To the Victor……

For Caesar, the invasion of Britain was to a large degree, a measure of vanity. He wrote about his discoveries while there, one of them being the use of chariots by the Britons which was unfamiliar to the Romans. It is interesting to note that not only were the Romans soldiers but they were educated as well. Most of them kept a journal of their assignments. Ceasar’s was called the “Commentarri de Bello Gallico“.

Among other things, Caesar described the mild climate and the coastline of Britain. He described the inhabitants as being very similar to the Gauls with whom they traded .On the land there was tin, iron and of course vast amounts of wood, things the Romans would be interested in harvesting. Their currency was iron or brass rings .

The Britons were polygamous and practiced druidism. They dyed themselves with woad and had no bodily hair except for long hair on their heads and mustaches. Added to that, they were allegedly head-hunters and practiced human sacrifice. How much of this Caesar himself would have actually seen is questionable . Parts of it probably came from reports by his men.

Part of Caesar’s success in this mission may have been due to the situations the tribes themselves were in when he arrived. They were warring with each other. One of the prominent warlords of the Thames, Cassivellaunus, had made enemies of many people  He was asked to lead combined forces but was defeated when his enemies, the Trinovantes, sent ambassadors to Caesar saying they would support him in the war. Five other tribes surrendered  and then revealed the location of Cassivellaunus and his men. As has been stated before, the Britons did not know how to fight as a unit and this weakened them.

Here is a wonderful painting by Lionel Royer showing a very romantic portrayal of a Gallic chieftain surrendering to Caesar d. 1899.

The Surrender of Vercingetorix

The Surrender of Vercingetorix

 

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