Early Britain—Roman Britain eBook

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

D. 3.—­On the fourth day after the Roman landing, the south-westerly wind which had carried Caesar across shifted a few points to the southward.  The eighteen cavalry transports were thus enabled to leave Ambleteuse harbour, and were seen approaching before a gentle breeze.  The wind, however, continued to back against the sun, and, as usual, to freshen in doing so.  Thus, before they could make the land, it was blowing hard from the eastward, and there was nothing for them but to bear up.  Some succeeded in getting back to the shelter of the Gallic shore, others scudded before the gale and got carried far to the west, probably rounding-to under the lee of Beachy Head, where they anchored.  For this, however, there was far too much sea running.  Wave after wave dashed over the bows, they were in imminent danger of swamping, and, when the tide turned at nightfall, they got under weigh and shaped the best course they could to the southern shore of the Channel.

D. 4.—­And this same tide that thus carried away his reinforcements all but wrecked Caesar’s whole fleet at Deal.  His mariners had strangely forgotten that with the full moon the spring tides would come on; a phenomenon which had been long ago remarked by Pytheas,[85] and with which they themselves must have been perfectly familiar on the Gallic coast.  And this tide was not only a spring, but was driven by a gale blowing straight on shore.  Thus the sleeping soldiers were aroused by the spray dashing over them, and awoke to find the breakers pounding into their galleys on the beach; while, of the transports, some dragged their anchors and were driven on shore to become total wrecks, some cut their cables, and beat, as best they might, out to sea, and all, when the tide and wind alike went down, were found next morning in wretched plight.  Not an anchor or cable, says Caesar, was left amongst them, so that it was impossible for them to keep their station off the shore by the camp.

D. 5.—­The army, not unnaturally, was in dismay.  They were merely on a reconnaissance, without any supply of provisions, without even their usual baggage; perhaps without tents, certainly without any means of repairing the damage to the fleet.  Get back to Gaul for the winter they must under pain of starvation, and where were the ships to take them?

D. 6.—­The Britons, on the other hand, felt that their foes were now delivered into their hands.  Instead of the submission they were arranging, the Council of the Chiefs resolved to make the most of the opportunity, and teach the world by a great example that Britain was not a safe place to invade.  Nor need this cost many British lives.  They had only to refuse the Romans food; what little could be got by foraging would soon be exhausted; then would come the winter, and the starving invaders would fall an easy prey.  The annihilation of the entire expedition would damp Roman ambitions against Britain for many a long day.  A solemn oath bound one and all to this plan, and every chief secretly began to levy his clansmen afresh.

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