Story of Rome - Mary Macgregor

Caesar Invades Britain

In 55 B.C. Cæsar resolved to invade our own island home. He knew little about Britain, save that she was on good terms with the Gauls, and carried on trade with them.

When he questioned the traders, they told him that he would find tin and lead in the ground, as well as precious stones scattered over the land.

Curiosity, the desire for booty, as well as the wish to punish all who aided the Gauls, drove Cæsar to the adventure, and he ordered a fleet to be prepared for the great enterprise.

It was autumn when he set sail for Britain, with eighty vessels and an army of 12,000 men. He had not taken a larger fleet, as he thought that he would have little trouble in conquering the barbarians of the island.

Rumours had reached Britain of the coming of the great Roman general with a fleet, and the natives crowded to the shore, eager to keep the strangers from landing in their country.

As he drew near to Deal, where he hoped to land, Cæsar saw that his ships were too big to sail close in to shore, so he ordered his soldiers to jump into the sea and make their way to land as well as they could.

The Romans looked at the sea and their hearts misgave them, brave soldiers as they were, for they were not used to the sea, nor did they love it as the Britons seemed to do.

They were already in the water, some on foot, some on horses, and they seemed to the astonished Romans as undisturbed as though they were on land.

And Cæsar had bidden them jump into the sea. Still they hesitated.

Then the officer who carried the eagle of the tenth legion jumped into the water, crying, 'Leap, soldiers, unless you wish to betray your eagle to the enemy.'

The soldiers could not risk their standard being captured by the barbarians, so now they hastily leaped into the water and followed their officer.

Then a fierce struggle began, many of the Romans falling before the battle axes of the Britains, many others slipping on the treacherous sand and being drowned.

But at length the Romans reached the shore, and the Briton chiefs were soon forced to submit to Cæsar.

The Roman general was disappointed to find little booty on the island which he had taken so much trouble to invade, and to see nothing of the precious stones which he had been told were strewn in plenty on the ground. And so he soon sailed back to Gaul.

In the following spring, however, Cæsar again returned to Britain. This time, instead of eighty vessels his fleet consisted of eight hundred, while his army numbered many thousands.

The Britons had again gathered in great strength to repel the invaders, but when they saw so many ships they grew afraid and fled to their forests. So Cæsar landed without difficulty at Romney marsh.

At length, led by a brave chief, called Cassivellaunus, the tribes determined to try to drive the Romans from their shore.

Cassivellaunus did not conquer the Romans, but he proved a brave and skilful commander, and constantly harassed them. At last, however, his capital was taken, and he then sent messengers to treat with Cæsar.

Cæsar received the envoys and demanded from them hostages, and the promise that their tribes would pay a yearly tribute to Rome.

Then in September 54 B.C., when his fleet, which had been damaged by a storm, was repaired, he again went back to Gaul.

Here he was greeted with the sad news that his daughter Julia was dead.

Julia had often smoothed away the jealousies of her husband, the irritations of her father, and both Pompey and Cæsar mourned for her loss.

Their friends also were troubled. They foresaw that now the beautiful Julia was no longer alive, it would not be long before the two great generals quarrelled. And that was a grave thought. For the peace of Rome depended on the friendship of Pompey and Cæsar.

Cæsar's work in Gaul was not yet finished. In 52 B.C. the tribes in the south made one more desperate stand against the power of Rome, which seemed to be pressing more and more heavily upon them.

The rebellion was led by a young chief named Vercingetorix, who had seized the town of Gergovia, the capital of his tribe and his own birthplace.

Cæsar, when he heard that Gergovia was in the hands of the barbarians, hastened to the town and at once laid siege to it. But to his surprise the town withstood every effort he made to take it. For the first time Cæsar was unable to capture a Gallic town, and not only so, but he was forced to raise the siege.

When Vercingetorix saw the Romans retreating, he believed that now was the time to attack them, and he led his followers against the foe.

But on the battlefield the Gauls were no match for the legions of Rome, and Vercingetorix was forced to flee from the field with only a remnant of his army.

The young Gaul succeeded in reaching the town of Alesia, which he at once began to fortify.

Cæsar speedily followed the enemy to Alesia, and when he saw the Gauls within the walls of the town, he determined to keep them there. He at once ordered his men to set to work to dig trenches, and to build forts round the walls, that no one might escape.

But one night, when it was dark, the young Gaul sent messengers to summon the neighbouring tribes to come to his aid.

The messengers passed the enemy's lines in safety, and galloped swiftly away to rouse their people. In a short time a large army of 300,000 of the bravest men in Gaul were marching to the aid of Vercingetorix.

Thus it was that one day, as the Romans worked at the trenches and the forts, they were unexpectedly attacked by a new Gallic army.

Vercingetorix seized the same moment to sally out of Alesia with his men, and the Romans were caught between two foes. For four days a terrible struggle raged, and then, as was almost always the way, Cæsar and his legions proved victorious.

To save his army, Vercingetorix gave himself up to the Romans, flinging first his arms and then himself at the feet of the conqueror. But Cæsar had no pity for the foe he had vanquished, and carried off the brave young Gaul to Rome to adorn his triumph.

For two years longer Cæsar stayed in Gaul, and although he fought some battles and put down some rebellions, his chief work was to pass laws that would make the Gauls content to live under the protection of Rome.

By the end of the two years Cæsar had shown that he was not only a great general, but that he was also a great ruler of men.


Front Matter

The Lady Roma
The She-Wolf
The Twin Boys
Numitor's Grandson
The Sacred Birds
The Founding of Rome
The Sabine Maidens
The Tarpeian Rock
The Mysterious Gate
The King Disappears
The Peace-Loving King
Horatius Slays His Sister
Pride of Tullus Hostilius
King Who Fought and Prayed
The Faithless Friend
A Slave Becomes a King
Cruel Deed of Tullia
Fate of the Town of Gabii
Books of the Sibyl
Industry of Lucretia
Death of Lucretia
Sons of Brutus
Horatius Cocles
Mucius Burns Right Hand
The Divine Twins
The Tribunes
Coriolanus and His Mother
The Roman Army in a Trap
The Hated Decemvirs
The Death of Verginia
The Friend of the People
Camillus Captures Veii
The Statue of the Goddess
Schoolmaster Traitor
Battle of Allia
The Sacred Geese
The City Is Rebuilt
Volscians on Fire
Battle on the Anio
The Curtian Lake
Dream of the Two Consuls
The Caudine Forks
Caudine Forks Avenged
Fabius among the Hills
Battle of Sentinum
Son of Fabius Loses Battle
Pyrrhus King of the Epirots
Elephants at Heraclea
Pyrrthus and Fabricius
Pyrrhus is Defeated
Romans Build a Fleet
Battle of Ecnomus
Roman Legions in Africa
Regulus Taken Prisoner
Romans Conquer the Gauls
The Boy Hannibal
Hannibal Invades Italy
Hannibal Crosses the Alps
Battle of Trebia
Battle of Lake Trasimenus
Hannibal Outwits Fabius
Fabius Wins Two Victories
Battle of Cannae
Despair of Rome
Defeat of Hasdrubal
Claudius Enjoy a Triumph
Capture of New Carthage
Scipio Sails to Africa
Romans Set Fire to Camp
Hannibal Leaves Italy
The Battle of Zama
Scipio Receives a Triumph
Flamininus in Garlands
Death of Hannibal
Hatred of Cato for Carthage
The Stern Decree
Carthaginians Defend City
Destruction of Carthage
Cornelia, Mother of Gracchi
Tiberius and Octavius
Death of Tiberius Gracchus
Death of Gaius Gracchus
The Gold of Jugurtha
Marius Wins Notice of Scipio
Marius Becomes Commander
Capture of Treasure Towns
Capture of Jugurtha
Jugurtha Brought to Rome
Marius Conquers Teutones
Marius Mocks the Ambassadors
Metellus Driven from Rome
Sulla Enters Rome
The Flight of Marius
Gaul Dares Not Kill Marius
Marius Returns to Rome
The Orator Aristion
Sulla Besieges Athens
Sulla Fights the Samnites
The Proscriptions of Sulla
The Gladiators' Revolt
The Pirates
Pompey Defeats Mithridates
Cicero Discovers Conspiracy
Death of the Conspirators
Caesar Captured by Pirates
Caesar Gives up Triumph
Caesar Praises Tenth Legion
Caesar Wins a Great Victory
Caesar Invades Britain
Caesar Crosses Rubicon
Caesar and the Pilot
The Flight of Pompey
Cato Dies Rather than Yieldr
Caesar is Loaded with Honours
Nobles Plot against Caesar
The Assassination of Caesar
Brutus Speaks to Citizens
Antony Speaks to Citizens
The Second Triumvirate
Battle of Philippi
Death of Brutus
Antony and Cleopatra
Battle of Actium
Antony and Cleopatra Die
Emperor Augustus