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Celtic tribes and Caesar: 1st century BC

It is not known precisely when the Celts first enter Britain in their steady expansion outwards from central Europe. But Caesar states, in his own account of his campaigns, that they have been migrating across the Channel since at least the 2nd century BC.

Caesar makes his first tentative excursion to Britain in August 55 BC. He lands on the coast of Kent, meeting considerable opposition from the cavalry and war chariots of the neighbouring Celtic chieftains. After staying long enough to demonstrate to the British the strength of a Roman legion, he returns in September to Gaul.

During the winter Caesar builds 600 new ships. He sails again, in July 54 BC, with five legions and 2000 cavalry. They are sufficient to bring him north of the Thames into the territory of Cassivellaunus, the tribal chieftain chosen to lead the British forces. Caesar easily captures the Celtic leader's primitive stronghold, and removes from it a large herd of cattle. But by the time he sails away again, in September, little has been achieved - except that Cassivellaunus has agreed to a treaty and has promised an annual tribute. It is unlikely that any tribute is paid.

The Celtic chieftains of Britain have almost exactly a century before they are again disturbed by the Romans.

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