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Britannia

Britannia, the name by which Great Britain was known to Caesar and subsequent Roman writers. Its origin is doubtful, but we find Aristotle speaking of the Nesoi Brettanikai, Albion and Ierne, as if the word were familiar at that time. The attempt to connect it with a Welsh brith, meaning "tattooed," is fanciful. When Caesar invaded the country, the inhabitants, except a few settlers from Belgium on the coast, and perhaps some remnants of a primitive Euskarian race, were Kelts, and he probably came into contact only with the Cymric branch, the Gadhelic being settled in the more remote north and west. They appear to have been split, up into tribes, very loosely federated, and the influence of the Druids, or priestly caste, was considerable. They wore their hair long, dyed their bodies with woad, clothed themselves in skins, and lived chiefly on milk and flesh. The Romans, even after four centuries, did but imperfectly civilise these people, though a hundred years sufficed to break the military resistance of Cassivelaunus, Caractacus, Boadicea, and other chiefs. Claudius (43 A.D.) first made Britain a Roman province, which was under one prefect. Severus (210) divided it into two parts, Brit. Superior, and Brit. Inferior. In Diocletian's time there were four provinces, 1. Brit. Prima, S. of Thames. 2. Brit. Secunda, S. of Dee and W. of Severn. 3. Flavia Caesariensis, E. of Severn. 4. Maxima Caesariensis, N. of Humber and S. of Tyne. In 368 Valentia, including the S. of Scotland as far as the wall of Antoninus, was added for a short time. We know little from historical records of the Roman government, but remains still extant prove that much comfort and even luxury was introduced by the conquerors, whilst Christianity was the recognised state religion as early as 324 A.D. Eboracum (York), Deva (Chester), and Isca (Caerleon) were the headquarters usually of a legion. There were at least fifty-six coloniae or municipia, and Eboracum and Verulamium (St. Albans) enjoyed Roman citizenship. Of the break up of this government and the confusion that ensued, until a Teutonic race established itself as supreme, we are in almost total ignorance. The Roman occupation practically came to an end in 410, and with it Britannia ceased to exist, except as a mythological personification in classical attire, for use as an emblem of national greatness.

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