Roman Hostage Taking: Caesar’s Invasion of Britain

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The mythological hero, setting forth from his common-day hut or castle, is lured, carried away, or else voluntarily proceeds, to the threshold of adventure. There the hero encounters a shadow presence that guards the passage—Joseph Campbell 

INTRODUCTION

The unpublished epic historical fantasy [1st novel: APOLLO’S RAVEN; 2nd novel: RAVEN’S FIRE] is envisioned to be a series in the Celtic Spirit Odyssey set in Celtic Britain, Gaul (modern day France) and Ancient Rome prior to the invasion of Claudius in 43 AD. The first novel begins in 24 AD when the heroine Catrin—a Celtic warrior warrior—begins a perilous odyssey that starts in Britain (modern day Kent), 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 6 of historical and archaeological evidence supporting the theory that Julius Caesar’s invasion in 55-54 BC helped 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 is destined to become a warrior queen

Roman Hostage Taking 

The previous post highlighted the importance Julius Caesar placed on the retention of several hostages from the most powerful Celtic tribes in 54 BC Celtic Britain, requiring him to make two trips between the island and Gaul to transport his army and hostages.

Any of the below were reasons that Romans took hostages:

  • Use hostages as collateral to secure an agreement or a treaty
  • Enhance network of allies by treating hostages as guests entitled to kindness, security, and even luxury
  • Represent hostages as symbols of conquest by carefully orchestrating their public appearances, such as in triumphs
  • Realign  loyalties by accepting hostages as wards into an extended Roman family headed by the paterfamilias, Roman father
  • Acculturate hostages to the Roman thinking by offering formal, controlled education

Ultimately, Romans expected to exercise authority over their hostage and it was their belief that they could alter the hostages’ thinking about melding into the Roman culture.

Frieze Roman Cavalry

Roman Cavalry Frieze

Collateral

Hostages were secured to coerce some kind of desired behavior from a country. Often hostages were used as collateral to assure that scheduled tributes were paid on time, probably one of the key reasons Julius Caesar took so many hostages. Hostage-based coercion was also used by Caesar to cease the large-scale fighting in Britain and to secure peace with the southeast British tribes.

Enhance Network of Allies

Taking hostages was considered a more favorable outcome for many of the weaker kingdoms versus the scenario where Romans could exterminate or enslave them. Releasing hostages was, at times, used to convince the kingdom of Rome’s generosity. Caesar won the support of the Trivovantes tribe by negotiating the return of their prince, Mandubracius, who had fled to Gaul after the execution of his father by the rival king, Cassivellaunus. In exchange for grain to feed his Roman troops and forty hostages, Caesar recognized the rightful claim of Mandubracius to be king. Consequently, the young prince persuaded five other tribes bordering the kingdom of Cassivellaunus to join him in submitting to Rome.

Roman Lighthouse Dover

Ancient Roman Lighthouse

Symbols of Conquest

Public image and prestige were critical in the Romans’ eyes to enhance one’s social standing in the form of a base of clients and economic clout beyond level of true personal wealth. Thus, Caesar’s public image was carefully orchestrated with the senate house. The British hostages were proof of his victories and accomplishments. Without a significant number of hostages, his victories in Britain would have been brought into question.

White Cliffs Deal UK

Hillside Leading to White Cliffs from Deal UK

Conclusions

The role of hostages played a significant role in the outcome of Caesar’s invasion of Rome. Not only did hostage-taking help forge alliances with influential southeast tribal kingdoms, but it enhanced his public image in Rome. The role of hostages continued to be an important strategy for Rome’s influence over Britain whereby British wards could be accepted into Roman families and acculturated by offering them a formal, controlled education. The use of peaceful intimidation and acculturation to control Celtic Britain after Caesar’s invasion will  be discussed in the next post.

References:

Julius Caesar, translated by F. P. Long, 2005. The Conquest of Gaul; United States: Barnes & Noble, Inc.

John Peddie, Conquest: The Roman Invasion of Britain; Reprinted 1997 by St. Martin’s Press, New York.

Graham Webster, The Roman Invasion of Britain; Reprinted 1999 by Routledge, New York.

Joseph Campbell, The Writer’s Journey; 3rd Edition Reprinted by Sheridan Books, Inc., Chelsea, Michigan

Caesar’s Second Invasion Celtic Britain; Part 4—Apollo’s Raven


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‘Cities and Thrones and Powers,
Stand in Time’s eye,
Almost as long as flowers,
Which daily die.
But, as new buds put forth
To glad new men,
Out of the spent and considered Earth
The Cities rise again’

      –Rudyard Kipling

Introduction

This is part 4 of historical and archaeological evidence supporting the theory that Julius Caesar’s invasions of Ancient Britain in 55-54 BC helped establish Celtic dynasties in southeast Britain loyal to Rome. The subsequent political unrest between rival Celtic tribal rulers provides the backdrop to the epic historical fantasy, of which the first unpublished novel, APOLLO’S RAVEN, is a tale about the heroine, Catrin—a spiritual warrior destined to meet the great-grandson of Marc Antony and to become queen of her Celtic kingdom .

Below are highlights of Caesar’s second expedition after he learns several of his ships were damaged in a storm.

Caesar’s Second Invasion Celtic Britain

Purpose of Second Expedition

In his accounts, Julius Caesar gave no rationale for his return to Britain in 54 BC. However, it can be surmised that the purpose of his single minded march to the Thames and from there to Essex was to barter with agents from the Trivovantes tribe in a pre-arranged meeting for the return of their young prince, Mandubracius. The prince had escaped to Gaul seeking Caesar’s protection after his father was brutally slain by Cassivellaunus, the ruler of the Catuvellauni tribe. Mandubracius was Caesar’s trump card for dividing the tribal kingdoms in their resistance to Rome. The strategy of ‘divide and conquer’ was a tactic that the Roman general had often used in his conquest of Gaul.

 

White Cliffs Deal UK

Hillside leading to White Cliffs from Deal UK, close to Caesar’s landing

March to Thames

Caesar had to halt his initial advance so his soldiers could repair ships which had been damaged in an overnight storm off the coastline. His army worked day and night for ten days to repair the sea vessels and to drag them on the beach into a fortified encampment. The huge task of protecting the fleet required a defensive line of four to five miles. The loss of time cost Caesar a resounding conquest, as the Britons had time to forget their political differences and to ally under a supreme commander, Cassivellaunus—the  ruler of lands bounded by the north bank of the Thames River.

Cassivellaunus had learned not to actively engage the Roman army in open battle, but he instead resorted to guerrilla tactics to menace the Roman army. Nonetheless, three Roman legions routed his main forces, forcing the Celtic warriors to withdraw to dense woodlands north of the Thames. There, the Britons prepared to resist.

Yet once again, the Roman troops displayed their discipline and training by fording the river in neck-high water. Not willing to risk an open engagement with the enemy, Cassivellaunus disbanded most of his forces and kept only 4000 charioteers to harass the flanks and rear of advancing Romans. He must have been bitterly disappointed that his forces could not even hold the Thames.

Hidden Weapon

Caesar’s plunge into hostile territory, separating him from the main supply line, might have appeared to be fool-hardy. Notwithstanding, Mandubracius proved to be a valuable ally when he negotiated with envoys from the Trivovantes tribe to supply the Roman troops with grain and forty hostages in exchange for Caesar’s recognition of his rightful claim to be king. Further, the young prince persuaded five other tribes that bordered the kingdom of Cassivellaunus to join him in submitting to Rome. The political implications of these tribal defections to Caesar were dramatic, as the leaders informed the Roman general of the location of Cassivellaunus’ forces in the thick woodlands and marshes. The Roman legions promptly and effectively attacked the enemy warriors that resulted in the slaughter of many Britons.

Final Surrender

In one last desperate attempt, Cassivellaunus ordered Kentish tribes along the coastline to attack the Roman naval encampment to cut off Caesar from Gaul. But the Romans were ready for the attack, and they subsequently inflicted several Celtic casualties and captured the leaders.

The British commander now had no other option but to negotiate peace, with Commius, a king of the Atrebates tribe in Gaul, acting as negotiator. Any plans that Caesar had for staying in Britain had to be abandoned when he learned of serious trouble in Gaul that demanded his attention. He collected several British hostages, levied an annual tribute on the hostile tribes, and ordered Cassivellaunus not to attack either Mandubracius or the Trivovantes.

By the autumn equinox, Caesar’s troops returned to the coastline, where all of the sea vessels had been fully repaired. The ships had to make two voyages to ferry the innumerable hostages, prisoners and Roman legions back to Gaul.

Sumitt Coastal White Cliffs Britain

White Cliffs near Deal UK

Conclusions

In both expeditions, Caesar failed to understand his most formidable enemy, which turned out to be the ocean and not the Britons. The ocean continued to be an obstacle that the Romans had to be overcome in their invasion eighty years later.

(To be continued)

The next series of posts will discuss the role of British hostages in forging alliances from Rome, the subsequent political unrest with emerging anti-Roman tribal leaders, and the culture differences between Rome and Celtic Britain which precipitated the invasion by Claudius in 43 AD.

References:

Julius Caesar, translated by F. P. Long, 2005. The Conquest of Gaul; United States: Barnes & Noble, Inc.

John Peddie, Conquest: The Roman Invasion of Britain; Reprinted 1997 by St. Martin’s Press, New York.

Graham Webster, The Roman Invasion of Britain; Reprinted 1999 by Routledge, New York.

Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey; 3rd Edition Reprinted by Sheridan Books, Inc., Chelsea, Michigan

Caesar’s Invasion Celtic Britain 55 BC;Part 2

The Call to Adventure: The first stage of the mythological journey—designated as the ‘call to adventure’—signifies destiny has summoned the hero and transferred his spiritual center of gravity from within the pale of his society to a zone unknown—Joseph Campbell

Introduction

The unpublished historical fantasy, APOLLO’S RAVEN, is envisioned to be the first novel of a trilogy set in Celtic Britain, Gaul (modern day France), and Ancient Rome prior to the invasion of Claudius. In 24 AD, the heroine Catrina Celtic spiritual warrioris called to adventure when she is enslaved by the Romans at the age of thirteen.

Based on historical and archaeological evidence, there is evidence that Julius Caesar’s invasion in 55-54 BC helped to establish dynasties in the two most powerful tribes of southeast Britain who owed their loyalty to Rome. The political unrest of competing tribal rulers provides the backdrop for the story of Catrin who is destined to meet the great-grandson of Marc Antony and become warrior queen in her tribal kingdom.

Below is a continuation of Caesar’s first expedition to Celtic Britain in 55 BC (Part 2).

Julius Caesar Statue

Statue of Julius Caesar

 

Caesar’s Invasion Celtic Britain: First Expedition

Tidal Phenomenon 

After Caesar defeated the Britons near the Kent coastline, the tribal leaders surrendered, promising to serve his every need and to let him use the natives at his disposal.

On the fourth day of the Roman expedition, eighteen ships carrying the cavalry were driven back by a sudden storm. On the same night, the full moon brought a tidal phenomenon that Caesar was ignorant. Waves surged up the beach and destroyed or damaged most of his ships.  Caesar ordered some of his soldiers to repair the damaged ships using the timber and copper from the worst wrecks while he directed others to forage for corn in the surrounding fields.

Ancient Roman Ship Replica

Model of Ancient Roman Ship

There was a marked change in the attitude of the Celtic chieftains who secretly met and pledged to take up arms again and starve out their invaders. They covertly called upon their followers to fight. Caesar was unaware of their treacherous designs as there were no suspicious hostile movements by local inhabitants who continued to farm and visit the Roman encampment.

That all changed when outposts outside the main camp reported to Caesar there was a cloud of dust in an area that had been taken by the Romans. Now suspecting a new plot had broken among the natives, Caesar ordered a battalion to march a considerable distance to where Celtic warriors in chariots had ambushed some of his soldiers foraging for food.

Pathway Dover Cliffs

Dover Cliffs Near Caesar’s Landing

Chariot Fighting

Caesar had not previously encountered chariot-fighting which threw his infantrymen into dire confusion. The Celtic charioteers, galloping wildly down the whole field of battle, terrified the Roman soldiers by charging their horses into the melee of fighting. A Celtic warrior would leap out of the chariot and fight on foot. Meanwhile, the driver would take position a short distance from battle to retreat with the fighting men if they became overpowered. Thus, the Celts combined the skill of an infantryman with the mobility of the cavalry.  Even on the most treacherous terrain, the charioteers had perfect control over their horses.

Pebble Beach Deal UK

Caesar’s Probable Landing at Deal, Britain

Final Roman Victory

Though these chariot-fighting tactics tried the military discipline of the Romans, Caesar returned back to camp with his remaining troops. In the meantime, news of Rome’s weakness and an appeal to expel the invaders from their entrenchments spread throughout the countryside. Caesar resolved to crush the advancing enemy forces on foot and horse by charging them with two legions. The Celtic warriors could not withstand the Roman attack and many of them were killed. Several of the farms were burned to ashes.

Celtic Village of Roundhouses

Ancient Celtic Village of Roundhouses

Tribal leaders agreed to surrender under the terms that the number of hostages previously imposed would double. With the equinox close on hand, Caesar feared his repaired ships might not withstand the ocean’s storms and thus he sailed back to the Continent with a few of the hostages. When he ordered the remaining hostages from Britain, most of the tribes refused to send them.

During the following winter months, Caesar ordered his generals to build a fleet of newly designed ships that could better handle the seas in the British Channel for his next invasion.

Ancient Roman Ship Frieze

Roman Ship Image on Frieze

(To be continued)

References:

Julius Caesar, translated by F. P. Long, 2005. The Conquest of Gaul; United States: Barnes  & Noble, Inc.

John Manley, 2002. AD 43—The Roman Invasion of Britain. Charlston, SC: Tempus Publishing 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.

 

Historical Fantasy–Balancing History and Spiritual Beliefs

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One thing that comes out in myths is that at the bottom of the abyss comes the voice of salvation. The black moment is the moment when the real message of transformation is going to come. At the darkest moment comes the light.

Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth


Balancing History and Fantasy

I envision my project as a historical fantasy trilogy set in Celtic Britain and Ancient Rome in the 1st Century. The first unpublished novel of the series, APOLLO’S RAVEN, has been completed; the second manuscript, RAVEN’S BLACK FIRE, is nearly finished. One of the challenges I have faced in writing historical fantasy is balancing historical accounts with fantastical elements of Celtic spiritual beliefs.

The story is about the heroine, Catrin—a spiritual warrior destined to become a queen in her Celtic kingdom. Enslaved by the Romans, she begins a perilous odyssey where she meets her Roman ally and lover, Marcellus—the great-grandson of Marc Antony. The trilogy will provide both the Roman and Celtic perspectives of the political unrest in Rome and Britain, where powerful Celtic kings competed for power before the Roman invasion of Claudius in 43 AD.

Fantastical Elements

Based on Celtic ritual and spiritual beliefs, Catrin believes everything in the physical world is alive and has a spirit, including: humans, animals, plants, and watercourses. Certain animals are revered by the warrior for specific qualities, such as valor, speed, ferocity and fidelity. By adopting the raven’s emblem on her clothing, armor and face, Catrin believes she will be granted the same qualities as her animal protector. The everyday physical world exists side by side with the Otherworld of the gods and the dead. Catrin can enter the mind of her raven protector to obtain guidance and prophesy. The most important ceremonies takes place within sacred groves of trees.

The evolution of introducing the raven spirit into the story gives fantastical elements to the historical setting of the trilogy. Further, both Celts and Romans believed omens foretold their destiny, and they could base decisions on these prophetic visions. Catrin and Marcellus believe divine powers have predestined them to be together despite their cultural differences.

Celtic Spiritual Warrior

Catrin, Celtic Spiritual Warrior

Roman Influence in Celtic Britain

Another challenge in writing this story is the limited written accounts of major events in Celtic Britain during the time span between the Roman invasions of Julius Caesar in 55 – 54 BC and of Claudius in 43 AD. Although Romans did not occupy Britain for almost a century after Caesar’s invasion, they still had cultural contacts and political alliances with some of the powerful tribal rulers. Archaeological findings of minted coins, wine amphorae, pottery, and other Roman goods strongly suggest active trading between southeastern Briton tribes and Roman merchants.

Not unlike today where countries protect their global interests, Rome influenced political maneuverings between the Celtic tribes. Emperor Augustus maintained close ties with Britain through agents. In 9 AD, he may have used his power to negotiate a peaceful compromise between two powerful Celtic kings, Cunobeline and Dubnovellous, both who had legitimate claims to the Trinovantes kingdom. A civil war could have empowered anti-Roman factions. It was in Rome’s interest for an amicable agreement to avoid strife resulting in disruption of its lucrative trade in Britain.

Overview White Cliffs Britain

White Cliffs Britain

The next series of posts will provide more detailed background as to what is known about Celtic Britain prior to the Roman invasion by Claudius.

References:

Stephen Allen, 2001. Celtic Warrior. New York: Osprey Publishing Ltd.

Graham Webster, 1993. Roman Invasion of Britain.  New York: Reprinted 1999 by Routledge, an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group

 

Heroine Mythological Adventure

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Introduction

Linnea Tanner is a native of Colorado where she attended the University of Colorado and earned her BA and MS in chemistry. After working in the pharmaceutical industry, she is now an aspiring writer of historical fantasy, romance, and adventure based on her lifelong passion for Ancient Rome, Celtic Britain, and mythology.

 

Life Venture of Linnea Tanner

As a child, Linnea was an avid reader of Greek/Roman/Nordic mythology which opened up a new world of gods/goddesses, heroes, and mythological adventure.  Using this fantastical world as a base, Linnea imagined herself as a heroine warrior on a perilous odyssey to overcome nearly insurmountable obstacles. Other characters joined Linnea on this journey, including Romans, who taught her about courage, love, duty, loyalty, and sacrifice. Yet most schools taught history and mythology in the biased viewpoint of male conquerors; women were invisible in the background.

Linnea’s childhood characters stayed with her as she began her life venture: marriage to her soul mate, birth of two children, education, and professional career. However, she rediscovered the wonder of the goddess mythology from ancient civilizations where women and men worked in partnership (“The Chalice & the Blade” by Riane Eisler). She was inspired by accounts of Celtic women warriors and rulers, and extensive research and expeditions to the UK and France. In the Celtic warrior society, the rights and status of women far exceeded those of the patriarchal societies of Greece and Rome. During her travels to the UK, Linnea’s passion for writing was ignited after she researched the historical account of the Celtic queen Boudica, whose rebellion almost resulted in the withdrawal of all Roman forces from Britain in 60 AD.

Vision of Celtic Spirit Chronicles

Linnea Tanner has taken the next step in her next life’s adventure of becoming a writer. She envisions completing the Spirit Warrior Chronicles, an epic historical fantasy set in 1st Century Celtic Britain prior to the Roman invasion in 43 AD. The story is about the heroine, Catrin—a Celtic spirit warrior destined to meet the great grandson of Marc Antony (Marcellus) and to become a warrior queen in her tribal kingdom.

The first two unpublished novels of the Spirit Warrior Chronicles are:

  • APOLLO’S RAVEN is set in 24 AD when Catrin begins a perilous odyssey that starts in Celtic Britain (modern day Kent) where she meets Marcellus; ventures into Gaul (modern day France) where she becomes a gladiatrix; and ends in Rome where she reunites and falls in love with Marcellus.
  • RAVEN’S FIRE continues the odyssey where Catrin must take on the dark powers of her raven spirit to fulfill her destiny to become warrior queen. The draft of this manuscript is near completion.

Purpose of Apollo’s Raven Blog

Linnea has begun this blog to share and to survey the opinions of others regarding ancient Celtic and Roman culture and mythology. In addition, she will share some of her research findings and photographs of sites in Britain (ancient Roman Britannia) and France (ancient Roman Gaul) where the heroine, Catrin, travels in her odyssey.