Caesar 54BC Consequences





In pre-Roman times, from at least the Phoenicians, the main trading route from the Mediterranean was from the Cherbourg/Brittany area through Weymouth to Cornwall and the south-west of Britain. When Caesar arrived in Gaul this route was controlled by the Veneti tribe of Brittany. 

There were four main trade routes to/from Britain and the Continent, from the mouths of Garonne, Loire, Seine and Rhine rivers. Main British entry points were situated at natural harbours like Weymouth, Hengistbury Head on the Solent, Poole harbour, and the river Arun in East Sussex. British imports comprised, glass, pottery and amphorae containing wine which were found at late Iron age sites. British exports were listed by Strabo as grain, cattle, gold, silver, iron, hides slaves and hunting dogs.

This trade pattern changed after Caesars invasions when trade through Weymouth diminished, and trade between the continent and tribes in Essex and Kent increased. This is shown by the relative distribution of coinage and imported goods across southern Britain between pre-Caesar times and just before the time of the Claudian invasion. So Caesar changed the pattern of cross channel trade also including the possibility of favouring trade agreements with pro-Roman elements.

Gradually the possibility of unrest in Gaul instigated by or reinforced from Britain decreased. In addition taxation of the  increasing cross-Dover trade was enforced by the remnants of Caesars warships and the Classis Germanica based at the lower reaches of the Rhine.

So as time passed the ruling elements of the Atrebates, Trinovantes and Catuvellauni tribes in the south-east of Britain developed an increasing taste for Roman luxuries such as wine, olive oil and fine pottery.

However other tribes remained implacably anti-Roman.

During inter-tribal disputes between pro and anti Roman tribes, Roman support was increasingly sought by pro-Roman tribes. So it is likely that as time passed a Roman invasion would have been welcomed by some tribes in the south-east corner of Britain. 

However from Rome's point of view the value of mounting an invasion was questioned by Strabo who claimed more money was being raised from taxing trade than would be made from conquering the island when the cost of financing the invading forces was taken into account.

While there was a gap of 86 years between Caesar's last invasion attempt and the successful Claudian invasion. During the nine years from 43BC to 26BC Emperor Augustus assembled forces in Gaul at least 3 times to mount an invasion. But each time, unrest elsewhere in the Empire meant the legions assembled  were diverted from a British invasion. 

In 40AD the insane Emperor Caligula assembled an expeditionary force at Boulogne for an invasion which was aborted when the troops were ordered to assault and defeat the waves on the channel coast. Sea-shells were gathered as booty for his victory over the ocean and returned to Rome as captured tribute. On the positive side to this madness the staff-work for an invasion would have been completed and ships assembled. So when three years later, Emperor Claudius decided to invade Britain, it would only have required relatively recent plans to be updated for the invasion to proceed. It was also about this time that the Classis Britannica was founded from ships based at the lower Rhine plus others in the south channel area. The new provincial fleet was based at Boulogne for service in the cross channel area and British waters.

By this time an invasion would also have received a friendly reception from pro-Roman elements concentrated in the south east.

Basically by the time of the Claudian invasion there would have been an increasing Romanisation of the ruling elements of some tribes of the south east of Britain, who would have guaranteed a friendly reception to Roman forces. This friendly reception would have been considered by some tribal leaders, especially as it was normal for Roman strategy to reward chiefs who readily submitted to Roman control at the expense of subjugation of other tribes who fought for independence from Rome.

The classic divide and rule strategy.

The increasing trade routes across the Strait of Dover in which Roman traders would have undoubtedly been involved would have meant the topography of the coastal areas of south east of Britain would have been well known. In addition, the inland areas of pro-Roman tribes and trade routes from the south east corner inland would have been known.

Basically, by 43AD in contrast to 54BC, the initial area to be invaded would have been well known and invasion a much safer thing to contemplate. The difference between an opposed invasion across defended beaches to an unopposed invasion across beaches dominated by friendly forces, provided the correct beaches were selected


- 54BC Planning
- 54BC Objectives
- 54BC Timing & Crossing
- 54BC Military Units 
- 54BC Landing
- 54BC Land Operations
- 54BC Consequences  

This page last edited - 22 December, 2012.

Copyright Ian M King, except where otherwise indicated.