THE STANDARD PATH of the mythological adventure of the hero is represented in the rites of passage: separation—initiation—return. A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder where fabulous forces are encountered and a decisive victory is won, then the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow advantage on his fellow man—Joseph Campbell
The unpublished epic historical fantasy [First Novel: APOLLO’S RAVEN] is envisioned to be a series set in Celtic Britain, Gaul (modern day France) and Ancient Rome prior to the invasion of Claudius in 43 AD. The first novel begins in 24 AD when the heroine Catrin—a Celtic spiritual warrior—begins a perilous odyssey that begins in Celtic Britain (modern day Kent). This is Part 3 of the historical and archaeological evidence that supports the theory that Julius Caesar’s invasion in 55-54 BC helped establish Celtic dynasties in southeast Britain loyal to Rome. Political unrest of rival tribal rulers in 24 AD provides the backdrop of APOLLO’S RAVEN where Catrin meets the great-grandson of Mark Anthony.
Caesar’s 2nd Invasion Britain
Prelaunch Preparations Redesign Ships
Due to the frequent tidal changes that Caesar encountered in his first expedition to Celtic Britain in 55 BC, he ordered his generals to construct smaller transports with shallower drafts for easier loading and beaching. The vessels’ beams were built wider to carry heavy cargoes, including large numbers of horses and mules. As a result of the redesign, the clumsy ships were difficult to maneuver and thus were equally fitted for rowing and sailing.
It was not clear from Caesar’s accounts whether the purpose of this second exhibition was to conquer Britain, punish hostile tribes, or open Celtic Britain to Roman trade. The unfolding events in his accounts suggest the primary objective was to establish pro-Roman dynasties that would be subsequently rewarded with lucrative trade for their loyalty.
Description of Inhabitants
In his accounts Caesar describes the population along the southern coast of Britain to be densely populated by Belgic immigrants, who had crossed the channel from Gaul to plunder and eventually settle. There were thatch-roof, round houses everywhere that were similar to those in Gaul. Flocks of sheep and herds of cattle were plentiful. The inhabitants of Cantium (modern day Kent), an entirely maritime district, were far more advanced than the inland tribes consisting of the original pastoral inhabitants who had their own traditions.
In common, all Britons dyed their body with woad that yielded a bluish pigment and in battle increased the wildness of their look. The men’s hair was extremely long and with the exception of the head and upper lip, the entire body was shaved.
At sunset on July 6th, Caesar embarked from Portis Itius (modern day Wissant France) to Britain with a fleet of 800 ships that transported five legions (30,000 soldiers) and 2,000 cavalry. The next morning, the tide turned, taking the ships with it. As a consequence, the soldiers had to row the ungainly vessels without stop to reach the Kent coast by mid-day. Unlike the first expedition, there were no signs of enemy to oppose the landing. Caesar learned later the tribal forces had been dismayed to see the vast flotilla in the English Channel and thus decided to seek a stronger position inland to fight.
Without any opposition, Caesar’s ships anchored and a site was chosen for camp.
A little after midnight, Caesar marched his legions 12 miles inland to the River Stour near Canterbury. The Britons fell back to a formidable position in the woods which Caesar described as being fortified by immense natural and artificial strength. The hill-fort was strongly guarded by felled trees that were packed together. Possibly this site was initially built for tribal wars. The Roman soldiers locked their shields above their heads to form a testudo (tortoise) to protect themselves from missiles while they hacked their way into the fortress and drove the British forces into the woods. Further pursuit was forbidden by Caesar as the countryside was unfamiliar and he needed sufficient time to entrench his camp.
The following morning, the Roman pursuit of the British fugitives began in earnest. Again Caesar underestimated the powerful forces of the English Channel. A terrible storm along the coast tore the ships from their moorings and drove them ashore. When Caesar received the bad news about the shipwrecks, he abandoned his speedy advance which would have desolated the Britons and returned his army to repair the damages to his vessels.
(To be continued)
Julius Caesar, translated by F. P. Long, 2005. The Conquest of Gaul; United States: Barnes & Noble, Inc.
Graham Webster, The Roman Invasion of Britain; Reprinted 1999 by Routledge, New York.
Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces; 3rd Edition Reprinted by New World Library, Novato, CA.