The Northern Way

Part 1: A.D. 1 - 748

Page 1

The island Britain (1) is 800 miles long, and 200 miles broad. And there are in the island five nations; English, Welsh (or British) (2), Scottish, Pictish, and Latin. The first inhabitants were the Britons, who came from Armenia (3), and first peopled Britain southward. Then happened it, that the Picts came south from Scythia, with long ships, not many; and, landing first in the northern part of Ireland, they told the Scots that they must dwell there. But they would not give them leave; for the Scots told them that they could not all dwell there together; "But," said the Scots, "we can nevertheless give you advice. We know another island here to the east. There you may dwell, if you will; and whosoever withstandeth you, we will assist you, that you may gain it." Then went the Picts and entered this land northward. Southward the Britons possessed it, as we before said. And the Picts obtained wives of the Scots, on condition that they chose their kings always on the female side (4); which they have continued to do, so long since. And it happened, in the run of years, that some party of Scots went from Ireland into Britain, and acquired some portion of this land. Their leader was called Reoda (5), from whom they are named Dalreodi (or Dalreathians).

Sixty winters ere that Christ was born, Caius Julius, emperor of the Romans, with eighty ships sought Britain. There he was first beaten in a dreadful fight, and lost a great part of his army. Then he let his army abide with the Scots (6), and went south into Gaul. There he gathered six hundred ships, with which he went back into Britain. When they first rushed together, Caesar's tribune, whose name was Labienus (7), was slain. Then took the Welsh sharp piles, and drove them with great clubs into the water, at a certain ford of the river called Thames. When the Romans found that, they would not go over the ford. Then fled the Britons to the fastnesses of the woods; and Caesar, having after much fighting gained many of the chief towns, went back into Gaul (8).

((B.C. 60. Before the incarnation of Christ sixty years, Gaius Julius the emperor, first of the Romans, sought the land of Britain; and he crushed the Britons in battle, and overcame them; and nevertheless he was unable to gain any empire there.))

A.D. 1. Octavianus reigned fifty-six winters; and in the forty- second year of his reign Christ was born. Then three astrologers from the east came to worship Christ; and the children in Bethlehem were slain by Herod in persecution of Christ.

A.D. 3. This year died Herod, stabbed by his own hand; and Archelaus his son succeeded him. The child Christ was also this year brought back again from Egypt.

A.D. 6. From the beginning of the world to this year were agone five thousand and two hundred winters.

A.D. 11. This year Herod the son of Antipater undertook the government in Judea.

A.D. 12. This year Philip and Herod divided Judea into four kingdoms.

((A.D. 12. This year Judea was divided into four tetrarchies.))

A.D. 16. This year Tiberius succeeded to the empire.

A.D. 26. This year Pilate began to reign over the Jews.

A.D. 30. This year was Christ baptized; and Peter and Andrew were converted, together with James, and John, and Philip, and all the twelve apostles.

A.D. 33. This year was Christ crucified; (9) about five thousand two hundred and twenty six winters from the beginning of the world. (10)

A.D. 34. This year was St. Paul converted, and St. Stephen stoned.

A.D. 35. This year the blessed Peter the apostle settled an episcopal see in the city of Antioch.

A.D. 37. This year (11) Pilate slew himself with his own hand.

A.D. 39. This year Caius undertook the empire.

A.D. 44. This year the blessed Peter the apostle settled an episcopal see at Rome; and James, the brother of John, was slain by Herod.

A.D. 45. This year died Herod, who slew James one year ere his own death.

A.D. 46. This year Claudius, the second of the Roman emperors who invaded Britain, took the greater part of the island into his power, and added the Orkneys to rite dominion of the Romans. This was in the fourth year of his reign. And in the same year (12) happened the great famine in Syria which Luke mentions in the book called "The Acts of the Apostles". After Claudius Nero succeeded to the empire, who almost lost the island Britain through his incapacity.

((A.D. 46. This year the Emperor Claudius came to Britain, and subdued a large part of the island; and he also added the island of Orkney to the dominion of the Romans.))

A.D. 47. This year Mark, the evangelist in Egypt beginneth to write the gospel.

((A.D. 47. This was in the fourth year of his reign, and in this same year was the great famine in Syria which Luke speaks of in the book called "Actus Apostolorum".))

((A.D. 47. This year Claudius, king of the Romans, went with an army into Britain, and subdued the island, and subjected all the Picts and Welsh to the rule of the Romans.))

A.D. 50. This year Paul was sent bound to Rome.

A.D. 62. This year James, the brother of Christ, suffered.

A.D. 63. This year Mark the evangelist departed this life.

A.D. 69. This year Peter and Paul suffered.

A.D. 70. This year Vespasian undertook the empire.

A.D. 71. This year Titus, son of Vespasian, slew in Jerusalem eleven hundred thousand Jews.

A.D. 81. This year Titus came to the empire, after Vespasian, who said that he considered the day lost in which he did no good.

A.D. 83. This year Domitian, the brother of Titus, assumed the government.

A.D. 84. This year John the evangelist in the island Patmos wrote the book called "The Apocalypse".

A.D. 90. This year Simon, the apostle, a relation of Christ, was crucified: and John the evangelist rested at Ephesus.

A.D. 92. This year died Pope Clement.

A.D. 110. This year Bishop Ignatius suffered.

A.D. 116. This year Hadrian the Caesar began to reign.

A.D. 145. This year Marcus Antoninus and Aurelius his brother succeeded to the empire.

((A.D. 167. This year Eleutherius succeeded to the popedom, and held it fifteen years; and in the same year Lucius, king of the Britons, sent and begged baptism of him. And he soon sent it him, and they continued in the true faith until the time of Diocletian.))

A.D. 189. This year Severus came to the empire; and went with his army into Britain, and subdued in battle a great part of the island. Then wrought he a mound of turf, with a broad wall thereupon, from sea to sea, for the defence of the Britons. He reigned seventeen years; and then ended his days at York. His son Bassianus succeeded him in the empire. His other son, who perished, was called Geta. This year Eleutherius undertook the bishopric of Rome, and held it honourably for fifteen winters. To him Lucius, king of the Britons, sent letters, and prayed that he might be made a Christian. He obtained his request; and they continued afterwards in the right belief until the reign of Diocletian.

A.D. 199. In this year was found the holy rood. (13)

A.D. 283. This year suffered Saint Alban the Martyr.

A.D. 343. This year died St. Nicolaus.

A.D. 379. This year Gratian succeeded to the empire.

A.D. 381. This year Maximus the Caesar came to the empire. He was born in the land of Britain, whence he passed over into Gaul. He there slew the Emperor Gratian; and drove his brother, whose name was Valentinian, from his country (Italy). The same Valentinian afterwards collected an army, and slew Maximus; whereby he gained the empire. About this time arose the error of Pelagius over the world.


(1) This introductory part of the "Chronicle" to An. I. first printed by Gibson from the Laud MS. only, has been corrected by a collation of two additional MSS. in the British Museum, "Cotton Tiberius B" lv. and "Domitianus A" viii. Some defects are also here supplied. The materials of this part are to be found in Pliny, Solinus, Orosius, Gildas, and Bede. The admeasurement of the island, however inaccurate, is from the best authorities of those times, and followed by much later historians. Back

(2) Gibson, following the Laud MS. has made six nations of five, by introducing the British and Welsh as two distinct tribes. Back

(3) "De tractu Armoricano." -- Bede, "Ecclesiastical History" i. I. The word Armenia occurring a few lines above in Bede, it was perhaps inadvertently written by the Saxon compiler of the "Chronicle" instead of Armorica. Back

(4) In case of a disputed succession, "Ubi res veniret in dabium," etc. -- Bede, "Ecclesiastical History" i. I. Back

(5) Reada, Aelfr.; Reuda, Bede, Hunt. etc. Perhaps it was originally Reutha or Reotha. Back

(6) This is an error, arising from the inaccurately written MSS. of Orosius and Bede; where "in Hybernia" and "in Hiberniam" occur for "in hiberna". The error is retained in Wheloc's Bede. Back

(7) Labienus = Laberius. Venerable Bede also, and Orosius, whom he follows verbatim, have "Labienus". It is probably a mistake of some very ancient scribe, who improperly supplied the abbreviation "Labius" (for "Laberius") by "Labienus". Back

(8) Of these early transactions in Britain King Alfred supplies us with a brief but circumstantial account in his Saxon paraphrase of "Orosius". Back

(9) "8 die Aprilis", Flor. M. West. Back

(10) Gibbon regrets this chronology, i.e. from the creation of the world, which he thinks preferable to the vulgar mode from the Christian aera. But how vague and uncertain the scale which depends on a point so remote and undetermined as the precise time when the world was created. If we examine the chronometers of different writers we shall find a difference, between the maximum and the minimum, of 3368 years. The Saxon chronology seems to be founded on that of Eusebius, which approaches the medium between the two extremes. Back

(11) An. 42, Flor. This act is attributed by Orosius, and Bede who follows him, to the threatening conduct of Caligula, with a remark, that it was he (Pilate) who condemned our Lord to death. Back

(12) An. 48, Flor. See the account of this famine in King Alfred's "Orosius". Back

(13) Those writers who mention this discovery of the holy cross, by Helena the mother of Constantine, disagree so much in their chronology, that it is a vain attempt to reconcile them to truth or to each other. This and the other notices of ecclesiastical matters, whether Latin or Saxon, from the year 190 to the year 380 of the Laud MS. and 381 of the printed Chronicle, may be safely considered as interpolations, probably posterior to the Norman Conquest. Back

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