Early Britain—Roman Britain eBook

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

E. 9.—­It was, as the Emperor Napoleon has calculated, on July 21 that, at sun-set this mighty armament put out before a gentle south-west air, which died away at midnight, leaving them becalmed on a waveless sea.  When morning dawned Britain lay on their left, and they were drifting up the straits with the tide.  By and by it turned, oars were got out, and every vessel made for the spot which the events of the previous year had shown to be the best landing-place.[103] Thanks to Caesar’s foresight the transports as well as the galleys could now be thus propelled, and such was the ardour of the soldiers that both classes of ships kept pace with one another, in spite of their different build.  The transports, of course, contained men enough to take turns at the sweeps, while the galley oarsmen could not be relieved.  By noon they reached Britain, and found not a soul to resist their landing.  There had been, as Caesar learnt from “prisoners,” a large force gathered for that purpose, but the terrific multitude of his ships had proved quite too demoralizing, and the patriot army had retired to “higher ground,” to which the prisoners were able to direct the invader.

E. 10.—­There is obviously something strange about this tale.  There was no fighting, the shore was deserted, yet somehow prisoners were taken, and prisoners singularly well informed as to the defenders’ strategy.  The story reads very much as if these useful individuals were really deserters, or, as the Britons would call it, traitors.  We know that in one British tribe, at least, there was a pro-Roman party.  Not long before this there had fled to Caesar in Gaul, Mandubratius, the fugitive prince of the Trinobantes, who dwelt in Essex.  His father Immanuentius had been slain in battle by Cassivellaunus, or Caswallon[104] (the king of their westward neighbours the Cateuchlani), now the most powerful chieftain in Britain, and he himself driven into exile.

E. 11.—­This episode seems to have formed part of a general native rising against the over-sea suzerainty of Divitiacus, which had brought Caswallon to the front as the national champion.  It was Caswallon who was now in command against Caesar, and if, as is very probable, there was any Trinobantian contingent in his army, they may well have furnished these “prisoners.”  For Caesar had brought Mandubratius with him for the express purpose of influencing the Trinobantes, who were in fact thus induced in a few weeks to set an example of submission to Rome, as soon as their fear of Caswallon was removed.  And meanwhile nothing is more likely than that a certain number of ardent loyalists should leave the usurper’s ranks and hasten to greet their hereditary sovereign, so soon as ever he landed.  The later British accounts develop the transaction into an act of wholesale treachery; Mandubratius (whose name they discover to mean The Black Traitor) deserting, in the thick of a fight, to Caesar, at the head of twenty thousand clansmen,—­an absurd exaggeration which may yet have the above-mentioned kernel of truth.

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