Caesar's Invasion of 55 BC

The Romans were fighting the Gauls on the continent and soon learned of their Gallic (Celtic) cousins living on islands to the west. (Tribal areas are shown above.) Julius Caesar was apparently frustrated by the sanctuary given to some of his Gallic enemies who had fled to Britain and realised that they were the same people. Since he would also have learned of the richness of the Island, he determined to invade. Caesar greatly underestimated the difficulties in mounting successful sea-borne invasion of an unknown, hostile shore with uncertain weather. (A storm wrecked havoc with the Roman ships.)

Apart from having troubles with the Gauls themselves, Caesar's preparations at Boulogne would have become known and the Gaul's were able to cause some frustration with Caesar's timetable. Nonetheless, on 26 August 55 BC, Caesar sailed for Britain with 10,000 men of the VII Claudia Pia, and X Gemina Equestris Legions, and perhaps 100 ships. He landed at Deal, but was frustrated by Cassivellaunus, who fought a brilliant guerilla campaign using cavalry and chariots.

With the winning tactic of 'divide and conquer, Caesar began to push back the Celts, but again Cassivellaunus surprised him by attacking his rear and forcing Caesar to retreat back to cover his ships. At the end it was perhaps a draw, but Caesar was given hostages and he immediately planned to return after a hasty departure.

Caesar's Invasion of 54 BC

Caesar managed to return in the spring with 800 ships, four legions and 2,000 cavalry, auxilleries, and administrators, amounting to a total force of perhaps 30,000 men. This time there was considerably more fighting and movement. Again, Cassivellaunus fought a guerilla war, but this time the Romans were too much. Caesar demanded not only hostages, but annual tribute. After again repairing their fleet after an early autumn storm, the Romans left Britain in peace for another century.

home · introduction · genealogy · background · maps · bibliography · search · contact