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THE PREFACE TO BOOK II
N accordance with my original promise, I have now run through the lives of sixty-eight kings (for they say there were that many, and the new history has listed them in that order), together with that of Cassivellaunus. I have also made brief mention of Thaumantius and Cymbelline, who succeeded Cassivellaunus in the government. And while Cassivellaunus ruled, as I have shown, Britain was made a tributary of the Roman empire, and from then it was a little less than 503 years until the Britons, deprived at that time of aid by Aetius, Theodosius the Younger’s prefect in Gaul, began to be so oppressed by the conjoined Picts and Scots that, having bravely resisted their plunderings and inroads for a while, in the end despaired of their own powers and were obiged to summon the Angles and the Saxons, warlike people of Germany, to come to their aid. But it turned out differently than they had imagined, for the Angles seized the part of the island they had possessed. Therefore, however much the British people had grown in glory over a thousand years, that was gravely impaired by the interval of time between Cassivellaunus down to the Angles who, as I have said, finally gained power over the island. But since I have chosen to make all this plain in writing, behold, partly the variety of writers, partly their carelessness and, if I may say so, their rashness so troubles my mind that I do not know what to affirm as true or false about many things, and particularly about the order of kings which followed from Cassivellaunus to the Angles. For Roman writers, especially Tacitus, say that the Britons had once obeyed kings, but that after being reduced to a tributary they were so drawn asunder by factional leaders that scarce two or three states could combine to resist a common enemy and take up arms together, and thus when they fought individually they were conquered together. And in this way that say that the Romans at last reduced Britain to the form of a province, and that men were sent by them as governors. And yet these selfsame authors, as will be related below, make mention of certain kings who reigned in Britain while the Romans ruled the world. This is attested by Gildas when he writes “Britain had kings,”and so forth, and Caesar tells us that in his time there were four kings in Kent who ruled over those parts. Tacitus makes mention of Kings Prasutagus and Cogidunus, Juvenal of Arviragus, and all later historians of Lucius. Hence, therefore, it seems that under the Romans there one or several kings holding power in this island. On the other hand, the common folk proclaim that supreme power always resided with the Britons, and that annuallyr the Roman Senate, having received its tribute, sent its generals to this island either to put down rebellions or to fend off enemy invasions. And thus it thinks the Britons always obeyed their kings until in the end they were driven from power by the Angles. But in this popular history, when the order of kings needed to be observed but it happened that there were no kings to be inserted, by an excellent choice sometimes Roman emperors were included in their place, sometimes their prefects, and they were said to have been elected as kings by the Britons, as if Roman emperors were inferior to kings, as if governors administered the province by their own whim, and not according to the prescriptions of Senate and emperors!
2. But since these things are such common knowledge that I do not think they require repetition, I shall pass them over, since at appropriate places below I shall advise my readers what things are deserving of credit. Nor should I omit this, that prior to the coming of the Romans the form of government in the British commonwealth was various. Indeed Caesar writes that Cassivellaunus ruled a territory separated from the maritime states by the Thames, and that because of his own arrival supreme military power was given him, though previously he had constantly fought wars against the other states. Likewise in Kent there had been four kings, that is, leading men such as today we call earls or dukes, and that by means of embassies the peoples of the Cenimagni, Segontiaci, Ancalites, Bibroci, and Cassi submitted to himself. He likewise says “from all sides chieftains began to come and commit themselves and their states to Caesar.” From this one may that at the time the form of government in Britain was the same as today in Italy in Germany, in which some states are ruled by one leading man, others by their nobility, and yet others by their people, and those they called kings were men more powerful than their peers, such as was Cassivellaunus, and for this reason he was called a king. I have set these things before my readers’ eyes to make my history much more comprehensible. But now let me continue with my intended work, so that I may finally come to speak of the end of the British kingdom, and at the same time of the beginning of the English.
N the time of the Emperor Augustus, by divine intervention peace was granted throughout the world, and remained unchallenged in Britain, until King Guinderius, the son of Cymbelline, broke its laws. For the rash audacity of that stout man, a bold fellow, reached such a pitch that he refused to pay tribute to the Romans and aroused his people to new upheavals, and, as Gildas writes, however he was provoked to this, he entered into open rebellion. For this reason Claudius Caesar decided to wage war on the Britons. But Suetonius Tranquillus says that Claudius took up arms against the Britons because of a commotion over some runaways who were not returned. Therefore Claudius was the first Roman emperor to march against the island after the dictator Caesar had conquered it with his arms. The island was pacified with no fighting, and he returned to Italy six months after his departure. The truth of this is attested by Gildas, who writes thus of the sudden mutiny of the people: “When the report of these things reached the senate, and they with a speedy army made haste to take vengeance on the crafty foxes, as they called them, there was no bold navy on the sea to fight bravely for the country; by land there was no marshaled army, no right wing of battle, nor other preparation for resistance; but their backs were their shields against their vanquishers, and they presented their necks to their swords, whilst chill terror ran through every limb, and they stretched out their hands to be bound, like women; so that it has become a proverb far and wide, that the Britons are neither brave in war nor faithful in time of peace. The Romans, therefore, having slain many of the rebels, and reserved others for slaves, that the land might not be entirely reduced to desolation, left the island, destitute as it was of wine and oil, and returned to Italy, leaving behind them taskmasters, to scourge the shoulders of the natives, to reduce their necks to the yoke, and their soil to the vassalage of a Roman province; to chastise the crafty race, not with warlike weapons, but with rods, and if necessary to gird upon their sides the naked sword, so that it was no longer thought to be Britain, but a Roman island; and all their money, whether of copper, gold, or silver, was stamped with Caesar’s image.” So he writes. But in the new history there was a battle fought between Claudius and Guinderius; when Guinderius himself was killed by deceit, his brother Arviragus renewed the fight, which was not ended until Caesar had given his daughter, named Gennissam or Gemissmam, to Arvivagus as his wife. But since by Suetonius’ testimony Claudius fathered three daughters, Claudia, Antonia and Octavia by his three wives (and he ordered Claudia to be cast before the door of his mother, whom he had divorced, because he was not the father), and married Antonia to Cnaeus Pompeius Magnus and then to the right noble youth Faustus Sulla, and Octavia to his stepson Nero, it is obvious how absurd it is to believe that Gennissa was a daughter of Claudius and that he gave bestowed her on Arviragus. But when matters had been settled, either by arms or by a fair treaty, Claudius conquered the Orkneys in the sea above Britain and, returning to Rome, celebrated a triumph with great pomp, and for this reason gave his son by Messalina, whom he had at first named Germanicus, the cognomen of Britannicus.
2. Meanwhile a new upheaval in Britain was announced, so Caesar sent him there as a legate (this was the beginning of his coming fortune), and in a single battle he suppressed all disturbances, and brought the nearby Isle of Wight into the Roman empire. It is said that the aging Arviragus made peace with his enemy, lest he entertain any further vain hope of casting off the Roman yoke. And Cornelius Tacitus writes that the Roman emperors were accustomed to maintain governors (i. e. legates and procurators) in Britain, the easier to ensure their obedience. And this is confirmed by Gildas, as I have shown above. For this reason during the principate of Claudius after Vespasian, when courage had begun to return to the Britons’ hearts, Aulus Plautus was the first consular legate, and the Ostorius Scapula. Troubled affairs greeted the latter on his arrival. For the Iceni, a powerful nation, joined their neighbors in taking up arms, chose a place for their camp suitable for taking the offensive, and attacked the Romans everywhere. But he, aware that fear or trust arise from a war’s first events, hastened to meet them and killed those he found wandering about. Then he prepared to beset the rivers Anton and Severn with his camps, but the Iceni prevented him from so doing. Therefore, baffled, he hastened towards the enemy camp, bested them in a battle, and made use of his victory by leading his army against the Cangi, gaining much booty everywhere. And by hastening against his enemies in this manner he came near to the sea which looks towards Ireland. From this it is clear enough that the war transpired in the west, and that the Iceni partly inhabited the coast, partly the Severn and the Anton, as do the citizens of Salisbury, Wells, Exeter, Worcester, Shrewsbury and Hereford today, and that the Anton was the river we call the Wye, which flows past Hereford and joins the Severn not far from its mouth, just as it is obvious that the Cangi dwelt in the interior part of Wales towards the west. While the Roman were doing these things, behold, he was called back by discords that had suddenly arisen among the Brigantes. At his first arrival he settled these, executing those responsible. Likewise in this place, conjecture suggests that the Brigantes were in that part of the island which now falls in the dioceses of York in the north and Carlisle in the west, and to the coast where Lancaster and Kendall are, as Tacitus makes plain. For he elsewhere he says their state was the most populous, just as York has surpassed the other counties in its population, as may be gathered from its location. Meanwhile the most savage nation of the Silures levied an army, relying on the courage of Caratacus, a man most skilful in the art of war, and by far the leading man among the rest, who is said to have been chief of the Ordolucae. And for the sake of restraining the fury and other neighboring states, a colony of veterans was planted at Camulodunum. Here I may usefully make a small digression.
3. Since the matter is held in debate, my opinion is that Camulodunum was once situated where today is Doncaster, since the name appears to retain the memory of a camp, a place chosen for defense in war, or Pontefract, which is a little nearer, being eighteen miles this side of York, in a place that is more pleasant than defended by nature. The castle still remains, and in it are traces of a temple which, it is agreed, was dedicated to Claudius Caesar, in which there were two statues, one of the goddess Victory and the other of Claudius himself, and two colonies were established there, ready to give aid to fellow Romans in any direction. These facts are taken from Tacitus, who writes as follows in Book XIV: “Here a temple was erected for the divine Claudius, as if it were an altar of eternal rule. It was no hard task to destroy a colony protected by no fortifications, since our generals took no care for this, being more concerned with the delightfulness of the location rather than its usefulness.” So he writes. Furthermore this site was very opportune for the defense of the Roman province, which at the time was quite restricted and did not extend to the river Tyne, its subsequent boundary. Tacitus attests to this too when he cites the Roman governors who were sent to the island after Vespasian, writing thus in the Life of Agricola: “The divine Claudius was responsible for this effort, bringing over legions and auxiliaries, and giving Vespasian a share in the expedition, which was the beginning of his destined fortune. The nations were conquered, their kings captured, and Vespasian was shown off to the Fates. Aulus Plautus was the first of the consular governors, then Ostorius Scapula, both excellent in warfare, and Britain was gradually reduced to the form of a province, and a colony of veterans was also added.” Thus at the time the Roman province was not widespread, since only the first part of the island (approximately equaling England in our time) was brought under Roman government. And Camulodunum was not outside the province, since a garrison of veterans was stationed there for its defense. What about the fact that Ptolemy places that town not far from York, in about the same place where I have now proven by manifest arguments that it existed? What about that fact that Camulodonum was in the first part of the island, since Julius Agricola spent five continual years fighting the Britons beyond the Tweed, and when Tacitus writes diligently about his accomplishments he never mentions Camulodounum? And to this place, if it we locate it here, the Roman legions would undoubtedly have had the ability to go, come, or stay. Now we return to our subject.
4. So Caratacus, a powerful man among the Ordolucae, picking as a battlefield a place where steep hills made everything more difficult for his enemies, exhorted his men, affirming that this day, this fight, would be the beginning either of recovered liberty or of perpetual servitude, naming their ancestors who had opposed themselves to Julius Caesar. So he spoke much and instilled in his men a sure hope of victory. Nor in the meantime did Ostorius hold his silence or remain idle. He likewise harangued his men and marched at the enemy, sounding the call to battle. Here they came to grips, first fighting with missiles, then joining and doing their work by the sword. They fought a while on even terms, until the Britons were forced to retreat to the mountain ridges. But the light infantry followed them there too and inflicted a great slaughter. Caratacus’ wife and daughter were taken captives and his brothers surrendered themselves. He himself sought the protection of Carthumandua, queen of the Brigantes, but was bound and handed over to the victors. Thus Caratacus, whose reputation had spread throughout Italy for having fought the Romans for nine continual years, was brought to Rome with the other captives. And when he was brought into the presence of Claudius Caesar, he is reputed to have had the presence of mind so say, “If, excellent Caesar, my success or fortune had corresponded to my wishes, without doubt I would have seen this city as a free man. And I would gladly have seen it, since I accounted this a part of good fortune. I was so far from disdaining peace that, had it it been offered, I would have cheerfully accepted it. For, second only to my nations’ freedom, I never hoped for anything more than the friendship of the Romans. But now fate has brought it to pass that I have fallen into your power, for the purpose, as I believe, that I, who had otherwise thought I was blessed and in heaven, would properly understand how much hope to put in human affairs, and so that you, the victor in war, may gain all the more glory because you conquered and were merciful For, because of your clemency, this I am confident you will do.” Caesar, mollified by the words, spared the life of Caratacus, his wife and brothers, and so (as the proverb has it) fortune favors the brave. After this the Silures attacked the prefect of the camp, left with a guard of legionary prefects, and they would have taken him had timely aid failed to arrive. But many Romans were killed in the commotion. For they hated the Roman name far more than the others, being incensed by the emperor’s dire statement that had spread abroad, which was that, just as the the Sicambri were once exterminated that they might be transported to France, so the name of the Silures ought to be wholly abolished. There they cut off two auxiliary cohorts who were carelessly plundering due to the greed of their prefects, and by their liberality in sharing spoils and captives they allured the other nations to revolt. At this juncture Ostorius died, worn out by cares. And Claudius Caesar, learning of his legate’s death, substituted Aulus Didius so the province would not lack a governor. Hastening there, he found matters in upheaval, since the legion Manlius Valens had commanded was destroyed, but he soon subdued the Silures, protected Queen Carthumandua from harm from Venusius (he had married her and, because of a squabble that had arisen between them, he had tried to expel her from his kingdom), and pacified everything. At the same time some towns were given to King Cogidunus, who remained quite loyal down to Domitian’s day.
5. Then the legate Avitus obtained the province during the principate of Nero, and then too the Romans suffered a serious massacre. He was followed by Verannius, who only managed to hang onto that which had been gained previously, and he died within a year. In his stead Suetonius Paulinus obtained Britain, a man endowed by all the blessings of good fortune and virtue, and he attacked the Isle of Man, a refuge for runaways, and took it at the first onslaught, as I have described in Book I of this work. But in the interim the Britons, taking advantage of Paulinus’ absence, discussed the evils of servitude, compared the insults they had received, murmured that patience procured them nothing but worse suffering, while the procurator was savagely greedy for their goods and the legate for their blood, and this all set their minds aflame for war. They were further provoked by the many crimes committed against them by Roman soldiers, since King Prasutagus of the Igeni had made Caesar his heir along with his two daughters, thinking that by such a gesture of submission he could keep his kingdom and home far from injury. But things turned out contrariwise. For his kingdom was devastated by centurions, his wife Boadicia was driven off by veterans, his daughters ravished, the leading men of the Igeni were stripped of their goods, and the king’s friends were treated as chattel. Likewise the veterans settled a little earlier in Camulodunum ejected many men from their homes, drove them from their lands, and addressed them all as if they were captive slaves. Add to this the temple erected for the divine Claudius, where in the name of religion the priests pilfered, stole and devoured every man’s fortune. Furthermore dire omens, which at this time were visible to all, did no little to incite them. For at Camulodunum the statue of Victory was turned backward as if yielding to its enemies. The ocean flowed with an appearance of human blood and effigies of human bodies washed up on the shore. Likewise, as if inspired by furies, women sang that the end was at hand, which had the effect of inspiring the islanders to hope and the Romans to fear. I should have passed these things by in silence (whether they occur either by the deceit of men or demons, or according to some natural cause which the superstitious vulgar sort sometimes take for prodigies), so that I would not seem to be acting against our religion, which teaches that according happens according to God’s providence and rejects vain predictions, if the rationale of a history would so allow, which requires that all occurrences be recorded. Therefore let me not be blamed for recording such things, here or elsewhere; rather, let the blame be placed on the vanity of mortals who are compelled by these premonitions to believe (like so many old women) that they possess some understanding of the future. And this is true to the point that no man should waste much time on futile observations of this kind. For this reason I have chosen to make an initial statement about this matter, because I wish my reader to be free of all error. Back to my subject.
6. But Boadicia in particular set their minds ablaze, complaining of the injuries she had received at the Romans’ hands, and because she surpassed everyone else in her hated of the enemy, therefore under generalship (forin choosing leaders they do not discriminate between the sexes) it came about that a great part of the people — even the Trinobantes were stirred to mutiny — suddenly revolted against the Romans and hastily snatched up arms against them. And so at their first uprising the amazed veterans occupied a certain temple, where they were cut down to a man. Then the Ninth Legion, which had come to their rescue under the command of Petus Cerealis, was routed and slaughtered. Amidst this panic, Catus Decianus, the procurator of Britain, fled to Gaul. Then the Britons’ fury ranged as far as the municipality of Verulamium, running through the persons of the Romans and their allies, and up to 70,000 souls are said to have been massacred out of that helpless multitude. Not long thereafter Paulinus was at hand and marched towards London, unsure whether he should choose it as his seat for the war. Then, abandoning it, he selected a place protected by narrow passes, assured he was free from frontal assault. He had with him about 10,000 soldiers, and, relying on them, joined battle with an immense horde of enemies. The Britons were far greater in number, and hence were so sure of victory that they began to fight the battle in such a way that women standing in chariots were driven up to view the spectacle. They fought in a narrow space, useful for the Romans in their small numbers, and it was a savage battle from the beginning. Finally the Britons, who obstructed each other as they fought, could not withstand the Roman assault because of the restricted space, and were scattered with much loss of life. About 30,000 Britons were killed. Their commander Boadicia killed herself by poison lest she fall into enemy hands. Henceforth the island was more pacified, and Petronius Turpilianus, who followed Suetonius, and then Trebellius Maximus, did not provoke the Britons, but rather cherished and protected them with kindness. It is timely for me to advise here that the Igeni, one letter in their name being changed, were a different people than the Iceni, as can be observed in Tacitus, and possessed the northern part of the island, today possessed by the Northumbrians. Nor was London a city of the Trinobantes, as many suspect, as is clear from the same evidence of Tacitus. For Suetonius, having conquered the Isle of Man, rushed by lateral roads to London, as to a safer place, which he would not have done had that town been the homeland of the Trinobantes, since they had revolted with the others. From this, too, it is evident that the Trinobantes did not have their home to the west on this side of the municipality of Verulamium, which was once located in the region of that village they call St. Albans, twenty miles from London. For there the fury of his adversaries persisted. Nor would have Suetonius Paulinus have had a safe route in his haste to reach London if the Trinobantes had possessed that part of the island we call Essex, which had borders touching on the territory of London, as Ptolemy says. For he locates the Trinobantes hard by the Thames estuary and calls their ancient town Camudolam, modern Colchester. For this reason there are those who that the town of the Trinobantes was that which today we call Northampton, as the corrupting of its name in the first two letters indicates. For the rustics in their common speech call it Tranton, by which flows the river Nyne, which now shares a name with the town. Conjectures made on the basis of varying opinions often have a way of calling into question something that is not really in doubt. For lately very ancient annals came into my hands, wherein is written, “The Trinobantes, hearing a dreadful rumor of the Romans’ arrival, swiftly fortified their town and outfitted a number of ships for the same of defending their nation’s coast, about the mouth of the Thames.” These words are in agreement with Ptolemy, and manifestly show we must credit them both. So on the basis of these testimonies it is now certain that London was never the town of the Trinobantes, but that they inhabited the seacoast to the east, where the principal town is Colchester. Now we must return to our subject. In the same way I guess (if I only guess) that the interior nations Caesar mentions, the Cenimagni, Segontiaci, Ancalites, Cassii and Bibroci, occupied the places now inhabited by the citizens of Coventry, Leicester, Nottingham, and Derby. Only one city besides London retains its ancient name, Ordovicum, even if we add the letter N at its beginning and call it Norwich (Nordovicum). So much has posterity — i. e., the Picts, Scots, Angles, Dacians and Normans — altered everything in the island, imposing new names on the places they conquered, as if they were trophies.
7. At this time, as mentioned above, Arviragus was the principal chief in Britain during the principate of Nero. My authority is the fourth Satire of Juvenal, where he flatters Nero concerning a turbot (this passage cannot be referred to Domitian, who ruled long afterward): “You have an omen (quoth her) of a great and brilliant triumph. You will capture some king or Arviragus will fall out of a British chariot.” At this time Joseph of Arimathea, who according to Matthew the evangelist gave burial to Christ’s body, either by happenstance or in accordance with God’s will, came into Britain with no small company of followers, where both he and his companions earnestly preached the Gospel and the teaching of Christ. By this many men were converted to true piety, filled with this wholesome fruit, and were baptized. Those men were assuredly full of the holy spirit, since they received as a king’s gift a small plot of land about four miles from the town of Wells, where they laid the first foundations of the new religion, and where today there is a magnificent church and a Benedictine monastery. the name of the place is Glastonbury. These first beginnings of Christian piety existed in Britain, and then King Lucius, as I will relate a little further, having been baptized, did wonderfully kindle and piously increase after it had become all but extinct. For Gildas bears witness that the Britons received the Christian religion from the first publication of the Gospel.
8. Then Marius, born of Arviragus, obtained the kingship in the year of human salvation 71, and he immediately fought a great war against the Picts. These were a Scythian people, most resembling the Goths in their manners and nation, a truculent and particularly warlike nation. And they say they were called Picts from the blue color with which they were in the habit of painting themselves, or because their hair was a bluish black, or because of the tattoos: the more honorable one was in their society, the more of these he had, and vice versa. Some writers have supposed them to be the Agathrysi. But, from whatever source they obtained their name, it is well agreed that they were a people of Scythia. And so under the leadership of Rodoricus they collected many ships and took to the sea to pillage, and came to the island of Ireland, where they begged the Scots for a new home. For the Scots, who likewise derive their origin from the Scythians (although they themselves, as will be shown below, claim a different one), possessed the island at that time. And they thought it scarcely to their advantage to admit a warlike and poverty-stricken race to their island, and so, feigning good will and using as an excuse the meager resources of the place, they told them that Britain was not far distant, an island both large and most wealthy that was nearly devoid of inhabitants, and urged them to seek it out, promising their aid. So the Picts, being impelled by the greed for plunder more than for gaining a kingdom, unhesitatingly sailed towards that island. And on their first arrival they occupied its northerly part. And there, seeing few inhabitants, they began to seize loot, to make inroads, and to range farther abroad. The British chiefs quickly observed this and went to confront them with armed soldiers. In the first battle they conquered the Picts, swiftly attacking them as they roamed through the fields without any fear of reprisal, and killed their leader. The Picts who survived this catastrophe removed themselves to the extremity of the island, which in our time men call Caithness. And a long time later, it is said, they occupied the land from the Wall (a notable Roman work of which I will speak elsewhere) to Mt. Grampius, especially towards the east. And in this way the Picts were masters of this part of the island. And this was the second race of newcomers to arrive in Britain after the Romans and gain a kingdom there, which was in the year of our salvation 86. After the unhappy death of their men, the Picts achieved a happy fortune and rejoiced that they had established a home in the land of Britain, but they easily foresaw that for a lack of women (something is always lacking for complete human happiness) it would not endure for longer than the life of a single man, there being no hope of children at home, nor any right of intermarriage with their neighbors. They by common consent they sent ambassadors to the Britons to request an alliance and intermarriage for this new people. The embassy was given a very unfriendly hearing, so much did all the Britons reject it, refusing to mingle their blood and breeding with foreigners. Even if the Picts took this ill, nevertheless they adjudged that the insult should be avenged another time, and sent to the Scots in Ireland. They agreed to bestow their women in matrimony, on condition that whenever there was any quarrel about appointing a new king because of default of the male line, then they should create their king out of the female line, a tradition which they way the Picts observed ever afterward. But now let us apply ourselves to Roman doings in the island.
9. After Trebellius Maximus (who departed in disgrace after a commotion caused by shameful slackness in the army), Vectius Volanus governed Britain. then Petilius Cerealis subdued some rebellious peoples. Afterward Julius Frontinus ruled the province, in which he too curbed some unruly nations. Finally, in the principate of Vespasian, Julius Agricola (Roman arms were a considerably greater source of fear to the Britons because of this man’s virtue) obtained Britain, still in a parlous state since he found the soldiers, were wallowing in idleness as if they had abandoned all concerns for affairs, and the province was heading for a rebellion. For a little before his arrival the Ordovices had come close to wiping out one wing of his soldiers who had been stationed in their territory, and because of this the entire province was excited with the sure hope of recovering its liberty. Understanding this, Agricola hastened to confront the impending danger and, quickly taking up arms and gathering a small army, invaded the enemy, since the Ordovices did not dare enter into a fight on equal terms, and put a goodly part of that nation to the sword. And not thinking to rest here, being well aware that favorable fortune should be seized, at one stroke he recovered the Isle of Man, which Paulinus had conquered but which had revolted after his departure. Having accomplished these things, he was desirous of rooting out causes for war by employing his prudence and good counsel, but in the meantime, as a man most knowledgeable in the military art, he was not behindhand in exercising his troops and wearying them with vigils, lest their mental virtue slacken through idleness. Likewise he took care that the Britons, who were generally speaking uncouth, be introduced to good manners and customs, urging that they build themselves temples, markets, and houses, chastising the idle, so they might be inspired to vie with each other in acquiring civil manners. For where there is no public honor accorded virtue, there there can be no zeal for virtue or glory. And in particular he advised that chiefs’ sons should be educated in the goodly arts, considering them more intelligent than the Gauls because they studied eloquence for all they were worth, and he introduced laws and some Roman institutions for them to employ. The result was that in short order the Britons acquired excellent manners, and refinement and a more delicate way of life came to be much more respectable among them, to the extent that elegance in dining spread through all honorable households, and this was called humanity although, as Tacitus said, in reality it was a feature of their servitude. And I could testify that this elegance in dining has come down to the Englishmen of our day. Such was Agricola’s pursuit during the winter, and his noteworthy deeds during the first two years of his tenure as legate.
10. Afterwards, fighting frequent and favorable battles, and even subduing some previously unknown nations, Agricola readied his army and fleet, and he decided to attack that part of Britain nowadays called Scotland, the part that faces Ireland, where a great throng of runaways had collected, so he might wage war on them by sea and land simultaneously. Therefore he began his campaign and crossed the river we call the Forth, having thrown a bridge over it, and marched on to besiege several citadels. When they discovered this, the Britons, who had already collected a band of some soldiers, dashed to the river so that they might break down the bridge and hem their enemy in between the Forth and the Tay. Agricola turned on these men and scattered them without difficulty, and pursued their fugitives as far as the estuary of the Tay. And these were the deeds of his third year. Afterwards Agricola, deciding that at length he should discover the island’s extremity, marched at the earliest opportunity to the river Glote and encamped where the Bodotria (nowadays called the Leven) flows into the Glote. Meanwhile a large number of Britons surrounded him, and he launched an assault on them and so scattered them that he drove them across the river, where there was another island, as he imagined, since at its mouth the river is deepest and widest. Such were the deeds of his fourth year. In the following summer Agricola summoned a fleet, and when this had soon appeared he crossed the Glote by ship, reduced previously unknown peoples to servitude, garrisoned the coast facing Ireland, and there he wintered. Thus he spent the fifth year of his legation. Then Agricola, although he intended to march into the interior part of the island by any possible means, was intimidated no small amount by the difficulties of its mountains and marches, which in the end his soldiers stoutly overcame, and they did no little pillaging in those places, as if that were a reward for such great effort. For there the countrymen had betaken themselves with their goods and chattel, as to a last refuge. And since he had learned by scouts that the enemy had beset the roads with a number of bands and were on the point of making an outbreak, for this reason he led his army separated into three columns. While these things were afoot, the Roman fleet, which had been ordered to come to the island, explored all its harbors. It therefore happened that the land and sea forces came together, not without great delight, and then every man boasted of his noble deeds and they praised each other to the skies. This is what happens when things go well and every man, even the most cowardly, wants to claim a share, but it is not the same in adversity. Meanwhile the Britons, who had stood their distance, when they learned that the fleet had been espied, they were stricken with great grief, as if the secret of their sea has been divulged and a safe haven for the defeated had been closed. And, thinking there was nothing more they could suffer or any greater disgrace to be had from such an evil, they resorted to arms and made a sudden night attack on the Ninth Legion, as being the less strong. Here it was vigorously fought on both sides, until Agricola brought up reinforcements for his men out of the camp. Then the Britons were scattered and routed once more, but they managed to persuade themselves that their enemy had prevailed in that fight, not by their virtue, but rather by happenstance and the art of their leader, and so they did not abandon their courage. But since summer was fading, and very foul weather blowing up, there was a small cessation from arms. And thus the sixth year of his service as legate brought a little tranquility.
11. But at the beginning of spring Agricola penetrated into Caledon and encamped by the Tay. This, as I have said before, discharges into the German ocean, and receives the ocean tide in a gulf more than two miles across. Then the Britons, seeing that their ultimate trial was at hand, decided either to die honorably in behalf of their freedom or to conquered. So they first forged and confirmed an alliance of all their stated with sacrifices and oaths, then brought their wives and children to Mt. Grampius, found a suitable place for their camp, and armed their young men. And, lest a discord arise between their leaders (this is the cardinal bane in warfare), they gave the supreme command to Calgacus, a man of great counsel and virtue, and conceived good hope because at almost the same moment a band of Usipii who had been brought to the shore mutinied from the Romans. These are German people who dwell by the Rhine, and when they were sent to the Romans as auxiliaries they treacherously murdered their centurion and sought a new home. Subsequently they nearly all starved and died a miserable death. When Agricola marked the zeal of his enemies, he immediately crossed the Tay at the nearest possible place, at the roots of Mt. Grampius, and pitched camp. And thus, the minds on both sides excited, they soon came to grips. But before that Calgacus delivered a long harangue to his men, showing how greatly liberty is valued by all men, and that, next to the gods, nothing should be dearer to mortals, and hurled many imprecations against the Romans for their avarice and pride, calling them the thieves of the world. On the other side, Agricola also employed many words to exhort his men to undertake this final task of his eighth year, and to undertake the final war of them all with a stout heart, from which they would handsomely reap the fruits of victory. Thus the battle-line was drawn up on both sides and the battle begun, in which men were fighting for their lives. And after it had dragged on until dusk, nothing seemed better to the Briton than to take his enemy from the rear. Opposed to these as they came were were four squadrons of cavalry stationed there by Agricola, who routed them. More than 10,000 Britons were slain, and also a goodly number of Romans. Then Agricola, having taken hostages, ordered the fleet home, and placed the rest of his army in winter quarters. These things were accomplished during the principate of Domitian, and excited in him (scarcely a friend of virtue) a dislike of Agricola. So a little later he was recalled on the pretext that the would receive Syria, vacant after the death of Attilius Rufus, as a province. He was succeeded by Cnaeus Trebellius, whom Domitian made governor of Britain. And British affairs were in this condition during the reign of Marius, of whom Cornelius Tacitus makes no mention. This Marius (who left behind a son, Coyllus) reigned for forty-eight years. He had lived long at Rome, and exercised all his youth performing military service for them and pursuing other goodly arts. After his father’s death, during the forty-five years of his reign he was always most beloved to the Romans, and, universal peace having been obtained, he wholly refrained from wars. But the most memorable thing he achieved for his nation, for which he deserved a good reputation from all men forever, is that he fathered a son, Lucius, who was the first British king to become Christian. For in the year of human salvation 181, and the thirtheenth of his reign, he was led by his love of true religion to deal with Pope Eleutherus of Rome to add himself and his people to the number of Christians, being bathed in the celestial font of baptism. To him were sent Fugatius and Damian, men of singular piety. They baptized the king with his entire household and people, and abolished the worship of evil demons, instructed the nation the means of observing true piety. At this time in Britain there were eighteen pagan priests and three archpriests, in the place of whom were substituted the like number of priests and three archbishops, of whom one had his seat at London, a second at York, and the third at Carlisle, where cathedrals of wonderful workmanship and ornamentation were built. Thus, partly by the work of Joseph of Arimathea, of whom I have spoken a little earlier, and partly by the most holy advice of Fugatius and Damian, Britain was the first of the provinces to receive the Gospel openly. And the Britons maintained this piety intact until the fury of the emperor Diocletian erupted, who most greatly of all the emperors since Nero persecuted Christians almost to extinction. For then, as Gildas attests, because of this persecution religion grew so cold that it almost disappeared. Some attribute to King Lucius the church of St. Peter set a little outside London, although more credit it to Sibert, king of the East Saxons (for, as I shall below, some Saxons were called the East, others the Middle and the West). This place is above all ennobled by the tombs of our kings, and is commonly called Westminster because it is built towards the w est. There exist also there a village and a monastery of St. Benedict hard by the royal palace, and hence it is called Minster, and it is also decorated by a most ornate church dedicated to St. Stephen, together with an asylum for fugitive wrongdoers and a court for the transaction of justice, and these all render it most famous. I find in a very ancient manuscript, albeit an anonymous one, that this place was once surrounded by water and called the Isle of Thorns. And even in our times, although the place is free of thorns, that name agrees wonderfully with the place, since there you will find a throng of refugee criminals and a multitude of men standing their trial, who are always being pricked by thorns, that is, by the goads of the vices. And Lucius, greatly rejoicing because he had drawn his people to knowledge of the true God, quickly abolished all profane cults of the gods lest they be deceived any more by devils’ tricks. Likewise he consecrated to Christ the temples that had built for pagan gods and endowed them with very many gifts. And he most freely and cheerfully devoted all his efforts to enhancing religion, easily neglecting the other things which mortals admire. Therefore Lucius, the first to illuminate his people with the light he was first to accept, left to posterity a kingdom not polluted by manslaughter done for the sake of vainglory, not enriched with wealth scraped together from every side, but first begun, as it were, in peace and quiet, then advanced with the best of institutions, and finally enhanced by divine religion and instilled with the most holy teaching of Christ. And beyond doubt, by as much as divine things are and are deemed to be superior to human, to that degree he surpassed his royal predecessors. He reigned twenty-one years, and, dying without children, he begged his princes to have a care for the commonwealth, and use the utility of the people as the yardstick for doing their duty.
12. After the departure of Julius Agricola, the Britons, especially those who dwelt beyond the Tweed, in part because their strength was drained, partly because they were bound in their loyalty by hostages, remained quiet for a number of years. Meanwhile the legate was Gnaeus Trebellius, and although he was a foresightful man, nevertheless the Roman soldiers, free from labors, began gradually to argue among themselves and, failing to head the legate’s commands, behaved most hatefully towards the islanders. For this reason, the Britons, seeing themselves to be oppressed by a servitude that was growing day by day, entered into the hope both of recovering their liberty and defending their nation by all means. Therefore they spiritedly took up arms against the Romans and attacked them with bravery. But they did this in a considered way, so that, in their ancestral manner, they could always retreat to wooded and steep places when the need arose. Many murders were committed by both sides, and now the entire province was more excited for rebellion, when the emperor Hadrian, informed by Trebellius about this uprising, crossed over to Britain at the earliest possible moment with an army, and he wholly subdued the islanders’ fury but, employing kindness towards them, pacified the province. And, if we trust Spartianus, he was the first who gave it fixed boundaries. For he turned his back on the region above the Tweed, which we call Scotland, either because it was more barren, or because he did not think it could easily be retained because of the nature of its terrain, and so he wanted the province to end at the river Tyne. Therefore he built a wall from its mouth to another stream, called the Esk, then all the way to the Irish sea. For the Tyne empties into the German ocean. But others attribute this determination of the province to Severus. In those days the Britons, both burning with hatred against the Roman soldiers and suffering with chagrin over their servitude, strove once more for liberty. Learning this, Antoninus Pius, the emperor at that time, sent Lollius Urbicus to Britain as legate, who fought some battles and compelled the islanders to remain dutiful. But Lollius had barely put an a end to that war before the Britons commenced another liberty-or-death uprising. And so Marcus Antoninus, Pius’ successor, sent Calphurnius Agricola as legate. He, as Julius Capitolinus relates , easily conquered and subdued the enemies. Pertinax was subsequently sent into the island by Commodus, and he settled all sedition by wisdom rather than arms. Then Clodius Albinus was put over the army in Britain, as testified by Capitolinus in his biography. And if we trust this same writer, Junius Severus was sent by Commodus as his successor. But Herodian tells it very differently, saying that Clodius Albinus remained in the island a long time, when he writes that the emperor Severus, desiring to encompass Albinus’ death, crossed to Gaul and that with a choice British army Albinus came out of Britain to meet him, and in a battle fought at Lugdunum the virtue of the British soldiers was such that nothing came closer than for Severus to be defeated, but that Albinus fell. Then Heraclitus obtained Britain as legate, although Spartianus says he had already beeen sent by Severus to obtain that province.
13. Such was the state of affairs in Britain in about the year of human salvation 194 when, after the death of Lucius, every chief man pursued his own private interest as each one strove to obtain supreme power, and they began to create sedition between themselves. And when the emperor Severus, now affected by old age, learned this, he did not take it hard, since, being endowed with a nature avid for gaining glory, after his victories in the east in the north, he was also eager to gain the title Britannicus. This old man was also troubled by the quarrel between his sons Bassianus Antoninus and Geta, for he could by no means achieve a reconciliation between them, such was the hatred with which these youths burned against each other. He therefore decided to remove them from the city and take them with him to Britain, partly so that the lads would be far distant from urban luxuries and would remain fighting in the field, and partly so that they would not be seduced by the blandishments of any flatterers, which he wrongly imagined to be the cause of their dissent, so that they would be reconciled. Thus, although aged and arthritic, he went to the island with his sons. And when he arrived and had gathered soldiers into a great army, he prepared for war. The Britons, astonished at the ruler’s sudden appearance and terrified by the forces arrayed against themselves, sent ambassadors to Severus to excuse themselves and ask for peace. But he, deliberately manufacturing delays and seeking glory, preferred war to peace. And so many battles were fought with the islanders, which proved much more troublesome to the Romans than to them, since the Britons were accustomed to the terrain and could easily avoid battle when necessary, and thus they protracted the war. Then Severus died, tormented by disease and his sons’ quarreling, and likewise worn out by old age, eighteen years after he began his reign. After cremation, his ashes were mingled with perfume and placed in an alabaster vase which his sons carried back to Rome. But I am scarcely sorry to share the opinion of those writers who write that Severus, after that portion of the island which paid tribute to Rome had been subdued at his first appearance, warred against the Picts (whom I have mentioned a little above), who daily harassed the province with their incursions. Herodian clearly shows that it was these Picts with whom Severus often fought, when at the end of his Book III he writes, “They do not understand the use of clothing, but gird their torsos and necks with iron, regarding that as an ornament and sign of wealth, just as other barbarians use gold. Indeed, they decorate their very bodies with various pictures and the forms of all manner of animals.” So Herodian. But Severus, lest his enemies, driven far out of the territory beyond the Tweed, should trouble the other Britons in the manner of robbers, is said to have imposed a limit on the Roman province, and to have constructed a rampart-like wall in that place where, on the evidence of Spartianus, I have previously said Hadrian located it. Thus writers disagree. Some say that this was the wall built out of solid stone whose remains survive to this day. But Gildas says that at first it was made out of turf rather than stone, and that for this reason it was of little use against barbarian invasions, but that afterwards it was rebuilt and constructed exclusively of stone. This is the wall which, while not intact, can still be seen with its equally-spaced towers. This was a thoroughly excellent work, by which the strivings, not only of the Picts, but also of the Scots were for a time restrained. But (if we trust this same writer, as I believe we beyond doubt should) the Wall was not built at that time, nor by Severus, but more than two hundred years afterwards during the principate of Theodosius son of Arcadius and Valentinianus III in the Western Empire, when the general Aetius made war against the Burgundians, as I shall show afterwards. In this matter almost all modern writers have fallen into error, by all means attributing this work to Severus, no matter how falsely. Now I return to Severus and his sons.
14. The emperor died in Britain in the year of human salvation 212. After his father death, Bassianus Antoninus (who had the cognomen Caracalla) granted peace to the Britons, and he sent the Senate hostages taken from them for the sake of ensuring tranquility, and this was a reason why afterwards the Britons did not depart very much from their obedience. Then, together with his brother Geta, he departed for Rom., and after murdering Geta he gained sole rule. For the following seventy-six years the state of the island was very peaceful, when Carausius (of whom I shall speak below) came to govern it in the principate of Diocletian, in the year of human salvation 289. But now is a fit place to reply to those who no less foolishly than incompetently imagine that Bassianus Antoninus had ruled the Britons for thirty years (although he, being forty-three years old, only ruled for six), and that he fought a battle against Carausius in Britain and was killed. Thus error piled atop error has deluded many in this matter. For according to to Herodian and Aelianus Spartianus, while Antoninus was at Carris, a city of Mesopotamia, he visited the temple of the Moon, a little removed from the city and a particular object of veneration to the natives, and took with him a small number of cavalrymen. And so, when in mid-journey he went off with a single servant to attend to a call of nature, he was unbinding his garments when he was stabbed by Martialis, who came running up at his emperor’s beck. This was a centurion suborned by the prefect Macrinus, and also inspired by his personal hatred, for the emperor had put to death his brother. But let us return to Carausius. This man was of humble birth but distinguished for military glory. He was commanded by Diocletian to defend the coast about Belgium against the Saxons, who were infesting the sea with their piracy, but he chose not to encounter those enemies until he had satisfied himself that they were laden with booty, so that he might confiscate it for himself. Nor were these recovered goods returned to the provincials. Therefore he was conscious of his evildoing, and when he had learned by report that Maximianus Herculeus (whom Diocletian had selected as his partner in government and who was then in Gaul) had given certain orders for his death, by a sudden revolt he gained control of Britain. And the Britons gradually came to make this tyrant their king, casting off the Roman yoke. The Romans fought against him with varying success, but since he could not be bested, he easily obtained peace and possessed the island for the following seven years. But one of his companions, Alectus, treacherously assaulted and killed him. And thus, as is commonly said, impiety breeds impiety. This fellow likewise set himself up as tyrant, and at the same time the islanders hailed him as their king. And three years afterwards he also was robbed of both power and life by the praetorian prefect Asclepiodotus And thus, after the tenth year since it had begun to be possessed by tyrants, Britain was recovered by the Romans, and this was the year of human salvation 300. At the same time Britain also felt the savagery of Diocletian, who was most atrociously afflicting the Christians. For churches were pulled down and many worshipers, tortured by all manner of punishments, won the palm of martyrdom. The wickedness of this impious prince raged for the twenty years of his reign, and among his victims was Alban, a holy man who was put to death at the town of Verulamium, being a citizen of that place. Today, because of the martyrdom of that noble man, the village is called St. Albans after the church dedicated to that saint, which has attached to it a very famous Benedictine monastery. Gildas attests to the generally corrupting influence this plague had on men, which so weakened the Christian religion that it remained intact in few men’s hearts. I return to my subject.
15. Not much later, when affairs in Britain began to be in great commotion as the islanders became irked by Roman rule, Constantius, the nephew of the emperor Claudius by his daughter, whom Diocletian had appointed a Caesar together with Galerius Maximianus, came to Britain. He quickly pacified it and married Helena, the daughter of a certain chieftain named Coyllus and a girl of wonderful beauty. I scarcely think we need agree with those who relate that she was Constantius concubine, by whom he fathered Constantine, for whom nothing was more important than to favor the Christians and enhance religion. Afterwards, when Diocletian and Maximianus Herculeus had voluntarily retired to private life, Constantius and Galerius gained the empire. The one was compelled to divorce Diocletian’s daughter, the other Helena. And Constantius wed Theodora, the step-daughter of Herculeus, with whom he had six male children, the brothers of Constantine. And they shared the burden of empire between them, Galerius receiving the East as his lot, and Constantine with all of Africa. But, being a modest man with no ambition, he was content to govern Gaul and Spain, and thirteen years after coming to the throne he was afflicted by disease and died at York in Britain, and was pronounced divine. He was marked by gravity, moderation, integrity, and liberality, and, being a great man for benefices and gift-giving, he always had a indomitable mind set against riches. Indeed, heedless of his personal advantage, he said it was far better for public wealth to be possessed by private men than to be locked up in an emperor’s coffers where it would serve no purpose. Because of this popularity of a good prince, the provinces he had obtained particularly flourished with honorable leisure. He was also most prudent in managing all affairs, and of particular use to the Roman empire for his skill in military matters. For which reason his memory was particularly dear to the soldiers, who in Britain immediately hailed Constantine, his son by Helena, as emperor, with the support of all men. Meanwhile at Rome Maxentius, the son of Herculeus, was in a sudden upheaval saluted as Augustus by the praetorian troops. Here I must pursue this matter more deeply, so that I may handle everything concerning Constantine, a man about whom I deem it better to hold my silence than to say too little. He, born in Britain of a British mother, and made emperor in Britain, undoubtedly imparted to his native country a share of his great glory. Herculeus Maximianus, who had resigned the empire together with Diocletian and was then living a private life in Lucania, when he heard that his son Maxentius had been hailed as emperor, flew to Rome at the earliest possible moment to reclaim his rule, and he wrote to Diocletian inviting him to enjoy his former dignity. Diocletian was entirely prudent when he refused, repudiated, and abhorred this as a plague on a man. But the other in a speech did dispute the matter with his son and began to court the soldiers, so that Maxentius might be deposed and the government restored to himself. And he was so far from obtaining that he was even made the target of reproaches, which his seemed to be done by prearrangement, I mean so there would be no suspicion of the fraud he was intending to work against Constantine. And so Herculeus, his scheme for removing the young man by any means necessary thus having been concocted, betook himself to Constantine his son-in-law (for he had bestowed on him his daughter Fausta), who at the time was in Gaul, having left behind governors to rule Britain. Constantine gave Herculeus a friendly reception, and the old man, anxious to hurry along his plan for murder and relying on the piety of his daughter Fausta towards himself, secretly revealed his intentions to her. And she, partly afraid lest she be held responsible if she held her silence, and partly overcome by marital love, straightway disclosed it to her husband. While Constantine was hot for revenge, Hercules made his escape to Massilia. There he was readying himself to sail to his son in Italy, whe he was put to death by imperial order. Not much later Galerius departed this life, who a little while earlier had named Licinius, a Dacian by birth, as Caesar. And so at the same time Constantine held Gaul and the entire western coast, Maxentius Italy, Africa and Egypt, Maximianus (already created a Caesar by Maxentius) the East, and Licinius Illyria. But Constantine, aiming at rule over the entire world, crossed over to Italy, where, five years after gaining power, he made war on Maxentius. This easily showed that no partnership in rule can long tolerate a colleague. After some battles Maxentius was routed, and finally, before the sixth year of his reign had been completed, he was thrown into the Tiber from the Milvian Bridge hard by Rome, and drowned together with many of his followers. But, so that fortune would comply with Constantine’s wishes, it very opportunely came to pass that, not long after he gained control over Italy, Maximianus the Younger waged war against Licinius. This Licinius, having in marriage Constantine’s sister Constantia, aroused Maximianus’ suspicion because of this relationship. And as he was preparing for war at Tharsis, sudden death took him off. With Maximianus dead, Constantine immediately warred against Licinius, although he was a kinsman, and, having oppressed him in many battles, stripped him of all rule, and when he had thus been deprived, Constantine arranged for his murder at Thessalonica, contrary to his promise. Licinius had ruled with the title of Caesar for fifteen years, and this was the year of human salvation 326.
16. Having in this way gained control over things far and wide, Constantine appointed his sons Caesars. And, that I might note this at an appropriate place, the dignity of Caesar was not imperial dignity, but rather a step towards that, since those who were Caesars received this power from a man who was an Augustus and emperor. Upon the defeat of Maxentius he, as I have said, gained Italy and came to Rome, and Pope Sylvester, a man of great piety, approached him as he was thinking goodly thoughts of his own volition, and readily induced him to deserve well of the Christian faith. Furthermore, before leaving Rome he was easily instructed by his mother Helena, as is credible, that when he went to war he should display the sign of the cross for his protection. Some write that on the very day he fought Maxentius he saw and adored a cross that appeared in the clear sky, and heard a voice from above saying Constantine, in this sign will you conquer. Nor was this prophecy lacking in its outcome, for all over the world this pious prince greatly strove to enhance and protect religion. In the Gardens of Equitius at Rome he built a church and endowed it lavishly. He also contributed a golden diadem ornamented with gems, for the use of Sylvester and all his successors in the papacy. But that modest, frugal man declined this ornament, as being unsuitable for religion, and was content with a white Phrygian miter. He likewise built the church called Constantia, which today we call the Lateran, on the Coelian Hill. He also made a font for holy baptism from porphyry, located next to that church. He similarly built a church dedicated to Peter, chief of the Apostles, on the Vatican, and one no less ornate for St. Paul on the road to Ostium, and likewise a chapel of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem (for thus it is called) in the Theater of Sessorianus, bestowing on it a piece of the True Cross. For Constantine’s mother Helena, a woman endowed with singular piety, visited Jerusalem for the sake of finding the True Cross. This was indeed difficult, since all the physical remains of our Lord’s passion (for so the theologians call it) were destroyed. Where the cross was hidden a statue of Venus had been set up by the impious enemies of Christianity, but the place was cleared of its rubble and three crosses were discovered lying confusedly, one that had belonged to Christ, the other two were the ones from which the two thieves had hung. But so that the one of Christ could be distinguished, it bore a sign in three languages, Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, in letters almost worn away by age, as a mark. Moved by these things, Constantine forbade any man henceforth to suffer this form of punishment, and that which hitherto men had regarded as a disgrace began to be held in honor. As soon as Helena had found the cross, she departed, bringing to her son the nails which had been used to affix Christ to it. He has reputed to have used one as the point for his helmet, a second as a protection for his warhorse, and to have thrown the third in the sea to calm its waves and settle a storm. But the part of the True Cross that Helena had fetched from Syria he placed in the Sessorian church, ornamented with jewels and gold. For Constantine lavished donations on this church. He built a church dedicated to St. Agnes with a baptismal font where his daughter and sister were baptized, giving it gifts too. Then he built one for St. Laurence on the Via Tiburtina and one to St. Marcellinus at Lavacana, between two laurel trees, where he located his mother’s tomb, encased in porphyry. I have deliberately chosen not to described the kind or amount of his gifts for these holy places, lest I arouse the wrath of evil church sacristans, since they were removed from those churches six hundred years ago. The emperor built more churches outside the city, one for the two Apostles at Ostia, a second to St. John the Baptist at Alba, a third common to all the Apostles at Capua, a fourth at Naples, and a fifth and a sixth at Constantinople. Besides these works of piety I have enumerated, when Arrius, a priest of Alexandria, had been condemned by the Council of Nicea because he had impiously sought to falsify Christian teaching with his wicked lies, Constantine ordered him into exile together with other men responsible for his evil superstition. By imperial edict all temples of idols were overthrown, together with their Delphic tripods. In sum there was no place dedicated to religious use to which he did not give its appointed donations, its fixed income.
17. Such (if only in summary) were the excellent and memorable works of piety done by the emperor Constantine the Great and of his mother Helena, who were the products of their noble parent Britain, which easily surpassed all the accomplishments of his predecessors. For they earned glory among men by blood and slaughter, but these won eternal life with God, as it is easy to believe, and immortal honor on earth by their piety, true religion, supreme liberality and justice. As St. Jerome attests, in his extreme old age, not long before his death, he was baptized by Eusebius, Bishop of Nicomedia, and he is said to have deferred his baptism until that time so he might imitate Christ’s example and be baptized in the river Jordan. But because of the baptistery he so elaborately built at Rome, one would not be rash in accepting a belief contrary to what Jerome writes, for it would be quite surprising for a man so well deserving of the Christian religion in that age would not wish to enter in the door of Christian piety, that is, to be baptized, at the first moment possible, as that saying of Christ was well known to all men, He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. But I shall not linger over these things, since they have been reported so variously. Constantine was a man perfect in all his parts, since he had the greatest virtues of mind and body recorded in human memory, was particularly skilled in the military art, fortunate in war, a lover of justice, and born to be praised, He passed no few laws salubrious for the republic, and abolished others. He founded Constantinople where Byzantium had been on the shore of Thrace, a rival to Rome. He repaired Drepanum in Bithynia and named it Helenopolis in honor of his mother. As for his end, some say that, to improve his health, he left Byzantium to take the hot waters, and so died, from which he perhaps seems to have been a victim of leprosy. But more writers, including St. Jerome, report that he was intending to wage war against the Persians (or, as Eutropius would have it, the Parthians), because they had made incursions into Mesopotamia, and died in a public inn at Aciron near Nicomedia, in the year of human salvation 339. He died at the age of sixty-six, having ruled for thirty-two. In the end Constantine, having deserved well of the Christian religion, did not reject Arrian doctrine, as Jerome testifies. At the very time this great emperor dide there appeared a comet of unusual size. So much for these things. But now let me return to narrating the things which pertain to the condition of Britain.
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