, Strab. p. 199). When Caesar was preparing for his second British expedition (B.C. 54), he says (B. G.
5.2) that he ordered his forces to meet at “Portus Itius, from which port he had found that there was the most convenient passage to Britannia,--about 30,000 passus.” In his first expedition, B.C. 55, he says that he marched, with all his forces, into the country of the Morini, because the passage from that coast to Britannia was the shortest (B. G.
4.21); but he does not name the port from which he sailed in his first expedition; and this is an omission which a man can easily understand who has formed a correct notion of the Commentaries.
It seems a plain conclusion, from Caesar's words (5.2) that he sailed from the Itius on his first expedition ; for he marched into the country of the Morini, in order to make the shortest passage (4.21); and he made a good passage (4.23).
In the fifth book he gives the distance from the Itius to the British coast, but not in the fourth book ; and we conclude that he ascertained this distance in his first voyage. Drumann (Geschichte Roms,
vol. iii. p. 294) thinks that the passage in the fifth book rather proves that Caesar did not sail from Itius on his first voyage. We must accordingly suppose that, having had a good passage on his first voyage to Britannia, and back to the place from which he had sailed, he chose to try a different passage the second time, which passage he had learned (cognoverat) to be the most convenient (commodissimum). Yet he landed at the same place in Britannia in both his voyages (5.8); and he had ascertained (cognoverat) in the first voyage, as he says, that this was the best landing-place. So Drumann, in his way, may prove, if he likes, that Caesar did not land at the same place in both voyages.
The name Itius gives some reason for supposing that Portus Itius was near the Promontorium Itium; and the opinion now generally accepted is, that Portus Itius is Wissant or Witsand,
a few miles east of Cap Grisnez.
The critics have fixed Portus Itius at various places; but not one of these guesses, and they are all guesses, is worth notice, except the guess that Itius is Gesoriacum
But the name Gesoriacum is not Itius, which is one objection to the supposition.
The only argument in favour of Boulogne
is, that it was the usual place from which the Romans sailed for Britannia after the time of Claudius, and that it is in the country of the Morini. Gesoriacum was--the best spot that the Romans could choose for a regular place of embarkation, for it is adapted to be the site of a town and a fortified place, and has a small river. Accordingly it became the chief Roman position on this part of the French coast. [GESORIACUM
The distance of Portus Itius from the nearest port of Britannia, 30 M. P., is too much.
It seems to be a just conclusion, that Caesar estimated the distance from his own experience, and therefore that he estimated it either to the cliffs about the South Foreland,
where he anchored, or to the place seven or eight miles (for the MSS. of Caesar vary here) further along the coast, where he landed.
It is certain that he first approached the British coast under the high chalk cliffs between Folkestone
It is a disputed point whether he went from his anchorage under the cliffs northwards to Deal,
or southward to Sandyate
This matter does not affect the position of Itius, and it is not discussed here; but the writer maintains that Caesar landed on the beach at Deal.
There are difficulties in this question, which the reader may examine by referring to the authorities mentioned at the end of this article.
The passage [p. 2.100]
in the fifth book (5.8), in which Caesar describes his second voyage, shows very clearly where he landed.
He sailed from Portus Itius, on his second expedition, at sunset, with a wind about SW. by W.; about mid-night the wind failed him, he could not keep his course, and, being carried too far by the tide, at day-break, when he looked about him, he saw Britannia on his left hand behind him. Taking advantage of the chance of the tide, he used his oars to reach “that part of the island where he had found in the previous summer that there was the best landing.” He had been carried a few miles past the Cantium Promontorium, or North Foreland
but not out of sight, and he could easily find his way to the beach at Deal.
There are many arguments to show that Deal
was Caesar's landing-place, as it was for the Romans under the empire, who built near it the strong place of Rutupiae (Richborough
), on the Stour,
D'Anville makes out Caesar's distance of 30 M.P. thus.
He reckons 22 or 24 M.P., at most, from Portus Itius to the English cliffs, and 8 miles from his anchorage under the cliffs to his landing-place make up 30. Perhaps Caesar means to estimate the whole distance that he sailed to his landing place; and if this is so, his estimate of “about 30 Roman miles” is not far from the truth, and quite as near as we can expect. Strabo (p. 199) makes the distance 320 stadia, or only 300, according to a note of Eustathius on Dionysius Periegetes (5.566), who either found 300 in his copy of Strabo, or made a mistake about the number; for he derived his information about Caesar's passage only from Strabo.
It may be observed here that Strabo mentions two expeditions of Caesar, and only one port of embarkation, the Itius.
He understood Caesar in the same way as all people will do who can draw a conclusion from premises.
But even 300 stadia is too great a distance from Wissant
to the British coast, if we reckon 8 stadia to the Roman mile; but there is good reason, as D'Anville says, for making 10 stadia to the mile here. Pliny gives the distance from Boulogne to Britannia, that is, we must assume, to the usual landing place, Rutupiae, at 50 M.P., which is too much; but it seems to be some evidence that he could not suppose Boulogne
to be Caesar's place of embarkation.
Caesar mentions another port near Itius.
He calls it the Ulterior Portus (4.22, 23, 28), or Superior, and it was 8 M.P. from Itius. We might assume from the term Ulterior, which has reference to Itius, that this port was further to the north and east than Itius; and this is proved by what he says of the wind. For the wind which carried him to Britannia on his first expedition. his direct course being nearly north, prevented the ships at the Ulterior Portus from coming to the place where Caesar embarked (4.23). The Ulterior, or Superior, Portus is between Wissant
and may be Sangatte. Calais
is too far off. When Caesar was returning from his first expedition (4.36, 37) two transport ships could not make the same portus--the Itius and the Ulterior or Superior--that the rest of the ships did, but were carried a little lower down (paulo infra), that is, further south, which we know to be Caesar's meaning by comparing this with another passage (4.28). Caesar does not say that these two ships landed at a “portus,” as Ukert supposes (Gallien,
p. 554), who makes a port unknown to Caesar, and gives it the name “Inferior.”
Du Cange, Camden, and others, correctly took Portus Itius to be Witsand.
Besides the resem-blance of name, Du Cange and Gibson have shown
|MAP ILLUSTRATING THE POSITION OF PORTUS ITIUS.
MAP ILLUSTRATING THE POSITION OF PORTUS ITIUS., A. A. Strait of Dover, or Pas de Calais. 1. Portus Itius (Wissant). 2. Itium Pr. (Cap. Grisnez). 3. Gesoriacum, afterwards Bononia (Boulogne). 4. Calais. 5. Sandgate. 6. Portus Dubris (Dover). 7. Rutupiae (Richborough). 8 River Stour. 9. Cantinum Pr. (North Foreland). 10. Regulbium (Reculver). |
that of two middle age Latin writers who mention the passage of Alfred, brother of St. Edward, into England, one calls Wissant
Portus Iccius, and the other Portus Wisanti. D'Anville conjectures that Wissant
means “white sand,” and accordingly the promontory Itium would be the white, a very good name for it.
But the word “white,” and its various forms, is Teutonic, and not a Celtic word, so far as the writer knows; and the word “Itius” existed in Caesar's time on the coast of the Morini, a Celtic people, where we do not expect to see a Teutonic name.
was known to the romans, for there are traces of a road from it to Taruenna (Therouenne
It is no port now, and never was a port in the modern sense, but it was very well suited for Caesar to draw his ships up on the beach, as he did when he landed in England ; for Wissant
is a wide, sheltered, sandy bay. Froissart speaks of Wissant
as a large town in 1346.
A great deal has been written about Caesar's voyages.
The first and the best attempt to explain it, though it is not free from some mistakes, is Dr. Halley's, of which an exposition is given in the Classical Museum, No. xiii., by G. Long. D'Anville, with his usual judgment, saw that Itius must be Wissant,
but he supposed that Caesar landed at Hythe,
south of Dover.
Walckenaer (Géog. des Gaules,
vol. i. pp.448, 452) has some remarks on Itius, which he takes to be Wissant;
and there are remarks on Portus Itius in the Gentleman's Magazine for September, 1846, by H. L. Long, Esq. Perhaps the latest examination of the matter is in G. Long's edition of Caesar, Note on Caesar's British Expeditions,
pp. 248--257. What the later German geographers and critics, Ukert and others, have said of these voyages is of no value at all. [G.L
] [p. 2.101]