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Translated by Charles Gaius Mierow
Chapter 2: About Britain.
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(10) But now let me speak briefly as I can concerning the island of Britain, which is situated in the bosom of Ocean between Spain, Gaul and Germany. Although Livy tells us that no one in former days sailed around it, because of its great size, yet many writers have held various opinions of it. It was long unapproached by Roman arms, until Julius Caesar disclosed it by battles fought for mere glory. In the busy age which followed it became accessible to many through trade and by other means. Thus it revealed more clearly its position, which I shall here explain as I have found it in Greek and Latin authors.|
(11) Most of them say it is like a triangle pointing between the north and west. Its widest angle faces the mouths of the Rhine. Then the island shrinks in breadth and recedes until it ends in two other angles. Its long doubled side faces Gaul and Germany. Its greatest breadth is said to be over two thousand three hundred and ten stadia, and its length not more than seven thousand one hundred and thirty-two stadia.
(12) In some parts it is moorland, in others there are wooded plains, and sometimes it rises into mountain peaks. The island is surrounded by a sluggish sea, which neither gives readily to the stroke of the oar nor runs high under the blasts of the wind. I suppose this is because other lands are so far removed from it as to cause no disturbance of the sea, which indeed is of greater width here than anywhere else. Moreover Strabo, a famous writer of the Greeks, relates that the island exhales such mists from its soil, soaked by the frequent inroads of Ocean, that the sun is covered throughout the whole of their disagreeable sort of day that passes as fair, and so is hidden from sight.
(13) Cornelius also, the author of the Annals, says that in the farthest part of Britain the night gets brighter and is very short. He also says that the island abounds in metals, is well supplied with grass and is more productive in all those things which feed beasts rather than men. Moreover many large rivers flow through it, and the tides are borne back into them, rolling along precious stones and pearls. The Silures have swarthy features and are usually born with curly black hair, but the inhabitants of Caledonia have reddish hair and large loose-jointed bodies. They are like the Gauls or the Spaniards, according as they are opposite either nation.
(14) Hence some have supposed that from these lands the island received its inhabitants, alluring them by its nearness. All the people and their kings are alike wild. Yet Dio, a most celebrated writer of annals, assures us of the fact that they have all been combined under the name of Caledonians and Maeatae. They live in wattled huts, a shelter used in common with their flocks, and often the woods are their home. They paint their bodies with iron-red, whether by way of adornment or perhaps for some other reason.
(15) They often wage war with one another, either because they desire power or to increase their possessions. They fight not only on horseback or on foot, but even with scythed two-horse chariots, which they commonly call essedae. Let it suffice to have said thus much on the shape of the island of Britain.