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Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum:
The History of the Primitive Church of England.
Book One, Chapter One

Translated by Rev. William Hurst, 1814.

Chapter One

Of the situation of Britain and of Ireland, and of their ancient Inhabitants.

Britain, an island in the Atlantic Ocean, was formerly called Albion, and lies opposite to the principal parts of the continent of Europe, at some distance from Germany, Gaul and Spain. It is 800 miles in length, and only about 200 miles in its main breadth, But if you take into the account every promontory and tract of land projecting into the sea, it will be found to be about 1800 [other MSS "4,875"] in circumference. The nearest country to it towards the South is the province of the Morini, [now called the Department of the Straits of Calais,] and the passage by sea to Gessoriacum [which is the town of Calais] is about seven leagues or 21 miles. On the north side, the Isles called Orcades [Orkneys] are not far distant from it. The island is very fertile in corn, fruit, and trees, and abounds in pasture for cattle. It also produces vines in some places, and is plentifully supplied with land and water fowls, of different kinds; and is remarkable for brooks and rivers well stored with fish; particularly with salmon and eels. The surrounding sea affords seals, dolphins, and whales; besides many sorts of shell-fish; among which are oysters, and in them are often found excellent pearls of all colours, viz. red, pale, violet, and green; but they are mostly of a white colour. There is also a kind of shell-fish, of which the scarlet dye is made; which beautiful colour never fades with the heat of the sun, or from the effects of rain, but the older it grows the more bright and brilliant it becomes.

Many springs are found in different parts of the island, the waters of some of which are of such a nature as to yield a great quantity of salt. There are also several others of mineral waters, over which convenient structures have been raised to accommodate such persons as wish to take the benefit of the hot baths. For water, as St. Basil observes [Hexaemeron, 4.6], receives a healing quality when it runs over certain metals, and sometimes becomes very hot. The metals, which are generally found here, are lead, iron, copper, and silver. There is also a sort of stone, which is commonly called Jeat, or Geat, and is black and sparkling. It glitters when near the fire, and being heated, is said to have the property of driving away serpents. If it be warmed with rubbing, it attracts things to it, like amber.

The island was formerly embellished with 28 well-built cities, besides innumerable castles, all of which were also strongly fortified with walls, towers, gates, and bulwarks. As it is situated almost under the North pole, the days are so long in summer, that even at midnight in the northern parts a kind of twilight continues. But, in the winter, the nights for the same reason are very long, the darkness continuing for 17 or 18 hours; whereas in Armenia, Macedon, Italy, and other countries, in the same latitude, the longest day or night extends but to 15 hours, and the shortest to 9.

There are at present five different languages spoken in this island, viz. the British, the English, the Scotch, and those of the Picts and of the Latins, according to the different nations who at various periods have taken possession of it, and who all profess the same Christian faith, and the sublime morality of the gospel. The Latin language in particular, on account of their continual application to the study of the scriptures, is become common everywhere.

At first, this country had no other inhabitants but the Britons, from whom it derived its name, who sailing from Brittany, [now called the Department of Finisterre,] successfully invaded the southern coasts; and, when they had conquered the greatest part of it, it happened that the nation of the Picts, coming from Scythia, as it is reported, in a few ships, were driven by a storm entirely beyond all the coasts of Britain, and as far as the northern coasts of Ireland; where disembarking and finding the nation of the Scots, they requested to be allowed to settle amongst them, but could not obtain permission. (Ireland is the greatest island next to Britain, and situated to the westward of it.) The Picts, arriving here, as I just now observed, petitioned the inhabitants to grant them permission to establish themselves as a colony amongst them. The Scots answered that the island was not large enough to contain them both; but we can give you good advice added they; for we know there is another island, not far eastward from ours, which we can frequently see in clear weather. If you will go to it, you may easily establish yourselves there, or, if they should oppose you, employ us as auxiliaries. The Picts accordingly, sailing over to Britain, began to inhabit the northern parts of it; for the Britons were now possessed of the southern.

Now, these adventurers having brought no females with them, and applying to the Scots to allow them to marry with those of their nation, they would not consent to the proposal on any other terms than that, when any doubt should arise about the hereditary title to the crown, they should be bound to prefer the female line to the male, in the election of a king, which custom, it is well known, the Picts have always observed to this day.

In process of time, after the Britons and the Picts, Britain received a third nation, viz. the Scots, in that part which was possessed by the Picts. For these Scots coming out of Ireland, under the command of their leader Reuda, either by fair means, or by force of arms, entered and took possession of those places which they now inhabit. From which commander they are to this day called Dalreudins, Dal in their language signifying a part.

Ireland far surpasses Britain, both in breadth, and for its wholesome and serene air; so that snow scarcely ever lies on the ground more than three days together. No man makes hay in the summer for a winter's provision, or builds stables for his cattle. No noxious reptile is seen there, and no snake can live; for snakes have often been brought out of Britain for an experiment, and have been found dead as soon as the ships in which they were came near enough to the shore for them to be affected by the atmosphere. On the contrary, almost every thing which is brought from that island is an antidote against poison. In short, we have seen that when some persons have been stung by serpents, the scrapings of leaves of books that were brought out of Ireland, being put into water, and given them to drink, they immediately dispelled all the force of the spreading poison, and assuaged and took away all the tumours caused by the stings. The island is well supplied with milk and honey, nor is there any want of fish or fowl, and it is remarkable for deer: there are also some vines. This is properly the country of the Scots. Coming out from thence has been said, they added a third nation in Britain, to the Britons and Picts.

There is a large gulf, which formerly divided the nation of the Picts from the Britons; which gulf runs very far from the west into the land where, to this day, stands the very strong city of the Britons, called Alcuith. The Scots arriving on the north side of the bay, settled there.