C. 2.—By this time, as this wonderful feat shows, the Army of Gaul had become one of those perfect instruments into which only truly great commanders can weld their forces. Like the Army of the Peninsula, in the words of Wellington, “it could go anywhere and do anything.” The men who, when first enlisted, had trembled before the Gauls, and absolutely shed tears at the prospect of encountering Germans, now, under the magic of Caesar’s genius, had learnt to dread nothing. Often surprised, always outnumbered, sometimes contending against tenfold odds, the legionaries never faltered. Each individual soldier seems to have learnt to do instinctively the right thing in every emergency, and every man worshipped his general. For every man could see that it was Caesar and Caesar alone to whom every victory was due. The very training of the engineers, the very devices, such as that of the Rhine bridge, by which such mighty results were achieved, were all due to him. Never before had any Roman leader, not even Pompey “the Great,” awakened such devotion amongst his followers.
C. 3.—Caesar therefore experienced no such difficulty as we shall find besetting the Roman commanders of the next century, in persuading his men to follow him “beyond the world," and to dare the venture, hitherto unheard of in the annals of Rome, of crossing the ocean itself. We must remember that this crossing was looked upon by the Romans as something very different from the transits hither and thither upon the Mediterranean Sea with which they were familiar. The Ocean to them was an object of mysterious horror. Untold possibilities of destruction might lurk in its tides and billows. Whence those tides came and how far those billows rolled was known to no man. To dare its passage might well be to court Heaven knew what of supernatural vengeance.
C. 4.—But Caesar’s men were ready to brave all things while he led them. So, after having despatched his German business, he determined to employ the short remainder of the summer in a reconnaissance en force across the Channel, with a view to subsequent invasion of Britain. He had already made inquiries of all whom he could find connected with the Britanno-Gallic trade as to the size and military resources of the island. But they proved unwilling witnesses, and he could not even get out of them what they must perfectly well have known, the position of the best harbours on the southern shores.
C. 5.—His first act, therefore, was to send out a galley under Volusenus “to pry along the coast,” and meanwhile to order the fleet which he had built against the Veneti to rendezvous at Boulogne. Besides these war-galleys (naves longae) he got together eighty transports, enough for two legions, besides eighteen more for the cavalry. These last were detained by a contrary wind at “a further harbour,” eight miles distant—probably Ambleteuse at the mouth of the Canche.