Beric the Briton
G. A. Henty
Part 8 out of 8
boar in the thickest parts of the forests. It was also advisable
to know what was passing elsewhere, and to have warning of the
approach of any body of troops from the camps round it. Accordingly,
while the Britons remained with Beric, who took up his quarters
in the forest at the foot of one of the loftiest crags, whence a
view could be obtained of the hills from Rhegium to Cosenza, the
rest were broken up into parties of five. Signals were arranged by
which by smoke during day or fire at night warning could be given
of the approach of an enemy, and also whether it was a mere scouting
party or a strong column.
For another three months they lived among the hills. Their life
was rougher than it had been, for they had now to subsist entirely
upon the spoils of the chase, and bread made of ground acorns and
beechnuts, mixed with a very small portion of flour. The latter was
obtained from lonely cottages, for Beric insisted that no villages
should be entered.
"There may be soldiers in every hamlet on the hills, and I would
have no risk run of death or capture. Did a few of us fall into
their hands it would encourage them to continue their blockade, but
as time goes on, and it is found that their presence is entirely
fruitless, they may be recalled."
For the first few weeks, indeed, after the failure of the attempt
to entrap Beric, parties were sent up into the hills from all the
camps, for as the remaining band of gladiators was known to number
under a hundred men, it would be no longer necessary for the assailants
to move as an army; but after marching hither and thither through
the forests without finding any signs of the fugitives the troops
returned to their camps, and a fortnight later the greater portion
of them were either transported to Sicily or sent north, a few
hundred men only remaining to watch for the reappearance of the
band. From time to time Philo went down to Rhegium to gather news
of what was passing. As the farmer had not been troubled since
the visit of the troopers, they renewed their relations with him,
except that they abstained from purchasing food of him lest he
should be again questioned. Nevertheless he occasionally sent up
by Philo a skin of wine as a present to Beric.
"So that I can swear that I have sold them nothing, and that they
have taken nothing, there is little chance of my ever being asked
if I made them a present," he said.
He was surprised one day by a visit from a Roman, who informed him
that he was secretary to the general, and whom, indeed, he had seen
when brought before him.
"Do you still hear aught of the brigands, Cornelius?" he asked.
The farmer was taken aback by this question.
"No harm is intended you," Nepo said. "The general may have reason
for desiring to communicate with the band, whose leader at one
time stayed in your house, and which is now the last remnant of the
gladiators among the hills. The search for them has been given up
as vain, and probably he will receive orders from Rome to withdraw
the troops altogether and to offer terms to the gladiators. At
present he cannot communicate with them, and he would be glad for
you to renew your connection with them, not to assist them by selling
them food or receiving them here, but that you should arrange some
means of communication with them."
"I might manage that," the farmer said. "It is true that once or
twice some of them have come down here. They have taken nothing,
and have come, I think, more to learn what is passing without than
for any other purpose; but it may be some time before they come
"At any rate," Nepo said, "when they do come, do you arrange for
a signal, such, for instance, as lighting two fires on the crest
above there, with plenty of green wood, that would make a smoke which
would be seen for many miles away. This smoke will tell them that
there is a message for them from the general. I give you my word
as a Roman that no treachery is intended, and I myself, accompanied
perhaps by one officer, but no more, will bring it up here and be
in waiting to see their chief; so you see I should place myself
much more in his hands than he in mine."
It was but a few days before Beric received this message. It filled
him with hope, for remembering what Berenice had said about the
proclamation of Galba as emperor, it seemed to him that this life
as a fugitive might be approaching its end. For himself he was
perfectly happy. He and his Britons lived much as they had done at
home. It required hard work to keep the larder supplied, but this
only gave a greater zest to the chase. They sighed sometimes for
the cool skies of Britain, but in other respects they were perfectly
Since the soldiers had been withdrawn they had had no difficulty in
obtaining the two things they most required, flour and wine, and,
indeed, sometimes brought up sacks of grain and jars of honey,
from which they manufactured a sweet beer such as they had drunk
at home, and was to them far better than wine. Beric, perhaps, was
more anxious for a change than any of his followers. Aemilia seemed
perfectly happy, her spirits were as high now as when he had first
known her as a girl at Massilia. She was the life and soul of the
little band, and the Britons adored her; but Beric remembered that
she had been brought up in comfort and luxury, and longed to give
her similar surroundings. Although for luxuries he himself cared
nothing, he did sometimes feel an ardent desire again to associate
with men such as he had met at the house of Norbanus, to enjoy
long talks on literary and other subjects, and to discuss history
"It is good," he said one day to Aemilia, "for a man who lives among
his fellows to have learned to enjoy study and to find in enlightened
conversation his chief pleasure, but if his lot is thrown far
from towns it were far better that he had known nothing of these
One morning Boduoc, who had gone up early to the summit of the
crag, brought down the news that he could make out two columns of
smoke rising from the hill over Rhegium.
"I hope to bring you back good news tomorrow, Aemilia," Beric said
as he at once prepared to start. "I may find Nepo at the farm when
I get there and may possibly be back tonight, but it is full six
hours' journey, and as there is no moon I can hardly travel after
"I shall not expect you till tomorrow, Beric. It were best
to arrange that, and then I shall not be looking for you. Even if
Nepo is there when you arrive, you will want a long talk with him,
and it is likely that Pollio will be with him, so do not think of
starting back till the morning."
It was just noon when Beric reached the farm.
"You are just to the time," Cornelius said. "I received an order
at daybreak this morning to light the fires and to tell you if
you came that the general's secretary would be here at noon. See,
there are two figures coming up the hill now."
The moment he saw that they had passed the fork of the paths and
were really coming to the house Beric rushed down to meet them,
and as he approached saw that they were indeed Pollio and Nepo. He
and Pollio embraced each other affectionately.
"I am well pleased indeed," Pollio said, "that we meet here for
the first time, and that I did not encounter you in the forests.
By the gods, but you have grown into a veritable giant. Why, you
must overtop the tallest of your band."
"By an inch or two, Pollio. And you have altered somewhat too."
"The cares of matrimony age a man rapidly," Pollio said laughing,
"though doubtless they sit lightly on your huge shoulders. Why,
you could let my little cousin sit on your hand and hold her out
at arm's length. I always told her that she would need a masterful
husband to keep her in order, and truly she is well suited. And
now for my news, Beric. Nero is dead. The news arrived last night."
Beric uttered an exclamation of surprise. "How died he?" he asked.
"By his own hand. When the news came that other legions had followed
the example of those of Galba, all fell away from Nero, and the
Praetorians themselves, whom he had petted and spoilt, having no
inclination for a fight with Galba's legionaries, proclaimed the
latter emperor. Then Nero showed himself a craven, flying in disguise
to the house of Phaon. There he remained in hiding, weeping and
terrified, knowing that he must die, but afraid to kill himself.
He may well have thought then of how many he had compelled to die,
and how calmly and fearlessly they had opened their veins. It was
not until he heard the trampling of the horsemen sent to seize him
that he nerved himself, and even then could not strike, but placing
the point of a dagger against his breast, bade a slave drive it
"The senate proclaimed Galba emperor two days before the death of
Nero; but as yet all is uncertain. There are other generals whose
legions may dispute this point. Syria and Egypt may choose Vespasian;
the Transalpine legions, who favoured Vindex, may pronounce for some
other. The Praetorians themselves, with the sailors of the fleet,
knowing that Galba has the reputation of being close fisted, may
choose someone who may flatter and feast them as Nero did. As yet
there is no saying what will be done, but at any rate your chief
enemy is dead. Muro bids me say that some months may yet elapse
before Galba comes to Rome; but that, as he has at present no
imperial master, and the senate will be far too busy wrangling and
persecuting the adherents of the man whom but a short time since
they declared to be a god, to trouble themselves about a handful
of gladiators in Bruttium, he will at once collect his troops at
Rhegium, and you will be entirely unmolested if you promise that
your band will in no way ill treat the people. I know that they
have not hitherto done so, and that they will not do so, but the
fact that he has a formal engagement with you to that effect will
justify him in withdrawing his troops. Indeed, he said that it
would be better, perhaps, that a document should be drawn up and
signed, in which you pledge yourself to peaceful courses, urging
that it was but the tyranny of Nero that forced you to become
fugitives, and craving that, as your band has never done any harm
to the people, an amnesty may be granted you. This document will
aid him when he meets Galba. He will not wait until the latter
comes to Rome, but will shortly ask permission from the senate to
quit his post for a time, all being quiet here, and will at once
take ship to Massilia and see Galba. The new emperor is not, he
says, a man bent on having his own way, but always leans on friends
for advice, and he feels sure that his representations will suffice
to obtain a free pardon for your band, and permission for them to
leave the mountains and go wheresoever they will, so that in that
case there will be nought to prevent you and your followers returning
"This is joyous news indeed, Pollio, and I cannot too warmly thank
the general for his kindness to me. As to Berenice--"
"There, there," Pollio said laughing, "let us hear nothing about
Berenice. She is a self willed woman, and I am not responsible for
her doings, and want to hear nothing more of them than she chooses
to tell me."
By this time they had reached the farmhouse, where a meal was
speedily prepared, and they sat talking together until evening,
when Pollio and his companion returned to Rhegium.
Another three months passed. There was now no lack of food among
the outlaws. They still hunted, but it was for amusement, buying
sheep and other animals from the villagers, together with all else
they required, the natives rejoicing in finding good customers
instead of dangerous neighbours among the hills.
At last the signal smokes again ascended, and Beric, taking Aemilia
with him, made his way to the farmhouse, where he learned that
Nepo had been there with a message that he desired to see Beric in
Rhegium. This was sufficient to show that Muro's mission had been
to some extent successful, and after resting for an hour or two at
the farmhouse they descended the hill. Beric had purchased suitable
garments to replace the goatskins which had for a long time
previously been worn by the outlaws, their rough work in the woods
having speedily reduced their garments to rags, and save that
men looked up and marvelled his size, he passed almost unnoticed
through the streets of Rhegium to the house of the general. Orders
had been given that he was to be admitted, for the sentries passed
him without question. As the slave at the door conducted them into
the atrium Muro advanced with outstretched hands.
"Welcome! thrice welcome, Beric! Had I not heard from Pollio how
you had changed, I should not have recognized in you the British
lad I parted with six years ago in Britain. And this is your wife?
Pollio, spare your cousin to me for a moment. I am glad to know
you, Aemilia. I never met your father, though I have often heard
of him as a noble Roman, and I know that his daughter is worthy of
being the wife of Beric, not only from what I have heard of you
from my son in law, but from your readiness to share the exile
and perils of your husband. I see that Berenice has greeted you as
if she knew you. A month since I should have said that that was
impossible," and a smile passed over his face, "but now I may admit
that it may have been. And now for my news. I have seen Galba, and
have strongly represented to him the whole facts of the case, and
I have, under his hand, a free pardon for yourself and all your
followers, who are permitted to go wheresoever they please, without
molestation from any. But more than that, I have represented to
him how useful it would be that the Britons of the east, where the
great rising against Rome took place, should be governed by one of
their own chiefs, who, having a knowledge of the might and power
of Rome, would, more than any other, be able to influence them in
remaining peaceful and adopting somewhat of our civilization. He
has, therefore, filled up an appointment creating you provincial
governor of that part of Britain lying north of the Thames as far
as the northern estuary, and bounded on the east by the region of
swamps--the land of the Trinobantes, the Iceni, and a portion of
the Brigantes--with full power over that country, and answerable
only to the propraetor himself. Moreover, he has written to him on
the subject, begging him to give you a free hand, and to support
you warmly against the minor Roman officials of the district. I
need not say that I answered for you fully, and pledged myself that
you would in all things be faithful to Rome, and would use your
influence to the utmost to reconcile the people to our rule."
Beric was for a time too overcome to be able to thank Muro for his
"I have repaid in a small way the debt that I and Pollio owe you,"
he said. "The senate has not at present ratified the appointment,
but that is a mere form, and it will not be presented to them until
Galba arrives. They are eagerly looking for his coming to free
them from the excesses and tyranny of the Praetorian guard, led by
Nymphidius the prefect, who has himself been scheming to succeed
Nero, and they will ratify without question all that Galba may
request. In the meantime there need be no delay. We can charter
a ship to convey you and your British and Gaulish followers to
Massilia. Galba is already supreme there, and thence you can travel
as a Roman official of high rank. I will, of course, furnish you
with means to do so."
"In that respect I am still well provided," Beric said. "Nero,
with all his faults, was generous, and was, in addition to my
appointments, continually loading me with presents, which I could
not refuse. Even after paying for all that was necessary for my
band during the past year, I am a wealthy man, and have ample to
support Aemilia in luxury to the end of our lives."
"You will, of course, draw no pay until your arrival in Britain;
but after that your appointment will be ample. However, I shall
insist upon chartering the ship to convey you to Massilia."
The beacon fires were lighted again next morning, and an hour later
Beric met Boduoc, whom he had, on leaving, directed to follow with
the Britons, and to post himself near the crest of the hills. He
returned with him to the band, who were transported with delight
at hearing the news. Messengers were at once sent off to the party
under Gatho, and on the following day the whole band reassembled,
the joy of the Gauls being no less than that of the Britons.
"You will have to take me with you, Beric," Porus said. "I am fit
for nothing here save the arena. I have been away from Scythia
since I was a boy, and should find myself a stranger there."
"I will gladly take you, Porus, and will find you a wife among my
countrywomen. You have shared in my perils, and should share in
my good fortunes. You must all remain here among the hills till I
send you up word that the ship is in readiness. Boduoc will come
down with me, and will send up to the farm garments to replace
your sheepskins, for truly Rhegium would be in an uproar did you
descend in your present garb. Boduoc will bring you instructions
as to your coming down. It were best that you came after nightfall,
and in small parties, and went direct on board the ship which he
will point out to you. We do not wish to attract attention or to
cause a talk in the town, as the news would be carried to Rome, and
the senate might question the right of Muro to act upon a document
which they have not yet ratified. Therefore we wish it kept quiet
until the arrival of Galba at Rome."
A week later the whole party stood on the deck of a ship in the
port of Rhegium. Beric had bidden farewell to Muro at his house;
Pollio and Berenice accompanied him and Aemilia on board.
"I do not mean this as a farewell for ever, Beric," Pollio said.
"I foresee that we are going to have troubled times in Rome. Nero
was the last of his race, and no one now has greater right than his
fellows to be emperor. Now that they have once begun these military
insurrections, for the proclamation of Galba was nothing else, I
fear we shall have many more. The throne is open now to any ambitious
man who is strong enough to grasp it. Generals will no longer think
of defeating the enemies of their country and of ruling provinces.
As propraetors they will seek to gain the love and vote of their
soldiers; discipline will become relaxed, and the basest instead
of the noblest passions of the troops be appealed to. We may have
civil wars again, like those of Marius and Scylla, and Anthony and
Brutus. I hate the intrigues of Rome, and loathe the arts of the
demagogue, and to this our generals will descend. Therefore I shall
soon apply for service in Britain again. Muro approves, and when
I obtain an office there he will come out and build another villa,
and settle and end his days there.
"There is little chance of the troops in Britain dealing in intrigues.
They are too far away to make their voice heard, too few to impose
their will upon Rome. Therefore he agrees with me that there is more
chance of peace and contentment there than anywhere. The Britons
have given no trouble since the Iceni surrendered, and I look to
the time when we shall raise our towns there and live surrounded by
a contented people. You may visit Muro at his house in Camalodunum
once again, Beric."
"It will be a happy day for us when you come, Pollio, you and Berenice;
and glad indeed shall I be to have her noble father dwelling among
us. Whatever troubles there may be in other parts of Britain I
cannot say, but I think I can answer that in Eastern Britain there
will never again be a rising."
"They are throwing off the ropes," Pollio said; "we must go ashore.
May the gods keep and bless you both!"
"And may my God, who has almost become Beric's God, also bless you
and Berenice and Muro!" Aemilia said.
Ten minutes later the ship had left port, and was making her way
up the Straits of Messina. The weather was fair with a southerly
wind, running before which the ship coasted along inside the
mountainous isle of Sardinia, passed through the straits between
that and Corsica, then shaped its course for Massilia, where it
arrived without adventure. There was some surprise in the town at
the appearance of Beric and his followers, and they were escorted
by the guard at the port to the house of the chief magistrate. On
Beric's presenting to him his appointment, signed by Galba, and the
safe conduct for himself and his comrades, the magistrate invited
him and Aemilia to stay at his house. There were many officials to
whom Aemilia was known when she dwelt there with her father, and
for ten days they stayed in the city. The Gauls of Beric's party
proceeded to their various destinations on the day after they
landed, Beric making a present to each to enable them to defray the
expenses of their travel to their respective homes, and obtaining
a separate safe conduct for each from the chief magistrate. Bidding
adieu to their friends at Massilia the Britons started north.
While in the town Beric obtained for his twenty followers a dress
which was a mixture of that of the Britons and Romans, having the
trousers or leggings of the British and the short Roman tunic. All
were armed with sword, shield, and spear. Aemilia travelled in a
carriage; the two female slaves had been given their freedom and
left behind at Rhegium. Beric was handsomely attired in a dress
suitable to his rank, but, like his followers, wore the British
leggings. A horse was taken with them for him to ride when they
passed through towns, but generally it was led by Philo, and Beric
marched with his men. They took long journeys, for the men were
all eager to be home, and, inured as they were to fatigue, thought
nothing of doing each day double the distance that was regarded as
an ordinary day's journey.
At the towns through which they passed the people gazed with
surprise at Beric and his bodyguard, and warm sympathy was shown
by the Gauls for the Britons returning after their captivity in
Rome. On arriving at the northwesterly port of Gaul, Beric learned
that London, Verulamium, and Camalodunum had been rebuilt, and
that the propraetor had established himself in London as his chief
place of residence. Beric therefore hired a ship, which sailed
across the straits to the mouth of the Thames, ascended the river,
and four days after putting out anchored at London. Beric and his
followers were surprised at the change which had been effected in
the six years which had passed since they saw it a heap of ruins.
A temple of Diana had been erected on the highest point of ground.
Near this was the palace of the propraetor, and numerous villas
of the Roman officials were scattered on the slopes. A strong wall
surrounded the Roman quarter, beyond which clustered the houses of
the traders, already forming a place of considerable size.
Upon landing Beric proceeded, accompanied by Boduoc, to the palace
of the propraetor, to whom he presented Galba's letter especially
recommending him, and his own official appointment. Celsius, who
had succeeded Petronius as propraetor, had received Beric sitting;
but upon reading the document rose and greeted him cordially.
"I have heard much of you, Beric, since I came here," he said, "and
many have been the entreaties of your people to me that I would
write to Rome to pray Caesar to restore you to them. I did so write
to Nero, but received no reply; but my friends keep me acquainted
with what is passing there, and the story of your combat with the
lion in the arena, and of your heading a revolt in Nero's palace
reached me. As it was about the time of the latter event that
I wrote to Caesar, I wondered not that I received no answer to my
letter. After that I heard that you had been giving terrible trouble
in Bruttium to Caius Muro, and little dreamed that my next news of
you would be that Galba had appointed you Governor of the Eastern
"It was upon the recommendation and by the good offices of Muro,"
Beric said. "I had been brought up at his house at Camalodunum,
and had the good fortune to save his daughter's life at the sack
of that city. He knew that I had been driven by the conduct of Nero
into revolt, and that, even though in arms against Rome, I and my
band had injured and robbed no Roman man or woman. He represented
to Galba that, holding in high respect the power of Rome, and being
well regarded by my people here, I should, more than any stranger,
be able to persuade them of the madness of any further rising against
the imperial power, and to induce them to apply themselves to the
arts of agriculture, and to become, like the Gauls, a settled people
contented and prosperous.
"These arguments had weight with the emperor, who, as you see, has
been pleased to appoint me governor of the province that my people
occupied, together with that adjoining on the south, formerly belonging
to the Trinobantes, and on the north occupied by a portion of the
"I think the emperor has done well, and I look for great results
from your appointment, Beric. I am convinced that it is the best
policy to content a conquered people by placing over them men of
their own race and tongue, instead of filling every post by strangers
who are ignorant of their ways and customs, and whose presence
and dress constantly remind them that they are governed by their
conquerors. Where do you think of establishing yourself--at
"No. Camalodunum is a Roman town; the people would not so freely
come to me there to arbitrate in their disputes. I shall fix it
at Norwich, which lies midway between Camalodunum and the northern
boundary of the province, and through which, as I hear, one of your
roads has now been made."
After staying three days in London as the guest of Celsius, Beric
started for the seat of his government, attended by his own bodyguard
and a centurion with a company of Roman soldiers. The news that a
British governor had been appointed to the province spread rapidly,
and at Verulamium, where he stopped for two days, crowds of the
country people assembled and greeted him with shouts of welcome.
Beric assured them that he had been sent by the emperor Galba,
who desired to see peace and contentment reign in Britain, and had
therefore appointed a countryman of their own as governor of their
province, and that, though he should make Norwich the place of his
government, he should journey about throughout the country, listen
to all complaints and grievances, and administer justice against
offenders, whatever their rank and station.
Above all he exhorted them to tranquillity and obedience. "Rome
wishes you well," he said, "and would fain see you as contented
beneath her sway as is Gaul, and as are the other countries she
has conquered and occupied. We form part of the Roman Empire now,
that is as fixed and irrevocable as the rising and setting of the
sun. To struggle against Rome is as great a folly as for an infant
to wrestle with a giant. But once forming a part of the empire we
shall share in its greatness. Towns will rise over the land and
wealth increase, and all will benefit by the civilization that Rome
will bring to us."
He addressed similar speeches to the people at each halting
place, and was everywhere applauded, for the Trinobantes had felt
most heavily the power of Rome, and all thought of resistance had
faded out since the terrible slaughter that followed the defeat of
Beric did not turn aside to enter Camalodunum, but kept his course
north. The news of his coming had preceded him, and the Iceni flocked
to meet him, and gave him an enthusiastic welcome. They were proud
of him as a national hero; he alone of their chiefs had maintained
resistance against the Romans, and his successes had obliterated
the humiliation of their great defeat. Great numbers of those who
came to meet him owed their lives to the refuge he had provided
for them in the swamps, and they considered that it was to his
influence they owed it, that after his capture they were allowed
to return to their native villages, and to take up their life there
unmolested by the Romans.
The members of his band, too, found relations and friends among
the crowd, and it added to their enthusiasm that Beric had brought
back with him every one of his companions in captivity. Aemilia was
much affected at the evidence of her husband's popularity, and at
the shouting crowd of great fair haired men and women who surged
round the escort, and who, when Beric took her by the hand and
bidding her stand up in the chariot presented her to the Iceni as
his wife, shouted for her almost as enthusiastically as they had
done for him.
"What a little insignificant thing these tall British matrons and
maids must think me, Beric!" she said.
"We all admire our opposites, Aemilia, that is how it was that you
came to fall in love with me; these people can have seen but few
Roman ladies, and doubtless there is not one among them who does
not think as I do, that with your dark hair and eyes, and the rich
colour of your cheek, you are the loveliest woman that they ever
"If they knew what you were saying they would lose all respect for
you, Beric," she said laughing and colouring. "We have been married
nearly a year, sir--a great deal too long for you to pay me
"You must remember that you are in Britain now, Aemilia, and though
in Rome men regard themselves as the lords and masters of their
wives it is not so here, where women are looked upon as in every
way equal to men. I expect that you will quite change under the
influence of British air, and that though I am nominally governor
it is you who will rule. You will see that in a short time the
people will come to you with their petitions as readily as to me."
As soon as Beric established himself at Norwich he set about the
erection of a suitable abode; the funds were provided as was usual
from the treasury of the province--a certain sum from the taxes
raised being set aside to pay the share of the national tribute to
Rome, while the rest was devoted to the payment of officials, the
construction of roads, public works, and buildings. Long before
the house was finished a child was born to Beric, the event being
celebrated with great festivity by the Iceni, contrary to their
own customs, for among themselves a birth was regarded rather as
an occasion of mourning than of rejoicing.
Beric set vigorously to work to put the affairs of the province in
order; he appointed Boduoc to an important office under him, and
to act for him during his absences, which were at first frequent,
as he constantly travelled about the country holding courts,
redressing grievances, punishing and degrading officials who had
abused their position or ill treated the people, and appointing in
many cases natives in their places. Bitter complaints were made by
the dispossessed Roman officials to Celsius, who, however, declined
in any way to interfere, saying that Beric had received the fullest
powers from Galba, and that, moreover, did he interfere with him
it was clear that there would be another revolt of the Iceni.
Galba fell, and was succeeded by Otho, who was very shortly afterwards
followed by Vespasian, a just, though severe emperor. Complaints
were laid before him by powerful families, whose relations had
been dismissed by Beric, and the latter was ordered to furnish a
full explanation of his conduct. Beric replied by a long and full
report of his government. Vespasian was greatly struck alike by the
firmness with which Beric defended himself, and by the intelligence
and activity with which, as the report showed, he had conducted
the affairs of his province; he therefore issued an order for the
disaffected officials to return at once to Rome, confirmed Beric
in the powers granted him by Galba, and gave him full authority to
dismiss even the highest Roman officials in the district should he
see occasion to do so.
Roman towns and stations had sprung up all over the island, roads
and bridges opened the way for trade. Now that the tribal wars
had ceased, and the whole people had become welded into one, they
turned their attention more and more to agriculture. The forest
diminished rapidly in extent; the Roman plough took the place
of the rough hoe of the Briton, houses of brick and stone that of
rough huts; intermarriages became frequent. The Roman legionaries
became established as military colonists and took British wives.
The foreign traders and artisans, who formed the bulk of the
populations of the towns, did the same; and although this in the
end had the effect of diminishing the physical proportions of the
British, and lowering the lofty stature and size that had struck
the Romans on their landing with astonishment, it introduced many
characteristics hitherto wanting in the race, and aided in their
conversion from tribes of fierce warriors into a settled and
Among the many who came to Britain, were some Christians who
sought homes in the distant island to escape the persecutions at
Rome. There was soon a colony of these settled at Norwich under the
protection of Aemilia. They brought with them an eloquent priest,
and in a short time Beric, already strongly inclined to the Christian
religion, openly accepted that faith, which spread rapidly throughout
his government. Porus was not long in finding a British wife, and
never regretted the day when he left the ludus of Scopus and joined
his fortunes to those of Beric. Philo embraced Christianity, and
became a priest of that church.
A year after Beric came to Britain he and Aemilia were delighted
by the arrival of Pollio and Berenice with Caius Muro. The former
had at the accession of Otho, with whom his family were connected,
obtained a civil appointment in Britain, and at Beric's request
Celsius appointed him to the control of the collection of taxes in
his district, there being constant complaints among the people of
the rapacity and unfairness of the Roman official occupying this
position. Pollio therefore established himself also at Norwich;
Muro, with whom came Cneius Nepo, taking up his residence there with
him, and as many other Roman families were there, neither Aemilia
nor Berenice ever regretted the loss of the society of Rome. Pollio
proved an excellent official, and ably seconded Beric in his efforts
to render the people contented.
Had Beric foreseen the time when the Romans would abandon Britain,
and leave it to the mercy of the savages of the north and of the
pirates of North Germany and Scandinavia, he would have seen that
the extinction of the martial qualities of the British would lead
to their ruin; but that Rome would decay and fall to pieces and
become the prey of barbarians, was a contingency beyond human ken,
and he and those who worked with him thought that the greatest
blessing they could bestow upon their country was to render it
a contented and prosperous province of the Roman Empire. This he
succeeded in doing in his own government, and when, full of years and
rich in the affection of his countrymen, he died, his son succeeded
him in the government, and for many generations the eastern division
of the island was governed by descendants of Beric the Briton.
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