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Full text of “The invasion of Britain by Julius Caesar”

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You can search through the full text of this book on the web at http: In the original Essay and the supplemental Re- plies and Notes will be found all that the author can say upon the subject The further investigation to which he has been led has served only to confirm him in the belief that both his propositions were correct, viz.

Not only so, but the very islands to which Velleius Paterculus refers in ngv anecdote of Scaeva have lately come to light, and the last traces of them were removed by the present engineer of the Marsh only a few years since. The author now bids adieu to a controversy which has afforded much pleasure to himself, and has, it is hoped, given no offence as none was intended to those who differ from him. The author, therefore, rather than confess that his time had been thrown away an opinion which will still be entertained by many of his readersdetermined on submitting the result of his labour or rather of his amusement to the judgment of the public.

Merivale, for the tract noticed in the Appendix ; Mr. Waley, for the loan of Mariette’s Memoir on the Portus Itius, from which much valuable information has been derived; Mr. Barton, of Dover, for inquiries about the Bgique ; and the author’s relative, Mrs. Spencer Lewin, for much time and pains bestowed on the preparation of the Illustrations.

We here look across a gulf of nearly two thousand years ; but, if I mistake not, the picture to be presented of that period wiU be graphic and distinct. We have an account from the pen of Csesar himself, the principal actor in the drama ; and his Commentaries, though intended for notes only, are so masterly and so fuU of lifelike impressions that by bestowing a little care we can foUow him from place to place, and from day to day, with the most extraordinary minuteness.


The Eoman calendar was at that time in such confusion that any references to it would only have tended to mislead, and Caesar, writing for posterity, has measured his campaigns by winter and summer, by equinoxes and moons. In tracing his progress we shall find some very remarkable instances of the precision with which his steps can be traced by means of casual observations upon the phenomena of nature, and it is this singular characteristic of his B 2 CiESAR IN GAUL. Historians and antiquarians are all agreed that the first footstep of Csesar upon these shores was planted either in Sussex or in Kent.

In which of the two has been warmly contested, and I shall not here by anticipation determine the controversy. I shall lay before you the facts which have left no doubt on my own mind, and will, if the result answer to expectation, bring conviction to yourselves.

The palm contended for is no mean one, for the Eoman legions were so warmly received, that, even under Csesar’s auspices, they effected their landing with the utmost difficulty. It was in B. He already anticipated the coming conflict between himself and Pompey ; and it was necessary to find some plausible pretext for adding to the number of his legions, and promoting their efficiency by constant employment.

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vgv Be- sides, what booty was to be expected fi: Gignit et oceanus margaritas. He then sum- prodiderunt J. Csesarem Britanniam petisse spe margaritarum. An Britannia insula 7 Quanta in ea terra 7 Quo niunero militum aggredienda?

But to his surprise, the merchants were equally dull ; so that he could not even satisfy himself whether there existed along the coast a single harbour for the reception of a fleet. The ignorance of the Gauls was probably not affected, for Caesar makes the remark, as true of the past prio as of the present, that no one thought of visiting Britain unless he had some substantial reason pprimo it.

Caius Volusenus was selected for the pur- pose. Meanwhile, Caesar, to prepare for the expedition, marched into the country of the Morini. The Morini also, who occupied the coast opposite Britain, were equally friendly to the islanders: In that age also, as in the present, Britain was the asylum of refugees from the Continent: The Atrebates of Arras ; 2. How then could Cd3sar have sailed, as Professor Airy supposes, fix m the estuaiy of the Somme, which is double the distance?

But of this more hereafter. Caesar’s projects had got wind, and been wafted across the Channel, and the Britons hoped that they might avert hostilities by some complimentary forms; but Caesar was wide awake, and knew as wdl as they the value of words, and making large promises proceeded with his armament. He also sent back with the envoys a Gallic partisan of his own: Volusenus, who had been sent across the Channel to reconnoitre the coast, returned after an absence of five days only, and made his report, a somewhat meagre one, as we must necessarily con- clude ; brlque, allowing two days for coming and going, he had only three days at command, and, in so short a space, he could scarcely have done more than take the soundings between Dungeness and the South Foreland.

Of the country briqie he could render no account what- whereas it was certainly Boulogne. Ptolemy, in short, briquee ftdl of error, and not to be depended upon in detail, though invaluable as a general guide. Richborough is byv by an ancient writer as looking, not toward the Morini, bhv toward the Menapii and Batavi. Volusenus did not see it, but such as Caesar himself afterwards found it.

The picture of an ancient Briton, as portrayed in the frontispiece of our school histories, is no doubt familiar to every one.

Now Britain prumo this time was unquestionably occupied by two very dif- ferent races, and the above portrait bgc have some foundation bgg it as regards one of them, but is certainly very far from the truth as regards the other. La Egypt the women still stain the chin with some ggv, and, if I mistake not, there are traces of briique same custom on the chin of the Sphinx; yet neither the present nor the ancient Egyptians are called barbarians. Greeks Galatians, by the Eomans Gauls, and by them- selves CeltsB ; all, no doubt, the same word under diffe- rent forms.


We have still large traces of the name in our own island. I need scarcely mention that GaeUc, Welsh, and Cornish are all essentially the same language. The Celts, then, were the first head-wave of population which, streaming from the East, poured over the broad fields of GauL But soon from behind came another mountain-wave, the Germanic race, which soon deluged all the countries up to the Ehine.

Here the great breadth of the river for some while presented a check, but at last the pres- sure from behind forced them across the barrier, and they drove the weaker Celtic family before them.

In the North of Europe, the Germans eventually occupied all the parts between the Ehine and pri,o Seine, and were known by the name of Belgae, not to be con- founded with the Belgians of the present day, but described by Caesar as the most formidable of all the nations west of the Ehine. The up- shot was brrique they colonised all the south-eastern portion of Britain, compelling the Celtic inhabitants to fall back into the culrdesac of Cornwall to the south, the moun- tains of Wales ;rimo the west, and the Caledonian hills to the north.

We must distinguish, then, between the Beiges and with that by Xiphilinus of the Britons to the north of the Roman wall. And so Strabo, iv. Chiefly of wood and thatched: Thus Hengist and Horsa, and the Saxons, merely fol- lowed the road which their ancestors had taken centuries before. The latter were, perhaps, but Uttle elevated above the state of barbarians. Caesar describes them as dad in skins, and supporting themselves from their cattle rather than from tillage. In the first briquee, there was a crowded population, which is never found in a state of barbarism.

The remains of one of these Celtic cliieflains may be seen in the museum at Scarborough. On opening a tumulus in the neighbourhood, prim coffin excavated from the solid trunk of an oak was discovered, and in it a skeleton more than six feet in stature, which had been wrapped in the hairy akin of some animal ; and at the side were arrow-heads of flint. A more genuine relic of the earliest inhabitants of our island, and when still in a brkque state, is nowhere to be foimd.

It is remarkable that the Druids, briquee they taught their religion lrimo, yet in ordinary matters used the Greek letters. This argues a very advanced state of commerce, and therefore of civilisation. X9 speaks of ” omnibus viia notis semitisque. The Britons in the time of Caesar were probably not fer behind the Jews in the times of their judges and kings, or the Greeks in the days of Homer.

There is one instance of their successful pursuit of the useful arts grique I may not omit, as it does honour more particularly to my own coimty. The iron which was used by the Britons was manufactured by themselves in the maritime parts, i. From the Ehine to the Seine there is scarcely a harbour or roadstead which has not at some time or other had its zealous advocates. Bouillet sur V Article de Boulogne, Paris, enumerates the different publications in fevour of the various theories, iand classes them as follows: Others have taken only a partial view, and shut their eyes to circumstances which militated against their favourite position.

Others have labom-ed under a misapprehension, from foiling to catch the true sense of Caesar’s Commentaries.

I will mention some of the most plausible theories, and dispose of them in a few words. One objection hes against both of them, viz. It was never used, so fex as we know, by the Eomans, and accordingly no Eoman re- mains have been discovered there. It was not even a walled town, imtil just before the capture of it by the English, in the reign of Edward the Third. The coun- Thus the great preponderance of opinion, is in fevonr of Boulogne.

We have now to add the novel theory of the Astronomer Royal in fevonr of the estuary of the Somme. The port, briquue, could never have been larger than at pre- sent, and could not, therefore, have containedor if we reckon tendersvessels, on the occasion of the second expedition. When I was at Calais inI walked round the whole port, including the wooden pier, and I could find room only at the utmost for briqke.

But Calais could not have been the place of embarcation for other reasons.

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