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Map of Caesar's crossings to Britain (55 and 54 BC)


Julius Caesar led the first two Roman forays from Gaul in 55 and 54 BC into Britain, at that time thought to be virtually near the ends of the earth. Both expeditions left from Boulogne (Portus Itius) in northern Gaul, and landed at Deal, a few miles northeast of Dover. On August 26, 55 BC, two Roman Legions under Caesar crossed the channel in a group of transport ships. Four days later when Roman ships with 500 cavalry soldiers and horses tried to make the same crossing, they were driven back to France by bad weather. The same storm seriously damaged many of the Roman ships on the beach at Deal. After a few coastal skirmishes with the Britons, the Roman force, lacking cavalry and mobility, pulled back to Gaul.

In 54 BC, a larger Roman expedition with a total of 800 ships transporting five legions and 2000 cavalry troops, plus horses and a large baggage train, sailed from Bolougne on July 6. They landed unopposed the next day  around Deal Beach, then penetrated inland along the River Thames. While the legions pursued armies of Britons led by Casivallaunus, more ships were wrecked on the beach by bad weather. After securing a favorable truce with the Britons, Caesar and his Roman legions departed back to northern Gaul in early September, 54 BC. Romans were not to return again for 97 years, when the Claudian invasion of AD 43 began the active Roman conquest of Britain

[Fig.1: Map of the crossings of Caesar over the English Channel.]


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