CÆSAR 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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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.