Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 4.4.2 Str. 4.4.6 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 4.5.3

4.4.4

Amongst [the Gauls] there are generally three divisions of' men especially reverenced, the Bards, the Vates, and the Druids. The Bards composed and chanted hymns; the Vates occupied themselves with the sacrifices and the study of nature; while the Druids joined to the study of nature that of moral philosophy. The belief in the justice [of the Druids] is so great that the decision both of public and private disputes is referred to them; and they have before now, by their decision, prevented armies from engaging when drawn up in battle-array against each other. All cases of murder are particularly referred to them. When there is plenty of these they imagine there will likewise be a plentiful harvest. Both these and the others [Note] assert that the soul is indestructi- ble, and likewise the world, but that sometimes fire and sometimes water have prevailed in making great changes. [Note] 4.4.5

To their simplicity and vehemence, the Gauls join much folly, arrogance, and love of ornament. They wear golden collars round their necks, and bracelets on their arms and wrists, and those who are of any dignity have garments dyed and worked with gold. This lightness of character makes them intolerable when they conquer, and throws them into consternation when worsted. In addition to their folly, they have a barbarous and absurd custom, common however with many nations of the north, of suspending the heads of their enemies from their horses' necks on their return from tattle, and when they have arrived nailing them as a spectacle to their gates. Posidonius says he witnessed this in many different places, and was at first shocked, but became familiar with it in time on account of its frequency. The

-- 295 --

beads of any illustrious persons they embalm with cedar, exhibit them to strangers, and would not sell them for their weight in gold. [Note] However, the Romans put a stop to these customs, as well as to their modes of sacrifice and divination, which were quite opposite to those sanctioned by our laws. They would strike a man devoted as an offering in his back with a sword, and divine from his convulsive throes. Without the Druids they never sacrifice. It is said they have other modes of sacrificing their human victims; that they pierce some of them with arrows, and crucify others in their temples; and that they prepare a colossus of hay and wood, into which they put cattle, beasts of all kinds, and men, and then set fire to it. 4.4.6

They say that in the ocean, not far from the coast, there is a small island lying opposite to the outlet of the river Loire, inhabited by Samnite women who are Bacchantes, and conciliate and appease that god by mysteries and sacrifices. No man is permitted to land on the island; and when the women desire to have intercourse with the other sex, they cross the sea, and afterwards return again. They have a custom of once a year unroofing the whole of the temple, and roofing it again the same day before sun-set, each one bringing some of the materials. If any one lets her burden fall, she is torn in pieces by the others, and her limbs carried round the temple with wild shouts, which they never cease until their rage is exhausted. [They say] it always happens that some one drops her burden, and is thus sacrificed.

But what Artenmidorus tells us concerning the crows, partakes still more of fiction. He narrates that on the coast, washed by the ocean, there is a harbour named the Port of Two Crows, and that here two crows may be seen with their right wings white. Those who have any dispute come here, and each one having placed a plank for himself on a lofty eminence, sprinkles crumbs thereupon; the birds fly to these, eat up the one and scatter the other, and he whose crumbs are scattered gains the cause. This narration has decidedly too much the air of fiction. What he narrates concerning Ceres and Proserpine is more credible. He says that there is an island near Britain in which they perform sacrifices to

-- 296 --

these goddesses after the same fashion that they do in Samo- thrace. The following is also credible, that a tree grows in Keltica similar to a fig, which produces a fruit resembling a Corinthian capital, and which, being cut, exudes a poisonous juice which they use for poisoning their arrows. It is well known that all the Kelts are fond of disputes; and that amongst them pederasty is not considered shameful. Ephorus extends the size of Keltica too far, including within it most of what we now designate as Iberia, as far as Gades, He states that the people are great admirers of the Greeks, and relates many particulars concerning them not applicable to their present state. This is one:—That they take great care not to become fat or big-bellied, and that if any young man exceeds the measure of a certain girdle, he is punished. [Note]

Such is our account of Keltica beyond the Alps. [Note]

CHAPTER V. BRITAIN. 4.5.1

BRITAIN is triangular in form; its longest side lies parallel to Keltica, in length neither exceeding nor falling short of it; for each of then extends as much as 4300 or 4400 stadia: the side of Keltica extending from the mouths of the Rhine to the northern extremities of the Pyrenees towards Aquitaine; and that of Britain, which commences at Kent, its most eastern point, opposite the mouths of the Rhine, extending to the western extremity of the island, which lies over against Aquitaine and the Pyrenees. This is the shortest line from the Pyrenees to the Rhine; the longest is said to be 5000 stadia; but it is likely that there is some

-- 297 --

convergency of the river towards the mountain from a strictly parallel position, there being an inclination of either toward the other at the extremities next the ocean.



Strabo, Geography (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Str.].
<<Str. 4.4.2 Str. 4.4.6 (Greek English(2)) >>Str. 4.5.3

Powered by PhiloLogic