Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Opening paragraphs.................

In the summer of the Roman year 699, now described as the year 55 before the birth of Christ, the Proconsul of Gaul, Gaius Julius Caesar, turned his gaze upon Britain.   In the midst of his wars in Germany and in Gaul he became conscious of this heavy Island which stirred his ambitions and already obstructed his designs.  He knew it was inhabited by  the same type of tribesmen who confronted the Roman arms in Germany, Gaul, and Spain.  The Islanders had helped the local tribes in the late campaigns along the northern coast of Gaul.  They were of the same Celtic stock, somewhat intensified by insular life.  British volunteers had shared the defeat of the Veneti on the coast of Brittany in the previous year.  Refugees from momentarily conquered Gaul were welcomed and sheltered in Britannia.  To Caesar the Island now presented itself to be and integral part of his task of subjecting the Northern barbarians to the rule and system of Rome.  The land not covered by forest or marsh was verdant and fertile.  The climate, though far from genial, was equable and healthy.  The natives, though uncouth, had a certain value as slaves for rougher work on the land, in mines, and even about the house.   There was talk of a pearl fishery, and also of gold.  "Even if there was not time for a campaign that season,  Caesar thought it would be of great advantage to him merely to visit the island, to see what the inhabitants were like, and to make himself acquainted with the lie of the land, the harbours, and the landing-places.  Of all this the Gauls knew next to nothing."  Other reasons added their weight.  Caesar's colleague in the Triumvirate, Crassus, had excited the imagination of the Roman Senate and people by his spirited march towards Mesopotamia.  Here, at the other end of the known world, was an enterprise equally audacious.  The Romans hated and feared the sea.  By a supreme effort of survival they had two hundred years before surpassed Carthage upon its own element in the Mediterranean, but the idea of Roman legions landing in the remote, unknown, fabulous Island of the vast ocean of the North would create a novel thrill and topic in all ranks of Roman society.
-Winston S. Churchill,   The Birth of Britain

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