Early Britain—Roman Britain eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 195 pages of information about Early BritainRoman Britain.
rather to a Division; indeed, in the completeness of its separate organization, it might almost be called an Army Corps.  Six thousand was its normal force in infantry, and it had its own squadrons of cavalry attached, its own engineer corps, its own baggage train, and its own artillery of catapults and balistae.[81] There was thus even more legionary feeling in the Roman army than there is regimental feeling in our own.

C. 12.—­At this time, however, this feeling, so potent in its effects subsequently, was a new development.  Caesar himself would seem to have been the first to see how great an incentive such divisional sentiment might prove, and to have done all he could to encourage it.  He had singled out one particular legion, the Tenth, as his own special favourite, and made its soldiers feel themselves the objects of his special regard.  And this it was which now saved the day for him.  The colour-sergeant of that legion, seeing the momentary opening given by the flanking movement of the galleys, after a solemn prayer that this might be well for his legion, plunged into the sea, ensign in hand.  “Over with you, comrades,” he cried, “if you would not see your Eagle taken by the enemy.”  With a universal shout of “Never, never” the legion followed; the example spread from ship to ship, and the whole Roman army was splashing and struggling towards the shore of Britain.

C. 13.—­At the same time this was no easy task.  As every bather knows, it is not an absolutely straightforward matter for even an unencumbered man to effect a landing upon a shingle beach, if ever so little swell is on.  And the Roman soldier had to keep his footing, and use his arms moreover for fighting, with some half-hundredweight of accoutrements about him.  To form rank was, of course, out of the question.  The men forced their way onward, singly and in little groups, often having to stand back to back in rallying-squares, as soon as they came within hand-stroke of the enemy.[82] And this was before they reached dry land.  For the British cavalry and chariots dashed into the water to meet them, making full use of the advantage which horsemen have under such circumstances, able to ply the full swing of their arms unembarrassed by the waves, not lifted off their feet or rolled over by the swell, and delivering their blows from above on foes already in difficulties.  And on their side, they copied the flanking movement of the Romans, and wheeled round a detachment to fire upon the latus apertum of such invaders as succeeded in reaching shallower water.

C. 14.—­Thus the fight, in Caesar’s words, was an exceedingly sharp one.  It was not decided till he sent in the boats of his galleys, and any other light craft he had, to mingle with the combatants.  These could doubtless get right alongside the British chariots; and now the advantage of position came to be the other way.  A troop of irregular horsemen up to their girths in water is no match for a boat’s

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