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SKETCHES

FROM THE

HISTORY OF GREAT BRITAIN.

JULIUS CÆSAR IN ENGLAND.

All histories of England commence with the invasion of Julius Cæsar, the earliest event in that quarter of which we have any authentic account. The Island of Britain was an unknown region to the Romans, and nearly so to the rest of mankind, at the period when Cæsar's conquests had reduced the greater part of Gaul to the Roman government. Britain, lying within sight of the northern shores of Gaul, attracted his notice, and he began to meditate schemes of conquest in that island. He is said to have been prompted to this design by a view of the British pearls, which excited his admiration and cupidity by their great size and beauty. Incited doubtless by the double stimulant of ambition and avarice, he determined to invade this unknown island. The Romans considered all strangers as enemies; no moral scruples or principles of international law interposed to hinder them from turning their arms against any of their neighbours.

To acquire all possible preliminary knowledge of the country he was about to invade, Cæsar convened, from different parts of Gaul, a great number of merchants and adventurers who had visited Britain for trade and other purposes. These he questioned as to the extent of the island, its population and wealth, the manners and customs of the inhabitants, their method of fighting, the harbours of the island fit to receive large ships, and other matters. These men, however, prob

, ably disliking the projected enterprise, did not furnish him with satisfactory information. He therefore despatched one of his officers in a galley to spy out the condition of the coast, and in the mean time marched with a strong army into the territory of the Morini, about Calais and Boulogne, and collected a numerous fleet in the harbours of that neighbourhood. The news of the intended invasion soon spread through the southern parts of Britain, and some of the states sent over ambassadors to Cæsar, offering to submit to the government of Rome, and give hostages for their fidelity. He gave them an amicable reception, and sent them back with a prince of the Gauls, whom he instructed to obtain all possible information of the state of the Britons, and to exhort them to enter into alliance with the Romans, which was only a soft and inoffensive term for submission.

Volusenus, the officer first despatched by Cæsar, having returned from examining the British coast, the Roman army embarked at Calais and the neighbouring ports in ninety-eight vessels, set sail, and at one o'clock on the morning of the 26th of August, 55 years

before the Christian era, the principal part of the fleet arrived at Dover Cliff. It was now discovered that the whole country was hostile. The states which had offered submission, finding that this had not averted the invasion, determined to stand upon their defence. They imprisoned Comius, the Gallic prince who had accompanied the ambassadors on their return, raised a numerous army, and marched to that part of the coast where they judged the invaders would attempt to land. Cæsar, on approaching the white shores, which gave this island its ancient name of Albion, saw the lofty cliffs covered with armed men. It was impossible to land, in the face of an army, in this spot; and, after lying by till three in the afternoon, the fleet got under sail again, and stood along the coast. Eight miles further eastward, they reached a plain, open shore, where Cæsar determined to land, although the Britons had followed him along the coast, and stood ready to oppose the attempt.

When the Roman soldiers found themselves nearly up to the neck in the water, encumbered by the weight of their armor, and saw the beach covered with troops of fierce barbarians, who rushed to assail them with the greatest fury and resolution, they did not display that confidence and intrepidity which usually marked their conduct on meeting with the enemy. For some time the conflict was maintained with a dubious prospect as to the result. Cæsar, observing the critical situation of his men, ordered several galleys, which drew less water than the transport ships, to approach the shore, and attack the enemy in flank with a general discharge of their engines, slings, and arrows. The Britons, struck with astonishment at the unusual shape and motion of the galleys, and the playing of the engines, first halted, and then began to give ground. Still many of the Roman soldiers hesitated to leave their ships and encounter at once the waves and the enemy; at length the standard-bearer of the tenth legion, having first invoked the gods, sprang into the sea, and, advancing with the eagle towards the enemy, cried aloud, “Follow me, fellow-soldiers, unless you would betray the Roman eagle into the hands of the enemy ;

for my part, I am determined to discharge my duty to Cæsar and the Commonwealth.” All who liked this bold action, and heard this animating speech, were fired with courage and emulation, plunged into the

sea, and rushed toward the shore. The battle now raged more fiercely than ever at the water's edge ; but Cæsar displayed so much activity and judgment in reinforcing his men at the points where they were most hardly pressed, that at length the Roman discipline and skill prevailed over the wild impetuosity of the barbarians, and the whole army, after repulsing their opponents, effected a safe landing. The spot where this engagement took place is supposed to be at the modern town of Deal.

The Britons, in discouragement, renewed their submission to Cæsar, and apologized by their ambassadors for the violence done to Comius, by laying the blame entirely on the unruly multitude. Cæsar again accepted their offers, and took hostages for the fidelity of the suppliants. Their submission, however, lasted no longer than while the Romans were able to keep them in terror by the presence of their army. The first prospect of any threatened disaster to the invad

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ers was the signal for a new defection. On the very day when a peace was agreed upon, eighteen transports of Roman cavalry set sail with a fair wind from Gaul. As they approached the British shore, and began to descry the Roman camp, a sudden storm arose, dispersed the ships, and forced them back into different ports on the continent. This disaster was accompanied by another. On the night after the storm, the moon was at the full, and the unexpected rise of the tide surprised and embarrassed the Romans, familiar mostly with no other shores than those of the Mediterranean, where the ebb and flow of the sea are hardly perceptible. The galleys, which were drawn up on the beach, were overflowed, and the ships at anchor were either dashed to pieces, or greatly damaged. By this sudden and unforeseen mishap, the Romans lost their provisions, and saw themselves without transports to enable them to escape from the island, if threatened with famine or a general rising of the Britons. The whole army was at once thrown into consternation.

A great number of the British chiefs were in the camp, and

saw, at once, the whole extent of these disasters. The Romans were now without food, cavalry, or ships, and might, apparently, be cut off at a single blow, or starved into submission. The chiefs held secret consultations, and determined upon a revolt. They withdrew, one after another, under various pretences, from the camp, repaired to their respective states, col. lected their followers, and animated them to a renewal of the war.

A few days afterward, a great cloud of dust was discovered from the Roman camp in the di

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