Today on the Pen and Sword blog we have a guest post from Roger Nolan, author of the recently released title Julius Caesar’s Invasion of Britain. Read on to gain an exclusive insight into this new title.
Julius Caesar invaded Britain over 2000 years ago but until now there has never been any evidence found of his presence in this country and in particular the temporary marching camps his vast army must have constructed in their march through Southern England to the headquarters in Hertfordshire of the local tribal leader Cassivellaunus.
Investigations have been made over the years, especially in the late 16th and early 17th centuries and again in the 19th century and folk traditions have come down through the years and yet no evidence has been found, despite the fact that Caesar himself wrote an account of the invasions.
But now, a new book , recently published, titled Julius Caesar’s Invasion of Britain – Solving a 2000-year-old Mystery contains details of research which identifies for the first time, not just the site of the temporary marching camps – and there were four of them, a day’s march from each other – but also the place where Caesar’s army crossed the Thames. The marching camps, the Thames crossing and Cassivellaunus headquarters are all in a straight line and as a result, when that line is traced back to the coast, it yields the probable site of the seaboard landing. Surprisingly, this is Dover and yet all perceived wisdom is that Caesar didn’t land at Dover because the Britons would line up on the cliffs and could attack the disembarking army. However, whilst this was the case in 55BC when the first invasion took place, Caesar is careful to mention that on the second occasion in 54BC the Britons had fled from the coast after seeing how much larger the army was on this occasion. The fact that Caesar mentions this is a clear indication that he was explaining that he was able to land at Dover on the second occasion in 54 BC and it was safe to do so.
These discoveries have included the site of the battle between Caesar’s army and the Ancient Britons which had started when Caesar’s legions were out foraging for grain and the Britons swooped down on them in their chariots, as Caesar puts it ‘from all sides’. This site can be pinpointed at Chartham Downs just South of Canterbury.
The research detailed in this new book is comprehensive and comprises a complete analysis of the two invasions in 55BC and 54BC. It contains a reasoned analysis of the probable site of Portus Itius, named by Caesar as the port in Northern Gaul (modern day France) where the armies disembarked.
Whether or not the invasions were a success has been the subject of debate from time to time over the years. This new research considers the extent to which it was a success, in the light of the objective Caesar set himself in carrying out the invasions. One of the main criticisms which has led to a questioning in the past as to whether or not the invasions were successful was the fact that they were not followed by a permanent occupation of the island by the Romans. However, in his own account of the campaigns, Caesar never once states that he was seeking a permanent occupation. On the contrary, what he does state is that his objective was to punish the British for providing support to the Gallic tribes in their battles with Rome and to ensure that they would not provide support in the future.
This new book contains a number of chapters which set the scene for the two invasions. One chapter details the life of Caesar; another details how the Roman military evolved over the years; yet another on the what Britain was like at the time of the invasions and also a chapter on how Rome had developed by the first century BC.
Without doubt, this ground-breaking research is certain to prompt much discussion and reappraisal of this fascinating subject.
Julius Caesar’s Invasion of Britain is available to order now from Pen and Sword.