- Britons (historical)
Historically, the Britons (sometimes Brythons or British) were the P-Celtic speaking
indigenous peoplesinhabiting the island of Great Britainsouth of the river Forth. They were speakers of the Brythonic languages(also called P-Celtic) and shared common culturaltraditions. In terms of language and culture, much of north-western Europe was mainly Celtic during this period. The inhabitants of Ireland, the Isle of Manand Dál Riatawere Gaelsor "Gaelic Celts" who spoke Goidelic languages.
A number of scholars argue that the unknown
Pictish languagewas Brythonic, but in Sub-Roman Britainthe Picts were distinguished as a separate group, as were the Gaels of Dál Riata. Therefore, the term "Briton" traditionally refers to the inhabitants of ancient Britain "excluding" the Picts, because many Pictish cultural traits (for example their sculpture, potteryand monuments) differ from those of the Britons and because ancient writers clearly distinguish the two peoples.
The earliest known reference to the inhabitants of Britain seems to come from records of the voyage of
Pytheas, a Greek geographer who made a voyage of exploration around the British Islesbetween 330 and 320 BC. Although none of his own writings remain, writers during the time of the Roman Empiremade much reference to them. Pytheas called the Britons the " Pritani" or "Pretani",cite book
last = Snyder
first = Christopher A.
title = The Britons
date = 2003
id = ISBN 0-631-22260-X ] cite book
last = Foster (editor)
first = R F
coauthors = Donnchadh O Corrain, Professor of Irish History at University College Cork: Prehistoric and Early Christian Ireland
title = The Oxford History of Ireland
publisher = Oxford University Press
date = 1 November 2001
id = ISBN 0-19-280202-X ] and referred to the islands as the "Pritanic" or "Pretanic" islands. The term may have reached Pytheas from the
Gauls, who may have used it as "their" term for the inhabitants of the islands. [ [http://www.celticgrounds.com/chapters/encyclopedia/p.html Encyclopedia of the Celts] : Pretani]
The Latin name in the early Roman Empire period was "Britanni" or "Brittanni", following the Roman conquest in 43 BC. The single "-t-" in modern "Briton" is from an erroneous Latin form "Brito", "Britones" in medieval manuscript tradition; French "
Breton" derives from the more correct Latin form with double "-tt-". [ OEDs.v. "Briton". See also [http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=Briton Online Etymology Dictionary: Briton] ]
In current usage, "Briton" also refers to the modern - mainly English-speaking - inhabitants of the United Kingdom, the
British people, that is, as a collective term for the English, Scottish, Welsh and the Irish peoplefrom Northern Ireland. Welsh "Brython" was introduced into English usage by John Rhysin 1884 as a term unambiguously referring to the P-Celticspeakers of Great Britain, as complementing " Goidel"; hence the adjective " Brythonic" referring to the group of languages. [ [http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=Brythonic Online Etymology Dictionary: Brythonic] ] "Brittonic" is a more recent coinage (first attested 1923 according to OED) intended to refer to the ancient Britons specifically.
The Britons were speakers of the Brythonical (or Brittonic) languages. Brythonical languages are believed to have been spoken on the entire island of Britain as far north as the Clyde-Forth. Beyond this was the territory of the
Pictsand Gaels. According to early medievael historical tradition, the post-Roman Celtic-speakers of Armoricawere migrants from Britain, supposedly resulting in the similar Breton language, a language similar to Welsh which survives there to this day. Thus the area to day is called Brittania.
The Brythonical languages developed from
Proto-Celtic, after it was introduced to the British Isles from the continent. The first form of the Brythonical languages is believed to be British. After the Roman conquest of Britain, the British language adopted some words from Latin; hence it is sometimes termed Romano-British in this period.
Some linguistics have invented the terms Eastern, Western and Southwestern Brythonic to classify how the British language subsequently developed. The Eastern dialect was largely replaced by the invading
Anglo-Saxonsand their language. The Western and Southwestern developed into Cumbric, Welsh, Cornish and Breton. While Welsh, Cornish and Breteon survive today, Cumbric became extinct in the 12th Century.
Throughout their existence, the territory inhabited by the Britons was composed of numerous ever-changing areas controlled by tribes. The extent of their territory before and during the Roman period is unclear, but is generally believed to include the whole of the island of
Great Britain, as far north as the Clyde-Forth isthmus. The territory north of this was largely inhabited by the Picts, although a portion of it was eventually absorbed into the Gaelic kingdom of Dál Riata. The Isle of Manwas originally inhabited by Britons also, but eventually it became Gaelic territory. Meanwhile, Irelandis generally believed to have been entirely Gaelic throughout this period.
In 43 AD the Roman Empire invaded Britain. The Brythonic tribes continually opposed the Roman legions, but by 84 CE the Romans had conquered as far north as the Clyde-Forth isthmus, where they built the
Antonine Wall. However, after just twenty years they retreated south to Hadrian's Wall. Although the native Britons mostly kept their land, they were subject to the Roman governers. The Roman Empire retained control of "Britannia" until its departure about 400 AD.
Around the time of the Roman departure, the Germanic
Anglo-Saxonsbegan migrations to the eastern coast of Britain, where they set up kingdoms. Eventually, Brythonic language and culture in these areas was largely replaced by those of the Anglo-Saxons. At the same time, some Brythonic tribes migrated across the channel to what is now called Brittany, and to moorland areas like Cornwall and Northwest England, where Kingdoms such as Rhegedand Dumnoniawere established. There they set up their own small kingdoms and the Brythonic Breton languagedeveloped. By the end of the 1st millenniumAD, the Anglo-Saxons had conquered most of the Brythonic territory in Britain, and the language and culture of the native Britons had largely been extinguished, remaining only in the Southwestern Peninsula and Pennine areas of England, and Wales.
* Arthur – Romano-British war leader of debatable historicity.
Boudica– Queen of the Iceni, who led the rebellion against Roman occupation in 60 CE.
Caratacus– a leader of the defence against the Roman conquest of Britain.
Cartimandua– Queen of the Brigantesduring and after the Roman invasion.
Cassivellaunus– led the defence against Julius Caesar's second expedition to Britain in 54 BCE.
Mailoc- Bishop of Britonia(Galicia) in the 6th century AD
Commius– historical King of the Belgicnation of the Atrebates, initially in Gaul, then in Britannia, during the 1st century BCE.
Cunedda– post-Roman King and progenitor of the Kingdom of Gwynedd.
Cunobelinus– historical King of southern Britain between the first and second Roman invasions. The basis for Shakespeare's Cymbeline.
Cogidubnus- a British client-king, later made a citizen of Rome and awarded Fishbourne Roman Palace.
Pelagius– an influential Christianmonk and theologian, branded a heretic later in life.
Prasutagus– husband of Boudica.
Togodumnus– a leader of the defence against the Roman conquest of Britain.
Urien– King of Rheged(modern Lancashireand Cumbria).
Vortigern– warlord and King in the 5th century CE. Best known for inviting the Jutesto Kent.
Alternative words for British
British Isles (terminology)
History of the British Isles
King of the Britons
List of Celtic tribes
List of legendary kings of Britain
* The History Files: [http://www.historyfiles.co.uk/FeaturesBritain/BritishMap.htm The Island of Britain AD 450-600] (Map of British territories)
* The History Files: [http://www.historyfiles.co.uk/index.html Main Index]
* [http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/british_prehistory/iron_01.shtml BBC - History - Native Tribes of Britain]
* [http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/programmes/bloodofthevikings/genetics_results_07.shtml DNA from ethnic Britons found in Ireland]
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