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Geoffrey of Monmouth History of the Kings of Britain

 
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Geoffrey of Monmouth
History of the Kings of Britain
page 23



he promised liberty, to the dispossessed the restitution of their estates, and to the slaves their freedom. Thus he that had insulted them before with the fierceness of a lion, and plundered them of all, now, with the mildness of a lamb, fawns on them with submissive abject speeches, and is glad to restore all again. To these acts of meanness he was forced to condescend till he had pacified them, and was able to regain his lost power. In the meantime not a day passed without reflecting upon his flight, and the victory of the Britons.

Chapter 6. Cassibellaun forms a stratagem for sinking Caesar’s ships.

After two years were expired, he prepared to cross the sea again, and revenge himself on Cassibellaun, who having intelligence of his design, everywhere fortified his cities, repaired the ruined walls, and placed armed men at all the ports. In the river Thames, on which Caesar intended to sail up to Trinovantum, he caused iron and leaden stakes, each as thick as a man’s thigh, to be fixed under the surface of the water, that Caesar’s ships might founder. He then assembled all the forces of the island, and took up his quarters with them near the sea-coasts, in expectation of the enemy’s coming.

Chapter 7. Caesar a second time vanquished by the Britons.

After he had furnished himself with all necessaries, the Roman general embarked with a vast army, eager to revenge himself on a people that had defeated him; in which he undoubtedly would have succeeded, if he could but have brought his fleet safe to land; but this he was not able to do. For in sailing up the Thames to Trinovantum, the ships struck against the stakes, which so endangered them all on a sudden, that many thousands of the men were drowned, while the ships being pierced sank into the river. Caesar, upon this, employed all his force to shift his sails, and hastened to get back again to land. And so those that remained, after a narrow escape, went on shore with him. Cassibellaun, who was present upon the bank, with joy observed the disaster of the drowned, but grieved at the escape of the rest; and upon his giving a signal to his men, made an attack upon the Romans, who, notwithstanding the danger they had suffered in the river, when landed, bravely withstood the Britons; and having no other fence to trust to but their own courage, they made no small slaughter; but yet suffered a greater loss themselves, than that which they were able to give the enemy. For their number was considerably diminished by their loss in the river; whereas the Britons being hourly increased with new recruits, were three times their number, and by that advantage defeated them. Caesar, seeing he could no longer maintain his ground, fled with a small body of men to his ships, and made the sea his safe retreat; and as the wind stood fair, he hoisted his sails, and steered to the shore of the Morini. From thence he repaired to a certain tower, which he had built at a place called Odnea, before this second expedition into Britain. For he durst not trust the fickleness of the Gauls, who he feared would fall upon him a second time, as we have said already they did before, after the first flight he was forced to make before the Britons. And on that account he had built this tower for a refuge to himself, that he might be able to maintain his ground against a rebellious people if they should make insurrection against him.

Chapter 8. Evelinus kills Hirelglas. Androgeus desires Caesar’s assistance against Cassibellaun.

Cassibellaun, elevated with joy for this second victory, published a decree, to summon all the nobility of Britain with their wives to Trinovantum, in order to perform solemn sacrifices to their tutelary gods who had given them the victory over so great a commander. Accordingly, they all appeared, and prepared a variety of sacrifices, for which there was a great slaughter of cattle. At this solemnity they offered forty thousand cows, and a hundred thousand sheep, and also fowls of several kinds without number, besides thirty thousand wild beasts of several kinds. As soon as they had performed these solemn honours to their gods, they feasted themselves on the remainder, as was usual at such sacrifices, and spent the rest of the day and night in various plays and sports. Amidst these diversions, it happened that two noble youths, whereof one was nephew to the king, the other to duke Androgeus, wrestled together, and afterwards had a dispute about the victory. The name of the king’s nephew was Hirelglas, the other’s Evelinus. As they were reproaching each other, Evelinus snatched up his sword and cut off the head of his rival. This sudden disaster put the whole court into a consternation, upon which the king ordered Evelinus to be brought before him, that he might be ready to undergo such punishment as the nobility should determine, and that the death of Hirelglas might be revenged upon him, if he were unjustly killed. Androgeus, suspecting the king’s intentions made answer, that he had a court of his own, and that whatever should be alleged against his own men, ought to be determined there. If, therefore, he was resolved to demand justice of Evelinus, he might have it at Trinovantum,


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