Washington, June 26 : Astronomers from Texas State University in the US have applied their unique brand of forensic astronomy to determine that the historically accepted date for Julius Caesar's invasion of Britain may be incorrect.
Julius Caesar landed an invasion fleet on the shores of Britain on August 26-27, 55 B.C., expanding the boundaries of the so-called "Known World" and inadvertently sparking a dispute between historians and scientists for centuries to come.
This date came to be regarded as the historically accepted date for the event.
The Texas State team's proposed new date of Aug. 22-23, 55 B.C. reconciles all the conflicting evidence and offers both sides of the debate some measure of vindication in the process.
"Most history books say Caesar's landing date was Aug. 26-27 and he sailed to the northeast of Dover to land on an open beach near Walmer and Deal," according to Texas State physics professors Donald Olson.
"That cannot be correct. The afternoon tidal streams could not have carried his fleet to the northeast on that date," he explained.
The origin of the debate, ironically, lies in the strongest historical evidence: Caesar's first-hand account of the landing and ensuing campaign, which mentions the phase of the moon and chronicles in considerable detail information regarding time of day, landmarks and distances traveled once his fleet reached the famed white cliffs near present-day Dover.
Caesar's narrative describes how, once the winds and tides were favorable, the fleet sailed seven miles along the coast before finding a suitable beach to put ashore.
Unfortunately, the actual direction the fleet sailed is one detail Caesar omitted, and in that single oversight lies the bone of contention.
The Texas State researchers traveled to Britain in August of 2007 to study the problem first-hand.
In a fortuitous set of circumstances, the equinox and lunar cycle coincided to closely replicate the tidal conditions Caesar experienced, and such an alignment wouldn't occur again until 2140.
Extensive on-site research including the collection of tide gauge data, GPS tracking in a freely-drifting boat and a host of other factors confirmed that the tidal currents indicated a landing site southwest of Dover, while the topographical evidence supported a Roman landing at Deal.
According to Olsen, "Our new result is, essentially, the old result - we're taking the Roman fleet up to Deal and the open beach, but what you read in the history books, that it was Aug. 26-27, that cannot be correct."
"The scientists were right about the tidal streams, and so were the historians about the landing site. With our new result, our new date, everything is reconciled," he added.