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Unformatted text preview: of those, who, in this desperate extremity, were best able to defend it. The Picts and Scots, finding that the Romans had finally relinquished Britain, now regarded the whole as their prey, and attacked the northern wall with redoubled forces. The Britons, already subdued by their own fears, found the ramparts but a weak defence for them; and deserting their station, left the country entirely open to the inroads of the barbarous enemy. The invaders carried devastation and ruin along with them; and exerted to the utmost their native ferocity, which was not mitigated by the helpless condition and submissive behaviour of the inhabitants.s The unhappy Britons had a third time recourse to Rome, which had declared its resolution for ever to abandon them. Aetius, the patrician, sustained, at that time, by his valour and magnanimity, the towering ruins of the empire, and revived for a moment among the degenerate Romans the spirit, as well as discipline, of their ancestors. The British ambassadors carried to him the letter of their countrymen, which was inscribed, The Groans of the Britons. The tenor of the epistle was suitable to its superscription. The barbarians, say they, on the one hand, chace us into the sea; the sea, on the other, throws us back upon the barbarians; and we have only the hard choice left us, of perishing by the sword or by the waves.t But Aetius, pressed by the arms of Attila, the most terrible enemy that ever assailed the empire, had no leisure to attend to the complaints of allies, whom generosity alone could induce him to assist.u The Britons, thus rejected, were reduced to despair, deserted their habitations, abandoned tillage, and flying for protection to the forests and mountains, suffered equally from hunger and from the enemy. The barbarians themselves began to feel the pressures of famine in a country which they had ravaged; and being harassed by the dispersed Britons, who had not dared to resist them in a body, they retreated with their spoils into their own country.w The Britons, taking advantage of this interval, returned to their usual occupations; and the favourable seasons which succeeded, seconding their industry, made them soon forget their past miseries, and restored to them great plenty of all the necessaries of PLL v5 (generated January 22, 2010) 29 http://oll.libertyfund.org/title/695 Online Library of Liberty: The History of England, vol. 1 life. No more can be imagined to have been possessed by a people so rude, who had not, without the assistance of the Romans, art of masonry sufficient to raise a stone rampart for their own defence: Yet the Monkish historians,x who treat of those events, complain of the luxury of the Britons during this period, and ascribe to that vice, not to their cowardice or improvident counsels, all their subsequent calamities. The Britons, entirely occupied in the enjoyment of the present interval of peace, made no provision for resisting the enemy, who, invited by their former timid behaviour,...
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