by A.E. Beverley
"In Oscan, a pre-Latin language of Southern Italy, ‘Brutus’ carries more associations: heavy, unwieldy, dull, dumb, stupid, insensible, unreasonable, irrational"
Britain, the best of islands, has a few competing origin myths, most of which describe these islands’ inhabitants as the once rejected progeny of Europe. Our forebears were delinquent reversed-Kronos’, banished here to suffer for breaking the laws that maintain good relations between men and men, men and the Gods.
Britons, like Romans, are direct descendants of the mythical house of Priam, King of Troy, the ancient enemy of Greece. The Romans held a quiet belief that it was necessary for Troy to fall, so Rome could rise and enslave their former conquerors. As history has shown us again and again, a westward move refines the conquering spirit.
Greek culture was seductive enough to captivate the imagination of their savage conqueror, but the Romans were acquainted enough with women and slaves to know that passivity must be enforced, to neutralise ambition. A fluid Grecian interest in sodomy and intellectual experiment was dangerous to a society dependent on the solidity of engineering, fathers, virgins, and the military. Although Greek culture was admired, Greek sentiment was regarded with suspicion, as a potential threat to the Imperial project.
Aeneas, Grandson of Priam, King of Troy, had a boy, Ascanius, founder of Rome, who had a boy who had his cousin, who had a boy called Brutus. The boy was cursed to kill his mother, and she died as she bore him. He was given a name that reflected his tragedy; in Latin, Brutus means ‘heavy’ – not borne to this world lightly. In Oscan, a pre-Latin language of Southern Italy, ‘Brutus’ carries more associations: heavy, unwieldy, dull, dumb, stupid, insensible, unreasonable, irrational.
Brutus was only fifteen when his accidental matricide was matched with a patricide, as his arrow hit his father’s heart, instead of a deer on the hunt. Banished from Italy, Brutus wound up in Greece, and found himself among the descendants of Trojan nobles, reduced to servitude. Like shining Lucifer, Brutus inclined to rebellion, and went about breaking the bonds which bound these descendants of Trojan heroes. These men – Britons to be – were aristocrats gone feral in the forest: “They have preferred living after the manner of wild beasts, upon flesh and herbs.”
After a war, and a marriage, Brutus and his men knew from experience that they’d never live to see peace in Greece. War manufactures enmity, and sons have a duty to avenge their fathers. Neighbours whose blood you’ve offended won’t let you rest in peace; any strong breath might summon your moment at the sword.
Not knowing where to go, Brutus did what ancients do, and consulted an oracle. He called on Diana, virgin Goddess of the hunt, avenger of rapists, with an amphora of wine in one hand, and the blood of a white deer in the other. Nine times he called for her, but she didn’t come. He poured the wine into the sacrificial fire and lay on the white deer skin spread across the altar, falling asleep in the heat. Perhaps, his beauty captured her hunter’s imagination. Here lies an ugly man, whom the world has heavy, unawares, hands red with blood and wine, presented for you on the altar table, on a bed of white hide.
She appeared before him, and told him what must be done:
Brutus! there lies beyond the Gallic bounds An island which the western sea surrounds, By giants once possessed, now few remain To bar thy entrance, or obstruct thy reign. To reach that happy shore thy sails employ There fate decrees to raise a second Troy And found an empire in thy royal line, Which time shall ne’er destroy, nor bounds confine.
An island bordered by the sea and an Empire without borders waited for him on some inhospitable rock, occupied by giants. Considering this promising, Brutus and his freed slaves took to the waves.
They briefly stopped in France to fight, kill Gauls, and claim treasures for their promised land. After Brutus’ men proved themselves superior to the French in tactics and individual success on the battlefield – Brutus’ nephew, Turonus, killed over 600 men during his lilac blossoming into military mastery – they remembered their promised island and took to the seas again. When they landed in Totnes, they decided this island, which had not too many giants, and enough rivers, fish and woodland, was fine. Brutus preferred his heavy name to the islands’ current one, Albion, and it became ours. Britons: those who are unwieldy, heavy, dull, insensible, unreasonable, stupid, irrational.
The giants weren’t Britons, but they weren’t unlike them, either. They too were descended from the murderous outcasts of Mediterranean nobility. Like Brutus, the giants’ origins lay closer to the Middle East, the original cradle of civilisation.
Before Brutus arrived in England, Albina landed with her thirty-two sisters. Once, the most powerful King in Syria had thirty-three daughters, who he married to thirty-three Princes, so as to solidify his power in the region. The King’s daughters resented being under the marital yoke of men with lower status than themselves. So, Albina proposed a solution to her sisters: kill the husbands and be free.
The King understood that daughters who couldn’t be contained by marriage would likely pose a danger to all patriarchal authority, and so, he banished them. His exiled daughters drifted across waters as far west as the world allowed, before they arrived on an inhospitable rock. Albina, being the eldest, and mastermind, named the island Albion, after herself.
The daughters sought men to marry, and perhaps kill, but found none, so settled for the only inhabitants of this accursed outcrop to smash around with. They made love to incubi, between the rocks and rivers. From this unholy union of demons and mariticides came giants.
Brutus finished off the giants, after they picked a fight with him first, and the last one fell at Plymouth Hoe, leaving a beach below the limestone cliffs which marks where he fell. Once the giants were done, Brutus could establish his new city, a brand-new Troy, on the River Thames.
Maybe some giants survived and made love to Brutus’ band of once slaves, who can say. Britons, obsessed with freedom, still developed something similar to civilisation. Our Druids observed religious festivities, maintained the law amongst communities, passed on sacred mysteries, and kept a capital at Anglesey, which the Romans destroyed.
When Caesar arrived in Britain, the Britons and Romans did not recognise each other as fellow sons of the house of Julia. Like Albina with her husbands, the Britons were determined not to bend to the yoke of Empire. But bend they did, for 400 years. When the Romans left, Britain was one of the only countries in Europe to happily let the rain wash away everything the Romans ever did for us. Amongst the flesh and herbs of the forest, we preferred to live as beasts, rather than a civilisation.
Today, while writing, 1 million perishable goods rot at Calais, a region once ours. When we surrender to history, all origin myths show us is our own image.