And he struck Peiros a blow on the face which drew blood from his mouth and nostrils. Peiros, blinded, butted with his forehead against the chest of Thoas and threw him backwards, his ribs broken.
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Straightway the rival herdsmen cast themselves upon one another, exchanging blows and insults. In vain did Meges and the Kings endeavour to separate the combatants. Even the wise Oineus himself was repulsed by the herdsmen whom a god had bereft of reason. Brass vessels flew through the air on all sides. Great ox-bones, smoking torches, bronze tripods rose and fell upon the combatants.
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The interlaced bodies of men rolled over the hearth on which the fire was dying, in the midst of the liquor which flowed from the burst wine-skins. Dense darkness enveloped the hall, a darkness full of groans and imprecations. Arms, maddened by frenzy, seized glowing logs and hurled them into the darkness.
A blazing twig struck the minstrel as he stood still and silent. Then a voice louder than all the noise of combat cursed these impious men and this profane house. And, pressing his lyre to his breast, he went out of the dwelling and walked along the high headland by the sea. To his wrath had given place a great feeling of fatigue and a bitter disgust with men and with life.
A longing for union with the gods filled his breast. All things lay wrapped in soft shadows, the friendly silence and the peace of night. Westward, over the land which men say is haunted by the shades of the dead, the divine moon, hanging in the clear sky, shed silver blossoms upon the smiling sea. And the aged Homer advanced over the high headland until the earth, which had borne him so long, failed beneath his feet.
In a land of mists, near a shore which was beaten by the restless sea and swept by billowy waves of sand raised by the Ocean winds, the Atrebates had settled on the shifting banks of a broad stream. There, amid pools of water and in forests of oak and of birch, they lived protected by their stockades of felled tree-trunks.
There they bred horses excellent for draught-work, large-headed, short-necked, broad-chested and muscular, and with powerful haunches. On the outskirts of the forest they kept huge swine, wild as boars. With their great dogs they hunted wild beasts, the skulls of which they nailed on to the walls of their wooden houses. They lived on the flesh of these creatures and on fish, both of the salt-water and the fresh. They grilled their meat and seasoned it with salt, vinegar and cumin.
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They drank wine, and, at their stupendous feasts, seated at their round tables, they grew drunken. There were among them women who, acquainted with the virtue of herbs, gathered henbane, vervain and that healing plant called savin, which grows in the moist hollows of rocks. From the sap of the yew-tree they concocted a poison. The Atrebates had also priests and poets who knew things hidden from ordinary men. These forest-dwellers, these men of the marsh and the beach, were of high stature. They wore their fair hair long, and they wrapped their great white bodies in mantles of wool of the colour of the vine-leaf when it grows purple in the autumn.
They were subject to chiefs who held sway over the tribes. The Atrebates knew that the Romans had come to make war on the peoples of Gaul, and that whole nations with all their possessions had been sold beneath their lance. News of happenings on the Rhone and the Loire had reached them speedily. Words and signs fly like birds. And that which, at sunrise, had been said in Genabum of the Carnutes was heard in the first watch of the night on the Ocean strand. They did not hate the Romans, for they did not know them.
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Neither did they fear them, since it seemed to them impossible for an army to penetrate through the forests and marshes which surrounded their dwellings. They had no towns, although they gave the name to Nemetacum,  a vast enclosure encircled by a palisade, which, in case of attack, served as a refuge for warriors, women and herds. As we have said, they had throughout their country other similar places of refuge, but these were smaller. To them, also, they gave the name of towns. It was not upon their enclosures of felled trees that they relied for resistance to the Romans, whom they knew to be skilled in the capture of cities defended by stone walls and wooden towers.
But they relied rather on their country's lack of roads. The Roman soldiers, however, themselves constructed the roads over which they marched. They dug the ground with a strength and rapidity unknown to the Gauls of the dense forest, among whom iron was rarer than gold. And one day the Atrebates were astounded to learn that the Roman road, with its milestones and its fine paved highway, was approaching their thickets and marshes.
The chiefs of the Atrebates uttered their war-cry, girded themselves with their baldrics of gold and of coral, donned their helmets adorned with the antlers of the stag, or the elk, or with buffalo horns, and drew their daggers, which were not equal to the Roman sword. They were vanquished, but because they were courageous they had to be twice conquered. Now among them was a chief who was very rich. His name was Komm. He had a great store of torques, bracelets and rings in his coffers. Human heads he had also, embalmed in oil of cedar.
They were the heads of hostile chiefs slain by himself or by his father or his father's father.
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Komm enjoyed the life of a man who is strong, free and powerful. Followed by his weapons, his horses, his chariots and his Breton bulldogs, by the multitude of his fighting men and his women, he would wander without let or hindrance over his boundless dominions, through forest or along river-bank, until he came to a halt in one of those woodland shelters, one of those primitive farms of which he possessed a great number.
There, at peace, surrounded by his faithful followers, he would fish, hunt the wild beasts, break in his horses and recall his adventures in war. And, as soon as the desire seized him, he would move on. He was a violent, crafty, subtle-minded man excelling in deed and in word. When the Atrebates shouted their war-cry, he forbore to don the helmet which was adorned with the horns of an ox. He remained quietly in one of his wooden houses full of gold, of warriors, or horses, of women, of wild pigs and smoked fish.
He was well received. Thus Komm, the chieftain, became Commius Rex.
He wore the purple, and coined money whereon appeared his likeness in profile, his head encircled by a diadem with sharp points like those of the Greek and barbarian kings who wore their crowns as tokens of their friendship with Rome. He was not execrated by the Atrebates. His sagacious and self-interested behaviour did not discredit him with a people devoid of Greek and Roman ideas of patriotism and citizenship. These savage, inglorious Gauls, ignorant of public life, esteemed cunning, yielded to force and marvelled at royal power, which seemed to them a magnificent innovation.
The majority of these people, rough woodlanders or fishermen of the misty coast, had a still better reason for not blaming the conduct and the prosperity of their chieftain; not knowing that they were Atrebates, nor even that Atrebates existed, the King of the Atrebates concerned them but little. Wherefore Komm was not unpopular. And if the favour of Rome meant danger to him, that danger did not come from his own people.
Desiring to secure allies in the great Island, he resolved to send Komm as his ambassador to the Celts of the Thames, with the offer of an alliance with Rome. Sagacious, eloquent and by birth akin to the Britons—for certain tribes of the Atrebates had settled on both banks of the Thames—Komm was eminently fitted for this mission.
But he was in no hurry to discharge this mission, of the dangers of which he was fully aware. From the tribute paid by other Gallic towns he exempted Nemetacum, which was already growing into a city and a metropolis, so rapidly did the Romans develop the countries which they conquered.
He somewhat relaxed the rigorous rule of the conquerors by restoring to it its rights and its own laws. Further, he gave Komm to rule over the Morini, who were the neighbours of the Atrebates on the sea-shore. But when the ship approached the sandy beach at the foot of the bird-haunted white cliffs, the Roman refused to disembark, fearing unknown danger and certain death. Komm landed with his horses and his followers and spoke to the British chiefs who had come to meet him.
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He counselled them to prefer profitable friendship with the Romans to their pitiless wrath. But these chiefs, the descendants of Hu, the Powerful, and of his comrades in arms, were proud and violent. They listened impatiently to Komm's words. Anger clouded their woad-stained countenances, and they swore to defend their Island against the Romans.
Standing bowed over his shield in the attitude of a suppliant, Komm invoked the name of brother by which he was entitled to call them. They were sons of the same fathers.
Wherefore the Britons forbore to slay him. They conducted him in chains to a great village near the coast. Passing down a road bordered by huts of wattle-work, he noticed high flat stones, fixed in the ground at irregular intervals, and covered with signs which he thought to be sacred, for it was not easy to decipher their meaning. He perceived that the huts of this great village, though poorer, were not unlike those of the villages of the Atrebates.
In front of the chiefs' dwellings poles were erected from which hung the antlers of deer, the skulls of boars and the fair-haired heads of men. Komm was taken into a hut which contained nothing save a hearthstone still covered with ashes, a bed of dried leaves and the image of a god shapen from the trunk of a lime-tree. Bound to the pillar which supported the thatched roof, the Atrebate meditated on his ill luck and sought in his mind for some magic word of power or some ingenious device which should deliver him from the wrath of the British chieftains.
And to beguile his wretchedness, after the manner of his ancestors, he composed a song of menace and complaint, coloured by pictures of his native woods and mountains, the memory of which filled his heart.