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From Readings in English History Drawn From The Original Sources by Edward P. Cheyney, Ginn and Company; Boston; 1908; pp. 2-4.


YEAR 45 B. C.

Description [of Britain] by Diodorus Siculus1

Diodorus Siculus, a Greek traveler and historian, was born in Sicily, but lived many years at Rome. He wrote in Greek, about ten years after Cæsar’s invasion of Britain, {55 B.C.} and gives an interesting account of the production of tin in Britain and its export to the continent.

2. Account
by Diodorus
Opposite that part of Gaul which borders on the ocean, and directly across from the Hercynian forests, reported to be the largest in Europe, lie many islands. The largest of these is called Britain. In early times this remained free from 3 foreign influence; for neither Bacchus nor Hercules nor any of the other heroes or mighty men, so far as we know, waged war with it. In our time, indeed, Caius Cæsar, who has obtained the name of a god because of his great deeds, became the first one of all those whose memory is preserved to reduce the island to subjection, and to force the conquered Britons to pay a fixed tribute. These things will be recounted in detail in their own place; at this time we shall speak a few words about the island and the tin taken from it. It is triangular The shape
and size of
in shape, the same as Sicily, but its sides are unequal. Since it extends obliquely from Europe the headland next the continent, which they call Cantium, is only about one hundred stadia from the mainland, at which place a strait runs between. A second angle, Belerium by name, is four days’ sail from the continent. The last, called Orca, is said to project out into the sea. The shortest side faces Europe and measures 7500 stadia; the second, extending from the channel to the extreme north, is said to be 15,000 stadia in length; while the last side measures 20,000 stadia; so the entire circumference of the island is 42,500 stadia.

They allege that the residents are the original inhabitants who still retain their primitive manners and customs. For in their battles they use chariots in the same manner as it is reported the ancient Greek heroes fought in the Trojan War. They live in small huts usually built of reeds or wood. When they have reaped their grain they store the ears cut from the stalk in underground storehouses. From thence they take as much of the oldest as will be needed for the day, and after grinding it they prepare their food from it. Their customs are simple, being far removed from the craftiness and wickedness of our time. They are content with frugal fare and do not have the desires which come with riches. The island has a large population, and has a cold climate, since it stretches so far to the north, lying directly under the Great Bear. Many kings and chieftains rule there, usually keeping peace among themselves.

The produc-
tion of tin
Concerning their institutions, and other things peculiar to the island, we shall speak specially when we come to the expedition of Cæsar into Britain. At this time we shall treat of 4 the tin which is dug from the ground. Those who dwell near Belerium, one of the headlands of Britain, are especially fond of strangers, and on account of their trade with the merchants they have a more civilized manner of living. They collect the tin after the earth has been skillfully forced to yield it. Although the land is stony, it has certain veins of earth from which they melt and purify the metal which has been extracted. After making this into bars they carry it to a certain island near Britain called Ictis. For although the place between is for the most part covered with water, yet in the middle there is dry ground, and over this they carry a great amount of tin in wagons. . . . Thence the merchants carry into Gaul the tin which they have bought from the inhabitants. And after a journey of thirty days on foot through Gaul, they convey their packs carried by horses to the mouths of the Rhone River.



1.  From Library of Histories, Lib. v, cc. 21, 22; trans. in Monumenta Historica Britannica, p. ii.


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