Julius Caesar.

C. Iulii Caesaris Commentarii rerum gestarum. Caesar's Commentaries: the Gallic war, books I-Iv, with selections from books V-VII and from the civil war; online

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Figure 12. — Helmet of
a Roman legionary.

When not worn the
helmet could be suspended
by a cord passed through
the ring at the top. The
crest was fastened in the
same ring before the soldier
went into action.

1 African Shores of the Mediterranean, by C. F. and L. Grant (New York,
1912), p. 280. This work gives a graphic description of life on the modern
galleys, and the lot of the galley-slaves, chained to the rowing-benches. The

XX Introduction

tual jealousies of the European states allowed the Barbary cor-
sairs to flourish until the nineteenth century. For a time the
United States paid blackmail to the masters of the Tripoli
pirates in order to safeguard American sailing vessels from
their swift galleys and frigates, and our country did not free
itself from the menace until 1815.

Like the galley, the modern battleship, with steam power
replacing man power as propelling force, developed the tactic
of ramming. This tactic had its best known exemplification
in time of peace, in the accidental ramming and sinking of the
battleship Victoria by her sister ship, the Camperdown, at the
British manoeuvres in the Mediterranean in 1893, in conse-
quence of a mistake in orders. In recent years there has been
a notable increase in the size and range of cannon mounted upon
battleships, accompanied by a corresponding increase in the
effectiveness of torpedoes ; decisive engagements are now ordi-
narily fought at long range. Nevertheless in 1917 the British
torpedo destroyer Broke rammed a German destroyer, and tin*
marines, as in the olden time, finally fought hand to hand. tin-
British gaining the vietory.

ii. Caesar's Commentaries and the Great Wab

In September, 1914, the German armies, retiring from t la-
drive toward Paris, established a line of trenches across t la-
northeastern part of France. One portion of this line passed
north of the city of Soissons, whose name is derived from that
of the Gallic people called Suessiones ; thence it ran eastward.
not far from the river Aisne, which is so called from the river's
ancient name, Axona. Blast of the village of Berry-au-Bac tin-
German line of works crossed the Aisne to tin- south and
passed east of "Reims, which takes its name from the ancient
people called Re mi, and occupies the site of the Gallic city
of Durocortorum, or Higfort.

subject is more fully treated in The Barbary Cbrwzirt, i»> s Lane-Poole
(New York, 1«K>'2) ; and G. W. Allen, Our Nmu/ mid th> Barbary <
(Boston, 1906).

Caesar and the Great War


This part of France in antiquity was reckoned as belonging
to Belgium ; for the southern boundary of Belgium, or Belgic
Gaul, was along the rivers called by Caesar Matrona and Se-
quana, which have given us the modern names Marne and
Seine. In this region, as also in eastern France and in the
countries east of the Adriatic Sea, we find many points of
contact not only between ancient and modern names but also
between the events re-
corded in Caeuar's Com-
mentaries and those of
the most recent history.

The marshes along the
Miette brook, near Berry-
au-Bac, in 57 B.C., pre-
vented a frontal attack
by the Belgians upon
Caesar's legions drawn
up to receive them (Map
5). Across the same
marshes when dry, in
September, 1914, the
Germans ran intrench-
ments, which during the
winter filled with water ;
this caused inconven-
ience, to be sure, but
safeguarded that part of
the German line from
attack by either infantry
or cavalry.

When the Belgians
tried to ford the Aisne, in the face of Caesar's archers and
slingers, the stream was choked with dead (II. 10) ; dead and
wounded again clogged the Aisne in 1914, when French and
English troops near Berry-au-Bac built pontoon bridges within
range of a murderous artillery fire.

Figure 13. — Italian barb-wire cutter.

His wire-clippers are on the end of a long pole.
He stands in front of the entrance of a well-screened
refuge. (Medem Photo Service.)

xxii Introduction

Caesar commends the bravery of the Belgians who attempted
to cross the Aisne over the bodies of the fallen (II. 10). Of
all the peoples of Gaul, he elsewhere declared (I. 1), "the
Belgians are the bravest." In 1914, the bravery of the modern
Belgians was lauded by friend and foe alike, when at Liege
and other points, against overwhelming odds, they tried to
stem the tide of German invasion.

Thessaly, unlike the rest of Greece, has broad and fertile
plains, well adapted to the raising of wheat. In 48 B.C., when
Caesar was obliged to withdraw from Dyrrachium (now Du-
razzo), he led his half-starved troops into Thessaly and
encamped in the midst of ripening grain-fields (C. III. 81) ;
thither Pompey came to hnd him (Map 19), and the battle of
Pharsalus followed. In June, 1917, one reason assigned for
hastening the abdication of Constantine, King of Greece, was
that the allied forces wished to make sure that the ripening
harvests of Thessaly should be subject to their control ; and
immediately thereafter French and British troops occupied
Pharsala (the ancient Pharsalus), as well as Larissa, on the
site of the Larisa to which Pompey fled after the great battle.
So it happened that the grain-fields of Thessaly were a factor
in determining the site of the decisive battle between Caesar
and Pompey, and, almost two thousand years later, in hasten-
ing the downfall of a Greek ruler.

The occurrence of similar events of war in the same locali-
ties may be ascribed in part to the influence of geographical
features upon military operations, in part to continuing antago-
nism between adjacent populations of different stock. I troadly
speaking, the military operations of the Germans in the western
campaigns of the Great War have in no small degree been
determined by the same physical conditions which first brought
Caesar into hostile contact with Helvetians and Germans, and
afterwards facilitated his conquest of northern Gaul.

To the Helvetians, bent upon migrating to western Gaul,
the Jura mountains (Map Gallia 1 ) presented an almost im-

1 A general map of Gaul has been plaeed at the end of this volume.

Caesar and the Great War xxiii

passable barrier, on the west side, while a northerly route
would have exposed them to attack by Ariovistus. In con-
sequence they were obliged to follow the exceedingly difficult
route through the Mill-race gorge of the Rhone, Pas de Pjficluse
(Map 2), and at once aroused Caesar's apprehension ; for the
Rhone was the boundary of the Roman Province.

Between the Jura mountains and the Vosges (ancient Vose-
gus) there is a broad opening in the mountain barrier along
the east frontier of modern France. Through this gateway
Ariovistus and his German hordes were pressing into Gaul,

Figure 14. — Roman slingshot, of lead, shown in two views.

Inscribed FERI POMp[eivm], ' Strike Pompey,' referring to Pompeius Strabo, against
whose army it was hurled when he was besieging Asculum, in the southeastern part of
Italy, during the Social War, in 91-90 b.c.

having already seized upon the fertile plain now known as
Alsace, between the Rhine and the Vosges mountains. The
issue of the Helvetian campaign imposed upon Caesar the
obligation to protect his Gallic allies against Ariovistus ; and
his first step was to seize the natural stronghold of Vesontio,
now Besanqon (I. 38), which he made a military base. In
the last century France, fearing a German invasion by the same
route, transformed Besanqon into a fortress of the first class.

The victory over Ariovistus enabled Caesar to fix the upper
Rhine as the boundary between the German territory and cen-
tral Gaul. Secure against danger of attack from this side, he
was free to carry his conquest northward into Belgium. In
contrast with the highlands of central Gaul, and the moun-
tainous country in the south, the greater part of ancient Bel-
gium, corresponding with modern Holland, Belgium, and the
northernmost corner of France, was low and fairly level. It

xxiv Introduction

was therefore an easy matter for Caesar, after the battles at
the Aisne and the Sambre (Book II), to overrun the country,
before western Gaul, or the mountain strongholds of the
Arvernians in the south, had been conquered. The accessi-
bility of ancient Belgium hastened its conquest by Caesar.

When Caesar invaded Belgium he had not the excuse of a
previous attack by Belgians. He had heard that they were
arming, and forthwith marched into Belgic territory. In 1914,
German armies marched across Belgian territory, and held it
in subjection, not because there was the slightest prospect that
Germany would be attacked by Belgians, but in order to secure
a quick and easy route through that neutral country into
France ; for along the line of direct contact between French
and German territory the routes were more difficult, and other
points of vantage besides Besanqon had been strongly fortified
on the French side.

To Caesar the Rhine seemed the natural boundary of Gaul
on the east. By the defeat of Ariovistus, and later by the
destruction of the Usipetes and Tencteri (IV. 1-15), he
checked German invasions. All Gaul became Romanized.
For a part of its course the Rhine formed the boundary of the
Roman Empire ; " to maintain the frontiers of the Rhine and
the Danube," said the historian Freeman, " was, from the first
century to the fifth, the great object of Rome's policy and

After the fall of the Western Empire Gaul was overrun by
the German Franks, the " spearmen," whose name survives in
that of the country France.

After the defeat of Napoleon at the battle of Leipzig, in
1813, the Allies offered to leave to him "the natural bound-
aries of France : the Rhine, Alps, Pyrenees, and Ocean." Bitter
indeed since then have been the strifes over the lands Lying
west of the Rhine, arising from acceptance or rejection of the
stream as a political boundary; the "Watch on the Rhine"
in preference to all other patriotic songs became the German
national hymn. No element in the historical content of

Caesar and the Great War


Caesar's Commentaries is more significant than this, that they
disclose to us the age-long struggle between peoples of Celtic
and Germanic origin aligned along the Rhine, a struggle which
has reached its awful culmination in our own time.

Besides issues and events of larger significance, Caesar's
Commentaries make mention of military practices, and in-
stances of bravery, to which the Great War has furnished
abundant parallels.

Figure 15. — Charge of Scots Greys at St. Quentin, in 1914.
Highlanders, holding to the stirrups, are keeping up with the horsemen. (Courtesy of
Collier's Weekly.)

In his conquest of Gaul, Caesar exacted many hostages.
Hostages have also been seized by the Germans in conquered
cities. On September 12, 1914, at Reims, then in German
hands, the names of eighty persons were posted, with the fol-
lowing printed proclamation (translation from the French) :

" In order adequately to assure the safety of our troops and quiet-
ness on the part of the population of Reims, the persons named have
been seized as hostages by the commander of the German army.
These hostages will be shot if there is the least disturbance. On the

xxvi Introduction

other band, if the city remains absolutely quiet and tree from dis-
turbance, these hostages and inhabitants will be placed under tin-
protection of the army."

Regarding the fate of the hostages held by Caesar we have
no information. Hostages taken by the Germans, as the recon i >
show, were in some cases shot, in others carried off to prison

Among the most inspiring passages of the Commentaries
are those in which Caesar makes note of the bravery of his
men. Thus in describing the first expedition to Britain he
tells us how the soldiers of the tenth legion, following their
eagle-bearer, plunged into deep water, advanced against a Btorm
of missiles from the shore, and drove the British back, effect-
ing a landing (IV. 25).

Less spectacular, but not less brave, was the advance of the
Italian infantry across the Isonzo in the assault upon Goritz
in August of 191G. " With water up to their necks," writes
Lord Northcliffe, who witnessed the movement, " carrying their
rifles high above their heads and ecstatically singing patriotic
songs, they forded the broad stream and carried the eastern
bank. The enemy's shrapnel, which, falling among them,
churned the water into foam, failed utterly to check or even
retard their charge. Those who fell wounded in the water
insisted upon being helped to gain the eastern bank, saying,
* Then they won't send us back.' "

Few modern officers have shown themselves more courageous
and resourceful than the heroic Baculus, who was almost done
to death in the battle at the Sambre (II. 25), but was restored
to health and twice thereafter saved the day by his quick
resolve and indomitable will (III. 5; VI. 38). No instance of
individual bravery stands out so conspicuously, however, as
that of the centurion Scaeva, who fought at his post, at the
gate of a redoubt, though one eye was put ou1 and he was
wounded in shoulder and thigh ; in his shield, after the battle,
120 holes were counted where it had been struck by arrows

Civilization of the Gauls xxvii

(pp. 434-435). In June, 1916, E. A. Bigorne, machine gun oper-
ator on the front in France, remained in an advanced position
after every other man in his trench had been killed, when it
was obvious that an assault of the enemy was preparing. He
gathered the ammunition of his fallen comrades, and when the
assault came he still held his post, using his machine gun so
effectively that he repulsed charge after charge against his
trench, accounting for 800 Germans in killed, wounded, and
fleeing, before he was relieved.

Caesar publicly commended Scaeva, and made him a present
of money amounting to more than $8000; Bigorne received
the decoration of the Legion of Honor, said to be the highest
award ever given to a private soldier in France.

iii. The Civilization of the Gauls

Excavations and discoveries in France in recent decades have
thrown new light upon the civilization of the Gauls in Caesar's
time. To give an account of these within narrow limits is
impossible. It may suffice to say that remains of city walls
have been found on the site of Bibracte and other Gallic cities,
so constructed as completely to verify Caesar's description of
a Gallic wall in Book VII (chap. 23) ; that burial places and
unearthed town sites in France, western Switzerland, Belgium,
and England have yielded an incalculable number of objects of
common life, now available for study in museums ; and that
with the help of such objects it is permitted to picture to
ourselves the varied and picturesque life of ancient Gaul and
Britain in a way unknown to previous centuries.

Disregarding the highest estimates, we may reckon the popu-
lation of Transalpine Gaul in Caesar's time as twelve or thirteen
millions ; there were perhaps a fourth as many inhabitants as
are found in the same area to-day. There were in Gaul not a
few cities, some of which, as Avaricum with its 40,000 souls,
would be reckoned as important towns in modern times.

The growth of towns implies advancement in both commerce
and industry. In Caesar's time there was already developed

xxviii Introduction

in Gaul a system of roads, with bridges across the rivers ; and
there is reason to believe that in many cases the line of a
Gallic road was followed later by a Roman road, which in turn
is now represented by a highway or railway.

Raw materials for industry and commerce were furnished by
farming, by stock raising, and by mining (III. 21, and VII.
The Gauls were particularly fond of horses (IV. 2), the quality
of which improved under their care. It was therefore no
accident which led the Romans to import Gallic horses, and
which gave to the Gauls such a lead in the invention of
vehicles that the Romans borrowed from them the names of
two kinds of cart, carrus (I. 3) and carpentum. From the
Celtic, through the Latin and French, come our words " car "
and " chariot " ; and through the Anglo-Saxon, our word " cart."

The horse is a constantly recurring figure on Gallic coins
(Figs. 17, 18, etc.). The fine quality of the horses still raised
on Gallic soil is indicated by the fact that in 1910 there were
imported into the United States from France and Belgium
more than 4500 horses, nearly four times as many as were
imported in that year from all other European countries.

The implications of Caesar's language about importations
into Gaul, in Book I (chap. 1), Book II (chap. 15), and Book VI
(chap. 24) are borne out by other evidence. The most convinc-
ing proof of the influence of both Greek and Italian traders,
and of the commercial progress of the country, is to be found
in the extensive and varied coinage of the Gallic states l in
Caesar's time. The Gauls minted their own metal, though
they had not the skill to produce coins of so fine workmanship
as those of the Greeks and Romans. Their coinage was still
in the imitative stage, reproducing, often crudely, designs of
foreign coins which circulated among them.

Not a few Gallic coins were copied from a variety of widely

1 In the United States the word civitfts in passages relating to Gaol should

not be translated " tribe. " for the reason thai In this country the word" tribe *'
is so closely associated with the American aborigines that to many it bo
a condition of savagery.

Civilization of the Gauls


Figure 16.

Gallic coin, perhaps of the

Gold. The Macedonian coins, from which this
is copied, are of fine workmanship.

The head is that of a youth. The two-horse
chariot on Greek coins was associated with

current Macedonian coins known as staters. An example is
Figure 16, which is thought to have been struck by the Am-
barri (I. 11). The head and the two-horse chariot are un-
mistakable copies of the obverse and reverse designs of a
stater ; and the unintelligi-
ble letters on the reverse,
underneath the chariot,
are the work of a Gallic
coin-maker who did not
know Greek, and imitated,
without understanding
them, the letters of the
Greek name 4>IAIFFOY,
"of Philip," which is
found on the Macedonian

Just as clearly of Roman
origin is the type of the two-headed Janus, found on a coin of
the Mediomatrici (Fig. 17). On the reverse the Gallic designer
has made a fanciful use of the chariot design, which appears
on Roman coins as well as Greek; the charioteer has been

resolved into the graceful curves
which we see above the horse,
while the chariot seems to be repre-
sented by a rosette underneath the
horse, symbolizing a chariot wheel.
The Gallic craftsman wished to
make the horse prominent.

It is not surprising that in
Caesar's time the Greek alphabet
was in common use in Gaul (VI.
14), employed, for example, in mak-
ing up the census lists of the Helvetians (I. 29) ; for Massilia,
established originally as a Greek colony and trading post, was
already an old city, having commercial relations with many
Gallic states (p. 611).

Figure 17. — Coin of the

Gold. Obverse, two-headed Janus.
Reverse, design derived from a
chariot type.



Figure 18. — Arvernian coin.

Gold, alloyed with silver.

Obverse, head of Vercingetorix,
spelled VERCINGETORIXS, with

Reverse, below the horse, two-
handled wine jar; above, scroll-
shaped ornament.

Nevertheless we occasionally find Roman letters on Gallic
coins, as in Figure 18, which reproduces a coin struck a short

time before the downfall of Gallic
power, in 52 b.c. The face on the
obverse is intended to be a portrait
of the Gallic leader Vercingetorix,
but is highly conventional. Much
more true to life is a later portrait
of Vercingetorix on a Roman coin
whose designer must have seen him
when a captive in Rome (Fig. 145).
In military matters Vercingetorix
confessedly imitated the Romans
(VII. 29).

Various objects of metal, pottery, and other permanent mate-
rials, of which a few examples are shown in the illustrations
to the notes of this book, strengthen the conviction that while
the northern parts of Gaul were more backward, the higher
classes in the central and southern
portions of the country in Caesar's
time had adopted a more refined
mode of life (I. 1) ; thus the terri-
fied women of Gergovia threw down
silverware to the Roman soldiers
scaling the wall (VII. 47). The
common people were housed in
round thatched huts, but people of
means had houses of stone.

Notwithstanding their use of
writing for ordinary purposes, in-
cluding "documents public and

private " (VI. 14), the Gauls did trumpet ends in a fanciful head with

not develop a literature. This "ide open mouth. P°' nted ? a ;V" d *

r crest. The bronze-covered shield is

may be due in part to the ilisis- skillfully imitated in the marble.

tence Of the Druids that their body The altar was a votive offering

J erected by a Roman soldier, of Ori-
Of doctrine, poetic and mystical ental birth, at Nemausus, now Nimes.

Figure 19.

Relief, on a marble
Discovered at Nimes. The war

Civilization of the Gauls


Figure 20. — Coin of the Treve-
rans or Leuci.

Bronze. Obverse, head copied from a
coin of Augustus.

Reverse, bull, and inscription GER-

though it was, should be transmitted only by memory (VI. 14).
As the Druids were the intellectual leaders of the people, their
practice in this respect must have discouraged literary effort.

This all-powerful priesthood,
regarding which Caesar in Book
VI gives the earliest authentic
information, in their teachings
united a theory of the universe
with the doctrine of transmigra-
tion of souls. The power of the
Druids in temporal affairs came
from this fact, that while acting
as arbiters and judges in dis-
putes of every kind, they were man[vs] indvtilli l[ibertvs], 'Ger-
enabled to enforce their deci- man us ' freedman of Indutillus -'
sions through the terrible penalty of excommunication (VI. 13).
Outside the limited field of coins and minor objects the Gauls
made almost no progress in art before the Roman Conquest.
That they were ready for development in the fuller appreciation

of art, if not also in expression, is
evident from monuments of Gallic
origin dating from the earlier years
of the Roman occupation, in which
an awakening of the artistic impulse
is manifest. An example is the re-
lief in Figure 19, showing a Gallic
oval shield with metal covering and
a war-trumpet with the head of a
monster. Wind instruments with
heads of animals or monsters, not
of Gallic origin, may be seen in
collections of musical instruments

Gallic and British coins struck after the Conquest indicate
to us the adoption of Roman fashions within a few decades
after Caesar's death, not only in Gaul but even in Britain. On

Figure 21. — Coin of Tascio-
vanus, British ruler.

Gold. Obverse, tablet inscribed

Reverse, horseman galloping to
the right; on some of the coins he
seems to be holding a trumpet. The
significance of the letters SEGO is
not clear.



the coin reproduced in Figure 20 we find a prominent man
of the Treverans (or of the Leuci), designated in the Roman
style as " Germanus, freedman of Indutillus."

Figure 22. — Coin of Tascio-

Silver. Obverse, winged horse,
Pegasus, walking toward the left ;
letters T AS, irregularly placed, an
abbreviation for TASCIOVANUS.

Reverse, winged Griffin,
springing toward the right.

Figure 23. — Coin of
Bronze. Inscription, CUNOBELINI,
tasciovani f[ilii], 'of Cunobelinus,
son of Tasciovanus.'

On the reverse is a centaur with a
mantle, blowing a trumpet.

Inscribed with Roman letters also are gold coins of the British
Virica (Fig. 140), as well as gold and silver coins of Tasciovanus
(Figs. 21, 22). Tasciovanus was a contemporary of the Em-
peror Augustus. He was the father of
Cunobelinus, the hero of Shakespeare's
drama Cymbeline, as a bronze coin of
Cunobelinus shows (Fig. 23).

Both the Griffin and the Pegasus
of the silver coin (Fig. 22), and the
Centaur of the bronze (Fig. 23), were
designs taken from the Graeco-Roman
mythology, and current in the Classical
Art of the period. They may have been
brought to Britain by skilled crafts-
men directly from southern cities, or
have been introduced by way of Gaul :
in either case they confirm the infer-

Online LibraryJulius CaesarC. Iulii Caesaris Commentarii rerum gestarum. Caesar's Commentaries: the Gallic war, books I-Iv, with selections from books V-VII and from the civil war; → online text (page 2 of 73)