B. 5.—And traces of his rule still existed in the occupation of British districts by colonists from two tribes, which, as his nearest neighbours, must certainly have formed part of any North Gallic confederacy under him—the Atrebates and the Parisii. The former had their continental seat in Picardy; the latter, as their name tells us, on the Seine. Their insular settlements were along the southern bank of the Thames and the northern bank of the Humber respectively. How far the two sets of Parisians held together politically does not appear; but the Atrebates, whether in Britain or Gaul, acknowledged the claim of a single magnate, named Commius, to be their paramount Chieftain. In this capacity he had led his followers against Caesar in the great Belgic confederacy of B.C. 58, and on its collapse, instead of holding out to the last like the Nervii, had made a timely submission. If convenient, this submission might be represented as including that of his British dominions; especially as we gather that a contingent from over-sea may have actually fought under his banner against the Roman eagles. Nay, it is possible that the old claims of the ruler of Soissons over Britain may have been revived, now that that ruler was Julius Caesar. It is even conceivable that his complaint of British assistance having been given to the enemy “in all our Gallic wars” may point to his having heard some form of the legend, whose echoes we meet with in Welsh Triads, that the Gauls who sacked Rome three centuries earlier numbered Britons amongst their ranks.
Defeat of Germans—Bridge over Rhine—Caesar’s army—Dread of ocean—Fleet at Boulogne—Commius sent to Britain—Channel crossed—Attempt on Dover—Landing at Deal—Legionary sentiment—British army dispersed.
C. 1.—For making use of these pretexts, however, Caesar had to wait a while. It was needful to bring home to both supporters and opponents his brilliant success by showing himself in Rome, during the idle season when his men were in winter quarters. And when he got back to his Province with the spring of A.D. 55, his first attention had to be given to the Rhine frontier, whence a formidable German invasion was threatening. With his usual skill and war-craft—which, on this occasion, in the eyes of his Roman ill-wishers, seemed indistinguishable from treachery—he annihilated the Teutonic horde which had dared to cross the river; and then, by a miracle of engineering skill, bridged the broad and rapid stream, and made such a demonstration in Germany itself as to check the national trek westward for half a millennium.