Time and Tides

In a world of rapid growth in maritime trade, understanding the tides was vital. Yet it was a complex process, dependent on science, geography, mathematics, religion and ego, writes Hugh Aldersey-Williams.

A memorial to the invasion at DealWhen Julius Caesar’s invasion of Britain was under way in September 54 BC, Marcus Tullius Cicero wrote from Rome in reply to a letter from his brother Quintus, who was accompanying Caesar. The letter had spoken of the apprehension the Romans felt about tidal shores: ‘How glad I was to get your letter from Britain! I was afraid of the ocean, afraid of the coast of the island. The other parts of the enterprise I do not underrate; but yet they inspire more hope than fear.’

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