Caesar, a History of the Art of War among the Romans down to the End of the Roman Empire, with a Detailed Account of the Campaigns of Caius Julius Caesar - Vol. 1

By Theodore Ayrault Dodge | Go to book overview

XI.
BRITAIN. FALL OF 55 B. C.

CÆSAR had the traveler's instinct. To invade Britain was even less a part of his Gallic problem than to cross the Rhine. But he determined to see that island, and a pretext -- that they had given help to resisting Gallic tribes -- was readily conjured up. He sought information from merchants and leading Gauls and sent a subordinate over to Britain to prospect; but he learned little. He shipped two legions and some cavalry in transports and crossed in August. He reached the Dover cliffs and actually landed at Deal, though with difficulty, owing to the warlike opposition of the Britons. After a few days, a storm damaged the fleet; the Britons attacked Cæsar, but were defeated; a peace was patched up; hostages were promised, who were never delivered; and having accomplished nothing whatever except as a discoverer, Cæsar returned to Gaul. He had run great risk of being cut off, and had illy provided against probable contingencies. There is little commendable in a military sense in the first invasion of Britain. It had no connection with the Gallic theatre of war.

THOUGH the season was well advanced -- it was late in the summer -- Cæsar determined to move over to Britain, "because," as he says, "he discovered that in almost all the wars with the Gauls succors had been furnished to our enemy from that country; and even if the time of year should be insufficient for carrying on the war, yet he thought it would be of great service to him if he only entered the island and saw into the character of the people, and got knowledge of their localities, harbors and landing-places, all which were, for the most part, unknown to the Gauls." This explanation has the look of an afterthought. The fact of British aid to the Gauls seems doubtful, and rests almost entirely on this statement and another that the Suessiones, under Divitiacus, had extended their control to Britain.

-164-

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