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CHAP. 30. (16.)—BRITANNIA.

Opposite to this coast is the island called Britannia, so celebrated in the records of Greece1 and of our own country. It is situate to the north-west, and, with a large tract of intervening sea, lies opposite to Germany, Gaul, and Spain, by far the greater part of Europe. Its former name was Albion2; but at a later period, all the islands, of which we shall just now briefly make mention, were included under the name of "Britanniæ." This island is distant from Gesoriacum, on the coast of the nation of the Morini3, at the spot where the passage across is the shortest, fifty miles. Pytheas and Isidorus say that its circumference is 4875 miles. It is barely thirty years since any extensive knowledge of it was gained by the successes of the Roman arms, and even as yet they have not penetrated beyond the vicinity of the Caledonian4 forest. Agrippa believes its length to be 800 miles, and its breadth 300; he also thinks that the breadth of Hibernia is the same, but that its length is less by 200 miles. This last island is situate beyond Britannia, the passage across being the shortest from the territory of the Silures5, a distance of thirty miles. Of the remaining islands none is said to have a greater circumference than 125 miles. Among these there are the Orcades6, forty in number, and situate within a short distance of each other, the seven islands called Acmodæ7, the Hæbudes, thirty in number, and, between Hibernia and Britannia, the islands of Mona8, Monapia9, Ricina10, Vectis11, Limnus12, and Andros13. Below it are the islands called Samnis and Axantos14, and opposite, scattered in the German Sea, are those known as the Glæsariæ15, but which the Greeks have more recently called the Electrides, from the circumstance of their producing electrum or amber. The most remote of all that we find mentioned is Thule16, in which, as we have previously stated17, there is no night at the summer solstice, when the sun is passing through the sign of Cancer, while on the other hand at the winter solstice there is no day. Some writers are of opinion that this state of things lasts for six whole months together. Timæus the historian says that an island called Mictis18 is within six days' sail of Britannia, in which white load19 is found; and that the Britons sail over to it in boats of osier20, covered with sewed hides. There are writers also who make mention of some other islands, Scandia21 namely, Dumna, Bergos, and, greater than all, Nerigos, from which persons embark for Thule. At one day's sail from Thule is the frozen ocean, which by some is called the Cronian Sea.

1 Britain was spoken of by some of the Greek writers as superior to all other islands in the world. Dionysius, in his Periegesis, says, "that no other islands whatsoever can claim equality with those of Britain."

2 Said to have been so called from the whiteness of its cliffs opposite the coast of Gaul.

3 Afterwards called Bononia, the modern Boulogne. As D'Anville remarks, the distance here given by Pliny is far too great, whether we measure to Dover or to Hythe; our author's measurement however is probably made to Rutupiæ (the modern Richborough), near Sandwich, where the Romans had a fortified post, which was their landing-place when crossing over from Gaul. This would make the distance given by Pliny nearer the truth, though still too much.

4 Probably the Grampian range is here referred to.

5 The people of South Wales.

6 The Orkney islands were included under this name. Pomponius Mela and Ptolemy make them but thirty in number, while Solinus fixes their number at three only.

7 Also called Æmodæ or Hæmodæ, most probably the islands now known as the Shetlands. Camden however and the older antiquarians refer the Hæmodæ to the Baltic sea, considering them different from the Acmodæ here mentioned, while Salmasius on the other hand considers the Acmodæ or Hæmodæ and the Hebrides as identical. Parisot remarks that off the West Cape of the Isle of Skye and the Isle of North Uist, the nearest of the Hebrides to the Shetland islands, there is a vast gulf filled with islands, which still bears the name of Mamaddy or Maddy, from which the Greeks may have easily derived the words αἱ μαδδαὶ, whence the Latin Hæmodæ.

8 The Isle of Anglesea.

9 Most probably the Isle of Man.

10 Camden and Gosselin (Rech. sur la Géogr. des Anciens) consider that under this name is meant the island of Racklin, situate near the north-eastern extremity of Ireland. A Ricina is spoken of by Ptolemy, but that island is one of the Hebrides.

11 This Vectis is considered by Gosselin to be the same as the small island of White-Horn, situate at the entrance of the Bay of Wigtown in Scotland. It must not be confounded with the more southern Vectis, or Isle of Wight.

12 According to Gosselin this is the island of Dalkey, at the entrance of Dublin Bay.

13 Camden thinks that this is the same as Bardsey Island, at the south of the island of Anglesea, while Mannert and Gosselin think that it is the island of Lambay.

14 According to Brotier these islands belong to the coast of Britanny, being the modern isles of Sian and Ushant.

15 As already mentioned, he probably speaks of the islands of Œland and Gothland, and Ameland, called Austeravia or Actania, in which glœsum or amber was found by the Roman soldiers. See p. 344.

16 The opinions as to the identity of ancient Thule have been numerous in the extreme. We may here mention six:—1. The common, and apparently the best founded opinion, that Thule is the island of Iceland. 2. That it is either the Ferroe group, or one of those islands. 3. The notion of Ortelius, Farnaby, and Schœnning, that it is identical with Thylemark in Norway. 4. The opinion of Malte Brun, that the continental portion of Denmark is meant thereby, a part of which is to the present day called Thy or Thyland. 5. The opinion of Rudbeck and of Calstron, borrowed originally from Procopius, that this is a general name for the whole of Scandinavia. 6. That of Gosselin, who thinks that under this name Mainland, the principal of the Shetland Islands, is meant. It is by no means impossible that under the name of Thule two or more of these localities may have been meant, by different authors writing at distant periods and under different states of geographical knowledge. It is also pretty generally acknowledged, as Parisot remarks, that the Thule mentioned by Ptolemy is identical with Thylemark in Norway.

17 B. ii. c. 77.

18 Brotier thinks that under this name a part of Cornwall is meant, and that it was erroneously supposed to be an island. Parisot is of opinion that the copyists, or more probably Pliny himself, has made an error in transcribing Mictis for Vectis, the name of the Isle of Wight. It is not improbable however that the island of Mictis had only an imaginary existence.

19 "White lead": not, however, the metallic substance which we understand by that name, but tin.

20 Commonly known as "coracles," and used by the Welch in modern times. See B. vii. c. 57 of this work, and the Note.

21 Brotier, with many other writers, takes these names to refer to various parts of the coast of Norway. Scandia he considers to be the same as Scania, Bergos the modern Bergen, and Nerigos the northern part of Norway. On the other hand, Gosselin is of opinion that under the name of Bergos the Scottish island of Barra is meant, and under that of Nerigos, the island of Lewis, the northern promontory of which is in the old maps designated by the name of Nary or Nery. Ptolemy makes mention of an island called Doumna in the vicinity of the Orcades.

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