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    Re: Dating Caesar's first incursion to Britain
    From: George Huxtable
    Date: 2008 Jul 9, 10:41 +0100

    Bill Morris said, about those web pages on the "research project" concerning
    the tides at the time of Cauar's landing-
    
    "But the extract is a report of a report..."
    
    He is right to be somewhat leary about that.
    
    And he noted-
    
    "I'm a little confused by the extract. Caesar's Commentaries, Book IV Ch
    XXIII et seq give an account of his landing. His reference "It happened that
    night to be full moon, which usually occasions very high tides in that
    ocean" was four days after the initial landing.(Ch XXVIII and XXIX). I don't
    see any reference to "an ocean current that changed direction in mid
    afternoon."
    
    Well, not exactly.
    
    Caesar describes the crossing by his troops, and his landing, but tells us
    that the ships containing his cavalry didn't make it across on that day, and
    had to return to France. Then he goes on to say (in my modern Wiseman &
    Wiseman translation, "The battle for Gaul")-
    
    "On the fourth day after our arrival in Britain, the 18 ships mentioned
    above, which had taken on the cavalry, set sail from the northern port on a
    gentle breeze." and goes on to tell us how they were dispersed by a sudden
    storm that blew up and had to return once again. And he continues later -
    "That night there happened to be a full moon. This time of the month,
    although we did not realise it, regularly brings the highest tides in the
    Atlantic."
    
    So the full Moon, according to that text, occurred not on the date of the
    initial landing (which is the date that is being argued about) but four days
    later. Or perhaps three days, because the Romans tended to count such
    intervals in a way that included both the first day and the last day. What
    is actually being questioned is whether there might have been a trancription
    error in the Roman-numeral figure used in that phrase "the fourth day", and
    whether that IV (or IIII) for four, perhaps ought to have been VII, for
    seven. I have no views about that.
    
    The authors of the article infer tidal direction current changes on that day
    from the presumed direction of Caesar's travel, from the White Cliffs to his
    landing spot, if that was at Deal, and claim that this supports a revised
    date. There is indeed no reference in Caesar's text itself to any tidal
    changes, as Bill Morris points out.
    
    I have distinct doubts about the methodology the authors have used, and
    about the watertightness of their reasoning, and about several other
    aspects. However, I agree with their choice of a modern date that would be
    tidally equivalent, and with their estimated times on that day of Dover
    high-water and tidal-stream changes. But I won't go into those details
    unless someone shows an interest.
    
    It so happens that forty years back, I made a rather similar passage to what
    Caesar's must have been, from Boulogne, but in my case passing Deal and
    travelling on North through the Downs. And that was on a small yacht,
    without engine, with a cruising speed under favourable condition of at-best
    four knots. Not much different from Caesar's vessels, I expect, if their
    wind was fair, especially if they had oars to assist. But windward
    performance on my keelboat would have been vastly better.
    
    Caesar's prose comes across to me as beautifully concise, clear, and well
    expressed; a superb piece of reportage; though careful to show himself in a
    good light. Unable to read Latin, I can't judge how the credit for that
    should be divided between the author and the translator. However, the
    Wiseman's translation makes good reading.
    
    I should acknowledge many informative discussions on this matter with
    list-member Ted Gerrard, and kind help from Herbert Prinz.
    
    George.
    
    contact George Huxtable at george@huxtable.u-net.com
    or at +44 1865 820222 (from UK, 01865 820222)
    or at 1 Sandy Lane, Southmoor, Abingdon, Oxon OX13 5HX, UK.
    
    
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