Caesar’s Invasion Celtic Britain; Part 3

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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

Introduction

The unpublished epic historical fantasy [First Novel: APOLLO’S RAVEN; Second Novel: RAVEN’S BLACK FIRE] is envisioned to be a trilogy set in Celtic Britain, Gaul (modern day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.

Landing

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.

Pebble Beach Deal UK

Shingle Beach Deal UK

Initial Conflict

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.

Storm’s Wrath

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.

Overview White Cliffs Britain

White Cliffs Britain

 

(To be continued)

References:

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.

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.

 

Caesar’s Invasion Celtic Britain; Part 1— Apollo’s Raven

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Celtic Tradition of Raven: I have fled in the shape of a raven of prophetic speech (Taliesin). The raven offers initiationthe destruction of one thing to give birth to another. For deeper understanding, the heroine must journey through darkness  to emerge into morning’s new light. 

Celtic Britain Setting

The unpublished historical fantasy, APOLLO’S RAVEN, is envisioned to be the first novel in a trilogy that spans from 24  to 40 AD in Celtic Britain, Gaul (modern day France), and Rome prior to the invasion of Claudius in 43 AD. Though Julius Caesar’s invasion of Britain occurred 80 years earlier in 55 and 54 BC, there is archaeological evidence that Caesar’s invasion was not a momentary diversion from his conquest of Gaul, but was instead an effort to establish dynasties of the most powerful tribes of southeast Britain who would owe their loyalty to Rome.

Julius Caesar Statue

Statue of Julius Caesar

The next series of posts will summarize historical and archaeological evidence of possible events that precipitated the Roman invasion of Britain in 43 AD, commencing 80 years earlier with the invasion by Julius Caesar. The political unrest of competing tribal rulers provided the backdrop for the trilogy about the heroine Catrin, destined to become warrior queen of her Celtic kingdom and the lover of the great-grandson of Marc Antony.


Caesar’s Invasion Celtic Britain

Planning

In 55 AD, Caesar was anxious to invade Britain because powerful chieftains had dispatched auxiliaries to secretly abet the Gauls in their war against Rome. Most of Caesar’s limited information was derived from traders. Thus, he wanted to learn more about the island’s size, the names of tribal leaders, their military state and organization, and the harbors suitable for landing larger vessels. He dispatched Commius, a king of the Atrebates tribe from Gaul, to impress upon the Briton leaders the need to cooperate with the Romans, whose general would soon visit them in person.

Collapse White Cliffs Wall Britain

Coastal White Cliffs Near Dover

As Caesar prepared his fleet for invasion from a port near modern day Boulogne France, news of his intentions were conveyed by traders to Briton leaders. In response, some Celtic tribes from southeast Britain sent envoys promising to give Caesar hostages and to acknowledge the suzerainty of Rome. Encouraged by their willingness to negotiate, Caesar sent the agents back home.

Roman Landing

In late summer at midnight, Caesar disembarked 80 ships, sufficient to transport two legions (about 10,000 soldiers). He left instructions for 18 ships to transport the cavalry further north on the coastline. When his first vessels reached the British shores early the next morning, the whole line of hills (modern day Dover Cliffs) was crowned with Briton warriors. There was little space between the sea and rising white cliffs from which spears could easily be hurled down. As landing was impossible, Caesar directed his fleet seven miles north to an open, flat expanse of shingle beach. Celtic horsemen and charioteers followed Caesar’s ships on the hilltops as they sailed up the coastline.

 

Ancient Roman Ship Replica

Model of Ancient Roman Ship

Battle with Celtic Horsemen

Caesar’s forces had difficulty getting ashore as a result of Celtic warriors battling them on land while his men fought in shallow waters.  Laden with heavy accoutrements, Roman troops were forced to jump overboard into the channel without knowledge of the bottom. While trying to maintain their footing in the surf, the Romans had to fight the Briton warriors who outmaneuvered them on land using trained horses and fighting from chariots.

Replica Celtic Helmet Britain

British Celtic Helmet

At first, the Romans panicked in battle, but Caesar then relied on warships to hurl hot fire of sling-stones, arrows, and artillery at the Celtic troops, driving them from their point of vantage. Caesar recounts that an eagle-bearer from the Tenth Legion emboldened his comrades by leaping into the water and shouting, “I, at any rate, shall not be found wanting in my duty to my country and general.”

 

Pebble Beach Deal UK

Shingle Beach near Dover Cliffs

The battle was fiercely contested between the Romans and Britons. The Romans found it impossible to keep in formation, while the Celtic warriors seized very opportunity to dash in with their horses at isolated groups of soldiers struggling with the difficulties of landing. Once the Romans were firmly on land, their troops charged and routed the Britons.

Vanquished in battle, Celtic tribal leaders sent envoys to Caesar with promises of hostages and submission to his orders. Accompanying these envoys was Commius, who, it will be remembered, had been sent into Britain to herald Caesar’s coming.

(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.