he found in it a great number of cattle, which, he intimates, had been brought thither by the people when they came from all parts to take refuge in that chief stronghold. It is probable that most of the cattle, in which we are informed the island abounded, still roamed wild and unappropriated through the woods and pastures—dividing the country with the infinite multitude (infinita multitudo) of human beings, by which, as Cæsar notes, it was already peopled. Whether there were any herds regarded as belonging either to individuals, or to the various villages and other communities, does not appear. But the southern Britons, we know, practised agriculture, and wore cloth: that is implied in Cæsar's statement, that the ruder tribes of the interior for the most part sowed no corn, and were dressed only in skins. The country, therefore, was not all woodland and marsh. No doubt, the southern coast presented already, not only many patches of cultivation, but some considerable tracts brought under the plough. As for London, however, we know that at a date many centuries later a vast forest still covered the country all around it only a few miles back from the river, and that a fen or lake of great extent, whence the part of the metropolis now called Finsbury derives its name, lay on the north-east close to the city wall. When it was a British town, it probably occupied only the face and summit of the first natural elevation ascending from the river, stretching from between Billingsgate and the Tower on the one hand to Dowgate on the other, and going back no farther than to the line of the present Lombard Street and Fenchurch Street. The Wall Brook and the Sher Bourne on the west, and the Lang Bourne on the north—though their straggling waters had not yet become known to fame by these, or perhaps by any other names,—and to the east the wide-spread marsh which long after continued to cover the low grounds now occupied by the suburb of Wapping, furnished such natural boundaries as were usually sought for by
the founders of these rude settlements. A little to the north of the Lang Bourne, a highway may have passed nearly along the course of Leadenhall Street and Cornhill, prolonging itself along Cheapside, Newgate Street, and Holborn to the west ;-Cæsar does not describe his march as if it had been performed through a country without roads;—but immediately beyond this the fen may be supposed to have closed in the town on the one side, and the primeval forest on the other.
The earliest mention of London by any extant writer of antiquity occurs in the pages of Tacitus, who did not compose his ‘Annals' till more than a century and a half after the invasion of Britain by Julius Cæsar. The name is not noticed either by Strabo or Pliny the Elder, his predecessors, although both have given us descriptions of the British islands.
But it appears from Tacitus that in the year 62, in the reign of the Emperor Nero, London, or Londinium, as he calls it, was already a place of great importance ;—“not indeed dignified by the name of a colony,” is the description of the historian, “but yet of the first distinction for abundance of resident merchants and of traffic with other places;” for such seems to be the true meaning of the expressions used.* Both parts of this statement, it may be remarked, go equally to support the probability of London having been a town of British origin: if it had been founded by the Romans, it would, no doubt, have enjoyed the name of a colony; but in that case it could only as yet have existed some seventeen or eighteen years at the utmost, for there certainly was no Roman colonization of Britain antecedent to Sthe expedition of Claudius, nor probably till some years later; and it is scarcely to be supposed that it could have grown up to the magnitude and eminence it had now attained in so short a time. The facts which Tacitus relates testify still more strongly than his general description to both the populousness of London at this early date, and the consideration in which it was held on every account. When the Britons rose in arms against the Roman domination at the call of the outraged Boadicea, the imperial general Suetonius Paulinus, then engaged at the opposite side of the island in the conquest of the isle of Anglesey, hastened across the country to London, and only abandoned his intention of making the preservation of that town his first object, upon finding that the force he could reckon upon would be insufficient for the protection of a place which was probably as yet without walls.Ť All he could be prevailed upon to do by the prayers and tears of the inhabitants was to receive such of them as chose into his ranks before marching away. But the women, and the aged, and others also, the historian intimates, detained by the pleasantness of the place (loci dulcedo), staid behind, and were in consequence destroyed by the enemy; for Boadicea, too, appears to have marched direct upon London as upon the centre and chief seat of the Roman power and civilization. In that town, and in the municipium or free town of Verulam, which was also sacked, it is asserted that there perished in this hour of unrelenting vengeance as many as seventy thousand citizens and allies of Rome; the former term being intended to denote the inhabitants of Verulam, the latter those of London. Both from these expressions, and from the whole
* Cognomento quidem coloniæ non insigne, sed copia negociatorum et commeatuum maxime celebre.- Annal. xiv. 33.
† Tacitus, indeed, states that the barbarians avoided the fortified places and military stations of the province, to attack what would at once afford the richest spoil, and offer the least resistauce.--Ibid.
course of the story, it may be assumed that the people of both these places were now chiefly Romans. Dion Cassius, or rather his epitomist Xiphilinus, without mentioning the name of either, expressly designates them Roman towns.* This writer gives a sickening description of the horrors perpetrated by Boadicea (or, as he calls her, Boundouica) and her infuriated followers. “ It was,” he says,
a scene of devastation, and spoliation, and butchery not to be uttered. On the miserable people who fell into their hands there is nothing of what is most dreadful and ferocious that they did not inflict. Well-born and beautiful women they hung up naked, and, cutting off their breasts, sewed them upon their mouths, so as that they might be made to seem as if they were eating their own flesh; and after that they ran sharp stakes lengthways through their bodies. All this they did in the midst of sacrifices and festivity and derision, both in their other consecrated places and especially in the grove of Andate—for so they name the goddess Victory, who is one of the chief objects of their worship.” The old Druidic fanes, then-probably only rude structures open to the sky, or in some cases merely rounded lawns or glades—the luci, † or light places of the thick, dark wood,—were still standing in London or its neighbourhood, although the gods and shrines of a more cultivated superstition had also by this time been introduced into the country; for Tacitus mentions among the buildings which already decorated the recently planted colony of Camalodunum (Colchester or Malden), which was also at this time destroyed, a temple dedicated to Claudius the Divine, and an image of the Roman Victory, which probably adorned another sacred edifice in the same place. Perhaps the grim Andate had her bloody altar on the mount over which now rises the majestic dome of St. Paul's, and which may still have been out of the city, and enveloped in the sacred night of the old forest that howled around it. It is commonly assumed that upon this occasion Boadicea, before she left the place, burned London to the ground; and the soil at a certain depth is still supposed to retain the ashes and other evidences of that conflagration. The appearances discovered on the excavation of a deep trench for a sewer in Lombard Street in 1786 are thus described in a note by Sir John Henniker, printed in the Archæologia :-" The soil is almost uniformly divided into four strata ; the uppermost, thirteen feet six inches thick, of factitious earth; the second, two feet thick, of brick, apparently the ruins of buildings; the third, three inches thick, of wood ashes, a pparently the remains of a town built of wood and destroyed by fire; the fourth, of Roman pavement, common and tesselated.”+ In making another sewer from Dowgate through Walbrook in 1774, similar appearances were observed; the labourers brought up wood ashes, mixed with soft earth and mud, from a depth twenty-two feet below the present surface. A few years ago also, in forming the northern approaches for the new London Bridge, on the site of the Church of St. Michael, Crooked Lane, and in East Cheap, there were found great quantities not only of ashes but of molten green glass, and of the fine red pottery called Samian ware, blackened evidently * nódus ta súa 'Pwuairàs.—Hist. Rom. lxii. 7. † So called, certainly not à non lucendo, as the juhers say, and many etymologists gravely dream, but either frorn affording free aılmission to the light of day, or perhaps from a fire or other artificial light which in some Cases may have been kept burning on the altar.
Archæologia, vol. viii. p. 132.
Gough, in his edition of Camden's “Britannia,' vol. ii. p. 15, on the autherity of an account drawn up by Mr. Rogers and Mr. Colebruke, who, we suppose, may have been the contractors for the sever.
by the action of an intense fire. Many of the pieces of discoloured pottery were worked into the mortar of a building, the foundations of which stood at the northeast corner of East Cheap, and imbedded in which two coins of the Emperor Claudius were also found.* These vestiges seem certainly to point to some great conflagration as having taken place in this part of the city in the earliest age of the Roman occupation-after some of those buildings had been erected to which the tesselated pavements belonged—but before the erection of many other Roman buildings, the remains of which have been disinterred in modern times-while most of the houses were still of wood,—and while all of them stood
the lowest level at which any traces of building have yet been found, indeed upon the natural earth. These indications, it must be admitted, all agree sufficiently with the time of Boadicea's revolt, nor is there any other known catastrophe to which they can be referred. Dion Cassius, indeed, at least in the abridged and mutilated transcript of his account which has come down to us, makes no mention of the town being burned; but Tacitus, although he does not expressly assert a general conflagration, enumerates fire as one instrument of devastation that was employed by the barbarians along with the sword, the gibbet, and the
The rage, the courage, the confidence, the numbers of the insurgents, however, all proved of no avail against the military skill of the masters of the world. A single battle did not so much scatter their mixed and tumultuous array as literally tread it, coagulated into one mass of gore, into the earth. Horribly were the horrors of the sack of London avenged. It was not a battle, indeed, but rather a battue—a hewing down and indiscriminate slaughter of every thing that had life—men, women, even the beasts of burthen-crowded into a narrow defile, and there left without power either to resist or to fly, or to do aught but propel one another upon the sword. About four hundred only of the Roman soldiers were killed, and about as many more wounded ; of the Britons, eighty thousand are said to have fallen on that day and in that one spot. Their queen and leader, Boadicea, escaped from the field of battle; but, resolved that only her dead body, if even that, should fall into the hands of the victors, the heroine took poison, and so ended her life, now that all else was ended and gone.
The advantages of its situation probably enabled London soon to recover from the desolation to which it was reduced by Boadicea; but the silence of history, for more than two centuries leaves us only ground for concluding that it was fortunate enough during all that time to afford no materials for history as it has been commonly written, going on in a course of even, noiseless prosperity, and sharing no more either in the calamities or the glories of war. Ptolemy, indeed, in his Geography, compiled in the early part of the second century, mentions London (which he calls Londinion) among the cities of the Cantii; but it cannot for a moment be inferred, from this unsupported statement, in the face of all probability, that London at that date stood on the south side of the Thames. Ptolemy is supposed to have taken much of his information about the north-western quarter of Europe from Phenician sources; and his geography of Britain has all the appearance of being descriptive of the country before it became known to the Romans, of whose occupation of any part of it he says not a word. At that early
* Archæologia, vol. xxiv. pp. 192-194; in account by A. J. Kempe, Esq.