Gaius Julius Caesar first arrived in Britain in 55 B.C. at the site of modern day Deal, marking the first time the Romans had crossed the English Channel. He was on a reconaissance mission to the island because of the trouble the Britons had given him during his previous campaign in Gaul. Caesar claimed that the Britons had aided the mainland Gauls in their struggle against his Roman legions, and he wanted to make an expedition, rather than a full-scale invasion, to Britain. He would return again in 54, prepared to launch just such an invasion.

Caesar would write a detailed account of what he found there, just as he had done during his campaigns in Gaul, thus providing the only existing eye-witness account of Britain during that period. Although Britain was known throughout the classical world for its natural resources, particularly tin, there was not a great deal known about its inhabitants. Caesar's descriptions are generally accepted as accurate and are therefore an essential link to the history of the region.
Vatican bust of Caesar
Vatican bust of Caesar

Read more about Ceasar's expeditions in Britain here.

Though he could never proclaim 'Veni, vidi, vici' (I came, I saw, I conquered) about his conquest of Britain, Caesar layed important ground work for the relationship between Rome and the Britons for years to come. Caesar left Britain to secure his power in the city of Rome, and for almost a century the relationship between Britain to Rome centered on trade and diplomacy. Yet, with Gaul now a province of Rome thanks to Caesar's success in the Gallic Wars, the wider region was slowly shifting toward Roman rule. Britain would officially become known as the province of Britannia with Claudius' invasion in 43 A.D.

Go on to Claudius' Victory

Back to the history page