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afterwards well known by the name of Daci, and passed originally into Europe by the way of the northern coun. tries, and settled beyond the Danube, towards the vast regions of Transilvania, Wallachia, and Moldavia ; and from thence advanced by degrees into Germany. The Celtæ e, it is certain, sent many colonies into that country, all of whom retained their own laws, language, and customs; and it is of them, if any colonies came from Germany into Scotland, that the ancient Caledonians were descended.
But whether the Caledonians were a colony of the Celtic Germans, or the same with the Gauls that first possessed themselves of Britain, is a matter of no moment at this distance of time. Whatever their origin was, we find them very numerous in the time of Julius Agricola, which is a presumption that they were long before settled in the country. The form of their government was a mixture of aristocracy and monarchy, as it was in all the countries where the druids held the chief sway. This order of men seems to have been formed on the same system with the Dactyli, Idæi, and Curetes of the ancients. Their pretended intercourse with heaven, their magic and divinations, were the same. The knowledge of the druids in natural causes, and the properties of certain things, the fruit of the experiments of ages, gained them a mighty reputation ainong the people. The esteem of the populace soon increased into a veneration for the order; which a cunning and ambitious tribe of men took care to im. prove, to such a degree, that they, in a manner, ingrossed the management of civil, as well as religious matters. It is generally allowed, that they did not de buse their extraordinary power : the preserving their character of sanctity was so essential to their influence, that they never broke out into violence or oppression. The chiefs were allowed to execute the laws, but the legislative power was entirely in the hands of the druids go It was by their authority that the tribes were united, in times of the greatest danger, under one head. This
temporary king, or Vergobretus“, was chosen by them, and generally laid down his office at the end of the war., These priests long enjoyed this extraordinary privilege among the Celtic nations who lay beyond the pale of the Roman empire. It was in the beginning of the se. cond century that their power among the Caledonians began to decline. The poems that celebrate Trathal and Cormac, ancestors to Fingal, are full of particulars concerning the fall of the druids, which accounts for the total silence concerning their religion in the poems that are now offered to the public,
The continual wars of the Caledonians against the Romans,hindered the nobility from initiating themselves, as the custom formerly was, into the order of the druids. The precepts of their religion were confined to a few, and were not much attended to by a people inured to war. The Vergobretus, or chief magistrate, was chosen without the concurrence of the hierarchy, or continued in his office against their will. Continual power strengthened his interest among the tribes, and enabled him to send down, as hereditary to his posterity, the office he had only received himself by election,
On the occasion of a new war against the King of the World, as the poems emphatically call the Roman emperor, the druids, to vindicate the honour of the order, began to resume their ancient privilege of chusing the Ver. gobretus. Garmal, the son of Tarno, being deputed by them, came to the grandfather of the celebrated Fingal, who was then Vergobretus, and commanded him, in the name of the whole order, to lay down his office. Upon his resusal, a civil war commenced, which soon ended in almost the total extinction of the religious order of the druids. A few that remained, retired to the dark recesses of their groves, and the caves they had formerly used for their meditations. It is then we find them in the circle of stones,' and urheeded by the world. A total disregard for the order, and utter ab. horrence for the druidical rites, ensued. Under this cloud of public hate, all that any knowledge of the religion of the druids became extinct, and the nation fell
into the last degree of ignorance of their rites and ceremonies.
It is no matter of wonder then, that Fingal, and his son Ossian, made so little, if any mention of the druids, who were the declared enemies to their succession in the supreme magistracy. It is a singular case, it must be allowed, that there are no traces of religion in the Poems ascribed to Ossian; as the poetical compositions of other nations are so closely connected with their mythology. It is hard to account for it to those who are not made acquainted with the manners of the old Scottish bards. That race of men carried their notions of martial honour to an extravagant pitch. Any aid given their heroes in battle, was thought to derogate from their fame; and the bards immediately transferred the glory of the action to him who gave that aid.
Had Ossian brought down gods, as often as Homer hath done, to assist his heroes, this poem had not consisted of eulogiums on his friends, but of hymns to these superior beings. To this day, those that write in the Gaelic language seldom mention religion in their profane poetry; and when they professedly write of religion, they never interlard their compositions with the ac, tions of their heroes. This custom alone, even though the religion of the druids had not been previously extin-", guished, may, in some measure, account for Ossian's silence concerning the religion of his own times.
To say that a nation is void of all religion, is the same thing as to say, that it does not consist of people endued with reason. The traditions of their fathers, and their own observations on the works of nature, together with that superstition which is inherent in the human frame, kave, in all ages, raised in the minds of men some idea of a superior being. Hence it is, that in the darkest times, and amongst the most barbarous nations, the very populace themselves had some faint notion, at least, of a divinity. It would be doing injustice to Ossian, who, upon no occasion, shews a narrow mind, to think that he had not opened his conceptions to that nrimitive and createst of all truths. But let Ossian's
religion be what it will, it is certain he had no knowledge of Christianity, as there is not the least allusion to it, or any of its rites, in his poems; which absolutely fixos him to an era prior to the introduction of that religion. The persecution begun by Dioclesian in the year 303, is the most probable time in which the first dawning of Christianity in the north of Britain can be fixed. The humane and mild character of Constantius Chloris, who commanded them in Britain, induced the persecuted Christians to take refuge under him. Some of them, through a zeal to propagate their tenets, or through fear, went beyond the pale of the Roman empire, and settled among the Caledonians; who were the more ready to hearken to their doctrines, as the religion of the druids had been exploded so long before.
These missionaries, either through choice, or to give more weight to the doctrine they advanced, took possession of the cells and groves of the druids; and it was from this retired life they had the name of Culdees a, which in the language of the country signified sequestered persons. It was with one of the Culdees, that Ossian, in bis extreme old age, is said to have disputed concerning the Christian religion. This dispute is still extant, and is couched in verse, according to the custom of the times. The extreme ignorance on the part of Ossian of the Christian tenets, shews, that that religion had only been lately introduced, as it is not easy to conceive, how one of the first rank could be totally unacquainted with a religion that had been known for any time in the country. The dispute bears the genuine mark of antiquity. The obselete phrases and expressions peculiar to the times, prove it to be no forgery. If Ossian then lived at the introduction of Christianity, as by all appearance he did, his epoch will be the latter end of the third, and the beginning of the fourth century. What puts this point beyond dispute, is the allusion in his poems to the history of the times.
The exploits of Fingal against Caracuis, the son of the King of the World, are among the first brave actions
of his youth. A complete Poem, which relates to this subject, is printed in this collection. '
In the year 210 the Emperor Severus, after returning from his expedition against the Caledonians, at York, fell into the tedious illness of which he afterwards died. The Caledonians and Maiatæ, resuming courage from his indisposition, took arms in order to recover the possessions they had lost. The enraged emperor commanded his army to march into their country, and to destroy it with fire and sword. His orders were but ill executed, for his son Caracalla was at the head of the army, and his thoughts were entirely taken up with the hopes of his father's death, and with schemes to supplant his bro. ther Geta. He scarcely had entered the enemy's country, when news was brought him that Severus was dead. A sudden peace was patched up with the Caledonians, and, as it appears from Dion Cassius, the country they had lost to Severus was restored to them.
The Caracul of Fingal is no other than Caracalla, who, as the son of Severus, the emperor of Rome, whose dominions were extended over almost the known world, was not without reason called, in the Poems of Ossian, the Son of the King of the World. The space of time between 211, the year Severus died, and the beginning of the fourth century, is not so great, but Ossian, the son of Fingal, might have seen the Christians whom the persecution under Dioclesian had driven beyond the pale of the Roman empire.
Ossian, in one of his many lamentations on the death of his beloved son Oscar, mentions, among his great actions, a battle which he fought against Caros, king of ships, on the banks of the winding Carun.a It is more than probable, that the Caros mentioned here is the same with the noted usurper, Carausius, who assumed the purple in the year 287, and, seizing on Britain, defeated the emperor Maximinian Herculius, in in several naval engagements, which gives propriety to his being called, in Ossian's Poems, the King of Ships.
a Car-rayon, winding river.'