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THE ROMAN CHANNEL FLEET.
WITH NOTES ON THE ROMAN STATION CLAUSENTUM.
By EMANUEL GREEN, Esq., F.S.A.
(Read November 15th, 1905.) HE Roman Emperor Claudius, on hearing of
the successful invasion of Britain by his agents, Cnaeus and Aulus Plautius, “ illustrious and noble men,” determined to come over and see, and perhaps gain some personal credit, for himself. Starting from
Rome, he passed to Ostia, and there took ship for Marseilles, following the coast all the way, yet narrowly escaping wreck on the shores of Liguria, between Genoa and Nice. From Marseilles he marched by land, says one account, to Gessoriacum (Boulogne), and then passed over into Britain.? Another account says, perhaps more reasonably; that he came partly by land and partly by rivers, and so arrived at the ocean.? While certainly some idea is given as to how he did come, which is very interesting in itself, showing the galleys hugging the shore all the way and avoiding the sea, the little difference in the stories shows the difficulty of getting exactness when examining these very scanty accounts.
For the large force-probably over twenty thousand men—which was landed in Britain, more than one camp would be necessary, as well as several shelters, or harbours, for the many vessels. First, then, it is found that a line of ports was secured, extending along our coast from Richborough (Rutupiæ), near the Thames, westward to Clausentum (Bittern, by Southampton). Then the plan of campaign was further developed, as a line of camps 1 Suetonius, Claudius, xvii.
2 Dion Cassius, lx, p. 677.
and stations was established across the interior, thus enclosing the rich western district : that district which will now claim especial notice.
Claudius, by his visit, gained his desired end, and got fully the praise for success so beloved by the Roman general. His return was a naval triumph. A ship“ like a vast palace” bore him homeward,' and he received as
heavy coronet of gold. An inscription from Kyzikos refers to him: as—
Pater Patriæ) vindex)
BRIT(annie) Eight epigrams in the Codex Vossianus, not hitherto noticed, refer to him and his supposed exploits in Britain. They are here copied exactly as met with. As the original manuscript was difficult or illegible, faults must be excused.
Icta tuo, Cesar, fulmine procubuit.
Inlibata tuos gens patet (jacet) in titulos.
Oceanus medium venit in imperium.
Externum, (aeternum) nostro que procul orbe jacet,
Hic tibi finis erat, religiose Numa.
Extremum citra constitit Oceanum.
Pars est imperii, terminus ante fuit. 1 Pliny, Nat. Hist., iii, 20. 2 Pliny, xxxiii, 16. 3 Hübner, Corp. Inscr., Lat. 4 Riese, Anthologia, 1 s., p. 272.
Et magno positus Cæsar uterque polo,
Sol citra nostrum flectitur imperium.
Et jam Romano cingimur Oceano.
Euphrates prodest nil tibi, Parthe fugax ;
Cæsareos fasces imperiumque tulit:
Cinctaque inaccessis horrida litoribus,
Quam fallax aestu circuit Oceanus,
Præfulget stellis Arctos inocciduis,
Subdidit insueto colla premenda iugo.
Conjunctum est quod adhuc orbis et orbis erat, The great result of this visit was the establishment of a fleet to guard the narrow seas : the establishment, in fact, of a Roman Channel Squadron. 6. The last bars have fallen,” sang a poet ;
" the earth is girdled by a Roman ocean. From this time all military movements on land were supported, and all communications secured, by this watchful guardian, known as the Classis Britannica, the British fleet, guarding the Fretum Britannicum, the narrow sea. With all the soldiering and camping, of which so much is heard or read, as relating to these times, this very important fact, which must now be of absorbing interest to all, has been entirely overlooked. So completely has it been passed over, that Smith's Dictionary of Roman Antiquities (Third edition) does not even mention it; yet such a fleet was maintained for nearly four hundred years, and secured the military and trade connections with this island.
1 Burmannos, Anthol., ii., 88.
be found relating to it should have excited interest
The chief bases in Gaul were Gessoriacum (Boulogne) and Quentavicus (Etaples), and Iccius (Wissant); and in Britain, Rutupiæ (Richborough), with Dubris (Dover) and Lemanis (Lymne). Evidences are found by inscriptions. At Boulogne there is one in honour of a trierarch, or captain of a trireme, who was a known contemporary of Claudius, and thus helps to confirm the view that the fleet originated with that Emperor. The fleet is mentioned by Tacitus; and in A.D. 83 it contributed much to the success of Agricola making the circuit of Britain, and thus first determining it to be an island. What a story an account of that voyage would be to-day, with its trials and explorations, its losses and burials in strange places along the coast ! Yet so meagre are these narratives that even the starting-point is not given. . At Boulogne, also, several bricks have been found, bearing the stamp CL. BR. At Dover and Lymne have been found tiles bearing this stamp; and at Lymne has been found a record of a prefect, one Caius Aufidius Pantera. At Boulogne, again, inscriptions on stones found there mention three trierarchs and two soldiers, and a ship named the “Radians,” all of the British fleet. One inscription is to Quintus Arenius Verecundus, a trierarch ; another to Valerius Maximus, a trierarch ; and one to Seius Saturninus, an archigubernator—chief pilot or sailing-master.” A round stamp, an unusual shape, bearing CL. BR., has been found at Boulogne. The name of an oculist to the fleet, one Axius, has also been preserved, and at Amiens is a stone inscribed to one Secundus. An interesting inscription to Beladius, son of Telanus, tells that he was aged fortyfive and in his thirty-first year of service, so that he began when about fourteen. Curiously enough, far away at Arles, there is an inscription to one Saturninus, which
i Desjardins, Geog. de la Gaule Romain, i, 368. 2 Panceroli, Notitia, etc., p. 178. 3 Vaillant, Revue Archéologique, 3rd Ser., vol. xii. + Daremberg, Dict. of Antiquities. 5 Vaillant, Classis, etc.