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Brigae, Brigantes [ ]
BRITAIN, which hitherto has run out into several very large
points towards Germany one way and towards Ireland the
other, now withdraws itself as if it feared the violence of
the ocean, and contracts the land into narrower compass. The
coasts which now run on north strait to Scotland are not
above 100 miles asunder. Almost all this part was in the
flourishing times of Britain occupied by the BRIGANTES.
Ptolemy says they inhabited the country from the eastern to
the western sea. This was the most powerful and populous
nation, most celebrated by the best writers, all of whom
call them Brigantes, except Stephanus de Urbibus, who
calls them Brigae, but the article in him relating to
them ends abruptly in all the copies. If I should derive
these Brigantes from Brigae, which among the antient
Spaniards signified a city, I should not think it
satisfactory, as Strabo [a] says it is a Spanish word. If
with Gropius I should suppose them so called from the Belgic
language Brigantes, q.d. Free hands, I should be
charged with putting off his reveries upon persons in their
senses. Be it as it may, our Britans at present whenever
they see a person acting in a profligate and imprudent
manner make use of a common proverb Wharret Brigans,
as much as to say he is playing the Brigant. The modern
French from their antient language, as it should seem, call
such sort of people Brigand, and piratic ships
Brigantins [b]. Whether this was the import of the
word antiently in the Gaulish or British language I do not
take upon me to affirm: but if I remember it right Strabo
[c] calls the Brigantes an Alpine nation marauders, and
Julius, a young Belgian of daring intrepidity, who
considered violence as authority, and virtue an empty name,
is surnamed Briganticus [d] in Tacitus [e]. In this
ill character our Brigantes seem to have been allied to
these other nations, committing such outrages among their
neighbours that Antoninus Pius on that account took away the
greatest part of their country from them, as we learn from
Pausanias [f] who writes thus: "Antoninus Pius took away
much territory from the Brigantes in Britain, because they
invaded with an armed force and detained Genunia, a part of
the country subject to the Romans." I hope none will
consider this a reflection on these people, as it would be
very inconsistent in me to brand any individual, much less
an whole nation, with infamy. For this character in that
warlike age, when all nations made right consist in force,
was not accounted infamous. "Robbery," says Caesar [g], "is
not held disgraceful in Germany, provided it is committed
without the territories of each state. They say it serves to
exercise their youth, and keep them employed." For a like
reason the Paeones, a Greek nation, had their name as from
ωαιειν to strike.
The Quadi among the Germans and the Chaldeans had their
names from their marauding character [h].
As to Florianus del Campo, a Spanish author, affecting to bring our Brigantes from Spain to Ireland [i] and thence into Britain with no other conjecture to support him but that he finds a city named Brigantia in his own country, I fear he misleads himself. For admitting our Brigantes and those in Ireland to have had their name from the same circumstance, I would rather with my very learned friend Thomas Savile suppose that some of the Brigantes and of other British nations after the arrival of the Romans retired to Ireland, some for peace and quiet, others to be out of sight of the Roman tyranny, and others not to lose their own concurrence in their old age that liberty which they received from nature at their birth. That Claudius was the first Roman who attacked our Brigantes and reduced them to his allegiance is intimated by Seneca in the following lines of his Apocolycinthosis [k]:
--- ille Britannos
Ultra noti littora Ponti & caeruleos
Scuta Brigantes, dare Romuleis colla catenis
Jussit, & ipsum nova Romanae jura securis
Tremere Oceanum ---
By him subdued the Roman yoke,
The extremest Britans gladly took.
Him the blue shield Brigants ador'd
When the vast ocean felt his pow'r
Restrain'd with laws unknown before,
And trembling own'd a Roman Lord.
I suppose them, however, not subdued by arms, but rather to have submitted upon conditions, as historians say nothing of what the poet here alludes to. Tacitus [l] says that discords arising among the Brigantes at that
See Pasquier Recherches de France, VI. c.40. C. The
Brigantes in Geographers are always found in mountainous
tracts. Breogant, steep; Brant Brechiniauc
mountaineers, as here in Brecknockshire, p.482.
Northumberland, p.674. MS. n. G. in the edition 1607.
See the Scholiast on Juvenal's Castella Brigantum.
XIV. 196, where the old Scholiast refers it to the Brigantes
B. G. VI. c.23.
Some copies, however, call those in Ireland
See the Romans in Britain, Introd. p.xxxiii.