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The Barddas of Iolo Morganwg, Vol. I., ed. by J. Williams Ab Ithel, [1862], at


We have left this author to the last, because he speaks of the Druids of our own country. Tacitus lived in the time of Nero and his successors until Hadrian. Though deemed in general a skilful and correct historian, yet we have evidence enough to prove that he could occasionally run counter of the truth; consequently we ought to be cautious how we receive his statements. He utters a glaring falsehood when he treats of the history of the Jews; declaring that they fled from the island of Creta into Egypt, and received the name Iudæi from mount Ida in that island--that Moses obtained water in the wilderness by following a herd of wild asses, and that the Jews religiously preserved in their houses the image or picture of a wild ass, in grateful memory of the event. Tacitus had no excuse whatever for falling into these errors. There were a great many Jews in Rome, and the Scriptures had been translated into the Greek language long before his era; besides, St. Paul himself actually visited the city, and preached the Gospel

p. lxviii

there in his time. If then, Tacitus, erred so egregiously, in the face of so many opportunities of learning the real truth concerning a renowned nation like the Jews, why might he not have fallen into similar mistakes with regard to the Cymry, though he received his account from his father-in-law, Agricola, who was governor of Britain?

But what says Tacitus of the Druidism of Britain? In speaking of the invasion of the isle of Mona, or Anglesey, by Suetonius Paulinus, he says:--

"There stood apart on the strand an army, thick with men and arms, and women ran to and fro after the manner of Furies, clad in funereal dresses, with dishevelled hair, and carrying torches before them. The Druids, also, pouring out terrible prayers around them, with hands raised towards heaven, struck the soldiers with awe by the novelty of the sight; so that, as if their members clung to the spot, they offered their unmoved bodies to the wounds. Afterwards, by the exhortations of their leaders, and by their own mutual encouragements, not to be afraid of a womanish and fanatical troop, they lead on the standards, overthrow their opponents, and involve them in their own fires.

"A guard was afterwards placed over the conquered, and their groves were cut down, which had been consecrated to their cruel superstitions; for they considered it lawful to offer the blood of captives on their altars, and to consult the gods by means of the nerves of men," 1

The historian has unquestionably coloured the above sketch as black as possible; but, even if we grant that it is tolerably correct, there is nothing in it, after all, which is inconsistent with the ancient Bardism of the Cymry. Patriotism was a great virtue with them--and aggressive war was looked upon as a dire crime--a crime that exposed its perpetrators to the punishment

p. lxix

of death. What wonder, then, is it, if the Cymry sentenced to death the Roman soldiers, who chanced to fall into their hands? But, it may be objected, they were slain by the Druids, as sacrifices to their gods. There is no doubt that the Druids did superintend their execution, and that this in a certain sense partook of the nature of a sacrifice. Their death was a punishment for the offence, which they had committed, but at the same time it was regarded as a sort of atonement, which made up for the degradation they would have been subject to in Abred, if they had died a natural death. If Tacitus had known something of the doctrine of eneidvaddeu, he would have considered the act of the Druids on this occasion as a just and merciful one; just, in that it punished the transgressor, merciful, in that it placed him in a better state; for, according to their creed, his soul would pass immediately into another human body, totally cleansed from the guilt of the crime for which he had died. So easy is it to misunderstand the nature and object of men's actions, when viewed from a point which is external to their own religious sentiments!


lxviii:1 Lib. xiv. c. 30.

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