La Tène Period Celtic Golden Age (Part 2)


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In the Gaul of those days kingdoms and thrones were as often as not the prize of any more prominent chief who could afford to gather around him a large mercenary force; and this practice, it was felt, under Roman rule, would be considerably curtailed
—Julius Caesar

La Tène Period Celtic Golden Age

Historical Chronology

The historical written accounts are almost nonexistent in the Halstatt period (750 – 450 BC). The earliest known written record that mentioned the Celts as an identifiable people was by the Greek Herodotus in 450 BC, the beginning of the La Tène period that can be further divided by ages as follows:

  • Age of Migration (450-301 BC)
  • Age of Warriors (3rd Century BC)
  • Age of Fragmentation (2nd Century AD to 1st Century BC)

Age of Migration

The Celtic migrations into Italy and southeastern Europe in 4th Century BC are well documented. A large number of Celtic people also migrated into Britanny (northwest France) and Switzerland. Possibly due to overpopulation, the Celts sought rich lands of the Po valley that became known as Gallia Cisalpina (Gaul on this side of the Alps).

They raided along the whole length of the peninsula and broke the power of the Etruscan city-states and lay siege to Rome in 387 BC. The sack and burning of Rome by the Celtic Gauls entailed consequences that endured for centuries. Out of the humiliating defeat the Romans developed a fear and loathing of the Celtic barbarians, which they dubbed the terror Gallicus.

In northwestern Europe, and in particular the British Isles, it is generally accepted that Celtic-speaking peoples of the Atlantic seaboard gradually adopted the La Tène customs and language through acculturation.

Celtic Village of Roundhouses

Ancient Celtic Village of Roundhouses

Age of Warriors

The 3rd Century BC has been classified as the Age of Warriors based upon written accounts of the Continental Celtic warriors’ exploits. Other Celtic groups moved southeast along the Danube basin, the first steps on a journey that would take some of them through the Balkans, into Greece and across to Asia Minor. During this age, many foreign armies used Celtic mercenaries in their ranks, including Greece, Macedonia, Sicily, and Egypt. It is known that Alexander the Great established friendly relations with Celts in the Balkans before embarking upon his campaigns in Asia  and that he received a Celtic delegation in Babylon after defeating the Persians.

Celtic Shield British Museum

Celtic Shield La Tène Style

Celtic warriors were favored as mercenaries because of their fierceness in battle, their devotion to tribal leaders, and their own supply of weapons. The Greek writer, Flavius Arrianus, described a meeting between Alexander the Great and a group of Celtic warriors in a region near the Danube in 335 BC. He asked them what they feared most and was insulted when they replied that the only thing they feared was that someday the sky would fall on them. The sarcastic humor demonstrated the Celts total lack of fear of Alexander and their understanding that an event of the sky falling down would never happen.

An unwanted side-effect of employing Celtic mercenaries was they brought their wives and children from country to country and battle to battle. Once the fighting was over, they tended to remain. They quarreled with each other frequently, forcing their previous employers to keep the peace among them.  An Eutruscan quote from the period call them, “Outlandish warriors with strange weapons.”

Replica Celtic Helmet Britain

Celtic Helmet

What encouraged the Celts to continue their mass migration into Macedonia in the early 3rd Century BC is uncertain, but the country was in turmoil after the break-up of Alexander’s empire. The Greek author Pausanias said, “It was then that the Celtic leader, Brennus, strongly urged a campaign against Greece, enlarging on the weakness of Greece at the time, on the wealth of the Greek states and on the even greater wealth of its sanctuaries.” Under the leadership of Brennus the Celts plundered the city of Delphi known for the oracle at the sanctuary dedicated to Apollo. Shortly afterwards three Celtic tribes crossed the Hellspont into Asia Minor where they settled in the area around what is now Ankara in Turkey.

The Celtic world reached its greatest extent at the beginning of the 3rd Century BC, but by the end of that century its power waned under pressure from Rome to the south and the gradual influx of Germanic peoples from the north.

Dying Gladiator

Statue Dying Celt

Age of Fragmentation

The next two centuries were a time of fragmentation, when the previously large and powerful Celtic tribes began to break-up and their power diminished. The Celts became a more settled people who stopped making war on others, but who, nevertheless, still constantly fought each other, a characteristic the Romans would use to conquer Cisalpine Gaul following the disastrous battle of Telemon in 225 BC and finally culminate in Caesar’s conquest that devastated the Celtic heartland of Gaul in 52 BC.

The Romans then turned their final attention to invading Celtic Britain in 43 BC, but the attempts to subdue the whole island failed. Hadrian built his wall to keep “the barbarian from the North,” at bay, leaving Scotland and Ireland all that remained of a world that had lasted for more than five hundred years.

Collapse White Cliffs Wall Britain

Coastal White Cliffs Near Dover

To be continued

The next series of posts will delve deeper into Celtic history, warrior culture, and religious beliefs.

References

Steve Blamires, Magic of the Celtic Otherworld:  Printed 2009, Llewellyn Publications, Woodbury, MN.
Stephen Allen, Celtic Warrior—300 BC – AD 100: 2001 Osprey Publishing, New York.
Julius Caesar, translated by F. P. Long, 2005. The Conquest of Gaul; United States: Barnes & Noble, Inc.

 

Ancient Celtic History: Who were the Celts?

There are no final truths. The scientific mind does not so much provide the right answers as ask the right question.
—Claude Lèvi-Strauss.

 

Ancient Celtic History

Information on Ancient Celtic Celtic History is primarily derived by Roman and Greek accounts, archaeological finds, and mythology. The epic historical fantasy entitled, APOLLO’S RAVEN, is the first unpublished novel in a series that is set in Ancient Celtic Britain in 24 AD—a time when powerful Celtic tribes in continental Europe had been conquered by Julius Caesar and dynasties loyal to Rome had been established in Ancient Britain. The political unrest between British tribal rulers provides the backdrop for the odyssey of the heroine, Catrin—a spirit warrior destined to meet the great-grandson of Marc Antony and to become queen of her kingdom.

To understand the Celtic Mystique, one must understand the history of  a powerful Celtic people who dominated Europe for almost 500 years. The following series of posts will delve into Celtic history, culture, warrior society, and religious beliefs.

Hillside Coastal White Cliffs Britain

Coastal White Cliffs Britain

 

The Celtic Mystique

The Celtic Mystique conjures images of magic, warriors, castles, and animal spirits based on the rich mythology of a people who at one time spread from the British Isles across continental Europe to Russia and Turkey.  The history of the Celts has been derived, in part, from their symbolic lore. An example is the ‘Arthurian’ myth of a king with a predestined envoy. Unfortunately, the Celts have also been saddled with the image of being barbarians who were civilized by Rome on which the Western civilization was based.

Yet the Celts dominated Europe for over 500 years, and there is no doubt their presence had a profound impact on European culture.

Celtic Brooch

Celtic Brooch


Who were the Celts?

In 5th Century BC, the Greek writer Ephoros described the Celts as one of the four great barbarian peoples, together with the Scythians, the Persians, and the Libyans, who lived beyond the confines of the Classical  Mediterranean world. They were called Keltoi or Galatae by the Greeks and either Celtae or Galli by the Romans. Their homeland was known to lie north of the Alps.

Written and archaeological evidence suggests by 500 BC the Celts occupied lands stretching from the Iberian Peninsula to the upper Danube.  It is unclear how the Celts viewed themselves outside their tribal communities, but they were a distinct racial group who had similar material culture, social structure, art, religious beliefs, and language. Beginning in 450 BC, these people moved across Europe and became the Celtic tribes in Britain. Both archaeological finds and later legends strongly suggest Ireland and Britain actively traded with Greece. Many European personal names are similarly derive from ancient Celtic worlds.

Celtic Shield British Museum

Celtic Shield La Tène Style

Limited Sources of Evidence

The Celts left few written records about their world except for funerary inscriptions. Knowledge of their world comes from a variety of indirect sources: accounts of Greek and Roman writers; the later vernacular literature of surviving Celtic societies in the post-Roman period; and artifacts from archaeological digs. One of the primary shortcomings of historical accounts was the bias Greeks and Romans held of Celts as wild and savage people. Vernacular sources were mostly written in the Middle Ages in the Christian environment and were solely concerned with myths and legends of Wales and Ireland.

Dying Gladiator

Statue of Dying Celtic Gaul

Historical Chonology

The historical chronology of Celtic history can be roughly divided into two periods:

  • Halstatt period (750 – 450 BC), also known as the Age of the Princes
  • La Tène period (450 BC – AD 100)

Halstatt Period

The earliest distinctive Celtic culture appeared in 6th Century BC toward the end of the European Iron Age. The Halstatt Period, named after an excavation site in Austria, was noted for the large number of rich burials and hill-fort settlements of ‘princedoms’ scattered across an area near the headwaters of several major rivers such as the Danube, the Rhine, and the Saône. The period became known as the Age of Princes because of the elaborate and rich burial sites of local chieftains or local aristocracy which have been excavated.

Celtic Battersea Shield

Celtic Battersea Shield

La Tène Period

At the beginning of the 5th Century BC, the Halstatt princedoms were replaced by wealthy warrior societies further north, which extended from northeastern France to Bohemia. The material culture and artistic style called La Tène—named after the excavation site in Switzerland where it was first identified—became synonymous with the Celts. The artifacts during the La Tène period (450 BC – 100 BC) indicated that not only was Central Europe populated with Celts, but the people in these regions were wealthy, had an aristocracy, and high standard of living. With these cultural conditions in place, the people evolved into an appreciation of art and developed a spiritual side to their nature.

Replica Celtic Helmet Britain

British Celtic Helmet

 

To be Continued

The next series of posts will delve deeper into the Celtic history, warrior culture, and spiritual beliefs.

References:

Steve Blamires, Magic of the Celtic Otherworld:  Printed 2009, Llewellyn Publications, Woodbury, MN.

Stephen Allen, Celtic Warrior—300 BC – AD 100: 2001 Osprey Publishing, New York.

Claude Lèvi-Strauss, The Raw and the Cooked: Mythologiques (1990), 7.

Roman Hostage-Taking; After Caesar’s Invasion of Celtic Britain; Part 7—Apollo’s Raven


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(ll. 131-132) ”The lyre and the curved bow shall ever be dear to me (Apollo), and I will declare to men the unerring counsel of Zeus.’ Homeric Hymn to Apollo, god of music, shooting, and divination (foresight and knowledge of the future)

INTRODUCTION

The unpublished epic historical fantasy [1st novel: APOLLO’S RAVEN; 2nd novel: RAVEN’S FIRE] is envisioned to be a trilogy [Spirit Warrior Chronicles] 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 spirit warrior—begins a perilous odyssey that starts in southeast Britain (modern day Kent), ventures into Gaul, and finally ends in Rome where she must overcome slavery before she returns to her homeland.

This is Part 7 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.

Pebble Beach Deal UK

Shingle Beach, Deal, UK; Landing Site Julius Caesar 55 – 54 BC

Hostage Taking Under Augustus

The previous posts highlighted the importance that Julius Caesar placed on retaining several hostages from the most powerful Celtic tribes in 54BC Britain for his political advancement. Emperor Augustus continued the strategy of exercising authority over hostages in the belief their thinking about the Roman Empire could be altered as follows:

  • Realign  loyalties by accepting hostages as wards in an extended Roman family headed by the paterfamilias, Roman father
  • Acculturate hostages in the Roman culture by offering formal, controlled education

Realign Loyalties

The historian Strabo stressed Britain kings came to Rome to pay obeisance to Emperor Augustus, practically giving the entire island to the Romans. In the Res Gestae, Augustus listed kings who had bowed to him in search of some kind of assistance, including the British king Dumnobellaunus. Based on ancient coinage, the Celtic king ruled northeast Kent before being supplanted by Cunobeline of the Catuvellauni tribe. Dumnobellaunus fled Britain in 7 AD to join the growing community of refuge British princes living in Rome. With the acquisition of the territory of the Trinovantes tribe, Cunobeline governed from Camulodunum (modern Colchester) for more than thirty years and issued a series of gold, silver, and bronze coins. The Romans came to regard him as Britannorum Rex, the king of the Britons.

Roman Fort Celtic Britain

Richborough Ruins Kent UK Landing Site Roman Invasion 43 AD

Augustus emphasized he did not need to fight these outlying countries because he could further Rome’s interest by sheer intimidation. An example of this is mentioned by Augustus in Res Gestae where he says the children of a Parthian king were given to him out of friendship. Augustus bragged he controlled the eastern states to such an extent that he could appoint their kings from among the batches of heirs who had surrendered. These heirs probably included the Parthian King’s children who resided with Augustus. The historian Seutonius reported Augustus once appeared with the Parthian children in public at the theater.

Gallo Roman Museum Mosaic

Roman Mosaic Gallo Roman Museum Lyon France

The ironic message of peaceful conquest was further articulated at the mausoleum complex of the sculpted frieze that depicts a procession of senators and members of the imperial family. As can be seen in the photograph below, there is a bare-footed child who looks distinctly Celtic in a short tunic, with long curly hair and a twisted torque necklace around his neck. This boy may represent a “barbarian” from Western Europe. It is theorized that this child may have been a prince of Gaul who was accepted by Augustus when he visited Lugdunum (modern day Lyon). The altar’s message is the children were in Rome as a result of peace and had come to him “not conquered by Rome.”

Celtic Child in Roma Ara Pacis Procession Nord Particolare

Celtic child in Frieze of Ara Pacis Augustae (Altar of Augustan Peace)

Acculturate Hostages

Acculturation of hostages into the Roman culture included offering a formal, controlled education. Loyalties could be realigned by placing hostages, viewed as helpless and savage, into an environment that taught them about Roman’s culture. The initial fear turns to sympathy, which grows into an appreciation of the captors. The younger the hostage, the more likely the transference. The longer a hostage is detained, the more likely he will identify with his captor. By holding hostages for years and by judiciously applying the threat of violence with a promise of salvation, the Romans essentially invited the hostage to collaborate with them.

Conclusions

The role of hostages probably played a role in Rome’s influence over Britain. Most likely, some of the British princes were formally educated by the Romans as described above.

The next series of posts will focus on the rise of client kings loyal to Rome and the subsequent rivalry between tribal kings that, in part, precipitated the Roman invasion 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.

Fritz Graf, Apollo; Published 2009 by Routledge, New York.

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

Hostage-Taking, Caesar’s Invasion of Celtic Britain; Part 5—Apollo’s Raven

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The ultimate adventure, when all barriers and ogres, have been overcome, is represented as a mystical marriage of the triumphant hero-soul with the Queen Goddess of the World. This is the crisis at the nadir, at the zenith, or at the uttermost edge of the earth, at the central point of the cosmos, in the tabernacle of the temple, or within the darkness of the deepest chamber of the heart—Joseph Campbell

 

Introduction

This is part 5 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 spirit warrior destined to meet the great-grandson of Marc Antony and to become queen of her Celtic kingdom.

In the previous four posts of the APOLLO’S RAVEN blog, the significant events of Caesar’s first and second invasions were highlighted. The Roman general wrote extensively about the role of hostages in Britain. In addition to using military armaments in conquering and building the Roman Empire, hostage-taking was another stratagem in his arsenal for overcoming enemies.

Ancient Roman Ship Replica

Model of Ancient Roman Ship

Hostage-Taking in Roman Empire

The modern day image of hostages associated with terrorism and war crimes is where one group retaliates against another by inflicting torture or deprivation of an innocent prisoner. Criminals use hostages to force some kind of demand—a personal ransom or safe passage from a besieged position.

In Rome, hostage-taking represented another scheme to ensure conquered peoples met their treaty agreements and to alter their way of thinking which was akin to the Roman elite’s. Hostages were not treated like prisoners, as they were allowed to move freely in public places with minimal security measures to prevent their escape. They could communicate with ambassadors from their native lands and at times take family members and material possessions with them. The hostages were frequently young males, although taking females was not unheard of, and they came from royal families. The Roman patrician watching over them could serve as patron, father, and teacher.

Hillside Deal UK

White Cliffs Hillside Deal

Julius Caesar’s Demand for Hostages

Julius Caesar retained hostages from thirty-seven tribes in Gaul (modern day France) and powerful tribes from Britain. He boasts that along with loot he plundered during his military campaigns, the detention of several hostages won him political advances in Rome. In his most famous battle at Alesia in Gaul, he held hundreds of hostages, among other concessions. In order to persuade the Roman masses of his military accomplishments—critical for his political survival—hostages played a prominent role in representing him as a great military leader.

In Caesar’s accounts, he recounts his demand for and manipulation of hostages from Britain. Prior to the first expedition to Britain in 55 BC, Caesar had first asked for hostages from Britain with little success. Word of his preparations to cross the British channel prompted several tribes to offer hostages, a promise Caesar encouraged them to fulfill. Nonetheless, he never received any hostages and was met with stiff resistance on his first landing. It was only after he won a decisive victory, the chieftains again promised hostages, but the tribes delayed and regrouped. The cycle continued where Caesar scored additional victories whereupon he demanded double the number of hostages. Despite his efforts, he only received detainees from two tribes. Subsequently, on his return to Britain in 54 BC, he not only accomplished his objective of defeating the Britons, but he succeeded in acquiring several hostages from the most powerful tribes and he mandated a yearly tribute to Rome. He had to make two trips between Britain and Gaul to transport all of the hostages.

Caesar’s Motivation for Taking Hostages

What Caesar was seeking from the tribes in Britain was a sign of their acceptance of Roman hegemony in the region. Securing hostages represented the manifestation of his authority. His written accounts were intended to put him in favorable light with the Roman senate to gain their support. He took credit for not only defeating the Britons, but for mapping their island, observing their ethnic habits, and gauging the degree of their civilization. For the most part, most of the senators judged his expeditions to be successful based on the number of hostages he retained, though in reality he had failed to control the island or gather any substantial riches. Notwithstanding, the invasions of Britain added to Caesar’s mystique.

Cliff side White Cliffs of Dover

Dover White Cliffs

Conclusions

The Romans continued to influence the dynasties in Britain long after Julius Caesar had left the island. Hostages may have impacted the interactions between tribal rulers and Roman politicians. As long as the southeast tribes continued to meet the Empire’s demands, there was not a strong impetus for Rome to invade and occupy Britain. That all began to change at the turn of the 1st Century when some of the Celtic rulers began to harbor anti-Roman sentiments.

Cork Oak Tree Arundel

Cork Oak Tree England

 

To be continued:

The role of hostages will be discussed in the next post as it is relates to Celtic Britain. Thereafter, historical and archaeological evidence will be presented that supports Rome’s influence over tribal dynasties prior to the invasion of Claudius in 43 AD.

References:

Joel Allen, Hostages and Hostage-Taking in the Roman Empire; Printed 2006 by Cambridge University Press, New York.

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

Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces; 3rd Edition Reprinted by New World Library, Novato, CA.

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; 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.

 

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