| Our Island Story|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|A child's history of England from earliest legendary times delightfully retold. Beginning with the stories of Albion and Brutus, it relates all the interesting legends and hero tales in which the history of England abounds through the end of the reign of Queen Victoria. Ages 9-12 |
HOW CALIGULA CONQUERED BRITAIN, AND HOW CARACTACUS REFUSED TO BE CONQUERED
 AFTER the second coming of Cæsar, years passed during which
the Romans left the Britons in peace. But they had by no
means forgotten about the little green island in the blue
Julius Cæsar had been dead many years when a Roman emperor
called Caligula said he would go to Britain and thoroughly
conquer the island. He did not mean to land and fight in one
small part of it as Julius Cæsar had done. He meant to march
over the island, north, south, east, and west, and bring it
all under the power of Rome. That is what he said he was
going to do. What he really did was something quite
He gathered a great army and marched from Italy right
through France till he reached the coast. There news came to
him that Guilderius, the king of Britain, had heard of his
coming and had also gathered his soldiers together.
Caligula must have been afraid when he heard that the brave
Britons were ready to fight him, for this is how he
He drew his soldiers up in battle array upon the shore. Then
he himself went into his galley and told his sailors to row
him out to sea. After they had rowed him a short way he told
them to return. When
 he had landed again he climbed into a
high seat like a pulpit, which he had built on the sands.
Then he sounded a trumpet and ordered his soldiers to
advance as if to battle.
But there was no enemy there. In front of the soldiers there
was nothing but the blue sea and the sandy shore covered
with shells. They could not fight against the waves and the
sand, and the brave Britons, whom they had come to fight,
were far away on the other side of the water and quite out
So the soldiers stood and wondered what to do. Then Caligula
ordered them to kneel down upon the sand and gather as many
shells as they could.
The first thing a Roman was taught, was to obey. So now the
soldiers did as their general commanded and gathered the
cockle shells which lay around in hundreds.
It must have been a curious sight to see all these strong
soldiers, armed with sword, shield, and helmet, picking up
shells upon the sea-shore.
When they had gathered a great quantity, Caligula made a
speech. He thanked the soldiers as if they had done him some
great service. He told them that now he had conquered the
ocean and the islands in it, and that these shells were the
spoils of war. He praised the soldiers for their bravery,
and said that the shells should be placed in the temples of
Rome in remembrance of it. Then he rewarded them richly and
they marched home again.
That was how Caligula conquered Britain.
After the death of Caligula, another Roman called Claudius
tried to conquer Britain. He sent generals and came himself,
but he could not thoroughly subdue the Britons. A few chiefs
indeed owned themselves beaten, but others would not. They
would rather die than be slaves of Rome, they said.
 Among those who would not yield was a brave man called
Caractacus. A great many of the Britons joined him and
fought under his orders. Caractacus and his men fought well
and bravely, but in the end the Romans defeated them.
After many battles Caractacus chose for his camp a place on
the top of a hill on the borders of Shropshire, Cheshire,
and Lancashire. There he made a very strong fortress
surrounded by three walls and a deep ditch. The walls were
so well built that after all these long years they can still
be seen quite plainly to-day.
When the Roman soldiers came to the foot of the hill,
Caractacus prepared for battle. He called his soldiers
together and made a speech to them. "Show yourselves to be
men," he said. "To-day is either the beginning of Liberty or
of eternal bondage. Remember how your forefathers fought
against Julius Cæsar, and fight now for your homes, as they
did for theirs."
Then all the Britons called out, "We will die for our
country." The noise of their shouts was carried by the wind
to the camp of the Romans. It sounded to them as if the
Britons were rejoicing. The Romans feared Caractacus. They
knew how brave he and his men were. They knew that it would
be very difficult to take his strong fortress. Yet they felt
quite sure of taking it in the end, and they wondered what
cause the Britons had for rejoicing.
And it happened as the Romans expected. After fierce
fighting and great slaughter on both sides the camp was
taken. Caractacus, his wife and daughter, and all his
brothers were made prisoner and led in chains to Rome, and
there was great sorrow in Britain.
Whenever a Roman emperor returned from battle and victory,
he used to have what was called a Triumph.
 Every one in Rome
had a holiday; the streets were gay with flowers and green
wreaths. The conqueror, dressed in beautiful robes and
wearing a crown of bay leaves, rode through the streets. He
was followed by his soldiers, servants, and friends. Then
came a long train of the captives he had made during the
war, with the armour, weapons, jewels, and other riches he
had taken from the conquered people.
After the war with Britain was over Claudius had a Triumph.
The fame of Caractacus had already reached Rome, and when it
became known that he had been taken prisoner and would walk
in the Triumph there was great excitement. The people
crowded into the streets eager to see this brave warrior.
And although in chains he looked so proud and noble that
many even of the Romans were sorry for him.
When he was brought before the Emperor and Empress, Claudius
and Agrippina, he did not behave like a slave or a captive,
but like the freeborn king and Briton he was.
"I am as nobly born as you," he said proudly to Claudius. "I
had men and horses, lands and great riches. Was it wonderful
that I wished to keep them? You fight to gain possession of
the whole world and make all men your slaves, but I fought
for my own land and for freedom. Kill me now and people will
think little of you: but if you grant me my life, all men
will know that you are not only powerful but merciful."
Instead of being angry, Claudius was pleased with the proud
words of Caractacus. He was so pleased that he set him at
liberty with his wife and all his family. But whether
Caractacus ever returned to his dear country, or whether he
died in that far-off land, we do not know. We do not hear
anything more about him.
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