D. 15.—That same day came fresh envoys to treat for peace. They were now required to furnish twice as many hostages as before; but Caesar could not wait to receive them. They must be sent after him to the Continent. His position had become utterly untenable; the equinoctial gales might any day begin; and he was only too glad to find wind and weather serve that very night for his re-embarkation. Under cover of the darkness he huddled his troops on board; and next morning the triumphant Britons beheld the invaders’ fleet far on their flight across the Narrow Seas.
Caesar worsted—New fleet built—Caesar at Rome—Cicero—Expedition of 54 B.C.—Unopposed Landing—Pro-Roman Britons—Trinobantes —Mandubratius—British army surprised—“Old England’s Hole.”
E. 1.—Caesar too had, on his side, gained what he wanted, though at a risk quite disproportionate to the advantage. So much prestige had he lost that on his disembarkation his force was set upon by the very Gauls whom he had so signally beaten two years before. Their attack was crushed with little difficulty and great slaughter; but that it should have been made at all shows that he was supposed to be returning as a beaten man. However, he now knew enough about Britain and the Britons to estimate what force would be needful for a real invasion, and energetically set to work to prepare it. To make such an invasion, and to succeed in it, had now become absolutely necessary for his whole future. At any cost the events of the year 55 must be “wiped off the slate;” the more so as, out of all the British clans, two only sent in their promised hostages. Caesar’s dispatches home, we may be sure, were admirably written, and so represented matters as to gain him a supplicatio, or solemn thanksgiving, of twenty days from the Senate. But the unpleasant truth was sure to leak out unless it was overlaid by something better. It did indeed so far leak out that Lucan was able to write: Territa quaesitis ostendit terga Britannis.
["He sought the Britons; then, in panic
Turned his brave back, and from his victory fled.”]
E. 2.—Before setting off, therefore, for his usual winter visit to Rome, he set all his legionaries to work in their winter quarters, at building ships ready to carry out his plans next spring. He himself furnished the drawings, after a design of his own, like our own Alfred a thousand years later. They were to be of somewhat lower free-board than was customary, and of broader beam, for Caesar had noted that the choppy waves of the Channel had not the long run of Mediterranean or Atlantic rollers. All, moreover, were to be provided with sweeps; for he did not intend again to be at the mercy of the wind. And with such zeal and skill did the soldiers carry out his instructions, by aid of the material which he ordered from the dockyards of Spain, that before the winter was over they had constructed no fewer than six hundred of these new vessels, besides eighty fresh war-galleys.