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Geoffrey of Monmouth History of the Kings of Britain

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History of the Kings of Britain

Geoffrey of Monmouth

Historia Regum Britanniae

Book I.

Chapter 1. The epistle dedicatory to Robert earl of Gloucester

Whilst occupied on many and various studies, I happened to light upon the History of the Kings of Britain, and wondered that in the account which Gildas and Bede, in their elegant treatises, had given of them, I found nothing said of those kings who lived here before the Incarnation of Christ, nor of Arthur and many others who succeeded after the Incarnation, though their actions both deserved immortal fame, and were also celebrated by many people in a pleasant manner and by heart, as if they had been written. Whilst I was intent upon these and such like thoughts, Walter, archdeacon of Oxford, a man of great eloquence, and learned in foreign histories, offered me a very ancient Book in the British tongue, which, in a continued regular story and elegant style, related the actions of them all, from Brutus the first king of the Britons, down to Cadwallader the son of Cadwallo. At his request, therefore, though I had not made fine language my study, by collecting florid expressions from other authors, yet Firsted with my own homely style, I undertook the translation of that Book into Latin. For if I had swelled the pages with rhetorical flourishes, I must have tired my readers, by employing their attention more upon my words than upon the history. To you, therefore, Robert earl of Gloucester, this work humbly sues for the favour of being so corrected by your advice, that it may not be thought to be the poor offspring of Geoffrey of Monmouth, but when polished by your refined wit and judgment, the production of him who had Henry the glorious king of England for his father, and whom we see an accomplished scholar and philosopher, as well as a brave soldier and expert commander; so that Britain with joy acknowledges, that in you she possesses another Henry.

Chapter 2. The first inhabitants of Britain.

Britain, the best of islands, is situated in the Western Ocean, between France and Ireland, being eight hundred miles long, and two hundred broad. It produces every thing that is useful to man, with a plenty that never fails. It abounds with all kinds of metal, and has plains of large extent, and hills fit for the finest tillage, the richness of whose soil affords variety of fruits in their proper seasons. It has also forests well stored with all kinds of wild beasts; in its lawns cattle find good change of pasture, and bees variety of flowers for honey. Under its lofty mountains lie green meadows pleasantly situated, in which the gentle murmurs of crystal springs gliding along clear channels, give those that pass an agreeable invitation to lie down on their banks and slumber. It is likewise well watered with lakes and rivers abounding with fish; and besides the narrow sea which is on the Southern coast towards France, there are three noble rivers, stretching out like three arms, namely, the Thames, the Severn, and the Humber; by which foreign commodities from all countries are brought into it. It was formerly adorned with eight and twenty cities, of which some are in ruins and desolate, others are still standing, beautified with lofty church-towers, wherein religious worship is performed according to the Christian institution. It is lastly inhabited by five different nations, the Britons, Romans, Saxons, Picts, and Scots; whereof the Britons before the rest did formerly possess the whole island from sea to sea, till divine vengeance, punishing them for their pride, made them give way to the Picts and Saxons. But in what manner, and from whence, they first arrived here, remains now to be related in what follows.

Chapter 3. Brutus being banished after the killing of his parent, goes into Greece.

After the Trojan war, Aeneas, flying with Ascanius from the destruction of their city, sailed to Italy. There he was honourably received by king Latinus, which raised against him the envy of Turnus, king of the Rutuli, who thereupon made war against him. Upon their engaging in battle, Aeneas got the victory, and having killed Turnus, obtained the kingdom of Italy, and with it Lavinia the daughter of Latinus. After his death, Ascanius, succeeding in the kingdom, built Alba upon the Tiber, and begat a son named Sylvius, who, in pursuit of a private amour, took to wife a niece of Lavinia. The damsel soon after conceived, and the father Ascanius, coming to the


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