The Landing-Place of Gaius Julius Cæsar in Britain

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The following articles, drawings and extracts covering the 217 year period from 1800 to 2017
are presented in date order of publication, i.e. the oldest first.

Articles
  1. "General History: Roman Kent" in The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 1 (Edward Hasted, Canterbury, 1797) pages 13 to 44
  2. "The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent" (1800) Edward Hasted Volume 10 at page 1 and Volume 9 at page 549
  3. The South Eastern Gazette Tuesday 4 January 1853 at page 6
  4. The South Eastern Gazette Tuesday 18 March 1856 at page 5
  5. "On Cæsar's Landing-Place in Britain" (1858) R.C. Hussey, Archæologia Cantiana, volume 1 at pages 94 to 110
  6. "The Landing-Place of Julius Cæsar in Britain" (1860) Archæologia Cantiana, volume 3 pages 1 to 17
  7. The South Eastern Gazette Tuesday 6 November 1860 at page 3
  8. "Archaeologia or miscellaneous tracts relating to antiquity" (1863) Society of Antiquaries of London at pages 277 to 314
  9. "Ramsgate Scientific Association" (1873) The South Eastern Gazette, Tuesday 25 November at page 5
  10. "The Landing-Place of Julius Cæsar" (1873) The South Eastern Gazette, Tuesday 2 December at page 6
  11. "Deal and its Environs" (1900) Archæologia Cantiana, volume 24 pages 108 & 109
  12. "A Peep into the Past: Britain in the Days of Cæsar" (1904) The South Eastern Gazette, Tuesday 16 February at page 3
  13. "The Coming of Rome - Britain before the conquest" (1979) John Stewart Walcher at pages 2 to 8 and 51 to 53
  14. "Richborough Environs Project, Kent"Aerial Survey Report Series AER/12/2002 at page 9
  15. "Julius Cæsar's First Landing in Britain" History Today, Volume 55 Issue 8 August 2005
  16. "Tide and time: re-dating Cæsar's invasion of Britain" Texas State University, Thursday 25 June 2008
  17. "Doubt over date for Brit invasion" BBC, Tuesday 1 July 2008
  18. "Hidden Roman coastline unearthed by archaeologists in Kent" The Telegraph, 2 October 2008
  19. "First evidence of Julius Cæsar's invasion of Britain discovered in Kent" The Independent, 29 November 2017

"General History: Roman Kent" in The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent" (1800) Edward Hasted Volume 1 (Edward Hasted, Canterbury, 1797) pages 13 to 44

Roman Kent

Britain was in the state above-mentioned when Cæsar turned his thoughts to the invasion of it, at which time the Romans were become masters of almost all Europe, the best part of Africa, and the richest countries of Asia. Whilst they were continually adding so many kingdoms to their empire, Britain still preserved its independency, for which it was indebted to its remote situation, more than to its strength. It was considered by the inhabitants of the continent as a separate world, of which (excepting in the maritime parts opposite to it,) they had very little knowledge, and what they had did not excite their desires to extend their dominion over it. Julius Cæsar, during his wars with the Gauls, had taken great umbrage at the supplies which the neighbouring parts of Britain had continually sent to them: at least this was the specious pretence for his leading his forces hither; a pretence frequently made use of by the Romans, to carry their conquests into the most remote countries; though his unbounded ambition was, most probably, the sole motive that urged him to it. It was in the 698th year after the building of Rome, and fifty-five years before the birth of Christ, Cn. Pompey and Marcus Lic. Crassus being then consuls of Rome, that Julius Cæsar resolved to undertake a voyage into Britain, and though the summer was then almost spent, he would by no means delay it; not that he expected the advanced season of the year would permit him to carry on the war, yet he thought it would be of no small use to him, if he only landed and discovered something of the nature of the inhabitants, the country, and its havens. To gain some intelligence, therefore, Cæsar summoned together all the merchants round about, but he could not learn from any of them, either what the size of Britain was, what or how many nations inhabited it, what progress they had made in the art of war, what customs they used, or what number of ships their ports were capable of receiving. This uncertainty made him determine to send out Gaius Volusenus Quadratus with a galley, to make what discoveries he could without danger. In the meantime he himself marched with all his forces into the country of the Morini, now the province of Picardy, from whence the passage into Britain was said to be the shortest, and thither he ordered the shipping from all the neighbouring parts.


The Morini (from the Gaulish morinos 'seaman') were a Belgic tribe of northern Gaul. Cæsar was very interested in that part of the Morini territory, which is where the crossing of the sea to Britannia was "the shortest". The Morini had several harbours of which Portus Itius (generally considered to be either Wissant or Boulogne) was only one.


Whilst these preparations were going forward, the merchants gave notice to the Britons of Cæsar's design, who sent messengers to him, in hopes of diverting him from his purpose, promising to deliver hostages, and to submit themselves to the Roman empire. Cæsar gave them a civil reception, made them liberal promises, and, encouraging them to persist in their resolution, sent them home again.

Along with them he sent Comius, whom he had made king of the Attrebates, in Gaul, a person, whose interest in those parts was accounted very great, and whose fidelity Cæsar had a great opinion of. He commanded Comius to visit as many states as he could, and persuade them to accept of an alliance with the Romans, and farther, to tell them, that he would very quickly be over with them in person.

Volusenus, in the meantime, having made what discoveries he could of the country, for he durst not venture himself ashore, after five days cruising, returned, and acquainted Cæsar with all he had seen; who having, in the meantime, got together eighty transports, which he thought sufficient to carry over the foot of his two legions, besides his gallies, and eighteen more transports for the horse, which lay wind-bound at another port, eight miles distant, set sail with the foot about one o'clock in the morning, and left orders for the horse to march to the other port, and to embark there, and follow him as soon as they could.

Cæsar himself, with the foremost of his ships, arrived on the coast of Britain about ten o'clock the same morning, where he saw all the cliffs covered by the enemy in arms, and he observed (what would render the execution of his design most difficult at this place) that, the sea being narrow, and pent in by the hills, the Britons could easily throw their darts from thence upon the shore beneath.

Not thinking this place proper therefore for landing, he came to an anchor, and waited for the rest of his fleet till three in the afternoon; after which, having got both wind and tide for him, he weighed anchor, and sailed about eight miles farther, and then came to a plain and open shore, where he ordered the ships to bring to.

The Britons being apprised of his design, sent their horse and chariots before, and following after with the rest of the army, endeavoured to prevent their landing. Here the Romans laboured under very great difficulties, for their ships, on account of their size, could not lie near the shore, and their soldiers with their hands encumbered and loaded with heavy armour, were obliged to contend, at the same time both with the waves and the enemy, in a place they were unacquainted with; whereas the Britons, either standing upon dry ground, or but a little way in the water, in places with which they were well acquainted, and being free and unincumbered, could boldly cast their darts, and spur their horses forward, which were used to this kind of combat, which disadvantage so discouraged the Romans, who were unused to this way of fighting, that they did not behave themselves with the same spirit that they used to do, in their engagements on dry land.

Cæsar perceiving this, gave orders for the gallies to advance gently before the rest of the fleet, and to row along with their broadsides towards the shore, and then by every kind of missive weapon to drive the enemy away. This piece of conduct was of considerable service to them, for the Britons being terrified, quickly after began to give ground; upon which the soldiers, though at first unwilling, encouraging one another, leaped down into the sea, from the several ships, and pressed forward towards the enemy. The conflict was sharply maintained on both sides; in which the Romans, not being able either to keep their ranks, obtain firm footing, or follow their particular standards, fell into great disorder; whilst the Britons, who were well acquainted with the shallows, spurring their horses forward, assaulted the enemy, incumbered and unprepared to receive them.

Cæsar observing this, caused the boats and pinnaces to be filled with soldiers, and dispatched them to the relief of those who stood in need of it; these charged the Britons, and quickly put them to flight, but could not pursue, as their horse were not then arrived.

The Britons, upon this, as soon as they had escaped beyond the reach of danger, sent messengers to desire peace, promising to deliver hostages for the performance of whatever Cæsar had commanded. He at first upbraided, and then pardoned, their imprudence, and demanded hostages of them; some of which they delivered immediately, and promised to return in a few days, with the rest: in the meantime they dispersed their men, and the chiefs assembled from all parts, and recommended themselves and their states to Cæsar's protection.

Upon the fourth day after Cæsar's arrival in Britain, the transports with the horse, of which mention has been already made, set fail with a gentle gale; but when they were arrived so near as to be within view of the Roman camp, the whole fleet was dispersed by a sudden storm, and afterwards, though with much difficulty, made the best of its way back to the continent.

The same night the moon was at full, and, consequently, it made a spring tide, an observation the Romans were strangers to; so that at the same time both the gallies, which had been drawn on shore, were filled with water, and the ships of burthen, which rode at anchor, were greatly distressed and damaged. Several of them were lost, and the rest were rendered wholly unfit for service, which caused a great consternation throughout their whole army; for they had no other ships to carry them back again, nor any materials to refit their own with; and they knew very well they must of necessity take up their winter quarters in Gaul, as there was no provision of corn against winter made for them here.

As soon as the British chiefs, who had been assembled to perform their agreement with Cæsar, knew of this, and that the Romans were without horses, ships, and provisions, concluding from the smallness of their camp, (which was then narrower than usual, because the legions had left their heavy baggage in Gaul) that their soldiers were but few, they resolved upon a revolt, and to hinder the Romans from foraging, and delay them till winter; imagining that if they could but gain a victory over them, or prevent their return, none would ever dare to make such another attempt; and having entered into a new confederacy, they began by degrees to quit the Roman camp, and privately to enlist their disbanded troops again.

Though Cæsar knew nothing of their design, yet suspecting, from the loss of his shipping, and their delay in the delivery of their hostages, what afterwards really happened, prepared for all events, causing provisions to be brought into his camp every day, and repairing the ships that were least damaged by which means, with the loss of twelve, he made the rest fit for sea again.

Whilst matters were in this situation, the seventh legion, whose turn it was, went out to forage, whilst some of the men were employed in the fields, and others in carrying the corn between them and the camp, the out-guards gave Cæsar notice, that they observed a greater dust than usual, in that part of the country to which the legion went. Upon which, suspecting that the Britons had revolted, he took with him the cohorts that were placed for an advanced guard, and commanded the rest to repair to their arms, and follow him as fast as possible.

He had not marched far before he saw his foragers overcharged by the Britons, and drove into a small compass; for the Britons, knowing there was but one place where the harvest had not been carried in, suspected the Romans would come there, and having hid themselves the night before in the woods, suddenly set upon the soldiers, who had laid down their arms, and were dispersed and busy in reaping the corn, and having killed some of them, they put the rest in disorder, and then surrounded them with their horse and chariots.

Their way of fighting with their chariots was this; first they drove up and down everywhere, and flung their darts about, the very terror and noise of their horses and chariots frequently putting the ranks of the enemy in disorder; and whenever they got in among the ranks of the horse, they alighted, and fought on foot. Their charioteers, in the meantime, drove a little way out of the battle, and placed themselves in such a manner that, if their masters should be overpowered by the numbers of the enemy, they might readily retreat to them. Thus they performed in their battles all the activity of the horse, and the steadiness of the foot, at the same time, and were so expert, by daily use and exercise, that even, when they were going full speed on the side of a steep hill, they could stop their horses and turn, run upon the pole, rest on the harness, and thence throw themselves, with great dexterity, into their chariots again.

The Romans being disordered by this new kind of fight, Cæsar came very opportunely to their assistance; for on his arrival the Britons made a stand, and the Romans began to forget their fears. However, not thinking it advisable to venture an engagement at that time, after remaining on the same spot for a little while, he retreated with his legions to the camp. The badness of the weather, which followed after this for several days successively, kept the Romans in their camp, and the Britons from attempting any thing against them. In the meantime the latter sent messengers to all parts, to give information of the smallness of the Roman army, and to shew how considerable a booty they might obtain, and what a glorious opportunity then offered of making themselves free for ever, if they could but force the enemy's camp; by which means they quickly raised great numbers of horse and foot, and came down to it for that purpose.

Although Cæsar foresaw that the Britons, in case they were routed, would, as they had done before, escape the danger by flight, yet having got thirty horse, which Comius of Arras brought over with him, he drew his legions up in order of battle before the camp, and having engaged the Britons, who were not long able to sustain the attack, put them to flight, and the soldiers pursuing them as far as they could, killed many of them, and burnt all their houses for some distance round.

The very same day, the Britons sent messengers to desire a peace, when Cæsar demanded double the number of hostages he had before to be sent into Gaul, for the autumnal equinox being near he did not think it safe to sail with such weak ships in the winter season; seizing, therefore, the first favourable opportunity of the wind's being fair, he set sail soon after midnight, and arrived safe at the continent. Probably he left this island about the 20th of September, about twenty-five days after his landing, and, as he says, a little before the equinox, which at that time must have been on the the 25th of that month.

This is Cæsar's account of this short expedition, which, however plausible he may have dressed it up in his Commentaries, yet his sudden departure in the night, immediately following the battle, carries with it a strong suspicion of his having been beaten by the Britons. Horace, Tibullus, and Lucan, seem to confirm it, as do Tacitus and Dion Cassius in their histories.

A more modern writer of our own nation, H. Huntingdon, who lived about an hundred years after the Norman conquest, says, that Cæsar was disappointed in his hopes; for on his landing he had a sharper conflict with the Britons than he could have believed, and perceiving that his forces were too few for such an enterprise, and that the enemy was much more powerful than he imagined, he was of necessity compelled to re-embark, and that then, being caught in a storm, he lost the greatest part of his fleet, a great number of his soldiers, and almost all his cavalry; at which, being dismayed, he returned to Gaul, sorely wounded at his disappointment.

Westminster says much the same, as does Bede. Polidore Virgil, an Italian, who is always severe on the English, in his history, tells us, the report was, that Cæsar, being routed by the Britons at the first encounter, fled into Gaul.

Dr. Halley published a discourse (in Philos. Trans. No. 193) to prove at what time Cæsar landed in Britain, in which he makes it plain, that the cliffs mentioned by Cæsar were those of Dover, and that from the tide, and other circumstances, the Downs was the place where he landed.

In this expedition Cæsar made no advances into the country; the unexpected opposition he met with prevented whatever designs he might have had towards it. Upon the whole, the result of this attempt seems to have been no more than a discovery of the most convenient place of landing and that, if he again attempted the conquest of this country, he stood in need of a much superior force, than what he had then with him.

The Britons, it seems, were not much awed by the Romans; for of all the states into which this island was then divided, two only sent hostages. Provoked at this contempt, Cæsar determined to make a second invasion next year, with a far more powerful fleet and army. For which purpose, when he left his winter quarters in Gaul, as he usually did every year to go into Italy, he gave orders to his lieutenants, who were to command the legions in his absence, that they should build, during the winter, as many ships as they could, and repair the old ones. And at the same time he showed them the manner and form in which he would have them made, directing them to be built something lower than they used to be in the Mediterranean, that the soldiers might both embark and get ashore again with greater ease; and likewise broader than ordinary, as more convenient for the number of horses he intended carrying in them, and to contrive them all for oars, for which the lowness of them would be very proper.

On Cæsar's return to his army, he found that the soldiers, by their unparalleled diligence, had already built six hundred such ships as he had ordered, and twenty-nine gallies, which would be ready to be launched within a few days. Upon which he commanded them all to meet him at the Portus Itius, from whence he knew there was the most convenient passage into Britain, which here was about thirty miles from the continent.

Where this port was has been variously conjectured; Mr. Camden, and Ortelius, suppose it to have been Witson. Cluverius, and after him Somner, Battely, and others, suppose Boulogne to have been the Portus Itius here mentioned by Cæsar. Lambarde, Horsley, and others, join with Dr. Halley in placing it at or somewhere near Calais. The latter of these in his discourse mentioned above, (Phil. Trans. No. 193) founds his opinion on arguments drawn from the navigation of those times, and Cæsar's description of his voyage. He further observes, that Cæsar's distance of the passage from Portus Itius to Britain comes very near the truth, for by an accurate survey, the distance at Calais, from land to land, is twenty-six English miles, or twenty-eight and a half Roman.

From hence he set sail for Britain with five legions, and the same number of horse he had left with Labienus, about sunset, with a gentle southwest wind. About midnight it fell calm, and the fleet being driven by the tide, Cæsar, at day-break, found he had left Britain on the left hand. But the tide turning, they fell to their oars, in order to reach that part of it where they had the year before found the best landing.

Cæsar arrived on the coast of Britain about noon, with his whole fleet, but there was no enemy to be seen; though as he afterwards learned from the prisoners, the inhabitants had been there in vast multitudes, but being terrified at the number of the ships, (which, together with the transports, and other vessels which particular officers had prepared for their own accommodation, amounted to above eight hundred,) they had fled from the shore, and had hid themselves among the hills. Having landed his army without opposition, and chosen a proper place to encamp in, when he had learned from the prisoners where the British forces were posted, about midnight Cæsar marched in quest of them, having left ten cohorts and three hundred horse under the command of Q. Atrius, to guard the ships, which he was the less uneasy for as he left them at anchor on a soft and open shore.

When he had marched about twelve miles he discovered the Britons, who, having advanced with their horse and chariots to the banks of a river, began from a rising ground to oppose the passage of the Romans, and to give them battle; but being repulsed by the Roman cavalry, they retired to a place in the woods, which was fortified both by art and nature, in an extraordinary manner, and which seemed to have been so prepared some time before, on account of their own civil wars. All the passages to it were blocked up by heaps of trees, cut down for that purpose, and the Britons seldom venturing to skirmish out of the woods prevented the Romans from entering their works; but the soldiers of the seventh legion, having cast themselves into a testudo and raised a mount against their works, after having received a few wounds, took the place, and drove them out of the woods; Cæsar however would not permit them to follow the pursuit, because he was unacquainted with the country, and the day being already far spent, he was desirous of employing the rest of it in fortifying his camp.

Various have been the conjectures of our antiquaries concerning this place of the Britons fortified both by art and nature. Horsley thinks it likely that this engagement was on the banks of the river Stour, a little to the north of Durovernum, or Canterbury, in the way towards Sturry, which is about fourteen English miles from the Downs; others well acquainted with this part of Kent, have conjectured it to have been on the banks of the rivulet below Barhamdowns, and that the fortification of the Britons was in the woods behind Kingston, towards Bursted; and the distance as well as the situation of this place, and the continued remains of Roman works about it, almost in a continued line to Deal, add some strength to this conjecture.

Some have placed this encounter below Swerdling downs, three miles north-west from Bursted, and the intrenchment in the woods above the downs behind Heppington, where many remains of intrenchments, &c. are still visible.

Perhaps the engagement was below Barham-down; the fortification near Bursted, as before-mentioned; and the remains above Swerdling, the place to which the Britons retreated after they were put to flight by the Romans, and where Cæsar again found them after he had fortified his camp with their allies under the command of Cassivelaun.

The next morning, having divided his army into three bodies, Cæsar sent both his horse and foot in pursuit of the Britons; soon after which, before the rear of them had got out of sight, some horsemen arrived from Q. Atrius, to acquaint him that the night before there had happened a dreadful storm which had shattered almost all his ships and cast them on the shore, for neither anchors nor cables could hold them, nor could all the skill of the mariners and pilots resist the force of the tempest, so that the fleet, from the great number of shipping lying together, received considerable damage.

Upon this intelligence the Roman general, countermanding his forces, returned himself in person to the fleet, and there found that about forty of his ships were entirely lost, and that the rest of them were so much damaged, as not to be refitted without great trouble and labour. Wherefore, having chosen some workmen for this purpose from among his soldiers, and sent for others from the continent, he wrote to Labienus to build him as many ships as he could with those legions that were left with him; and he himself determined, though it would be an affair that would be attended with great toil and labour, to have his fleet hauled on shore, and to inclose it with his camp, within the same fortification, in the execution of which, the soldiers laboured ten days and nights without intermission, and at this day, upon the shore about Deal, Sandown, and Walmer, there is a long range of heaps of earth, where Camden supposes this ship camp to have been, and which in his time, he says, was called by the people, as he was told, Rome's work. though some have conjectured, and perhaps with some probability, that the place of Cæsar's naval camp was where the town of Deal now stands.

When the shipping being drawn on shore and the camp exceedingly well fortified, Cæsar left the same guard over the fleet as he had before and returned to the place where he had desisted from pursuing the Britons. On his arrival, he found they had assembled their forces there in greater numbers from all parts than when he left the place before. By general consent the chief command and management of the war was intrusted to Cassivelaun whose territories were divided from the maritime states by the river Thames, about eighty miles distant from the sea. There had been before that time continual wars between Cassivelaun and the rest of the states in the island; but the Britons, being terrified on the arrival of the Romans, had conferred the chief direction of affairs on him at so important a conjuncture.

Whilst the Romans were on their march they were briskly attacked by the British horse and chariots, whom they repulsed, with great slaughter, and drove them into the woods; but being too eager in the pursuit, lost some of their own men. Not long after this the Britons made a sudden sally out of the woods, and sharply attacked the advanced guard of the Romans, who little expected them, and were employed in fortifying their camp; upon which Cæsar immediately dispatched the two first cohorts of his legions to their assistance; but the Britons, whilst the soldiers stood amazed at their new way of fighting, boldly broke through the midst of them, and returned again without the loss of a man.

Quintus Laberius Durus was slain in this action but some fresh cohorts coming up the Britons were at last repulsed. This is Cæsar's account; but our historian, Henry of Huntingdon, says that in this engagement Labienus, the tribune, and his battalion, being incompassed by the Britons, were all slain, and Cæsar perceiving the day was lost and that the Britons were to be encountered more by art than strength, determined, before his loss was too great, to save himself by flight; upon which the Britons, pursuing the Romans, killed many of them, and were at last restrained, only by the contiguity of the woods; and Bede goes farther, and tells us, the Britons gained the victory.

This engagement happening in the view of the whole Roman army, they all perceived that the legionary soldiers were not equal to cope with such an enemy, as the weight of their armour would not permit them to pursue, nor durst they go too far from their colours. Neither could their cavalry encounter them without great danger, as the Britons often counterfeited a retreat, and having drawn them from the legions, would leap from their chariots and fight on foot, to a great advantage. For the engagements of the cavalry, whether they retreated or pursued, were attended with one and the same danger. To which may be added, that the Britons never fought in close battalions, but in small parties, at a great distance from one another, each of them having their particular post allotted, whence they received supplies, and the weary were relieved by those who were fresh and untired.

The next day the Britons posted themselves on the hills, at some distance from the Roman camp, appearing but seldom, and with less eagerness to harrass the enemy's horse than the day before. But about noon, when Cæsar had sent out three legions and all the cavalry, under the command of C. Trebonius, to forage, they suddenly rushed on the foragers from all parts, insomuch as to fall in with the legions and their standards. But the Romans returning the attack briskly, drove them back, nor did the cavalry, (who depended on the legions, which followed close after, to sustain them in case of necessity) desist from pursuing the Britons, till they had entirely routed them, great numbers of whom were slain; for the Romans pursued them so close, that they had no opportunity either of rallying, making a stand, or forsaking their chariots.

Upon this rout the British auxiliaries, which had come from all parts, left them; nor did the Britons ever after this engage the Romans with their united forces. From hence Cæsar marched his army to the river Thames, towards the territories of Cassivelaun, which river was fordable only in one place, and that with great difficulty, and on his arrival there, he saw the British forces drawn up in a considerable body on the opposite bank, which was fortified with sharp stakes; they had likewise driven many stakes of the same sort so deep into the bottom of the river, that the tops of them were covered with the water.

Notwithstanding Cæsar had intelligence of this from the prisoners and deserters, yet he ordered his army to pass the river, which they did with such resolution and entrepidity, (though the water took them up to the neck) that the Britons, not being able to sustain their assault, abandoned the bank, and fled.

Cassivelaun, now despairing of success by a battle, disbanded the greatest part of his forces, and contented himself with watching the motions of the Romans, from time to time, and betaking himself to the woods, and other places, inaccessible to the Romans.

In the meantime several states had submitted themselves to Cæsar; and Cassivelaun, to divert him from pursuing his conquests, sent his messengers into Kent, which was then governed by four petty princes; Cingetorix, Carnilius, Taximagulus, and Segonax, whom Cæsar styles Kings, and commanded them to raise what forces they could, and suddenly attack the camp where his ships were laid up; which they did, but were repulsed, with great slaughter, in a sally made by the Romans, who took Cingetorix prisoner, and returned, without any loss, to their trenches.

Upon the news of this defeat Cassivelaun, reflecting on the many losses he had sustained, that his country was laid waste, and that several of the neighbouring states had submitted, sent messengers to Cæsar to treat of a surrender. As the summer was already far spent, Cæsar, who was determined to winter in Gaul to prevent sudden incursions there, readily hearkened to their proposals, demanded hostages, and imposed an annual tribute on the country. Having received the hostages he marched his army back to the seashore, where, finding his ships refitted, he caused them to be launched, and as he had a great number of captives, and some of his ships had been lost in the storm, he resolved to transport his army in two voyages. But as most of the ships which were sent back from Gaul, after they had landed the soldiers that were first carried over, and of those which Labienus had built for him, were driven back by contrary winds, Cæsar, after having long expected them in vain, lest the winter should prevent his voyage, the equinox being near at hand, crowded his soldiers closer than he designed and taking the opportunity of an extraordinary calm, set sail about ten o'clock at night and arrived safe with his whole fleet at the continent by break of day.

It is conjectured, that this second expedition of Cæsar's was in May, and that he returned to Gaul about the middle of September; for, in a letter to Cicero, from Britain, dated September the 1st, he says, he was come to the sea side in order to embark.

Such is the account given by Cæsar of his two expeditions into Britain, who, in penning his Commentaries seems to have framed the whole much to his own advantage. Indeed, no one can read the particulars of these expeditions in them without being sensible that some circumstances must have been omitted for, in some parts, he is scarce consistent with himself, and that whatever was not to his honour, he has passed over in silence, as a proof of which, let us consider Cæsar's design in passing over hither, and attacking the Britons, and the events of it.

He tells us, that he made a descent, with two legions only, in an enemy's country, in the sight of an army, formidable for number, bravery, and peculiar method of fighting, and afterwards in a battle put their united forces to flight. That on his landing, with a much larger force, the second time, he drove the Britons from their advantageous post on the banks of a river, and afterwards from their strong fortification in the woods; that he then routed the British army and their auxiliaries, which had been assembled from all parts of the island; and, what is more wonderful, he passed the Thames at a ford, which was guarded by a numerous army, stuck full of sharp stakes, and so deep as to take the soldiers up to their chins. Such continued scenes of good fortune, it would be imagined, would have secured him success in the design and resolution with which he set sail from Gaul, of conquering Britain, and reducing it to a Roman province, as Dion Cassius positively asserts. Yet, notwithstanding his gaining such victories over the Britons everywhere; his passing the Thames in spite of every obstacle, his vanquishing and routing Cassivelaun, and obliging him to disband most of his forces, in despair of being able to cope with him; his becoming master of the capital of that prince; and the Britons submitting and suing for peace: notwithstanding all these advantages, he was content with ordering Mandubratius to be restored, in the room of Cassivelaun, to the kingdom of the Trinobantes; which command was never executed; for on Cassivelaun's making his submission to Cæsar, he restored him again to his favour, only imposing an easy tribute on him, and then quickly, without fortifying any one place, or leaving any troops in the island, he set sail again for the continent.

So trivial a satisfaction, instead of the conquest of Britain, evidently shows, that the success acquired by Cæsar, in these expeditions, came far short of the idea he endeavours to give us of it. It serves to confirm the testimony of Lucan, who taxes him with turning his back to the Britons; of Dion Cassius, who says, the Roman infantry were entirely routed in a battle by them, and that Cæsar retired from thence without effecting any thing; and of Tacitus, who writes that Cæsar rather showed the Romans the way to Britain, than put them in possession of it; and who in another place makes one of the Britons say that their ancestors had driven out Julius Cæsar from this island.

Whatever promises the Britons had made to Cæsar, in order to get rid of him, they troubled themselves little about the performance of them; and the civil wars which ensued among the Romans were, in great measure, the cause of their neglect of Britain, which continued a long while after peace was restored, as Tacitus elegantly expresses in these words:

"Next follow the civil wars, and the arms of the princes turned against the common-wealth; and hence Britain was long forgot, even in peace."

This neglect of Britain continued till the reign of Claudius, near the space of a whole century, as all the Roman historians acknowledge; during which time the inhabitants of it lived at their own disposal; and, as Dion says, were governed by their own kings. Augustus, indeed, twice made a show of compelling the Britons to fulfil their promises made to his predecessor; and Horace has paid Augustus a compliment on this occasion in more than one of his odes; but the British princes, by courting his friendship by presents and artful addresses, found means to persuade him to give over his design; and Cunobeline, who is said to have succeeded Tenuantius, the successor of Cassivelaun, even caused coins to be stamped after the manner of the Romans; some of which are still to be seen in the cabinets of the curious, having the word Tascia on their reverse, signifying, according to our antiquaries, tribute; for the payment of which it is concluded this money was designed; for though brass and iron rings of a certain weight served, as Cæsar informs us, for their current coin, yet the Romans exacted their tribute in gold and silver, of which latter metal are these coins.

Caligula, the successor of Tiberius, formed a design against Britain, but never put it in execution, which Tacitus ascribes to his instability and the ill success of his vast enterprises in Germany; and Suetonius tells us, that he did no more than receive Adminius, (called also by our writers Guiderius) the son of Cunobeline, who surrendered himself to that emperor with the few men he had with him, having been expelled from his own country by his father. Indeed he made a kind of mock expedition with his army as far as the sea shore opposite to Britain; but being informed the Britons were prepared to receive him, instead of pursuing his design, he ordered his soldiers to fill their helmets with shells, which he called the spoils of the conquered ocean; and then sending his vainglorious letters to the senate, implying the conquest of Britain, he soon followed them to Rome himself.

The Britons may be said to have continued hitherto free from the Roman yoke; but in the reign of Claudius, the successor of Caligula, a great part of the island was brought under subjection to Rome, and the rest by degrees under the succeeding emperors.

In the time of the emperor Claudius, Cunobeline being dead, his two sons, Togodumnus and Caractacus, reigned in Britain in his stead. In their reign, one Bericus - who he was is not known - being driven out of the island for attempting to raise a sedition, fled with those of his party to Rome, and being highly provoked against his countrymen, persuaded the emperor to invade Britain.

On the other hand, the Britons, resenting the emperor's receiving the fugitives, and his refusing to deliver them up, denied the tribute he then demanded of them, and prohibited all commerce with the Romans.

As Claudius wanted only a pretence for the war, he was not sorry they afforded him one so plausible; he was then in his third consulate, and was ambitious of atchieving something that might entitle him to a triumph; therefore he made choice of Britain for his province, and gave orders to Plautius, then Prætor in Gaul, to transport those legions he had with him into Britain, and begin the expedition, whilst he was preparing to follow him, if there should be occasion.

But the Roman soldiers, perhaps, remembering the rough reception the Britons had formerly given to Julius Cæsar, and being, as they said, unwilling to make war beyond the end of the world, at first refused to follow him or obey his commands. However, they were at last prevailed on to embark; and putting to sea in three different parties, lest their landing should be hindered, they made towards Britain, and landed without opposition; for the Britons having been informed of a mutiny in the Roman army, did not expect so sudden an alteration, and had, therefore, made no preparations to oppose them.

It is generally supposed that the emperor sent Plautius into Britain in his third consulate, which fixes it in the year 43; as soon as he had landed he seems to have been very desirous of coming to a battle as soon as possible; but the Britons did all they could to avoid it, and kept themselves in small parties behind their morasses and among their hills in hopes of tiring out the enemy with skirmishes and delays till winter, when they imagined Plautius would go and winter in Gaul, as Julius Cæsar had before.

This resolution much disconcerted the Roman general, who, notwithstanding these difficulties, found means first to attack Caractacus, and afterwards Togodumnus, and defeated them both. He then reduced part of the Dobuni, whence he marched on in quest of the Britons, whom he found carelessly encamped on the farther bank of a river - thought by some to have been the Severn - imagining the Romans could not pass it without a bridge; but Plautius sending over the Germans, who were used to pass the most rapid streams in their armour, they fell upon the astonished Britons, who were forced, after a most obstinate resistance, to betake themselves to flight.

From hence the Britons betook themselves to the Thames, towards the mouth of it, and being acquainted with the nature of the places which were firm and fordable, passed easily; whereas the enemy, in pursuing them, ran great hazards. But the Germans, having swam over the river, and others getting over by a bridge higher up, the Britons were surrounded on all sides, and great numbers of them slain. And the Romans, pursuing too eagerly, fell among the bogs and morasses, and lost great numbers of their own men. Upon this indifferent success, and because the Britons were so far from being daunted at the death of Togodumnus, (who had been slain in one of these battles) that they made preparations with greater fury to revenge it, Plautius fearing the worst, drew back his forces, and taking care to secure the conquests he had already made, sent to Rome to the emperor Claudius to come to his assistance, as he was ordered to do, if his affairs should be in a dangerous situation.

It is plain, from Dion Cassius' account of this expedition, that Plautius waited for the emperor on the south, or Kentish side of the Thames. From his fear of the preparations and fury of the Britons, it is most likely he chose himself an advantageous situation for this purpose, capable of containing his forces, and which he, no doubt strongly entrenched and fortified. It has been thought by many, that the place of his encampment was where those large remains of a Roman camp and entrenchment are still to be seen on Kestondown, near Bromley. Indeed, its nearness to the Thames, as well as its size, strength, and many other circumstances, induce one to think it could hardly be made for any other purpose.

The emperor Claudius no sooner received this news than he set out from Rome with a mighty equipage; and, to strike the more terror, he brought with him several elephants; having pursued his journey, partly by land and partly by sea, till he came to the ocean, he sailed over, and landed in Britain, and immediately marched to join Plautius, who still waited for him near the Thames.

Having taken upon himself the chief command, the whole army passed that river, and in a set battle gave the Britons a signal overthrow. After this he took Camulodunum; supposed by some to have been Maldon; by others Colchester; and by Dr. Gale, Walden, the royal seat of Cunobeline, and a great number of prisoners in it; many by force, and others by surrender.

From the mention Suetonius makes of Claudius's expedition hither, it is insinuated, his conquest in Britain cost no blood. Bede, we may suppose, was of the same opinion, as in his account of it he even copies Suetonius's words: but Dion Cassius, from whom we have the most particular description of this war, gives the above very different account of it.

Whichever the fact was, part of Britain being thus subdued, Claudius disarmed the inhabitants, and appointed Plautius to govern them, and ordered him to subdue those who remained as yet unconquered. To such as had submitted, he generously forgave the confiscation of their estates, which obliged them to such a degree, that they erected a temple to him, and paid him divine honors. The emperor, having staid in Britain about sixteen days, set out from hence on his return to Rome, having sent before him the news of his victories. And though he had conquered but a very small part of this island, yet, on his arrival at Rome, he was rewarded with a triumph, and many other honors, the same as had been decreed to other conquerors, after they had reduced whole kingdoms.

After this, the several governors of Britain, sent over by the Romans, had various success against the Britons; one while the Romans through fear of them taking care not to provoke them by any act of hostility, giving to their cowardly inaction the specious name of peace, and at another time maintaining their conquests, and reducing several warlike states to their empire.

In this situation Britain remained till the celebrated Cneius Julius Agricola was sent to command in it, in the reign of the emperor Vespasian, in the year 78; who not only, by his bravery, extended the Roman empire through Wales and the farthest part of Scotland; but by his prudent management, reconciled the inhabitants to the Roman government; by which means the Britons began to live more contented, and in a state of peace under the Romans; a state which, through the neglect and connivance of former governors, had been, till then, no less dreadful than that of war. For the purpose, he employed his winters here in measures extremely advantageous to the empire; so that the people, wild and dispersed over the country, might, by a taste of pleasures, be reconciled to inactivity and repose, he encouraged them privately, and publicly assisted them to build temples, houses, and places of public resort. He took care to have the sons of their chiefs educated in the liberal sciences, preferring their genius to that of their neighbours, the Gauls; and such was his success, that those who had lately scorned to learn the Roman language, seemed now fond of its elegancies.

From that time many of the Britons began to assume the Roman apparel, and the use of the gown grew frequent among them. Thus, by degrees, they proceeded to the charms and allurements of vice and effeminacy, in their galleries, baths, entertainments, and other kinds of luxury; all which were, as Tacitus judiciously observes, by the inexperienced, styled politeness, though in reality they were only baits of slavery.

Agricola having spent eight years in Britain, ordered the admiral of his fleet to sail round it; which he happily accomplished, and returned, with great reputatation, to the port whence he had departed, and thence proved Britain to be, as it was long thought before, an island.

Though Britain was thus, after so many struggles and contests, entirely reduced, yet the Romans did not long continue masters of it, at least, in Caledonia; for what Agricola won, was, on his being recalled soon after, lost by Domitian, in whose reign the farther, or northern, parts of Britain were left to the natives of them, the Romans contenting themselves with the hither, or southern, part which was reduced to a complete province, not governed by consular or proconsular deputies, but accounted præsidal, and appropriated to the emperors, as being annexed to the empire, after the division of provinces by Augustus, and having proprætors of its own.

The Romans had continued conflicts after this with the northern inhabitants of Britain, the Scots and the Picts. The first mention made of the former infesting this island, is in the year 360. They landed first from Ireland, as the Picts had done before from Scandinavia. These conflicts were attended with various success. At length, in order to restrain these people, and to prevent their making incursions into their provinces, they caused several walls at different times to be built across from sea to sea, which separated at the same time that it defended the provincial part of Britain, in the possession of the Romans, from the northern part, in the hands of the barbarians.

During the whole of this period, the county of Kent, notwithstanding the bloody wars and insurrections which continually overspread the rest of Britain, seems to have continued in peace, and in a quiet subjection to the Roman government; for though at first the inhabitants of it contended with much bravery in defence of their liberty against the Romans, and did not submit to the yoke without much bloodshed, yet, in the end, they became pleased with their situation, and, as it were, one nation, with their conquerors, and were, at last, no less unwilling to part with them than they had been at first to receive them.

At length, soon after the year 395, the famous Stilico, who governed the western empire during the minority of the emperor Honorius, sent over a legion into Britain by which means the Saxons, who are said to have first infested Britain in the time of the emperor Valentinian, anno 364, being overcome, the sea was become quiet; and the Picts having lost their strength, Britain was delivered from her fears.

About this time a proper officer was appointed to guard the coasts against the attempts of the Saxons with the title of Comes Littoris Saxonica. Not long after, the Roman empire being overrun by several barbarous nations, most of the Roman troops quartered in Britain were recalled, and the island was again lest open to its former enemies; whereupon the natives, expecting no assistance from Honorius, set up an emperor of their own, two of whom, Mark and Gratian, being after a very short reign successively murdered, were succeeded by Constantine, a common soldier, who was inspired with such an opinion of his own merit and fortune, that he formed a design of making himself master of the whole empire. With this view he passed over into Gaul, taking with him the few Roman forces that had been left here, and such of the Britons as were able to bear arms.

The unhappy Britons, thus left to themselves, were more harrassed than ever by the Scots, Picts and other northern nations, who, putting all to fire and sword, soon reduced them to a miserable condition. In this situation, after having often implored in vain the emperor's assistance, they withdrew their obedience to Rome, and no longer obeyed the laws of the empire. The emperor Honorius seemed to approve their conduct; for, by his letters, he permitted, and even advised them to provide for their own safety, which was an implicit resignation of the sovereignty of Britain. This happened, according to Bede, a little after the taking of Rome by Alaric, king of the Goths, in the year of Christ 410.

The Britons, now again a free people, seemed at first to have fought with some success against their irreconcileable enemies; but being in the end overpowered, they had recourse again to the emperor, imploring his protection, and promising an entire obedience to Rome, provided they were delivered from the tyranny and oppression of their merciless enemies. Honorious, touched with compassion, sent a legion to their relief, which landing unexpectedly in Britain, cut in pieces great numbers of the Scots and Picts, and obliged them to retire beyond the friths of Edinburgh and Dumbarton; and then, after advising the Britons to build a wall on the isthmus, from sea to sea, they returned to the continent, where their assistance was wanted, to repulse the barbarians, breaking from all quarters into the empire. But though this advice was immediately followed by the Britons, yet it was of no service to them; for the wall being built only with turf, their enemies soon broke it down in several places, and pouring in upon their territories, like a torrent, committed more dreadful ravages than ever, destroying every thing with fire and sword.

After so many miseries and calamities, the unhappy Britons sent deputies once more to the emperor, who appearing before him with their garments rent, and dust on their heads, prevailed on him to send new forces to their relief. These hastening into Britain, fell upon the enemy, not in the least apprised of their arrival, and made a dreadful havoc among them, whilst they were roving up and down in quest of booty. The Scots and Picts being thus driven beyond the firths, the Romans, who had no ambitious views in assisting the distressed Britons, but were come over merely out of compassion, told them plainly they were to expect no farther assistance from the emperor; that the troops he had now sent were ordered back to the continent, and that they were therefore obliged to take their last farewell of Britain, and entirely abandon the island.

After this declaration, Gallio of Ravenna, commander of the Roman troops, exhorted the Britons to defend themselves for the future by fighting manfully for their country, their wives their children, and, what ought to be dearer than life itself, their liberty, against an enemy no stronger than themselves, provided they would exert their ancient courage and resolution. And that they might the better withstand the attacks of the enemy, he advised them to repair the wall built by Severus, not with turf, but with stone, offering them the assistance of his soldiers, and his own direction in the work. Upon this the Britons, jointly with the Romans, carried on their work with such diligence, that though the wall was eight feet in breadth, and twelve in heighth, it was soon finished. They likewise built towers at convenient distances on the east coast, against the Saxons and others; who, coming from Germany, made frequent descents on that side.

The Roman commander then leaving them patterns of the weapons he had taught them to make, after many encouraging exhortations, took his last farewell of Britain, telling the inhabitants not to expect their return again; and from this departure may be dated the total desertion of Britain by them, and the final period of the Roman empire in this island. But there is a great difference among writers about the year in which the Romans may be said to have abandoned Britain; some dating it from Gallio's departure, others from their application to Ætius, the consul, for his assistance, and accordingly they place this event in the years 426, 435, and 437. Usher says, Gallio arrived in Britain, with his forces, in 425, and that he left it in 427, which seems the most probable account of any.

That part of Britain which lies south of the two Firths (for the northern parts still maintained their independency) having been reduced into a complete province by Agricola, in the reign of the emperor Domitian, had been put under the government of an officer, who bore the title of Proprætor, being the emperor's lieutenant, and the inhabitants, who were become subjects of the empire, endured all the hardships that usually fall to the lot of the vanquished; exhorbitant taxes were laid on them on various pretences; their estates were frequently taken from them, and given to the veterans that were continually coming to settle in the island, and their youth were made soldiers and dispersed into the other provices of the empire. Under this form of government the province of Britain continued to the time of the emperor Constantine, who, when he new modelled the empire, and made a general regulation for the better government of his dominions, divided them into four large Prœfectures, viz. Italy, Gaul, the East, and Illyria, in which were contained fourteen great provinces. Britain, one of these, was made subject to the Prœfectus Prœtorio, or Præfect of Gaul, and was governed by a vicar, or deputy, who was styled Spectabilis.

Before this time, Britain was divided into two provinces only, but Constantine divided it into three; the first was called Britannia Prima, containing those parts south of the Thames; the second Britannia Secunda, containing all the country west of the Severn, to the Irish sea, now called Wales; the third province was distinguished by the name of Maxima Cæfarienfis, and contained all the rest of the country lying northward of the Thames, and eastward of the Severn.

Pancirollus, who wrote his Notitia somewhat later than the time of the Emperors Arcadius and Honorius, viz. before the middle of the fifth century, in his description of the government of Britain, tells us, that the lieutenant, or vicegerent, of the Præfect of Gaul, had then under him certain consular deputies, and præsides, or presidents, who, with several inferior officers, managed all civil and criminal matters. Besides which, there were subordinate to him at that time in Britain three different courts, or departments, under the direction of three principal officers, namely, the Commes Britanniarum, or Count of Britain; the Dux Britanniarum, or Duke of Britain; and the Comes Littoris Saxonici, or Count of the Saxon Shore.

The first of these seems to have been merely a civil officer, whose jurisdiction was over the inland parts of the island, and the western coasts; the second seems to have been military, whose station was in the North, where he had a large body of troops garrisoned under his command, to defend those parts from the inroads of the Scots and Picts, and the third had the guard of the eastern and southern coasts, from the depredations of the Saxon pirates; for which purpose he had likewise a sufficient number of troops under his command, stationed in this part of Britain. The government of the honourable the Count of the Saxon Shore in Britain, extended over the counties of Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Suffex, Hampshire, and Kent, on the coasts of which, or at least near them, the forces under his command were stationed. Those in the county of Kent were:

The military force kept by the Romans in Britain was very considerable; from the time of Claudius to that of the emperor Vespasian there were four legions constantly in this island, and afterwards three, till the Romans were forced to recall them, by degrees, to make head against their intestine enemies, and the Goths and other barbarous nations who extended their ravages to all parts of the empire.

There remains little more to be said of the Romans whilst in Britain that concerns their transactions in this county, further than to take notice that in order to facilitate their marches and prepare an easy quick communication throughout the island they made several highways from one end of it to the other; particularly in this county they made three public or consular ways, besides others of an inferior sort, and fixed their usual stations and mansions upon them. That in process of time they built several watch-towers, forts, and castles on the coast, as well to awe the Britons and preserve a safe intercourse with the continent as to guard against the insults of the Saxon pirates, all which will, in other parts of this work, be more particularly mentioned.till the Romans were forced to recall them, by degrees, to make head against their intestine enemies, and the Goths and other barbarous nations who extended their ravages to all parts of the empire.

There remains little more to be said of the Romans whilst in Britain that concerns their transactions in this county, further than to take notice that in order to facilitate their marches and prepare an easy quick communication throughout the island they made several highways from one end of it to the other; particularly in this county they made three public or consular ways, besides others of an inferior sort, and fixed their usual stations and mansions upon them. That in process of time they built several watch-towers, forts, and castles on the coast, as well to awe the Britons and preserve a safe intercourse with the continent as to guard against the insults of the Saxon pirates, all which will, in other parts of this work, be more particularly mentioned.


"The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent" (1800) Edward Hasted Volume 10 at page 1

"The town and parish of Deal lies adjoining to Sholdon north-eastward, being written in ancient writers, both Dola [1] and Dale; in the survey of Domesday, Addelam, taking its name from its situation - a low open plain upon the seashore."

Eastern Kent has changed considerably since Roman-British times; the Wantsum Channel has completely silted up, connecting the Isle of Thanet to the mainland and the Claudian bridgehead port at Richborough now lies 2 miles (3.2 km) from the sea.

Historians have often questioned why Julius Cæsar did not use the natural harbour at Richborough for either of his British expeditions, particularly the second one, and landed instead on the shingle beach between Deal and Walmer Castle. The only possible answer must be that the harbour did not exist in 54 BC, but by the Claudian invasion almost one-hundred years later (in AD 43) the harbour had been created, possibly by the titanic forces of a particularly violent - though unrecorded - winter storm.


Eastern Kent AD 43
Adapted from "The Cantiaci" by Alec Detsicas (page 34, figure 7)

[1] Nennius (a Welsh monk of the 9th century attributed with authorship of the Historia Brittonum) says "Cæsar ad Dola bellum pugnavit" ("Cæsar fought a battle at Deal"). William Baxter (1650 - 1723), in his "Glossarium Antiquitatum Britannicarum" published in 1719, suggests that this place was anciently so called from the crookedness of the shore; Dol being the same in the British, as (Dolos) in the Greek.

In Greek mythology, Dolos is the spirit of trickery and guile; bait (figuratively), deceit (trickery) using bait to "hook" people; "deceit motivated by guile") uses decoys to snare (deceive) people which implies treachery to exploit the naïve, from δέλω (delo) to catch with a bait). Dolos is also a master at cunning deception, craftiness, and treachery. He is an apprentice of the Titan Prometheus, and Pseudologi. His female counterpart is Apate who is the goddess of fraud and deception. He was parented by the Gaia and Ather or Erebos and Nyx. Dolos became known for his skill when he attempted to make a statue of Veritas, again in order to trick people into thinking they were seeing the real statue. But he ran out of clay, which he was using to create the statue, and had to leave the task unfinished as he quaked in fear while his skill-master overviewed his attempt at deceitfulness. But to his surprise, Prometheus was amazed at the similarity between the statues - then Dolos became the master at his crafty and tricky ways. There are even some stories of Dolos tricking gods into lies. His Roman equivalent is Mendacius.


MOST AUTHORS have agreed in opinion, that Julius Cæsar, in his first expedition, landed somewhere near this place, after having been repulsed by the Britons, in his attempt to land at Dover.

Dr. Halley has proved in a discourse, which he published on this subject, that the cliffs, mentioned by Cæsar in his Commentaries, were those of Dover; and that the plain and open shore, which he next arrived at, was that along the downs here, where he made his landing good; some have contended that he landed to the northward of the present town of Deal, on some part of the sand downs; but there is a greater probability that the actual spot was between where the windmill of Upper Deal now stands and Walmer castle, where there are remains of intrenchments still visible.

On the fourth night, after Cæsar's arrival, a great storm having damaged and destroyed many of his ships of burthen, and filled the gallies, which were drawn on shore, with the tide; he caused the remains of his fleet, with great toil and labour, to be hauled further up the shore on dry land, and inclosed it with his camp, within the same fortification.

Where this naval camp was, can only be conjectured. Some have supposed it to have been on the same spot where the southern part of the town of Deal now stands; whilst others think, that the cut, now called the Old Haven, mid-way on the sand-downs between Deal and Sandwich, is the place where Cæsar secured his shattered fleet; and at this time, upon the shore about Deal, Sandown, and Walmer, is a long range of heaps of earth, where Camden, Lambarde, Dr. Plot, and some others, suppose this ship camp to have been, and which the former says, in his time was called by the people Rome's work, that is, the work of the Romans; whilst others will have it, that they are only sand hills, brought together by the force of the weather.

Next year, when Cæsar made a second expedition hither, he most probably landed at or not far from the same place he had done the year before; so that in whatever particular spot this naval camp, or where he landed, was, it was all the same as to his route from hence afterwards; for as he could not cross the great marshes to Great Mongeham, Norborne, or Ham, he must necessarily march to Upper Deal mill and Ripple, in pursuit of the enemy, and accordingly from thence by Little Mongeham, Sutton, Maimage, Barville, Eythorne, Barston, and Snowdowne, to his main camp on Barham downs, along all which route there is a continued course of Roman works and intrenchments, and tumuli, mounts or barrows, most of which are taken notice of in the description of those parishes, and of Barham Downs in particular.

But after Cæsar's taking his final departure from Britain, nothing further occurs relating to this place, the Romans afterwards constantly using the port of Richborough upon all occasions, when they sailed to this part of the coast, till the time of their wholly abandoning this island; and the haven of Sandwich, after that, on the decay of the port of the port of Richborough, in great measure succeeding to it.

During all this time, the spot where great part of the town of Lower Deal now stands, was an open plain, and the only village here, was that now called Upper Deal, which was composed of the habitations of a few poor fishermen only, though at a less distance from the sea than at present, owing to the great increase of beach thrown on this shore afterwards. Leland, who wrote in king Henry VIII's time, seems to confirm this, for in his Itinerary, he says

"Deale half a myle fro the shore of the sea, a Finsheher village iii myles or more above Sandwic, is upon a flat shore, and very open to these, wher is a fosse or a great bank artificial betwixt the town and se, and beginnith about Deale and renneth a great way up toward S. Margarets Clyse, yn as much that sum suppose that this is the place where Cæsar landed in aperto Litore. Surely the fosse was made to kepe owt ennemyes ther or to defend the rage of the se, or I think rather the casting up beche or pible."


"The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent" (1800) Edward Hasted, Volume 9 at page 549

The Hundred of Cornilo: Introduction

Lies the next northward from that of Bewsborough. It is written in the survey of Domesday, both Cornelai and Cornelest; but in the 7th year of king Edward I (1279) it was called by its present name.

In this hundred was a water, called Gestling, since called the north stream, which running from near Howe-bridge, in Norborne, flowed from thence through the marshes, and entered the sea below Sandwich. In this water, the felons, condemned to death within this hundred, suffered judgment by drowning.

This hundred contains within the bounds of it the parishes of:

  1. East Langdon
  2. Sutton
  3. Ripple
  4. Great Mongeham
  5. Little Mongeham
  6. Norborne
  7. Sholdon

And the churches of those parishes. Two constables have jurisdiction over it, who are elected annually at the court leet, held for the manor of Norborne.

The upper half hundred contains the parishes of Great Mongeham, Norborne, and Sholdon. The lower half hundred contains East Langdon, Sutton, Ripple, and Little Mongeham.

This hundred likewise contained formerly the town and parish of Deal, the parish of Walmer and the parish of Ringwold with the hamlet of Kingsdowne; all three long since united to the jurisdiction of the cinque ports, as will be mentioned further hereafter.



Marshlands of Worth Minnis and Lydden Valley lying between Deal and Sandwich


The marshlands between Deal and Sandwich: "The Wantsum and Lower Stour Marshes"
Soilscape 21: Loamy and clayey soils of coastal flats with naturally high groundwater
Habitats: wet brackish costal flood meadows
Drainage: naturally wet

The South Eastern Gazette, Tuesday 4 January 1853 at page 6

The spot on which the Duke of Wellington breathed his last is believed by scholars and antiquarians to be the identical place where Julius Cæsar disembarked with his army 1,900 years ago.


The South Eastern Gazette, Tuesday 18 March 1856 at page 5

Deal

Mutual Improvement Society

On the 11th inst. the Rev. John Rootham, of Canterbury, delivered a lecture on "Albion or Ancient Briton before its invasion by Julius Cæsar". The lecturer showed that its original inhabitants, who were of Celtic origin, were succeeded by the Goths or Scythians, who may be regarded as the chief ancestors of the Britons. He then touched upon the period and character of Phoenician intercourse with this island, which was extensively carried on more than 1,000 years before the Christian era. He next reverted, after the fall of Tyre, to the trade which the Greeks for centuries carried on with our island, and clearly showed that at the time of its invasion by Julius Cæsar, the ancient Britons were neither the painted savages nor the ignorant barbarians which they are generally represented to have been; but that they had made considerable progress in science, arts, and civil polity. It was clearly proved that the Druids had made considerable progress in astronomy; that they had some knowledge of arithmetic, geometry, botany, and medicine; and that they were able to perform the most astonishing mechanical feats, as the gigantic remains of their great national temple, at Stonehenge, and other druidical monuments clearly prove. The audience appeared deeply interested, and an unanimous vote of thanks was presented to Mr. Rootham for the vast amount of information his lecture afforded.


"On Cæsar's Landing-Place in Britain" (1858) R.C. Hussey Archæologia Cantiana, volume 1 at pages 94 to 110

NOTWITHSTANDING all that has been written with a view to determine the place of Cæsar's landing in Britain, the question is still open to further inquiry. The subject may be thought trite, but it must always possess a degree of interest for the people of Kent; and as the views here propounded differ from those of preceding writers, it is hoped that this additional treatise will be found excusable.

As the purpose of the following observations is to endeavour to ascertain the course of Cæsar's operations on the coast of Britain, it is unnecessary to refer to the transactions in which he was engaged preparatory to leaving Gaul, as they are not connected with the occurrences to be here investigated. [2]

Before attempting to trace Cæsar's movements, it is requisite to call attention to the part of the coast on which he can be supposed to have landed, viz. between Beachy Head and Dover; beyond Dover it is needless to look, for although, until recently, the general assumption has been that he debarked at Deal, it seems now to be clearly ascertained that at the time of his arrival, the current of the tide must have carried him from Dover in the opposite direction.

In the absence of any positive evidence of change, it would be natural to suppose that during the nineteen centuries which have passed since Cæsar's time, the action of the sea must have caused alterations in the coast, by wearing away the cliffs and headlands, and increasing the deposits on the low parts of the shore ; but in this respect we are not entirely dependent on conjecture, as various changes are distinctly recorded, though history does not reach, by some centuries, to the age of Cæsar.

The cliffs at Dover, and from thence to within a few miles of Folkestone, are of chalk, and therefore liable to be easily acted upon by the sea, and the state of the works next the edge of the cliff at Dover Castle shows that this hill formerly extended beyond its present limits. In the hollow occupied by the town of Dover, the land has undoubtedly advanced, and it was still advancing, by an accumulation of shingle, until the harbour of refuge, now in progress, was begun. At the end of the chalk next Folkestone is Eastwear Bay, where the cliffs become much lower, and the soil changes to a mixture of stone and clay; here the land periodically yields to the action of the sea. Immediately adjacent to this bay is the town of Folkestone, of which a considerable portion has been washed away.

At Hythe the shore has advanced to some extent, and from hence the low tract of Romney Marsh, formed entirely by a deposit from the sea, reaches (under different names) to Rye, and to the hills below Pett, near Winchelsea; within this district important changes have arisen, but the history of them unfortunately is not perfectly clear; it seems certain, however, that in the time of the Romans, an estuary ran from Hythe towards Appledore, close under the high ground on which the church of Limpne (Lympe) stands, which possibly was an outlet of the river Rother, formerly called the Limene; here the Portus Lemanis was situated, and considerable remains of Roman buildings are still to be seen on the slope of the hill under Limpne (Lympne) church. A second estuary extended across the marsh, from Romney to Appledore, apparently the main outlet of the Rother; and a third appears to have passed southward from Appledore, under the high land at Playden, and to have reached the sea at Rye, or between that town and "Winchelsea.

In this marshy tract very material changes have been effected by storms, but these three estuaries seem all to have existed at the same period. The two first mentioned have long been entirely choked, and the soil drained and made valuable land; the third is now represented by the sluggish stream of the Rother, which falls into the sea at Rye. New Romney owes its foundation to the sea having left the old town. At Dungeness the land continues to increase, from the accumulation of beach, to the extent of some feet annually.

The original town of Winchelsea stood on a low island, or peninsula (for the accounts are not perfectly clear on this point), towards the S.E. from the present town, about where the Pier-Head is marked on the map, or somewhat further seaward; this was in great part destroyed by a violent storm in 1287, immediately after which the new town was founded, and the ancient site was speedily washed away. Both before and after the destruction of the first town, the harbour of Winchelsea was one of the principal ports, if not the chief port, of assembly for the Royal Navy; it must therefore, throughout this period, have been both safe and commodious, and the position of the castle - formerly called Camber Castle, or the Castle at the Camber (harbour) - seems to prove that until a comparatively late date the sea penetrated far within the present line of coast, and the whole breadth of ground between the Pier-Head and the castle, and for some distance further inland, towards Rye, is composed of beach so recently accumulated as to be, for the most part, still bare of vegetation.

At Hastings, the high ground has certainly receded, as, before the Castle Hill was cut back to make room for Pelham Crescent, part of the wall of the castle projected beyond the face of the cliff, and a large mass which had fallen off lay below at the foot of the hill; but the cliffs between Winchelsea and Pevensey are of too compact a structure to be easily acted upon by the sea, and they are probably now but little reduced from the appearance they presented at the time of Cæsar's invasion.

Beyond Hastings, towards Beachy Head, I am unable to point out any particular alterations ; there is some evidence of changes, in mediaeval times, near Pevensey, either on the shore or about the mouths of the streams, but I have no precise knowledge of the history of this locality. Throughout the line of coast here referred to, from Dover to Beachy Head, the beach is now drifted by the tide along the shore with considerable force, and is accumulating in various places, but this kind of deposit seems to be of comparatively recent origin, for the older parts of the low lands consist (so far as my knowledge of them extends) of mud and sand; this shows that the current is now stronger, at least along the low parts of the shore, than it formerly was, a change probably caused by the wearing away of the cliffs and headlands.

We may now give attention to Cæsar's operations.

His first expedition appears to have been in some degree experimental, as it was undertaken late in the season, with a small force of two legions, unprovided with the usual quantity of baggage; and as the transporting of this body of troops seems to have required all the ships then at his command, he cannot be supposed to have contemplated at that time effecting a permanent conquest; and he says that if he could proceed so far only as to ascertain the character of the island and its inhabitants, the gaining of this information would be highly useful.

From the Gauls nothing was to be learnt of the country or people of Britain, for even the traders, to whom he made especial application, could tell neither the size of the island, nor by what tribes it was occupied, nor the customs of the inhabitants, or their usages in warfare, nor what ports were fit to receive a fleet. In this state of ignorance, Cæsar thought it prudent, before embarking on his enterprise, to send an officer, C. Volusenus, in a galley to collect what information he could, with directions to return quickly, which he did, after an absence of five days, without having ventured to land on the British coast.

Hereupon Cæsar completed his preparations, and sailing from Gaul with a favourable wind, about midnight, he reached the coast of Britain with the first of his ships at ten o'clock the following morning; here he saw the hills on all sides covered with enemies, and finding the place he had approached to be altogether unsuited for a hostile landing, he remained at anchor until the rest of his fleet were assembled, and then, having in the meanwhile called his officers together and given his orders, at three in the afternoon, with wind and tide in his favour, sailed a distance of eight (or seven) miles to a flat open part of the shore, where, after a fierce contest, he succeeded in effecting a landing. This is a general outline of Cæsar's narrative, but it is necessary for our present inquiry to make a close examination of each step in his progress.

The first thing to be noticed is, that Cæsar twice mentions his desire to learn what ports on the coast of Britain were capable of receiving his fleet; it may therefore be concluded that his wish was to land in, or close to, a haven where his ships might be made secure. The way in which he speaks of the place where he first arrived is also remarkable, and to this I wish to call particular attention, because I venture to think that Cæsar's words have been misunderstood. The general assumption has been that they are not to be interpreted with perfect strictness; it may however be presumed that he was well able to give an accurate account of whatever he intended to describe, and it is difficult to believe that he can have described a peculiar conformation of the coast which he did not find: in this respect, therefore, I must avow myself to be, though a Briton, Cæsar's advocate, and contend for a literal interpretation of his words. His description is very concise, but it has every appearance of exactness, and is perfectly clear:

"Cujus loci haec erat natura: adeo montibus angustis mare continebatur, uti ex locis superioribus in littus telum adjici posset."

The introductory words give emphasis to what follows, and the whole passage seems to imply, that he was struck, if not surprised, by the peculiarities of the place. His subsequent proceedings appear to show that he was embarrassed by the obstacles unexpectedly encountered. The delay of five hours of inactivity might be accounted for by a reluctance to begin any hostile movement before his whole force had arrived, but the calling together of his officers during this interval, and explaining to them the intelligence Volusenus had collected, pointing out what he was intending to do, and exhorting them to act with promptness and discretion, indicates a change in his plan of operations, for the carrying out of which fresh orders were necessary; and as the fleet did not quit its anchorage till within about four hours of sunset,[3] with a new landing place to be found, a landing to be forced, and the army to be secured for the night, Cæsar had good reason for urging his officers to exert themselves. A course of seven or eight miles along the coast, in the direction of the tide, brought the fleet to a flat open part of the shore, where a landing was gained with great difficulty. [4]

It is now necessary to revert to the coast of Britain, and endeavour to discover the locality of the transactions just referred to. At Dover, there may have been an inlet at the date of Cæsar's arrival, sufficient to be called a haven, but it must have been small, and the adjacent ground does not agree with Cæsar's description. [5]. A distance of seven or eight miles, in the direction of the tide from Dover, reaches to Folkestone, or a little further, where an invading force would have found very serious, though probably not insuperable difficulty ties.

At Hythe, [6] or rather at Limpne, a reasonably good harbour probably existed, but the ground abutting upon it does not in any degree possess, or appear to have possessed, the requisite peculiarities, and a movement from hence would have brought the Roman fleet to the shore of Romney Marsh, where it is impossible to suppose that Cæsar would have disembarked; neither is it credible that he could, in the first instance, have steered to Romney, or any other spot within the limits of the marsh.

At Pevensey, there may have been a harbour, but it is difficult to imagine that any of the surrounding ground can ever have suited with Cæsar's description, and a distance of seven or eight miles from hence would reach the cliff's towards Beachy Head.

Neither of these localities therefore entirely fulfils the conditions requisite to establish the probability of its having been the place of Cæsar's arrival; but there is one other spot to examine, viz. Winchelsea; here, as already noticed, there was a spacious harbour at the earliest date which is recorded, and I think there is the strongest ground for assuming it to have-existed at the time of the Roman invasion; there is also very great probability of the deposit on which the old town of Winchelsea stood having been formed at that time, but of this no proof is to be found. I have not met with any evidence of the position of the harbour, but it can hardly have been anywhere else than between the site of the old town and the hills towards Pett. The whole of what is now Pett level, as far inland as to the cliff on which modern Winchelsea stands, has unquestionably been occupied by the sea, and I have not any doubt that at the date of Cæsar's invasion, and for centuries later, the greater part, if not the whole, of this tract was under water, with the shore on the western side following the blue line on the accompanying map. The high ground next Pett slopes rapidly down to this line of shore, and ends in a succession of small bays and promontories; at no part, however, of the whole distance from Winchelsea to the point marked A, excepting in the valley from Pannel Bridge, and a length of perhaps two hundred yards at the back of the bay C, does the declivity reach the water-level, as the skirt of the hills is worn away so as to form a step or low cliff, perhaps forty feet high, or rather more, at the end of the promontories, but in general of much less elevation. [7]

The peculiarities of this spot are very remarkable, and as they bear strongly on our present inquiry, it is necessary to describe them with some minuteness. Beginning at the end of the military canal, marked A, where the cliffs which face the sea under Fairlight end rather suddenly, and calculating distances along the bank of the canal, there is, first, an opening, forming a bay, about 450 yards wide; then follows a cliff, something more than 450 yards long, part of which may be as much as forty or fifty feet high, but the greater portion is much less, this, when viewed from the south-east, has the appearance of a promontory, but the ground at the back slopes very rapidly down to the level of the water, and it is actually an island; after this comes another opening or bay, about 600 yards, or rather more, in width (still measuring on the bank of the canal), to the point of the promontory B; to which succeeds a third bay and an oblique line of coast, reaching about 700 yards further, to the point D. Now, if we look back to the time when Pett level was covered by the sea, all the characteristics of this locality appear consistent with Cæsar's narrative; every probably is in favour of the existence of a harbour; and in the irregularities of the shore are seen the angusti montes which turned away the Roman forces; not high cliffs conspicuous from a distance, but low mounts, slight eminences, high enough to stop the advance of invaders, and low enough to allow the Britons collected on them to throw their missiles with effect; and between these the water was so held in, that had Cæsar attempted to force a landing, his troops would inevitably have been broken into separate detachments, and, in the then high state of the tide, some of his ships might have floated under the cliffs, within reach of his enemies: so that the spot not only agrees most exactly with Cæsar's description, but also thoroughly justifies the opinion he gives

"Hunc ad egrediendum nequaquam idoneum arbitratus locum".

It may perhaps be urged that Volusenus would have discovered such peculiarities as these, and have warned Cæsar against attempting a descent on this part of the coast; but he is not likely to have ventured with his single ship into an unknown harbour in a hostile country, and, judging from the imperfect idea which I myself gained on seeing the place from the Pier-Head, a distant view would not have enabled him to detect the true character of the ground.

Following the coast in the direction of the tide, from Winchelsea towards Beachy Head, the first opening in the high cliffs in any degree practicable for Cæsar's purpose is between St. Leonard's and Bulverhithe, exactly at the right distance from Pett level to agree with his history. [8] Here two small valleys unite on the shore, having between them a peninsular hill connected at the back by a narrow isthmus with the high ground of the inland country. The width of the interval existing at the time of the Roman invasion between Bulverhithe and the end of the cliffs at St. Leonard's is doubtful, and it must have varied according to the depth of the curve which the shore may have followed along the skirt of the hills next St. Leonard's; it is also uncertain whether at that time the water reached the peninsular hill just mentioned; it is clear, however, that the end of this hill has formerly been washed by the sea, and if it was so at the period referred to, the gap in the cliffs must have been divided into two spaces, one (next Bulverhithe) about five furlongs wide at high tide, and the other of uncertain width, perhaps a mile, perhaps half a mile. But the breadth of these openings at high tide is of little, importance to our investigation, as Cæsar reached the place of his debarkation about, or a little before, the time of low tide, when, if this part of the coast was then like what it now is, there must have been a firm open shore of unbounded length, and nearly a furlong in width, between the cliffs and the edge of the water, affording ample space for a hostile landing, while the narrowness of the intervals through which the Britons could descend to the shore would have been favourable to Cæsar's small army.


Sketch of Ground between Bulverhithe and St. Leonard's.

No peculiarities in any degree at variance with Cæsar's narrative appear to be discoverable in this locality, nor any cogent reason to exist why his first landing in Britain may not have been effected at this spot: the "apertum ac planum littus" is not to be understood as a low line of coast, but merely a flat shore exposed to the sea, in contradistinction from a haven, in which he had designed to land. No occurrences are recorded after the Roman forces were established on land that will help our present inquiry, but it may be noticed that Cæsar describes his galleys to have been drawn ashore, and the transports to have remained at anchor in the open sea, implying that no creek or haven was available for their security; and in this respect the spot under consideration suits with the narrative.

The year following the events which, thus far, we have been examining, Cæsar embarked much earlier in the season, on his second expedition, with a force of five legions, and on reaching the coast of Britain, about midday, found no enemy in sight; he therefore landed without opposition, and having selected a spot for his camp, marched in search of the British army, leaving his ships at anchor. On this occasion he steered from Gaul to the part of the island which he had ascertained in the preceding year to be best fitted for a landing; he does not say distinctly that he reached, or intended to reach, the very spot where he arrived in his first expedition, but his words may well be interpreted to signify that he did so, and as Dion Cassius asserts plainly that the second landing was at the same place as the first, there is no good reason to doubt that such was the fact. Cæsar again speaks of the open shore, and describes it to have been soft, a characteristic sufficiently accordant with the ground between St. Leonard's and Bulverhithe. [9] In both expeditions the Roman fleet suffered very severely from storms on the coast of Britain, but after the second of these misfortunes the ships were, with much labour, drawn on shore, and protected by fortifications united with the camp, an additional proof that there was no harbour to receive them.

The peninsular hill before spoken of, the form of which may be seen on the map, deserves particular notice: its length is rather over three-quarters of a mile, and the breadth at the widest part nearly half a mile; the isthmus at the north-east end, which joined it to the neighbouring hills, is cut through by a railway, and its precise width cannot now be ascertained, but it probably did not much exceed a hundred yards; the valleys on both sides contain streams, and, when undrained, must have given considerable protection to the flanks, so that the entire hill, in its original state, possessed very much the character of a natural fortress, and was peculiarly suited for military occupation. Here, it may be supposed, Cæsar would have found a favourable site for his camp, with one end touching the high ground inland, and the other reaching to the shore, in immediate connection with the shipping. [10]

Very little of the entrenchments thrown up by the Romans can now be supposed to remain; the Britons would have destroyed whatever they thought formidable, and in later ages the tides and floods in the valleys, and the plough on the hills, will have obliterated the traces which the Britons left. The greater part of the ground here referred to is ploughed land, on which I can find no indications of entrenchments; but at the north-east end of the hill are several meadows, and in these there are various irregularities and banks which deserve to be very carefully examined by those who are skilled in such investigations. It does not seem easy to account for them, except by supposing that they are the remains of military works; but I leave it to others, better acquainted with such subjects than myself, to determine their origin and object; and in the hope of assisting further research, I have added a rough sketch of the ground. [11]

How far the foregoing ideas are consistent with Cæsar's narrative, and the faint aids which are discoverable to guide us in tracing the course of his proceedings, it is for my readers to decide, but to myself they appear to lead to this conclusion, that on his first expedition Cæsar brought his fleet to the foot of the hills descending to what is now Pett level, with the intention of landing there, but finding himself unexpectedly baulked by the peculiarities of the place, and compelled to alter his plan of operations, he resolved to make a dash at some other part of the coast, and while waiting for his ships to assemble, he called his officers together, explained what he intended to do, and admonished them to be prepared to act with energy, and then (at three o'clock in the afternoon, about four hours before sunset) moved off towards Beachy Head, and turned his attack to the very first opening in the cliffs, in any degree practicable, which he came to; and, that on his second expedition Cæsar landed at the same place, and established his camp on the hill referred to between Bulverhithe and St. Leonard's.

A few observations may be added relative to Cæsar's movements after his landing. I agree in opinion with, the Astronomer Royal, that the battle fought immediately after Cæsar's second arrival was on the banks of the river Rother, and in all probability at Robertsbridge, for although the road across the valley at Bodiam most likely existed at the time, and would undoubtedly have been guarded by the Britons, Cæsar must be supposed to have made his attack at the narrowest part of the valley, which is at Robertsbridge. [12] Mr. Airy also expresses his conviction, in reference to the stronghold which Cæsar captured directly after this battle, that a large wood, called the Burg Wood, adjoining the hamlet of Hurst Green, once contained a British fortress. Upwards of twenty years ago I learned that indications of something of this land existed; and they are to be found in the highest part of the wood, near the eastern extremity, as marked in the accompanying map; the principal object is a somewhat irregular oval excavation, rather more than a hundred yards long from east to west, and perhaps eighty yards wide from north to south; eastward of this, about a hundred yards outside the wood, is a hollow in the ground, very much like the commencement of a trench, and curved as if intended to surround the oval excavation, but the traces are not clear except at the eastern part. These works are too incomplete to be satisfactorily interpreted, except by those who are well accustomed to the investigation of ancient entrenchments, and I do not venture to express any opinion concerning them. The site is such as the Britons usually chose for their fortresses, but if this is a remnant of one of their settlements, it appears never to have been perfected. [13]

There is another indication to be noticed in this locality. On the rise of the hill, to the south of the old road ascending from Echingham Church, there is a step in the ground winding round in a curve towards the new road by Haremare; this is marked partly by a hedge and partly by a narrow belt of wood between the fields. As the natural effect of long-continued cultivation on sloping ground is to produce steps of this kind next the fences, there would be nothing noticeable in this circumstance, were it not that a continuation of the irregularity is to be traced in the wood on the opposite side of the old road.

Of the direction of Cæsar's advance into the country we have no evidence. The road through Lamberhurst and Tunbridge may be considered to be of British origin; but the Britons never would have allowed him to pass the Medway without a sharp contest, more especially as they had a camp overhanging the line of his approach within about a mile of the latter place; and if an important battle had been fought there, Cæsar could hardly have failed to make some allusion to the peculiarities of the ground. [14] If he had accurate information of the character of the country, he would probably have avoided Tunbridge, and have moved in the direction of Wadhurst and Frant; supposing this to have been his line of march, his second camp may have been near Broadwater Down, between Tunbridge Wells and Groombridge.

[2] For information on these and various other circumstances relating to Cæsar's operations, not here alluded to, the reader is referred to a most valuable paper by the Astronomer Royal, in the 'Archæologia', vol. xxiv., in which also full particulars of the tides, etc., will be found.

[3] According to Halley's computation, Cæsar arrived on the coast of Britain at the end of August.

[4] The effect of the fleet remaining so long stationary, must have been to draw the Britons towards the neighbouring coast; and it is possible Cæsar may have prolonged his stay to the utmost, in the hope of enticing them away from the parts to which he was about to direct his course.

[5] The site of Dover Castle has much the appearance of having been a British fortress; if it really was so, and Cæsar had attempted to land immediately below, he could hardly have failed to mention its existence.

[6] There once was a small harbour at Hythe, apparently a narrow creek formed by a bar of sand or mud, a short distance off the firm shore; it seems to have been in great part choked by an accumulation of the same kind of deposit, and subsequently to have been obliterated by the drift of beach; or perhaps the bar was washed away before the beach began to collect.

[7] The cliff under the town of Winchelsea is higher.

[8] Dion Cassius says Cæsar sailed round a promontory, and this the line of coast would form to any one proceeding from Pett level to Bulverhithe. As Cæsar does not describe the character of the coast, Dion Cassius must have derived his information from some other source, and he may therefore be regarded as an independent authority.

[9] "Eo minus veritus navibus, quod in littore molli atque aperto deligatas ad anehoram relinquebat." Ibid., lib. v. c. 8. It may reasonably be inferred from the word mollis, that Cæsar did not find the deposit of beach which now exists on this part of the coast, and both an examination of the shore and history tend alike to show that it is a very recent accumulation; that which lies on the shore, as well as that which covers the surface of the ground for a short distance inland, appears to have been thrown up in very modern tunes. The soil of the valleys is clay, lying over sea-sand, in, or immediately under which many trees are found, some of considerable size, at depths varying from a few feet to fourteen feet below the surface. I have not been able to learn that any traces of early occupation have been met with in these valleys. In Cæsar's time the soft shore may here have extended further towards the sea than it does at present.

[10] The military advantages of this hill may have influenced Cæsar in determining the course of his second expedition.

[11] The best time to examine this ground is during a bright day in winter, when the sun is low enough to show clearly the irregularities of the surface. A good view of some of the lines of embankment is obtained from the rise in the road, a little beyond (towards the north-east) the bridge over the railway. The accompanying plan is not to be regarded as anything more than a very rough sketch: an approximate scale may be applied to it, of about nine-eighths of an inch to a hundred yards.

[12] Cæsar marched twelve miles from his camp to the place of the battle; this is exactly the distance from the valley at Robertsbridge to the hill referred to between Bulverhithe and St. Leonard's; from Bodiam Bridge the distance would be about two miles further.

[13] No tradition or name seems to be attached to this spot; a cottager to whom I applied knew the circular excavation merely as a deserted sand hole, but it was originally assuredly not a sand pit; and when seen from the south-west, with the wood cleared away, it certainly looks like the beginning of a fortress. The soil of this neighbourhood is too tenacious of wet to admit of the formation of dry moats, except in situations where the ends of the trenches can run out on the side of a hill; the ground in the Burg Wood has a steep descent towards the north from the chief excavation, and in this respect is well suited for a British camp. Cæsar describes the entrances of the place which he stormed to have been defended with felled trees; and his troops applied the testudo and also raised an agger in the attack. An assault on this spot must have been made from the south-or east, and there is a mound projecting into the south side of the oval excavation, which an ardent imagination may claim to be the very work of Cæsar's soldiers.

[14] There are remains of a British camp at Castle Hill, close to the pike road opposite Summer Hill Park, rather more than a mile south south-east of the town of Tunbridge.


The South Eastern Gazette, Tuesday 6 November 1860 at page 3

It was mentioned in the course of the evening, by Mr. Dunkin, author of a "History of Kent", or "The Archaeological Mine", that the site on which the ploughing match had that day taken place was a portion of the enormous British city once ruled over by Caswallon. By a still existent road adjacent to the field Julius Cæsar marched to this spot 54 years before the Christian era. In the hamlet of Swanley, Mr. Dunkin further said, the camp of Julius Cæsar is to be found, at Col Arbhar, two Celtic words, signifying a camp on the hill, but which is now corrupted into 'Cold Arbour'.

Editor's Note: Coldharbor, Swanley TQ 53433 69498 and 51.403762, 0.204467


"The Landing-Place of Julius Cæsar in Britain" (1860) Reverend E. Cardwell Archæologia Cantiana, volume 3 pages 1 to 17

Spoiler alert … "On the day in question the transports, if started with the tide in their favour at 3 p.m., with a 7.31 a.m. Tide, must have gone up Channel on the first of the flood, and proceeded to the eastward … the evidence preponderates in favour of the coast of Deal as the landing-place of Julius Cæsar."

The landing-place of Julius Cæsar on the coast of Britain has lately become a subject of considerable interest, owing to some nautical observations recently made on the currents of the British Channel. From these observations it appears to follow, that Cæsar, when he quitted his anchorage off Dover, and sailed with the wind and tide in his favour, was not carried up the Channel, as hitherto has been the faith of archæologists, but westward, toward the coast of Sussex. An honour which had previously been given unanimously to the coast at Deal, has thus become without an owner, and has been thrown among the southern Cinque-ports as an object for their competition. The Astronomer Royal pleads for Pevensey, Mr. Hussey speaks on behalf of the neighbourhood of Rye, Mr. Lewis is in favour of Romney Marsh, and the archæological societies of Kent and Sussex may naturally desire to secure the important fact for their respective territories. It is like the excitement created when the 'Great Eastern' quitted her moorings in the Thames, and the southern harbours were contending for the reception of the interesting and profitable stranger.

Cæsar's two expeditions to Britain are recorded in the narrative of Dio, and are noticed by Strabo, Plutarch and other writers with different degrees of authority attaching to them. But the Commentaries of Cæsar himself furnish us with the best information on the subject. Authentic, exact, minute, they are a portraiture of his own character; and though they do not in all cases satisfy the wants of archæologists, still, whenever they speak, they exclude all other evidence. It is only when Cæsar is silent that Dio can be heard, and even then he must be received as a witness, not of what occurred in Cæsar's time, but of the facts and the opinions of his own day.

In the early autumn of the year 55 B.C., when Pompey and Crassus were consuls, Cæsar returned from Germany into Gaul, and removed the bridge which he had constructed over the Rhine in the neighbourhood of Coblenz. He then determined to visit Britain, not with the view of subduing the Britons at that advanced period of the year, but in order to obtain an accurate account of the number and habits of the people, and of the best means of access to the island.

Doubtless he had a view to future conquests; but he was also desirous of collecting all sorts of information to gratify the philosophers and general society at Rome. Britain and its unexplored peculiarities were at this time much discussed among the Romans. They had heard of the perils of the Ocean, of the pearls obtained upon its coasts, of the long-continued nights of winter; and even Cicero, in a letter written to his brother Quintus in the following year, speaks of the delight which had been given to him by communications from Britain (Epist. ii. 16).

Cæsar in the first instance had recourse to the traders, the only persons who had any intercourse with the islanders, and they were totally unable to answer the many questions which he put to them, or to inform him of any harbour fit for the reception of a Roman fleet.

That they were altogether wanting in matters of ethnology and statistics, on which Cæsar appears to have closely questioned them, is not surprising; and that they told him of no capacious harbours was owing to the fact that no such places were to be found within the limits of their experience. But they told him, we may be assured, of the long, bold barrier of cliffs extending from the South Foreland to near Dungeness, of the low open shore at Deal, the haven at Dover, and possibly of one or two declivities in the line of cliff where an invader might effect a landing.

Not satisfied with this information, and probably anxious as to the nature and extent of this formidable barrier, Cæsar despatched Volusenus in a war-vessel, an officer of great discernment as well as gallantry, to reconnoitre as far as he was able, and to return to him without loss of time.

Meanwhile Cæsar marched into the country of the Morini, the country extending from the river Somme eastward to the borders of Belgium. He marched into this country "quod inde erat brevissimus in Britanniam trajectus" (Bell. Gall. iv. 21), and made therefore for that part of the coast, which offered him the shortest passage. His guides had probably described to him, and he himself saw on his arrival, a curved line of shore extended for about six miles between two headlands, and presenting probably a somewhat deeper bay and more prominent extremities than we find at present. It is the line of shore stretching from Cape Grisnez on the west to Cape Blancnez on the east, which may be seen distinctly on any clear day from the high ground near Folkestone, and is the only part of the French coast parallel to the coast of Britain.

We know from Cæsar himself that he sailed from the "Portus Itius" (Bell. Gall. v. 2); we also know from other, although later, authority, that the western headland bore the same name of Itius. We may therefore assume that the fleet was then assembling on the neighbouring shore; and a place now called Wissant, to the east of Cape Grisnez, appears to be the most suitable place for the purpose.

Volusenus had returned from his mission, and as he had not been able to land, the information that he brought was confined to what he had learned, and confirmed by his own observation, of the nature of the cliffs and the reefs and soundings in front of them. On these points his information would be both ample and exact, including probably an outline of the whole barrier for a space of nearly twenty miles, from the open shore of Deal at the one extremity to the marshes near Romney at the other. And this information was so important that Cæsar kept the knowledge of it to himself until he was lying at anchor off the island, and his generals and other officers were waiting for their final instructions.

Those instructions were founded on the report of Volusenus. Imagine then the future Emperor standing on the western headland, with Volusenus at his side, and scanning, as the sun descended on the western downs of Britain, the impregnable ramparts which Nature had placed before him. From the haven at Dover, and the two cliffs beside it, one of which now bears the name of Shakespeare and was then glittering in the evening sunshine, his eye travelled over a bright wall of perpendicular rock apparently without an aperture, till it came near the ravine where now stands the town of Folkestone, and the cliffs, though still trending onwards to the west, became less distinctly visible, owing to the difference in their structure.

Having conferred with the chiefs of the Morini, and obtained hostages as a security against any attack upon his camp during his absence, Cæsar made arrangements for his voyage. Besides his war-vessels, he had collected eighty transports to convey the two legions, consisting probably of about eight thousand men, whom he appointed to accompany him. Eighteen other transports were detained at a haven eight miles further north ("portus ulterior, superior" Bell. Gall. iv. 23 and 28), being prevented by contrary winds from joining him. So that the wind was blowing steadily and strongly from the south-west, and the eighteen transports were detained on the coast near Calais. These vessels did not leave the harbour till the fourth day after Cæsar's arrival in Britain; and we may thence infer (and this is a point of importance) that the wind continued blowing from the same quarter. That they were detained by some such difficulty is evident from the fact that Cæsar had ordered all his cavalry, consisting probably of about eight hundred men, to go thither and to put to sea as soon as possible.

About midnight, then, between the 26th and 27th of August, in the year 55 B.C., Cæsar put off from the coast of France. The moon was then high, and cast its pale light upon a band of intrepid warriors starting with great disadvantage upon a perilous and unwonted enterprise. Cæsar had sufficient reason for fixing upon that time for his departure. He had a passage of twenty miles before him, an adverse current to contend with, was committed to a service strange and untrusted by him, but he knew that he should sight the British coast at sunrise, and he wished to have the whole day at his disposal in order to effect his landing.

Cæsar reached the opposite coast at ten in the morning. How could he have been so long a time on so short a passage ? Doubtless when he put off from France he remained some time in the offing, until his transports were afloat and the whole squadron was in motion.

Doubtless he checked the ardour of his own rowers that the heavy luggers which followed him might not be left in the distance. And yet observe the slowness of their movements; for the transports had not all reached the ground where Cæsar anchored until five hours after his arrival.

Cæsar probably did not expect to see what he actually found. "Ibi in omnibus collibus expositas hostium copias armatas conspexit. Cujus loci hæc erat natura, atque ita montibus angustis mare continebatur, uti ex locis superioribus in littus telum adigi posset" (Bell. Gall. iv. 23). From the report of Volusenus, and from his own observation, he well knew the nature of the ground, but he does not appear to have expected the opposition that he met with.

Here then were a haven and lofty hills on either side of it, and cliffs overhanging the whole of the shore in such a manner, that were the troops to land, they would be exposed to the missiles of the enemy, and the enemy would be out of reach. The part of the coast which appears to correspond most accurately with this description is the immediate neighbourhood of Dover.

This was no place for landing, and Cæsar called his officers together and communicated to them for the first time the information he had received from Volusenus. It was now three o'clock. He wished to establish himself on shore before nightfall. His words are, "Ventum et æstum uno tempore nactus secundum, dato signo et sublatis anchoris circiter millia passuum vii ab eo loco progressus, aperto ac plano littore naves constituit" (Bell. Gall. iv. 23). The wind and tide had at that time taken the same direction. The wind, as has been already intimated, was still blowing up the Channel. Can we ascertain with equal precision in what direction the tide was running ? This question requires some short explanation as to the nature of tides.

The place being the same, it is always high-water at the same time of day at new moon and at full moon. If you have looked at the tidal tables for any month at Folkestone, you will have observed that the times of departure complete two cycles in every month, or speaking more correctly, in every lunation. And the same law which exists at present existed at all periods of past history. If you know what was the time of high-water at Folkestone at any full moon during the present year, you know the time of high-water at the same place whenever the moon was full a hundred or a thousand years ago.

It is also a fact that each successive tide is later by twenty-five minutes than the one which had preceded it. We can easily determine the time of high-water at Folkestone at any full moon in the year 55 B.C., but it is also easy to determine the time of high-water on any given day before or after the same full moon by making the allowance of twenty-five minutes for each of the tides which had intervened. If, for instance, it is high water at Folkestone at 10.30 a.m. on the day of full moon, it is high-water at the same place fifty minutes earlier on the preceding day, the difference of two tides being deducted.

Cæsar says, "Post diem quartum quam est in Britanniam ventum … eadem nocte accidit ut esset luna plena" (Bell. Gall. iv. 28 and 29). Knowing then from calculation that that full moon occurred in the night between the 30th and 31st of August, and from Cæsar's words that he came to the coast of Britain three and a half days or seven tides previously, we have the means of ascertaining what was the state of the tide at three o'clock p.m. on the 27th of August, when he left his anchorage off Dover.

Dr. Halley says

"On that day it was high-water about eight in the morning, and consequently low water about two. Therefore by three the tide of flood was well made up, and it is plain that Cæsar went with it; and the flood setting in to the northward shows that the open plain shore where he landed was to the northward of the cliffs" (Phil. Trans, vol. iii. p. 440).

In opposition to this statement it is alleged that this is the normal condition of tides, and that no allowance is made for the peculiar circumstances of the Channel; that great pains have been taken by authority to ascertain the actual turning of the tide in these parts; and that the instruction from the Admiralty is that the stream off Dover sets westward at four hours after high-water and runs westward for the next seven hours, and then turns eastward, and runs so for the next four hours.

Taking this as a basis for his calculations, the Astronomer Royal sent a paper to the Society of Antiquaries in the year 1852, in which he overruled the opinion of Dr. Halley, and showed that, according to the official tide-tables, Cæsar must have been carried westward towards the coast of Sussex. Finding, however, much difficulty in the supposition that Cæsar took the shortest passage, he makes him sail from the mouth of the Somme and land on the shore at Pevensey. In so doing, he is frequently compelled to explain, instead of interpreting, the narrative of Cæsar, and appears to me to deviate so far from that primary authority, that notwithstanding the great weight attaching to his name, I will examine in preference the solution of Mr. Lewin.

Proceeding on the same basis, and convinced that Cæsar was carried westward, Mr. Lewin makes him sail from Boulogne and land a little to the west of Hythe, in Romney Marsh. His dissertation recently published is very ably argued, and shows much of the skill and pertinacity of a consummate advocate. His statement is as follows:

"To ascertain the current or direction of the tide at Dover, we find first the time of high-water there, and four hours after that the stream begins to run west and will so continue for seven hours, when it will again turn east and run so for the next five hours. We have now to apply this principle to the year 55 B.C. The full moon was on the 31st of August, at three a.m. I turn to the tide-tables published by authority for the month of August of the present year (1859), and I find that the moon will be at the full on the 13th of August. As regards the moon, therefore, the 31st of August, 55 B.C., and 13th of August, 1859, are corresponding days. To find then the time of high water at Dover on the 27th of August, 55 B.C., when Cæsar arrived (being the fourth day before the 31st of August, when was the full), we have only to look for the time of high-water at Dover on the 9th of August, 1859, being the fourth day before the 13th, when will be the full. High-water at Dover on the 9th of August, 1859, will, according to the tables, be at 7.31 a.m. It was therefore high-water at 7.31 a.m., at Dover, on the 27th of August, 55 B.C. But at four hours after high-water the tide runs west, and so continues for seven hours: therefore at 11.31 a.m. on the 27th of August, 55 B.C., the stream began to run west, and held on in the same direction until 6.31 p.m. At three o'clock, therefore, on that day, the current was flowing westward at its maximum velocity, and, consequently, as Cæsar sailed at three o'clock on the 27th of August, 55 B.C., in the same direction as the tide, he must have steered westward towards Romney Marsh, and could not possibly have made for Deal" (p. 37).

This is Mr. Lewin's argument; and it must be acknowledged that if the basis on which he proceeds must necessarily be adopted, that is to say, if the stream off Dover sets westward at four hours after high-water and runs westward for the next seven hours, there is no alternative, we must go westward also, and look for some landing-place on the southern shore of Kent or Sussex which, may correspond with the other conditions of Cæsar's narrative.

A basis resting on such authority as the directions, issued from the Admiralty is prime facie beyond the reach of cavil or objection; it is only when the problem is worked out and found to terminate in incongruities and contradictions, that the inquirer feels his confidence shaken and considers himself at liberty to examine for himself.

We will pursue this method in the present instance, and as Mr. Lewin's solution is the best explanation hitherto given on the basis adopted by him, we will consider whether the supposition that Cæsar went westward from his anchorage off Dover, and landed at last in Romney Marsh, is consistent with the other conditions of his narrative. Whilst this part of the argument is in progress we assume of course that the direction of the tide is a point in abeyance.

First, then, I have already stated that the wind during the whole of the 27th of August was probably blowing up the Channel. That it was so for some time previously is evident from the fact that the eighteen transports were detained by the wind in a harbour eight miles further north than Cæsar's starting-place, and the only words connected with this matter on the day of departure are, "nactus idoneam ad navigandum tempestatem," which merely say that the wind had "moderated. It is true that three days afterwards the wind blew furiously from the north-east, and drove the eighteen transports, when they were on the point of joining Cæsar, to a considerable distance down the Channel: but there is no evidence of any change during the interval, and the expression, "ventum et æstum uno tempore nactus secundum" which, according to Mr. Lewin, implies, by the meaning of the word "nactus," that the wind had undergone a change when Cæsar left his anchorage, may, for anything that we know at present, denote a change in the tide and not in the wind.

In another part of his argument (p. 58) Mr. Lewin says

"The day after the transport of the infantry the wind had shifted from the south-west to the north-east;"

and if he means that the shifting took place on the 28th of August, although I see no intimation of it, I am not required to gainsay it, being only concerned with the direction of the wind on the afternoon of the 27th. If then the wind was still blowing up the Channel when Cæsar quitted his anchorage off Dover, we have already an incongruity in the supposition that he was carried westward by tide and wind together.

Secondly, proceeding then on the supposition that he went westward, how soon did he find a landing-place ? Let me quote the eloquent description of another conqueror conducting his fleet along the coast of Britain, and looking for a haven where he might land his warriors.

"His fleet spread to within a league of Dover on the north and Calais on the south. The troops appeared under arms on the decks. The flourish of trumpets, the clash of cymbals, and the rolling of drums were distinctly heard at once on the English and French shores. An innumerable company of gazers blackened the white beach of Kent. Another mighty multitude covered the coast of Picardy. A French writer who accompanied the Prince to England, described the spectacle many years later, as the most magnificent and affecting that was ever seen by human eyes. At sunset the armament was off Beachy Head."

These are the words in which Macaulay describes the expedition of the Prince of Orange. Very different in some of its outward manifestations, but equally important in its consequences, and equally exciting to the fierce multitudes which gazed upon it from their precipices, was the expedition of Cæsar.

Cæsar landed, as he says, at the distance of seven miles from the place where he lay at anchor. At that distance going westward you stand beneath the church at Folkestone; and neither there nor as you pass onward to Sandgate, with reefs on the one side and a lofty ridge of rock and clay on the other, do you see any ground more favourable for a landing than the shore beneath the cliffs at Dover. In short, the nearest point at which Mr. Lewin is contented to place the landing is in Romney Marsh, at the distance, not of seven, but of nearly fourteen Roman miles from the place of anchorage.


Editor's note: Agrippa's Imperial Roman mile was 1,481 metres (1,620 yards, 4,860 feet, 0.92 statute miles and 0.8 nautical miles). Therefore, Cæsar's "seven (Imperial Roman) miles" = 10,367 metres (10.367 km), 11,340 yards (34,020 feet), 6.44 statute miles or 5.6 nautical miles - which point is located in Folkestone harbour (opposite Varne Place / Baker's Gap) at 51.082765, 1.195242 (TR 23852 36366).


Thirdly, Cæsar drew to land, "aperto ac plano littore" (iv. 23), or, as elsewhere described, "in littore molli atque aperto" (v. 9), that is, on a gently sloping coast, free from rocks and overhanging hills. The shore of the present Romney Marsh, and a considerable part of the Marsh itself, are evidently of recent formation. The deposits from the river by land, and shingle from the sea, appear to have employed themselves in past ages in converting a shallow bay into what is now a drained and cultivated level, but was in mediæval times a trackless swamp.

Beyond Hythe the low ground together with the promontory beyond it is still advancing into the sea, and the line of shore turns towards the south, leaving the ridge of hill, which accompanied us from Folkestone, to continue in its westward direction and to run inland. Here, doubtless, in the days of the Romans, was a considerable creek, the northern shore of which was bounded and overlooked by the same ridge of which we have been speaking, and the other sides would probably be swamp. That the ridge was the boundary on the north may be inferred from the fact that on this same ridge, at the distance of about three miles from the present shore, stands the village of Lympne, the ancient portus Lemanis, one of the three principal harbours on this coast resorted to by the Romans in later times, and recorded in the Itineraries of Antoninus. Would such a creek, either on its northern rocky margin or elsewhere, afford such a landing-place as Cæsar describes in the words, "aperto ac plano littore" ? Mr. Hussey says of it

"At Hythe, or rather at Lympne, a reasonably good harbour probably existed; but the ground abutting upon it does not in any degree possess, or appear to have possessed, the requisite peculiarities; and a movement from hence would have brought the Roman fleet to the shore of Romney Marsh, where it is impossible to suppose that Cæsar would have disembarked. Neither is it credible that he could in the first instance have steered to Romney or any other spot within the limits of the Marsh." (Archæol. Cant. vol. i. p. 101.)

I assent to these observations of Mr. Hussey.

Fourthly, in his second expedition Cæsar departed from the same harbour, and landed on the same shore, as in the former instance. He put off at sunset, "leni Africo provectus" (v. 8), and if he sailed in the direction of the wind, he went up the Channel. He was carried onward by the wind until midnight, when, the wind dropping, he allowed himself to float with the tide. The tide carried him so far out of his course that at daylight he found himself leaving England in the distance on his left hand. Is this consistent with the intention of sailing from France to Romney Marsh, a place nearly due west, and for which he must make across the stream instead of floating along with it ?

Proceeding then on the basis of the tide-tables, and endeavouring to solve the problem in accordance with it, we have encountered four contrarieties arising out of the cardinal conditions of Cæsar's narrative, which compel us to retrace our steps and consider whether the basis itself can possibly be erroneous.

But can we for a moment suppose that the result of an official investigation, ascertained with so much exactness, and put forth with so much authority, can be otherwise than authentic fact, known universally in the neighbourhood, and experienced every day by sea-going men ?

I am well acquainted with Folkestone and its harbour; and there are there shrewd and sensible men whose business lies upon the water, and is constantly impeded or promoted by its currents. To men of this description I put several questions, and received from them deliberate answers. I give the two following, merely observing that the questions were given and the answers returned in writing: How soon after high-water does the stream begin to run down Channel ? Answer: In two hours. How long afterwards does it continue to run down Channel ? Answer: Five hours.

This information differs materially from the notices of the tide-tables. It gives two hours less for the turning of the stream after high-water, and again two hours less for the continuance of the stream down Channel afterwards.

We will take as our basis for the moment the information obtained from Folkestone, and see what effect it would have upon the solution of the problem. There can be no difference of opinion as to the time of highwater. On the 27th of August, 55 B.C., it was 7.31 a.m. In two hours, that is at 9.31, the stream began to run down Channel. It continued so to run for five hours longer, that is, until 2.31 p.m. It was then slack-water for about a quarter of an hour, and at 3 o'clock p.m. the stream had turned, and was running up the Channel.

But in the course of the inquiries made at Folkestone, I met with certain distinctions which appeared to be of great importance in the determination of this question. I found that there was a difference, and in some cases a great difference, between the times of the stream inshore and in mid-channel.

I had reason to believe that though the tide in mid-channel turned four hours after the Folkestone high-water, the tide inshore turned two hours and a half after that time. Is it not possible that the basis obtained from the tide-tables expresses the rule which prevails in the open Channel, and that Cæsar having anchored off Dover, and probably within a short distance from the land, was governed by the exceptional tide which prevailed inshore ?

It is evident that the rule which holds generally in the Channel is the one which it was the express business of the tide-tables to record. But it is indispensable for the purposes of an inquiry connected with Cæsar's departure from his anchorage, that the circumstances of the inshore tides should be known and taken into account.

Captain Beechey, who made the survey of the Channel, under the direction of the Admiralty, was applied to on this point by the Astronomer Royal, and gave him the following answer:

"At full and change of the moon the stream makes to the westward, off Dover, at the distance of a mile and a half from the shore, about three hours ten minutes; and there does not appear to be much difference in this part of the Channel, between the turn of the stream inshore, and in the centre" (Archæol. vol. xxxiv. p. 239).

In this answer the latter portion, which bears upon our present point, cannot, I think, be considered as conclusive, although the Astronomer Royal was induced by it to disregard the amount of the inshore difference. The language employed by Captain Beechey appears to state that he was not aware of any noteworthy difference, rather than that he had ascertained that no such difference existed. Knowing then that an important difference of the kind was acknowledged to exist at Folkestone, I could not accept Captain Beeehey's evidence as conclusive against the existence of a corresponding difference at Dover.

How then was this problem to be solved ? There is one person above all others at Dover, on whose judgment reliance would be placed in a disputed question of this nature. Accustomed to cross the Channel in command of an important service, he has a personal knowledge of its currents, and much responsibility attaching to that knowledge; connected by long experience with the harbour and the offing at Dover, he is locally acquainted with the times and directions of the stream inshore. His authority is more valuable than that of the tide-tables, because it embraces the exception as well as the rule, and can be brought to bear upon the question not merely as a general principle, but as a direct answer to an individual case.

I have had the good fortune to obtain the information I desired from this authority. I learn that the tides at Dover are very complicated; that the stream begins to run down Channel at half-ebb, that is, about three hours after high-water, and that it continues to run down Channel until half-flood; that the stream begins inshore about an hour sooner than in mid-channel, with spring-tides, and with neap-tides is often two hours earlier in changing. From this statement it follows that from the nine hours intervening between the time of high-water and the return of the flood up the Channel we must deduct, under common circumstances, one hour and a half to satisfy the inshore difference. The interval remaining is seven hours and a half, the exact interval which passed between high-water and the three o'clock when Cæsar started. May not the state of the tide have been one of the reasons which made him remain so long and no longer at his anchorage ? But the matter was brought to a crisis by the following question:

Many years ago some transports lay off Dover, say, half a mile from the shore; on that day it was highwater at 7.31 a.m., the transports lay off till three o'clock p.m., and then sailed with the tide; which way would they go, up the Channel, or down the Channel ?"

The answer was as follows:

"On the day in question the transports, if started with the tide in their favour at 3 p.m., with a 7.31 a.m. Tide, must have gone up Channel on the first of the flood, and proceeded to the eastward."

Confining myself then to the narrative of Cæsar, the best possible testimony, and the only valuable testimony that we have, and assuming what few persons are disposed to deny, that the place of anchorage was off Dover, I am justified in maintaining that the law of the mid-channel, as expressed in the tide-tables, is not applicable to the case, and that the evidence preponderates in favour of the coast of Deal as the landing-place of Julius Cæsar.

The following passages from Cæsar's Commentarii de Bello Gallico, together with the passages quoted in the text, are the authority for the preceding narrative. (Book iv. c. 20.)

"Exigua parte æstatis reliqua, Cæsar, etsi in his locis, quod omnis Gallia ad septentriones vergit, maturæ sunt hiemes, tamen in Britanniam proficisci contendit, quod omnibus fere Gallicis bellis hostibus nostris inde subministrata auxilia intelligebat; et si tempus anni ad bellum gerendum deficeret, tamen magno sibi usui fore arbitrabatur, si modo insulam adisset, et genus hominum perspexisset, loca portus aditus cognovisset; quæ omnia fere Gallis erant incognita … Itaque vocatis ad se undique mercatoribus neque quanta esset insulæ magnitudo neque quæ aut quantæ nationes incolerent, neque quem usum belli haberent, aut quibus institutis uterentur, neque qui essent ad majorum navium multitudinem idonei portus; reperire poterat. Ad hæc cognoscenda, priusquam periculum faceret, idoneum esse arbitratus, C. Volusenum cum navi longa præmittit. Huic mandat uti, exploratis omnibus rebus, ad se quam primum revertatur. Ipse cum omnibus copiis in Morinos proficiscitur, quod inde erat brevissimus in Britanniam trajectus. Huc naves undique … jubet convenire … Volusenus perspectis regionibus quantum ei facultas dari potuit, qui navi egredi ac se barbaris committere non auderet, quinto die ad Cæsarem revertitur, quæque ibi perspexisset, renunciat."

Chapter 20: During the short part of summer which remained, Caesar, although in these countries, as all Gaul lies toward the north, the winters are early, nevertheless resolved to proceed into Britain, because he discovered that in almost all the wars with the Gauls succours had been furnished to our enemy from that country; and even if the time of year should be insufficient for carrying on the war, yet he thought it would be of great service to him if he only entered the island, and saw into the character of the people, and got knowledge of their localities, harbours, and landing-places, all which were for the most part unknown to the Gauls. For neither does any one except merchants generally go thither, nor even to them was any portion of it known, except the sea-coast and those parts which are opposite to Gaul. Therefore, after having called up to him the merchants from all parts, he could learn neither what was the size of the island, nor what or how numerous were the nations which inhabited it, nor what system of war they followed, nor what customs they used, nor what harbours were convenient for a great number of large ships.

Chapter 21: He sends before him Caius Volusenus with a ship of war, to acquire a knowledge of these particulars before he in person should make a descent into the island, as he was convinced that this was a judicious measure. He commissioned him to thoroughly examine into all matters, and then return to him as soon as possible. He himself proceeds to the Morini with all his forces. He orders ships from all parts of the neighboring countries, and the fleet which the preceding summer he had built for the war with the Veneti, to assemble in this place. In the mean time, his purpose having been discovered, and reported to the Britons by merchants, embassadors come to him from several states of the island, to promise that they will give hostages, and submit to the government of the Roman people. Having given them an audience, he after promising liberally, and exhorting them to continue in that purpose, sends them back to their own country, and [dispatches] with them Commius, whom, upon subduing the Atrebates, he had created king there, a man whose courage and conduct he esteemed, and who he thought would be faithful to him, and whose influence ranked highly in those countries. He orders him to visit as many states as he could, and persuade them to embrace the protection of the Roman people, and apprize them that he would shortly come thither. Volusenus, having viewed the localities as far as means could be afforded one who dared not leave his ship and trust himself to barbarians, returns to Caesar on the fifth day, and reports what he had there observed.


The following (translated) extracts taken from Books IV and V of Commentarii de Bello Gallico by Gaius Julius Cæsar contain references of relevance to the Reverend E. Cardwell's analysis which are emphasised by underlining.


Map of Gaul showing all the tribes and cities mentioned in De Bello Gallico

Commentarii de Bello Gallico, Gaius Julius Cæsar, Book IV, paragraphs 20 to 29 (first invasion of Britain in 55 B.C.):

  1. During the short part of summer which remained, Cæsar, although in these countries, as all Gaul lies toward the north, the winters are early, nevertheless resolved to proceed into Britain, because he discovered that in almost all the wars with the Gauls succours had been furnished to our enemy from that country; and even if the time of year should be insufficient for carrying on the war, yet he thought it would be of great service to him if he only entered the island, and saw into the character of the people, and got knowledge of their localities, harbours, and landing-places, all which were for the most part unknown to the Gauls. For neither does any one except merchants generally go thither, nor even to them was any portion of it known, except the sea-coast and those parts which are opposite to Gaul. Therefore, after having called up to him the merchants from all parts, he could learn neither what was the size of the island, nor what or how numerous were the nations which inhabited it, nor what system of war they followed, nor what customs they used, nor what harbours were convenient for a great number of large ships.
  2. He sends before him Caius Volusenus with a ship of war, to acquire a knowledge of these particulars before he in person should make a descent into the island, as he was convinced that this was a judicious measure. He commissioned him to thoroughly examine into all matters, and then return to him as soon as possible. He himself proceeds to the Morini with all his forces. He orders ships from all parts of the neighbouring countries, and the fleet which the preceding summer he had built for the war with the Veneti, to assemble in this place. In the mean time, his purpose having been discovered, and reported to the Britons by merchants, ambassadors come to him from several states of the island, to promise that they will give hostages, and submit to the government of the Roman people. Having given them an audience, he after promising liberally, and exhorting them to continue in that purpose, sends them back to their own country, and dispatches with them Commius, whom, upon subduing the Atrebates, he had created king there, a man whose courage and conduct he esteemed, and who he thought would be faithful to him, and whose influence ranked highly in those countries. He orders him to visit as many states as he could, and persuade them to embrace the protection of the Roman people, and apprize them that he would shortly come thither. Volusenus, having viewed the localities as far as means could be afforded one who dared not leave his ship and trust himself to barbarians, returns to Cæsar on the fifth day, and reports what he had there observed.
  3. While Cæsar remains in these parts for the purpose of procuring ships, ambassadors come to him from a great portion of the Morini, to plead their excuse respecting their conduct on the late occasion; alleging that it was as men uncivilized, and as those who were unacquainted with our custom, that they had made war upon the Roman people, and promising to perform what he should command. Cæsar, thinking that this had happened fortunately enough for him, because he neither wished to leave an enemy behind him, nor had an opportunity for carrying on a war, by reason of the time of year, nor considered that employment in such trifling matters was to be preferred to his enterprise on Britain, imposes a large number of hostages; and when these were brought, he received them to his protection. Having collected together, and provided about eighty transport ships, as many as he thought necessary for conveying over two legions, he assigned such ships of war as he had besides to the quaestor, his lieutenants, and officers of cavalry. There were in addition to these eighteen ships of burden which were prevented, eight miles from that place, by winds, from being able to reach the same port. These he distributed among the horse; the rest of the army, he delivered to Q. Titurius Sabinus and L. Aurunculeius Cotta, his lieutenants, to lead into the territories of the Menapii and those cantons of the Morini from which ambassadors had not come to him. He ordered P. Sulpicius Rufus, his lieutenant, to hold possession of the harbour, with such a garrison as he thought sufficient.
  4. These matters being arranged, finding the weather favourable for his voyage, he set sail about the third watch, and ordered the horse to march forward to the further port, and there embark and follow him. As this was performed rather tardily by them, he himself reached Britain with the first squadron of ships, about the fourth hour of the day, and there saw the forces of the enemy drawn up in arms on all the hills. The nature of the place was this: the sea was confined by mountains so close to it that a dart could be thrown from their summit upon the shore. Considering this by no means a fit place for disembarking, he remained at anchor till the ninth hour, for the other ships to arrive there. Having in the mean time assembled the lieutenants and military tribunes, he told them both what he had learned from Volusenus, and what he wished to be done; and enjoined them (as the principle of military matters, and especially as maritime affairs, which have a precipitate and uncertain action, required) that all things should be performed by them at a nod and at the instant. Having dismissed them, meeting both with wind and tide favourable at the same time, the signal being given and the anchor weighed, he advanced about seven miles from that place, and stationed his fleet over against an open and level shore.

  5. De Bello Gallico, Gaius Julius Cæsar, Book IV, at paragraph 23 (first invasion of Britain in 55 B.C.):

    "… he set sail about the third watch … he himself reached Britain … about the fourth hour of the day …"

    The Romans divided the night into four watches consisting of three hours each:

    1. the first (evening) commenced at six and continued until nine;
    2. the second (midnight) from nine to twelve;
    3. the third (cock-crowing) from twelve to three; and
    4. the fourth (morning) from three to six.

    The four watches are named in Mark 13:35: "Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cock-crowing, or in the morning."

    It is probable that the term watch was given to each of these divisions from the practice of placing sentinels around the camp in time of war, or in cities, to watch or guard the camp or city; and that they were at first relieved three times in the night, but under the Romans four times.


  6. But the barbarians, upon perceiving the design of the Romans, sent forward their cavalry and charioteers, a class of warriors of whom it is their practice to make great use in their battles, and following with the rest of their forces, endeavoured to prevent our men landing. In this was the greatest difficulty, for the following reasons, namely, because our ships, on account of their great size, could be stationed only in deep water; and our soldiers, in places unknown to them, with their hands embarrassed, oppressed with a large and heavy weight of armour, had at the same time to leap from the ships, stand amid the waves, and encounter the enemy; whereas they, either on dry ground, or advancing a little way into the water, free in all their limbs in places thoroughly known to them, could confidently throw their weapons and spur on their horses, which were accustomed to this kind of service. Dismayed by these circumstances and altogether untrained in this mode of battle, our men did not all exert the same vigour and eagerness which they had been wont to exert in engagements on dry ground.
  7. When Cæsar observed this, he ordered the ships of war, the appearance of which was somewhat strange to the barbarians and the motion more ready for service, to be withdrawn a little from the transport vessels, and to be propelled by their oars, and be stationed toward the open flank of the enemy, and the enemy to be beaten off and driven away, with slings, arrows, and engines: which plan was of great service to our men; for the barbarians being startled by the form of our ships and the motions of our oars and the nature of our engines, which was strange to them, stopped, and shortly after retreated a little. And while our men were hesitating whether they should advance to the shore, chiefly on account of the depth of the sea, he who carried the eagle of the tenth legion, after supplicating the gods that the matter might turn out favourably to the legion, exclaimed, "Leap, fellow soldiers, unless you wish to betray your eagle to the enemy. I, for my part, will perform my duty to the commonwealth and my general." When he had said this with a loud voice, he leaped from the ship and proceeded to bear the eagle toward the enemy. Then our men, exhorting one another that so great a disgrace should not be incurred, all leaped from the ship. When those in the nearest vessels saw them, they speedily followed and approached the enemy.
  8. The battle was maintained vigorously on both sides. Our men, however, as they could neither keep their ranks, nor get firm footing, nor follow their standards, and as one from one ship and another from another assembled around whatever standards they met, were thrown into great confusion. But the enemy, who were acquainted with all the shallows, when from the shore they saw any coming from a ship one by one, spurred on their horses, and attacked them while embarrassed; many surrounded a few, others threw their weapons upon our collected forces on their exposed flank. When Cæsar observed this, he ordered the boats of the ships of war and the spy sloops to be filled with soldiers, and sent them up to the succour of those whom he had observed in distress. Our men, as soon as they made good their footing on dry ground, and all their comrades had joined them, made an attack upon the enemy, and put them to flight, but could not pursue them very far, because the horse had not been able to maintain their course at sea and reach the island. This alone was wanting to Cæsar's accustomed success.
  9. The enemy being thus vanquished in battle, as soon as they recovered after their flight, instantly sent ambassadors to Cæsar to negotiate about peace. They promised to give hostages and perform what he should command. Together with these ambassadors came Commius the Altrebatian, who, as I have above said, had been sent by Cæsar into Britain. Him they had seized upon when leaving his ship, although in the character of ambassador he bore the general's commission to them, and thrown into chains: then after the battle was fought, they sent him back, and in suing for peace cast the blame of that act upon the common people, and entreated that it might be pardoned on account of their indiscretion. Cæsar, complaining, that after they had sued for peace, and had voluntarily sent ambassadors into the continent for that purpose, they had made war without a reason, said that he would pardon their indiscretion, and imposed hostages, a part of whom they gave immediately; the rest they said they would give in a few days, since they were sent for from remote places. In the mean time they ordered their people to return to the country parts, and the chiefs assembled from all quarter, and proceeded to surrender themselves and their states to Cæsar.
  10. A peace being established by these proceedings four days after we had come into Britain, the eighteen ships, to which reference has been made above, and which conveyed the cavalry, set sail from the upper port with a gentle gale, when, however, they were approaching Britain and were seen from the camp, so great a storm suddenly arose that none of them could maintain their course at sea; and some were taken back to the same port from which they had started; others, to their great danger, were driven to the lower part of the island, nearer to the west; which, however, after having cast anchor, as they were getting filled with water, put out to sea through necessity in a stormy night, and made for the continent.
  11. It happened that night to be full moon, which usually occasions very high tides in that ocean; and that circumstance was unknown to our men. Thus, at the same time, the tide began to fill the ships of war which Cæsar had provided to convey over his army, and which he had drawn up on the strand; and the storm began to dash the ships of burden which were riding at anchor against each other; nor was any means afforded our men of either managing them or of rendering any service. A great many ships having been wrecked, inasmuch as the rest, having lost their cables, anchors, and other tackling, were unfit for sailing, a great confusion, as would necessarily happen, arose throughout the army; for there were no other ships in which they could be conveyed back, and all things which are of service in repairing vessels were wanting, and, corn for the winter had not been provided in those places, because it was understood by all that they would certainly winter in Gaul.

Commentarii de Bello Gallico, Gaius Julius Cæsar, Book V, paragraphs 7 to 11 (second invasion of Britain in 54 B.C.):

  1. Having learned this fact, Cæsar, because he had conferred so much honour upon the Aeduan state, determined that Dumnorix should be restrained and deterred by whatever means he could; and that, because he perceived his insane designs to be proceeding further and further, care should be taken lest he might be able to injure him and the commonwealth. Therefore, having stayed about twenty-five days in that place, because the north wind, which usually blows a great part of every season, prevented the voyage, he exerted himself to keep Dumnorix in his allegiance and nevertheless learn all his measures: having at length met with favourable weather, he orders the foot soldiers and the horse to embark in the ships. But, while the minds of all were occupied, Dumnorix began to take his departure from the camp homeward with the cavalry of the Aedui, Cæsar being ignorant of it. Cæsar, on this matter being reported to him, ceasing from his expedition and deferring all other affairs, sends a great part of the cavalry to pursue him, and commands that he be brought back; he orders that if he use violence and do not submit, that he be slain; considering that Dumnorix would do nothing as a rational man while he himself was absent, since he had disregarded his command even when present. He, however, when recalled, began to resist and defend himself with his hand, and implore the support of his people, often exclaiming that "he was free and the subject of a free state." They surround and kill the man as they had been commanded; but the Aeduan horsemen all return to Cæsar.
  2. When these things were done and Labienus left on the continent with three legions and 2,000 horse, to defend the harbours and provide corn, and discover what was going on in Gaul, and take measures according to the occasion and according to the circumstance; he himself, with five legions and a number of horse, equal to that which he was leaving on the continent, set sail at sun-set, and though for a time borne forward by a gentle south-west wind, he did not maintain his course, in consequence of the wind dying away about midnight, and being carried on too far by the tide, when the sun rose, espied Britain passed on his left. Then, again, following the change of tide, he urged on with the oars that he might make that part of the island in which he had discovered the preceding summer, that there was the best landing-place, and in this affair the spirit of our soldiers was very much to be extolled; for they with the transports and heavy ships, the labour of rowing not being for a moment discontinued, equalled the speed of the ships of war. All the ships reached Britain nearly at mid-day; nor was there seen a single enemy in that place, but, as Cæsar afterward found from some prisoners, though large bodies of troops had assembled there, yet being alarmed by the great number of our ships, more than eight hundred of which, including the ships of the preceding year, and those private vessels which each had built for his own convenience, had appeared at one time, they had quitted the coast and concealed themselves among the higher points.
  3. Cæsar, having disembarked his army and chosen a convenient place for the camp, when he discovered from the prisoners in what part the forces of the enemy had lodged themselves, having left ten cohorts and 300 horse at the sea, to be a guard to the ships, hastens to the enemy, at the third watch, fearing the less for the ships, for this reason because he was leaving them fastened at anchor upon an even and open shore; and he placed Q. Atrius over the guard of the ships. He himself, having advanced by night about twelve miles, espied the forces of the enemy. They, advancing to the river with their cavalry and chariots from the higher ground, began to annoy our men and give battle. Being repulsed by our cavalry, they concealed themselves in woods, as they had secured a place admirably fortified by nature and by art, which, as it seemed, they had before prepared on account of a civil war; for all entrances to it were shut up by a great number of felled trees. They themselves rushed out of the woods to fight here and there, and prevented our men from entering their fortifications. But the soldiers of the seventh legion, having formed a testudo and thrown up a rampart against the fortification, took the place and drove them out of the woods, receiving only a few wounds. But Cæsar forbade his men to pursue them in their flight any great distance; both because he was ignorant of the nature of the ground, and because, as a great part of the day was spent, he wished time to be left for the fortification of the camp.
  4. The next day, early in the morning, he sent both foot-soldiers and horse in three divisions on an expedition to pursue those who had fled. These having advanced a little way, when already the rear of the enemy was in sight, some horse came to Cæsar from Quintus Atrius, to report that the preceding night, a very great storm having arisen, almost all the ships were dashed to pieces and cast upon the shore, because neither the anchors and cables could resist, nor could the sailors and pilots sustain the violence of the storm; and thus great damage was received by that collision of the ships.
  5. These things being known to him, Cæsar orders the legions and cavalry to be recalled and to cease from their march; he himself returns to the ships: he sees clearly before him almost the same things which he had heard of from the messengers and by letter, so that, about forty ships being lost, the remainder seemed capable of being repaired with much labour. Therefore he selects workmen from the legions, and orders others to be sent for from the continent; he writes to Labienus to build as many ships as he could with those legions which were with him. He himself, though the matter was one of great difficulty and labour, yet thought it to be most expedient for all the ships to be brought up on shore and joined with the camp by one fortification. In these matters he employed about ten days, the labour of the soldiers being unremitting even during the hours of night. The ships having been brought up on shore and the camp strongly fortified, he left the same forces as he did before as a guard for the ships; he sets out in person for the same place that he had returned from. When he had come thither, greater forces of the Britons had already assembled at that place, the chief command and management of the war having been entrusted to Cassivellaunus, whose territories a river, which is called the Thames, separates, from the maritime states at about eighty miles from the sea. At an earlier period perpetual wars had taken place between him and the other states; but, greatly alarmed by our arrival, the Britons had placed him over the whole war and the conduct of it.

Eastern Kent AD 43 showing old and new coastline
adapted from "The Cantiaci" by Alec Detsicas (page 34, figure 7)

De Bello Gallico, Gaius Julius Cæsar, Book V, paragraph 14:

"The most civilized of all these nations are they who inhabit Kent, which is entirely a maritime district, nor do they differ much from the Gallic customs. Most of the inland inhabitants do not sow corn, but live on milk and flesh, and are clad with skins. All the Britons, indeed, dye themselves with woad, which occasions a bluish colour, and thereby have a more terrible appearance in fight. They wear their hair long, and have every part of their body shaved except their head and upper lip. Ten and even twelve have wives common to them, and particularly brothers among brothers, and parents among their children; but if there be any issue by these wives, they are reputed to be the children of those by whom respectively each was first espoused when a virgin."


Eastern Kent AD 43 showing old and new coastline
adapted from "The Cantiaci" by Alec Detsicas (page 34, figure 7)

Gaius Julius Cæsar's two invasions of Britain are referred to in just 3 paragraphs of De vita Cæsarum (The Lives of the Twelve Cæsars) (A.D. 121) by Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus. Paragraphs 25, 47 and 58, taken from Robert Graves' 1965 translation, are set out below:

25. Briefly, his nine years' governorship produced the following results. He reduced to the form of a province the whole of Gaul enclosed by the Pyrenees, the Alps, the Cevennes, the Rhine, and the Rhone - about 640,000 square miles - except for certain allied states which had given him useful support; and exacted an annual tribute of 400,000 gold pieces. Cæsar was the first Roman to build a military bridge across the Rhine and cause the Germans on the farther bank heavy losses. He also invaded Britain, a hitherto unknown country, and defeated the natives, from whom he exacted a large sum of money as well a hostages for future good behaviour. He met with only three serious reverses: in Britain, when his fleet was all but destroyed by a gale; in Gaul, when one of his legions was routed at Gergovia among the Auvergne mountains; and on the German frontier, when his generals Titurius and Aurunculeius were ambushed and killed.

47. Fresh-water pearls seem to have been the lure that prompted his invasion of Britain; he would sometimes weigh them in the palm of his hand to judge their value, and was also a keen collector of gems, carvings, statues, and Old Masters. So high were the prices he paid for slaves of good character and attainments that he became ashamed of his extravagance and would not allow the sums to be entered in his accounts.

58. It is a disputable point which was the more remarkable when he went to war: his caution or his daring. He never exposed his army to ambushes, but made careful reconnaissances; and refrained from crossing over into Britain until he had collected reliable information (from Gaius Volusenus) about the harbours there, the best course to steer, and the navigational risks. On the other hand, when news reached him that his camp in Germany was being besieged, he disguised himself as a Gaul and picked his way through the enemy outposts to take command on the spot. He ferried his troops across the Adriatic from Brindisi to Dyrrhachium in the winter season, running the blockade of Pompey's fleet. And one night, when Mark Antony had delayed the supply of reinforcements, despite repeated pleas, Cæsar muffled his head with a cloak and secretly put to sea in a small boat, alone and incognito; forced the helmsman to steer into the teeth of a gale, and narrowly escaped shipwreck.


"Archæologia or miscellaneous tracts relating to antiquity" (1863) Society of Antiquaries of London at pages 277 to 314

XV. Correspondence between the Society of Antiquaries and the Admiralty respecting the Tides in the Dover Channel, with reference to the Landing of Cæsar in Britain, B.C. 55; together with Tables for the turning of the Tide-stream off Dover, made in the year 1862 at pages 277 to 302

XVI. Observations on the Question of the Spot at which Cæsar landed, as affected by the Communication received from the Admiralty on the Tides in the Channel. By G. B. AIRY, Esq., Astronomer-Royal at pages 303 to 308

XVII. Further Observations on the Landing of Cæsar, in connection with the Correspondence between the Society of Antiquaries and the Admiralty. By THOMAS LEWIN, Esq., M.A., F.S.A. at pages 309 to 314

Read February 12th, 1863.

As probably many of those who have heard the Correspondence with the Admiralty read have not made the subject of Cæsar's Invasion their particular study, it may be useful to state the precise question which the recent survey by the Admiralty was intended to settle. It is well known that the first invasion was in the year B.C. 55, and in the harvest month at the south of England, i.e. in August, and it is mentioned incidentally by Cæsar that the full moon occurred on the fourth day after his arrival. The expression is "post diem quartum quam est in Britanniam ventum" (Bell. Gall. iv. 28); and this, according to the Latin idiom, would mean the fourth day, not exclusive but inclusive of the day of arrival, as in the familiar passage of Cicero, "Neque te illo die, neque postero vidi … post diem tertium veni." (Cicero, Philip, ii. 35.)

The full moon here referred to has been ascertained by exact calculation to have occurred on the night of the 30th August, B.C. 56. The day of Cæsar's arrival therefore was on Sunday, 27th August. He tells us that he reached Britain himself at 10 a.m. and waited for the rest of his fleet until 3 p.m. when he advanced eight miles, with the tide in his favour, "et ventum et aestum uno tempore nactus secundum." (Bell. Gall. iv. 23); so that, assuming him to have anchored off the cliffs between Dover and Sandgate, if he sailed with the flood-tide he would go eastward towards Deal, and if with the ebb tide he would go westward towards Hythe.

According to the tide-tables published by the Admiralty it is high tide at Dover on the fourth day before the full moon, about 8 a.m., and the eastward or flood tide continues to run about four hours after high water, and then turns westward, and runs so for the next six hours; so that on 27th August, B.C. 55 (being the fourth day before the full moon), it was high water at Dover about 8 a.m., and the flood-tide continued to run up channel for the next four hours, or until noon, and then turned westward, and ran in that direction until about 6 p.m.

It is evident that if these tables can be relied upon as applicable to the question, Cæsar, if he sailed with the tide at 3 p.m. on 27th August B.C. 55, must have gone westward, towards Hythe, and not eastward, towards Deal. But to this the late Dr. Cardwell, the Camden Professor of Ancient History at Oxford, took the following objection: that the tide-tables published by the Admiralty were founded on the survey of the channel by Sir William Beechey, and that all his observations were made at the distance of a mile and a half from the shore; but that Cæsar must have anchored at about half a mile from the shore; and that, according to local information, the inshore tide was very different from the offshore tide; that in short, though the tide at 3 p.m. on 27th August B.C. 55 might have been running down channel at the distance of a mile and a half from the shore, it might still have been running up channel at a point within the limits of the inshore tide.

In order to solve this problem, and at the same time to supply an omission in their tables, the Admiralty, at the request of the Society, consented to make a survey of the tides at Dover within the limits of the one and a half mile which had before been neglected. This duty was entrusted to Surveyor Calver, whose report is before the Society; and it appears that the survey extended four miles in length, viz. from the South Foreland to Shakespeare's Cliff, and a mile and a half in breadth. Observations were made in favourable weather in the three consecutive months of August, September, and October. In August the observations extended to three different stations within the limits mentioned, and were made on the fifth day before the full moon, and in September observations were also made at three different stations on the fifth day before the full moon; and this day was probably selected for some of the observations for the benefit of those (if any) who might be inclined to place the arrival of Cæsar on the fifth, instead of the fourth, day inclusive before the full. It is, however, very generally admitted that the day of Cæsar's arrival was the fourth day inclusive before the full, and attention is therefore to be chiefly directed to that day.

No observations on the fourth day before the full were made in the month of August; but observations were made on the fourth day before the full at two different stations in the month of September, and at three different stations in the month of October, and the results are these: On the fourth day before the full in the month of September it was high water at Dover at 8h. 17m. a.m. and the tide or current ran eastward until 1h. 15m. p.m. at the one station, and until 1h. 30m. p.m. at the other station, when it turned westward, and ran in that direction until 5h. 53m, p.m. In the month of October on the fourth day before the full it was high water at Dover at 8h. 13m. a.m., and the tide or current ran eastward until 12h. 50m. at one station, and until 1h. 0m. p.m. at another station, and until 1h. 7m. p.m. at the third station, when it turned westward.

The duration of the westward current or ebb-tide was made the subject of two observations only; and according to one of them it ran for 6h. 10m., and according to the other for 5h. 53m. The general result as stated by Surveyor Calver himself was this, viz. that on the fourth day before the full, assuming high water at Dover to have been even so early as 7h. 31m. a.m., the tide would turn westward at 12h. 19m. and would run so until 6h. 34m. The recent survey therefore by the Admiralty proves conclusively that there is no substantial distinction between the inshore tide and the offshore tide, and that with high water at Dover at 7h. 31m. a.m. (and it could not be placed earlier, but was probably much later, viz. at 8 a.m.), the tide or current ran eastward towards Deal until between 12 and 1 p.m. and then ran westward until between 6 and 7 p.m.

Although, however, the set of the tides as now ascertained by the Admiralty is the most important element, and may be considered by many as decisive of the question, yet other arguments are not to be lost sight of which equally favour the hypothesis that Cæsar landed at Hythe, and are opposed to the hypothesis that he landed at Deal. The learned D'Anville, for instance, placed the disembarcation at Hythe on the strength of the following argument, and it certainly appears conclusive: Cæsar on the second invasion started from the same port in Gaul for the same port in Britain, as in the previous year. He set sail with a south-west wind (the most favourable for a passage from Boulogne) at sunset, but at midnight the wind dropped, and he was drifted out of his course by the current, and at break of day saw Britain on his left hand. "Leni Africo provectus media circiter nocte, vento intermisso, cursum non tenuit, et longius delatus aestu, orta luce, sub sinistra Britanniam relictam conspexit". (Bell. Gall. v. 8.)

Was this drift up channel, or down channel ? Whether the vessel was under sail or merely drifting, the broadside would be to the current, and the head turned to the north. Supposing, therefore, that in mid-channel he was carried to the west, he would see Britain in the morning immediately before him; but if, when he was halfway across, the tide carried him some twelve or fifteen miles up channel to the east, the phenomenon observed by Cæsar would actually occur, that is, he would then be off the South Foreland, and, with the head of the vessel turned northward, he would on his left hand see the high cliffs between Dover and Sandgate, but on his right hand he would discern nothing but the ocean.

Again, on discovering at break of day how far he had been carried out of his course by the drift, what was the step taken? Had he been making for Deal he would in drifting up channel have been advancing in the right direction, but on finding himself off the South Foreland he waited, he says, until the change of the current, and then turned back again with it, and by dint of rowing reached the landing-place of the year before about noon. "Tum rursus aestus commutationem secutus remis contendit, ut eam partem insulae caperet, qua optimum esse egressum superiore aestate cognoverat". (Bell. Gall. v. 8.)

As the tide had carried him up channel, the turn of the tide, or the ebb, was of course down channel. If Deal had been his object, he would have steered across, if not even against, the current; but instead of doing so he went along with it, or down channel, and the port he was in search of must therefore have been westward, in the same direction as the tide, and not eastward towards Deal.

Another observation arising out of the same part of the narrative is this: Cæsar had with him on this second invasion a fleet (including tenders) of 800 vessels, and, when in the morning he found himself off the South Foreland, he was close to the Goodwin Sands, and, if it were low water, it is scarcely possible that so vast an armament could have escaped wreck upon the Goodwins.

Have we then the means of ascertaining whether at that time it was low water or not ? Cæsar states that he waited, before he moved, until the turn of the tide, that is, until the current which had carried him up channel turned down channel. This change occurs off Dover at four hours after high water; and as Cæsar, after weighing anchor, was many hours on the passage before he reached the port at noon, he must, on the supposition that he landed at Deal, have carried his whole fleet at low water over the Goodwins. If, on the other hand, he made for Hythe, he would, on turning back with the tide off the South Foreland, have altogether avoided the Goodwins; and as no allusion is made to any risks upon that dangerous bank, the inference is that he went westward in the direction for Hythe.

Again, how far does the nature of the shore where he landed correspond with the coast of Deal ? The shore at the landing-place is described as shelving so gradually that the vessels could not approach the beach, insomuch that the Britons rushed into the water, and assailed the Romans in their ships, and when eventually the legions leaped into the sea, they had to wade a considerable distance before they reached the shore. (Bell. Gall. iv. 24 et seq.)

This answers minutely to the coast at Hythe, where the shore shelves so very gradually that even colliers cannot come up to the beach; but at Deal, on the contrary, you go at once into deep water, so that vessels of considerable burthen can almost touch the beach, and those on board may leap at once upon the shore.

What also was the nature of the land where the disembarcation was effected ? It is described by Cæsar as open, "apertum" and flat, "planum" (Bell. Gall, iv. 23), and the marsh at Hythe is a perfect flat; and indeed the marshes on the south coast are commonly called Flats. But this description does not agree with the part about Deal, for the chalk cliffs reach all the way from the South Foreland to Walmer; and between Walmer and Deal, though there are no cliffs, the ground is uneven, and cannot be called a flat.

It is also remarkable that Cæsar, Dion Cassius, Plutarch, and Valerius Maximus, all with one voice refer to the marshes at the place of landing, and marshes would of course be found in the tract which was called, par excellence, "The Marsh". They would in particular be found about Hythe, where was the port which was then kept open by the streams at the back of Hythe, since diverted into the military canal. But who has heard of a marsh at Deal ? Even those who advocate Deal, as Halley, are obliged to admit that all there is "firm and dry ground", and are driven to the conjecture (not supported by any evidence) that the coast in that part might have totally altered its character since the time of Cæsar.

Again, the last-mentioned writer, Valerius Maximus, speaks of two small islands at the landing-place; for he relates (Valer. Max. lib. iii. c. 2) that one Scaeva with a few others were posted as vedettes on one of these islands, and that the Britons as the tide ebbed rushed across the estuary to attack them, when all fled but Scaeva, and that he gallantly defended himself for some time, and then threw himself into the sea, and swam to the camp. It was never yet suggested that islands did exist or could have existed at Deal; but at Hythe not only is it highly probable that islands might have been found in the marsh, but the identical islands referred to by the historian have been recently discovered. They were close together, either near to or in the ancient port of Hythe, and both of them several feet above high-water mark. They are depicted on old maps, but when the port was drained they continued as eminences, or knolls. Mr. Elliott, who has been the engineer of the marsh for the last quarter of a century, informed me that a few years since he carted away these eminences, once islands, for the purpose of filling up the adjacent hollows, little dreaming at the time that he was removing important landmarks for determining the true place of Cæsar's landing.

I may mention in conclusion a circumstance which is curious as a fact, whatever may be its weight as an argument. Mr. Elliott tells me that in the triangular flat between Hythe and Sandgate, but at the Hythe end, wherever you dig you come upon the bones of persons apparently slain in battle, i.e. the bones are those of adults, and the bodies must have been interred promiscuously, without the least order, and at very little depth below the surface. These may be the bones of Saxons or of Danes, but they may also be the bones of the combatants who fell in the conflict between the Romans and Britons at Cæsar's first invasion; at all events, it proves that this spot was at some time or other selected as the landing-place of an invading army.


The South Eastern Gazette, Tuesday 25 November 1873 at page 5

Ramsgate Scientific Association

The paper on Tuesday evening was read by Mr. Robert Hicks, who contended that the landing-place of Julius Cæsar was not as is here traditionally reported, on the coast between Deal and Pegwell, but somewhere near the ancient port of Lymne, and although it goes much against the grain to have any of our old historical traditions upset, we must yet own that Mr. Hicks made good his position, as the literal words of Cæsar, taken with certain astronomical data, prove that on leaving France by the nearest port to Britain, which could only have been Boulogne, when he arrived near the Island he must have been carried westward by the tide, and then his description of the coast tallies well with that of Romney Marsh, as do also the distances which he gives of his landing-place from where the first pitched battle was fought, which was, there is little doubt, in the neighbourhood of Chilham, where Julaber's Grane (the name being, a corruption of Quintus Liberius Durus, a tribune who was slain in the combat) is still pointed out.

Some discussion followed the reading of the paper, but no facts were advanced which could materially weaken the force of the argument, and it was pretty well agreed that we must give up the honour, if honour it be, of having had the Romans to land first on the shores in our immediate neighbourhood.


The South Eastern Gazette, Tuesday 2 December 1873 at page 6

The Landing-Place of Julius Cæsar

To the Editor of the South Eastern Gazette

Sir, I think that such a subject as the landing-place of Julius Cæsar in Britain cannot well be so easily disposed of as it was by the members of the Scientific Society of Ramsgate, at their meeting last week, and reported in your paper, as it has long been a vexed question with historians and others.

Astronomers have calculated the state of the tide, and nautical men have given their opinion on the currents of the channel on the 27th of August, 55 years B. C.; and if Julius Cæsar's commentaries have been translated correctly, I think there ought not now to be much difference of opinion on the matter, as it is not merely a matter of honour, but one of historical fact.

Cæsar states that he could not make a landing near where he anchored - undoubtedly opposite Dover, being the nearest point of Britain opposite Wissant or Cape Grinez - on account of the high cliffs which swarmed with opposing Britons, but that he sailed twelve miles farther towards Cantium, and landed "on a gently sloping shore, free from rocks and overhanging hills".

The first thing to decide is, Where is Cantium? This, I thought, had long been settled to be the cliffs east of Ramsgate on to North Foreland; and anyone sailing round from Dover may as easily realise the "jut out", or Cant, now as then; and this Cantium is placed on old maps, as well as in the latest published by the Ordnance Survey, at North Foreland.

Mr. Lloyd, a painstaking antiquary, who resided at Ramsgate for some years, and who studied this subject very carefully, read an able paper before the British Archæological Society, in London, on Cæsar's landing-place. He told me that he was some years before he could fully realise the face of the country, such as the divisions of land and water as they were in Cæsar's time, as then there was much more water about Shoulden, near Deal.

Where the marches now are there is the mouth of the river. The Goodwin Sands were an island, and Pegwell bay, the mouth of the Great Wantsume, or Stour; and he was very decidedly of opinion that the landing was effected near Shoulden, at present a mile and a half inland from Deal; and this, I think, bears the stamp of strong probability. For what were those earthwork entrenchments, mentioned by Hasted, near Northborne, Coldred, Shepherdswell, and, in fact, all the way from Shoulden to Barham Downs, but so many marks left of the invader's track ? What are those mounds on Rhuborough Downs - rhu, red, bloody - but evidence of sanguinary battles? These mounds were examined by Lord Albert Conyngham and some antiquarian friends some years since, and gave indisputable evidence of conflicts between Roman and Briton.

From more recent research able historians believe that Cæsar on his first landing in Britain did not succeed so easily as he had anticipated, and on his return the next year with larger forces there can be no doubt but that he exercised greater caution in his tactics against the brave, but rude, native warriors; and it is more than probable that, seeing the importance of a station at the mouth of the Wantsume or Stour - afterwards Rutupiæ or Richborough he landed his army in three detachments - one here, Rutupiæ; another at the same as his first, at Shoulden, and another at Lympne; when all three detachments formed their junction on Barham Downs, and afterwards took possession of Canterbury and marched westward.

As regards the first landing, the Rev. E. Cardwell, D. D., principal of St. Alban's Hall, Oxford, published a valuable, and, I think, convincing paper in the 3rd vol. of the "Kent Archaeological Journal", and who, in August, 1859, when the moon, current of the tides, and other circumstances, were very similar to what they were on the 27th of August, 55 B.C., as calculated by Dr. Halley, visited Dover, and diligently collected valuable information respecting the flow of the tides, &c.; and with this valuable testimony, and Cæsar's own narrative, which he quotes, he concludes his very able paper thus: "That the evidence preponderates in favour of the coast of Deal as the landing-place of Cæsar".

If Mr. Hicks would kindly publish his paper the public, many of whom are deeply interested in such questions, would have an opportunity of judging for themselves, and could balance that gentleman's researches against the able and learned men who occupied valuable time in investigating the available facts connected with this great event in history. But my reading and humble research in the matter point directly to the neighbourhood of Deal - Shoulden - as the place agreeing in every particular where the Roman legions first placed their feet on British ground.

Yours truly, R. B., Minster, Thanet, November 21st, 1873.


"Deal and its Environs" Archæologia Cantiana (1900) volume 24, pages 108 to 121

By the late George Dowker F.G.S.

In Deal itself there is little of archæological interest save the Castles, which have been undertaken by an abler hand; and of the rest there is little to record except about hovellers and smugglers. All honour, however, is due to our brave Deal and Walmer boatmen. My archæological researches have been chiefly directed towards this part of Kent in relation to Roman and Saxon times, and on the present occasion I shall select my material chiefly from these sources. Most of us in our journey to Deal by the iron rail have traversed almost the identical course which our early Danish invaders took in their ships when they made their piratical raids on Sandwich, Thanet, and Canterbury, by the Wantsum estuary; we have halted at Watchester (if I mistake not the early name of the place afterwards called Minster), and rushing along under the walls of Rutupiæ, again stopped at the ancient port of Sandwich, and from thence to Deal through the swampy marshes of the Word Minnis and Lydden Valley.

From the low level of these marshes you may have been led to picture them covered by the sea in Roman times, and this would have been a very natural inference. But knowing that Roman pottery, coins, and traces of the Roman occupation have been found in the sand-hills - and indeed below the sand-hills considerably northward of Deal, beyond Sandown Castle - we must modify these views, and conclude that some natural barrier existed, or causes were then at work to exclude the sea from this area.

In 1895 I observed, in an excavation for a new gasometer on the north of Deal, that the subsoil consisted of four feet of peat, with bog oak, covered with ten feet of blown sand, shewing that probably the soil of the Word Minnis extended in this direction. Data are still wanting in relation to the soils covering the marsh, but I shall pass on to historical facts connected with the neighbourhood.

Most writers on Deal have considered it the landing-place of Julius Cæsar when he first visited our shores B.C. 55, but there are not wanting many eminent writers who dispute this. The matter has been argued on astronomical data; and taking the present tidal flow at full moon, and reckoning that Cæsar's ships were off Dover, it has been considered that when he weighed anchor and sailed with the tide he must have gone westward, and not eastward. In 1875 I read a Paper on the same subject before the Boyal Archæological Institute (Archæological Journal, vol. xxxiii), in which I disputed the validity of the tidal argument based on the present tide tables, as the great coast changes that have taken place since then must have affected the tides, and upon these considerations I placed the landing between Deal and Sandwich, at the mouth of the Wantsum estuary. Mr. Lewin, who advocated the westward direction of Cæsar's ships, objected to Deal or Walmer as not fulfilling the conditions of the narrative. "Where," he asked, "are the marshes which are put prominently forward by every writer of the account ? Cæsar speaks of vada or shoals, Dion Cassius of the Tevajos or lagoons, Plutarch of the marshy and swampy ground, Maximus of an island formed by the ebb and flow of the tide". I pointed out in my essay that all these were present near Deal, where I pictured the landing to have taken place.

"Deal and its Environs" means the Cornilo Hundred and I shall endeavour to sketch its history up to the time of the Norman Conquest.

The derivation of the word Cornilo is somewhat difficult. According to Professor Skeat it is clearly local, and probably means Corn or Cornhill, certainly a very appropriate title, considering the noted fertility of the soil. It is comparatively a small Hundred, which would imply that it was thickly populated.

The earliest inhabitants of which we have any historical evidence were the Celts. According to Professor Isaac Taylor the district is thickly dotted with Celtic names. British gold coins have been found at Deal, Walmer, Sandown, Worth, and Northbourne. At Ringwould Mr. C. H. Woodruff explored two barrows, evidently Celtic or British; heaps of flints were often strewn on such graves, and there is a farm called Stone-heap not far from Little Mongeham which is very suggestive of a like Celtic tumulus. A. similar barrow, half a mile south-east towards St. Margaret's Bay, had been explored by the Rev. J. Rawlins, and a large barrow at West Langdon, which had previously been disturbed, probably of the same age.

These barrows were situated on the high downs on uncultivated ground, and were probably much more numerous, but have been levelled down and destroyed as the lands became cultivated, so that we have only a few recorded among the number that once existed. The county must have been covered with woods, as the names Ringwold, Sibertswold, etc., testify. Roads there certainly were, as the British warriors followed Cæsar's ships with their chariots from Dover to Deal. At the time of the Roman occupation they probably made use of the British roads, inasmuch as our programme includes a visit to Ash and Betshanger.

I may here mention the great military road from Dover to Richborough, which passes through Betshanger, which may yet be traced nearly in a straight line from Charlton, Dover, to Woodnesborough Hill, passing by Whitfield, Guston, Napchester, Maidensole, East and West Studall. Many years ago the late Mr. Roach Smith drew my attention to the name Napchester as of unusual Roman signification, and I undertook several journeys to explore the place, without finding anything Roman but the name. However, I traced the Roman road to Woodnesborough, and thence by Each End to near the Richborough Island, and together with the late Dr. Sheppard of Canterbury we explored the country to find the Roman way from Canterbury to Richborough.

I have lately heard that some Roman coins have been found in a field at Marshborough where the trace of the road was lost, but where I imagined it must have passed. The result of our observations was recorded in a map accompanying my report on the Richborough excavations in 1865, and published in Archæologia Cantiana, Vol. VIII., page 12. It has, however, received but scant notice. Omitting for the present other Roman roads in the district, let me draw attention to other evidences of the Roman occupation. A glance at Mr. George Payne's Archæological Survey Map will shew numerous places in this hundred where Roman remains have been met with. I will particularize some of these. I before alluded to the trace of Roman occupation in the sand-hills, and the circumstances connected with that find are of more than usual interest.

In Pritchard's History of Deal it is stated that "in 1830 a labouring man, in digging for sand in the sand-hills, came upon a couple of pots – vases - which the simple man broke; they contained several pounds weight of Roman coins, which he sold or gave away." This coming to the ears of Mr. Rolfe of Sandwich, that gentleman recovered most of them, and subsequently they came into the possession of Sir John Lubbock, with whom part of them still remain. Mr. Roach Smith described them in Vol. XIV. of our Proceedings. They date from Valerian (A.D. 254-260) and Gallienus to the time of Tetricus and Aurelian, the coins of Tetricus and the young Cæsar his son, as well as the preceding Emperors, being very numerous. The inference that Mr. Roach Smith drew from this hoard, and others of a like nature found elsewhere, was that they were all buried at one and the same time, close on the reign of Tetricus (267-272), when his army in Gaul was largely recruited from Britain, the soldiers burying them and expecting to find them again when they returned from Gaul. But in addition to this evidence, in 1848 Mr. Rolfe made excavations near the same spot, where sand had been carted for making the Deal railway, which resulted in his finding a quantity of Roman pottery, fibulæ, a pair of hand-mills, and a large drilled stone.

I have ascertained from Mr. Noble, who resides at Deal and has a collection of named coins, that it was his father that found the pots of money in the sand-hills, and also collected the coins now in his possession; and he is under the impression that the coins were found in a ship there. This is, however, evidently a mistake. Pritchard makes no mention of a ship in connection with the coins, nor did Mr. Rolfe or Mr. C. Roach Smith. In Mr. Pritchard's book, however, mention is made of the "finding of a trench in the sand-hills, at another time, which was filled with human bones"; also that it is "no uncommon thing for rudely-constructed coffins to be exposed to view after heavy gales of wind, lying in the sand on the shore from Sandown Castle to N. Battery, and what is strange, a great deal of money is occasionally found here after the wash of the sea, when the tide has ebbed."

I have endeavoured to clear up the history of the coins with very partial success. In Mr. Noble's collection (which was his father's) there are a number of Roman coins dating before Julius Cæsar, also some Greek, and, I believe, Venetian coins; for elucidating any local history, however, they are worthless, as the particulars respecting them are wanting. Sir John Evans doubts any Greek coins having ever been found at Deal. It is much to be deplored that when coins or other ancient relics are met with all particulars of their find are not recorded, and I should add that purchasers of such, who take them away with the idea of possessing something scarce or ancient, are doing a positive harm to local archaeological science by hiding away what may be of no intrinsic value, but of great topographical interest.

Shortly before reading this Paper I made every enquiry at Deal about finds of Roman or Saxon relics, and no one seemed at all interested in the matter or could tell me of any recent finds; but my enquiry has already borne fruit in the finding of Saxon graves near Upper Deal; and Roman pottery has been likewise found there and in the Deal Cemetery. Mr. Elwin, who resided some time at Walmer, has recorded many Romano-British remains, chiefly on the site of the new parish church and in the neighbouring grounds of St. Mildred's. It is probable that many more Roman and Saxon remains are left unexplored and unrecorded. From what has been met with it would seem that Roman and Saxon interments have been made on the same spot, as has been the case in the Cemetery at Ozingell in Thanet.

Mr Boys has recorded the finding of a remarkable Roman structure in the Castle field at Worth, which he described as about a quarter of a mile south-west of the church, having foundations of the walls of two square buildings, one within the other, each side of the outer one measuring 53 feet, and the inner one 281 feet, and the thickness of each wall 4 feet, with the interval between them 81 feet. In exposing the whole to view, the workmen threw up fragments of Roman tiles, paterm, and urns. Mr. Boys thought it extremely probable that this was a Roman exploratory tower with outwork. It may have been a Pharos to guard the entrance to the Rutupine posts, as it is placed on the highest hill overlooking the marshes, or it may have been a cemetery like that in Joywood, Lookham, near Maidstone, described by the late C. Taylor Smythe in Vol. XV. of our Proceedings. Mr. Boys observed, "All the villages above the level of the marshes to the westward of Lower Deal and about Sandwich are constantly furnishing British, Roman, and Saxon money."

The part of Kent connected with Northbourne in the Cornilo Hundred was occupied in Saxon times by the Jutes, and they seem to have settled down on the richest and most productive lands, and lived apparently in princely fashion among the conquered people.

Deale or Dale in very early times held but a secondary place in the history of the neighbourhood. The town was originally built on land belonging to the Archbishop, and in Chamberlain's fee; its chief importance resulted from its maritime situation and connection with the Cinque Ports. The manor known as Chamberlain's Fee was part of the ancient possessions of the Canons of the Priory of St. Martin's at Dover, of whom it was held as a freeload by the Abbot and Monastery of St. Augustine's. It consisted of 121 acres and a portion of the tithes within the parish, and was formed of what is now called Upper Deal. The church, dedicated to St. Leonard, seems originally to have been a Norman structure, but in modern times to have been most barbarously enlarged with red brick, having no regard to architectural beauty. At the west end was a gallery erected by the Deal pilots in 1705, in commemoration of which I suppose they painted on it a man-of-war ship, and on each side a globe, no doubt to shew their knowledge of the world. The church possesses, however, a very interesting piscina, which looks as if intended to stand apart from the wall, and having Norman carvings. There is a tablet to Thomas Boys of Fredville, who died in 1562, and a family tomb in the centre of the church of the Coppen family, formerly of the manor house (1690), which still remains just opposite the church, late the residence of Mr. John Gaunt.

With regard to the houses at Deal I would have you note that the oldest of them seem to date from the seventeenth century, and to have been built on a line of former beach in Middle Street, and from the Lower Street (now the High Street) to the present Beach Street there are two steps up, so that the present Beach Street occupies a higher level than either of the former ones. Some of the back streets seem like a rabbit-warren, and doubtless served a useful purpose when the smuggling days were at their height. A few old houses may yet be seen; one was the residence of a Mr. John Carter, of local note. Although I have said I would not refer to the castles, I should like to note that Sandown Castle is no more, having been pulled down in 1863 by order of the War Office, and the materials sold. Some of these have been used in the chapel erected for Eastry Union. I can remember the Castle in its entirety, and it was used by the Artillery Volunteers for gun practice. It was chiefly notable from the fact of its having been the place where Colonel Hutcheson was confined as a State prisoner in 1663, and died in 1664, his crime being that, loving his country better than his king, he took the side of the Parliamentary party against Charles I, and was one among the many who signed his death-warrant.

Leland wrote: "Deale, half a mile from the sea-shore, a fishing village." The old road to Sandwich was by the sand-hills, but has been replaced by the present turnpike-road through Upper Deal.

A great part of the early history of the Cornilo Hundred is written in that of the great monastic establishment of Northbourne Court, dating back as it does to the very introduction of Christianity by St. Augustine. Thorne, followed by Elmham, alleges that the monastery of St. Augustine came into possession of the Manor of Northbourne in the year 618 by direct donation of King Eadbald, son and successor of King Ethelbert. The Charter (given in extenso) is, however, in all likelihood spurious or mutilated, and Haddan and Stubbs so class it.

The tradition handed down by the above chroniclers is to the effect that Northbourne was the endowment of the Chapel of St. Mary, founded by Eadbald (as recorded by Bede) close to the new Canterbury Monastery, and later covered up or destroyed in the enlargement of the same. The land is described as thirty ploughlands with marshes, pastures, etc. From the fact that in all the records extant Northbourne is set down as the undisputed property of the Abbot and Brethren of St. Augustine's, there is no doubt that the land was theirs from the very first centuries of Anglo-Saxon Christianity. If we trust Thorne, it was the first portion of real estate acquired by them after Chislet and Sturry, the asserted gifts of Ethelbert himself. In 974 the Northbourne land was enlarged by one hundred acres adjoining it in the direction of Mongeham, and in 1156 the English Pope Adrian IV ordered the revenues of Northbourne, with its tithes and the monies accruing from offerings made to its dependent chapels, to be devoted to the maintenance of the Hospice at the Abbey gate, where, as in other monasteries, the poor were lodged and fed at the charge of the monks. After the audit of his accounts, therefore, the Northbourne Prior or Superior was required to hand over any balance in hand to the monk charged with the care of the "Hospitium pauperum et peregrinorum".

In 1313 King Edward II ratified the holding of Northbourne, and in all probability it continued to be managed by the monks for the benefit of the poor, as prescribed by Pope Adrian, till the Dissolution. That this was the case in 1292 we know, as at that time the Bishops of Winchester and Lincoln had authority to tax for the expenses of a crusade all ecclesiastical property in the south of England, and those sources of income were alone excepted which could be shewn to be regularly applied in their entirety to succouring the sick and distressed among the laity, to the instruction of the poor scholars, and the like.

Naturally the Abbot of St. Augustine's pleaded this exemption for Northbourne. A jury of twenty-four laymen was empanelled from Northbourne and four adjacent parishes, and the trial was conducted by the Dean of Sandwich. It was found that not only did all the Northbourne profits go to the poor, but that the Father Almoner had in addition constantly to borrow, besides seeking help from other revenues of the Abbey.

The Northbourne properties belonging to the monks of St. Augustine were almost co-extensive with the Cornilo Hundred, for not only did Northbourne borough comprehend Northbourne Street, Coldharbour, and Stone-heap, but in a register and rental of St. Augustine's Abbey taken about the sixteenth year of King Richard II we find that the manor of Northbourne has a free court, and has in demesne Little Mongeham, the wood of Hedelinge, Bettshanger, and the following hamlets: Napelherst, East Stodwolde, West Stodwolde, Eastsole, Eisele, part of West Langedon, Merton, East Sutton, West Sutton, Grenewege, Little Munghara, Lyden, Soldone, Norbroke, Tickenherst, and a certain mill at Kerfonore in Bewsborough Hundred; and we are reminded from Thorne's account of the size and importance of the manor in the fourteenth century, when it was reckoned at 2,139 acres of land, besides 208 acres of wood - the best estate after the Thanet property - that the monks owned. In some way also it reached the sea-shore, probably below Sholden. The alleged Charter of Eadbald says thirty "aratra", with pasture lands, marshes, meadows, woods, and foreshore (fines maritimi).

Close to Northbourne was a quantity of waste land overgrown with bushes, the haunt of highwaymen and evildoers infesting the road from Canterbury. This by Royal Warrant Abbot Radulfus reclaimed about the year 1320. He enclosed it with a stone wall and converted it into a vineyard. Particulars of this vineyard are in the Surrender Collection Roll of Accounts of the Abbey of St. Augustine's, Canterbury, and appear in Archæologia, Cantiana, Vol. II, p. 226. It is there called "Nordhome," and in a footnote it is stated: Nordhome, "an estate belonging to the Abbey of St. Martin's parish", which is unintelligible, unless it refers to the erroneous idea that St. Augustine's Abbey was in St. Martin's parish.

With regard to the name Northbourne, it must have been so named by the inhabitants residing towards the south, probably in the Bewsborough Hundred. I can find no argument for the statement that Northbourne was a "palace" or ordinary residence of the early kings of Kent, nor can I readily conceive how, if such was the belief in the Middle Ages, the compilers of Eadbald's supposed Charter (so very prolix in its details) could have passed in silence so interesting a particular. Dugdale omits to mention Northbourne. It and others like it were branch houses, the property of the chief monastery, whose abbot represented them in civil and canon law. In the mention made of Northbourne in the Chronicles it would appear that the buildings were looked upon as manor houses, rather than granges or "cells". The calling Northbourne an abbey would be a mistake, arising from the circumstance that it was the residence of monks situated on abbey lands, and if of such importance as to need the stationing there of five, six, or more monks, would rank as a priory.

The chapels of Northbourne are several times particularized as Sholden, East Langdon, Little Mongeham, and Cotmanton, The Northbourne Church was anciently appended to the manor, and was in early times appropriated to the Abbey of St. Augustine. The Abbots of St. Augustine, although they had little property in Deal, yet had some connection with the place by the acquisition of a prebend in St. Martin's College Church, Dover, founded in Saxon times as a College of Secular Canons, These divided (at least in part) their estates into prebends, of which two or three were endowed with estates in or about Deal, and in Domesday Book one of the Deal prebends (one ploughland) is described as belonging to the Abbot of St. Augustine's.

In a list of A.D. 1274 the Abbot has no tenants in Deal, but in 1288 Edward I gave him a charter dispensing with the mortmain law so far as to allow him to acquire lands in Langdon, Ripple, Deal, and other adjacent places to the quantity of 68 acres. Ripple Court appears also from Hasted to have been part of the possession of the Abbot of St. Augustine's in 1079.

At Northbourne is a very interesting Norman cruciform church, with a massive square central tower and no aisles. The north and south walls are thick with high deep-splayed windows. It seems to have been altered and the tower repaired in the thirteenth or fourteenth century. A chapel is mentioned in the endowment of the vicarage 1278. The church is dedicated to St, Augustine. The chancel is repaired by the Archbishop's lessee of the almonry. The latter was an hospital built just without the gate of the monastery for the reception of strangers - the poor resorting to it from all parts - and the relief of the weak and infirm.

At Northbourne Court the present buildings consist of the dwelling-house and farm buildings of modern date, a long high red-brick wall skirting the road from Mongeham for a distance I should say of 60 rods, with a gate in the centre; this encloses a garden, which reaches down the side of the hill to the water-course, and within which are some raised terraces of brick and an ancient stable of the same, while near the house are some very high red-brick walls with large buttresses, against which, on the garden side next the house, are three tiers of raised terraces. Within the gardens are the ancient remains of a chapel of flint and stone, with binding courses of tiles. There is a park at the back of some 85 acres in extent, which had springs in it, and a stream ran through the property, which had formerly been the mill-stream, and was one of the feeders to the north stream which runs into the Stour or Haven at Sandwich.

Little Mongehan, Sutton, and Ripple

I have already drawn attention to the connection of these places with the Convent of St. Augustine, and we have (according to Hasted) evidence that this grant dates from A.D 760, "wherein Aldric, son of Widred, King of Kent, with consent of Bergwin, Archbishop of Canterbury, gave six ploughiands to Lambert, then the Abbot of St. Augustine's. Salmon de Ripple made many improvements, particularly at Lytyl Mungarn, where he built much"; this must have been in the twelfth century. We should like to know what this church was like, as nothing but the foundations now remain. I hear from the Rev. B. Austen, late Rector of Mongeham and Sutton, that these foundations are often met with by the sexton, and also that there are foundations of the Manor House, at Sutton, of Sir Nicholas de Creol in a field to the north of the village; also that Mr. Christian was the architect who did the restoration of the very interesting little church at Sutton, but has left no notes on the same. It is a Norman building with an eastern apsidal termination with three windows, and under them an arcade of semi-circular arches, having shafts with sculptured capitals set upon a ledge. We might have expected some Saxon work in these churches.

Great Mongeham Church

Great Mongeham appears to have been one of the most ancient townships of the neighbourhood. In an old Charter it is spoken of as "Vicus antiqus", perhaps the first Saxon settlement. I can trace, however, no connection between it and Northbourne.

The fine church, dedicated to St. Martin, was restored a few years ago by Mr. Butterfield, and would seem to have been originally a Norman structure, and enlarged about the year 1200 or a little later; and the tower (a very fine one, built about the time of Richard II or Henry V) was an independent structure, if we may trust the notes communicated by Mr. Butterfield.

The present building chiefly dates from the thirteenth to fourteenth centuries, except the north chapel. As all the properties adjoining Northbourne, with the exception of Mongeham, were more or less connected with St. Augustine's Monastery, we may conclude that it had in Saxon times been the property of some earldorman whose name has not descended to us. It contained the manor with the mansion of Fogge's Court (long since dwindled down to a mere cottage), which was formerly part of the estate of the eminent family of Fogge, and it is the only one of the many they possessed in this county that is called by this surname.

In conclusion, I may add that the making of the Cornilo Hundred was in Saxon times chiefly the work of the monastic establishments. No written Saxon laws or grants of a date anterior to the introduction of Christianity by Augustine have been handed down to us, nor is it probable that any such ever existed, inasmuch as the Saxon invaders, though possessed of a Runic alphabet, do not appear to have applied it to such a purpose. In the Jutish kingdom of Kent the prerogatives, attributes, and authority of the King, the rights and privileges of the Thanes or Nobles, the liberties and franchises of the people, the tenure of land and territorial division of the county into lordships and manors, arose by silent and imperceptible degrees as the Jutish conquerors advanced in their subjugation of the ancient inhabitants.

Other parts of the Corni1o Hundred were in ancient times the properties of the monks of St. Martin's at Dover. It is recorded in an ancient Chronicle quoted by Lysons that "Withred, King of Kent, built St. Martin's Church, with several edifices in the town of Dover, for the accommodation of twenty-two secular canons, whom he removed from the Castle". As their sovereign was the patron they were endowed at an early period with large grants of land. The canons held their possessions in common under several Saxon kings, but encroachments were made upon their estates prior to the Norman Conquest. Several of the canons were prebendaries, and they had houses and lands annexed to them, particularly at Sibertswould, Buckland, Charlton, Farthinghoe, Guston, Deal, and St. Margaret's.

In a summary of their lands, held by the prebendaries at the time of Edward the Confessor and William I, we find they had various properties in the Cornilo and Bewsborough Hundreds, and yet when the Norman Survey was made they yielded no more than £48; they had been plundered of pastures, salt-works, fisheries, and mills.

Odo, Bishop of Bayeux and Earl of Kent, the Conqueror's half-brother, by appropriating the lands of different manors and suffering his military retainers to seize the possessions of the prebends, had an opportunity of gratifying his ecclesiastical and military dependants; so we find that this part of Kent was filled with Norman barons under him and his successors. Hence, at Walmer and other parts of the Hundred, we find the manors possessed by the D'Aubervilles, De Creols, the Crevequers, Grandvilles, etc., and at the time of the Domesday Survey, with the exception of the lands and manors belonging to the great monastic establishments, the rest of the Cornilo Hundred was held by the Conqueror's followers.


The South Eastern Gazette, Tuesday 16 February 1904 at page 3

A Peep into the Past

Britain in the Days of Cæsar

A most interesting lecture was delivered in the Bentlif Art Gallery of the Maidstone Museum, under the auspices of the Maidstone and Mid Kent Natural History and Philosophical Society, on Monday night, by Bennett Goldney, F.S.A., of Canterbury, his subject "Cæsar's Invasion". There was a good attendance and the Rev. F. M. Millard occupied the chair.

In the course of his remarks, Mr. Goldney described the years 55 and 54 B.C. as an epoch when the march of destiny was about to pass the frontier line of centuries, and it could not be, he said, but that the minds of men should look before and after and seek to gather some augury of the future from the event and tendencies of the past. Well nigh two millennia had passed since the Italian Eternal City celebrated that seventh centenary of her foundation, yet the thoughts of men in England to-day were strangely like those that were uppermost in the minds of men in ancient Rome. Happily for those Romans, however, the hour revealed the man who knew how to mint and give currency to the hitherto uncoined gold of national sentiment and tradition by stamping it with the image of his own greatness.

It was during the last years of the seventh century of the Roman era that Caius Julius Cæsar undertook the two campaigns on "English Soil" that compelled the free states of England to become tributary vassals to the Roman Republic. Till those days the mysteries of Britain had been shrouded from those who had sought to penetrate them by a veil outstretched by no mortal hands. The mariners on the Gallic shore would tell with simple truth that the nearest island of the group was called Death - Thanatos, the Thanet of today - and weave wondrous tales of voices heard in the night bidding the fisher folk to make ready a bark to ferry the souls of the dead across the sea in darkness to the melancholy island havens.

But the tale that Cæsar told had a higher and deeper interest to Englishmen, for his expeditions marked the first point, of direct contact between English and Roman civilisations. Cæsar in his description of the island said that "of all the inhabitants, by far the most civilised were those of Kent which was entirely a maritime district". The "ancient Britons" whom Cæsar encountered on the south eastern coast were, according to the accepted doctrines, the progenitors of the Welsh people of today. The Welsh were the Kelts of the Kelts; Kelts of the second migration indeed, but Kelts pur sang, typical and unadulterated.

Dealing with the origin of the name of the county, Mr. Goldney thought the simplest and likeliest derivation was the one suggested by a not very advanced student of philology, the Venerable Bede. The word "cant", the earliest form in which they made acquaintance with the word "Kent", meant in more than one language "a corner" or "angle" and off the north coast of the county to this day was marked on the charts a point of the coast called the Cant. Again, Cæsar himself spoke of Kent as an "angulus" or corner of Britain. The original meaning of the whole word was in fact "The settlers of the angle" or "cant" a strictly accurate and natural definition of the Belgæ of Britain in Cæsar's time.

To those who had never realised how utterly untrustworthy was all the usually accepted history of the Saxon invasion of the fifth century, the derivation might at first seem improbable. In simple fact, however, the earliest legends of the invasion bore on their very face the element of falsehood. The actual nomenclature of England, indeed, was absolutely fatal to the theory that the English first set foot in our island in the fifth century. Yet if the current theory were true and if the first Saxons landed on our shores in the fifth or even fourth or third century, all the place names throughout the land must have been either Keltic or pre-Keltic and the entire population - with the exception of the invaders - must have spoken a Keltic or pre Keltic tongue. Yet at the sight of these fifth century magicians England became English and hardly a trace was to be found of any town, village, or district with a Keltic name mentioned by a single chronicler of their conquests.

This historian strove to account for the extraordinary disappearance of everything Keltic before the "mythic Saxon" by a theory that the Saxon exterminated the Kelt by some mysterious process unprecedented in human annals. A proposition that populations on the move followed the line of the least resistance, was, he believed, universally accepted, but an important corollary had been overlooked. It was that those races which crossed the Channel to Britain crossed where it was easiest to cross and that since Britain became an island, the south-east coast generally must have been the landing place of the successive races that settled on British soil. It was equally clear that such an emigration must have started on its voyage from the ports of Gaul from which Britain was most easily reached and consequently a considerable stretch of the coast in north west Gaul must have been occupied by people to which the immigrants into Britian belonged at the time the immigration took place. Therefore, in Cæsar's day, they found the Belgæ settled on both sides of the narrow seas and Belgic emigration from Gaul to Great Britain in full swing with a close inter-communication between the emigrants and their parent states. The very fact that the Welsh and Cornishmen were in truth the actual living representatives of the ancient Britons was sufficient in itself to warn us that the Men of Kent, and their kindred tribes whom Cæsar found on the soil of Britain were not themselves Britons but an intrusive people. The Belgic merchant was a dominant, factor in the civilisation of Britain in Cæsar's day, and it was commerce rather than the soil of Britain that the divine Julius was anxious to annex to his Empire.

Before the days of Cæsar, a brisk slave trade was carried on between the island and the continent, and also a more honourable, though possibly less profitable traffic in live stock of other kinds. The dogs of Britain were celebrated throughout the ancient world and commonly made use of in war. Of horned cattle the islanders exported two breeds the bos primigenius and the bos longifrons. Living representatives of the former were still to be seen in the majestic herds preserved at Chillingham and other parks whilst those of the latter were recognised in the the small Welsh breed known as the Keltic Shorthorn. Strabo, the geographer also included in his list of British exports those of hides and corn, whilst Pliny told us that British farmers knew the best kinds of manure to use for cereal crops. Again, before the landing of Cæsar the Bronze Age had merged into the Iron Age and in the wild districts near Crowborough Beacon the remains of old ironworks still told of the pre-historic "Black Country" in the Wealds of Kent and Sussex.

Tin also was one of the many metals exported from Britain in Cæsar's days. Strabo also mentioned that gold and silver were produced in Britain in sufficient, quantities not, only to supply the demands of the mints established by the Belgic tribes and the various workers in precious metals, but also to allow of a considerable amount of bullion being sent abroad bv way of trade. It was doubtful whether Cæsar mentioned a gold currency in Britain or not, but there was the more convincing evidence of the coins themselves. At the time, and a hundred years before, the Belgic people had had a kind of indigenous coinage of their own, and although no silver coins were known to be earlier than Cæsar's invasion there were many almost contemporary with it, and the same might be said of a series of rude tin coins, not struck but moulded, a number of which had been found in Kentish soil.

Turning to the actual invasion, the lecturer described the naval conflict between Cæsar and the tribe of the Veneti who held the Channel and whom it was necessary for Cæsar to defeat and subdue before he could think of invading Britain. With Cæsar's own luck and skill he managed to inflict so severe a defeat upon the fleet of the Veneti that unconditional surrender was the only thing left for that unfortunate people to do. This accomplished, Cæsar made an example of the State by putting the Senate to death and selling the rest of the people into slavery. By so doing he apparently removed the last hindrance to his descent upon Britain, but before he did eventually cross in memorable B.C. 55, he had a fierce encounter and subdued several of the Belgic states on the continental side of the Channel. That obstruction removed, he summoned a conference of "merchants" who traded on our shores and catechised them as to the size of the island, its people, its resources, its harbours and armies. But he might as well have catechised the codfish of the Channel; they knew that Britain was Britain and absolutely nothing more.

Failing to elicit any information from these merchants. Cæsar despatched a reconnoitring party whilst he himself gathered all his forces at Morini, now, most probably, Boulogne. Meanwhile the commercial gentlemen whom Cæsar had found so reticent had contrived to convey the news to Britain of what was going forward, and in a few days envoys arrived from British states announcing the willingness of their chiefs to submit to Cæsar and Rome, and to give hostages for their good behaviour. These Cæsar received courteously and sent back to Britain with much good advice and distinguished escort. Included in the escort, was one Commius, whom Cæsar, after his victory over the Belgic states had created King over the survivors of the tribe. Thus Commius held territory on both aides of the Channel and possessed great influence with the Belgic states in Britain, therefore, Cæsar singled him out as his representative. Continuing, the lecturer said he did not propose to repeat the venerable story of Cæsar's first landing in Britain but after the first victory on British soil a number of envoys were hurriedly dispatched to Cæsar to discuss terms of peace. With them came Commius of Arras, who explained his conduct by saying that on his arrival in Britain he had been seized and thrown into chains from which he had only been released in order to come and plead the cause of Britain with Cæsar. Cæsar in his clemency, accepted both the submission of the tribes and the excuse of Commius.

Again, it was not necessary to deal with the first descent into Britain but to pass on to the real invasion which took place in the year B.C. 51, or the 700th year of Rome. Here, Mr. Goldney dealt fully with the construction and numerical strength of the fleet, the conclusion of his arguments being that on this great invasion the army of Cæsar must have totalled over 105,000 men of which not less than 56,000 men were allies. But after all, with many of these allies it was a matter of business as well as pleasure, for there was an appetising prospect in Britain of unlimited loot; and even should the plunder fall short, there were plenty of tribes to be sold into slavery to pay expenses. The bulk of these auxiliaries were undoubtedly Belgic, closely akin, and in some cases identical, with the people long settled on our south-east coast. If these by anticipation could be called "English" then roughly speaking two thirds of Cæsar's Army were "English" also.

Eventually, however, the mighty fleet got underway and made for the flat coast adjoining Deal. The sight of eight hundred vessels bearing down upon the island produced the natural effect and not a defender was to be seen, whilst the vast army disembarked undisturbed. However, the next day the islanders began to check the advance of the invaders engaging with them on the higher ground, and concealing themselves when driven back by the cavalry. It was not yet the age of "walled towns and rolling uplands". The oppidum of Britain, was, as explained by Cæsar himself, merely a thickly wooded position fortified by a raised bank, and an entrenchment within which the inhabitants were wont to gather in order to avoid an incursion of their enemies. Cities and towns there were in many positions which Nature herself had rendered impregnable, whilst many more were safe-guarded by the rude skill of pre-historic engineering. Besides these the needs of a largely pastoral and agricultural population necessarily involved the existence of larger and smaller organised committees in their midst; and topographical conditions made it equally necessary that many of these should be collected and housed in towns and villages open to hostile attack. In such cases, and Canterbury was one such case, the oppidum was an exceedingly useful, almost a necessity institution.

As Cæsar himself chronicles, the islanders advanced with their cavalry and war chariots to the river (probably the Great Stour). Here the lecturer said he was not going to describe a British war chariot, with or without the scythes which were supposed to have been attached to it but he merely wished to call attention to the fact that war chariots did not grow in fields like mushrooms. They involved the existence of skilful workers in wood, metal, and leather, of smithies, carpenters' shops, and harness manufactories, and also they involved the existence of practicable roads.

A map of early Kent presented perhaps the most remarkable network of prehistoric roads to be found within the same area of any part of Western Europe, and all of them were probably in use during the Roman occupation of Britain. In the majority of instances satisfactory evidence was forthcoming that these roads were laid out and used in pre-Roman days. The most important of these was the Watling street, running almost west past Faversham and Sittingbourne to Rochester and London. This, the immemorial high road to the capital, worn by the traffic of more than two thousand years, naturally retained few of the features which could definitely be assigned to prehistoric antiquity except its straightness and the presence of early cemeteries along its line. The oppidum of Bigbury lay on the left at some little distance after leaving Canterbury, and here the disuse of entrenchments consequent upon the better inclosure of the city itself had left evidence of antiquity more distinctly recoverable.

Implements and pottery had been found in the oppidum and along the Pilgrim's Way which passed through it. This ancient road was still partially traceable from where it left the city to where it joined the highway some two miles further on.

The quadrilateral formed by the four prehistoric roads from Canterbury to Lympne, from Lympne to Dover, from Dover to Ashford, and from Ashford to Canterbury intersected diagonally by the Watling street from Dover to London, was one of the most noteworthy features of the early topography of Britain. Within this singular framework, moreover, were a number of subsidiary roads, but among which it was still possible to trace the remains of the old Pilgrim's Way along which, in all probability, Cæsar led his armies from Deal and Walmer to Canterbury.

The first part of this old road had been hopelessly obliterated, but from Great Mongeham on to Goodnestone Park the line was clearly indicated. Just beyond Goodnestone it again disappeared and it seemed doubtful whether it passed the Little Stour at Patrixbourne or Bekesbourne, but a little further on the line was again clearly marked and continued so until it reached the southern outskirts of Canterbury. Canterbury thus formed the principle angle of a "military quadrilateral" obviously designed for the protection of the coast from foreign invaders.

High roads suitable alike for war chariots and commercial traffic radiated from Canterbury to every single port and harbour of any importance round the shore from Whitstable to Lympne. The oval circuit of Canterbury to this day retained the shape of pre-Roman earthen walls and the prehistoric remains of antiquity found within and immediately without its ancient limits were innumerable. Yet in the teeth of this overwhelming evidence they were still gravely requested to believe that in the days of Cæsar Canterbury had no existence.

Returning, however, after this digression to where the invading Cæsar had been left, the lecturer continued, stating that, the morning after the taking of the oppidum of Canterbury, a sudden gale scattered destruction on part of his fleet which he had left moored in the Downs. Cæsar at once returned and spent ten days carrying out repairs to the damaged ships and enclosing his whole Armada within a fortification on the beach. Returning he found one Cassivelaunus had been chosen head of all the British forces and after many encounters, in several of which Cæsar seems to have been considerably worsted, he succeeded in inflicting a decisive defeat upon Cassivelaunus who was immediately deserted by his allies. Cæsar then marched into this chief's territory on the other side of the Thames. As to his line of march, he gave no indication whatever, but there seemed to be no reason to doubt that he did not use Watling street, which went straight to London then as now. In those days London, as it was at the present time, though in a, far more exclusive sense, was a great commercial centre and it was absolutely indispensable to the success of Cæsar's enterprise, from his own point of view, that the state in which London was situated should be compelled to accept the alliance of Rome.

Cassivelaunus, however, seemed to have followed, the good old rule "that those should take who had the power and those should keep who can", and he had London and he meant to keep it. But Cæsar had a decisive battle with this chief in which he defeated him. The exact locality of the, engagement was not clear. Cassivelaunus seemed to have lost heart after his defeat and disbanded most of his forces or they diabanded themselves, and eventually the state became tribute to Cæsar. As soon as this state, which was called Trinobantes, accepted the protection of Rome several other states followed and from them he learnt the neighbourhood of the principal oppidum of Cassivelaunus himself. He determined to attack it.

Before he finally defeated this chief, however, from the word of Cassivelaunus himself, four Kings in Kent - Cingetorix, Carvilius, Taximagulus and Segonax - endeavoured to storm Cæsar's naval camp at Deal. They were repulsed, however, with great slaughter. After this disaster, Cassivelaunus had no choice but to submit. The conquest was complete, and Cæsar, having assessed the amount of tribute to be sent yearly to Rome, crossed over to Gaul, taking many prisoners with him, but leaving a large number of his allied troops behind in Britain.

Between the days of Julius and the days of Claudius, nearly an exact century, no Roman set foot in Britain. It followed, therefore, that the historic event known as Cæsar's Invasion of Britain was in reality an invasion of that part of our island which might be regarded as already "English" by an army of men who, with the exception of the Roman legions, might also be regarded as of mainly "English" blood; and that the principal immediate result was to leave behind a number of these fighting men upon our shores to find subsistence and a home.

In conclusion, the lecturer said that the views he had endeavoured to lay before them that evening upon the real antiquity of the English race upon English soil was far indeed from being generally accepted. But after all he was only defending the great cause of the continuity of English history against the more favoured champions of "incredible exterminations" and "impossible transformations" [applause].

The Chairman proposed a hearty vote of thanks to the lecturer and the meeting concluded.


"The Coming of Rome - Britain before the conquest" (1979) John Stewart Walcher at pages 2 to 8 and 51 to 53

Cæsar and Britain Chapter One

At pages 2 to 5:

… It is clear from his own narrative that a reconnaissance in force was intended, as a prelude to a full-scale assault the following year, for the advancing season would allow no more. First came the need to acquire accurate information about the opposite coast, which, surprisingly, he was unable to obtain from native Gauls; so a single warship was despatched to survey the coast-line and to identify suitable landing places. Although the task was entrusted to a favourite tribune, it seems to have been carried out in haste and with less than normal efficiency, for it not only failed to locate the southern arm of the river Wantsum, but also, apparently, misreported on the harbour at Dover. Consequently, when later Cæsar arrived off Dover early in the morning with a fleet of eighty transports, carrying two legions, he deemed it unsuitable for an opposed landing and ignored the river estuary, which later became one of the foremost harbours of Roman Britain. Instead, he sailed northwards up the Kentish coast and probably beached his ships in the neighbourhood of what is today the town of Walmer, which also marks the northward termination of the high chalk cliffs.


Editor's note: these chalk cliffs extend as far north as Boundary Road, Kingsdown, at the southern end of Hawkshill Down, being 1.5 miles (2.4 km) south of the memorial plaque on The Strand, Walmer the location of which indicates the approximate spot where Julius Cæsar and his troops first landed on 26th August 55 BC.


The modern coast-line there is chiefly distinguished by its exposed, rapidly-shelving, shingle beaches, offering little protection to stranded shipping, and Cæsar is sometimes criticised in retrospect for having chosen such an inhospitable place for his landing. But we must remember that much has changed since his day, and we cannot be certain of the physical conditions of the shoreline at the time of his landing. Sea-level was that much lower, relative to the land, than now, and it may be that the Goodwin Sands, some 6 km off-shore and known to have been there in Roman times, perhaps stood higher out of the sea, and so provided a more sheltered anchorage than do the Downs today in certain weather conditions. The beach itself was probably quite different, for nearby Sandwich Bay has seen the change from pure, level sand to shelves of shingle in the last forty years. But while no sensible modern commander, given Cæsar's equipment, might care to land on Walmer beach today, conditions then are unlikely to have been so hostile, as the landing, after a slight hesitation, was entirely successful. Unfortunately the cavalry, carried in a separate, smaller fleet, had been prevented by the weather from uniting with the main force. Consequently, Cæsar was at once deprived of a decisive victory, as the fleeing Britons could not be pursued.

The cavalry were twice unfortunate. On their second attempt to reach Britain they were prevented from doing so by the combination of a violent storm and a spring tide, which, additionally, damaged many of the beached warships and transports of the main fleet. It is curious that Cæsar was not informed of the phenomenon of spring and neap tides, having maintained a fleet in the Channel for some time, and his omission to take this factor into account nearly caused the complete failure of his first expedition to Britain. The anchorage of the Downs provides protection from winds from most quarters except those from the north or south, so we may conclude that the gale came from one of these directions, thus forcing some of the cavalry transports to return to the continent.

Cæsar was thus placed in a difficult position, which encouraged the native Britons to resume hostilities, even though they had already sued for peace. They surrounded and attacked a legion sent out to gather supplies of grain, but were beaten back by reinforcements arriving just in time. There followed a pitched battle outside the Roman camp, in which Cæsar was victorious, although once more unable to pursue his enemy through lack of cavalry. But by then repairs had been effected to most of his damaged ships, and he decided at this juncture to withdraw from Britain before the onset of the equinoctial gales.


Editor's note: the autumn equinox in 55 BC fell on 25 September at 23:25.


The first formal Roman contact with Britain could hardly be rated an outstanding success. Indeed, so certain were the British tribes that Cæsar would not return, that only two sent the correct, stipulated quota of hostages to Gaul, while the remainder altogether ignored the demand. The expedition was probably only rescued from complete disaster by the quality of Cæsar's generalship; a lesser man might have been closer to total failure. Yet it had one important result. It focused Roman interest on Britain and, though Cæsar had been acting strictly beyond his authority as a provincial governor in mounting the invasion, it brought him official thanks from the Senate, and gained approval for further action.

Almost immediately on return to Gaul, preparations were started for the next year's campaign. Special transports, of dimensions more suitable for amphibious warfare, were ordered, and some 600 had been constructed by the following spring, in addition to an increased number of warships. But, as before, renewed hostilities in northern Gaul caused delays, and it was not until early July that the invasion fleet could sail. The combined force included five legions and some 2,000 cavalry, and it took with it many baggage animals, and large quantities of supplies. It was, altogether, a better-equipped and organised expedition, and more attention was paid to logistics.

It seems that, after an uneventful crossing, an unopposed landing was made on the same part of the Kentish coast as had previously served as a beach-head. By making use of speed and surprise tactics, Cæsar was able to march inland, cross a river, supposedly the river Stour, and capture the first major fortified place that he came to, usually identified as the hill-fort of Bigbury. Once more, though, his rapid progress inland was interrupted by a storm which drove ashore many of the ships anchored in the Channel. Despite his customary vigour, ten days were lost in setting matters right, during which time the whole fleet was beached above the reach of the tides and within a fortified area. In view of his previous experience, it is surprising that this had not been done at once.

At pages 6 to 8:

… Finally Cæsar returned to Gaul by about mid-September, thus ending his second, more successful expedition to Britain. Whether he ever intended to return is arguable; but, if he had intentions so to do, they were upset by a series of revolts in Gaul, in late 54 BC and again in 53 BC. Thereafter he needed to direct his attentions eastwards across the Rhine. Indeed, settlement of the Gaulish problem did not come about until 51 BC, after which matters of greater weight in Rome itself were to engage his attention to the exclusion of all else.

Such is the basic outline of the Cæsarian narrative and its orthodox interpretation; on the whole, archaeology can contribute little more to it. Geographical positions are but sketchily described and often to identify with accuracy, and the short span of time during which Cæsar was in Britain must mean that only the most ephemeral traces of the Roman army's presence will have been left behind. Yet, it is perhaps surprising that no evidence for the campaign camps or other fortifications have come to light, until it is remembered that little more is known of the early stages of the later Roman invasion in AD 43. But, in places, there must exist, perhaps somewhere in the region of Walmer, again near Canterbury, and again at a point along the banks of the Thames, as well as in Hertfordshire or Essex and elsewhere, traces of the fortifications described by Cæsar as having been erected by his army. The army suffered casualties, so cemeteries must equally exist, with the likely possibility that they contained military equipment. It is not entirely due to want of looking that they have not been found, and it is unfortunate that many of the areas in question are, today, built over. It is strange, nevertheless, that no object or structure has yet been discovered that can, with confidence, be attributed to the campaigns of Cæsar. Such a lack might suggest that it is time for a reappraisal of accepted theories.

To begin with, it is not easy to place the position of his original landing-place far from Walmer, owing to the way in which he describes the coastal topography of the neighbourhood. Admittedly there are other places along the Kentish coast where similar configurations occur, but to adopt one or more of them would place excessive and unacceptable strains on the remaining evidence, such as the duration of his crossing and the direction of the currents. Neither is it easy to postulate any place other than Bigbury, near Canterbury, for the fortified site some twelve miles inland which he attacked, after a night march on his second expedition. Indeed, in a direct line, the distance from Walmer to the hills overlooking the valley of the river Stour at Canterbury is almost exactly thirteen English miles, and it may have been from these hills that he obtained his first view of the enemy's army. Cæsar himself records that Bigbury was taken by the well-tried Roman army method of making ramps to the top of the fortifications. Traces of such operations should be detectable by excavation, even if, following the Roman army's departure, they were removed. Unfortunately Bigbury has never been fully explored but, lying today in freshly-cleared woodland, and not far from the proposed line of the Canterbury by-pass the opportunity still exists and is now being undertaken.

There is, however, one alternative to Bigbury, which is worth considering. Twelve Roman miles (approximately 11¼ English miles) is the precise, straight-line distance from Walmer to the river Little Stour at Littlebourne. The topography of the ground beyond Littlebourne is similar to that across the Stour at Canterbury, and is, today, still heavily wooded. A fortified settlement of late Iron Age date has also been observed during gravel-quarrying in the area. Unfortunately little is known about it, and it would be unwise to speculate further, but it should be remembered when such theories are discussed.

Roman successes - and failures Chapter four

At pages 51 to 53

The year 43 AD brought both failure and success for Roman policy towards Britain. The failure came first. In the changed circumstances, it was no longer possible to keep up the diplomatic contacts with the British tribes which had been begun by Augustus and maintained by Tiberius. Even before the principate of Claudius, the abortive attempt at invasion by the emperor Gaius Caligula indicated that established Roman policy towards Britain lay in ruins. With the uncompromising anti-Roman attitude displayed by Caratacus and Togodumnus, following the expulsion of Verica from his southern kingdom, the time had come for military force to replace diplomacy. Some, in Rome, saw this at last as the completion of a job long delayed since Cæsar's day.

It is likely that the expulsion of Verica proved to be the event which tipped the scales in favour of Roman military intervention. Before, when Tincommius had been expelled, it had been possible for Augustus to continue his alliance with the new Atrebatic ruler, for no break had occurred in the dynastic succession. Now, however, Claudius was faced with a professedly anti-Roman usurper in their territory, who controlled much of the British south coast, and who would not, apparently, negotiate. In modern terms, diplomatic relations were broken off, an action made more necessary after the request had been made for Verica's extradition.

But other factors also influenced the Roman decision to invade Britain. There was Claudius' personal desire for military success; legendary stories of Britain's mineral wealth had been circulating for some time in Rome. Britain remained the last refuge of the Druids, whose extermination was deemed desirable for political as well as religious reasons; there was Cæsar's 'unfinished' business in Britain. But, above all, there was the wrong to a Roman ally, a client king, to be avenged, which, in so doing, would also accomplish the permanent defeat of a long-standing enemy, the Catuvellauni. At that time, Rome relied heavily on alliances with native princes near or beyond the frontiers to maintain peace, so ensuring a considerable economy of Roman manpower. To have allowed Verica's expulsion to pass without vigorous action to reinstate him would have called in question, therefore, a whole sphere of imperial policy, and would have made other client rulers reassess the value of their alliances.

In addition, there was a question of military strategy to be considered. It had for some time been realised in Rome that too large a provincial garrison, commanded by an unscrupulous governor, could be a threat to the emperor's position. Consequently since Augustus' principate it had been the practice to distribute the legions evenly throughout all the frontier provinces, so that theoretically no one governor had excess strength.

The situation now required a military force to be deployed against Britain, either to protect the coast of north Gaul, or to occupy the country. But already the army on the Rhine was one legion over strength and to have added yet more troops on the Channel coast would have been in direct contradiction to established policy. Moreover, an additional garrison in Gaul would have caused far-reaching logistical problems. The solution lay in the occupation of Britain, which would place the garrison in safety across the sea, while newly-conquered territory would provide the food and other materials needed to maintain it.

The invasion was accomplished by four legions, commanded by Aulus Plautius, and detached from the Rhine and Danube frontiers:

together with auxiliary cavalry and infantry.

Some uncertainty still exists in the minds of archaeologists as to the places at which this army landed in Britain, although we know that it sailed from Boulogne. The only place to provide indisputable evidence for its arrival is Richborough in east Kent, where a fortified beach-head was first constructed, to be rapidly replaced by a stores depot of considerable size. Attempts have been made to argue that landings also took place on the south coast, in particular in the neighbourhood of Chichester, in order to reinstate Verica and expel the Catuvellaunian usurpers. Although there is no specific evidence for such a landing, it would have made sound strategic sense, even if, tactically, it might have been questioned. The invasion was an overwhelming success, despite some hard fighting and some difficult moments, and within a matter of months, Claudius himself led his victorious army into the British capital at Camulodunum, from where battle groups fanned outwards and rapidly took control of most of lowland Britain, so achieving the primary objectives of defeating, and occupying the territory of, the Catuvellauni and reinstating Verica in his kingdom.


"Richborough Environs Project, Kent" Aerial Survey Report Series AER/12/2002 at page 9

Fiona Small, English Heritage

There is evidence of late Iron Age occupation on Richborough Island with occupation layers, ditches and pottery from circa 75 BC discovered beneath the site of the earlier Roman fort during the Bushe-Fox excavations (1922-38). The report for Richborough from Kent SMR suggests from pottery and coin evidence that Richborough was in use as a port/harbour in the 1st century BC. This is not surprising considering the fact that Richborough Island was a prominent island amongst marshes and tidal channels at this time and a suitable location for settlement.


"Julius Cæsar's First Landing in Britain"

History Today, Volume 55 Issue 8 August 2005

Julius Cæsar first landed in Britain on August 26th, 55 BC, but it was almost another hundred years before the Romans actually conquered Britain in AD 43.

Having subdued Gaul, or so it seemed at the time, Julius Cæsar launched an expedition to Britain. It was late in the campaigning season and it is doubtful if he was bent on conquest, more likely a reconnaissance in strength. He would certainly have hoped to increase his prestige at home and he might have wanted to postpone a recall to Rome, where his enemies could get at him. He was probably encouraged by some British chiefs, hoping to use the Romans as allies against rival tribes. Whatever Cæsar's intentions, he was defeated by the British weather.

A Gaulish chieftain named Commius was sent across the Channel to enlist support for the Romans among the British tribes, while a trusted officer took a fast galley to reconnoitre the coast. Cæsar assembled eighty ships at Boulogne to carry two legions, the Seventh and the Tenth, plus irregulars, altogether some 12,000 men. The cavalry and their horses were to sail separately from Ambleteuse, a few miles north. After waiting for a wind the Roman ships left Boulogne in the early hours of August 26th and came in sight of the white cliffs of Dover around 9am. The cliffs were bristling with menacing British warriors, horsemen and war chariots. It was obviously no place to land, but Cæsar waited for hours offshore for the cavalry, which had got penned in Ambleteuse by tide and wind. In the afternoon the Roman fleet sailed north-east without them to pass the South Foreland and come in sight of the long stretch of flat shore to the north. The Britons moved along on land to keep pace.

The Roman ships drew in and anchored offshore, probably about where Deal is now, and the legionaries were faced with wading to land, burdened with weapons and gear, while the Britons threw javelins at them and galloped menacingly to and fro on the beach. It was not an agreeable prospect and the soldiers hung back until the eagle-bearer of the Tenth jumped into the sea and shouted to his comrades to follow him and defend the standard. This they did and more and more of the Romans struggled through the waves to the beach. After savage fighting, the legionaries managed to form up, charge the Britons and drive them in flight. With no cavalry this could not be followed up and the Romans made camp.

The Britons sent emissaries to Cæsar to sue for peace, along with Commius with his tail between his legs. Cæsar took hostages from them and after four days, on the 30th, the cavalry transports at last appeared, but were blown away by a sudden fierce storm and forced back to Gaul. The gale coincided with an exceptionally high tide and many of Cæsar's ships dragged their anchors and were wrecked on the beach. The Britons took note and started to muster their forces again. The Romans began repairing the ships, but now they were short of food. Parties ventured into the countryside to reap corn and gather supplies, but legionaries of the Seventh were ambushed by British chariots and horsemen. Fortunately for the Romans, the attack raised such a cloud of dust that Cæsar saw it from the camp and hurried up with reinforcements. After several days of incessant rain Cæsar managed to bring the British to a pitched battle, which was what Roman commanders always wanted against a barbarian and comparatively undisciplined enemy. The British were defeated with heavy casualties, but again could not be effectively pursued. Cæsar had had enough. He embarked his men on the ships and sailed back to Gaul.

Cæsar tried again the following year, launching a stronger and better prepared force of five legions on a second expedition, which carried him across the Thames at Brentford, but again the weather was abominable and gales played havoc with his ships and supplies. After concluding a face-saving treaty with the local British king he returned to Gaul once more. It was almost another hundred years before the Romans actually conquered Britain, in AD 43.


"Tide and time: re-dating Cæsar's invasion of Britain"

Tuesday, 23 June 2008 Texas State University and Sky & Telescope Thursday, 25 June 2008

See Tidal Streams: The Downs

It's not every day that a famous historical event, scrutinized by generations of classical scholars, can be re-dated by two astronomers and their college honors class. But that's exactly what Donald W. Olson and Russell Doescher of Texas State University did, with the help of students Kellie Beicker and Amanda Gregory. They report their findings in the August 2008 Sky & Telescope, which has just hit the newsstands.

Tipped off by Don in advance, I was fortunate to be able to join the team's research trip to the southern coast of England last summer. The white cliffs of Dover are also the setting for a much earlier clash of civilizations. Along this very shore, Julius Cæsar first landed with two legions of Roman soldiers in 55 BC.

Cæsar, in his first-hand account of the invasion, carefully noted the phase of the Moon, the approach of the equinox, and above all the unexpected ocean tides his fleet encountered. So it's a simple matter for any astronomer to determine the precise date of the invasion, right?

Wrong! No lesser astronomers than Edmond Halley and George B. Airy carefully studied the astronomical aspects of 55 BC in hopes of letting historians know the exact date and location where Cæsar and his legions came ashore. But Airy and Halley disagreed with each other. And what's more, they both got it partly wrong, as Olson's Texas State team found out on their research trip.

Some years back, Don realized that the summer of 2007 offered a unique chance to settle this tricky problem once and for all. In 55 BC the full Moon came about three days before lunar perigee and about 3.5 weeks before the equinox, just as in 2007, so the key tidal factors would be virtually identical. On less than a dozen dates in the last 2,061 years has this match been so good. August 2007 offered the perfect chance to find out just where and when Cæsar came ashore in 55 BC.

There were two top uncertainties to answer about the ocean currents when the Roman fleet arrived off the white cliffs of Dover:

  1. which way was the current flowing on the traditionally accepted invasion date on the afternoon of August 26 or 27, 55 BC?
  2. which way was the current flowing on an invasion date four days earlier, one that the Texas State researchers had already started to focus on?

To address the first question, our group went to the coastal town of Deal, the area historians have long believed to be the Roman fleet's eventual landing spot because it's roughly seven miles north of the stretch of white cliffs Cæsar says he first encountered. That beach is indeed "open and flat", just as Cæsar described. I noticed it wasn't sandy at all, being thickly paved with golf-ball-size pebbles its entire length, and wouldn't have been an easy place for Roman warriors to scramble ashore as they dodged a hail of spears and arrows from Britain's hostile Celtic tribes.

On the date in 2007 that corresponded closely to August 26 or 27, 55 BC, we walked out to the end of the Deal pier, which sticks out hundreds of feet into the English Channel. There Don tossed an apple into the ocean at roughly the same time of afternoon Cæsar described the movement of the fleet. Sure enough, the apple drifted southwest toward Dover. No way could an invasion fleet, arriving in oar-powered triremes and other ancient warships, have come up from Dover on that particular afternoon.

To address the second question (the current's direction on the revised invasion date, August 22 or 23), we chartered a sightseeing boat that normally takes tourists around the Dover inner harbour. The skipper agreed to take us well beyond the breakwater, into the open Channel and northward along the white cliffs.

Once we were out in the open sea, the skipper turned off the boat's engine. Kellie and Mandy began noting GPS readings and times, crucial data for determining the current's rate and direction by the drift of our boat. And yes - we were drifting northeast toward Deal. So on that afternoon, with lunar conditions so nearly matching those of 55 BC, the Roman fleet would have had no trouble making its way along the coast toward Deal.

I don't know about the others in our group, but I was starting to feel a little queasy as our small boat bobbed around in the choppy seas. I was glad when we got back ashore at Dover. The Roman fleet, its mission only just begun, had no such option.

Time was when all high-school students translated Cæsar's Commentary on the Gallic War in second-year Latin class. You know, the famous narrative that begins, "Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres …" The other night I dug out my old textbook. Flipping those old pages to Cæsar's Book IV, I saw that I'd underlined the words "Eadem nocte accidit, ut esset luna plena …" meaning "That night, it happened that there was a full Moon …" Cæsar was from the Mediterranean, where there is very little tide, and he didn't know that true ocean tides have nearly their maximum range whenever the Moon is full. As a result, his invasion fleet faced unexpected challenges as they looked for a suitable landing beach on the British shore.

The Roman army's historic landing on the coast of Britain in 55 BC involved perhaps 100 ships and 10,000 men. But this was a rather limited incursion, by Cæsar's own standards. Buoyed by the sensation his exploits caused back home, Cæsar returned to Britain the following spring (54 BC) with an invasion fleet perhaps 10 times larger. It was like a D-day in reverse.


"Doubt over date for Brit invasion"

Tuesday, 1 July 2008 BBC

See Tidal Streams: The Downs

Julius Cæsar's invasion of Britain in 55 BC could not have occurred on the dates stated in most history books, a team of astronomers has claimed. The traditional view is that Cæsar landed in Britain on 26-27 August, but researchers from Texas State University say this cannot be right. Dr Donald Olson, an expert on tides, says that the English Channel was flowing the wrong way on these dates. An invasion of the south coast at Deal on August 22-23 is favoured instead. The claims appear in the latest issue of Sky & Telescope magazine.

Cæsar came to Britain with 100 warships and two legions comprising 10,000 men. But as he approached Dover's white cliffs, spear-wielding Celtic warriors lined up along the ridge, prompting the Roman leader to look for a better landing spot. He ordered his fleet to move along the coast, and after travelling about seven miles they came to "an open and flat shore". What has been a matter of some debate is the direction Cæsar turned to sail along the coast and when exactly his armada landed.

Astronomical solution

Cæsar mentioned strong tides, a full Moon and an ocean current. The astronomers Edmund Halley and George Airy previously used this information to try to solve the problem. But they disagreed with each other's conclusions. Dr Olson identified August 2007 as a rare opportunity to investigate the question of when Cæsar landed. During this month, complex tidal factors involving the Moon and Sun would unfold in a near-perfect replay of those in August of 55 BC. So the researchers conducted an expedition to the south coast of England in order to investigate their idea.

On the day which corresponded closely to the traditional date for the invasion, Dr Olson carried out a basic experiment - dropping an apple into the sea off Deal pier at roughly the time of afternoon when Cæsar described the fleet moving. The apple floated south-west towards Dover, suggesting that the Roman fleet could not have travelled up to Deal from Dover on that day. "The English Channel was flowing the wrong way" said Dr Olson.

Cæsar's account led the researchers to focus on a possible invasion date a few days earlier. On the day corresponding to the revised date of 22-23 August, the team chartered a sightseeing boat and took GPS readings to determine how the boat was drifting. They found the boat was floating north-east towards Deal. The Texas team's revised date gives Cæsar the ocean current he needed to manoeuvre right, proceed seven miles, and land with a falling tide near present-day Deal. This is the beach preferred by most historians but rejected by tide experts in the past. A modified reading of Cæsar's reference to the "night of a full Moon" also leads to the August 22-23 date, Dr Olson claimed. "The scientists were right about the tidal streams and so were the historians about the landing site" he explained.


"Hidden Roman coastline unearthed by archaeologists in Kent"

The Telegraph, 2 October 2008

The dig at Richborough Roman Fort near Sandwich, Kent, suggests that Emperor Claudius' men landed at a point two miles inland from the present coastline. It is thought the fort overlooked a lagoon which disappeared as the area gradually silted up. Tony Wilmott, a senior archaeologist with English Heritage who led the excavation, said:

"It is widely known that Richborough Roman Fort was the gateway to Roman Britain 2,000 years ago, but what is really exciting is that we have actually found the Roman foreshore while digging in a deep trench alongside the remains of a Roman wall. The bottom of the trench continually fills with water and by trowelling you can feel the hard surface, which was the Roman beach. We have long been curious about this fallen Roman fort wall and now we know there was a Roman harbour sitting out there."

The fort consists of three surviving walls and a sunken wall, which lies beneath woodland adjacent to a railway line and river. A team of eight professional archaeologists, assisted by amateurs, spent five weeks examining a 100-yard stretch of the sunken wall. The Roman beach was found six feet down. Although the discovery has still to be fully analysed and authenticated, it is likely to solve a long-standing academic debate.

"The exact location of the Roman shoreline has always been a mystery," said Mr Wilmott. "One hypothesis was that the fort and Roman settlement extended a lot further over the railway line, river and beyond. Another theory was that the shore was close to the fort. We have found the latter. This is important because it is the context for the Roman invasion of Britain in AD 43. We knew Richborough was the site of that first landing (but) the relationship of land and sea for the invasion fleet has been a really important research question. It's very exciting to finally nail it."

Having established their bridgehead at Richborough the Romans commemorated the fact with a great triumphal arch in AD 80, believed to be made from Italian marble. By the mid-3rd century Roman Britain was under attack from Saxons and other raiders and the port, known as Rutupiae, was hastily fortified. It is believed to have been occupied by the Romans until they departed in the early 5th century. During the excavation fragments of pottery and building materials, including marble fragments from the arch, have been found and are expected to be carbon dated to around the 4th century. Archaeologists also discovered a mediaeval wall from what they believe was a 14th century dock, used by trading boats. It may also have been associated with the nearby St Augustine's chapel. The masonry technique is the same as that used in the town wall at Sandwich, which dates from the same period.


Location map showing Richbrough and the Wantsum Channel

Research News, Number 12, Summer 2009, Tony Wilmott and Jessica Tibber, English Heritage at pages 20 to 22


Location map showing the Thanet coastline circa AD 43


The Isle of Thanet in the Roman period

"First evidence of Julius Cæsar's invasion of Britain discovered in Kent"

The Independent, 29 November 2017

The landing site for Julius Cæsar's invasion of Britain more than 2,000 years ago has been identified for the first time - in Kent. His ships arrived at Pegwell Bay on the Isle of Thanet at the north east point of the county, a spot never previously suspected because it was separated from the mainland. But the location matches Cæsar's own personal account with three clues about the landscape being consistent with the amazing discovery. These were:

  1. its visibility from the sea
  2. the existence of a large open bay, and
  3. the presence of higher ground.

His army immediately constructed a fort on it. Iron weaponry, including a javelin, and other artefacts dug up at the neighbouring hamlet of Ebbsfleet overlooking the bay suggests it was a Roman base dating to the 1st century BC. It was up to 20 hectares in size and the main purpose would have been be to protect Cæsar's fleet that had been drawn up on to the beach. The site is now more than half a mile (900 metres) inland. But at the time of Cæsar's invasions it was closer to the coast. It has a ditch up to 16 and a half (5 metres) wide and six and a half feet (2 metres) deep. Radiocarbon dating of pottery also fits the period.

Dr Andrew Fitzpatrick, of the University of Leicester's School of Archæology and Ancient History, said:

"The site at Ebbsfleet lies on a peninsular that projects from the south eastern tip of the Isle of Thanet. Thanet has never been considered as a possible landing site before because it was separated from the mainland until the Middle Ages. However, it is not known how big the Channel that separated it from the mainland, the Wantsum Channel, was. The Wantsum Channel was clearly not a significant barrier to people of Thanet during the Iron Age and it certainly would not have been a major challenge to the engineering capabilities of the Roman army."

The last full study of Cæsar's invasions was published more than a century ago. In the course of his Gallic Wars he invaded Britain twice, in 55 and 54 BC. But his landing sites have never been found.

The first invasion, in late summer, was unsuccessful, gaining the Romans little else besides a beachhead on the coast of Kent.

The project involved surveys of hillforts that may have been attacked by Cæsar, studies in museums of objects that may have been made or buried at the time of the invasions, such as coin hoards, and excavations around Kent. It was prompted by the discovery of the large defensive ditch in archæological excavations before a new road was built. The shape was very similar to some of the Roman defences at Alesia in France, where the decisive battle in the Gallic War took place in 52 BC.

Cæsar's own account of his landing in 54 BC backs the study which was funded by the Leverhulme Trust and will be featured in BBC Four's Digging For Britain. Explained Dr Fitzpatrick:

"Sailing from somewhere between Boulogne and Calais, Cæsar says at sunrise they saw Britain far away on the left hand side. As they set sail opposite the cliffs of Dover, Cæsar can only be describing the white chalk cliffs around Ramsgate which were being illuminated by the rising sun. Cæsar describes how the ships were left at anchor at an even and open shore and how they were damaged by a great storm. This description is consistent with Pegwell Bay, which today is the largest bay on the east Kent coast and is open and flat. The bay is big enough for the whole Roman army to have landed in the single day that Cæsar describes. The 800 ships, even if they landed in waves, would still have needed a landing front 1 - 2 km (0.62 to 1.24 miles) wide. Cæsar also describes how the Britons had assembled to oppose the landing but, taken aback by the size of the fleet, they concealed themselves on the higher ground. This is consistent with the higher ground of the Isle of Thanet around Ramsgate. These three clues about the topography of the landing site; the presence of cliffs, the existence of a large open bay, and the presence of higher ground nearby, are consistent with the 54 BC landing having been in Pegwell Bay."

It has long been believed as Cæsar returned to France the invasions were failures and had no lasting effects on ancient Britons because he did not leave a force of occupation.

The campaigns were short so it was also thought there would have been few, if any, archæological remains. The team challenge this idea by suggesting in Rome the invasions were seen as a great triumph. The fact Cæsar had crossed the sea and gone beyond the known world caused a sensation. At this time victory was achieved by defeating the enemy in battle, not by occupying their lands.

They also suggest they had longstanding effects which were seen almost 100 years later during Claudius' invasion of Britain. Principal investigator Prof Colin Haselgrove, also of the University of Leicester, said:

"It seems likely the treaties set up by Cæsar formed the basis for alliances between Rome and British royal families. This eventually resulted in the leading rulers of south east England becoming client kings of Rome. Almost 100 years after Cæsar, in AD 43 the emperor Claudius invaded Britain. The conquest of south east England seems to have been rapid, probably because the kings in this region were already allied to Rome. This was the beginning of the permanent Roman occupation of Britain, which included Wales and some of Scotland, and lasted for almost 400 years, suggesting Claudius later exploited Cæsar's legacy."

The fieldwork for the project was carried out by volunteers organised by the Community Archæologist of Kent County Council who worked in partnership with the University of Leicester. Simon Mason, principal archæological officer for Kent County Council who oversaw the original road excavations, said:

"Many people do not realise just how rich the archæology of the Isle of Thanet is. Being so close to the continent, Thanet was the gateway to new ideas, people, trade and invasion from earliest times. This has resulted in a vast and unique buried archæological landscape with many important discoveries being regularly made. The peoples of Thanet were once witness to some of the earliest and most important events in the nation's history: the Claudian invasion to start the period of Roman rule, the arrival of St Augustine's mission to bring Christianity and the arrival of the Saxons celebrated through the tradition of Hengist and Horsa. It has been fantastic to be part of a project that is helping to bring another fantastic chapter, that of Cæsar, to Thanet's story."


Course of Cæsar's fleet, 4 to 5 July 54 BC


Julius Cæsar's British Campaign: 54 BC, 6 July to 3 September


Lidar model of topography of Thanet showing Ebbsfleet


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