THE STANDARD PATH of the mythological adventure of the hero is represented in the rites of passage: separation—initiation—return. A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder where fabulous forces are encountered and a decisive victory is won, then the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow advantage on his fellow man—Joseph Campbell
The unpublished epic historical fantasy [First Novel: APOLLO’S RAVEN; Second Novel: RAVEN’S BLACK FIRE] is envisioned to be a trilogy set in Celtic Britain, Gaul (modern day France) and Ancient Rome prior to the invasion of Claudius in 43 AD. The trilogy begins in 24 AD when the heroine Catrin—a Celtic spiritual warrior—begins a perilous odyssey that begins in Celtic Britain (modern day Kent), then ventures into Gaul (modern day France) and finally ends in Rome where she must overcome slavery before she returns to her homeland.
This is Part 3 of historical and archaeological evidence supporting the theory that Julius Caesar’s invasion in 55-54 BC helped to establish Celtic dynasties in southeast Britain loyal to Rome. Political unrest of rival tribal rulers in 24 AD provides the backdrop for the trilogy where Catrin meets the great-grandson of Marc Antony and becomes warrior queen of her tribal kingdom.
Caesar’s Invasion Celtic Britain
Prelaunch Preparations for 2nd Invasion
Due to the frequent tidal changes that Caesar encountered in his first expedition to Britain in 55 BC, he ordered his generals to construct smaller transports with shallower drafts for easier loading and beaching. The vessels’ beams were built wider to carry heavy cargoes, including large numbers of horses and mules. As a result of the redesign, the clumsy ships were difficult to maneuver and thus were equally fitted for rowing and for sailing.
It was not clear from Caesar’s accounts whether the purpose of this second exhibition was to conquer Britain, punish hostile tribes, or open Celtic Britain to Roman trade. The unfolding events in his accounts suggest the primary objective was to establish pro-Roman dynasties that were subsequently rewarded with lucrative trade.
Description of Inhabitants
In his accounts Caesar describes the population of the south along the coast to be densely populated by Belgic immigrants, who had crossed the channel to plunder and eventually to settle. There were houses everywhere, very similar to those in Gaul, while flocks and herds abound. The inhabitants of Cantium (modern day Kent), an entirely maritime district, were far more advanced than the inland tribes consisting of the original pastoral inhabitants who had their own traditions.
In common, all Britons dyed their body with woad that yielded a bluish pigment and in battle increased the wildness of their look. The men’s hair was extremely long and with the exception of the head and upper lip, the entire body was shaved.
At sunset on July 6th, Caesar embarked from Portis Itius (modern day Wissant France) to Britain with a fleet of 800 ships that transported five legions (30,000 soldiers) and 2,000 cavalry. With the tide turning the next morning, taking the ships with it, the soldiers had to row the ungainly vessels without stop to reach the coast by mid-day (modern day Deal UK ). Unlike the first expedition, there were no signs of enemy to oppose the landing. Caesar learned later the Briton forces had been dismayed to see the vast flotilla in the English Channel and thus decided to seek a stronger position inland to fight.
Without any opposition, Caesar’s ships anchored and a site was chosen for camp.
A little after midnight on the day of landing, Caesar marched his legions 12 miles inland in the dark of morning, to a river, which may have been the River Stour near Canterbury. The Britons fell back to a formidable position in the woods which was described by Caesar as being fortified by immense natural and artificial strength. The hill-fort was strongly guarded by felled trees packed together, probably initially built for tribal wars. The Roman soldiers locked their shields above their heads to form a testudo (tortoise) to protect themselves from missiles while they hacked their way into the fortress, driving the Britons into the woods. Further pursuit was forbidden by Caesar as the countryside was unfamiliar and he needed sufficient time to entrench his camp.
The following morning the Roman pursuit of the Celtic fugitives began in earnest, but again Caesar had underestimated the powerful forces of the English Channel. A terrible storm along the coast had torn the ships from their moorings and drove them ashore. Upon receiving the bad tidings, he abandoned his speedy advance which would have found the Britons in a state of disarray and returned his army to repair the damages to his vessels.
(To be continued)
Julius Caesar, translated by F. P. Long, 2005. The Conquest of Gaul; United States: Barnes & Noble, Inc.
Graham Webster, The Roman Invasion of Britain; Reprinted 1999 by Routledge, New York.
Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces; 3rd Edition Reprinted by New World Library, Novato, CA.