Early Britain—Roman Britain eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 242 pages of information about Early Britain—Roman Britain.
crew of disciplined infantry.  Moreover the tide was flowing,[83] and driving the Britons back moment by moment.  For a while they yet resisted bravely, but discipline had the last word.  Yard by yard the Romans won their way, till at length they set foot ashore, formed up on the beach in that open order[84] which made the unique strength of the Legions, and delivered their irresistible charge.  The Britons did not wait for the shock.  Their infantry was, probably, already in retreat, covered by the cavalry and chariots, who now in their turn gave rein to their ponies and retired at a gallop.

C. 15.—­Caesar saw them go, and bitterly felt that his luck had failed him.  Had he but cavalry, this retreat might have been turned into a rout.  But his eighteen transports had failed to arrive, and his drenched and exhausted infantry were in no case for effective pursuit of a foe so superior in mobility.  Moreover the sun must have been now fast sinking, and all speed had to be made to get the camp fortified before nightfall.  But the Roman soldier was an adept at entrenching himself.  A rampart was hastily thrown up, the galleys beached at the top of the tide and run up high and dry beyond the reach of the surf, the transports swung to their anchors where the ebb would not leave them grounded, the quarters of the various cohorts assigned them, the sentries and patrols duly set; and under the summer moon, these first of the Roman invaders lay down for their first night on British soil.


Wreck of fleet—­Fresh British levy—­Fight in corn-field—­British chariots—­Attack on camp—­Romans driven into sea.

D. 1.—­Meanwhile the defeated Britons had made off, probably to their camp above Dover, where their leaders’ first act, on rallying, was to send their prisoner, Commius, under a flag of truce to Caesar, with a promise of unconditional submission.  That his landing had been opposed, was, they declared, no fault of theirs; it was all the witlessness of their ignorant followers, who had insisted on fighting.  Would he overlook it?  Yes; Caesar was ready to show this clemency; but, after conduct so very like treachery, considering their embassy to him in Gaul, he must insist on hostages, and plenty of them.  A few were accordingly sent in, and the rest promised in a few days, being the quota due from more distant clans.  The British forces were disbanded; indeed, as it was harvest time, they could scarcely have been kept embodied anyhow; and a great gathering of chieftains was held at which it was resolved that all alike should acknowledge the suzerainty of Rome.

D. 2.—­This assembly seems to have been held on the morrow of the battle or the day after, so that it can only have been attended by the local Kentish chiefs, unless we are to suppose (as may well have been the case), that the Army of Dover comprised levies and captains from other parts of Britain.  But whatever it was, before the resolution could be carried into effect an unlooked-for accident changed the whole situation.

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