IN 55BC JULIUS CAESAR IN HIS OWN WRITTEN WORDS DESCRIBES THE ATTACK ON BRITANNIA. IT WAS A PUNITIVE EXPEDITION AGAINST THE CELTIC CHIEFTAINS FOR SENDING WARRIORS TO THE ASSISTANCE OF HIS ENEMIES, THE GAULS.

gold torc Fibula Gold torc... neck ring Seagull Chariot Carnax.. battle trumpet of the Celts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Caesar had planned an expedition to Britannia in 56 BC but the Armorican tribes on the coast of Gaul had suddenly revolted against Roman rule. They were aided in this by tribes from southern Britannia. The journey was further delayed by running battles with the Belgic tribes {Morini and Menapi} who controlled the narrow divide between Gaul and Britannia.

By August 26th 55 BC two Roman Legions (about 10,000 soldiers) under Caesar's direct command sailed across the channel in transport ships leaving from Portus Itius ( Boulogne). On the morning of August 27th as Caesar writes, the Roman ships were standing off the chalky cliffs of Dover. Looking down on them were thousands of Celtic warriors their shields and helmets and swords glistening in the morning light.

 

 

Scene from History Channel zit Captured Roman gladius piercing eyes rough tattoo's limed spikey hair Asterix trousers Celtic art on shield Shield boss to protect hand

 

AS THE ROMAN SHIPS NEARED THE COAST OF SOUTHERN BRITANNIA, HOME TO THE CANTIACI TRIBE, THE BLAST OF MANY WAR CARNAX'S RENT THE SALT SPRAYED AIR. THE BEACH WAS NARROW...THE CLIFFS TOWERED ABOVE ... SHOWERS OF MISSILES RAINED DOWN UPON THE FIRST WAVE OF LEGIONARIES AS THEY FALTERED IN THE HEAVING SURF. THE CAVALRY WERE LATE...THEIR TRANSPORTERS CHECKED BY UNFAVOURABLE WINDS, THIS WAS AN UNHEALTHY PLACE TO TEST THE METAL OF THE BRITONS. CAESAR COMMANDED THE INVADING FLEET TO DROP ANCHOR AND REGROUPED OFFSHORE PRIOR TO SAILING A FEW MILES FURTHER NORTH EAST TO A MORE ASSAILABLE POSITION NOT FAR FROM DEAL. THE BRONZE CLAD TRIBESMEN FOLLOWED ALONG THE SHORE, CHARIOTS AT THE HEAD...WAR CRIES AND BATTLE TRUMPETS SCREAMING IN THE BREEZE. THIS WAS THE EDGE OF THE KNOWN WORLD FAR BEYOND THE PILLARS OF HERCULES AND SUPERSTITION SPREAD LIKE WILD FIRE AMONGST THE ROMAN TROOPS.

GOLD CELTIC NECK TORC

THE AQUILIFER OF LEGION X LEAPT INTO THE SURF...[fearing they would loose their Eagle as well as their wages as the Aquilifer was also their banker]...THE TROOPS FOLLOWED WITHOUT QUESTION AS THEY HAD BEEN TRAINED TO AND FOUGHT THEIR WAY ASHORE IN A CONFUSED AND VICIOUS BATTLE. WITH THE CRASHING WAVES BEHIND THEM AND WILD BRITONS WADING OUT TO GIVE BATTLE; THE ROMANS HAD A HARD TIME OF IT. EVENTUALLY THEY SECURED THE BEACH HEAD AND SOON SCOUTED THE SURROUNDING COASTAL AREA. CONTACT WAS MADE WITH SEVERAL BRITISH CHARIOTS AND THE ROMANS WERE FORCED TO VENTURE NO FURTHER AS THEY WERE WITHOUT CAVALRY.

The need to obtain food locally resulted in scouting and foraging missions into the hostile countryside. Caesar reports bountiful grain crops along a heavily inhabited coastline as well as frequent close encounters with British war chariots. After repairing most of the ships he reluctantly ordered a return to Gaul, thus ending the reconnaissance of this mist shrouded Island.

SO, WITHIN A FORTNIGHT CAESAR HAD RETURNED TO GAUL, HAVING SERIOUSLY UNDERESTIMATED THE RESISTANCE OF THE CELTIC TRIBES.

THE FOLLOWING YEAR 54 BC... HE WAS READY

AND AMASSED A FORMIDABLE FORCE OF SOME 25,000 LEGIONARIES,


2,000 CAVALRY AND AN UNKNOWN NUMBERED AUXILIARY FORCE.

Julius Caesar describes his campaigns in his book Caesar's Gallic War. In 55 BC 100 ships were used for the expedition to Britain, 80 ships carried about 12,000 infantry. Whilst 18 ships carried cavalry, although storms prevented their landing. Each ship averaged about 150 infantry. There would have had to be space spared for forage for at least a day or so during the embarkation, voyage and landing, so a greater number is less likely than 600 cavalry. Caesar had the army build the ships in Gaul specially for the task, as they had done on occasion in other campaigns.

The second invasion in 54 BC brought more than 800 ships used to transport five legions (around 25,000 men) and 2,000 cavalry troops this time with their horses and a large baggage train. The proportion of cavalry to infantry was now higher. Caesar had left three legions (15,000 men) and 2,000 cavalry in Gaul to defend the harbours and to provide feed.

 

Auxiliaries had different equipment to Roman legionaries. Some of them did not wear much if any armour, but most that did would have chain mail. They normally wore similar helmets to those worn by legionaries. The shield was usually made from leather and wood and was oval shaped. Very useful for skirmishing and the auxiliaries main weapons were usually a sword and spear. Other types of auxiliaries fought as infantrymen or archers who were armed with bows and arrows and slings.



Auxiliary troops were often used by the Romans in situations to their advantage... these men, as the one depicted below, were equipped with light oval shields and would use their native spears to great effect. They were infact forbidden the use of the pilum. This oval light shield was very usefull in wooded terrain and could be thrust ahead dividing the foliage. It could also be used very effectively on the offensive by slicing it sideways into an opponents face, neck or arm. On the retreat it could be held behind ones back with little effort giving virtually full body protection against showers of missiles.


Blue sky... the enemies last  view. Petronius the expert on Pompeii  aged 70 and still looking good! native thrusting spear used by auxillery soldier Oval auxillery shield

 

The Caesarian shield as it is known... is completely different and is very heavy in comparison, not only to the auxiliary shield but to the type that would supersede it, with the third invasion in AD 43. Using this shield is like fighting behind a door... you could plant it in front off you and hold your ground. However, it was another story when the legionary had to advance in a tactical situation that demanded greater dexterity. These shields would be modified later by having the top and bottoms cut off, thereby reducing the weight and allowing them to be more maneuverable in battle! This modification would be so successful that it would give rise to a new rectangular square cut shield during the mid first century.

 

CAESARS FAVOURITE 10TH LEGION! The Bull symbol of the Tenth Legion.

THE LEGIONARIES ABOVE PREPARE TO THROW THEIR JAVELINS (PILA) AT THE ONCOMING ENEMY. THE USE OF THIS TYPE OF WEAPON HELPED RID THE ENEMY OF THEIR SHIELDS, ALLOWING THE ROMANS TO ENGAGE THEM AT CLOSE QUARTERS WITH THEIR INFAMOUS SHORT STABBING SWORDS (THE GLADIUS).
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Maiden hill fort the size of 50 football pitches!Celtic IRON AGE HILL FORTS

Hillforts began to appear towards the end of the Bronze Age... but their real zenith was during the Iron Age. From the 6th century BC, hillforts were to be seen all over Britannia. They were constructed, using various techniques, in many shapes and many sizes. Some have just one encircling ring wall of defence (univallate), whilst others have multiple rings (multivallate). Each tribal area had their centres of location.

The defensive rings are comprised mainly of a ditch and a rampart, but some are formed of ramparts only. At these sites there would be wooden palisades along the rampart crests, while at others there were stone parapets and rampart walks. The entrances consisted of timber gates and were often quite complicated earthworks, incorporating features like watch towers, bastions and guardrooms.

 

 

Where this arrow is pointing there is an iron Ballista bolt wedged in the spine. Where this arrow points there is an iron Ballista bolt  buried in the spine Remains of slain Celtic defenders of Maiden hill fort. This Huge hill fort Maiden Castle, Dorset,was attacked by Legion II shortly after the invasion of 43AD. Archaeologists discovered several skeletons of the defenders of the Hill Fort and the white arrow here points to an iron scorpion bolt that is still embedded Iron head from Scorpion in the spine. The Roman artillery would have bombarded the defensive positions whilst the soldiers advanced up the steep banks in a tortoise like formation. It must have seemed impossible for the Romans to sack the fort. Little did the tribes know that this was exactly what the Romans were good at and was bread and butter to these highly skilled troops. Protecting your tribe against other internal like minded tribes was one thing... keeping the Romans out was something else! Scorpion Catapulta Bronze capstains for winding up the power Rope made from animal gut and human hair 60 of these machines to a Legion Type of Scorpion that bombarded Maiden Castle

 

 

 

CAESAR USED CELTIC CAVALRY, MANY WERE DRESSED IN MAIL SHIRTS (as depicted opposite) AND CARRIED THE 60 TO 70CM SPATHA. THE SPATHA WAS A LONG CUTTING SWORD POSSIBLEY OF CELTIC ORIGIN. IN THE LEFT HAND OUR CAVALRY TROOPER CARRIES AN OVAL FLAT SHIELD ALTHOUGH SOMETIMES HEXAGONAL SHIELDS WERE USED. HORSES WERE UNARMOURED AT THIS TIME THOUGH MANY WERE DECORATED WITH PENDANTS AND PHALERAE...DISC'S OF TINNED BRONZE. STIRRUPS WERE NOT USED UNTIL THE SIXTH CENTURY. SADDLES WERE IN USE THOUGH AND HAD FOUR HORNS LOCKING THE RIDER INTO POSITION FORE AND AFT.

This is the typical size of a Roman cavalry horse... strong and sturdy.

 

 

Near Uffington England, there's a 110 meter long hillside carving of a horse. It was originally thought to be Celtic... or perhaps Iron Age. More recent tests have indicated a date closer to 1000 BC, during the Bronze Age. There are... or were at least 24 of these hill figures in Britain, with no less than 13 being in Wiltshire. Most of these figures are chalk hill carvings, and the chalk downs of central Wiltshire make it an ideal place for such designs.
Of the thirteen white horses known to have existed in Wiltshire, only eight are still visible whilst others have either been completely lost , or are still there... under the turf, but have long since become overgrown and are no longer visible. The most curious question of all - why was this unique structure built?

All we know is that this famous horse would have been sacred to the Celts and part of the common landscape during the Roman invasion of this strange mist shrouded island north of the pillars of Hercules..... Britannia!

 

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