Early Britain—Roman Britain eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 242 pages of information about Early Britain—Roman Britain.

B. 2.—­Thus equipped, the Veneti had tapped the tin trade at its source, and established emporia at Falmouth, Plymouth, and Exmouth; on the sites of which ancient ingots, Gallic coins of gold, and other relics of their period have lately been discovered.  Thence they conveyed their freight to the Seine, the Loire, and even the Garonne.  The great Damnonian clan, which held the whole of Devon and Cornwall, were in close alliance with them, and sent auxiliaries to aid in their final struggle against Caesar.  Indeed they may possibly have drawn allies from a yet wider area, if, as Mr. Elton conjectures, the prehistoric boats which have at various times been found in the silt at Glasgow may be connected with their influence.[71]

B. 3.—­Caesar describes his struggle with the Veneti and their British allies as one of the most arduous in his Gallic campaigns.  The Roman war galleys depended largely upon ramming in their sea-fights, but the Venetian ships were so solidly built as to defy this method of attack.  At the same time their lofty prows and sterns enabled them to deliver a plunging fire of missiles on the Roman decks, and even to command the wooden turrets which Caesar had added to his bulwarks.  They invariably fought under sail, and manoeuvred so skilfully that boarding was impossible.  In the end, after several unsuccessful skirmishes, Caesar armed his marines with long billhooks, instructing them to strike at the halyards of the Gallic vessels as they swept past. (These must have been fastened outboard.) The device succeeded.  One after another, in a great battle off Quiberon, of which the Roman land force were spectators, the huge leathern mainsails dropped on to the decks, doubtless “covering the ship as with a pall,” as in the like misfortune to the Elizabethan Revenge in her heroic defence against the Spanish fleet, and hopelessly crippling the vessel, whether for sailing or rowing.  The Romans were at last able to board, and the whole Venetian fleet fell into their hands.  The strongholds on the coast were now stormed, and the entire population either slaughtered or sold into slavery, as an object lesson to the rest of the confederacy of the fate in store for those who dared to stand out against the Genius of Rome.

B. 4.—­Caesar had now got a very pretty excuse for extending his operations to Britain, and, as his object was to pose at Rome as “a Maker of Empire,” he eagerly grasped at the chance.  Something of a handle, moreover, was afforded him by yet another connection between the two sides of the Channel.  Many people were still alive who remembered the days when Divitiacus, King of the Suessiones (at Soissons), had been the great potentate of Northern Gaul.  In Caesar’s time this glory was of the past, and the Suessiones had sunk to a minor position amongst the Gallic clans.  But within the last half-century the sway of their monarch had been acknowledged not only over great part of Gaul, but in Britain also.  Caesar’s words, indeed, would almost seem to point to the island as a whole having been in some sense under him:  Etiam Britanniae imperium obtinuit.[72]

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Early Britain—Roman Britain from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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