button to main menu  Camden's Britannia, edn 1789

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  Brigae, Brigantes [ ]
  tribal name

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
[] [blank]
[b] 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.
[c] IV. p.206.
[d] [blank]
[e] See the Scholiast on Juvenal's Castella Brigantum. XIV. 196, where the old Scholiast refers it to the Brigantes of Gaul.
[f] Arcad. c.43.
[g] B. G. VI. c.23.
[h] Reinerus Reineccius.
[i] Some copies, however, call those in Ireland Birgantes. C.
[k] See the Romans in Britain, Introd. p.xxxiii.
[l] Ann.XII. c.32.
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